Bruce Pascoe — refreshing

I posted just now on Facebook, and augment that post with some relevant videos.

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You may recall Wollongong Library posted me a copy of Bruce Pascoe’s Dark Emu not long ago. It happens to be a large print edition, but even more significant is that it is the 2nd Edition (2018) which does include some new material.

I am not going to write a lengthy review, simply because I am not qualified to do so. There are so many out there already, many favourable, some sceptical, and the book has generated more than its fair share of hostility, most of it from the usual suspects from Bolt to “Quadrant”.

I am definitely not on the side of the usual suspects. I find it a refreshing, exciting addition to our knowledge of Australian history, even if perhaps at some points over-excited. I do strongly recommend it.

I should also add that debate about Bruce Pascoe’s ancestry or ethnicity is totally irrelevant.

As he says at the end of Chapter 2: “You can read other theories of Aboriginal culture, spirituality and economy in New Age texts, or the books of over-enthusiastic researchers, but often they make guesses to bridge the gaps in knowledge. Too often, they ascribe all sorts of mystical wisdom to their subjects, but their earnest romanticism is unnecessary, as the observations of the first explorers and settlers provides an enormous body of material. In this book, I am drawing on only a small sample of what is available to any Australian with a computer mouse or a library card. The reason I have provided so many examples, however, is to emphasise the depth of the available material and the desperate need for a revision of our history.”

See also Taking sides over ‘Dark Emu’ — How the history wars avoid debate and reason.

But all this attacking and leaping and defending doesn’t do much to resolve the issues. And there are issues. Dark Emu rests on a foundational truth: that the European explorers saw things (and, from within their own worldview, wrote them down) that the first settlers (and the institutions that supported them) didn’t want known (because they were busy expanding the colonial frontier, which necessarily meant acting illegally), and that subsequent settlers couldn’t see (because those things were no longer in evidence). Had Dark Emu merely made this point by quoting explorers’ journals, the right’s attack would have no force.

But throughout Dark Emu, Pascoe regularly exaggerates and embellishes. One example: he quotes Thomas Mitchell’s description of large, circular, chimneyed huts Mitchell observed near Mount Arapiles, in western Victoria, on July 26, 1836, but leaves out the words “which were of a very different construction from those of the aborigines in general”. Pascoe adds his own commentary: Mitchell “recorded his astonishment at the size of the villages”; he “counts the houses, and estimates a population of over one thousand”; and “the evidence is everywhere that they have used the place for a very long time”. But in his own journal, Mitchell doesn’t express astonishment, he doesn’t count and he doesn’t estimate a population size. Nor does he present any evidence that would support a conclusion about longevity of residence. Granville Stapylton, Mitchell’s second-in-command, recorded seeing one hut “capable of containing at least 40 persons and of very superior construction” on July 26. Pascoe includes this, but not the rest of Stapylton’s sentence: “and appearantly the work of A White Man it is A known fact that A runaway Convict has been for years amongst these tribes.” That could be a reference to the well-known escapee William Buckley (who was found by John Batman the previous July), or it could be a racist myth. The point is that Pascoe simply left it out.

By themselves, examples like these split hairs. But they’re all the way through Dark Emu….My observations here will no doubt be seized upon with glee by Bolt, O’Brien and co as further proof of their accusations against Pascoe. It may even be seized upon by those instinctively defending Pascoe’s reputation as evidence that I’ve gone to the dark side. None of these reactions would be helpful, though they would reflect the way we conduct public debate now…. Social media generates and supports echo chambers, and so has dramatically accelerated the process of value-based identity formation attempted in earlier times by various groups and collectives on all sides of politics. Instead of persuasion and deliberation – core democratic values – the pursuit of righteous ideological rigidity favours shamings, takedowns and outright abuse….

Do read that whole essay.  It too discounts the attacks on Pascoe’s ethnicity and goes on: “For all its problems, Dark Emu is not merely weathering the attacks. It charged back up the nonfiction bestsellers’ list and has occupied the number 3 spot for the past fortnight.”

