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He picked up some food from the table they were sitting at and said: You know what? Everybody eats. He raised a glass of what they were drinking and said: You know what? Everybody drinks. We all have these bodies.  These human bodies.  Different but elementally the same. Same blood and water runs in your veins that runs in mine.  Eat this food and drink this drink just like everyone always has and always will.  These lives are for  living and loving.

Some people might think that’s a ritual about remembering God but it’s not. It’s about remembering the Human One.  Let’s remember everyone is human – the other and yourself.  You are uniquely and specially yourself and just like everyone else at the same time. There’s a space and grace about that if you marinate in it for a while.

 

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Panellists Rosie Kilvert, Léuli Eshraghi, Paola Balla,  Kamahi King
and Miliwanga Wurrben in conversation

 

Sovereignty is my inalienable right.
It cannot be taken away from me.
– Paola Balla

I try to stay strong within myself. Decolonising for myself.
I am a Wemba-Wemba and Gunditjmara woman, not “aboriginal”.
– Rosie Kilvert

 

I know where I come from – that gives me strength.
Concertina Bush stands for my people.
She only speaks Kriol, people have to understand it.
She is my Voice for the expression of my Gurindji sovereignty.
– Kamahi King

Grew up in the bush. My freedom. My school. Everything I was taught given by mothers, aunties, grandmothers – bound together by respect and as indigenous women.  I was illiterate. Taught by a missionary-lady at a community school.  Such patience teaching us Western ways.

Broke so many protocol. First, I had a male teacher. We’re not allowed to look at/make eye contact with men. “Look at me! Look at me in the eyes when I am speaking to you!” This was one of my first experiences at school. I could not understand what I had done but it must have been something more than I could imagine – I thought of my mother, aunties, cousins… what would they say when they heard this? My sovereignty is as an indigenous person, it’s in my culture, with my people. I found balance… took a very, very long time. Didn’t take away what I had, it’s still in me.
– Miliwanga Wurrben

 

Where you are uninvited you have to make sure you
have first relationships… there is no treaty here.
You have to locate yourself in relationship.

…Every structure is illegal that
doesn’t have treaty/relationship.
– Léuli Eshraghi

Beauty was always very sacred for our women. Scarves, paint… essence, dignity, respect… beauty is the essence of that love. Love yourself for who you are – that is one of our protocols. “Too fat! Eat more!” we have none of that. There is a beauty and grace of being an indigenous woman.  Those who come to work in the clinic and court – they can’t wear short shorts, jeans, tight singlets. We dress in a way that respects the other women. If one doesn’t have those things, we can’t have it either. The young girls like and wear makeup but not when they come home. Nakedness is part of us.  Scarring and painted body.
– Miliwanga Wurrben

 

Q: What will you do on January 26th?
(note: I’ve deliberately chosen not to attribute these quotes as I feel, although they spoke in their own voice, the panelists also spoke as one Voice and I want to express that if I can)

Don’t celebrate either way. I do nothing to give it energy. Day we lost all hope really. I wish that the stamp duty of from the sale of every house would go to local Aboriginal people. To my own mob. This is an example of how we could get past “eating out of the white man’s hand”. I mourn.

Refuse to call it that [Australia Day]. It’s celebrating genocide. I pay thanks to the ancestors and their resilience. Put out a reminder: We’re still here. Surviving and thriving.

I might go to Share the Spirit or a protest. Send prayers to those who have passed and shouldn’t have.

 

The Weaving Country exhibition will run at Footscray Community Arts Centre until 1 April, 2017 and I encourage people to check it out, many of these beautiful pieces are available to buy.

Artists include Sandra Aitken, Eileen Alberts, Donna Blackall, Lee DarrochDebbie Flower, Gail Harradine, Cassie Leatham, Denise Morgan-Bulled, Greta Morgan, Glenda Nicholls, Kathy Nicholls, Marilyne Nicholls, Eva Ponting, Bronwyn Razem and Lisa Waup.

Weaving Country

Weaving Country is a story of weaving and fibrecraft across Aboriginal Victoria from the Victorian Aboriginal Weavers Collective.

In this exhibition we have aimed to create a woven narrative, beginning with baskets as vessels for gathering and fibres as the threads that knit together family and kinship ties.

In this way we liken our first collaborative curatorial journey together as a journey of gathering and collecting.  Having gathered the weavers works into our metaphorical curatorial basket, we have then bought these works together to create a cohesive and beautiful body of work.

Weaving Country is about Country and place.

