Tag Archives: journeys

Update to one of the most popular posts

Physical journeys and Peter Skrzynecki’s poems has been checked and updated today. There are some new resources there, but sadly one that seems to have gone, and one that may have.

There are also some new HSC videos in the VodPod.


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Great resource for Journeys and multicultural education

Last night I watched Who Do You Think You Are? on SBS.


Go there not just for that one, but for the others in this currently ongoing series.

Naturally, too, I commend Inspiring Teachers which begins on Wednesday 6 February, 2008 at 8pm. 🙂


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Multicultural Australia: you’re standing in it!

A small swag of human interest stories in today’s Sun-Herald in the wake of Australia Day say more about the comparative success of Australian multiculturalism — diversity AND cohesion — than a whole peck of moanings and mutterings on talk-back radio or similar venues. Aussie pride? Stories like this give it to me in heaps. May there be more and more of them. Let’s celebrate what we have with open hearts.

The first story is such a great contrast to the brief agony that was Cronulla 05.


WHEN he’s in the line-up off Sydney’s popular beaches, Haisam Farache is just another surfer waiting for a wave.

But once he’s out of the water he swaps his wetsuit and surfboard for a robe and turban and assumes the role of an imam at Australia’s largest mosque.

“For me it relates to how I am as an Australian and a Muslim,” he said. “When I go to the beach I feel rejuvenated. I feel like a new person and whatever stresses I have in my life are being washed away with the waves.”

The 34-year-old, who began surfing at 11, said his pastime intrigued his students at the Lakemba Mosque. Most laughed, he said, when they discovered he was a surfer, and found it difficult to believe a religious leader had an interest outside teaching Islam.

The Auburn-based lawyer said surfing was also an ice-breaker when he visited schools across the country as part of his work with the Together for Humanity Foundation.

He recalls visiting a school on the northern beaches where many students began calling him a terrorist. Once the children discovered he was a surfer, their opinion changed and they saw him as one of “them”, he said.

The second story told about nine of the 3300+ from 56 countries who pledged their allegiance to the flag in ceremonies across NSW yesterday.

Figures from the Department of Immigration and Citizenship show 95 per cent of the population are Australian citizens. However, there are more than 900,000 permanent residents who are eligible to become Australian citizens.

Of the 27,494 immigrants who arrived in NSW between January 1 and December 1 last year, one out of six was from China, making it one of the largest source of immigrants to the state.

Meanwhile, India has overtaken Britain as our second-biggest source of new citizens, followed by the Philippines, Vietnam, South Korea, Lebanon and Indonesia.

Pakistanis and Iraqis are also among our fastest-growing migrant groups…

Abdulai Jallah knew he had to find a new home after fleeing war-torn Liberia several years ago…

—  Liliana Auwyang adored Australia when she visited as a tourist more than 10 years ago. It was the beautiful scenery and culture that had this 41-year-old from Panania, in south-western Sydney, hooked. So, not long after her return to Jakarta, she began researching how to come back permanently…

Richard Brunskill lived his whole life in central London before settling down-under…

Rania Islam. One of the newest little Australians was born at the Royal Hospital for Women, Randwick, yesterday. Rania Islam arrived at 2.40am, much to the delight of her parents, Sharmin Khan and Rezaul Islam, and her big brother Rayyan Islam, 18 months. “It’s very exciting,” Mr Islam said. “We are very proud.” Ms Khan and Mr Islam moved to Australia six years ago and became citizens last year.

Douglas Snider. IT WAS true love that brought Douglas Snider to Sydney six years ago. His wife Tiate was born and bred in the inner-west suburb of Newtown. Now that he’s here, he wouldn’t swap it for the world. “I love absolutely everything here in Australia,” he says…

— THE first Australian park Ewi Sook Oh visited was dotted with coin-operated barbecues… “I love the Australian environment and way of life. I think it is God’s gift,” Ewi says. “In my home in South Korea there are tall buildings and crowds everywhere. There are not so many people in Sydney but they come from other countries everywhere and I feel it is a good opportunity for me to learn about their traditions and customs.”

Rene Strauss Arias. THE reopening of Sydney’s Hilton Hotel in mid-2005 could hardly have been better timed for 49-year-old Filipino Rene Strauss Arias

— WHEN Anwar Hamam landed in Australia, he was merely chasing an opportunity to further his education… But like many of his fellow new Australians, Anwar settled permanently after meeting his partner here… “What I like about Australia is that it is very safe,” Anwar says. “It also offers me so much in freedoms and opportunities. I can become whoever I want to be here. There seems to be a lot more to do here than just about anywhere else.”

