A very personal Australia Day 26 January – my family

Go back, way back…

Family story has it that through one of my grandmothers I am of Aboriginal ancestry; one of my nephews went into this further finding the group we came from was the Dharawal – variously spelt.


Click that and you will find in very large format the map of all of Australia

Thanks to Five Steps to a Better Black Life in Australia by Chris Graham

The Dharawal Aboriginal people are the caretakers of the land on the south coast of Sydney, from Port Jackson to the Shoalhaven River, extending west to Camden. Organised by family groups as opposed to tribes, the Dharawal people lived harmoniously with the land, moving around with the seasons using both the land and sea as a food source. With the European settlement of Australia marked by the arrival of the First Fleet in 1788, so too came diseases which had a devastating effect on the Indigenous communities in the neighbouring Eora land of Sydney. It is supposed that 50% of Dharawal people died from the smallpox epidemic of 1789 before even coming into direct contact with the settlers.

With settlement spreading beyond the colony in Sydney down the coast, the traditional hunting land of the Dharawal people was subsumed by farm land. This substantial land clearing dimished the traditional way of life for the Dharawal people. In addition to the loss of land, Dharawal people faced the very real threat of violence. The hunting of Indigenous people was common in the Illawarra region and it is supposed that a significant number of the Dharawal people would have moved inland from the coast to avoid the bloody confrontations with the new land owners. So severely diminished was the local Dharwal community in the Illawarra region that by 1900 there was only 33 known Dharawal people living in the region. The Aboriginal population of the traditional Dharawal lands now accounts for approximately 2% of the total population and is comprised of the descendents of a number of different Aboriginal clans and tribes.

See also Minto Dreaming.

Here is just part of their story: "Massacre at Appin in 1816" by Verlie Fowler.

When Europeans took up land grants, they cleared and fenced the land, irrecoverably changing the patterns of hunting and gathering that had been followed by the Dharawal people for tens of thousands of years.

Some European settlers formed a close rapport with Aborigines. Charles Throsby of Glenfield was accompanied by Dharawal men when he explored the southern highlands area. Throsby was a persistent critic of European treatment of the Aborigines. Hamilton Hume who, in 1814 with his brother John, made the first of a number of long exploratory trips southwards, did so in company with a young Aboriginal friend named Doual.

Whereas the "mountain natives" (probably Gandangara) had a reputation of being hostile in defence of their people and their land, the Dharawal were peaceful and had no history of aggression. Unfortunately few settlers could distinguish between the two groups.

In 1814, Macquarie issued an order in the Sydney Gazette, admonishing settlers in the Appin and Cowpastures area. "Any person who may be found to have treated them [natives] with inhumanity or cruelty, will be punished?." This followed an atrocity when an Aboriginal woman and her children were murdered at Appin…

Certainly my father’s family has very much lived their lives in Dharawal country – Picton, the Illawarra, even Sutherland Shire. I guess part of me is a traditional owner of all that… 😉 (I will demand rent from a number of you later.)

Unwilling immigrant 1822


That’s a convict muster list. The first name with full details is my grandfather’s great-grandfather!

This is the convict’s son, William. There are no pictures of the convict.


On my mother’s side – not convicts

National background should be obvious. Here is my great-grandfather.


All bloody migrants, you see… Except maybe for the first lot. See also Family stories 3 — About the Whitfields: from convict days and Family stories 2 — About the Christisons.

We do well on Australia Day to quietly think of all such stories that make up our country, including all more recent arrivals from so many backgrounds who are all of them the reality that now is Australia.

Such as:

msplace021Linked picture.

2010 recycled: Reflections, mostly about a chequered teaching career: Part Four

Classroom exhibit Illawarra Museum. I did take an interest in local history.

Wollongong the Brave

Not every city has its own national anthem.

Raise your hand high
To a burnt sienna sky,
Land that is girt by sea (on one side) —
You may laugh, say we pong,
But to us it’s Wollongong!
Wollongong the Brave!

— from memory.

Parent-teacher nights

This ritual occurs once a term, or twice a year, or once a year — depending where you are. It is often a mad round of quick interviews by the end of which one has forgotten who one is, let alone who one is talking to or about whom one is talking.

Some memorable quotes.

  • “So, what have you got against my son?” I came at the end of a round of hairy interviews, it seems.
  • An entire interview with an intoxicated parent which was mainly about the best brands of sweets. The parent was a grocer.
  • “You tell me when he’s not behaving and I’ll bash him.” — I was from then on very sympathetic to the student and never took up the offer.
  • “Mine’s the blonde one. You know… What’s wrong, Neil? Don’t you remember people you have met at parties?” — That was in fact the Principal’s wife playing a trick on me. I had only ever seen her once before. I did indeed teach her daughter, but “the blonde one” was a touch unhelpful as an identifier in that particular class.
  • (Not from the 1970s). An entire interview devoted to the difficulty of living in Australia without servants!

… more later

Haiti updates

A young Indonesian on Haiti

1_778176391l Thanks to Jim Belshaw for noting that the lovely Niar (right) has posted on Haiti.

