Writers Festival: Three Aussies discuss their backyard

By Linda Herrick

Australian artist Michael Leunig finds being an Australian Living Treasure "a bit embarrassing''. Photo / Samuel Cooper
Australian artist Michael Leunig finds being an Australian Living Treasure "a bit embarrassing''. Photo / Samuel Cooper

Earlier in the afternoon, three Australians - cartoonist Michael Leunig, writer John Marsden and artist Rod Moss - chewed over the question of whether their homeland is "The Lucky Country".

We are accustomed to the stereotype of the brash Ocker, but these three were the exact opposite. Leunig said the term, coined by writer Donald Horne, had always baffled him.

"You can get a lot of bad luck in Australia," he said. "At the moment it feels unlucky. There's a political philosophy being imposed upon us. There is a swagger, like 'we are going to change you people'. This government and this budget [referring to last week's Australian budget] is a dismay."

Marsden said he was in the Middle East when the Tampa boat people crisis occurred and "I felt ashamed to be an Australian. We had to introduce ourselves and I was thinking, 'Can I say I am a New Zealander?'"

Rod Moss' response to the "ordinariness" of growing up in suburban Melbourne was to "exit to the centre" of the country and live in the midst of "the unlucky Australians, the indigenous people".

"The indigenous people were the only ones who have fought to defend their country," added Leunig.

"Otherwise, Australians have always fought to defend someone else's country."

A quiet session, with modestly intelligent speakers. Australia is lucky to have them.

- NZ Herald

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