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EDUCATION was vitally important to war correspondent and historian Charles Bean, so it was a special moment for his granddaughter, Anne Carroll, when she visited the Australian National Museum of Education to view some of his items.
Travelling down from Killara on Sydney’s north shore, Anne, came to the museum, which is based in the University of Canberra today, Friday, May 4.
“To come to a place of education and a museum of education is a special fit,” she says.
“It’s been particularly special to see the original pamphlet that he was asked to write, which was then read to schools and places of education.”
The document, which Charles wrote as a request from the Australian Commonwealth Peace Celebrations Committee in 1919, begins with three words: “It is over”.
“These words would have been quite emotional following the Great War,” Anne says.
Next to the document, the museum displays the “Peace Souvenir Medallions” given to school children nationally at the time.
Anne says the document was a way of Charles to ask: “what did it all mean?”
“It all means it’s up to us to take over and make this country the best it can be,” she says.
“After WWI he wrote a book called ‘In your hands, Australians’, where he emphasises the need for education.
“And he repeated that message in his writings towards the end of WWII. It was education, education, education.”
Anne, who was born when Charles was in his mid-60s describes him as a quiet but gentle, tall, slim man, who always looked you straight in the eye and stood straight.
“At family gatherings my grandmother, who was the extrovert, would be the centre of attention,” she says.
“And he would be in the background and would be rather amused by her ability to get the family together.
“I remember my grandparents gave my brother and I each a fountain pen, which was quite the occasion.
“Looking back now, I realise it was a practical present but also highly symbolic of him.”
Another gift Anne remembers was a book called “The Singing Tree”, which was about a family in Hungary and was written from their perspective.
“We’re all humans and the effects we were suffering, our foes were suffering too,” she says.
Charles and his wife adopted Anne’s mother, who went on to have Anne and her brother Edward.
The family now own the copyright of Charles’ work, so feel a big responsibility with that.
When they found out that a new federal electoral division for ACT was named after Charles, Anne says it was an appropriate choice.
“It’s an apt choice because it takes in Tuggeranong where Charles Bean and his writing team sought peace and quiet after the war,” she says.
Charles chose to reside and work on the Official History of Australia in the War of 1914–1918 at the Tuggeranong Homestead.
Australian National Museum of Education, Faculty of Education, University of Canberra. Visit anme.org.au