Redfern Now last night, and memories of Aunty Beryl

Lovely acting in last night’s sweet episode of Redfern Now.

In her mid fifties, Coral (Tessa Rose), works in a food van, which sometimes brings her into contact with victims of abuse, leading her to the mistaken conclusion that her daughter’s bruised face is the result of more than just an accident. As a result, Coral and her daughter Rosie don’t talk.

On her way home from the pet shop one day, Coral is knocked down by a bunch of teenage boys in a stolen car. One of them, Danny (Rhimi Johnson Page), hadn’t wanted to be there in the first place and instead of running off like the others, he checks to see if she is okay. He calls for an ambulance and the police are able to trace the call back to Danny’s mobile. He won’t dob his mates in and so takes the blame and is sent to jail.

Back at home Coral starts having dizzy spells and her granddaughter Julie (Shari Sebbens) is reluctantly brought in to help. Coral complains about her daughter Rosie "I knew she wouldn’t come" but Julie just wants her mum and grandmother to get on again – forgive and forget. When the spells get worse, Coral is admitted to hospital and Julie agrees to stay on to look after the house until Coral is better.

Coral (left) was memorable, and in fact she reminded me of a woman I met once in a Redfern pub…

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But it was a small item in ABC News that really took me back.

An overlooked sandstone lodge with a rich history has been transformed into a modern café offering food with a bush-tucker twist and on-the-job training for unemployed people, following a major restoration by the City of Sydney.

Visitors to the Gardener’s Lodge Café will be able to make the most of the beautiful setting in Victoria Park, with the option to try traditional foods served up with hampers and picnic blankets.

"The Gardener’s Lodge Café is a great addition to Victoria Park – a spot much loved by the local community and university students," Lord Mayor Clover Moore said.

"We’ve carefully carried out a major restoration of this heritage asset. It has a new lease on life which will allow visitors and locals to experience foods infused with the flavours of the original custodians of this land."

The building was one of *two lodges built in 1885 by the former Colonial Architect to NSW, Edmund Blacket, to provide a grand main entrance to the university.

The Gothic-styled Gardener’s Lodge was the former home of the University of Sydney’s groundskeeper, who tended the sweeping lawns and gardens surrounding the campus.

In 1911, ownership passed to the City of Sydney and the building was later converted into public toilets, or ‘conveniences’ as they were then called. In need of repair, it was closed to the public in the mid-1980s.

Aboriginal Elder Aunty Beryl Van-Oploo, from the Gamillaroi people of north-west NSW, is one of three hospitality teachers who will run the café.

"There’s so much Aboriginal history in Victoria Park because it was once a gathering ground for our people," Aunty Beryl said.

"We hope the new café will also become a place where people gather and enjoy the surroundings of the beautiful park while also learning a little bit of Aboriginal history through our bush tucker flavours, like lemon myrtle aioli, kangaroo with bush tomato sauce, and rabbit pies."

Aunty Beryl runs Yaama Dhiyaan, a hospitality training college in Darlington that teaches students – primarily young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders – how to prepare food using bush flavours. The college has an impressive 70 per cent success rate, with most students gaining work.

That’s Aunty Beryl in 2009 when I interviewed her at Yaama Dhiyaan for the South Sydney Herald. Click on the photo for the relevant posts. This is the SSH story I wrote.

Aunty Beryl’s three word dictionary

“My dictionary has just three words,” Aunty Beryl Van-Oploo says. “Communication, Education, Respect. That’s what I tell those students in there all the time.”

Not a bad dictionary that, and there’s a story and a half behind it.

Three years ago, following an initiative by the Redfern Waterloo Authority, Aunty Beryl co-founded the Yaama Dhiyaan Hospitality and Function Centre with chef Mathew Cribb. The Centre is in Wilson Street Darlington just by Carriage Works. Those three years have seen quite a few personal transformations – young students made confident enough by their success at Certificate II Hospitality to go back and do the HSC; families now well fed with good slow food and a real knowledge of nutrition; people finding jobs in the hospitality sector.

