Mar 20

It’s Cultural Diversity Week in Victoria. This week-long celebration coincides with the United Nations ‘Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination’ and The Department Of Social Services ‘Harmony Day’ on 21 March.

Every year we have a lunch at work, we have a rich and diverse community.  We all bring along something to share from our country of origin.

This year, I share my mother’s recipe for Weet-Bix cake, a childhood favourite.

Did a video too:

Here’s the details!

weet-bix cake

Ingredients:

4 weet-bix
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cocoa
1 cup coconut (desiccated is probably best)
1½ cups self-raising flour
¼ cup margarine (melted)
and 1 cup of milk.

Crush weet-bix finely, add sugar, cocoa, flour (and coconut), melted margarine and milk
Mix well and press into shallow tin.
Bake 10-12 minutes.  Ice when cold.  180º

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Jun 01

Sometimes I think I live in a cocoon and I feel oblivious to what’s happening around me. I’ve always been good at railing against the world, in my 20’s I  fought city people for the rights of rural people.  City folk still have little comprehension of what its like over the Westgate bridge (and yes, I know some of you come from other directions)  In my 30’s I fought against the evils of religion, and in my 40’s I fought for the rights of gay people.

All these things are very dear to my heart and perhaps core to my being.

Being ‘homosexual’ I’m very aware of how awkward my sexuality makes me feel at times.  Last night a good friend had to remind me that I was in a safe place and it was OK to dance with Michael.  That was pretty amazing.  I think we were the only same-sex couple in the room, it happens a lot.  I am always self-conscious and careful about my actions and can feel quite uncomfortable when Michael wants to touch me or kiss me.

That fear is always there, I’ve heard the word ‘faggot’ more times than I care to recall.  Every time it scares the fuck out of me.  Australia is a pretty safe place and I can keep myself safe by not outwardly showing my sexuality, not touching my husband, not kissing him, not telling him how much I love him out loud.  I can suppress that.  I should, shouldn’t I?  I mean if I hold hands while walking down the St Kilda foreshore on a Sunday night and a bunch of guys follow along behind laughing, and I catch words like ‘homo’ and ‘faggot’ all I have to do is pretend not to be gay and I’ll be ok.

On the outside, if you see Michael and I getting around we just look like a couple of normal, regular blokes.  If you see me alone, you wouldn’t have any idea that I’m gay.  I don’t have any of the stereo-type traits.  Aren’t I lucky.

I am what appears to be to everyone else, a white, middle class Australian.  I fit in.  Mostly.

I continue the fight for equality however, because I’m still not fully fitting in.  I really just want what everyone else wants.  To be happy in my relationship and to express myself in a way that feels innate without living in fear.

Some of you have just read this and are supportive.  Thank you.  Please help me to continue to bring happiness and joy to all, we all have a right to live in an Australia, in a world, free of intolerance and abuse.

There’s another group of Australians that are constantly under threat.

Women.

Last year a work colleague was killed by her husband.  I don’t know the full story, a man killed a woman.  They were in a relationship.  It happens a lot more than we care to think about.

My daughter won’t walk home alone in the dark.

An American man goes on a killing spree because he’s a virgin at 22 and he’s going to make women ‘pay’.

Geoff Shaw in the Victorian state parliament wants to wind back abortion laws.

It feels a lot like misogyny.  It feels a lot like white male privilege.

Really, it doesn’t feel like that, it is misogyny based on white male privilege.

In her excellent article Clementine Ford said:

Why is it that one woman murdered every week in Australia by her partner or ex-partner is not considered a manifestation of the ongoing, ritualised hate crime that specifically targets women? Why must we be further insulted by having our anger explained away as irrational and misplaced? We know what pure, unadulterated misogyny is because we have felt its wrath; yet we’re once again being told our instincts are wrong by people for whom such hatred can never be anything more than theoretical.

Women should be angry and they should be outraged and they should fight back.  But wait – this isn’t just their problem.  It’s my problem.  It’s our problem and its your problem.

I am not a woman and I have no idea what it means to be a woman.  The thought however that women don’t feel safe means is unacceptable.

When I had a recent discussion with family about a taxi company running women only taxis, driven by women for women, some of the men folk thought this was a good idea.  It would keep them safe.  Keep them safe from men who might harm them.  Seriously?  This is our response to male violence?

One woman is murdered every week in Australia by her partner or ex-partner.

One a week.

Yep, violence happens against men too.

“where men were typically assaulted by a stranger, women most often experienced physical assault in the context of domestic violence.”

I’d like to stop all violent behaviour.  I don’t get the need to use violence to get something you want, and like it or not, it’s men who are doing the hitting.  (I should also point out that just because you want something doesn’t mean you get it – sometimes the answer is no and you simply have to respect that answer).

Victoria Police Minister Kim Wells is on to it.

Mr Wells backed the creation of more task forces targeting crimes such as family violence and organised crime, but disputed that this would result in fewer frontline police.

“When people say there’s going to be less police out on the frontline, that’s completely and utterly wrong,” he said.

“This is about putting more police out on the frontline dealing with crimes such as family violence.”

Dealing with…family violence.  Dealing with it?  Come on, it needs more than just dealing with.  Establishing a police task force is  great initiative, but it’s too little too late.  By the time the police are involved it’s already too late.  Ken Lay, Victoria’s Chief Commissioner of Police is on to it too:

Their multiple studies found that 1 in 3 women worldwide had been either physically or sexually assaulted. Linger on that statistic. It’s appalling. Violence against women everywhere is very, very common.

