Nov 15

I’m a survivor of sexual abuse.

It’s a hot topic at the moment.

I have not suffered any sexual abuse at the hands of the catholic church.  I was an altar boy, I attended the catholic Scout Group, I went to St Mary’s primary school and Monivae College secondary school, I was for many years an active member of St Mary’s catholic parish in Hamilton.  In all those years I was never subjected to any thing of a sexual nature by any of those involved in the church.

There was talk at school in the 70’s of priests or brothers being ‘poofters’ and messing around with some of the boarders (I was a day student), there was nothing ever concrete that I recall.  Every now and then a religious type would disappear quickly and rumours would abound.  It wasn’t considered unusual.

The sexual abuse I suffered happened inside my very catholic family.  The church did have a role in how it affected me for many years.  Let me tell you how.

During a recent media conference, Cardinal George Pell, who we are supposed to refer to as His Eminence, said that a priest should never reveal what is said to them during confession.  As the sinful person repenting to the priest you can say anything you like, admit whatever you like, murder, theft, bashing and raping of children, and the priest will never mention that again to anyone.

Confession, which later became known as reconciliation, is a sacrament that the catholics bestow upon the faithful.  It’s the process of declaring your sins to god and having them forgiven and then doing some penance (punishment).  Penance was often saying some prayers, 10 hail marys or a couple of our fathers.  If the sin was really bad then the whole fucking rosary.

During training before making your first confession, the church takes the young person, quite often between 8 and 10, and instructs them on how sin works, how great god is to forgive us those sins and how to beg for that forgiveness.  Sister Rose was my tutor.  She took us grade 3 students (it may have been grade 4, I don’t know) and put the fear of god and eternal damnation into us.  Dying with a sin on your soul would surely see you cast into the pits of hell to burn for all eternity.  Something as simple as chewing gum in class could see you in the company of the devil forever.  I wonder what happened to Paul Kelly, perhaps god forgave him.

There’s a euphoric feeling after confessing.  The church makes sure you feel it.  It’s all set up that way.  You go to church on a Saturday morning, Dad would take us, the confessional boxes are at the back of the church, you sit in the pew, or mostly kneel, praying to god or thinking about how to steal your brother’s records to tape them, and behind you people shuffle along the pews into the confessional only to emerge a few minutes later looking relieved.  There’s  lots of sideways scooting along polished pews and craning of necks to see how many people are before you.

The confessional box is a wooden box with two doors.  You step into your side and it’s dark.  There’s a kneeler, so you kneel.  The priest is on the other side sitting quite comfortably probably with the transistor radio plugged into his ear listening for the scratchings for the races.  There is a wall between you and a small window covered in mesh, so you can’t really see him and he probably can’t really see you.  He flings open the little window, mutters some words in Latin, although it may have been English, and you start with the magic words.

“Bless me father for I have sinned, it has been a month since my last confession and…”

“A month?”

“Yes father”

“That’s a long time and a lot of sinning, you need to come weekly to keep your soul clean”

“Yes father”

“Go on”

“..and my sins are… lying, stealing, picking on my little brother, loosing my temper, being rude”

“Is that all?”

“Yes father”

“How many times did you lie?”

“I don’t know, I lied to mum about breaking a glass”

“I see, and what did you steal?”

“Some chewing gum from the shop”

“And how where you rude?”

“I was rude with my brother”

“And how many times do you lose your temper?”

“All the time, Father”

“Have you missed church?”

“No father”

“So you’ve been every Sunday?”

“Yes father”

“God is pleased,  I absolve you from your sins, in the name of the father and of the son and of the holy spirit.  For your penance say one our father and ten hail marys.  Say the act of contrition”

“Oh my god, I am very sorry that I have sinned against you, because you are so good and with your help I will not sin again”

“Bless you my son, go and sin no more”

Then there’s a few amens or waving of hands as you struggle to stand up in the small box, fiddle with the door knob and walk out into the light.  That’s when the feeling of happiness happens, you’ve just bared your 10-year-old soul to a grumpy old man who said some magic words and all has been forgiven.  You promise yourself to never sin again, that normally lasts at least until the last prayer.

Remember, I’m 10, I lack the ability to properly express myself. I don’t even know the right words to describe the abuse.  The priest is also unprepared for the real story coming from the other side of the box.  Here’s a kid who says that he is rude with his brother and loses his temper all the time.  Did that set your alarm bells ringing?  At least to ask a few more questions or perhaps raise the issue with the child’s parents.

Hindsight is always a wonderful thing, I can see now as an adult that sticking a kid in a dark box and telling him to tell god his most deep secrets is foolhardy.  At the very least the person on the other side of the mesh has a duty of care to ensure the well-being of the child.  I doubt the priest was even aware of the trauma going on in my life, he certainly had no ability to understand the impact of what being rude means.

If I had disclosed the true nature of being rude the priest would have done nothing, you see the secrecy surrounding the confession is absolute.  While the church continues to hide behind that charade young children are being hurt.

It’s the same reason that I object to christians as school chaplains, they’re not counsellors, they’re not qualified to listen to a child bare their soul.

The continued policy of the catholic church to protect their priests by claiming some sort of religious right to withhold important information has to stop.

It’s rot, absolute bullshit, to say that the confessional is sacred.  It’s not.

How much different my life would have been if the caring priest had of asked what I meant by being rude.  How much better would it have been if he’d had a quiet word to my parents.  How much better if he’d alerted an appropriate counsellor to have a chat with me.  How much better if the church had prepared the priest to handle such disclosures appropriately.

For years and years I imagined every time I sinned a black mark being on my soul.  The soul to me was a round disk inside my body, and every time I sinned it was like taking a pencil and blacking out a section.  In my mind I could see my soul and just how black it was.

Walking out of the confessional was like taking an eraser to the soul and making it sparkling again. Being rude was something I thought was my fault because I was admitting the sin, and not being told I wasn’t doing anything wrong, but I was being forgiven.

I think I had it easy.  As traumatic as my experience was I listen to the hurt of those that have been raped and abused by people in the positions of power and I consider myself lucky.

I’ve long ago dealt with the sexual abuse in my life, and I have fully addressed the abuse with the abuser.  My heart goes out to those who now have to struggle with organisations that seek to avoid their responsibilities.

I believe it’s incumbent upon us to support and encourage them.

The royal commission into  child sexual abuse is long overdue.  The likes of the catholic church and other religious establishments to hold special privileges in our democratic state has passed.  They should be held accountable to the full extent of the law and not be permitted to avoid examination or responsibility based on some vague notion that they are somehow only responsible to a deity that would seem to have condoned their shocking behaviour and done nothing to protect innocent children for the vile nasty children rapist and abusers.

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Sep 28

Under the gaze of Robert Menzies we were ushered into Kelly O’Dwyer’s office.  Old Menzies is a bronze bust sitting on a pedestal with an Australian Flag draped next to him.  His cold staring eyes look over Michael and I as we take a seat at the table with Kelly.  I wonder what Menzies would have thought about marriage equality.

Kelly O’Dwyer is the member for Higgins, my local member.  She’s the first sitting politician that I’ve had a formal meeting with since living in the Melbourne.  I recall living in Hamilton and meeting Malcolm Fraser on many occasions.  Fraser was much more aloof.

Our meeting follows on from the recent one we had with Anna Burke, Michael’s local member.  Yes, we have do live together, but we maintain separate residences!  We were keen to hear what Kelly had to say about marriage equality.

The defeat of the marriage equality bill happened recently.  I’d set this meeting up well before that event, so the idea of trying to convince Kelly to vote against her party was no longer my objective.  Instead I wanted to focus on the future and what that would mean.

