Invisibility and Visibility 2022 #30

I got an attack of the giggles over dinner with friends this week over the mispronunciation of a meal that had entertained me from childhood. The simplicity of a memory in another place, a completely different set of circumstances gave me great heart. The hidden  and invisible stories we all hold that sneak out in such moments are such a gift and invitation to discover or in this case, re-discover a lost joy.

Memories are powerful tools and weapons to hold us in place and take us to new horizons. The trick I find at play is to not get caught into sentimentality or melancholy. So the gooey warmth of a forgotten cheery moment holds a lot of comfort.

I am currently running for a public office and reconnecting with parts of my past lives in the process. One of the activities I am doing is a weekly photo on a social media platform entitling it #ThrowbackThursday.  I am getting more interest and commentary on these pictures than almost any other thing I am doing. People seem to be enjoying discovering something they didn’t know about me, or getting a glimpse into another part of my story.  There is a mixture of intrigue and intimacy in the responses. 

I have also enjoyed campaigning. I love the focussed project nature of it and the clarity of the result – someone will win and everyone else will lose. I try to reframe this competitive perspective – I feel like I have already won, by getting up and having a go. I am also coming off a strong base and deep roots decades in the making and long before a couple of my opponents were even born. I am not being ageist and I am supporting young candidates, but I do have the years on them, and it is a-kind-of, unfair advantage.  The invisibility of my story peeking out through old photographs, is just one way in which herstory can come through bringing a version of what’s gone before. As the curator I get to choose which pictures go with what weeks.  

As I have written previously, so many of the photos I have been sorting through don’t have me anywhere to be seen, as I am behind the camera. I am learning how to take reasonable ‘selfies’ now which is going someway to rectify the problem going forward. The looking out into the eyes of others versus looking into your own eyes and seeing yourself I am beginning to appreciate as a portal to introspection. The ‘selfie’ also has endless capacity to eek out  a giggle. Selfies are also in the business of making memories.  A lovely combination for the invisible and visible worlds to collide through giggles and digital mirrors.

Being in front of the camera, certainly makes for a different perspective.

Selfie taken in my bathroom before I headed off to a friends 60th birthday.

Invisibility and Visibility 2022 #29

The signal on the outside are bells ringing in the foyer, on the inside the lights go down and we know something extraordinary is about to happen.  What has been invisible is about to become visible. We know to get ready; our preparedness will be rewarded with the strike of a chord and our senses are called to attention the relationship between the performers and the audience has been consummated. 

I love live music. I deeply appreciate the thousands of hours of effort to get into a place to be able to walk on stage, the hundreds of people involved to enable this feat to take place and the community of support required to make it happen. It is so instructional to me. The over night success twenty years in the making or the random gift of a proud Mum leaving a message on Instagram that enables a 15year old to take the stage. The generosity and grace of seasoned performers is always on show by the ones who really know and embrace the privilege.

It is not just on the stage though that we can see this phenomenon. Earlier in the day I had been at my grandson’s seventh birthday where hours and hours of effort into making treats and games and a complicated Dragon pinata were on display and fully embraced by the young guests. Setting the scene for each activity requiring clarity about what was about to happen, how to fully prepare, participate, and bring your own appreciation to the moment. Between the tuile of princesses and masks of Minecraft characters, there were sugar fuelled squeals of delight, not too different to the audience at Thebarton Theatre later in the evening. The human experience of gathering to celebrate, appreciate, play being universal and not bound by age. The concert’s theme was Child in Reverse and it seemed a fitting bookend to the day.

There are a lot of stops and starts going on with COVID interruptus at the moment. Things not quite landing, work arounds, re-scheduling, disappointing-not-quite-right-a-bit-annoying is what we are all experiencing. Being a lifelong improviser, I do not mind the challenge of living inside these beautiful constraints, yet I see my social media feed full of unhappy travellers stranded or not quite arriving the way they want too in the school holidays.

These moments are offering up the opportunity to just stop, pause and start again. I loved how the singing pair last night in the concert, did just that, a tiny error, a wayward word, was the cause. And then with good humour, professionalism and absolute precision, they picked up where they had left off. I appreciated the lesson in front of a packed half-masked up auditorium. 

