Dec 30

“Through the years, we all will be together, if the fate allows”

Christmas wrapped up for another year, and this Christmas again marks a change in the ever evolving tradition for me.

Christmas night as Michael (Did I say how much I love him?) and I walked along Beacon Cove after our Christmas Day he asked the question, “What is your earliest memory”.  A question provoked as he recalled his return to Australia to the nearby Station Pier, he told me of his memory of standing on the deck of the Galileo.  He was young.

The question is a good one that spun around in my head.  Michael always manages to find questions to ask that generate a cascading effect.  Earlier in the day he asked me if this Christmas was different, noting the change from this year to last year.  He asked me how I felt about that.

Here’s my answers.

My childhood Christmas memories are of my family coming together on that one day to celebrate.  I remember the excitement of Christmas morning.  I would wake, often before sunrise, and find my Santa sack, a pillowcase put at the end of my bed the night before.  I always tried to be as quiet as I possible could be, not wanting to wake anyone else!  I would have been sharing my room with my younger brother and a couple of older brothers.

santastockingThe pillowcase would be jammed pack full of goodies. It always had a Santa stocking in it.  The stocking, very similar to the one pictured, would have some lollies along with cheap plastic toys, such as a whistle or a water pistol.  This is a tradition that I continued on with my own children until recently.  I do have a memory of feeling the sack in the dark and it being big and bulky, I’d give it a tug and pull out whatever I could without making too much noise.  I can’t recall a single gift from it, apart from the stocking.

The next part of the day is the distribution of presents from under the tree.  There was much anticipation for me.  Our Christmas tree was always a real pine tree and often placed between a couple of the lounge room couches.  I would be sure to have the best seat in the house.  I would actually pick the seat the night before and when the announcement for presents was made  I would be the first in the room and sitting as close to the action as possible.

I would have to wait for my older brothers to come home with their new families, my nephews and nieces.  Dad would come into the lounge room and there would be a lot of chatter.  He would start to distribute the gifts by calling the name of who it was for followed by who was giving it.  “Gregory from Mum and Dad”.  There were always a great big stack of gifts to give.

tape playerThere are two presents that stand out in my memory.  One was a cassette recorder.  The other a Dolphin Torch.

The cassette recorder was probably one of the best gifts I ever received.  It would have been in the late 1970’s and fed directly into my desire to be on the radio.  I was able to pretend I was a real radio DJ with it!  One of the first songs I ever recorded off the radio was Flash N the Pan’s Hey St. Peter.  I remember that it broke, possibly a day after I got it, and I had to wait until the shops opened again so we could replace it.

The dolphin torch was something that I asked for.  I needed it for camping, big, bulky and waterproof.  The real reason I remember it however, was that it marked a change in my thinking on Christmas.  I guess I was may 15 or 16, and that year the only gift I got from Mum and Dad was the torch.  I felt a great deal of unhappiness about that!  The Christmases of Plenty had passed.

As the family started to expand we all bought gifts for the new additions.  We also bought gifts for each other.  So, that’s 11 children, two parents and an ever-expanding growth of grand children and partners.  There would be laughter, squeals of delight, the rustling of paper and a big mess everywhere.  This tradition went on for many many years, all the way into the ’90s.  That’s at least 20 years.

I’ll come back to this point in time, the mid 70s.  Let me just explain this video of the presents under the tree.  I took this in 1990.  I’m 27 years old, my first wife (ok, my only wife) is the first adult through the door, she’s preceded by some of my nieces, a steady stream of children and adults come into the room.  Finally in what seems like a TARDIS space we’re all in their and my Dad begins the handing out of the presents.  You can see my Mum and Dad under the tree, bums up in the air, handing out the gifts.

This isn’t all of us either!  By 1990, some of my older nephews and nieces, along with my brothers, didn’t come to this part of the day.  We’d already started changing the long-held tradition and celebrating Christmas in our own way with our new families.  This is one of the final times that we gathered in the family home at 9 McIntyre Street, Hamilton.  My parents moved to Queensland and that changed Christmas forever.

Back to the 1970’s.  Once the presents were over and done with we would then be getting ready for lunch.  The size of our family meant we didn’t go anywhere.  People came to us.  As the years rolled on and we had my brothers wives and there children, we also had additional grandparents, uncles and aunts.  We often had two sittings, and somehow my mother prepared both meals.  At a guess we’d have about 30 for each meal, lunch and dinner.

