This page has three sections,
Author talk schedule - Past and pending >>
Interviews including ABC radio with Richard Fidler >>
Article by Susan Boyer appearing in national newspapers >>
Author Talk Schedule:
Parramatta Family History Group, 1st of April, 2017.
Interview - ABC National Radio: 'Conversations with Richard Fidler', April, 2015.
See below >>
Previous author talks, school visits, book club and bookstore events:
Gymea Combined Probus Club, October, 2016, Gymea, NSW.
History Teachers’ Association of Australia, National Conference, September, 2016, Sydney, NSW.
School visit, Sydney Grammar School, June 2016, St Ives, NSW.
Botany Bay Family History Society, July, 2016, Gymea, NSW.
Ku-ring-gai Historical Society, June, 2016, Gordon, NSW.
The Arthur Phillip Chapter of Fellowship of First Fleeters, June, 2016, Gordon, NSW.
School visit, Sydney Grammar School, June 2016, St Ives, NSW.
Blue Mountains Family History Society Inc, March, 2016, Springwood, NSW.
School visit, Holy Trinity Primary Granville, March, 2016, Granville, NSW,
Berowra District Mixed Probus Club, February, 2016, Berowra, NSW.
U3A ACT, September, 2015, Canberra, ACT.
Tamworth City Library, August, 2015, Tamworth, NSW.
Bundaberg Library, August, 2015, Bundaberg, Qld.
Blue Mountains Historical Society, June 2015, Wentworth Falls, NSW.
Sydney Mechanics' School of Arts, May, 2015, 280 Pitt Street, Sydney, NSW.
Imperial Book Club, April 2015, Paddington, NSW.
Book signing at Dymocks on Albert Street, March, 2015, Brisbane, Qld.
Book signing at ABC Shop, March, 2015, Penrith, NSW,
School visit, Dutton Park State School, March, 2015, Brisbane, Qld.
School visit, Junction Park State School, March, 2015, Brisbane, Qld.
School visit, Upper Brookfield Primary, March, 2015, Brisbane, Qld.
Sutherland Library, March, 2015, Sutherland, NSW.
Cronulla Library, March, 2015, Cronulla, NSW.
Book signing at Dymocks City store, January, 2015, Sydney, NSW.
Bathurst Historical Society, November 2014, Bathurst, NSW.
Ulladulla Library, October, 2014, Ulladulla, NSW.
Nowra Library, October, 2014, Nowra, NSW.
Thirroul Library, October, 2014, Thirroul, NSW.
Randwick Library, September, 2014, Randwick, NSW.
Windsor Library, September, 2014, Windsor, NSW.
Links to listen to interviews including with Richard Fidler
Link to Susan Boyer's ABC radio interview on 'Conversations with Richard Fidler' podcast >>
Blue Mountains City Library podcast interview with Susan by John Merriman about 'Across Great Divides - true stories of life at Sydney Cove'.
Susan's interview is episode 46 of the 'Listeners in the Mist, series.
Blue Mountains Library 'Listeners in the Mist', Episode 46 >>
Susan Boyer interviewed by Anthony Zanos at Taree radio station 2RE, 28th of August 2014.
Article by Susan Boyer published in 'THE AGE' (Melbourne newspaper)
'Australia Day: Take a fresh look at our past' Publication date: January 21st, 2015
Ideally Australia Day is about acknowledging our history, valuing our diversity and celebrating that we are all Australian. Yet, as another Australia Day approaches, our nation's past continues to be a prickly subject.
Can the way our history is presented make a difference? Some contemporary writers and documentary filmmakers believe that stories can heal past wounds and open hearts. But before embarking on a discussion about "healing", we need to know what all the fuss is about. Why is our history controversial? Deplorable events in history should never be sugar-coated, swept under the carpet or otherwise disregarded. ... inspirational true stories also need to be told and shared.
Noel Pearson in his 2014 Quarterly Essay article suggested that two things are irrefutably part of Australia's history: Indigenous heritage and British heritage. He went on to say, "no matter how much white Australians might want to ignore it or black Australians might want to reject it", this is "the reality and it is the truth". So why in 2015, are we still questioning Australia Day's relationship to our national identity? Before we can move forward and Advance Australia Fair, we need to look back at the so-called "history wars" that have been debated for decades. W. E. Stanner used the phrase "the great Australian silence" in his Boyer Lectures of 1968 to expose what he believed was a general trend among Australians of his generation to ignore issues relating to Aboriginal people. The suppression of Australia's contentious past, as claimed by Stanner, was subsequently broken by a barrage of publications on settler-Aboriginal conflict. Historian Henry Reynolds declared during the 1990s that it was time to "face up to our history ... to cease trying to hide the violence, the dispossession, the deprivation. People want to know the truth about the past and to come to terms with it."
