Uncovering Unconscious Bias and Women in the AFL: Interview with Jo Hogan.

By Phoebe Cannard-Higgins. 

‘How we play our sport, is often how we play the game of life.’ – Jo Hogan.

 Jo Hogan and athlete. Image by Phoebe Cannard-Higgins. 

Jo Hogan and athlete. Image by Phoebe Cannard-Higgins. 

For over one hundred years, Australians have played AFL. It has become the sport of our country. Favoured teams, rivalries and traditions are passed down from generation to generation, shaping the identities of individuals and in turn the identity of our nation. The AFL has become a cultural signifier; to examine AFL culture is to examine Australian culture more broadly. For example, the continuous booing of Adam Goodes and the debate that erupted after he performed a war cry on field, brought to light an Australia still grappling with its colonial past.

The AFL, unfortunately, has done little to combat issues of racism, sexism and discrimination within the immediate and broader Australian culture. “To even the casual observer,” says Clementine Ford, “it seems pretty clear that women in footy culture are treated as disposable by many of the players and their managing bodies and certainly a large bulk of the fans.” You only have to cast your mind back to the ‘St. Kilda school girl’ scenario, or almost any of the alleged rapes by players to remember the disdain with which these women were treated. It’s no surprise that when you google the multi Walkley Award winning AFL journalist Caroline Wilson’s Facebook you see pages such as ‘100k likes to get Caroline Wilson to stop talking about footy,’ and ‘Shut the Fuck up Caroline Wilson.’

For a long time AFL culture and Australian culture at large has harboured an unconscious bias about women’s place in sport. Up until recently, the culture that has surrounded the AFL and sport in general has been associated with masculinity. Masculinity, the championed identity of our patriarchal society (over other identities like feminine, queer, homosexual etc) has taken many forms. The varying typified Australian masculine identities include the archetypal Bush Man, Australian Legend, War Hero, Rock’n’Roll Star, Life Saver, and so forth.

 Jo Hogan and athletes. Image by Phoebe Cannard-Higgins. . 

Jo Hogan and athletes. Image by Phoebe Cannard-Higgins. . 

The social construct of a “sportsman” has evolved from this history, and he has inherited various traits from each of the glorified masculine identities. Because sporting masculinity has become ingrained in Australian culture, an unconscious bias towards women in sport has evolved. Biases are a reflection of our backgrounds and cultural experiences. They evade rational deduction and spring from instinct rather than analysis. The only way we can be drawn into consciousness is by being exposed to new or opposing experiences to our biases; a task that requires open-mindedness and selfawareness. I spoke to Jo Hogan an AFL-accredited coach who has been working in the sporting industry for over 30 years. Jo has been around football all her life, and has coached at all levels from Aus-kicks to Juniors and Seniors. She says the unconscious bias exists in both men and women, and she often has to check herself for it.

Jo says the bias works both ways, sometimes she assumes men will treat her a certain way because she’s a woman, and this assumption is not always correct, she is constantly recalibrating herself. Jo told me that predominantly, in her experience, both women and men think that men are the better coaches. The nature of the unconscious bias Jo experiences within football culture, reflects a broader case of internalised misogyny. The French feminist theorist Helene Cixous speaks of internalised misogyny as an anti-narcissism, ‘a narcissism which loves itself only to be loved for what women haven’t got.’ In more modern times, I have encountered this kind of logic in what is often referred to as the ‘cool girl’ misogyny.

The cool girl, in a way similar to Cixous’ anti-narcissist, values in herself those traits that make her least like a woman and most like a man. She is one of the boys, ‘not like the other girls’, and she knows how to take a joke – especially a sexist one. She’s the straight girl that posts sexualised pictures of other girls butts on her Instagram with captions like ‘Happy Wednesday.’ It’s not a type of misogyny I usually like to discuss because the last thing women need is another person (man or woman) telling them how to be, act, what to think, and how to respond to and operate within their social context. Nevertheless, as Jo told me about a female coach she was training, who feels uncomfortable coaching the under-14 boys because boys should be coached by men, not women, I was struck by how commonly these feelings are held. I remembered the face of a woman I once spoke to. The smirk, the dismissal as she told me that women’s sport wasn’t as good to watch as men’s, and the women AFL players should stop making a fuss. It’s easy to criticise women, I realised, especially in a room full of men. It’s when you stand up for yourself, or women, that things get awkward, and you turn into the one who needs to “lighten up”. On her blog Feminist Killjoys, Sarah Ahmed describes these situations as ‘the problem of becoming the problem because you are trying to address a problem that others do not wish to recognize as a problem.’ Speaking from experience, the real problem with being the cool girl, is that most of the time, you don’t know that you are. You have simply found a formula that in a patriarchal society benefits you. These traits do not come from your personality; this casualness is manufactured by oneself through the intent listening, observing, and obeying of social constructs - and becoming really good at navigating them.

