Free E-book from ANU: The Lives of Stories

My free e-books from ANU Press include some excellent publications on Indigenous Australian History, Emma Dortins, The Lives of Stories: Three Aboriginal-Settler Friendships (2018) being one. The three friendships are: Arthur Phillip and Bennelong (see cover), James Morrill and the Birri-gubba people of Queensland, and Windradyne and the Suttor family of Brucedale, Bathurst NSW. The first story is the best known, the third less well known by most Australians. The Windradyne/Suttor story features in Stan Grant’s excellent family story, The Tears of Strangers (Harper Collins 2002), which I read recently courtesy of Wollongong Library.

dortins

The Lives of Stories is based on a History thesis written at Sydney University between 2007 and 2012. It blends meticulous research based in documents, some revealed for the first time, with consideration from a number of critical perspectives. I found the result enriched my understanding both of the strictly historical matters and the theoretical frameworks around their interpretation over time and place. In her concluding chapter Emma Dortins says:

When I set out, I was on the alert for change; I wanted to hear the new interpretations and fresh perspectives on these old stories that I felt would flow from their retelling in changing social and political climates. Initially, characterisation of the differences between versions came more easily to me than plumbing the meanings of the many layers of continuity that had been maintained through repetition. I was most flummoxed by a story that had not changed when I expected that it would have. However, I gradually came to see that the patterns of repetition and familiarity told their own story….

It is the activity of sharing stories, and working on their meanings, that can, at times, bring people together to enact social healing, and may also highlight different desired futures. It is the activity of sharing stories that continues to lay down strata of meaning about ancestors, past events and ancient places. These three stories are part of a conversation about the past in which there will be no last word.

Here is the accepted burial site of Windradyne of the Wiradjuri people at Brucedale, near Bathurst in NSW.

windradyne

I recall being part of a Sydney High history excursion to Hill End back in 1986 — the year of Halley’s Comet — when the bus we were on came to a halt so Brian Hodge, local Hill End historian and then Head of History at Sydney Boys High, could tell the story of Brucedale and the Suttor family. That came back to me as I read the last third of this book. Here Emma Dortins outlines the story:

The opening episode of the First Australians television series concluded with a story of friendship, jointly told by Wiradjuri Elder Dinawan Dyirribang, formerly Bill Allen, and David Suttor, owner of Brucedale, a cattle farming property near Bathurst. Suttor introduced his great–great grandfather, William—a 17-year-old, ambitious to succeed in the new world he saw opening up to him as more extensive settlement was permitted beyond the Great Dividing Range in the early 1820s. Dinawan Dyirribang introduced his ancestor, Windradyne—a fiery young warrior, family orientated and strong in his culture, who met the newcomers with dignity. Wiradjuri people guided William and his father, George, to land with good water, and Brucedale was established. William was left to manage the property with instructions from his father to respect the Wiradjuri. He took these instructions to heart, learning some of the Wiradjuri language. When violence ignited under the pressure of rapidly increasing settler and stock numbers in Wiradjuri country, the ties between the Suttor family and Windradyne and his people held.

A flashpoint came when a farmer offered Wiradjuri people some of his potatoes, but then, when some of the same people returned the following day to help themselves, he rounded up an armed posse to help him ‘defend’ his crop. Several of Windradyne’s family members were killed. Soon afterwards, Windradyne and a group of warriors surrounded William Suttor’s hut at night. William came to the door and spoke with Windradyne in the Wiradjuri language. After extended discussion, the warriors departed. Thirteen other settlers were speared and burned to death in their huts over the following month, and the stock of many farmers scattered, but Brucedale was spared. The settlers retaliated, killing Wiradjuri men, women and children. Governor Brisbane declared martial law in the Bathurst district on 14 August 1824, and the Wiradjuri faced a military contingent, as well as continued action by landowners and their servants.

