Blemish News - October 2010
Triptych Poets Launch Photos
October 28, 2010
With two of our three Triptych Poets: Issue One launches under our belt, we thought we'd share a few happy snaps from the events.
Book Review – The Colony: A History of early Sydney
October 24, 2010
The Colony: A History of early Sydney
By Grace Karskens
First published 2009; Allen & Unwin
Review by Paul W Newbury
Grace Karskens teaches Australian History at the University of New South Wales and she is the author of The Rocks: Life in Early Sydney. At 678 large pages, this is a big book. It is also a big subject—the story of Australia’s first city.
Karskens begins with the story that in 1786, the British Government decided to found a colony on the other side of the globe. Subsequently, the First Fleet of eleven vessels with a thousand people including 759 convicts landed at Sydney Cove in January 1788 after a journey of nine months. The voyage of the fleet is one of history’s great feats of migration.
Karskens has written a balanced account of Sydney’s history and it is especially inclusive of Aboriginal people and Indigenous themes. The Colony is as much about Sydney’s Aboriginal population as anything else.
This is the country of the Eora Nation but the Aborigines of the Sydney region were principally known by their clan names. There were over 30 clans where Sydney now stands. The powerful Cammeragal clan lived on the north shore of Sydney Harbour; the Kamaygal were from Botany Bay south and the Cadigal clan came from Watson’s Bay to Sydney Cove.
Each clan was made up of 30-50 people and they married people from other clans. Usually the woman came to live with her husband’s people though she kept her spiritual and emotional ties to her country.
From the 1800s, the Aboriginal presence in the Sydney region seemed to be disappearing. People attributed the declining population to Aborigines fighting amongst themselves; dwindling hunting grounds and the clearance of woodlands. The issue was serious enough to warrant a parliamentary inquiry in 1845.
The Catholic Archbishop of Sydney John Polding was called on to address the inquiry. He spoke evocatively that the falling Aboriginal population was due to a deeply felt grievance experienced by them regarding their land. They felt wronged that Europeans had taken their land without compensation of any kind. Polding’s diagnosis in our time would be clinical depression.
Polding said in Aboriginal law, trespass was a precursor of war between the tribes. The facts were that Europeans had come to this land without being asked; they had taken Aboriginal land without the right to do so; and they had driven away the animals that were the basis of their subsistence.
This was challenging analysis and it was at odds with the general view. Official explanations exonerated Europeans and blamed Aborigines for their demise. They had no resistance to vice and they were naturally predisposed to degradation which was exacerbated by alcohol. In short, Aboriginal deaths were seen as race suicide and in the common view, the promiscuity of Aboriginal women had resulted in venereal disease and sterility.
But contrary to public belief, Aboriginal people were not dying out; they found ways to become invisible. As their camping grounds in Sydney were taken up by wealthy immigrants and their gathering grounds taken for parks and racecourses, they retreated to places shunned by settlers—wetlands, reserves and bushland beyond the reach of roads and carriages. Here, they hunted, gathered food and camped in the old way.
In places like Salt Pan Creek which flows into Georges River, an unofficial camp of Aboriginal political activists and refugees grew up in the 1920-1930s. In these fringe areas, the people found refuge and sustenance under the cover of bushland and they literally disappeared from sight. But they were there.
This is an outstanding account of Sydney’s history and it is a landmark narrative of people and place. It is also remarkable for the large number of colour and greyscale illustrations and maps. This is a book that might change the way you feel about Australian history.
At Cataract Dam in Sydney’s south-west, there is a plaque that commemorates Sydney’s dark past:
The Massacre of men, women and children of the Dharawal Nation occurred near here
on 17th April, 1816.
Fourteen were counted this day, but the real number will never be known. We acknowledge
the impact this had and continues to have on the Aboriginal people of this land.
We are deeply sorry. We will remember them.
Every year, Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people come together on April 17 for a ceremony in memory of the dead.
Triptych Poets : Issue One Reviewed
October 21, 2010
Issue One of Triptych Poets featuring Ray Liversidge, Hilaire and Mary Mageau, has received a excellent review by Patricia Prime on Graham Nunn’s blog Another Lost Shark.
“All three poets in this collection beguile us with their insights. There is, I think, a journey here for anyone – for everyone. The paths are all clearly marked: Liversidge’s lives, Hilaire’s sweet lyrics and Mageau’s marbled truths.” – Patricia Prime
The full review can be read here: http://grahamnunn.wordpress.com/2010/10/20/triptych-poets-1-blemish-books-reviewed-by-patricia-prime/
Triptych Poets Released
October 4, 2010
Triptych Poets: Issue One, featuring Ray Liversidge, Hilaire and Mary Mageau, went on sale at the National Young Writers Festival Sunday Zine Fair on 3 October 2010.
Copies can be purchased for $15 in our bookstore. Also available is our new Blemish Books Combo Pack which includes Triptych Poets: Issue One and Caught in the Breeze: 10 Essays for only $25. That's a saving of $10!