Ten years ago in my blog world the Royals also featured

Some more highlights from the April 2011 archive.

Last of April 2011–notes

Posted on  by Neil

Royal Wedding

Watched it, loved it. No apology.

Richard Allen made a perceptive comment on Facebook.

For those who love myth, the royal wedding is myth in the making. Amazing to see a tradition like this so perfectly re-enacted in the 21st century…and yes, let’s say it, good luck to them!

It also has to do with sheer talent in mounting pageantry properly. The Brits really know how to; the Yanks don’t.

Pedants among you please note:

  1. The Bible translation used for the reading was the New Revised Standard Version. Looks as if the King James is over, despite the fact a 400th anniversary edition is apparently selling extremely well at the moment.
  2. The service was essentially Book of Common Prayer, but modified not only in the “obey” department. Here’s a taste of the current revision of the original.

At the day and time appointed for solemnization of Matrimony, the persons to be married shall come into the Body of the Church with their friends and neighbours: and there standing together, the Man on the right hand, and the Woman on the left, the Priest shall say,

DEARLY beloved, we are gathered together here in the sight of God, and in the face of this Congregation, to join together this man and this woman in holy Matrimony; which is an honourable estate, instituted of God in the time of man’s innocency, signifying unto us the mystical union that is betwixt Christ and his Church; which holy estate Christ adorned and beautified with his presence, and first miracle that he wrought, in Cana of Galilee; and is commended of Saint Paul to be honourable among all men: and therefore is not by any to be enterprised, nor taken in hand, unadvisedly, lightly, or wantonly, to satisfy men’s carnal lusts and appetites, like brute beasts that have no understanding; but reverently, discreetly, advisedly, soberly, and in the fear of God; duly considering the causes for which Matrimony was ordained.

First, It was ordained for the procreation of children, to be brought up in the fear and nurture of the Lord, and to the praise of his holy Name.

Secondly, It was ordained for a remedy against sin, and to avoid fornication; that such persons as have not the gift of continency might marry, and keep themselves undefiled members of Christ’s body.
Thirdly, It was ordained for the mutual society, help, and comfort, that the one ought to have of the other, both in prosperity and adversity. Into which holy estate these two persons present come now to be joined. Therefore if any man can shew any just cause, why they may not lawfully be joined together, let him now speak, or else hereafter for ever hold his peace…

You may also have noticed something called the Australian State Coach – Charles and Camilla travelled back to the Palace in it. It was created by W.J. “Jim” Frecklington here in Oz, who is  the only person living to have built a State Coach for the British Royal Family.



Royal Wedding post by British Muslim blogger Indigo Jo.

OK, well I’m up London — right now, in the Apple Store in Covent Garden — where I had intended to take some pictures of the scenes surrounding the royal wedding. I wouldn’t have done so otherwise, but my friend Claire Wade, who runs a company organising virtual holidays and other events for the house-bound, asked me to take some pictures and, if possible, send them to their Facebook event page. Sadly, I arrived near Parliament Square about 11:15am and the way was blocked at the junction with the Victoria Embankment. There was a space in between the police cordon and the square itself, and I couldn’t actually see what was going on in the square. Every way into the area was blocked, with a few people being allowed through the cordon (mostly away from the proceedings). Basically, only the dedicated few who got there early could even see what was happening, so you might otherwise have stayed at home and watched it on TV…

…I’ve never been particularly fond of the monarchy, but I’m not a dyed-in-the-wool republican either; all of the most prominent republics have various myths that they like to repeat again and again, usually about “liberty” that turns out only to apply to some citizens and not others. But the expensive pageantry going on at a time when the most vulnerable people in society are having their much-needed services cut to the bone is pretty incongruous. Ironically, a lot of disabled people were watching the proceedings avidly and I’m not going to give political lectures to them, but if we are going to hold a big party at a time when the public are facing hardship, then it’s better that we can all go to the party rather than having to watch at a distance

On refugees

Full marks to Leunig in today’s Sydney Morning Herald.


I haven’t been watching any of the Royal Wedding lead-up coverage

Posted on  by Neil

Instead I have turned the TV off and watched some DVDs instead, and propose to continue to do so.

However, I did watch The Queen in Australia (1954) again. Such a wonderful time capsule of the Australia of 1954 when I turned 11. I will watch the wedding itself, if only because I do like Westminster Abbey pomp and circumstance – and I do like Prince William.


