MDFF 31 May 2014

First dispatched 25 May 2014

Բարի երեկո իմ ընկերները

Warren MitchellI’ve mentioned before, that a long time ago I had the pleasure and privilege of showing  Warren Mitchell around Yuendumu.

Warren whose most famous character was Alf Garnett in the TV series ‘Till death do us part’ told me that “The most effective way to fight prejudice and racism is to make it ridiculous”

I like to think that in a small way I’ve contributed to this fight.

Through circumstances, I didn’t get to see much of Alf Garnett on TV. ‘Till death do us part’ was my dad’s favourite TV show. As he told it to me, in one episode Alf is landed with a brown baby that he has to take care of. Throughout the episode Alf becomes increasingly fond of his charge, and in the end declares that “you’re an OK little chocolate”

My first dog was called Glue (to the suggestion that we should call him ‘Blue’ one of our children enthusiastically responded “Yes, Glue! That is a good name”)

Eventually Glue died in my arms from a heart condition and was replaced by Chocolate which was her colour.

A veterinarian researcher did a study on Yuendumu dogs. From memory his research focused on the possibility that dog ticks played a role in disease transmission in humans. I recall consigning a match box full of ticks by Australia Post to him. On one occasion Chocolate had a litter of pups at the same time as another younger dog that lived with us. Wendy came home to find the young bitch running around yelping and clearly agitated and distressed. Chocolate had kidnapped her litter and put the pups with her own.

My brown skin baby they take him away….
…. Sometimes I feel like a motherless child….

Wendy returned the pups to their rightful owner again and over again until finally we had to separate and restrain Chocolate and force her to confine her urges to her own pups.

We controlled Chocolate.

When I told the veterinarian what happened, he told me this was typical dingo behaviour. Dominant dingo bitches take over the rearing of other’s pups (sort of like Cuckoo birds in reverse). As part of his research he’d found that most if not all Yuendumu dogs had dingo DNA in their genetic makeup.

Denial is a common human defence mechanism that I doubt any of us is entirely exempt from. I have difficulty however in coming to terms with such extremes as denial of the Holocaust, the Armenian Genocide and the Rape of Nanking. Where are these deniers coming from? What motivates them? Ես չեմ հասկանում  I don’t get it.

In Yuendumu we have some light brown skin people, who  escaped being taken away. They tell some fascinating stories of how their families managed to evade the authorities, including having their skin blackened by plant material.

Yet in Australia we have them: Stolen Generations Deniers:

Jupurrurla is one of the Yuendumu light brown skin people, who was not taken. A few days ago he told me that he’d received a letter from his full sister, whose existence he had been oblivious to.

“My mother never told me, she must have been kuntangka”…. shamed. Ashamed of having let them take her daughter?  As if she’d been able to do anything about it! They protected her.  They controlled her.

We discussed the Stolen Generations. In days gone by, government agents just came and took the children.  No ifs no buts.  All under the direction of the euphemistically named Chief Protector of Aboriginals.

These days a new Stolen Generation is happening.  These days they operate with copious paper work and court orders and new euphemisms.  Stronger Futures indeed.  Stolen Futures je pense.

An employee of the Community Child Safety & Wellbeing Teams, Department of Children and Families, Northern Territory Government recently became resident in Yuendumu.  The main purpose of this Social Worker, appears to be to organize Community Child Safety Meetings.  We’ve been told that we can “make a referral to me with a specific concern” “Gran-ma why do you have such large teeth?” …No you won’t fool the children of the revolution…

My discussion with Jupurrurla about the past and present taking of children culminated in him saying:
“Warnapari-piya” …. they’re Just like Dingoes.

Մինչեւ հաջորդ անգամ

I’ll wait for a thousand years….

(Google Translate- Armenian)

Build your own Dalek Part Five.

by Quentin Cockburn

Look here, I’m sure readers of our blog who understand that for every new experimental vehicle, for every new prototype, there is refinement upon refinement until the preferred is put into mass production.  So has it been with the Dalek.  We got off to a great start, base, central core and wheels fitted in a matter of days, and then we got to the tricky bits.  This is the part in the process when people think of Myki, (Melbourne’s hateful ‘designed to punish the traveling public’ ticketing system) or the F35.  (Punishment for friends and foes alike.)  When it gets technical, no matter how small, the staff will try to find an elegant solution.  The bigger the organisation, the less elegant the solution.  It’s the thinking persons’ ‘Peter Principle’.  Haussman designed Paris, Vicurban designed Docklands: “You figure?”  Often it is best to walk away, and return refreshed.

I’m sure that’s what Mitchell did when he was inspired to design the Spitfire.  Still, I think, the most elegant piece of practical sculpture yet devised.

