Category Archives: Social Issues

Hungry for the Ocean of my Ancestor’s Care

This piece was written 21st August 2019 for a uni assignment. My lecturer’s original comments and edits are included below. I’m publishing it here, now, on 15th March 2022 because Jess messaged me on Sunday and asked me to publish it.

Walker was 19 when he died (a few months after I wrote this piece). My son is 19 now. I’m so angry.


Cause: Hungry for the Ocean of my Ancestor’s Care

Last year I heard Natalie Harkin use the term blood-memory and haunting. Her voice giving shape and texture to the itching beneath my skin. I wanted to leap up from my chair and hug her. I wanted to call my Nana and ask her to tell me. I wanted to cry. Big fat, shuddering I can’t breathe cry.

I sat silent. Still. Contained.

It was a panel after all, and I was just another face in the crowd[AH1] .


The man who killed Elijah Doughty was granted parole after serving 19 months in prison. He was sentenced to just three years in jail. Just three years. For killing a 14-year-old boy.

In various reporting about the case, Elijah’s grandfather Albert Doughty is quoted as saying, “It sends the wrong message: you kill a black and you can get away with it.”

Of course, the man who killed Elijah was found not guilty of manslaughter – and certainly not guilty of murder. He was jailed after being convicted of causing death by dangerous driving.

The jury that convicted him did not contain a single Aboriginal person.


I fucking hate cops. I really fucking hate cops. The way they swagger with their hands on their hips, bristling with guns and radios and power. The way they shine a torch in your eyes and assume they know who you are.


You kill a black and you get away with it.

You kill a black and you get away with it.

You kill a black and you get away with it.

This whole country is killing blacks and getting away with it.


“Disadvantaged and dying young. All odds against you before your life has begun.”

Jessica Wishart, Bidjara woman, and mother of two Arrente boys sings from the stage. Her right hand lightly touches the swell of her growing pregnancy. A third Arrente boy on the way.

“Two years in your sentence, you take your own life. The land cries for you, your mother weeps. Her greatest fear, a death in custody.”

Jess is my friend and I’ve heard this song before. This time she has a full band behind her and a captive audience. She’s asked me to record her singing this song on my phone.

I hold my hands steady. I hold my breath.

“Dark-skinned boy we don’t speak your name. But the problem is, nor do they.”


You kill a black and you get away with it.


I’ve never watched Jordan Peele’s Get Out. I’m afraid of horror films. They give me nightmares.

I read the script for Get Out last month. I thought a lot about the Sunken Place after reading it. A dark cavernous place where no-one can hear you scream. A place where who you are is stripped from you completely.

In 2017 I visited the Beechworth Gaol. There is a cell – just one – that was for mothers who had breast-feeding infants. It has a private courtyard for outdoor time so that they weren’t put out into the yard with the rest of the prisoners. The room is small, narrow, cold and dark. As I stood in the cell – I was there on a social enterprise tour in a $60,000 leadership program – I tried to imagine being locked in there with a screaming hungry baby.

That cell was a Sunken Place[AH2] .

The prison closed in 2004 – the same year I finished Year 12. My son – my screaming hungry baby – turned two a week after my last Year 12 exam.


The Guardian has an interactive database that tracks every known Indigenous death in custody in Australia from 2008 to 2018.

Filter by


Cause of death

Issues flagged

Display by



Location of death

Coloured boxes with silhouetted figures appear when you enter your filters. I click on a blue square (New South Wales the colour code tells me) with a thicker silhouette.

A pop-up box appears.

“The young man made two attempts at self-harm before taking his own life in his cell.”

The other information in the box tells me he was 20.

I click on a yellow square (South Australia) with the same thick silhouette.

Male, 18, SA.

Cause: Self harm.


My son is turning 17 in November. He has pale white skin, blue eyes and shoulder-length hot pink hair. Our next door neighbours – a husband and wife with two young kids – are both police officers. My son has never met them. My daughter, aged five, keeps asking to meet them.


Elijah Doughty would have turned 17 this year.


My Nana was 17 when my mother was born. The same age as I was when my son was born[AH3] .


The Uluru Statement from the Heart says “We are not an innately criminal people. Our children are alienated from their families at unprecedented rates. This cannot be because we have no love for them.”