Specific memories are a little faded, and all sorts of celebrations roll into one, I imagine that it was all very traditional.  Two things about the food stand out, White Christmas Slice  and Christmas Pudding.

christmas pudding steamerThe Christmas pudding was made by my mother’s mum, Grandma.  I have a fleeting recollection of it hanging in a calico bag from the kitchen ceiling, months before Christmas.  It was boiled in a special aluminium steamer pot and served with lashings of cream.  I recall my Dad’s mother, Nana, being responsible for putting the sixpence in the slices.  Yes, sixpence, even years after the move to decimal currency, she managed to use sixpence.

That was my Christmas day, full of family, laughter and good times.

Christmas is now much different.  When Mum and Dad moved to Queensland that was the end of our family get togethers.  By then I had children and we spent Christmas visiting my in-laws.  That was nothing like my childhood Christmas.  They were full of stress and anxiety.  I got out of them as soon as I could when I separated, then I would spend Christmas day with my sister, Angela, much more relaxed.

This year, Christmas was lunch in the city with some good friends, followed by Christmas dinner with my children, Caitlin and Tomas, future son-in-law, their mother and my husband.  For the first time Caitlin wasn’t here on Christmas morning, Angela and her family were in Queensland and I took a train ride to the city to have lunch in a restaurant.

Things change, my memories fade.  All I’m left with are a few snippets and glimpses of how things once were.  Christmas will continue to change.

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Dec 24

In November Michael and I celebrated 7 years together.

What can I say.  It didn’t take me very long to discover that Michael is a wonderful man, and after this short space of time, I understood that I wanted him in my life.  I love him.

Like all relationships I need to give care and attention to it.  I don’t always get it right, but I’m willing to change, adapt and learn from the experience of sharing our lives.

vowsWe are a married couple.  He is my husband.  For me it was important that I find a way to say to my family, my friends, and the rest of the world how important this relationship is to me.  What better way to share the way I feel about Michael than a public declaration of my love for him.  What better way than marriage to say to this key person what he means to me.

We traveled to New Zealand to get married.  It was a quick trip, part of a TV documentary called Living With the Enemy.

That meant we had to share our special event with a fundamentalist priest from the Anglican sect of christianity.  I remember him, Father David, many times asking us to explain why it was that we wanted to get married.  Michael and I had to let him into our little secret.  That we wanted to change the world!  We wanted everyone to get gay married.  As that seems unlikely it would seem that the reason for our marriage is based upon a mutual love for each other, the desire to share that with our family and community at large, and to say to each other just how important we are in each others lives.

That seems perfectly sensible.

 

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Dec 11

Two years ago a work colleague lost her life.  Which is a really stupid thing to say.  She didn’t lose it at all.  Her husband killed her.  He took her life.  He stabbed her.  She died.

Her children have had to deal with this, their families and friends and then people like me.

I had a drink with her the night before.  There was nothing I can remember that set any alarm bells off at the time.  In hindsight there are lots of “if only” and “I wish”.

The impact of family violence is much broader than family.  It has an impact on all in our community.

Today, we celebrated another year of great work at my work.  We acknowledged the important work that our teams do in family violence and men’s behavioural programs.  They make a difference to the lives of the people they work with.

It’s been a tough year.  While government change directions and shift funding, the need of people doesn’t change.  It’s still there.  We struggle to reach as many people as we would like to, the funding just isn’t there.

There is a great need in our community, and we can barely cope with the demand.

My heart breaks at the knowledge that we don’t have the resources to help.  My heart breaks that people are suffering and there is nothing that I can do.

When we asked today as part of an activity, “Why do you work here?” the answer was either “Because I want to make a difference” or “I want to help others”

As I listened today to the accolades of special mentions for our outstanding stars, I reflected on the work that my colleagues do.  I reflect on the senseless death of Cathy.  I know we need to do more.

I feel proud to work with such a dedicated group who strive to make a difference.

We have the evidence that the work we do makes a difference – you can help us.  You may not be able to fund the shortfall left by the changing funding models of government, if a few of us can help perhaps we can make a shift.

Donate.

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Dec 06

Cadets was compulsory in Form 3 and 4 at Monivae College.

I hated cadets.

The first ever Cadet Day in Form 3 was dreadful, I was in tears, for whatever reason going on in my young mind, I was dead-set against being a part of cadets.

I got to school, dreading it.  I went to the public phone box on the school grounds, a phone in a small room and called Mum, crying on the phone, telling her that I really didn’t want to do this.

