Tag Archives: racism

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

Australia’s “200th Birthday” Revisited.

“If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten”.

– Rudyard Kipling

Last week, Australians celebrated, lamented or slept through Australia Day which marks the arrival of the British First Fleet at Port Jackson (Sydney Harbour) On the 26th  January,  1788. Governor Arthur Phillip raised the Union Jack claiming British sovereignty over the eastern seaboard of Australia, which was then known as New Holland.  There was no treaty with the Aboriginal people, as there had been with the Maori in New Zealand and you will still hear Australians talk about how Captain Cook discovered Australia in 1770, even though Australia was never actually “lost”.

The Australian Women's Weekly, January, 1988.

The Australian Women’s Weekly, January, 1988.

 

 

If you have read my last post, you’ll know that I recently came across a vintage copy of The Australian Women’s Weekly from January, 1988. This was their “Bicentennial Souvenir: Special Collector’s Edition”, to celebrate Australia’s “200th Birthday”. It included a couple of pages of birthday wishes from around the world:

“Australia is the closest thing to Texas you can get…the women are beautiful, the men are tough and it has got great beer! Happy 200th, Australia.”

-Larry Hagman, who played J.R. Ewing in the hit series: Dallas[1].

“Although by birth I am English, I feel Australian and think of myself as Australian. Australia took me in, nurtured me and sent me out into the world with a sense of belonging   and a great outlook on life. Happy birthday, Australia.”

– Olivia Newton-John[2].

However, while I was reading the magazine, it struck me that there was no mention of Aboriginal people at all. That bothered me enough to put my detective’s hat on and to start digging.

“The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history.”
George Orwell

The First Fleet Reenactment, 1988.

The First Fleet Reenactment, 1988.

Rewinding back to January 26, 1988…I was a young, 18 year old who had just finished school and was still reveling from celebrating “Schoolies Week” at Surfers Paradise on Queensland’s Gold Coast. This involved lying by the pool or on the beach by day and hitting the nightclubs by night and to be perfectly honest, I was probably more concerned about the state of my tan and of course, friends, relationships, fun.

Enjoying the party atmosphere on Australia Day, 26th January, 1988 , my boyfriend and I were jammed under the Sydney Harbour Bridge along with hundreds and thousands of other sardines on a characteristically hot summer’s day, spellbound as the Tall Ships in the First Fleet Reenactment sailed majestically through Sydney Harbour. I still remember battling to try to photograph the Tall Ships through the crowd with my humble Kodak camera, which was so old that you had to shove a film cartridge in the back. There was a woman standing right in front of me wearing the largest, brightest sunflower-yellow hat I’d ever seen. Indeed, the brim was so wide, that you could land a helicopter on it no worries. I passed the camera to my boyfriend, who being 6ft 4″ almost towered up into the clouds. With that camera, none of our photos were “good” but at least when he took he photos, you could pick the Tall Ships out over the hat.

That was my Australia Day.

Badge Protesting against celebrating Australia's Bicentenary.

Badge Protesting against celebrating Australia’s Bicentenary.

Meanwhile, there was a protest movement of upwards of 40,000 Indigenous Australians and sympathisers marching through Sydney. For them, Australia Day was Invasion Day and 1988 would be a year of mourning. This was the largest march in Sydney since the Vietnam moratorium. The march ended at Hyde Park where several prominent Aboriginal leaders and activists spoke, among them activist Gary Foley; ‘Let’s hope Bob Hawke and his Government gets this message loud and clear from all these people here today. It’s so magnificent to see black and white Australians together in harmony! This is what Australia could and should be like.’

Aboriginal protests on Sydney Harbour, Australia Day, 1988

Aboriginal protests on Sydney Harbour, Australia Day, 1988

While I can be a bit oblivious, I find it hard to believe that I missed a march of that magnitude and it’s only now, some 24 years later, that I’ve been enlightened.

“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

That said, I’m still fairly ignorant. It’s simply impossible to pick up all the nuances on this flying visit and understand what happened. There are others who have done the research and also lived through the times, who can give a much better account than I. As I said, this is just a fleeting visit sparked by a magazine I’d bought at the op shop and my relationships with my extended Aboriginal family.

