As Australian Conservative Politicians Laugh about COALPHOBIA the rest of us quietly install our cheap and effective Solar Systems.

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Whether or not you believe in global warming is irrelevant.

The sun is free and if you are lucky enough to live in Australialand we get a lot of it.

In fact, we sometimes get too much – it helps to make us the skin cancer capital of the world, wreaks havoc with the paintwork on our red cars, breaks down our washing pegs, turns our hair to straw and our washing to cardboard but we still love it because it’s FREE energy.  Yay!

The other week, with Sydney just about to experience its hottest days on record Scott Morrison indulged himself in a little show-and-tell, bringing a lump of coal into parliament, declaring that ‘coal is our future’ and laughing heartily at the Lefties, accusing them of Coalophobia for wanting to move away from this black gold.

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You can’t blame them on one hand. It would be fair to say that Australia was built on Rock and Coal and it is equally fair to say that thousands of Australians still rely on our coal industry for their weekly wage packets but are they reason enough to keep us locked into a technology that is running out of steam?

I think not, especially given that these days many of us are employed in industries that didn’t exist 50 or even 20 years ago – there are plenty of opportunities out there for jobs and growth building but coal ‘ain’t one of them. Surely with a bit of fore-thought and planning we can create a clean energy jobs market, I mean the solar panels don’t make themselves, they have to be installed, maintained and improved.  Then there’s other clean energy engineering problems to be solved, improvements to be invested in and minds to be engaged.

Australia is in danger of falling behind.

Actually Australia already is behind in terms of government leadership because while the coal is being passed around the parliament a quiet solar revolution is unfolding in and around suburbia and nobody gives a shit about what the pollies think or whether they or anyone else believes in global warming, climate change or coalophobia. People are just doing it because it is cheap.

Two years ago we purchased our property out west and a rough estimate for installing enough solar and battery storage for a family of four was $40-$50,000.  Last week I was quoted around $15,000.  Amazing!

We are not yet fully ready to install solar out west as we are yet to build our house but it is coming.  Talking to our suburban friends and neighbours they are already ahead of us. After taking advantage of government subsidies and rebates a few years back now that the rebate has all but run out the next logical step is storage and unplugging from the grid.  Again I’m not talking here about a colony of greenies living in a woodland forest far, far away from reality. I’m talking engineers, doctors, nurses,  teachers,  builders,  architects, therapists and shop assistants.  People who just got a calculator and worked out that they will be better off going it alone.

And that worries me a bit.

My lefty side comes out right about now and says that’s all very well for those of us that can fork out the $15K or whatever, those of us that own their own house and can make a long-term investment but what about the renters, the elderly, the young and the broke?  Aren’t they the people who the government should be looking after?

Sadly it looks like these guys are left with coal and coal-fired power stations that are old and suffering from under-investment because their rich investors are taking advice from their insurance people and waiting to see what new and sustainable energy policies are coming into law.  As more and more people take themselves off the grid the cost of supplying those left increases.  Lose, lose for the government.  Oh dear.

Now I get why Australian politicians are doing what they are doing but it won’t wash for too much longer because people need power and no matter how much money the government pushes into clean coal advertising, clean coal is going to reach a point where it is just too dear when compared to the ever decreasing costs of solar. Sure you can throw in the diversion of ‘base load power’ and ‘jobs’ and whatever but that won’t wash for long either as soon everyone will know someone who lives a life of luxury off-the-grid with no power bills and anyway, solar is only one possible future solution, it just happens to be quite an obvious one for this sunburned country to excel at.
On that note, Australia has so much to offer the world in terms of alternative energy sources, so much so in fact that only a dinosaur would stick to coal.  And look, a dinosaur is exactly the meme good old progressive politician Cory Bernardi chose to make his point earlier this week.  He’s clearly a man to watch……

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Talking about wasting money, what does this tell you about Badgerys Creek…..

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The Blue Mountains council is being attacked from the inside on a couple of points at the moment, not least about the $130,000 that has been used to fund the ‘anti airport’ campaign. This is particularly sad as the attack is coming from people who voted in support of the very decisions they are now disputing (which include but are not limited to the airport spend). There defence is that ‘this is just politics’ but in defence of my disgust for this type of behaviour I’d say that this is the very reason the two major parties are losing ground and becoming irrelevant – a situation that would not necessarily be an issue if it weren’t for the fact that the gap in our political landscape is largely being replaced by parties with much more extreme agendas (maybe that’s what they want…).

