Monday, October 27, 2003

Living National Treasures. Or Heirlooms. Or Something.

Geoff Honnor at Troppo Armadillo has noted that:

The National Trust is running low on Australian Living Treasures and would like public assistance in replacing the 11 Treasures who have gone to Immortality since the program was initiated in 1997.

The idea of nominating people as Living National Treasures is a typically great Aussie idea; copied from overseas, adapted for local conditions and stuffed up in the process. The Japanese have been selecting Living National Treasures since (at least) 1955. Several Japanese potters have been awarded the honour (a lot of those listed at the linked page are, sadly, ex-Living National Treasures like the 11 Australians the National Trust proposes to replace), also papermakers and workers in several other crafts.

I was naturally curious to see which Australian artisans, working in traditional arts and crafts had been selected by the National Trust as our Living National Treasures. I was expecting one or two bark painters, those two blokes I saw on the television two decades ago who restored a slab-sided mountain hut using traditional methods or possibly a country baker renowned for his traditional meat pies, pasties, snag-rolls and lamingtons. But, of course, it's nothing like that and it makes you wonder what qualifications are required to be honoured as an Australian Living National Treasure.

Obviously outstanding achievement in the yartz no doubt accounts for the prescence of John Bell, Arthur Boyd (due for replacement), Don Burrows, Ruth Cracknell (due for replacement), Judy Davis, Ernie Dingo, Slim Dusty (due for replacement), John Farnham, Peter Garrett, Rolf Harris, Barry Humphries, Elizabeth Jolley, Thomas Keneally, Michael Leunig, David Malouf, Dr Colleen McCullough, Gary McDonald, Graeme Murphy, Les Murray, Prof Peter Sculthorpe, Dame Joan Sutherland, Anthony Warlow, Morris West, David Williamson, Time Winton and Roger Woodward. And it's not too hard to fathom the reasons for including Sir Donald Bradman (due for replacement), Raelene Boyle, Bart Cummings, Betty Cuthbert, Herb Elliot, Dawn Fraser, Cathy Freeman, Shane Gould, Rod Laver, John Newcombe, Greg Norman, Kieran Perkins, Ken Rosewall and Gai Waterhouse.

A lot of the rest are a mystery, especially Senator Bob Brown, The Hon Don Dunstan (due for replacement), The Hon John Howard, The Hon Barry Jones, The Hon Paul Keating, Cheryl Kernot, The Hon Tom Uren and The Hon Gough Whitlam. That's a substantial job lot of politicians tossed in with our 100 Living National Treasures; obviously they had the numbers to make up the numbers.

Still, there's one name in the list I won't argue with; Margaret Fulton. She knows a thing or two about lamingtons.

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