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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

New directions

Oh, the paths one's feet take!
I started blogging over three years ago with The Eagle's Nest. My views are quirky, diverse, and often political. It seemed to me that I should separate my taste for the lovely things from my penchant for the controversial and so the beautiful things got discussed on The Trad Pad. Controversy was kept for The Eagle's Nest. Two other blogs came along: Oz Tucker which began with putting the handwritten recipes and clippings into some sort of order and Desert to have somewhere to put the spiritual resources which undergird desert spirituality.

Blogging has taken a back seat - except for Desert and, occasionally, Oz Tucker and, even more occasionally, The Eagle's Nest. I do want to have somewhere to discuss doings and talk turkey so I will no longer update The Eagle's Nest nor The Trad Pad. It will all happen here at in her own write. Hopefully, this will simplify things - and, perhaps, it may mean a different voice, a different viewpoint.

Which brings me back to the paths of one's feet. Four months ago a meeting was held in Melbourne with the purpose of establishing a multi-faith environmental organisation. I have never actually joined an environmental organisation before - but when I heard about this I was moved to action. You see, while I don't deny the science of climate change and I don't wish to ignore technology in finding solutions to problems, I am tired of the never-ending rationalism involved in the science, technology, economics and politics relating to climate change and environmental matters. My view is that human communities and the Creator of the planet need to be more clearly acknowledged in the debate.

From that very first meeting in July, GreenFaith Australia has been established and I have finished up its Secretary. In the four months since all this began, our landlords told us that they needed to come back and live in The Trad Pad at Upper Gully and then, in the midst of the house-hunting, I was ill for five weeks including two trips to hospital. Then, when the house was found there was the shifting - to a different suburb altogether. So, I am sure you will agree, there is little wonder that blogging took a back seat.

At this time, GreenFaith Australia has been launched - with a series of three seminars under the heading of Water for Life and 2009 looks like being an activity-filled year. We are settling into Home Beautiful and the house is getting into order. And there are new paths to discover and explore....

When you can do nothing else: bear witness.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Stephen Crittenden - being hung?

A follow up to the posts below, Stephen Crittenden, has been suspended on full pay pending an inquiry into comments he made last week about the axing of flagship programs on Radio National.

When you can do nothing else: bear witness.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Crittenden, religion and the axe #2

This article is in this afternoon's Crikey

What are they doing to Radio National? God help us!

An extraordinary opening comment by Radio National Religion Report presenter Stephen Crittenden this morning (listen to it here) was the first many ABC listeners will have heard about serious changes to the RN schedule planned for 2009. Former ABC religious broadcaster Paul Collins takes up the tale:

Words tell you everything. When you hear "interdisciplinary" you know it means "dumbing down" and "consumer focused" always refers to the lowest common denominator. This is precisely the rhetoric used yesterday by ABC Radio National management to describe their intentions for RN programming next year.

Several specialist programs are being taken off-air including the Religion Report, the Media Report and Radio Eye. The Reports are flagship programs that deal with issues central to current culture. Apparently they are being replaced by a movie show and something about the future. Specialist broadcasters will spend more time responding to opinionated bloggers rather than making programs. God help us!

Let's be clear what ABC Radio management is up to: it is a case of the bland leading the bland. Specialisation is out. Nowadays the belief is that any old (or, more likely, young) "interdisciplinary" journalist can deal with any topic. Well, I've been interviewed literally hundreds of times on ABC radio and TV. My experience is that while most journalists make a reasonable go of it, they just don't know the detail and often have to be led to the key questions.

Take religion for example. There are no more than half a dozen specialist religious journalists in Australia. Two work for Fairfax (Linda Morris and Barney Zwartz) and the rest for the ABC which has had a religion department since the beginning of the Corporation. Stephen Crittenden, John Cleary and Rachael Kohn are able to cover a complex spectrum of beliefs, practices and theologies from a wide cross-section of traditions precisely because they are specialists.

