I am somewhat bemused by Graham Docksey's letter (Border Mail, February 20) regarding the positioning of two additional flagpoles at the Albury war memorial. Graham is clearly asserting that it is a phantom Greens agenda fuelling the debate and thereby "dividing our council and community". As an active Greens member and a Vietnam veteran (one can be both), I question the logic of his arguments.
Graham asserts there is a four-four split in council, given his exclusion on conflict of interest grounds. It could, therefore, be equally argued that those councillors opposing the motion are the divisive element.
Cr Amanda Cohn is an endorsed Greens member of council but the other three councillors supporting the motion are not. It seems, therefore, disingenuous to assert the motion is some dark Greens plot.
Graham goes further to note that those supporting his stance have "served their country" whilst those supporting the motion have "never served in the uniform of their country". Is Graham really trying to say that those of us who were in the armed services enjoy some sort of moral ascendancy over those who have not? If this is his view, and I can see no other explanation, I find the assertion quite offensive.
I am pleased that Graham asserts that the RSL and the veteran community are not anti-Indigenous flags, just like the Greens and most thinking Australians.
IN OTHER NEWS:
Before the Albury and District War Memorial was opened on Anzac Day 1925, feelings were running high as to the choice of a memorial, and "who would say what" at the opening.
Despite the controversy there has never been any question that it is sacred to the memory of all who served, and that memory resides in all who come after.
The power of the war memorial is to educate our community to help our national values develop in the light of history and the testimony of those who have gone before.
It is not a grave for national values but a gymnasium that looks forward not just backwards and it isn't owned by the RSL but by the community .
This debate wouldn't be so serious if those opposing the introduction of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags were shouting from the sidelines of the community but they are respected community players who are inadvertently subverting the real benefit that the memorial can bring to a new generation.
"God save our gracious King" that was sung at the opening in 1925 is very different from today's contested anthem, and the defence of the British Empire, for king and country are no longer sentiments evoked by the newly restored memorial that glows proudly over our city.
Australia is a far more inclusive society than it was at the time the memorial was erected because of the people that forged political change that have secured greater freedoms, equality and dignity than we have had before. Politics and the welfare of people are inextricably bound together, which is why our monument deserves the flags that reflect contemporary values rather than being consigned to a museum as Australia moves forward.
In 2020 $1.35 million dollars of public money was spent on the redevelopment of the war memorial so that it might speak to a contemporary society rather than have its message gagged by being neglected. It was a good decision because public money implies a public benefit and should reflect the values of the society investing in its own future.
It is inspiring to see the service of so many brave men and women honoured through the telling of our community and national story, but all the information that enriches those who visit Monument Hill is not diminished but enhanced by the addition of the flags that acknowledge the first peoples of this land that we love and for which people have given their lives.
No organisation can credibly speak for the departed, nor can we say that the neglect, mistakes and omissions of the past justify present inaction.
It is simply not fair to put Monument Hill into a time warp where all the prejudices and blind spots of previous generations are preserved instead of running with the freedoms and progress for which great sacrifices have been made.
Refusing a flag when it is so simply achieved seems contrary to the spirit of generosity that is commemorated in the war memorial and the engagement with the future of those who have been involved in its redevelopment.
We shouldn't be fighting over our values, we should be fighting for them .The current debate is the best argument yet for enhancing our monument with Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander flags as it continues to tell the story of evolving national values.
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