Monday, July 30, 2018

Monday Forum - rebuilding community cohesion

Today's Monday Forum focuses on one current issue in Australia life: declining community cohesion. As always, feel free to go in whatever direction you want.

Yesterday's post was a parochial one dealing with the proposed redevelopment of Astrolabe Park. This has energised the small Daceyville community. This is another shot of of the Bayside Council information session. The woman on the left is the Council GM, beside her in the jeans stands the project manager for the Sydney Water, UNSW, Cricket NSW and AFL consortium In that post I mentioned that in the few weeks since the protest  started I had met more people in Daceyville than in the previous three years.

On 30 January 2017, Australian social analyst Hugh Mackay delivered the Gandhi Oration on the topic the state of the nation starts in your street. In April 2018 he returned to the the broad topic in a new book, Australia Reimagined. On 17 May 2018 he explored his ideas in an ABC Radio National Program, Conversations with Richard Fidler. This one is on-line so you can listen to his views.

On objective measures, he suggests, Australia has done very well. And yet Australians have become more insecure, edgier: :"We are a society in the grip of epidemics of anxiety, obesity and depression."
"How did this happen? Where did this edgy, anxious, too-violent society come from? This uneasy blend of arrogance and timidity?"
Noting that the problem is not unique to Australia but can be found in other Western countries, Mackay provides various explanations including:
  • growing social inequity that affects those involved but also Australians' perceptions of themselves with a growing disconnect between those perceptions and external reality
  • rise of individualism creating a me first mentality, a decline in real social connection, a focus on the pursuit of happiness
  • a decline in respect for our social institutions
  • a growing feeling of powerlessness accentuated by the growing rumble of the three big threats – climate change, international terrorism and the threat of a major global economic disruption.
These things interconnect and feed each other. To Mackay's mind and recognising how little influence we have over broader matters, the solution begins by focusing on repairing and rebuilding those things that we can influence and that starts with our neigbourhood and local community.

What do you think of all this?

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Sydney's growth problems - Astrolabe Park

Proposed Sporting Developments, Astrolabe Park Daceyville

Update 8 August. Since I wrote this post Sydney Water has stated that it is not part of the consortium, had received no formal proposal from the proponents and had not been invited to the community forum. I have therefore corrected the story. 

From time to time I have written about the problems brought by growth in the area of Sydney in which I presently live. Now those problems have come to roost just two hundred metres from the house.

If you look at Astrolabe Park from the air using Google maps satellite view it seems a small but well located part of a swath of green.  For that reason it was identified by a consortium consisting of  the University of NSW, Cricket NSW and AFL NSW as a possible site for sporting redevelopment. Each party has different interests:

The consortium

Sydney Water own the land. They recently undertook some storm water drainage work and landscaping, with park management resting with Botany Bay and now Bayside Council following recent council mergers. While the details are unclear, it appears that remediation work is required on the site because of previous use as a tip.

When I wrote the post, I listed Sydney Water as a member of the consortium. As outlined above, Sydney Water has now denied this, although the use of the word formal approaches suggests that there may have been some informal discussions. My feeling is, and it's only a feeling, is that Sydney Water might be interested because the other parties in funding the development will have to fund any remediation.

The University of NSW (and here), more correctly now just UNSW since they have re-branded to facilitate global business activities, is the area's largest business by a country mile with over 6,000 staff and 53,000 students across various campuses.

In 2006, UNSW decided that land at Little Bay where its sports fields were located was surplus to requirements and sold the area to developers. developing new facilities on the David Phillips Field next door to Astrolabe Park. This site has now become over-crowded. UNSW has also entered into a deal with NSW Rugby Union whereby that body has shifted its headquarters to David Phillips which will also become the training ground for the Waratahs super rugby side. NSW Rugby is presently accommodated in temporary buildings on the site pending construction of new buildings.

UNSW appears to be the main driver in the proposal, providing project management with the intention of finally managing the whole complex. The proposed redevelopment  of Astrolabe Park will allow cricket and AFL to be accommodated and cement UNSW's role as a sporting powerhouse.

