Monday, 28 December 2015

It is Proclamation Day

in the state in which I live in Downunder. 
Proclamation Day is supposed to be a reminder of the day in 1836 in which the then governor, Governor John Hindmarsh, read out the document which proclaimed South Australia could now have a parliament and thus also be a state.
It is said that he read out this proclamation under a certain gum tree at Glenelg. The gum tree is preserved as such - with concrete as it has long since died. Whether it is the actual gum tree - or whether Governor Hindmarsh read the proclamation out under a gum tree at all - is a matter of debate.
There is a ceremony there every year. It is attended by the governor of the day, various politicians and other dignitaries and perhaps a few hundred members of the public who wonder what is going on.
I have never bothered to go. 
I remember learning about the event in school. It was one of those things I was taught, along with the ANZAC story about Simpson and his donkey, that I sensed lacked a certain accuracy. They were nice stories but the real significance of the events was never mentioned. 
I do not remember the idea that the state finally had a parliament and all the implications of that ever being mentioned. We were told "the state could govern itself" because someone had stood under a specific gum tree and said so but there was no explanation of what it meant. From the comments in this morning's state newspaper I doubt children are now even taught that much - or, if they are, they forget it very rapidly.
Does it matter? Perhaps it doesn't but I still think it would be a good idea if children were made more aware of it. Understanding where the government of the state started might encourage them to think more about the way we are governed. Knowing why the day is a public holiday might be a good idea too. 
I almost lost interest in history at school. All through primary school I was told the same few stories each year - and they were just stories. They were not accurate accounts of events.
I was incredibly fortunate that, outside school, other things taught me about history. 
My father had an uncle who lived in Captain Sturt's cottage at Grange. We went to visit him when I was about five or six, not long before someone recognised the historical value of the place and it was bought in order to preserve a significant piece of the state's history. I remember this man, my great-uncle, telling me the story of the house. He didn't bother with the story of Sturt's disastrous expedition but he told me the story of the house. I was there inside a piece of history and, even at that age, it seemed much more real than anything I had been told at school.
And my paternal grandfather showed me things and told me things about the port and the docks and took me to see them. They were things he had done and seen and used. I saw the house he had lived in as a boy - before it was demolished. I saw the place where he tied up the rowing boat they used to cross the river. I saw the river maps his father made which were so vital to all the shipping.
It was all so different from just being told an inaccurate account of history. 
Proclamation Day really doesn't interest me terribly much but if you asked me whether I wanted to visit the Maritime Museum again I'd say yes in a heartbeat. History gets personal then. 

No comments: