Tag Archive: grief


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Trigger warning for suicide. If you’re feeling down, please reach out to friends, family or support agencies like Beyond Blue, Lifeline: 13 11 14, Suicide Call Back Service – 1300 659 467, Kids Helpline (for young people aged 5 to 25 years): 1800 55 1800.

 

There was a suicide in my sphere recently. Not someone I knew but it impacted lots of people that I know and in the aftermath we talked, trying to make sense of it. It’s not something easy to make sense of. We tried to find out details, as you do – who/why/when – and learned for a variety of reasons that further information wouldn’t be forthcoming, people worry that a suicide might lead to more suicides. I hear that but at the same time, I wonder: if we don’t talk about it, if we don’t know it’s happening, how do you prevent it? This person, whose name we don’t know, who we don’t know anything about – we have shed tears for them, we want to acknowledge their life and their family, want time back to tell them they were loved because we know the surety of that whatever else we do not know. Now that I am conscious of my not knowing, I look it up. More than 8 people a day in Australia, one every three hours… more than from cancer (ABS, 2015). I don’t know that we really begin to understand how the comings and goings of people in our lives matters deeply.  My coming and going matters, your coming and going in my life matters whatever context of work, of community, of relationship… A life lived shorter than it might be is always tragic.  I felt a grief inside me that didn’t feel appropriate to show, didn’t feel appropriate to share – it wasn’t supposed to belong to me because this person didn’t belong to me except that we all belong to one another.  So I asked myself: Where is appropriate to show grief? And took myself on an excursion to the local cemetery (as you do). The following poem is made up of words entirely taken from words written on people’s headstones. It  isn’t intended to be some macabre or nihilistic exercise… but the opposite. What words of comfort or solace could we have said if there’d be time? What message of love? Read them and be comforted, be solaced, be loved now. Hear them deep in your soul, take them in and let them nourish you.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will know the essence of life.

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Peace, perfect peace,
let your song be delicate,
the flowers can hear.
In God’s care.

In the midst of life we are in death.
Let not your heart be troubled
neither let it be afraid.
In God’s care,
not here but risen,
Love’s Tribute.

Always loved, always in our hearts.
Sadly missed.
Behind all shadows standeth God.
Some time, some day, we’ll understand.

So deeply loved, so deeply mourned,
till we meet again, at rest,
in heavenly love abiding.

Abide with me: fast falls the eventide
the darkness deepens, Lord with me abide.
When other helpers fail, and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, O abide with me.
Thy will be done always in our hearts.
Loved and remembered.

Resting.
All losses are restored and sorrows end
in God’s care.
Those we love don’t go away
they walk beside us every day
To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die.

 

God, did you see the news today?

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God, did you see the news today?

We’re killing one another.
We’re killing in places killing has gone on so long we don’t know how to stop…
We’re killing next door.
We’re killing one another.

God, did you see the news today?

We’re laying waste to the world
to consume, consume, consume
an appetite “stuff” cannot sate.
Our elders know. Our elders tell us.
We ignore their wisdom.

God, did you see the news today?

People are saying hateful, hurtful things
what is right, what is wrong
what is holy, what is profane
…as if we know. As if we could know.

God, did you see the news today?

Were you there when we turned the boats away?
We are denying people food, electricity, sanitation, shelter, medical care…
We are denying people their basic human rights.

People are grieved and weary.
Longing for a world that is different
but not knowing where to start.
Not knowing how to start.
All victims, variously blind.

I’m not pointing fingers, I’m raising my hand.
I need Your help. We need Your help.

Amen

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A hollow grief, a hallow grief

We light candles in defiance of the darkness
raising our lights high to honour those voices silenced and stories untold
mine goes out.
A small enough gesture and mine is snuffed out before
it can transmit its’, however fragile, beacon of hope.
Discouraged, I lower my arm and my head but
a hand, bearing a lighter, comes into my view.
We each have that power – to share the light we have.
I had forgotten but this stranger reminds me:
the fellowship isn’t only with the Other but each other too.
Touched by grief, I don’t immediately move away following the vigil
a Chinese international student approaches to ask in broken English:
“Why do these people gather here this way?”
I try to explain but realise asylum “seeker” evokes Potteresque imagery
I let it lie – elusive to gain, as much to do with luck as skill,
glittering just out of reach… there are worse metaphors.
“You all show much courage”, she says.
“How’s that?” I ask.
“In China, this would never be allowed.”
What seems little enough… not nearly enough…
is to this person unthinkable
and I am confronted by my privilege to be here.
She moves off and a man joins me on the library lawn
“The powers you must overcome…
they would keep you from expanding.”
He lights a cigarette.
“They are going backwards, except,
it seemed backward even the first time”
he sighs looking around, “It is little enough”.
It is little enough.

