The Asymmetry of Good and Evil: The Barry Taylor and David Lewis Philosophy Lecture


We do good to one another by bringing about welcome consequences and, in particular, by bringing about welcome consequences that are disposition-dependent. Thus we give one another respect by acting out of the beneficent disposition not to interfere in one another’s personal choices: by ensuring that we conform to standards of respect in our behavior. But while we do evil to one another by bringing about unwelcome consequences, these are rarely disposition-dependent: they do not require that we act out of a maleficent disposition or that we conform to standards of malice in our behavior. This observation helps to explain the Knobe effect whereby we ascribe intentionality more readily to presumptively bad actions than to good. Thus to help the environment requires acting out of a helpful disposition, ensuring that you conform to beneficent standards. To harm the environment requires only that you create an environmental cost, breaching those standards: it does not require that you act out of the disposition of an environmental vandal, ensuring that you conform to a vandal’s standards.

Philip Pettit is L.S.Rockefeller University Professor of Politics and Human Values at Princeton, and Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at the ANU.

Tuesday, 12 May 2015, 6:30 pm

Theatre A, Elisabeth Murdoch Building, , The University of Melbourne

Posted in Events, Historical and Philosophical Studies

Baba Amte Memorial Lecture: The Amnesias of Democracy


The 2014 national elections and the 2015 Delhi elections, both of which delivered absolute majorities, have reinforced the public notion that Indian democracy is vibrant and unique, with the capacity to reinvent the polity. In the context of the Modi government’s performance over the past year, the media has focused on the need to maintain the ‘development’ agenda and avoid being sidetracked by communal issues.

Professor Nandini Sundar will argue that it is the framing of the ‘development’ agenda that most clearly illustrates the failures of Indian democracy. More specifically, in the context of the ongoing civil war in central India between Maoist guerilla and the Indian state, it is far from being a palliative or alternative to insurgency, Indian democracy – both in its procedural electoral aspects, and its substantive welfare aspects – may serve as an active tool of counterinsurgency and a means of evading accountability.

Nandini Sundar is Professor of Sociology at The University of Delhi.

The Australia India Institute is delighted to present this, its second Baba Amte Memorial Lecture.

Baba Amte (Murlidhar Devidas Amte, 1914-2008), was a social activist and champion of India’s lepers and outcastes. Born to a wealthy Brahmin family in Maharashtra, Amte came to be known as Baba, a nickname acquired in childhood. He trained and practised as a lawyer and became involved in the movement for Indian independence from Britain acting as a defence lawyer for leaders of the freedom movement imprisoned in the 1942 Quit India movement.

Tuesday, 7 July 2015, 6:00 pm

Prest Theatre, G06, FBE Building, 111 Barry Street, Carlton VIC 3053

Posted in Events, Government

The 2015 Barry Taylor and David Lewis Philosophy Lecture


We do good to one another by bringing about welcome consequences and, in particular, by bringing about welcome consequences that are disposition-dependent. Thus we give one another respect by acting out of the beneficent disposition not to interfere in one another’s personal choices: by ensuring that we conform to standards of respect in our behavior. But while we do evil to one another by bringing about unwelcome consequences, these are rarely disposition-dependent: they do not require that we act out of a maleficent disposition or that we conform to standards of malice in our behavior. This observation helps to explain the Knobe effect whereby we ascribe intentionality more readily to presumptively bad actions than to good. Thus to help the environment requires acting out of a helpful disposition, ensuring that you conform to beneficent standards. To harm the environment requires only that you create an environmental cost, breaching those standards: it does not require that you act out of the disposition of an environmental vandal, ensuring that you conform to a vandal’s standards.

Philip Pettit is L.S.Rockefeller University Professor of Politics and Human Values at Princeton, and Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at the ANU.

Tuesday, 12 May 2015, 6:30 pm

Theatre A, Elisabeth Murdoch Building, , The University of Melbourne

Posted in Events, Historical and Philosophical Studies

More ANZAC Centenary Events


There are innumerable events and exhibitions happening around Australia to mark the Centenary of the First World War. For further information about events in your area, visit your State’s ANZAC Centenary website:

For information about events and exhibitions happening in and around The University of Melbourne, visit the University’s ANZAC Centenary website.

Our recommendations for events or exhibitions not to be missed include:

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Jessie Mary Vasey and the War Widows’ Guild of Australia


Jessie Mary Vasey (nee Halber), BA(Hons) , OBE, CBE, 1897 – 1966

When Jessie Mary Vasey’s husband, Major General George Vasey, sailed for the Middle East in 1939, she dedicated her energies to the war effort, becoming involved with the Australian Comforts Fund, and serving as secretary of the Australian Imperial Force Women’s Association.

