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Bring back Bonfire Night for Canberra’s children

By Robbie Swan - 22 September 2016 35

Boy looking at a bonfire, Barcelona. Photo: iStock

My family settled in Yarralumla in 1953. Back in those days, it was a working class suburb with dirt roads and a dairy at the eastern end on the old Molonglo River.

People used to exercise their greyhounds around the shops and on the school oval. My ‘gang’ at that time included my brother Col and a bunch of kids whose names I couldn’t pronounce. We had little tin and tar canoes tied up under the willows on the edge of the old Molonglo River, about 100m to the west of where the Yacht Club is now. We also had a cubby house on the ridge above Fitzgerald street that looked down over the shantytown that was known as Westlake.

Living amongst the elements where suburbia intersected with traditional farming and natural bushland was a great place to grow up.

One of the highlights of the year used to be the Queen’s birthday weekend in June. Fireworks would go on sale about a fortnight before, to make sure that everyone could celebrate with plenty of crackers. No amount of explosive homage to her Majesty was ever enough. We celebrated with fireworks that kids today could only dream of. The king of crackers being the ‘threepenny bunger’ which was like a small stick of dynamite and could bring down a concrete letterbox.

But of course the fireworks were merely an adjunct to the real deal – the suburban bonfire. Parents and friends would work out the most common location and start planning months in advance. They would raid their sheds for old tyres, logs, packing crates and whatever else would burn and from a central pole usually dug into the ground, would construct huge edifices to the fiery element. When these giant pyres were lit on ‘cracker night’, kids from all up and down the street would come swaddled in pyjamas and dressing-gowns to witness the power of a 20ft wall of flame. With cinders whirling around in the air and the crack and fizz of matter being consumed at very high temperatures, this was a night to remember. As a result, I have a healthy respect for fire that was born of being up close and personal with it from an early age.

But how many kids get to see something like this anymore? How many get to prod a fire and feel it burn their eyebrows when they get too close? Since the ACT government, the Opposition and the Greens all got together to push their politically correct agenda of banning cracker night and the obligatory bonfire that went with it, how do kids get to feel the remarkable and elemental aspects of fire now?

Could the new wave of young arsonists who set fire to forests and farms, actually be fuelled by the ban on bonfires?

Yes, I understand that dogs bark and some go stir crazy over cracker night. My old collie dog was one of them. We all loved her but we’d just lock her up in the house on cracker night and tell her to grin and bear it because this was a night for humans.

And if you wanted to ban an activity that really sets off dogs it would be hot air ballooning. Dogs go ballistic over the dawn drifters but nobody ever suggests banning the balloons. As much as we love our dogs, how much of our behaviour do we have to modify to please them?

The Sex Party wants to bring back bonfire night. We believe that the decision to ban it was driven by short-sighted political correctness and a mistaken belief that kids who are shielded from natural elements have safer lives. We think nothing could be further from the truth and that the thousands of caring parents who insist on driving their kids to school because they might get wet or sunburnt or whatever, may not be acting in their children’s best interests.

Raise a tax on fireworks for the RSPCA in recognition of the fact that a lot of dogs get scared when fireworks go off.  But don’t ban fireworks because dogs don’t like them.

By all means allow the government to set the parameters of where public bonfires can be set. By all means limit the sale of fireworks to adults in the same way as alcohol and gambling. But kids need to develop strong relationships with earth, wind, water and fire by getting up close and personal with these natural elements. Failure to do that will see kids get more and more involved in the unreal world of computer screens and increasing mental illness in society.

Robbie Swan is a co-founder of the Australian Sex Party and a candidate for the Woden/Weston seat of Murrumbidgee in next month’s ACT election.

Pictured is a boy looking at a bonfire in Barcelona, Spain. Photo: iStock

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35 Responses to
Bring back Bonfire Night for Canberra’s children
Mysteryman 10:07 am 23 Sep 16

Lurker2913 said :

So the ban had nothing to do with how dangerous fire crackers and bungers were and all the injuries that occurred.

“all the injuries”. Got some evidence of them to back up your reasoning?