There is another sub-plot to the councils financial management story going on too, along the same lines of financial management/ priorities but not as ‘pro Badgerys’ as the others but I’ll save that for another day.

Anyway, on the subject of wasting money we have exhibit A, the share price for Sydney Airport Pty:

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This charts the movement of Sydney Airport Stock price over the last two years. Oct 2015 – Badgerys Creek EIS announced, share price dances around in an upwards direction. September – share price drops from 7.5 to 6.5 – over 13% fall as the final EIS is announced (maybe they saw how unimpressive it was, just like we did). Jan 2017 – share price is 5.89 which is just below what it was before the initial EIS was unravelled in October 2015.

This update was brought to you by a graph of what actually happened rather than the spin the Telegraph like to shove down our throats.

The data is available here for anyone who likes to analyse it for themselves 🙂 https://au.finance.yahoo.com/echarts?s=SYD.AX

The fact that this airport proposal looks to be financially dubious and that the information provided by the government has failed to drive up the share price of Sydney Airport at this point gives me some degree of hope that they are seeing what we see.

It is all so easy to write off protesters and those in opposition to a big project like this as being anti-progress,  short-sighted, change-phobic,  romantic, out-of-touch or otherwise but I beg to differ. Sure I’m against the airport for a range of environmental and lifestyle reasons some of which may seem frivolous but at the end of the day I’m also against this airport because financially it doesn’t look to be stacking up.

Australia is not Europe or Asia and has never been on an international trade route.  Our geographical isolation is the reason for our rich cultural heritage, the diversity in our plants and animals and our exotic appeal. Neither do we have the geographical infrastructure to become like the Americas (which are only 7 hours from that other mega-business centre of Europe), we are a large dry country full of desert.

I believe that the whole of Australia will have a much brighter and more prosperous future once it stops trying to become something it is not and embraces everything it is. Badgerys Creek is, in my view yet another attempt for us (Sydney) to compete with Asia when in reality it might just as well leave us broke, hot and living in high-rise boxes that line a road to nowhere.

So, I implore my Blue Mountains councillors to stop, think and look at what is going on here.  We can do better, we might even be able to lead the way in this but to do that will take bravery and bravery starts with acknowledging the truth.

 

A bird needs both wings to fly

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I only realised that my political views were a bit more left than right when I took part in the ABC’s Vote Compass  in 2013.  I still couldn’t vote at that time as I wasn’t a citizen and as such found the result interesting, amusing even but certainly not life-defining.  Even though I came out as more left that right it was only just.  I polled strongly liberal on all things money and slightly more green on matters of the environment.  Trying to be all things to all people or just pretty remarkably normal? I’d go with the latter.

By the next election in 2016 I could vote and this time my vote compass showed that I’d swung far more to the left – maybe even radically so!  As a scientist I found myself feeling much more skeptical of this result than I had of the 2013 findings – surely this level of swing is minor radicalism?  I didn’t feel radical. I hadn’t even read the list of left-wing propaganda that lefties are so often accused of parroting.   The left-wing agenda was something that I was not in on.

But I left it at that and voted the way that made sense to me.

It’s only a few months since that last election and the world of politics has gotten very nasty and that’s made me think.

I haven’t fundamentally changed much since I was a teenager back in the UK, a teenager living in a conservative household, reading the Daily Mail and the Sunday Telegraph, studying chemistry and dreaming of owning my own home and becoming a company Director…..

The world is what has changed and it has changed in a sick way that is obsessed with pigeon holing the whole of humanity into left-wing or right-wing boxes as if there is no possibility of seeing the good (and bad) in both thus totally ignoring the place where I suspect most of us really sit.

And I’m worried about that.

When things become so black and white the atmosphere changes.  It becomes harder to have a conversation with people from the ‘other side’ to you as it seems so pointless when ‘they’ are less on another page than reading from another book entirely!  We have a situation where common sense has been branded as a conservative construct and where anything to do with gender issues, equality, the environment and benefits is radical left-wing.  But where have those thoughts come from?