Eventually, perhaps recognising the toll the conflict was having on his people, Windradyne and 130 other warriors walked to Parramatta to attend the governor’s annual Aboriginal conference and negotiated peace with Governor Brisbane. Windradyne returned to live on his own land, which included Brucedale, and was buried there in the Wiradjuri way. The story closed with Dinawan Dyirribang calling for recognition of the harm and pain caused on both sides of the conflict, and David Suttor thanking the Wiradjuri people for their mercy on that fateful night in 1824; without their goodwill, Suttor said, ‘we might not be here today’.1

As the voices of Dinawan Dyirribang and David Suttor entwine, their story of friendship takes on a redeeming quality, transcending the larger narrative of war of which it is a small part. The viewer is left with a sense of hope…

I really commend this excellent book. See also Professional Historians Association NSW & ACT.

This book emerged from a scholarly endeavour but is infused by Dortins’ experience as a public historian. She has engaged with the academic literature but also with local history groups and, through her own professional life, with the policy and practice of heritage. From this combined experience emerges an important consideration of how history is made and the role it plays in the nation. Dortins does not want to burden these three stories of Aboriginal-settler friendships with too much responsibility but does demonstrate how they contribute to the reconciliation movement. Her book also shows that history cannot be made just once; it must be retained and repeated and reassessed.

Advertisements

20,000 years from my window

Another pic from the set in my last post — from my window:

CIMG4769

Last week I revisited ANU Press and downloaded for free several essays/chapters and seven comlplete books or journals. Some of the books have a China/Asia theme, one on recent Australian politics, and four relate to Indigenous Australians. Of the last set one is of considerable local interest, Julie Dibden, Drawing on the Land — Rock Art in the Upper Nepean Sydney Basin, NSW (Canberra, ANU Press, 2019).

rockartcover

Much of the book is highly technical, but much is more immediate for the interested lay person. I have to admit I was not sure exactly where “Upper Nepean” might be, thinking it a little further west than it is, for it turns out I see it from my window here in West Wollongong every day — the eastern portion at least.

area1a

I didn’t know this, but the Upper Nepean catchment has approximately 810 known archaeological sites. Some are rock shelters, many with markings, others are areas with grinding grooves — I recall seeing such things in the Royal National Park when I was younger.

rockart

How old? “…the south coastal hinterland and adjacent coast were first occupied before 19,000 years BP, and that early occupation of the hinterland ‘appears not to have been intensive’. Throughout the Holocene, occupation levels fluctuated with sites being temporarily or permanently abandoned at different times, and the intensity of occupation varied between sites.” The art pictured above may be as recent as 2-300 years old. Little survives from the earliest period. Keep in mind that there is now general agreement that Aboriginal Australia dates back 60,000 years.

So many nuggets in this book. “It seems to follow that one cannot make full sense of the development of European life in Australia without reference to the structure of racial relations and the persistent indifference to the fate of the Aborigines; in short, without an analysis of the Australian conscience. Part of such a study would be the apologetic element in the writing of Australian history, an element that sticks out like a foot from a shallow grave… The occupation and settlement of New South Wales by the British in 1788, and during the colonial period, was predicated on ‘two quite opposite and irreconcilable requirements … one the need to assure settlers their legal rights to possess land (and dispossess the Aborigines); and the other the moral requirement that the Aborigines should be treated well and their rights as human beings protected’ (Plomley 1990–1991:1)…. Given that the Upper Nepean catchment was largely unoccupied by European settlers, it can be considered to have been located actually beyond, or on the far side of the frontier (cf. McNiven and Russell 2002). Historical records are scanty in regard to Aboriginal use of this land during the colonial period; however, there is evidence that indicates people did retreat to the Woronora Plateau to recover from introduced disease. It is possible, if not probable, that some rock art present in the Upper Nepean was produced at this time.”

Smallpox. “The most obvious and immediate impact following the arrival of the First Fleet was the introduction of disease, the most lethal of which was smallpox (Butlin 1983). Three major smallpox epidemics were recorded in Australia: in 1789, one year after European settlement, in 1829 and in 1866 (Curson 1985). The 1789 epidemic had a devastating effect on the local Aboriginal people living close to the British settlement at Port Jackson, and it was reported that the region was evacuated until the disease had disappeared (Bell 1959:345). At the end of the 1789 epidemic, when Aboriginal people began returning to the shores of Port Jackson, it was estimated by Governor Phillip that smallpox had claimed at least 50 per cent of the population (Butlin 1983). In the years immediately after the epidemic, its effects were observed in locations well outside the 1789 European frontier.”

