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Category Archives: memory

Helen Bamber

Last night Andrew Denton interviewed Helen Bamber. The prepublicity had been – basically — Helen who?

I had read Neil Belton’s The Good Listener: A Life against Cruelty [1998] some time back – see Only the demons are dancing… – and looked forward to seeing and hearing her for the first time. I was not disappointed.

bamber01 ANDREW DENTON: What is it about the world today that scares you?

HELEN BAMBER: When people, when victims are thrown up through man’s inhumanity, whatever it is, through war, through ethnic violence, whatever it is, I feel the banality of and the denial that accompanies people’s stories and people’s claim for protection when they’re really in danger. Very, very problematic indeed.

ANDREW DENTON: I’m struck by what you said before though when you became upset, you said that these stories have to be told over and over again. Why do people have to be reminded? Why have they forgotten?

HELEN BAMBER: Yes some people don’t know and don’t want to know and have no historical sense of what’s gone on even for their parents or their grandparents, It is the denial of people in a consumer society that we have in our midst, people who are living in danger, who fear danger if they are returned, who may be deemed and (I don’t know whether this is a word that’s used in other countries), may be deemed to be failed asylum seekers. And therefore they are denied protection, they are denied benefits and they’re denied accommodation and healthcare. And I find this extraordinary in a civilised world, a civilised country, a civilised Europe…

ANDREW DENTON: Are you optimistic for the future of humanity?

HELEN BAMBER: I wish we could learn better, both in psychological terms because there’s so much knowledge, and in political terms, and especially in historical terms. I wish we could learn.

ANDREW DENTON: Helen, I’ve asked you to bring in one thing from your life that means something to you. What have you brought?

HELEN BAMBER: Oh yes, yes. I thought about it and course, because I am a collector, there were hundreds of things…but there’s this, this was given to me in Belsen. You know after liberation and when people got better we began to develop a kind of structure within the camp because people were going to be there for so long. I don’t think people realised but people remained there until 1950, many years there was nowhere for them to go. No doors were open for them, and so workshops were set up and a committee was set up, and a theatre was set up and this is one of the things that was made in the workshop, and this was given to me by a young… I don’t know how old he was – probably 16, 17… and he said don’t forget me. When I was holding this and talking my colleagues said you know your holding it a bit like a microphone and it’s interesting you know, telling the story…

A great woman.

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Posted by on November 24, 2009 in History, Holocaust, human rights, humanity, media watch, memory, TV

 

Apology to forgotten Australians

Yesterday was a great day in Parliament.

THEY were called the ”forgotten Australians”.

But the more than half a million state wards, foster children and former child migrants were renamed the ”remembered Australians” yesterday by Kevin Rudd, as he apologised on behalf of the nation for the abuse and neglect they suffered in church and state care.

Mr Rudd and the Opposition Leader, Malcolm Turnbull, fought back tears as they delivered the historic apology in the Great Hall of Parliament House…

You can see a powerful documentary on these matters on ABC at 8.30 tonight.

Meanwhile I have been interviewing an old Darlington resident and activist, Bev Hunter, about the suburb a university swallowed – and I have been going down memory lane rather a bit myself in the process. That’s the current South Sydney Herald project and the deadline is 24 hours off…

See you later.

Update 2.00 pm

Article done. Here is a sneak preview:

Shuffling the years with Bev Hunter

Like old Dan in Judith Wright’s “South of My Days” John and Bev Hunter have seventy years of Darlington memories hived up in them like old honey. “It was a great place. We had the best of it,” Bev recalls. “It was a really safe area. You could leave your key in the door, or leave it open, or the key under the mat. You never got shut out.” …

Wait for the December/January South Sydney Herald for the rest.

 

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Mary Travers – and more nostalgia

Here is the very album I bought as a teenager.

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Posted by on September 18, 2009 in America, memory, music, nostalgia, USA

 

Another from the recently found archive

Most of us write because we like ourselves better when we write. We write because it gives our lives meaning, because we get to tell our stories.

That is from the web pages of Jessica Page Morrell, author of Writing Out the Storm (Portland, Starbound Press, 1998). I have quite an extensive library of books on writing, ranging from the usual reference texts to manuals to literary theory and linguistics. Morrell’s is in the self-help or writing-as-therapy genre, which some might regard patronisingly–but I do not. There are truths about writing in such texts, truths more useful in fact than in much of the academic theory–certainly more useful than most of the postmodern stuff I have had occasion to read lately. But it is not really a case of either/or; different focus, that’s all.

Writing makes your life better because you get to speak your truth and turn a discriminating eye at this weird planet and tell other people just how you see things. Most people who write regularly, who make writing a crucial component in their existence, like themselves better than when they’re not writing. It’s pretty simple. I know it works because it worked for me. If you write regularly–no matter what the subject or format–you’ll shift your muddled worries to clarity, your vague hopes to reality, and your denial to crystal truth….

Some of us write for the sheer joy of putting words on paper, but for others there are leftover hurts or a deep, dwelling loneliness begging to be healed. Most writers know that pain is eased by the company of words. So we write. [Writing Out the Storm pp. 2-4]

Certainly this diary began (offline) in 1999 because of a "dwelling loneliness begging to be healed." I am less lonely now, thanks to certain events over the past two years, but the writing bug is still here, and I recommend writing to anyone. I don’t write every day, but pretty damned close! Just fifteen minutes or so is as good a form of meditation as I know–and now and again it even results in something better than a rant!

Writing Out the Storm has some good practical advice on writing, all the more valuable as it counterbalances the tendency to dehumanisation that academic writing inevitably produces. Academic writing is often very bad writing; is it not ironic that we actually have to teach some of the very worst vices of academic prose to students whose natural inclination is to write well? We have to prepare them to stifle their authentic writing voices so that they can produce the turgid over-nominalised polysyllabic stuff that academics regard as appropriate.
Gary B. Larson’s portal to an annotated directory of writing Web sites, editorial style manual, concise writing guide, personalized advice and writing forum is also well worth visiting.