Tonight on the anniversary of the “Regional Resettlement” initiative 55 vigils are taking place across Australia. It is little enough. It is something…

 

Messages from Manus

Timeline: Four years of abuse

19 July 2013: Then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd announces a new “Regional Resettlement Arrangement” with Papua New Guinea (PNG) so Australia can buy its way out of its ethical responsibilities. From this day forward anyone seeking protection and safety in Australia who arrive by boat will be forcibly transferred to PNG for processing and, if they are found to be refugees, be permanently settled there.
19 July 2013: The announcement causes distress amongst the people warehoused in detention in Nauru with peaceful protests escalating into violence.
3 August 2013: The Australian Government signs a new memorandum of understanding with Nauru similar to its Regional Resettlement Arrangement with Papua New Guinea.
17 February 2014: 23-year-old Reza Berati is murdered, and over 60 others injured, some of them seriously, on Manus Island. Numerous witness reports state Reza Berati was attacked by a group of G4S staff and at least one local staff member employed by The Salvation Army. Several eyewitnesses reported that one attacker picked up a large rock and hit Reza Berati on the head with it several times.
5September 2014: Hamid Khazaei, who was only 24 years old dies from a sepsis infection three weeks after he cut his foot at the detention centre on Manus Island. Inadequate medical care and delayed medical evacuation were later reported to have let to to Mr Khazaei’s death.
26 September 2014: The Australian and Cambodian governments sign a deal under which people on Nauru who are found to be refugees are to be resettled in Cambodia.  This second deal again allows Australia to buy its way out of its ethical responsibilities.
18 November 2014: Then Immigration Minister Scott Morrison announces that asylum seekers who have registered with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Indonesia after 1 July 2014 will no longer be able to be resettled under Australia’s humanitarian program.
5 December 2014: bill passes both Houses providing the Immigration Minister with the power to detain people at sea (including outside Australia’s jurisdiction) and send them to other countries or vessels, even without the permission or knowledge of those countries.
20 March 2015: The report from independent review into allegations of sexual abuse on Nauru is released detailing reports of women being raped and allegations of children being sexually assaulted.
20 March 2015: A boat carrying 46 Vietnamese asylum seekers is intercepted by Australia. Its passengers are held at sea for nearly a month and undergo “enhanced screening” before being returned to Vietnam on 18 April.
28 May 2015: Thousands of men, women and children seeking protection are abandoned at sea in what is now known as the Andaman Sea ‘boat crisis’. Regional governments eventually agree to allow the boats to land but then Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s callous response to Australia offering safety is “nope, nope, nope”.
4 June 2015: Nine months after the $55 million Cambodia deal, four refugeesarrive in Phnom Penh from Nauru. All of these people subsequently choose to return to their countries of origin, despite the fact that all four were found to have well-founded fears of persecution.
1 July 2015: The Australian Border Force Act takes effect making it a crime punishable by two years’ imprisonment for medical professionals, educators and others contracted by the Australian Government to speak about what they see in offshore detention.
5 October 2015: The Nauruan Government announces that the Regional Processing Centre will operate under an open centre arrangement.
29 October 2015: Amnesty International Australia publishes a report revealing evidence that Australian officials paid boat crews to return peopleseeking asylum to Indonesia.
8 November 2015: Fazel Chegeni, an Iranian refugee detained in Christmas Island Detention Centre, is found dead after escaping the centre.
19 February 2016: Australia again rejects the standing offer from New Zealand to accept 150 people from Nauru or Manus Island, failing to provide sensible, durable solutions for the people trapped there.
21 February 2016: Baby Asha, a one-year old who was transferred along with her family from Nauru to Brisbane Lady Cilento Children’s hospital for medical treatment is released into community detention. This came after the doctors at the hospital refused to discharge Asha after the completion of her treatment, fearing she would be transferred back to Nauru.
23 March 2016: At the Ministerial Bali Process meeting a declaration was released (the Bali Declaration) which for the first time identified the need toprovide protection to refugees in the region.
15 April 2016: A refugee in Nauru is convicted of attempted suicide, which was recognised as a crime in Nauru at the time.
26 April 2016: PNG’s Supreme Court rules that the transfer and detention of asylum seekers on Manus Island is illegal.
26 April 2016: Omid Masoumali, a refugee living in Nauru for three years sets himself on fire. After more than 24 hours he is medically evacuated to Australia where he dies in a hospital in Brisbane on Friday 29 April 2016.
2 May 2016: A young Somali refugee living in Nauru sets herself on fire. She is later flown to Australia by air ambulance suffering burns to 70% of her body.
5 May 2016: A boat with 12 Sri Lankan people seeking asylum who were intercepted by Australian authorities earlier in the week are screened at sea before being returned to Sri Lanka. They were reportedly arrested on arrival at Colombo airport.
10 May 2016: The Federal Court rules the Government must provide a woman,raped on Nauru, access to a safe and legal termination.
July 2016: Amnesty International’s Senior Director for research visits Nauru where she finds a system of deliberate abuse hidden behind wall of secrecy.
10 August 2016: The Guardian releases the Nauru files – thousands of leaked incident reports from Nauru detail assaults, sexual abuse and child abuse.
19 September: UN Global Summit for Refugees and Migrants in New York misses opportunity to find solutions to the global refugee crisis.
17 October 2016: In a new report Island of Despair’: Australia’s “processing” of refugees on Nauru Amnesty International find that the conditions to which refugees and people seeking asylum on Nauru are subjected amounts to torture.
30 October 2016: Immigration Minister Peter Dutton tries to introduce legislation to ensure anyone taken to Nauru and Manus and then resettled anywhere in the world, would never be able to come to Australia.
13 November 2016: The Government takes an extreme step in shirking responsibility byannouncing an agreement with the United States for some of the refugees in offshore detention to be settled in the US via a process administered by the UNHCR.
25 November 2016: Malaysia begins work on a pilot scheme to allow refugees from Myanmar’s persecuted Rohingya minority to work in the country, which in turn reduces number of people forced to take dangerous journeys in search for a safe place to rebuild their lives.
24 December 2016: Faysal Ishak Ahmed collapses at the Manus detention centre. He dies on Christmas Eve.
31 December 2016: The Indonesian President issues a Presidential Decree for refugees which for the first time provides people seeking asylum and refugees in Indonesia with a more formal legal status.
14 April 2017: PNG Soldiers fire directly into the Manus Island detention centre putting lives at risk. 9 people are injured. No one is held accountable.  