I am glad of that. And here is the man himself.

I add this one because it lightens the mood, but ends on a serious point about the study of Australian history today.

Blogging the 2010s — 117a — December 2013 — mainly family history

Ending with a Scottish moment at the turn of  the year.

Family history–some news on the Whitfield front

Yesterday I had an email sent via Family stories 3 — About the Whitfields: from convict days from a granddaughter of my grandfather’s older sister – if you can work that out. The list as in William Joseph John Whitfield (b. 14 Aug 1836, d. 22 Jun 1925) on the Bailey Family of Ireland & Australia family tree is:

Children of William Joseph John Whitfield and Elizabeth Ratcliffe are:

  1. Joseph Ratcliffe, b. 18 Jul 1860, d. date unknown.
  2. Susan Caroline Whitfield, b. 23 May 1862, Picton NSW Australia, d. 13 May 1954.
  3. John Whitfield, b. 24 May 1864, Picton NSW Australia, d. 21 Nov 1956, Burwood NSW Aust.
  4. +Thomas Daniel Sweeney Whitfield, b. 21 Dec 1866, Picton NSW Australia, d. 21 Jan 1948.
  5. +William Joseph Bent Whitfield, b. 7 Oct 1868, Picton NSW Australia, d. 21 Aug 1957.
  6. James Albert Whitfield, b. 18 Aug 1870, d. date unknown.
  7. Sara Brittania Whitfield, b. 24 May 1872, Picton NSW Australia, d. 16 May 1967.
  8. +George Richard Whitfield, b. 10 May 1874, Picton NSW Australia, d. 20 Apr 1953.
  9. Ann Elizabeth Whitfield, b. 25 Dec 1875, d. 24 Jun 1978.
  10. Eliza Mary Whitfield, b. 5 Apr 1878, Picton NSW Australia, d. 4 Feb 1930.
  11. Jane Amy Bent Whitfield, b. 27 Feb 1880, Picton NSW Australia, d. date unknown.
  12. Jessie Winifred Ethel Whitfield, b. 21 Mar 1882, Picton NSW Australia, d. 29 Aug 1912.

The only ones I really remember myself in that list are TDS (#4), my grandfather, William Joseph Bent (#5) and Ann Elizabeth (#9). BTW the Bailey tree, while an amazing ongoing effort. has errors and omissions in it. For example, the list of TDS’s children omits one of my father’s brothers, Colin, and his sister Ella.

The cousin who wrote to me wanted to point out that Bob Starling   — referred to in my page at the head of this entry — also has not got everything perfectly correct. Here is that cousin, the granddaughter of Susan Caroline Whitfield:

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She is the one on the left and she is over 90 years old. As she gave her phone number I rang her last night and she sounded fantastic – as bright as a button. She could recall my father as a blonde god of a lifesaver at Shellharbour in the early 1930s!

She referred me to Australian biographical and genealogical record series 1, 1788-1841, with series 2 supplement, 1842-1899 / series 1 edited by John T. Spurway, assistant editor Allison Allen; series 2 edited by Kenneth J. Cable and Jane C. Marchant. It is in Wollongong Library and I will surely check it.

William Joseph John Whitfield was the son of William Whitfield and Caroline Philadelphia West. For the first time ever I have found her portrait!

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Caroline Philadelphia West

She arrived on the Grecian as a free settler on 16 April 1832, marrying my ancestor William Whitfield in Sydney on 20 June 1836. (The Second Officer of the Grecian drowned in Sydney soon after the ship arrived.)

William Whitfield

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Henry Curzon Allport, George Street, Sydney, looking south, January 1842, Watercolour

I see they resided at Elizabeth St, Alexandria, Sydney, New South Wales from 1836-1846. That means in the parish of Alexandria, but in fact in Strawberry Hills or Surry Hills according to other sources. In 2008 I did a series called Looking for Jacob – William’s father — and the following picture is as close as can be to where William and Caroline Philadelphia lived, or perhaps Jacob.

