Living with the facts of our history

There has been a kerfuffle lately about this statue on Sydney’s Hyde Park.

Hyde Park Captain Cook

Obviously recent events in the USA have caused this current crop, notably the observations of Stan Grant in America tears down its racist history, we ignore ours. Grant’s key point is quite reasonable:

Think of those words: “Discovered this territory.” My ancestors were here when Cook dropped anchor. We know now that the first peoples of this continent had been here for at least 65,000 years, for us the beginning of human time.
Yet this statue speaks to emptiness, it speaks to our invisibility; it says that nothing truly mattered, nothing truly counted until a white sailor first walked on these shores.
The statue speaks still to terra nullius and the violent rupture of Aboriginal society and a legacy of pain and suffering that endures today…

Captain Cook’s statue stands in the centre of our biggest city. There are Indigenous people who for good reason would prefer to see it removed.
Personally I accept that it remains; Cook is part of the story of this nation.
But surely we need no longer maintain the fiction that he “discovered” this country. It dishonours the people who reached this continent 60,000 years before Cook.
This was not an empty land.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, defending Australia Day this week, said it is also a day we honour Indigenous Australians.
If he is serious then what could be more apt than to correct a monument that tells us, still, that in 1770 we did not exist?

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In 1879

Do have a look at Kenneth Slessor’s poem Five Visions of Captain Cook.

Let rum-tanned mariners prefer
To hug the weather-side of yards,
‘Cats to catch mice’ before they purr,
Those were the captain’s enigmatic words.
Here, in this jolly-boat they graced,
Were food and freedom, wind and storm,
While, fowling-piece across his waist,
Cook mapped the coast, with one eye cocked for game.

And now we have a concern about a recent statue of Governor Macquarie.

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Keep in mind that Lachlan Macquarie was among the most enlightened and humane of our early NSW governors. Macquarie definitely deserves a statue, but on the other hand:

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See my post Bicentenary of Dharawal massacre in Appin area.

I say keep these statues, but correct their inscriptions where they are plain wrong. We should then face ALL our history.

Update

Typical! Here’s the OTT sensationalising of, essentially, Stan Grant’s article as filtered by the Daily Terror! Talk about “fake news!”

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So disappointing! 26 August

Referring to the news item on SBS: ‘Change the date’: Vandals attack statues in Australia Day protest. On Facebook I have said: “How disappointing! Turnbull —shame on him— is being a total arse, and is dead wrong himself, and these vandals are self-righteous pricks with no understanding of history either. Given my family history I am utterly opposed to ALL those right/left who have made such a hash of the perfectly sane and reasonable points made by Stan Grant. Why can’t we all just grow up? ”

Next day!

I stand by the everything from “these vandals are self-righteous pricks” on, though there may have been just one vandal. I have however been too harsh on Malcolm Turnbull, given what he actually wrote on Facebook. Shame about his “Stalinist” claptrap, but this is fair enough I think:

Tearing down or defacing statues of our colonial era explorers and governors is not much better than that. Of course Cook didn’t “discover” Australia anymore than Columbus “discovered” America or Marco Polo “discovered” China. I knew that when as a schoolboy I first read the inscription.

The statue gives a perspective of history from the time it was erected – 1879. Just as a history text in the Mitchell Library from the same era would do. Is the next step of this new totalitarianism to burn the 19th century histories of Australia as well, or should their yellowing pages be simply overwritten in crude graffiti condemning their long dead authors?

Old histories should not be burned, anymore than old statues should be torn down. Rather they should be challenged and complemented by new histories, fresh evidence and modern monuments.

And now to be really provocative, here is a thought that often crosses my mind:

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On Indigenous Australians…

Tonight I will be watching Warwick Thornton’s new film We Don’t Need A Map on SBS. Promises to be controversial and interesting.

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In the past week there has been a major story on Indigenous history in Australia: Aboriginal archaeological discovery in Kakadu rewrites the history of Australia.

 Aboriginal people have lived in Australia for a minimum of 65,000 years, a team of archaeologists has established – 18,000 years longer than had been proved previously and at least 5000 years longer than had been speculated by the most optimistic researchers.

