Parliament House and the Australian War Memorial.
When Walter Burley Griffin laid out his design for Canberra, Australia’s capital city, he laid out the central area as a triangle which embraces the centres of parliament, commerce and the military.
The peak of the triangle is Parliament House. One end of the baseline is at Civic, the commercial and social centre of the city, the other is at the offices of the Department of Defence at Russell. Each of these end points is also associated with a centre of learning -- albeit of very different types. Adjacent to Civic is the sprawling campus of The Australian National University (ANU). Near to Russell is the spic-and-span Australian Defence Force Academy (ADFA) and Royal Military College Duntroon.
Bisecting the triangle there is an open view from Parliament House, across Lake Burley Griffin, and along Anzac Parade, to the Australian War Memorial fronting Mount Ainslie. It was part of Burley Griffin's design, that these points -- Mount Ainslie (the highest point adjacent to the base of the triangle), the War Memorial, and Parliament House -- lie along a sight line between Mount Ainslie and Mount Bimberi, the highest point in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT), to the south-west.
The view from the front of Parliament House towards the War Memorial and the reciprocal view from Mount Ainslie, are probably the best known scenes in Canberra, since each has appeared on numerous books and postcards, to the point where they have almost come to epitomise Canberra.
The vista between Parliament House and the War Memorial, with the buildings as its two endpoints, is part of the subject of this essay. My wider topic is the meaning of, and the relationship between, Parliament House and the War Memorial, including the connotations and appendages to both as part of the national capital, and as voices in the narrative of Australian nationalism and the movement towards a republic. The meanings, however, are not simply the products of the buildings -- the meanings are produced by people and evolve over time.
After discussing various aspects of nationalism, to give what follows some context, I begin by examining the cultural meaning and symbolism of Parliament House -- or rather, Houses (plural) since there are two, the Old or, as it was known at the time, the Provisional, Parliament House, and the present structure on top of Capital Hill. Secondly, I use a similar approach to the War Memorial and its environs.
In both these cases, to get closer to the atmosphere and the meanings, I take guidebook in hand, and, following Michel de Certeau's lead, I walk the pathways of the tourist and investigate a little of the nature of my home town. As de Certeau on his own investigation of the city said: "[My] story begins on ground level, with footsteps".
If, at times, this part of my narrative does not conform to the strictest academic forms, then it is because I have been influenced by my methods of investigation. Wandering the byways sometimes produces a certain meandering of thoughts which are not always easy to relate directly to each other without long involved explanations which would only confuse the message. I can only claim, with de Certeau, that "There is a rhetoric of walking" which consists of "rich silences" and "wordless stories", and which has its own logic.
Next, I juxtapose my discussions of Parliament House and the War memorial as two sides of a dialogue about the nature of Australian nationalism, as the facilities under discussion are juxtaposed across the (semi-) natural barrier of Lake Burley Griffin. I propose, as a starting point, that the War Memorial, as a generic object, and its associations with the Anzac legend and its memorial day, have been as much an influence on the nature of Australian nationalism as any events in the political arena. However, I look at both sides for the contrasts and agreements, the differences and conflicts, that have woven the fabric of the nation's identity.
There are other, further factors which must also be considered in relation to the above argument. The positioning of the elements of the Parliamentary Triangle exert visual, and indeed some political and other, influences. The contrasting aims and views of commerce and military must be introduced into the argument.
Another important factor, although it is by no means part of any original design, nor is even acknowledged by many people, has, however, achieved some sense of permanency. I refer to the Aboriginal 'tent embassy' erected on the lawns fronting Old Parliament House. Due to its position, the 'tent embassy' can be seen as very much a physical part of the dialogue between Parliament House and War Memorial since it is on the line of view between them, as it, and the Aboriginal people, are part of the political landscape.
Firstly, then, a look at the meaning and diversity of nationalism, and its off-shoot or extension, republicanism.
