Monday, September 18, 2006

Fair Dinkum, mmm?

The Government announced this week its intention to toughen access to Australian citizenship by introducing several new conditions, among which are language and culture tests. Prime Minister John Howard, asked to comment about how the hard the change would be on applicants, said: "if they're fair dinkum, they will have no problems". No doubt that the use of the word was calculated. Fair Dinkum? Few foreigners would know what that means... Tell me, Mr. Prime Minister, for those of us who were not 'made in Australia' like the girl on my photo, is that expression going to be part of the test - along with the lyrics of Waltzing Matilda and words like swag, damper or billy tea? I won't ask about the knowledge of a few Aboriginal words... (don't know what Fair Dinkum means? Look in the comments)


Meg Nakagawa said...

The only people becoming Aussies in future may be Kiwis, then? We certainly hear these words, but I only know "billy tea".

Nathalie said...

Fair Dinkum means true, genuine, honest. A fair dinkum Aussie is a true Australian. Waltzing Matilda is a famous ballad that sings the adventures of a lone bush ranger. Damper is bread made with beer as yeast and baked in a pot on the side of the fire, billy tea is the tin or can used to boil tea on the fire (no proper teapot). All these words relate to the very basic (and often nomadic) life of early settlers in the bush. They are part of Australia's history and dreamed identity. I say 'dreamed' because it has no relevance at all to the life many Australians live today, but this is why Steve Irwin was so popular, he made the tradition alive again !

Norman said...

Waltzing Matilda was about a swagman, NOT a bushranger, Nathalie. The "dreamed" identity I grew up with during the War wasn't about the bush, per se, but the values of mateship and egalitarianism which had become a part of the working class city and suburbs, even if their origins may have been largely developed originally in our more rural areas.

It's true these values are becoming obsolete, thanks in no small part to the latte lapping ["intellectual"] luddites who form our dominant chattering classes; but I'm not convinced they're being replaced by anything as worthwhile, let alone better.

As for Irwin bringing back the old traditions ---- ? Marx made a relevant comment, suggesting that IF History could be said to repeat itself, then the first Napoleon was a tragedy, the last Napoleon was farce. The loss of our old values [even if such loss was inevitable] has been a tragedy --- to suggest Irwin was reviving them is certainly a farce.

p.s. The Marx was Kark, not Goucho.

Nathalie said...

I hope you understood the irony in my comment. Steve Irwin revived the myth of rough Australia for the masses - cartoon style. The world he showcased was one where you can behave stupid with crocodiles and not get eaten: just like in a video game, you never die. Real rough Australia still exists, his death proves it.

As for Egalitarianism and Mateship being the two founding values of the Australian dreamed identity, I completely agree. Time and time again I've heard Australians tell me how proud they were of these values. Unfortunately many also believe they are disappearing fast.