Category Archives: Social Inclusion

So what is NAIDOC Week?

We all stand on sacred ground. The ground on which I stand has been the homeland of the Narungga people for time immemorial.

The 5th to the 12th of June 2015 is NAIDOC week. From the official about page:

NAIDOC Week celebrations are held across Australia each July to celebrate the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. NAIDOC is celebrated not only in Indigenous communities, but by Australians from all walks of life. The week is a great opportunity to participate in a range of activities and to support your local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community.

Last year, I may have heard of NAIDOC week, but I couldn’t have told you what it is. This year, I’m making it my business to find out, and I hope others will join me.

Mainstream media coverage of Indigenous matters in Australia tends to be thin on the ground; the phrase that springs to mind being “bugger all.” The only way that I have begun to learn of them is through Indigenous voices, and advocates on social media, primarily Twitter. It is through these voices that I have learnt many uncomfortable truths about the lot of Australia’s First Peoples – including that in which the current administration appears to be doing anything but improving the situation.

For those who want to join me in this learning journey, allow me to share some resources. Firstly you can follow, the #NAIDOC2015 Twitter hashtag. Here are a couple of “Follow Friday” tweets I made, being a go-to list of accounts to follow. Tweet 1, and Tweet 2. (Note: I made a transcription error in the second – first account should be @flashblack.)

Most essential reading, at the moment, is @IndigenousX, where current curator, Law PhD candidate, Darren Parker is talking about the history of the Australian Constitution, as relates to Indigenous peoples. Go back to Friday morning on the timeline, to get the story from the beginning. (History of Law may sound like a dry subject, but Darren is making it fascinating reading.) Also @WeAreAustralia is under the curation of Indigenous voices for the week, including IndigenousX founder, @LukeLPearson.

@mskieralouise has curated the @IndigenousX tweets on the Introduction to Australian Constitutional Law. Here’s another account, from @InflappableAK. (Kudos to them.)

Here is a Storify of tweets by @LukeLPearson, summarising the results of the @IndigenousX Constitutional Recognition Survey.

If I find further resources, I will add them here.

Short link to this post: http://bit.ly/1HEoDJl

Identity, Nationality, and Culture

Whilst Scotland held a referendum on independence, at the helm of the @WetheHumanities Twitter rotation/curation account, @cristobál started a discussion about identity with an environment/environments:

So, I would like to know your opinion about identity in your environment, how you would define it and if there is space for multiple ones.

With nationalism rearing its ugly head, I recounted how the occurrence of the Falklands Conflict in my high school years cured me of that sentiment for life. (I have two mementoes of this: the Pink Floyd album The Final Cut, and Raymond Briggs’ book The Tin-Pot Foreign General and the Old Iron Woman. Both highly poignant.)

I had long thought that my aversion to nationalism had stripped me of any real national identity, but a couple of hours sitting on a tractor, mowing weeds, gave me  time to ponder this, and  related issues. Realising that I had more thoughts on the matter than would fit comfortably into a tweet, or three, I decided to unburden myself here, instead.

It did not take me long to realise that my antipathy towards nationalism was as strong as ever – “we are better than everyone else who lives outside of this artificial boundary” does not sit well with me. Sexism and racism, where there is generally a fairly well defined means of demarcation of “them” and “us,” are pretty despicable things, but when the demarcation is an imaginary line – no, I’m just not going there.

To mis-quote Socrates, I am neither English nor Australian, but a citizen of the world – or am I? My tractor-time gave rise to the realisation that whilst I might not identify with the concept of a nation, there are cultural artefacts with which I do identify, things that are So Very English. PJ Harvey’s White Chalk [Youtube] says something about the landscape of my early childhood, and never fails to move me. Likewise the music of Ralph Vaughan Williams, a good India Pale Ale, the accents of South West England. Yes, I realise that people from the other side of the world can love these as well, but it’s the collection of these cultural artefacts that make me think that, culturally, I am English. [Note: I don’t use ‘British’ as I come from one specific place; if I used British, I might as well use European.]

So, this culture, that which I assimilated in my early years, is part of my identity. I don’t particularly miss the country I left – I am now somewhere else, this is my home. Is Australia part of my identity? If it is, in any way, it’s the landscapes.

And the Scottish vote? Important – a people deciding its future in a very significant way. (I do not regard a nation choosing its way forward as nationalism – unless that way forward involves something like the annexation of a neighbour.) I regard voting as a duty more than a privilege, and was delighted to see such a high-turnout, from a country where voting is not mandatory, as it is in Australia.

There is a certain irony in that, despite my views on voting, I am voluntarily disenfranchised. I won’t cast a postal vote for the country in which I no longer live (I left, I am no longer part of it,) but am unable to vote in the country in which I do, as I am not a citizen. I have rejected the idea of becoming a citizen, as this requires swearing an oath to be, as I see it, a flag-waving nationalist. If the oath were changed to “I swear to obey the law and pay my taxes,” just tell me where to sign.

