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Posts tagged ‘Australia’

Why it makes sense to keep Australia Day on January 26.

The 26th of January 1788 was not a day to be celebrated by the convicts who arrived against their will on the First Fleet and it was a day that marked the beginning of traumatic times for the First People of the land.

In contemporary Australia, January 26th is a day that has developed its own traditions, created memories down the years for many, many people and is a significant holiday in our calendar.

Aboriginal people and groups advocating reconciliation who lobby against it are missing a wonderful opportunity.

Why not lobby for Australia Day to become a day that includes celebrating ‘Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and heritage as a proud part of a shared identity’? Thus Australia Day could become a powerful force in race relations helping ‘all Australians understand and value Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous cultures, rights and experiences, which results in stronger relationships based on trust and respect and that are free of racism.’

On the other hand, forcing the date of Australia Day to be changed is a step backward for those who claim to desire reconciliation. It creates division and widens the gap between Aboriginal Australians and non-Aboriginal Australians. Resentment from those who love the day as it is toward those who force the date to be changed can grow into stronger feelings. I feel resentment myself toward claims that January 26th is Invasion Day. Resentment is as strong as my feelings get but then I have loving connections to Aboriginal people through family which possibly tempers my reaction.

January 26th is sometimes called Survival Day by Australian Aboriginal people. It could also be seen as Survival Day for the convicts who wanted nothing more than to return home. Survival is worth celebrating, isn’t it?

It seems to be a no brainer – choose the option that has the potential to deepen our understanding of Aboriginal cultures and history or the option that creates division and resentment in Australia.

(Quotes taken from the website of Reconciliation Australia.)

JB

Persian Plantings

Recently, a chance mention of a ship called Persian by fellow writer and storyteller, Jackie Kerin, led to the discovery of an intriguing coincidence.

Jackie uses the Kamishibai format to tell the story of the historic voyage of the Persian in 1833 when it transported seeds and plants such as ferns, grasses and grape vines from England to Australia. The plants survived this long and arduous journey thanks to terrarium style glass boxes called Wardian cases.

The 1833 voyage carried an experiment by amateur horticulturist, Dr Nathaniel Bagshaw Ward, who wanted to see if the boxes he had designed could successfully transport plants and seeds across the oceans of the world when all other methods had failed.The experiment was a resounding success. After six months at sea enduring temperatures from  -7°C   to 40°C  (19.4°F to 104°F), the plants arrived ‘alive and vigorous’.

The Wardian cases were on the third voyage the Persian had made to Australia. The coincidence we discovered relates to the Persian’s second journey in 1830. This time, my paternal convict ancestor John Rowley was on board.

In 1830, John Rowley, an eighteen-year-old labourer from Leeds, and his partner in crime, twenty-two -year-old William Thackrah, were sentenced to death for breaking into a premises and stealing goods and chattels (such as  spoons,  sheets,  aprons, table-cloths & fabric).

Why the death sentence despite the fact the men had not hurt anyone? Crimes against property (and the Crown) were considered the most heinous by the British Government of the time, and no doubt the privileged class that owned property held the same view. So while thieves were hanged, a man found guilty of manslaughter was fined as little as one shilling.

Eventually, the death sentences imposed on Rowley and Thackrah were commuted to fourteen years transportation to Australia. Both men were on the Persian in 1830 when the ship transported 198 convicts (all male) to Van Diemen’s Land.

Three years earlier in 1827, the Persian had made her first voyage to Australia as a female convict ship carrying sixty convicted women including, to give an example, sixteen-year-old Charlotte Williams who had received a life sentence for a first offence of ‘stealing a watch from the person’.

All three voyages brought foreign transplants to the Australian continent.

Not all of the convict ‘plants’ had a beneficial impact but most of the 160 000 plus men, women and children who were transported across the oceans and transplanted on the Australian continent made positive contributions to the building of Modern Australia. When my ancestor, John Rowley, had served his time, he left Tasmania to take up land allotments in Gippsland, Victoria and played a significant role in the development of the township of Rosedale. Without convicts like him we would not have the Australia we know today.

Like the convict transplants, not all the exotic plants (or the microorganisms that travelled with them in the soil) transported in Wardian cases made a positive contribution to the Australian continent. However, without Dr Ward’s amazing case we would not be enjoying the health benefits of the Cavendish banana or locally grown delicious mangoes. In the 1840s the Wardian cases brought grafted mango trees to Australia from India, generating the establishment of mango production in Queensland.

The Wardian cases were so successful worldwide they revolutionised the transportation of plants and were even used in botanical espionage. In the19th century, China’s tea monopoly came to a halt when Wardian cases were used to successfully move nearly 20,000 tea plants from China to India. Likewise, Brazil’s monopoly on rubber ended when the Wardian cases facilitated the successful transportation of 70,000 germinated rubber tree seeds to Ceylon.

After bringing the first Wardian cases to Australia, the Persian returned to England in 1834, once again successfully carrying plants, such as the coral fern and the black wattle, across the oceans.

My ancestor was not free to return to his homeland but in his new land he planted many, many more plants starting with his own eight children who went on to ‘propagate’ numerous more Rowley ‘plants’.

