February 2016 plus 2009 recycles

Last leap year Feb day! One stat that pleases few down here in The Gong is that overnight temperatures in Feb have rarely dropped below 20C, with humidity levels around 80-90%. Much harder to bear than January was.

Now the month’s blog stats, with interspersed pics from 1 March 2009.

001march 009

Cleveland Street Redfern/Surry Hills 1 March 2009

So far in February 2016 this blog has averaged 39 visits a day, slightly down on January but better that December 2015.

001march 008a

The most viewed posts in February 2016 have been:

  1. Home page / Archives 640 views in February 2016
  2. Ziggy’s House of Nomms 35
  3. All my posts 34
  4. Outnumbered, Merlin, and other recently seen TV 13
  5. Tom Thumb Lagoon 13
  6. About 12
  7. The swimmer 11
  8. Lost Wollongong again 11
  9. What a treasury of family history! 10
  10. Hey hang on! That has to be nonsense… 9
  11. Sydney High memories 9
  12. Some great stories, and some of them new to me… 8
  13. ABC decimated 8
  14. On TV lately – 2: Molly plus Chinese (Australians and others) 8
  15. Random Friday memory 14 – Gymea 1965 8
  16. Photoblog recycle: February 2010 — 2– Canberra 8
  17. Random Friday memory: 1 – John Mystery, my brother, Illawong 7
  18. Random Friday memory 17 – Caringbah 1965 7
  19. Tangible link to the convict ship “Isabella” and the immigrant ship “Thames” 7
  20. Back in the day… Oxford Street memories 6

027feb 002

Lost rail connection at Central 1 March 2009

Ian Thorpe, Gayby Baby, and today in my life

Surprising big splash in today’s Sunday Telegraph, summarised here on Yahoo.

Australia’s most decorated Olympian, Ian Thorpe, has revealed he feels he was forced out of the closet in his teens, at a time where he was still grappling with his sexual identity.

Thorpe has been notoriously guarded about his private life and only came out as gay in July 2014 after years of speculation.

The 33-year-old said he was first asked about his sexuality when he was 16, and “struggled for a long time not wanting to be gay and hoping he wasn’t in some way”.

“I feel as though people were trying to force me out of the closet when I didn’t even know myself. I really didn’t, or at least I wasn’t sure.

“I felt like if I’d been given a little bit more time, perhaps I would have comfortably been able to do it… but I was just trying to fit in,” he told the Daily Telegraph.

The world champion swimmer has recently opened up about how his struggles affected his mental health and spiraled a history of depression.

He said he previously kept his struggles with depression a secret, but is now part of Young Minds Matter, a campaign designed to raise awareness of children’s mental health issues…

Thorpe said teachers targeted him when he returned to Year 10 classes in Sydney’s southwest as a world champion, at an impressionable age when all he wanted to do was fit in.

“People would question why I was at school. They were either great about it, or I had some experiences with teachers who really had this issue around the fact I’d been successful.

“That was the minority, I must insist … but it only takes one (bully) and it can really affect you.”

He felt too ashamed about feeling vulnerable at school to raise the issue with his parents…

Ian Thorpe will host a three-part series The Bully Project later this year on ABC, to raise awareness of the issue plaguing many Australians and arm young people with ways to overcome it.

He makes his first appearance at a Mardi Gras event today, on a panel with other gay athletes Matthew Mitcham and Daniel Kowalski.

Be interesting to hear what Mr Rabbit thinks about today’s Tele, seeing he was a classmate of Ian’s in Year 10. But it is good to see a good cause promoted through today’s big splash – a nice change from the drivelling about Safe Schools which some seem to think involves compulsory demonstrations of penis tucking for twelve-year-olds… (It doesn’t.)

In July 2014 I posted Ian Thorpe – free at last? There’s a bit about me too in that post, and this:

Kudos to my (second) cousin Harrison Cartwright for the Bullshit Blog  post On Ian Thorpe, coming out – and the next step.