Of the 106 graduates who have now completed the nine week hospitality training course with Yaama Dhiyaan, 66% have gained employment or moved on to further education.

Things like Yaama Dhiyaan don’t come from nowhere, and in this case it is a long-held dream that holds the key. As a young girl in Walgett with no formal education Aunty Beryl dared to dream. She knew education was the key and dreamed of one day bringing back to the community whatever skills she might learn. At sixteen she was in Sydney working as a nanny in an upper middle-class Eastern Suburbs family.

“Yeah, I had to learn to read then, what with the kids going to Sydney Grammar.” So she did, and that was just a beginning. She remained close to that family and still does.

Her real formal education began at age thirty-one while she was working as a cook at the Murraweena preschool, then in Surry Hills. She worked days and at night studied nutrition and budget cooking at East Sydney TAFE. This was something she felt she could take back to the community.

Then she met a challenge: an invitation to become a trainee teacher for TAFE. “But I have no formal education,” she countered. That, she was told, would look after itself as she had the life skills and knowledge and an ability to communicate.

It didn’t quite look after itself as she found herself working as before, going to TAFE, and undergoing teacher training. When I asked her when she slept she just smiled.

Graduating in 1988 she went ahead in her new career. When retirement loomed the Redfern-Waterloo Authority made their offer. Here was at last the greatest chance to bring all that knowledge and experience right back into the heart of the community and make a real difference. She decided to give it a go for twelve months – and now it’s three years.

Aunty Beryl has been part of the Redfern community for fifty years now, but her beginnings are with the Gamillaroi people. The Centre’s web site says: “Yaama means ‘welcome’ and Dhiyaan means ‘family and friends’ in Aunty Beryl’s Yuwaalaraay language of the Gamillaroi people of north west New South Wales.”

“A great life,” I read somewhere years ago, “is a dream formed in childhood made real in maturity.” Aunty Beryl would probably reject that applying to herself, but it’s hard to deny.

She wanted to know if this would be a positive story as we had talked a bit about the dark side and the way Aboriginal issues are represented so often in politics and the mainstream media. How could it not be positive? Seeing the college, the students, and meeting Aunty Beryl have been inspiring. Anyone who dropped in would be inspired too – and well fed, if you happen by when food is on offer. As Aunty Beryl told SBS’s Living Black: “We specialise in bush tucker. We might have crocodile – we’ll do that with a lemon myrtle sauce, we might have kangaroo and we’ll just do that with skewers, and make a bush tomato sauce for that, vegetables in some of our herbs and spices.”

But it is the transformation of lives that is the real work at Yaama Dhiyaan. “You can’t forget the past because that is who you are. It’s in your heart,” Aunty Beryl told me. “But we have to move on for the sake of the future generation. Some come here needing their self-esteem building up and we show them they can have confidence, and they do have choices.”

See SSHNOV09.

Hard to believe that was three years ago now! Aunty Beryl is one of the most remarkable people I ever met.

See also Ambassadors for dignity and grace.

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Supplement “Redfern Now”

I have already mentioned the excellent drama series Redfern Now. Supplement your viewing with the independent local paper The South Sydney Herald, a monthly. The November issue is out now and includes a feature on “Redfern Now”.

GUEST EDITORIAL

Safety issues in Waterloo and Redfern

Michael Shreenan

Simmering social concerns are reaching boiling point in Waterloo and Redfern. A community meeting held on Tuesday October 16 at The Factory Community Centre noted the disconnect between what the police are working on, and Housing NSW allocation policies that house those with the most chaotic lifestyles and complex needs without much thought for the impact on communities. Police are dealing with a disproportionate number of recently released ex-offenders, people with mental health needs, as well as increasing drug availability and associated crime and anti-social behaviour.

Serious assaults, a number of suicides and numerous daily incidents are creating communities of anxiety out of communities that have historically been caring and neighbourly. Over-stretched and under-resourced services (both government and non-government), especially for those with mental health problems and ex-offenders with little post-release support, are creating an environment of fear and uncertainty. The meeting heard stories of “unauthorised” occupants standing over people, taking over properties and taking money, as well as damaging property to gain access, drug-dealing queues in internal corridors, ineffective security contracts and little care from most government agencies.