And this I found quite fascinating, given Wellington is a place I visited quite often in the 60s and 70s, having relatives in the district. “From the late nineteenth-century accounts, the dominant belief at that time in the south-east was in an All-Father being known by various names, including Baiame and Daramulan (Attenbrow 2002:128). These two beings are in some places the one, but with different names, while in others, Daramulan is the son or half-brother of Baiame (Knight 2001:59; Attenbrow 2002:128). In the late nineteenth century, Howitt emphasises the heaven-dominated cosmology that is central to the Baiame/Daramulan belief, and which is described by Swain (1993:203) as a utopian tradition, whereby humans and ancestral spirits are removed to a sky realm…. There is no mention of the All-Father Baiame in the accounts of the earliest commentators in the Sydney region. Swain (1993:145) argues that the earliest mention of Baiame dates to the 1830s, in the Wellington Valley mission, in central western New South Wales, and that Baiame was introduced to that area from closer to the Sydney frontier. Carey and Roberts (2002:822–823) examine in detail the records (many of which have previously been overlooked) from the Wellington Valley mission, and argue that Baiame, and an associated dance ritual, waganna, was a phenomenon linked to the aftermath of smallpox. Their research is also concerned with exploring the intellectual and cultural response to the impacts of disease and death. At Wellington, Baiame was associated with an adversary, Tharrawiirgal, who was believed responsible for the bringing of smallpox because of his wrath due to his loss of a tomahawk (Carey & Roberts 2002:830–831). Smallpox reached the Wellington Valley in 1830, and was particularly severe. It has been estimated that a third of the population died (Carey & Roberts 2002:827, 829). The Wiradjuri, via a range of Indigenous and/or borrowed natural and/or magical explanatory frameworks, began to search for an explanation and possibly control of ‘so virulent a misfortune’ (Carey & Roberts 2002:831). They argue that, from 1830, there is evidence that suggests that one cultural response was the creation of new dance rituals and mourning ceremonies, and that, by c. 1833, these responses had been elaborated into a waganna, or dance ritual….”

You may download a PDF of the chapter that comes from here. The last quote continues:

Missionaries recorded that some dance rituals were held at this time specifically in regard to smallpox (Carey & Roberts 2002:832). Over a period of time they were performed on a regular basis and with increasing intensity and ritual elaboration. By 1835, there was also a shift in focus from smallpox to the issue of sexual access by white men to Aboriginal women and children, and an insistence on the traditional practice of nose piercing (Carey & Roberts 2002:833, 837–838). Between 1833 and 1[8]35 it was also strongly believed, as Swain (1993) similarly documents, that the end of the world was a possibility, and specifically that the world was to be destroyed by flood.

The Baiame waganna cult at Wellington lasted for two years only, and during this time missionaries recorded what Carey and Roberts (2002:843) describe as the formation and transformation of the Baiame travelling cult. They observed major changes in the prophecies. The concern with smallpox shifted to the issue of the sexual abuse of women and children by white men and a focus on the instigation of traditional practices. The cosmology saw a decline in the acknowledgement of Tharrawiirgal, who was regularly replaced by Daramulan, and to a ‘magnification of the authority of Baiame’ (Carey & Roberts 2002:843). The evidence from Wellington is testament of dramatic and swift change in Aboriginal people’s beliefs and concerns, which could take place in a very brief period to time.

It is inconceivable that the Aboriginal people from the Upper Nepean catchment and environs did not also adapt their world view and conceptions of existence to meet the demands of life within the colonial milieu.

I will share more from my ANU trove later, just adding that the slogan “world’s oldest continuing civilisation” often, and not totally wrongly, applied to our First Australians masks a much more dynamic picture, in fact doesn’t necessarily do First Australians a favour. They were not preserved in aspic for 60,000 years after all.