I don’t know but I do have my suspicions.

You only have to observe the comments under a slightly controversial Facebook post to see how quickly people stop talking and start trading insults.  I used to watch football (both soccer and Rugby – soccer crowds in England in the 1990’s were more violent and aggressive than the Rugby crowds so I’ll use that analogy).   Soccer crowds were separated by entrances on opposing sides of the stadium – left and right.  Once inside the chanting would start – depending on who was playing this could either be light-hearted banter or downright nasty goading.  Whichever it was there was an undeniable air of ‘why the F would anyone even think of supporting them’ directed at the opposition.  It was just unconscionable.

And that’s what politics is beginning to feel like.

We’ve chosen or been allotted sides.

These sides then define, not only how we vote but everything about us. We become bleeding heart lefty snowflakes or racist right-wing bigots full stop.

So who benefits from this?

Well a few months ago I might have sounded like a complete fruit loop for saying this but these days the proof is in the pudding – the political landscape has shifted and we can all see it with our own eyes.

The media love a good fight, it sells papers, makes great click bait and generally gets people addicted in a ‘what’s going to happen next’ kind of way.  So while the media don’t necessarily have the power to start this once that fire has been lit they will at best hide the hose pipe and at worst fan the flames.

But they are not the only ones.

Politicians also know and take advantage of the fact that when we are passionate and angry we are less likely to think rationally, examine the evidence with a fine tooth comb and ask questions to help us understand.  What we tend to do instead is either accept or reject outright what is put in front of us, blinded by our own passions.  I think this is where we are now and sadly we are falling into its trap.

I would have said a month ago that politicians have more control over the media now than ever (professional lobbyists etc) but after reading some Australian history from the early 1900s that simply isn’t true.  Australia’s second Prime Minister, Deakin was adept at prepping the soil for his future political policies by writing either overtly or under a pseudonym in the national papers.  Just like when you are weaning babies, you have to introduce a new food (or new idea) a few times for the baby to get used to it – the same can be said for policy and if you can get into people’s hearts and minds without them realising you are 3/4’s of the way to a win!

Of course these days we have social media to counter and temper the influence of the professional media – we can all ‘create’ news be it by blogging, tweeting, Facebook status updating or sharing or snap chatting.  However, we are shouting into a crowded market that has already been primed for left or right so it is more likely that you get lost in your own echo chamber than find your way into the hearts and minds of the opposition – to do that requires the development of a platform and in this political climate you won’t stand on a neutral one for long before someone shoves you either to the left or to the right!

So what can we do?

I don’t think there are any quick fixes that we can employ to help prevent us from falling into a left or right identity pot (unless we want to) but there are some slow ones and I guess it all starts with becoming aware of how the world is being divided.

I truly believe that we still have more in common than what divides us and as such will continue to try to seek out both sides of the story even when it doesn’t suit me and my personal tastes and views to do so.  This divide and conquer mentality is not going to end well as it is simply not natural.  As I said in my title, a bird needs both wings to fly but not only that, a bird also needs its core,  its centre and I’m happy to stay centred for now.

The politicians right to change their mind.

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Democracy defined on Wikipedia:

noun
A system of government by the whole population or all the eligible members of a state, typically through elected representatives
A state governed under a system of democracy.
Control of an organization or group by the majority of its members.
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It is not a crime for a politician to  change their mind, in fact, in an every-changing world it would be odd not to at times. New facts come to light, the political landscape shifts,  events outside of your control change the trajectory of the future.  A strong and flexible mind is a wonderful thing.  However, when you are an elected member of a democratic system your ‘mind’ is not completely your own.  What I mean here is that your public mind, what you stand for what got you elected is something bigger than you,  that is your mandate.
mandate
an official order or commission to do something.
the authority to carry out a policy, regarded as given by the electorate to a party or candidate that wins an election.
If, as a politician  you want to change your mandate you should be able to put aside your own ego and follow due process in order to avoid undermining the democratic system and losing political capital.
Well that’s the theory anyway.
It does seem to have become the norm to expect politicians to say anything to get the job then do anything to keep (or progress) their power.  Not all politicians do this of course, one doesn’t stop becoming a free-willed (to whatever extent that exists), morally grounded individual just because they got elected but some do behave in a way that leaves you questioning their motives and when they do certain sections of the media seem to love it, possibly even encourage it.
This race to the bottom has, in my opinion made it so easy for people like Trump to get in while saying things that are, at times outrageous, by contradicting himself and even telling it how it clearly isn’t – bare-faced lying.  We have a situation where the boy cried wolf so many times that some are now outraged when these political types actually do what they said they would do!  Seriously, on the Trump issue, in his defence, he is at least getting on with the stuff he promised and didn’t contradict  which I reluctantly applaud him for while at the same time cringing at what this says about us as a society.  And no, I wouldn’t have voted for Hillary and neither do I fawn over Obama but that’s not a discussion for today and this isn’t a discussion about Trump.
I attended the Blue Mountains council meeting last night where councillors were asked to publicly state their support for the councils position (opposition) on the proposed Badgerys Creek Airport.  Two didn’t vote in support of maintaining the councils opposition and that’s fine – council is exactly the place for good, robust debate and discussion to take place and there is no crime in holding a counter view.  However, this whole situation came about because of an article published in the Daily Telegraph on 21st December.  Here it is if you are interested.
I can only speculate at why the two councillors involved opted for this course of action (running straight to the media on 21st December rather than respecting the official channels) and that won’t be helpful as speculation is not fact. I was disappointed see the way these councillors turned on their mandate and their fellow councillors and did this.  While disappointed I wasn’t entirely surprised, I kind of sort of felt this brewing for a month or two now but am not really in a position to do much more than write on here which is fine.  My disappointment stemmed from the depth of the bile and posturing displayed in how this played out both in the newspaper and on the radio.  I am not ashamed to say that I expected more from these two people.
So some background/ context. 
 Both of these Councillors are on the public record as having voted for the councils current position with regards to Badgerys Creek on previous occasions and are also on record as opposing the Airport when questioned before the election (which was only a short time ago). One of the councillors had been present and voted for the spending that has been questioned and has been on council long enough to be aware of its financial position.  In a time when many councils have faced mergers after failing the Liberal State Governments Fit for Future audit the Blue Mountains got through – a fact that wasn’t mentioned in the click-bait headline.
The bottom line here for me is that two councillors are playing games with our democratic process,  disregarding their mandate and dragging the councils name into disrepute.
And that’s not all.
Not only did one of those two councillors see fit to take their gripes to the media (he’s not the first, I lived in the UK long enough to see this all the time but like we always say to the kids – two wrongs don’t make a right), that same councillor also felt entitled enough to spend the whole 1 1/2 hours of the meeting time when this was being discussed on his Facebook messenger to two colleagues in the audience who just happened to be standing next to me. I won’t out them on here but I just hope they understand what they are contributing to and I really do hope that one day they care (again I’m talking about the democratic process and not specifically the airport)). Further,  there were even giggles at one point when one audience member (another) suggested that the behaviour of these two councillors was ‘just politics’ insinuating that we should somehow just accept that as par for the course.  Well I’m not prepared to do that.
So lying and wasting everyone’s time and bringing a council whose mayor got re-elected with a dramatically increased majority vote into disrepute is funny?
That saying one thing before the election then doing another when elected and without first taking your changed mandate to the people is just what politicians do?
There was nothing funny about last night.
And there is nothing funny about the trajectory the world is on.
If people keep behaving like this Badgerys Creek airport will be the least of our troubles.
Politicians do have a right to change their minds but that right comes with responsibilities and in this case it is to respect the democratic process.
So can we all do that please?

High Speed Rail – It’s not all good but I want it anyway.

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I’ve been reading the letters section of our local newspaper with interest since the argument for High Speed Rail vs the Airport was proposed then countered a few weeks ago.  I don’t want to chime in on that particular argument as the people involved are more than capable enough to fight their own battles without me confusing things but what I do want to do is share the thoughts that were triggered within me.

The idea of a super fast train making its way through some of the most densely populated parts of Australialand fills me with joy if I’m completely honest. I am a train lover and have lived very close to railway lines twice in my life – now and between the ages of 5 and 8 (I actually lived in that same house until I was 14 but the railway track was ripped out when I was about 8 leaving a lovely long stretch of cycle way but no trains….).

