An Australian Republic

Recently I posted on my Facebook page the information that I had just joined the Republican Movement and I gave a short précis of my reasons.

My son’s daughters have a grandfather on the other side of their family, who made the following interesting comment on my post, from quite a different perspective.

“In my lifetime I have lived through the reigns of King George V, Edward VIII, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth. I think they (except Edward) were a positive influence. A constitutional monarchy is a stabilising influence even if it has little real political power. How many of the millions of ‘refugees’ are fleeing constitutional monarchies? Virtually none. All escaping dodgy, corrupt,dictator-dominated republics. I’ll stick with what we have. Better the devil…..”

As an older person myself I understand his position. I hold no negative feeling towards the incumbents of the monarchy (in fact I feel pity for their being forced into a form of life tantamount to prostitution). And I think his is the only realistic argument that can possibly be made against our becoming a republic. That is, that the past has worked for many people in Australia who still feel fondly about our Anglo heritage. That this heritage has given stability to many of us so there is no need to change it.

But, for me, this us no longer good enough.

My co-grandparent was born in England, has lived in East Africa and other parts of the world and is a man of tolerance and wisdom. He settled over forty years ago in Australia, which has been his home for since then. His daughter was born here. So he is part of the Australian experience from a wide global experience. But a relatively recent one.

He has not had to experienced that sense of responsibility for past Australian/Anglo ancestors, that some of us have had to do for many years.

I have lived through a white Australia policy. I have lived with the results of the imposition of an English monarchical system of life on Australia’s indigenous people, these people whom we did not even recognise in our cobbled together constitution, which was passed as an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom in 1900. This Act gives much more word space to Queen Victoria herself and her descendants than to a forward direction for Australia.

I have been told the experience of my own Grandparents, in WA who, in 1901 took a two mile walk to the nearest bush polling booth to vote opposite ways in the non compulsory referendum as to whether WA should become part of the Commonwealth. That became a great family tradition of a way to express, deal with and respect different viewpoints whilst valuing ones’ electoral obligations and opportunities.

When I was young lawyer appeals from our High Court still went to the Privy Council.

And I am tired of apologising for our colonial past, the worst period of the English tradition. I am tired of apologising for my ancestors’ roles here since the early nineteenth century. I am tired of apologising for our White Australia policy, for our glorification of foreign explorers, missionaries and despoilers here. I deplore the attitudes that led to the stolen generation and I do not glorify our part in some wars and other situations in which we should not have been involved.

In addition I admire many other democracies in other countries, particularly in some European countries that are very stable and in many ways more truly democratic than we are and yet do not have monarchies.

But most importantly I am tired of apologising for what we are doing right now. Even living in the Asian region, now being more attuned to nearby cultures than we were and more aware of the needs of our indigenous people, the Anglo centric values and ideas are still taken as being the norm from which others stray at their peril.

We need to recognise that we can stand on our own as a fantastic, democratic country that views itself as entirely independent. Only then can we truly value our very diverse population in this wonderful part of the world in which we all find ourselves.

Those who advocate for our present constitution try to contend that we are already an independent country which does not bow to England. How can this be if our Head of State is an English monarch?

And those who disagree with our becoming a republic, have you read this ” independent” constitution?

Please do so. You may be very  disappointed.

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A Prayer

A Prayer to Teachers of Primary Ethics

I use the word “prayer” here in the old meaning from the Latin word “precari” meaning to beg or entreat.

My supplication here is not to a greater being but to the wonderful teachers in Primary Ethics.  I would like you to look deeply at the ethical content of what I am saying and its implications for the on going, and wonderful, Primary Ethics program. I write this as somewhat of an apologia for the inevitability of my having to leave the organisation in the not too distant future, after almost five wonderful years. I was among those who originally wrote a submission to the General Purpose Standing Committee No2 on the Review of the Exucation Amendment Act. concerning the provision of Ethics as an alternative to SRE.