Following her husband’s death in an aeroplane crash during the war, Mrs Vasey wrote to all Victorian war widows, urging them to attend a meeting to form a craft guild. From the humble beginnings of a craft guild teaching weaving and other handicrafts to members so that they could augment their inadequate pensions, the War Widows’ Guild of Australia was formed, with Jessie Mary Vasey elected as the inaugural president. It is ‘no mean destiny to be called upon to go on for a man who has laid down his life’, she declared.

Postage-stamp-JessieMrs Vasey campaigned for an increase in the war widows’ pensions, which were payable to former soldiers and their dependants and had remained unchanged from 1920 to 1943. In 1947 the pensions were increased, largely due to her efforts, as she lobbied politicians and organized rallies in order to have the war widows’ pension tied to the basic wage. An inspiring and relentless leader, Jessie Mary Vasey was appointed O.B.E. and C.B.E. for her services to war widows.


The Guild continues to promote and provide companionship, counselling and support for its 27,000 members. In 1988, the Board of the War Widows’ Guild of Australia decided to ensure the work of its founder, the late Jessie Mary Vasey, would be recognised for years to come. In a memorial well-suited to the War Widows’ practical founder, herself an Honours student in History at The University of Melbourne, the War Widow’s Guild of Victoria established the Jessie Mary Vasey Prizes in Women’s History, to be awarded on the recommendation of the Head of the History Department, to the best essay on a Women’s History subject submitted as part of any third or fourth year History subject by Bachelor of Arts students.

The recipient of the 2014 Jesse Mary Vasey Prize for Women’s History, Augustus Viola, reflects on what it means to him to receive this award and the experience of meeting the War Widow’s guild.

War Widows Guild State President Margaret Milne and 2014 Jessie Mary Vasey Prize recipient Augustus Viola

War Widows’ Guild State President Margaret Milne and 2014 Jessie Mary Vasey Prize recipient Augustus Viola

Earlier this year, I was honoured to be awarded the Jessie Mary Vasey Prize for Women’s History. The award is presented annually by the War Widows’ Guild of Victoria to 3rd year students, and provides extremely generous support and recognition for trainee historians.

The War Widows’ Guild was established by Mrs Jessie Mary Vasey following World War I as a support organisation for the thousands of Australian women left generally without income. Mrs Vasey led the Guild to become a major lobby group in Canberra, securing many crucial support measures for disadvantaged widows of the war. In the vein of Vasey’s work, the Guild maintains the Vasey Prize to encourage recognition of the experience and achievements of women in Australia and globally.

To receive the Vasey Prize is an honour, however it was eclipsed by its added perk: being invited to share tea and sandwiches with the Guild’s current board of management.

The Guild’s current board members (themselves widows of later 20th century conflicts) were uniformly inspiring. They continue the work of Mrs Vasey in providing housing and other means of support to Australian war widows.

The Guild represents the often forgotten cost of war, and is testament to the human capacity to endure and flourish in hardship, and to care for one another. At the ANZAC Centenary, it is fitting to recognise and applaud the work of the War Widows’ Guild.

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Defending the Pacific – Australia’s first engagement in WWI

Dr Jo Wills (BA(Hons), GradDipMusStud, PhD) is a Museum Development Officer for the Queensland Museum. As part of Queensland Museum’s ANZAC Centenary program, Faculty of Arts alumna Dr Wills and her colleague Ewen McPhee have curated an exhibition entitled ‘Defending the Pacific‘ to celebrate and commemorate Australia’s first military engagement in World War One.

The exhibition details North Queensland’s involvement in WWI, which commenced on 5 August 1914 just after the declaration of war, and which included an attack on German assets in New Guinea and the Pacific, the defence of the Australian borders, and the aborted initial attempts to participate in active service overseas. The physical exhibition – showcased across regional Queensland – was designed to enable a greater understanding of the contribution by North and Far North Queenslanders through archival material, newspaper clippings, photographic images, and diary entries of soldiers involved in the first engagements of WWI.

Sourced from the Australian War Memorial, local historical societies, local libraries, the North Queensland Army Museum in Townsville, and private collections, the exhibition shares insights into the experiences of Queenslanders’ lives during the first few days, weeks and months of the First World War.

Now brought to life digitally by Dr Wills and ABC Open, the ‘Defending the Pacific’ exhibition tells the story of the forgotten Australian soldiers of World War One, the ordinary men who were the first to go to war, and the particular story of the Queensland war experience.

View the digital exhibition ‘Defending the Pacific’ below.

Read the video transcript.

