Aussie Yarns - Dave Goddard

Stories about Australia

Month: April 2017



Hi. We’ve been doing a lot of presentations on Aussie Yarns over the last two months. Organizations such as University of the Third Age (U3A), View, Probus and National Seniors have made the presentations very enjoyable. Part of what makes each one worthwhile is to see the passion that participants have for the goal of each entity. For example, and these are my words, the focus of U3A is for life-long learning. We’ve found when presenting in such forums, the themes in Hiding Place, Turn on a Light and The WILUNA Solution are seen as ideas to stretch the imagination and thinking of participants, rather than concepts to be challenged or ignored. As another example, people in National Seniors have a focus I describe as being a political voice for older people. And presenting in such forums to people with different views leads to differences in understanding, the product of each one’s analysis, which is then integrated into their ways of thinking. Those differences in thinking caused us to leave knowing that conversations on what had been presented would continue to debated long after we had left. That was particularly true of the National Seniors Group, Kalamunda with 111 people present. Such a wide range of views and the enthusiasm of participants in such meetings can only be healthy, we’re sure.

Different Ways of Thinking

Since embarking on the writing of novels, and mainly because my focus, either directly or indirectly, is on Aboriginal cultures and differences between those cultures and my own, I’ve been criticized on a number of occasions. The criticism is that I’m not an Aboriginal person and not, therefore, of a specific Aboriginal language group. On that basis, I should not be presenting Aboriginal views on such themes as assimilation, dependence and dysfunction. On a few occasions, organizations in rural towns have declined to take copies of my three novels. The reason each time has been that their representative had discussed the idea with local Aboriginal people who made comments similar those already stated.

I agree with the first two comment: I am not an Aboriginal person and as far as I know, am not descended from any Aboriginal person. Therefore, it’s accurate to classify me as not belonging to any specific Aboriginal group. I find, however, that I diverge from the thinking of those who criticize me for presenting on the areas stated. As I say on my home page:

desert pondCountry LeonoraDesertWalk12“Interpretations of things Aboriginal in these stories are mine and I am not an Aborigine. In terms of what I write about the Aboriginal world, I readily accept that only Aboriginal people can speak accurately for each one’s language group. So I don’t claim that my summaries and interpretations of Aboriginal ways of knowing and doing are accurate: only that my stories are a whitefella interpretation of what he’s come to learn about those things. And I’m happy to be told there is another way of thinking about them.”

Have a great week, spare a thought about the reason for ANZAC DAY on Tuesday and a reminder that my next short story will be on 101.7 on Saturday, May 7th. I’ll be with you again soon.

Dave G



An Australian Identity

Two things have recently come to mind related to Aboriginal and Indigenous people. The first was on social media and the second in The West Australian.

The social media comment came from an Aboriginal friend on Facebook. She is from the Pilbara and while I paraphrase her comment, there was substance in what she wrote. It comes from a person who spent some of her childhood on an Aboriginal reserve in a northern town, living through annual cyclones and appreciating the devastation they caused. Her comment was that while she felt sympathy for all the people of Queensland who faced the cyclone and the floods and devastation that it wrought, she wondered why all media coverage she’d seen showed wrecked yachts and motor launches, ruined double-storey houses and badly damaged four-wheel drives. Why wasn’t there, she wondered, just one still-photo or five seconds of video showing something of the devastation caused in remote Aboriginal communities along the coast and inland? She believed that the media was showing the devastation caused to wealthy non-Aboriginal people and nothing of what would have occurred for Aboriginal people. And that story leads me into the second part of this blog.

While acknowledging the special place of Aboriginal and Indigenous people as First People of this country, I shift from a singular focus on them to people who are not of white, Anglo-Saxon heritage. Why will become clear if you read on.

The focus on The West Australian is to an Andrew Bolt article on p.10 in today’s paper. Bolt’s article is entitled “Divided into a Nation of Tribes.” I enjoy reading Andrew’s articles because they’re challenging. Whatever his political leanings, he makes me think: he refuses to accept that “what is” has to necessarily continue. But this time, what he’s written left me with a sense of something irreconcilable unless I move beyond the view he espouses, with some validity, to a “what if” question.

For me, the main theme of his article is summarized in the following sentence:

“This (an ANU Ethnocultural thrust) is part of a broader push to make Australians identify not with the nation but with their racial, ethnic or religious tribes.”

There is some truth in that sentence. If people are only encouraged to hold or return to their traditional values and beliefs, and not try to “be Australian” and understand what that means, there is a danger that no common idea, goal or purpose exists. By the same token, if we invert that thinking and only focus on what it means to identify as an Australian, what are we asking people to sacrifice in terms of their current identity.

The sense I got from Andrew’s article is that an Australian identity is somehow synonymous with “white, Anglo-Saxon culture”. If that’s the case, review what’s occurred to Aboriginal/Indigenous cultures over 250 years, and ask Aboriginal/Indigenous people how they have felt about that journey.

So there are two question:

  • “What is it that people from many different cultural backgrounds are being asked to identify with?” In other words, what identifies us as Australians and what process is to be used among so many different cultures to achieve that?
  • What are people from all cultures being asked to sacrifice o develop an Australian identity and be part of living in an Australian culture? In other words, how much can people lose of their traditions and values, before they lose the capacity to be who they are.

Unless we ponder both those questions, there is every chance we will establish a process of assimilation. If that’s what people want, then ignore my two questions. If it’s not what people want, start to think  about answers to them.