Aboriginal Privilege

Friday, 31 January 2014
I've always wondered, without actually wanting to find out, what it would be like to live in an authoritarian dystopia. Well, we're finding out now. Shit's getting more and more bizarre every day, from the Prime Minister whining that the national broadcaster is being mean to him, to that unfortunate business of violating Indonesia's borders whilst "protecting" our own. And just to put the ridiculous cherry on the ridiculous sundae, yesterday suave right wing lunatic about town Andrew Bolt - with no Aboriginal heritage as far as I know - proclaimed that since his family has been here for several generations, he is, in fact, indigenous.

Now, whilst everyone in the country with an IQ above room temperature blinked in amused disbelief, I began wondering what's really going on here. Even Bolt couldn't believe this rubbish, surely. I imagined a long, boozy lunch in Melbourne sometime over the Christmas break, with Peta Credlin explaining "we're in big trouble here. Just make Abbott look like a moderate", and Bolt bowing slightly at a framed portrait of Murdoch on the table, intoning "his will be done" before heading off to pen a column calling Abbott a leftist.


Anyway, in amongst the comments on Bolt's post calling him out as the buffoon he is were plenty of supporters agreeing with him. Apparently being Australian isn't enough for these people - they want to be indigenous too! And they're sick, thoroughly sick they tell you, of all the special privileges they believe Aboriginal people have. Any bad stuff that happened to them was 200 years ago. It's time they got over it.

It was not 200 years ago. It was not. This is why we need Aboriginal studies to be a compulsory subject in school. But I'm not sure if even that would be enough. Since racists are people who don't care what's happening if it's not happening to them, their family and friends, I'd like to explain this to them in terms they would understand. I'd like to sit down with each of these people and say:

"Imagine this. One night, I break into your house and kill you. I take your house and everything that's in it; it's all mine now. I send your children away to a group home hundreds of kilometres away where they are told to forget their family, not allowed to speak English and forced to communicate in a foreign language, used as slave labour, beaten, exposed to religious indoctrination in a faith not their own, and possibly sexually abused. Then at the age of 15 or 16, they are tossed out onto the street with no skills, no money and no support. They can't go home - there's no home to go to; you've been murdered and I've taken your house. Your children are left to as best they can make a life for themselves in an alien culture with no skills to survive. Imagine then, when your children have children of their own, imagine how it will be for your grandchild, growing up with parents struggling to survive, alienated from their culture, traditions, language, and quite possibly suffering from post traumatic stress disorder after seeing their parents murdered and all they experienced since. Think what sort of a life your grandchild will have.

"Now imagine your grandchild sees my grandchild living off the proceeds inherited from my taking your property. My grandchild has grown up in their own culture, with their own community and family heritage intact, and has gotten wealthy from investing your property. Imagine your grandchild asks my grandchild for some form of compensation. And my grandchild says no. That he shouldn't be made to feel guilty for what I did before he was even born. It was a long time ago. Your grandchild needs to get over it.

 "Because that's exactly how Aboriginal people have been treated in this country and exactly what you are saying to them now."

I bet they still wouldn't get it though, the bastards.

What Happened To The Green and Gold?

Thursday, 23 January 2014
Those of us old enough to remember the Bicentennial in 1988 may remember, tucked in amongst the tall ships and flyovers and national backslapping, seeing Aboriginal people protest on the streets. I asked my father what they were protesting, and he repeated whatever Alan Jones and John Laws were saying about it. I really couldn't understand. It was a big party. Other countries were giving us presents. There was going to be fireworks. Fireworks! Why couldn't they just be happy?

I've grown up since then, well enough to realise that for Aboriginal people, what is referred to as "Australia Day" represents the loss of their millennia-old culture, laws, traditions, way of life; the genocide (I can't put it any more mildly for that would be a lie) that began the day a few creaky ships bearing the dregs of British society invaded their nation. I've grown up, and decent people have grown up, but large numbers of Australians haven't, refusing to recognise history, applying their racist filter to the events which shaped the Australian nation. In fact, it's getting worse. Those of us who can remember the Bicentennial will remember it was celebrated in shades of the national colours, green and gold; these are now barely to be seen, replaced by the overwhelming pervasiveness of the flag. Somewhere in between Australia Day has gone from an insensitive and cheesy display of national pride to a violent and scary flag-draped triumph of jingoism.

