Visibility and invisibility 2022 #26

Gilead is a fictional place. Atwood only used content that had already happened in history, for the Handmaid’s Tale. I read it in 1986, not long after it was first published, I was 28 and pregnant with my fourth child (sixth pregnancy) and consolidated many of my early thoughts about women’s rights, women’s bodies, patriarchy as a system. I haven’t been able to watch the television series, the first ten minutes were enough for me. I couldn’t put myself through it. Seems the dystopian Gilead is alive and well in the land of the brave and home of the free. Bravery and freedom being values that exclude at least half the population, to say nothing of those who are not white and not of settler stock. 

I like to keep careful watch for possible danger or difficulties and sometimes this has turned out to be prophetic, mostly I think of my approach as proactive. It is so much harder to get rights back when they are taken away, so much harder to dismiss someone before appointing them in the first place, so much harder to escape from Gilead than enter it.

Vigilance matters.

Democracy is teamwork.

Politics is personal.

Mobilising is possible, because change is already in-waiting, ready, willing and able, to be ignited. A fuse is lit, and from that spark, people will and do rise up. There is a trust we inherently hold between us and when it is broken we yearn for it to be fused – it is where hope comes in. When we have a common enemy – a flood, a fire, a pandemic – we grab hold of what we have close at hand – each other. It is a kind of collective evolution that helps us be community, it is a form of inoculation, against Gilead. There is no real form of control, just a concertina-like calibration of collaboration, that breathes in and out (sometimes hyperventilating) to try to redress a wrong. 

This way of change-making always comes from the bottom, not the top, from deep roots informed, courageous and with plenty of muscle and fibre attached. Because it has been formed under pressure, there is often steam and some hot spots, sometimes people get burnt or at least a little bruised, but in the end there is change and that arrives with new skin, a little raw and shiny. This is visible and often a teeny bit fragile.

JFK used to quote the old saying that victory has a hundred fathers and defeat is an orphan. It is still true when things work out there are plenty to take the credit and when they don’t lots of finger pointing ensues. All the invisible help tends to melt away. We would do well to remember those on the journey into and out of Gilead, so we aren’t accidentally one of them. 

I think of the recent bevy of small L liberals who lost their seats in the last Federal election who would be seen by many as moderates, who gave it their best shot no doubt in trying to convince their leadership to be more inclusive and more progressive. Yet they were the ones who lost their seats … they were the ones who stayed in the party. The best example of this is Josh Frydenberg. The ones that left like former Mayor Da Li is a good example of this phenomenon.  

If it’s your name on leave form, your name on the invoice, your signature on the contract, your quote in the press release, there is every chance you are implicated in the process. Several years ago it was put to me when I made a complaint about a leader and got the  “but he’s a nice guy” argument, I still had to stand my ground. He may be a nice guy, but he did the wrong thing. And nice by whose standards? I am sure Josh is a nice guy, but he was hanging out with a bunch who made him look bad. 

Progressives in the US will be taking to the streets as they should to make sure Gilead doesn’t take up residency on a map. I will continue to remain vigilant, because if you give them an inch they will take a mile. And to the women who voted to support nice guys, or fail to see through the narcissists presenting with slick and shtick, and the recruitment firms who don’t do their homework because someone said he was a good bloke … you are all on the slippery slope to Gilead.

Hope rises from the bottom up and there are plenty of us out there who will be relentless in trying to nip things in the bud. Let’s keep Gilead to the writings of the prophets and the soothsayers. 

With Maya Angelou in our hearts and the instruction:

Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,

I am the dream and the hope of the slave.

I rise

I rise

I rise.

The groundswell of the recent Federal election in Australia and State election in my home state of South Australia, I am hoping will flow over into all the board rooms, classrooms, council chambers and community organisations as our inoculation against Gilead and the forces that enables Gilead to come into being and thrive. This requires a constancy and effort to keep bending towards evolving to our best selves and make ourselves visible.