Nowadays religion is a mainstream political, cultural and socio-economic issue with enormous impact on world affairs. To cover it adequately you need specialists. That is precisely what Stephen Crittenden has done on the Religion Report. He knows what the issues are and where the bodies are buried. Sure, he's upset some powerful people, but that's the nature of a free media.

I'm not paranoid. I don’t see this as an attack on religion. It's more a lack of appreciation of specialization, derived from the half-witted, post-modern conviction that everyone can do anything. Sure, they can ask a few prosaic, "man-in-the-street" questions. But that's not the task of Radio National. If you think it is, get a job with the commercials.

We need to be clear where this is leading. It effectively spells the end of religion as a specialization in the ABC. If you only have a couple of minor, essentially life-style programs on air you don't need people who know their stuff. All you need is an 'interdisciplinary, consumer-focused' approach, produced by the type of journalist who doesn’t know the difference between an Anglo-Catholic and an Evangelical!

Paul Collins is a former specialist editor (religion) for the ABC

When you can do nothing else: bear witness.

Crittenden, religion and the axe

It was only on Monday that I explained how I try to keep this blog's focus on resources for Desert Spirituality. To-day, I am defending and attacking all at once in defence of one of the great religious resources, The Religion Report on Australia's public broadcasting icon, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, and its presenter Stephen Crittenden.

The Religion Report is first broadcast on Wednesday morning's at 8.30am. Each morning on Radio National there is an 8.30am to 9.00am timeslot allocated as follows:

Monday..................The Health Report
Tuesday..............The Law Report
Wednesday...............The Religion Report
Thursday...............The Media Report
Friday.....................The Sports Factor

This morning Stephen had a spray at the beginning of The Religion Report and he has sent me what he said:

This week the new line-up of Radio National programs for 2009 was announced.

The Religion Report has been de-commissioned, along with The Media Report, The Sports Factor, The Ark, Perspective, In Conversation, Street Stories and Radio Eye. These programs are going in order to make room for (quote) 'more inter-disciplinary work on the network', and the 8.30 timeslot is being remodelled to give it (quote) 'more consumer focus'.

The decision to axe one of this network's most distinctive and important programs has been
approved by the Director of ABC Radio, Sue Howard, and it will condemn Radio National to even greater irrelevance.

The ABC's specialist units have been under attack for years, but the decapitation of the flagship program of the Religion Department effectively spells the death of Religion at the ABC. That
such a decision has been taken in an era when Religion vies with Economics as a determinant of everything that is going on in the world almost beggars belief - but you have to remember that just a couple of years ago they axed the Environment program.

The Religion Report has always been fearless - and I don't have to tell you that it has put many powerful noses out of joint. This is a signal to the churches that the ABC has decided to vacate the field. If you care about this program and what it represents, I suggest that you might
consider writing to the ABC Board or the Managing Director, Mark Scott.

I set out below my letter to everyone on my email lists this morning:

Dear One and All,

The Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC) is a national treasure and an international icon of public broadcasting - although our politicians of the right and left don't appear to regard it as so with their stacking of boards and miserliness with funding.

One of the great pleasures in my life is listening to the ABC's Radio National. If you don't listen to Radio National, don't bother reading further because this is all about trying to save some of Australia's most respected broadcasters and programs at Radio National from getting the axe. To outline this, Stephen Crittenden of The Religion Report has sent me a copy of his statement read at the commencement of TRR this morning. Read it below.

Stephen's spray outlines the proposed "re-modelling" of the 8.30am timeslot but makes no mention of either The Health Report or The Law Report. If they survive in one form or another, will this be because doctors and lawyers have more influence with RN than the rest of us?

