Poetry Sunday 28 September 2014

The People Upstairs, by Ogden Nash

The people upstairs all practise ballet
Their living room is a bowling alley
Their bedroom is full of conducted tours.
Their radio is louder than yours,
They celebrate week-ends all the week.
When they take a shower, your ceilings leak.
They try to get their parties to mix
By supplying their guests with Pogo sticks,
And when their fun at last abates,
They go to the bathroom on roller skates.
I would love the people upstairs wondrous
If instead of above us, they just lived under us.

Comments from Our Poetry Editor, Ira Maine

Ogden Nash, born in New York in 1902. Wonderful character and sharp as a Yellow Box splinter. After some years in advertising he eventually worked his way onto the payroll of the New Yorker where he proceeded to become indispensable. He  is undoubtedly, hilariously, an American National Treasure. as this poem amply demonstrates. He died in 1971.

Don’t spend all your money on obtaining ‘The Collected Verse’. Any half-way decent secondhand bookshop is almost bound to have a copy for a couple of bucks.

Happy days…and recklessly adventurous nights!

Gottfried Fish.


MDFF 27 September 2014

¿Que tal amigos?

To those that read last week’s Dispatch, let me inform you that I received an acceptable explanation of what I saw. On that occasion I did not witness a legally sanctioned crime.

That doesn’t leave the system that systematically (as systems do) remove Aboriginal children from their families off the hook. And yes I’m aware that “child welfare” results in many non-Aboriginal families and welfare officers also being traumatised by attempts at solving complex social problems with pragmatic/bureaucratic/legalistic “solutions”. Not quite throwing the baby out with the bathwater, but moving it to a distant bath with unfamiliar water, and leaving behind an empty bath. The return path from the distant bath to the empty bath is studded with often insurmountable hurdles of perception and value judgements..

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fNXbwhW7NIg Lucky Dube’s “Respect” …. Watch it … a familiar story.

In hindsight I am very glad that I chose to study geology. The mineral and oil exploration industry was an exciting and interesting endeavour to be part of. I have no way of knowing to what extent it still is exciting and interesting, but there has been a significant paradigm shift. Geology is more than just a science, an exploration geologist could let his or her imagination take flight as to where that elusive ore body might be hiding. Many colleagues read books and played music or created art or were otherwise far from dull. Yes, certain pragmatic parameters were applied, such as maximum information per dollar, prioritising drill sites so as to increase the chances of paying off for those that provided your bread and butter. All the same the name of the game was to be creative at trying to find the next El Dorado. Being a member of an exploration team was just as satisfying as being a member of an orchestra or a volleyball team. These days the imperative is to be creative at creating “shareholder wealth” and there are “stakeholders” that shuffle “capital” and “investments” around, barely noticing the beauty of an unconformity or an exposed anticline or cross bedding, or a drill core containing sulphides or the bright green fluorescence under ultraviolet light of oil staining on a porous sandstone fragment lifted by drilling mud from a few kilometres below the surface. Dollars per tonne is all they care for. Price transference and tax minimisation let alone corruption and greed are the order of the day.

One need only look at one example, the Zambian Copper belt. Zambia is “blessed” by the world’s 9th richest copper deposits, yet 64% of its population lives on less than a dollar a day.

Budgeting was not part of a university Geology course. Frugality was taught to us by parents and grandparents that had gone through a depression and a world war. “ A stitch in time saves nine”, “penny wise and pound foolish” “waste not want not”, we old fossils all knew the meaning of these.

A few days ago the NT Government released a Media Release: “Improving safety in Central Australian communities”:

A Central Australia construction company has won the $7.6 million contract to build a state of the art new Police Station in Yuendumu.

“The existing Police station in Yuendumu is being demolished and replaced with a modern complex that includes a multi-function room for use as a community meeting venue, three new Police houses and four, one bedroom visiting officer quarters.”

A moot point in that at the rate Yuendumu people are being incarcerated the new meeting venue may not be all that well patronised even if everyone decides to no longer to use existing meeting facilities. Certainly those with a warrant out for them are not very likely to use the multi-function room!