The Uluru Statement from the Heart was written in 2017. The same year I visited Beechworth Gaol[AH4] .


My Nana holds my history hostage. She doesn’t know that she holds it hostage. Or maybe she does.

I remember my mother saying “..and don’t you ever bring it up. Some things are too painful.”

There are lots of things my family don’t talk about.

Things I don’t talk about.


My dad grew up on a farm called Karinya. That is not an English word. My grandma – my dad’s mother – remembers my great-grandfather buying fish from Aboriginal people who lived at the bottom of the cliffs. The Karinya homestead sat at the top of those cliffs.

I’ve never been there.


You kill a black and you get away with it.


I saw The Secret River, a play produced by Sydney Theatre Company a few years ago and I thought about Karinya and the cliffs my dad grew up on.

In the play, the Aboriginal cast spoke in Dharug and it wasn’t translated into English. Unless you spoke Dharug (I don’t), the only perspective you had access to for most of the play was the English characters. Most of the audience when I saw the play were old white people.


You kill a black and you get away with it.


My mother remembers playing with her darker-skinned cousins. She remembers their nicknames but not their legal names.


Jordan Peele tweeted in 2017 “We’re all in the Sunken Place.”

2017. The same year I visited Beechworth Gaol. The same year the Uluru Statement from the Heart was written. The same year that I tweeted this about Elijah Doughty: I’ll trade you/ one life for a motorbike/ one story to hold the life/ one mouth to ask why//

We are all in the Sunken Place.

“No matter how hard we scream, the system silences us.”


Earlier this year Jess Wishart and Nancy Bates were performing at a Reconciliation Week Event. Both of them are singer/songwriters. Both of them are teaching me that my voice matters. That our voice matters. That we have to keep screaming.  Writing. Talking. Listening. Singing. 

“If you won’t take our hand

If you won’t understand

If you won’t see that justice

is something we don’t have.”

When Nancy Bates – a proud Barkinji woman and friend – sings, you listen. When Nancy says “Please sing. Please sing, everybody.”

You sing.

And they did, the crowd of old and young that filled the Adelaide Festival Centre Quartet Bar in May this year, they sang. Together they sang the song that Nancy dedicated to Elijah. 

Elijah who would have been 17 this year.

“Please take our hand

Let’s make a stand

Help shine a light

On our Human Rights.”


I am made of fragments.

Fragments of history.

Fragments of memory.

Fragments of song and skin and trying to let the light in.

 [AH1]I think we need just a touch more context for this – the reader doesn’t know exactly what Harkin meant, so can’t parse your reaction.

 [AH2]I want a little bit more here – maybe a comment on issues of race and incarceration in Australia?

 [AH3]Doesn’t add as much as other vignettes. Maybe relevance not as clear.

 [AH4]Like connections but not everything needs to be said.

Turnings on Edges #effyourbeautystandards


Originally published by the Skin Deep Project May 2014


Last month I said I’d talk about the ‘turning point’ for me in learning to love and accept my body. But I actually told a bit of a fib. That’s not *exactly* what I’m going to share. I can’t talk about the turning point, because I didn’t win the war with my body.


My body is not a static, unchanging experience.


My body has grown two children. It has fluctuated in dress size, in fitness, in muscle tone, in appearance. I have new scars, freckles and moles. My dress sense has changed as my life (and confidence) has changed. My hair colour and style is an ongoing party.


I didn’t win the war against my body because I am my body. Because my body changes and so do I. Instead, I have (tried to) embraced honesty with myself. I have (tried to) embraced self-reflection and the process of asking myself – why?


Why do I find my body lacking?

Why do I measure my body against a narrow and media defined beauty standard?

Why do I tie my body to the sexual desire of others?

Why do I punish my body and soul for failing these arbitrary standards?

Why do I de-value the experience and strength of my body?

Why have I sought aesthetic beauty and in doing so made my body, heart and soul sick on many occasions?


Why? Why? Why?


And somewhere within exploring these whys, I’ve found a healthy tension between seeking improvement and loving what is – and discovering that I want and need both. And that’s okay. It really is okay. My body is not a static, unchanging experience. My body is a lesson. A lesson in gratitude. A lesson in humility. A lesson in honesty. A lesson in love. There are days when I love my body, it’s shapes and curves and aesthetics. There are days when all I can see is how far I am from the ideal presented to us in the media. There are days when I don’t even really notice my body.