… and why would I like a “Time Team” dig around it? It runs from Wentworth Avenue Surry Hills to Foy Lane, where I took this photo…

See :-Surry Hills: Looking for Jacob 12: Zeroing in

That was posted on my new photoblog earlier this week.

You will recall that we “found” Jacob, my convict ancestor, or we at least found the part of Sydney where he is known to have resided in the second half of the 1830s through early 1840s. By the 1860s the family had moved on – Braidwood, Picton… My grandfather was born in Picton in 1867. Him I remember. Just. He died in 1948. His brother William I remember more clearly, because he survived well into the 1950s. That William – son of William, the son of William, the son of Jacob – was still riding horses and ploughing his orchard almost to the year of his death. I remember his house, with its (to citified me) rather magic rural air, and tales of this one and that one, and timber getting, and horse breaking, and blacksmithing, and bullock teams… And Sao biscuits with tomato and cheese…

The tales never went back more than about one generation…

I think I can see why, for several reasons. Sometimes my father would mutter about the Old Testament curse on “the sins of the fathers”… Perhaps too, given what the area they had left behind in Surry Hills had become by 1900, you will see why it didn’t figure in the stories… Anyway, it was not part of my grandparents’ generation’s personal memories. They had become country people.

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That whole Wentworth Avenue area was one of the centres of the Bubonic Plague scare of 1900, after which it was largely razed and then reorganised and rebuilt, giving us the streetscapes of the “Looking for Jacob” series. See Purging Pestilence – the Bubonic Plague from the State Library of NSW. Visit that site for bigger pictures.

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Exeter Place off Market Lane 1900
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Campbell Street 1900

And here is William Joseph John Whitfield, the great-grandfather of both myself and my correspondent Lilian Lee.

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On this blog there have been this year several substantial additions to my understanding of or memories of the Whitfield family. Do check them, as they are also, I think, of general historical interest. You will find on some of those posts cross-references to my earlier posts.

An interesting insight into why William and his family would have moved to Picton in the 1840s is to be seen at Picton NSW – The Early Years.

Though much discussion has been held over the years as to who named Picton and for whom, it is believed the name was probably decided on by Governor Brisbane perhaps in honour of an old soldier friend Sir Thomas Picton. In 1840 George Harper decided to take advantage of the natural development of the private town on Major Antill’s land. He advertised in April 1840 that 45 building allotments in the township of Stonequarry would soon be for sale by auction. They would be from one half to one acre in size and situated on his land on the southern side of Stonequarry Creek on either side of the main road.

His private town never took off. Mr Harper unfortunately died in March 1841 and the property was leased in full. George Harper’s property “Abbotsford” extended from the Stonequarry Bridge out along the road that led to The Oaks. The remains of the house are still on the property just past the Abbotsford Bridge. Major Antill, in July 1841 advertised in the Sydney papers, the auction of his sub-division to be called the Village of Picton, late Stonequarry in August that year. He stressed that many blocks had frontages to the main road up which all the wealthy owners from the south travelled with their wool clips.

In 1845 the government made moves to lay out its own town just south of the private town. Surveyor Galloway was employed to survey the area and make half acre blocks for purchase. These blocks were first offered for sale in 1847. They were all sold by 1855. Land was held back for grants to churches and for the school and courthouse. The government town was also called Picton. This led to confusion and it was re-named Upper Picton in 1847.

A petition was made to the government to name its village Redbank but the government decided it was to be called Upper Picton. Even to this day, over 150 years later, local residents still often refer to the area as Redbank. On a number of occasions when money was allocated for a public building, arguments developed on where it was to be located. It seemed each time the government called tenders on a site in its town, the Antill family would offer land in its private town and that was where the building would ultimately be erected.The Upper Picton residents who had purchased land in Upper Picton naturally felt cheated. Unfortunately they had no friends in government and though they fought for the government’s support in its own town they were unsuccessful.