A NATIVE of St Petersburg, Andrei Bobylev first heard about Australia from some friends who had already been, and he became curious.

Then he read the travel diary, Down Under, by best-selling American author Bill Bryson, and decided to follow suit. That was three years ago…

Source: The Sun-Herald


    On assimilation

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    Posted by on January 27, 2008 in Australian, equity/welfare, inspiration, multiculturalism


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    Six suggestions for Imaginative Journeys (NSW 2008 HSC)

    1. Orpheus Lost by Janette Turner Hospital (Australia May 2007; USA Canada October 2007): for good Advanced students. This is probably the best novel I have read in 2007.
    2. The Russian Ark by Russian director Alexander Sokurov.

    3. Amélie.

    4. The Arabian Nights, an abridged retelling such as Andrew Lang’s will do. The whole idea of Scheherazade and her story-telling ties neatly with aspects both of Coleridge and The Tempest. I think so, anyway.

    Some students will find themselves wondering too about ideas like Orientalism…

    5. John Keats

    On first looking into Chapman’s Homer

    MUCH have I travell’d in the realms of gold,
    And many goodly states and kingdoms seen;
    Round many western islands have I been
    Which bards in fealty to Apollo hold.
    Oft of one wide expanse had I been told 5
    That deep-brow’d Homer ruled as his demesne:
    Yet did I never breathe its pure serene
    Till I heard Chapman speak out loud and bold:
    Then felt I like some watcher of the skies
    When a new planet swims into his ken; 10
    Or like stout Cortez, when with eagle eyes
    He stared at the Pacific—and all his men
    Look’d at each other with a wild surmise—
    Silent, upon a peak in Darien.

    6. Donnie Darko

    Now look for more yourself. 🙂

    Update 21 November

    Visit these two posts on a blog called Deus Lo Vult. Thomas is a teacher in training and passionate about movies, especially (but not only) Amélie. Not many years ago he too sat for the HSC in 4-Unit English. Amélie and Amélie vs. Garden State.



    More on Journeys

    That post on Physical journeys and Peter Skrzynecki’s poems has now had 2,743 individual visits. I thought I would share how I approach teaching this unit, keeping in mind it is not the only approach that would work.

    First, I would have a study of the set poems for their own sake, almost (but not quite) ignoring the “Journey” aspect. Having looked at what they say, how they work, and how well they say it — a rather conventional critical reading of poetry — I would in that process have drawn into discussion much of the context of the poems in Australian migration history, European history, and Peter Skrzynecki’s own background. Then I would raise the question: “Looked at as journeys or documents of journeys what have these poems been offering?”

    Then I would look at the Board of Studies brochure Then I would seek to refine just what “Journey” can mean. After that, I would revisit the poems to tease out the idea of physical journey, practising linking that idea both to the poems and to the Board of Studies material.

    Then I would offer some examples of other texts showing how they might be deployed to support or contrast with the way journey is represented in the poems. I would almost certainly forbid use of these practice examples, encouraging students to find their own. I would ask them — and check this — to start compiling their own portfolio of journey texts, making sure they have a range of text types. I would exhort them to collect often and indeed to collect too much. I would hope they may have as many as twenty possibilities by the time the Trial HSC is approaching. That is not unrealistic — just one every week or two. And it is not hard.

    This is what I say to students:

    So many movies, stories, poems, songs, artworks, and so on, are really about journeys of one kind or another! There is no problem finding material, unless you leave it to the last minute. Each item collected should have basic notes saying what it is, where it came from, what it offers on the idea of “journey” and what poem/s it seems especially to link to. Later the twenty or so items can be sorted and reduced to the six best ones. That gives you plenty of choice when it comes to any exam question, as you will never actually use more than two. However, if you only know one or two you may find yourself working with material that does not quite fit the question.

    There are no silver bullets, no short cuts. If, however, you are now in Term 4 starting this there is no need to panic. It really is not very hard. The less lazy you are about it, too, the easier it becomes!

    What is hard is answering the question relevantly in forty minutes, deploying around five textual discussions to best advantage. Now that really takes serious practice. Use every opportunity for that your teachers give you!

    Very important!