Didn’t clinch the story of my grandma…

You can find quite a few posts on Indigenous Austalians here, some of them dealing with a probable (in my case) family connection and in the case of my brother’s descendants a certain one.  The critical point in my story is knowing for sure who was the father of my grandmother Henrietta. I have renewed a search for that information in the past few days, but to no avail.

You will find among other posts this from 2011: Family history and mystery–the Indigenous connection. And this is said grandmother, whom I never met:

henrietta

Henrietta Bursill (Whitfield) 1874-1931

Someone rather well known read that post, I think, and emailed me just now.

Wallangang Eorah Muttong Yagunah.

Hello Neil want to know about my Ancestor I can show a male to male line back to
Pemulwuy & his father Bediagal, Tedbury whom was later recorded as Timbere a black Joe a term used  by white people along with young Bundle they were the chiefs of the tribe.

Glen Timbery-Timbrey-Timbere-Tedbury<

His family is indeed well-known. He is quoted in a Choice article on real/fake Aboriginal art.

dcf93218684ce480549c0d580d994eadca8878b2

Something from 2009: one could despair!

Apropos of something a friend posted on Facebook, rehashing theological positions I once possibly espoused myself, I found myself trawling through some old posts. So I repost two:

Joshua to Gaza 2009

It is somewhat ironic that my private Bible reading scheme, which often follows the US Episcopalian lectionary, brought me today to the Book of Joshua.

1 Now after the death of Moses the servant of the LORD it came to pass, that the LORD spake unto Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ minister, saying,

2 Moses my servant is dead; now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, thou, and all this people, unto the land which I do give to them, even to the children of Israel.

3 Every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon, that have I given unto you, as I said unto Moses.

4 From the wilderness and this Lebanon even unto the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and unto the great sea toward the going down of the sun, shall be your coast.

5 There shall not any man be able to stand before thee all the days of thy life: as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.

6 Be strong and of a good courage: for unto this people shalt thou divide for an inheritance the land, which I sware unto their fathers to give them.

7 Only be thou strong and very courageous, that thou mayest observe to do according to all the law, which Moses my servant commanded thee: turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that thou mayest prosper withersoever thou goest.

8 This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.

9 Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the LORD thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.

The first thing that must be said is that we are reading saga and legend here, not history. One may as well take Beowulf literally, though of course Beowulf is very informative about the life and times of its culture and milieu and reflects history, which is also true of Joshua. It is pretty much certain that what really happened was nothing like what we read in this book. I don’t find that a problem, personally. One can be inspired by the words of the last verse there without believing that verses 3 and 4 represent some real kind of divine decree still relevant in 2009. Sadly, not everyone agrees.

Israel and Palestine: A Brief History – Part I on the Middle East Web captures this quite well.

The archeological record indicates that the Jewish people evolved out of native Cana’anite peoples and invading tribes. Some time between about 1800 and 1500 B.C., it is thought that a Semitic people called Hebrews (hapiru) left Mesopotamia and settled in Canaan. Canaan was settled by different tribes including Semitic peoples, Hittites, and later Philistines, peoples of the sea who are thought to have arrived from Mycenae, or to be part of the ancient Greek peoples that also settled Mycenae.

According to the Bible, Moses led the Israelites, or a portion of them, out of Egypt. Under Joshua, they conquered the tribes and city states of Canaan…

Paragraph one indicates what really may have happened; the next paragraph recounts the hallowed legend.

Leaping forward around 4,000 years we find ourselves where we are. You can trace that in varying degrees of depth on that Middle East Web, which I referred you to in my update yesterday on A whiff of sanity.

Long term the approach I commend there will be what must happen, but in the world as it is it will be a long time before such an approach is taken seriously by those in power. The point is, however, that we have been told. What looks like good strategy in current Washington and Tel Aviv or Jerusalem – which really should be an international city as the United Nations long ago proposed – or among irredentists in the Muslim world is actually short-sighted policy. Given that Israel may attain its objectives – more about that in a moment – the true cost is incalculable. In brief it involves fuelling further the problem. It inflames further the grievances that have made too many turn to terror as an appropriate response.  The present cost in human lives and suffering is only too manifest.

