25 October 2006

A new book detailing monumental stuff-ups in Australia’s history will be launched on Friday [October 27] at UQ.

The Great Mistakes of Australian History, a 256-page book published by UNSW Press, explores some of Australia’s worst errors in judgement and historical tragedies and failings.

UQ history lecturer Dr Martin Crotty, who came up with the idea for the book with co-editor David Roberts, said that the book not only detailed how mistakes happened but also what could be learned from them.

“It’s the first book to explicitly deal with the mistakes and blunders in our past and to try and tease out a lesson from them,” Dr Crotty said.

“It’s accessible and easy to read but deals with broad and serious issues that remain relevant today – like how much we can exploit the land, race relations and Australia at war.”

The introduction of cane toads, the stolen generations, the misuse of pastoral land and loss of life in World War I are some of the historical low points featured in the book's 13 chapters.

Dr Crotty said the biggest blunder in Australia’s history was the naïve militarism surrounding World War I which cost Australia 60,000 men dead and another 150,000 wounded.

“It resulted in incredible suffering among the soldiers and it just about tore Australian society apart.”

He feared new generations had smothered the lessons from WWI with slogans from the ANZAC legend including mateship, egalitarianism and the birth of the nation.

“There’s a strong mythology surrounding our war experience but we don’t actually draw the appropriate historical lessons out of it.

“There is a lot of enthusiasm for ANZAC among Australians today, especially younger Australians. But I fear that they’re not really getting any understanding about the realities of what happened.”

Dr Crotty said he believed Australians today compounded the errors of World War I by sanitising the historical realities.

The Great Mistakes of Australian History features contributions from several UQ academics; Dr Greg Baxter, Dr Manda Page, Associate Professor Marion Diamond and Associate Professor Clive Moore.

The Queensland launch of the book will be held in UQ’s History Philosophy Religion and Classics Common Room E318 (third level of the Forgan Smith Building) St Lucia, at 5pm on Friday.

Former NSW Premier and staunch history supporter Bob Carr will officially launch the book in NSW at Gleebooks in Glebe next Thursday.

MEDIA: Dr Crotty (0401 860 094, 07 3365 6388, m.crotty@uq.edu.au) or Miguel Holland at UQ Communications (07 3365 2619, m.holland@uq.edu.au)

Survey send to crotty 03/11/2006