Me? Sit down

I am a Gamileraay woman who wants to leave this world better than it was when I arrived but we are going backwards which makes me angry and the result is I have a lot to say and sometime, the truth makes me unpopular.

I am also a suffering optimist, I try to see positivity in things but find that is generally only my family that provides the positivity in an otherwise politically depressing world.

Stick around and nod your head, join the discussion and give me a piece of your mind.

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Monday, 26 May 2014

Why on earth do we keep asking why when we already know the answer?

We as an international community are looking to the United States once again with sorrow as yet another mass shooting has occurred. Out comes the pouring of sorrow and rhetorical questioning of why and how and who is responsible, but ultimately, we already know the answers don't we?

We already know that mental illness is a major issue EVERYWHERE and it does not discriminate. Are we educated and equipped to deal with it? No!

We already know that people kill people and that guns are not sentient beings capable of killing, but that rhetoric is both redundant and a pathetic attempt at reassuring the families of the victims. Guns do not kill people but there is no rational reason to make it so damn easy for the perpetrators of gun violence to get their hands on guns simply to preserve some out-dated notion of bearing arms! It has nothing to do with rights and everything to do with profit and who contributes to and lobbies the republican party!

We already know that in this age of technology and expression, there are numerous mediums in which you can keep track of your children and ensure their well-being. Is it difficult? Yes! Is it an essential part of your decision to bring a child into this world to be committed to learning everything about their world, the person they are and reading their behavioural cues to always be one step ahead in their times of need or trouble? [insert expletive] YES!!

This awful tragedy that has lead to the loss of life of beautiful youth in the prime of their lives is another devastating statistic if everyone, EVERYWHERE, does not sit up and pay attention. With all of the death and morbidity gracing our news broadcasts on a daily basis it is far too easy to become desensitised to the reality of violence.

Violence is grotesque, real and very very frightening. It is a physical act of absolute loss of control and inability to respond to a set of circumstances like a rational and law abiding person. No matter how small or large the degree of violence is, the simple fact is that the perpetrator has lost control and is not of sound mind. Yet, every time there is a tragic news story involving violence you can bet there is someone saying that they did not think [insert name here] was capable of violence (or violence to that degree, ie. "I knew he was violent but I didn't think he was a killer"). The simple fact is, every single human being is capable of violence if placed in a situation where reason and comprehension leaves our minds. For each person, the triggers and severity of the circumstances are different. The strength of a persons mind is also a very important factor, for example, there are people that are able to endure hardship and adversity with determination and resolve and then there are others that will sink into themselves and become depressed at the hopelessness of it and then there are others that will become angry at the injustice of them dealing with such adversity and it is the individuals that become angry and vengeful that create a risk to the community. Excuse the simplicity of this analysis, I don't have time to summarise the degrees of the psychological condition here and now.

Now whilst I am completely sympathetic to those who have and suffer from mental illnesses, in the same way I am sympathetic to those with a physical illness because I have family members who have had different types of mental illness, but I am also a pragmatist. I believe in civil and human rights and I do not believe that the rights of the many outweigh the rights of the few. I believe that every single human life has value.

Mental illness is a major issue internationally and our methods at addressing mental illness are haphazard at best. As a community, the general response to someone with a mental illness is not to assess and respond appropriately with support, care and empathy with the appropriate inpatient or outpatient treatment and support groups. It is usually rejection (family, friends or anyone without an understanding of the condition), and isolation (it is awkward to speak to someone that is depressed or manic so therefore, lets avoid the situation completely) which simply compounds the problem with the sufferer feeling more alone and sinking deeper with no life preserver.

