Visibility and Invisibility 2022 #48

I’m listening to Bono’s memoir Surrender and loving it. I am finding myself thinking about what was going on in my life when he is talking about recording a song, writing a poem, being on tour, becoming a parent, getting married, being in that force of nature and brotherhood that is the band U2. I wasn’t expecting his story to have so much resonance with mine and all the reasons I have loved the band for so long are being revisited.

U2 was often on the turntable, or CD player in the house and car being one of THE bands forming the soundtrack of my child raising years. The poetic and the romantic expressions of universal themes always seem to find me.

The sound and this brotherhood – the Zen master of the guitar The Edge, the sparse intense intimacy of Adam on bass, the relentless demand of Larry on drums and the ache and urging of Bono – I am grateful for the music and the leadership they have shown in and out of the studio. 

The ability for sound to hold meaning and to be held by that meaning over and over again is like a universal prayer. It is the form and function of call and response that refuses to budge, and I am never released. The voice, the vocation, the call, the response and the consequent spiralling, like the nautilus swimming through an ocean, this pilgrim is moving into new waters. 

I learnt recently a nautilus has an extremely rare ability to withstand being brought to the surface from its deep natural habitat without suffering any apparent damage from the experience, able to withstand the incredible changes in pressure. I am drawing inspiration from this ancient mollusc as I come into the new role of Mayor. There has been a change in pressure as I am washed onto another shore, I am hanging onto the nautilus to hold me and remembering the rhythm and the tides, like the music of U2 keeping me afloat in an ocean of sounds and calls demanding a response.

Listening to the book also has me listening to some old U2 tracks like Pride, Desire, Streets with no name, With or Without You, and remembering, with great love, old conversations. Grief is sneaky and Bono’s voice has been its midwife this week amidst all the new learning, new pressures and new opportunities emerging.

There have been some disturbing moments this week with the ongoing 16 days of activism gendered violence and noticing how that violence shows up. Got to watch Brazen Hussies again this week in a community setting and in conversation with strangers. I was very unsettled by how far we have come and how far we still have to come. And the soundtrack of that doco was full of chants and the familiar voice of Helen Reddy. In the course of the week, I watched a bully use all his tools to try and intimidate a young woman, she drew on the wisdom and advice of others and easily found her voice and resisted. I celebrated her. I heard myself into speech about some moments in the election campaign where violence turned up. I am still working on myself to replace thoughts of violence rooted in judgements, to be replaced with thoughts and acts of empathy. I have plenty of opportunities to practice!

These thoughts, private and invisible, are invitations to transformation. My reluctance to embrace these invitations has been visible here and there this week. The lyrics of With or Without You have been swirling around in my head to accompany these thoughts. Bono wrote the lyrics as a tussle with himself, a bit like the idea that we take ourselves wherever we go whether we like it or not, and how we sometimes have to wait for parts of ourselves to catch up with other parts.

And you give, and you give, as you give yourself away is an invisible earworm making another spiral in the nautilus. When I do an exegesis on the line and listen again to the track, I discover the music, emptied of lyrics for almost half of the track, is the response to the call.  The spaces between the notes, the combination of sounds and instruments, the complexity of the mix, making a sonic ocean for the lyrics to land on the shore. Another U2 lesson to take with me into my internal and invisible places of resistance, resilience and surrender.

See the stone set in your eyes
See the thorn twist in your side
I’ll wait for you
Sleight of hand and twist of fate
On a bed of nails, she makes me wait
And I wait without you

With or without you
With or without you

Through the storm, we reach the shore
You give it all but I want more
And I’m waiting for you

With or without you
With or without you, ah, ah
I can’t live
With or without you

And you give yourself away
And you give yourself away
And you give
And you give
And you give yourself away

My hands are tied
My body bruised, she got me with
Nothing to win and
Nothing left to lose

And you give yourself away
And you give yourself away
And you give
And you give
And you give yourself away

With or without you
With or without you, oh
I can’t live
With or without you
Oh, oh
Oh, oh

With or without you
With or without you, oh
I can’t live
With or without you

With or without you

Songwriters: Adam Clayton / Dave Evans / Larry Mullen / Paul David Hewson

With Or Without You lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

Visibility and Invisibility 2022 #47

It was so fitting that my first official speech as Mayor, was for the opening of a space to commemorate women impacted by domestic violence. A space for reflection, to keep vigil, for rest and for healing and hope. As I looked out into the crowd gathered there were many familiar faces, as well as a new generation stepping into their leadership and old and new collaborators. I have deep roots in this work, as an ally and a friend, both personally and professionally and now as a civic leader another platform to bring this scourge out of the shadows into the light.

I can remember a time where a man could get prosecuted for throwing a punch in a front bar or at the footy but not at home in the bedroom or kitchen. Violence against women and children is the way I have often explained the feminist principle of the personal is political.  By making visible what does happen to one in four women in their homes in the public space, we begin to make possible a future where it is no longer acceptable and the shame women feel is diluted.

Language is critical too – femicide – it is a hate crime mostly undertaken by those known to their victims as past or current intimate partners. It is the most extreme version of gendered violence. One of the useful proxy indicators is how these perpetrators treat the pets. I am wondering already in my new role about how to bring these two pieces of data together to make the place safer. 

The City of Onkaparinga are partners in a the local version of the UN’s sixteen days of activism against gendered violence . There will be a men’s march today inviting men to walk in solidarity and play their part in ending the violence.  I am thrilled the local men’s football association are taking the lead in the march. Acts of solidarity need to be visible and men need to find spaces and support where they are safe too. Increased surveillance, lighting, laws and re-training are helpful but will never be enough. While there are a proven litany of actions institutions and individuals can take with effect, this is a systems problem and the root is patriarchy and colonisation.

The women of Iran and their allies are an inspiration and acts of solidarity we can extend as ripples around the world do make a difference. We can often see systemic oppression more clearly elsewhere than we can close to home. We too are ripples and the new Spirit of Woman space at Seaford is a potent statement of solidarity, hope and healing.

Education, justice and equity are the foundations of a culture of peace and we need to get to the root causes. There is a direct correlation for me too with climate and racial justice. These too need to come out of the board room, council chamber, shareholders meeting and into public spaces for debate, deliberation and action.

As I start to go about my new role as Mayor of South Australia’s largest municipality I am going to be carrying with me two Jacqui’s – one who was murdered by her ex-husband, an employee of the domestic violence service I used to chair, and another Jacqui whose tragic end is the reason we have a butterfly garden in Hackham West. (I have written about these women before.)

I am going to be carrying with me the knowledge from the Joseph Galtung on how to build a culture of peace that I first learnt when doing my Masters degree. I am going to carry with me endless examples of non-violence I have studied from John Dear to Greta Thunberg. I am going to carry with me the yearning I hear in the Uluru Statement from the Heart. I am going to carrying with me the best questions I can muster and ask them at times where their answer might open up or enable something new to emerge. I hope I will be able to bring visibility and make a contribution to decreasing violence and making more places safer for us all.  

A beautiful moment when champion Helen Oxenham OAM had the smoking and ochre painting brought to her by Naomi Hicks and Maureen.

Visibility and Invisibility 2022 #46

Last Sunday was only the second Sunday in ten years I did not publish a blog post. The only other one was the week my husband died. Getting elected to Mayor took two days to be counted due to disruptions that the Electoral Commission of SA entertained and that is the story I will tell today. I think the count has potential to be a four-part mini-series so any script writers out there who want to reach out I’m ready!

In South Australia, local government elections are conducted by postal ballot and are non-compulsory. It is optional preferential voting. The ballot papers are in circulation for four weeks. Over the past few years, the number of public letter boxes has diminished. There were changes in the Local Government (Elections) Act last year which banned signs promoting candidates being displayed on public property. I hope you are getting the picture that casting your ballot had its own challenges and really requires you to be committed. For the City of Onkaparinga 25.65% of residents eligible cast their votes for Mayor and councillors. This result was the lowest percentage of any council, however given it is also the largest council representing 10% of the whole State more people participated than anywhere else in the State.

The voting period ended at 5pm on Thursday 10th November and the ballot boxes were to be opened for the count from 9am on Saturday 12th November. Every candidate for both Mayor and Councillor is allowed two scrutineers to attend the count, candidates can be there, but they are not allowed in the counting room. The whole count process is conducted by the Electoral Commission of SA and the City of Onkaparinga’s was conducted at the Civic Centre in Noarlunga. There were eight candidates for Mayor and there are six wards. Each ward had between seven and ten candidates. Are you doing the math? The potential for a crowd of scrutineers and candidates was high.  And sure enough, there were around fifty candidates and scrutineers, ready and waiting when the doors opened on Saturday morning. I had instructed my two scrutineers to go down to the opening for the briefing from the Electoral Commission staff and then go back about 3 or 4. The first five to seven hours is usually spent opening the ballot packs with counting rarely beginning til mid-afternoon. I was expecting a result to be known between 11pm and mid-night. In fact, it was not until 3pm on Sunday that the provisional declaration was made.

One of the mayoral candidates had organised like a political party and ran two candidates in every ward and this group of candidates were well organised with scrutineers and had a plan to question every part of the process. It was a disrupt and distract strategy. The police were called twice over the weekend and extra Electoral Commission staff came to support the local team. The Electoral Commissioner took the unprecedented step to contact all candidates by email to remind us of our responsibilities and advise what action he would take if candidates could not instruct their scrutineers to behave appropriately. I will not share all the details here about what happened as this is now all subject to investigations and enquiries. I am looking forward to having the opportunity of adding my experience into the mix.

Early afternoon I left the count and went to Lot50Kanyanyapilla for a river red gum planting ceremony with the Governor of South Australia. The weather was biblical – there was so much rain and with each downpour black clouds gathered like world cup rugby players in a scrum. The rain was so heavy you could not hear the speakers or even plant the trees. The Governor and the bi-cultural partners of L50K, Karl Telfer and Gavin Malone planted their three trees but that was it. As I drove back from McLaren Vale to Noarlunga to heavens continued to open, trees were down on the roads, there were pots holes overflowing with water and debris, power lines were down – it was a tempest.

When I arrived back at the count, the security guard saw me coming towards to the door and she left her spot to come and let me in. As I pressed the button on my side, an enormous bolt of lightning lit up the sky behind me and she reeled back. We both laughed at the apocalyptic tone that was now set by the elements as I walked into the building. I felt all the gods in Olympus were behind me! I drew on that energy more than once over the course of the next day and night and day.

