Palestine, 1918, Frank Hurley, official Australian war photographer. Wikimedia®
This photo makes me think of my Pa, Tom Butcher, who was a Gunner in World War 1. His asthma was really bad when he came back from the front. Some said it was the mustard gas. He died of an asthma attack early one morning in Invermay, Launceston Tasmania. I asked my Auntie about it the other morning: what did she remember? "I heard Mum screaming," she said. The radio was on... the news... 1956... the Hungarian uprising. He had fallen out of bed in the night. He was on the floor."
I am struck by the sharpness of her memory: the way the news broadcast stayed in her mind and located his death in historical time, in public history - and strangely in another violent armed struggle of European history...down here in Tassie, so close to the south pole, so far away from 'the centre'.
As I prepare for return to Tasmania for the next phase of the film: Aboriginal protocols, filming with elders from the community, my own family permissions...dialogue exchange - I think about historian Henry Reynolds and Ken Inglis's work who do we mourn in Australian history
in the public ceremonies? Reynolds asks why we don’t honour Aboriginal deaths in the frontier wars of the 19th and 20th centuries; Henry Reynolds: "If we make the centrepiece of our celebration, our invasion of Turkey, a country we knew nothing about and had no direct experience with, I can’t see why we can’t come to terms with our invasion of Australia...Now, if remembering deaths is important, then we have to do something to show we take their deaths as seriously as we take our own."