What was I up to in March 2001?

Selections via the Internet Archive.

March 6 2001

Thanks Gabriel

Went to the Albury after a busy couple of days; Sirdan was there and eventually PK. The highlight of the evening was meeting a young Aboriginal gay guy from Cairns, Gabriel.

The details I won’t report, but the conversation simply transcended politics, stereotypes (both black and white). It was an eye-opener. Thanks Gabriel, for giving me hope on so many of these thorny issues. 🙂

I wished both the M’s in my life had been there to join in.

Great meatballs M., I should add, enjoying them right now. Life’s not bad.

March 7

Last night’s conversation

I said yesterday I had had a conversation with an Aboriginal man from Cairns/Cooktown. He is in his late 20s or early 30s, I would say; very well spoken, having completed High School to the HSC, and is a self-confessed explorer, having spent some time in New Zealand, where he was embraced by the Maori, and has lived in Sydney for some time now. He had also lived in Melbourne. Last night he was celebrating some good news–starting a job on Monday.

He said he never encountered racism in Cairns or Cooktown; the first time he really encountered it was in Sydney and Melbourne.

He could make no comment on the Hindmarsh Island affair, because they are not his people, so he does not know. The cultural diversity of Aboriginal people was a point he insisted on. His people, for example, are matriarchal and peaceful. That is why they looked after Captain Cook at the Endeavour River; had he landed somewhere else he may have been attacked and killed. Gabriel had no problem with being gay among his own people as it is accepted, but among the desert peoples, who tend to be patriarchal, it may have been a problem. However, at school in Cairns he did encounter homophobia–but not racism.

He hates it when anyone claims to speak for the Aboriginal people as a whole. He is personally “over” this whole “sorry thing”. He says we should just get on with it. He agreed that “reconciliation” means all Australians acknowledging the good and bad in their shared history, with honesty. He still speaks his Aboriginal language and is in touch with his culture. When he first came to Sydney he was shocked by Redfern and sees the people there as broken and their problems admitting no easy solution.

He hates all racism, including Aboriginal racism. If he saw an Asian under attack he would be the first to defend him. As far as he is concerned all are welcome in Australia. He sees the current rise of racism and disillusionment with political parties and institutions as being very dangerous, and drew analogies with Weimar Germany.

He is committed to the cultures of indigenous peoples everywhere, thrilled by his experience in New Zealand. If he went to the United States it would be to explore Native American cultures. He says you don’t have to believe literally in the Dreaming to benefit from it. Speaking of beliefs, he had from 16 to 21 been a Mormon, until his own research revealed that black skin was still regarded as the “mark of Cain” and no black person could hope to reach the highest Heaven. He found this repellent and left the religion.

A wide-ranging conversation indeed. I hope to meet him again.

March 9


* Coffee was nice yesterday, though my tone might have been a bit hectoring at times? Put it down to adrenalin…

* Praise for my school Communities page: the District Consultant says it is excellent and has referred it to the editor of Racism No Way (the official Department of Education-endorsed site) and to Multicultural Branch in the Department. Some nice feedback on the guestbook and from some parents. A glitch concerning this stuff did occur at school, but strategies to get around it are in place now.

* Students report that a slight mistake in entering the URL to the Year 10 site leads to a porn site instead! Maybe that is where Magic Mushrooms spends his time now!

* There was a story in the media here about Sydney Girls High Principal Margaret Varady forbidding girls wishing to march in Mardi Gras in school uniform. This report was completely false: I have this on the best authority!

March 14

Mainly on media…

I am reading Getting Justice Wrong by Nicholas Cowdery (Sydney, Allen & Unwin 2001). It turns out Mitchell has met him.

I find myself in agreement with much of it. It is a good introduction to the system and the legal process, absolutely essential as a piece of public education. I should say the average person has little grasp of our political and legal system, a failing of past education that may be addressed in the new Civics course. Cowdery makes abundantly clear just how pernicious the impact of blackand-white thinking on the part of tabloid journalism, low IQ TV and talk-back radio can be, especially when politicians find electoral advantage in exploiting the “issues” in a similarly black-and-white manner. The law, on the other hand, must be unspectacular and deliberative, and not too much should be expected from it, except(!) to safeguard us against the excesses of power and keep crime, which will always be with us, under some degree of control. We are all conditioned by TV versions of law (and perhaps by supermen and caped crusaders) to expect simple solutions and drama. The law is not like that.

I find myself siding with him generally on issues such as drugs, mandatory sentencing, and so on. He seems a sane individual to me, such a change from the ranting I hear from Alan Jones, Brian Wilshire and Howard Sattler–just to name a few.

On other matters: the identity of Magic Mushrooms has been revealed: no surprise there!

The Dowager Empress must have great power, since her recent Interdict on the Flinders Hotel, with the added influence of the Crown Prince, has apparently led to that establishment going up for auction. A block of tasteful units seems likely to emerge from the ashes. In future, let all tremble and obey when the Empress speaks. (See back entry “Offending the Empress”.)

March 19

Ninglun takes a sickie

For those overseas, a “sickie” is a day off. I did go to the doctor for some routine checks, however; I was feeling rather tired, a combination of work piling up and indiscretion on Friday night: the 21st birthday.

In fact I worked very hard today, especially in the PM, updating all my ESL Files and breaking the back of the Year 7 ones which had been accumulating alarmingly, as Year 7 is over 80% NESB. It is now feasible to have the task finished by Wednesday afternoon.

I have also been in retrospective mode I must say, some of it a touch sad, some quite the opposite. It was five years last week since my mother’s funeral, a significant break with the past that was with a long and painful prelude. Also today would have been my sister’s birthday, and it is amazing (since my memory of her is still fresh) to reflect that she died (aged 11) forty-nine years ago. On the other hand, a few weeks back the Ninglun site turned one, and sometime around now or the next week or two (one year ago) another happening opened up a most pleasant episode in my life. I plan to do something about that one next Thursday 🙂

March 25

Full moon?

Having seen a bit of shooting oneself in the foot going on last night at the Albury, I began to wonder! Note to self: light beer in moderation from here on for me for a while. Not that I was roaring drunk by any means: four schooners over the time from 5.00 (when I came up from coaching in Chinatown) until 8ish, and a middy elsewhere with a friend I ran into. But still more than an old person like me should, which is my point. I never drink at home, unless wine with a meal when I have guests. Nor do I use illegal drugs.

Earlier in the day I was in the teller-machine lobby at the ANZ Bank in Chinatown. At the head of the queue was a young Chinese couple. The woman was making a withdrawal and having a furious argument with her boyfriend at the same time–in red-hot Mandarin I think. Next in line was an Anglo-Australian woman of about 40, quite stylishly dressed. After her was a young Chinese girl, then me. The Anglo woman did her transaction. Meantime, to free her hands, the young Chinese girl had put her half-eaten lunch and a drink down on a counter to one side of the machine. As the Anglo woman left, and as the Chinese girl was putting her keycard into the machine, the Anglo woman swept the Chinese girl’s lunch into the garbage! The Chinese girl was stunned! “You think that’s rubbish, do you? You’re so rude!” Actually I suspect the Anglo woman had concluded the Chinese girl intended to leave the stuff there, but it was clear to me that all she had done was put it down to free her hands for the machine. “Weird!” I said. The Anglo woman offered no apology but just stormed out. The Chinese girl was so shaken she told me to use the machine while she recovered.

Meanwhile the female half of the arguing couple had returned to withdraw more money–not looking happy. I, having withdrawn my cash, left.

March 26

Calm returns

There was another tragic case of foot-shooting on Saturday night, but not at the Albury. Someone had perhaps misread someone else, issuing a decree that was not as welcome as it might have been. As a result certain conclusions may have been drawn about Ninglun, conclusions that were wildly inaccurate. A chat with a third person resolved much.

Yes, that is as enigmatic as this diary ever gets, but thank God for Chat I say 🙂

Busy day and peaceful night. God bless all who have assignments due on March 30!

March 28

A dear friend

This entry is dedicated to John Wilkinson, a very dear friend first of M., than of myself (who made it to one Yum Cha). Ten years of friendship. John passed away last night after a long period of illness. He was one of the sweetest, sanest people you could ever meet. To Max and all his friends, especially Morris, my heart goes out.

John, it was a privilege knowing you. Rest easy now.

March 29

Free lunch

Sentimentalist that I am, I had lunch at the Galleria today. The place was much more crowded than it was last week, and the tiny kitchen near the front was a scene of frenetic activity. “Manuel” the gay waiter was on duty again, and slid chummily into the chair opposite mine as he took my order. On the next table a middle-aged lady looked slightly stunned as Manuel smoothly repeated the manoeuvre on the chair opposite her.

