Tag Archives: First Nations

2021: Meeting the Moment #13

Been having a virtual mythopoetic journey through the Burren and County Clare with a bit of County Mayo on the side these past few weeks with David Whyte and in the very best of company. It has been a much needed counterpoint to the saturation and inescapable conversation of sexual violence that is permeating every corner of the country. The cellular and elemental nature of fear, anxiety, distrust and the unpredictable appearances of trauma and grief are swirling with gusto like the winds of the Atlantic on western edge of Ireland. There is a litany of names in my heart of women who have been violated, and lamentations are completely insufficient. I find myself wanting to blow things up. I think of the muscular power of a woman’s body which can stretch to its limits sometimes tearing, often leaving permanent scars, bruised and sewn up. The rallying cry is enough is enough and so the line drawn in the sand, calls for a new day, new ways, everything is broken. I am reminded of the cycle of domestic violence and the point that comes when leaving is the only option, anything less is complicity and compliance.

I have done some leaving over the years and experienced the full monty patriarchy panic first hand.  While we have our media full of individual experiences of sexual abuse, my mind goes to the systems holding these practices in place. Here is a litany of my own:

  • You can’t enrol in this program, it is a full time load and you are about to have a baby
  • You can’t hold down that job as there is no support for childcare you can afford
  • You can’t come and sit at this table, you are not a man, you are not ordained
  • You can’t take on this responsibility you are married
  • You can’t bring those thoughts and ideas to this place, the leadership will never agree
  • You can’t pray with those words, you can’t sing with those songs, you can’t ritualise with those artefacts
  • You are not credentialed, because only men can get that qualification
  • Your motherhood is a barrier and your husband and children are your first priority
  • You should be home doing the housework
  • You can’t bring your female friends here it is unsafe for them, you are married so you will be safe
  • Your breastfeeding makes us feel uncomfortable
  • Your pain must remain hidden
  • You will probably want to do other things like have another baby, I don’t think this is the right time for you

The structural inequalities behind each of these lines are founded on the bedrock of patriarchy.  Most of them I have addressed head on for myself and for others and some have even had structural shifts and can only be found in the Australian Museum of Misogyny alongside the CDs and lost mixtapes of Julia Gillard’s speech to Tony Abbott. But it is all just window dressing, the deep wounds of power and privilege translate into power hoarding.

First Nations have been fighting this frontier since the first fleet. Colonialism another layer in the prehistoric origins of what has brought us to this moment. There are calls for a Makarrata and in doing so are calling for a non-white power sharing model, privileging country and place, story and culture. In a small way I noticed the shift that happened when I started using the names of places in their first nation language and stopped using colonial names – a small gesture and one which is catching on. It becomes a constant reminder of what was, what is and what could be. To not be welcome in your own country, to be forced to live by another’s foreign rules, under the flag of your oppressor, taken to their beds and stripped of dignity and justice, to have your children taken from you, to be left for dead, to be beaten, falsely accused, loose hope …. a petering away of hope … working a way into allyship and solidarity that strengthens means getting out of the way, going to a table not created by you and waiting to be invited, being patient to wait for the apprenticeship to be offered, to live in the discomfort of the emergence into something new and in the knowledge you are part of the problem and decolonisation starts inside the head, heart on its way to being translated into plans and action. 

So too is this pilgrimage out of patriarchy. Giving up on the messages and the structures that reinforce the messaging of inadequacy, its your fault, personalised and individualised transactions. Rejecting definitions of progress and growth that don’t include those with decision-making power not stepping out of the way is a big piece and a hard one. Think: it’s not all men, its not all white people, mantras.  Well actually it is when you take a systems lens. No justice without peace was a mantra in my youth. Meeting this moment: there is no justice without a reckoning.

Year of Self-Compassion #38 #harvest

The snow peas are now fruiting and some have already made their way into a salad bowl and a stir fry.  The simple act of sewing a seed and watching it grow, is constant reminder of human stewardship and the elements co-creating to bring life. In a week that started with the end of what was a long good-bye, I am ending it with a focus on harvest.

I really felt my brother’s presence at his funeral, in the stories, in the love expressed in the eulogies and in the faces of his offspring. It was a harvest and I was able to give witness to a life that I wasn’t always familiar with – I left home when he was twelve and he lived all over the country during his adult life. I got a glimpse of him as a community builder through his sporting activities mainly and I was reminded that enthusiasm and connecting is enough, talent and perfected skills are actually over-rated.

Harvesting is pleasurable. You can take a moment to reflect on how far you have come, on all the stages of development, bask and gaze at the finished product, acclaim and honour for the result of all that has gone before. From the collecting of stem cells and blood products, to data and knowledge, harvesting is also often about storing and preserving.

This week I was introduced to the idea of sovereign language repatriation by Dr Lou Bennett, McKenzie scholar University of Melbourne (although for me she will always be one of the harmonies in Tiddas). Together with her input and that of Dr Simone Tur on sovereign data of Aboriginal people and its application, I have been unsettled by the colonisation project and how data is harvested and appropriated and incorporated into systems that do not serve. The harvesting of knowledge to exclude and divide can also be used to unite and foster commitments to change. But when I think of campaigns like Close the Gap – the data hasn’t shifted much on some of the key measures; and are they the right metrics anyhow? The assumptions underlying will always need to be examined.  It has made harvesting a little less pleasurable for me this week, yet I am inspired and deeply challenged about how the sovereignty of Aboriginal peoples can be the first and last word in the harvest.  Deep down I have a sense it is only going to be from the rich vein of First Nations our planet can be healed and so what can be harvested from the connection to land and embodied spirit in language on country is the ultimate gift awaiting those of us who are not First Nations people.

Harvesting requires getting the land right first, the conditions for growth, tending, nurturing – it is at the end of a process and in the harvesting you are stripping away what has been.  Not all harvesting is pleasurable as I find it in my garden. There is the harvest that denudes a hillside, the harvesting that strips a soul bare, the harvesting of body parts and human recycling.  There are lots of harvests and in bringing in the ideas of repatriation of coming home to where the data, the words, the spirit belong and from that place be gathered up before being cast back into the world.

Coming home to yourself is a kind of harvesting. The garnering of all that has been flung to the winds and now being collected and held in, is a harvest for well-being, a harvest for healing, a harvest to sew the seeds for a new season.  This new season is being heralded in language, song, story and is all about reclamation not colonisation. It is about holding on and finding what can be repatriated, what can be brought home as well as uncovered already there. There is pruning and weeding of foreign bodies that have snuck in, unwelcome, and severing of what is dead and no longer serves. There is the preparation of the next harvest built into the clearing away of the current one. The bounty may not yet be visible and is held in the promise of the dark.

The self-compassion lesson speaking to me this week is to look twice at harvest and to check what is serving and healing, what is reaping and what might be raping, what is appropriating and what is celebrating and what can be repatriated and returned home to myself at my disposal. Bringing yourself home to your own vulnerability and is the way to personal harvests. Connections help you find your way home to yourself.

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Dr Simone Tur, me and Dr Lou Bennett at ANZSWWER Symposium 2018, Flinders University