Talk In Circles - Truganini
It seems to me that Truganini is less about the plight of the person the title suggests and more about the present and future state of the Oil's home- Australia. The references to the 'cracked and sore' land, farmers 'hanging on by their fingertips' and 'blue collar work' not getting people anywhere are all summed up, in my opinion, by this chorus- "I hear much support for the monarchy, I hear the Union Jack's to remain." In other words, it is time to discard the constitutional monarchy and the ensign on our flag.
The reason for this change is to get Australia looking forward to the next millennium as our own people, the last vestiges of our British links discarded. If we don't, the "world won't stand still" for us to catch up.
So I come to the Namatjira/Truganini question. The lyrics of the final variation of the chorus- "I see the Union Jack's in flames, let it burn" are critical here. (What is also critical is who Namatjira is, about which I do not know. Help!) If the Union Jack is removed and Australia becomes a republic, then Namatjira gains some dignity. Truganini on the other hand, as a victim of British settlers, remains a victim, but at least we have discarded any official connection with the peoples who were responsible for her death. That is, we must stop viewing the country in terms of black/white- we are all Australians, and hence need our own flag and head of state.
Albert Namatjira was a Arunta Aborigine, who became well known throughout Australia for his water paintings. He was arrested for distributing some of his wealth amongst the Arunta Community (in the form of alcohol). His sentence was commuted in 1958, but he died the following year.
More on Namatjira: In the 1940s, white folks (esp. the British) became very interested in the paintings done by Aborigines. This interest gave rise to the now-famous "dot paintings" done with materials provided by white missionaries and others. Namatjira made landscape paintings of the desert in a style very similar to traditional European landscapes. Now, these creations didn't look terribly "native," which meant they weren't terribly saleable. Namatjira was encouraged to just paint like everybody else (turning a tidy profit on the "native art" market for both himself and his white "agents"), however, he refused. There is a suspicion that he was arrested on highly trumped-up charges, as he refused to compromise his artistic vision.
My interpretation is that by naming the song after Truganini (the last surviving fully blooded Tasmanian aborigine) means that this song represents an extinct race of people (bar the thinnest of bloodlines) that was caused by British settlement. Abandoning the Union Jacks & becoming a republic will not make amends but it would be a good display of dignity for a race of people that are no longer here to defend themselves.
Albert Namatjira was not put in jail on 'trumped up' charges; charges relating to draconian, racist and otherwise unreasonable licensing laws certainly (sharing drink with his community is difficultly seen as a crime, especially one worthy of a prison sentence). There is equally little doubt that his time in prison broke him mentally and spiritually (culturally many aborigines find incarceration extremely difficult - irrespective of the abuse they actually receive in prison itself) and that this is what ultimately killed him. His paintings whilst nominally in some sort of European style (if only in their use of watercolours and his representation of landscape) were nevertheless of great interest to mainstream Australia at the time; a black man whose art white Australia could understand and appreciate. Namatjira was such a success that he was given special citizenship status (the mere recognition of any of his citizenship rights being already an improvement as until '67 aboriginals were not even considered citizens in their own land), indeed it was these rights that allowed him to buy alcohol in the first place. I would suggest that Namatjira is symbolic of the contradictions of a life spent uneasily straddling two cultures. The life of a black man trying to live not only as a black man but as an Australian, belonging not only to the Arunta, but also being able to take his place in a larger Australian community. In many ways thrust into white society, he nevertheless voluntarily adopted many of its cultural manifestations, his Christianity not least. It was ultimately not a welcoming culture, largely uncomprehending and unsympathetic, it brutally turned its back on him and was the cause of the great loss of talent that was his death. His story is in no way exceptional except for the interest white Australia took in him.