JOHN MENADUE. A Repost: What does it mean to be an Australian? Are we still the land of the second chance?

The Macquarie legacy is still with us. It underpins our best instincts to give all residents in this country, whether Australian born, migrants or refugees an equal opportunity in life, a second chance. That ethos of redemption is a core part of our history.  

On Australia Day in the press and in the pulpit, many have been asking this question. What is different about being an Australian?

We will all have different answers. The word that comes to my mind is an old fashioned one ‘redemption’, giving people another chance, another opportunity.

Governor Macquarie was no political radical or hot gospeller. He was a tough military veteran from the British army in India, a loyal member of the Anglican church and a Tory in politics. Tickets of leave and the policy of emancipation turned Australia from being a dead end penal colony to a land of a second chance. Some didn’t seize that new opportunity. But most did. Australia built a new society by giving the outcasts and the underprivileged in this land of ours a chance to get on their own feet. It set the future pattern of Australian society.

Governor King introduced tickets of leave in 1801  for convicts who had served a period of probation. Influenced by Phillip  our first governor, and the anti-slavery reformer, William Wilberforce, Macquarie from 1811 to 1821 greatly expanded these tickets of leave which enabled former convicts to marry, bring family from Britain and acquire property. Macquarie appointed emancipists to government positions – Francis Greenway as Colonial Architect and William Redfern as Colonial Surgeon. He scandalised the establishment by appointing emancipist Andrew Thompson as a magistrate.

The Macquarie legacy is still with us. It underpins our best instincts to give all residents in this country, whether Australian born, migrants or refugees an equal opportunity in life, a second chance. That ethos of redemption is a core part of our history.

Redemption is not risk and trouble free as Macquarie found. The Sydney establishment conspired successfully to get rid of him. But we remember Macquarie more than any other of our governors. His tombstone in Scotland  carries the inscription ‘The Father of Australia’. It was an apt description. His wife Elizabeth was also  a great companion in helping to shape Australian society.

A friend of mine, Ian McAuley, said that whilst the British sent the puritans to America, they sent convicts to Australia and that we got the better of the deal. The underprivileged and the outcasts in Australia got a second chance. Macquarie gave us a legacy of which we can be proud.


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6 Responses to JOHN MENADUE. A Repost: What does it mean to be an Australian? Are we still the land of the second chance?

  1. Hans Rijsdijk says:

    Some rather emotional comments here.
    I arrived as a migrant in the 70’s, originally for just one year. I liked it so much I never looked back and in spite of much overseas travel and work my heart was always in Australia. Australia has changed much since my arrival and in nearly every case for the better. Our country would be much different, and I suspect rather backwards, without the millions of migrants who brought new blood and new ideas, and hard work.
    Unfortunately, the political and economic changes of the last decennia have had a negative effect on the country. Just look at the greatly increased disparity in income, the manipulation of the media and, I have to say regrettably, an increase in corruption in and malfeasance of politicians. Many politicians are honest and do the best they can, but an increasing number seem to be looking after their own interest in stead of that of the country.
    The massive corruption in the banks and insurance companies and the apparent lack of tax levied on foreign countries have shaken confidence in the business sector and government alike, not to speak of the inane denial of global warming.
    The country has become much meaner and much less tolerant. Maybe a big change in government might herald a change for the better, but one tends to be sceptical rather than optimistic about it.

  2. Jim Anthony says:

    “fair enough” as far as John Menadue’s argument goes but it does not go far enough.

    Not a single word about the first people of Australia who, according to the most recent reliable data, have lived in Australia for 60,000 (yup, sixty thousand) years — that’s a few years before the first convicts and other foreigners arrived.

    A fair reading of the record, both ‘pre-historical’ and historical seems to indicate the first people of the land renamed ‘Australia’ never got much of a first chance, let alone a second one.

    A wee bit of poetic license might nudge some of us to conclude, if for no other reason than as an interim basis for a decent argument, debate perhaps, that as long as white Australia does not make full amends to the first people of the land, Australia will have no real peace and no real security, its ‘great and powerful American nuclear shield’ and more not withstanding. The notion of a ‘divine curse’ may be a thin strand in disputation about a complex and touch subject but it is surely an important part of Menadue’s ‘ethos of redemption’.

    Macquarie’s legacy does not exist in the singular and therein lies a huge problem. It depends, I suggest with great respect, on the lens that one looks through.And it depends also, in no small part, on who it is that is looking through the lens. Old, old problem in historiography.