Not an improvement

Somewhere along the lway, under the "Fortress Australia" mentality of the Howard government, Australia Day became a thuggish, politicised display of unthinking loyalty and racism. But even as figures are released showing Australia Day is the most violent public holiday, companies are rushing to appeal to the racist bogan market. You can if you choose show your national allegiance by wrapping your drunk sweaty body in the flag, farting through Australian flag boardshorts and letting your kid crap on Australian flag nappies. Even that's not enough for some, with several major retailers releasing apparel reading "AUSTRALIA EST. 1788". The companies in question were quick to pull the items after a social media backlash, but some rushed to defend the items, claiming that the companies were caving to the demands of political correctness. But it's not political incorrectness we have a problem with, it's historical inaccuracy.

There is zero historical basis for saying that Australia was established as a nation in 1788. That happened on January 1, 1901. The colony of NSW was formed as a penal settlement in 1788, it's true - and based on the historical fiction of terra nullius, that the land was unoccupied, it's original inhabitants deemed less than human. Using this to claim Australia was founded in 1788 is a stretch of truth so far as to give one whiplash. Now, this is all a bit much for your average keyboard warrior posting racist invectives on Facebook to comprehend, but what if the ignorance originates higher up?

Dumped Katter's Australia party candidate, former Army intelligence (ahem) officer and homophobe-about-town Bernard Gaynor claims in his latest blog post that at the Australian Defence Force Academy in 2000, a lecturer in Australian Colonial Studies instructed these future leaders of the Australian Defence Forces that Aboriginal Australians had no civilisation prior to colonisation. If true, this is absolutely appalling. Why would a lecturer at the country's elite military academy, aligned with UNSW, one of our top educational institutions, get away with saying such incorrect rubbish? We often hear the right carry on about "their taxes" paying for this and that. Well, I wonder how Aboriginal Australians feel about their taxes paying for the military to spout such nonsense?

Because it's not politically incorrect - it's just wrong. You know, like we were taught as children, right and wrong. Prior to 1788, Aboriginal society was incredibly diverse and complex. There were complex systems of law and trade; concepts of mathematics; kinship, spirituality, an understanding of the land, how to manage it and how to revere it; many language families and relations between language groups; and extensive oral histories passing all this down. This was the civilisation that was largely destroyed upon colonisation, a civilisation which, if you hold the untruth that Australia was established in 1788, you must deny the existence of.

There's much talk in the national media at the moment about what should be included in the national curriculum, with many espousing greater teaching of Australia's Christian heritage. Perhaps, but we can't begin to understand where we come from as a people - let alone being to redress the wrongs of the past - without ensuring every Australian schoolchild learns Aboriginal studies; learns of the incredible society and civilisation of Aboriginal Australians and the devastating effect of colonisation. This is not "pre-history", it's just our history. For those who've finished school, it's not too late to learn. As a starting point, I recommend the excellent books by Richard Broome, who as well as imparting the history, gives a very real sense of the horror the Cadigal people must have felt on seeing the invading ships arrive and destroy their way of life. There are many excellent writers and activists we can learn of Aboriginal Australia from - such as The Koori Woman1 Deadly Nation, and Start Some Good. Follow the curated account Indigenous X on Twitter. Remember Warren Mundine does not speak for all Aboriginal people and neither does anyone else (I'm not claiming to speak for them at all, not being Aboriginal myself). Learn a little. Fixing the ignorance about the flag and Australia day won't solve the problems of Aboriginal Australia, but the "Est. 1788" t-shirts are symptomatic of a nation that can't even be bothered to try.

100 Things About Me

Monday, 6 January 2014
Lists of "100 things about me" were all the rage when I started blogging. In 2004 (eep). I always meant to do one but never got around to it, then forgot, but to mark my upcoming tenth anniversary on blogger, here in utter self-indulgence is my 100 things.

