With the exception of Indigenous families who are descended from traditional owners of the land on which they live, in this multicultural society, families come from a range of other places, countries and cultures. As the lyrics of The Seekers’ song, “I am Australian” proudly proclaim: “… from all the lands on earth we come.” Whether born in a different country, a recent arrival, descended from or with several generations of family history in this country, Australians have varied experiences and family histories.
As time progresses, it is critical that each family’s history is shared and honoured. Cultural features, personal details and key elements of family history should be acknowledged and celebrated in order to be remembered across generations. In some families, historical and cultural information is passed on via word-of-mouth; whereas in other families, genealogy might be researched and more formally recorded. Family photos, recipes and stories are frequently passed on through generations to provide a rich and layered cultural and historical texture.
The approaching Melbourne Cup – an important historical cultural and sporting event in this country – is an annual reminder of my family’s history. Archer is the famed racehorse who won both the inaugural Melbourne Cup in 1861 and the second ‘Cup’, the following year. On both occasions my ancestor, John Cutts, rode Archer to victory. Years later, in 1878 , his son-in-law and my great-grandfather, Tom Brown, rode a horse called Calamia, to another Melbourne Cup win. He subsequently trained Grand Fleneur, the horse that won the Melbourne Cup in 1880. This is a celebrated family history with connections between ancestors; involvement through a shared field of endeavour and outstanding achievement. Connected through family and national history, this story is revisited and shared among family members around the time of a significant event, conducted annually in this country.
When families remember and honour their shared history, acknowledging significant events, celebrating religious beliefs and cultural contexts, a strengthened connection occurs within families and between generations. As family lines interweave, each strand brings a different historical, cultural and genetic contribution, coming together with other stories, as if each strand is plaited and the whole is strengthened in the process. The individual stories don’t matter as much as the rich diversity of family history that must be shared in order for it to continue to shape individuals.
Within each generation, a family member may be appointed as a ‘connector’ to collect, collate and continue important family histories and traditions. It is critical to keep family histories alive by sharing stories, especially the stories that acknowledge where we come from and have the potential to shape an individual’s future.
© Michele Juratowitch