Now I am not saying that individuals with violent views, tendencies or compulsions ought to be allowed to stay out in the community to be in a position to commit these atrocities. I am saying that we need to have a greater understanding of mental health and realise that it is not simply a bunch of whackadoos out there running around sprouting insane and inane babble. There are a large proportion of highly functioning people with mental illness and we need to eliminate the stereotypes associated with mental illness so that we are properly assessing risks to the community. The police officers that have been lumped with the duty of responding to risk tip offs are not trained in this area adequately and it is unfair to place this further responsibility upon the police. The police signed up to protect the community and maintain order, they did not sign up as psychiatrists. The police responding to these tips offs are understandably looking for physical risks to person and property and in the absence of that, are determining that there is no risk, whereas, a suitably astute and trained psychiatrist would be able to determine from assessing the individual and any material that lead to the tip off that there was a real risk of the individual spiralling and requiring treatment and, potentially, a program of inpatient treatment where they will be provided with a secure environment to recover (or at the very least be further assessed whilst not posing a risk to the community).

The Elliot Rodgers example perfectly paints my point. He was a relatively intelligent young man of affluent upbringing who was reported as a risk given his vitriolic views plastered over social media and discussion boards. The police assessed him and using his intelligence he managed to convince the officers that it was all a misunderstanding and he was determined by the officers not to be a risk. Whilst the assessing officers feel remorse over this decision, they are not at fault, the entire system is at fault. All too often we are hearing about violent perpetrators falling through the gaps of the system but there are never the questions asked about why there are so many damn GAPS.

The system is inadequate, the system is fundamentally flawed and the health system needs to be less physical focussed and have the same amount of resources for mental illness. Health and well-being needs to be viewed holistically not separately. The system needs to CHANGE.

Change, however, does not happen overnight. While the powers that be are drafting and enacting change in health (yes I am the eternal optimist that naively believes there will be people in positions of power working towards meaningful change), we need to 'risk manage' the community. Guns are a problem in the United States, this is not a topic of debate, it is a fact. Therefore, the common sense response would be to eliminate guns from the community. It is simple. Forget a ridiculous notion of bearing arms in a society so far removed from the times in which the out-dated document was drafted.

And yes, I am aware that if a person is determined to commit violence there will use knives or other weapons. I know this. But we have a duty to mitigate the risk by taking guns out of the equation. Without guns, the degree of violence will be reduced because someone physically wielding a knife, while deadly, is certainly not able to kill the sheer number of people as someone carrying a gun. And there is a big difference between someone killing nameless and faceless people by pulling and trigger and using a knife to penetrate the flesh of another - this alone, may be a deterrent for many number of killers.

So let's please make a decision that benefits the community and not political lobbyists, gun manufacturers and suppliers for a change. Let's decide that the deaths that have occurred are not meaningless, they may have died but they have provided the community bravery to stand up to stupidity and profit. We need to be brave for those that have lost their lives to violence! We, the community are members of the chain of responsibility to stop further loss of life.

Now the most controversial view of mine would be that parents are responsible for their children. Yes, there are exceptions, I know that not everything is "one size fits all" however, as a general rule, parents are responsible for shaping their children, teaching them methods of coping in situations and monitoring their responses so they know when to step in, when to seek help and when to step back.

I am not aware of the Elliot Rogers circumstances in detail but the media has served up details that he was a rather spoiled young man who had not been quiet about his views all throughout the world wide web. His parents? No idea what their response was and whilst I realise hindsight is always twenty twenty, there needs to be more responsibility on parents to value their responsibility. Funding our children is not enough! We need to be engaged, we need to know who our children are down to the very cores of our being and guess what? If we don't like what we see, we need to respond appropriately!

We as a society need to stop asking questions that we already know the answer to. We need to change the health system so that mental health is viewed in the same terms as physical illness because, not only is it just as deadly, it poses a risk to the community. We need to mitigate the risk to the community by removing devices of violence. And finally, we as parents, need to understand the gravity of our role in shaping human beings. We as parents need to realise it is not about us and how this affects us, it is about the child and the person we are unleashing onto the community. We are responsible for that!!!

Monday, 19 May 2014

I'm not racist but.........................

A phrase so often used. A phrase I have heard countless times in my life and each and every time I hear it, I cringe because I know what is coming next. “I’m not racist but………….[insert racially insensitive comment].”

