The Weekend Australian - Review - - Viewpoints -

JANE Fraser is hard to please. Her friends shower her with com­pli­ments on her new svelte look and get a swift kick in the shins ( Last Look , Fe­bru­ary 7-8). I hope th­ese aren’t the in­flu­en­tial and very well-con­nected peo­ple with whom she dines reg­u­larly, as she will have no­body left to have lunch with. Per­haps her new ‘‘ thin col­leagues’’ will be­come her new best friends. Meg Wade Heath­pool, South Aus­tralia BA­BETTE Smith is right to em­pha­sise the im­por­tance of the con­vict era for the new na­tional his­tory cur­ricu­lum (‘‘ Safe har­bour’’, Jan­uary 24-25). How­ever, her ro­man­tic stereo­typ­ing of the con­victs as class­less, egal­i­tar­ian na­tion-builders is no more true than pre­vi­ous stereotypes and her as­sess­ment of the con­vict legacy sim­ply echoes Rus­sell Ward’s con­victs-to-An­zacs ge­neal­ogy and Don­ald Horne’s fa­mous throw-away line that ‘‘ the con­victs ne­go­ti­ated civil so­ci­ety’’. Since the 1920s we have been pre­sented with suc­ces­sive pic­tures of the ma­jor­ity of the con­victs as ‘‘ more sinned against than sin­ning’’ ( G. A. Wood), ‘‘ pro­fes­sional crim­i­nals’’ ( Man­ning Clark), ‘‘ po­lit­i­cal mar­tyrs’’ ( T. J. Kier­nan), ‘‘ so­cial rebels’’ ( Ge­orge Rude), re­cidi­vist thieves ( A. G. L. Shaw and L. L. Rob­son), and the cream of the Bri­tish work­ing classes ( Stephen Ni­cholas, et al). The only way to to avoid such sim­plis­tic and mis­lead­ing gen­er­al­i­sa­tions is to recog­nise that the era of Bri­tish con­vict trans­porta­tion to Aus­tralia lasted 80 years and that dur­ing that long time pe­riod sig­nif­i­cant so­cial, eco­nomic and le­gal changes took place in the three con­vict colonies as well as in Bri­tain and Ire­land which in­flu­enced the na­ture of those sent out and the way they were treated. It is also im­por­tant to recog­nise that there were sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ences be­tween the con­vict sys­tems of NSW, Van Diemen’s Land and West­ern Aus­tralia. I agree that the cur­ricu­lum needs to pro­vide an­swers to the ques­tions ‘‘ Who were the con­victs?’’ and ‘‘ What was the con­vict sys­tem re­ally like?’’, but it will be do­ing a gross dis­ser­vice to our fu­ture stu­dents if its an­swers fail to go be­yond stereotypes that re­flect no more than the po­lit­i­cal fash­ion of the mo­ment. Bob Reece Mur­doch Uni­ver­sity, West­ern Aus­tralia VIC­TO­RIA Lau­rie’s pro­file of stage di­rec­tor Matthew Lut­ton ( The Face , Fe­bru­ary 21-22) tells me a lot about why I never go to the the­atre now. In years gone by his ap­pli­ca­tion for all those awards he has won would have been stamped ‘‘ en­thu­si­atic, prob­a­bly tal­ented, but needs to grow up’’. Now the es­tab­lish­ment sees him as some sort of en­fant Tarantino. But even that ego­ma­niac would have thought Sopho­cles knew a thing or two about the­atre. Lut­ton is most wel­come to play out his com­plete lack of im­pulse con­trol wher­ever he wants but it is very un­likely I will fork out the cash when he comes to town. David Field­ing East Bris­bane, Queens­land

Matthew Lut­ton

re­view@ theaus­tralian. com. au

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