Rachel's Blog: Culture of the Lost

Wed, 29 Mar 2006

Kim Torney's book (adapted from a thesis) Babes in the Bush: The Making of an Australian Image explores the ingrained Australian story of the lost child; how it is unique to Australia, it's origins, representations and how it is still part of the national psyche today. Readers get an idea of colonial life, the changing views of children and childhood and the position of aborigines as trackers and (rarely) scapegoats.

Towards the end, in a chapter on two memorials of lost children in Victoria as being unique in their scope (the Jane Duff Roadside Park and the Lost Children's Walk and tombstone in Daylesford), Torney makes mention of the number of memorials in Victoria in general.

Victoria is replete with all sorts of memorials. Why this is so remains open to speculation — one factor may have been size. As one of the smallest states, it seems to have quickly arrived at a sense of being settled, unlike the larger states such as Western Australia, Queensland or New South Wales. This process of settlement was hastened for Victoria by the influx of people and money that accompanied the discovery of gold; impressive city buildings and institutions such as a university and museum-library confirmed that the pioneering days were over. The speed with which the metropolis developed generated what Griffiths calls the 'preservation impulse'. The perception of a rapidly disapearing past was very probably a major factor in the Victorian process of memorialisation. This occurred within what Griffiths also calls the 'evolutionary, scientific vision of history', which he links with the spread of Darwinian theory. He argues that this 'led to a premium being placed on tangible monuments and relics, on original and authentic physical sources that could be conserved as evidence of unique past experience.' [pp 206-207]

Which I immediately related to science fiction, because that's how my brain works. I have not made any kind of examination into this, but there has to be masses of scope for planet-conquering stories to explore the idea of cultural bereftness, where culture is specifically tied to the land.

I think this is why we immigrant Australians have so much trouble pin-pointing our culture. (By immigrant I mean everyone since 1788.) Torney talks about identity being tied to the idea of "loss to the land". We hold most dearly to individuals who have conquered the land, given it an identity we can relate to, by being lost (lost literally or lost as in dead) to it. So the non-Aboriginal Australian is trying to claim the land, not by millennia of tradition, but by lives. This excompasses all our floods, fires, lost children, explorers, bushrangers to a degree, but also soldiers fighting overseas. (Even if the flag wasn't ours, the sentiment was there.) Even the jolly swagman drowned. It's clearly impossible to artifically create a culture that is based on the idea of fear of the land you are occupying.

If anyone would like to take the baton and discuss where this sits with the Stolen Generations I would be most appreciative.

Comment by Mich on Wed, 29 Mar 2006

Picture a mirror image:

'Immigrant' children lost to nature while taming/ raping the flora #
Indigenous children lost to civilization while taming/ raping the fauna

Need more?
children (regardless of colour, white or black) as symbols of innocence...lost on both sides...duality of individual and collective loss...lost was the future...