Common

The following reflection is based on the 1785 testimony of Sir Joseph Banks, as documented in ‘A second report from the Committee of Enquiry into Transportation’. The document records a series of questions, and the responses of Sir Joseph Banks.

 

In my networks, I hear the phrase ‘stolen wealth’ at least as often as I hear the word ‘commonwealth’ when I speak to people face-to-face.  In the media, I only hear the words ‘commonwealth’, and this is usually in relation to Commonwealth of Australia or the Commonwealth Games.  I am thinking about common wealth, stolen wealth, and Commonwealth.

I think that Sir Joseph Banks’ pre-1788 imagination still thrives in Australia.

PART I – COMMON

INTRODUCTION

It being in the contemplation of this committee to suggest such places as may be most proper to send the whole or part –// -//-//  of the convicts now under sentence of transportation so they would be glad to know where in your voyage with Captain Cook it occurred to you that there were any places in the new discovered islands to which persons of such description might be sent in a situation where they might be able by labour to support themselves.

Banks:  I have no doubt that the soil of many parts of the Eastern coast of New South Wales between the latitudes of 30 and 40 is sufficiently fertile to support a considerable number of Europeans who would cultivate it in the ordinary modes used in England.

Is any spot there better adapted to that purpose than another according to your observation?

Banks:  Botany Bay is the only part of that country which I have actually visited and I am confident that is in every respect adapted to the purpose.

 

COMMON COAST

Is the coast in general or the particular part you have mentioned much inhabited?
Banks: There are very few inhabitants

 

COMMON FEAR

Are they of a peaceable or hostile disposition?
Banks: Though they seemed inclined to hostilities they did not appear at all to be feared. We never saw more than 30 or 40 together.

 

COMMON OWNERSHIP

Do you apprehend in case it was resolved to send convicts there any district of the country might be obtained by cession or purchase?
Banks: There was no probability while we were there of obtaining anything by cession or purchase as there was nothing we could offer that they would take except provisions and those we wanted ourselves.

 

COMMON LANGUAGE,  COMMON GOVERNMENT

Have you any idea of the nature of the government under which they lived?
Banks: None whatever, nor of their language.

 

COMMON FISH

Does the coast abound with fish and is it easily to be taken?
Banks: Yes, particularly by sting rays of a great size which are very good food and which were easily caught at high water by being struck with a boat hook or rigging.

 

COMMON BIRDS , COMMON ANIMALS

Did you see any animals or birds?
Banks: I saw no quadrupeds likely to be useful for food but vast abundance of parrots, quails and other birds which we eat – no wild beasts.

 

COMMON SOIL 

What is the soil?
Banks: Every where that I saw consisted either of swampy ground or light sandy mould – there were some very large trees and every where vast quantities of grass

 

COMMON TIMBER

Did the timber appear fit for building?
Banks: It appeared to me to be fit for all the purposes of house building and ship building.

 

COMMON STONE

Was there any stone proper for building?
Banks: I saw stone lying in beds but never having broke it or cut it I cannot speak as to the quality of it.

 

COMMON MOUNTAINS

Did the country seem to rise into high land gradually or was it mountainous.
Banks: It rises very gradually – there are not any high mountains within sight.

 

COMMON RIVERS

Did you see any rivers?
Banks: No – there were some brooks of fresh water which we found good and watered with it.

 

COMMON TRANSPORT

Had the natives any canoes or vessels of any other construction?
Banks: I saw none but canoes made of bark; the largest barely capable of carrying two men.

 

COMMON GRASS

Is it possible that European cattle would live and breed there?
Banks: From the quantity of grass there is every reason to believe they would thrive.

 

COMMON SOIL

Is the soil adapted to the cultivation of European corn and pulse?
Banks: I have no doubt both from the soil and climate they would thrive there.

 

COMMON WOMEN

Supposing 500 convicts were to be established in that place would it be easy to obtain for them a supply of women?
Banks: I have no doubt that they might be obtained from the south sea islands at no other expense than the charge of fetching them.

 

COMMON WEALTH

Do you think that 500 men being put on shore there would meet with that obstruction from the natives which might prevent their settling there?
Banks: Certainly not – from the experience I have had of the natives of another part of the same coast I am inclined to believe they would speedily abandon the country to the new comers.

