Australia Day January 26TH. Let’s keep it.

The Liberal Premier of Tasmania, Jeremy Rockliff, has recently called for a change of date for Australia Day. He believes the current date, January 26th, is “divisive”.  Yet isn’t what he suggests, divisive? A push for new date is now promoted by various municipalities without any reference to those who live within their boundaries.  If mayors and aldermen are so convinced, the best way to show that they reflect the majority’s Will, is a simple municipal referendum.

There are very good and historic reasons why January 26th was chosen and should remain as Australia Day. To discount that particular date, shows a lack of historical understanding, and also a lack of appreciation of those who sacrificed so much.  Aboriginal senator, Jacinta Nampjina Price, in an address to the Australia Day Council, January 24th, 2022, said, “Like the rest of the world our history is complex, our land is neither black nor white as portrayed by those who cherry pick to push their own ideological agenda.

“We celebrate on January 26th to mark the beginning on what we now call Australia”

Jacinta and others such as Warren Mundine recognise both heritages and to me that is a far more sensible approach. Indeed they can have the best of both worlds.  Warren Mundine is on record as pleading to an end to the “’disgraceful debate over Australia which is dividing the nation”.

He went on to say, “It irritates me that every time it comes up in every year, the same old people come out and argue the same old cases, trying to divide the country when we should be trying to work together”. (16th January 2018)

Those aborigines in remote communities have more to be concerned about than a change of date, which will not help them in the least.

It is not uncommon throughout the world for a national day to be held on the anniversary of settlement. Led by Captain Arthur Phillip, half English and half German, the settlement at Port Jackson took place January 26th, 1788. Phillip was a good man and an able administrator. He described the harbour of Port Jackson as one of the finest harbours in the world.  It was not where he had originally landed. Eight days earlier, he had done so at Botany Bay, but finding it unsuitable and discovering a far more acceptable site he moved the settlement where he and those who accompanied him landed January 26th.  For the first number of years, it was a raw, harsh society, but gradually it improved and finally the scourge of convict transportation ceased. Most of the descendants of convicts became amazing citizens of our country and added to the success of it.

It is easy to criticise our early settlers by claiming they exploited the land, culled the native wildlife, and introduced non-native animals and flora.  Yet how else could it have been?  Forests had to be cleared for building and for the production of food.  Stock had to be introduce which eventually, as with sheep, provided incredible wealth for the nation.

There are those who believe the new day for Australia should be January 1st, (1901) when Australia was federated.  Yet without the beginning on January 26th and the aftermath of progress there would no nation of Australia.

Politicians do not necessarily represent the electorate, yet there appears to be this opinion that once in a position of influence they have the right to thrust their point of view on the rest of us. Polling and research show that only a minority of Australians support changing the date. As for the day itself there is no day on the calendar that is more unifying for Australians than 26th January.  This marks the day we all started the journey to build on the great egalitarians, liberal democracy with the many freedoms, (although often abused by governments as we have recently witnessed) opportunities and law and order that go with it.

To my way of thinking bringing up issues such as changing the date for Australia Day is a diversion.  We saw this in New Zealand of late when the National Prime Minister, John Keys, pushed for a new flag.  New Zealand was facing and still is, like Tasmania, growing problems. John Keys gambled and was quickly voted out of office.  I am not sure how Mr Rockliff’s proposal will help solve our State’s many problems such as our growing debt of billions, health services concerns, inflation, the escalating cost of petrol and energy with our young people unable to buy their first house, let alone able to rent.  I have now seen in Hobart, what I thought I never would, people living in the streets and now am told tents are appearing at Kangaroo Bay.  Mr Rockcliff, how is your proposal going to help our fellow Tasmanians?

Queen’s Platinum Jubilee

Her Majesty the Queen will be enjoying her platinum anniversary during the first week in June, from the 2nd until the 5th.  There will celebrations throughout the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth, which of course includes Australia.

While the date marks the platinum anniversary, her coronation came later, 2nd June 1953. Events and activities for her platinum may also be held at any time throughout this year.

Her first visit to Tasmania occurred in February 1954 when she was invited to open the Tasmanian Parliament. The Queen was accompanied by her husband, The Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Philip.

The Queen was the first child of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth. She did not expect to become monarch so soon, if ever.  She was third in line, after her uncle, Edward, The Prince of Wales and her father, the Duke of York.  She and Philip married 20th November 1947 at Westminster Abbey.  Her husband, the Duke of Edenborough died 9th April 2021, three months shy of his 100th birthday.

Among many activities across Australia to highlight the occasion will see iconic buildings and monuments illuminated in royal purple during those four major days.  Government House Tasmania was similarly illuminated on 6th February this year to mark Accession Day. Also on that day, there was as church service at St David’s Cathedral and the hosting of a reception at Government House, the day following.

