Recent excursions and events, Sydney and Wollongong

First was this:

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Helen, nee Christison, is my cousin. See also Christmas snippetsSELRES_8d6fe2a9-ce01-4673-a6a2-e64ec2c4fd0eSELRES_b76d63f3-9187-468d-be70-81f364309127SELRES_1d83624b-0146-499c-b430-c81f28033597SELRES_1d83624b-0146-499c-b430-c81f28033597SELRES_b76d63f3-9187-468d-be70-81f364309127SELRES_8d6fe2a9-ce01-4673-a6a2-e64ec2c4fd0e. It was a delightful day. There were some there that I had not seen since that wedding in Caringbah in 1968!

Yesterday to Sydney for Yum Cha with M and Nicholas Jose. M is off to Shanghai then S-E Asia at the end of this month. He will be away for two months.

Yum Cha was at Zilver:

To Chinatown and back

Great day yesterday, complicated only by Chris T just missing the 9.47 express to Sydney which departed with me aboard spot on 9.47. Chris T was in the lift descending to the platform at that moment, but he caught the next an hour  later and eventually found us in Zilver.

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The Tele’s history lesson

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…

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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:

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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:

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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 KemblaHow 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:

And then on my mother’s side of the family:

And an earlier post on both:

3. Being Australian

Being Australian

In January 2011 I posted a series exploring this topic. Creating this page has also revealed I misnumbered the posts! Now corrected.

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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”.

Addenda to previous post: Deng Thiak Adut and more

Thought of January 2016, given recent African youth crime stories: How inspiring! Deng Thiak Adut’s Australia Day address. See also in October 2017 Deng Thiak Adut: ‘Refugees are not here to do miracles’.

Despite his achievements, Deng warns against expecting all refugees who arrive in Australia to become overnight success stories.

“Refugees are not here to do miracles,” he says. “They are here to be assisted. They suffer from long-term trauma…You can’t expect them to get out there and succeed. They need help. They need personal contact. They need psychological assistance, they need counselling. They need support in terms of jobs.”…

“There is a problem in this country,” he says, calling attention to the many forms of discrimination – based on race, religion, sexuality, ability – found in the community. “Those who are on the fringe, they are people who look like me. We sit at the same table. I have to protect them. I have to voice their concerns. I will listen to them.”
Deng’s brother John was also a university graduate, with a double degree in anthropology and international development. He was “discriminated against”, says Deng, and unable to find work in his field in Australia. He returned to South Sudan where he was tragically killed in 2014.

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For context: see an oral history project recording the migration journeys and settlement experiences of southern Sudanese refugees now living in Blacktown, Western Sydney. See also Who are Australia’s South Sudanese? and South Sudanese honored Philip Ruddock in NSW during the refugee’s week.

Philip Ruddock was a Minister of Immigration when he travelled to Kakuma more than a decade ago. His mission led to the mass migration of the South Sudanese refugees who were stationed in Kakuma refugee camp. During the 2015 refugee day, South Sudanese and other marginalised areas Community Association in NSW honoured Philip for his care.

NOTE: My point in these two posts has been that whatever the undoubted bad that those young thugs have been doing — and may all the relevant authorities and leaders work on that! — I am sick of the panic being whipped up for naked political purposes, such as the next Victorian election. So I praise and agree with ‘Too much panic, not enough perspective’ and totally deplore this phenomenonon: Victoria’s African community ‘stereotyped, victimised’ for the sins of young kids.

Here we go, here we go, here we go — again!

First, I recall Cronulla 05, which as a former Shire boy I reblogged, the result being here. From which, though 12 years on links may well not work:

Mind you, there have been earlier, and worse, incidents, such as this one reported in NSW Hansard in February 2001.

[Cronulla] is an outpost, an area where the population increases dramatically during the summer. As my correspondent has said, there is gang activity. On Thursday 15 February the Commissioner of Police was interviewed on radio by John Stanley. The transcript of that interview reads, in part:

John Stanley: And your problem is, if you sent more police to Cabramatta, they would be taken from areas like Cronulla, where we had all those calls last week about that gang problem, that I think you are aware of. These people are coming in from other parts of Sydney, into Cronulla and are causing big problems there.

Commissioner Ryan: They are causing huge problems there.

One of those huge problems occurred two days after Christmas. Following a dispute at a Sutherland nightclub, a gang of 30 Lebanese Australian males arrived at Cronulla railway station with baseball bats, iron bars, knives and guns. They open fired on a rival gang, spraying more than 20 bullets over a 50-metre area. Such behaviour and activity are totally foreign. The Premier would be aware of the writings of a former New York senator, Patrick Daniel Moynihan. Back in the 1960s he wrote an essay entitled “Defining Deviancy Down”. That summarises these appalling standards of behaviour. Previously, this incident would have made headlines all over Sydney…

Mr George: Throughout New South Wales.

Mr KERR: Indeed, throughout New South Wales, but it did not because it is so commonplace. The mayor of Sutherland shire wants surveillance cameras, and there is no reason why the council cannot put surveillance cameras in the places sought by the mayor, although the problem exists throughout the Sutherland shire. The Carr Government has failed in its basic responsibility to maintain an orderly society and should therefore make a financial contribution towards the cost of the cameras. On behalf of the people of the Sutherland shire I ask the mayor to indicate when those cameras will be installed in Cronulla.