Mummy with Amaya

Image: with Amaya, one day old 2014.

My daughter will be six weeks old this Saturday. She came into the world on Easter Saturday after a very painful but uncomplicated labour. My strong, powerful and healthy body brought both of us safely through that experience. And as I’ve nursed her over the last few weeks, I’ve thought a lot about the body messages I want to give her. The way she’ll feel when she looks in the mirror. I have years to figure out what I want to say to her and years to continue shaping how I role model the lessons I hope she learns but here are some early thoughts for her (and for you, reading this):


  • You are glorious. Glorious and powerful beyond your believed boundaries.
  • Your body (and your life) belongs to you. Keep exploring and decide which adventures you want to deepen. And which you want to discard. Choose deliberately.
  • Whatever else you do, care for your body, it is the vessel carrying you through your life. Make it last and enjoy what it can do – if you let it – bodies are fun!
  • I cannot give you the answers. I cannot erase the doubts, the fears, the pain you will encounter – but I will be here. To hold you. To listen. To make you cups of tea.



Turn these corners.

Fold them in to,

New mirrors,

Blank pages,

Deep dreams.


What’s your favourite body positive message or piece of advice?








Fatty Number Two


Originally published by the Skin Deep Project April 2014


Fatty Number Two

*My body did nothing to you.



Does anyone else remember being weighed in PE class at school? Do they still do that?


I’m not sure, but I think this is where one of my high school nicknames began.


Fatty Number Two.


I still don’t know who Fatty Number One was.


Although I don’t remember what I weighed and therefore can’t tell you my BMI or any surface indicator like that – I can tell you that I walked to school every day and I was the second fastest in my class in the 100 and 200 metre sprints. And looking back on photos from that period – I wasn’t fat at all** – I was healthy and beautiful.



Image: aged 12, attending a school formal


(**And even if I had been, clearly Fatty Number Two was not an appropriate nickname for anyone to be gifted with!!)


Yet I believed I was fat, because I’d been labelled fat and therefore fat I was. My relationship with food quickly became an unhealthy dance between eating nothing and shovelling in a chocolate bar where no one could see me. My body was a source of shame, something to be covered, hidden and punished.


As I entered the official ‘teen’ years, I hit puberty early and was one of the first girls in my class to have breasts. And even once the other girls joined me, I remained one of the bustier in my age group throughout high school. Cue bra strap pulling and another new nickname ‘socks’. I had a boy in Year 9 date me for a week just because he wanted to confirm that my breasts were real and not a bra full of socks/tissues.




My body just refused to conform. Refused to let me disappear into the background, however much I wanted it to. I spent less time eating and more time pretending to eat. The secret chocolate bars disappeared. Yet rather than becoming smaller, my body betrayed me and I actually started to gain weight.


I felt trapped. Trapped and fat and ugly. Undesirable. Undesirable in a world which told me being desirable was the road to love. My body had become a battleground, though I don’t remember ever signing up for the war.


Your name, here.

Ready to stand

Arms raised

Songs spilled

Border to border

With shaking hands.


We march, together

Apart, separate

From the skin we live within

The smile lines that coat hands

Faces, familiar spaces.


We sing,

Histories into scars

Bodies into boxes

Heroes into holes.


We speak,

With lips that shake

Eyes that remake

These models,

To measure by.


I intend to write about the turning point in my war with my body next month – but I wanted to ask you all, what has been the turning point for you or someone you know? And if you haven’t found the turning point yet, what do you think would help?


For The Mother I Sometimes Meet #effyourbeautystandards


Originally published by the Skin Deep Project March 2014


This skin I’m in.

I wallow in its spaces. Fill my glances with sneering faces. I look for them. I seek them. Even when I don’t mean to.


For The Mother I Sometimes Meet


As long as I can remember, my mother has always been overweight. Hovering usually in an Australian dress size of 22-26, she’s had to shop at plus size stores or generic department stores with their shapeless, blocky and unflattering designs. And it was always clear, without always being spoken, that she hated her body and by extension often herself. There were many times she’d ask ‘How can you love me, when I’m so fat and ugly?’ or “Do you think I’m ugly?’ or just state ‘I look horrible. Horrible and fat.’ Questions and statements that came from a deep and hurting place inside of her.