 

COMMONWEALTH DEFENCE

Were the natives armed and in what manners?
Banks: They were armed with spears headed with fish bones but none of them we saw in Botany Bay appeared at all formidable.

 

BRITISH COMMONWEALTH 

Do you know any place you think preferable to this for the purpose of sending convicts to it?
Banks: From the fertility of the soil the timid disposition of the inhabitants and the climate being so analogous to that of Europe I give this place the preference to all that I have seen.

(Banks)Withdrew.

 

PART II – STOLEN 

STOLEN COAST

Is the coast in general or the particular part you have mentioned much inhabited?
Banks: There are very few inhabitants

 

STOLEN FEAR

Common Fear

Are they of a peaceable or hostile disposition? Banks: Though they seemed inclined to hostilities they did not appear at all to be feared. We never saw more than 30 or 40 together.

 

STOLEN OWNERSHIP

 

purchase

Do you apprehend in case it was resolved to send convicts there any district of the country might be obtained by cession or purchase?
Banks:  There was no probability while we were there of obtaining anything by cession or purchase as there was nothing we could offer that they would take except provisions and those we wanted ourselves.

 

STOLEN LANGUAGE,  STOLEN GOVERNMENT

common language

Have you any idea of the nature of the government under which they lived? Banks: None whatever, nor of their language.

 

STOLEN FISH

Common fish

Does the coast abound with fish and is it easily to be taken? Banks: Yes, particularly by sting rays of a great size which are very good food and which were easily caught at high water by being struck with a boat hook or rigging.

 

STOLEN BIRDS , STOLEN ANIMALS

Birds

Did you see any animals or birds? Banks: I saw no quadrupeds likely to be useful for food but vast abundance of parrots, quails and other birds which we eat – no wild beasts.

 

STOLEN SOIL 

cattle

What is the soil? Banks: Every where that I saw consisted either of swampy ground or light sandy mould – there were some very large trees and every where vast quantities of grass

 

 

STOLEN TIMBER

timber

Did the timber appear fit for building? Banks: It appeared to me to be fit for all the purposes of house building and ship building.

 

STOLEN STONE

Stone

Was there any stone proper for building? Banks: I saw stone lying in beds but never having broke it or cut it I cannot speak as to the quality of it.

 

STOLEN MOUNTAINS

mountains

Did the country seem to rise into high land gradually or was it mountainous. Banks: It rises very gradually – there are not any high mountains within sight.

 

STOLEN RIVERS

River1

Did you see any rivers? Banks: No – there were some brooks of fresh water which we found good and watered with it.

 

 

STOLEN TRANSPORT 

Boats1

Had the natives any canoes or vessels of any other construction? Banks: I saw none but canoes made of bark; the largest barely capable of carrying two men.

 

STOLEN GRASS 

grass

Is it possible that European cattle would live and breed there? Banks: From the quantity of grass there is every reason to believe they would thrive.

 

STOLEN SOIL

Soil

Is the soil adapted to the cultivation of European corn and pulse? Banks: I have no doubt both from the soil and climate they would thrive there.

 

STOLEN WOMEN

women

Supposing 500 convicts were to be established in that place would it be easy to obtain for them a supply of women? Banks: I have no doubt that they might be obtained from the south sea islands at no other expense than the charge of fetching them.

 

 

STOLEN WEALTH

abandon

Do you think that 500 men being put on shore there would meet with that obstruction from the natives which might prevent their settling there? Banks: Certainly not – from the experience I have had of the natives of another part of the same coast I am inclined to believe they would speedily abandon the country to the new comers.

 

STOLEN WEALTH DEFENCE 

defense

Were the natives armed and in what manners? Banks: They were armed with spears headed with fish bones but none of them we saw in Botany Bay appeared at all formidable.

 

BRITISH STOLEN WEALTH

Convicts

Do you know any place you think preferable to this for the purpose of sending convicts to it? Banks: From the fertility of the soil the timid disposition of the inhabitants and the climate being so analogous to that of Europe I give this place the preference to all that I have seen.

 

(Sir Joseph Banks)Withdrew.