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Researching Australian women’s medical contribution to World War I

During World War I, many Australian women doctors who sought to enlist were turned away by male army chiefs who believed the war was ‘no place for women’, or that their medical skills were not up to the task. A number of Australian women doctors made their way independently overseas to serve their country and to contribute their skills to the war effort. Faculty of Arts alumna, post-doctoral researcher and historian at the Australian Centre, Dr Heather Sheard, is currently researching the contribution of Australian women surgeons and medical officers in World War I. She shares some of the challenges of researching the ANZAC womens’ war efforts.

Marginal voices are difficult to research even when they are embroiled in an event with the magnitude and impact of the Great War.  By the outbreak of WWI, close to 130 women were registered as medical practitioners in Australia and women had been graduating from the Universities of Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney for twenty-three years.  Like their British Empire colleagues, Australian women doctors attempted to enlist with the various allied medical corps but were turned away.  They were not yet acknowledged in either the institutional or informal structures of a male-dominated profession and enlistment was not countenanced.  Surgery and the treatment of male patients were generally regarded as inappropriate endeavours for women doctors in 1914, and the notion of women directing lower ranked men was contentious.  Undeterred, more than twenty Australian female medical practitioners joined voluntary hospitals and mobile field units, organised outside the formal structures of the Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC) and the Australian Army Medical Corps (AAMC). They served as surgeons, pathologists, anaesthetists and medical officers across the major battle zones of the Great War.

Six female graduates of the University of Melbourne medical school served in WWI.  Of the fifty-seven members of final year medicine in 1913, two of the four women and forty-seven of the fifty-three men served during the war.  Almost every one of the men have detailed records available online from the Australian War Memorial, charting their rank, service locations, hospitalisation for wounds and illnesses, periods of leave, medals and for seven of them, the details of their death.  The refusal to accept the enlistment of women doctors and, after late 1916, the offer of ex-officio only service with the RAMC meant that the women have no such official records of service. They received no recognition from the Australian government in the form of medals or post-war employment preference and are often missing from University Rolls of Honour and memorialisation generally.

Vera Scantlebury (later Scantlebury-Brown) and Rachel Champion (later Shaw) were two of the first women graduates of the University of Melbourne Medical School, serving during the first world war at London’s Endell Street Military Hospital, pictured.

Doctors at the suffragette hospital, London’s Endell Street Military Hospital.

Writing and validating their war experience therefore relies on the existence of diaries or diary letters combined with rare accounts of the organisations they worked with. The Vera Scantlebury Brown papers in the University of Melbourne’s Baillieu Library contain nineteen volumes of diary-letters written between February 1917 and March 1919, including her twenty-one months service at the Military Hospital, Endell Street in London. Known as the suffragette hospital, the 560 bed unit was the creation of suffragists Dr Flora Murray and Dr Louisa Garrett Anderson and its 180 staff almost all female.  Dr Murray’s post-war history of the hospital, written in part to continue the fight for universal suffrage in Britain makes not a single reference to the overseas women who served.  The service of Drs Vera Scantlebury and Rachel Champion of the University of Melbourne and Drs Eleanor Bourne, Elizabeth Hamilton-Browne and Emma Buckley of the University of Sydney were not detailed.  The hagiographic nature of Murray’s history also detracts from its use as biographical source material.

Specifics of the wartime work of Dr Helen Sexton, the University of Melbourne’s third woman graduate in medicine in 1892, have been sparse until very recently. Denied enlistment, she established her own military hospital at Auteuil, near Paris’ racecourse from July 1915 to January 1916.  A recent discovery of her patient case notes by Dr Jacqueline Healy, Curator of the University’s Medical History Museum, provides the first real insight into her work. The detail of individual soldier’s wounds, injuries and illnesses provides rare information about the nature and breadth of the wartime work of all doctors.  The State Library of Adelaide holds the handwritten diary of Dr Laura Fowler Hope who served with the Scottish Women’s Hospital from October 1915 to February 1916, spending most of her service in Austrian captivity.  The diary appears to have been rewritten some time later and may have lost some immediacy but gained recollected detail.  Both Vera’s diary-letters and Laura’s diaries are mediated by awareness of their audience and in turn their audience’s sensibilities and for the researcher, what is left unsaid is always lurking.  The contextual background of some women doctors’ service in countries like Montenegro, Serbia and Galicia for example is far less well-known and documented in Australia than is that of the Western Front.  The fluidity of the Eastern front and the movement of armies and peoples also make it problematical to trace and follow the movement of the women doctors who served in Eastern Europe.  Dr Agnes Bennett’s diaries from her time in command of a Scottish Women’s Army field hospital with the Third Serbian Army at Lake Ostrovo, resides in New Zealand’s National Library in New Zealand.  The dozens of photos she took, starkly illustrate the understatement of her diary writings and the isolation of their work.

