On being a good or bad Australian

I’ve often thought that I am a bad Australian. I prefer European History to Australian History, I haven’t visited a great deal of my own country, I haven’t read much Australian fiction. I think my uncle was horrified a couple of weeks ago when he asked me if I had read Cloudstreet, Tim Winton’s classic Australian story, and I told him that I hadn’t liked it. Everyone is supposed to love Tim Winton, apparently!

However, I like that reading the 1001 Children’s Books list I have delved a bit more into Australian fiction. I recently read Playing Beatie Bowwhich I loved, and this year I have read Picnic at Hanging Rock and Seven Little Australians (and possibly Ash Road – I can’t remember if that was this year or last year). For the most part, I have really enjoyed them, but it has also given me a bit more understanding of where Australia has come from. Picnic at Hanging Rock had a severe English streak through it, which was faded a bit, but still present in Seven Little Australians. These two books, however, had a kind of clean, proper feeling to them, whereas Playing Beatie Bow showed a different side of living in Australia – it was a bit dirtier, a bit rougher. You could feel the hardship of people’s lives in Playing Beatie Bow that was absent from the other two books. Ash Road was set much closer to the present day, and had elements of a recognisable Australia, but thinking back on Playing Beatie Bow and Ash Road, I could see how the latter could be in the same land as the former.

My Mum’s family owns a farm, which I remember visiting every holiday when we were living in Australia when we were little, and whenever we came back to Australia when we were living overseas. I hadn’t visited the farm for about five years until a couple of weekends ago, when we went down for my cousin’s 21st. It felt so comfortingly familiar, almost like I was coming home. It reminded me of when I was living overseas, desperate to come ‘home’, dreaming of living in Australia again and having the space to run around and have a dog and seeing the bright blue sky, rather than being cooped up in a gloomy apartment. I realised that, although for the past few years, I may have felt like a bad Australian because I didn’t know its books and history and geography, when I was younger, I was a very good Australian, as I longed for it so much.

Looking over my photos from the weekend, I think it would be impossible not to long for such a land. Australia is so beautiful. Not in an quaint countryside way, but in a rougher, dirtier way. But I like it like that.

(Ps the adorable blondie in all the photos is my lovely sister Annabelle.)

farm 3

farm 4

Farm 1

Farm 1

Farm 2

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3 comments

  1. To my knowledge (and possible shame) I’ve only read three Australian authors (five if you count articles by Germaine Greer and Clive James) and they all happen to be fantasy writers: Garth Nix, Trudi Canavan and Alison Croggon.

    Reading about their fantasy worlds is not going to tell me much about Australia, is it, but it might tell me something about the mindset of some authors from Oz. Or possibly not. What do you think?

    • I think there is a particular flavour in Australian fantasy, not that I have read a huge amount – Garth Nix & Isabel Carmody springing to mind when I think of Australian fantasy authors. I think you can definitely feel the mindset of authors through their work, so I think reading Australian authors, no matter the content of their work, will bleed a bit of Australianism from the page into the reader.

  2. I think the 1001 list gives us a great grounding in being Australian, and our shared literary heritage. I read Picnic at Hanging Rock for the first time too this year. I really enjoyed it, and am thankful that I’ve now read it, even if it did have a mean English streak- that is our colonial heritage. I look forward to reading Ash Road, hopefully soon, I’ve heard so much about it now, but don’t think it was part of my own childhood. Your farm photos couldn’t be anywhere else- Australia has such an amazing light.

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