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Michael recently retired from the Public Service and is studying law in his retirement. His interests are politics, media, history, and astronomy. Michael holds a BA in Aboriginal Affairs Administration, a BA (Honours) in Aboriginal Studies, and a Diploma of Government. Michael rarely writes articles for The AIMN these days, but is heavily involved with the admin team.

Website: https://theaimn.com

Sometimes you wonder if the government gives a damn

I’m in the middle of a dilemma. A very worrying one, actually.

My rural Victorian city has been lucky – full credit to our townsfolk and the tough measures from our state government – in that COVID-19 has not yet pierced our invisible walls. Nonetheless, I am very keen to be vaccinated.

But there was a problem. AstraZeneca, which you have probably read, has been related to clotting deaths. The chances of dying from AZ clotting is infinitely small, but unfortunately, because of a hereditary condition (which I won’t go into), my doctor said that I’m one of that infinitely small number who is definitely at risk.

Naturally she wants me to be vaccinated, so her advice was to stay safe until Pfizer became available (which at that point, was not far away).

When Pfizer was available, I was in that age group – the wrong side of 60 – that could not have access to it.

Concerned, I wrote to Minister Hunt asking for an explanation of why – based on my condition and my doctor’s advice – I could not have access to Pfizer.

A few weeks later I received a polite two-page reply from the Department of Health telling me of the wonderful job the Federal Government was doing in response to the pandemic, and concluded that whilst they could not comment on my own condition, that if I had any concerns then I should consult my GP.

That last bit was rather odd, I thought, as I had consulted my GP… which was the reason I contacted Minister Hunt in the first place.

To satisfy myself about AstraZeneca – ie, whether it was safe for me – I sought a second opinion (same clinic, different doctor). After looking at my medical records, her advice was the same: AstraZeneca was too great a risk and she would be seeking approval for me to have Pfizer, as of course, she wanted me vaccinated.

She was unable to get that approval.

Nobody, it seems, gives a damn.

You can imagine how distressing this is; the constant government appeal to go get vaccinated yet I am not allowed to obtain the only vaccine currently available that has been recommended as suitable for me. Surely a mechanism might be available for those whose GPs do not recommend AstraZeneca in order that I might be vaccinated.

 

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The saddest thing

My father rarely talked about the war, though when he did it would be no more than a few words.

I’m sure that after spending three years in the steamy jungles of New Guinea he would have much to complain about, but I only ever heard a couple of complaints: It was wet, and it was “bloody” hot (“bloody” being the strongest profanity that would pass his lips). On another occasion he told of going without food for three days, and as an added inconvenience people were trying to shoot him. It was a comment, not a complaint.

After the war ended the first thing he did was to forgive the enemy. Like him, they were guys sent to war by their government. He even respected the enemy, for in his mind as soon as you lost that respect… you were off your guard and you were vulnerable.

No, he didn’t hate the enemy. But he did hate their government for sending them – and ultimately us – to that bloody war in New Guinea.

(But he would have done it again, without complaint. When he was 63 he told me that even at his age he would sign up to fight for his country if he could. My father always had this sense of duty).

It was not until he was 90 that I heard his first complaint. It was one that sickened and angered me.

Happy to have his brand new walking frame, he was out and about in the mall of his regional Victorian city. (I accompanied him once. He would walk as close to the corridor walls as he could, so not to impede other pedestrians). But on this day he was alone, hobbling down the mall with three teenage schoolgirls heading towards him. They stopped, but they didn’t move. They refused to move. My father – by now the subject of an earful of abuse – had to move for them. This poor old bugger who had left behind a wife and young son to fight for his country and his freedom, this old bugger who had watched his mates die, this poor old bugger – barely mobile – had to get out of their way as well as tolerate their abuse. It was too much of an inconvenience for them to take a skip to the right.

(They didn’t know my father, or anything about him. Would it have mattered if they did? Probably not. One thing they certainly would not have known – and perhaps not even bothered about – was that all his life he regarded all Australian equal).

My blood boiled. I so wish I had have been there.

But I am there. I’m there now. We all are.

We see it every day.

Just replace my father with a Baby Boomer, or a rape victim, or a refugee, a homeless person or an Indigenous Australian.

And replace that group of school children with our government, or with sexists or racists, or with our mainstream media.

My point is, in today’s world we are encouraged to turn against those who are different. And we are encouraged to blame someone else for our woes and we are unmoved when they need our help. And we judge them, without even knowing them.

We have a federal government who are masters at creating this divisive society, doing so, of course, to deflect the anger of their failures back onto Australians who are different because … (fill in the blanks).

Do you have any blanks you can fill in for me?

Happy 104th birthday, Dad (4/08/1917 – 19/12, 2008).

And thank you for your service to your country.

 

 

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Helen Haines: Could progressive Independents be the way of the future?

Australians want and need to be represented in Canberra by someone who understands their values and concerns, and will fight for these. It’s all too often that Australians are denied any choice because of the dominant two-party system. In the two-party system the voice of their elected representative is that of their party and often poorly reflects the electorate’s views. However, in some areas often known for their conservatism they come to elect progressive candidates. Such a person is Dr Helen Haines; as was her predecessor Ms Kathy McGowan.

Dr Haines did not come from the usual political background but grew up on a dairy farm near Colac, Victoria, trained as a nurse and midwife later moving to NE Victoria. Dr Haines subsequently completed a Bachelor’s Degree at Deakin University and holds a Master’s Degree in Epidemiology and Public Health at the University of NSW. She also has a PhD in Medical Science.

In 2019, Dr Haines decided to stand for election

“… because I believe our communities need real representation on what matters to us: education, healthcare, getting rid of corruption in politics, harnessing clean energy for Australia’s future, and building jobs and prosperity.”

As an independent member of Parliament representing a rural and regional electorate such as Indi, Dr Haines has embraced what people are telling her and has encouraged this communication. As she expresses it, her experiences are those of the people of her electorate. On being asked which issues she believes are the most important, Dr Haines stated:

One of the most common enquiries I get in this office are mobile phone and internet issues – the NBN.

… having reliable connectivity to the internet is more than a fundamental need, it is absolutely crucial. We know that in order to undertake business, education and health care you need connection to the internet, and by not having a connection to the internet you are disadvantaged.”

Dr Haines explained that a key job of a representative of an electorate is to make sure that the people represented are not disadvantaged and they have all the needs that are fundamental to living a high quality, safe and enjoyable healthy life. Dr Haines believes that the Covid Crisis has made it even clearer that unless you have full connectivity you can’t access all those things in a way you should be able to.

EFTPOS machines go down. People can’t make business transactions, Business people get frustrated. As the member of Parliament my job is to make sure the people I look after have the access that they need, and right now many of them do not. I sit on the NBN Parliamentary Committee and I deliberately joined that committee as I knew that it’s a big challenge to us.

Dr Haines also stated that she believes that if as a representative and you are working closely with the people you serve, then your actions in Parliament will reflect more accurately the needs of your electorate.

