Aug 04

Just last week in Jerusalem, at their annual pride march, a man described as an ultra-orthodox Jew stabbed 6 people.  He was heard to say that he was doing the work of god.

We balance this with the news this week from the Jewish Community Council of Victoria (JCCV) who admitted Keshet, a group for gay Jews into their association.  Showing us that despite religion, you can actually accept people for who they are.

MBThe JCCV decision comes at the end of a very long road of agitation and negotiation by my husband, Michael Barnett.  He has no direct involvement with Keshet, but he has been tirelessly working away in the background.

Several years ago he broke off communication with the JCCV, well, the other way around, they stopped communicating with him, he has been working hard to change opinions, to challenge the status quo and to break through.

The journey for Michael goes back to 1999 when the JCCV decided not to admit Aleph,  another support group for gay Jews, into their ranks.  In fact, not only were they against it there were a number of ultra-orthodox organisations that said some particularly nasty things.

I haven’t known Michael for that long.  In our time together I have watched him take on the JCCV leadership and tell them things that they just didn’t want to hear.  And this journey has not been easy.

I recall sitting at a meeting with Aleph and the JCCV and the response from the JCCV leadership was less than desirable and amounted to Michael being abused and yelled at.

The JCCV then established their own GLBTI Reference Group and froze Michael out.  Despite this he continued to do his work of trying to break down the barriers for young gay Jews, always with the aim of removing those barriers to help reduce the suicide rate for those growing up in the Melbourne Jewish community.

Michael may never be recognised for the job he has done.  You can’t take your finger and trace a map of the 1999 Aleph knock back to the Keshet acceptance.

Keshet becoming an associate of the JCCV is a lot of work by many people, the current JCCV leadership has steered the way and the Keshet team have been fully engaged.

Michael has also been putting in and talking with people along the way, doing what he does so well.  Making connections.

The road to today has been carved by Michael Barnett, others have come along behind him and been able to take advantage of his work.  That’s the way it works.

I and indeed our family have supported Michael in this journey, we’ve been the sounding board, his personal advice centre.  We’ve had the tough conversations, we’ve acknowledged when the good things happen.  We heard his pain, we saw it on a regular basis.  Above all we took this man and loved him.  Because he was right.

The important part here is that finally we have the orthodox part of the JCCV supporting the gay people, accepting them, becoming a better and more whole community.   The same people who opposed this move all those years ago.  This will have an effect on those young questioning people.  Maybe this acceptance will save lives.

My admiration for Michael is boundless.  In the face of adversity he has stayed the path.

I’ve told Michael that he should take pride in this result.  It is his work that delivered this result.

I’m proud of him, the work that he has done.

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May 24

My eyes have been focussed on Ireland as they voted in a referendum to change their constitution to broaden the definition of marriage in that country.

“marriage may be contracted in accordance with law by two persons without distinction as to their sex”

Just so we’re clear, it’s not gay marriage nor is it the right to marry a dog, several hundred other people or a bridge. It’s the right to contract in accordance with the law the right to marry another person.  You could be gay, straight, bisexual, transgendered or just plain and simply you.  All you need is another single person and you can get married.

vote yesThe people said yes.

There has been much celebrating in Ireland and around the world.  It’s historic as it’s the first country to vote on marriage equality.  Of course, there are those that are upset about the result, such as Lyle Shelton – head straight man at the Australian Christian Lobby – scared of anything that isn’t just like him.  He very quickly published a media release to tell everyone else just what we should be thinking!  He sums up his whole approach right there in the headline:

Irish marriage referendum a blow to the rights of children

He seems to ignore the 18 countries where it’s ok to get married and guess what, the kids are ok!  He’s not focussed on the Royal Commission on Institutional sex abuse where the rights of kids have been ignored and destroyed.  Nor has he focussed on the rape and abuse of asylum seekers.  No, no, he in his writings suggest that gay people are somehow causing harm to the rights of children.

The redefinition of marriage and family in Ireland this weekend is a wake-up call to Australians who value the rights of children and freedom of belief.

Yes, it’s a wake up call – the decision has been made by the people.  Not by a few lobbyists who head an outdated religious lobby group.   Of  course, family has not been redefined in Ireland.  Just who is allowed to get married, and even then, it’s not so much as a redefinition, but simply a small adjustment.  Opposite-sex couples are still able to marry.   As to the rights of children, last time I check my two were still ok, as are my nephews and nieces.  No impact at all.  Also, it’s Sunday today, no churches have been harmed so freedom of belief endures.

