Tag Archives: racism

Embracing Indigeneous Australians. .

Recently, a landmark speech spoke out about racism towards Indigenous Australians and I wanted to share it with you.This is a long post but I ask you to persevere with it and reflect. It’s not an easy topic to address but not something I could walk away from either.

While I am not an Indigenous Australian myself and haven’t experienced racism, I do know right from wrong and I think all Australians need to revisit how we view our Indigenous Australians and own up to the rampant racism which still grips hold of this country. It’s definitely not just something buried in the past. As a nation, we haven’t even begun to delve into what happened. To acknowledge the wrongs. No wound ever heals unless the infection is treated.

I realise that I’m stepping into a veritable quagmire even raising this issue and am wary in a sense of speaking out about something I know so little very about.

One of the first things you learn about writing is to write about what you know. Yet, I have never experienced racism and I’m not an Indigenous Australian and don’t walk  in their shoes, feet, skin or soul.

However, as a person living with a disability, I have experienced exclusion, discrimination and injustice. Metaphorically speaking, I know what it’s like to be the only kid in the class not to be invited to the party and how that feels. Imagine how you would feel if that same party was being held at your very own house and you still weren’t invited? You don’t need much empathy or compassion to know how that feels. It hurts like a knife cutting through your heart, leaving horrific and permanent scars.

I have experienced that sense of injustice when I go to pick my kids up from school and someone able-bodied without a permit parks in the Disabled Parking spot and when I ask them to move, give me flak. What the?!!

As soon as I read Stan Grant’s Speech, I knew I had to share it. Keep the fire going and even spread the flame. While Australians like to view themselves as the “Lucky Country”, we have quite a chequered history, including the genocide of Tasmanian Aboriginals. Instead of acknowledging our own crimes, we point the finger overseas: at the Germans over Nazi atrocities, at the South Africans over apartheid and Americans for their guns.

We’re just fine, totally neglecting the log in our own eye.

That as much as we like to paint ourselves as the “lucky country”, we have an appalling record in the treatment of Indigenous Australians. Our track record is too extensive for me to go into here but it’s very, very dark and I’m sure the average Australian over 30 doesn’t have a clue. Moreover, they don’t even consider the long term consequences of what has happened. After all, how would you expect anyone to respond when you take away their land, culture, community and even their children? It creates a sort of living death and who wouldn’t do just about anything to try to numb that pain?!! Wouldn’t you?!!

This week Australia celebrated Australia Day on 26th January while for many Australians, it was a day of sorrow…Invasion Day. Australia Day commemorates the arrival of the First Fleet at Botany Bay in 1788, which was the first European settlement here. I am a bit conflicted about Australia Day these days but we’ve also been flat out getting ready for back to school. So, we had a very low-key Australia Day. Indeed, we went to see Star Wars and by-passed Australia Day until watching the fireworks on TV.

Around Australia Day, I heard about a ground-breaking impromptu  speech by Indigenous Journalist Stan Grant. Referring to the speech, respected Australian journalist Mike Carlton tweeted:

Honestly. I think this Stan Grant speech will one day be viewed as a Martin Luther King moment. via

Here is the transcript of Grant’s speech:

Video

Stan Grant: ‘But every time we are lured into the light, we are mugged by the darkness of this country’s history’, Ethics Centre IQ2 debate – 2015

27 October 2015, City Recital Hall, Sydney, Australia

This speech was delivered in an IQ2 debate with the topic, ‘Racism is destroying the Australian dream’. Also for the affirmative was Pallavi Sinha. For the negative was Jack Thompson and Rita Panahi. The full debate is here

Thank you. Thank you so much for coming along this evening, and I’d also like to extend my respects to my Gadigal brothers and sisters from my people, the Wiradjuri people.

In the winter of 2015, Australia turned to face itself. it looked into its soul and it had to ask this question. Who are we? What sort of a country do we want to be.

And this happened in a place that is most holy, most sacred to Australians. It happened on the sporting field, it happened on the football field. Suddenly the front page was on the back page, it was in the grandstand.

Thousands of voices rose to hound an indigenous man, a man who was told he wasn’t Australian, a man who was told he wasn’t Australian of the Year.

And they hounded that man into submission.

I can’t speak for the what lay in the hearts of the people who booed Adam Goodes. But I can tell you what we heard when we heard those boos.

We heard a sound that is very familiar to us.

We heard a howl.

We heard a howl that of humiliation has echoes across two centuries of dispossession, injustice, suffering and survival.

We heard the howl of the Australian dream, and it said to us again, you’re not welcome.

The Australian dream.

We sing of it, and we recite it in verse.

Australians all let us rejoice for we are young and free.

My people die young in this country, we die ten years younger than average Australians and we are far from free.

We are fewer than three percent of the Australian population and yet we are 25 percent, a quarter of those Australians locked up in our prisons, and if you are a juvenile it is worse, it’s fifty percent. An indigenous child is more likely to be locked up in prison than they are to finish high school.

I love a sunburned country

A land of sweeping plains

Of rugged mountain ranges

It reminds me that my people were killed on those plains, we were shot on those plains, disease ravaged us on those plains. I come from those plains. I come from a people west of the Blue Mountains, the Wiradjuri people, where in the 1820s the soldiers and settlers waged a war of extermination against my people. Yes, a war of extermination! That was the language used at the time, go to the Sydney Gazette, and look it up, and read about it. Martial law was declared, and my people could be shot on sight.

