Category Archives: Uncategorized

Vale Inga Clendinnen

A writer who taught me that there is so much more to exploring history and the self than what is in the academy. I have never felt so giddy as I did when I got to hold her hands when she won the Premier’s Literary Awards for Dancing with Strangers. That book, which I return to again and again, I loved for showing me new sides to material I already thought I knew. Here is Text’s obituary. https://www.textpublishing.com.au/blog/vale-inga-clendinnen

Open letter to Turnbull and Dutton about asylum seekers

Dear Minister Dutton and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull,

I am a historian who has spent nearly two decades studying the history of child welfare in this country. My PhD ‘“Such a longing”: the treatment of black and white children in welfare in NSW and Tasmania 1880-1940’ (UNSW History, 2007) was written while the previous Liberal government asserted that the treatment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children who were separated from their families was in accordance with the welfare standards of the time. In 2008 the Parliament of Australia, with the support of Malcolm Turnbull as leader of the opposition, reversed that position and apologised to the Stolen Generations for what had been done to them. Since then, the Parliament has apologised to Forgotten Australians and Former Child Migrants and to those affected by Forced Adoptions. In each of the three apologies the stakeholders have felt they were supported by Malcolm Turnbull – I know this, because I spent three years working with those stakeholders as part of the team which put together the Australian Government’s Find & Connect web resource.

As the conditions for detained asylum-seekers on Nauru and Manus Island deteriorate I am moved to remind you both that the damage being done in your names will have a high cost. The adults you have detained there are suffering and so are their children. Small children and babies. Our own very recent history shows us that this sort of ill-treatment wreaks havoc on the current generation and their descendants, leaving very real scars on the people affected. The shame for our own community is incalculable and you should not be doing this in my name. 

I would like you both to answer the following questions to ensure immediate improvement in the lives of people on Nauru and Manus Island:

1. What will you do to ensure that medical attention, to Australian standards, is available at Nauru and Manus Island (or that speedy evacuation systems are in place)?

2. What will you do to ensure women and babies receive Australian-standard prenatal, post-natal and infant welfare care? 

3. What will you do to ensure Australian-standards of child protection are in place on both Nauru and Manus Island and when will you do it?

4. How and when will you improve security for asylum-seekers on both Nauru and Manus Island?

Finally, when will you resettle people found to be refugees from both Nauru and Manus Island?

I would appreciate a prompt answer to these questions. Please do not write back saying that this is the responsibility of the PNG or Nauru governments. You are party to contracts with these governments and you remain responsible for this situation.

Sincerely, Dr Naomi Parry

The end of a working class pastime

Working class pastimes are always complicated, aren’t they? Gambling, in all its forms, is destructive, whether it’s cards or betting. Ancient “sports” like cockfighting, dog-fighting, bull-baiting and bare-knuckle fighting have all been so brutal they have been banned in English-speaking countries. Then again, “sports” favoured by the upper-classes, such as horse-racing and the betting associated with it, have been heavily regulated to standards of what some consider to be safety.

Greyhound racing in Australia arose from the ancient practice of coursing, which involved setting fast hounds in pursuit of small prey.  Scratching Sydney’s Surface has a great piece about the origins of coursing, which I drew on when I wrote about Lithgow Greyhound Racing Track for Lithgow History Avenue. The electrified greyhound racing track (the tin hare), which we now know as part of the sport now, was introduced in the late 1920s and both reduced the (public) cruelty of the activity and increased its popular appeal. Greyhound racing was accessible, low-cost (compared to horses) and became part of the fabric of many working class communities. There was many a working class household with a racing dog in its backyard.

And now, with Mike Baird announcing the banning of greyhound racing, it’s all gone. On the one hand, too many dogs live intolerable lives, too many small furry creatures are sacrificed and too many beautiful greyhounds die horribly. But it’s another element of working class life that is biting the dust, taking much that is positive with it.

And what will become of those hounds? They won’t all be converted to pets or rehomed. It’s a big change. Necessary, but big.

Neighbourly fun

This year’s Speaker Connect programme for History Week has the theme of Neighbours and I am trying to think of something I have worked on that might make a substantial presentation but I am stumped. In the meantime, as it’s election time, my current-day neighbourhood is always good for a laugh. The defacing of my Liberal-voting neighbour’s corflutes with some very silly symbols has led to media interest!

Art versus history, and vice versa


imageThis weekend I’ve been at home, in Hobart, and at something new(ish), which is MONA. The annual MONA Foma festival (MoFo) is entirely located at the site of the gallery this year, which means some of the transformative power of its former location in the middle of Hobart city is lost. Overall, mMoFo is low-key, quiet, attenuated because it now sprawls over the whole site and because the lineup this year is a tad obtuse. What I’ve seen has been good but you do get considerably bigger bang for your buck at mainland festivals like our very own Blue Mountains Music Festival. The MoFo App is dreadful (no cross-referencing) and I’ll be writing to suggest they copy the Sydney Film Festival’s app, which is a delight, as well as their ticketing system. I enjoyed the SA Theatre Co’s Beckett mightily though – if enjoy is the right word.

Still, I’m home and with my dearest friends. Had a great stay down south that culminated in finding the author of a Great War diary my dear girlfriend Sue, collector extraordinaire, had scavenged from the South Hobart tip. Via Facebook she was alerted to a picture of the author and what a cheeky cove he was. It’s never long enough here.

