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Tony Abbot appoints Scott Morrison to the role of Ministry of Social Services – heaven help us all!

Let me be perfectly clear.

Scott Morrison is a man who, until a couple of days ago, was the Immigration Minister in Australia.  He is also personally responsible for the inhumane treatment of thousands of asylum seekers to this country.

No matter what your views about the validity of asylum seekers who come to this country by boat, the abject inhumane treatment of them is totally and utterly unacceptable.

This article in The Monthly is an article of harrowing and shocking letters written by asylum seekers (both adults and children) in detention praying for death because what we as a country offer them is worse than what they left behind.

No matter what you believe, no matter what your political views, inhumanity is wrong.  You would have thought that after the atrocities of World War I and II that these kinds of atrocities would never be seen again.  We were wrong.  Scott Morrison has seen to that.

I am passionate about this topic.  I am passionate about the right for people to seek asylum in countries that are safe, war-free and economically stable.  I believe that those kinds of a countries have a moral obligation to assist those whose own countries are unsafe.

Can you imagine if countries had closed its doors to the millions of Jews who sought asylum after the war?  Can you imagine if the likes of the United States and Switzerland had persecuted these people even further by throwing them in refugee camps detention centres, subjecting them even to further torture by denying them adequate basic necessities, health care and education, rendering their only wish to be death because they cannot even hope for a better life with no hope of ever being released?  Do you think, back in 1945, the world would have agreed with that?  No.

I am so tired of the rhetoric that these people threaten our way of life, our jobs, our religions, our comfort, our very existence.  Time and again, history has shown that integration of new cultures, of new skills, of refugees has in fact strengthened the economy, allowed the country to grow through its enrichment of new ideas and ways of doing things.  And integration is the keyword here.  There hasn’t been an invasion, but an integration.  There is a massive difference.

But since I am on my soap box, please allow me the courtesy of enlightening you a little bit (source: Asylum Seeker Resource Centre):

  • There are currently 8,342 asylum seekers in one form of detention or another in Australia.  2,349 of those are children.   Those 8,342 asylum seekers represent just 0.03% of the population of Australia.  How on earth is that in any way a threat to our way of life?
  • Of the boat arrivals between July 2009 and June 2013, 90.6% were granted asylum.  This means that over 90% were deemed valid claims and allowed into the country.
  • In the 2012-13 year, there were 162,700 births, 242,800 migrants arrived in Australia on work and other visas, and just 26, 427 asylum seekers arriving by boat (representing just 6% of the population growth of Australia).

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, of which Australia is a signatory (no matter how it wishes it wasn’t), states:

Article 5: No one shall be subject to torture, or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Article 9: No one shall be subject to arbitrary arrest, detention or exhile

Article 14: Everyone has the right to seek and enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.

The UNDHR was adopted in 1948 as a direct result of the atrocities of WW2 in an attempt to never repeat its inhumanity again.

Scott Morrison has said fuck you to that!

Never mind that he said that even if their claims are found to be valid they will never be settled in Australia, or the fact that he says if they don’t like it then they can return to the country from which they are fleeing.  What is terrible, is the conditions, clearly orchestrated in light of Scott Morrison’s video, under which people are being treated.  The letters speak of searing heat, no hot water and vast amount of women with vaginal infections.  They speak of children speaking of and attempting suicide. They speak of believing that they were fleeing to a country that was fair and just and treated all its people humanely in stark contrast to the unspeakable horrors that they were fleeing from.

Apparently not.

What is even more terrible is the fact that a lot of Australians believe it is acceptable, and some even believe right, that people should be subject to this kind of inhumanity.

Scott Morrison has played beautifully to this rhetoric in his “I have all but stopped the boats” speak.  These LEGAL asylum seekers are political pawns in a massive struggle to maintain political power in a country that once was based on a fair go and equality for all (though that never really ever was the case).

And now, Tony Abbott, our boob of a prime minister, has promoted Scott Morrison to Minister of Social Services.  Be afraid is all I can say, Australia, be very afraid.  Our government has been in power for just over a year and the devastating damage it has done domestically in that time is unequalled in the history of democratic government in Australia.  A full list of broken promises can be found here (yes that is 404 and counting!!).

On the appointment, Scott Morrison pledged to “ensure the integrity, dignity and sustainability of our safety net. But the best social service we can afford any Australian, to help them deal with the cost of living, is a job. Getting as many Australians, who are able, to get off welfare and into work will be one of my core goals”.

We all know that what this means – it means that people who are marginalised and disenfranchised will be forced encouraged to get off welfare to look for work, despite the vulnerability of most of these people.  Tony Abbott said when appointing Scott he is a “splendid advocate but also the master of difficult policy and administration…

Tony Abbott then went on to say that the Ministry for Social Services is essentially a Ministry for economic participation.  This is neo-libearlism at its core.

The problem with neoliberalism is that it assumes that all people are born to equal rights and opportunities and as such have the same opportunities to create an abundant life for themselves as anyone else in the country.  We know that this is simply not the case, at all.  EVER.  This is an IDEOLOGY, not a truth.  It is an ideology that runs through the veins of our current government and is announced daily through our mainstream media.  It is an ideology that is explicitly used to ensure the rich-poor divide.

In the same week as this ministry for economic participation Ministry for Social Services appointment, Tony Abbott also cut funding for national trade cadetships, ceased payments to apprentices under Support for Adult Australian Apprenticeships program and abolished the Australian Workforces and Productivity Agency.  Call me what you will, but isn’t this in direct contrast to the “economic participation” ethos Scott Morrison has apparently been employed to do.

Tony Abbott also cancelled the National Aged Care and Community Health forum, abolished the National Children and Family Roundtable, cancelled the Healthy Life, Better Ageing committee and cancelled the Aged Care Planning Advisory Committee among many others.

