Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Vale Wayne Goss: Restorer, Reformer and Republican

Queenslanders were deeply saddened to hear news of the recent death of Wayne Goss, a life member of the Australian Republican Movement. The loss of this incredible man and proud Queenslander has left a gap in the ranks of those working towards securing an independent Australia.

Wayne Goss claiming victory in 1989
TWENTY-FIVE YEARS AGO on 2 December 1989, 32 years of conservative rule in Queensland was brought to an emphatic end when 38-year-old lawyer Wayne Goss claimed victory in a Labor won landslide. Goss and Labor scored a 24-seat swing, the worst defeat of a sitting government up until that time in Queensland. Voters had clearly grown tired of the Joh era and the stench of corruption uncovered by Tony Fitzgerald QC. With the election of Goss and Labor, Queensland was rescued from the deep chasm of corruption, self-indulgence and arrogance it had fallen into.

Wayne Goss’s victory brought a breath of fresh air to government in Queensland. It brought light to the dark corners of government where corruption had taken root and led to a raft of reforms to rebuild the state and restore transparency to Queensland’s political system.

Once installed in office, he presided over the implementation of many of the reforms of the landmark Fitzgerald Inquiry into police corruption. He was absolutely driven to reform Queensland in terms of ridding the state of corruption and restoring the integrity of the electoral system. Establishing the Electoral and Administrative Reform Commission to abolish the electoral gerrymandering that had defined the state’s political environment throughout the Bjelke-Petersen years returned democracy to the people. His initiatives, in areas such as education, health, the environment and accountability, set new and higher standards for Queensland.

Like Gough Whitlam, Wayne Goss fought extremely hard to correct social injustices and bring about major progressive reforms such as decriminalising homosexuality, appointing Queensland's first female Governor, and abolishing the Queensland Police Special Branch.

Wayne Goss surrounded himself with people who would go on to have significant political careers. His chief of staff at this time was Kevin Rudd, later leader of the federal Labor Party and Prime Minister of Australia and his 1989 campaign director was Wayne Swan, subsequently treasurer and deputy prime minister of Australia. Also instrumental in his team in the early days of his premiership was Glyn Davis, who was appointed in the early 1990s to the Republic Advisory Committee.
Wayne Goss was a life member of the Australian Republican Movement.

The Queensland branch of the Australian Republican Movement was launched in 1993 during his Premiership. It was reported in 'Coalition sparks as Libs embrace republic', The Canberra Times, 30 March 1993, that Goss announced plans to remove references to the Queen and the Crown from all state oaths, affirmations and legislation. This was the beginning of an ongoing Queensland campaign.
On 28 April 1993, a new ministerial oath removing reference to the Queen was taken for the first time at the swearing in of the Attorney-General, Michael Lavarch. The Queensland federal politician Lavarch promised to
“... well and truly serve the Commonwealth of Australia', instead of 'well and truly serve Her Majesty the Queen Elizabeth II, her heirs and successors, according to law."
Michael Lavarch was later elected as a Queensland Constitutional Convention delegate for the ARM.
Goss stated in the ARM newsletter, 29 April 1993:
'There is no foreign power or benevolent monarch in some other part of the world watching over us. Australia’s on its own now and we must have a structure of government and a national identity that reflects that we are independent and we are Australians first and we are no longer attached to, or an appendage of, the British royal family.'

On 29 November 1995, Wayne Goss was guest speaker at a major ARM dinner at the Gateway Hotel, Brisbane. This marked his first major step in the republican debate. At this dinner Goss outlined
“... a plan to consolidate the Queensland Constitution and then to consult widely to prepare the constitution for a transition to a republic.”
~ (Armlet, Summer 1995/1996, p1)
ARM (Qld) supporter Gary Shadforth recalls how in May 2004 he
“... had the privilege of meeting Wayne at a Republic Upstairs function held many years ago in an old Brisbane pub held by the Queensland Branch of the Australian Republican Movement. Wayne was the keynote speaker. So many interesting and enlightening anecdotes with that deep rich voice. He certainly was a man who stood out in a crowd."
The last time Queensland republicans heard that “deep rich voice” was at the ARM (Qld) AGM held in the Red Chamber (old Upper House), Queensland Parliament on 24 November 2011. The guest speaker that evening was Courier Mail reporter Paul Syvret. Wayne Goss, as always, sat at the back of the chamber, however on this evening he was in full flight contributing his observations on the current political situation. His voice, as always, was a delight to hear.

