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Category Archives: Social Justice

The backlash of change

By RosemaryJ36  

When I was a child, “In the olden days” as my children when younger used to say, Robinson’s jams had a Golliwog emblem and I had a golliwog to play with, as well as traditional dolls.

I also read Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

A decade or so later, my sister was studying medicine in London and brought home a lonely (black) African fellow student to share Sunday lunch.

About this same time, I was reading ‘Cry, the beloved country’.

Learning is not confined to the classroom, and, over time, through expanding our knowledge and understanding, we are offered the chance to cast off prejudices, respect difference and accept that change is a continuing feature of our existence.

That is perhaps an idealised expectation. Not all avail themselves of that choice.

When I was a teenager, homosexuality was a criminal offence throughout the British colonised world, as well as among those of other faiths. In the British context, this was largely a result of the translation of certain passages in the Bible – which was, itself, penned in more ignorant times.

My mother, a dedicated Christian, who was brilliant in English grammar and arithmetic, but totally ignorant of more than basic science, firmly believed in the Genesis story of creation.

Ignorance of scientific discoveries is no excuse for ignoring them once they have been bought to your attention. There is no place in a changing world for ‘believing’ something which has been shown to be false.

It is a fact, which is still being denied by the intransigent, that mankind’s addiction to increasing use of fossil fuels, with the concomitant increase in polluting emissions, is a major contribution to accelerating global warming.

It is a fact that we are running out of time to take the steps necessary to drastically reduce the level of emissions and the damage being done to our oceans by plastic pollution.

Too many wars and conflicts are already occurring around the world, and the expansion of global corporations, encouraging the greed and selfishness of shareholders, are all features contributing to a refusal by a majority of governments to accept the massive task of declaring war on climate change.

Governments think in terms of winning the next election in 3 – 5 years’ time.

This myopic approach denies them the vision of how their current policies will impact the next generation – or they do not care about others enough to think it worthwhile.

When it comes to politics, I sit on the fence.

No one party has all the answers and the way European governments form coalitions from a wide range of parties is, in my opinion, a far healthier way to achieve consensus and develop policies which are not too biased.

The current ‘Coalition’ government in Australia is setting itself up to develop a police state. The AAT is being progressively politicised by appointing liberal members, many with no legal experience and little in the way of other special and relevant expertise.

Our disgusting treatment of refugees and asylum seekers – worse treatment than is handed out to those condemned of serious criminal offences – even Ivan Milat’s cancer was given more medical attention than are the severe traumas inflicted on those confined to Manus and Nauru.

We have a Minister in Peter Dutton who seems obsessed with sadistically inflicting pain and suffering. The Biloela family could have stayed at home, contributing to the community while all their matters went through the courts.

Instead, two innocent little girls have been treated so badly that we have almost certainly breached our obligations under the UN Convention on Children, while they have probably been as traumatised for life as have the victims of institutional sex abuse.

And the cost to the taxpayer has been exorbitant – certainly more than enough to settle all the excluded refugees in jobs and contributing to the economy!

Australia – the Lucky Country? – I don’t think so!

Australia – the land of the Fair Go? – Only if you are white and wealthy!

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Look on…

By Jon Chesterson  

LOOK ON IN THE ABSENT HALLS OF OUR OWN CONSCIENCE, THE HUNGRY WALLS OF OUR OWN LIVING ROOMS, LOOK ON…

One cannot gloss over what has happened!

We witnessed the brutal cruelty and destruction of Afghanistan and its people at the hands of the Taliban.

We witnessed the brutal wars on neighbouring countries, ethnic minorities and its own people in Iraq at the hands of Saddam Hussein.

We witnessed the total destruction of civil war in Syria and the devastation of its cities and people.

We continue to see the brutality levied by Israel and its prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu in Lebanon and Israel on the Palestinian people.

We have seen the brutal acts of terrorism across the world at the hands of ISIS; and ignored the far greater threat to democracy by our own western governments, which use this as propaganda against human rights, their own people and constitutional freedom and democracy.

And while all this has been going on, we have silently witnessed and ignored our own complicit terrorist acts against Yemen at the hands of the Saudi king and president, Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, as the West supply the Saudi- led Arab coalition with military arms to systematically bombard and indiscriminately destroy the men, women and children of Yemen.

We witness Trump rattling his lips and sabre against Turkey, Iran and refugees, and like the fake presidential coward and mercenary he is, he acts only in his own inseparable corporate and political interests, to secure his own moribund electorate and hungry games. We witness Morrison and Dutton in Australia, who in all likelihood are far worse as they tighten their demonic grip on democracy and rattle their delusional snake-strung evangelical tongues.

As a result of our own political navel gazing, we have ignored the catastrophic impact ISIS, successive regimes and dictators have had throughout the Middle East and the rest of the world; and on the eve of the latest campaign, this crusade – withdrawn from Syria’s borders and abandoned the Kurds, who not only fought as allies against ISIS, but now face the brutality of Turkey’s foreign policy at the hands of Tayyip Erdoğan, and more genocide to follow.

The Kurds are a people who are familiar with this cruelty and national obsession, as they continue to be demonised and eradicated not just by ISIS, but Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran, they have no homeland and nowhere else to go. By now we should be familiar with this systematic pattern of human abuse across our planet, the repeated history glossed over and our part in it. But are we?

The heinous crime of Western countries is to have allowed extremist groups like ISIS, Taliban, dictators and cruel regimes around the world to flourish, while imposing and justifying our own outlandish empires; and now we do it again. We create the vacuum for their success and look on, worse we install and feed these cruel regimes with sick diplomacy and arms. And when we are done we turn our gaze on refugees fleeing from these rivers of blood and cruel regions, lock their people up in prisons, we turn our propaganda machine on the people who flee the tyranny of their oppressors to be subjugated and demonised within and just off our very own shores and borders.

And when that campaign wears thin, the evil eye of Sauron turns on its own people, lighting up domestic fires, demonising the poor, unemployed, students, the elderly, humanitarians, peaceful protesters, our own social and ethnic minorities, those who are sick of this wretched and cruel neoliberal straight jacket, our commercial bombshell.

As the Kurds defend democracy first against neighbouring countries in the region, ISIS and now Turkey, the West once again abandon their supposed allies. Behrouz Bouchani, a Kurd and journalist fleeing from Iran has been imprisoned on Manus and now PNG for the past 6 years, since 2013. He has become the offshore absent conscience of Australian politics. He is one of Australia’s many political prisoners and yet he has committed no crime, broken no law, there has been no charge, no lawful detention or justice. All he ever wanted was to report the abuse, to tell the truth, to live, to be free. He is one of the many. Morrison and Dutton look on.

We like to watch our TV, we witness, we gloss over and we allow this injustice to continue on all fronts, even in our own country, in the absent halls of our own conscience.

Look on…

GODLESS MOUNTAIN

For sake of the
crusade I learn
to slaughter men,
women and children

For sake of a
godless world
I substitute freedom
for religion

For sake of peace
I keep my mouth
shut, eyes closed
to death and suffering

For sake of
humanity I live
with the knowledge
of shame and doubt

If I could climb a tree
and shake the
mountain, I’d
paint the sky myself

and live without

(AB, 4 July 2019)


Poem first published in Poetry is a Mountain: A Poetry Anthology, 17 September 2019, Kevin Watt (eds), Independently published, San Jose CA, Amazon.
Source: https://allpoetry.com/poem/14593002–Godless-Mountain-by-Barddylbach

Reference: Kurdish refugee Behrouz Boochani warns of ‘genocide’ in northern Syria, Nick Baker, 15 October 2019, SBS Australia.

 

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St. Vincent’s Catholic Orphanage: Criminal acts, sadism, and nightmares …

It is time to speak of terrible things.

The Sisters of Mercy. The Catholic Archdiocese of Brisbane. To date I have not accused either entity of direct personal responsibility for failing to protect me from the perpetration of a series of criminal acts upon my person. I do so now. Publicly, and without reserve.

Gag Orders are terrible, and binding, legal things. I am partially subject to one. Powerful people and institutions use them to silence their victims. That’s as straight a statement as you are ever likely to read.

Sometimes silence needs to be broken. I’m breaking it.