The religion programs - which along with Radio Eye are my favourites - are The Religion Report hosted by Stephen Crittenden and The Ark hosted by Rachel Kohn. I would be surprised if there was a better religion journalist/presenter anywhere than Stephen. I have no idea of Stephen's faith perspective - he could be a religion literate atheist for all I know - but his conversation is intelligent, subject literate, perspicacious and insightful. Rachel Kohn is a most distinguished religious presented with great expertise in comparative religion.

The Religion Report covers a wide range of territory - but I think it would not be untrue to say that not all subjects of discussion on The Religion Report would have welcomed TRR reports of their doings. I can think of the Exclusive Brethren and Steiner education to begin with.

Australia has a long and proud tradition of secularism and long may it be so. However, in recent years, there have been clear displays of secular bigotry against individuals in particular and religion in general. Could the axing of TRR be another scalp of secularists who neither understand nor give a fig for the topic of religion?

Australia has a diverse population - and many of our immigrant communities come from old faith traditions which are continued in this country. TRR helps to give a voice to these traditions and to make those traditions known to the broader Australian community. Losing this voice will not only leave us poorer but also also take away from us a vital tool in overcoming our ignorance.

Religious adversaries have brought suspicion, violence and war to the earth in recent years. Australian politics, which were long largely religion free, have now been penetrated with modern political tools by a range of religions. Who will explain this to us if not The Religion Report under the clear and precise dissection of Stephen Crittenden?

Stephen has asked us to write to the ABC Board or the Managing Director, Mark Scott. I would also suggest that we write to the Federal leaders of political parties from the Prime Minister down. The Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition are both known as men of faith - the former an Anglican and the latter a Catholic. I believe it is important that we make ourselves and our views known to them - for the sake of public broadcasting in this country and, in particular, the reporting of religion.Please let me know what you think and - importantly - what it is that you do.

So, Dear Reader, could you please do your bit to keep Australia's major religious communications resource on air and in the public domain. Please note for your records that the protocol for emails at the ABC is Therefore......

Managing Director - Mark Scott ..............
Chair of the Board - Maurice Newman....
Board Members
Janet Albrechtsen ....................................
Steven Skala .............................................
Peter Hurley .............................................
Keith Windschuttle ..................................
Director of ABC Radio - Sue Howard ....
Stephen Crittenden .................................

It goes without saying...

prayers and miracles are a welcome priority

BTW, the wonderful collection that makes up the Board of Australia's national broadcaster is the result of appointments made by the previous (conservative) Australian government. The current government bears no responsibility for that.

And, dear Reader, after all that, if you still have questions or need assistance for your lobbying, please let me know and I will try to find solutions.

When you can do nothing else: bear witness.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Back to the blog...and on to Paul Krugman

As you can see, Dear Reader, it has been a long time between posts. Life has been full, to say the least. Firstly, because I am part of a new environmental organisation, GreenFaith Australia. This is a multi-faith organisation - and Miss Eagle is the Secretary. Secondly, our friendly landlords need their house back for pressing family reasons so we are househunting - no success yet - and I am organising my garden by potting up all that is not in puts. Won't be able to take the blooming broad beans, and the sugar loaf cabbages, and the cauliflowers but, gee whiz, silver beet and beetroot look quite decorative in individual pots. Thirdly, I have been very ill. Six days in the Angliss Hospital with cellulitis in my face and left ear on high-powered antibiotics. I was the tourist attraction of the Short Stay Unit for doctors and nurses who came to look at the monstrosity on the side of my head. Now I just feel like I have had the stuffing knocked right out of me.

So in all this what has brought me back to the blog................


for his analysis of trade patterns and location of economic activity

The copyright of this photo belongs to Princeton University which, I hope, is forgiving to a Krugman fan and to whom Miss Eagle sends congratulations on yet another Nobel winner.

Joy! Sheer unadulterated joy! And self-congratulations too in the fact that your correspondent, Dear Reader, really does know a great economist when she sees one. Her favouritest economist - who is the only reason she continues to read The New York Times - has just received the 2008 Nobel Prize for Economics. Miss Eagle presents to you the one, the only......PAUL KRUGMAN.

