Don's Diary

July 14, 2000


Attend Granta launch of Australia: The New World. Packed audience of celebrity Australians and writers. Disturbed to find that our "new world" does not contain indigenous writers. Worse, some of the writing about Aborigines shows no understanding of Aboriginal custom and law.


The "Aussie Rules" festival of writers at the South Bank Centre is packed. Malouf, Carey, Winton, Grenville, Lette, Moorehouse and Greer all pull the crowds, but the "new" writers, such as Julia Leigh and Melissa Lucashenko, also stimulate.


The political circus has begun, with the Australian press ever critical of so much money being spent celebrating things Australian away from home. Attend launch of "Australia Dreaming" at the Commonwealth Institute, beginning a six-month celebration of all things Australian, opened by our minister for the arts, Peter McGauran. Judge Michael Kirby delivers the Menzies Lecture on "The Australian republican referendum: Ten lessons". We finish at midnight. No cabs at the Strand, so we have to bustle the dignitaries into minicabs and bid farewell.


Pouring. The No 73 bus decides to terminate at Angel. I am late for the deputy prime minister's do, held in the Regent Street headquarters of Australian outfitters R. M. Williams. Shopping fails to alleviate the worry of not having written my speech for Friday's conference. Press night for Jane Harrison's Stolen, which dramatises the horror for a generation of indigenous Australians who were snatched from their families. London critics suggest that it is in the arts that real racial reconciliation is taking place.


"Australia and Britain 1900-2000: A unique partnership", a conference commemorating the enactment of the Australian constitution and Britain and Australia's evolving relationship, opens at the Australian High Commission with our leading historians, politicians and the public in attendance. Attend ceremony at the Royal Gallery at Westminster, commemorating the "Centenary of the Passage". At least prime minister Tony Blair remembers our country's name and speaks with inspiration.


The conference continues, weaving itself around official celebrations. In the service for Australia in Westminster Abbey, a didgeridoo is played and I spy tears on some unlikely faces. Five hundred people attend the lunch for Australian prime minister John Howard at The Savoy. Silences, wisdom and Wimbledon tennis updates, then smartly back to the conference where I present my paper on Britain and Australia's future relations. Relief. To close, a reception to mark our centre's incorporation into King's College London. Back to the High Commission for the final reception. Steal a quiet drink under the moonlight with a friend before heading home.

Susan Pfisterer is lecturer at the Menzies Centre for Australian Studies, King's College London.

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