Wednesday, January 26, 2005

26th January

In Australia this day has a number of different names: Wednesday, public holiday, Australia Day, Invasion Day, Survival Day, Hottest 100 Day etc.

I was going to write a post about my local area and its Aboriginal history (Bundjalung country) but made the mistake of watching
The Castle (the greatest land rights film ever made in Australia) to transcribe an excerpt, got carried away and forgot.

So here - Australian as anything in all its stereotypical, comic strip, essential truth? style - is what I think "Australianness" is about: the spirit of egalitarianism^^, and laughing at ourselves.

Darryl and Sal Kerrigan fell in love at the greyhounds [greyhound dog races] and live in a house next to the airport, beneath big overhead power lines which remind Darryl "of Man's ability to generate electricity". They have four children: Dale, Steve, Tracey (married to Con) and Wayne (doing 8 years in gaol for armed robbery).

Dale visits Wayne every Friday. They "get on great" and "can chat for hours".

Wayne: How’s Mum?
Dale: Good.
Wayne: How’s Dad?
Dale: Good.
Wayne: How’s Trace?
Dale: Good.
Wayne: How’re you?
Dale: Good.
Wayne: How’s Steve?
Dale: He’s all right.
Wayne: ... Good.

The family has a holiday house at Bonnie Doon, near the lake and those overhead power lines. All except Wayne go there for the weekend. Darryl & Sal are smooching on the verandah while Trace, Con, and the family greyhounds are in the front yard under a tree, Trace steadying a punching bag while Con practices kick boxing. We hear Steve roar up on a dirt bike (motorbike).

Darryl to Sal: Marvellous, ain’t it? The lake... The kids... (laughs) Oh! Look at the dogs! Don’t they love it? (inhales) Oh, smell that... (they smell the breeze and smile happily) ...Two-stroke.**

At home, a letter of compulsory acquisition arrives - the Kerrigans and their neighbours are legally obliged to move because the airport wants to expand. Darryl goes to court in a bid to stop the aquisition, but is unsuccessful. He calls a meeting of the neighbours to discuss whether they should take further legal action.

Darryl: Listen. Things are getting a bit serious. Last night I had a visit from some hired thug.
Farouk: Yeah, me too.
Darryl: What’d you mean, you too?
Farouk: A man, he come to my house, and he say, ‘Stop with the court business.’ If no stop, he have friend who come and beat me. And I say, ‘You have friend - I have friend. My friend come to your house, put bomb under your car and blow you to fucking sky!’
Darryl: What’d he do?
Farouk: He get scared and he leave!
Darryl: I bet he did.
Farouk: I don’t really have friend like this, but, you know, I’m Arab and people think all Arab have bomb (all laughing).
Darryl: You’re a bloody ripper, Farouk, that’s fucking fantastic! (to Evonne) Excuse the French, Evonne.
Evonne (dismissively): Get your hand off it, Darryl.

Darryl and Sal are in the pool room, the special place at the heart of their home where Darryl keeps his most prized possessions. They don't want to leave.

Darryl: I’m really starting to understand how the Aborigines feel.
Sal: ... Have you been drinkin’?
Darryl: Well, this house is like their land. It holds their memories. The land is their story, it’s everything. You just can’t pick it up and plonk it down somewhere else. This country’s got to stop stealing other people’s land!

Their case is picked up by someone Darryl befriends - Laurie, a retired Queens Counsel - and is taken to the High Court. The opposing lawyer insults Darryl's house and his gaoled son. Darryl swears at him and court is temporarily adjourned.

Darryl: I’m sorry Lawrie, I...
Lawrie: That’s all right, Darryl. I was thinking the same thing, though not in those words.
Darryl: I wish I had your words.

Back in court, in his finest hour, Lawrie sums up:

A home is not built of bricks and mortar, but love, and memories.

Happy day, Australians, whatever you want to call it.

^^ Have we lost this lately?
** Is "two-stroke" an international term? It's the fuel you use in bikes, chainsaws etc, and (just between you and me) it smells really good.

!! Actually, ignore that last point - it's wrong. Proving that the internet is an amazing place, a sharp-eyed reader informs me that "two-stroke" is a type of engine. That special smell (laughing, but it's true!) is due to the fuel - it has oil in it, plus some unburnt fuel gets emitted in the exhaust. Thanks, Reader!