“What is the difference between a squirrel burying acorns across the forest and humans planting potatoes across the globe? Who is master, and who is the servant? Is it the acorn’s or potato’s idea to be nutritious, or the creature that buries them? Evolution is not about design or will; it is the outcome of constant endeavors made by organisms that want to survive and better themselves. The collective result is intoxicatingly beautiful, rife with oddities, and surprisingly brilliant, yet no agent is in control. Evolution arises from the bottom up–so, too, does hope.”

Paul Hawken, Blessed Unrest: How the Largest Movement in the World Came Into Being and Why No One Saw It Coming

Women’s March 2019 in front of Pilgrim Church, Adelaide

Visibility and Invisibility 2022 #25

Clay Shirky wrote, in 2008, a book called Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations. I fell in love with it straight away and was so inspired about what social media might offer to organising and community development.

The promise of organising without organisations is here and now more than a decade later from his prophetic work, organisations that neglect the power of the people, may find themselves failing the pub test.  His work on digital engagement and collaboration set the scene for sharing on line which is so insidious now we do not even realise it is an act of collaboration and movement building. He identified the principle of synchronisation and continual reiterations until a whole project reached the next level through combined efforts (think Wikipedia). He also pointed to something he thought might happen in the future – collective action. This is of course we now know a familiar experience from a President tweeting to incite rebellion, to a hashtag like #metoo or #blacklivesmatter #fridaysforfuture radically bringing change. You do not need an organisation to organise – a hash tag might just do it.

This brings me to the idea of integrity. Those hash tags work because there is some kind of integrity about them. We can trust the meaning, they hold space, they drive action, give comfort.

The completeness of how everything holds together well and there is no fraying about the edges or internal collapse, is how you know something has integrity. When the wheels fall off, there is visible discomfort or edges losing their distinction as a boundary, they are all useful indicators of a lack of integrity, or perhaps just a piece missing that is needed to hold what ever it is, altogether.

I have been fascinated to watch how a collective decision this week, while following due process, getting highly paid and high-level professional advice and made no doubt with good intentions, completely failed to read the room. I have been wondering how, and more importantly, why, this happened.

Recently our nation has been subject to what I consider collective gas-lighting. Core values around gender justice, climate justice, racial justice have been shaken and we are in a period now of re-adjustment. There is a correction going on. As this correction takes shape, we are more able to hear, see and feel what perhaps we could not so easily hear, see or feel previously.

It makes complete sense to have the Aboriginal Flag and the Torres Strait Island Flag in view with the national flag at the podium when an elected official speaks … yet it has only been a couple of weeks … and if they were taken away, we would all be able to easily recognise our flag integrity had been compromised.  And so, it is with this recent challenge in my community.

An elected body have appointed a person to be the CEO of the largest council in my State. A highly paid team of consultants set about the recruitment process with a detailed and thoughtful brief. They no doubt would have done their due diligence checking referees, past performance, observed behaviour, scanned social media, done a personality test.

I do not actually know what they did in the screening and preparation process to get candidates ready to present to the elected members for choice, but this is a reasonable guess as I have been involved in such processes from both a candidate and employer perspective and been subject to all those processes myself. 

I do know part of the goal in these kinds of decisions is to pass what we like to call in Australia, the pub test. So what are failures to pass pub tests? Maybe using a car for inappropriate and non-work-related purposes, or, spending money on gifts for family and friends instead of employees, or, staying in accommodation that is expensive on the public purse … these are the actions typically fail the pub test. Choosing a leader who called an Australian of the Year, who endured years of sexual abuse, a spoilt brat, to lead a community where childhood sexual abuse is being tackled with courage and determination, on many fronts … fails the pub test. Digital footprints reveal attitudes and behaviours and this person’s case you can see some that are out of step with community standards and expectations, so I am perplexed at the decision.

I wonder about the integrity of the process when a decision like this made. I start to look for invisible threads and reasons behind the decision. Perhaps they are out of touch, perhaps the recruitment agency did not do all the due diligence required, perhaps there are invisible reasons that will not ever be known? 

