2021 Meeting the Moment #19

The opportunity turned up as a general invitation and while I prevaricated and swivelled in my chair for perhaps ten seconds longer than my intuition told me and my rational self tried to take control, I did eventually stand up and make my way, with quick steps to the stage.

I took the time to find the note and hummed my way into the first line, finding the tenor and the timing enabling the words to find their way into my mouth.  Just a few lines and some moves to build the inclusive experience for all in my typical signature way, and it was easeful.  Within a few moments spells were broken that had been cast long ago.  How ironic for the moment to be a musical one and how powerful for it to be an improvised one. The basic building block of improv is yes, and.  And this moment was met with yes, and.  

The Spell Caster in this story, finding ways to block and disable opportunities was left without a leg to stand on as I took to the stage.  The old carefully crafted incantations of self-protection designed to effect fear and instil caution were swept away by the mantra “I am enough”. It was very safe to come to the microphone, the musicians and one holding the space had my back, had the audiences as well and in the complementarity of both, was able to find a path to keep the container to hold us all solid and secure.  Deep gratitude to his skills and experience!

The voice in my head as I left the stage was of one my children saying Mum you are living your best life. Over the past few years, I have not known what living any kind of life might be like, let alone a best one. I have flayed around trying to find the right tune, right tone, a harmony, and the odd blues note – yet somehow in these few short minutes on stage I managed to get to the entire next level and make sense of some of the time now past.  Taking my time with the humming into the space such a useful metaphor to take the measure and feel and hear what the music was asking of me, the call to my response.  Then finding the notes and making up my own lyrics, to express what I had learnt, seen through the day, with the backing of a band, not a solo artist or even a solo musical instrument, but multiple players and multiple instruments, a profound reminder I am not alone and there are harmonies and chords to be found in the notes and the spaces between the notes is where the music finds its shape and form.  Then my invitation to the audience to abandon their position and sway with hands in the air, a reflection of asking people to come follow me, knowing they have the capacity and capability to do that and do not need any more sophisticated instruction, just a simple demonstration and then everyone can participate. And finally, the recognition that all have a place, a contribution to the song and leaving the stage, the music goes on and the next person can step up. Just like the geese in formation, another can take their turn in the lead and helping to reduce the wind resistance and taking it in turns conserves energy for the whole flock.

Instead of malevolence there is benevolence – bene volent – well wishing – surely a great way to break a spell!  There were only well wishes being bestowed in the moment at the microphone this week. The realm of generosity, joy and gratitude appeared in the magic of the moment, by invoking the instruction of the poet David Whyte of being half a shade braver. I also took the advice of researcher Brene Brown to let hurtful stuff drop to the floor, and step over it and keep going. “You can’t take criticism and feedback from people who are not being brave with their lives.”  

A spell was broken this week, more stuff dropped on the threshing floor to step over. The stage was that place where the chaff was tossed to the wind and the wheat made ready for the bread of salvation to be baked. A different kind of communion, as fully transformational as any other consumed previously.

Photo by Ali Yılmaz on Unsplash

2021 Meeting the Moment #18

I have been learning about the Celtic season of May Day, in Irish known as Bealtaine. The feast of the bright fire to herald summer. It is considered I understand as the threshold of the opposites. The yin and yang, masculine and feminine, good, and evil. One of the pairs of opposites I have written about over the years has been the moving on and holding still – and I have come to a conclusion that they are not opposites and I wonder if in these non-binary times, we might be being invited into a beyond opposites era? In the ritual with this festival you move between two fires or perhaps more modestly these days two candles. The humble flame inviting the extraordinary out from you. In every moment we meet, the extraordinary maybe hidden, and we might miss it if we do not take to the time to catch our breath or be curious.

There is a moment always to be met – catching the wave so you can surf to the shore, coming in with precision when the conductor calls upon you, standing firm when a bully is having their way.  And how elegant it seems when these moments are met; there is ease and an oozing of confidence that builds trust with those caught in the same moment. Even those watching on can tell that the safety net is not needed, such is the dignity and evidence of practice visible by the actions that hold the moment firmly in place. These can be sacred, respectful moments.

There are so many opportunities in every day to notice what is emerging, what is being held firmly in place, what builds trust. Vulnerability is the courage you must show up fully to those opportunities, to be willing to risk, to enter the potential for danger, to be in a space inside yourself that holds at least a sliver of anxiety. Inside that space alongside anxiety, ego has also made a home. Detaching can help you cross that threshold and propel you to a new world. The liminal space of the inner and outer worlds meeting as we catch the moment of crossing and play midwife to our own edge.

