Tom and his mate Tahlia were spending 2021 traveling around Australia, taking the long route. They were moving clockwise, using the outside of the road. Tahlia had just celebrated her 21st birthday, as had Tom. By now they understood this a vast land. You can drive for a thousand kilometres in this land and the highlight of your day is the chance to fill the fuel tank of your vehicle at a service centre. Most of these serve very unappetising fried food and little else. As, a vegan traveller, Tahlia must have gagged every time she entered one of these outposts.
Correctly, after crossing the Nullabour they turned left when they reached Norseman. And they drove their converted delivery van, now a smart camper wagon, to the beautiful city of Esperance. After days spent looking at scenery, that barely changed hours after hour crossing the continent, the water views of the seaside town are remarkably restful. Being more venturesome than this old fellow, they learned the islands offshore were easy to get to by ferry. As a result, they had a merry time at an off-shore bar where they could share travel stories with other young folk, and learned something about the mysterious road ahead.
The trip from Esperance to the capital of Western Australia one need not hurry. So they took their time visiting the wine area of Margaret River and swimming at wild ocean beaches. The great Jarrah and Karri forests, and the distant remnants of the whaling industry of Albany are only some joys one finds south of Perth. The long seaward protrusion of the Busselton Jetty was another place they visited. But the distant voices from home reminded Tahlia others would like to celebrate the significance of her twenty-first birthday back in Melbourne. A day away on the other side of the continent if you fly. So they called in favours to park “Van Morrison” in Perth and headed back home by air.
What should have been a happy home-coming break held a COVID-19 twist. Their plane had barely landed when health authorities announced Victoria had a new virulent community outbreak of the virus after over three months of being infection free. The State authority announced it would again enter lockdown that evening.
Just home, the young couple drove immediately back to the airport with a view to escape the Lockdown and resume their circumnavigation of the continent. They made phone calls to Western Australia health officials to find out if they could avoid fourteen days of enforced quarantine, as they had not been near the areas known to be infected, they simply wanted to return to their mobile home. Officialdom, being what it is, deliberated to the point of the plane’s departure time and came down with a judgement. Their home had no fixed address and the only way they could reenter the state was to do as all other Victorians must. That is it required them to enter quarantine. They sat out the Lockdown.
The reality was hard, too few in the population had been inoculated, the seven-day lockdown was extended and interstate travel banned. The outcome for Tom and Tahlia? Viruses are true egotists and they infect whomever they can.
I am currently wrestling to write something based on this (bad) transcript of the podcast listed below.
Joanna Murray Smith playwright, artistic royalty and
Michael Cathcart, ABC RN broadcaster discuss art.
Can you enumerate some of the artist’s challenges?
I mean what would be the top of the list, what is the common challenge that all artists face?
I suppose it is emotional engagement with the audience. It is not so hard to form actual engagement with the audience you can engage audiences quite easily with ideas but it is hard to engage them on an emotional level. If you don’t engage them on an emotional level then ultimately you’re not succeeding. And learning how to master that is the great journey for any artist. It is how you harness ideas to an emotion and get them in the right balance . And you use the emotions to get the ideas — to harness the emotions and get them in the right balance. And use the emotions to make the ideas powerful. As an audience member if only my head is engaged something is missing. As audience members we know that if only our head is engages then it is boring.
Fortunately, it is not only the artists responsibility, it includes the venue, and the audience and their willingness to come to engage with the work.
When I opened the door, I could not believe my eyes. In my absence, the room I understood had changed. I knew we had few possessions, (married six months), but I remembered we had a new unused television, record player, radio in the front room. A very up to date three in one appliance it was. It was there, standing in that vacant space. I missed it. Had anything else gone? The cash from the sale of some charity raffle tickets, a few other odds and ends, had also gone.
I remember it as if it was yesterday (it was almost sixty years ago). The things didn’t matter in the long run; we knew we could replace them with an insurance claim. What really hurt was the violation, losing privacy and the invasion of our little home.
Imagine if we lost our home, our land, our way of life? 1,000s of Australians have experienced this in the last twelve months the imagining has been their reality. Events of this type have reoccurred for nearly every year of the past 250 years of Australian European history. What have we learned as a people?
Is history an excellent teacher? Observers continually remind us if we take no notice of the past it binds us to make the same mistakes. My recent holiday to the Apple Isle of Tasmania has reminded me of the history lessons I took as a child, mainly because life has taught me how inefficient those lessons were.
Previously we have visited Port Arthur prison village. My school lessons taught me about the severity of the punishment metered out at that awful place. I had not imagined so many as 2,000 convicts housed in Hobart itself.