Half an hour later my coffee arrived, and her tea.

Forty-five minutes later she said something about this being rather a long time for a sandwich to appear. “I’m just the waiter,” Manuel apologised. Five minutes later her sandwich appeared, and another few minutes later my cheese and tomato on toast.

Now had the company been what it was last time I was there the delay might hardly have been noticed, but this time it was rather noticeable. Fortunately I was in no hurry.

That the Galleria people are really nice became apparent as I took out my wallet at the counter. Yes, I had scored a free lunch, and an apology for the delay. “But… I could see you had a rush.” “Don’t argue,” the English woman who runs the place said; so I didn’t 🙂

Who said there was no such thing as….?

monday 011


So this is what I was up to today…

To Sydney for  lunch with M in Chinatown. We just went to a food court where M ate Korean while I had barbecued duck and barbecued pork. Cheap and good.


And here is this poor old beggar in the train between Central and Redfern on his way back home to The Gong.


Yes, Junior HP went to Sydney too. And not far away at the time  Australia, Indonesia to restore military ties in wake of talks between Turnbull and Widodo. Not that I saw anything of that.

To Chinatown and back

Great day yesterday, complicated only by Chris T just missing the 9.47 express to Sydney which departed with me aboard spot on 9.47. Chris T was in the lift descending to the platform at that moment, but he caught the next an hour  later and eventually found us in Zilver.


Zilver was good, though a bit of a queue to get in for yum cha. Now despite the well-deserved accolades, Chris T and I find Wollongong’s Ziggy’s House of Nomms actually has better dumplings. There were some excellent dishes though.

Photo of Ziggy's House of Nomms

Dumplings from Ziggy’s House of Nomms

We presented M with a tube of white fur silver needle tea from Ziggy’s.

This rare tea was only given to royalty and was revered for its purity.  The popularity of this white tea reached its peak during the era of the Chinese Emperor Hui Tsung (1101-1125 A. D.).  Legend has it this Emperor loved this rare tea.  In the pursuit of searching for the perfect cup, the perfect brew, the obsessed Emperor lost his empire to the invading Mongols.

Imagine that, dear readers, losing your empire over a cup of good tea.  Though based on the aforementioned attempt of maintaining the purity of the leaf, it must be worth it.  What do you think?

After yum cha M proposed a walk to the Chinese Garden in Darling Harbour, but Max, Chris T and I opted out and went instead for a wine or Guinness to the Palace Hotel (1877) on the corner of Hay and George Streets. Delightful young Canadian barman. So much renovating and digging going on in this area at the moment.


I found myself suffering tram nostalgia from the sound of the bells on passing trams. This first bit of Sydney’s resurrected light rail has been in operation since the late 1990s at least. The trams looked like this in 2008:

Light rail near Belmore Park, late afternoon

I of course was thinking of the ones I would often catch to Sydney High sixty years ago:


The current trams look like this; Chris T and I caught one very crowded tram back to Central before (just) catching the 4.29 back to Wollongong:


Yum Cha October 1 2000 and tomorrow

I noted way back then:

Sunday, September 24 2000: Ninglun goes to an Olympic Event

11.00 am: Just back from shopping and then watching the Women’s Marathon from Anzac Parade near Sydney High School. At that point an Australian was in the front bunch, about tenth; the Japanese were doing well and were well supported. As one might expect Kenya and Ethiopia were well in evidence. Eleven helicopters buzzing overhead made it easy to see when the race was approaching. They are so tiny, these Marathon runners!

Following the numbers of visitors who read this site last time I here announce that the Dowager Empress of Hong Kong requests your attendance at the next Royal Yum Cha at the Silver Spring Restaurant at 10 am next Sunday, October 1.

Sunday October 1 2000

Well, what a Yum Cha! Frankly, I was not feeling well this morning, but Yum Cha soon changed that. A record attendance on this last day of the Olympic Games. Seventeen people–so I won’t list them all, but one Indonesian Olympic visitor, the regulars (PK, James, Ian Smith, Sirdan, Bruce, Clive) plus Simon H (a friend and ex-student of mine, whose friendship now goes back over 20 years), Tim K (a person I met about 14 years ago) whose personal odyssey is fascinating, and most pleasing of all Mr R and Delenio. A lovely way to spend Sunday morning.