Each weaver’s generational knowledge of grasses, fibres, harvesting and process is inherent in their practice.  What is not always apparent, and is the idea this exhibition aims to provoke, is the impact environmental changes have on the grasses ad fibres used by the weavers and therefore on the overall health and wellbeing of COuntry and People.  This is reflected in the diverse use of materials and the incorporation of found objects.

The Victorian Aboriginal Weaving Collective speak with one voice through their diverse woven and sculptural forms to the strength and vitality of this continuing and unbroken tradition. These contemporary works demonstrate their innovation yet retiran cultural integrity and truth.

By Vicki Couzens and Hannah Presley

Faysal Ishak Ahmed

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We gathered today to acknowledge and show respect to Faysal Ishak Ahmed.

We gather knowing we will do this again. We will do this again because there will be more deaths. They are preventable. This is unacceptable.  We know this will happen again because it has happened and is still happening with 23 deaths in the last two years (Australian Border Deaths Database).  Perhaps it’s feeling like there’s too many vigils, we had one just last month… to this we say “Yes. There are too many vigils.”

The origin of the word “vigil” is to do with being awake and keeping watch. We want to acknowledge the sorrow, grief and anger of Faysal’s friends and family. The other survivors of Dafur who know how few survivors there were wondering whether they might ever feel at home here. Those yet in camps on Nauru or Manus who wonder what help, what hope, might yet come for them.

Faysal, refugee – yes, and also a son, a husband, a father, a human died at 27 years of age. Today we say his name, hold his picture up – we say not only that your death meant something, but your life meant something even though we did not know you.

I imagine Jesus on his knees praying in the garden of Gethsemane wondering what help, what hope, might yet come but having some sense of inevitability about his situation asking of his companions: “Can you not stay awake and watch with me for even an hour?”.   To those waiting in the camps it must seem as though we are asleep for surely if we knew they were sick, surely if we knew they were being hurt, surely if we knew they were hungry this would not be a situation we would let continue… I hold my goddaughter in my lap, she is just starting out at school – learning to read – I imagine her asking me in years to come when this is a social studies project at school “Where were you while this was happening? Why didn’t you do something? Why did it take so long to change?” and trying to explain how it could be that some of us, so many of us, should be “asleep”. Yes he had refugee status – that didn’t seem to make a difference. The PNG government declared the camps illegal – that didn’t seem to make a difference.   The UN said aspects of Australia’s asylum seeker policies violate the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment – that didn’t seem to make a difference… What will make a difference?  I overhear one woman say to another: “What people don’t understand is that to do nothing is to do something.”

 

We have met today on the Princes Bridge, I don’t know why. I look around while I wait for the formalities to begin and notice that all along the bridge is the Latin motto Vires Acquirit Eundo (the coat of arms of Melbourne) meaning ‘she gathers strength as she goes’ referring to the Roman goddess Fama or rumour personified. Following the speakers and a moment of silence, those holding flowers are invited to throw them from the bridge into the Yarra river and I realise my hope is that these vigils might gather strength as they go.

Those who are on their knees praying are asking us if we can be awake.
Those crying alone in the darkness are asking if we can stay awake with them.

Unbidden some of those at the vigil move out onto the road and block traffic on the bridge. They are asking us: “Are you awake?”

The next action calling for the camps to be closed, for the refugees seeking our protection to be given their mandated human rights, will be held on Sunday 9 April (Palm Sunday) – this is a question for people of all faiths and none: “Are you awake?”

 

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Consider looking into the Love Makes A Way movement or Refugee Action Collective for other ways to be involved and further details for the Palm Sunday event as it draws closer. I’ve drawn on inspiration from many of tonight’s vigil speakers above, thanks for your voice and advocacy.

Walking home one night, I came across what looked like a torn up dictionary outside the McDonalds on Ballarat Rd.  I’m into a bit of upcycling and paper craft – it makes sense to use books/paper that are being thrown out anyway and this has little illustrations… No cover, torn in sections, mouldy and weathered, unwanted… except for me who’s picking up rubbish thinking “Cute.” and “Score!”

Looking more closely once I got my prize home, I realise it’s not a dictionary but rather some sort of encyclopaedia and it’s old. Really old. Old enough that it’s quite offensive – mostly for its omissions rather than what it explicitly says, for example in a section called “Australia’s History: Chief events in chronological order…”spanning 1788-1939, I can see only one reference made regarding an aboriginal person or place and that was “1876 Death of Truganini, last of Tasmanian aborigines”.  I look her up online to know her story.

A visitor on country myself, I have not (and continue) not to know very much about what right relationship looks like between people and the land. Not having the right words and being afraid of saying the wrong ones, I try and stay silent. To listen and to learn. I have heard people talk about their family members, homes, and culture being lost through colonisation. I have heard them talk about losing language and here am I finding some lying by the side of the road. I find myself wishing I could give it back to who it belongs to.