The meeting suggested inviting Probation and Parole into discussions and looking at the way allocations are made. The Factory and its partners, Waterloo Safety Action Group, REDWatch and Redfern Neighbourhood Advisory Board, are calling for a more integrated approach to human services, and more early prevention strategies to community safety challenges.

At a community meeting on Tuesday October 30, called to discuss the installation of the afterhours Needle Dispensing Machine outside Redfern Health Centre, Sydney Local Health District’s Chief Executive Dr Teresa Anderson announced the creation of a part-time community health liaison role in Waterloo and Redfern. Hopefully this will encourage other agencies to look more closely at how they can better respond to complex issues in our area.

— from the November South Sydney Herald.

Of course you do realise I have in the past written for the SSH! But despite that I really do commend it. Smile

Redfern Now–and just up the road privileged erks revel in their toxic culture

Having spent decades around Redfern and close by, I really looked forward to Redfern Now on ABC Thursday nights at 8.30.

Produced by Blackfella Films (Mabo, First Australians), the 6 x 1 hr drama series has been directed by Rachel Perkins (Mabo, Bran Nue Dae) and Catriona McKenzie (Satellite Boy), with Wayne Blair (The Sapphires, Wish You Were Here) and Leah Purcell (Somersault, Jindabyne, Lantana) both starring in and directing one of the stories.

Starring Deborah Mailman (Mabo, The Sapphires), Leah Purcell, Dean Daley-Jones (Toomelah, Mad Bastards), Miranda Tapsell (The Sapphires), Jimi Bani (Mabo, The Straits), Shari Sebbens (The Sapphires), Wayne Blair and Kelton Pell (Cloudstreet, The Circuit), REDFERN NOW has been produced by Blackfella Films in association with ABC TV, Screen Australia and Screen NSW.

With internationally acclaimed British writer Jimmy McGovern (The Street, Cracker, The Lakes) working closely with the scriptwriters as Story Producer, the series tells the powerful stories of six inner city households whose lives are changed by a seemingly insignificant incident.

When the series went into production, the ABC TV’s Head of Indigenous Department Sally Riley said, "REDFERN NOW is the first drama project to go into production which has been developed by the Indigenous Department. It lays the foundation for ambitious Indigenous work and is part of ABC TV’s priority to get more Indigenous work in front of prime-time audiences. REDFERN NOW has a wealth of inner-city stories that are rich and diverse. Coupled with the celebrated cast, it will make for compelling viewing."

For starters I saw so many familiar places. I took these in 2008:

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And in 2009:

There was a launch of the series at The Block apparently. Had I been still in Sydney I would probably have been there, but not to worry – a spectator did film proceedings for YouTube.

Premiere of Redfern Now! at The Block, Redfern, October 31st 2012. Meet the cast. Hosted by Luke Carroll. Redfern teenager Aaron McGrath (Episode 4. Stand Up), then Miranda Tapsell (Episode 2. Joyride), Leah Purcell and Alec Doomadgee (Episode 1 Family). Redfern now! by ABC1 and Blackfella Films. (Raw footage from spectator – Me!)

Up the road from The Block is St John’s College, Tony Abbott’s old hangout. The privileged erks there have been screwing the joint and parading their tribalism and toxic culture for some time, it appears. Today The Sun Herald has made a feature of it.

When a degrading initiation ritual left a teenage girl clinging to life in hospital, the fallout was supposed to bring order and cultural change to Australia’s oldest and most prestigious Catholic college, St John’s.

Eight months on, nothing has changed. Police have been called to investigate widespread vandalism including smashed windows and doors, furniture broken or set on fire, and graffiti. Faeces are routinely found in common areas and bedrooms. Every second Friday, the student committee has decreed that all Johnsmen not speak to any female students – who are known as ”Jets”: the term is an acronym for ”just excuse the slag”.