You would have to be an idiot not to realise that Scott’s lack of compassion and humanity is going to be used to further persecute those most vulnerable in in our own society.  The man is simply a modern day Mussolini.  I can imagine him now saying “let them eat cake” when being told that the bottom 20% of Australians are starving to death.

When are we as humans going to stop hurting each other?  When will we finally realise that being kind is not a weakness?  Is it human nature to just continue oppressing people?

Australia is by no means the lucky country.  Not for those who flee here hoping for safety and the right to be able to sleep at night, not for those people in our society who are marginalised and disenfranchised, not for the 100,000 Australians who are homeless.

And I urge you, when you go to that polling station in 18 months’ time, please think very carefully who you wish to have in power. I urge you to ask yourself what is important to you – humanity, equality, kindness and the rights to at least basic needs, or is it a need based on the fear that the media feed you at the time.

Until next time,

SHW Signature

 

 

 

PS: If you would like to donate to the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, who do amazing work in the area of advocacy please go to their donation website and like them on their Facebook page.

 

 

 

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At the heart of the Sydney Siege was Domestic Violence and a legal system that failed us

I was having lunch with a friend of mine when news of the Sydney Siege hit the television screen.

My friend and I watched in disbelief at what was unfolding in Martin Place.

When I got home, I immediately threw on the TV and had the commentary going on in the background trying to make sense of this senseless act.

Tuesday morning I was up at 5am, unable to sleep for fear of what those poor victims were going through.  It was then that I, and all Australians, learned that the siege was in fact over.  I also learned that two people, plus the gunman, had lost their lives.  The sadness I felt was awful.

As the day unfolded it became evident that the gunman was working alone.  Whilst he called himself a muslim, his religious convictions seemed to be all over the place, calling himself a Sikh at one point, a cleric at another.  The muslim community had long since washed their hands of him.  And whilst he had called for an Isis flag to be delivered, it was clear that he had no affiliation with any terrorist organisation.

Yet Tony Abbott said that he was going to convene the Australian Security Commission.  Why?

To garner fear.

This is what we know about Man Haron Manis, the gunman:

He was a 50 year old man who had a long history of violence.  He arrived in Australia under political asylum in 1996 from Iran.  He had been charged with 22 counts of aggrevated sexual assault, 14 counts of indecent assault, was out on bail over the murder of his ex-wife whom he and his current partner had set alight in a stairwell.  And now two people are dead at his hands after the siege last night.

This is not the act of a terrorist.  This is the act of an extremely violent man, who had been released into the general population.

Tony Abbott himself said that he wasn’t any terrorist watch list.  That is because he wasn’t affiliated with any terrorist organisation.

Yet all the commentary about the incident on television and in the papers was aimed to whip up a sense of fear that we were under attack as a nation.

We weren’t and we aren’t.

These lone wolves are not terrorists in the mainstream sense of the word.  They are men who are extremely violent.  They are violent and unpredictable.  And they exist in every society.

In the USA, it seems almost every year a lone gunman commits a mass shooting.  They are not muslim, so they are not considered terrorists.  In 2011, Anders Behring Breivik killed some 69 people in Norway, yet because he was an extremist christian, he wasn’t labelled a terrorist.  When during his trial he was found not to be insane, he was said to have been delighted so that the world would know what he had done was with a sound mind.

And even so the Daily Telegraph, a paper owned by the fear mongering Rupert Murdoch, actually printed on the front page that Isis had taken 15 hostages in a death cult in the CBD.

I find myself asking two things.

Firstly, why on earth are we not focussing on how a deranged, violent man managed to get out on bail and acquire a gun.  He had 36 counts of sexual assault against him and had murdered his ex-wife.  His history of continued violence and clear mental instability was well known yet he was released.  Who released him and why?  Under what conditions?  How on earth did this happen?

It happened because in this country domestic violence is not considered a priority.  Between 2008 and 2010 over 122 domestic violent deaths were recorded, over 75 % of which were women.  Domestic violence is the LEADING cause of death in women below the age of 45.  Yet, this is not seen as a national crisis.

The cost to the country of domestic violence is around $13.6 billion.  Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey want to save us some money, how about passing laws that send a strong message that domestic violence is NOT okay.

Secondly, how is it that the press and politicians are at liberty to print and say what the hell they like even when it was made perfectly clear that this was not an attack affiliated with any terrorist organisation?  Even during the siege the police commissioner was very careful to point out that this was the act of one lone man, that it was unclear if it was politically motivated and that they had little idea of his motivation, and when pushed to make a connection between this man and terrorism, she was quick to shut the journalist down.

Yet the terrorism fear mongering rhetoric continued.

Why is there no accountability?  There is no accountability in how fear is struck in our hearts, there is no accountability for the release of a man who was violent and unpredictable.

We are not under attack as a nation from terrorism.  We are under attack from a nation whose politicians are too weak to institute laws that will protect its women and children against violent crime.  Who are too weak to institute laws that will send the clear message that if you beat and kill your woman-folk, you will be incarcerated, that violence is absolutely not acceptable.  And it is because of that weakness that Man Horan Manis was released on bail.  It is because the law was so weak that he was able to gain access to a gun and walk into the Lindt cafe and take hostage 17 people.  It is because of this, and this alone that two people are dead.

Please, please do not buy into the notion that we are under a terrorist threat, not in this case.

The threat is in our own country.  It is called domestic violence and it continues every single day and until we make a stand, pass stringent laws against it, it will continue and the possibility of what happened yesterday, whilst completely extreme and unusual, will continue.

Make a stand.  Call for a change to laws on domestic violence and protection for women and children.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SPzVUGE3dds]

Much love,

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Oscar Pistorius is going to jail because he is an Olympian

Last night I went to bed with the news that Oscar Pistorius had received 5 years for his killing of Reeva Steenkamp.

This morning, I woke up to the news that there was outrage.

Hell, I was outraged.

