Monthly Archives: May 2022

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