One of the key things is to use all the parliamentary tools that are there. I can give speeches, I can pass motions in the House, I can introduce private member’s bills, I can ask questions in Question Time and I can use parliamentary committees … this is good democracy … to make sure that the people I represent – that those issues make it all the way through to the federal government. That’s what I do. Everyday that I’m in Parliament, and my job when not in parliament is to be out there talking to people and hearing directly what their issues are

On the issue of Climate Change and Climate Action Dr Haines pointed out that:

We are the in the middle of a renewal energy boom so why the heck aren’t we benefitting from it. All big renewal energy projects are in regional Australia but where’s the money going? The money’s going offshore. I want to see the money going into the pockets of regional communities. I want to see them having lower power prices and having the capacity to make money from this.

Dr Haines is of the opinion that Australia has “… the greatest capacity in the world to generate renewable energy.”

I look at this from the perspective of young Australians probably more than anyone. The opportunities for them to truly benefit from a renewal energy boom through skills and opportunity. They’re missing out.

I hear this loud and clear from my electorate. People are sick of the politics, they’re sick of so-called leaders just sticking in their corners. We need to come together on this issue.

Irrespective of how you see the world we are led by business people [who are essentially] putting aside their moral obligations to do something that is compelling science, and from an economic perspective we are getting so left behind on this and the opportunities that are missing now I think is negligent of the government.

Dr Haines believes that regional communities have the ability to harness the potential for renewable energy and in May this year launched a renewable energy plan for regional Australia, inviting public consultation about how the Federal Government can support “community energy” in regional Australia. “From Wodonga and Wangaratta to Euroa and Alexandra, these groups are working on building rooftop solar, wind turbines, batteries and pumped hydro to generate their own cheap, clean and local electricity,” Dr Haines said.

Australians have the smarts and the grit to tackle climate change – we just need the politics to catch up. (helenhaines.org).

I just want to say…

There are a few things I’ve been meaning to say, and now is as good a time as any.

Donations

I don’t always get the time to thank people individually for their donations to The AIMN, so I’ll take the opportunity here and now to thank everybody who has, and who continue to donate. I know it’s an old cliché, but we would be lost without you.

The mere fact that you support The AIMN honours us. We must mean something to you and I trust you are being rewarded with your investment.

Getting locked out of The AIMN

Just a reminder that you do not need to login to The AIMN to make a comment. Login is only for authors and admin.

We notice that a number of people are still getting locked out of The AIMN due to login failures. One of our admin unlocks you if that happens.

It dawned on me that some people may be getting locked out when they attempt to click on “Like” at the bottom of each article and they are asked to login first. This facility isn’t run by The AIMN, but by our blogging platform, WordPress. As such, only those with a WordPress profile can successfully click on “Like”. Yes, it is an oddity but not one I can work around.

My apologies if you are one of those people who keep getting locked out through this method.

Please note that this only locks you out of logging in. You may still comment if locked out.

What’s in a name?

Why are we called The Australian Independent Media Network?

When we began in 2013 we were a group of six independent social media sites who came together as one. The name explained exactly who we were, though the name was only going to be a temporary one.

Eight years later nothing has changed: We are still The Australian Independent Media Network.

Is it too late to change it now? Probably. And besides, we remain split over this. But nonetheless I’ve spent eight years trying to come up with something a bit more catchy (like The Political Sword, New Matilda or Independent Australia) but I always hit a blank.

So – just for the fun of it – I thought I’d put it to you. Do you think we should keep our name? If not, do you have any suggestions?

PS: Keep it clean. We would like to keep our “G” rating. 😉

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2020 is over! And it’s about time, too!

Oh what a miserable year!

Bush fires, recession, a pandemic causing death and economic destruction, social upheaval, the country being run by a hopelessly incompetent government… 2020 had it all.

The AIMN has written widely on all of these disasters – as have all media and news sites – so I see no need to revisit them here. Let’s look forward, not in the rear-view mirror.

What might 2021 bring? I like to believe it will bring hope. Hope that our governments and our people have learnt from the disasters of 2020 and that we can all be better prepared for when disasters might strike again, be it 2021 or the years beyond.

Yes, the pandemic will still be with us but we all hope that in 2021 we can defeat it. 2020 has been a wasted year, but let’s not waste what we have learnt from it.

I feel for our friends in lands beyond, though, who will enter 2021 in turmoil. In the USA it is apparent that Donald Trump will not depart from the the White House willingly or peacefully, and he has stirred his base up to the point where violence may erupt. All will be revealed in the next couple of weeks as we see which path the country takes. And in the UK the Brexit deal will have the member countries in a state of confusion. Boris is a master at that.

Moving on…

In 2019 the readership of The AIMN increased by 8 per cent over 2018, and in 2020 it grew by another 6 per cent. Clearly we have had much to write about! It would be different in a perfect world – what would we have to say? It is ironic that our two consecutive years of growth have been driven by the wrongs of the world, the disasters that have befallen us, and poor governance.

Whatever path 2021 takes you on we hope it is filled with good health and happiness. After the miserable year just passed, it can only get better.

We look forward to seeing you all again in 2021. We always enjoy and treasure your good company and the contribution you make to The AIMN.

Michael and Carol.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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All I want for Christmas is a New Year

Despite it being a slow, cruel, tortuous year, Christmas seems to have came at us in a rush.

Christmas is but one day a year, and in 2020 perhaps it can be the one day of the year that we can draw breath.

Many of us will be celebrating Christmas at home, just as we’ve spent most of the year since the pandemic wrecked 2020. At home, but of course, with thoughts of our loved ones who cannot be with us. Some of our team at The AIMN family have suffered tragic losses during the year and our thoughts are also with them, as Christmas is the day – more than most others – that these losses are felt the deepest.

But we wish not to speak of sadness.

Christmas, by all traditions, should be a day of joy. And this is what we wish for you.

To all who share our dreams for a better world – our writers, admin, readers, commenters and those who donate to this site – we wish a wonderful Christmas. Please stay safe, and enjoy this day. Your day.

And maybe if we ask nicely, Santa will bring us all the perfect present; a better year next year.

Michael and Carol.

 

BTW, here’s one little lady from the Taylor household who couldn’t wait for Christmas:

 

 

PS: Please, if you have a chance, visit one of our sister sites, The Political Sword for their Christmas message.

 

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Pandemic preparedness: who has responsibility?

With the COVID-19 blame game and finger pointing so evident lately, my recent article; An incompetent and careless government is a threat to us all needs repeating. With the COVID-19 outbreak in Victoria people are lining up to saddle the blame on the premier, Daniel Andrews. Some, borrowing Donald Trump’s claim that COVID-19 is the “China virus,” are now disgracefully calling COVID-19 the “Victoria virus.”

There’s no denying that many new outbreaks across the nation have links to Melbourne, but how did the virus get to Melbourne in the first place? Did it come from Sydney? Canberra? Queensland? The USA? China? The UK? The fact is, it came from somewhere. There’s a body in this country responsible for doing its best to control the import and spread of the virus in this country. It’s called the Australian government.

When you read the extract from my earlier post below, keep in mind that Scott Morrison “declared the COVID-19 outbreak a national pandemic on 27 February” and approximately two weeks later passengers from the Ruby Princess were allowed to disembark in Sydney.

Here is my extract:

In the dying days of the Howard government they were very mindful of a couple of viruses, H5N1 (avian influenza), or bird flu as it was better known as, and H1N1, which was known as swine flu, that in a worse-case scenario could bring the world to its knees. That is, a global pandemic. Which includes us.