Bicentennial celebrations exposed differing views both about our history, our future and our identity as a nation. While it was only 24 years ago, I’d like to think we were in a different place back then when where racist jokes were the norm and most Australians really couldn’t understand what the fuss was all about. Why couldn’t the Aboriginal people just join the rest of us under The Bridge and enjoy a piece of birthday cake and enjoy the “celebration of a nation”?   What was their problem and why didn’t somebody lock all those radicals up? Indeed, a disproportionate number of Indigenous people were already in gaol and there was mounting anger about black deaths in custody.

I am not an Aboriginal activist, historian or anybody who really has an understanding of the rights and wrongs involved but I am a person who has a disability and has experienced discrimination enough to know that even the well-intentioned who at least try to get into my wobbilly feet, don’t necessarily know what it’s like to walk in my shoes. Therefore, I don’t pretend to know what it is to be an Indigenous person in Australia…then or now.

However, I do care.

As much as I believe in equality for all and respecting all peoples, it is particularly harsh when someone comes into your country and treats you like shit. Takes away your land, your children and gives immigrants preferential treatment and won’t even give you the vote. Moreover, once some of these things were finally acknowledged, it wasn’t until February 2008 that Prime Minister Kevin Rudd finally managed to say “Sorry”…some 20 years after the Bicentenary!

I am also in an interesting position because my uncle is Aboriginal and because of him, my children identified themselves as being Aboriginal. No matter how much I seemed to explain to them about genetics and pointed out that we were related to my aunt, they still believed they were Aboriginal until quite recently. The penny finally dropped when, after a long discussion with our daughter, she finally asked rather sadly: “Not even a drop?” “No,” I replied. “Not even a drop”. They wish they were Aboriginal and are very proud of Australia’s Indigenous people, culture and history. We don’t see a lot of my aunt and uncle so I believe this connection has been strengthened by their school. Our school says: “Welcome to Country” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Welcome_to_Country_and_Acknowledgement_of_Country) at assemblies and events and the children learn Aboriginal arts and culture in way that goes way beyond anything we ever did at school. They have local elders come into the school and talk to the kids as well. About 10% of kids at our school “identify” as being Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander and we have an Aboriginal Liaison Officer on staff. We are very proud of our school’s passion and commitment.

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 throughout history. 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 today.

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

PS I have compiled a series of quotes relating to the Bicentenary, which is coming up next.

[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

An Old Dog Teaches Humans New Tricks About Love.

For some reason, many humans arrogantly believe they are innately superior to dogs. That they have all the answers and there is nothing at all they could possibly learn from their best friend.

I beg  to disagree.

If only humans could only interpret paw prints, they’d know that their canine counterparts also have a significant understanding of matters philosophical and psychological, although like so many of our canine achievements, they have gone unnoticed.

Perhaps, you’re already aware that I am quite the dog philosopher. My particular field of research is how to teach old humans new tricks.

Unfortunately, I’m not having much success.

Although you might think you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, this is all lies. Pure human propaganda!!

Dogs, both young and old, are more than willing to learn new tricks…just as long as we consider them worthwhile. Of course, there has to be a point… a sense of purpose. After all, we’re dogs…not robots!!

I’m sure you’d understand that once you’ve worked hard to reach that all-important 10,000 hours of practice and have finally become a champion, be that a champion ball chaser, stick fetcher or sheep herder, you don’t want to start all over again and lose all those precious skills. You see, whenever, you take on a new skill, there’s that very steep learning curve and you have to put in quite a lot of time and effort to reach the top of the hill. So, if you’re already dedicated to your chosen field, you might not have the capacity to take on something new and master that as well. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t learn new tricks. It’s a matter of choice. After all:

“Everyone has his own specific vocation or mission in life; everyone must carry out a concrete assignment that demands fulfillment. Therein he cannot be replaced, nor can his life be repeated. Thus, everyone’s task is unique as is his specific opportunity to implement it.”
Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

Although I’m not all dogs, I’ve been quite willing to try new things and extend my horizons.

In the last two years, I’ve gone from being your garden-variety backyard dog and stepped out into the world of extreme sports. I’ve been sailing, kayaking and hardest of all, I’ve even welcomed another dog into our household. Hence, I’ve had to share the things I value most with my uninvited “guest”: Mum, Dad, the kids and even my precious tennis ball.