There is no doubt in my mind that this excellent curriculum, the wonderful trainers and you devoted teachers who give up your time to deliver lessons to classes, do something very admirable for the children whose parents opt for them not to participate in the Special Religious Education classes in which schools, pursuant to the NSW Public Instruction Act, were and still are obliged to host in our public secular school system.

I do not live in the city or in the country but in a large regional area which contains multiple demographics. Whether this program can be provided in a school appears to me to be increasingly a question of division rather than inclusion. In areas in which parents have had their own opportunities for education and philosophic musings it is not too difficult to persuade them, and sometimes other interested community members, to teach Primary Ethics courses.

On the other hand in different areas, whilst some parents want it for their own children, they express reluctance, even fear, at the thought of teaching. Some others are turned off volunteering by their lack of access to computers or even the moderately sophisticated programs they have to master to access and deliver the classes. Some are deterred by the expense of printing out material, and one or two, who have been encouraged to do the training, have found it quite daunting in terms of time it takes them to prepare lessons.

Therefore once again we have, quite unwittingly, enhanced one group’s chance of opportunity over that of another group. The offspring of thinking parents who already discuss these issues with their children can provide yet another forum for their children and their friends. Less privileged schools have to continue to provide the children with supervision by teachers, unable to teach them, during that compulsory time spent at school when SRE is taking place. We are, although acting with every superb intention, making an even bigger divide between children who have opportunities and children who have not.

I can think of one answer. This is where my supplication comes in. When your own children move on to another school or if you have a little more time to give to the community, could you wonderful teachers, with all your experience, chose to help a disadvantaged school which has not been able to start a program? There are lots of them.

I am getting a bit long in the tooth, the reason I will be leaving in the not too distant future, but there is also a bright side. While I am part of Primary Ethics I cannot in any way campaign for Special Religious Education to be removed from Public Schools. Of course we must not prothletise as part of our provision of Ethics Classes in Schools. If an individual did so it would reflect badly on Primary Ethics. But I need to. I have been doing so all my adult life. This is an iniquitous situation we have been left with which has come from the age old negotiations for the state to provide the school system. It became a more ethical problem when education was made compulsory. I thought that the widespread adoption of Primary Ethics would ameliorate this inequity in our schools. Unfortunately it is unwittingly creating another and this can only be solved by having Ethics Teachers in every school or removing SRE.

I cannot in all conscience say to myself, “Just let it go and help where people are willing to get involved.” Children are too important.

So as I continue my last efforts to have Ethics teachers in our local schools I exhort all you wonderful teachers to keep up the good work but also find another school that needs you.
These are the only ways toward equality of opportunity.

So be it.

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Spotlight Advertisement

I don’t know what “wave” of feminism I represent. I have been a feminist since the 50s and it has always felt like a slog up a high hill, admittedly starting from somewhere already up the slope. I have never reached any water let alone glamorous waves!

But what has been happening since the concept of “waves” was first promulgated has left me confused. The reality sounds more like an eddy, sometimes a vortex . If it has been waves then lot of useful sand has been sucked out to sea at times. No, I’ve got it. A mixmaster going at full speed spitting out various mixtures to our tastes might now days rightfully  represent our gender.

I am often, probably legitimately, criticised by my (feminist) son for some of my opinions, inter alia my idea that choice within feminism is sometimes inappropriate for any woman at anytime. He says that when I deride the idea of “choice” being an essential part of all feminism I am actually saying that my choices are better than the choices of others. I take this point but still think that “choice” can be a slippery slope in some areas (take as an example foot bending stilettos) unless one has a full understanding of all the issues that may have influenced such a choice and why, rather than merely “they look smart.” But indeed I am probably at fault here, as he contends, in thinking the irrefutable science is the only issue.

However I cannot let go, even if I am at risk of implying “I know better”, when it is an issue that can cloud children’s outlooks so that, as adults, they may never have an opportunity to see  past childhood indoctrinations.

Today I received in the mail an advertisement from one of my favourite shops, “Spotlight”. It was an advertisement for party needs including children’s dress up clothes. I scanned with a small sigh of regret the face paint with glitter being advertised with only a picture of a girl. The three hats which were advertised were a pale pink pointy hat worn by a girl, a dark pink fairy crown also worn by a girl and a yellow builder’s hard hat worn by a boy. But these indeed could arguably be matters of choice.

