Thursday, April 07, 2011

Bush tucker, local identity & new states

In comments on Australia's geographical diversity, Le Loup wrote:

He is lucky to find anything on Australian Aboriginals. I have searched from a primitive skills & tools point of view & found very little. Early settlement by whites period also lacking info on Aboriginals. Amazing.

Greg also wrote in a comment on the same post:

Very interesting post Jim. Is this a reflection of the deficiency of our education system?

For my part, I have no recollection of learning about my home town (Newcastle) in school other than that Lt John Shortland sailed up the Hunter River in 1797 and discovered coal there. That is it. My own knowledge of the local area is due largely to my own curiosity rather than any formal learning at school. Yet Newcastle is a fascinating town with a story worth telling.

I'm sure that same theme would be repeated elsewhere. That is actually one reason that I have personally been opposed to the national education curriculum. In my view there should be a strong local emphasis on school education in areas such as history, geography and social studies.

It is also hardly surprising therefore that so many people hold "abolish the states" attitudes. They don't perceive any significant regional differences and hence they don't recognise the point for a federal system of government.

Dealing with LL first. In my reply comment I said:

When I was a kid and a boy scout, I was very interested in surviving in the bush. I split matches in half and coated them with wax. I learned about camp fires, cooked damper and johnny cakes, practiced swinging the billy, but was constantly frustrated because I knew nothing about local foods. How could I survive in the bush if I didn't know what was edible?

Things are a bit better today, but there is still an enoP1020606rmous gap.

  The photo shows the start of the bush tucker walk at the Armidale and Region Aboriginal Cultural Centre and Keeping Place.

It's a start, but it's still inadequate.

Looking at the material that LL uses on his blog, A Woodsrunner's Diary, you will see the US focus. That's not a criticism, for LL's focus reflects what is available.

There has been a growing interest in bush issues and bush tucker, partly due to Les Hiddin's popular Bush Tucker series. By the way, it's very hard to get away from New England. If you look at the following video - it's long but enjoyable - you will find that Les's dad came from Armidale! 

The difficulty is that to really know bush tucker or the way the Aborigines lived, you have to know the detail of a particular area, and that's still deficient.

Greg's point raises a different issue. Our education system is deficient and has become increasingly so because of its focus on uniformities and standards, not differences. If you are going to teach maths or science, things that are uniform, then that's okay. However, when you come to history and localities, to the actual pattern of human life, you have to focus on locality and variety.

Think I'm wrong? Well, have a look at this morning's post on my personal blog, Problems with literature & locale. You won't find this stuff in the school curriculum!

Newcastle and Maitland, the Hunter in general, have a particular problem because they have been so over-shadowed by Sydney.

Those of us who continue the fight for self-government for Northern NSW, the broader New England, find it difficult to get to the starting block when our own uniqueness is denied. We have to affirm it, to show it, or we will remain swamped in the presentation of Australian uniformity.    


Le Loup said...

Although my focus is on wilderness living in the New World during the mid 18th century, the plants used for tools, tinder, fire making, kindling & food are from New England here in Australia.
Les Higgins programs on bush tucker were great, but they are all in the Territory.
I had forgotten about the Keeping Place, I must visit next time I am in town. Meanwhile people can find information on New England & especially the Armidale area native plants & their uses on my blog.
Regards, Keith.

Jim Belshaw said...

Hi LL aka Keith! I must look at those sections of your blog in detail.