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Writers can make or change ideas about certain topics though songs, articles and poems. Today I will show you how modern views have changed (or not) since historic times, though the art of words. I will specifically be looking at migrants and their representations in the following texts.
Wide Lies Australia Wide lies Australia! The seas that surround her Flow for her unity – all states in one. Never has Custom nor Tyranny bound her – Never was conquest so peacefully won. Fair lies Australia! with all things within her Meet for a Nation, the greatest to be: Free to the White Man to woo and to win her: Those who'd be happy and those who'd be free. Free to live fully and free to live cleanly, Free to give learning to daughter and son; Free to act nobly but not to act meanly, Free to forget what the old lands had done. Free to be Brothers! Our hymn and our sermon To keep for the White World the balance of Power, Welcoming all, be they British or German, All come to help us – we'll wait for the hour. Out in the West where the flood-water gathers – Out in the drought on the sand desert lone – Went the brave English and brave foreign fathers Fearlessly facing the fearful unknown. Gemmed with their names lies the great past behind us. Dark lie the storm clouds before us today, Let us so live the future shall find us Facing the danger as dauntless as they.
The first text I would like to share with you is a historic one written shortly after federation by Henry Lawson. This particular poem is about the amazing feats of the English in their discovery of this great land, Australia. Lawson uses phrases such as, “Free to the White Man to woo and win her,” (notice the capitalisation of “White Man”) and, “Free to be brothers”. However, he goes on to say things like, “To keep for the White World the Balance of Power, welcoming all, be they British or German.” In this phrase, people from around the world have been invited to join the English in making Australia a country of freedom, as long as they are “White” (with a capital). In the last verse it says, “…Went the brave English…Fearlessly facing the unknown.” This really says that the English are superior because they are fearless and white. But Aborigines had been “braving” it for a long time before the English found Australia, so what made the English think that they‟d done so much more?
For my first contemporary text, I would like to show you a poem written by an immigrant, who rejects her own rejection by Australia. Ania Henry Lawson (1867-1922) Walwicz demonstrates a definite lack of English language skill, however, through her use of strong adjectives and short repetitive sentences she comes across with a very powerful message. She uses words like silly, dead at night, dumb and drunk to describe the people. Similarly, she uses words like empty, scorched, big; and phrases like “idiot centre” and “too far” to describe the land. This woman obviously doesn‟t like the way Australians live, and has not felt welcome, so she‟s rejecting the Australian lifestyle through her poem. In another contemporary text, titled A White Australia by David Keig, the White Australia Policy is brought into question. Keig enlightens us about what the „White Australia Policy‟, was in a negative light. He wrote, “If your face was white you fitted, if not then sent away.” A White Australia is not the only poem David Keig has written on this topic, although he obviously wrote it before the Cronulla Riots if he included such a phrase as “It‟s rarely talked about these days, it‟s seen as immature”. He wrote another poem called There’s a new sign in Australia, which is about how Australia has a new “species” of “pure white dumb Aussies”, which refers to the Cronulla Riots. Keig closes his poem, “A White Australia” with the phrase, “This side of Australia is something I implore everyone around the world not just to ignore.”
© Sarah Don, Australia, 2007
A White Australia They had a clear policy For letting people stay If your face was white you fitted If not then sent away. They included on their census Cattle, sheep and goats They excluded Aborigines As incidental folks. It was a white Australia An Australia so pure It's rarely talked about these days It's seen as immature. But white Australia lives on Think of all those refugees For they are held behind barbed wire As dangerous detainees. This side of this Australia Is something I implore Everyone around the world Not just to ignore. David Keig (1951) There’s a New Sign in Australia There's a new sign in Australia That's there for all to see It informs the population When a beach is riot-free This land of snakes and spiders With lethal poison in each bite And massive sharks and jellyfish To haunt your dreams at night Has found a brand new species A throw-back some would say They're called the white supremacists But have they ever been away? It seems they stockpile weapons Baseball bats and guns and knives To do battle on the beaches With the wog and lebo tribes They're protecting their Australia From foreign influence They seem to want this great big land Split up with some fence That will keep the ethnics separate Unless they all adopt our ways It's called assimilation And reflected in the phrase That once described this country And its migrant policies They want a 'white Australia' Full of pure white dumb Aussies. David Keig (1951)