In my cadet uniform Form 3 - 1978

In my cadet uniform Form 3 – 1978

While Mum was trying to reassure me that everything would be OK, she did say she’d ring the school and speak with them and tell them I didn’t want to participate.

I returned to the class room and the guy in charge, Mr. Walsh came and saw me.  He asked why I didn’t want to join in.  He told me all my friends would be in the cadets and I’d be the odd one out.  I thought what a cheap shot that was, I’m a teenager – I get peer pressure and I hate my class mates.

I was made to sit down and write an essay to explain my reasoning.

I don’t think I was able to properly articulate my reasons, the first and possibly only line on the page was “I’m against war”.  That was it.

I still don’t really know why I didn’t want to be a part of it.  Perhaps I saw it as too military for my liking.

In any case I succumbed, and joined.  I probably had little choice.  I seem to recall a sort of threat, from the principal, that it was part of the school curriculum and it wasn’t optional.  Which to me meant if you want to be at Monivae, you have to be in cadets.

So I dressed up as expected, in my greens, and pretended to be a solider.

I had Scouts, and didn’t see the need for Cadets, which just seemed to be a scaled down version with none of the same systems.  I really resented guys my age, or a couple of years older yelling at me.  And that’s what it amounted too.  It may have given leadership skills to those picked to be in positions of power, but the reality was that they weren’t really getting leadership skills, they were just feeding their desire to be the boss of me.  They got to yell and be vindicated for their bullying behaviour, because this was pretend Army and that’s how it worked.

The other thing that I really hated was having to give up my lunch breaks to go and practice marching.  Seriously, you want me to march up and down the basketball courts for what reason?  Apart from trying to train me up in fancy synchronised wafting about what did you hope to achieve?

So, I’d wag Cadet days, pretend to be sick, lie to Mum, tell her it wasn’t on.  Of course, I’d have to go sometimes and I hated it.

Every year we had the big Cadet Presentation Day when some big wig from the Army would arrive and we’d do this strange ceremony of passing over the colours.  We would march out onto the oval (hence the reason for lunch time marching) and spend some hours standing there while some wanker walked up and down reviewing a bunch of boys in greens. Complete waste of my Sunday.

I wagged that too.  Mr. Walsh told me that I needed a letter from my mum as to why I didn’t attend.  I couldn’t get one, because I was too scared to ask Mum.  It would reveal the lie I had told.  So instead of having to front that lie, I told Mr. Walsh the truth – that I didn’t want to go, so I didn’t.  He looked me up and down, probably because he couldn’t work out why I wasn’t scared of him, clearly he didn’t know my mother very well.  He smiled, cocked his head on one side and through his good eye, make contact, smiled and told me “You’re strange, Storer”.

That was that, I received no punishment at all for it.

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Dec 06

This is us.  Well, part of us.  The world is so big and hangs like a jewel in the night.

Its says that the photo was taken from a million miles away, but I’m not sure about that.  Everything we are and will ever be is on this globe.  Sure, we’ve flung a couple of objects into deep space, our light and radio transmissions are knocking about the universe, but really, we are self-contained on this planet.  That means we all come from the same place, and we will all die on the same place.  The space is finite.  Maybe that’s why we squabble about it so much.

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From where we stand now as inhabitants on this world, we understand much, but not enough, about where we come from.  How the planet was formed, how life arrived and our expectations about where it will end up.

As a species we are unique, but only because we store our collective history externally. Here I am doing just that, I’m taking my thoughts and recording them outside my mind.  I’ve been doing that for years, and humans have been doing that for eons.  I marvel at that.

I also marvel at soda water – it has bubbles.

Another uniquely human characteristic is the questions:  When will I die?  When will it all end? I don’t think that this thought has ever crossed the mind of a hairy-nose wombat.  Not even as it is rolling under a truck as it tries to cross the road.

Since Hilary of Poitiers, not Clinton, mutter in 365 that the world was about to end there have been plenty of  speculation about the end date.  It would help if someone could check the bottom of the globe for a use by date – currently, as I understand it the world will end in about 5 billion years, so plenty of time to nip down to the supermarket to buy another bottle of soda water.

There’s a list of the end of the world.  Have a look.  I’ll wait.

The thing that should strike you about the list is that they are all wrong.  Every single one of them.

You will end, and the world will end.  The chances of both happening at the same time is very unlikely, and even if it did – will you have time to know?

