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A NOTE FROM US
Oh hi! First things first… We owe a loud *thank you* to all you marvelous people who shared issue #1 and coaxed their mates into signing up, too. We’re so excited to see our THD community growing. #soblessed #butactually
Onto issue #2. We’re bringing you our chat with Triple J Host/the reason you always have a v chill time between 9-12 every morning/your radio best friend, Zan Rowe. Her new podcast, co-hosted with the delightful Myf Warhurst, is a real treat. Next up is a powerful call to arms by Aboriginal feminist writer Celeste Liddle, who digs into the Racial Discrimination Act debate to argue that just mayyyybe powerful white men don’t needmore power to vilify others based on race. (Send this piece to your Herald Sun-reading uncle?)
Finally, we share the true story of a young Iranian woman, Neda, who endured immigration detention on Christmas Island after losing her brother. We’re so inspired by her strength, and reckon stories like Neda’s should be required reading for all Australians.
Don’t forget to send us your thoughts, submissions, and Doorly doctor questions to email@example.com!
– Mia & Grace
FOR ZAN ROWE, “IT’S ALL GUT”
Only a few things in this life are absolutely reliable: your dog is always happy to see you; it’s impossible to buy almond butter without eating it straight from the jar; and Zan Rowe will know your new favorite song before you do. A Triple J family member since 2005, Zan is now moving into the brave new world of podcasting, having just launched Bang On with her partner in crime and bff Myf Warhurst.
By Mia Abrahams
Artwork by Nina Abrahams
Hey Zan. Tell us, how do you know when you’ve found a song Triple J listeners are going to love? Is it an art/science/gut feeling?
It’s all gut. Particularly for me, as I have no musical training (or ability) other than being a fan. I know when I hear something, if it will connect. And connecting can be to a mass of tradies on a work site, to a queer kid in the country, to the woman who’s at work streaming Triple J in her open-plan office.
Years of listening to music, and sharing it with so many people has shown me that it doesn’t matter the genre or the audience: A good song is a good song.
What excites you about launching Bang On? What things are you most looking forward to talking about on the podcast?
I love listening to podcasts, so I’m really stoked to be joining that community of conversations. And that’s why Myf and I decided to dive in, because for years we’ve been having solid catch ups on all kinds of things, off air.
Ever since I’ve known Myf, she’s blown me away with her passion for music and art, but also the incredible ability to surprise me with something from her past that I have never heard before. She’s also very good at stitching me up. I figured it was time to share that with everyone else. For better and/or worse!
Who inspires you?
So many people. Journalist Jessica Hopper for her music writing and courage to ask the questions that few others do about problematic artists. David Byrne for his unending curiosity around all forms of art, and for giving everything a go. Meagan Loader, Content Director at Double J and dear friend, for her penchant for always wanting to try new things (and have fun doing them). PJ Harvey, one of the greatest musicians and performers of my generation, for consistently broadening my world.
Oh thank you! I really love sharing stuff I love, and am so happy others dig it too!
Life is too short (and busy) for me to re-read much, I actually usually gift most of my books when I’m done. But in the recent past, I’ve held onto copies of Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides, and Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Two epic narratives, so brilliantly told, that I want to go back to them again one day. Just thinking about them makes me well up.
“I KNOW WHERE MY FIGHT LIES”
The Arrernte woman, Melbourne-based writer, speaker, and National Indigenous Organiser of the NTEU pens an essay for To Her Door.
By Celeste Liddle
Illustration: Mary Delaney. Based on photo: Rick Cutrona
If I’m honest, I’m tired of talking about the Racial Discrimination Act and hearing that 18C stops “free speech”. We’ve been talking about this for years now, from the Bolt case toBill Leak, and it’s growing old.
White men are continually framing themselves as victims of “political correctness gone mad” (never mind the existence of 18D, which lays out fair conditions for exemption from 18C.) The idea that it’s more offensive, as a wealthy white conservative man, to be called a “racist” than it is to actually commit an act which vilifies others on the basis of race is repugnant.
Yet, we’re currently reading think pieces on 18C again. That’s because on the 21st of March, ironically also known as the UN’s International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, the Turnbull government announced its plans to water down section 18Cof the Racial Discrimination Act. While reports say these plans will be blocked in the Senate, the plan to remove the words “offend, insult and humiliate” in preference for just “harass” sends a strong message to communities who are continually impacted by racism.
Put simply, the Turnbull government has shown negligible interest in eliminating racial discrimination.
