Sunday, September 30, 2007

The Patch

Have you ever wondered what life would be like if your community had some shared space where you could all come together to learn new skills or share your experience and skills, maybe grow a few vegetables or engage in some kind of urban agricultural activities? I often imagine a more productive and engaged community where people are able to maintain a connection to the earth and the production of their own food.
I wonder if shopping mall convenience and an abundance of goods has produced a happier more fulfilled society, or if we have just become more demanding consumers. I often wonder if we have lost our connection to the life force that sustains us. Human beings are organic and spiritual beings; we need more than the material abundance that our inflated economy has provided us. I know I do anyway. Of course there are ways to fulfill this inner need for a connection with the place we live in, other living things and our own spirituality, but wouldn't it be great if that connection was intrinsically linked to our daily life rather than a diversion from it?

An inviting entrance

Recently I came in contact with a small group of teachers and students who have created a wonderful garden and creative space where they are able to learn and develop important skills while improving their relationships with the local community and creating a place of beauty. This group has created a small piece of paradise on the edge of the Northern Suburbs of Darwin. They call it 'The Patch.'

About a month ago when I first visited The Patch I felt overcome with the sense of inclusion and the warm welcome my family and I received. The Patch currently occupies a small amount of space but with the great vibes this place has already created it has potential to grow into something grand.

I have since discovered that the (Council owned) land may be sold off to a real estate developer for subdivision. Given the potential good The Patch has to offer my neighborhood and the Darwin community generally I believe it must be fought for. Seriously! This place could become a critical component in the health and welfare of our town! It has so much to offer. I do not want to harp on about the evils of our capitalist democracy but I must say that the balance between the good of the community and the greed of the individual are grossly skewed. It seems to me that the imperative to amass great amounts of personal wealth while our commons dwindle and are neglected. We have an opportunity to do something great for our community and the generations who will inherit the spaces we leave for them. Let's give them something special!

Snake bean seedlings
Snake beans just planted

Some frieky beans
Some other kind of bean? I have no idea what!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

A short walk for a Stronger Community

This afternoon a bunch of People continued the march for equality in our society, demanding real solutions rather than the dramatic, divisive, and ultimately unjust intervention / legislation our Federal Government have imposed on indigenous communities.

The complexity of issues that mar Aboriginal communities may be beyond our comprehension, right and wrong could be blurred or clouded beneath veils of ignorance, misunderstanding and cultural differences however the fact that there are problems is not denied.
The existence of an emergency may also be quite real and may demand immediate action, particularly if the lives of innocents are in peril.
I can't help wondering though if the Australian Government is now so concerned with the welfare of children in indigenous communities, why do they look to further erode the rights of the people. Surely the solution must lie in the creation and support of healthy communities.

This afternoon as a rather unseasonal tropical shower released it's burden over the city what appeared to me to be a couple of hundred people, many dressed in black, marched along Mitchel Street and headed to Mindil Beach.
Although our audience of tourist hoards had fled the beach for fear of a few fat drops of tropical moisture, the march was hugely successful! The procession had the desired affect when it stole the attention of those tourists frequenting the bars along Mitchel Street. For a brief moment the traffic was halted and the Mitchel Street crowd were diverted from their own indulgences of frivolity and alcoholic beverages. Stalled for just a moment as the compulsion grabbed them to observe a community in action. I didn't notice one person leave the march to take cover from the rain. On the contrary! The water fell like a blessing and an omen of hope! It seemed spirits were raised in the bouncy atmosphere of the seasons first rain.

Posted on YouTube by pleides07

Monday, September 17, 2007

Furthur note on ram raid legislation

This matter of Federal government legislation and the unquestioned support it seems to have from the federal opposition and Territory Government has really been bugging me! I guess the reason I am so disturbed by the whole situation is that the laws are totally discriminatory!
On one hand we have the Government saying that alcohol and pornography must be
regulated / prohibited in Aboriginal communities because of the immense harm they cause... (I do not doubt this whatsoever!) But on the other hand these very same things are harming the broader society in the Northern Territory yet they are openly celebrated as a way of life!

