Belonging

27 09 2014

Grand final morning. Over the past few days I’ve been asked how I became an AFL fan, and reflected on what it means.

I’ve talked about getting a ticket to a game in 2005 & fell in love with structures & hard slog. It fits the narrative that I needed to be ‘converted’ from old ways, wrong paths. The truth is it took years & involved little change.

I was never good at sport. More accurately, in a family of reasonably handy, athletic types, my only contribution to the trophies displayed on top of the piano was a little medallion, ‘dux of Redhead Public School 1983′.

I was aware of the differences between my siblings & myself. My selected sport was tennis. I went off to lessons at 7am every Saturday for years. Tennis wasn’t a bad fit for a broad-shouldered kid who towered over boys my age, but I knew I would never be as good as my Dad. He was the yardstick. A local champion in everything he tried, but I tried to make my brain fit the programme. I tried to be effortless, like him. I wasn’t. Years of Saturday mornings spent in my own head. I wouldn’t surrender. I couldn’t just go with it. There was no joy, so I quit.

While my brother & sisters were inculcated with the real family ‘sport’ of surf lifesaving, I wasn’t selected. I didn’t press my body into action after lying prone on the sand, sprinting for a flag. I didn’t row boats that were throwbacks to the 1930s. My family would go to surf carnivals around Australia & I stayed home. My Dad’s name was on all of the honour boards, swimming, sprinting, rowing & I was deeply connected to the achievement but not the culture. I understood it. I just didn’t belong.

Strange girl. I’d happily spend Saturday nights watching ‘Match of the Day’ on the little TV in my parents’ bedroom just for a glimpse of my heroes. Devils in red. Robson, Irwin, Hughes. I remember Gary Pallister’s transfer fee and the signing of the archest enemy, the Leeds United captain who became Le Roi Cantona, and a mop haired boy whose feet fairly skipped down the left wing. I loved them, but I wasn’t at the Stretford End. I was in a real life Summer Bay in which I didn’t belong.

I moved to Europe in my mid-20s & how my South London local heaved the night at the Nou Camp. The night Scholes & Keane spent on the sidelines & the sublime substitutes, Sheringham & Solskjær. A fearsome Dane cartwheeling in front of a goal he’d deserted & been ordered back to defend. I knew that this was how it felt to belong to something & it was glorious.

I came back from Europe & found a new team, a new game. Defending governments came naturally. I’d always loved defenders or any kind, the ones prepared to break a leg, their own or an opponent’s, to save a goal. For five years I believed in something & I defended it to journalists and turned defence into offense with words delivered across a brass barrier. I watched & smiled as another team was skewered by mine. I belonged. I was part of something, a team with one purpose.

And then I wasn’t. Even when I came out of ‘retirement’, it was over. I defended ideas & people I had no faith in. I was there, but I didn’t belong. Then things went very wrong for me & there was no belonging to anything or anyone. I needed a purpose to stop the aloneness, not to break, not to stay in my head. I found it in a sea of red & white.

As a way of forcing myself to open the door to my flat, I became a member of a club within a club. I paid so much for my membership that I dare not miss a game, a function, no matter how badly the metallic taste of panic surged.

Of course I’m a fan; I would die in a ditch rather than hear them denigrated for daring to be more than blokes chasing a ball. I’ll ask for a photo & secretly smile when I see a ‘like’ on my Twitter feed or Instagram, but I hate watching the same people year after year chasing them across rooms to sign things I know they have a dozen of & are probably flogging for a premium. I have superstitions which probably qualify as OCD, I wear the colours & I will travel across the country to finals knowing that my little rituals are meaningless & that they can’t hear me shout, cheer or clap, but I like to be there if even for a moment they sense that someone else is on their side.

I belong to something which has given me more than I can ever repay. May the best team win (but let it be my bloodstained angels).





The days that saved my life.

10 09 2014

There was a moment when I used to blame everything and everyone for all the pain and suffering and vile things that happened to me…

I didn’t get no answers because I was asking the wrong questions. You have to ask the right question.