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“The idea that we live life in a straight line, like a story, seems to me to be increasingly absurd and, more than anything, a kind of intellectual convenience. I feel that the events in our lives are like a series of bells being struck and the vibrations spread outwards, affecting everything, our present, and our futures, of course, but our past as well. Everything is changing and vibrating and in flux.” 

 

In a rare interview since the death of his 15-year-old son, the singer reveals his struggle to write and reconnect with the world after the tragedy.

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Lay your burdens down child

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At the beach this week I found myself writing a bit of a song of lament and solace but can see it having several applications perhaps as prayer of confession of self, powers and politics.

Lay your burdens down, burdens down, burdens down child x2

Chorus
I will come to you, come to you, come to you child x2
I will lift you up, lift you up, lift you up child x2

Let your tears fall down, tears fall down, tears fall down child x2

Variations
Lay your:  troubles/darkness/heartbreak/sorrow… down
Lay: what scares you/what’s hurting/what’s broken… down
Lay your: body/spirit/hunger/weapons… down
Lay your: anger/sadness/hatred… down
Lay your: power/whiteness/stigma/baggage…down

 

IMG_5316Site 1: Treaty

In February 2016, 500 Victorian Aboriginal leaders voted to reject constitutional recognition. Instead the group requested that the State Government “resource a treaty process including a framework…  (and) complete collaboration with all Sovereign Peoples and Nations”. In July, a Working Group began talks to work out Australia’s first Treaty with Aboriginal people. It hopes to cover recognition of past injustices; authority held by the 39 First Nation clans in the region; respect for the land, customs and traditions of the First Peoples; land rights and land acquisition funding and fresh water and sea rights.

Progress is being made, yet nationally Arrernte woman Celeste Liddle maintains “We don’t have land rights; we have not received proper reparations for the Stolen Generations nor stolen wages; our sovereignty is yet to be respected and the damage of the false doctrine of terra nullius is yet to be undone”.

Sour wine to dull the pain.

They thirst for justice.

Indigenous Hospitality House IHH Healing Rites walk 2017 teaRite 1: tasting cold tea

We drink this bitter tea today
To taste the bitterness of unkept promises
We drink this bitter tea today
To remember the thirst of Christ on the cross
We drink this bitter tea today and ask
How can we truly recognise our hosts on this stolen land?

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Site 2: the food places

We come to the food places all over the land.  For a long time, Settler peoples have note understood the sophisticated practices of food cultivation of the First Peoples of the land.

Unlike a passive hunter gatherer lifestyle, Aboriginal people across the country sowed, grew, irrigated, preserved and built storehouses. For at least 6600 years at Budj Bim, the Gunditjmara people deliberately manipulated local water flows to engineer a landscape that increased the availability of eels.  Kulin nation people sustainably managed and harvested fields of murnong root.  Others fermented banksia nectar, milled grain and baked bread.

