Fatal Shore to Red Centre
Periphery and Centre Reversed:
Despite the external image of Australia as a land of sunshine and open space, the majority of its European population live in large urban conglomerations on the coast. When this author migrated to Australian in 1984 the largest inland non-capital city (i.e. excluding the artificially created federal capital of Canberra) was Towoomba, on the edge of the Dividing Range, 80 miles inland from Brisbane. Towoomba's population was just 80,000 and it boasted the country's greatest concentration of millionaires on account of its popularity with retired graziers. The only state with more than 50% of its population living outside the conurbation of the capital city was Queensland. Australia, like Scotland, is one of the most urbanised countries on Earth.
During the Boer War, Australian recruiters faced the same crisis that was discovered by their counterparts in the U.K. In contrast to the semi-mythical sun-bronzed bush worker, the majority of recruits for foreign war service were drawn from the same poor inner city environment as those in the Mother Country and they encountered the same high rejection rate. Paul Hogan who created the Mick "Crocodile" Dundee character for two films began his working life as a rigger working on the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
Despite its global presentation as the "wide brown land", much of white Australian is firmly oriented outwards. Robert Hughes, in The Fatal Shore (1987), recounts how the early settlers came close to disaster because of their reliance on re-supply by sea. The militarised population almost starved to death, looking outwards towards England while failing to comprehend the knowledge and survival skills of the surrounding aboriginal population. Robert Drewe's collection of short stories, The Body Surfers, published in 1983 and televised by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation in the nineties, captured the contemporary version of this feeling, while Paul Kelly, a prolific Australian singer-songwriter, turned it into a metaphor for life itself.
On a crowded beach in a distant time
At the height of summer see a boy of five
At the water's edge, so nimble and free
Jumping over the rivers, looking way out to sea
Now a man comes up from amongst the throng
Takes the young boy's hand and his hand is strong
And the child feels safe and the child feels brave
As he's carried in those arms up and over the waves
Deeper water, deeper water, deeper water
Is calling him on
Paul Kelly, lyric "Deeper Water" Mushroom Records, 1995
Both sides now: aboriginal and non-indigenous views of electronic repositioning
During the eighties and nineties a growing awareness of environmental issues within white Australia, starting with conservation issues in Tasmania, and opposition to the export of uranium on both environmental and ethical grounds began to form a new context for aboriginal beliefs. The Gordon-below-Franklin dispute of 1979-83 has now entered the high school curriculum. Following this dispute, minority parties holding the balance of power in the Federal Senate supported opposition to uranium export. This was continued by the incoming Hawke Australian Labor Party administration 1983, despite pre-election pledges to suspend it.With the return of a conservative government in 1996, Green Left Weekly remains a focus for such campaigns and the argument continues. The
A wider range of migrant ethnicity has followed the discontinuance of the white Australia policy. This has undermined earlier definitions of Australian-ness A white Australian understanding is presented by Steve Georgopoulos who as a white Australian described his encounters with aboriginal culture over a 25 year span. This paper, presented to the LERN (Literacy and Education Research Network) Conference held at Alice Springs in 1995, appeared in Education Australia in 1998.
Tanami and Beyond
The Tanami network pioneered high-bandwith communication to remote aboriginal communities at the beginning of the nineties. This was the point at which satellite downlinks and local re-transmission allowed fully national broadcast television and radio coverage for the first time.
An ABC radio report from 1996 discusses the experiences from and issues raised by the first years of use. A 1995 overview of the experience is available as a pdf file from Wainhouse Research.
Perry Morrison, a virtual participant in Odyssey 2000, is Top End manager of the Outback Digital Network. This is a project resulting from the initiative of indigenous communities in remote areas themselves, from Broome in Western Australia to Darwin in the Northern Territory along the "Top End". It provides telecommunications linked into existing telecommunication infrastructure. The indigenous people themselves can establish communications links and communications services directly appropriate to their needs. The ODN website provides links to an extensive set of community and government on-line resources.
An extensive range of published and on-line resources is available from the Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Commission ATSIC website in Sydney.
Michael Meadows of Queensland University of Technology provides a wider discussion of the indigenous use of electronic media in an article in the Canadian Journal of Communications.
A Canadian paper Defining and maintaining universal access to basic network services widens the debate further by examining the concept of and claims for "universal access". Much of the work described above is driven in part by funding from telecoms providers who are sensitive to claims that deregulation and privatisation have eliminated the redistributive role of universal access required of state monopoly providers.
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