Saturday, December 16, 2006


I feel numb at the prospect of a citizenship test for migrants entering Australia. Worse, the proposed content of this test is making me feel sick. John Howard wants would be Aussies to know about Galipoli and mateship.

Gallipoli from who's perspective? As a defining moment in Australia's history, it was an abject failure on our part....

"The West Australians assumed that death was certain, and each in the secret places of his mind debated how he would go to it. Mate, having said goodbye to mate ... went forward to meet death instantly, running as straight and swiftly as they could at the Turkish rifles. With that regiment went the flower of the youth of Western Australia ..."

War Historian C. Bean, writing from Gallipoli, Sydney Morning Herald, 17 May 2002

Neatly, this quote combines both mateship and Gallipoli, but also it shows the absurdity of it all.

Don Watson has written a good summary on mateship - at its core, it's masculine. .. "we do need to recognise that the meaning of the word "mateship" is plainest when it describes the attachments and the needs of men struggling in a common cause".

There needs to be a new common cause - that of preventing this ridiculous, outmoded, outdated "test" for new Australians. I'm sure John Howard will say that it's not the same as the white Australia policy of a hundred years ago.

But it is.

This time though, the "white" in this policy is the crisp white linen sheet of history, hiding the many true histories of Australia - the Aborginal frontier, the women's struggle, the migrant struggle, the pioneer myth.

History is written by the winners. Let's make sure that the other histories that forge our identity are spoken about and learned - by all of us. And let's not put this in a test.

No comments: