The Wonderful Land of Oz

Hi. Thanks for coming. Please, take a seat.

Now, I want you to close your eyes for a moment. And imagine that the world we live in does not exist. The politics, the problems, the media, the celebrities and the sport. Not even the history. There is nothing.

Australia is a blank slate.

Now, when you open your eyes you will be are here in Australia again, however it is the blank slate nation. And now, I will tell you some things about Australia. (Remember, everything that you have lived up until now does not exist.) I will fill in the slate of the nation for you.

Every week here in Australia, a woman is killed by her current or former partner. Also, a frightening military force is terrorising parts of the globe, with an army of somewhere between 30,000 and 200,000 fighters. Scientists world-wide have concurred that ocean water temperatures have risen due to human-caused emissions, and this could be catastrophic for weather patterns, ecosystems and species of flora and fauna worldwide. Australia is actually the highest emitter per capita of developed nations! Meanwhile, people in dire need of refuge are seeking asylum on our shores. We turn them away, resettle them in developing nations with questionable adherence to human rights, or lock them away in detention, invisible to the public’s eye. In some sections of our community, suicide rates are 8 times higher than the national average. (Yes EIGHT.) And finally, whilst sexual orientation is understood to be a character element you are born with, people whose love does not fit into the conventional heterosexual category are denied the right to marry.

So that is how things are looking here in Australia, just a few things to get you thinking. How do you feel about these things?

Not great. What is my nation doing about these things?

Well. Your government speaks about TERRORISM as the greatest issue. NATIONAL SECURITY they say. We MUST KEEP OUR CITIZENS SAFE, they say. We must put money into stopping radicalisation. We will spend 35 BILLION DOLLARS on “defence, national security and law enforcement”. This includes intelligence gathering, metadata watching and fighting the propaganda of terrorists cells. You will be happy to know that 750 MILLION DOLLARS will help “extend and expand Australia’s military operations in Afghanistan, Iraq and the Middle East.” Good, eh?

But wait – sorry – ummm what about the domestic violence issue? You know, the whole, one woman being murdered each week thing? Is that not something that all that money can be put into? I mean, aren’t the women CITIZENS as well? And also, that suicidal community – wtf? Is my government doing something about that?

Great question.

Well, as I heard a Minister say on the radio this week, National Security is THE most important thing for the government to deal with. I mean after all, all Australians should feel safe and protected. But (now how did he put it…? something like) the Government can certainly chew gum and walk at the same time, so ahh, other stuff like domestic violence etc are certainly major issues but they can be dealt with concurrently.

So billions of dollars are being put into those issues right? … Right? 

Um. Hmmm I will take that question on notice. How about I tell you about the environment? So, your Prime Minister is not a big fan (ha! pun intended) of Wind Turbines. So, they will spin no more! It is all COAL! COAL! COAAAAALLLLL!!!!

What? You said we are one of the worst polluters!? I don’t like broccoli, but sometimes we have to deal with things we don’t like for the greater good!

Nope, nope, nope. No wind turbines, your PM likes Coal. Good for humanity.

That’s crazy! What’s my environment minister doing about this? Surely they are doing something to promote renewable energy? I mean, Australia is a fragile ecosystem we can’t let the oceans rise 2 degrees even – we’ll all be screwed!

Yes, Greg um, Hunt. Yeah, hmmm. You know, funny thing is, I’ve never heard him say anything about the environment. And he IS approving that coal mine in the prime agricultural lands of the Liverpool Plains… But hey – we know for sure that there will be no Carbon Tax ever again!

Isn’t the point of a price on Carbon to help lower the amount of emissions of business as well as the general public? I mean shouldn’t he be arguing FOR the environment and leave finance to the Treasurer and Immigration to the Immigration minister?

You mean Border Protection.

Sorry?

Border Protection. It’s not so much Immigration any more as it is about protecting our borders.

From what? People wanting to live here?

Yes.

You said they are being put in detention? Is the public okay with that? I mean what are these centres like? What happens there?

Well… we don’t really know… You see no one is allowed to report from the centres… But, hey! We trust the government! When they say it’s all fine, it’s all fine! If the Treasurer says tighten our belts, we say how many notches, Gov? Am I right? (Except when I helicopter instead of drive, but hey, we all have our indulgences, right?)