I wouldn’t have bothered with the smart-arse version of the wedding on ABC-2 anyway, or with any of the commercial channels, but it seems we now have something to beat our breasts over:

Just two days before Prince William and Kate Middleton are due to tie the knot, ABC TV has been forced to cancel The Chaser’s one-off live coverage of the event due to what it says are restrictions imposed by the royal family. The Chaser’s Royal Wedding Commentary was due to air on ABC2 from 7:00pm AEST on Friday, offering viewers a satirical take on the royal wedding. But now the live special – promised to be “uninformed and unconstitutional” – has been reluctantly pulled due to restrictions imposed over the Easter break.

ABC TV was initially advised by the BBC, and subsequently by Associated Press Television News (APTN), there were no coverage restrictions that would prevent The Chaser’s wedding commentary.

But new conditions of use issued by APTN over the Easter break state footage cannot be used “in any drama, comedy, satirical or similar entertainment program or content”.

ABC TV director Kim Dalton says he is disappointed…

The Chaser’s Julian Morrow says the team accepts the ABC has been put in an “impossible position by people acting on behalf of the royal family”. “For a monarchy to be issuing decrees about how the media should cover them seems quite out of keeping with modern democratic times… but I suppose that’s exactly what the monarchy is,” he said. “It’s traditional for the condemned to appeal to the monarch for a stay of execution, so that’s what we’re going to do. Unfortunately it’s also traditional for people who appeal for clemency to be executed.”

Morrow says the move goes against free speech.

“It seems a bit crazy for the royal family to be trying to dictate the way they get represented in the media,” he said. “It seems a bit out of step with a modern democracy, but I suppose royalty is out of step with a modern democracy, so there you go.”…

I really am considerably less outraged, though no doubt the freedom to exhibit bad taste and terminal smugness is worth sticking up for… On either side I suppose.

Honestly in my old age I am finding it harder to discern just what essential freedom has ever been denied me by the fact we have a shared head of state who lives somewhere else. I even include the sacking of Whitlam in that – after all, we did get to vote. And Malcolm Fraser is these days on the left of Julia Gillard!


Compare Jim Belshaw’s Monarchy, republics & the royal wedding.

And if ever you have an hour to spare, this is the documentary I referred to above.

From our man in Yarralumla to all who mark the passing of Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.

David Hurley, the Governor-General of Australia, is a Wollongong boy.

Australia’s Governor-General and political leaders past and present were among the first to pay tribute following news of Prince Philip’s death.

The royal family revealed that the Duke of Edinburgh had passed away peacefully on Thursday morning local time at Windsor Castle.  

He had been battling health issues in recent years and was released from a month-long stint in hospital on March 16.

As the Queen’s representative in Australia, Governor-General David Hurley announced Prince Philip’s death in a video message as a “sad and historic day”.

He described Prince Philip as a “popular, engaged and welcome visitor to our shores”.

“On behalf of the Australian people, I extend our deepest condolences to Her Majesty and family, the people of the Commonwealth and to all those who share in this sad news.”

Born in August 1953, the Governor-General can hardly be expected to remember much from 11 February 1954. But I, born in July 1943, certainly do! I was a besotted Royalist in 1954! Cheered them on their way to Wollongong, waved like crazy (with my grandfather) at the Royal Train at Sutherland on their way back.

Now you may wonder about the appropriateness of the next video:

Well, consider this image of a teenage Philip, Prince of Greece and Denmark…

Second from the left, front row.

For detail, see The man who wouldn’t be king.

He and his family were poor compared to other members of the European aristocracy.

And as a young prince of the house of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glucksburg, Philip was also too German for the liking of a Britain which had recently fought one world war against Germany, and was on the brink of a second.

While Philip had been taken in by his British relatives, the Mountbattens, when he was seven years old, his four sisters were married to Germans, three of whom had links to the Nazi party.

Philip was also related to Elizabeth — although most European royals were at the time..

He was her second cousin once removed through King Christian IX of Denmark, they were third cousins as great-great-grandchildren of Queen Victoria, and among his uncles was King George V of England, also Elizabeth’s grandfather.

But none of it mattered to Elizabeth, who had come to see not an impoverished distant relation, but a man who towered above her, boasting a head full of blond hair and a promising naval career….