I love to walk circular bushwalks leaving the car and being able to come back to it having hiked up and down a hill or two and finding my way back. I am comforted by a non-linear approach to destination, as I am never the same person at the end as I was when I first set off. I will have crossed a threshold or two though along the way and the journey not the destination is the pilgrim process. I often find I am out of breath, need water, invoking a Hail Mary to get up a hill, clinging to my walking sticks in case I fall. The opposites of up and down often make me laugh, I think to myself when I am going up well if I were going the other way I would be going down. There are times where I am ambitiously cautious about my edges and take a path more challenging than my level of fitness or capability. There are times too when I choose an easier path so I won’t get tested and my vulnerability stays intact.

These private spaces on my own on a hill, are instructional for spaces where courage is called for in more public domains. The inner and outer, public, and private, can feel very oppositional, although I know them more to be two sides of the one coin. When I am living whole heartedly and with awareness of the liminal it seems more likely vulnerability will turn up. Going to the edges is  where radical transformation invitations are offered. Having the courage to meet those moments when the opportunities arise, and catching those moments, is a practice.

I took this photo of a fire in Santiago de Compostela at the end of walking just over 200kms on the camino. This was an inner and outer experience and am I am still on the pilgrimage. It is the blue flame of queimada – a Galician concoction of brandy, coffee, cinnamon and lemon peel. The drink is prepared as this incantation is said:

Owls, barn owls, toads and witches.
Demons, goblins and devils,
spirits of the misty vales.
Crows, salamanders and witches,
charms of the folk healer(ess).
Rotten pierced canes,
home of worms and vermin.
Wisps of the Holy Company,
evil eye, black witchcraft,
scent of the dead, thunder and lightning.
Howl of the dog, omen of death,
maws of the satyr and foot of the rabbit.
Sinful tongue of the bad woman
married to an old man.
Satan and Beelzebub's Inferno,
fire of the burning corpses,
mutilated bodies of the indecent ones,
farts of the asses of doom,
bellow of the enraged sea.
Useless belly of the unmarried woman,
speech of the cats in heat,
dirty turf of the wicked born goat.
With this bellows I will pump
the flames of this fire
which looks like that from Hell,
and witches will flee,
straddling their brooms,
going to bathe in the beach
of the thick sands.
Hear! Hear the roars
of those that cannot
stop burning in the firewater,
becoming so purified.
And when this beverage
goes down our throats,
we will get free of the evil
of our soul and of any charm.
Forces of air, earth, sea and fire,
to you I make this call:
if it's true that you have more power
than people,
here and now, make the spirits
of the friends who are outside,
take part with us in this Queimada.
Flame of Queimada Santiago de Compostela, Spain

2021 Meeting the Moment #17

Patches of sunshine, warm nooks around the garden, and the bush tomatoes are feeding a community of ants before I get a chance to pick them. Their sticky insides ooze onto my fingers when I gather a few of them each day to gradually build up my stocks of them to dry and grind. Along with the kangaroo apple that is also fruiting in the garden at the moment and I am beginning to acquaint myself with pig face and I have found a recipe for a warrigal greens pesto, and so my indigenous species gardening is starting to take shape. I still bought a fig tree today though as I have decided I am living in these two ways times and am akwardly connecting with roots in my story and in the land I am living on.

I live on Kaurna land, land that has never been ceded and we are in the windy season of Parnati. I live near Wangkondananko , the Aldinga Washpool also once known as Opossum Place where Kaurna would come and tan the hides of possums to make cloaks. This week Onkaparinga council established and Aboriginal Advisory group and this step forward I hope will help connect us all to the future from the past. This place is a food bowl and there is considerable evidence of settlement long before colonisation that even someone like me with little knowledge and experience can see. The names that have stayed and been incorporated into everyday use are the easiest pointers. The Aldinga plain, as it would have been known originally as Kauwi Ngaltingga, means fresh water at Ngalti, and you can clearly see it as a plain, a natural flood plain between the bush and the sea and a haven for bird life. Birds are returning, as are other creatures as habitat starts to regrow. There is desecration visible too, as I discovered recently, an important site in the Tjilbruke Dreamtime story, a spring site, at the southern, coastal end was badly damaged by dumping of soil and debris some decades ago. I pay my respect and deep gratitude to Aunty Georgina Williams and recognise her leadership over decades and generations.

It is hard to fathom how we got here – and I have so much to tune into, learn, understand. I am starting from a very low base. Knowing you are living on stolen land, land where there has never been an agreement, an understanding, a treaty, is in itself, a settler privilege. I haven’t the lived experience of theft or destruction of place and story, people, food, language – culture.

This week contained Earth Day and the theme was restoration. In Australia I can’t see restoration without reconciliation, restitution and some reckoning with First Nations. We all have one Mother and without the Earth we have nothing, without her waters we will die. First Nations wisdom might be all that can save us. I am making a humble start to come as a child to the exercise – wide eyed and curious, as kind a heart as I can muster and with a heart open to healing.