We had to be prepared for it…

Battle plans for such an event hit the drawing-board in 2007; an initiative of the Howard government – readying the country for the worst – and some time later the program was given life again by the Rudd government, with a significant increase in funding.

Here is Howard’s original pandemic plan: Australia’s Preparedness for a Human Influenza Pandemic.

Due to copyright I cannot reproduce any of the report so I draw your attention to Section 2.43 on page 59 and the importance of thermal scanners being deployed at airports.

What is so good about thermal scanners? Here is a succinct explanation:

In efforts to contain the highly contagious virus causing COVID-19, thermal cameras, set up at checkpoints or hand-held by personnel at airports, borders, and entrances to businesses, schools, and other institutions, are being used to screen large numbers of people for elevated body temperatures quickly and reliably.

A high temperature does not necessarily indicate that the person is infected with the coronavirus, but it is the first step in identifying its presence. People with a high temperature are taken for further testing and, if they test positive, are isolated until treatment can begin.

Thermal scanning should be utilised as the first step in ‘catching’ and ultimately containing the disease, and this is practised in a growing number of countries.

I say “well done” to the authors of Australia’s Preparedness for a Human Influenza Pandemic report 2007/2008 for including the use of thermal scanning in airports as one of their key recommendations.

Now let’s jump to the present day and the same report prepared in August 2019: Australian Health Management Plan for Pandemic Influenza. Again, as with the previous report I cannot reproduce any of the content due to copyright reasons. But I draw your attention to page 136, and there – right up the top of the page – the use of thermal scanners is Not recommended, stating, bewilderingly, that their effectiveness is low and their use is an impediment to travellers.

Instead, as summarised on page 127 of the report, the traveller will be confronted with pamphlets and brochures etc.

What is going to be of the most critical importance in the identification of even one person who is carrying the coronavirus: thermal scanning or a pamphlet?

I also encourage you to read page 9 of the report: “Pandemic stages” and ask yourself how well the Morrison government rates in this current pandemic.

On February 28, Katie Burgess, writing in The Canberra Times reported that the:

But the Health Department says there are no current plans to subject travellers to temperature checks, on the advice of medical professionals.

… Australia’s chief medical officer Brendan Murphy told media on January 21 temperature checks had proven ineffective in past pandemics.

Murphy, sadly, must have read the 2019 report which had reached the same conclusion: it didn’t work for pandemics in the past so it obviously won’t work with any pandemics in the present or the future.

Ever heard of tunnel vision, Mr Murphy?

It is true that thermal scanning won’t stop the spread of the coronavirus and it won’t always catch those that have it, but it will take enormous steps in detecting it, as countries like China have shown.

Australia, meanwhile, with its incompetent and careless government is dragging its feet.

I don’t know about you, but I get the feeling that our incompetent and careless government is a threat to us all.

Note: There is also a brief report from 2018: Emergency Response Plan for Communicable Disease Incidents of National Significance: National Arrangements which also ignores thermal scanning at airports. In fact, they don’t even rate a mention, but a ‘police presence’ at airports does.

* * * * *

Those who are adamant that Daniel Andrews is to blame for the recent outbreaks … may want to think again.

Now I wish to draw your attention again to the Australian Health Management Plan for Pandemic Influenza, dated August 2019.

Two major issues we hear much of are 1) whether schools should be closed, and 2) the risk of outbreaks from aged-care facilities. Who should make the decision to close schools? If it is a State decision, can the Federal Government intervene? Who is in charge of the aged-care facilities? Is it a State responsibility or a Federal one?

Again, I apologise that due to copyright I cannot reproduce the content, but the following sections in the report answer these and many more questions:

Page 31: Section 4.1.4: Implementation of public health measures (second paragraph).

Page 32: Section 4.1.6: Communication (first paragraph).

Page 145: Timing (relates to school closures).

Worth reading, weren’t they?

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What do the major impacts on Aboriginal people today tell us about the history of Australia?

What do major issues that impact on Aboriginal people in contemporary Australian society tell us about our history?

It is difficult to isolate any of these issues. Each issue weaves into another: identity; health; housing; education; self-determination; recognition of sovereignty; gender issues; custodial issues and racism can all be connected. For example, discussions on identity can be traced to forced removal (through pastoral expansion or the policy of assimilation) which in turn can be traced to racism. Discussions on health lead to housing, which can also be traced to racism. Black deaths in custody is one of the major concerns in custodial issues, again, racism is a key element. Land rights are an issue linked to self-determination and recognition of sovereignty. Denial of these is also racist.

It is evident that the first European colonisers in Australia declared their belief in white supremacy, and this declaration is unchanged by the majority of white Australians today (1). Over the last two hundred years this attitude has been lodged into our history.

To many Aborigines their identity has been shrouded due to the forced removal from their lands, or the forced removal from their families. This alienation from the land disrupted ceremonial life and eroded Aboriginal identity.

Children were removed from their families as governments pursued a policy of assimilation, cast in the hope that Aboriginal children would assimilate into European culture. However, these children – now as adults – remain unsure about their own identity though wanting to return to their Aboriginal families.

Aboriginal people suffer from many disadvantages in our society, and the most damning indicator of the disadvantages is their rate of illness and shorter life expectancy. Statistics provide the evidence: The mortality rate of Aboriginal babies is three times that of other Australian babies; Aboriginal mothers are up to five times more likely to die during childbirth; and life expectancy is up to 12 years less than other Australians.

Poor health correlates with poor housing, and the living conditions of many Aborigines reflects their status in Australian society and their low income potential (2). Their resultant segregation provides limited access to facilities such as sewerage, rubbish removal, or clean water. The health and housing conditions of Aborigines are a result of their marginalisation in society.

Elements of racism are also accountable for the low education standards attained by Aboriginal people (3). Statistically, it could be argued that Aborigines do not consider education to be important (4). The statistics summarise that their achievements in literacy and numeracy are substantially below average levels, as is their participation rates in compulsory schooling. The argument for the racist element, however, is stronger. It is questionable whether the education system is catering for the needs of Aboriginal people. The education system inhibits Aboriginal learning styles with Aboriginal values being replaced with our own values, and our way of understanding and doing things. This in itself assumes that our culture is superior and Aboriginal children are conditioned into accepting the culture of the dominant white society.

The rights to maintain self-determination have been denied to the Aboriginal people since white colonisation; itself an act of discrimination that places Aborigines in a subordinate position in Australia today (5). The denial of self-determination, which is a denial of a people to identify with their own history and the perpetuation of their culture bears a strong connection to the reasons behind a lack of identity.

The attitudes of discrimination rife in Australian society have left their scars on the matriarchs of the Aboriginal people: Women are also victims of chauvinism as well as being placed in the lowest status positions (6). This contributes to a lack of awareness of how dispossession, racist practices, incarceration and violence have fragmented their position in society (7).

The statistics on custodial issues reveal further imbalances: Young indigenous people are eighteen times more likely to be held in detention than other Australian youths (8). The imprisonment rate of Aborigines is the highest in the world, leading to a conclusion that Indigenous people face discrimination within the legal system.

