Henry Ford is remembered for saying, “History is bunk”. What he actually said in 1916 was, ”History is more or less bunk. It's tradition. We don't want tradition. We want to live in the present, and the only history that is worth a tinker's damn is the history that we make today."
But history does honour Henry Ford: the industrialist who introduced the assembly line, making cars cheaper and available to ordinary working people.
Ford also said, “You can't build a reputation on what you are going to do.” It’s actually achieving something that puts your name in the history books.
And Charles Sturt was one of those great achievers.
He was born into a large family, and without enough money to attend university, joined the army. Promoted to Captain by 1825, Sturt arrived in Sydney aboard the Mariner in 1827, with convicts.
His interest in exploring led him along the Macquarie River and down the Darling.
Sturt and his party then travelled down the Murrumbidgee with George Macleay, following the Murray to the sea. They rowed against the current back up the river to near where Narrandera now stands. They were exhausted. Their supplies had run out. Relief finally arrived, but Sturt went blind for some months and never fully recovered his health.
Returning to England on sick leave, now blind, he published in 1833 his “Two Expeditions into the Interior of Southern Australia”.
This work is credited not only for awakening the interest of the English public, but for Wakefield choosing Adelaide for a new settlement.
Sturt married Charlotte Christiana Greene in 1834, returned to Australia and took up a 5000 acre land grant near where Canberra now stands. His property was called “Belconnen”. This man’s influence on Australia’s colonial history knew no bounds.
The Sturts moved to the Adelaide area. Charles Sturt was a new age man. When he led a party up the Murray River, Charlotte Sturt, Charlotte's maidservant and Julia Gawler were with him, the first white women to travel the Murray!
Sturt also travelled extensively in north-west NSW (hence Sturt National Park, Sturt’s Desert Pea) and on to the Simpson Desert. Sturt died in England in 1869. The Queen granted Charlotte the title of Lady Sturt.
This man’s influence on Australia’s colonial history knew no bounds.
He was no soft-cushion office researcher. Sturt may not have had a university degree, but research and writings through his guts and determination, facing danger and the unknown, advanced early Australia.
With Sturt’s exploration of the Bathurst area, and then the Riverina, we can appreciate why the name “Charles Sturt University” is so appropriate for our university.
So why change the name?
Let’s look at university gender politics behind the campaign for a name change. Sturt represents slogans like “white male privilege”, and “Dead White Male”.
You’ve lived a sheltered existence and not caught up with this tripe?
For example, in June last year the joint general secretary of the UK’s National Education Union, Mary Bousted, criticised the national curriculum for failing to include enough black and female writers.
She claims that “schools must look beyond ‘dead white men’ such as Shakespeare and Shelley to make the curriculum more diverse”.
There’s nothing wrong with including black and female writers. But Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters have received similar exclusion.
It’s more a case of removing history, and tradition, as Henry Ford would have advocated.
Yet when I was in England, a busload of Japanese students were visiting the church where the Bronte Sisters are buried. Clasping her hands one of the Japanese girls swooned as she rattled off timeless favourites like Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights.
Sadly, it would appear that Charles Sturt’s modern day gender researchers are far more concerned with meetings in air-conditioned offices to rewrite history.
Taking the “Charles” out of the university’s name removes the male part of the title.
After all, Charles Sturt is simply another “Dead White Male”.
Read foundation vice-chancellor Cliff Blake’s letter in last Wednesday’s DA. Charles Sturt University has an established reputation for high rates of graduate employment throughout Australia and overseas.
Stop this gender nonsense and let the honour remain for the man to whom the Riverina and Central West owes so much.