The cool girl has figured out - to an extent- how to receive the least criticism, and the most admiration under the all-pervasive male gaze. But as Emma Pitman points out in her essay Ironic Sexism: the male gaze of hipster spaces, the cool girl’s chill “is not the opposite of uptight. It is the opposite of demanding accountability. Chill is a sinister refashioning of “Calm down!” from an enraging and highly gendered command into an admirable attitude.” Conversations about gender with the ‘cool-girl’ and colleagues usually end on some sort of irrefutable biological terms – men are stronger than women. But is strength all we watch sport for? Or is this just an unconscious bias setting up camp in our frontal lobe? As put in an article on The Line, “If we were only interested in seeing the ‘fastest’ and ‘strongest’, we would race humans against cheetahs and watch them wrestling gorillas.” Associate Professor, Physiotherapy and Exercise Science, of Curtin University, Kevin Netto studies female athletes and says, “I deal with biomechanical and physiological facts. And these say female athletes work hard if not harder than their male counterparts to achieve an absolute target.”

So if women are working just as hard as male athletes to achieve their goals, they must be achieving something, right? And yet they get paid less because they draw less fans to their games, stadiums and associations. But this is not because they are ‘weaker’ or less trained athletes, this is because of the larger cultural and social factors that determine the value of women in society which in turn leads to an unconscious bias that surrounds women in sport. And thus we’re lead into a kind of catch-22. The unconscious bias surrounding women in sport is derived from wider social and cultural factors and yet these social and cultural factors have been historically, in any number of ways, influenced by masculine sporting culture itself.

 Women on the field. Image by Phoebe Cannard-Higgins. 

Women on the field. Image by Phoebe Cannard-Higgins. 

Jo has experienced this contradiction first hand. She says that coaching has long been underpinned by the idea of merit. “One earns their merit by playing football in a formal league,” she says. Jo told me that for years she was discriminated against because she hadn't played in the formal league, and was therefore considered not to have the same understanding of the game as her male counterparts. But how could she play in a formal league, she’s a woman? She is also repeatedly told she is ‘passionate’ (which let me tell you she is) but what does this really mean from a male perspective? That they admire her for her ‘passion’ and dedication to the game, but fail to recognise the foundation of knowledge and experience which she possesses? Jo says male coaches often tell her what she needs rather than ask her what she needs and this is frustrating. “Men need to ask for women’s opinion more often,” she says, “and genuinely want a response.”

 Jo believes women have a lot to bring to the game, “Women are emotionally intelligent and need to be given the space to play their game and not be over-coached. They have a great freedom of movement and thus create an agile, free-flowing game.” Similarly, women have a lot to take from playing the game. In Fight like a Girl, Clementine Ford suggests that women are told “Don’t grow, but shrink. Use your inside voice at all times.” When women are on the field they learn to hold their space once more, says Jo. “Women need to get to know their bodies as they did when they were children, swinging their arms about them, before they were sanctioned to take up less and less space. Football gives them an opportunity to take up that space again,” she says. Jo says the first game of Women’s AFL was a huge moment in Australia’s history.

Friends of hers who weren't usually interested in football came to the first game, “They were hugging and kissing. People were moved on a deeper level because the game represented a change in society and culture.’ Although our unconscious biases are derivatives of culture at large, and our culture at large is often determined by our sporting culture, the two don’t act as a mutually exclusive pair. So the more we do to combat our unconscious bias by practicing self-awareness and open-mindedness, the more we will be shuffling Australian culture forward and the value of women in society. It’s also important to try to resist the comparison of Men and Women’s sport more generally and instead enjoy the nuances both types of sport can provide. With the conclusion of the AFL Women’s league for the year, let’s hope this gives people time to reflect on how far we’ve come as a country, and return next season with a stronger, more inclusive society and sporting culture ready to confront any unconscious bias that exists around women in sport.

 

 

 

 

 

 

High Quality but Low Prices Augsta Kvalitāte, bet zemas cenas

By Aksels Bruks

Golf Clayderman is a Latvian society with 'unlimited responsibility for fashion, art and sport'. Here, one creative mastermind behind the project, Aksels Bruks, speaks about his life, inspiration and dreams.

It was March of 2005 when I first saw him.

I have many friends, parties to be and see and I am always invited. I remember back in 2005 I wore a white art smock by Little Tic Tac to the grand opening of maxima sponsored by Sony, Volkswagen and Mars. I didn’t sleep all night because I was watching music videos on YouTube.

I was on the red carpet. Please, no photos, no photos today. It was then and there that I decided to smoke some weed and chill.

As I was about to roll a joint, a car pulled over. Immediately I couldn't help but wonder- Who sits in the front seat?

I was sitting next to him, he was one year older. He was studying physics. He had a car, a birthday suit, a beautiful smile and a strong presence.

He parked in the forest near my country home. He rolled a joint. We smoked. I got completely high. After the first hit, I thought I could never move.

A lot of time passed and Ivan turned on the radio. Bum bum bum, fun music was playing. I felt a fly land on my left hand, I felt it walking, I felt it jumping. Non stop everything was uncertain. Circumstances were changing all the time. The moments that came before was already forgotten. I started to feel heat. My hand started to burn.