The content of my legal Testimony against the Catholic Church, and the Sisters of Mercy, has been muted, and sidelined, and buried under tons of legalese and gagging. Well I’m sick of all that. I’m sick of the politeness and restraint that fear of ramification, fear of blow back, and fear of being targeted, forced upon me.

I’m sick of fear and silence. My abuse experiences are deemed to be historical. I deem them, and their affects on me, to be relevant, contemporary, and in my face every day.

Here are the objective facts … at times not easy reading. I will not filter out the truth.

Note: Following on from here I provide detail of my abuse experiences in St. Vincent’s Orphanage in Nudgee, Brisbane. The details may be upsetting for some people. In the past I have skirted around them, but I can no longer do that.

I’m not an orphan, yet I ended up at St. Vincent’s Orphanage when I was five years old. I lived there between 1957 and 1964. I had parents who could no longer hold their relationship together, and back in the 1950s that was a fast conduit to children ending up in State Care.

Children. There were four of us. We were separated and doled out by the State of Queensland. My two older sisters were sent to Nazareth House at Wynnum, a Catholic Orphanage, and my older brother and I were sent to St. Vincent’s at Nudgee near Brisbane, another Catholic Orphanage. My brother was in the older boys’ section, I was in the younger boys’ section. Separated, no mutual support.

I have no idea what my brother and sisters experienced in the Orphanages. We have never discussed, or shared, our experiences. We made belated attempts, later in our young adult lives, to forge some sort of, any sort of, familial bond. It didn’t work, and we drifted permanently apart.

St. Vincent’s Orphanage at Nudgee. Run by the Sisters of Mercy. Here’s what I experienced, which is but another awful variation of what so many others experienced. It was a bloody nightmare.

Beatings. I received a lot of them. Open-handed, closed fists, belts, razor strops. Some of the Sisters were very angry people and they took their frustrations out on me, and others. And what was I at the time when it all started? A defenceless five year old.

The food. It was awful. The best that can be said about it is that it kept you alive. It was contaminated and sub-standard. Because I was so thin and malnourished I was forced, once the regular meal was finished, to sit on a bench at a special table, the skinny kids’ table, and forced to consume a second meal of cerevite porridge under the staring gaze of all. The taunts were never ending … special skinny kids, special skinny kids, something wrong with them … you can imagine what that did to the psyche of a five year old.

The bloat of stomach pain lingers in my memory. The open-handed slaps to the side of my head from the Sisters when I could not finish the second meal lingers in my memory. The taunts stuck. Not only did the Sisters not stop them, they doubled-down and reinforced them with their stinging slaps. But all of that was just background stuff, always there, always endured.

Oral Rape. I was five/six years old. I was dragged into a closed room in the dormitory and assaulted by an adult male. The feeling of being smothered has never left me. He covered my nostrils with his hand and he gagged my mouth with his penis. I couldn’t breathe. I was terrified. When he finished he punched me, closed fist, and promised more of the same if I said anything. Where were my so-called protectors, where were the Sisters of Mercy? The assault happened in a Nun’s bedroom. To this day I cannot stand to be in a closed space with curtains.

Anal Rape. I was hauled before a Head Nun because my serge shorts, special shorts that we got to wear to mass on Sunday, were soiled on the rear. She physically beat me with a razor strop for soiling the shorts and would not listen to anything I tried to say. The beating was body-wide and it totally demolished me.

And why were the shorts soiled? They were soiled with leakage from my rectum. Semen, excreta, and blood. I was an Alter Boy, and I had been anally raped by the Priest who had visited to say Mass. There was no grooming involved, it was a sudden and brutal attack. Where were my protectors, the Sisters of Mercy, the Archdiocese, and the State?

Raped, and then viciously beaten. It altered who I was, and it has affected my whole life.

Mental cruelty. That was a way of life. Any expression of individuality was met with a beating, a thumping. I still cringe when somebody moves fast near me.

I used to, as a child, hang off the high fence of the Orphanage, staring up the incoming road, hoping desperately that my father would arrive and rescue me. He never came.

Many years later I met my father. We had one day together. That’s all. He died of cancer soon afterwards. On meeting him I had to quickly choose between loving him or hating him, I chose love. He told me that he desperately wanted to visit but the Nuns, the Sisters of Mercy, told him that it was not in the best interests of the children to be visited, and that he no longer had any parental rights. Their horrible stance on the matter hollowed him out, and hollowed me, as a child, out. There could have been rescue and release, but the Sisters of Mercy would not allow it.

After seven years in the Orphanage I was given a shirt, shorts, a pair of sandals, and a little port containing some other clothes, a godly pat on the head, and I was sent off to live with a foster family for my high school years. The Christian Brothers at Marist College Ashgrove were maybe not the best, but they did not come within cooee of the badness of the Sisters of Mercy.

From 1957 onward to today I have led a blighted affected life. I never realised any sort of personal potential. Finally in 2017 I sought redress from the Catholic Church and the Sisters of Mercy. I cited to them my childhood experiences under their care, I cited to them the kind of life I had led over the last sixty-two years.

They took into account my enduring poverty and they applied the screws of delay and obfuscation, and offered an insult of a Settlement to my claim against them. The debilitating affects of my poverty forced me to accept the Settlement.

There was no apology offered, no liability admitted, no offer of remedial therapy made. In my opinion that is yet another example of their ability to still abuse. It adds to the litany of criminality.

When I look back over my life now that I have reached the age of sixty-seven, I think about the unending childhood abuse, I think about the unrealised potential, I think about the jobs that I could not sustain, I think about all the failed attempts to gain professional qualifications, I think about the failed personal relationships, I think about the difficulty in maintaining effective communication with my children, I think about the fear of ending my own life that I wore like a smothering blanket for far too many of my years, and I think about how fear of just living continually undermined my reserves of intelligence, guts, and courage.

St. Vincents Catholic Orphanage at Nudgee was a nightmare. It was run by people, the Sisters of Mercy and the Catholic Archdiocese of Brisbane, who not only did not provide care for me as their Ward, they took no steps to protect me when, as a child, I spoke up, or if at times I could not speak up, it was so bloody obvious that I had been raped and beaten and smothered whilst under their care.

I hold both the Order of the Sisters of Mercy, and the Catholic Archdiocese of Brisbane, as entities, fully responsible for the criminal acts that were perpetrated upon me. They could have, but did not, prevent them. They are liable, and they are responsible.

People shy away from using the word Victim these days. I don’t shy away from using it at all. Perpetrators commit crime, and others by omission of responsibility allow crime to be committed. Those crimes create Victims. Those crimes do not create Survivors.

I no longer have time for euphemistic replacement words. Words such as Survivor are merely grab-bag words designed to give an impression that the victims of heinous crime have survived, and have miraculously shrugged off the negative life-long affects of the criminal acts perpetrated on them. Euphemistic words may make the speaker feel slightly better about things, but they do stuff all for the Victim. Behind the euphemistic words lies a very harsh reality for the victims of mental, physical, and sexual abuse.

Here are my harsh realities … they are, in part, drawn from a very lengthy medico/legal report compiled in 2018 as part of my legal process. The reading is bad enough, but I can assure you that the living of it all was far worse. I include this material to show you that criminal acts have a very definite affect on the victim. I would also, as you read the below, remind you that in my claim for redress that there was no apology offered, no liability admitted, or no offer of remedial therapy made to me by the Catholic Church.

Mental State Examination:

Mr Davis presented as a relatively intense and intrinsically sad person. His intelligence is above average, and could possibly be in the superior range. He is capable of thinking in a psychological manner.

He was significantly depressed, significantly anxious, but not overtly irritable at time of interview.

His affect was heightened and a little unpredictable. His affect did not become incongruent at any time.

He was not paranoid in attitude. He was not suffering delusions, hallucinations, or other symptoms to suggest a psychotic disorder of mind.

Commentary/Opinion:

Whilst it is late in the cycle of illness, Mr Davis has substantial unmet treatment needs.

Left as he is now, Mr Davis is highly unlikely to show improvement. There is risk that his various symptoms may become more problematic as he ages. His prognosis in this situation would be poor. If the plaintiff undertakes a reasonable and proper program of treatment, he should note some symptomatic improvement. However, he is unlikely to ever be symptom-free, given the pervasive acts of abuse/cruelty which he experienced whilst he was resident at the orphanage.