Finally, a letter in Dr Agnes Bennett’s file from Lieutenant Colonel JJ Easton written on 28 June 1915 sums up the official status of the records of women doctors.  He wrote ‘I am unable to trace any correspondence regarding her appointment or the nature of the duties she is engaged in’.

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Dr Heather Sheard (BComm, GradDipEd, GradDepEdAdmin, MA, PhD), was a secondary school teacher and assistant principal before retiring and completing a master’s thesis on the history of Victoria’s maternal and child health services, subsequently published as All the Little Children: The Story of Victoria’s Baby Health Centres (2007). Her PhD thesis, completed in 2013, was a biography of Dr Vera Scantlebury Brown. Learn more about Dr Vera Scantlebury Brown and Female Leadership in a First World War Military Hospital in Dr Sheard’s paper here.

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The exhibition ‘Compassion and Courage: Doctors and Dentists at War‘ is showing at the Medical History Museum, University of Melbourne, 20 – 30 April 2015.

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Centenary War Lectures

By Dr James Waghorne
Research Officer, History of the University Unit

At the height of the First World War, professors from the six universities across Australia presented public lectures giving sense to the conflict and the motivation of the combatants. The lectures covered economics, advances in medical and the natural sciences, as well as cultural commentaries on the German enemy explaining its literary and philosophical contributions. They drew out the challenges of the time and related them to the war.

The History of the University Unit at the University of Melbourne is convening a new series of war lectures reflecting on the consequences of the Great War from a similarly broad perspective, relating changes begun during that conflict and the challenges of the twenty-first century.

war lectures image

The 1915 lectures made use of their interested audience to discuss the work of universities, providing instances where dedicated scholarship provided insight into current events. Speakers also employed an overt patriotism ensuring that all conclusions supported the war and made sure to condemn the enemy and anticipate its defeat.

In a lecture arguing that Britain’s central place in international finance combined with its naval blockade of Germany placed it at an advantage in the war, the professor of Economics at the University of Western Australia, Edward Shann, also conveyed key economic themes, including the principles that underpinned finance.

Similarly, another West Australian, Professor of Bacteriology, W.J. Dakin, revealed the recent research into the bilharzia intestinal worm, work on bacteria in the treatment of wounds, tetanus and typhus, and the new challenges of gas gangrene —illustrating his points with the explanatory lantern slides.

In Melbourne, the Professor of Physiology, William Osborne, gave a three-part series on ‘the feeding of an army’, presenting the requirements for maintaining the ‘sustenance of vigour and life of the human machine’, breaking down foods into their contribution of protein and fibre, and the amount of ‘heat and energy’ each supplied. The popular bread and jam rations were now considered ‘nourishing’ when calculated through nutritional science.

The greater portion of these 1915 lectures covered politics. The University of Melbourne Professor of History, Ernest Scott, told the Kyneton Mechanics Institute that more attention should be directed to modern European history, especially in the Franco-Prussian War, and figures such as Bismarck, Frederick the Great and Garibaldi. Though Australia’s geography and orderly federation had sheltered it from world events, the German desire to establish a colonial empire would bring the conflict quickly to Australia’s shores if Britain were defeated in Europe. The lecturer in philosophy J. McKellar Stewart introduced the Nietzschean conceptions of power and will, condemning their influence in Germany. Although the lectures were partisan, their content nevertheless conveyed new scholarship and interpretation to an interested public.

The 1915 lectures conveyed pre-war research in the service of the war effort. This year, the series will take up the significant social, cultural and technical changes brought by the war, and their continuing resonance. Eight panels of eminent researchers will discuss key themes arising from the war. As with the earlier series, the lectures will take place in the community, in association with exhibitions throughout the year at museums and galleries.

The series will cover archaeology, psychology, medical science, natural science, engineering and law, as well as contributions to the the humanities disciplines, to examine the way in which war has been commemorated, particularly for indigenous ANZACs, and the role of the visual and performing arts and music in interpreting war.

For more information about each of the individual lectures, and to book your seat, visit the events website for the ANZAC Centenary Lectures.

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Partner organisations:

The Shrine of Remembrance
Museum Victoria
The National Gallery of Victoria
Grainger Museum, University of Melbourne
Medical History Museum, University of Melbourne
Ian Potter Museum of Art, University of Melbourne





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Mourning, Motherhood and the Great War

By Professor Joy Damousi
ARC Kathleen Fitzpatrick Laureate Fellow, Professor of History, School of Historical and Philosophical Studies.