Nationalism means many different things to different people. It can be associated with flags, maps and symbols of a nation; it can have connotations of racism, isolationism or progress, amongst other ideas. It means largely what people want it to mean, although the idea is often modified by political rhetoric, events and education, and is not always, nor entirely, a personal construction. What is important in nationalism are not just the images or their appeal but who uses them, why and with what effect.
Nationalism, of one form or another, always comes to the fore during times of war. The First World War (or as it was known at the time, the Great War -- the war to end all wars) was a time when many Australians saw the chance for their country to make its mark on the international scene. There was little opposition to sending troops to aid Britain: what opposition there was, was to conscription rather than to the war itself.
The 'blooding' of Australian soldiers at Gallipoli is often seen as a 'rite of passage' for Australia itself as a country: a 'becoming of age', internationally. From that time the myths and legends of Anzac have grown to be a potent force for nationalisms of various kinds. Every town and city has its reminders in the form of war memorials and cenotaphs to the dead.
But wartime nationalism is often also repressive and racialist. Free speech virtually disappears as no one dare object to the war effort, for fear of being branded a traitor. Foreigners are incarcerated without trial. Towns with foreign derived (or even sounding) names have some new name foisted upon them.
The 'digger' myths of Gallipoli also found echoes in the idealisation of the bushman from the outback, who was seen to possess similar qualities of 'manliness', independence, and self-reliance: The Anzac soldier became one with the man of the bush, combining to produce the epitome of Australian manhood, even for the city dweller.
Although the Anzac legend was closely tied to the British Empire, later loyalties made such ties an embarrassment, and moves were made to distance Australia from the Empire and Commonwealth, for instance by the replacement of Imperial honours by The Order of Australia. The amount of distancing, in practice, depended on the party in government, being a distinctly Labor party policy. To some people, it seemed that the result was, at times, a move closer to dependence on the United States of America, both economically and militarily. The American war memorial in Canberra was, apparently, not particularly well received at the time it was erected, because many people saw it as a symbol of American imperialism and aggression, both in the economic and military spheres. Those feelings were perhaps more due to the form of the monument than its meaning as a war memorial, because it was funded from public donations. The main part of the memorial is an eagle grasping a globe of the world. But more on that below.
Elsewhere, Alomes also notes that 'social nationalism' can arise when people identify themselves with socially constructed idealisations such as sports people. This has occurred at a number of times, such as during the fervour following the winning of the America's Cup by Australia II in 1983. He also suggests that social nationalism has been important in Australia in the form of identification with particular states or cities, even though these sometimes clash with feelings towards larger entities, such as the country as a whole. Some have argued that these events and the feeling that they engender are like circuses, and that they generate feelings of escapism rather than genuine nationalistic feelings.
It has been said that "Racism is the most important component of Australian nationalism". Since that nationalism has received its biggest boost by reference to wartime exploits, it is not hard to accept, because war is itself an expression of racism.
Opposition to foreigners has been rife in most of Australia's history: the 'White Australia Policy' probably being its most ignoble expression. Indeed it has been argued that the felt need to establish standard regulations restricting immigration of 'coloured people', and a standard policy of keeping them out, formed one of the important driving forces towards federation in 1901. Much of the problem arose from Australia's nearness to Asia, with its threat of cheap labour. Also distance from Britain and Europe must, at times, have caused feelings of insecurity.
With the political events of the 1970s, such as the sacking of the Whitlam government (further discussed below), the Labor Party in particular moved to break the ties to Britain, as much as possible. Since then, they have adopted a pro-republican stance, and, when in government, have moved as quickly as they dare in that direction. They must be careful, however, because it is not yet clear exactly where the majority of the population stand on the issue. Plans for a referendum were being discussed, but following the change of government (to a Liberal one) became less immediate, since the Liberals are not so keen on rushing ahead with such drastic changes to the Constitution as would be required for the establishment of a republican state.
There are differing forms of nationalism, then. A particular form is probably not based on a single symbol or event, but rather melded from a number which the individual finds significant. Hobsbawm argues that nationalism may be one form of 'invented tradition' -- through the associations gathered onto such symbols as 'The National Flag, the National Anthem and the National Emblem', a country and a people establish their claim to an independent identity.