Freshers are still being forced into initiation rituals, including the consumption of toxic drinks. And some senior students are showing a cavalier disregard for the fallout from the poisoned girl’s near-death, and have even printed T-shirts that celebrate the incident.

The "Year of Justice" T-shirt worn by St John’s students shows an eagle (the college symbol), which is blindfolded and vomiting. Photo: Amanda Parkinson

The college’s honorary dean and a member of the college’s executive have quit in disgust, with many former executives and existing students calling on Australia’s highest-ranked Catholic, Sydney Archbishop George Pell, to intervene and ”rescue” the 150-year-old institution from ”a crippling disease”….

I would have passed over the story as uninteresting to me personally and probably sensationalised – except a name struck me.

University of Sydney honorary professor Roslyn Arnold said she quit the St John’s executive this semester because she was ”ashamed to belong to such a group”.

”Anarchy has broken out and anarchy is not too strong a word,” Professor Arnold said.

”An external review of the governance of the college needs to be conducted urgently because the fellows are responsible for what happens on campus … I’ve been in universities for almost 40 years and, to be quite frank, I’ve never seen anything like this.

”In the external world, the incidents taking place could be considered criminal. I believe Cardinal Pell is the person who is ultimately called if things spiral out of control and become really tricky. In my opinion, we are well past that stage.”

I was a colleague of Ros in the Education Faculty at the University of Sydney – around the time Tony Abbott was a right-wing thug – and the fact she has said what she has compels me to take it seriously. What a wonderful set of products of private education, in the main, have been infesting this very beautiful building in Camperdown. You would find a much better class of person down the road in Redfern.

I find this telling too: “NOT one Coalition senator who responded to a survey by The Sun-Herald sends their child to a public school.” Now that doesn’t mean they will automatically vote against the interests of public education, but it is more than a little unrepresentative of the country as a whole, don’t you think?

Monday night

Good to see Ros Arnold on 7.30 tonight. She’s no wowser or puritan, but Blind Freddie can see that the behaviour that is an alleged “tradition” but in fact is merely a gross exhibition of bullying, vandalism  and substandard values at St John’s College is well past its use-by date – in fact should have led to mass expulsions, not slaps on the wrist, years ago. Put a stop to this spoiled brat barbarity right now and let it never happen again! On you, Ros, and all other decent people involved!

To be fair, note that both Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey have condemned the behaviour reported in the Sun-Herald, but with more than a bit of an “if” I’m afraid.

Shadow treasurer Joe Hockey, another St John’s alumnus, said reports of misbehaviour at the college were unacceptable.

"It’s unacceptable behaviour and I think these things need to be properly investigated and I understand they are being properly investigated," he told reporters in Sydney on Monday.

He said he now had no involvement with the college and denied ever being a mentor for students there.

He said there were initiation rituals when he attended the college, adding that the behaviour of many university students would probably not meet "general standards".

"Let’s not guild [sic] the lily* on this one, if there is inappropriate treatment of any person then it deserves proper investigation," he said.

"But I think if you opened the lid on colleges and campuses and frat houses and sorority houses right around the world, then by the general standard of behaviour it would be deemed to be pretty lewd and inappropriate."

Sorry, Joe; that’s not good enough. Just what would you condone at St John’s, and is the fact that people elsewhere behave like complete turds an excuse for St John’s? How much bullying is “enough”? How much hypocrisy can a Catholic institution find acceptable? When are “traditions” just excuses for assaults on individual rights and decent standards, and when should toxic traditions be outlawed?

See also She almost died. And they printed T-shirts to celebrate.

* That should be gild the lily – not Joe’s fault, of course, but rather an example of Herald-Sun proofreading. If something more than Spell Check proofed the copy, that is…

Past and future–Surry Hills to The Gong

2005

Sirdan on the move

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Sirdan moved today, a fairly short distance south, and not far from Centennial Park. He will have more space for his amazing range of creative activities. – 14 October

M suffers racist attack

Gary Lo has experienced more racism within Sydney’s gay community than he has in the mainstream community.