001.jpg

Oh no, was my hand on fire? Did I put it in the ashtray? There was no ashtray. I turned my head, to see a roasted fly. There was no fly. There was my left hand and on it another. Another unfamiliar hand. It was a dark hand with tall fingers that gently rested on mine. I saw pink nails, soft, silk skin with light sun- faded hair. It was a strong hand, also elegant and graceful. It was his hand. It was Ivans hand. The car was a hot box.

When you’re high different things happen, maybe this was different? I started to wonder, where am I? I was in the car. Is he too high to notice where his extremities go? I had no clue, also I couldn’t ask, my mouth was as dry as the dry valley. I couldn’t look him in the eye.

More than a million years passed and everything had to be started from scratch. Before didn’t exist and the future wasn’t yet. Then I suddenly realised or remembered that I really like him. I turned my head to the left and slowly leaned towards his face. He wasn't smiling, neither was I. For a very long time we kissed. I laid back in my seat.

I respect you very, very, much, but more than I respect you, much, much more I love you. And these feelings, they are so beautiful.

Ivan, everyday I write about you in my diary. And everyday I paint a picture of you. I bought colors. Love colors. I am Pikaso. Hey, little lover! It is me, your duke. I paint our family’s portrait. Our children, the sun, the trees, the grass, the water and our house. I paint every word of love. I paint all our dreams. I made something that's real, to show you how I feel.

Finally love has arrived. I can see in his face there is a lot he can teach me, I trust in him, he won’t let me down. I care for him. His smile, and the sound of his voice and the way he sees through me. He means the world to me, I can't conceal it, can you feel it? Don’t you feel it? Well, I do. I found him at last, I love him.

The time spent together is the most important time.

Remaining Mars one candidates assessed for ability to cooperate

By Puff Piece

 Illustration by Tyler Arnold

Illustration by Tyler Arnold

The great white whale
Confident in opinion
Validated in the pocket
Downed the whole planet in one
Then lumbered off to mars Looking for
Another drink
To shrug it off over

On encountering another white whale at the bar...

It’s your fault
No it’s your fault
No it’s your fault

Your iPhone uses more energy than a fridge
Mr Important over there,
Miss Misdirection your watch cost a thousand men’s lives
It’s your fault,No it’s your fault.

*lapping at the ankles*

Your country uses coal power
Well your country has a billion burgeoning middle class
Well your country invented the engine started this whole thing
Well your country was stolen

*lapping at the shins*

Believe me there is nobody better than I am at delusions than me
Believe me there is nobody better than I am at self promotion than me

Believe me there is nobody better than I am at being the best than me
Believe me if there is anyone better placed to solve these problems than me, big, huge surprise

*lapping at the thighs*

The problem with this thing is it does not recognise borders
It is a border problem mainly, a security issue
We’re going to beef up security
We are going to build a huge, I mean it Wall

*lapping at the chest*

This country is the lucky country
Getting paid to turn a blind eye to itself
Can you believe a deal like that
We are going to build a huge, I mean it.
Wall

After that this country and this government is definitely Going to be real.

*lapping at the neck*

Well if there is no such thing as a country
It’s not my fault because I’m not in charge
It’s your faultIt’s not my fault my country isn’t a country

*treading water*

Who is in charge here
There is no cohesion
I want to see the man in charge and complain
Let’s demonstrate.

*bobbing*

 

HACKING ORNAMENTAL PEARS MYSTIFY RESIDENTS, EXPERTS

By Geoff Riding

 Illustration by Julia Laskowski

Illustration by Julia Laskowski

A cluster of ornamental pear trees in Brunswick has mystified local residents, council and experts by improbably sabotaging the so- called ‘Internet of Things’. The council had recently installed internet-connected CCTV cameras, high-tech sensors and actuators on council trees as part of their much heralded Smart City Strategy 2017–2027. Council officers were surprised to discover that data collected by newly installed equipment, including sensitive CCTV data, were seemingly accessed and modified by a specific group of ornamental pears. In addition, residents and street traders have reported unusual smells stemming from these same ornamental pears, leading to public calls for the council to remove offending trees.

Further troubling council matters, a large number of native trees have been infectedby phytophthora root rot due to software bugs within its new automated tree management system. The bizarre conjunction of putrid smells, software-induced root rot and unauthorised data access have resulted in council holding an emergency closed- doors meeting with academics, horticulturalists and cyber security experts in an attempt to determine what exactly is going on. In response, residents have barricaded town hall calling for immediate answers as to whether internet- connected ‘Smart Cameras’ attached to these pears were compromised and what steps were being taken to protect their privacy.

Brunswick, along with many other localities, have enthusiastically adopted the‘Smart City’ model by embedding cloud-connected things into the very urban fabric, automating many of the council’s operations, promising increased administrative efficiency at a significant savings to the ratepayer. These sophisticated cameras, sensors and actuators track pedestrians, reduce traffic congestion, automate waste bin collection and ecosystem services. Tech experts and ecologists alike believe such technologies, often termed as the Internet of Things, are a vital component towards building climate change resilience. For example, each individual council tree has been fitted with hi-tech sensors that measure rainfall, wind, humidity and other tree health indicators which are continuously fed to the software cloud— effectively automating the council’s ecosystem operations.