The two sporting bodies involved are Cricket NSW and AFL NSW/ACT. There is some confusion about their role here that I have not been able to clarify. One story is that the new facilities will become the training ground for the Sydney Sixers (cricket) and Sydney Swans (AFL) plus some admin. However, the lassie I talked to from Cricket NSW suggested that the cricket focus would be on community cricket where there is an acute shortage of grounds. The answer probably lies somewhere in the middle.

Both codes face development pressures and are affected by the redevelopment of the Moore Park sports complex.

Outline of the development 

A map of the proposed development is at the top. It is substantial, involving:
  • demolition of the current toilet/park maintenance block
  • the development of  AFL and cricket ovals, each with their own pavillion
  • construction of a large admin/indoor training/rehab/cafe facilities.block
  • new outdoor cricket nets
  • a playground area
  • additional parking both road and on-site.   

Not unexpectedly, the proposal has created a degree of outrage in the local community. This began with dog owners in Daceyville and beyond concerned about the loss of one of the remaining few leash free areas, but quickly spread. In the last three weeks I have met more local residents than in the preceding three years. There is a certain irony here because I will be leaving the area later this year.

It would be easy to conclude that this is another NIMBY (not in my backyard) protest  Discussions with people outside the area makes this clear. There is, some suggest, something selfish about local opposition at a time when Sydney is in desperate need of new sporting facilities. By implication, local residents should take a hit for the good of the whole. It's not quite as clear-cut as this.

Everybody agrees that the Park could be better developed. It has had a checkered history. Built on an old rubbish dump, it was a very popular place that many locals remember from their childhood. Then the land subsided forcing closure of facilities. The Park became something of a no go zone.Writing in January 2015, Postcard Sydney described the Park in this way:
Walking around the hilly, windblown expanse of Astrolabe Park you can’t help but feel like you’re walking through a horror film. This place is scary. It feels too big for it’s size. It doesn’t help that there are fences along one side where the golf course meets the car park, or the prominent feature is two giant flood lights rising out of the ground like something out of war of the worlds....... 
For such a large area there seems to be a dearth of facilities at Astrolabe Park. You might find the lone basketball half court tucked away behind the creepy looking brick maintenance shed. Further afield there’s a couple of woefully inadequate bench seats in ditch and the aforementioned flood lights.
Recent drainage and landscape work has opened it up again to recreational use, but it remains lacking in facilities. One of the difficulties facing residents and indeed probably the development's proponents is that nobody seems to know just what development can be carried out without expensive remediation work. However, simple development carried out including benches, BBQs, tree planting and playgrounds is likely to require minimal remediation. Still, we don't actually know.

There is pressure on existing community sports facilities across Sydney. However. the apparent desire of UNSW and the sporting bodies to effectively make Daceyville a sports complex catering to big as opposed to community sport raises different issues. There is a fair degree of local resentment at what many see as a land grab triggered by developments elsewhere. More importantly, there is a conflict between what we might think of as passive as opposed to sporting space.

I have described in past posts the way the area surrounding Daceyville has become subject to high and medium density development progressively adding large numbers of people. All these developments feature nearby parks and green space as sale points.This growth is adding to pressure on sports fields, but these people also want more passive space in which they can relax, play with the kids and indeed walk the dog. . Astrolabe Park is the last  large passive area left.within walking. cycling or easy driving distance.

Daceyville residents vote against the development proposal. 
Beyond these issues, access is a huge problem. This applies to passive recreation too, but is more acute with the proposed development. Daceyville is a little triangle between two main roads with its top at the junction.

Access to Astrolabe Park is via the biggest drag, Gardners Road. Three roads provide access to the Park, two of one block, the third longer.

