A bit of Australiana today

Look at this painting:

That is “A Sergeant of Light Horse in Palestine” (1920) by George Lambert (1873–1930). It is in the National Gallery of Victoria.

George Washington Thomas Lambert (1873-1930), artist, was born on 13 September 1873 at St Petersburg, fourth child and posthumous son of George Washington Lambert, an American railway engineer, and his English wife Annie Matilda, née Firth. Soon after his birth the family moved to Württemberg, Germany, with his maternal grandfather, and then to England where George was educated at Kingston College, Yeovil, Somerset. The family decided to migrate and George, reaching Sydney with his mother and three sisters in the Bengal on 20 January 1887, soon went to Eurobla, near Warren, a sheep-station owned by his great-uncle Robert Firth….

— Australian Dictionary of Biography, linked above.

I can recall being gobsmacked as a kid by the following painting in the NSW Art Gallery: “Across the Blacksoil Plains.”

And that reminds me: I am still working on my post about Joseph Furphy and Such Is Life! Meanwhile, enjoy this:

Weird things happening in Oz

Some self-appointed “patriot” had a go at Senator Sam Dastayari in a Melbourne pub, calling him a “monkey” and suggesting Sam go back to Iran. Such a genius!

SAM

Not my idea of patriotism, not at all! See my post from last September Just a simple 70-something old patriot, me… And you may care to read Danny Tran on ABC concerning the total knobs abusing the word “patriot” these days. I note that the Revenant rather backed them up in this instance: no surprise there! Tells you everything about Pauline, and zero about Sam.

And as a telling contrast to our “patriots” read this:

The family of an eight-year-old boy killed when a car crashed into his Greenacre classroom this week say they have forgiven the driver charged over his death.
Jihad Darwiche and another eight-year-old boy – his best friend – were killed after a two-tonne Toyota Kluger crashed into their classroom at Banksia Road Public School on Tuesday morning.

And it will do you good to visit SBS’s The Mosque Next Door. I did, and am glad. Try 7 questions Muslims are tired of hearing.

Sadly, our “patriots” are so devoid of the Aussie “fair go” attitude that they are highly unlikely to look at any of those! But you should.

Back during World War 1 Australian patriotism seems to have been rather different. I have just read an excellent account of the Western Australian 28th Battalion by Herbert Brayley Collett (1877-1947). Back in the early years of last century:

The outbreak of the South African War in 1899 brought to the surface, in the people of Australia, that innate love of the Old Country which so marks the British race in whatever part of the world its members may happen to reside…

The reverses to the British arms which occurred during the opening months of the campaign roused in Australia a spirit of intense loyalty and patriotism, which was exemplified by renewed offers of assistance to the Government in London. These offers received an early response, with the result that across the Indian Ocean was maintained a steady stream of troops during the whole two and a half years of operations…

When Europe burst into the flame and smoke of war in August, 1914, Australia was unified in Government and a nation in sentiment—but still a British nation. Her offers of assistance had been expected and were graciously and gratefully accepted. The Western Australians once more responded and, this time, in their thousands. Again the quota was exceeded—reinforcements being supplied even for Eastern States’ units—and in all some 32,028 soldiers and nurses enlisted for service overseas during the period of 1914-1918. Over 6,000 of these laid down their lives for Australia and the Empire, and many thousands more were wounded and maimed….

The next weirdness concerns the ongoing saga about eligibility to sit in Parliament and dual citizenship. Core to this is the Australian Constitution, which memorably begins thus:

The legislative power of the Commonwealth shall be vested in a Federal Parliament, which shall consist of the Queen, a Senate, and a House of Representatives, and which is herein-after called “The Parliament,” or “The Parliament of the Commonwealth.”