Those rugged mountain ranges, my people, women and children were herded over those ranges to their deaths.

The Australian dream.

The Australian dream is rooted in racism. It is the very foundation of the dream. It is there at the birth of the nation . It is there in terra nullius.  An empty land. A land for the taking.

Sixty thousand years of occupation.

A people who made the first seafaring journey in the history of mankind.

A people of law, a people of lore, a people of music and art and dance and politics, none of it mattered.

Because our rights were extinguished because we were not here according to British law. And when British people looked at us, they saw something subhuman, and if we were human at all, we occupied the lowest rung on civilisation’s ladder.

We were fly blown, stone age savages and that was the language that was used.

Charles Dickens, the great writer of the age, when referring to the noble savage of which we were counted among, said ‘it would be better that they be wiped off the face of the earth’. Captain Arthur Phillip, a man of enlightenment, a man who was instructed to make peace with the so called natives in a matter of years, was sending out raiding parties with instruction ‘bring back the severed heads of the black troublemakers’.

They were smoothing the dying pillow.

My people were rounded up and put on missions, from where, if you escaped. You were hunted down, you were roped and tied and dragged back, and it happened here, it happened on the mission that my grandmother and great grandmother were from, the Warrengesda on the Darling Point of the Murrumbidgee River.

Read about it. It happened.

By 1901 when we became a nation, when we federated the colonies, we were nowhere. We’re not in the Constitution, save for ‘Race Provisions’ — which allowed for laws to be made that would take our children, that would invade our privacy, that would tell us who we could marry and tell us where we could live.

The Australian dream.

By 1963, the year of my birth, the dispossession was continuing. Police came at gunpoint under cover of darkness to Mapoon an aboriginal community in Queensland, and they ordered people from their homes, and they burned those homes to the ground, and they gave the land to a bauxite mining company. And today those people remember that as ‘The Night of the Burning’.

In 1963 when I was born, I was counted amongst the flora and fauna, not among the citizens of this country.

Now you will hear things tonight, you will hear people say, ‘but you’ve done well!’

Yes I have, and I’m proud of it, and why have I done well?

I’ve done well because of who came before me.

I’ve done well because of my father, who lost the tips off three fingers working in saw mills to put food on our table, because he was denied an education.

My grandfather, who served to fight wars for this country when he was not yet a citizen and came back to a segregated land where he couldn’t even share a drink with his digger mates in the pub because he was black.

My great grandfather who was jailed for speaking his language to his grandson – my father – jailed for it!

My grandfather on my mother’s side who married a white woman who reached out to Australia, lived on the fringes of town, until the police came, put a gun to his head, bulldozed his tin humpy, and ran over over the graves of the three children he’d buried there.

That’s the Australian dream. I have succeeded in spite of the Australian dream, not because of it; and I have succeeded because of those people.

You might hear tonight, ‘but you have white blood in you.’ And if the white blood in me was here tonight, my grandmother, she would  tell you of how she was turned away from a hospital giving birth to her first child because she was giving birth to the child of a black person.

The Australian dream. We’re better than this.

I’ve have seen the worst of the world as a reporter. I’ve spent a decade in war zones, from Iraq to Afghanistan, and Pakistan. We are an extraordinary country, we are in so many respects the envy of the world. If I were sitting here, where my friends are tonight (gestures to opponents] I would be arguing passionately for this country.

But I stand here with my ancestors, and the view looks very different from where I stand.

The Australian dream.

We have our heroes.

Albert Namatjira painted the soul of this nation.

Vincent Lingiari put his hand out for Gough Whitlam to pour the sand of his country through his fingers, and say ‘this is my country’.

Cathy Freeman lit the torch for the Olympic Games.

But every time we are lured into the light, we are mugged by the darkness of this country’s history.

Of course racism is killing the Australian dream! It is self evident that it is killing the Australian dream.

But we are better than that.

The people who stood up and supported Adam Goodes and said, ‘no more’, they are better than that.

The people who marched across the bridge for reconciliation, they are better than that.

The people who supported Kevin Rudd when he said sorry to the Stolen Generations, they are better than that.

My children and their non indigenous friends are better than that.

My wife who is non indigenous is better than that.

And one day I want to stand here, and be able to say as proudly and sing as loudly as anyone in this room, Australians all let us rejoice.

Thanks you.

Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uEOssW1rw0…

For those of you who have taken the time to listen, much appreciated. I have pasted a link below to some further interviews with Aboriginal Australians about their reactions to Stan Grant’s speech. Also, if you are not aware of the racist bullying Adam Goodes experienced on the football field, here’s a link: Racist Attacks on Aboriginal Footballer, Adam Goodes

Best wishes and much love,

Rowena

Further reading:

http://www.ethics.org.au/on-ethics/blog/january-2016/stan-grant%E2%80%99s-speech-broke-your-heart-%E2%80%93-here%E2%80%99s-what

Racist Attacks on Adam Goodes: The Tip of a Very Ugly Iceberg?