I don’t know why the politicians chose not to make this exciting announcement here in Yuendumu (an interstate friend passed it onto me). Surely they would have enjoyed the spontaneous outburst of dancing in the streets such would have elicited! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RGpgkCE41x8

As I mentioned Budgeting was not part of my studies, but let me try none the less:

Reintroduce bilingual education at Yuendumu School … $650,000

Support the setting up of a Homeland support organisation at Yuendumu…. $1,500,000

A fighting fund to pay for the legal costs of Yuendumu people that wish to have their children returned by “Child Protection” ……$450,000

Funding for a trial period for Yuendumu Council to be reinstated and run its functions locally instead of from Alice Springs ……$1,000,000

Funding to run the Yuendumu Pool for the next three years so the current operators don’t have to get out the begging bowl…..$500,000

Set up a Yuendumu Housing Association to gradually get all tenancy and maintenance contracts currently being outsourced  …….. $1,500,000

Re- establish WYN Health (Willowra/Yuendumu/Nyirrpi Health) to increasingly take on a role in local health initiatives. ….. $1,000,000

Support the PAW Media (aka Warlpiri Media) cultural centre …..$500,000

Fund the Yuendumu Social Club to get out of debt and once again become a profitable locally owned and managed organisation …….$500,000

Total $7.6 million

As I said Budgeting was not part of my studies. As is so famously repeated in the film ‘The Castle’….. “tell him he’s dreaming”.

Another song of Freedom…Bob Marley….Redemption Song….

Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose…

Hasta la proxima. Que les valla bien.


Still in the 1950’s

Kasey Edwards writes of the promotion of male dominance in Men’s Health magazine, of treating women as ‘sex dolls with a pulse’.

Men’s Health, with the help of Yahoo 7, is calling upon its readers to ‘stand up for your rights, man!’

In an article titled 15 Ways To Turn a Good Girl Bad, the magazine laments that ‘female emancipation’ — such as voting and equal pay — has caused a ‘princess-and-the-pea syndrome.’

Women now have the audacity to expect orgasms with the result being that ‘The pea’s demands will eclipse those of your penis.’

Back in the good old days when men were men and women were property, sexual pleasure was something that a woman gave to a man and chicks didn’t have the over-inflated sense of entitlement to expect it for themselves.

But don’t worry, Men’s Health is helping to rectify the situation by enlisting ‘Six sexperts…to make her great in bed (without her even noticing).’

Conveniently overlooking the messy grey area between ‘without her even noticing’ and consent, men are advised to school their princesses in handjob techniques. ‘Be firm and keep going until you’re done so that she can replicate the experience next time.’

Never mind the small detail that women are allowed to stop at any point, even before the man is ‘done’.

There are other tips for what to do if she’s too gentle — tough luck for her if she doesn’t like it rough — and a suggestion to send her off to pilates if, ‘her tunnel of love doesn’t feel as snug as you’d like’.

As well as manipulating her physically — ‘If she’s shy, tires easily on top (or she just doesn’t fancy you), turn her around to face your feet’ — the article also recommends manipulating her emotionally, advising ‘don’t put out’ for up to 14 days.

‘Stop asking and you may find her sexual appetite gets the better of her, revealing a hunger that brings out her more confident side.’

And once men fully understand how to optimise their own sexual pleasure, without any regard for their partner, they’re advised: ‘Make it easy on yourself.’

‘Getting her to the level of orgasm can be a hard slog,’ so the article recommends the use of sex toys to get the tedium of female orgasm over and done with as quickly as possible and with minimum effort.

In the 1950s world inhabited by Men’s Health editors, good girls are frigid, bad girls are horny minxes, and sexual appetite is unnatural for women. Their solution? Use a blindfold so she can explore her ‘naughtier side without feeling self-conscious’.

This manifesto of male sexual dominance sleazily exploits the expert opinions of women to do its bidding. Five out of the six sexperts quoted in the article are women. Presumably the editors think that something can’t be sexist if it’s spoken by a woman.

