Labour History Number 91 November 2006
A particularly interesting tension explored is that between hope and despair. While
academics write about cycles of protest and so on, this book engages engagingly
with this literature but asks and finds answers to intriguing questions, such as: how
do you keep going in the bad times? Australian activists have offered much to the
world. Australians formed the first democratically elected Labor government. Our
unions were the first to use their industrial power to protect the environment. Jack
Mundy coined the term 'green ban' and inspired Europeans to adopt the label 'The
Greens' as a political noun. Tasmanians who defended the wilderness can claim to
have established the first Green Party in the world. Australian radicals developed
the 'open source publishing technique' that allows would-be journalists to post their
own stories on the web, and is used by indymedia groups all around the world.
As African American anti-slavery and women's rights campaigner Frederick
Douglass wrote in 1849:
Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never
will. Find just what people will submit to, and you have found the exact
amount of injustice and wrong that will be imposed upon them; and
these will continue until they are resisted either with words or blows, or
with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those
whom they oppress.
Academics have only interpreted the world. The point, however, is to change it.
This book is a valuable contribution to both interpretation and practical efforts at
University of Melbourne VERITY BURGMANN
Christopher Cunneen (ed.), Australian Dictionary of Biography: Supplement
1580-1980, Melbourne University Press, Carlton, Victoria, 2005. pp. xxii + 520.
History is full of forgetfulness; there is no reason why even the Australian Dictionary
of Biography, in all its vast and preceding 16 volumes since 1962, should have escaped
the tendency to overlook some valuable lives, or felt compelled to leave them behind
in the crush for scarce space, until a trace of a life snags at the memory, a protest
is lodged on behalf of the neglected, and four good minds - amongst many others
- are brought to bear on the unenviable task of summoning another tribe of the dead,
from the many who might be recalled in the span of 400 years of human experience
of this continent from 1580.
Supplementing the story of Australian lives starts with a resonant and disturbing
echo: Mullah Abdullah, camel driver and Islamic priest, whose faith and its practices
jarred with the narrow mining community of Broken Hill, and who was by January
1915, 'a grey-bearded zealot, fiery when insulted', as he joined with a former Turkish
Army soldier, Gool Badsha Mahomed, to bring the Great War and simmering
religious grievance to a train load of citizens bound for the Manchester Unity Order
of Oddfellows Picnic in Silverton. Equipped with a rifle-laden ice cream cart, they