The Shire, The Shire! Again… And there’s more!

June’s Monthly has an excellent article on The Shire, but you have to subscribe or buy to read it.


Cronulla Beach, Australia Day 2010. © James Brickwood/Fairfax Syndication

The Shire versus Australia: How a new show is creating drama

Nick Bryant

It nails the stereotyping of The Shire very well, and the conclusion about the “Other” Shire that includes, for example,  the biggest regional art centre of its kind in Australia, a symphony orchestra, the rather high proportion of PhDs and scientists who call The Shire home, and so on and so on,  is well made. And a point not made, but which I know to be true being Shire born and bred, is that The Shire was also something of a hotbed of Marxists and other socialists through the 50s and 60s. Not part of the stereotype.


Weird doings in The Shire in the early 1950s

I have no idea what this is, but that could be my Grandfather Christison and I watching – though it probably is not.



And the more…

Also in The Monthly is something you can read right now: A New Opium: The Anzac cult by Don Watson.

Of all believers who might have debated Richard Dawkins on the ABC earlier this year, Cardinal George Pell was surely among the more unlikely. There is no doubting the depth of the Archbishop’s faith or sincerity, of course; there can be no doubt about Rupert Murdoch’s faith in freedom of the press, either. That the Cardinal’s public demeanour does not immediately bring to mind the author of the Beatitudes has nothing to do with the case: the poet Les Murray, to pluck another man of faith out of the air, is certainly no less pugnacious and opinionated, but he would have been a much more rousing and formidable opponent for Dawkins, even if our scientist had not been jet-lagged. The likes of the American novelist Marilynne Robinson would have been good, too, albeit from a Protestant angle. Like Murray, Robinson is a believer who makes non-believers discreetly check their internal compasses; neither of them, what’s more, would have needed Pell’s urgers in the audience imitating a Roman mob. Of course, it doesn’t help that Cardinal Pell represents a church which currently has many charges against it, but since most churches have past charges against them, this hardly disqualified him.

What did make his presence unfortunate, not to say, by the end, excruciating, was his inability to mount a persuasive argument for the possibility of God without overlaying it with doctrinal baloney about the nature of such a God and His continuing powers, along with heaven, hell and a “place of purification”, presumably in between. This was what Marx likened to opium? It was not the Cardinal’s persona or his church, but the barrenness of his argument and the patches of downright silliness: I don’t know what believers made of his case, but those of us burdened with an absence of faith felt a bit short-changed…

Pretty much what I felt about that particular ill-conceived episode of QandA.


4 thoughts on “The Shire, The Shire! Again… And there’s more!

  1. Neil, you should know that perception is everything and over the past ten years the image of the Shire has been redefined by a sensationalist media that has no understanding of the place or its story. This is lamentable but all to common. In recent years our children have moved back into the Shire, living in various suburbs until all moving out again. This led me to reconnect with the place and with meanings that lie deep in my heart. It is sad to see a Sutherland Shire that I once loved and revered being swept away by the inexorable advance of a multicultural Sydney. The things that have stabbed at me most are what I regard as the increasing “boganisation” of the place – perhaps accelerated by the media reaction to the Cronulla Riot, These days the place seems to exude a culture of excess, of consumption and tasteless brashness. The generations of the 1950s and 1960s spread out across Australia and the world as a mini diaspora. I think their Shire went with them. I bump into these people everywhere I go. In each of the places I have lived in the past 35 years my neighbours have included baby boomers who attended Caringbah High, Cronulla High, Endeavour High, Port Hacking High etc. We’ve all shared a bond and a memory. Who in the Shire these days would remember the “Hands off Cuba” graffiti plastered on fences facing the railway line from Cronulla to Sutherland? Who would recall the enormous “OUT MENZIES” that decorated the Gannons Road railway overbridge for decades, or indeed the great funeral for Superat, Caringbah High School’s mythical mascot after the school motto was changed as a reaction to the Vietnam Moratorium? There was a Shire and there is a Shire. The past is indeed a foreign country.

    • You will have seen that especially since last year I have devoted quite a bit of space here to exploring family and The Shire, seeing that the two are sp connected for both of us. I guess you saw my 2005 “live blog” on Cronulla.

  2. One more comment – I said this the day it happened and I’ll say it until I die. The Cronulla riot was nothing more than a sad and violent expression of a Sydney turf war that has been going on since the 1930s. Cronulla is the only Sydney beach accessible by train and has long been the haunt of the residents of Bankstown and the East Hills Line. This was always resented by the “locals”. At school we had myriad disparaging nicknames for the denizens of those regions and despised their presence on “our” beaches. In the 1960s it was the battles between the surfies and rockers. By the 1970s the locals had largely abandoned the South and North Cronulla and had migrated to the burgeoning dunelands of Eloura and Wanda (Wanda was better to body surf anyway). The sad thing about the Cronulla riot was that fools dressed it up in Australian flags. That is a social issue that exists far beyond the Shire. My stomach turns each time I see the Southern Cross emblazoned on the rear window of a motor car.

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