Saturday, August 19, 2017

Guruk Sunrise

Today is my last full day in Guruk (a.k.a. Port Macquarie). I travel early tomorrow morning by train to Sydney and then leave on Tuesday to return to the U.S.

I'll certainly miss my family and friends here in Australia, but look forward to the new beginning that awaits me in my other home. For as I've mentioned previously, next Monday I begin a year-long residency as a chaplain in a Minneapolis hospital.

I'll be taking a break from posting at The Wild Reed for at least a few days, maybe a week or so, as I travel and settle back into my life and new vocation in the Twin Cities. At some point, though, I look forward to continuing my "Australian Sojourn – Winter 2017" series, as well as resuming my sharing of perspectives (my own and others) on things that matter, including the interesting and, in many ways, troubling times we're living through.



See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Guruk Seascapes: From Dawn to Dusk
Return to Guruk
Moving On
Interfaith Chaplaincy
The Onward Call

Images: Michael J. Bayly (Guruk, Saturday, August 19, 2017).

Friday, August 18, 2017

Journey to the Southern Highlands & Tablelands

Part 3: Goulburn and Canberra

This evening I share some more images and commentary on my recent visit to the Southern Highlands and Tablelands of New South Wales. This post focuses on time spent in Goulburn and Canberra. Part 1 in this series focused on Exeter and Mt. Alexandra, while Part 2 spotlighted Bundanoon and the Sunnataram Forest Monastery. My visit to this region of Australia is part of what I'm calling my "Australian Sojourn – Winter 2017" series. To start at the beginning of this broader series, click here.

Prior to my relocation to the U.S. in January 1994, I lived in Goulburn, Australia's "oldest inland city," for six years, teaching as a primary (or elementary) school teacher at Sts. Peter and Paul's Catholic School from 1988 to 1993. (For images from my teaching days in Goulburn, click here and here.)

Pictured above is the Goulburn Courthouse and the clock tower of the Goulburn Post Office. The Goulburn Courthouse opened in 1887. It is of Italianate style and was designed by the colonial architect James Barnet. Barnet also designed the Goulburn Post Office, built in 1880-1881.

Above: With my dear friends Cathy and Gerry Conroy – Wednesday, August 2, 2017. Gerry had been a teacher with me at Sts. Peter and Paul, and his wife Cathy and I had studied together part-time at the Australian Catholic University in nearby Canberra in 1991-1992.

Left: Cathy and Gerry's daughter Jacinta, her husband Antipas, and their children Sophie and Emmanuel. I was Jacinta's fourth grade teacher in 1989.

Above: Sophie (center) with Cathy and Gerry's youngest son Joe and Joe's girlfriend Charlotte.

Above: A lovely shot of Antipas and Emmanuel.

Above: Both Joe and his dad are gifted musicians.

Above, right, and below: Some of the colonial era buildings of Goulburn.

Notes Wikipedia about the history of Goulburn and its surrounds:

Goulburn was named by surveyor James Meehan after Henry Goulburn [right], Under-Secretary for War and the Colonies, and the name was ratified by Governor Lachlan Macquarie. The Aboriginal people's of this area belonged to the Gundungurra Nation, and the name for Goulburn is Barbing, a Murring/Wiradjuri word indicating a special Indigenous cultural area.

The colonial government made land grants to free settlers such as Hamilton Hume in the Goulburn area from the opening of the area to settlement in about 1820. Land was later sold to settlers within the Nineteen Counties, including Argyle County (the Goulburn area). The process displaced the local indigenous Gandangara population and the introduction of exotic livestock drove out a large part of the Aborigines' food supply.

The Gandangara lived throughout an area covering an estimated 11,000 square kilometres (4,100 sq mi) in the south-east region of New South Wales. According to Norman Tindale, their lands encompassed Goulburn and Berrima, running down the Nepean River (Wollondilly) until the vicinity of Camden. This includes the catchments of the Wollondilly and Coxs rivers, and some territory west of the Great Dividing Range.

Their neighbours were the Dharug to their north, Darkinung, Wiradjuri Ngunawal and Thurrawal, (eastwards) peoples. The reduction of the food supply and the introduction of exotic diseases, substantially reduced the local indigenous population. Some local Aborigines survived at the Tawonga Billabong Aboriginal Settlement established under the supervision of the Tarago police. In the 1930s the local billabong dried up and the Aboriginal people moved away although some have, over time, made their way back to their traditional lands.