When he went to gay venues people muttered things like “fucking nip”. He found it almost impossible to get served at bars, as the staff would look straight past him. And when he tried internet chat rooms, the minute the issue of race came up people would say they weren’t interested…

Lo, who was born in Hong Kong but has lived in Australia since he was two, said people in the gay community seemed to think they had “more leeway when it came to racism”.

“It seems like anything goes with the gay community when it comes to race,” he said.

“Maybe it’s because there’s a sexual hierarchy of desirability on the gay scene. And Asians rank pretty low on that. No one talks about it but it’s pretty well understood.”…

It would be nice to think Gary is a bit oversensitive or paranoid, but it is sadly not the case.

I was shocked to learn last night that a couple of weeks ago M was physically assaulted by a gay person in what seems to have been a racially-motivated attack. M required medical attention, and the police were called in. Beyond that I can’t say more, as I normally do not publicise M’s business here.

As I have said before, racism is NOT an acceptable world-view; it is utterly irrational, it is a psychological problem, a personality disorder, and a great social problem. Give it no tolerance.

Issues arising from cultural conflicts and varying degrees of acculturation in a migrant context in a culturally diverse society such as ours are another matter, and often require careful thought, but such issues, let it be noted, are not down to the unscientific concept we call “race”, and are best sorted calmly and carefully, with an eye to fairness and compassion and, let it be said, tolerance of difference. – 14 October

2006

Little things that make blogging worthwhile

I have no delusions of grandeur when it comes to this blog. I really don’t think my rants, which are far from infallible anyway, will change the world, though I do believe that the blogosphere as a whole can have a great effect through the channels of communications it may open up. One instance of that is recounted on Jim Belshaw’s blog, and strangely it concerns me and a friend of mine. Through our blogs, Jim and I managed to bring together my friend the Aboriginal actor Kristina Nehm here in Surry Hills and the artist Stozo Da Klown in the USA.

Hi Jim!

I want to thank you for putting me in contact with Kristina, she wrote me and I am completely blown away how the internet works and world community is and just the mysteries of life timing etc. I have been surfing the net for years 20 to be exact well that was even before this internet thing etc. She was a dear lost friend and our connection was priceless for me…

mega thanks!!
Stozo

I would love to refer you to Jim’s account of this, but at the moment Blogspot is producing, not for the first time:

blogspotsite

But it is the comment Ahmad has just added here that prompted my thought this morning: see Meanwhile in a country far away… Thanks, Ahmad. – 17 October

2007

Sigh…

M, meanwhile, emails: spent a few hours at copacabana beach. by chance there were gay pride party in front beach. joined the party and danced 4 hrs… Not his photo; it’s last year and from an article in the Washington Blade linked to the pic.

Surry Hills is much more exciting, of course, as you saw here earlier. And I didn’t even mention last weekend’s Surry Hills Festival, because I didn’t go, being in Chinatown most of that day. You may read about it on James O’Brien’s blog. Better than Rio, James? – 15 October

2008

Redfern Visions 23: East Redfern 1 – nature 1

The pics in this and the next six or so Redfern Visions sets have all been taken today in the area bounded by Cleveland Street, Walker Street, South Dowling Street and Moore Park — in other words between here and M’s place, being deliberately vague about where he lives. They were all taken in morning light.

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The jacarandas are thriving…

2013

When West Wollongong can expect the NBN roll-out. But work has already commenced in Central Wollongong. See Crown St Mall to lead city’s switch to NBN.

How time has gone, is going!

And I see my blog is at the moment R-Rated – thanks to recent posts remembering the Bali bombing. Oh dear.  I just said another bad word! How about “b*mbing”?

Weather and readings and possibly half-baked ideas…

In other words, welcome to a typical blog entry.

Currently I am reading:

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… which links to the very clever accompanying website. The Guardian review:

Opening Reif Larsen’s The Selected Works of TS Spivet brings to mind that useful old instruction of Mark Twain: "Persons attempting to find a motive in this narrative will be prosecuted; persons attempting to find a moral in it will be banished; persons attempting to find a plot in it will be shot." Larsen wants to transport his reader to something like the world of Huck Finn, that place of adventure where adult codes are suspended. To this end, he places us in the head of Tecumseh Sparrow Spivet (TS for short), a 12-year-old prodigy with a compulsion to make maps of the world in order better to understand it.

