If you look here you will find the options open to my niece and her family, and to my Uncle and Aunt in West Sutherland, when they come to vote later this month in a contest far less sexy than the one over in the USA right now, but perhaps more immediately relevant. Candidates include David Redmond (Community First), Howard Boorman (Shire Watch Independents), Jan Forshaw (Labor), Ian Kolln (Independent) and one Darrin Hodges (“Independent”). The last one, who probably has as much chance as the Democrats in the last Federal Election in Australia — less possibly — becomes the focus for a Shire People Are Racist Rednecks story in today’s Sydney Morning Herald: Candidates play white Australia card. That’s Darrin on the right above — the far right perhaps — and what I note is the immense interest being taken by passers-by. The pic accompanies the Herald story.
No matter how unsuccessful this candidate is likely to be, the Herald has run with the story because it suits the media stereotype of The Shire.
THREE years after racial tensions turned Cronulla into a riot zone, several candidates in next week’s council elections in the Sutherland Shire are running campaigns aimed at attracting the xenophobic vote.
Almost 1000 letters claiming the shire “has been slated for a new Third World refugee settlement” have been sent out by three candidates standing for the anti-immigration Australia First Party.
Another candidate, Darrin Hodges, a former member of Australia First who is the NSW chairman of the Australian Protectionist Party, has tried to link high-rise developments with an influx of Asian immigrants.
“To ensure that the Sutherland Shire remains a safe, peaceful and harmonious community of Australian heritage, it is important to prevent overdevelopment,” Mr Hodges said in a candidate information sheet submitted to the NSW Electoral Commission.
“Building large blocks of units encourages ‘Asianisation’ (for example, see Strathfield and Burwood).”…
Mr Hodges said Sutherland Shire should be a place for white Australians.
“It’s the birthplace of the nation. Europeans discovered and built this country and I can’t see any reason why the shire or any other part of Australia should not remain predominantly European.”…
Now in fact West Sutherland, while hardly as cosmopolitan as Surry Hills, is not quite Darrin’s Fantasy Island either.
I am quite pissed off with Darrin for that “birthplace of the nation” line, because my father, I venture to say, invented it in 1958 when he was Secretary of the Sutherland Shire Citizens’ Publicity Committee. I have beside me a sheaf of correspondence on the subject, in fact — letters from the likes of the Lord Mayor of Sydney (Harry Jensen), Asher Joel — not to mention Bob Menzies — and indeed I also have the minutes of a 1958 meeting where my father said: “We seek to make Sutherland Shire attractive to overseas tourists and to make Kurnell, the birthplace of Australia, a worthy ‘Mecca’ to all patriotic Australians.” That was Tuesday 30 July 1958. (I was not in the slightest bit interested at the time, having just turned fifteen and spending my days going to school in a very different Surry Hills.) Dad even wrote songs glorifying The Shire; unfortunately they didn’t get far… Dad’s assessment of Kurnell, incidentally, may not have gone down well with some of his ancestors who were, apparently, Dharawal and may have seen Captain Cook arriving… There goes the neighbourhood, eh!
That Committee was about making The Shire less of a backwater, about attracting — dread thought — industry, about making it rather more like, um, Hurstville.
I paused then while I went to the local convenience store whose proprietors tell me they are taking two weeks off to go back to Sumatra for a wedding.
Anyway, Darrin is too late by half. Auburn Street, where Fred Vallance’s cow used to graze in my childhood, not to mention Ken and Tibby Doyle’s goat, is now wall-to-wall home units.
By 1958 the western part of The Shire had already experienced becoming a home for what quite recently, at that time, were seen as “undesirables” from the Mediterranean — my grandmother was quite vocal on that — not to mention many families from the “slums” of Surry Hills and Glebe — our neighbours in Vermont Street and nearby streets.
And The Shire survived.
Darrin has a right to his views, and to stand for election. What annoys me is that the Herald is palming off what I would regard as a local nutter as if he represented what The Shire is all about in 2008. He doesn’t, and I dare say the election results will reflect that.
This is not to say that The Shire does not have environmental, development and population concerns. I am sure it does, and some of those I would no doubt share if I still lived there. It’s one of the few places in Australia with a nuclear issue in their back yards, for example — the Lucas Heights reactor. Have a look at this:
Now that I would support, personally.
On The Shire and my life, visit Ninglun’s Specials.