The Australian Christian Lobby is disappointed that the Irish movement to redefine marriage, funded by $16 million US dollars, has succeeded at a national referendum today.

ACL Managing Director Lyle Shelton said, “Over $16 million US dollars has been provided to organisations to deliver same-sex marriage over a period of 12 years in Ireland.”

Actually Lyle, that would be illegal.  Foreign entities may not fund or donate to Irish referendum campaigns. It is rather naughty of you to suggest it, especially since you seem to ignore the counter claims that the No vote has been funded by extreme right-wing American fundamentalist organisations.

Mr Shelton said despite the result in Ireland, Australia was different and he called on parliamentarians to carefully consider the consequences for children and to freedom of conscience.

“Australia should not pass a law which forces millions of Australians to pretend that a same-sex couple with children is the same thing as a mother and father with children.

Lyle is right – we are different.  Our marriage act can be changed by parliament.  No referendum is needed.  In fact, it was former Prime Minister Howard, ably assisted by the current PM Abbott that changed the marriage act to make it clear that in Australia marriage is between one man and one woman for life.  It’s ok, you can ignore the ‘for life’ bit if you like and get a divorce, but you can’t ignore the man and woman bit.

As to this rather silly notion that the law will force millions – millions I say – to ‘pretend’ that there’s something wrong with the kids of gay couples.  I mean really Lyle.  What are you going on about?  You do know that already there are plenty of couples who aren’t married raising children?  Some of those couples are married overseas but their relationship is not recognised here.  And some of them are same-sex parents.  And guess what – their kids are ok!  Perhaps you should go and meet with some of them to find out how well they’re doing.

“The redefining marriage movement in Ireland made a big effort to downplay the rights and interests of children, which ought to be at centre stage of all public policy.

The No vote played this game very well and made it front and centre of their campaign.  And guess what?  The rest of Ireland saw through it and told them how silly they are.

“Because marriage confers the right to form a family, it will be very difficult to resist further law changes allowing the exploitation of women through commercial surrogacy.

No, marriage does not confer that right.  We have a right to form a family and plenty of people do that without marriage.  Even those who get married may choose not to have children.   Surrogacy is an issue that is quite separate from marriage equality.  In fact, the attempt to wave a red flag about the exploitation of women while talking about marriage equality is a nice attempt at distraction.  The two aren’t connected.

“The only way the benefits of marriage equality can be provided to two men is to reform surrogacy laws so they have open access to donated women’s eggs and through the provision of ‘carrier’ wombs.

Uh huh.  Benefits of marriage equality?  What has this to do with two people getting married?  It would seem Lyle that you are suggesting that the reason people get married is to have children.  I don’t understand what makes you think this is a benefit of marriage as it can and does happen outside marriage.  Surrogacy again is a separate issue not connected with marriage equality.

“While some same-sex couples are already acquiring children through various means of assisted reproductive technology, this does not make severing the primal bond between a child and their mother or father right.

Acquiring?  Are you talking about a couple of women – you know, lesbians?  Nobody acquires children.  We have them.  You also turn a blind eye to those thousands of children already adopted by same-sex and opposite-sex parents.  This is the reality now and has been for a very long time.  Quite frankly Lyle, this is a furphy.

“Marriage equality abolishes in law and culture the idea that, wherever possible, children have a right to both their mother and father.

Perhaps you can point to which law and which culture that says a child has this right.  When you’ve found it then please embark upon a campaign to remove children from single parents, divorced parents and same-sex couples.  Of course, marriage equality does not abolish anything of the sort.

“If gender matters for company boards and jury selection, then how can we deny that it matters for parenting?”

Huh?

Mr Shelton said the freedom of Christian and Islamic schools teaching the truth about gender complementarity in marriage would likely come into question if marriage was redefined.

You forget about the Jewish faith.  And so it should come into question.    You seem to be of the misunderstanding that christian and islamic schools have some sort of truth that places them outside reality.  They don’t.  What you’re saying is that homosexuality is morally wrong according to your ‘truth’.  Time to get out and face the reality that there is nothing wrong with being gay, there is nothing wrong with being straight.  How long must the rest of us sit back and allow you to use your religion to deny reality?  The world isn’t flat anymore Lyle.

People providing services to the wedding industry, who because of conscience declined to participate in a same-sex wedding, would risk being punished under Australia’s anti-discrimination laws.