We all have times when things do not go our way, it doesn’t mean we can’t adapt. It is an invitation, a big wide invitation, to see what we can make of the moment.  When the seven-year-olds were waiting in anticipation their turn in pass-the-parcel and the music didn’t quite stop when the rotating gift arrived to their expectant hands and lap, some lingered with their hold, others passed it like a hot potato to keep it moving while others wistfully watched it go past with longing in their eyes. 

Not all our expectations will be realised, is a lesson learnt early, and often.  We always have a choice to pick up where we left off and draw on our invisible experience and strength to keep the show going.  We are never alone, entire battalions of people have enabled all of us to get to that point, they maybe invisible to us in the moment, but they have been there and getting up again is a way of honouring all the effort that has gone before to enable us to be ready and available to accept the invitation when it arrives.

Thebarton Theatre 16 July 2022

Visibility and Invisibility 2022 #28

You could make out the eyes closed on the surface, and the outline of the head, in the dark, that is all that was visible, but we could all tell that underneath was the body that belonged to that head, an ancient alligator. The zoo after dark was alive and crawling with plenty of human life in all shapes, sizes, and hues and many of the taller ones were holding onto to the hands of smaller ones to keep their micro community together and not lost among the crowds. There was one called Toby though that had taken his own journey and his grown up was yelling his name, a call into the night that was not yielding his appearance into her sight. All the while, the alligator did not bat an eyelid.

We tell ourselves all kinds of stories about where we are safe, where we hide, where we can be found, where we can hide. I have found that in crowds and in the dark holding onto someone’s hand is always a good idea.

I have held onto lots of little people’s hands over my lifetime and it still comforts me. I feel safer with this added responsibility. I feel braver. I feel protective. I do not remember the last time I held a grown-up’s hand and I notice how much I miss that experience, the simplicity of the touch. COVID has certainly been a barrier to that experience and of course my single status for nearly five years is the primary reason.

One hand I have had extended to me in this period, was at Kwartatuma Ormiston Gorge, Northern Territory, as I navigated the last of a long walk and had to cross a river and the water was above my waist and the rocks underneath slippery and not completely visible and a complete stranger offered his hand to steady me to take the steps I needed safely. He was very reluctant to offer his hand, but my vulnerability was indisputable, and he felt obliged to reach out. I still stumbled and fell. I was worried I was going to pull him in as well. He reached out again with more confidence, and I made it to the over side.

Holding hands is a signal to the crowd about who is connected to who and all that skin to skin contact and intertwining of fingers, making visible intimacy and possibility the power dynamics of the relationship. Close to roads my hand grips more tightly around the hand of my grandson. I watch others around me use their grip to confirm their ‘top dog’ status.

The simple act of hand holding makes visible love, fear, attachment, influence, control. Steering the direction of travel by the dominant hand holder might be a mutual decision of play or coercion. We all know what that feels like to pull towards and pull away from our intended course and allow ourselves to be led by the hand. It is sometimes a fine line between the squeals of delight and groans of reluctance by the person being led.

Then there are times we are like the invisible Toby, where we break away, go on our own adventure, and scare the daylights out of the one whose hand we were holding. Where we take off in a direction that no one else can see through the woods, or the crowd, or the density of feelings and fog. Where we set our own course and find ourselves perhaps out of our depth, looking for a hand to haul us out, or just find a place to hide in the shadows for a while not to be found and to have some respite from the crowd.

However we hold hands, the simplicity of this act helps us belong to each other. I will never tire from the comfort of holding the hand of a child, and all the more joy when that hand reaches out to me to be held, the visible invitation and trust offered in that gesture always, always warms my heart.

2018 Sellicks Hill

Visibility and Invisibility 2022 #27

In my garden, there is a self-sewn tomato plant that is heavy with fruit, green tom thumbs highly unlikely to ripen red on the vine as it is the middle of winter. It doesn’t look out of sorts, it is healthy, strong, with plenty of flowers and leaves, and there are a range of pollinators who seem to still be visiting as well.

