Reflections on the Dreamtime round and an inadequate explanation of the meaning of football

As Adam Goodes was resolving, as is his right, not to ignore an offensive comment from the crowd at last night’s match at the MCG, commentators of all stripes were in turn arranging themselves along the spectrum in their reactions to the drama. Those of us who are gluttonous spectators of media and sport watched haplessly as the inevitably stupid and unrepresentative rushed to comment. We ourselves rushed to make our own comment and to reach understanding of the girl’s role and the league’s subsequent reaction.

I’m now watching the pre-game entertainment before my own team plays Essendon and sighing inwardly as the panel expresses earnestly their more than usually inane sense of the world, while Icehouse’s Great Southern Land plays on the PA. On the field some ceremonious words are spoken, the meaning of which is lost on most who watch it.

But while these gallant efforts are somewhat clumsy and imperfect (good and bad: I can in fact appreciate the aesthetics of Christine Anu singing Yothu Yindi’s Treaty; but I scoff at the channel 7 camera crew in the Tigers’ rooms lingering on four players – Houli, Nahas, Grigg & Martin – because each has tan-coloured skin, while none is Indigenous) I think it is worth remembering not simply what Indigenous players mean to the AFL, or to the teams’ supporters, or to the game itself, but what football means to Indigenous people.

In Yirrkala in North East Arnhem Land football is played at a dusty ground in the town’s centre, a look-away from an idyllic seascape. From the ground it is a minute’s walk to a slender beach and palms waving; a noisy crowd of cockies in a backyard ornamental; a cluster of homes and a provincial school; and an art gallery which sells items of indigenous art and culture. On the ground some very tired teenagers play, the August day a comfortable 26°. They’re begging for rotations as they limp from the ground. The year is 2003. The coach, ex-AFL, now employed at ATSIC, is working with boys he admits in a quiet off-side are hungover from the night before, can’t come to mid-week training as they’re hours’ travel away in remote country, and are going to be totally and miserably pummelled by the bigger, larger, faster boys from the mining town Nhulunbuy. And they are.

Under the trees sit the players’ families, watching and chatting, from a distance seeming totally immobile while their infants and little ones play at the boundary in children’s mystic games. This is a solid and steadfastly observed weekend activity – local footy. Several leaders, local family elders, business people and residents of note find some opportunity during the game to make an appearance.

With my camera out I’ve become an irresistible target. Kids, mostly the players’ friends, jumble in front of my lens with their fingers and hands contorted into gestures which mean nothing to me but, I know, mimic those of hip hop and R&B music artists from America, which also mean nothing to me. The team has been gifted their strip, and they don’t bring with them the support team as the opposition do, who have eskies of ice, fresh packs of water bottles and cut fruit. The game is a rout. The scoreboard is over the other side of the ground, too puny for me to discern the degree of damage, but the coach never loses his sense of resignation.

What’s more revealing than the footy score is the picture painted by the people around me in their conversations – ATSIC is the champion of many believers in these parts; Michael Long is like a god to the kids who play; American music is the bread and butter of the students who attend the tiny schools. ATSIC because it responds generously to resident appeals for luxuries such as garbage disposal, quite beyond its brief; Michael Long because he exudes ability and success and wisdom; American music because it’s the ultimate expression of luxury and wealth and beauty.


Team at Yirrkala – 2003

What the football, and the dream of football, offers is a cohesion and a shared experience – the same thing it offers for every small community. But for Indigenous people it also offers a particular identity embedded in the national pastime, and a genuine local experience. In the Indigenous football history there are Norm Smith medals, Brownlows, playing dynasties and iconic images and stories woven amongst the everyday. And while some might lament the perception of tokenism in the Dreamtime round, or not fully share in the emotion of our first people’s connection to our fine game, the game in fact belongs to Indigenous people in an enormous way. It belongs to kids who live it, kids who’ve played it, the Indigenous influence on the very origins of the game itself, and the homespun realities that bring those boys & men miles from home to play. 


