Anzac heritage or Anzac history: Truth or Fiction?
Couvalis, Spyridon George
Simpson, Cheryl Ann
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In recent years, the protection of heritage has been discussed in many parts of the world. In Australia, new laws have been passed, such as "The Protection of Movable Cultural Heritage Act 1998 (Cth)", "The Heritage Act 1993 (SA)", "Heritage Amendment Act 1988 (NSW)", "Heritage Act 1995 (Vic)". Heritage has acquired a beatific image in popular culture (see for instance the cover of this issue of the "AltLJ"). However, in a diverse Australia the struggle for ownership of the past has lead to disputes about which heritage should be protected and to debates as to the level of protection that should be provided. As more 'things' have been included in the definition of cultural heritage, so too has protection of these 'things' been sought through the legal system. Thus legal definitions of cultural heritage can be cast in a narrow restrictive way to limit heritage to tangibles such as buildings, sites or objects. Conversely, legal definitions can be broad enough to encapsulate intangibles such as religion, folklore, oral history and living culture. When we consider all these points, it becomes obvious that the process of legislating for the protection of cultural heritage requires decisions as to what is to be protected, how it is to be protected and why it is to be protected. Legislators and regulators do not just protect items, they protect items understood in particular ways. The significant past is chosen - treating a war medal as something which should be protected to preserve what is quintessentially Australian is very different from treating it as a minor piece of Victorian bronze work. Further, in choosing the significant past, legislators and regulators are not just responding to demands made by some members of the public or by historians. They are also acting to shape the public's view of how the past is politically laden.