He goes on to say:

Now consider this: when we focus on the victim, there is an implicit suggestion that male violence is just something we should all put up with—that it’s some immovable cloud that hangs over society. Well, I don’t think so.

We’re never going to extinguish all violence. We can’t create a utopia. And I’m not suggesting that parents don’t talk to their children about safety. What I’m saying is that the emphasis on the victim is disproportionate and that’s damaging because men aren’t having hard conversations with each other.

Let me get this straight.  Violence is perpetrated  by men.  Men are causing harm to women because (some) men have a sense of entitlement to take what they want and expect women to provide it.  The top cop in the state says “Violence against women is very common” and “when we focus on the victim”.  We should have no doubt here, men are killing, hitting, bashing, causing harm, however you want to describe it.  One woman a week is dying because of a man.

Women live in fear.  Women have to put up with appalling behaviour of men because men have the privilege and they think they can get away with it, they think it is ok, society gives them approval.  We blame the victim.

Ever heard this sort of talk?

“she’s playing hard to get”

“she was begging for it”

“she started out saying it was ok and I couldn’t stop”

“she’s a bitch”

“she shouldn’t dress like that”

“what does she expect wearing that?”

I find it odd.  I don’t know if it’s because I’m gay, a SNAG (sensitive new age guy), a victim of childhood abuse or still reeling from the shock of my work mate’s violent death.  I think it’s more likely that I just see something in the world that’s not right and it’s gotta stop.

It doesn’t matter whether it’s an appalling statistic of death or someone like Geoff Shaw trying to wind back abortion laws, these are out-and-out attacks on the liberty of women in our society.  The attacks are based purely on their gender.  We are part of this society and we really shouldn’t stand back and watch it happen unchallenged.  This is not something that women alone need to deal with.  It’s something everyone needs to deal with. Its something that men need to address.

A few tweets, a few likes on Facebook or even writing a blog isn’t enough.  Places like my work are doing something positive to make a difference.  I’ll support the excellent work of Family Life.  Early intervention I think is the key.  Whether it’s through innovative programs or simply dads talking to their sons, we all have a role to play.  I’ll do more than write a blog post and re-tweet some words of others.

Just like not being gay makes it hard for people to understand how I feel or what they can do to help, so it is with the way women feel.  I just don’t know what that is like.  I do know that there is a real problem and I want to be part of the solution.  I do know that there are people, women and men, doing fantastic work and they need support.  My support, and your support.

It needs action, I don’t know what that means just now.  I do know that in my words, my conversations with others, I will not denigrate women, I will not explain behaviour based on gender.  Violence is unacceptable.

It needs to stop.

bayside

 

White Ribbon Australia’s campaign to stop violence against women

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Jun 20

2012_web_logoI work for a non-profit organisation.  Family Life.  I’ve been with them for well over ten years now.

When I started blogging and getting involved in social media I made a decision to keep my online world very separate from my working life.  Today however, it’s time to bring the two things together.

I work for Family Life because I believe in what it does.  We are about transforming lives for stronger communities.

There’s a good reason why I work here, as you read this information from the “About Us” on our website, if you know me well, think about my social activism, my core values and the sort of person I am.  It’s a bit of a surprise at just how closely the values of my work place align with my own personal values.

Family Life assists families, children and young people as well as making our society a better place for everyone including the most disadvantaged and vulnerable.

At the heart of our enterprise is the authentic grass-root relationships with our people, the people we help and the people of the community.

Family Life is a centre of research, knowledge and innovation delivering measurable social change and impact.

We contribute to national and international knowledge through our reputation for changing lives by effective connection, care and transformation.

Family Life offers counselling, mediation, mental health services, support and community educational services, outreach to homes, case coordination and advocacy.

I am the first to admit that I’d suck at counselling.  However, I can see the value of it.  I’ve been the recipient of it (not at work!). I have heard the stories from the people I work with that turn people’s lives around.

The story of how we helped reduce the number of police visits to a housing estate by engaging with the community and helping them become leaders, now the police attend not to deal with a crisis but to help cook the breakfast.  The impact we have by going into schools and helping parents become leaders and how that turns around the school community.

This is brilliant work.  I’m often gob smacked by the impact those I work with have on others.  I know it’s not work that I can do.  But, in my own way, I hope that by supporting my colleagues through my ICT, Property and communication skills I might be making their job easier so that they can get on and do the important work that needs doing.

This stuff doesn’t come cheap.  Some of our great programs receive no government funding and we do our best to fund raise to cover the gaps, but that is getting harder.  We need some help to keep programs like Peopleworx alive.  Peopleworx is about helping getting kids working.  We need a bit of a kick to keep the Creating Capable Communities work going.

Can you help?  Can you make that all important tax-deductible donation to assist in this important work?

Visit the website and make a small contribution.  (Or even a large one).  It all helps.

I can say with confidence that we are an organisation that is well run, careful and progressive.  It has a great staff of over 100 people and 350 volunteers, it reaches many thousands of people across Melbourne’s south east offering support and help to those in need.  We really do take our mission seriously:

To create caring, capable communities through innovative, ethical solutions, promoting wellbeing, and responding to the needs of families, children and young people.

Thanks for reading.

https://familylife.com.au/donate/

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