As presently configured, east bound traffic has access to one road, the narrowest. With cars parked both sides, traffic is reduce to a single car passage. Westbound traffic has two limited options. This creates problems with both access and parking, problems that are likely to be acute if you have both AFL and cricket matches on, worse if you have a significant rugby carnival on at the Dave Phillips field such as the State rugby schools championship. .

I think that this is likely to be a big problem for the proponents as well as the residents. Let me try to give some scale indications.

Yesterday I went to see my old school play St Joseph's College at Hunters Hill. With existing resident parking, the combination of buses and cars occupied an area greater than Daceyville. I got there early. By the time I left, the cars were circling looking for a parking spot for the later games.

A few weeks back I went down the road to watch the state under 16 school rugby trial at the David Phillips Field. All the nearby available car spots in Astrolabe Park were occupied with some spill-over into Astrolabe Road. Yesterday, I went down to watch Clare play hockey. Parking here is generally on the other side of the David Phillips field, but it often spills into Astrolabe Road. Now add to this cricket and AFL.

It should be clear that I am not opposed to sport nor sport in my immediate neighbourhood. My problem is that I cannot see how access and parking will be handled if you add in two more codes.

Decision Processes

Part of the resident frustration lies in lack of clarity in decision processes, with the proposal coming from left field.

The land is owned by Sydney Water, a State Owned Enterprise. Bayside Council manages the park, bearing maintenance costs. The consortium came to Bayside with the proposal. This placed Bayside in a difficult position. If they knocked it back, the consortium could simply bypass Council and go direct to Sydney Water and the NSW Government. Bayside took the view, correctly to my mind, that they should put the matter out for public consultation before reaching any conclusion.

At the community information session, the proponents emphasised that the project was still at the concept stage, that the detailed work had still to be done. I think that's right, but the proposal has still gone a fair bit down track. I think Council will likely knock it back given the issues involved, but I don't know. In that event, the proponents will have to decide whether or not to bypass Council and go to the State Government. In all, there is some way to go.

Update 30 August 2018

I was advised today that the consortium has withdrawn its proposal because of community opposition.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

A very nasty internet blackmail attempt

I receive multiple phishing attempts. This is the first time I have been subject to a direct personal blackmail attempt. I am sharing it because of its sheer nastiness and in case anybody else has been hit.

Needless to say, the email address attached to the name Laurella Campo is not Laurella Campo. I imagine its been hacked. For that reason, I am not sharing it.

I have blocked out the stated password because it was an old password that I used for convenience but dropped a long time ago. It's just possible that there may be an old now non-used not changed site. The fact that they actually have the password means some form of data breach somewhere. The fact that it is an old password suggests that it comes from an older record set.

To my knowledge, I have never visited the site in question. I had to look it up. It is also unlikely that they could access my computer in the way they describe. Among other things, I have an old box without any camera!

As you might expect, the email caused me to review everything they might have accessed in all ways that might be embarrassing if released. If they have got stuff, they can bloody well release it. That increases the chances of tracking them.      


In a comment, kvd pointed me to two sites reporting on the scam. The comments on the second are especially instructive because they provide multiple examples of the scan email. It began a bit over two weeks ago, is global, uses old lists of emails and passwords derived from previous data breaches, most long changed. Some people have been sucked in. The key is not to respond and alter your password if its still current on any sites. It is really very nasty.

"From: Laurella Campo
Date: 24/07/2018 1:05:03 PM
To: ndarala
Subject: ndarala - xxxxxx
I am well aware xxxxxx is your pass. Lets get right to the purpose. You do not know me and you're probably wondering why you're getting this e mail? No-one has paid me to check about you.

In fact, I installed a malware on the X vids (porn) web-site and do you know what, you visited this website to have fun (you know what I mean). While you were watching videos, your browser began operating as a Remote Desktop having a key logger which provided me with access to your screen and cam. Just after that, my software obtained your complete contacts from your Messenger, FB, and emailaccount. And then I created a double-screen video. 1st part displays the video you were watching (you've got a good taste omg), and next part shows the view of your cam, yeah it is u.