He had killed someone – he should be jailed and the key should have been thrown away.

People said that it is because he is an olympian that he got away with murder.

Here’s the thing.

It is because he is an olympian that he is doing time for Reeva’s killing.

In South Africa the legal system is so corrupt, so badly managed, so awfully controlled that people get away with murder.  Every.  Single.  Day.

How do I know?  I grew up there.

I have family and friends who have been held up at gun point, their lives almost snuffed out with a twitchy finger.  I have friends who have been killed for nothing more than their mobile phone.  None of their attackers have been brought to justice.

There is not a South African around the world who hasn’t been touched by crime and violence, and the majority of them will tell you that there was no justice metred out.

In 1995, I was robbed.  I was in the house at the time, and my then 3 year old daughter slept in her bed.  I was a single mum.  I woke up at 6am to find my room had been ransacked, my house had been pillaged.   Clothes and furniture were strewn everywhere.

I called the police and the insurance company.

The police came out and the insurance company refused to acknowledge the claim because I had not put on my alarm.  The police kept telling me how lucky I was to be alive.  The claim didn’t matter, I had my life, I was told.  I was lucky that I hadn’t woken as it is almost certain I would have been killed if I had.

A few months later, I was called to appear in court.  The police had found some of my belongings in a man’s house.  The finger prints on those belongings matched the ones taken at my house.

The reason I was to appear in court was that in the South African legal system, the accused gets the opportunity to cross examine the victim.

On the day of the court case, I was a nervous wreck.  The prosecutor, whom I had never met before, came out to me whilst I was waiting on the bench.

“Only answer the questions I ask you,” she said, “And try not to give too much information to the accused.”

What the fuck did that mean?

I got up onto the pulpit.  The man, the one who had ransacked my house whilst my child and I slept, stared at me.  He was Zulu and needed an interpreter.

“How do you know it was me that robbed your house.”

In reality, I didn’t know it was him.  I had been told it was him, that his finger prints were everywhere and that he had been found with items that belonged to me.  I felt sick.  Why was I even there?  Why was I being forced to face a man who knew where I lived?

It transpires that the finger prints in my house were not conclusive enough evidence to categorically prove that he was the one who had stolen my belongings.  Apparently he hadn’t been finger printed properly.  He was released.  And I lived in fear until I moved towns.

Such is the legal system in South Africa.

There is a program called Carte Blanche in South Africa.  It is a sort of expose program.  They broke the news of how workers in the postal system were stealing thousands of items that came into the sorting plant.  Someone went under cover and filmed people just helping themselves to whatever they wanted.  We all sat glued to our screens as postal workers tore open item after item, pocketing whatever they found.  Some even wore items of clothing they stole, not even hiding what they had done.  It came off the back of people complaining that goods were not being received by recipients, that you were more likely to not receive something than you were to actually get it.

The footage was given to the authorities.  The postal workers union stepped in and said that it was entrapment.  Every single worker caught stealing on camera got off scot free.  Not only that, not one of them lost their job.

Such is the legal system in South Africa.

It is because Oscar Pistorius was an olympian, an extremely high profile celebrity that some sort of justice was proffered.  Because of his super star status there was no way the laissez faire legal system could turn a blind eye.

Getting to court, the prosecution was unable to prove without a shadow of a doubt that he had intended to do it.

My personal belief is that he is a violent man that got into a rage which resulted him in shooting his girlfriend.  A classic story of domestic violence.  But the reality is that it couldn’t be proven.  It was, in fact, the prosecution that had let Reeva and her family down.  Throughout the LA Law-esque court case unreliable witnesses and a showman prosecutor failed to prove a thing.

And Pistorius’ defence team knew that crime and violence is so rife in South Africa that everyone lives on high alert all the time.  That he suspected an intruder, one that wouldn’t think twice about killing him first, was totally plausible.

The only alternative was to give a verdict of culpable homicide – acknowledging the fact that someone had died, but also acknowledging that Pistorius may not have meant to kill her.

I applaud the judge, Thokozile Masipa, for her courage to hand down the maximum sentence she was able to give for this crime.  I applaud her for standing up to the defence team social worker who tried to imply that Pistorius would be in danger in jail because he was not ‘normal’.  It was a ludicrous argument considering he had fought so hard for the right to compete with able-bodied people in the olympics.  Why should he not join able-bodied criminals in jail serving time for the same crime?

And so it he is going to jail for five years.  And believe me when I say that it is because he is an olympian that the Steenkamp’s have seen some justice today.

Until next time,

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Domestic Violence + Dr Phil – STOP VICTIM BLAMING!

Friday saw the last day of term.  I love the school holidays.  No rushed mornings and lazy days.  They suit my personality perfectly.

In preparation for the holidays, after I picked up Master J from school, I decided to clear out the pantry.  It was such a mess and my anxiety levels rose every single time I opened the door.  Something had to be done.

To make the onerous task more bearable, I had the TV going and in a completely uncharacteristic move, Master J decided to join me in the lounge (it’s an open plan house).  As I was emptying bucket loads of food I’d had since around 2008, Mr Phil came onto the screen.

I used to love Dr Phil – when I was much younger.  I quickly outgrew him though.  I found the pop psychology in the name of entertainment excruciating to watch.  People at their most vulnerable, pouring out their hearts in front of a live audience, in front of the world, all for television ratings would make me feel quite ill.

When it came on I was tempted to turn it over, but a) I couldn’t find the wretched remote and b) I was knee deep in plastic containers and rotting food, so it stayed on.

Before long I was yelling at the TV.  The episode, first aired in 2012,  was about a young woman, Hillary Adams, who had released onto You Tube a video of her father, William Adams, beating her with a belt a few years earlier when she was 16.  Her father, a prominent judge in Texas, hit her no less than 16 times whilst she screamed for him to stop.  The mother then took the belt and hit her as well.  I’m not going to post a link to the video that she taped, but I will say that if someone goes to the lengths to tape her father beating her, that is a sure sign that regular abuse is going on.

