Archive for March, 2015

togetherAbout fifteen years ago, I was living in England and my bedroom window overlooked woods and plains and somewhere in my view was the site of the Battle of Bosworth. I hadn’t heard of the battle or Bosworth, where Richard III was famously killed, so ignorant was I of my own nation’s history, but I resonated with it anyway.

I would stare out of that window at those woods and plains and feel such a bond with the land, with every tree and hedgerow. It was England, where I was born. It wasn’t patriotism. It wasn’t anything like that. It was visceral. England was in my blood.

I was teaching history to high school students at the time so I soon got to learn about the Battle of Bosworth and I went there a couple of times and read the plaques and stood in the field, and thought of Richard III for a while.

More than anything I felt connected. I felt I belonged. I felt that the land was my land. I am indigenous to it, as if the land owned me.

In Australia I am a migrant. I am a citizen and I have lived here about half my life. But this is not my land. I have no sense of belonging to it. I can appreciate it. I can marvel over its beauty. But it isn’t mine and it doesn’t own me.

So the only way I can understand in my naive and limited way what it’s like for indigenous Australians to feel connected to the land, is by reminding myself that this is their land, that they belong to it, that it owns them, in exactly the same way that the land of England owns me.

And even then, even when I stretch empathy to its limits, I still don’t fully understand for I have not lived their history. I have not lived a history of dispossession, of genocide, of slavery and child stealing and so many many other heinous crimes against a people’s humanity. After all, I was born into the side of the perpetrators: the British Empire.

What I know as truth is that this connection to the land that we were born into and belong to is in some basic way the same for all of us. It is lived, in experience, every moment of every day. I also know that for indigenous Australians, it is much more than that. It is an entire matrix of spiritual belonging binding culture and land together as one.

I get to live the experience of alienation as every migrant does. Indigenous Australians get to live a different sort of alienation, one that has removed them and continues to seek to remove them, from the land beneath their feet.

For me, fundamentally, we are all the same. We are one. And I know that if a tiny bit of my own history can resonate with me so deeply and subtly, even without me knowing barely a detail of it, then it is equally the case that indigenous Australians resonate with their own history, a history that has caused immense wounding and scarring, a history not of armies of kings battling it out on green fields, but of imperial colonisers surging forth with divine right in their hearts and an image of tribal savages in their minds.

Therefore, I bow my head to that wound and those scars, knowing they will take many more generations to heal.

In the meantime the least us blow ins can do is show respect, help restore faith and dignity and open our ears, our eyes, our hearts and our minds, and not let ourselves be blinded by reports of deprivation and alcoholism and systemic domestic violence and child abuse and ‘all those wasted government funds’ and any other statistic or titbit of information the arrogant and the closed-minded care to throw up.

I will never blame a victim. I will always champion a survivor.

In solidarity.

Isobel Blackthorn’s first novel Asylum will be released by Odyssey Books in May 2015.
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Asylum Cover

I’m delighted to share another warm review of Asylum

“Asylum by Isobel Blackthorn was a pleasure to read. Within pages of starting the book I was drawn into the story of Yvette and her relationships with the permanent women and transient men in her life. Capturing the inconsistencies in policy and disgust many feel about current politics around who is welcomed to Australia, the story travels across Australia. I have never been to Perth or Fremantle but I felt myself transported.” – Katherine Webber

Paperback edition of Asylum will be released by Odyssey Books in May 2015.

 

Signing this Change petition or this Avaaz petition is the very least I can do to show my support for the campaign to stop the eviction of 150 remote indigenous communities.

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Many are saying the evictions are about mining and therefore corporate greed. I expect they are. But they are also about a wanton display of power; these evictions justified using the same old neoliberal rhetoric of the ‘taxpayer can’t afford it’ bottom line. Yet we can afford to award Gina Rinehart billions in tax credits. We can afford F35 fight jets and new submarines. We can afford to pay for the outsourcing of myriad government services, lining the pockets of slavering corporations who earn hundreds of $$ for ticking a box on some target outcome form. Yet we cannot afford basic care for those we have assaulted, dispossessed and otherwise abused for generations. The very least we can do is let them live in dignity on their own land.

I’m with you, Blackfulla Revolution. In solidarity.

 

Another day, another headstand!!!!!! Odyssey Books has just offered to publish a paperback edition of my novel Asylum.

And I’ve accepted.

Is it too early for a celebratory glass of red??

Late last year freelance journalist Catherine Wilson invited me to give my expert opinion on the asylum seeker issue in Australia. I’m delighted to now share the piece she wrote, which appears in the Inter Press Service news agency. I feel privileged to be a part of such an important, well-researched and thought-provoking article which invites us all to put the spotlight on our own beliefs and attitudes.

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Isobel Blackthorn is a regular contributor to the National Forum on the asylum seeker issue. Her first novel, Asylum, tackles the issue in a literary manner. To find out more, visit this page.