Her relationship with herself and her body was the backdrop to mine. Although I only remember my mother directly criticizing my body a handful of times, her judgment of her own set the tone and I knew without being told that I was also fat. Also ugly.


I held the teatowel in my hand. Frozen for that heartbeat of a moment. Looking at her. Seeing her. Feeling so close to knowing who she really was. Her face was red. Her hands sunk deep into the soapy dishwater. Her hair was messy, pulling around the lines in her skin. For that tiny moment I was seeing into something un-nameable. Something beautiful in her that I still have no words for. Even now.


I was 11 when I had that moment watching her washing the dishes. It was a moment, I’ve never been able to fully articulate but it’s stayed with me. Because what I felt, was how deeply beautiful and precious my mother was (and is). I looked at her standing there, washing the dishes with messy hair, lines etched into a grumpy face and I saw her as being powerful and glorious and stunning. But I was 11 and I didn’t know how to tell her that.


So I just blinked.


The moment was gone and I kept drying the dishes.


I’ve never told my mum that story. I’ve never directly challenged or asked her about her body image issues. Although I do now try to make a point of telling her that she’s beautiful and of telling her that I’m beautiful and proud of my body.


I’ve worked really hard over the last 10 years or so to see myself, really see myself. And to love my body, this skin I’m in, not for a narrow definition of sexual or aesthetic worth but for the all its curves and edges, the shadows and shapes it makes, the powerful, healthy and strong vehicle that it is carrying me through everything I ask it to do.


So how do we have these conversations with our nearest, our dearest, our beloveds? How do we cut through the narratives and boxes the media sells us to reach into the deep truths we know and discover about each other? How do you talk with your parents or children or partner about body image? How do you wish they talked with you about body image?



Tough Mama Photo

If I unravel all my years …… #IStandForMercy


The nightly news makes gladiator spectators of us all/ we decide from our armchairs who is innocent and who is not// #tinytwitterpoem


My facebook feed tonight has been filled again with the news of an execution.


My hands have hovered over the keyboard as I’ve read the conflicting opinions of my community, the circle of friends I’ve surrounded myself with.


And my thoughts, my words, my opinions, my questions and my comments have tumbled heavily inside my chest. As my hands hovered over every status and thread of comments, wanting to say….something.


To push, to nudge, to support, to provoke, to clarify.

To be better.

In my eyes or theirs I’m not sure.


And it’s kept tumbling, tumbling. Heavily in my chest.


And it keeps coming back just to this one thought in my deepest heart. If I look ten years into the future, who do I hope that I will have been? I hope that I will have always been the person who spoke, who gave, who lived with and in compassion. I don’t ever want to write the words “I have no compassion for….”




I don’t say that to shame anyone who has written those words. I say it to lay claim to who I want to be. To vocalize the choice I want to make to myself and to anyone who is reading this.


I want to have compassion.


Now. Tomorrow. And each tomorrow that unravels before me. Always compassion.


Compassion isn’t easy. Or simple. Compassion doesn’t mean I can’t feel angry or think bad things of people. But it means remembering that we all of us are people, living in the world. Making good choices sometimes and bad choices other times. Hurting each other and ourselves. It means remembering that broken people often come from other broken people. And that even when they don’t it means remembering that suffering breeds more suffering. That revenge is not justice. That punishment is rarely justice. That our lives and our choices sit on a great spectrum of right and wrong rather than falling neatly to either side of some great moral divide.


It means remembering always that I want to keep caring.


Because that’s the me I want to be.



An ABC of Women #feminism #mop15


* a first draft, inspired by #mop15 weekly prompt


An ABC of Women

Braved and
Coloured in with skin,
Depths circled and given in.
Fully with
Grace, poise,
Head held just so,
In the light melted to your eyes.
Joined in silence.
Kindness welded in,
Left to dream, to weep.
Paperthin and
Women, made
‘Xeno-’ by
Your hands, in their hair, their faces, their words, their lives. Now,
Zombies. Left. Discarded. Ruined.



No one can alone my loves, no one can alone. x

Another Deck #writeme30


Layers too vague/ too sunk in history stink/ too heavy with rant/ go flag wave in some other window/ we don’t want it//


The Photo:


American Flag photo from Ben Duggan                              Photo supplied by Ben Duggan


The Response:


I’ve started and changed this response three times. Because there are many things this particular photo stirs in me.


