The Year Everything Changed: 2001

Phillipa McGuinness

The Year Everything Changed: 2001
  • Format
  • Publisher
  • Country
  • Published
  • Pages
  • ISBN

The Year Everything Changed: 2001

Phillipa McGuinness

On New Year’s Eve 2001, with her husband by her side, Phillipa McGuinness buried her son. They stood with a young priest in Chua Chu Kang Cemetery and watched a small coffin go into the ground. Later that night, shattered, they sat looking out at the hundreds of ships waiting to come into port in Singapore’s harbor. Or trying to leave, who could tell? Each of them thinking about the next year, starting within hours. Phillipa wanted time to push on, for 2001 to be over, but she was also scared. What might be next?

2001 was an awful year. It’s the only year where you can mention a day and a month using only numbers and everyone knows what you mean. But 9/11 wasn’t the only momentous event that year. In Australia a group of orange-jacketed asylum seekers on deck the Norwegian vessel Tampa seemed responsible for Prime Minister John Howard’s statement not long after: ‘We will decide who comes to this country and the circumstances in which they come.‘ These words became his mantra during the bruising election that followed in November, both sides of politics affected by their venom and insularity, or their strength and resolve, depending on which way you looked at it.

The year had started with what was supposed to be a celebratory event of sophistication and nuance, reflecting the kind of country we hoped we had become. Yet the Centenary of Federation on 1 January turned out to be a class-A fizzer. The nation seemed to decide that what was really worth commemorating wasn’t the peaceful bringing together of colonial states into a Commonwealth but the doomed assault on a Turkish beach that happened fourteen years later in 1915. It is easier to animate young men dying than old men signing a constitution.

2001 marked the halfway point of twenty years of continuous economic growth in Australia. But the year started with shiny tech startups continuing their implosion following the dotcom bubble burst. The deal of the (nascent) century, the merger between Netscape and AOL, seemingly an all-powerful mega corporation, began to slide. Yet perhaps the digital world as we now know it did start in 2001, at least for what is now the most powerful company in the world. For this was the year that Google, in no hurry to launch an IPO, received its PageRank patent, assigned to Larry Page and Stanford University. The rest, as they say, is history. Apple launched the iPod in 2001, not only transforming the soundtrack to our lives but shifting cultural alignments so that distributors became the richest guys in the room, rather than the artists writing, singing and playing the songs.

If 2001 were a movie - oh wait, of course it was - its tagline might be ‘The year that changed everything’. And that change is not over.


Phillipa McGuinness is no stranger to books; she is, after all, a publisher. This, however, is her debut as an author and hopefully it will not be her last. The Year Everything Changed: 2001 is a record of an enormously horrendous year. McGuinness is correct: 2001 was the year that so many things changed politically and economically, globally and in our own country.

I was living out of Australia that year, and I was astounded as I read my way through chapters on the months in which so much transpired that transformed the way we live in Australia right now. Not only did OneTel fall apart, but also the iPod came into our lives (the beginning of the end of how we listen to music), John Howard seemed his most ferocious on the issue of refugees, and of course then there was September. A whole chapter is dedicated to the heartbreak of 9/11 and truly it seems extraordinary that it was only 15 years ago when we all stopped, wherever we were, in our shared horror at what was happening at the Twin Towers.

McGuinness has considerable skill in making the political and historical personal. She begins the book with her own story of heartbreak, and her voice is present throughout. Like all good anthropologists, she is not afraid to lay down her mark.McGuinness, here in this record of the year, also does not shy away from the emotional complexity of our humanity. Rather, she opens it up for us to gaze in wonder at a year that was not so long ago and affected so much of our way of living.

Chris Gordon is the events manager for Readings.

This item is not currently in-stock. It can be ordered online and is expected to ship in 3-6 days

Please note, our stock data is updated overnight, and availability may change throughout the day. Prices are subject to change without notice.

Sign in or become a Readings Member to add this title to a wishlist.