More telling however, is that over-representation is shadowed by a more disturbing statistic in the issue: Aborigines are dying in custody. No suitable reason can be found to explain the deaths. It is at the grass roots level that prevention should be focused. In the 1980s, 67% of Aborigines taken into custody were jailed as a result of alcohol-related detentions (9). The Commissioner of the inquiry into Black Deaths in Custody reported the abolition of the offence of drunkenness should reduce our prison populations without threat to public safety. This advice has been all but ignored.

But the issue still needs further examination. Forty three per cent of Aborigines who died in custody had, as children, been forcibly removed from their families under the policy of assimilation, and only 1% had finished their formal schooling (10). It is relevant to ask: Is Australia’s past treatment of Aborigines central to their current rates of arrest and imprisonment? (11)

All Aboriginal people suffer in every aspect of their lives from racism. The denial of self-determination is racist (12). Racism is evident in the education system, the legal system and the political structures of Australian society (13). It exists at the legislative and bureaucratic levels and weaves down into public opinion. Aboriginal people have had to contend with the European attitude of white supremacy. The issues I have discussed are all bound together with racism (14).

These major issues indicate that a history of racist views and policies began in Australia in 1788 and still manifests society today. History books account of the struggles of Europeans to claim this continent as their own, whereas a curtain of silence has shielded generations of students from recognising how European expansion swept away the land rights of the original inhabitants.

In the advancing colonisation the Aboriginal people were conveniently treated as part of the country’s past. ‘History,’ proclaimed an old uni lecturer of mine, ‘treated Aboriginal people as little more than impediments standing briefly in the way of inevitable white progress across the nation’ (15).

So I ask, dear readers, what do major issues that impact on Aboriginal people in contemporary Australian society tell us about our history?

References

(1) The Path to Reconciliation (1997), Commonwealth of Australia booklet, Australian Government Publishing Service, Canberra.

(2) Tarrago, I. (1992), ‘Aboriginal families’ in National family summit report, Batchler-Wheeler Associates for Capital Reporting, Parliament House, Canberra, pp 63-71.

(3) The Path to Reconciliation (1997), Commonwealth of Australia booklet, Australian Government Publishing Service, Canberra.

(4) Tarrago, I. (1992), ‘Aboriginal families’ in National family summit report, Batchler-Wheeler Associates for Capital Reporting, Parliament House, Canberra, pp 63-71.

(5) Bird, G; Martin, G; and Nielsen, J.(1996), editors Majah: indigenous peoples and the law, The Federation Press, NSW.

(6) O’Shane, P. (1993), ‘Aboriginal women and the women’s movement’ in Refracting voices, feminist perspectives, Southward Press, NSW.

(7) Miller, L. (1993), ‘The women’s movement and Aboriginal women’ in Refracting voices, feminist perspectives, Southward Press, NSW.

(8) The Path to Reconciliation (1997), Commonwealth of Australia booklet, Australian Government Publishing Service, Canberra.

(9) Lippmann, L. (1994), Generations of resistance, 3rd edition, Longman Australia, Melbourne.

(10) The Path to Reconciliation (1997), Commonwealth of Australia booklet, Australian Government Publishing Service, Canberra.

(11) O’Shane, P. (1993), ‘Aboriginal women and the women’s movement’ in Refracting voices, feminist perspectives, Southward Press, NSW.

(12) Bird, G; Martin, G; and Nielsen, J.(1996), editors Majah: indigenous peoples and the law, The Federation Press, NSW.

(13) O’Shane, P. (1993), ‘Aboriginal women and the women’s movement’ in Refracting voices, feminist perspectives, Southward Press, NSW.

(14) McGrath, A. (1993), Women and state, LaTrobe University Press, Bundoora.

(15) Edwards, W.H. (1988), An introduction to Aboriginal societies, Social Science Press, Wentworth Falls, NSW.

 

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Not your average Aussie

Today marks the tenth anniversary of Julia Gillard becoming Australia’s first female Prime Minister. As an ‘insider’ (she was my boss) I can attest that she spent her time as Prime Minister – and as a Minister before that – working tirelessly for a better Australia, but more importantly, for the average Aussie.

Thus it was disheartening, disappointing and frustrating to see the picture of Julia Gillard painted by the Murdoch media and an opposition led by Tony Abbott. It was pure cruelty.

Two articles I wrote for the now defunct Cafe Whispers blog; Not your average Aussie and The shout heard ’round the world reflected her mistreatment. I would like to share those articles with you.

Not your average Aussie

In saying that ‘loudmouth mining magnates shouldn’t dominate public debate more than a nurse or a childcare worker’, Julia Gillard is telling Gina Rinehart and Clive Palmer that they are just average Australians. And in doing so she has shown that she herself is not an average Australian. She is better.

In her two years as Prime Minister, despite her red hair, long nose, big bum, Welsh accent, toxic government, battles with faceless men, unmarried status, daily media attacks, daily leadership speculation, bad polls, hatred inspired by the shock jocks, hatred inspired by Tony Abbott, witnessing the denigration of Parliament by the Opposition, countless cries that she should be kicked to death or tossed overboard, and despite placards littering the countryside that she’s a bitch, despite the money coming in from big business funding campaigns aimed at destroying her and the countless lies that condemn her – she has stood firm in the face of this onslaught. And in standing firm, to me, she is standing tall.

As far as having guts goes, she is better than the average Australian.

She stands by what she believes in and in two years her position hasn’t changed. She believes that something is happening to the climate and she wants to do something about it. She hasn’t ignored the overwhelming evidence from the climate scientists that something bad is happening and nor has she mocked the messengers. She’s listened. She’s learned. And she wants to do something about it. She will not change her stand to please big business or anybody else for that matter. Her heart is with the country, not the few that wish to destroy it or those politicians who prefer to brown-nose the likes of Gina or Clive.

As far as sticking to her beliefs and wanting to make this a better country, she is better than the average Australian.

That, briefly, is my opinion.

In Tony Abbott we have a politician who does not have any of the qualities I’ve mentioned that stand Julia Gillard out from the crowd. To me, he is worse than the average Australian. There is not one belief he will stand by (except that he can stop the boats) but I won’t go into that. I’m sure you lot will.

The shout heard ’round the world

Julia Gillard might have stopped shouting at Tony Abbott but her words reverberated around the world.

Hence this post is not about the speech by Julia Gillard or about the man it was directed to, but briefly on the impact of it.

By now most of you would have digested some of the more celebrated responses – including those linked above – so I won’t cover old ground, however, one is worth mentioning; not for Julia Gillard’s stand against misogamy but for her often overlooked performances as a gutsy politician. The New Yorker wants performances like that to enter into American politics. They write:

So why is this among the most-shared videos [the Julia Gillard attack on Tony Abbott] by my American friends today? Purely as political theatre, it’s great fun. Americans used to flipping past the droning on in empty chambers that passes for legislative debate in this country are always taken in by the rowdiness of parliamentary skirmish. It could also be that the political dynamic depicted in the clip parallels the situation in the States: a chief executive who is a “first” took power after a long period of control from the right of center, and whose signature policy achievements have at times been overshadowed by personal vitriol. Or perhaps it’s that we are right now in one of the rare periods every four years where the American political process provides actual face-to-face debate between the leaders of the two parties. After his performance last week, supporters of President Obama, watching Gillard cut through the disingenuousness and feigned moral outrage of her opponent to call him out for his own personal prejudice, hypocrisy, and aversion to facts, might be wishing their man would take a lesson from Australia.

