Moments in my eBook Library — 9 — Black Gold (ANU Press) and miniseries New Gold Mountain (2021)

Only after the last post had me looking back through the free offerings from ANU Press in Canberra did I encounter Fred Cahir, Black Gold: Aboriginal People on the Goldfields of Victoria, 1850-1870 (2012) which I added to my eBook Library. I am looking forward to reading it.

Fred Cahir tells the story about the magnitude of Aboriginal involvement on the Victorian goldfields in the middle of the nineteenth century.

The first history of Aboriginal–white interaction on the Victorian goldfields, Black Gold offers new insights on one of the great epochs in Australian and world history—the gold story.

In vivid detail it describes how Aboriginal people often figured significantly in the search for gold and documents the devastating social impact of gold mining on Victorian Aboriginal communities. It reveals the complexity of their involvement from passive presence, to active discovery, to shunning the goldfields.

This detailed examination of Aboriginal people on the goldfields of Victoria provides striking evidence which demonstrates that Aboriginal people participated in gold mining and interacted with non-Aboriginal people in a range of hitherto neglected ways.

Running through this book are themes of Aboriginal empowerment, identity, integration, resistance, social disruption and communication.

Last year SBS showed an excellent miniseries — in October 2021 I see I shared about it on Facebook thirteen times! — called New Gold Mountain.

See an excellent essay on The Conversation by Professor of History & Director Future Regions Research Centre, Federation University Australia Keir Reeves.

You can imagine how startled recent arrivals from the bustling South China trading ports of Guangzhou, Hong Kong and Macau must have been on disembarkation. The flora and fauna – literally everything – was so different to home.

[Director Corrie] Chen explores this shock in a moment of brief magical realism with Wei Shing’s encounters with a kangaroo. It seems the bush sees all. The Chinese miners and their Indigenous and European counterparts were all coming to terms with a landscape broken by mining and colonised by a disparate society coming to terms with its own experiences and opportunities. New Gold Mountain evocatively captures this moment.

I wondered about the portrayal of First Australians and their place on the goldfields in New Gold Mountain but really had not read much history on that specific theme. In all that I read or was taught in the past about the gold rush period the Indigenous element had virtually disappeared, while the Chinese element (though usually distorted) was strongly present. So as I said, looking forward to this book.

‘Australia – news from home’, Baxter, George, (ca 1853), lithograph, ink on paper. Collection of the Australian National Maritime Museum, Image 00008756.
Visitors to the goldfields were often struck by the multi-cultural nature of the population on the Victorian goldfields. The exotic attraction of each other was often portrayed by goldfield artists. — Fred Cahir

Introduction

By the time that gold was officially discovered in Victoria in 1851 the Port Phillip Aboriginal Protectorate (1838-1850) had been disbanded, Aboriginal people had been dispossessed of their land by squatters and sheep, and they were now facing a second invasion – gold seekers from across the globe. When, by the mid 1850s, it became clear that gold was literally strewn across Victoria, the rush to the diggings by a mass of humanity began.

This book dispels four common misconceptions surrounding Aboriginal people on the goldfields of Victoria during the nineteenth century: that most Aboriginal people were attached to sheep stations rather than townships; that those few at mining settlements were on the periphery; that those on the periphery were bewildered spectators; and finally, that Aboriginal experiences on the goldfields were primarily negative. This book reveals that Victorian Aboriginal people demonstrated a great degree of agency, exhibited entrepreneurial spirit and eagerness to participate in gold-mining or related activities and, at times, figured significantly in the gold epoch. Their experiences, like those of non-Indigenous people, were multi-dimensional, from passive presence, active discovery, to shunning the goldfields. There is striking and consistent evidence that Aboriginal people, especially those whose lands were in rich alluvial gold bearing regions, remained in the gold areas, participated in gold mining and interacted with non-Indigenous people in a whole range of hitherto neglected ways, whilst maintaining many of their traditional customs. There is also evidence that Aboriginal people from Tasmania, New South Wales, Queensland and South Australia were present on the Victorian goldfields…

…Without downplaying the extent of violent conflict that continued to occur between Aboriginal people and the newcomers, without denying the high degree of racial vilification and oppression that Aboriginal people continued to suffer, this book nevertheless documents a significant level of cooperative endeavour that suggests that life on the goldfields may have offered a rare moment of respite from the rigours of colonialism for Aboriginal people.