…Ian Thorpe has come out, and guess what? It’s entirely his own business. He has done nobody a disservice in keeping this part of his life a secret. I can’t stress enough how enormously frustrating it is to read this media coverage where people can’t even fathom how he kept this a secret. These people, more often than not, are the ones who have absolutely no idea how it feels to be in that position.

Coming out is terrifying. There is absolutely no way to describe the process; the complex set of emotions that are involved – unless you’ve actually gone through it yourself. Doing it when you’re one of the most well-known names in the country? I cannot even begin to imagine how much more difficult that must have been.

Thorpe has demonstrated an enormous amount of bravery in making this aspect of his life public. In doing so, he’s shown that while we might not be there yet, but we’re certainly getting a lot closer.

Screenshot - 13_07_2014 , 8_45_57 AM

Last year there was quite a controversy here in NSW:

NSW government stops showing of documentary in schools

Posted on August 27, 2015 by Neil

This began, it appears, with a characteristic fit of righteous wrath from the Sydney Daily Telegraph front page. I saw but did not bother reading it. Life is too short.

But there have been rapid consequences, as reported in today’s Sydney Morning Herald:

The NSW Education Minister, Adrian Piccoli, has banned every public school in the state from screening a documentary about children with gay parents during school hours.

On Wednesday afternoon Mr Piccoli issued a memo to the state’s principals ordering them not to show the film Gayby Baby so as “to not impact on the delivery of planned lessons”.

Adrian Piccoli has in many ways proven a good Education Minister, so I am disappointed – if the report fairly quotes him – with “During school hours we expect them to be doing maths and English and curriculum matters… This movie is not part of the curriculum and that’s why I’ve made that direction.” It might be thought that the movie does address issues in the larger curriculum dealing with personal development, health and social inclusion. (I see a friend on Twitter – a head teacher in a western Sydney school – finds Adrian Piccoli’s response “sad and gutless”.)

See the film’s website.

“Touching, frank and delightfully humorous”

– The Reel World

“Essential viewing for every family – same-sex, straight or otherwise.”

– Benjamin Law, author

Gayby Baby is being screened tonight on SBS at 8.30 pm. It’s the Sun-Herald pick of the week.

Want to see what all the fuss was about? This is the documentary film that was shown in a couple of NSW schools, then banned from being shown in NSW schools because of its unacceptably corrupting influence.

Because we all know (a) that even looking at a gay person is enough to turn you gay, and (b) watching a film about gay parents instantly inspires you to turn gay and then acquire offspring…

Gayby Baby had its genesis in a rather beautiful short documentary from Maya Newell, which ran as part of the ABC’s Opening Shot series, supporting budding doco makers.

This covers the same ground – and some of the same characters – but is narration-free and focuses on a few months in the lives of four families.

It almost goes without saying that what we mostly get to see is a great deal of pretty quotidian 21st century parenting: parents loving and supporting their children, making sacrifices for them, trying to instil wholesome community values in them, and occasionally losing their tempers.

Perhaps the most marked difference from most heterosexual families is that in the case where the men are parents, they do a lot more housework.

Any parent will be able to relate to many of the struggles and difficulties depicted here: a child with disabilities, or learning difficulties, or one who prefers footy over church (or wrestling over just about everything).

The children, all aged around 12, are uniformly delightful: smart, cheerful, thoughtful.

The one thing that really distinguishes them from heterosexual families is that the youngsters have to learn early to deal with bullying and prejudice…

And in my life: five years today since my last cigarette!

From Lao-tzu


Every one under heaven says that our Way is greatly like folly.
But it is just because it is great, that it seems like folly.
As for things that do not seem like folly — well,
There can be no question about their smallness!

Here are my three treasures.
Guard and keep them!
The first is pity;
The second, frugality;
The third, refusal to be “foremost of all things under heaven.”

For only he that pities is truly able to be brave;
Only he that is frugal is able to be profuse.
Only he that refuse to be foremost of all things
Is truly able to become chief of all Ministers.