Nationalism may not only be expressed in buildings, but those building may also contribute to nationalism. Such buildings may be those associated with important public or political rituals or events. Because the event occurred in or near a particular building, the building comes to symbolise the event.
Two buildings in Canberra which carry some of the symbolic load of nationalism and have featured in the story of nationalism are Parliament House and the Australian War Memorial. They symbolise nationalism in different ways and in different forms -- and not always in agreement.
The next parts of this essay are an exploration of those two building, and their associations with nationalism. I do this in the form of a narrative of my walk around each and the thoughts provoked as I tour them.
I begin then with the multiple incarnations of Parliament House.
Turning my back on Lake Burley Griffin I begin my trek up the slope towards Parliament House. The grass is green from the constant watering and the early winter rains. From the low viewpoint at the edge of the lake, the view up the hill is dominated by the white stuccoed frontage of Old Parliament House, shining in the bright winter sunshine. Above it soars the futuristic flagpole over the new Parliament House, further up Capital Hill.
In 1972 Aboriginal activists set up a 'tent-embassy' on the lawns fronting the Old Parliament House. They were protesting about their treatment by the government, particularly over land rights. They claimed that they were being treated as aliens in their own country. The 'embassy' was removed a number of times by police, but was just as often replaced. Eventually it was left alone, and still remains, although in the meantime the tents have been replaced by a transportable building. It has now become almost a fixture, to the point where it was once the site for the wedding ceremony of two Aboriginals. A strange juxtaposition, since they had a "white-fella's" ceremony, complete with proper (white) celebrant.
Since parliament has now moved to the new building further up the hill, the 'embassy' has become more a lonely remnant of an old conflict than an effective application of pressure on the government.
However, the Aboriginal people have become an important issue, both because they have influenced government decisions and because of the gains they have made in their claims for their rights to ancestral land. Not all those influences have been good: Many people see the allocation of land to the Aborigines -- particularly where that land contains minerals and other valuable commodities -- as being divisive of the concept of all Australians being equal.
The 'tent embassy' -- and the subsequent transportable building -- are on the direct line between Parliament House and the War Memorial. Not that it blocks the view: From the new Parliament House it cannot be seen, as the Old Parliament House is in the way, but physically, it is part of the layout.
Old Parliament House has a simple, uncluttered design. The design was produced by the Department of Works as a temporary home for the legislature, until the new building was ready. As it turned out, the old building was used for over sixty years. There is little ornamentation on the building -- or at least, little that is visible from this distance -- but that does not reduce the attractiveness of the building. Even as I get closer, the ornamentation is undemanding and unobtrusive; straight lines and columns outlining the entrance which, with the symmetrical design of the rest of the building, provide a simplicity which is itself attractive, particularly when contrasted with the new Parliament House, which appears to be more a statement to be viewed by tourists than an affirmation that this is the country's seat of legislature. More on that building when I reach it; for now, my attention is on the Old Parliament House.
Since it now is used for displays of various kinds taken from the National Museum, the National Gallery, and so on, Old Parliament House has not given up its association with the life of the capital and the nation. Rather it is like an elderly lady (she is in her seventieth year, this year) who no longer seeks the limelight but is content to take a well-earned place on the side-lines. She has plenty to look back on.
It was on her front steps that occurred an event which was, according to some commentators, the greatest constitutional crisis in Australian history. It was here that the Governor-General's secretary proclaimed the dismissal of the Whitlam Labor government on the eleventh of November, 1975. In ceremonial regalia, accompanied by parliamentary officials in wigs and gowns, and with the (imminently ex-) Prime Minister Gough Whitlam in attendance, David Smith announced to a large crowd that Sir John Kerr had taken the unprecedented step of sacking a duly elected head of state. As it turned out, the general public must not have taken it too hard, as they voted Whitlam out, and his nemesis Malcolm Fraser in, at the ensuing election.