OK.  So we don’t yet have marriage equality in Australia – so this isn’t really an issue.  However, I would hope that if you are a baker, for example, and your website says that you make wedding cakes, then that’s what you do.  If a couple arrives and you refuse to make a cake because of your conscience, then I’d suggest you are probably in the wrong business and if you are breaking the law then you should be prepared for the consequences.  Are you really saying that religious people are outside the law?  We get to work with lots of people every day and we don’t get to discriminate based on our conscience.  It’s how we get along in life Lyle.  And my suggestion to you is that you take a good hard look at your opposition to gay people getting married.   The thing that is driving your protests is your christian belief.  Let me quote it for you straight from your bible:

If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.

So, if you want to talk about the right to exercise your religious conscience – is this what you mean?

 

 

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Jan 11

Last night Michael and I along with Andrew, a friend, went out for dinner to a lovely Vietnamese restaurant in Fitzroy.

Michael dropped me off and drove off to find a car park.  Andrew was waiting on the street for me.  We greeted each other with a smile and a hello.  I would have like to have kissed him on the cheek.  A small gesture of friendship.  The right way for me to greet him.  But I didn’t.  Nor did I shake his hand, because that just felt too formal and business like.

We three sat at a table and after a time the table next to us was taken by 4 men, clearly a couple of couples out for a similar night of good food and company.

Here we are, a group of homosexual men surrounded by straight people.  All enjoying the company of our friends, eating, drinking, talking, laughing, looking.

handholdingI sit next to Michael because I like to be near to him.  I rarely touch him in public.  When I do there’s a risk analysis that my mind runs through before I reach out and place my hand on his knee or around his shoulder.  I’m looking around me to see potential threats.  Is that bearded bloke behind me with the tattoos of a skull on his elbow ok?  Will that mother over there try to shield her daughter from me?  Will the staff treat me differently?

Then I have to remind myself where I am.  I’m in funky Brunswick Street, Fitzroy.  It’s a pretty happening crowd with all sorts of people from all walks of life.  Surely they’re all gay friendly?  This won’t be an issue for anyone.

Only after that do I reach my arm out and place it around Michael’s shoulder.  Michael responds to my touch by either touching my hand or relaxing into my arm and moving closer to me.  It’s a natural, normal response.  A shared intimacy that I love.  Mind you, it only last a minute when I realise that he’s sitting to my right and my right shoulder aches too much for me to sustain it.  I wonder if I always sit with him to my right as an unthinking way of protecting my perceptions of threats.

Nothing happens, of course, apart from my shoulder aching.

When I walk down the street, I never simply slip my hand into to his.  Holding hands requires me to do another assessment of my surrounds.  I’ve had the looks of both support and scorn from others.  I’ve heard the phrase ‘faggot’ muttered when people pass me by.  That, quite frankly, scares the fuck out of me.

When Michael visits me at work we always kiss each other on the cheek.  What I really want is to be able to do that without thinking about it.  The same way I don’t give a second thought to that goodbye kiss in the morning, or the hello kiss at the end of the day in the safety of our own home.  I work in a wonderful diverse environment, and nobody raises an eyebrow about my sexuality.  Yet, I still do a scan of where we are before and after a kiss.

Why don’t I feel safe in my own country?

The ongoing threat to safety is there for me.  Real or perceived it doesn’t matter.  Years of growing up in a world where gay people have been derided and despised takes it toll.  Reports of gay bashing, discrimination and verbal abuse are presented to me on a daily basis.

I want to walk down the street and hold his hand.

I want to put my arm around him.

More than anything, I want him to sit to my left.

Take 20 minutes now and watch Panti speak at TED in Dublin.

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Oct 11

I love the spring!

The best place to smell the roses is Halls Gap in spring.  Well, smell the wildflowers at least.

Michael and I headed up to the Grampians for a weekend recently to do just that, smell the wildflowers and enjoy the great outdoors.  We left on a Friday night getting there late.

The first thing to strike me is the smell of the trees, then as you step out of the car the amazing array of stars spread across the sky above.

I think as I stop to soak it in how the First People who have lived here for over 10,000 years must have often looked up to the sky and looked in awe at the view.  The black outline of the ridges that gives way to the brilliance of the stars.  The First People called this place Gariwerd.

We started Saturday morning with a run from our motel out past Brambuk, the visitors centre, and back, just about 6 kilometres.  My normal run is several times around the local running track, so to be out in the brilliant sunlight in the cool of the morning surrounded by towering mountains, the smell of eucalypt and the odd mob of kangaroos is a real treat.

From the top of Mt William

From the top of Mt William looking towards Victoria Valley

After our breakfast our first stop is Mt William.  The mountain is the highest peak in the Grampians at 1,167 metres. The mountain reminds me of my youth.  Many times have I climbed to its peak and looked at the fantastic surrounds of the Western District and the Grampians ranges.  It’s pretty easy to get to the starting point for our walk.  You drive.  The fun starts after you get out of the car.  It’s just 2 kilometres to the top on a well paved road, however, it’s steep!

