From War to Friendship: Australia and Turkey from WWI to Today

(Monday, May 17th 2010)

Guest Speaker:  Senator the Hon Alan Ferguson
(ICD Advisory Board Member – Senator for South Australia,
Deputy President of the Australian Senate, the 22nd President of the Australian Senate)

Event Report


On the evening of May 17th 2010, participants of the ICD’s Germany meets Turkey Young Leader’s Forum and friends of the ICD attended a special address by the Hon. Alan Ferguson, Deputy President of the Australian Senate. The Hon. Alan Ferguson recounted the special relationship that has been forged between Turkey and Australia out of the tragic events of WWI. This relationship, now over 90 years old, has become a testament to how an adversarial event can be transformed into a point of positive cultural exchange between two very different countries and cultures.

A Lesson from History

ICD Founder and Director Mark Donfried introduced The Hon. Alan Ferguson, who began with a description of the events leading up to the Gallipoli campaign, where the Allied Powers were looking to open a new front in the Great War, to open a sea route to Russia, and capture the Ottoman capital of Istanbul. The campaign however, proved to be a failure from the very beginning, fighting dragging on for eight months before the Allied forces finally evacuated. Casualties were heavy on both sides, with those dead or wounded numbering nearly a half a million by the campaign’s end.

For Australia, and New Zealand, who fought together as part of ANZAC (Australia and New Zealand Auxiliary Corps), the Gallipoli campaign left a powerful legacy. It was one of the most defining events in the countries’ short histories and played an important role in forging their national identities, now referred to as the ANZAC Spirit.

For Turkey, the campaign (known in Turkey as Çanakkale Savaşları), was similarly formative. The campaign is widely held to be a defining moment in the history of the Turkish people—a final surge in the defense of the motherland as the centuries-old Ottoman Empire was crumbling. The struggle laid the grounds for the Turkish War of Independence and the foundation of the Turkish Republic eight years later under Kemal Atatürk, himself a commander at Gallipoli.

Today, Gallipoli’s anniversary is commemorated every year on the 25th of April, with dawn ceremonies in all of the combatant countries. In Gallipoli itself, thousands of people from Australia and New Zealand visit to meet with their Turkish counterparts and to pay tribute to the common experience and bond of war that has since turned into a firm friendship.
The speech was followed by an engaging question and answer session, discussing how such an event can serve as an example for others in overcoming difficult historical legacies and promoting cultural understanding.

Cultural Diplomacy in Action

In relating the Australian experience of the Gallipoli campaign and its resulting relationship with Turkey, the Hon. Alan Ferguson demonstrated the powerful effect of shared experience, even when on opposite sides of war, in forging a common understanding.

The Gallipoli campaign serves to show the ability of how an adversarial event can be transformed into a point of positive cultural exchange between two very different countries and cultures.