Contemporary Histories Research Group, Deakin University: Contemporary Histories Blog

The group has commenced a new series on exploring contemporary histories and decision-making. It gets under way with a note from Carolyn Holbrook on ‘The Australian Federation of the Mind’. She points to something of a contradiction in the way Australians approached federation: ‘Though the Australian federation was founded on the principle of the exclusion of non-white people, it imagined itself at the vanguard of the creation of a global brotherhood of humanity.’ Early idealism, though, sank after 1901 beneath wrangling over state interests. But still …

When you consider the prosaic and partisan nature of debate about the federation today, it is hard to believe that the “Federation fathers” imagined they were creating “a higher system of morality than the world ever saw before”. The idealist and Christian beliefs that spawned such grand aspirations for the federal project have passed into history, in exchange for more modest ambitions, like keeping the lights on. But beneath the utilitarian rhetoric of service delivery and GST distribution lie the same emotional instincts that impelled the federation founders; the desire for recognition, the need for communal identity.

Carolyn Holbrook is a member of the Honest History committee and has a chapter in The Honest History Book. The chapter deals with the history of the Anzac legend.

2 May 2017

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