Category Archives: Getting a life

The COVID Waggon: Researching during lockdown

Rolling toward the apocalypse …

The ‘covered waggon’ was long the dominant form of transport in pre-industrial America and became an icon of the American Wild West. My first play on these words is about the US slowly rolling towards a post-industrial COVID19 apocalypse. I watch with genuine horror at what I regard as Trump’s completely botched, inhumane, prehistoric and incompetent response to national leadership to this pandemic.

And I thought his denial of climate change was bad enough. As evidence in the case of the pandemic, look at almost every other national leader’s response and compare the US infection and death statistics. It’s not about testing and it’s not about ‘Chinese’.

To me it’s a reminder of the slippery slope towards fascism associated with American exceptionalism, that has been a major plank of the US Republican Party since 2012. Whenever I see Trump talking in front of increasingly silenced or emasculated experts I think of the parable of the ‘King and his new clothes’. Thank goodness we still have democracy in Australia and the tattered remnants of a free press.

Every day my main ‘go to’ news site, The Guardian Global. Each week day I read Mark Kiser’s WTFJHT (What the Fuck Just Happened Today) posts, all related to the US Presidency and hot linked to press articles. Anyone can register to receive a free daily post or tip the blogger,  highly recommended, see  http://www.whatthefuckjusthappenedtoday.com/ . 21 May 2020 was Day 1217.

Looking under the covers …

Secondly and on a slightly lighter note this COVID-Waggon post is about letting anyone interested look under the ‘covers’ of my waggon and have a sneak peek at what I’m currently working on, thinking about and writing in late May 2020.

It used to take years to research and publish, including articles about random things each of us might have an interest in. I’ve been collecting stuff for decades and filing it away for a quieter and simpler time. Both are currently possible for me, and that time has come with joyful and productive retirement from paid work, heightened by the current pandemic. The advent of fairly idiot proof posting platforms and  powerful online searchable resources like Trove has simplified things immensely.

There are advantages and also pitfalls of being able to trawl the internet and public library sites and post so immediately and personally in this way. At 70 I’m more concerned about making stuff accessible than risking reputation and the risk of important stuff in our landscape being lost forever.

You’ll quickly sense an overarching theme in a lot of what I choose to research and write. For me it’s about using evidence to find the truth and write stories about what happened In this country, including locally in Southern Dja Dja Wurrung country at and beyond contact. It’s also about acknowledging and working with First Nations descendants to reconcile and do something to redress the huge ignorance and denial of the long tail of colonial dispossession.

What reading inspires me …

Sandra Pybus’ ‘Truganini: Journey through the Apocalypse’ is my current seriously riveting and highly recommended bedtime reading. My main source of post contact inspiration in recent years, as for Pybus, are the transcribed journals of George Augustus Robinson. Like her, the journals help me connect what is, what was and what transpired in this landscape and land that was so violently taken and that I have by birth inherited.

In Pybus’ case the Tasmanian journals are readily accessible in Plomley’s  well edited and indexed 1162 page ‘The Friendly Mission’ and its companion volume of papers. I agree with Pybus, paraphrasing her words, that it is incredibly difficult but morally necessary to liberate the stories of the original people trapped within Robinson’s overwhelming self regard, in order to do some justice for first Nation Australians whose lives were extinguished for ours.

I’m my case in Victoria, my best go to sources for the 1840s are again the Robinson Journals, transcribed with minimal editing by Ian Clarke. They are sadly in need of proper and accurate editing, indexing and addition of maps that would help locate the similarly apocalyptic incidents and stories. Friends I ride with cuttingly say if I was ever to go on ‘Hard Quiz’ George Robinson would be my only special subject. I loathe his mission  but reluctantly respect Robinson for doing the hard yards and recording what otherwise would have been lost.

This is a good Segway to ‘Creating autoethnographies’ by Tessa Muncey, my best single accessible book source of academic and writing inspiration in the past decade. In many ways Robinson is something of a self made autoethnographer. He seeks to write, albeit in an opinionated, self serving and uneducated way about all that he is seeing, hearing and experiencing, but it sometimes tells us much more about him.

So if any of this whets your appetite, have a read of whatever other pages or posts interest you on this site.

What else is on the waggon?

I’m meantime collaborating with local friend, author and publisher Gib Wettenhall to research something more like a book, we anticipate will be fine grained, fresh, illustrated, local and place based focusing on the first five years between 1836 and 1842 in southern Dja Dja Wurrung country in the Upper Loddon River catchment. Like good Slow Food, this book will take us time to write. We are well into our second year of field, oral history and literature research but this is a seriously big project.

If you don’t have a copy of our locally published Great Dividing Trail ‘Goldfields Track Guide’ (that Gib won a statewide history award for), buy one via the GDT website. It will to keep you informed and safe whilst exercising during and well beyond this pandemic, and the next.

With bike riding friend and retired local geologist Dr Stephen Carey, I’m researching the history of the Limestone Creek Lime Kilns north of Mount Franklin. They were started in the mid 1840s on the footprint of the Loddon Aboriginal Protectorate on an unusual limestone deposit formed over hundreds of thousands of years on a calcium rich mineral spring. Hopefully we’ll publish a paper about it.