The sad, sad facts of Sinophobia in Australia

And of course Covid has not helped — especially when that goon Trump set the example with his Chyyyynnnnaaaaahhhgh Virus rhetoric.

From two years ago…

And there is an ongoing problem — not unrelated no doubt to the racist past of this country when it comes to the “Yellow Peril” or the “Yellow Agony”. That is so well-known, despite honourable exceptions. It is something we all must acknowledge. One of my Facebook friends Ouyang Yu (born in China) has thoroughly documented its literary aspects.

And of course when combined with developments in Chinese politics and certain influential opinion-makers here in Australia, we find Sinophobia alive and well in academia and elsewhere. See just for example Peak Sinophobia in Australia? (2021) and CoronaVirus reveals our sinophobic underbelly (2020). I am sure you will easily find many more items!

One of a host of shameful examples out there… That one is 2020.

And I am a fan of this development. Many, sadly, are not…

Somewhat controversial — but I think excellent — 2021 ABC series.

Among my current 206 Facebook friends I have 22 who are Chinese by birth, live in China, or are of Chinese background. Lately a couple of them have reported serious instances of racism they have personally experienced — undeniable instances, not cases of being precious or paranoid. One of them, “Freda”, is an artist in her 30s now living in Sydney, but whose acquaintance I made when she was living in Wollongong — through an old friend Matthew da Silva. We even had lunch together at City Diggers. The other, “Marco”, is rather older and he has been a close friend for over thirty years. Their testimonies are utterly reliable. Both were and are disappointed and angry about these experiences. None of these statements was made as a private message, but I will remove them if either author requests. But I hope they don’t because what they say should be known! Hence also my use of pseudonyms, but aside from a minor bit of proof-reading the statements are just as written.

1. There are a couple of my classmates at National Art School did not like and welcome me when I just enrolled the class. A girl kept kicking her shoes towards me in every ceramics class. I forgave her. Now I think I should have wrote to the student services. But will the student services do anything? Probably not.

2. The police arrived nearly 20 minutes after I reported it to the nearest police station, and they could not do anything. In order to keep this guy around before the arrival of the police, I had to stand up for myself and worked very hard to getting him around meanwhile not breaching the law …During the questioning time, this guy continued making provocative body gestures towards me and he obviously did not understand his bad behaviour at all. My bf asked him to apologise. Not only he refused but instead he pointed his fingers to my face calling me ‘a crazy woman with mental problems’. I guarantee he is going to do the same things again because there are many many people in Sydney, and overall in Australia who are racists but they are not aware. They are too proud [of being] Australia-born Australian. I migrated here for its democracy and better human rights which I believe China was lacking of. Regardless of how corrupted and how bad of the reputation of the CCP is, the Chinese people in China would never say to an Australian in a public restaurant: ‘you go back to your country.’ Chinese people are famous for their friendly and welcoming attitudes to foreigners.

I will rethink about my residency in this country and will probably seek for a life in a new land or my motherland as soon as the border restrictions become more relaxed. And, I support all other people particular the overseas-born Asian-Australians who had similar experience as mine to return to their own countries – to make their motherlands better places so that people here who ask others to ‘go back to their own countries’ can continue to celebrate, and have parties for their Aussie Pride: I AM BORN HERE, YOU, NON-AUSTRALIAN BORN PEOPLE, GO BACK TO YOUR COUNTRY.

I am sure and would give my best wishes to Australia and Australia-born wonderful people that, have a wonderful time, mate. I, as a grass-root vulnerable individual, don’t have too much time left marking around here continuously being discriminated and bullied now and then, and suffering and feeling unhappy.