Has anything you’ve done made your life better?

- Dr Bob Sweeney (Avery Brooks)

‘American History X’

I have been hospitalised twice with suicidal ideation. The first time was back in 2007, the second in 2010.

The episodes leading to my hospitalisation were a few days/weeks in the making. Distinct events triggered reactions that I tried to push through. Previously, I had associated suicide with bouts of self harm while I was in extreme emotional and mental distress. I was trying to trigger responses in others or to give myself something to focus on. The 2007 and 2010 events were different. I was lost, like the redundant middle manager who leaves home with a briefcase everyday to catch the train to the city, only to spend the day sitting in the park. I tried so hard to hang on, but I couldn’t, so I made a plan. I reached a sort of calm. My thoughts were ordered. I was lucid, but in a far more dangerous place than I was at peak crazy.

And that’s when I saved my life.

In 2007, I left the office and went to my psychiatrist’s rooms. They arranged for my admittance to a private clinic. I was so ashamed of myself there were only a handful of friends who knew I was there. I didn’t tell my family. I stayed for two weeks. In 2010, I looked out of my lounge room window. The idea of going outside hurt, but I did it. I forced myself to get a cab and met two friends who took me to St Vincent’s. I was formally assessed as having both a plan and the means to complete suicide and admitted to the Psychiatric Emergency Care Centre (PECC).

As soon as I walked into the PECC, I wanted out. I cried, I begged, I pleaded with the nursing staff not to leave me on a ward with five men. The nursing staff observe you from a central ‘fishbowl’ which they rarely left. All beds must remain visible to the fishbowl. The bathroom was a fitted steel module – that is, there are no moving parts, no toilet seat, no taps, nothing that could be detached or broken and used as a weapon. My bed was in a corner. One man sat on my bed and made me feel physically endangered. Another was so heavily medicated he lay in bed making horrendous noises, occasionally walking up and down the ward in a rhythmic stupor. When I cried because I was scared I was going to be raped during the night, I was threatened by a nurse that if I didn’t ‘belt up’ I would ‘find myself in Caritas… and I didn’t want that’.

After I was released from the PECC (after about a week – there were no doctors available on the ward to assess me for release), it took me seven weeks to recover. I lost my job – in other words, the social determinants of my suicidal ideation were made worse by emergency intervention. After I left the PECC, I didn’t seek help from the area health service crisis team for fear that I would be hospitalised again. The suicidal ideation still comes and goes, sometimes when I’m alone in bed at 4am and can find no peace. The most troubling are the fleeting moments when I am surrounded by beauty and warmth and feel disconnected from it. Then it passes.