On other matters, a very well-researched book I have been reading lately is Neil Miller’s Sex-Crime Panic (Los Angeles, Alyson Books, 2002) — from the excellent Surry Hills Library. It is very fair in its depiction of 1950s therapeutic and criminological views of homosexuality, American of course but not dissimilar to what prevailed in Australia and coloured my own views in my late teens and twenties. It is quite a cautionary tale. The review I have linked to tells you more.

— 15 September 2002

 
 

Sunday is music day 24: Click go the shears…

… or perhaps “Quick go the shears…”

Yes, that is SO Australian. But it tells of time past rather more than time present, and is more true of 1909, even 1959, than of 2009. All things must pass, as the article I linked to above in The Australian notes.

THEY are becoming icons of a passing era. As sheep numbers continue to plummet, so do the carloads of shearers crisscrossing the backblocks in search of work.

In Western Australia, where some of the big remote stations could carry up to 60,000 head of sheep in their heyday, the harsh realities of modern life are threatening to turn our most romantic profession into nothing more than a curiosity…

In 1971, there were 155 million sheep across the nation, propping up the long-held notion that the country had made its luck off the sheep’s back. Today, there are fewer than 70 million, and that number has been dropping annually by anywhere between 5 and 8 per cent over the past decade. That trend is not expected to change…

Here is another rendition, in its own way a marker of how this country is changing.

Well, you can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube…

 

Glebe revisited

As I mention on the photo blog, I went over to an old stamping ground of mine today: Glebe and Forest Lodge. One reason was to drop off copies of The South Sydney Herald at the bookshops whose proprietors I had interviewed (on Skype!) for my article in the July edition.

Bit of a private joke this:

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Cornstalk Books was one of my destinations. The room above the shop – empty then – was the place all but the last issues of Neos were launched between 1981 and 1984. Memories!

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In the $5 tray outside I picked up something of a treasure: A D Fraser (ed), This Century of Ours: Being an Account of the Origin and History during One Hundred Years of the House of Dangar, Gedye & Malloch Ltd, of Sydney, 1938. I am sure Jim Belshaw would be interested. (I’ll sell it to you for $100, Jim! ;)) I see it is $25 on that catalogue at the link.

This is the frontispiece by artist Raymond Lindsay.

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And even more, I’m afraid…

Curious, isn’t it? Here I am in this country which has allegedly taken up “curry bashing” as a sport extending beyond the Cricket field and I bought my Sydney Morning Herald this morning, several of the lead stories in which are by one Arjun Ramachandran, from the Indian newsagent to see that Miranda Devine has returned to the theme. I even agree with some of what she says, insofar as the people actually doing the bashing tend to come from a pool of thugs fairly well known for a similar interest in targeting gays, not that Miranda mentions that. (Lord Malcolm was once on the receiving end.) Jim Belshaw’s term “underclass” is another that Miranda eschews. Instead her King Charles’ Head leads her down a slippery slope – no racial profiling intended – where I would rather not follow. She accuses Kevin Rudd of hypocrisy for advocating that vigilante action really is not a good idea, and rather commends the good folk of Cronulla 2005.

…In a strange twist of fate, Superintendent Robert Redfern, the Parramatta local area commander who was hard at work at the Harris Park protests at midnight on Tuesday, was also police commander at Cronulla during the 2005 race riots. We saw then the dangers of vigilantism.

Back then, Cronulla locals had been complaining for months that police were playing down assaults and menacing behaviour by what they described as "Middle Eastern" youths from south-western Sydney. There was a protest, which turned into an ugly riot with racist violence against anyone who looked Middle Eastern, followed by revenge attacks as young men from the south-west drove to Cronulla damaging property and assaulting people, with police nowhere to be seen.

In Harris Park, the script is familiar. Police play down crime problems, victims lose faith in the authorities to protect them, start to protest, take matters into their own hands, attack innocent passers-by. So far there have been no revenge attacks but it’s unlikely police can guarantee they won’t occur.

I sincerely hope Miranda isn’t hoping… And I should add, as a Shire boy myself originally, that the openly racist nut who attempted to be elected to Sutherland Council last year failed miserably.

You see, I brought the first Indian into The Shire myself, or perhaps I did. It was back in 1957 when I brought one of my best school friends, Ashok, home to Kirrawee. That of course was when institutional racism was alive and well in Australia. There was the White Australia policy, generally supported by the Left partly on the grounds that it protected Australian working conditions and kept the “Yellow Peril” at bay, and there was our Aboriginal policy, though that was beginning to be questioned. There the Left had a better track record. Mind you, hindsight is all very well, isn’t it?

My father was a bit worried about the prospect of meeting Ashok. He wanted to know how black he was, and warned me about the strange things some folks did when the moon was full. On meeting him, though, it was almost love at first sight, and over thirty years later, when my father was unfortunately quite gaga, he would ask me how Ashok was, though it was thirty years since Ashok had gone on to higher fields at St Paul’s School in London. His father, you see, was Assistant Indian Trade Commissioner, which explains why Ashok and Anand were in Australia at that time. My mother thought Ashok’s mum’s saris were really beautiful, and Ashok’s manners were at times a contrast to my own.

The local Kirrawee boys were just disappointed that Ashok didn’t have feathers and a bow and arrow…

Forty years on and The Mine had more subcontinentals – who tended to call themselves “curries”—than you could poke a stick at. Not that we did. We did rely on them to keep up the school’s cricketing reputation though.

 

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