Good luck. I will cancel my parents’ migration (please give their hard-working blood money back, The Australian Immigration Department), and cancel their flight tickets. I cannot imagine how sad they would be after they give up their work and life to come to Australia, and they will be treated like how I am treated here. I cannot imagine how sad they would be if they know of their daughter being so bullied by AUSTRALIAN-BORN AUSTRALIAN all the time. Same to all the parents overseas who are having their sons or daughters suffered from the non-stop discrimination and racism.

After quite a few kind supportive replies, Freda did recover her equilibrium to a degree — but her case remains an indictment of the donkeys who treated her like that!

3. Even I have been here over 30 years , you’re always stranger in the eye of white especially, had racist experience especially white around world, from Europe, North America, South America, Australia ect , had fight with a white guy at Aldi who is racist and I reported to police as hate crimes and I feel the police is not going to do anything as she says, I don’t have confidence of police to investigate the issue to against a white man, freedom and democratic reality… During my English study [1989-90], I went to farm to make some money and 2 white guys stolen all my $250 at parramatta bus station and left me no money….  Have talked to a few politicians office but I give it up because the racist guy is gay so that’s just make gay bashing all right, never understood people who are be discriminated and discriminate against other🤔

Hang your heads in shame, Australia! Except fortunately there are so many of us who are not like these sick people who have made the lives of my friends miserable — and probably think they are patriots! Deadshits is what they really are.

The next thing Marco shared with me was a message urging me to tune in to ABC to watch this. It is so good.

4. Bring back older memories, actually I was talking to my sister and in 20 years time I may go to China…

To live, he means, referring to a time when he will be about the age I am now… I thought of my Irish ancestor 200 years ago:

I hope kind fate will reinstate
And fortune’s face upon me smile
To safe conduct me home again
To my own dear native Irish isle.

And here is some good news! Yesterday Chris Minns, the leader of the NSW Labor Party, announced that their candidate for the NSW Parliament in Strathfield will be Jason Yat-sen Li. Good chance, and an excellent person. He is being very kind and diplomatic in this video, but the warning is strong too.

After publication

On the one hand are the individual experiences I shared in the post, but they touch on something much more worrying perhaps — and that this is 6th January sharpens that feeling. There are really dark forces conjured up by racism, and sadly we have seen them before. They threaten us, they threaten very clearly the USA, they threaten Europe.

After this post was published I saw this report from multicultural Australian broadcaster (of enormous merit!) SBS: Mark joined a men’s fitness club. Now it’s become an armed neo-Nazi cell. Please take the time to read it.

The group has “cells” in multiple states across Australia, he says, and SBS News has seen evidence of them communicating with white supremacy groups in the United States and Europe.

More than one of the overseas groups has been listed as a terrorist organisation and another as a hate group…

Messages between group members seen by SBS News also talk about “cleansing” Australia and refer to ethnic and religious minority groups as “unters”, a reference to the Nazi Germany word ‘untermensch’, meaning sub-human. 

Mark is a self-confessed ethno-nationalist and says he initially found common ground with members of the group over his anti-immigration views – but now he feels uncomfortable.

“I signed up for a brotherhood of self-betterment, concerned about the failures of multiculturalism in Australia. I feel like things are now getting out of hand.”

He says societal disruptions in Australia caused by the COVID-19 pandemic – including unemployment, lockdowns and mandatory vaccination – have intensified the racist rhetoric of some of the group’s members. 

“COVID was like hitting the fast-forward button … just evidence to the movement that society is weak and a collapse is close.”

“It starts to get more and more violent. There is this besieged mentality, like we are under attack, so we need to prepare, train and be ready for a war really soon.”

Second day out of lockdown

And I stayed at home. It was rather damp and cold yesterday morning, but also perhaps I had just a little more Shiraz at Diggers than I should have the day before….

But I did not waste time too much, and I do have plenty of food here at home — except for bread which I must renew from the local shops today. One thing I accomplished was downloading my official vaccine status document form Medicare. This is the business end of it:

Me not having a smart phone, that only exists on my laptop. I have not yet printed a copy either as my printer really is useless as I have basically given up buying ink for it. I can no doubt contrive to get a printed copy later on. So for the moment any venue I try to enter must either 1) accept the Wollongong Medical Centre’s statement, which I carry with me at all times or 2) wait while I fire up the laptop. Not that it takes all that long.