These events were interpreted in very partisan ways by supporters of either side. The Labor Party and its supporters saw it as a crisis and a threat to the free government of Australia that, under the Constitution, the representative of a foreign monarch, that is, Queen Elizabeth of Britain, could dismiss a properly and freely elected government. From that day on, the Labor Party began to seriously move towards a republican stance.
The Liberals, of course, saw it differently. To them, the Governor-General had acted correctly in removing a government which was unable to effectively rule due to a minority in the Senate, where bills to provide finance for all the workings of government were being blocked. In the Liberal view, that was the importance of the position of Governor-General, he being an independent, non-partisan arbiter who could take action when all else had failed, or as they saw it, when Prime Minister Gough Whitlam refused to act correctly and resign when he could not run the country.
Thirteen years later, the Queen opened the new Parliament House accompanied by the then Labor Prime Minister Bob Hawke and a different Governor-General. It is doubtful that anything was forgiven, so perhaps it was only diplomacy at work.
Passing around the side of Old Parliament House -- since it blocks the direct way up to the new building -- I get my first unobstructed view of the new Parliament House, along Federation Mall. There are roadways all around here, but there are also lots of lawns and gardens so the traffic noise does not obtrude too much, although it is strange to see the orange and blue buses with their ACTION (ACT Internal Omnibus Network) logos and advertising passing virtually through the forecourt of the building wherein are formulated the laws and regulations which will affect us all, regardless of the shade of our nationalism.
The flagpole on top of the building and the top of Capital Hill now stands out clearly, its in-curving supports reflecting back the cold, brilliant winter sunshine. The huge flag undulates gently in the breeze. Even from this point much of the building is invisible, as it is partly buried within the hill, with grass lawns planted over most of the roof. Perhaps that is also symbolic of something, that tourists can climb all over the top of the seat of government, and, if they wish, gambol and frolic in the sunshine. It is all part of what is sometimes called 'the universalisation of the tourist gaze' that places like Parliament House are (re-)constructed as places for fun rather than as symbols of power and nation. It is also part of Giurgola's original design for Parliament House, that people should walk all over it.
Perhaps also the familiarity of a citizen who every day sees the building and reads of the goings-on inside, breeds some cynicism. But the building does appear to be more intended as a tourist attraction than anything else: Certainly, few of the residents of Canberra to whom I spoke had been interested enough to go and have a look inside. They leave the gawking and pamphlet-gathering to the tourists. Listening to the voices on the forecourt seems to support that view: Foreign languages and accents predominate.
Another day. The opposite side of the lake. The corner of Constitution Avenue and Anzac Parade. A different day; drizzling and cold, perhaps more fitting for a tour of a monument to wasted lives and pointless deaths than would be bright sunshine.
Along Anzac Parade, towards the Australian War Memorial, treading the (symbolic?) red gravel. There is a story, perhaps apocryphal, which says that the gravel was originally going to be a deeper red, as in the colour of dried blood. The present colour is much less intimidating: The other would have made the walk up Anzac Parade seem too close to wading in blood. Perhaps it was just too gruesome a reminder of such battles as the Somme.
There are memorials to lesser causes along the way: RAAF, RAN, Army, the Rats of Tobruk, Korea, Vietnam.
Vietnam, the 'police action' that divided the nation: Men, away, fighting another pointless war, while at home the politicians argue about the rights and wrongs of the matter, but let it continue anyway. No glorious images for the nationalists, there. No heroic sacrifices, just a slog that no one wanted.
For a long time, the Returned Services League (RSL) refused membership to the Vietnam Veterans because they were draftees rather than volunteers. So they formed their own organisation to help each other forget, or live with what couldn't be forgotten. Many couldn't live with the memories and turned to drugs or suicide to erase the past.
Vietnam veterans obviously did not fit into the RSL's image of the returned soldier, reminiscing about fighting on foreign shores and mates who did not come back. A different form of nationalism with no place for failure, unless it was a 'glorious one'. Always for 'King and Country', perhaps with a little more emphasis on 'King' (or Queen): A place where members can be disciplined for even discussing the possibility of an Australian Republic.
