Youth engagement with Anzac in New Zealand : a Christchurch Case study. (2018)
AuthorsAnsley, Aliceshow all
This thesis explores the discussions and perspectives of Christchurch secondary school students in regards to their particular experiences and engagement with Anzac. In this thesis I seek to rigorously and robustly examine these viewpoints through semi-structured focus group interviews and thematic analysis. I seek to situate these youth perspectives within wider debates around Anzac mythology and Anzac resurgence in New Zealand which often do not represent the youth outlook. These debates are seen, on the one hand, to present a resurgence of youth engagement with Anzac and, on the other hand, to present the idea that Anzac has become an exclusionary myth which distorts Australians’ and New Zealanders’ understanding of wider Anzac experiences and educates them in a narrow, militarised way.
Youth engagement with Anzac was not something which could be solely situated under either of these debates and, instead, it was seen to be multifaceted and made up of unique ideas and elements. The youth in my study acknowledged that their Anzac education did have mythic elements which made it hard for them to engage with Anzac despite the fact that they were actually interested in learning and understanding it. These mythic elements were the idea that Anzac is taught as a ‘simple narrative’ which does not allow room for critique, that it emphasises a link between Anzac and national identity, that it disregards many alternative Anzac experiences and that it presents a particular New Zealand identity to internalise. These students responded to their mythic Anzac education in a very active way, and instead of accepting it as truth, they were able to have constructive and critical conversations about their education and push against parts of it which they found to be too narrow or skewed in particular directions based on gender, ethnicity and national identity.
The students were not passive vessels which internalised their Anzac education as fact; instead, they were able to acknowledge the mythic elements of their education and its negative influence in the classroom. This thesis went further in exploring what factors were seen to enhance this active process of critique and provide students with alternative knowledge and perspectives about Anzac. These factors were ancestral ties to Anzac, research into personal Anzac stories and experiences, unassessed educational units, centenary discussions, an understanding of hardship through the earthquakes and alternative perspectives of the Anzac experience through access to the internet. These factors presented a broader understanding of Anzac perspectives and experiences and students believed that if the mythic elements of their education could be revised and these elements encouraged then their engagement with Anzac would continue long into the future.