That’s what we did precisely at the tricky point.  No development for a month.  We lacked confidence and courage.  That’s vital for construction.  But without the pause where would we be you may ask?  Wrong-footed, and like the F35, exhausting ourselves on refinement at great cost.  We kept to budget, by doing nothing we kept the bottom line where it’s meant to be.  At the bottom.

dalek 2.4 test run Next.  We had to perform tests.  And see how the semi completed prototype performed under normal operating conditions in the field.  This is trickier than we thought.  The plastic, (polystyrene semi spheres) fell off.  dalek 2.3The joints, that had been taped over, (due to the impact of unexpected moisture) buckled, and the first of the O rings designed to house the swiveling head-piece buckled under the strain of constant use.

Back to the drawing board we went, and for primary sources Jasper, (Bendigo Dalek Construction Operative 1#) consulted his extensive repertoire of sixties Doctor Who classics.  Those not trashed by that ‘eeedeot’* who ran the BBC in the seventies.

dalek 2.3 test runTo our great pleasure we discovered that the sixties Daleks, considered by connoisseurs as the “Sean Connery” of Daleks, were visible for screws, scuff marks, and very Un-Dalek like cracks and chips.  We were destined for success if our ‘hand-made’ objects looked so good in looking so used.

We were now able to assure ourselves, confidence renewed that we are ‘on track’.  If only other research and development corps existed at GMH, or Myki, the world of manufacturing in Australia would be a happier place.

dalek 2.1We have now gone through the delicate process of constructing the middle section, and are preparing the gauze for the inner sleeve.  After installing the voice modulator and sophisticated electronics hardware, (a torch, a whistle, and a caulking gun reconfigured to work like a laser) the Dalek will be ready.

DavrosOur prototype is perhaps more versatile than the standard.  A hybrid of sorts as we can work it in one piece as standard Dalek, or remove the top and configure it as Davros Mk1.  Not much cause for a reconfigured Davros you might say?  I say ‘Pshaw’!  Davros** was allegedly destroyed by the Daleks, but was able to return as their master.  There is a lesson in this.  Progressive society had allegedly destroyed the DLP, only for it to return as Tony Abbott.

A new Messiah?

We need to summon the Time Lord Now!

* We like to think of him as culturally arrogant dear leader, “Fuckface” Mk 1.  Considered above bombing of Dresden and burning of the Alexandria Library in ancient times the worst cultural atrocity of all time.  The head of Drama at the BBC, Sydney Newman ordered the junking as “cost cutting measures” of full episodes of ‘Doctor Who’, ‘Z Cars’, ‘Steptoe and Son’ and ‘Not only but Also’.

**  Davros. Creator of the Daleks.  Any resemblance between Davros and  Christopher Pyne is purely coincidental.

Little Piggies

by Sam de Brito, first published in SMH 20 May 2014

My, my, aren’t the little piggies squealing?

While peals of distress issue from the electorate over the federal budget, I’m moved to ask the 53.49 per cent of people who voted for the Coalition – “what did you expect?”

de BritoOf course, rusted-on conservatives knew what they were getting with Abbott and are no doubt shifting an extra $50K into their trust or super fund to cover the uptick in junior’s uni fees. They saw this coming, it’s just what they ordered.

However, the millions of Australians who’ve now staggered away from the government – like drunks leaving a CBD nightclub stunned beers cost $15 – dropping the Coalition’s primary vote to 35 per cent? What did they expect?

While the rest of the globe battled debt crises and stagnating economies, did you sleepwalk through the election campaign? Do you need to be reminded who wears which colours on the field?

Conservatives don’t get into politics to protect welfare benefits or uplift the poor, so why are you surprised a government comprised of them does neither?

Do you order burgers and complain they contain meat? Do you fly to Bali and plonk your porky patootie on the sands of Kuta and bleat you can’t see La Tour Eiffel?

Cut welfare. Reward business. Downsize the public service. This is what the Coalition does, it’s a national tradition. Or have you not being paying attention to the leopard’s spots?

As Waleed Aly put it so succinctly yesterday: “You cannot rein in deficits and abolish two major taxes, and replace one of them with a climate change policy that costs billions and promise no tax hikes and quarantine education, health, defence, public broadcasting and pensions from cuts. That’s like a weight-loss diet that does away with protein but promises no cuts to cake and lard!”

But then little piggies don’t worry about where the food is coming from, they only squeal when there’s not enough. The ever-reliable self-interest of swinging voters delivered us an Abbott government because he promised the most and took nothing away.

They gorged on the fantasy of a family-size pizza with the lot, priced the same as garlic bread. Now it’s been delivered cold and they see just how sparse those toppings are, how wispy the crust, how oily the cheese, and they have a national case of buyer’s remorse.