I started thinking about the American education system, which got me thinking about the Australian education system and the many complex feelings and interactions I’m having with our system. I’m not in the right head space to share some of that, and also because of how it reflects on my son’s experience, I’m wary of both how I represent him and respect his privacy. I need to percolate more to find the right time and way to share some insights on that one.


The other big thing that sprang to mind in response to a photo of the American flag is #blacklivesmatter, which hopefully you’ve already seen and read about all over the internet. (If not, some places to start here and here and here). This is an important movement and conversation and I think the backlash against it speaks volumes.


Then I realized I was over thinking it all and trying to come up with something intelligent to add to the conversation and actually I’ve got nothing to add. Except my support that #blacklivesmatter.


So then what else could I write about for this #writeme30 post? My last few posts have all been quite personal and heavily poetic/creative writing. I wanted to step away a little this week and do some a bit more non-fiction.


So flags huh? Oh yeah flags.


Flags are a powerful symbol. We use them to show our allegiance, our pride, our sense of connection to a place and associated ideas of that place. How unfortunate that the Australian flag represents such a narrow experience of what it means to be Australian. And how unfortunate that it is most often flown by ‘everyday’ people in a show of racism dressed up as patriotism.


“In representing only Australia’s British heritage, the flag is anachronistic, and does not reflect the change to a multicultural, pluralist society. In particular, the flag makes no mention of indigenous Australians, many of whom regard the Union Jack as a symbol of colonial oppression and dispossession.”

– Source unknown


When the flag was decided on (by voting on competition entries) it was 1901. Aboriginal people still had murky voting rights and certainly considering how racist we still are – who do you think ‘decided’ on our flag and who and how it would represent us? #justsaying


Symbols can and do change over time. And so they should. Words come to mean new things. New information and sophistication in our thinking changes how we view events and ideas from the past. And so it should. So it should.


Our flag is frozen in time. It doesn’t represent who we even were then, let alone who we are now. Nor does our national anthem. So why do people want to hold on so tightly to a symbol that’s past it’s use by date? To hold onto a symbol that discounts the history and feelings of our first peoples (not to mention our new peoples)? Why does the mere suggestion of changing our flag create such anger and hostility?


Why, indeed?


And then after all of this stopping and starting and digging for something to say for this post – I realized that actually that’s all I really want to say about flags too.


“Sheldon Cooper: Why are you waving a white flag?

Amy Farrah Fowler: I’m surrendering… to fun!”

– Big Bang Theory


The Contributor:


Ben Duggan, founder of Raising Hope and another of the YSP tribe. Bless his cotton socks. Ben is embarking on a new adventure next year with Teach For Australia. He is pretty much a rockstar in a well tailored suit. I’m a fan.




Get a REAL job #artslife


This life. These creative pursuits.

They are not my hobbies.

They are not something I enjoy doing and so choose to ‘find’ time for in my life.


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This is my life.

My career.

My journey.

Sometimes, my obsession.

And absolutely my ‘real’ job.


And it’s evolving all the time.


I’ve spent a lot of time this year trying to articulate what and why I do. Trying to pin the words to paper. Trying to find words that make sense and ring true. For me and for everyone else.


The other YSPers and I have given time at every residency trying to articulate our missions over the last 12months. The ‘why’ driving what we each do. We’ve brainstormed together and solo. We’ve written and spoken draft after draft after draft. And I’ve struggled. Really struggled to pin to paper what it is I do and why.


For anyone who lives a creative life or a life that’s ‘offbeat’ in any other way, you know why you do it and what it is. And you know how hard it is to explain to everyone else what it is and why you do it. It’s something that has no words because it needs no words for you. It just makes sense (you think). It’s what you do and who you are. So when someone asks you to put it into words, it’s pretty darn difficult.


This year I’ve played with and explored various mission and vision statement iterations, including:


  • I want to be the kind of person that offers something meaningful to the world. The kind of person who experiences life as frightening, confusing and painful but as deeply, deeply precious and worth my effort.


  • Our mission is to create systematic change in how people think about failure. For us that means making quiet trouble with everyone we meet by interrogating and responding to rage inducing situations through an artistic lens.


