Sunday, June 8, 2014

Sheppherd Street

Because I haven't posted in awhile, here is a poem I wrote for uni, styled in the grunge lit genre:

Sheppherd Street

The house on Sheppherd Street is always teeming
With people and noises and kids
There’s sobbing and squabbling and laughing and screaming
There’s babies on many a hip

There’s not many rules in the Sheppherd Street house
The people drop ‘round in their droves
The men suck down beers and sit on the couch
The women make tea by the stove

Behind the old house is a giant back yard
Where little boys write on the wall
They’re dodging ‘round dozens of rusty old shards
And kicking a flat rugby ball

The windows are grimy with mismatching shutters
The couches all sag in the middle
There’s plates piled up high and toys left to clutter
The bathroom smells of shit and piddle

The police come around to the Sheppherd Street dwelling
The neighbours complained ‘bout a bash
Their knocks can’t be heard over all of the yelling
A little girl finds them, she’s brash

‘Hullo, Mr Pig’, she says with a grin
And the boys in blue can’t help but simper
‘Where is your mother?’ they ask, looking grim
‘And have you had any dinner?’

‘Yes!” she says happily, ‘we always eat!’
‘Snags, and eggy’s and peas’.
She’s happy that girl, on twelve Sheppherd Street
She’s really quite easy to please

Monday, March 31, 2014

Words that move: de Rivarol


The most civilised nations are as close to barbarity
as the most polished iron is close to rust. Nations,
like metals, shine only on the surface.

- Antoine de Rivarol





Thursday, March 20, 2014

The Rose


Who would have thought that two small things could cause so much anticipation and pleasure.

Just remember, in the winter,
Far beneath the bitter snows.
Lies the seed, that with the suns love...
In the Spring
Becomes the rose.




Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Scenes from our new home




 
Our new home in Marrickville - quirky, calm and most importantly, breezy. There is even a spare room.

Never before have I felt so at home.


This blog



Lately I have been thinking about deleting this blog.

But after reading through some previous posts, I've decided that I don't want to do that.

I've noticed a trend with my blogging - I seem to write when I am feeling present and inspired. Whilst some of my posts are cringeworthy, others are just plain lovely. Overall, they highlight the good times. Recording my tumultuous twenties with honesty and appreciation for what I've done and who I've done it with.

Turning thirty this year, I wasn't too worried about getting old. I'm in a good place, but I am in a rush. Globetrotting for almost six years meant that real life was put on hold for me. Now here I am faced with uni, marriage and a future mortgage. Do I have time to have a kid in between? Where are we going to live? We don't want to buy a unit in Sydney when we can buy a four bedroom house elsewhere. But if we're not in the city, what will I do for work?

I know I am far from alone on this one. Fortunately for me, my sister and best friend is in a very similar position. One of my closest friends is getting married a few months before I am. We will all stumble through it together.

Reading through my blog, I really enjoyed the nostalgia of seeing my past movements recorded and illustrated with photos. I'd like to revisit that. I'll focus more on quality, not quantity. It might be one photo and a simple sentence that means something to me.

“It's being here now that's important. There's no past and there's no future. Time is a very misleading thing. All there is ever, is the now. We can gain experience from the past, but we can't relive it; and we can hope for the future, but we don't know if there is one.”
George Harrison

 

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Writers block

 
 
Somebody once told me that if you are stuck on something to write about, just sit and think and write the first thing that comes into your head. Let the words gurgle and churn in your head and let them spew onto the screen like jumbly, sporadic bursts of nonsense that may eventually turn themselves into something somewhat artistic, or at the very least something that inspires you to write something else.

My problem is you see, I need to read everything back and fix it up every time I form a sentence. I’m not relaxed enough to just go with the flow, maybe think about fixing it later. I want it to be perfect now, and I think in the midst of that I can sometimes trample on the beauty that might have been. I may have actually done that in paragraph one, but here I am trying something new. I am not reading my sentences back. I’m letting it spew. Just letting go, I will surrender myself to the words. Pity it took me about four minutes to figure out that the word ‘surrender’ was what I was after.

Am I a writer? This is a question I have asked myself dozens of times over the years. As a child, the adults wanted me to be. Maybe I even wanted me to be a writer. It came easily, and I was praised for my “skill”. People thought I could be one of those super smart kids, until I lost interest in maths and science, performed poorly in tests and was promptly downgraded to “just good at english”. It bothered me a bit, you know? Not that I ever wanted to be a doctor or a scientist or a mathematician. I just wanted to be smart. That is until it became uncool to be smart. That’s me - always wanting to fit in, always needing to be liked.

