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some how this set of images also reflect my ancestral family tree in Australia during the 20th Century...
Lay over our ancestors lives from late 1800 to late 1900 a historical blanket of the major events and you will be able to get just a small glimpse into their struggles and immense continuous and unabated hardships they experienced here in Australia.
There has been countless stories recorded about all the major physical events that happened during those years but very little has been written or consulted on about how these events effected the structures of family and relationships since the relentless and abating 20th century of hardships.
While researching my mother’s family ancestry over those years of the 20th century I was constantly forced to reassess my thinking and understandings of my mothers and grandmothers lives and the reasons they lived and parented the way they did.
It slowly dawned on me that my child’s brains view of the confusion, fear and immense distress consuming my mother and grandmother over many years had deep seated roots into all those huge upheaval events of the 20th Century in Australia and on the world scene.
My child’s brain could never in a thousand years be able to guess at the why to all those childhood questions. Only now as an experienced over 60 year old can I at least get a glimpse at the reasons and some answers to my childhood questions.
Right from the very beginning of the new 20th Century the massive upheavals warmed up from the 28th of July 1914 when the first world war was declared. Where entire nations, communities and family units were plunged into chaos and despair never to be the same again, never to return to the old ways, the old cultures and ways of life, old ways of relationships all came to a sudden and abrupt dead end.
Where brothers, uncles, son’s and fathers alike joined up in the belief there was no other way to protect their families, countries and values but to leave them all behind and go off to far flung shores and fight those believed immense threats in battle.
Whereas this war was officially declared ‘won’ by the British Empire ending in great celebrations from the 11th Nov 1918 where they may have won the war, but they had only just started the battle. This battle was only just beginning to grow with the returning servicemen carrying the infectious Spanish Flue back into their own homes and communities they so longed to be returned to.
In the shadows of these new exciting successes, to this new found world freedom for all of their Australian communities and families was hidden beginnings of even further death and despair that was to spread rapidly just over one year around the entire globe touching millions of families in some way or another.
This Spanish Flue pandemic still remains the greatest disaster ever recorded. Only the 50,000 deaths over 7 years throughout Europe from the Black Death of the 14th Century come’s close.
The Australian population from 1914 to 1918 was approximately 4.9 million. Around 420,000 Australians enlisted to serve in the first world war. This represented around 38.7 percent of the entire male population aged 18 to 44. Around 60,000 were killed and 156,000 were wounded, gassed or taken as prisoners of war.
There has never been numbers recorded of all the other men who returned bringing back into their families and communities post-traumatic stress syndrome and other mental health issues from what they saw or experienced on the battlefields.
Now consider at that same time these returning servicemen were back in their families and communities who now had to watch in just over 6 months during 1919 an estimation of 15,000 friends and family members die and over 2 million others who got sick with the influenza but recovered.
The records of that time point at over 5,000 marriages being affected with the loss of one or both parents to the influenza flue. What has not been officially recorded was the number of indigenous Australian’s who also died from that relentless flue pandemic and how it played its role in the destruction of many their families and their cultural identities.
When you add up all the deaths in Australia from the Spanish Flue with the number of deaths of the service men and women fighting to protect their families in ww1 it equals 231,000 men, fathers, brothers, sons, women, wives, mothers and daughters removed out of family units, out of jobs, out of communities right across the vast continent.
It is little wonder a lot of our ancestors, alive during those years in Australia, attempting to hang onto their sanity, hanging onto some semblance of family and community life struggling with the fallout of traumas from both ww1 and the Spanish Flue pandemic could not find lasting relationships or safe family units.
We also have to place the rise of materialism, the rejection of religious cultural practice and the complete upheaval of centuries of established relationship protocol into our ancestral history reflections and understandings.
Relationship protocol before ww1 was very simple and roughly meant you treated all women as if they were your mother or sister and all men were treated as if they were your father or brother.
Children were of little value until they stepped up into the adult role due to the death of a parent or they got married. The adolescent stage was really only seen as something the upper class indulged in.
