#summerofsunili

I finished up at The Firm just before Christmas and commenced my ‘career break’, in which I go off to do fun and magical things, and the #summerofsunili has been rather epic.

A few things to mention:

  • I wrote an article for ABC’s ‘Unleashed’ about the United Nation’s review of Australia’s human rights record (and will writing a follow up for New Matilda about the outcome of the review).
  • Last weekend I got a little offended that someone said on newsdotboodoau that Gen Y women have no ‘female skills’ and sent off a missive to ‘Unleashed’ about how Gen Y women are actually, like, totally awesome – which received some interesting feedback.
  • The WA Chapter of Australian Lawyers for Human Rights is getting off the ground and I’m helping to set up all the interwebs stuff.
  • My work on the board at CASE for Refugees is going well, but it’s nowhere as interesting as the volunteer work I’m still doing with them.
  • I was selected to be in the ‘recruitment pool’ for Legal Aid WA, which means they’ll call me when they get funding for a position.
  • Today Geordie Guy said he reckons I should be on Q&A #insteadofdevany, and put me on the same suggestion-list as Prof Larissa Behrendt, who was nominated for Australian of The Year, as well as a whole bunch of amazing people, which is an absolutely delightful compliment.
  • And I had a reeeeeeeally interesting request from someone asking if I’d done much public speaking and if any was recorded and if I could please send them something , so I sent them a link to a video I am in speaking about depression in the legal profession, so they’re going to get back to me next week (#vaguebulletpointisvague).

Also on a fun-factor I did Raw Comedy again and followed it up with some open-mic stuff which was super-fun and I’m going to do it again. Hoorays!

Whew. Maybe I might get some sleep now?

Nah.

I’m having too much fun!

Can’t see the jobs for the Forrest…

I was on Q&A last night.  I sent three questions in — on refugees, sustainability and Twiggy’s 50,000 jobs–  and was lucky enough to have one of them chosen to be read out to the panel (specifically our hero-in-Hi-Vis, Andrew ‘Twiggy’ Forrest):

Two years ago you announced with great fanfare that you would get 50,000 indigenous Australians in jobs within two years. So how’s that going? And have you thought of taking a few steps back and looking at ways of getting kids to finish high school or addressing literacy, homelessness, domestic violence and substance abuse in Aboriginal communities?

Someone on the Q&A online forum made a comment that FMG isn’t responsible for social services at stuff and that parents should be sending their kids to school.  Yes. . .  of course.

My question was aimed at pointing out at that the issue at hand isn’t one that’ll be solved by banging on about 50k theoretical jobs.

Saying you’re committed to making 50,000 jobs available doesn’t do anything to address over two centuries of racism, dispossession and structural discrimination… which is the real point of ‘closing the gap’.

Turned out the timing was great for that one because the Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research @ ANU released its report into the Australian Employment Covenant yesterday (I think I sent the question in on Thursday).

As pointed out by Dr Kirrily Jordan from Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research in today’s Crikey (paywalled):

So what, exactly, did the AEC set out to achieve? Some recent reports suggest that the aim of the AEC has only been to secure 50,000 job pledges from employers. But the formal agreement between the AEC and the Commonwealth government says that the original aim included an aspiration to “secure 50,000 sustainable jobs filled by indigenous Australians”, and the AEC website lists the scheme’s first goal as the “placement of 50,000 indigenous people into work”. If the goal of the AEC related only to job pledges, then these statements are confusing at best.

On job pledges, the AEC has been very effective in securing employer commitments. To date, more than 170 employers have promised a combined total of almost 26,000 “Covenant Jobs” under the scheme. Employers are asked to informally guarantee these jobs to indigenous applicants who complete appropriate training. This could be an important contribution: it not only creates an incentive for indigenous job seekers to undertake training but also seeks to challenge the well-established pitfall in which training is offered simply for training’s sake.

I think the AEC is really great, and that Twiggy’s a tops guy for putting so much passion and energy and money behind the initiative.

The thing is… as lovely as warm & fuzzy ‘awareness’ campaigns like GenerationOne and the AEC are, aren’t we all bloody well AWARE of the problems of indigenous disadvantage in Australia?

