Seen five years ago — May 2014

From my archive.

Sutherland sunset 21 May 2014 – Woronora Cemetery:

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Rose garden, Woronora Cemetery:

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East Parade, Sutherland: grand Federation house repurposed as a Thai restaurant:

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In the Sutherland United Services Club:

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What took me back to Sutherland. See Ian and I have just run out of uncles.

NHC

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Horrible twerp visits Cronulla with malicious intent

I refer to Crazy Egging, a carbuncle of the former Senate who wants his pus spread to the lower House in quite a few Queensland electorates and some in NSW, including the PM’s seat of Cook, which includes Cronulla — my home in adolescence and early adulthood. So he visited the other day, and guess what? Violence ensued. “Nothing to do with me,” quoth Egging, perhaps while chilling in a Munich beer hall later on.

I like to think Egging has Buckley’s or none in his malevolent intentions, but…

What was he trying to cash in on? Well, Cronulla 2005, that’s what. Happens I live-blogged at the time: here’s how I started, and note that this is now a long time ago, so links probably don’t work*:

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).

1. Bad blood boils in the Cronulla stomp – National – smh.com.au: 2005-12-08

This was my first entry on this affair which, with its sequels, attracted an amazing amount of attention during December. For details, go to the December 2005 archive.

Ugly scenes at my old beach.

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When I began teaching at Cronulla High 1965 (prac) and 1966 (appointed), the main street looked like this.

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This is a recent pic, but I recognise it and can almost hear and smell the sea and the Norfolk Island pine trees.

…racial tension resurfaced at the beach when a group of young men started brawling with three locals outside Cronulla’s lifesaving club, then turned on a news photographer as police intervened. Police arrested a 20-year-old man from Riverwood and charged him with smashing the photographer’s camera. They were still looking for the rest of the men last night and said they had not ruled out a link between yesterday’s violence and Sunday’s attack.

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Erika Lamour, 18, was at the beach yesterday when the violence broke out. “I saw a group of ethnic people come down as usual and try to start a fight,” she said. “They always do it. I didn’t actually see the fight. But I saw everyone running towards the club.” Ms Lamour said the gangs that roamed the beach targeted the locals. “They always come down trying to start trouble. It’s the only reason we don’t want to come down, because we know we will get harassed.”

She said she had received an email asking locals to come to the beach this Sunday. “I got an email this morning saying that all the [Sutherland] Shire people should come down on Sunday and we should reclaim the Shire.”

After Sunday’s violence, lifesavers said gangs had been intimidating them and beachgoers in the southern and eastern suburbs for two years. The State Opposition says police cannot respond to the violence quickly enough because they have lost 18 officers in the Cronulla area.

Chief Superintendent Robert Redfern said yesterday’s violence started at 4.20pm when three local youths made a comment to a group of about six Middle Eastern-looking men at the beach. The comment sparked a fight. “As a result of the fight, one of the males coming off the beach received a cut to the face and some bruising,” he said.

Detective Inspector Steve O’Grady said one of the men involved in the fight had left the beach before police arrived. He said tensions were still high when they got there.

Worth highlighting that couple of sentences, though this is not to deny that the “usual suspects” often act out their own stereotypes only too well. Or some groups within their communities do; probably most do not. Testosterone too has a lot to answer for, as well as, perhaps even more than, culture. Judging from ABC Radio 702 this morning, the police do seem to be handling things well now and the locals would be well advised to leave it to the police.

Judge for yourselves the email doing the rounds in Sutherland Shire. And here is what a right-wing piece of shit does with the story. This one is more balanced, from a girl who is a lifesaver at Elouera, “300m walk tops” from North Cronulla. But one cannot help sympathising with Larissa:

Tuesday, December 6

This is just disgusting.

These guys volunteer to help keep people safe. They give up their free time to make sure no one in their local community gets injured and also give up their lives to save people like these louts.

As someone who’s grown up in Cronulla it angers me that people come and do this.

Don’t bring your sort of lifestyle to our area, just because you’re bored with yours mean you should do that here. Either play nicely or stay away.

Mind you, there have been earlier, and worse, incidents, such as this one reported in NSW Hansard in February 2001.