  • My personal mission is to continue striving for opportunities for myself and others to claim our sorrows as a journey to joy and to create space in our lives to sing our heartsongs with passion, hope and courage.


  • We empower and enable regional communities to reshape and claim personal and civic narratives using an artistic lens.


  • We challenge communities and individuals to reclaim failure as a crucial ingredient in resilience and joy.


  • Our mission is to challenge and inspire young people in regional communities to use to arts as a mechanism for social change and empowerment. As part of this mission we also support regional communities to support and foster the skills and aspirations of their young people.


  • My mission is to use the arts to be an agent of change – to inspire, support and provoke individuals and communities to actively shape the world around them for the better.


  • I bring together professional artists, doers, thinkers and change makers to work with young people as mentors and provocateurs on community arts projects to unlock their possibility.


All of these things are partly or wholly true, but still none of them quite sit right. They feel too full of jargon or they rest on old ideas about myself (and how I work) so don’t capture the space I’m really in RIGHT NOW.


At ATF last year OK Radio asked why Theatre?

“Theatre people are all very nice people […] And I wonder if that is our problem,” asked Liska. “We choose an art form where we can sit next to each other and touch each other and we’re very good people.”

“Revolutions are not often caused by polite people, or good people,” said Cooper. “Sometimes we wonder if we have to stop making art to get something done. I really like art but I have a lot of questions about what it’s good for and if it’s needed.”

–        Kelly Cooper and Pavol Liska (OK Radio, Nature Theater of Oklahoma)


Last month during Future Present, surrounded by a bunch of socially aware artists, again this idea. Why art? Is that the best use of your time, does it actually achieve your mission? Or would you be better off using your time as an activist, a social worker, a teacher, a farmer?


And going deeper throughout YSP, talking about ‘impact’ – how do you measure it? What impact does your work actually have (and is it the impact you want to have)? How can you have the greatest impact with the limited hours in your life?


I care about many things. I believe in changing the world. As more than just rhetoric. I believe I have a responsibility to leave the world better than I found it. To use whatever small skills and talents I have to help. I love teaching and advocating and activating and making and creating. I am driven to do many things. I am also a parent, a lover, a daughter, a sister, a friend. My time is limited and precious.


And so, I toss these questions around. Over and over. In my head. In my mouth. On paper. I spin myself around in circles. The questioning is hard, partly because there is no one answer. And there is no clear answer. And mostly because no one can answer for me, what it means for ME, only I can discover that.


Last night I stumbled across a free ebook titled “Making Your Life As An Artist” and though I didn’t relate to every single word, the book as a whole REALLY resonated with me.


There were moments when I read a paragraph and realised I was holding my breath, caught in these words someone else had pinned to paper and how they so neatly echo words I’ve circled around and around and come back to in my own heart.


“Just like scientists, we begin with a question, something we don’t know.

We go into our studio and research that question.


Just as in science, a negative result is as important as a positive result.

Finding that a certain drug does not cure cancer is a crucial discovery. And an artistic experiment that fails produces important information.

When you are working beyond what is known, when you are questioning assumptions that haven’t been questioned, you generate a lot of useful failure.

Failure in science and art is a sign that the process is working.


diverse ecosystems
 are more resilient, more able to respond to disturbance. The same is true of culture. Diversity of thought and imagination makes us more culturally resilient, more able to thrive in times of great change.

– Andrew Simonet (Making Life As an Artist, ebook)


Many things that had me nodding along. Catching my breath. Gripping the edge of the computer. But perhaps most of all this:


Artists have a lot of effects on the world: our work impacts education, citizenship, multiculturalism, urban renewal. But those are effects of our role; they are not the role.

Our role is to ask rigorous and reckless cultural questions, do our research, and share the results. When we do our role well, all kinds of other things happen.

– Andrew Simonet (Making Life As an Artist, ebook)


And so last night I sat and I wrote exactly in the moment who I am and what I’m doing (or trying to do). The last seven or so years of thinking, dreaming and doing coalescing and coming together to pin some words to paper.


It’s not finished, because it’ll never be finished. I’m evolving and growing all the time. And that’s okay. It’s G.E. for right now.


Transparency and sharing the journey publicly (to be of benefit to others) is important to me. So, you can read the words I finally pinned to paper last night where they’ve become my new ‘about’ section here.


