Monthly Archives: August 2022

Visibility and Invisibility 2022 #35

I do love campaigning and especially doorknocking and meeting people. When you greet them at the door, they are generally happy you aren’t a religious caller or trying to sell them something. Over the years doorknocking on various campaigns, I have always been surprised about the number of people who are genuinely open and willing to say hello. This simple act of trust of opening a door to someone seems to be what community and living together is all about.

Every now and then you find a little pocket of deep community. Several houses or even a street where the level of community goes beyond a common fence, and into sharing lives, meaning and interests.  It might have started with a simple walking to school together, or maybe minding a garden when someone was on holidays and then has extended into friendship, caring, and kindness that overflows into lending a car or sharing a spare room when a family member comes to visit.

Also, there are a few neighbourhoods where fear is writ large with big go away messages signalled by signs announcing surveillance cameras and security alarms, high fences and padlocked gates. The fear of loss and invasion of privacy is high. There might be dogs whose barks herald harm awaits you should you take another step forward.  I wonder often what they need to protect and what has happened for them to feel anxious and protective of what they have.  These places have community too and their common vision of being in a safe place unites their neighbourhood.

The door mats are instructive. Messages I’ve seen this week include – Go away, Welcome, Darth Vader lives here, Oma and Opa live here, Aliens Welcome, Wipe your feet, Dog lovers welcome and a few more relating to favourite football teams, celebrities and types of flowers! There are more welcomes than go aways and more invitations to come in than don’t knock.

A couple of little stories of trust on the doorstep this week. On Friday afternoon in Seaford, I was doorknocking a street and a young student perhaps in Year 5 or 6 appeared to be having trouble opening the door to his house with a key.  I stopped and asked him if he was alright. He said no, he was struggling to open the door. I asked him if he had the right key and he said he did, then I asked him if he would like me to help him. He said yes please. I was immediately impressed he was trusting me and together with some jiggling and holding of the door knob a certain way and tickling the key into the right position, we opened the door. He said thanks and scurried inside quickly shutting the door in a drill I expect the grownups in his house had instructed him to do. It seemed such a little thing, but I felt so pleased that I was there, randomly doorknocking and he was relieved to get home and inside to leave his school week behind.

Another tale from the pavement was with a young mum probably in her 30s also in Seaford who has a sign in her front yard that the house was for sale. She opened the door to me, and we talked about being a renter and how she is now searching for a new place to live for herself and her two young children. She is grateful she still has a few months left on her lease, but she knows from the market and a few friends that finding somewhere to live that is affordable and still in the area is going to be difficult. She is deeply worried about a move and how disruptive this will be to her children and if they will be able to find a place that will keep her connected to the community, she now feels she is a part of. This is a story that has been replicated in every neighbourhood I have been visiting. The housing crisis is deep and often invisible, behind closed doors and for sale signs.

While at a local community auction marketplace, I heard the same story from stall holders who are worried about the number of holiday homes, caravan parks and Airbnb’s that are all intertwined into the housing mix. Given I am deeply into my campaign for Mayor, I am looking at all the ways in which local government might contribute with solutions, and how a council might be contributing to the problem. The invisibility of the plight of renters, greed of some landlords, inflexibility of policies and regulations, compassion of neighbours, kindness of council rangers all come into play.

I am taking to heart the act of trust it takes to open a door to a stranger and hoping this is the kind of community that will want to elect someone like me to be their mayor, one who is ready to listen, meet them where they are and support their neighbourhood to be the best community, they can be for one another and the world.

Photo by Joshua Hoehne on Unsplash

Visibility and Invisibility 2022 #34

I am busy prepping for my campaign launch and fiddling around still with words to use for my speech. I am actually better improvising than putting words to paper. I have always been able to write speeches for others with more ease than for myself. I have written millions of words that have come out of the mouths of other people or been attributed to other people and worked hard to find their voice when writing for them. Writing for myself in my own voice takes me to another level of creativity – I have to both get myself out of the way and keep focussed on the audience – what do they want to hear from me?