Mr Davis’ several year period of residence at the orphanage became a major stressor for him. There seems little point in trying to separate the effects of physical and emotional abuse from the effects of frank sexual abuse. Suffice it to say that substantive abuse, of any form, during the critical early formative years, is likely to trigger psychological problems which can become chronic and pervasive in type. This applies in the plaintiff’s case.

There should be no doubt that Mr Davis has multiple longer-term symptoms which link in greater part with his inability as a child to accommodate to his physical/sexual/emotional abuse at the orphanage.

The plaintiff has broad-ranging and chronic symptoms of persistent depressive disorder, from which he cannot escape. The symptoms interfere with his ongoing sense of well-being, and impair his function in everyday life.

Special Tests:

Mr Davis completed a Beck Depression Inventory II. He had a total score of 38 on the instrument, this placing him within the range for severe depression. He had moderate/high scores in the domains of pessimism, past failure, loss of pleasure, guilty feelings, punishment feelings, self-dislike, self-critical thinking, tearfulness, loss of interest, indecisiveness, feelings of worthlessness, difficulties with concentration, tiredness/fatigue, loss of energy, altered appetite.

Mr Davis completed a PCL-5. He had a total score of 48 on the instrument, this placing him above the diagnostic threshold for post-traumatic stress disorder.

The plaintiff completed a Beck Anxiety Inventory (BAI). He had a total score of 39 on the instrument, this placing him within the range for concern. He had moderate/high scores in the domains of numbing/tingling, unsteadiness of his legs, inability to relax, fears of the worst happening, being dizzy/light-headed, alteration in heart rate/rhythm, general unsteadiness, being terrified/afraid, general nervousness, hand tremors, being shaky/unsteady, fears of losing control, being scared, being faint/light-headed.

Documents:

I note the findings of the Queensland Government Redress Scheme (18 June 2009). Mr Davis had been found to have “more serious harm”. He was identified in an appended paper to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety disorder, agoraphobia, suicidal thoughts, severe depression, and he was thoroughly predisposed in adult life to develop a major depressive disorder, chronic agoraphobic symptoms and panic symptoms additionally.

Other Points:

He has recollection of “unending abuse” and he recalled living in a constant fear that the next round of abuse was about to begin.

He has a persisting sadness that he is unable to relate in a consistent manner with people important to him.

He has ongoing anhedonic feelings, with constant nihilistic rumination, and occasional suicidal ideas.

He has a sense of chronic humiliation about his station in life.

He lost what he said had been his “spirit” in life.

He was incapable of achieving any joy or pleasure in his life.

SO WHERE TO FROM HERE?

So that’s what happened, and I currently do my best to deal with it all. And I haven’t given up.

I have recently learned that in Queensland, where I reside, it is possible to appeal against an unsatisfactory Settlement of Claim accepted under duress. My Settlement was grossly unsatisfactory. The duress was real.

I, and many other Victims of sexual abuse, do not want sympathy. We are way past the need for it. We want justice.

I intend to appeal. I want justice, I want just compensation, and I want no other human being of either gender to experience what I, and so many others, have been through, and are still going through.

The crimes that have been committed against me, and against so many others, fall at the extreme end of the spectrum of criminality. The perpetrators, the protectors of the perpetrators, and the uncaring ‘nothing to see here’ care-givers, should be confronted and never, ever, be allowed to get away with it.

St. Vincent’s Catholic Orphanage was a place of criminal acts, sadism, and the stuff of nightmares. It was a terrible experience to live through. I’m but one of many who had to endure it.

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Sanctioning harm under guise of religious freedom

When Attorney-General Christian Porter proposed to prioritise freedom of religion above all other human rights which are necessary for a fair, just and humane society, he gave an orange light to the most wicked entitlement and privilege. The Australian Government’s proposed Religious Freedom Bills are out for public consultation and if passed, create a plethora of unequal rights, where those who subscribe to religious beliefs are benefited above and beyond the rest of the community. The bills weaken existing protections for LGBTIQ+ people, women, people with disabilities, and those from diverse racial and cultural backgrounds, and potentially legalise hate speech.

However it’s Tasmanian Archbishop Julian Porteous’s statement on 12 September 2019 which provides one of the most compelling arguments as to why the concept of the proposed laws is so repugnant. Archbishop Porteous, when publicly declaring that priests will not obey the new Tasmanian law mandating that priests report child sex abuse, reportedly stated that the law is ‘at odds with the Australian Government’s religious freedom push’.

Translated into layman’s terms, Archbishop Porteous’s position is that ‘religious freedom’ means ‘mates keeping vile secrets for mates’, while children suffer. Archbishop Porteous’s stance that reporting paedophiles violates his religious freedom is an unconscionable response to the Church being exposed as a repugnant organisation responsible for immeasurable human suffering.

Given its past behaviour, it’s no surprise that the Catholic Church, at its highest levels, prioritises the ‘sanctity’ of the church and it’s religious beliefs over the safety of the most vulnerable in the community. The Catholic Church, at its highest levels, has repeatedly demonstrated a propensity to prioritise privilege and entitlement for its clergy, a culture of secrecy, and the institutionalised protection of paedophiles, above the right for children to be safe and free from abuse, despite the scathing report from the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse. The church still performs exorcisms on LGBT members despite its documented harm.

Along with other religious organisations, the Catholic Church’s fierce advocacy for religious freedom to the detriment of other rights, goes against the universally accepted balance of human rights. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (“UDHR”), proclaimed in Paris on 10 December 1948 by the United Nations General Assembly, provides the key principles for a free, just, and peaceful society and sets out the proper balance between the freedom of religion and other human rights.

Article 18, which provides for the right of freedom of religion, is just one of 30 rights and principles in the UDHR; the other 29 Articles are conveniently ignored by the proponents of religious freedom. The right for a person to practice their beliefs must be balanced against the rights of others in the community not to be harmed. This is repeatedly supported when rights are considered in the full context of the UDHR.

The push for greater religious freedom at the expense of the rights of others is a manipulative response to the weakening power of religious organisations in the community. Churches cannot reconcile that it is no longer acceptable to forcefully impose their moral tenets on those who do not subscribe to restrictive and unreasonable codes.

Those of faith argue for religious freedom on the basis it is a human right, yet they fail to recognise that all human rights must be balanced. Where the exercise of one person’s human rights violates another, the line has been crossed. Where one person, in practicing their religion, denies another the ability to participate fully in community life and cultural practices, the line has been crossed.

The religious freedom laws will allow those of faith to treat people as second class citizens essentially on a whim, provided they can somehow tie it in with their religious beliefs.

Allowing greater religious freedom to the detriment of other fundamental human rights violates Article 30: “Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth herein.”

When practicing one’s religion causes harm to other people, it is unacceptable.

If by practising their religion, a person imposes their beliefs on another person and prevents that other person from freely participating in a secular society, it is unacceptable.

Religious freedom is, and must be, subject to the law and balanced with other human rights. Those of faith are free to attend their services, drink the symbolic blood of their prophets or engage in other religious rituals if those participating have freely, voluntarily and willingly consented. They can refuse blood transfusions or medical procedures for themselves, but they must not be allowed to deny them to others. They can prosthelytize and evangelise to their hearts’ content, provided they are not offending, humiliating, intimidating, insulting, ridiculing others or otherwise harming others in the community. They can pray or reflect or honour their gods in whichever way they choose, but must not be permitted to deny others the opportunity to participate fully in public life because of personal religious beliefs.

Attorney-General Porter’s proposed laws recognise that those of faith should not have unfettered freedom to disobey all laws. However he does propose overriding the Tasmanian anti-discrimination law for people of faith, and the proposed laws broaden the opportunities for people of faith to actively discriminate against members of the community in the name of religion.

It is evident from Archbishop Porteous’s public commentary how much ‘freedom’ he wishes the church to be given.

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse outed the abhorrent practices of religious organisations in harbouring abusers, the resounding ‘YES’ result in the marriage equality plebiscite stunned opponents after the dedicated, religious-right-led, hate-filled rhetoric of the ‘NO’ campaign, George Pell’s conviction astonished believers after decades of institutionalised protection from prosecution, rugby player Israel Folau’s sacking frightened the proponents of ‘hate speech promoted as free speech’, abortion reform, transgender rights and voluntary euthanesia laws terrified the self-appointed ‘moral superiors’ who believe ‘God’s Law’ takes precedence. And now, with the state’s successively enacting laws mandating priests out their fellow paedophiles, the churches power is shriveling. Their response is to fight back and demand superiority, entitlement and privilege is enshrined in law.

