Redfern on our minds

Thirty years ago one of the great speeches in Australian political history happened in Redfern.

As that thirtieth anniversary comes around , all the more reason to embrace the Uluru Statement from the Heart, constitutional recognition, and the Voice to Parliament.

The gist is all in this great speech of 30 yeara ago!

Posted on  by Neil

The next several posts will be photoposts about the weekend 6-7 December 2014. And a good one it was. Sunday I took the 7.45am express to Sydney, getting off at Redfern.

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I hadn’t been to Redfern in quite a while. The immediate purpose of the trip was lunch with M at The Shakespeare Hotel in Surry Hills, but I decided, it being Sunday, to go early enough to attend South Sydney Uniting Church. I hadn’t been there for quite a while; I suspect this was the last time: South Sydney Uniting Church last Sunday. It proved a bit of a bonus because along with some old friends there were quite a few Indigenous Australian young people from Arnhem Land and Darwin down for some conference or other.

But on the way I paid another pilgrimage.

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Redfern Park

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With that 80th year looming I look back 20 to find I was blogging!

This post is for the evening of the 29th and the morning of the 30th of June.

Look at the evidence from 20 years ago, thanks to the Wayback Machine!

Oh my!

30 June 2002

Instead of going to Forresters in Surry Hills, we went to the Yum Kee in Chinatown and shared a meal of (somewhat modified?) Northern Chinese cuisine, the fish dish being particularly splendid. There was a new visitor from Taiwan via NZ, plus Sirdan, the Empress, Lord Malcolm, and Lord Bruce. The Crown Prince had logistical difficulties.

The Empress has lent me two books, one of which I have begun. It is Tariq Ali’sThe Clash of Fundamentalisms dealing with the current “War on Terror” and the Middle East. His perspective is clearly left, but none the worse for that; while lingering respect for the old communist regimes is a worry, what has come into play lately, the New World Disorder and the assorted insanities that drive so many, are as much a worry surely; also Ali is right: the USA is not the unmitigated “good guy” in all this. The book deserves reading.

Deserving watching (especially by those who wonder what trades unions might be for, and what exploitation actually means) is a documentary recently on SBS here in Sydney on the sweatshops of US Saipan. Read about it here. And get very angry.

1 July 2002

Yesterday after our Chinese lunch we adjourned to our favourite Irish pub, where the conversation eventually turned to the relationship between gay sons and their fathers, a relationship that often proves very problematic. A number of stories were told, some inspiring hope, others revealing sadness or tension.

The Porterhouse on Riley Street — our favourite Irish pub

In my own case, the issue was postponed as at nineteen or so I was closeted (without even knowing there was such a thing) and impeccably respectable. The major issue for my father, looking back on it, at that time was probably that his business and career had come crashing down around him and he was in fact economically dependent on me, at least for a while. I sense now how humiliating that must have been. I am now the age he was then, older in fact. Some years later he broke down mentally, so our subsequent conversations ranged from the bizarre to the mundane, and we never discussed my emerging realisation that I was gay, but I know he knew–don’t ask me how, but I just know.

My mother certainly did, and when at the ridiculously (but not uncommonly) late age of forty or so I came out to her, she was “accepting”, though she admitted not to understand. I have to say that my attempting to educate her by getting her to read Loving Someone Gay, a very fine book in its way, did backfire a little.

It was a case of my new-found zeal to be open was just a little misplaced. Nonetheless, in the few years left to us after that, my mother often delighted in regaling me with the latest gay gossip she, quite oddly, was well-placed to hear in the particular “sunset home” she was in at the time. (Her personal carer was at the centre of one of the most publicised gay “scandals” in Sydney during those years.)

That I was able just before he died to tell my father that I loved him and for him to tell me “I love you too, son” brings tears to my eyes even as I type this, but I am very glad it happened.

I had a call from my older brother when I arrived home. He lives in Tasmania, and his partner (female) of very many years died early this year. It turns out yesterday was her birthday, so he wished to talk to me, as I am all the immediate family he has left (aside from his own children, none of whom live close to him.) A few months back he and I met face-to-face for the first time in twenty years. I have never discussed my sexuality with him, but he knows; he certainly knew when he saw my living arrangements, but he knew before that. The hugs we shared that day matter so much to me; he is a laconic person, not a verbal junkie like me, so the hugs mean even more.

