Year of activism #51

This is the last blog post for this year of activism and typically by now I have started to discern what the next year’s blog theme will be … and I can feel something emerging …but not yet arrived. To enable something to emerge requires some things to fall away and others to become more clear as fog lifts, or clouds part. The word comes from Latin meaning become known, come to light. The idea of something coming to light holds an interesting movement – the light already being and a hint that the light might be stationary, and the coming a travelling towards what is already there but only visible when the movement of going forward to burn off ignorance or spark the new insight. The whole process may often be quite painful, it can equally be liberating as if a load has been lifted, either way once you come into the light there is a shift of arriving at a new threshold. For the activist this brings an invitation to be tested and practiced in the glow of a new vantage point.

A leading activist is often in the role of mid-wife helping to bring out of the dark what was emerging into the light something new, something challenging, something that will support the system taking its next steps. Once the midwifery is done, this kind of activist may well be no longer needed and the work naturally transfers to others to make the laws, codify behaviours, institute processes and mechanisms to keep necessary evolution flowing. You have come to a place where you are no longer needed, and the hard prophetic walk of making a path is ready for others tread and make strong. Just as ideas begin on virgin synapses so the trajectory towards justice needs to be thought more than once and consolidated by action, reflection and more action and more reflection.

Contemplation and action, the practice of being still and still moving, is central to the life of an activist and the season that arrives at the end of each year, spilling over into a new year is a gift. It is the integration of both contemplation and action that matters. The practice is the integration and to recognize when the pendulum has swung too much one way and to correct that so the emergent can keep emerging. When you notice you are staying in one place more than the other, it is quite likely your ego is inviting you to get into check – too much navel gazing, too much action – both states are not good for you. I am often intrigued how introverts and extroverts name themselves as reflectors or actors – but this is a cop out. Introverts who hide behind reflection and extroverts who hide as busy prophets – both need to get their egos out of the way. Both states are ringing warning bells and if you notice these in your activism, be compassionate to yourself and then make a corrective tilt towards integration.

I am going to be reflecting over the next few days how to keep my pendulum swinging in even time, because there are always bursts of activism and reflection, constantly integrating and finding their way inside of me to stillness and movement. Acts of compassion rising from reflection start with each of us and together all those acts birth movements towards justice when they are grounded in a critical and structural assessment of causes, blocks and barriers. And then in the next cycle of reflection those same acts, causes, blocks and barriers are evaluated to help the path to justice become more visible. I find in the fields I am often working, there is an over emphasis on the evaluation component and not enough on the assessment. I notice this in particular, when the practitioners are professionals and not grassroots activists or coming from lived experience. Helping to correct this imbalance, I know has been a feature of my practice and one that will trip me up from time to time. When I want to stay a little longer, it is usually my ego getting in the way. As this year ends I will be relinquishing some roles and responsibilities, taking up others and finding myself looking to horizons which I can’t quite clearly see and while there is some discomfort, it is a reminder of the calibration of integration, a never ending process of renewal.

Thank you for reading and travelling with me in this year’s blog and I wonder what will emerge before the new year begins?

The Journey

One day you finally knew
What you had to do, and began,
Though the voices around you
Kept shouting
Their bad advice‚
Though the whole house
Began to tremble
And you felt the old tug
At your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
Each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
Though the wind pried
With its stiff fingers
At the very foundations‚
Though their melancholy
Was terrible.
It was already late
Enough, and a wild night,
And the road full of fallen
Branches and stones.
But little by little,
As you left their voices behind,
The stars began to burn
Through the sheets of clouds,
And there was a new voice,
Which you slowly
Recognized as your own,
That kept you company
As you strode deeper and deeper
Into the world,
Determined to do
The only thing you could do‚
Determined to save
The only life you could save.

from Dream Work by Mary Oliver

Silver Sands, April 2020 – Remains of the Day

Year of activism #50

The season of love and light is upon us and with it capitalism is rampant with its images and drive around consumption, lost amidst the jungle of jingling bells and northern hemisphere images of snow and sleighs, you might find the odd candle, star or nativity scene. I have always loved the season of advent from the Christian tradition which are where my roots are, for me it is taken on the idea of adventure, waiting, getting ready to enter into a journey that begins with a twinkle in the sky and inevitably leads to being called to go beyond yourself. It is a journey of embodiment, not a sickly sweet or sentimental act of sacrifice, but one where you bring yourself wholehearted to the table.