Spivet lives on Coppertop Ranch in the wilds of Montana and it quickly becomes clear that the cartography he is interested in is not the stuff of the Ordnance Survey. His co-ordinates are all over the place: he maps the flight paths of bats around his house, the dynamics of his sister shucking corn cobs, the spread of McDonald’s in northern Montana, the rising waters of the local lake, which he believes is set to inundate the town. Many of these maps illustrate the margins of his story, along with all sorts of other digressions and diagrams.

The result is a wilfully original and diverting book, full of carefully penned ephemera, a bit like Schott’s Miscellany written as a confessional novel. In design, it appeals to the same contemporary nostalgia for the niceties of between-the-war text books and all things Baden-Powell. There is, of course, a reason for Spivet’s mapping….

I did have two difficulties with it. The first, slightly unfair one, is that if you take away the brilliant typography and illustration, the story clunks, particularly toward the end. The second is that at no point did I feel that this was at any stretch the voice of a 12-year-old boy. Even the New Yorker’s resident outlier Malcolm Gladwell wouldn’t have sounded like this at 12: "Last year, I did an illustration for an article in Science magazine about a new technology at ATMs and automated kiosks that registered not just the tone of the customer’s voice but also his or her facial expressions."

Much of the wit of the book arises from this disjunction, as in the moment when Spivet is faced with a rattlesnake and falls into an existential reverie: "Was there an acknowledgement – beneath the assigned roles of fear, predation, territoriality – of our shared sentience? A part of me wanted to reach out to the rattlesnake and shake his invisible hand." But it also courts a deadening kind of irritation. In one chapter, Spivet anatomises, rather riskily, the "five different kinds of boredom": from "anticipatory boredom" (where the looming presence of something in the near future prevents you from being able to concentrate on anything) to "let-down boredom" (where an event or activity is expected to be a certain way only for it to turn out differently)….

I have just passed the rattlesnake incident.

The October Monthly is out. I am drawn by quite a bit there — Linda Jaivin, Waleed Aly, Paul Kelly…

And Mungo MacCallum being very sensible:

In ‘Junk Politics’, Mungo MacCallum laments the cult of character, which has seen personal attacks and gossip supplant debate over substance and, heaven forfend, the merits of actual policies. In the wake of the wall-punching allegations against Abbott, MacCallum searches for the genesis of this fixation and finds both sides of politics culpable.

Then there is Marcia Langton, to whose views I am rather inclined, unfashionable as that might be. A few years ago she wrote:

IT SEEMS ALMOST axiomatic to most Australians that Aborigines should be marginalised: poor, sick, and forever on the verge of extinction. At the heart of this idea is a belief in the inevitability of our incapability – the acceptance of our ‘descent into hell’. This is part of the cultural and political wrong-headedness that dominates thinking about the role of Aboriginal property rights and economic behaviour in the transition from settler colonialism to modernity.

In this mindset, the potential of an economically empowered, free-thinking, free-speaking Aborigine has been set to one side because it is more interesting to play with the warm, cuddly cultural Aborigine – the one who is so demoralised that the only available role is as a passive player. The dominance of the ‘reconciliation and justice’ rhetoric in the Australian discourse on Aboriginal issues is a part of this.

The first Australians are simply seeking relief from poverty and economic exclusion. Yet, in the last three decades, rational thinking and sound theory (such as development economics) to address the needs of Indigenous societies have been side-tracked into the intellectual dead-end of the ‘culture wars’. This has had very little to do with Aboriginal people, but everything to do with white settlers positioning themselves around the central problem of their country: can a settler nation be honourable? Can history be recruited to the cause of Australian nationalism without reaching agreement with its first peoples?