We wind our way up and around the zig-zag road.  The day is beautiful.  Bright sunlight, not too hot.  Just perfect for a slug up a mountain side.  The flora changes as we ascend.  From the tall eucalypts to the stunted bushes of the semi-alpine area.  There’s not much to stop the wind at the top as it whistles through the communications tower when we reach the summit.

It’s a hard slog, but well worth the effort.  We scramble around on the plateau exploring the rocks and taking in the view.   We head southwards towards the Major Mitchell Plateau, this is the one spot in the whole world that I want to return to.  It’s an incredible hike that takes you down the side of Mount William to the valley floor then the steep climb up the side of the MMP.  However, that’s an adventure for another day.  All I can do is look at it for now.

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The Major Mitchell Plateau from the top of Mt William

As we head back down the road to our car we pass a few people walking heading up – stopping to take plenty of photos, including a few of a 3 metre snake that winds its way across the road in front of us.

Once at the car we head on to Jimmy Creek to stop for a coffee, then onto Mafeking, home of the Grampians gold rush in the early 1900’s.  We take a stroll around the old town where once 10,000 people lived.  There’s nothing but bush here now, and a few mine shafts that have been covered up with wire mesh barriers to prevent you falling in.

Sunday morning dawns even brighter than the previous day.  Today is wildflower day.  It’s Halls Gap Annual Wild Flower Show, now into its 75th year.

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A tree with character – click on it to see the larger version

First stop is the Botanic Gardens.  I had no idea that Halls Gap had such a place.  We wander around the gardens and look a the display of wildflowers on show.  Mostly cut flowers put into old ice-cream tins.  A permit is required to pick flowers in the Grampians, so not something you’d wander around the bush doing for a lovely display on the mantlepiece at home.

There’s this fantastic tree in the gardens.  A survivor.  Be sure to click on the image to the right to see the larger size, note the ice cream tin at the foot of the tree.

We wander through the exhibition in the local hall, grab some lunch and then head southwards again to Lake Bellfield.

We stop here, as we often do at Dairy Creek, the spot never disappoints with the local corella  population taking up residence in the trees and making a fuss that only they can do.  There seems to be thousands of the things gathered in the tree-tops.  We stop for some photos.

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Corella’s at Lake Bellfield

As we drive out I’m scanning the sides of the road looking for wild flowers.  While it’s great to see the variety on display in an exhibition, what I really want to see is the real thing, flowers in the wild.

In my mind, looking at wild flowers means grasslands with huge stands of blossoms blowing merrily in the wind.  The reality is quite different.  The flowers here are tiny.  Small delicate blossoms close to the ground and scatter among the dead twigs, leaves and other tiny plants.

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Common Correa (Correa reflexa)

A flash of red and I stop the car.  We get out and wander a few metres into the bush.  There are the flowers, on the floor, barely 10 centimetres high with tiny flowers no larger than a 10¢ coin on the end of their slender stems.  There’s a few here and there and we carefully trod our way through the undergrowth taking great delight in finding the perfect specimen to photograph.

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Pink Fingers Orchid (Caladenia Carnea)

At one point I was crouched down looking at an exquisite orchid  and as I looked up at ground level my eyes were greeted with the wonderful array of flowers close by, a wonderful moment of connection for me with my husband, the ancient ground beneath my feet, the beauty of the orchid forest in front of me and the mountains as the back drop.  The warm sun, gentle breeze, the sounds of the corellas, currawongs,
kookaburras and the occasional magpie.

Another great weekend away in a place that I never tire of visiting.  It gives me a sense of mental renewal to be among such staggering beauty with the man I love and the bush I enjoy and admire.

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Native Daisy

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Sep 05

vows

January 30, 2014
Stoneridge Estate
Queenstown, New Zealand

I ask everyone here today to witness that I Gregory Paul Storer choose you Michael Nathan Barnett to be my legal husband.

Michael, when we started our relationship, my online profile said that I understood my place in the Universe and that I was looking for the right person to share it with.  I said that mental voids need not apply.

You have been able to challenge me, reason with me and help me grow into a different man.  I have changed.  I am now a wonderfully happy person, in love with a wonderfully happy person.  You are no mental void but a man brimming with integrity, honesty, openness and love.

Michael today we face each other, I get to look into your beautiful eyes, watch your wonderful face and tell you why I’m here.