Since consumerism has become the moral imperative for our society and we now live under the direction and care of national anti competition laws I have noticed a marked growth in the availability of both porn and grog in my town. It seems that according to the values of a free market society it would be immoral to regulate the growth of these legitimate industries. The resulting lack of regulation in the areas of aclcohol and porn seems to have led to the Adult shops (where pornographic videos are sold) promoting themselves extensively and even sponsoring public events; takeaway liquor licenses being granted without due regard for their location, i.e. just 50 meters from a primary school; and supermarket chains offering 20 cents per litre off petrol purchases for every $60 spent on alcoholic beverages.

In our society generally, binge drinking and sexual abuse appear to be increasing among young people. Yet under the ideology of market freedom and rampant consumerism it is deemed unfair to regulate the industries that supply the goods at the core of these social ills. They appear to be supported by our governments and treated as responsible citizens seemingly for the sole reason that they are successful businesses and generate wealth! Yet the suffering brought about by their wares is incalculable.

Since outback communities are by nature quite isolated, I wonder if anyone has visited all them all to inform, and explain to people the implications of the new legislation? Will the people actually be aware of the various changes in the law? How will their lives be affected? Without a permit system in place how will they be able to limit the movement of opportunistic visitors in their communities?

As the discriminatory alcohol and pornography laws are now in force many people, will find themselves liable to prosecution for conducting themselves in a way that is obviously condoned in non indigenous societies throughout Australia. When they come to Darwin they will see this hypocrisy clearly, how will this be explained?

Last week a government add on a Darwin radio station warned that from a particular date (only a week away from when I first heard the add) X rated videos would be illegal in my community and should be destroyed and disposed of. Legal action could be taken against people found in the possession of such videos! Theoretically Territorians could have assumed that this add was meant for us all and should therefore have rushed home and destroyed all their porn! However many would have also assumed that this law is not meant to affect people living in town. Surely we are impervious to the moral corruption that occurs in indigenous communities?

When I first heard the add I thought they must be serious about cracking down on porn. But then it seems that this is not the case. As a citizen of the NT I have the right to indulge in the watching of X rated pornographic material. It turns out that the average person in Darwin will not be affectedly these laws at all. Apparently the add is aimed at people on indigenous communities only. But this was not specifically mentioned. Maybe this is because it is assumed that listeners would know that these rules will only apply to a particular segment of our society! If this is the case then the discrimination is so entrenched that it no longer even has to be stated, we have been affectively apartheid in a matter of months!

In the words of Michael Long I would ask also, "Where is the love?"

If our government think the negative affects from these things are confined to Indigenous communities I suggest watching a great documentary series on SBS called Decadence

Decadence - Sex - 9:30 pm Sunday

'Pria reflects on how sex-saturated our modern culture is, with hard core pornography available on-line 24/7, and 70% of the net having pornographic content. He interviews NSW Police Commissioner Ken Moroney about how gruesome the cases of rape and sexual assault in this state have become, while Clive Hamilton laments the obvious link between porn and the commission of sex crimes.... (Commissioned by SBSi, in English) (Documentary Series) (Part 2) ...'

How will our government ever be able to address the needs of it's citizens
(Image above is a scan of a postcard. The origin of which I am currently unable to verify)

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Rally against Federal Intervention

This morning at 10:00 am in Raintree Park there was a fantastic turn out for a protest rally against the Federal Government's intervention into Aboriginal communities.

A crowd gathers in the shade of the Banyan tree in Smith St Mall

Powerful message great singing!

As the Federal Government has imposed it's will on indigenous people, dissolving their rights as citizens and legislating against whole communities collectively across the Northern Territory many of us are asking:

"What's this legislation got to do with saving the children?"