Dr Phil handled it appallingly.  He first of all attacked the mother for not only not protecting Hillary, but instead belting her as well.  Hillary tried to defend her mother, with whom she clearly has a good relationship.  The mother has left the father.  Dr Phil refused to let Hillary speak in defence of her mother, instead insisting the mother answer questions about her complicity in the act and the fact that she didn’t protect her child.

In principle, what he says is true.  It is our responsibility as parents to protect our children, of course it is.  However, it is a known fact that women who are systematically abused in a relationship lose all sense of reason.  They have been so systematically demoralised, dehumanised and emotionally abused that they firmly believe that they have no alternative than to stay with the man, and put up with the abuse doled out on a regular basis.

As ugly as it is to admit, they even partake in child abuse, believing that their abuse is better to the child than that of the primary abuser.  Of course, they are wrong, and it does perpetuate the abuse, but the plain fact is that fear is a very strong motivator.

The mother had left the husband, admitted her role in the abuse, profusely apologised for it, had explained that she was ashamed and had worked hard to repair her relationship with her daughter.

Still, Dr Phil grilled the mother so much that Hillary, the abuse victim, felt compelled to defend her mother.  Not content with the mother’s alleged complicity, he then turned his attention to Hillary.  He demanded to know why she had waited so long to release the video, why she had mentioned that she had a disability (she was born with cerebral palsy), why she had downloaded illegal music from the internet (the reason she was beaten).  He also asked if she had timed the release of her video on purpose to coincide with his campaign for re-election as a county court judge.

This is victim blaming at its worst.  Hillary handled the situation beautifully.  Her replies were insightful and articulate, belying her young age.

Incredulously, Dr Phil then went on to say that, in the name of balance, he had asked William to come on the show.  Unsurprisingly he had declined, but had given a set of questions that he would like answered by Hillary.  Dr Phil then admitted he had not in fact spoken to William himself, but would like to ask the questions anyway.

I could not believe what I was watching.  Here was an alleged qualified psychologist asking a victim to answer questions from her abuser.  All in the name of ‘balance’.  Does he know nothing about the power differential between the abuser and his victim?

I was so glad that Master J had decided to watch this with me.  He witnessed the perpetuated abuse by Dr Phil, the victim blaming.  He got it.  My 16 year old son with autism so got how wrong this was.  He didn’t look at it and question the women, he questioned why Dr Phil did not believe these women.

Even with the video evidence (which was played repeatedly), these two women were interrogated as to their motives, the frequency with which the abuse occurred, whether the younger sister had also been abused, about the trauma that was caused to the father and how they felt about it.

Dr Phil had an opportunity.  An opportunity to send a very clear message that any abuse, even if it is perpetrated just once, on only one member of the family is NOT okay.  He had an opportunity, as a very public figure to send the message that violence against women is wrong and, more than that, should end now!

But he blew it.  Instead he used it as an opportunity to humiliate Hillary’s mother, causing Hillary to feel even further guilt and victimisation.  He used it as an opportunity to imply that these women were using domestic violence and the timed release of the video to bring about the downfall of William Adams.  Rather than saying the man is getting what he deserves, he mentioned how children need to be disciplined, just not in such an abusive manner, implying that William Adams was perhaps a tad ‘heavy handed’.

We do not get to judge these women.  We have not walked in their shoes.  We don’t get to question them on the level of abuse they have endured nor the validity of it.  Yet this is exactly what Dr Phil did.  Constantly, systematically, methodically, whilst running the cold, hard evidence of abuse on a loop.  The whole thing made absolutely no sense other than to further victimise Hillary and her mother.

Why is it that society insists on assuming that these women lie about their abuse to bring about the downfall of men?  Why is it that society perpetuates the notion that the abuse isn’t really as bad as they say it is?

Is it hardly a wonder that women stay in these abusive relationships?  Why would they leave when no-one believes them?

Dr Phil didn’t take note when Hillary mentioned that William presided over child abuse cases, yet was a child abuser himself.   That fact didn’t seem relevant or important to his line of questioning.

At the end of the program, Dr Phil then went on to thank his guests and then asked Hillary how she felt about what she had put her father through.  What SHE had put HIM through!!  What about what HE had put HER through?  Hillary was forced to say that she was sorry for the trauma she was causing him, that she just wanted him to get help, that she loved him and wanted a relationship with him.

My heart broke.  I screamed in frustration.

I abhor Dr Phil even more now.  The level of pop-psychology where highly vulnerable people are trotted across our screens in the name of ratings is highly repulsive to me.  I know people will say that they ask for it, that they are aware of what Dr Phil does.  I disagree.  I think these people are so desperate that they truly believe he will help them.   Instead he is laughing all the way to the bank.

If you are experiencing domestic violence, please know this:

There are people out there who believe in you.  They believe your story and will not ask you to justify it, prove it, or anything else.  There are avenues by which you can leave your abusive partner and there are people who will support and nurture you whilst you try to build your broken life.  It can be done.  It is frightening and programs like Dr Phil help to reinforce the hopelessness of the situation, but please know, he does NOT speak for all of us.

I am setting up a resource section on my blog, please do look there for places where you can find help.

Dr Phil, you should be ashamed of yourself.  If you have any self-reflective ability, I would look back on the taping of this show and seriously question what you were trying to achieve here, because from where my son and I were sitting, all you achieved was to further humiliate these women, and reinforce the notion that domestic abuse is not really an issue.  And you are so very very wrong.

Until next time,

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Is Australia really facing a terror threat?

 

The news has been full today with images of police raids on homes in Guildford in Sydney and the arrest of one Omarjan Azari.  This comes just days after Tony Abbott announced that Australia would be joining the US-led anti ISIS campaign in Iraq.