Paradoxically, even while Aboriginal misery dominates the national media frenzy – the perpetual Aboriginal reality show – the first peoples exist as virtual beings without power or efficacy in the national zeitgeist. Political characters played by ‘Aboriginal leaders’ pull the levers that draw settler Australians to them in a co-dependent relationship. The rhetoric of reconciliation is a powerful drawcard – like the bearded woman at the old sideshow. It is a seductive, pornographic idea, designed for punters accustomed to viewing Aborigines as freaks. It almost allows ‘the native’ some agency and a future. I say ‘almost’ because, in the end, ‘the native’ is not allowed out of the show, forever condemned to perform to attract crowds. The debate that has surrounded the Emergency Intervention has been instructive. It has exposed this co-dependency. It has also revealed a more disturbing, less well-understood fault-line in the Aboriginal world. The co-dependents in the relationship seek to speak for the abused, the suffering, the ill, the dying and those desperately in need who have been left alone to descend into a living hell while those far removed conduct a discourse on rights and culture.

The bodies that have piled up over the last thirty years have become irrelevant, except where they serve the purposes of the ‘culture war’. But in the meantime, the bodies of real people continue to pile up, human lives broken on the wheel of suffering. How much longer will this abuse of Aboriginal people be tolerated?

In the October Monthly she writes about the recent Northern Territory election.

In the recent Northern Territory election, Barbara Shaw was the Greens candidate for Braitling, one of the electorates in Alice Springs. She is Aboriginal and strongly opposed to the Northern Territory intervention.

To southerners, this may well seem a natural arrangement. Shaw won friends on the east coast by helping to contest Jenny Macklin’s housing intervention in the Federal Court, and thus stopped the building of houses in the Alice Springs town camps for several years on the grounds that residents had not been properly consulted. Shaw’s activism also saw her play a role in the Australia Day melee in Canberra earlier this year.

Her efforts did not go unnoticed in Alice Springs. On 25 August, Shaw received just 9% of the vote. The swing against the Greens in Braitling was almost 6%. Territory-wide, the Country Liberal Party (CLP) gained 56% of the two-party preferred vote, enough to win 16 of the legislative assembly’s 25 seats.

Few commentators picked the conservatives’ victory…

But the most significant factor was the Aboriginal body politic itself. Strong local leaders have worked hard to bring economic development to indigenous communities where welfare has turned residents into perpetual mendicants reliant on the state. Time and again, native title groups have spent years getting an agreement with a resource company over the line, negotiating income streams that might shift indigenous people from the margins to the centre of regional economic development in return for land access, only for a ragtag team of ‘wilderness’ campaigners to turn up with an entourage of disaffected Aboriginal protesters to stop development at the eleventh hour.

While the federal Labor government likes to feign shock at the more flaky antics of its coalition partner, Aboriginal people have known for years that the Greens are no good in bed. Their notions of economic development in remote Australia, which chiefly involve employing Aboriginal people as wilderness caretakers, are inspired by children’s books and anarchist tracts. As I’ve been saying for 20 years, this concept of wilderness is nothing but a new incarnation of terra nullius. With luck, the NT election represents a tipping point. The time of dismissing Aboriginal aspirations for economic development is over.

You know, she just could be right.

Meanwhile, with a kind of relevance to the above, but not necessarily endorsing anything I have said so far, visit Redfern and South Sydney via the October South Sydney Herald (PDF). It is worth it.

This issue of the SSH includes a feature on the Schizophrenia Fellowship NSW, which emphasises the importance of supported in-community care. Peter Maher’s faith column on sexual abuse by clergy, and the aftermath for the mental health of victims, is harrowing and essential reading…

Which brings me to the weather, as here in The Gong we are already into 30C+ and it is just October! El Nino is back, it appears.

The past week has provided a pretty good preview of the long, hot summer in store.

Temperatures soared into the thirties, with Albion Park recording the highest temperatures in the region of 31.6 degrees yesterday, and 31.2 degrees on Wednesday. The southern suburb also hit a top of 33.7 degrees last Friday.

Bureau of Meteorology senior forecaster Jane Golding said October is usually the month when we start to see some warmer weather on the east coast, and this year didn’t disappoint.