To further stretch my patience and my heartstrings, Lady, the new dog in our family, still hasn’t worked out that tennis balls are for retrieving. Instead, she ignorantly runs off with them and parks herself on the grass where she chews them up and even pulls their fur out bit by bit. I might be patient but that’s a lot for The Ball Fetching Champion of the Universe to endure.

However, in the spirit of love and acceptance, which is key to all my philosophical beliefs, we have become friends. Lady has also taught me the power of positive thinking and that it’s good to wag your tail once and awhile.

This is what it means to live in harmony.

On the other hand, my research has shown that humans are very set in their ways and can’t even teach themselves new tricks. Instead, they just keep repeating the same mistakes over and over and over again non-stop.

In my first post, I mentioned that humans seem to have a strange aversion to being “nice” and that indeed there’s quite a lot of “haters” out there. People who would much rather hate than love, accept and encourage. I found this very difficult to understand because most dogs innately try to be good. We want to love and be loved, although there might be a few exceptions. So many humans, on the other hand, seem to be hell bent on being mean, hurtful and just plain nasty.

On the home front, I’ve mentioned how my very own family takes great delight in throwing my ball into the water at Palm Beach, even though they know how much I suffer. Then, adding salt to the wound, Mum takes photos and video footage of me writhing in agony thinking it’s funny…a huge game. That is, instead of saving my ball and helping me out. That really hurts…especially since Mum uses the Golden Rule as her mantra:

The Golden Rule: Treat others as you would like to be treated.

As we move further afield, you just need to turn on your TV.

Last year, we had the shooting down of MH17, the Sydney Siege, the Pakistan Massacre, seven children murdered seemingly by their own mother in Cairns.She also murdered their cousin.

Fast forward to 2015, the United Nations Year of Light, and we have Paris.

Perhaps, I’ve missed something but from where I sit, the humans haven’t learned anything at all.

Well…

That’s not entirely true because you can’t judge the many by the few.

Australians mourn the loss of hostages in the Martin Place Siege. We send their family and friends our heartfelt condolences.

Australians mourn the loss of hostages in the Martin Place Siege. We send their family and friends our heartfelt condolences. Photo: The Age.

Indeed, following the Sydney Siege, the heart of the city was overflowing with genuine grief and floral tributes. There was an overwhelming outpouring of love. One man might have been evil, pure evil, but millions were good. While that couldn’t change what had happened, it did show that the humans do have a capacity for love, compassion and empathy. There was also that campaign #I’ll ride with you that reached out to show love and acceptance to Muslim women in the aftermath of the siege.

This very encouraging development was certainly something new. Perhaps, the humans are learning, after all.

We’ve been on holidays this week so it’s been difficult for me to really process what has happened in Paris with limited TV access. However, I did see people coming together and lighting candles and another hashtag emerged: “#Je suis Charlie”. While I don’t believe all those people loved the magazine itself, they supported free speech and not being shot for your opinion.

While hate tried to tear down these cities, love has triumphed. It really has.

Love.

Love. Photo: Rowena

But that doesn’t let us off the hook…humans or dogs.

I don’t have all the answers but if we perhaps start with the Golden Rule and treat others the way we would like to be treated, humans and dogs will both be learning new tricks and helping to spread  love throughout our aching world.

“For the world is in a bad state, but everything will become still worse unless each of us does his best.”
Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

Reach out and connect with somebody beyond your comfort zone. Share the incredible power of love.

Reach out and connect with somebody beyond your comfort zone.  Share the incredible power of love. Photo: Rowena

However, I’d just like to request one little furry exception to the Golden Rule…

Do I really have to be nice to cats?

This thing between cats and dogs goes way beyond me and that pesky cat next door. It’s in our blood…our genes. As long as there have been cats and dogs on this planet, it’s been war and that isn’t going to change any time soon.

Humph, this Golden Rule is more of a problem than I thought. It’s all very well to treat everyone you like the way you’d like to be treated but it’s quite a different story when it comes to your enemies. However, there can be no exceptions to the Golden Rule. It doesn’t work like that.

Humph. At this point, it’s very tempting to head back to my laboratory and stick to research. There’s such a gaping void between research and practice and I have no idea how to build a bridge. I might be smart and The Ball Fetching Champion of the Universe. However, being the change myself is just too hard.

Humph!

Perhaps, I’ll have to bring in an expert. I have heard about households where cats and dogs are family but there certainly aren’t any in my particular neck of the woods.

Yes, indeed. This is a great place to launch the next phase of my research.