Wayne Goss resigned as Premier and Leader of the Labor Party on 19 February 1996 and assumed something of an "elder statesman" role from the back benches.

He retired from politics at the 1998 Queensland state election. After his retirement from politics, Goss served in a variety of community and business roles.

Goss battled a series of brain tumours for 17 years, undergoing four operations to remove them. He died on 10 November 2014.

In a condolence speech to the House of Representatives on 26 November 2014, former Treasurer Wayne Swan said:
With the passing of Wayne Goss, Queenslanders have lost one of their finest leaders. Wayne changed Queensland, the state we love, for the better. He dragged it into the sunlight after 32 years in the darkness. He was a leader of deep integrity. He was someone that we will all miss a lot. I remember Wayne as a role model for leadership and integrity and as a man who always held humble Queenslanders close to his heart.”
Wayne Goss was a premier worthy of celebration.

Vale, Wayne Goss.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Storming Eureka - 160 years on

Today is the 160th anniversary of the Eureka Stockade, a key event in the development of Australian democracy and Australian identity.

The Eureka rebellion came about because the goldfield workers (known as 'diggers') opposed the government miners' licences. The licences were a simple way for the government to tax the diggers. Licence fees had to be paid regardless of whether a digger's claim resulted in any gold. Less successful diggers found it difficult to pay their licence fees. The Eureka rebellion is considered by some historians to be the birthplace of Australian democracy. It is the only Australian example of armed rebellion leading to reform of unfair laws.

Although the 1854 Eureka Stockade insurrection was as atypical as it was dramatic, it was responsible for forcing republican and revolutionary language into more common use.  Shortly before the Eureka insurrection, an American present wrote:

the people are on the eve of a revolution ... Folks here are republican enough in their ideas, though they do not wish you to think so.  The bone and sinew of the country are the workingmen, and they feel a great desire to take care of themselves.
 On the opposite side of the Pacific Ocean, Americans generally believed that ultimately Australia would also become a republic.  The organisation, “Young America”, hoped that Australia would follow the lead of the United States and become a republic.  Franklin Pierce was elected President of the United States in 1852 on the “Young America” platform.  “Young America” believed that the “manifest destiny” of emerging nations was to be, among other things, republics. This idea was picked up by Jackie French in her novel, The night they stormed eureka. 

I was fortunate to hear Jackie French speak at the 2014 National History Teachers’ Conference in Brisbane. French is the third Australian Children’s Laureate, with her post taking in 2014-15, the position having been shared previously by Alison Lester and Boori Monty Pryor.

Jackie French published her first book, Organic Gardening in Australia in 1986, which has been followed by more than 140 titles, spanning non-fiction, picture books, collections, children’s, YA and adult, and incorporating fantasy, contemporary and historical fiction. Her books have garnered more than 60 awards. However, she has become particularly well-known for her time-slip novels such as Somewhere Around the Corner, Daughter of the Regiment, Macbeth and Son, and The Night They Stormed Eureka.
Jackie French’s junior fiction novel The Night They Stormed Eureka (2009) starts when Sam, a teenage girl, seeks refuge in a cemetery after having run away from her mother’s abusive boyfriend. In mental and physical pain, Sam imagines what life would have been like for the family of Percival and Elsie Puddleham, their names and dates carved on a headstone she shelters near. The depth of Sam’s longing for love and comfort reaches across the years to meet a yearning for a lost child, and she finds herself in mid-19th century Ballarat, not long before the bloody battle at the Eureka Stockade. Now in 1854 Sam finds a warm, inviting home with the Puddlehams who run “the best little cook shop on the diggings”. The Puddlehams dream of buying a luxury hotel with velvet seats, while others seek freedom from the government, with its corrupt officials and brutal soldiers.

