A Time Machine with Hand Controls, Episode VIII: Australia, 1850
Hey everybody, it’s me again, the backwards traveler, four-wheeled time-space rambler, back for another adventure. This time, the machine takes me to Australia, smack in the middle of the 19th century, smack in the middle of the colonization of “the land down under.”
It is a common misconception that the British colony of Australia was conceived as a prison farm for mentally unstable criminals. The fact is that when Australia was first colonized toward the end of 1836, the Crown asked for able bodied young people intended to build the colony. Though they got a fairly good crop of laborers, they also got the elderly, the ill and the mentally and physically disabled. And the government would not take responsibility of them.
By the time of this adventure, accommodation for all of these people was a disaster. The handicapped were crammed into huts all over the colony center. As soon as I got my chair out of the time machine, and began my stroll through the village, I was arrested and taken to the “ward” where I was greeted by about 200 other disabled people. No windows, hidden away from society proper. Living in squalor, in close quarters. Disease was rampant. Mentally ill people were intermixed with the elderly and the physically handicapped, and the deaf and the blind, adults and children.
I stayed there for several weeks, trying to devise a way to “escape”. During this time we were visited by clergymen, political figures and other people of good intentions. This was the only time I got a decent meal. It was then that I met a family that offered to take me in. As soon as they got me out of there, I told them I had family that should be taking care of me, as was the official colonial policy on disabled people. No public assistance here. I asked my saviors to provide me with transportation to where I knew I’d left the time machine with hand controls, and as soon as they left me there, I bolted back to good ol’ 2008.