The Forgotten Rebels of Eureka by Clare Wright, (Text Publishing: Melbourne, 2013).
This book is bold. A bed-time story this ain’t. Its prose slaps you around the face to make sure you are paying attention. It is assertive and provocative. It sucks you into the time that was, on the Ballarat goldfields of the mid-nineteenth century.
The history of Victoria’s gold rushes and the Eureka Stockade is one of Australia’s well-worn foundational stories. Each year the story is told in school classrooms throughout Australia and children dutifully do their Gold Rush project with varying degrees of interest. Students are told about the flood of people from all over the world rushing to Australia to find gold. They learn about the crowded diggings, about the mass communities of tents which suddenly appeared only to be taken down in great haste when rumour told of a find of gold somewhere else. The lessons go on to tell the story of the miners’ grievances about the compulsory miners’ licence and their complaints about their treatment by authorities on the gold field. They culminate in the rebellion known as Eureka Stockade and the deaths of miners and soldiers after a raid on the Stockade by government forces.
This story could be interesting but the only memory I have of my grade five Gold Rush lessons is how deadly dull they were. One of my daughters didn’t see the point of the project at all. Yet to my surprise a few months ago the same child, now an adult, told me how much she enjoyed reading an academic article about the Gold Rush for her first year university history course. The article was by Clare Wright, the author of The Forgotten Rebels of Eureka. I was aware of the impending release of her book but the fact that Wright’s academic writing had excited a student who had a personal history of thorough disinterest in Gold Rush history made me eager to read the book.
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The State Library of New South Wales holds the diaries and letters of over five hundred people who served in World War I. Today they launched a new section of their website to make these more accessible to the public and to seek more information about the diarists from family members.
A few months ago I wrote some posts about this collection and added a page on this blog to help people find the transcriptions of the diaries on the State Library website. As I said at the time volunteers are still transcribing diaries. Currently the diaries of 238 people have been transcribed but this will increase until the transcription process is completed in the middle of 2014.
Today I have taken down the page on this site where I listed the diaries that had been transcribed as at the beginning of September. The State Library now has an easily searchable list which will be continually updated. This will be a more reliable source than my page.
I encourage you to explore the Library’s WWI commemoration pages. There is a wealth of material there. Here are some of what I think are the highlights of the website: Continue reading
It was with great sadness that we learned that history teacher, Ms Ann Hardy, died in an accident while on holiday in Thailand. She was one of a group of special teachers at my children’s high school. She had tremendous rapport with the students and her energy enlivened the school. Last year she was a finalist for the NEiTA 2012 ASG Inspirational Teaching Awards.
The principal of Killarney Heights High School, Ms Kim Jackson, wrote the following obituary for Ms Hardy which I reprint with permission.
As term 4 began at Killarney Heights High School we were shocked to hear that Mrs Ann Hardy and her husband Dr Carlos Hardy had been in a motor bike accident in Thailand. This shock turned to grief upon hearing last Friday that Mrs Hardy had passed away. To those who knew and loved her she was a bright and vibrant person who set high standards for herself and others. She was a very dedicated, passionate and committed educator and was very involved in the corporate life of Killarney Heights High School. Continue reading
My mother did the traditional thing when she married in 1963. She left work to raise children. She did housework and in her spare time enjoyed embroidering. She even exhibited her embroidery. But underneath this conventional exterior my mother did things differently.
Mum decided to complete year twelve when I was a baby. Her mother-in-law approved of her studying. “She was pleased to have a daughter in law that had a mind above housework”, recalled my mother. My grandmother had gone to university herself and worked in London and Paris in the 1920s. My mother appreciates the fact that her mother-in-law encouraged her and looked after me while my mother did her year twelve exams.
My father got a new job so we moved away from our family in Melbourne and settled in Hobart. I remember at dinner my father would invariably ask what my mother had done that day. As a seven or eight year old I disliked the question because I knew the dreary response that would come from my mother. “I washed the clothes and hung them out, then I vacuumed the stairs and upstairs….” Zzzzzz. As a child I recognised how deadly dull my mother’s life was and felt sorry for her.