So now community members are asking questions of their elected officials and some are rallying. No doubt there will be staff who will be packing their bags not wanting to hang around, there will be allies and friends who will feel shocked by the decision and choose to no longer collaborate with the City, and there will be those who hold Grace Tame up as a role model, who will be triggered once again and feel alienated and hurt once again – because this is how systems work. Systems like patriarchy and colonisation are designed to work for those who receive the benefits of those systems.

What is invisible about these systems, becomes visible when they lose their integrity.

March 15, 2021

Authorised by M Were PO Box 7 Sellicks Beach 5174

Visibility and Invisibility 2022 #24

There was sliver of wood caught near my knuckle on my ring finger, close to the surface, the splinter was clearly visible under the translucent skin. I was able to remove in one single complete, gentle, deliberate tug with my old pink tweezers. No blood was drawn. It was a simple act of acquisition in the garden on a tomato stake and a precision act of removal.  Another example of my body being a vessel for this never ending song of call and response. Something coming in – an inhale, and something going out – an exhale. The splinter took a nano second to go in and about ten times longer to pull out, a familiar ratio of life’s lessons!

I didn’t realise the stake would be the source of a gardening injury, the danger of the decomposing untreated wood completely invisible to me. I didn’t even bother to have gloves on, no prophylactic seemed necessary, another reminder, that not all dangers are visible and taking routine precautions are good preventative strategies.

My default is trust, and I have an expectation that trust will be understood, even rewarded, yet managing broken trust, seems to be a lesson I have learn and re-learn over and over. I do not readily take the hints, the minor splinter experiences offer me. I hope I never do. I hope I continue to take the risks of going into the garden of life, not always fully protected, to stay open to the splinters and the subtle, almost perverse, pleasure in their extraction. There is the cautionary tale of death by a thousand cuts and I’ve found my way to deep griefs more than once for failure to learn from the little injuries along the way, Trust being immovable despite evidence to the contrary. Trust has it’s costs when the splinters are bigger, wider, deeper.

The invisible injuries build our resilience, our courage, our hope, our aspirations, feed our drive, hold us steady when the seas get rough, insist on leaving a scar to remind us of their place in our story. They make themselves visible as butterflies in the stomach, teardrops on a cheek, gasps and sighs, sweating hands and clearing throats. They might even turn up as a cackle. They do arrive though, and make themselves visible to our deepest selves.

I worked through relatively quickly, one such experience this week. I moved from shock to acceptance, and the moved on, with the aid of a Crunchie bar followed by a gin and tonic. I laughed when I realised what I was doing and actively tried to reduce the incident, to splinter size. I felt encouraged that I had noticed what I was doing, even though not quite soon enough, as the bar was well gone and the glass half empty, before I arrived at that realisation. Yet another reminder of how the visible and invisible interplay works in my life, and the ratio of splinter arrival and removal continues to remain constant.

Following the grain in the wood, is one way to reduce splinters, yet maybe it is going against the grain we find the edges and connect with something greater inside and beyond ourselves. Hans Christian Anderson wrote about the splinters of wood that had turned into matches and were exceedingly proud of their single dignified origin from a great pine tree, deep in the dark forest. Perhaps the little splinter moments are a prompt to remember our deep rooted origins so we can draw up all we need from the ancient land and into ourselves? The humble splinter connecting me to the forest and the tree.

Photo by Johannes W on Unsplash

Visibility and Invisibility 2022 #23

National Reconciliation Week, framed with the two book ends of National Sorry Day and Mabo Day, is full of invisible stories. The stories of the stolen generation, people who have not yet found their families and for whom colonisation is ongoing and is not a singular date on a calendar. It was a week when the High Court Chief Justice who oversaw the Mabo decision, died at age 94. Sir Gerard Brennan’s social justice values, growing out of his Catholicism are deeply familiar to me. The Mabo decision was June 1992 and put the fiction of Terra Nullius to bed. Following the High Court decision in Mabo No. 2, the Commonwealth Parliament passed the Native Title Act in 1993, enabling Indigenous people throughout Australia to claim traditional rights to unalienated land.  Brennan made something invisible to so many, visible. This is how the law often works, bringing to light and to voice, evidence and facts and ultimately through reason providing a pathway for others to follow and laying foundations for next steps.