The count ended at 2.30am on Sunday morning when it became clear that the distribution of preferences was not going to have any one candidate romp away with a result. I started well ahead on first preferences, but with the distribution of preferences it was clear my margin was diminishing.  With the seven other candidates, none were progressive, and some were a very long way from me on the political spectrum. I had a number in mind about how far ahead I would need to be on first preferences from my nearest rival and I had fallen short. I was pretty concerned we would not make it. In my mind I felt if the candidate who was the acting Mayor came third that was going to make it very hard for me to get over the line. As a conservative his preferences would have gone to the remaining conservative was my guess.  As it happened, he did come third and his preferences were almost 50/50 and so did not change the gap between me and the person who came second. Making me the one who got elected to Mayor, so at about 230pm when my scrutineer delivered me that news with a thumbs up through the glass doors and another scrutineer showing me the numbers, I was very happy to receive the hugs from them both.  It was momentous on so many levels.

I had decided to wear one a Clothing the Gaps t-shirts on Sunday to the chamber. The one I chose was my white one with a modest logo of “always was always will be” on the left-hand side.  The person I beat had a platform of not doing acknowledgements to country and if he did win, I wanted to be there for the declaration with my t-shirt on publicly acclaiming solidarity.  If I won, I wanted to be there for the declaration with my t-shirt on publicly acclaiming solidarity.  I drew on the deep roots of our land and the ancestors and those River Red Gums to hold me steady as I stood there to hear the provisional declaration. I am deeply rooted in my story and place. This place Onkaparinga – the women’s river. Forever grateful for the opportunity to be in civic leadership, and deeply respecting the responsibility and privilege to lead in this way, in this place.

I am coming to terms, and to grips, with what it all means and the kind of leadership that will be required for this time and how the role of Mayor can be transformed within this context with me in the role.  I am excited for the possibilities and enriched by all the care, love and support I have had and will continue to have along the way.

I made a small space for reflection and will make more as I sense into what is now emerging. I drew on a David Whyte poem “Still possible” on Friday.  Here is the first and last stanza of a rather epic piece of poetry that I encourage you to read.

It is still possible to be kind to yourself,

To drop constraints and fall often

To your knees, it’s not too late now, to bow

To what beckons, the world still swimming

Around you as you kneel transfigured

By what sweeps on, it’s still possible

To leave every fearful former self

In the wake of nearly heard words

Issuing from an astonished mouth.

….

It’s still possible in the end

to realize why you are here

and why you have endured,

and why you might have suffered

so much, so that in the end.

You could witness love, miraculously

Arriving from nowhere, crossing

Bravely as it does, out of darkness,

From that great and spacious stillness

Inside you, to the simple, Light-filled life of being said.

Visibility and Invisibility 2022 #45

There isn’t much more I can do now in the campaign, as if ballots aren’t posted over the weekend, there is very little chance, they will arrive in time to be counted by the Electoral Commission. There is an option to drop them off to the one ballot box at the civic centre, but I doubt many people will take this option up.

The City of Onkaparinga is 518 square kilometres and when I look at how many kilometres, I have travelled it is common for me to have done over 100kms most days. Being on the road, in my car, so much these past couple of months has been such a contrast to all the time I spent home during the pandemic.  I have reconnected to parts of the council area I haven’t had a lot to do with for years, found some hidden treasures, appreciated once again the small towns on the rural fringe and more than anything, fallen in love again with the trees and their marking of ancient waterways.

One set of trees that keeps inviting me back to have a look at them are on Strout Road, McLaren Vale. They must at least three hundred years old if you look at their girth reach deep below the surface. These trees have gravitas. Close by them is an old cemetery curated by the Uniting Church. It is nestled into a corner of a junction between two roads, a perfect place to mark the collision of one world and another. I often wonder when I see these sites, who still comes, and how these people are remembered.

It was All Souls and All Saints Day this week, with Halloween as a festival seeping into our culture and I would love to see these little cemeteries being places to gather for rituals and remembrance. I love the Mexican celebration of Dia de los Muertos – the Day of the Dead. There is so much we can bring to life through remembering and connecting deep down beyond the layer of what can be seen with the gravestone. This is what these trees tell me too – to go deep to find the water under ground to be fed from an eternal spring by letting the roots find the water course invisible to the eye and made visible above ground in the green tips of new spring life in the leaves dancing on the breeze and helping hold new homes for new families of birds.

This is a season in my life. It is coming to a close. It is a season where I have put myself forward making myself more visible than I have for decades. You can find me online in every social conceivable, you can see me cris-crossing the landscape in a beat up Prius with my name on top of a large magnetic sign, you can see me popping up at events, on door steps, in letter boxes, on street corners, cafes, bars, supermarkets, playgrounds – I feel like I have touched every one of those 518 square kilometres, even though I know I haven’t.  And then there are the trees on Strout Road which majestically stand and with all their sobriety give me the instructions I need to keep going – that old mantra that has held me more than once of the years – moving on holding still.

I have pasted below the first of Eliot’s quartets – Burnt Norton – where he crafts that glorious phrase the still point of the turning world. He would never have seen the gums on Strout Road, but when I saw them again, I thought of Eliot and the greater poem in which that line is contained. During the week I will go over to Strout Road and read this poem amongst the trees and consider the opening line Time present and time past Are both perhaps present in time future.

I have no idea if I will get elected, it Is such a vacuum, and the voter turn out is very low and there are clearly complications with the postal voting and electoral roll integrity – which I will address post-election with a submission to the Electoral Commission and hopefully a meeting with the Minister. It has been very unsettling to see the fragility of our democracy and future of civic engagement.  So many feel disempowered and unable to find their voice or a way to bring their voice to the surface to be seen and heard. This only galvanises my desire to keep finding ways to do that – admittedly running for Mayor in our largest council in South Australia is a dramatic way to do that at scale – but this in the road that has been calling. At this end of the campaign ,while there hasn’t been a huge translation in voting behaviour, there have been so many people who have told me they have voted for the first time in a council election because they can see someone running that holds their values and hopes and dreams for the future of our place.

