Australian History

Throughout my education, from high school to university, I have always discarded Australian history. For me it had always been dull, only punctuated by a few daring expeditions into the outback and two world wars. What I wanted in history was what I wanted in a narrative. I wanted a start and an end date, a protagonist, an enemy, ideological clashes and a sensational turning point that separated nations and brought together its people. I focussed on the macro, and ignored the micro. This course in particular has made me question why this is so. Perhaps it was a simple unawareness of what Australian History has to offer, or a misinterpretation of what history is meant to be. In either case I have learnt to appreciate Australian history, while my understanding of the history discipline has been shaped.
For me now history is not something of the past studied in books, rather it is something lived and carried out through the day to day. I have reached this rational through this course. I have learnt that historians, and the public in particular, still have the ability to shape what history is projected, or even forgotten. The public has a massive role in deciding what type of history is propagated, mainly for its ability or inability to preserve the history. It should be then important for historians and the public to conserve and study anything to do with Australia’s past. What was mundane in the past is now a historical artifact, and so too might be any irrelevant object in my living room.
It is dangerous to punctuate history with end dates and turning points. For example, the civil rights movement is over, but the fight for racial equality is not. A lot of academic historical framework runs this danger of pigeon holing issues into to separate boxes, casting history into black and white. History runs the risk of describing a resolution when it was not achieved. Understanding the continuity of history, helps understand the continuity of society. This is an important point because as Australians we must remember our past, good, bad or mundane. What happened in the past may well continue to happen but we must recognize how society has changed or has not changed. So now when I look at Australia’s history I don’t only see the ANZACs in the trenches, but also throngs of swimmers at Bondi Beach in summer, Italian shopkeepers closing up, An Aboriginal hundreds of years ago eating a salty oyster, a woman reading in a park, and even my life is part of the greater Australian history.

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