Submissions for current Refugee Issues UNHCR >> Dadaab Refugee Camp

May 27, 2010

Hi

I received this today. Those who can please send in a submission for the Dadaab refugees.

Below the reminder is the document and submission form.

stavros

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A reminder that the Australian Refugee Rights Alliance (ARRA) is calling for brief submissions from individuals and refugee community groups regarding current issues of concern to refugee populations in and from the Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa regions.

The due date for submissions is 31 May. Please see the attached information sheet for further details on making a submission. Feel free to distribute this information to your networks. If you have any queries, please feel free to contact me as per the details below.

We look forward to receiving your submissions!

Kind regards, Lucy Morgan Information & Membership Officer Refugee Council of Australia

Suite 4A6, 410 Elizabeth Street Surry Hills NSW 2010 Phone: 61 2 9211 9333 Fax: 61 2 9211 9288 email: info@refugeecouncil.org.au

www.refugeecouncil.org.au

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INVITATION FOR SUBMISSIONS

TO THE UNHCR- NGO CONSULTATIONS

The Australian Refugee Rights Alliance (ARRA) is calling for brief submissions from individuals and refugee community groups regarding current issues of concern to refugee populations in and from the Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa regions.

ARRA is a coalition of Australian NGOs, refugee advocates and academics. Organisations involved in ARRA include the Centre for Refugee Research of University of NSW, Refugee Council of Australia, Amnesty International and Act for Peace (National Council of Churches).  Each year, representatives from ARRA travel to Geneva to participate in the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees’ NGO consultations.

Prior to the UNHCR meetings, the group prepares a comprehensive set of documents addressing policy issues of shared concern. This process enables more effective advocacy at the meetings by ensuring coordinated and targeted action by the Australian delegation. In 2010, the meetings will occur in late June.

Individuals and refugee community groups are invited to make submissions on issues they would like to recommend that ARRA put forward during the meetings with UNHCR.

ARRA is particularly interested in current issues of concern to refugee populations in the Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa regions, however issues of concern to refugee populations in other regions of the world are also invited.

 Some possible themes you may choose to use include:

  • Women at Risk
  • Protracted Refugee Situations
  • Xenophobia/Racism 
  • Families at Risk
  • Urban Refugee Policy

 How Can I Contribute to the UNHCR NGO Consultations?

You can submit a brief submission to us, focusing on any current issue, but it should be limited to one page in length.  We will then read your submission contact you for more information if required and do our best to include your issues in our papers for discussion at the UNHCR in late June. 

 Please return submission application form with your submission to Lucy Morgan at the Refugee Council of Australia (RCOA).

 All submissions must be received by 31 May.

Submissions must be received by 31 MayVia post or email:  
ATT: Lucy MorganRefugee Council of Australia (RCOA)  
Suite 4A6, 410 Elizabeth Street,Surry Hills NSW 2010

Tel: 02 9211 9333

Fax: 02 9211 9288

 
Email: info@refugeecouncil.org.au  
   

 

 

Submission Form        

 

Name:  
Organisation (if applicable):  

 

Contact Information:

 

Address:  
Email:  
Contact Phone Number:  
Country of Origin:  

 

 

Topic of Submission:

 

Regional Focus (Asia, Africa, Middle East, other)  
Country Focus:  

 

Issues Covered in Submission:
1.2

3.

4.

Recommendations to UNHCR  
1.2.

3

 

 

 

* * Please Attach your 1-page Submission


A Voice from the Voiceless >> Dadaab Refugee Camps Kenya

March 9, 2010

Hi

I received the following message from some African refugee workers I am in contact with in my day job. This is stuff you won’t see on ABC, BBC, PBS or written about in UN Reports. It is a Call from those whose voice has been voiceless in Dadaab, Kenya. I have not corrected any grammar, syntax or spelling. I am posting this as I received it.

stavros

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Dear All the concerned Memebers,

With humble respect, on behalf of the refugees living in the camps of Dadaab, we would like to share our grievances with the world and ask for you to help us find our way to freedom.

Our lives in the camps are far worse than you can imagine. We live in an open prison, far away from justice and humanity. We talk, but our voices are never heard. We move, but only inside a cage. We have many skills and talents, but we are denied our chance to maximize our potential. We are chained to a life full of stress and despair; a life for which many would prefer death. We are denied opportunities for education and employment. We live in a condition without adequate water, food, or health facilities. We are arbitrarily beaten or detained by police within the confines of the camp. We lack the ability to freely express ourselves or have control over the decisions affecting our lives.

For those of us lucky enough to obtain employment with the agencies, we are exploited through the payment of mere “incentive” wages, while national and international staff receive much greater payment and benefits. How can you force us to live in a certain place that denies us our human rights and our basic needs?

 This note wishes to express some of the challenges we face here in the refugee camps of Dadaab in the hopes that we will be given a chance to have greater control over our lives, and have our fundamental human rights fulfilled. Although the challenges and abuses we face are numerous, we will only briefly mention some of our main grievances, including restricted movement, exploitative working conditions, poor service deliver, and false information and abuse by UNHCR and other agencies operating in the camps.

For many of us, the restrictions on movement and the conditions in our forced confinement have caused more psychological, economical, and health problems than diseases and wars have caused.

We ask the Kenyan government, the other governments of Africa, and the people of the world to hear our voices, see our condition, and look further into our situation. We only want our chance to thrive, to live our lives, to visit our family members, to attend school, to receive medical treatment, to help support our families, and to have control over the economic and policy making decisions affecting our lives. We only want the chance to live as other human beings live, with a hope for the future.

Please hear our cries, allow us to move freely from this open prison, and provide us the opportunity to live our lives, support ourselves, and pursue our dreams!

Restricted Movement

Some of us have faced the imprisonment of the refugee camps of Dadaab since 1991, while others of us are newly arriving. Although there have been changes and developments over the past nineteen years, our restricted movement has caused and continues to cause our underdevelopment and deterioration. Many people have died from simple diseases because they could not move to get treatment in Garissa (a town only 90 km from Dadaab). Many parents have remained separated from their children who disappeared from the camps because they could not move to search for them or inquire of their whereabouts. Many students have missed their chances for educational opportunities, have failed to take their final examinations, or have been unable to obtain education certificates earned because they could not receive the permission to move. Many people have been forced into greater poverty by being denied the chance to work and by having to pay three times the price of goods in other regions because they can not move to get cheaper goods for consumption or business. Perhaps worse still, many who have tried to move have been beaten, arrested, detained, and/or forced to pay heavy bribes or fines of large amounts of money they never imagined.

Exploitative Working Conditions

Ever since the creation of the refugee camps of Dadaab in 1991 and 1992 and thereafter, UNHCR and the agencies operating in the refugee camps of Dadaab have relied for their operations on the exploited labor of the refugee communities. Whether skilled or unskilled labor, refugee staff members have worked in conditions and received wages that are in violation of national and international labor laws. While many of the refugee staff in the agencies work tirelessly for the agencies and their fellow refugees, they still merely receive “incentives” for their hard work and dedication. Even highly experienced individuals, some of whom have graduated from Universities, colleges, and secondary schools in Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia, Congo, Sudan, etc., receive unlivable wages, let alone wages commensurate with their experience. In addition to the dreadfully low, unlivable wage, refugee staff members are discriminated against in their payment. Specifically, although refugee staff members work as many hours and complete as many or more tasks as national or some international staff members, refugee staff members are paid significantly lower amounts and are called the derogatory name of “incentive” staff members receiving not wages or a salary but “incentives.” Indeed, though the work load given refugee staff members often exceeds that national/international staff members, refugee staff members are not given their proper respect or payment.

In a related manner, refugee staff often face harsh and discriminatory treatment by national and international staff of UNHCR and the agencies. Several national and international staff frequently use harsh commands and create a difficult work environment, and are given titles of officers even though they do not have as much experience or strong work ethic as the refugee staff members. As an example of the unfair treatment of refugee staff members, these staff members often have to queue for long hours simply to receive their payments and such long lines often cause staff members to miss the limited opportunities to receive their payment and in turn delay their receipt of their hard earned payments. As another example, refugee staff members have great difficulty receiving transportation services of the agencies, sometimes even when travel is required by their jobs. Also, refugee staff members are often not given opportunities for training or scholarships, or even if they do receive such opportunities they are not given work permits at the end of even multiple degrees. Moreover, refugee staff members are not allowed to take part in decision making about the refugee programmes ironically that the refugee staff members usually must implement and that are intended to benefit refugee beneficiaries. Similarly, refugee staff members are not afforded an opportunity to participate in planning, writing project proposals, or otherwise participating in any other management functions despite in many circumstances years of experience and knowledge about the refugee communities who are supposedly the beneficiaries of the agencies’ programs and the conditions in which they live and operate. Indeed, refugee staff members are not even provided meaningful opportunities to present feedback that is received, considered, and/or implemented. Incentive Wages At the heart of the exploitation of refugee staff members lies the entire system of “incentive workers.”