Wake me up I want to leave! Why is my country like this? What is this? 1930s Germany? Communist Russia? 

Hey! Clean slate remember? That stuff never happened!

Why did you do this to me? Why hypnotise me just to enrage me? Why did you do that? I was fine before, just living my life happily, not even caring about all these things! 

 

Oh Dorothy, you’ve always been able to return. But without the clean slate, you never would have realised what was happening in this country – and you never would have believed me if I had told you. Sometimes you need to back away from a situation so that you realise how crazy our world has become. Now my friend, with this rage, maybe you will feel that it is time for a change. And you will do something about it.

abbott wizard

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Australia… I thought we were mates

I find Australia sitting alone in the corner of the playground.

“Oi! Australia! What are you doing over here by yourself?”

Australia looks up from his book. “Ohhh, nuthin.”

“Where are your friends?”

Australia scratches at the ground with a stick. “Dunno.”

“What!? Where’s Indonesia? Weren’t you guys hanging out?”

“Nah, well, Nezzy found out I had hacked her Facebook account ‘n’ stuff…”

“Ha? Why did you do that?”

“Thought I’d find some stuff out that would make us better friends.” Australia smiles up at me, honestly as though that makes sense. “Hmmm, right.” I look around the playground.

I see Sri Lanka chasing after some kids with a stick in each hand.

“SRI LANKA! STOP THAT NOW!”

I look back down at Australia, “Hey, Ozzie – maybe you could let those guys getting chased come and sit with you here? Whadya reckon?”

Australia looks up, squinting at the kids being chased by Sri Lanka. One of them falls over into the dirt, and is hit repeatedly with the sticks. Australia doesn’t flinch, just goes back to scratching in the dirt.

“Australia?”

“Nah, I don’t let anyone sit here unless they come through the obstacle course.” He motions to his right, without looking up. “And anyway, I gave Sri Lanka one of those sticks.”

“You gave Sri Lanka one of the sticks?”

“Yeah, Sri stops people jumping my queue to get to my obstacle course.”

“Your obsta – what?” I turn to where he has waved nonchalantly. There is a line of kids, queued single file, weaving a long line that disappears into nothingness on the horizon of the football oval. The first few – lucky as they are to be at the front – are sliding through barrels, wading through mud, jumping hurdles, crawling through nets…

“WHAT – AUSTRALIA! You used to be nice to the other kids! You used to give them lunch money when they were poor, and welcome them into your little nook here! What changed??”

“I’ve grown up Miss. I’ve changed. I need to look after myself.”

“But… all those kids you used to help, they helped build – all of this – ” I gesture to Australia’s area, which really, now that I look at it, is quite a nice little place. And spacious. “And you have so much room!”

Australia looks around and shrugs. “I can’t let them all in. They’ll take over.” He looks off into the distance.

I am distracted by some commotion behind me, and the sound of splashing.

“BRITAIN! What are you doing? Are you okay!?” I can see Britain trying to pull flailing bodies out of the swimming pool. Some other kids run over and start pulling out the drowning kids. “Australia, go help Britain.”

Australia looks over thoughtfully at Britain and the others at the pool. After a few seconds he speaks. “Britain’s not talking to me.”

“What? Why’s that?”

“Ohhh he got angry coz I didn’t back him up when he was telling off Sri Lanka for beating up people with sticks. And coz I gave Sri the stick…”

There is more splashing and screaming behind me and I can see that Tuvalu is the first to go under fully, the top of her head disappearing under the water. “Ozzie come ON! They’re drowning in the pool!

Australia looks at me blankly, and then after a few seconds laughs – an off-putting element of hysteria in his voice. “Miss, we don’t have a pool!

I look at Australia. And then to the queue that stretches to the horizon. And to the bullies chasing kids with sticks, and that damned obstacle course – the gateway to a yard of freedom.  And then at the kids drowning in the pool.

I look back at Australia.

“Who are you?”

The Sum of all my Fears = this ‘Holiday’

For all my Buddhist talk – I have some fears. Besides the sort of ‘philosophical’ fears like ‘will I do enough in this world?’ and ‘am I happy?’ – I have a few practical, physical fears.