For many years, the resentment between Upper and Lower Picton festered. It lay like a boil beneath the surface of life. When an issue arose where Upper Picton residents felt they were being placed second to Lower Picton, it would erupt and once again cause disagreement and division. As the years passed, the private town flourished and the government town languished. Though it had some businesses, churches and a school, eventually it subsided into an existence as the poor relation. To-day, those resentments have totally disappeared and many people are not even aware of its happening.

2013 to 2014

The Beethoven rant

This began as a Musical Interlude, but morphed into something else when I posted Lang Lang’s performance of Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto on Facebook yesterday. So first the music, then an augmented rant.

Here is the second movement of the Emperor Concerto — one of the most beautiful musical experiences you can ever have! I recall times in Wollongong around 1975 when I first encountered this- – obviously not played then by Lang Lang! But I truly had never heard or felt anything like it! And that stays with me over 40 years later. It belongs to all humanity.

And in this performance the chemistry between soloist and conductor, the shared emotion, is just palpable.

I hope you played that first! Now to the rant.

RANT WARNING: I vent about the absolute stupidity, a kind of mirror image of deadshits like Donald Trump, that has entered our discourse lately leading to such idiocy as pulling an episode of Fawlty Towers off the air.

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Of course the modern puritans have their go: for example this fashionable crap . “Western classical music is not about culture. It’s about whiteness. It’s a combination of European traditions which serve the specious belief that whiteness has a culture—one that is superior to all others. Its main purpose is to be a cultural anchor for the myth of white supremacy. In that regard, people of color can never truly be pioneers of Western classical music. The best we can be are exotic guests: entertainment for the white audiences and an example of how Western classical music is more elite than the cultures of people of color.”

To which honestly I just say: I don’t fecking care! I used years ago to lament the stupidity of some US school districts that banned “Huckleberry Finn” because it had the N-word in it — which it does. They could not see that reading “Huckleberry Finn” is one of the best ways to learn — as Huck does — that the N-word is truly evil. On realising who the runaway slave Jim really is, Huck rejects the social norms of his time and decides going to Hell is better than betraying what he has learned about Jim and about slavery.

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Today’s puritans are repeating the historic iconoclast crime, like those Protestants in the time of Henry VIII who saw the destruction of the art and culture developed over centuries was the will of God, or like the Taliban who felt God was so grossly upset by Buddhism that blowing up the Bamayan Buddhas was the right thing to do.

Here and now we have descended to the level of absurdity where removing an episode of Fawlty Towers (“Don’t mention the war!”) is somehow necessary to cure the disease of racism. I can imagine my one-time neighbours in Wollongong, Tilly and Willy, who laughed at Hogan’s Heroes despite the fact Willy had been in the Wehrmacht on the Russian Front, would be nonplussed were they still alive, as would my Dad who in the 1970s found in Willy a congenial soul, despite the fact that as a member of the RAAF in WW2 he would once upon a time have been obliged to kill Willy.

I find the “cancel culture” disturbingly similar to the above.

I am all for #racismnoway and #blacklivesmatter as many of you know, but the woke among us are too often now like so many fanatics blind to complexity, and arrogantly righteous.

I hate it!

I am with Barack Obama on this.

Former US President Barack Obama has challenged “woke” culture telling young people: “The world is messy.” He made the comments at the Obama Foundation’s annual summit in Chicago on Tuesday.

Mr Obama said that calling people out on social media did not bring about change, and that change was complex.

“Woke” is described as being alert to racial or social discrimination and injustice, along with being aware of what’s going on in the community.

Mr Obama told the audience: “I get a sense among certain young people on social media that the way of making change is to be as judgemental as possible about other people. If I tweet or hashtag about how you didn’t do something right or used the wrong verb, then I can sit back and feel pretty good about myself because ‘Man did you see how woke I was? I called you out!'”

Last April, he told a crowd at an Obama Foundation event in Berlin: “One of the things I do worry about among progressives in the United States, maybe it’s true here as well, is a certain kind of rigidity where we say ‘Uh, I’m sorry, this is how it’s going to be’ and then we start sometimes creating what’s called a ‘circular firing squad’, where you start shooting at your allies because one of them has strayed from purity on the issues.”