Why do the words always seem to flow when I write about myself? I love fiction - I love reading it, and I wish I was good at writing it. My confidence was knocked a little when my short stories were recently critiqued by my uni tutor. I tried so damn hard, and I’m not sure what more I could have done to improve. I took her feedback onboard and in retrospect I appreciate it. I know it will help me grow, but deep down I still can’t help taking it personally. What can I do to make my stories as good as the 19 year old country boy in my writing class?  Is he reading every day? Where does he get his inspiration? I’m not reading every day, not even close. I’m also not writing every day. Is that why i’m not perfect? How can I expect to be perfect when I’m not practising? Remember Bounce - practice does actually make perfect.
 
I think I might write a story now.


Thursday, December 19, 2013

How I feel about the true history of Australia

This year I received my first High Distinction, and I couldn't be more proud that it was for my Aboriginal studies sub major.

For years I have been passionate about Indigenous issues, and I think that it's important for white Australian's to start exposing the truth behind a history of lies and mass murder. There is nothing more powerful than knowledge, and if people can be educated about the past, then there is a greater chance of moving into a more positive future, together.

The current government have a number of policies set in place for our Indigenous communities that are not effective. I want to post a recent essay that I wrote, because I think it's important for people to start coming up with better solutions.


The cultural importance of land to Indigenous Australian’s – past and present

Having spent almost six years living overseas, in my opinion I live in the most beautiful country in the world. Australia’s landscape is incredibly rich and diverse, with vast oceans hugging rugged coastlines, sprawling orange deserts and tropical rainforests to name just a few of our natural splendours. Most that live here agree that we are fortunate to call Australia home, coining it the ‘Lucky Country’ - a land of beauty and boundless plains to share, as our national anthem suggests. However history indicates that white Australian’s did not share the land when they invaded the country in 1788. Colonisation was violent and forced, and even to this day a treaty has not been signed with the original inhabitants of the land. For the past 225 years, Indigenous Australian’s have battled to maintain their cultural and spiritual connection to the land, and there are continuing struggles with land rights today. As explained by Behrendt, ‘Even where a “traditional” lifestyle has been lost land continues to be of central importance to Aboriginal people. As a community we believe that the land is still ours. We never surrendered it or traded it. It always was Aboriginal land and it always will be Aboriginal land. In our culture, land is not something you can buy or sell or give away’ (Behrendt 1995).

 Worldviews have often been the cause of conflict and misunderstanding between Indigenous and non Indigenous Australian’s. Worldviews are described as ‘the common concept of reality shared by a particular group of people, usually referred to as a culture, or an ethnic group’ (Ranzijn, McConnochie & Nolan 2009). Our worldviews can be influenced by a range of factors such as family, school, the media and social circles. Since primary school I had only experienced history from the narrow worldview of our set curriculum, which focused on exploration and colonisation as the ‘beginning’ of Australian history. However during my final year of high school, I took extension history and was given the opportunity to undertake a research topic of my choice. My teacher at the time suggested that I read a book by well-known Australian historian Henry Reynolds, titled ‘Why Weren’t We Told?’ Being young and somewhat flippant, I agreed to the suggestion without any insight as to why. After reading the book however, I was blown away by the information that I was confronted with. The book questions Australian history and the myth surrounding ‘peaceful’ colonisation. In his novel, Reynolds challenges previous historical accounts, recounting stories of violence and genocide on the frontier. He claims that ‘Without some reconciliation of stories, some convergence of histories, it is hard to see how the broader agenda of reconciliation can be advanced’ (Reynolds 1999).

Early accounts of white sovereignty in Australia were based on the legal myth of ‘terra nullius’, or ‘land belonging to no one’. Reynolds himself admits that early on in his studies he ‘certainly thought it unjust and immoral that the Aborigines lost their country. But I assumed that nomadic people could have no claim to land. That was certainly the impression that was conveyed by the books I had read’ (Reynolds 1999). The Europeans believed that because the native inhabitants did not have a legal property system similar to their own, they were justified in their aims to conquer the land. It’s hard to believe that this fictional law was the basis of the British invasion in 1788, and even more unbelievable to think that it was only abolished in 1992 when the famous Mabo land rights case went to the High Court of Australia. The impact of this ignorant, scapegoat term was more than just loss of land, but also loss of identity. As discussed by Behrendt, not only was terra nullius extremely convenient to the British in claiming ownership of a valuable land mass, but it also meant that ‘the strong spiritual relationship that the indigenous people had with the land was ignored’ (Behrendt 1995).  