At present your bravery is not based on pity,
Nor your profusion on frugality,
Nor your vanguard on your rear; and this is death.
But pity cannot fight without conquering or guard without.
But pity cannot fight without conquering or guard without saving.
Heaven arms with pity those whom it would not see destroyed.

The Tao Te Ching
by Lao Tzu

English version by
Arthur Waley, 1934


from The book of the Way: A manual on the art of living from the Tao Te Ching

Damien Walter, The Tao Te Ching by Laozi: ancient wisdom for modern times:

Two thousand four hundred years after it was composed, we need the Tao Te Ching’s lessons in self-awareness more than ever. Little can be said with absolute certainty about the origins of the Tao Te Ching. Consensus suggests it was written around 400BC by one Laozi. Laozi translates simply as “old master” – a hint that the author’s (or authors’) true name has been lost for ever.

Tao Te Ching translates very roughly as “the way of integrity”. In its 81 verses it delivers a treatise on how to live in the world with goodness and integrity: an important kind of wisdom in a world where many people believe such a thing to be impossible.

Texts as old as the Tao Te Ching are subject to the problems of both translation and interpretation. Take this collection of more than 100 versions of the famous opening verse:

The Tao that can be trodden is not the enduring and unchanging Tao.
Translated by James Legge (1891)

The Tao-Path is not the All-Tao. The Name is not the Thing named.
Translated by Aleister Crowley (1918)

The tao that can be told, is not the eternal Tao.
Translated by Stephen Mitchell (1988)

If you can talk about it,
it ain’t Tao.
Translated by Ron Hogan (1994)

The way you can go
isn’t the real way.
Translated by Ursula Le Guin (1998)

The third is from the most popular modern translation by Stephen Mitchell

For the 78ers

Who are the 78ers?

See The 78’ers:

“You could hear them in Darlinghurst police station being beaten up and crying out from pain. The night had gone from nerve-wracking to exhilarating to traumatic all in the space of a few hours. The police attack made us more determined to run Mardi Gras the next year.”

See also SBS.

What has just happened?

1. The Sydney Morning Herald apologises to Mardi Gras founders the 78ers

On June 24, 1978, more than 500 activists took to Taylor Square in Darlinghurst in support and celebration of New York’s Stonewall movement and to call for an end to criminalisation of homosexual acts and discrimination against homosexuals. The peaceful movement ended in violence, mass arrests and public shaming at the hands of the police, government and media.

Three days after the melee, Fairfax Media newspapers including the Herald publicly outed 53 people involved in the pro-equality march, publishing their names, addresses and occupations in the newspaper. Subsequent editions published the details of more protesters, including the names of 104 people facing charges resulting from a homosexual rights march the previous weekend in Sydney…

Apologising to the 78ers, Darren Goodsir, editor-in-chief of The Sydney Morning Herald, said: “In 1978, The Sydney Morning Herald reported the names, addresses and professions of people arrested during public protests to advance gay rights. The paper at the time was following the custom and practice of the day.

“We acknowledge and apologise for the hurt and suffering that reporting caused. It would never happen today.”

He said Fairfax Media has made contact with representatives of the 78ers so that an apology can also be made in person….

(From left) Melissa Gibson with 78ers Julie McCrossin and Ron Austin at the Sydney Mardi Gras in 2013.

(From left) Melissa Gibson with 78ers Julie McCrossin and Ron Austin at the Sydney Mardi Gras in 2013.

Melissa and Julie I know from South Sydney Uniting Church

2. NSW Parliament apologises to the 78ers who began the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras

A brightly sequinned hat, tie-dye t-shirts and rainbow flags in the packed viewing gallery did nothing to distract from the gravity of the historical moment in NSW Parliament on Thursday morning when, after nearly 38 years, the 78ers received a formal apology from the state over the discrimination they suffered at Sydney’s first Mardi Gras in 1978.

“For the mistreatment you suffered that evening, I apologise and I say sorry,” said Bruce Notley Smith, the member for Coogee, as he moved the motion of apology in the NSW Legislative Assembly.

