It was so fitting that my first official speech as Mayor, was for the opening of a space to commemorate women impacted by domestic violence. A space for reflection, to keep vigil, for rest and for healing and hope. As I looked out into the crowd gathered there were many familiar faces, as well as a new generation stepping into their leadership and old and new collaborators. I have deep roots in this work, as an ally and a friend, both personally and professionally and now as a civic leader another platform to bring this scourge out of the shadows into the light.
I can remember a time where a man could get prosecuted for throwing a punch in a front bar or at the footy but not at home in the bedroom or kitchen. Violence against women and children is the way I have often explained the feminist principle of the personal is political. By making visible what does happen to one in four women in their homes in the public space, we begin to make possible a future where it is no longer acceptable and the shame women feel is diluted.
Language is critical too – femicide – it is a hate crime mostly undertaken by those known to their victims as past or current intimate partners. It is the most extreme version of gendered violence. One of the useful proxy indicators is how these perpetrators treat the pets. I am wondering already in my new role about how to bring these two pieces of data together to make the place safer.
The City of Onkaparinga are partners in a the local version of the UN’s sixteen days of activism against gendered violence . There will be a men’s march today inviting men to walk in solidarity and play their part in ending the violence. I am thrilled the local men’s football association are taking the lead in the march. Acts of solidarity need to be visible and men need to find spaces and support where they are safe too. Increased surveillance, lighting, laws and re-training are helpful but will never be enough. While there are a proven litany of actions institutions and individuals can take with effect, this is a systems problem and the root is patriarchy and colonisation.
The women of Iran and their allies are an inspiration and acts of solidarity we can extend as ripples around the world do make a difference. We can often see systemic oppression more clearly elsewhere than we can close to home. We too are ripples and the new Spirit of Woman space at Seaford is a potent statement of solidarity, hope and healing.
Education, justice and equity are the foundations of a culture of peace and we need to get to the root causes. There is a direct correlation for me too with climate and racial justice. These too need to come out of the board room, council chamber, shareholders meeting and into public spaces for debate, deliberation and action.
As I start to go about my new role as Mayor of South Australia’s largest municipality I am going to be carrying with me two Jacqui’s – one who was murdered by her ex-husband, an employee of the domestic violence service I used to chair, and another Jacqui whose tragic end is the reason we have a butterfly garden in Hackham West. (I have written about these women before.)
I am going to be carrying with me the knowledge from the Joseph Galtung on how to build a culture of peace that I first learnt when doing my Masters degree. I am going to carry with me endless examples of non-violence I have studied from John Dear to Greta Thunberg. I am going to carry with me the yearning I hear in the Uluru Statement from the Heart. I am going to carrying with me the best questions I can muster and ask them at times where their answer might open up or enable something new to emerge. I hope I will be able to bring visibility and make a contribution to decreasing violence and making more places safer for us all.
A beautiful moment when champion Helen Oxenham OAM had the smoking and ochre painting brought to her by Naomi Hicks and Maureen.
Last Sunday was only the second Sunday in ten years I did not publish a blog post. The only other one was the week my husband died. Getting elected to Mayor took two days to be counted due to disruptions that the Electoral Commission of SA entertained and that is the story I will tell today. I think the count has potential to be a four-part mini-series so any script writers out there who want to reach out I’m ready!
In South Australia, local government elections are conducted by postal ballot and are non-compulsory. It is optional preferential voting. The ballot papers are in circulation for four weeks. Over the past few years, the number of public letter boxes has diminished. There were changes in the Local Government (Elections) Act last year which banned signs promoting candidates being displayed on public property. I hope you are getting the picture that casting your ballot had its own challenges and really requires you to be committed. For the City of Onkaparinga 25.65% of residents eligible cast their votes for Mayor and councillors. This result was the lowest percentage of any council, however given it is also the largest council representing 10% of the whole State more people participated than anywhere else in the State.
The voting period ended at 5pm on Thursday 10th November and the ballot boxes were to be opened for the count from 9am on Saturday 12th November. Every candidate for both Mayor and Councillor is allowed two scrutineers to attend the count, candidates can be there, but they are not allowed in the counting room. The whole count process is conducted by the Electoral Commission of SA and the City of Onkaparinga’s was conducted at the Civic Centre in Noarlunga. There were eight candidates for Mayor and there are six wards. Each ward had between seven and ten candidates. Are you doing the math? The potential for a crowd of scrutineers and candidates was high. And sure enough, there were around fifty candidates and scrutineers, ready and waiting when the doors opened on Saturday morning. I had instructed my two scrutineers to go down to the opening for the briefing from the Electoral Commission staff and then go back about 3 or 4. The first five to seven hours is usually spent opening the ballot packs with counting rarely beginning til mid-afternoon. I was expecting a result to be known between 11pm and mid-night. In fact, it was not until 3pm on Sunday that the provisional declaration was made.