I told Kelly about the death of my mother.  How in my family of eleven each of the wives or husbands of my siblings was mentioned.  Except for Michael.  It was decided that that was too much for the sweet little country town to bear.  So his name wasn’t tagged on the end of mine.  That hurt.  My relationship with Michael is every bit as real as the relationship that Daryl has with Lee, that Larry has with Diane, that David has with Robyn, that Michael has with Margie, that Shane has with Mary-Lou, that Helen(deceased) had with Rodney, that Bronwyn has with Derek, that Angela has with Chris, that Janine had with John and that Craig has with Cheryl.  It stood out like dogs balls.  My best mate Geoff, sitting next to Michael in the church quietly reassured Michael that he too was part of the family and equally as important.  It just didn’t feel like it at the time.

Marriage would at least give some dignity to the situation, there would be no escaping the fact that the Storer family has a gay member.

Kelly talked about how any sort of social change needs community consensus. I’m not sure why we need a consensus when it comes to equality and rights, it seems to me that it’s pretty clear-cut.  She describes the push for marriage equality as complex.  Although I fail to see how it’s complex.

Kelly is also very keen on civil unions, she thinks that is a stepping stone and we spent some time talking about that concept.  I don’t agree with her, I think civil unions is an appalling idea and I’d never be happy with that concept.  I’m not about to accept that civil unions grants anything like equal rights.

We talked about family life, the importance of Michael’s family and how I fit into that, how Michael works with my family.  We spoke about the families we know and gave Kelly photographs of a couple of mums and their children and a couple of dads and their children.  Those families are every bit as functional as all other families and to deny them the right to marry is a travesty.

Kelly seemed pretty clear that she didn’t think a vote will get up again.  She is convinced that with some internal lobbying that civil unions would be accepted.  She indicated that she would be talking to her Liberal colleagues and trying to get their support.

When asked if marriage equality came before the parliament would she vote for it, she wouldn’t give an answer.  In fact, let me cut and paste her response from a recent Q&A question as it’s very close to our discussion:

TONY JONES: So can I just interrupt you there. Does that mean if you had the free choice, you would have voted no?

KELLY O’DWYER: Well, look, on the issue of the conscience vote, I think Tanya makes a very interesting point because the Labor Party made much of the fact that they had a conscience vote on this issue. They only decided, though, to have a conscience vote on this issue when it was very apparent that the party platform would change. The Labor Party platform binds parliamentarians which would have meant that all of the Labor parliamentarians would have actually have to have…

TONY JONES: Okay, but what would your conscience have dictated to you personally?

KELLY O’DWYER: No. No. No. But this is an important point, though, Tony, because…

TONY JONES: If you had a conscience vote, what would you have voted?

KELLY O’DWYER: But, Tony, if you can just let me finish this one point because it is important. It would have meant, of course, that all of the Labor members of parliament would have actually voted for a change to the Marriage Act if they had been bound but the Prime Minister decided to be a little bit tricky and she decided to actually make a change and so she said that on this policy issue they would vote differently. Now, we made a commitment, as I said. Going into the next election, we will no doubt talk about this issue again. Civil unions may come up. I don’t know if that’s something that the Labor Party is going to be bringing forward. I suspect that across the…

TONY JONES: Okay, but just to bring you, because we haven’t got a lot of time – just to bring you to the point that I asked, if you had a conscience vote yourself, would you ever voted yes or no?

KELLY O’DWYER: Well, I mean, it’s a hypothetical question. I have been on the record…

TONY JONES: Your conscience is a hypothetical?

KELLY O’DWYER: No. No. No. It’s a hypothetical question as to how I would have voted. I mean we took a position as a party on this issue.

TONY JONES: Would you be prepared to reveal publicly what your position is?

KELLY O’DWYER: Well, I have publicly stated my support for civil unions and that’s my public position.

And that is indeed her public position.

Kelly makes all the right noises, she acknowledges our position but refuses to budge from hers.  She appears to be supportive of marriage equality but won’t give her unqualified support.  She is prepared to support the hypothetical notion of civil unions but not the hypothetical notion of marriage equality.

This is the political game.  Keep the constituents happy, make it sound like you empathise and concur with them but give them nothing solid.

It wasn’t a bad meeting, Kelly is a professional politician.  Good humoured, determined and respectful.

It’s a pity that her respect doesn’t extend to telling us exactly where she stands on marriage equality instead of taking the safe ground of civil unions.


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Sep 22

What a week I’ve had.  What a month it’s been.  It’s Saturday morning and I’m sitting out on the deck thinking about all that’s happened.  I wonder just how people survive at times.  There is such a swirl of feelings and emotions going on all the time for me as I struggle to make sense of all that’s happening.

A hectic week at work as I pick up the pieces after a couple of weeks off.  I’m at the pointy end of a couple of major projects, which is a great feeling.  All the planning and research that at times is tedious and difficult finally pays off and I’m at a stage of making in one project, a really well-informed decision.  That’s good. The addition of another contract has set off a whole raft of events that needs my focus, so at the end of a mammoth work week my head is spinning. It’s not so much daunting, it’s more along the lines of mixing in the new project with the old and giving them all the right attention.

In my personal life I’m listening to and supporting the mother of my children as she continues to live with her terminal cancer.  It’s a challenge. I’ll do what’s needed to take care of her.  Nobody deserves such a rough end.  When it’s someone you love and care about, that makes it all the more difficult.

After four years, Michael and I continue to co-habit in a wonderful life together, we at times struggle with each other, but somewhere within us is a deep love and respect for each other.  It helps us sort out our relationship.  It also helps that he has gorgeous brown eyes and a winning smile.

Looking back a bit further, I’ve reeled in horror at the outrageous demonisation of my sexuality and therefore me by Wallace at the ACL, and then heard that reinforced by Jensen on Q&A – it’s been really demoralising to hear such vile words repeated often in the media, making it sound like all people who are gay are a health risk, not just to themselves, but to society at large.  The underlying and unsaid meaning coming from the likes of Wallace and Jensen is that gay people are not worthy of life.  Certainly not worthy of any recognition in our society.

It was heart warming to see the PM pull out of her keynote speech to the ACL, Gillard is against marriage equality, so for her to withdraw her support from the ACL was gratifying and appeared to be supportive.  I took it as a glimmer of hope.

The other big story of course, is the vote in both houses of the Australian Parliament.  It saw two marriage equality bills soundly defeated.  Further cementing the feeling of second class citizen status in my own country.  Somehow my relationship isn’t worthy of recognition.

What a week.

I know my worth as a person, I get on with my job and I’m pretty sure I’m a valued and respected member of the team at work.  I know that my adult children love me and we enjoy each others company.  I have a good network of friends that seek me out.  My partner (but not husband) loves me and I revel in our relationship.  Overall, I’m a fairly well-adjusted person, contributing to the lives of those around me, contributing to my society and to the broader Australian community.

The marriage equality debates in the Parliament have had a profound effect on me.  It’s not that I expected a different result. I don’t think there were too many people who thought that there would be any change.  But I did have hope.  It was with eager anticipation that I watched the House of Representative vote on the legislation.  There was always an outside chance I thought, that our elected members would actually do the right thing on this.

I caught up with the speeches in the Senate at the end of each day, watching the senators and reading their words. There were some wonderful supportive thoughts.  But there were also some ugly speeches that showed an underlying contempt for homosexuals and where in some people’s minds gay people belong.  Cory Bernardi’s speech is an example of where his thinking is, and typical of the religious response to marriage equality.  In his speech he links homosexuality with bestiality.  In the bible there is a passage that links homosexuality with bestiality and calls it an abomination and a perversion.  Religion over the years has been unable to see past that.  To the minds of many believers that puts the two issues on the same level.  Bernardi’s attempts to suggest he has been taken out of context is to overlook the basis for his slippery slope argument.  The link has been long-established and religion is to blame.  It’s why they always look like a rabbit caught in the headlights when somebody takes them to task about it.  Just below their surprise you can see the internal cogs slipping as they try to understand why nobody else has read that passage in the bible.