One Mob, One Land, One People

She is Mother Earth. She is the land of Oz
She is country, she is family. She is you
She nurtures and loves, she’s there when your tears fall
She laughs with you when you’re happy and the stars shine bright

She is your spirit of place, your mother, your land
She walks with you and your shadow guiding the way
Her love for you is the glue that holds you together
Your connection to country is your spirit of place.

Seek her on that road you travel a mother’s love has no boundaries
Unselfish in her giving her devotion is never ending
She is you and you are her no matter what road you travel
Hold your head high for you are who you are. Proud strong

Our communities are made up different from a long time ago
It’s important to remember we are one people, one Nation
Share the journey, share the joy. Be proud in the culture
Be upright and true, your identity strong never ending.

Hate and jealously. Not ours, never ours. A White man thing!
Join together be strong, stand proud. United we stand, divided we fall.
I am you and you are me. Our spirit of place, always deep within
Your life destined from time beginning, sharing the country, honouring the Lore

Now our roles defined to how we want them to be but culture is strong
Sharing and caring our identity as a people, share what you have is the Lore of the land
Each role we fulfil is for the good of the Mob learn what you will and pass on to the next
Don’t forget where you come from and the essence of life.

Be true to who you are, don’t forget who you are. Your belonging is the heart of you Aboriginal warrior man or woman be true to Mother Earth care for each other
After all we are one land one people one culture

We belong.

by Kerry Reed-Gilbert

Washpool, July 2020

2021: Meeting the Moment #16

Taking steps that are unfamiliar, or even ones that may have been taken before, but not quite confidently, awkward teetering towards the promise of potential, are the ones making landfall right now. New paths are being trod and with each step a beginning, for we are never walking the same path as the day before, as we weren’t today’s person yesterday. Each moment is full of promise, potential. Each breath in and the exhale offering the fundamental call and response of our humanity entwined with all of creation. Moments seeking to be met by our fragility and imperfection. Taking risks with ourselves requires us to back ourselves and to remember who has our back. In the great lineage of those who have come before us, we hold this baton for a short time and with it the responsiblity to bring our best selves, give it our best shot; for the legacy we leave behind for the next in line.

I feel quite worn down by the deep grief in the air, generations of sadness spilling into crevices and pooling in hearts and festering in minds. While others are gaining energy and growing in their acts of resistance, I find myself remembering to breathe is a radical act. It might not look like that from the outside, but on the inside I am working hard and holding space for others and for myself. There are cobwebs to be swept away and seeds to be planted. A new season is arriving. New shoots and leaves falling, is not a paradox, it is congruence.

Deeply grateful for friendship this past little while, friends who have extended thier friendship beyond themselves to their friends. New circles opening and in surprising ways – a guided meditation, a chance meeting in a market, a door opening to a future harvest, a shared link to grief, a common history. Past moments disconnected coming together in real time, inviting a review of what has gone before, and in doing so, I got to see with new eyes. I have appreciated a little more of my past self. Definitely not nostalgia, rather insight and fuel for taking steps into new beginnings.

I was comforted with a remark about the courage of beginnings during the week and reminded of this extract:

There is nothing to fear in the act of beginning. More often than not it knows the journey ahead better than we ever could. Perhaps the art of harvesting the secret riches of our lives is best achieved when we place profound trust in the act of beginning. Risk might be our greatest ally. To live a truly creative life, we always need to cast a critical look at where we presently are, attempting always to discern where we have become stagnant and where new beginning might be ripening. There can be no growth if we do not remain open and vulnerable to what is new and different. I have never seen anyone take a risk for growth that was not rewarded a thousand times over. John O’Donohue, Irish poet and philosopher Excerpt from To Bless the Space Between Us.

Wondering what might be ripening when not being sure if any seeds are sown and will be fruit, let alone be ready to harvest, is an act of courage. I was invited to consider this week, in a moment, I was fumbling in the dark to meet. Grief is a tar baby and seduces stagnation into making a home somewhere behind the eyes where tears form. Being creative might be the antidote to shift the stickiness of grief that seems to get worse the more one tangles with it. Yet, inside this stickiness seeds have been sown, and they are being watered and fertilised with stabs in the dark.

