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June 2007

Mark Davis’ Gangland: cultural elites and the new generationalism came out in 1997, the year I turned seventeen and finished high school. John Howard had been Prime Minister for one year (item: Howard has been in Government since before I was eligible to vote), s11 hadn’t happened in Melbourne and S11 hadn’t happened in New York. Davis’ demonstration of how any innovation in culture (led by youth or otherwise) was being suppressed by that of the baby boomers (helped along by burgeoning corporatism) had quite the impact on me when I read it in 1999, which was also the year I started working as a research officer in a non-government youth affairs organization. The year before, 1998, the Government had de-funded the national non-government youth affairs organization, the Australian Youth Policy and Action Coalition; one of a slew of peak bodies which have been removed from the Australian democratic landscape by the Government over their ten years in power (for more on this, see Clive Hamilton and Sarah Maddison’s recent book, Silencing Dissent).

In retrospect, I think that what I was observing in '98 and '99 was part of a sustained challenge to the idea of Australia as predicated on privileges attached to (white) race, (middle) class, (middle) age, (male) gender and (hetero) sexuality; an idea which, as Davis pointed out in '97, was starting to get some traction in public debate for a brief moment in the early 80's. At any rate, the cultural agendas foreshadowed in Gangland leads a zine writing friend of mine (also aged seventeen in 1997) to refer to our peer group as the ‘Post-Gangland Generation’.

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