The majority of Australians believe all people are deserving of equal rights and to be treated equally before the law. It is unconscionable to provide people of faith with greater ‘freedoms’, to the detriment of others in the community. Attorney-General Porter must not give the green light to bigotry, social division, exclusion and segregation under the guise of religious freedom.

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When Zealots control Welfare …

There is something wrong with the heart and soul of this nation. There is something troubling about the level of demonisation and targeted punishment that is directed at the most vulnerable members of our society.

There is something that is becoming clearly self-evident: when you allow amateur ideologically driven social engineers control over our welfare system they will promulgate, enforce, and saturate their social security policies with hate.

The evidence is in. The current Coalition Government of Australia more than overtly hates Welfare Recipients. The Cashless Welfare Card. Drug testing. Deliberate impoverishment on Newstart. The punitive JobActive system. RoboDebt.

And who are Welfare Recipients? Given the existence of a certain set of circumstances, or given the non-existence of a certain set of circumstances, Welfare Recipients are you and me, or could be you and me.

The unplanned loss of a job, which could happen to you at any time, and the difficulty in gaining a replacement for it. The trauma of divorce and the loss of assets, and the loss of the ability to cope, for mature aged men and women. The young struggling to gain a start. Homelessness. Sickness. Mental health issues which affect an increasing number of us. Economic recession. Any of those things could happen to you at any time and force you to become reliant on welfare.

Who else is on welfare? Far too many women who have lost everything, who have fled for their lives from the scourge of domestic violence. Far too many men and women whose lives have been ripped apart by the lasting damage of childhood sexual abuse. Far too many human beings whose lives have been turned upside down by unforeseen events.

And how are they treated? As scum, as dregs, as a drain on national resources, as bludgers, as drug addicts, as irresponsible, as incapable, as scammers, as low-lifes.

Well is that what you are? Is that what you will be if life sends you the curve-ball of unemployment for whatever reason?

We now have a situation in this country where hate appears to be the underpinning glue of social policy. Where from the Prime Minister down to the thoughtless braying crowd the expression of hate towards the vulnerable is seen to be good, and right, and just.

Well it is not.

The majority of Welfare Recipients, just like the majority of people in the workplace, just like the majority of people living in your suburb, just like the majority of people sitting next to you at a football match, just like the majority of people next to you on the bus, are decent normal folk just trying to lead a decent normal life.

A small number of people in your workplace, in your suburb, in that footy crowd, on that bus, or on welfare, will seek to take advantage. A small number of people always seek to do that. We’ve all met them, especially in the workplace.

Yet, from the Prime Minister down, we are fed a daily diet of hate towards Welfare Recipients, towards that one group of disadvantaged Australian citizens. We are told that people on welfare are different to anybody else, we are told that they are advantage seekers who need to be controlled, managed, corralled, and punished. Well they are not different to anybody else, they are you and me, or they could be you and me.

The conservative media takes delight in singling out isolated cases of welfare recipients who seek advantage, and then by imputation the media brands the majority of the rest of the decent folk on welfare as dole-bludgers, addicts, and societal thieves. Such media blood sport is sickening. That people watch, believe, and repeat such obvious untruths is worrying, because it speaks of the ease with which hate is being promulgated in our society.

We have now hit a ridiculous point in our national life. On the one hand we have a zealot, yes a zealot of a Prime Minister who publicly parades his religious love of fellow man for electoral advantage, but who promulgates policies of social injustice towards the disadvantaged.

And on the other hand we now have religious organisations and other community groups having to deplete their scant resources to repair the growing damage caused by our Prime Minister’s proudly proclaimed policies. The homelessness, the suicides, the despair, the poverty, the unfairness – all of those things are happening to decent disadvantaged folk in our society as a direct consequence of the policies of this current government.

There is something wrong with the heart and soul of this nation if we allow the current situation to continue. There is something wrong with our brutal national policies towards the disadvantaged. A very hateful and cruel streak runs through those who are in charge of our welfare system.

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Spikes of Violence: Protest in West Papua

Like Timor-Leste, West Papua, commonly subsuming both Papua and West Papua, remains a separate ethnic entity, acknowledged as such by previous colonial powers. Its Dutch colonial masters, in preparing to leave the region in the 1950s, left the ground fertile for a declaration of independence in 1961. Such a move did not sit well with the Indonesian desire to claim control over all Dutch Asia Pacific colonies on departure. There were resources to be had, economic gains to be made. The military duly moved in.

The New York Agreement between Indonesia and the Netherlands, brokered in 1962 with the assistance of the United States, saw West Papua fall under United Nations control for the duration of one year. Once passing into Indonesian control, Jakarta would govern the territory “consistent with the rights and freedoms guaranteed to the inhabitants under the terms of the present agreement.” Education would be a priority; illiteracy would be targeted, and efforts made “to accelerate participation of the people in local government through periodic elections.”

One article stood out: “Indonesia will make arrangements, with the assistance and participation of the United Nation Representative and his staff, to give the people of the territory the opportunity to exercise freedom of choice.” In 1969, a ballot was conducted in line with the provision, though hardly in any true, representative sense. In the rich traditions of doctored representation and selective enfranchisement, 1,026 individuals were selected by Indonesian authorities to participate. Indonesia’s military kept an intimidating watch: the vote could not be left to chance. The result for Indonesian control was unanimous; the UN signed off.

Unlike Timor-Leste, the historically Melanesian territories of Papua and West Papua remains under thumb and screw, an entity that continues to exist under periodic acts of violence and habitual repression from the Indonesian central authorities. A policy of transmigration has been practiced, a point argued by scholars to be tantamount to genocide. This has entailed moving residents from Java and Sulawesi to West Papua, assisted by Jakarta’s hearty sponsorship.

The Indonesian argument here has been ethnic and political: to confect a national identity through assimilation. Under President Joko Widodo (“Jokowi”), one keen to push the idea of “Indonesia Maju” (“Advanced Indonesia”), renewed stress is being placed on infrastructure investment, economic growth and natural resources, of which Papua features heavily.

The indigenous populace has had to, in turn, surrender land to those transmigrants and appropriating authorities. “The rights of traditional law communities,” notes Clause 17 of Indonesia’s Basic Forestry Act of 1967, “may not be allowed to stand in the way of transmigration sites.”

Appropriations of land, the relocation of residents, and the odd massacre by Indonesian security forces, tend to fly low on the international radar of human rights abuses. West Papua lacks the cinematic appeal or political heft that would encourage around the clock coverage from media networks. Bureaucratic plodders in the various foreign ministries of the world prefer to render such matters benign and of little interest. Geopolitics and natural resources tend to do most of the talking.

In late 2015, for instance, Scott Busby, US deputy assistant secretary of the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, and James Carouso, acting deputy assistant secretary for Maritime and Mainland Southeast Asian affairs, ducked and evaded anything too compromising in their testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on East Asia, the Pacific, and International Cybersecurity Policy. The consequences of demographic policies directed by Jakarta were assiduously ignored. Massacres and institutional accountability in the territory were bypassed, as were Indonesian efforts to prevent scrutiny on the part of human rights monitors, the UN Special rapporteur and journalists.

This year, more instances of violence have managed to leach out and gurgle in media circles. It took a few ugly incidents in the Javanese city of Surabaya to engender a new wave of protests which have had a rattling effect on the security forces. Last month, pro-Indonesian nationalist groups, with reported encouragement from security forces, taunted Papuan students with an array of crude insults in East Java. (“Dogs”, “monkeys” and “pigs” were part of the bitter mix). The fuse was lit, notably as arrests were made of the Papuans themselves. “Papuans are not monkeys”, proclaimed banners being held at a rally in Central Jakarta on August 22.

Government buildings have been torched in Jayapura. Additional forces have been deployed, and internet access cut. There are claims that white phosphorous has been used on civilians; prisons are being filled. There have even been protests in Indonesia’s capital, with the banned Morning Star flag being flown defiantly in front of the state palace. (Doing so is no mild matter: activist Filep Karma spent over a decade of his life in prison for doing so).