The agencies in the camps of Dadaab divide staff into three main categories:

§ International staff

§ National staff

§ Incentive staff

While national and international staff have relatively similar salaries, working conditions, and privileges, the so-called incentive staff are barely paid, are discriminated against, and are often treated with disrespect. The national and international staff members have every thing required for the fulfillment of the respective work such as transport, office tools and equipment, refreshments etc. at their disposal. At the same time, the refugee staff generally have no such access despite the fact that the national and international staff often greatly depend upon the refugee staff in order to carry out their duties, gain access to and understand the refugee communities, and break through language barriers and cultural differences. Yet, while the incentive staff are indeed the back bone of the agency operations in the camps, the relationship between these two sets of staff and the treatment of refugee staff members is horrible.

 The agencies and UNHCR continue to simply pay only meager incentives, which are minimal amounts in and of themselves and are not accompanied by any significant bonuses, benefits, allowances, pensions, separation payments, or other components of standard national and international staff contracts even for refugee staff members that have been working for over a decade. An incentive worker will earn as little as 50 – 90 USD per month, regardless of the number of years of experience, seniority in employment or academic qualifications. Indeed, the skills, academic credentials, and experiences varies significantly across the work force of refugees, ranging from primary school leavers to those with multiple Masters degrees and diplomas who have worked for more than a decade. Yet all are subject to harsh conditions and meager payment. In addition, the ill treatment and lack of respect for refugee staff and their tireless efforts has taken its physical and emotional toll on many staff members, and in fact some young professionals have developed psychological problems due to the frustrations they face while others have chosen to even risk their lives to return to their respective homelands in the hopes of finding an adequate means of survival for themselves and their families. Moreover, the vast disparities between refugee staff and national/international staff continues to create envy and hatred among the staff of the same agency.

 The incentive system is often claimed to be necessary because of limited budgetary resources and because refugee staff members are not allowed to officially work under Kenyan law. However, in actuality, these supposed justifications serve only as mere excuses for the agencies to hide behind so that they can continue to exploit refugee labor. With respect to the limited resources, first of all limited resources can not serve as an excuse for exploiting refugee labour. Moreover, the amount of money that is wasted if not skimmed off the top by the agencies reaches huge amounts; if there are indeed limited resources, the agencies could shift resources away from ineffective trainings, corrupted individuals, and high paid national and international staff in order to adequately pay incentive staff members.

In a related manner, in line with the problem noted above of not including refugee staff in decision-making and managerial tasks: the agencies should “open the books” and allow refugee staff members to be a part of resource allocation decisions. With respect to the inability for refugees to work under Kenyan law, again the agencies and not the Kenyan government are setting the amounts of the incentive wages and if the agencies are able to legally provide incentives at all then the agencies can not point the finger at anyone other than themselves with respect to the exploitative amounts that are arbitrarily set by UNHCR and the agencies. Moreover, UNHCR and agencies are able to obtain work permits for refugee staff members in Nairobi and elsewhere when they deem it appropriate. Further, it is the obligation of UNHCR to advocate on behalf of refugees’ right to work and pressure the government of Kenya to follow its obligations under the Refugee Convention to allow for such rights.

We ask members of the international community to step up for this matter and come forward to help us refugee staff members regain our human dignity and equality and fairness for all in terms wage earning, working conditions and decision-making. Furthermore, we ask that international human rights bodies and the International Labor Organization study and scrutinize the years in which our talents, skills and services have been exploited and abused by the agencies in Dadaab. The title “incentive worker” The title given to the refugees working with the humanitarian agencies is itself exploitative and demeaning. Literally the word incentive means something given to some in order that he/she keeps the same spirit in the course of an operation; however the magnitude of the incentive in the camps of Dadaab is negligible. Considering the workload carried out by the staff or employees drawn from the refugee community, it is the case that refugee workers form the backbone of the humanitarian operations in the Dadaab camps. Indeed, without these workers, the agencies would suffer an acute shortage of human resources. Given the fact that the title “incentive” does not actually sound proper, the refugee workers often feel discouraged and humiliated to be called an incentive worker, which even can weaken the productivity and output of the workers. Furthermore the title incentive widens the already expansive gap between the refugee workers and the national and international staff, which further hinders the cooperation necessary to achieve the important goals of the humanitarian operations in Dadaab.

The more favorable the working conditions, the more efficient an employee will be in her/his daily undertakings, and the more cooperative relations amongst different categories of staff members, the more likely the operations in general will be successful. Thus, if only from the point of view of improving operations in Dadaab, the title of the refugee staff should be changed, the disparity in wages must be closed, and the working conditions must be improved. Harmonization Incentive Document for 2010 A memo concerning the “harmonization of refugees incentive workers wages” was developed by UNHCR in collaboration with all of the NGOs working in the refugee camps; some of the NGOs have shown skepticism about the effects of the document but the policy has been passed without adequate input or consideration of the viewpoints of current refugee staff members. While we recognize the potential positive effect of raising the wages of those agencies paying the lowest amounts, harmonization should only result in a harmonization upward. Moreover, we believe that individuals should be paid wages that are both living wages and appropriate for their jobs and their level of expertise and experience. The document is totally contradicting the conventions to the refuges. Indeed this is a practical evidence that UNHCR is violating the international conventions and protocols relating to the provisions and service of the refuges instead of promoting, it.

Furthermore, the UNHCR has not increased a sigle coin to the refguee workers and what it done was a cheating withno consultation to the concerned parties; indeed the amount that was dedected from the fellow refugee workers were increased for the other fellow refguee workers thus, creating envy and hatered among the working refguee workers!. In this world it has never been noticed that somesone’s pay is lowered without proper justifications.

Despite the fact that many other irrlguralies that can not be not be summarized is ongoing on daily, weekly, monthly or annually basses within the confines of the refugee camps of Dadaab.

Poor Service Delivery

The Dadaab refugee camps were established in the wake the devastating civil wars and persecution in neighboring countries, such as Somalia, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Sudan, Uganda, Burundi, Congo, and Eritrea. While we are grateful for the support that has been provided to those who have had to flee from their home countries, it is incredible that nearly twenty years after their adoption, their remains terrible problems in the service delivery and operations of the various agencies operating in the Dadaab camps: UNHCR, WFP, CARE, NRC LWF, IRC GTZ –IS, WINDLE TRUST KENYA, DRC HI, MSF, etc. The food distribution sector, the education sector, the medical care sector, the water and sanitation sector, and the land allocation and shelter sectors provide just a few of the many examples of the continuing and sometimes worsening poor service delivery. Food While the refugees in the Dadaab camps do appreciate the relentless efforts of the international community to ensure that the refugees in the Dadaab camps are given food, we ask the international community if a three (03) kilograms of maize and 50 grams of oil is enough to feed a person for a period of 15 days. This meager amount does not meet international standards. Worse still, a quarter of the amount claimed to be given is often stolen during food distribution, in large part because the workers of the food distribution are not adequately paid and are thus encouraged to steal from the beneficiaries. How can refugees be forced to remain in camps, told for twenty years that they are not allowed to work and raise their own livelihood, and then not be given enough food to feed themselves and their families?

Education

Education in the camps consists of several primary schools and secondary schools and other adult learning literacy institutions. While education, especially at the primary level, is a basic need and right, various factors have limited the quantity and quality of education provided in the camps of Dadaab. At the most basic level, the camps’ population has swollen thrice in recent years, while the capacity has only minimally increased. The focal organization for education in the camps, CARE international in Kenya, has not done a good enough job at increasing the education capacity. Poor quality education is matched with poor infrastructure, as many of the buildings remain the same as those built in 1992 to accommodate some 97,000 refugees while the population has currently grown to nearly 300,000. We have 18 primary schools across the three camps with an average of 3500 pupils per school. These large numbers of learners face many challenges in school. The general ratio of teachers to pupils is 1:80; a situation that has forced many learners to become dropouts, ending up on the market streets. All the 18 mentioned primary school are registered as Kenyan National examination centers while the learners in grade 8 (standard eight) must sit for the national exams in November of each year. The Kenya national examination law states that for a school to be a centre for national examination, there should be a least one trained teacher per class in that school; contrary to this law the schools in Dadaab do not have adequately trained P1 teachers. Yet the ministry of education of the government of Kenya officially has accepted this situation, which has resulted in poor performance in all these 18 schools. Another factor affecting education is the issue of payment. A teacher who is expected to serve as a role model, shape the study and character of various children, and teach the next generation of students, receive some of the lowest wages, lower even than donkey cart riders. The low payment causes more qualified individuals to seek other jobs, and for those who remain as teachers to have little motivation to do a good job in their work. Another problematic feature of the education system is that although as many as 4000 pupils sit for their national exams (KCPE), only roughly 120 students from each camp will have the opportunity to move on to secondary school, and even fewer of those who complete secondary school will have opportunities for further education after high school. Courses in Kenya University and colleges, despite funding by the international community, remains limited.