Racism is a major problem in this Country, it is not in clusters, it is not confined to the rural areas of the nation, and it is not a way of thinking reserved for the older generations. Racism is an ailment* that affects old and young, it thrives in the ignorant, it is contagious among the weak willed who would rather go with the flow of community sentiment than to go against the flow and seek to be educated on the issues.

I have experienced racism my whole life and despite my rich cultural heritage of which I am abundantly proud, each and every time I experience racism, it hurts. It hurts not only because my identity is being attacked or belittled, but that of my ancestors is being attacked and belittled.  I have heard varying remarks of the same theme “but you look white,” “you wrote this? I thought you said you’re Aboriginal,” “don’t worry, nobody will be able to tell” and the list goes on. I have been introduced at parties as “this is Nat, she’s Abo” and been told I am “one of the good ones” and asked “what percentage of Aboriginal are you?” The trouble is, the people asking the questions and making the comments were so ignorant that my hurt was not apparent to them and on the occasions I could get over the hurt and say something, I was not met with apologies and understanding, I was met with “you’re too sensitive” and “it wasn’t directed at you personally, so what’s your problem?

The expectation from a significant portion of people I have come into contact with is that I must be, or ought to be, ashamed of my Indigenous heritage and identity. On the contrary, I am very proud of where I have come from and who I am. I am a descendant of Mary Jane Cain who was one of the very first land rights activists without knowing it. She was a protector of her people, the Gamileraay people of Coonabarabran and she petitioned the Crown and was awarded a small parcel of land which established the “Burra Bee Dee Aboriginal Reserve” and the Aboriginal people were able to be safe and live on this land. She was revered by her people and referred to fondly as “Queenie Cain.” She was a strong and proud woman and existed in a culture where women were not less than men, they had different but equal roles and she was respected by men and women alike, and successfully worked within the confines of the new and foreign English laws to ensure the safe habitation of her people. Mary Jane Cain died at Burra Bee Dee on 29 July 1929, but she lives on in the hearts, minds and souls of her descendants. So, ashamed of my identity and culture? Not so much.

Indigenous people inhabited this land for thousands of years. Indigenous people considered themselves caretakers of this land and only took what was necessary for their survival, ensured the flora and fauna flourished by ensuring the ecological sustainability of the environment by migrating their hunting locations, conducting restrained and strategic back burning and keeping the earth pristine, until they were called home to the dreaming (afterlife). The land, to Aboriginal people, was identity, responsibility and respect. White settlement (please note that Indigenous people do not consider this land to have been settled, but rather forcefully invaded, but this is a discussion for another day) occurred 226 years ago and in the last 226 years the land has been brutalised and pillaged almost as much as the Indigenous people who, until only 47 years ago, were considered flora and fauna!

Indigenous people were scientifically examined and considered slightly more intelligent than primates, thus justifying the constitutional categorisation, and the powers of the time set out to “breed out” this race with the removal of all children born of European parentage and it is from this sinister political policy that the concept of percentage of Aboriginality was borne, a policy of genocide. So the ancient culture that, in the simplest of terms, was about love and respect for the environment and one another is the subject of derision, of utter contempt. This culture and those who identify (there are many that don’t purely because to do so invites prejudice and ridicule), are treated less than their non-Indigenous counterparts.

Considering this history and the contemporary presence of racial stereotyping, I query what is wrong with Australians specifically? In the United States, a similar situation occurred with Native Americans sustaining displacement and violence but the Native American people were afforded a treaty with the ‘settlers.’ The Maori people of New Zealand were similarly afforded a treaty. The African Americans that were enslaved in America were the focal point of a civil war started in the interests of equal rights and subsequently lead to the reparation financially for the years in such abhorrent subordination and violence. There were members of the white community that stood up, as far up as the President (Kennedy) that abhorred racism and stood up to not only send a message, but to bring about change. The abhorrent racism that occurred against those that were not of a certain colour was acknowledged as wrong and steps were taken in order to make amends (although complete reparation is never possible when considering the displacement of an entire race).