 ‘Locatedness – identification with place – is fundamental to Aboriginal people’s understanding of life all over Australia’ (Bird Rose 1992). For Indigenous people, life and death is connected to the land, and there is a deep respect for nature and ecology that has developed over thousands of years. Researchers have estimated that Indigenous Australian’s have been residing on the land for over 40,000 years, centuries before the Egyptian pyramids were even built! Over these thousands of years, a deep spiritual relationship has developed and an intricate knowledge system put in place to care for country.  Indigenous elder ‘Uncle’ Bobby Randall explains, ‘See my people see land ownership as being totally different to the English way of ownership...the land owns us, and it still is that to us’ (Global Oneness Project, 2009). In her book ‘Dingo makes us human’, Deborah Bird Rose also notes the importance of country from the perspective of the Yarralin people of the Victoria Valley in the Northern Territory. She explains how ownership and responsibility involves protection of the land – ‘the person takes care of the country and the country takes care of the person. Such a relationship is built up over time through knowledge and the assumption of responsibility’ (Bird Rose 1992). With such strong attachment to the land, is it any wonder that land rights are considered a fundamental aspect to the wellbeing of Indigenous people?

Throughout history, Indigenous Australian’s have fought to take back some ownership of their land. One of the earliest examples of protest were the 1963 Yirrkala park petitions – traditional Indigenous documents that were sent to parliament as a form of protest against mining in the Northern Territory. Although the court eventually ruled against the Yolngu people in favour of terra nullius, the case had a positive impact on future movements. In 1976 the Aboriginal Land Rights Act was passed in the Northern Territory, which eventually led to the communal ownership of 50% of land and 85% of coastline. Representative councils were appointed to protect the land on behalf of the Indigenous populations. In 2006 however the act was amended by the Howard government, with several new clauses promoting economic development and privatisation of homes, as well as fast tracking of mining negotiations. Many of the policies that Howard and the Liberal government put into place are still active today, and do little to support the cultural development of communities. I’m wondering – why is it that Indigenous people are not directly involved in these decisions that impact them so greatly?

The 1976 Aboriginal Land Rights Act had a direct influence on the homelands movement in the Northern Territory in the 1970’s and 1980’s. The movement involved small Aboriginal groups and families leaving their town communities and living on their traditional lands. This gave Indigenous Australian’s the opportunity to reconnect with their spiritual ties to the land, and move away from the negative impacts of townships. Studies have shown that homelands have had a positive influence on Indigenous health and wellbeing, as well as ‘reduced social problems; and significant economic development and enterprise opportunities, particularly in on-country conservation and land management activities’ (Aboriginal Peak Organisations Northern Territory 2011). Indigenous activist Rosalie Kunoth Monks discusses the importance of the movement: ‘I would really have to be so assimilated into another culture to be able to survive without my spirituality, without my essence of being a black Australian. You are nothing unless you are on your country. Because that country actually owns you’ (AI Australia 2011). Over the years, homelands have become an integral part of Indigenous lives in the Northern Territory, as they help reconnect Indigenous peoples with the land.

In 1992 a landmark case was passed by the High Court of Australia known as Mabo vs Queensland. The case was led by Indigenous man Eddie Mabo, a passionate land rights activist who campaigned for the rights of the Meriam people of Murray Island in the Torres Strait. Henry Reynolds, who was a friend and confidant of Mabo, describes Mabo’s reaction when he first explained that Murray Island was owned by the crown. He notes that Mabo was ‘stunned. It was as though I had punched him in the face...How could the whitefellas question something so obvious as his ownership of the land?’ (Reynolds 1999). Over many years, Mabo fought for legal rights in Murray Island, which eventually led to a court case that focused on native title. ‘Native title describes the rights which Aboriginal people have to land and waters according to their customary laws, but viewed from and recognised by, the Australian legal system’ (Korff, 2013). The case, which lasted over a decade, eventually recognised the Meriam people as the native title holders of the land. The decision also overturned terra nullius and abolished the term from the Australian legal system. This was a huge step forward for Indigenous peoples, as it allowed legitimate land rights claims to made.

Although the Mabo case was successful to some degree, many have questioned its effectiveness. Although native title puts Indigenous people in a stronger position to negotiate, the fact that it can be extinguished by government at any time (provided they have valid reasoning) leaves me feeling sceptical, particularly considering the behaviour of our previous governments. Also, by eradicating terra nullius, the High Court was forced to reconsider forced acquisition of land during colonisation. Because the European’s had not signed a treaty with the Indigenous people, the government would be held legally accountable for compensation due to loss of land. So instead of going down this path, the court claimed that native title had ‘survived’ where freehold title did not exist, which made native title claims extremely difficult to implement. Wadjularbinna Nullyarimma, Gungalidda Elder claims that ‘The Native Title system is so racist that it has been condemned three times by the United Nations, because it places white interests in land over those of traditional owners’ (Korff, 2013). Watson also mentions this in ‘Settled and Unsettled Spaces’, stating “Aboriginal sacred lands are appropriated for mining development or suburban sprawl as a matter of course; it is business as usual…For we are deemed settled peoples, our claims put right by white Australian’s and their Mabo native title deal: the deal of the century, the deal which will carry us into this new millennium, a deal which guarantees the continuing theft of our lands…” (Watson, 2007).