It is along Anzac Parade that the soldiers old and new show their respect for their past (and passed) fellows-in-arms on Anzac Day.
Anzac Day which, at times, seems to be more significant than Australia Day: Somehow it is more of an expression of Australian nationalistic feeling. At least Anzac day is fixed on a particular date, it doesn't move around to suit the desire for a long weekend like Australia Day. And at least Anzac Day isn't used as an excuse for a military display as it might be in some countries. Although this type of Australian nationalism is bolstered with images and thoughts of war and sacrifice, it isn't overtly integrated with present military grandeur.
War, of course, entails racism: it is necessary that there be someone 'other' out there who can be portrayed as different (for 'different' read 'inferior'). But it must also cling to the past. With the growth of a multi-cultural Australian society, it has been necessary to modify this form of nationalism, so that foreign-born Australians are not discriminated against. It was not always so, feeling has often run high against foreigners, from the Chinese on the old goldfields to Vietnamese boat people, with many others in between: But it appears most strongly in times of war.
It is curious, since the ANZACs included New Zealanders, that it is such a strong force in Australian nationalism. Perhaps it is also, in New Zealand. Perhaps it harks back to the days when the federation of Australian states was being constructed, when, if things had gone differently, New Zealand would have become part of the Federation. As well, on Anzac Day, no-one remembers that there were also British, Indian and French troops at Gallipoli.
But this is a focus of Australian nationalism: others are not allowed to intrude. Marking the eastern end of the Parliamentary Triangle (and something over two kilometres from my present spot) stands the Australian-American Memorial -- a giant eagle perched on a slim column, grasping a globe of the earth in its talons, towering over nearby four and five storey buildings. As it exists now, the eagle has its wings raised in a V, symbolising victory. According to a source in the nearby Department of Defence, it originally had its wings spread outwards in a distinctly predatory pose. But, apparently, the wings kept falling off, so they were replaced in their current position. Perhaps it was too blatantly a sign of American imperialism: and, perhaps as a protest, it was inaugurated by the British Queen Elizabeth (that apparently pleased the British but not the Americans). For whatever reason, it would have been blasphemy for the American eagle to overshadow the Australian War Memorial, an icon of Australian nationalism.
I have now reached the front of the War Memorial, with its upright, square towers flanking the gateway and framing the green bronze of the dome, standing out against the wooded slopes of Mount Ainslie. Inside the courtyard, a colonnade stretching the length of a reflecting pool, open to the sky -- today reflecting only the leaden greyness of the rain clouds. Rolls of Honour; the lists of the names of those 102,000 Australians who died in the various wars. Here also, the Eternal Flame, symbolising something undying in the midst of memories of death. Closer now to the dome, and the entrance to the building itself.
Inside the Hall of Memory: the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. 'The Unknown Soldier': An unknown, unnamed, focus for all the nationalistic fervour of war. As has been pointed out, it is important for the purposes of nationalism that his (why not 'her'?) identity be unknown: The public ceremonial reverence is accorded these monuments precisely because they are either deliberately empty or no one knows who lies inside them.
The inside of the dome is covered with blue tiles, originally laid by a returned serviceman from World War I. He lost his right arm, but learned to work left-handed, as a means of rehabilitation. Some of the tiles have fallen off, but now no-one can be found with the skill to replace them.
The nationalism exemplified by the Australian War Memorial relies on images of sacrifice, persistence against insuperable odds, and includes much that supports colonialism via connections with the British Empire and King (or Queen): Going off and fighting for 'the mother country'. Unfortunately, it often also rejects some of the links with the old British Commonwealth, which might have formed the basis of an international union influential for world peace.
Nationalism established in wartime can also lead to isolationism, or rejection of the foreigner, hardly a useful idea in the modern world.
A new generation of young Australians to whom war is only a story told by their elders, and who constantly mix with others of different ethnic backgrounds find this type of nationalistic fervour distasteful and reject it. As wars recede into history, or, if they should occur again, become more likely to eliminate us all --friend and foe alike -- nationalism based on the glorification of war should be allowed, or encouraged, to fade. But what would that mean for the traditions of Anzac and the RSL?