But it was a time of great unrest among the miners on the diggings and Sam is swept up in the Eureka Rebellion, an iconic event on our national heritage landscape. As the summer days get hotter, and the miners’ protests are ignored with catastrophic results, Sam experiences at first-hand the power of a united stand, which will change her life forever. French’s recreation of the uprising against the British is not the Eureka of history books. She does not know if she’s changed the past or if it was another past. This was French’s way of showing that many of the history books have got it wrong about Eureka. In Sam’s Ballarat the Eureka rebellion was really about turning Australia into a republic, rather than an uprising of miners over compulsory mining licence fees. And while there were only 120 men left in the stockade when it was eventually stormed, in The Night They Stormed Eureka this was because thousands were lured to different parts of the camp through trickery.

Taking a fresh look at our past and recreating historical events is a thread that runs through many of French’s books resulting in the blending of historical events with contemporary characters, like Sam, who create a bridge for young readers into the past. At the end of The Night They Stormed Eureka, Sam awakens in the graveyard to a concerned friend and worried teacher who, suspecting she was homeless, have been looking for her. Experiencing Eureka has changed Sam and, for the first time, she reaches out for help. What she learns at Eureka is that when you stand together, you can change the world.

Jackie French’s fresh look at an event entrenched in our national heritage will touch and surprise every reader on an event that almost turned us on the path to republicanism.


Sunday, November 30, 2014

The Lucky Country and the Republic - 50 years on

The first edition of The Lucky Country was published fifty years ago in December 1964 by staunch republican Professor Donald Horne, who provocatively critiqued Australia as mired in mediocrity and manacled to its past. Half a century later republicans use his ideas to champion a progressive, reforming idea.

IN OCTOBER 2014, the Australian Republican Movement published Speculating on the Australian republic - Five award-winning Australian speculative fiction stories ebook.

This republican speculative fiction anthology presents a compelling preview of the possible future of Australia as a republic (and a great addition to an Australian Summer Book Reading list). These five award-winning short stories show it is through speculative fiction that change can begin to how we see ourselves as a nation — now and into the future. 50 years ago, Donald Horne also speculated on Australian society including Australia’s republican future.

Donald Horne’s The Lucky Country was released in December 1964 as a Penguin paperback costing eight shillings and sixpence and caused a sensation with Horne’s words shaking Australia out of a self-satisfied reverie, questioning many traditional attitudes. The Lucky Country was serialised in The Australian and sold its original print run of 18,000 copies in just nine days. By the end of 1966, almost 100,000 copies had been sold — and over the next 30 odd years, another 160,000. The title almost immediately became part of the Australian lexicon, even if the irony was often lost, with Donald Horne being forever misquoted by everyday Australians.

Professor Donald Horne was one of Australia's foremost academics, historians and philosophers.

A staunch republican, he was born in the NSW Hunter Valley in 1921, studied at Sydney University and then forged a career in journalism becoming the editor of The Bulletin in the early 1960s. In 1973, Horne was made a professor in political science at the University of New South Wales. However it was the publication of The Lucky Country in 1964 that made Donald Horne Australia's most well-known public intellectual and got Australians thinking about themselves.

The year 1964 was when Rupert Murdoch launched The Australian and the Beatles toured to a rapturous reception. Apart from the shock of the collision between the aircraft carrier HMAS Melbourne and the destroyer HMAS Voyagerwith the loss of 82 lives, these were the “comfortable and relaxed years”, to borrow a phrase from John Howard. The country was a few years away from the disruption of Vietnam-era protests and the coming to an end of Prime Minister Robert Menzies’ 23 years of conservative government.

Donald Horne captured the Australian experience of this time when, in his book, The Lucky Country, he wrote the following about the nation:

'Australia is a lucky country run mainly by second rate people who share its luck. It lives on other people’s ideas, and, although its ordinary people are adaptable, most of its leaders (in all fields) so lack curiosity about the events that surround them that they are often taken by surprise.'

Horne later said people remembered the first part of the sentence but ignored the warning in the second. This applies particularly among those who refer to the term the Lucky Country, meaning a nation that is mineral rich, so therefore ‘lucky’ in its natural wealth. Horne was critiquing an Australia that did not think for itself; a country manacled to its past; and 'still in colonial blinkers'. His words were meant as a wake-up call but were widely interpreted as an affirmation of the Australian way of life. They were meant to spark change, but instead produced a relaxed approach and a “she'll be right” mentality.