The world-first finding, which follows years of archaeological digging in an ancient camp-site beneath a sandstone rock shelter within the Jabiluka mining lease in Kakadu, Northern Territory, drastically alters the known history of the trek out of Africa by modern humans, according to the leader of the international team of archaeologists, associate professor Chris Clarkson of the University of Queensland.

A follow-up in The Sydney Morning Herald intrigued me. The following image gives the idea, but you must visit If Aboriginal culture were 24 hours old, white people have been in Australia five minutes to get the full effect.

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I was reminded of my 2013 post Consider….

2. Where I now sit there were people living, breathing and walking about 20,000 years ago and more. According to a family tradition I had ancestors among them.

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3. All of which makes it very difficult to treat the following with the awe and wonder it may have attracted in the past, or indeed in my own past. How do you reconcile the fact that in light of the above the grand cosmic narrative of the Abrahamic religions looks decidedly less impressive?

4004 B.C.
Creation of Adam and Eve – [Very few accept this “date” as having any connection whatever with anything that really happened in the history of this planet. — NW]


2348 B.C.
Noah’s Flood – [never happened — NW]


1996 to 1690 B.C.
The Biblical Patriarchs lived during this time – from Abraham to Jacob – [totally myth and legend, reflecting certain rather mundane developments in the movements of people and cultures, but having no resemblance to actual history. — NW]


1491 B.C.
The Exodus


1451 B.C.
Joshua leads the children of Israel into the Promised Land


1410 – 1050 B.C.
Time of Israel’s Judges


1050 – 930
First Kings of Israel – King Saul, King David and King Solomon


960 B.C.
Building of the first temple in Jerusalem


930 B.C.
Division of the Kingdom of Israel


930 – 723
The period of the Kings of Israel from Jeroboam I to Hoshea


930 – 586 B.C.
The period of the Kings of Judah from Rehoboam to Zedekiah


840 – 400 B.C.
Period of the Minor Prophets


723 B.C.
The fall of Israel


586 B.C.
Destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple


515 B.C.
Temple at Jerusalem Rebuilt


63 B.C.
The Romans occupy Palestine


37 B.C.
Herod the Great is appointed ruler of Judea by Rome


Jesus was born either before 4 BC (when Herod the Great died) or in 6 AD (when the historical Census of Quirinius was undertaken).

If you want to see idiots at work tying themselves in knots trying to justify the above timeline as “history” — most of it is not, some from around the last six entries is — look at (without laughing if possible) the egregious Ken Ham:

We can say in summary that:

All people of the world today have their ancestry in a man called Noah, and further back to Adam, whether they be the Australian Aborigines, the American Indians, or the Eskimos.

The differing cultures separated by different languages have only arisen since the time of the Tower of Babel. The physical differences between the races (e.g. skin colour, eye shape) are only minor.

In the mythology and legends from cultures around the world, you would expect to find their ancestry in Noah reflected in their stories about a world flood, or how man was created, etc.

The above account is totally different to that told normally through the media or school textbooks….

Compare Bill Nye, Ken Ham, and Aborigines (2014) from Conservative News and Views.

The “open letter” to Bill Nye comes from the Secular Coalition of Australia (SECOA). In its platform or “10-point plan,” this group calls for a frontal assault on religious liberty in Australia. (The headlines of the “ten points” look harmless enough. Slight shadings of the meanings of worlds show the real goal. How, for instance, does SECOA judge the “harm” that “religious practices” do? Would an “anti-discrimination law” force a church to hire, say, a homosexual minister?) SECOA published its “open letter” on February 2…

…those who assert that aborigines have lived in Australia for 40,000 to 65,000 years, have no continuous historical records to prove it. The “Australian History” site does not even try to prove that; they merely assert it. The Wikipedia article shows what anthropologists rely on: dating methods that assume an old earth. They include radiometric dating (chiefly carbon-14 dating) and thermoluminescence. No one has yet asked Bill Nye what he really thinks about this. But carbon-14 dating is not supposed to be reliable beyond 10,000 years. Or so the critics of Andrew Snelling said, when he published his report about radiometric dating in conflict. How, the critics asked, dared Snelling cite a radiocarbon date of 37,000 years as a good example of the craft? Yet such is the evidence in favor of an aboriginal presence on Australia lasting for 40,000 years at least. Where are the annals to show how long the aborigines really have lived in Australia? No one disputes they “got there first.” The dispute is how many thousands of years passed before the first “transports” arrived. The aborigines themselves do not know. Scientists think they know. But their evidence assumes an old earth. No one claims to have family or village or other annals showing a continuous cultural presence for 40,000 years or longer. No one, in short, claims to have the Australian aboriginal equivalent of the Assyrian Eponym Canon or of Egyptian, Babylonian, Hebrew, or other king lists. (As an aside, SECOA fails to mention that 75 percent of Australian aborigines today adhere to Christianity.) …