As is expected with early adoptions of emerging technologies, teething problems were experienced however even experts were at loss to explain how a group of ornamental pears had infected the council’s automated ecosystem management system (AEMS) by modifying wateringand fertilisation schedules of neighbouring native trees, leading to significant losses by root rot. Similarly, concerned residents have called on the council to ensure the Internet of Things, includingits Smart Cameras, were secure from cyber warfare. The council has insisted that these ornamental pears were not compromised by outsiders whilst refusing to disclose what caused the damage.

“We have to take these trees off the internet now, council doesn’t seem to have a clue who’s hacking them, it could be Russia or North Korea”, said one worried resident.

Curiously, ornamental pear trees are not supposed to smell this bad. The scent has been described by locals as sweet, shy, pungent smelling and not unlike rotting mackerel sandwiches. The smell has upset many street traderswith many claiming that trade has been severely impacted as customers strayed away from the affected areas. Kerry Dickson, a horticulturalist who answered calls of distress from traders about the smell was also bewildered by the incident.

“It’s actually normal for particular species of pear trees to give off a raunchy scent as they produce a volatile mix of chemicals called amines during fruiting, or reproductive stages, but these ones are supposed to be sterile. I’ve never smelt anything on this scale, they really do smell quite like sex”, said Dickson.

Others have put forth more radical theories. Dr. Ruth Kim, a forest ecologist, suggested that it was possible that these ornamental pears themselves may have somehow interfered with Internet of Things devices to enhance their own chances of survival. The Internet of Pears? Currently, ornamental pears consist of only 4 per cent of council’s overalltree mix and declining as part of a broader shift towards native vegetation.

“The truth is that there is much that we do not know about how these trees interact with biotic and abiotic elements within the ecosystem. Recent research have demonstrated that trees do, infact, communicate with each other through their own version of the internet, an intricate network of fungi called mycorrhizal networks”, Dr. Kim said.

In reality, as Brunswick becomes increasingly embedded with unknown bugs, there is a profound need to have an open and critical discussion about its safety and privacy. As preeminent technology consultant, Anthony M. Townsend cautions, “The only questions will be when smart cities fail, and how much damage they cause when they crash.” If an ornamental collection of brittle, buggy, hacking pears destroyed the community’s trust, millions of dollars of lost trade and native vegetation, what about hacking self-driving-cars?

Still clutching the watch: how cult 'The Family' got in the way of ours

By Sarah Hall

 Simon at home in Ferny Creek, 15 months old. Image courtesy of Val. 

Simon at home in Ferny Creek, 15 months old. Image courtesy of Val. 

My friend came over and lay down on the hallway floor. There were some bed sheets, conveniently, folded up in a laundry bag beside her head, I lay them bunched underneath her for padding, but she didn’t have a fit.

The next day she had a fit, next door. Our two brains sousing in their hot houses, terraces in Fitzroy with no fans, as I am reading letters written 25 years ago by my deceased cousin Simon to the leader of cult ‘The Family’ which he and my auntie were, for varying periods of their lives, embroiled.

Extract from a letter from Simon to Anne Hamilton-Byrne, 11 November 1992:
In 1983 I mysteriously developed Grand Mal Epilepsy and suffered from regular seizures and endured a great deal of psychological debilitation. I was put on medication to no effect by Dr John Mackay, although John Campbell’s efforts with Reiki were very positive...        

The “no-effect” Dr John Mackay was a member of the Family and one of the psychiatrists who worked at Newhaven psychiatric Hospital in Kew, where he helped its leader, Anne Hamilton-Byrne, to recruit new cult members. The hospital specialised in the use of LSD, magic mushrooms, deep sleep therapy and electroconvulsive therapy. At least one member of The Family was given a frontal lobotomy at Newhaven.

I am also reading Helen Garner’s book The Spare Room and it is set near my house. Her character, Helen (but the book is ‘fiction’), has just run down to Piedemonte’s to get a rug for her spare room. I’ve just been at Piedemonte’s getting yoghurt! Is there anything in that? Scrambling for sequiturs, dots to join. I am reading Helen Garner because I have collected all of this information about the Family (also the subject of recent book and documentary of the same name) from my auntie Val; letters, newspaper clippings and interviews, that I can’t work out how best to piece together. But maybe this is the wrong Helen Garner book to be reading for pro tips. I should be reading This House of Grief or Joe Cinque’s Consolation.

Dear Anne Hamilton Byrne,

May I introduce myself – my name is Simon, son of Valerie and Stewart. From my Mother’s recollections of the Family I have learned a great deal and probably matured well beyond my years. Allow me to take this opportunity to thank you for your indirect influence, however this is not the purpose of my letter, I am writing to you on a matter of great personal importance. I seek your help, if possible, to just once meet my father face to face, person to person.

I write to you as a last resort, a final plea for help, at a time when all other avenues of pursuit have been finally exhausted in a long and lengthy struggle.


Please let me explain my circumstances.


I moved in here last month, but this house has been passed on from friends to friends for eight years. The walls are gritty with them. I remember wobbling around this room one night at a party, years ago, in one of its many iterations of lounge room, bedroom, dance floor.

