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ItemThe Irish conceit: Ireland and the new Australian nationalismRUTHERFORD, JENNIFER (Crossing Press, 2000)Michael’s narrative provides an example of the deployment of Ireland in the new narratives of nation generated by Australia’s new nationalist movements, especially as characterised in the One Nation Party of Pauline Hanson. In the various versions of this narrative I have recorded, we find similar structural elements. Firstly, a claim is made on Irish ancestry. Secondly, a story is told of a lost farm and the attempt to retrieve this farm through a land claim made on the Irish government. Thirdly, the narrative arrives at its denouement by condensing the Aboriginal history of dispossession and subsequent attempts to reclaim land within the greater history of Irish suffering, dispossession and the tragic impossibility of any form of redress for the Australian victims of the Irish diaspora. The mythologised history of Ireland, heavy with emotive and dramatic character, but deprived of any real historical actuality, is drawn into analogy with a compressed narrative of Aboriginal dispossession, colonisation and genocide drained of both historical and emotional content and registering only as a sub-plot, an ancillary tale of lesser suffering. The Irish narrative subsumes that of the ‘lesser’ story of Aboriginal dispossession, reforging a new narrative in which Irish dispossession assumes many of the features of Aboriginal dispossession. The Irish subjects of this narrative suffer the aggression of a British colonisation coloured by landmark features of Aboriginal dispossession. Real historical elements such as the taking of Aboriginal children from their families by the white Australian state, for example, enter the story as the experience of Irish Australians. Irish children, not Aboriginal children, are stolen and institutionalised by the British ‘so that they can lose their Irish accent’. The two narratives are condensed and reframed in order to resituate the Irish Australian as the victim of colonisation. In this process, a series of inversions occur. In the Irish-Australian narrative suffering is brought into the present. Massacres happen in living memory, and are witnessed by and perpetrated on the narrator’s immediate family. In the Aboriginal narrative a disembodied suffering occurs at the limit of Australian history, outside human memory and human experience. In the Irish-Australian narrative suffering is perpetrated on the innocent victims of British aggression; in the Aboriginal narrative such acts are the result of the indigence, violence and barbarity of the Aborigines. Michael’s narrative is actually very unusual in that he names both his father and his father’s mates as responsible for the taking of children, but this act floats out of real time in its ‘all the time’ location.
ItemThe marks of want and careLee, Jenny (McPhee-Gribble, 1988)It is not true that time heals all wounds. Some wounds linger on until the wounded die and their pain is forgotten. A generation of Australians harboured searing memories of the 1890s depression - of hunger, cold, bewilderment, humiliation and fear. But they are gone now, and their memories with them. If the depression is remembered at all, it is for the bank crashes of 1893, which produced panic among the propertied class. The working people and the unemployed who felt the chill most severely left few written records. Here, as in so many other areas of Australian life, the privilege of being remembered, being included in ‘history’, has been open to only a few. But why would anyone want to re-live the sufferings of a dead generation? Perhaps because so many of the institutions we take for granted began as attempts to do something about the effects of the 1890s crisis. Federation, state welfare, arbitration and the rise of the Labor Party all date back to that time. The crisis also ushered in profound changes in family life. As earlier chapters have discussed, the 1890s marked the beginning of the trend towards smaller families, with all that it implies for the way that people organize their lives. If the memory of the 1890s has gone, its legacy is still with us.
ItemHistories and collecting: museums, objects and memoriesHealy, Chris (Oxford University Press, 1994)I want to explore the question of how we might understand the museum in relation to collection and memory. This is one approach to much more general issues around the rules, modes and rhythms of social memory. The capacity of institutions like the museum have, in general, been radically undervalued in thinking about memory.
ItemThe apron-strings of empireLee, Jenny (McPhee Gribble, 1988)Historical discussion of Australia's relationship with Britain has generally concentrated on asking who won out. Was Australia, as Humphrey McQueen and others have argued, a 'willing, often over-anxious partner' in the British imperial endeavour, or was it a victim of British exploitation, as radical-nationalist writers have long maintained? Clearly the answers to these questions depend on the questioner's own set of values. There is plenty of evidence to support either case. But we also have to query whether the question is worth asking in the first place.