JOHN MENADUE. Are we still the land of the second chance?

This is a slightly amended repost from Australia Day this year which I  recalled when thinking about the cheating of Australian cricketers.

We all make mistakes. We all need a chance to put things right and happily Smith ,Warner and Bancroft have decided to cop their suspensions.

The Macquarie legacy is still with us. It underpins our best instincts to give all residents in this country, whether Australian born, migrants or refugees, an equal opportunity in life, a second chance. That ethos of redemption is a core part of our history.  

On Australia Day in the press and in the pulpit, many will be asking this question:  What is different about being an Australian? We will all have different answers. The word that comes to my mind is an old-fashioned one – ‘redemption’, giving people another chance, another opportunity.

Governor Macquarie was no political radical or hot gospeller. He was a tough military veteran from the British army in India, a loyal member of the Anglican church and a Tory in politics. Tickets of leave and the policy of emancipation turned Australia from being a dead-end penal colony to a land of a second chance. Some didn’t seize that new opportunity. But most did. Australia built a new society by giving the outcasts and the underprivileged in this land of ours a chance to get on their own feet. It set the future pattern of Australian society.

Governor King introduced tickets of leave in 1801 for convicts who had served a period of probation. Influenced by Phillip, our first governor, and the anti-slavery reformer, William Wilberforce, Macquarie from 1811 to 1821 greatly expanded these tickets of leave which enabled former convicts to marry, bring family from Britain and acquire property. Macquarie appointed emancipists to government positions – Francis Greenway as Colonial Architect and William Redfern as Colonial Surgeon. He scandalised the establishment by appointing emancipist Andrew Thompson as a magistrate.

The Macquarie legacy is still with us. It underpins our best instincts to give all residents in this country, whether Australian born, migrants or refugees an equal opportunity in life, a second chance. That ethos of redemption is a core part of our history.

Redemption is not risk and trouble free as Macquarie found. The Sydney establishment conspired successfully to get rid of him. And we have our Duttons and Hansons who promote fear and exclusion. But we remember Macquarie more than any other of our governors. His tombstone in Scotland carries the inscription ‘The Father of Australia’. It was an apt description. His wife Elizabeth was also  a great companion in helping to shape Australian society.

A friend of mine, Ian McAuley, said that whilst the British sent the puritans to America, they sent convicts to Australia and that we got the better of the deal. The underprivileged and the outcasts in Australia got a second chance. Macquarie gave us a legacy of which we can be proud. But it is always work in progress and success can never be taken for granted.

Everyone deserves a second chance,even a second and third chance,if they show contrition and determination to put things right.I will be there to cheer Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft on  when they return to Test Cricket.

But Cricket Australia is in even greater need of reform than the players. That is where the rot really starts. I will be writing separately on that.

 

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2 Responses to JOHN MENADUE. Are we still the land of the second chance?

  1. Mary Tehan says:

    Thank you for this important article. I worked in the Liver Transplant Unit (LTU) in pastoral care and it was truly the land of second chances. Second chances is a process though not an event. In the LTU people danced on the pin of life and death from the moment of initial assessment, through the transplant itself, and as long as the rehabilitation was necessary for the person’s health to stabilise. It also took for someone else to die in order for that second chance to unfold. In the 6 months I was there, I saw the Passion & Easter story played out time and time again. In each situation there was a history of trauma – in many cases too much responsibility placed on the shoulders of those least able to carry it AT THAT TIME – for staff & carers, it was a great life lesson in being non-judgmental. Shame, betrayal and failure writ large in each person’s story. The most confronting question asked of each patient was ‘did they want to live not just not want to die’? Ultimately, it was all about learning to trust one’s own life, one’s own decisions, one’s own judgments, again … something unspeakable, that any betrayal takes from you. The most important elements in supporting these people into trusting themselves again was gentleness, humility, patience, an unswerving conviction that the person will eventually work it out for themselves, and the love that enfolds all hesitancy in the approach of new possibilities. Unless these elements are encountered, it will not be transformative for that person. So “a second chance” can be a bit simplistic in certain circumstances, but it’s an important place to start.

  2. Ian W Webster says:

    John,

    What a wonderful idea to shape our Australian history and ethos on “the land of the second chance”. It is hopeful. As Mary Tehan writes, from her experience in pastoral care in a liver transplant unit, much of medicine is about giving people “a second chance”. Those harmed by life’s exigencies, exposures and especially those caught up with problems of addiction, mental impairments – complex predicaments – need the compassion and humility of a “second chance”.

    Thanks for inspiration.

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