His wartime career, summarised as follows in Wikipedia, was quite substantial. In the course of it Prince Philip visited Australia twice. In his life-time he revisited over twenty times.

After leaving Gordonstoun in early 1939, Philip completed a term as a cadet at the Royal Naval College, Dartmouth, then repatriated to Greece, living with his mother in Athens for a month in mid-1939. At the behest of the Greek king, George II (his first-cousin), he returned to Britain in September to resume training for the Royal Navy. He graduated from Dartmouth the next year as the best cadet in his course. During the Second World War, he continued to serve in the British forces, while two of his brothers-in-law, Prince Christoph of Hesse and Berthold, Margrave of Baden, fought on the opposing German side. Philip was appointed as a midshipman in January 1940. He spent four months on the battleship HMS Ramillies, protecting convoys of the Australian Expeditionary Force in the Indian Ocean, followed by shorter postings on HMS Kent, on HMS Shropshire, and in Ceylon. After the invasion of Greece by Italy in October 1940, he was transferred from the Indian Ocean to the battleship HMS Valiant in the Mediterranean Fleet.

On 1 February 1941, Philip was commissioned as a sub-lieutenant after a series of courses at Portsmouth, in which he gained the top grade in four out of five sections of the qualifying examination. Among other engagements, he was involved in the battle of Crete, and was mentioned in dispatches for his service during the battle of Cape Matapan, in which he controlled the battleship’s searchlights. He was also awarded the Greek War Cross. In June 1942, he was appointed to the V and W-class destroyer and flotilla leader HMS Wallace, which was involved in convoy escort tasks on the east coast of Britain, as well as the Allied invasion of Sicily.

Promotion to lieutenant followed on 16 July 1942. In October of the same year, he became first lieutenant of HMS Wallace, at 21 years old one of the youngest first lieutenants in the Royal Navy. During the invasion of Sicily, in July 1943, as second in command of Wallace, he saved his ship from a night bomber attack. He devised a plan to launch a raft with smoke floats that successfully distracted the bombers, allowing the ship to slip away unnoticed. In 1944, he moved on to the new destroyer, HMS Whelp, where he saw service with the British Pacific Fleet in the 27th Destroyer Flotilla.He was present in Tokyo Bay when the instrument of Japanese surrender was signed. Philip returned to the United Kingdom on the Whelp in January 1946, and was posted as an instructor at HMS Royal Arthur, the Petty Officers’ School in Corsham, Wiltshire.

Hence the song….

Of course he was famous at times for “putting his foot in it”. Some of that you may see on this more dissenting post from the United Kingdom.

It’s the Queen and the younger royals that people have actual feelings about; when there’s a moment of national crisis, we hear from the Queen and some of us tune in and listen and some of us don’t.

Social media, of course, didn’t stop and I saw a thread of the various racist remarks Phillip had made during his life — asking a woman in Kenya who was presenting him with a gift if she were actually a woman, a comment about “slitty eyes” in relation to the Chinese — as well as a remark to the Paraguayan dictator Alfredo Stroessner that “it’s a pleasant change to be in a country that isn’t ruled by its people” as well as the father-of-four’s comment that, if reincarnated, that he would like to come back as a deadly virus so as to reduce the human population — the ugly face of environmentalism, the type that favours ‘cuddly’ big animals over poor people driven from their homes for wildlife reserves and whose livestock these animals often menace. 

But most I think would endorse Stephen Fry:

I am marking the passing of the Duke of Edinburgh with a consciousness too that it marks the distance down the track my own journey has come, as I actually do remember King George VI and the marriage of then Princess Elizabeth to Philip Mountbatten, as he was then best known.

And I must congratulate my Dad’s cousin Lilian Lee who back in February actually made the century! Still going as far as I know!

Lilian May Graham was born on 10.2.1921 at Lidcombe N.S.W. her Parents being Ruby Ruth (nee McInnes) & Stan Graham. Lilian’s Grandparents were Susan (nee Whitfield) & Jonathan McInnes.

Lilian married Raymond Lee on 24th October 1942.Their children were Alan (Sadly was killed in accident at 37 leaving 3 children and a wife.), Graham & Jennifer.Lilian has eight grandchildren, and nine great grandchildren and looking forward to the arrival of another two.

Lilian is still a dedicated member of the Gunnedah Country Women’s Association where she held various positions such as President, Vice President, Treasurer, International Officer, Cultural Officer, Land and Cookery Officer. 

