Side-by-side they fought and now new memorials remember them
23 April 2009
In memorials Australian Diggers may stand alone, but they never fought alone and a new form of war memorial is emerging to commemorate this, Deakin University research has found.
Chris Linke, a Masters students with the University's Alfred Deakin Research Institute, is just putting the finishing touches to his thesis on Australian Vietnam War memorials which depict two soldier statues standing side by side: one Australian soldier and one Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) soldier.
Believed to be the first significant academic study of the memorials, the study looks at the series of five side-by-side memorials constructed in Australia - Brisbane, Sydney (Cabramatta), Melbourne (Dandenong), Perth and the last - the Adelaide Vietnam War Memorial.
Mr Linke said the timing of his study coincided with the development of the Adelaide memorial. "I was lucky in a way to be the on-the-spot historian and able to witness the sod-turning. I was also able to interview and link into the veterans that built the memorial," he said.
"The side-by-side memorials are quite unusual and new in Australia's war remembrance," Mr Linke explained.
"After World War I and subsequent wars, the Digger has always stood alone at war memorials, yet Australia has never really been to war alone. They have usually gone to war as part of the British Empire or as part of a multi national force."
Mr Linke said the side-by-side memorials were significant for a number of reasons, partly because they were developed with an Asian ally and not an American or New Zealander, that they were built by the Vietnamese and non Vietnamese communities as part of their citizenship in Australia and that the communities had seen merit in linking into the ANZAC legend and commemorative framework.
"These memorials are a progressive step," Mr Linke said. "Especially if you look at how difficult it was for many Vietnam veterans to feel a sense of belonging on ANZAC Day.
"It was only after the building of the Australian Vietnam Forces National Memorial on Anzac Parade in Canberra in 1992 that memorial building became a significant element of Australian Vietnam veterans' remembrance of the war.
"Indigenous soldiers are only just starting to get recognition and it will be interesting to see if other communities ask for the same especially in light of us always having alliances and being part of multinational taskforces."
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