Historians Stand with Adam Goodes

Adam Goodes holding Australian of the Year statue standing next to Tony Abbott.

The Highest Honour: Australian of the Year in 2014, Adam Goodes, is congratulated by Australian Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, in front of the national parliament.

Adam Goodes is a prominent Aboriginal footballer and Australian of the Year in 2014 yet he has been incessantly booed by football crowds every time he touches the ball for most of this season. No-one else in the modern history of the game has received such a toxic response from the crowd. Adam Goodes has won the best and fairest medal not once, but twice, yet not even the most unethical footballers have been on the receiving end of such persistent harassment from crowds as this article in The Guardian points out.

This is racism supported by moronic crowds.

Even before the indigenous round late in May, when Goodes did a traditional dance throwing an imaginary spear, the crowds were targeting Goodes. Respected football journalist, Caroline Wilson wrote about the booing, noting that Goodes had requested that his club remain not comment on the matter. He knew that such an action could lead virulent crowds to denigrate him further because he ‘couldn’t take it’. But that should not have stopped other sporting leaders from speaking out about it a couple of months ago.

There are many Aboriginal players in the AFL (Australian Football League) but Adam Goodes is the target because he confronts Australia about its racism. He speaks and acts on his terms, not the terms imposed by the non-indigenous majority. He speaks and acts because he knows Aboriginal people like him are equal to all Australians. Freedom of speech means that all people can initiate serious conversations about how they feel and how our history has affected them. Justice for all can only be had if those who observe injustice are allowed to start an uncomfortable conversation.

Sadly, Aboriginal Australians have been treated like this for too long. Hear successful Aboriginal journalist Stan Grant:

To Adam’s ears, the ears of so many Indigenous people, these boos are a howl of humiliation. A howl that echoes across two centuries of invasion, dispossession and suffering.

Read all of Stan Grant’s article. Feel the existential distress of the original custodians of this land.

This issue strikes to the core of the issue that Australia has to address. We need to own our disturbing history of the treatment of Aboriginal Australians since European settlement. We need to respect everyone, even when they speak uncomfortable truths to us.

We can only act with respect when we shed our prejudices, ignore our desire for ease of conscience and embrace truth.

A powerful statement in support of Adam Goodes has been released by the Professional Historians Association of NSW & ACT.

Please read and share it.



Aussie Rules Football in Melbourne and Sydney

A red and white t-shirt, dark blue t-shirt with Hawthorn logo on and a Hawthorn Football Club scarf

We’re kitted out for the AFL Grand Final here in Singapore. We have an old Swans t-shirt, a Hawthorn t-shirt and a Hawthorn scarf in case the air conditioning is too cold!

This post continues my series, Introduction to Australian History, which is written for people who have recently settled in Australia or live outside Australia and want an introduction to our history and culture.

This weekend the AFL Grand Final will be held between the Sydney Swans and Hawthorn football teams. This is a huge event. Around 100,000 fans flock to the Melbourne Cricket Ground (the MCG, or simply The Gee) for a full afternoon of intense Aussie Rules football. Over three million viewers will be glued to the game on television around Australia and it will be broadcast throughout the world.

Australia’s home-grown football code ranked fourth in the world for attendances at games in 2012. AFL games in 2013 attracted an average of 32,163 fans passionately barracking for their team. Only the US National Football League, the German Bundesliga and the English Premier League exceeded these attendances. AFL is the most prominent Australian Rules (Aussie Rules) competition in Australia, but it is only one among many Aussie Rules leagues in both cities and country areas. Continue reading

Australian Prime Ministers and Their Faith

Head and shoulders of Alfred Deakin

Australia’s second Prime Minister, Alfred Deakin, had deeply held, unorthodox religious beliefs. (Photo by Contributor(s): Swiss Studios, Melbourne [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)

Each of us has a mental and/or spiritual framework which influences everything we do. Our culture and beliefs, whether absorbed in our childhood or carefully thought through and adopted as an adult, act in a complex way to affect our decisions throughout our lives.

In this respect our politicians are no different to every other member of society. We should expect that the beliefs of politicians, atheist, agnostic or religious will affect the decisions they make. This effect may be unconscious and subtle or it may be obvious to everyone.

The ABC television program Compass is running a two-part series about the religious beliefs of Australia’s Prime Ministers from the inception of this nation in 1901 to today’s Prime Minister, Tony Abbott. ‘God in the Lodge’ is a chronological overview that introduces the question of how religious our Prime Ministers have been and how this has affected their decisions.

‘God in the Lodge’ is the briefest of introductions to this area. It covers all twenty-eight Australian Prime Ministers over two episodes of only thirty minutes each. This is not a program about nuance. There is no room for coverage of the subtle influence of religion in Australian politics. It is not a criticism to say that ‘God in the Lodge’ does not dig deep. It is unusual for this kind of question to be raised on television in a country which rarely considers the role of belief in its public history. Committing the resources to raising this topic is welcome. Continue reading

Reflecting on National Reconciliation Week 2013

20130602 Temple by Qi Jie Oh C

Sydney Baha’i Temple – photograph by Qi-Jie Oh.

“Blessed is the spot, and the house, and the place…” The words sung by the a capella choir filled the Sydney Baha’i Temple with glorious harmonies accompanied by the rumbling thunder of the storm outside.  I shut my eyes and allowed the sounds to resonate through me.  Beauty and emotion intertwined in that moment.

The effort to drive through the wind and rain to attend the special service for National Reconciliation Week at the Baha’i Temple was worth it.  We imbibed the teachings of holy writings from around the world which exhort those who read them to treat everyone with justice, to create a peaceful world.   After the service I was fortunate enough to hear Bettina King, an Aboriginal lawyer, and Professor Shane Houston, Deputy Vice-Chancellor at the University of Sydney, speak about reconciliation.

It was the end of a tumultuous week.  During National Reconciliation Week Australians had celebrated indigenous achievement and remembered a difficult past.  We had also despaired when we were confronted by further evidence that our society fails to achieve the standards of inclusiveness, fairness and kindness that we aspire to. Continue reading

The Dream of a Century: The Griffins in Australia’s capital

colour map of the proposed city of Canberra.

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