You know that I love you.  You know that despite all the wrongs in our world, all the things outside our control and all the things that we control that I willingly look at you and say you are the one that I want to be with.  You are the one that I choose to spend my time with.

I smile when I see you.  I look for you when you’re not here.  I revel in sharing the outdoors with you.  I delight in our conversations about the world.

We walk through the bush and climb to the top of mountains and look in awe.  These are times together that make my heart go zing.  You make my heart go zing.  It’s doing it right now.

So, today, with my heart going zing, I have surrounded myself with love.  I have taken the most important people in my life and brought them here.  I want the love that surrounds me, the love of my closest brother and sister, the love of my wonderful children, the love of my best friends, I want this love to surround me and I want it to surround you.

You too have brought to this place those you love, you have surrounded yourself with love.

There is here today over 200 years of marriage between our friends.  We are engulfed by love.

I stand before everyone here to say to you that I love you.

I love your passion for others.

I love your sense of justice.

I love your thoroughness.

I love your humour.

I love your integrity.

I want you to be my husband.

I want to share all of my life with you.

I want to explore the world with you at my side.

I want to discover the universe with you.

I choose you to be my husband.

 


You can read the vows Michael said to me here

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Aug 10

Abbey knows that she’s just about at the end of her week-long letter writing campaign to the Prime Minister.  She restates just what it is that she’s looking for.

To Tony Abbott

I only have one more letter to you.

I would absolutely love it if you would

change the law about gay marriage.

from Abbey.

 

letter6

Letter 1 Letter 2 Letter 3 Letter 4  Letter 5 Letter 7

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Jul 23

I have been hearing my voice booming around my home as I watch the TV for an upcoming documentary.

Stop using the rules of your religion to tell me how to live my life

The constant theme I hear from people about why I can’t get in married in Australia is mostly based on their religious view that homosexuality is an abomination.  The attitude from religious fundamentalist is the reason that we don’t yet have marriage equality in Australia.

There is a shift going on, slowly but surely.  I read this article in the Washington Post from a Christian who believes that marriage is between one man and one woman.  David Jolly is a conservative politician, but he gets it:

I believe in a form of limited government that protects personal liberty. To me, that means that the sanctity of one’s marriage should be defined by their faith and by their church, not by their state. Accordingly, I believe it is fully appropriate for a state to recognize both traditional marriage as well as same-sex marriage.

My request is simple and can be echoed by everyone who agrees that personal liberty is important.

Stop using the rules of your religion to tell me how to live my life.

The other objection that I hear a lot is along the lines of ‘think of the children’ and the use of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child which states (amongst a lot of other things that are often ignored)

…the right to know and be cared for by his or her parents.

It’s interesting to note the use of the word parents here is left undefined.  It’s also interesting to note that The Universal Declaration of Human Rights says:

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.

It’s right up there at the top – Article 1.

So get out of my way and let me marry him.

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Jun 12

It’s no secret that I’m in a wonderful relationship.  I tell everyone at every opportunity.  I struggled for ways to show Michael how important he was to me.  I couldn’t find that one thing needed to express my love for him, then I asked him to marry me.  He said yes.

Marriage is an important milestone for us.  We can’t do it in Australia.  Fundamentally we aren’t really changing anything about our relationship, we are simply publicly  expressing the importance of our lives together.

So when I yet again read something from the Australian Christian Lobby that attempts to undermine my relationship with Michael I get a bit upset.  Not just for me but for others who so desperately want to get married.

Lyle Shelton is the Managing Director of the ACL and he writes:

But the Greens, who cite changing the definition of marriage as one of their top priorities (along with euthanasia), are chipping away.

Recently they set up a Senate inquiry into a bill to recognise same-sex marriages conducted overseas.

This is clearly a tactic to put pressure on parliamentarians as part of the Greens’ misguided assault on the rights of  children to have their mum and dad, wherever possible.

Whether or not you think the Greens are misguided is a political judgement, they are doing what they should be doing in a democratically elected parliament, attempting to represent those that voted for them.  However, to suggest that somehow marriage equality is an assault on the rights of children is just insane.  This notion that somehow allowing Michael and me to get married will mean that kids won’t have a mother and father is madness.

The truth is there is no discrimination against same-sex couples in Australia. Keeping marriage between a man and a woman does not change this.

Well, lets test that, I assume Lyle is straight and married to a woman.  I assume that they love each other and the reason that they got married is because they love each other.  Lyle has married the person of his choice.  I love Michael.  I want to marry him.  Michael is my choice for the person I want to marry.  Yet, I’m not permitted under Australian law to do so.  Why not?  It’s because we are both men.  That, to me, sounds like discrimination.  Feels like it too.