The unprecedented scale of the trauma of loss and sorrow left an enduring legacy on those who remained to absorb the impact of individual and national tragedy. Rituals of mourning became embedded in cultural life during the inter-war years in ways not seen before or since. The end of the war may have signaled an end to hostilities, but the community of mourners it created in its wake – those millions effected by death – struggled to escape from the persistent shadow of bereavement. The wide circle of those effected – mothers, fathers, siblings, wives, uncles, aunts, cousins, friends – faced what Vera Brittain described as ‘the long, empty years’ after the war.

It was during these long, empty years that mourning became much more than a private matter. Those who died in the war were commemorated publicly: monuments and memorials – centrepieces for ceremony – rose to honour and remember the men who had made the ultimate sacrifice. The battlefields where combatants had fallen became places of pilgrimage for mourners who were irresistibly drawn to where the carnage took place, and to the cemeteries where their loved ones were buried, seeking an intimacy with the dead as a way for their own emotional wounds to begin to heal. At the same time, the public process of commemoration, memorial and reconciliation of grief also took on a non-physical form in which artistic expression, spiritualism and religion were utilized to imbue the war and the mourners’ individual loss with meaning and a sense of higher purpose.

The words of Kemal Ataturk to the mourning mothers of fallen soldiers.

The words of Kemal Ataturk to the mourning mothers of fallen soldiers. Gallipoli, Turkey.

Mothers in particular grieved in ways which were unprecedented, as they were expected to disavow their grief and instead channel it into forms of patriotism.  In 1916, Mrs. Annie J. Williams was typical. Williams had four sons on active service. They had all served at Gallipoli, two of them invalided and another two wounded. The reportage of the sacrificial mother such as Annie Williams aimed to boost morale, support the war effort and allow mothers to share the honour of their sons. Mother’s stature increased with the number of sons they had serving at the front.

After the war, a generation of grieving mothers searched to find new ways to articulate their grief, commemorate their loss and live with their bereavement. The cruel and enduring loss of those who continued to live with the shadow cast by war has allowed the experience of women and mothers in particular to find a place in the history of the Great War. Their journey of mourning is one of the most profound and significant legacies in our study of the war. The experience of the circle of mourners who formed as a result of the war – from the East or West, of whatever religion, culture or nation – is a part of all our histories. Their sacrifices, too, remain in our memories.

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Faculty of Arts alumni and co-writers of The Water Diviner discuss the Gallipoli legend

Faculty of Arts alumnus Andrew Anastasios (BA(Hons), MA) co-wrote the original screenplay for The Water Diviner, an historical drama directed by Russell Crowe in his directorial debut. The script for The Water Diviner was adapted into a novel for Pan Macmillan by Andrew and his wife, Dr Meaghan Wilson-Anastasios (BA(Hons), MArtCur, PhD), who is also a Faculty of Arts alumna and lecturer at The University of Melbourne. ARTiculation interviewed Meaghan and Andrew to learn more about their fascinating background, the origins of The Water Diviner, and why they chose to offer a fresh perspective on the ANZAC legend.

Anastasios picture

Andrew Anastasios and Meaghan Wilson-Anastasios in their home, with items from their Middle Eastern adventures.

Discovering Turkey

With its heady mix of classical and Islamic archaeology and history, a dynamic film and television scene, and a frenetic and thrilling jazz scene, Andrew Anastasios and Meaghan Wilson-Anastasios fell instantly in love with Istanbul. A vibrant, bustling place with an unexpectedly modern twist for such an ancient city, it would become a home away from home for the Faculty of Arts alumni, who met en route to an archaeological dig back in their university days.

Meaghan admits to having started her Bachelor of Arts with the intention of studying Art History, but then enrolling in Archaeology and Classical Studies because it sparked her imagination and enabled her to travel. Inspired by the teaching staff  – who continue to inspire her today – by Meaghan’s 4th year she was invited to join Professor Tony Sagona’s excavations in Eastern Turkey. She recalls the excavations with joy, recounting tales of adventure, of fires fuelled with dung cakes and of meeting a fine, ‘swarthy’ young man (indicating husband, Andrew), her own ‘Indiana Jones’.

Andrew was also drawn to studies in archaeology, though admittedly with less direction initially, selecting university subjects that ‘seemed interesting at the time’. Andrew was delighted when he was advised that his archaeology, ancient languages, Middle Eastern politics and Judaeo-Christian studies would qualify him for an archaeology degree. “I thought, you can be one of those?! As soon as they said the words, it sparked my imagination and all the things that I had been studying made sense. After that, there was no distracting me from that course”, he recalls. Following Honours and Masters Degrees in archaeology, working with Dr Elizabeth Pemberton and Prof Tony Sagona, Andrew worked on excavations in Syria and Jordan, begging Tony to let him join the team in Turkey. Eventually Tony relented, and that’s how Andrew and Meaghan met, quite by accident, like a scene from a movie, sitting next to each other on a flight to Turkey.