I have checked Google for resources on straight parent/gay son issues. There is a good column in Mogenic called Educate the parents, which has among other things this lovely one-liner: 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.)

3 July 2002

Our friend Sirdan was admitted to St Vincents Hospital on Monday afternoon. That it is serious is borne out by his admission despite the current crisis affecting St Vincents and other major hospitals: Overcrowding in city hospitals worsened yesterday, with almost every major emergency department forced to turn away ambulances carrying patients who were not critically ill. He is suffering from an antibiotic-resistant infection that was causing him much discomfort even on Sunday, when the Empress advised him to go to the doctor next day, which he did with the result just described. He is apparently in good spirits, but I propose to confirm that for myself very soon.

Meantime the last diary has really set me thinking about my father, who passed away in 1989. I think I shall write something about him here soon.

4 July 2002

First off, Sirdan was quite chirpy yesterday afternoon, and only a part of him is afflicted–but it is a part he would rather keep. We wish him well. He has been in a lot of pain, but as of yesterday that had improved. His problem is certainly not to be taken lightly though.

Yesterday too I had an email requesting some good Australian sites for young gay people. The request came from a very remarkable young man in Texas, Garith, whose email acquaintance I made via a comment I left on his guest book at the currently beleaguered Talk City domain. His site had simply blown me away!

Our correspondence since has been sporadic, but enough to know he has not always had it easy, but what a man he is proving to be, in less than promising circumstances in some ways. Judge for yourself, for here are … some great quotes, as sent in the email yesterday:

“Because families are defined by love not gender. Because hatred is not a family value. Because equal rights are not special rights.”
Anonymous

“The fact is that more people have been slaughtered in the name of religion than for any other single reason. That… THAT my friends, is true perversion.”
Harvey Milk

“When religion sanctifies hatred, it lends to that hatred a special ferocity. Normal moral inhibitors are erased.”
Johannes Cardinal Wildebrands

“You can safely assume that you’ve created God in your own image, when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.”
Anne Lamott

“In man’s world, gold, diamonds and money are greatest in value…. in actual reality, dirt, water and air are of greater importance.”
Garith

5 July 2002

I haven’t been able to see Sirdan again since Wednesday, but plan to at the weekend. If I go to Yum Cha (and I am not sure I will this time–the vibes may not be quite right) I will see him after, or maybe on Saturday.

Term has ended. I am taking on the Year 12 Extension English class for the HSC, following the sudden departure of Ms X amidst some drama. The topic: Post-Modernism! The text left to study is Australian David Williamson’s satire on the subject, Dead White Males (1995), and the class have already done the movie of Virginia Woolf’s Orlando (a copy of which I have brought home from school) and John Fowles’ The French Lieutenant’s Woman, which I must reread.

[2022: See Workshop 06 — Year 12 Extension 1: pomo 2002.]

Speaking of Post-Modernism, one difference (totally subjective) that strikes me about the two books I mentioned last time is this: while PowerBook and The Monkey’s Mask both are Lesbian/Queer Literature and while both contain quite a lot of sex, in PowerBook this seems less foregrounded, less strident. PowerBook is just as ideologically committed as The Monkey’s Mask but somehow seems more–how can we say?–relaxed? I am really not sure of my ground here–just impressions. I should add that the verse in The Monkey’s Mask really is quite impressive in the range of voices it can capture–it is a verse novel, remember–and it works well. The story in The Monkey’s Mask is entirely more conventional; PowerBook is a palimpsest, a display of intertextuality, yet absolutely clear in its way. Psychologically and philosophically it is the deeper novel, yet wears this lightly.

I will return to Henry James’ The Portrait of a Lady for healing drafts 🙂 Like the reasons for my reading it in the first place, it is a pure pleasure in itself, made more pleasurable by having been shared; there’s no need in my life for more than that level of pleasure and I am lucky to have known it.

A significant note: M cooked up some nice food tonight. You have to know me to know what that means… His life is looking good, and is his–and that is his gain over the past time, some of which has been hard. But I rarely talk about him, as regulars here know.

Got a note–quite a long one–from Garith in Texas (see July 4) who is not unhappy about being featured. His site has an unselfishness about it as well as a quite amazing maturity for a person his age. There is a lot there that could help those he seeks to help.

