Australia Day is a more than just a public holiday in Oz.

It represents the day in 1788 when the English turned up on the banks of Sydney Cove in their tall ships and declared the country ‘ours’.

This was in spite of Aboriginal Australians having occupied the land for more than 40,000 years prior to “white” man setting foot here.

This subsequent settlement has been a vexing issue for Australia, especially since the Aboriginal population has suffered greatly ever since and as such, reflection on their plight forms a large part of the significance of the day. But Australia Day is also about catching up with friends, having a traditional bbq, playing some cricket and downing a few coldies.

Yet, there are some formalities that come with Australia Day in the form of awards which celebrate outstanding contributions and achievements of Australians. Regular readers to this blog might recall my Dad was honored with an Order of the Medal of Australia last year.

For many years, the top of the prestigous Honours list was dominated by sportsmen, entertainers and celebrities whom, although certainly do a great job, are often sufficiently honoured by other means.

So this year, I was thrilled to see a large science contingent honoured in the 2010 awards.

Elizabeth BlackburnAustralia’s first female Nobel Prize winner, Professor Elizabeth Blackburn is a scientist who was jointly awarded the 100th Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine last year for work on understanding the role of telomeres in protecting chromosomes was given the highest honour. Professor Blackburn is among four Australians named a Companion of the Order of Australia (AC).

Also recognised in the medical field is Dr Wendy Hoy, a Professor of medicine at the Centre for Chronic Disease at the University of Queensland.

She’s been honoured for her medical research in indigenous communities. Wendy told ABC radio, “I hope it gives other people the energy and confidence to press on in what’s really a difficult and unnecessarily contentious field.

Professor Fred Watson is the astronomer in charge of the Anglo-Australian Observatory in Coonabarabran in New South Wales, and was honoured for sharing his passions about astronomy through raising public awareness about space and the universe.

I know someone else like that.

Fred told ABC radio; “As soon as you start talking to people about things like that, about the possibility, even of microbial life on Mars their interest is piqued, it’s very, very easy for an astronomer to engage with the public and engage with people generally”.

Watch an interview with Fred Watson here.

Dr Chris Kennedy, a clinician from Queensland, received an award for his medical work and education. As a doctor working with children, he understands the importance of vaccines as an essential tool in the prevention of communicable disease, particularly in third world countries.

He told ABC news that the cost of vaccines can be prohibitive for developing nations, and encouraged Australia to contribute to the costs where they are desperately needed.

Also from Queensland, Dr Will Cairns was recognised for his services to palliative medicine.

One group of entertainers who were honored for tireless services to entertainment was The Wiggles. But you can hardly not like the Wiggles, unless you are a parent who has a child obsessed (and if you are a parent then you most likely have/will have).

Happy Australia Day all!

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  • Chris

    I know you will not mention it, but the discussion about the nominations during this week’s Skeptic’s Tank was full of win! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • You’re absolutely welcome ๐Ÿ™‚
    I just noticed the CSS needs one more tweak because, for some reason, first paragraphs are treated separately (I guess it means you can have bold first pars or something if you want to)…
    .post blockquote p:first-child {
    font-family:Times New Roman, serif, arial;
    Add a line after “padding:0px”…
    Make the “5px” the same as you use in the other change. “1em” might be more universally browser-friendly. And make sure to include the semi-colon.
    If it breaks something, copy your saved version back and start again. If you’re feeling especially geeky (and use Firefox) you can use the Web Developer plugin to mess with every part of the CSS without breaking anything.

  • @AndyD,

    thanks, I’ll try that. Also thanks for the lovely blog about nominations win, very funny!

  • Just to be clearer… Save a copy of your style sheet (css) then in the original search for that bit noted above – the exact same bit starting with “div.bubble blockquote p {” – then change the last line of that bit.
    Be careful not to change or delete anything else lest things turn crappy.

  • Look for this in your CSS…
    div.bubble blockquote p {
    Save a copy of the sheet then change the last line in the original to something like…
    Caveat: I’m no expert but that seems to work when I try it.

  • Chris

    Ack, I do not have any advice. Sorry!

    Though I would really like to know where Johnny got his information on the relative health of the aborigines before the arrival of the Europeans.

  • Johnny, you did not address my post at all. You simply made a completely irrelevant ad hominem attack then repeated yourself.

    Again, I would like to know where you get your numbers from suggesting there were no diseases before the arrival or Europeans. I would like to know where you get the numbers suggesting that native Australians and Americans didn’t have any diseases and inflictions of their own.

  • Hi Chris, yeah it’s a problem in the comment formatting for wordpress. I’m working on fixing it, any advice would be appreciated, cheers!

  • Chris

    I actually do use paragraphs, but this blog software seems to kill the spaces between them. I really hate the wall of text!

  • Chris

    johnny p:

    … am pointing out the Aboriginal people werenโ€™t vaccinated and were (on a whole) very healthy

    How do you know that? What references do you have? They should be real scholarly references, not movies. I saw that movie, and you seemed to be missing a big point, the children were removed from their mothers because their fathers were white — and as I pointed out, the “boarding schools” were not unique to Australia.

    Another common type of boarding school were those for the education of the blind and deaf. Often the children were sent there after becoming disabled from measles, mumps, scarlet fever (a strep infection now treated with antibiotics), Hib and other diseases. They were not nice places either, and some do still exist. About a decade ago there was a sexual abuse scandal in our state’s School for the Deaf (which had shrunk down to less than two dozen students).