The first time my auntie Val met her, Anne Hamilton- Byrne was teaching a yoga class. Val had previously been a student of the Gita yoga school, under Margrit Segesman – one of the first people to establish a yoga school in Australia. Anne looked down over Val, who was lying in savasana and said, “So you’ve come to look us over now have you? I want to see you after class.”

After class she told her, “I want you to see this psychiatrist”.

 Anne Hamilton-Byrne. Image from CBS News

Anne Hamilton-Byrne. Image from CBS News

“I was given the LSD then I remember having sexual feelings
I was taken back to when I was six years old
I was lying in a depression in the sand, under the banksia trees.
It was Seaford
I could feel the weight on my chest and these sexual feelings
It was dusk.
They used to say that I suffered from an anxiety state and all my life.
I never liked men kissing me.
But I had never been able to acknowledge that I had been sexually assaulted in my childhood
until that initial session with Howard Whittaker.”

Val went back to see Howard a second time and had another profound experience, a kind of spiritual awakening.

“Unless something’s happened to you personally, you can’t explain it to anyone. But I know what happened to me was perfectly real and true.”

It was after those two sessions with the psychiatrist that Anne Hamilton-Byrne swooped in, and “got in the business of manipulating people,” Val tells me.

“Anne knew when people were searching. In the sixties everyone was searching.”

 Val's garden, 2017. Image by Sarah.

Val's garden, 2017. Image by Sarah.

 Inside Val's house, 2017. Image by Sarah.

Inside Val's house, 2017. Image by Sarah.

I am visiting my auntie Val at her Ferny Creek home on a crisp spring day in 2010, the first time we ever talked properly about her life. I am fumbling my way through an interview for a University assignment, in my first years of journalism school. Her two thirds of an acre of garden is sloping, carefully planted out and borders the Mount Dandenong National Park on three sides. We look out over it as she recounts to me her story.

Subliminal control, that’s how she got them. Psychiatric drugs administered to vulnerable people in psych wards, children as well. In one of Val’s many ‘clearings’, after she was initiated into the cult, she was administered “psilocybin, LSD and I can’t remember what else. Then Anne somehow managed to project some kind of an image. I remember feeling burdened on my shoulder, I was carrying a cross, it was heavy. Anne came over and very quietly said to me, I carried that cross. And of course you know what that’s supposed to mean.”

It was through the Family that Val, a natural blonde, met Stewart, whose hair was light brown. There was some kind of friendly connection when their marriage was arranged by Anne.

“On our wedding night, we were booked into a small guest house in the hills and our room had separate beds,” says Val. “You know, there was something very strange about that.”

Gesturing with her hand a pregnant belly, Anne said to Val, “I want to see you out here.”

 Simon aged 19 with friends in Mt Waverly. Image courtesy of Val.

Simon aged 19 with friends in Mt Waverly. Image courtesy of Val.

Friends insisted on giving Val and Stewart a double bed. And thus was Simon. A beautiful baby.

When Simon was about 13 months old he had tonsillitis and had a convulsion – he went blue, and spent two weeks in the children’s hospital. The cause was said to be due to a reaction to the Sabin vaccine.

They went to England when Simon was 17 months old, sent by Anne to see the chief Druid (Dr Maughan, the Queen’s homeopath).

“It was around the time that Simon turned two that I said to Stewart, ‘I’d like to have another baby’. He turned to me and said, ‘No. I have proved my manhood’.”

“It was the cruellest rebuff.”
“Being ‘alternative’ [gay], was illegal at that time, you see,”
Val tells me, “although I was unaware of this then”.

One day Stewart was to drive a friend up to London and turned to Val, ‘after that I won’t be coming back’.
And he didn’t. Except when Anne ordered Stewart to send Val and Simon home from England.

“He had tears in his eyes when he sent us on the plane, but he never sent any money for his son.” Val and Simon scarcely heard from him again.

Back in Melbourne Val showed up at Winbirra, Anne’s house, and had the door slammed in her face, by Anne’s assistant who bellowed at her, “go away and marry a rich man!”

Val had no idea what she’d done wrong.

So Simon grew up without the Family, or a father.

His letter to Anne continues:
… in 1991, we discovered through therapy and my Mother’s recordings of the frequency of these fits, the emotional trigger of this disorder (Epilepsy). Not surprisingly my Father was the emotional cause. It would transpire something like this, I would receive a birthday, Christmas present or some other form of communication and several weeks would pass. During this time… the emotions would stew inside me and would culminate in the epileptic fit, as the only way to dissipate the energy.
Understandably during this time I had great emotional needs that only the meeting of my Father could fulfil, and accordingly we pressed my grandmother to at least divulge the whereabouts of my Father and possibly arrange such a meeting.

