What now for Manus?


I bloody hate this situation.

I’ve made phone-calls, including to Peter Dutton MP (Minister for Immigration and Border Protection). I’ve also sent an email to my local member, Bill Shorten MP (Opposition Leader) and Shayne Neumann MP (Shadow Minister for Immigration).

See that below. This sickens me…. and I feel so hopeless and helpless about it.

Check out the statement from Shadow Minister for Immigration here:  http://shayneneumann.com.au/news/immigration-and-border-protection/former-manus-island-regional-processing-centre/ A lot more mealy-mouthed than I’d hoped for. Luckily I saw it when looking up his contact details and could address the icky bits in my email (they’re the bits in red). In the email, when I speak of the “current situation” I’m referring to the situation today. The angle I took was influenced by a phone-chat I had with a staffer from Shayne Neumann’s office.


Dear Mr David Feeney MP, Mr Shayne Neumann MP and Mr Bill Shorten MP,

My name is Clare Keogh and I am a young university student living in [suburb], Victoria. I am deeply concerned about the situation on Manus Island that has been unfolding for several weeks and escalated today. I am also keeping the people detained on Nauru in my thoughts, as they should not be forgotten either.
I know that the current situation is not Labor’s doing and that the centres, when Labor restarted them, was intended to be used for regional processing rather than indefinite detention. 
However, the fact remains that the current situation is not the responsibility of PNG but of Australia. There have been reports of AFP involvement in today’s crisis on Nauru, after all. 
By what right are the men’s phones being seized? By what right are their few belongings being taken and destroyed? By what right have their only means of getting water and shelter been destroyed? By what right has their access to even the most basic medical aid and food been removed? Why has Behrouz Boochani been arrested?
I understand that, as you are in Opposition, it makes it harder to make concrete change. But you and your colleagues should speak up about the situation still. Perhaps you are advocating for them behind closed doors. Can you explain, concretely, how? 
I am particularly concerned by some of the information that has been presented in the statement produced by Mr Neumann an hour ago: 

The situation at the closed Manus Island RPC could have been avoided if Malcolm Turnbull was clear from the start about refugees’ access to essential services at the alternative accommodation in PNG.

Turnbull has a moral obligation to work with PNG to deescalate tensions and guarantee the ongoing safety and security of these people.

Labor accepts that the former Manus Island RPC has closed as the result of a decision of the Supreme Court of PNG.

The men at the closed centre need to relocate to alternative accommodation – such as East Lorengau – to access security, health and welfare services.

Footage and reports from advocates who have visited the East Lorengau site make clear that the “alternative accommodation” at East Lorengau is not ready. No water, toilets, or showers. No power. Inadequate shelter for the tropical conditions. No security and no safety. The locals do not want them there. After all, Manus Island is a tiny part of PNG, with scarce resources for the local population.
Has anyone from Labor attempted to go and see conditions for themselves? Where has this idea that the offered alternative accommodation is acceptable come from? Why is the onus on the men to move there, rather than the violence to stop? The men have been asking us to listen to them about this. Why are you ignoring their voices? 
Nauru is also a small place that is struggling to care for all of its people. Yet today I heard news of a new contract being given to Canstruct to build more facilities (described as “garrison-type”) for those held there. There are children and vulnerable women on Nauru. Can nothing be done for them? 
I thought Australia was better than this. It makes me sick at heart to think of this going on, when it would be so much cheaper and more humane to fulfil our international and moral obligations and either bring them here or resettle them in another country who are willing and able to take them – like New Zealand – while working with other countries in the region to create a viable long-term solution. 
The idea that these measures are in place to “save lives at sea” or “protecting Australian borders” is rubbish. There are far cheaper and better ways of preventing people risking lives on boats to Australia, like investing in real regional dialogue and processing, providing support and resources to countries, like Malaysia and Indonesia, where the boats set out from. 
The current situation is a punitive measure created to encourage asylum seekers to think that going to Australia is worse than staying where they are. Now that has led to desperate people being treated like animals, denied even the most basic human rights. 
Please do something. This is a major sticking point for myself and many others in terms of voting. More than that, making a stand is the right thing to do. Have some political courage, listen to those who are experiencing the crisis, and act, please. The situation has gone on for far too long! 
If you reply, please don’t use an automated response but something real. 

