A Ganma Odyssey

January 18, 2016

prologue ganmaA Ganma OdysseyThe Literacy Education Research Network  (LERN)  Conference, to most participants, represented far more than a collection of academic papers and workshops and, for Stavros at least, it spanned far longer than just 4 days…


 

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Whatever the answers to these questions, I felt that in my own life, this journey to the Centre was a definite circle, a cycle of some sorts.

It’s been 25 years since I last visited Central Australia. Back then, the Sturt Highway was a two way dirt road all the way from Darwin to near Port Augusta. In 1972, words like revolution, liberation, justice, equality, freedom and peace, rolled off my tongue with a tender passion. Feeling the emptiness in the institutions, the knowledge factories and the general lack of soul in the world I hit the road. Back then I was searching for something. Nowadays, I’m still searching and it seems that the ” R ” word is the only one that doesn’t roll off my tongue so easily. Perhaps it should.
Twenty five years ago I found myself, with little more than nothing, in the heart of Australia. All I had was my canvas pack with a few clothes, a couple of books and some water in a bottle. I had no money. The previous three nights I had slept under the stars along the highway and during the day I prayed for a lift. I was two hours south of Alice heading for Adelaide when I was dropped off at Erldunda, near the turn off to Uluru (Ayers Rock) and Kata Tjuta (The Olgas). Across the road a petrol bowser stood as if on guard outside the general shop. A bus arrived and parked a few metres away from where I was standing. I watched the tourists get off. I hadn’t eaten a thing for over three days and I knew that the people getting off the bus would have something to eat. I approached a woman in a white hat as she stepped off the bus. Looking her in the eyes I said, “Excuse me, have you any food?”.

She looked at me with some pity and reached her hand into a brown paper bag pulling out a small green tomato. As she handed me the fruit I sensed everyone looking at me, from the bus driver to the little girl with her face pressed against the bus window. The white hat woman released the tomato into my hand and a ripple of disgust crossed her eyes and brow. I was dirty, I was homeless, a Dharma Bum now just a bum. I accepted the food and turned away from my shame. I noticed someone standing ahead of me in the distance waving, beckoning me to come over.

I had nothing to lose but everything to gain, holding the unripe tomato in my hand, I walked towards the stranger. As I got closer I could see white hair and a white beard on the face of an old black man. He wore trousers that were a little too big for him and a coat that was a little too small. He smiled and placed his hand on his belly whispering, what sounded like, “Hunger…hunger..” He took me by the arm and showed me to his home by the highway. It was a lean to humpy with a corrugated iron mulga branch roof. Some old flour bags were scattered on the dirt floor to sit on. He shared with me some milk arrowroot biscuit pieces and a powdered milk drink in a tin cup. He let me stay the night. The shop with the petrol bowser had switched its lights off. During the night, nothing much was said between us – the silences, with the occasional bark of a lone dog, said it all.

In the centre of Australia I saw that the dispossessed ones were the generous ones. We non – indigenous ones take and take while these people, the original ones give and give. Twenty five years later, in 1997, our government wants to stop the original people from reestablishing their culture and reconnecting with their land. Extinguishing the recently acquired native title rights is the equivalent of stealing what little these people have and giving this little to the rich, whether pastoralists, miners or just greedy transnational corporations. Will we the non – indigenous ones ever learn? So, 25 years later I was returning with a hunger so subtle that you’d miss it if you weren’t seeking it. It’s a hunger for something which may transform the hole in my being to the whole.

The LERN Conference promised an exploration into multiliteracies, cross cultural communication, anti- racism education and multicultural multimedia all under the theme of Learning. I didn’t know if my hunger would be satisfied attending the Conference. I was hoping for a taste, even a sniff of something that’s true. I closed the book and through the plane’s window noticed below us a road leading out of the desert. In the distance, over the desert and the dunes we could see it came from Alice Springs.

The next morning I arrived at the Araluen Arts Centre in Alice Springs for the Opening Ceremony of the Conference. After the introduction and welcome by the traditional elders from Alice Springs, the Larumba Traditional Women’s Dance Group danced and sang traditional stories that could have a heritage far older than 100,000 years. The singing reminded me of Byzantine chants in the Greek Orthodox Church. The more I listened the more resonances I could hear, like echoes, reminding me of other sacred utterances I had heard – a Sufi zikhr to a Buddhist chant, a Hindu mantra and a native American prayer. It was almost as if there exists just one sacred song with many different versions vibrating through humanity’s common voice. It was fitting that the singing touched these notes because we were an international gathering.

I tried to make sense of the dance movements and resorted to number and rhythm. I was hoping that by keeping count of the position changes and the number of people moving in my awareness, would like insect repellent, keep away unnecessary inner talk. What was before me could not be evaluated in terms other than itself. We were not witnessing a performance, but rather we were being asked to be part of the ceremony. Sure, we were sitting watching a stage, but in the intention of welcoming us, we were entering their land, their world view on their terms.

The time span of these stories, these oral histories and ceremonies force us to come to terms with our sense of time. How do we know that our sense of the present moment is the only one around? Other peoples may have a much larger sense of the present moment than we do. And the other way around. You know, if we were truly transcultural we would have to accept Australia’s original peoples’ story of their origin. The translation of Tjukurrpa as Dreamtime has in many ways devalued its significance to those whose idea of dreaming is nothing other than random – neurological – connections – sparking – off – in – the – brain – when – one – is – sleeping phenomena. The idea of a dream time in this context points to a time that is unreal, wispy as inconsequential jingles and daydreams. However, if we consider that Tjukurrpa may be as real in its own terms as cyber space is in the technological, we may have an entry into true and equal dialogue.

Whenever Western experts place their civilisation stethoscopes on Aboriginal artefacts and markings the dating goes further and further back into the mists of time. First the age of indigenous culture was put at 20,000 years , then to 40,000 years, then 100,000 years and currently as a controversial minimum 160,000 years before our present time. Perhaps its easier to accept their version of things. Kevin Bates worked next door to me as the Regional Aboriginal Coordinator at Newcastle Campus. One day I asked him how long did he think Aboriginal culture was around for. I thought that he might say 200,000 years or even longer. He said, “We’ve been here since the beginning of time.” I asked him if he meant that metaphorically. He replied, “What is it with you? It says what it means – we’ve been here since the beginning of time.”

During the Opening Plenary Session, Vincent Forrestor said,

” I want to make this clear. Many people think that native title only has to do with land. Native title is more than land, it is our heritage, our stories, our songs, our dances, our customs, our ceremonies, our language, our culture. In short, native title is our life.”

I was one of the many and now it was clear to me that treaties, agreements and other deals negotiated by non – indigenous ones are nothing short of bargaining for the spiritual, mental, emotional and physical survival of Aboriginal people. The dispossessed must bargain within the framework of the Invaders’ Law. It was only recently our courts admitted that when the invaders arrived there were humans here and that these humans had an intricate relationship with the land. The lie of terra nullius was corrected with the Mabo judgement. Now, a government that has big business interests at heart is trying to extinguish native title.

As I was walking out of the foyer I saw a poster of a man on a camel with a dialogue balloon saying, “Come camel riding in the Heart of Australia.” I remembered the little known history of the Afghani camel drivers who were especially invited to migrate to Australia about one hundred years ago. Their special skills were the husbanding of camels for use in Central Australia. Some returned to Afghanistan, some stayed and married Aboriginal women. The Islamic mosque in Alice Springs bears witness to the descendants of these Afghani camel masters. This brought to mind the Afghani writer, Idries Shah. In his introduction to the book, “The World of the Sufi”, by Ahmed Abdulla, Idries Shah mentions a story about Dhul’l-Nun the Egyptian and “The Pointing Finger Teaching System”.

In the surrounding lands, it was believed that a certain statue pointed to where hidden “treasure” lay buried. People from all over came to search, digging holes in areas indicated by the pointing finger of the statue. No one had found any “treasure” but still they searched heading further towards the horizon. One day, Dhul’l – Nun sat and watched the statue from sunrise to sunset. Then, on one particular day at one particular time, dug where the shadow of the finger fell, and discovered the treasure of ancient knowledge.

We need to turn around and not look at where the finger is pointing but to where its shadow falls. The finger points to never ending economic progress and development, it points to a future where the rich will only get richer at the expense of the poor. The shadow falls on native title. And the time is now. The Tjukurrpa – Dreamtime stories are the longest continuous religious beliefs documented anywhere in the world. (Josephine Flood, Archeology of the Dreamtime, Sydney and London, William Collins, 1983) Do we value the hidden treasure of the oldest living continuous culture on the planet? Do we recognise the “treasure” or do we filter out everything that requires some heart, some conscience? A natural sense of justice should spark a little recognition of the treasure in the finger’s shadow. The sense of a fair go cannot allow the extinguishment of native title.

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While waiting for the bus to take us to Alice Springs High School, where most of the presentations were being held, I thought about the next few days. These few days will be an opportunity to step outside the routine of my ordinary life. Firstly, there will be four days of conferencing and then a few days of touring the Centre with some friends who are also LERNing.The fact is that just being in a different location had already disrupted my habitual comfort zone. To make the most of these days I would have to make an effort to turn inwards, so that the momentum of being in a different location and doing different things wouldn’t be wasted. The momentum, I hazarded a guess, is an energy or state of awareness that could loosely be called “holiday consciousness”. This turning inwards has nothing to do with solipsistic analysis and the chattering monkey mind trying to guess and to strategise the next moment. It is more the effort to intentionally steer one’s attention to other parts of one self normally unconscious. We may call it the subliminal underground of our being, the shadow, what we in the industrially developed world call only “feelings” and “sensations”.

It has been suggested that the human notion and definition of self has been through major shifts since the beginning of human consciousness (Julian Jaynes, “The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind”, Boston, Houghton Miffen, 1977 ). The closest to us historically, that may demonstrate this shift, is said to have occurred in Homer’s Greece.
According to this view, in Homer’s day, the people did not have the same sense of self as we may have. Their inner psychological organisation was different to what we take for granted. The voice of the mind was somehow perceived as a “god” speaking from outside themselves. It didn’t take too long before people started sussing out that there were a lot of “gods” running around in the temples and in the marketplaces saying contradictory things about how things were, that they saw the untruth of their “godhood”. Gradually this voice of the “gods” became established in the sense of self we call “ego”. What was there before the voice? Who and what was Ulysses’s “sense of self” on his Odyssey?