In The Lucky Country, Horne dissected the mores of a country that was affluent and comfortable — but mediocre. Australians, he wrote, were too ready to settle for the “second rate”.

In the 1960s, republican activity was restarted by authors Geoffrey Dutton and Horne. In British Subject (Nation, 6 April 1963, pp.15-16). Dutton argued that Australia should declare itself a republic, elect its own governors, abolish the use of the word “British”, and substitute “Australian”.

No doubt Dutton’s 1963 article raised the idea of republicanism as an alternative, but it was Donald Horne’s The Lucky Country in 1964 that put the republican debate back on the public agenda.

In The Lucky Country, Horne argued that the ceremonial clinging to Britain was part of Australia’s 'delusional structure' and that, 'in a sense Australia is a republic already'.

Horne also made the original case for popular election of an Australian head of state, before discounting its likely effect:

'One might think that that such a dignitary (an appointed President) would have to be elected by the Australian people but the Australian political leaders might prefer to sneak him through a back door.'

Donald Horne proffers the minimalist approach of replacing the Governor-General with a President. He suggests a number of methods for selecting the President from appointment by the Prime Minister, appointment by both Houses of parliament, a national convention of State and Federal parliaments, and the direct method of election.

After The Lucky Country, Horne took up the republican theme in The Next Australia (1970); Death of the Lucky Country (1976), and The Queen and his satire His Excellency’s Pleasure (both 1977).

In 1970, although Horne could not predict the event that would be the catalyst for the establishment of an Australian republic, he argued the apathy that was developing towards Britain would propel the movement towards an Australian republic. In his 1972 national analysis, The Australian People, Horne argued that political nationalism, as expressed through the desire to establish an Australian republic, had received little support from the 1880s onwards. Instead, the more usual attitude was

'... self-congratulatory on the moral advantages of belonging to the British Empire.'

Australian political dissatisfaction with Britain was expressed only within this context.

In Australia’s history republicanism has always been more than an argument for breaking our constitutional ties with the British Crown; it’s also been about how we can create an improved system of democracy that better reflects our values as a free, fair and multicultural nation. It’s been about a better future and how we can create it through a mixture of reflection, deliberation and decision. It’s driven along by the belief that we can do better and that our political imagination can be trusted to find a system that will inspire and endure.

Our opponents think we have reached the pinnacle of achievement and no good can come from a move to the republic. They fear change and prefer the past to the future.

If Donald Horne was to write his famous sentence from The Lucky Country today, 50 years on, the second half would appear to be still valid. Australians are still living on “other people’s ideas” when it comes to the attitude of many Australians towards the republican issue. However, through the National Republican Short Story Competition. the Australian Republican Movement has encouraged imaginative thinking of the sort we need also to apply to our institutions generally. How could they be better? How can we translate aspirations into goals? How can we achieve those goals?

Thinking and doing, doing and thinking – that’s the key to improvement!

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Speculating on the Australian Republic ebook - now available

Speculating on the Australian Republic: five award-winning short stories ebook is now available for purchase for $3.99 from Amazon Kindle, Smashwords, Kobo and iBooks.

These five award-winning Australian speculative fiction stories from the 2009-2013 National Republican Short Story Competition will intrigue, educate and delight. This republican speculative fiction anthology presents a compelling preview of the possible future of Australia as a republic.
These five award-winning short stories show it is through speculative fiction that change can begin to how we see ourselves as a nation - now and into the future. So, let’s speculate about us, our country – and the future we will share, together.