During the last week, what I hope is most Australians, have been rocked by ongoing racist remarks leveled at Adam Goodes, a much loved and honored Indigenous Aussie Rules (AFL) footballer and who was also named Australian of the Year 2014.

Many have come out strongly supporting Goodes, including setting up the hashtag #IStandWithAdam.

However, there are still some pretty vocal critics.

Adam Goodes (born 8 January 1980) is a professional Australian rules football player with the Sydney Swans in the Australian Football League (AFL). Goodes holds an elite place in VFL/AFL history as a dual Brownlow Medalist, dual premiership player, four-time All-Australian, member of the Indigenous Team of the Century and representing Australia in the International Rules Series. In addition, he currently holds the record for the most games played for an Indigenous player, surpassing Andrew McLeod’s record of 340 games during the 2014 AFL season.

I don’t know whether this story has made international headlines but it has reignited race debate here and personally, I think it’s about time racism made the front page and wasn’t hidden in the small print. Whether you believe that booing at Adam Goodes was racist or not, that doesn’t deny that our Indigenous Australians as a whole, cop what is often vile racist abuse. That what happens at a football match is just the tip of a very ugly iceberg. That there is endemic discrimination against Aboriginal people here and it has to stop!

Adam Goodes, Australian of the Year 2014

Adam Goodes, Australian of the Year 2014

Moreover, you don’t have to be an Indigenous Australian to see this. You just need two eyes, two ears and a heart…values. Even the smallest child has probably heard of the Golden Rule: Treat others as you would like to be treated and that certainly doesn’t include calling anyone an “ape” or saying they “belong in the zoo.”!!

These racial taunts have been leveled at Adam Goodes from the crowd at games and it is nothing short of a disgrace!

I am not going to address the details here as you just need to do a quick Google search to get the run down.

However, here are a few links:

http://www.smh.com.au/national/in-a-dark-place-adam-goodes-the-nation-and-the-race-question-20150731-giolfa.html

http://www.theguardian.com/sport/2015/aug/01/noel-pearson-on-adam-goodes-booing-australia-is-looking-into-the-abyss-of-despair

The story started out back in 2013 when a 13 year old girl at a Swans match called Goodes “an ape” from the stands. Goodes confronted the girl and she was removed from the stadium and interviewed by Police. Goodes didn’t want her charged and she later apologised to Goodes and made amends. However, there are still rumblings from the sidelines about this. That Goodes was unfair to expose and out her and whether a 13 year old knows what is racist. This has taken the issue way beyond Goodes and the girl concerned and has launched a wider debate. Not so much saying that the girl should be charged but that Goodes made the wrong call.

Since then, there have been other racial taunts directed at Goodes as well as a lot of booing from the crowd.

On the way to see Swans vs West Coast Eagles at ANZ Stadium in 2009. Mister played on the field with his team at half-time as part of the junior Auskick program.

On the way to see Swans vs West Coast Eagles at ANZ Stadium in 2009. Mister played on the field with his team at half-time as part of the junior Auskick program.

I’ve been to a number of AFL matches and am a Sydney Swans supporter myself. I’ve heard that kind of booing at matches and know how a crowd can get carried away, However, even then it struck me as poor sportsmanship and this booing at Goodes falls into another category altogether. Even if it wasn’t intended to be racist in the past, now that it is being perceived that way, that’s what it means. It needs to stop!!

Somewhat friendly banter between opposing supporters at the Swans vs Essenden match July 2007: my husband and I!

Somewhat friendly banter between opposing supporters at the Swans vs Essenden match July 2007: my husband and I!

What I also find quite intriguing is how people talk about this girl being an “innocent 13 year old”. That she didn’t understand what she was saying. What it meant to call anyone a “ape”, even if she didn’t understand what that reference means to Aboriginal people in particular.

As far as I’m concerned, she knew exactly what she was saying. You and I both know that if anyone called a kid in the playground a ape, at the very least, they’d be labeled a bully…not an innocent. So what’s the difference here? Just because Goodes is older than her, that doesn’t give her the right to be racist!

Just to emphasise this point, while I’ve been working on this post, my daughter approached me and said: “How could she not know that calling someone an ape is racist?” Miss is only 9 and she knows!

My kids are incredibly proud of our Indigenous people and actually thought they were Aboriginal. You see, my aunt’s partner is Aboriginal and they simply know him as “Uncle Darryl”. Darryl’s children are my step-cousins and while we don’t see them often as we live on opposite sides of the country, the kids really became attached to Uncle Darryl and believed they were Aboriginal. Even when I tried to explain to them that we were related to my aunt, it simply didn’t sink in. They couldn’t grasp genetics and all of these scientific explanations. Darryl was their uncle. He is Aboriginal. They were Aboriginal. There was such beauty and love in this. One day my daughter finally asked me: “So we don’t have any Aboriginal blood? Not even a drop?” Both kids are very disappointed!

I don’t just attribute this pride to our family situation. Rather, our school has built close ties with the local Mingaletta People and they learn Aboriginal painting and stories at school. Indeed, Aboriginality is truly celebrated at our school and not just given lip service either! It is interwoven in so much of what we do.

A few weeks ago, my son even attended a didgeridoo playing session at Mingaletta with his friend from school and I know that moved him deeply inside. It was a spiritual experience for him.

