Saturday 14 October, 2023

The date will be forever etched in my mind, like that of my father’s death, two days before this date back in 1978. He was the first of loved ones to pass from this mortal coil. Now and for more than half my life, I’ve been an urban dweller. I forgot about the huge and ever widening gap between us and the country folk.

My father was a hard-working pastoralist. A good man. The fact that he never talked to us about the massacres of indigenous people not far from his land was part of his sparse personality and a sign of the times. I had to find out the truth from readings and from sharing with my sister whatever sad morsel of information we later found out. Dad must have heard of some of the most recent atrocities. His property at Nymboida was near to where they had occurred. There were caves in the highest parts of his property where my brother found what he thought was a stone axe head. ‘Hmmm, you could be right, Donny,’ his primary school teacher nodded to him at the time. No one wanted to talk or think about it. Perhaps, like Dad, they dismissed it as pertaining to the law of the jungle or Darwin’s “survival of the fittest”. What an arcane law to live by.

It wasn’t my father but another bucolic character from childhood who expressed something akin to herding them all into central Australia and… you can guess. I hated him for that. Was he joking? Taunting me? No excuse! There were a few skeletons in the closet, like the dairyfarming uncle on Mum’s side who married into John Howard’s family. (The PM’s not the actor’s!). Some of them were ignorant, especially a favourite child-like uncle who applauded Pauline Hanson. But lack of education is no longer the case today. There’s no excuse at all for peoples’ racism today. I wish there were more signs throughout country Australia like the one erected some time ago at Coogee. It’s overlooking the rainbow walkway.

I don’t wish to analyse what went wrong apart to say that it was fear and negativity that defeated the referendum. Positivity will always win out in the end.

A Poem Giving Voice to Loss

Wystan Hugh Auden was a British-American poet. Auden’s poetry was noted for its stylistic and technical achievement, its engagement with politics, morals, love, and religion, and its variety in tone, form, and content. This is from a classic elegy about loss.

I think these words express my sentiments after the loss of the Yes vote:

Funeral Blues (Stop all the clocks)

I thought that love would last for ever: I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;

Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;

Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.

For nothing now can ever come to any good.

W.H. Auden


Afterward: It was such a great opportunity missed for my beloved country. That’s why I’m so sad.