This is not Australia’s experience. In Australia, the Indigenous people were murdered, massacred, raped, attacked violently, enslaved, imprisoned without having committed a crime, beaten whilst imprisoned and the subject of attempts at genocide. Their land was taken and their identities and cultural practices outlawed and ridiculed. There was no treaty, no reparation, no compensation and no real acknowledgement on a national scale (until the apology of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd) of the atrocities that occurred and the violence and racist political policies continue to oppress the Indigenous people of this nation. There have been Royal Commissions into the treatment of Indigenous people, but recommendations are not adopted, there are no meaningful attempts at reparation.

When Indigenous people speak up against the atrocities of the past they are told “get over it, it’s in the past” and when Indigenous people speak out against contemporary issues affecting Indigenous people, they are told to “help themselves.”

It is with the knowledge of the above history that I am utterly perplexed as to WHY Indigenous people continue to experience racism. Why is it okay in the minds of some people? In what sense does it benefit the perpetrator?

Why is this national problem of racism not common knowledge? I mean, listen to talk back radio and read the daily telegraph and you will hear and see a whole lot of reassurance that it is the minority or lefties with the issues, not the majority. Let’s be clear, the white is the majority so of course the majority doesn’t have the problem!

Why do we celebrate his sporting achievements on the field and award him ‘Australian of the Year’ but if Adam Goodes uses this platform to raise issues of inherent racism, he is booed when he runs onto the field, attacked on social media and belittled everywhere else.

What is wrong with wanting true and genuine equality for Indigenous people? What is wrong with standing up for what is right? Why are those brave enough to stand up and be heard treated with such vitriolic backlash?

Because this Country has a problem and this problem is racism. It is a hate that is learnt in the home and propagated by the media. It is a problem that the majority prefer to ignore or deny and the minority that speak out against it, experience hatred magnified. Because nobody wants their dirty secrets on display, it’s better to pretend they don’t exist, or better yet – let’s blame it on the victims.

I am a strong and proud Indigenous woman. I descend from strong and proud Indigenous men and women. I believe in truth and equality. I believe reconciliation is not a political policy or stance, it is a mentality of the people and if the mentality of the people cannot be on board with reconciliation, any attempts at the political level are futile.  This is where the media has a responsibility; stop broadcasting stories and images that propagate racism; stop shining a light on issues with the slant that Indigenous people are the cause of such problems; stop blindly supporting racist government policies.

Start bringing about positive change. Start contributing to society in a positive way instead of being the puppet for scare mongering governments. Start shining a light on the pure stupidity that is racism. Start illustrating the rich cultural heritage of Australia. Start calling the political columnists on their covertly racist columns. Stop apologising to blatantly racist people for calling them on their views.

While there are a ridiculous number of racist people out in the Australian community, there are countless people who do not share these views and are as disenchanted as Indigenous people when considering racism in this Country. To these people I say, I love you, I am with you, you are awesome and you are not alone. While individually, we will lose every time against the majority, together we can make a difference. We can raise our children to see and acknowledge colour, to see the injustices that colour brings and to fight against such injustice.

Like all social problems, there is not a quick fix but there needs to be an awakening of our social conscience in this Country and we all need to take responsibility for being the change. I love this Country, I love the land and environment, I love the people and diversity, I love the opportunities in a globalised world in the information age but I find the continued racism and stereotyping in this Country absolutely soul destroying.

We are smarter than this surely? We can do better than this! We should expect more of ourselves and our friends and family. Speak up when you hear racist comments, speak out and be proud to be loud! In the lead up to National Sorry Day, consider the reality of what being sorry means and the fact that, in our personal relationships, when we receive an apology we expect more than words, we expect actions to reflect the words!

Racism, it stops with me!

*by ailment, I mean an illness of the closed mind variety, because I am by nature an optimist. I refuse to believe that those with racist attitudes would maintain those views if they were properly educated in an objective manner with an open mind. So for the purposes of this post, let’s consider them ill, because the alternative is far too sinister and I simply cannot contemplate hate of that magnitude in a world that my beautiful daughter not only exists but needs to flourish.