Have we in the dying years of the Industrial Age, come to a cultural cul-de-sac? Somehow, we have alienated ourselves from not only each other but also the common ground of experience – nature, the Earth. Is it time for another definition and sense of self, another way of knowing, one that acknowledges something other than the sovereign rights of the mechanistic, rational, technocratic and anti – spiritual mindset of the “Western” sense of self?

Edward de Bono in his “I Am Right, You Are Wrong”, thinks that this is the case. He suggests that a renaissance of thought and language patterns is needed so that humanity doesn’t self destruct. He proposes turning away from the “table top logic” of the traditional “Western” mindset in favour of developing a way of knowing that is based on perception. De Bono explains that recent developments in the understanding of self-organising systems and ideas from information theory, have given indications as to how the neural processes of the brain perform the activity of perception. Perception operates in nerve networks like a feature of a self-organising biological system, a living entity. Let’s call information that comes through our senses impressions. These impressions fall on the inner landscape of our mind like rain. The rain on the mind organises itself into tributaries, rivulets and streams of temporarily stable patterns. These patterns can subsequently flow into new sequences and patterns. According to de Bono, the perceptual mode of thinking encourages the mind to form multiple branching flow patterns; the sensory information is not boxed in by fixed linguistic concepts, generalities, and logic. Perceptual thought patterns follow the natural behaviour of neural networks; our present mode only plays back a recording of words and concepts provided by a preestablished cultural mindset.

Courtney Cazden during her paper on Ganma Space spoke of the necessity of getting rid of the margin and centre metaphor. This metaphor was based on the myth of terra nullius of students’ minds and being. Courtney told us that while she and Mary Kalantzis were flying to some school in the Northern Territory they noticed water holes that had fresh and salt water tributaries and other smaller rivulets all feeding the main space of the water hole. This, they found out was known as a ganma. The ganma looks like localised swirling spirals from the air. Courtney said that the mingling of brown, fresh and salt water in this space was analogous to the culturally diverse classroom. And in light of the process of perception is an apt image of the inner subjective world, our mind, our being.

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The multicultural classroom as a Ganma Space, this metaphor rather than create separate marginalised groups besides the mainstream, recognises the primacy of all the diverse groups’ backgrounds and experiences. There is no one central dominant culture enforcing a mainstream reality. There is an influx of different cultures, different literacies, different world views, a swirling waterhole, a turning of bracken water whose salt has not lost its savour. A living Ganma Space.
Let’s go one step further and consider that in the industrially developed world there is the primacy of the head, (some localise it to the left hemisphere of the brain) and all the other ways of being and cognition – feelings, sensations and intuition have been marginalised. What do we have if we apply the ganma metaphor to our own inner world? In this ganma, head, heart, body and spirit all contribute equally, but differently, to our sense of the real. These parts of ourselves may all be cognitive in nature, they may be different tributaries of knowing, different source data. Ganma Space taken as psychological space, the internal world of our experience, would allow for the possibility to connect our known and unknown parts of ourselves. This opens the opportunity to connect with others by being able to include more of the “other” in one’s awareness.
Could the perceptual mode of thinking be a ganma way of knowing?

The taste I seek is a taste of being – not in the philosophical sense – a point of view to be debated, but rather an experience, an immersion through the background/underground of one’s chattering monkey mind – into the moment. We’ve seen that working from only a part of ourselves doesn’t work. The problems confronting all of us in this time of planetary transition are whole systems oriented. Now we see through Chaos theory, that a butterfly fluttering her wings in South Africa has global consequences. And when it comes to the ecological state of the Earth and the widening gap between the rich and poor across the planet, it is obvious that whole, global issues require an effort and a response that is from the whole of ourselves, the ganma of ourselves.

I decided to attend the presentation, “One Step Ahead: Aboriginal Perspectives on Management Education” by Evelyn Schaber and Second Year Management Training Program Students (Institute for Aboriginal Development, Alice Springs). As the classroom became full, with little standing room available, I was handed a printed page depicting in diagrammatic form Tjukurrpa and its sacred relationship with the people and the land. I was particularly taken by the fact that the primary relationship is a triad, a trinity.This trinity is reflected in Christianity, Hinduism, Taoism, Islam, Buddhism and other indigenous traditions. Joseph Campbell in his “The Hero With a Thousand Faces” and Mircea Eliade in his studies of religions and shamanistic traditions of the world point out other common features of invisible landscapes scattered across all cultures of the planet. So, what’s going on? What is this numerical coincidence that crystallises as a triad across and within all sacred traditions? Rather than be surprised by finding this fundamental triadic relationship within the sacred world view of the original people, I felt a kind of confirmation linked to feelings that arose during the Opening Ceremony.

After a few minutes, Evelyn introduced herself and the students beside her, Sherana, Patricia, Maxine, Cynthia and Sophie. She began by outlining the differences in the indigenous way of perceiving and knowing to the Western methodologies. She said, “It is not the knowledge that counts but how the knowledge is taught. Students need to know where the knowledge comes from and this must be put into political/ideological perspectives.” Evelyn explained that this entails the recognition of the narrative form, the story and the song as a valid means of conveying information and knowledge. Storytelling gives shape to knowledge and by having a whole form, bits of data and information find their meaningful place within the narrative. Evelyn compared the Western method of knowing to that of just focussing on a chorus and then a verse analysing each line of a song without knowing or listening to the whole song. “A song is more than the sum total of its parts. Our mob need to know the song, and hold the whole picture because education is political, education is an institution of the dominant culture. We need to be able to read where the dominant culture – ‘they’ – are coming from both politically and ideologically. That’s what is meant by having to be one step ahead.”

Martin Nakata, (University of South Australia) said at a later paper, Indigenous Perspectives on Multiliteracies , “Indigenous people must articulate their position, which has been historically constructed as the “other” and recognise the primacy of the indigenous perspective.” Martin also emphasised the importance of being taught by indigenous people, that what they had to say had as much verity as the dominant culture’s institutionalised knowledge. I was hearing that the indigenous way of knowing is holistic and the focus is on the whole song, the whole story. Martin was saying that there was an epistemological imperialism implicit in the way that research is conducted in “Western” institutions. I was hearing that an epistemology based on indigenous perspectives has as much ontological status as the positivistic technoscience paradigm of the “West”.

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It just crossed my mind that the Greek word nomos, normally translated as law, as in eco-nomy, astro-nomy etc. can also be interpreted as melody or song. Eco – melody and astro – melody would give a different methodological approach to eco-law and astro-law, economy and astronomy. And who’s to say that the means of material exchange in traditional indigenous cultures is not more of an eco – melody than an economy? Perhaps the First Boat People and those who wish to take away native title didn’t and don’t wish to hear the songs of the original people, because their white noise mindset makes them tone deaf.

After Evelyn’s introduction and overview, each student began telling their individual stories of their personal experiences of formal education. I was witnessing a continuation of the welcoming ceremony and songs, this time in English, in a classroom. As each student told their story, of how they came to be doing the program and the various obstacles that were in their way to learning, I became aware of a soft uneasiness, a gentle tension in the air. As each student spoke in turn, I noticed in their bearing a vulnerability, an openness, an uncertain dropping of the guard. Their stories exposed their humanness, their heart. The how was more powerful than the what. The vulnerability and the innocence of that vulnerability began to resonate with a part of myself that could only respond in eyes welling up with tears. I told myself, “Big boys don’t cry in conferences….keep your act together….don’t make a fool of yourself….” The law and the wall of my persona, my sense of self, was being demolished by the truth of their song – stories. The tears trickled and I slowly turned my head to see all of the people standing behind me also crying. Indeed, by the time the last student had told us her story, I noticed that everybody in the class room felt the same way. Such openness, such vulnerability, such trust – such courage. Warriors of the Heart. The students’ eyes revealed the suffering and the strength that came through their own personal transformation. The sharing of their stories with us was a part of this transformative process and a political act. Smiles like chunks of sun beamed across their faces as we applauded and wept at the same time.

In my ordinary life, working as an educator, I am predominantly in my head and this experience gave me the opportunity to make a shift. I have nothing against heads, it’s just that for most of us in the developed world, that’s all that’s in operation. Our education is an initiation into the rationalist world view. This perspective lifts the intellect, the head, to a detached point of view that sees everything as if it is on the outside. It is called “objectivity”. When we teach our students literature, from this perspective, we tell them, “This story was written by someone, who was influenced by someone who was born somewhere”. Students learn facts, objective things that are apparently verifiable by reference to other someones who have written about the story or the author. The more one is initiated into the realm of the written word, and now also into the electrographic realm of cyber space, the less the realm of one’s own experience counts for anything in the classroom. Students learn facts about the story or the poem rather than the stories and the poems themselves. They learn that these facts are true because they are emotionless, they are detached from personal experience and work through the medium of the written word. Our classrooms devalue the spoken/oral tradition and value the written word. Our classrooms through our system’s methodologies enforce a monoliterate consensus reality.This reality is taught and is seen to be more valid than other ways of knowing, of communicating and of researching. In this classroom at Alice Springs High School, Evelyn’s students found a way to bridge the realm of the head with the realm of the heart through telling their stories.

I learned that I truly need to learn how to learn.

Perhaps this was heart knowledge – a grammar of the heart. We were in – formed through a literacy that was independent of our permission. The in – forming by passed our heads and touched our feelings. The soft uneasiness and the gentle tension in the air of the classroom transformed into a scent of the true. The ambience born from this exchange points to hope of true reconciliation – a sharing of a common ground – between the original ones and the rest of us, some place in the Heart of Australia. As Evelyn said, “We as educators have to confront and transform the realities of power in the classroom, and assist students to leave the baggage of 200 years of prejudice and discrimination at the door.”

This is what happened during the students’ presentation – intentionally or not, they directed our attention to include another part of ourselves. We had to acknowledge that there was more to each of us than meets the eye. And this more belonged to all of us in common. Ganma within, ganma without – turning, turning – ganma without, ganma within.

Is the phrase “language of the heart” just a metaphor? Do indigenous sacred world views point to a real place inaccessible to the chattering rational mind (with or without a PhD), but accessible to the intelligence of the heart? Does reflexive practice, with an intention to include more of one’s self than just the head, allow for the entry of compassion? By doing this as educators, could we be assisting in creating textual bridges through firstly becoming human bridges? Are we talking about the politics of consciousness and the need to question the root assumptions of “Western” techno – rationalism? Do these assumptions, these desacralised paradigms of reality only make it possible to see a sacred site as a potential dollar making or military site? Was Kevin Bates right when he said that the Aboriginal people have been here since the beginning of time?

