The Museum of New Zealand/Te Papa Tongarewa in Wellington.
‘Overwhelming’, is the word that sums up my experience of New Zealand’s national museum, Te Papa. It is all that it promises to be but I could not possibly comprehend everything that was exhibited in one visit. This museum reminded me that New Zealand is quite a different country to Australia both culturally and physically.
The indigenous people make a significant contribution to the unique persona of any nation. The exhibitions about the indigenous people of New Zealand, the Maori, opened a new vista to me. I became absorbed, slowly moving through each exhibit learning new words, different ways of living, histories unfamiliar to me. Continue reading
It is important to take time to regularly pause and reflect, however when we are busy we sometimes overlook this. Over the last month I lurched from deadline to deadline and forgot to take a step back periodically to assess how I was going. I hadn’t realised that I was becoming rather stressed, focussing on tasks I had not completed rather than what I had achieved. Then I decided to share with you what I have done over the last few weeks and in doing so regained my perspective.
In March I started a course at TAFE, Certificate IV in Training and Assessment, which will lead me to become a qualified workplace trainer. I have plenty of experience doing workplace training as part of various jobs over the years but increasingly employers are wanting people to be qualified. It was time to do the course in order to back up the experience.
At the same time I was asked to conduct a workshop for historians for the Professional Historians Association of NSW which is scheduled for 18th May. It is titled Social Media for the Cautious Historian – the Basics. Someone working in public relations asked me to provide them individual coaching to help them learn how to use twitter effectively for their work. I am also now one of the tweeters Professional Historians Association of NSW (@pha_nsw) and look after the content management system for their website. Continue reading
Kitty’s War by Janet Butler, (St Lucia, Qld: University of Queensland Press, 2013).
This is the kind of history I want to read. Thorough research, deep analysis and compelling writing, Kitty’s War by Janet Butler engaged me from cover to cover.
In Kitty’s War author, Janet Butler, does not merely recount what she has learned from the diary of World War I nurse, Kit McNaughton, she interrogates McNaughton’s diary, draws heavily on a myriad of contemporary historical resources and produces a searching analysis of war, gender and the nature of diary writing while maintaining an engrossing narrative.
Kit McNaughton served with the Australian Army Nursing Service from 1915 for the duration of the war. Initially stationed in Egypt, she served on the island of Lemnos treating men injured men at Gallipoli. After the withdrawal from Gallipoli she was transferred to northern France where she served in a number of hospitals in northern France treating enormous numbers of soldiers injured in the horrific battles on the Western Front.
Looking back through my notes in my reading journal I see that I have repeatedly used the word ‘perceptive’. Butler does not take the diary at face value and the book is all the better for it. The chapters about Butler’s service on the island of Lemnos treating soldiers injured at Gallipoli would have been bland if Butler had not dug deeper. Butler is sensitive to the cultural constraints under which the nurses worked. The ideals of a ‘good nurse’ required nurses to be stoic in the face of difficulty, ministering angels only thinking of the needs of the patient and not of their own. McNaughton reflects these ideals in her diary hence she makes little mention of the awful conditions under which she is working. Drawing on other sources Butler allows the reader to understand the context in which McNaughton’s diary is written. Continue reading
‘Our Schools and the War’ by Rosalie Triolo (North Melbourne: Australian Scholarly Publishing, 2012).
War is not just about tactics on the battlefield or the machinations of political leaders. It is also about community, both at the site of active fighting and in the home towns and cities that have seen their men disappear to fight.
In ‘Our Schools and the War’ Rosalie Triolo explores Australia’s participation in World War I in terms of community. She focuses on the students, parents, teachers and officials who comprised the Education Department of Victoria. Triolo examines the battle field as well as the home front in her quest to understand how this education community responded and contributed to what was referred to as ‘The Great War’.
The consideration of the role played by Victorian school children in the war is one of the strengths of this book. Throughout the war the Education Department exhorted school communities to raise funds for the war effort. Triolo shares a long list of activities undertaken by students. In Leongatha students raised canaries for sale, made photo frames, caught mice and sold fish they caught. Students at other schools sold vegetables they grew, helped to feed farm animals, gave musical performances, caught rabbits and sold their skins and made fly nets. Innovation in fundraising was encouraged as long as it did not have the taint of gambling.
Children were made to feel as real contributors to the work of the communities in which they lived. Their contributions to the war effort gave them many opportunities to apply what they learned at school. We may have a stereotype view of education in this era, that it was about the three R’s rote learning and corporal punishment, but Triolo observes,
…children were given unprecedented responsibility and autonomy in their communities. They were freed to exercise initiative, step out of desks and classrooms and engage in activities for the wider community as never before.
Preliminary plan of Canberra by Walter Burley Griffin, 1914. Image courtesy of the National Library of Australia.
The capital city of Australia is a twentieth century creation. It emerged from a paddock in rural New South Wales one hundred years ago. On 12th March 1913 Lady Denman, the wife of Australia’s Governor-General, stood on the newly laid foundation stones and announced the name of the city to be – Canberra.
The city had already been born by the time the crowd gathered in the empty paddock to hear its chosen name. The ideas for the built structures had flowed from the minds of American architect Walter Burley Griffin and Marion Mahony Griffin in Chicago over fifteen thousand kilometres away. In turn their design was indebted to the ancient landscape on which it was to be built and the indigenous people who nurtured that environment and from whose language the name of the city was derived.
This year is the centenary of the founding of Canberra. It is also the year when one of our daughters moved to Canberra so we will be visiting it more often than we usually do. Last month we fitted in a visit to the National Library where I saw their exhibition, ‘The Dream of a Century: The Griffins in Australia’s Capital’. Continue reading