A few weeks ago while we were catching the train, he also told me that he would be proud to be Aboriginal.

These weren’t things my kids have said or done to be politically correct. Their love and respect for Aboriginal people just flows from the heart as a mark of respect, love and I some sort of connection which defies explanation but I do hope that this is something which will nurture and grow.

My kids, imperfect as they are, show what is possible not only through education but through knowing Aboriginal people in our family, at school and in the community and also being taught over and over again that we are all equal regardless of race,gender,disability or class.

My question and what I see as the ultimate challenge, is how do we reach adults who espouse racism and the like in our community?

Quite frankly, we all need to periodically scrub our brains out with soap and clean out the crap. Acknowledge our own bigoted biases and change the way we think. This doesn’t just relate to racism but also just to plain snobbery. Thinking that you’re better than someone else just because of where you live, what you drive and where your children go to school NOT who you are on the inside and your own actions. We don’t need to knock other people down to build ourselves up.

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”
― Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

So along with the rest of my family, we step out firmly supporting Adam Goodes. More than that. We cheer him on for taking a stand against racism and also for all he has done to encourage, develop and support Indigenous Australians while promoting greater acceptance, understanding and connection among all Australians…and all peoples!

respect

It is a noble cause which echoes the words and deeds of many of the world’s greats but the words of Martin Luther King particularly come to mind:

“I have a dream that one day right there in Alabama little black boys and little black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.”

Martin Luther King, Jr.

xx Rowena

You can read here how fans have come out in force to support Adam Goodes: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-08-02/sporting-stars-and-fans-support-adam-goodes/6665834

Battling for A Little Respect…

Whether you call it disability, chronic illness, race, poverty, being different, special or unique; there’s no excuse for bullying, bashing and being outright rude.

You would think that supposed “weakness” would bring out the best in people with outpourings of love, compassion and support. That we would take those people doing it tough, usually through no fault of their own, into our hearts and just love them. Water them with the essence of human kindness so they could be strengthened, encouraged and nurtured to maximise an inner strength and shine like the radiant sunflowers, they, I mean, WE are.

Indeed, so many people I know who are living with chronic illness or disability, have an inner strength and determination which would humble an ox.

Yet, too often they are written off.

Or, they become celebrated for their incredible achievements as individuals. However, when you look around people living with chronic illness or disability, these feats are not uncommon. Indeed, they/we push ourselves so much further than the average Joe.

However, it seems to me that too many people take delight in bashing and putting down anybody who doesn’t fit into the straight-jacket of the perceived social norm.

You don’t even really need to be disabled…just having a bad day.

For so many, there is no “margin of error”. No compassion for difference or even an understanding that we all have different strengths and weaknesses.

We must all squeeze into that social straight-jacket no matter who we are or what’s going on and not flinch.
But tell me, who really fits into these suffocating confines and doesn’t twitch or suddenly feel the impulse to wriggle, scratch an itch or just plain run away?!!

Yesterday, I took my daughter to the movies to see the latest Disney classic: Inside Out. While this should have been a simple outing, as is often the case with me, it unraveled completely and I was freaking out.

For some reason, although I can write well and be an ideas person, I seriously struggle with the detailed nitty gritty. While trying to simply buy the movie tickets, I came unstuck. Indeed, as bad luck conspired against me, I sank deeper and deeper into what was rapidly becoming a never-ending abyss.

An incredible movie: A must See!!!

An incredible movie: A must See!!!

For starters, our son was also supposed to come to the movie but couldn’t get himself together in time and was left behind. Our daughter misses out on enough and I was determined to get her there no matter what. I’d promised to take her to this movie and after being sick all holidays, time was almost up. Nothing was going to stand in our way!!

So, while I’m standing in the queue, I check my wallet and realise the $50.00 note I’d expected to be there had gone up in flames and I had no notes. Not immediately concerned, I went to the coins. They can quickly add up. However, it was just my typical @#$% rotten luck that a very tiny paper receipt had wedged itself into the zipper and even applying brute force, I couldn’t rip it open. This is a very special handmade wallet I’d bought at Byron Bay so I wasn’t wanting to wreck it but with all this frustration, I was fuming.

Just to put you in the picture, we weren’t at some huge mega cinema in the heart of Sydney with extensive queues pouring out onto George Street. Rather, we were at our small, local independent cinema and there were only a handful of people in the queue with two people serving. It’s a very relaxed, chilled place with personalised service…everything but a pianist playing before the start of the movie.

By this stage, we were at the counter and I was funneling coins through the gap in the zip and was standing there like a kid who’d just tipped their moneybox all over the counter rather than a 40 something Mum, who isn’t on the poverty line.

In retrospect, I certainly wasn’t doing my deep breathing exercises…just the reverse. My stress levels had blown a gasket and I was all but paralysed and couldn’t think straight. My mind went absolutely blank and non function mentis. This is just the point in time where you are praying for someone, anyone, to come to your rescue. Ask: “Can I help you?”

Instead, this @#$% woman calls out from the queue: “Can’t you just hurry up?”