The struggle for independence, at least in the international eye, has been left to such figures as Benny Wenda, who lobbies governments and groups to back the “Free Papua” campaign. He is particularly keen to take the matter of the Free Choice vote of 1969, that nasty instrument that formalised Indonesian control, to the United Nations General Assembly. Last month, he had to settle for taking the matter to the Pacific Islands Forum as a representative of Vanuatu’s delegation. In January, he gifted the UN Human Rights Chief Michelle Bachelet a petition with 1.8 million signatures seeking a new referendum for the territory.

The response from an Indonesian government spokesman was emphatic, curt, and conventional. “Developments in Papua and West Papua province are purely Indonesia’s internal affairs. No other country, organisation or individual has the right to interfere in them. We firmly oppose the intervention of Indonesia’s internal affairs in whatever form.”

The hope for Jokowi and the Indonesian authorities will be simple: ride out the storm, conduct a low-level suppression of protests, and place any talks of secession on the backburner. In this, they can count on regional, if hypocritical support. In the words of a spokesman for the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, “Australia recognises Indonesia’s territorial integrity and sovereignty over the Papua provinces. Our position is clearly defined by the Lombok Treaty between Indonesia and Australia.”

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BREXIT: The Billionaires Coup

If you listen to Boris Johnson, he and his Tory hard Brexiters are enacting the will of UK voters (even though not all British citizens got to vote). But are they really?  It is worth asking yourself, who do the Torys usually go out to bat for?

Could it be their billionaire donors and the new EU tax avoidance laws that the Tories have foremost in their minds?

Yes, some people voted for an extra £350 million pounds for the health service.

But no one voted for chlorinated chicken, massive job losses, shortages of food and vital medicines (which will unquestionably lead to deaths) and decreased relevance on the world stage.

No one voted for a recession, complete with increased prices, a significant drop in the value of the pound, reduced study and career options for the young, and long painful cues whenever they hop across the channel.

I get it. No one likes to admit they have been conned, but this is now getting very, very real, and there are going to be real world consequences. So for those still waving the Brexit flag, here’s a few points to consider.

  • A shortage of vital medicines. Exactly, how many Brexit deaths are acceptable to you? How many deaths would you personally be prepared to sign off on? How many people’s mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, sons and daughters are you prepared to put in their graves for the sake of Brexit? Bear in mind those deaths will not come from the ruling classes. They will continue to have their medicines. The death toll will come from the towns and counties that the Torys have ignored since time immemorial. The likes of Aaron banks, Rupert Murdoch and Boris Johnson will not be going without medicines, I can assure you.
  • How big a dip in household income are you prepared to endure for the sake of Brexit? It is now clear we’re not talking hundreds, but thousands of pounds annually. So name your price. How much would you be prepared to slice off your income, and the incomes of all your family, friends and neighbours?
  • How many ordinary working people are you prepared to see lose their jobs and pushed onto the benefit queues? 10,000? 100,000 maybe 1,000,000? Name your figure. But while you work it out, just know that each one of those jobs is the lifeblood of someone’s family.
  • How many British pensioners living in the EU are you prepared to leave stranded, potentially without health care or pensions and unable to afford to return? Elderly people who worked all their lives, reduced to penury and homelessness, through no fault of their own. (And they didn’t even get a vote).
  • Exactly how many workplace health and safety standards are you happy to abandon in your workplace?
  • How many environmental and food standards are you prepared to scrap? Another chlorinated chicken sandwich on GMO bread, anyone?
  • How many more terrorists/criminals are you prepared to let slip through the net with the loss of EU wide co-operative security, intelligence and policing arrangements?
  • Exactly how much more are you prepared to pay for basics like, food and energy. Put a pound figure on it?

And when you are done answering those questions, please take a moment to make a list of things that will actually improve in your life when Brexit is enacted.

If you find that list alarmingly short, you might want to ask yourself, just who owns all those newspapers, spewing out all the anti-EU sentiment?  Yes, that’s right… It’s the billionaires.

Do you really think these fat cat billionaires have your interests at heart? Or would they rather continue diverting their profits to off shore tax havens? Profits that if taxed properly could provide ordinary people with better schools, hospitals, and pensions?

Forget the Irish backstop. The tax evasion laws are the real sticking point. And the only way for the Billionaires to avoid them is to get a HARD NO DEAL BREXIT.

Seems the only big winners from the no-deal scenario are the billionaires. It’s little wonder they don’t want a THIRD referendum. (The first one was in 1975). They have what they want in their sights, and they don’t want the will of the people, or parliament getting in their way. They have their man on the job, and he is determined to see it through.

Brexit was never about taking back control or the sovereignty of Parliament. (The fact Johnson has said he will shut down parliament and ignore legislation to avoid a NO DEAL BREXIT should pretty well snuff out any doubt about that).

This is a Billionaire’s coup. This is the French revolution in reverse. This is all about the tax arrangements of the ultra-wealthy, and thanks to their media savvy cohorts enough British voters bought it hook line and sinker to get them over the line, once!

But would they be so lucky today? Is it still “the will of the people”?

Britain NEEDS another vote on Brexit. This time with all the facts on the table.

***THIS ARTICLE HAS BEEN POSTED UNDER CREATIVE COMMONS, AND MAY BE REPRODUCED, SHARED OR QUOTED FROM IN ITS UNEDITED FORM, WITHOUT COST.

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The Eyes of Margaret Reynolds

Even crusty old writers get to escape the starvation in a garret thing and have an occasional holiday. As an avowed and well-practiced Queensland hermit I’ve even surprised myself this year: one trip out into the Australian deserts, and last week a trip down to Tasmania.

And in Tasmania a chance meeting happened …

Quite at random a friend, and yes hermits do have friends, picked out a Richmond Air B&B to stay at for a few nights. From there we planned a trip to Port Arthur and then a bit of wilderness trekking, or wilderness dawdling in my case.

Margaret Reynolds was the contact name on the Air B&B site.

Margaret wasn’t home when we arrived late in the afternoon at the Air B&B place. Her husband Henry, and dog Harry, invited us in. Never got to speak much with Henry during the visit, but would liked to have, as he had an air of mischievousness, and of academic intelligence, about him.

We were shown through to our spot at the back of the place and the first thing I noticed were … the photos up on the walls.

Gough Whitlam. Bob & Hazel Hawke. Richard Butler. Kofi Annan. Xanana Gusmao. The collected Hawke/Keating Ministry. Antonio Guterres. They all beamed down.

Further along the wall was a print of a very old Suffragette Banner. Then there was a bookcase full of feminist writings. Then there was a simple sign that said the Whitlam Room. Then there was a brass plaque that read Senator Margaret Reynolds.

All thought of the wonders of Tasmania temporarily leaked out of my ears as the penny dropped. This was ALP tribal country. A Social Justice heartland. As one does, I did the neck-swivel thing looking around for the glow from the Light On The Hill.

Ha, it made me wonder what a Howard or Abbott devotee would have made of it all.

And then Margaret Reynolds arrived home.

Because we all have feet of clay I never put anyone on a pedestal, but I have to say that in meeting Margaret Reynolds it was both a pleasure, and a learning experience.

The first thing I noticed were her eyes … laced with humour, and tinged with steel. They’ve seen a lot I reckon. They looked at us with intelligence, wit, and no doubt a fair bit of quick summing up, and then they opened up with a smile and invited us into a small part of her world.

Having just written, prior to the Tasmanian trip, a piece on the status of women in contemporary Australia for the AIMN Network, I was gob-smacked to be having a conversation with a woman who devotes much of her life, and who devoted the majority of her period in public service at the highest levels, to the pursuit of equality for women. Margaret was the ALP Minister assisting the Prime Minister for the Status of Women from January 1988 to April 1990.

The subject of women though hardly came up in our conversation with Margaret, so I had to rely on the process of osmosis and proximity to glean insights. The conversation was mainly, surprise, surprise, all about politics. Historical and contemporary.

How often does any one of us get to enjoy a breakfast cooked by someone who has seen far more than she can say, who has mixed with contemporary and historical figures that the rest of us have only ever read about, and who played her part in the most progressive period of governance that Australia has ever experienced?

The most progressive period of governance that Australia has ever experienced. You may agree or disagree with that, but I see it as a given.