Now there is pre-packaged food imported from far away, polluted with chemicals.  Knowledge of traditional food cultivation has been restricted or devalued or lost. In hospitals people are treated for diabetes, kidney disease, obesity and heart failure, the results of a Western convenience diet. And the advertising say, “Take and eat, this is given for you.”

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Rite 2: plastic bread, sugar water

We eat this bread
To remember the loss of Indigenous agriculture
We drink this soft drink
To taste the loss of living water
We eat this cheap bread
To consider the true cost of our food
We drink this sugar drink
To taste the lure of thinking we know better
We eat and drink a warning, and we ask:
Do we seek a table of nourishment, the bread and water of life?

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Site 3: The Warrigal Creek Massacre

Angus McMillan – the “Founding father or “the Butcher” of Gippsland. He fle Scotland during the Highland Clearances but went on to enact brutal clearances of his own upon his new country. At the time of the European invasion of Gippsland, about 3000 Aboriginal people lived in the area. By 1860, it was less than 250.

The worst massacre was at the Warrigal Creek in 1843, where 80 to 200 members of the Bratowooloong clan were killed by McMillan and the Highland Brigade in revenge for the murder of a single white settler. The Brigade found the clan members camped around the waterhole at Warrigal Creek. They surrounded them and fired into them.  Some escaped into the scrub. Others jumped into the waterole and were shot “until the water was red with blood”. One boy, about 12 years old, was hit in the eye, captured and made to lead the brigade from one camp to another. The piles of bones were hidden in a place known as the valley of the dead.

There is a campaign underway to rename the McMillan electorate in Victoria. Liberal MP Russell Broadbent said, “It would send a message that wwe actually care about these issues and, if we are not responsible to our past… we can’t get on with our future.”

When Kurna man Russell Mullett visits an Aboriginal massacre site, he listens for the birds. “If I get out of the car and the birds are singing, I know it’s alright,” he said.

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Rite 3: black armband

We wear this black armband
Because of grief and shame and horror
We wear this black armband
Because we grieve the killings of the First Peoples
We are ashamed of the violence that still exists today
And the complicity of those who bury the truth
We grieve our failure to give back the land
We cry out with those who defended their country
We wear this black armband and ask:
How will we deal with out unfinished business?

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Site 4: young people in detention

97% of children in juvenile detention centres in the Northern Territory are Indigenous.  Of these, about 60% are in out of home care.

Children are removed when there parents are judged unfit to care for them.  However, in 2016, a program on the abuse of Aboriginal children at the Don Dale juvenile detention facility showed what can happen when the State takes on the role of parent.  Previous investigations had already uncovered incidents of children being tear-gassed while playing cards, having fabric hoods placed over their heads and being deprived of drinking water for 72 hours while in solitary confinement.

The most disadvantaged and troubled young people who offend are pout into the custody of a system with the most confrontational and violent culture.  The default response seems to be to exclude the, from society and from visibility – a response that runs right through Australia’s history.

Rite 4: hand prints – stop!

We say stop! Wait. Listen.
Listen to the voices of violence and despair behind bars
We wait in silence.

[a period of silence]

We leave our handprints here
When we have heard , give us courage to speak up.

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Site 5: Change the date

26th January 1788 marks the anniversary of the arrival of the First Fleet to our shores. ANTaR warns that “…celebrating Australia Day on that date is akin to asking Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People to celebrate their own invasion and dispossession”.

This year Fremantle Council celebrated its “One Day” on January 28th. Nyunggai Warren Mudine has suggested January 1st is a “proper day to celebrate Australia’s independence, identity and nationhood” stating that “it’s a day everyone can unite behind”. Tens of thousands of people attended the Invasion Day rally in Melbourne this year. The Australian people are increasingly recognising the implications of the current date and acknowledging it as inappropriate.

However, Arrernte woman Celeste Liddle asserts that “Merely changing the date will only end up erasing and nullifying the very reasons Indigenous people take to the streets to protest Invasion Day”.

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Rite 5: laying down leaves

We lay down these leaves today
To acknowledge our own need to remember
We lay down these leaves
To show respect for all who are no longer here
We lay down these leaves
To honour those who challenge a false celebration
We lay down these leaves
For those daring to start telling a true story

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Site 6: Wangan and Jagalingou native title

The Wangan and Jagalingou people are the Traditional Owners of the land in Queensland’s Galilee Basin.  They are fighting mining company Adani and the Queensland government to prevent the massive Carmichael coal mine from being built on their land.

They explain: ‘In our country, spiritual ancestors come from up under the ground and travel in and through the land at sacred sites associated with the Rainbow Serpent known as the Mundunjudra.  The Rainbow Serpent has power to control the sites where our people are born into their bigan (Totem). This has been so since the beginning of the creation period.