So, here we are.  On a planet, with a certainty that we will not get off it any time soon, that we will remain here, with our remains.  And yet we can’t help ourselves and fail to see the point of sharing the same space.  This little bit of the lounge room is no more mine than it is yours.  I like to keep it behind closed doors and keep people out, mostly to hide the empty soda bottles, but to keep my things in one place.  The mine concept extends to my suburb, my city, my state, my nation, my world, my universe.  Keep out!

If this is all we have, then what are we doing?  Why do we hold those in need at bay?  Why does my supermarket have bottles of soda water when others don’t?  Why, when we understand that our lives are so short, do we take that of others?

How hard can it be?

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Oct 08

It’s Mental Health week this week.  It seems an opportune moment to press the Publish button on this blog that’s been waiting for a while.

This is from my hand written diary from 1982 and documents the trial I underwent in making the decision to leave school.  Malcolm Fraser was the Prime Minister and What About Me by Moving Pictures was at the top of the charts.

Year 11The entry is written in 1982 about events a year earlier.  I was 17 in 1981, barely coping with my sexuality that I was trying so hard to repress, I don’t mention it directly, but I can see it’s impact in my own words.  I wasn’t letting anyone in to see the real me.  My close friends had left school at the end of Year 10 and Year 11, I was isolated, a few of the students in Year 12 had grown up with me and we’d been through primary and secondary school together – they were my enemies!

It’s clear to me, looking back, that I was struggling with my life, my religion and my sexuality.  I wasn’t in a good place.  The isolation was horrendous and I couldn’t see a way out.  What I didn’t see or understand until some 12 months later is that people really did care, they wanted to help me.  It took an enormous amount of courage for me to reach out and ask for help.

My life did get better.  I have not regretted the decisions I made back then, I’m glad that I went on to bigger and better things.  The adults in my life did want to help me out, they did see my struggles and tried to get me to open up, the real blockage for me was my sexuality.  This internal battle is why I want the world to see the damage that is caused when homophobia isn’t stopped and challenged.  The anguish I went through should not have happened.  It’s hard enough growing up without having an unmentionable and important part of your life that you feel needs to be hidden.

Here’s the entry, I’ve fixed the spelling (apparently I though my peers where piers and I still can’t spell unfortantely without a spell checker) but not changed the wording.

12 Jan 1982

Today I seem to have quite a few entries in the diary – perhaps because I have been neglecting writing things in it.  I think the main reason for this is trying to get motivated.  This attitude seems to be one that is common amongst my peers.  This is I feel is one reason why I failed at having a go at Year 12.  Yet, I, at the moment, don’t regret it.  I often think that had I become motivated in the early stages of ’81 I might have done a lot better than I did, never the less I didn’t, so I have no one else to blame but myself.  My only hope (in fact one of my many hopes) is that I never live to regret my actions.  At the moment this seems unlikely.  As I can’t see into the future it is a hard thing to say it won’t have some repercussions in later life.

School seemed a place that I just didn’t fit.  None of my peers particularly liked me and often was called a poof, suck and many other things.  Such name calling never seemed right to me and I assumed that such things would fizzle out as we (me and my peers) got older and more mature, I think I was kidding myself.1  The name calling continued, perhaps not as much, but it certainly didn’t stop.  I returned to school in Feb. 81 feeling perhaps just a little frightened, like a child and his first day at school, I think I was more frightened of attempting H.S.C., and of course the reaction of my peers2 who I thought might have grown up.  They had a bit, at least the name calling had perhaps stopped a bit.  But NO-ONE bothered to talk to me, unless I spoke to them first, even then a conversation was brief and abrupt.  Then again I didn’t really try to become overly involved with my peers. (As you can see there seems to be contradictions in this entry.  Yet it really was like this – Here are even more contradictions).  But I did try very hard to become a bit more involved in school activities.  I was a quiet sort of force behind the Social Services, in starting that.  I was involved in the school newspaper “The Dolphin” in which I wrote some news and so on.  Nevertheless this didn’t seem to me to be enough to keep me interested in the academic side of school.

The Year 12 retreat3 proved to be a very interesting one.4  I stopped and reflected on my life and what I was doing.5  I think that perhaps I then made a decision to leave school.  The next thing to do was to get enough courage to make a move as there was so much to consider before I made such a decision.  Meanwhile things at school were still pretty useless.  I had enrolled in correspondence school to do music, a subject I enjoyed and one that I looked forward to.  Unfortunately, someone, somewhere, along the line ballsed the whole thing up.  So when my papers did come through I was about five weeks behind.  Trying desperately to catch up, my other school work seemed to be falling behind, as I was more interested in Music.  Finally the pressures of school caught up with me, and depression soon came.  I couldn’t keep up with my fellow students, as I became more and more depressed I began to think about leaving school, a thought which had been on the back of my mind since the start of the year.  I started to miss morning classes because I didn’t want to get out of bed.  I was frightened, (then again I really didn’t try to make an effort) frightened of school because I was behind, frightened of my peers for their harassment.6  I really did become more and more depressed, and I believe that I was on the verge of suicide, something that nobody else could even see, I myself couldn’t see what was happening, and I did want so much to reach out and talk to someone, but the courage to do so was never there so I just closed myself off…. to think.

