Ideas that we grapple with — and often fail on

I too have grappled with this one. Time spent at South Sydney Uniting Church a few years back with norrie made me confront the usual stereotypes and prejudices. So now I accept that “male and female created He (sic) them” is hardly a scientific or adequate account of the human condition. See Anatomy Does Not Determine Gender, Experts Say.

You may then be interested to examine carefully The Gender Centre, which features apparently in the latest Murdoch broadside against Labor in one of his oh-so-objective tabloids.  Fortunately the Tele is behind a paywall, and there is no way I am giving them my money!

You may also find some related matters in an earlier post here, from the time when Malcolm Turnbull was PM trying to be all things to all people:

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.

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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….

 

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No, I didn’t watch it…

By which I mean the “tell-all” paid interview on Channel Seven last night.

I did watch the new TV series of Mystery Road though. Loved it!

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About:

Filmed in the East Kimberley region of Western Australia, Aaron Pedersen and Judy Davis star in Mystery Road – The Series a six part spin-off from Ivan Sen’s internationally acclaimed and award winning feature films Mystery Road and Goldstone. Joining Pedersen and Davis is a stellar ensemble cast including Deborah Mailman, Wayne Blair, Anthony Hayes, Ernie Dingo, John Waters, Madeleine Madden, Kris McQuade, Meyne Wyatt, Tasia Zalar and Ningali Lawford-Wolf.

Directed by Rachel Perkins, produced by David Jowsey and Greer Simpkin, Mystery Road was script produced by Michaeley O’Brien, and written by Michaeley O’Brien, Steven McGregor, Kodie Bedford and Tim Lee, with Ivan Sen and the ABC’s Sally Riley as Executive Producers.

I have in fact been reading a lot lately, including some very interesting choices from Wollongong Library. Kudos to whoever is responsible for buying new books there! I may list my recent reading in another post, but here is my current one:

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I am finding it quite riveting. I don’t think I could ever read or see Gone With The Wind ever again! The book is not uncontroversial.  Here is a post by a dissenter. But see also Harvesting Cotton-Field Capitalism.

“Have you been happier in slavery or free?” a young Works Project Administration interviewer in 1937 asked Lorenzo Ivy, a former slave, in Danville, Va. Ivy responded with a memory of seeing chained African-Americans marching farther South to be sold.

“Truly, son, the half has never been told,” he said.

This anecdote is how Edward E. Baptist opens “The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism,” an examination of both the economic innovations that grew out of the ever-shifting institution of slavery and the suffering of generations of people who were bought and sold.

Mr. Baptist, a history professor at Cornell, said in an interview that his book represented his decade-long effort to blend these two aspects. Published in September, “The Half” joins a new wave of scholarship about the centrality of slavery — and the cotton picked by slaves — to the country’s economic development.

Mr. Baptist shows the ways that new financial products, bonds that used enslaved people as collateral and were sold to bondholders in this country and abroad, enriched investors worldwide. He also emphasizes viciously enforced slave labor and migration. The cotton boom led planters to sell slaves — one million moved from old to new slave states from the 1790s to the 1860s. Productivity, he argues, came through punishment. Enslaved and formerly enslaved people like Ivy are at the center of this sprawling story….

Sometimes unfolding in a novelistic way, his book casts unreimbursed labor as torture and Southern plantations as labor camps. Mr. Baptist imagines the thoughts of a slave being put to death. He quotes exchanges between planters about the sexual exploitation of enslaved women….

As he writes in the book: “The idea that the commodification and suffering and forced labor of African-Americans is what made the United States powerful and rich is not an idea that people necessarily are happy to hear. Yet it is the truth.”

It is the specific human stories that make this book so compelling. It would appear that our convict era was a holiday camp compared with the ante-bellum South!

Saw “Riot” on ABC last night

Riot is a telemovie on the first Sydney Mardi Gras, June 1978.

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They did a good job recapturing the series of events leading up to that first Mardi Gras. I was not there, but I have posted on those who were: For the 78ers.

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.

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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…

See also Julie McCrossin, a South Sydney friend:

JULIE McCROSSIN Hello. I’m Julie McCrossin. And this year at Mardi Gras, I’m marching with Uniting. Back in 1978, there was one truck and a few hundred people. You must be thinking, “We’ve come a long way.” And in many ways we have. But that struggle that began back in 1978 defined the struggle that continues today.