The sacred beliefs of our culture, our religion, is based on where the song lines run through our country.  These song lines connect us to Mother Earth. Trees, plants, shrubs, medicines, waterholes, animals, habitats, aquifers – all these have a special religious place in our land and culture.  Our spirits and the spirits of our ancestors travel above, through, and under the ground of our country.

If the Carmichael mine were to proceed it would tear the heart out of the land.  These effects are irreversible. Our land will be “disappeared”.

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Rite 6: blindfolds

We wear these blindfolds today
To recognise our blindness to the sacred spirit of the land
We wear these blindfolds today
To recognise our blindness to the workings of power and greed
We wear these blindfolds today
To recognise our blindness to those seeking to protect the land and its people

[blindfolds are tied on for a period of silence]

We take off these blindfolds today
To show that we are willing to be shown the way
We tie these black and white strips together
To recognise our need to be connected with the land and each other

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Site 7: ‘Cultural’ violence?

In August 2016, a cartoon was published in the Australian newspaper, depicting a drunk Aboriginal father who didn’t know his child’s name. The cartoonist said he was trying to focus public attention on the plight of the child.  Dameyon Bonson, the founder of Black Rainbow, an advocacy group for LGBTQI Indigenous youth, said that when he saw the cartoon, he felt ‘gut punched’.  ‘This was in the national broadsheet, and published on national Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children’s Day.’

In response, the Aboriginal community mounted an online campaign showing positive images and stories of Indigenous Dads.

Luke Pearson wrote, ‘Every denial of Indigenous peoples’ rights, fro invasion to massacres to Stolen Generations to the NT Intervention, has been accompanied by imagery and rhetoric that has made us out to be a threat.  A threat to white people, a threat to ourselves and each other, a threat to our own children; for this to dominate public imagination the public also needs to buy the underpinning idea that we are fundamentally flawed, that our very humanity us both in question and at stake, and that we need to be protected from ourselves,’

We are all responsible for a culture shift.

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Rite 7: creating a home fire

We build up this fire
Warm like a family of care
We build up this fire
Like we work to build up strong families
We build up this fire
To remember Jesus who gathered unlikely people into families
We build up this fire
To remember Jesus who called us to care for each other as the children of God
And we ask:
How can we create places where all can find warmth, welcome and home?

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Closure

Creator Spirit
Help us to uncover our hidden stories
Suffering God
Help our tears to flow for the pain
Reconciling Spirit
Heal our shame and our wounds, and call us into action

We are searching in the darkness
for the first signs of new life.

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We come together today to walk the way of the Southern Cross, and visit seven sites from our shared history.  There is suffering in these events, and there are questions for us to grapple with.  We will hear the words of Christ on the cross, what might his words spoken in pain tell us?  We seek to participate in a process of learning, repentance and healing in our land.

We acknowledge that we gather today on the land of the Marabalak people of the Wurundjeri tribe of the Kulin Nations – people who have known the Creator Spirit, shared stories, and walked in this place since time immemorial – our elders past, present and future.

With the Creator Spirit
We walk the way of the Southern Cross
Under the Southern Cross
We hear again the words of Christ on the cross
With God deep among us
We seek healing and justice in our land

 

Site 1: A thirst for justice

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We are standing outside a house.  As every person has a story, so does every house.

This house was a house of comfort.
It belonged to a woman called Sally Russell Cooper. In the 1930s’s she opened its front door as a low-income boarding house and welcomed Aboriginal people to come and live with her. There were three bedrooms inside and a spare room out the back. Sally kept her front door open to her people until the 1970’s. For many Indigenous Australians, this house was, as Elders Larry Walsh and Reg Bow once said, “a refuge from loneliness and homelessness for more than 40 years.”

This house was a house of protest.
The 1930’s onwards were a time of momentum for Aboriginal people. During the Depression and the Second World War many Aboriginal people came to Melbourne seeking work. The growing political movement for Aboriginal rights also attracted people to Melbourne’s west. Sally’s father, William Cooper, was a significant local figure in the Aboriginal political movement fighting for basic civil rights. For many of the Aboriginal people who stayed in this house, there was hope of work at Kinnears Rope Factory and other factories nearby.  But the stronger hope was the hope of justice.

This house was a house of light.
Sally held lots of beautiful parties in this house. This was an important opportunity for Aboriginal people to socialise and support one another as society made it very difficult for Aboriginal people to gather together in groups.  This house was well loved as a safe gathering place.

Consider this house. The door. The windows.  The memory. Remember its story.

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Action
Choose a bushflower tube-stock from the basket, as an Indigenous version of the Hyssop plant, and take it home to a place of earth of your choice. Remember the story of the Aboriginal people in this country as you watch it grow.