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The act of turning inwards and acknowledging the ganma of one’s being is a political act of consciousness. This act may only be for a fleeting moment but it may have long term consequences in the classroom and the community. How does one move far enough away from the chattering rational mind, “table top logic” to include the stirring of feelings and sensations, without in any way losing the attention required to participate in events around one? Who is moving away, and where is this away? Who am I? Why am I here? These questions, if I can keep alive their intent, may open doors to other literacies that resonate through different cognitive frameworks underpin the creation of other worlds. These questions, this search for inclusion in the whole by becoming more whole may be the first letters of an unknown alphabet within my own being.

At the end of a day’s attending papers I decided to go on a guided tour of a sacred site. The promotional poster had this to say :

“Native Title Rights, Educational Rights” – A Time Line Presentation,
presented by Vincent Forrester.
Experience a Tour to Kyunba (Native Pine Gap)
– sacred site – 20 kms south of Alice Springs.
Institute for Aboriginal Development, Alice Springs.
While driving to our destination, our guide Vincent Forrester, called out the names of the surrounding hills, rocks and dirt and told us the stories of their birth. In this named landscape I was an alien. The naming stories revealed an invisible landscape that is visible to Vincent and his people. As we got off the mini – bus, Vincent said, “Welcome to my country”. Was I really in his country? Just because I was physically there, standing on the dirt, didn’t necessarily mean I was inhabiting the same sense of place.

The sense of country that gives birth to the Tjukurrpa – Dreamtime stories must be completely different to that which just measures acres of dirt. Somehow I was locked out of a sense of country and a way of knowing that Big Bill Neidjie, a Kakadu Aborigine refers to:

“I feel it with my body, with my blood. Feeling all these trees, all this country…when the wind blows you can feel it. You can look, but feeling…that put you out there in open space.” (Quoted in James Lowan, “Mysteries of the Dreaming” )

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As the sun was setting, we walked following Vincent, he pointing out the various plants that had medicinal and other uses, we in silent curiosity and wonder. He showed us the places where adolescent males had their initiation rites. There were rock carvings and paintings at one ceremonial spot that seemed to have grown from out of the rock assisted by human hands. Vincent told us that some visitor had chipped off and stolen a big section of the painting/carving. It left a sharp straight line where it was separated from the greater stone and a large hole. No doubt, the missing stolen piece was going to be placed on a mantle shelf as a decorative item probably besides some bric – a – brac. Turning, he pointed his finger towards some low lying hills where the women had their own initiation ceremonies and rites. Ahead of us, about five minutes walk away, was the sacred centre of this land. We were not allowed to go there.

As we were returning to the mini-bus, the red colours of the twilight and the trees’ silhouettes shimmering in the breeze made me feel as in a dream. Pointing to a thin line, a wire fence nearby, Vincent said, “Our next door neighbour, over this fence, is Bill Clinton. In the 1960s, Prime Minister Harold Holt gave this land to the President of the USA. He didn’t talk to us, he didn’t ask us and he didn’t charge the USA any money. He just gave our land to President LBJ. This place over the wire fence is Pine Gap, a military site, where not even white Australians are allowed to visit.”

By now it was dark, with only the head lights of the bus providing some illumination. Just as he was about to climb on the bus, Vincent paused. There was silence for a few seconds as we waited. With a slight quiver in his voice, he said,

“I am asking you educators, you teachers to do something. We could sell land worth seven and a half million dollars to Woolworths for them to build their shop in Alice Springs – but there’s none of our children working there. Our kids are leaving school in year 8 and don’t return. You, you people who are the educators must do something.”

We boarded the bus and as I looked through the bus window I noticed the stars and the pattern we call the Southern Cross. Thoughts and feelings were stirring inside of me. Vincent was pleading with us to find a way to make education accessible to his people. He wanted his people to be initiated into the realm of literacy that confers power in the “Western” sense. Pine Gap – that “secret” electronic spy installation for the military purposes of Pan Americana, was just over the fence from a sacred Aboriginal site. He wanted his people to be able to straddle two realms – that of the Tjukurrpa, a sacred perspective and that of the “West”. The ability to do this is dependent on native title rights and educational rights for the original people of this country. The ability to straddle the two realms, the two world views, may also be essential for us to ensure the survival of all of us and the planet.

The Pine Gap military site is part of the electrographic world that now envelopes the globe. This electrographic world has connected all continents and carries data on every square inch of the earth’s surface traced by geostationary satellites. Information from the furthest reaches of the solar system and further out through Hubble’s eye, swirls into it. We are now immersed in an electrographic mist of data. Over the next 20 years or so, the mist will become rain, and this rain may become a flood of data. Or, it may become a global informational ganma. It all depends on us and the new neural networks, modelled on the human brain, that are now being developed.
The current digital infotronic revolution could have an impact on humans to rival the impact that the arrival of language had on the dawn humans. It is possible that the 40 year period between 1980 (the arrival of the Personal Computer) and 2020 may be seen in hundreds of years time, as one of the greatest turning points in human history. This revolution is much larger and faster than previous transitions like the change from an Agrarian Age to the Industrial Age. Whereas before, transitions occurred in specific places and gradually spread across the globe, the current revolution in technology is being felt globally and almost instantaneously. Through the coming Digital Age a global culture is emerging.

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What must it have felt like about five hundred years ago when the very first book was published on a printing press? For one thing, Gutenberg probably didn’t foresee that literacy skills would be needed by everyone. Today it is seen as a fundamental human right. Five hundred years ago only a certain elite, members of the church and some others, had access to books which had been hand copied one by one by monks. They were the only ones who could read and write. Gutenberg democratised the need for literacy. In the new world order of the Digital Age many people may not be able to access information technology and may not have the necessary electrographic literacy. This means that the poorest will become even poorer without access to this technology.

Questions and concerns like these were fluttering around in my head when I first met Johan Cedergren at the Dingo Cafe, Alice Springs. Johan, a teacher from Rodengymnasium Upper Secondary School, Sweden came to present his paper, “Baltic Region Knowledge: An Interdisciplinary High School Course for Swedish and Russian Students”. This project is part of a long term program for re-establishing contacts between north western Russia and the new Baltic States. The internet is used extensively to network the students between the two countries.
I also had an interest in this new technology and my paper, “The Hunter Connection: Getting Ethnic Communities Online “ was on a rural strategy that the Multicultural Education Unit, Hunter Institute of Technology, Australia is implementing to address the local community’s communications needs.

Johan and I found that our concerns were similar. How do we ensure that this technology is accessible to all who need it? The small proportion of humanity who has access to this knowledge and technology also uses up most of the planet’s resources while the greater majority of humanity is undernourished and living in poverty. This small proportion of humanity, from previous experience, may build new virtual ivory towers far removed from the hoi polloi paralyzed by techno fear or by the lack of access to the technology. There is a need for groups that have been “marginalised as the other” to colonise Cyberia. The secular clergy of our small proportion must work to ensure that all have access.

Whatever the answers to these issues, the fact is that we are experiencing a fracturing of the idea of specific location in space. Telecommunications in all its diversity is bringing the globe to one’s home and one’s home to the globe. Video conferencing in virtual rooms with participants from all over the world are a reality now. I cut and pasted this information about the Tanami Project from some email message I received in 1996:

VIDEOCONFERENCING IN THE OUTBACKSince 1993, Aborigine communities in Australia’s Northern Territory have
been using videoconferencing as the primary medium for personal and business communications among each other and other sites in Sydney, Darwin and Alice Springs. The Tanami Network, which uses PictureTel videoconferencing equipment, is favored over the telephone or radio because it can convey the extensive system of hand gestures used by aborigines while speaking. Most of the videoconferences held are personal or ceremonial in nature — paid for in large part by mineral royalties and community funds. Other aborigine videoconferencing networks include the Mungindi Project, which uses Cornell University’s CU-SeeMe software to link four remote schools.
(Technology Review Apr 96 p17)

This multimedia technology makes it possible to communicate Tjukurrpa information to community members whether three hundred kilometres or three thousand kilometres away. It is possible, with the right intent, to straddle both “Western” and indigenous perspectives if the technology is used appropriately and the resources accessible.

Both Johan and I decided to go and see this project. Johan went on a bus with a group of other LERNers to Yuendumu about three hundred kilometres from Alice Springs on the edge of the Tanami Desert. I went with another group to Alice Springs. When we became connected, the information signals were beamed to Sydney then bounced off from a satellite to Alice Springs and Yuendumu. It was a strange sensation communicating with this technology, there was a slight adjustment required in one’s sense of place. The next day in the foyer of the Araluen Arts Centre, Johan asked me to have a look at his laptop computer. On the screen was a picture of myself taken from the video screen at Yuendumu. Unknown to me, Johan took a picture of me “hosting” on his digital camera. He showed me other pictures he took of the conference. These pictures I downloaded from his website in Sweden when I returned home to Morpeth, NSW.

So, digital images taken from an electrographic encounter in the centre of Australia are accessible to anyone, anywhere in the world with the appropriate technology. Not only images but also sound and text.The possibilities of using this technology to enhance communications between all of us is immense. The tributaries of information are now global and the challenge for us, as educators, is to ensure that all have access.

Those who do have access to the infotronic labyrinth with walls of World Wide Webs, do we need a thread like Theseus received from Ariadne to find our way to the centre and back? Who is the monster at the centre and what is the thread? Unlike geographical Siberia, Cyberia resides in non-Euclidean space where North, South, East and West do not exist. So, where is the centre of the maze? A computer program is a set of linear binary instructions. There are as yet no computer based devices which can handle patterns. Stories, as information devices, handle and convey patterns of knowledge.

Perhaps the thread we seek is our own story making capacity.

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The four days came to an end too quickly. The Closing Ceremony was performed by Pitjantjatjara traditional dancers. Faces of people I had met, the garden chats, the painting of the Conference Mural by LERNers, images of the management students, the Conference Dinner when we let our guards down and saw each other in motion, floated through my mind during the asymmetrical pauses of the dancers. A performance by a group of young local people followed giving the other half of the Closing Ceremony. The emerging global culture and its expression were clearly seen in the dancing. Dancing to contemporary hip hop music with moves informed by their aboriginal inheritance, the group expressed movements that were both uniquely local and global at the same time. Ganma dancing?