The day went on and I went with the flow. After Simon, The Rabbit and Delenio had gone, I followed Ian to the Beauchamp and then the Albury–the Marathon went past us hardly noticed!–and it was a slightly drunken afternoon but one essentially of good fellowship.


That restaurant, Silver Spring, is now Zilver. Chris T and I plan to join M and Max there tomorrow.

What I couldn’t establish from my archives was whether that 1 October 2000 Yum Cha was the one where the crab went walkabout. I suspect it was. I recall Mr R was wearing open-toed sandals at the time and was a touch put out by the large crab that had temporarily avoided the wok and came scurrying across the floor towards us. Staff soon returned it to the kitchen.

What was I up to last December?

Entries from Monthly Archives: December 2015

Seems Christmas 2016 with M will be Yum Cha next Sunday in Chinatown, possibly here:


Somewhat related is this (abridged) entry from last December. Chris T and I dined there again just last Saturday:

Ziggy’s House of Nomms

Posted on December 26, 2015 by Neil


A great addition to Wollongong’s eateries! More anon.

If you’ve followed my blogs for any length of time you will know how significant a part yum cha played in my life and the lives of my friends through the 1990s and the early 2000s…

Sadly, Wollongong did not run to yum cha, though Steelers did try in 2012…

Sadly this experiment did fail. Now we have something similar to yum cha – a tea house experience with dumplings and steamed buns: Dumplings the cat’s meow.

Ziggy the cat has a short, white coat and a penchant for sitting on a warm laptop computer.

Gravity fascinates him. He will happily push an expensive piece of glassware off a table in order to test its limits.

Named after Ziggy Stardust – for his different coloured eyes – the eight-year-old mog is an old soul, according to owner Steen…

Opened on Monday, the cafe serves up a selection of more than 170 kinds of tea and a long menu of dumplings priced at $5 for three.

“We make dumplings exactly how they’re done in China,” said Steen, best known for his involvement in Wollongong’s Phoenix Theatre. “We go to a company, we hand them our recipe, they make dumplings specifically for us.  It is a a group of women sitting around a table in a shop in Hurstville.  They’re all wonderful, fun ladies who sit there and make dumplings all day by hand. You can’t make dumplings by machine – they break.”

The cafe is a joint venture by Steen and partner Kevin Caucher.

It was inspired by the couple’s March holiday to Mr Caucher’s Chinese homeland.

I road-tested Ziggy’s on Christmas Eve and I shall no doubt return. The variety of tea is amazing: I selected Dragon Well 龙井茶. Mind you, I suspect they don’t have Jin Jun Mei: see Wollongong to Surry Hills, Shanghai and tea and Bargain eats in The Gong, and that tea from China…. I’ll ask them one day. The dumplings were very good but I ordered too many. Doggy-bagged some home for laters.


At Ziggy’s House of Nomms (Illawarra Mercury)

The place was packed. I squeezed into a spot at the window bench. And there perhaps is a bit of a worry for the future. The place really is rather small. Full-on yum cha isn’t possible as there are not the numbers to make it work, a problem Steelers also ran into in 2012. Ordering  dumplings from the menu means there is a time lag to the table as each order is processed individually; the eating and talking take time too, so tables don’t turn around all that rapidly – and maybe there aren’t quite enough tables. On the other hand the quality and theatricality are drawing people in. I suspect Steen and Kevin Caucher will be run off their feet. I certainly hope so.

The background story is worth reading too. I find I knew Steen’s English teacher “back in the day”. See Phoenix boss Steen rises above difficult childhood.

They do have a version of Jin Jun Mei now!

Kurnell yesterday: record breaking winds of 213km/h

Posted on December 17, 2015 by Neil


That’s from ABC News. The Illawarra Mercury site has Record winds rip through Sydney:

Southern Sydney resembled a disaster zone on Wednesday after the most destructive winds recorded in NSW history lifted roofs off houses, brought down power lines and trees and left more than 20,000 homes and businesses without power.

The first of multiple severe thunderstorms hit Sydney just after 10:30am, when a tornado-like event ripped through the Sutherland shire region.

The storm’s brunt was felt in southern beachside suburb of Kurnell, which was lashed with record breaking winds of 213km/h, heavy rain and golf-ball sized hail. A trail of destruction confronted residents and State Emergency Service workers on Wednesday afternoon as they worked to remove debris and cut down trees that had fallen across roads, yards and cars…

While on my way down to Wollongong at the time I could certainly see the sky very black over the ocean, but Wollongong pretty much escaped.