This time next week I will most likely know the result of the vote and what lies hidden in envelopes will become visible to all. If I am elected, it will be a sign we have been able to mobilise enough people to focus on the future where climate and racial justice can be embedded into the life of our municipality and where sustainability is our legacy for next generations. to have the chance to find their deepest roots.  Either way I will have tested where the road is taking me next.

Burnt Norton – T S Eliot

Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future
And time future contained in time past.
If all time is eternally present
All time is unredeemable.
What might have been is an abstraction
Remaining a perpetual possibility
Only in a world of speculation.
What might have been and what has been
Point to one end, which is always present.
Footfalls echo in the memory

Down the passage which we did not take
Towards the door we never opened
Into the rose-garden. My words echo
Thus, in your mind.
But to what purpose
Disturbing the dust on a bowl of rose-leaves
I do not know.
Other echoes
Inhabit the garden. Shall we follow?
Quick, said the bird, find them, find them,
Round the corner. Through the first gate,
Into our first world, shall we follow
The deception of the thrush? Into our first world.
There they were, dignified, invisible,
Moving without pressure, over the dead leaves,
In the autumn heat, through the vibrant air,
And the bird called, in response to
The unheard music hidden in the shrubbery,
And the unseen eyebeam crossed, for the roses
Had the look of flowers that are looked at.
There they were as our guests, accepted and accepting.
So we moved, and they, in a formal pattern,
Along the empty alley, into the box circle,
To look down into the drained pool.
Dry the pool, dry concrete, brown edged,
And the pool was filled with water out of sunlight,
And the lotos rose, quietly, quietly,
The surface glittered out of heart of light,
And they were behind us, reflected in the pool.
Then a cloud passed, and the pool was empty.
Go, said the bird, for the leaves were full of children,
Hidden excitedly, containing laughter.
Go, go, go, said the bird: human kind
Cannot bear very much reality.
Time past and time future
What might have been and what has been
Point to one end, which is always present.

II

Garlic and sapphires in the mud
Clot the bedded axle-tree.
The trilling wire in the blood
Sings below inveterate scars
Appeasing long forgotten wars.
The dance along the artery
The circulation of the lymph
Are figured in the drift of stars
Ascend to summer in the tree
We move above the moving tree
In light upon the figured leaf
And hear upon the sodden floor
Below, the boarhound and the boar

Pursue their pattern as before
But reconciled among the stars.

At the still point of the turning world. Neither flesh nor fleshless;
Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is,
But neither arrest nor movement. And do not call it fixity,
Where past and future are gathered. Neither movement from nor towards,
Neither ascent nor decline. Except for the point, the still point,
There would be no dance, and there is only the dance.
I can only say, there we have been: but I cannot say where.
And I cannot say, how long, for that is to place it in time.
The inner freedom from the practical desire,
The release from action and suffering, release from the inner
And the outer compulsion, yet surrounded
By a grace of sense, a white light still and moving,
Erhebung without motion, concentration
Without elimination, both a new world
And the old made explicit, understood
In the completion of its partial ecstasy,
The resolution of its partial horror.
Yet the enchainment of past and future

Woven in the weakness of the changing body,
Protects mankind from heaven and damnation
Which flesh cannot endure.
Time past and time future
Allow but a little consciousness.
To be conscious is not to be in time
But only in time can the moment in the rose-garden,
The moment in the arbour where the rain beat,
The moment in the draughty church at smokefall
Be remembered; involved with past and future.
Only through time time is conquered.

III

Here is a place of disaffection
Time before and time after
In a dim light: neither daylight
Investing form with lucid stillness
Turning shadow into transient beauty
With slow rotation suggesting permanence
Nor darkness to purify the soul
Emptying the sensual with deprivation
Cleansing affection from the temporal.
Neither plenitude nor vacancy. Only a flicker

Over the strained time-ridden faces
Distracted from distraction by distraction
Filled with fancies and empty of meaning
Tumid apathy with no concentration
Men and bits of paper, whirled by the cold wind
That blows before and after time,
Wind in and out of unwholesome lungs
Time before and time after.
Eructation of unhealthy souls
Into the faded air, the torpid
Driven on the wind that sweeps the gloomy hills of London,
Hampstead and Clerkenwell, Campden and Putney
,
Highgate, Primrose and Ludgate. Not here
Not here the darkness, in this twittering world.

Descend lower, descend only
Into the world of perpetual solitude,
World not world, but that which is not world,
Internal darkness, deprivation
And destitution of all property,
Desiccation of the world of sense,
Evacuation of the world of fancy,
Inoperancy of the world of spirit;
This is the one way, and the other
Is the same, not in movement
But abstention from movement; while the world moves
In appetency, on its metalled ways
Of time past and time future.

IV

Time and the bell have buried the day,
the black cloud carries the sun away.
Will the sunflower turn to us, will the clematis
Stray down, bend to us; tendril and spray
Clutch and cling?
Chill
Fingers of yew be curled
Down on us? After the kingfisher’s wing
Has answered light to light, and is silent, the light is still
At the still point of the turning world.

