Alice Shaw

Archive for the ‘Opinion’ Category

If I Had My Time Again…

In Opinion on July 15, 2011 at 6:35 am

I had a disturbing dream last night.  I dreamt I had gone back in time.  I think it was to the early 80’s or thereabouts.  In the dream I was running around telling people about all sorts of things to come.   HIV/AIDS, John Howard becoming Prime Minister, global warming and so on.  I was clearly in a strange mood when I went to bed and may think twice before consuming the better part of a family sized block of fruit and nut chocolate that late at night in the future.  At one point in the dream, I was surrounded by strangers and feeling a bit panicky, so I grabbed my mobile phone out of my pocket to call for help, but it was completely dead.  No phone towers and wireless internet back then!  I think this freaked me out the most. 

But it did get me thinking about whether I would want to have my time over again.  In the film “Peggy Sue Got Married”, Peggy Sue is transported back in time, to her teenage years in the 1950’s and although it seems she goes back to sort things out with her husband, she is smart enough to also use the time to try an invent pantihose.  No entrepreneur am I it seems as it didn’t even occur to me in the dream to try and invent Google

The questions I asked myself when I woke up was, if I had the choice to go back to the start and do it all again, would I?  The answer is no.  I have worked hard to get to where I am today, a place of relative peace but I went through a lot to get here, including some pretty serious heartache and I just don’t think I could do it all again.  But what if you could be given the chance to go back, armed with the knowledge you have now?  I mean it’s tempting when you think about it.  You could go back and break up with that wrong person, before they broke up with you first.  You could ace that interview for that job you desperately wanted but missed out on.  You could be clever with money (or maybe that one is just for me).  You could use all those fantastic come back lines that you only thought of long after the person antagonising you walked away.  And maybe could keep the one that got away from getting away and you could live happily ever after.  But would it really be worth it?  There are a couple of things I would change if I could but not if I had to re-live my whole life.  One thing for sure is that I would have left a very bad marriage a lot sooner, but not if it meant not having my children.  And so there are always “buts” attached.  Sometimes, when things seem very bad indeed, and the universe keeps throwing up all kinds of unpleasantness, it can be tempting to ponder a clean slate.  But messy as some of my life has been from time to time, that dream last night made me realise that everything I’ve been through has brought me to a pretty good place today, and I am not sure I would have been here had it not been for the adversities that life has thrown my way.

 So would you do it?  Would you wipe the slate clean and start over again?  Would you do it with the knowledge you have now if you could or would you start afresh?  Or is it better to leave well enough alone?



Little Girl Lost

In Opinion on August 6, 2010 at 10:37 am

Where is Kiesha Abrahams?  Somebody must know.  She is just six years old and has been gone for 6 days.     She apparently went to bed at 9.30pm last Saturday night and was left unchecked until 9.30am the next morning.  That seems like a very late night for a little girl and a very long time to be left without being checked on.

Kiesha’s mother states that her little girl had spent the previous three weeks with her.  Her grandmother was the last person to see her on 7th July.  Even given the recent birth of her baby brother, surely someone should have seen Kiesha during that time. 

There are many worrying things about this case.  The apparent length of time that Kiesha went unseen by anyone other than her mother.  Her long absences from school.  The previous treatment for a human, adult bite.  And the sketchy time line.

Jaidyn Leskie went missing in June 1997.  He was being cared for by his mother’s boyfriend, whilst his mother was out drinking at a nightclub.  The boyfriend says that he left this 14 month old baby boy sleeping in his home whilst he drove several kilometres to collect Jaidyn’s mother.  But there were several discrepancies in the story.  And the time line didn’t fit.  There are many similarities between Jaidyn’s story and Kiesha’s.

There is something just not right Kiesha’s disappearance..  Why wasn’t she seen by anyone other than her mother for three weeks?  Why did both her step-father and her mother refer to her in the past tense?  And why did her mother completely cover her face whilst appealing to the public for help?  I can only imagine the terror of finding your child missing, of going through each day desperate for their return.  I can only imagine how hard it must be to go in front of cameras and ask for public assistance.  But when a person avoids eye contact, covers their face and looks away, it seems as though they are hiding something.  When Madeleine McCann went missing in Portugal in 2007 her parents begged and pleaded on television for her safe return.  They openly implored anyone who may have seen her for help.  They have admitted their error in leaving their children unattended, albeit close by, but they never hid their faces.  It’s something to consider.

A friend recently reminded me of how Lindy Chamberlain was treated.  Initially the story was received with shock and concern.  But public opinion quickly turned against her and she was tried and convicted by the public long before the matter ever got to court.  So maybe Kristi Abrahams was just too distraught to show her face, and maybe she was grieving so much she accidentally referred to her daughter in the past tense.  But I don’t think so.

I think that Kiesha is already dead, and probably has been since just before she was reported missing.  I think that her mother probably knows what happened to her.  I think the kidnap story seemed the most feasible to cover up a murder.  And I think Kiesha will be found, eventually, in or near water.

