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Schools must focus on Darwin bombings: Govern -

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Schools must focus on Darwin bombings: Government

The World Today - Tuesday, 11 November , 2008 12:22:00

ELEANOR HALL: The Northern Territory Government says research shows that too many Australians are
unaware of the seriousness of the Bombing of Darwin, during World War Two.

More than 200 people were killed in the initial raid on the 19th of February 1942.

The government argues that while the $130 million Baz Lurhumann film 'Australia' will lift the
profile of the bombings, more needs to be done in schools.

Sarah Hawke reports.

BRENDAN GOWER: Not only did they bomb Darwin but they bombed a lot of the smaller regions like.
Katherine, Adelaide River.

SARAH HAWKE: 15 year old Darwin student Brendan Gower has a thorough understanding of the Japanese
campaign in northern Australia.

BRENDAN GOWER: The Northern Territory was a main communication point for the allies, the Japanese
thought well if we take the communication we've got the war.

SARAH HAWKE: 188 Japanese aircraft bombed Darwin on February the 19th 1942 killing over 200 people.
There were scores of other bombing raids through until late 1943.

SARAH HAWKE: Although it was the most significant military attack on Australian soil the Northern
Territory Government says more must done to educate young Australians.

Newspoll research commissioned by Tourism NT shows that while 78 per cent of the 1200 surveyed knew
that Darwin was the Australian city most attacked in the war, the figure drops to 62 per cent in
the 18 to 34 year old age group.

12 per cent of that group believed Sydney was the most attacked while 20 per cent of women surveyed
didn't know which country bombed Australia. The research also shows 77 per cent of Australians
didn't know more bombs were dropped on Darwin than Pearl Harbour.

Acting Northern Territory Chief Minister Marion Scymgour.

MARION SCYMGOUR: There is a lot of history that people certainly need to be aware of and we need to
share it and we need to show that Darwin is an important place in Australia's history.

SARAH HAWKE: Darwin High School history teacher Jenny Bolan says in southern Australia there is
some apathy about the bombings.

JENNY BOLAN: I attended the Prime Minister's summer school for Australia history teachers in
January that was held in the Australian National University. And while the teachers themselves were
really interested to know about, I just felt when we started talking about it with people
particularly at the war memorials and places like that, when I asked why did Darwin only have like
a little panel about 10 feet by 15 and yet they have the whole sub that came about of Sydney
Harbour taking up a huge big area like a barn, you know why was this? Because of the significance
of it, they didn't really want to know.

SARAH HAWKE: Rex Ruwoldt was 18 and serving with the 19th Machine Gun Regiment when the attacks
started. Rounds from a Japanese zero coming close to killing him on the 19th February.

REX RUWOLDT: The Japanese fighter planes had four gunners that fired simultaneously. I think I
really grew up in that moment.

SARAH HAWKE: Mr Ruwoldt says censorship during and after the bombings did stifle the story of the
Japanese campaign.

REX RUWOLDT: I would like to see the 19th February recognised as a day of importance in Australian

SARAH HAWKE: And what about in schools?

REX RUWOLDT: Yes in schools for sure.

SARAH HAWKE: Why do you think there isn't better recognition?

REX RUWOLDT: I think it all goes back to the fact that the government banned it in the first place.
Way back during the war and then 50 years after the war.

SARAH HAWKE: You mean with the censorship?

REX RUWOLDT: Yes. After the war, a fellow I went to school with said, where were you? I said I was
in Darwin, he said did you see any bombing there? I said I did, I said I saw them out 46 ear range.
God he said I wouldn't believe that.

Now because he had never heard of the place being bombed he thought I was telling fibs cause I said
I saw these air raids. So most of the veterans just didn't ever talk about it because people didn't
know anything about it and they recon they were spinning stories.

ELEANOR HALL: That's a former solider Rex Ruwoldt, ending Sarah Hawke's report.