I have been inspired by the bravery of a woman refusing to be silenced by lies and abuse this week in the most public of domains, a Senate enquiry. How she risked herself to speak her truth to power encouraged me and many, many others. We have more stories to be shared, more women to be heard and it is not OK that it is only the white women, educated, with a platform to be heard that are the ones being heard. We have more truth telling to come – the women and children removed from their lands, murdered, raped, starved of basic human rights since colonisation begun. I long for a Truth and Justice Commission aka South Africa’s for the First Nations of this country so their voices can be heard and a reckoning arrive. I am imaging a process that starts with a smoking ceremony and a litany of names of warriors and freedom fighters and martyrs and sacred places, read into the public record. It would go for days and days, nights and nights until it was done. The grief of this tar baby cannot be moved until those of us non First Nations peoples experience some of the uncomfortable stickiness of this on the soul of our country. We need to risk to become whole, to be vulnerable to find out what might be possible. A new moment to meet is ripening and the seeds have been sown in the 30 years since the Black Deaths in Custody Royal Commission. Pat Dodson, former Royal Commissioner and now Labor Senator says I sense that the same sort of storm of suspicion and accusation is gathering as that which precipitated the royal commission in 1987. Political resolve has been lacking, and the Morrison government’s response to growing concerns about the recent cluster of deaths has been quite desultory.

Meeting this moment is not coming easily, but it is coming, and us settler folk can’t hold our breaths forever. It is time for some creativity, some courage and some solidarity.

Photo by Johan Mouchet on Unsplash

Meeting the moment 2021 #15

When love comes to town it arrives as a cloud of sound and muscle memory aides accompany the voices employed to bring forth harmonious blasts worthy of Phil Spector and any Hammond organ – that’s how I feel when a room is full of choristers swaying to the beat under the direction of the maestro Tony Backhouse. Within an hour or so, sixty voices are singing as one and each individual contribution offers a placeholder; we are each others scaffold.  The power of sound and the spaces of silence in between are all the reminder I need of the value of making room for both. 

It’s been a noisy week and at times a cacophony in public places where the ones who have loud hailers still seem to drown out those who are speaking truth to power.  A number of conversations I have been in this past week have been washed in colonisation, under written by the blood of martyred First Nations and laced with the deepest of griefs of loss of love, family, friends, land and sea.   I get to sing in a repurposed church hall with confidence, saturated in goodness while around five hundred Aboriginal people have died in custody in the last thirty years, and flags at half mast for the death of the 99 year old consort of the monarch, fly in their face. This is a tone deaf moment.

I am lost in curiosity about what might be possible if all the flags flew at half mast every time there was a death in custody, let’s start small though with the Aboriginal flag in our city square. (The square is named Victoria, and the city Adelaide, named after the consort of a monarch William IV, who on his death, having failed to produce a child the monarchy went to his niece Victoria.) Hope the Lord Mayor is reading this or perhaps someone could forward it to her?  Tarntanyangga is the place of the red kangaroo and is getting more currency over the years in its use in public signage. The space is now shaped in the Kaurna shield, and while one of the architects of the White Australia Policy Kingston hovers on the edge, I was overjoyed when the place was brimming at the seams during the #BlackLivesMatter rally in June 2020 and again in March 2021 for the #Justice4Women March knowing Kingston was not a fan of the original women’s suffrage bill. He was also the first federal member for Adelaide in the fledgling federation he helped to created.  I love these quirks of fate that turn up like an augmented fifth blues notes in an other wise predictable set of chords and scales. There are plenty of them all around us and soon as we start to tune in, its easy to hear them.

Perhaps there is potential for understanding white noise as random signals of colonialism, distracting us for seeing and hearing what it might be trying to cover up? In recording, white noise is often defined as a hissing sound, which also seems like an apt metaphor, the hissing of those who must be heard over the quiet and invisible vectors lying underneath.

Meeting these moments with a full and open heart, ears to hear all the voices and being able to make harmony from notes put together by a leader looking for the sweetest sounds is needed for these times. There is no choir director in the House, and few who are singing from the same hymn sheet of anyone seeing justice. There is a lot of static and reverb, and there are only a few in tune with what song the nation is singing right now. The sopranos have shown up, there are a few tenors and altos as well, looking forward to a few more basses joining in the chorus soon.

White noise hides

What must be heard

Tone deaf excuses

Blind eyes turned.

No longer silent.

No longer invisible.

Sobbing from graves.

Keening in corridors.

Cries from

Megaphones and microphones,

Enough is enough.

The choir is assembled,

As a jury in session

Waiting impatiently for the judge to arrive.

A leader surely on the horizon?

Chords are coming

Call and response

Ready to manifest

When the ballot box comes.

Photo by Mark Paton on Unsplash

2021 Meeting the Moment #14

On this Easter Sunday morning the air is still enough to hear the waves caressing the coastline in even time, the tidal rhythm, a comforting sound. There is a rising tide as the ice cap of desecrations is melting. The patriarchal panic has all the symptoms at scale of any indviduals experience of a panic attack. There is the heightened vigilance for danger where reporters of renown suffering with this panic say things like “emotional demand” for “norms of respect and justice”, the response from eminant academic and co-facilitator of the Uluru Statement, Dr Davis tweet go to the heart of the political economy.