Meanwhile quite a few have been marking the passing of a remarkable Australian, Holocaust survivor Eddie Jaku who has died at age 101.

Inspiring.

Various lockdown hacks and escapes — 73 — finding something inspiring!

This is quite wonderful. You’d be a fool not to watch it right through! Your heart will be lifted up.

From the South China Morning Post

Tony Chung is working on his master’s degree in Biomedical Science and has long dreamed of going to medical school. But the Covid-19 pandemic has him considering an additional goal, working alongside his father running a Vietnamese restaurant, Pasteur Grill and Noodles, in New York’s Chinatown. “I started to help out because our restaurant was struggling,” the 24-year-old said, “It’s not even just about the business, it’s more about keeping the legacy alive.” Along with waiting on tables, Tony plans to update restaurant decorations and its menu to attract new customers as well as those who stayed away during the pandemic. He says the experience helped father and son find common ground, and a chance for him to understand the hard work his dad has done in the decades since he fled the communist regime in Vietnam to come to the US in about 1980.

P6180729
1511B63-immigrant-populations-oecd-israel-luxembourg1

This too is inspiring:

Various lockdown hacks and escapes — 21 — FB thread led to some local music

On Monday night Michael Xu and I had a long exchange of views on the subject of refugees, why they exist and in such numbers, and where and why they became refugees, what might be done about the problem and so on. Obviously this is such deep water that one FB comment thread is highly unlikely to come up with answers — but can point to further thought. So I won’t rehearse all that was said. Michael was tending to deplore the “moral superiority complex” of the West, and pointed to issues related to the history of colonialism and capitalism — all obviously relevant matters. I was trying to present perhaps a less starkly black-and-white set of views.

For example, this is part of one of my comments: “I think we will agree that refugees/displaced people is a world problem far too big to settle in comments like these. Many causes — war, economic situations. political situations, natural disaster, climate change…. Australia used to be more generous. Feeling morally superior or not is not really the problem. But no country can take everybody, just not possible given the enormous numbers.” And I cited a couple of videos — first a very basic one of definition by UNHCR:

I also posted this statistical one, with the reservation that we really needed to look at those totals as a percentage of the populations of each country. But the countries, as you probably know already, that actually receive the greatest number are not those who really could and should do more — such as Australia,

Well, to cut a long comment thread short — we did not solve the world’s problems in one FB discussion! But I began to think of local stories. ” Not for a moment suggesting that this 78-year-old in Wollongong is at all special or knows very much, but I do try (for my own sake as much as anything else) to find those who are saying and/or doing something positive and listen to them.” And: “My neighbours here at the moment include a Syrian refugee, and a young Sudanese whose parents probably were, perhaps him too. I haven’t talked to him about it yet, but the Syrian lady I have had long talks with.”

I posted about my Syrian neighbour in 2016.

Her room is just three up from mine. She has been here for about a year but we hardly spoke until recently, when she wished me a Merry Christmas:

My Muslim neighbour kindly wished me “Merry Christmas” last week, not inappropriately given my “real” Christmas was in Surry Hills last Friday. This morning the lovely folk at the Yum Yum Cafe gave me this. So Christmas, eh! And not too hot here in The Gong this year…

We spoke again at some length a few days ago. It turns out she is from Syria and spoke no English when she arrived in Australia less than two years ago…

That post also tells of other people from similar backgrounds in Wollongong.

P1180282
Wollongong Market Day 2013

In that post also:

Yesterday at Diggers a somewhat cantankerous friend got on one of his hobby-horses – well, more like three: people who won’t work and live on welfare, refugees who go straight onto welfare and/or steal our jobs, Muslims with heaps of wives on welfare etc… You know, standard talkback radio and Daily Telegraph-fed stuff. And some of it just lately emanating from or magnified by (not really ex-) former/in waiting Prime Minister Tony Abbott, I see in today’s news.

