Tag Archives: Tiddas

Year of activism #23

Been thinking about the late Elliott Johnston who was a Supreme Court judge in SA and who on leaving the bench at 70 was appointed to the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody. He died when he was 93. I never met him. He was public about his membership of the Communist Party.  It didn’t get in the way of his abilities to pass judgements and make recommendations, just as other judges like Dame Roma Mitchell was very public about her Catholicism or others their capitalism.  I have been thinking about Justice Elliott in relation to these times, he always behaved as far as I can tell from his actions that black lives mattered.  He is an example of how leaders can hold roles in the public domain and not compromise their values.

The relationship between public and private is an acknowledgement that the personal is political and in the frame of this year’s blog theme, activism is an everyday practice to be applied in all parts of your life.  As the statues of racists tumble in town squares the blind spots and unconscious bias of past town planners comes down too. Past curators of museums around the world will be turning in their graves as their blind spots and pillaging of first nations and colonial conquests are overturned causing property and memories to be repatriated. These are just the beginning of the decolonisation movement which is spreading throughout the globe.

While we all know the name of George Floyd the litany of the names of Aboriginal deaths in custody are not on everyone’s lips in Australia.  I read through the list of 99 deaths chronicled by the Royal Commission. The Inquiry made 339 recommendations. The report recommended that imprisonment only be a last resort. The report also included recommendations for the calling of medical assistance if the condition of detainee deteriorates; greater collaboration with Indigenous communities; improved access Indigenous incarceration is one gap that needs closing. It is possibly the gap that is actively and systemically addressed will be the one to enable other gaps to close as well.

Going back to the Royal Commission, the recommendations and the way evidence was gathered provide plenty of clues about what actions to take.  There is plenty to do, that remains incomplete eg around child removal, medical support, community and family connection, institutional changes around education, health, employment, primacy of self-determination, poverty, land rights, provision of informed, independent advice, inclusion of Aboriginal people in government roles, public discourse and engagement of public policy and its rollout.

Anyone wanting to exercise some activism in Australia could look at the Royal Commission and choose any one of the recommendations and see how they could contribute to implementing it in their own life.  If you are a teacher, you could consider how you bring images, stories, language into your classroom; if you are a health professional consider the social determinants and how they are showing up in your work or perhaps make a contribution to a scholarship or learning opportunity for an Aboriginal health worker; if you are a parent bring in books and language and images into the home for your children to see (for example, my kids grew up with posters of bush tucker in the kitchen, Condom Man in the boys bedroom, wooden goannas from the APY lands as toys and Tiddas, Kev Carmody and Archie Roach on rotation), if you are a facilitator you can start your sessions acknowledging country and maybe saying a few words in language of the place where you are; if you love fashion how about buying clothes designed by Indigenous artists,  or cosmetics and medicine from Aboriginal healers, or if you are an engineer look to Supply Nation to get your workforce … there is no end of things each and every one of can do to help close the gaps.  At the least you can put a sign on your door to show respect to the traditional owners of where you live, or perhaps work on Australia Day and take a holiday on Mabo Day.  Taking the streets isn’t for everyone, nor is writing to your local MP so these ideas are offered as actions we can all do from our familiar roles and responsibilities in our everyday lives.

As we come into NAIDOC Week my activism ask is to make a choice about one thing you can do in your every day life to help implement the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Deaths in Custody which has at its heart, reconciliation and recognition that Australia always was and always will be Aboriginal land – which is fitting as that is this year’s NAIDOC theme.

 

 

 

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