In today’s Sydney Morning Herald Paul McGeogh offers an interpretive report that rings true.

THE revelation of the daring objective at the heart of Operation Cast Lead calls for Israel’s air-and-ground assault on Gaza to be given a new name. As the rhetorical layers are peeled back, what we are hearing makes Mission Impossible a more worthy contender.

Tel Aviv’s early insistence that this massive military exercise was about putting a halt to Palestinian rockets being fired into or near communities in the south of Israel never rang true.

Measure it by the number of rockets – 8000-plus over eight years – and indeed it sounds like a genuine existential threat. Consider the toll – 20 Israeli deaths spread over eight years, which is about half the number of deaths in just a month of Israeli traffic accidents – and it all loses its oomph as a casus belli.

Israel does not want to deal with Hamas – it wants to annihilate the Islamist movement.

The Foreign Minister, Tzipi Livni, said as much when she dashed to Paris last week to head off a French push for a 48-hour ceasefire. “There is no doubt that as long as Hamas controls Gaza, it is a problem for Israel, a problem for the Palestinians and a problem for the entire region,” she said.

If there was any doubt after Livni spoke, it evaporated on Friday when the Deputy Prime Minister, Haim Ramon, told Israeli TV: “What I think we need to do is to reach a situation in which we do not allow Hamas to govern. That’s the most important thing.”

And at the United Nations in New York, the Israeli ambassador, Gabriella Shalev, also seemed to depart the approved script. “[It will continue for] as long as it takes to dismantle Hamas completely,” she said.

Analysis and commentary through the first eight days of this conflict have been about Israel’s goal of stopping the rockets. But if the objective is obliterating Hamas, it does indeed seem an impossible task….

jan04 024a

Yesterday in Sydney

Good luck to Obama. Let’s hope for some shift in US policy, which is critical; I am not totally despairing on that front, nor am I totally hopeful.

Update

See Jim Belshaw’s post this morning: Gaza, democracy and the question of world government. Very thoughtful. I think Jim and I share both a certain tentativeness on the issue – which I am sure is a clear sign of intelligence!—and a desire to get beyond the reflex responses we’ve been seeing. That Jim has used one of my photos is of course a bonus.

And:

Bad Archaeology

14 MAR 2009

And is there a lot of it around! Bad Archaeology explains itself thus:

We are a couple of real archaeologists fed up with the distorted view of the past that passes for knowledge in popular culture. We are unhappy that journalists with no knowledge of the methods, aims, techniques and theories of real archaeology can sell hundreds of times more books than real archaeologists. We do not appreciate news programmes that talk about ley lines as if they are real. In short, we are Angry Archaeologists.

One of us is Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews, who began work on a version of this site as part of his personal home pages as long ago as 1999. Keith is a local authority archaeologist in North Hertfordshire with a long-standing interest in Bad Archaeology and who has grown increasingly concerned at the profession’s evident unwillingness to deal with it. He is also worried at the growth of anti-Enlightenment attitudes during his lifetime, which he worries may return us to a Dark Age of superstition-based belief.

The other of us is James Doeser, who is currently trying to finish his PhD in government and archaeology at the Institute of Archaeology, University College London. James is interested in the way efforts to increase public understanding of archaeology (museums, media, tourism etc.) collide with a the belief that everybody has a right to understand the past in whichever way they want. We can’t all be right, can we?

Highly commended. Just to name one field, there is unfortunately a great deal of nonsense out there in the realm of Biblical archaeology. In that area you may also look at another good site, The Bible and Interpretation.

There are many other sections in Bad Archaeology. I will certainly be spending time on it.

Bad Archaeology is all around us: many of its ideas are pervasive in popular culture; its publications sell more than Good Archaeology publications; its web presence is much stronger than that of Good Archaeology. What we are trying to do with this site is to show the utter vacuity of most Bad Archaeology and provide a reference point for Good (or at least, Better) Archaeology.

