Tuesday, December 9, 2008
The interpretive sign above the cliffs at Coogee gives a brief description of the rock on and of which Sydney is built.
A more comprehensive explanation of the first 200,000,000 years of Sydney's history can be found here:
or more specifically here:
There's a bloke, Ralph Hawkins, who told me that though bricks are interesting you could only approach a true understanding of human activity from a study of timber roof shingles. I caught up with Ralph down the Wentworth Park dog track on Sunday morning and briefly discussed 'Altar Ego' Richard Quinn's Samuel Marsden biography.
Ralph had some interesting ideas about Tristan the Aboriginal boy the Marsdens "adopted" who later jumped ship in Rio and finally found near death living outside Sydney.
It was a shabby sequence of events and does the Marsdens no credit. Tristan seemed both son and servant and Flogger Sam's attitude towards him reflected his general contempt for Aboriginal people.
I have the car radio set to the Koori station - less disposable music and banal grandstanding than most stations and oftentimes fascinating material. There's more Maori hip-hop on air in Redfern than on most NZ stations. Gearing up for Australia/Invasion Day on January 26th at the present.
I often try to work out where indigenous/non-indigenous relations stand in Straya compared to NZ. My current thinking is that Oz is about where NZ was before WWI - in terms of the emergence of an indigenous middle class, acceptance across broader society, engagement with the education system etc.
When I was working in an adolescent rehab unit here I went to an Aboriginal health training session. It was run by a Aboriginal man named Paul Newman and he, in his late 30s in 1998, was the first Aboriginal person to have graduated with an economics degree ever. I couldn't help but compare this with the Young Maori Party.
When I was in Smellingtown last Xmas all the people sleeping rough were Maori. My mate Kenny the electrician from the Hutt taught English in Japan for a while in the early 1980s. He had a particularly reluctant student and asked her why she seemed unteachable. She replied "You are from New Zealand and I don't like people from countries which practise Apartheid".
I don't think she was speaking metaphorically. Five or six years later I was buying some shoe laces in rasta colours from a black African hawker in a Paris Metro subway. When I told him I was from NZ he shook my hand in thanks as he wanted to acknowledge how supported he felt, as a black man, by New Zealanders. As if the place was some kind of multi-cultural utopia and champion of people of colour all over the world.
So NZrace relations lie somewhere between apartheid and paradise and perhaps 90 years nearer utopia than Oz.