Simon and Val had stayed in close contact with Stewart’s parents. They had an amicable relationship until that point. But a letter from Simon to his grandmother or Mardie, which he called her, dated 1st October 1992, begins:

Dear Mardie,
I am writing to you to express the real way in which I feel. I am hurting very deeply, I am emotionally crippled inside, my life is on hold, I cannot achieve, I cannot take the next step. Do you know why? Because our relationship is an absolute farce, it is completely false and artificial. When I speak to you I have to control the real way in which I feel because I am intensely frustrated with the manner in which you have always, without exception, ignored all of my emotional needs. My Father primarily ignored my emotional needs and still does but you had the chance to repair some of the damage, but no, you ignored me also.

 At the time these letters were written, Simon had newly obtained a Bachelor of Arts, and was living with Val in Ferny Creek. He was offered to come back and study Honours in Clinical Psychology. He took the opportunity in this, his gap year, to try to get in contact with his father. And after numerous contact attempts, over a period of years, some meagre responses were yielded for Simon.

An answering machine message from Stewart to Simon dated 9 December 1992 said, “Simon, each time I’ve called I get nothing but this bloody answering machine, I’m not going to call again for days because I’m calling from a mobile phone and it’s even more expensive. There is obviously no crisis and I’m sorry you are bothering people like Laura [Simon had also contacted many of Stewart's peers in an attempt to get in contact with his father], I don’t know what you think you are doing, what do you think you are a mini United Nations? I’ve got nothing more to say at the moment, if you want to write, write…Father.”

When Stewart replied to Simon in writing, he said things like (extracts from letters below):

“Simon isn’t it wonderful all the help you have received, your loving attractive Mother having done so much for you in bringing you up... You have a perfectly understanding grandmother who on my behalf for all of these years paid for your music lessons and your extra tuition lessons to make you such a success.”

“Everything has been done for you.”

“Millions of children worldwide through wars and so on have never known their father but it is not like you; you have a father who is very happy with Cecille and who is very happy proud that you are his son.”

“Cecille and I both know you are circulating letters about me as we have read copies of two up to date, God knows what your step sisters will think of you if they ever found them or were forwarded on to them.”

He emphasised that now would not be the best time to visit as he and ‘Cecille’ were expecting another baby. Val suspects, and with good reason, that Cecille and the twins were a complete fabrication, made up to conceal Stewart’s homosexual identity. Mysteriously, no visitors of Stewart’s ever met his alleged family, even his own parents and his brother who travelled to Europe and the UK to do so. Stewart only ever arranged to meet them at a hotel or somewhere – alone.

 Val looking at an image of herself in her young 20s. Photo by Sarah Hall.

Val looking at an image of herself in her young 20s. Photo by Sarah Hall.

“What is it you really want from me.
             What is it you really want from life?
                                                                      love Father”

Around this same time Val received a phone call from Anne, who was living with her husband Bill in the Catskill Mountains, New York, asking after Simon.

“Are you still in the same house?”
                                          “Are you still blonde?”
                                                                    “Are you still beautiful?”

Then on 18 July, 1993, aged 22 and 3 months, Simon slumped off the chair in the sunroom, and died.

In that same year, 1993, Anne Hamilton-Byrne was arrested by the FBI for child abuse allegations and was extradited back to Melbourne.

I had just turned three.

Watching The Family documentary it became clear to me that many members joined the cult because they didn’t have strong support networks in their lives. And in an email thread discussing the documentary with my Dad, Val’s cousin, he says, “I can’t help but think that Val’s been let down by our family too.”

 When Simon passed, Val received this letter from Anne (abbreviated):

My Dear Val,

As a mother myself I know your grief losing physical touch with your very beloved son Simon – Simon is taking me by the light he is touched with at this moment in our time as we know it. Simon tells me to let you know he can see you – His Spiritual (guide) is your own father, Val, who was there as he came into the light of the new and wondrous world of glory he has always known – He always knew.
He is wanting to take you in his arms – Remember him as he is not as you think he was.
Simon’s grandfather said this is the real world of pure Spirit – Death is a truly Beautiful Doorway.

Your son tells me how very brave you are Val and don’t let go please of yourself – take this as a time to investigate and praise things for your own growth. Mother - please don’t mourn please don’t grieve I am with you and unless you let me go I cannot come back, my grandfather has my arm and is keeping me awake.

Please do not grieve me – Love to my dad, tell him the family all love him I wish he knew me as I now know him – He is a good man mother Stewart does love me and I love him and thank for being part of giving me life on Earth.

Thank you for taking such care of me –
Power diminishing.
Yes.
Love you mother of mine
I love you I am with you –
Simon

A month ago, Val and I sat at the table where Simon passed away, ate biscuits and drank tea, while she described to me the moment. He had been out late at a party the night before, and up early to the Camberwell markets looking for a watch, he was a collector of watches, and on this occasion had found a nice one. He was sitting at the table polishing it.

Val was upstairs finishing a book he was waiting to read.

My whole life I had grown up believing that Simon had died after hitting his head during an epileptic fit in the bathroom. But really – he just died, suddenly, still clutching the watch.

“If it’s epilepsy you know, there’s crashing and banging. But there was complete silence. He must have just slumped off the chair and landed down there, his head was only slightly bruised where it hit the window’s ridge. He was lying in a ray of sunshine through the window. He just died, very peacefully, very silently, with his cat Kim beside him.”