Violence Against Women Stops Here

The title of this post may be an unrealistic expectation, but it’s a good thing to work towards. I am breaking a personal rule in writing this – never to post in anger – but I have been sufficiently upset on this, of all days, to publish and be damned. Social inclusion is one of my core tenets, so I am not going to let this pass unmarked.

Today, in Australia, is White Ribbon Day –  “White Ribbon Day celebrates the culmination of the annual campaign and global recognition of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.  As such, men and women are encouraged to wear a symbolic white ribbon on 25 November.”

I signed the oath, and didn’t think too much of it; to me, raising my hand against a woman, and especially a loved one, is a concept I find totally alien. I really cannot get my head around how anyone can physically abuse a partner. (Note: I’m talking partners here, as this appears to be where the bulk of abuse is happening. Sickening? Yes!) But, the thing is, I thought I should sign the oath because it’s something I can be seen to be doing, rather than just an (invisible) personal attitude. It’s about standing up, putting up your hand, and showing solidarity.

This is the oath: “I swear never to commit, excuse or remain silent about violence against women.” Is that so very hard?

Australia isn’t  exactly coming up tops where human rights are concerned – and I won’t even start on the list there. But today – let’s make it special. Let’s try to get this ONE issue into the light, recognise that violence against women never is, never was, never will be, acceptable, and be active in this respect.

Gay Dogs Not Allowed

Blogging Against Disablism Day

I thought I had pretty well exhausted all material that I might use for my 2010 Blogging Against Disablism Day (BADD) post until I turned up this rather odd news item, Gay dogs not welcome, on the Adelaide Now news site.

Read the article and judge for yourself, but I think that even if you believe the story that these people thought the man had a gay (not guide) dog, then they were guilty of sex discrimination if not blatant disablism.

So now we do not only have direct disablism, but we have disablism by proxy – making barriers for assistance dogs.

May I suggest that you now go to the BADD site and have a read through some of the fine contributions there – and maybe write a post of your own if you haven’t already done so.

BADD Headline: Dress as a Disabled Person

Blogging Against Disablism Day

Students asked to dress as a disabled person for fundraiser (news.com.au)  I find it fitting that this rather awful headline should appear on Blogging Against Disablism Day (BADD.)  My BADD posts for previous years have all been rather general, with no focus on the “now.” Here is something topical, fresh, in the news and getting some people very agitated on Twitter.

Whilst the idea was born out of noble intentions (I hope,) what exactly is it telling the children?  It is telling them that people with disabilities look different. That’s right, teach ’em young that it’s OK to stigmatise people with disabilities, especially the visual ones.

If they really want to teach children about disabilities, what’s wrong with having slightly older children with disabilities come and describe how their lives may be different but at the same time how they are the same as other children and maybe engage in a little role-play if that’s what it takes to develop empathy and understand how others experience the world.

Dress up as a “disabled person” (note: not even using “person first” terminology) – I am honestly flabaghasted.

 

TinyURL for post: http://tinyurl.com/dm6ftz

Update

A further news report advises that the school in question has abandoned this plan.

International Women’s Day 2009

International Women's Day Logo

It saddens me to advise that today (8th March – not accounting for my local timezone here) is International Women’s Day. And the reason that I am sad? It is because IWD need exist at all. To me, it is just another sign of the socially-exclusive behaviour that dominates human societies, irrespective of how “advanced” those societies might be.

Sexism is possibly one of the worst forms of discrimination. Whilst it appears easy for people to take offence at people who are from different countries, may have a different skin colour, have different religions or philosophical beliefs, might walk a bit funny, have different sexual preferences, use their left hands – ooh, all those horrible things – women seem to be singled out as being in some way defective in a horribly large number of societies. Women are not a minority, we have women in our families. Hey, our mothers are women! I try to understand the prejudices that I see in an attempt to understand these naked apes that seem to be dominating and/or trashing this planet; difference = unknown = a threat. But women? Don’t want to speculate on demographics, but half the world’s human population consists of women; other than the different roles in the reproductive process, they are not so different. As a part of our families they should certainly not be unknown. So where’s the threat?

Moving on from the philosophical side and my utter incomprehension of why women should be treated like Space Aliens (and illegal ones a that,) a look at the theme of IWD 2009, per the United Nations:

Women and men united to end violence against women and girls

Ah, practical stuff and something we can all agree on! Possibly. I tend towards the pessimistic and wonder if a lifetime of the species of abuse against the female contingent can be realistically curtailed. Whilst I assume not, cultural changes can at least make it less acceptable and therefore – hopefully – reduce the frequency and stigmatise the offenders.