Mysteryman 10:06 am 23 Sep 16

madelini said :

Darla said :

This piece seems to greatly minimise the negative effect of cracker nights. Dogs didn’t just bark or get somewhat distressed. Many would escape and end up in shelters or, worse still, hit by cars. My family had a dog who was terrified of firecrackers. We would stay at home on cracker night evenings to try and minimise his panic. The problem that arose was that people would buy crackers and let them off at various hours of the day and night, all year around. There was no way of predicting when it would happen. Sometimes our dog would panic so much he would claw at the bricks of the house, bloodying his paws. Other times he would escape, managing to clamber over the six foot fence, and run off into the neighbourhood. He was hit by a car, but luckily survived. I find myself having far less concern for the children deprived of an annual cracker night than the ones who lose their beloved family pet because people are nostalgic for cracker night.

While I agree at the annoying habit of people to set off fireworks at random times, I hate that cracker night was banned because of dogs. That affected the many law-abiding people who may not have had dogs, the dog owners whose dogs weren’t bothered (like our old dog). The tiny minority of people would set off fireworks randomly, but the sound was rarely worse than cars backfiring – and there was no move to ban old cars. For others, who chose to leave their dogs alone and outside on cracker night but then made public appeals when the dog got out did not exercise responsible pet ownership. I have heard of people seeking to ban Skyfire for the same reason.

Pet ownership is a choice, and choosing to keep a dog means that you accept that the world is big and loud and sometimes they will get scared. I don’t believe that the rest of Canberra should have had to take responsibility for pet owners’ choices.

Well said. I agree 100%. Unfortunately, our politicians at the time were of the ilk that bought into the idea that the rest of society should accommodate the choices of the few, and they listened to a very small minority.

Interestingly enough, despite the ban being in place for 7 years, I regularly hear fireworks being let off in my suburb. It’s far more frequent that is used to be in the good old days before ACT Labor ruined them.

dungfungus 10:03 am 23 Sep 16

Lurker2913 said :

So the ban had nothing to do with how dangerous fire crackers and bungers were and all the injuries that occurred.

I suppose you lot want to repeal seat belt laws too because it was fun flying through a car windscreen on impact back in the day.

Why not sell Absinthe and other high alcoholic drinks in every “blottlo” and see the punches fly. Oh I am sorry, we had prohibition in Canberra until 1928 then the six o’clock swill and that wasn’t so fun.

If you want to go back in time why don’t we roll back to the 1920’s and prohibition? I hear the cries that we can’t do that. #hypocrites

If you think the (few) injuries that resulted from “dangerous firecrackers” were a problem then contemplate what can happen when large scale fireworks displays go wrong.

Some of the mortar launched star shells that go 200 metres in the are enormous and if one accidentally exploded in a nearby crowd there would be multiple fatalities and horrible injuries.

These large scale commercial fireworks exhibitions should be banned also.

It’s all about “risk”.

The controlled demolition on Acton Peninsula was deemed to be risk-free and look what happened.

TimboinOz 8:55 am 23 Sep 16

This idea while not quite as idiotic as getting rid of the microwave, TV and FM transmission, hub that is Black Mountain tower. But it is close.

Running fireworks displays at major venues, away form suburbs might work but home events, no way and no thanks!

Lurker2913 9:22 pm 22 Sep 16

So the ban had nothing to do with how dangerous fire crackers and bungers were and all the injuries that occurred.

I suppose you lot want to repeal seat belt laws too because it was fun flying through a car windscreen on impact back in the day.

Why not sell Absinthe and other high alcoholic drinks in every “blottlo” and see the punches fly. Oh I am sorry, we had prohibition in Canberra until 1928 then the six o’clock swill and that wasn’t so fun.

If you want to go back in time why don’t we roll back to the 1920’s and prohibition? I hear the cries that we can’t do that. #hypocrites

creative_canberran 7:22 pm 22 Sep 16

It annoys dogs and wildlife, the crackers ended up injuring people, and people used crackers to blow stuff up. And for years the most spectacular crackers were phased out before the ban leaving “consumer” grade ones. Just sit back and enjoy the work of professionals.