Then there are the detestable words of Senator Boswell that should upset all men and women, regardless of sexuality.

Same-sex marriage says that a mother or a father does not matter to a child—and it does. Two mothers or two fathers cannot raise a child properly. Who takes a boy to football? Who tells him what is right from wrong? What does he do—go along with the two mums? How does he go camping and fishing? Yes, there might be some attempt by one of the mothers to fill in as a father figure but it will not work. It is defying nature. And what about a young girl changing from a teenager into a young woman? Is it fair to say to her, ‘You don’t have a mother; your mother can’t take you shopping’ or to not be able to help her understand how her body is changing? What are we trying to do here? Why are we trying to defy what has been the right thing for hundreds of thousands of years? What suddenly gives us the inspiration to think that we can have gay marriage and it will not affect anyone?

 As I look back at my child-raising days, I’ve been there for my daughter through her changing from ‘a young girl’ and helped her understand how her body works.  I did it without being a woman!
The words of Senator Brandis make me wonder how he lives inside his head:
discrimination against people on the grounds of their sexuality is always wrong, but it does not follow from that proposition that every institution in society, for that reason, must be redefined.
 On one hand he acknowledges that discrimination is wrong, but on the other it’s ok.
Senator Joyce from Queensland has some very odd views, way outside my level of understanding of conservatism.  He says this in his speech:
 If you want to be married, because of the requirements of nature, it involves a male and a female connection for the hope and possibility of having children. You cannot do it with a male and a male. You cannot do it with a female and a female. It is just not possible. The institution of marriage stands ultimately behind the reality of nature. It does not matter what piece of legislation we pass; you cannot change nature. You cannot change that reality. But what we can do is go down a path of a new form of social engineering—about which we really have no idea of the consequences
 Well, marriage is a human construct, nature has no requirements as such.  Gay couples also enjoy a connection for the hope of having children.  And yes, two men or two women can have children, it’s true that they can’t physically conceive them as a couple, but they can and they do have children.  Always have, and will continue to find ways to do it.  Marriage has nothing to do with nature and everything to do with humans setting their own rules.  It’s our rule.  His underlying notion is that to allow gay people to have a family would mean that every family would have to have same-sex parents at its head.  What a crock.  Nothing changes as the Australian society already has same-sex couples raising children in marriage like families.  It’s a reality, and last time I checked, reality was not on the blink.

I didn’t see the Senate vote, but I did watch the vote in the House of Reps.  It’s not every day you see Tony Abbott and Julia Gillard vote together.  I was stunned to see most of the Labor Party stand up and move to the other side of the chamber to vote with the Liberal Party to stop this bill.  Despite the Labor Party having a party platform that is in support of marriage equality, most of them crossed the floor and voted with the Liberal Party.

The image of Julia Gillard and most of her cabinet sitting there with the Opposition, smiling and talking, laughing will stick with me. Here I am watching my Parliament take a decision about my rights as a human and they are laughing.  It seem to lack any sort of dignity.  It was simply another function to perform without any real understanding of the impact that it would have on the people who it affects.

All the words of support and the standing up for us against the likes of Jensen, the ACL and Senator Bernadi are wiped away in a few minutes.   All the talk about stopping discrimination and accepting gay people vanish.

The majority rules.  They’re happy that they’ve done what they can, passed 80 odd bits of legislation to correct some discrimination, you know, stuff around property rights, medical rights, financial rights. Purely functional things. But they can’t vote in favour of the most fundamental right, that of love.  That of marriage.

It’s been a couple of sad days.

I feel gutted, cheated and demoralised.  I mean that.

I am determined and I won’t give up.

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Sep 21

Senator Conchetta Fierravanti-Wells gave this speech in the Senate on the issue of same-sex marriage on Wednesday, 19 September 2012.

In this blog, guest blogger, Guy Curtis looks at her speech and takes the speech apart.

I rise today to speak on the Marriage Amendment Bill (No. 2) 2012. Marriage is defined as ‘the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life’. This was the definition 22 years ago when I married my husband, John, and has been the definition of marriage throughout the history of humanity over the ages.

Well no, a couple of Roman Emperors are reported to have married men, and another ordered the death of people in same-sex marriages, which implies they existed at least a while ago in the past. But, more to the point, there are more than a dozen countries now that define marriage differently and they did it in the last few years, that’s part of the history of humanity now. Moreover, what CF-W is saying here is a fallacy – either appeal to antiquity, that things are right because they are old, or the naturalistic fallacy, that things should be how they are. Either reading means this is not a logical argument.

I reject the assertion that those who argue for the retention of the definition of marriage are somehow homophobic, bigoted or are opposing equal rights. It is about maintaining a tradition—a tradition that has been the bedrock of our communities, our society and the world as we know it.

On 14 August, we celebrated National Marriage Day. I am indebted to the organisers for the red and gold rosettes for us to wear on the day, but I also received a bookmark with the following Chinese proverb: ‘When there is love in a marriage,

This is the premise for the rest of the argument in the proverb. If this is to be taken (a) as true and (b) as an argument against same-sex marriage, then the implication is that people in same-sex relationships do not love each other. Those I know in them would disagree.

there is harmony in the home; when there is harmony in the home, there is contentment in the community; when there is contentment in the community, there is prosperity in the nation; when there is prosperity in the nation, there is peace in the world.’

Retention of the definition of marriage as between a man and a woman is also about protecting the rights of the silent majority

Who are particularly silent given that they are the MINORITY in every poll on same sex marriage in the past few years. But nice tactic, you can claim support for any position by saying the minority are silent because when the polls are against you, just claim that the silent majority aren’t speaking up. You could make an irrefutable case for any rubbish by claiming most people agree but won’t say so.

and that of the institutions that have made this great nation the wonderful land in which to live. It is widely accepted

Another logical fallacy – appeal to popular opinion. Made worse, of course, by the fact that popular opinion is actually running in favour of, not against, same-sex marriage.

in the Australian community that there are certain customs and practices in any society that are unique to certain relationships. To acknowledge this does not amount to discrimination. The silent majority in this country does not support this change

I’ve made my point, this is just silly.

Indeed, there are many people who are in a gay relationships who themselves do not support gay marriage.

Name five.

Their views have also been drowned out by the vocal gay marriage minority

Sleight of hand here, she’s gone from claiming some gays are against gay marriage to claiming that gays in favour of gay marriage are a minority, not just of the population, but of homosexual people per se.

Marriage is not only a civil union but has also always been traditionally a religious ceremony

Yes, but the government’s role in it is to provide the legal recognition not the religious morality. Section 116 of the constitution seems to have slipped by the Senator entirely. And, just because religious people believe their god or gods prohibit them from marrying someone of the same sex, does this mean they prohibit people who do not follow their faith from doing the same?

whether in the Christian, Jewish, Islamic, Hindu or any other faith. It is a religious act that glorifies the significant union between a man and a woman. An important part of the marriage journey is the public vows that a man and a woman make to each other before their God which commits them to each other for the rest of their natural lives.

Sorry, but again, you are not legislating religious observance or religious rules. The constitution forbids this in section 116. But, while we’re on it, how about you do the one thing in human history that no one else has been able to and prove that God exists. If you want me to accept your argument, prove God exists, otherwise, don’t base an argument on the existence of God because it is begging the question. Oh! That’s another fallacy.

In other parts of the world, we clearly see how amending the definition of marriage has opened the backdoor to attacks on religious freedoms by challenging the churches and other religious institutions such that they would be unable to act with neither their conscience nor their religious teachings and trouncing thousand-year-old beliefs.

You mean you’d like bigots to be able to continue to freely practice their bigotry. Ok then, make sure that amendment is in the legislation, don’t reject the legislation altogether. I should note also that you have said that the problem is a “backdoor” consequence of a change to the legislation. This is the slippery slope fallacy that your good mate Senator Bernadi used to “argue” (and I use the term loosely) that same-sex marriage would lead to polygamy and human-animal relationships potentially getting recognition.

