Accepting an Australian Accent
Letter to the Editor
I am a Notre Dame student the likes of which you will probably never see.
I am a student of Notre Dame, Fremantle, Australia. An accented Notre Dame. A sister, but separate, university that shares your name and is endeavouring to share your reputation. I expect that you have heard little of this Notre Dame in Australia. We are, after all, a young and small institution situated in another country. I, however, have certainly heard of you, our sister school.
I believe that our differences are not accented enough. You are who you are. We, I feel, are torn between who we are and who you are. We are in some ways defined by you, our sister school. I confess to knowing very little of your reality, but I fear that some of us in Fremantle are too earnestly trying to replicate, or at least revel, in it.
Notre Dame, Fremantle, is eight years old. It is situated in ye olde Fremantle, a port town decorated with colourful pubs and people, historical and picturesque buildings and titanic- sized container ships. These, however, appear to receive less emphasis on campus than the presence of South Bend students and the general presence of Notre Dame, South Bend, in our short history.
Were you to come to Fremantle, I would suggest that you would not notice this "Big Brother" obsession. Besides the shared university name, the American influence is not that explicit. It is more the influence of the name and associated connotations that concern me.
Notre Dame, Fremantle, will inevitably be known as an institution responsible for the cultivation of many great minds and people. At present, however, what reputation we may have is limited. We are essentially too young.
But we do possess a de facto reputation of sorts: your reputation. Australians, admittedly, know little of Notre Dame, Fremantle, but very rarely have they not heard the name of Notre Dame. To most it is an American name, not a Parisian name. They are more aware of you, our American sister school, than they are of us, their fellow Australians.
I daresay the same could apply to our own students. I know of the Fightin' Irish, but it means nothing to me — nor do I think it should. It is not who I am. I am an Australian patriot, not a quasi- American.
I am fond of our Notre Dame for many reasons. A principle source of my affection is Fremantle itself, as well as the positioning of the university in the hub of Fremantle's West End. People, pubs, cafes, shops, art galleries and the like are in abundance. But alas, I do not think we utilize them to the extent they deserve.
Perhaps unconsciously, we are blinded by our access to an international influence: South Bend. In some ways, a summer semester at South Bend is spoken of as though it were a homecoming. The pinnacle of our undergraduate education. In the most extreme of scenarios, it is almost as if we attend Notre Dame, Fremantle, in order to spend a semester studying (and drinking) in South Bend.
I dearly love my university and am forever grateful that we are so closely associated to such an esteemed and international institution. It provides the exposure, inspiration and opportunities necessary for a uniquely rewarding university experience.
I just strongly believe in the importance of a local identity. Our bonds with your school and its greatness has in some ways led to complacency in our endeavours to build our own greatness. I fear that some of us believe your greatness will simply be translated to Fremantle because of our shared name. I do not believe a name can be equated to an identity.
You have your greatness, and of that you should be immensely proud. We need to build our greatness, at least initially, on our immediate surrounds: Fremantle town and its array of practical and social resources. Ideally, I'd love to see Fremantle defined as a university town, dominated by the well- dressed (and occasionally drunken) intelligentsia of Notre Dame, Fremantle. But in order to do so, we must first dedicate ourselves to Fremantle, and in some ways, separate our soul from our sister school in South Bend.
In an increasingly global world, the importance of our ties cannot be criticised or questioned. With our partnership in what could be termed a "multi-national" — at least in spirit and name — university, I thought you might be interested in hearing from Notre Dame, Fremantle. I know I endeavour to listen to those who venture to the foreign and fun-filled world of Fremantle.
October 25, 1999
All Viewpoint Stories for Wednesday, January 19, 19100