The next day I met up with my touring companions to pick up the hire car. All of us were born in different countries and had made Australia our home. Alejandra Martinez from Chile, Chandrima Mukerjee from India, Jenny Howard from Borneo, Beatrice Espenez- Stotz from Uruguay and myself from Greece. Our car was a little ganma space on four wheels, touring the centre of Australia with five dinkum Aussies. Alejandra, was the holy of holies – a mother to be, with only three months to go before the birth of her baby. I felt that her presence would ensure a safe passage for us all. Once we picked up the car I took some tapes out of my bag which would become some of the soundtrack of the trip. The first song we listened to as we were leaving Alice Springs was “Two Way Dreamtime” by Directions in Groove (DIG). We played this song often at different points on our journey :

Two Way Dreamtime

Dreamtime on a leyline, forty thousand years is a long, long
Dreamtime on a songline, forty thousand years is a long, long
Dreamtime on a leyline, forty thousand years is a long, long
Dreamtime on a songline, forty thousand years is a long, long time.

Welcome to the alien nation, and this society based on invasion
where we don’t know soul from a hole in the ground.
Two hundred years of beating around the bush, digging money out boom or bust, well, ashes to ashes dust to dust…

It’s all those people that you buy and sell, millions of shares in a living hell. You’ve got a house and a pool and a Porsche and a beeper, but are you just making life cheaper, you’re gonna have to dig a little bit deeper, the price of admission is so much steeper.
You pay with your dreams, so wake up sleeper.

Dreamtime on a songline, forty thousand years is a long, long time….

Welcome to the alien nation, but it’s not too late to change the equation.
Listen to the A-B-original people, the Earth is a church without a steeple, don’t look for heaven in a father above, it’s here on the ground in a family of love and deeper respect for each other, brothers and sisters with the one Earth for mother.

Now life is a state of constant creation and what we need is inspiration.
There’s more to me than meets the eye, so let’s find the spirit that let’s us try, to make a treaty with the past or we’re doomed to a future that cannot last. Heal the wounds, confess our crimes, free at last in a two way dreamtime….

Directions in Groove

The first place we visited was Stanley’s Chasm, a huge gap at the tail end of the McDonnell Ranges. We walked up and through a stony path, past desert palms, mulga, a plant with flowers smelling like delicate lavender. We saw a couple of rock wallabies scurry up shear vertical rock faces. We entered the chasm and heard frogs croaking. The rain had brought the mating calls of the frogs that reverberated through the chasm. As we walked out I had the distinct feeling of having emerged with realigned impressions. The surrounding rocks and trees vibrated invisibly and silently. Ally laid on her back across a flat smooth striated rock. Her belly, full of new life made a silhouette just left of Stanley Chasm’s opening . Birds became audible. Ally spoke to Beatrice in Spanish. I asked them what they were talking about. They said that they both felt as if they had just emerged from a womb. The words Mother : Matrix : Matter rose to the surface of my mind.

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Space is what you first notice, once you’ve travelled in Central Australia a few hundred kilometres on no speed limit roads. The massive road trains, when they appeared, shuddered a reminder of how small you and your car really are. The expanse of sky and the horizon of the world’s most sparsely populated lands (apart from Antarctica) made me feel my smallness. Our first stop for the night was at King’s Canyon.

Late at night I walked along an elevated metal path that was built to conserve the local environment. I was going to view the profile of King’s Canyon against the night sky. The end of the path was about half a kilometre away from the cabins. While walking down the metallic path, my footsteps echoed through the night space. Finally I stood at the end of the “Western” metallic thread. I turned towards the cool breeze blowing through the native land. How far had this wind travelled to get here – the Centre of Australia? Across hundreds, perhaps thousands of kilometres of ground that was almost empty of people. I looked at the Milky Way splashing across the dome of my mind, streaks of falling stars crossed above King’s Canyon. All the while I felt the Southern Cross watching over us.

The next day after seeing and walking around King’s Canyon we headed further south to Uluru and Katajuta. Twenty five years ago when I arrived at Erldunda, the turn off to Ayer’s Rock and the Olgas, I couldn’t take the turn and went direct to Adelaide. This time I was ready.

On the way to Uluru we passed Atila (Mount Conner) whose flat table top contrasted with our post card expectations of Uluru’s and Katajuta’s roundness. We were only about twenty kilometres from Uluru when we passed an old panel van crowded with local Aboriginal men, women and children, waving to us. Getting closer to Uluru, the following refrain came from the car’s radio:

What if God was one of us,
just a slob like one of us,
just a stranger on the bus
trying to make his way home…..
In the near distance we caught a glimpse of Uluru, the largest Rock on Earth, right in the Centre of Australia, now in front of us. With many other vehicles we parked at the specified viewing area. We had arrived at the most opportune time to witness the almost miraculous changes in colour of Uluru as the sun sets. Uluru turned our sight away from the west where the sun was setting, towards the Red Centre. The shifting reds of the Rock vibrated against an eastern blue sky, the shadows of mulgas nearby almost merged with the red dirt.

The next day we visited Uluru where we spent some time at the Cultural Centre. Along the inner walls of the Centre, a Dreamtime story written in English had Aboriginal paintings as iconic reflections. The version below of the same Kuniya story comes from “Uluru, an Aboriginal History of Ayers Rock” by Robert Layton.

The Kuniya story (The Pythons)The Kuniya converged on Uluru from three directions. One group came westward from Waltanta (the present site of Erldunda homestead), and Paku-paku; another came south through Wilpiya (Wilhia Well); and a third, northwards, from the area of Yunanpa (Mitchell’s Knob). One of the Kuniya women carried her eggs on her head, using a manguri (grass head-pad) to cushion them. She buried these eggs at the eastern end of Uluru. While they were camped at Uluru, the Kuniya were attacked by a party of Liru (poisonous snake) warriors. The Liru had journeyed along the southern flank of the Petermann Ranges from beyond Wangkari (Gills Pinnacle).

At Alyurungu, on the southwest face of Uluru, are pock marks in the rock, the scars left by the warriors’ spears; two black-stained watercourses are the transformed bodies of two Liru. The fight centred on Mutitjulu (Maggie’s Spring). Here a Kuniya woman fought using her wana; her features are preserved in the eastern face of the gorge. The features of the Liru warrior she attacked can be seen in the western face, where his eye, head wounds (transformed into vertical cracks), and severed nose form part of the cliff.

Above Mutitjulu is Uluru rock hole. This is the home of a Kuniya who releases the water into Mutitjulu. If the flow stops during drought, the snake can be dislodged by standing at Mutitjulu and calling ‘Kuka! Kuka! Kuka!’ (Meat! Meat! Meal!). The journey to Uluru and lhe Liru snakes’ attack are described in the public song cycle recording the Kuniya story.

Almost half way along the Cultural Centre’s inner wall, a large video screen was showing the same traditional dancers that had performed the Closing Ceremony at Araluen Arts Centre. An electrographic video echo in Uluru.

When we approached Uluru none of us could envisage climbing the Rock. The original people of this land plead with tourists at the Cultural Centre not to climb Uluru. Even at the site where a chain railing extended up a ridge began its climb, there was a sign with a Red Cross stating that the local people would strongly prefer people not to climb Uluru because it was against their religious beliefs. Again, it was a request. What do fellow humans have to do to at least elicit some semblance of respect for their beliefs?

I am reminded of the Sufi saying: “When a thief sees a saint, all he sees is his pocket.” In this context could it be, “When a fool sees a sacred site, all he sees is a ladder of chains.” ?

On the way back to Alice Springs we decided to stay the night at Erldunda and make an early start the next morning. Once we got to the turn off I rang my family and found out that a friend had died the night before. Returning to our table outside the roadhouse, in shock over the news, I wept. My travelling companions brought coffee and sat with me. Their company was a comfort.

A group of about six Aboriginal men were dropped off a utility truck a few metres away from us, while I was lighting a cigarette. Speaking their native language they sat and stood a few tables away from us. One of them, who was standing, caught my eye and looked at me for as long as it takes to inhale and exhale two complete breaths. He walked over to our table and it was clear by the way he asked for a cigarette that English was his second language. I gave him the pack and the coffee with the news of Kevin Bates’ passing away resonating through my heart. He sat with us for a short time. An echo from twenty five years ago was heard at Erldunda that night. Twenty five years before, the old man had given me milk, biscuits and shelter somewhere near here. Twenty five years later I had given in return, acquired habits. Somehow, it didn’t feel it was an equal exchange. Somehow, I felt that I was still in debt.

After a while the utility truck returned to pick the men up. As they left I wondered at the coincidence of place, time and events. I meandered to my cabin, noting that the only other time I slept in Erldunda was in a humpy by the side of this road. Having said good night to my companions, I sat outside trying to locate the Southern Cross. I noticed a swarm of fireflies swirling to my right near a gigantic eucalyptus tree. I stared at the fireflies remembering that they are sometimes a symbol of the soul’s ongoing life after death.
Ally bought “Tribal Voice” by Yothu Yindi as soon as we arrived at Alice Springs. She wanted to ensure that the last musical sounds we listened to as we drove our hire car to the airport came from this part of Australia. Driving to the airport we heard the song :

TreatyWell I heard it on the radio – And I saw it on the television – Back in 1988 – all those talking politicians – Words are easy, words are cheap – Much cheaper than our priceless land – But promises can disappear – Just like writing in the sand – Treaty Yeh Treaty Now Treaty Yeh Treaty Now – Nhima Djat’pangarri nhima walangwalang – Nhe Djat’payatpa nhima gaya nhe – Matjini Yakarray – Nhe Djat’pa nhe walang – Gumarrt Jararrk Gutjuk – This land was never given up – This land was never bought and sold – The planting of the Union Jack – Never changed our law at all – Now two rivers run their course – Separated for so long – I’m dreaming of a brighter day – When the waters will be one – Treaty Yeh Treaty Now Treaty Yeh Treaty Now Treaty Yeh Treaty Now Treaty Yeh Treaty Now – Nehma Gayakaya nhe gayanhe matjini walangwalang nhe ya – Nhima djatpa nhe walang – Gumurrtjararrk Yawirnny – Nhe gaya nhe matjini – Gaya nhe matjini – Gaya gaya nhe gaya nhe – Matjini walangwalang – Nhema djat’pa nhe walang – Nhe gumurrtjarrk nhe ya – Promises – Disappear – Priceless land – Destiny – Well I heard it on the radio – And I saw it on the television – But promises can be broken – Just like writing in the sand – Treaty Yeh Treaty Now Treaty Yeh Treaty Now Treaty Yeh Treaty Now Treaty Yeh Treaty Now – Treaty Ma – Treaty Yeh – Treaty.

