Successful launch of The Honest History Book in Melbourne with Jonathan Green

The Honest History Book launchathon ended last evening at Readings Carlton with about 50 people in attendance. Jonathan Green of Meanjin and ABC RN cycled up Lygon Street from the ABC to do the launch honours and co-editor David Stephens discussed the book with chapter authors Carolyn Holbrook, Rebecca Jones, Gwenda Tavan and Stuart Macintyre. Among those present was Professor Anthony Pym of the University of Melbourne, whose work made an important contribution to chapter 7 of the book on the alleged words of Ataturk (‘Those heroes that shed their blood …’).

Given the prime minister’s recent policy announcements mentioning ‘Australian values’, Gwenda Tavan’s chapter was of particular interest. It discusses Australia’s still dominant ‘Anglo-nativist’ culture, and here is a key paragraph:

Successive generations of politicians and community and business leaders have paid lip-service to the important contribution of immigration to the development of the Australian nation-state while simultaneously reminding us that the best marker of immigrants’ success is their capacity to become invisible, through absorption into the national community…

There seems to be something of a contradiction between advertising our successful multiculturalism while promoting a version of Australian values which can be interpreted as Anglo-nativism, something redolent of Anglo-Celtic white males with a particular penchant for a sentimental take on Anzac. (We will look out for an Anzac-Australian values connection in official speeches on Tuesday.) The obvious question follows: is it possible for Australian values to reflect anything of the contribution of migrants who have come here from 200 countries since World War II?

There is more on The Honest History Book here. There is more on ‘Australian values’ here.

Our previous launches were in Canberra and Sydney and we would love to have gone further afield but time and costs precluded, unfortunately. Meanwhile the book is selling well with media exposure (such as Mark McKenna’s chapter in The Conversation today), social media spruiking, and reviews imminent. Tell your friends and colleagues about the book.

David Stephens

21 April 2017