I am saddened to say that much of my cynicism, pessimism and various other ‘isms that make me think that the lot of women is not going to suddenly get better comes from recent experience. It is now just over 8 years since I moved to my adoptive nation, Australia. This young nation, land of opportunity, a place where everyone gets a “fair go” seems to have gone badly wrong somewhere as the attitude towards women here doesn’t seem to be any better than that prevelant at the time of first colonisation. I thought that maybe what I was seeing was just a characteristic of the rural area where I live; in such areas attitudes are often behind the times. It appears, however, that this is not the case. I am reliably advised by women, professionals from Big Cities, that sexism here is fully rife and showing little sign of going away any time soon.

Be it far from it for me to suggest that Australia is a specifically misanthropic nation; I believe that the conditions for women in Australia are probably typical of most of the “developed” (never saying exactly what is developed – certainly not socially) world.

I find it hard to conclude this article; I am disgusted by what I see, I don’t see it getting any better. Even if it did get better for women, I could probably re-write this article a dozen more times, each time picking up on another group, often close to home, that is a victim of discrimination.

So, although this may seem like I have a) gone off on a tangent or b) completely lost it, I would suggest a reading of Frank Herbert’s “God Emperor of Dune”, with attention being given to Leto’s discourses on the role and history of the Fish Speakers. Reading the orignal trilogy first is probably a good idea.

Further Reading

Ada Lovelace Day – Women in Technology Whom I Admire

It starts thus:

“I will publish a blog post on Tuesday 24th March about a woman in technology whom I admire but only if 1,000 other people will do the same.”

this being from coffee.geek.nz

I am fully aware that the technical sector – whether it be IT, engineering or medicine (which I consider technical) – has always been very much a “boys’ club” and am embarassed to be a part of such a misogynistic industry.

Whilst I admire what Ada did (writing programmes without a computer is no mean feat), I would like on this occasion to recognise 3 women of my own acquaintance. They may not be Big Names, but they are just some of those that I can name whom I consider worthy of respect:

  • Leah MACLEAN. Leah is a technology veteran, having worked for Telstra, Australia’s national telco. Leah now provides technology services and understanding to her clientelle (primarily women in small business) as Working Solo.
  • Liddy NEVILE. Liddy Nevile is an Adjunct Associate Professor in the Advanced Computing Research Centre at La Trobe University. I know Liddy as the drive behind OzeWAI web accessibility conference and a member of the Dublin Core Metadata Initiative.
  • Lynne POPE – head honcho of the Mambo CMS project and another technology veteran. A serious Mover and Shaker in Open Source software development.

There are others that I could mention of my personal acquaintance and of no less merit, all just going about their jobs despite the frequent discrimnation that they face. (They not only have to be good at their jobs but also able to survive being Eaten By Trolls.)

Please, let’s just shed the obnoxious attitudes that make the technical world a hostile one for women and rid ourselves of any stupid ideas of women being less able in this – or any other – field.

And yes, I know that this article is over a month early but, by writing it now, at least I know that it will get written.

Shortened URI for this page for Twitter users and the like: http://tinyurl.com/bqmjzk

Here is a list of Ada Lovelace Day posts from others: http://ada.pint.org.uk/

Blogging Against Sexism – A Belated Entry

Better late than never: my post for Blogging Against Sexism, submitted before International Womens Day slips off the International Date Line.

With various ideas about this, I finally decided that I would just reflect on the sexism that I have observed in my adopted country, Australia.

I should begin by saying that I live in a rural community – what I have observed may not reflect the situation in the cities here (at least the more cosmopolitan bits of the cities).

After having realised that I had missed the boat for International Womens Day, at least in my time zone, I decided to let things go and wait until next year. It was then that a local woman of my acquaintance (ie: my wife) made a comment – an assumption that a librarian was a woman – that I thought that maybe I should have a voice, at least to say how deeply ingrained sexism is in the rural culture.

In a small town, not far from here, there is a clothes shop. It sells mens and womens clothes. It offers a free alterations service – for mens clothes only. When I first heard of this, liberal minded Brit that I am, my jaw just dropped. Had I not only moved to another continent, but also into a previous century?

A closer look at the roles of women in the workplace and other roles by gender does not paint a nice picture; I understand 19th Century attitudes in older people, but it is not just older people that I am observing. The communities hereabouts are horribly and distressingly sexist. Possibly I am just a foreigner misunderstanding the culture in which I am now living, but it really does look bad to me.

I can only hope that increased penetration of the Internet into rural areas will help rid us of sexism and all the other “isms” as well.

Here ends my piece. I just wish that it could have been more positive – and on time!

Further Social Inclusion posts should follow on the 1st of May – Blogging for Disablism Day.