Medical Care

Medical conditions and nutrition have declined since 1992; down the line diseases are increasing while the interventions are relatively minimal compared to the number of patients in the hospital. In addition, as a result of acute malnutrition in the camps and anemia, child mortality rate is on the rise.

Further, due to ongoing fighting in neighboring Somalia, many refugees continue to come to the camps with numerous diseases, injuries, mental sickness, skin diseases and birth defects, many of which are not able to receive medical attention and are told that their ailment is too complicated to be attended to in the camps. As result many patients will converge at UNHCR field offices for their medical concerns but unfortunately UNHCR protection unit staff will keep refugees waiting and only refer them to the same doctors, nurses, and medical facilities that are already stretched too thins Which are expected to assist roughly three hundred deliveries per month in each of the camps. Currently, we have three medical charity organizations in camps MSF SWIZ in Dagahaley, IRC in Hagadera, and GTZ-IS in Ifo. Yet, especially due to the overcrowding, the medical facilities simply do not meet the incredible medical needs in the camps. Some of the most basic issues in the medical care sector include: – Lack of qualified personnel in hospitals – Lack of medicine/ procured – Lack of emergency equipment / ambulance theatre – Lack of adequate facilities or equipment to deal with many of the ailments Water and Sanitation Water and sanitation services are basic and essential; there are 15 boreholes in the camps which supply safe water to the refugee population since water is chlorinated before being supplied. Those boreholes are managed by borehole attendants or incentive workers who work from 6:30am to 6:30pm ever day, even on weekends or public holidays, since water is needed every hour of the day, and yet only earn minimal wages. Similarly, sanitation, waste management, and carcass collection and disposal, as well meat inspections/hygiene promotion are carried out incentives staff while the national staff seem to sit in the office browsing the internet and pretending to be busy in the offices. (Issues of latrine are handled by NRC whiles other sanitary and hygiene activities are done by CARE – RAP Watsan). In addition, the water crisis in the deeply populated Dadaab camps often results in fighting at the tap stands among families, village mates, and block mates. Sanitation and waste management is also worrying. The current network of latrines is hardly maintained and there are not nearly enough latrines for the Dadaab refugees in general. The latrine system in Dadaab camps is far below internationally accepted and minimum standards, such as 1 latrine for every 20 people.

Land Allocation and Shelter

For security reasons and because of the deterioration of the humanitarian situation in Somalia, many Somali refugees flee and escape ordeals in the war torn Somalia and seek protection in the Dadaab camps. Yet upon arrival in Dadaab, new arrivals often receive little guidance, orientation, or support to find land, obtain food, seek medical screening or vaccinations, etc. For instance, when a family comes to Dagahaley camp, where registration has been undertaken since 2005, the only thing they receive form UNHCR is a food ration card after waiting for around 10 days.

Finding shelter is often left to the good will of the refugees already living in the camps, despite the fact that severe overcrowding and congestion already exists in the camps. Most of the new arrivals simply build make-shift shelters that are susceptible being washed away by the heavy rains, or they resort to a living under the trees or a “house” where they are exposed to the elements. New arrivals thus face problems related to security, cold, wild animals, poor sanitation, etc. In addition, after registration the new arrivals often do not get non food items that they are intended to receive such as plastic sheeting, a cooking set, Jeri cans, and blankets; even accessing food is hard for new arrivals as they will start getting food from WFP up to 10 days after obtaining registration from UNHCR.

False Information Provided to Community Representatives and Visitors

Although there are the above problems and many more in the refugee camps of Dadaab, often visitors come to Dadaab and are shown a very different picture than the actual reality. Indeed, visitors of various high positions and organizations visit the worlds’ largest refugee camps of Dadaab in north eastern Kenya. Dadaab has in some ways become like a circus display or tourist attraction, with so many visitors coming in and out to see the camps and meet with refugees. Most visitors come with the intention of evaluating how the funds they have donated have been implemented for the target refugees. Visitors who individually only infrequently and occasionally pay visits to the refugee camps are thoroughly misguided about the real information on the ground. Visitors are often taken to pre-arranged places and meet with special people organized to supposedly speak on behalf of the refugees, who often give information that does not inform the visitors of the real circumstances of refugees’ conditions. It is believed that some agency staff members use bribery and other means of influence with refugee leaders whom they think can give substantial and fabricated information to the visitors that will protect and promote the agencies and their supposedly humanitarian work. It is believed that some agency staff members make false promises to such leaders, such as offering resettlement opportunities or contracts in order to entice these leaders to hide the true information about how agencies deal with refugees when high profile visitors come to the refugee camps. In addition, often when high profile visitors come to the camps, their time is scheduled such that they do not meet with many of the true leaders, intellectuals, young leaders, women’s groups and other stakeholders from the refugee community to hear and know from them directly without the presence of the Agency’s representatives. Moreover, the security guards (AGK) are given instructions to be on high alert and only allow those who had been chosen by the agencies to meet with the visitors. For instance during a recent visit by 17 embassies to the refugees camps, our community leaders, intellectual, young leaders and other stakeholders from the refugee community were only given an opportunity to present all of their pressing problems in a mere 45 Minutes, with agency representatives present who could note which refugees spoke and potentially deal harshly with those who spoke after the visitors had left. In addition, on the onset of the arrival of various visitors, agencies attempt to undertake various preparations intended to deceive visitors about the situation in the camps, such as intensive cleaning campaigns, having even senior officers wade through the rubbish, adding new/temporary infrastructure of all sorts (tables, seats, wall hangings/messages, computers, etc.), painting walls, putting up boards and signs to show orgnanized residential and office compounds, and so forth. As but one example, when some high profile visitors were coming to visit the camps in mid-2009, new buildings were constructed, walls were painted, old equipment was hidden, and intense cleaning efforts were undertaken at a surface level in order to deceive the visitors. If the amount of hard work that was taken to make these preparations was done on a daily basis to actually address the problems facing those in the camps rather than simply providing surface level window dressing to please visiting donors and officials, the situation in the camps could much improve. As another example, when an envoy of ambassadors visited the WFP food distributed centre, all of the former containers used for distributing food (which had been cut in size in order to limit the amount of food given to each refugee) were set aside and every individual was allowed to receive a full ration. But these measures only existed during the few minutes when the visitors were present.

 Taken together, the agencies make significant efforts to hide the truth of the situation of refugees in the camps of Dadaab when visitors arrive. We therefore make a heartfelt request to the Intentional Community, high profile visitors, media, government officials, human rights bodies, independent journalists and other concerned parties to always think beyond the box while visiting the Dadaab refugee camps, to be skeptical of what they are being shown, to try to ensure that they take some time to talk privately to a number of different refugees, and to visit unplanned areas in order to uncover the true living situation of the refugees and hear their voices longing to determine their uncertain future! Abuse from UNHCR Officers in Dadaab against refugee youth advocating for their rights. National and international staff members of UNHCR and other agencies in the camps of Dadaab often attempt to harass and intimidate refugees who advocate for their own rights. As a recent example, the UNHCR Head of Sub Office, in the presence of elder witnesses, threatened various refugee youth who intended to attend a meeting at his office, shouting that in case any youth came into his (UNHCR) office he would call the police and arrest them. Similarly, the senior Protection Officer has often failed to protect the rights of the refugees while allegations of harassment and human rights abuses flood his office in Dadaab. If UNHCR jeopardizes and denies the basic rights of the refugees in Dadaab Refugee Camps and denies the opportunity for refugees to advocate for their own rights; who will then advocate for the rights of the thousands of the disadvantaged societies in Dadaab camps? It can only be concluded that the UN and other agencies do not wish to see a community who can manage their own affairs independently. It can only also be concluded that the agencies in Dadaab are more political agencies than they are humanitarian agencies, with many agencies undertaking similar tasks and doing little to actually assist refugees as they claim. Moreover, the reports shared by the agencies with the donors often provide false information and figures, including but not limited to false information about living conditions, security, service delivery, movement, education, development, health, water and sanitation, food, and services they allegedly provide but often either do in a sub-standard manner or never have even undertaken at all. While agency staff often argue that refugees have no right to complain because the services they receive are free, it must be noted that agency staff also receive free of charge much better services than the refugees receive, including in the areas of water, medical care, food, housing, electricity, etc. We request from the international community and other concerned parties to help us mange our own affairs and that affect us by giving us a chance to get the jobs we can do for own selves.