Two storm cells travelled up the coast on Wednesday morning, the first reaching Wollongong at 9am and the second around 12.30pm.

Both storm cells skirted the Illawarra with the worst of the second cell passing over the waters off Wollongong.

While Kurnell in the Sutherland Shire was hit with winds as high as 213 km/h, the highest wind in the Illawarra was 91km/h at Bellambi at 9.14am.

Southern Sydney also saw hail as big as baseballs in some places, while strong winds blew over trucks and damaged roofs.

The heaviest rainfall in the Illawarra was recorded at Kiama, with 55 millimetres between 9am and 2pm.

There was a similar but smaller supercell storm in Wollongong early in November.

Here in West Wollongong on Sunday night:

7.20pm: The Wollongong City SES unit says it has received 33 calls for help following this afternoon’s storm, mainly in the West Wollongong and Mangerton areas.

7.30pm: A flash storm front bearing harsh winds, hail and heavy rain brought panic to West Wollongong on Sunday afternoon, with the roof of an apartment block being peeled off like a sardine can.

This is what I saw:


My brother in Tasmania rang last night to check I was OK. We agreed that never in either of our memories had we seen a storm around The Shire like yesterday’s. My brother is 80. There have been storms a plenty, of course, but winds over 200kph? Never recorded before in NSW.

Naturally one wonders if this rare severe weather event is climate change related. No-one can say specifically of any one event, but the likelihood of such things happening does seem to point to climate change’s effects. See meteorologist John Allen, writing in 2014…


Yesterday’s storm seen from Sydney Harbour: New Daily.

The Shire people stayed away in thousands…

Posted on December 13, 2015 by Neil

The pathetic little mob of blow-ins at Cronulla on Saturday:


Pretty much what I hoped and expected: see my post on lessons from Cronulla. Blow-ins?

Folkes had announced plans to hold a rally at Cronulla but was blocked by a Federal Court order on Friday. Holding the barbecue was “a compromise”, he said, confirming that he would not be addressing the crowd but that he could talk to the media.

“Everyone in Australia should have the right of assembly,” said Folkes, who claimed that the tyres on his car had been slashed overnight, “no doubt by the useful idiots on the left”.

The meeting was attended by Danny Nalliah and Rosalie Crestani of the Rise Up Australia Party, Kim Vuga of the Love Australia or Leave It Party, and independent Sergio Redegalli, who become known for his “Say No To The Burqa” murals in Newtown.

“I have studied Islam for the five years and I can tell you that it is impossible to reform,” said Redegalli, who arrived early in a ute on the back of which was a large pig on a spit.

Nalliah addressed the crowd before an Australian flag, leading them in a chant of “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie”. He then denounced multiculturalism, the media, the United Nations (“United Nonsense”) and the politically correct left.

Yeah, really representative of Cronulla and The Shire –not!

Unfortunately the equally undesirable masked antifascists tried to feed their own attention deficit – but were forcefully swept back to Cronulla Station where a prearranged train waited to take them away to wherever they too had blown in from. I personally wish they had stayed away, or held a rally in Belmore Park in Sydney, or anywhere else many kilometres from Cronulla Beach.

A 58-year-old man from Warilla, south of Wollongong, was arrested for offensive behaviour and a 25-year-old man from Seaforth was arrested for breaching the peace.

A police spokeswoman could not confirm whether the two men were part of the anti-Islam or anti-racism groups.

In a volatile and confusing situation, members of the Antifa crowd were being instructed to “mob up”, running from one side of the park to the other in an apparent effort to confuse police about their intentions.

I can sympathise with my cousin’s son who would have been 13 and living not far from Cronulla back in 2005. My cousin still lives in the Shire:

If I see one more Cronulla Riots think piece I’m quitting the internet forever.

Sorry Harrison! Meanwhile the “patriots” will have to cope with this – which I disagree with by the way, opposed as I am to capital punishment.

An Islamic scholar has called for the reintroduction of the death penalty in Australia for anyone who is convicted of committing an act of murder or terrorism that causes the loss of human life.

Dr Hassan Majzoub, who has a PhD in Islamic studies, said murder in any form including terrorism is one of the most serious crimes in Islam and the penalty is death.

The respected Imam, who studied in Syria and Saudi Arabia, is speaking out because he wants the media to help the Muslim community get the message across that it is unacceptable for such crimes to be committed, let alone in the name of any religion…

Dr Majzoub’s comments have been backed by the former Mufti of Australia Sheikh Taj din al-Hilali who said the divine faiths call for the preservation of human life, prohibit murder and regard the murder of a person as a murder of humanity.