Reconciliation, as a word, is all about balance, restoring the relationship where there has been a breakdown or mis-understanding. It is all about getting things back into right relationships. This feels so inadequate and inappropriate when it comes to Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australia. How can a situation founded on a lie on one side of the equation bring anything into balance without that basic foundation being corrected first? Treaties are on the agenda so maybe one day, but for now, it is premature to use reconciliation as a word towards equity. The week done help us non-Aboriginal people take a step towards, and the extraordinary generosity of Aboriginal people bowls me over once again. There isn’t a common measure for what is immeasurable, like the way the land and the sea holds her people, or how the song lines can sing you home. There is a ledger but I am not sure it can ever be reconciled.

My Reconciliation Week has been a series of feeble steps. A visit to a local school where we were honoured with a smoking ceremony, song, dance and that ever present democracy experience, a sausage sizzle. I also went to an excellent screening of a set of short films, Nunga Screens, curated by Country Arts. I went to this event in my local community run theatre with a group of friends from diverse backgrounds and roles in the community – consultants, public servants, advocates and activists. I have worn a number of pieces of clothing created by Anangu artists and promoted art from the APY Arts collective in a Facebook community I manage. I’ve read some poetry by Yankunytjatjara Aboriginal poet Ali Cobby Eckermann. I pulled over onto the side of the road to hear the first women Aboriginal minister get sworn into the ministry. I started to cry and wanted to mark the moment and took the time to listen without distraction. It has been a week of visibility for Aboriginal people – it shouldn’t be one week – it needs to be every day. 

I am off planting trees on  Ngarrindjeri country at Raukkan, to end the week, a place once home to the man on our $50 note – inventor, preacher, activist David Unaipon.

Voice. Treaty. Truth is the order of business for the Uluru Statement from the heart.

Always was. Always will be.

Aldinga Payinthi College – National Reconciliation Week 2022 – colouring in by Sienna aged 4

Visibility and invisibility 2022 #22

Sewn into the seams of our favourite garments, hidden from view, but not invisible to the naked eye, are memories. Sometimes you find grains of sand, a loose thread from a cobweb, a burr from a bush you did not even notice you had brushed past. Trinkets all to remind you of the path you were on and what carried you to those places. I recall a time when a friend returned home from the UK, lent me his jacket, and said, here are a few particles from Stonehenge, because this is where he had worn it last. It was a little bit magical to feel connected with the ancient druids even though I had never been to Salisbury plain.  There is always a tapestry being woven with us connecting us to past, present, and future.  

Halley’s comet features in the Bayeux tapestry and the tapestry based on an Arthur Boyd painting, in our Great Hall in the national Parliament. A single cosmic event connecting us in time and place. The moment in time we find ourselves and the place to which we are arriving right now has its own kind of Halley’s comet magic. It is a time of potential, of transformation and promise. It is time when all the weaving and connecting that has been going on for the past few years, needs to come together and is coming together to form a single picture. It is a picture of complexity, depth of colour, dynamic and textured. The seams have been sewn together with votes, hopes, aspirations and urgency.  We are the weavers and the threads. It will not be enough to repair, recycle or even reuse, we need to refund, refresh and regenerate.

In the refund department this will begin with the implementation of the Uluru Statement, paying the rent and giving measure and meaning to the wisdom of the oldest living culture on earth. We will need to press the refresh button on the values as Tom Uren AC (Prime Minister Albanese’s mentor and father figure) said, and is quoted in the introduction to the 2021 Tom Uren Lecture which was delivered by the now Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Hon Linda Burney MP.

“The strong should look after the weak, the young look after the not-so-young, the fit look after the sick”.