As these five prize-winning short stories show, it is through speculative fiction that change can begin. We can’t achieve anything unless we imagine it first. Before every great invention and before every great journey is the idea. Without ideas and imagination, we are all trapped in the past. So, for anyone who is interested in speculating on the possible futures of the Australian republic, please … read on.
Short Story 1 - Rook Feast
Rook Feast by Kel Robertson tells the story of the final meeting between the King of England, who is under house arrest, and a minister of the British government. The minister (who is also a relative) has come to inform the last King of England “on a perfect English spring day” what is to be his fate.
“You want me to abdicate in favour of Elizabeth … and leave?”
“No, it’s much too late for abdication.”
“I see,” he said. “Then it really is over.”
“Afraid so.”
“More than 1500 years of history all the way from bloody Edgar. Over. Ended.”
“History doesn’t change,” I said. “The past is always as it was.”
“Very epigrammatic,” he snorted.
He underarmed another cucumber sandwich onto the lawn. A larger number of rooks landed and savaged it noisily.
“There’s nothing that can be done?”
“You’re quite sure?”
Short Story 2 - Inauguration Day
Inauguration Day by Sean Ness tells the story of James Hapeta, an Australian Federal Police Lieutenant assigned to Presidential protection detail with the Inauguration Day Presidential parade. As the Presidential motorcade travels through the streets of Canberra, Hapeta and his security colleagues attention to security is at fever pitch due to a discovered credible threat.
… the President and his wife walked over to the sleek limousine, escorted closely by one particular bodyguard – short and thick, bald and fierce-looking. After the Presidential couple were inside, the man closed their door and approached Hapeta.
“Commander Griggs,” Hapeta said, “What’s the situation? Is he going to cancel the …”
Griggs interrupted. “The motorcade is going ahead. Same route – Ainslie, Antill, Northbourne. Keep your men alert and the formation tight. We get to Parliament in thirty minutes, no less.”
Hapeta choked down a horrified gasp. “But sir, surely with a threat this credible … I know how much the parade means to the President, but …”
“You have your orders, Lieutenant. The President says we continue, so we do.”
Short Story 3 - The King and Mister Crow
The King and Mister Crow by RPL Johnson has the future King William V reflecting on the theme of citizen or subject and issues of individuality and Australian independence while he lays injured in a plane crash in the Australian outback.
“Are you a flying doctor?” the aboriginal asked and enough of my pride had survived the crash to feel a little crestfallen at his lack of recognition.
“No,” I replied.  “It was supposed to be a state visit.”
The old man examined me closely.  “I know you,” he said eventually. “You are the Prince.”
“King,” I corrected him.  “For two years now.”  News must travel slowly out here.  “Before you lies King William the Fifth, by the Grace of God King of the United Kingdom and his other Realms and Territories, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith.”
The man nodded sagely.  He sat down next to me, thin brown legs folded under him like a bushel of firewood.  His pale soles faced me.  It looked as if he could have walked a tightrope of barbed wire without feeling a thing.
“I am Wakarla,” he said.  “You are a long way from home.  What brings you here?”
Short Story 4 - The Harvest
The Harvest by Jennifer Morris explores the theme of defining national identity with its excellent evocation of the country town atmosphere as well as descriptions of the vegetable garden and its connections with a sense of home.
Daniel and young Jim tossed the coin. It landed President side up. "I get to collect the eggs," yelled Daniel. "You have to wash their water dish out Jim. Back soon Gran!" I watched out the window. The boys, my youngest grandsons, ran, jostled and pushed each other most of the way to the chook yard. The original vegetable garden to the left of the yard was flourishing. Broad beans were flowering, the coriander was spurting new growth and the parsley had taken on a life of its own.
Short Story 5 - When the Ice Melts
When the Ice Melts by Ingle Knight with its quietly satirical edge connects the climate change controversy with discussion of euthanasia and dilemmas in the republican debate.
As the air gets warmer and the ice melts we should be facing the end of the world but instead we find our days occupied with another kind of ending. What the two endings have in common is the Prime Minister's lifelong refusal to give credence to either of them until, suddenly, now. I know everything seems strange these days. Nothing is turning out as we would have expected. But what seems strangest of all is that it is the old man's capitulation to the inevitability of what's happening that has been the catalyst for things turning out as they have.

Final Word - Professor Geoff Gallop
In Australia’s history republicanism has always been more than an argument for breaking our constitutional ties with the British Crown; it’s also been about how we can create an improved system of democracy that better reflects our values as a free, fair and multicultural nation.
It’s been about a better future and how we can create it through a mixture of reflection, deliberation and decision. It’s driven along by the belief that we can do better and that our political imagination can be trusted to find a system that will inspire and endure.

Our opponents think we have reached the pinnacle of achievement and no good can come from a move to the republic. They fear change and prefer the past to the future.
Through the National Republican Short Story Competition we have encouraged imaginative thinking of the sort we need also to apply to our institutions generally. How could they be better? How can we translate aspirations into goals? How can we achieve those goals?