    You should now give some real reasons that vaccines are bad. Something along the line of real research showing that the MMR is worse than the actual diseases of measles, mumps and rubella. I would suggest you not include any lawyer paid research (ie nothing by Wakefield!).

    If you read William McNeill’s book you will realize that the diseases were just as deadly to the Europeans as they were to the American natives. The big difference is that the diseases were so prevalent that almost everyone got most of them before they became adults, with at least one out of three dying before becoming adults.

    So the two thirds that survived to adulthood were able to work and provide for their families.

    The big difference in the Americas (and possibly Australia) is that none of the native population had any natural immunity. So even if the same number died, about one third, it included a very important portion of the population: the adults. So instead of children dying before adulthood, it was the adults who procured the food, planted crops, took care of the children and provided shelter who died. So many of the native population did not die of the disease, but from starvation.

    As far as your children are concerned: they are being protected through herd immunity. You are essentially a parasite on society, leeching off of the protection from disease by others in your community being vaccinated. Unfortunately that often fails, which is why a baby died of pertussis in Australia, two boys died from measles in the UK, and there have been several outbreaks among populations in the USA (often in the same school or church that does not vaccinate).

  • Bastard sheep, I’ve seen your webpage before. Granted I don’t agree with what it says but it looks like something from 1995. I recommend a makeover.

    When the white man came in the diseases started. Same with the Native Americans in the US.

    I’m not saying there aren’t some benefits to Western Medicine.. I’m just saying that I chose not to vaccinate for my children and am pointing out the Aboriginal people weren’t vaccinated and were (on a whole) very healthy.

    Also if you WATCH Rabbit Proof Fence or do your research you’ll find it was far more like a camp than a school.

    A school you probably would not like to have attended.


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  • @Ramon, I waited up until 2 am this morning (Sydney time) to hear the decision of the GMC passed down from London. I plan to blog it tonight.

  • realistically should read technically – though I am sure many thought of themselves as Australian prior to this date.

  • I have read claims that certain diseases were brought with the first settlers(dilberately) as a form of biological warfare. But can’t count on the veracity of the claim.

    As to Natural medicine, even the ngangkari spiritual healers accept that there are somethings that white medicine can do better.

    @johnnyp the Australian white man was not Australian,they were British- realistically speaking white Australians didn’t exist until 1901 they were colonists of great Britain until that time.

  • Has anybody else this about Wakefield?

  • reasonablehank

    @johnny p.

    Not very often someone comes along with Godwin’s Law at the *beginning* of their argument.


  • What? No Australia Day awards for anti-vaccination or homepathy? THAT BLOODY SKEPTIC RUDD AND HIS DRUG PUSHING CABAL MUST PAY

  • I’d also like to know where he’s getting his numbers on the number of Aboriginal people that suffered from preventable diseases before European settlement comes from. Strange because I didn’t actually think there were any numbers or records. Without such things, how can you possibly know they didn’t have it? You are making the ultimate argument from ignorance here Johnny, and showing just how much ignorance you have.

  • Chris

    Actually, it was only children who had one white parent that they would take away. They weren’t really camps, but more like “school” that tried to turn them into servants, and remove tribal influence. There were similar schools in the USA and Canada (only the natives did not have white parents), which is why lots of native culture and language have been lost forever.

    I am curious if Australia aborigines had the same problem as the natives of the Americas. Because they had not been exposed to European pathogens they became very ill and died quickly. The Spaniards were able to quickly defeat the Inca because of measles and smallpox.

    According to the book Peoples and Plagues by William McNeill it is estimated that 95% of the entire native population of both American continents were killed by disease within a couple of centuries.

  • What the film Rabbit Proof Fence (has the real women this happened to which is all documented) Often times they came in and took children out of their “tribe” and forced them to live in camps… Happened to some of my own ancestors.

    Bottom line is they used “natural health” and good diets to keep their immune systems healthy and didn’t vaccinate (duh) for 40,000 years… So sad.


  • @ johnny,
    ‘The Australian white man who came in were no better than Nazis’

    Care to justify that comment? I don’t recall gas chambers. Perhaps you know something different?

  • Wow, the Aboriginal Australians were doing great for over 40,000 years without vaccines til’ the white man came along! Again white man screws it up…

    The Aboriginal Australians used natural medicine for centuries until white man came along with weakened immune systems and screwed it alll up…..

    what a travesty what was done to those people..

    The Australian white man who came in were no better than Nazis.


  • @sheila, Good point. Many of us have a convict history, myself included. I appreciate the term ‘white invasion’ may offend some people. It was the term used by the Aboriginal people for many years, however I think Australia has since moved on from this.
    I will modify the text accordingly.

  • It’s great that our scientists are being recognised – i notice a lack of awards to those anti-vaccine psychos.

    However, i find calling it invasion day about as offensive as the white australia policy used to be – most of the people (including one of my ancestors) were prisoners. They were not invading, they were in chains. Many of them were political prisoners – Irish ‘terrorists’ or ‘freedom fighters’, depending whether you were English or (Catholic) Irish. Calling them invaders is simply a lie. They were prisoners.

    However, i fully understand the various Aboriginal tribes not wanting to celebrate it – i’d back a new day, one where we all celebrate Australia, not the (white) first fleet, and not a negative ‘invasion day’.