But if Australia capitulates on the definition of marriage, our cultural assumption that a child has the right – wherever possible – to her or his biological mother and father, will be lost.

What is it with these guys that they continually place children as the central reason for marriage ignoring all those who decide to either have children out-of-wedlock or not have children at all.  There is no requirement to have children as part of a marriage and there is no requirement to be married to have children.  And just once it’d be great to see Lyle show us just where this right that apparently is a cultural assumption is written down.

A civil and unselfish society puts the rights of children first, no matter how emotive the arguments against this are.

I don’t know which society you live in Lyle, but our society is very selfish.  Sure, there are lots of great things happening and lots of selfless people about, but really, there are poor, hungry, homeless children living amongst us.  You could be working with those families that need support instead of picking on the gays.  The unsaid thing here, however, is this notion that somehow gay people have children as some sort of trophy or possession.  That we only want children so we can somehow show them off.  Nothing is further from the truth.  Every parent I’ve met, regardless of their sexuality, is a selfless parent who would do anything for their children.  Just because you’re gay doesn’t stop that fundamental biological urge to have children and raise them as your own.  It’s part of being human, and mostly our sexuality doesn’t diminish that drive any more than the rest of the population.  That same basic instinct is the same that drives straight couples to start families.

It’s easy to over look the role that Lyle Shelton as the Managing Director of the Australian Christian Lobby plays in this debate.  We need to be taking that into account in all their lobbying.  Although Lyle makes no mention of it, religion is the driving factor here.  He pretends that it’s about the children, because for the ACL that’s the emotive argument.  The way they continue to justify their discrimination is to pretend that it’s not biblically based.  The reality is that the ACL is about forcing their version of Christian ethics on the rest of the population.  Their ethics are orthodox Christian values.  They believe that gay people are sinners, the work of demons and just plain evil.  The Chairman of the ACL, Tony McLellan said this in a report on Lateline in 2012:

TONY MCLELLAN: It’s against the kingdom of God by the Devil. The Devil doesn’t like God and doesn’t like everything God stands for. I would say that people who are trying to change the definition of marriage, which has its roots in Christianity, are obviously trying to deconstruct Christian’s views of what marriage should be. And they well may be motivated by the evil one to do that.

No doubt there are plenty of reasons to deconstruct Christian views in our society.  The churches have used and abused their position when it comes to the well-being of children.  Reality is that religion isn’t going away any time soon.  But then neither am I.  Nor are the hundreds of thousands of gay Australians and our supporters.

The ACL haNo Crossve tried to shift this ‘war’ to the well-being of the children.  For generations children have been raised in a variety of ways, through mothers only, through villages, through dads only, with the use of wet-nurses, adopted parents, orphanages and with both parents.  There should be no doubt in your mind that no matter what happens to marriage, people will continue to breed and raise the off-spring.  The way forward is not to tell us who can and can’t do it, but to support those who want to be parents.  As a society that is surely the way to do it.

The ACL in shifting the debate is being dishonest and disingenuous.  At the root of all their rhetoric only one thing matters to them, bringing about the kingdom of their god.  They honestly believe that it is their duty to push their ethics onto the rest of society because they think they’re right.  If we don’t agree with them we are deemed to be a demon, be influenced by a demon or just plain evil.

We don’t hear that sort of talk from them, it’s not going to win them any support.  The last thing that the ACL really cares about is your children, or the rights of the children.  They only care about their faith.  Nothing else matters.

How selfish of them.

——

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May 12

If that sounds like it’s from a song, you’re right.  Tim Freedman wrote “No Aphrodisiac” in 1997 about his girlfriend who was living in another city at the time, it was considered the breakthrough song of The Whitlams, an Australian rock band formed in the 1990’s.  The line from the song is the title of a new musical with music and lyrics by Freedman.

I have enjoyed his music for many years.  Michael has been an avid fan of The Whitlams and Freedman for just as long, we get along to as many of Tim Freedman’s performances as we can.

Several times now we have seen Freedman at Bennetts Lane in Melbourne, a jazz club.  He has a long playlist, and while he threads a narrative between his songs during his live performances they really aren’t related to each other in any way.

TBAPOY_BannerTruth, beauty and a picture of you is a musical performance based on the lyrics of Freedman and it picks up some of his key songs from The Whitlams.  At first glance it would seem an odd thing to try and weave a story from a bunch of songs from one band that don’t appear to have any obvious connections.