The ongoing debate on 18C aside, it would have behooved Turnbull and his ilk to note the theme of this year’s International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination: “Racial profiling and incitement to hatred, including in the context of migration”. It’s a particularly poignant theme when it comes to issues many Indigenous and other racial minority groups are currently grappling with in this country.
In 2016, there were massive protests after a Four Corners investigation into Darwin’s Don Dale juvenile Detention Centre revealed inmates being brutalised. Many of these Aboriginal children were incarcerated for petty crimes, including crimes related to homelessness that could have been better dealt with via proper social service provisions. The Royal Commission into NT Youth Detention has since unearthed further atrocities enacted upon these children including threats of sexual assault, coercion and the filming of children while they were going to the toilet.
Despite seemingly increasing community knowledge when it comes to Indigenous social justice campaigns, we also continue to see disproportionately high incarceration rates nationally. Recommendations from the tabled 1991 Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody said back then that incarceration rates needed to be investigated and reduced. But incarceration rates continue to grow – and Aboriginal women are the fastest growing prison population in Australia.
At the other extreme, the horrifying rates of murder of Aboriginal women remains of little interest to most people and politicians. In 2015 and 2016, Aboriginal women made up nearly 20% of women killed as a result of “violence against women” despite being only about 3% of the female population. Yet media and police release follow-up on these cases was rare. Most of the time, there were no further updates provided regarding investigations and arrests, if these things happened at all. That Aboriginal women had to fight to get the Lynette Daley case actually to trial speaks volumes about how little our lives matter in this country. [Ms Daley was found dead on 10 Mile Beach in NSW in 2011. An autopsy later found Ms Daley died from blunt force genital tract trauma. Despite overwhelming evidence against the two men charged with her sexual assault and murder, the NSW DPP failed to prosecute until late last year].
Of course, it’s not just Aboriginal people who are racially profiled and discriminated against. It’s not a good time to be a brown or black refugee and/or of the Muslim faith right now. Earlier this month, Federal Senator Pauline Hanson infamously called for people to “pray for a “Muslim ban” in the wake of the London terrorist attack.
Prime Minister Turnbull may have denounced Hanson’s call, but this has not stopped his government—nor any of the Liberal and Labor Governments before now— from demonising asylum seekers to win votes and locking them up in detention centres that Amnesty International has described as part of “a system of deliberate abuse”.
Right now in Australia, there has never been a more urgent time to investigate how certain racial groups are profiled, how white populations are encouraged to fear and hate, and what we as a community can do about it.
Instead, our current government would prefer to make it easier for those who demonise, those who misrepresent and misreport, and those who vilify to continue doing so.
Instead of “protecting” the alleged rights of those who need the least amount of protection in our society, we need to move onto real discussions on how we can, and should, eliminate racial discrimination.
If the choice is between powerful white men being allowed to vilify others based on race — and actual social justice, which advocates for the liberties of those most vulnerable in our communities — I know where my fight lies.
Celeste Liddle blogs at Rantings of an Aboriginal Feminist and lives in Melbourne.
DEAR DOORLY DOCTOR
We’re bringing back the sealed section: Doorly Doctor answers your most candid(a) sex questions.
Q: I’ve heard coconut oil is the best kind of lubricant for sex. Reaaaally? (And what are the differences between different types, anyway?) – Coco Jumbo, Perth
A: Lubricants are an excellent additive to any sexual experience. They’re not just for old people! But it’s really important to identify what kind of lubricant you are using.
Lubricants can be made from water, oil/petroleum or silicone. Oil-based lubricants (such as coconut oil) and petroleum-based (such as Vaseline) actually increase the likelihood of the condom breaking! So save that coconut oil for your wok/hair/smoothie.
Water-based lubricants are very popular because they’re easily washed off in the shower and are best for using with a condom.
Silicone-based lubricants can also be great because they last longer than other lubricants, but not all are latex-safe (safe for use with condoms) so it’s important to check. Silicone based-lubricant is often recommended for sex toys because it lasts longer, but shouldn’t be used with silicone rubber sex toys, as it can break down the material.
– Dr Jessica Dean (She’s founder of the Nookie Project, a director of beyondblue, and doctor at Monash Health in Melbourne.)
“IT WAS THE SINGLE MOST DIFFICULT DECISION OF MY LIFE’
Neda, an Iranian refugee, shares her story of immigration detention on Christmas Island. She now lives in Melbourne, and is studying for a PhD in health sciences.