1. I remember the dates of nearly everything that ever happened to me.

2. I can barely remember the names of people I meet.

3. I didn't remember my husband's name till after our first date.

4. We met at the Sly Fox pub in Enmore and had our first date at Happy Chef in Newtown.

5. Jamie Parker, the State MP for Balmain, thought this was hilarious when I told him.

6. I supported Labor when younger and handed out how-to-votes for several candidates.

7. When I was a kid, I never really knew how to interact with people, so I imitated what I saw on TV, mostly sitcoms. This was not successful. TV people laugh off things that get you in big trouble in the real world.

8. I started voting Greens in 2007, and joined in 2011.

9. I'm left handed.

10. 169cm tall.

11. In the past ten years, I've been both obese and emaciated.

12. I'm working out for fitness and health, but no longer much care about losing weight.

13. I've used Moleskine diaries every year since they became a thing, and can't imagine using anything else.

14. I worked out what I wanted to do with my life at 33.

15. The longest I've ever lived in a single house was 7 years. When I moved in, it was only supposed to be for six months.

16. I still don't know how to interact with people, so I mostly try to avoid it.

17. I started smoking regularly in 1999.

18. I never thought I'd quit, but suddenly in 2009, I did.

19. I read a tonne, but very rarely fiction.

20. I love reading about politics, true crime, sociology and history.

21. When I first read about the Romanovs aged 10, I instantly developed a fascination that lasted 15 years.

22. I'm very good at writing essays, I nearly always score above 90%.

23. I got 59/60 for my essay on why Mia Freedman's view on alcohol and rape is full of poop.

24. I used to die of embarrassment if anyone so much as mentioned the word fart in my presence.

25. Since having a kid, I've lost all modesty about digestive matters.

26. I only ever wear skirts, and haven't worn jeans since I was old enough to buy my own clothes.

27. I think I might have a pair of trousers in a drawer, I'm not sure.

28. Myer-Briggs INTJ.

29. I would rather give a speech to a hall with 500 people than make small talk with five of them after.

30. I sometimes wonder what life would have been like if I'd had a partner through my twenties.

31. I was single for just about all of it, save a couple of brief relationships and a weird, on again/off again friends with benefits love-hate thing that dragged it's sorry ass out for eight years.

32. As a child, I always wanted to be a ballerina or a gymnast.

33. Now I realise I would have been terrible.

34. I've got this weird dyslexic thing going on between my brain and body. If I'm learning a sport or taking an exercise class, I can see and understand what's going on, but cannot get my body to obey. I'll even know what to do for a little bit, then my body "forgets". Last time I took a step class I kept falling off.

35. Show me a database though and I pick it up like *clicks fingers*

36. Still have never learnt to drive, but will in 2014.

37. I love Melbourne and would move there but for the cold.

38. I worked in advertising for seven years, I enjoyed it but part of me had a little voice in my head was telling me to do something more substantial.

39. Getting retrenched turned out to be a blessing, as it freed me to examine my options and end up training as a youth worker.

40. I love youth work, but see myself more in research and policy than working one on one with young people.

41. It irritates me no end when people take trolleys on prams on escalators.

42. I always sit in the same seat on the Shitkansen, and have for 15 years.

43. As far as my slim budget goes, I am a tech junkie.

44. DH and I look like big geeks, but we're not. I have no interest in fantasy or sci-fi; he has no idea how the computer works as long as it does.

45. I have tried and tried and tried to like Doctor Who. But I just can't.

46. Whenever someone says they're "devo", I have to bite my tongue to not start singing "Whip It!"

47. I also hate cray-cray, and want to slap people who say food tastes yum.

48. Two events which would have a huge influence on my life have happened on the Shitkansen; I heard Nevermind for the first time and found out BabyG was going to be a boy.

49. I don't like ice cold drinks. I need to let them warm up a little bit first.

50. When I finally accepted I probably have Aspergers, it changed the way I see the world and myself. I forgave myself for a lot of things I spent years agonizing over.

51. My current bike, Zorah, is not my forever bike. When I graduate and have been working a few years I'm going to buy a Regency Green Pashley Princess. But I will miss Zorah, we've gotten very attached.