And while at MONA, a chance to think about art versus archaeology, and art versus history. Gilbert and George, cheeky critics of social mores, old, new and future. imageA giant installation of books formed by lead leaves and glass bindings – which makes me think I’d much rather read the archaeology and built heritage of, say, the Pasminco Zinc Refinery than a constructed piece. Then a piece on Hiroshima that recollected archive boxes and got me, but of course you couldn’t touch it and what use are archives you can’t touch? When boxes evoke things lost, as they did in the show today, I can get it, but tell a historian to keep their hands off it and you’ll get a very erudite tantrum. Then again, perhaps my son is right to say, if you let everyone touch archives they will be destroyed. Oh yes, but I am not anyone.

This is also the week David Bowie died. An archivist (of himself), a songster, a historian (of himself), a storyteller magician, a Black Star. Vale and RIP.

image

 

The end of 2015

I’m really looking forward to the New Year. This last one, 2015, was hard, although it had its riches. Too many changes, brutish and unexpected, although not all of them were bad. Friends filled up and warmed what might have been a cold space, my house and Katoomba became my home again, and my son and I grew even closer. Most of the time I felt as precariously balanced as the stones at the top of this pylon, but I made it. And I did some cool things – I saw whales, watched Sylvie Guillem dance her last performance in Sydney and Lucinda Williams rock out at the Enmore, danced with my kid at the 40th anniversary of The Rocky Horror Picture Show and went to a disco, bought funky furniture and enjoyed being social again. Although the bad bits were very bad, it wasn’t all like that. Onward.

Lockley Pylon, September 2015
Lockley Pylon, September 2015

We will remember

It is Remembrance Day so I shall be thinking about the men and women who have, for complicated and varied reasons, served this country in overseas conflicts over the last 116 years. I will also be thinking of the wars that continue around this world, for reasons only the powerful know, and the people displaced by them, including those who have tried to stagger to our shores. I will remember.

And it’s a day to reflect on the titanic struggles of Gough Whitlam and Malcolm Fraser. Gough was a WWII RAAF veteran who brought our conscripts home from Vietnam. Fraser was a child of wartime who threw our country’s borders open to refugees from that conflict. I’ll remember that too.

Video from the NAA Forced Adoptions forum in March

Screen Shot 2015-08-20 at 7.29.24 pm
In March I was honoured to be part of the opening of the National Archives of Australia’s exhibition about forced adoptions, ‘Without Consent’. I sat on an expert panel on forced adoptions and apologies, along with Sue Boyce, Cate O’Neill, Mick Dodson, Trevor Jordon and Nahum Mushin. It was a superb day, and we touched on many issues around adoptions both past and present, stolen generations, restorative justice, restitution, archival practice and, of course, apologies. The panel was filmed and is now available for view. (I start participating about 48 minutes in.)

https://vimeo.com/screencraftmedia/review/123049132/38798feba6

Screen Shot 2015-08-20 at 7.23.23 pm

Vale Alan Seymour

What incredible timing. Just a month short of the centenary of the Anzac landing, playwright Alan Seymour, who gave us ‘The One Day of the Year’, has died.

Of all the plays I studied in high school, that one, which I read aged 14, was the most memorable. My grandfather, a World War II naval serviceman, never missed an Anzac Day service, but I remember having to attend them, as a Girl Guide, and wondering what they were all about. When I was 14, Anzac Day services were venues for protests, attended by peace activists, Women Against Rape in War and the tragic figures of Vietnam vets, excluded from marching by the RSL on the basis they had been conscripts, not volunteers. I could understand the anger and bitterness in Seymour’s play, but I knew how much it all meant to my grandfather, so felt the pain such protests caused, even as I sympathised with the protestors. It was a confusing time, of wondering what on earth we were commemorating on that particular day.

These days, Anzac Day is, as it has always been, a time of sombre reflection. The protests seem to have fallen away, as new generations rise to march alongside, or in place of, increasingly ageing relatives. Anzac Day marches are multicultural too, and include all forms of service. They really have changed from the all-white, all-male, Australian and British services of Seymour’s time, and things are tipping a little too close to celebration for me. Seymour’s play, which I believe is touring again this year, is a good reminder of how much Anzac Days have changed, and that we still need to question the story of Anzac, and the meaning and cost of military service.

To Mark Scott, on news of swingeing ABC cuts

[inspired by this Guardian Australia report about forecast cuts to news and current affairs on ABC TV and radio]

Dear Mark,

I am a 45 year old historian, who pretty much lives online, owing to a series of paid jobs as a digital content producer and an obsession with news and current affairs, as well as twitter. When I am not online I am listening to ABC Radio, or watching ABC TV live, by podcast and iView. I am exactly the demographic you need to keep (and I’m raising three kids to be ABC fanatics as well).

As a historian, I particularly value the work of the Hindsight unit, and have myself contributed research and my voice for two stories this year – one aired in March and the other this weekend. I volunteered my time for these programs because I believe in them, and I have been impressed by the depth of research of the producers. Hindsight is so respected by historians that it regularly earns awards from peers, as it did this year in the multi-media category at the NSW Premiers’ History Award.

Programs like Hindsight, Stateline and Lateline provide quality research that endures beyond the news cycle – I regularly listen to five year old ABC programs in my work. They add value to the ABC’s digital presence, and make it worth wading through the stream of news grabs. Having lived and worked in Tasmania and regional New South Wales, I also understand the value of local content. I mourn the cuts already made, and cannot imagine what it will be like for those communities if they don’t hear from Stateline or Bush Telegraph, which tell stories of the places they live.

There has to be space for reflection and research in ABC content. Digital doesn’t have to mean dumb – if anything, the flexibility of digital broadcasting is an argument for providing rich content and diverse voices across a range of platforms. But you have to keep making that content, using trusted names that hold your older demographic, but keep us younger ones engaged.

Dr Naomi Parry
Sent from my iPad