It needs to be said that I am a cynical person when it comes to this government.  I do not believe that they have the best interests of the Australian people at heart.  My instinct tells me that this is very much a politically motivated move by the government to get the Australian people on-side, much like John Howard did with the supposed threat of the boat people, post 9-11, sparking the Pacific Solution in 2002.  Boat people did not represent a threat then, as they don’t now.  Howard needed the people to think that there was a threat and that he was doing something about it to get re-elected.  It worked.

The 2014 budget has been an awful blow to the Australian public.  One promise after another has been broken by this government, affecting every day Australians on the ground, whilst big business continues to flourish.  The move to join the war in Iraq was indeed a blow, costing Australian tax payers a lot of money – money that we are being denied in our own country.  People were not happy.  People were justifiably questioning why all this money was being spent on the war, when our most vulnerable were being cast aside, left to fend for themselves.  The already flailing government fell even further in the polls.

Something was needed to bring the threat to our shores, to make it more real, and the decision to back the US more justifiable.

This, of course, sounds like a conspiracy theory and rightly so.

Because it isn’t without precedent.

In 2001, an Australian citizen, Mamdouh Habib, was illegally arrested in Islamabad for defending two German tourists who were being accused of terrorism on a tourist bus by Pakistani policemen.  He was tortured then sent to Guantanamo where he was further tortured for three years.  He was released without charge in 2005 and since then has had his allegations of the Australian government being aware of his torture verified.  His illegal arrest was made at a time when John Howard sought to increase the anti-terror laws giving the ASIO even more powers against Australian liberties and to show the US that Australia would do what it can to help the US military effort.  Habib was the perfect vehicle by which to do that.  Australia, at the time, was not under direct threat, yet a perceived threat needed to be created.

And then there is the case of Izhar Ul-Haque.  In November 2003, approximately 25 ASIO officers and a few policemen arrested 21 year old Ul-Haque, took him to a park and interrogated him for hours and hours.  They then moved him to his parents house and interrogated him again, whilst the 30 or so officers searched his house.  He was charged with training with a Pakistan-based terror group.  In 2007, the case was thrown out of court with a scathing attack on the ASIO by the judge for the irregularities with which they conducted their investigation and subsequent arrest.  There was no evidence to substantiate the allegations.  There simply was no case.  It was all politically motivated as John Howard was again seeking to hand down even more anti-terrorism, anti-freedom laws.  Interestingly, this is what was reported on the Green Left website at the time:

During the pre-trial hearing on October 24, Kemuel Lam Paktsun, a senior counter-terrorism officer with the AFP, testified that police were directed to charge “as many suspects as possible” with terrorism offences following the enactment in 2003 of the new anti-terrorism laws.

“At the time, we were directed, we were informed, to lay as many charges under the new terrorist legislation against as many suspects as possible because we wanted to use the new legislation. So regardless of the assistance that Mr Ul-Haque could give, he was going to be prosecuted, charged, because we wanted to test the legislation and lay new charges, in our eagerness to use the legislation”, Lam Paktsun said.

And now today, just days after the announcement of further amendments being made to the anti-terrorism/anti-freedom laws, including Australia entering Iraq, another raid has taken place and another arrest has been made.

Tony Abbott has come out saying that this isn’t conjecture, that a phone call was intercepted with specific instructions for Azari to take a member of the public and behead them.  This is pretty terrifying stuff.  The mass media coverage makes it feel like an attack is imminent.  People I know on Facebook have even been saying that they want to move countries (where to I am not sure).

My question is this:

Is the threat of terror that Azari allegedly poses more of a threat, say, than to the half a million women who are beaten and abused each year by men in this country.  Is it more of a threat than those that are killed by these men.  Because you do know that domestic violence is the leading cause of death in women below the age of 45?

Is the threat he poses more of a threat than the nearly 300 murders (that’s nearly one a day) that are committed each year?

How about the 1 in 3 girls and 1 in 6 boys who will be sexually abused before the age of 18?

How about the 100 plus cases of Catholic sexual abuses brought against Catholic priests, and how about those that will never get to court and continue as we speak?

Does he represent more of a threat than these, I wonder.

I have to ask, where is the imminent threat?  Why make such a massive deal out of it?  Why terrify the Australian people in such a fashion?  Because when you think about it, we have more threat to us with our own people, than we do with fanatics who have some cocked up ideology they think they are fighting for.

The reality is that with all those raids that they did last night, they made one arrest of one man who was allegedly given orders to behead someone.  Allegedly.

What we saw today was a well orchestrated media circus.  And we sucked it in.  We are terrified, petrified that our way of life is at risk, that we are going to be overrun by a race of people who will behead us and remove our liberties.

At the Nuremberg Trials, Herman Goering, one of Hitler’s henchmen, was asked how so many Germans went along with the Nazis.  He famously said:

Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders.  That is easy.

All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger.

It works in any country.

What we are witnessing today is mass hysteria.  A very well orchestrated PR job to terrify the Australian public to gain even further political power.  Every news item I watched where experts were trotted out, each one was asked what the threat was to Australia and not one of them gave a “We are under imminent threat” reply.  They simply side stepped the question by saying that we need to be vigilant.

Should we be watching vigilantly what is going on with the rest of the world and manage our own security?  Of course we should.

Should we be terrifying the Australian public, leading them to believe that there is more of a threat than there actually is – of course not.

We have more chance of being eaten by a shark than the kind of threat the media plastered all over the news today.  Funny how we never see domestic violence in the news.

All I am suggesting is that people maintain perspective, that people look at the past and not fall for the same rhetoric time and again.  All I ask is that some common sense be applied.  Because what we saw today is going to incite more violence than it should.  It will cause people in our own country to turn on each other.  And that scares the crap out of me.