    Do not, I mean do not, try to learn a “perfect” answer off by heart! See How can I improve my essay grades, especially in exams, without learning “model essays” off by heart?


    Amendment to English Stage 6 Syllabus: Withdrawal of stimulus booklet for HSC 2008.

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    Posted by on November 7, 2007 in English studies, HSC, questions asked, student help


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    Accent on otherness

    Yes, this is an excellent supplementary text for NSW HSC “Journeys” [or “Belonging”] but it is more than that: Pauline Webber in The Weekend Australian (September 29, 2007).

    THE point at which cultures and ethnicities intersect is fertile ground for the creative arts. Such hybridity has been a riff running through the history of international cinema from the moment Hollywood opened its arms to European Jews fleeing the Nazi onslaught. Globalisation and the convoluted patterns of migration shaping the post-war world have provided film industries everywhere with periodic injections of freshness and originality. Films are made by North Africans in France, Asians in the US, Armenians and Iranians in Canada, Indians and Pakistanis in Britain.

    A surprisingly large number of Australian filmmakers are from migrant backgrounds. Just taking a selection from those who have a significant body of work makes a long list: Rolf de Heer, Ana Kokkinos, Tony Ayres, Paul Cox, Alex Proyas, Ray Lawrence, Khoa Do, Clara Law, Nadia Tass, Kriv Stenders, Tom Zubrycki, George Miller and many more…

    Excellent overview leading to this conclusion: “Each speaks as one of us but with an accent that puts the emphasis in surprising places. Our cinema can only be the richer for the inclusion of such voices.”


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    Very moving post on Baghdad Burning

    This blog has become justly famous. For some years the writer kept us in touch with her life in Baghdad, and her earlier entries have been published in book form by The Feminist Press.

    In her riveting weblog, a remarkable young Iraqi woman gives a human face to war and occupation.

    In August 2003, the world gained access to a remarkable new voice: a blog written by a 25-year-old Iraqi woman living in Baghdad, whose identity remained concealed for her own protection. Calling herself Riverbend, she offered searing eyewitness accounts of the everyday realities on the ground, punctuated by astute analysis on the politics behind these events.

    Riverbend recounts stories of life in an occupied city – of neighbors whose home are raided by U.S. troops, whose relatives disappear into prisons, and whose children are kidnapped by money-hungry militias. The only Iraqi blogger writing from a woman’s perspective, she also describes a once-secular city where women are now afraid to leave their homes without head covering and a male escort.

    I think its possibilities as a text in Journeys might occur to some.

    Riverbend has posted her story of becoming a refugee in Syria. It is the first post since April.

    …As we crossed the border and saw the last of the Iraqi flags, the tears began again. The car was silent except for the prattling of the driver who was telling us stories of escapades he had while crossing the border. I sneaked a look at my mother sitting beside me and her tears were flowing as well. There was simply nothing to say as we left Iraq. I wanted to sob, but I didn’t want to seem like a baby. I didn’t want the driver to think I was ungrateful for the chance to leave what had become a hellish place over the last four and a half years.

    The Syrian border was almost equally packed, but the environment was more relaxed. People were getting out of their cars and stretching. Some of them recognized each other and waved or shared woeful stories or comments through the windows of the cars. Most importantly, we were all equal. Sunnis and Shia, Arabs and Kurds… we were all equal in front of the Syrian border personnel.

    We were all refugees — rich or poor. And refugees all look the same — there’s a unique expression you’ll find on their faces –relief, mixed with sorrow, tinged with apprehension. The faces almost all look the same…

    Do read it all, and go back to her earlier entry to see what happened earlier this year.

    Comments Off on Very moving post on Baghdad Burning

    Posted by on September 10, 2007 in blogs, HSC, multiculturalism, works/authors



    New Australian movie suits “Physical Journeys”

    I haven’t seen it yet, but I have read about it in the current Monthly Magazine (article not online). It would seem though that Romulus, My Father would be worth considering as a supplementary text for HSC students doing the Journeys Area Study, particularly with the poems of Peter Skrzynecki, but not only with that selection. School users please note YouTube is probably blocked; try again at home.

    On YouTube you will also find a whole series of Director’s Diaries about the movie. This is Day 4:

    There is a Romulus My Father website. You may also read Raymond Gaita’s book. See Robert Manne’s review.