I lay awake many nights just thinking about what I was going to do, and then finally I set a date to leave school.7  Friday April 3rd 1981 – I wrote in my pocket diary – “THE END – ON THIS DAY I HOPE TO LEAVE SCHOOL FOREVER”

I have no idea when I set that date, but I did, and I missed it.  It was another week before I left school.  Why?  Perhaps I, again, didn’t have the courage, perhaps I wanted another chance, perhaps I was confused about what I wanted or perhaps I don’t know.  Nevertheless I did try and hack it for another week but to no avail, so on Friday April tenth 1981 (exactly seven days after) I went to school to say to the Studies Master “I no longer wish to continue my education” (That’s a quote!)  So Mr. Shaw (my Studies Master) talked to me about it, and finally agreed that he believed I was doing the best thing, which made me feel a whole lot better.  I then realised that there really are people who care, and people who are willing to help.  The trouble was to find the right person.  Mr. Shaw helped me a lot that day.8  He rang the Commonwealth Employment Service and made an appointment for me for two o’clock in the afternoon.  So that was it, after twelve or thirteen years of school I was finished.

I cried as I rode my bike out of the gates of Monivae College, knowing that something that had been a big part of my life for six years was now finished.  Perhaps I cried because I again was frightened of being in the BIG WORLD by myself, perhaps I cried because I was ashamed of myself for being gutless and feeling useless that I couldn’t succeed in life because I was no good at school.  I was also very happy.9

I went home and told the folks that I did have an appointment at the C.E.S. at two, so they helped me prepare.10

So at about five to two I rolled up outside, stood for a minute before walking in.  I asked for the right man, only to discover that no one at all knew about my appointment.  But all were pleasant, and I filled out the right forms applying for the dole, and registering myself us unemployed.

After a discussion the nice young (married) lady suggested that I approach Mr. McNaughton and enquire about a job there as I already had a part-time job there.11  I told Mr. Mac. that I had left school and asked him if he was willing to employ me.  He said he would have to think about it, and told me to come back on Tuesday 14th April 1981 – So I did.

At eleven o’clock I showed up, and Mr. Mac. said that he was willing to employ me but only under the following hours.  Monday to Thursday 12.00 noon till 5.30 p.m.  Fridays 10-12, 1-5, 6-8 (in winter 12-5, 6-9) Saturday’s 5.30 – 8.00, 9-12 noon.

I agreed to these hours, and although I wasn’t crash hot on them, thought it was better than going on the dole.

So on Tuesday 21st of April 1981 I started working at P.R. & L.A. McNaughtons Authorised Newsagents, 150-152 Gray St.  Hamilton.

Here ends my true story of the hassle I had in 1981 – and if you think how long all this took only twelve weeks, and I am pleased of the decisions I made, and I hope that I will never live to regret April 10 1981 – A day which will long live in my memory.

I am grateful to Mr. & Mrs. McNaughton, to Monivae College, and most of all my parents who tried so hard to support me and help me, a job which they did and will always do so well.


 

Sane Australia is a good place to start if my blog raises any issues for you and you’d like some help.

 

  1. I could never understand why people thought I was a ‘poof’ as I wasn’t ‘camp’ in the slightest
  2.  Code for someone might work out that I really am gay
  3. This is mostly a lot of prayers and team building
  4.  I was sleeping in a dorm with 15 other guys, some of them I fancied, this was a real challenge for a 17-year-old gay guy
  5. How could I stop being gay?
  6.  Fear of being outed as gay was a huge concern
  7.  I was begging god to take this ‘poof’ stuff away from me
  8.  We later went on to be friends when his son was in my Cub Pack
  9.  The relief of not being found out caused the tears, the freedom to start over and be free of the name calling made me happy
  10.  This was perhaps the first time my father let me make a decision about my life.  He sat on my bed and told me that if I didn’t want to go to school that was ok, but that I had to get a job.  He then asked what I wanted to do, I told him I wanted to be a teacher, he said I wasn’t smart enough to be a teacher – that was devastating and had long-lasting implications for me.
  11.  It was a Newsagency.  I was doing fill-in paper rounds and working Saturday mornings
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Sep 29

Michael and I have been away for another couple of days in the Grampians.  One of my most favourite places.  A couple of days there feels like a couple of weeks.