52. I kinda hate walking.

53. I never thought I'd live past 30, but met DH a few months before my birthday.

54. I was retrenched a month after we met, and if he wasn't there, I probably wouldn't have made it through what was a really rough time.

55. I don't think I'll ever run out of restaurants I want to try.

56. I know Xander is going to die sometime in the next decade, and it scares the living shit out of me.

57. I've cleansed and moisturised twice a day since age 11, and often get told I look way younger than I am, despite my debauched lifestyle. Do it, kids!

58. Sometimes, like yesterday riding to the Bogie Hole, I think Newcastle is the most amazing place and how I love it here.

59. Other times, I feel bored and trapped. So.

60. The only movies I like watching are movies based on books I've read, movies based on true stories, or movies I've seen before (before I worked out I don't really like watching movies).

61. I want to go live in the UK for a couple of years when G is a bit older. The relentless sun and heat depresses me. I think I have reverse seasonal affective disorder.

62. I will keep relentlessly posting this till you all agree with me it is the funniest thing of all time.

63. I need braces. The teeth kind not the hold up your pants kind.

64. UVB-76 fascinates me. My theory? It's a fail-deadly for the Russian nuclear launch. If it goes silent, shit's going to go down. It's also excellent white noise for getting a baby to sleep!

65. I wish "more from around the web" wasn't a thing.

66. I've been linked to on the WSJ website, but the biggest thrill was Crikey's links of the day, because I'd wanted it for so long.

67. I was one of Kevin Rudd's first hundred twitter followers.

68. I had a Hotmail address in 1997, when there were only a few hundred thousand of them.

69. I'm the Australian area director for the Doe Network.

70. I have an erogenous zone in the crook of my right elbow.

71. I'm not too keen on visiting people in their houses. I'd much rather meet at a restaurant or go do something together.

72. I've been moved to tears by awesome food.

73. I will (and do) travel to Sydney simply for lunch.

74. When I was a kid, I hated when adults said inaccurate things and got in a lot of trouble for correcting them.

75. If Baby G does the same, I'll let it go. I don't want him thinking the truth doesn't matter.

76. When we get rich and build a big house I'm going to have basically my own self contained flat - bedroom, bathroon, kitchenette, studio, TV room - so if I can get the best of both worlds living alone and being married.

77. My party trick is knowing all the historical references in "We Didn't Start The Fire".

78. My party trick used to be walking on my hands in the lotus position, but I'm too old to do that now and I don't get invited to those sorts of parties any more anyway.

80. Watching the Lucas Neil playing in the 2006 World Cup, I vowed if I ever had a son I'd name him Lucas. It was an act of faith I'd live long enough to have a son. And five years later I did, though we gave him Lucas as a middle name because it was way too popular by then, I didn't want him to be one of four Lucases in his class.

81. I've never felt his actual name does suit him so well though, and should have held out for Clive.

82. I edited Wikipedia a lot in 2006, then stopped, and never started again.

83. I've recently started drinking whisky in winter (how else to make a hot apple toddy?) but rarely drink anything other than wine with occasional vodka or cider.

84. Sometimes I wonder if I've always been peculiar, or was driven that way by living alone for 9 years.

85. After a seven year stretch living alone, I moved into a share house in a different city with an 18 year old who'd done the share house circuit for several years, and another 28 year old only just leaving home. It went about as well as you'd expect.

86. I'd had several false starts moving to Sydney, but actually did it on a spur decision when I found out my house was being demolished.

87.  After a few years in Sydney I thought I'd never move back, but having a kid changed that. For a while.

88. I don't know where I really belong any more.

89. I go through a cycle every few years of growing my hair to my waist then cutting it all off. We're in a growing phase right now, as DH has never seen me with really long hair and I want him to.

90. When I tell people I was in the army reserve, they never believe me at first. I needed the money for TAFE fees and there was very high unemployment in Newcastle in the 1990s. It was pre War on Terror, or I wouldn't have done it.

91. My parents wouldn't support me and I had to have myself emancipated (I was over 18, but the government considers you a dependent until age 25 if you're a student).