Krugman is a great and innovative economic theoretician but - and this is of vital importance to folks like me - he is a great communicator. Here is an economist who speaks our language, an economist who hangs his politics honestly on his sleeve. John Kenneth Galbraith long ago captured my heart. Krugman, in my view, is a worthy successor. For even more, go here.

If you, too, wish to congratulate Paul Krugman please email him here.


When you can do nothing else: bear witness.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

'Tis amazing what causes one to have little trips down Memory Lane. This week it has been the Mayor of Mount Isa in North West Queensland, John Molony.

Early this year, my old mate Molony (National Party) defeated my other old mate Ron McCulloch (Australian Labor Party) in the race for the Mayor's job in Mount Isa. Now to all of those who live in places like New South Wales and Victoria who put up with weak, namby-pamby local governments who leave their local councillors to elect their mayors for one year terms: forget it. Queensland (as does the Northern Territory - clearly something about the North) directly elects its mayors.

Ron had been mayor for something like eighteen years - a popular Irishman. John had been on the Mount Isa City Council for years and years and then took off further north and west to Burke Shire up on the Gulf of Carpentaria where he became what used to be called Shire Chairman. Now Mount Isa City Council claims - or used to - to be the biggest city in the world in area because it extends across to Camooweal and the Queensland-Northern Territory border. This sure is a contrast to Burke Shire because, as I recall it, Burke Shire does not contain one bitumen road.

Anyways, John is back in The Isa. Well, I don't suppose he ever really left. Just that, now, he's the mayor. Runs the place you could say. John owns a western men's outfitting store. John was selling western gear to stockmen before he ever had a Mount Isa store. His business life began as a hawker selling clothes and stuff from station to station in north west Queensland and the Barkly side of the NT. So he knows the Barkly Tableland and the Gulf from go to whoa.

Now let's get things straight. If you are a bloke with the lifeblood of northwest Queensland flowing in your veins; you are a paid up member or supporter of the Queensland National Party; you own a cattle property; and you make your living from people who live and work on, in and around cattle properties it is possible - but not all that likely - that you are a reconstructed, sensitive new age guy. However, those four adjectives have never applied to me mate Molony even at his best.

You see, dear Reader, in the long ago in that place accessed by a trip down Memory Lane, I used to know John and his wife Heather. It was in the late 70s to mid 80s when I was employed by the Mount Isa City Council to manage the Mount Isa Public Library, then part of the North Western Regional Library Service. The Library was situated directly opposite John's menswear store in West Street. I served on committees with him and our relationship was always co-operative and cordial.

However, I remember one night where the unreconstructed John came to the forefront. It was the night of Mardi Gras which launches Mount Isa's biggest event of the year - the Mount Isa Rodeo. We (the Dear Departed Dearly Beloved -DDDB - and Miss Eagle) were in the street outside Boydie's pub and got into conversation with John. Now, back then as now, Miss Eagle was never short of a word or an opinion. In the course of the conversation, John looked past Miss Eagle to the DDDB and said to him - How do you handle her? Miss E, not showing her inward consternation and not waiting for the DDDB to reply, piped up with a large and glowing smile - Because he's a real man. 'Nuff said.

Now maybe John can't provide a lot of intellectual stuff to the wider political debate. Perhaps - and it really is difficult - it is difficult to get anyone's attention when you are way across the Great Dividing Range and the sunlit plains extended in far-flung Mount Isa. Perhaps, he's been following the example of and taking lessons from that well-known noise from the northwest, Bob Katter Jr. Perhaps, it is just that it's rodeo time and all those lonely, boozing ringers in town provoked Molony's grey cells into gear.

But this time he's been and gone and done it. He's got himself not only national publicity, but international publicity. What else is going to happen when you talk about an isolated mining town, a shortage of nubile women, and an invitation to ugly women?

