MARRYING OUT: a documentary radio series about mixed marriage and religious bigotry: 2 x 55mins
A woman is denied a deathbed visit to her father. A couple’s honeymoon vehicle is sabotaged. A man is cut out of three wills. Children practise their faith in secret. A quarter of the population is barred from applying for jobs.
The cause: religion. The place: Australia. The time: until the 1960s.
Just two generations ago, before multiculturalism was the norm, Australian society was polarised between two groups: Protestants and Catholics. Religion was code for identity, with tensions fuelled by historical grievances that dated back long before the British first sailed into Sydney Harbour in 1788. ‘Catholic’ meant Irish, and to an English Protestant Establishment, that meant trouble.
From the 1890s to the 1960s, one in five Australian marriages were ‘mixed’ – often a cause of lasting family estrangement and conflict. Until the 1960s, job vacancy advertisements might stipulate that ‘Catholics Need Not Apply’. Battling Protestant perceptions that they were seditious, superstitious, and inferior, Catholics adopted a tribal, defensive position. Bigotry was rife on both sides.
Children reared in a hybrid world of a mixed marriage often had divided loyalties, and resented being trapped between entrenched and irreconcilable family on either side. At times, a virtual social apartheid applied between the two groups, as these powerful personal stories of mixed marriage show.
Is this an experience of a bygone age, irrelevant in Australia today? Far from it. There will always be a demonised minority at odds with the majority ethos. It began with Irish Catholics, but the epithets once applied to the Irish have been hurled at Lebanese Muslims in the wake of 9/11 and racist riots at a southern Sydney beach in 2005.
This program features children who grew up in a mixed marriage.
McHugh, S.. Marrying Out Part 2- Between Two Worlds. ABC Radio National - Hindsight program: Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 18 October, 2009.