#Iamwatching – For Crying Out Loud, #bringthemhere!

I just spent 10 minutes calling my local MP’s office, as well as the offices of Bill Shorten, Malcolm Turnbull and Peter Dutton to express my “utter disgust” (as I phrased it to Turnbull and Dutton’s staffers) at the current situation on Manus. Why, why, why do people still insist on treating refugees and asylum seekers as political footballs? Why do people not see that using punitive measures creates far more problems than it solves? Our response should be compassionate and respectful. Instead, we have this toxic dehumanising scary situation.

For those of you who are still unaware of what I’m talking about, here’s ASRC’s CEO, Kon Karapanagiotidis:


As of 17:00 today (i.e. 30 minutes ago), all food, water (drinking and running water, so no sanitation!), electricity and medicine access to the men imprisoned in offshore detention on Manus Island has been cut off completely. The Australian government workers and contractors have walked off the site and left “control” in the hands of the Paupa New Guinean military forces – the same group that has repeatedly threatened and made attempts to harm the men.

Supply is being cut off in order to force the men to move to a “transit centre” in another part of the island. A centre which hasn’t been built yet! If they more there? Well – as Kon says above it’s not the fault of the local people, who didn’t ask for the men to be on the Island in the first place. But moving 816 men into East Lorengau, with a population of 4,000 people, where resources are scarce enough to begin with – is quite frankly a worrying prospect. As Kon says in the video (starts about the 4 minute mark), the locals do not want them to come. They have petitioned against it and also made threats. Now, why would the asylum seekers want to move there?

These men do not deserve this. Bring them here

The men have been imprisoned for more than four years on Manus Island in squalid conditions. There are better ways of “dealing” with them!

Let’s reiterate some facts:

  1. Seeking asylum is NOT illegal, whether you come by plane or boat (or land but that’s not possible in Australia)
  2. Locking the refugees up doesn’t “stop the boats”
  3. Asylum seekers leave their countries because they’re FORCED to – because they’re scared for their own lives or the lives of their families.

Australia will have blood on our hands after this, I fear.

Read more about the current situation here and here and here.

I’ve written about potential solutions before #BringThemHere, drat it! and REBLOGGED: Alternative to Offshore Detention and many others – search my blog using the keyword refugees and you’ll see. I hate this situation.

😦 I wish the politicians would actually behave compassionately rather than punitively. It bloody sucks.

Marriage Equality Essay

Last year (in 2016) I took a subject as an elective called Sex, Gender, Identity. It was an introductory subject that encouraged us to explore different aspects of those three things and how “the personal is political” (original quote author unknown). The final assignment for the subject was an essay which we could choose the topic from a list. I chose to examine marriage – the feminist critiques and marriage equality movement. The resulting essay gained me the highest mark I’ve ever received on an assignment. But more importantly, the research I did educated me about the topics and reaffirmed my stance on the issue. Below is an edited version of that essay. Please read.

I’ll note that I’m in a privileged position in writing this article. I’ve been raised in a heteronormative environment, I’m cisgender and in an opposite-sex relationship. These are my opinions backed by evidence collected from academic sources as well as personal ones.

Marriage: an institution which involves formal recognition of the union of two people, conferring legitimacy on an intimate relationship (3). This formal recognition usually grants a range of social, religious and legal benefits, rights and responsibilities (3) and has existed in some form for centuries (14). At the moment, the most easily-recognised and legitimised marriage is monogamous and opposite-sex – it’s still considered the norm. Challenging this norm, same-sex marriages have begun to be recognised in many countries after the hard work and activism of advocates. For many, this is a positive step for LGBTIQA+ people and society as the gains are seen to outweigh potential negatives. However, other activists are not as sure, as they take a more radical view that marriage should be either changed completely or left behind together. I investigated these two competing discourses and drew conclusions for this piece.