“As a member of the parliament which dragged its feet in the decriminalisation of homosexual acts, I apologise and say sorry. And as a proud gay man and member of this parliament offering this apology, I say thank you.”

“The actions you took on June 24, 1978, have been vindicated.”

The bipartisan apology, unanimously passed in both houses of parliament, drew emotional and at times highly personal reflections from MPs, including the Attorney-General Gabrielle Upton and the Treasurer Gladys Berejiklian. Mr Notley-Smith recounted the pain of growing up as a gay teenager in Sydney at the time of the melee…

I was working at Sydney University in 1978 and for part of that year living in Glebe Point. Perhaps around mid-year, when that first Mardi Gras occurred, I had moved back to reside in North Wollongong, commuting to Sydney. I honestly don’t recall reading the infamous SMH stories. I was not at that time involved in the gay community.

Now posts of my own.

Back in the day… Oxford Street memories

Posted on March 9, 2014 by Neil

A rather amazing picture appeared recently on Lost Gay Sydney, a Facebook group.


That is Martin Place June 24 , 1978, according to the original post on Facebook, and there in the centre carrying a triangle flag is Ian Smith.

Requiem for a Dowager Empress

Posted on December 27, 2010 by Neil

The shocking news I alluded to earlier is that Ian Smith, aka The Dowager Empress of Hong Kong, died about a week ago.

He was a 78-er, that is a participant in the first Sydney Mardi Gras…

At Lord Malcolm’s funeral in 2007 Ian read this:

Death Is Nothing At All
Henry Scott Holland

Death is nothing at all
I have only slipped away into the next room
I am I and you are you
whatever we were to each other
that we still are
call me by my old familiar name
speak to me in the easy way
which you always used
put no difference in your tone
wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow
laugh as we always laughed
at the little jokes we enjoyed together
pray smile, think of me, pray for me
Let my name be ever the household word
that it always was
Let it be spoken without effort
without the trace of a shadow in it
Life means all that it ever meant
it is the same as it ever was
there is unbroken continuity
why should I be out of mind
because I am out of sight?
I am waiting for you
somewhere very near
just around the corner
All is well

I have known him for 22 years. We’ve had our ups and downs — most did with Ian, but he could also be wise and brilliant. A complex man. Rest, brother.

See also World AIDS Day and my circle… (2011), Pancake Day or Mardi Gras or Shrove Tuesday (2013), Thirty years on: my coming out, among other things (2014).

Show some backbone, PM

Looks like we are seeing on several fronts what the corollary of “agility” is for Malcolm Turnbull – a surgical removal of the spine. Very disappointing. I borrowed my heading from Sean Kelly at The Monthly.

Turnbull caves to Liberal right-wingers*

…a couple of weeks ago I gave credit to Simon Birmingham, appointed education minister after the snarly mess Christopher Pyne had made of that portfolio, for sticking up for a schools program that was under threat.

Under that program a teaching manual, aimed at combating bullying against young people who might be just discovering they were lesbian, gay, bisexual, intersex or transgender, was distributed in schools.

As the Australian reported at the time, the program has the backing of the Australian Secondary Principals Association, beyondblue, headspace and the Australian Education Union. 

Some religious groups, however, decided they knew better. The Australian Christian Lobby spokeswoman said that forcing students to imagine themselves in a same-sex relationship was a “form of cultural bullying’’.

Yes she did.

Birmingham didn’t give some mealy-mouthed comment in response to this garbage. On the substance he pointed out the program was opt-in for schools, and on the principle he said: “Homophobia should be no more tolerated than racism, especially in the school environment. The resource is intended to support the right of all students, staff and families to feel safe at school.’’…

Today Malcolm Turnbull hung Birmingham and his pretty principles out to dry. At the prime minister’s invitation, the minister will report back to the Liberal party room on the results of an independent review of the Safe Schools program that will now occur. (For “invitation”, read “order”.)

In other words, he gave a whole lot of oxygen to the very debate his own minister had recently called “foolish”….

