Showing posts from 2020

It hurt as I breathed: history repeats itself

“They would catch me, I saw, half turning round to see my rear but still kicking my heels forward. ‘Nigger nigger - catch a nigger by the toe, eeny meany miney mo!’.”

So begins a story by African American Peggy Dye, describing her childhood when she crossed uptown Illinois to study in a majority white school with a small black quota. It was a school her parents encouraged her to attend, knowing she was smart. But there were risks. It was a school full of white boys who thought all Negroes (the word used) were “cold-black and violent”. They’d chase her home.

“‘Get away from me!’ I panted as I pumped my 18-inch legs. ‘Please!’ and I felt the tears in my eyes. I was running and trying so hard not to fight, choking down the anger. I was resisting. I felt a big pain in my stomach. Was it anger? It was a rock and it rolled inside my ribs and hurt as I breathed.”

Still running

It was the late 1940s. Dye had just started first grade when her father told her, “‘It’s a war baby, and don’t you …

Feed Play Love: Laying the groundwork for a healthy digital family life

The COVID-19 lockdown has, among other things, laid bare our modern lives and how dependent we are on digital technology for just about everything.

Creating boundaries with our children around screen-use just got a whole lot harder.

This period has also provoked questions around the role of education. What is the purpose of school?

Students can find information on everything online but knowledge found there is only really useful when it's integrated with what they know. Integration is supported by conversation. A class environment can provide that, so too, the home.

Last September I recorded this podcast which explores some of the above.

Listen to Feed Play Love: Laying the groundwork for a healthy digital family life here

Mental health: making real productivity gains post COVID

For many of us, forced to work at home or to not work at all, the COVID-19 crisis has driven home the importance of mental health and how work interacts with our sense of wellbeing.

World leading researchers and mental health experts have warned that as the virus subsides, we will see a big surge in the need for mental health care and pain management. A stretched mental health system will be under increased pressure.Young people, hit hard by the closure of schools and hospitality businesses, are going to be disproportionately affected.

So it’s with anticipation then that the Productivity Commission will soon release its final report of its 18-month inquiry into mental health and productivity.

The draft report, released in October, was a good start but the final report will need to be more holistic - with the social determinants of mental health as a guiding principle - to inspire confidence.

The draft report found that the economic costs of poor mental health were shockingly high, am…

Being Coloured - Race and politics in the New South Africa

I am reading Born A Crime. the recently published memoir of comedian and television host Trevor Noah.

Noah grew up in South Africa. His autobiography is a powerful reminder of the brutality of racism that keeps the world's colonised people poor. 
Noah speaks to me at many levels as an Australian who spent my first 6 years in South Africa classified as 'Coloured': a person of mixed race. Noah doesn't paint a flattering picture of the coloured community.
In 2008 I produced a radio doco on my journey 'home': Being Coloured. In it my grandfather observes, "You were what they made you". Apartheid South Africa divided not just its black and white citizens but other race groups. The political system bred violence and pettiness. Its legacy continues.

I travelled back to Durban with my mother, Lillian, to try and discover my ancestry and what it meant during apartheid to be 'Coloured'. Does the label still stick in the new South Africa? The documentary…

The earth is breathing easier. Can it beyond COVID-19?

COVID-19 is doing a lot of the work environmentalists could only dream of.

Major cities and their birds are breathing easier. Across China, smog has given way to the colour blue. Even the snow-capped Himalayas are visible from parts of Northern India for the first time in local’s memories.

Here in Australia, bike sales are up and with fewer cars on the road fewer wild birds and animals are being injured.

Seismologists are reporting that the upper crust of the Earth is quieter. Less transport means much less pollution. Global emissions are now predicted will fall by 2.6 billion metric tons in 2020, the largest fall in history.

At home, many of us are returning to our gardens. There’s a shortage of seedlings at Bunnings. Even apartment dwellers are starting balcony gardens and “grow your own” food clubs.

Might some of the changes wrought by coronavirus last? There are reasons to feel some optimism:

1. In this instance the prime minister has acted on the science. Rather than talking ab…

Finding the sacred in a time of coronavirus

What happened here?

The world is spinning more slowly. At least it feels like that. And yet many of us have more to do, needing to manage complex emotions and children home from school for the foreseeable future. As quiet as it is, our new life has an intensity about it, testing us in ways that can thin our patience and our love but also in ways that might be formational, even transformational.

It isn’t easy tuning in to what this time, locked down, has to teach us. Frankly, clarity and purpose can feel elusive. It’s easy to forget what day it is. And, with family life contracting and nowhere to hide at home, our imperfections are on show, amplified, revealing truths about us and our egos. As Franciscan friar Richard Rohr told his email subscribers last week, life is not about us, but we are about life.

Try telling that to the teens.

My family and I spent the first week of relative isolation pushing furniture around; rearranging our domestic infrastructure to create spaces for bett…

Political donations and the rise of corporatocracy

Vested interests have always sought to influence politicians but the problem of buying influence has in recent time developed into a cancer undermining the health of Australia’s democracy.

Mining industry influence is a key example.

The Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) has analysed a dump of 2018-19 donations data on the Australian Electoral Commission’s (AEC) website. It found that the fossil-fuel industry doubled its donations to the major parties the past four years.

The Coalition gets the lion’s share, but the amount Labor is ‘gifted’ is not far behind, certainly not insignificant. Drawing on four years of data from 2015-2016 to last financial year, the ACF confirms that the Minerals Council of Australia (MCA) gave money to both Liberal and Nationals-aligned entities as well as Labor entities. MCA donated to the Hunter Federal Campaign Account of the Australian Labor Party, an electorate in coal country that was retained last year by Labor’s pro-coal MP Joel Fitzgibbon (a…

After fire, smoke and hail, can we hope to find common ground?

In the wake of the South Coast fires that ravaged Mogo and Cobargo and other towns, are stories about the lamentable loss of Aboriginal heritage sites.

When sympathetically raised with an Aboriginal leader, I was reminded that all Australians lost sites that mattered to them.

Whether it's pilgrim huts in the Alpine region, shell middens on the coast, or species brought to the brink of extinction, the bushfire carnage represents a shared loss, and one that can never fully be measured in dollars.

Across cultures, there is a deep sadness that children will not enjoy places of historic and natural beauty in the same way that their parents and elders did, recognising that all of us have spiritual connections to place.

The bushfire disaster and this coming weekend's Australia Day both happen to fall in the Christian season of "epiphany", a word which for Christians refers to the revelation or appearance of Christ, and in more common usage refers to a sudden and striking re…

A mother's climate change lament and other paintings

Find the article on my art exhibition on now at the ACT Legislative Assembly

Australia's bushfire emergency

I've been glued to the news for days, restless, easily distracted, feeling helpless. I want to stay informed but at times, it's too much.

A bloke on the south coast of New South Wales said, ‘It was like world war three’. With rising anxiety, the threat of losing the lot, blackened daytime skies and scared small children wearing masks and adults holding their breath, it was. The enemy, fire, has been acting for months but the last few days have been truly frightening.

These are difficult times, hours that have challenged and tested the very rhythm of everyday life - at a time of year when most of us are on holiday, usually snatching time for rest and play.

These days have demanded leaders with empathy, respect and wisdom.

Monday this week, exactly twelve days after Christmas is known as the Epiphany. It remembers the journey of the Magi - the three wise men - to Bethlehem.

Many of us have had our own very personal epiphanies this season; searing experiences that have move…