There is another view too, a minority one, that Aboriginal Australians have always been in Australia. Some Aboriginal people affirm that, as in these comments on a 2013 post Homo sapien sapiens originated in Australia, not ‘out-of-Africa’ – DNA evidence.

That is what the elders have been saying all along…..delighted I can say I am related to the original Australians…

As aboriginal people have told me for years, that we all come from here is in there stories, it now comes to pass with science backing this up. Their stories go right back to creation and beyond. Perhaps now we may start listening to a people that have wisdom that dates back to the very dawn of time…..perhaps not and will continue their extinction through our jails, our placement of them at the bottom of our class bases system and continue to kill them through starvation or keep the stolen generation alive as it is today through D.O.C.S.

Yet another view comes from professional Odd Bod Senator David Leyonhjelm. This one is examined and refuted at FactCheck: might there have been people in Australia prior to Aboriginal people?

As previously discussed on The Conversation, there is a strong research case for the biological continuity between pre-European and modern Aboriginal populations of Australia.

It is true that there has been, historically, a small number of claims that there were people in Australia before Australian Aborigines, but these claims have all been refuted and are no longer widely debated. The overwhelming weight of evidence supports the idea that Aboriginal people were the first Australians.

The disagreements that can be found in the literature are normal in the accumulation of knowledge but do not undermine the strength of the modern consensus that the first people to live in Australia were ancestors of the Aboriginal people who lived here when Europeans first arrived and colonised.

Although there is a small amount of truth in the Senator’s claims about what is in the literature, the claims do not stack up against modern knowledge of the evidence.

Finally, I refer you to recent genomic studies: World-first genome study reveals rich history of Aboriginal Australians. Jim Belshaw’s New England History blog has some related material.

Related: 22 myths you might believe about Aboriginal Australia.

And now for something completely different

This seems amazing: Uluru: Google street-view allows visitors to ‘experience all its wonder’ without violating culture.

You no longer need to travel to Central Australia to marvel at the beauty of Uluru, with Google Maps launching a street-view of the iconic landmark.

Embedded in the interactive map are audio stories from traditional owners the Anangu people about the cultural significance of the site, Tjukurpa — the traditional law — and their creation stories.

For Anangu people Uluru is more than a rock, it is a living cultural landscape and it is sacred.

But Traditional Owner Sammy Wilson said many tourists visited Uluru without ever understanding that.

He hoped the street-view would bring more people to Uluru, educate them about his culture and improve life for his community, Mutitjulu.

“This Google thing what they want to do for visitors to come so they can have a look … hear about the stories,” he said.

See also Google Street View.

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Ten years ago: Lord Malcolm

So hard to believe this is so long ago!

Final Lord Malcolm reports: Malcolm Gordon Gleeson, died 1 June 2007

01 JUNE 2007

See the special page in Malcolm’s honour.

Monday 28 May

His beloved Swannies won at the weekend at least. I told Sirdan I would check in this afternoon and Lord M was less cyanosed: the blue lips were more or less back to normal. His half-brother in Tassie has been in touch and a last bit of organising Lord M is doing as far as he can is to enable his half-brother to come to Sydney for the funeral. Lord M was on the phone about that this afternoon. He told the friend he was talking to to come in ASAP as every minute now was that much nearer the end. “If I can stay alive overnight — and that’s the hard bit — I’ll fix that tomorrow,” Lord M said. “Then I can go peacefully.”