For example, just recently in Denmark, where same-sex marriage was legalised only earlier this year, the Church of Denmark was forced to make its churches and priests available to perform same-sex weddings. Marriage celebrants, pastors and even service providers such as photographers have suffered legal actions and fines for not approving same-sex marriage.

So if same-sex marriage is legal, or discrimination illegal, you think it is a bad thing that people can’t still discriminate. Tell me Senator, where do you stand on the Racial and Sexual Discrimination laws in Australia?’

This is not about equality; it is about the tearing down of our social fabric.

I doubt that most people who are pushing these amendments are overly religious

Are you saying that this makes them bad people?  That seems to be the implication. Do I have to tell you about Bill Gates and Warren Buffett – atheists who have pledged over 100 billion to philanthropy? Do I need to tell you that atheists are under represented, as a proportion of the population, in US jails?

or even intend on staying in a monogamous relationship

You’re saying that some of the people who support others’ choice to get married if they want to may not want to be married or may not want to be monogamous themselves. So what? I can argue for the rights of asylum seekers without, myself, wanting to seek asylum anywhere. The specific wants of the person making the argument have little bearing on the validity of the argument. In fact, however, I would turn your point around and say this: Aren’t people who argue altruistically for the wants or other people with no self-interest in the outcome taking a higher moral position than you?

which begs the question: why do they want to get ‘married’

I’m married and not only am I not “overly religious” I’m not religious at all. Marriage was something that I wanted to do to publically declare my love for my partner, now wife, and for convenience and protection under the law for our assets, joint living arrangements, and children.

The chattering classes do not want to concede that, by amending the Marriage Act, they are in fact denying the rights

Me drinking a beer on my couch doesn’t make your choice to drink one too any less valid.

of the silent majority

Not this li(n)e again?

who want to uphold the sanctity and true meaning of marriage and who want to keep some tradition going in a world that seems to be forever throwing out the old and bringing in the new.

Just being afraid of change isn’t an argument.

In terms of equal rights there is no law under the Commonwealth that discriminates against homosexuals

What about the Marriage Act?

It was the Howard government that substantially removed

But given that Rudd/Gillard had to go on with the job means it wasn’t done fully. This is petty politicking to claim a victory for your side on an issue where you left the job incomplete.

the discriminatory treatment in federal laws as it applied to all interdependent relationships. The previous government took the attitude of looking at interdependent relationships and discrimination across different areas. The previous government was committed to the elimination of discrimination against same-sex couples, and it became part of a program of the elimination of discrimination in areas such as superannuation, migration and Defence Force entitlements. This was followed up by further legislation in 2008

Ok, you’ve acknowledged it the contribution of the other side, with the petty semantics of not crediting it to the people who did it.

which the coalition supported.

These wide-ranging changes now put those in a heterosexual relationship and those in a homosexual relationship on an equal platform

Except for in marriage, the issue that was before you in the Senate.

This is real equality before the law

Except for in marriage, the issue that was before you in the Senate.

There is no discrimination

Except for in marriage, the issue that was before you in the Senate.

when it comes to voting rights or salary. It is worth noting that both the UN Human Rights Committee and the European Court of Human Rights have rejected that same-sex marriage is a human right.

Because these organisations have to deal with a range or nations, some of which will not give their assent to this. However, Australia, as a sovereign nation, can choose to be less discriminatory and/or more progressive if we wish.

This is also a question of trust with the Australian people. Like the carbon tax, this government has no mandate to change the Marriage Act to include same-sex couples.

I agree with this.  Julia Gillard went to the last election saying she would not support same-sex marriage and she has been consistent. In fairness, governments often try to keep their promises, and sometimes circumstances change when in office that prevents this. The minority government status meant that the government had to change from wanting an emissions trading scheme to having a period of fixed carbon pricing preceding its introduction in order to get this through parliament. This situation was not helped in any way by Tony Abbott’s refusal to take part in the relevant negotiations. The Liberals could have held Labor to its ETS promise and no carbon tax position had they played ball, but I digress.

Before the last federal election, both the ALP and the coalition promised that they would not make changes to the definition of marriage in the Marriage Act. In fact, the coalition has long been opposed to changes to Commonwealth law that could diminish the institution of marriage. This position was represented to the Australian electorate at the 2010, 2007 and 2004 federal elections. Therefore, it was a firm government election promise to keep marriage in its traditional form. In fact, Prime Minister Julia Gillard, on at least eight occasions before the last federal election, declared ALP support for the current definition of marriage. Julia Gillard also said that the ALP would not change its position during the life of the current parliament. I have received thousands of letters and emails from constituents who do not want me to support these changes or any other changes to the Marriage Act. These far outweigh those who have written to me supporting the changes.

Probably because your position is on the record and they don’t see much hope of changing your mind.

Same-sex marriage is a 10th order issue. It galls many in the Illawarra, where I was born and where my electorate office is located, to see their local member for Throsby, Stephen Jones, championing this cause above more pressing issues for his constituents

Well no. It may have escaped your attention, or be beyond your personal capabilities, but other people can deal with multiple issues at the same time.

Throsby is one of my patron seats and, just one year since the announcement of the carbon tax, more than 1,000 workers from BlueScope Steel will lose their jobs in one of our major employment sectors—manufacturing.

First, what has that got to do with same-sex marriage? Second, social and emotional support in marriage is helpful when people face job loss, don’t you think some gay steel workers would like to be able to get married too? Third, is this another example of the Liberal party claiming that job losses not attributed by the company to the carbon tax are because of the carbon tax? My recollection was that the exchange rate was the biggest factor in this business’s decision.

BlueScope is located in Throsby, as are many of the workers who are losing their jobs. More than 1,400 people in the region have lost their jobs since September 2011 and home repossessions had gone up by 60 per cent.

And wouldn’t it be nice to give the wedding industry a boost by allowing same-sex couples to get married? Some of the people needing jobs could get them in photography, florists, catering, limo hire, and the like.

With all this happening, all the member for Throsby can think about is same-sex marriage

CF-W can apparently read minds. She should nominate for the Australian Skeptics’ challenge for proof of paranormal phenomena – there’s a big wad of cash in it for her if she’s successful.

This is not an issue of concern to the people of Throsby or the Illawarra in general.

Polls say otherwise. It is among many issues that people have an opinion on. Really? You can’t deal with more than one at a time?

This is an area which is doing it tough and it galls many in the area to see their local member focussing on this 10th order issue. I ask you, Stephen Jones: how will introducing same-sex marriage give people jobs

I just mentioned the marriage industry.

save them from losing their homes

By giving them jobs.

or lower the cost of living?

Does anyone argue that it will have any CPI impact? There are lots of cost-of-living measures rolling through in the past couple of terms of government, like the tripling of the tax-free threshold which CF-W’s party opposed.

How will same-sex marriage put the budget back into surplus?

I was unaware that anyone argues it would. The budget measures do that, they’ve been debated already. Were you there for that Senator or has it just slipped your mind?

It will do none of these things. At the present time, Australia is not in a position to be discussing an emotive, and I believe destructive, subject such as this one, when there are much more pressing issues that need to be addressed urgently.

Again, parliaments and governments can deal with multiple issues. If you believe it’s a waste of time, why waste further time making a speech on it? Why not cut your speakers list and just vote for or against so you can get on with what you feel is more important business? Oh, I know why, because you want to argue against same sex marriage and because you can’t find good arguments you’re going with this bad one.

One must ask: where will this all end? You do not have to look very far to find the answer. There are already legal challenges in Canada and Utah that have been brought forward by polygamists who claim they have a right to polygamous marriage, and polyamorous activists are relentlessly campaigning for legal recognition of their relationships.