Conclusion

 In sum, we wish to reiterate that we hope that the international community will hear our cries and undertake efforts to end the exploitation and abuse we face by pressing for an end to restricted movement, a reform of exploitative labor policies, an improvement in service provision, a greater allowance for participation in decisions about service provision to the refugee communities and refugee staff members, and the end to the deception and abusive practices of the Kenyan government, UNHCR, and the other agencies operating in the camps of Dadaab toward the refugees and the international community. Furthermore, the International community and the concerned goverments should watchout carefully the actions of the govermentof kenya, UNHCR and the other Agenceis opertaing in the region decissively and should held account for any inhuman acts. Thanks and looking forward to your immediate durable solutions.

Kind Regards,

Refugee Silent Welfare Committees


The Corporatisation & Destruction of TAFE – History Rhymes

November 7, 2009

Below is an article I wrote “History may not repeat itself, but it sure does Rhyme!” in 2008 while I was working in TAFE as the TAFE Teachers Association (Hunter Institute) Peace Officer. Peace Officer? Well, it was a title given so that Management couldn’t hassle me because I was representing the Union. I was aggravating Management with some of my communications questioning the Corporate Culture that was infecting Public Education – especially TAFE.

It’s primary intention was to record the history of the corporatization of TAFE for the younger teachers who would never get to know TAFE as a public education provider. TAFE was the greatest social justice and equity mechanism in the world because it gave hope and education to those who were disadvantaged and poor. Those educated and trained through TAFE could then get jobs that would alleviate their disadvantage. TAFE did not only cater for the needy but it’s Access and Equity programs and policies ensured that the needy were supported.

It was obvious to me that the plan to corporatize TAFE and gradually get rid of Access and Equity programs and policies was created at least in the early 1990’s. It was also obvious to me that the government wanted to privatize Vocational Education and Training (VET). We all knew it. In NSW we saw what happened in Victoria, Queensland and Tasmania. We would never let that happen in NSW? Well, we did allow it to happen and now we are witnessing TAFE’s destruction.

Knowing that the Senior Executive Service doesn’t strategise by the 6 monthly semester or even annually but at least a decade ahead I tried to organize Save TAFE Festivals and a website which would highlight the corrosive effect that corporatization was having. The website would include every Institutes’ offering with the numbers of vacant teaching positions NOT filled – by Faculty and Campus. It would also show the stupid, mindless restructures that happened over the years which were done to destroy TAFE staff’s morale. For some unknown to me reason TAFE TA didn’t support the idea. They didn’t support the Save TAFE Festivals idea either. I had two Institutes’ teachers showing interest with over 100 staff in both stating they would support the idea. I asked the Union for the email address database of all NSW members which they refused to give me. I asked that they forward the emails to all NSW members which they refused to do.

I was told that some Union Council members were against both the Save TAFE Festivals and exposing / dobbing in website because if they were successful it would show management that there was no need for extra resources because TAFE teachers could do so much just by organizing and donating their time and expertise. What the fuck! But that is what I was told.

I was also told by Council members that my ideas were far too radical and that most Union members only care about their salary and conditions. I couldn’t accept that baby boomers who were about to retire wouldn’t do as much as possible to Save TAFE because they had nothing to lose. They were superannuated and tenured so they couldn’t be sacked and even if they were hassled so what? They only had one to five years of not being liked by management. But no – in their smugness and complacency, in their relaxed and comfortable slumber they let TAFE be destroyed.

I left TAFE in 2010 because I was getting bitter towards my fellow teachers and Union members. We had a great  strike turn out for our conditions earlier but to SAVE TAFE – only very few gave a shit. I didn’t want a bitter heart while remaining in TAFE for a few more years. The way it turned out, I need not have worried because all those jobs disappeared! I must admit some schadenfreude  when I heard that most of my Managers & some of the teachers who told me I was over the top paranoid about the future of TAFE lost their jobs.

Now we are witnessing the wholesale destruction of TAFE – many of us saw it coming but few wanted to do anything about it.

The current Managers of TAFE should be ashamed of themselves for they are accomplices in the greatest destruction of world best mechanism for social justice and equity.

The following was originally sent as an attachment then I put it up on a cloud as a PDF document. I’m now including it here so that when needed I can send link via Twitter.

Right at the end of the History Repeats article is a post I put up about 6 months before I left TAFE. Since I couldn’t get a website going through the Union I did my little bit on this blog. The egroup & Save TAFE blog no longer exist.

Stavros

January, 2016

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Sometime in 2008

History may not repeat itself, but it sure does Rhyme!

Hello Everyone,

Greetings from your Hunter TAFETA Peace Officer.

I morphed into this role a few weeks ago during a TAFETA Branch Meeting at Newcastle Campus and I wasn’t even there! I accepted the nomination and here I am writing to you. I figure that I’m better placed than that poor bloke in Franz Kafka’s story,“Metamorphosis” where he woke up one morning to find he had morphed into a cockroach. At least in this role, I can communicate … and that is what this TAFETA role is about….. I think.

I have lived long enough to have experienced as a teenager the first landing on the moon by a human and a time when a single computer occupied an entire building. Now I live in a time, when other solar systems are being discovered in our galaxy and a silicon chip is in every home and office, if not in your pocket. I have also lived long enough to see Public Service change from serving the public to marketing to customers. In DET, students have become clients and in TAFE, we lost our Principals to get Managers and we are now in the process of losing our principles and teachers for trainers.

The document, TAFE NSW Doing Business in the 21st Century, arrived in my inbox and the thought crossed my mind that it’s important the history of what happened since 1988 to TAFE should be recorded. When we, the Great Demographic Blimp of Baby Boomers, leave TAFE over the next few years, this knowledge will disappear.

History may not repeat itself but I reckon it rhymes.

Rhyming patterns may be discerned in this 20 year history. These in turn may resonate into the future. Younger TAFETA members will tune into echoes and hear the rhymes of crimes, the chimes in the times. They will be prepared to project from these rhymes of history possible “new” beginnings and probable lies.

So instead of looking towards the future I turned around and saw a hazy scene, a kind of otherworldly reminiscence. Like an eagle gliding above, I saw over 50,000 teachers from schools and TAFE colleges converging and congregating at Hyde Park in 1988. I remember having travelled by bus from Wagga, along with many others from across NSW, to protest the fundamental change in direction for public education which was being pushed by the then Greiner Liberal State Government.

Terry Metherill, the Education Minister at the time, decided that it was time for Public Education to walk the path (plank?) of economic and cultural redemption. As a matter of historical record, Nick Greiner was a disciple of Margaret Thatcher’s Gospel of Economic Rationalism, she of the “there is no society” fame. He took it upon himself to transplant the Corporate Business Culture (CBC), structure and processes into the Public Service.

You may ask, “What is wrong with Corporate Culture?” Well, it may be fine if the prime purpose of an organisation is to make money at the expense of everything else. In fact, if a human was a Corporation their psychology would be diagnosed as psychopathic. A book by Joel Bakan called “The Corporation – the Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power” outlines these features and why the Corporate model is dangerous for a Public Service.

Educational service exists for reasons that transcend making a profit, so if you transplant a culture and model – of being from an entity which exists solely to make money onto education you have created an organisation creaking with tensions and contradictions. These tensions are exacerbated because Corporate goals contradict Teaching goals, no matter how many Mission and Quality Value Statements are made in glossy brochures.

Anyway, Terry Metherill, Nick Greiner’s loyal Education Minister began his major restructure of Education to make it Corporate. He didn’t explain why, he just didit because it was a matter of economic rationalist faith – a user pay doctrine of an irrational ideology.

So how did we arrive where we are now? What did these Economic Rationalists do? Why did we educators, teachers and citizens protest in 1988 and have gone quiet since then?

Well, the first thing Greiner and Metherill did was to create the Senior Executive Service SES. The Corporate Business Model dictated an SES which was separate from the rest of the organisation and placed on 3 – 5 year contracts. They could earn bonuses too if they performed according to the specifications of their contract. So, if they could demonstrate that under their watch they came in under budget they would get a bonus.