One of the things I love about being there is the sheer difference between the macro and the micro.

Michael and I walked part of the way up Mt William, the Grampians’ tallest peak.  We sat for a while and looked across the Mt William Range to the Major Mitchell Plateau and the Serra Range.  An amazing macro view.

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Our senses are filled with the wondrous view.  The warm sun on your faces, the cold wind whistling between the rocks, the smell of eucalyptus trees.  Then if you take the time to look closely you can see the micro.

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You can see the dew clinging on the sun-dew flowers, the droplets glisten in the sunshine.

The micro world is getting ready to burst forth with its array of colours as the weather warms up. The orchids are just starting to bloom and they are always a treat.

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Leopard Orchid

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Waxlip Orchid

Somewhere between the big mountains and the tiny flowers is the wild life.  A treat is the local sulphur-crested cockatoos that visited our room for the chance to nibble on some sunflower kernels.


Nothing like a few seeds to bring in a crowd.  Each cockatoo has its own personality, this one carefully picks up each kernel to eat, another one would gather 4 or 5 at once, yet another would peck at your hand and others would be gentle.  There were some that would approach carefully, headed cocked on one side to keep you in its view and one that jumped on our shoulder to get to the seed.

There are always plenty of birds in the Grampians, I could and do stand, stare, point and admire.

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Kookaburra

As we’re walking down from the Picaninny, I can hear some twigs breaking so I stop and listen carefully, slowly spinning my head until I find a family of Gang-gang cockatoos sitting in a native pine eating the nuts.

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Gang-gang Cockatoo

The highlight of the weekend however was the journey home.  We stopped to take a short walk up Mt Noorat, just out of Terang.  It’s a dormant volcano.  The crater is an inverted cone.  As we walked around the rim a flash of movement caught my eye as I turned my head to the left there was a single flap of wings and I came eye to eye with the wedge-tail eagle.  We seemed to make eye contact and he let out a couple of short squawks as he glided past us.

We couldn’t believe our eyes.  We had seen eagles before, off in the distance.  This was close.  We watched as he flapped and began to circle, keeping one eye us.  It was just amazing.

As he circled back around and dipped back below the crater rim we waited for him to reappear.  However, not everyone was as excited as us for this moment.  As he flew over the tree tops the local magpie clearly thought he was a little too close for comfort.

An aerial battle began.  It was very one-sided, the eagle not really very interested in the magpie.  The magpie would be flapping its wings rapidly and I could hear that swooping noise as it flew towards the eagle.  The eagle on the other hand effortlessly flapped twice and kept just ahead of its attacker.  With an extra burst of flappiness the magpie managed to catch up and it swooped down on the larger bird and the eagle flapped a couple of times and continued on its way seemingly unconcerned.   The magpie continued its assault and saw the bigger bird off.

The presence of this bird of prey had the mountain buzzing.  The magpies began warbling, and as the eagle circled around the local population of birds began calling out their warnings.

Here’s a short video of the battle:

As we continued our drive home we stopped numerous times to take photographs of other birds, Nankeen Kestrel, Brown Falcon, a Black-shouldered Kite

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Nankeen Kestrel

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Brown falcon

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Black-shouldered Kite

Each a delight to look at.

Take some time to flip through Michael’s photos – They are well worth it!

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Sep 11

This column in today’s Australian by Maurice Newman is worthy of a closer examination.

What do Jeff Kennett and Julia Gillard have in common? They both believe in same-sex marriage and that it is far too important to be left to the people to decide.

I’m sure there’s a lot more that they have in common, but ok.

Apparently, a cultural norm that has endured for millennia has become an issue of such urgency and controversy that it can’t even wait 18 months for a plebiscite to decide it.

No, apparently the debate has been raging in earnest for the last decade, but its history goes back much further.  Are you just catching up with the news now?

People of various faiths have been taught throughout history that marriage is between a man and a woman.

As strange as this may sound, people of various faiths now accept that marriage is between two people.  Sometimes they are same gender people, sometimes they are opposite gender and sometimes they are transgendered.