The book, Joan Makes History by Kate Grenville, is mostly about migrants and how they are inferior to the English, and other white people in general. Joan (the main character) represents different kinds of people in different situations throughout history. The purpose of this was for her to be able to re-write history to include women, as there‟s such a lack of feminine representation in historic texts. Each chapter alternates between an ongoing story of a Transylvanian migrant girl, called Joan, who grows up in Australia, and short separate stories from points throughout time where Kate Grenville has written a female character into that part of Australian history. Particularly if you look at the 5th chapter, or 3rd chapter titled Joan, she tells of her family‟s effort to try to be more Australian, to try to fit in and to start a new life, but they find the Australians make it difficult. Joan says, “So they mocked me, all those classmates, taunting me in the playground for the way my father was bald as well as foreign, and the way my mother looked funny with a scarf on her head. Was she bald as well, they wanted to know?” (pg.39) Joan also says, “out on the streets, my mother began to be the victim of scowls and things muttered behind hands. In the playground the girls explained with satisfaction that they could not speak to me anymore because I was a filthy Hun, and Australians were at war with filthy Huns. The more I tried to explain, with my feeble grasp of geography, that being from Transylvania was not the same as being a filthy Hun, the more their faces closed against me.” (pg.41) Joan‟s father wanted his family to be Australians so badly that he changed their names. On page 41 again, it reads, “Mother wept one night: Father had come home pale, his baldness leaving his face exposed under the blast of emotion, and spread out a piece of paper on the table where the light rained down on it. With a finger under the words, he read, To Whom All Persons Shall Come. I could see Mother was already lost, but Father‟s moving finger moved on: Am desirous of abandoning and renouncing the use of the name Victor Radulescu. His finger shook, as his voice did, as he caressed the sounds of his own name: I hereby absolutely renounce and abandom the said name Victor Radulescu. Then, paler than ever, with the points of his cheekbones making the skin of his face tight, he used his thicknibbed fountain pen to cross out Joan Radulescu on all my books and replace it with Joan Redman.” (pg.41) These migrants wanted to fit in so badly, that they changed their name – the one thing that tied them to their family, country and history – just to be accepted by Australians. Never mind that “white Australians” are all migrants anyway, because they came from England and other northern European countries. Kate Grenville closes the chapter with Joan saying, “I will be a great writer, I told myself…or I will be Prime Minister, and I thought © Sarah Don, Australia, 2007
with pleasure of how the girls would not sniff in that dismissive way then, but admire me at last.”
Few support citizenship test: MP Mark Metherell March 15, 2007 THE Federal Government has failed to prove there is strong public support for a tougher citizenship English test, according to the Liberal MP Petro Georgiou. The Government's own analysis of public responses to its discussion paper on changes to the citizenship test had failed to show "overwhelming community support", he said. The Government is proposing a more "formal" citizenship test, which is expected to give greater emphasis to English and knowledge of Australia. A new book to guide citizenship applicants is being developed and legislation for the change is expected before the federal election. The Government's analysis of responses to its plan said 60 per cent were in favour of the test. But Mr. Georgiou said that of 1600 responses only 116 were made public and 75 per cent of those opposed the new test. Respondents included all state and territory governments and church, ethnic, and civil liberty groups. None of the 1500 submissions from individuals were published on grounds of "privacy". Addressing an Italian organisation in Melbourne last night, Mr. Georgiou called for a group of respected people to be appointed to investigate the impediments to learning English and to effective integration and to recommend solutions. Mr. Georgiou, who has said he will oppose legislation to introduce the tougher test, said it would "stop many immigrants who are committed to Australia as their home from becoming citizens and thereby full members of our community. "The plain fact is that hundreds of thousands of native-born and immigrant Australians would not be able to pass the test." He said people were disturbed by the threat of terrorism and global change, but it was "a gargantuan leap" to assert they felt their identity was under threat and that the new citizenship test would allay those concerns.
Few Support Citizenship Test, a newspaper article for The Sydney Morning Herald by Mark Metherell, is the last text that I will be using to demonstrate how the way migrants are viewed now, compared to little less than a hundred years ago, has changed. In this article Metherell writes about how the government wanted a tougher citizenship test, so they fudged the figures to make it look like there was more support for the tougher test than there really was. A poll was conducted, and as it says, “The Government's analysis of responses to its plan said 60 per cent were in favour of the test…Respondents included all state and territory governments and church, ethnic, and civil liberty groups...None of the 1500 submissions from individuals were published on grounds of "privacy".” The authorities still seem to want a „white Australia‟, so that hasn‟t changed. The only thing that has changed is that it‟s not politically correct to say that one would prefer a „white Australia‟. And because of freedom of speech, individuals in the community can reject this view, which is what people are doing today. Just like the British, who found Australia and claimed to have “braved the land”, we still have figures of authority who believe that they made Australia so great. However, everybody except the aborigines are migrants in a way, because of the first fleet – first British settlers. So for white people to say that they own Australia and can control who is allowed in, is hypocrisy. Texts construct selective representations of groups and ideas. As these views and ideas change over time, writers reflect this in their compositions and educate us on how things have changed. In a way, the issue of racism and the rejection of migrants is repeating itself.
© Sarah Don, Australia, 2007
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