When Michael became aware of the upcoming performance by the Hayes Theatre Company he was eager to see the show.  It soon became obvious that the show wouldn’t be travelling outside of Sydney, so we booked tickets and headed to Sydney for the weekend.

The Hayes Theatre Company provides space for small-scale new musical theatre.  The venue is a rather intimate space for around 120 people.

The first thing that struck me as we went to our seats is just how tiny the performance space is.  Yet the stage was decorated with various props and seemed to be set up for a full-size band!  The lighting was subdued and we sat in eager anticipation amongst the foggy haze.  As the lights dimmed we were treated to a top-notch light and sound show.

The story put together by Alex Broun takes the music of Freedman and weaves a tale of a struggling band from the 90’s.  Three mates form the band and from the outset we get a sense of conflict between them.  We join them at a gig in the pub as they belt out their songs and then we get to join them backstage after the performance as the conflict between them becomes real and palpable.  The story line jumps forward 20 years when Tom, played by Ross Chisari, the son of one of the band members comes to the city to seek out the story of his now dead father.  Tom has idolised his father that he never knew and wants to connect his version of his dad with the real life version.  Who better to do it with than members of the band still alive.   Between the often funny and poignant lines mixed in with the music of Freedman the story takes us on a journey of discovery for Tom, as he tries to discover the truth about his father and the band he was once part of.

At first I wondered whether the story was about The Whitlams and during the intermission we tried to link the story with the facts we knew about the real band.  We gave up and decided that while there might be some vague connections, the story is really just a story of self-discovery for the character Tom and the ‘leader’ of the band Anton (Ian Stenlake).  All the characters in the play have something to find out about themselves, some puzzle between their younger selves of 20 years ago and where they are today.

Freedman’s music tells the tale for us and for the first time we get to hear the music sung by the cast as we join Tom on his journey of love and discovery.  In surprising ways new life is breathed into the music as the lyrics of the songs continue to move the storyline along.  Suddenly classic songs like “Blow up the Pokies” and “Fall For You” take on new meaning as we see them in new scenarios.  The fit between story and lyrics is a near perfect match.

The cast of 5 is joined by a musical ensemble that includes strings and percussion.  Broun’s use of the music and the story moves you forward in a parallel from the 1990’s to the modern-day and we see the band fall apart as Tom’s life seems to fall apart at the same time.  We end up at the top of the building as the life of one of the old band members hangs in the balance.  The cast create a real sense of tension in the theatre as we wait to see how it will work out.

The production is directed by Neil Gooding, the musical director is Andrew Worboys.  It’s based on an idea by Alex Broun and the music and lyrics are by Tim Freedman.

The show has a short season at The Hayes Theatre, 19 Greenknowe Ave, Potts Point from May 9 to June 1 2014.  It was a delight to watch, a good steady musical with a great cast and a fantastic script.

And just as an extra bonus, the night we attended, Tim Freedman sat right in front of us!

 

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Apr 26

I’m a lad of Western Victoria, born and raised in Hamilton in the state’s Western District.

I lived there from 1963 until 1995. Then I moved to Melbourne.

Hamilton is the place I consider home.  Despite my 20 years in the big smoke, I still have a hankering for that small rural town.

This Easter weekend I spent my time in the area, it was a bit different this time around.

I visited those places that were important to me, well, those places that give me fond memories.

McIntyre StreetThe house where all thirteen of us lived is still there. It seems that no work has been done on it in the last twenty years, it’s starting to fall apart.  The gutters are covered in mould and moss, the windows looked dirty, it needs a paint job.  The roses that Mum and Dad pruned every year haven’t been touched in decades.

I thought that our back garden was huge.  It was divided into three areas, the dog’s yard, the vegetable garden and the other area that had a big round garden in it that didn’t really have a name.  Perhaps we just called that the back yard.  The reality in my adult years is that it is just a standard house block.  Many years we spent riding our bikes around the round garden and up the driveway, looking at the birds in the aviary, playing with the dog or getting the chook eggs.

TheTreeIn the dog’s yard was a tree that my brothers and sisters spent many hours in, climbing it and sitting in its branches, looking over the back yard and beyond to Portland Road and the empty paddocks.  Just on the outskirts of town was the abattoir and we had a clear view of the building and often we could hear the sheep carrying on in the paddocks having their last feed and then we were treated to the distinctive smell of death.  From the tree it felt like we could see all the way to Port Fairy.  We had special branches that we sat on that formed little seats for us.

corner fenceWhen I wanted to sneak out of the house, I would go to the rear corner of the vegetable garden and climb the fence, it was the only area that my mum couldn’t see from a window in the house, or so I thought, I doubt I ever really was sneaking, but it sort of gave me that impression.  I’d jump up on the fence, over the stump, land on a rock and be gone.

