Monday, 22 January 2018

Australia Day - the great divide?

In Australia, we are moving towards Australia Day on 26 January.  

In my lifetime, this day has gone from barely or spasmodically celebrated to become a matter of great controversy.  It has become, it seems, symbolic of settler relationships with First Nations peoples.  Settler relationships have been murderous in some places and peaceful co-existence in others. In the colonization of Australia, history reveals some very unattractive and venal settlers.  Included among these are some very distinguished citizens. I choose not to name the ones I know because their descendants are still very distinguished citizens. 

However, one of Australia's most distinguished citizens whose regard for Aboriginal people was at the opposite end of the spectrum is Dame Mary Gilmore. Mary's parents were a bit different from the majority. Her Scottish parents allowed her to live with local Aboriginal people.  In the book pictured above, we get some of Gilmore's insights.  For instance, she tells that Aboriginal people could count the stars in the night sky; that they used a complex form of tallying on the fingers of their hands. 

We need to remember that we have
overwhelmed but in no way extinguished
an ancient and complex culture and its nations.
And we have so much to learn.

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