You have got just two solutions. Shall we analyze each one of these solutions in aspects:

1st option is to just ignore this e mail. In such a case, I most certainly will send out your actual recorded material to all of your contacts and also just consider concerning the awkwardness you can get. And likewise if you are in a loving relationship, just how it will certainly affect?

2nd choice would be to compensate me $7000. I will name it as a donation. In this case, I most certainly will asap remove your videotape. You will continue on your daily life like this never took place and you surely will never hear back again from me.

You'll make the payment through Bitcoin (if you don't know this, search "how to buy bitcoin" in Google search engine).

BTC Address: 1BpGi36WXepSbkAqukXgX9BkphXfVnRVyp
[case sensitive so copy & paste it]

If you are planning on going to the law enforcement, well, this e mail cannot be traced back to me. I have dealt with my moves. I am just not trying to ask you for so much, I want to be compensated. I have a unique pixel within this email message, and right now I know that you have read through this email message. You now have one day to pay. If I do not get the BitCoins, I will certainly send your video recording to all of your contacts including members of your family, colleagues, and so forth. However, if I receive the payment, I'll erase the recording right away. If you need evidence, reply  Yeah then I definitely will send your video to your 10 contacts. It is a nonnegotiable offer thus please do not waste my personal time & yours by responding to this email.".

Monday, July 23, 2018

Monday Note - President Trump

Just over a month since my last post discussing President Trump. Since then, he has continued to flutter the dovecotes.A lot of the commentary that I have read as well as the reactions on social media has been very stereotyped. I see little point in getting my nightie in a knot over the man. He just is, a somewhat random element on the international stage stirring things up for worse or, maybe, better in some cases.

We cannot forecast, well at least I can't, just what he might do, although there are consistent themes. When faced with a somewhat random variable that we cannot control, the only thing that we can do is to manage our own reactions.

From a purely Australian perspective, the brewing trade war poses clear threats. Australia depends upon trade and indeed trade to those countries likely to be most adversely affected by the war. I think that we should maintain our efforts to support the freer global trading order. The US's share of the global economy has dropped below 20%. We should focus our efforts on the remaining 80%. I also think that we should become involved in China's Belt and Road Initiative since this is the largest global initiative focused on global economic development.

The strategic scene is obviously more complex. Australia wants the US to maintain its global role because this has provided a stable framework that has, to my mind, helped maintain global order despite mistakes. However, the US has had a long history of isolationism that President Trump seems to be playing too.

The US did over-extend. The withdrawal began under President Obama and seems to be continuing under President Trump.We have to deal with this in increasingly clouded circumstances. This creates problems from a narrow Australian perspective,  We are a wealthy country, but a small player by global standards outside narrowly defined economic measures. Crudely, we count, but only in a smallish way.

 I think that Australia has to do five things. we need to maintain the relationship with the US while recognising that the world is changing; we need to focus on maintaining the world economic order; we need to build new relationships, including supporting our neighbours;and we are going to have to continue to build our defence capabilities. In many ways the last is a waste of money because money spent on defence means that we cannot spend money on other things that will yield greater returns, but I think that it is necessary; and we need to extend what is often called soft power.

In doing these things, I think that we also need to adopt a low public profile. Australian political leaders cannot help but lecture, perform, playing to the domestic political marketplace. They also like telling people what to do.I wish that they would shut up, talking quietly while carrying the biggest stick that we can manage.        

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

The return of the autodidact

Autodidact - a self-taught person. Australian Labor Prime Minister Ben Chifley  was an example, another was steel magnate Andrew Carnegie
The second half of the nineteenth century and first part of the twentieth has sometimes been called the age of the autodidact or self-taught man.

Educational opportunities were more limited, while our obsession with credentials still lay in the future.Outside certain of the professions or the church which required a basic degree, most training was craft based. The period was one of scientific advance, great curiosity and a belief in human advancement. There was a great thirst for knowledge:  Many read widely and took part in self-improvement activities through bodies such as mechanics institutes.

