It is over a year since the #MeToo tsunami broke over social media. In those first weeks, when I was scrolling through a solid wall of #MeToo on my Facebook and Twitter feeds, the internet became a trauma machine, recording and reproducing millions of psychic wounds.
Collective outrage was growing in August 2017, when Australia’s mandatory detention regime killed another asylum seeker, Hamed Shamshiripour, on Manus Island. As argued by Maddee Clark at Deakin’s Gender and Sexuality Studies seminar series, the Australian parliament sought to distract the public from the asylum seeker issue, and so a two-month long postal survey emerged on marriage equality.
Consult any vox pop and you will find that the most enthusiastic celebrants of Australia Day rarely know what happened on 26 January 1788. Some think the holiday has to do with Captain Cook, though it was actually eighteen years earlier, in 1770, that Cook made landfall at Botany Bay. A few associate the holiday with Federation, something that happened over a century later, on 1 January 1901, while others still wrap their flag patriotism around references to Gallipoli, assuming that any patriotic celebration must be connected to the ANZACs.
Last month, I attended a symposium in Newport about memorialisation and the thirty-five bridge workers who died when the West Gate Bridge collapsed in 1970. The ‘past is never over’, observed visiting Canadian academic Tara Goldstein, because we are always reinterpreting history and, therefore, must always interrogate ‘veracity’. The royal commission into the accident held unions and workers partly accountable; as one of the speakers argued, in the lead-up to the fifty-year anniversary of the disaster, this is a narrative that must be corrected.