Water is one. Confined spaces is another. And sharks and crocodiles. (An earwig crawling in my ear is another – but not quite relevant at this time… if any.) I’ll get back to the first three later, but the whole croc thing – that has been around since my nightmares as a child (and young adult). It is the reason that I don’t ever, EVER, sleep with any of my limbs overhanging from the bed, and why this trip to the Daintree rainforest has caused me some anxiety since (and before) we arrived.

We have been here, up North, for two days now, and seriously – what an amazing, beautiful place this ancient rainforest is. It is spectacular. There is an immense prehistoric-ness to it. The trees, the animals, the insects, the flowers, the mountains.  From the beach looking inland, you could be in Lost, stranded in a space-time-continium rift – or in a really nice version of purgatory or wherever they were, or in a scene from Jurassic park – expecting at any time a T-Rex to come bounding out of the dense, twisted, mangled forest, or one of those giant, alien polar bears that flatten the forest in the distance when the plane-wrecked team crash land on the beach.

When someone says, “this beach is very safe – there has never been a croc sighting here”, I don’t hear this with optimism – I hear this with a great and permeating pessimism that erodes my entire being. I hear “No one has ever been killed here whilst lying on the beach or been dragged under and drowned and ripped to shreds whilst paddling in the waves – but there’s always a first!”

Very soon after visiting one of the beaches, I felt reassured to an extent – but we didn’t swim. There were many people about, and I do trust local knowledge regarding the movement and behaviour of crocodiles – animals with whom these residents share their neighbourhoods.

So onto the water and the sharks, and the confined spaces.

I’ve been snorkelling before. In Vanuatu Troy and went on a very small boat out not very far, in a part of the ocean touted as the ‘safest area to snorkel’ – naturally protected by the reefs and the islands – no sharks would come to talk to us. This activity began with me, after trying to affix the mask to my face, hyperventilating on the shore, my tears and breath fogging up the mask. (The whole mask thing = confined spaces.) Troy coaxed me out, and I managed to swim back to the shore from the boat, vaguely enjoying myself in the process, however I was not breathing through the snorkel tube, just holding my breath and looking down. The drop off scared the bejezus out of me (not the Drop off!) when I met a mean looking fish with massive teeth just facing off with me and I turned my little fishy tail to land and swam swam swam.

Water’s just not my thing. I’m not a beach girl. I don’t like surfing or body boarding or sunbaking for hours, or wearing a bikini. I’m a land, bush girl. Mountains. Walking. Trekking. Climbing to the top of something to see what I can see. Skiing. Camping. Trees – I just really love trees.

Water, no. I don’t like putting my head under water. I can swim (I can only do survival strokes) but would rather run 5km than swim 50 metres of freestyle. Putting my head underwater is like being in a box to me. You are trapped. (Horrible childhood memory = swimming instructor making me hold a swimming brick under my chin so that I wouldn’t lift my head out of the water when doing freestyle.)

And sharks, sharks frighten me. (But at least they’re not amphibious – with Crocodiles, there’s no escape.)

So today Troy and I went snorkelling. So that he could live one of his dreams – snorkelling the Great Barrier Reef, which I too wanted to do – but I knew that this would mean facing my quite irrational fears, which I was prepared to do – but I knew wouldn’t necessarily be easy.

The marine biologist taking us out gave us the welcome talk: “We might see turtles, stingrays, dolphins, and if we’re really lucky – a shark!” That didn’t help my condition.

“Don’t you dare leave me.” I told Troy. And he didn’t – except I left him at one point, to return to the boat, and then he saw a turtle. Not. Happy. Disappointed to the max.

This was no little put-put Vanuatuan boat taking us 200m off shore. This was ‘the fastest way out to the reef – there in 25 minutes!’ (PLUG – Ocean Safari, great people, great tour. Cheap, fun.) And so we literally sped out to the Mackay Reef, 9 nautical miles offshore (which apparently is quite far – it certainly looked extremely far) in the most beautiful weather possible. Clear blue water all around, and what a view of the forested mainland! But we hadn’t even got to the boat and my heart started beating VERY fast, my breathing became shorter and useless as we walked…Troy squeezed my hand and told me it would all be okay… It is very rare that my fear transfers into physical anxiety but has happened with snorkelling and once at a music festival when there was no room to move due to the crowds – I used to be frightened of flying, but this never played with my heart-rate or ability to breathe normally.

