Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Home Truths

Home Truths
by Siv Parker

It splatters across every community.  It congeals around every decision.  It is the stench that clouds every fresh idea.  It stains every wasted opportunity.

The Aboriginal community is awash with violence.  

And then it slunk into social media like a mangy dog, and then the outside world started to get a look at what had afflicted Indigenous families – the families that hadn’t found ways to prosper and nurture their own.

Violence that has gotten under the skin and into the blood. Violence that stuns, maims and kills. It is part of how we talk, meet, live and love.  Either we are avoiding it, rebuilding after suffering it or reprogramming after being decimated by it.

The prevailing tendency within Aboriginal politics is not to debate, it is to groom. Strong opinions attract sanctions on one hand, or flowery approvals on the other. Hostility and swift condemnation keep gates tightly shut. Tactics designed to maintain unease and confusion, to withstand attempts to empathise.  The uninvited cannot learn and risk falling into a pit dominated by tragedy hipsters and whataboutery; any opinion is scorned as missing the point, shallow and barren.

Have you ever seen scabies?  The tiny mites burrow into the skin and lay hundreds of eggs.  The irritation is ferocious.  Scratching rips the skin, only to repair, then rip, seal, and score over and over until the scar tissue and embedded infection forms a thick layer of dark, weeping flesh.

People born into abuse and violence are attracted to chaos, like a scabie to a hot blooded animal.  A person undaunted, is a super hero or a subcutaneous abscess.

It is a fact that trauma begets poor decision making.  It has fostered a silence around violence that is decades long.

If Aboriginal people are threatened, beaten or cajoled into silence, it’s hardly any surprise mainstream media has been reluctant to enter the knock down bloody space, when verification and authority are scarce and reluctant. Context is important - stories of oppression and injustice must be told - but it has become a shroud.

So how will resources come to communities, stood over by entrenched power bases, demanding women, children and men as well, continue to suffer in secrecy? 

One day will we have truth and reconciliation on violence – where victims are free to voice their suffering, and perpetrators can admit to themselves to what is common knowledge within communities?  Or perhaps they’ll be quietly left out and behind, a relic of a violent age when broken bodies, head injuries, sexual assault, broken families and pension day blues was more common than not.

Their advice that women don’t like to speak in public – will be proven wrong when women step out of the darkness.
Their suggestion that next time women will be included on panels, in leadership roles, as spokespeople and decision makers, will be unnecessary.  They and their advice will have been sidelined by women taking their place.
When women shout the men down on how they spend their money.
When children are proud of both of their parents, and not scared of at least one, and maybe both.

If it is bad in the nonIndigenous community, it is hell of a lot worse in the black one. And where men are the victims, their number is swamped by the number of women and their children.
Watching Part 1 of the two-part Hitting Home documentary series was to feel sad and sorry, and to mourn for all the women and children who didn’t have access to interventions by police and courts, who were without access to refuges and hospital counsellors. Where what is available is not enough and hear the stories of abuse and violence endured before women were able to flee, and think about maybe one day being safe. 
If funding - and reversals in decisions to cripple regional and remote support services for Aboriginal families - is only possible with media exposure, it is unconscionable – inhuman - to remain silent if you have a voice.

You don’t need to take my word for it. Examine who - exactly - is telling you not to speak out, or demanding you modify your words. And have a really good look at them. A real long look. 

It is possible to cut the poison out and speak up.  If I can do it, anyone can.  I never claimed to be super human.


Some thoughts I shared via Twitter.



There's many stories I could share.  Last night I thought of a girl I knew years ago, a girl I cannot forget.  If I put my mind to it, I can see her clearly.









































Thursday, 5 November 2015

PANDORA II


BLOG ANNOUNCEMENT:
OnDusk was selected for preservation by the National Library of Australia. This title is scheduled to be re-archived regularly. 
 PANDORA
PANDORA is a digital archive – set up by the National Library of Australia and now in collaboration with nine other libraries and collection agencies - dedicated to the preservation of and long term access to Australian online electronic publications of national significance.

Why did I start writing?

Because I looked around at what had been said about Aboriginal people and the picture of Aboriginal Australians was missing pieces.  There was a little bit of the background – a generic landscape, where no one lived.  Modern day myths were in the foreground, a fresh coating regularly applied.

All I could see were holes.

Where is the bone breaking, teeth shattering violence of men against their women and their children? Where is the clawing, grasping, snarling, spitting jealousy between women? Where are the vacant eyed children who want to run away? Where are the sly interlopers and the warm filth of their deception? Where is the threats and the fear, the chaos and the misery until death?
And where are the people who just got on with their lives, who had families, and homes, and jobs - where are they?  Not in the picture, they might as well be dead.

Without these stories, hope lies shriveled inside a hollow jar.

Without all of our stories, what is told are unbelievable, they make no sense. We can comfort each other a little, year in, year out, reinstating in slivers what has been lost. But it invites the unfamiliar to fill in the holes for themselves.  In their eyes, it turns our heroes into fools.