Yesterday I fought back a bit, just on the “and how many really do that?” line leading towards the possibility that the majority in whatever group one is hating for the moment probably don’t do whatever it is – like have lots of wives. Pointed also to one of our best-known local pharmacists whose shop is much frequented by mothers in hijabs, Said pharmacist is of Lebanese background. Happened my adversary was a customer and admirer of that pharmacy.  Some half hour later my adversary shook my hand and said “I was wrong. You were right.”  Nice when that happens.

From an earlier generation is the great story of how the Wollongong Art Gallery’s collection began with the hobby of a post-WW2 refugee who worked at Port Kembla steelworks:

It was not until 1975 after a chance meeting with a very modest gentleman named Bronius (Bob) Sredersas. Bob wanted to donate his collection to the “Children of Wollongong”. This momentous gift was the catalyst on which the Art Gallery was built (Sredersas Gallery). The Illawarra County Council donated the property formally known as the Hughes Whetton Reilly Building (now Wollongong Youth Centre), including the land upon which it stood to Council on the proviso that the property be used for an Art Gallery. Through the persistence and hard work of the society, volunteers and donors, and with the assistance of Council and Government funding bodies, a Director and Board of Trustee was appointed and on the 2 June 1978 Wollongong City Gallery was officially opened by Mr Neville Wran, Premier of NSW at 85 Burelli Street, Wollongong attended by over 500 people. The first exhibition was titled Burghers of Calais, with works borrowed for the National Gallery and Art Gallery of NSW.     

I then recalled something from just last year. “Illawarra Grammar alumnus Ian Steven Muhayimana was awarded Wollongong’s Young Citizen of the Year 2020. Ian is a musican, producer, singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist who performs under the name Stevan.”

ABC Illawarra ran a story on him in July 2020.

From Malawi to Wollongong to the world!

19 -year old multi-instrumentalist singer/songwriter Stevan has been getting played on triple j for a couple of years now, and is starting to make waves on NME and the BBC. He has finally released his long-awaited debut mixtape Just Kids, and he’s from Wollongong! Well, kind of.

Born in Malawi to parents from Burundi, Stevan arrived here when he was 3, went to school at TIGS, and is making music right here in his home studio that is getting talked about all around the world.

Here is one of his 2020 tracks, with a great video featuring some of our Illawarra bush and scenery too. I see he has resumed posting songs in the last week or so.

My mind goes back to an assignment I had for the South Sydney Herald: Launch of Refugee African Muslim Youth Project Book – 16 Jul 2010, Alexandria NSW.

CIMG4559
CIMG4552
I went along to Alexandria Town Hall. 

On Wednesday this week Indigenous presenter Tony Armstrong did an excellent piece on Peter Bol on ABC News Breakfast’s coverage of the Olympic Games — it is very relevant to issues raised in this post and also in the FB discussion which triggered this post! That video does not appear to be useable, so I am substituting this July interview:

See also Peter Bol: ‘Get to know the person, instead of the assumptions’.

Bol’s story is compelling – even beyond his journey from Sudan to Australia. As a teenager, he attended St Norbert College, a prestigious private school in Perth, on a basketball scholarship. Each year he was required to participate in school athletics. He kept winning races but, despite the urgings of his teachers, had no interest in swapping sports.

Eventually, when Bol was in year 11, a teacher promised to help find him a coach, a club and a mentor if he gave athletics a shot. He agreed. “That single decision to say yes has meant I’ve travelled the whole world,” he said. Within five years, Bol was competing on the grandest stage. In Rio and now Tokyo, Bol has represented his adopted homeland.

“I love my identity and my background,” Bol said last year. “My mum is Sudanese, my dad is South Sudanese. I take a lot of pride in both of those. But I’m also as equally thankful to be here.” Bol has spoken about the positives of increased awareness about race and racism, and of his support for the conversations around the Black Lives Matter movement.

At the time of writing this (and revising it!) the outcome of the 800m Final was unknown. By the time you read it chances are you will have heard all about him!

So 10.15 and I saw the race. Great effort. Just missed a medal.