ANZAC Neighbours: A Hundred Years of Multiple Ties: Peter Hempinstall, Philipp Mein Smith and Shaun Goldfinch Outline a Major, New Research Project on Australia-New Zealand Relations

Article excerpt

For 100 years scholars on both sides of the Tasman have produced national histories that ignore a shared past and neglect the historical parallels. From W.K. Hancock in 1930 through to the multiple Bicentennial volumes in 1988, the Australian national story excluded any mention of a common history that reached across the Tasman. The one exception is the Federation debates, and even the history of these was treated separately by each side. Pacific history did tackle a more regionalist agenda in the early work of C. Hartley Grattan, but it was written from an interested American's perspective which saw the Pacific as a region that included the large rim countries and treated Australia and New Zealand as its south-western quadrant. (1) The kind of Pacific history that evolved out of the Australian National University tradition under New Zealander J.W. Davidson in the post-war years concentrated on the oceanic islands and their contact histories. It left persistent boundaries between Pacific, Australian and New Zealand history, despite the direct explanatory relevance of New Zealand to an understanding of relations between original peoples and new immigrant settlers. There have been some attempts to make comparisons across the Tasman. Kerry Howe's 1977 Race Relations in Australia and New Zealand: a comparative survey comes to mind, and at least three New Zealand universities have courses comparing the histories of the two countries. There has even been a recent trans-Tasman collaboration to write a genuinely post-Hartley Grattan regional history. (2)

But polite, mutual ignorance is the norm. Paul Kelly's The End of Certainty: the story of the 1980s states that `the Australian settlement' endured for eight decades after Federation. (3) Its five planks--White Australia, arbitration and protection, `state paternalism' and `imperial benevolence'-are represented as unique and distinctively Australian. From the `foundation idea' of White Australia to its `bedrock ideology' of protection, arbitration is assumed to be an Australian institution based upon an Australian idea, the `fair go' principle. (4) John Rickard in his 1988 cultural history of Australia likewise claims arbitration as a distinctive Australian institution, expressive of the national psyche. (5) Yet the New Zealand historian Erik Olssen and others have demonstrated that these `experiments' are as central to New Zealand as to Australian history. Frank Castles has also noted that the `wage earners' welfare state' and the politics of `domestic defence' also applied to New Zealand. (6)

Polite wonder

At the July 2002 conference in Brisbane of the Australian Historical Association--the umbrella organisation for historians in Australia--an occasional whiff of condescension floated in the air as Kiwi papers were welcomed and polite wonder was expressed at the richness and diversity of New Zealand historical scholarship. It was as though New Zealand continued to be marginal to the core business of Australian historians. Again in September, a major international conference of the Association for Canadian Studies in Australia and New Zealand (ACSANZ) took place in Canberra on the subject of possible converging futures, without a mention of New Zealand in either the title or contents of the conference agenda. (7) The continuing ignorance of New Zealand fictional literature in Australia compared to that from India or Canada is a phenomenon that regularly draws bemused comments from reviewers.

New Zealanders are just as guilty. They have absorbed the myth that New Zealand's `Better Britons' are superior to the Australian Britons. New Zealanders lacked the taint of convictism, they were moulded by a vigorous, cooler climate, and they enjoyed relations with a superior type of `native'. (8) New Zealand scholars have underwritten this tale of separate histories. The country's nationalist historian Keith Sinclair chose to focus primarily on the nineteenth century when writing for his edited collection Tasman Relations. …