No longer were the Heads of Public Service organisations permanent with tenure andthus could advise and run their organisation according to the needs of the public withoutfear or favour but had to perform according to the dictates of their political masters or face the sack. Greiner had politicised the State Public Service which Howard would later do tothe Commonwealth Public Service in a much more sinister way. The best example of this was the break up of Commonwealth Employment Service (CES) to Jobnet Private Providers.

About a year or so later, Greiner set up the Scott Report and then the Predl Report which had to review all of the Access and Equity Services. When Scott and Predl reported that the Access and Equity Services were excellent and needed more funding rather than be dismantled, Greiner and Metherill weren’t too pleased.

The next step was to impose a “Managerial” culture onto the Principals and Teachers. They got rid of all Principals and in their place created Managers. I remember talking with a few of the Principals who had lost their jobs because of the restructure and how they felt about the changes. They felt that Corporate Accounting Procedures were central to their new role rather than pedagogy and educational guidance. They lamented the loss of true educational leadership and the rise of the Corporate Manager within an educational institution.

One feature of this Corporate Managerialism is that no longer is it expected those in management roles in Faculties have to have expertise in the Faculty’s skill base they manage. In fact, they don’t even need to have been teachers. All that is needed are generic management skills where the manager does not have to know anything about the educational content of the faculty, just how to manage budgets and human resources, preferably with an MBA. So, an accountant would be ideal to be a Faculty Director of Access and General Education.

One thing that was pivotal in creating the “Corporate Business Culture” in TAFE was to ensure that there was a separation in working conditions between Principals and Teachers. This meant that the new Managers did not have the same conditions as Teachers which guaranteed that no longer would there be “solidarity” between Principals and Teachers. The first Institute Managers (IM’s) were restructured into these positions from their previous educational leadership positions. They had no choice but to take up what was on offer or lose their jobs.

A friend who was forced into becoming an IM told me that when he complained to the Institute Director (ID) about the situation the ID said, “You’ve got a job, haven’t you? Don’t complain.”

In the 1990’s we witnessed a change from TAFE Regions to Networks. In fact our Institute was separated into three networks Newcastle Urban Network, Hunter Network and Central Coast were part of North Sydney Network. Along with these Networks came new signage, new stationery and new offices. In the Network model it was believed that Network Administration offices had to be separate from the “business” of the campus. This meant that money was spent in creating new office space away from the campuses. A little later another restructure saw the creation of Hunter Institute of Technology. Only a few of the TAFE Institutes were Institutes of Technology, the majority were Institutes of TAFE. This entailed spending money on NEW signage and stationery. The new signage evenwitnessed new logos for each Institute. Then there was another restructure where all Institutes became Institutes of TAFE and with one brand sign TAFE, NSW.

All the while the Marketing areas of these restructured organisations gained in powerand status. To emphasize the new Corporate Hierarchy, palatial offices were created to house the CEO’s, the Institute Directors. Meanwhile, classes and programs were cut and new “Centres of Excellence” were created which rationalised the delivery of programs away from local campus provision to one place within the Institute. So students who attended a Muswellbrook course in Automotive Engineering would now have to travel to Glendale Campus which was the ONLY campus offering the course.

I do not know if there has ever been a cost benefit analysis of all these restructures but I imagine that the cost would be in the order of millions. How many classes could have been run for the cost of these failed restructures? Has anyone reviewed the Senior Executive Service structure to see if it is beneficial to the community?

I don’t know if Teachers Federation has researched and reviewed the restructures involved. Maybe I’m a little naive about this but it seems to me that whenever there has been a review and then a restructure we just go along with the ride. WHY?

Sure salary and conditions are important, but who is responsible for the “culture” of an educational organisation, if not us teachers? The effect is that we now have the Managerial Culture infecting head teacher positions where the main work seems to be compliance and accounting of the budget.

In another decade we may find that TAFE will become TVT Technical and Vocational Training, where Head Teachers will be Program Managers on 3 – 5 year contracts responsible for hiring “trainers” casually or on short term contracts. These Program Managers may also be offered bonuses if they perform according to their contracts. In other words, they will have similar work conditions to the Senior Executive Service but with much less pay and less responsibility.

We may even find that online education will do away with buildings so that TAFE campuses become smaller and in regional areas non existent. Private providers may rent these ghost buildings for bugger all and if students need practical training they can come in for a few days per year. Impossible? Improbable? Let’s see.

Already the powers that be, have decided that TAFE teachers do not need a Diploma of Education, just a Training Certificate will do, since we all have Cert 4’s to satisfy Registered Training Organisation (RTO) status. Do you remember your initial response when told that you have to do the Certificate 4 in Workplace Training? I bet it was something like, “Why? I’ve already got a Dip Ed. I can’t see why I have to get a lower qualification because you say so.” But most of us did it and now we find that TAFE Management doesn’t want your Dip Ed because they want trainers NOT teachers. Don’t forget, trainers are cheaper than teachers and in this competitive market place private providers use trainers, so what chance have teachers got? Why has our Union gone along with this? Beats me! I refuse to do the Certificate 4 – and so should all of us.

TAFE lost its Principals in the 1990’s to get Managers, now it looks like TAFE will lose its Teachers to get Trainers in the 21 st Century.

 I remember a few years ago when I was visiting Bethlehem in Palestine, sitting on a bench in Nativity Square. Along came an old man with an Arafat like profile who sat next to me. When he realized that while I was of Middle Eastern appearance, I didn’t speak Arabic but only Greek and English, we began speaking in that half telepathic, half verbal way in English that happens sometimes between people of different backgrounds when they want to communicate.

Anyway, he found out that I was a teacher and he said something which has touched me to the core ever since. He said, “In our culture a Teacher is a Lamp because a Teacher brings the light of knowledge to the darkness of ignorance.” Note, not a trainer but a Teacher. The two roles are completely different and now Management wants to get rid of Teachers in TAFE.

How many restructures have we had since the late eighties? What happens when an organisation is in a constant state of restructuring? One thing that is obvious is that there is an ambience of uncertainty. People worry about their positions and their jobs. As anyone with a modicum of common sense knows, people do not innovate and create when they are scared and insecure. We have had a culture of fear and uncertainty for about 20 years and I don’t think having an Institute Manager position Director of Innovation will create the psychological space for creativity to be born. It appears that we have been surviving in the Realm of the Perpetual Restructure.

While I’m sympathetic to the Buddhist concept that the only constant in the world is Change, I do not feel that these constant restructures are based on a sense of the sacred.

I believe that the Equity Units of TAFE are what makes TAFE uniquely different to any private provider. In many ways the Equity Units are TAFE’s sensitive antennae picking up trends and subtle changes in the scales of social justice. What happens to Equity Units happens to everyone else in DET, sooner or later. Right now all Equity Units are going through another review and there is talk about creating a new Social Inclusion Unit. However, before you younger ones cheer, please understand that 20 years ago the Central Equity Units had more than 60 people and now have about 20. If we go by what has happened in the past, why wouldn’t we believe that the Central Equity Units will become a Social Inclusion Unit with three, if not one member of staff?

Hunter Institute’s Multicultural Education Unit won a Quality Award in 2007 for the work it is doing with African refugees. This is great, good work is being acknowledged but when you consider that the category in which the Quality Award was given, it kind of changes one’s feelings. The Award states: “The African Experience” Business Relationships. Yes, a social justice project that worked closely with the local community did not have a category called “Social Justice” or “Community Relations” to call home. To fulfil the Corporate ethos this spherical, “Whole of Life” project had to be put into a corporate cube.

History may not repeat but it sure does rhyme!

After the consultations for the Doing Business in the 21st Century are over, you can bet, like clockwork, there will be another Restructure, Realignment Re – whatever word they will use for it. Why don’t we have a Review of the “Restructurers”? I sometimes wonder if these Managers who order restructures do it just to be seen to be doing something. It is often easier to dismantle and restructure than to create and build.

Maybe, I’m having an attack of nostalgia for a world that has disappeared and a paranoid fantasy that in TAFE’s place, a 21st Century TVT Corporation is coming. Assuming that there will be another restructure, whatever name or spin they put to it, what will happen? What needs to happen? Can we do anything about it?

I believe that Teachers Federation is like a sleeping giant. I don’t mean to take away any of our great achievements as a Union but I would love to see the sleeping giant wake up and say “enough is enough” with the corporatisation of our educational service. We can do it if we have the will. However, I am inclined to feel that as we older ones leave TAFE, the younger ones who have not known a non corporate TAFE culture, will go along with the changes because that is all they know and recognise.

What if we do wake up collectively, what can we do?