In the autopsy they couldn’t work out what had caused his death, they ruled out an epileptic seizure. They put his death down to Sudden Adult Death Syndrome (which has a very germane acronym- SADS). Peculiarly, two other young men died of SADS in the same area that week.

After Simon died, Val received a call from Stewart saying he was shocked, saying he wished Simon would have visited. He didn’t come home for his son’s funeral, or ever call Val again.

~


It is 2010, and my auntie Val and I are standing by Simon’s grave, in the bottom of her garden. She is graceful at 80 (and still now at 87), slender legs, a bush walker, purple bracelets and perfectly pencilled eyebrows. She has strawberry blonde hair, and is wearing sneakers. She is beautiful, there’s something eternal about her spirit. She is quick witted, eloquently spoken. She has perfect recollection.

We had sat and eaten crystallised ginger from a jar labelled with her finest cursive while rosellas pecked at the hand railings, “Oh shoo! Get out of here!”. They had practically demolished it.

“When you’ve got negativity, if you go out into the garden … within minutes, you feel fine. I always say this garden will either kill or cure. So far it’s done a bit of each - I have scars to prove it.”

Val is looking at Simon’s grave and I am looking at her, trying to reconcile everything we have talked about with her composure, her smile. She has told me about her life, what it’s been like to be involved in a cult for a decade, to have an estranged runaway husband, from an arranged marriage she didn’t want in the first place, to have raised a beautiful son on her own, and to have him to die. I see Val maybe once a year, at family functions and now it dawns on me that I am one of her closest living relatives. As I naively and clumsily interviewed her all those years ago, in my first years of journalism school, I had just begun to understand.

“Do you feel Simon’s presence?” I asked.

“I have on occasions, though not like a lot of people can. Once I was standing down by his ashes with the cat and he was there then. I remember thinking - now there are three of us.”

“Do you talk to him?"

                                                 “Yes sometimes I do, yes.”

“Do you think about him often?”

 

                                                                                        “He’s in every room.”

 

This is an edited extract from a longer work in progress.

 

 

 


 

 

Kahoonis Palm

Words and photography by Anna Snowsill

i love you mr palm tree,
the way you make day of night
when you’re dancing in the wind,

it reminds me of a man i used to know.

your fronds flicker with the same lightness
as his fingers did,
when they limber waltzed into our smiles -
it feels as though its been a while,
but i see you move because of him

his flighty slightness is the wind,
a breath into this whispered scene,
your floating lissom, like those limbs,
it takes me places i remember being

i love you mr palm tree.
i love you my friend wind.

ONE STOP SHOP: A Quick at-a-glance value breakdown of Australia’s big issues of the day

By Wayne Goetze

 A new report has put the
value
of the Great Barrier Reef at more than double that of
Adani's planned coal mine.

VALUE BREAKDOWN!

REEF — $56 billion (economic, social and iconic)

MINE — $21.7 billion; project seen as step towards opening other coal projects in Queensland's Galilee Basin.

A new report has put the
value
of people's lives living in communities in the Northern Territory at less than
a third of their previous value since
the Northern Territory Emergency Response (NTER; the Intervention) of 2007.

VALUE BREAKDOWN!

 Illustration by Tyler Arnold. 

Illustration by Tyler Arnold. 

BEFORE NTER — 110% more autonomy, all-around qualityof life. Still economic and social problems existing since colonisation as a result of imperialistic law, systemic marginalisation and disempowerment, limited opportunities for employment and 'meaningful contribution', but still, hope.

AFTER NTER — Over 100% more

Young people in detention (female youth incarceration rates have increased tenfold), moral decay in treatment of children in detention, legitimisation of attitude towards Aboriginal people as problematic/ settler state as authority over Indigenous lives, further denigration of Aboriginal homelands, worsened media representations of NT communities as places of violence, more people forced from their country to urban centres for a variety of reasons, welfare dependency increase, history repeating itself, despair.

A new report has put the
value
of Kangaroo meat at
more than triple that of beef.

VALUE BREAKDOWN!

KANGAROO—Only 2% body fat, open range, high quality protein, consumes 13% of the water compared with cows, kilojoule content similar, fewer methane emissions, don’t compact soil, don’t damage native ecosystems.

BEEF — Australians just love the taste.

SOURCE: The start of this article appropriated from Tracey Ferrier’s Australian article ‘The reef vs Adani's mine in numbers’, 26/6/2017.

 

Exposed and on the run: charity match streaker reveals all

Interview by Sarah Hall

 Images taken from Herald Sun website. 

Images taken from Herald Sun website. 

The Sum Times conducted an exclusive interview with one of the streakers who ran, and even managed to kick a goal, at the Reclink Community Cup at Victoria Park on Sunday 25th June, who is now being hunted down by police, and if caught will face a hefty $626 fine. For obvious reasons we have changed his name for the purposes of this interview to ‘James’.

‘James’, what made you run? What was going through your mind on that cold day at the Cup?

When my friends and I saw the first streaker run on the field, we all thought it was great, and it reminded me of a time when I went streaking last year at a local cricket game. My friends started egging me on and I laughed it off but on the inside, I was having a good think about it. Then my friend Ollie looked me straight in the eye and said, ‘you should do it mate’.