The feeling of dread and danger also showing up in this tale, and the nations top financial paper went after the female journalist who broke story that has the nation resetting its trajectory towards justice in workplaces, and safety for women went belly up when Samantha Maiden was attacked. A sign that the thorn is in the paw and the lion is in pain. Before too long the ongoing truth telling oother women leaders calling out mis-steps and poor judgements, they are labelled as going to far and gaslit. Doing your job as a journalist is a gift, in a world where fake news and constant fact checks are required to get to truths. We need more of this to burst bubbles of all kinds.

On this Easter day I think back to my modest activism in the Catholic Church around inclusive language, to the days of providing advice to an Archbishop who once told me, that he liked working with women because they did the hard work and were finishers, they didn’t let go til the job was done, nor hide from the pain it was causing them. At the time I was very annoyed he wasn’t going further, although I could see he was definitely taking himself to the edges of possibilities. The greatest gift of those times for me was learning about the ‘hermeneutic of suspicion” , to look for what was not there in the text, but was hidden in the seams, the shadows and by what was missing. This technique continues to serve me well and while I am no theologian or historian, I can see that in these days of the rising tide, a tsunami is coming. I can read between the lines that there are many more stories to be told, many more voices to be heard, much more pain to surface. There will be a crash of waves at high tide when the moon is full and when the moon is new. Sister Moon wouldn’t have it any other way.

I am looking to the heavens on a regular basis for inspiration and support. I feel saturated by the grief in the air and I know the tears, anger, frustration are rocket fuel, propelling us out of the old gravitional pull to new orbits. And this poem to remind me and perhaps others of the value of taking a little rest, while the soul catches up. thank you to Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin for this poem, a perfect companion for this day.

Turas d’Anam

Often times 
the step backward 
lets the soul catch up. 
So that all our happy 
hindsights harmonize 
and wisdom builds. 

Share your luck. 
Be miserly only 
with misfortune.
In each seismic 
shudder we learn 
to trust the ground 
again, humble again, 
knowingly broken,
unrepentantly wounded, 
proud to bare pain. 

Laying claim to 
the Joy factory 
of your body. 

No more tariffs, or sanctions. 
Wage cuts and glass ceilings. 
Conventions, expenses paid, nor 
lanyards or company position. 

Often times, 
this way you can live 
in ways other simply 
will not, develop sides 
of you others simply 
would not. 

So feel the rhythm 
beyond the beat. 
Begin with a break, 
and let your soul 
catch up.

Easter Eve, Songlines, Sellicks Hill.

2021: Meeting the Moment #13

Been having a virtual mythopoetic journey through the Burren and County Clare with a bit of County Mayo on the side these past few weeks with David Whyte and in the very best of company. It has been a much needed counterpoint to the saturation and inescapable conversation of sexual violence that is permeating every corner of the country. The cellular and elemental nature of fear, anxiety, distrust and the unpredictable appearances of trauma and grief are swirling with gusto like the winds of the Atlantic on western edge of Ireland. There is a litany of names in my heart of women who have been violated, and lamentations are completely insufficient. I find myself wanting to blow things up. I think of the muscular power of a woman’s body which can stretch to its limits sometimes tearing, often leaving permanent scars, bruised and sewn up. The rallying cry is enough is enough and so the line drawn in the sand, calls for a new day, new ways, everything is broken. I am reminded of the cycle of domestic violence and the point that comes when leaving is the only option, anything less is complicity and compliance.

I have done some leaving over the years and experienced the full monty patriarchy panic first hand.  While we have our media full of individual experiences of sexual abuse, my mind goes to the systems holding these practices in place. Here is a litany of my own:

  • You can’t enrol in this program, it is a full time load and you are about to have a baby
  • You can’t hold down that job as there is no support for childcare you can afford
  • You can’t come and sit at this table, you are not a man, you are not ordained
  • You can’t take on this responsibility you are married
  • You can’t bring those thoughts and ideas to this place, the leadership will never agree
  • You can’t pray with those words, you can’t sing with those songs, you can’t ritualise with those artefacts
  • You are not credentialed, because only men can get that qualification
  • Your motherhood is a barrier and your husband and children are your first priority
  • You should be home doing the housework
  • You can’t bring your female friends here it is unsafe for them, you are married so you will be safe
  • Your breastfeeding makes us feel uncomfortable
  • Your pain must remain hidden
  • You will probably want to do other things like have another baby, I don’t think this is the right time for you

The structural inequalities behind each of these lines are founded on the bedrock of patriarchy.  Most of them I have addressed head on for myself and for others and some have even had structural shifts and can only be found in the Australian Museum of Misogyny alongside the CDs and lost mixtapes of Julia Gillard’s speech to Tony Abbott. But it is all just window dressing, the deep wounds of power and privilege translate into power hoarding.