Firstly, the positives. 🙂 It has been suggested that access to marriage is tied, metaphorically and/or physically, to full citizenship rights in society (9). Also, as the phrase, “equal before the law” suggests, in democracies, the law is a place where all citizens should be equal (8). Hence, marriage is seen as a pathway to acceptance and legitimacy, a way of demonstrating that what people feel for each other is real and valuable. A chance to throw a big party and show how much they love each other. The exclusion of LGBTIQA+ people could be and has been argued to be an intolerable discriminatory practice. It has been suggested that in order for LGBTIQA+ rights to advance, all formal barriers to full equality must be overcome (2)(4) before or while other steps are taken – like fixing anti-discrimination laws (10). Due to the prominence of marriage in society, it can be seen as symbolic of other rights and some have argued that governments which do not afford equal respect of and protections for both LGBTIQA+ and heterosexual intimate relationships enable and participate in systemic homophobia and heterosexism (4). It has also been argued that this inequality harms LGBTIQA+ people in substantial, material ways – from subtle exclusion to violence (1)(2)(4). I agree with this – I’ve read very compelling personal accounts from people over the last few weeks and before that (not to mention hearing the lived experiences of my friends) which demonstrate the truth of it (6) (11). I also agree with the contention that one way of combatting the harms is to work towards full equality, including in marriage, for all regardless of sexuality. Research shows that there are particular social, legal and psychological benefits to this.

Marriage can reinforce partnership bonds, facilitate parenting and generate levels of social support for those who participate (7). LGBTIQA+ participation in marriage widens the scope of marriage norms, as non-traditional roles and practices are expressed, intentionally or otherwise (1)(7), providing additional choices and freedoms. For example, with children. It could be said that the very presence of LGBTIQA+ people and families in so-called public spheres changes and destabilises the unconsciously accepted heteronormative view (1) of society. Hmm, maybe that’s why the conservatives get so grumpy about it. Well, they can suck it up, because change is a thing that happens. Changes to societal views of family and so on include what is seen as normal by children – everything from the gender of their parents and/or extended family members, to how gendered or egalitarian their household is. Research shows that in observing and learning about these practices and by educating each other, children become directors of change (1). After all, we’re products of where we come from, influenced by the personal world(s) we inhabit. And if those worlds are more equitable, so much the better. The presence of children also highlights discriminatory practices which occur within the current system which privileges marriage, particularly heterosexual marriage, over other relationships (4). To many LGBTIQA+ people, the idea of only being allowed something separate-and-different to marriage does not work if it’s not seen as legally and emotionally equal to it. Even if/when marriage alternatives were given equal rights, benefits, protections and obligations as marriage, it can be argued that LGBTIQA+ people are still discriminated against simply because they’re still unable to choose between marriage, a civil partnership, or something else (14).

But what about the feminist/queer case against marriage? Feminists have criticised marriage as being oppressive to women due to patriarchal structures of power for many years (14). These power structures are those which reinforce a socially conservative breadwinner model (5) – an opposite-sex relationship of mandated monogamy, working husband and dependent wife bearing the brunt of housework and child-rearing (9). If you think about it, this model has been – and still is – at the core of public policy for some time (5)(15). Non-traditional families – such as single parents, mixed-race partnerships, and LGBTIQA+ families – challenge the model. You can tell this from the way conservatives react. However, I’ve read concerns about whether the model is really being challenged (15). There’s an argument that marriage equality campaigns are being turned into binary debates of for and against. These leave little room for valid critiques of the social and economic institutions of marriage, and how the societal privileging of marriage marginalises other intimate relationships (9)(13). The argument continues that while the potential benefits of marriage should be recognised, the next or concurrent step should be to push for those rights to be expanded to all intimate consensual relationships. There’s a risk, activists argue, that not doing this would go against hard-fought-for feminist freedoms (12) and create a new tiered system within the LGBTIQA+ community of the socially acceptable marrieds held above the rest of the queers. This could lead to a reinforcing of conservative heteronormative marriage ideas, merely expanded slightly.