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

My thoughts on the budget 2014

This budget is the work of people quite clearly out of their depth and is most certainly patriarchal condescension at its finest. Let’s be clear, Joe Hockey is not an economist, he is not an accountant and he does not have any financial management or economic qualifications but he has been appointed treasurer and entrusted with the responsibility of the Australian budget.
This budget would look extremely different, I believe, if it had been drafted by economists that had a full grasp of the responsibility of ensuring the welfare of all Australians and not a select few that are politically and financially aligned. This is not the time for politicking or showing off. This is a time for humility and compassion and an understanding of what life is like for ALL Australians.
This budget fails the Australian people. This budget harms individuals for the benefit of business, and by business, I don’t mean the businesses that are small employing the people within our communities, I mean the businesses that employ foreign workers and have the majority of their operations offshore or employ foreign workers instead of Australian workers in their facilities here in Australia. The budget benefits the type of big business that pillages the earth of its natural resources with the sole interest of profit guiding decisions. The resources that belong to ALL people are benefiting and profiting businesses that support this government to ensure they continue to thrive financially to the detriment of the people of this nation. And that is only one side of the coin, the environmental implications of these businesses is incomprehensible!
The rhetoric in the lead up to this budget illustrates the character of the government delivering the budget. The national debt was blown out of proportion in order to scare monger people into thinking that the drastic cuts made by the government were necessary. The government was disingenuous in failing to provide context and the big picture to the people, in essence, the government was underestimating the people of this nation to read between the lines and understand the numbers thrown around.
There are too many issues with this budget to go through each and every one, but here is a brief summary of some key points that have raised my eyebrows and anxiety levels:
·         The Company tax rate is being reduced by 1.5 percentage points down to 28.5 percent, because let’s face it, those poor companies really need a tax cut (cue next financial years’ record profits from the big banks and Gina Rineheart);
·         Working mothers or fathers supporting a spouse or dependent child, will no longer be entitled to an offset;
·         The Paid Parental Leave Scheme is going ahead. It will include 6 months full pay including superannuation for mothers earning up to $100,000.
·         The new tax for the purported debt reduction will see those earning $180,000 or above, in addition to the increase in Medicare Levy, paying 49 percent of their earnings in tax. Regardless of anyone’s thoughts on people who are fortunate enough to earn an income of this magnitude, paying almost half of those earnings in tax, when companies pay only 28.5 percent is an absolute farce!
·         The Medicare Levy is being increased to 2 percent, whilst those reliant on Medicare (and most certainly paying the levy because their budget does not stretch to include private health), will not be entitled to the free universal healthcare that ought to be guaranteed. Instead, they will be paying for all medical practitioner appointments, all x-rays, emergency department attendance at hospital and as if that wasn’t bad enough, the cost of prescriptions will be increasing by $5 per prescription on average.
·         Retirement age to increase to aged 70 for people born after 1 July 1958, so those people working hard for their lives and investing into superannuation that gets hit by a share or global market crisis and lose a large portion of their superannuation and then require the aged pension in order to survive, will have to keep working until they are 70 (if they are lucky enough to have a job at that age and not be discriminated against on the basis of this age and if they don’t have a job, tough luck, live on air until you’re 70).
·         Anyone under 30 years of age will need to wait 6 months for any assistance from Centrelink if they lose their jobs or are unemployed following school. So for those foster children who turn 18 and do not have a job or a home once they are no longer a problem of the system, you may need to live on the streets for the 6 month waiting period because this government wants to “crack down on welfare.” I am all for coming down on welfare cheats, but not at the expense of those who need assistance. Again, patriarchal decision making without an ounce of empathy for those who were not born into families on the north shore of Sydney with opportunities abound.
·         Hardly surprising that this government who doesn’t believe in science has cut science budgets, CSIRO and ANSTO are receiving cuts in excess of $100 million. These scientific organisations are pillars of the science community and this will lead to our educated and brilliant scientists taking themselves elsewhere to apply their skills because there would be no draw to staying here with a government clearly against the development of this area of research and discovery.