Where did you strip? Right there in the stadium?

We were sitting around the front row near the goals. I did it then and there.

How did the crowd respond? And the players?

I can’t speak for everyone in the crowd, but it seemed like most people enjoyed it and were happy to see it. I’ve never had so many people cheer me on, so it was a pretty incredible feeling: being accepted and encouraged by thousands of people you’ve never met before in your life.

Australian Rules Football has a strong streaking culture, do you feel proud to be part of that culture?

Hundy per.

What is ‘the message’ of streaking? Do you consider it a political act?

I’ve never really thought of it in that way, to me it is just a bit of fun. I guess that’s the appeal of streaking – not to take everything so seriously, and just to take the piss a little bit. The Community Cup is such a great event because the game itself is just about having fun. 

What are your views about public nudity?

I used to get quite shy about it but I think it’s completely fine. We are born naked. I believe if you don’t feel like wearing clothes, you shouldn’t have to.

Given you are now being hunted down by police, are you scared?

I was initially scared when I saw the articles on Channel 9 and Herald Sun, but I think I’m in the clear. But if I got charged I probably wouldn’t get a job in my field and a $626 fine would also suck.

Was the risk worth it? Will you streak again?

I don’t regret doing it at all, and yes, I will streak again.  

'James' is the only of the four men who streaked on the day whose identity has not yet been discovered by police. There were women streaking on the day as well, but none of them have been fined or  investigated. 

 Images taken from Herald Sun website. 

Images taken from Herald Sun website. 

 

 

COSMOLOGICAL LOVE FEAST

By Molly Feeling

I am a mortal portal
Living in a lemon myrtle
I burn a soil coil
In the land of blood and water
I hear a distant fish net
Floating on a giant turtle
I eat the milk and honey
From an earthern potted curdle
I strain to sit and listen
On my waist I wear a girdle
I break beneath the burden
Of pain and beasts and fervour
I yearn to love and worship
Be a saint among the herded
I lift a baby body
From my soul when it is crowded
I think a small town thought
When the light becomes too shrouded
I feel my death is coming
And to this my life is moulded
I mind a moment passing
All time is ever folding
I look inside a tunnel
At the darkness I am holding
I am the water shining
Over bells and buildings flowing
I rain upon the flowers
Of emptiness and knowing
I ring a gonging note
To this space I lay down bowing
I sing out to the cosmos
And the stars begin their showering
I walk upon the night street
To meet the ancient power
I love the faces sleeping
And bless this holy hour
I kiss the dawn that's drenching
Every eye and cloud and corner
I taste the dew that's melting
Off the blood from which we're born of
I am a river shiver
On the surface of a mirror
I drink the ripple tripled
And behold the moonmilk shimmer

THE UNIVERSAL HM OF LOST CATS

By Molly Feeling

I come from here
Again and again
That sound I heard
When the letter came
The Cat is licking itself, and liking it. 

It rains and it rains
I don't know where I come from
Or the Sadness when you came
The internet brings joy and light and fame
In the small world

Someones crying all the same
Someones dying on the beach again
No story & we are falling
And this one we are all in
Held in story like its our hands
 

KANGARROO GRASS SOURDOUGH

Recipe by The Sum Times editors with advice from Bruce Pascoe

To begin, make 1.5kilo flour mixture by combining 900g wholemeal flour with 600g kangaroo grass (60% wholemeal / 40% kangaroo grass). You can use this flour mix to make your sourdough starter and loaf

STARTER DOUGH
1. Combine 200g of the flour mixture with 200ml of lukewarm water in a bowl. Leave uncovered overnight, somewhere warm
2. The next day, discard half the starter and add a further 100g of flour mixture and 100ml of lukewarm water
3. Repeat this process everyday until you see bubbles throughout the mixture (a few days – a week)
4. Store culture in fridge with a breathing hole (but to feed or use it, the starter needs to be at room temperature)

LOAF
1. Combine 300g of the flour mixture with 1⁄2 teaspoon of sea salt in a bowl, then add 300ml of warm water and a small chunk (100g) of starter at room temperature
2. Cover with a tea-towel overnight, until doubled in size.
3. Next morning, combine the loaf with about 350g more flour mixture and 2 teaspoons of salt on a floured surface
4. Knead for 10 minutes, or until smooth and elastic. Put the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover and leave to rise in a warm place for 2 to 3 hours, or until doubled in size.nm
5. On floured surface, shape dough into a round loaf
6. Preheat the oven to 220oC
7. When the oven is ready, the dough should be ready to put in. Score the loaf and put in the oven with a base of water at the bottom
8. Bake for about 20mins. Cool on a wire rack.

Note: the best bread making is a result of trial and error and not strict recipe following

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No Pokemon in Chernobyl

We mainly filmed other tour members filming the tour, zooming in on their cameras screens zooming in on the tour guide’s dosimeters close to the ground, beeping enthusiastically with off-chart readings in the ‘hot spots’ of high radioactivity throughout the ghost places. We got some footage of some footage....

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