[Cronulla] is an outpost, an area where the population increases dramatically during the summer. As my correspondent has said, there is gang activity. On Thursday 15 February the Commissioner of Police was interviewed on radio by John Stanley. The transcript of that interview reads, in part:

John Stanley: And your problem is, if you sent more police to Cabramatta, they would be taken from areas like Cronulla, where we had all those calls last week about that gang problem, that I think you are aware of. These people are coming in from other parts of Sydney, into Cronulla and are causing big problems there.

Commissioner Ryan: They are causing huge problems there.

One of those huge problems occurred two days after Christmas. Following a dispute at a Sutherland nightclub, a gang of 30 Lebanese Australian males arrived at Cronulla railway station with baseball bats, iron bars, knives and guns. They open fired on a rival gang, spraying more than 20 bullets over a 50-metre area. Such behaviour and activity are totally foreign. The Premier would be aware of the writings of a former New York senator, Patrick Daniel Moynihan. Back in the 1960s he wrote an essay entitled “Defining Deviancy Down”. That summarises these appalling standards of behaviour. Previously, this incident would have made headlines all over Sydney…

Mr George: Throughout New South Wales.

Mr KERR: Indeed, throughout New South Wales, but it did not because it is so commonplace. The mayor of Sutherland shire wants surveillance cameras, and there is no reason why the council cannot put surveillance cameras in the places sought by the mayor, although the problem exists throughout the Sutherland shire. The Carr Government has failed in its basic responsibility to maintain an orderly society and should therefore make a financial contribution towards the cost of the cameras. On behalf of the people of the Sutherland shire I ask the mayor to indicate when those cameras will be installed in Cronulla.

While I freely admit that troubling, troubled, and trouble-making (and usually virulently homophobic) groups of “middle eastern appearance” are an unlovely feature of Sydney life, it is very important to keep a sense of proportion on this: see Tunnel Vision: The Politicising Of Ethnic Crime by Paola Totaro (2003) for such a perspective. For much more detailed argument, see (PDF file) Scott Poynting Living with Racism: The experience and reporting by Arab and Muslim Australians of discrimination, abuse and violence since 11 September 2001 (2004).

It should be noted that, in the ideology of racism, categorical confusions between ‘race’ (eg ‘Middle Eastern Appearance’), ethnicity (eg Arab), nationality of origin or background (eg Lebanese), and religion (eg Muslim) are common, and distinction in practice between racism directed on ‘racial’, ethnic, or national grounds is not always possible or valid. This is all the more problematic currently, for over about the last decade, especially since panics from 1998 over ‘ethnic gangs’, over ‘race rapes’ in Sydney in 2000-2001, and asylum seekers and then the terror attacks from 2001, we have seen the emergence of we might call ‘the Arab Other’ as the pre-eminent folk devil in contemporary Australia (Poynting, Noble, Tabar and Collins, 2004). The links that are made between these events, the ‘perpetrators’ involved and their perceived communities, depend on the racist imagining of a supposedly homogenous category which includes those of Arab or Middle Eastern or Muslim background. This is not a singular category, of course — it includes people from diverse ancestries and with very distinct histories — but it is seen to be a singular category. A common factor is found through blaming whole communities for criminal acts, but also in labelling as ‘deviant’ certain actions — such as seeking asylum — and a range of other practices whose key feature is their visible and threatening difference — such as building a prayer centre (Dunn, 2001).

The extent to which the categories of race, ethnicity (culture) and religion are conflated in the ‘common sense’ of racism* is an aspect which needs to be studied, especially in as much as it determines the scope of legislation and the targeting of anti-racist initiatives and resources…

Poynting’s long article has much to commend it, including some disturbing personal stories.

I rather think people in The Shire, not being all that stupid, will give Egging the bum’s rush when it comes to the vote! Nice if he scored zero, but failing that let his candidate — whoever the goose is — fail to get his deposit back! For once I have to say, “Go Scomo!”

Drawn back to Jannali 1959

As I wrote in Shire childhood, adolescence and early adulthood 3: 1959 – 1961:

At 17 I did my first practice teaching session at Jannali West Primary, over the line and up the hill from Jannali shops. In Jannali we lived above the shops in a flat that at least gave a good view of closely watched trains; in 60-61 we rented a house in Oyster Bay Road, and very leafy it was too….

I recalled last year:

Is it really a week since I posted this on Facebook’s Sutherland Shire Heritage page?