Tom Uren AC

If you want to get a sense of what is sewn into the seams and what we can expect and why the grains of sand are ancient and why the Uluru Statement from the Heart declaration from the new Prime Minister in his opening words moments after his election to that office became visible, you can do no better than reading Linda Burney’s address. You get an insight into future actions, decades, indeed generations in the making, stemming all the way back in the Labor tradition to Doc Evatt in 1944. It was not always plain sailing, and Labor can hang its head in shame and embarrassment for deals done in mining and with mates over the years. However, now, at the beginning of National Reconciliation Week and with National Sorry Day just behind us, there are solid foundations for the work that will become visible to us all and we will have a part to play. There will be a referendum and with skillful negotiation, I am trusting the process will have the support of all the major political parties, their friends and allies and go as a united front to the people of Australia. The Uluru Statement from the Heart is not a petition, it is an invitation and one I hope we will embrace and accept. Our history is calling. Click here to accept the invitation. 

Uluru, May 28 2021

Visibility and Invisibility 2022 #21

The Australian electorate has corrected and leant into what matters to them – the Uluru Statement from the Heart, gender equity, integrity, climate justice, community leadership, grassroots campaigning. To say I am relieved is an understatement. There were tears before bedtime.

I started election day at dawn letting my four isa brown hens out of their coop. I made a large thermos of lemon ginger tea, put a folding table into the car that I had borrowed from my daughter. The table joined two A – Frames with the future PM on one side, a local candidate on the other and the leader of the Senate on another, a box of how to vote fliers, a basket with an apple from my friend’s Mum and Dad’s tree and a banana from the local Drakes supermarket. The basket was a gift from another friend whose Mum is a bit of a hoarder and in a clean out after a health emergency, I was thrilled to take the basket which I make very good use of on a regular basis in a Red Riding Hood kind of way with deliveries of eggs, produce from my garden and fruit that hangs over the fence into my garden, which at this time of the year are lemons and feijoas. I also popped in a table cloth in, which actually started out as a sarong that I bought for a few dollars in a market in Bali and unpicked the seam so I could use it as a table cloth. It is a mix of reds in batik. I was in Bali with a dear friend after my husband died for a visit while she was volunteering there a few years ago.

As I arrived at the community hall with the sun still rising and unfurled the ingredients for my contribution to the pop up polling booth, I noticed all these things I had brought and how each of them had a strong connection to my story, and to women who are and have been sojourners. It was incredibly comforting in the crisp morning to be warmed by these memories and the journeys we all take to get from one part of our lives to the next. Surely this is exactly the relationship between the invisible and visible? We touch into the invisible threads that weave our cloth and as the pattern emerges the future is revealed by what is already been sown. This forecast from the threads, like any evening weather report giving us a prediction for the days ahead, with room for error and surprise despite being based on solid data.

Returning to my polling booth kit. The thermos was bought several years ago to use at community events and gets an outing occasionally. I gave a cuppa to my fellow how-to-vote hander outerer who was shivering with the cold and her young hands warmed themselves on the mug. One of the other volunteers from another party asked if he could buy a drink from me from the thermos and I insisted he didn’t and just poured him a cup. He was delighted and surprised with this simple act of humanity – this is the civility of our democracy. The apple in my basket was grown in a suburban garden, the tree being planted many years ago. It came to me via a woman who has returned to Australia after many years away, we met when she was a young staffer of a former State Premier. The apple was delicious and as crisp and as crunchy as the day promised. I am so thrilled she is back and I am already feeling the benefit of her being here. The apple a down payment on many more moments of goodness to be exchanged. More invisible love made visible in every bite. The love of a promise when the tree was first planted, the love of parents nourishing the tree and their daughter, the love of fresh fruit to generously share, the love of healthy choices.

As the morning warmed up and making a choice not to stand in the shade, it was joyful to see voters of all ages, shapes and sizes, with or without small children and bigger or smaller dogs, make their way to the polling booth. The transfer of power went smoothly from one leader to another. The people’s result will bring a more kind, collaborative and diverse government.