What dramatically intervened in her life was the Constitutional crises involving Edward the Prince of Wales and Mrs Wallis Simpson. The affair ended in controversy when Edward, the king abdicated in 1936. This meant that his younger brother George had the throne forced on him, a role he had not preferred to have inherited. The reluctant Prince, then known as Albert, proved to be a great king.

The King did not enjoy good health and underwent an operation and afterwards appeared though weak, fitter. His illness continued and it was obvious he was dying of cancer. At this time Princess Elizabeth and the Duke had two young children, Charles and Anne. For a number of months the King prevailed. On the 31st January 29t 1951 the King waved goodbye to his daughter and son-in-law from the London Airport. They were off to a tour of East Africa.  In the small hours of 6th February 1952 the King died.

The young couple were enjoying a stay at a hunting lodge, a wedding present from the inhabitants of Kenya, when the news of the death of her father, was received. She had planned to move on to Australia and New Zealand, but she immediately drafted apologies herself. One vital chore she had, as now monarch, was to declare as Queen, how she would be known. Her full name is Elizabeth Alexandra May.  Her title would now be Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God, Queen of the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland.

In 2022, she is also the Queen of 14 Commonwealth Countries and Head of the Commonwealth of Nations.  He has the title, “Defender of the Faith”.

By the time of her crowning in June 1953 she was the celebrated monarch of nearly a quarter of human beings then living on earth.  She was crowned against the setting of Handel’s, Zadok the Priest and Nathan the Prophet.

Australia’s first visit of the royal couple was when they arrived in Sydney 3rd February 1954 and later, on Saturday 20th February 10:30 am, the royal yacht Gothic berthed into Hobart where their hectic and extensive tour of Tasmania began. Upon arrival they were met and addressed by the Lord Mayor of Hobart, Sir Richard Harris and Lady Harris, at the Town Hall. It was on the Monday that Her Majesty opened the fifth session of the 30th Parliament of Tasmania, which was followed by a Garden Party at Government House. The media on the day said that 150,000 people lined the city streets as the royal couple proceeded from Parliament House to Government House. On the way in Stoke Street, a little Dutch girl, Jeltje Folkerts, in national costume, was waiting with a bouquet of roses as a tribute of loyalty from the New Australians.  The Queen’s car halted, the Queen leaned over and accepted the bouquet with a warm smile.

On the Tuesday they departed from Cambridge aerodrome to fly to Wynyard and from there visited, Burnie, Ulverstone, Devonport and Launceston.  They flew out of Western Junction aerodrome to Essendon, for Melbourne and for elsewhere.

It was part of a six month tour, so that the new Queen could meet her people world-wide.

The Queen is now 96 years old.  Her reign has seen dramatic changes throughout Australia and the world.  She has served faithfully for 70 years, making her not only the longest serving British monarch, but the longest serving monarch in the world.

Many of the years have not been easy for her, but she has endured through the ability to see things through, to sacrifice herself and dedicate her life to her people, not to governments, but to her people.

Tasmanians at war

The date for ANZAC Day, April 25th, was chosen because it was the day of landing at Gallipoli in 1915.  The day has been honoured ever since, now an incredible 107 years ago. Tasmania’s contribution to the war effort of WWI was massive from what was then a small society. 181 Tasmanians lost their life at Gallipoli.  They rest in the various cemeteries located in Turkey.  Many Tasmanians saw action on the first day of landing, such as Harry Hodgman who lost his life .They served with the 12th AIF Battalion (Bn) of which more than half were from Tasmania. 

Tasmanians were also strong in representation in the 15th Bn, which held the infamous Quinn’s Post and Pope’s Hill.  Both endured the accuracy of the Turkish guns.  Tasmanians served too, with the 26th Bn and the 9th Battery Field Artillery.

The 3rd Light Horse, with their mounts left behind in Egypt, was used as reinforcements three weeks after the landing to join the 15th Bn at Pope’s Hill.

Gallipoli veterans wore the small letter “a” on their colour patch.

Nearly twenty thousand Australians were wounded at Gallipoli with 8, 300 dying.  Many died at a later date as a result of their wounds and are buried elsewhere.

In round figures, 60,000 Australians died during the war, and (again) in round figures this includes 3,000 Tasmanians.  Dating from April 1915 until November 1918, I calculate approximately 7-8 Tasmanian young men died every three days at the front. This is not counting the wounded or sick. Each day the local newspapers would carry their names.  One can only imagine the stress and grief of the families at home. It is an incredible statistic; a tragic one.  Such figures would not be acceptable in this modern era.