Indigenous Australian’s continue to struggle with legislation restrictions that make it difficult for successful land claims to be made. Laws are different in every state, and a formal process is only in place for New South Wales, the Northern Territory and Queensland. The process is difficult and expensive, and by law ‘there is no requirement in any of the three jurisdictions with a formal claims process to be resolved in a timely manner. This has led to more than 10,000 land claims waiting to be determined in NSW alone’ (Korff 2013). It exasperates me to think that in a modern first world country such as Australia, our systems can be so unfair and ineffective. It is also evident that current policies are unsuccessful when applied to the cultural and spiritual importance of land to Australia’s Indigenous population. Recent policies such as ‘The Northern Territory Intervention’ and ‘Closing the Gap’ have proven to have had a negative impact on communities, particularly small homeland groups. Furthermore, the dismantling of employment programs and funding cuts for homelands indicate a push towards ‘Growth Towns’, which also ‘disadvantage homelands by reducing available resources and locally accessible services’ (Aboriginal Peak Organisations Northern Territory 2011). In 2008, small community groups and councils were merged into larger regional shires. This means that small councils that were previously responsible for homelands communities have now been disbanded and new shires are run by boards, which include pastoral and mining representatives. Obviously this is a threat to land, natural resources and sacred sites, if any developments go ahead.

Misinformed worldviews have been the cause of many injustices for Australia’s Indigenous peoples, and ‘the assumption that one’s own worldview is right and that those of others are wrong or inferior has been, and still is, responsible for cultural misunderstanding and cultural incompetence at best and oppression, persecution and even genocide at worst’ (Ranzijn, McConnochie & Nolan 2009). The land in which we white Australian’s so proudly boast as our own is of great spiritual significance to the Indigenous population who lived here for tens of thousands of years before us. If we are to work towards a positive future, we need to start including Indigenous people in the decisions that directly affect them. As Watson states, ‘The creation of a healthy society – one that heals the sickness of colonialism – is the work ahead, for if it is not done we will continue to exist in an Australian ugliness, in a journey coming to an ugly ending’ (Watson, 2007).

Over the past six months, my knowledge of land rights has developed and I am proud to be part of an education system that incorporates the worldview of Indigenous Australian’s. I believe that it is vital for Aboriginal Studies to be incorporated into the curriculum of schools and universities nationwide. We need to raise awareness in order to continue to strive for land rights and a system that is equitable for all. As Kunoth Monks so passionately explains, ‘All of the components of our identity hangs on the land. There’s the land in a circle. There’s the language from that land... It incorporates family lineage, family groups. It incorporates our sacred lands. It incorporates our law. The law is L-A-W as well as L-O-R-E. Break any one of those arms and sever it from the land, you are committing the death of a race of people. It is so vitally important for our identity and the continuation of that, one of the oldest races in the world, that government are mindful not to sever, not to kill’ (Amnesty International, 2011).

References

Aboriginal Peak Organisations Northern Territory 2011, Statement on Homelands, Outstations and Other Small Communities October 2011, An alliance of the CLC, NLC, CAALAS, NAAJA and AMSANT.

 AIAustralia 2011, I am my homelands, video recording, viewed 5 November 2013,    < http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uqhJcimn9XM>

Amnesty International 2011, The land holds us – Aboriginal people’s right to traditional homelands in the Northern Territory, August 2011, report digest, Broadway NSW.
Behrendt, L. 1995, Aboriginal Dispute Resolution: A Step Towards Self-determination and Community Autonomy, The Federation Press, Annandale.

Bird Rose, D. 1992, Dingo makes us human: Life and land in an Aboriginal Australian culture, Cambridge University Press.
Global Oneness Project 2009, The Land Owns Us, video recording, viewed 4 November 2013, < http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w0sWIVR1hXw>

Korff, J. 2013, Native Title, Creative Spirits, viewed 4 November 2013, <http://www.creativespirits.info/aboriginalculture/land/native-title>
Ranzijn, R., McConnochie, K. & Nolan, W. 2009, Psychology and Indigenous Australian’s: Foundations of Cultural Competence, Palgrave Macmillan, South Yarra, Vic. Chapter 2. pp.13-30.

Reynolds, H. 1999, Why weren’t we told?, Penguin Books Australia Ltd.
Watson, I. 2007, ‘Settled and Unsettled spaces: Are we free to roam?’ in Moreton-Robinson, A. (ed), Sovereign Subjects: Indigenous Sovereignty Matters, Allen and Unwin, Crows Nest. Chapter 1. Pp.15-32.