I met her in 2014:

So here is a Whitfield relative who has cracked the ton! And I can vouch for her being an amazing woman and a fount of family history. I was privileged to have met Lilian at Stanwell Park in 2014. She recalled my father as a bronzed beach god — from her memories of Shellharbour in the late 1920s!

“At Stanwell Park yesterday. She had a shopping trolley of Whitfield family pics, photos and documents going back to the 1830s! Amazing stuff! The four hours I could spend didn’t do it justice. Lilian Lee. 90+ and sharp as… She has been a TAFE teacher in her time. Recalled I met her father and mother too sometime around 60+ years back and he gave me a ride in his buggy.”

She really was just wonderful. And I am sure you can see the intelligence and humour in her face. She had at 90+ walked up the hill to Stanwell Park Station to meet me — and it is quite a climb.

When she was a little girl she saw William Joseph John Whitfield (b. 1836), the son of William Whitfield, in his turn the son of Jacob Whitfield, the convict who arrived in Sydney from Ireland in 1822. When you contemplate that….

Which brings me to mortality again….

Racism no way — 20 years on

Recently a story from Australia made a bit of a splash on BBC, partly I suspect because my impression is that Neighbours is bigger in the UK than it is here these days. Commenting on SBS reports on 7 April I wrote on Facebook: “And in circles where one would expect people to be better than this! Take stock, Australians — racism well and truly exists here, both personal and institutional. Don’t try to “whitewash” it or make fatuous comparisons with, say, us not being as bad as Nazi Germany or sections of the USA….” I also reposted something I had originally written 20 years ago. More on that shortly. SBS had reported:

Wongatha, Yamatji, Noongar and Gitja woman Clanton, who played a guest role as Sheila Canning on Neighbours this year, first posted the allegations to social media on Tuesday, detailing the use of slurs and racism “disguised as ‘jokes’” on set. 

She claimed that “overt and covert levels of racism were rife” behind the scenes, which left her traumatised.

Without naming anyone, Clanton said she heard “n—–” being used twice in the green room, while another actor laughed. She also alleged that an actor openly called another actor of colour a “lil’ monkey”….

After Clanton’s post, Wongutha-Yamatji actor Wyatt alleged he also experienced racism on set while working as a series regular between 2014 and 2016.

He said the incident involved the use of the “c—” slur, which he called out….

“It didn’t happen around me again. Though I did walk in on this incident? So I have no doubt things were being said behind my back,” he said on Twitter.

“It is disappointing but not at all surprising to hear that five years later racism continues to be present in that workplace. But what can you say, we are in Australia.”

Meyne Wyatt in Neighbours

What I posted then was this:

In our school newsletter I had been running a series of articles dealing with racism, leading up to the International Day for the Elimination of Racism on March 21 2001. I received the following anonymous letter from a senior student. I would be interested in your responses. I would not normally publish an anonymous letter, but behind the anger and some serious misconceptions, I feel there is an intelligence that deserves respect. I have slightly abridged the letter, but kept true to the author’s views.

On March 2 2001 I received another very polite letter enclosing an American White Supremacist article taken from the Web, I have linked a counter-article by sociologist Caleb Rosado. Please consider.

From 23 January 2006 and for the following two Mondays, ABC in Sydney showed the PBS documentary series Race: The Power of an Illusion. That site is worth visiting.

It could seem depressing that 20 years ago I was — and I remember it being a great meeting — at Bondi Public School for a gathering of local Eastern Suburbs and Botany District teachers looking towards that International Day for the Elimination of Racism. That hasn’t quite worked out yet, eh! We were particularly looking at a resource the Education Department had developed called Racism No Way. It still exists, but expanded.

The debate I had via the SBHS High Notes Newsletter back in 2001 follows:


Enough of all the double standards on racism…. In the quiz you ask whether “Overtly or covertly demonstrating that one believes one’s own cultural or ethnic background is superior” is racist, the answer is yes. Yet about a month ago you printed an article entitled “Asian Pride”. There has never been an article on “White Pride” as whites are obviously meant to feel shame about the so-called “stolen generation” and other instances where whites have colonised a country or done something similar. I mean, obviously the only people capable of being racist are whites, or so the double standard of racism seen today would have you believe.

