Anzac Day-themed nightclub parties slammed as ‘insensitive’, ‘disrespectful’

A series of raunchy posters promoting Anzac Day-themed parties at several Australian pubs and nightclubs have been criticised as “insensitive” to the Anzac legacy.

Perth’s Brass Monkey Hotel and Sydney’s Stonewall Hotel, Colombian Hotel and The Watershed were among venues to have come under fire for how they chose to promote Anzac-related events.

Stonewall’s advertisement depicted a topless man in a sailor outfit surrounded by Australian flags and fighter jets, promoting “sexy sailor” competitions and a prize for the “best abs”.

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Its website indicates that donations will be collected for Soldier On, a charity which provides counselling, employment and education for war veterans and their families.

The Colombian Hotel’s Anzac Week poster featured a muscly, shirtless man, wearing camouflage army shorts and war paint. The Watershed opted for images of singers Rihanna and ‘The Weeknd’ dressed in camouflage outfits.

Brass Monkey Hotel’s “GI Jane” event was promoted as “celebrating sisters that serve”.

Earlier this month Universal Bendigo nightclub promoted its Anzac Eve “Silent Disco” which the local RSL labelled as “disgusting” and “inappropriate”, Fairfax reported.

“A Minute of Silence… No… It Deserves a Night of Silence,” the venue’s Facebook page teaser read.

Using the word ‘Anzac’

University of New South Wales’ Catherine Bond, whose current research focuses on historical intellectual property issues such as the use of the word “Anzac”, told The New Daily that while there are laws restricting the use of “Anzac” in Australia, there were exceptions.

“Much of the discussion is actually missing a key element — that the Protection of Word Anzac Regulations 1921 (Cth), actually permits use of the term in connection with Anzac Day events,” she said.

“This exemption was introduced in 1979, and it was done in recognition of the fact that, by that time, commemoration activities, and community views about what was appropriate on Anzac Day, had started to change.

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“The Commonwealth Department of Veterans’ Affairs released guidelines last year where it explained this distinction.”

She said it was likely a number of these nightclubs’ promotions were not a breach of the restrictions.

“While there are elements to the advertising that might not meet community approval, it probably isn’t a breach of the law,” Ms Bond said.

Businesses using “Anzac” for commercial purposes

Deakin University historian Carolyn Holbrook told The New Daily the commercialisation of “Anzac” was not a recent phenomenon, but that it in fact dated back to early 1915.

“As soon as news of the Dawn landing reached Australia, businesses wanted to market Anzac beer, soap and hotels, and people even wanted to name their children Anzac,” she said.

“In 1916, a regulation was passed that it couldn’t be used for commercial purposes.

“Now businesses need approval in certain circumstances from the Department of Veterans’ Affairs and the RSL.

“But the Department of Veterans’ Affairs doesn’t have enough staff to enforce it, so it’s not that effectively policed.”

Ms Holbrook said the public outcry in response to the pubs’ promotional posters was evidence that Australians want to “protect Anzac Day”.

“There’s still something to many that’s sacred about Anzac Day. There’s a line that people need to be careful not to cross,” she said.

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But Sydney College of the Arts lecturer Oliver Watts said Anzac Day was not always “directly connected to history”.

“Many people view it as more of a national identity myth that they know as more of a fable,” he said.

“Like Australia Day and New Year’s Eve, part of that celebration is, for lack of a better word, transgression and that’s why it is a public holiday.”

NSW Veterans’ Affairs Minister David Elliot said he would refer illegal use of the Anzac name to the Commonwealth for investigation.

“I am concerned at the way “Anzac” is used for commercial gain without any apparent consideration to veterans and war widows,” he said.

The New Daily contacted each of the venues for comment but did not receive a response by deadline.

Originally published at The New Daily and re-published via SmartCompany.

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About Alana Mitchelson

Alana Mitchelson is a journalist based in Melbourne, Australia. Follow her on Twitter at @AlanaMitchelson.

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