In addition to their shared backgrounds in archaeology, Meaghan and Andrew both shared a passion for documenting the excavation process. While Meaghan illustrated the discoveries, Andrew had completed a course in film and television, in order to create a visual record of the excavations –  a novel concept in the days of clunky machinery and video footage. Andrew remembers lugging around ‘a camera the size of a small ottoman’ and saying to Tony Sagona that “in 20 years we would be able to take a camera the size of our hands and use a telephone to send footage back to an auditorium on the other side of the world. It sounded like a space odyssey.”

When asked to recount their first impressions of Turkey, they are visibly affected and profusely enthusiastic. “I can remember arriving in Istanbul for the first time and feeling this overwhelming sense of returning somewhere that I had been before. It’s a just a place that’s really special to us, not just because we met there, but because it reverberates inside us”, says Andrew. Meaghan agrees. When she arrived at the hotel that had been arranged for the team – “the Buyuk Londra, a really classic Miss Faversham-style, wacky faded Victorian glory hotel, at the heart of what really is the best area of Istanbul, ‘hipster central’ these days” – she took her first walk out into the streets to explore the Sultanahmet and the Blue Mosque, and was simply swept away. “I was so entranced by the city and by the people who were so friendly and so hospitable towards me”, she says.

Meaghan’s love for Turkey has flourished since that day, with her work as an accomplished writer providing ample opportunities to return. In 2014 Meaghan co-wrote ‘Shane Delia’s Spice Journey: Turkey’, a ten part series for SBS. To hear Meaghan describe the diverse range of regions and cuisines, the blend of Arab and Ottoman history, and the emerald green groves of hazelnut trees along the Black Sea coastline, it is easy to comprehend the passion that fuels her research. “I saw it as my love letter to Turkey because it gave me gave the opportunity to introduce people to parts of Turkey that they wouldn’t be familiar with –beyond the well-worn tourist trails in Istanbul, Bodrum, Ephesus, and Gallipoli”, she explains.

the-water-diviner film posterThe Anastasios’ epistolary romance with Turkey continued on the silver screen and in paperback with the release of The Water Diviner in 2014. According to director Russell Crowe, it is “an epic, brutal, romantic, heart-wrenching and inspiring adventure of discovery.” Whilst conducting research on events at Gallipoli, Andrew discovered a line in a letter from Lieutenant-Colonel Cyril Hughes, a worker in the Imperial War Graves unit, who was trying to organise the graves and to recover the dead that were still missing in action after the war – an astounding 4,000 ANZACS remained unaccounted for at that time. The line in the letter, a footnote in a much more detailed account, simply said, “One old chap managed to get here from Australia, looking for his son’s grave.”

Andrew recalls, “Lt Col Hughes was trying to identify the bodies, and here was this father who just turned up from Australia, out of nowhere. It was a huge commitment and a serious undertaking to visit a country of which you have no knowledge and would have been dealing with all the cultural and language issues, not to mention that all the news that they had received during the war had been filtered through the military censors, so there was no real understanding of what Turkey was, or could be. By that stage, the Ottoman Empire was being dismantled completely by the Allies, and so it was in disarray and the idea of just turning up in a country that is slowly being dismembered was really quite fascinating. I guess that line just jumped out at me. I’m sure thousands of people had read it, but that day, when I was reading it, it really just popped off the page.”

When Andrew approached (co-writer) Andrew Knight about his discovery, he too was excited to learn more. For up to a year, they researched in and around Gallipoli trying to identify the man or to learn more about people who had similar experiences. Their search was fruitless. This unknown man was obviously the only one who had made the formidable journey. Once they had concluded that they would be unable to find the real person, it gave them licence to construct a story. They were insistent, however, that if it was not going to be a true story, then it would at least be based on other people’s experiences, and so Andrew and Andrew, and later Andrew and Meaghan, would draw on their research and be inspired by real life stories to develop a framework for The Water Diviner.

A fresh perspective on Gallipoli

For all the focus on Gallipoli as the pinnacle of Australia’s participation in World War One, in creating The Water Diviner, Andrew Anastasios and Andrew Knight were eager to paint a more detailed picture of the Ottoman Empire at the time, to try to put the Gallipoli skirmish in the context of a much larger World War. They wanted to show the consequences of what happened afterwards, and the fallout for the Ottoman Empire, a deeply traumatic and transformative time for Turkey. Andrew explains how the repercussions of Turkey’s loss in the First World War continue to reverberate for the country, and how the arbitrary borders that were drawn up by the Allies after WWI are the source of a lot of the conflicts the region endures today.