At the same time, we hope that this site will be a useful resource to people puzzled by various claims about the past, about apparently anomalous artefacts, about religious claims to knowledge that are in conflict with those of science and about assertions that just seem a bit dubious.

Above all, we hope that this site will entertain and amuse you!

And from December 2008. Do visit the whole post:

From left field, off the wall, and similar Christmas musings 1

Let me remind you of my Christmas poem selection #4 from last year.

From the place where we are right
Flowers will never grow
In the spring.

The place where we are right
Is hard and trampled
Like a yard.

But doubts and loves
Dig up the world
Like a mole, a plow.

And a whisper will be heard in the place
Where the ruined
House once stood.

 Yehuda Amichai

Not forgetting China 30 years on

378088-Amy-Greene-Quote-It-s-not-forgetting-that-heals-It-s-remembering

7935078-3x2-700x467

Yesterday SBS Viceland showed the excellent PBS documentary Tiananmen: The People Vs. The Party. I found it thorough and utterly consistent with what I had been told or had read — much of both by people who had been there. But of course the expected is happening today:

WIN_20190603_09_40_51_Pro

Chinese authorities were bullshitting at the time, and they are bullshitting now.  And I might add that a fair part of my cynicism about some on the hard Left dates back to a time in 1990 when a couple I knew who had visited the Square around a year after the event assured me that “nothing happened there” — rather hard to accept when at the time I was interacting daily with Chinese students some of whom really were there at the time, some of whom exhibited post-traumatic stress one way or another. See some of my earlier posts:

Posted on June 12, 2015

Twenty-five years is a very long time, though as many septuagenarians would understand, quarter-centuries aren’t as long as they used to be. 1965- 1990 took, well, 25 years, but 1990-2015 has gone by in a matter of minutes! 😉

wessex2

That was taken in winter 1990 on an excursion to Wollongong with my class of overseas adult students. The couple on the right are from Korea, as I think is the woman with the red bag – or is she Chinese? Blue umbrella is Zhang Rui from Tianjin in China (a scientist) and next to him another Chinese, Ding. The taller slightly older man is Bill Zhang from Guangzhou. Lovely man.

wessex3

Bill and I in Hyde Park 1990. He had been photographing the grass so his wife in China could see this wonder: apparently at that time great dollops of lawn were in his eyes quite an exotic spectacle.

Why these students? As I noted in another post where there is indeed another story too:…

Here’s a related memory:

I am glad I visited the garden, as I called in on Sam, who has the “dress up as a Chinese princess” concession in the garden, something he has been doing for fifteen years now. I first met Sam, who was once in the Beijing Opera, in 1990. I remember it well. I was in a coffee shop and Sam was serving. I was reading an illustrated book about the Tiananmen incidents of 1989. “I can tell you all about that,” said Sam. “I was there.” And indeed he was. It turns out Sam is giving up the “dress as a princess” business in April, and going into something new. He’s over fifty years old now too. How time flies!

Some time in 1990 or 1991 I took Sam (and M and a guy from Tianjin, a scientist, called Rui) to SBHS to talk in a history class that was studying China. Sam rather stole the show when he told the students how his father, also in the Beijing Opera, had been beaten to death by Red Guards during the Cultural Revolution. Kind of brought Chinese History to life, that did.

wessex1

With my class at Wessex, probably late in 1990. Japanese, Korean, Indonesian, Chinese.

And:

….

5498428-3x2-940x627

That publicity shot for last night’s Foreign Correspondent shows people associated with the Australian Embassy in Beijing in 1989. The gist of what we saw is in this story: Tiananmen Square crisis station: the Australian embassy in 1989.

Jailed Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiabo was offered asylum from Australia in 1989 but turned it down and went on to become China’s most famous dissident.

Following his role in supporting student protesters in the run-up to the brutal crackdown that year, the literary critic turned philosopher and agitator would be imprisoned and tortured.

After the Olympics he was picked up again and this time given an 11-year sentence for “inciting subversion of state power”. He won the peace prize from behind bars and it was awarded symbolically to an empty chair.