Despite this, there’s no question that many LGBTIQA+ people do want to get married (4), even as they recognise its pitfalls. Marriage as an institution isn’t necessarily seen as a good thing – but the equality before the law is (2). Marriage is a complex institution and we should resist the urge to press it into one box or another (5). If and when marriage equality becomes reality, then the contradiction of being separate-but-equal (13) is removed. It then becomes a choice for all, heterosexual and LGBTIQA+ alike, as to whether we’ll participate in marriage and how we could or would change the institution for the better. As it currently stands, some of the population have only a restricted choice and how is that choice then free or fair? Alongside this, we can then work for the expansion of legal and economic protections, currently enshrined in marriage, to all relationships so that all intimate consensual relationships are valued (5). We could even go further and ensure that welfare rights are fair for all regardless of relationship, employment and monetary status (5). This then challenges the conservative understanding that defending the rights of women, LGBTIQA+ and other marginalised groups undermines committed caring relationships. At the same time, it dismantles the patriarchal heteronormative one-size-fits-all approach and works towards a more caring society, away from the outdated universal breadwinner model to a universal caregiver one. In this latter model, LGBTIQA+ people would be just as accepted for caregivers and caregiving as heterosexuals (5). This opens up possibilities for greater awareness on and attention to other intersectional issues. After all, attending to one issue does not prevent us from working on others and “those of us who are interested in fighting for justice and the flourishing of sentient beings in any of these contexts should be interested in fighting for justice in all of these contexts” (4, p. 77).


In other words, I’m in favour of marriage equality, as I’ve previously discussed. Btw, for me, my religious beliefs influence that view positively, as I’ve mentioned before as well. I’ll be unpacking that side of the argument soon too. If the postal survey goes ahead I’ll be participating in it and voting yes. I hope if you’re an Australian reading this that you will too.

If the postal survey goes ahead I’ll be participating in it and voting yes. I hope if you’re an Australian reading this that you will too.


References (these got a little muddled when rewriting this into a post, but I’d really encourage you to check them out):

  1. Bernstein, M. (2015). Same-Sex Marriage and the Future of the LGBT Movement. Gender & Society, vol. 29, no. 3, pp. 321–337, DOI: 10.1177/0891243215575287
  2. Bevacqua, M. (2004). Feminist Theory and the Question of Lesbian and Gay Marriage. Feminism & Psychology, vol. 14, no. 1, pp. 36–40, DOI: 10.1177/0959-353504040300
  3. Budgeon, S. (2009). Marriage, in Encyclopaedia of Gender and Society, O’Brien J, (ed.), vol. 2, Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, pp. 505-508.
  4. Callahan, J, 2009, ‘Same-Sex Marriage: Why It Matters—At Least for Now’, Hypatia, vol. 24, no. 1, pp. 70-81.
  5. Ferguson, A, 2007, ‘Gay Marriage: An American and Feminist Dilemma’, Hypatia, vol. 27, no. 1, pp.39-57.
  6. Gadsby, H. (2017, August 17). “Probably a good time to repost my anti-plebiscite piece…” Retrieved from https://www.facebook.com/plugins/post.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fhannahgadsbycomedy%2Fposts%2F10155675309518000
  7. Green, AI, 2010, ‘Same-Sex Marriage: Lesbian and Gay Spouses Marrying Tradition and Innovation’, Canadian Journal of Sociology, vol.35 no. 3, pp.399-436. Retrieved from: http://www.jstor.org.ez.library.latrobe.edu.au/stable/canajsocicahican.35.3.399
  8. Harrison, JB, 2015, ‘At Long Last Marriage’, Journal of Gender, Social Policy and the Law, vol. 24, no. 1, pp.1-60.
  9. Josephson, J, 2005, ‘Citizenship, Same-Sex Marriage, and Feminist Critiques of Marriage’, Perspectives on Politics, vol. 3, no. 2, pp. 269-284.
  10. Lawrie, A. (2017, July 29). A quick guide to Australian LGBTI anti-discrimination laws [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://alastairlawrie.net/2017/07/29/a-quick-guide-to-australian-lgbti-anti-discrimination-laws/
  11. Lawrie, A. (2017, August 9). 2,756 Days. Frustration and love [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://alastairlawrie.net/2017/08/09/2756-days-frustration-and-love/
  12. Marso LJ, 2010, ‘Marriage and Bourgeois Respectability’, Politics & Gender, vol. 6, no. 1, pp.145-53, DOI: 10.1017/S1743923X09990572
  13. Merin, Y, 2002a, ‘Chapter 2: The Changing Institution of Marriage and the Exclusion of Same-Sex Couples’, in Equality for Same-Sex Couples, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, pp. 6-60.
  14. Merin, Y, 2002b, ‘Chapter 10: Alternatives to Marriage and the Doctrine of “Separate but Equal” ’, in Equality for Same-Sex Couples, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, pp. 278-307.
  15. Wilson AR, 2010, ‘Feminism and Same-Sex Marriage: Who Cares?’, Politics & Gender, vol. 6, no. 1, pp. 134-145, DOI: 10.1017/S1743923X09990560
  16. Young, C & Boyd, S, 2006, ‘Losing the Feminist Voice? Debates on the Legal Recognition of Same Sex Partnerships in Canada’, Feminist Legal Studies, vol. 14, pp. 213–240, DOI 10.1007/s10691-006-9028-8.


