The Monthly : 2018-12-01

FRONT PAGE : 22 : 22


20 Age of activism the island’s kindergart­en employed an English teacher “because none of the children could speak it. They all went to school speaking Norf’k.” The syntax and lexicon of Norf’k offer an almost archaeolog­ical glimpse into conditions on Pitcairn after the mutiny: many verbs come from an 18th-century naval vocabulary, and the Polynesian-derived terms for food reflect the domestic role of the Tahitians. In her Beryl Nobbs Palmer translates “I gwen hewh out aye han line, I bet de oony thing I gwen cetch es boohi” as “I’m going to fish with the hand line, I’ll bet all I’ll catch are sea eels!” Sanderson clings to the local identity. He disputes the Australian government’s claims that the legislativ­e assembly couldn’t adequately provide for its citizens, and that many residents possessed no connection whatsoever to a romanticis­ed Pitcairn heritage and simply wanted to access Medicare and the Pharmaceut­ical Benefits Scheme. He says the islanders required only a relatively small loan to cover the post-GFC drop in the tourism on which the local economy was almost entirely dependant; the crisis narrative was simply used to justify the conditions attached by Canberra. To make matters worse, for the purposes of federal voting Norfolk citizens were enrolled in the ACT electorate of Bean. “Oh, we have so much in common with Canberra voters,” growls Sanderson sarcastica­lly. “They’ve got Lake Burley Griffin and we’ve got Lake Pacific.” In his tent – and elsewhere on the island – Union Jacks fly alongside the Norfolk Island flags, indicative of a belief that Britain promised a home to the Pitcairner­s, and Australia took it away. In 2016, Pauline Hanson began championin­g the islanders’ cause, presumably envisaging them as white Empire loyalists and tax rebels, oppressed by the bureaucrat­s in Canberra. Yet Norfolk Island history unsettles any simplistic notions of ethnic identity. The locals might, with equal justice, be considered Tahitians, descended from the women taken as wives by European men. The island’s Council of Elders (representi­ng descendant­s of the eight original Pitcairn families) mimics similar organisati­ons throughout the Pacific Islands; the Kingston tent embassy recalls the Aboriginal Tent Embassy in Canberra. And an older generation of islanders still remembers teachers caning them for speaking Norf’k, an experience common to many linguistic minorities. Sanderson is awaiting rulings from the Office of the UN High Commission­er for Human Rights, where the barrister Geoffrey Robertson has been putting Norfolk Island’s case for “free associatio­n” with Australia – a self-governing status enjoyed by, for instance, the Cook Islands in relation to New Zealand. What will Sanderson do if that’s unsuccessf­ul or if Australia simply ignores the result? He shrugs and repeats his slogan, this time in English. “If we don’t give up,” he says, “we will win.” by Emma Hardy Diction- ary of Norfolk Words and Usages, is a small, old Chinese woman. She’s wearing a white linen shirt and a sunhat with palm trees printed on the brim. Three people crowd around her, holding umbrellas to block out the sun. She looks calm. She could be at a family luncheon – except for the bike lock bolted around her neck, chaining her to a fence. She’s holding a sign written in Chinese, with an English version leaning against the seat next to her: “Coal burns our future.” Underneath her linen shirt is a Stop Adani T-shirt. Hours pass. The sun rises higher, hotter. One by one, the people around the woman are arrested or forced to move on by police. The number of umbrellas shading her shrinks, until an officer removes the last one. The woman calls out to one of the police officers, asks for some water. The officer nods at her. He takes slow, lethargic steps towards his van, and idly pulls out a drink bottle. He stalls for a bit before dawdling back, placing the water bottle just centimetre­s from her reach. “This is our water service,” he says, and steps back. The woman’s cool demeanour snaps. She bears the fiery expression that earned her the nickname “The Angry Granny of the Movement”. She raises her fist. “Am I in Australia?” she asks. “Or am I in some dictatorsh­ip?” The cop, chastised, moves the water bottle closer. Audrey Cooke was one of the first people arrested at the Adani blockade in Queensland’s Galilee Basin. At 72, she’s one of the oldest, too. In December 2017, Cooke joined a community walk-on to an Adani constructi­on site. She sat chained to Adani property for seven hours. When I meet Cooke, she is smaller than expected. And I expected her to be small. She’s wearing a delicate lavender-blue blouse with a lace collar, a Stop Adani badge pinned to one side. She hugs me as soon as she sees me, then orders a mocha into which she heaps teaspoons of sugar. “I can’t even speak Chinese,” she confides. “It’s bad, I know. I wrote the sign on Google Translate and had a friend check. I needed to know which way to hold it. I don’t like the publicity personally, but it’s worth it for the movement.” Lounging in a fold-out picnic chair M the nation reviewed

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