Jen Psaki, former Obama White House communications director, told CNN that she believed Mr Obama’s most recent comments were a message for the Democratic Party and those running for election.

“If we are launching purity tests, we are going to have such a small party and will not be able to win. Governing is not about saying: ‘You don’t agree with me, then you can’t be part of the conversation.'”

But I do rejoice in this!

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Mural in Surry Hills of former Sydney Swans star and Australian of the Year Adam Goodes, centre of controversy in recent years over the action he took against racism.

See also on this blog:  Bicentenary of Dharawal massacre in Appin area.  Living with the facts of our history.

Finally, some challeges:

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And a last video, a brilliant biting satirical sketch on the ABC a few days back. Yes, I was stung too — but have to admit it hit the target square on.

Blogging the 2010s — 111 — November 2017 — we vote YES!

As indicated above, this was an exciting month. But I begin here with the classics.

Gatsby, Huck and another American classic

I have been reading a lot of free eBooks lately, including three American classics. The one I had not read before is Sinclair Lewis, It Can’t Happen Here (1935), which also exists as a stage play. It is impossible to read it today without thinking of Donald Trump. as this review of a recent stage performance notes.

As if the current political climate weren’t worrisome enough for many people, Foothill Theatre Arts presents “It Can’t Happen Here.”

It chronicles the rise of a populist presidential candidate who promises better times, wins the office and then oversees the country’s rapid demise into fascism and repression.

Sinclair Lewis wrote his prescient novel in 1935 when rabble-rousing Huey Long was running for president (he was assassinated before being nominated) against Franklin Roosevelt and Hitler’s Nazi regime was rising in Europe.

But it is also very much of the 1930s, so don’t expect too close a parallel. Worth noting nonetheless.

I reread with undiminished pleasure The Great Gatsby by Scott Fitzgerald. A few years ago I posted Gatsby revisited. My recent reading is rather more positive than that post. I just relished every sentence!

Finally, after what must be almost forty years I have reread Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn. I find myself agreeing with those who find the final chapter annoying. Without Tom Sawyer the novel had up to that point had passages of utter brilliance. For example:

CHAPTER XIX.

TWO or three days and nights went by; I reckon I might say they swum by, they slid along so quiet and smooth and lovely.  Here is the way we put in the time.  It was a monstrous big river down there—sometimes a mile and a half wide; we run nights, and laid up and hid daytimes; soon as night was most gone we stopped navigating and tied up—nearly always in the dead water under a towhead; and then cut young cottonwoods and willows, and hid the raft with them.  Then we set out the lines.  Next we slid into the river and had a swim, so as to freshen up and cool off; then we set down on the sandy bottom where the water was about knee deep, and watched the daylight come.  Not a sound anywheres—perfectly still—just like the whole world was asleep, only sometimes the bullfrogs a-cluttering, maybe.  The first thing to see, looking away over the water, was a kind of dull line—that was the woods on t’other side; you couldn’t make nothing else out; then a pale place in the sky; then more paleness spreading around; then the river softened up away off, and warn’t black any more, but gray; you could see little dark spots drifting along ever so far away—trading scows, and such things; and long black streaks—rafts; sometimes you could hear a sweep screaking; or jumbled up voices, it was so still, and sounds come so far; and by and by you could see a streak on the water which you know by the look of the streak that there’s a snag there in a swift current which breaks on it and makes that streak look that way; and you see the mist curl up off of the water, and the east reddens up, and the river, and you make out a log-cabin in the edge of the woods, away on the bank on t’other side of the river, being a woodyard, likely, and piled by them cheats so you can throw a dog through it anywheres; then the nice breeze springs up, and comes fanning you from over there, so cool and fresh and sweet to smell on account of the woods and the flowers; but sometimes not that way, because they’ve left dead fish laying around, gars and such, and they do get pretty rank; and next you’ve got the full day, and everything smiling in the sun, and the song-birds just going it!