One of the mayoral candidates had organised like a political party and ran two candidates in every ward and this group of candidates were well organised with scrutineers and had a plan to question every part of the process. It was a disrupt and distract strategy. The police were called twice over the weekend and extra Electoral Commission staff came to support the local team. The Electoral Commissioner took the unprecedented step to contact all candidates by email to remind us of our responsibilities and advise what action he would take if candidates could not instruct their scrutineers to behave appropriately. I will not share all the details here about what happened as this is now all subject to investigations and enquiries. I am looking forward to having the opportunity of adding my experience into the mix.
Early afternoon I left the count and went to Lot50Kanyanyapilla for a river red gum planting ceremony with the Governor of South Australia. The weather was biblical – there was so much rain and with each downpour black clouds gathered like world cup rugby players in a scrum. The rain was so heavy you could not hear the speakers or even plant the trees. The Governor and the bi-cultural partners of L50K, Karl Telfer and Gavin Malone planted their three trees but that was it. As I drove back from McLaren Vale to Noarlunga to heavens continued to open, trees were down on the roads, there were pots holes overflowing with water and debris, power lines were down – it was a tempest.
When I arrived back at the count, the security guard saw me coming towards to the door and she left her spot to come and let me in. As I pressed the button on my side, an enormous bolt of lightning lit up the sky behind me and she reeled back. We both laughed at the apocalyptic tone that was now set by the elements as I walked into the building. I felt all the gods in Olympus were behind me! I drew on that energy more than once over the course of the next day and night and day.
The count ended at 2.30am on Sunday morning when it became clear that the distribution of preferences was not going to have any one candidate romp away with a result. I started well ahead on first preferences, but with the distribution of preferences it was clear my margin was diminishing. With the seven other candidates, none were progressive, and some were a very long way from me on the political spectrum. I had a number in mind about how far ahead I would need to be on first preferences from my nearest rival and I had fallen short. I was pretty concerned we would not make it. In my mind I felt if the candidate who was the acting Mayor came third that was going to make it very hard for me to get over the line. As a conservative his preferences would have gone to the remaining conservative was my guess. As it happened, he did come third and his preferences were almost 50/50 and so did not change the gap between me and the person who came second. Making me the one who got elected to Mayor, so at about 230pm when my scrutineer delivered me that news with a thumbs up through the glass doors and another scrutineer showing me the numbers, I was very happy to receive the hugs from them both. It was momentous on so many levels.
I had decided to wear one a Clothing the Gaps t-shirts on Sunday to the chamber. The one I chose was my white one with a modest logo of “always was always will be” on the left-hand side. The person I beat had a platform of not doing acknowledgements to country and if he did win, I wanted to be there for the declaration with my t-shirt on publicly acclaiming solidarity. If I won, I wanted to be there for the declaration with my t-shirt on publicly acclaiming solidarity. I drew on the deep roots of our land and the ancestors and those River Red Gums to hold me steady as I stood there to hear the provisional declaration. I am deeply rooted in my story and place. This place Onkaparinga – the women’s river. Forever grateful for the opportunity to be in civic leadership, and deeply respecting the responsibility and privilege to lead in this way, in this place.
I am coming to terms, and to grips, with what it all means and the kind of leadership that will be required for this time and how the role of Mayor can be transformed within this context with me in the role. I am excited for the possibilities and enriched by all the care, love and support I have had and will continue to have along the way.
I made a small space for reflection and will make more as I sense into what is now emerging. I drew on a David Whyte poem “Still possible” on Friday. Here is the first and last stanza of a rather epic piece of poetry that I encourage you to read.
It is still possible to be kind to yourself,
To drop constraints and fall often
To your knees, it’s not too late now, to bow
To what beckons, the world still swimming
Around you as you kneel transfigured
By what sweeps on, it’s still possible
To leave every fearful former self
In the wake of nearly heard words
Issuing from an astonished mouth.
It’s still possible in the end
to realize why you are here
and why you have endured,
and why you might have suffered
so much, so that in the end.
You could witness love, miraculously
Arriving from nowhere, crossing
Bravely as it does, out of darkness,
From that great and spacious stillness
Inside you, to the simple, Light-filled life of being said.