Everyone is now buying into the debate about his comments - including Catherine Deveny. But the local women are holding their own well - as they always have. I can proudly make that statement since I founded what is, arguably, the only home-grown feminist organisation Mount Isa had - the Union for Western Women. Time alone will tell whether the old adage about any publicity being good publicity will prove true in this matter.

Last night, the women of Mount Isa gathered outside the Civic Centre (right next to the Mount Isa Public Library) and demonstrated their displeasure. BTW, Molony and I once organised a celebration for Australia's win in the America's Cup in that very space. We made it a fundraiser for our Bi-Centennial Committee and we packed in a couple of thousand Mount Isans. The jollities included soap-sudding the civic fountain. Kev Ashworth, Town Clerk at the time, said that, in his view, it was the best use the fountain had ever been put to. We had a good time that night, didn't we John?

And, in the end, that is the point. Mount Isa is unique. It is great. It is a place of great experiences and great times.

My nine years in Mount Isa were probably the best years of my whole life - unreconstructed men and all! I don't pretend that Mount Isa now is the same as Mount Isa then. Remote towns are transient towns - but, as demonstrated by John, some things stay the same.

I commend Mount Isa to everyone - male, female, ugly, beautiful or just plain interesting - but with one proviso. It is tough living in an isolated community in a forbidding climate and geography. It is not for everyone. Cracks in relationships can become gaping chasms. The education of kids has to be considered. There is the question of relationships with the First Australians. While the DDDB and I loved it - my children's memories are of the harshness. For them as they look back, their memories (and this saddens me) are bleak.

Perhaps some of us have longing for green grass and urban environments in our hearts - and others, like me, bless the sunlit plains extended.

The town Mount Isa Mines built (please note that fly in-fly out mining does not bring the socially constructive elements of somewhere like Mount Isa to the human community and landscape) is the result of generations of hard work since 1924. There have been deaths, occupational hazards, blood, sweat, lead, tears, strikes and a state of emergency. Men have mined, women have battled, children have thrived and cultures have lived together well. Those of us who have lived and shared the Mount Isa experience know that we have been part of something very, very special. Long live Mount Isa!

When you can do nothing else: bear witness.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Dont it always seem to go...

...that you don't know what you've got til it's gone

Big Yellow Taxi

This blog has opined and warned against the erosion of one of the world's greatest traditions and civic structures - Trial by Jury. Now Queensland is leading the Australian charge. This from the state who imprisoned, just a few short years ago, its own Chief Magistrate when its own legislation prohibited such a thing. Seems to me that the Chief Justice of Queensland, the Hon Paul de Jersey AC, may have been asleep at the wheel on that one. One hopes that he - and a few others on the Queensland Bench and at the Queensland Bar - were appropriately embarrassed when the High Court of Australia quashed Queensland's verdict.

Now Queensland has taken the plunge to erode its citizen's rights to Trial by Jury - and it may have given opportunity for Jayant Patel, the defendant in one of the most serious matters to come before the Queensland Supreme Court, to opt for a trial by a judge alone.

One day, when there are no juries, when parliaments have accrued to themselves every bit of power over our lives that they desire, when there are no trade unions at all, and banks and other forms of usury take all our money and we all have casual-no-penalty-rates jobs, I hope someone can still find an old Joni Mitchell song to provide an anthem for our memories.

When you can do nothing else: bear witness.

Monday, August 18, 2008

When will we ever listen?

Makinti Minutjukur
Today the Indigenous Affairs Minister makes a flying first-time visit to the Pukatja Community in South Australia's APY lands. This is an open letter to the Minister from Anangu woman

12 August, 2008

Dear Minister

We welcome you on your first visit to our community at Ernabella/Pukatja.

We are happy to hear that the Government will pay for the repair of the Ernabella Church. That church is part of our present day heritage. Our fathers and grandfathers built it with their own hands. It is a place that helped to keep our community strong.

