Big Ideas on ABC RN Monday features ‘defining moments’

Honest History went along last evening to a session at the National Museum of Australia on its ‘Defining Moments’ project. We have followed this initiative closely – partly because of the way it contrasts with the narrowly conservative interpretation of our history propagated at the other end of Lake Burley Griffin – and are pleased to hear that it is to run for two years. We are all for diversity and contestability in history and punting for and arguing about defining moments should proliferate.

Last night’s session starred Jackie Huggins, Michelle Arrow, George Megalogenis and Gideon Haigh, moderated by Paul Barclay. An edited version will hit ABC RN’s Big Ideas program at 8 pm on Monday, 28 September, with the podcast version probably available before that. Listen out for these highlights, among lots (subject to editing):

  • Megalogenis on how we went off the rails around the end of the nineteenth century after an impressive performance in the 1850s;
  • Huggins on the importance of Mabo as a standout among moments for Indigenous Australians – but what about Catherine Freeman at the Sydney Olynpics?
  • Haigh (and others) on how looking for ‘moments’ might blind us to tendencies and phases – but he was pleased at the relative absence of military moments in the list (a point which HH has drawn attention to also);
  • Arrow on how looking for ‘moments’ makes us focus on public rather than private events – but the arrival of television in 1956 had both public and private effects;
  • a number of panellists on how so few of our Australian moments had international resonance – with the invention of the secret (Australian) ballot a notable exception – listen for Haigh on this;
  • panellists on how ‘memorable’ is not necessarily ‘significant’ and on how the ‘replay’ sometimes replaces the reality and becomes the moment.

David Stephens

25 September 2015


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