I add my voice to the noise of discussion on #womenofcalibre and argue that Abbott’s defenders on a feminist basis are wrong

#womenofcalibre. There is a dark and wholly dispiriting timbre to this phrase which I struggle to conceptualize. Firstly and most obviously my objection to this description is that we, women, are graded on a spectrum according to our earnings. It is only earnings to which he refers as it is the awarding of up to $75,000 for 26 weeks’ maternity leave Abbott defends during this statement. A clear indignity in this choice of words is that, whether you like it or not, the creation of the figure of a woman of calibre automatically produces the alternative: a woman of no calibre, of lower calibre, a woman of lesser ability or worth. I would hazard a guess that in Abbott’s eyes, as is likely in the eyes of any conservative, regarding any person, we are all graded according to wealth and earnings – highly objectionable. This is irrespective of gender in fact. If he had uttered that phrase in regards to workers deserving certain amounts of money over others it would be objectionable; if he’d said that wealthier people deserved greater amounts of money from the government because they were of higher calibre it would still be objectionable, and this is in fact what he has done. He has presented the argument that people who earn more deserve a greater amount of money from the government – a position with which I disagree.

On the scheme itself there are offenses far greater than the ill-thought-out meanderings of Abbott’s mind as he struggles to favourably express his deranged ethics. 
The scheme is gender-biased to begin with. It is calculated to encourage women to assume that ‘traditional role’ whatever their ‘calibre’. The father IS eligible to be nominated as the primary carer, but in the policy it is specifically stated that such a decision is discouraged. Why such a discouragement is required provides insight only into the Stepford fantasies of the policy’s authors. And while the father can be nominated as the primary carer the benefit is paid only at the mother’s income level. Why this financial distinction is needed to be made I can’t imagine. Greater policy analysts than I would need to explain why the mother’s income is the chosen standard. Presumably there is a lesser possibility that the father would be awarded a pay rise by taking the carer’s position, as the nation-wide figures reflect that primary earners in couple relationships are usually men. Does it in fact guarantee the reverse of the policy aim: if the woman is the higher earner she is almost sure to be the parent returning to work while the father is paid at her higher salary, so as to provide the family with potentially tens of thousands of dollars more than they would have earned? Or is it simply to preserve the ideal that women care for children while men earn the household’s means? I’m inclined to believe the last option, with disappointment. It is yet another unexamined component of this flawed scheme.
Remember too that the leave is not means tested. Of course I should prevent myself the disappointment by ever expecting that the conservatives would apply means testing to schemes which would offer $75,000 for 6 months to an already fabulously wealthy family, but I am, I suppose, at heart an optimist. Labor’s scheme, by the way, is not eligible to anyone earning more than $150,000. I know right? Class warfare. 
As to my own experience I’ve recently completed 18 weeks paid parental leave for my newest-born daughter. It cost the government $9,000 or so. It seemed to be extraordinarily generous considering that during my first baby’s growth from conception to her first 6 months I had no paid work or government support. Contrast this with a government payment of $75,000 as private income for 6 months – I am unshakeable in this assessment – that prospect is obscene. I can’t hope to receive $75,000 from government. How has this been justified? That amounts to greater than the average household YEARLY income. Nobody needs that from government. Nobody.
And further to this point, examining reality for a minute, who on $150,000 would find having a child a financial impossibility? I can’t understand the conservatives’ reasoning (not shocking) that a woman earning this amount of money can’t afford a baby. If that’s your level of income it is not money preventing you reproducing, it is work. It is your position at work and your continuing career. And besides a 6-month absence from work is not mandated after birth, and for many, many women it’s not even preferable. Additionally to that many women have returned to work after giving birth to find the situation changed – a tacit demotion, an alteration to duties, a loss of seniority – and these industrial equality problems haven’t changed under this scheme, especially with no accompanying provision for childcare. If this policy is coupled with the nanny rebate policy then childcare would be even harder to find, though not for the fabulously wealthy.
On any level, examined from any angle, this policy is ludicrous. If you’ve ever had a baby you’ll know what the expenses are. You’ll know that a salary in excess of $100,000, what is in Australia a comparatively astronomic salary, is no impediment to having a child. You’ll know that this is just another measure to provide a greater volume of government subsidy to those who don’t need it. 
Read the Coalition’s policy here, if you can stomach it.
And in all its finery:
”We do not educate women to higher degree level to deny them a career,” Mr Abbott said.
”If we want women of that calibre to have families, and we should, well we have to give them a fair dinkum chance to do so. That is what this scheme of paid parental leave is all about.”

Feminism – the recent buzz word and how we’re fighting about it again/still

You all know, so it needs no explanation, what emerged in social media last week when two women with recognizable names had a go at each other and at the brands of feminism to which each subscribed. I’m supposed to, at this time, explain the drama in case you missed it so that this post has a neat narrative. But I’m absolutely not going to do it. You can search Helen Razer and Jenna Price yourselves. Besides you wouldn’t BE at this blog post if it weren’t for your, at least vague, awareness of what transpired.