  3. Jim Kable says:

    The First Fleet chaplain and of the infant colony was Richard Johnson – a friend of William Wilberforce. Arthur Phillip and Tommy Townshend (Lord Sydney) had determined that the colony of Botany Bay(-become-Sydney Cove) would have no slavery. Traduced after Phillip’s return to the UK – unfortunately – greed and early land grants leading to the improper use of convict labour! And I think Lachlan Macquarie an important early governor – a man of some common (or, rather, uncommon) decency. A Scot!

  4. Rex Williams says:

    I feel that my response to John Menadue today does not really reflect his arguments and observations on redemption. Instead, my response focuses on subservience to the UK and the US and a lack of nation state independence or independent thought / decision making. To me though, this is the basis for our failures. My apologies, Mr. Menadue. An excellent article.

    After 150 years of total subservience to England with an additional 70 plus years still behaving as a slave to the British monarchy, Governors-General et al, coupled with an additional humiliating burden in that same 70 years as a lapdog to the current world’s #1 terrorist, the USA, Australia’s chance of ever becoming a worthy independent country, ‘a second chance’ so to speak, requires far too much to change.

    It also requires a majority of elected representatives to be selfless and to be motivated by national pride, not to accept the current status quo as being in any way normal. It isn’t.

    When we accept after a sad period of political disgrace a Prime Minister such as the charlatan stand-in Morrison, a political cabal such as our 43 LCP misfits, a mirror-image Labor opposition of little merit, a set of values worthy of a third world country and a level of public apathy as exists at the moment, it can only mean more of the same, sadly.

    Across the Tasman in New Zealand lives a Prime Minister one could respect, seriously in touch with her people, who have in such a short time all accepted her as a popular “leader”. One couldn’t dispute her values, on show for all to see with no prancing around like a clown, no embarrassment to her people in public forums and to date, no obvious inclination to be a puppet to the likes of Britain or the disrespected USA. Someone to both like as a fellow citizen….and respect.

    And they have the All Blacks as well, showing a country like Australia that it is not numbers that count to win, time and time and time again, but motivation and pride.

    So we have had our second chance, some time ago. It came and it went. No one even noticed that we were sliding down the slope. No one was even concerned. Still aren’t.

    Can you imagine that there are enough worthy people like the Buttons, Carricks, Stott Despojas, Burnsides, Chipps, respected in so many ways, one and all, to make up the numbers in Canberra, to show a complete independence from the criminal dictates of America and to also show a level of maturity by breaking all the humiliating bonds with the UK…. to then become a real country.

    Sadly, no.

    • Richard Ure says:


      I confess to being more optimistic than you. Having spiritually suffered under Howard, Abbott, Turnbull and Morrison some promising independents have surfaced even in safe seats. The internet, even the second rate one visited upon us, can be a force for good as it rallies support to those who deserve it personally and not just because they have been preselected by a party.

      In John’s fleshing out the idea of the little Aussie battler prevailing over the odds, one marvels that a project that started out with such little chance of success has, in fact, triumphed. Having suffered the alternative, we can do it again and the will to do so seems to be gathering.

      • Rex Williams, Australians for Justice says:


        I admire your optimism after all that one sees and hears in this day and age. It is the one thing we should all maintain in varying levels to keep us going….. so I am told.
        I look at people on television and think, occasionally, why is it that such a person don’t seek a seat in our governing parliament. I approach one or two and find that they have absolutely no interest. Many that they have thought of it but discarded the idea. I do not pursue the reasons why as I think I know.

        I find that I get excited about the simplest of events and my optimism is renewed. The Drum, now to become an hour long on the ABC and with two of the local ABC standouts, Ms Fanning and Ms Baird, in what is always an honest and good standard of Australian television although often bowing too much in the way of political correctness in their selected guests.
        Someone decided that an expansion of this program was needed. Now that is positive.

        The fact that there is so little difference in the major parties is a great concern. Yet, as we have seen recently, an independent newcomer emerges to take on an ex-PM. Yes, against Abbott. Now that is exciting and if people in that electorate are not dying of disgust and apathy, she should rightly win, hands down. He has become something of a negative force in a country bogged down with negative ideas and negative actions.
        However, the best example of this countries deterioration is the soon to be actioned case against a fine person with a great record in matters of importance, Bernard Collaery and a person known only as “Witness K.
        A criminal act by an arm of the Australian government against one of the poorest countries the world, the bugging of an Embassy for commercial purposes, an unforgivable act along with questionable ministerial acts. But it is not the perpetrators that are being charged but the East Timor legal counsel.
        It is sickening that such a criminal act can even be contemplated let alone then trying to hide its actions in a courthouse free from the attendance of honest commentators in the independent media, while there are still some left.
        The whole case relates to oil in the Timor Sea. You expect such acts to be the domain of the USA.

        We are just as corrupt so it seems. Is this what we have become?

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