The first recorded settler in Goulburn established 'Strathallan' in 1825 (on the site of the present Police Academy) and a town was originally surveyed in 1828, although moved to the present site of the city in 1833 when the surveyor Robert Hoddle laid it out.

George Johnson purchased the first land in the area between 1839 and 1842 and became a central figure in the town's development. He established a branch store with a liquor licence in 1848. By 1841 Goulburn had a population of some 1,200 – a courthouse, police barracks, churches, hospital and post office and was the centre of a great sheep and farming area.

A telegraph station opened in 1862, by which time there were about 1,500 residents, a blacksmith's shop, two hotels, two stores, the telegraph office and a few cottages. The town was a change station (where coach horses were changed) for Cobb & Co by 1855. A police station opened the following year and a school in 1858. Goulburn was proclaimed a municipal government in 1859 and was made a city in 1863.

Above: Perhaps Goulburn's most famous (and certainly most visible) landmark – the War Memorial atop Rocky Hill.

Built by public subscription in 1924 as a memorial to the men of Goulburn and district who served in the First World War, the stone tower that comprises the Goulburn War Memorial can be seen from miles around. At night, a powerful beacon of light from the top of the tower sweeps through the darkness.

Raising 20 metres from its position atop Rocky Hill, the lookout gallery at the top of the tower offers panoramic views of Goulburn and the surrounding area.

A nearby museum houses a collection of military artifacts and personal items used by soldiers in the two world wars, and documents Goulburn’s association with and contributions to these conflicts.

Above and below: My good friend Kerry (who lives in nearby Exeter) with a new Goulburn friend!

Above: Friends Michelle, Marion, Gerry, Joe, Cathy, and Jackie. When I taught at Sts. Peter and Paul's, Michelle, Marion, Gerry, and Jackie were colleagues of mine. It was great to catch up with them since last I visited, just over a year ago.

Above: With Kerry (center) and her sister Sandra. On the evening of Thursday, August 3, the three of us travelled to nearby Canberra for a very special event . . .

. . . the Canberra premiere of Bennelong, the latest performance piece of the Bangarra Dance Theatre, described as "one of Australia’s premier national Indigenous performing arts companies."

Left: Bennelong's choreographer and Bangarra's Artistic Director Stephen Page, who gave an informative talk before the performance.

Above and below: Two images from the Bangarra website, featuring Beau Dean Riley Smith (center in both images) as Woollarawarre Bennelong.

Writes Stephen Page in the Choreographer's Note in the Bennelong program booklet:

The remarkable story of Woollarawarre Bennelong is one that resonates deeply. He was a traditional man who was, against his will, shown a European way of life, and became an intermediary between his clan and the colonialists. It was a duality that cost him dearly on both sides. Never quite belonging to his new tribe, and earning suspicion from the old, Bennelong paid the price of first contact by being exiled from both communities.

Continues Page:

The question of how we move forward while still being connected to our culture and heritage has inspired much of my life's work. Bennelong is in all of us, as we navigate the ancient and the modern elements of our lives. More than two centuries after his death, telling his extraordinary story and sharing his journey is a powerful reminder that there is still a long way for us to go before we can say we're at a place of true equality.

I was quite moved by Bennelong – its story and message, and the way these were told and expressed through dance. Indeed, the two words that I would use to describe this latest work of the Bangarra Dance Theatre are beautiful and powerful.

Above and below: Two views of Civic, the name by which the central business district of Canberra is commonly known. It is also called Civic Centre, City Centre, Canberra City and Canberra.

Above: A view of Parliament House, Canberra – August 3, 2017.

Above: The last time I was in Canberra was with Kerry in 1998.

Following is how I describe our presence at Parliament House that day on my website Faces of Resistance: Images and Stories of Progressive Activism at the Turn of the Millennium (1997-2006)

At the end of 1998 I returned to Australia for a two month-long visit. While there I journeyed to the capital Canberra with my friend Kerry to protest Operation Desert Fox – the December 17 bombing of Iraq by the United States.

I had been visiting Kerry and other friends in nearby Goulburn when I first heard the news of the US air strikes against Iraq. Knowing my friends in the Twin Cities would be engaging in some form of protest, I decided to do likewise in Australia. Kerry felt the same way and agreed to accompany me to the US embassy in Canberra. With our homemade signs and banners we picketed the embassy for almost two hours before heading to the Australian Parliament House to do similar action for about forty minutes. We did this as the Australian government was supportive of the US military action. We were the only ones protesting, though we found out later that a sizable rally had taken place in Canberra's central business district while we were at the US embassy.