Oh, petulant piggies.

Mike Carlton last week declared Tony Abbott’s name is mud because of his broken election promises, yet the swinging voter swine who prepared the way for our begrimed PM have escaped all criticism.

What do you call an electorate so focused on today, it’s happy to vandalise tomorrow, repealing the carbon and mining taxes?

“But Abbott lied!” they cry and, again, I ask, have you been paying attention?

It’s what politicians do or have you forgotten Bob Hawke on child poverty, John Howard on the GST, Kevin Rudd on “the greatest moral challenge of our time” and Julia Gillard and the carbon tax?

And you’re surprised?

Maybe you’re also the type shocked a monarchist, former Roman Catholic seminarian PM who is anti-abortion would be dismissive of a pensioner augmenting her income talking to lonely masturbators on the phone?

The most dangerous porkies are the ones we tell ourselves.


The Races

by Cecil Poole

“Would you like to come to the races with me?”  To Flemington, home of the famous Melbourne Cup, Australia’s premier race, home of the exclusive Victorian Racing Club (VRC).  The invitation came from a friend, a long time member and regular, though not frequent, racegoer.  She neither bets, owns horses, nor drinks (excessively) at the races.  Why does she go?  To view the horses, to soak up the atmosphere.

I have a number of friends who do own horses, race horses that is, and or breeders, mares and stallions.  Usually as part of syndicates.  I sought advice from one of these friends, one who, with a group of other women, owns a racehorse.  I asked for a ‘hot tip’.  This is the response:
Statistically Race 5 No 2 collects the $$$.  Realistically you choose a name you associate with, don’t bet each way on odds under 4, read the track… dead 4, heavy etc. and match horse stats to the rating.  
Put $50 in your pocket, split winnings with (me), tho once it’s gone that’s it.  No more.  Bookies are not your friend.
Boxed trifectas, choose five horses for first three places.  My fav bet.  

Observe who is winning, eavesdrop on their choices.  Follow winning jockeys.  Sniff out the drugs.  
Cash usually better wasted on beer.
Don’t offer to drive.

With this sage advice I accepted the kind invitation, after all what could possibly go wrong?

It really was a gorgeous day.  I’d been involved in a 12 hour business meeting the previous  day, a meeting which started with lunch and finished after music with a fine nightcap.  So an early priority was to determine the state of my suit – spotless was my conclusion, (although my host thought and told me otherwise, later in the day).  Then for the tie, something with flare, taste and refinement.  I chose my pure silk (naturally) purple tie with light blue and dark blue spots.  When I say purple others may call it puce.  That is unkind as it reminds me too much of the previous day.  Now as I look at the tie I notice some previously unseen brown stains in the lower quartile.  Obviously left by the previous owner  – I’d purchased the item from the Abbotsford Salvo op shop.

We alighted our conveyance and joined the throng of other immaculately dressed and coiffeured people, not a single person to be seen in the ubiquitous ‘tracky daks’ – another plus for the racing crowd.  Lots of legs, lots of leg.  Shoes designed to either disintegrate spontaneously or to cause permanent long term damage abound.  None of which will look quite as smart later in the day – neither foot wear nor wearer.

RacebookWe met with friends on the Members Lawn, adjacent to the mounting yard.  The occasional whiff of horse dung crossing our noses, but only if the spritely stewards were tardy in their ‘pick-up and dispose’ role.  I was puzzled by the absence of people on the lawns, where we partook of the obligatory champagne, and a second, in the glorious afternoon sun, whilst studying the impregnable ‘Official Racebook’ ($5.00)

From my observation the vast bulk of the crowd spent the day inside, drifting between the tot/TAB/bookies and the bar.  Very much like Crown Casino, only a decidedly better class of clientele, and definitely more socially acceptable.

And I did make friends with a bookie.  He was so nice, smiled broadly each time I approached him and gave me such confidence that I emptied my wallet!



Searching for a new model

Tarquin O’Flaherty wrote this of community cooperation:

A.L. Morton in his ‘The English Utopia’  has the following to say, (He begins by quoting Marx):

“When the productive forces of society have expanded…then will the narrow bourgeois outlook be transcended…then will society inscribe upon its banners;  ‘From everyone according to his capacities, to everyone according to his needs!’

More [Sir Thomas] understood what Morris[William] understood later….that this principle…was the only basis for a classless society. Reason led the learned Humanist to the same conclusions as those instinctively grasped by the simple men who had depicted ‘The  Land of Cokaygne’.[ the original English peasant Utopia]

In some ways it was easier for them and for More to reach this conception than it has been for others who had to live in a fully capitalist society. England in the 16th century, in spite of the development of commodity production, still retained much of the primitive agrarian collectivism that had persisted under cover of feudalism. Though the family had an individual tenement, this land lay scattered with those of other members of the township throughout the common fields and its working depended on the joint plough team and involved a considerable co-operation at certain times. And even in More’s day, when the gap between town and country was widening….[More ] had in his mind [when writing his Utopia] a picture not very different from what might still have been seen in the England of his own time.