 

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We are running a fortnightly bible study following our community dinner looking at the exegesis (interpretation) of the bible passages that underpin each of our community values. You can read the list of Values here so you know what’s coming up next.

These values can be relevant whatever context you live and work in just make the Word you own.


 

Value 8: Travelling light

We value the difference that can be made when we sacrifice personal gain, pouring out our rich resources in an act of worship.  Through simplicity, good stewardship and a common commitment to sharing our lives with others, we seek to lessen the power imbalance in Footscray.

Biblical basis: Luke 9:23-24


 

Let’s read the value together. What stands out?

Basically the whole thing! Timing of this value feels significant when we are losing what has been our community home base and are working out what we can bring with us and what we can’t.

Giving out itself is worship

Don’t have a lot. Doesn’t matter whether it’s big or small, pouring out of what we have is the act of worship.

“Power imbalance” good to name, not only our power but our desire to share it.


 

Luke 9:23-24

Then he said to them all, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it. What does it profit them if they gain the whole world, but lose or forfeit themselves? Those who are ashamed of me and of my words, of them the Son of Man will be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. But truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God.”

 NRSV


 

Read the bible. What words/ideas stand out? What can we learn from the bible about living the Value of “Doing the hard yards”?

 

“deny themselves” is another way of saying “living simply”

“will not taste death” we experience the privilege of glimpsing the kingdom (heaven) right here, before dying –  we see it at our community dinners, John reading grace, all the different people who come together around that meal, seeing the kids grow up in this environment that includes so much diversity.

No division between people – lovely watching Balal and Alex together…

We all of us have a desire for appreciation. But what comes from your heart, the value of that is more e.g. Kim could buy a cake but instead takes the time to make one and personalise it thoughtfully.  She uses her own money to buy wool – makes things that take time and money to create… we choose to value/appreciate that more.

If you’re not giving something from you heart then you’re not giving for the right reasons.

I think it’s worth contextualising this passage and reading it again – the birth of John is foretold, the birth of Jesus is foretold, John is born, Jesus is born… Jesus speaks out in the temple at 12 years old, he gets baptised by John, he gets tested in the desert, then his ministry kicks off  – healing lepers, paralytics and possessed – he calls his disciples. He teaches and preaches, we’re given parable and beatitudes. The 12 are given their mission and Jesus feeds 5000 when it seems like there is not resource enough to do it… who do you say that I am?  The disciples want to lift him up, want to exalt him, put him on a pedestal and give him titles and Jesus says nah… that’s not what I’m about.

 “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it. What does it profit them if they gain the whole world, but lose or forfeit themselves? Those who are ashamed of me and of my words, of them the Son of Man will be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. But truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God.”

We’re not in this for the titles, appreciation or recognition; or using power for our own gain, to gain a position of authority, or to act out of our own power instead of trusting God’s. Jesus says I’m not going to value those things the world values and invites us to make that choice too.

Taking this idea of “travelling light” – we are very directly in a place of needing to let go of some material things that have meant a lot to us: this house, its garden, the soccer pitch… a band called Invisible Boy out of Tasmania have a song “I’m going to hang your picture high” it’s about who and what you value  and hanging them high like photos of our family that are special or posters and pictures of what we like. If you look around the walls of this house you can see everywhere what and who we value in the pictures – who our family are and what we like. Let’s capture some of those ideas of what we want to “hang high”, of what we value that sometimes others don’t and capture it on bunting we make together – something light we can take with us!

 

 

Closing prayer

Dear God, we’re waiting

Let us wait with hope

We’re waiting for things to seem clearer

Let us wait with peace

We’re waiting for the world to feel safer

Let us wait with joy

We’re waiting for the love our hearts cry out for

Let us wait with love

May we be kind to one another.

May we strive to be the answers to some of our own questions.

Amen

Perspective

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Hey, here… I brought you something.

 

 

 

What is it?

 

 

 

It’s just a little branch I picked up. I think it’s beautiful.

 

Some trash you picked up somewhere?

 

 

One man’s trash is another…
Oh. You don’t want it?

No. Why would I?

 

 

Then I’ll keep it.

What for?!

 

 

That’s what I do.

 

Look for the beauty in things no one wants.

Look for the beauty in things that seem broken and useless and try and find a place for them.

It’s the way you see things that makes them matter.

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We are running a fortnightly bible study following our community dinner looking at the exegesis (interpretation) of the bible passages that underpin each of our community values. You can read the list of Values here so you know what’s coming up next.

