Editorial


The Bicentenary is now, thankfully, over and the Expo site nearly demolished. Last year, women along with Aborigines and Islanders, youth, migrants, the disabled and other groups were offered financial incentives to participate in, or collaborate with, the `celebration of a Nation'. Indeed, the only group not specifically approached seems to have been older, middle class Anglo men -- perhaps because they, for the most part, do not need to be invited or encouraged to participate in the running of the system.

Prior to 1988, debates raged in various areas about Bicentennial funding and participation. The three possibilities of potential incorporation, refusal of this through boycott, and possible subversion through involvement were all canvassed, and different strategies adopted by different people. Many Aborigines used the year to emphasise their different situation and their different goals and needs to those of the official agenda. They organised huge marches in Sydney on Australia Day, a number of marches and an alternative Cultural Festival in Brisbane around Expo, and a demonstration at the opening of Parliament in Canberra. But the frequency and strength of these public manifestations of dissent tended to slip away as the year progressed. Traditional perceptions of the nature of `being Australian' may well, however, have been partly altered by such actions.

They may perhaps also have been altered by the substantial participation of non-Anglo Australians in the spectacle of the Bicentenary. Such participation was, however, generally at the price of being seen yet again in the role of what Gunew has described as "the singing, dancing Migrant". Aboriginal and Islander people were also repeatedly asked to dance. But this particular carnival, pace Bakhtin, offered little explicit challenge to the authority of the rulers.

Australia appears no closer to becoming a Republic despite all the rhetoric about `nationhood'. One key Bicentennial event was a romantic reenactment of the original imperialist invasion complete with Royals.

The Bicentenary has encouraged a greater interest in history, and more people have begun to think about what actually happened in the two hundred years of white settlement -- or even before it -- rather than continuing to be satisfied with the accounts in old 1950s school textbooks. …

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