I’m going to give the sexperts the benefit of the doubt and assume they’ve been quoted out of context and that they don’t give advice exclusively to men, nor do they view women as merely sex dolls with a pulse.

Coming from Zoo Weekly, this article would be unremarkable. But Men’s Health has carved out a niche in the men’s magazine market as a (slightly) more respectable title.

That strategy has been largely successful with both advertises and readers alike. Advertisers have viewed Men’s Health as a safe harbour to market to men without having their products and services tarnished by misogynist rubbish.

Not any longer, it would seem.

I wonder how Coles, Commonwealth Bank, Telstra, Toyota, Westpac, Citibank and Samsung feel about having their branding surround an article that treats half their customer base with utter contempt.

And as the increasing graveyard of Australian’s men’s magazines shows — remember Ralph and Australian FHM  — male magazine buyers don’t go for this kind of thing. And, full disclosure, I was tipped off about this article by a man who happened upon it on Yahoo!7 and was appalled by it.

It’s not the first time in recent memory that Men’s Heath has used its slick machismo to reinforce male dominance. The US edition’s response to the Isla Vista shootings framed the issue as women being weak and passive and encouraged men to act ‘forcibly’ to protect them.

‘How fortunate, then, that with good reason, natural selection has endowed us with stronger muscles, aggressive tendencies, and a certain brute will,’ the article states.

The irony is that if men weren’t encouraged to view women as objects that exist for their benefit — and Men’s Health didn’t publish sexpert articles with a blatant disregard and disrespect for women — then men may be less likely to harm women and we wouldn’t need men’s ‘aggressive tendencies’ to protect us.

Kasey Edwards is a writer and best-selling author. www.kaseyedwards.com

Tokenism, again

Australia’s prime minister took his government and the media to the NT to better understand the needs of Indigenous Australians. We’re already awash with that knowledge

John Pilger, Friday 19 September 2014, theguardian.com

There are times when farce and living caricature almost consume the cynicism and mendacity in the daily life of Australia’s rulers. Across the front pages is a photograph of a resolute Tony Abbott with Indigenous children in Arnhem Land. “Domestic policy one day,” says the caption, “focus on war the next.”

Reminiscent of a vintage anthropologist, the prime minister grasps the head of an Indigenous child trying to shake his hand. He beams, as if incredulous at the success of his twin stunts: “running the nation” from a bushland tent on the Gove Peninsula while “taking the nation to war”. Like any “reality” show, he is surrounded by cameras and manic attendants, who alert the nation to his principled and decisive acts.

But wait; the leader of all Australians must fly south to farewell the SAS, off on its latest heroic mission since its triumph in the civilian bloodfest of Afghanistan. “Pursuing sheer evil” sounds familiar. Of course, an historic mercenary role is unmentionable, this time backing the latest US installed sectarian regime in Baghdad and re-branded ex-Kurdish “terrorists”, now guarding Chevron, Exxon Mobil, Marathon Oil, Hunt Oil et al.

No parliamentary debate is allowed; no fabricated invitation from foreigners in distress is necessary, as it was in Vietnam. Speed is the essence. What with US intelligence insisting there is no threat from Islamic State to the US and presumably Australia, truth may deter the mission if time is lost. If yesterday’s police and media show of “anti-terror” arrests in “the plot against Sydney” fails to arouse the suspicions of the nation, nothing will. That the unpopular Abbott’s various wars are likely to be self-fulfilling, making Australians less safe, ought to be in the headlines, too. Remember the blowback from Blair’s wars.

But what of the beheadings? During the 21 months between James Foley’s abduction and his beheading, 113 people were reportedly beheaded by Saudi Arabia, one of Barack Obama’s and Abbott’s closest allies in their current “moral” and “idealistic” enterprise. Indeed, Abbott’s war will no doubt rate a plaque in the Australian War Memorial alongside all the other colonial invasions acknowledged in that great emporium of white nationalism – except, of course, the colonial invasion of Australia during which the beheading of the Indigenous Australian defenders was not considered sheer evil.