I explained, I think, politely that I have a disability and flashed my disability Companion Card and I can’t remember what she said next but I can assure you that there wasn’t one ounce of compassion in that @#$% and she told me I was making a fool of myself. To which I replied (thank you to three years of blogging which have sharpened my ability to express myself): “You don’t know how hard it is for me just to take my daughter to the cinema.” The girl serving directed the woman to the other counter where I’m sure she was quickly served.

At this point, I realised I was going to have to use EFTPOS. This should have been a no-brainer right from the start but there was a $20.00 minimum withdrawal and the ticket cost $13.00, which meant spending $7.00 on lollies. While I might spend that on chocolate at the supermarket, the thought of blowing so much money at the cinema just so I could get our tickets, flummoxed me. With the fumbling and foggy brain only getting worse, I resorted to EFTPOS and bought my daughter the Inside Out Combo. This includes a drink, popcorn and chocolate bar for some ungodly sum. She then chooses water as her drink, which might have been healthy but it’s the most expensive glass of water we’ve ever had.

Meanwhile, the woman who’d argued with me came and made a sincere apology, which helped but even an hour after the movie had ended, I was still feeling teary and shattered. Sometimes, it’s not just a matter of forgiveness. There is damage. She might not have swung a punch but her words were a form of assault and I was left feeling battered and bruised…not to mention DEFECTIVE.!!

Saying sorry can’t always undo the damage. It is done.

That said, perhaps she also has her struggles. Who am I to make presumptions… as tempting as it might be?!!
This isn’t the first time I’ve had trouble and it won’t be the last. While I could go underground, I will get back out there again. Have another go. That said, not everyone does. They’d much rather stay home and I really get that. It can all be too hard. There are just too many obstacles to fight.

When you reach out and touch someone's hand, you are really warming their soul.

When you reach out and touch someone’s hand, you are really warming their soul.

Well, if that’s you, I send you my love and an enormous hug. Together, I pray that each day with small, even tentative moves that we can find our way over the gap…even if it is just to remind people that you don’t need to be perfect to be a valued part of the human race!

You just are!

Love and blessings,
Rowena

Anne Frank: A Global Tribute… Tuesday 14th April, 2015

While being more renowned for being out-of-synch than having perfect timing, it turns out the timing of yesterday’s post sharing my journal-journey with Anne Frank, was absolutely perfect…even uncanny!! You see, tomorrow, marks the 70th anniversary of her very tragic and untimely death in Bergen-Belson, a Nazi concentration camp.It’s almost like she whispered in my ear so I could find out and be a part of a global tribute: #notsilent. Now, I’m spreading the word and encouraging you to get involved too!

The Anne Frank Trust and Penguin Random House (UK publishers of The Diary of A Young Girl) have joined together to mark the 70th anniversary of Anne’s death with a one minute campaign called #notsilent.

Instead of a one minute’s silence to commemorate the end of Anne Frank’s short life, we are invited to read out loud a one minute passage from Anne’s inspirational writing at any time on or after Tuesday 14th April.

There are further details on their web site at: http://www.annefrank.org.uk/what-we-do/notsilent This includes a selection of passages suitable for a one minute reading to choose from. Alternatively, you can choose one yourself, or you can read something you have written about your own life and hopes. You can start or end your reading by explaining why you want to do it.

“The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quite alone with the heavens, nature and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be and that God wishes to see people happy, amidst the simple beauty of nature. As longs as this exists, and it certainly always will, I know that then there will always be comfort for every sorrow, whatever the circumstances may be. And I firmly believe that nature brings solace in all troubles.”
― Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl

Anne Frank ice skating with friends prior to going into hiding. Such an every day thing, which takes on incredible significance when Anne and her family could even do the basic things we take for granted.

Anne Frank ice skating with friends prior to going into hiding. Such an every day thing, which takes on incredible significance when Anne and her family could even do the basic things we take for granted.

How you can get involved

STEP ONE:  Select an extract suitable for a one minute reading. This can either be an extract from Anne’s diary, you can download our selection here, or you can choose your own writing. While you read, either alone, in a group, in your classroom, home, work place or public place, we ask you to film yourself and upload it onto a video sharing platform of your choice (Youtube, Vimeo, Flickr etc) ensuring the video is available to view publicly.

STEP TWO:   Send us the link to your video, by posting it on to the Anne Frank Trust’s Facebook (Anne Frank Trust UK) or Twitter (@annefranktrust) pages, using the hash tag #notsilent. Alternatively, you can e-mail your video via we transfer to siama@annefrank.org.uk.

STEP THREE:  We also ask you to share your one minute clip throughout your social media to encourage others to join in.

Thank you for participating and honoring Anne Frank’s memory in this way. We will together be #notsilent.

By the way, here’s a link to my post: A Life Saving Journey with Anne Frank: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2015/04/12/a-lifesaving-journey-with-anne-frank/

Thanks to Merril from Yesterday and Today: Merril’s Historical Musings: https://merrildsmith.wordpress.com/ for spreading the word and now it’s our turn.

Although it’s a bit last minute, please spread the word and pass this on. Anne Frank touched so many hearts in so many different ways and this is an opportunity to keep her light alive. It also provides the living with the opportunity to come together joining hands as a diverse, global community to honour a vibrant life which tragically ended so utterly alone and to stand firm against the spread of racism, discrimination and hate in our contemporary world.  After all, Anne Frank has demonstrated that one person really can influence the world and work for for good.

