Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Aboriginal servicemen and women in separate Anzac Day march

Well, Robert Manne, just a few months after your Turkish Tale on Anzac Day lecture there is a wind in the air. Perhaps it is happening - holding together the memory of Gallipoli along with honouring those Aboriginal fighters who died on the frontier protecting their country. There were no marching bands or Australian flags when Indigenous Diggers march set out from the Block in Redfern yesterday. Sydney's first indigenous Anzac Day parade - proudly decked in black, red and gold - set off to the accompaniment of a single didgeridoo. The 500 marchers were led by about 15 veterans. Then a service was held at St Saviour's Church to commemorate the fallen.
In Canberra, ACT Chief Minister Jon Stanhope is being urged to consider a commemorative day for Canberra's Indigenous groups who died at the time of European settlement. ACT Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Centre spokeswoman Ann Jackson-Nakano says an ANZAC-type day should be established, and a monument erected to recognise Aborigines who died during European settlement and during the settlement of the Canberra region. She says at this stage it is only a suggestion, but she says it is something that Canberrans should consider. "I'm not meaning in any way, shape or form to disrespect the ANZACS," she said. "I'm just saying that, you know, we celebrate this day every year, and I don't see why we couldn't sort of move back a bit." She says there should be a monument recognising the plight of the Indigenous people. "The Australians are a very enlightened people, so I think it's time to demonstrate in real terms the way Australians themselves stand on this issue, and hopefully also the leaders," she said.

A Turkish Tale on Anzac Day

photo source: The Heritage of the Great War.

I just heard Robert Manne speaking on the Armenian Genocide
"despite the fact that the Armenian Genocide was one of the great crimes of history; despite the fact that it took place on Ottoman soil during the precise months of the Dardanelles campaign; despite the fact that that campaign is regarded as the moment when the Australian nation was born, so far as I can tell, in the vast Gallipoli canon, not one Australian historian has devoted more than a passing page or paragraph to the relationship, or even the mere coincidence, of the two events...
Ernest Renan once argued that an act of forgetting can be discovered in the foundation of all nations. Sigmund Freud agreed: "It is universally admitted that in the origin of the traditions and folklore of a people care must be taken to remove from the memory such a motive as would be painful to the national feeling.” According to Renan and Freud, all countries seem to feel the need for a noble myth of origin from which dark deeds and moral ambiguities have been erased."
What a relief to hear some analysis, some thinking that digs into the layers of this day of mourning and expand ideas about the character of the nation:
whether or not we can learn, without flinching, to hold the memories of the triumph of Gallipoli and and the tragedy of the Dispossession (of Aboriginal Australia) together in our minds.
Australia and Turkey: Uncomfortable Thoughts on Gallipoli and the Armenian Genocide' by Robert Manne, Professor of Politics. La Trobe University

Monday, April 23, 2007

Race wars written out of Australian history

What has this photograph got to do with race wars and Australian History? It's a photograph of my grandmother in 1921 on her wedding day. Pa, my grandfather was just back from the war fields of France. Historians Henry Reynolds and Lyndall Ryan woke me up to another story, another war in Tasmania, where I was born. These race wars were a secret during my entire childhood in the 1950s and into the 1980s. So I began this research project and film - to find out how could I grow up in Tasmania and know nothing of the race wars? And now that I know something what am I going to do about it?

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

maralinga - a strange colour in the sky

A few years ago I worked as a researcher on a documentary series about Australia and war; in the script there was a sequence set in the 1950s on the setting up of Woomera in preparation for the British Tests. I did a lot of research, including extensive research into the impact of the tests on the Yankunytjatjara, Antikarinya, Kokatha, Pitjantjatara and Yalata communities, the traditional owners. None of this research was used in the series. This response made me determined to at least name what happened there in this documentary ISLAND HOME COUNTRY. The tests represented another phase of the further colonisation of Australia by Britain.

Several weeks ago SBS news did an item on an anniversary of Woomera - and once again- no mention of the traditional owners. As if they don't exist. SBS is a national broadcaster. I am still amazed that they can make a news item that is so ignorant. It makes me more determined to show it in the film. I heard about the Oak Valley Community cultural project. The older men and women of the community said they wanted to paint the story of the land including the history of the tests and the fight for reclamation. This article says that "in the minds of many Australians still, the most prevalent image of Maralinga is of a mushroom cloud, while the community lives in the Great Victoria Desert, a land of immense beauty and incredible bio-diversity." This is interesting as so often Maralinga is represented by the atomic explosion images. I have now located some of the paintings by Jonathan Kumintjarra Brown and they are full of life in the face of death.