(M. Yunupingu / G Yunupingu / M Mununggurri / W Marika / S Kellaway / C Williams / P Kelly / P Garrett)

While flying over the Simpson Desert on the return journey, I thought about Gracelyn Smallwood’s paper where she compared the state of South Africa’s original people and Australia’s. She said,

“South Africa is striving for Truth and Reconciliation, not just Reconciliation without Truth. The truth is that over three quarters of the Aboriginal people have been murdered over the last two hundred years in Australia. In South Africa, the blacks during apartheid, kept their language and culture. In Australia there is a selective amnesia operating when it comes to the indigenous people. We need both Truth and Reconciliation.”

Perhaps one of the consequences of working towards Truth and Reconciliation may be Justice for the original people of this country.

I noticed that the land was getting greener and soon we were flying over the Great Dividing Range. Though I looked, I knew that I wouldn’t be able to spot the Three Sisters rock formation of the Blue Mountains. I was hoping that as we curved our landing onto Sydney Airport I’d catch a glimpse of what I and my two brothers called the Three Brothers. These were three twenty storey high Housing Commission flats that were built during the sixties across the street from my first home in Australia. Like many migrants of the fifties and sixties we lived in the cheap accommodation that was available those days in Redfern and other parts of inner city Sydney. Orienting my gaze from Sydney Harbour Bridge I tried to guess the approximate site of my first home here. The patterns on the ground below became angular and grid like, broken by the occasional patch and oval of green. I didn’t get a glimpse of the Three Brothers. Since the time of my childhood, many other sky scrapers were built and they were lost to me.

Botany Bay came into view as our plane was turning to land. As our plane looked like it was going to touch the water I felt Sydney, Eora, an edge metropolis of our ganma continent turn around the Red Centre, the rocks, hills, mulga, spinifex, red dirt and a few people in the Heart of Australia.

Published in Education Australia,1998


Cultural Stomp 1997 – 2007

February 21, 2009

Below are a series of articles, photos and graphics of the Cultural Stomp. Rather than me writing about it here, just read the articles – one from the NSW Government Hansard, one I wrote for “Education Australia” and there is the editorial I wrote for the 2007 Tenth Anniversary of the Cultural Stomp. I was one of the original founders of this amazing Festival, being part of the organising group we called Cultures in Action ( CIA ).

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Cultural Stomp, 1998

 

Newcastle Celebrates it’s Cultural Diversity

 

Around Easter, 1997, there was a feeling in the City of Newcastle’s air that was brittle, if not fragile. BHP had just announced the closure of its steelworks and 2500 workers were to be on the scrap heap by 2000. Many of these workers had literacy and numeracy learning needs. The “downsizing” of BHP also would have a painful effect on ethnic communities of the Hunter, with about 600 non English speaking background workers needing extra English language skills.

 

The Hunter region was in a state of shock, because those 2500 workers retrenched would by the multiplier effect mean another 12 to 20,000 jobs would also disappear in the region. Newcastle was hurting, and hurting bad. So when, only a couple of weeks later, the announcement that the One Nation Party was to be launched for the first time in NSW on 30 May, 1997 at the Civic Theatre in Newcastle it was important that an alternate forum for people with opposing views should be organised.

 

Drawn by a common need and a common objective, a diverse group of citizens met at Wollatuka, Newcastle University to see what would be done. A young Aboriginal student stood up and said to the circle of people who had gathered, “Hi, my name is Belinda and I’m glad that so many people have shown up today. I want to do something about Pauline coming to visit us, but I don’t want to yell at her… I want to do something positive… I want to celebrate what we already have in our city. Who also wants to?” Instantly people called out “Yes” in their diverse ways. We divided up into work groups and we all knew that whatever we come up with we only had three weeks to organise it. We decided that on the same night that Pauline Hanson was speaking we would hold a celebration of our cultural diversity in Civic Park which is only about 200 metres from Civic Theatre. Some us met later at the Pod, and we called the event, The Cultural Stomp and our group, Cultures In Action (CIA).

 

On the night, over five thousand people turned up at Civic Park to let One Nation know that we have something to celebrate in our local community ; we were celebrating our diversity and the unity of that diversity as Australians. With dancing, singing, music, poetry, fire twirling and a Ceremony scheduled at the same time Pauline Hanson was due to speak, The Cultural Stomp made its debut. Outside the Theatre, where 1000 people paid $10 to listen to Hanson, there was a large crowd of people letting her know that her views weren’t necessarily felt by a large percentage of people living in Newcastle. In many ways, the Cultural Stomp was a reconciling force to the active and the resistant forces of One Nation and confronting each other outside the theatre. The Lord Mayor was quoted in the Newcastle Herald as saying, “If it wasn’t for The Cultural Stomp last night, there may well have been violence.”

 

This year, Cultures in Action (CIA) met once again to see if we would organise another Cultural Stomp. In a fundamental way the purpose was the same as last year; to hold a peaceful celebration of Newcastle’s cultural diversity and unity in Civic Park. The only difference this year was that we didn’t have the visual presence of the One Nation Party to contend with, which meant that we probably wouldn’t get the media exposure and build up of hype. The process of organising the event, the networking and the seeking of support and sponsorship revealed that Newcastle loved the concept of The Cultural Stomp. Its sponsors and supporters included Newcastle City Council; The Pod; Newcastle City Centre; Newcastle Trades Hall Council; Ethnic Affairs Commission; Awabakal Co-Op; New South Wales Ministry of the Arts; Hunter Area Health; Newcastle University Student Association; Purrimaibahn Unit; Migrant Resource Centre; Multicultural Neighbourhood Centre; Ethnic Communities Council; Hunter Institute of Technology Association; Newcastle University Union; Newcastle Workers Club;Wollatuka; Fast Events; Ron Hartree Art School; Alan Morris M.P; Bryce Gaudry M.P., Brian Birkefeld and many more.

 

Three nights before the event, at the end of the Sorry Service for the Stolen Generation at the Anglican Cathedral, the bishop said, “Don’t forget to come to The Cultural Stomp at Civic Park on Saturday.” The night before the event I had returned home late after working with fellow CIA members making lanterns and the bamboo and paper Globe of Reconciliation for the Cultural Stomp Ceremony. As I walked through the door my kids called out, “Dad, come quickly, The Cultural Stomp is on TV!” I rushed over and saw our logo of the nine petalled flower and heard our event announced in the middle of a football game between the Newcastle Knights and Western Suburbs Roosters. From an utterance in the Cathedral to the middle of a televised footy game, The Cultural Stomp was announced.

 

On the day we had crowds coming and going in the thousands. This year’s Stomp included Hunter Institute of Technology’s Purrimaibahn Unit displaying art and writings from TAFE students and kids at infant, primary and high schools of our region. It was a wonderful gesture of reconciliation where Aboriginal people shared their work, their hopes and dreams of living in harmony with other members of our culturally diverse community. Throughout the day, performances and speeches from the local multicultural community kept people entertained and informed. We had started the day at 2 o’clock in the afternoon with an Aboriginal Smoking Ceremony; at dusk we were united in the Globe of Reconciliation Fire Ceremony; and the night ‘finished’ at 10 o’clock with dancing irt the park.

 

Two weeks later, after the news of the One Nation win in Queensland, I was talking to a few students and teachers in the sun outside the classrooms. Someone raised the spectre of Hansonism and an Aboriginal student said, “Newcastle is OK, we had the Stomp and people here are OK.” Someone else said, “You know, I walked through Civic Park the other day, and it was different. I could still remember all the people and the kids painting the didgeridoos, the South Pacific Islanders dancing and just the whole thing. The Cultural Stomp has changed the way I see Civic Park.”

Cultures in Action is planning another Cultural Stomp for next year and it promises to be bigger and better; regardless of the political landscape.

 

Stavros

Education Australia, 1998

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Legislative Assembly Hansard (Extract)

Hansard extract, NSW Legislative Assembly, 7 June 2000 (article 36).

Speakers: Gaudry Mr Bryce; Markham Mr Colin  |   Speech Type: PRIV; Private Members Statements

CULTURAL STOMP

Page: 6794

 

 

Mr GAUDRY (Newcastle—Parliamentary Secretary) [5.52 p.m.]: Last Saturday, together with several thousands of Newcastle and Hunter people, I participated in the fourth Cultural Stomp in Newcastle, an event the aim of which is to bring people together. The Cultures In Action Committee organised the event to nurture the spirit of the culturally diverse Australian society, to give people the opportunity to work together and celebrate reconciliation while simultaneously respecting differences and commonality in our cultures. That cultural event occurred approximately a week after one of the greatest, if not the greatest, demonstrations of solidarity that one could ever wish to see, when hundreds of thousands of people came together in Sydney to celebrate Corroboree 2000 and reconciliation with Australia’s indigenous people.

The Cultural Stomp was first staged in Newcastle in May 1997 as a strong but peaceful statement opposing the strong and divisive politics that were being espoused at that time by One Nation. The whole approach was to bring people together into social action and in peace to demonstrate all the values that can be combined in a community rather than focusing on the divisiveness that was occurring at that time. Since that time, the Cultures in Action Committee in Newcastle has built a really successful cultural event which takes place in Civic Park, opposite Newcastle City Hall. The events bring together a whole range of young people and community groups such as the ethnic communities in Newcastle, the arts communities and visitors from areas outside Newcastle.

