On this day – 25 years ago

I was living here, in this house. I can’t believe a quarter of a century has slipped by!

Screenshot - 14_09_2014 , 9_08_18 AM

1989 in many ways was annus horribilis…. See On memory and outrage and Memories–mine and another’s.

[14 September] did bring memories as it was on that day in 1989 that dear Rob Burton committed suicide – on his birthday. Afterwards – and you may read a very honest account of it all on that link, albeit with names changed…



Liverpool Street, Darlinghurst 1989


I posted on Facebook yesterday:

I spoke to my brother in Burnie Hospital this afternoon. He is feeling better and is positive, but there is no hiding from the fact this is very grave. We share seven decades. I assured him I would be thinking of him every minute and I am.

His daughter, who lives in The Shire, had told me of Ian’s condition yesterday morning. Ian is eight years older than I. He lives in Devonport, Tasmania.


Ian in Surry Hills, April 2010


Late 1930s-1940. Auburn Street Sutherland?


Auburn Street Sutherland – during World War II


Wedding day 1955 – Vermont Street, Sutherland. Ian is on the right.

Update 4 pm Saturday

News from Burnie Hospital this afternoon is quite good, I am happy to say.

Mainly inspirational

Let’s start with one of the most loved and respected figures in Australian public life – well here in NSW at least: our state governor (or stand-in for Her Majesty) Marie Bashir, who retires at the end of this month: Marie Bashir: Her own governor, and a governor for everyone.

…The Speaker of the NSW lower house, Shelley Hancock, said today that the farewell being held for Dame Marie on Tuesday at State Parliament was out of the ordinary. But then, so is our outgoing governor.

She is hard-working, unfussy, media shy and looks suspiciously like a polymath. She is a trained violinist who studied medicine and became a mental health doctor well before the speciality became fashionable. She has worked in Aboriginal health, with traumatised refugees and with troubled adolescents. She is the patron of various arts organisations and loves cricket.

She has seen six premiers rotate through the political system and treated them all with unfailing esteem, but never any differently to the way she treats the ordinary people she meets as she tours the state.

Dame Marie once said she didn’t want to be “owned by specific sub-groups” – perhaps a reference to her being the first female governor of the state, and our first of Lebanese descent.

But it a measure of her success in the job that although no group owned her, lots of groups, and people, felt she belonged to them…

Amen to that!

Now on a somewhat minor key. On Monday I posted to Facebook: “What are the chances? I’m in City Diggers Wollongong today and chatting to Bruce who was at Keira Boys HIgh class of 1972. I have brought Baby HP to the club so we are on Lost Wollongong looking at a photo of Keira Staff in 1969. Bruce identifies one of his Maths teachers, also a sports coach. I recognise the name from my time at Wollongong High. And in that moment, literally, the guy himself walks past — that very same Maths teacher from 1969!”


So long ago! I was teaching at Cronulla High at that time, only moving down this way – Dapto High initially – in 1970.

On Wednesday night I posted on Facebook: “Ultimately quite uplifting! But sadly so few will have watched this jewel of an episode. All Aussies NEED to see such things!” I refer to SBS’s Living With the Enemy: Episode 2 — Detention Centres.


Morteza is a 30 year-old, former ‘boat person’ who landed on Christmas Island after fleeing Iran.  He spent four uncertain years in detention during which he converted to Christianity, escaped from Woomera Detention Centre, sparked the riot that burned down the Port Hedland Detention Centre, and famously sewed his lips together in the Villawood Detention Centre. 

He is exactly the sort of asylum seeker Jenni from Queensland says should not be allowed to stay in Australia.  However, Jenni had never met a ‘boat person’ until she met Morte. Living in each other’s worlds is an explosive and emotionally draining experience for both of them. However, neither Jenni nor Morte, could have predicted the way the experiment would end.

Do go and look! I risk a spoiler by quoting one of the comments on the episode.

Thank you both Morti and Jenny for sharing your story last night.  To be so open publicly takes courage.  Your journey together left me feeling hopeful about Australia’s capacity to show humanity and understanding toward people in desperate situations.

Jenny, I was really impressed and inspired by with your willingness and capacity to listen.  You showed a great amount of compassion.  You really showed me the power of open dialogue and information/education.

Morti, I am truly sorry about your experiences in Iran, and while in detention in Australia.  I hope you find lasting peace and happiness here.  I have no doubt you will continue to make a valuable contribution to our society – we are lucky to have you.

Thank you both so much for being willing to help inform the community about the treatment of people in detention, and the complex issues associated with refugee migration. Unfortunately our leaders (on both sides of politics) have failed us in this area. 

– Alison

Sadly “STOP THE BOATS” was a terribly effective Bogan Slogan – Tony Abbott had a whole pack of them. What this has really meant is another matter altogether.

…This is the dishonesty of the Australian debate. Waleed Aly is right when he says we refuse to face up to what a policy of deterrence actually means: treating people who have come by boat as badly as possible in order to prevent other people risking their lives coming by boat. It is the equivalent of whipping jaywalkers.

When actual cruelty is on display, disputes over language may seem petty. But as voters we have a responsibility to try to comprehend what is being done on our behalf and why.

The Coalition is not alone in clouding the argument. The phrase “enhanced screening” made its debut on the political stage under Labor. (I was working in government at the time.) Both major parties say “border protection” as if this were an episode of Game of Thrones and we were facing marauding armies of giants. Meanwhile, the Greens refuse to talk about the hundreds of lives lost to drowning when offshore processing was dismantled, while using terms like “dangerous” to describe everyone’s approach but their own…

Sean Kelly: This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Jul 18, 2014 as “The minister of truth”.

Lately the lovely Scott Morrison has had some chickens come home to roost. The idea – and it was Labor’s too of course – of “offshore processing” on Manus Island has rather comprehensively failed. The government is rightly contemplating closing the joint. And now the High Court ruling is leading to other backflips: “Today’s landmark hearing clearly set out the constitutional limits on detaining non-citizens. The federal government will now have to release or process thousands of asylum seekers.”

In light of all that and the constant refusal of the government to allow those asylum seekers who arrive by water to be seen and heard, to have a face and a voice, Living With the Enemy showed just how subversive it can be when the “big bad bogeyman” turns out to be someone you can actually make a real connection with, about whom you have been systematically misled. So bless you, Morte and Jenny!

Grand-nephews’ epic adventure — 2

Opened Facebook just now and found that Nathan had posted this an hour before:


He has an excellent camera and a good eye. But what a place to be right now!


Of course it is still 10 September over there, but here it is Thursday 11 September 2014. I doubt Nathan and David can avoid being caught up in all that involves over the next 24 hours. I wonder how it strikes them. They weren’t even teens when all that happened in New York and Washington DC.