A Ganma Odyssey

March 11, 2009

 

This is the title I used for an article published in  “Education Australia”  way back in 1998. I think it is still relevant in many ways, particularly now that Australia has had a change in goverment. Since it already is online I will just give you the link to it here  “A Ganma Odyssey” . If the link should ever become inactive I will upload it to this blog.

I chose this title to connect an Aboriginal word with my Greek heritage – the Odyssey. Ganma is an Aboriginal word from the Northern Territory which is the name for a waterhole that has fresh and salt water mixing together in a rock pool. One of the speakers at the conference (see below “The Ganma Metaphor”), suggested we use the word “ganma” to refer to a “multicultural space” as in a classroom. Anyway, read the article and you will see the full context. By using the word “odyssey” I alluded to my own Greek heritage and the fact that the journey to the Heart of Australia was also a journey to the centre of my own heart because I was retracing a journey I undertook about 25 years earlier as a young man on the road looking for truth . . . . my own naive version of a Dharma Bum.

The coloured text excerpts and photos, beneathe “The Ganma Metaphor” are scanned from the hard copy of “Education Australia” Issue 39, 1998. So, check the article out >> “A Ganma Odyssey”.

The Ganma Metaphor

“This metaphor I had learned during earlier visits to Yirrkala Community School in East Arnhem Land, on the coast of the northeast corner of the Northern Territory. Yirrkala has organised their curriculum and teaching around a metaphor of the contact zone where rivers meet the sea, named ganma in one of the local Aboriginal languages. Literally, ganma is where fresh and salt water meet. Metaphorically, ganma is where cultures meet: fresh water is indigenous Yolngu knowledge and practices; salt water is the white Balanda knowledge and practices; and one place where they meet is in school.

Flying in a small plane from Yirrkala west to Darwin after a visit in 1993, l could see clearly the swirls of different colors in the ganma waters: bluer from the sea, browner from the land. Manduwuy Yunupingu, who was principal of Yirrkala when I first visited in 1991, has also described the role of Yothu Yindi, his internationally known rock group, in the meeting place of popular culture in these same ganma terms (Shoemaker 1994).

At first thought, this ganma metaphor may seem to ignore the important power differential between dominant and nondominant cultures in institutions like schools. But if you think again about literal relationships between fresh water and salt, the potential threat of unequal power is there: salt water tides and typhoons can flood the land, while fresh water cannot seriously harm the ocean. But if the two can be kept in balance in the ganma space, then the rich nutrients that come together from the mix of different waters nourishes richly diverse forms of life-biologically in the literal situation, culturally and intellectually in the metaphorical.”

Courtney B. Cazden

Quote from ‘A Postscript from Alice Springs’, in Multiliteracies: Literacy learning and the design of social futures.

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Here is an excerpt from the article :

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.

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.

From “A Ganma Odyssey” published in Education Australia, 1998.

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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.

 


On Sufism – author unknown…..

February 10, 2009

I don’t know where I got the short article from, maybe someone sent it to me with no author’s name on it. It doesn’t really matter, except I don’t want you to think that I wrote it. The Sufi poet the author quotes is, I consider, to be one of the wisest men who ever lived. When I was in Damascus, Syria, I met a local who took me to his tomb. I had to pretend that I was a Moslem to enter the holy place but that wasn’t difficult because of my “Middle Eastern” appearance. My guide just told me not to open my mouth and speak because my English or Greek would give me away. I crouched to enter the small entrance to Ibn Arabi’s tomb and when I came close I felt compelled to fall on my knees and bend my head in respect to him. The tomb, in 2000 was in a silver gilded cage (since then the tomb is within a glass cage) and I felt that this was so incongruous given the free spirit that made Ibn Arabi…well, Ibn Arabi (July 28, 1165 – November 10, 1240).

 Anyway, enjoy the following article as it outlines the Sufi experience for our times …… 

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Time Travelling with My Ears

February 9, 2009

 

Rimbaud: “I dreamed of crusades, senseless voyages of discovery, republics without a history, moral revolution, displacement of races and continents: I believed in all the magics.”

 

A few months ago I was stuck like a shipwreck on my bed in my living room. I was stuck there, 24/7 for two months. I was there because of an accidental fall at work. I broke my leg and tore a cartilage in my hand. This means that I wasn’t able to use crutches to get around and when I visited the doctor and the physiotherapist I used a wheel chair. So, my “senseless voyages of discovery” had become mundane wheelies on a chair. I was not down and in fact time seemed to buzz by quicker than ever. Yes, alone on a bed, stuck in one place for two months and all seemed well. Of course, being shipwrecked with a beautiful, caring wife helps a lot. I couldn’t ask for more in a woman who shares my life. Jane is totally giving, loving, warm and has a natural joyousness which lightens my life – even while I was stuck there.

 

So much for my body. Yep, it was immobile but my mind wasn’t. I began doing some amazing time travelling while I was in this space. Time travelling? Let me explain. I was surfing the net and buying music from eBay. I found a seller who offloads very cheaply, CD’s without covers and art work. More often than not they are CD’s of LP’s I already own but because vinyl is so 20th Century and I couldn’t be bothered trying to find a new needle so that I can play them on my turntable, getting “Exile on Main Street ” by the Rolling Stones on CD for 50 cents is fantastic. I bought some music I

haven’t heard for decades which I could listen to.

 

Each time I listened to these songs, reminiscences flowed unchecked – memories, dreams, faces, body entanglements, old acid trips and dope hazed twilights, smiles and tears, hellos and goodbyes…all streamed by as the music played. Each favourite song became a lane, a street, sometimes a highway to the past. I listened and watched the thoughts that arose and watching the thoughts, sometimes I felt. Felt what? It didn’t really matter, a feeling arose, then a smile bent its way across my face or a tear traced its way down my cheek. Old friends appeared and then I wondered, “Where are they now? Are they still alive? Are they happy?” Old lovers appeared and I remembered our embraces and promises we made to each other. My heart broke and then healed with another song. I loved all. I love all.

 

Time travelling with my ears.

 

Below are lyrics of a song I wrote about remembering a long lost lover:

  

Do You Remember?

 

Do you remember the time,
our paths first crossed the line?
Composing phone numbers
on the palms of our hands.
Do you remember the hour,
when we first made the vow?
During reason’s truancy, without sorcery.
The gypsy keeper’s hand of fate
undid the knot of empty space.

 

 A circle and a sphere can’t trace
the shape of a falling tear.
The comfort and the fear can’t chase
the cape of another year.
Do you remember?

 

Do you remember the moment
rumour’s arrow pierced your intent?
Through the line between your eyes
a flame kindles your alibis.
It burns through precious flesh and bone,
the memories you wish to disown, by and by.
We sacked the empires of illusion
to save the key to eternal union.

 

 A circle and a sphere can’t trace
the shape of a falling tear.
The comfort and the fear can’t chase
the cape of another year.

 

Do you remember . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . me?

 

stavros


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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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