This returns us to the show in Arnhem Land. Abbott says the reason he and the media are camped there is that he can consult with Indigenous “leaders” and “gain a better understanding of the needs of people living and working in these areas”.

Australia is awash with knowledge of the “needs” of its First Peoples. Every week, it seems, yet another study adds to the torrent of information about the imposed impoverishment of and vicious discrimination against Indigenous people: apartheid in all but name. The facts, which can no longer be spun, ought to be engraved in the national consciousness, if not the prime minister’s. Australia has a rate of Indigenous incarceration higher than that of apartheid South Africa; deaths in custody occur as if to a terrible drumbeat; preventable Dickensian diseases are rampant, including among those who live in the midst of a mining boom that has made profits of a billion dollars a week. Rheumatic heart disease kills Indigenous people in their 30s and 40s, and their children go deaf and suffer trachoma, which causes blindness.

When, as shadow Indigenous health minister in 2009, Abbott was reminded by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Indigenous people that the Howard government’s fraudulent “intervention” was racist, he told Professor James Anaya to “get a life” and “stop listening to the old victim brigade”. The distinguished Anaya had just been to Utopia, a vast region in the Northern Territory, where I filmed the evidence of the racism and forced deprivation that had so shocked him and millions of viewers around the world. “Malnutrition”, a GP in central Australia told me, “is common.”

Today, as Abbott poses for the camera with children in Arnhem Land, the children of Utopia are being denied access to safe and clean drinking water. For 10 weeks, communities have had no running water. A new bore would cost just $35,000. Scabies and more trachoma are the result. (For perspective, consider that Labor’s last Indigenous Affairs Minister, Jenny Macklin, spent $331,144 refurbishing her office in Canberra).

In 2012, Olga Havnen, a senior Northern Territory government official, revealed that more than $80m was spent on the surveillance of families and the removal of children compared with just $500,000 on supporting the same impoverished families. Her warning of a second Stolen Generation led to her sacking. This week in Sydney, Amnesty and a group known as Grandmothers Against Removals presented further evidence that the number of Indigenous children being taken from their families, often violently, was greater than at any time in Australia’s colonial history.

Will Abbott, self-proclaimed friend of Indigenous people, step in and defend these families? On the contrary, in his May budget, Abbott cut $534m from the “needs” of Indigenous people over the next five years, a quarter of which was for health provision. Far from being an Indigenous friend, Abbott’s government is continuing the theft of Indigenous land with a confidence trick called “99-year leases”. In return for surrendering their country – the essence of Aboriginality – communities will receive morsels of rent, which the government will take from Indigenous mining royalties. Perhaps only in Australia can such deceit masquerade as policy.

Similarly, Abbott appears to be supporting constitutional reform that will “recognise” Indigenous people in a proposed referendum. The “Recognise” campaign consists of familiar gestures and tokenism, promoted by a PR campaign “around which the nation can rally”, according to the Sydney Morning Herald – meaning the majority, or those who care, can feel they are doing something while doing nothing.

During all the years I have been reporting and filming Indigenous Australia, one “need” has struck me as paramount. A treaty. By that I mean an effective Indigenous bill of rights: land rights, resources rights, health rights, education rights, housing rights, and more. None of the “advances” of recent years, such as Native Title, has delivered the rights and services most Australians take for granted.

As Arrente/Amatjere leader Rosalie Kunoth-Monks says: “We never ceded ownership of this land. This remains our land, and we need to negotiate a lawful treaty with those who seized our land.” A great many if not most Indigenous Australians agree with her; and a campaign for a treaty – all but ignored by the media – is growing fast, especially among the savvy Indigenous young unrepresented by co-opted “leaders” who tell white society what it wants to hear.

That Australia has a prime minister who described this country as “unsettled” until the British came indicates the urgency of true reform – the end of paternalism and the enactment of a treaty negotiated between equals. For until we, who came later, give back to the first Australians their nationhood, we can never claim our own.