While I freely admit that troubling, troubled, and trouble-making (and usually virulently homophobic) groups of “middle eastern appearance” are an unlovely feature of Sydney life, it is very important to keep a sense of proportion on this: see Tunnel Vision: The Politicising Of Ethnic Crime by Paola Totaro (2003) for such a perspective. For much more detailed argument, see (PDF file) Scott Poynting Living with Racism: The experience and reporting by Arab and Muslim Australians of discrimination, abuse and violence since 11 September 2001 (2004).

It should be noted that, in the ideology of racism, categorical confusions between ‘race’ (eg ‘Middle Eastern Appearance’), ethnicity (eg Arab), nationality of origin or background (eg Lebanese), and religion (eg Muslim) are common, and distinction in practice between racism directed on ‘racial’, ethnic, or national grounds is not always possible or valid. This is all the more problematic currently, for over about the last decade, especially since panics from 1998 over ‘ethnic gangs’, over ‘race rapes’ in Sydney in 2000-2001, and asylum seekers and then the terror attacks from 2001, we have seen the emergence of we might call ‘the Arab Other’ as the pre-eminent folk devil in contemporary Australia (Poynting, Noble, Tabar and Collins, 2004). The links that are made between these events, the ‘perpetrators’ involved and their perceived communities, depend on the racist imagining of a supposedly homogenous category which includes those of Arab or Middle Eastern or Muslim background. This is not a singular category, of course — it includes people from diverse ancestries and with very distinct histories — but it is seen to be a singular category. A common factor is found through blaming whole communities for criminal acts, but also in labelling as ‘deviant’ certain actions — such as seeking asylum — and a range of other practices whose key feature is their visible and threatening difference — such as building a prayer centre (Dunn, 2001).

The extent to which the categories of race, ethnicity (culture) and religion are conflated in the ‘common sense’ of racism* is an aspect which needs to be studied, especially in as much as it determines the scope of legislation and the targeting of anti-racist initiatives and resources…

Poynting’s long article has much to commend it, including some disturbing personal stories.

And one you may not have thought of before: On welfare issues with Korean-Australian students

Nothing of what I have written, I hasten to add, is in any way meant to stigmatise Koreans or Korean culture, a point I made at the end yesterday with reference to Port Arthur. On the other hand I have seen up close less horrendous examples of the bicultural alienation some Korean-Australian students feel. Some years ago we were all shocked when one of our former students, a Korean-Australian, was murdered. We did much soul-searching then about what may have been involved. One of the more alienated Korean-Australian contemporaries of that boy opened up to me about a whole lot of things, and thanked me for some of the things I had been saying or writing on the cultural issues involved.

About that time too after a Year 12 Farewell ceremony I was, much to my surprise, on the receiving end of a big hug from one of those Korean students I had been working with for the previous six years… 🙂

Additional note

A feature of the more alienated Korean students in my experience from the mid 90s through to 2005 — and I stress of some, though quite a few — was their fandom of the US star Tupac Shakur and of “Thug Life”.

The concept of “Thug Life” was viewed by Shakur as a philosophy for life. Shakur developed the word into an acronym standing for “The Hate U Gave Little Infants F**ks Everybody”. He declared that the dictionary definition of a “thug” as being a rogue or criminal was not how he used the term, but rather he meant someone who came from oppressive or squalid background and little opportunity but still made a life for themselves and were proud.

Also in that post:

Korean Student Forum 8 September 2004 at Sydney Institute of TAFE….

In the “behaviour” workshop one of the police officers said something that adds perspective. He said that if we see a group of young people kicking a soccer ball around a park we feel positive about it, but if you take away the soccer ball and have the same group a bit later at night, or at a mall, people start saying “It’s a gang.” There’s something in that.

 

And now we have the admittedly disturbing incidents in Melbourne in recent times. I commend warmly Is Melbourne in the grip of African crime gangs? The facts behind the lurid headlines.

Victoria is having a debate about gangs. Specifically, it is debating whether it is appropriate to call groups of young people who are predominantly from African backgrounds a “gang” and, so named, what should be done about it.

It’s also having a debate about race, which is being waged in the comment sections of front-page articles on gang violence, and on social media, where comments like “stop immigration until this mess is sorted” populate Victoria police’s official Facebook page.

Both debates are linked to a perceived increase in large-scale violent offences committed by young people of African appearance, most of whom have been linked to Melbourne’s Sudanese migrant community.

Media coverage of the issue, led by the News Corp tabloid the Herald Sun, has dubbed Victoria “a state of fear” and reported that it could undermine the incumbent Labor government’s chances in the November state election.

On Monday the prime minister weighed in, saying at a press conference in Sydney that “growing gang violence and lawlessness in Victoria” was “a failure of the Andrews government”….

So here we go, here we go, here we go… again! Moral panic time!

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Source: Other Sociologist blog

See also African migrants face unfair stigma as Melbourne gang stoush escalates.

And see also from me in 2010: Africa in South Sydney. Do watch the video there!

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