 

[1] This is my transcription of a photograph of a handwritten transcript of the Testimony of Sir Joseph Banks to Committee questions.  It was presented in a book by Jonathan King called ‘In the beginning – the story of the creation of Australia from the original writings.’  (pp 51-62)

 

Resist. Revive. Decolonise. Traffic Reports

The new (2017) view from my window

The new view from my window (Gone within days)

 

There is a new street sign outside my window.  It says, ‘DECOLONISE’.

Thanks to this sign, I have started listening to the traffic report through a template developed by the Brisbane Aboriginal Sovereign Embassy – ‘Resist.  Revive.  Decolonise.’

To begin with, I am grouping place names in Brisbane into 3 different categories – resist, revive, and decolonise.  This is my starting point for exploring this template.  I hope that the overlapping nature of the categories as initially defined below highlight and affirm the integrated nature of this three-word template.  I recognize that this template was not developed for this purpose.  However, I think that this application might be a useful way to explore its richness and implication, while keeping it front and centre as I go about daily life, attentive the signs and language around me.

Category 1 – Resist

Category 1 highlights personal focal points in resistance.  It includes individuals or families.  It might also include names directly attributable to an individual, such as the name of a family home or estate.

The city of Brisbane is shaped by social, political and economic contests.  The notion of ‘resistance’ urges us to perceive the characters who have shaped Brisbane in the context of these contests.  Who and what did they resist?  Who resisted this character?  What was their role or posture in relation to resistance to the colonization of Aboriginal Land and the dispossession of the First Nations?

Category 2 – Revive

Category 2 highlights culture.  It includes names generally referred to as ‘Aboriginal words’ as well as place names whose meaning has been forgotten and neglected over time.  I also include references to natural water courses (e.g. Creek St) in this category.

As mentioned in other articles in this blog (e.g. Speech tools and the letter ‘S’), I do not like the phrase ‘Aboriginal words’. This phrase suggests that these words on signposts are merely objects in a Colony’s dusty collection.  One simple aspect of revival is to recognize the multitude of languages spoken in Australia over millennia.  These languages have names, and it is time that we acknowledge their names in our own 21st century English.  In the absence of those names, there is merit in acknowledging the loss of this knowledge.

In ‘revive’, I am not advocating that we rush to ‘knowing’ what words ‘mean’.  I am affirming the revival of languages within (their own and interacting) cultures in the 21st century.  Revive asserts the essential role of the custodians of culture in shaping cultural exchange and interaction.  Place names which are referred to as ‘Aboriginal words’, beg questions about multi-lingual capability, both in relation to the naming of the place, and in 21st century Brisbane.   In the 21st century, it is clear that access to living language requires both sensitivity and access to culture.  A street map becoming a dictionary might have nothing to do with revival.

Category 3 – Decolonise

Category 3 highlights collective colonial action and shared colonial consciousness.  It includes social, sentimental, artistic, technological, industrial, infrastructure, military, momentous and political references. It includes frequent references to foreign places.   Words like North, South, East, West, Old and New feature in this category, as they demonstrate orientations to specifically colonial reference points.

#resistrevivedecolonise @gettrafficQLD

Here are 3 traffic reports which illustrate the template at work.

Toowong, slow traffic inbound, Western Freeway at Frederick St

becomes

Revive.  Decolonise.  Resist.

Revive/Toowong – language, culture

Decolonise/West  – colonial reference point that defines ‘west’.

Resist/Frederick – absent royal family.

MacKenzie, slow traffic inbound, Mt Gravatt-Capalaba Rd at Gateway Motorway

becomes

Resist. Resist. Revive. Decolonise.

Resist/MacKenzie –  local businessman and global trader

Resist/Gravatt – face-to-face military administrator

Revive/Capalaba –  language, culture

Decolonise/Gateway – Bjelke-Petersen era business enterprise/infrastructure project

East Brisbane, slow traffic inbound, Wynnum Rd at Lytton Rd

becomes

Decolonise. Resist. Revive. Resist

Decolonise/East – colonial reference point that defines East

Resist/Brisbane – absent military administrator

Revive/Wynnum – language, culture

Resist/Lytton – absent representative of Queen Victoria

Traffic reports unleash a series of clusters of place names, usually in groups of 3.  Here are the place names from one morning’s traffic report (@gettrafficQLD)