The symbolism of the Christian nativity is instruction to all activists, regardless of roots – it has it all. The first direction is to go native, to come into the world you are imaging as a child, receiving and soaking up all the story around you, in the company of all creatures, noticing the strangers arriving with gifts that don’t really make sense for what is needed, being comfortable to ask for what you need and it may even be a roof over your head for something new emerging inside of you. You join the world as a full participant and don’t watch from the sidelines. The second direction in the story for me is to be, not do. Receive all that comes your way, soak up the joy of arriving, notice adoration, notice how others might now be able to have a break from pushing and welcome your arrival. Pay attention who else is arriving and who is already there and what roles they are playing. The third direction is to look up. See the star that has guided those before you and those coming in after you to this place. What is the star made of and who else is following it? What mesmerising powers does it seem to hold and what is the counter-intelligence squad plotting because of that same star?

This story is embedded in mine. It is fundamental to my activism, and while it may not be your story, or your tradition, it has been a source for many activists to take up the mantle of the little one born in a manger to parents who had to make their way in an occupied territory to be counted. When we show up as activists, we too are arriving because others have journeyed to justice to be counted among the ones who want to birth something new.

I am always encouraged that in my tradition the instruction manual arrived in the form of a baby. When the work gets complicated or even chaotic, I call myself back to the idea of arriving as a child and try to tap into the wonder and awe in what I have arrived into and trust that if I can bring my inner child to the situation I might be able to scoop up some new insight, energy or get a glimpse of a promise or gift arriving from some wise person dressed exotically and perhaps not even speaking my language. It helps me keep a look out for the unexpected and to be open to possibilities.

The solstice is near and so look up to see Saturn and Jupiter form their own version of the Christmas Star, it was in Galileo’s time that these were so close. It will be another 800 years before it comes around again. That feels like an invitation to look up in wonder and awe. The calendar year is nearly over and with it this year’s theme of writing will come to an end too. As well as looking up, I am looking into the manger and wondering what is being birthed in me for the year ahead and as I take time for that adventure to be made visible to me. I trust that in the dark the skies will come to life and show me a star to guide me.

Year of activism #49

In the spaces between being awake and being asleep, fully present and day dreaming, fully rested and alert, there are tiny insights to catch like butterflies in a net. I have written about this before and I find the season at the end of the calendar year a time where there is a lot of these spaces. Some people are turning off and tuning out and others are gearing up for what might be waiting around the corner – the ongoing pandemic, bushfire preparations, aching of separation of the holiday season. Counting our blessings may be more ritualised this year for some and the losses of the year crippling for others. It is in these spaces, the activists wholeheartedness, intuition and imagination are tapped. Glimpses of transformational possibilities dawn.

A few times over the years in this space I have referred to David Whyte’s poem What to Remember when Waking (here, here, here), and I find it as good an instruction manual for any activist as the Marshall Ganz, Stacey Abrams, Gandhi playbooks on mobilising and movement building. This poem is about visibility and invisibility, what you hold close, what you notice, the outstretched and always accessible invitation to contribute, not ask for permission to be fully yourself to bring all you can muster to any given situation, to receive the invitation as a gift in waiting for others to receive. That gift needs to be carefully chosen, appreciated by you so you can give it away with all the joy and detachment any gift giving genuinely requires for it to be fully received. (A hint for those who are sharing in this season of love and light.)

What requires our immediate attention in these times and then leading with that in our activism is often the way I answer those people who ask me – but what can I do? And then ask yourself – and what invitations are coming my way? What gifts are ready to be given? I am forever grateful to the poets, the songwriters, painters and prophets who find their imaginations translated onto pages, imagines, sounds, as they guide me, energise me, soothe me when I am weary. Forever grateful to all the creatives who have generously unlocked their gifts and then released their art into the wild.