The Australian embassy in Beijing’s cultural counsellor at the time, Nick Jose, had become a good friend of Liu Xiaobo in the run-up to the crackdown on June 3-4 when the People’s Liberation Army opened fire on protestors to reclaim Tiananmen Square.

“I took him in my car from my flat to the embassy gates and I said ‘Well this is it, we can drive in, the gates will open and the gates will close and you will have effectively sought asylum from Australia or you can go and find friends who live nearby’, friends I also knew,” Mr Jose said.

“He thought about it, he looked at me and said ‘Thank you, but no’, he would stay in China, he was Chinese, China was his country, China was his fate…

Nicholas Jose, Claire Roberts and M at M’s Chinese New Year Party, Redfern, 2009

Tonight’s Four Corners is a must see: Tremble and ObeyAnd here is a very relevant ABC story: Tiananmen Square massacre still remembered by Chinese soldier and witnesses 30 years on.  Another perspective is John Simpson, The night the lights went out: what really happened in Tiananmen Square. “Thirty years on, the events that took place in Beijing remain misunderstood – and the Chinese government wants to keep it that way. ” However, I do think Simpson is just a bit too clever in his article, and underestimates the significance of what so many of the students actually thought and did.

In depth and with an intimate knowledge shown of Chinese history and culture, see Tiananmen 1989 — Three Decades Behind China’s Gate of Darkness — June Fourth, 1989-2019. One item there I read at the time I was preparing my own From Yellow Earth to Eucalypt: trans. Pang Bingjun 龐秉鈞, with John Minford, in Geremie Barmé and Linda Jaivin, eds, New Ghosts, Old Dreams: Chinese Rebel Voices,  1992, pp.106-107.

In the First Light of Dawn

Xi Xi

In the first grey light of dawn,
We curl into the air,
Trailing from the ground
Up into the open sky above the square.
Limp, leaden, dumdum-pocked
The corpses lie
Mashed into the concrete.
Suddenly weightless
We drift
Like balloons.

We hear the sound
Of your weeping.

Mother, I beg you
Not to look for us again in the square,
The wasteland, where
Crushed tents, banners, command posts,
Public address stations
Strew the ground.
Teachers, students, friends
Are all gone.
The acrid smoke of gunfire
Fades as
Thousands of lives
Turn to ash.

Tomorrow will be Environment Day —
A Sanitation Show is planned,
The square will be scrubbed
Nice and clean,
As if nothing ever happened.

We hear the sound
Of your weeping.

We fell together,
Together we rise,
Joining once more our parted hands,
Holding our torches even higher.
A wound gapes
On one man’s chest;
A tank tread
Furrows one man’s brow.
But these wounds lie
On the body’s husk;
We are beautiful beyond compare.
Nothing can hurt us now.
We will share
The city’s splendour
With the stone beasts —
They, on their columns,
We, on the People’s Monument —
Calling
Across the square.

11 June 1989

Update 5 June:

ABC was excellent yesterday, specifically The Drum.  Later that night ABC News carried an interview with Nicholas Jose. (You sound older, Nick!) (But don’t we all!) See also Nicholas Jose, Tiananmen remains unfinished business for China, and for Australia.

When I published an account of my interaction with Liu Xiaobo in Chinese whispers in 1995, I felt I should not identify him by his full name. As one of the thinkers who best articulated the alternative China that many people envisaged in the late 1980s, Liu had played an important, courageous role in the events of 3–4 June 1989. I was with him when he made the fateful decision not to take refuge in the Australian embassy. That same night he was picked up while riding his bike along a nearby street and taken away. When he was released from detention 18 months later, he went on with his reasoned critique of the Chinese system, eventually authoring Charter 08, a call for reform, for which he was arrested again and heavily sentenced in 2009.

He was in prison when he was awarded the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize, which he dedicated to ‘the Tiananmen martyrs’, and in prison at the time of his cruel, state-sanctioned death in 2017, aged 61. His ashes were scattered at sea, preventing the site of his remains from becoming a shrine. It is hard to believe that one individual could so enrage the powerful Chinese Communist Party. It is hard to understand why China would destroy one of its best and brightest for advocating non-violent reform in legal and constitutional ways.