More’s communism, that is to say, is not merely an imaginative picture of something that might happen in the future, but even more the extension and transformation of something already existing to the conditions of a society different from his own but nevertheless related to it and arising out of it.”

I offer this as a sad reflection on how easily a bloody good idea (a co-operative society) is taken and trounced to the point where the very mention of the notion of communism nowadays sends shivers down the spine.

Thinking people truly believed, in the 19th century, that not only was Utopia a real possibility, but that it was inevitable.

Money decided that this was a bad idea, and replaced it with boom and bust, the perfect way to keep the lower orders on edge, unsettled and not too uppity.

Sad stuff… and now we are to accept Abbott’s contemptuous impoverishment policies, while industry and the banks make mind-blowing levels of profit.

I think Abbott might be about to discover that the people who voted for him did so because they believed he was telling the truth, that he was a man of his word.

How silly of them.

Tarquin O’Flaherty 

To which Anthony Eames replied:

A very interesting piece that gave me a neuronal whirl – and set the synaptic relays clattering excitedly.

In our myopic way, we assume that the anglo-saxon version of market capitalism is the one, eternal pathway to prosperous modernity.  We have uncritically bought the propaganda wholesale.  Challenging this, however, is the rapid growth of China and the other Asian countries following their own, quite different systems.

As well, the developed countries achieving the best results in balancing both economic progress and quality of life (Scandinavia, especially) have social democratic, mixed systems.  By most social capital metrics, such as income equality, access to quality education, healthcare, social equity, public infrastructure, crime, etc., they leave the good old USA way behind.

But if you look across the full sweep of human history and prehistory, you will see that for all but a few generations we lived as hunter-gathers under a form of primitive communism and later as farmers in communalist systems.  I guess that one reason why many Aborigines find it hard in today’s Australia is that in their culture everything is shared and so no one individual easily accumulates the capital to start a business and ‘get ahead’.

As I wrote earlier, the East Asian instinct for collective cooperation is surely founded on the special character of rice-farming which calls for intensive, wholesale effort that would be beyond the resources of a single family.  (Interestingly, recent research has shown a significantly higher degree of individualism among the family-unit wheat farmers of Northern China than their southern, rice-eating compatriots.  Fuji tells me there is a similar difference between Japanese rice-growers and the wheat and potato farmers of the northern island of Hokkaido.)

We heard all about the deadening effect of bureaucratic sovietism – and I do not doubt that for a moment.  However, the sheer wastefulness of our market-efficient economy is prodigious.  Think of all that artificial competition with its needless duplication, the contrived product differentiation, parallel distribution networks, the armies of advertising and PR specialists producing little of real value, all the legal to-ing and fro-ing, the incessant goading to over-consume – and the huckstering of fripperies and flim-flam that add nothing to human existence, but only distract us from what is important and urgent.

These are serious criticisms, to be sure, but much the worse is that we live under a system that makes money the measure of everything.  Money buys you power, leverage, respect and worth.  It is, first and last, the final, and often the only, arbiter.  In such wise, it reduces most people to economic functionaries, disenfranchised and scurrying around as unreflective about their condition as ants.  And along the way, we are compliantly robbed of our humanity.

There must be another, better way to create a society that makes the fullest – and fairest – use of every individual’s potential.

Aux barricades!

Anthony Eames

And a brief rejoinder from Tarquin

…..Incidentally, and apropos More’s Utopia, the ‘great Humanist’ takes landowners and the monarchy to task over their ruthless exploitation of an already disenfranchised peasantry following the shameful Enclosures Acts.

The only thing that saved More from having his head chopped off for his ‘Utopia’ opinions was the fact that he published his work in the international language of scholars; Latin.  He also published his work only in Belgium and France because Europe was where the audience was.  Having divorced himself from Henry (in a matter of divorce) More had his head divorced from his shoulders.  More’s name being anathema in Henry’s lifetime, the first English translation of More’s “Utopia’ did not appear until after Henry the Eighth’s death, when it could do More less harm, more or less…


Adam Goodes and Racism

by Jake Niall, first published The Age 22 May 2014

Adam GoodesThere might not be a single reason why a portion of Essendon fans booed Adam Goodes on Saturday evening. Some might have booed him for supposed staging, others for the fact that he’s an opposition champion.

Some could simply have been angry that the Bombers were getting flogged, and joined in the chorus, without necessarily putting a coherent thought behind their boo.