First Nations have been fighting this frontier since the first fleet. Colonialism another layer in the prehistoric origins of what has brought us to this moment. There are calls for a Makarrata and in doing so are calling for a non-white power sharing model, privileging country and place, story and culture. In a small way I noticed the shift that happened when I started using the names of places in their first nation language and stopped using colonial names – a small gesture and one which is catching on. It becomes a constant reminder of what was, what is and what could be. To not be welcome in your own country, to be forced to live by another’s foreign rules, under the flag of your oppressor, taken to their beds and stripped of dignity and justice, to have your children taken from you, to be left for dead, to be beaten, falsely accused, loose hope …. a petering away of hope … working a way into allyship and solidarity that strengthens means getting out of the way, going to a table not created by you and waiting to be invited, being patient to wait for the apprenticeship to be offered, to live in the discomfort of the emergence into something new and in the knowledge you are part of the problem and decolonisation starts inside the head, heart on its way to being translated into plans and action. 

So too is this pilgrimage out of patriarchy. Giving up on the messages and the structures that reinforce the messaging of inadequacy, its your fault, personalised and individualised transactions. Rejecting definitions of progress and growth that don’t include those with decision-making power not stepping out of the way is a big piece and a hard one. Think: it’s not all men, its not all white people, mantras.  Well actually it is when you take a systems lens. No justice without peace was a mantra in my youth. Meeting this moment: there is no justice without a reckoning.

2021 Meeting the moment #12

Living on the brink of tears is where I left off last week, echoing Camus, and this week has been a daily discipline of being at the brink. There have been many edgy moments met in public spaces. My pilgrim steps have taken me to #March4Justice where my legs carried me down the main street of my home city with thousands of others to make visible the number of people who are meeting this moment of misogyny and want to be both seen and heard. The outpouring of grief and anger has reached a new height and the nation is coming to terms with what might come next. My prediction is that we might see the most number of women ever elected to Federal Parliament the time we turn up at the ballot box. I know I would be encouraging parties to look very closely at their candidates and the rise of independents is very likely. I am excited for this possibility. I predict another way we will meet this moment as a nation is we will seek a spike in the number of reports to police of current and historical rapes, which I hope will be made visible in the data and then in demands from these law agencies for more support and resources to cope with the traffic. In my short walk up and down the main avenue of my city three women revealed to me rapes that had happened to them, one recently the others some years ago – I really didn’t know any of these women having only met them in virtual environments previously. I was overwhelmed and encouraged them to make reports and I know at least one did. Violence against women is everywhere. It is a pandemic, and men’s violence against women is a leading cause of the premature death for women globally (see the Femicide Census for more information).

From here my steps took me to the national capital and in the public space of the lawns of Old Parliament House I was welcomed by the community custodians of the Tent Embassy, a permanent occupation, since 1982 protesting about land rights, sovereignty and a site for hosting conversations and protests such as Black Lives Matter. Being a constant presence, means the door is always open for those conversations and I was pleased to make a visit. I was part of a small delegation travelling to Canberra for meetings and connections with elected representatives and included indigenous women leaders. We are walking and learning together about place based changemaking and aiming to apply the principle of First Nations first. Practicing this muscle requires a daily workout and I realised I wasn’t as match fit as I thought, fortunately, for me, the Aunties, are generous and patient teachers eager to help me with my learning curve. The opportunities to decolonise thinking and behaviour came thick and fast – it was a three day intensive immersion.

I was weary to the bone once I got home and integration of the lessons will take a while. Part of that integration, is sharing the learning, holding discomfort and reaching out to decipher and translate so the learning can continue. And meeting the moment of exhaustion calls for flopping on a couch, reaching for tea and toast, watching comedy and allowing the body and mind to rest. Rest itself a practice seeking meaning as the /place between activity, the pause to gather yourself, refuel, recover, so you can go on. When the yeast is in the bread, then kneaded, it too has to rest to grow and in the resting the gluten relaxes and reforms into protein strands to help form the loaf. I have been imagining conversations around preparing bread, kneading, resting, baking, eating. The communion that comes when we break bread together never ceases to hold me in place and purpose, and support a vision of inclusion.

Before the week ended, I was sitting with the sun setting over the gulf, an abundance of salads every colour of the rainbow and plates filled with locally grown produce discussing the housing crisis, especially for women seeking permanent homes for their children post domestic violence. The far reaching conversation held the invisible and silent women not at the table whose lives and the lives of their children separated from the security of a solid roof over their head, and what does this mean about the kind of people we are, and the systems that hold this inequity in place. Tales of policies past, cultural responses, planning, housing options and structures were in abundance making more visible the holes being identified and urging us all to collectively and individually meet the moment. Intergenerational privilege and promise was inherent in our shared experiences, and beckoned us to want more for each other and other women.