I’m feeling good. It’s nice.


Green Sleep Dreams #writeme30 #YHMD2014

Let these dreamers sleep. With cracked fingernails and grime to coat their inner ear. Let these dreamers sleep and fish for hope on shores far from here.

I met Lauren a few years back when the two of us were participants in Australian Theatre for Young People’s National Studio (read about my experience of National Studio here). Lauren is a theatre maker and writer with a really wicked sense of humour. Our theme at National Studio was ‘death and dying’ and Lauren’s monologue was one of my favourites in its fun and quirky interpretation of the theme.

Lauren has provided this beautiful photo for me to respond to as part of #writeme30. Her words describing the photo, “Homeless and asleep in Tokyo. I took it on a school trip when I was seventeen and still able to be shocked by a world with concepts like homelessness”

The Photo:

Homeless and asleep in Tokyo_Photo from Lauren Sherritt                              Photo Credit: Lauren Sherrritt

The Response – Green Sleep Dreams:

These green sleepers dreams, dream their way into my bent elbows. I wait for morning. Behind windows fogged by my fingertips and fears.

The car I sleep in is blue. It is my car. My XF Ford Falcon and though I can drive it, I do not have a license. I do not know the rules about sleeping in your car. Can I get in trouble for this? I am parked only two blocks away from the house I am meant to be sleeping in. I am parked in front of a chicken shop and my hair smells like oil and burnt deep fried food. I am five months pregnant. I am 17. I am too proud to ask for help. Too proud to admit that I am not safe. Too proud to admit I don’t know what to do. Too proud. Too scared. Too small. Too silent. Too invisible. I am what I have made of myself.

I go back to that red brick house the next night. With its yard full of dry yellow grass. Its slightly leaning grey wire fence. Its dirt stained front door. Its rooms that smell like all the mistakes I’ve made. I am swallowed into its chipped paint. With my hair still smelling like oil and burnt deep fried food.


Homelessness in Australia is often misunderstood, stereotyped or invisible. Homelessness isn’t just sleeping rough on the streets, although for many that is the reality. Homelessness is characterized by a lack of access to safe, affordable and appropriate accommodation. This includes examples such as couch surfing between friends and family (not a long term solution), having somewhere long term to live that isn’t safe (ie. Domestic violence situations, room mates selling drugs etc) or living somewhere where the costs of that accommodation are more than 50% of your income.

The Chamberlain and MacKenzie 2008 Counting the Homeless Report 2006 (ABS) provides the following more detailed definitions of the various types of homeslessness:

Primary homelessness includes all people without a ‘roof over their head’. This means people who are living on the streets, sleeping in parks, squatting in derelict buildings or using cars or trains as temporary shelter.

Secondary homelessness includes people who frequently move from one type of shelter to another. This includes people living in homeless services, hostels, people staying with other households who have no home of their own and people staying in boarding houses for 12 weeks or less.

Tertiary homelessness refers to people who live in boarding houses on a medium to long term basis (more than 13 weeks), who live in accommodation that does not have ‘self-contained facilities’ for example they do not have their bathroom or kitchen and who don’t have the security provided by a lease. They are homeless because their accommodation does not have the characteristics identified in the minimum community standard for housing.

In Australia, we often think of homelessness as older men sleeping rough (these are the images we often see associated with homelessness in the media in particular), but the statistics show that in fact 42% (!!!) of people experiencing homelessness are under 24 and the gender divide (across ages) is 56% male and 44% female. It’s also worth noting that homeslessness happens in both metro and regional communities, though it can be harder to spot in regional communities where it’s easier to see a tent by the river and just think it’s a regular camper.

It’s Youth Homeslesness Matters Day in two weeks time (9th April), which is an annual National awareness day for youth homelessness in Australia. Now is the perfect time to get involved or think about hosting an event – more details about how you can support Youth Homeslessness Matters Day through advocacy, sharing or hosting an event can be found here.

Also check out One Night Stand (Melbourne) and Street Smugglers (Perth) – two awesome organisations tackling homelessness in entirely different ways, led by two awesome young men I’m lucky enough to know through the Foundation for Young Australian’s Young Social Pioneers Program.

You can also find out more information on the realities, stats and what you can do to help at Homelessness Australia.

