Looking for Australia

Looking for Australia

John Hirst, Black Inc.

Looking for Australia is wonderful series of essays on the history of Australia as you were never taught at school. To give you a taste, here is a description of a political gathering in the 1890s:

“Outside the meeting hall, the miniscule Labor blow-in got into an argument with the town blacksmith, who was about to annihilate him when a band of shearers rode up. The leader knocked out the blacksmith, took the stage still dripping with blood, and opened the meeting thus:

“‘Look ’ere, us blokes have organised this ’ere meeting to ’ear this bloke — and by cripes we’re going to ’ear ’im. The first one of you Rockley blokes as opens ’is mouth will get it in the neck. Now then,’ he said, turning to me, ‘Let ’er go.’”

Other topics covered in these essays include: analysis of the origins of anti-authoritarianism, mateship and the romanticising of bad behaviour; the difficulties of establishing the first electoral rolls; the skills Aborigines taught white people and whether they played a part in the origins of Australian Rules Football; romances between bushrangers and squatter families and the writing of the official history of Australia to prepare migrants for the Howard government’s new Citizenship test.

Hirst was the author. He also has written several books on history, including: Sense & Nonsense in Australian History, The Shortest History of Europe, Convict Society and its Enemies: a History of Early New South Wales and The Strange Birth of Colonial Democracy: New South Wales 1848-1884.

Katy Gerner


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