Thinking and doing, doing and thinking – that’s the key to improvement!
Professor Geoff Gallop AC.
Chair, Australian Republican Movement

For more details on Speculating on the Australian Republic, email fiction@republic.org.au

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Gough fought the good fight

Vale Gough Whitlam, former Australian prime minister and hero, not only of Australia, but to all true progressives everywhere, who died this morning aged 98.

"It’s time" Gough told us. And because of him, because of his life and his legacy, it’s always time. Gough Whitlam offered us a vision of what Australia might be -- a modern, multicultural nation, where opportunity belongs to everyone.

Free university education and universal healthcare. The Racial Discrimination, Aboriginal Land Rights and the Family Law Act. Protection of the Great Barrier Reef from oil drilling.

Gough ended conscription, the death penalty and he made Advance Australia Fair our national anthem. He put our suburbs at the centre of national debate.

Gough Whitlam spent his entire political life reaching for higher ground – he redefined our country and changed the life of a generation, and generations beyond. He inspired us all in some way and he will continue to inspire us.

At times like this, as he knew, we need an Australian Head of State to lead non-partisan national mourning and celebration of a unique life and contribution. Gough was a great Australian who made a more independent, confident, forward-looking Australia.
Gough Whitlam fought the good fight to create a republican Australia, and the Australian Republican Movement will continue that fight in his honour.
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith”. (2 Timothy 4:7)

Vale Gough Whitlam AC

Monday, September 01, 2014

Our Wattle Republic

Today, 1 September 2014, is the 21st anniversary of the Australian Republican Movement giving its support to ‘National Wattle Day’ celebrations throughout Australia.

September 1 has many names.

Some welcome it as spring’s dawn, a time to celebrate nature’s renewal. For others it is Wattle Day.

It is a time when the smells of spring are in the air and the vivid gold of the blossom is literally arresting. Australians may have made a home for themselves amongst the gum trees, but it is the wattle tree that has found its way into Australian symbolism.

Wattle Day has been celebrated annually on the first day of spring since 1910, when a sprig of the golden wattle, acacia pycnantha is traditionally worn. However the first known use of wattle as a meaningful emblem in the Australian colonies was in Hobart Town in 1838 when a resident suggested wearing a sprig of wattle to celebrate the golden jubilee of the landing at Sydney Cove. There was in this seemingly small gesture a suggestion of an independent Australia.

This time last year, I wrote about the centenary of the addition of a spray of wattle as the background feature to the Australian Coat of Arms.

During 1911 and 1912, Labor Prime Minister Andrew Fisher had taken a keen interest in the complex question of national identity and set about to ‘Australianise’ our governmental system and national symbols.

On 18 January 1913, the Commonwealth of Australia Gazette promulgated a new Coat of Arms for Australia with a spray of wattle as a background feature and a Federation Star, and instead of a shield displaying the English cross of St George, there was one showing the emblems of the six states.

Home-grown symbols, he knew in his heart, were essential for a nation so young.

Wattle Day Association President Terry Fewtrell stated:
It is all the more appropriate that Wattle is the background of our national Coat of Arms, as it has been here for millennia. Wattle has welcomed us all — Indigenous, colonial and modern day immigrants.”
Wattle has been the great witness to the entire Australian story.

The green and gold of wattle leaves and blossoms were declared our national colours in 1984, in 1988 the wattle was adopted as the official national flower and the ‘National Wattle Day’ was formally declared on 1 September 1992.

In 1993, the Australian Republican Movement gave its support to Wattle Day celebrations being held throughout Australia on 1 September. Wattle captures something crucial to the success of the republic — feeling for country. It is a unifying symbol.

Wattle is a broad and inclusive symbol of an egalitarian, classless, free citizenry. It grows in all parts of Australia, differing varieties flowering throughout the year. This democracy of wattles – the fact that they grow in all states – was the overpowering reason why the wattle and not the waratah was chosen as the floral emblem in the early twentieth century.

Wattle celebrations first arose as occasions when earlier generations of Australians stood up and said:
“I am from this land. This place is home."
It is a symbol that comes directly from our land. Wattle is Australian and represents us all. Like the Southern Cross, the appeal of wattle is not first and foremost to the idea of nation — but to the idea of place.