 

The Cultural Stomp day of celebration includes demonstrations of a whole range of dancing and singing. Very importantly, this year’s celebration involved people who have disabilities. The Life Without Barriers group. Life Without Barriers, a special group in Newcastle that works towards providing access and opportunities to people who have disabilities, participated in performances in Civic Park. One of the really significant events was the participation of Mrs Benita Mabo. Tuesday 6 June was the anniversary of the handing down of the Mabo decision, a decision that has brought about tremendous change. It ended the theory of terra nullius and began the continuing struggle by many indigenous people for reconciliation and recognition of their rights as the original occupants of this land. Mrs Mabo spoke of the personal struggle of Eddie Mabo and the struggles of her own people, the South Pacific Islanders, who came to Australia during the labour trade, which featured blackbirding. She referred to the struggle that continues for her people to obtain recognition in this country.
One of the outstanding features of the day was a performance by the Mulloobinba Newcastle high school dance group, which previewed the dances that they will be performing at the opening ceremony of the Sydney Olympic Games. I congratulate Mrs Barbara Greentree and the dance group on the selection they will perform at the opening Olympic ceremony and also on the performance that was given on the Cultural Stomp day. One of the organisers of the Cultural Stomp, Mrs Lorraine Norton, has adopted a comment from David Suzuki’s book The Sacred Balance, which states that local communities are actually the mainstay during change. It states further: 

 

“The social unit that will have the greatest stability and resilience into the future is the local community which provides individuals and families with a sense of place and belonging, fellowship and support, purpose and meaning.”

That is the whole idea underlying the celebration that takes place annually in Newcastle. Its aim is to bring people together, to celebrate their diversity and the linking of all cultures in Australian society.

Mr MARKHAM (Wollongong—Parliamentary Secretary) [5.57 p.m.]: The honourable member for Newcastle is to be congratulated for bringing to the attention of this House the Cultural Stomp, which takes place annually in Newcastle. The event is a real demonstration of reconciliation in action—and as I have often said, actions speak louder than words. I congratulate all those involved with the Cultural Stomp. Similar events, as often as possible, should be held in all parts of Australia.
 

cultural-somp-2007-foot1

 

Cultural Stomp 1998

Cultural Stomp 1998

Scanned article from the 10th Anniversary Cultural Stomp Programme

Scanned Editorial from the 10th Anniversary Cultural Stomp Programme, 2007.

cultural-somp-2007-stomp-out-racism1

Horoscope: Cultural Stomp 4 PM 30 May, 1997, Civic Park, Newcastle, Australia.

Horoscope: Cultural Stomp 4 PM 30 May, 1997, Civic Park, Newcastle, Australia.

Original 1997 Poster with phone numbers erased.

 

2007 Cultural Stomp Poster - note the 9 petalled flower from the first Cultural Stomp in 1997.

2007 Cultural Stomp Poster – note the 9 petalled flower from the first Cultural Stomp in 1997.

 

Combined Churches' Statement on the visit of Pauline Hanson on 23 May, 1997.

Fax message to a friend to circulate latest info, 1997.

Fax message to a friend to circulate latest info, 1997.

Cultural Stomp, 1998

First Press Release for Cultural Stomp, 1997

First Press Release for Cultural Stomp, 1997

Letter to people, May 1997.

Letter to people, May 1997.

Cultural Stomp, 1998

Cultural Stomp, Newcastle

Cultural Stomp Update May, 1997.

cultural-somp-original-logo-green

Flyer for Community Meeting to Organise Cultural Stomp in 1998.

Flyer for Community Meeting to Organise Cultural Stomp in 1998.

From 2007 Cultural Stomp Programme

From 2007 Cultural Stomp Programme

From 2007 Cultural Stomp Programme

From 2007 Cultural Stomp Programme

From 2007 Cultural Stomp Programme

From 2007 Cultural Stomp Programme

Cultural Stomp 1998

Cultural Stomp, Newcastle


Flotillas of Hope – another aspect

December 30, 2008

Mandala flag flown on Eureka's mast was designed and painted by Lynda Smith (Ground Crew) and Karen Connors (a student of Buddhism).

The Flotillas of Hope was a voyage by two yachts carried out in 2004 by protesters critical of the Australian government’s asylum policy. The boats sailed to Nauru, a Pacific island nation which was host to Australia’s offshore immigrant detention center until the new Labor government came to power in 2007. They intended to deliver goods to those interned (most detainees are families who fled conflict in Afghanistan and Iraq), but not surprisingly were not allowed to land by the Nauruan government. Under an agreement put into effect earlier that year, Australia had taken responsibility for the island’s finances and civilian police force. John Howard, the Australian Prime Minister at the time, forced the Nauru government to take armed Australian Police Force to “protect” the island nation from the Flotillas of Hope flying Teddy Bear flags. The Flotillas of Hope project had two intentions 1) to give the refugees caged on the Island of Shame – Nauru, hope – that they have not been forgotten by people, that the Pacific Solution – out of sight, out of mind, did not work and 2) to bring the world media spotlight on Nauru on World Refugee Day, 20 June 2004. This the project achieved and it saw the granting of asylum to over half the refugees on Nauru and the release of Aladdin Sisalem who was in solitary confinement on Manus Island, New Guinea while we were sailing to Nauru.

Hand made flags with messages of hope and love made by the people of Australia flew on Eureka and One Off.

Hand made flags with messages of hope and love made by the people of Australia flew on Eureka and One Off.

The way the Flotillas grew from an idea, a dream that manifested at first as an email Call to Action using the internet as a nervous system which then as an organsim, gathered into the Flotillas intention – satellite mobile phones, life rafts, high frequency radios, laptops, generators, sun power inverters, flags painted by community hands, dolls and teddy bears in handmade clothes, knitted sweaters, a large canvas sail painted by local Sydney artists along with other paintings expressly made and auctioned to raise money for the safe passage of the Flotillas of Hope, all of this and more occurred during the event.. From the finer embedded world of qualities, the realm of hope, love, justice, freedom – the realm of the spirits, the realm of creation, the Flotillas sparked into the internet. It was Art – in – Action using the world wide web to manifest. Hope was generated in not only the refugees caged on Nauru, but also in all people of good will who felt despondent that nothing will change the government’s heartless policy.

Trade Union Choir singing at the launch of the Flotilla of Hope in Sydney 15 May, 2004.

Trade Union Choir singing at the launch of the Flotillas of Hope in Sydney, 15 May, 2004.

Along the way, to the launch of the Flotillas, musicians performed live gigs to raise money for the project. There was a theme song written, performed and recorded along with poems about the Action. Check out Ernesto Presente’s poem on Poetry for Change website here. The lyrics of the Flotillas of Hope Theme Song is below. You can download the song here. You can also check out Joanna Leigh’s myspace profile here.

hope-theme-song-lyrics

University students made videos. At the send – offs from Sydney, Newcastle, Coffs Harbour, Byron Bay and Brisbane, the Flotillas of Hope gathered the communities wishes and intentions to bring Hope to the refugees in the concentration camp of Nauru. The Flotillas did this by accepting hand made toys, hand made clothes for the dolls and teddy bears, the drawings and paintings of love and hope by Australian children, hand made flags with hand written words of love and hope from the people of Australia and overseas who sent gifts by post. Communities made beautiful flags – one with a Mandala made under the direction of a Buddhist priest, another of a Teddy Bear made by people who cared.

Poster promoting the departure of the flotilla from Brisbane.

Poster promoting the departure of the flotillas from Brisbane.

On route  to Nauru, the Flotillas docked at Santa Cruz Island, a far flung island of the Solomon Islands. The local indigenous people were so touched by our intention and by how far we had sailed and were sailing that they carved a beautiful wooden oar and gave it us to symbolize that they were rowing all the way with us to Nauru. They gave us the gift on the day we departed Santa Cruz with a send off that included singing, dancing, eating and words of power and encouragement.

The Flotillas carried the cargo of hope through the 12 mile No Go Zone and got to within 500 metres of Nauru coast until they were chased out by 6 Nauruan boats. The boats, Eureka and One Off became living talismans of peaceful and compassionate energies from Australians.

On the way to Nauru, refugees were freed and the websites designed to be the communications hub of the project informed the world about what was happening. There were live interviews with ABC, SBS, BBC, NZBC, Houston Radio, USA along with commercial radio and TV in Australia. A filmmaker, Angela van Boxtel made a Lucid Launch Flotillas of Hope website where artists contributed their art on the website. The Flotillas of Hope was an idea that touched people from across the world and it was an effective art action in all its levels of manifestation.

Santa Cruz, Solomon Islands locals dancing at the departure ceremony for Nauru.

Santa Cruz, Solomon Islands locals dancing at the departure ceremony.

Santa Cruz, Solomon Island dancers at the departure ceremony wishing us luck and grace.

Santa Cruz, Solomon Island dancers at the departure ceremony wishing us luck and grace.

Various artists painted sections of this canvas sail which was auctioned off along with other original works of art in gallery 179, Darlinghurst to raise funds for the Flotilla of Hope..

Various artists painted sections of this canvas sail which was auctioned off along with other original works of art in Gallery 179, Darlinghurst to raise funds for the Flotillas of Hope..

It was also an expression of the newly coined word  “Noopolitics” which encompasses Pierre Teilhard de Chardin’s concept of the noosphere of knowledge / information (Teilhard is often called the patron saint of the Internet) because we not only made the news, we also reported the news which was transmitted across the world wide web and TV, radio and text media through our logs and the live satellite phone hookups with global media. The narrative of the journey was transmitted live by the logs of the crew.

The crew received messages of hope – poems and passionate prose from people all over the world who sent text messages from the web directly to our sat – phone in the middle of the deep blue sea. People following the journey on the web were informed as to the exact location of the boats by maps updated by satellite phone to the communications cluster. The project has been archived at the Australian Maritime Museum.

 Artists that contributed the sections on the Sail are in order from the top to the bottom, left to right: Dale Dean, Euan Macleod, Mareia Brozky, Angelica Greening, Ingrid Skirkia, John Bell, Lorna Grear, Neil Mallard, Euan Macleod (one more section), Leo Robbia and Martin Sharp.

stavros

Most text retrieved from “http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flotilla_of_Hope
Teddy Bear flag made by Newcastle community and flown as we entered the barred 12 mile zone.

Teddy Bear flag made by Newcastle community and flown as we entered the barred 12 mile zone.

Some of the Cargo of Hope - toys and gifts from the Australian people for the children and their parents imprisoned on Nauru.

Some of the Cargo of Hope – toys and gifts from the Australian people for the children and their parents imprisoned on Nauru.

Prayers in Newcastle launch with members of the crew.

Prayers in Newcastle launch with members of the crew.

hand-painted-words-2

Flotillas – the precedents.