I had two experiences of homeslessness as a teenager – the one I touched on briefly above (with my trusty XF) and the second a month or so of hopping between houses, including a week in a house with no electricity, hot water etc where the actual tenant was staying elsewhere – because they had upset their drug dealer and were afraid they would be tracked down to the house and bashed! I was 7 months pregnant by that stage.

People who know me now struggle to place me in those situations, struggle to reconcile that I am the same person. Sometimes I do too. Much of that period of my life feels like a story I’m remembering about someone else. A dream.

It’s a dream I was lucky enough to wake from before the cycle became too ingrained to release me. I’m grateful every day for that.

Not everyone is so lucky or happens to fall into the right circles at the right time, but we can all make a difference to ending homelessness in Australia by supporting the work of the organisations I’ve shared above. So please do head to the links, do some reading and remember to share Youth Homeslessness Matters Day on the 9th April.


#DonateLife #havethechat #itsuptome

It’s Donate Life Week this week. A week to remind ourselves and others to have the chat about organ donation and make sure our friends and families know our wishes. And maybe, hopefully inspire more people to consider donating their organs if the worst was to happen. So have the chat and get involved with the thunderclap.

Alysha Herrmann in 'Random Girls' Rehearsal 2004. Photo Credit: Lucien Simon

Alysha Herrmann in ‘Random Girls’ Rehearsal 2004. Photo Credit: Lucien Simon

If you don’t donate your organs, what happens to them? They rot away in a box or get burned. That’s it. If you donate them – you’re positively contributing to  quality of life of another individual (and the people who love them), and for some literally saving their lives. You don’t need your organs once you’re gone. I know for some they feel a discomfort with the idea of cutting up their body (or the body of someone they love) or they have a sense of going on to the afterlife incomplete – I’d just say, people lose limbs, have scars, have their tonsils removed etc while they are still living. None of these things makes them incomplete or less worthy in the afterlife, none of these things makes their body less beautiful or precious. So imagine instead, the beautiful, generous gift you can give to extend and improve life of another through the donation of your organs when you no longer need them. That’s a legacy worth leaving.

Last year for the FilmLife Project I wrote a blog about organ donation called ‘One Life?’ and I want to share those words with you again and ask you to think about your position and #havethechat with your family this year.

One Life?

A life.

Only one. Just one.

One to live with, to soar with, to sing with, to love with.

What would you give? What would you risk?

For one more?

One more moment;

One more day;

One more life.


Lives held suspended along the length of a siren’s light;

Lives stolen, broken, smashed, ripped, torn;

Daily, nightly, weekly.

And we’re never ready. Never prepared. Never willing to hold those hands one last time. We haven’t asked. Haven’t spoken. Haven’t thought.

Just assumed;

You’d still be here;

We’d grow old together.


There are two sides to every story.

Two lives held in check, waiting on the other side of moments like these. Moments where a family sits together and waits. In an emergency room. Waiting to know – will they wake up? Will they be ok? There are other families sitting together and waiting too. In Doctor’s waiting rooms and hospital wards. Families slipping in and out of hospital rooms and home bedrooms watching loved ones quality of life, and sometimes life altogether slip away.

Strung together across cities and towns and farms across the country are people waiting. People waiting to live, people waiting to choose.

If your lover/mother/father/sibling/child was in an accident what would you choose?

If your lover/mother/father/sibling/child was dying from heart/liver/kidney failure what would you ask for?

There was a time people believed the things they were buried with went with them into the afterlife. There was a time people believed the Earth was flat and that the Sun was a god. We’re learnt a lot since then.

You can’t take your organs with you. You can burn them up. You can put them in the ground to rot.

Or you can Donate Life. You can end the wait for families you’ll never meet. You can give someone somewhere another moment, another day, another life.

You can know that some small part of you, or your loved one can live on and change the world.

Make the choice. Talk to your family. Make your wish count. Donate Life.

*This little blog was the winner of the FilmLife Blogging Competition, but there were many other fantastic blogs and films created to increase awareness of Organ Donation. Carly Findlay (one of the judges) shared some of the highlights here.

You can get involved with the 2014 FilmLife Competition by creating your own short film to highlight organ donation. All the details here.

Also be sure to head over and like ‘Sparking Life’ here.