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That’s my sister-in-law Aileen and my niece Christine (Parkes) in front of The Cotton Shop, Box Road Jannali in 1959. My mother owned The Cotton Shop, a very successful dress shop — until she broke her spine falling over a vacuum cleaner in the shop. The business went on under a manager and in the early 1960s moved to Sutherland, but was never the same without my mother running things. In Jannali she had customers coming from all over Sydney, not just The Shire. On Facebook Mark Wright said: “Mum remembers it mate. She knew Mrs Whitfield.” That’s nice.

Couldn’t help reflecting that in 1959 I was in my final year as a student at Sydney Boys High, and that it was also the 8th term of Prime Minister Robert Menzies! He seemed to me then to have been PM forever, though I did dimly recall his predecessor. Menzies continued until 1966. They built them to last in those days!

For some reason a few days ago I had quite an intense nostalgia for that place and that year! 60 years on!

So I visited via Google.  And here on the right of this photo is my 1959 bedroom window:

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And here is Mum’s shop/Dad’s office.

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Can’t help feeling Mum would have been piqued by the fact it is now Femme Fatale!

On IQ and reality TV on SBS, however well intended…

Frankly, I couldn’t watch it, not all the way through. I refer to SBS’s Child Genius — and mean no disrespect for the wonderful kids involved or the presenter. Partly it is that I have a healthy distrust of MENSA, not utterly dissimilar to Sophie Gilbert, who wrote in 2013:

The first thing you need to know is that no one has a good reason for joining Mensa. Pretty much anyone who tries to join a high-IQ society does so, ultimately, because he or she is an insufferable jerk. Maybe years of bullying for being a mathlete or wearing argyle sweaters well into junior high has given the person an inferiority complex, or maybe he just wants a bumper sticker that lets everyone on I-95 know he’s a genius. Either way, it’s never for noble reasons, however hard someone might pretend otherwise….

And then there’s the whole IQ thing itself. What is it really all about? Now keep in mind that the bulk of my teaching career has been in schools like Wollongong High (back in the day) and Sydney High, famously selective and into gifted education. Read Sydney High’s current approach, which I commend.

It’s not about being able to spell words which you, and hardly anyone else, will ever use. It’s not about mastering random facts, though it may turn out you have a talent that way. It is about how you engage with meaningful learning in meaningful contexts.

Now, says I modestly, I happen to know that according to my sixth grade teacher I had the highest IQ ever recorded at Sutherland Public School, at least to 1954. I know this because he employed that in arguing with my parents who were reluctant to allow me to go to Sydney Boys High, where I was one of six in the class to earn a place. My parents were concerned that my general rattiness would make the long train and tram trip involved too great a risk. After all, I had already in 5th or 6th grade had my school bag knocked out of my hand while crossing the road by a car I had failed to notice.

Mr O’Neill, the sixth grade teacher, won the day and I went to SBHS for the next five years. I learned there that my Sutherland smarts were not all that smart after all.

Mr O’Neill, by the way, did a fantastic job on myself and other gifted students at Sutherland back in 1954. He gave us our heads! I recall us running through the school PA system a “radio station” for example, on a Friday afternoon I think. (It’s all a very long time ago.) I wrote a novel — highly derivative — and illustrated it.

Speaking of:

Had an email the other day from the son of my Year 6 teacher at Sutherland Boys Primary in 1954. He had found 09 — My Teachers in my Ninglun’s Specials archive.

Grade 6 1954

The second principle Andrew Metcalfe and Ann Game derive from their corpus of interviews is:

Good teaching recognises the unique potential of each student. This is not the same as an expectation or a prediction; it is seeing students in their wholeness, as they are now. The teacher’s responsibility is to nurture students and draw out their potential by opening them to new worlds. Thus teaching is inherently ethical, allowing students to find their place in and to contribute to the world.


I would like to name Mister O’Neill, my Year 6 teacher at Sutherland Public School (or Sutherland Boys Primary as it was then, now a “special” school) in 1954, the year of the Royal Visit. I still vividly remember (among other things) going with my maternal grandfather — another inspiring teacher — through the fence and beside the track to wait for the (then) sheer magic of seeing the Royal Train go through, and Mister O’Neill rehearsed us over and over to perform appropriate songs, including a late Vera Lynn called “She’s the Queen of Everyone’s Hearts”, at the Sutherland School of Arts, where my mother won an electric jug in a raffle.