Both my grandfathers were autodidacts. Both left school at an early age. Both became actively involved in politics, if on different sides. Both were religious. One became a Primitive Methodist Home Missionary. Even in that church, you required a university degree to become a full minister. The second became a long standing Minister for Education in NSW and wrote quite extensively on historical, political and educational topics.

The rise of formal education and the increasing requirement for formal credentials over the second half of the twentieth century effectively stamped the breed out.  The dominance of formal ever cascading credentials introduced increasing increasing rigidities into every aspect of life. It meant that people had less time for thought, less time for reflection. less time for free choice in what to study, were reduced in what they could do without the obligatory ticks. Autodidacts still existed, but were marginalised, forced to the periphery..

There was a time in the 1980s when I believed that the rise of competency based approaches with their stated emphasis on the capacity to do regardless of how that capacity was acquired might free the system up, break the hold of the credentialers, encourage the return of the autodidact. By 1992 I knew that that was not going to happen as the professions, the officials and the education system asserted control over what had to be learned, how it was to be learned, how it was to be measured.  .

I had thought that the internet might break the cycle by giving people access to a broader range of knowledge, greater freedom. At first, things seemed promising.

The acronym MOOC for massive open online course was coined in 2008. MOOCs are online courses aimed at unlimited participation and open access via the web. They are generally provided for free, although fees may apply if you wish to get a formal tick for the course. By 2010,  MOOCs were seen as the wave of the future, something that would open further study to all of their own choice and at their own pace. By 2012 universities and other providers were rushing to role-out MOOCs.

August 2012. University of New England (UNE) Sydney alumni challenge then VC Jim Barber on his vision for the University's future. 
In August 2012 I attended a UNE alumni dinner. There I heard VC Jim Barber  start by talking about the university as a business, about the on-line revolution, about the need to deliver a low cost product. UNE, he seemed to be saying, had to survive by delivering a mass, cheap, on-line product.

There was not a single word in the first five minutes of business/CEO speak that explained to me why I or other alumni should continue to support UNE. Under persistent attack, Jim refined his position, setting out a broader view, but it was an example of the effects of managerial speak and of the obsession with new technology seen in terms of delivery platforms by existing institutions.

By 2016 MOOCs were past their peak. Jim Barber had resigned in 2014, replaced by Annabel Duncan. In 2016 as I completed the latest on-line work  place health and safety obligatory course I realised that I had become jaundiced here too. Don't get me wrong, I think workplace safety is important, but so much of this stuff is really teaching people to comply with the rules. Internet based systems have become the weapon of choice in delivering stuff within the bounds set by existing rules and approaches.

I began blogging in March 2006. By 2008, I saw blogging as a key platform for learning, for open conversation, for discourse outside the academy. Google blog search became a key search tool. It was, if you like, a good platform for the autodidact!

Facebook was founded in 2004 and then began to expand from 2006. Twitter was established in 2006. By 2009, many bloggers had migrated to these new platforms, replacing analysis with short form repeats and comments. The echo chamber had been born.

Apart from missing their previous contributions, I found much of the new material boring and repetitive. I already knew their views and really didn't take well to constant re-tweets limited to stuff that I knew that they supported. There was another problem, for I found myself experimenting with the platforms themselves. So if I wrote a post, I would then FB it and tweet it as well, adding to the time involved. I also found myself pulled by a key question: to what degree should I become involved with the new platforms that kept emerging? How many new platforms could or should I add? How did I balance all this?

By 2018 I found myself weary. I was trying to do my own original writing. I was trying to use my various platforms to educate and discuss, but I seemed to be getting no where. Or, at least, not making much progress. Then I realised that I was missing the point.

Outside the bounds of the increasingly complex education and training system with its multiple layers of credentials, outside the still increasing requirements for mandated ticks, a quiet revolution has been underway.