Here’s a little thought: While America concerns itself with the crushingly pivotal issue of Hilary Clinton’s use of her personal mobile phone for state correspondence, in Australia our master of euphemism, Tony Abbott, has caused another furore with his latest gaff, and the real issue of what sits behind the de-funding of essential services and consequent evicting of indigenous communities is subtly obscured by our outrage and the inevitable polarisation that will occur as a result, our very condemnation creating an equally strong pro-Abbott backlash from the racist bigoted quarter of society. In this way ”lifestyle choices” becomes just another smoke screen in already thick air and even if a real conversation about the imminent evictions takes place, from this point forward it will occur inside the “lifestyle choice” haze.

Following this line of reasoning, it might be stated that rather than being a loose-mouthed moron, Abbott and his spinners have done something clever. Maybe Abbott is perfect for the job precisely because he has this remarkable way with words.

Even if it is most likely the case that Abbott is a loose-mouthed moron, these polarising and obfuscating consequences of his statement remain.

My training in psychology and philosophy taught me always to ask the questions, ‘what’s behind it?’ and ‘what’s the rest of it?’ – Questions that seek to pierce veils of obscurity, questions that invite speculation.

For example, I’m reminded of the Intervention being in part an excuse to access land for mining and otherwise attempt to gain absolute control of indigenous communities.

I’m also reminded, along with many others right now, of the billions of dollars of tax credits that mining magnates like Gina Rinehart receive each year.

Meanwhile, right now, university research funding is in the balance, in a clever and nasty move by Pyne, and I don’t doubt that all sorts of other rotten things are slipping by without our notice.

Since the single overarching conflict in the world today is ideological, taking place in the realms of thought and emotion, I think attention paid to the manner in which it is being fought is important. Otherwise we all just barrel blindly in as co-participants in our own downfall.

Ideology is introduced in the English curriculum in schools in around Years 9 and 10. Rather than ideology being an object to be explained, it needs to be thought of as a process that is unravelled. A good place to start would be Hitler’s propaganda machine. But we need to go a lot further. Most know that advertising is propaganda. That politicians are guided by spin doctors. I’m not sure how many are wondering if Tony Abbott’s ”lifestyle choice” gaff falls into the same basket.

Alex Legg (1952-2014) was an inspiration to so many musicians. A master songwriter and troubadour whose memory will live on through his songs.

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I was privileged to have spent two fine years by his side. So when NSW Folk Federation invited me to write a tribute for their magazine, Cornstalk, of course I agreed.

The article can be accessed here – Cornstalk

Or, read on:

“After a sudden and intense battle with cancer, Alex Legg, age 62, passed away on the 3rd December 2014, leaving behind his son Angus, his sisters and brothers, and nieces and nephews in Scotland, and the swathe of musicians he inspired. Alex led a rich and interesting musical life since writing his first song at twelve years of age. By the time he was fourteen he was playing bass in Scottish dance band, Dave Barron’s Baronettes. After playing bass in a number of Aberdeen bands, including Hedgehog Pie, he moved to London in 1974 and spent the following thirty years songwriting and gigging, finally moving to Melbourne, Australia with his then wife Jenny and son Angus, and two contact numbers in his phone book. From such tenuous beginnings, Alex went on to forge a successful musical career in Melbourne, especially in the Dandenong Ranges where he ran Kelly’s Sessions, at Kelly’s Bar and Grill, Olinda, easily the greatest open mic in the world and a training ground for many emerging artists. Alex nurtured the talent and gave freely his own hard won wisdom, encouraging singer songwriters to work up a three-hour set and get themselves out there. He would even help to book them gigs. Alex also hosted a monthly Blues and Roots night at Burrinja Arts Centre café, featuring Nick Charles, Fiona Boyes, Andy Cowan, Phil Manning, Kavisha Mazzella, and Lloyd Spiegel and many more top Blues artists, all of whom held Alex in the highest regard. Alex was a master songwriter and consummate performer, his stomping grooves and rich vocals the perfect delivery for songs of passion, loss and social justice. Alex will be remembered for his award-winning songs like Too Many Children and Heaven Help Me; songs he considered simple and funny like Leather and Lace and Forget It (another award winner); and songs like May All Your Friends Be Artists which he wrote for his son Angus, songs that strike at the hearts of many. At the time of his passing he was working on an album featuring the great Albert Lee on guitar. The album was originally to be titled Cupid’s Graveyard after one of the tracks. Towards the end of his life Alex decided to re-name the album Leggacy. I think it was a wise choice. Alex had a huge heart and a giving & generous nature and he has left us with a song catalogue second to none. His songs are his legacy. Here is Heaven Help Me, a song that Joe Cocker passed over and Johnny Neel recorded in 2004 can be found on YouTube” Isobel Blackthorn

In peace…