World War II was after all less than ten years before; indeed I was enrolled at Sutherland in 1949. My father had been in the RAAF.

The thing about Mister O’Neill is that he had a class of fifty or so students, all in a portable class room that baked in summer. Hardly any of the boys had shoes. Cast-off bits of military uniform were fashionable; no such thing as a school uniform, or (I may add indelicately) underpants. There were a few quite talented kids in 6A; I was a bit up myself, I’m afraid, because even though I took every August off to have bronchitis, and also that year had mumps followed by orchitis (nasty) and pancreatitis, I still managed to top the class, despite my rather alarming (and continuing) innumeracy. He let us have our heads, really. We produced school newspapers, in which I wrote and illustrated serials that were rather like Biggles, and also devised crossword puzzles. Every Friday we “broadcast” our plays over the school’s PA system.

When I was selected to go to Sydney Boys High my parents were against it, mainly because of the travelling which, combined with my absent-mindedness that led to my once almost being run over at a pedestrian crossing, they felt would not suit me. I guess they were also worried about my health. My mother at that time, I might add, was invalided with a clot in the leg, so I was also cooking dinner every night, following instructions emanating from my mother’s bedroom. She used to say what I cooked for the dogs smelt more appetising than what I made for the family — chops and three veg usually. Can’t go too wrong with that. Well, Mister O’Neill I found one afternoon when I came in from playing with the Dawson boys down the road sitting by my Mum’s bed in earnest conversation. Result: I went to Sydney Boys High. Apparently I had the highest IQ ever recorded at Sutherland Primary to that point… That may not be saying too much, of course, and I certainly found myself a small fish in a big pond at SBHS the following year.

But hats off to Mr O’Neill. Not only was he just a fascinating teacher, but so dedicated. By his complexion I suspect he may have enjoyed the odd bevvie too… At a time when many schools, especially boys schools, were “houses of swinging bamboo”, I can’t recall seeing him actually cane anyone either. I remember him with gratitude. Mind you, I don’t think I ever have quite fulfilled that potential, and at going on 65 it may be a bit late…

You will see the use Michael O’Neill made of my reminiscence on his family site: Edgar Ronald O’Neill (1918-1994) & Sheila Hudson (1919-1948)

Eddie on playground

There he is: Eddie O’Neill, my Year 6 1954 teacher – in 1957

Gives you a good idea of what school in The Shire was like back then too…

Check the dunnies behind him… Yes, pans!

Only on the Internet, eh! What would the chances have been of making this sort of contact before the Net came along?

See also from 2010 Going back 57 years….

By the way, among the most gifted people I ever taught were certain members of Cronulla High 1966-1969 — my first teaching appointment.

Shire: Jannali, Cronulla, family

Is it really a week since I posted this on Facebook’s Sutherland Shire Heritage page?

aileen

That’s my sister-in-law Aileen and my niece Christine (Parkes) in front of The Cotton Shop, Box Road Jannali in 1959. My mother owned The Cotton Shop, a very successful dress shop — until she broke her spine falling over a vacuum cleaner in the shop. The business went on under a manager and in the early 1960s moved to Sutherland, but was never the same without my mother running things. In Jannali she had customers coming from all over Sydney, not just The Shire. On Facebook Mark Wright said: “Mum remembers it mate. She knew Mrs Whitfield.” That’s nice.

Couldn’t help reflecting that in 1959 I was in my final year as a student at Sydney Boys High, and that it was also the 8th term of Prime Minister Robert Menzies! He seemed to me then to have been PM forever, though I did dimly recall his predecessor. Menzies continued until 1966. They built them to last in those days!

1966 I began teaching at Cronulla High School, now in Scott Morrison’s electorate. My second HSC class there — and the second HSC ever! — have a reunion planned. I have been invited, but am not sure I can make it. Night-time events in Sydney are an issue for me these days, but I will surely be there in spirit.

Class of 1968 member Paul Weirick has also sent a list of those attending. Brought back lots of memories.  Fortunately, I had been able to attend a couple of events around the 50th anniversary of the school itself — so I haven’t totally missed out.

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