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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

Hot off the press

Silent System, available from Australian Scholarly Press
Silent System, available from Australian Scholarly Publishing

Thursday was a milestone for me, as it was my last official day with the Find & Connect web resource. I was distracted from this sad moment by the Canberra launch of Silent System: Forgotten Australians and the institutionalisation of women and children, edited by Paul Ashton and Jacqueline Z Wilson and published just days ago by Australian Scholarly Publishing. I’m proud to say it contains an article by me, called ‘Tracing the Past: the Find & Connect web resource’, which sits amongst work by Shurlee Swain and Nell Musgrove, Lily Hibberd, Wilson and Ashton, Dolly McKinnon, Tracy Ireland, Denis Byrne, Maria Tumarkin and many other luminaries.  The book explores women’s incarceration, sites of conscience, and memory.

As I’ve noted previously on this blog, Silent System came about after a conference last September, that engaged with the Parramatta Female Factory Precinct and the women and children who lived at the site, under government supervision, from 1820 until the last decade of the 20th century. The site has, in stages, contained the Parramatta Female Factory, the Male Orphan School, the Roman Catholic Orphan School and, under various names, the Girls Industrial School. It contains ancient buildings and a lot of hard-lived history, and has been the focus of a ten-year campaign by Bonney Djuric, founder of Parragirls, for public recognition of the critical heritage values of the site and its value as a Site of Conscience.

As it turned out, on the day of the launch the NSW Premier announced that the Parramatta Female Factory Precinct [North Parramatta Heritage Precinct] will be sensitively redeveloped as a cultural heritage precinct. This is a huge achievement for Bonney, and for a number of key groups in the area.

One of the best things about working on the Find & Connect web resource was engaging with committed stakeholders and advocates like Bonney. I’m very much hoping to maintain my involvement, into the future.