I leave you with this TED talk by Hans and Ola Rosling, whose work proves that things are rarely as bad as they seem.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sm5xF-UYgdg]

Until next time,

SHW Signature

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Dear Child Uncategorized

Autism + Siblings {It’s not always pretty}

Autism + Siblings

It was Miss J’s birthday a couple of days ago.  22 years.  Where on earth does the time go?

In the lead up to her dinner at a local Thai restaurant, I found myself reflecting on being a mother to her and what it was like for her to grow up in our household.

We try so hard as parents not to screw up our children.  We so desperately want them to remember their childhood with fond memories, all warm and fuzzy of what an amazing time it was.

It wasn’t for her.

Master J has autism.  We didn’t know he had autism.  We were told it was ADHD and that with proper behavioural management his unbelievable outbursts and rages would improve.  They never did.  And Miss J was usually caught in the crossfire.

Just let him watch the program he wants, Miss J

Don’t annoy him like that Miss J

For goodness sake, don’t sit in HIS chair, Miss J

Like any child on the spectrum, Master J had sensory issues.  He needed to control his environment to manage those issues.  None of us knew this.  We were just acutely aware of the rages.  Things flying across the room, walls being punched, the kicking, the biting and the screaming.  We, meaning I, would do anything to avoid it.

And Miss J copped the brunt of it.

I am still angry.  Angry that the misdiagnosis not only robbed Master J of early intervention which would have given him a much less anxiety-driven life right now, but also a better childhood than Miss J got.  She deserved so much better.

You love Master J more than me!

The words slapped me in the face.  How could she say such a thing.

You always let him have whatever he wants.  You always make me give up everything.

I denied it, of course, unable to face the reality of it.  Looking back, it was true.  Not the I loved him more than her part, that is absolutely not the case, but the part about her having to give up everything, that’s true.

Miss J has mentioned her childhood a couple of times recently.  She is dating a wonderful guy who also has a younger brother with autism.  They have been comparing notes, supporting each other in what is very often a lonely existence for siblings of children with autism.  It has clearly brought up some unresolved issues for her.

At the birthday dinner it came up again.

Mum loved you more

Damn straight, Master J responded (this is a usual response for him to a range of things)

I had to step in.

I don’t love either of you more than the other.  I love you both the same.

Nah mum, you know you love me more.  Master J said.

I don’t J, I love you both equally.

Well, it didn’t feel like it, Miss J said, he got away with everything and I got nothing.

My heart broke.  A thousand times.  I could never give back to her that was so rightfully hers.

I had a dilemma.  I wanted to deal with it, right then.  I needed to acknowledge her pain, yes, in front of everyone.  I needed to let her know that I understood.  But Master J was there too.  I didn’t want him to be left feeling like he was a bad person for what he had put her through.  But the reality was he hadn’t put her through it at all.  I had and Mr C had.

I know it was hard Miss J.  It wasn’t easy.  Dad and I did all we could to avoid Master J’s outbursts and rages and that meant you missed out on so much.  I know it affected you so much.

I felt so awful saying this in front of Master J.  I was so torn, as I always have been, between his very special needs and the very natural needs of his older sister.

The trouble is that we didn’t know that Master J had autism, we had no idea.  We had no idea how to cope and so we did the best that we could.  It wasn’t enough sometimes, but it was the best we could do.

Master J went very quiet.  Miss J just looked at me.

It just wasn’t fair Mom.

I know Angel, it wasn’t.

Mr R, the boyfriend piped in how awful it was for him too, growing up with a brother on the spectrum.  He used the word ‘horrendous’ and whilst I knew he meant it in the best possible way, to support, to show solidarity, I shuddered.  Master J by now was very quiet.

But you know, Miss J, there were a lot of good times too.  Like how you and Master J would dress him up in your outfits.  I have some wonderful photos of Master J in your dresses and even a bikini.

Burn them!!! Master J cried and we all laughed.

Plus, despite it all Miss J, you were so protective of him, loved him so much.

Still do, she said.

Dad and I should have, could have done things so much better, love.  We just weren’t armed with all the facts.

The conversation needed to end, so Mr C changed it and the evening continued as usual.

That night, at home, I worried how Master J had taken the conversation.

Did you think we were saying you were a bad person?  I asked him.

A bit.

We weren’t Master J.  You are an amazing person.  But your autism, when you were little, meant your ability to communicate was impaired.  This caused you to not be able to communicate what you needed and so you would rage.  Miss J often caught the brunt of that.  You have autism, that is a fact, but it is how Dad and I handled it that was at fault, not you.

He nods.  I know he is processing.  His self esteem is so fragile, so very fragile.  Please god do not let it be broken.

Mr C says he is going to speak to Miss J further about this.  It is clearly an issue for her and we need to let her know how very much she is loved, how we are aware that her childhood was not easy, but that as parents we did the best we could.

And that is the crux of it, isn’t it?  We try so hard to do the right thing, with the information we have to hand at the time.  When I was pregnant, feeding had to be 4 hourly and nothing else, now attachment parenting and on-demand feeding exists, with baby led weaning.  It all feels so foreign.

All we want as parents is to bring up children that are relatively happy, and able to contribute to society in a way that is meaningful for them.  I think – I hope – we have largely achieved that.

Miss J and Master J are incredibly close.  Miss J is a young mum who is fighting very hard to live life on her own terms.  They both have incredible sense of justice and cannot abide any injustice in the world.  I could not be more proud.  And since I am their mother, I am exercising my right to take some credit.

Being a parent is hard enough.  Mistakes are okay.  And it is never too late to put things right.

Much love,

SHW Signature

 

 

 

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Know thyself

I’m studying for all the wrong reasons.  I know this, yet I bury my head in the sand and pretend I don’t know, pretend that I love it and can’t wait to hold that degree in my hand.

I’m lying.  Truth is I am hating it.

I’m doing it because I need a sense of achievement.  My sense of self worth is inexorably tied into my sense of achievement – I have not achieved anything ergo my self worth is shite.