The first world war pushed all of these individual families and relationships into new territory where no one had any idea of how to act. Prior to the first world war not only were relationships very simple and very clear cut but also were the roles and jobs description for both men and women.
During the first world war and the countless deaths from the Spanish Flue forced both men and women into roles and relationships never even imagined only a few years earlier.
There were no government handouts and unless you had a well to do extended family or religious community to help you out you had to make do and survive the best way you could and a lot were forced to live in very low standards and poverty for extended periods of time with little hope to do otherwise.
Just as our Australian ancestors were climbing back onto their feet and feeling confident they could pull back their old ways of life, their old ways and roles in their relationships and job protocols they were all pulled back down onto their knees when in October 1929, only 9 years after the Spanish Flue pandemic and the end of the first wold war Wall Street, in America, crashed and signaled the beginning of the great depression for entire industrial nations.
Our Australian ancestors got the worst of their share of this next wave of trauma and despair through massive unemployment which peaked in mid-1932 with over thirty two percent (32%) being without ways or means to support and feed their loved ones and families.
Again just as our Australian ancestors where making ends meet and finding ways to support each other through another catastrophic set of events in September 1939 world war 2 was declared and those families were pulled apart once more.
Whoever had survived ww 1 and the Spanish Flue and the great depression was now being either sent off to more far flung shores to battle or forced into new job roles, new ways of having to survive. Every man, women and child in Australia was being forced to move out of old cultural ways of belief and traditions and forced to find new ways to coexist together and survive.
Every belief, every cultural norm was smashed in front of these ancestors and they were being forced to find new ways to adjust, new ways to work, new ways to parent, new ways to have relationships, new belief systems, new values, nothing was left in peace.
One of the greatest causalities in Australia from all the fathers, uncles, brothers, sons being forced off to fight those battles was the role of the male in the family unit which was completely shattered. As too was the role of mother shattered due to all the women forced out of their homes and into the war machine and other new expectations being forced onto them by new employment responsibilities which were to keep the homeland safe and supported with all their men being elsewhere.
Mothers, aunts, daughters, sisters being forced out of all their past expected family roles which had been critical for the entire survival of societies for thousands and thousands of years were being destroyed over and over again and by the time this second world war was officially ended in September 1945 the way the majority of Australians saw or treated their family units and each other also had come to an end.
During world war two 27,073 service men and women were killed, 23,477 were wounded, 30,560 were taken as prisoners of war (8296 of them also died in captivity). Of the 993,000 Australians who officially served in the second world war 900,000 returned full of hope and joy to once more be united with their families and loved ones and attempt to get back into the lives they had gone and fought for were nowhere to be seen.
In their place were relationships and family units, for many they could not understand or relate to. Everything these fathers, brothers sisters, mothers, sons, aunts, uncles went and laid their very lives on the line for were gone and some new unrecognisable relationships and family units were there in stead.
Even in today’s Australian societies, communities and family units this fall out is still echoing throughout many of them.
The way men and women saw each other the way they saw the family unit also came to a shattered end.
With all these major world events came shattered family units smashed relationships and the roles of both men and women were forced to change forever. All forms of relationships have had to be completely redefined and even now 70 years since the end of the second world war we are still attempting to established what is a healthy relationship or a strong family unit.
In most cases we are all still too close to the raw pain of what was thrust upon our ancestor’s and their family units and too close yet to fully grasp the greater picture of what happened and why but seeking the truth will set us free and the past is a mirror of the future.
These are at the very core of why I spend so many hours finding every single branch, twig, leaf and splinter of my shattered family tree and attempting to put it back together again. I strongly believe in the importance of the family unit and it being at the very core to the well-being and betterment of the entire world of humanity.
If I do not know what broke it how can I attempt to heal it.
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check out up close on what these two figures are holding in the reflections...
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"Reflect, how the people have rejected the Beauty of God, and have clung unto their covetous desires." Baha'u'llah
juxtaposition or what????
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