What my own personal experience has shown me is that trains are not quiet.  Occasionally the creaking and screeching of breaks and engine wakes me from my sleep as the coal wagons chug past at an ungodly hour.  Living in the Blue Mountains this is par for the course with many homes hugging either the train line or the highway or both (often both as the lines do run parallel mainly).  As a consequence it can sometimes be noisier at my house than in the leafy streets of Sydney’s Chippendale, Glebe or Annandale.

Noise is one of the reasons people don’t want an airport out west but it isn’t the only one.  The exchange of letters above included comment along the lines of  ‘ you do know that high-speed rail is noisy don’t you?’ or words to that effect.  I want to shout ‘the idea that trains travelling at super high-speed would be somehow eerily silent never crossed my probing mind’…..

The next big truth bomb that detractors sometimes throw like a hand grenade into a glitter rainbow party is one that highlights the amount of land that will need to be reclaimed and dug up for this project.  Again I’m left wondering why this completely obvious state of affairs is worth pointing out and I am left feeling slightly sad by the reality that some people might indeed hold the view that high-speed rail greenies are imagining the train to either hover like a butterfly or shrink to fit the space already given over to road or rail.   Of course it will take up space and so it should!  It’s a key piece of infrastructure that deserves all the space it needs to get done.

And so we go on.

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I think it is fair to say that plonking a high-speed rail line between Brisvegas -Sydney – Canberra and Melbourne is going to churn up some of the brown stuff and may even have to cut through some ecologically sensitive areas.  Hopefully these risks will be mitigated with the usual level of care and attention (Ahem) but nevertheless it will indeed be a case of ‘you can’t please everybody all the time’.

But for a greeny type (I’m not even sure I am a greeny type but let’s just go with it) like me this project is different.

All of my life I’ve had to watch as fields get churned up and replaced by crappo eco-inconsiderate housing estates and by-passes that solve nothing much.  Sat in road cone restricted motorways as they widen and expand further and further.  Had to concede defeat as the second and third runways get built to take more and more people on CO2 guzzling trips ‘for their convenience’ and in the name of progress when real progress would have been a conference via SKYPE or a once-in-a-lifetime long tour rather than an 8 hour shopping spree in Paris before coming home for Corrie and dinner (something that would happen when I lived in England). High speed rail is not like that, high-speed rail is visionary.

The prospect of being able to travel up and down this huge land by train is, for me, one of the most exciting prospects ever to have entered my consciousness.  It would allow me to take my bike out into those little country areas, to shop in Melbourne or go see my friends in Brissie or take an international flight out of Canberra while leaving the car at home!  It would also allow for people living in rural areas such as Shepparton or Grafton to get into a capital city and work if they wanted to.  Australia can finally spread out and enjoy its self instead of cramming everyone into the kitchen sink we call Sydney! What’s more it COULD allow me to do all of this without expending a CO2 cent thanks to technology that exists today – ZERO emissions trains run from solar power thanks to advances in solar technology.  Sure the reality might be a little less idealistic and it is also possible that at least in the first few years the power might come from a mix of solar and coal but the exciting thing is that this could, with the right will and enthusiasm, happen now and be something amazing!

As for the money and people side, the ‘we can’t afford it’ and ‘we don’t have the population for it’ then I would finish on this.  Value capture is a concept that could work and is one that has been touted by the very people who are all for Badgery’s Creek.  The government could raise money that way.   In terms of population if the current government gets its way we are set to swell in numbers at a rapid rate so planning this on current population is all a bit silly and anyway, it’s not just about population numbers it is about the travelling population, where they are going and what they are doing and little old Australia has proved her worth in that regard with the Sydney to Melbourne air commute coming in at number 4 in the WORLD!!!!  Sydney to Brisbane is number 10!

The last thing I’m going to say on this is if I was Kerry Mather (MD and CEO of Sydney Airport) and co I’d be looking at how I can get my investment dollars into this high-speed rail thing as that’s the future – not another airport. Sure planes are becoming lighter, more fuel efficient, bigger and even quieter but they are a long way away from being able to run on zero emissions and fuel security in terms of future stocks and prices is a very real issue.