 Speculation is that Kiesha was known to child protection services and as more information emerges, there will no doubt be a backlash against the services charged with keeping children safe.  But child protection workers are run off their feet, particularly in certain areas of Sydney.  And ultimately the people charged with keeping Kiesha safe, are her parents and there is already enough information emerging to suggest that they did anything but that. 

 I sincerely hope this story will have a happy ending.  I fear that it almost certainly will not.

Is $37 Million Enough?

In Opinion on August 3, 2010 at 11:10 am

Why shouldn’t Kristy Fraser-Kirk sue for damages?  She had to endure unwanted sexual advances from a man in such a high position that she could easily lose her job should he decide to make it so.  She allegedly told her employers of the sexual harassment she was suffering on a regular basis and they apparently did nothing.  She, like hundreds of other women, of all ages, was subjected to the kind of behaviour that is quite simply not acceptable in a place of employment but which is still accepted, in many work places.  Some men, no matter what, will consider you to be fair game, because you are a woman.  I challenge any woman to go to work, or to a social gathering with a group of women, and ask around about who has been subjected to sexual innuendo, unwanted touching, an inference that their job will be made a lot easier if they are “nice” to the boss.  I think you would be hard pressed to find many women who have not been subjected to this behaviour, on some level, through their working lives.

 Columnists such as Susie O’Brien do all women a grave disservice by suggesting that since rape victims get as little as $50,000 in compensation, then Ms Fraser-Kirk’s claim is way over the top.  This claim highlights just how badly Australia treats its rape victims.  When women are the victims of such crimes there seems to be a suggestion that the victim must prove her derservingness for compensation.  She seemingly must disprove that she did anything that might provoke sexually offensive behaviour.

 I applaud Ms Fraser-Kirk.  The 7pm Project stated this evening that everyone seemed to be talking about the money, rather than the sexual harassment itself.  I firmly believe that if there was no $37 million claim, then no one would be talking about the incident at all.  The millions of dollars that Ms Fraser-Kirk is claiming are punitive damages.  Punitive means to punish.  Does anyone really believe that $100,000 or so will make any difference at all to a multi-billion dollar company like David Jones?  Is that amount really going to punish them?  Has Mark McInnes actually learned his lesson, or has he just scuttled off overseas to enjoy his life, away from the spotlight, to potentially go on and behave the same way in some future job?  If he loses an amount equivalent to 5% of his salary then perhaps that will make him think twice.  The $37 million claim is not about greed, or making up for losing a job.  It is about punishing those who allowed this young woman to go through this level of harassment.  It is to send a crystal clear message to any other high flying company and it’s executives that if you force yourself upon a female employee, there will be consequences.  Hopefully $37 million worth of consequences in this particular case will be an adequate deterrent.

 Ms Frazer-Kirk has stated that she will give any punitive damages awarded to her to a women’s charity to assist women who have been victims of sexually offensive behaviour.  This is an honourable gesture on her part and she should be applauded for making it rather than having her character called into question by those who suggest that she won’t follow through with this promise.

 Discussion surrounding the sexual misconduct of Mr McInnes, the response by David Jones to her allegedly drawing their attention to the matter, and the subsequent legal action brought by Ms Fraser-Kirk must not become about discrediting the victim.  Mr McInnes was the perpetrator and the suggestion is that to some extent, David Jones allegedly sought to cover up his behaviour.  There needs to be accountability and there needs to be a clear and firm message sent to every male employer, who holds a position of power, that it is not okay for them to use this power in order to satisfy their own sexual needs.  It is not okay for anybody in a position of power to utilise their position in order to seek to gain sexual acquiescence from any of their employees.

 Any person who victimises their employees through sexual misconduct should hang their heads in shame and resign immediately.  They are undeserving of their high ranking, highly paid positions. 

 So, is $37 million enough to stop sexual harassment and intimidation in the work place?  Let’s hope so.

My Name is Rosie

In Opinion on July 29, 2010 at 9:27 am

My name is Rosie, and I am of mixed race, Tasmanian Aboriginal, and Anglo-Saxon.  I carry the guilt of one side along with the suffering of the other, with the scars caused by the racism visited on my family and myself by both.

I grew up in a small town, where my grandparents lived; my mum’s parents.  Dad’s mum lived about an hour away, and she was disapproving to say the least, of mum, and of us.

But Nanna wasn’t the only one, and, oddly enough, her contempt was the least hurtful, mainly because she was, well, she was Nanna, and she was difficult, and very opinionated, and so far as we could see, she hated all of her children’s spouses.  The things that hurt the most were the ones we encountered on a daily basis.

My entire family suffered under the yoke of the label of ‘Abo’, and all the negative connotations of, not so much the word, but the way it was said; with a sneer, and a glower.  We were below the lowest rung on the social ladder, and expected to remember that.  We were thieves, drunks, child rapists, drunks and violent.