SFX: CHEERING

WOMAN Happy Mardi Gras

GARRY WOTHERSPOON I was born during World War II, and I had uncles and things off fighting the war. War turned people’s lives on their head. And before the war, it had been very respectable, conservative society. The Second World War changed Australian society immensely. By the time I was a teenager, in the 1950s, the police commissioner, Colin Delaney, said the two greatest threats facing Australia are Communism and homosexuality.

SALLIE COLECHIN
I was 10, and I had a very close friendship with someone I went to primary school with. And we used to, “You be the boy, I’ll be the girl.” We used to play with that. We were discovered in primary school, though, and were separated. And I do remember the absolute embarrassment and the sense that there was something wrong.

PETER MURPHY I was in a religious institution when I was young. I was going to be a priest. One evening I remember…I think we must have had a serious talk about it, so a priest said, “Oh, you know, you might have feelings for each other, and these are called special relationships in the Catholic Church, and they’re a no-no, basically.”

GARRY WOTHERSPOON I went through a heterosexual phase in my late teens and early 20s, but I always knew that I wanted something different. And so, gradually, you came to terms with where gay life was existing then. In the ‘60s, there were places you could go to. Kings Cross was it, initially. Kings Cross had always been bohemia in Sydney. The Rex at the Cross, the beer garden there, it had a bar at the back called the Bottoms Up Bar. Nice name for a gay bar. So that set the scene for the 1970s….

I at the time was somewhat outside the wilder reaches of liberation politics; nor had I ever at that stage been to any kind of gay venue.  Some of what I was up to in 1978 is in this post: More livin’ in the 70s – Wollongong style.

The first Mardi Gras I attended was 1986. I wrote about this in 2001. See also:

Seen heading for Mardi Gras

01 March 2008

I reached the stage a couple of years back where standing around in a crowd, no matter how friendly, does not appeal any more, so I am giving the Mardi Gras Parade a miss. However, in my wanderings around Central/Chinatown/Surry Hills I do get to see some sights, most of them pleasant on this particular occasion.

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Photo somewhat indirectly from Betty Loves Blogging.

This afternoon I saw a happy group of young lesbian Aboriginal people, wearing, where they could, the inscription “ONE LOVE”. Now there are a few challenges to the diversity-phobic! 😉 Mardi Gras still can make you think, as well as laugh.

I thought as I walked home of a night around midnight some twenty years back when I was walking from The Britannia in Chippendale, then a gay pub, back to Bennett Street Surry Hills where I briefly lived. I had had a few, which may explain the conversation I had somewhere between Eveleigh Street and Prince Alfred Park. I was always a bit nervous about that nocturnal walk, I should add, and not unreasonably.

I had been accosted by a person seeking directions. Turned out to be an Aboriginal transexual, and alcohol emboldened me to say, “My God, how many oppressed groups do you belong to?” The person just laughed, saying “If I lived in the Northern Territory I would possibly be speared…”

 

 

What a day this was: 13 February 2008

Of course much might be said about just how well/badly we have done since.

13 February 2008: just back from The Block in Redfern

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Redfern Community Centre, The Block, 2007. Image from Redfern Oral History. Click for more.

At least 1,000 people stood in the pouring rain at Redfern’s famous Block and watched on the big screen as Kevin Rudd moved the motion of Apology. I would not have missed it for quids!

Next to me an Aboriginal woman in her thirties or forties, her tears blending with the rain.

Cheers and a standing ovation greeted Kevin Rudd’s speech.

cafe-cana.gifWe didn’t get to hear the middle section of Dr Nelson’s speech as at that point the Lord Mayor of Sydney, Clover Moore, was speaking to us live.

However, the symbolism near the end of Rudd and Nelson jointly presenting to the Speaker the gift from the Stolen Generations spoke to all our hearts.

Golden syrup and damper afterwards, and then a coffee for me on the way home at Cafe Cana.

William Yang was there at the Community Centre, and some people from church.

Big smiles from some little Aboriginal kids as I crossed Pitt Street and Redfern Street: “Look! He’s got a flag!”

A day truly to be treasured, long long anticipated and for a period the dread that it would never happen. But it has happened.

No more analysis today, no more commentary. The day is too good for that.

See Cheers, tears as Rudd says ‘sorry’.