Similarities between our two political theatres abound. Julia Gillard has found a way to evolve from it.

But her attack on misogamy has attracted more responses than her parliamentary grunt. And oh how the responses differ. In one corner we have the international media, the social media and social analysts supporting her speech while in the other corner sits the Australian mainstream media going alone in its condemnation.

Yet in the Australian media all we hear about are the opinions of the Australian media. Elsewhere it is news. Here they are purely opinions.

To hear the praise coming from Australians one has to read an overseas newspaper. For example, the Irish Times provided a better and more balanced appraisal of Julia Gillard’s speech than that dished up locally. Where, in the Australian media, will you read such honesty as this?:

When Australia’s prime minister, Julia Gillard, told the opposition leader, Tony Abbott, this week that if he wanted to know what misogyny looked like he should pick up a mirror, it was seen by many women as a defining moment for feminism in the country.

“I almost had shivers down my spine,” said Sara Charlesworth, an associate professor at the University of South Australia. “I was so relieved that she had actually named what was happening. She was so angry, so coherent and able to register that enough is enough.”

It was the first time an Australian leader – and possibly any world leader – had delivered such a forthright attack on misogyny in public life.

Prof Barbara Pini, who teaches gender studies at Griffith University in Queensland, said it was a watershed moment. “It’s incredibly significant to have a prime minister powerfully state that she has experienced sexism and even more powerfully state that she will refuse to ignore it any longer,” Pini said.

“That the sexism which is so deeply embedded in the Australian body politic was named may give some women licence to express and seek to counter the sexism they have experienced in their working lives.”

According to the Australian Human Rights Commission, one in five Australian women has experienced sexual harassment in the workplace. A recent study by Monash University in Melbourne showed that 57 per cent of women who worked in the media had experienced sexual harassment. It said women were badly under-represented in top levels of media management, holding 10 per cent of positions, compared with an international average of 27 per cent.

The report’s author, Louise North, said her findings might go some way to explaining why much of Australia’s mainstream media concluded that Gillard’s speech was a political disaster. “PM will rue yet another bad call,” said one comment piece.

“Gillard’s judgment was flawed. All she achieved was a serious loss of credibility,” said another.

That response was in stark contrast to much of the commentary in social media and conversations between women around the country, which were alive with praise for the prime minister’s stance.

“Leader writers are generally white, middle-aged men and they have no perception of gender bias,” North said. “They don’t want to acknowledge that it happens within their newsrooms and they certainly wouldn’t be open to challenging some of those positions and changing the public discourse either.

Tim Dunlop, in his fabulous article on The Drum, The gatekeepers of news have lost their keys takes up the fight against the Australian media – one of the few in the media to do so – as he tackles the local bias:

The authority of the media – it’s ability to shape and frame events and then present them to us as “the” news – was built upon its privileged access to information and the ability to control distribution.

Collecting, collating, packaging and transmitting information – “news” – was expensive and thus the preserve of a small number of big companies, and we were pretty much bound by the choices they made.

But those days are gone. That model is a relic, though it still dominates the way the mainstream media goes about its business, and provides the template for how journalists think about their role as reporters.

When you have the likes of Michelle Grattan, Peter Hartcher, Peter van Onselen (paywalled), Jennifer Hewett (paywalled), Geoff Kitney, Phillip Coorey, and Dennis Shanahan (paywalled) all spouting essentially the same line in attacking the Prime Minister – a line at odds with the many people’s own interpretation of events – people wonder what the point of such journalism is.

It bewilders me that our mainstream media is taking such a vociferous and concerted stand against public and international opinion. The impact of the speech is lost on them. One could be forgiven for thinking they have an agenda. Regardless of how much they condemn the Prime Minister, the world isn’t listening.

 

 

And finally …

Here I am with the ‘boss.’

It must have been a Friday as I was dressed casually, as Canberra public servants tended to do on that glorious last day of the week. Adding to the embarrassment I forget to take my reading glasses off! Maybe, just maybe … I was a tad excited.

Before becoming PM Ms Gillard was my Minister in the Rudd Government, a position she took over after Labor’s 2007 election victory. Prior to that, my Minister was Joe Hockey. What a breath of fresh air she was after Joe Hockey!

 

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“They’re going to die out anyway”

The video of Lang Hancock’s disgusting proposal to what he believed was the “Aboriginal problem” is again doing the rounds on social media. Hancock suggested that by doping their drinking water – that caused sterilisation – was one simply way to ensure the extinction of the race.

Anyone seeing this video for the first time will be shocked, even angered. And rightly so. Even more shocking is that Hancock’s sinister idea was not dissimilar to government policies that ran their course not a generation earlier.

In a younger Australia there was an agenda in both the colonial and early federal governments; that being the extermination of Aborigines. Not only was it the will of ‘man’ that the Aborigines be exterminated, but also the will of God. Or so they believed.

Was the total extermination of Australia’s Indigenous people deliberately intended? Of course it was. It was OK to shoot Aborigines. God – they presumed – had no problems with good white Christians killing Aborigines as it was the white man’s belief that God had condemned Aborigines to extinction and the white man was simply hurrying things along for Him. It had His stamp of approval. It was ordained genocide.

But the massacre of Aboriginals was frowned upon by latter governments, however, it did not mean that they were not considered a doomed race. These governments had a sinister role to play in that consideration; that of the evolutionary masters. That of God.

Let us trace this.

The nineteenth European scientific discourse of the Great Chain of Being “arranged all living things in a hierarchy, beginning with the simplest creatures, ascending through the primates” and to humans. It was also practice to distinguish between different types of humans. Through the hierarchical chain the various human types could be ranked in order of intellect and active powers. The Europeans – being God-fearing and intelligent – were invariably placed on the top, whilst the Aborigines – as perceived savages – occupied the lowest scale of humanity, slightly above the position held by the apes. Such ideas were carried to and widely circulated in the Australian colonies and helped shape attitudes towards Aboriginals. So dominant was the concept that it helped develop the fate of Aboriginal people, even before Australia’s colonisation. The image of the Aborigine simply confirmed prejudices based on this doctrine of evolutionary difference and intellectual inferiority.

In harmony with the Great Chain of Being, the “theory of evolution in the social sciences” (known as Social Darwinism), was accepted by nineteenth and early twentieth century Australians as further justification for their treatment of the Aboriginals. Central to the theory of Social Darwinism was the ideology that the Aborigines, who were considered to be less-evolved, faced extinction under the impact of European colonisation and nothing could, or should, be done about it. Government policies reflected these ideologies and provided the validation of oppressive practices towards the Aborigines, founded on the perceptions of racial superiority.

Four of the major policies are those relating to protection; segregation; assimilation; and the integration of Aboriginal people into the wider community.

Protection was influenced by the evolutionary theory that Aborigines would die out as a result of European contact. Subsequently, all that could be done was to feed and protect them until their unavoidable demise. The policy thus took on short-term palliative measures that saw enforced concentration of Aboriginals in reserves and missions – protected from European contact and abuse (such as hunting parties) to await “their closing hour.”