Then I moved onto Superheros. They were divided into boy and girl Superheros. Spotlight, undoubtedly, is trying to do something here for feminism. A shelf of superhero costumes displaying wares in a way that indicated suitability for either gender at play would be great. But no, boys had all the advertised rights to the conventional costumes; to the proven heroes. The girl Superheros all come accessoried with a tutu. I would love to see the Superaerodynamics involved in the coping with a tutu whilst diving swiftly through the skies. How could Spider hero climb a wall without either squashing her tutu or being pushed off the wall by it in the midst of a delicate rescue mission? And I don’t know how Robin would cope at the sight of the tutu.

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Just as one cannot be a builder without wearing a hard hat, neither can one be a super hero, such as a paramedic, a firefighter, a deep sea rescue diver, an astronaught etc. wearing a tutu.

Whilst so ever young girls and boys, ever so innocently,  are being bombarded with these specificities of inequality by gender how can we not question the effect that this has on the capacities of all of us to make informed choices as adults?

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Funding Elections

How can we marry the concepts of proof of integrity yet freedom of choice and speech in the question of political donations?

I do not like the present situation. It is entirely open to abuse. Yet I do not like the option of taxpayer funded candidates. There are some parties and people I personally do not wish to support and I am sure many in the community feel the same way.

There seems to me to be another option which should not be too hard.

In current parlance, how about the appointment of a “Commissioner for the Integrity of Political Donations”? This could be quite a small office, government administered yet completely funded by a set percentage of each donation and not by the taxpayer. All political donations would have to go through this office. Donations could be directed to parties, to individuals, to factions or even to groups (to give a couple of examples, all women standing for election or all Catholics candidates and so on). The “commissioner’s” job would be to keep records, which would then be available for regulated scrutiny, and pass the donation on to the nominated entity.

However each donation must be accompanied by a witnessed form, much like a statutory declaration in that misinformation on this form would result in a likely criminal conviction for the donor making such a declaration. This would be a very simple process in the case of individual or institutional donations.

In the case of situations such as dinners or other similar functions to raise money it would be a little more complicated. The organiser would be responsible for collection of the money, payment of the expenses and must disclose all of the above in the declaration when the balance raised is donated.

This form would be compulsory for all donations. Even inter familial donations or inter party donations, such as state funds donated to a federal election or vice versa must be declared for this to work. It would also be compulsory for unions which could contain an opt out condition for members.

What would be the exceptions? It seems to be clear to me that people must be allowed to donate their personal services without a declaration, such as publicly handing out How To Vote forms, letter box dropping, door knocking, speaking at rallies. There would need to be some consideration as to when these personal services intersect with donation of professional services, which would have to be declared. For example hand painted signs would be different from donated professional signs.

If the conditions were very specific and all embracing, this should not be too onerous a task for our “commissioner”. But the penalties for non disclosure should be quite strong. This would put the onus directly on the donor, which may take some of the heat out of the issue for the candidate as all he or she would have to ensure is that any donation accepted only comes through such commissioner.

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Lift Your Game DTJ

I have been a supporter of Destroy the Joint since the night it was conceived. In fact my first Destroy the Joint T shirt is wearing out!

I think you have all done some excellent work. Thank you. However lately I have been visiting the site less and less and have been becoming more and more disenchanted by some of the campaigns. Rather than becoming disinterested and faintly wishing you good will as I wave you goodbye, I thought I was honour bound to actually put in writing some of my concerns, for I still have great admiration for the overall conception.

I admit that I am a dyed in the wool feminist of many years standing. I confess I have never actually burnt a bra, but as an older woman I remember our protests, our struggles for educational and vocational opportunities and for many of the forbidden things that young women today take for granted, and faintly resent this going unrecognised in recent criticism of “old bra burning feminists”. But this does not particularly worry me. I am still capable of using both the ancient (and some more modern) techniques of expressing my views!