So yes,  high speed rail may well be noisy and will probably run right through some rare flower and bird habitat and might even take my house but I still want it because to have it would make me really, really proud to be Australian.

Amanda

PS: just coming back to the noise issue once again, while the noise from a train line can reverberate through a valley it is usually concentrated along and around the area surrounding the tracks.  The trouble with planes is their intrusiveness into wilderness areas. Wilderness is a valuable asset for Australia and will become an even bigger draw card for tourists looking to escape and explore ‘the middle of nowhere’.  A fast rail could secure our airspace and thus ensure our wilderness hikes are not rudely interrupted by a Boeing 747….

PPS: Here is a government report into HSR completed in 2011. It looks like they thought it was a pretty good idea too!

The Gambia and my 19 year old self

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The Gambia has been in the news a bit recently thanks to the elections late last year which saw Yahya Jammeh lose his Presidency, a position that he had held since coming into power in 1994 following a bloodless military coup.  I didn’t appreciate the detail at the time but I was there then, with my sister.

My sister was 17 and had recently left school and taken on a job at a local travel agency. One of the perks of the job was the opportunity for cheap travel, an opportunity we both embraced by booking a week in this small East African Country, I was 19 at the time and stranded at home in the long Uni holidays thanks to an illness that had meant I couldn’t take part in a trip I’d planned to Indonesia.  Needless to say I was desperate for adventure and this looked like being it.

We were booked into a resort during our stay but quickly became bored (as teenagers tend to do) with the walled enclosure and opted instead to get out as often as we could!  One tour was with a local lad who had set himself up as a taxi driver, he was a great guide and even joined us on a tour of the local wildlife park where we saw a lion (while in Africa),  some gigantic spiders and a heap of monkeys (not sure what type, I was a bit lax on the details).   What I did focus on though was  the feeling of joy that filled my heart when I found Cadbury’s chocolate in the local store (which had precious little else inside oddly enough), I cringe now looking back – I should have embraced this wild and beautiful land more fully and left the stuffing of face with chocolate until later.

Anyway….

The other vivid memories I have of that trip are a visit to the local Gambian Witch Doctor at a Gambian banquet and dance night.  He read my palm and told me my fortune was that I’d become a journalist or some kind of writer – the thought never crossed my mind at that time, especially as I happened to be in the middle of a science degree (Chemistry to be precise) and had a terrible phobia of writing due to my appalling spelling and grammar skills but look at me now (kind of sort of….).  We can’t remember what he told my sister – something to do with children and that she’d have trouble with childbirth I think- she’s got four kids now, I saw two of them being born and narrowly missed out on being there for the fourth (for the third I was in Australialand) as far as I remember all births went swimmingly with minimal intervention!  Make of that what you will.

But the biggest memory was of the missile launcher incident!

We were on the road out to Senegal for a day trip and had to clear the way for the military to come on barging through with their gigantic missile launchers and pack of soldiers.  I don’t remember caring for the details at that time and neither do I remember my parents back home being particularly bothered by this sudden turn in fortunes for this small African country, a country whose history we were now part of.   Anyway, after that things did get a little bit more tense with a nightly curfew restricting our movement to just the hotel disco (very funky) and making daytime maneuvering a little more tricky (although I still managed a day trip into the capital without too much drama).  We’d been coup’ed!

If only I’d have known then that the guy who ordered this activity would spend the next 22 years in power I may have taken more notice but I guess I was only 19 and had my own things going on and after all, this was a holiday not a piece for the BBC’s foreign correspondent!

the-gambia

So we continued on with our holidaying, got tipped out of our tour bus a bit further up the road on the way to Senegal thanks to too much mud, made friends with the local children, one of whom I continued to write to for several years afterwards – and did our best to soak in the African sun without getting burned – that didn’t exactly happen!

The main thing I took from that trip was my love of travel, my fearlessness and ability to feel at home in any environment and my ability to track down and secure chocolate rations when everything else looks to be out of stock. Those skills have stayed with me to this very day and left me very much still in love with Africa and its huge heart and spirit.  One day I’ll go back and re-trace my 19-year-old steps….