I am studying so I can say I have got a degree.  The truth is whilst I enjoy absorbing new information very much, I totally abhor the process of studying – the endless readings, the cramming for an exam.  My stress levels just simply do not cope.  And why don’t they cope?  Because unless I am getting a distinction, I don’t feel like I have achieved anything.  A pass, or credit is just not cutting it.  It’s a vicious cycle.

On a rational level, I know this is crazy shit.  There is plenty I have achieved but ask me to list them and I cannot.  Anything that comes naturally to me does not feel like an achievement since I have not had to work for it.  That feels like cheating.  An example of this is my writing.  People tell me that they love my writing but I don’t feel like it is an achievement because I just boot up the computer and write.  I don’t craft, hone or do much else.  I edit a bit.  That is it.  Honestly, what you see here is just me on the page, directly from my heart.

People tell me what a wonderful mum I am, how patient I am with Master J and the behavioural challenges that come with his autism, how well I handled becoming a grandmother way too early (by our standards these days, not by the standards of 50 years ago).  I don’t feel that is an achievement.  I am their mother.  It is my duty to be the best possible mum I can be for them – and there have been times when I have failed miserably.

I am a recovering alcoholic.  There were times when my drinking totally impaired my judgement.  Like the time I let my 16 year old daughter go to another party with her two friends that were in my care with people I did not know.  It didn’t end all that well and those two girls’ parents still think I’m bad news.  I cringe at that night, and am grateful that it didn’t end up much worse.  And I thank the universe for my sobriety today.

I have this need to be seen as a good person, an accomplished person, someone who has some other defining definition than wife and mother.

I am studying for those reasons and those alone.  And they are the wrong reasons.  Unsustainable in every way.

Yet, if I walk away, I am a failure again.  I have yet to finish a course – a string of incomplete courses trails behind me, all attempts to ‘find myself’.

I am stuck.  Unable to move forward.  I have no place.  No niche, no passion, no special gift.  I am just me.  And I have no fucking idea why that is not enough.

Simplicity.  It is something I crave.  I have lived a life of chaos and I am tired.  I want to bow out.  I want some peace of mind.  I want to be okay with just me.  I am tired of trying to validate the very air that I breathe.

I cannot do this any more.

Steven Covey said in his book “The seven habits of highly effective people” that we all have scripts, handed down to us from our upbringing.  If we have been handed a bum script, he says, we have the ability to tear up those scripts.  Our fate is in our hands.

I am really struggling to tear up my script.  Truth is I really like being a wife and mother, but because I was ‘brainy’ at school there was an expectation I should do something academic.  I went to university when I left school, doing science, which I hated and dropped out.  I have systematically dropped out of everything ever since.

Don’t study, you might say.  Well, that is all well and good, but I don’t think I have made it in the parenting arena either.  I avoid Mummy Blogs for this very reason.  I cannot stand those wonderful photos of carefully baked goodies and meticulously decorated party rooms, or the x/52 photographs of their younger ones, highlighting everything I feel I never was.

Honestly, parenting was difficult for me.  I love, nay adore, my children and have a great relationship with them now, but as they were growing up, I found it somewhat draining, largely because I wasn’t really ready to have them when I did.  I had yet to find myself, and now I was being asked to guide another human being.  It was tough.

But my value, my core value, of being a stay at home mum was strong.  I had grown up with that and wanted to do the same for my children.  And subliminally it was expected I would, despite my apparent academic prowess.

Except I sucked at it.  Hated housework, and cooking.  Loved crafting.  Could do that for hours.  Sometimes I forgot to give my kids lunch because of it.  I bench marked myself against my mom who was a domestic goddess.  In my eyes, I failed miserably.

So I started doing courses – to fill a void, to help me find my place in the world, to find something I could say belonged to me and at which I was REALLY good.  Nothing could hold my attention for very long.

Then I found blogging.  I love blogging, but honestly, it’s a competitive world out there this blogging thing.  My god, how competitive it is.  I don’t stand a chance.  No niche, no special talent, so no hope of any financial independence.  But I love writing.  Just to connect.  Just to say to the world, “Look at me, flawed in every way, but I am here, doing my thing. And that is okay.’

I’m desperately trying to tear up the script, to be okay with who I am.  I cannot give up.  I cannot stop until I find my peace.  I just don’t think this studying thing is it.

Signing out,

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I have a dream

Have you got a dream?  A dream that is so big you worry that you may never achieve it?

I have one.  It has been with me for quite some time now.  It stemmed out of my love of books, and especially book clubs.  Book clubs are way too thin on the ground for my liking.  I’m not talking about online book clubs, though they certainly have their place.  I’m talking about book clubs where people meet in person and get to talk and connect and laugh and cry and share.  Books, words really, have an amazing way of bringing people together.

The power of words to connect should never be underestimated”

Yes, about the dream.

My dream is to own a bookshop – a risky business in this world of online books and living in a country where hard copy books are incredibly expensive.  But I don’t care.  It’s my dream.

This bookshop will be unlike any other.  In it will, of course, be lots of books.  But it will also run book clubs, poetry evenings, author events.  It will run philosophy evenings where people can come and debate the meaning of life.  It will have a coffee shop, that brews amazing coffee, that encourages people to grab a book and just be, just for a while.  There will be a “donate-a-book” section so that people who cannot afford books will still have access to them, because who of us doesn’t have books in our shelves that we are simply never going to read again, and some we have never read at all.

Location will be key.  Think sanctuary from the hustle and bustle of life.  I’m thinking a couple of meditation evenings thrown in for good measure.

There will be big leather seats that envelope you as you settled down to read those words, and escape to a world that enthralls.  A roaring fireplace is a given for those wintery days and nights.

Is it too much to imagine a space for classes on calligraphy and letter art, permaculture, paper art, wordsmithing and more?  I think not.

I like to escape to this dream every now and again.  I imagine my shop, full of people, absorbing words.