Learn more about  Jackie Kerin’s story of The Amazing Case of Dr Ward .

Until next time….JB 🙂

References:

The Growth of Plants in Closely Glazed Cases by N.B. Ward

A Commonwealth of Thieves by Thomas Keneally, Anchor Books 2007

Having fun with haiku

September 1st
Trees are green no more
Spring is throwing confetti
Splash! Golden wattle.

Haiku, a form of poetry made popular in Japan, traditionally paints a picture of nature and is constructed with a limited number of syllables, e.g. 17 syllables in three phrases of 5 7 5. However, there are variations to the form and content.

The haiku in this post are all about spring. In my haiku I have not always honoured the traditional use of a ‘cut’ word to signal the juxtaposition which is designed to cause the reader to reflect. I have also broken the traditional ‘without title’ structure by giving each haiku a title.

Australians are familiar with the glorious yellow of the golden wattle tree in spring (subject of my haiku above). The green of the trees’ phyllodes are barely noticeable when the trees bloom because the large fluffy golden-yellow flower heads are so profuse that the trees look predominantly yellow. Thanks to fellow writer Sara Jarrold who endorsed my use of the word ‘confetti’ as fortuitous and felicitous by pointing out that in some countries wattle (aka mimosa) and confetti are both part of wedding ceremonies.

images

I tried to fashion this haiku in a similar style to that of Basho Matsuo (1644-1694), considered one of the greatest haiku poets. Here’s one of his:

In the twilight rain
these brilliant-hued hibiscus
A lovely sunset.

Here are my other spring haiku.

September Final
Light rain is falling
Wild tribes swarm to hallowed ground
Oval ball is bounced

October Arts
Naked bodies fall
On stage, painted faces smile
Celebrating art

November Tuesday
Crowds surge at The Rails
Horses’ hooves pound the home stretch
Golden Cup held high

November Oaks
Royal roses blush
Fair fillies model vogue hats
Proud steeds leave the stalls

Feel free to add your own spring haiku in the comments section. JB 🙂

 

Stars for Galahs

Galahs use the internet for malicious mischief. I’m using the word galah with its slang meaning: a loud-mouthed idiot or silly person. (For those not familiar with the word, galah is pronounced g’LAH with the emphasis on the last syllable so the word rhymes with ‘star’.) This term evolved from the noisy antics of the pink and grey Australian cockatoo called a galah.

Aussie galahs, feathered and non-feathered, are usually harmless but the internet galahs are not. Like the pink and grey cockatoos, they peck at things and, just as with the feathered variety, a single galah is often followed by a gaggle of galahs.

My focus today is with the way those internet galahs damage the review status of a book on Amazon.

In my case a galah gave one of my books a one-star rating even though he hadn’t even read the book! He simply didn’t like books in series. A book’s review status is one of its major selling points. This galah’s one-star rating meant that the review status of my book was reduced, through no fault of the book. That’s what I call bloody unfair! Immediately after he had posted, a gaggle of galahs swooped down and used their nasty beaks to mark his ‘review’ as ‘helpful’ which gave it authenticity and credibility thus further negatively impacting on the book. Despite the fact that this individual admitted to not reading the book and despite the fact that his comment did not even come close to being a review of my book, and despite the fact that several kind fellow authors complained about his so-called review, Amazon refused to remove it.

I subsequently found that many other authors have had to endure this sort of Mephistophelian review posting. I know life wasn’t meant to be fair, but readers can help to minimise the unfair action of galahs and therefore support the hard work of authors by doing the following:

You are posting a review of a book that you liked and you’d like to give it 3.5  stars but there are no half stars on Amazon. In such cases, rather than click 3 stars, lean to the positive side and click 4 stars. The same applies if you think you’d like to give a book 4.5 stars; rather than click on 4 stars, click on 5 stars. In other words, add a star to cancel out a galah!

Naturally you will not wish to ‘add a star for a galah’ for every book you read. I’m just suggesting you bear in mind that your stars might not have the impact they should because of the activity of galahs. Of course, it is possible that galahs will not attack the particular book you are reviewing but either way you will have supported an author whose book you enjoyed reading.

You might also consider koalas when wondering whether to add another star. Koalas are not at all malicious.  No, they are wonderful people who read a book, like it and take the time to post a review on Amazon. BUT they sometimes press 1 star even though they loved the book (evidenced by their comments). They don’t understand how the review system works or perhaps they’re just a bit sleepy – koalas sleep up to 20 hours a day. I know how easy it is to be a koala because I’ve been one myself.

So now you know about galahs and koalas I hope some of you dear readers of books will keep them in mind when posting reviews. Thank you so much.

15 August, 2017: As I mention in JB’s Blog, I feel blessed by the number of readers who take the time to leave comments after reading Whisper My Secret and Mother of Ten Comments that express compassion for my mother and empathy toward my half siblings touch my heart. All the reviews (except the ones from galahs) validate and motivate me as a writer. And it’s not just those two books (both #1 Amazon Best Sellers); the Dusty Kent Murder Mysteries written under the pen name Brigid George have also been read by generous people who take the time to leave comments in the review section. It’s such a thrill for me as a writer to see this tangible evidence of readers connecting with my books.

JB

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