As you have probably guessed, your Blogger is rather fond of living history. Life in the 70th year is rich in the connections, associations and synchronicities, all of which make a personal living history so full of delight and walks down memory lane.
Today is the anniversary of the day in 1864 when John McDouall Stuart’s party of explorers* crossed Australia from South to North for the first time. They set out from the home of James Chambers in North Adelaide and reached Chambers Bay on this day after a journey of hardship and deprivation. The first of the party to run down the sandhills and into the sea was Frank Thring (opposite), then 24 years and 5 months of age. In his pocket he carried a pen knife, probably a sort of Swiss Army knife of it’s day.
In his last years, Frank lived in the small suburb Rose Park, the neighbour of my paternal aGrandparents, when my afather was a small child. Visiting one day, he gave my afather his penknife to look at and warned him that it was sharp. My father, already inquisitive about anything made of metal and that opened and shut, managed to cut himself on one finger. He carried that scar all his life and it was still visible when he was laid in his coffin. He bore it proudly and often told the story.
There are other things which make connections for me to do with this story. James Chambers the financer of the expedition, would have known my GGGrandfather, who’s name I bear and from whom I am directly descended. The wife of the James Chambers I knew, who was the Grandson of the original James Chambers, accompanied my amother when she went to collect me from the orphanage. The dots join up for me. The connections between my families are there, tangible and real.
There are many questions which are also part of my personal story, about beliefs and the rightness of what was done back in those early times of white settlement. Whatever I may believe, I have no control over what was done then, but only over what I do now, what I believe is right and just.
My country is going through a difficult time, with a Government which seems to believe that people do not have rights if they are refugees, that it is ok to lock up children and keep adults incarcerated for years, until they are driven mad by their unresolved situation. Our new Prime Minister seem to have lost any humanity he might have had, forgotten other inconvenient facts and be determined to ensure that people smugglers are stopped at all costs. It takes two years in some places to even be granted refugee status. I remember a time when a person in dire trouble could walk into an Embassy and ask for refuge, which was granted. What happened to that willingness to aid and assist, to help those in trouble and give a hand up to a better, safer life? Perhaps you need to be a well known Ballet dancer, a useful informer or a ‘dangerous’ whistleblower for that to happen today!