Meaghan credits their desire to tell this fresh perspective of the Gallipoli legend to being students of history and graduates of The University of Melbourne – where they had “innumerable fabulous teachers” who emphasised the importance of the bigger picture. Andrew is quick to agree, detailing how, from the outset, he and Andrew Knight were keen to show the Gallipoli story from the other side.

Christmas Dinner, 1914

Australian Troops. Christmas Dinner, 1914. University of Melbourne Archives.

During the course of their research, investigating both the Australian and Turkish war experience, the writers explored Gallipoli and the major Turkish graves and memorial sites. They discovered diaries of Turkish soldiers and officers written on the front line, trying to observe the ANZACs through Turkish eyes. “It’s not surprising, but we came to the conclusion that the experiences of the rank-and-file Turks was probably not that much different to the experiences of the rank-and-file Australians, which is why you have those days where the two camps of soldiers would meet, on armistice days, where they would bury the dead, and after that, there was a real empathy and respect between them, which meant they never quite go at each other in the same way. They resumed fighting, but there was a grudging respect that had developed between them”, Andrew reflects. Officers at the time did everything they could to keep their soldiers away from each other, careful not to allow their troops to put a face to the enemy, because as soon as they did so, they began to realise that there was not that much difference between them.

On the subject of Turks as ‘the enemy’, Andrew is eager to highlight that they were defending their homeland, and that Australians had a more active role than is sometimes portrayed. Andrew recalls how he and Andrew Knight wanted to make the point that “when the Allies arrived in Turkey there was this sense that they would land on Gallipoli and would be in Constantinople within a couple of days. It was almost a fait accompli. But when the ANZACs met this massive resistance from the Turks, it was quite a shock, and the reports coming back to Australia were ‘Oh yes, minor setback but a couple more days and we’ll be okay’. The reality on the ground, however, was that it would develop into a stalemate. It was very important for us to demonstrate the opposite view in the film – the idea that the Turks were defending their country and we were invading it. No matter what the historic reasons for that were, the reality is that if you are defending your country, you do it fiercely. To depict the Australians as aggressors was a new perspective on the Gallipoli story. But we felt like the Australian public was ready to accept that viewpoint”, he explains.

The film has been described as ‘anti-war but not anti-warrior’, a balance which Andrew believes remains respectful to the ANZAC experience and to the individuals that fought. During the writing process, they were careful not to devalue the role that the Australian soldiers played and were mindful of the importance of the ANZAC legend and of the sacrifices that were made by the individuals and their families. “Yes”, Andrew agrees, “we were very careful not to denigrate that, but we also thought that it was time, now that we are active in Iraq and active in Afghanistan, to start thinking about Australian forces as something other than a passive entity that went off to this place that no one could have imagined.” Meaghan draws upon her academic background to support this view, explaining how “as students of history, if we were to read an historical account of Gallipoli in a thousand years’ time, there would be no question about it. We would see these troops as invaders who wanted to overrun the capital of what was then an empire. But our national psyche is so connected to the ANZAC legend and to the legend of Gallipoli, that it has really only been recently that we have been able to accept the idea that ANZAC troops under the direction of the British invaded a sovereign country.”

In addition to a more balanced representation of the conflict itself, Andrew explains how they were eager to explore the complexities of Turkish culture. “Andrew (Knight)’s wife Banu and her family are Turkish, and so their experiences were able to be played out in the film in terms of the cultural and linguistic differences, and all those quirky things that are particularly Turkish gave the story depth and colour”, he reveals. These stories, as well as Andrew and Meaghan’s own extensive experiences of the complexities of Turkish society, combined to create a rich and evocative representation of life in Turkey. Meaghan recounts her experiences on archaeological excavations, living and working in small, extremely basic, mud brick villages, with no running water, explaining how this was representative of the way people had been living in those areas for hundreds, if not thousands, of years.

The Water Diviner novel, published by Pan Macmillan.

The Water Diviner novel, published by Pan Macmillan.

While writing the novel they drew on their research and personal encounters, which provided a strong sense of the dynamic that exists in very traditional Turkish villages, as well as an acute understanding of the dynamic that exists between men and women in those places. This knowledge shines through in the character of Ayshe (played by Olga Kurylenko in the film), the Turkish hotel owner in Istanbul. She is a complex, well-rounded character who navigates the divide between East and West. Andrew and Meaghan discuss how, having gained an understanding of the cultural conflict that exists there from the experiences of their own friends living in Istanbul today, this cultural divide was something that they wanted to portray that was very peculiar to Turkey, and to Istanbul in particular. It is this clear and well formulated cultural framework and context for the story that provides a layer through which to view the Turkish society. The Water Diviner’s popular reception in Turkey demonstrates how the film and its story resonate with Turks facing the same complexities of cultural identity today.