V

Words move, music moves
Only in time; but that which is only living
Can only die. Words, after speech, reach
Into the silence. Only by the form, the pattern,
Can words or music reach
The stillness, as a Chinese jar still
Moves perpetually in its stillness.
Not the stillness of the violin, while the note lasts,
Not that only, but the co-existence,
Or say that the end precedes the beginning,
And the end and the beginning were always there
Before the beginning and after the end.
And all is always now. Words strain,
Crack and sometimes break, under the burden,
Under the tension, slip, slide, perish,
Will not stay still. Shrieking voices
Scolding, mocking, or merely chattering,
Always assail them. The Word in the desert
Is most attacked by voices of temptation,
The crying shadow in the funeral dance,
The loud lament of the disconsolate chimera.

The detail of the pattern is movement,
As in the figure of the ten stairs.
Desire itself is movement
Not in itself desirable;

Love is itself unmoving,
Only the cause and end of movement,
Timeless, and undesiring
Except in the aspect of time
Caught in the form of limitation

Between un-being and being.
Sudden in a shaft of sunlight
Even while the dust moves
There rises the hidden laughter
Of children in the foliage
Quick now, here, now, always —
Ridiculous the waste sad time
Stretching before and after.

Visibility and Invisibility 2022 #44

I was accused of virtue signalling this week – it is a relatively new term to me. Probably my whole life is a virtue signal for the people who used this term as a ‘put down’ to me this week.  The opposite of virtue signalling as far as I understand it is bigotry, and the accusation is a dog whistle to rally their allies.

Overall, in this election campaign it has been incredibly friendly, warm and generous. People have offered me glasses of water on hot days when I have been door knocking, opened their doors to me with friendly smiles, invited me in to see their gardens, shared stories, waved and tooted to me.  There however is always a dark-side and this has shown up in this campaign as the ugly face of racism and a deep vein of climate denialism. You can detect the fascist playbook being referred to and I have been surprised a few times about how it shows up – this invisible thread making itself visible.

There are a team of candidates who are a mixed bag. One of them is a ralien and another has connections to the neo-Nazi political group. Of course, these qualities are not included in the prepared material for public consumption, and I do believe in a democracy like ours it is perfectly reasonable for all kinds of people with all kinds of persuasions to put themselves forward. What I am wondering about is how we counteract these views as when they turn into policy once people with these views get into governing positions, we all know what the consequences are for minorities. Oh dear, there I go again, virtue signalling.

We are at a crunch point for climate justice, our Pacific neighbours Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama condemned the climate war as being fought with “apathy, denial, and a lack of courage to do what we all know what must be done.”

He appealed for the world to step up.

“Fiji is ready to make the coming years count for our people and for the planet – our question to you is this: Are you with us? Don’t tell us yes unless you plan to show it.

But we do not need to look to the Pacific to know this story, the City of Onkaparinga has 31kms of coastline and by all indications it needs our help to stay strong as sea levels rise. It is not fiction. So once again if this is virtue signally, I am more than happy to put my hand up and say ‘guilty’. What fascinates me though is the person who accused me of this online, is a professional. He works as a physiotherapist in one of the big clinics in a busy practice. It is fuel for me to keep doing more and motivate those who do want their values of justice, equity, access, affordability and inclusion to be turned into policies and practices.

But like the Fiji Prime Minister railed at the UN, I am asking the same question of voters in Onkaparinga – are you with us? And who are the us? 

The us are the people who support the Uluru Statement from the Heart, the people who believe the scientists and understand we have a climate emergency, the ones who voted for Marriage Equality, the people who notice those who go without because of a systems failure and do not play the blame the victim game.  I am happy to be in this company and if you are a voter in Onkaparinga, do not outsource your democracy by not voting, grab your ballot pack, fill in the papers and post back – vote for the virtues you want to see reflected in your community.

Visibility and Invisibility 2022 #43

There isn’t much invisibility when you are seeking to be elected. People are watching your every move. You are trying to get their attention with as much effort as the immortal Kim Craig (nee Daylook at moi can muster (see KathandKim if you have no idea what I am talking about).

Here are a few of my making myself visible activities this week and some of the lessons from the campaign.

The State government have banned the use of coreflute posters on public property, which traditionally has been the bat signal to the electorate that an election is on and in the style of the Roman Forum people could see a photo of candidates and make some kind of assessment of the type of person they are from a picture.  The information about the candidate on the ballot paper includes a photograph so there is a mini version of this in black and white the comes directly to you via the Electoral Commission.  So getting seen and known is a top priority. I decided to use the same photo for everything to increase recognition. I included the photo in the header of a letter to householders, I popped it on all the tiles of my socials and of course it is on my how-to-vote promotional material. It is on my website and business card. I know it is working because people have come up to me in the street and said Hello Moira directly to me indicating they recognise me from my materials.

Another act of getting people to look at me has been the waving around of signs alongside main roads as commuters are going to work, or students and parents going to school. I’ve done this a couple of times and will do more in the coming week. I don’t like doing this alone for a few reasons, it looks a bit lonely and sad I think if you are on your own, I like the story that an election is on and it is about the voters not about those seeking election, and it is safer should you get yelled out or abused or someone try and run you over.  So I invited some other candidates to join me and wobble their signs around too and they accepted the invitation and we had a fun morning.  The tip I take from this is wave. When someone waves at you it is hard not to wave back. This simple gesture is engagement with the campaign and I am confident builds a neuronal pathway to support voter recognition.  When a driver toots and waves back your happy hormones rise too so I think there is a benefit to the candidate too. It certainly buoyed me and when the B-Doubles release their air horns it sends a wave of pleasure through you – thank you truckies who are doing this – you are keeping spirits high!