WWI, however, was not the first occasion Tasmanians have been involved in wars and have lost their lives. The first war that Tasmanians served, 158 of them, was the one in New Zealand, 1863-64. I have not been able to find any fatalities among those who left, although I suspect there were one or more. The first recorded Tasmanian to die in battle that I have researched was Arthur Dobson who died 25th March 1879 during the Zulu War.  Other Tasmanians served. Then in the Sudan, artillery man James Robertson died 31st May 1885.

Between 1899-1902 Tasmanians served in South Africa during the 2nd Anglo-Boer War. I have found and documented 42 of our sons who lost their life in that far away land. In comparison to WWI of course that may not sound a lot, but putting it in perspective, our recently involvement in Afghanistan, 41 Australian soldiers died over a 13 year period – 41 too many I agree and we must take into account eight times as many veterans have committed suicide since returning.  Something is dreadfully wrong here. Tasmanian, Corporal Cameron Steward Baird was awarded a Victoria Cross (VC) for his services in Afghanistan.  Sadly he was killed in action June 22, 2013.

Two VCs were awarded to Tasmanians during the South African War, eleven in WWI and one in WWII that being Teddy Sheean which was awarded, 12th August 2020 many years after his action.  He was our first naval man to receive the honour.

The conclusion of WWII in 1945 did not see the end of our involvement in war.  We have noted that Tasmanians served with great distinction in Afghanistan with the death of Baird who had served also in East Timor and Iraq. There were Tasmanians serving in the Korean War, The Malaysian Campaign (which really was a war) and the Indonesian Confrontation and in every conflict Tasmanians died.

Then there was the most controversial war of all, Vietnam where a number of Tasmanians died. One of the very few who lost their lives serving with the Royal Australian Air Force was a Tasmanian, Ronald Betts. There is a lovely memorial to Tasmanian Vietnam fatalities at ANZAC Park, Lindisfarne.

ANZAC Day then is a time when we rightly remember all those fallen, all those who returned wounded, at time with horrific wounds which lingered until they passed away. We remember all who served in every theatre of war. This includes the deserts of North Africa, the terrain of South Africa, the jungles of Asia, the Pacific region and of Vietnam, the hell of the western front and Gallipoli. Many experienced the bitter cold of Korea. Our naval personnel served on every ocean of the world and our airmen over the skies of Europe, Asia, the Pacific, and North Africa. On ANZAC Day we also reflect on those at home who worked diligently to support our fighting men and of course we remember our nurses who served with valour throughout the war where-ever our military served.

Why the Sport Stadium in Hobart cannot be built

There are very good reasons why the proposed sports stadium to be constructed at Regatta Point, Hobart, cannot be built, rather than it should not be built.

The stadium appears to hang on the acceptance of a Tasmanian team into the AFL as stated by the Minister for Sport and Recreation, Nic Street.  The proposal will cost $750 million and will be funded by various government levels and investment from the private sector.  The site is owned by the people of Tasmania and is managed by the Hobart City Council.

The site is near to the Hobart Cenotaph and the grounds of the Royal Hobart Regatta which includes the historic John Colville Pavilion.  There are other recreational facilities which will be impacted and which are enjoyed by Tasmanians, it being so close to the CBD of the capital.

The impact will be considerable. The government has stated that it will be in continual dialogue with the RSL and the Regatta Association.

However, there are considerations not yet taken into account and are not stated on the government’s website regarding the proposal.

I have had on good authority that if the stadium is built, it will block out any visual observance of the rising sun during the dawn service on ANZAC Day. This, alone, is why it should not be constructed at Regatta Point.

Near the proposed site exists the old Queen’s Battery and is close to the Domain Cenotaph where the main military observances take place in the south. Built in 1864, the Queen’s Battery served as protection from foreign invaders until the mid-1920s. It is also the site where the 12th battalion camped before going to WWI.  The site was excavated some decades ago and by the request of the RSL in 1992, it was filled in. Another historic aspect, still there under the earth, are trenches of a zig-zag formation.  These exist closer to the John Colville Pavilion and while their purpose has been forgotten, I surmise they were bomb shelters from WWII.

The question must be asked; what impact will such a huge stadium have on these historic structures?  This also must include the John Colville Pavilion with its many plaques imbedded in its stand, such as those to the boatmen and rowers who served in both world wars. There are tablets also in memory of John and his brother Charles Colville who served with distinction in promoting and serving the regatta in past years.

Other questions must also be asked.  Is the stadium needed?  In the south for large entertainment productions we have the Deck near Elwick and in Clarence, Blundstone Stadium for sporting events, such as cricket and football, including AFL matches. Is the proposed new stadium warranted, even though it is a wonderful dream?  It will be financed by government and private funds.  We all know that budgets blow out and the said $750 million will probably be no exception.  Governments will borrow to finance it and if the private investment does not eventuate as it is hoped, then we the tax payer will be paying more for its completion. Will it prove to be a white elephant?