Parliament House and the War Memorial face each other across Lake Burley Griffin. At first this might seem to be two aspects of nationalism as a cultural artefact separated by nature. But the lake is artificial and it has been claimed that the story of a nation's past is not constructed as culture but rather as nature. However it is seen, the setting of these monuments to the past and signposts to the future incorporate a blend of nature and culture. They are surrounded and sometimes overshadowed by trees and lawns, like most of the buildings in Canberra. Again as has been suggested, the monuments of the (often idealised) past are important aspects in the production of the past as 'natural'. Thus it becomes 'natural' to adopt a chauvinistic stance in relation to one's own country, race, or even political party. The processes by which nationalism is constructed are more ideological than objective, resulting more in mythology than 'truth'.
There is also an ambiguous relationship symbolised by the physical confrontation between Parliament House and the War Memorial. They are on opposite shores and the boundary (the lake) between them is inconstant and variable. The nationalism implicit, but more often explicit, in the appeal of, and to, war has been adopted or supported or rejected by politicians, often for their own purposes: At times nationalism appears to have been merely the tool of party politics.
Although intended as satire, Horne makes an interesting point in an article analysing Australian politics. He observes: "Of these [political] assembly places, the most significant was partly buried in a hill in the sacred plains of Canberra -- made sacred by the presence of the Australian War Memorial". It is worth noting in this respect that the War Memorial was the first museum to be seen as a national museum.
It becomes more obvious that Parliament House and the War Memorial are closely linked -- perhaps more closely than many people would like to admit. We must remember that "Mythical space is an intellectual construct", but also that, on the other hand: "the built environment constitutes one element in a complex of urban experience that has long been a vital crucible for the forging of new cultural sensibilities".
Constitution Avenue crosses the War Memorial-Parliament House axis, forming the base of the Parliamentary Triangle. At its ends -- the end points of the triangle -- are situated Russell, the location of the offices of the Department of Defence, and Civic, the business and administrative centre of Canberra and the seat of the ACT's Legislative Assembly. These too have had their influence on nationalism, although not always unambiguously nor in a simple manner. Thus the ways in which they relate to Parliament House and the War Memorial are also somewhat ambiguous and unclear.
The military end of the triangle, its eastmost end, would appear at first glance to be a natural ally to the War Memorial. It certainly provides members of the armed forces for honour guards and marchers for Anzac Day. As well, since tradition is an important part of military thinking, there would be support for many of the principles which the Memorial represents. However, the military must also look to the future and hence must have a suitable working relationship with the government which provides it with funding for weaponry and personnel. I have already mentioned, above, the Australian-American Memorial which stands amidst the buildings of the Department of Defence at Russell. It perhaps is not entirely coincidental that the eagle does not look straight ahead but has its head turned slightly to one side: It appears to be glaring balefully at Parliament House on the other side of the lake! It is perhaps also well to remember that Canberra's military history goes back to the very beginning: The site was originally chosen for its military utility and the Royal Military College, Duntroon, near Russel, was the first outpost of the federal government to be established in the ACT.
Civic, the north-western corner of the Parliamentary Triangle, is oriented to business. Fortunately it has not tried to usurp the War Memorial as a money maker, although the Memorial is promoted as a tourist attraction. Most of its dealing which are appropriate to consider here, are with the Federal Parliament. There is lobbying and trade agreements, tariffs and concessions. These form what has been called 'economic nationalism', the rules about which countries with whom it is appropriate and proper (read 'profitable') to trade. Lobbying from Civic and other centres of business around the country thus influences at least some of the attitudes of government -- and subsequently the ordinary citizen -- towards other countries. These vary depending on the policy of the party in power, and (being cynical) where profits are seen as obtainable.
As well, it should be noted that generally, economic nationalism (some call it economic 'patriotism') is inward looking. Maintenance of local jobs and industry is often used as an argument for keeping foreigners out.
