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.¬†

australia-day-view

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‚Äôs 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.

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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 РDay 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.

 

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Dick Smith and Pauline Hanson Sitting in a Tree…….

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Background info for those of you who have better things to do in life than…..

Dick Smith is a rich Aussie entrepreneur and one-time Australian of the year who made his fortune in the retail industry – selling electronics, food and his mother (well, that ‘fact’ might need validating). ¬†Generally speaking people have tended to think of Dick as a ‘top bloke’ and hold him and his Aussie-first, Aussie-manufactured goods close to their hearts.

dick-smith

Pauline Hanson is the leader of a political party called ‘One Nation’, has also been the leader of the ‘United Australia Party’ and has been in and out of politics since 1994/ 1995 as part of the Liberal party (Conservatives). ¬†Before politics she worked in her parents fish and chip shop and during her political career she has served time in prison convicted of electoral fraud. ¬†Outside of that Pauline is most famous for her passionate speeches on¬†Indigenous affairs – she¬†has not been a fan of¬†Aboriginal only welfare or assistance packages; ¬†her calls for a Royal Commission into Islam; her suspicious attitude towards the idea of anthropogenic global warming; ¬† her feelings on multiculturalism (it doesn’t work apparently) and other such derisive topics. Needless to say she has a colourful past and present.

pauline-hanson

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TODAY’S NEWS:

So Dick Smith has thrown his support behind some of Pauline Hanson’s ideas and now people are up in arms. No room for discussion, no ‘why, what and how?’ just a big fat dis-endorsement from the general population that involves labelling anyone who says anything that slightly endorses his decision is either racist, stupid or morally bankrupt.

Did you hear him talking to Wendy Harmer today? Much of what he said today made sense to me (except for the bit about endorsing Pauline but I’ll come to that).

He was basically saying that we’ve become drunk on capitalism, globalisation and population growth and NOBODY except for Pauline is talking about this. He says he agrees with global warming, with putting Australia first and with jobs and housing for people here.

I agree.

However, my solution would be to create or join a more moderate group / party and not to throw support behind such a polarising figure but that is probably all too sensible and that is why we end up with these people in power and people like me being called lefty wankers or words to that affect, a phrase and characterisation that resonates very little with me.

Globalisation and Trading Globally are different.
Capitalism can be moderated by values (it isn’t just capitalism or communism).
Planned population management doesn’t have to mean no immigration and neither does it have to mean we can’t help in a crisis.

Rant over. I’m with Dick, sort of. But not Pauline. I’m not a fan of her way.

PS: If you have the time and inclination I’d suggest listening to Dick Smith on this audio. He talks about educating and supporting women as a means of population control and mentions several really valid policy platforms that I think should be debated more widely. ¬†It is a shame that he looks like he could be reduced to just a sensational headline when really he could be offering much more. Maybe someone has an agenda to belittle him….

 

Why ‘no’ campaigns pain the mind. Nothing is scarier than something.

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‘No Airport’

As in ‘it is ridiculous to build a second Sydney airport at the base of a national park out in the populated (and soon to be super-populated) ‘burbs’.’

I shout it, wave signs saying it and don a T-Shirt with the same message but somewhere inside me I feel uncomfortable because I am well aware that for humans the idea of nothing is nearly always scarier than something.

Death – endless minutes, hours, days, months, years of nothing. Imagine that? ¬†No thank you….. Why else to we imagine a heaven full of all the lovely things and people we miss in the ‘real world’.

Darkness – feeling alone, vulnerable, chilled, disoriented, anxious.

Nothing = All.Of.The.Above.

A ‘No’ campaign is good to a point but there becomes a point when people go home and say ‘well, what DO we want?’ ¬†This is especially true when the ‘Yes’ movement is offering enticements.

In the case of the Western Sydney Airport (Badgery’s Creek) the good fellows at spin HQ have been smart enough to package deal the airport as the key to unlock an economic bonanza for the west of Sydney, an area that has been sorely neglected for pretty much ever really. ¬†The western outskirts were where the ‘poor’ and ‘undesirables’ were pushed in the rush to gentrification of the inner suburbs. ¬†New migrants also gravitated ‘out there’ thanks to the cheap housing and larger blocks of land (making some level of self-sufficiency possible).