What do worry me are some of your recent campaigns. It was simple when you started, with all our support, recognising the injustice of the misogyny that abounded at the time, particularly in relation to our Prime Minister. I think this has made a great difference. More people now identify misogyny are now prepared to call it out.

DTJ has been a great forum for people to enunciate and discuss their views on what women should and or can expect in life. It has been well supported by some intelligent and some enlightening comments from many men and women.

But I ask the question are you now trying to cover too many areas? Some of them, perhaps because they are complex issues, cannot be simple enough to be reduced to black and white questions followed by a few comments, some informed some less informed. These issues need more than just public awareness they need knowledge and expertise.

I refer, particularly, to your current campaign against what you are naming “domestic violence” but which seems to me to be more of just a reduction to a numeration and description of what I would call “intimate partner violence” of men against their female partner. I agree that both are related issues and ones about which we should all be concerned and against which we should all speak out. They are already aired, but can always do with more airing. Much more government funding is needed. But it is not the simplistic, binary, counting, “us against them” issue which you have been describing. If it were as simple as you are presenting it would be much easier.

Personally I am a non violent person and am against any violence as a way to solve problems in any circumstances.

But, like all old feminists, I am quite outspoken and do not find it easy to understand why some people find it difficult to speak out against violence when they experience it. But I have both worked and studied in this area and know from that experience that we are dealing with very complex situations and emotions. I was a lawyer in a past life and worked for some years as a psychologist in a legal setting. It is important to change mind sets in both perpetrators and victims, particularly while problems still remain “potential” rather than actual. Some years ago I worked with a male counsellor who provided some groups for men who had been violent to their partners and I developed some surprising understanding of how they had got to where they were. (Some had been mandated to attend and others were volunteers but there was little difference between those two types.)

I have spent time with victims of violence and saw their needs and sometimes their compassion which had them remaining in situations where I would never have stayed.

I have worked with police specialising in this area and admired some of their very praiseworthy efforts to intervene in violent situations and have been witness to some of their frustrations at not always been able to follow through as they would like to, due to decisions made that they had to respect, often made by women.

I have met domestic violence workers, whom I greatly admire. But some of them, in their desire to protect former victims, have subjected those very victims to control that the victims found more abusive than that of the former partners.

During my study for a Law Masters I wrote a research project arguing quite strongly that Apprehended Violence Orders, with all the good intentions involved, sometimes play a role quite disempowering of victims in the mere exercise of this usage of “the power of law and language”.

And, as an aside, although it is unarguable that, when men and women are in physical conflict, it is usually the woman who is hurt, it cannot be denied that there are a number of women who are also prone to violent outbursts. After all we are humans too! And the term “domestic violence” also includes violence to and by children. This does not exclude women and girls.

The classic domestic violence, which so often includes on-going restriction of a partner by isolation, reducing her income, physically restraining, intimidating and ultimately injuring her is a deeply distressing situation and needs intervention in a way that will not further damage the victim. It is to be hoped we can find acceptable ways so intervention can happen early on and will provide her with physical help and information and will give her strategies and knowledge to enable her to avoid such friends or partners in the future.

It might also help women in general, as well as the ex partner himself, for him to have help, as that will also prevent violence towards anyone else. On this issue I have to cross swords with DTJ for the attitude expressed when it was suggested that disaffected men should not receive counselling and education, as all support should go to the victims. On going counselling for disaffected men is probably an essential way to protect women in general and to prevent young sons from potentially growing up to a life of violence.

It is the age old argument, drain the swamp or kill the alligators?

Please destroy the whole joint. Concentrate on the big picture, community attitudes, not on the minutiae of the more complex issues where almost all people agree on the desired outcome, both men and women. Individuals are often just struggling hard to find solutions and will sometimes get it wrong.

I’d rather do some swamp draining. I thought that was what DTJ was originally doing. Concentrate on changing the world!

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The View From a Blind Man

Recently I had some blinds made and fitted in my house. I have been slightly misleading in my title as this ultimately required the input, of not one, but three blind men or “technicians” if description applies better.

