States of mind: Australia & New Zealand

Stuart Macintyre

Throughout the past year Australians have been marking the centenary of their nation-state. The program of commemorative events has included a re-enactment of the proclamation of the Commonwealth in Sydney on the first of January, and a return of the national parliament to the Exhibition Building in Melbourne where it first met in May 1901. These and other historical ceremonies have managed to skirt the sensitivities that were inflamed during the Bicentennial celebration of white settlement in 1988. Some of the associations evoked with the past have been far-fetched. Two Australian-rules football teams of ancient rivalry, which had played each other in 1901, competed on the Melbourne Cricket Ground this year for the Federation Cup. The best player was awarded the Deakin Medal, in honour of that champion of federation who had avoided any contact with a football while a schoolboy and retained a lifelong horror of his fellow-Victorians' passion for the game.

It is in the nature of national anniversaries to remake the past for present purposes.

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