What invisible aspirations, fears and expectations are they holding that my words might find a match? It is some kind of emotional bingo – mine and the listener. Know your audience is an oft recommended piece of advice. For my launch I will be among friends and so they will be forgiving of errors or stumbles. It is a chance for me to practice, yet in reality my campaign will have little opportunity for a big speech. It will be in the quiet corners of doorways and kitchens, bars and sporting grounds where the hearts and minds of voters will be hearing me. I also need to help them articulate what matters to them and how they can make sense of their concerns translating into the actions of a local council.

Voting is the authorisation process. I am asking thousands of people to give me their vote. This is a big ask. I know when I go to vote I am looking for someone who is going to share my values, understand what is important to me and one I can trust to act with good grace, take guidance and bring their best selves to every decision. 

I have been thinking about the word authorisation a lot this past week as it is embedded in the candidate electoral material process. We are all authors – we tell our own stories and develop trajectories for the narratives we want the world to know about us.  Then there are the stories other people talk about us and I decided to invite three people to do that for me today at my campaign launch. I always find I get insights about myself when other people talk about me … and much better to get this in the time of the living than waiting for a eulogy!

As I head into the next stage of the campaign, I feel like I am about to climb Mt Everest and I am arriving at Base Camp. To get to basecamp you are prepared, ready for the ascent, you have a life time of climbing experience behind you, you know how to weigh up risks, what blizzards look and feel like, you know there are people cheering you on and you know it is a solidarity task of personal endurance that will require more mental fitness than physical fitness.  I am trying to make more of what is invisible for me, visible, so that I can invite others into the process to support me. If you want to join me, please do, check out and find a way to connect and authorise this call to leadership.

Registration link to Campaign Launch – Authorised by M Were PO Box 7 Sellicks Beach SA 5174

Visibility and Invisiblity 2022 #33

The Australian Human Rights Enquiry into Racist Violence was held in 1991. I was one of the people who Commissioner Irene Moss heard give evidence. The evidence I provided related to a series of incidents directed to me and impacted on my young family.

As an anti-racist activist I was subjected to violence because of my advocacy of human rights. The evidence Commissioner Moss gathered, indicated that this was perpetrated by organised extremist groups. It took the form of bricks through the windows of the bedroom my children slept in, graffiti on the walls of my house, being followed and abused verbally in the street, my children’s kindergarten having graffiti painted on its fence, my phone being tapped. I was working for the SA Council of Churches running a series of anti-racism campaigns with church, school, community groups and unions. The campaign was clearly effective. My children grew up for a number of years not being able to answer the telephone, open the front door.

As a white, educated, english speaking person I got a tiny, tiny, taste of what many have to endure everyday. It was not pleasant.

Fast forward to 2022 and for the past 30 years nothing much has changed for me. I continue to call out racist behaviour, find ways of building bridges and community to educate and eradicate ignorance. I seem to have a knack of helping racists come out of the woodwork and find me.

This week I can point to two instances. The first one was at a community meeting of a local business association. The meeting began with an acknowledgement of meeting on Kaurna land. The person making the acknowledgement then muttered under his breath that he didn’t think they were grateful for all the good efforts of their association’s endeavours. I was shocked. I have noted his behaviour.

The second incident was online. A post of gratitude about care of country and connection to the economic, ecological and spiritual values of the land to First Nations, was met with an oblique enquiry that had nothing to do with the original post. The only connection to be drawn was a connection to First Nations. This, not quite subtle reference, was “jarring” as one correspondent remarked in the comments.

I have taken to making longer than usual opening acknowledgements at public events, since the Prime Minister’s visit to the Garma Festival. I am making the most of the opportunities I am getting when standing out the front. This week it included a crowded room of about 100 people in our capital city, celebrating the conclusion of a circular economy program for budding social enterpreneurs and a seniors club meeting with about 40 people in one of our southern suburbs. I include in my remarks that we are in a pre-referendum period, where citizens are getting prepped to consider whether to vote for a Voice to parliament to be enshrined in our Constitution. I am remind audiences that I want us to go further than the voters in 1967 did and exceed their 97% vote for Aboriginal people to get the right to vote. I want us to prove we have not gone backwards and we are not more racist than this previous generation. I am worried though that we might be! I am doing what I can to innoculate as well as educate.