Remembering is the act of joining past and present, to put back into place something that is required to hold what has been for a reckoning with the present, and potentially restitution in the future. It is a central theme for any activist to not go back to when injustices still needed to be righted, and to be inspired by those acts that did right them in the first place. In the areas of activism that I find myself contributing too, the act of remembering and calling on the leaders who made the path is so important. I am reading Obama’s A Promised Land and I am struck how often he recalls the heroes and heroines who have gone before civil right activists, children, family members, legislators, founding fathers and mothers, to call them into the moment when history is being made. This has been a lifetime practice of mine too, not to just make sure I don’t forget who has gone before and made possibilities and potentialities for me and my generation, but to re-member, to bring those witnesses into real time, to savour and celebrate the moment and to take care in the moment. So to follow Whyte’s instruction to remember when waking, is to bring in the dream world, your yet to be fully formed unconscious thoughts, the deepest and darkest messages to your truest self.

What to Remember When Waking

by David Whyte

In that first hardly noticed moment in which you wake,
coming back to this life from the other
more secret, moveable and frighteningly honest world
where everything began,
there is a small opening into the new day
which closes the moment you begin your plans.

What you can plan is too small for you to live.
What you can live wholeheartedly will make plans enough
for the vitality hidden in your sleep.

To be human is to become visible
while carrying what is hidden as a gift to others.
To remember the other world in this world
is to live in your true inheritance.

You are not a troubled guest on this earth,
you are not an accident amidst other accidents
you were invited from another and greater night
than the one from which you have just emerged.

Now, looking through the slanting light of the morning window
toward the mountain presence of everything that can be
what urgency calls you to your one love?
What shape waits in the seed of you
to grow and spread its branches
against a future sky?

Is it waiting in the fertile sea?
In the trees beyond the house?
In the life you can imagine for yourself?
In the open and lovely white page on the writing desk?

from The House of Belonging, Many Rivers Press

Sunrise at Sellicks Beach, South Australia – Watawali – Kaurna 10 Dec 2020

Year of activism #48

Visiting Kangaroo Island this week was like opening a portal to possibilities. My purpose was to meet with women entrepreneurs and there are ideas, collaborations, emergent enterprises and the environment calling to eek out regenerative offerings not just to the island but for the whole planet. These women are inside bottle of fizz being shaken up and about to go pop. They recognise they need to organise, unleash their potential, create their own ways of working to support their creativity, families, community, land and sea. They have everything they need – each other. I had an insight into a role I might play stepping into my wisdom, experience, eldership and cheer leading and the huge value this is in that time when the bottle is being shaken, when anticipation is building and before the power of of what has been dissolved in the liquid, then kept under pressure finds it way through the neck of a bottle and the blockage is removed and all the power of that energy is released. I seemed to have played a shaking up role on this occasion and clear disruptive moment, with a few more shakes before moxie shows up fully and the impact these women will have on the world will be visible to everyone.

There is an active agent inside all of us, waiting to be shaken up, or sometimes to be split into the atmosphere, perhaps already released and transformed circulating the in the atmosphere, being poured into glasses and being celebrated. The year is coming to a close and there are lots of moments to meet and greet others face to face or in real time if your circumstances allow it. As the calendar year retreats into memory, integration, maybe even some revisions will take place, editing of a recollection to better fit how the narrative end – when something that happened may now be reframed as a silver lining – I find it is time to consider what might be dissolved or trapped and held under pressure, like the carbon dioxide in the water pre-fizz and pop.

Breathing out is the exhale, the release of carbon dioxide, the circular economy of breathing. Might the pop waiting in your life to come out, be your contribution to shifting something in the world around you so that with the release comes something to celebrate? I think it is time to treat CO2 with more respect and not terming it a waste product when considering it leaving our body, but as fuel for life, an exchange between inner and outer worlds, an invitation to recreate, regenerate, renew.