Amazingly as if the legislation isn't discriminatory enough, many non indigenous people, Including the minister responsible for alcohol in the NT, are lobbying for 'non-indigenous' visitors to Aboriginal communities to be exempt from these laws!
It is astounding that in the midst of this crisis people are asking "Why should these rules apply to me? I'm not an Aboriginal! This law is for 'them' not us!" The scariest thing about this attitude is that it is being taken seriously and exemptions have already been made along clearly discriminatory lines.

If it's still available check out what Chris Burns said in the NT News article Grog bans watered down. It's a great laugh in a tragic kind of way.

In the article Mr Burns is quoted as having said:
"people who are not from Aboriginal communities should be able to camp and fish in these areas with alcohol."
He qualified this with the following statement
"This isn't about discrimination"
Either the minister has no comprehension of the meaning of the word 'discrimination' or he is a brilliant comedian and master of irony. With statements like this he leaves political satirists with no where to go! The punchline has been taken! All they could possibly do is repeat his words verbatim.

But enough about our jokes and jesters there was serious business at todays rally. Many great speeches were made, songs sung and injustices exposed. There was a great sense of unity throughout the crowd. However the discontent was visible and shared by Indigenous and Balanda Australians alike. The demands were simple; justice and equality for all Australians, safety for our children. The Government are asked simply to "Say Sorry and Listen.

This group could be called the coalition of the caring

There is a strong feeling that the decision makers and voters east of the Great Dividing Range have little understanding of how their decisions will affect real people living in Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory. As there will soon be a federal election, more action has been planned to bring this to the attention of interstate voters.
On Thursday 27th September there will be another rally. People from all walks of life will unite and walk from Raintree park in Darwin's CBD and proceed to march all the way to Mindil Beach Market. A demonstration will be made to the Federal Government and all interstate onlookers that this new legislation is seen as an abuse of the rights of Aboriginal people and offers little in substance for improving the lives of Children.

Friday, September 14, 2007

The local scene

Last night the Environment Centre hosted a fantastic Film Night at the Deckchair cinema! A reasonable group of supporters came along to watch a wonderful film called 'Cave of the yellow dog'. This must have been my first night at the cinema for over a year! It was kind of overwhelming! Seriously! I am so unused to being able to sit through a whole movie...
With nothing to do but enjoy the atmosphere I was in wonder and awe of the whole experience! It was such a lovely film and the night was perfect!
Thanks ECNT!

Get on yer bike mate!

Wednesday 17th October will be National Ride to Work Day ... in Australia that is...
A small but growing mob of us have decided to host a ride to work breakfast at Charles Darwin University!

If you live in the area and would like to join the fun, just get that bike out of the shed / garage or wherever, pump the tires up and check the brakes then ride on down and join us!

Our breakfast will be held at the Student Square BBQ area at Charles Darwin University, Casuarina NT. 7:00 to 9:00am

I know it's still a few weeks away... Think on this as fair warning. You have time to organize your bike and resolve all those petty excuses you may have come up with in the past for not cycling to work!

Saturday, September 01, 2007

The Longrassers series

My mate Geoff is an artist.
A couple of years ago Geoff entered two paintings to the Royal Darwin Show, they formed a series called the Longrassers. The theme of the competition he entered was Darwin Topical.

I like these paintings very much; occasionally I drop in to look at them.
What astounded me at the time and disheartens me now is that the officials rejected them both and would not show them. The reason given was that they were not in theme with the topic.

Longrasser 1. (Artist Geoff - Darwin)
Longrasser 1. by Geoff ~ Darwin

An Aboriginal man slumped over a wine cask in the long grass on the outskirts of town at night.
The curlew (a bird related to death) in the background is significant.
At the time this was painted a person had been nailing wine casks in the shape of a crucifix trees in scrub land and roadsides all over Darwin. + Thong

longrasser 2 (Artist Geof - Darwin)
Longrasser 2. by Geoff ~ Darwin

White (Balanda) man sitting in the long grass on the outskirts of town. Bloodshot eyes, tattoos can in hand. Wine bladder crucifix nailed to tree thong on the ground, full moon behind him.