“I don’t want to have lived in vain like most people. I want to be useful or bring enjoyment to all people, even those I’ve never met. I want to go on living even after my death!”
― Anne Frank

Love and blessings,

Rowena

It’s Not Easy Being Green!

G is for Green and as I struggled to think of a meaningful topic for the Blogging A-Z Challenge, I remembered a favourite childhood song: It’s Not Easy Being Green, which was written by Sesame Street songwriter Joe Ripozo and sung by Jim Henson as loveable Kermit the Frog.

It's Not Easy Being Green
It's not that easy being green
Having to spend each day the color of the leaves
When I think it could be nicer being red, or yellow or gold
Or something much more colorful like that

It's not easy being green
It seems you blend in with so many other ordinary things
And people tend to pass you over 'cause you're
Not standing out like flashy sparkles in the water
Or stars in the sky

But green's the color of Spring
And green can be cool and friendly-like
And green can be big like an ocean, or important
Like a mountain, or tall like a tree

When green is all there is to be
It could make you wonder why, but why wonder why
Wonder, I am green and it'll do fine, it's beautiful
And I think it's what I want to be

You might even want to have a sing-a-long: www.youtube.com/watch?v=hpiIWMWWVco

This song is dedicated to Freddie the Front Door Frog. If you go back to my post to my post for F about Fractured Fairytales, you might recall being introduced. Freddie lives with my in-laws about half an hour’s hop from Byron Bay when he hitches a ride in the car.

Freddie the Front Door Frog.

Freddie the Front Door Frog.

Well, being an Australian Green Tree Frog, I thought Freddie would appreciate this song. After all, we wouldn’t want him deciding that he didn’t like being green and going all fancy dress, turning himself rainbow colours or hopping around weighed down by too much bling.

That’s right. We want him to know that we love him just the way he is or even because of what he is…GREEN!

By the way, Freddie says that it’s actually a lot easier to be green than you think. That you don’t need to go and change your skin colour, or anything else that radical. Rather, you can start small. Get a worm farm. Reduce the amount of packaging you use and don’t buy snacks in individual serve packets. You can grow a few tomatoes,. Have chooks. Walk instead of drive.

Apparently, all these little things add up and even the smallest and seemingly weakest among us, can make a difference for the survival of our beautiful blue planet and he points out, save more frogs!!

Today has been brought to you by the letter G as part of the Blogging from A-Z April Challenge.

xx Rowena

Happy Harmony Day, Australia!

Today, it’s Harmony Day in Australia which is all about standing up for and defending inclusiveness, respect and a sense of belonging for everyone.

However, while it’s much easier to talk and wax lyrically about acceptance, tolerance and understanding, it is much harder to implement these essential values into the daily grind.

While we might fight for the popular causes of social injustice, especially when they are shouted out by the media, we so often miss and even walk over the supposedly invisible battlers who even live alongside us. Their plight might slip through the radar but if we truly used our eyes and ears and slowed down to walk in their shoes, we would know that they could use an extra helping hand to feel valued and included. Given my personal situation, I have a real heart for all who live with a disability. While many go on and become high achievers in a wide range of fields despite their challenges, many are marginalised and living in very difficult and even inhumane circumstances.

The struggle is though, how can we as individuals be more inclusive and help even the most marginalised members of our community feel respected and included?

This is quite a challenge. We are all juggling more balls than we could ever humanly manage. Moreover, when your life’s zipping along in the super fast lane, it can be very hard to slow yourself down. Not necessarily to a grinding halt but the slow, indeed very slow pace, required by someone who is struggling.

As someone with mobility issues, I am constantly struck by those I love who instead of walking with me, charge off into the distance as though their lives depended on it. They can’t walk with me. However, I am just as guilty. I can easily get frustrated when I’m helping the battlers with the reading at school and have to remind myself to be patient. Although I want to help, I also get frustrated because I am having to slow my speed down… the very same way a fast walker gets frustrated slowing down for me.

However, if we all just try, that has to start making some improvement. This is why I love Pink’s epic motivational song: Try:

You’ve gotta get up and try, and try, and try
Gotta get up and try, and try, and try
You gotta get up and try, and try, and try

Multiculturalism and accepting cultural difference is a major part of Harmony Day. In the past, Australia had the White Australia Policy and a very narrow perception of what it was to be Australian. This vision even excluded our indigenous Aboriginal people. Our Indigenous Australians weren’t allowed to vote federally until 1967. That is a national shame and disgrace and it’s just the tip of the iceberg.Prospective immigrants were also given a notoriously racist language test as well…especially when they came from an “undesirable” country. As a nation, some of our sins run deep.

In more recent times, as in other countries, a policy of multiculturalism has been adopted and we have been encouraged to explore and accept diverse cultures, even absorbing them into our own way of life. This process so often begins with food but gradually extends to other areas through the bonds of friendship and love. Without multiculturalism and diversity our community would be bland, grey and dull.