Breathing in and breathing out as a lesson is with us each and every day. And if you have ever had a cold, a respiratory condition, or watched someone finding it hard to breathe, you know how precious and fragile this gift is. You also know it is finite and will one day come to an end. As a child I had chronic asthma, hospitalised several times and near death experiences, so grateful for those now to have taught me early in life to value the inhalation and the exhalation in equal measure. As a singer, learning when to take a breath, when to hold on and when to let go I recognise this requires practice, instruction and paying attention. As I cared for a man whose life left him breath by breath for ten years I saw close at hand what happens being hooked up to external sources of oxygen and how you drown without releasing carbon dioxide. I have the credentials to give this advice:

Breathe in

Breathe out

what is held under pressure can be shaken up

once shaken (not stirred)

let the energy find its way through a channel

notice who, what, where, when and why the cork is being removed

be ready to be released

explode into the world showering all around you with all that was into all that is

accept the invitation to be poured into glasses that can hold your essence

Celebrate and be celebrated.

Photo by Amy Shamblen on Unsplash

Year of activism #47

Spring ends in a couple of days and we have already passed records for hottest day in November. The Climate Emergency bells are ringing and even with our planet being a beneficiary of some of the COVID restrictions, the data is in, and the ones listening to the scientists and to ancient wisdom and the ones most alarmed, feeling the urgency …. another COVID response correlation.

Wearing a mask is a sign of public health activism, in same way choosing food that is grown locally, unpackaged and has a fair price to farmers attached. Cue the soundtrack We are the World and somehow that anthem takes on renewed meaning – we are the ones saving our own lives. To all the singers and songwriters who help us grow movements for change one from my tradition and culture always stands out – Pete Seeger. He died in 2014 and in 2009 there was quite a campaign to get him nominated for the Nobel Prize, which I thought was quite a good idea at the time. He was the oldest person to ever sing at a US Presidential inauguration. Listening him sing (all the verses of Guthrie’s) This Land is Your Land remains an abiding memory of how we can live together, work together and put the land and the planet at the centre of our decision-making for ourselves and the future.

Privileging and understanding the centrality of land for climate response seems crucial to me. SDG #15 Life on Land seems to have it all, and there are so many opportunities to make a contribution: tree planting, soil rehabilitation, land rights, understanding land as mother, food security, benefits of nature, reforestation, regeneration. This is not a stewardship relationship with the land, it is an invitational relationship. We get called each and everyone of us, each and everyday to respond to this invitation. The invitation to bring our best selves, knowledge, skills, curiosity, wonder and awe to what the planet, in fact land and sea, has to offer us. We are being invited to halt, to heal, to discover, to mask, to declare, to celebrate, to mourn. These are times in which at every turn we can make and take a step towards turning the sirens of the climate emergency down a notch.

I am examining, with others as part of SheEO’s Racial Justice Working Group, the place of this SDG in relation to racial justice. The language of colonisation, white supremacy, patriarchy continues to get in the way and one of the first invitations I am trying to accept is around language. Moving from extractive to generative language is quite a discipline. I am looking for new words for stewardship, leaving descriptors like First and Third world, developing, under developed behind. Bringing in the mystical and mythological to frame and bring a big enough canvas to hold the depth of values and meaning that is not possible in the transactional nature of most conversations about land.

As our temperatures start to soar in my part of this pale blue dot and summer rolls across the skies and the sands beneath our feet glare and heat up making it hard to even have the grains between our toes, I know there are fire crews training, meteorologists modelling, animal rescue volunteers stocking up on bandages, farmers checking dams, policy makers reviewing plans. So to all those who have been ringing bells and calling emergency for decades and for all those prepping to be first responders in the summer ahead, and for all those who year in and year out have been reminding us it is is time to act, I give deep thanks to you for being relentless in your acceptance of the invitation and for being the vehicle to transmit the message to those of us who have been so slow to hear it being extended to us. This land was made for you and me.

Photo by Malachi Brooks on Unsplash

Year of activism #46

The thunder rolled in and with one mighty crackle sparks, the heavily pregnant clouds released and drowned my little part of the planet for less than the time it takes to bake a cake. You can’t always see the clouds colliding in the dark, but you do hear them walking up to the moment and you experience the pent up energy being set free and falling where ever it falls. The balance of refreshment to the earth and heaviness in the air arrives and a invitation that can’t be postponed, to hydrate. The elemental nature of activism is the same, there are times in movement building that the system like a weather system is going to explode and everyone is touched whether they are involved or not. The meteorological forces bring to bear what must be made visible and felt. I think this is the craft of the mobiliser in activism.