Well, being a Peace, Love and Hope kind of bloke, I believe that if enough of us have a vision and if this vision is rooted in pure intention, that Magic can happen, that serendipity and synchronicity are not just long words but mean something vital, that Leonard Cohen was right when he wrote, “God is alive, Magic is afoot”, that, Kev Carmody and Paul Kelly are right that “From Little Things Big Things Grow”. However, saying this does not preclude organising collectively. We can organise locally by forming affinitygroups / clusters of action.

To do what?

We need to take individual responsibility and to join with other like minded members to develop and create new strategies that arise from locally relevant issues. As a start, every time our Managers tell us to do something we can ask

“WHY?” and keep asking “Why?” and not be satisfied with answers that allude to “because that is the way it is” or “because we have been told to”. Keep onpushing through to the essence of what is being directed by asking the simple question “why?” I have been surprised how far this question has taken me into the realm of the human instead of the wasteland of the corporate.

Here’s some other stuff we can do:

If asked for a student tally, refer the manager to CLAMS; for a budget summary, tell them to see Buddy; for FCPS, say, “Here’s my current provision, for next semester’s, ask me then.” You all know that these “tools” do not help us, they are a burden. Yet we do them. Then the managers ask us for simple info instead of using the tools created for their use! Don’t forget that as we use these “tools” we embed the “managerial” culture into our positions and we acquiesce and then comply in the corporatisation of education.

If you want you can reply with some feedback which I can use to create a threadand send to TAFETA members. You may wish to share your own experiences of “corporatisation” and ways of taking it on. Keep sending your input to the Doing Business in the 21 st Century people, if it’s still open.

This may not sound like much but when you consider how many of us there are I’m certain that our combined imagination and creativity will come up with countless strategies to “decorporatise” our TAFE. Or, we can simply do nothing, roll over and sleep until we are superannuated out. The choice is ours.

For the younger members, at least you now have a story of how TAFE became corporatised before it became TVT Corp and maybe you will be able to recognise that historical rhyme when you hear it and thus be prepared.

All the best

stavros

Your Peace Officer

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November, 2009

Hello Everyone

When I’m not Stargazing and Journeying across the planet I have a job that pays my bills and gives a great sense of satisfaction. I work in a system which I believe is one of the world’s greatest mechanisms of ensuring social justice through education and training. The system I am referring to is Australia’s Technical and Further Education (TAFE).

My job is as an Institute Multicultural Education Coordinator…of the 50,000 or so students who attend our Institute, about 3,000 of these are from non English speaking background. Recently, well over the last 4 years, my work has been predominantly with the newly arrived humanitarian refugees from Africa.

I won’t tell you   what is happening to our TAFE system here but you can find out, if you are interested by visiting this blog >>>

http://save-tafe-now.blogspot.com/

and the yahoo group

http://au.groups.yahoo.com/group/Save_TAFE/

If you are an educator / teacher from outside Australia and you are interested in what is happening to Public Education, I’d be happy to hear from you and discuss what is happening in your country.

all the best

stavros


From the Archives – Newcastle, Australia becomes a Welcome Town for Refugees

September 11, 2009

 

Way back in 2002 I was part of two groups which had a focus on human rights and refugee issues.

The more “operational” and lobbying aspect had expression in the group Newcastle Action for Refugee Rights (NARR). My more “cultural jamming” and “Situationist – Anarchist” aspect had its expression in HOPE Caravan. It was through HOPE Caravan that I was involved in the Easter Actions at Woomera Detention Centre in 2002 and Baxter Detention Centre in 2003. It was also as part of HOPE Caravan that the Flotillas of Hope found expression.

Hope Caravan logo we used on our now absent website.

Hope Caravan logo we used on our now absent website. The drawing was based on an original pencil drawing made by a prisoner at Woomera Detention Centre. He gave us permission to use it.

As part of NARR, I, along with others presented a proposal to Newcastle City Council to make Newcastle, Australia, an official Welcome Town for Refugees. Here’s the link to the whole proposal we presented at Newcastle City Council >> Welcome Town Presentation – thanks Jack for taking the time to make it available on your website.

Now that the dark years of the John Howard’s Decade is over in Australia, it is important that we are reminded that there were people in Australia (many, many of us) that were ashamed at the opportunistic tickling of the xenophobic underbelly of the Australian people that Howard’s genius did. People say that he was not a racist. Maybe he wasn’t in a way that Hitler was, but his myopic vision and policies that demonised innocent people who were seeking a new life were.

Anyway, I don’t want to go on about him here, suffice to say that there were Australians around during the Dark Howard Decade who stood against his crap.

My social conscience is clear and I’m proud to say that I was one of them.

NARR conducted a sympathy fast with the hunger strikers at Woomera Detention Centre in 2002. This is the tent we lived in at Civic Park, Newcastle. The head on the corner is a paper mache of Philip Ruddock, the Immigration Minister at the time.

NARR conducted a sympathy fast with the hunger strikers at Woomera Detention Centre in 2002. This is the tent we lived in at Civic Park, Newcastle. The head on the corner is a paper mache of Philip Ruddock, the Immigration Minister at the time.

 


Introduction to Flotillas of Hope Sky Map

April 28, 2009

 

Below is the introduction to the Horoscope of the Flotillas of Hope Project in 2004. I sent this out to a few supporters of the Project around the world who I felt would not laugh at the idea of an astrological – magical approach to a human rights campaign. Now, since the Action is complete and Nauru Detention Centre is shut down I feel that I can reveal my own inner stance to such external actions publicly.

I will also upload the complete reading of the Flotillas horoscope to a storage site. When I do I will give you the link.

Here’s the Intro……

Sky Map

 

Flotillas of Hope 2004

 

“If there is dust on our lense, we see dark spots in the heavens.”

                                                                                       Carlos Suares

 

Flotillas of Hope Horoscope (Sky Map)

Flotillas of Hope Horoscope (Sky Map)

 

“..the apparently lifeless data of astronomy can be used to produce a calculated and objective emotional effect.This is astrology. But it is an astrology quite unlike astrology today.”

 

John Anthony West and Jan Gerhard Toonder

 

I feel like experimenting with my beginner’s astrologer mind on the Flotillas of Hope. Part of me is uncertain as to how it will be taken by you and in what spirit. My concerns revolve around the bad press that astrology has received since the Age of Reason. I am not going to justify the working rationale of such an ancient method of making sense of the world. Astrology is one of the oldest science – arts in the world, globally used by the first great civilisations of humanity, in Egypt, India, China, Americas, Africa, and Australasia. Written history shows that the Babylonians or Chaldeans developed it to a fine art. In fact “Chaldean” was synonymous with “astrologer” in those days because the practitioners of that country were considered the best practitioners of the art. Abraham, the root of Judaism, Christianity and Islam was a Chaldean. In those days the dichotomy between science and art did not exist. One could argue that our 21 St Century “West” is schizophrenic when we compare ourselves to the unitive vision of the ancient worlds. Check out Jaynes “The Origin of Consciousness and the Bicameral Mind” to see where I’m coming from. Sure we’ve got Eye of Hubble taking and transmitting beautiful images of the heavens from the edge of our Solar System to us on ground zero. However, we cannot see ourselves as an integral part of a living organism we call the Universe. We don’t believe that the Eye of Ra looks over us. Funny that, because the Sun still shines and that is what the Eye of Ra is – the Sun. This reminds me of William Blake’s response to someone who said that the Sun was just a guinea coin shape in the sky, “For you the Sun is a guinea disc, for me it is a chorus of Angels singing Alleluia! Alleluia!”

 

I want to reclaim that sense of wonder. Astrology helps me ponder the interconnection between myself and the universe, between all of us and the universes.

 

I want to experiment to see if Astrology as a symbolic language can demonstrate the noumenal underpinning of reality. This two way communication between mind and symbol may help manifest the Flotillas of Hope.  I’m more comfortable in using the French “symbolique “ in the Schwaller de Lubicz  sense than symbolic. The difference is so small yet it adds another world of meaning. Symbolic in the usual sense means a sign that stands for something. Symbolique means (from my beginner’s mind) that the sign is the represented ie the symbol is alive in its own essential meaning – it is in itself what it symbolizes. The aliveness is the symbolique.

 

The underpinning I am referring to is not a static slab of concrete but rather a cluster of “energetic” patterns. If David Bohm is right about  implicate and  explicate orders of the universe then  the pattern crystallizing between the implicate and the explicate orders as pin pointed at the moment of sending the Flotilla email is the Sky Map – a particle of the Holographic Universe . That moment carries with it space and we enter the zone of descriptions, associative tracings dancing across nervous systems and neuronal connections making “realities”. The Horoscope/email did not cause the journey of hope to Nauru. We are not talking about Causes here but rather Acausal resonances, synchronicities, patterns of what is.

