By Jake Lynch
How did William Huskisson perish?
Being unfamiliar with the train,
When one stopped (the water to replenish)
He stopped another – ending his campaign
Against the anti-slavery movement.
Captive humans must earn freedom, he wrote,
Through “moral and religious improvement” –
Rendering emancipation remote.
The engine that killed him was the Rocket,
Plying the world’s first steam passenger route.
The impact pulled his leg from its socket,
And – prone, on a carriage door – he bled out.
News of his views came through an exposé:
Nearly two centuries, absconditus.
So progress literally swept him away,
In a rare case of poetic justice.
For a coastal town he’s the eponym,
From his days in charge of the colonies.
Now history’s caught up with just how grim
Those days were, surely that must cause unease?
A mere four decades have passed since the Mayor –
Who still fills a Council seat – set alight
An Aboriginal flag; taking care,
Of course, that a news camera was in sight.
Husky First Nations struggle to this day,
To keep their sacred burial site free
And covetous developers at bay.
It doubtless adds insult to injury
That the land had been granted to the church,
Which sold it on for an apartment block.
Council listened, but left them in the lurch –
Giving no choice but to turn back the clock.
Back to protest smoking ceremony
To advocate for “basic human rights…
That speaks volumes to a community”
That believed it had stood and won those fights,
Charlie Ashby, a Jerrinja elder
Told a New Bush Telegraph reporter.
Things would be different if the ground held a
Trace of a European explorer.
In specialist report, experts averred
“High confidence” of fifty graves. The King
Of Jervis Bay, Bud Billy, is interred,
Local wisdom says. It means no building,
With due respect, should get the go-ahead.
So that’s the decision, Australia:
Put culture before profit, or instead,
Doom reconciliation to failure.
Jake Lynch is an Associate Professor in the Discipline of Sociology and Criminology at the University of Sydney.
Feature image: William Huskisson in the Liverpool train tragedy of 1830. Image credit: historyfiles.co.uk/