Getting out the vote in the US has been like this, all the individual efforts of people being signed onto the roll, driven to booths, postal workers delivering ballot papers from home to polling stations, volunteers offering hospitality and reporters recording accurately, live streaming technologists enabling real time viewing of counting of ballots – each in their own way making rain. And then there is the deluge and the precious drops fall on everyone, regardless of age, race, where they voted, elected, unelected and then the rain stops, the atmospherics have changed, the forecasters explain what has happened and are replaced by the next shift ready to advise on what is coming up.

The mobilisers pause for some satisfying breaths to drink in the cleansing waters and then get back to work. I have been watching the behaviour of the US President-elect who as he heads into his eighth decade is pacing himself, equipped with the wisdom of many deluges, he is patient and persistent. There seems to be a gentle confidence in the elements knowing they come and they go. This is the practice of the ancients. They know the dark clouds are full of what they have drawn upwards into themselves and when ripe can burst and deliver their load on those below. They know they don’t need to do it all, and there is a transformation when the sky and the land meet. This communion will call forth new shoots and in no time at all, new life will become visible, tiny insects will be scurrying around, beetles, bugs, bees, butterflies; trees will be waking up and the scent of herbs will fill the air. Ancients hang onto the this knowledge, they know how to coax the clouds with a dance or send smoke into the air to hasten the process. Ancients know the clouds will burst and the wait will be worth it.

Taking lessons from the ancients and storms in your activism is as good a place to look as anywhere if you are a mobiliser. Paying attention to what works, what happens next and when to look to the skies for inspiration is a guide for me often and when I lie in bed and hear the rolling thunder, the rain soaking into the ground followed by birds singing and starting to gather threads to weave their nests I know, in the words of the English 14th century mystic anchorite Julian of Norwichall shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.

The trick for me is to remember that when I am in darkness, or perhaps I can’t see any clouds and to know that the invisible actions of the mobilisers are working on their part and if I am in their number I need to be working on my contribution however molecular it seems because it does indeed all add up for a mighty storm that is a-comin’ and in its wake is new life.

Photo by Valentin Müller on Unsplash

Year of activism #45

As votes get counted in the USA, the most destructive hurricane in the history of Central America ripped through Honduras, a trilogy of daily typhoons hit Manila drowns the metropolis. We are all connected through these events in our common occupation of this little blue dot. While these things were going on, I was laughing, dancing, enjoying the good company of family and friends, listening to music, poetry and holding space for others to have conversations. I took time to recognise and celebrate the oldest continuous living culture on the planet in NAIDOC Week. This year’s theme Always Was Always Will Be, brought the centrality of the land to all that has past, all that is, all that is to come. More than once across the week I dipped into my own story to recognise my ancestors would have been part of the dispossession and now it is my generation to who the reckoning and restitution falls. The need for treaties continues to loom large in my mind about what is needed. The place of treaties as agreements and truth telling intertwines with our relationships to past, present and future. Time is indefinite, continuous on the move working away and threading and holding events, memories, actions, dreams in the past, present, and future.

How we mark time whether it be by the moon, the clock, the height of tree growing is embedded in activism. So often we are trying to halt the progress, or speed something up or even turn it back as a way to get to the justice required by the moment. The practice of mindfulness brings depth and width to time and the expanse of this world crystalized into tiny never to be repeated moments, cherished all the more for their fleeting nature. Just imagine if in every moment we were able to hold the time for justice. That is a practice that will take me more than one lifetime! I do try to bring the practice of welcoming the new day, each dawn, as a way of bringing all the time zones together and when I remember across the 24 hours on our axis on the ecliptic plane, that a new day is dawning somewhere right now. The constancy of this natural phenomena is surely an invitation to a new start while honouring what has gone before. This is perhaps the most profound version of a circular economy I can think of and it is linked directly for me to the relationship to the land, seas and stars and in my part of the planet, named and held by First Nations whose land and seas have never been ceded. Without an understanding of time, connectedness and circularity I am not sure justice can arrive.

