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Useful And Fantastic: People They Laughed At - 7

Australians have had a reputation for enterprise, initiative and problem-solving yet as Val Yule reveals more than a quarter of the great achievers were ridiculed for their ideas.

Australians they laughed at

Australians have had a reputation for enterprise, initiative and problem-solving. How this has been applied to social inventing has not been collated for documentation, but would make an inspiring and challenging story for the present and future generations.

Some of our social inventions, the Eight Hours Day, industrial arbitration, surf lifesaving, and the development of baby health centres are quite well known, but the role of Australians is not as well known as it should be, and the stories have not been put together. Many others are unknown; many have been limited in time and place and deserve wider recognition and application.

Many have been on the lunatic fringe, but are still well worth recording. People Who Made Australia Great is a book published in 1988 to celebrate 200 years of since Governor Phillip arrived in Botany Bay with European settlement, and it lists 200 ‘Great Australians’. Many were entertainers and sports stars, Australia has made a name for excellence in sport and entertainment.

But others made more permanent contributions. Many of these were recorded as facing frustrations and ridicule in their own time, 30% severely so. Yet they turned out to be great inventors and discoverers and heroes that we honour today.

Great Australians in the book who were listed as being ridiculed

* Three of the five early leaders: William Barak, Governor Bourke, Lachlan Macquarie.

* Two of the seven explorers, John McDougall Stuart, Charles Sturt.

* Three of the six inventors; Thomas Fisk, James Harrison, Hugh McKay.

* One of the six air pioneers, Lawrence Hargrave.

* Two of the nine architects and builders; William Light, C.Y.O’Connor.

* Seven of the twelve doctors; Joseph Bancroft, John Cade, Kate Campbell, Elizabeth Kenny, Jean Macnamara, Lucy Osburn, Harry Wunderly.

* Five of the sixteen scientists; Joseph Banks, W. B. Clarke, Ferdinand von Mueller, Griffith Taylor, Macfarlane Burnet.

* Three of four religious leaders: John Dunmore Lang, Daniel Mannix, Mary McKillop.

* Three of the eight scholars: John Anderson, Peter Board, W E H Stanner.

* One of the ten stage stars: Edouard Borovansky.

*One of the eleven artists: William Dobell.

* Eight of the nine social reformers: Daisy Bates, Caroline Chisholm, Pearl Gibbs, Vida Goldstein, John Gribble, Louisa Lawson, Rose Scott, Mark Wilson.

* All the four newspaper men: J. F. Archibald, Keith Murdoch, David Syme, John West.

* Two of the twelve writers: Mary Gilmore, Henry Lawson.

* Six of the twenty-one politicians: Ben Chifley, Andrew Inglis Clark, Billy Hughes, Hubert Murray, James Service, W C Wentworth (and all other W C Wentworths too.)

* Four of the nine organizers: Frank Dixon, William Ferguson, John Flynn, William Spence.

* Three of the five judges, Henry Higgins, George Higinbotham, Isaac Isaacs.

* One of the thirteen captains of industry: Thomas Mort.

That is, of 58 of the 200 ‘great names’, nearly thirty per cent, were noted as having to battle severe resistance to their ideas. Many of the others also faced rejection, as more detailed biographies reveal.

Thousands of other Australians not in the book have also helped to ‘make Australia great’, and they should not be forgotten. How many of them have had to battle unnecessarily against other people’s automatic squashing of new ideas and projects. Look up, for example, King O’Malley, who helped to found the Commonwealth Bank as ‘the people’s bank, owned by the people,’ and Hugh McColl, who sought ways to bring water to Northern Victoria so that it could be farmed. One of the things to learn in school and out is how to fail, and fail - and finally win.

Charles Bliss invented the system of Blissymbols so that people could still read and communicate, even with such extreme language difficulties that they could not use ordinary words. He suffered ridicule and rejection, and predicted his fate as, "Into the grave with you, then we'll disinter your work and claim the credit.”

‘There are 2 fathoms between a crank and a pioneer - 6 feet above ground you're a crank, 6 feet under you're a pioneer"

He called for a jury for pioneers of ideas. That idea may be resurrected
as his work has had proven survival value, after all.

**

To read earlier sections of Val's account of people whose ideas were inditially not given a fair chance please click on http://www.openwriting.com/archives/useful_and_fantastic/

Also visit http://home.vicnet.net.au/~ozideas/socinvent.htm">http://home.vicnet.net.au/~ozideas/socinvent.htm">http://home.vicnet.net.au/~ozideas/socinvent.htm

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