Funeral Service of the Unknown Australian Soldier
Context and Purpose
* Armistice Day- November 11th- internationally celebrated by allied countries that fought in WW1 * An appropriate date in 1993, for the entombment of the Unknown Soldier in the Australian War Memorial shrine in Canberra * Speech coincided with the 75th anniversary of the 1918 armistice * Date had dual militaristic and political significance
* The purpose of the funeral service was to commemorate this historic armistice with the remains of an unknown soldier from the WF being returned to home soil * The WW1 context is clear but it has a much greater symbolic relevance * Homage and reverence was paid representationally for all casualties of war and armed conflict * PM shows diplomatic recognition of their sacrifice, our heritage and our culture * Makes note that war is denounced rather then glorified and pays respect to the brave action of thousands of Australian soldiers who fought to protect our land and way of life * Ultimately, the speech promotes the idea that unity can develop from national remembrance of “mateship, “self belief” and enduring “resilience” * Events from the past are fused to the events of the present by the symbolic figure of the ‘Unknown Australian Soldier”
* Keating begins by establishing what is not known about the unnamed soldier * He is almost completely anonymous for he lacks name, battalion, dates, place of birth, place of death and no family details * Keating makes it clear that this soldier is truly ‘unknown’ however, it is the lack of information that makes his such a strong symbol of peace * The speeches themes are:
* Anonymity becomes representational, a mark of respect for all soldiers who sacrificed their lives. The opening words establish this symbolic status “We will never know who this Australian was” * The nameless victim is part of a greater amount of Australian death, a representative figure worthy of honour for he is being one of the 45 000 “who died on the Western Front” and “died on foreign soil” * The significance of shared act of remembrance is evoked in inclusive terms when he states, “He is all of them. And he is one of us”
* Time is shown to be an unstoppable and natural force where some fundamental things never change * Keating notes that the soldier’s Australian context and the one we know today are extremely different “beyond the reach of his imagination” and that we should acknowledge his sacrifice in order to truly appreciate this circumstance and his circumstance: * Keating does this by bluntly noting that the WW1 was a “mad, brutal and awful struggle… the waste of human life”
* The Unknown Soldier was an everyday Australian and the paradoxical lesson is “about ordinary people and the lessen was that they were not ordinary” * They were role modals of national worth- reassuring that the ordinary, average man and woman can achieve something extraordinary, something heroic.
* Keating established that this soldier testifies to our faith in peace, democracy and a “deeper understanding of what it means to be Australian” * Honour is also shown to “those who taught us to endure hardship, to show courage, to be bold as well as resilient, to believe in ourselves, to stick together” * The mixture of both formal and informal terminology acknowledges a culturally inclusive purpose; a means of promoting unification and the development of a national identity * Pride is shown and promoted by the Unknown Australian Soldier who encapsulates “the true heart if nation”
* There is no attempt to sentimentalise the situation to “glorify war over peace” or concentrate on the traditional concepts of bravery, heroism or glory. Instead, Keating honours “the memory of all those men...
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