Hang on, didn’t your buddy Cory get in trouble for such statements? If your point about same-sex marriage leading to polygamy was correct we’d see polygamy and same-sex marriage both approved of legally where the other is approved of, right? However, the facts are against this – same-sex marriage is illegal in countries where polygamy is legal and polygamy is illegal in countries where same-sex marriage is legal. Polygamy is legal in Saudi Arabia. How do they feel about homosexuality you ask? It is punishable by death there. So, not only is this argument based on a logical fallacy of the slippery slope it doesn’t accord with facts.

These relationships have already been given legal status in the Netherlands. Former High Court Justice Michael Kirby has said, ‘We do not know what the future decades may hold in terms of relationships’, and he has commented that polyamorous relationships are ‘matters for the future’. This is the thin edge of the wedge

This is the slippery slope fallacy.

Even the Greens ACT convenor, Simon Copland, has criticised Sarah Hanson-Young’s stance that marriage should be limited to only two people.

You were debating a Bill on same-sex marriage not polygamy. The Slippery slope argument NEVER holds up in a parliamentary debate because the fact is that the parliament can limit an issue in legislation in any way they want and if it is really a slope parliament can apply the brakes at any point they want.

Most Australians would find these concepts repugnant, abhorrent and destructive to our social fabric.

Are you talking about your own speech above or Senator Bernadi’s? Apart from him mentioning “creatures” and you not, they are barely distinguishable.

But this is where we are heading.

No slippery slope, bad slippery slope!’

I therefore support the sanctity and uniqueness of marriage in its current form, and I acknowledge the very important role that it plays in Australia. Marriage is a very important institution not only for the traditional Anglo-Saxon culture in this country

Aren’t you Italian by ethnicity?

but also for so many others in our culturally diverse community

So you’re saying it is important to protect and continue the discriminatory perspectives of a range of cultures not just one. Again, it’s an argument to popularity fallacy, and one that loses because the polls of individuals (who vote) rather than groups (who don’t) say the opposite!

I know that the chattering classes do not share that view and constantly denigrate those who do.

I’m noting that your argument is shithouse but I’m not doing too much particular denigration of you personally. Still, if you want your ideas to be respected, try having respectable ideas, and if you don’t want your ideas ridiculed don’t subscribe to ridiculous ideas.

As I have said, the silent majority in this country agree

As I have said, this “silent majority” line is a crock. If I say the silent majority favours same-sex marriage what’s the response? No they don’t you say! But they are silent, I say.

about the sanctity of marriage and the sanctity of what is the traditional family.

I will conclude with a time-old African proverb that simply and profoundly states: ‘Don’t tear down a fence until you know why it was put up

Marriage was instituted for many reasons throughout history. Academics has cleverly concealed very detailed analysis of this question in papery things called books which are held in large publicly-accessible things called libraries.

Marriage is a unique institution in our society and it is one that we as senators and members of the Australian parliament should do everything in our power to protect and to ensure that it is supported,

Subtext: Except for letting two consenting adults who want to do it do it because of their particular match of gender.

encouraged and backed up in every way, shape and form. I will be voting against this bill

These are mutually contradictory statements.

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Sep 14

There’s been a lot of talking this week about Catherine Deveny and what she said on Q and A on Monday night.  There’s plenty of information out there.  I’d like to spend some time looking at what Peter Jensen said.

Jensen who has the title of Archbishop of Sydney, was a quietly speaking, smiling man with what seemed a sunny disposition.  It’s the same sort of smug attitude I’ve noticed on others who think they’re right and have nothing to worry about.

I’ve taken the following from the transcript of Q&A.

This Question was asked:

PETER KEEGAN: The Australian Christian Lobby has again made the headlines for offensive remarks made by its director, Jim Wallace. As a Christian, I continually find that the ACL does not speak for me and does not represent the kind of faith that I see reflected in the teaching and ministry of Jesus. Archbishop, will you publically say that contributions like those we heard from the ACL pose a greater risk to the health of our public discourse and the integrity of our faith than the presence of lifestyles or beliefs that may differ from our own?

And Jensen’s response:

PETER JENSEN: Again, thanks for the question. No, I won’t say that. I am generally supportive of ACL, I have to say. I don’t support everything that’s said by its leaders.

Jensen straight off makes it clear that while he is generally supportive of the ACL, he agrees with them in this case.

TONY JONES: What about this very specific statement where Jim Wallace suggests that homosexuality poses the same kind of health risk to the community as smoking does?

PETER JENSEN: It needs to be observed that he has been somewhat quoted out of context in some reports.  I’m not sure about that one but in some reports he’s been somewhat quoted out of context.

No it wasn’t. This is evident by Wallace restating the claim many times in the media after the event.  There is no doubt that he said that being gay is worse than smoking.

 But what he has done for us, rightly or wrongly, what he has done is given us an opportunity to talk about something significant, namely the question of health risks.

You must be blind.  The health risks of having unprotected sex are well-known.  In an effort to educate people last year there was a campaign in Queensland that included two clothed men hugging holding a wrapped condom.  The image was displayed on bus shelters, and the ACL sought to have that removed1.  They don’t want to talk about it.

Now, I think it is true to say – I think it is true to say – it’s very hard to get all the facts here because we don’t want to talk about it and in this country censorship is alive and well, believe me.

Yes, yes it is.

So what I’m about to say, I don’t want to say because I know I’m going to be hit over the head for the next 100 years about it so – and it’s a virulent censorship. Now, I will still go ahead.

Before the words are  out of his mouth he’s claiming to be a victim.  Don’t forget this is a man who has his tie checked by an assistant2.  It’s hard to imagine him as a victim as he lives such a life of luxury.  Just as his god demands.

What I want to say is that as far as I can see by trying to get to the facts, the lifespan of practising gays is significantly shorter than the ordinary, so called, heterosexual man. I think that seems to be the case.

If you were in the slightest bit interested you would have tested the facts rather than simply stating that they seem to be true.  Plenty of people have pointed out that Wallace has relied on discredited research.  Check out Chrys Stevenson’s great blog to start with3.

 Now what we need to do is to look at why this may be the case and we need to do it in a compassionate and objective way.

People already have, it’s called research, and it’s out there and available.  Alas, you seem reluctant to accept it.

Some people say it’s because of the things I say and the position I take and that creates, for example, a spate of suicides. That may be true but how can we get at the facts if we’re never willing to talk about it? Now, there may be other things as well.

Jensen accepts that some people may kill themselves because of the words he says and the position he takes.  Let that sink in a bit.  Really?  He admits that people may die because of his attitude?  You’d think if he understood that he’d actually take the time to ensure that he’s right.  Instead he again ignores the research from some very well-respected people who clearly shows religious intolerance causes emotional distress to young people.  The facts are out there, they are being talked about.  How hard can it be for a church man to access the internet and check?  You could check the position statement of Suicide Prevention Australia, in particular this paragraph:

Similarly, those belonging to religious faiths that promulgate negative discourses about homosexuality are particularly vulnerable to suicide and self-harm. Conflicts between spiritual or religious beliefs and sexuality can result in significant psychological dissonance as well as division and exclusion from family, friends and community.

Then a video question is played from Alistair:

ALISTAIR CORNELL: My question is for Peter Jensen. I was born and bred Anglican but at the age of 15 I tried to take my own life. What advice would he give to a 15 year old suffering almost to the point of death from the rejection of his community about being gay?

PETER JENSEN: Thank you and thank you for the courage of coming on and telling us that story.

I agree, it does take courage to tell the story.  Alistair, thank you for sharing with everyone and showing us the depth of your despair.  I for one am glad you didn’t reach the point of death.  That must’ve been horrible for you.

You see, one of the difficulties is to get that story, to get it to someone like me and to give me the chance to assess it for what it is.