 

Site 2: With and with each other

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328 family violence incidents were reported in Maribyrnong in 2013 rising to 974 in 2016 – that increase in incidents, nearly tripling, is largely due to more people speaking out.  We know that a woman is killed in Australia by her male partner or ex-partner nearly every week.  The most common myths are that violence against women is caused by alcohol and drugs, a man’s violent upbringing, living in poverty, anger management problems or mental health problems but for violence against women to become a thing of the past we need to change the causes: gender inequality and rigid gender stereotypes.

This sculpture is called With and With Each Other by artist Tom Bills and it feels like a fitting place to stand to think about equality.

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Action
Let’s take hands and Pass the Peace – exchanging these words:

Say: Peace be with you…
Answer: And also with you.

How can we be doing this amongst our family, friends and neighbours? We need to know what safe touch looks and feels like through education and role modelling.

In making a circle with our arms we are symbolically acknowledging the widening ripples of the impacts of family violence on individuals self esteem, self-worth, physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing… The impacts on individuals, families, neighbours and communities… As we release our hands the circle opens, representing our commitment to breaking the cycles of violence.

Let’s walk with someone new, someone you don’t know or someone you don’t see as often as we move to the next station.

 

Site 3: Finding a place to call home

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We are standing outside Foley House. This is a facility run by the Salvation Army that provides accommodation and support for 46 residents – all of whom have been homeless, and all of whom are living with a disability.

Finding a place to call home is one of our most basic needs. For our Aboriginal friends the trauma of being removed from their homes is still very real and present. For asylum seekers dislocation comes at great cost and much grief.

But homelessness does not discriminate – our social dysfunction makes it a real possibility for anyone. The loss or casualisation of a job, the breakdown of a family, the rent increase from a landlord, the need to flee violence in the home, the disintegration of health, the history of abuse or neglect that is relived on a daily basis, the self-medication through drugs or alcohol: these are all social realities that can thrust any of us into homelessness.

There were 762 people who were homeless in the electorate of Footscray on Census night in 2011. Things are getting worse: this figure is 29 per cent more than in 2006. Across Victoria, there are 22,000 people experiencing homelessness on any given night.

Even this is just the tip of the iceberg. A skewed housing market benefits some greatly but places unbearable pressure on those at the bottom end. The injustice is often felt most strongly for those enduring the uncertainty of the private rental market. We live in a community where houses are seen as investments, rather than homes in which to live and thrive.

Action
Walk with a stone in your shoe as we move to our next location; as a reminder of the constant pain and anxiety faced by those who are struggling to find a place to call home. Are you facing this anxiety yourself? Give your stone to a friend to hold.

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Site 4: Room for all

Sometimes coming to Centrelink can feel like our own crucifixion; Our dependence on a system for which we detest; An experience of isolation and abandonment, judgements from ourselves and others about how we do and don’t fit in; About whether we are enough. A painful waiting that only allows you to survive – and gives no kind word, no compassion, and no understanding of who you really are.

Inequality and poverty in Australia are growing. There are now about 2.9 million people living in poverty, including 731,300 kids.  Centrelink will never be enough (not that that is new to anyone). It is like a well from which we draw water, and in Australia, it seems to be an increasing drought not only of money, but of healthy soil, and healthy people; people whose lives are rich in compassion, joy, generosity and the types of kindness that sows grace amongst the powers.

Today we remember that Christ became that spring when he called us into his family as he called John into his both spiritually and literally. He seeded in us the knowledge that we are duty bound to honour our mothers and fathers, our sons and daughters in faith. To know that our own growth and ability to live is intrinsically caught up in family; a family that transcends bloodlines, a family that invites us to make bigger our sense of home, that calls us to dig our own wells.

Action
Place a dollar (provided) on the note at the foot of Centrelink:

For our debts and for their debts, we cannot pay.
Christ is enough.
Power remember Mercy;
Remember where we grow.
Remember those who hold us.
Remember those who raise us.
Remember those who crush us.
Woman here lives your son. Son here lives your mother.
Remember your way home. Remember Me.

 

Site 5: Seeking refuge and finding welcome

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Footscray is a community that generation after generation of migrant has made home. These days it is a multicultural hub with service providers such as the ASRC and community groups such as the Welcome West Wagon working alongside smaller community groups and individuals as well as movements such as Love Makes a Way to create welcome for people seeking asylum & refugees. People come to Australia with the hope of a better life but they are often left in limbo for many years.

