“A lot of people want to own land, property, other people… but…in the long run all a man ever owns is his story.” A line from the movie Australia
I know Peter Garret personally and played Midnite Oil’s music way back when other stations wouldn’t touch it. Politics has not been kind to him but maybe we should be kind and break the news to him that there were no Australians present when Captain Phillip arrived and planted the English flag on Australian soil on that first January 26th 1888.
There may have been indigenous people watching through the bushes but they always identified themselves with their own tribal land; they had no larger notion of nation. The names Australia and Australian were to come much later, coined by Matthew Flinders.
On January 26 we bring into focus the divisive story of an invasion by a British colonial power.
The more the truth of it is studied by school kids the more the unfinished business of history will be brought up as the divisive and painful narrative that it is.
The Currency Lads and Lasses are in my view, the secret of our unifying national story.
Every nation established by transmarine migration, South Africa, New Zealand, Canada, America etc. needs an incorporating narrative: A story that unifies and envisions its people for the future by acknowledging and learning important shared values from the past.
Why the Currency kids? School kids will love the story and identify with it. But who were they? They were the first white native born generation and resented anybody who called England home. They laid the foundations to our way of thinking, in the first sixty years they imprinted our national psyche. More importantly the local native tribes loved them and taught them to see the Australian bush with the eye of a lover rather than that of an alien as did most of the British settlers.
The Currency kids were basically raised by the indigenous tribe that lived at what we now call Potts Point in Sydney. (Read my book ‘Us Aussies’ for more of the story). Sufficient to say, at the first muster of the colony in 1801 it was discovered there had been a baby boom. Nine hundred and fifty babies had been born, almost half of whom were orphaned or neglected. These would become the generation that produced our Aussie mateship and tribal inclinations.
But the best part of this marvellous story that is yet to be told is how our indigenous people taught us to see this place as home.
Because our Aboriginal people believe the spirit of the land comes up through the soles of your feet into your spirit, they accepted these kids as members of their own tribe. It is why we belong to this land and in a strange way to each other, no matter where our parents came from.
It is why we don’t care about where you came from so much as about whether you’re a mate and where you’re going; and are you going to help make this a better place for all our kids.
Please tell Peter Garrett and his colleagues that Nov 11 is probably a better day to celebrate Australia. It was the day the First World War ended; It was the day of the gathering at Bakery Hill, Ballarat that produced the Eureka Stockade, the day Ned Kelly was hanged, Gough Whitlam was sacked and Tassie and Victoria moved to become states. It is our story.