 

It is a fundamental premise in this reading that there are multiple descriptions of reality and that these descriptions have an equal being status.  Consensus reality, in which we are embedded, is not the only one around. Australian Aboriginal people can discern over twenty different words for different kinds of desert sand where through Western eyes only one sand word exists “SAND”. The same applies to the ground. Original Australians see sacred ground where Western consensus reality only sees a potential dollar making resource.

 

The more you look into it, with a beginner’s mind, you find that the macroscale physics of relativity is in contradiction to the micro scale of the quantum universe. The humble electron orbiting around the nucleus of an atom cannot be placed. The electron cannot be pinned down as to where it will be at any moment. Its location is probable only. Picture the journey of a car in the centre of a city. You will see the car stop and turn, make its way in a continuous action. The car moves through space in a certain amount of time. This is the macroscale, however in the microscale, within the heart of matter it is a different picture. The analogous image of the car-electron travelling through the city centre, is the discontinuous location of the car. Instead of moving and turning around a corner for the car to be at a particular place, the quanta car first appears in one place and then another and then another  without the “journey”. It is this discontinuity which is the quanta – a time –space packet of probabilistic matter.  In fact, it seems that the micro universe of probabilistic matter is in closer concert with Astrology than the macro scale of “separate” stuff in an open universe.  That moment, according to astrology encompasses the position of the planets and stars and the time the email was sent – it is all an Event Organism. The astrological hypothesis is based on a resonance between that which is above (the heavens) and that which is below (the everyday world of our existence – Earth). In other words there is a coincidence between the positions of the stars at that moment and the event. I won’t even try to enter synchronicity’s whirlpool to explain the connection. Check out Carl Jung’s Introduction to Richard Wilhelm’s translation of the I Ching. It is the best summation of the synchronicity idea. Rupert Sheldrake’s morphic resonance comes to mind applying its theme to a time body. The Flotillas of Hope may even be tapping into morphological roots in archetypal memory …..Jason and the Argonauts on a quest for the Golden Fleece.  By the way, Jason is pronounced Yiason and when Greeks say “Yiasou” it means “long life and health to you”. Yia and as it means “hygia” as in hygiene…it also means to make Whole and is the Earth – Gaea = Yia both in pronounciation and in meaning. Gaea Mind – Hive Mind.

 

In other words the emerging pattern from the invisible world into the visible 3 D world of what is called  “Flotillas of Hope” may be revealed in a symbolique exploration of a Sky Map. Not necessarily the future but the potential trends and cycles of an emerging future. Kind of like seeing the lineaments of a living time body. Seeing the curve of the Flotillas time sail, tiller and anchor may indicate certain needs. Sure, its not prediction pure and simple but it is better than nothing at all. This kind of astrology is as far removed from fortune telling as Reality is from Reality TV.

 

 

The Flotillas of Hope was conceived as an event organism when the “SEND” button was pressed. The idea entered the web-mind-womb and the flotilla was conceived. We know it was at that moment because we have witnessed its embryonic movements and now, at the time of writing, 4 boats – 3 from Australia, one from Colombia are here in the 3 – D World of our senses. The baby is kicking in the womb waters of both the web and the earth. On World Refugee Day, 20 June, 2004, the Flotilla of Hope will be born at Nauru, Longitude 166 E 55, Latitude 00 S 32. 

 

 Astrology for me is a means of exploring the edges of rational thought as it touches the unknown. The  horoscope is  like a semi permeable membrane, it can suspend the ordinary associative processes of the mind and allow a different kind of attention to manifest. This attention striking off from the symbolique elements of the horoscope gives a different kind of mind environment. Psychologists call it imagination. Sometimes, in flickering moments it can be vision. A vision – feeling into another dimensional world that is holographic in structure, energetic and alive. In these glimpses, a human and the universe are seen as the same organism. As above so below, as Hermes Trismegistus says. A different  relationship exists between things – or at least that is what appears when astrological Sun glasses are worn.

 

Astrology for me is a mantic science with an intuitive technos.

 

In political or judicial astrology the beginnings of any event is deemed to hold its potential futures. Note the plural for it shows that there is no predetermined single end but rather multiple futures resonant to a common end. It was believed in ancient times that a study of the stars could ascertain the rise and fall of  kingdoms and dynasties. It has also been recorded that the birth of Jesus was predicted by astrology when the three magi in a caravan crossing the Middle Eastern desert followed the Star of Hope to Bethlehem.   Astrologers were employed to chart possible battles and voyages trying to predict what may happen and advise accordingly. Someone wrote, “In my beginning is my end and in my end is my beginning”  Judicial or mundane astrology (mundanus from the Latin meaning “material world”) sees events in the same light – in a beginning is its end and in its end is its beginning. Judicial or political astrology deals with events in the social sphere. It is not as well known as the personal natal astrology  but it has been of enormous influence in shaping history up to the Age of Reason. Some say, even until today.

 

Art of Manifestation

 

Another aspect to this reading is that the actual exercise of casting a chart, reading it and writing out the interpretation can be an intentional act of manifestation. Well, according to all the stuff I’ve read and been told, it can be. If the miraculous or the lyric by Leonard Cohen, “God is alive, Magic is afoot “ irritates your sensibility then so be it. I take those words literally. The secret seems to be “not doing” and “resting”; in knowing “how to wait”. It is a contradictory state >>> manifesting an intention by not doing. Something like Tao and the process of “From Little Things Big Things Grow” Paul Kelly and Kev Carmody.

 

Look, I am new in this kind of work. One of the main things anybody has to do when learning a new skill is to apply it, try it out – practice. So, this effort of mine is a beginner’s effort. It may all be fantasy but at least I got another chart out of the way for my personal target of 1000 completed practice charts. It is an experiment in using a different model of the world to see if it can have an effect. Who knows what powers lie both within and outside ourselves when we remain open to different modes of apprehension.

 

“When positive, equational logic rejects feeling, it makes as great a mistake as when intuitive feeling rejects logical control.”

                                                                                   Schwaller de Lubicz

 

If the interpretation is all mere fantasy with no true moments of seeing, do not blame the stars. Blame my faulty vision. If astrology has no objective reality, it may yet have a reality in the subjective world.

 

In many ways, this reading is an experiment in communicating a social – political event and its intentions  using categories that are Astrological. Whilst every attempt has been made to keep the Astrological technical language to a minimum, no prior knowledge of Astrology is required to understand its intentions.

 

The Flotillas not only sail on physical oceans they also sail in peoples’ hearts as courage and compassion  bringing an end to the heartless and inhumane incarceration of refugees on Australia’s Islands of Shame.

 

This is just my small effort to do something, armed with a computer and a sense of wonder at the oneness of it all. As you read the interpretation you are also helping to manifest by reinventing and recreating the Flotillas of Hope in your own imagination. In effect you are creating your own vision of what may be.

 

Any other astrologers both beginner and advanced please send me your comments. I‘d be interested in hearing your views and interpretations of the Flotillas of Hope Sky Map.

 

Final word to those who know:

 

Somehow you’ve come to the conclusion that at the very heart of matter, at the turning point of decisions, at the core of bone marrow, molecule, atom, neutrino and pepperino there is an intelligence operating. You know that Earth is a stone with a lick of moisture on its surface orbiting about a type G star we call the Sun. You don’t disdain science and you also know that there is a blueprint of the whole of Creation. This blueprint, this plan , this informational map is embedded within every atom, cell, organism and living whole from a sand flea to Andromeda, from a child playing with a ball to the Milky Way.

 

How you came about this knowledge is your business. It could have been through a book. It could have been a friend who told you. It could have been a certain altered state of mind that led you to this knowledge. It doesn’t really matter where you got your knowledge or even how. The important thing is that you know that there is an imperishable spirit in every piece of matter, in every volume and in every measure. This means that there is an imperishable immortal part of human nature. It is here and now, we only have to slice through the onion layers of conditioning to see it. This knowledge we are speaking about is certain knowledge. It is an X ray vision of  the imperishable in matter. It is not a mere belief and neither is it an open conclusion of faith. It is certain knowledge based on direct experience…nothing is in the way. Having this knowledge gives a different spin on the Earth as a stone orbiting a medium sized type G star.

