Veterans Slam Video 'Trivialising' Women In Military

Australian War Memorial Director Dr Brendan Nelson has taken responsibility for a promotional song which has been accused of "trivialising" female service.

The song entitled "On the Left" and released ahead of Remembrance Day last Sunday has been slammed by Australian veterans and members of the public as "embarrassing" and "disrespectful."

The song's message was supposed to tackle growing frustration from Australia's servicewomen, who say they are often presumed to be wearing medals of a family member, rather than medals they have earned themselves.

"There's a frustrating issue service women are experiencing where, particularly when they're wearing civilian clothing, people ask them 'who earned the medals in your family'," Nelson told 10 daily.

"This is a big issue and a lot of service women will tell you how demeaning it is."

But the video by Sisters In Arms has received more than a thousand comments online, and been criticised by viewers who claim the video "undermines" women's contributions to the Australian Defence Force.

"I'm a proud returned veteran of the Afghanistan campaign. I have served alongside many equally proud, professional and great Australian women in my time and I'm pretty sure none of them would feel this was necessary. I'm sorry, but you simply got this wrong," one user said on the Australian War Memorial's Facebook page.

A screengrab from the promotion video.

"I’m so proud of being a serving member of our Defence Force but I am utterly embarrassed by this cringeworthy representation of women in Defence," another added.

"AWM you should be ashamed for trivialising the service of women like this. “The big gun shakes the ground”? How can you possibly think such infantilising language honours my service? Where is the serious representation of women in actual combat performing serious roles on legitimate operations?"

Others however said the message was "very true" for Australian service women, with one user throwing their support behind the video claiming "the only thing that embarrasses me about this song is that it's still necessary."

But Nelson, who told 10 daily he came up with the idea initially and was taking responsibility for the song, said people were taking the wrong message away from the song.

He said 'On The Left' was supposed to challenge people in the community who treated women badly by assuming they couldn't achieve the same thing in the military as men.

"Women can do anything men can do in the military and by doing these things they earn their medals, and they wear those medals on the left," he said.

The video shows servicewomen in several different divisions. Source: Facebook (Australian War Memorial)

Nelson said a lot of the complaints on social media also stemmed from people, including veterans, who claimed the video had a lot of "technical errors" and did not portray accurately what actually happens in service.

But Nelson said people were forgetting that the video was "not a documentary", adding the target audience was the general public who would not be aware of the specific details and practices of working in various military contexts.

"There are women there who have been vilified by members of the broader veteran community which is disappointing," Nelson said.

The song features as a track on the Australian War Memorial's After the War CD which commemorates Australian servicemen and servicewomen during both wartime and peace.

Nelson said he encouraged people to continue purchasing the CD even if they had musical qualms with the song, with all sale proceeds going to help service personnel.

He said it was important to remember the message and real intention behind the song which was to continue on the push for women to be recognised as equally in the community as men.