I, of course, got the idea from a book.  A couple of years ago my husband bought me a sony ebook reader.  The first book I downloaded, whose name can you believe it eludes me right now, was about a woman who had divorced her husband and decided to move down to the coast.  There she meets a man (of course) who owns a second hand bookshop filled to the brim with books he had been collecting over the years.

I wasn’t so much interested in the love fest as I was about the book shop and the stories that it told of the other characters of the book.  It was a hub, a meeting place, where people came to belong.  And that is what I want, my own sense of belonging, and to give other people that sense of belonging too.

Of course, I have absolutely no idea how I am going to get this idea off the ground.  Apparently, it is a very risky business, this bookshop thing.  Nevermind.  I’ll keep working on it.  I have the name and the domain name, you know, just in case.

What are your dreams?  Make them as big as you possibly can, because, you know, you are SO worth it.

Much booky love,

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Uncategorized

A second chance?

Ever since my mom died of lung cancer, and her revelation that all the women on her side of the family have died around the age of 60, I have been immobilised with fear.  Fear of dying.  Fear of dying before I got the chance to feel what true happiness feels like.  Fear of dying before I got the chance to fulfill my dreams.  Fear of dying before I got to feel what it means to be perfectly comfortable with the person I have become.

In the past few weeks, I have been beset with health problems.  I ended up in hospital where it was found that my liver function tests were off the charts.  I was released on holiday still feeling awful under the condition that I returned for tests.  Last week, I had those tests and made an appointment to see the surgeon on Thursday.  On Monday I got a phone call to say the surgeon would like to see me on Tuesday.

I don’t deny it.  I thought I had cancer.  I whipped out those scans and scrutinised them for all my layman’s worth.  Is that a shadow I see?  I looked up pancreatic and liver cancer, both of which have very little hope of survival at best – 90% die within a year and only 5% make it to five years.  Tears rolled down my face as I imagined leaving my children and husband behind.  I would miss them so much.

Then, suddenly, something weird happened.  I started to imagine how I would react and how I would want to live my life if indeed I had very little time left.  I thought of my own mom and how unprepared she was and I knew that I didn’t want to die like that.

I would write each of my family members letters, I thought, so that they would know how much I loved them and how very proud of them I am.

I would start enjoying my life.  Life is short and if I am going to die, I am no longer going to buy into this bullshit of trying to be someone I am not, or trying to improve myself to some ridiculous, imagined, unobtainable self that has been created by the marketing industry and simply does not exist.  I thought about my life and I knew that I had lived it to the best of my ability, given the skills I had, and that had to be enough.

I once took part in a team building exercise where we had to write our own obituaries.  I think it was a weird goal making exercise, the idea being if you could imagine how you wanted to be remembered, you could start to shape your life to achieve that.  My obituary read like a combination of Mother Theresa and McGiver.  I wanted to be remembered for being a beacon of light in my community but also the solver of all solutions – daring, skillful, full of hidden talents that could be called to the fore under the highest of pressures.

I thought back to that obituary and realised that I had created this image of myself that not only wasn’t me, but was also completely unrealistic.  Really, faced with my own mortality, all I wanted to be remembered for was perhaps, through my actions and words, leaving the world a slightly better place.  That those people around me felt better, not worse, for knowing me.

If I was going to die, I wanted to travel more.  Mr C and I had always said that our travelling time would come after the children had flown the coop since we had started our family so young.  That would have to change.  There were places I was desperate to see – Tuscany, Egypt, Bhutan, Nepal.

I knew that if I was going to die, and as hard as this might have been given that I would be quite ill before I died, I wanted to treat my body with more respect.  If the body is indeed the temple within which the soul resides, I had treated it like a slum.  I wanted my body to know that I was grateful for its tenure and to let it know that it had done its job well, considering the battering it had taken.  I also wanted to know what it felt like to fit into a size 12 pair of jeans.

I wanted to surround myself with family and friends as much as possible.  Instead of talking about it but waiting for the house to look just perfect, I would entertain more.  I used to love entertaining, but when I became sober, that largely fell away.  Sobriety brought with it a sense of dullness, that I was a boring person (and hence my reason for drinking), and I had avoided entertaining for four years.  That would change.

I would read more intelligent stuff and less crap.

I would definitely spend less time on social media and more time living my life and creating memories with those that mattered.

I would write things on my blog that would add to the world, not take away from it.  I would be brave enough to say that it is not okay to be mean, or unkind, or vitriolic, that it is important that we grow, believe in ourselves and nurture a new generations of humans that strive to be better people.  I would be brave enough to say that war is not okay; that anyone should get the opportunity to love and marry, no matter what their sexual orientation; that religions really need to pull their socks up and shake themselves into being better leaders of our communities, rather than fostering fear mongering and bigotry in the name of recruitment to the fold.

In essence, all I wanted to do was be brave enough to live my truth and to depart knowing that kindness and love had been my rudder in life. It sounds cliched I know, but it really was as simple as that.

I went to the doctor yesterday.  Mr C took the day off and came with me.  As tears streamed down my face at my nearing fate, I looked at him, held his hand and knew that I was so lucky have been so loved.

I do not have cancer.  It was an administrative error and my appointment on Thursday had to be moved to Tuesday because of it.  I told the doctor that I had lived 24 hours thinking I was going to die.  She laughed and said that I had a good few years in me yet.  I have something very minor that is going to require a small operation.

For four years, because of the legacy of the women down my mother’s side not surviving past 60-62, I had lost hope in living a long life.  I had allowed this to impact my quality of life.  It had informed how I lived my life, and largely, I had opted out of living it, almost just waiting to die.

Believing I was going to die for those 24 hours honed my sense of living, what I wanted out of life and how I would truly like to be remembered.  It has, in fact, given me a second chance and what a gift that is.

Until next time,

SHW Signature