We know what it is.  A young many struggling with rejection for his community.  What assessment do you need to do?  And why?

to offer whatever pastoral advice I may be able to offer, to listen to what’s being said, but to recognise that we’re dealing with very, very complex issues here.

Leaving aside the fact that his solution is to offer pastoral advice rather than get some real help for people like Alistair.  I find it rather difficult to swallow that this is complex.  This isn’t an unknown issue.  The churches reject homosexuality.  Some people are homosexual. That means that they either leave the church, some through suicide, or follow the churches’ rules.  The church has a high level of intolerance on people’s sexuality, at least the hierarchy does.

It may be that the things I say are having such an effect but it may be something quite different all together and…

TONY JONES: Such as what, for example?

PETER JENSEN: Well a 15 year old sorry, I need to be careful here. We don’t want to talk about this particular young man with his courage.

I disagree, that’s exactly what we want to talk about.  But you don’t because then it becomes about a real person.  Someone who has said the words to your face.

But clearly a teenager is going through a period in their lives, exciting as it is, in which they’re seeking to find themselves. A person who feels in themselves same-sex attraction and I might add, a lot of such folk have talked to me over the years, is seeking, I think, to find themselves, to find an identity and in our sort of society, with its emphasis on sexual activity as an identity finding activity, there is therefore the opportunity to think that that is the way to do things and yet here you have this frowned upon same-sex feeling.

It’s hard to unravel that little beauty.  It seems to me that he’s saying young men have confided in him about their same-sex attraction and that he’s told them it’s frowned upon and that it’s because society has an emphasis on sex and being gay is just a phase you’re going through.

TONY JONES: Okay, I’ve just to interrupt because we do need to hear other panellists on this subject but put simply are you saying or repeating, in a way, or making, you know, a sort of more complex argument about what Jim Wallace said, which is homosexuality is bad for your health? Are you seriously trying to make that argument tonight?

PETER JENSEN: I would like to know see, people tell me that it is and they produce literature on the subject. I can’t get a discussion going on this because it’s a forbidden subject.

You’re happy to take the words of Wallace as they’re said, but anyone else has to present the literature to you.  There’s plenty of it out there.  Perhaps your staff could do a Google search for you.  The discussion is happening right now, in lots of places, so why are you claiming it’s a forbidden subject?

Now, I’m open on this. I hope it’s not true, Tony. I don’t want to see my friends dying and I’ve seen my friends dying. I don’t want to see that. I don’t want to hear stories like that. But, dear friends, sorry, when do we get to the point where we can talk about this without shouting at each other and hurting each other?

When you stop insisting that Wallace is giving you facts and when you are open to others talking to you.  You’re not listening to all the other voices out there are you?

PETER JENSEN: Sorry. Yes, I am really serious but I would like to know in a dispassionate way, in an objective way, what the facts are. I think it’s very, very…

CATHERINE DEVENY: I think she’s got the facts for you.

PETER JENSEN: I think she says she has the facts.

Just like Wallace thinks he has the facts.  How easy it is to dismiss someone else’s point of view because it doesn’t match yours.  If you’re serious about having a dispassionate discussion then all you have to do is call on a few academics to give you the heads up.  It’s really very easy.  While you wait for someone to show you the facts, rather than find them yourself, young people are dying or in great mental anguish.

PETER JENSEN: Thank you, Tony. God did create homosexuals. I don’t need the gene to tell me that. God created homosexuals. God created every person and loves every person, without doubt.

TONY JONES: No, I mean he created if there is a gay gene, would you say the creator was responsible for creating that?

PETER JENSEN: Well, I would say that that that may be the case but we’re not talking about same-sex attraction, we’re talking about the acting out of same-sex attraction. We’re talking about well, I realise that we’re living in a very, very different world from the one I’m talking about but I’m living in a world where a number of my friends have life long committed themselves to no sexual relations.

The admission that his god is said to have created homosexuals, but they’re not to have sex.  That’s what it amounts to.  People may like to not have sex, there are those who seem very happy to abstain.  But for a vast majority of the population that’s unacceptable, unfair and unjust.  To even suggest that just because you’re attracted to somebody of the same sex means you can’t be physically intimate with them is to deprive them of the most basic of human desires.  To be accepted and loved.  Putting people inside marriage may curb the desire to have multiple sex partners, but there are plenty of divorces out there because one of the two had sex outside the relationship, and there is no escaping that sex outside marriage is probably happening more than inside marriage.  Jensen is right, he lives in a different world, and he is allowed.  Where I take issue is when he attempts to use his world to force the rest of society to follow it.

And that’s the crux of the matter.

Jensen and Wallace are not interested in hearing anything that gives approval to homosexuality as normal and natural.  They use their positions to push their own ideology, ignore any research that disputes it and rejects anybody that shows them the research they rely on is flawed.

Under Jensen’s facade is a determination to treat gay people as second class citizens, and that is driven by the bible.  He considers me to be a sinner.  Sin comes from the devil, therefore I’m evil.  I’m immoral, I’m without hope.

Jensen is allowed to have the last words for the program:

PETER JENSEN: Well, the last word is that in Jesus Christ we have that equality and in Jesus Christ was have that salvation and all I can say is the most wonder that the love of God for everyone, no matter who they are, no matter how they’ve lived or whatever, is the greatest reality in the world.

I accept that this is Jensen’s belief and he’s entitled to it.  He can believe whatever he wants.  I’ve also said that my acceptance of his right to believe means I have the right to not believe.   To suggest that the love of his god is for everyone and that that is the ‘greatest reality’ is false.

In my mind his devotion to his religion causes great harm, and using it to influence government policy is unethical as we don’t all subscribe to his religion.

The facts are out there, religion causes harm.  Gay people are more likely to be kicked to death by a duck than have a fundamentalist Christian sect accept all people as equal.


  1. Initially the posters  were removed, but later reinstated.  Brisbane Times
  2. As observed by Catherine Deveny “At one point I watched Jensen’s adviser straighten his tie and wondered how much Jensen had been groomed and prepared for the appearance.”
  3.  In her blog Chrys reverse engineers the ‘research’ that Wallace and the ACL rely on.  A bit of research would help the ACL see the truth.
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Sep 09

Jason Ball plays football and talks about how hard it has been for him to come out to his team mates.  He says that if he had a few AFL gay role models it would have been much easier.

Jason has been making the media rounds today, getting his face on TV, voice on the radio, stories in the newspapers, talking about homophobia and trying to get the AFL to play the No to Homophobia ad during the grand final coming up in a couple of weeks time.

Here’s the story from ABC News 24:

You can help too – sign the petition.

Visit the website for No to Homophobia website.

Spread the word, help make a change and help those young people who are need a role model.

Here’s the ad:

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Sep 08


The Australian airline, Qantas, has made arrangements with the United Arab Emirates airline, Emirates, to form a partnership for the next ten years.  On the surface that sounds fine I guess.  I don’t know how airlines function, nor do I know the importance of such strategic alliances, I’m sure somewhere it’s about making money.

We know that Qantas’ CEO is one Alan Joyce.  Joyce has been in a relationship with another man, his partner since 1999.  That’s great to hear.

Emirates is owed wholly by the Government of Dubai, and that Government forms part of the United Arab Emirates.

In the UAE you can only legally have sex inside a marriage between a man and a woman, punishment for having sex outside marriage (so that’s unmarried hetero and homo sex) ranges from prison time to the death penalty.  The anti-gay laws, some of which were introduced by the British during the colonial period are still vigorously enforced. However, in some cases, the police have been turning a blind eye to such behaviour as long as it is discreet1.

Let’s hope that Joyce is discreet if he should ever visit the UAE.

Now I’m left wondering just how I feel about Qantas and their business relationships with a government that potentially kills people just like me because of their sexuality.

It doesn’t feel right.