What was invisible to the pollsters algorithms, to the commentors and mainstream media, became visible to us all.  We are a nation with values and who find ourselves in place, communities matter and we do have big picture aspirations for climate, gender equity, our responsibilities in the world, our care for the vulnerable. We do want our parliament to look like us, we have moved beyond the binary. This is my kind of Australia. I can’t wait to help on the referendum that will now come with the implementation of the Uluru Statement from the Heart.  We are the regeneration generation.

Rainbow at Sellicks – Beyond the Binary

Visibility and Invisibility 2022 #20

This time next week we will be waking up to a new Australia that we can all see. This Australia is already here but not yet fully visible.  

In this Australia:

  • thousands of women march and say enough is enough to gendered violence and sexism
  • flood waters rise
  • people sit in boats at sea, run into the ocean to escape flames as they watch a bushfire scorch the earth and destroy all they know
  • vast numbers get a dog for the first time, bake sourdough bread and create edible landscapes
  • young people strike for climate
  • we ingest the equivalent of a hard hat of plastic every month
  • algorithms match us to find new love, new music, new books
  • we know a single woman over fifty who is homeless or couch surfing and some of us are one of the 400,000 in this situation
  • we say goodbye to a friend or family member to COVID and not be able to touch them, and join a funeral via a small screen
  • ache from the separation from friends and family for significant life events
  • one in five of us join the global phenomena of the great resignation
  • the unlawful federal government raise of $1.76bn in debts leaves us numb and some of us dead
  • energy bill defaults rise as renewables energy use grows
  • a young member of the family learns a few words of an Indigenous language and passes them on to the rest of the household
  • two hundred million litres of hand sanitiser are used in the past two years
  • its unexceptional to have a trans friend and use they as a pronoun
  • meaning is found by walking in nature is healing
  • you join an online choir during the pandemic that includes past Prime Ministers, opera singers, dogs, children, nurses and lawyers, is fun
  • many are wishing shares in Zoom were in their investment portfolio
  • binging on a series set in Edwardian England or Korea is a topic of conversation
  • divestment from coal is a race being run by fund managers
  • on Monday 19th April 2022, 214,000 people registered to vote through the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) on the last day to get registered on the electoral roll – the biggest single-day enrolment in Australia’s history, making 96% of us eligible to vote on May 21st.

It is an Australia that is emerging into compassion for First Nations and recognising colonisation is not past tense. It is an Australia that is ready to make peace with its past through voice, treaty, truth. It is an Australia that understands women’s rights are human rights and that rape culture starts with language. It is an Australia that is yearning for climate justice for farmers, coastal households, and highland towns. It is an Australia that wants to turn away from the shame of treating refugees as criminals. It is an Australia that is ready to shape up to its geopolitical responsibilities as a good neighbour in the Pacific.

This is the decade, our last possible one, to halt and if at all possible, turn the climate around. We have not got a minute to waste. The collective actions we take at the ballot box will make visible the kind of Australia we are at this time, facing our greatest challenges as a species. I am confident we are up for the challenge.

Next Sunday we will have new leadership, which will look more like us, more diversity in the Parliament, in age, backgrounds, gender, political parties.  We will be set for more debate, discourse, and discernment. More is going to be asked of us as citizens, this next period of governing Australia is not going to be a set and forget, or a suck it and see mentality. There will be in the famous words of a past Prime Minister, thrills, and spills.  And I cannot wait for what is ahead and what will be required of us all to get to the next stage of our development as a Commonwealth.  

March 2021 Parliament House, Canberra

Visibility and Invisibility 2022 #19

Expectations are invisible and then when they aren’t met, they become visible by the oozing of emotions, sometimes publicly with the ferocity of projectile vomiting, other times with the gentility of a private sob. The word expectation comes from the Latin meaning an awaiting – and we all know waiting has an ache in it.  When you have been waiting a while, those expectations can build and take a life of their own encrusted with the aged desires and wounds. They have a blinkered quality and seem to screen out a complete 360-degree assessment of the facts of the moment. It is intriguing how expectations become visible without discussion, as by osmosis in the public space. 