Ties in rather with the way Collett saw “patriotism”. Now there is a curious section that has lately been interpreted quite literally by the High Court of Australia:

Australian Constitution – Section 44 – Disqualification

Any person who-

(i.) Is under any acknowledgement of allegiance, obedience, or adherence to a foreign power, or is a subject or a citizen or entitled to the rights & privileges of a subject or citizen of a foreign power: or(ii.) Is attained of treason, or has been convicted and is under sentence, or subject to be sentenced, for any offence punishable under the law of the Commonwealth or of a State by imprisonment for one year or longer: or

(iii.) Is an undischarged bankrupt or insolvent: or

(iv.) Holds any office of profit under the Crown, or any pension payable during the pleasure of the Crown out of any of the revenues of the Commonwealth: or

(v.) Has any direct or indirect pecuniary interest in any agreement with the Public Service of the Commonwealth otherwise than as a member and in common with the other members of an incorporated company consisting of more than twenty-five persons:

shall be incapable of being chosen or of sitting as a senator or a member of the House of Representatives.

But sub-section iv. does not apply to the office of any of the Queen’s Ministers of State for the Commonwealth, or of any of the Queen’s Ministers for a State, or to the receipt of pay, half pay, or a pension, by any person as an officer or member of the Queen’s navy or army, or to the receipt of pay as an officer or member of the naval or military forces of the Commonwealth by any person whose services are not wholly employed by the Commonwealth.

Rather than going over the saga I refer you to Jim Belshaw and to ABC’s rolling coverage. It has indeed been all very odd. Now when I was young an Oz Passport looked like this — not that I had one!

Australia_british_passport

Indeed when the Australian Constitution was written there wasn’t actually such a thing as Australian citizenship. I was born in 1943 as a British Subject here in Oz.

At Federation in 1901, ‘British subject’ was the sole civic status noted in the Australian Constitution. The Australasian Federal Convention of 1897–98 was unable to agree on a definition of the term ‘citizen’ and wanted to preserve British nationality in Australia. An administrative concept of citizenship arose from the need to distinguish between British subjects who were permanent residents and those who were merely visitors. This was necessary for the Commonwealth to exercise its powers over immigration and deportation. Motivated by the nationalism of Arthur Calwell, the Minister for Immigration 1945–49, this administrative concept was formalised in the Nationality and Citizenship Act 1948. In 1958 the Act was amended so that naturalisation could only be revoked if obtained by fraud. This prevented a naturalised person being stripped of citizenship and deported.

Throughout the 1960s, Australian citizens were still required to declare their nationality as British. The term ‘Australian nationality’ had no official recognition or meaning until the Act was amended in 1969 and renamed the Citizenship Act. This followed a growing sense of Australian nationalism and the declining importance for Australians of the British Empire. In 1973 the Act was renamed the Australian Citizenship Act. It was not until 1984 that Australian citizens ceased to be British subjects.

One could have a lot of fun going back through 20th century Australian politicians of all types trying to establish which of them may have been “ineligible” by strict application of Section 44:(i) — assuming you can work out, given the history of the concept, what exactly they were citizens of in the first place!

Updates 12 November

See Jim Belshaw’s latest: Chaos, confusion and the evolving Section 44 mess .

I also abhor what happened to Tony Abbott’s sister, Christine Forster — whose track record on the same sex marriage postal survey has been so exemplary.

Violent scenes have erupted at a Sydney fundraising event for Tony Abbott, with protesters clashing with police and guests, including the former prime minister’s sister.

Several hundred protesters outside the event in Redfern confronted invited guests, including Mr Abbott’s sister Christine Forster, whose jacket was ripped as she struggled through the crowd.

Ms Forster was forced back from the entrance until police formed a ring around her and pushed their way through the crowd.

I am not impressed with the justification of the violence from the likes of Ian Rintoul and Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon, despite the fact that on the issue of Manus Island I am rather more on their side.

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?

8822070-3x2-700x467

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.

Sold-web

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:

Ce8QXYZWsAAascC

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!”

DH801kIVYAApKIv

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:

Hyde Park Captain Cook01

Fascinated by Catherine McKinnon’s “Storyland”

Or rather, by the review I read in today’s Sydney Morning Herald.

Catherine McKinnon’s Storyland opens with Lieutenant Matthew Flinders and George Bass as they set out on a fair day in March 1796 to explore the white, uncharted  land south of Sydney Cove.

The nine day sea voyage in the Tom Thumb begins ominously with the spoiling of the boat’s water that sets the intrepid explorers off in search of fresh supplies.