There isn’t much more I can do now in the campaign, as if ballots aren’t posted over the weekend, there is very little chance, they will arrive in time to be counted by the Electoral Commission. There is an option to drop them off to the one ballot box at the civic centre, but I doubt many people will take this option up.
The City of Onkaparinga is 518 square kilometres and when I look at how many kilometres, I have travelled it is common for me to have done over 100kms most days. Being on the road, in my car, so much these past couple of months has been such a contrast to all the time I spent home during the pandemic. I have reconnected to parts of the council area I haven’t had a lot to do with for years, found some hidden treasures, appreciated once again the small towns on the rural fringe and more than anything, fallen in love again with the trees and their marking of ancient waterways.
One set of trees that keeps inviting me back to have a look at them are on Strout Road, McLaren Vale. They must at least three hundred years old if you look at their girth reach deep below the surface. These trees have gravitas. Close by them is an old cemetery curated by the Uniting Church. It is nestled into a corner of a junction between two roads, a perfect place to mark the collision of one world and another. I often wonder when I see these sites, who still comes, and how these people are remembered.
It was All Souls and All Saints Day this week, with Halloween as a festival seeping into our culture and I would love to see these little cemeteries being places to gather for rituals and remembrance. I love the Mexican celebration of Dia de los Muertos – the Day of the Dead. There is so much we can bring to life through remembering and connecting deep down beyond the layer of what can be seen with the gravestone. This is what these trees tell me too – to go deep to find the water under ground to be fed from an eternal spring by letting the roots find the water course invisible to the eye and made visible above ground in the green tips of new spring life in the leaves dancing on the breeze and helping hold new homes for new families of birds.
This is a season in my life. It is coming to a close. It is a season where I have put myself forward making myself more visible than I have for decades. You can find me online in every social conceivable, you can see me cris-crossing the landscape in a beat up Prius with my name on top of a large magnetic sign, you can see me popping up at events, on door steps, in letter boxes, on street corners, cafes, bars, supermarkets, playgrounds – I feel like I have touched every one of those 518 square kilometres, even though I know I haven’t. And then there are the trees on Strout Road which majestically stand and with all their sobriety give me the instructions I need to keep going – that old mantra that has held me more than once of the years – moving on holding still.
I have pasted below the first of Eliot’s quartets – Burnt Norton – where he crafts that glorious phrase the still point of the turning world. He would never have seen the gums on Strout Road, but when I saw them again, I thought of Eliot and the greater poem in which that line is contained. During the week I will go over to Strout Road and read this poem amongst the trees and consider the opening line Time present and time past Are both perhaps present in time future.
I have no idea if I will get elected, it Is such a vacuum, and the voter turn out is very low and there are clearly complications with the postal voting and electoral roll integrity – which I will address post-election with a submission to the Electoral Commission and hopefully a meeting with the Minister. It has been very unsettling to see the fragility of our democracy and future of civic engagement. So many feel disempowered and unable to find their voice or a way to bring their voice to the surface to be seen and heard. This only galvanises my desire to keep finding ways to do that – admittedly running for Mayor in our largest council in South Australia is a dramatic way to do that at scale – but this in the road that has been calling. At this end of the campaign ,while there hasn’t been a huge translation in voting behaviour, there have been so many people who have told me they have voted for the first time in a council election because they can see someone running that holds their values and hopes and dreams for the future of our place.
This time next week I will most likely know the result of the vote and what lies hidden in envelopes will become visible to all. If I am elected, it will be a sign we have been able to mobilise enough people to focus on the future where climate and racial justice can be embedded into the life of our municipality and where sustainability is our legacy for next generations. to have the chance to find their deepest roots. Either way I will have tested where the road is taking me next.
Burnt Norton – T S Eliot
Time present and time past Are both perhaps present in time future And time future contained in time past. If all time is eternally present All time is unredeemable. What might have been is an abstraction Remaining a perpetual possibility Only in a world of speculation. What might have been and what has been Point to one end, which is always present. Footfalls echo in the memory Down the passage which we did not take Towards the door we never opened Into the rose-garden. My words echo Thus, in your mind. But to what purpose Disturbing the dust on a bowl of rose-leaves I do not know. Other echoes Inhabit the garden. Shall we follow? Quick, said the bird, find them, find them, Round the corner. Through the first gate, Into our first world, shall we follow The deception of the thrush? Into our first world. There they were, dignified, invisible, Moving without pressure, over the dead leaves, In the autumn heat, through the vibrant air, And the bird called, in response to The unheard music hidden in the shrubbery, And the unseen eyebeam crossed, for the roses Had the look of flowers that are looked at. There they were as our guests, accepted and accepting. So we moved, and they, in a formal pattern, Along the empty alley, into the box circle, To look down into the drained pool. Dry the pool, dry concrete, brown edged, And the pool was filled with water out of sunlight, And the lotos rose, quietly, quietly, The surface glittered out of heart of light, And they were behind us, reflected in the pool. Then a cloud passed, and the pool was empty. Go, said the bird, for the leaves were full of children, Hidden excitedly, containing laughter. Go, go, go, said the bird: human kind Cannot bear very much reality. Time past and time future What might have been and what has been Point to one end, which is always present.