Poetry Sunday 21 September 2014

Poetry Sunday

In 1798 Europe was awash with rebellion.  The French peasantry, sick of eating cake, went in pursuit of bread.  The poor aristocracy, God help them, had a shocking time of it altogether.  The poor, the downtrodden, the halt, the sick and the lame, knocked seventeen different types of pooh out of them and La Belle France was never quite the same afterwards.  Like the White Russians who streamed out of Russia over a century later, huge amounts of rebellion afflicted French aristocrats escaped to England, ably assisted by David Niven and Richard E. Grant as the Scarlet Pimpernel.

England was scared witless by the possibility of home-grown mayhem, so, to begin with at least, any suggestion of insurrection was harshly dealt with.

Ireland, convinced that the French were about to join them (which they were, if it hadn’t been for storms at sea and other setbacks) took to the streets in open rebellion.  Taken a little aback by Irish presumption, The English rallied their occupying forces and at Vinegar Hill, in the south east corner of Ireland, systematically cornered, then slaughtered thousands of ‘rebels’ armed with pitchforks and shovels.

In the same way that the French wore a red cap, the Irish cropped their hair unfashionably short to demonstrate their rebel status.  They hid out in the countryside, ambushing coaches and military convoys, laying seige to buildings, taking over military outposts and all of the other stuff that’s calculated to get you in big trouble with the authorities.  To sustain themselves they filled their pockets with barley, oats or wheat, whatever they could get.  These individuals were known as either ‘Croppies’, or ‘Croppie Boys’.

Gradually the rebels were pushed back and defeated.  A line or two from a still popular song might suggest something of the flavour…

“…But the gold sun of freedom grew darkened at Ross,[New Ross, Co. Wexford]

And was drowned in the Slaney’s red waves,

And poor Wexford, stripped naked, hung high on the cross,

With her heart pierced by traitors and slaves…’

(We Irish have a long and hallowed tradition of informers…we also have a tradition of taking the bastards out and shooting them…)

Heaney evokes the time, the period, the harshness of those years much more graphically than all the spongey, over sentimentalized tosh available elsewhere.

Requiem for the Croppies, Seamus Heaney

The pockets of our greatcoats full of barley…
No kitchens on the run, no striking camp…
We moved quick and sudden in our own country.
The priest lay behind ditches with the tramp.
A people hardly marching… on the hike…
We found new tactics happening each day:
We’d cut through reins and rider with the pike
And stampede cattle into infantry,
Then retreat through hedges where cavalry must be thrown.
Until… on Vinegar Hill… the final conclave.
Terraced thousands died, shaking scythes at cannon.
The hillside blushed, soaked in our broken wave.
They buried us without shroud or coffin
And in August… the barley grew up out of our grave.

MDFF 20 September 2014

Our Dispatch today is current being first published on 15 September 2014.  The racist Intervention continues with white Australia’s complicity, bringing with it yet another generation of stolen children.

Goede middag vrienden,

My early education took place outside the “Empire on which the sun never sets”. I knew very little about inglaterra. My country of birth (The Netherlands) is know by all and sundry as ‘Holland’, similarly Great Britain or the United Kingdom was known to us Argentines as ‘England’.

I do recall learning in historia of the English attempts at gaining control of the Rio de la Plata, and of the brave denizens of Buenos Aires throwing boiling water from the rooftops onto los ingleses.

I vividly remember in our history books, the famous painting of the red coats surrendering to General Liniers, which thanks to the magic of the internet, I can now share with you all.

flashman 1

To those that want to sharpen up on the history of the British Empire, I can very strongly recommend the Flashman series by George MacDonald Fraser. The genesis of all that happens in Afghanistan, the Crimea, India, Africa, Borneo etc. etc. and just about all the “trouble spots” in the world is all there for everyone to read in those books.  When the U.S.S.R. invaded Afghanistan, I exasperatedly exclaimed to a mirror “Haven’t they read Flashman”? They quite clearly had not. Neither had the coalition of the willing. Yes indeed,

fools rush in where angels fear to tread… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T4BlDZjnLXs

