Friday, March 17, 2017

The Founding of Oz

Blame Dorothy. Australia is a modern country, amongst very few started from scratch. It was taken over violently from nature-loving natives by a nasty British woman named Dorothy who came from Kansas on a rainbow. She was an LGBT girl. Probably Muslim. Her first act was to kill a man and then she met up with three other decrepit thugs and went on a killing rampage, renaming everything after obscure places near British West Hartlepools and destroying the local flora and fauna.  Nothing to cheer about.

Well, that is very near what you would hear from kiddies taught in our classrooms. They believe what 'Miss' says. Fantasy is the keynote of what passes for history in Australian schools. A mixture of outrage, mendacity, shaming, sheer invention and a huge dose of  culturally destructive lefty sentiment. Real people, real events get lost in the telling.
The only surviving photo of the actual landing in 1788  :)
Every year we try to acknowledge the real great event, and every year we get mobs of lunatics protesting. And how could it be otherwise with the state of our state education. 

America, another 'newish' nation tells quite fabulous tales of its founding, but nowhere near as confabulated as Australia does. It tries though, but as usual Oz does it better. I have never been told by an American about the 50,000+ British convicts who formed a substantial part of their early days' population. Do they even know?

Cathy Dunn tried womansplaining the official bare bones for us in the Tavern, and the splendid Angela Shanahan followed through with colour. Cathy : ....
Between 1788 and 1850 the English sent over 162,000 convicts to Australia in 806 ships. The first eleven of these ships are today known as the First Fleet and contained the convicts and marines that are now acknowledged as the Founders of Australia. This is their story.
The 'First Eleven' is now a term used only in Cricket ! 
Captain James Cook discovered the east coast of New Holland in 1770 and named it New South Wales. He sailed the whole of the coast and reported to the British government that he thought it would make a good place for a settlement. Britain did not recognise the country as being inhabited as the natives did not cultivate the land, and were, therefore, “uncivilized”.
Oh yes it did. It was only in the 20C that 'official' academics invented the term 'Terra Nullis' in their mendacious attempts to blacken the motives.
The agrarian revolution in Britain, and the population explosion in the cities, resulted in an increase in crime.
Hmmmmm. Nothing to do with the decline of morals? Nothing to do with the splintering of Christianity into many competing sects, all 'protesting' against Catholics?  Nothing to do with rabble rousing proto-communists? 
As the American Revolution meant that no more convicts could be sent there, the only way to overcome the overcrowding in the jails was to establish a penal colony in the land discovered by Captain James Cook. The convicts would be transported, never to return to Britain.
With this in mind, the British Government hired 9 ships and set about provisioning them, together with 2 Naval vessels, with enough supplies to keep the 759 convicts, their Marine guards, some with families, and a few civil officers, until they became self-sufficient.
The convicts and marines embarked on the ships, which arrived at Portsmouth on 16th March 1787. They then waited on board until the arrival of Captain Arthur Phillip signalled the time for their departure. By the time they departed, some convicts had been aboard these ships for seven months. Very few convicts (23) died during the voyage compared to the later convict fleets.

The First Fleet left England on 13th May 1787 for the ‘lands beyond the seas’ – Australia, stopping at Tenerife, Rio de Janeiro and Cape Town, where food supplies were replenished. The fleet arrived at Botany Bay between 18th and 20th January 1788.
None of this easy hop across the pond to the American Colonies. It was a long haul. For the long haul.

Then Angela went to town on the education failures, the protesters and the 'officials', and showed the human face of one of the Greatest Human Achievements of the millenium.
Teaching history
Australia Day always brings out the whingers, the whiners, the crazy Invasion Day anti-nationalists and the almost equally crazy flag-draped ‘Aussie! Aussie! Aussie! Oi! Oi! Oi!’ nationalists. This year there has been a lot of fuss about a corny, witless lamb ad which is so passé that it looks as if it were cobbled together from advertising archives from 1975 – when eating a kebab and watching Greek dancing was the extent of most Australians’ appreciation of foreign ‘culture’.

Yet the genuine examination of the intersection of the indigenous and European past from the time of the First Fleet cannot be overlooked. 
It is vital to how we view the present and understand the legacy of dispossession for Australian Aboriginal people. History is important, and it is understandable that some call it Invasion Day. 
But that is not the full story, which is more than fodder for blithe historical mea culpas, which impose the complex modern ideology of identity and dispossession on the past. 
However, the discipline of history is something more simple and at the same time much more complicated than that. It is a pity we have forgotten that history is a story, and in the case of our founding story, it is an exciting one!
So why aren’t we telling children and young people today about what actually happened? 
Many kids don’t even know, despite all the highly political discussion in the media about multiculturalism and Australia Day being about invasion etc., that this was a very exciting maritime adventure. 