There is a bit more background into the political history of the Gambia here which is interesting to read now as I look back on my short but sweet experience in the country and the experience of witnessing history in the making – OK so I was a bit oblivious but it all makes sense now….

Life sure is interesting.

Amanda x

Australia Day – Why I want to change the date and no, I don’t sip lattees.

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From the Australia Day website:

“Australia Day, 26 January, is the anniversary of the arrival of the First Fleet of 11 convict ships from Great Britain, and the raising of the Union Jack at Sydney Cove by its commander Captain Arthur Phillip, in 1788”

More here.

But in 1788 there was no Australia,  indeed the very concept of a new country, united by Federation only became popular in the mid to late 1880’s thanks to the Australian Natives’ Association which, to my surprise was not a club for Aboriginal people but a vehicle through which to glorify the middle class whites (mostly male) (OK, that’s my bias there but I reached that conclusion by reading what is written in this link. 

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It is interesting to note that Women were permitted to set up their own branch of the ANA and the Adelaide group had their first meeting in October 1889.  While this is at least a little encouraging what is less encouraging is a note at the bottom of the recorded minutes mentioning the ‘Chinese Question’.  Further investigation shows the ‘China Question’ to be the taxes that Chinese ‘Australians’ have to pay to cross from state to state – taxes that white Australians do not have to pay.  Fair go?

Anyway……

The idea of an ‘Australia Day’ pre-dates federation and was first muted by a ANA member in a letter during the 1885 ANA congress.  The author was a Mr E.W Swift:

‘The idea for Australia Day, to be celebrated on January 26, was first suggested in a letter from E.W. Swift of Ballarat to the 1885 ANA conference. At the association’s suggestion, the Victorian government organised with its counterparts in the other colonies for the first national celebration of the day in 1888, the centenary of European settlement in Australia.’

One of the people to read that letter would have been Mr Alfred Deakin, the chap that went on to become Australia’s second Prime Minister.  Deakin was a key member of the ANA around this time and while he did champion many social welfare moves, especially for his ‘Australian Natives’ he was also  a key voice in the ‘White Australia’ and ‘federation’ mindsets. The White Australia mindset helped shape policy and attitudes throughout the country over the coming decades – some would say that undercurrents of this work still hold Australia back today,  although the governments official position and policy writing changed following World War 2 in 1949.  In terms of the Federation it is clear that Deakin had a significant part to play in pushing forward with this idea and in working out the detail of how a federated Australia would relate to the motherland.

In all this talk of federation, immigration policy and social welfare, Aboriginal Australians don’t really warrant a mention being even less desirable than non-white immigrants.

But these people were in Victoria, in New South Wales, my state, we had Sir Henry Parkes.

While the political talk gathered pace I’m sure there would have been a great appetite for a day to celebrate all that was being achieved in this exciting ‘new’ colony!  While I don’t really know what went on in Sir Henry Parkes mind I can comment on what I have read and that is that the significance of marking this ‘day of celebration’ on 26th January was not lost on him – again, this is from the official government website:

‘There had been much debate in Sydney about what kind of celebrations should mark the centenary. Sir Henry Parkes, Premier of New South Wales, planned something for everyone, or almost everyone. When questioned about what was being planned for the Aborigines, Parkes retorted, ‘And remind them that we have robbed them?’ At the centre of his plans was the unveiling of a statue of Queen Victoria, the British sovereign since 1837, the opening of Centennial Park, a park for the people, and a great banquet for leading citizens. And, of course, the Sydney Regatta.’

And so it went on and on and on and on until we get to today, two days after 2017’s Australia day.

_____________________________

I am 100% for a change of date BECAUSE of this history – because the date was conceived by a middle class elite FOR a middle class elite that excludes the very thing that has made Australia great and that’s diversity, mateship and our easy-going nature. In fact I’d say it has done more than exclude these things, it has tried to squash those traits out of us.

This year it  does appear that the momentum for change has grown and that the opposing voices are getting louder and stronger and I applaud that although I don’t support the burning of flags or other acts of violence.

But our opposition to this date has been met, unsurprisingly, with counter claims that we are just ‘lattee sipping, middle class whingers with bleeding hearts and nothing better to do’.