With long time friend and Fed Uni colleague Associate Professor Annette Foley and Dr Helen Weadon, we are working on a series of journal papers on the back of field research in four local Men’s Sheds with both shedders and significant others of shedders conducted just before the pandemic. One paper is out for peer review to an international journal and we are working on another likely for Australian Journal of Adult Learning. A third paper is planned with colleague Dr Lucia Carragher in Ireland looking at the impact of Mens Sheds on significant others.


Reflections on one month holidaying in Iran

This is a reflection  on a recent one-month, self-organised holiday in Iran. When I decided to visit, the first question people asked is ‘Why on earth would you go there?’ Thus account was first written for (and published in) the PIMA Bulletin 26, September 2019.

In brief, it was a huge privilege to be so warmly welcomed as a visitor to such an interesting and important part of the world. It was mid summer and there were very few other Western tourists, but locals were universally keen to open their hearts, their minds and their country. While the official Australia government advice is ‘reconsider your need to travel’ it was for us totally safe on the ground as independent travellers.

I cried when I was so warmly and unconditionally welcomed as an outsider to go into a Friday Mosque within the ancient Tabriz Bazaar. Most of the fears about being Moslem in the world are totally irrational. We were welcomed more warmly and unconditionally than any outsider, particularly any Moslem, would be welcomed be Australia.

It was necessary to find ‘Plan Bs’ to get around the crippling US sanctions, re-imposed when the US government unilaterally walked away from the existing international agreement limiting nuclear activity. This involved making bookings through third party companies and countries, getting a local debit card, and accepting that several commonly used vectors of international communication and funds transfer would not be possible.

The negative press and irrational fear about Iran was at its height while we were there, with the US reportedly coming within ten minutes of launching a military attack in the Straits of Hormuz. Not wearing shorts, the need for women to wear a scarf in public, and the gender segregation of swimming in pools, are the main obvious necessary compromises for travellers. Iranian women can now do most things aside from being the President, a judge or ride a motorbike and attend a men’s football (soccer) match.

Iran as an Islamic Republic very dependent on fossil fuels is not without its problems, but in most respects it is a very safe, clean, modern, highly educated and literate society. Previous civilisations have removed most of the tree cover and many modern Iranian cities are severely drawing down the water table by pumping. The landscape has a stark beauty, from the extensive snow-covered mountains over 4,000 metres above sea level, to the extensive deserts and the small amount of forests along the Caspian Sea margin in the north.

The public transport systems (metro systems, airports, rail services) are very good despite the sanctions. In western terms everything is incredibly cheap, but the sanctions are biting harshly into its people and economy.

Bounded to the west by protracted military conflicts in Iraq, also to the east in Afghanistan, and to the south at enmity with some of the pro-American Gulf States, Iran sits in a geopolitically difficult context in 2019. It is still living the dreadful legacy of a horrific and pointless conflict with Iraq (1980-88) that ended with millions of deaths and stalemate. While it has little appetite for more military conflict, it has intervened to support several nations and peoples (rightly or wrongly) fighting other liberation struggles in North Africa and the Middle East. It is understandably concerned about being dragged unwittingly into other conflicts by the major powers.

The literary, technological, political and present day legacy of the achievements of the ancient and highly developed Zoroastrian civilizations and the Persian Empire are evident everywhere. This is a very proud country, whose main crime in the past century has been to stand up against provocation and attempts at regime change engineered largely outsiders, most recently including the US.

Of the many countries I have been to in the world, this is the country I have learnt the most from. I came away humbled by the warm welcome and the ongoing indignities its proud and patient people have been forced to endure, and are currently reliving. Iranians find themselves in 2019 in a very conflicted and contested geopolitical context, being forced to develop a national ‘learning and coping culture’ necessary to preserve and also transform their ancient traditions and modern civil society.

If you do go to Iran, and I encourage you to do so to see and learn for yourself, you will learn as much about the relative poverty and backwardness of many aspects of our own culture, lives and nations as you will about Iran. You will also learn to better accept, understand and appreciate religious and cultural difference, at home and abroad, rather than fear and dislike based around irrational fear and misinformation.

Past lives

Some Past Lives …

  • B. J  Golding, B Sc (Geology) Honours Thesis, University of Melbourne, 1972,  Lower Devonian Stratigraphy of the Walhalla-Moondarra Area.
  • Founding  member of Mulga Bill’s Bicycle Band. Vocalist, guitarist and lagerphone player. The seven to eight member band played in many towns and cities in all states and territories in Australia between 1972-6 including with State Arts Councils. It represented Australia at the World Cup Soccer Finals Opening Concert, Frankfurt, (then) West Germany in 1974.
  • Master of Environmental Science Thesis, Monash University, Use of artificial hollows by mammals and birds in the Wombat Forest, Daylesford, Victoria, Feb 1979.
  • Chair, Ballarat Regional Conservation Strategy to 1991. Ballarat’s original conservation strategy was one of the first conservation strategies of its kind in Australia, making Ballarat a leader in the field of environmental planning at the time.
  • Messmate Eucalyptus obliqua
    Messmate Eucalyptus obliqua. University of Coimbra Botanical Gardens, Portugal, October 2013