There’s a lot more that needs to be looked at below the surface of the slick ads and shiny websites before anyone can even say they’re going to ‘close the gap’ and that message risks being drowned out by the schmick PR stuff around covenants and commitments and promises and pledges.

the wounds of the tear-drop nation [Sri Lanka]

I have never known a world without Sri Lanka tearing itself apart in civil war.  I was born in Colombo in 1984 to a Sinhalese family, but I was raised on values that sought nothing but peace between the warring parties.

My father often tells me the story of how he went to the house of his Tamil friend to to collect toys they had to leave behind when they fled (they eventually settled in Canada, and I visited them when I was on exchange in Toronto).   My younger brother’s BFF is a Tamil Sri Lankan he met at his Perth kindergarten after we migrated here (we call the two of them Romeo and Juliet).  The little girl I sponsor through World Vision is Tamil, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I know that the actions of the Sri Lankan government has never been perfect (I personally believe they were behind the killing of newspaper editor Lasantha Wickramatunga earlier this year), but the news that the Tamil Tigers, the terrorist organisation said to have pioneered the tactic of suicide bombing and had for months kept thousands of the people it claims to be fighting for trapped has human shields, have been defeated by the Sri Lankan military is heartening.

However, some of the events surrounding the escalation and (I hope) end of this war leave me more worried for the future.

Everyone seems to have an opinion on the end of the war.  Given the decades of conflict, this is understandable. There has been so much pain; so much loss.  The alleged sectarian violence in Sydney over the weekend is a strong warning that tensions left behind by this decades-old conflict are still hot.

But a lot of the opinions are not helping.

Of particular noteworthiness are the condescending (and hypocritical) opinions from the spokespeople of developed countries who, even a few months ago, acted as if they didn’t know Sri Lanka existed.

The civil war has raged for three decades. The estimates of the casualties are unfathomable to me. But aside from Norway in the early Naughties, most countries have barely batted an eyelid over the (then) ongoing conflict.

Then when things got more newsworthy over the last few months, every next post-colonial hack semed to have something to say.

ABC News reported that British Foreign Minister David Milliband wants greater scrutiny placed on Sri Lanka’s military and its conduct of the war:

“The position of the UK is always that serious and credible reports of war crimes should be investigated,” he said. “Serious and credible allegations have been made against both sides, and they should indeed by investigated.”

And so they should be. But will “serious and credible reports of war crimes” made against the Coalition of the Willing in the War On Terror/Iraq be investigated?

In short: Un-effing-likely.

I’m not saying that this is a Little Red Hen situation — that no one’s bothered to help before, so shut up and put up.  But misinformed drivel that merely repeats age-old and debunked propaganda does nothing more than inflame the ignorance and hurt that has kept this conflict burning for longer than I have been alive.

There is a lot to be done from this point onwards to heal the wounds this conflict has caused Sri Lanka.   But I know there’s so much partisan hurt among so many (particularly diaspora) that I worry the hate won’t go away as quickly as the end of the war came.

But for now, I suppose, I guess I should be happy the war is over.

And so this is Xmas
For weak and for strong
For rich and the poor ones
The world is so wrong
And so happy Xmas
For black and for white
For yellow and red ones
Let’s stop all the fight
— John Lennon

The one about reconciliation [indigenous affairs]

There are lots of serious things going on right now.  Like the economy crumbling and @TurnbullMalcolm threatening to take away my Rudd-given right to buy shoes and makeup with my $950 stimulus payment.

But I just wanted to take everyone back to that whole indigenous affairs thing — you know, the blackfellas you avoid at the train station because you don’t want to have to give them $2 if they ask for it.  I know, I know: when shoe-shopping is at stake, there’s less impetus to think about things like human rights and sad chapters in Australian history.  But the current crises doesn’t make these other ones less important.

I don’t know why I feel so strongly about this country’s reconciliation with its indigenous people.  I am not one, and I have barely known any (I grew up in the leafy Western Suburbs of Perth, how could I have known any??).  And I might be an immigrant, but there is no common factor here other than that I’m not white.