Garlic and sapphires in the mud Clot the bedded axle-tree. The trilling wire in the blood Sings below inveterate scars Appeasing long forgotten wars. The dance along the artery The circulation of the lymph Are figured in the drift of stars Ascend to summer in the tree We move above the moving tree In light upon the figured leaf And hear upon the sodden floor Below, the boarhound and the boar Pursue their pattern as before But reconciled among the stars.
At the still point of the turning world. Neither flesh nor fleshless; Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is, But neither arrest nor movement. And do not call it fixity, Where past and future are gathered. Neither movement from nor towards, Neither ascent nor decline. Except for the point, the still point, There would be no dance, and there is only the dance. I can only say, there we have been: but I cannot say where. And I cannot say, how long, for that is to place it in time. The inner freedom from the practical desire, The release from action and suffering, release from the inner And the outer compulsion, yet surrounded By a grace of sense, a white light still and moving, Erhebung without motion, concentration Without elimination, both a new world And the old made explicit, understood In the completion of its partial ecstasy, The resolution of its partial horror. Yet the enchainment of past and future Woven in the weakness of the changing body, Protects mankind from heaven and damnation Which flesh cannot endure. Time past and time future Allow but a little consciousness. To be conscious is not to be in time But only in time can the moment in the rose-garden, The moment in the arbour where the rain beat, The moment in the draughty church at smokefall Be remembered; involved with past and future. Only through time time is conquered.
Here is a place of disaffection Time before and time after In a dim light: neither daylight Investing form with lucid stillness Turning shadow into transient beauty With slow rotation suggesting permanence Nor darkness to purify the soul Emptying the sensual with deprivation Cleansing affection from the temporal. Neither plenitude nor vacancy. Only a flicker Over the strained time-ridden faces Distracted from distraction by distraction Filled with fancies and empty of meaning Tumid apathy with no concentration Men and bits of paper, whirled by the cold wind That blows before and after time, Wind in and out of unwholesome lungs Time before and time after. Eructation of unhealthy souls Into the faded air, the torpid Driven on the wind that sweeps the gloomy hills of London, Hampstead and Clerkenwell, Campden and Putney, Highgate, Primrose and Ludgate. Not here Not here the darkness, in this twittering world.
Descend lower, descend only Into the world of perpetual solitude, World not world, but that which is not world, Internal darkness, deprivation And destitution of all property, Desiccation of the world of sense, Evacuation of the world of fancy, Inoperancy of the world of spirit; This is the one way, and the other Is the same, not in movement But abstention from movement; while the world moves In appetency, on its metalled ways Of time past and time future.
Time and the bell have buried the day, the black cloud carries the sun away. Will the sunflower turn to us, will the clematis Stray down, bend to us; tendril and spray Clutch and cling? Chill Fingers of yew be curled Down on us? After the kingfisher’s wing Has answered light to light, and is silent, the light is still At the still point of the turning world.
Words move, music moves Only in time; but that which is only living Can only die. Words, after speech, reach Into the silence. Only by the form, the pattern, Can words or music reach The stillness, as a Chinese jar still Moves perpetually in its stillness. Not the stillness of the violin, while the note lasts, Not that only, but the co-existence, Or say that the end precedes the beginning, And the end and the beginning were always there Before the beginning and after the end. And all is always now. Words strain, Crack and sometimes break, under the burden, Under the tension, slip, slide, perish, Will not stay still. Shrieking voices Scolding, mocking, or merely chattering, Always assail them. The Word in the desert Is most attacked by voices of temptation, The crying shadow in the funeral dance, The loud lament of the disconsolate chimera.
The detail of the pattern is movement, As in the figure of the ten stairs. Desire itself is movement Not in itself desirable; Love is itself unmoving, Only the cause and end of movement, Timeless, and undesiring Except in the aspect of time Caught in the form of limitation Between un-being and being. Sudden in a shaft of sunlight Even while the dust moves There rises the hidden laughter Of children in the foliage Quick now, here, now, always — Ridiculous the waste sad time Stretching before and after.