In ‘Flash for Freedom’ Sir Harry is about to betray the escaped slave ‘girl’ Cassy to the slave catchers (to save his own skin). When she realises this, she chases Flashman across the icefloes of the Ohio River wielding a kitchen knife. The emancipists assumed that Flashman had saved Cassy.  It was this ‘heroic’ effort that inspired Harriet Beecher Stowe’s scene of Eliza saving her baby from the slave catchers by crossing the icefloes of the Ohio River.  After reading Uncle Tom’s Cabin, the illustration of Eliza clutching her child whilst crossing the river stayed with me in the recesses of my mind.

flashman 2

A girl of about 12, together with some friends went on a crime spree in Yuendumu (numerous break-ins and petty thefts). Her father decided to put a stop to this and gave her a hiding. As a result he is now doing a long stretch in gaol where he has joined the many Warlpiri men that are incarcerated. His daughter in his absence has gone on to vandalize the dialysis facility and set fire to the youth centre office. A whole generation of Warlpiri children is growing up without male role models in their immediate families. The long term effect on the Warlpiri social fabric of this, can only be guessed at.

Fairly recently I witnessed what may well have been a crime. A legally sanctioned crime that is.

A police vehicle and an NT Government vehicle pulled up outside the Yuendumu Clinic. A while later I saw a lady emerge carrying a baby. The image in my memory came alive, except there were no icefloes and it wasn’t the child’s mother rushing to the vehicle. Both vehicles drove off in a westerly direction, I don’t know whence, and I

don’t know why…  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tO4dxvguQDk

There may well be a perfectly rational and acceptable explanation for what I saw. I don’t know if I witnessed a legally sanctioned crime or not. It all happened in a flash.

What I do know however is that at present a larger number of Indigenous children are being removed from their families and societies than during the now infamous so called ‘Stolen Generations’

An Apology is meaningless if the authorities don’t learn from their mistakes and continue to repeat them.

Sometime in the future yet another apology will be called for.

Sorry seems to be the hardest word….

…sorry, sorry, sorry…

……. It’s never too late to say sorry….

Tot de volgende keer, 



Black Emu

Dark Emu. Black Seeds: Agriculture or Accident? by Bruce Pascoe, Magabala Books, $35.

Reviewed by Joe Blake.

It seems that every invading power does its best to destroy the culture that existed before it. The idea is, I think, to convince the locals (and themselves?) that what had been built up over previous generations was so negligible as to be unworthy of being preserved. Take Australia, for instance. We all knew that the land was not really owned by the people who lived here; it was, we were told incessantly, terra nullius. Those primitive Aboriginal people scratched a living as best they could, but made no advances towards anything substantial; no solid houses, no machinery, no crops, nothing.

Well, no, as it turns out. In this excellent book Bruce Pascoe provides plenty of first-hand accounts (by white people, no less) that tell us much about the enterprising ways of our first residents. He also raises a lot of questions, most of which have never been considered – let alone answered – in the two and a half centuries since Captain Cook set in train the colonisation of this land.

Pascoe quotes explorers and settlers to show that the hunter-gatherer model was only a part of the indigenous lifestyle. Descriptions, first of all of agriculture, include:

  • tons of stored grain;
  • large areas of cultivated, aerated rich soil;
  • miles of hay-ricks prepared for the winnowing of grain;
  • large numbers of people digging yams while at the same time turning the soil over and getting it ready for the next crop. (These same myrnong yams once carpeted much of Australia in yellow flowers, but virtually disappeared, due to the effects of hard-hoofed animals, within a couple of years of white settlement.);
  • a fire-managed environment that resembled a “gentleman’s park”, with trees confined to the poorest soil, leaving the best ground for the growing of crops;
  • the trading of seeds across large distances;
  • construction of huge irrigation dams, which were also stocked with yabbies and fish;
  • long stone or brushwood fences used for driving kangaroos and emus into places where they could be captured.

Pascoe also quotes research that shows that plants had become dependent on human activity, just as wild wheat and barley had become domesticated in Europe. He also provides evidence of baking at least 10,000 years before any other culture on earth.