For instance, we are in a national conversation as a country as we discern how to spend our vote and there is no doubt whoever we choose as a nation won’t meet all of our expectations – we will feel let down by our team if they get elected. They know that and we know that already deep inside of us.  We will have to renegotiate the relationship from opposition to government or failure to win government. I remember one time a government being elected and still acting like they were in opposition for a long time, not quite making the transition to their new role and the public not quite being able to let them – there was quite a bit of calibration before the new arrangements settled. So, while their new roles were clear and confirm, there was still uncertainty, a lack of practice and unfamiliar ways of being to be tested.

I notice some people pulling up the covers and hiding there for a while hoping by the time, they pull them back and jump out in the new world it will be ready for them, and they are ready for it. An invisible metamorphosis protecting them from harm, it is a false promise though and the practice is still needed and the lack of exposure to the new conditions just means the conditions have been more consolidated and not had the benefitted of being shaped while under the covers. Others have stepped into the breach and now a new world order is emerging, and you have to live with it, unpractised and clumsy, until you have applied your navigational skills to find your way.

Making visible expectations is a partial inoculation, understanding you have them and their place in your invisible world of meaning and circumstance, rank and status requires a level of insight that may not be easily accessible. Your spot in the food chain may be disturbed by others’ expectations and your lack of insight may cut a deep wound. The relationship between communications and experience blend in expectations, we’ve read the room, read the reviews, been here before, wired ahead … yet we can still get disappointed and hurt due to a failure of this relationship not being fully visible to ourselves and others. Coming to an alignment around expectations requires testing both the communications and experience over and over again because managing expectations is best as a visible action.  

I had a very hard lesson in visible and invisible nature of expectations. There is no magical thinking that will bring the situation we want into being, it requires learning and unlearning our experiences, communicating for alignment, and making our expectations explicit so they can be negotiated in or out of reality.  It is an act of empathy and self-compassion to arrive at the new place with the new relationships .. and inevitably another set of expectations.  

“Heaven knows we need never be ashamed of our tears, for they are rain upon the blinding dust of earth, overlying our hard hearts. I was better after I had cried, than before–more sorry, more aware of my own ingratitude, more gentle.”

Charles Dickens, Great Expectations
The laundromat in Santiago de Compostela went beyond expectations and was filled with art, poetry, plants, quirky artefacts and beauty.

Visibility and Invisibility 2022 #18

For the past month I have been treated to writing prompts (#halcyonwords) which have given me time to reflect on little moments from the past. A few of them have opened up wounds and who would have known that two or three words could be so powerful? The prompts have invited me to revisit longings, losses, celebrations, community, family and travels. The role of a prompt is to encourage something to be said.  The origins of the word mean, brought to light.

We are surrounded by prompts. Prompts move us to action. I notice some of my invitations are prompts trying to activate someone to take a step in a direction that will result in step forward or at a minimum a gesture of goodwill. I also notice I retreat from prompting; else it be seen as nagging. A prompt though is not harassment it does have invitational qualities and the same prompt can produce a plethora of actions depending on whose ears or place it lands. I like getting prompted, I do not like being nagged. I like being invited; I do not like being told. I like being encouraged, enabled, and emboldened. I do not like being manipulated, ambushed, or shamed into action.

When you are on stage, a production team usually includes a Prompt – the person who cues the actors if they forget their lines or miss a move they are meant to take, the prompt keeps things moving out of sight of the audience but in earshot of the actors. This role is often not needed when the production is smooth and well-rehearsed, but everyone knows they have this safety net to hold them regardless, and they can trust they will be held and helped, if need be, with no visibility to anyone outside of the stage. We all need a Prompt sometimes to tell us what words we have rehearsed over and over again that can be deployed at the right moment. Someone to quietly remind us where to situate ourselves on the stage, what words to use that we may have rehearsed a thousand times and lost in the moment when we find ourselves in the headlights.