 

Speaking in 1984, on the occasion to launch of an initiative to send a ship to escort people fleeing in boats in South East Asia, Michel Foucault said:

 

“We are just private individuals here, with no other grounds for speaking, or for speaking together, than a certain shared difficulty in enduring what is taking place. … there’s not much we can do about the reasons why some men and women would rather leave their country than live in it. The fact is beyond our reach.

 

Who appointed us, then? No one. And that is precisely what constitutes our right. […]

 

After all, we are all members of the community of the governed, and thereby obliged to show mutual solidarity.

 

We must reject the division of labour so often proposed to us: individuals can get indignant and talk; governments will reflect and act. […] Experience shows that one can and must refuse the theatrical role of pure and simple indignation that is proposed to us.”

 
 
 
 

 

Letter written to supporters about 6 weeks before departure.

Letter written to supporters about 6 weeks before departure. At the time of the launch, the Project had 2 satellite phones, raised over $20,000 to cover all costs and other technology – all donated by the people of Australia.

 

 
Lyrics to the song "Who Is That Refugee?'

Lyrics to the song “Who Is That Refugee?’

 
 
 Blog FOH Success Greens

 

A Fluxus Manifesto. Some have said that the Flotillas of Hope was a Fluxus Action.

A Fluxus Manifesto. Some have said that the Flotillas of Hope was a Fluxus Action.

 


A Special Journey >>> Flotillas of Hope, World Refugee Day, 2004

December 28, 2008
Hope Flag flying on the mast.

Hope Flag flying on the mast.

The first poster to promote the Flotillas of Hope by Matt Hamon, who was also the computer wizkid for Hope Caravan and Ground Crew for the project.

The first poster to promote the Flotillas of Hope by Matt Hamon, who was also the computer wizkid for Hope Caravan and Ground Crew for the project.

The Flotillas of Hope was a Journey of Hope, to bring hope to the innocent people imprisoned on Nauru by John Howard’s Australian government. Please note that most of the time the plural “Flotillas” is used instead of Flotilla even though on the surface there was only one flotilla of two boats that sailed to Nauru. The reason that Flotillas is used is because all the actions, the ceremonies, the prayers, the chants, the letters, the songs, the rituals, every action,  are ALL flotillas of inner and outer vessels used to bring hope to the refugees imprisoned on Nauru.

The Woomera @ Easter 2002, Baxter @ Easter 2003 and the Flotillas of Hope Actions were not part of an organisation and in fact the websites which supported the Actions have virtually disappeared. The Actions were organic institutes – of – the – moment and like a Tibetan Buddhist sand painting, once the Actions were completed, the organisations like sand grains were blown by the wind to the four corners of the earth. They remain in peoples’  lives that have been transformed by the granting of freedom from the Australian gulags of shame.

When I sent the Call to Action for the human rights social action groups to unite to shame John Howard and highlight the plight of innocent refugees caged on the so called “Pacific Solution” – Nauru, it was deemed an incredibly audacious and unrealistic call. Why? Because Nauru is 4000 kms from Australia and when the call went out, we had no boats, no technology, no crew, no money, indeed, for me – no sailing experience. Well, within 2 weeks of the Call to Action over 250 people from around the planet had joined the new Internet group “Flotillas of Hope”. Within the first two weeks, the creators of the Woomera 2002 website contacted me and created the Flotilla2004 website. Another website was created for digital artists by a film maker and our own Hope Caravan website was the “hub”. A theme song for the project was recorded by Joanna Leigh, “HOPE”. You can download the mp3 version of the song here .. “HOPE…We Bring You Hope” .

Within a short time 2 boats appeared and in the weeks and months before we took off on our journey to Nauru we had received satellite telephones, solar energy inverters, radios, life rafts, money and the incredible creative output of artists and communities across Australia which gave our Cargo of Hope, toys and Teddy Bears for the kids in the gulag.

)

The Flotillas of Hope Mascot – Azadi Koala. The script on the koala’s shirt says “AZADI” which means Freedom in the Farsi language. The koala is steering Eureka to Nauru 🙂

 

Following the action, asylum was granted to over half the refugees on Nauru and Aladdin Salanin who was in solitary confinement on Manus Island, New Guinea was released.

Along the way to Nauru, the Flotillas docked at Santa Cruz, a far flung island of the Solomon Islands Where they were met by the local indigenous people. The Flotillas carried their cargo through the 12 mile No Go Zone

Below the map is an article written by a close friend who was a member of the Ground Crew. It gives you the background to the Journey. Lynda, along with some others, made sure that our messages sent by the satellite phone would get out to our website people and so to the world.  Lynda was based in Far North NSW. After this article you will find the links I mentioned earlier. After the links and photos of the boats, there is an article by another friend and member of the Ground Crew, Angela. She looked after one of the websites for the project and was based in Melbourne.

Route taken by Flotilla of Hope to Nauru to reach Nauru on 20 June, 2004 - World Refugee Day.

Route taken by Flotilla of Hope to Nauru to reach Nauru on 20 June, 2004 – World Refugee Day.

foh-webpage-logo

Flotilla of Hope (from Zmag)

Back in Easter 2002, a group of concerned people from the Hunter region of NSW, Australia, appalled by the Australian Government’s attitude and policy on asylum seekers, joined the actions of the Festival of Freedoms in the South Australian desert. This became Hope Caravan. Along the way, the ‘O’ in Hope transformed from an organisation to an organism.

In 2003, Hope Caravan went to the Baxter Detention Centre in South Australia. Many strong bonds and friendships were formed with some of those people initiating the Flotillas of Hope project, which in association with Hope Caravan, sails to Nauru this month to arrive on the tiny impoverished Pacific island of Nauru.

This diverse group of people include a research scientist, an award winning film maker, teachers of maritime studies and multicultural education, a shipwright as well as a soccer coach from the Brisbane based, Tigers Refugee team.

NAURU

Nauru is the smallest republic in the world with a population of only 12,000. It not only faces an environmental catastrophe but also economic bankruptcy.

The exploitation of Nauru’s rich source of phosphate began in the early 1900s. After World War l, the Australian, British and New Zealand governments took over the original mining company that had been previously German owned. It was called the British Phosphate Company. As demands grew for fertiliser, so did their profits. However, only 2% of the revenue went to the Nauru people. At the time of Nauru’s independence in 1968, mining had destroyed over one-third of the tiny island. In 1991, Nauru took the Australian Government to the International Court of Justice for the exploitation of its economy and environment. In 1993, Australia settled out-of-court for $57 million with an additional $2.5 million per annum for the next 20 years. By the late 1990’s, the money had all but dried up.

During the Australian federal election in 2001, the Howard government seized the opportunity to pressure Nauru into taking asylum seekers from the shores of Australia in return for many millions of dollars. These refugees were removed by the Australian military in violation of the International Refugee Convention. This was the beginning of “The Pacific Solution”. Many of these people were initially rescued by the now infamous Tampa, a Norwegian Freighter off the Western Australian coast. In denying the Tampa refugees access to the Australian mainland, and their rights under Australian law, Australian Prime Minister, John Howard, said, “whilst this is a humanitarian decent country, we are not a soft touch and we are not a nation whose sovereign rights in relation to who comes here are going to be trampled on”.

Nauru continues to deny entry to all lawyers, journalists and representatives of human rights groups as well as independent doctors and psychiatrists from assessing the health of the refugees.

Nauru has since been called Australia’s Guantanamo Bay.

These refugees merely sought to flee life-threatening persecution and repression, economic deprivation and poverty and to bring themselves and their families to a safe and secure environment. This must be surely the most basic right of any individual, yet in seeking to exercise it, they have come face to face with the Australian army.

In the last week, three Australian lawyers were ordered off Nauru before they had a chance to appear in a court case challenging the legality of the island’s detention centre for asylum seekers. Their visas were revoked by Nauru’s Minister for Justice, Russell Kun. On April 27, he appointed his uncle, former Finance Minister and paralegal “pleader”, Reuben Kun, to present the detainees’ case.

MANUS ISLAND

There are approximately 21 million refugees worldwide, yet there is only one who is on a remote island in solitary confinement. The Australian government pays $23,000 per day to detain Aladdin Sisalem, a 25 year old man who has suffered persecution most of his life. The son of a Palestinian refugee (his father) and an Egyptian mother, Aladdin was born in Kuwait. Persecuted in his home country, he began a perilous journey in search of a country that would accept him, travelling via West Papua, Papua New Guinea, finally arriving in the Torres Straight Islands, where he was seized by the Australian Police before being taken to Thursday Island. When he asked Australian authorities for asylum, he was removed and taken to a detention centre set up by the Australian Government on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea. Even if he wanted to return, Kuwait will not take Aladdin back after his period of absence. Egypt does not want him. Israel does not consider his “right of return” as a Palestinian.

It is noted that the 1948 Universal Declaration Human Rights, Article 14, states “everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution”. Ongoing, indefinite suffering by asylum seekers both here and on the offshore detention centres is a clear indication that these basic human rights are being violated.

On 15th May, Flotillas of Hope departs Sydney Harbour, sailing up the east coast of Australia, converging in Brisbane, before departing for Nauru on 23rd May. The boats should arrive at Nauru on 20th June (World Refugee Day) with their “Cargo of Hope” which will include toys, educational, recreational items and a generator for the country’s hospital.

The voyage of this Flotilla recalls the old law of the sea – which obliges us to give assistance to anyone in peril, without regard for flags – and seeks to open a multitude of flows toward a new world for which maps are yet to be created.

Therefore, the Flotilla will use a diversity of tactics: boats converging to Australia’s north in mid-2004 crewed by autonomous affinity groups ; media streams and online protests; radio waves and OpenFlow events.

Lynda Smith

Ground Crew – Media, Flotillas of Hope.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Blog FOH Success Greens

The view from Eureka's porthole, somewhere between Santa Cruz, Solomon Islands and Nauru.

The view from Eureka’s porthole, somewhere between Santa Cruz, Solomon Islands and Nauru.

 

Eureka on the high seas to Nauru.

One Off with crew.

One Off with crew.

 

azadi ~ eleftheria ~ freedom

stavros

“eleftheria”  is one of the most beautiful words in Greek – it means freedom..

foh-logoFlotillas of Hope

by Angela Mitropoulos
Melbourne, June 3, 2004.