That it took over eight months for the fleet to make the journey, that it was done with minimal loss of life, that babies were born, that there were children on those ships, and so many animals it looked like a Noah’s Ark. 
Nor are they taught that Australia Day is not the day the First Fleet arrived; it is the day that Arthur Philip actually took possession, after moving the fleet to Port Jackson.
And what does possession mean? Possession introduced the legal obligations of British law that have been the foundation of our concept of rights, indeed the very foundation on which the concept of indigenous rights is built.
This January, I read two recent books which tell some of these founding stories as they should be told – as stories, not as long dissertations on identity and culture. 
The First Fleet is by Rob Mundle, a practised teller of maritime tales who has written compellingly and knowledgeably about Cook and Bligh.
Arthur Phillip.
How many kids actually
 know his name ?
His book tells the story of the First Fleet as a great maritime adventure which has all the components of well told history: drama, tragedy, and a fair dollop of humour, both in his own words and from the original sources from Tench, Clark and Nagle. 
Although he begins the story as a sailing adventure, as it unfolds it becomes a personal adventure of all sorts of disparate and eccentric personalities, not just a soulless story of British imperial ambition, which was part of the problem with the way the history was taught in the past, especially for young people. 
Mundle makes it an exciting story of ‘what will happen next?’. 
The officers and convicts have lives and personalities whilst undergoing the most awful privations unimaginable to modern kids, including the threat of imminent drowning during terrifying storms, with no hope of rescue (one teacher told me that kids in her primary school class asked why they didn’t bring their mobiles?!)
The unfolding story is of how after landing, such a motley crew managed to struggle on, despite being on the brink of starvation, seemingly abandoned by the mother country, having to deal with a completely alien climate and topography, with near rebellion, and unbelievably, numerous escape attempts – some exciting and successful like the famous Bryants who managed to sail in an open boat to Timor, others predictably tragic. 
And a few hilariously, unsuccessful, like the ill-informed ‘Irish’ convicts who decided to walk to China. 
Their constant attempts to understand the indigenous people, who they were well aware could help them, and their dismay at the outbreak of a disease among them, is all part of that story.

Their first hand descriptions of their behaviour and customs are still the best eye witness accounts of this first contact.
Even though today we think capturing a ‘native’ and putting a manacle around his foot, which they did, so he couldn’t escape, is barbarous, eighteenth century people were actually interested in these people as a group and as a people. 
They also realised the strange absolute Year One nature of these encounters. 
Knowing these stories allows us to examine and understand people and their motivations, especially in the interaction of indigenes and Europeans.
Mark McKenna’s prize winning From the Edge: Australia’s Lost Histories is a deeper yet just as compelling series of stories about survival and first encounters. The opening story of British sailors and 12 Lascars who survived a ship wreck in Bass Straight, and then set out to walk from the 90 Mile Beach in Victoria to Sydney in 1797, is one of the great untold adventures.
That was akin to walking from Cornwall to the north of Scotland. Through thick forest ! 
It is also a fascinating account of various indigenous groups they met; from what they looked like, with bones in their ears and noses, covered in fish oil to keep off insects, to their various attitudes to the Europeans. Some were hostile to the sailors, others guided them over rivers and often allowed them to stay with them in or near their camps. 
It is also a story of how the European sailors learnt to interpret the behaviour of the indigenous people. How a spear deliberately thrown among them was not always a sign of aggression, but of warning, or how being invited to sit among the women and children was a sign of trust, whereas being tolerated on the outskirts was not. Eventually some of these intrepid characters completed the journey.
At a time when so many historical events are interpreted and reinterpreted in the light of political preoccupations of the present, it is refreshing to read a great story. 
Even better, in telling the story, with as little embellishment as possible, McKenna presents history which actually does resonate subtly with the present, without the false overlay of ideology: 
‘The past matters not only for itself. It matters because we give it life, because we seek to understand both its difference from the present and the traces of commonality that bind us to the lives of those who have gone before us.’
McKenna is right, and it’s almost a criminal deficit of our education system that history has been so badly neglected.
It is always a pleasure - I speak only for myself here - to have Angela in the Tavern. Sound woman with a sound eye, speaking sound sense.

It is far less of a pleasure and far more like appalled and saddened outrage that our children in school and young adults in Universities are taught nonsense in order, deliberately, to push them to self-denigration. A nation that forgets - or worse - so distorts its history, is ripe for destruction. 

So drink deep.



  1. It's possibly going to take a generation and a half to start undoing these things - it will need the will to recover the old texts and reprint them. Sure it will happen but maybe not in our lifetime.

    1. Yes. History is just one of the subjects that needs restoration. Across the disciplines one see just shards now where fine constructions once were. But where does one find the teachers from an uneducated, brainwashed population of school-ruined young people?

  2. I am reminded of my visit to the Royal Marines Museum and the wonderful tapestry "The Founding of Australia and the Raising of the Union Flag".

    It being the Royal Marines Museum it focuses on their experience.

    I know I have shared this with you before, but I think it complements your post.

    1. Thank you Cherie. It does. I have to admit that the Royal Marines Museum treats the event far better than do our schools, despite the travails of those far off days.


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The Tavern gets rowdy visitors from time to time. Some are brain dead and some soul dead. They attack customers and the bar staff and piss on the carpets. Those people will not be allowed in anymore. So... Be Nice..