Who knows, perhaps with a bit of training and some loving support, even I might just be able to love cats after all but I suspect that dogs will be living on the moon long before that happens.

Love & a fairly cautious wag of the tail,

Bilbo

 

 

 

A New Year’s Wish: Ask what you can do for your world!

The countdown is ticking: 10,9,8,7,6,5,,3,2,1..Happy New Year!

In the light of recent tragic events, I sub-consciously found myself reworking the words of President John F. Kennedy. Indeed, in  this rogue terrorist era where there seems to be no respect for national boundaries, this variation seems far more appropriate:

“Ask not what the world can do for you, ask what you can do for your world- Rowena.

It is my heartfelt desire that we now extend our vision way beyond our own back pockets. As overwhelming as it may feel at times, somehow we need to attain a more global perspective and not just switch off because it’s” happening somewhere “over there .  We need to switch on to both the good and the bad of what’s happening elsewhere and have a heart. It is our world and it’s the only world we’ve got. Moreover, both spiritually and environmentally, it’s pretty obvious that it’s long past time to act. Our world is gasping  for breath with a breaking heart but we still have hope.

This is a big paradigm shift for me personally. I’m more of a “think local” sort and there is always more than enough to do here but that no longer means switching off to the bigger picture but somehow just stretching my boundaries a little. That’s what growth’s about.

The baddies have always been out there somewhere.

The baddies have always been out there somewhere.

Meanwhile, the “baddies” are still out there. Moreover, as recent events have shown, they’re no longer over there but also over here.

As much as we would like to believe that we are well-camouflaged among the hundreds and thousands, who’s to say we or someone we love dearly won’t suddenly be plucked out of the multitude? Be one of the unfortunate “chosen ones”?

Hero-victim of the Lindt Cafe Siege Katrina Dawson was just going out for a morning hot chocolate with a colleague and friend. Tori Johnson, was just going to work just like Principal Tahira Qazi who was shot a day later in in Pakistan. These were just ordinary people leading ordinary lives. Eight children died in Cairns seemingly murdered by their mother and aunt…just ordinary kids.

Who is immune?Who?

Me, of course.

Statistically-speaking,  it would have to be a particularly stupid terrorist to see our place as any kind of target. It’s certainly not the Taj Mahal or the Sydney Opera House. The only way a terrorist would get here was if they got lost.  Indeed, they’d have to be very lost. They wouldn’t  even bother knocking on my door for directions to somewhere strategic. We’re a long way off the beaten track unless perhaps they’re heading to the beach.

That said, I won’t be staying home forever. At the moment, our whole family in on holidays living in some blissful state of suspended animation. The kids are currently playing with the dogs and I would be spending some time at the beach if it weren’t for the broken foot and the mega cough. Very few of us live in a concrete bunker and neither do those we love. We catch the train. Enjoy a show at the Opera House and might even pause for a hot chocolate and a chat with a friend.

Unfortunately, there is no guaranteed vaccine against evil or simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

In 2014, we have witnessed yet again the harm that one or the few can inflict on the many. It is my heartfelt prayer for 2015 that the good of this world can come together and have a truly transformative impact. Turn the mountain of evil on its head so humanity can learn what it is to love and be loved on a global scale. Surely, this doesn’t have to be a rosy-coloured fantasy? That together, we can all join hands and somehow make it happen. After all, it’s amazing what people will do to achieve profit and greed! Just imagine how our world would change if we also applied that strength, focus and determination to being nice to each other instead?!!

The power of love.

The power of love. Photo: Rowena

The Golden Rule: Treat Others As You Would Like to be Treated!

However, that change isn’t going to come easily. It will come at a personal cost. Starting out small, it begins with you and me. The trouble is that despite our best intentions, we are still only human. Made of yin and yang. Let’s hope and pray that if we each make just a few small changes, the forces of good could gain enough momentum to turn things around. After all, just as one person has done so much harm, one person can do so much good!!

 

Work is love made visible. And if you cannot work with love but only with distaste,

it is better that you should leave your

work and sit at the gate of the temple

and take alms of those who work with joy.