My campaign made hundreds of badges, invested in some t-shirts and a few baseball caps.  These are helping with visibility too. A bit of merch goes a long way. It is like wearing the colours of your favourite sporting team, people begin to identify and connect. I chose a regal purple for my campaign colour as a nod to the suffragists and also to Lydia of Thyarita. The suffragists colours were purple, green, gold and white. Lydia was a very successful business woman who is documented in the Bible as a seller of purple cloth. I have been a fan of hers for a long time. The fact she is named means she must have been important as so few women are actually named in that ancient text. There is evidence of her funding outreach and she also seems to had no man to give her status as his wife or mother. This level of independence is rare and the fact it is recorded means she must have been very important to the wellbeing of the community. She is described as having an open heart in the Acts of the Apostles. The Orthodox tradition give her a title equal to the first disciples – she is known in that tradition as apostle to the apostles.  And you can see in the word apostle and little hint of the election process … can you see it ?  The word apostle and post have the same roots, meaning to separate and take forward, from one place to another. I feel the purple threads are woven into my campaign.

So you will be seeing more purple, more sign waving and hopefully more voter recognition as ballots have now just about finishing arriving and will be finding their way back through the post to the Electoral Commission, as I ask more and more people to look at moi.

Visibility and Invisibility 2022 #42

Notifications are pinging and buzzing and tinkling all day and night as ballot papers are now starting to arrive. Each alert letting me know a message has arrived that needs some kind of response. I feel like a mother with a dozen toddlers all vying for my attention. This season will be short and intense. My inbox has received enquiries about my views on issues that have little or nothing to do with local council responsibilities. Some emails come from places of deep fear and designed for ‘gotcha’ moments and are almost anonymous giving no more than a gossamer of legitimacy to them. I respond to them by referring them to my website which has plenty of information and try not to get distracted or disturbed which is their primary intent.  I expect these people are really my opponents in sheep’s clothing. Others are from places of confusion and are seeking reassurance and clarity – my response to these is to point them to original and official sources of information. The third kind are those seeking support for their cause or concern. These correspondents are using their enquiry to weigh up where they are going to spend their vote. These notes encourage me to work for their vote and I lean into them. So here is a story about one of those emails.

I received an email from a young person via her father’s email account. She lived in a pocket of housing near a valley that is also a water course that feeds into the river the council is named after.  This suburb is one on the lower end of the socio-economic index for the region. It is full of working families and is densely populated and growing at a high rate in the past four years. The writer was an eleven-year-old girl who wants her playground upgraded, specifically to have more equipment for older children to play on, a nature play space and some more facilities for families to gather. I said I would like to meet her and perhaps she could invite some of her neighbours to join her and we could talk. She took my invitation and made fliers and with her sibling’s door knocked the streets around her home. We made a date and a time. I decided to invite the youngest person running for council in these elections to join me as the area he is running for is where her family live. I thought it would be great for them to meet. I kept thinking of Greta Thunberg who was the same age when she went as sat outside of her parliament and thereby began Fridays for the Future. And we all know the power of what one person can do and the inspiration of one young girl!

When I arrived for our meeting, she was there with her family and within a few minutes more and more people started to arrive over the hill. Mums and Dads, babies in pushers, toddlers, young teens with skateboards under their arms, a grandparent with her grandchildren – all came. This eleven-year-old had managed to mobilise her neighbourhood, with the support of her dad’s printer and her tenacity.

We met in the playground and asked everyone what they wanted to see in the space and why. The overwhelming themes were features for older children, places for families to gather and build more community, more trees, a safe pathway to the river, features to fit into the natural landscape, recognition of Aboriginal knowledge and information about the place and its relationship to the river, and access for all. Amongst the group of grown-ups were marketing specialists, a start-up founder, tertiary students, a Memphis blues enthusiast, stay at home parents, a visiting grandmother, and an edible garden expert. The age range of the children was a babe in arms to late teenage. Many of the people who were there had not met each other before – I was witnessing the beginning of a neighbourhood coming together in a new way. This eleven-year-old was playing the role of a community building midwife.

As our conversation came to an end families stayed around to chat to each other, play on the old and neglected equipment and compare notes about living in Noarlunga Downs.  I was asked what next step they could take together, and I explained with or without an election they could put in to do a deputation to Council and I truly hope I will be in the chamber to hear it. But if I do not get elected, I will certainly be there to support and cheer them on.

This is how we build literacy in our democracy, and this is at the heart of why I am running. I am using this opportunity to support people to have their voices heard, how to raise them and to invite them into the systems that exist and create the spaces for new ones. The campaign has involved over one hundred volunteers, some who have never campaigned for anything before. Several people who have offered help because they felt inspired by my household letter and wanted to help, a couple of people who have letterboxed for me and told me explicitly that it has helped their mental health and they feel better than they have felt for months.

Building community is the antidote for toxic individuality. The young resident of Noarlunga Downs made that truth visible in her efforts and I hope my response to her and what we might be able to do together in the future is now more visible to her and her neighbourhood.

Georjee and her neighbourhood, Noarlunga Downs.

Visibility and Invisibility 2022 #41

COVID interruptus to the mayoral campaign this past week provided some new opportunities for my network of family, friends, and community connections to go into over-drive. There were people of all ages folding letters, bundling up, delivering notices, checking their socials, and talking me up in places I could not get to, and then taking the time to report back what was happening in electioneering land. There were children on school holidays who found themselves in the middle of a campaign. It was so heartening. I am truly humbled.