Boondal Gateway Bruce

Beenleigh M1 Holder

Carseldine Gympie Beams

Mango Anzac Bruce

Deagon Gateway Deagon

Berinba Beaudesert Logan

Bardon Jubilee Frederick

Tarragindi Gaza Pacific

Jindalee 17 Mile Centenary

Everton South Pine Old Northern

Darra Ipswich Centenary

Drewvale Lindsay Beaudesert

Willowbank Cunningham Rosewood

Mitchelton Samford Osbourne

Toowong Western Frederick

Chandler Cleveland Moreton

Mackenzie Gravatt Capalaba Gateway

East Brisbane Wynnum Lytton

Kelvin Grove ICB Kelvin Grove

Red Waterworks Windsor

Stafford Shand Appleby

Boondal Sandgate Bicentennial

Auchenflower Land Coronation

Kenmore Kenmore Moggill

When I consider the above traffic report through the lens of resist, revive, decolonise, it looks like this:

Revive decolonise.  Resist!

Decolonise! Decolonise resist.

Resist! Revive resist.

Decolonise! Decolonise resist.

 

Resist! Decolonise resist.

Revive! Decolonise resist.

Decolonise!  Decolonise resist.

Resist, resist, decolonise.

 

Decolonise, decolonise decolonise

Decolonise decolonise decolonise

Revive, decolonise, decolonise

Resist, resist decolonise

 

Decolonise, resist, decolonise

Resist, revive, decolonise

Revive, decolonise, resist

Resist. Resist. Resist.

 

Resist, resist, revive, de-colonise

Decolonise resist, revive, resist

Decolonise decolonise decolonise

Decolonise decolonise decolonise

 

Decolonise resist, resist

Revive, decolonise decolonise

Resist resist decolonise

Decolonise, decolonise, revive.

Even though there are only 3 words in this poetic structure, every word has a different meaning based on how it was conceived in the traffic report.  Here’s looking forward to a fresh view of the streets and their use…

Palestine in Brisbane

 

29 November is the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.

There are some things we need to know about prominent place names in Brisbane.

The following summary has been sourced from the 1962 edition of Encyclopaedia Britannica.  A quick glance at the online Encyclopaedia Britannica did not yield the references to Palestine which are available in the pre-1967 document.  Maybe they are there, but not so prominent.

I like how the old Encyclopaedia Britannica subverts our attempts to ‘keep up’ and stay ‘up-to-date’.  It reminds us, at least that we should remember 1967.

aberdeen

George Hamilton-Gordon was the 4th Earl of Aberdeen

Encyclopaedia Britannica (1962) mentions that he traveled in the Levant during 1802-1804, but it does not mention that later, as Foreign Secretary, he was responsible for establishing the Anglican Church in Jerusalem.

He sent the first bishop to Palestine in a British man-of-war named HMS Devastation. (see Battiscombe, ‘Shaftesbury: the Great Reformer 1801-1885’)

 hamilton-gordon

As British Prime Minister, he held himself responsible for the Crimean War

Later in life, the following reflection was important to The 4th Earl of Aberdeen

 David said to Solomon: “My son, I had it in my heart to build a house for the Name of the Lord my God. But this word of the Lord came to me: ‘You have shed much blood and have fought many wars. You are not to build a house for my Name, because you have shed much blood on the earth in my sight. (1 Chronicles 22:7,8)

 

gordon-st

Charles George Gordon – Author of ‘Reflections in Palestine’ (1884)

khartoum

Gordon was killed in Khartoum on 26 January, 1885

kedron

  The Kedron, as a boundary, would cut Judah out of the possession of Judah entirely, and I discover no sign of the Kedron having been used as a tribal boundary.

(from Gordon’s Reflections in Palestine)

kitchener-a

Horatio Herbert Kitchener – Author of the Palestine Exploration Fund’s ‘Survey of Western Palestine’ (1881)

As Major General in 1896, Kitchener led the Egyptian army to end the power of the khalifa and mahdism in the Sudan.

Kitchener used the Biblical refrain ‘from Dan to Beersheba’, to indicate the completeness of his survey of Palestine.

 

chermside

Sir Herbert Charles Chermside, Governor of Queensland (1902-’04)

Chermside gets a mention in the Encyclopaedia Britannica.  It is in relation to Kitchener and the failed attempt to rescue Gordon.