That’s what I saw.  I couldn’t stand it. Even if it is just a story I tell myself, I need to put into words the world that I see.  And I need to put it somewhere safe because one day my people are going to want to know – how did I live?

It is not an easy decision, to step into the future and look back.  Some will argue as they have for decades, we cannot do that, we risk what we can gain now.

I can’t accept that.  Not any more.  I went along with that fear for many years while we talked and talked and talked about how we would regain what had been lost, how we would prevail against our enemies, how we would live with what was now part of us.  There is a kind of strength that comes from believing that personal failure is avoided if I just hang on to collective beliefs. Oh, we can achieve a marvelous transformation.  I could live with that, I could feel a prickling unease and even then continue to go along with it.  Years would pass even as I was clearly in no doubt that if we do what ever it is that will bring the least amount of venom and fury down on our heads from our own kind we can rise up.

And then I finally had the benefit of a decent amount of my life lived – and this is the only thing I put it down to, I lived it, no one’s carefully arranged words convinced me. I wasn't living in hope, I was living to make myself as small as possible.  I was not my mother's daughter. I was not a woman from my country. I was a 12 year old domestic who served black people, who were in turn in service to what was stronger than them.

I broke my own chains. 

I shook off the guiding, controlling hand when we began to kill our own children. When the women died, because our men tortured their women to death. When having dark skin can get you smashed to pieces and your last shadow is your blood on the ground. 

We are all complicit, if we are all one people.  You want to represent, that is what you represent. You love your culture, you love the lies. 


Let me go. 

We are entitled to be whole people. We would never have survived for thousands of years on oral traditions - if what has festered and is now erupting after a mere two hundred odd years - had been our story.  We are more than that.  Our stories had a purpose I hold firm – do no harm.   In the stories I tell, hope is worth keeping safe because I need it when I confront the evil in this world.



Tuesday, 3 November 2015

PANDORA


PANDORA'S BOX

By Siv Parker
3 November 2015

BLOG ANNOUNCEMENT:
OnDusk was selected for preservation by the National Library of Australia. This title is scheduled to be re-archived regularly. 

 PANDORA
PANDORA is a digital archive – set up by the National Library of Australia and now in collaboration with nine other libraries and collection agencies - dedicated to the preservation of and long term access to Australian online electronic publications of national significance.


In the early days, to my mind, my blog - my tiny online space on the internet - was a small cafĂ© off the main street.  
My cafe was an old building, faded paint and weathered wood, but the window panes were intact and clean, and the large wooden door swung easily on its hinges.  From the very first, I swept the worn stone steps everyday and tweaked dead leaves from the potted shrubs that sat either side of the wide doorway.  Inside, nests of small tables and mismatched chairs were arranged in a modest sized room, with a small wooden stage in the corner, opposite the small wooden counter.  On the counter sat an old fashioned glass fronted display case with three shelves.  On the first day I made a muffin.  Just one. It sat in the centre of the top shelf, in a carefully folded paper wrapper, it’s blueberries peaking the golden crust.

A few times the bell above the door was disturbed as curious passerbys pushed it fully open and looked around. But they went no further, their eyes barely scraped across the surface of my muffin.  The next day, I made a lemon tart.  I spent hours blind baking it’s shell then finishing it with a luscious sweet and sour filling.  I slid it in to sit beside the muffin.  By the end of the second day, with no takers, I ate them both and thought about what I could include on my counter.
This was the pattern over the next little while - bake in the morning and end the day by eating what had failed to entice the passing parade to pause for a little refreshment.  I was improving on my recipes and all the while keeping an ear cocked for the sound of the door to open.  Sometimes the wind would blow and it would swing, or I would catch sight of people strolling by, their head not turning the slightest degree in my direction. 
The first proper customer walked in like it was a habit, sat down and ate a raisin muffin.  I was busy working at my counter and didn’t notice when they left, but I knew they would be back.
I added a large fruit bowl, decorated with cabbage leaves and filled it with fruit of the season, shiny apples and pears ready to eat.  A large glass canister with a silver top held biscuits as big and sure as your palm with a fine crumb, that came free with a mug of chocolate in winter.  Small carafes of water with free floating slices of lemon and lime and sprigs of mint lined the front of my glass fronted fridge, for those a bit short on a lonely, hot day.
Over the weeks and then months they’d come, mostly alone, occasionally in couples.  On some days, stories flowed freely and all the small tables were taken, the dogs tethered outside long enough to fall asleep in the shade, curled around the urns. 
But most days all was quiet, peaceful, we were reading.  Occasionally someone would take to the small stage and read aloud. 
I would see them writing at the small tables and think they are like me, alone and staring into the keyhole of their imagination, lips moving while they try out their words for fit.  I would end the day knowing I would be back the next day and the ones after that to tend to my creations. This is my place.

Year One - an empty page

By the end of the second year of blogging I had enough material to submit for a blogging competition.  I – and two others – won.  Winning was the easy part, but knowing how to turn so much material into a book was much harder than I thought.  I had forgotten the most important part of writing - back myself.