On their second shore landing, the explorers are welcomed by two Indigenous men, one of whom is known as Dilba, a man ”born of the earth itself”, who trades them fish and fresh water for two potatoes and a handkerchief.

It’s the first of a series of meetings in which Flinders is trusted enough to cut off the men’s beards with scissors, before confusion reigns and a warning shot is fired and the nascent goodwill between nations evaporates in musket smoke…

See also ‘Fascinating’ Lake Illawarra inspires author’s new book (2013).

The beauty of Lake Illawarra inspired Eugene Von Guerard to paint it in 1860, and now the saltwater lake has inspired Jamberoo author and playwright Catherine McKinnon.

Her second novel, Storyland, is set on the banks of Lake Illawarra and spans four centuries. The web connecting the five storylines is the lake’s natural environment, including the abundant wildlife. McKinnon weaves together her stories up to a climatic event – starting in the present, travelling into the future and skipping back to the past.

Von Guerard’s painting shows much of the lake’s surrounds stripped of their cedar and used for farmland almost 80 years after settlement.

McKinnon’s work stretches back even further, to Matthew Flinders’ exploration of the area in 1796. His account of that journey is the only historical record of the first encounter with the area’s Wadi Wadi people.

In researching the book, McKinnon explores the validity of Flinders’ two accounts of the journey and examines the influences and pressures he may have felt in writing them.

Flinders describes how they struggled to find fresh drinking water, had difficulty landing the boat and traded goods with two Koori men, who guided the explorers to Canoe Rivulet, a stream off Lake Illawarra, where they met with more locals. At some point Flinders believed the Kooris began to act suspiciously. Fearing for his life, he decided to use deceit to retreat back to the boat.

In Storyland, McKinnon challenges Flinders’ accounts by offering an alternative, imaginary perspective, from the point of view of an English servant, taking the reader on the same journey as they sailed up Lake Illawarra in the small boat, the Tom Thumb, through to Canoe Rivulet.

‘‘The book is partly based on real, historical events and part imagination,’’ explains McKinnon….

149_0125

Bass And Flinders In The “Tom Thumb”, c1930s. Colour lithograph. Pritchard.

P02943

See my 2013 post Tom Thumb Lagoon. There is also a PDF file of an authoritative local  history available from the University of Wollongong: W.G. McDonald, (1975), The First Footers – Bass and Flinders in Illawarra.

In a moment of aberration Meehan in 1816 identified Tom Thumb’s Lagoon with the lagoon between Throsby’s stockman’s hut (near Brighton Beach at Wollongong) and Red Point, and the name stuck until “ the Thumb” was converted into Port Kembla Inner Harbour. Then, to conform with this, Allan Cunningham identified Hat Hill with Mount Keira, and labelled Mount Kembla Cap Hill or Molle Hill, making a molehill out of a mountain, and confusion worse confounded. These identifications are quite untenable; so are the theories which identify Tom Thumb’s Lagoon with Coomaditchy and with Little Lake at Warilla. Tom Thumb’s Lagoon can only be Lake Illawarra, and Canoe River its entrance; and there is a scintilla of  evidence that the blacks were shorn on the southern rather than on the northern side. Oddly Flinders makes no mention of Windang Island, which is such a striking feature of the entrance – the one piece of solid land in miles of sand. The map shows a hammer-headed peninsula on the south side to the entrance, which presumably represents Windang Island joined to the mainland by a sandspit, as it often is. Whether the channel is to the north or south of the island, or both, depends on the vagaries of wind and tide. Hat Hill is said by Flinders to be five miles W.N.W. from Red Point. He was over a mile short in his estimate of the distance, but the bearing is dead right for Mount K embla. For Mount Keira the bearing is wrong, and the discrepancy in distance even greater. The adventurers spent a third uncomfortable night in the boat, under the lee of the inner of the two northern islands, which they called Martin’s Isles

r0_0_3676_2132_w1200_h678_fmax

Percy Lindsay’s 1925 watercolour of the story While the Powder Dried, which was used to illustrate the story of how Bass and Flinders diverted the attention of Aboriginals at Lake Illawarra by cutting their hair.