My response to the debate was to spend some time being confused by what everyone on Twitter was talking about all of a sudden and why Destroy the Joint was suddenly the target for all types of criticism, no matter how marginal, before I understood the kerfuffle and read Helen’s post. In between that time I managed to have a short and fruitless spat with one of my long-term mutual-follow Twitter buddies, a woman who told me ‘I don’t actually know who you are’ which was evidently to be interpreted as ‘you’re not famous enough to hold a strong opinion on this one’, which left me a bit stunned and disappointed.

In a minor fit of despondency I had a good and thorough bitch about the whole situation – the content of the post from Razer, the comments which flowed in reply to the post, the Twitter reaction thus far – to my partner who initially worried I was in a sour mood because of him. I then relayed the story of the drama to my mother, a woman who can at least claim seniority over both protagonists and certainly a greater knowledge of feminist discourse since second wave. When I explained it she rolled her eyes and said simply ‘Yep, I remember that one from ‘74’ and ‘oh yes, the Marxists and the liberals are fighting’ and ‘Aaayep, ’84 that one.’ I pleaded with her to write something and I would disseminate it where I could. She could have it published, ‘seriously, Mum, this is all so tedious, please write something. I’ll send you all the material about what happened’. She looked bored. She’s just purchased a ute! She is freshly retired at 65 after 40-odd years in academia. I couldn’t prevail upon her.

So without her superior knowledge and prose I have decided to contribute to the vast and varying knowledge and development of feminism; a movement disparate and disconnected, complex, frustrating, impossible and yet wonderfully successful. It’s a movement about which I think every day and yet I’m unsure that I make much measurable change to my life through its application. I aim to discuss the very enormous volume of work which precedes this latest discussion; provide insight into the already much-traversed differences of opinion between these two schools of thought, and many other schools of thought not represented; alert readers to the almost identical script which was presented 40, 30 and 20 years ago with almost exactly these principles at play; and provide what I believe to be the truest foundations of feminism as distinct from either of the two mentioned in the exchange.

However I won’t. This argument is mostly pointless – it’s been done, it’ll be done again. It’s about as value-adding to the cause as a cage fight is, and about as new as the flowers in Emmeline Pankhurst’s hat. Its one benefit is that it has motivated me to go back to the Blues, like musicians ought to do every week, and read the oldies. It might help us all to do the same, so we can get beyond the second act. While feminism still has a great deal to discover and propose it isn’t discovering new things or finding new ways of practically addressing disadvantage as it quibbles over where we should place emphasis in our activism, as we sell gender equality to each other. Enough. 

Voice for Indi. Is this new politics doomed to fail, or have I been a hack too long…?

That’s a serious question. Have I been indoctrinated too far and consequently find exhausting and unrealistic?

To those not familiar with this group I can offer a short description of little detail but big on generalizations, and probably the group would quibble with my words, however in the interests of brevity I’ll go on – they’re a non-party political group attempting to introduce a new process of examining and engaging federal election candidates in their Northern Victorian rural and regional seat of Indi. The seat is held by the notoriously divisive Liberal Sophie Mirabella, and though the group have claimed they have no qualm with Sophie their interference wouldn’t be viewed kindly by her or by her party.

Some visitors to their site have accused them of being Labor & Green sympathizers, even campaigners, though they’ve stated no position, and the histories of their committee members expose no party affiliations. On the contrary some members’ associations as farmers and entrepreneurs would suggest a conservative background. They’ve posted a link to an article on the ‘third way’ so the mystery may lie under that cover – socially compassionate conservatives.

I was introduced to their online persona a month ago only when a fellow tweeter asked in a public tweet whether a Labor candidate had been chosen for the seat and what did we (that is Twitter) know of the group. He was inspired by their language and mode of organization. They’ve structured their organization around holding briefings in the electorate’s larger towns and cities, (some of those briefings are due to be held this week) encouraging their participants to conduct ‘kitchen table conversations’, and working across the whole seat to produce a ‘People’s Charter’ at the end of this process. There is great emphasis on ‘grass-roots’ and ‘giving everyone a political voice’, exchanging debate for dialogue, and moving away from controlling interests.