RESPONSE: First, the term “whites” is an interesting one. The emphasis on skin color misses the point; this is the most superficial of human differences. “Race” as defined by physical characteristics is a dead concept, unscientific and archaic. The Human Genome Project has merely underlined how spurious it is. I take it the writer refers to Anglo-Australian or European cultural heritage. These are still quite rightly celebrated in many areas of the curriculum. Indeed all Australians need to take pride in the concepts of individual freedom, representative government, the rule of law–and so on–that spring from that tradition. I know I do. I also know that many people who come to Australia come here because those traditions are better served here than in many other parts of the world. On the other hand the Christianity that still helps many shape their values derives ultimately not from Europe but from the Middle East; it is good to remember that.

To quote from Norman Davies, Europe, A History (1996): ” ‘White’, ‘Caucasian’, ‘Aryan’ and ‘Europoid’ all reflect the protracted search for an exclusive and therefore non-existent common denominator in the racial make-up of Europe’s population. They form part of a wider vocabulary of doubtful terms including ‘Black’, ‘Asian’, ‘Semitic’, and ‘Hispanic’, where physical, geographical, and cultural criteria are hopelessly confused.”

Second, pride is something we all deserve, so long as it is not at the expense of others. No-one need feel ashamed of who they are or what their heritage is. I am not ashamed of mine, and I extend the same courtesy to others. We do not need to be clones of each other to be good Australians. Just as we differ individually, so can we nurture our cultural heritage so far as it is part of who we are. At the same time we subsume all that in loyalty to the community as a whole, in all its diversity. We are free to differ; that is one of the good things about this country.

Third, racism is not something any one ethnic or cultural group has a monopoly on. Europeans have not been the only colonisers either–ask the Tibetans, or the Ainu of Japan, merely to name two. In Australia, in my view, we have developed a healthy interest in our past that corrects the silence I recall hearing when as a child I wondered–but what did happen to the Aborigines?

No, I’ll tell you what’s racist. Any white person that speaks out and tells about the pride they have in being white is instantly branded a “hick” or “KKK”. Yet any Asian or person from a minority ethnic background who feels pride in their race is some kind of hero or pioneer.

RESPONSE: Any person who exalts their race above the rest of the human race is probably a fool, whatever their background. I am all for Human Pride myself! I also enjoy finding out about other ways of looking at the world, and exploring what they have to offer. Often this makes for a much more interesting life. For many writers and artists in Australia the traditions of our neighbours have been most fruitful; the poet Robert Gray, for example, thoroughly Australian, has nonetheless found Chinese and Japanese Buddhism provide a way of looking at the world that makes sense to him and permeates and enriches his work.

However, it is obvious why the school is willing to take this kind of action. As the school is majority Asian they must try to do everything in their favour and to make them feel special. As a majority they can speak freely about how great they are, whilst anyone that thinks otherwise is obviously from the Ku Klux Klan, a neo-Nazi, or some redneck hick with an unbelievably small IQ. However, the huge influx of Asian students into the school is meant to bring multiculturalism into the school and this multiculturalism can only be achieved when the minorities of society (Asians) are a majority at the school, which is the case now.

RESPONSE: The students in this school are the students in this school; everyone who pursues excellence academically, in sport, or in other activities will feel special. Hilbert Chiu (see below) has made this point rather well. Some may be more dedicated to the pursuit of excellence than others, but all have the opportunity to excel. “Multiculturalism”, as the word suggests, simply means that we have (and have had for years) people here from many different cultural, ethnic and religious backgrounds. There is no barrier for anyone entering this school, except to achieve a certain academic standard. No-one asks what your socio-economic or ethnic background is; if you get selected you get in.

But of course this letter will never make it into the High Notes, as it is obviously and blatantly “racist”. However any Asian, or any other non-white ethnic background who wants to write about the pride they feel for their race and the downfall of other races will be praised for standing up and having their letter published because they are “heroes”. I am therefore issuing you, Mr Whitfield, a challenge to print this letter in the upcoming newsletter. You say you encourage everyone who has been victimised because of ethnic differences to speak out against the “racist bullying” they are being subjected to. Well, here’s my letter. It talks about the “racist bullying” I and other white students at the school receive every day. I dare you to print it so everyone can read about what really goes on at school. To do otherwise would just be totally and blatantly RACIST.