But it is clear that, whatever motivated the booers, Goodes has become a target for a certain football fan who doesn’t like the way he has stood up for indigenous rights and for the way he has challenged our thinking.

This is not about Essendon supporters, because Goodes has copped invective from fans of other clubs for what is seen to be a stridency in attacking racism within football ever since he reported a racial slur against Collingwood last year, which was followed by Eddie McGuire’s unfortunate ‘‘King Kong’’ gaffe.

Check the 200 or so comments underneath on the column penned by Greg Baum on Tuesday, peruse fan forums and you’ll find a criticism of Goodes – which is far from a majority – that he is an undeserving recipient of the Australian Of The Year, or that his stance on indigenous matters has been too righteous.

‘‘People just don’t like Goodes, especially since he was so undeserving of an AUSTRALIAN of the YEAR award. What a joke,’’ said one respondent to the Baum column. ‘‘Can I get the gong because I am white.’’

Another reader opined that Goodes had been booed, in part because he: ‘‘points the finger at a little girl who called him an ape’’ and ‘‘vilifies all white-skinned Australians as being responsible for the ‘genocide’ of the Aboriginal people may be we’re all a little over this sanctimonious ‘role model’.’’

One castigated Goodes for being ‘‘a precious little petal, everything is racist to him. he has lost the plot big time and i have lost all respect for this guy!!!!’’

A number of readers pointed out that while Goodes had been booed, fellow indigenous Swans (and superstar) Lance Franklin and Lewis Jetta were spared the hoot.

That is correct, and it leads directly to an explanation for why Goodes, rather than Buddy, Jetta, Paddy Ryder and virtually every other indigenous footballer, is copping cyber abuse for his front-foot stance on race.

It is the theory of influential conservative African-American writer Shelby Steele that there are two types of black public figures in the United States: ‘‘challengers’’ and ‘‘bargainers’’.

The bargainer is described as a black who adopts a ‘‘go along to get along’’ view. He forms an unwritten pact with the white public – that he will not hold whites accountable for historic racism, or even the less virulent contemporary version, so long as they don’t hold his colour against him.

Indigenous leader Noel Pearson once articulated Steele’s explanation of the bargainer thus: ‘‘I will not use America’s history of racism against you, if you promise not to use my race against me.’’

Barack Obama, Oprah Winfrey and Tiger Woods all fitted the ‘‘bargainer’’ mould, according to Steele. The challenger, conversely, does not let racism slide. He is forthright in identifying and confronting it. The challenger sees racism as endemic. He does not go along to get along and often has an angry edge.

Activist Jesse Jackson and filmmaker Spike Lee are paradigms of Steele’s challenger. I saw the challenger/bargainer thesis proven in the audience at a Mike Tyson fight in 1991, when the crowd gave Michael Jordan (bargainer) a rapturous standing ovation, after booing Jackson and Lee, who were among the celebrity throng.

Goodes is a pretty mild challenger by black American or even indigenous Australian standards, but he has taken up the cudgels, in a fiercer way, than any other highly visible Aboriginal sportsman (besides the much less temperate, or credible Anthony Mundine). While Michael Long has challenged via his actions – including his march – his tone has been without a confrontational edge.

He is also a former player – which removes him from the centre square of race debates.

Goodes, intentionally or not, is our challenger on race conduct in the AFL.

Sadly, elements within the football public can’t accept this kind of challenge.


Poetry Sunday 25 May 2014

We are pleased to re-post this Lionel Fogarty masterpiece, and don’t for a minute think it has anything to do with the recently presented Federal Budget.


The poor not homeless cause they have souls richest.
Fortune are homeless, tunes are homeless,
Homeless be the resistances
Homing babies don’t cry
Homeless be the rich of explores
Renting and owners be a homeless
Souls of cold are homeless
Soulful houses are hot with that foods want by the homeless.
Now prayers don’t work for homeless
A camp tent disappear, when a house no tiles to walk on.
Beds all lay sensible as inflict a strategy by all homeless survival.
Resistance are many homeless when they are exhibited.
Homage strange ungirth bring sad eyes handled by transgressor.
Love can not be a molesting, “we got it better to live”
Home made invader on our homeless are tears not seen to comfort the living.
Home sweet homes must look at the big pictures.
Poor fairest bring all your morning happy when rhythms are lullaby as if the house is earth.
Home swear will not cover the hot cold seasons our homeless needs.
Religions are using the unhoused people for forgotten bush realization.
Pain comes passion at the men who needs a home to home his women’s.
Society eternity seems to want a keep homeless at bay at no stay.
Gifts are given, yet the homeless can’t pay rent or play ownership no more at doors gates close, a whole history roofs side walls seems fallen by the homeless callings.
My people housed know they not full housed cause our people’s live air think even eat as homeless.
Land taken made us homeless.
The trees roots are arms of our brothers and sisters homeless.
They say why don’t them get it together.
Well knock pale the rising sun light on homeless.
We’ll find music is beat best in homeless songs.
Always not be homeless for the crowed will intake,
Swift perfect lives make no homeless we run through years of rain in the sun shining.
Their feeling are not homeless when not housed don’t mean they lost.
Homes many are lonely than the homeless song on songs.
Let the peace be the piss over fires that don’t warm the homeless kinds.
The gold’s are the homeless
The futures are all homeless
Just don’t be up you one’s of a housed care.
Don’t cares are right wing bad bodies mouths.
We pity the stay on owners who will not house the homeless.
Most homeless have peaces unity and loves over money wearing sparkling.
Most homeless do soul the soulless even smart talk the politic of it all.
Most homeless are friends without friends.
We must not feel sadden for the homeless are a real worlds.


