Siobhan McHugh
11 & 18 OCTOBER 2009

This powerful and revealing radio series, written and produced by Siobhan McHugh with original music by Melbourne composer Thomas Fitzgerald, explores the religious bigotry and post-colonial tensions between English (Protestants) and Irish (Catholics) still prevalent in Australia only two generations ago. Based on three years research and over fifty oral history interviews, the series explores the family feuds occasioned by Protestant/Catholic mixed marriage and the virtual social apartheid that at times resulted from systemic discrimination against the Irish Catholic underclass until the 1960s. The series also contests the use of the misleading term 'Anglo-Celtic Australia' to denote non-indigenous Australia prior to the mass immigration that followed the Second World War.
Part 1. Not in Front of the Altar. In pre-multicultural Australia, marrying across the Protestant/ Catholic Divide was consorting wth the enemy for many families. Mixed- religion couples describe being estranged, disinherited and vilified in a society where a quarter of the population (Catholics) was barred from applying for some private sector jobs and Freemasons and Catholics jostled for control of the public sector. The Catholic Church showed its disapproval of the 'impediment of mixed marriage' by relegating such ceremonies to a cheerless setting away from the main altar, out of sight of family and friends. Yet from the 1890s to the 1960s, one in five Australian weddings was a mixed marriage.
Part 2. Between Two Worlds. Children raised in a mixed marriage had to negotiate a delicate balancing act. Until 1966, the Catholic Church required both parties to pledge in writing that all children would be raised Catholic. Some compromised by raising the boys Protestant and the girls Catholic. Some Protestant parents refused to comply; others were assiduous in nurturing their children's Catholic faith, even after the death of the Catholic parent. Some children were secretly baptised and raised in one parent's faith unbeknownst to the other - eventually a source of enormous family conflict. In a society polarised between the two main religions, children of mixed marriages were torn by divided loyalties.

How the Irish rose above Australia's social apartheid

ABC Life Matters & Drive
Siobhan discussed her findings on mixed marriage with Richard Glover on Drive, Friday 9th and on Life Matters on 16th October.

History Australia
Read more about Siobhan McHugh's doctoral research into the hybrid world of mixed marriages, and the insight it provides into the kulturkampf between the English Protestant establishment and the Irish Catholic underclass that shaped Australia.