As well, Civic is the seat of the ACT's own government which must deal with the federal government over many matters, since the federal parliament sits within the ACT and much of the land and many of the buildings are under federal government control.
Finally, there are a number of contrasts between the philosophical positions of Parliament House and the War Memorial, as they relate to nationalism. These can be seen as pairs of opposing relationships. Levi-Strauss has pointed out the importance of such 'binary' opposites as they influence our social attitudes. I shall now quickly cover a number of these positions, briefly showing the opposite views taken.
The War Memorial necessarily looks to the past: It is there that the remembered glory lies, the epic defeats and victories which shape its version of nationalism.
Parliament, on the other hand and in general, looks to the future. It must consider how the country is to be run and try to establish procedures which will produce the country and society which they promised in their election campaigns. In the present context, this involves mainly turning away from the old ties with Britain, the Commonwealth, and Europe, and establishing relationships with Asian countries. As well, for the Labor Party, it means cutting ties from the monarchy and working towards the establishment of a republic. A move towards such independence inevitably involves reducing co-operation and dependence on ties with Britain and the British Commonwealth.
From the above point, the War memorial might be seen as representing age and maturity, looking back on the memories of the past. In that case, Parliament House perhaps represents the brashness of youth, rushing headlong into adventure and change. It would then follow that these attitudes appeal to particular people in society who have similar ideas, as is plainly the case: The War memorial is more of an icon to the older members of the population, particularly those who remember the old wars, whilst the young look to Parliament to provide the future they seek.
Since the events commemorated by the War Memorial occurred many years ago, the basis of the ideology is fixed; it would be difficult if not impossible to change without rewriting history. The events have happened and are known, that fact cannot be changed, and the style of nationalism must use the facts as they are known; such nationalism is a 'faith' much like a religion. But 'faith' cannot be questioned; the myths and accretions have become part of the lore.
On the other hand, politics is eternally changeable. Policies and positions depend largely on the party in power, but also on the results of older policies and plans for the future. Although some 'faith' in a political party might attach itself to political nationalism, it tends to be more a matter of ideology: and political ideology will often be changed to suit the needs of the party.
The memories of war must be chauvinistic, since they are based upon seeing people from some other country as an enemy. Thus, they are also racist -- it is common practice, in time of war, to make ones enemies appear as lower socially, politically or as human beings. These ideas are difficult (if not illegal) to propagate in a multicultural society, but without them can a nationalism based on memories of war be maintained? It is Parliament which makes the rules for a multicultural Australia, and the supporters of a nationalism based on war must cut their cloth to abide by those rules, or run foul of the law.
Bringing all these points together, it is apparent that nationalism means different things to different people, and also that peoples' stances may change over time -- using 'people' in both its meanings of individuals and the people of a country. As well, different positions can be held by different individuals or groups within society during the same periods of time. Some of these positions can co-exist peacefully with each other, others are in such conflict that there must be constant tension until one or other falls by the wayside, or is perhaps repressed.
Therefore, it appears, nationalism is not something simple which can be defined and named, and thus easily dissected to understand its workings. Instead, it must be seen as a complex process of the human mind, perhaps manipulable by those who wish to manipulate society, but only capable of limited understandability.
The Australian War Memorial and Parliament House in Canberra are icons to two very different forms of nationalism. I have not argued that either is the better, but rather that they are simply different. The two forms of nationalism have co-existed for some time, but whether they can continue to co-exist, in the long term, is problematic, particularly with the current rush towards a republic. What might happen, I shall not attempt to predict. However, I would suggest that it has the potential to divide the country more than any issue in the past (perhaps not excluding the Vietnam War). Whether that will happen, or will be allowed to happen, unfortunately depends mainly on policies coming out of Parliament House; the influence of the War Memorial is apparently on the wane.
There is a poster which is displayed in some of the government offices around Canberra. It shows pictures of Parliament House and the War Memorial. It is captioned: "The heart and the soul of the country", but does not indicate which is which.