This policy was a humane one based on its presumptions, however, nature had not selected Aboriginals for extinction. Only the colonisers had. Subsequently, governments eventually and willingly used protection policies as a mechanism for social engineering. The policies of protection changed its fundamental goal to segregation. Their differences are difficult to identify although their purposes are not: the Aboriginals belonged to a dying race so they were protected from the wider community; the Aboriginal race had failed to die off, so they were segregated from the wider community.

The social theories that legitimised and institutionalised racism were never more evident than in the practices of segregation. Segregation created two social and political worlds in Australia: one white and one black. Whilst the Aboriginal race had ignored extinction, government policies reflected the attitude that, nonetheless, by the 1940s they had still failed to progress since European contact. “Sentiment thus ruled that continued segregation of the Aborigines from the wider community would ensure white racial purity” (source unknown).

Segregation was pervasive in all aspects of public or political life. Church or social organisations discouraged Aboriginal participation, and access to community facilities such as swimming pools or theatres were severely restricted, if not refused altogether. Custom in many business establishments was also refused for fear of offending the white clientele. Perhaps the most damning indicator of this racism, however, was the neglect of medical treatment and health services by white practitioners. Policies of segregation were to degenerate into practises of apartheid when, in South Australia for example, association between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people became a criminal offence under Section 14 of the Police Offences Act 1953.

The policies of protection and segregation were continued even though the Aborigines had not faced their final hour. ‘Full-bloods’ remained on reserves until their demise, yet the problem for the government came in the form of the ‘half-caste’. These people looked increasingly like white people but behaved like ‘Black’ people. The only way this could be countered was to assimilate them into the general population.

Assimilation of the lighter-caste population was still an endeavour to destroy Aboriginality: by absorbing them into the wider community – the breeding out of the colour, “the process of genetic change” – it was hoped that they would eventually disappear. A radical suggestion that selective mating would breed out the colour was also proposed.

Of the endless record of horrors associated with colonisation and racial supremacy, some of the assimilation policies adopted in the 1950s equal the worst. In particular the taking of children away from their families by the Aboriginal Protection Board – as their legal guardians – and disposing of them as they saw fit. As a prelude to the Reconciliation Convention, the Government reflected on this practice:

Children were taken away under government policies of protection and assimilation aimed at having indigenous people adopt European culture and behaviour to the exclusion of their family and background. The assimilation policy presumed that, over time, indigenous people would die out or be so mixed with the European population they became indistinguishable (The Path to Reconciliation, 1997, p 24).

Yes, I would argue that the total extermination of Australia’s Indigenous people was deliberately intended. If not by the bullet, then by the policies of those governments that saw them as a stain on white purity. God favoured the white man and they set out to do His work.

For those who missed the link to Hancock’s vile proposal …

 

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Stories From The Dreaming

The news that BHP will “destroy at least 40 Aboriginal sites, up to 15,000 years old” is a modern-day tragedy.

Stories will be lost with the destruction of these sites. Each site, whether it contains ancient artwork or remains for the archaeologist to piece together, could hold dozens of stories.

Let’s talk about the artwork first

An Aboriginal elder once proudly said to me: “Our painting carries the spirituality of who we are.”

“How so?” you might ask.

Every aspect of Aboriginal culture was born in The Dreaming (discussed in more detail below), and this is reflected in the art, itself an expression of The Dreaming. But further, the art is an extension of how the Aboriginal people relate to their position in the world. As change swept across their culture with the arrival of Europeans, so too did the art, yet it still retained the thread of spirituality.

Art could be rock art, ground art, body paintings, bark paintings, weapon decorating, and the sculptures of Northern Australia. Works of art, whether they be painted on canvas or crafted in bronze, signed by a master or be of lazy scribbles, are all of one purpose: They capture a moment or a meaning and freeze it in time. Aboriginal art is different. Aboriginal art is holistic, as is “time” to the Aboriginal people.

To fully appreciate and interpret Aboriginal art one must have an understanding of the hand that creates it. This hand would belong to a person who lives by the law of The Dreaming; who knows that The Dreaming is as it was lived and that how it is still lived; and who knows that The Dreaming is an erasable map of the past, the present, and the future. The Dreaming is in the art, and art is an expression of ceremonial and religious life.

My old university lecturer said that the various art forms of Aboriginal society were attributed to The Dreaming. Ancestral Beings had painted the original design and the artist who painted on bark or drew in the sand was copying the designs inherited from the ancestors.

It is not hard to imagine that the Ancestral Beings watch over the artist at work, ensuring that the events of The Dreaming are perpetuated in today’s culture. That perhaps art itself is a religious activity. Or perhaps, too, that art is a visual language. In essence, that the permanence of Aboriginal life is ensured by the invoking of powerful forces through the symbolism of art. It reflects a concern with the questions of origin and purpose, as interpreted in The Dreaming.

Amid the changes that Aboriginal culture has contended with, the art has incorporated these changes while still retaining its spiritual message. Aboriginal art is as much alive today as it was 60,000 years ago. As in that ancient past, the art – significantly – is not easily separable from everyday life.

Photo by Peter Taylor

And what can archaeology tell us?

There are two views of knowledge into the past and origins of the First Australians: The Dreaming interpretation which is based on mythical knowledge; and the scientific interpretation which is dependent on archaeological evidence. The importance of The Dreaming interpretation is fundamental in Aboriginal cultures yet remains inconclusive to archaeologists.

Some Aboriginal elders have said they already know what happened in the past. Their knowledge is founded on traditional and mythical beliefs passed down through the generations. Beliefs that relate to their origins – their creation – and the living past. This mythology gave them an assurance that they had originated from their land in a period of creative activity (The Dreaming). These beliefs encompass wisdom, and they encompass law. And neither is challenged.

What is The Dreaming? The Dreaming is the creative acts of the ancestral spirit beings; creating species, features, laws and the bonding of relationships between humans and nature. The Dreaming is as it was lived, and how it is still lived. It is an erasable map of the past, present, and future.

All the laws rituals customs, and the purpose of life originated in The Dreaming, and it is important to re-iterate that this belief is not challenged.

Archaeology challenges this belief. What is archaeology? It is the study of ancient cultures through their material remains. Mainly through excavation of ancient sites archaeologists try to create a model of the lifestyles, religious beliefs, diets or any morsel of information about the culture being studies.

In 1969, erosion exposed the skeletal remains of a young Aboriginal lady at Lake Mungo, NSW. She is known as the Mungo Lady and her remains have been dated about 20,000 years before the present time. Excavation of the site offers archaeologists and interpretation of many of the facets of Mungo Lady’s society as well as facts about Mungo Lady herself. It is relevant to mention these (scientific) findings before discussing the Aboriginal (or The Dreaming) interpretation of Mungo Lady.

Science tells us the Mungo Lady was cremated and that her bones were placed in a bark cylinder for burial. She was gracile, that is, not of robust build. We are told that in her time Lake Mungo was water filled therefore she belonged to a lacustrine society. We are told that her people caught fish from the lake, and how they caught and cooked the fish. (The heavy grounding found on ancient teeth tell us that this is the result of constant chewing on reeds from which fishing nets were made, and the consistent size of fish ear bones found in ancient hearths tell us that the Lake Mungo people were conservationists in that they practised gillnet fishing.) Her people had a social order, were religious, and had implements to grind seeds. The list could go on.