The practices to restore, recover, regenerate, reuse, repair are all for renewal. While we might design out waste and polluting variables we have to design in, circularity. I am thinking of waste and pollution as how the turn up way beyond single use plastic to single use votes, single use volunteering, single use actions. single use conversations. All our lives depend on it and you have this power in each and every moment. Keeping the conversations going and bringing in the past and the future are essential, we need to know what has gone before and understand what is to come. The places of the futurist and historians are intertwined, the role of the forecasters and the archeologists, the lessons from epigenetics and immunologists are all connected. As activists we are always at a threshold, the point where change is about to happen, the emergent space, the place of new beginnings. To be fully present in that moment is a practice and when we come to the end of our days knowing we too are in this cosmic circular economy – the one household in which we all live. It has been a regular theme in my life since the 1990s, this relationship between household and economics and our home, and ironically I circle back to it often, reinforcing the notion that it was a generative and not extractive lesson from my twenties.

In Blackwater Woods

by Mary Oliver

Look, the trees
are turning
their own bodies
into pillars
of light,
are giving off the rich
fragrance of cinnamon
and fulfillment,
the long tapers
of cattails
are bursting and floating away over
the blue shoulders
of the ponds,
and every pond,
no matter what its name is, is
nameless now.

Every year
everything
I have ever learned
in my lifetime
leads back to this:
the fires and the black river of loss
whose other side is salvation,
whose meaning
none of us will ever know.

To live in this world
you must be able
to do three things:

To love what is mortal;
to hold it against your bones
knowing your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.

Mary Oliver New and Selected Poems

For more about: Mary Oliver

Year of activism #44

Mobilising to get out the vote is what so many activists have been doing in the US, while those of us outside of the US, watched and cheered along as best we could. The new team to come into the White House has been chosen primarily by black women and now the race and gender divide is even more stark than it has been for those of us who sit outside, but for those on the inside, who make their homes in cities and country towns it has been their reality since the beginning of colonisation of what we now know as the United States of America. The depth of pain and the enormous task ahead for racial justice, climate justice and gender justice is of Mt Everest proportions. Then there is a task of getting COVID under control …. So if I was advising the White House, I would be saying go in hard and fast as soon and don’t have any Inauguration Balls – get straight to work there is no time to loose.

I am giving thanks for all the public servants who delivered the mail and counted votes. The role of the public sector in democracy and supporting the institutions that help the electorate have their voice heard and translated into systems is precious and fragile. Over the coming weeks the public servants working in the courts will have their roles and responsibilities tested. US citizens valuing the vote and coming out in unprecedented numbers and all those that did postals due to COVID, might actually be a positive outcome of the deadly virus – where one part of the democracy failed its people another part has been able to help and hopefully heal as well. California sent every single citizen eligible to vote a postal ballot, so whoever made that decision I am claiming as an activist for democracy!

Meanwhile in my part of the world it is NAIDOC Week this week and I want to take a moment to give thanks for all the women and men, Aboriginal who have been activists for racial justice, land rights, economic justice and decolonisation. There is so much work to be done in Australia on this front. A didgeridoo was played on my porch last night, a surprising gift and I felt blessed by the sound and the warmth and generosity of it being played on the land I make my home. I have no right to expect this gift, on stolen land, on land that is marked out with fences and gates, on land that is marked on a map as a suburb that does not bear a name of the place it was known for thousands of years, on land that was and always will be Aboriginal land. I felt blessed by the sound under the great southern skies, where the dreaming of the creation ancestor Tjirbruki walked the land in grief over the death of his nephew who broke the law by killing a female emu. There is a lot of grief in this land and Tjirbruki’s tears still flow in the streams, waterholes and waterfalls across the dreaming tracks, including where I now live Watiwali – Sellicks Beach. It is a tale that is full of sadness and a search for accountability through forgiveness and reckoning – timeless lessons.