Photo: Sarah Walker. Digital art: Grace Jennings-Edquist
I was working for my father, who was in the building industry. At first I wasn’t very active politically. My father was supporting me to be equal with men but he used to tell me, “Don’t get involved too much with political issues in this country.” He was very afraid I would get in trouble.My brothers did not agree with these discriminatory laws and injustices that were practiced in my country. My youngest brother, we were very close together and we knew everything about each other. Once, he called me to his room and he said he believed what was going on in this country was just completely wrong, in regards to human rights and women’s rights, and he said, ‘We’re going to do something about it.’ I said, ‘We are normal people. We’ve got no power. We can’t do anything.’ He said, ‘If we believe that we can do it, we will do it together.
I decided that we should not be quiet, we should stand against this government’s injustices.
There was a protest march a couple of days after they released the 2009 election results. I was filming the protest.
Before I realised it, I was at the head of the march with a camera in hand, and I quickly realised that the situation was fast becoming incredibly treacherous.
A group of police came from every direction. So we had to escape. They were beating everyone in front of them, they were shooting people. They didn’t care who was in front of them—women, teenagers, girls, anybody. Some of the people who were in that protest, I never heard from again.
I think after the protest I became a completely different person. I got involved with the other protests that came after the elections.
One time when I was filming I was taken to a government facility for questioning by the secret police. After a period of time I was released from that facility but my older brother got in touch with me to say that the government agents and secret police came to my father, to my family home, and they were looking for me. I was just trying not to be home, staying with my aunties, staying with my friends.
But then I lost my youngest brother.
After the protest he had injuries, brain injuries. He used to take a lot of medication. One day, in the morning I went for a walk along the river. I was really worried about him because he was really sick and he was depressed about our situation.
When I went back home, I thought he was sleeping but it was eleven o’clock. Then I realised he was not. He had passed away.
Then I was summoned to the station, to the court. I immediately knew what would be the outcome if I handed myself to the authorities. I knew that I had to leave.
It was the single most difficult decision in my life, to leave my beloved mother and father and all my loved ones behind. It was a very difficult decision, but there were no options available.
The situation was like a prison for me. Maybe the prison’s bars [were] invisible to everybody, but it has exactly the same conditions as jail.
I couldn’t go to sleep at night. It was a very hard situation. You don’t know where are you going, there is not any tangible plan on the table. You just put your clothes in a bag.
It was six o’clock in the morning. I went to my brother’s apartment. I told him to quietly come down the stairs and I would be waiting in the car. He got into the car and I just told him, ‘I’m in big trouble and it’s something that I can’t take a chance on—if I stay here, I might be in the prison by this afternoon.’
I went to say goodbye to my brother who had passed away. When I went to the cemetery, to his grave, I just promised him that if I survived on the ocean, if I could get myself to a safe country, I would do everything that I could for those like him.
When we saw Christmas Island from the distance it was a beautiful, green island. It was a very good feeling to stand on firm ground. When you are on a boat for two weeks, every day you are moving, side to side. I was very happy that I wasn’t on the water anymore because I was seasick all the time. I was very happy that I could survive that ocean.The first thing they did was an interview and health check and after that they put us in different rooms and blocks. They gave us food and clothes and after that they said, ‘You have to wait for your interview.’
There is not much to do while you are in the detention centre. The guards won’t tell you anything about what is going to happen. They just try to keep the environment calm and provide you with food or your requirements but nothing more. It’s still like, you’re locked up, you know? It’s funny that afterwards it doesn’t seem to be much to other people, but it seems a lot to you when you’re in the detention centre. Every day is very long because you are all the time thinking of when you are going to get out. It becomes kind of psychological.
At least when you are in the prison, you know, for example, when the date is that you have to stay there until. The difference between a prison and the detention centre was its uncertainty. It’s not knowing anything about your future—the stress, anxiety. You don’t know what will happen.
We had some happy times in detention centre, for example, when we were celebrating people’s birthdays. We had very limited ingredients, such as bread, butter and jam. And actually, these were the simple moments when we could be very happy. Just for short periods of time, we could forget about our conditions.
I was keeping myself busy a lot by learning English, because my English was limited to just introducing myself. We didn’t have a teacher. Everything that I could find in the facility, I would just get it. I had a small dictionary with me so I just tried to read it. For example, I would read one page and it would take me maybe two days!
