Some Anzac-themed memorabilia has fallen foul of the Veterans Affairs Department. Photo: Brianne MakinThe Disneyfication of the Diggers
The Church of Scientology has topped a list of organisations and businesses that have been blocked by the government from exploiting the Anzac legacy for profit and self-promotion.
Ahead of the Anzac Centenary, the Veterans Affairs Department has been inundated with more than 380 requests to use the Anzac name on everything from footy jumpers to an “ANZAPP” iPhone app and bottles of hard liquor.
The vast majority of the applications — nearly 80 per cent — have been approved because the product or event was deemed to be respectful of the ANZAC legacy. Many also promised to donate a portion of any money raised to respected ex-service organisations like the RSL or Mates4Mates.
But several dozen proposals were knocked back as “inappropriate” or cynically commercial. Among those rejected include ANZAC-branded bottles of port, stubbie holders, the “FANZAC” photosharing project, and a commemorative medallion with no historically significant design.
The Church of Scientology was the most high-profile of a small number of offenders that appropriated the Anzac legacy without permission, attracting the ire of Veteran Affairs Minister Senator Michael Ronaldson.
In September, the controversial religious organisation was caught offering to issue the rank of “ANZAC” to members who donated $10,000 to build a new Scientology centre in Auckland, New Zealand.
The church was forced to remove the promotional material after being reprimanded by the minister.
A Scientology spokeswoman said the error had been made by an individual who was unaware about rules governing the use of the Anzac name.
“No funds were raised from this action. Once the church was notified of the use of the term, an apology was sent forthwith and the term was never used again, nor will it be,” the spokeswoman said. “We meant no disrespect to anyone, particularly those people who gave their lives for both countries.”
Online custom-merchandise retailers Teespring and Zazzle were also forced to remove products that had been emblazoned with Anzac themes without permission.
Competitor Redbubble, which has been warned by the government previously, continues to offer some Anzac-themed clothing, including T-shirts that say: “Anzac Kin”, “Anzac Descendant” and “Thank you Anzacs. Lest we forget April 25”.
The US and Melbourne-based company did not respond to a request for comment. The government is currently investigating the matter.
Even the organisers of officially sanctioned Anzac events have been caught out misusing the name. The federally-funded Camp Gallipoli event, which will see more than 40,000 people sleep outdoors on Anzac Day eve, was recently ordered to remove from sale beanies, hooded jumpers, stubby holders and a swag that had been branded without permission.
The Veterans Affairs Department reported that most groups were unaware they had violated the 94-year-old protective regulations and immediately removed the “offending content”.
The government has not recently used its prosecution powers to enforce the regulations, which include a penalty of up to 12 months in prison and fines of up to $10,200 for individuals and $51,000 for businesses.
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