Cute, and helpful, even if misdirected

Cartoon by Bill Leak, The Australian, Monday 25th October 2010

Today’s cartoon in The Australian is cute, but a little misdirected. I don’t think it is the Lutherans of Woodside that are making all the noise against the proposed assylum seeker processing centre (Woodside was not one of the 19th Century SA German settlements, although of course, there are lots of descendants living there). Although the historical reminder is worth taking note of. I tell my children that some of our ancestors came to Australia as religious “assylum seekers”. George Fife Angas, a Baptist who sponsored their settlement in South Australia, saw their plight as not unlike that of the dissenters of Great Britain. The South Australian colony at the time welcomed the newcomers as they were a good source of labour and were productive farmers providing much needed food for the new settlement. In the 19th Century, South Australia was one of the most multi-cultural colonies in Australia. Bill Leak’s humour, though misdirected, should at least be a reminder to South Australians that “we’ve done this before” and benefited from it.

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7 Comments

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7 responses to “Cute, and helpful, even if misdirected

  1. Paul G

    You’re very kind and tolerant, David, this cartoon is just ignorant racism, as is sometimes directed against Pope Benedict.
    Anyone with a small awareness of recent history would know that since the war, Germany has been one of the easiest places in Europe for refugees to be accepted. (possibly as a reaction against its pre-war history).
    It would be more accurate for Bill Leak to draw a cartoon with a bunch of old racist blokes shrieking “Aussie, aussie, aussie, oi, oi, oi”.

    • Peter Golding

      Not sure about this Paul.
      It is only in the last fortnight that german chancellor Angela Merkel has come out and said that multiculturalism in Germany has been a complete failure.She has accused migrant groups of (1)failing to integrate and (2)contributing very little to society.

    • I think the cartoon makes an incisive point, as cartoonists are wont to do, Paul.

      Of course it exaggerates reality and cartoonists are wont to do that too!

      But it is amazing how often those who’ve had first or second generation experience of coming to Australia are very intolerant of the ‘next wave’.

      Those of German extraction would have experienced the sense of hostility that some in the Adelaide Hills are directing towards the refugees during the WWI and WWII.

      But I still suspect that when things settle down, there will be enough in the community who will work with the government to make these people as welcome as possible.

      Who knows? Maybe in a generation of two there’ll be streets and towns named after the pioneers of this new wave.

  2. Christine

    Well, I can verify that the last time I was back in my homeland of Germany in the 70’s most of the “Gastarbeiter”, i.e., the “guest workers” were from Eastern Europe, mainly Yugoslavia and they seemed to have an easier time of blending into German culture because there was still somewhat of a common cultural ground.

    If even the Turkish government is calling upon Turks living in Europe to learn the local languages and make an effort to be a part of the culture of their host countries, I think they may have a point.

    When my family immigrated first to Australia and then to the U.S., although my parents spoke German at home they made sure that we always spoke English in public so my sister and I learned it in no time at all, as children are wont to do.

    For the sake of their children those immigrant communities living in Europe would be wise to do the same.

  3. I hadn’t picked up the connection to Merkel’s comments about multiculturalism. I am having a hard time working out if Leak was being really clever, and trying to kill two birds with the same stone, or whether the connection was not in fact intended.

    It seems however that if Leak did intend to address both the Woodside assylum seeker centre AND Angela Merkel’s comments on Multiculturalism, then the cartoon is really misdirected.

    The South Australians of German descent have nothing to do with modern Germany. Zilch. They left there 150 years ago. 99% wouldn’t know a word of German, and 75% would barely be aware of their ancestory. 10% (perhaps less) might still go to a Lutheran Church once in a while. While it is quite likely that they drink beer, the lederhosen outfit was never worn in SA (it’s Bavarian, not Silesian).

    I really don’t think Bill Leak is THAT ignorant. I don’t think reference to Angela Merkel’s comments were intended.

    • Paul G

      If Bill Leak based his cartoon on recent hostility to migrants, his characters should be Dutch, French or (dare I say it), English.

  4. A cartoon loses its punch if it tries to address two issues at once (a bit like a sermon). Leak is too good for that. Yes, it is misdirected in this case, but then from Canberra (or Sydney?), I suspect all villages in the Adelaide Hills look the same.