The future Australian republic will also project a sense of feeling of place.
At the moment the Australian Republican Movement is focused on achieving an Australian as head of state. However, the republic is not just one person.

The spirit of the future republic will be embodied in not just the head of state but in place.

Wattle touches all levels of society.

Early pioneers and World War 1 diggers were buried with a customary sprig of wattle. Then Governor-General, Sir William Deane took wattle blossoms to Switzerland to commemorate young Australians who died there and Prime Minister John Howard wore sprigs of wattle at ceremonies after the Bali bombings.

Terry Fewtrell said in a 2014 Australia Day speech that:
“... wattle has journeyed with us in kitbags, pockets and letters to places that become synonymous with our shared story, be they Gallipoli, Kokoda or Swiss canyons."
Australian athletes wear wattle inspired green and gold uniforms and those honoured with an Order of Australia receive awards with insignia designed around the wattle flower.
Independent Australia believes in a fully and truly independent Australia, a nation that determines its own future, a nation that protects its citizens, its environment and its future. A country that is fair and free. So, when the blaze of wattle lights up the Australian landscape each year, let’s all remember that the wattle is a symbol of our land that unites us all.

Find out more about the Australian Republican Movement here.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

The Man behind the Map – Matthew Flinders

It is the 200th anniversary of the death of Matthew Flinders and the publication of his famous map – the birth certificate of Australia.

It looks like Britain has again used money to throw its imperial weight around once more. Britain has a history of keeping Australian artefacts, from Tasmanian Aboriginal remains to the precious cricket Ashes to the map that is considered Australia’s ‘birth certificate’.

In late 2013 two eighteenth century paintings of a kangaroo and a large dog  (dingo) commissioned after James Cook’s historic Endeavour voyage of discovery to what would become Australia were on sale in London. These paintings are the first known depictions of the Australian animals in Western art and are regarded as the basis for our Coat of Arms. However, any opportunity to secure their return to Australian was thwarted by a move involving naturalist Sir David
Kongouro from New Holland by George Stubbs
Attenborough and Israeli shipping magnate Eyal Offer, who put up about $2 million to keep the works in British hands. Kongouro from New Holland and  Portrait of a Large Dog by George Stubbs were first exhibited in 1773 and were in private hands until 2012. An export ban was in place but this expired and, without the generous donation to the Tate Gallery, Australia could have claimed back this vital piece of our past. These paintings belong in Australia as part of our national estate and our enduring heritage.

Portrait of a Large Dog by George Stubbs
Another act of paternalistic arrogance that needs challenging is the refusal of the British government to return Matthew Flinders’ original 1804 map which contains what is thought to be the first reference to the name ‘Australia’. The document which records for the first time the name of a country is an important national record for any country to possess and treasure. Just as it is important for individuals to have access to their own birth certificates so it is also for countries. These are self-affirming documents that establish who we are and where our national history begins. Quite often these national ‘birth certificates’ are created by explorers and recorded on maps.

Since 2007 the US Library of Congress has housed the original and one of the surviving copies of the 1507 Universalis cosmographiae map by cartographer Martin Waldseemüller’s which was the first to portray the New World as a separate continent, and the first to name it America, in recognition of the explorer Amerigo Vespucci whom Waldseemüller erroneously
regarded as the discoverer of the continent.

When German Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel officially handed over the famous map in 2007 she referred to it as

"a wonderful token of the particularly close ties of friendship between Germany and America."
And indeed, the gesture had great symbolic weight, for the chart - then exactly 500 years old - has frequently been referred to as "America's Birth Certificate". However the map has an interesting provenance which now includes the distinguished honor of being one of the most expensive items the US Library of Congress has ever purchased.

But what of Australia’s ‘birth certificate’? The explorer Matthew Flinders was the first person to circumnavigate the Great Southern Land in 1802 and 1803. Flinders’ original 1804 map contains what is thought to be the first reference to the name ‘Australia’. This is considered our ‘birth certificate’ because it was the first time there was a map of Australia drawn up, the first time that title was used. Until then, the continent was known as Terra Australis - on the eastern side it was New South Wales, while to the west it was New Holland.