Power of Music 

Yesterday was a good day. I got to (re)watch the first series of “Choir of Hard Knocks”, courtesy of the uni library. I only needed to watch the first two episodes for my class, but I enjoyed them so much I ended up watching the whole series over the day. After all, half-hour episodes are easily consumable.

The “Choir of Hard Knocks” was a program on the ABC about ten years ago. It followed Jonathon Welch as he gathered and trained an unlikely choir made of people who were homeless or otherwise disadvantaged in some way, for example through addiction. United more or less by an interest in music and singing, that disparate group of people came together. They started in the September of 2007 (I think – might be 2006 instead). By Christmas, they’d busked outside Flinders St Station and funded a trip to a recording studio, where they recorded a CD. They sold 4,000 copies that year. They then went on to sell out the main hall of the Melbourne Town Hall at a concert in March of the next year.

The thing that spoke to me when watching the episodes was how the choir brought the group together. They became “like a family” as more than one member said. It increased their self-esteem, self-efficacy and confidence, gave them a community. Many of the people were disconnected from family and major support networks. Choir provided them with security and something to live for. My favourite moment was watching them hear themselves on the CD – for many it was the first time that they’d heard their own voice played back to them. The expressions on their faces of surprise and delight lifted my heart. The expression said, “Oh my goodness, that’s me!” The other choir members validated them, recognising their newfound talents along with their own.

Jonathon Welch began with a group who were interested but had little to no training or experience. Some needed a lot of encouragement to sing properly. But there was hidden talent there just waiting to be brought out.

There’s something very powerful about music and the communities that form around it. It speaks to us because (whatever the kind of music) we connect with it – the lyrics or tune – in some way. It speaks to the human experience – and just sounds good (subjectively 😉). When that experience is shared it is given a deeper meaning.

These reflections made me think about occupational therapy in practice. After all, the original purpose of watching the series was to focus on two choir members and imagine what we’d need/want to do with them. Last week (or the week before) we talked about group work. Maybe one day I’ll lead a music therapy group as part of my practice…. I think I’d like that.

Today, the choir still exists. There’s now a “School of Hard Knocks“, with a number of different opportunities for disadvantaged people to sing together and create memories and community. The School of Hard Knocks has a few groups in the Melbourne Singers Festival this June.

WT&TT: The New Relevance of the Fantasy Novel (Reblog)

Excellent thoughts from author Betsy Dornbusch, coming to you via a guest post on Chuck Wendig’s blog.



These are weird days for the country — hell, the world — and I think as writers it behooves us to look at our place and what our work means or can mean in the context of this changing landscape. Betsy had some thoughts in that direction, so here she is to talk about it:

* * *

A few years ago I wrote a book called The Silver Scar. I’ve been joking since it sold if He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named got elected, at least Alt-America would be awesome publicity for my future thriller featuring a pagan eco-terrorist and a Christian soldier trying to stop a crusade in a balkanized United States run by martial neo-Christian Churches. Alas, Scar doesn’t come out until 2018, so it’ll have to wait for its big promotional moment in the sun, which at the rate the EPA plans to roll back its regulations might be burning much hotter by then.