One thing about Christmas Island is that you are very fortunate if you don’t get sick. Because if you get sick, the medical care is not very effective.
One night I had a lot of pain in my body, so I went to the medical centre and asked the nurse to help me because I was suffering a lot. He gave me an injection. I experienced a severe reaction to that medication and I truly thought that I was dying. I couldn’t catch my breath. I can only remember that a group of medical staff gathered around me, talking feverishly.
After that, when I opened my eyes, everything was different, completely different. A different room, a different environment. I truly thought that I had died and that I had passed into the next world.
There was a beautiful woman who came to me and spoke to me in Farsi, my native language. When she told me that her name was Rouha, I thought that I had definitely died because her name in Farsi meant ‘an angel’!
She explained to me that I had been airlifted to Perth to be in the hands of medical staff and a good medical facility. I was very, very anxious and after a while I had a panic attack again. I started to get panic attacks very often.
I was taken to the family detention centre in Perth, which was far nicer than the previous place I had been staying. It was a family detention centre and people with medical issues, health conditions were also taken to that centre. There was another woman who had miscarried on Christmas Island. There was a woman who had had her arms broken. It was a small centre close to the airport.
In Perth, the staff were very friendly and very welcoming, so that made a lot of difference. They used to take us for excursions, so we could see people in real life around us. On Christmas Island the only thing that you can see is bars—bars and officers. Nothing else is going on.
In Perth, they used to take us to the park to see children playig. I watched the kids playing and the people going about their lives. I lived for the day where I too might walk freely like those people I watched.
The first day when I walked out of the detention centre, it was just the best day in my life. It was beautiful. I just remember I was smelling the flowers and touching the trees. It was a wonderful feeling. It will always remain with me, for the duration of my life.
It was good, the first couple of days—I was just going out
and I wanted to feel the freedom. But the thing was, I was really sick and I hadn’t realise it much before, because I had been so worried to just do my process and to get everything right. I think about two months later I got my permanent residency.
It was that time that I realised how the journey had affected me. All these new anxieties added to the anxiety that I had experienced in my country. I used to have flashbacks a lot. I realised that I was shaking all the time, I couldn’t catch my breath. I had anxiety all the time, all the time.
I’ve been very fortunate since I came to Australia. I’ve met very nice people here who have been supportive, who love me so much, so I always appreciate that.
But I think nobody wants to leave their country. Nobody wants to leave their culture, their family. When I came to Australia I almost lost everything. I lost my family, I lost my language, I lost my culture. I lost the land where I was born.
I think having people from your culture makes the situation a lot more bearable for you. The great majority of them are asylum seekers and refugees. Some of them I met on Christmas Island. We get together on the weekend, we have barbecues. I used to teach them English. We used to go bushwalking, those kind of things. But also, when one of us has got a problem we discuss it—what you have to do, where you have to go, who you have to contact.
So it’s kind of like your family. It’s something that I don’t want to lose.
This is an edited extract from They Cannot Take the Sky, a collection of first-person accounts of the reality of life in mandatory detention. It’s now available in all good bookstores. They Cannot Take the Sky has been compiled and edited by Behind the Wire, an award-winning oral history organisation. Check out their website for more info.
WE’RE ACROSS THE INTERNET, SO YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE
Actual footage of us reading another think piece about “millennials” by an old dude.
Links you might’ve missed:
- “Who has two thumbs and an opinion on Lena Dunham?” this Slate review asks. But however many think pieces you might’ve read and opinions you might’ve formed about Girls (our guestimate is 1 trillion) there’s no denying it was an endlessly interesting TV show to watch. (We’ll even go as far as to call it great.)
- “My feminism will be critical, and analytical, and brave,” says Maxine Beneba Clarke in her brilliant poem, “My Feminism.” Print out and pin to your wall.
- “The aesthetic was so Terry Richardson; gratuitous and ironic, as if the latter ever negates the former.” Attn: Making sexist images “hipster” doesn’t stop them from being sexist, explains this piece on “ironic sexism” in The Lifted Brow.
- “Overhearing a Manager saying not to hire Aboriginal people ‘in case they go walkabout’.” Aussies tweeted their experiences with racism after proposed changes to 18C, the racial hatred language section of Australia’s Racial Discrimination Act.
- We’re truly shaken by the news that the baked goods equivalent of mindful meditation, the Great British Bake-Off will now be hosted by Noel Fielding. We. Can’t. Wait. It will be so weird.