Countering these values of inclusiveness, respect and a sense of belonging for all, we have what I’ll call a range of “bullies”. They come in different guises: “nationalism”, “racism”, “fear” or simply being too busy. As people take more of a stand against these bullies, we are now also being asked not to be passive bystanders as well. Rather, we need to be whistle blowers, standing up and protecting the weak or disadvantaged against these bullies with their abuse of power.

Taking this a step further, responsibility also needs to extend beyond the bystanders to include the by-passers as well. The story of the Good Samaritan provides a great illustration of how a by-passer can walk passed someone in need or alternatively they could stop and help. Of course, this reminds me once again of that all-important Golden Rule: treat others as you would like to be treated as well as the Inverse Golden Rule where we treat others as they would like to be treated. These are an excellent guide for how to treat others.

At the same time, I must admit that there is so much demanding our compassion that we have to be selective. As individuals, we can’t stop and save everyone. Indeed, sometimes, we could even use more than a helping hand ourselves. Yet, if each one of us reaches out to even a few, then collectively, at least in theory, everyone could be reached, included and belong. That’s if they want to.

Getting back to celebrating Harmony Day, I was very touched by the Harmony Day assembly held at our children’s school on Friday. My daughter’s class sang Somewhere Over the Rainbow in sign language and the kindergarten children sang Twinkle Twinkle Little Star in Japanese. We also had parents from Japan and India talk about their childhoods in their own countries, which were surprisingly similar and just proved what my grandfather has always said: “The Geese go barefoot everywhere”. A friend of mine also performed the most sensational Indian Dance and it was the first time I’ve ever been able to experience its incredible beauty and intricacies and it was such an incredible journey, which I intend to pursue further.

Here is my little contribution to Harmony Day. It’s Twinkle Twinkle Little Star where each line is sung such in a different language.I did actually try to find a verion in an Aboriginal language but so far have had no luck. Will have to follow that up.

Twinkle Twinkle Little Star English

Brille, brille, petite étoile French
お空の星よ (osora no hoshiyo) Japanese
En el cielo y en el mar, Spanish
He tai mana to rite Maori
Funkel, funkel, kleiner Stern German
Ako namamangha kung ano ikaw! Phillipino

I also stumbled across this Australian variation of Twinkle Twinkle:

Twinkle, twinkle little star,
Daddy drives a rotten car.
Press the button, pull the choke,
Off we go in a cloud of smoke.
Twinkle, twinkle little star,
Daddy drives a rotten car.

Source: Far Out Brussel Sprout. compiled by June Factor illustrated by Peter Viska Oxford University Press, 1983.

So this Harmony Day, I encourage you to think about how you can support inclusiveness, respect and a sense of belonging for everyone. To achieve this, we each need to get out of our own backyards and start venturing further afield. Take some risks and start talking to people who might take you out of your comfort zone. If you have a dog, you already know that you meet all sorts walking your dog and if you don’t have a dog, go and borrow one and hit the streets. You never know who you might meet. As the song said many years ago: “it only takes a spark, to get a fire going.”

I’m not only daring you. I’m also challenge myself.This is not an easy mission at all but nothing worth fighting for ever was.

By the way, a month ago, I was involved in a world-wide blogging movement to promote compassion…#1000 Speak. This month, we are writing about bullying. This is my contribution to the project. I thought Harmony Day was a good example of how we as the Australian community have decided to stand up against a range of bullying which stems from intolerance of difference in others.

Bullying which comes in so many, different guises has the same effect of crushing and tormenting it’s victims until they somehow find a way to stand tall. Nothing seems to deflate a bully better than strength. Somehow, those being bullied need to inflate their self-worth. Believe in themselves and stand tall. After all, nobody is meant to stand small…not even our kids. After all, you know I’m not talking about physical size but a state of mind. So no matter where you are in this hotchpotch symphony we call community, know that you deserve to be valued, treasured and accepted for who you are. Moreover, you also need to do the same and pass it on. Then, we will all be able to grow into our own shoes we and walk our beautiful planet with pride.

Love & Happy Harmony Day,

Rowena

Weighing Up the Past: Australia’s Bicentennial Scrapbook

“If you don’t know history, then you don’t know anything. You are a leaf that doesn’t know it is part of a tree. ”
― Michael Crichton

This is my third and final post about revisiting Australia’s Bicentenary through through the pages of a copy of The  Australian Women’s Weekly, January, 1988, which I recently found in a local op shop.

In terms of trying to better understand the range of views towards the Bicentenary, I threw together a smattering of newspaper clippings to show a few of the different opinions which were around at the time. This is in no way intended to provide a comprehensive, historical account ….just some voices from the past.

Indigenous poet and campaigner Oodgeroo Noonuccal asked at the time of the Bicentennial, ‘from the Aboriginal point of view, what is there to celebrate?’. In 1987, Oodgeroo returned her MBE in protest against the upcoming 1988 Bicentennial celebrations.http://www.womenaustralia.info/biogs/IMP0085b.htm

Greg Foleyhttp://www.kooriweb.org/foley/essays/essay_11.html

“On the same day as the SMH featured its ‘souvenir lift-out, the front page of the main part of the paper featured two major headline stories of Indigenous challenge to the status quo.  The first was a story headlined ‘Torres Strait Islanders back Independence Call” and was about the stirring’s in the Torres Strait that eventually resulted in the High Court delivering the famous ‘Mabo’ decision. The second story was about an audacious plan by Koori activist Burnam Burnam who was in England planning to claim Britain by raising an Aboriginal flag at the same time as descendants of the British were planning their similar action of re-enactment in Sydney. The same report also said that ‘hundreds of Aborigines’ were en-route to Sydney to attend ‘the long march for justice, freedom and hope’.”

