Upbeat stories for downbeat times

May 10th, 2014  |  Published in Social justice (general)

While the Australian government spends like drunken sailors on fighter planes, mega-agencies for ‘border-protection’ (a.k.a. brutalisation of asylum seekers) and sweeteners for Big Business, it also preaches ‘heavy lifting’ for ‘the other 99%’ and budget cuts to health, education, welfare, research, the environment, and public broadcasting.

Such dispiriting politics call for multiple responses – including counterexamples.

Here are four stories that lift my spirit; please feel warmly invited to add more.

  1. Oxford2Aboriginal student, Jessyca Hutchens, is heading to Oxford to do her PhD in art history, where she will join several other Aboriginal students already there (click here).
    Jessyca had a choice of Oxford or Cambridge(!) and goes to Oxford on a Charles Perkins scholarship – named for the renowned Aboriginal activist (and football player).
    Jessyca is a descendant of the Palyku people of the Pilbara region of Western Australia; her aunt is Sally Morgan (“My Place”, 1987, click here); her grandmother was one of the stolen generations; her sister, Rebecca, this year became the first Indigenous student to win the Medical Association’s top prize, and her cousin, Aurora Milroy, is graduating with first-class honours in law.
    Herein lies hope for the future.
  2. Australian football recently held its inaugural gay pride match, with fifty-metre rainbow lines at each end of the ground, and one minute’s silence before the match, led by a Uniting Church minister, for “same-sex attracted young people who have taken their lives in fear and humiliation.” (click here).
    It is not long ago (2012) that Jason Ball came out as gay in a game where “faggot”Gay pride Australian football and “homo” were ‘normal’ insults.
    I am personally ambivalent about Australian football (being inclined to view it as socially sanctioned violence) but recognise its achievements in bringing racism to public attention (click here), and now challenging homophobia. It may even be starting to own its entrenched sexism (click here).
    We do make progress – through many contributions (including football).
  3. The 100 Story Building is a space in the multicultural multilingual western suburbs of Melbourne where children can learn how the writing, illustrating and other creative industries work, and that the creative life of their literary heroes is a real possibility (click here for Alice Pung’s essay on this project in the Griffith Review; I saw an edited version in The Age, 6 May 2014, pp.12,13, but could not find a link to that).
    The 100 Story Building is a registered charity, run by Lachlann Carter (primary school teacher), Jenna Williams (who also works at the Footscray Community Arts Centre) and Jessica Tran (who previously worked in the publishing industry).
    Children explore creativityMany of the children who participate have serious roles as interpreters and cultural guides for their refugee and migrant parents and family members.
    At the 100 Story Building they can be children – writing about zombies and secret trapdoors and sea creatures.
    The space is floor-to-ceiling bookshelves, and boasts a sealed trapdoor leading to the other 99 underground storeys (such as Level 22 – currently overrun by rabid adjectives).
    What an amazing kickstart for creativity and new ideas.
  4. A bittersweet obituary also caught my eye (click here). Hardly the stuff of good news, perhaps, but this tribute is for a Good Person and we/I need to hold such instances close.
    Father Frans van der Lugt (10.4.1938 to 7.4.2014) was a Dutch Jesuit who worked in the Middle East for the best part of 50 years, mostly in Syria where he chose to remain when civil war broke out in 2011.
    He may well, it seems, have come from a relatively privileged background (his father was a banker) but did not take advantage of the benefits, apart from education, completing his PhD in Psychology in France during an interlude from his main commitments.
    He founded an institute for handicapped children, and offered shelter to the shunned and ill, making no distinctions on the basis of religion or ethnicity.
    He survived during the Syrian siege on olives and broth fortified with weeds picked off the street, documented the spread of mental illness, and broadcast to the world what was happening through YouTube.
    He was shot in the head by a lone masked gunman on 7 April this year.
    Best Themis blessings, Father Frans, and thank you for your time in our world.

Social justice exemplified

Please add your items of good news and help maintain morale

Joan Beckwith

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4 comments on “Upbeat stories for downbeat times”

  1. Facebook ‘Like’ button removed on this post because Facebook glitch wiped the record prior to mid-May 2014…Joan Beckwith.

  2. Here’s an interesting article about a man who is starting a union for people who are homeless. Refers to a similar organisation in America in the 1980s that had a membership of 15,000 at its peak, and provides details of how to make contact for those interested in getting involved…Joan Beckwith. http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/life-on-the-streets-prompts-mission-for-homeless-union-20140509-zr7xh.html

  3. George Baumann says:

    Mine is only a small, local good news story. Our Mort Bay Community Garden held its much planned for Garden Party yesterday, a beautiful Sydney Saturday morning. Hundreds of locals turned up, we had a smoking ceremony performed by uncle Max, a local Aborigine elder, and short speeches were made by our state member (Jamie Parker, Greens), the actor Bruce Spence, who’s an avid gardener and our President, Florence (Mo) McCarthy. 33 new members signed up, and we raised well over $3000 from membership fees ($30 a year), veg. stew, sausage, cake and coffee sales and raffle tickets. Seedlings and cordial drinks were free. All tired & happy.

    • Local good news stories totally hit the spot I think, George. I feel warmed just hearing about it, so for those there I imagine it would have been a wonderfully communal event. And what an amazing combination of non-dominant politics, respect for original owners and the environment, culture and great (by the sound of it) organisation…Joan Beckwith.

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