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    Posted by on May 27, 2007 in Australian, diversity, English studies, HSC, Media/Film studies, multiculturalism, student help, works/authors


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    Physical journeys and Peter Skrzynecki’s poems

    Revised March 2008


    Peter Skrzynecki (above) must be one of the most popular choices for the Journeys Area of Study in the NSW HSC English courses. I have yet another coachee studying his work right now. There is so much good stuff available online!

    The obvious starting point is NSW HSC Online for an overview of this part of the course. Very early in your study you must be clear about what you are doing, because you need to filter all the information available to make sure your efforts are relevant. I recommend also careful examination of past HSC questions and published exam answers to refine that filtering. While looking through HSC Online you may also find some guidance here and in other parts of your course in the annotated resource guide for teachers (but also useful for curious students): Search Site Reviews.

    Your next stop might be Peter Skrzynecki’s Web Site.

    On this site you will find information about my life which may help you understand some of my poems – especially those set down for study on the New South Wales HSC syllabus.

    It contains a background to my family’s migration to Australia in 1949 and a general outline of those influences which led to my writing poetry.

    It also contains links to other sites where my work is featured, a list of my publications, a selection of reviews of various publications, poetry and prose, and poems from my most recent collection of verse.

    Amelia Illgner wrote a good brief introduction to Peter Skrzynecki: The immigrant experience for the 2004 Sydney Writers’ Festival Schools Program. This is no longer online, but the gist was:

    Australian poet Peter Skrzynecki knows about journeys the way other people know about real estate, stock options and the footy ladder. Skrzynecki is a living treatise on the immigrant experience and his poems are charged canons of his observations. They tell of travelling, of belonging and the innate beauty in discovering oneself and rediscovering home and, always, memory…

    Here is a more recent poem by Peter Skrzynecki (2005). I rather like it; do you? Where does it fit into the journey stories you already know from the poems set for study? Is it similar/different in style and tone? Would you keep all the poems currently set, or would you substitute this poem for one currently set? If so, which poem would go? Why delete that poem in favour of this one?

    WARNING: Do not use another poem by Peter Skrzynecki as a supplementary text.

    Summer in the Country

    Summer in the country
    was brushing away
    flies from your face
    and wiping sweat from your eyes—

    watching grasses and grains
    shimmer in paddocks
    or sheep and cattle
    grazing beyond a windbreak of pines.

    Galahs clanged over the homestead.
    A windmill turned
    when a breeze sprung up.
    Cockatoos screeched from the pepper tree.

    Only crows frightened me
    with their sorrowful cries
    and the way they flew slowly
    like black crosses.

    The old slab-split shed
    was a treasure-trove
    of harnesses, bridles, farm
    machinery, forty-four-gallon drums—

    its walls covered
    with cobwebs that housed
    unimaginable spiders
    but where it was cool inside.

    I didn’t miss Europe
    like my parents did—
    nor a Christmas without snow
    I’d hear them talking about.

    Summer in the country
    was being given a glass of cold lemonade
    and falling asleep
    under a red-gum’s shade.

    frost.gif You will find a forum here where students have contributed some ideas, especially about “Crossing the Red Sea” and on possible supplementary texts. Use it wisely but don’t quote it! [This forum has apparently been hacked. 9 March 2008.]

    Peter Skrzynecki (and Michael Gow) were interviewed on ABC 702 in October 2006.

    …Richard Glover: All right, Peter, you rat for doing this to our children. “To what extent has studying the concept of physical journey in the work of Peter Skrzynecki expanded your understanding of yourself, of individuals, and of the world?” Now you’re answering the question, what do you say?

    Peter Skrzynecki: I say it teaches me about perseverance, it teaches me about tolerance, it teaches me about hope, it teaches me that nothing comes easy without working for it.

    Richard Glover: No, no, no, I’m marking you down. You’ve got to say all this in relationship to the concept of physical journey in the work, you’re not relating it to the question, Peter.

    Peter Skrzynecki: Because no journey is just physical. I’m sitting here in a doctor’s surgery actually waiting for root canal therapy while I’m talking to you, so I’ve made a physical journey from my home to here, but no journey is just physical, you know, it’s emotional, it’s spiritual, it’s psychological it’s mental. I’m about to have some holes drilled into my tooth…

    Richard Glover: Now Peter, do you feel any sympathy for these studying your work?