See also Max Chalmers, The Anti-Gay Emails To MPs: Safe Schools Program Will ‘Destroy Civilisation’Safe Schools: Education or social engineering?, Safe Schools: Malcolm Turnbull requests investigation into program helping LGBTI students, Jill Stark, Safe Schools program: why zealots are trying to drag us back to the dark ages. From that last one:

Imagine being 12 years old and seeing your name scrawled across a school toilet door next to the word “faggot.” Or being beaten up and spat on by a gang of classmates who discovered you were a “tranny.” What if you were kicked out of your football team because you weren’t “masculine” enough?

These are just some of the real life school experiences young people have shared with me over the past few years.

We may pride ourselves on being the country of the “fair go” but in 2016, bullying of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) children remains rife in our schools. It makes the relentless and vicious attacks against a program set up to protect those children even more abhorrent.

As Malcolm Turnbull yesterday caved into his party’s religious right and announced an investigation into the Safe Schools Coalition one thing became clear: we are in the midst of a culture war. And vulnerable children are being used as cannon fodder.

In a Coalition party room meeting on Tuesday, February 23, Senator Cory Bernardi called for the program to be defunded, claiming it was being used to “indoctrinate children into a Marxist agenda of cultural relativism.”…

Now I am such a Marxist, eh! Why only a couple of days ago on this blog I was commending Robert Service’s Comrades: A World History of Communism (2007) to my readers! A Marxist I really am not, but I do embrace diversity as a core aspect of the human condition and commend any society or program that does the same. Hence on Twitter I wrote yesterday: “I totally support #safeschools.” I also retweeted: “RT @JoshThomas87: .@TurnbullMalcolm You’re turning out to be a real shit bloke.” Among others.

First, a really really good idea is to read the actual stuff that Safe Schools offers. 


I think it is brilliant and just wish that it had been there ten to fifteen years back when I was still tutoring and teaching and even on a high school welfare committee. Mind you there have been precursors like Bullying No Way and Racism No Way in NSW.

Of course I have form. Some will know my English/ESL blog, now an archive and not maintained, began as a semi-official resource c. 2000 to 2005 in the school I was working in. There is a section there called Diversity. A subsection is GLBT resources, that being the acronym 10-15 years ago. Now of course it is dated and who knows how many of its many links still work? But I am proud still of this. first written over ten years ago:

The theme of this page may offend some, but my position is that such offence is less than the needless suffering, failure of self-esteem, depression, and even sometimes suicide, that dishonesty about this subject can lead to.

Nor am I advocating a “lifestyle”: to quote from an article mentioned below:

There is a big taboo about converting straight people to homosexuality. (Personally I think the chances of that actually happening are as good as your chances of getting kicked to death by a duck.)

This page is dedicated to understanding at least and acceptance at best.


So far as there are cultural and religious issues involved here, I can only say 1) I have not gone out of my way to offend but have stayed within the guidelines common to various welfare areas in the NSW Department of Education and Training though that does not imply any official standing for this page, and 2) clearly individuals and families will consult many sources other than this one, and will already know what teachings their particular belief system endorses. Note also that this page was originally in the context of a boys school, which colours somewhat what is said here.

For myself, I am much encouraged by these precepts of the Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh:

Do not be idolatrous about or bound to any doctrine, theory, or ideology, even Buddhist ones. All systems of thought are guiding means; they are not absolute truth.

Do not think that the knowledge you presently possess is changeless, absolute truth. Avoid being narrow-minded and bound to present views. Learn and practice non-attachment from views in order to be open to receive others’ viewpoints. Truth is found in life and not merely in conceptual knowledge. Be ready to learn throughout our entire life and to observe reality in yourself and in the world at all times.

Do not force others, including children, by any means whatsoever, to adopt your views, whether by authority, threat, money, propaganda, or even education. However, through compassionate dialogue, help others renounce fanaticism and narrowness.

Update: drongos for fanaticism and narrowness.

Malcolm Turnbull under pressure after George Christensen likens Safe Schools program to paedophile grooming