RESPONSE: Bullying, whatever its origin, is deplorable. Students are encouraged to report instances of it to teachers, their Year Adviser, the Deputy or the Principal. Instances of racism, whoever is responsible, should be drawn to the attention of Mr Codey, the Anti-Racism Contact Officer, who will investigate them. Feeling alienated or experiencing xenophobia may, however, be neither bullying nor racism. In that case the alienation and xenophobia would need to be addressed, in the interests of the individual and the harmony of the group. Perhaps education is the key to that.

As to the comments on Asian Pride and so on, I counsel you to read the original article [by Bob Li]. If you can find anything there exalting race, or about the “downfall of other races” I will walk backwards from here to Taylor Square! What I see is the story of a fine young Australian who has worked hard, overcome a few disadvantages, and is now happy with himself and where he is.

That’s Bob Li in 2000, to the right of the aging teacher!


Hilbert Chiu, Year 12 2000 (written 2001)

As with all forms of bullying, racially motivated bullying is based largely upon intimidation. The cause of this intimidation in my experience has been a lack of understanding for other cultural values and attitudes. For example a young boy of Asian background is often taught by his parents that bullies get a high out of any reaction he gives, so the best way is to ignore and to avoid a bully; a sort of passive resistance. However, a would-be bully often takes passive resistance as a sign of weakness, of helplessness and of ‘easy pickings’. This is where the trouble starts, as cultural differences turn what was only bullying into racial bullying. Of course, racial bullying is not always so ‘black and white’, and I believe that intimidation stems equally from all races.

I do not think that it is a severe problem in the school, and must be taken in perspective. If racism were rife, this form of bullying would be seen in a one-on-one basis, but in my time at school serious racial incidents only occurred when conducted by groups. It could be that individuals who would otherwise be respectful and friendly feel a need to impress their friends. Common excuses I have come across have been: “It was only a joke”, or “We didn’t know he would take it so seriously” – precisely the insensitivity which causes unwitting intimidation. Hard for a year seven student to see the joke when feeling physically threatened by older boys with that aggressive attitude. Respect for another’s feelings is no where to be seen.

As for solutions, I could only advocate greater participation of all races in all school activities. It fosters greater understanding and respect for all parties, and will eventually eliminate the barriers between the so-called social elite (who will find matters a little different at university), and those who just want to get on with their studies.

Hilbert Chiu remains a friend on Facboook. I am happy to say he gave a thumbs up there to my recent blog post on China.

Now to go back to my English/ESL blog, the heir to my Sydney High English and ESL pages:

Cross-cultural issues are part of an ESL teacher’s business

12 JAN 2007

There are times when this aspect of ESL teaching and support leads down paths some might see as controversial, but I have found most ESL teachers find themselves travelling together on this. On the old Tripod blog there were a number of entries that arose in my own practice. Most were also published as articles in High Notes, the SBHS newsletter. They were all read by the Principal before publication and addressed ongoing issues in our very multicultural community.

Today I am posting the most recent one, written Monday, 6 February 2006 and thus not in High Notes. There are links there to other entries; these will still work, as when I come to trim that old blog I will leave those entries untouched, or perhaps cross-link them here.

Here is that post:

Schoolchildren cast judgements on Muslims – National – smh.com.au

This is very unhealthy indeed, I would say.

MORE than half of Victorian schoolchildren view Muslims as terrorists, and two out of five agree that Muslims “are unclean”, a survey has revealed. Just over 50 per cent believe Muslims “behave strangely”, while 45 per cent say Australians do not have positive feelings about Muslims.

These are the preliminary findings of the survey, which aims to measure student attitudes towards the Muslim community. The research was conducted in the second half of 2005 and is based on responses from 551 year 10 and 11 students in Victoria…

One of the researchers, Abe Ata, of the Australian Catholic University, said the findings showed a need for educators to develop new ways of promoting multiculturalism among children. “There are very strong signals that there is a chasm between mainstream students and Muslim students,” said Dr Ata, a senior fellow at the university’s Institute for the Advancement of Research. “Educationalists and policymakers in education should take proactive steps to help create more racial harmony in the classroom and outside it.”

Waleed Aly, a member of the Islamic Council of Victoria, said the results were troubling. “What it demonstrates is that Muslims are being viewed in a way that is really subhuman,” he said. “The only way you can combat this kind of prejudice is on a personal level. It’s much harder to hate people when you know someone in that social group.”