·         This government will allow coal seam gas mining which is destroying water supplies and land without raising an eyebrow, but considers wind farms a blight on the landscape. So they are getting rid of this environmentally friendly energy source at a “saving” of 1.3 billion. Who needs clean and healthy water and land? As long as we have $1.3 billion dollars on the books to prove what smarty pants we are right?
·         Dental healthcare was drastically cut in the budget, so don’t get a toothache people, and if you do, you might need to YouTube some dental procedures because you won’t be able to afford the dentist and won’t receive any assistance from this government.
·         So those men in blue that are there to keep your community safe and prevent crime, yeah we don’t need them right? Good, because the government has cut $54.2 million from the police budget.
·         The government receives taxes from cigarettes, so it is no surprise that the anti-smoking education and advertising programs have had $3 million cut.
·         Health has taken a major hit in funding with final figures not outlined with any clarity but it is safe to assume that it will be far worse than we can imagine.
·         Fuel prices are likely to go through the roof with twice annual indexation reintroduced.
·         If you are planning to go to university, get ready to pay ridiculous fees and if you’re a HECS student, you will be paying hefty interest.
So what are the priorities for a government hell bent on making living life in this very expensive country even harder?
·         $122 billion on defence aircraft.
·         $1 million on a residence for ballet dancers in Melbourne.
·         Paying the national debt (the national debt when considered in the context of GDP is less than the average Australian having $20,000 in personal debt, clearly a manageable amount with a payment plan over 5-7 years).
The national debt is not small, I am not trivialising debt. Debt is serious and needs to be paid. The people of this nation ought not suffer through this budget because this government is short sighted and cannot see that the money expended in accumulating that debt ensured Australia averted a national recession. As the government cannot recognise fundamental concepts of fiscal policy, then they need to go back to study the basic concepts of economics.
This budget has no heart or soul, this budget does not even have intellectually clever albeit clinical economics. This budget is a political pissing contest amongst men (and one token woman) that need to overcompensate for their lack of size in the……………………brains department.
This government does not have a long term vision. This nation is fast losing all industries that contributed to Australia being one of the top economies in the world. All the developed nations are now looking at China and marvelling at the economic powerhouse it is becoming. WHY? Because it has INDUSTRY!!!! It is not solely a service based economy. It has production.
We as a nation (and by nation, I mean the liberal government voted by the people of Australia) have not supported our industries. There is nothing in this budget that will meaningfully support our farming industry. Our farming industry is essential not only to our economy, but to the health and welfare of Australians because we can ensure the production meets with our regulations.
We as a nation have not supported our production industry. Metal works, sawmills, car manufacturing, food manufacturing and the list goes on. These industries are the foundation of Australia being such a strong economy but we have not provided the financial support that we have provided media moguls or mining magnates to ensure it flourishes.
We let the grass roots industries take a hit or completely fizzle out so Gina Rineheart can stand on her soap box and bang on about Australians “helping themselves” when her hypocrisy is as obvious as a punch in the face because she has inherited her wealth and not worked a hard day in her life. The government has thrown around terms of ‘the age of entitlement being over,’ well perhaps the government ought to pass that on to the entitled, not the everyday Australians that are treading water simply to survive.
It’s interesting that when the average Australian goes for a job, they need to have a set of credentials in order to ensure they are capable of performing the necessary functions of the role. The treasurer? No credentials, but Abbott considered him capable of drafting a budget for an economy the size of Australia’s? The depth of Tony Abbott’s intellect will never cease to amaze me. I mean, I seriously need to meet this man so I can stand in awe of him and wait for some small parcel of knowledge to pass from him to me and I will then walk around for the rest of my years marvelling at the brilliance of the man.
On a serious note, get ready Australia, we are in for some seriously rough years. Years where the sick cannot afford to get treatment, the elderly work themselves to the bone, the young become a generation of homeless or endless renters and the socio-economically advantaged solidify themselves on the top of the political and financial hierarchy.