Fast forward 25 minutes (yes only 25!) and I’m in the water. I have flippers on, and I have a mask on my face, and suddenly my breathing is. Short. Useless. Hyper. Ventilating. Get. Me. Out. Of. Here. The tears are coming (in my head a cartoon image pops up of my face mask comically filling up with water) – what am I doing out here in the ocean?

Troy calms me down as I tread water. I tell myself to get my shit together. I have conquered many an uncomfortable or scary situation before, and I don’t like depending on my boyfriend, but thank goodness he was there to talk me into swimming a little further, trying a little harder, and persisting with this whole swimming out in the ocean thing. I just find it a bit overwhelming. You don’t know what’s out there, and you can’t really go anywhere if you meet something sinister. It’s just a whole another world – and I can understand why some people love diving and snorkelling because of that. I appreciate the beauty of the underwater world – but diving for me would honestly be the most frightening thing I can imagine doing. (Water/confined spaces/sinister ocean beings – they’re all there.) I would much rather jump out of a plane.

I practice breathing through the snorkel pipe and the nice guide throws me a noodle floating device to help me stay horizontal for the first part of the journey. I am relaxed now, and able to breathe through the snorkel – something I’ve never been able to do before.

We visit three different parts of the reef. Two fairly shallow areas, and a short look around the drop off. I feel safe with lots of people around, and am so thankful of the amazing weather and clear water “You’ll see something coming from a mile away!” says Troy – oh yes, reassuring that is. But seriously, it was wonderful to see the array of fishes, and the coral. A highlight (since I missed out on the turtle) was the giant clams. Yes – doesn’t sound exciting – but seriously, these clams are giant!

Whilst I was slightly disappointed with the reef (it wasn’t as colourful as I imagined – I actually blame this on watching Finding Nemo so many times) it was a great experience… Shattered I missed out on the turtle, but thankful I didn’t see anything much bigger than the (small types of) Groper fish.

I wanted to see the Great Barrier Reef before it’s screwed up by pollution, rising sea temperatures, mining or dredging, and be able to tell my children that I woman-ed up and faced my fears.

But I think that’s it for my snorkelling adventures.

A little sunburnt, extremely tired, and somewhat emotionally drained, we arrive back at our hotel.

“It’s so tiring being brave.” I say with great drama (oh damn these first world woes!).

“Well, tomorrow we’ll just go to the beach, have a swim, chill out,” he says, before quickly adding, “the safe beach.”*

“Great.”

Love this holiday.

*See below photo –  yes, this is the ‘safe beach’. Right.

An afternoon with Opa and Oma

Oma placed the new block of cheese very particularly in front of my plate with a smile.

“And here is your cheese.”

Oh dear, it seemed that my Mum, who usually tells my grandparents everything, had not told my Oma that I had turned Vegan. Well, I could see why, and I certainly wasn’t going to.

“Oh… I actually don’t eat cheese.”

Oma looked confused.

“So do you have to eat cheese, or is it that you don’t eat cheese?”

The way she said this made out that I had possibly become some sort of Cheesatarian, which made me chuckle a little. The look on my grandma’s face would have been quite amusing had I not felt like I was such a disappointment. “Well,” she grumbled, “not eating meat is one thing, but not eating cheese?!… You want some Marmalade?”

And that was that, crisis averted.

Earlier, I had driven my Opa down to get some petrol and a few things from the supermarket. While I paid for the petrol, he – worried about the availability of parking spots near Safeway – suddenly skipped off with a “I’ll go get the shopping.”

I handed over the money to the petrol station attendant, looking over his shoulder through the window and seeing my Opa disappearing into Woolies. “Oh god, what is he doing?” I grabbed the change, ran out to the car, found a park, and hurried into the supermarket. In my head I was telling myself that this lost feeling I felt was only due to not having a mobile phone connection with my 88 year old grandpa, but really, I reassured myself, I was not going to lose him in a supermarket. (Seriously – think about how often you split up with someone in a supermarket, then just call them up later, and meet them in Aisle 5.)

My Opa is completely with it – he’s not like a tender, frail geriatric who needs his hand held. Hell no. I found him near the cheese, already with the three things Oma had ordered, and ready to come out and meet me. The cashier asked if Opa wanted the receipt – “Oh yes, better take it for the boss.”