We are also happy to hear that the Commonwealth and State Governments will help the Amata community to have a new art centre building for Tjala Arts. Community art centres are like the hub of a wheel. They are a fixed point where people work and make money to feed their families; pass on their knowledge to young people; get training in art skills and business skills; and have a quiet safe place to be where they make beautiful things that make them feel proud and happy, as well as giving pleasure to the people who buy their work.

We are also pleased to hear that both your Government and the South Australian Government will do something to help with more houses in our communities.

We appreciate the help the governments are giving with these things. We believe that you know that they are the tip of the iceberg. Hiding under the water are the same old problems - bigger than ever.

First though, step back 30 years. In those days we had a community garden supervised by Ungakini's husband, and which supplied our fresh fruit and vegetables. The community bakery run by Peter Nyaningu supplied all our bread. Rodney Brumby ran the building projects, supervising the brick making for houses and community buildings in which my father also worked, just one of several of his community jobs. My mother worked in the women's learning centre where she and other women made clothes, home furnishings, and all sorts of practical goods which people bought with the money they earned from their employment in the community.

I worked in the clinic and was trained there by Robert Stephens and others. Many Anangu received health worker training then; few do today. We had the responsibility of doing the jobs that made our community. We earned our living and we did work that was interesting and worthwhile. We were learning in a good way how to be together in one place all the time, and how to start making so many changes in our lives. All this was new, since as you know, only 30 years before that most of us were still living in the bush and living from the land.

I believe the reason why all our lives out here have become so difficult and painful over the last 30 years is that governments, who have the power over us because they have the money we need to make the changes from old ways to new ways, have stopped listening to us. Listening properly. Taking the time. Working with us. Trusting us to be responsible for our own lives - since we know them best.

It's true that many people have come from government for visits: politicians like yourself, very senior and important public servants from Canberra and Adelaide, and all sorts of other experts and advisers. That's good of course - but not one of them has ever stayed long enough, or come back often enough so that they can really understand, and so that we can help them understand what is the reality here - and the other way, so that they can help us understand what the government can do.

You know and I know what some of the problems are: not enough money for people to live and eat properly, and so an increasing health crisis because of bad diet; no proper work for most adults and so a rising sense of hopelessness from young people who can see no future; a terrifying marijuana problem (since Opal fuel it has replaced petrol as the substance abuse of choice) which is a main factor in most suicides among its many other destructive effects; many old "slum" like houses, and not enough houses anyway, so babies, children, everyone gets sick.

The strength of Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara is in our relationships with each other. That is how our society and our communities work - through our relatedness. Our communities can remain strong only as long as our relationships can be strong, instead of melting away because of no work and no meaning, sickness and sadness. We need to build up those relationships again and we need a different relationship with governments.

I want to ask you, for all Anangu: will you listen to us? As a participant in the 2020 Summit I felt very hopeful that your Government might listen to us.

I understand that governments change, that politicians come and go and so do public servants. We've been here all along, and long before that. Our lives were much better 30 years ago. In the years since there have been many changes, some big, some little. Our money has gone up but mostly down; the places we could work in the community changed, and/or disappeared - that is, they weren't funded any more (such as Wali K which only two years ago employed young men making building products). This is just one example of all the changes that are imposed on us in which we have no part, and no choice. Part of the reason is that the various groups, committees and individuals who make the decisions that affect us all are not properly representative of Anangu tjuta - all Anangu. This is a serious problem and needs urgent attention with full Anangu participation and understanding every step of the way.

Surely we can work together to understand each other properly, to make good plans together that will last, and not change every few years when governments change and officials change. I don't believe it has to be like that. We are a very patient people but none of us has much more time to wait before our communities disappear under the sea, with the rest of the iceberg.

Yours sincerely
Makinti Minutjukur
Disability Support Worker,
DFS Pukatja Community (formerly Ernabella Mission)

When you can do nothing else: bear witness.