Aquaculture was also a prominent part of Aboriginal life in many areas. I was lucky enough recently to visit Brewarrina, in outback New South Wales, and see the extensive fish traps that fed hundreds of people when they gathered for feasting, ceremonies, courting and a range of other social activities. Western Victoria was home to a myriad of stone placements that were used to store and utilise fish. It’s also the place where fish were smoked for use by a very large population. There are descriptions here of a wide range of methods of catching fish without depleting stocks in many different locations across the whole continent. Compare this to the white man’s way, where paddlesteamers would deploy hundreds of nets in a section of the Murray until the area was “fished out”, never to recover.

As further proof of the sophistication of Aboriginal civilisation, Pascoe discusses housing, which was solid and often dome-shaped, using whalebones or steamed timber beams to create the curves: evidence of a sedentary, rather than nomadic, lifestyle. Unfortunately, not many photos of these buildings exist; photography wasn’t available when white settlement began, and these buildings were quickly destroyed by the invaders. Much of the design had a religious intent, and was also used to predict solstices, essential for crop planting.

Food storage and preservation is a sign of an advanced society, and the local people were very adept at it. They also developed complicated ways of removing toxins from foods that would otherwise have killed the eater.

The use of fire to create the landscape first seen by 18th century white settlers was not only highly sophisticated, it was a sacred duty, part of an evolved system of religious observance that covered all aspects of living. This religion had developed in a practical form, with a reason behind its every aspect. It’s probably the reason Australia was free of major conflicts, over many millennia. Compare that to the devastating religious wars in most other parts of the world, even to the present day.

Pascoe and Magabala Books have much to be proud of in this fascinating book. It pushes a lot of boundaries that have never been tested before, and asks a lot of questions that must be answered. As we move towards a referendum to recognise our first people in the constitution, we need a much greater recognition of what the world lost when a mob of boat people, most of them convicted criminals, descended on Terra Australis.

If you want to buy this amazing book, just slip online and find Magabala Books. That’s the Aboriginal publisher based in Broome, and it’s been going strong for over 25 years now. You’ll not only be discovering things you never knew about the country you live in, you’ll also be supporting a very worthwhile organisation.


Yes, of course.  Prison is to punish.  At least that is what I am told.

For being poor, for having mental illness, for having acquired brain injury, for having previously been a victim.  But most of all for being black.  Indigenous males are 50 times more likely to be in jail than whites, while indigenous females are 25 times more likely.

And there is scant evidence that Prisons work.  Yet we continue to build more and more.  castlemaine gaol 088


“Lock ’em up, lock ’em up, they deserve it.  Bastards.”  So said some-one I thought I knew quite well, when told that I was going to a seminar entitled “Tackling crime the smart way”. Actually this person’s hackles rose before this, right when I mentioned Human Rights – the seminar was co-hosted by the Human Rights Law Centre.  It seems this person saw red when I mentioned Human Rights.  Now this person is smart, street wise and attractive – high personable.  Yet the instant reaction to the idea of Human Rights, to any discussion of the ‘smart way’ to tackle crime was a reversion to what I’d call ‘Shock-Jock Dogma’.  I reckon I could now guess this person’s view on asylum seekers.  This has spoilt my planned relaxing weekend, I’ve puzzled over the reaction the whole time.  I would also guess that this person knows people who’ve been in prison.  And knows people who’ve been victims of violence, sexual abuse, drug addiction, acquired brain injury and mental illness.  And has empathy with many fellow human beings.   So why the blindness?  (Obviously it is not me that is at fault, it just has to be the other.)

I see this as a failure of progressives’, of liberals’ (small ‘l’) means of engagement.  We seem unable to communicate in any meaningful way with those who seem closest to the coalface.  Joe Bageant wrote of this inability of (in the USA) Democrats to engage with many white poor people, the very people in whose interests that party proclaims to represent, in his books “Deer hunting with Jesus” and “Rainbow Pie”.   Then again Alan Kohler had a chart that may explain it:


Regardless of the reaction of the person described above we at PCBYCP will report on the seminar and incarceration in general.

