Read this Week

  • ‘Aboriginal Australians who know their intimate histories live with the heartache of many episodes of terror inflicted on their families since colonisation. The history of massacres is spread across the entire country. It’s all in the past, you may say. Yet, the contemporary replicate of this is the death of Aboriginal prisoners whilst in custody. While a Royal Commission into Deaths In Custody was carried out in 1987, the Commissioners concluded that the deaths were not due to (police) violence. A number of my friends have lost family members to the brutal hands of police. Yet, never has justice been gained. Around our campfires I regularly hear first-hand accounts from my kinship family and friends of deliberate targeting by police of our young boys and men. Whilst we may not directly witness it, we do see the hurt and worry in their eyes, and hear the emotion in their voice. Now in 2016 we are confronted visually with images of our children abused and tortured. There can be no further doubt.
    The nuclear testing at Maralinga in the 1950 and 1960s affects my family to this day. My mother was a young girl when the first atomic bomb was detonated, forcing my family to leave their traditional way of life. Refuge was sought at Koonibba Mission, resulting in the separation of my mother from her mother. I was tricked away from my mother and extended family as a baby, and later my son was removed from me. We were not incapable mothers. We were viewed as second-class citizens, and our civil rights overridden by agencies and the church. In my experience assimilation has the absolute power to create inequality. It has taken many years to unpack this history, and its traumatic effect on my life. Finding my family, learning my culture and now sharing the poetry of my journey has enabled me a healing grace.’
    The Place of Terrorism in Australia
  • ‘As many do in times of acute distress, when the heart craves artful distraction and the mind seeks moral feeling, people have turned to poetry. And while I tend to agree with Auden that “poetry makes nothing happen,” there are moments of rudderless despair when a poem can be a lifeline to solid ground. Some might say there is privilege and indulgence in the consolations of art when so many lives are at stake, but in this dark moment there is no one way to respond, no timetable we can impose on how sadness shifts to resolve.Stanley Kunitz’s “The Testing Tree” was one of dozens of poems that showed up in my timeline on Wednesday, these lines specifically:In murderous times / the heart breaks and breaks / and lives by breaking.’

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