Beautiful!

On whether the last chapter is a let-down, see Ending of Huck Finn and Is Huckleberry Finn’s ending really lacking?

Here is something else I noticed in my rereading.

Soon as it was night out we shoved; when we got her out to about the middle we let her alone, and let her float wherever the current wanted her to; then we lit the pipes, and dangled our legs in the water, and talked about all kinds of things—we was always naked, day and night, whenever the mosquitoes would let us—the new clothes Buck’s folks made for me was too good to be comfortable, and besides I didn’t go much on clothes, nohow.

And:

The waves most washed me off the raft sometimes, but I hadn’t any clothes on, and didn’t mind.

Here is a recent controversy deriving from that: ‘Huck and Jim’ Sculpture Too Nude For New York Debuts at Art Institute .

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What do you think?

Years ago there was a common view that Mark Twain was “henpecked” and that his work, including Huckleberry Finn, was censored by his wife. See this 1992 article which also objects to the theory.

When Resa Willis decided to study Olivia Langdon Clemens, the wife of Samuel L. Clemens (aka Mark Twain), she turned to previous biographies. She discovered that none existed.

How curious that the wife of Mark Twain, America’s best-known writer, should elude biographers until now, while the spouses and lovers of lesser lights have become cottage industries for academics and publishing houses. It is all part of the Twain mythology. We don’t want to know about Livy (Olivia’s nickname) because she was this typically repressive Victorian uber-mama who tried (with some success, according to this theory) to suffocate his fragile genius…

Willis asserts that Livy tried to “civilize” Clemens by trying to curb his swearing, drinking and smoking, but she makes it clear that Livy soon accustomed herself to her husband’s habits. And although during their courtship she planned to turn Clemens into a Christian, she instead followed her husband and fell away from regularly observing the Sabbath during their marriage.

As to Livy’s editing, Twain credited her with significantly improving his works. Willis notes that Howells wanted to cut out two “dirty” scenes in “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” that Livy hadn’t touched. She had not objected to the use of the word “hell,” even though Twain himself was troubled by it afterward…

See also on another controversy Censoring Mark Twain’s ‘n-words’ is unacceptable .

A new edition of Huckleberry Finn expunges its repeated use of ‘nigger’ for understandable reasons, but betrays a great anti-racist novel in the process…

Language counts here. As Twain himself said: “The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter – it’s the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.” I respect the motivation of Alan Gribben, the senior Twain scholar who is responsible for the new edition, and who wishes to bring the book back into easy classroom use, believing “that a significant number of school teachers, college instructors, and general readers will welcome the option of an edition of Twain’s … novels that spares the reader from a racial slur that never seems to lose its vitriol.”

But it’s exactly that vitriol and its unacceptable nature that Twain intended to capture in the book as it stands. Perhaps this is not a book for younger readers. Perhaps it is a book that needs careful handling by teachers at high school and even university level as they put it in its larger discursive context, explain how the irony works, and the enormous harm that racist language can do. But to tamper with the author’s words because of the sensibilities of present-day readers is unacceptable. The minute you do this, the minute this stops being the book that Twain wrote.

Absolutely. Do read an unbowdlerised Huckleberry Finn!

For more on Mark Twain, go to History.com.

Postal survey: almost zero hour

Nine minutes to go!

While we’re waiting, look back over my posts tagged Vote Yes!

The Chicken Littles are doing their best to spike the result, should it be YES! Their case really has been utter nonsense. As I wrote in September:

First, just to make it plain, I do not believe that every opponent of same-sex marriage is a homophobe. Indeed there are examples of same-sex couples who will themselves choose NO in the current Postal Survey. Nor do I think that Israel Folau has no right to his views compared with David Pocock, to confine ourselves to Rugby players for the moment. Naturally, though, I do hope that there are many more David Pococks in the Postal Survey!

Second, I commend careful reading of Legal Eagle’s thoroughly thoughtful post.