“I believe that we must implement strong legal deterrents against any person who holds murderous terrorist intents. Murder should have the strongest legal deterrents and a sentence of execution would be such a deterrent to stop murder which seems to be increasing,” said Sheikh al-Hilali.

Founder of the Islamic Friendship Association Keysar Trad said he agreed that the strongest possible deterrent should be in force against murder and terrorism.

Sydney man Zak Mallah was the first person charged with a terrorism offence after Australia ramped up its terrorism laws in the wake of the the September 11 attacks.

Mallah was just 19 at the time and was acquitted of the terrorism charges. He was convicted of threatening an ASIO officer and served a jail term.

He told Fairfax Media that he agreed with Dr Majzoub about the death penalty should applying to those convicted of carrying out murders and terrorist attacks. But he doesn’t believe that it would be deterrent because it could be taken as a badge of honour by ISIS that they are now going to be martyred.

But he said he strongly disagreed with condemning a convicted minor to death row. Instead he believes minors should be given the chance to be rehabilitated while in jail…

And now we have the anniversary of the Lindt Cafe siege coming up. I posted Sydney siege on the day:

I note also Ray Christison, a cousin, published this on Facebook:

I have decided on a one-strike policy in relation to hate speech. I will report any racist comment or comments aimed at inciting hatred between or against religious groups, including reposts from “patriotic” or hate pages. I will also unfriend the person who has posted such comment. This is my personal choice. ‪#‎illridewithyou‬

Amen, Ray!

A month later I posted Welcome to McCarthyism 21st century Oz-style.

That’s a set of Sydney Hizb ut-Tahrir  spokespeople. I have actually met the one in the middle. For more on that see my posts under Wassim and also God is diminished and the Prophet traduced…, my response to the Paris outrage. My view is that outlawing this group is rather like the idea of outlawing the Communists in the 1950s – not exactly a good idea. You want even more radicalisation? Simple: ban them.  Sure, watch them – you have to. Really then I have agreed with the Grand Mufti:

…The strong comments by the Grand Mufti Ibrahim Abu Mohammed come amid other signs of a serious breakdown in relations between the Abbott government and large elements of Australia’s Muslim communities, ahead of the expected announcement of new security legislation on Monday.

Abbott criticised the grand mufti on the Bolt Report last Sunday for suggesting it would be a political mistake to ban the Islamic group Hizb ut-Tahrir, saying his comments were “wrong-headed” and unhelpful.

Mohammed was interviewed on Friday for the online TV program, Spot Light, run by the Islamic production company OnePath Network.

Asked if he had any advice for the prime minister, the mufti said: “I respect the presence of Tony Abbott as a political leader of his party and I respect the Australian community’s choice in electing him.

“I personally elected him in the previous elections. But believe me, I will not repeat this mistake again,” he said….

Meanwhile there was a grinning Fred Nile in the front rows at that protest meeting in Penrith. Figures…

This is sad too: Australians think Muslim population is nine times greater than it really is…

Just for the record: Islam in Australia is a minority religious affiliation. According to the 2011 census, 476,291 people, or 2.2% of the total Australian population, were Muslims. The number the Tele front page referred to today was “thousands” – I seem to recall it was 4000, of whom 400 had a top priority. Hizb ut-Tahrir apparently has about 300 members.

And talking numbers:  15 Famous Australians You May Not Have Known Were Muslim…


Central Adelaide Mosque, South Australia. 1888.

Reclaiming Cronulla’s lessons

Posted on December 11, 2015 by Neil

I was born and bred in The Shire. My skin cancers bear witness to time spent on Cronulla’s beaches. My first teaching appointment was Cronulla High School. It was while teaching there in the second half of the 1960s that I first encountered and embraced the idea of pluralism, which in varying iterations has stayed with me ever since as an idea that has the advantage of corresponding with how the world actually is. No surprise then that in later years as my experience widened I embraced the Australian multiculturalism that evolved particularly in the Whitlam and Fraser years. If you want to “reclaim” something, then reclaim that.

Australia does not need reclaiming. It does not need a “Freedom Party”. At this point it certainly could do without inflammatory self-appointed “patriots” attempting to get attention through the tenth anniversary of Cronulla’s saddest days. I agree totally with today’s Herald editorial.