I am going to share ten highlights from the week, where I experienced an abundance of care and radical generosity. I am only choosing ten, I could have chosen three times as many. I feel like a vein of opal was tapped this week – every contribution, a colourful reflection of relationships across time and space.

First up, my choir calling me and putting me on speaker so I could hear them sing the last song of the night. This song, we sing to close each time we are together, is a beautiful blessing about all being right in the world. It is sung in a language none of us know and it takes on angelic and cosmic qualities when you hear it and sing it. It has magical, healing properties. I was so touched and the spontaneity and kindness this simple act brought me. The choir is one of the things that I think keeps me whole and well. This gesture will remain with me and truly held me this week.

Next one, was my trusty magnetic car sign going on tour on other people’s cars. One such carrier was stopped in a supermarket car park and was advised that the owner of the sign (me) had a very clear voice making it easy for him, a self-described “old bugger” easy to hear and understand.

The third highlight I will mention is a phone call. This phone call was from a woman who was absolutely convinced she knew me from twenty years ago. She was sure it was me, but the surname did not look right, she checked a number of sources including some old photographs she had of us being involved in another campaign. She took a punt and called me. I explained I had returned to my family name on the death of my husband. We had a lovely chat, and I was the same person, and I am looking forward to reconnecting with her.

Fourth highlight was a group of friends I used to work with all arriving to go letterboxing, and waving and chatting to me at a distance, through my bedroom window. One had come from the other side of the earth, another from the other side of the hills to be together and united in their desire to see me get elected. It was such a deep joy to feel this love and support. The chief organiser has been steadfast in her efforts to organise her area for folding and distribution, strategy, and sanity. She has roped in neighbours, who have roped in others, including a morning after slumber party of teen girls.

Number five highlight, and I now realise I am not putting these in any chronological order or rank, was the frozen roasted vegetable soup that arrived at the door wrapped in foil and love. An instant hit of vitamins and compassion with the desired effect to keep me moving towards good physical and mental health. Cooked and delivered by friends who know what is means to be alive and kicking.

The sixth highlight was my daughter organising someone to come and mow my lawns as my usual person was away. I was thrilled with her organising and when the said help arrived, I thought how much he looked like my son-in-law and then as I woke up from my daze, realised it was my son-in-law! I laughed at myself for a good ten minutes and am still giggling as I think about it. The laughter an extra dose of good medicine!

Highlight number seven was a call from an octogenarian who lives in one of the oldest seaside townships. When he first arrived here there were paddocks and summer shacks along the shoreline. He has watched houses come and more houses come, shops, buses, roads, schools and more shops, buses, roads, and schools arrive. He feels like not all the changes and development are good and he wants more community and more communication. He feels alienated from the public discourse as he does not have the internet, social media and there is no local paper, and the local radio is all about city politics. He called me because he got my household letter. He felt like I was approachable and could ring me. We had a very sophisticated conversation, and I am looking forward to morning tea and cake with him and his wife in a week’s time so we can keep the conversation going and I can tap into his wisdom. He was a founding member of the resident’s association that will be 40 years old soon. I know I will learn a lot from the conversation to come.

Number eight highlight came in the form of an addressed but unsigned letter in my post office box. It was to complain about my stance on climate change. I am so happy this is my first hate mail of the campaign. I will continue to speak up for climate justice, this is the decade to turn things around, it is not a dress rehearsal and I want to be in a place where change at scale might be possible.

The ninth highlight was a short email asking if I supported the Uluru Statement from the Heart. Needless to say, my reply was longer than the email. I explained my long-time support and shared some of my policy ideas if I get the chance to be Mayor to support and apply Kaurna lessons to our economic and ecological challenges. Rooted in our deep connection to place and the council taking its name from the women’s river Onkaparinga, I truly hope I can be able to deepen my experience and our community.

The tenth and final highlight was a post on LinkedIn by a business I supported when they were dealing with some very challenging regulatory issue threatening their entire business. I took the time to understand their issue. I wrote a letter to the appropriate authority. While my letter may not have been what helped them get over the line, it was a contribution. I did not realise one of the co-founders of this business lived in the area I am running for Mayor, so to see her post with my letter, and her endorsement was a beautiful surprise.

These are only ten highlights from the week of being confined to quarters … there are more …. And all I can say if I do not get elected it will not be because I do not have support from the people who share the values I have, who care and want for a world that has leadership, integrity and transparency, who want Onkaparinga to be a place of possibilities.

I wanted to make visible these, otherwise invsible, moments in the campaign this week, to remind myself how it takes a village to do anything, and a mayoral campaign is no exception. I feel honoured to receive all this support.

A deep bow (no hugs just yet) to you all.

Unsigned correspondence

Visibility and Invisibility 2022 #40

I was very fortunate to be amongst the nearly 2000 delegates at the Social Enterprise World Forum this week in Meanijn (Brisbane, Queensland).  It was quite something to be at an international event, the largest that city has hosted since the lockdowns of COVID. The community that gathered in person and online share a common vision for a more purpose driven economy that will deliver social and environmental outcomes, jobs, and impact. There was a deep under current of the wisdom and ingenuity of First Nations people from around the world. There was an emerging clarity of what scale means and a consistent theme of collaboration. There was urgency in the air and a sense this is no longer a sector, it is a movement.

Mobilising for change must include economic models, metrics, tools, and techniques. I was asked this week on the campaign trail if I would declare a climate emergency. My state has already done this and I am looking forward to a council chamber that will do the same if elected to Mayor. But a declaration is not going to take us far enough, quickly enough. There will be a need for an overhaul of all kinds of practices, procurement, behaviours, education, and opportunities. Jurisdictions the world over account for more than 1 billion people who have declared a climate emergency.