I suppose it makes me a bit of a patronising snob that all I’ve ever had to do with this area was through the academic or legal side — stuff about representation in literature and whether the whole “Stolen Generation” was genocide and stuff. Although my mum did work with the Aboriginal Medical Service for a while.  And when we were little my dad used to tell us he was Ernie Dingo’s brother (they do both kinda look alike. Like, you know, they’re both brown).

But I really think that people don’t think enough about what happened to indigenous Australians in the past and how that might affect the way things are these days.  Maybe it’s a remnant of the Howard/Windshuttle black-armband backlash.

As much as I hoped that last year’s Sorry would change everything, I guess I always knew it wouldn’t be that easy… I guess I thought there’d be more concrete stuff happening.

Last week, Professor Mick Dodson was awarded Australian of the Year for his work to “promote  justice and reconciliation through a process of education, awareness and inclusive dialogue with all Australians.”  I hope that honour is not another empty, shallow guesture, but I certainly agree that Professor Dodson deserves the accolade (the issue, I guess, is whether the accolate is worthy of Professor Dodson).

I honestly believe that that approach is the most important aspect of the whole debate.  Ignorance breeds hate and laziness and I reckon the only way to counter hate and allow empathy and compassion (the key to solving it all) to flourish is understanding.

The December 08 – Febuary 09 issue of The Monthly, my new favourite magazine, featured an utterly amazing essay by indigenous leader Galarrwuy Yunupingu entitled “Tradition, Truth & Tomorrow” that I beg all of you to read and pass on to others.  I can’t do justice in trying to summarise or explain it (or even copy-paste a few quotes) because it must be absorbed and appreciated in its entirety.  It’s long, but please take the time to read it.  And I’d love to hear how you felt when you finished it.

If you felt anything like I did when I’d finished the last paragraph of that epic piece of writing, there might be a crazy mix of emotions — shock, sadness, anger, helplessness, humor, joy, hope… or maybe I’m just weird for feeling so strongly about the issue?

Tradition, Truth & Tomorrow
by Galarrwuy Yunupingu, The Monthly #44.

The one about Australia Day [oi! oi! oi!]

John Saffron made an interesting observation about the attire of the crown in front of him during the broadcast of Triple J’s Hottest 100 Countdown — something about the flag-capes being one thing, but the “love it or leave it” t-shirts being a little creepy.

Now, I love Australia. I am eternally grateful for the opportunities I’ve had since my family moved here when I was four.  So I have nothing to fear from the wearers of those t-shirts.  But the flags have been totally pissing me off.

And as a friend of mine pointed out this morning, all the Aussie flags on the cars about town are rather reminiscent of the old General Lee from the Dukes of Hazzard that was painted with the Confederate flag: “because we all know that celebrating American slavery’s courageous last stand is a grand idea. ”

Similarly, idolising the flag that symbolises nothing much other than colonisation in honour of the day a bunch of Europe’s least-wanted were planted here, seems kinda lame to me.

It was only tongue-in-cheek when I asked if The West was giving the little car-flags away, but, as it turned out, people actually had to make the effort to cut out the voucher from the paper and pay $2 each for the things.

Which were probably made in the same factory as the Toohey’s New bucket hats the boys picked up at the bottle-shop yesterday.

I really think it’s time for a new flag and, honestly, a new Australia Day. But meh, who listens to me?

Update — better posts on the subject with like, Actual Arguments(™) and stuff:

because this fairy tale still needs a happy ending

Dear Editor

I proudly subscribed to your publication last month. I looked forward to reading insightful pieces written by prominent Australians about our nation’s “Politics, Society & Culture”, as your tag line explains.

My excitement when I pulled my first issue out of the letterbox yesterday fell, almost with a thud to the driveway, when I saw the sparkling smiles of The Obamas dressed in their fairytale finery on the cover of this supposedly Australian publication.

However, as I do adore the Obamas and cheered the US election result with some vigour myself, I figured they probably deserved their place on yet another cover (The Monthly is among such friends as Rolling Stone and Men’s Health in picking the same cover star). Obama’s election matters to all of us and I do hope he’ll come visit us soon.

But when I read Galarrwuy Yunupingu’s utterly amazing piece about his life, his hopes, his disappointment, his frustrations and his visions for our country, my own disappointment and frustration led me to writing this letter.