The way we care for suicidal people needs to change. People leaving hospital are at a heightened risk of completing suicide. Suicidality does not equal mental illness, but the ‘care’ I received was being locked in a room next to a man experiencing a psychotic episode. I am convinced hospital was not the best place for me. I needed a supported environment where I could just stop. Suicidal ideation is the end of the line. I was utterly done. I needed not to have to fight for myself, just for a little while, so that I could get up and make a new plan to live. My stay in the PECC stopped me from killing myself. It did not support my decision to live.

~~~

Getting back to the quote. Since 2012, I’ve done things to make my life better. Instead of chasing a relationship, I’ve eased myself into living with ‘aloneness’ as opposed to loneliness. Career-wise and financially… I think the euphemism is ‘insecurity’, but I don’t punish myself for not being successful anymore. I stopped seeing the psychiatrist I’d seen for a decade. That might sound weird, but I wasn’t getting better; I was just on an increasing cocktail of drugs and revisiting extremely traumatic events every week. In 2013, I stopped using an antipsychotic I had been prescribed to help me sleep (seriously, I was on this gear). In January this year, I began medically-supervised withdrawal from a benzodiazepine originally prescribed after I left hospital in 2010. Last week, I took the final step in my phased withdrawal from anti-depressants. I’m now clean for the first time in over a decade. Every one of these choices has (so far) made my life better. I am not anti-psychiatry, or advocating that anyone should avoid psychoactive medication. The help I sought and received served its purpose. If I need help again, I’ll ask for it. The most important choice I made was to allow myself to experience feelings in a normal range. I had always regarded resilience as sacrosanct – that the worst things that could happen to me had, and if I felt sad, I had failed. I couldn’t accept weakness. Resilience is a great quality, but I took it to an extreme that almost cost me my life. I have had some rough times, but I am on the whole more at ease with myself, have a better relationship with my family and am excited about the future. I’ll get a break, work-wise. I won’t let fear hold me back from telling people I love them. I’ll live.





Celebrities speak out for suicide prevention

10 09 2014

A little plug for an organisation I am so proud to have worked with on some different projects… Suicide Prevention Australia.

To learn more about SPA, visit the website here.

Media release for World Suicide Prevention Day – contact Kim Borrowdale on (02) 9223 3333

Australian celebrities have joined together to voice the importance of reaching out and getting connected this World Suicide Prevention Day.

Suicide Prevention Australia (SPA) supporter Trish Heagerty, lost her husband to suicide last year. She came to SPA wanting to raise awareness of suicide prevention services and support in a bid to spare others from the pain she and her loved ones have endured since his death; as well as the pain he experienced.

Trish is a food stylist and used her media contacts to partner with creative and passionate crew and celebrities including Steve Waugh, Commando Steve Willis, Jessica Rowe, Justine Clarke, Luke Carroll, Alex Perry, Jesinta Campbell and Mia Freedman.

Convenor of the National Coalition for Suicide Prevention and Suicide Prevention Australia CEO, Sue Murray, said of the video:

“In Australia more than 2500 people take their lives a year. With every 1 suicide death, it is estimated that between 10 and 100 people are directly impacted. That is, 10-100 people that knew that person.”

“This year’s World Suicide Prevention Day theme is all about making the connection. Sadly, we are all connected to suicide and at some time in our lives will be looking to access the right services at the right time – for others or ourselves.”

Sue went on to add, “On a personal note, we are so grateful to people like Trish, with a lived experience of suicide, who have the strength to constructively share their story to raise awareness. Thank you to everyone involved in this powerful and moving project.”

 

 

Key facts

  • Every year, over 800,000 people in the world die from suicide; this roughly corresponds to one death every 40 seconds.
  • The number of lives lost each year through suicide exceeds the number of deaths due to homicide and war combined.
  • Each year 65,000 Australian’s attempt to take their own lives (there are on average 130,000 total deaths per year in Australia) – of these attempts – Australia loses approximately 2,500 loved ones.
  • The Australian National Coalition for Suicide Prevention is working to half this in ten years. But they need help from every Australian. As you can see from the numbers, everyone is connected to suicide. It is everyone’s business.




No fairytales

7 09 2014