This plant, out of place, out of time, but not out of sight, is my teacher this week. The temperatures are cool and getting cooler so I don’t see the fruit going red any time soon, so I may pluck them from the vine and get them to ripen inside … but I am not sure about that yet. And green tomatoes can still be harvested and eaten in all kinds of ways. Tomato chutney might be beckoning, and I keep remembering scenes from that extraordinary movie starring Kathy Bates, Fried Green Tomatoes.  The green tomatoes remind me that every one of us has a place to bloom and fruit and it does not have to be in keeping with the seasons. Times are changing.

Brushing against the leaves to stake up this out of season climber, releases that aroma that makes me think it is summer and harvest time. I have hung onto this smell and am treating the plant as a reminder that it is harvest time in my life. I am in a season of bringing together all I know about community and public service, about entrepreneurship and innovation, about gender and racial justice, about measurement and meaning.

This season might be short compared to other seasons in my life like motherhood, or daughterhood, but it is definitely a season. This season, like all others has its own light, temperature and weather pattern.  There is an afternoon glow, not unlike a Hans Heysen painting or a set of Colin Thiele paragraphs from Sun on the Stubble. This glow is soft, golden, lingering and close to the ground. The temperature is cool, but not so cold, that fruit will stop appearing on the vine, and actually fruiting in clusters and making themselves visible amongst the leaves. The weather is a mixture of storms, squally rain and bursts of glorious sunshine with rays occasionally creating rainbow smudges in the sky. I am not under estimating the task of ripening that might need to take place by being cut away from the vine.

As my campaign starts to take shape, I had one elected member ask me how come everyone seemed to know me? I was thrilled with this feedback and felt like some old networks had kicked back in and were starting to be visible. Another elected member mansplained something to me and a few other potential councillors to demonstrate perhaps his prowess and what it means to him to be an elected councillor. Again, I took this as a compliment as he clearly felt the need to assert authority, mark his territory, in what was an un-conversation. 

An un-conversation, is my new way of describing people who have something to say so they can be hear themselves into speech for their own audiences. It is not a dialogue, it is more like a soliloquy, and I am unwilling to be in the audience. An un-conversation requires a response that is completely off topic and take into another realm. Perhaps you were hearing about dalmatians, when you took the conversation to another place and another time completely disconnected from dalmatians? 

Try a topic that builds into your agenda if nothing else you can at least practice talking about it! Just like the tomatoes they are doing their own thing and not taking any notice of what the universe might be saying is the season.

Whatever invisible natural power source that is enabling the tomato plant to thrive and bear fruit is surely not too far away from the drive and energy that I am experiencing as I stand firm, rooted in my own story, able to branch out, be fertile, attract collaborators to pollinate and help flowers turn into fruit and maybe transform into something quite tasty, unexpected and irresistible.  

What is hidden in the soil that enabled this plant to take shape, cannot be under estimated. As any grower and farmer knows, everything starts with the soil.

Good soil is full of nutrients, knows how to hold water and how to let the water flow and drain away. The soil is invisible and indispensable. What turns up above ground is visible and thriving.

Thank you to the chooks who pooped on the soil that must have had a tomato seed stored, ready to unleash on an unsuspecting garden and deliver something quite fresh and unseasonal.

I love my lessons from the garden.

Visibility and invisibility 2022 #26

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

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

Vigilance matters.

Democracy is teamwork.

Politics is personal.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

With Maya Angelou in our hearts and the instruction:

Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,

I am the dream and the hope of the slave.

I rise

I rise

I rise.

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

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

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

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

Visibility and Invisibility 2022 #25

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 15, 2021

Authorised by M Were PO Box 7 Sellicks Beach 5174

Visibility and Invisibility 2022 #24

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo by Johannes W on Unsplash

Visibility and Invisibility 2022 #23

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

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

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

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

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

Always was. Always will be.

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

Visibility and invisibility 2022 #22

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

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

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

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

Tom Uren AC

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

Uluru, May 28 2021

Visibility and Invisibility 2022 #21

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rainbow at Sellicks – Beyond the Binary