For all the Cronulla community’s efforts to welcome all Australians to the beach lifestyle, the riots and ensuing race-based generalisations made many young men and women feel they did not belong to Australia and that Australia did not belong to them. Preventing the alienation of Australians of Middle Eastern background remains the key to fighting home-grown terrorism – and the Cronulla riots are an ugly reminder of what not to do to promote inclusion.

This weekend some Australians will again seek to reclaim our nation as a monocultural throwback under the banner of “Aussie pride”. They will laud the Cronulla riots as a glorious rebellion. Such an inflammatory world view must be countered. The Cronulla riots involved criminal activity fuelled by ineffective parenting, panic merchants, teenage testosterone, alcohol abuse and, yes, racism among a small minority of Australians of both Anglo-Celtic and Middle Eastern background.

At the time I wrote daily. now gathered as:

Cronulla 05

Here are twenty-five sometimes passionate posts written during the Cronulla affair of December 2005. I see this period as something of a watershed for Australian multiculturalism. There will be some links that are no longer viable after two years. See also Four Corners: Riot and Revenge (March 2006).

For example:

The word “bogan” does come to mind. A mob is a mob is a mob — whether it’s 5,000 self-styled “Aussies” or 30 to 50 Aussie “Lebs”. And racism, whatever the provocation, really really sucks big time. That includes the racist talk and actions of the young hoons who bring their families, culture and religion into disrepute by, for example, inexcusably attacking lifesavers, as well as the intellectually challenged senders of seditious (yes, they are) emails and text messages that encourage scenes like that on the left.

Seems, doesn’t it, that attacking ambulance officers is OK — as long as you are a tanked-up Aussie, of course.


Look at those raised arms and imagine swastika flags… Yes, the Aussies really worried me that day, and I am sure my father would have seen the imagery with considerable disquiet. He would also recall the New Guard of the 1930s, for whom he had no respect whatsoever. This is not patriotism: this is mindless jingoism and tribalism. Nor is it what the bulk of Cronulla-ites had in mind when that day began. Unfortunately, neo-Nazis and sheer bogans from as far away as Penrith and Campbelltown (not a rumour — I have read their blogs) joined in the general anarchy. I have no more time for them than I have for the hoons who have been wrecking enjoyment at the beach, some of whom attacked those lifesavers. But that’s OK, isn’t it: “our” bogans attack ambos and attempt to kill innocent bystanders, no questions asked…

I wouldn’t have touched most of this crowd with a barge-pole personally, and THAT is a patriotic point of view in my opinion. I am the citizen of a country that is a bit more grown-up than the one some of these people seem to want….

Here in Surry Hills’s “Little Lebanon” all is quiet. Except for the traffic. There are Lebs and Lebs of course. Our state Governor, Marie Bashir is a Leb — or an Aussie. Depends how you look at it.

Worth noting that in the Shire local government elections in 2008 the candidates who pushed the anti-immigration barrow did very badly: see my post NSW Local Government Election 2008 / Sutherland / Election of Councillors to the Sutherland Shire Council D Ward.

By 1958 the western part of The Shire had already experienced becoming a home for what quite recently, at that time, were seen as “undesirables” from the Mediterranean — my grandmother was quite vocal on that — not to mention many families from the “slums” of Surry Hills and Glebe — our neighbours in Vermont Street and nearby streets.

And The Shire survived.

Darrin has a right to his views, and to stand for election. What annoys me is that the Herald is palming off what I would regard as a local nutter as if he represented what The Shire is all about in 2008. He doesn’t, and I dare say the election results will reflect that.

This is not to say that The Shire does not have environmental, development and population concerns. I am sure it does, and some of those I would no doubt share if I still lived there. It’s one of the few places in Australia with a nuclear issue in their back yards, for example — the Lucas Heights reactor.

Also worth noting that those hoping to cash in on the current Islam=terror meme at Cronulla tomorrow are not from the Shire. They are blow-ins that The Shire doesn’t want.


Wollongong people going about their daily lives

It is well worth reading Waleed Aly today. I know enough Eastern and Western history to know that what he says is true.

Sorry, but I just can’t quite get over the irony. Unless I have this completely mistaken, Tony Abbott just called for both a Reformation and a revolution “within Islam”. This is, of course, perhaps the most well-worn and ill-informed cliche of Western discourse on Islam – the kind of thing people like to say when they want to sound serious but know almost exactly nothing about Islam, Muslim societies, or indeed the Reformation.