Their broad aims are quoted as the following:

  1. Build an active 21st century democracy based on civic engagement, respect and ideas, for the electorate of Indi and beyond.
  2. Create an electorate with a range of strong and competitive candidates.
  3. Develop leadership with vision that truly represents and delivers for the people of Indi

The barely-veiled dissatisfaction with Mirabella is stated several times across the site though her name isn’t used. The reader can’t detect whether there lies a vested interest among its committee members, but there may be. The tedium, as I see it, lies in the burdensome process of organizing ‘citizens’, as they call them, to meet and discuss politics and ideas and a vision for ‘Indi and beyond’. I anticipate, though I’m sure the group would label me a cynic or a wet blanket, that their ‘People’s Charter’ will be practically unreadable. With no shared policy direction or ideology, beyond the process-driven ‘civic engagement’ and allowing ‘Indi to have their say’, the task of building the People’s Charter from the loose and amorphous tangle of citizen ideas would be mammoth. Is the group prepared to take responsibility for and promote without favour all the ideas of its members? Without a shared and, in truth, controlling ideology of a free-market or workers’ or environmentalists’ party the disparate set of recommendations couldn’t be embraced by all members. How could the Voice For Indi participants endorse policies in which they had no belief? Could they endorse both a pro and an anti-asylum seeker policy, which could well be produced from different kitchen tables? In short the process is far too broad to allow consensus if there is this diversity, a diversity you’d assume present among 80,000 voters.

As for ‘dialogue instead of debate’ I’m not about to say it can’t be done, and maybe our politics is too adversarial. But considering the current state of the parliamentary chambers, the state of the media, even due to the party division of power, there is not much place for negotiation and compromise in the federal electorates, nor in the state electorates. With our hung parliament we have seen a small glimpse of this cooperative mode, but really that’s just been about a government securing a vote from independents with compromises and favours. Cooperation can occur at a local council in an even 3-way split between Labor, Liberal and Green, where if a policy is taken to the chamber without cross-party cooperation it would be guaranteed to fail. The citizens in Indi though are quite removed from this policy, and clearly they feel it.

I do await their People’s Charter with interest. I hope it can be released publicly, and sometime before September.

IPA agenda to re-shape Australia

I’ve added comments to this by way of a late-night rant.

The Sniper

By Barry Tucker                    2 March, 2013

The Institute of Public Affairs (IPA) claims to be an independent think tank. It is funded by corporate and philanthropic donations (see update, 25 August, at end) and individual subscriptions. It is one of the bodies that came together in 1945 to form the Liberal Party of Australia and is rightly seen as an arm of the Liberal party.

The IPA is disproportionately represented on the ABC’s tv shows The Drum and Q&A, although the ABC denies it and quibbles about who’s who. You may never have heard of the IPA. Before we go into the remainder of this article, here’s an episode of the ABC’s Littlemore, dated 09/04/2001, presented by Stuart Littlemore (it temporarily replaced Media Watch) [edited, 23/11/2016]. It mentions what the IPA is, who some of its members are, its activities and where…

View original post 2,762 more words

Another one to read…

As this is an unprepared rant site my off-the-cuff responses are characteristically ferocious, unstudied, and on occasion incandescent with rage. But occasionally the mood is much more despondent. As right now it’s late in the night I can’t summon incandescent, but the IPA’s 75 items of election policies, their wish-list for implementation by the next conservative government, made my head visibly drop. A lump developed in my throat, I could feel the water shrink from my eye balls. I felt physically ill. Not that they’re surprising, though they are galling. My wish-list, and possibly yours, is spoken in shadowy darkness: dreamy, impossible, bleeding-heart spendathons which would ‘sink the national currency’. But by god the IPA list is ‘bold’. Surely some items on the list are ambit; at least one, the ‘special northern economic zone’ is so transparently Gina’s as to make me lol. But every item on the list, EVERY ITEM ON THE LIST!, is truly terrifying in its unchecked miserably conservative motivation. Privatizing everything that moves; stopping any forms of economic stimulus but the unbridling of corporate adventurism; shutting down every last government initiative they could lay their hands on; even breaking up the ABC and putting their various services out to tender. The ball of downhill-momentum growing snowball-to-avalanche of horror that is the list has to be read to be experienced. There’s no point in further description.
List here:
I found it via a fellow-bloggers article lamenting its potential influence.
However what is worth a reminder, in the midst of Twitter’s unrelenting screeching about the failure of the ‘MSM dogs’ (I call it screeching because of the anger of the messengers. I’ve tried to be more circumspect about apportioning blame to the media but I do feel a heavy disappointment that this list won’t be examined and that TA won’t be confronted about whether these policies are Liberal policies) I can’t help but feel such a statement about the media’s complicity is over-simplistic. Though clearly this list SHOULD be publicized. It SHOULD serve as a survey document. And the creeping mobilization of the IPA should be of greater concern that it apparently is. There should be people everywhere incandescent with rage, or with drooping energy and sadness about these policies. Depending on the hour.