Phong Nguyen, the chairman of the Ethnic Communities Council of Victoria, described the survey’s findings as “a wake-up call”. “We cannot assume that our children who grow up in a multicultural setting will automatically be accepting of each other,” he said. “Adults need to do things to make sure that our impressionable young children have a growing, mature understanding of the world and other people.” Learning about other faiths and cultures was just as important to a child’s education as studying subjects such as maths or physics, Mr Nguyen said.

The Victorian Government’s draft new education laws explicitly permits the teaching of comparative religion in public schools, and enshrines values of “openness and tolerance”. However, according to the Australian Education Union, while some schools discussed issues involving Muslims within the curriculum, others are more hesitant to do so.

“Sometimes schools do shy away from such controversial issues because of the sensitivities,” said the union’s branch president, Mary Bluett. “There’s always the thought that you might fall foul of politicians or parents.”

But Andrew Blair, the president of the Victorian Association of State Secondary Principals, said schools had a social responsibility to discuss such sensitive issues with students. “Just because it’s tough, you shouldn’t turn your back on it,” he said, adding that the task of helping young people learn about other cultures lay not only with schools, but also with parents. “The lack of understanding and generosity out of these (survey) results is incredibly disappointing,” Mr Blair said.

The survey results are not merely unfortunate; they reveal one element in a situation that actually makes our world a more dangerous place: the persistence of ignorance and prejudice. So of course I support the various statements in the article above, particularly the one I have highlighted.

… See also the search for “Islam” on Lines from a Floating Life.

To finish, some will remember this brilliant savage monologue seen on ABC’s QandA in June last year:

I have been doing some interesting reading lately, but also 10 years ago — thanks to Wollongong Library

Lately will come later! Let’s look at 10 years ago:

Books read lately — 1

Posted on  by Neil


First one is bloody brilliant!

 smiley-happy005smiley-happy005[5]smiley-happy005[7]smiley-happy005[7]smiley-happy005[7] Ashley Hay, The Body in the Clouds (Allen & Unwin, September 2010)

What if you looked up at just the right moment and saw – out of the corner of your eye – something unexpected? What if it was something so marvellous, so extraordinary, that it transformed time and space forever?

The Body in the Clouds tells the story of one extraordinary moment – a man falling from the sky, and surviving – and of three men who see it, in different ways and different times, as they stand on the same piece of land. An astronomer in the late 1700s, a bridgeworker in the 1930s, an emigrated banker returning home in the early 21st century: all three are transformed by the one magical moment.

The Body in the Clouds explores the stories we tell to define who and where we are. It’s about the stories we’ll tell for the people we love. And it’s about our secret longing to be up in the air.

You’ll never see Circular Quay and the bridge in the same way again!


The second is brilliant too – but what can you expect from this man?


smiley-happy005[13]smiley-happy005[15]smiley-happy005[17]smiley-happy005[19]smiley-happy005[21] See this great post: The Charming Quirks of Others: Alexander McCall Smith and the art of fiction. How can anyone resist the sheer wisdom of this guy?

It is not because you are  beautiful; not because I see perfection in your features, in your smile, in your litheness- all of which I do, of course I do, and have done since the moment I first met you. It is because you are generous in spirit; and may I be like that; may I become like you – which unrealistic wish, to become the other, is  such a true and revealing symptom of love, its most obvious clue, its unmistakable calling card.

A very witty offering from India next.

smiley-happy005[13]smiley-happy005[13]smiley-happy005[13]smiley-happy005[13] Vikas Swarup Six Suspects

This Indian reviewer — Jai Arjun Singh, a freelance writer and journalist based in Delhi — found faults:

Six Suspects is ridden with caricatures – from corrupt Indian politician, perpetually manipulating strings, to dumb, insular American who comes to love a third-world country (“where cows are worshipped like Goddesses rather than turned into steak”). It would be a mistake to over-stress this aspect of the novel – and to forget that people like Jagannath Rai and Larry Page really do exist – but the book’s use of these character types precludes any lasting insights into the workings of a very complex society struggling with injustice and disparity. Every nexus, every command issued by an oily politician is dealt with in straightforward cause-and-effect terms. The investigative journalist and the TV reporter (a Barkha Dutt stand-in, named – if you must know – Barkha Das) are sanctimonious. People speak in platitudes and articulate their flaws and motivations as if they were pinning easy-to-read labels on themselves for the edification of the reader. (“We hit people not to show our strength but to mask our weakness,” philosophizes a police inspector after an interrogation, “we pick only on the poor and the powerless, because they cannot hit back.”) Rarely do the bad guys bother to delude themselves that they are in some nebulous way working not for self-interest but for the greater good (which is something that happens all the time in the real world).

