|Final Statistics: Alex & Maz||Total distance: 93,550km|
|Furthest Point: Rotorua, NZ||Now settled in Sydney, Australia|
|Final Statistics: Martin||Total distance: 79,698km|
|Furthest Point: Hobart, Australia||Now settled in Bristol, UK|
A Perth Berth and Hogmanay
Australia, Country 26, Diary entry 28th Dec 2006 - 3rd Jan 2007, Total distance in Australia: Unknown, Distance to date: 18,291KM
Next in our line of guest writers, my sister Shiv takes up the story!
Having enjoyed a really lovely Christmas together, Mum and Dad set off back to Perth to return their van and then fly over to the east coast to visit rellies and some friends. Maz and Alex wanted to go back to the Pinnacles to take some more photos as apparently the light had disappeared by the time we were taking photos last night. It was here that I got my first introduction to the photo school of perfection to which the pair belong. The beautiful photographs which you see on these web pages are for the most part not the work of a "point and click" camera (although they have one of those as well of course!) but of painstaking shot selection, changing of lens and filters on their enormous camera and the taking of an inordinate number of photographs (which includes waiting for people to move out of the way a lot as they seem to have a knack of walking into shot just as a photo is about to be taken), which then get whittled down to find the perfect shot for all described in the blogs. To give you an idea, they have taken about 52,000 photos over the last 17 months. I wouldn't relish that printing bill!
We found a good spot to camp overnight and set the tents up. Until now, we had been staying in nice, sheltered campsites. Camping within spitting distance of the sea, I learnt over a very sleepless night that WA does not in fact stand for Western Australia, but for Windy Australia! It felt like we were in the middle of a storm wind all night. The next morning we continued down to Lancelin and on to Perth where we were going to meet up with some friends for New Year that Maz and Alex had met on a liveaboard in Thailand and we had to stay for a few days as Tinfish needed some work to fix a leaking diesel tank.
Just as we were arriving in the outskirts of Perth, looking for a campsite, Hamish and Kirsty (can you tell they're Scottish?) telephoned and offered to put us up at their place. Astonishingly, they were still happy to put us up when told that we had to stay in Perth for at least 4 or 5 days as Tinfish was broken again. Also staying with Hamish and Kirsty were Gordon and Heidi - also Scottish and about to go back to Aberdeen with their beautiful new baby Maya after living and working in Perth for a couple of years.
We arrived to the loveliest house which we were told had recently been renovated before Kirsty and Hamish moved in with art on the walls and a lovely kitchen and dining room. The night was spent catching up on what Maz and Alex and Kirsty and Hamish had been doing since they had last met. The next day, we had a lovely, quiet lazy day sitting on sofas reading books and taking advantage of a washing machine. Maz and I cooked spag bol for tea and then we went out to see Casino Royale at the flicks. I had already seen it in the UK before I left home and really enjoyed it. Despite my fondness for Pierce Brosnan, I actually quite liked Daniel Craig as Bond, which I wasn't expecting with him being so blond. That being said, he was definitely a lot darker haired then when he was first announced as the new Bond! Sasha, a friend of Kirtsy's from work also came along. There were very mixed views of the film - some really enjoyed it while others thought it was a good action film, just not Bond.
On New Year's Eve, we had a fairly lazy morning then we three took ourselves off to Freemantle for the afternoon. We arrived in time for a late lunch at a micro-brewery which Hamish had told us about called Little Creatures. It was a barn of a place but the beer was fantastic and there was good food to match. We sat out in the sun for a while before deciding we had better go the museum or it would shut. We went to the Shipwreck Museum where there are some remains of an old Dutch ship called the Batavia. It was really interesting to realise the sheer size of one of these old ships, when confronted with a simply enormous piece of hull and then to see from the plans how tiny the piece on display was in comparison to the ship as a whole.
The Batavia ran aground on 4th June 1629 on the inhospitable Abrolhos Islands (meaning 'open your eyes'!) The ships commander, Francisco Pelsaert, took most of the officers and passengers to the mainland in search of water leaving 268 people behind. An undermerchant, Jeronimus Cornelisz, who had agitated against the commander during the voyage, saw his opportunity to act. Tricking the remaining soldiers to relinquish their arms, he banished them to a nearby island then instituted a reign of terror that resulted in the deaths of 125 men, women and children before Pelsaert returned 3 months later - having been forced to travel all the way to Batavia (Jakarta) for help - no small feat in itself!
The first murders were carried out under the pretext of saving water supplies, but Cornelisz and his small band of followers became increasingly arbitrary and brutal, raping and murdering indiscriminately. Palsaert eventually returned with more soldiers, summarily executed Cornelisz and dumped some of his men at Wittecarra Gully, just south of Kalbarri, making them the first white men on mainland Australia!