Why was his story not given the pride of place on your cover? Obama is the World’s Black Man, yes, and we are all incredibly proud of him. But Galarrwuy Yunupingu is Our Very Own Black Man.

I normally hate being parochial, but I truly believe his piece should be read and appreciated and acted upon by every Australian, and it feels to me that by adding yet another smiling Obama to newsstands you may have missed a great opportunity to bring our country’s own healing back to the front page.

Yours sincerely
Sunili …

the world gets a little more blind

I doubt Ghandi got much wrong in his time. And I reckon the great man was pretty right when he said:

An eye for an eye, and soon the whole world is blind.

Retributive justice is a pretty full-on topic, and I won’t go into much more detail than to say that when I read about last night’s execution of the Bali bombers, I was incredibly disheartened.

People might say that this finally brings an end to the 2002 tragedy, but I wonder if maybe we might have had an end long before now had they merely been given a life sentence and left to rot in jail without the circus of the appeals and now this.

Frankly, this makes it worse. They are now officially martyrs, and who knows how that will be used by their supporters?

This makes me very sad. That is all.

Dr Carmen Lawrence Public Lecture

Professor Jeanette Hacket, Vice Chancellor, Curtin University of Technology, takes pleasure in inviting you to the Launch of the Carmen Lawrence Collection and Curtin Library Public Lecture by Dr Lawrence

Why Inequality Matters

Thursday 13 November 2008

4.30pm Light refreshments served

5.15pm Launch and public lecture

John Curtin Gallery and BankWest Theatre,
Curtin University of Technology, Kent Street, Bentley

RSVP: 9 November 2008 (acceptances only)
Tel: 08 9266 2563 or email: events@curtin.edu.au

In her lecture Dr Lawrence will argue that the most important attribute of a civil society is equality between its citizens and that policies which reduce inequality to the maximum extent possible are likely to be the most effective in improving general well being and reducing civil strife.

a few notecards

Dear America

THANK YOU!

♥ you guys!

— Sunili ×ο×ο

Dear News Ltd

You are such fucktards.

Having “FIRST BLACK PRESIDENT” as
your giant fucking headline completely
misses the fucking point, you fucking
morons. America has grown up. You
should too.

Very sincerely
Sunili

cc Janet Albrechtsen
cc Malcolm Turnbull

Dear Janet

“Plenty [of this]” and “plenty [of that]”
and “many many” means squat.  If it
was close, I would agree that there is
racism. But it wasn’t. You must be
a bleeding-heart little-l liberal if
you think Americans voted for him
JUST BECAUSE he is black.

However, since I’m feeling generous
this evening, I’ll pay you on your
Post-Racism thing.

Regards
Sunili

Dear California

ARE YOU EFFING KIDDING ME????

That you voted yes on 8 totes puts
a dampener on this.

Sunili (sad face)

October up-coming events

STAND UP Perth

5:30pm, Friday 17 October 2008
Forrest Place, Perth

STAND UP Against Poverty is a worldwide call to take action against poverty and inequality and for the Millennium Development Goals.   It is a unique global mobilisation which calls on civil society, schools, businesses and NGOs and every day people to band together with the same message – that we must MAKE POVERTY HISTORY.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UiA0f_Ui1RA]

So if you are in town tomorrow night… join in to put your voice behind this call (there are other Perth STAND UP events too and also, check out more about Anti-poverty week 12-18 October).


Labor Readers’ Club

6.30pm, Tuesday 21st October 2008
The Velvet Lounge
– in the back section of the Flying Scotsman Cnr Walcott and Beaufort Streets, Mt Lawley

The next Labor Readers’ event will discuss the latest Quarterly Essay by Tim Flannery: ‘Now or Never: A Sustainable Future for Australia?‘ (Quarterly Essay, Issue 31).

Flannery, the 2007 Australian of the Year, outlines the threat that global warming poses to humanity. His essay is a passionate plea for both citizens and policy-makers alike to act now and adopt sustainability as a key organising principle.

David Hodgkinson, a climate change and aviation law specialist (see www.hodgkinsongroup.com and www.ecocarbon.org.au) will provide an introduction to the discussion.

Come along and join in the discussion, all are warmly welcomed. The only prerequisite to being a Reader is an open, critical mind and an interest in the future of Australia.