On 7th March, 1987 The Canberra Times reported:  “Aborigines may snub bicentenary” and quoted Pat Dodson, National Coordinator of the Federation of Land Councils:

“It will be a national disgrace if the 200th year of our dispossession passes without the proper recognition of our indigenous rights as the traditional owners of Australia.”

The federation called for Aboriginal rights to be recognised in a national treaty or included in the Constitution.[3]

Greg Maher: Woroni (The Australian National University’s student newspaper)

“The emphasis that the Hawke government however, has given to the Bicentenary – that is, concentrating on educational and other initiatives to highlight the Aboriginal situation as the key point of the years activities – makes the Bicentenary worth recognising and supporting and indeed, at least for some, celebrating. The point is that those who propose a boycott say they won’t celebrate an invasion. Nor should they. No Aboriginal does, or should celebrate the invasion of their land and the displacement of their people. This is not to say that they can’t take part, or shouldn’t. As has been outlined already, recognition and support for the constructive message that is attached to the Bicentenary is essential for a reconciliation, for progress in the area of Aboriginal reform and to build bridges of communication with the white population. Of course though, it must be ongoing. How do we achieve this?[4]

In the literary magazine: Bliss, Australian author Patrick White also voiced opposition to the Bicentenary, which he described as a “circus”. Indeed, taking quite a stand, the Nobel Prize winning author refused to have any of his work published or performed during the Bi centennial. More than anything, White says, “it was the need for justice for the Aborigines which put me against the Bi. Very little has been done to give them a sense of security in the country we invaded.[5]

Very much on the other side of the fence, we had John Howard, the then Leader of the Opposition who went on to become the Prime Minister of Australia from 11 March 1996 to 3 December 2007. He said: “Australia’s bicentennial celebration should be an occasion of immense pride, not collective guilt, the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Howard, said in Melbourne yesterday.

He told a National Australia Day Council lunch that he was concerned that the bicentennial program urged Australians to reflect “a little too much” on the mistakes rather than the achievements of the past.

“Certainly, all of us need to be aware of past mistakes, but surely 1988 is the year to celebrate where we got it right,” he said.

Australia had been incredibly blessed with good fortune and had a level of freedom few countries could boast.

The Australian achievement was a matter for immense pride.

Australians should not apologise for the fact that their country was European in origin.

“We have inherited European culture, the English language, British institutions and a way of life which is very much steeped in the Western liberal democratic tradition,” Mr Howard said. “Judeo-Christian values have, by and large, provided the ethical wellsprings of our society.

‘To in any way apologise for this, qualify it, pretend it doesn’t exist, or worse still, imagine that it is an inferior quality of life, is the height of absurdity and historical inaccuracy and likely to render our bicentennial celebrations irrelevant to the overwhelming majority of Australians.”

Because of the Aborigines’ prior occupation of this continent, and their continued disadvantage, they deserved special acknowledgment in the bicentennial celebrations. Their disadvantage had to be dealt with in a constructive and remedial fashion…[6].”

It has been interesting seeing how buying a vintage magazine at the op shop has opened my eyes to so many things and made me see the Australian Bicentenary in a completely different light. That said, I have been conscious for some time that celebrating Australia Day on 26th January is not showing sensitivity or compassion towards our Indigenous people who were displaced and so often subjected to horrific crimes of abuse. This is our national shame and we shouldn’t just bury that under the carpet and pretend that nothing ever happened. We can’t. To be honest, it continues as well.

As I wrote in my last post, I don’t know what, if anything, I can do about it personally other than write about it, which does seem a bit lame but we each have our role in the body, in our community and as I have said before, I always hope the pen is mightier than the sword. That through writing we can highlight prejudice and injustice and also love and embrace all peoples.

In this, I join with Dr Martin Luther King (Jnr) and say “I have a dream”. I haven’t quite worked out all the details yet but have joined at least 1000 other people who will be writing about compassion on 20th February, 2015…the UN International Day of Social Justice: 1000 Voices Speak for Compassion. I encourage you to also participate. You can check out the details here:

https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2015/01/19/bloggers-unite-for-a-better-world-1000-voices-speak-for-compassion/

We need to keep working on the foundations laid by trail blazers like Dr Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela and see love, compassion and equality triumph!

xx Rowena

[1] The Australian Women’s Weekly, January 1988, pg 7.

[2] The Australian Women’s Weekly, January 1988, pg 7.

[3] The Canberra Times (ACT : 1926 – 1995) Saturday 7 March 1987 p 9

[4] Woroni (Canberra, ACT : 1950 – 2007) Monday 7 March 1988 p 19 Article

[5] The Canberra Times (ACT : 1926 – 1995) Wednesday 1 June 1988 p 30

[6] The Canberra Times (ACT : 1926 – 1995) Saturday 25 January 1986 p 3

[7] http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/mlkihaveadream.htm