A friend of ours, Maria, is an East Timorese woman who through a combination of civil war in her homeland, loss of family members and marriage breakdown has found herself stateless and alone with her young son in a foreign country. Under the terms of her temporary protection visa, she has limited work rights and little way to support herself and her son. She is reliant on friends and community agencies such as the Red Cross and the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre for accommodation, legal advocacy and food. At the present time she’s been in limbo for over five years, with little idea of when a decision may be handed down by the minister for immigration. She may be granted permanent residency and begin the process of building a life here, or she may be forced to leave. She prays every day for a permanent home in Australia. She lives generously in our community household, lovingly raising her son and extending friendship and help to others.

We acknowledge the perseverance of those seeking asylum and the commitment of all those who go out of their way to create a sense of welcome to refugees and those seeking asylum.

Action
With this chalk we leave our mark and remember that in this multicultural neighbourhood, we are mixed together: rich and poor; Vietnamese, Ethiopian, Italian, Scottish, indigenous; students, workers and non-workers; believers, agnostics and atheists; children and adults of all ages. We acknowledge the tensions and divisions that often exist between us.

We celebrate the diversity we see around us, and how it reflects the beauty of God. We leave our symbol of welcome to be reminded that we are created for connection; for family, for friendship, for shared work, for love. We leave our mark to remember that we need each other and that we are stronger.

 

Site 6: There is a place for you

IMG_5096On a Friday night in November of 2016, three LGBT+ people were assaulted in Footscray after being chased by three men. Security did not step in to stop the attack, and the three LGBT+ had to wait for 25 minutes before deciding to walk to the police station because no patrol car showed up. When the victims reported that the assault was a hate-crime against transgender and queer people, those details were not included by police officers. Like so many others in history, the hatred against these people for their diversity was ignored. The identity of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people has been ignored and persecuted in Australia.

When I was attending church, I was also asked not to raise my own questions, my doubts, my insecurities and my suffering as a gay person of faith. I was told, in person, that I was broken, and that my capacity for love was corrupted. After an act of honesty, the leadership of the church wanted me to silently accept that I would only be embraced in that faith community if I lived by standards which violated my own conscience and divine design.

We reflect on Jesus’ words to remember that ignorance, fear, and pride often stand in the way of our choice to extend Godly hospitality to our LGBT+ neighbour. In our own lack of love we fail to love our neighbour as we would ourselves. We reflect on the ways that we have excluded and silenced our LGBT+ neighbours, like the authorities attempted to silence the gospel. We reflect on the way that LGBT+ have been forsaken, like Jesus himself was on the cross.

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Action
We now stand in silent prayer for 30 seconds to honour the suffering of LGBT+ people who were forsaken.

Together we pray aloud, ‘Help us, Lord of all, to no longer forsake our LGBT+ neighbour’.

Place the rainbow crucifix with a prayer on the wall of the police station as a sign of the visibility of LGBT+ suffering.

 

Site 7: Earth out of Balance

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We all rely on the earth and its natural systems for life itself.

Its resources sustain us and grow us, yet our actions and failure to be good custodians continues to push things out of balance.  Taking more than we need, prioritising short term gain over long term sustainable thinking – we are seeing mountains and rivers be given legal identity so that they can be given a voice to speak in their own best interests.

Human activity is altering the climate, changing rainfall patterns, reducing water availability, and increasing the frequency of severe weather events such as bushfires and storms such as cyclone Debbie and Cook, we acknowledge those yet rebuilding and recovering in the wake of these storms.

To emphasise this imbalance, sea levels are predicted to rise by at least 600mm by 2070… that’s within most of our lifetimes.  At projected levels, this change in sea level will widen the Maribyrnong River, flood lower lying areas, and begin to change the face of our locality. A sea level rise of just 1m would threaten the surrounding homes and businesses and displace thousands. It would flood all of the city’s major cargo shipping docks and surrounding cargo storage areas, many of which are in our neighbourhood.

The call to be “custodians of creation” is a critical one, which drags us from the crushing weight of a global disaster to a place of restoration, respect and gratitude.

Action
Look around for something that doesn’t belong in this place; perhaps some rubbish or some weeds. Carry it with you as we start to travel to the next site, until you find a spot better suited for your rubbish to be placed.

Reflect on the ways your actions may keep creation out of balance.

Consider your role as a custodian.

Plan some simple steps to begin the healing process.

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Photo credit: Maya Stark

Closure

Creator Spirit
Help us to uncover our hidden stories
Suffering God
Help our tears to flow for the pain
Reconciling Spirit
Heal our shame and our wounds, and call us into action.
Remember that justice is coming; God’s reign is coming

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Acknowledgements and Story

Aunty Doreen Wandin renamed Spencer St station to Southern Cross because they were able to see stars at the homestead in Coranderrk. Aunty Joy Wandin named Wurundjeri Way… We identify this constellation with “home”, and commit to the journey of finding and following the way home under these stars.