While there [at Sellick’s Beach], Tjirbruki began to think of further grudges and as he was passing through the pangkara of the Witjarlung families it disturbed him that they had failed to pass on the message of forgiveness to Kulultuwi and his other nephews. Instead of continuing along the beach he turned inland and climbed over Sellick’s Hill. Snippet from Tindale’s notes

The politics of grief will not leave me as a motif for this era and the need for transformational rituals and stories to help us navigate and transcend to new places, heal the past and be in community with one another because of our differences, is waiting for the priestesses and pastors of our times to work their magic and guide us into our next dreaming. The skilled ministers to hold and host these spaces are being called up and I am deeply grateful to the ones I know about and the ones I will get to know. We live in wild places. I am working at my edges to say no to the domestication and colonisation of my heart and head for that seems to me to be a pathway for justice. Tears are inevitable. Courage compulsory. Friends for the journey non-negotiable.

Year of activism #43

The place of formal advocacy in public policy systems has been a focus this week. I am very fortunate to be a member of South Australia’s Entrepreneurship Advisory Board and I do have an agenda to help close the gender investment gap and to bring a gender lens to listening, observing, conversations and advice making. It is quite a discipline to stay on message and on track. Being at the table is a power and privilege.

This week, a peer asked me how I prepare and go into these spaces, and on reflection realised I do have a practice. I bring to mind all those who have gone before me to enable me to have the privilege of being at the table. These people then become my cloud of witnesses. Their energy and compassion being afforded to me gives me courage and holds me so I know I am not alone. I was fortunate enough to get a teaching while in a workshop on Warriorship hosted by aviator (and now incarnated as a Marvel Comic heroine) Teara Fraser this week, where one of the participants Sacred Matriarch artist Ecko Aleck shared that she does something similar. She takes her place in the litany of those who have been before her and as a First Nations woman, born into the Nlaka’pamux Nation and raised with the shishalh Nation, Ecko said she has the baton now and the responsibility to go from surviving to thriving, as she will in her turn, take her place in the geneology. She explained she has full responsibility for this moment and who comes after her will take what she has done to do her part. It reminds me of something I wrote years ago about a teaching I got from a local footy champion who said when you have the ball you are responsible for the game in that moment and you do all you can to exercise that responsibility for the team to help them kick the next goal. I try and build a team of people I can throw to, who will accept the ball from me and who will notice when it is coming their way and will hear my voice when I kick it their way. This is all about building relationships and trust and training together and that is something I have felt a bit disconnected from recently and this week was a good reminder to me I need to strengthen my practice in this area. This is essential for movement building and in my experience, reiterated again this week, means you need to take time to hang out and get to know people. One of my personal KPIs is when people can tease you as a sign of respect and that works both ways.

I also invoke the UniVerse, the one voice, and ask what is this one voice calling in this moment? On reflection I use this practice to bring alignment to past, present and future. The next step is to stay focused and to stay grounded. I notice I do better at this when I am standing flat footed and strong on the ground and while standing akimbo comes naturally I work against myself to not take that stance so as not to be seen as threatening, and put my hands behind my back, although every now and again I do fold my hands in front of me, but again try to pick myself up when I do that so I continue to stay as open as I can in the moment. Another thing I notice I keep eye contact as best I can, I find this hard sometimes! I also work on channeling sending love and compassion – even when my eyes want to send daggers. I recently experimented with sending daggers that could transform into Cupid like arrows of love and that seemed to work but I am going to need a lot more practice to get this to work on demand!

Formal advocacy is not stand up comedy, but humour helps and I noticed I do use humour to get key points across to new audiences. More than a decade of improv training and performing playback theatre, is easily on demand and I appreciate those skills and forms (like yes and) to have at my finger tips. I also am fortunate to have decades of facilitation tools behind me so can bring in simple activities like asking people useful questions to unlock and unleash information – never under estimate the power of asking everyone to take it in turns to share their answers to a question. One tool I have used consistently over the years (from family counselling to corporate board meetings) to ask everyone to bring another voice into the conversation and what would they say if they were in the room. This always frees everyone up and brings out the ghosts and what I find is this also usually helps bring in taboos, lost words and feelings to the table and in doing so deeper discernment.

