Sparrow, Jeff: owning up to our black history

Sparrow, Jeff

‘If black lives really matter in Australia, it’s time we owned up to our history’, Guardian Australia, 7 August 2015

Weaves together Adam Goodes, the ‘Black Lives Matter’ campaign in the United States, the treatment of Pacific Islander labourers in Queensland (the so-called ‘kanakas’) and Indigenous Australians, and the effort being devoted to commemorating the Great War, compared with the lack of attention to our black history.

Just as most towns in the American south boasts a cairn to the Confederate dead, every tiny community in regional Australia has its a shrine to the dead of the Great War stands in. But it’s very rare – indeed, almost unheard of – for towns to acknowledge the men, women and children killed not in France but here in Australia defending their land against settlement.

As Reynolds says, the Australian War Museum honours farcical engagements like the Sudanese war but makes no reference to the “sickening and brutal war of races” the Queenslander [newspaper quoted by Sparrow from 1880] so openly discussed, even though the Frontier War was clearly the most important conflict in Australian history.

Tony Abbott famously thinks that, before the arrival of Europeans, Australia was “nothing but bush”. It would be foolish indeed to expect the prime minister to commemorate people he seems to believe never existed.


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