I said as I left, “See you again, if the gods permit.” I put a smile on his face by telling a story about my mother. Years ago we were seeing the Picton great-uncles off the planet at rather regular two year intervals. One was left. My mother, slightly the better for sherry at the time, said, “OK, Uncle. See you in two years.” “You might see me girl, but I won’t be seeing you,” he replied with a bit of a twinkle in the old eye. My mother was a touch embarrassed.

See a blessing for Malcolm.

Later

I had quite an amazing conversation with M about all this…

Tuesday morning 29 May

Phone conversation. He’s still hanging on. Compare Sunday, May 29, 2005.

Thursday 31 May

I have just come from the hospice. His ship is about to leave, it seems… He was conscious of my visit, and I am told his half-brother came to see him Tuesday. He couldn’t talk though as he is only just breathing. The hospice will ring when the time comes.

Mind you, he looked worse on Sunday, but then, as I said to Sirdan, on Sunday he looked worse than my mother did after she had died.

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Sirdan, The Empress and I met at The Shift this evening to talk about arrangements. Sirdan had spent several hours with Lord M this afternoon, together with another friend from Lord M’s flying and music lives.

Now to watch Air Australia on ABC, in Lord M’s honour, so to speak.

As you now know, I was right to think that would be the last time I was to see Malcolm…

Notice of memorial service

02 JUNE 2007

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aids_ribbon.gifA Memorial Service for the Late Malcolm Gordon Gleeson will be held in the Chapel of the Sacred Heart Hospice, Darlinghurst Rd, Darlinghurst Friday, 29th June 2007, commencing at 11:00am. It is a red ribbon occasion.

All who wish to celebrate his life are welcome to attend.

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If you have not yet done so, do visit the tribute to Malcolm.

The first two weeks after 1 June 2007

The Empress and I have approved the beautiful order of service prepared by Dorothy McRae-McMahon. People who wish to may bring some object they associate with Malcolm, as there will be a space in the service for the receiving of such objects.

A poem read at the actual funeral last week will be read again.

UPDATES

15 June 2007

Today I went possibly for the last time to Malcolm’s place for the great CD and book clearance: possibly 1,000 books. Peter from 2MBS-FM was great; not so great was that only one lift in The Northcott — do read that — was working. Still, with a shopping trolley and a proper trolley we managed to get them all down from the third floor and into the van.

One odd coincidence is what was already in the van: Marcellous’s books!

I brought home a bag of items for the Bangarra Dance Theatre archives; yes he had a connection there too!

I found a great picture of Malcolm as a young sailor. He was very handsome.

I also found a small book of quotations in English and German, written by Malcolm. Here is one surprising one.

If you love without evoking love in return — that is, if your loving as loving does not produce a reciprocal love; if through a living expression of yourself as a loving person you do not make yourself a loved person, then your love is impotent — a misfortune.

— Karl Marx, 1844 Manuscripts

18-19 June

The Empress has finished with Malcolm’s flat now. He and I have a few formalities to do, then that’s it until the Memorial Service.

Today I had a nice letter from an old aunt of Malcolm in Tasmania.

I see Sirdan has just been reading this in South Africa. See his comment on the guest book.

20 June

You will see I have created a page for the Memorial Service. It is simply the text of that service. I have sent a copy to the aunt in Tasmania.

There is a lovely comment just appeared from Norma, one of Malcolm’s colleagues in the NGO NorthAids: see the tribute page.

21 June

Sirdan returned to Sydney this afternoon from South Africa.

28 June

It seems I will be voicing others during the service. I am of course reading what Malcolm said of himself, as on the tribute page. That was not read at the actual funeral, and Malcolm wanted it read at the memorial service. I also received another letter and a poem from his Aunty Joy in Tasmania. She was glad to receive the documents I sent her. It turns out too that she knows Dorothy McRae-McMahon’s brother!

This entry is now archived to its beginning date. The order of service has now been unlocked. It will be expanded after the event.

Coniston

No, not the Lake District in England, nor the Wollongong suburb…

It is the site of the last recorded massacre of Aboriginal people in Australia.

Here, in 1928, up to 100 Aboriginal people were killed near the Coniston cattle station in reprisal for the death of a white man. The murders later became known as the Coniston massacre.

Warlpiri and Anmatyerr people welcomed Senator Nigel Scullion [2014] on to their land with traditional song and dance.