Now these beliefs are pushed by the media as hateful and backward, and those who hold them are bigots. Who knew? There’s a lot of unlearning to be done if traditional religious teachings are to be outlawed.

Apparently some who hold this belief of marriage as only between a man and a woman think that GLBTI people are sinners and need fixing.  I’d suggest your start your unlearning there.

This is not to pass judgment for or against change, but to remark on the increasingly censorious, “we know better” attitude of today’s elites.

Actually, it is to pass judgement.  Because nowhere is anyone saying that you can’t hold on to your traditional thinking.  What we do know is that allowing full participation in marriage will help to reduce the stigma that is wrapped around the relationships of non-heterosexual people while not undermining the relationships of heterosexual people.

We should worry that not only Kennett and Gillard but a large number of federal and state parliamentarians on all sides of politics are opposed to the people making a decision on something that is so fundamental and culturally sensitive. Surely from time to time, on matters of deep social significance, there is much to be said for a plebiscite. A popular mandate will provide an ­endorsement that parliaments can’t provide.

Why are we worried?  We elect politicians to make decisions.  There was no plebiscite to insert clauses into the marriage act and the parliament does not need the endorsement of the people to change it.  The reality is, that regardless of the result, it is only the politicians that get to vote on the change.

The same-sex marriage movement follows what has become a well-trodden path for progressives. Social media commentary attracts interest among progres­sive journalists. Their prejudices are amplified through mainstream outlets that in turn excites more chatter on the internet. And so what may have started as an issue of marginal interest to the majority gathers momentum to become a fully fledged campaign engaging all members of the community, not least the political class. Woe betide anyone who gets in the way.

This is astute of you.  The ‘movement’ has its history well before the advent of the internet.  There has been plenty of people opposed to the concept and they have used the media to its full extent to spread their campaign, and in fact, here you are using the media to do just that.

Those who follow the global warming debate will be particularly familiar with this pattern. Indeed, the abuse and contempt meted out to anyone who strays from that authorised text suggests we are observing a disturbing evolutionary change in public discourse that has sinister undertones for those who believe in freedom of thought and freedom of expression. Rather than encourage discussion, doubt-free progressives ensure that only one voice will be heard.

This is a rather blinkered approach.  Not only is freedom of expression alive and well, it works both ways.  There are plenty of others expressing a counter view on the public discourse, just like you’re doing now.  I have received abuse and contempt from loving christians on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, and I consider myself to be respectful of others points of views.

Perhaps nothing better illustrates the influence of this use of the media than the cancellation of Bjorn Lomborg’s contract with the University of Western Australia because of an unpredicted “pas­sionate and emotional reaction” to his views that the dangers of climate change are overstated. Or Mark Latham’s resignation from Fairfax Media’s business paper, The Australian Financial Review, after pressure from feminists who found his views offensive.

And just perhaps this was the correct response to a misguided person’s use of their skills.  It actually shows that people can and do influence others around them.  Just because you don’t agree with that approach doesn’t mean that it isn’t right.

It doesn’t matter whether the issue is international in scope or local, the approach is the same. The Left saturates the formal and informal communication channels so effectively that it crowds out or suffocates alternative views. It is a triumph for leftist ideology and the culmination of decades of indoctrination from primary class to journalism school. As Yes Minister co-author Antony Jay says of the BBC: “Almost anything that made the world a freer, safer, more prosperous place, we were anti-it.”

Oh rubbish.  The Right has plenty of voices out there – go check Devine, Bolt or Henderson.  Then follow that up with the ACL, the Marriage Alliance and van Gend.

This pretty much sums up the philosophical disposition of the ABC, SBS and the Fairfax organisation, along with The Guardian, Crikey, The Conversation, The Monthly, New Matilda, The Saturday Paper, The Green Left Weekly and sundry others. They represent by far the major media presence in Australia and, from their bully pulpits, they present a common position on most social, economic and political issues.

Maybe, just maybe you’re on the wrong side.  Suddenly, because you’re not getting your way you want to find all those that oppose you, so much so that you even include “The Green Left Weekly and sundry”.  I’m sure that The Conversation, Monthly, New Matilda and the Saturday Paper are all delighted that you think that they represent the major media presence in Australia.  I can’t think of the last time SBS was at the top of the ratings, or that the ABC news service out performed a commercial TV station’s 7.00 p.m. slot.

This makes it difficult for any dissenting voice, let alone a government, that fails to conform immediately to the approved collective narrative. Take Syrian migration, an open-and-shut case. No debate allowed.

I can’t believe that someone who has a column in a national newspaper is so uninformed.  Go check more carefully.