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UPDATES

See:

Speech gets standing ovation in Redfern

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s speech received a standing ovation at the Redfern Community Centre, where hundreds gathered. Residents, workers, families, students and Sydney’s Lord Mayor Clover Moore braved the rain to watch the speech via a large outdoor screen set up in the heart of the notorious Block, the setting of the 2003 Redfern riots.

After the speech a teary Ms Moore stood and addressed the crowd. “Parliament House in Canberra is a long way from the streets of Redfern, but the apology made this morning must resonate here in our hearts and minds,” she said.

David Page, 46, composer with the indigenous dance group Bangarra Dance Theatre, said he liked the fact that Mr Rudd made a personal apology.

“It was very moving to see a prime minister with a bit of heart. I loved it when he said he was sorry. There was just something personal about it. It’s very hard for a prime minister to be personal,” he said. “It’s a long road but it’s a great beginning.”

Enid Williams, 72, who was brought up on a mission in Warrabinda in north Queensland after her father was forcibly removed from his family, said she was happy with Mr Rudd’s speech, but said it was now important to look to the future.

“We’ve been put down so many times,” she said. “I’m 72. The main thing is the young people, to give them a better future.”

The reception was not so warm for the speech delivered by Opposition Leader Brendan Nelson, and the crowd booed at file footage of former prime minister John Howard that was broadcast before the apology.

Michael Kirby, 36, a resident of Waterloo who grew up in rural NSW and whose father had been removed from Swan Hill to be raised at the Kitchener Boys Home, said he was pleased with the turnout at the community centre.

“I was so proud to be walking down here today with non-indigenous Australians,” he said. “Now we have to move together to try and build Australia bigger and better as a whole.”

An entire day of activities has been planned at the community centre, including an afternoon smoking ceremony, repetitions of the speech and a barbecue.

Melanie Giuffre of Surry Hills said she and her husband, Remo, brought their children Lola, 13 and Roman, 9, to Redfern to mark a historic national event. “Roman was doing something at school but we thought it was important to be here as a family,” she said. “[The speech] was really wonderful. It felt we’ve seen the Prime Minister we voted for.”

Sydney Morning Herald multimedia report.

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Ivan Clarke, one of the stolen generations, is comforted by a friend after watching the apology by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd on a large screen in Redfern.
Photo: Jon Reid Sydney Morning Herald.

Addenda to previous post: Deng Thiak Adut and more

Thought of January 2016, given recent African youth crime stories: How inspiring! Deng Thiak Adut’s Australia Day address. See also in October 2017 Deng Thiak Adut: ‘Refugees are not here to do miracles’.

Despite his achievements, Deng warns against expecting all refugees who arrive in Australia to become overnight success stories.

“Refugees are not here to do miracles,” he says. “They are here to be assisted. They suffer from long-term trauma…You can’t expect them to get out there and succeed. They need help. They need personal contact. They need psychological assistance, they need counselling. They need support in terms of jobs.”…

“There is a problem in this country,” he says, calling attention to the many forms of discrimination – based on race, religion, sexuality, ability – found in the community. “Those who are on the fringe, they are people who look like me. We sit at the same table. I have to protect them. I have to voice their concerns. I will listen to them.”
Deng’s brother John was also a university graduate, with a double degree in anthropology and international development. He was “discriminated against”, says Deng, and unable to find work in his field in Australia. He returned to South Sudan where he was tragically killed in 2014.

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For context: see an oral history project recording the migration journeys and settlement experiences of southern Sudanese refugees now living in Blacktown, Western Sydney. See also Who are Australia’s South Sudanese? and South Sudanese honored Philip Ruddock in NSW during the refugee’s week.

Philip Ruddock was a Minister of Immigration when he travelled to Kakuma more than a decade ago. His mission led to the mass migration of the South Sudanese refugees who were stationed in Kakuma refugee camp. During the 2015 refugee day, South Sudanese and other marginalised areas Community Association in NSW honoured Philip for his care.

NOTE: My point in these two posts has been that whatever the undoubted bad that those young thugs have been doing — and may all the relevant authorities and leaders work on that! — I am sick of the panic being whipped up for naked political purposes, such as the next Victorian election. So I praise and agree with ‘Too much panic, not enough perspective’ and totally deplore this phenomenonon: Victoria’s African community ‘stereotyped, victimised’ for the sins of young kids.