Wanting more and less all at once seems to be featuring in equal measure in moment meeting – integrating the micro and the macro and keeping the conversation going between the two and holding the personal as political continues to ring true.

Photo by Nadya Spetnitskaya on Unsplash

2021 Meeting the moment #11

Was reminded this week of Camus’ instruction to “.. live and create. Live to the point of tears.” He also wrote: “In the depth of winter. I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.” That thought was made visible in the glorious Australian impressionist Clarice Beckett painting Summer Fields which I was able to see in the Art Gallery of South Australia last week. The heat rose from the canvas in the softest tones and the invisibility of her work being vaulted in a tin shed vault for many Melbourian winters. I suspect her creative life was one that lived to the point of tears. To be on this edge, a precipice inviting disaster is also a place where to fall or perhaps even be pushed forward into an unknown, a letting go is a surrender. The paint must leave the paintbrush, the tears must leave their ducts and in the leaving there is release, they are liberated and folded into something bigger. This is how I am meeting the moments of these days I am coming to understand as a kind of reckoning.

The black lives matter movement is a reckoning particular in the US for racial justice, I am hoping that a tweet induced campaign will crescendo nationally in Australia over the next 24 hours with over 40 #March4Justice and all Australians will heed the call for these actions:

– Full independent investigations into all cases of gendered violence and timely referrals to appropriate authorities. Full public accountability for findings

– Fully implement the 55 recommendations in the Australian Human Rights Commission’s Respect@Work report of the National Inquiry into Sexual Harassment in Australian Workplaces 2020.

– Lift public funding for gendered violence prevention to world’s best practice.

– The enactment of a federal Gender Equality Act to promote gender equality. It should include a gender equity audit of Parliamentary practices.

– No perpetrators as policy or law makers. Stand them down.

– Ratify the International Labor Organisation’s Convention on Eliminating Violence and Harassment in the World of Work.

– An independent review into the prevalence of gendered violence in Parliament to be conducted by the Federal Sex Discrimination Commissioner.

– Strengthen the Sex Discrimination Act so that Parliamentarians and Judges are no longer excluded from accountability for sexual harassment and discrimination committed in the course of their employment as public officers.

– Creation of a Code of Conduct for all Federal MP’s that includes the prevention of gendered violence in Houses of Parliament and associated workplaces.

– Mandatory gendered violence and sexual harassment training of all Federal MP’s and their staff on an annual basis

I notice I am seeking from leaders more and more to be at the point of tears, to arrive so angry, exasperated, moved by empathy, enabled by love, that they act not talk about acting, not planning to act, just do what they know is right. A truth is always naked – vulnerable, shedding adornments, throwing off cladding that may have enabled it to hide in plain sight. This is what I am noticing coming to life around me, years of pent up frustration, disappointment, anger, fear, rage – truth arriving – there is no going back from this precipice now and I am hoping we are at a tipping point in our country. The violence, the practices that keep workplaces unsafe, the inequities that are cloaked in unconscious racial and gender bias, must stop. It is a call to bring our truths to the table, to bring our whole selves not a watered down, covered version. To make visible the cost of what ignoring this is doing to our nation on every kind of balance sheet. The number of children not hitting their developmental goals and not ready for school is a direct result of systemic failures generationally of racial, economic and gender justice in funding, in not have treaties, in not valuing women and men and grandparents and uncle and aunts in their roles in families, in dislocation. Poverty is not personal. Violence experienced by an individual and perpetrated by an individual is rooted in power and privilege.

Moving from cover ups to naked truth involves a big reveal. This is the precipice I think we are on in Australia in this moment when it comes to gendered violence. I also think we are nearly there on racial justice but not quite. We are arriving though in numbers to the precipice and the sheer weight of it all will see the cliff crumbling below our feet. When we go into this unknown all kinds of possibilities await, and the trick will be not to make another cliff, but an expanse of empathy to create new horizons, where truth can turn up not looking for a shawl to be wrapped in, but clearly visible in all her colours where we all live to the point of tears induced by joy and justice.

If you are in Adelaide the #March4Justice details are here and national details here.

Photo by Claudio Schwarz | @purzlbaum on Unsplash

2021: Meeting the moment #10

I’m tired and weary from a week where it feels like women of Australia and a few good men have had enough. I have rambling thoughts and I have a few facts, it doesn’t hang together well as a post, but that is the point really.

