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Archive for the ‘Adam Goodes’ Category

Here in South Golden Beach, just a few miles from the Tweed-Byron border, we’re having an easy time of it. There’s water in the streets, and people are boating up and down the lower end of my street, the end closest to the canal, but up on the higher end, we’re warm and dry. The water hasn’t even risen up the driveway and the biggest problem we have to face is that the rubbish trucks didn’t come this morning and we’ve had to retrieve our bins unemptied.

But many of the other parts of northern New South Wales have not been so lucky. The levee banks Lismore was relying on to keep its CBD safe from the floods have broken and they have feet of water in the main streets.

Murwillumbah’s CBD is also flooded, and thousands of people on the south side of Mur’bah have had to be evacuated.

Anyone who’s lived in the area knows this is nothing new, but the amount of water that fell in the catchment area this time was, depending upon what radio station you’re listening to, between 500 and 750mm, all in a matter of 24-36 hours.

So we’ve been lucky this time. The worst flood I’ve seen here in twenty years was the 30 June 2005  flood when the water came to within 15cm of the floor boards. For us here in South Golden Beach, this particular flood is nothing like that.

In truth, the biggest danger we’ll ever face here is from the ocean and our depleted dune system. Our dunes are so low now that the next time a cyclone storm surge coincides with a high tide, we’ll have seawater in the streets. It won’t be dangerous, not like a tsunami, but it will be unnerving for the new chums and for anyone who lives in a house that’s built low to the ground.

Fortunately, there aren’t many of those. The hippie settlers who built here in the ’70s and ’80s understood about flooding.

SGB Cottage. jpg

Their little timber cottages, spurned by richer folk for not being built of brick on a concrete slab were all built at least a metre off the ground.

We’re lucky.

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Aust'n flag

Last Wednesday I heard on Australia’s Radio National that the population of Australia has reached 24 million. Strange, when I was a kid in primary school, the population was 8 million. Australia’s population has tripled in my lifetime.

A great deal of this increase came about, not through births, but through migration. I remember the influx of European migrants after WWII, made palatable to this insular nation by the fear engendered during the war by the threat of a Japanese invasion. “Populate or perish!” we were told. “All those yellow races to the north want our beautiful country, and we must fill it up ASAP!” This extensive immigration program was only possible because the displaced people coming to Australia as migrants after the war were white. NO way would Australia have accepted coloured migrants in 1947. The foremost intellectual paper of the day The Bulletin ran “Australia for the White Man” on its masthead, just under its title.

The bulletin

When the government decided to end the White Australia Policy in 1973 and take in migrants who were ugh, shriek, not white, it had a problem on its hands. The country had been racist ever since its inception in 1788, and this racist attitude became law with the British Colonial Office’s declaration of terra nullius in 1835. This meant that anyone on what was now government property without government permission (viz. The Aborigines) could be treated as trespassers; it also quashed any treaties already signed with Aboriginal tribes. (This state of affairs continued until parliament passed the Aboriginal Land Rights Act in 1976, which made it possible for dispossessed Aboriginal tribes to begin to claim back at least some of their land.)

Austrian Aborigines

The declaration of terra nullius cleared the way for European settlers to take over the land, in the process eradicating a great number of the original inhabitants (occasionally via hunts, massacres and poisoned flour). The results of this are clear to see in the table below.

Table 1.1 Ethnic Composition of the Australian People (per cent)

Ethnic Origin 1787 1846 1861 1891 1947 1988
[Source: Charles Price, Ethnic Groups in Australia, Policy Option Paper prepared for the office of Multicultural Affairs, 1989, p 2].
Aboriginal 100.0 41.5 13.3 3.4 0.8 1.0

 

However, Aborigines were not the exclusive recipients of race hatred from Anglo-Celtic Australians. When Chinese diggers came to Australia in the 1860s, attracted by the Gold Rushes, they were treated with the same mistrust.

Mongolian octopus, 1886[Newspaper cartoon of 1886]

 

When the government announced an end to the White Australia Policy in 1973, it had to mount a new campaign. They called this multiculturalism. Australia is a part of the wider world, they now cried, we can’t be an island any longer.

Although Donald Horne had removed “Australia for the White Man” from The Bulletin’s masthead on becoming editor-in-chief in 1961, most of the inhabitants of Australia were still racist, and the entrenched views of more than two hundred years have proven difficult to eradicate. In 2005, the Cronulla Race Riots demonstrated this to the world.

Cronulla Race riots

Still, the government perseveres, but there are setbacks. As recently as September 2015, elite Aboriginal footballer and Australian of the Year 2014, Adam Goodes, decided to retire, following consistent booing from racist spectators after he’d had a girl who called him an “ape” ejected from the stadium. This booing was not a one-off thing, but continued over months, game after game.

Adam goodes

Although Goodes in a press conference attributed his retirement to his “35-year-old knees”, and “a number of factors”, there was no doubt in anyone’s mind that the continued booing had had a great deal to do with it. (For a good rundown on the controversy, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adam_Goodes#Controversy)

So now we are officially 24 million, with people of European descent comprising about 88% of the population, 74% of this being of Anglo-Celtic origin. But have we put the White Australia Policy behind us? With the Goodes incident mere months in the past and new Muslim controversies looming, I doubt it. The mistrust of more than two centuries is not so easily eradicated, despite the government’s perseverance. I am reminded of that fine last line of The Great Gatsby by E Scott Fitzgerald:

So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

“Advance, Australia Fair” still has more than one meaning for some.

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