These values can be relevant whatever context you live and work in just make the Word you own.


 

Value 7: Doing the hard yards

We value servanthood in the big and the small – choosing to do the “crappy” stuff.  We want to be people of personal and spiritual maturity (enduring personal cost) in order that the vision is accomplished.

Biblical basis: James 5:7-11


 

Let’s read the value together. What stands out?

“We value” – this is about making personal choices to value things differently than most of the rest of the world… not a flashy project, it doesn’t attract attention.

Trusting there is purpose in the crappy stuff.

 Need to acknowledge the way our current situation impacts my approach to this value, how would my/our interpretation differ if we weren’t crisis.

Is it ‘given’ that in order for the vision to be accomplished, it needs to cost me?




James 5: 7-10

My friends, be patient as you wait for the Lord to return. Be as patient as the farmers. Farmers sow their crops and then have to wait patiently, hoping for good seasonal rains, because the harvest that pays their bills ripens in its own good time. There is nothing they can do to hurry it up. You can’t hurry the Lord up either, so be patient. Stay focused though, and condition yourselves, because the arrival of the Lord is not far off.

My friends, don’t go whinging and putting each other down. If you do, you’ll find yourselves having to answer for it. The judge could reopen the case against you at any moment.

Take as your role models the prophets who brought us God’s message in the past. They really suffered for their stand, but they hung in there, never giving up, and their patience paid off.  11 That’s because God cares, cares right down to the last detail.

©2002 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net

 

“This work could be a prayer; its results should not concern me”

Thomas Merton

 

“There are two basic motivating forces: fear and love. When we are afraid, we pull back from life. When we are in love, we open to all that life has to offer with passion, excitement, and acceptance. We need to learn to love ourselves first, in all our glory and our imperfections. If we cannot love ourselves, we cannot fully open to our ability to love others or our potential to create. Evolution and all hopes for a better world rest in the fearlessness and open-hearted vision of people who embrace life.”

John Lennon


Read the bible. What words/ideas stand out? What can we learn from the bible about living the Value of “Doing the hard yards”?

Being patient sounds passive – I’m bad at that!

It’s not passive it’s active! “stay focused”… “condition yourselves”… farmers till, plant, fertilise, prepare the soil… still required to exercise what is within your ability to influence, power, control. There are things we can do but then there are things we can’t… we have to rely on God for those.

Begin work or make choices with an outcome in mind but often things don’t go as we plan, despite this things work out.

You have to do what you can and trust the other stuff to happen. 

Often in Christian circles the personal cost component can become competitive and be worn as a badge-of-honour.

Perspective makes a difference – choosing, for example, to work part time could be perceived as a ‘cost’ but for us, from our perspective it feels like an opportunity.

You can love different people if you put you mind to it. A lot of people don’t go out of their way… instead they love to put people down.

Standing up for someone when you notice the truth. When they can’t stand up for themselves.

 

Taking this idea of where our influence ends and God’s begins let’s write down on these “seeds” what we know and what we don’t know, doing what we can, planting them and leaving the growing to God remembering “we need to learn to love ourselves first, in all our glory and imperfections”

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…all we can do is plant our seeds and trust that the outcomes that come, while not what we might imagine,  work toward the vision of God being accomplished.

 

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All that I am

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God
all that I am
anything that I am
is what you made me to be
as much as I am broken,
I am made
as much as I am fallen,
I am raised
as much as I am wounded,
I am restored
as much as I am consumed,
I am made whole
I am drawn towards You, Creator Spirit
the seasons and the cycles
of transformation that are the
source of such wonder and dread
my doing and my undoing
are in You

Talitha Fraser

 

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Within the grip of winter, it is almost impossible to imagine the spring. The gray perished landscape is shorn of color. Only bleakness meets the eye; everything seems severe and edged. Winter is the oldest season; it has some quality of the absolute. Yet beneath the surface of winter, the miracle of spring is already in preparation; the cold is relenting; seeds are wakening up. Colors are beginning to imagine how they will return. Then, imperceptibly, somewhere one bud opens and the symphony of renewal is no longer reversible. From the black heart of winter a miraculous, breathing plenitude of color emerges.

The beauty of nature insists on taking its time. Everything is prepared. Nothing is rushed. The rhythm of emergence is a gradual slow beat always inching its way forward; change remains faithful to itself until the new unfolds in the full confidence of true arrival. Because nothing is abrupt, the beginning of spring nearly always catches us unawares. It is there before we see it; and then we can look nowhere without seeing it.

 

With thanks to Dusk for sharing this when I needed to hear it.
An excerpt of a meditation from From To Bless the Space Between Us by John O’Donohue