Khalil Gibran

Be the change. Photo: Rowena

Be the change. Photo: Rowena

However, when it comes to making these changes myself, I am more than aware of my own feet of clay…one of which is currently broken too, by the way. For me, all these good intentions begin at home with my husband and kids. It is easy to wax lyrically writing lofty, philosophical principles. It is so much harder to walk the talk 24/7.My house is a mess and I struggle to teach my own kids the golden rule, even through my own example. However, that doesn’t mean that I should just give up.  Throw my hands in the air or fall in the mud on my sword. Like all of us, I just need to keep walking with God in my heart and “Try! Try! Try!”

 

2015 is the UN International Year of Light and Light Based Technologies. After the moral darkness of the last weeks, this seemed like quite the antidote. We have been through the darkness and now we are heading for the light. Well, this theme seems to  be focusing more on the physical not metaphorical properties of light but perhaps we can adopt our own slant. I am certainly going to light a candle or two and let the light shine through the darkness.

Love

Love. Photo: Rowena

Through this blog, I have really managed to connect with a whole range of people around the world. Through the eyes of a little white dog, I have experienced a touch of Hawaii. I have been to India and enjoyed a meal. I have been to Ireland connected with a families all over the world. Shared words, art, photography and walked in so many different pairs of shoes and I’m sure I’ve become more enlightened by stretching my boundaries getting to know all these incredible, intelligent and thoughtful people.You have changed me and my world.

Now, let’s back to writing down those resolutions.

Hmm…It looks like giving up chocolate can wait. Now, in 2015, just being plain nice is so much more important!

Arnott's Nice Biscuit

Arnott’s Nice Biscuit

Terror in Australis: the Siege in Sydney’s Martin Place.

Today, it’s 9 days before Christmas and our Christmas tree is standing in a plastic bucket of water almost naked awaiting decorations. We’ve had a very busy weekend with our daughter’s dance concert and I played my violin at the school Christmas carols and we also had to get the decorations out of storage.Oh yes, our son and I made our Christmas cake as well. To be honest, we’ve almost been too busy for Christmas!

Tonight was going to be the night. Being a bit of a flamboyant type, I usually like to turn decorating the Christmas tree into something of a ceremony with some Christmas cake, mince pies while the sounds of Hark the Herald Angels Sing echo throughout the house. Our decorations are an eclectic mix accumulated over the years and include snowmen and coloured-in Christmas stencils the kids have done over the years.

Martin Place at Night

Martin Place at Night

However, how can we possibly dress our Christmas tree tonight while hostages are still being held captive in a siege at the Lindt Cafe in Sydney’s Martin Place? They’ve now been held captive for over 11 hours.  We all know the impatience of being stuck in a queue for more than 5 minutes and the fear of being trapped in a lift for any length of time and none of these horrors even comes close to the psychological and emotional trauma of being held captive by a gunman and it’s pretty safe to assume that someone who would take people hostage in the first place might not be the most stable of characters.

Clock Tower, Sydney GPO, Martin Place.

Clock Tower, Sydney GPO, Martin Place.

However, the tide stops for no one and so we went ahead with decorating the tree although instead of the usual Christmas cheer, we were watching the rolling news coverage instead. So much for Christmas carols and a bit of Christmas cheer but there are bigger things at stake.

Rather than just rehashing what’s already being rehashed and rehashed in the media, I won’ t go into details here. I would recommend going to the Sydney Morning Herald’s website at: http://www.smh.com.au/

However, as you might not have heard of Martin Place, I thought I’d provide something of a back story. After all, you would think that the Sydney Harbour Bridge or the Sydney Opera House would be more likely choices for a siege but once you look around Martin Place a bit, the thinking becomes clearer.

Map Showing the location of Martin Place, Sydney.

Map Showing the location of Martin Place, Sydney.

Martin Place was officially opened in September 1892 and was named after the Chief Justice, Sir James Martin, a former New South Wales Attorney-General and Premier. Moore Street (between Pitt and Castlereagh streets) was widened and renamed Martin Place in 1921.

This iconic photo known as "Dancing Man" was taken in Elizabeth Street,  Martin Place celebrating the end of WWII on 15 August, 1945.

Celebration in Martin Place: This iconic photo known as “Dancing Man” was taken in Elizabeth Street, Martin Place where this exuberant gentleman is celebrating  the end of WWII on 15 August, 1945.

