‘Do we belong here? Reflections on family, locality and community (Address to the Victorian Community History Awards, 16 October 2017)‘, RHSV News, November 2017, pp. 4-5
This speech was delivered in Melbourne. It asks some important questions:
Do we belong here? That is, do we belong in Australia and not in some other land? Do we belong here? Or are we just sojourners, passing through? Do we belong here? Or are we trespassers in someone else’s land?
Davison looks at our Aboriginal past, growing up in Melbourne suburbs, the politics of memorials, how we register new understandings of our past without trashing previous takes, and the links between family and local or community history.
When we ask the question “Do I belong here?” we join a long conversation in Western societies. Is our sense of belonging to our community or nation based on an age-old ancestral connection to the land, as the German Romantics believed? Or is it based on our living connections with each other as neighbours, friends, and fellow citizens, as the French and American Republicans believed?
Davison’s related work includes Lost Relations: Fortunes of My Family in Australia’s Golden Age, an essay marking the 50th anniversary of the publication of Geoffrey Blainey’s The Tyranny of Distance, his 2009 Menzies Lecture on foundation myths, and his 2000 collection, The Use and Abuse of Australian History. He has also written perceptively, here and elsewhere, on the place of Anzac in Australian history. And on cars, which have helped Australians move from locality to locality.
Professor Davison kindly made his speech available to Honest History (pdf). It was subsequently published in RHSV News, a publication of the Royal Historical Society of Victoria.