 ‘In 1884, Col. Chermside, governor of the Red Sea littoral, entered into arrangements with king John of Abyssinia, for the relief of the beleaguered Egyptian garrisons.’

 

wavell-heights

Archibald Percival Wavell – Author of ‘The Palestinian Campaigns’ (1928)

 Wavell’s World War II command in the Middle East ended during the siege of Tobruk in 1941, when he was withdrawn from the Middle East and posted to the Asia Pacific.

p1020354

When Jesus had spoken these words, He went out with His disciples over the Brook Kidron, where there was a garden, and He and His disciples entered. (John 18:1 NKJV)

Haig poppies

haig_poppies_by_pocitsoq_11_11_2016_11_10_21

‘Haig’ streets with Country remembrances

Field Marshall Haig’s name had disappeared from the remembrance poppy by the end of the 20th century.  When Australian’s remember the thousands of ‘fallen’, we need to remember that Haig was personally responsible for so many of their deaths.  

The above map is my way of using Haig’s name to remember names of Nations whose people died fighting for their Countries.  (Each Nation can be identified by hovering or clicking on the dots in the maps which are accessed through the links.)  Such memorials in Australia are not easy to find and often need to be actively sought out.  This is an active line of inquiry for me, so corrections and additional references are welcome.

I am interested that Brisbane City Council’s Streets of Remembrance Project did not award Haig Rd with the Australian Defence Force’s Rising Sun.  His contemporaries and peers, Kitchener and Birdwood, received the recognition from BCC.  My hunch is that he does not embody the ‘Spirit’ the project wants to promote.  Even if Haig is being separated from Australia’s myth-making about war, the country-wide memorials to him (which take the form of street names) serve my purpose in this map of highlighting that Australia is a land of many different nations, who have much to offer our collective remembrance.

The Battle of Hastings

Bayeux Tapestry

14 October, 2016 marks the 950th anniversary of the Battle of Hastings.  The Bayeux Tapestry is a depiction of that battle.  Around the 900th Jubiliee of the Battle of Hastings, there was an obituary published in the London daily, ‘The Times’:

Harold of England – killed in action defending his country from the invader, 14th October, 1066

How many of us would be able to construct an obituary for a person or people from among the First Nations in Australia, who were ‘killed in action defending their country’? This place called ‘Australia’ is the Country of hundreds of Nations. How long would it take us to compile a memorial, which acknowledged defenders from each of the Nations, who were the Traditional Custodians of today’s Australia?  In saying this, I am adding my voice to the growing demand for a substantial recognition of First Nations people in Australia who have died defending their country against invaders

To recognise this 950th anniversary of the Battle of Hastings, I am reflecting on some words emerging from that event, which have become anchored in my vocabulary now.  The words ‘William’ and ‘Windsor’ stand out.  Here they are used together in a sentence.

“It was William the Conqueror who first chose the site for Windsor Castle, high above the river Thames and on the edge of a Saxon hunting ground.”

Remembering the Battle of Hastings traces our language and culture back over centuries of invasion.  William’s presence in Normandy was the result of a land grant to a Viking.  William descended from a Viking leader who had received the land around Normandy from a Frankish king as a land grant.  This may be the sort of land transaction that underpins many contemporary land transactions and general association with land in Australia.

The invasions in Australia are so recent.  We can see their ongoing and devastating effects on the dispossessed peoples, and we are getting an increasingly clear view of their historical effects.  While we are part of this ancient tradition of invasion and dispossession, Australians (as a diverse population, who share a common identity) have not embraced a language that acknowledges this tradition.  I find it ironic that the Constitutional recognition advocates speak of ‘First Australians’.  We must look back on people ‘defending their country from the invader’ as a form of resistance against the imposition of notions of ‘Australia’.

The absence of a common language makes it difficult to collectively work through difficult issues.  One key to building such a language is to recognize that place names are active elements in our 21st century English language.  Most of our place names provide a direct link to the details and processes of invasion and dispossession.  Understanding this aspect of our English language may point us to the people who died defending their country from the invader.  Here are a few remnants from the Norman conquest.