But I have another book out February 21, the conclusion to my Seven Eyes trilogy, called Enemy. It’s about this chronically depressed prince who suffers a coup by an upstart, spoiled lord and then has to find his missing queen, figure out how to live with magic that blinds him, and fight a foreign invasion. Cheerful stuff, right?”

Read mmore by clicking on the link above.

Celebration at Charcoal Lane

Standing outside Charcoal Lane‘s tall yellow doors.

On the weekend, I had a celebration at a restaurant in Fitzroy, Melbourne called Charcoal Lane. It was a very good afternoon. The service, food and venue were excellent.

If you’re in Melbourne wanting some native Australian food with a difference, come to Charcoal Lane. It’s a social enterprise run by Mission Australia, employing and training First Nations and disadvantaged young people.

The address, 136 Getrude Street, has history. From a review in The Age Good Food Guide online in 2012:

“It’s a Gertrude Street landmark, a big, whitewashed bluestone number, strong and streamlined, built in 1865, originally as a bank, before becoming a post office, a medical clinic and, finally, in the 1970s, an Aboriginal health service, which it remained until 1992. The redeveloped interior, designed by Tandem architects, has a modish black-and-white colour scheme and a striking diamond-design bamboo floor.

Fittings are contemporary without being lavish, and the subtle placing of indigenous art alludes to the building’s recent history and its ongoing role in Aboriginal health. (The restaurant takes its name from an Archie Roach song about an Aboriginal meeting place in the Fitzroy-Collingwood area.)”

It is indeed a gorgeous old building. We used the courtyard for our event, which had room to move as well as plenty of tables and chairs to sit around and talk.

As well as eat, of course. The food was divine. We had a menu of canapes:

  • Native flavoured toast: char-grilled kangaroo, native tomato relish
  • Roasted pumpkin & capsicum frittata: pepperleaf & goats cheese
  • Crocodile & mixed vegetable spring roll: davidson plum sauce
  • Red lentil polpetti: lemon tea tree oil
  • Crispy lemon myrtle: green curried chick pea balls, wild lime sauce
  • Pork & fennel sausage rolls: tomato relish
  • Lumberjack cake: dates, apple, muntrie berry, strawberry gum leaf & butterscotch icing

Plus a made-to-order lemon aspen sponge cake. (Three layers with some sort of jam & cream in-between each, buttery icing with coconut and candied lemon aspen rind.) All was delicious, in different ways. The flavours within each dish complemented each other well.

Everyone enjoyed themselves, from the adults to the children. I’ve heard the phrase before that the best things in life are experiences, not things (or something like that). Well, Charcoal Lane, you certainly provided that on Saturday. I’d go there again, anytime.

Come for the feel-good idea; stay for the food and atmosphere! Pick Charcoal Lane, you won’t be disappointed.



Ableism, Choice and Society Bull****

I don’t know if any of you watched the most recent (3/10/16) episode of Australian Story. It was a doozy. The story was about two young adults, Michael and Taylor, who are in love and want to get married, move in together and have children.

Link to the episode on the Australian Story website.

Here’s the kicker, though. They happen to have Down Syndrome, which seems to make things a little complicated. And, unfortunately, ableist.

Reminder: ableist/ableism = prejudice/discrimination against people with disabilities (PWD). Often involves thinking for or about PWD instead of with them – i.e. reducing a disabled person’s agency/ability to act for their own selves in a situation by taking away their choice/s.

I’m sorry to say that this is what was happening in the program. I have no doubt that the parents of Michael and Taylor mean well. They’ve obviously done a good job of raising the young adults, who seem very lovely. They obviously care for their children. I even think that at least some of the concerns raised are valid. However. They are only valid in the sense that they apply to all young people (disabled or not) at some point or other as we negotiate relationships, identity and life decisions. Questions of maturity will be asked at times, as will other questions, for any number of reasons – out of concern; natural parental etc. worries (exacerbated in different ways for different families due to individual situations); or simply because you can’t please everyone, to name a few.

The difficulty of the situation outlined in the program is that Michael and Taylor’s neuro-diversity means they find certain things difficult that others just take for granted. This is unfortunately where the ableism I mentioned earlier comes in.

Claire Pullen has brilliantly dissected the situation here, for Daily Life. Read the article, please. She articulates things far better than I could – at one point while reading it, I exclaimed aloud, “Exactly! Oh my gosh, YES!” and I had a lump in my throat by the end of it, due to her eloquence.

As she articulates, the problem with how Michael and Taylor’s situation is discussed is that, in their concern, their parents have asked questions of them that amount to hoops that non-disabled adults are not asked to jump through before being “allowed” to move in together and have children. The crux of the matter is that Michael and Taylor are not being given very much agency in this…their parents’ worries have led them to control the situation. This control includes speculating about whether one or both of the young adults could be prevented from having children in a permanent fashion, through sterilisation!

To put it another way, here is part of a statement from Downs Syndrome Australia (full statement via this link – scroll to the last heading on the page) about this:

“Down Syndrome Australia believes that people with Down syndrome should be supported to have the same rights, responsibilities and opportunities as other people in the community, including in making decisions about who to marry and whether or not to have children. The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability Article 23  specifically protects the rights of people with disabilities to make decisions about whether or not to have children.

People with Down syndrome may need additional support and appropriate information before making a decision about whether or not to have a child.  This may include consideration of what services and support will be available after the child is born and how they will meet the needs of a child.  These are the same issues that people without a disability also need to consider before deciding to have a child.

Families may not always agree with the decision of the person with Down syndrome but as adults they have the right to make that decision regardless.

I have highlighted in red the part that I feel is the most important.

Simply, where is “the village” in this situation? The parents of Michael and Taylor are “not ready” to “let” their children go. They worry the burden of care of any children will fall on them. These are concerns that need airing, along with those about maturity and so on, so that the right support can be found. There would be ways of testing the maturity levels of the young adults (particularly Taylor, as her parents seem to be most concerned about that aspect), surely. Also, help can be (and seemingly is being) provided to help the young adults work through scenarios to ensure that they aren’t just following some “unrealistic” dream (as their parents fear they are).

Couldn’t these issues be addressed through the NDIS and other community support? It doesn’t have to be all-or-nothing. No-one, whether they are disabled or neurotypical/physically-able, parents in isolation. Humans are social – we help each other, don’t we?

Let me be clear, I’m not blaming the parents. They are sincere in caring about their children and want what’s best for them. But their current approach of control is unfortunately not the best one – what’s “best” in one person’s/group’s eyes is not what’s best in another’s. As Claire Pullen puts it (with my emphasis in red again),

“…I feel for Taylor and Michael’s parents. It was clear they feel a high degree of obligation and responsibility for their adult children, and the prospect of doing it all again for grandchildren is not appealing. But this has led to situations like telling the couple they can have just one daytime date per month, and could talk about their engagement in five years.

Contrary to the parents though, I don’t agree they “have to” have this much control and involvement in their children’s lives.”

Unfortunately, from what I’ve seen from comments online and things, it’s a shared problem. The situation on Australian Story the other night was just one example of how disability frequently means agency being removed/not given or assumed. This supports the idea of the social model of disability, as opposed to the medical one.

A quote from Persons With Disabilities Australia, below, explains the distinction.

“The social model of disability contrasts with what is called the medical model of disability.

According to the medical model of disability, ‘disability’ is a health condition dealt with by medical professionals. People with disability are thought to be different to ‘what is normal’or abnormal. ‘Disability’ is seen ‘to be a problem of the individual. From the medical model, a person with disability is in need of being fixed or cured. From this point of view, disability is a tragedy and people with disability are to be pitied. The medical model of disability is all about what a person cannot do and cannot be.

The social model sees  ‘disability’ is the result of the interaction between people living with impairments and an environment filled with physical, attitudinal, communication and social barriers. It therefore carries the implication that the physical, attitudinal, communication and social environment must change to enable people living with impairments to participate in society on an equal basis with others.

A social model perspective does not deny the reality of impairment nor its impact on the individual.  However, it does challenge the physical, attitudinal, communication and social environment to accommodate impairment as an expected incident of human diversity.”

Young people (indeed, all people), disabled or otherwise, are allowed to make their own choices. Whether or not others agree. As someone on Facebook said in a comment (to paraphrase): “Disability only becomes complex when support isn’t given”.

Michael and Taylor, for what it’s worth, you have my support. Thanks, to you and your parents, for being brave and sharing your story….it certainly seems to have got people talking!







Click to access WWDA_Sub_SenateInquiry_Sterilisation_March2013.pdf

REBLOG: The Human Jesus

Food for thought.

Who is/was Jesus really? Have we, in western Christendom, painted for ourselves a false picture of the Jesus that walked this planet? Greg Jenks explains…

The post below comes from the blog of Greg Jenks.  It is being posted not only because of the discussion/reflection on the humanity of Jesus but also because of the discussion on the various issues of justice which need to be addressed as and if we are followers of Jesus. Advocacy @ St Paul’s is a small group within the parish of St Paul’s, Bakery Hill in Ballarat.  We have been in existence only just over a year.  What we do here at this time is local.  Greg Jenks has given us a list on a broader scale.  We will have to consider how we can tap into these vital issues which extend beyond our Australian borders because at we welcome 2016, the Millenium Development Goals have been neither met nor completed.

The Human Jesus

[An extract from my recent book, Jesus Then and Jesus Now: Looking for Jesus, Finding Ourselves. Melbourne: Mosaic Press, 2014), pp. 124–30.]
The humanity of Jesus is not to be considered as a philosophical puzzle and carefully dovetailed with his preexistent divinity, but observed in its ordinary expressions in everyday life. Taking the humanity of Jesus seriously means that we notice his ethnicity, his religion, his economic status, and his political situation. If such categories seem odd for a discussion of Jesus it may well be an indication of just how little significance we have attributed to the humanity of Jesus.
Read more here.


Watch this video below:


I was inspired to write this note after watching the ending of The Chaser’s Media Circus on the ABC last night. Usually it’s a show I only like in small doses, but at the start of the show Mum said she’d heard about something that would occur during it.

See, Peter Greste was a panelist and according to Mum, he was going to receive a text about the pardoning of Mohammed Fahmy during the show. The story she heard was true – at the very end of the show, just as they were finishing the official business, the host was signaled by a crewperson who brought over a phone. His two teammates crowded round as he read the message and at first they – and the rest of the cast – were joking.

But Greste didn’t say anything. I could see him reading the text and his mouth dropped open in shock. “Oh my God.” He managed to say, his whole self slumping a bit in relief. The host announced the “breaking news”: Mohammed Fahmy had been pardoned and was free. They didn’t know about the fate of Baher Mohammed yet (he was pardoned too!). I was quite moved by the expression on Greste’s face, as relief gave way to surprised joy and then jubilation. I saw a glimpse of that smile of his, famous from when he’d faced the media after flying home earlier in the year. But this time, there was more joy and less tiredness to it – though still plenty of relief.

After explaining the text and accepting congratulations – including hugs from teammates and applause and cheers all-round, he went on to speak further. He apologised for feeling emotional – as if he needed to. I was getting a bit choked up myself. For as Greste said – they’d been fighting over “the past eight months” for this.

“This” was the right to be free. The three men are journalists. They had been convicted (after quite the wait) of “spreading false news and supporting the blacklisted Muslim Brotherhood”.

The fact is, it is the job of journalists to report on things that need to be known, regardless of consequences or whether or not the government(s) like what they have to say. All deserve to have freedom to do that. One of the main pillars of democracy is a free press, which is able to hold others to account. It is essential that the press are allowed to do this without fear or being beholden to anyone (not easy).

I could be a smart-aleck about this point and how true (or not) it is in places closer to home with regard to Murdoch and the recent Border Farce (for instance), but I won’t. At least, not much, today. Though it is worth thinking about.

The news of the pardon is a victory, though there is still some way to go. (I don’t think Greste himself has been pardoned yet for instance – he was just deported a few months ago.)
We must keep fighting. But for today, we can share Greste’s smile.