I am allergic to coffee and I can be just as heartless as the next man thank you.

So why do people like me take to reading history and advocating for change albeit from our position of white privilege?

Because our privilege has taught us compassion, highlighted to us that words and deeds do matter and that there is no such thing as a meaningless date (unless we’re talking about Tinder…)

So what do we want now?

What do I want now?

All I want is the date to change and to change because we have collectively acknowledged the inherent racism and dehumanizing undertones that surrounded the origin of this day.  A day for the whole of Australia to celebrate unless you are a person of colour or Aboriginal?  Really?

But some aboriginal people are fine with the day and want us to just get on with more important things.

I acknowledge that this is true and that there is much truth and value in drawing a line in the sand and walking over it.  Healing. But I remain unmoved in my opposition to this date.

To use the healing analogy just think about what happens when a wound heals over an infection. Or what happens when a wound is re-opened time and time again, even just a little bit?

Let there be no doubt about it, for many this is a fresh, living wound.

Some more recent history:

1938 – Day Of Mourning. 

Many people cite 1938 as the first time that Australia really celebrated Australia Day in the way we do today.  It marked the 150th anniversary of Cooks landing and with it a chance to marvel at how far this great nation had come.

But again, greatness and progress are subjective and some subjects were not ‘loving it’ not least because in 1938 Australia’s Aboriginal Community were still very much treated as the nations underclass.

The 26th of January, 1938 is not a day of rejoicing for Australia’s Aborigines; it is a day of mourning. This festival of 150 years of so-called ‘progress’ in Australia commemorates also 150 years of misery and degradation imposed upon the original native inhabitants by the white invaders of this country.  Read more here. 

Below is a list of just some of the thing Aboriginal Australians had to live with in the good old 1930’s. 

In 1934 the Aboriginals Act, Aboriginal people could give up their heritage and identity and gain access to the same rights as whites.  Nice!

Aboriginal children could still be removed without a court order.

In Western Australia Aboriginal people could be taken into custody without trial and were banned from entering some towns and cities (including Perth) without a permit.

A non-negotiable assimilation policy was introduced and was forcibly enacted.

More here. 

And more recently.

Aboriginal people had to wait until 1967 to be counted in the national census.  That’s only 7 years before I was born for goodness sake – nearly within my lifetime! NOT LONG AGO!

So again, what am I trying to achieve here?

I want us to be able to draw a line and move over it together.  I want that line to be low, ground-low, a line that everyone can cross, that everyone wants to hold hands and step (or wheel) over.  I want us to be able to do this with the solemnity that the occasion deserves and with the energy of hearts filled with excitement and love for what lies on the other side.  I then want us to hug each other before we put another prawn on the barbie, sing our favourite songs and have a go on that giant slip and slide!

And then, when the party is over I want us to go to work putting right all of the constitutional wrongs that have stemmed from this.  That will take time and will,  a change of date will give us the will!

If we don’t do this I fear that the Australian identity, what makes Australia Australia and not the USA, China,  the UK,  Vietnam, Germany or wherever will vanish.  As a Brit whose been here for nearly 14 years I feel anything but a proud Australian on 26th January and I do what I can to avoid all ‘celebration’ – yes I do often just carry on working – It doesn’t have to be like this.

So that’s just a bit of the background into why I can’t learn to just ‘get over myself’ and enjoy this date.

Amanda

PS: And as if I need any further reason to doubt the joined-up-thinking behind this occasion we are now told to eat lamb on this day.  Lamb is not native to this country, sheep are heavy footed and not entirely suited to the soil of this land, often compacting it and leaving it less fertile than it otherwise could be.  Sure I love a lamb chop but how much more dis-connected from this country, this land could we be?  I sometimes wonder…….

 

PPS: So what other date should it be?  Well there is a fun campaign to have it on May 8th as said quickly that sounds like Mate which is quintessentially Aussie and something that really appeals to me I do understand that Jan is a much better time for all things BBQ and fun!  So I think that any date after 1st and before 31st would be good.  Preferably before 26th as that makes it easier to get a clean run at the new school year which currently has to either wait until after the date to return from the summer break or has to straddle it thus leaving two part-weeks and a longer period of time to get the kids settled.