I wonder what practices you have that you might even know you do to hold you strong in your power and love as you do your changemaking?

Flavia Tati Nardini rocket scientist and co-founder of Fleet and fellow Entrepreneurship Advisory Board member.

Year of activism #42

Here’s to the film-makers and photographers and all that take and make pictures to tell us stories about ourselves, our world and what we can be, what we have lost, who we are. This week it is the Adelaide Film Festival and no one has stayed away. I have only managed one film (Brazen Hussies) and this season is a reminder of the power of screen to provide an opportunity for a shared experience as potent as any rally on the streets. to gather our collective thoughts and hear what others need to tell us. As always the Film Festival is a cornucopia of ideas and images, sounds and stories and I am propelled into remembering the visuals that have activated hearts, heads and hands. Who can forget the 9 year old girl running from the Vietnam jungle bathed in napalm? The image of Gough Whitlam pouring sand through Vincent Lingiari’s hands in 1975 is one of my all time favourites and I have a copy of it in my office. In one frame, the past, present and future are frozen and speak. At the other end of the visual spectrum is the film that takes its time to unfold and unravel. Going to a movie theatre deepens the experience of the tale being told, all other stimulation is blocked out and you can focus completely, be immersed, be held by the screen and accept the invitation of the film maker to be intimate your eyes meeting theirs.

Being able to just receive, is a kind of deep listening and uninterrupted attention that brings us into the meditative state where we can embrace and be embraced by the narrative. This is the quest of every activist, to be able to invite into something bigger than yourself, a story that can fill all our senses and transcend the frames we hold in our heads to bring new visions, a new slant and perhaps a new response. The film I saw this week was a documentary tracing the steps of the Women’s Liberation Movement and Women’s Electoral Lobby and its influence on public policy including the first appointment of a women’s advisor to the Federal Government in the 1970s in Australia. It was mostly white, mostly east coast, mostly university educated voices that were heard. There were plenty of firsts like equal pay, childcare, domestic violence shelters, access to contraception, state support for single mothers and I am deeply grateful for these women who paved the way. I shed a few tears, then I shed a few more for all that is still to do – still no equal pay in some industries, we have one of the most gendered workforces on the planet and women’s work is mostly in underpaid and undervalued industries (eg caring industries); domestic violence hasn’t gone away and women are still fleeing their homes and for their lives, making women and children homeless rather than men being removed from homes and due to separation and economic injustice women over 50 are the highest rising group of homeless right now; then there is the economic inequity of female founders missing out ( 4% of venture capital goes to women). Indigenous women and women of colour are still largely absent from the decision making and shaping of policies and practices to end these injustices and intersectionality is not routinely applied. While women will often cry ” where are the men?”, we are less likely to hear: “Where are our Aboriginal sisters, and migrant and refugee voices, and women of colour who have been here for generations?” My high school principal was a fifth generation Australian Chinese woman and would often comment on her universal Asian features being invisible when she travelled and when at home in her own country being the cause for racism. This experience was eloquently examined by Stan Grant in his 2015 speech Racism and the Australian Dream. And for me it was the photos of the Tasmanian wilderness taken by Olegas Truchanas that united a nation and was part of the arsenal of the environment movement to elect a government that would preserve ancient and irreplaceable landscape.

The filmmaker is our friend. They take the liberty to build a friendship with us and work on the assumption that once you have stepped into view their work you are now in entering into an intimacy to look through their eyes and while they can’t gaze back into yours, they are working on an assumption you want to see what they can see, you want to know what they want to tell you, they understand you have some kind of longing they might be able to fulfil. They can find spaces and make spaces in your psyche for memories and your imagination to be evoked, for your longing to be stroked and your fragility or sacred joy expressed in the dark. The shared experience builds a bridge to conversation.

Thank you to all the activists behind lens’ that bring us images that hold us and move us and bring us into intimacy for it is from the heart we can bring our heads and hands to action.

This photo of Gough Whitlam pouring earth through Vincent Lingiari’s hand has become an iconic image. It was taken by Mervyn Bishop on 16 August 1975. Museum of Australian Democracy Collection.