Last family gathering had seen Opa tell us a few stories about his and Oma’s life after arriving in Australia. The highlight, it seemed, was when the owners of a house that Opa was living in (Oma had to live with other women in another house) were away, Oma sneakily came to visit. With the owners of the Toorak mansion absent, Oma and Opa were able to stay in their master bedroom and, as Opa put it “make love in that big, beautiful bed!”

(Oma extended the story on both sides of that event, but her version was much more modest and unexciting compared to my Opa’s saucy rendition.)

Working as a cleaner in the house where she was living, Oma found herself one day with the afternoon off, and decided to ride her bike to the local shopping strip. My grandparents brought one bike with them from Holland – which was Oma’s Dutch bicycle.

That afternoon, she rode her bike down Toorak Road. “Dutch bikes were different to Aussie bikes, you know,” she told me, (almost slipping into Dutch once, as she reminisced about the fifties and the time that they had just arrived) “they were very different, had very high handle bars, and as I rode, I could see that lots of people were staring at me. And I thought, it must be because of my strange Dutch bike.”

In my head I enjoyed a brilliant vision of my young Oma (who was very beautiful) riding down Toorak Road on her funny bike (but in my head, Toorak Road is as it is now, and my Oma is a bit of a new aged hipster on her high handle-barred bicycle).

I laughed a little, thinking that that was the crux of the story.

But Oma continued: “Well, after a while, I realized I was riding on the wrong side of the road!”

Ah, brilliant. That is why you visit your grandparents.

The un-Australian-ness of it all, and me

I attended a Citizenship ceremony recently, and came away quite affected. A cynical person, critical of “Australian culture” propaganda and stereotypes, I found myself actually quite impressed by the Australiana montage that played through the projector as the new Australians sang their national anthem together after declaring their pledge.

Scenes of the outback, kangaroos, indigenous dance, beaches, life savers, Uluru – all these images I decided, were actually not terribly clichéd, in fact, perhaps it was the best image of Australia that can be concocted.

As we entered the second verse (yes, the second verse!) I felt myself tear up as I looked around the room, and considered the group of people in front of me, who were themselves, quite emotional. Some of them were no doubt becoming citizens for what may seem like trivial reasons – it may be a job requirement, or they may wish to escape paying full fees at university etc, but many were becoming citizens just, … well, because they wanted to. They wanted to be Australian. And so I had to question myself – who I am to scoff at the culture of my country, who I am to scoff at people raising their voices to the national anthem, bumbling through with sometimes broken English, but still a tear dripping down their face as they did so?

I have often thought myself unpatriotic. But I have never stopped to ask why?

Australia took in my family after bombs blew apart their country. I have always called myself Australian, but with Dutch heritage. Or sometimes, Dutch-Australian. But I am Australian. I was born here. I was raised here. My grandparents are now Australian, despite their Dutch accents and the first third of their lives spent in the Netherlands.  So why do I not like saying that I’m Australian?

This train of interpersonal investigation has led me to two points:

1)      I am immensely proud of my Dutch heritage; I wish I knew more Dutch and I wish had more of a connection to the country and people that is responsible for both sides of my family – all the blood that runs through my veins, as Mum used to always point out, (with the fleeting hope of setting me up with the young Van der Krann boy) is Dutch blood. I felt this connection powerfully when I was in Holland, and I want to hold onto that. I want my children to be aware of where they came from.

 

2)      Shame. Yes, I have come to the conclusion that many of my generation struggle to embrace this country, and culture that we have become – a blending of white-man settlement, wartime refugees and our unique and beautiful indigenous roots – because we are ashamed by the means that this occurred.

 

I have grown up around people who are well aware of the plight of so many Indigenous Australians to live healthy lives, equal to that of the ‘white-man’ population – with equal opportunity and support, lives free from the familial and societal issues that are so often associated with Native Australians. As the world’s continents disbanded and people wandered far and wide out of Africa, the first indigenous race to settle in one spot were the extremely unique people that the English settlers of Australia came across.