There are currently boats travelling 4,000
kilometres to Australia’s internment camp on
Nauru. This is the most recent culmination of a
series of protests against successive Australian
governments’ policies of interning undocumented
migrants.  The boats are presently at the halfway
mark and, weather permitting, expected to reach
Nauru by June 20.  The crews have been threatened
with imprisonment for crossing borders without the
proper papers.  The importance of the internet to
the communication and character of noborder
protests
is here amplified by distance, threats of
violence and the risks of sea travel.

__/__/__/__/__/__/__/__/__/

Some background

It is well known that since 1989, successive
Australian Governments have administered a
notorious policy subsequently referred to the
‘mandatory and non-reviewable detention’ of all
those who arrive by boat and without papers.  This
was a response to the (by international
comparison) extremely small rise in undocumented
boat arrivals after 1989 – many from the Middle
East, Vietnam and Cambodia – whose internment was
often successfully challenged through legal
action.

The post-1989 regime of border policing
effectively and over time legislated that the
refugee determination process exist outside the
rule of law in the form of ministerial and
administrative dictate and be discharged through
concentration camps and military intervention.

It is also well known that in 2002, protesters on
both sides of the barbed wire scaled the fences at
the Woomera internment camp in South Australia and
a number of escapes occurred.
www.woomera2002.antimedia.net Woomera, which
closed shortly after this, was emblematic of the
Australian Government’s strategy of interning
undocumented migrants in remote, rural camps as a
means of containment and control.  Woomera was
located 1,000 kilometres from the nearest capital
city (Adelaide) and, for a time, held the largest
number of detainees.

2002 was the culmination of four years of protests
by detainees in Australia’s internment camps,
including hunger strikes, the destruction of
buildings, and mass escapes.  Many of those
protests were met with tear gas, riot police and
the use of chemical restraints.
www.antimedia.net/xborder

Following this, the Australian Government shifted
its strategy toward a combination of ‘dislocation’
and electrification in an attempt to decompose the
protests against the post-1989 regime of the
camps.  The so-called ‘Pacific Solution’ was
introduced which established camps on Nauru and
Papua New Guinea (Manus Island) funded by the
Australian Government and managed by the
International Organisation for Migration.
Australian military vessels would forcibly remove
undocumented boat arrivals from territorial waters
and Australian islands, and transport them to
those camps in the Pacific.

In Australia, a new technology of internment was
constructed (such as at Baxter) which replaced the
grim (but scalable) coils of barbed wire and steel
fences with hi-tech, refined systems of electronic
barriers, surveillance and a greater reliance on
technological and chemical restraint.  (The
Government has also budgeted for another of these
hi-tech camps in Broadmeadows, Melbourne to
replace the current, smaller one in Maribyrnong.)

The result of these changes to the architecture of
the camps were immediate: the protesters outside
Baxter in 2003 were unable to get close to or even
within sight of any of those imprisoned there,
many of whom had been relocated from Woomera.
www.baxter2003.com
Whereas Woomera2002 had managed to break with the
symbolic character of protests by those outside
the camps; Baxter2003 signalled the restoration of
such, and subsequently ushered in a decline in the
impetus of the movements against the camps.

__/__/__/__/__/__/

Flotilla 2004

Having circulated as an audacious, but regarded as
impractical, strategy after Woomera2002, the idea
of shifting the protests against the camps to the
northern waters of Australia became an imperative
with the inauguration of the ‘Pacific Solution.’
After Baxter, Hopecaravan
distributed a call for boats to travel to the
internment camp on Nauru.  That voyage is
currently underway, with boats presently located
at the halfway mark, and expecting to reach Nauru
by June 20.

The Nauru Government which – given its current
fiscal woes and recent economic bankruptcy –
relies on the continuing funding of the camp as a
source of revenue and employment, has threatened
to suspend maritime convention (the Law of the
Sea) and forcibly seize the boats.  They have also
threatened to imprison the Flotilla crews as
undocumented boat arrivals.  This has not deterred
the crews, who nevertheless require ongoing
support and communication.

Regular updates are available at flotilla2004.com,
as are crew b-logs, instructions on sending text
messages to the crews, and detailed background
reports.

The Australian Government, for its part, has
adopted the pose of detached benevolence – an echo
of its previous, farcical contention that it was
not legally liable for the treatment and
internment of those in the camps because they were
outside Australian jurisdiction.  Facing with an
upcoming election, and as the Flotilla boats were
cheered off from eastern coastal cities, the
Government announced that under half of those
detained on Nauru would be granted visas, and
recently granted a visa to the remaining detainee,
Aladdin Sisalem, on Manus Island.
www.freealaddin.com

These shifts follow a determined hunger strike
last year on Nauru, after which the Government
promised that it would review its rejection of the
applications for asylum by those imprisoned on
Nauru.  www.noborder.org/press/display.php?id=3
The Government has, nevertheless, insisted that
its camps in the Pacific will remain, at a cost of
around $300, 000 per month.

Previously, the Government had refused to grant
visas to those taken hostage from the MV Tampa and
forcibly transported to Nauru. At the time, the
Government insisted that ‘not one of those would
set foot on Australian soil.’   It is abundantly
clear that the definition of who is a refugee and
who is not (or: who is subject to the regime of
the camps in order to classify people along this
axis) is defined by what the Australian Government
imagines to be politically advantageous at any
given time.

Those released from Nauru and PNG have expressed
concern for the fate and safety of those who
remain interned there.  The voyage continues until
the camps are closed.

Angela Mitropoulos
Melbourne, June 3, 2004.

 

The Flotillas of Hope Sailing Crew

Keith Davies, Skipper of One Off, pointing to the sticker from Rainbow Power who donated a solar power inverter to the project.

Keith Davies, Skipper of One Off, pointing to the sticker from Rainbow Power who donated a solar power inverter to the project.

Joty, he came from Britain to join Eureka in Sydney for the journey to Nauru.

Elliot from Brisbane.

Nerida from Brisbane on One Off.

Stavros from Newcastle.

Ruth from Newcastle.

Lance Gowland, Skipper Eureka, from Sydney.

Lynda presented the gift of inverter for One Off from Rainbow Power in Nimbin.

Brisbane departure.

foh-boat


Hello world!

December 19, 2008
Albrecht Durer

Journeys and Star Gazing

What do I mean by journeys? And what do I mean by Star Gazing?

Recently I started to walk again, with a limp, after having broken my leg and being immobile for a long time. The physiotherapist told me that a walk of about 1 kilometre per day would be good exercise for me, especially to get my foot, ankle and leg muscles flexible again. She said to treat my walk as a physiotherapy exercise. Since I walk very slowly now without a crutch, I’m starting to become aware of a whole new world which appears in the slow pace I take. I become aware of my breath and the sensation of each step on the ground. As I do this I become aware of a silence within me which makes space and allows the sounds of birds singing , the sensation of the breeze touching my skin, the smell of recently mowed grass to enter.

Of course my “monkey mind” is still climbing and jumping around in the space within my skull but somehow because of the slow walk and the effort to “be” in the moment of the walk makes the monkey appear like a distant shadow puppet. Yes, my walk is a  Zen like exercise and the fall I had which broke my leg was Life-as- Zen-Master, wacking me into a state of mind that may prioritise what is essential in my life.

My walk to the newsagent in the morning is a journey both on the road and its side gutters and beneathe my skin between breaths and sighs of wonder at what is around me.

 A journey, for me is going from point A to point B via the whole alphabet of being. The Alpha and Omega. the beginning and the end of a journey is where the snake bites its own tail, a gentle ouraboros.

ouroboros-pergamino

 It all depends on one’s awareness. So, one can make a journey from one’s lounge room and go across the borders marked by a door into a kitchen. It is no different to travelling in time by simply dipping a biscuit in a cup of tea as Proust did in his “Remembrence of Things Past”. A journey can also be a trip across the planet on a boat or a plane, a train or a bus, on foot or a bicycle. It can also be a journey to the Moon or to Mars in a space ship, or a trip to Saturn and Jupiter or Andromeda in one’s mind.

Star Gazing is not only looking up at the night sky and seeing how small we genuinely are in the midst of all these galaxies and stars, pinpricks of Light escaping through Heaven’s cape. It is also seeing into the meaning of those star gazing moments, those moments that coincide with a particular configuration of planets, Sun, Moon and stars. Yes, Star Gazing for me exists in that space between Astronomy and Astrology. I look up into the night heavens and I see the stars above and I wonder why am I here looking and living. My wife got me a telescope for Christmas this year and I hope to be able to take some photos of what I gaze at.

cosmic-clock1

I look at a horoscope ( I also call it a Sky Map) and I see the symbolic language of these same stars.  When I say Stars I also mean the planets and the Sun and Moon. It is an easy shorthand. Star gazing becomes communing….communicating in star language. Astrology for me is a language, a way of communicating with the deeper parts of my and your nature for I believe that we all are ultimately made of star matter. While I look up at the Stars and gaze at the light that departed from its source billions of years ago, I recognise that I gaze at old, old light. The youngest light, including sunlight is only 8 minutes old when it touches my skin, Alpha Centauri light, the closest star to us, is only about 4 years old. Star light has journeyed a long time to arrive through my eyes into me and you.

earth-sun-and-moon

However, strange as it may sound, when I speak of astrology, I’m not really talking about the balls of rock and gas that orbit our Sun – Sol as planets or about the physical stars and galaxies that surround us. The stars and planets I speak of astrologically have nothing to do with those we know astronomically and through a telescope. The only connection astrology has with the astronomical stars is the coincident time of happening. Carl Jung coined a term to explain events that happen with no apparent physical causal connection – synchronicity. This word is made of two Greek words syn – same and chronos – time...synchronicity…things that happen at the same time.  The important addition that Jung makes with this is that the connection between events is subjectively meaningful for the person. I think of a person and I hear a song with the person’s name in it and then almost simultaneously, the person rings me on the phone. This is very meaningful for me because I haven’t seen or heard from this person in a long time. The song, the thinking of the person and the telephone call are not connected in any physical scientifc way, but they do connect in a very meaningful way in my mind and heart. This is synchronicity. Astrology for me is synchronicity written in Sky Script. The physical stars are connected to the stars within my inner universe, my deeper intuitions and feelings that struggle to find a way to speak. The star language of astrology gives these promptings a voice.

whirlpoolgalaxystarbirth

In Journeys and Star Gazing you may read posts that include both a journey and an astrological reading of the journey. Sometimes, you will come across a life’s moment navigated by the stars or a journey planned by the use of astrology.

It would be great to hear from you.

stavros