    Peter Skrzynecki: Yes and no. When I said to you earlier, one way or another you’ve got to sit for an exam, whether it’s poetry or whether it’s something else. I feel sympathy for them because at this stage in their lives they’ve really got to be somehow told or shown that life isn’t just about exams, and unfortunately the system, such as it is, puts them into an exam situation, but having taught in schools and at university myself, you somehow look beyond that, and when I talk to students when I lecture, I try and make them think for themselves.

    Richard Glover: And the other thing about this discussion is it’s great that among all the classics, and there are lots of classics of things like Mark Twain and Shakespeare’s Tempest and Coleridge, amongst all this there things like Michael’s wonderful play Away and your wonderful poems.

    Peter Skrzynecki: The year after the war, I mean we went on a physical journey from Europe to Australia, we lived in migrant camps, hostels, detention centres as they were called. There were no Social Service benefits in those days. If you wanted to get ahead in this country, you had to work, that physical journey was the start of a whole new life. And I learnt from the lives of my parents, and you could look around you to some of the big names in the corporate world today like the Lowys and the Richard Pratts, they came here with nothing virtually.

    Richard Glover: And the physical journey reflected.

    Peter Skrzynecki: That was just the start of something bigger.

    Richard Glover: Well look, you’ve almost made up your marks. I think you’ve got the same mark as Michael now. Very well done.

    Peter Skrzynecki: All I can say to the students, ‘Don’t hold it against me’, and I hope you’ve learnt something from the poems.

    Richard Glover: Yes, fantastic. Now Peter, thank you very much for talking to me…

    He shows some realism about the course there, doesn’t he, and a sense of humour. Let’s face it, while I don’t mind this course the whole thing, from a poet’s point of view, is really quite mad! No poet has ever sat down and said “I think I will write poems about the concept of journey…” At least I don’t think they have. If you are clever, by the way, you will also see you have a real example of the radio interview text type to study there too. Could come in handy…

    A few basic questions to ask yourself about every text you encounter in this Area Study:

    — What does this text contribute to my understanding of the concept of “the journey”?
    — How is the idea of “journey” represented in this text?
    — What connections are there between this text and others I have viewed or read?
    — What differences are there between this text and others I have viewed or read?

    I am sure you and your teachers will think of more!


    Migrant camp

    See How welcome were the immigrants made to feel? which includes Peter Skrzynecki’s “Migrant Hostel, Parkes, 1949-51” with questions. [This is currently returning a 404 error, which may mean it has gone or simply that there was a server issue when I tried to access it on 9 March 2008.]


    There is an excellent site on “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost, one of the texts in the Stimulus Booklet. There you will find a number of critical readings of that poem.

    Here is a Powerpoint Presentation on Journeys suitable for ESL, Standard and Advanced. IT IS NOT MY WORK! I found it somewhere but have not kept track of where, so if it is your work please let me know. And thanks for doing quite a good resource which I have shared with people I have tutored. Journeys Powerpoint


    Amendment to English Stage 6 Syllabus: Withdrawal of stimulus booklet for HSC 2008.


    The Weekend Australian (8 March 2008) has a review of Skrzynecki by Barry Hill, poetry editor of The Australian: Love alone cannot bring verse to life.

    His work is much taught in schools, and in 2002 he was awarded the Order of Australia for his contribution to multicultural literature, a reputation that began with the publication of There, Behind the Lids in 1970, when he was only 25. The title poem begins:

    Feel the trembling, there, behind the lids,
    when you close your eyes and press
    index finger and thumb against the hard sockets:
    against the darkness…

    This is tender, heartfelt; and it is not about the poet (as one would expect of a first book) but about the poet’s migrant parents, or people very like them who might cross over chasms and oceans to return to new landmarks.

    Many slept on deck
    because of the day’s heat
    or to watch a sunset
    they would never see again —
    stretched on blankets and pillows
    against cabins and rails:
    shirtless, in shorts, barefooted,
    themselves a landscape
    of milk-white flesh
    on a scoured and polished deck

    This is from Crossing the Red Sea. Plain diction, a lucid arrangement of the graphic, and a touch for the image that resonates metaphorically: these are typical of Skrzynecki at his best. Once he applied these techniques to his school days, his parents’ quiet lives, the dreams of his parents’ friends, he soon had a gallery that represented a whole epoch of Australian-European history, each picture haunted by a subtle sense of what remained dark and unsayable as settlements sprouted in the new country…

    Barry Spurr’s 2003 study guide is available in part on Google Books.

    There is a good resource on Immigrant chronicle by Peter Skrzynecki a rap (NSW Department of Education site).


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