A German tourist snapped this photograph of Kerry and I as we were being told by a security guard to leave the forecourt of Parliament House or face arrest. We moved to the sidewalk were several other tourists came up to us and offered words of encouragement and thanks. I remember one young man of Middle Eastern descent calling us "heroes." Perhaps in his country of origin, a simple public protest like what Kerry and I were engaging in would result in execution. (The ironic thing is that so many repressive and undemocratic Middle Eastern countries, such as Saudi Arabia and, for many years, Iraq, are supported by the U.S.) We couldn't help but notice that responses from white Australians to our presence were of either disbelief or disdain.

Above: At Goulburn Railway Station with my good friends Cathy and Gerry, just before I boarded a northbound train to Sydney – Friday, August 4, 2017.

NEXT: A Very Special Birthday Celebration in Coogee

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Journey to the Southern Highlands & Tablelands – Part 1: Exeter and Mt. Alexandra
Journey to the Southern Highlands & Tablelands – Part 2: Bundanoon and the Sunnataram Forest Monastery
Australian Sojourn – May 2016: Goulburn
Australian Sojourn – March 2015: Goulburn
The Southern Highlands (2007)
Goulburn Revisited (2006)
Goulburn Landmarks (2006)
Goulburn Reunion (2006)
The Australian Roots of My Progressive Catholicism
Remnants of a Past Life (Part I)
Remnants of a Past Life (Part II)

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Quote of the Day

Is it possible to debase the office of the presidency any lower? It is hard to imagine, but every time I think it can't get any worse, it does.

Susan Stabile
via Facebook
August 16, 2017

Related Off-site Links:
Off the Rails: Trump Holds Unhinged Press Conference, Defends White Supremacist/Neo-Nazi Violence in Charlottesville – Kerry Eleveld (The Daily Kos (August 15, 2017).
Defiant Trump Insists Anew: Blame Both Sides for Violence – German Lopez (Star Tribune, August 16, 2017).
Trump Bashes "Alt-left," Again Saying Two Sides to Blame in Charlottesville – Ashley Parker and David Nakamura (The Washington Post, August 16, 2017).
Donald Trump Has Been a Racist All His Life – And He Isn’t Going to Change After Charlottesville – Mehdi Hasan (The Washington Post, August 16, 2017).
The Viral Vice Documentary Was the Perfect Rebuke to Trump’s Charlottesville Remarks – Leon Neyfakh (Slate, August 17, 2017).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
In Charlottesville, the Face of Terrorism In the U.S.
Trump's America: Normalized White Supremacy and a Rising Tide of Racist Violence
On International Human Rights Day, Saying "No" to Donald Trump and His Fascist Agenda
Progressive Perspectives on the Election of Donald Trump as President of the United States
Election Eve Thoughts
Carrying It On
Progressive Perspectives on the Rise of Donald Trump
Trump's Playbook
"Can the Klan!"

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The State of Marriage Equality in Australia (Part 2)

While reading the paper on the train from Sydney to Port Macquarie last Sunday, I came across an interesting and insightful op-ed by Nick O'Malley, a a senior Fairfax Media journalist. O'Malley's piece makes for a good follow-up to my August 10 post on the state of marriage equality in Australia.

In his op-ed, O'Malley (pictured at right) explains how former prime minister and longtime opponent of marriage equality Tony Abbott draws from the playbook of well-known U.S. anti-marriage equality activist Frank Schubert. In exploring the similarities between Abbott and Schubert, O'Malley shares the experiences and insights of Evan Wolfson, founder and president of the U.S. group Freedom to Marry. Wolfson and his organization played a key role in the campaign to legalize gay marriage in the United States, an effort that culminated with a Supreme Court decision two years ago that made marriage equality the law of the land.

In many ways, Frank Schubert was Wolfson's nemesis during the struggle for marriage equality in the U.S. No wonder, then, that anti-marriage equality activists in Australia such as Tony Abbott and Australian Christian Lobby director Lyle Shelton are attempting to emulate Schubert's strategies. This despite the fact that such strategies ultimately failed in the U.S.

Writes O'Malley: "Like Abbott, Frank Schubert is a deeply religious man of powerful conviction. Like Abbott he is intensely disliked by gay marriage activists. In another weird parallel, like Abbott, Schubert has a politically engaged gay sister with a partner and family who does not share his views. . . . [Opponents of marriage equality know] they cannot win on the merits of their argument, so they have to make the debate about something else."