Senior Anmatyerr man Teddy Long said generations of his family had been fighting to have the massacre acknowledged and the land returned.

“My old man, my father been explaining to me what happened to me, the shooting days,” he said.

“In the massacre days many people were killed here and that’s why [I’ve] been fighting real hard for this land”

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Coniston Homestead in 1924

Yurrkuru, or Brook’s Soak as it is known in English, is at the centre of one Australia’s darkest chapters.

In 1928 white dingo trapper Fred Brooks was killed by Aboriginal man “Bullfrog” Japangka at the site.

Local police led a series of reprisal killings that became known as the Coniston massacre.

Official records claim 30 Aboriginal people were killed, but oral histories suggest more than 100 were murdered.

The conflict was part of an ongoing confrontation between pastoralists and Aboriginal people.

In the late 1920s, Central Australia was experiencing its worst drought.

There was increasing conflict between Aboriginal people seeking water and pastoralists protecting limited supplies for their cattle.

The prime minister at the time, Stanley Bruce, launched an a board of inquiry into the actions of police and pastoralists.

It ruled the police had “acted in self-defence”.

I recently watched  the film Coniston (2012), directed by Francis Jupurrurla Kelly and David Batty, having borrowed the DVD from Wollongong Library. It is a must see.

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See Telling it true and Coniston: survivors and descendants recall the massacre in a new film.

How could a man designated Protector of Aborigines end up leading a revenge party that would shoot at least 31 of them, including women and children, and probably many more, in retaliation for the death of one white man? It is a question that preoccupies a white Australian audience but the film Coniston, directed by Francis Jupurrurla Kelly and David Batty … does not try to answer it.  Nor does it look in much detail into the broad context of the infamous event it is concerned with – the last white on black massacre in Australia, starting at Coniston, about 250 kms north-west of Alice Springs, in 1928. The one hour documentary, that includes dramatised sequences, focusses instead on capturing the oral history of the massacre held by Warlpiri, Anmatyerr and Kaytetye people. The primary audience it has in mind are the Warlpiri, Anmatyerr and Kaytetye of today and into the future, so that the story won’t be forgotten.

Many of the speakers in this film are the descendants of the massacre victims; some few are survivors, young children at the time. One is Albert Jakamarra Wilson, the son of an Aboriginal tracker, Alec Wilson, who worked for the revenge party.  Others who take part in the dramatised sequences are the descendants of Bullfrog, the Warlpiri man acknowledged as the killer of the white man, Fred Brooks, a stockman  turned dogger.

The premise of the film was described by co-director Kelly, a Warlpiri man from Yuendumu, at its Alice Springs screening on Monday: “It’s all about white Australia but we got black histories.” He had started on this project 30 years ago, interviewing the son of Bullfrog, who could remember hiding in a cave with his father when the revenge party was searching for him – we see some of this grainy footage and a handsome young Kelly without his signature dreads. According to Bullfrog’s son, the revenge party went past but Alec Wilson went inside and spoke to Bullfrog, without realising that it was him, advising him to wait in the cave until the whitefellas went past (effectively saving him)…

The film has Alec Wilson discovering Brooks’ partially-buried body. He informs police and he is told by Mounted Constable George Murray, the Protector of Aborigines, that he must go along with him to track down Brooks’ killer. The search party soon turns into a revenge party: random groups of Aborigines are ordered to drop their weapons “in the name of the King” and when they fail to do so, they are shot. Albert Wilson says that his father did not go along with this; his father said to Murray that people should be given a chance but was told to follow Murray’s orders…

The revenge party was on the rampage for an initial two weeks and later Murray returned with another white man, Nugget Morton, and again Alec Wilson. Morton had been attacked by an Aborigine but had ultimately got the upper hand and killed him. Now others would also pay with their lives, as the party heads north, hunting down and shooting Aborigines “like dogs”, says Albert Wilson. This goes on for a period of three weeks. A speaker reflects that the victims, as they tried to flee, must have wondered why they were being shot at.

An old man, a survivor, Johnny Jupurrurla Nelson, comments that to this day people are “too sorry” to move back to their country. They might visit but they don’t want to stay. He was a baby at the time; his mother hid him in some bushes and ran…