14 July 2002

This rather magnificent photo of the Paris Gay Pride was sent this month by Timur, an OUT friend in England. Amazing how much these guys resemble me! 😉

30 July 2002

Went to the dentist and got a temporary filling and a threat of root canal therapy; so far so good, and I am hoping the antibiotics fix the problem.

M. moved today and the big rearrangement is well under way. He’ll be around though.

2022

So it is 20 years since Michael moved to East Redfern! Unbelievable. We had been together in Elizabeth Street Surry Hills since 1992.

East Redfern: South Dowling Street from M’s balcony

Redfern memories — revised

Happened on Sunday on this post on YouTube.

I was immediately struck by a number of shots of George Street, where Michael and I once lived with Philip Costello and his then partner, another Michael.

See my 2008 posts Redfern Visions 10: Pitt Street and the Redfern Estate to George Street and Redfern Visions 11: George Street

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In George Street — the house we lived in. If you compare with the 1923 image you will see something is missing! Was George Street widened? I am pretty sure the one I marked there is the right house. But maybe not! I have been counting windows!

Here are some more Redfern pics from my archive. Variously 2008-2012.

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I could share so many more! Here to finish is 2021 from YouTube. Much is still familiar to me.

Post script

The still fronting that 2021 video shows a trendy coffee shop on the corner of Pitt and Redfern Streets. Back in 1990 this was a Lebanese corner shop — I bought cigarettes there on occasions. Next to it is the yellow sign of Wilsons, inner Sydney’s oldest Lebanese restaurant. Their food was good. Still is no doubt.

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2008: “When M and I were living in George Street Wilson was still around. Perhaps he still is, but that was 18 years ago…”

A touch of nostalgia — photos I took in October 2008

These come from the photoblog that I started after my friend Sirdan gave me his old digital camera! They are thus from 13 years ago!

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Central Station, Eddy Avenue — SGHS students heading for the trains. Now there are tram lines here!
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Hay and Pitt Street pedestrian crossing
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Jacaranda, East Redfern
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Ward Park, Surry Hills
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A Surry Hills lane
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Moore Park, Sydney Boys High on a cold spring day
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The English staff room, Sydney Boys High. The desk next to this sink was mine at one time!

Various lockdown hacks and escapes — 64 — the kids and the bunnies are ok!

Yes, let’s focus today on the good stuff. First, this story is one-up on all those reactionary wankers on places like Sky — Donners for example — who have been wringing their hands and beating their breasts about the parlous state of education today. Let’s look at these kids, 15, 14 and 15 respectively.

Here is the story:

And as reported on our ABC:

The brains behind a popular COVID-19 tracking website have unmasked themselves — and much to everyone’s surprise, it turns out they’re a trio of teenage boys.

The faces behind the data website, CovidBase AU, are Jack, Darcy and Wesley and they chose the day they got their Moderna vaccinations to reveal their identities.

The group said the idea for the website came about after wanting to create a place to simplify the data and present it in an easy-to-understand format.

The website has already become a big favourite of thousands of Australians. 

“Darcy’s really skilled with coding and I’m sort of really into the news …and have been really interested in the data. So we’ve decided to take what we’ve been doing and sort of create something with it,” Jack told ABC News.

And in The Guardian:

Nick Evershed, the data and interactives editor at Guardian Australia, said CovidBaseAU had done impressive work collating hard-to-find information.

“There has been a few occasions, particularly with the numbers around vaccine imports and supply, where I’ve cross-checked my numbers against theirs,” he said.

“They did a really good job at combing through all the disparate media releases and press conferences in the early stages of the rollout to piece together a good picture of how many doses Australia was producing or importing at various points, which was extremely helpful as I was compiling similar data.”

Jack, Wesley and Darcy were praised by fellow Twitter users after revealing their identities, amassing more than 16,000 likes in a 24-hour period, as well as a part-time job offer from the head of public health at the Burnet Institute.

“You three pull off some awesome work!” Ben Krauth wrote. Prof Mark Stoove added: “Nice work boys! Need a part-time job?”

How encouraging to hear and read a story like this! The kids are OK! Check it out!

The Bunnies are headed for the Grand Final!

Yes, that deserves a big heading. They have been almost there several times in recent years — 2019 for example.

Great images of Redfern and my old stomping ground there!

Last night’s game against Manly Sea Eagles:

Check my earlier posts on this topic!
Update

Penrith Panthers beat Melbourne Storm 10-6 this afternoon, so there is the Grand Final: Bunnies vs Panthers.