Rouen

During his lifetime, William shifted the seat of Norman power from Rouen, a port town on the Seine River, to Windsor, overlooking the River Thames.  For those who want to commemorate the role of the hospitals of Rouen during World War 1, it is worth noting that William established a hospital in Rouen after securing papal absolution related to his marriage of Matilda.  For those interested in the forced displacement and dispossession of the First Nations in the Australian state of Queensland, William also established a hospital in Cherbourg for the same reason.

Clarence

After 100 years of subdivision in Brisbane there were too many William Streets in Brisbane.  Many were re-named.  William IV, Duke of Clarence and St Andrews, was the British monarch at the time of the naming of the Brisbane town.  On Christmas day 1066, the Duke, William of Normandy, a.k.a. William the Conqueror, became William I, King of England.

Abingdon

In my neighbourhood, in 1938, William St was renamed after the English town of Abingdon.  In antiquity, there was a place called Abingdon near the site of Windsor Castle.  The knights of Abingdon Abbey became closely associated with the castle guard of the newly established Windsor Castle.  Other references to William IV in my neighbourhood are Clarence St and Clarence Corner.

Windsor

“The House of Windsor came into being in 1917, when the name was adopted as the British Royal Family’s official name by a proclamation of King George V, replacing the historic name of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha.  It remains the family name of the current Royal Family.”  Less protective publishers associate the renaming of the royal family with the widespread anti-German sentiment in Britain during the First World War.  Looking to the future, there is a realistic chance that the house of Windsor will provide Australia with a head of state named William, maintaining the close proximity of these words in our language.  (Read whatever you like into the naming of Harry, the next in line).

‘Culture not Torture’

gate2

I am taking some time today to mourn something more than another Aboriginal death in custody.  I don’t know the man, or his family.    I will simply  dwell on some of the names that are part of telling his story.

Yatala

I read of an ‘altercation’ at Yatala Labour Prison.  The name ‘Yatala’ led me to the Kaurna people, the Traditional Owners of the land of the prison, where the violence occurred, and the hospital, where he died.  Respect to the Kaurna people, and their Elders, past and present.  Respect to the grieving family and all their mobs.

Queen Adelaide

‘He was taken to the Intensive Care Unit at Royal Adelaide Hospital.’  Queen Adelaide’s death in 1849, roughly coincides with the end of a time when the Kaurna language was a day-to-day language of the people of the ‘Adelaide Plains’.  As Queen of England, Adelaide ruled over the destruction of innumerable of languages.  Kaurna language is ‘coming alive again.’

Edward Frome

My virtual journey to the hospital, to offer my respect to the grieving and to register my objection to the official brutality took me to Frome Road.  Edward Frome was the third surveyor-general of South Australia.  The mapping and sale of land legitimated the invasion and theft of Kaurna land and consolidated the imported legal system.  The lethal injustice of this system continues to be disproportionately delivered to the Traditional Owners across Australia.

English Language – come alive

The upcoming protests and outrage associated with the death of this man are going to coincide with a significant memorial in the English-speaking world.  The 14th of October, 1066, marks the 950th anniversary of the Battle of Hastings, which was the last successful invasion of England.  It was documented in the Bayeux Tapestry.

Maps of Australia are our equivalent of the Bayeux Tapestry.  This includes street maps of cities and towns as well as maps of the whole country.    While the narratives memorialized in the street map are sanitized and hidden, they are not entirely inaccessible. Place names, such as the Royal Adelaide Hospital on Frome Road in Adelaide, South Australia sound so innocent, so acceptable.  Yet they are bursting with references to invasion, legitimized violence, battles and dispossession, including the dispossession of identity.  Australia’s English-speaking culture is dominated by the suppression of the details of violence against the Traditional Owners.  Like the hundreds and the thousands that have gone before, this death challenges us to invigorate, support and sustain a specific discussion about violence against the Traditional Owners in Australia.

Black deaths in custody need to be stopped.    We don’t have to know the details of each tragic incident that comes to us in the news media to be part of bringing them to an end.  It is the responsibility of the entire population to find ways to speak to each other about the violence of our current systems.  If you can’t think of a way to do this, then simply beginning by discussing the familiar place names we use is a good and relevant place to build these skills with the people around us.

In the mean time, my thoughts and prayers go out to the family.