The Dictionary of Sydney writes:

“Martin Place has been called ‘the heart of the city’, and it was added to the Australian Heritage Commission’s list in 1989. It is the site of the Cenotaph, built in 1927, and some of Sydney’s finest buildings front it, including the GPO, two Commonwealth Bank buildings, Challis House, the Australasia Bank head office, the Colonial Mutual Life building and the APA building. Martin Place was also the site of the spectacular but now demolished Hotel Australia and the Rural Bank head office. It is home to the head offices of the Reserve Bank and a number of other banks.

Martin Place provides both a ceremonial and recreational focus for the city. Because the GPO and its associated telegraph office was originally the place where news first broke – the shipping news – people have long gathered in front of the building at times of national significance. They flocked there at the ending of wars, which was why this location was chosen for the Cenotaph, which has always been a more significant gathering point than the main war memorial in Hyde Park. The famous photograph of the ‘dancing man’ has cemented this place in the story of the ending of World War II. Today, Anzac Day and other commemorative services are held at the Cenotaph in lower Martin Place, which is also the site for the annual Lord Mayor’s Christmas tree. Giant screens, first erected to allow Sydneysiders to view events from the Olympic Games in 2000, are now a regular feature of the Sydney Festival, while political demonstrations in Martin Place are a constant part of the ebb and flow of the city’s life. In 2008 it filled with people to hear Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s speech making an apology to Aboriginal people of the Stolen Generations.”

http://dictionaryofsydney.org/entry/martin_place

ANZAC Parade through Martin Place 1930

ANZAC Day Parade through Martin Place 1930

Personally,  I think of Martin Place as a quiet place of reflection where you can take a bit of  time out from work while eating takeaway or perhaps a sandwich and there’s always a large contingent of pigeons.Come rush hour, there’s also the rush and bustle and Martin Place transforms into a sea of rapidly moving legs. It’s a great place to go people watching. Take photos and feel completely immersed in Sydney.

Here I am dining out in Martin Place after attending the Sydney Writer's Festival last year.

Here I am dining out in Martin Place after attending the Sydney Writer’s Festival last year.

Quite aside from its Martin Place location, the siege is in the luxurious Lindt Cafe. I’ve never actually been there myself but friends have. It’s the sort of place you go for that special indulgence and in so many instances, sharing the chocolate you love with the person you love. Lindt chocolate is absolutely divine and to be perfectly honest, many of us would have fantasized about being accidentally locked in Lindtland with all that chocolate. Obviously those chocoholic fantasies are a very different scenerario to what’s now going on at the Lindt Cafe. One minute, the hostages were in heaven, the next minute they were in hell.

This siege is like having a bullet shot into Australia’s heart and it hurts. It bewilders. We can’t understand why something this awful is happening here. Our innocence, our naivety perhaps, that these things might happen overseas but do not happen here, has been shattered. Nowhere is safe.

Traditionally, Australia has been geographically isolated from “trouble”. World War I never reached our shores and while the Japanese dropped bombs around the Australian coast notably in Sydney Harbour and Darwin, the war was largely waged on foreign soil. Intellectuals, writers, artists, performers have all lamented this isolation and have often fled our shores either by necessity or design. We were something of a backwater but the world has shrunk and we can no longer depend on this isolation. We are now part of the world wide web. We can’t turn back..whether we want to or not.

It is now more than 12 hours since the siege began and it’s hard to believe that there is no end in sight.

It is shuddering to think about what the hostages are going through…as well as their family and friends. I know that anguish of living in suspended animation and the thought of being taken away from those I love and who love me…even though I’ve never been in a hostage situation. That is anguish and we’ve seen a few of the hostages who escaped on TV and their terror is chilling.

We pray for the peaceful resolution and for the safe release of the hostages and for healing from this anguish.

I am also praying about the repercussions of this event. People are angry, scared. We’ve had our very way of life threatened and it’s only natural to fight back and defend you and yours as well as your beliefs. We do not want terrorism or violence of any sort in our country and while we do need to defend our country from internal and external attack, we also need to nurture a culture of love and acceptance where people of all  cultures and creeds feel at home. That said, extremism of any sort needs to be dealt with strongly so we can continue living in a free and just people.

I am hoping to wake up in the morning and hear that the siege is over. That it has ended well. My goodness. I am now heading off to sleep in my own bed while the hostages and sleeping or more likely spending the night with a gun point at them. Reminds me not to take things for granted and to be thankful, even though I’ve had a run of bad luck lately.

I send them, their family and friends my love.

xx Rowena