Revisiting April 2016

So April 2016 goes…

Posted on April 30, 2016 by Neil

Or went.

This blog has averaged 43 views per day in April, the same as in March.

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A summer scene in Sydney’s Belmore Park, 3 December 2008

More “Neil’s Decades” – 10: 1986 again

Posted on April 10, 2016 by Neil

The other day Facebook did one of those “your memory” things. I chose to send it to my news feed.


That’s part of a Sydney Boys High staff photo from 1986. I am back row centre. The Facebook post has received a number of “likes” and comments. For example:

Danial S: I was born in 1986

Damian J: Holy moly – I recognise some of those suspicious looking characters. And I didn’t notice this 3 years ago…

Russell W: Tess Kenway was lovely… that’s her next to you isn’t it, Neil? Fun to see this pic.

Philip Costello: This is how you looked when I met you!

Damian and Russell were students at SBHS at that time. Philip Costello was by then one of my flatmates in Chippendale. On that see Redfern Visions 26: East Redfern 4 (2008) and Facebook does it for me again… (2011)

And on Sydney High, especially 1986, I have posted a lot. Just a few examples: Class of 1986 please note: you’re getting old! (2011), More “Neil’s Decades” –8: 1956 — 1, and Expedition to Surry Hills – 3 – Sydney Boys High.

See More “Neil’s Decades” — 1: 1986 – thirty years on since the Class of 1986! See I return to teaching — 1985.

I have mentioned the class of 1986 several times – for example Philip Larkin 1922-1985.

Indirectly, as often happens, I found myself passing from a rather good blog post by J R Benjamin — What Kipling’s “Recessional” Means for Todayto the poems of Philip Larkin. I had not looked at Larkin’s work all that often since memorably teaching it to the Class of 1986 at Sydney Boys High – memorably for me as well as for them. Hence the cryptic remarks on the card accompanying the bottle of Veuve Clicquot that wonderful class gave me at the end of 1986.


SBHS 1986

In contrast to 1986 look at 2000, when after being there and back again I was teaching another great class at SBHS:


And what ravages 16 more years have wrought I will for the moment suppress…  Or you could look at this 2015 post: On being my own great-grandpa, and Shiraz again. (My beard is feral/Marx-like again.)

Bicentenary of Dharawal massacre in Appin area

Posted on April 11, 2016 by Neil

When I look at the hills from my window I do recall that this is Dharawal country. See A very personal Australia Day 26 January – my family (2010), So, Mount Keira is of significance to the Dharawal… (2010), I lift my eyes up to the hills… (2011) and Family history and mystery–the Indigenous connection (2011).


Welcome to Country in the Dharawal language

Screenshot - 11_04_2016 , 7_48_42 AM

I saw in today’s Sydney Morning Herald Artists shed light on Governor Macquarie’s massacres of Indigenous Australians:

The instructions were clear.

Governor Lachlan Macquarie wrote in his diary in April 1816 that he felt compelled to “inflict terrible and exemplary punishments” upon Indigenous people living on the outskirts of Sydney.

Macquarie’s diary, held at the university named in his honour, records that three military detachments were deployed to clear the country entirely of “hostile natives”…

The soldiers carried out the Governor’s orders with alacrity, with one group killing at least 14 Aboriginal men, women and children near the upper reaches of the Cataract River.

The Appin massacre was one of the earliest officially sanctioned mass killings of Indigenous people but it was not the only one, says Tess Allas, the co-curator of With Secrecy and Despatch, at Campbelltown Arts Centre….

The exhibition, which marks the 200th-anniversary of the Appin massacre, features artworks by Indigenous Australians such as Rover Thomas and Fiona Foley…

See also Secrecy and Despatch exhibition remembers the 1816 Appin Massacre of Indigenous Australians.


A memorial by the Winga Myamly Reconciliation Group will be held at the site of the massacre, on April 17

To learn more about that sad chapter in our local story see A History of Aboriginal Sydney – 1810s and “Massacre at Appin in 1816” on the excellent Campbelltown Stories site.

When Governor Macquarie and his wife visited the Cowpastures in 1810, they were welcomed by “two or three small parties of the Cowpastures natives” who performed “an extraordinary sort of dance”. Yet within a few short years, orders issued by Macquarie would result in the deaths of more than fourteen Aborigines.

When Europeans took up land grants, they cleared and fenced the land, irrecoverably changing the patterns of hunting and gathering that had been followed by the Dharawal people for tens of thousands of years.

Some European settlers formed a close rapport with Aborigines. Charles Throsby of Glenfield was accompanied by Dharawal men when he explored the southern highlands area. Throsby was a persistent critic of European treatment of the Aborigines. Hamilton Hume who, in 1814 with his brother John, made the first of a number of long exploratory trips southwards, did so in company with a young Aboriginal friend named Doual.

Whereas the “mountain natives” (probably Gandangara) had a reputation of being hostile in defence of their people and their land, the Dharawal were peaceful and had no history of aggression. Unfortunately few settlers could distinguish between the two groups.

In 1814, Macquarie issued an order in the Sydney Gazette, admonishing settlers in the Appin and Cowpastures area. “Any person who may be found to have treated them [natives] with inhumanity or cruelty, will be punished.” This followed an atrocity when an Aboriginal woman and her children were murdered at Appin.

Two years later, in the drought of 1816, the Gandangara came again from the mountains in search of food. Europeans were killed and about 40 farmers armed themselves with muskets and pitchforks.

Macquarie ordered Captain Schaw to lead a punitive expedition against the “hostile natives” in the regions of the Nepean, Grose and Hawkesbury rivers. Lieutenant Charles Dawe was ordered to do the same proceeding to the Cowpastures….

Do read the rest of that.


I borrowed that from Resurrection of the History Wars by Ken Parish on Club Troppo. Keep in mind that Lachlan Macquarie was among the most enlightened and humane of our early NSW governors.

More on Anzac Day

Posted on April 26, 2016 by Neil

I went down to City Diggers yesterday. As I said on Facebook:

Fascinating conversations at City Diggers Wollongong today, one with a Macedonian who arrived Oz 1990 and had recently been back witnessing the refugee crisis, and the other with someone who served on HMAS Murchison in the Korean War. The things you can learn from a good conversation.

On the second see HMAS Murchison in the Han River.He told me about this. See Wikipedia. I wish I had known more when I had that conversation!

My cousin Russell Christison added this photo:


Also on Facebook is this wonderful photo of the dawn service yesterday at Shellarbour Village.


This is a place I get very nostalgic about. See last year’s post Next Saturday is the centenary Anzac Day. (Or rather of the Gallipoli landings.)

Thinking of my father’s home town of Shellharbour…

My uncle Ken’s name is on that memorial. See ANZACS born in Shellharbour, NSW, Remembering some of our Anzacs, and Illawarra Remembers