Do I know more about Bob Hawke? Do I know more about Paul Keating? Do I know more about Anthony Albanese? Do I know more about Tanya Plibersek? Yes I do. But can I tell you any interesting stuff without betraying the trust of what I considered to be a private conversation? Just a small bit, a little bit, a slight tad, a sliver, yes I think I can.

Bob Hawke was who he appeared to be, there was no artifice whatsoever. Paul Keating’s public persona was very different to his private one. Privately he was very considerate and quite shy, shiny suits aside. I wish I could say a lot more about a lot more.

The stay in Richmond at Margaret and Henry’s and Harry’s place was very brief. It was a rare moment where pure chance gave one a brief window of opportunity to look into a very different world. My friend and I were eyeballs-wide and ears-open I can assure you.

As I stood in the bedroom where Gough Whitlam once slept a lot of thoughts whirred around the old brain box. I thought about what the ALP once was, and I thought about what it has now become. A follow-on article will come out of standing for that moment in that bedroom.

It was a pleasure meeting Margaret and Henry Reynolds in their home. Chance meetings like that rarely come along, and moments in time like that should be appreciated for what they are.

Resonance is a funny thing, and it is also fitting to realise that the foundation level of their house was built by an entrepreneurial Convict. The place came into being in the 1820s as a working-class Inn.

From Wikipedia: Margaret Reynolds (born 19 July 1941) served as an Australian Labor Party Senator for Queensland from 1983 to 1999.

Reynolds had two ministerial appointments during her time in the Senate, serving as Minister for Local Government from September 1987 to April 1990 and as Minister assisting the Prime Minister for the Status of Women from January 1988 to April 1990.

She retired from federal politics in 1999, and went on to lecture in politics and international relations at the University of Queensland. In 1995, Reynolds published a book titled The Last Bastion: Labor women working towards equality in the parliaments of Australia, which is a compilation of biographical details about ALP women from the Party’s inception till the year it was published. A further book, Living Politics, was published by University of Queensland Press in 2007.

From Wikipedia: Henry Reynolds established the Australian History program at Townsville University College, where he accepted a lectureship in 1965, later serving as an Associate Professor of History and Politics from 1982 until his retirement in 1998.

He then took up an Australian Research Council post as a professorial fellow at the University of Tasmania, and subsequently a post at the University’s Riawunna Centre for Aboriginal Education.

In more than ten books and numerous academic articles Reynolds has explained the high level of violence and conflict involved in the colonisation of Australia, and the Aboriginal resistance to numerous massacres of indigenous people.

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com .. PELL .. ing

I write about many things for AIMN: politics, artificial intelligence, women, Australia Day, alternative energy etc. But there is one issue that is receiving a lot of press attention lately … and I cannot let it pass unmentioned.

Thousands upon thousands of words have been written lately about the George Pell case. The legal fraternity has had a say. The media has had a say. His supporters have been granted, and have taken, more than a say. The power of might and money is fuelling his appeal and seeking his early release.

Thousands upon thousands of words, conversely, have never been written about each and every individual case, each and every individual one of the untold number of thousands of cases where a young human being was attacked and sexually brutalised by some members of the religious clergy.

An equal amount of words have never been written about the subsequent affects of that abuse on the daily life of each and every single, living, Survivor.

George Pell is not important. What happens to him now is not important. He was found guilty of a heinous crime. He was sentenced. He is not deserving of any attention. For the rest of his life he will have to deal, and live, with himself. That is enough, that is justice, and as long as his physical being is cared for, and as long as he resides in safety in prison, it is all of the attention that I think his matter now deserves.

It is no surprise to find out that convicted clergy do not like being placed into a prison. It is no surprise to find out that they do not like the loss of their freedom. It may surprise some of the public to be confronted by, and informed about, the type of prison that each and every Survivor is unwillingly placed into.

The only way I can do that is by taking you on an unexpected journey …

Last week I visited Port Arthur in Tasmania. On the site of the old Penitentiary, amongst all the ruins, there is a stand alone building called the Separate Prison. While the convicts housed outside that building were subject to forms of corporal punishment, leg irons and lashings and that sort of thing, the inmates of the Separate Prison were subject to an unremitting regime of mental cruelty.

The regime inside that Separate Prison was based on the thinking of Quaker Reformers back then, religious folk, who believed that sensory deprivation and isolation and fierce discipline had strong rehabilitative powers. The reality is that many inmates of that prison ended up broken men, shattered men, who lost the cognitive power to care for themselves and ended up permanent invalids, who even after release had to be permanently cared for by the state. There was not a lot of religious love associated with that process.

Inside the Separate Prison there is a room called the Punishment Cell. It is very small with a vaulted ceiling, and it is beyond dark, no light can penetrate in. If you were strong-willed or recalcitrant you were placed in there. The solitary confinement was absolute .. can you try to imagine how that must have felt?

I walked into that room and briefly closed the door, and didn’t think too much about anything other than how dark and confining and spirit-sapping the room was. Then I walked out of the Separate Prison planning to see whatever was next on the list and grab a coffee.

Thirty yards down the path the world flipped upside down …

Out of the blue I froze up and burst into tears. Yep, a mature older man in his late sixties standing in the middle of a path with tears streaming in a torrent down his face. The friend with me was consoling, but wondered what the heck had just happened that had upset me so much. I was so flustered by this unexpected event that I was wondering the same thing myself. I couldn’t understand or explain it. And then it hit home like a sledgehammer.

It was the isolation and the darkness you see …

The Punishment Cell had become a metaphor for something else. The Prison of Separation that many Survivors try to endure, the loaded affect of years of mental cruelty and physical abuse that Survivors try to carry.

The human mind is a wonderful thing. Sometimes it manages to compartmentalise experienced horrors and shunt them off to the side, and just when you think they are safely managed an event or a moment in time pops up and temporarily negates the defences and blows unexpected tears out of your eyes. It takes a moment to compose and regather.

As a Survivor, and as an advocate for Survivors of childhood sexual abuse who are still trying to find their voice, I have previously written about how it feels to struggle up for any sort of clear air, any sort of release from the weight of depression and PTSD that many Survivors carry.

That bloody cell was the perfect metaphor for the prison of the mind that many Survivors are incarcerated in.

While George Pell and his supporters scream for his release, we Survivors have to battle out from the darkness, the isolation, the mental cruelty, the physical assaults, and the sexual predation that we experienced. We are left to deal with the Separate Prison placed into our own minds by our religious carers.

And some of the supporters of those clergy have the appalling audacity to call us whingers and scum. That is surely a measure of them. It is surely not a measure of us.

The thousands upon thousands of words currently being written about George Pell need to dry up. The focus needs to shift away from him, he is not important and is undeserving of all the attention, and the focus needs to shift where it should belong, onto the ongoing rehabilitative needs of the untold number of thousands of Survivors.

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The attack on women by Australian politicians, and Alan Jones

Things have been just dandy for women in the last forty eight hours, with broadcaster Alan Jones declaring that Prime Minister Scott Morrison should give New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinta Ardern a few backhands to shut her up, and then stuff a sock down her throat.

Jones was supported by Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, who mildly reprimanded him for his boy talk, before going on to declare that Jones is a “mainstay of our media.”

Then yesterday evening many of us in NSW received a robot call from Nationals backbencher Barnaby Joyce. Joyce stated that he was calling on behalf of the Foundation for Human Development on the matter of the NSW Abortion Bill.

The Foundation’s contact point is the NSW branch of Right to Lifeand we can presume that the robocalls were paid for by this anti choice organisation.

I will transcribe Joyce’s message:

[The NSW Abortion Bill] prohibits giving critical care to babies born alive following abortion and this will be given to any other baby born alive prematurely.

In other words, every other premature baby will be given critical care, except those born alive following an abortion who will be either left to die, or slaughtered by the medical professionals in attendance.

[The Bill] allows sex selective abortions. It legalises abortion for any reason up until the day of birth.

No, the Bill does not “allow sex selective abortions.” No, the Bill does not legalise abortion for any reason up to the day of birth.

Barnaby Joyce is a liar.

We have now heard that the Shooters Fishers & Farmers Party will refuse to work with the NSW government “ever again,” according to its leader Robert Borsak, if the Abortion Bill is passed.

