Australia – shadows amidst the sunshine

I am delighted to welcome fellow author, Rosemary Noble, to my blog today. Rosemary shares my passion for exploring the truth about some of the darkest parts of Australian history.

Here she explains…

In the Australian National Anthem, ‘Advance Australia Fair’, there’s a phrase celebrating the country’s modern forward-thinking attitude:

Australians all let us rejoice,
For we are young and free;”

And later it talks about all the immigrants:

For those who’ve come across the seas
We’ve boundless plains to share;”

All very positive, and yet, there are many dark sides to Australian history beginning with the misconception fostered by Captain Cook that this new land was “Terra Nullius” – an empty land, when, in fact, it was populated by 500 different nations who had cared for the land for over fifty thousand years.

‘Ngara – from the day we are born we listen to our Elders, hear what the country is saying and think how our actions impact on all living things.’

This is what I read in the Australian Museum of Sydney.

We know what happened. In my husband’s ancestor, Jim’s life story, he describes how bread made for the aboriginals in early Melbourne contained lime (not the fruit); how the aboriginal labourers were paid in brandy, not money, how he himself lassoed a young boy to work for him and called him Sambo. When I read this, I shuddered, but this was accepted as normal in Victorian times. No wonder the problems now are so intractable.

Jim himself, was the son of convicts, the second stain on Australian history. His father’s record showed how he received 50 lashes for falling asleep on the job, one hundred lashes for stealing some wood, which he had probably cut. Times were hard, life less precious – how can life be any less precious for the families of those who die young or are forcibly emigrated? Are we less accepting of loss and death now? I doubt it.

I can go on into the twentieth century, the White Australia Policy, the kidnapping of aboriginal children – many will have watched the excellent film, Rabbit Proof Fence. It doesn’t end there. Next, we have the Lost Children, those unfortunate orphans sent out to be abused and enslaved in the 40s, 50s and 60s. That abuse carried on in Catholic orphanages, witness the Cardinal Pell scandal which is ongoing.

We are now in the 21st century and we have the refuges housed in appalling condition on Nauru. I stood outside the Canberra Parliament last October and listened to stories of children who are traumatised and barely surviving without hope on Nauru.

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Apologies keep being made to the aboriginals, to the lost children and latterly to the victims of child abuse. Ex-Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, herself the subject of horrifying misogyny, was feted by those she swore to help. One man knelt at her feet to kiss them. She had given him a voice at last.

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New statues commemorate the female convicts in Hobart, who were described at the time as “whores, of no use, the worst examples of womankind,” but they helped found Australia. Their great grandsons fought at Gallipoli.

I love Australia, I love the people, but the dark side remains.

As a novelist, I can bear witness, to the abuse, the racism, the misogyny which exists in politics and some authorities, if not in the majority of its very culturally diverse population. This history offers an anguished tapestry of stories and it fascinates me.

Rosemary Noble lives in West Sussex and worked as an education librarian. Books have been her life, ever since she walked into a library at five years old and found a treasure trove. Her other love is social history. She got hooked on family history before retirement and discovered so many stories that deserved to be told.




Rosemary is a member of CHINDI independent authors and is involved in literary events in and around Chichester. She also loves to travel, especially to Australia and Europe and not least, she loves spending time with her grandchildren, one of whom is a budding author herself.

Her first book, Search for the Light, tells the story of three young girls transported to Australia in 1824. Friendship sustains them through the horrors of the journey and their enforced service in Tasmania. The Digger’s Daughter tells of the next generation of gold-diggers and a pioneering woman who lives almost through the first hundred years in Victoria. The third in the trilogy, Sadie’s Wars takes the reader to the fourth generation and into the twentieth century. The trilogy is based on the author’s family. It tells of secrecy and lies, of determination and grit and how all can be done or undone by luck.

Published by Isabella Muir

Isabella is passionate about exploring family life from the 1930s through to the 1960s and beyond. She has published six Sussex Crime mystery novels set during the 1960s and 1970s, a standalone novel dealing with the child migrant policy of the 1950s and 60s, several novellas set during the Second World War, and two short story collections. All available in paperback from your local bookshops, or online as ebooks. Her novels are also available as audiobooks, and have been translated into Italian.

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