After last weekend’s three-point win against the Sydney Swans sealed its ninth win in a row and eighth place on the ladder, the Richmond Tigers’ second finals appearance in five years was widely hailed as the ‘fairytale’ of the 2014 AFL season. It’s a projection Richmond carried through today on its banner – the only thing those wearing yellow & black ran through this afternoon at Adelaide Oval. There was no fairytale. To steal from Sam Seaborn, Port Adelaide did not seek, nor did they provoke such a story. Instead, they rose and mastered the occasion, and reminded all that their capacity may well be limitless.

On paper, both clubs’ results over the last five seasons are strikingly similar. Two finals appearances and three fairly wretched home and away seasons. Both boast some remarkable individual talent – Richmond’s Cotchin, Deledio, Martin, Rance and dual Coleman Medalist, Jack Riewoldt; Port Adelaide’s Wingard, Westhoff, Trengove, Harlett and Boaks. Each faced financial ruin – Port Adelaide’s red staunched thanks to the SANFL & AFL underwriting millions in debt, Richmond saved from liquidation in 1990 by its members, and its football department’s stocks boosted by supporters in 2011. The difference? The gulf between the top four and the rest should really be the top five. While Port Adelaide’s apparatus will likely hang precariously for the next five to 10 years, a list that has not changed much since the arrival of senior coach Ken Hinkley in 2013 is going onto the second week of the finals for the second consecutive year. Richmond’s onfield performance in the last two finals series doesn’t reflect the energy and ability of its CEO, Brendon Gale, or the commitment of its 60,000 members to erase its debt and give the club a decent shot at a flag.

Those members deserve to collect more than the insipid performance delivered today by players who celebrated like they had won the flag last week – and they deserve better than to represent themselves as Australian football’s traumatic bonders. That the record shows a 57-point loss is bad enough. The reality is Port scored 57 points in the first quarter and played to protect themselves from injury for the final 30 minutes. If I hadn’t been at the SCG to see the Sydney Swans beat Geelong by 110 points in round 11, I’d say this was not the worst performance of the season, but the most shocking. Port took Adelaide Oval like a Panzer division; Richmond had the ignition timing of a Datsun 180B.

In 1890, Port Adelaide were crowned the first ‘Champions of Australia’, defeating the Victorian Football Association premiers – South Melbourne – by three points at Adelaide Oval. I don’t believe in fairytales, but I am superstitious & never happier to see the Swans on the other side of a finals draw.





One vote, one value? Not in the City of Sydney

23 08 2014

‘No taxation without representation’.

NSW local government minister Paul Toole wrote in a comment piece for SBS on 18 August, apparently with his tongue firmly planted on his palate. As fond as I am of American history, pinching a line from the colonists to describe a legislative overhaul which will result in a blatant malapportionment of votes within the City of Sydney (CoS) is lazy and misleading.

Under the City of Sydney Amendment (Elections) 2014 bill, introduced by the Hon. Robert Borsak of the Shooters and Fishers Party:

  • the General Manager, not the Electoral Commissioner, will be responsible for keeping and maintaining an automatic non-residential roll. The Electoral Commissioner will review it to check the nominated voters are eligible (i.e. over 18 years old, eligible to vote in Australia and not on the CoS residential roll)
  • if a corporation is the owner, lessee or occupier of rateable land, the GM will enrol two people to vote based on a majority written nomination
  • if no nomination is received, the GM will automatically enrol the first two people from an alphabetical list of owners, lessees or occupiers

Mr Toole likens this malapportionment to four people living in Redfern each having a vote despite occupying the same address. This ignores the fairly basic concept that four individuals on the electoral roll all contribute to, and use services provided by each level of government, and only get one vote in the divisions in which they are enrolled.

Mr Toole is correct that non-residents have the right to vote in the City of Sydney, and that the poor turnout at the last election suggests they find the relatively new re-enrolment provisions cumbersome. I don’t have a problem with business people who have a stake in the way the city is run having a say at the ballot box. I’m no fan of the current Lord Mayor, and after 12 years living in an inner city suburb, I proudly support local, independent businesses. What I object to is the malapportionment of votes. A single business entity with multiple business locations (such as a fast food chain) might ‘only’ be eligible to two votes, but that’s still twice what mine is worth. Further, who is to say that the ‘small business people’ the minister speaks of will actually get a say? An absentee landowner living interstate could nominate themselves over the people who deserve it – the ones who run the business, whose livelihoods are affected by council decisions such as metered car parking. Also, the model proposed by the Shooters Party means a corporation with interests in several separate business entities with a physical address in the City of Sydney could have multiple punts come election day. #Imagen this: just a few years ago, a certain family’s group of companies leased two shops at Circular Quay. Fast-forward a few years and under the same circumstances, that family could arrange for different companies within its control to nominate up to four people to vote in the council election based on holding those two leaseholds alone. Tops.