Upon inquiry regarding parking for the stadium I have been informed that it is still being planned.  If parking will be close to the site, then roads will have to be constructed to the venue and huge parking areas will be provided. Parking on the existing Queen’s Domain is quite a distance away from Regatta Point and how it would be managed has not been suggested.

This does not even take into account the impact upon future regattas after the stadium is completed and ready for the 2027 football season. The Royal Hobart Regatta, dating from 1835, will see its 185th anniversary next year.  It is the oldest continuous regatta in Australia.

Too many questions are still not answered and I would suggest they have not even been considered during the eagerness to plan the stadium and how much, already, has the government paid to the architects in drawing up plans?  It has to be substantial.

That the stadium will block out the sun during the dawn service on ANZAC Day is enough to say ‘no’ to the proposal while taking into account other questions regarding its construction.

The Tasmanian Irish

St Patrick’s Day.  It is a day which is not only enthusiastically celebrated world-wide, but in Tasmania as well.

From the beginning Irish immigrants and people of Irish descent played an important part in the settlement of Tasmania and the development of attitudes and institutions. Since the days of convicts there have been many Irish societies and organisations. Probably the first Irishman of some note to settle here would be Dr Jacob Mountgarret who came with John Bowen in 1803.

We tend to think that the majority of convicts who came to Tasmania were Irish, but this is not so. About 25 per cent of all convicts were, with the rest, 70 per cent being English, and a spattering of other nationalities and races. Most of the Irish convicts were sentenced because of criminal acts, but many also were victims of a defective land system, which meant the peasant became increasingly dependent on the landlords. Many were transported on what was called “White Boy” offences, ranging from disturbances and taking illegal oaths to stealing cattle, sheep and horses, particularly in times of hardship, such as during the potato crop failure. The worse offenders were transported to Van Diemen’s Land then to Macquarie Harbour.  Peak times were during the 1830s.

There were also political prisoners such as the seven Irish exiles to Van Diemen’s Land, John Mitchel, Thomas Francis Meagher, John Martin, William Smith O’Brien, Kevin O’Doherty, Terence MacManus and Patrick O’Donohoe, They were sent to their penal home in 1849 and 1850.  Three of the seven exiles were Protestant. 

Another political prisoner of note was surveyor James Meehan who played an important part in the establishment of Hobart under our first Governor, David Collins.

The Irish influence was strong during the most peculiar social upheaval in 1879 that Tasmania has ever seen. Whipped up by a visiting preacher, Charles Chiniquy, he held meetings at the Town Hall and lambasted those of the Catholic faith.  The disturbance was so great, that it was the only time the army has been called out in Tasmania to restore peace.

As with many thousands of Tasmanians, from a very difficult beginning they carved a life for themselves, foundations of which seceding generations have enjoyed. The Irish blended in well. True, they kept their pride in being Irish, but over all there was little confrontation in Tasmania.  Most worked hard, many made good for themselves.  Hard, working, law-biding, moral, strong family people.

The Irish Legacy in Tasmania lives on. The Irish largely settled towns such a Richmond and Westbury and a number of Tasmanian towns have Irish names such as Avoca, Blessington, Irishtown, the Shannon River and Liffy Falls.  Castle Forbes Bay in the Huon was established by the landing of Irish female convicts in 1836 from the vessel of the same name.

Up until when Eric Reece (a Methodist) became Premier, all Labor Premiers were of Irish extraction and Catholic. One such was Dwyer-Gray a most colourful and interesting Premier.  He was a staunch Tasmanian who actively worked for secession, believing Federation had not been kind to the island he loved and served. True like many Irishmen he loved the bottle, which proved to be a bit of a problem. We must not forget that our only international film star, Errol Flynn was of Irish stock. Errol was more prone to claim Irish ancestry than his Tasmanian origins.

Militarily of course, their contribution to our war effort was strong.  Perhaps during the Boer War, they sympathised with the hardy Boer, but during World War I their contribution is without question and they suffered the price as well as everyone else.  Indeed the Irish participation in the war on the side of the British was enormous and that is why the Irish uprising in 1916 was a failure. During World War II of course they had so harmonised with the rest of the population they were no longer, by a large degree, distinctive to the rest of the population.

C.M Dennis, the great Australian poet, up there with Lawson and Paterson, was of Irish extraction as was Rolf Bolderwood who wrote the Australian classic, Robbery Under Arms, two among many.

Our affection for Ireland is strong, not forgetting that the influence that it has had in shaping our State which cannot be underestimated.  Irish humour is world renown. The Irish have the wonderful ability to be able to laugh at themselves. Irish humour has not only delighted us all, but has influenced how we view matters.