Year Two - thousands and thousands of words

I was overwhelmed when I printed so many words, when I saw it spilling off the table and onto the floor and covering every flat surface within reach.  What was the book about? What had I been trying to say for two years? What had I been doing alone, reading and writing day in and day out?  No one was with me, no one living.  I have nothing to lose, and with this thought  I have my purpose back and my blog book 'On Dusk - the collection'  is going into the display case as I originally intended.  Soon.



Being invited to have my blog archived has solved a number of dilemmas. Where do I put my work, that is not a book, but needs to go somewhere? It remains on my blog, but a blog is floating in space, easily lost among the millions of other blogs out there.  It's only in my own mind - where all this started, after all - but now I feel my blog has a permanent place in the world.

The PANDORA archive is like a time capsule, freely accessible -  anytime, forever.


Three years into blogging and now I tell the story in workshops about what it meant to me, and where it has taken me. It got me out of my lonely room and to writers festivals and gatherings and my room wasn't lonely anymore. It was my place to read in the peace and quiet and to work on my creations.




I found new places for my stories and new ways to tell them.  I saw that stories find their own way, they can travel, they can find places I never knew existed. They can connect just as surely as they can break us apart.




 I am available for social media and blogging advice 





Blogging and tinkering with my blog book, and telling stories on Twitter and turning my hand to scriptwriting and everything else that fills the days and nights.... took me all the way back to writing. 

Being accepted into the PANDORA Archives has gotten me intrigued by the story of Pandora’s box.
I intend to study Hesiod's 'Works and Days' in greater detail - but in brief, Pandora opened the box (actually it was a jar) and all the evils in the world flew out, leaving only hope inside when she closed it again.

Writing day and night, and reading in the moments in between opened the box and I have been confronted with the evil in my world – all that is ugly and secret, the dangerous ideas, the destructive, the hurtful, the harmful and the constant death.  I can write about the hope that was left behind, but I didn’t start writing to talk about what was left in the jar. I wanted to write about what flew out and enveloped us, though rarely mentioned, not many would dare.  People will say don't open the jar, they don’t want to know what might fly out if they crack its lid.  But how else to explain what happened to us, how we were afflicted and why hope is our prize? 

How to tell these stories, in words people want to hear?  That’s the thing about a blog.  It can be anything. I get to write my thoughts in my own way here.  My small, out of the way online space where I found my voice.

Updated 6.30pm 


Why did I start writing?

Because I looked around at what had been said about Aboriginal people and the picture of Aboriginal Australians was missing pieces.  There was a little bit of the background – a generic landscape, where no one lived.  Modern day myths were in the foreground, a fresh coating regularly applied.

All I could see were holes.

Where is the bone breaking, teeth shattering violence of men against their women and their children? Where is the clawing, grasping, snarling, spitting jealousy between women? Where are the vacant eyed children who want to run away? Where are the sly interlopers and the warm filth of their deception? Where is the threats and the fear, the chaos and the misery until death?
And where are the people who just got on with their lives, who had families, and homes, and jobs - where are they?  Not in the picture, they might as well be dead.

Without these stories, hope lies shriveled inside a hollow jar.

Without all of our stories, what is told are unbelievable, they make no sense. We can comfort each other a little, year in, year out, reinstating in slivers what has been lost. But it invites the unfamiliar to fill in the holes for themselves.  In their eyes, it turns our heroes into fools.

That’s what I saw.  I couldn’t stand it. Even if it is just a story I tell myself, I need to put into words the world that I see.  And I need to put it somewhere safe because one day my people are going to want to know – how did I live?

It is not an easy decision, to step into the future and look back.  Some will argue as they have for decades, we cannot do that, we risk what we can gain now.

I can’t accept that.  Not any more.  I went along with that fear for many years while we talked and talked and talked about how we would regain what had been lost, how we would prevail against our enemies, how we would live with what was now part of us.  There is a kind of strength that comes from believing that personal failure is avoided if I just hang on to collective beliefs. Oh, we can achieve a marvelous transformation.  I could live with that, I could feel a prickling unease and even then continue to go along with it.  Years would pass even as I was clearly in no doubt that if we do what ever it is that will bring the least amount of venom and fury down on our heads from our own kind we can rise up.

And then I finally had the benefit of a decent amount of my life lived – and this is the only thing I put it down to, I lived it, no one’s carefully arranged words convinced me. I wasn't living in hope, I was living to make myself as small as possible.  I was not my mother's daughter. I was not a woman from my country. I was a 12 year old domestic who served black people, who were in turn in service to what was stronger than them.

I broke my own chains. 

I shook off the guiding, controlling hand when we began to kill our own children. When the women died, because our men tortured their women to death. When having dark skin can get you smashed to pieces and your last shadow is your blood on the ground. 

We are all complicit, if we are all one people.  You want to represent, that is what you represent. You love your culture, you love the lies. 


Let me go. 

We are entitled to be whole people. We would never have survived for thousands of years on oral traditions - if what has festered and is now erupting after a mere two hundred odd years - had been our story.  We are more than that.  Our stories had a purpose I hold firm – do no harm.   In the stories I tell, hope is worth keeping safe because I need it when I confront the evil in this world.