MDFF 24 May 2014

First dispatched 18 May 2014

From my dad’s anecdotes:
SEP.’07- Not all that long ago dad was having one of his sessions and kept coming up with his now habitual rather negative opinions. This caused his daughter in law (of whom he is rather fond) to remark: “Well, you know Mark: every silver lining has its dark cloud”. Touché ! Dad chuckled and acknowledged that she was right.

Tony Abbott’s election campaign included a pledge that he’d be the ‘Prime Minister for Indigenous Affairs’. In previous Dispatches it was pondered whether Misterrabbit’s undertaking to spend a week in an Aboriginal community for each year he was Prime Minister was a promise or a threat. Should we erect another Rabbit Proof Fence?

Jenny Macklin’s assimilationist Empire was handballed to the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, and the Northern Territory’s own Senator Nigel Scullion was put in charge.

Some years ago Nigel Scullion suggested that removing the permit system would allow free enterprise to flourish and for example “we could get Vietnamese market-gardeners to establish themselves on these communities”. Need I say more?

On page 15 of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet’s ‘Workplace Diversity Strategy 2011-2014’, in the column headed ‘Action Plan” there is:
“Incorporate acknowledgement of traditional owners at all PM&C public events.”. In the column headed ‘Responsibility’ it has: “All Staff”

All correspondence received from the Department of the PM&C and/or its agents has the following:
“The Department acknowledges the traditional owners of country throughout Australia and their continuing connection to land, sea and community. We pay our respects to them and their cultures and to their elders both past and present”.

Yes indeed R-E-S-T-E-C-P

Such acknowledgements have memefied. Examples abound:
“I would like to acknowledge that daily I live, work and play on larrakia land. I pay my respects to larrakia elders, both past and present.”

And like all silver linings they disguise a dark cloud.

The recent Australian Budget had an incredible month long lead up of rumours, leaks, discussions, political wedging and propaganda with a compliant press that fails to acknowledge one of the reasons the printed media is losing circulation is that the papers are (generally) incredibly boring! German has a word that describes what the printed media suffers from: Kreislaufschwäche (look it up if you can be bothered).

I acknowledge that the geniuses in charge of running the country quite correctly identified the plethora of ‘programs’ dealing with Indigenous Affairs to be a case of too many cooks.

They just weren’t delivering the assimilationist outcomes they sought. Their Gap kept on widening.

So what is proposed? In their wisdom they propose:  A new “Indigenous Advancement Strategy” comprised of five programs within PM&C. The consolidation according to the Budget will result in savings of $534.4M. Thus from over 150 cooks they’ll cut back to just 5 cooks. Brilliant!

To every dark cloud there is a silver lining.  Whereas Aboriginal Legal Aid Services and The National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples (virtually the only national Australian Indigenous representative body) have had their funding severely cut, we must acknowledge that remote Aboriginal Australia can look forward to $200M of funding for additional Police Complexes (“community safety”) and School Attendance programs. We can’t wait!

No hidden agenda there, not even behind a dark cloud, it is blatant forced Assimilation

We must acknowledge that many (both black and white) have been bedazzled by the silver linings. They believe ethnocide is both inevitable and desirable.

It is colloquially known as a ‘double-whammy’. On Tuesday 13th May the Federal Treasurer delivered the Budget. The next day, the NT Minister for Education released: “A Share in the Future-Review of Indigenous Education in the Northern Territory” Recently I was given a book “Colloquial French”. I didn’t have to consult it, the colloquial French word that immediately sprung to mind was ‘merde’ (also the Argentine colloquial phrase: ‘Hijos de puta’).

On page 34, commenting on consultations and received submissions the report acknowledges: “ …Many respondents stated strongly held views on bilingual education….There was also extensive commentary on the role of first language in education….”

