THIS WEEK'S FEATURE ARTICLES
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Move right down the bus, please!
Well, here we are, all 25 million of us, and no doubt a few more added since the turnover date on 8 August. It’s hard to believe that since my schooldays Australia’s population has doubled. There are dire predictions about ‘no more room’, but most seem to agree that it’s the big cities – Sydney and Melbourne – that are becoming overcrowded. And the consensus seems to be that with better infrastructure this would not be seen as overcrowding. Sydney’s population is closing in on around six million; Melbourne is creeping towards five and a half million, but is predicted to grow faster than Sydney. A few city comparisons around the world for 2018 give us London, around 8.7 million; New York 8.5 million; Tokyo 9.2 million; and Singapore 5.8 million. But is it all a numbers game? And why are some cities more ‘livable’ than others? The secret, if it is one, is planning. Occasionally I travel
with a former town planner.
Her perspective on the unplanned nature of shopping centres, car park facilities for these, and people-friendly infrastructures is an eye-opener. We all know how carefully Canberra was planned, how it might be a bit boring in some eyes, but that it works well. Lately I learnt of new suburbs being carefully placed around our federal capital.
They will not lack planning or facilities. We wonder why all (new, anyway) works, Australia-wide, cannot be the same.
A multicultural miracle
We have the reputation of being the most successful multi-cultural nation in the world – if you believe it, and I do, it’s a reputation to be proud of. Where did we – all 25 million of us come from? There was a time when Australia was ‘terra nullius’, not when the First Fleet arrived from England, and not for around 50-60,000 years before that. Based on DNA evidence, our First Peoples, the ones who discovered and first settled here, are believed to be descendants of the first humans to migrate from Africa to Asia around 70,000 years ago. They travelled on to Australia about 20,000 years after that migration. Recent archaeological evidence suggests that when Europeans arrived in Australia the indigenous population numbered around 750,000. In 1788 the First Fleet of eleven ships arrived from England. A brief breakdown of the numbers arriving includes around 750 convicts, men and women and their children; crew equalling around 320; marines and their families around 300. A few others from a couple of other ships brought the estimated total to around 1,500 people. The number that left England was about 100 down on those who arrived, despite 20 babies being born on the way to convict women and wives of crew members. Our ethnic mix began early. Some of the convicts who arrived were African, French and American. (By the
end of transportation in 1868, around 165,000 convicts had been brought to Australia.) In less than 100 years, the population grew to one million. In the 1850s another influx of mixed ethnic and racial groups arrived to make their fortunes in the Gold Rush. Of the half a million fortune-seekers, 45,000 of them were Chinese and Pacific Islander peoples. At the end of WWII we had 7.4 million people, 90% of whom had been born here. Migrants, mostly European, responded to Australia’s invitation to migrate here following WWII, and in forty years around 4 million arrived. In the ten years following the end of the Vietnam War, our humanitarian intake of refugees saw our Vietnamese population grow from 380 to 12,000. And so it goes on. We are an incredible mix.
“If you prick us, do we not bleed?”
“If you tickle us, do we not laugh?” Shylock’s words bring home to us our humanity, our humanness, and our sameness – good, bad and indifferent among us all. Growing up in Hobart’s working-class northern suburbs, we were surrounded by Chinese market gardens and Greek fish’n’chip shops. Post-war migration gave us Polish and German neighbours. My sister remains best friends with the German family’s daughter. My parents (thought they) could not pronounce Polish surnames, so called them Mr and Mrs Bill, title and first name, kindly meant, and got on well with everyone. We children did not learn a patronising tolerance; we learnt acceptance. In fact, three of us presented our parents with ‘New Australian’ in-laws. Our grandchildren and nieces and nephews are indeed a wonderful mix. After a trip to Melbourne earlier this year, someone asked me if I could ‘spot the Australians’. Yes, there were a lot of people who ‘didn’t look like me’, but the younger, second-generation kids were as Australian as any I’ve seen. Their accents are Aussie; their iPhone habits strongly resemble those of all the Aussie kids I see here. They revel in the same clothes, music, friendships. Their still-accented parents, no doubt, want only what all parents want for their children – a good, healthy and happy life. Many made huge sacrifices to achieve this. Others fled appalling conditions. Our population identifies its ethnic makeup, contrary to Pauline Hanson’s ‘swamping’ theory, as (roughly) Australian – 25%; English – 26%; other European – 25%; Aboriginal – 5%; Chinese – 3%; Indian – 1%; ‘other’ - 10%; and ‘unspecified’ 5%. Find out some interesting facts at www.indexmundi.com/australia/demographics.
500 words... Jasmine Smith-Browne holds forth on matters close to her heart
Do other readers find they have a serious odd-sock epidemic in their home? For many years our house has had odd socks turning up every few days and I cannot seem to get on top of the situation, no matter how hard I try. I think the main culprits are my young adult son and daughter, who still live at home. Their sock drawers are always in a shambles, whereas I will not put a sock away until I have its partner. Both of my children wear any two socks that are of similar colour even if they are not a perfect match. They say it doesn’t concern them, as their socks are hidden in shoes or boots.
My daughter did get sprung by the doctor the other week when she was asked to take off her socks and shoes. I would have died of embarrassment, but she just shrugged it off and laughed. My son has been known to wear completely different-coloured socks on each foot. He says he would like to start a trend. I have tried pinning each pair of socks together before washing them, but this only strings out the chore.
I have a bag full of odd socks which I keep in the laundry. Every so often we will drag it out and play the lost-sock game. It is
a little like playing old maid, where each player is asked if they have a matching colour. The one with the most sets wins the game. The only trouble is that, out of 50 odd socks, only ten might find a partner, so my sock bag seems to get fatter by the week.
One year I got festive with my odd socks. At Christmas time I placed a string along the living room wall and pegged them along it. We had a lot of comments that it was an eye-catching idea, but it didn’t unearth any missing pairs. After Christmas the rogue socks were all returned to the sock sack. I have even found my grandaughter’s odd socks amongst them.
My son feels the answer might lie in buying identical pairs of socks for him so they will always have
a partner. He has also proposed going sockless from now on, solving the problem completely.
We have enough single socks to donate to a class at school who would like to make puppets.
You might ask why I don’t throw all the odd socks out. But I live in hope, and am always optimistic that a pair might be reunited one day. I have a nightmare image of the washing machine breaking down and the serviceman opening the machine to find a horde of socks accumulated around the drum. I am not sure this is possible, but there has to be a perfect reason why socks go missing.
I had even thought of holding
a get-together once a month with other odd-sock hoarders in the hope that we could pair some up. It’s a long shot but the situation calls for desperate measures.
I would name the group the Lone Sock Association and make up cards for sock bingo.
I will also have to educate my family to throw out both socks if one gets a hole in it. It could solve half the situation. I am so passionate about the lone-sock enigma that I have even written a ditty. I call it The Eternal Sock Mystery:
Do you ever wonder where all your socks go
When you empty your washing machine?
There’s always one sock at the end of the cycle
The other, nowhere to be seen.
Do they belong to a secret society
Like the Lone Sock Association?
Do they have to somehow lose their partner
To get an invitation?
I have so many solo socks
Looking desperately for a mate,
They could find a similar-looking sock
And go for a spin on their very first date.
It will always remain a mystery
What happens in that machine drum
And I’ll keep on throwing out all single socks
Until all my drawers have none!
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