With blind faith in big government and central planning, is it any wonder that the media Left has long decided the Abbott government should serve just one term? It’s smaller government, freer markets and family values policies don’t resonate with today’s hip intelligentsia. Every misstep or policy slip must be emphasised and exaggerated. Successes have to be downplayed or portrayed as mistakes. When it comes to the opposition, best not to look back.

Let’s ignore the fact that Abbott is not well liked, not even by the people who elected him.  There is no blind faith in big government, this is no longer the Menzies’ era.  The electorate will toss out a government that fails to meet its expectations, regardless of what the media thinks.

This is not accidental. The editor-in-chief of The Sydney Morning Herald was found by a Federal Court to have acted with malice against Joe Hockey. Yet he remains in his role. His colleagues follow a similar vindictive line, at times making things up when the facts don’t fit the conclusion. Anonymous sources and false ­assertions are no problem. The ends justify the means.

Have you ever seen the front page of the Telegraph before the last election?  Seriously.  Get a grip.

The ABC, too, is shameless in its partisanship. Its choice of subjects and resort to tame, sometimes obscure “experts” to push a narrative is thoroughly predictable. It is often at odds with its editorial policies, yet it seems to be a consequence-free zone.

Love a good ABC bashing.

The “hate Abbott” propaganda is unrelenting. It is so pervasive that to buy it as advertising is beyond the capacity of most corporations. Because of its universality, and the consistency of the mes­sage, it must affect the electorate.

The “hate Rudd” or “hate Gillard” propaganda was just as unrelenting – did you write about that?

Media guru Marshall McLuhan believed the medium shapes and controls “the scale of human association and action”. As he predicted in The Gutenberg Galaxy, Twitter and Facebook have subtly redefined the medium of communication. When added to the mainstream, they bring ­mutually reinforcing authenticity to the message, warranted or not.

Uh huh – the world changes.  The last thing we want is people influencing others when they have a counter point of view.  Can’t have anyone on the right logging onto Twitter and having to fend off views of the Left.  Heavens no.

While Abbott may not be for turning, too many influential people are. Conformity has attractions. It quarantines leaders and organisations from coercion and allows for a more comfortable life. However, it also results in groupthink, ignorance and poor risk management.

You’re a really good example of just that.  You want ‘groupthink’ your way.

So long as shareholders decline to exercise editorial control, journalists will fill the space and seek to influence public opinion with their interpretation of reality. To quote journalist Brendan O’Neill, “The right thinking and progressives might not realise it yet, but they are the vanguard of a new dark ages.”

Oh yes, that’s right the Murdoch press has never exercised editorial control.

Kennett and Gillard, please note.

What’s the bet that they don’t care?

Maurice Newman is chairman of the Prime Minister’s Business Advisory Council. The views expressed here are his own.

Oh yes, now it all makes sense.

Aug 14

Do you know how much my stomach sinks when I hear talk of a referendum to change the law about marriage.  This isn’t about making it legal for me to marry, this is about the conservative government putting a big barrier into the constitution to prevent marriage equality.

That’s just mean.  Really mean.  To build discrimination into the laws of the land.

That’s what Howard did when he changed the laws in 2004.  He didn’t consult the people.

What about a plebiscite?  You’re kidding me right?  More and more people are saying let’s put it to a vote.  Thanks to everyone who has told me that they’d vote for it – but you do realise, I don’t want you to vote in any such plebiscite.  Why should my right as a gay man be determined by everyone else.

This has been a shocking week.  People rabbiting on about equality, marriage, men and women.  It’s distressing, nasty and completely unneeded.

Finally, Liberal Party folk – I don’t give a fuck if you had a respectful debate in your party room.

You have shown no respect to me, stop saying it.

 

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Aug 11

Sometime ago I was standing in the kitchen, getting ready to go out for my birthday dinner.  I was listening to the radio as the vote on changing the marriage act to include “between a man and a woman” was finishing up.

I felt devastated.

Sometime ago I watched the live vote on TV on a marriage equality bill and saw Prime Minister Gillard cross the floor and vote with the Liberal party to maintain the marriage act as is.

I felt devastated.

Sometime tonight I watched as the now Prime Minister said that the marriage act was not going to change and he hinted that he would hold a referendum to protect the current act.

I feel devastated.

It’s my birthday this week.

All I want is to be allowed to be married to the love of my life.  The man who I share my life with.

Instead I get rejection.

I’m devastated.

I need your help.

 

 

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