Archive for the ‘colonisation’ Category

Taint misbehaving

August 29, 2012

Having a convict ancestor is quite the thing in Australia now. There’s even a society for descendants of the very first ones, the First Fleeters – the aristocracy of convicts. It’s a perverse kind of prestige.
When I was growing up in the 60s, through, it was nothing to be proud of. The index cards in the state library were regularly thinned-out by people who surreptitiously ripped out the card that proved their convict ancestry. Having a convict in the family was called “the taint”. There was even a suspicion that it might be a hereditary defect.
Kate Grenville Guardian 18 February 2006

This is an authenticity bid, isn’t it? Between the 60s and now whitey has had to admit he (and she) nicked the land. And have been joined by “waves” and “floods” etc of “foreigners”, that is to say, not white – or at least European – like us. So, being able to trace yourself back to the “real” lot becomes a mark of respectability. FFS.


Radical Intellectuals…

July 28, 2012

Having a desktop clear off…

Radical Intellectuals: an Unacknowledged Legislature?
Andrew Milner

Charles Darwin, January 1836
“The whole population, poor and rich, are bent on acquiring wealth: amongst the higher orders, wool and sheep-grazing form the constant subject of conversation… with such habits, and without intellectual pursuits, it can hardly fail to deteriorate.”

It’s worth noting , however, that for all his condescension towards the Australian colonists, these are not the senses in which Darwin himself used the term ‘intellectual’. For him ‘intellectual’ meant more or less the same as ‘intelligent. This had been the word’s dominant meaning from the fourteenth century until the early nineteenth. It was only in Darwin’s own time that the word was first used to refer to a special kind of person, someone who ‘thinks’. The problem with this usage should be obvious: we all think, and all our productive activities require the exercise of intelligence. Indeed, it is our capacity to think, amongst other things, that makes us human. To suggest that only intellectuals ‘think’ is to deny our common humanity.

It also needs to be stressed that for most of Australia’s history its intellectuals have normally been conservative rather than radical in their politics. In the years before the First World War, the various Protestant clergies clearly played an overwhelmingly conservative social role. The Catholic church’s Irish connection certainly led it it dissent from the British imperial politics of the main Protestant churches, and to move into an uneasy alliance with the newly formed Labor parties But support for Irish republicanism and opposition to conscription during the First World War led neither Archbishop Mannix of Melbourne nor his clergy towards any wider radical sympathies.
Page 261

Quintus Servinton 1830, Henry Savery “the first Australian novel”

First privately owned newspaper, the Australian, founded in 1824

Empty land? Empty hopes

September 25, 2011

The country itself had no travel-established identity for white people, and its quality as a blank slate was internalised by the immigrants as a basis for their own reconstructions. Those anxieties were also projected on to the land, as Paul Carter has argued in his profound book The Road to Botany Bay. Carter shows how places were named for whites and their ideologies, from Melbourne and Sydney after peers of the governmental realm to places like Mt Disappointment and Mt Misery where the explores’ noble hopes were dashed. More than that, naming and interpreting the land were forms of fictionalising, rewriting the alien land mass into a familiar fable of Europeanicity.

Page 154 of Stephen Knight “The Selling of the Australian Mind”

Welcoming visitors, but they don’t leave…

June 30, 2011

Oh, I’m sure you could have heard the proverbial pin drop…

At the exhibition opening, amid endless glasses of chenin blanc, the guests were fortunate enough to witness a traditional kaurna smoking. Local elder Uncle Lewis O’Brien then welcomed artists, curators and guests in Kaurna Language to stop (the) gap, an international exhibition of indigenous media arts, before adding a brief footnote in English: “We have been welcoming visitors to our land for thousands of years. The problem is we’ve never told them to go home.” His comment met a general silence.


A similar frankness runs through curator Brenda L Croft’s introductory essay in the exhibition catalogue. In an aggressive and confessional style Croft outlined her infuriation at being Indigenous and intelligent in a place as heart-poundingly and mind-numbingly stupid as mainstream Australia, where even the most elementary reflection on colonisation and the marginalization of Indigenous Australians is consistently and willfully avoided. It was an angry and perhaps reckless decision to share such unrestrained thoughts. For daring to express her outrage in forthright political language, Croft was ruthlessly attacked by the Australian’s Christopher Allen, in a review less concerned with discussing the artworks on display than with celebrating the writer’s tiresomely cynical politicking.

Reel Time 102, page 23
Indigenous media art: complex visions
Tom Redwood

Harsh words about the Northern Territory…

June 29, 2011

from an article called White Elephant Territory in the Weekend Australian Review April 9-10 2011
Nicholas Rothwell

A Royal Commission held in Adelaide in 1895 had made plain the need for substantial new capital investment in the Territory. Those findings hit home. SA, with a mere 190,000 people, simply could not afford further exposure to the north. Quietly, the government in Adelaide offered the Territory to the new commonwealth.

A wise move. And this!!

A century since the commonwealth takeover, the Territory’s social and political contours remain substantially unchanged. It is still a tiny colonial outpost, bleeding public money, controlled by eccentrics, cynics and opportunists, its transient class of public servants presiding over a monumental failure of policy towards its Aboriginal peoples. It is more a condition of mind than a society, more a mirage than a place; a theatre of dreams, unfulfillable schemes and wild fancies, animated once again today by the preposterous goal of eventual statehood….

Still unsettled

June 28, 2011

As Steve Dovers from the Australian National University put it recently, after two centuries we still seem to be struggling to settle Australia. We haven’t resolved the first vexing questions presented to us by a unique continent – the original owners, the fragile land, the scarce resources, the capricious climate, remoteness and the insecurities this generates. These first challenges to the settlement project just keep coming back, some of them in ever more frightening forms.
Griffith Review 20
Waking from The Dream
Brendan Gleeson

The symbolism of Boat People

April 2, 2011

Les Rosenblatt writes, in Arena 109

In The Gauche Intruder, Jennifer Rutherford is ‘interested in the ways that fantasies of the good provide a camouflage for aggression at both a national and local level: an aggression directed both to an external and an internal Other.’ This aggression in Australia – and its associated guilt – is perhaps being presently displaced onto ‘boat people’…

Rutherford’s book “The Gauche Intruder: Freud, Lacan and the White Australian Fantasy by Jennifer Rutherford was published by Melbourne University Press in 2000” is sympathetically reviewed here.

Canning Stock Route- how the West was won

January 29, 2011

This from wikipedia about the Canning Stock Route

“one of the toughest and most remote tracks in the world. It runs to Halls Creek from Wiluna, both in Western Australia. With a total distance of 1781 km (1113 miles) it is also the longest historic stock route in the world. For the first few hundred kilometres it runs concurrent with the Tanami Track.”

And how did Whitey find out where to dig the wells?

Canning’s party constructed the wells with the forced help of Aboriginal people whose land the route traversed, the Mardu. Canning himself found it difficult to locate desert water sources. In order to gain Mardu assistance in locating water along the route, Canning captured several Mardu men, chained them by the neck, forced them to eat salt, and then waited until they got thirsty enough to lead his party to a native well.