The study of history is important for a number of reasons. One of the most important reasons is that it enables us to appreciate the importance of institutions such as democratically elected parliaments, the rule of law, trial by jury, an independent judiciary, and the need to protect them. Another important reason is that history provides us with a frame of reference that enables us to recognise dangers to our society, both from within and externally, and it provides guidance as to how to deal with those dangers when they arise. I believe that it was the English philosopher Roger Scruton who said that denying children a solid grounding in the history of their country was calculated to produce a generation of gentle sheep that could be easily led by their political masters. I agree completely with that view.

Darwin burns as Japanese bombers attack Australia on 19 February 1942. The study of history provides us with a frame of reference that enables us to recognise dangers to our society, both from within and externally, and it provides guidance as to how to deal with those dangers when they arise.

I am sometimes asked about the apparent incongruity of a lawyer writing history. While by no means suggesting that legal experience is essential for historians, I would argue that my background in public law and politics is a valuable grounding for historical research and writing history. A Crown prosecutor spends a great deal of time assimilating facts and analysing them impartially with a view to laying them before a judge or jury to support one or more findings of fact. Knowledge of constitutional law, legal history and the working of government is valuable equipment for an historian who wishes to understand the political as well as the social history of a country.

I studied history from the age of nine to university, and those studies ranged from ancient Egypt to the end of World War II. During senior years at high school and university, my history studies began to focus increasingly on Germany and Japan. Perhaps this focus was influenced by a childhood affected significantly by World War II and in particular, by the Japanese attack on Australia in 1942. The practice of law for thirty years reduced my time for history studies but in no way diminished my love of history.

During the 1980s, I became increasingly aware that many Australian children had little or no awareness that Japan had attacked Australia in 1942, and that for most of that year Australia's fate hung in the balance. I studied educational trends from the mid-1960s, and found that the systematic study of history as a rigorous discipline had begun to disappear from many Australian schools during the 1970s. This had occurred at the instigation of the United Nations body called UNESCO, and history had been replaced by a vague and ill-defined subject called Social Studies. While many private schools have retained history departments, most government schools have now subsumed history, geography, and political issues under a vague subject called Study of Society and Environment (SOSE). The widespread abandonment of the systematic teaching of history to young Australians forcefully reminded me of George Santayana's famous aphorism:

"Those who do not remember the past are condemned to relive it."

I had first come across that aphorism when reading William L. Shirer's classic history "The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich". I have dealt with the rise to power of Adolf Hitler and German aggression that produced World War II elsewhere under "The Lessons of History", but I want to mention that subject briefly here to illustrate the truth of Santayana's aphorism.

Unnerved by the strength of the demand for peace at any price in their respective countries, the Prime Ministers of Britain and France failed to act when Adolf Hitler repeatedly breached the terms of the 1919 Treaty of Versailles, and when he could have been stopped with minimum threat of force. Appreciating the weakness of will in Britain and France to stop his aggression, Hitler then demanded that Czechoslovakia's fortified border regions be handed over to Germany as the price for peace. Ignoring innumerable examples from history indicating that appeasement merely made aggressors greedier, and driven by desire for peace regardless of the cost, Prime Ministers Chamberlain and Daladier dishonoured their countries by shamefully handing Czechoslovakia to the Nazi dictator at Munich in 1938. Chamberlain returned to England proclaiming hypocritically that he had secured "peace with honour".

Now convinced that England and France would cravenly overlook any aggression by Germany to avoid war, Hitler invaded and occupied the remainder of Czechoslovakia, and then invaded Poland. So World War II began, and 55 million lives were lost because the pursuit of peace at any price can end up being very costly. This disgraceful episode in British and French history can best be summed up in the famous aphorism of the eighteenth century philosopher and statesman Edmund Burke:

"All that is required for evil to flourish is for good men to do nothing".

Being mindful of the words of Santayana and Burke quoted above, I determined to do what I could to acquaint young Australians with the most perilous episode in the history of their nation. In creating the Battle for Australia and Pacific War web-sites, I hoped to provide them with information that would enable them to honour the sacrifices of those who defended Australia from enemy attack in 1942 and to make informed judgments concerning measures that might be necessary to reduce the risk of a similar peril arising.