Reynolds wasn't alone in his exposé of frontier conflict. Book titles such as, Blood on the Wattle: massacres and maltreatment of Aboriginal Australians since 1788 by Bruce Elder, left no doubt about subject matter. The stories, telling of aggression and hostility across the continent, are disturbing and powerful.
Many Australians however, disapproved of what they saw as an unduly adverse interpretation of Australia's past, aimed at provoking feelings of grief and shame; a version termed by Geoffrey Blainey as "the black armband" view of Australian history. Blainey contrasted this negative version, with the "three cheers" view of history that suggested that conditions in Australia, after convict transportation ended, were "pretty good". Two Australian prime ministers, Paul Keating and John Howard, were key participants in the history wars. Howard claimed that the "balance sheet of Australian history" had been misrepresented. He said: "I think we have been too apologetic about our history in the past." This was, in part, in response to Keating's 1992 "Redfern Speech" in which he famously proposed "to bring the dispossessed out of the shadows" and to "find just solutions to the problems which beset the first Australians - the people to whom the most injustice has been done". For Keating, recognition of past injustice against Aboriginal Australians was the starting point for the healing of historical wounds. He went on to suggest that what happened in the past has impacted and remains evident in modern-day Australia by the "demoralisation and desperation, the fractured identity, of so many Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders".
Debates about the impact of colonisation have not subsided. Differing versions of our history are presented to us, but no historian or major political leader has suggested that Australia's colonial period was without some degree of violence or dispossession. The dispute at the centre of the "history wars" concerns the extent to which violence and dispossession occurred. A central theme is also the impact of our past on our present national identity. Last month indigenous film director Rachel Perkins gave a speech at the national Recognise event. Perkins expressed the belief that "words can change hearts". In the documentary series First Australians, her ambition was to "change the way a new generation would see Australian history". As an author and researcher into Australia's past I've witnessed the effect that true stories about our history can have on the most cynical readers. One Aboriginal woman, a government liaison officer, strongly expressed her doubt that any story about the First Fleet could reverse her negative feelings about its "arrival". However, after reading the firsthand accounts penned by those who lived through the early days in the colony, she contacted me to say that though some of the stories made her cry, she had seen another side to the history. She wanted to know more.
People are genuinely surprised by the personal accounts of friendship and intercultural understanding penned in the journals and personal letters of the First Fleet marines and convicts. The fact that the stories are relatively unknown, by both indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians makes their encounter all the more thought-provoking.
What I found most surprising when I began my research into colonial records, was the number of marines, officers and convicts who recorded their interactions with the Eora - the people who had watched the ships arrive and witnessed the setting up of a camp at the place now known as Sydney. William Dawes, a young First Fleet astronomer and surveyor, for example, developed a strong rapport with a group of Eora youth who visited his observatory on the headland known to them as Tara (now known as Dawes Point in Sydney Harbour). There, they shared their language and their very different worldviews; they joked, laughed and sang together. In other words, there was mutual recognition and a genuine attempt at bridging the cultural divide. Boorong and Nanberry, native children found dying on a beach in the aftermath of a devastating epidemic, were taken into the homes of white settlers and went on to have fickle yet enduring relationships with their white guardians. They learnt to straddle both cultures, while keeping the strongest ties with their own.
Bennelong and his highly-spirited wife, Barangaroo, dealt with the perplexing circumstance of uninvited settlers in a manner they felt would best benefit themselves and their people. Bennelong seized the ultimate challenge by sailing to England with Governor Arthur Phillip. On his return, he did as Boorong and Nanberry had done: he adapted to the best of both worlds. He did not, as modern myth suggests, "die in disgrace". The early accounts reveal that he held the respect of friends in both cultures in his later years. History shows that at every stage and in each generation, while dreadful acts were being committed in a particular place, not too far away during the same period the best of humanity was being displayed. This has occurred throughout human history regardless of colour or culture. Deplorable events in history should never be sugar-coated, swept under the carpet or otherwise disregarded. They need to be acknowledged. However, inspirational true stories also need to be told and shared. Our children need to know what happened to know what is possible. They need to know, through true stories that when people from very different cultures put aside their differences, deep friendships and great things are possible. The Australian curriculum now places more emphasis on knowing our foundational stories. Having a balanced understanding of the past can affect our children's view of the present and influence our future.
In the final words of Pearson's essay about building a more complete Commonwealth, he suggests: "Whatever, the mutual denial of the past, the future must be one of mutual recognition."
So, Australia Day - what's it all about? It is about acknowledging our history - the good and the bad bits. It's about valuing our diversity and celebrating the opportunities we share in this most precious land. It's about having a well-adjusted view of ourselves.
Susan Boyer is Australian author of Across Great Divides: true stories of life at Sydney Cove, a non-fiction narrative based on the journals, letters and recorded oral accounts of those who experienced life in Australia's first colony.