According to Mr Toole, the ‘Australian Securities and Investment Commission, Land Property Management Authority and business surveys will guard against fraud or scam electors’. Who will pay for, and resource this extra policing of the vagaries of some 40,000 businesses, which could be under administration or investigation, change hands or directors? The minister talks of cutting red tape, but the Shooters Party Bill will create another task for both Federal and NSW government agencies. The minister appears to be unaware the LPMA was itself abolished in 2011, with its three divisions now under the purview of two State government departments.

State MP for Sydney, Alex Greenwich, has introduced his own Bill into the Legislative Assembly. In addition to pointing out the inconsistencies with adopting a model based on Melbourne city council, the City of Sydney (Business Voting and Council Elections) Bill 2014 address several concerns I have about the Shooters Party Bill, including the CoS GM’s management of the roll. Why should the GM keep the non-residential roll when the Electoral Commissioner is responsible for the residential roll? Regardless of the nature of the elected council, a council employee with oversight of who votes for the composition of the council which pays their salary is low-hanging fruit for vested interests. Further, the Greenwich amendments provide for in person or postal voting, and importantly, does not make voting compulsory for non-residents. Let’s face it: the person who owns my flat may not give two stuffs who’s in charge at Town Hall. Compelling people to vote in an election they give even fewer fucks about will do nothing more than boost the number of invalid/donkey votes. While the changes to the CoS Act don’t affect other local government areas, Mr Toole has signalled his support to roll out the changes to other ‘key cities and economic areas’ such as Parramatta and Newcastle (because having a developer as Lord Mayor worked so well…).

————

I started writing this piece a few days’ ago (c’mon, you don’t think I could read this much draft legislation before midday on a Saturday), only to be beaten to the punch by Secco, who has written a #getClover feelpiece for The Saturday Paper. This, I hope, delves deeper into the nature of the proposed changes and the long-term impact on the residents of the City of Sydney, because it is much more than an attack on the political survival of one person as per the current narrative. The Tea Party-lite sloganeering adopted by Toole, Borsak et al is a reminder that money will equal speech, regardless of how sick to the stomach NSW is of those who sought, and succeeded to steal elections. Set aside political affiliations, apathy, personality-based views: malapportionment of votes; an electoral roll kept by a council employee; more red tape caused by the multi-layered policing of the roll and no clear indication of which corporation will wield the business vote where more than one exists on a rateable property make the amendments unworkable. Let MPs know, and don’t forget it in March 2015.





None so blind…

19 08 2014

By the 2011 election, I was so mentally & emotionally done with all things Macquarie Street that when my sister casually mentioned the Liberal candidate for Newcastle, Tim Owen was carpet bombing local television with this ad, I shrugged.

As far as media buying goes, Newcastle is a pretty expensive market. Political parties’ TV spend in State elections is usually devoted to a few generic ads.  A major party candidate producing & buying space for his own TVC? Pretty rare.

Tim Owen’s free-fall from respected senior military officer to politician (a tumble in itself) to bum-fuzzled early retiree from politics to self-confessed liar and taker of cash from Jeff ‘Walking ATM’ McCloy might have come a little earlier if someone – anyone – had done the sums on that ad.





How stupid are you?

12 06 2014

So who’s stupid? Not you, of course. Certainly not me. Hey, maybe none of us.

No, that’s not what people were saying today as journalist Mark Sawyer opined that anything less than white supremacy was not racist, parsing a quote from an Australian Army officer condemning the sexual abuse and harassment of women in the defence forces that included the word ‘’standard’’.

Here was another cretinism, depressingly fresh on the heels of Mia Freedman’s insight that Madonna’s poor brown children from a poor brown country were better off skiing with the rich people.

It may pay to look at the bigger picture pays to have a long, hard look at ourselves. We’re living in a an era when evil critical thought is an outmoded concept, when there are no bad people, only bad acts only baddies and more baddies.

Yes, of course, ‘‘the stupid I walk past is the stupid I accept’’, to paraphrase the angry Army officer again vogue reasoning . Sorry #notsorry but I stopped walking past it plenty of times.

I stopped walking past it when a man in Spain told me not to put my Masters degree on my CV, because I ‘look too smart on paper’, when the mother of an old friend asked if I still ‘had my little job’ and when an old lady in country NSW offered me his ultimate accolade a bewildered stare: ‘Press secretary? Are you from the typing pool?’

Hey, I also stopped walking past it when people assert that Australia is a uniquely wicked racist <WAIT… DIDN’T HE SAY TEH EVILS WERE NO MORE?> country. I said Australia wasn’t unique, or wicked, but we are home to a hella bunch of racists.

You see, indigenous Australians once won a court case against Andrew Bolt. From this came the appointment of a Freedom Commissioner to protect us from the oppressive dictatorships which terrorises us daily … what exactly? To fight for the freedom of satirists to call someone a dog fucker on a comedy programme oh wait that didn’t happen.

But how many people alive today are honest to god stupid? You know, willing to grandstand at the school gates like a southern US governor in the 1950s and ’60s on panel shows and say “you shall not pass university without incurring crippling debt”? Refuse to not quit Twitter WHEN YOU PROMISE IT, drama monarchs (© Dan Savage)? Oddly, when Prime Minister Abbott failed to offer his hand to European Union High Representative Catherine Ashton kick Russia out of the G20 there was not a glimmer of protest from those who are “for freedom” and apparently little else. Abbott saw fit to call Russian President Vladimir Putin a “bully”. Truly, a foreign policy colossus.

Are white South African migrants to Australia racist? Are black Zimbabwean leaders racist for pushing whites off farms? Considering the hierarchy of oppression that is so fashionable now, are any non-white people racist at all? Fuuuuuuuuck… shelve your bullshit “what about Mugabe” logical fallacies.

<INSERT RANDOM EXAMPLE OF RACISM>

For seemingly endless days in May 2013, Australia was obsessed with the Eddie McGuire controversy. The ‘Who Wants to Be A Millionaire/Hot Seat/Hotpants/whatever it’s called these days’ host and President of the Collingwood Football Club doubled down on racist comments about Adam Goodes. He now has to sell the franchise and will end his days as a pariah called a laughable press conference, kept all of his lucrative media gigs, including ‘Press Red for Ed’. Isn’t that enough? Not for Sam Newman, though The Footy Show was not alone. Fox Sports’ AFL 360 anchors weighed every nuance, reading tweets from another brown AFL player Eddie took on the show with him to prove he wasn’t racist, interviewing each other endlessly.

For what? Only because there was bad press at stake for the AFL did McGuire even try and weasel out of his ‘brainfade’. And yet plenty of stupid people think and say and write in the most appalling “English” on any social media platform/online comment section they can find, McGuire’s racism is the fault of the brown person who should STFU & HTFU. I’d rather ask how healthy it is for the leader of any sporting team to be owned by a single plutocrat this level of stupidity to go unchecked. Minimising racism emboldens other racists.

<THANKS, EDDIE. THIS IS A GREAT EXAMPLE OF WHAT MARK SAWYER WOULD CALL “NOT RACISM”>

My contention is that people can say racist things because they are afflicted, temporarily or permanently, with stupidity racism. Why? Because I believe there are that many racists, even if they lack the self-awareness to realise they are, in fact, racist. These would be people <FAIRFAX YOU REALLY NEEDED YOUR SUBS> obsessed with the supremacy of their race feels to the exclusion of facts. They are out there. And their numbers are significant. And the best frontman they can present is not the Prime Minister, as John Oliver found in Last Week Tonight last fortnight, he ain’t growing the brand. Scott Morrison. Seriously. He is my worst nightmare. Because he would win a poll held whenever in a canter. Because of the stupid racists.

I’d wager that the overwhelming majority of us, no matter the colour, are roughly as ‘‘racist’’ our formal education, are is not as stupid as each other <OK WHOEVER PRESSED ‘GO’ WITHOUT SUBBING THIS COLUMN IS DOING MY HEAD IN>. In other words, let’s stop the stupid. Not just the stupid things we say. Stop electing stupid governments. Stop watching unqualified people erect plaster board and selling their bodgy renos to stupid people with more money than sense. Stop labelling basic human decency and not being a racist as “political correctness”. Stop appropriating the future by thinking about electricity bills. Stop decrying learning and instead reach for something beyond ourselves. Just stop being so bloody stupid.