But when it comes to the NO case as it now so often appears, I still cannot but see it as other than rampant Chicken Little. Or slippery slope-ism. That the question is essentially a simple one seems to get lost.

Five minutes to go!

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South Sydney Uniting Church

And here is another of my September posts: Reject Chicken Little!

Two minutes!

One minute!

Australia says YES!

The Australian people have voted. Same-sex marriage will be legalised in Australia by Christmas if the Turnbull Government sticks to its promise.
The official results are emphatic: 61.6 per cent of all Australians voted to change the law. Every state and territory voted Yes.
Only 17 electorates in the whole country voted No.

More from the same-sex marriage survey

There is a lot of interest in the details of the poll. While it is delicious that Tony Abbott proved so out of touch with his electorate that three out of four voted for YES, despite his vigorous Chicken Little-ing for NO, the truly remarkable thing — at first glance — is the very strong NO vote in Labor electorates in Western Sydney.

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Why was this so? Obviously there is a degree of social conservatism there that must give Labor pause. Matthew da Silva did a good post Who voted ‘No’? which features this summary:

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I have truncated that for readability: go to Matthew’s post for the full version. While there is a fairly obvious conclusion one could draw from this, compare Same-sex marriage: The multicultural communities that voted ‘yes’.

Western Sydney might have voted “no”, but multicultural Australia voted “yes”.

An analysis of electorates where more than 40 per cent of the population was born overseas shows they overwhelmingly backed same-sex marriage outside the Western Sydney ring.

From Moreton in Queensland through Reid in NSW to Gellibrand in Victoria, a clear majority of electorates with large Chinese, Indian, Vietnamese and Arabic-speaking communities got behind the move to change the definition of marriage.

In the top 10 electorates in NSW and Victoria where the overseas-born population is 40 per cent or more outside of western Sydney and the two “no” voting Victorian electorates of Bruce and Calwell, nine recorded a yes vote above 60 per cent….

And see My conservative Vietnamese family from western Sydney voted ‘yes’ – stop blaming migrants.

When my dad sent me a text on Wednesday morning after the result of the marriage equality postal survey was announced, I laughed. And then I cried a little.

His message read as follows: “Congrats to you guys and myself: it’s a decisive win! Abbott, shit yourself bastard!”

It’s funny because there was a time, once, where I didn’t think I could really be myself with him. I couldn’t even be myself with me.

My parents are in their sixties. They grew up in conservative Vietnam, and raised me with those values. We have gay family members, but growing up, we either didn’t talk about it, or did only in whispers….

Blogging the 2010s — 108 — November 2014

Rediscovered the very post to share so close to National Reconciliation Week.

Friday Australian poem: #NS5 – one of my own reposted

I chose this in part as a response to seeing all episodes of SBS/NITV First Contact, and particularly the panel with Stan Grant after Episode 3 last night. Let me quote one of the younger participants, Bo-dene Stieler.

…Before the journey, I would never have thought that my biggest life inspiration would come from Aboriginal people. Looking back, I can’t believe the ignorance I showed and the disrespect I showed by not even taking the pro-active approach to find out more and just believing everything that I had been told.

To have access to knowledge and education, I should have tried to find the truth. I always thought negatively about Indigenous Australians, blatantly disregarding their heritage and honestly having no real facts to fuel my claims. It is not okay to regard the First Australians as being ‘wasters’ and I am ashamed of myself for proclaiming that. If I could go back to the beginning of my trip, having learnt what I had by the end, I know that I would have approached the people and communities very differently. I now realise that I had approached the journey with a set mindset, despite having thought I was being open-minded…

It wasn’t until I met Lucas at Roebourne Regional Prison that my bigotry started to slowly chip away. I did not care to listen to what any of the inmates had to say as I had already made my mind up that I didn’t care for their personal stories. I had painted Lucas to be just a crim, and felt somewhat shocked that his intentions for leaving school were to help his parents through a separation. I felt a connection with him, and I couldn’t believe that an Aboriginal inmate of a jail in the Pilbara shared a common story with me.