"We’re still getting westerly winds coming across the ranges which are dragging the warmer air from inland Australia," Ms Golding said.

Temperatures were expected to stay pretty warm last night – at 18 degrees, which is five degrees above average – but things should start to cool down today.

"A change will be coming through the Illawarra during the middle of the day, with a south to south-easterly change keeping temperatures a couple of degrees cooler, in the high 20s," she said.

"That cool change will remain throughout the weekend and there’s a chance of showers on Saturday, which may develop into thunderstorms later in the day.

"However, the warming trend is set to return mid-to-late next week".

Meanwhile the State Emergency Service (SES) has warned NSW residents to brace themselves for a slew of fierce summer hail storms.

More than 50 severe storms are predicted to hit the state’s east over the coming months, with some of them likely to be as damaging as Sydney’s eastern suburbs hailstorm of 1999.

Hail stones as large as cricket balls caused more than $1.5 billion of damage during the intense, long-lived thunderstorm.

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Yesterday in West Wollongong – hot

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Alana Valentine–new play

This is interesting:

A theatre work about the Waterfall train disaster is being developed as the 10th anniversary of the tragedy looms.

Alana Valentine closely studied the accident and its aftermath and penned a short play after hearing of a teenage survivor who escaped the train wreck and dialled triple-0, only to be mistaken for a hoax caller.

"I became interested in the human side. Seven people died, but so many others were affected – the guard, the wife of the driver [who was killed]," Valentine said.

The playwright’s full-length work, Dead Man Brake in reference to a braking mechanism that failed to prevent the January 2003 disaster, is being developed with Illawarra professional theatre company, Merrigong.

It pairs verbatim material with imagined, poetry and dream sequences. The plot is carried by the character of a chaplain, who falls in and out of sleep in the waiting room of the public inquiry into the disaster, as he waits to give evidence.

Valentine hopes to make contact with people personally affected by the tragedy.

Those impacted – and the general public – will be able to see the fledgling work at IPAC next month and potentially shape the final product.

"I am less interested in why the disaster happened than in … how a community copes and the lasting impacts on a community of that disaster," she said.

The in-progress performance on September 8 is part of Merrigong’s Ruff! program, which showcases developing works and invites feedback.

Dead Man Brake will be the seventh in-house production by Merrigong since 2006, when the company began seeking out stories "with local relevance and universal resonance".

Another home-grown story, Table of Knowledge, on Wollongong’s sex and development scandal, was co-produced by the company.

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Alana – Illawarra Mercury photo

I met Alana through Redfern/Waterloo connections. See my 2009 blog  and my 2006-7 blog.

Meanwhile a relaxing moment after lunch yesterday at The Steelers:

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Marcel Proust on the Kobo. I am 75% through the second novel of Remembrance of Things Past.

Trams down Cleveland Street via Memory Lane

On Lost Sydney this was recently published.

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A Railway-bound tram in Cleveland Street in 1960 – but where? My bet is that this is looking east and that the building behind the trailing car of the tram is on the corner of Cleveland and Young Streets. When I attended Sydney Boys High from 1955 to 1959 we were supposed to avoid the trams if a school special bus was available – in a toast rack tram, if crowded, our hard Globite school cases were something of a public nuisance, let alone our sweaty bodies… Here are some girls from Sydney Girls High around the same era: see High School Memories.

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Nonetheless we often caught the tram.

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Corner of Elizabeth and Chalmers Streets, looking east

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Cleveland Street, just past Crown and Baptist, looking east. On the left you can see Nickson Street.

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On the other side of Sydney High, Anzac Parade and the dedicated tramway by the Cricket Ground and Show Ground.

These were taken on 25 February 1958 when The Queen Mother was visiting. I remember that day.

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Yes, it was hot… Note the kids sheltering under the trees.

Picture sources: City of Sydney Image Library; Bus Australia; Trove.  Do visit Shooting Through : A fond remembrance on Sydney Eye.

Finally: who can remember the Wunderlich Factory which occupied the site of  Surry Hills Shopping Village? I think this is a pic of it:

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