I am very fortunate to have a number of people in my life to give me advice around these matters, not the least Prof Peter Newman who is one of my co-trustees for a foundation and we have served together for more than 2 decades. Among other distinguishing credentials, Peter is the Coordinating lead author for the United Nations IPCC on transport. There are also plenty of people in my local community who have been tireless champions for the environment, and I have public servants as dear friends who in their paid and voluntary roles who have generated initiatives, mobilised farmers, community groups, planted trees, cleared land, created regenerative farming zones … and the list goes on. This is not an academic exercise for me. I am pleased I can tap into their wisdom and experience.

The increased attention and activity delivering the circular economy holds many new opportunities, including jobs. I am inspired by Prof Veena Sahajwalla, whose mantra is there is no such thing as waste is offering new models and micro-factories and I can’t wait to see how we might bring some of these to life in my part of the world. I was fortunate to connect with her work in the recent Circular Economy Incubator my co-founders at Collab4Good ran sponsored by Green Industries SA to help build more social enterprises working in the circular economy.

The truth telling that we are about to embark on as a nation as we head towards a referendum on a voice to parliament, will add to this conversation. I expect there is more enlightenment to come. So grateful I got to listen and learn from some of the voices of First Nations at SEWF whose universal message seems to be: we know what to do. (Check out the Climate Council‘s resources on this if you are new to the idea of climate justice.)

So, this takes me back to the beginning of this piece, the Social Enterprise World Forum. Circonomy is now out in the world, born from the World’s Biggest Garage Sale’s Yasmin Grigaliunas. Yas believes many people, not just things, have been put on the scrap heap, and her model “circularity is the new normal, while creating opportunities for people of all abilities.”  Yas was one of the first ventures supported by Australian activators of what is now known as Coralus (formerly SheEO).  It has been so instructive watching her grow her enterprise, receive numerous awards, generate investment, and most importantly witness the growth and development of an empowered and engaged workforce.

SEWF reminded me we can turn things around. It is not up to one of us, it is up to all of us. We have the tech, the skills, the capacity and now the will has arrived.  We can’t wait another minute, it is time to be visible.

Photo by Li-An Lim on Unsplash It was such a treat singing with Anders Nyberg – There is no Planet B in the Blue Mountains the day of the international student strike led by Greta Thunberg during The Global Week for the Future in September 2019.

Visibility and Invisibility 2022 #39

Heading into a new week, each day brings closer the day voters have their ballots arriving in their letterboxes. I have been musing on the role of the letter box in this democratic process. The letter box is almost redundant in our lives. I have even met a young voter who has never posted a letter. The letter box is a legacy of a time when communication was slower, less immediate and mediated by many along the way in the process of sent and received.  Now a simple click of a keyboard and a broadcast can occur, no need for hundreds of hours being added to the price of a stamp.

Our stamps will be changing and EIIR letterboxes will be fading from view. Apparently letter boxes began in Russia in the middle of the 19th century. Long before, people found ways to pop their messages into all kinds of places to be collected from bottles, to secret spaces in walls and being delivered back and forth on horseback.

A postal ballot feels so much less secure to me than a vote cast in the privacy of a booth, in full public view of officials and neighbours. The post box at your home is not that secure, anyone can pull a letter out! I have full confidence of Australia Post making the trip from their boxes to the Electoral Commission safe but not the bit before. Also, I worry that the opportunity for coercion and someone saying they will do the post for someone and then not actually posting their papers feels very real. I am nervous about democracy with a postal vote.

Nevertheless, this is the type of ballots votes will be delivered in October and November for the local government elections in South Australia. It is a postal ballot. The posties of my state will have the sacred duty of aiding democracy when they deliver the ballots to your letter box. This is also a non-compulsory election, so only those motivated to vote will do so. While 85% of rates are made by decision-makers in the City of Onkaparinga, last time round only 26% of voters returned a ballot.

I want people to vote, and I have been asking residents, when I am out door-knocking to vote. I have been asking them if they vote in local government elections. True to the data, three out of four, tell me they have never voted for at a council election. I ask them why and most common answers I hear are:

  • It’s a waste of time, council decide what they want to do anyhow
  • I’ve never met someone running for council, so didn’t know who to vote for
  • I am not a property owner, so I didn’t think I was eligible.

To those people who don’t vote in council elections, it is not a waste of time, make it your business to find out who is running and why check out the Electoral Commission website and start talking to others about the choice you are going to make.

If you haven’t met anyone, this is completely not true once I’ve knocked at your door you know someone, and most people acknowledge this, give a big smile and say how much they appreciate the fact I knocked on their door.

Lots of people are of the impression that if they rent, or share a house with family or friends that they aren’t eligible to vote. They are always happy to hear that they are eligible if they are already on the electoral roll.

If we let other people make decisions for us, our voices won’t be factored in. We have a responsibility to also use our vote and voices for those who don’t have one, including future generations and other species.

Postal non-compulsory voting is the thin edge of the wedge in eroding democratic opportunities. You can help turn this around by using your ballot papers to vote for the people who reflect your values and make visible your preferred community leaders.

Don’t outsource your vote to others, encourage your family, neighbours and friends to do the same. The future is in your hands, once you get the papers out of your letter box and put them back into the hands of the trusted Australia Post letter box.

Photo by Krisztina Papp on Unsplash