We can be prompts for one another to remind each other that we do have the words, we do know when to sit, run or stand. We need to be prompts for each other – to invite well with a question to bring something invisible into the light. And when we find ourselves in this light, deliver our message or action with clarity and confidence for all kinds of audiences. This will take courage, practice, discipline. I need to be prompted often to go where I may not want to go. I like my prompts to come announced as prompts. Announced prompts, feel less judgemental, less risky, less acts of recalcitrant compliance. This approach helps me find my way to the light and uncover something new, and to move from invisible to visible.   

Brought to light at Standley Chasm, NT May 2021


Visibility and Invisibility 2022 #17

Our dreams start out invisible. This is inevitable. A few thoughts floating around in our head like butterflies, that we try and capture, which is often, just like butterflies, hard to do. It requires patience, observation, and stillness. Dreams maybe visible when we sleep, some clever unfolding and prompting in our unconscious selves trying to bring something to the surface. Thoughts take shape with images, sounds, colour, emotions. Maybe you have recurrent dreams that haunt or tease you. But these are not the dreams I am really thinking about. I am thinking about the dreams that we want to make visible, the kind of dream Martin Luther King had of liberation, or the dream aspirants have of being elected, or winning a prize and through discipline and talent aim to make their dreams come true.

I am dreaming of ways in which we can all level up and bring more equity to decision-making. It is one of the reasons I support the Uluru Statement from the Heart and the inherent result of Voice Treaty Truth and a First Nations presence in our national parliament. This dream will be informing my vote at the next Federal election. I cannot and will not support any political party or candidate that does not embrace the Uluru Statement. The current government’s parties commissioned the statement’s creation and all the consultation far and wide and then on presentation rejected it. It was yet another dark day in our nation … but it is not a dream that can be held hostage … it is one that is released for all of us to embrace. It is one we need to honour. It is an act of equity and justice. First, we have to hear the voice, which is why parliamentary representation is central; then we have to have a just settlement, a covenant, treaties and then we will be in a position to hear and receive the truth.  The Uluru Statement is the culmination of what was an Indigenous Constitutional Convention – constitutional change is non- negotiable.

If the Voice part of the Uluru sequence invokes the realm of politics and the Treaty part conjures the world of law, then the Truth part aligns most closely with the domain of historyKate Fullagar

Getting to equity recognises we do not all start from the same place, and adjustments are needed to address the imbalances. That is why separate First Nations voices to parliament is an equity issue for me. We must address the imbalances in our legislation and only legislators can pass those laws, and laws get passed in Parliament.  Thomas Mayor’s words to his then seven-year-old son William, who put his hand on this heart and said, “the heart of the nation is in here.”  This is our work now as we head into the historic election in which only one major party is agreeing to follow through on the Uluru Statement and offer a referendum to the Australian people for a substantive, not symbolic, constitutional recognition to constitutionally enshrine First Nations Voice – nothing less will suffice for this dream to become visible. For right now, we are living a lie, and in a nightmare for our First Nations.  If the place you work for supports the Uluru Statement, if you have shares in companies that have signed their support, if you have signed up to the Statement – the time to mark your ballot in favour of the Uluru Statement and make this dream visible, is on the horizon.

Put your hand on you heart, feel the beat, breath in through your feet on the land, feel the pulse of our shared home. The Voice proposal is quite conservative, and the talents and ingenuity of leaders like Megan Davis with expert constitutional knowledge, have the proposal in the Uluru Statement as the simple premise of a First Nations representative body, with its primary function to present the views of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to the Parliament where decisions are made about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Nothing more and nothing less.  Let us vote for equity. For dreams and for dreaming our way to justice. For visibility of the invisible heart of our nation.

6 September 2019, Logan, Qld. Guest of Logan Together listening to Megan Davis and learning more about the Uluru Statement from the Heart.