The term 'Longrasser' has become widely politicized. The word describes a lifestyle adopted by vagrants, swaggies and town campers in Darwin regardless of their ethnicity. However a couple of years ago it became a popular label for used to stereotype drunk or undesirable Aboriginal people. It is also accepted among indigenous town campers to describe themselves as a minority group. (When asked for an address by government bodies a common reply might be "In the Long Grass")
For a while back then, when the Territory government decided to clean up Darwin's streets by flying troublesome people back to their communities, the bourgeoisie of Darwin took hold of the label and applied it ruthlessly to Aboriginal people in general. To begin with the term 'longrasser' came into common use for any drunken or unruly indigenous people seen about town. Then slowly through various forms of media and amongst the chatter and gossip of family BBQ's the word took root and seemed to be a politically correct way of slagging off at Aboriginal people generally.

ften when people said Longrasser what they were really talking about was undesirables. In peoples minds and in the media references to Indigenous people became inseperably linked with the word Longrasser. Therefor the familiar concept of Aboriginal people being by default undesirable has managed to become a popular and common conclusion among much of the non-indigenous community in Darwin.

I am certain that amongst elements of the Darwin community there was a great sigh of relief. People could go back to slagging off at aborigines without being labeled as racist! finally a loophole had been created that allowed for the vilification of an ethnic group whilst remaining politically correct! Wide acceptance of the word Longrasser as code for Aboriginal people brought forth all kinds of public discussion about what to do with them and and how to get them off our streets... Aboriginal people that is. By now the fact that there were scores of non indigenous people living in the longrass appeared to have been completely ignored.

Somewhere along the line someone came up with the brilliant idea of showing recognition of the Larrakia people, the traditional owners of Darwin and its immediate surrounds. A campaign then began to remind visitors from other communities (most of the indigenous longrassers come from other communities) that they should respect the Larrakia people and act appropriately on their land. Signs were erected as reminders, seemingly for indigenous people, but how were the broader community educated about respecting Larrakia places? I don't recall seeing any education campaign that was directed at non indigenous people. Maybe because the campaign wasn't to to educate us or to encourage respect for country. It was designed to evict aboriginal people from the beaches and parks of Darwin! That is all! What a farce! My apologies to the Larrakia people but from my limited knowledge of the situation, as a non-indigenous person living in Darwin it seems that our government and community are not really interested in recognizing Larrakia people. The whole thing looked to me like an elaborate way of shaming indigenous people away from Darwin. Non indigenous people are not asked to show the same respect for Larrakia protocol or traditions, we are not shown how or expected to abide by any traditional forms of respect for the land we are on, or it's people.
I think that was about the time when the Federal Government cottoned on to the idea of labeling asylum seekers as 'Cue-jumpers'!

In Darwin there are some people who live and sleep out-doors. Some of them are Indigenous and some of them are not. They do this for all kinds of reasons, sometimes by preference, sometimes out of necessity. Although a lot of people in the longrass are male there are also women, they are young and old and there are family groups. Sometimes with children.
Grog affects the lives of many who are out there. People often seek comfort, and friendship through the grog but are led to despair insanity and death. Grog can be both comforter and destroyer. Life in the longrass can be a dangerous place the conditions are harsh and there is sometimes no escape from opportunists or violent and abusive people.

My feelings about the two paintings: The images above are both of men. One an Aboriginal man lost and close to death, the other a white man living on the fringes of society soulless and hard. When I look at the aboriginal man I feel compassion, I can sympathize with him, he is lost but a totem of his people is standing by, watching over him waiting to sing for him. When I look at the other man unfortunately I do not feel the same sympathy, but he is equally damaged. The crucifix may be a symbol of hope or a lost opportunity. I am inclined to think that both are lacking any hope. Geoff says it is a symbolizes the struggle of living a life trapped between two worlds.
Maybe the crosses bear witness to their persistence and ultimately their passing.