It’s a quandary to be caught between ethical and business decisions.  It becomes ok to turn a blind eye to all sorts of things because it may be outside our control, or in this case, it seems that the airlines are so far removed from government that it simply doesn’t matter.

That doesn’t stop me from going… ummm… really?  The CEO of Qantas, a gay man living in a democratic nation that is diverse, has lined his airline up with an airline owned by a regime in the middle east that kills gay people.

How does this line up with Qantas’ diveristy policy?

Recruitment and selection is based on merit, and when making hiring decisions managers are encouraged to not only comply with Equal Employment Opportunity and anti-discrimination requirements, but also to bolster a diverse workplace culture when selecting from the pool of qualified candidates.

I’ve long thought the best way to deal with organisation that make ethically bankrupt decisions is not to use them.  It would seem that making money is more important to Qantas and Joyce than protecting the human rights of people who are gay.
Money always trumps ethics.  How sad.
  1. Wikipedia – LGBT Rights in the UAE
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Aug 19

In the middle of a cold Victorian winter, I have a week off, so Michael and I headed to the Grampians.  One of my favourite places in the world.

Leaving Caitlin and Tomas at home in Melbourne, with Shadforth Wilbury Sheep tucked away, coffee and stove, we headed westwards, though Ballarat, Ararat and finally Halls Gap.

DSC_4977.JPG It was late in the day by the time we arrived, I could feel the stress melt away as we rounded the bend into the little township.  Halls Gap is a rather timeless place.  It’s pretty much the same now as it was in the 70’s when I first started visiting it.  The little main street has the same shops, although now there is a new area down by the creek.  I’m pretty sure that the same family has been running the newsagency for well over 40 years.

We’re staying at Boronia Peaks Villas.  The one bedroom self-contained unit is a bit tired after years of use, but it’s comfortable and warm.

We made the short trip to Lake Bellfield. Over many years the lake has been fairly empty.  In fact, when Michael and I first came to the Grampians we where able to drive a fair distance into the lake reserve. Now however the lake is full.  The trees that we walked amongst before are now dead and underwater.

The dry lake


The full lake

As we walked along the bank listening to the sound of the bush, feeling very satisfied to be among the trees hearing the many bird calls.

DSC_4924.JPG We continued along the road to Borough Huts, there were no campers, we drove around the camping area, watching some wallabies and kangaroos.

The Swamp Wallaby is very distinctive with its dash of red on its head and it’s darker hands and feet.  We watched for a while as the wallaby grazed on the grass, unfussed by the two humans in their little blue car.

A major reason for me coming to the Grampians is mountains.  I like to get to the top of them.  The first was Boronia Peak.  It’s a pretty small peak about a 3 hour walk above Halls Gap.  The track takes us over Fyans Creek, it’s looking pretty disgusting, and we slowly start to climb up and find ourselves on a fire trail that runs parallel to the creek.  It doesn’t take long before we’re diverted off the wide sandy track onto a narrow winding trail that begins to climb steadily upwards. The track is sandy and rocky, behind us is the valley and then beyond that is the Serra Range, as we continue up we begin to head northwards until we get to the end of the little range we’re on.  The track then swings around southwards and we continue to climb.  We’re both not as fit as we’d like to be and the sweat is pouring off us.  DSC_4990.JPG There’s a few other people on the trail, most of them heading down and giving us words of encouragement.  I’m tempted to throw rocks at them.  As we head southwards the view to the east is of Lake Fyans and Stawell.  Mostly farm land.  Gradually the sand gives way to more rocks, less trees and a clay track of red.

Finally we reach the summit and with a spring in my step I jump across the rocks and perch myself on the top and soak up the view.

This is where I need to be.  On the top of a mountain.  Removed from my everyday environment.  I love it.  I catch myself grinning as I survey the view of the Grampians.  I feel I know them so well.  Mount Difficult Range to my north, the Mount William Range to the south, and across the valley floor is the Serra Range and the Wonderland range.  I can see Stawell to the east sitting out among the trees on what seems to be the flat plains of the Wimmera.

DSC_5002.JPG Now for something new.  There is always some place in the area that I haven’t been to.  We visited two places that I hadn’t seen before, both near Stawell, which to be fair is just outside the Grampians, so no surprises that I didn’t know about them.  The first stop was the Deep Lead Nature Conservation Reserve.  This lightly wooded forest has some significant eucalyptus trees.  We did a short walk around the reserve.  The reserve is a place where the locals bring their dogs to roam freely around.  I’m not sure I think that’s a good idea as the area is supposed to have some endangered species and some plant life of interest.

It was a short drive then to another new place for me.  The Black Range Scenic Reserve.  I found this a bit confusing, because I know there is another Black Range on the other side of the Grampians, near Cavendish and Balmoral. This new Black Range is a small outcrop of rocky hills.  Just a short walk from the car park is a shelter. In that shelter is some rock art.  The Aboriginal art is of their god, Bunjil. Bunjil is the creator deity of the Boonwerung people. The age of the art work is unknown and over the years since the Europeans arrived, it’s been painted over and vandalised.  It wasn’t until the 1960’s that a fence was placed around it to offer some protection.

The painting is of Bunjil and two dingoes.  It’s hidden in a small hollow at the base of a huge rock.  It’s unfortunate that it has to be protected by a cage to keep people away.  I did enjoy the moment of gazing at this image that may have been here for hundreds of thousands of years, painted by people who have long gone from this area.

DSC_5005.JPG Leaving the shelter, we headed up to the top of the small hill.  As we walked I caught glimpses of the Grampians out to the west.

Here at the top was another moment for me.  I could see Mount William, the Major Mitchell Plateau  and the Mt William Range. I hadn’t seen this view before.  It was late in the day and a bit chilly.  However, I wanted to sit and look at the scene before me. Again, soaking up the time and the place.  This feels like home to me.

Our evenings consist of lighting a fire in the open fire-place in the cabin, we watch a bit of TV. Sometimes we went out to one of the many local restaurants, and sometimes we ate in. It was always a relaxing end to the days activities.

DSC_5048.JPG A visit to MacKenzie’s falls was in order. It had been a number of years since I’d been there.  We drove over the mountains to the falls.  Much has changed here.  Gone is the little bush track I used to walk along to get there.  Instead we have a big car park with a kiosk, picnic tables and mowed lawns.

We begin the descent into the valley.  I can hear the roar of the water. It doesn’t take long before we are at the base of the falls. Michael takes lots of photos and I explore the area.  As I cross the little creek I stand on wet slippery rocks.  From here, with my face to the falls I can feel the spray of water as it crashes into the pool.  This generates a wind and I’m directly in its path as it comes up from the surface of the water and rushes past me.  A sweet smell, covering me in a fine mist as the trees behind me rustle in this local wind.

DSC_5087.JPG After we’ve been somewhere like this a cup of coffee is in needed.  We drive around and find a scenic spot to set up my little camp stove – a single burner gas ring.  I pop my espresso coffee pot on it and brew up a cup.  This trip we get a locally made small loaf of multi-grain bread each morning.  It’s great for our afternoon snack, lightly toasted and spread with local honey. This little ritual quite often happens as the sun dips below the mountains, so in the cool of the evening, there’s still an hour of daylight left as we huddle together and sip coffee, eat toast and listen to the settling noises of the bush.

While there in Halls Gap I take the chance to do some walking of my own.  Early in the morning while Michael is still sleeping I get up and rug up and walk along the creek.  It’s very cold, sitting on 0°.  There’s frost on the grass and it crunches as I walk over it.  A fog hangs over the mountain tops as the first ray of sunlight hits the red rocky outcrops high above me making them glow.  I’m surrounded by grazing kangaroos, flighty emus and ducks. The air is still with the sounds of kookaburras, galahs and cockatoos.