But it takes on a special instructive quality coming from Abbott: a self-described conservative Catholic. If that description has an antonym, it’s something like a revolutionary Protestant: pro-Reformation, pro-revolution. And yet here is our former prime minister, arguing against his very self.

Unless, of course, he isn’t because when it comes to Islam, all the normal rules are suspended. Including, it seems, whatever rules require that the words we use are meant to have meaning. So much could be said here. Of how Islam’s own version of the Reformation already occurred in the 18th century. Of how this episode gave birth to Wahhabism, with its disdain for traditional religion and its austere scripturalism. Of how that finally became expressed in the nation state of Saudi Arabia. Of how it combined with the anti-colonial movement of Islamism – self-consciously a reform movement, by the way – to create (eventually) al-Qaeda and through it Islamic State…

See also Karen Armstrong in The New Statesman.

There are so many issues to explore, and we must do so. But not in one post! Back in 2005 I was much encouraged by Amin Maalouf’s little book On Identity, aka In the Name of Identity. Surely it remains essential reading today.

“For it is often the way we look at other people that imprisons them within their own narrowest allegiances. And it is also the way we look at them that may set them free.”
― Amin Maalouf, In the Name of Identity: Violence and the Need to Belong

See this 2015 post by Maria Popova:

Maalouf considers the crucible of our identity:

What determines a person’s affiliation to a given group is essentially the influence of others: the influence of those about him — relatives, fellow-countrymen, co-religionists — who try to make him one of them; together with the influence of those on the other side, who do their best to exclude him. Each one of us has to make his way while choosing between the paths that are urged upon him and those that are forbidden or strewn with obstacles. He is not himself from the outset; nor does he just “grow aware” of what he is; hebecomes what he is. He doesn’t merely “grow aware” of his identity; he acquires it step by step.


But it is just as necessary to emphasize that identity is also singular, something that we experience as a complete whole. A person’s identity is not an assemblage of separate affiliations, nor a kind of loose patchwork; it is like a pattern drawn on a tightly stretched parchment. Touch just one part of it, just one allegiance, and the whole person will react, the whole drum will sound.

Only by understanding the complexities of identity can we begin to understand what transforms this drum from a celebratory beat of belonging into a menacing rhythm that powers militant marches of violence. Echoing Margaret Mead’s assertion that “we’ve started to worry about identity since people began losing it,”  Maalouf writes:

People often see themselves in terms of whichever one of their allegiances is most under attack. And sometimes, when a person doesn’t have the strength to defend that allegiance, he hides it. Then it remains buried deep down in the dark, awaiting its revenge. But whether he accepts or conceals it, proclaims it discreetly or flaunts it, it is with that allegiance that the person concerned identifies. And then, whether it relates to color, religion, language or class, it invades the person’s whole identity. Other people who share the same allegiance sympathize; they all gather together, join forces, encourage one another, challenge “the other side.” For them, “asserting their identity” inevitably becomes an act of courage, of liberation.

In the midst of any community that has been wounded agitators naturally arise… The scene is now set and the war can begin. Whatever happens “the others” will have deserved it.


What we conveniently call “murderous folly” is the propensity of our fellow-creatures to turn into butchers when they suspect that their “tribe” is being threatened. The emotions of fear or insecurity don’t always obey rational considerations. They may be exaggerated or even paranoid; but once a whole population is afraid, we are dealing with the reality of the fear rather than the reality of the threat.

Such complex problems, Maalouf is careful to point out, merit only befittingly nuanced solutions:

I no more believe in simplistic solutions than I do in simplistic identities. The world is a complex machine that can’t be dismantled with a screwdriver. But that shouldn’t prevent us from observing, from trying to understand, from discussing, and sometimes suggesting a subject for reflection.

That’s precisely what Maalouf goes on to do in the remainder of the wholly excellent, urgently relevant In the Name of Identity.

On the Australia that does need reasserting see my 2011 series Australia Day: Being Australian.


The New South Wales Supreme Court has banned a far-right group from holding a rally in Sydney to mark the 10th anniversary of the Cronulla riots.

$10 Monday lunch at City Diggers

Posted on December 1, 2015 by Neil

That’s two courses for $10. I could have had soup and roast beef, but opted for vegetarian lasagne and dessert.


Popular as you can see…

Just as popular in 2016, but now $12. I plan to indulge today.