There were lots of other good displays in the museum of various items salvaged from the seabed and restored. There was also a good display on the VOC (the Dutch abbreviation for the Dutch East Indies Company). It put into context the number of Dutch sounding names of restaurants I had noticed further up the coast, at which time I had forgotten the significant Dutch exploration and discovery of this part of Australia.
We returned to Perth and Hamish had prepared his famous chicken biryani for dinner which was delicious. Another Scottish couple living in Perth, Ian and Heather, had also come round for "Hogmanay" along with their little boy Rory. Rory went to bed after polishing the wooden floors with his babygrow and we had dinner. We all sat round chatting about travels and life in Australia. At times it was difficult to get a word in edgeways and I'm sure that Maz and Alex and Hamish and Kirsty had set up their own private couples' competition to see who could finish a story which their other half had started about some aspect of their travels without being told to shut up before the story finished - zip!
After dinner, we played a game called "Times Up" which was a sort of combination of pictionary, charades and articulate. We split into 3 teams, with the names being drawn out of a hat to try to avoid conspiracy between those who knew each other well. Sasha also arrived part way through the game so she joined in too. Maz and I ended up on the same team with poor Hamish being the other team member. After much deliberation, and having quickly abandoned the idea of calling our team "The Winners" as we were then bound to come last, we settled on "the Neds". Only after deciding the name did Hamish tell us that in Scotland, a Ned is a bit like a Chav in England and he was a bit concerned as none of us owned any Burberry. We decided to keep the name anyway. The other teams were "Team A" and "Strike Force 4 of the Navarone"..!!??!
Unsurprisingly, the game got sillier as the night went on, our abilities helped (or should that be hindered) by the booze. In the end, the best non-verbal description was Ian pointing to his button, the best drawing was Hamish's indecipherable lines which he then told us was a plane, and the best charade was Ian's acting the fool which his friends decided was no different to normal behaviour. Hamish tried to set the festivities off early by singing Auld Lang Syne at 11.40pm but was persuaded to leave it til midnight. We counted the New Year in with some lovely new friends and then we did sing (although I was very shocked that none of these Scots knew the words to Auld Lang Syne!) minus Hamish who was by now comatose on the couch! The game then continued and Team A won. Heidi's team decided they were the moral victors as they hadn't cheated (well, not as much as everyone else had anyway!).
New Year's Day arrived with the odd hangover and a trip to the Races. We arrived at about lunchtime and found a grassy area to sit and people watch for a while. There were some fabulous dresses and hats around. It was quite noticeable that many of the women were dressed up to the nines and many of the men were in shorts! We lay in the sun and took advantage of the "Freemantle Doctor" - this is a wind which blows Perth in the afternoon and gets its name as it comes in from Freemantle and it makes everyone feel better! We had the odd bet until the main event later in the afternoon - the Perth Cup when we all had a bet.
True to form, my original choice of horse didn't even make the start of the race so I chose again, picking Scenic Shot who came 4th. Various other nags were chosen by the group but the only winner was Alex, getting $84 from a $10 bet on a kiwi horse called Respect who led all the way. The day was great fun and for one of us to win something really topped the day off. We went back to Hamish and Kirsty's. Gordon cooked the most fantastic thin base pizzas from scratch and we lounged with a film. The most interesting pizza was the pear and blue cheese with rocket, which is not a combination I ever would have picked before but it was really tasty. After the excesses of the night before, it was really nice to have quite a quiet night.
Heidi and Gordon somehow ended up cooking again and they produced a fabulous beef, bacon and red wine pie. We ended the evening with one of the first of many games of Maz and Alex's Christmas pressie... Carcassone. Everyone was more than a little confused initially, including Maz and Alex because whilst in theory they have played before there are various additional bits to this new game including extension sets, so the rules for this game were different to their other game. Heidi was to be heard bemoaning the fact she was losing so badly and didn't quite understand the rules when she promptly came joint 1st when the points were counted! We decided we needed to play a bit more to really get to grips with it, but another night...
Tinfish was due to be collected later in the day. Maz and Alex were happy having a lazy day in a nice house so I took myself off to look round the Museum of Western Australia. It houses the usual exhibits documenting the original inhabitants of Australia (the dinosaurs) and explained the shifting of the continents. There was quite a good section on the settlement of Western Australia, but the real gem was the fascinating exhibit detailing Aboriginal history, particularly after the "discovery" of Australia and the settlers arriving in the early 1800's. The gallery told the story mainly from the point of view of the Aboriginals. There was explanation of how the Aboriginals relate to the land, their belief in the land as mother and provider, the ways they found food and water on the land and details of their culture.