I can see how the inner city elite might feel that the west must be gazing on with wide eyes, looking up to their inner city ‘betters’ and wishing that they too could be like them. ¬†I feel that this attitude is epitomised by the Greater Sydney Commission headed up by Lucy ‘where are we talking about?’ Turnbull’ et al. ¬†After all, why wouldn’t they feel that way being as though ‘they’ kicked ‘us’ out and for the most part they are stinking rich in a world that thinks that’s all that matters. ¬†The have’s vs the have-nots. ¬†Only when you look closely that isn’t what happened ‘out there’. ¬†We are not in need of charity and neither do we want what ‘they’ value. ¬†I say ‘we’ because although I’m not a flat-land westie (I’m a mountains girl) , to those in the capital (and I’m channeling my hunger-games Katniss here) WE are just pawns in Their game and as long as we are compliant we are rewarded (within reason).

So our reward this time is an airport. An airport with jobs. We need jobs, so many of us commute out of our ‘burbs to earn a living because ‘their’ ¬†imaginations haven’t been able to stretch the 50 plus KM from Sussex Street to create or stimulate the creation of local jobs ‘out here’ over much of the last 80 years but we are supposed to forget about that. About how they have not given a shit for years. But now, now they plan to solve that for us with a 24/7 polluting Aerotropolis. ¬†Nice touch.

So when we say ‘No’ to an airport we are, ¬†by default (and though no fault of our own) saying no to jobs and growth, to government investment and to rewards.

Let’s think about that for a moment.

Let’s think about power and control.

Master and Servant.

Bondage vs Democracy.

Nothing is scarier than something.

I’m taking you down this path of thinking because what the pro-airport lobby has done is neatly enslaved ‘us’. ¬†Be a good servant (let the airport happen) and we will give you a reward (investment and jobs).

They have groomed ‘us’ into this with years of underinvestment and¬†interest. They have abused our trust.

As far as ‘we’ go, when ‘we’ know our¬†place we can become good at it. Become good¬†citizens / slaves, better than someone else maybe. We feel part of something again, we stand a chance of being rewarded, of winning one of the jobs and benefiting from some of the cash splash, the new roads and the shiny new parklands that were once covered in bush. ¬†We can even frame our¬†efforts as making a sacrifice for the greater good if we so feel. It’s all less mentally taxing than just saying No and then being left hanging and far more rewarding in the short-term no doubt.

And that is what they want of course. ¬†The master wants to maintain paternalistic control and what’s more he wants you to do his bidding for him, to ‘remind’ people ¬†of the ‘fact’ that ‘it ¬†(the airport) is a done deal’ and that ‘if we don’t go along with it we will be left out’¬†¬†because it is messy work trying to convince all those people who this is the right course of action to take because people have their own varied minds about these things and some of them might not like it.

Anyway, that’s by the by. ¬†I see this happening, I don’t assume that everyone going along with the airport feels enslaved and neither do I feel that everyone supporting the airport is deluded – there are many benefits that airports can bring to a region and I’m not denying that.

I personally feel somewhat immune to that master and servant game having come from a background of privilege, education and money (sort of).  I feel strong and unthreatened by the establishment Рfuck them, I have other options (even other passports if it came to that).  I am dangerous that way. Not because I want to undermine the authority of the government in an anarchic way РI work within the rules Рbut because I am secure in my ability to access and utilise the full power of the law to defend my rights to say no and stand strong in that.  I am legally entitled to say no and protest. But I am aware of the delicate psychology that is behind this game and I want to shine a light on that, not least because it is this very thing the government is trying to barge on past.

So how do we shift the power in this game?

Turn a negative into a positive, you catch more flies with honey as the pro-airport lobby know all too well…..

The No Airport campaign has, to date been about educating the public at large on the facts surrounding the EIS proposal, an EIS that came out in October last year. ¬†Education was and is needed as some councils (thanks Penrith) decided NOT to inform / educate their communities. ¬†The facts do speak for themselves, no spin, mis-representation or sensationalising of what is in the EIS is necessary to convince many people of the flaws in this proposal. Now whether these flaws lead to people adopting a ‘no airport’ or ‘no 24 hour airport’ or ‘please explain’ is up to the individual but you get the picture.

In my mind the time for the next step is NOW.

We (out West) can’t afford to be held ransom like this, to have our values or our economic value misappropriated, we have to make a counter proposal.

Fast rail is a good alternative to the airport but it isn’t enough, not least because for us in the Blue Mountains the fast rail hub will never be under our jurisdiction. ¬†Fast rail is, however, the proposal that could bring the west together and be jointly and wholeheartedly supported across the councils as part of the solution. But beyond that we are still left with a vacuum, not least for us up in the mountains.

The Mountains Рfocusing on what we can directly control. 

The Blue Mountains stands to lose much in the way of tranquility and unique character if the city limits are allowed to encroach on the National Park. ¬†Pressure on existing roads will grow if we really are to get more tourists pumping dollars into our economy¬†(and why shouldn’t we?) so we really should be asking ourselves, what type of tourist are we trying to attract? How will they get here, where will they stay and what are we selling them? ¬†While at the same time asking ‘what can we do to grow our local economy?’, “what skills do we have” and “what does the environment lend its self to that can boost our economic value?’