We have, in fact, seen the return of the autodidact. I am proud to be one in the sense that I pursue my curiosity, seek to learn and to share. Here we have more opportunities open to us than at any time in human history. I am not talking about "self-directed learning" with its connotations that one is studying for a career purpose, but the seeking of education, knowledge and understanding for our own purposes including sheer curiosity.

I am sure that this will not come as a surprise to you. It's just that my own sense of weariness has stood in the way, has blinded me to the scale of the revolution of which I am a small part. I talk about myself as a public historian, I have tried to articulate my role there, but I'm not sure that I have really come to grips with what that means. Part of the problem is that I am still too locked into formal structures, into requirements mandated by others.

In history, for example, for every person studying or teaching history at school or university, there are probably 50 interested for their own purposes.The number could be far higher. I haven't worked out how to calculate it properly. More broadly, I haven't worked out a framework to help me analyse the ever-growing informal sector.

The existing education and training sector itself is starting to crumble under its own weight. You can only mandate so many qualifications, impose so many costs, extend study time horizons so far, before people stop playing, start looking for alternatives.

I think that this is already happening, in part because of the constant repetition about multiple careers, about the need for flexible education, about the need for constant re-education.. Why commit to a long course of study to get a particular ticket for career purposes when faced with a constant shortening half-life for that course of study? Surely better to do the absolute minimum now and then top up as required?

Again, I haven't thought this through properly. I think that it has quite profound implications for the structure of education. In some limited areas such as medical specialties where you have rigid mandated requirements, significant income advantages and a continuing expectation of life-long careers the status quo may survive. Elsewhere I think that the first part of a revolution may be well underway.  

Monday, July 09, 2018

Monday Forum - mainstreaming and the fallacy of universal standards

Today's Forum sets up two linked assertions for discussion.

The first is that mainstreaming makes no automatic sense. The second is is that universal, state or national, standards make no automatic sense.

Mainstreaming refers to a process by which tailored programs delivered by special purpose organisations targeted to particular groups are absorbed into universal or mainstream services delivered to the population as a whole. Universal standards refer to the way in which the application of common standards to  particular government areas, state or nation, has become automatically seen as making good sense.

I think both views are wrong. What do you think?.  

Saturday, July 07, 2018

Saturday Morning Musings - memories of Klaus Loewald, a Dunera Boy

Historian and former diplomat Klaus Loewald (right), shown here with fellow Dunera internee Hans Marcus on the fiftieth anniversary of the vessel’s arrival. Rebecca Silk
There has been a real rush of new material on the now famous story of the Dunera Boys, the group of mainly German and Austrian Jewish refugees forcibly deported to Australia on the Dunera in July 1940. Upon arrival, they were interned at Hay. From that group came many who would become leading Australian intellectuals.  

On 19 June 2018, Nicholas Gruen posted A lucky boy from a golden age of economics, a summary of the speech he gave at the launch of economist Max Corden's memoirs, Lucky boy in the lucky country. Corden was a Dunera Boy as was Fred Gruen, Nicholas's father and another leading Australian economist. My attention was caught in part because I'm interested in the Dunera Boys, in part because of the discussion on the changing nature of economics.

Nicholas's reflections triggered  a part completed post drawing from his thoughts but also my own reflections on and experience with the changing nature of economics. I paused in writing because I realised how little I actually knew in some areas.