Another silver lining on page 20: “The review supports the teaching of literacy in first language…” followed by the inevitable caveat “…where feasible

The teaching of literacy using a foreign language (English) is not qualified with a “where feasible” in the report. The feasibility of children to learn to read and write whilst being addressed by a teacher that has gobbledygook emanating from his or her mouth, isn’t questioned.

On page 11 an even brighter silver lining: “The review acknowledges and supports the role of student’s first languages in education….”

And then there is the inevitable dark clouds:

Page-11- “The review does not, however, support the position argued by some respondents that first language is the only or best means of access to English, or that the curriculum should be predominantly taught in Indigenous languages.”

Page 35- “It is also important to acknowledge from the outset that this review has made a pragmatic decision to focus on the skills and knowledge that underpin success in the western education system…..and that this will not be achieved unless there is rigorous and relentless attention to learning English and gaining the skills that support participation in a modern democracy and economy.”

The NT Department of Education has already pre-empted its intention to be guided by this review when formulating its policies.

Seems to me that they’re not satisfied with having mortally wounded bi-lingual education some years ago. They now intent to cremate it and scatter the ashes so it can never again be resurrected.

If the assimilationists have their way Australia stands to lose more than is realized. A language is not just a means to gain the skills and knowledge that underpin success in the western education system  A language is much much more than that.

I now have come to realize why when acknowledging traditional owners and elders past and present, no such acknowledgement is extended to future traditional owners and elders.

If they have their way there will be none left to acknowledge!


Doz vitanya


Everyone is calling out for Peace, no one is calling out for Justice…
Amen to that.

Glen Ochre Continued!

Untitled 26Glen Ochre died last Tuesday 13 May 2014.  We conclude our tribute to her today.

As the daughter of communists Glen was socially aware from a young age.  Now she became increasingly politically active.  She was part of the movement against capital punishment spurred by Ronald Ryan’s hanging in 1967, and harboured draft dodgers during the Vietnam war.  She was actively involved in the women’s movement from way back when it was organised around women’s kitchen tables.  Glen learnt much from this movement, and in turn gave much back.  Her commitment to feminism enabled her to begin crafting more effective ways to work together as collectives.

It was a busy and happy time for Glen, but it was not to last.  The strain of the devastating death of her first daughter, Jodie, from cancer when she was just tow and a half, was too much for Bob and they split up.  Years of poverty followed as Glen struggled to raise her three children on her nursing wage.  And then the children lost their father when Bob died in a car accident in 1975.

By this time Glen had left nursing and was working on a support program at the Brotherhood of St Laurence for those doing it tough.  It was the perfect fit.  The job also launched Glen into a social work degree, where she honed her skills in group work.  The education strengthened her analytical framework for her widening political focus.

After graduating in 1979, she returned to the Brotherhood, where the then CEO, Peter Hollingworth, became a great ally in Glen’s biggest project, the establishment of the Commonground Co-operative on 38 hectares near Seymour.  He got the Brotherhood to stump up significant funds towards the endeavour.

It was at the Brotherhood that she met Ed McKinley, her second husband.  They made a strong team with Ed giving her the support to take the next step with her dreams.  They had two children together, Dan and Ruby.

Always the revolutionary, Glen had a passionate dream for a better way to live, to raise children and to build an effective platform to pursue collaborative endeavours – facilitating groups, campaigns for women’s rights, support for the marginalised, nonviolence and social justice.  Together with friends Phil Bourne, Kate Lewer, Terry Melvin and Ed, Glen created Commonground Co-operative, a venture in communal living and working together.  There were many years of working bees, fundraising and robust meetings.  Commonground thrives as an intentional community and workshop space for activist and community groups.

groupswork logoIn 1999 Glen and Ed moved back to Melbourne where their son Dan had gone to continue his schooling.  Dan needed support as a result of severe ear damage, causing chronic tinnitus.  After years of working with groups to improve their skills they decided to launch the Groupwork Institute of Australia to offer more substantial collaborative education.  The first full-year course in facilitation started in 2000.  This later became registered as the world’s first nationally accredited facilitation qualification.

Tragedy again struck in 2010 when Cherie, Glen’s daughter who had cerebral palsy, died of cancer at age 42.  Also by this time Glen’s reputation as a ‘doula’ (lay midwife) had enabled about 60 women to be better supported as they brought their newborn into the world.  It is remarkable that she fitted this in on the side, although she was deply appreciative of the nourishment it gave her back.