 

In fact having this knowledge makes words like Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto mean something different to hunks of rock gravitationally stuck in orbits about the Sun. They are verbs in one context and gods in another. They are as far removed from the astronomical planets and Sun as green cheese is to the moon. This is where the possession of this knowledge instead of bringing fame and fortune will  bring instead  ridicule and laughter, sometimes scorn and banishment. The possession of this knowledge has marked you as an outsider. Even though it is invisible, your mark of Cain is your knowledge. If you are lucky you may have found a way to manifest secretly and keep a semblance of an ordinary householder life. Being an invisible outsider gives you great opportunities to observe and learn how to be a partner in creation. For this is what it comes down to. In essence humans are not a symbol of the Universe – we are the Universe and in this kind of partnership we all do our bit or we get flushed out of existence. Where’s our immortality then? It’s still there waiting for another to clothe it.

 

The denial of human rights of one is the denial of humanity for all.

 

Method of Approach

 

I’ll try to see if I can delineate the “soul” of the event as if it was a living organism, you know, the “Flotillas of Hope”. It is my way of considering the project in a holistic manner. I will try to place this Organism within the context of the socio – political world. One moves from the particular to the general – a person to a nation. – a local event to a national and global context. Astrology allows you to zoom in and out of the various contexts within contexts like a telescope . It can sometimes be time free and so indicate trends invisible to the naked eye. Trends seen through a time free zone? A contradiction and yet possible.  Pataphysics and the Third Mind juxtaposed by situational poetics, the poetry of the moment shown not only in words but by the signs of the stars and our living motions.


A Palestinian Belt with Badges

March 29, 2009

 

Below is a photo of a hand woven belt given to me as a gift when I was in Palestine in 2000. I have attached a number of badges to it. The Hope for Refugees badges were made from images downloaded from my first website for Woomera. The others came from all sorts of experiences.

palestinian-belt-badges


Flotillas True Beginnings ……from the Holy Mountain

February 28, 2009

Mount Athos, Greece

Mount Athos is in north eastern Greece, east of Salonika and only accessible by boat from Ouranopolis  (ouranos means sky so Ouranopolis means Sky Town).

Mount Athos is in north eastern Greece, east of Salonika and only accessible by boat from Ouranopolis (ouranos means sky so Ouranopolis means Sky Town). The Holy Mountain is located on the red peninsular of Halchidi.

 

 When are true beginnings of events, births and resurrections? I ask this question because I’ve been asked when did the “Flotillas of Hope” begin? Common sense answers that it was the day and time the boats set off for Nauru. “Eureka” left Sydney on 15 May and “One Off” and “Eureka” left Brisbane for Nauru on 23 May, 2004. However, before the boats even existed, “Flotillas of Hope” was an email sent at a particular date and time from somewhere. Was this email “Call to Action” the real beginning of the project? A feeling anchored in my heart for a few months before the “Call to Action” email was sent over the internet.  Was this feeling the real beginning that only needed my fear of ridicule to disappear to express itself? Where did this feeling arise from?

I believe the real beginning happened four years before we set sail for Nauru. My father died in December, 1999 and being the eldest son of a Greek family it was my duty to go to Greece and check out some property stuff. I hadn’t been back to Greece since I left when I was four years old. I couldn’t afford to return to my birthplace, my roots, until I was 48. Over the years I dreamt about returning and all the special places I would visit. One was Dodona which is about 5 kilometres from Anatoli, the village where I was born. It is the oldest oracle in Greece, older than the Delphic Oracle. Legend has it that Jason, before he sailed off with the Argonauts searching for the Golden Fleece, visited the oracle of Dodona. The miraculous priam that spoke in prophecies from the front of the Argonauts’ boat, was carved from wood of Dodona’s  sacred grove.

Dodona, oldest oracle in Greece. I sat on one of the rocks and listened to Zeus speak through the rustling leaves before I left for the Holy Mountain.

Dodona, oldest oracle in Greece. I sat on one of the rocks and listened to Zeus speak through the rustling leaves before I left for the Holy Mountain.

This is near the spot where Mary, Mother of God (Theotokos) shipwrecked on Holy Mountain's beach.

This is near the spot where Mary, Mother of God (Theotokos) shipwrecked on Holy Mountain’s beach.

One other place I dreamt of visiting was Mount Athos, the Holy Mountain as Greeks call it. The monks who live there consider themselves gardeners for the Mother of God’s Garden on Earth.  When Mary and Saint John set sail from Cyprus their tiny boat was blown by strong winds off course to the north east coast of Greece where it shipwrecked. When Mary saw the beauty of this place she asked her son Jesus if she could have it as her garden. Soon after, seekers of truth arrived, some remained to become gardeners and others left after some respite. This is why it is called the Holy Mountain.
 
 

 

I was baptised as Greek Orthodox when I was a baby. In my late teens and early twenties I searched far and wide, behind book covers and the open roads of Australia and New Zealand looking for something. As part of that search I found that the Holy Mountain may have something of what I was looking for. I had sought answers in religions and philosophies alien to my heritage. Now was the chance to look into my own indigenous faith.

 

 
 

 

Ouranopolis - this is where you leave by boat to go to the Holy Mountain.

Ouranopolis – this is where you leave by boat to go to the Holy Mountain.

It was Easter, 2000, there I was sitting opposite Geronta Pavlo at the table with the wood oven heating some water behind me. I was inside a time bubble hugged by mud, stone and timber walls. Byzantium breathed in this small kitchen that has cooked meals and boiled water for over a millenium.

The tiny church next door to the room I stayed in at the old Byzantine house.

The tiny church next door to the room I stayed in at the old Byzantine house.

Of all the cats scampering for fish heads in the saucer near the door, two – the twins, Alpha and Omega ran towards Geronta, finding their way onto the table top. Geronta was quietly reading a newspaper. His hair, like small waterfalls of grey, fell over his shoulders and behind his back. Strands of his long white beard fell on the table. Gerontas, 90 years old, looked like a middle aged biker, with the full round belly of body armour and broad shoulders. Alpha and Omega tugged at his beard, he said, “Off with you,” and then smiled. I went to lift the boiling water off the stove and when I returned I saw Geronta folding a page of the newspaper. Over and over he folded. I wondered if this was some kind of Holy Mountain origami. When he finished folding he held it up.

He said, “Here Stavros, this is for you.”

I said, “What is it Gerontas?”

“It’s a boat. I don’t know why but my heart told my hands to make this for you.”

As I received the gift he said, shrugging his shoulders, “Who knows, it may mean that you return to the Holy Mountain sooner than you think. Or maybe something else. It is for you.”

 
 

 

The paper boat folded by Gerontas and given to Stavros.

The paper boat folded by Gerontas and given to Stavros.

What was interesting in retrospect is that he gave me the boat a day after we had a discussion about what is needed to alleviate suffering and injustice on Earth. I was thinking about the dispossessed, the homeless, the weak, the persecuted, the refugees of the world. I told Gerontas that the needs of the world are such that people who can do something should not hide on Holy Mountains but be in the world and try to change it for the better, Smiling, he said, “Our Christianity is esoteric, it is hidden. Here on the Holy Mountain you are no longer in the exoteric world. Our concerns are spiritual.”

“Gerontas, you appear not to care for the very ones Jesus tells us we should care for.”

“Stavros, from where you are it appears that way. You know, the Holy Mountain needs at least five monks to survive in caves and feed on light. Without these monks connecting Heaven and Earth through their sacrifice, the Mother of God’s Garden will wither and die. How do you know that this house, this monastery, this Holy Mountain does not play a similar role for the whole Earth? How much more pain and injustice would be on Earth now if the Holy Mountain did not exist? We, each of us has our calling, our vocation. My work is here while yours is in the exoteric.”

“Gerontas, do I need to become a monk to fulfil what is needed or is there another way?” I asked him.

Alpha or was it Omega, crawled softly towards his hand. He reached for the cat’s head and stroked it gently. He said, “This is what is needed from all…..the practice to bring the spiritual into the material, Heaven on Earth. You don’t need to be a monk or a nun to do this. All you need is pure intention. If your intent is pure, the way is open. Do what you have to do, follow your conscience and allow this particle of God,” he pointed to my heart,” your conscience, guide you.” He looked at me with soft eyes and added, “You must die before you die and then be reborn, this is what Easter is all about.”

A few days after I was on my way to Istanbul or Constantinople as Greeks call it with the paper boat and lots of material for thought. My journey over the next two months was along the ancient trade route from Istanbul to Cairo.  

I took the paper boat with me on Eureka. I now believe that the beginning of the journey to Nauru was the moment when Gerontas gave me the paper boat. He, as a gardener, planted a seed. 

 

 
 
 

 

St Paul at the base with Mount Athos in the background.

St Paul at the base with Mount Athos in the background.

Entrance path to the house I stayed in with the two monks.

Entrance path to the house I stayed in with the two monks.

View from a balcony near my room.

View from a balcony near my room.