I will complete that post, but in the meantime my attention was caught by the publicity surrounding a new book by Ken Inglis, Seumas Spark and Jay Winter with Carol Bunyan, Dunera Lives: A Visual History. This included a radio discussion between the ABC's Phillip Adams and Jay Winter on the book. Then, digging around, I found this 12 December 2016 piece by Seumas Sparke in Inside Story,  "Ken Inglis and the Dunera: a seventy-year history", telling a little of the history of the book. My attention was caught by this paragraph:
Loewald’s story is remarkable. Born into a Jewish family in Berlin in 1920, he escaped the Kristallnacht pogrom in 1938 by staying on the move, resting at night on trains rather than at home. In London he worked in a factory job before his arrest and deportation to Australia. Released from internment in 1942, he served in the 8th Employment Company of the Australian army alongside other former Dunera internees. He returned to London in 1945 and emigrated to the United States the following year; there, he took American citizenship and built an academic career. In 1962 he left Berkeley for Saigon to teach American politics and history at the university and to serve as American cultural attaché. He resigned from the US diplomatic service in 1970 in protest against the Vietnam war and Nixon’s presidency, moved to Australia with his wife, and joined the history department of the University of New England. He died in 2004 without having travelled to Hay with Ken, a trip Loewald had suggested they make.
In 1981 I returned to University of New England to work full time on my PhD. This was a happy time in my life. I was without real care, I had enough money for little luxuries, friends to do things with and I was back in an academic environment, able to dive down all sorts of rabbit holes not always directly connected with my main topic.

Over 1981 and 1982 I often sat next to Klaus in the tea room or at our various social functions. He was an kind and urbane man, an interesting man, who was interested in many of the things I was interested in. I had come back into an academic environment after 14 years in the public service, including several at senior level. I found that I did not have to explain things to him, that he understood.

We were then in the first or second stages of the specialisation and fragmentation that has come to mark so many disciplines.  I found that this had led to a narrowing of focus, a shallowing of thought, an increased unwillingness to discuss broader issues including the methods and philosophical underpinnings on which various disciplines rested.  Credentialism had also increased, something that I was coming to detest.

I suppose that I was especially conscious of these things because I was coming back into a university that I had known well, not just as a student but also from growing up in an academic household. So I was comparing a now with a past that, arguably,  had already become wrapped in a degree of golden nostalgia. Still, and more broadly, I do remember saying to Klaus in frustration one day after a seminar, how on earth can they seriously hope to research that if they have no idea how organisations or systems work?

Klaus and I talked a little about his past. I clearly remember his description of the Kristallnacht pogrom in 1938 which he escaped by staying on the move, resting at night on trains rather than at home.I remember the descriptions of broken windows, of glass crunching under foot. However, I really had no idea of his background, his broader experience, and greatly regret now that I did not pursue further when I had the chance.

Perhaps I should record at some point what I have now discovered as a short memoir. The time Klaus and his second wife Do Thi Uyen Nhu, herself a remarkable woman, spent in Armidale was only a small part of their very varied lives. It was, relatively, a bigger part of mine, sufficient that he remains fixed in my memory, saying hello as I come into the tearoom, waving at me to sit down with him.

Monday, July 02, 2018

Preserving the integrity of historical records in the age of cultural sensitivities

Aboriginal camp near Armidale. Taken by C Brown Photographer who was working in Armidale in 1892.
Seventy years ago, convict records risked desecration by people who wanted to conceal the convict stain on their ancestry. Today, their children or grandchildren seek to discover such ancestry.

Seventy years ago, having aboriginal ancestry was a matter of shame for some. I am a member of a number of discussion groups concerned with family history. Now there are regular requests from people seeking to establish Aboriginal ancestry. These requests come from Aboriginal people wishing to establish their own family tree and from people who have discovered that they had an Aboriginal grand or great-grand parent and wish to know more. A friend, Caroline Chapman, has established a website and a Facebook group to assist those with connections to the New England Tablelands.

The language used in official  and other records reflects views at the time. Caroline notes:: "Some of the language used in the historical documents cited is now seen as inappropriate by today's standards.
This language has been included for historical accuracy and is often written in quotation marks."

I mention all this because in May The ABC carried a story,  'Aboriginal' redacted from birth, death, marriage certificates after being deemed an offensive term,  about an Aboriginal man who sought a birth certificate for a member of his family only to find that the term "Aboriginal" had been whited out on the grounds that it might be deemed offensive, This decision created outrage among historians.

In this case, the original record was not altered, just a decision made to exclude information from the copy of the record supplied. That's bad enough. The difficulty is that it's actually not a big step from there to a decision to alter the record itself. This has,I think, become easier now that so many records  are digitised.