Glen’s profound teachings brought together the three strands of her life’s philosophy: the spiritual connection we share with the Earth and all living creatures that centres us; the emotional realm that guides us, especially the power of love; and the understanding of the structural and political forces that operate around us.  The hundreds of graduates who have participated in the year long courses and the thousands who have participated in the short courses, have benefited deeply from the ‘stickability’ of the innovative techniques and skills Glen has crafted.

act togetherGlen left a written legacy as well.  She published her first book, a guide to group work, Getting our Act Together, last year.  Her autobiography, Child of the Earth, will be published later this year.

Glen is survived by her children David, Brian, Dan and Ruby, her partner Ed, grandchildren Robbie, Finn, Nathan, Lachie, Frankie (and two more on the way), her sorta daughter Emily, and sorta son Jimmy and their parents Phil and Kate who have held the Commonground space with Glen and Ed since its inception.  And then there is Glen’s huge extended mob…..

Her legacy lives on in the collaborative structures and processes she created, and in the loving spirit that helped form strong and lasting connections with everyone around her.

Glen Ochre, returned to Mother Earth.


Glen Ochre

Glen Ochre 1944 – 2014

Untitled 26Glen Ochre died last Tuesday.  This remarkable woman changed the lives of most she touched.  From midwifery to non violent conflict resolution, from facilitation to partying Glen held nothing back.  She had an ability to be inclusive, caring, respectful yet always principled.  Glen engaged like no other, she listened, respected, and challenged.  Glen, above most others, gave me the confidence to speak out, to work for a better world, to counter Ayn Rand and her ilk, to show that community, that groups, are capable of being immensely greater than the sum of their parts.  

Glen’s funeral was held at Commonground, the intentional co-operative community near Seymour in Central Victoria that she co-founded.  This is an abbreviated summation of the notes from that funeral.

Glen died at the age of 69 on Tuesday May 13, after wrestling with pancreatic cancer for 15 months.  Cancer was one of many setbacks that marked her life of great achievement.  These included an abusive and difficult childhood, the poverty of living as a single mother and the death of two of her six children.

CommongroundA pioneer of collaborative work practices and group work, Glen Ochre was a giant of the facilitation movement in Australia.  She co-founded the intentional community and workshop space, Commonground, in Seymour, Victoria, and its offshoot – the Melbourne based collaborative education centre, the Groupwork Institute of Australia.

Glen was driven by a passion for a just, nonviolent and sustainable world that arose from her own experience of violence, poverty and discrimination.  These same forces propelled her work as an activist, counsellor, social worker, nurse, educator, facilitator and group worker that influenced thousands of people.

Glen was born in Fairfield, in Sydney’s west in 1944.  Her twin siblings, Bland and Annie, were born nine years later.  Her communist parents fled the city during the anti-communist witch-hunts of the post war era for a small farm at Ulan, near Mudgee in Central NSW.

This was a deeply unhappy time for Glen.  She was sexually abused by her father from the age of three.  She eventually worked out strategies to end the sexual abuse, however the physical and psychological abuse continued until she fled her home at age 15.  She was gang raped at the age of 13.

As a young girl Glen was developing survival strategies.  By the time she was five she regularly sought sanctuary in the bush.  What started as day walks became camping trips.  She would build gunyah from saplings and cook and fend for herself.  She spent hours contemplating natural wonders – a majestic tree, a wasp nest or a bubbling creek.  She never doubted that the connection she felt with the bush saved her life.

Glen began to tap into one of the great gifts that nourished her life – her spiritual affinity with the natural world.  Later she identified the healing power of the special place that is within all of us, the ‘sacred centre’ as she called it.

This profound intimacy with the natural world that she shared with Indigenous people, and with the Gypsy heritage of her mother’s family, became integral to her work.  It formed the basis of her model of self-awareness, the Community of Selves.  In Glen’s candid language, this model shows us how to ‘deal with our own shit before we start to deal with everyone else’s’.  It remains a core element of the Groupwork Institute course in group facilitation.

The deep scars from this brutality took many years to heal.  Glen did a lot of therapeautic work throughout her life coming to terms with the shame, bitterness and hurt.  As always, though, there was an upside.  The therapy laid the groundwork for her powerful counselling techniques.  It also strengthened her commitment to what she called ‘practical femminism’, providing personal and political support for women and children and to many groups struggling to throw off the chains of patriarchy.

When Glen fled the farm for Melbourne, she trained at the Alfred Hospital as a nurse.  Her mother falsified Glen’s age on her birth certificate so she could get in.  The country girl blossomed in the heady days of rock ‘n’ roll.  She discovered make -up, hair curlers, electric lighting and cow’s milk.  On the farm milk came from goats and light from a Tilley lamp.

Her friendship with a young university student, Bob Alderson, grew into a relationship and they married by the time Glen was 17.  They had four children together, David, Brian, Jodie and Cherie.

PART 2 Tomorrow…