…The condition of Haiti today has been felt by the Indonesian people yesterday, when the big earth quake attack Padang city. Although the magnitude and the effect not as big as in Haiti, but the Padang disaster also rest many of serious loss life and devastating in many aspects. It is also create new assignment for the country to accomplish this problem.

The occurrence of many disaster like earth quake, tsunami, volcano, and flood is unpredictable and unknown. It is also can break down anything, and threat the state and human living. For the further, the disaster will leave new problem for the state in return the structure and normal condition.

Starting by the good understanding from the good article ‘Third World Debt and Disaster Recovery, here is explained that the country which is get the disaster will face the new problem relating to fund and money. When poor countries face natural disasters, such as hurricanes, floods and fires, the cost of rebuilding becomes even more of an issue when they are already burden with debt. Often poor countries have had to suffer with many lost lives and some aid while still paying millions a week back in the form of debt repayment (globalissues.com)…

Jim also comments cogently, especially on the conspiracy theory about US imperialism. This is, in my view, not to deny past problems the US has bequeathed to Haiti, but it is to draw back from reading too much into what the US is doing there now.

The Haiti quake essentially wiped the Government out. It took hours just to gather ministers together. Communications were down. The UN, the one organisation on the ground with the capacity to provide leadership, was itself decapitated by the quake.

I can only begin to imagine the frenzied activity that must have taken place in and outside Haiti as people tried to do damage assessments, to work out how to respond. The US itself was in a difficult position. Without an official invitation from the Haitian Government, any action could be (and in fact was by some of the left) presented as invasion.

Such a simple thing, really, an official request for help. Yet without it, all the rules and protocols governing engagement were frozen.

See the BBC’s Handling a crisis on the scale of Haiti.

The IMF and Haiti

That there is a move to cancel Haiti’s debts was mentioned at South Sydney Uniting Church yesterday. Here are some sites for further information.

1. Haiti Debt Cancellation Campaign (one.org)

2. IMF Clarifies Terms of Haiti’s Loan (The Nation). A symptomatic US conservative comment: “ Just what the world needs more debtors walking away from their obligations! Seems to be the leftist way of doing business, unless it is thier money! After all eveyone knows banking and finance industry is a worldwide charity organization! — Posted by BigPasture at 01/20/2010 @ 5:23pm.” Good grief!

3. IMF Says Yes, Drop Haiti’s Debt (change.org)

4. IMF Chief Calls for ‘Marshall Plan’ for Shattered Haiti (IMF)

Twitter, Facebook and other social media and Haiti

I heard a report on BBC last night adding to the one below. Now that some cell phone communication and some internet access have been restored, the social media have enabled aid workers to target areas of particular need. It’s an amazing testimony to the potential of such things. See USHAHIDI: CITIZEN REPORTING AND THE HAITIAN RELIEF EFFORT.

In the aftermath of last week’s earthquake in Haiti, the global tech community is actively searching for ways to aid rescue and relief operations. Over the weekend, volunteers in various US cities met for CrisisCamp Haiti. One of the most interesting efforts I’ve been tracking for a while is a citizen-reporting and online mapping platform called Ushahidi. The idea is straightforward, but potentially very powerful: to harness the power of cell phone text messaging, online maps and ordinary citizens to gather and distribute information in real time, especially in the wake of conflict or natural disaster.

No surprise, then, that a global team of tech volunteers and humanitarian workers took that platform and got a Haiti page up and running quickly after last week’s devastating earthquake. "Literally, within two hours the basics of the platform were up and running," Patrick Meier told me. Patrick works with Ushahidi, and heads the International Network of Crisis Mappers.

With local cell service down and little chance of getting text messages out of Haiti, the Ushahidi team started by taking mapping information coming in from mainstream media outlets, and via Twitter (see hashtags #haiti and #haitiquake). They also created an email address where citizens could submit reports, or news of missing persons (haiti@ushahidi.com).

Finally, and most critically, they reached out to Haiti’s largest cell provider, DigiCel, to create a text message short code where citizens in Haiti could send an SMS about their location, and their needs. DigiCel allowed Ushahidi to use the short code 4636 (INFO)…

Ushahidi is now starting to see the information flow in earnest, with hundreds of messages coming in via text, Twitter, and the web.

"We’re crowdsourcing crisis information. For example, if someone says they’re in Port-au-Prince, then we’ll immediately map that, and note that this person has gone missing at that particular location. That hopefully helps responders on the ground follow up on that," Ushahidi’s Patrick Meier said.

The tech can’t work by itself. Ushahidi is currently employing "a couple of thousand volunteers, including French and Creole translators," according to Josh Nesbit. "They’re taking free form text message data, tagging it by category and location, and then feeding that back to aid groups on the ground."

Meanwhile, groups on the ground are increasingly aware of Ushahidi as a resource, and they’re working to sort out priorities for delivering aid and assistance based on the information coming in. That is no easy task, as you can imagine, given the current situation in Haiti.

By the way, here’s a bit more background on Ushahidi, which means "witness" or "testimony" in Swahili. Ushahidi was the brainchild of Kenyan bloggers and some concerned technologists…

See also Social networks and the web offer a lifeline in Haiti (15 January) and Haitians are not alone, thanks to Twitter and Facebook (25 January).