It is clear that¬†the government is looking to the west to fill gaps in its budget projections. This is not new to me, corporates do this to their sales teams all the time – the corporation needs a 20% increase in sales when the market is in recession – don’t argue about it JUST DO IT OR LOSE YOUR JOB OR CREDIBILITY. ¬†Of course, the government, as in corporate will have to face whatever reality is real and if aspirational targets are not met they are not met but what isn’t tolerated¬†in corporate or¬†government is a lack of effort, a lack of a plan.

So can the Blue Mountains increase its revenue (and thus the money it returns to treasury) by 5%, 10%, 20%, 40%, 100% whatever AND maintain its identity and clean air? ¬†I am not sure but surely THAT is the conversation we¬†need to be having outside of government – a conversation we can have between friends and families, neighbours and council representatives. There is much here to value and as the world gets crazier¬†we all wish we could retreat to the hills……

But retreat is not enough.

 

So when nothing is scarier than something we stay empowered by presenting SOMETHING.

I believe the key to achieving a just outcome in this situation is to state our values and our value firmly, factually and in economic rather than emotional terms (as it is clear from how the government treats us that emotional value is lost on them).

Which begs the questions ‘what is our value and how can we best work the assets we have in our region?’

What kind of community do we want to encourage? What economic activities could be promoted up here?  Who do we want to attract and why?

I was at an art exhibition opening yesterday Рthree local artists, much talent, expensive paintings some inspired by the local landscape, sell-out crowed.  We have the capacity to generate wealth up here, on our own terms, celebrating what we value WHILE we value and protect the environment.

And there is not ‘just’ talented painters up here, we have film makers, ceramic artists, musicians, singers and actors drawing inspiration from these surrounds. ¬†And not just that, there are our towns full of unique and independent retailers, our coffee shops, restaurants, co-operatives and community hubs. We have education providers, tourist attractions, historical buildings, song lines, ¬†flora and fauna, stories, festivals autumn leaves and winter snow!

So what are we waiting for? ¬†Let’s spell out our potential and show them that it isn’t us that’s scared of change and ‘progress’ it’s them that’s scared of us. ¬†We are far more powerful and valuable than they can possibly imagine especially when, instead of presenting¬†nothing we can present something far, far more attractive than an airport.

I believe that nothing is what they are offering, not us. That they just happened to put it into a shiny gold-painted box and used a loud-mouthed sales man with no imagination to shove it into our stunned hands.

Well I think it’s time we presented a box of our own only our box will be full of something and not nothing.

Because nothing is scarier than something and we¬†know we have something good up here don’t we?

 

 

A Song for the NIMBY’s

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When the milk you buy is tainted by the smell of corporate greed

When the farmers want a payday but the boss says there’s no need

And the land that raised your children

Is attacked from underneath

That’s the day you know democracy is dead.

So don’t just stand their feeling down and shaking heads

 

When the gate you used to lock is not your own to stand behind

And the trees you love just got incinerated in the night

And the motorway is coming and your house is in the way

And the bastards, yes the bastards just won’t pay

Got arrested just for standing up today!

 

Airport EIS is riddled with mistakes, that’s by the way

Because the lobby group saw to it that there’s no bad news today

And the jobs for Western Sydney come with no sleep and no air

But that‚Äôs OK ‚Äėcause you‚Äôre ‚Äėout there‚Äô and we‚Äôre not you

We won’t be shedding tears to blur our harbour view.

 

And in case you feel like dancing we’ll be having none of that

‚ÄėCause the lock-out laws are made to keep Star City Growing fat

And live music is corrupting

‚ÄėCause it‚Äôs art and art is dead

So you’d better all be getting home to bed.

Like the corporate suited plutocrats have said.

 

Well there has never been a more exciting time to stand as one

To cast off NIMBYISM tag lines and to march to that one drum

‚ÄėCause at the heart of all that matters is the people that create

The city, district and the regions we want great

Deserving of an equal voice in this debate

 

Democracy is for the people and the people are not dumb

You can remove elected members but you can’t move everyone

And you won’t be able to hide behind consultants and some cash

When the sky and the economy both crash.

Because your lies will come and kick you in the ass!

 

So as there’s never been a more exciting time to stand as one

Let’s just get on up and do it

I’ll be there, just come along

You’re worth more than just a number in another rich mans game

And I know that you and I both feel the same

And together we can try to change the game.

We can change the game.