So, maybe I should embrace my nationality more. For certain it deserves my respect, but with my want to be connected to my Dutch heritage, my constant travelling and love for other countries that lure me to live within their borders and modern issues such as ‘Boat people’ showcasing some of my country men and women’s xenophobic and selfish streaks, I have grown up an unpatriotic Australian. (Are similar attitudes to my own the responsible for the lack of interest in Australian Studies at Melbourne’s largest universities, and our greatest literary works being out of print?)

In my house, the annual Australia Day celebration is called an Invasion Day Party – the flag that hangs in the garage sports an Aboriginal Flag over the Union Jack, which someone over the years ingeniously coloured onto an oblong sized cardboard piece and bulldog clipped into the corner, and when forced to participate in the usual tattoo wearing, some of us cut out the Union Jacks and stick an incomplete blue flag of stars on our arms and faces.

I just find it hard. I don’t want to wear Australian flag hats and tattoos, or hang flags out my car windows. I really do love this country, but, I think, with many other young Australians, I feel a bit bad. Maybe I feel guilty for having it so good. Maybe I just want to rebel against our British roots, cut ties with the violent and sad acquisition of this country from those here, happy, first. Maybe this all just comes down to me being a Republican, and wanting to see our country change and grow, leave our colonial past behind. Most of us are not descendants of the First Fleet or the waves of convicts and settlers that followed. More than half of us were either born overseas, or have a parent who was.

I conclude: I am torn, between the guilt of a past I had no part in, but the benefits of which I am reaping every day.

However: With compassionate attitudes and policies, we can change. I see great hope for this, and potential. And the past, well, my generation should use any shame that we feel on behalf of those generations before us, to implement this change.

New Australians are so proud to say “I am an Australian citizen”, and I too, am beginning to feel very proud to say this.

I am very privileged to be here. We all are.

Why I wasn’t feeling good about Australia… and then was, and then wasn’t.

Australia Day has begun to upset me, as it approaches and passes each year. This is a day for our country – to celebrate our nation – but for some reason I NEVER get excited about it. Australia Day always brings out negative aspects of Australian society, even when we are conscious that this is going to happen – it still happens, stirring up malicious talk and furious debate about flags, colonialism, indigenous rights and so forth.

When people hang flags out their car windows – yes, I am one of those disgustingly unpatriotic (go on, call ACA) people who go “ugh!” because, burned in my mind, is the mental picture of those flags hanging out of the windows of utes, with their massive bull bars and those high antenna type things that I don’t even know what they are – with bumper stickers declaring “f@#* off we’re full”. Yes, I’m stereotyping – but after you see these people a few times, you begin to feel sick, and these flags – the flags of our lucky, wonderful country, begin to represent racism, and xenophobia.

Flags should imbue pride, love, strength of character, memories of a nation – but no, I don’t want to see the Union Jack anymore. (And no, I’m not trying to erase from our past the horrors, the victories, the construction of our country on the backs of convicts and pioneers, I’m just ready for us to move on from England – we are so much more than that now.)

So anyway, Australia Day came and went. I stuck a few flag tattoos on my body to appease my friends, although I cut the Union Jack out of one, and we put up the usual big flag in the backyard, replete with cardboard Aboriginal Flag stuck over the left corner with a bulldog clip.

And every year, I am so thankful that my friends appreciate this day in a similar way – we call the party Oz Day/Invasion Day, and they come to play cricket, share a BBQ, and they always admire the two flags merging to make one. To us it’s just a day. We ignore the nationalistic propaganda that pulls in the hoards of Australians who are frightened of ‘losing their way of life’ or being converted to Islam.

I teared up as I watched our newest Australians being welcomed into our country on the morning of Australia Day, being given their Australian Citizenship. Headscarves, skull caps, white people, black people, Asian people – THAT is what I love about Australia.

But still, preceding the holiday we endure the week of Today Tonight’s “investigative reporting” and A Current Affairs’ “exclusive reports” about red-neck racists and flag waving, and their ridiculous stories that drive the seeds of intolerance further and further in. I witness Facebook friends (“friends”) get upset about Indigenous Australians calling Australia Day “Invasion Day”, and read their ignorant and blatantly insensitive rants about this, whilst in my head vile visions swirl of Aboriginal babies being buried neck deep and having their heads kicked in. THAT is why I get upset about Australia Day: because people just chuck another shrimp on the barbie and bang on about how great we are, while Indigenous Australians count themselves lucky to live past 50, and the Northern Territory has become the suicide capital of the Western World.

