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Edition 63

Contents
Essay

A fragile civilisation

Collective living on Australian soil

AT THE SAME time as a headline in The Guardian announced: ‘Indigenous Australians most ancient civilisation on Earth, DNA study confirms’,[1] we could also read that $3 billion had been left by healthcare tycoon Paul Ramsay to set up, under the direction of right-wing former prime ministers John Howard and Tony Abbott, a plan to install courses on ‘Western civilisation’ in major Australian universities.[2] This contrast is confusing, but telling. Civilisation has nothing to do with science as such (DNA is indifferent to it), nor is it something a passing political initiative can uphold. But with a long view of Australian history, the concept of civilisation is caught precisely in this politically charged dichotomy: between an Indigenous civilisation and a recently arrived ‘Western’ one. It seems that the upholders of the latter would like the former to remain dubious and ‘ancient’, of little relevance to the... Read more

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From Griffith Review Edition 63: Writing the Country © Copyright Griffith University & the author.

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