Of course I didn’t say anything to her about that at the time but years later Mum told me how much she dreaded that habitual question from my father. However, my father was listening. “He saw I was bored”, she said. An advertisement in the newspaper attracted my father’s attention. It was about studying at university. He encouraged my mother to apply. This would have been 1972 or 1973. Continue reading
Warning: This post contains references to Aboriginal people who are now deceased. The books referred to in this post may also contain references and images of deceased Aboriginal people.
My Ngarrindjeri Calling by Doreen Kartinyeri and Sue Anderson (Aboriginal Studies Press: Canberra, 2008).
“Never put black history on white paper” the elders taught her. One time Doreen Kartinyeri did not follow this instruction. She wrote about secret women’s business on Kumarangk (Hindmarsh Island), South Australia, in a bid to stop the desecration of important Aboriginal sites on the island. The instruction, “to be read by women only” was written on the outside of the sealed envelope and it was sent to the office of the Federal minister for Aboriginal Affairs in Canberra.
In this memoir Doreen Kartinyeri gives her explanation of the Hindmarsh Island Bridge controversy of the 1990s. Kartinyeri shares the story of her life and explains how she came to know about the secret women’s business. Her life story clearly establishes her expertise in Aboriginal knowledge and her identity as a Ngarrindjeri woman.
Kartinyeri was devastated when the Federal shadow minister for the environment, Ian McLachlan, threw her instructions aside and tabled the contents of the envelope in parliament. “I knew I would pay for this error of judgement”, she says. “That day my mi: wi [soul, spirit] was ruptured. I should never have put black words on white paper, and my punishment for breaking that Ngarrindjeri law was about to begin.” “It was still no consolation when two days later McLachlan did resign or even when Deane Fergie brought the secret envelopes back from Canberra. I was feeling really disturbed, really sick to my stomach about it all”.
A Royal Commission was held in South Australia to ascertain whether the Aboriginal women had fabricated evidence about secret women’s business. It concluded that they had lied. “I cried enough tears to flush the River Murray”, said Kartinyeri.
This book sears with emotion. Kartinyeri’s childhood on a mission living in a two-room house built from flattened kerosene tins was rent apart when her mother died. At the age of ten she was forced to leave the mission and live in the Fullarton Girls Home in Adelaide. Continue reading
History Week banners along Macqurie Street in Sydney.
The last month has been about doing what I do, but differently. For the first time I have participated in the annual NSW History Week, participated in a panel discussion at a symposium and used programming to aid my historical research.
History Week had many great events both for historians and for the general public. I attended six events in four days. Over the last month I have written about some of these events such as the discussion held at the Australian National Maritime Museum about sharing historic photos online and the History Walk in North Sydney. There are two other History Week events that I want to briefly share with you here, the History and Media Symposium and the NSW Premier’s History Awards. I will finish with a quick introduction to the uses of programming in historical research. Continue reading
A photo from 1930 held by the Australian National Maritime Museum, part of a presentation given by the Museum’s Nicole Cama.
Everyone has a drawer full of old photos. Each photo has its own importance. The photographer used precious film to take the photo and paid to have them developed. They were kept because they were an important store of memory. But the memory has disappeared into the past. We gaze at the photos today, reluctant to dispose of them yet for us many of these images are meaningless. The person who first stored the photographs often failed to record identifying details with them.
Our cultural institutions also have these drawers of photos – hundreds and thousands of them like the one above. They were regarded as an important record of a society in the past, but today many of these images are mysteries. No museum, library or archive could dream of discarding these photos, but without knowing the context of these photos they are reduced to meaningless bits of paper.
This is where the citizen curator steps in. Working through social media on the internet, citizen curators apply their knowledge, diligence, enthusiasm and generosity to help cultural organisations identify people, locations and the overall context of photos in their collections. We heard about this exciting work at a History Week event, ‘From Glass-plate to Cyber-space’ hosted by the Australian National Maritime Museum. Continue reading