One in four women have experienced sexual abuse or assault of some kind and the rest of us are connected to these women, they are our friends, our sisters, our daughters, mothers, aunts, cousins. They are more likely to tell a friend than a police officer. The rate is three times more for indigenous women. Data from 2017 shows, one in three victims of sexual assault cases hospitalised, identified a spouse or domestic partner as the perpetrator. In 2018, the rate of police-recorded sexual assault was almost 7 times as high for females as males. Almost 2 million Australian adults have experienced at least 1 sexual assault since the age of 15. Surely this is enough of a reason to want to increase what we are doing to educate, train, support and heal? Why does it take deaths and public figures to be in the news to draw attention to these crimes? This is an epidemic, it is an everyday assault on our communal health and wellbeing. COVID measures are called for to change behaviours, physical distancing, policing of good hygiene, check-ins could all take on a different shape. In this epidemic there has been too much of washing hands. As more people share their #metoo stories, triggers are inevitable, accidentally causing what were safe spaces to not be so safe any more. I know I am avoiding and monitoring where I am going, what I am reading and listening too.

I have been heartened with the work being done in schools on consent. Remember the meaning of consent: the mutual agreement properly attained freely with an understanding decisions have both immediate and consequential effect. Children are rarely able to give consent that is fully informed, having little or no access to knowledge of the potential of actions. As we get older we learn more deeply the value of consent and why being explicit is necessary, and how it can be revoked at any time. If a sixteen year old did not give consent then that is rape of a minor. If an eighteen year old or eighty year old is in the same position, it is rape. No child can give consent, that is the point about the age of consent, so it is always rape if the victim is under the age of consent. In the state where I live, the age of consent is 17. There is a lot I don’t consent too. And in the political and legal contexts I don’t care if our societal standards and expectations have changed over decades, I am reminded that consent can be withdrawn at any time, and I am hoping those who voted for a national government that seems bereft of basic HR practices will withdraw their consent to being governed by them the first chance they get.

If there is a whiff of an inappropriate behaviour and before it is proven to be true or not, individuals are stepped down, directed to HR to resolve and then the investigations can be explored in light of policy, the law and health considerations. This happens every day in workplaces everywhere. It is proper practice, nothing special. I am completely perplexed why this has not happened in Parliament or at the direction of the Prime Minister.

I need a lie down and a good cry, my anger muscle is worn from over use, my compassion index remains high and I am grateful to those picking up the mantel and building the pathway of this reckoning. The avengers will be taking to the streets in pursuit of justice. This is personal, this is political and at scale. There are consequences and accountabilities to be had. You don’t need to be a father or a mother to have a conscience as so wisely pointed out by Grace Tame at the National Press Club this week. I have been musing for the need of a national helpline – let’s call it the Jenny Support Line and any one not quite sure what to do can give a Jenny a call. The Cornish don’t need to have a mortgage on Cousin Jenny’s to provide sustenance and comfort for those down in the coal mines. Maybe some men don’t know what to do and need some guidance, a quick call to Jenny will give them the confidence and strength to take a public step forward and help build a place where everyone is safe and those that groom and misuse their power are nipped in the bud of their blossoming predation.

While every possible channel I am connected to seems to be blinking, buzzing and bleating to get my attention. The calls and messages are from the re-traumatized, the vicariously traumatised, solidarity sisters. There is sadness. There is fear that sharks are circling around complicity with someone else’s story, or the shame of your own story surfacing. There is pain and deep aching for a time when safety and care for the victim will out weigh the privilege of a man’s position or career. There is her family, there is his family, friends, children – all innocent – being dragged into dark and confusing spaces as they are alienated from the world they knew. Hearts are broken. Lives destroyed. Martyrs are made before revelations.

Trust is sacred. When trust is broken, like shards of glass strewn on the floor, being careful where you step lest you cut yourself on a sliver, your fragility stocks grow. Delicate and careful placement of words, actions, attention to where you tread is heightened. This is not a time for casual or loose language.

Like so many others, I am tired and want to sleep and crawl under the covers and get it to go away. I turn off feeds, and don’t watch news, and still it seeps in with calls and conversations, uninvited and consistently. I am finding it hard to be angry, it feels more like resignation and grief to me. Time for truth telling and bearing witness is here for all who cane bare to speak and listen. Time for compassion too, making spaces and moments for quiet, rest, recovery. Please be kind to yourselves and your friends, take a break from it all if you need to and be compassionate to those who need to tune out from it for a bit. Be confident that we have each other’s backs and will act in solidarity when the time comes to take to the streets, the ballot box, the legislative chambers, the courts and be creative with our voices in music, song, dance and visual arts. Our bodies are sacred are to be honoured as the vessel of the soul, meeting this moment with our most sacred selves will invite more of the divine energy we will need in and from each other to shift these moments into the tsunami of change being called for right now.

At Womadelaide last night listening to my favourite drummer and his band as they played one of their best known numbers the lead singer said: Change happens by those without short memories. On the eve of International Women’s Day 2021 I pay my respects to all the women who have gone before who have enabled progress by putting their bodies on the line, and to their male allies. The bow is bent, the arrow poised, we are in warrior pose.

NB if you are in Adelaide details of the March 4 Justice can be found here

Photo by Jen Theodore on Unsplash