And that, explains O'Malley, is why Abbott announced last week that the Australian government's upcoming plebiscite on marriage equality was about "political correctness and freedom of speech rather than gay marriage."

I have absolutely no doubt that this ploy will fail in Australia . . . just as it failed in the U.S. Marriage equality will be won in Australia. It is just a matter of time.

Following, with added images and links, is O'Malley's op-ed in its entirety.


Tony Abbott Is Ripping
His Anti-gay Marriage Strategy
Out of the U.S. Playbook

By Nick O'Malley

Sydney Morning Herald
August 12-13, 2017

One person who was not surprised by Tony Abbott's hoarse declaration of a general culture war at the doors of Parliament House on Wednesday morning was the American activist Evan Wolfson.

You'll remember that Abbott [right], perhaps suffering from a winter bug, fronted the cameras and announced the same-sex marriage plebiscite was about far more than simply blocking one group of Australians from marrying.

"I say to you if you don't like same-sex marriage, vote no," said Abbott. "If you're worried about religious freedom and freedom of speech, vote no, and if you don't like political correctness, vote no because voting no will help to stop political correctness in its tracks."

Later that day the director of the Australian Christian Lobby, Lyle Shelton, wrote that "the marriage plebiscite is a referendum on freedom of speech and 'safe schools'". He has lamented the "stolen generation" that are the children of Australian gays.

Wolfson [left], a lawyer and professor who was founder and president of the group Freedom to Marry, was the architect of the campaign to legalise gay marriage in the United States, an effort that culminated with a Supreme Court decision two years ago that found in part that one group of Americans did not get to hold a vote to decide upon the basic human rights of another. He has been named by Time magazine as one of the 100 most powerful people in the world.

Wolfson's victory might have looked sudden from the outside, but it was the culmination of years of campaigning in which Wolfson and supporters battled anti-gay-marriage activists in a series of state legislatures, where, as in Australia, conservative politicians introduced ballot measures in an effort to block gay marriage.

In many of these states Wolfson's key opponent was a bloke called Frank Schubert, a Republican staffer turned freelance campaign consultant. Like Abbott, Frank Schubert is a deeply religious man of powerful conviction. Like Abbott he is intensely disliked by gay marriage activists. In another weird parallel, like Abbott, Schubert has a politically engaged gay sister with a partner and family who does not share his views.

This week, says Wolfson, Abbott played straight out of Schubert's campaign playbook.

"He knows they cannot win on the merits of their argument," explains Wolfson, noting that Australians already overwhelmingly back gay marriage, "so they have to make the debate about something else." That's why Abbott announced that this was about political correctness and freedom of speech rather than gay marriage.

Wolfson is not speaking figuratively. After Schubert won an unlikely battle to have a ban on gay marriage added to the California constitution in 2008 via a ballot measure, Schubert wrote a memo detailing his winning strategy. Wolfson can see its echoes in Abbott's opening salvo.

The now notorious document was an article for Political Magazine in February 2009, in which Schubert and his co-author explain how they won despite Californians supporting gay marriage at the start of the campaign by about 60 per cent to 40 per cent.

"We needed to convince voters that gay marriage was not simply "live and let live" – that there would be consequences if gay marriage were to be permanently legalised," Schubert wrote.

"We reconfirmed in our early focus groups our own views that Californians had a tolerant opinion of gays. But there were limits to the degree of tolerance that Californians would afford the gay community. They would entertain allowing gay marriage, but not if doing so had significant implications for the rest of society."

In the US those "significant implications" became the arguments that "gay propaganda" would spread into schools, that once gay marriage was the norm other aberrant forms of marriage would follow, that religious groups would be victimised.

It became the fraught concern for the wellbeing of bakers and marriage celebrants and wedding caterers. It was about anything but the right of a committed couple to marry.

All of this is already in play in Australia, and was neatly summed up by Abbott on Wednesday morning.

But according to Wolfson there was a parallel campaign fought too. While mainstream politicians kept their hands clean, aware that outright homophobia doesn't wash anymore, a subterranean poison of invective followed the overt campaign, and this too will now by foisted upon Australian gays and their families.

You can see it already if you care to dip your toe into online sewers, and elements of it have crept onto cable TV. On Tuesday night Bronwyn Bishop was on Sky News warning of bestiality and the killing of newborn babies.