Given the events of the last twenty four hours, a woman could be forgiven for thinking she’s been teleported to a southern state in the USA, where governments and their evangelical supporters routinely use our bodies as battlegrounds.

There is little more dangerous to women than a cabal of white, privileged, powerful men in politics and media who believe they have the right to control our bodies. What is needed is an equally powerful cabal of white, privileged, powerful men in politics and media who will vocally support us in our fight for bodily autonomy. So far, I hear very few men of influence doing that.

When the Treasurer of Australia describes a misogynist, violent scroat  as a “media mainstay,” I have little hope.

This article was originally published on No Place For Sheep.

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Women

Can a man write about a situation that concerns women in our society? I guess we are about to find out. The photo used to illustrate this article was chosen because it well represents, in my eyes, the amount of grit that is thrown the way of women … so on with the article.

I was simply having a chat with a female friend the other day, shooting the breeze, deciding whether to have fish and chips for lunch or not, and the subject of the treatment of women came up. Without any conscious pre-thought I blurted out that the treatment of women in modern Australia is toxic.

That kind of stopped me dead in my tracks for a bit. Gave me pause for thought. I suspect that my female friend was not all all surprised by the content of what I said, but where on earth did my statement come from? What was I basing such an assertion on? It all made me ponder a bit more over the fish and chips.

As a man self-raised in my younger years on at least some of the principles espoused by people like Gloria Steinem and Betty Friedan, even if I didn’t fully understand everything that they were saying at the time … I thought that things were on the rise for women in our society.

I admired the fact that women were standing up and out there with courage and saying that they had had enough of the inequality bullshit that they had endured since the day dot, and it opened my eyes to how pervading that bullshit actually was.

But all of that was back then, over almost half a century ago. And as I look around today I seriously question whether anything that has locked-in and enduring value has changed for women at all. Maybe I’m wrong with that but I’m flat out finding any evidence to convince me otherwise.

It is very easy as a man, who has fortuitously been surrounded by independent women throughout most of his adult life, to be so easily deluded into thinking that the fight for equality has gained and advanced across firm and non-regressive ground.

Nothing that I am about to say has not been said before, or said better before. Maybe many women and men have said these things so many times before it is not funny. Well, I’m quite happy to jump in and say it all again, and proffer an opinion.

No man alive has any sort of unique insight into the workings of a female human being, or into how a woman feels. But none of that should stop a man from being an effective acquaintance, friend, partner, listener, boss, random man met in the street, or even leader of a nation.

Lacking such insight does not stop many of us men from being those very positive things, good friends and partners etc. Yet sometimes other men choose another path to that and they choose to add-on and express and realise a brutal exhibition of violence towards women.

Women have no unique insight to the workings of a man either you have to, or may possibly like to, admit, and allowing for the occasional example to the contrary women generally appear to be more effective at fostering cordial inter-relationship from the personal through to the societal level. I don’t know why that is, to me it simply appears to be so.

If anybody reckons that they do have unique insights into the opposite gender then I reckon that they’d be a unique example of a unique first. It would be a wonderful gift to have.

It all leads me to the hard questions. All of this happens elsewhere, but I am talking about Australia.

Who denies equal pay to some women?
Who denies equality of representation to women in the workplace, and in places like our Parliaments?
Which gender voice swamps our national airwaves?
Which gender tells another to ram a sock down their throat?
Which gender tells an individual of the other that their social campaigning against violence towards women is unfair to men?
Who fears, and in some cases, hates women?
Who beats up, terrorises, rapes, and continually objectifies women?
Who follows women into parks at night and kills them?
Who, on average, kills one Australian woman each and every week of each and every year of each and every decade?

The answer is some men. Not all men by any means. Some men.

So what can the rest of us men do? Apart from wearing pretty ribbons of solidarity on our shirts or suit labels what can we do about it?

Maybe, we could stop preaching at women with such lines as … don’t walk around alone looking like a victim because you will be seen as same and predated upon. Really? Strong independent women with no carried sense of the victim about them are just as regularly killed.

In the past I’ve been guilty of waffling such silly preaching sorts of lines, but luckily my female friends didn’t disown me, they simply threw a bit of short sharp re-education my way. I’m glad they did, true friends and all that.

Perhaps a better response is to ask ourselves as men how can we contribute to a change in society that ensures that women can walk around alone in safety. We could also ask a woman that question and keep our ears open to hear the answer.

We could ensure that our legislators, and more importantly ourselves, call out domestic violence for the act of criminality and terrorism that it is. If the rate of female deaths in Australia due to domestic violence were down to the actions of a non-state rogue terrorist group then the full resources of the nation would be utilised to end it.

Excuse me for being so blunt about it, but the relatives of the women who have been killed have every right to ask why did you not utilise the full resources of this nation to end the horror that they experienced, the horror that ultimately took their lives? That is, and remains, the most plaintive and fair of questions.

I cannot help but think that we do not yet even closely have enough female representation at any level in our society where decisions about the realities of female inequality or violence towards women are seriously attended to, or rectified.

As an example at the most simplest of levels: equality of pay: payroll systems are automated and computerised, so to harmonise pay rates between the genders in the commercial work sphere … all it would take is the pressing of a few keyboard buttons. Who is stopping such a simple pressing of those buttons from happening? Why is all the hot air and dialogue on that issue still circulating about, after all these decades, without any concrete action occurring? How can the CEOs of private companies, and the owners of medium to small businesses, justify their inaction?

What is the thing in our society that we refuse to glare at and engage full on with? I don’t think it can be said any other way … it is the all pervasiveness and continued existence of the Doctrine of Male Dominance. After all the years of effort it has not been de-constructed.

Too many men, either through their fear of change, or their apathy towards change, or their outright support and fostering of The Doctrine, actively contribute towards its still present dominance over the workings of our society. It is a Doctrine that continues to kill women.

Life itself has led me to the following view of things, and as wobbly and as full of lessons and the re-learning of forgotten lessons as my weave through life and its experiences has been, there is no place for inequality or violence in that view.

As an over-arching statement … there is no place for inequality and violence in the world of men and men, or in the world of women and women, but it concerns me that there is still such a predominant amount of inequality and violence in the world that exists between men and women here in Australia. It is going to take all our combined efforts to stop it.

I don’t think that women are better than men, or that men are better than women. We are all here on a great planet, the only one we currently have until we get to Mars, and our genders swirl around each other with our intriguing differences continually interacting in a dance of unpredictable and joyous possibility.

Why would anybody want to hurt, or be allowed to hurt, an opposite gender who equally contributes to creating something as precious as the minutiae of that wonderful dance?

I, as a man, and my female friends, as women, might all be old invisible farts to the rest of society, we might well be seen as the dated children of the Age of Aquarius who never quite managed to achieve the lofty goals of gender fairness that we strived for way back then. But guess what? We are still here, and we are still striving for something that should not be elusive at all … equality, and an end to violence against women in our society!

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The front row of Australian race relations …

It could have just been a normal weekend. But it wasn’t. A friend invited me down to Brisbane to see the one woman show called My Urrwai by Ghenoa Gela. It all unfolded from there.

(Show Blurb: My Urrwai is a revealing window into culture, and an unflinching comment on race relations in Australia. As a contemporary comic, dancer, mainland Torres Strait Islander woman, Ghenoa reflects on and celebrates her cultural and familial inheritance and invites audiences into her world to experience the interplay of the political, social and colonial expectations she dances with every day).

The show confronted me on many levels. Ghenoa was funny, bitingly intelligent, and gently caring of the front row fodder that she hauled up onto the stage to participate in various parts of the show. She talked about many things: the culture-killing affects of missionary zeal, the pressure from police to ‘keep your Indigenous mouth shut’, the treatment of Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander people in Australian commercial retail outlets, and beyond the issue of race itself, the way we all, as human beings, treat each other.

Front row fodder. That’s an interesting one. My friend didn’t think twice about sitting in the front row, better view and all that, but I died a million deaths of agoraphobic induced anxiety as I plonked my butt in the comedic danger zone. Long story short, if you have read My Testimony you’ll get my drift. Happy ending however, we were not singled out or stage-fronted, though it might have proved interesting.

I couldn’t see the leadership group of the One Nation Party from where I was sitting. Perhaps they were avidly enjoying this show against overt racism from somewhere up in the back row?