Aboriginal interpretation of Mungo Lady was more concise (or perhaps more complex): She had been buried according to law, and that her appearance on the land surface was not a result of erosion, but rather she had emerged at a critical time in the history of her people to tell her story.

The origins of the first Australians are also interpreted differently by archaeologists and The Dreaming beliefs. Science tells us that during one of the ice age periods – most likely the one 60,000 years ago – sea levels were much lower than present, thus allowing migration through island hopping into Australia from the Asia region.

What is the Aboriginal interpretation? Again this is concise. During The Dreaming, spirit beings emerged from the water or the land and took (for our purpose) human form. These beings were the ancestors of all living beings, travelling over the earth performing the same activities that are still performed by the Aboriginal people today. These creatures started human society and Aboriginal people believe in this.

Of the two views of knowledge, only The Dreaming interpretation is solid. Archaeology with its scientific and analytical approach has not provided enough evidence to support its theories. Their description of, say, the Mungo Lady, provides an informative narration of her lifestyle, yet her origins and most of her past remain a secret. Perhaps in the future, other remnants that now lay buried in the land may emerge and science will provide an interpretation – while the First Australians will provide an answer.

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Running with cows

I admit I was pleasantly surprised that my stories of growing up on Kangaroo Island were so well-received. Inspired I am, dear reader, to offer two more.

Running with cows

A young boy can find plenty to do on a farm of 1500 acres, but nonetheless I jumped at the chance to go with Mum to another farm, I don’t remember whose (I’d never been there before – or since), where a dozen or so other kids my age would be gathered. The occasion, I think, was a Country Women’s Association (CWA) meeting, of which my mother was the regional president.

Hours of fun beckoned me.

I didn’t know any of the kids as they went to a different school. I never saw them again, and for that I am grateful.

The resident kid suggested we all go down to the river and play whatever game came to mind. We boys thought it’d be fun to have a mud fight, while the girls decided to sit this one out.

I wasn’t having much fun. I felt somewhat left out and was convincing myself that it would have been more enjoyable to stay at home.

But I gave it a go …

I learned, that day, that my mud-throwing skills scored a rating of 2 out of 10, so I came up with a little trick. By putting a few little sticks and stones into my mud ball it should hold together for its full flight, and with any luck would go a little further than my previous attempts.

I created the mother of all mud balls. I stared at it a few moments, congratulating myself for having the genius to produce such a magnificent mud-missile.

With all my might I threw the masterpiece blindly over the stone bridge. A bit off course, but …

The scream alerted me that I’d had a direct hit.

I peered under the bridge. Some poor lass had her whole face covered in mud, one of the stones must have been a little too heavy for blood trickled down over the mud, and her Sunday-best dress was a wee bit more soiled than her mother would have liked.

I gulped, knowing it was I who caused this calamity. I knew, too, that I was going to be in more trouble than my mind could ever imagine.

Where moments earlier I had glowed with pride for producing such a magnificent missile, I now felt a wave of guilt and regret for being stupid enough to launch it.

It was time to escape. If I ran back to the farmhouse quick enough I could say I wasn’t down the river at the time. Yes, good idea, so off I took. No time to run back along the road … I’ll dash through the paddocks. But as I started along in great haste, I knew deep down that I would be found out and a terrible fate awaited me.

So there I was, running along at a record speed and bawling my eyes out at the same time. The crying was uncontrollable.

I didn’t notice the cows, let alone the bull in the paddock.

Now, anybody who lives on a farm knows that you don’t go running past a herd of cows. They start to chase you. If you slow down to a walk … they also slow down. But that fact was lost on me.

So there I was, running along as fast as my legs could carry me, while bawling my eyes out, and being chased by a herd of cattle with the bull out in front. I was convinced that they wanted to kill me. Despite my crime I did not deserve to be mauled to death by these determined cows.

I could see the house.

The gate! Where’s the gate? Bugger looking for the gate … situation desperate … I was going over the fence.

That was the first time I’d ever touched an electric fence, let alone being tangled up in it! “This isn’t my day,” I bawled.

I am sorry to disappoint you, dear reader, for I can offer no conclusion to this story. I don’t remember escaping from the fence. I don’t remember reaching the farmhouse, I don’t remember the long drive home. I don’t even remember if I got into any trouble let alone any punishment I might have received.

All I remember is the my run with cows.

The next story is somewhat different. A family tale that has survived the decades:

The washing day from Hell

Washing day was a long, long day at the best of times.

In Summer – if you start early enough – you could get the washing, drying and ironing completed on the same day.

Sounds easy, doesn’t it?

But easy it was not.

All the clothes after washing had to be run through the wringer – one hand feeding the clothes between the two rollers, the other hand turning the handle that turned the rollers, squeezing out the water as the clothes passed through them.

The easy part was hanging the clothes on the line. Once dried, the really hard work begun: the ironing.

We didn’t have the luxury of an electric iron. Our iron was placed on top of the wood stove to heat and once heated enough to use, a wooden handle was clipped over the iron and off you went to iron one or two items. (Striking while the iron’s hot, literally). The process of heating the iron could have been repeated a couple of dozen times during the ironing process.

So there would be Mum, on a hot Summer’s day, doing all the ironing in the kitchen with the wood stove cruelly belting out punishing heat.

Now I must introduce my little brother Geoffrey, aged about 5, and my sister Trish, who would have been about 3.

But back to Mum …

On one particular day she’d done the whole lot, from go to woe. The tedious job of washing, hand rinsing, hanging out the clothes, and the arduous and time-consuming ordeal of ironing.

There, sitting on the kitchen table were the ironed clothes, all folded into neat piles of which clothes belong to who. It took a whole day to reach that point, and with much relief I might add. And, I expect, content with her efforts too.

Job done, Mum left the room for a while to attend to something else.

Upon returning to the kitchen she was horrified – yes, horrified – to see all the clothes in one big, messy, screwed-up heap on the kitchen table.

”Who did that?” she roared to young Geoffrey and young Trisha, the only ones in the room.

”I did, Mum,” answered Geoffrey quite proudly and beaming a huge smile. (If anything ever went wrong Geoffrey was usually the culprit so his admission came as no surprise).

Geoffrey copped the full roar of Mum’s discipline. She shook him so vigorously that his ears nearly fell off.

“Why? Why did you do it?” Mum roared again.

Trying to talk while at the same time as crying mournfully, pride shattered, he confessed to his crime …

”Trisha knocked them off the table, so I picked them up for you.”

Yeah, Mum felt bad. A monumental day’s work had ended with a slap to her conscience. (But oh how we laughed about it the next day).

Anyway, that’s nothin’. Running with cows ain’t much fun either.

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Stuff from way back when

Home-isolation … it’s come to this. I’m prepared to write about anything, even stuff I wouldn’t normally admit to. Such as:

When I was a kid on the farm on Kangaroo Island I’d do things that these days I wouldn’t do for any amount of money. Here’s my first example:

Playing Biggles in the scrub behind the milking shed was hard, hungry work. The good thing about a farm was that food was always within reach. Such as eggs. Raw eggs, that is.