What I found the most interesting though was the analytical and thought provoking development of the history of the attempted destruction of the Aboriginal people. When the settlers arrived, they began to take Aboriginal children in particular to work in their houses as slaves. That use of slaves eventually developed into the passing of laws which effectively tried to destroy the Aboriginal way of life. There was little or no attempt to understand the Aboriginals. The land had always been a provider so when the Westerners took the land at will, the Aboriginals had to find other ways of eating - the plentiful lands for food were of course those which the Westerners identified as fertile lands worth developing. Not having food from the land as the settlers were now living on it, the Aboriginals simply took from the land other food sources such as the imported sheep.
Unfortunately, this was viewed as stealing and the Aboriginals beaten, imprisoned or even hung for their crimes. There was no longer any way to sustain themselves in the bush so they were forced towards the towns. In many places, the Aboriginals ended up queuing for hand outs. Some Aboriginals simply refused to accept they had no right to walk on the land which had always been theirs. One woman had for decades walked a path which lead to fertile land, on which Perth Railway station now stands. The land was fenced off so she walked over and sometimes through the fence. When a house was built across the path, she would walk through the rooms of the house following her path!
But something more sinister that the taking of land was to come. From the children being taken as slaves, there developed a policy to take the aboriginal children in large numbers and to integrate them into a "proper" Australian lifestyle. Large numbers of the children were taken from their parents, against the wishes of both parent and child usually, and the children were put into homes which were effectively orphanages and all access by the parents was refused. The children stayed in these homes until about the age of 14 when they were sent to work, often in some form of sweat shop for little or no money. The children in the homes were largely left to do as they pleased with no guidance from anyone. Some were happy but the majority were not.
What was perhaps more shocking was that the children targeted were lighter skinned as it was thought these children would be easier to integrate into proper society. Many of the children were in fact half caste as there were frequent instances of rape of the Aboriginal women. Siblings were separated. Even if all siblings were taken, and often older children were left behind, siblings were split into different homes when they reached the city. Aboriginal children born anywhere near a city or hospital automatically became wards of state and were taken from their mothers immediately after birth. The estimates of the numbers of children taken vary - it seems to be accepted that as many as 1 in 10 were taken although in some places, the numbers rise to about 1 in 3.
There was a description by some children in the exhibit of how all Aboriginal traits were frowned upon and the children quickly learnt not to display them. As one child put it, "We went in Aboriginal and came out white". Only the problem was, they weren't white. They weren't accepted into Westernised "civilised" Australia, but nor could they go home to their families as they were no longer Aboriginal. Even if they could track down their family, which in many cases was simply not possible, they children could not cope with an Aboriginal life and had none of the necessary skills to survive such a life.
All of this was shocking enough but the horror of it really came to life when you are told that this practice only stopped in the early 1970's. There was an outcry by the Australian people in the early 1990's which lead to an official inquiry, whose report was published in about 1997/8. One member of the inquiry described the practice as genocide - the intended destruction of the Aboriginal race and culture. There was a very moving video as part of the display, which showed various people who had taken part in the inquiry, both Aboriginal and white. One part was a woman now in her late 30's, who must have been one of the last children taken, describing her life. She was taken from her mother at 3 weeks old. She was put in a home but she was one of the lucky ones as she was quickly adopted by a fairly well off Sydney family, so materially she lacked for nothing and was well educated and well looked after by her adoptive parents. However, she expressed a great sense of injustice as well as extreme anger over the loss of her natural family. She only heard about the policy in the early 1990's and then found out that she was one of the children taken. She tried to find her birth mother, but she had died 3 years earlier.
One of the most interesting things about the exhibition was the acknowledgement of the role that this treatment of the Aborigines has had on later generations. The children taken received no parenting themselves and therefore had no parenting skills when they in turn had children. The generalised rupturing of the Aboriginal society still leaves scars today and the problems some Aborigines have with city life has been caused in part at least by the taking of their land and attempted destruction of their culture in the past. The exhibition recognised the need to apologise for past wrongs and whilst many ordinary Australians agreed with the need to say sorry, there was a noticeable absence of any official apology.
I left the Museum and walked back to the house. I had no idea about any of that history. Last time I was in Australia was 1990 - I suppose the scandal had not quite surfaced at that time. Maz and I cooked a roast dinner for everyone as it was our last night in Perth. We went shopping and eventually found a supermarket which was open - I still can't get used to the fact that by 6pm, at the latest, everything is shut! We bought beef thinking that would be safe but I think it must have been some kind of salt cured beef as when we'd cooked it, there was significant debate as to whether we had bought beef at all as it looked and tasted like ham. We decided in the end it was beef.
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|Comment from Heidi Eriksen|
|Hiya, I was just thinking about you guys the other day. I have really enjoyed reading about your further travels in Australia and it made me miss Oz all the more. I wish you the best of luck with your new ventures into the work force. Take care and keep having fun,|
lots of love Heidi
|28 Mar 2007 @ 08:08:01|