Uncle Wanta Jampijimpa has preached on the correlation of the stars of the Southern Cross to the wounds on Jesus’ body… We acknowledge the terrible and complex legacy of the church as colonisers in this place and give deep thanks for elders wisdom and grace in leading us to deeper truth and understanding the Creator Spirit who has always been here in this place.

Bill Wylie Kellerman, co-author of “Resistance and Public Liturgy”, role models and teaches us that liturgy implicates. Undertaking activism on high holidays gives layers of meaning to the action. He said: “We believe God has already intervened, breaking in to break out on behalf of human kind.  We recognise the authority of God [as bigger/beyond figureheads of power], we believe this is the meaning of the resurrection and we have come to say so”…  What does it mean for us – in this time, this place, this context – to be mindful of and respond well to matters of justice from a framework of hope as people of all faiths and none?

The Indigenous Hospitality House (IHH) community who shared their resource with us based on the work of Dr Norman Habel, the author of “Reconciliation: Searching for Australia’s Soul” which outlines the model for combining storytelling to action as a means for right relationship between people and with the land… We seek to participate in a process of learning, repentance and healing in our land.

 

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[p.9-10]

Why is the measure of love loss?

…You said, ‘I love you’.  Why is it that the most unoriginal thing we can say to one another is still the thing we long to hear? ‘I love you’ is always a quotation.  You did not say it first and neither did I, yet when you say it and when I say it we speak like savages who have found three words and worship them.  I did worship them but now I am alone on a rack hewn out of my own body.

…love demands expression. It will not stay still, stay silent, be good, be modest, be seen and not heard, no.  It will break out in tongues of praise, the high note that smashes the glass and spills the liquid.  It is no conservationist love. It is a big game hunter and you are the game.  A curse on this game.  How can you stick at a game when the rules keep changing? I shall call myself Alice and play croquet with the flamingos. In Wonderland everyone cheats and love is Wonderland isn’t it? Love makes the world go round. Love is blind. All you need is love. Nobody ever died of a broken heart. You’ll get over it… It’s the clichés that cause the trouble. A precise emotion seeks a precise expression. If what I feel is not precise then should I call it love? It is so terrifying, love, that all I can do is shove it under a dump bin of pink cuddly toys and send myself a greetings card saying ‘Congratulations on your Engagement’. But I am not engaged I am deeply distracted.  I am desperately looking the other way so love won’t see me.

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I arrived late and missed Miliwanga Wurrben but both wonderful and powerful to see the work of young artists presented at Scribe.

Hannah Donnelly read some segments of recent work – dystopian young adult fiction exploring the long term impacts of climate change in Australia.  Asking the audience questions between readings like:

  • what Country do you live on?
  • what water system is on the Country where you live?
  • what is your future? …your children’s future?

Prompting important self-reflection on the ways we are (or aren’t) aware of the impacts of climate change and the ways we’re complicit in not taking good care of Country.

HANNAH DONNELLY

Hannah Donnelly is a Wiradjuri writer who grew up on Gamilaroi Country. She is the creator of Sovereign Trax, an Indigenous music blog which aims to foreground the consumption of music that speaks to collective stories and identities. Hannah’s writing experiments with speculative fiction and Indigenous responses to climate change.

 

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It’s hard to find words to describe what Jack Sheppard shared – all about words but using few he shared a story using his body and video footage of two friends who recently committed suicide, the piece capturing the evolution of his grief, healing and response to that.  Their stories are written on his body and he carries them with him. This evoked the sense of a beginning in an ending and possibility in a situation that feels hopeless. Where he is, they are. The gift of his work was holding space for the piece to mean whatever it might seem or need to mean to each person watching it… below is my attempt to express some of what that was for me watching him.

JACK SHEPPARD

The Honouring is a presentation of a physical theatre work in development, paying homage to Indigenous life and culture in its hardships, beauty and spirituality. Using movement, dialogue, video installations and poetry, the work is influenced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander totems and landscape, with the story journeying to parts of Australia of deep significance to Jack Sheppard.

 

Pen to heart
writing is a full body experience
physical and not just head.
Disparate ideas and pieces of a life
you try to fit together
but they don’t come.
Voice.
Listen.
What are you trying to say?
What are you trying to read?
Winds blow,
walking in your own mess,
dance like no one is watching.
All about words but silent.
I lost my voice again today…
Cuddle up to the pieces
keeping you warm at night.
Collect the pieces up,
we must nurture the ghosts
that lie down with us,
check and care for them.
Shedding clothes,
layers of skin,
who we are.
Naked, unfolding a
piece of paper with the
whole story.
Reflection of self
wraps around you
like a cocoon.
Lie with the dead,
those we can’t save.
I want to sleep but I can’t.
Awake, I’m still awake.

Talitha Fraser