92. I left home at 19 and never returned to live.

93. In high school, I wanted to be an actress and writer, but started a business degree in an attempt to please my parents. For every reason, this was a mistake.

94. This is funny, considering I don't watch movies now, but what I really wanted to write was screenplays. I wrote a lot of plays in high school.

95. I don't understand people who say they regret nothing, cause it's made them who they are today. I'm tortured by regrets and what ifs. There's a lot of things I could have done without.

96. I've tried being a vegetarian several times, but never make it past three months.

97. I'm obsessed with Saturday Night Live and if I was ten years younger would try to get on the show.

98. Every year I say I'm going to run the City to Surf but this year I will and I mean it. Despite that I don't like running. Everything jiggles.

99. I'm always seeing outfits I like then being unable to find anything like them in the shops.

100. We don't have a gaming console.

Well, that was harder than I thought, especially since Blogger chewed up about 30 comments and I had to think them up again. Anything else you want to know, ask in comments. I can't promise to answer if it's smutty/insulting/abstract but I'll do my best.

Drunken Violence And The Truth About The Newcastle Solution

Thursday, 2 January 2014
It was impossible to avoid a sick, horrified feeling, "oh no, not again". Another young man fighting for his life after a random, unprovoked attack in the street from a drunken maggot on a night out. As Daniel Christie lies in a coma after heading out on his first New Year's Eve alone with friends, everyone is desperately hoping for a solution...and the "Newcastle Solution" is the one that's often raised. Since 2008, alcohol sales are restricted after 10pm, patrons cannot enter venues after 1:30am and everything shuts at 3am - leading to a 37% reduction in alcohol related assaults. It looks great, at first glance. Trying this is suggested for Sydney, to reduce the violence. But would it work?

 In the first place, it's worth noting that the intention of the Newcastle solution was never to reduce alcohol-related violence. In the early 2000s, as part of the urban renewal, large blocks of luxury apartments were built in the Newcastle CBD; these were especially popular with downsizing retirees and baby boomers. But having moved into town to be close to the action, they found the action was a lot noisier than they thought. There's very little suburban nightlife in Newcastle; everyone goes into town, pouring in from the lake, the valley, the suburbs. And it made a lot of noise, and the elderly residents didn't like it, and began agitating for a curfew at least as early as 2002; I wrote a letter to the Newcastle Herald at the time saying what a dreadful idea it was. I was in my early twenties then, and went out a lot, and saw very little violence and nearly always felt safe. The residents didn't care; they formed an action group, and kept lobbying and lobbying, and finally got their way in 2008. The official reasoning for the lockout system was that the hotel patrons were causing "undue disturbance to the quiet and good order of the neighbourhood" - not about the violence.

On paper, it worked to reduce violence; the 37% reduction in assaults we keep hearing about. But it is important to note that this is in the Newcastle CBD only. Locked out of bars and pubs, people increasingly attend suburban house parties - what are the statistics on assaults there? They're unregulated, unpatrolled, more likely to lead to drunk driving as the mediocre public transport from the Newcastle CBD is replaced by none at all in the suburbs. There is also the inevitable economic losses - the impact on businesses that trade in alcohol has been huge, and has lead to a lot of job losses, particularly among students and young people who heavily engage in bar work.

It's also worth noting that a curfew wouldn't have helped Daniel Christie or Thomas Kelly, who died after a single unprovoked punch in July 2012. Mr Christie was attacked at 9pm and Mr Kelly at 10pm by fetid pieces of distended monkey rectum who had begun drinking earlier in the day. They were both attacked at a time when most people are only starting to go out, long before any curfew would begin. How would a curfew work in an international city like Sydney, anyway? Tourists get here and can't get into a club after 1am? Would they kick everyone out of the casino for a bit? (That, I'd be okay with). What happens during Mardi Gras?

If a curfew would work, I'd be all for it. But I just can't see it - people have been drinking till dawn for years, and this culture of attacks is a recent thing. I don't know what's causing it - Alan Jones? But rushing in a band aid solution won't stop this. I wish something would.

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