[Editor: This article by Rex Ingamells was published in Venture: Jindyworobak Quarterly Pamphlet (Adelaide), April 1939.]
The Jindyworobaks stand for a precise cultural movement. While we realize that culture springs from varied sources, we insist that a nation’s culture depends for significance on distinctive qualities, peculiar to that nation alone. It is to stress such qualities in Australia that the Jindyworobaks have sprung into being. It is ridiculous to assume — as is assumed in some quarters — that we are against the appreciation of overseas art, or that we regard the only suitable subjects for Australian art to be typically Australian subjects. It is right to assume that we want to see more writers and painters dealing with typically Australian subjects, and that we are categorical concerning art of this kind. Only against efforts in this field, which are robbed of effectiveness by humbug, do we take it on ourselves to criticise severely. Mediocre work, if it fights shy of pseudo-European humbug, we encourage; and we believe we are farsighted in doing so.
Mr. Nichterlein’s proposal in these pages — under a title which breathes heresy from the Jindyworobak point of view — works by paradox, and indicates that Mr. Nichterlein is a very keen-spirited Jindyworobak. By pleading for the freedom of the artist from a typical form of western humbug, and the realization in Australia of the best tolerance western civilization produces, it stresses the universal concept of art from which effective localizations must derive.
Mr. de Boehme, in his welcome article discussing Australian poetry, points out that it is essential to the full development of the arts in Australia for our artists to gain experience abroad. But it is noteworthy that Mr. de Boehme also stresses Australian place values, understanding of which the Jindyworobaks consider should be fundamental even in an Australian’s experience overseas. However necessary experience abroad may be, experience at home is of first importance.
One of our first aims is to provide an annual scholarship to enable some young Australian writer, who would be chosen each year, to spend six or eight weeks in the outback country. This aim may not be realized this year, but we trust that it will be next. To encourage the disposition of some of our young writers to seek and love their own country is surely of first importance.
We consider it our function to speak up on all manner of subjects affecting our national culture, where we consider we can do more good than harm by speaking up. Thus the question of Australian speech comes to our notice. On the one hand there is the cockney-equivalent; on the other the most insufferable affectation. To speak distinctly and with pleasant modulations of voice, yet without exaggeration, is true refinement in speech. The cultured Englishman does this. So does the cultured Australian — in a different way. Cultured Australian is made up of the same stuff as the speech of the bushman and errand-boy with this advantage: that it is clearer, better modulated, not harsh. Therefore, we have no patience with Australians who meticulously acquire the Oxford accent. For those who wish to improve their speech we have the highest admiration. There is all the difference in the world between cultivating a pleasant enunciation and affecting one. Australian vowels are different from English vowels.
We deplore the conduct of those Australians who glibly speak of the mother country as “home.” If they do it here, they would do it in England; and that is how we are misrepresented. It is as if we tacitly admitted the inferiority of Australia as a home for us, and that England would make us a far better home. Faced with the unpleasant fact that, quite justifiably, nobody in England regards Australia as the birthplace of an impressive culture, some people are overwhelmed with an inferiority complex. Their attitude is apologetic. It would be better if they blustered with a crude pride of a crude land.
Many honest Australians shudder at the thought of what impressions the people of fine superficialities must give in England. It is a sign of nonentity, this vocal and mental imitation which fits them for cliquishess and differentiates them from Tom, Dick and Harry.
Our interest in the aborigines will, we hope, prove to be not only a literary appropriation, but also vital for their welfare. We wish to deepen the existing sympathy with and understanding for them, which must precede effective legislation on their behalf. We note with pleasure that, through the efforts of humane anthropologists, the governments are adopting a more considerate policy towards the blacks.
All the elaborate tribal laws, the system of commandments, admonitions and taboos, have been fathered by necessity; and the result, through ages of time, has been to foster and develop, in the black, certain of the most important and fundamental human virtues. As a general rule these virtues are of the very nature of the black, primarily so. On the recognition and sublimation of them his life and happiness depended. This, indeed, was more completely true of the blacks than of the white settlers who took their country from them. The conditions of life of the tribes were direly affected before the more unwholesome traits of human nature became at all strongly evidenced among them.
It is possible now to see reasonably a truth which most early colonists could not. This is that the black who speared sheep and cattle had as much moral right to do so as the owners had to run those sheep and cattle on Australian soil. Also the aborigine, acting sincerely according to his lights, had a whole proven system of tribal justice behind him when, having suffered severe harm from one white settler, he wrought vengeance upon another.
Even many aborigine-welfare workers with the best of intentions have been blind to this last truth. To mete out white man’s justice to the black was often the height of injustice. To assess aboriginal trespasses reasonably was inevitably and exceedingly difficult, but difficulty cannot here condone a wrong assessment as reasonable. To impose white man’s legal penalties upon a people who had a very different but none the less sensible conception of justice was a tragedy and a crime. This wrong policy, with little to lighten it, has been consistently carried out in Australia, with more and more tragic results, since 1788.
The plea for the blacks has been persistent, but it has been a voice in the wilderness. Now that the whites have everything that is worth their having in the country, they are beginning to pay casual heed to the voice. Surely it is not too much to hope that they will suddenly awaken to a realization of the small recompense it is still in their power to pay.
Broken Hill Jindyworobaks conceived the idea of a poetic quotations competition and a Jindyworobak Calendar for 1940. An advertisement for the competition appears in this issue.
It will be fitting to conclude the editorial remarks of the first Jindyworobak pamphlet with acknowledgment of the stimulus which the Jindyworobaks have received through contact with the Bread and Cheese Club of Melbourne. That very active and influential organization first came into being at about the same time as the Jindyworobaks, and already has proved its worth in ways too numerous to mention in detail. Its work in connection with the C. J. Dennis Memorial Fund is well-known. Wherever you may live in Australia, you may receive letters with stickers on the envelopes urging you to read Australian books. Although the stickers do not say so, this valuable move to foster Australian culture is a gesture of the Bread and Cheese Club, whose courtesy has assured that for some time all Jindyworobak correspondence shall bear such stickers. The two Clubs, in their respective ways, are working for the same ideals; and nothing but good should result from the close co-operation which is established between them. The fact that, in some cases, members of one are also members of the other augurs well for concerted effort in the future.
Venture: Jindyworobak Quarterly Pamphlet (Adelaide), April 1939 (vol. 1, no. 1), pp. 3-5
[Editor: Changed “with inferiority complex” to “with an inferiority complex”; “nonenity” to “nonentity”; “has been fathered” to “have been fathered”.]