This map is a priceless part of our national heritage but until recently it was stored at the UK Hydrographic Office in Taunton, Somerset where it was accessible only by appointment. In 2013 the British Government transferred the map to the National Archives in London where at least it is more readily accessible. Australia may claim Flinders’ 1804 map to be the nation's Birth Certificate but that does not mean British authorities are going to be handing it over easily. There is currently a petition for the British Government to have Flinders’ original map gifted to Australia so it can be displayed in time for the bicentenary of Flinders’ death on 19 July 2014, the day after he published A Voyage to Terra Australis.

In 1801, Matthew Flinders was commissioned by Sir Joseph Banks to map previously uncharted regions of the ‘great south land’. After many adventures and mishaps, Flinders completed his circumnavigation of Australia in the Investigator in June 1803. On his way back to England in 1803 to publish his maps, Flinders was taken prisoner of war by the French and held on the island of Mauritius until 1810. Flinders completed his map of the continent in 1804 while languishing in prison. He titled his map: ‘Australia or Terra Australia’. This is the first known use of the name ‘Australia’ by any navigator. The imprisonment of Flinders by the French in the Indian Ocean prevented him from publishing his detailed charts of Australia before the French, who issued Louis de Freycinet’s first complete map of Australia in 1811.

Matthew Flinders arrived back in London in October 1810 in failing health, was belatedly promoted to Captain and began preparing his account of the voyage for publication.  A Voyage to Terra Australis was published by G & W Nicol on 18 July 1814, the day before his death. Flinders’ charts of Australia were considered so accurate that they were used for over a century by the British Admiralty. In 1817, Governor Macquarie, learning of Flinders’ preference for the name ‘Australia’, adopted the name Australians have come to cherish.

Earlier in 2014 the National Library of Australia held the much-anticipated exhibition, Mapping Our World: Terra Incognita to Australia, which brought together over 100 spectacular maps, atlases, globes and scientific instruments from the National Library of Australia and Australian and international lenders, including the British Library, the National Archives of the United Kingdom, the Vatican Library, the Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana and the Bibliothèque nationale de France. This once-in-a-lifetime exhibition coincided with the bicentenary of Flinders’ chart in 2014.

A few years ago Australian campaigners launched a petition to the British Government to bring Flinders’ 1804 map to Australia in time for the bicentenary of his death in 2014. Federal Member for Flinders, Greg Hunt has stated:

“This is the true birth certificate of our nation and deserves to be placed on public display here in Australia. A document so vital to our national heritage should not remain in obscurity. We want to work co-operatively with the British Government to have Flinders’ original map gifted to the people of Australia.”

The map has been dubbed the Elgin Marbles of Australian history. The 2,500-year-old Parthenon Marbles, also known as the Elgin Marbles, were removed from the ancient Greek Parthenon in 1811 by Lord Elgin, the British ambassador at the time.  They have been in the British Museum in London since 1817. Greece hopes one day to display the collection in the Acropolis Museum.

But what of Flinders himself? It was announced in 2013 that the first person to name the continent as ‘Australia’ was to be honoured with a life-size bronze statue on the new
concourse at Euston Station, in north London - one of Britain’s busiest train stations. The sculpture, depicting a working Matthew Flinders in action over a stylised map of Australia surrounded by the tools of his trade and his pet cat Trim, would be publicly unveiled on the 200th anniversary of his death on 19 July 2014.

In July 1814, Captain Matthew Flinders was buried at St James, Hampstead Road but later alterations to the churchyard have obliterated his grave. No parish records exist but coincidentally it is suspected his grave remains somewhere underneath what is now platform 15 at Euston train station project. The HS2 (High Speed 2) rail link between Euston and Birmingham is planned for construction between platforms 15 and 18. On 18 July 2014, the Duke of Cambridge unveiled the statue in a ceremony at
Australia House in London. But what has happened to the remains of Australia’s great cartographer? Were they resumed or just bulldozed over? If there is such a lack of care and respect then they should be returned to Australia where he is appropriately honoured.

Good luck though getting anything returned from Britain!

To sign the petition to the British Parliament – ‘Bring Home the Birth Certificate of Our Nation‘ – go to http://www.greghunt.com.au/Issues/MatthewFlindersMap/MatthewFlindersMap-Index.aspx