Once over the fence we could wander down the hill of Skene Street to the creek.  In the early days it wasn’t a concrete path, just a dirt track with a big open gutter.  When the foothpath was finally concreted we built billy carts and raced them down the path, holding on for dear life.  It must have annoyed the crap out of the neighbours.

oldbridgeThe creek, or more accurately, the Grange Burn, at the end of the street is ugly.  Still.  It should have character and charm.  Picnic tables and ducks.  It has a footbridge, the original bridge had some character, when Wags (the dog) ran across it the whole bridge would wobble much to the terror of us small ones.  My dad or older brothers would bounce on the bridge to get it swaying just to give us a fright.

both bridgesThere’s an historic sign there now that says the trees were planted in 1904 to beautify the area, 110 year later I’m still waiting to see the beauty.  From a childhood perspective though, the creek was an escape.  We would spend hours under the willow tree trying to catch the prickly-back yabby.  I spent hours with a fishing line in the water, I think I only ever caught two fish, but plenty of yabbies.  In the 70’s there was talk of beautifying the area again, that saw the Council go through and remove a bunch of bullrushes and Poplar trees, but it never really looked any good.

The other place that I spent my youth was at the local scout camp, it’s still there, called Mallangeeba.  It’s about 20 minutes out of town, close to the Wannon Falls.  I was there when the scouts first started using the site in the early 70’s.  I’m told that we scouts all got on a train at Hamilton and took the journey there and got off at Wannon.  We planted trees and camped the weekend.

I was there when the scouts bought the place from the Church of England.  We had to sell the land that we had a few kilometres down the road and I remember that being quite a fight, people threatening to resign if we sold Reed’s Park.  Years later it doesn’t seem so important.

As a lad we use to camp tMallangeebahere with the 3rd Hamilton Scout Group, I can still sing you the Group song, every now and then I find myself humming it.  It was a Catholic Group and because we were Catholic we had a strong commitment to Mary the Blessed Virgin and mother of God. Known as the BVM.  Every time we went camping we’d take this statue of the BVM with us. At Mallangeeba we’d put her in a tree hollow and say the rosary.  That’s one Our Father and ten Hail Mary’s.  At least the standard 5 decades, interspersed with a Glory Be to the Father and requesting St Francis to pray for us.
As a Leader I too took my young charges to camp at the Wannon.  We’d gather around the flag pole on the parade ground, I’d stretch out my arms and yell “Pack, Pack, Pack, Pack” and a bunch of cubs would respond with “Paaaaaaack” before squatting down at my signal and doing the Grand Howl.

FallsOver the road from the Scout Camp is the Wannon Falls, a spectacular fall when the water is flowing, at the moment however, it’s dry.  When I left in 1995 the Scouts gave me a photograph of the falls in full flood.

As we drove back into town we stopped at the cemetery.  I haven’t been back here since we buried Dad in August 2013.

Mum and DadI’m not sure what I was expecting, but I marched up to the graveside, my parents’ remains are in the same grave.  I read the plaque and stood in quiet contemplation.  There was nothing emotional about it.  I wasn’t talking to them, I wasn’t really remembering anything in particular I was more interested to see who was buried around them.  Some part of me needed to see this final resting place of my parents, the final resting place of my youth and the final resting place of my connection to this Western District home.

As I drove around the town for one last time, it occurred to me why I was here.

Hamilton is where I was born, I went to school, my first job the paper round, then years of working in the newsagency and then the City of Hamilton.  I was here when man landed on the moon, when the local member Malcolm Fraser became Prime Minister, when we won the America’s Cup, when the first Iraq war started.  It all unfolded in Hamilton.

When I was first married I lived in Hamilton, our two children were born here.  We went to play group and kindergarten together before we moved.

I was the City of Hamilton Young Citizen of the Year, received the WF Waters Award for my contribution to Scouting and a Certificate of Merit for Scouting.  I knew people, and they knew me.

Hamilton was my town.

As I drove out the Glenelg Highway back towards Melbourne, with a few tears rolling down my cheek, I realised that I was here to say goodbye.

Home isn’t here any more.

My folks are dead, buried with a bunch of other people I know, just another plaque on the ground.

Now there is no reason to call this home.

Michael and I drive back to Melbourne, we are going back to make a new home for us, the Western District lad has finally left home.mt baimbridge

 

 

*photos by Michael Barnett

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