They taught us the Isle discovered by Abel Tasman, first called Van Diemen’s Land, was a superb place to send miscreants who filled British gaols. Therefore, from 1807 until 1868 74,000 people were transported to Fisherman’s dock in Hobart. On the dock today stand four bronzes of young women and a boy to represent the 14,000 women and children who were transported to the island. People like: Margaret 27 for stealing thread, Sarah Emma, 29 for vagrancy, Anne, 19 for stealing wheat, and Rose, 23 for murdering her children. Children like Toby 10, and a list of other waifs like, Joseph Robbing 10, Sarah Thomson 12, Louisa Gannon 3, Ann James 6. (What crimes could these children have perpetrated that required them to be shipped to the other side of the world?)
The city sitting on the edges of the broad Derwent River is a very attractive modern city. It is the last destination of one of the longest open water yacht races. Each New Year’s Day, the competition leaves Sydney. Daily the media reports on the yachts as they make their way to Constitution Dock at Fisherman’s wharf Hobart.
Tasmania therefore has a long association with the mainland. We know it for its fish, its apples, its milk, wine, mining and whisky. It is also the home of the extinct Tasmanian tiger, the thylacine. They captured the last animal in 1930 and it lived a miserable, solitary life in a wire cage instead of in the wild forests it was born for.
My school lessons told of its awful last years. They also told how the migrant settlers had rid the land of the wild indigenous people. (Missed was the story of the murderous behaviour of the people with guns hunting them like animal and massacing them for the sake of their beautiful timbered land. It told of Truganini.)
Little by little the inaccuracy of the things I learned at school about Tasmania and its peoples has come to my attention. The most recent improvement came from this visit when we visited the Museum of Tasmania. In confirmation of my class lesson, the museum has a bronze bust of Truganini on display. It also has a UNESCO recognised treasure as a recording of Fanny Cochrane Smith singing. Fanny out lived Truganini, who died in 1876 by 30 years. They considered Fanny the last fluent speaker of her language. Thus the Palawa or Pakana people supposed lost to history unlike the thylacine remained. Fortunately, the bloodline of these people survives.
Our journey took us down the river Derwent, past the suburb of Risdon, that place that houses the women prisoners of today to the Museum Of Modern Art, MONA. MONA is the private art gallery of the eccentric collector David Walsh. This man has contributed wonderfully to the people and the State of Tasmania. Tourism to his museum is one compelling reason to visit the state. An off shoot of his artistic endeavour is Dark Mofo. This annual winter event is in the last stages of planning after the museum was closed because of Covid 19.
The Spanish artist Santiago Sierra had requested the aid of local indigenous people and asked them to donate blood to him to help him create his additional art work. His gimmick was to soak a British Union Jack in their blood. David Walsh thought nothing more of it. I thought it reasonable as well. The idea of ruining a flag with aboriginal blood seemed at first to represent the struggle the people had had to keep their land.
Fortunately, the artwork will not proceed. Sufficient people pointed out aboriginal people have lost enough blood over nearly 250 years and this is not the time to lose more. David Walsh apologised. I apologise. I understand, enough is enough.
Which brings me back to my home burglary. I easily replaced the property I lost. The point is just a matter of conversation, whereas when the British colonised this land the people that lived here lived productive lives based on the knowledge of 60,000 years of continuous occupation. The colonisers did not consult them, and they did not cede land to them. In payment for their generosity, they were exploited. It dispossessed them of their land, their culture, their language. 500 locations mark places of massacre. The land has so many locations defiled in this way, researchers have used newspaper reports to build a map recording of the happenings at each site.
Australia has a constitution that does not acknowledge the indigenous and their long ownership of the land. Today marks the third anniversary of the well-considered statement. The Uluru Statement from the Heart.
As background, the country has discussed the issue since 1963. The From the Heart Statement came out of two years of careful consultation and they presented it to the Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on the morning of 26. March 2017 and by the evening of the same day he dismissed it without discussion. It is now time to recognise our people in the Constitution and acknowledge with pride how lucky we are to live in a nation with such a proud history.
Today I signed the Uluru statement of The Heart to support the aboriginal nations that made this country.
We live life one day at a time. However we live each day it is just part of the patchwork of activity people live. Today I can think of nothing better than celebrating humankind as it is recorded in the 2021 film Life In A Day.
I had heard of it, but never experienced the madness of Valentines Day until 1976. The children of Carstairs Primary School, Scotland, introduced me to the experience that year. In all the years since I have never felt the need to join in this annual celebration to love. Lest I seem more old fogey than I am, I am happy to acknowledge love is the cement, (there may be better words than cement, but cement seems to fit well to me. Aged cement is very difficult to break) I continue, love is the cement that binds humanity as one people on Earth. Peace is the natural companion of love.
I have just been reading, Letters of Note, on Substack. The last entry includes this extract from a letter written by Charles Darwin. Born 12/02/1809.
Among the extracts was this
“What an utter desert is life without love.”
Charles Darwin | Letter to Joseph Hooker, 27 Nov 1863
It appears Darwin had the same grasp of love as all lovers celebrating Valentines Day tomorrow.
Love can be as local as your loved one, or as wide as your love for everyone. Love, love, Love.