Maya123 7:00 pm 22 Sep 16

dungfungus said :

madelini said :

Darla said :

This piece seems to greatly minimise the negative effect of cracker nights. Dogs didn’t just bark or get somewhat distressed. Many would escape and end up in shelters or, worse still, hit by cars. My family had a dog who was terrified of firecrackers. We would stay at home on cracker night evenings to try and minimise his panic. The problem that arose was that people would buy crackers and let them off at various hours of the day and night, all year around. There was no way of predicting when it would happen. Sometimes our dog would panic so much he would claw at the bricks of the house, bloodying his paws. Other times he would escape, managing to clamber over the six foot fence, and run off into the neighbourhood. He was hit by a car, but luckily survived. I find myself having far less concern for the children deprived of an annual cracker night than the ones who lose their beloved family pet because people are nostalgic for cracker night.

While I agree at the annoying habit of people to set off fireworks at random times, I hate that cracker night was banned because of dogs. That affected the many law-abiding people who may not have had dogs, the dog owners whose dogs weren’t bothered (like our old dog). The tiny minority of people would set off fireworks randomly, but the sound was rarely worse than cars backfiring – and there was no move to ban old cars. For others, who chose to leave their dogs alone and outside on cracker night but then made public appeals when the dog got out did not exercise responsible pet ownership. I have heard of people seeking to ban Skyfire for the same reason.

Pet ownership is a choice, and choosing to keep a dog means that you accept that the world is big and loud and sometimes they will get scared. I don’t believe that the rest of Canberra should have had to take responsibility for pet owners’ choices.

I think it was banned because of cats, not dogs.

Was it? I would have thought dogs. I have had several cats, and none appeared to have a problem with cracker night. If they did, I guess they hid. I was sorry to see it go. I don’t see why it can’t be brought back and only allow non-banging fireworks to be sold and used. The sparkling kind.

dungfungus 6:06 pm 22 Sep 16

madelini said :

Darla said :

This piece seems to greatly minimise the negative effect of cracker nights. Dogs didn’t just bark or get somewhat distressed. Many would escape and end up in shelters or, worse still, hit by cars. My family had a dog who was terrified of firecrackers. We would stay at home on cracker night evenings to try and minimise his panic. The problem that arose was that people would buy crackers and let them off at various hours of the day and night, all year around. There was no way of predicting when it would happen. Sometimes our dog would panic so much he would claw at the bricks of the house, bloodying his paws. Other times he would escape, managing to clamber over the six foot fence, and run off into the neighbourhood. He was hit by a car, but luckily survived. I find myself having far less concern for the children deprived of an annual cracker night than the ones who lose their beloved family pet because people are nostalgic for cracker night.

While I agree at the annoying habit of people to set off fireworks at random times, I hate that cracker night was banned because of dogs. That affected the many law-abiding people who may not have had dogs, the dog owners whose dogs weren’t bothered (like our old dog). The tiny minority of people would set off fireworks randomly, but the sound was rarely worse than cars backfiring – and there was no move to ban old cars. For others, who chose to leave their dogs alone and outside on cracker night but then made public appeals when the dog got out did not exercise responsible pet ownership. I have heard of people seeking to ban Skyfire for the same reason.

Pet ownership is a choice, and choosing to keep a dog means that you accept that the world is big and loud and sometimes they will get scared. I don’t believe that the rest of Canberra should have had to take responsibility for pet owners’ choices.

I think it was banned because of cats, not dogs.

MERC600 5:34 pm 22 Sep 16

I think JH commented on the strength of firecrackers. They were no longer the tuppeny bunger .

I saw one of the new type going off one day and was thankfull I was forewarned. The thing was only the same size as a 9 volt battery, but what a punch.

My neighbour must have upsett some kids as they blew his mailox to bits one night. The top of his box must have raised at least 4-5 metres to get through the trees, landing on my driveway. I was in the sack and probably raised a metre or so . I packed up the next day and went down to Mallacoota, which I did every year untill they were stopped. Gratefull to JH ever since.

madelini 2:27 pm 22 Sep 16

Darla said :

This piece seems to greatly minimise the negative effect of cracker nights. Dogs didn’t just bark or get somewhat distressed. Many would escape and end up in shelters or, worse still, hit by cars. My family had a dog who was terrified of firecrackers. We would stay at home on cracker night evenings to try and minimise his panic. The problem that arose was that people would buy crackers and let them off at various hours of the day and night, all year around. There was no way of predicting when it would happen. Sometimes our dog would panic so much he would claw at the bricks of the house, bloodying his paws. Other times he would escape, managing to clamber over the six foot fence, and run off into the neighbourhood. He was hit by a car, but luckily survived. I find myself having far less concern for the children deprived of an annual cracker night than the ones who lose their beloved family pet because people are nostalgic for cracker night.

