I was very suspicious when I picked up this morning’s tabloid. After all, they have more than a bit of history of their own on such matters.
The Daily Telegraph’s cultural amnesia
How else to explain this monumentally silly front page? Oh, apart from shit-stirring for fun and profit…
If you look at the UNSW material you will see it says no such thing. The guidelines are not even new…
So here we are today:
The meaty bit on pages 8-9 concerns relations between Governor Phillip and Bennelong, an interesting story indeed. The Tele puts a very positive spin on it to aver that nothing all that nasty really happened and all this talk about “invasion” is crap: black armband and all that culture-wars stuff from the early days of John Howard.
The Tele bases its historical case on this, which I happen to have in my eBook library. It can be obtained free from ANU Press in Canberra:
And it is good too.
Each of our articles sheds new light on Bennelong because each places him in a new or little-appreciated context. Freed from the tyranny of the ‘first contact’ context, Bennelong emerges as a more connected, resilient, global, and human individual than usually allowed…
The final article, by Emma Dortins, places Bennelong in his least-studied context – that of Australian historiography. Dortins includes novels, tracts, and blogs as well as conventional scholarship in her definition of historiography…
Dortins’ excavation of Bennelong’s storywork shows that the tragic narrative has appealed to the resisters as often as it has to the orthodox — suggesting, perhaps, the true source of its strength. While Isadore Brodsky’s Bennelong tumbled into an unstoppable ‘downward rush [of] degradation’, WEH Stanner’s
Bennelong appeared little better as a ‘wine-bibber, a trickster, and eventually a bit of a turncoat’. Even today, the conservative Bennelong Society’s determined refusal to consider its mascot’s life after 1792 chimes rather uncomfortably with the taciturn grief of several progressive intellectuals over Bennelong’s final years.
New perspectives offer a chance for new beginnings. A reconsideration of one of the most significant Aboriginal figures in colonial history invites us to move away from the search for endings. It suggests a fresh start for the life of Bennelong. It also suggests a fresh start for the meaning of Bennelong in Australia’s modern imagination….
Very interesting stuff. The Tele is of course reacting to the oft-repeated call to change the date of Australia Day, and some of what they say is OK by me: see Indigenous not fussed about day: Mundine.
Fact is, of course, that 26 January as Australia Day is a comparative novelty. See Celebration of Anniversary Day to 1900 and Anniversary Day/ Australia Day/ Invasion Day/Survival Day.
We associate Australia Day with 26th January but an earlier ‘Australia Day’ was celebrated on 30 July 1915 as part of a soldier parade to honour soldiers who had served and to stimulate further enlistment. It was not until 1946 that all states and territories adopted ‘Australia Day’ as the name for the 26th January celebrations, and it was only actually celebrated on the actual day itself, rather than as a long weekend, in 1994.
There is a degree of discomfort over the choice of 26th January as our national day. Aboriginal groups have increasingly designated it as Invasion Day, or more recently Survival Day and I think that there’s a growing squeamishness over the knowledge that the aboriginal world fractured from that day onward.
So what alternatives are there? There is the date of Federation, but on 1 January it would be overshadowed by New Years Day (and besides, it’s already a public holiday). There’s the 9th May for the opening of Parliament in Melbourne in 1901, then the provisional Parliament House in 1927 and finally the new Parliament House in 1988. But -oh yawn- there’s not much colour and movement there. There’s the 27 May 1967 referendum that is the popular (but technically incorrect) date given for aboriginal citizenship.
Now for some reposts of my own.
1: Some of our stories
88 proved to be as good as most reviewers have said. Having been part of the crowd who cheered as the Indigenous marchers wheeled from Elizabeth Street into Eddy Avenue, it thrilled me again to hear how some participants felt in that moment. I joined the procession at that point, partly as a “white Australian” supporting the recognition of our nation’s far longer history and the sadness that is dispossession, but also as one even then aware of the probability that the story my father and mother told me was true – that one of my own grandmothers may well have been of Aboriginal descent. It was a great day, as far as I am concerned, 26 January 1988 – and that day and the people I met around that time altered forever my view of this country, of myself, and of my place in this land. I still of course had much to learn, and am still learning to this day.
2. Australia Day: I like it
I have usually marked Australia Day with a post or more: 2016: Australia Day at Mount Kembla; How inspiring! Deng Thiak Adut’s Australia Day address — he’s now a strong possibility for Australian of the Year 2017; 2014: Anniversary Day/Survival Day, from which:
- Family history–some news on the Whitfield front
- Tangible link to the convict ship “Isabella” and the immigrant ship “Thames”
- William made it–or I wouldn’t be blogging, would I?
- William and his tribe…
- Stray stories of family and Australiana — 1
- Stray stories of family and Australiana — 2
- Stray stories of family and Australiana — 3
- Stray stories of family and Australiana — 4
- Stray stories of family and Australiana — 5
And then on my mother’s side of the family:
And an earlier post on both:
In January 2011 I posted a series exploring this topic. Creating this page has also revealed I misnumbered the posts! Now corrected.
UPDATE: See distinguished biographer of Governor Phillip, Michael Pembroke: Symbolism uncomfortable for many Australians.
Phillip’s official instructions may have required him to “conciliate the affections of the Aborigines” and to encourage everyone to “live in amity and kindness” with them, but he could not see that he and his men were invaders. Nor could he understand why Bennelong, whom he kidnapped and treated like a son, would choose to run away. But one winter’s day in 1790, perhaps the penny dropped. Phillip wrote wistfully, and probably insightfully, to Sir Joseph Banks, saying that “nothing will make these people amends for the loss of their liberty”.