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Australian history through the eyes of a dirt digger

  • 24 October 2014
Girt The Unauthorised History of Australia, by David Hunt. Black Inc. Publication date: August 2013.


Some people care deeply for lived and recorded history, hoping that lessons learned will not be lost. Others view the canvass of history as a battleground, strewn with weapons with which to bludgeon their ideological or class enemies.

David Hunt is a satirist and history buff. As a newcomer, he presents as ‘an unusually tall and handsome man who likes writing his own biographical notes for all the books he has written [one]’. For him, history is an abundance of mistakes, piss takes and riffs on life’s absurdity and human fallibility.

Historiography as practised by Mr Hunt is an exceedingly clever way to skewer the rapier of truth through the carcass of officious mendacity. He unerringly hones straight into the bowels of reactionary handwringing over liberal re-examination.

I tend to rate humorists on their capacity to provoke ‘laugh out loud’ responses, seducing the reader through eliciting solidarity, bewilderment and epiphany. By any and all of those responses, Hunt quickly had his wicked way with me.

I appreciate, also, the weary and well-honed observational skills (and effective bull dust detector) concealed by his award-winning badinage.

Hunt largely focuses, tongue-and cheek in groove, on Oz post-European invasion, and sees Australia’s often inept, sometime kind and inevitably surprising tale as ‘fascinating…the greatest Australian sketch comedy that has never been made [and] bloody funny’.

If you cock a snook at his varied areas of interest you’ll be encouraged to delight in the bizarre application of terra nullius to the nation’s ‘unoriginal non-inhabitants’, the comparative paucity of exploration (and attribution) of European and sundry other silly persons, who may or may not have wandered around the place while adhering bits of crockery to scenery and killing locals and their crews.   

Hunt really goes to town on the ludicrous decision making and governance processes that led to colonisation (read invasion), settlement and relocation of poor Britishers (read ‘the Irish’, etc.), the liberal use of rum as a unit of currency and Macarthur’s grandiloquent sport of toppling governors.

Character evisceration (assassination is too mild a term) of historically repugnant chaps such as the mutineers’ Captain/Governor William Bligh and hypocrite/gun-runner/flogger /killjoy/racist/misogynist the Rev. Samuel Marsden are joyfully interspersed with contemporary references and observations on diverse aspects of our heritage – sexploitation, corruption, cultural elitism, homophobia, eurocentrism and the pursuit of ignorance over observable truths.

It’s somewhat a case