So, Part 2: I went to the cricket. Australia vs India, 20/20.

It was fantastic. The spirit of the crowd was amazing. The Indian supporters outnumbered the Australians, and the crowd was this crazy mix of yellow and blue. There was a lot of love.

I love the Indian community of Melbourne. I love the way they smile, they dance, they have a good time. There were no drunken Indian supporters (not like the rowdy Barmy Army), I didn’t even see many drunken Australian supporters, and I saw no fights, no anger, no hatred, no intolerance. I’m sure it existed that night, but you know what? I didn’t see anything but  love, appreciation for good sport, and a genuine friendliness between the two sides and countries.

Down in front of us some Indian supporters were going to a lot of trouble to decorate a banner, which they would hold high above their heads whenever there was an excuse to cheer. I straight away felt a pang of concern – they were blocking everyone’s sight, and I envisaged the large, vocal group of Aussie supporters getting narky about their diminished view. I tensed up, considering where I could run to if it got violent.

It didn’t get violent. The Australians instead brought out their own banner (“We love Hogg”), which I half expected to say the comical “We can’t see!”  Even more comically, the back side of the “We love Hogg” said “WRONG WAY” to the delight of us all sitting behind.

It was a great night. I loved Melbourne, and I loved Australia right then.

Part 3:

Media Watch was on last night, a show that I have always loved – I think because I never actually know when it’s on, it just suddenly appears after some other show on the ABC, and gives me a good little chuckle for ten minutes.

Media Watch last night took a look at the media coverage of the Australia Day incident concerning PM Gillard and her Cinderella moment in Canberra, and the consequence of having news websites that do not moderate comments made by readers.

Some readers of the online articles had freely left disturbingly derogatory comments about Indigenous Australians, with no moderation, and no censorship. The thoughts being written out for the internet world to see, just showed the horrible and ignorant, racist aspects of Australia, and they were able to use words that have long been known as unacceptable  because the ‘automatic censor’ didn’t have these words registered as intolerable for the site. My happy memories of the Indian and Australian supporters smiling and dancing together were slowly fading…

At least a recent online article about Migrant Workers in Australia made me chuckle, when one switched-on reader commented that they should “all go get jobs”. Oh dear.

When free speech goes too far

No more, there can be no more of this. Yes, Margaret Court is free to speak her mind about her God, her opinion on society, and her thoughts on what is wrong with the world and the people therein. But, no. Enough is enough.

When someone, especially a high-profile individual begins to say damaging things – truly, truly damaging things – and the mainstream media freely publishes these opinions, then we, as a society have let it go too far.

How dare she make children feel that they are wrong? How dare she put those thoughts into their heads? How dare she use her tennis fame to make people feel unnatural, not right, make them feel as though they have done something wrong and that they must change.

Who is going to stand up and care for these children when they read these judgements? Who is going to help repair their minds when they begin to question themselves, and the way they are.

It has gone too far now, and something must be done.

Education and support for young people is no longer about corporal punishment and anger. Education and support is now about love, care, and understanding.

I was once very religious. Religion tore me up inside. I recently read through a journal I kept at this stage of my life. Every night I was berating myself, hating myself, exploring the diabolical dichotomy of being a servant of God, and a young adult in a loving (and sexual) relationship. I was raised a happy Catholic, and then turned to New Age Christianity, and became very involved. I was still happy, but as it continued, as I went to this church and heard my friends say that people having sex before marriage needed to repent, that gay people (I already had many gay friends) needed to repent, I fell into a confused, befuddled, difficult time of my life. My mum told me once that the only thing she wanted me to remember was that I should be wary of having hang ups about sex, and my religion. I appreciated her honesty and her awareness of the real world that I was living in.

Margaret Court is living in her world, but her world does not equate to every person in this nation’s real world.  She is worried about ideals and marriage and traditional roles of men and women. Well maybe, transition and change will save the relationships of Australians. With divorce rates high, why must she attack the loving relationships and families that might just happen to be built around a loving companionship between two people of the same sex?

Enough is enough. Her right to free speech is forfeited with the damage she is causing to young Australians.