How lucky was I that a few chooks used to lay eggs in the milking shed!

Yum, fresh raw eggs.

There’s a knack to drinking them. All that is needed is a sharp nail – never a problem finding them in any farm shed – and you prick a small hole in the ‘blunt’ end of the egg and a slightly larger one in the ‘sharp’ end of the egg. Wrapping your lips around the sharp end you then suck out all the contents.

Disgusted yet?

Have you ever seen a freshly laid egg? Before it has been cleaned? It’s quite evident that it was born from a chook’s bum! And I used to wrap my lips around the bloody thing … a thought now more disgusting than sucking out the raw contents.

(As an aside, we had an exercise in the army … groups of three with the two largest running a hundred metres carrying the smallest person on their shoulders. Further instructions were at the finish line. The smallest in my team thought it was rather funny that she had the easy job … until she saw the next instructions: eat a raw egg. While she was vomiting up said egg I thought to myself; “What’s so bad about eating a raw egg?”)

Back to the farm …

We were never short of roast lamb dinners, prime steak, the freshest of veggies, a big feed of yabbies from the river or fresh crayfish caught by a family friend. But the rest of the time we were stuck with Dad favourites: tripe, heart and kidney stew, ox tail soup, white pudding, black pudding, boiled cow tongues (a big tongue would feed a small family), and I’d even had possum stew and roast wallaby.

But the raw eggs I ate by choice. Dirty eggs, direct from the chicken’s bum. Which leads me to my next story …

It was always an exciting time for me when cousin Jenny from Adelaide would come and stay for the school holidays. We had 1500 acres to play on, dozens of scrubs to play in, a river to swim in – yet there’s one game we enjoyed the most …

The farm had an abundance of cow pats. Do you know how well a dry cow pat frisbees when thrown right? Jenny and I had hours of enjoyment chasing each other around the paddock frisbeeing cow pats at each other.

Splat! I sure could frisbee those cow pats around with pinpoint accuracy.

I can promise every reader that two things I no longer do are eat raw eggs or throw shit around!

Speaking of cows, one particular dairy cow was the meanest thing born with four legs that God ever blew guts into. Her name was Trurio (as in “goodbye”). Trurio didn’t like me, and I didn’t like her.

One day I decided to let her know that I didn’t like her bad attitude, so I sneaked up behind her with football in hand and fired off a magnificent kick aimed and the part just below the tail. Bullseye. I then quickly scampered up the nearest tree when it was obvious that vengeance was sought.

I learned a valuable lesson that day: never kick a footy at an angry cow’s arse five hours before milking time. Unless, of course, you don’t mind sitting in a tree for five hours while a nasty piece of work with long horns waits below for whatever came first: milking time or when I fell out of the tree.

One more story, if I may, that you will never, ever hear of happening these days. Never.

Our area school was just outside of a town called Parndana: a population of about 150, boasting a general store and not much else. It didn’t even have a pub back in those days.

It was in 1967 (when I was in First Year) that our new Deputy Head Master, Mr Lloyd Bennett (who looked a cross between Skull Murphy and Brute Bernard – a fearful fellow) came into the classroom asking who the fastest runner was. We all pointed to Terry May, who was called by Mr Bennett to come forward.

Handing Terry some money he said; “I want you to run into town and buy me a packet of Craven A and hurry back as fast as you can.”

As Terry was about to dart off, a smiling Mr Bennett called out; “Terry, I want the cellophane left on the packet!”

Just another normal day at school, way back when.

Me as a young lad feeding the pigs (I’m the one in the back). Shorts pulled up past the belly button must have been fashionable back then.

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Is this the end of the road? Never!

When I posted Is this the end of the road? two days ago I was hoping that over the next couple of weeks Carol and I would learn that The AIMN had been saved.

We didn’t have to wait two weeks.

We didn’t even have to wait two days. Already we have achieved 80 per cent of our goal.

So is it the end of the road? Never!

The fantastic support from our readers has ensured that The AIMN will not only see another year, but many, many after that.

Carol and I have been completely overwhelmed. It has been a humbling experience.

We struggle to find enough words to show our appreciation.

The last two days has shown us just how much The AIMN means for so many people. But that’s not because of the efforts of Carol and I. It’s because of the tireless work of all our authors, without whom there would be no AIMN.

Take a bow, everyone. Carol and I salute you.

Like what we do at The AIMN?

You’ll like it even more knowing that your donation will help us to keep up the good fight.

Chuck in a few bucks and see just how far it goes!

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Is this the end of the road?

If there is one thing – and only one thing – that we can take out of the LNP’s win in the 2019 election is that conservative governments are a boon for independent media sites. Particularly so in Australia, where the mainstream media becomes more and more the mouthpiece for the conservatives.

That leaves the independent sites and social media as the only available platforms where the government can be challenged for their lies, their rorting, their incompetence, and their failure to address the important issues of the day.

As such, 2019 was a very good year for The AIMN with our readership increasing by 8 per cent over 2018. And after the government’s mis-handling of the disastrous bushfires in the New Year, 2020 started, for us, with a bang. With a bit over a third of the year now passed, our readership is already 65 per cent of what we achieved in 2019.

But then the pandemic reached our shores, the government downed tools, and ‘everything’ stagnated. The government would have us believe that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel but we wiser heads have our reservations.

Nonetheless, this has adversely affected The AIMN. While we’re all spending this ‘quiet time’ rejuvenating and catching our collective breaths for what government incompetencies await us … our operating costs continue to accrue.

Within the next few weeks – when our annual (and hefty) web fees are due – Carol and I must decide whether or not we can afford to keep The AIMN open. At the present rate, we cannot. We always operate at a loss, but there comes a time where Carol and I have to admit that we can’t always afford to carry them.

The remainder of 2020 – once the government awakens from their slumber – will awake us all. As will the remainder of the Morrison government’s term. I cannot recall our country having a worse prime minister or such an ineffective government. We love to fight them. As do our wonderful authors, commenters, and readers.

We would dearly love The AIMN to lead the charge (along with the other independent sites). We’ve been doing so for over seven years. It’s in our blood.

But the income this site generates is way below what is needed to break even, and we can no longer afford to sustain these losses. We’ve made it this far thanks to the fantastic contributions from readers who donate to the site, plus of course, from the adverts you see on our site.

To survive another year and beyond would only require a hundred people signing up to contribute $5 a month. That at least would cover our monthly web hosting and designer costs. More would give us the opportunity to take on a bit of help for our already flat-out team.

I know that The AIMN means a lot to many, many people, Carol and I included. And without the efforts of so many tireless authors we would not be one of the leading independents sites in this country. Carol and I are proud of our standing, and proud of every one of you – authors, admins, commenters and readers – who have been in the engine room of this great site.

We now ask you to drive us into the coming years.

Without you there is no AIMN. It will be the end of the road.

(Will will provide you with regular updates to let you know how we’re travelling.)

Like what we do at The AIMN?

You’ll like it even more knowing that your donation will help us to keep up the good fight.

Chuck in a few bucks and see just how far it goes!

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