So here am I, with my story, in the front row listening to the life story of a mainland Torres Strait Islander woman, sitting next to my friend who has her own story, and surrounded by an audience of people who all have their own individual stories. If you look at it this way, which I did, that room was full of stories, with most of them perhaps, left unsaid. But it was Ghenoa’s day, and she carried it magnificently.

It also made me think about race relations here in Australia. And it made me think about raw meat. Huh … you might think, what’s the connection there?

Well, apart from attending Ghenoa’s show, my friend and I pretended that we were very rich people and we attended a couple of restaurants in the two evenings we were in Brisbane. One was the venerable Greek Club in West End, and let’s face it, Greek cooking with bouzouki music trilling in the background is nothing short of nirvanic.

The other restaurant was French. I had Tartare de Boef. As a person well known to be a tad slow on the spontaneity uptake, I decided to break the mould, go for broke, and dive willingly into a plate of what was essentially a mound of raw minced beef with a raw egg dribbled all over it. It was delicious. But, again, it made me think about race relations here in Australia.

What are we all if nothing but a sack of bones and raw meat with a brain pan wobbling precariously on the top. We are all the raw meat of the human race. The only species of human on this planet.

Some will beg to differ with that opinion, and they will point out that if you can stomach listening to some of the pronouncements coming out of our current government then you are hearing living proof that Neanderthals are still amongst us. I get a sense of the truth of all that, but I can imagine Neanderthals rightly saying … hey, how dare you drag the memory of us down to the low levels of wallowdom where those government bods lurk … so apologies to the Neanderthals.

The weekend wasn’t all food fest and show, however. We also went to the markets. We had a couple of conversations there with stall holders. One stall holder was of Taiwanese origin. The other stall holders were an Indigenous couple.

The young Australian Taiwanese man was probably the happiest person I have ever met. He made jewellery. He visited Taiwan annually and stocked up on raw gemstones and then came back to Australia and polished them up and made his jewellery to sell at the markets. He loved living in this country, and when he described how it felt to be an Australian living in Queensland his grin was infectiously wider than the Grand Canyon.

He obviously loved people and he treated both of us as randomly and happily well-met fellow human beings. I got the sense that he didn’t see himself as Asian, and he didn’t see us as Anglo-Celts, all he saw were two human beings. Other people in Australia are not as advanced as that young man.

We were then attracted to an art stall run by an Indigenous couple. Yes, we bought some of their art, but then the conversation started. We talked for over an hour. Recognition, The Voice, race relations, historical wrongs, how human beings treat each other through the veil of race, were all discussed over that market stall table.

Remember earlier where I mentioned that everybody has their own story. Well, though I pitched in to the conversation with my own thoughts on the matter of Australian race relations, largely I listened. Because that Aboriginal couple wanted to share their story. They wanted to be heard. They had a lot to say.

In that one hour they talked about the beauty of being part of the oldest contiguous culture on this planet. They were both artists and they expressed their joy at having the artistic ability to express the stories of their culture in drawn and painted form. And they talked about the weight of sorrows that they and other Indigenous Australians carry each and every single day.

Not once did they attack us personally. Not once did they say it was our fault. Not once did they treat us as anything other than well-met fellow human beings. They saw two human beings willing to listen and they were prepared to tell us their story.

How can you distil the raw meat of a conversation? Not all of the following words were said, some were implied, but they are certainly all of the words of the story and of the message that I heard, and they get down to the nub of it all … those with the muskets didn’t listen to us then, they shot and they poisoned and they killed us as they grabbed our land, and they still aren’t listening to us now, and they still carry their musket of suppression with pride.

Perhaps all of that shows how little things have really changed over the last couple of centuries here in Australia.

Is Australia a racist country? The following questions have an answer that begins with a Y too. Is the Pope a Catholic? Does the sun rise every morning? Is snow cold? Does the earth spin?

Racism is not unique to Australia, racism is global, but it is Australia that is being discussed here. Australia is peopled by human beings from all over the world. Some come from Asia, some from Europe, some from Africa, some from South America, some from all points in between, and some have been here 60,000 years longer than all of the rest of us. But human beings all.

It is easy to fall into the trap of moralising when you discuss matters as huge as racism, so it pays to keep your succinct opinion succinct. So here, in short version, is what I think …

There is only one race on this planet. The human race. So it is disturbing that some members of the human race vent hatred on others who are exactly the same as themselves. Self-hatred is never a good thing.

Also, we generally don’t learn much by talking, we learn far more by listening. In Australia, the Indigenous voice is largely not yet screaming at us in anger, it is still at the polite stage of asking us to respectfully listen to the story. But like anything else, patience eventually runs out.

It could have been a normal weekend. But it wasn’t.

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Lies, damned lies, and children in onshore detention

By RosemaryJ36  

When I came to Australia nearly 50 years ago, it was just starting to recover from the White Australia policy and was still proud of giving everyone a Fair Go – that was the name of the boat we bought soon after our arrival!

Not true anymore!

Malcolm Fraser has often been praised for the way he handled the Vietnamese boat arrivals but his example has been turned on its head by more recent governments of both persuasions.

I dare you to watch the following two videos, as well as the report, and not feel shame for what Australia has become!

And the calibre of some of the comments on the Twitter feed makes me feel sick!

 

Detention Centres are run by staff with no knowledge of the nutrition requirements of developing children, and the whole set up is blatantly ignoring the damage done to children when they are cut off from stimulation and the company of their peers.

A visitor with a birthday cake for a 2-year old is denied access!

Quite apart from the sheer inhumanity of this treatment of young children – and there have been others who have been treated similarly – it shows how totally out of touch this government is.

The current Climate Emergency – which the Coalition refuse to acknowledge – is going to lead to a massive exodus from many low-lying areas in countries like Bangladesh. Not only will country be flooded – by the oceans – but so, too, will countries like ours be flooded – with people – when these refugees seek dry ground!

We are currently seeing on TV the mass drownings occurring in the Mediterranean Sea as refugees seek help in Europe and are repelled at the ports. This is not Brave New World fiction, but living 21st Century reality.

As far as the Biloela family is concerned, the government is insisting that they can safely return to Thailand. They rely on the word of Thai government officials but a firsthand examination would almost certainly tell a different story.

In any case, the family was contributing to and loved by their community.

How much has it cost us, and not just financially, to destroy the happiness of this little community?

Peter Dutton is capable of making instant and arbitrary decisions but he does so more often in ways that cause harm than ones that actually benefit the people involved.

How long do we go on ignoring the extent to which the government lies to us?

Does no one care that our reputation as a country is being destroyed?

First Australia was established as a convict colony by the British and the First nations were subjected to genocide. They remain largely disenfranchised to this day.

Then we received floods of migrants after WWII who were rubbished by the white Australians as wogs or worse.

Then the Vietnamese fleeing their homeland, which we had helped the USA destroy, would have been turned back except for Malcolm Fraser.

Now, while war and cultural clashes in many countries results in many seeking safe haven, we have a cold-hearted government which sees protecting our borders as more important than helping the desperate.

And the final irony is that many of the responsible Ministers claim to be Christian, but their behaviour brands them as hypocrites!

New Zealand might not be perfect, but in many, many regards it truly puts Australia to shame!

Stop listening to lies, Australia, and show how you can be better than this!

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It’s just one of those days I feel ashamed to be Australian

What more can I say?

Children are already dying under the Trump Administration’s watch.

Children are being separated from their parents at the US/Mexico border.

Children as young as five months old are sleeping on concrete floors.

Children are being denied tooth brushes, toothpaste, and soap.

They aren’t even allowed to take a bath or a shower.

Some are detained in a large warehouse that has no windows.

Most children are lice infected.

Horrified Americans are sending tooth brushes and sanitary products but they are being returned by government agents.

The man nominated by Trump to be the new Secretary of Homeland Security told Fox News that these children are only going to grow up to be criminals so we might as well leave them locked up at the border.

But Trump wants more … and he turns to Australia for inspiration.

How do you feel about that?

 

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In a reflection in Saturday’s Age (11/5) Merle Mitchell explained that institutionalization in aged care left her without a home. Institutionalized care can mean a loss of social networks and community. In her opinion, there was the feeling that death would be a better resolution for everyone. Fortunately, though, she did not lose contact with…

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