Cecil Poole

“Competitive federalism” was explicitly pushed by the Coalition’s Commission of Audit, is implicit in Joe Hockey’s first budget and is likely to underpin the looming federalism white paper. And the nation’s big tax avoiders love it.

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/business/comment-and-analysis/competitive-federalism-gets-you-what-you-pay-for-20140912-10fzzd.html#ixzz3DILHehKj

Poetry Sunday 14 September 2014

THE OUTLAW.  A poem by Seamus Heaney.

COMMENTARY by Poetry Editor, Ira Maine

Governmental regulation, in the interest of breeding quality, disease-free animals, demands that all bulls be registered.  Taking your cows to a properly ruled, regulated and registered bull can be an expensive business.  When you need him, the approved bull is always ten miles away and either you go there or he comes here.  Either option costs money if loading, transportation and time are taken into account.  The owner of the bull, aware he has a bit of a monopoly locally, nevertheless whinges loudly about the prohibitive cost of keeping a registered bull and apologizes extravagantly for the exhorbitant fee he is forced to charge. (the bounder, the cad…)

In Ireland at least, this is generally all too much for a ‘wee’ bloke on a ‘wee’ smallholding, and, when you’ve only got a couple of cows to be serviced, other more radical solutions are sought.  This usually involves, as Heaney says, out-of-the-way lanes and by-ways, muddy fields and darkened sheds and, naturally, a mutually acceptable exchange of ‘…clammy silver…’

Interesting how ‘…clammy silver…’ immediately conjures (in my mind) the thirty Biblical pieces.  I think there’s hardly any doubt that Heaney’s ‘…clammy silver…’ is intended to evoke this idea of betrayal.  Locally, as an instance, everyone who knows about the illegal bull is capable of informing the authorities.  Another instance might be the betrayal involved in ignoring the ‘Regulations”, and therefore putting other animals at risk through contact at local markets and fairs.  There is also the betrayal of the local authority which is shamefully denied it’s right to make important entries in important ledgers.  This action, this unscrupulous betrayal eats at the very heart of a bureaucracy and threatens it’s very existence.

There’s not a lot more to say about this poem.  Largely self explanatory, the poem was written perhaps fifty years ago, when Heaney was in his twenties and, as a young poet, was watching and observing everything.

An ‘…ash-plant..’, common when I was a kid in country Dublin, was a stick cut from a hedge, and absolutely necessary to herding animals gently along or cutting the seed heads off thistles with a mighty swing.  A good one came from ‘Fraxinus Excelsior’, the common European Ash, because it remained flexible and didn’t crack or break easily.  The ancient Celtic game of ‘Hurling’, still hugely popular in Ireland, uses the timber from Ash trees, straight-grained and flexible, to make the (phonetically) ‘Cam-Awn’, a type of heavier hockey stick which, with liberal applications of linseed oil becomes so flexible that it can drive the solid leather ball for hundres of metres.  Enough of this wallowing!

I leave you to Mr Heaney.

The Outlaw 

Kellys kept an unlicensed bull, well away
From the road: one risked a fine, but had to pay

The normal fee if cows were serviced there.
Once I dragged a nervous Friesian on a tether

Down a lane of alder, shaggy with catkin,
Down to the shed the bull was kept in.

I gave Old Kelly the clammy silver, though why
I could not guess. He grunted a curt “Go by.

Get up on that gate.” and from my lofty station
I watched the businesslike conception.

The door, unbolted, whacked back against the wall.
The illegal sire fumbled from his stall

Unhurried as an old steam engine shunting.
He circled, snored, and nosed. No hectic panting,

Just the unfussy ease of a good tradesman;
Then an awkward unexpected jump, and

His knobbled forelegs straddling her flank,
He slammed life home, impassive as a tank.

Dropping off like a tipped-up load of sand.
“She‟ll do,‟ said Kelly and tapped his ash-plant

Across her hindquarters. “If not, bring her back.‟
I walked ahead of her, the rope now slack

While Kelly whooped and prodded his outlaw
Who, in his own time, resumed the dark, the straw.