While I agree at the annoying habit of people to set off fireworks at random times, I hate that cracker night was banned because of dogs. That affected the many law-abiding people who may not have had dogs, the dog owners whose dogs weren’t bothered (like our old dog). The tiny minority of people would set off fireworks randomly, but the sound was rarely worse than cars backfiring – and there was no move to ban old cars. For others, who chose to leave their dogs alone and outside on cracker night but then made public appeals when the dog got out did not exercise responsible pet ownership. I have heard of people seeking to ban Skyfire for the same reason.

Pet ownership is a choice, and choosing to keep a dog means that you accept that the world is big and loud and sometimes they will get scared. I don’t believe that the rest of Canberra should have had to take responsibility for pet owners’ choices.

dungfungus 2:10 pm 22 Sep 16

I can hear screams emanating from a quiet street somewhere deep in Tuggers.

Come in JH.

Garfield 12:47 pm 22 Sep 16

Darla said :

This piece seems to greatly minimise the negative effect of cracker nights. Dogs didn’t just bark or get somewhat distressed. Many would escape and end up in shelters or, worse still, hit by cars. My family had a dog who was terrified of firecrackers. We would stay at home on cracker night evenings to try and minimise his panic. The problem that arose was that people would buy crackers and let them off at various hours of the day and night, all year around. There was no way of predicting when it would happen. Sometimes our dog would panic so much he would claw at the bricks of the house, bloodying his paws. Other times he would escape, managing to clamber over the six foot fence, and run off into the neighbourhood. He was hit by a car, but luckily survived. I find myself having far less concern for the children deprived of an annual cracker night than the ones who lose their beloved family pet because people are nostalgic for cracker night.

You are quite right – its not just about the one night but about all the morons who would let off crackers and large illegal explosives at random times through the year, usually in the small hours of the morning when neighbours were trying to sleep. Its wasn’t just dogs having a difficult time but cats and other pets too. I look back with some nostalgia to cracker nights in my teens, but I’m reluctantly in favour of the ban because the of the irresponsible actions of too many residents at times other than the proper night.

wildturkeycanoe 11:07 am 22 Sep 16

Brilliant piece of writing, my thoughts exactly. This also lines up with the Animal Welfare party position of pretty much banning pet ownership, so we won’t have any issues od dogs running away from home.
The swaddling of our kids in bubble wrap is making them soft and unable to handle nature. If you dropped them in the Brindabellas for a few hours they would be mentally traumatised, not knowing what elements were safe and what was dangerous to touch. Our concrete and plastic city is more of a threat than the Aussie bush but kids know little of the wilderness, only what they read on the internet.
Crackers are fun, as are motorcross bikes, hunting, wood carting,fishing and simply building cubby houses out of tree branches. But we as a society have prohibited or made rules so strict that nobody can have fun anymore. Is it little surprise that energy explodes instead in the form of graffiti and destruction of property. Let kids be kids and adults too.

Darla 10:04 am 22 Sep 16

This piece seems to greatly minimise the negative effect of cracker nights. Dogs didn’t just bark or get somewhat distressed. Many would escape and end up in shelters or, worse still, hit by cars. My family had a dog who was terrified of firecrackers. We would stay at home on cracker night evenings to try and minimise his panic. The problem that arose was that people would buy crackers and let them off at various hours of the day and night, all year around. There was no way of predicting when it would happen. Sometimes our dog would panic so much he would claw at the bricks of the house, bloodying his paws. Other times he would escape, managing to clamber over the six foot fence, and run off into the neighbourhood. He was hit by a car, but luckily survived. I find myself having far less concern for the children deprived of an annual cracker night than the ones who lose their beloved family pet because people are nostalgic for cracker night.

carrob 9:53 am 22 Sep 16

Seriously….lol

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