I felt the pressures of family breakdown since I was about 13 and I know how hard it is to try and keep your family together. It is devastating to watch the support and love of your family disintegrate before your eyes, and I am only lucky that I had my older brother Jared to look after me. Unlike Lucas, who had no one to keep him on the right path and no role models to look up to, I had my brother. I never realised that I would share so many connections with Aboriginal people. I always thought that there was some huge divide that could never be crossed. But I was wrong.

The journey showed me that instead of many non-Indigenous Australians showing prejudice towards Aboriginal people, we can draw strength from their resilience and determination. I would not have been able to face the next phase of my life without having met such incredible people and being welcomed into their homes. Meeting these amazing people has changed my life in ways that I could never have expected.

REPOST: In 1983 I learned more than I knew I was learning…

Posted on February 11, 2013 by Neil

At that time I lived in Glebe and was in some ways at a rather low ebb, in hiatus from teaching but still editing Neos. I lived for a while in a boarding house in Boyce Street with assorted students, crims and schizos and one or two ordinary folk. It was an education. Among my neighbours was a schizophrenic Aboriginal woman whom I call “Marie”.  As I listened to Marie, who was also kind of concierge to the house, I found a story emerging amid the apparent randomness and even craziness. I tried to capture that in a poem at the time. Every word in the poem she actually said, though not all at once, and I have structured it so that her story emerges, as it did for me over a much longer time. An artist who lived upstairs read it and said I had captured her exactly.

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The house in Boyce Street. At the time I occupied the front room. “Marie” was on the second floor at the landing. The artist had the balcony room.

It is clearly no longer a boarding house.

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Marie: Glebe 1983

(for the “stolen generation”)

my mama was black
dadda a scotsman

in the home there was a flower
it woke us up

see here it is

and here’s one i’m saving for matron
(i loved you matron)
i’ll write a book for matron

she’s gone now
they say she died

sometimes
i think i will come back to her

she said “you’re in trouble, marie”
she said “have the baby”
(i was nineteen or twenty)

i know all about cocks
men can be cheeky
but the girls are worse
two backyard jobs

matron’s gone now
see her flower?
i’ve pressed it for her

i’m forty-two years old i am nothing
a woman not married in this society
is nothing

my dream is to get married
i said to matron
“i will have babies for you”

tomorrow

i’ll give up smoking
i must control the grog
but when my head’s upset i need a beer

the pub is good
nobody looks down on you there

i hope my joseph is happy
he chose his family
and thomas
where is thomas?

there have been too many men

i’ll go picking again
on the riverina

this is not my place

this is a dead end street this is a dead man’s house
but there is a lane

they call me
abo
schizo

words are very powerful
you must be careful how you use them

do the children still read?

the television
i got mine at the hock shop forty bucks
it freaks me out

sometimes

i see myself and matron and joseph and thomas
i learn a lot
it freaks me out

sometimes

this is not my place
my head hurts here

all that fucking going on
over my head

i’ve never hurt no-one
let them kill me it’s good
it doesn’t matter
i’ve never hurt no-one
but i’ve been hurt

do you know my dream?

this is my dream
i’ll have a coffee shop
and there will be little huts
and no-one will be turned away

we did that once
had pillows all over the house

i learned
dressmaking
and elocution

i’ll get up early and get a job
it’s good i reckon
tomorrow
will be good
after christmas
next year
i’ll leave this place

but it’s good
i reckon

see this flower?
i’m saving it for matron
and here is the one
that woke us in the home

my dadda was a scotsman
my mama was black

****

patten-children01

1a

Each photo is linked to its story.  See A guide to Australia’s Stolen Generations and 100 Year Commemoration of the Cootamundra Aboriginal Girls Training Home.

See also Punishment and death at Cootamundra for a contrarian view from Keith Windschuttle. BTW, if you happen upon that chapter directly via a search you could be forgiven for thinking it had some kind of official status. I find that a bit deceptive, but then I guess it is up to me (caveat emptor) to check the home and about links.

– Originally posted 25 January 2013