DSC_5033.JPG This is my spiritual home.  This is where the batteries get re-charged.  My life exists of running from one job to another.  I sit at a desk looking at computer screens, I go home and look at computer screens or watch the TV screen.  I go to bed and read on my tablet, I sit on the toilet and look at my phone.  I’m surrounded by the technology.  I love it.  I really enjoy that.  My mind is continually challenged by what I read and see on my technological devices.

I also enjoy this.  I enjoy being surrounded by mountains, I enjoy the sounds of nature.  The smells of the bush.  I enjoy the sights I see before me.  I am one with the world.  I am at peace.

Michael takes great photos. Be sure to check out the galleries on line. Click any of the photos above to see them in all their glory.

Below are the galleries.

Wildlife – Swamp Wallabies, Emus and Kangaroos

Boronia Peak Walk

Bunjil Shelter

MacKenzie Falls

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Aug 15

Yesterday I wrote about the Prime Minister – Julia Gillard, being the keynote speaker at the upcoming Australian Christian Lobby Annual Conference.  At the end of the post I listed other blogs and media outlets that have covered the story.

To be clear.  I think it’s wrong of the PM to address the ACL.  To me its counter intuitive and seems to be at odds with her atheism.  That’s just what I think.  I also think the PM is a free agent and able to do as she pleases, and I would not stop her from doing that.  Nor do I think the ACL should be told to shut up.  As nice as that would be.

Despite Australia having no protections to free speech as such, I see it as vitally important.  The ACL have an outrageous and outdated opinion about marriage and families that doesn’t reflect the reality of the real world.  Once you strip away all the reasons for their objection you’re left with the key reason for their objection.

The bible says that homosexuality is a sin and an abomination.  It calls for gay people to be killed.  It does.  Go read it.

Apparently in 2012 it’s ok for people to still hold those views.  In Australia we don’t do the killing bit any more, but Christians believe it’s their right to tell me how to live based on their holy text.  Mind you, I reject that text outright.  As far as I can tell it holds no authority nor should it.  This is clearly demonstrated by secular laws that are passed without regards to religious doctrine.  (Think about slavery, death for adultery, divorce)

The ACL claim free speech to be able to say what they want.  Well, that works both ways.  I have the right to disagree with them, and I’m quite prepared to say so.  I also think the ACL is not representative of Christians at all.   They are a small organisation that makes a lot of noise.  It’s funded by a few people.  Doug Pollard did an excellent series of articles following the money – visit his site and search for ACL.

Yesterdays revelations that Gillard is speaking at the ACL attracted a lot of criticisms from gay people and the gay press. Jim Wallace at the ACL has responded to that criticism – I’d like to look at that.

The Australian Christian Lobby is privileged to have the Prime Minister speak at its National Conference but has expressed disappointment at the ongoing campaign of demonisation from the homosexual lobby of anyone who does not line up with its agenda.

Demonisation is such a strong word, and speaking personally I find the way that the ACL expresses it’s opposition to my life as demonising. Wallace, the ACL and the Prime Minister are being criticised.  That’s fair.  As it’s also fair to criticise the ACL’s agenda.

ACL Managing Director Jim Wallace rejected suggestions that the Prime Minister should not participate in the conference on Saturday the 6th of October and said it was natural that she would want to speak to Australia’s Christian constituency, which is a large one by any political standards.

The ACL does not represent the Australian Christian constituency, it represent a very small band of ultra orthodox Christians.  While overall there are a lot of people who profess to be Christians, very few of them would agree with the ACL.  It’s disingenuous of the ACL to overstate its reach.

“The Prime Minister’s engagement is part of the political process and Australian Christians represented in the community should have a right to expect that the PM would want to address them,” Mr Wallace said.

Sure, that’s right.  To be fair, the PM should also have headed along to the Global Atheist  Convention to give the keynote speech, but she didn’t.  Atheists are also a sizeable constituency that should have been addressed by the PM.  Check out the media release from David Nicholls at Atheist Foundation of Australia .  The release is called ‘Pandering to Stupidity’:

It is deplorable that the Labor Party should be pandering to any religion at all, especially to such an anachronistic and fundamentalist branch of Christianity, one that has no relevance in a modern and enlightened society.

Back to Wallace from the ACL:

Mr Wallace also rejected suggestions that the ACL has not advocated for eradication of poverty or homelessness.

“The ACL is on the record for supporting mandatory pre-commitment technology for pokie machines, refugee reform and meeting the millennium development goals which help address these issues in public policy,” he said.

Yes, it’s true the ACL does advocate those things, but it’s obsessed with trying to prevent marriage equality for everyone.  This was well and truly highlighted in this blog back in June.

Overwhelmingly, the ACL was preoccupied with gay people. It’s not quite half of their total output, at 44%, but considering that Jesus had exactly zero to say about homosexuality, it doesn’t look very good, no matter how the ACL might try to rationalise this discrepancy.

The ACL is a public lobby group.  They are out there with their opinions.  As hard as Wallace and his state directors mince their words so that they don’t say anything negative about ‘the gays’ the reality is that they are demonising us.

The ACL is entitled to do what it does, I disagree with them and will continue to strike out against their insanity.  But I would never dream of silencing them, as appealing as that is.

In a democracy that’s how it works.  But pushing out a press release such as this latest one from the ACL is akin to being like a toddler, putting your thumb in your mouth, stamping your widdle feet and crying “It’s not fair!  The Gays are picking on me!”


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Aug 14

The Prime Minister of Australia, Julia Gillard, no doubt has one of the toughest jobs in the country.  She preside over a minority government, which I’m sure is very difficult.

Julia says a little prayer

Gillard is an atheist.  She thinks that the bible is a myth but says it contains some important stories for us.

Gillard is unmarried. She thinks that marriage is between one man and one woman, as the christians believe.

Gillard is the keynote speaker at this years Australian Christian Lobby Annual Conference.

The ACL have described their annual get together as “Building a Nation of Character: Religious Freedom in a Secular Democracy”

I’ve checked the Prime Minister’s diary to see if she makes it a habit to speak to hate groups.

You can find the PM’s Public Schedule on her website here  To see every week since the start of the year change the week=30 to week=1 and work your way through.  I’ve collated it as a PDF file here for you..

While Gillard gives lots of speeches and makes lots of visits she doesn’t really appear to do anything too controversial.    In fact, I can’t see where she has met with any gay rights lobby.  I can’t see her attendance at any gay event.  She’s happy to visit schools, factories and attend the local footy club matches.  She doesn’t make too many speeches to lobby groups, in fact her diary is very carefully managed and quite often ties in with current government initiatives.

Just today the annual National Day for Marriage Rally was held in Canberra.  The event is fully supported by the ACL (here’s their media release), at the rally today, one of the speakers had this to say:

homosexuals (re)produces themselves by molesting children

The ACL want us to tone down the rhetoric and not call people who support marriage as between one man and one woman homophobes, but here again is the outlandish falsehoods about gay people, spoken at an event that is fully endorsed by the ACL.

The Prime Minister of Australia is their keynote speaker, she has agreed to address the ACL.  This gives them an air of authority.  As if they are something special.

Gillard avoids gay people.  She brushes our concerns aside, will not entertain any notion of equality for us.  We are not given a second thought.

The ACL have a long history of intolerance to gay people.  They continually misrepresent the truth.  Have a look at just some of the tweets they’ve sent here

This is a deeply offensive action from her.  It seems to be a clear attempt to woo the Christian vote.  She will tell them what they want to hear.

It seems to me the PM is more interested in chasing a few votes than defending and supporting those who are victimised for no other reason than their sexuality.  If Gillard had any decency at all she would withdraw from the conference and call on the ACL to treat all citizens of Australia equally.

Other stories:

Michael’s Blog

The Australian

Australian Marriage Equality

Shellity – There should be a sign

Godless Business

Star Observer


Gay News Network

Flourish & Bloggs

The Punch

Found a story in another place?  Send it to me and I’ll add it to the list.

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