He’s right, no doubt, but I have to confess the book kept me thoroughly entertained. Some may also be sorry to hear that I feel it gave me a rather good picture of contemporary India.

Vikas Swarup is now best known for writing the novel on which Slumdog Millionaire is based.

Revisioning our history: Books read lately — 2

Posted on  by Neil

One thing I like about history is that it never quite runs out, is never quite settled. Some find this disturbing. I would find it disturbing if it were not the case.

Take Mahroot for example.

In 1789 a devastating outbreak of smallpox swept through the Aboriginal people of Sydney. The true impact of the arrival of Europeans on the Aboriginal people became clear to all. It remains unsure whether the British or French brought the disease that killed countless Aboriginal people or whether it was already in the local population.

Obed West in his 1822 account The Bays of Sydney documents meeting an Aboriginal elder called Mahroot in the 1840s who as a young boy, witnessed the Lapérouse expedition’s camp at Botany Bay and the pox that erupted shortly after their departure. In 1789 people refused to return to La Perouse for the fear of the pox and set up what was referred to as the ‘blacks’ hospital’ at Little Bay. Here the sick and dying were isolated and brought provisions of fish and water.

Well Mister… all blackfella gone! All this my country! Pretty place Botany! Little piccaninny, I run about here. Plenty blackfellow then: Corrobory: Great fight: All canoe about. Only me left now…
Mahroot c.1845

Well. not quite ALL gone. Here is a descendant of Mahroot’s people.


And his descendants are still with us, together with plenty more like them. That’s one of the lessons of smiley-happy005smiley-happy005[3]smiley-happy005[5]smiley-happy005[7] Rivers and Resilience: Aboriginal People on Sydney’s Georges River by Heather Goodall and Allison Cadzow,  UNSW Press 2009.

From colonisation through to the present, Rivers and Resilience traces the social and cultural history of Sydney’s Georges River and its interaction and connections to Aboriginal lives. The authors assert the centrality of this beautiful river, comprised of sandstone escarpments, overhangs and plateaus; a network of creeks and marshy swamps that yield all manner of produce from fresh and salt water fish, eels, crabs, yabbies and oysters and an abundance of berries and wildflowers. If you have an association with the Georges River you’ll really enjoy this book, as you could slot your own story into the stream. The intellectual contribution continues Goodall’s thesis about the centrality of land demands to the everyday social, cultural and economic lives of Aboriginal people. But there is an extra dimension that details both the production of locality – that is the active process of connection to place – and the significance of the past, as it is permanently etched in the land (and water) and continues to shape relations among the river people.

Heidi Norman
Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences UTS

There’s a related photographic exhibition doing the rounds at the moment. It’s currently in Hurstville.

The rivers? The Cooks River, but especially the Georges River, the northern border of The Shire – among other things.


Quite a long river, actually, running from all the way out from past Campbelltown and Appin. Again, as I noted with Grace Karskens’s The Colony, much is gained by setting different territorial frames for our histories.

I found again, as I had with The Colony, that things I had heard of or even seen suddenly came into focus as I read much that is in such books as these but has hitherto escaped much notice.

Endlessly fascinating.

Related: PDF on Aboriginal Sites in South-East Sydney. No longer works: go instead to Sydney Aboriginal Sites.

Check out Resilience Science as well.

The last book ties in very well with what I have been reading in the past month….

Random images for an April morning

Cronulla! Part of The Shire where I passed by first quarter-century. Last visited it myself in 2011 on the occasion of Cronulla High School’s 50th anniversary.

And on my last visit:

This is closer to the way I remember Cronulla, one of Ross Myers’ great videos:

But The Gong ain’t so bad either! Been back for over ten years now…. After six months I posted this on YouTube: “Six months I’ve been in The Gong! This show has pics from the first three. And my favourite Chinese music.”

You guessed it: The Butterfly Lovers Concerto for violin played by Yu Lina — from Michael Xu’s cassette in fact!