The first blind technician, a polite young man probably trainee in the art, came to measure the four windows requiring blinds. I carefully chose the fabric from his booklets and ultimately received a quote.

In quick time I received a phone call saying that a second blind man would come to install my blinds. I found him an affable middle aged gentleman who competently did his job and was dismayed, yet completely solution focussed when, on starting to affix the fourth blind, he found the measurements of that particular window had either been unsuccessfully made or wrongly transmitted to the maker. He was careful not to traduced the polite young trainee or the helpful young woman who liaised between customers and blind tradespeople.

I was very happy with the way he hung the three correctly sized blinds. He had been very conscious of my furniture arrangement when placing the cords or “chains” so that I would be able to very easily access them to open or close the blinds.

Less than a fortnight later a third blind technician arrived with the replacement blind. He seemed very distressed about, not my having to wait for the last blind, or indeed that the error had been made and I had to be available for a second call, but on how inconvenient it was for him to have to come out and hang only one blind as a consequence of someone else’s error.

As he was led to the offending window he asked to see the other blinds that had been hung. He claimed, loud and long, that they had been hung the wrong way around. Is their indeed a “wrong” was to hang a blind? I expressed my complete satisfaction with them and he hung the one remaining blind the way he wanted to and grumpily departed.

In the months since, I have pondered these disparate views about blind hanging. The first hanger had, not only positioned the cords so I could reach them easily, but had hung the blinds so the the opening of them was a more accessible task than the closing. The second hanger had done them the other way around so that the opening was the more awkward task.

Did this match their disparate views of the world?  The first man was so positive, even in a slightly difficult situation, and obviously his view was that joining the wider world at the first opportunity was an important factor in the provision of blinds. The second man, apparently disappointed at the offerings of life, finds it necessary to shut out that world as long as possible so we can, instead, admire the beauties of a shuttered environment.

Oh what we can learn from the views of blind men!

I dwell on this thought as I open the blinds at the first opportunity each morning.

Thank you first blind hanger and please go and cheer up your hanging partner.

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Reflections On A Wish

Forty two years ago tomorrow, 9th March, I gave birth to a baby boy whom we called Max. He was over eleven weeks premature.

The hospital was frank about his limited chances of survival although no reasons could be found for his prematurity. Anyway, I did not have to be told that the odds were not in his favour. He was quite big for his stage of gestation and he was a male. These were two other factors which, statistically, did not auger well. Although I am not a believer, the intensive care nurses, who were nuns, asked me if they could have him baptised as they did not think he would survive. For their sake I gave my permission as I did not want them to suffer. I know not what they did.

A drawing by Maxie's 6 year old brother.

A drawing by Maxie’s 6 year old brother.

As time passed we all grew a little more hopeful.

My dearest wish was, as does not need spelling out, that he survive.

I had undertaken a course of study the year before. I was half way through my Diploma of Education. I had made arrangements about how this could be continued and when I would require help with childcare, bearing in mind the wonderful surprise new baby to be born in June as well as our older children. But could I do this and also look after a new premature baby who would need special care? On the other hand, if he did not survive would I be better to continue with this degree for my own emotional support? I had until the 31st March to make my decision.

I decided to defer and informed the university of my decision. In no way could I run the risk that a decision to continue might imperil this heartfelt wish and that my precious baby might not live or that I could pass the care of this special baby over to any one else, even temporarily.

Early on the morning of 2nd April I heard that he had taken a turn for the worst and died during the night.

Of course life goes on. I later, with enthusiasm, finished my Diploma of Education, taught in schools, undertook further education and worked in other areas with children as I went on through life.

I took great comfort from my three wonderful older children. They were later joined by another baby brother. I was both amused and saddened by a discussion between the two older children as they watched their new baby play with his toys, a beautiful little boy and now a wonderful man with children of his own, but then only about nine months old. One said, “It is such a shame Maxie died. They would have had a lovely time playing together”. The other said, “But he would not have been born if Maxie had not died”. Another unanswerable conundrum. What would life have held if he had lived?

But every year, at this time, I remember the great depth of feeling with which I wished, forty two years ago.

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