Of course, in the years since gay marriage was legalised in America, the only impact to society has been that some gays got married, and many who once feared the outcome have now changed their views.

Today even a plurality of Republicans support gay marriage, 48 to 47 per cent, while 64 percent of Americans back gay marriage, up from 62 per cent.

"This is not some sort of experiment Australia is being asked to make," Wolfson says. "Around the world 1.1 billion people now live in 22 countries where gay marriage is legal."

In none of those countries have any of the dire warnings of those who would see it banned come true, despite Bronwyn Bishop's nightmares.

– Nick O/Malley
Sydney Morning Herald
August 12-13, 2017

Related Off-site Links:
Turnbull Government to Hold Public Vote on Same-sex Marriage by November – Michael Koziol (Sydney Morning Herald, August 8, 2017).
"We Love Our Children": Penny Wong's Senate Speech About Marriage PlebisciteSydney Morning Herald (August 10, 2017).
Hope and Frustration in Australia as Gay Marriage Debate Nears – Tacey Rychter (SBS, November 6, 2015).
The Equality Campaign

UPDATE: Catholics Central in Debate on Australia’s Upcoming Marriage Equality Vote – Robert Shine (Bondings 2.0, August 16, 2017).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
The State of Marriage Equality in Australia (Part 1)
Thoughts on the Australian Catholic Bishops' Latest Ploy in Their "Struggle for the Very Soul of Marriage"
From Australia, "Possibly the Most Beautiful Ad for Marriage Equality"
Lanae Erickson on Taking a Lesson from Down Under
Evan Wolfson on the "Basic Biology" Argument Against Marriage Equality

Image: Getty Images.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Journey to the Southern Highlands & Tablelands

Part 2: Bundanoon and the Sunnataram Forest Monastery

I'm currently in Australia visiting family and friends . . . and documenting my experiences in a series of posts labeled "Australian Sojourn – Winter 2017." This series begins here.

In this latest post I share some more images and commentary on my recent visit to the Southern Highlands and Tablelands of New South Wales. This post focuses on time spent in Bundanoon and at the Sunnataram Forest Monastery. (A previous post focused on Exeter and Mt. Alexandra.)

Above and below: The Southern Highlands village of Bundanoon – Saturday, July 29, 2017.

Bundanoon is an Aboriginal name meaning "place of deep gullies" and was formerly known as Jordan's Crossing. Bundanoon is colloquially known as Bundy (also spelt Bundi). It has a population of around 2,700.

Above: A lovely couple I observed in a gift shop in Bundanoon.

It may be winter in Australia, but a number of native plants are beginning to flower and blossom, including the wattle (above) and the bottlebrush (below)

Above, right and below: On Saturday, July 29, I visited with my friends Kerry and Max the Sunnataram Forest Monastery, located just outside of Bundanoon. It's a Theravada Buddhist monastery in the Thai Forest Tradition.

Kerry and I last visited Sunnataram in 2006. (For images and commentary on this visit click here.)

Above: The Sunnataram Forest Monastery’s Gratitude Pagoda.

Rising to a height of 18 metres, the Gratitude Pagoda has two chambers: one in the ground floor level of the building and another in the smaller second floor level. Both chambers enshrine the relics of the Buddha and other enlightened monks who lived in India over two thousand years ago.

The exterior wall of the first floor of the Pagoda contains representations of the Buddha from every Buddhist country in the world.

Of the many representations of the Buddha that adorn the Gratitude Pagoda, my favorite was the one above from Cambodia.

Left: I think it is the eyes that do it for me!

. . . Also this particular figure's beautiful blending of masculine and feminine qualities reminds me of the dancers of the Natyarasa Dance Company, recently highlighted and celebrated here at The Wild Reed.

Above: Representations of the Buddha from various traditions can be found throughout the grounds of the Sunnataram Forest Monastery.

Above: The first and only statue of Adam I've ever seen . . . and at a Buddhist monastery, no less. (The snake is a later addition!)

Above and below: Kerry with the monastery's resident wombat!

Above and below: On Wednesday, August 2, my friend Kerry and I hiked through Morton National Park to the remnants of the Erith Coal Mine.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Journey to the Southern Highlands & Tablelands: Exeter and Mt. Alexandra
Australian Sojourn – May 2016: Exeter
Learning from the East
The Southern Highlands (2007)

Images: Michael J. Bayly.