Emeritus Professor Tom Griffiths AO took time to study our history from its very beginnings, by which he did not mean 1770 or even 1788 or 1915 but millions of years back. (Indeed, a search of the transcript gives just mention of the word 'Anzac' - in 3728 words.) The piece originally appeared on Inside Story in September last year and Professor Griffiths read it in full in December for the ABC's The Science Show. The transcript accompanies the broadcast. Here is an extract, taking up some of the story from 1788. The whole article is highly recommended.

War for possession of the continent began. It continued for more than a hundred years on a thousand frontiers. Waterholes - the precious jewels of the arid country -were transformed into places of death. It was the most violent and tragic happening ever to befall Australia. So many lives were sacrificed, generations of people were traumatised, and intimate knowledge of diverse countries was lost.
Australia entered world history as a mere footnote to empire; it became celebrated as a planned, peaceful and successful offshoot of imperial Britain. A strange silence - or white noise - settled on the history of the continent. Nothing else had happened here for tens of thousands of years. Descendants of the newcomers grew up under southern skies with stories of skylarks, village lanes and green hedgerows from the true, northern hemisphere. And they learned that their country had a short triumphant history that began with 'a blank space on the map' and culminated in the writing of 'a new name on the map': Anzac. So the apotheosis of the new nation happened on a distant Mediterranean shore. The cult of overseas war supplanted recognition of the unending war at home, and the heroic defence of country by the first Australians was repressed. They were disdained as peoples without agriculture, literacy, cities, religion or government, and were allowed neither a history nor a future.
Picture credit: Gondwana at 420 Ma. View centred on the South Pole: Wikimedia Commons/Fama Clamosa.

Feb 19, 2024
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