Responses to The Water Diviner

Written as a “romantic, historical novel that people read to be swept away by”, Andrew and Meaghan were eager for the novel to have broad appeal and are pleased that the story and its characters are now out in the world. Meaghan suggests the writing process was “like having a child you raise to set free”, and has found the emotional responses to the novel particularly rewarding. “To hear from people out there who have really enjoyed it and are engaged with it and thinking about it, just as I know how I feel  when I see a film or read a book, that really moves me”, she says.

A&M film premiere

Andrew and Meaghan at the Sydney film première of The Water Diviner.

The couple are equally excited by the academic impact of their work and the fact that all the research and acquired knowledge contained within their writing is now sparking conversations. “I don’t think at any point we held the view that it wouldn’t be controversial. There are elements that people like, and that people don’t like, and depending on what country you’re from, your political viewpoints or what your view of Gallipoli is, there are conversations to be had about what we have presented and our interpretation of the history. But it’s really rewarding to see those conversations taking place”, says Andrew.

The film is set to be released to American markets on April 24, to coincide with the ANZAC Centenary in Australia and New Zealand on April 25. This will be the next test for the universal nature of the story, in a market where the Gallipoli landings, the ANZAC spirit, or the Turkish victory are relatively unknown. Meaghan explains how “Gallipoli is not an aspect of WWI that many Americans would understand – they might understand the American involvement in the war but they would have no concept of Gallipoli, Turkey, or the Ottoman Empire, far less what it is to be an ANZAC. The Water Diviner is a universal story, and that is why it got international interest in the first place. The original script shows a wonderful trajectory for Connor, because he goes from being an isolated and constrained Australian man with a limited cultural horizon living in the outback to a man in this ancient culture engaging with completely unfamiliar things. That is what American audiences will respond to.” Andrew reveals how he and Andrew Knight tested the story during the writing process by imagining it as a narrative that could have been set in the American Civil War. They would consider whether they could move the story to any war and any time, or if they could make the main character a woman, for example, replacing Russell Crowe with Cate Blanchett. If the story still worked, they felt, then they would have something that people could respond to on an emotional level as well as an academic level. “In a sense, I envy the Americans for being able to watch the film without the shadow of the Gallipoli legend hanging over it”, admits Andrew. “Whilst that is very important to an Australian audience, it means nothing to an American audience, and so they will be able to watch the story just as a war film or an anti-war film, whichever way you want to look at it. It will be interesting to see how the Americans judge it based just on the story, as opposed to the scrutiny that it has had here about its historical veracity, and how it may or may not represent the Gallipoli legend.”

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Dr_Meghan_Wilson-AnastasiosDr Meaghan Wilson-Anastasios describes herself as ‘a lapsed archaeologist who worked in Greece and the Middle East, but now uses her PhD in art history and cultural economics as a lecturer at the University of Melbourne’. Meaghan teaches into the Master of Arts and Cultural Management program in the Graduate School of Humanities and Social Sciences, and also writes for academic publications, popular press and print media such as The AgeGourmet Traveller and her blog, Art Matters. Meaghan is an accredited member of the Australian Academy of Cinema and Television (AACTA), regularly working as a researcher and script writer for film and television. Meaghan has previously worked in the art world at major public institutions and organisations including the National Gallery of Victoria, Artbank, and Leonard Joel’s fine art auctions, in addition to securing a qualification as an art valuer for the Australian Government under the Cultural Gifts Program.

AA profileAndrew Anastasios has had a fascinating career encompassing archaeological digs in Syria, Turkey and the Middle East, advertising campaigns for clients such as Tourism Victoria, Fosters Group and Ford, and writing, research and production credits for television and film projects such as the Jack Irish telemovies starring Guy Pearce, and the recent adaptation of Peter Temple’s Broken Shore. As a freelance writer, Andrew has also had a weekly interview-based column in The Age newspaper, Australia’s premium daily broadsheet, was a regular contributor to Vogue Living, and his third book, Dying to Know, has sold nearly 50,000 copies in the UK and Australia. Following his work on The Water Diviner with Andrew Knight, there are rumours of another future feature collaboration. 

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The movie, The Water Diviner, is now available on DVD. The novel is available from book stores across Australia. Bolinda has also published the novel as an audio book narrated by Jack Thompson.

Save the date: Tuesday 21 July, 6.30pm.
Keep an eye out in the next edition of ARTiculation for details about our upcoming alumni screening of The Water Diviner, followed by a Q&A session with Andrew Anastasios and Meaghan Wilson-Anastasios.

For information about other upcoming events for alumni in the Faculty of Arts, visit the InTouch portal for alumni and friends.

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