Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Exit Wounds of an ex-warrior

Today I had the unexpected honour of going to the launch of Exit Wounds by one of Australia's top commanders, retired Major General John Cantwell, in the auspicious Mess Hall at Duntroon, Canberra.

I was there by invitation of support author, Greg Bearup, and my long time friend, Lisa Upton.

For Cantwell to choose the very heart of Australian Defence Force territory - in the company of the Chief of the ADF - to launch his story confirming his long and tormenting battle with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PSTD) was brave indeed.

He maintains a deep respect for men and women in uniform while being vulnerable about the impact of his time in war zones. He fires important questions about Australia's military adventures with its western friends in the Middle East.

The book, written with surprising poise and detail, is a real eye-opener, a rare glimpse of sleep-deprived life, complex and contradictory, on the front line of the so-called war on terror.

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Thursday, January 26, 2012

Aboriginal 'embassy' future in sharp view

The Aboriginal Tent Embassy in Canberra - the iconic and, to some, offensive site that kicked off a national conversation about indigenous rights - turns 40 this week. Governments starting with Billy McMahon's have never quite managed to shut it down or belittle it as a symbol of resistance. That, says activist Gary Foley, is a spectacular event in itself.

The three-day corroboree in front of Old Parliament House beginning today will draw a big crowd representing scores of languages, Aboriginal nations and communities.

Many of the class of the 1972, comrades in the struggle, will not be there. They died too young.

Those present will be charged with emotion shouting ''Sovereignty was never ceded!'' They will talk about the road ahead and what should become of the proudly untidy site.

Self-proclaimed embassy ambassador Michael Anderson will play on the notion of being an alien in Australia by offering an official stamp from his country in north-west NSW...

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Friday, January 20, 2012

A reflection on life and death

A friend died this week. He was 27. Pete Veness had a rare kind of cancer.

He told us he was a no one special but we all knew he was. His funeral drew the Prime Minister and priests, authors and artists.

He graduated from the journalism school I attended - but a generation later.

Tributes flowed for him. Many spoke of his wit and wisdom, his fearlessness and profundity. Pete was angry he could not live into his old age but he was not angry with his God.

He railed against things outside of himself; complacency, poverty, triviality and to ask God for the strength to keep going to assist others without expectation.

Fellow parishioners at St John's Anglican Church in Canberra where he worshipped commented on how he was a rock to them; how he helped put their troubles in perspective.

Pete was hard headed. He was certainly stubborn and doggedly pursued truth - about things of this earth and heaven. He frightened the odd politician at doorstops on the hill but he could have a laugh with them too.

He had a peace that passes all understanding about what we call 'the end'. Maybe it was because he knew he used almost every minute he was given and that he had those moments because of God's grace.
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