It is so very easy for slips of the tongue and keyboard warriors to poison the airwaves. It urges me to be positive, signal and send a message tothe mini-publics I am addressing. We can all do this whereever we are – in our homes, classrooms, board rooms, at bus stops and sporting grounds. That is the work we need to do while the legislators get cracking on their bit.

I always find my way back to Martin Luther King Jr in these moments and draw on this quote:

“It may be true that morality cannot be legislated, but behavior can be regulated. It may be true that the law cannot change the heart but it can restrain the heartless. It may be true that the law can’t make a man love me, but it can restrain him from lynching me, and I think that’s pretty important also.”

– Martin Luther King, “The Other America,” 1967

The invisible racist, becomes visible when they make a snide remark or comment under their breath, or post a line in social media that hints of their values.

Be vigilant my friends as we head into these pre-referedum times. If my two little whiffs on the wind I experienced this week are anything to go by, our First Nations people are going to experience a lot worse during this time. We are going to be called on to make our solidarity visible.

Photo by Darold Pinnock on Unsplash

Visibility and Invisibility 2022 #32

SALA is here and that means I am out and about at exhibitions being drenched in the creativity of artists around me. I have been fortunate to be involved in a few of the openings, invited to speak and have an opportunity to reflect and introduce the art being shared.

The diversity of images and media chosen by various artists calls us voyeurs to come closer. I am not a visual artist or sculpture, but I can sometimes see things other people can’t in a situation or detect something emerging on the horizon. Artists have the ability to make visible what perhaps others of us can’t see. Their eye, their choice of colours, how they frame their subject, what media they use, are all portals of possibilities to enable us gazing on their work to get a glimpse into how they are seeing the world.

I opened an exhibition at the Willunga Uniting Church Bethany Hall called Breathe. I talked about the relationship between inspiration and expiration – breathing in and breathing out. Doing this simple exercise of breathing together has been seriously compromised in these pandemic times, and so I think it is more important than ever to find ways in which we can communally get an opportunity to share the air without causing us harm and the humble act of an exhibition opening in a church hall, is one such way. Masked up and suitably separated by distance, the assembled gathered to celebrate the coming out of studios where work was created, now being shared and made visible for all to see.

The artists I’ve seen over these first two weeks of SALA are incredibly diverse. I have seen the beauty of crayon and paint of a 4 year old Estelle at a school-based SALA event, the interlocking pieces of old car parts and industrial rusted components transformed into sea creatures, oil paints layered to recreate a memory of a lost love, weaving patterns as old as the Dreamtime being used for baskets, mixed media collages calling forth the seasons, glass mosaics, endangered lizard potrait in charcoal, bejewelled earrings telling a tale of surf and sand, mandalas in ink drawn by the steadiest of hands, abstracted landscapes in every shade of green, deep time reflected in ancient red gum hosting seed pods, sunflowers offering up a blessing to a blue sky in honour of Ukraine.

Just as the artist puts their work in the world, an expiration if you like, or what has inspired them, so we the viewer get to inhale their work and then exhale it through our interpretation. We don’t survive if we only breathe out or only breathe in! We can’t live on oxygen or carbon dioxide, it is the mix and balance of these gases that enables us all to survive and we need both.

I know a bit about what it is like to have one more than the other and it is very unpleasant. Regular readers over the years will know my husband died of a disease where the lungs capacity to transfer oxygen into the blood stream and deliver enough oxygen to the rest of the body failed, and it took almost a decade for that failure to end in death. It is not too dissimiliar to what is happening to us as a planet. If we don’t arrest this situation we too will literally won’t be able to breathe.

Artists and their creations are critical in helping us see what might be invisible. Get along to any SALA event if you can and open up to seeing something new, or being moved by a memory, or even repelled by an image that offends your sensibilities. What ever your reaction it is an echo of the relationship between breathing in and breathing out, and we need both.

Opening SALA exhibition at Tinjella, Lynn Chamberlain’s studio, Willunga, with Marisa Bell, Candidate for Southern Vales Ward, City of Onkaparinga.