One of the clearest  – and most hurtful, even 32 years later – memories of racism I have comes from when I was 8.  A girl in my class had invited me to her birthday party, and, all excited to be attending my first ‘proper’ birthday party, I arrived at the appointed time.  The main part of the party was outside, we had fairy bread, and cocktail franks, and all the usual party food, until it was time for cake – then we had to go inside, because it was an icecream cake, and a blisteringly hot summer day.  Everyone except me that is, I was stopped at the door by her mother, who informed me she didn’t want a ‘filthy, thieving Abo’ in her house.  I left in tears, went home, and told my parents I left because I didn’t feel well.  To this day, Mum does not know the truth.  Dad never knew.  It would have destroyed them.  As much as it is the job of parents to protect their children, sometimes children have to protect their parents.

I was taunted at school, followed around shops, frisked before leaving, and at times, I was followed home, to be accused of stealing.  I was bashed and abused by my peers – those who didn’t go out of their way to avoid me, in case they got some form of contagion from the Abo.  If I went to someone’s home, I was expected to enter and leave by the back door, and to make sure there was no-one around to see me arrive or leave.  My extended family, most of whom lived out of town, and were the cause of our labelling as thieving, lazy, drunk and violent, were furious with my parents for paying rent to a white landlord, and sending us to a whitefella school, where we were only learning how worthless the whites thought we were.

The most vocal of these was my Uncle, who lived in the bush in a corrugated iron shanty, with his wife, son, and daughter.  He was a violent drunk, who delighted in belting his wife and daughter, and would ‘hire’ his family out in exchange for grog.  I despised him, and dreaded those occasions where we had to see him.  Sadly, he really was my uncle, an actual blood relative.  I sincerely hope he burns in Hell.  The townspeople I can forgive, to a degree, but not him.  The damage he did to me, and my family, as well as his own, is immeasurable, and unforgivable.

We left the area when I was 14, but I still haven’t healed the wounds that those years caused.  To this day, I fear being judged for what I am, rather than who I am.  I still struggle to get my head around the race debate; I live with one foot on either side of the line, with my head and heart in the middle, spinning in a various random directions.  And the older I get, the worse it gets.  The scars thicken, and the spinning in my head and heart get faster, and more random.

I have never been back to the town where I spent most of my childhood, and I cannot see it ever happening.  There are just too many ghosts, and too much pain.  I carry the people there with me every single day, both the good and the bad.  I will do so for the rest of my life.  And that is ok, they helped shape me.

I will continue to correct those who call me an Indigenous Australian (I find the term offensive), and defend my right to do so.

I will also continue to defend my right to celebrate Australia Day as Australia Day, rather than Invasion Day, as certain activists would have me do.  My beliefs and principles are the things that make me who I am, here and now.  What happened to me, and my family, in the past, may help to shape me, and continue to hurt me, but it is not who I am.  While I may not be completely sure exactly who that is, I am damn sure that whoever it is, is more than the sum of a few strands of DNA.

Abuse by Any Other Name is Still Domestic Violence

In Opinion on July 25, 2010 at 10:25 am

Oh dear, Mel Gibson is at again.  His last tirade was an anti-Semitic rant which was unforgiveable, and for which he had no choice but to publicly apologise.  He was quite humble about it all.  He isn’t a racist anti- Semite at all apparently, and so, despite the ugliness of it, he was allowed to move on.

 But Mel is at the centre of a media storm again.  This time he allegedly raged at his former girlfriend Oksana Grigorieva and she caught it all on tape.    He apparently hurled vicious verbal abuse at her, insulting not just her but his tiny baby daughter who was with Grigorieva at the time of the attack.  Vile name calling and racist remarks peppered his rant.  There has been plenty of media coverage of the alleged abuse but we have not heard the tapes yet and we have heard barely anything from the Gibson camp.  There has been no humble apology this time.  Because this time, there might just be a way of having his behaviour excused.  Reports have begun to emerge that Oksana is being investigated for extortion – pardon my cynicism but I wonder who leaked that bit of information to the press.  Further, there has been a report that Mel had begun to try and give up smoking on the very day that he unleashed his verbal tirade against his former girlfriend.  Oh, and he thought that she was having an affair.  Well I guess that makes it okay then.

 But let me point out that when you scream abuse at any woman, you are an abuser.  When you rage against her, obscenities flying from your mouth, you are a perpetrator of domestic violence.  Yes you are.  You can dress it up in excuses about giving up smoking, or fears of an affair or any other of the mitigating circumstances that perpetrators try and bring up to negate the seriousness of their actions.  How many women were punched in the face this week for buying the wrong butter.  How many women wore long sleeves to work so they could conceal the bruises they got when they looked the wrong way at a male friend.  How many women spend every day hearing that they are stupid, they are useless, they are dirty, they are whores, they are worthless, they are bad mothers, they are psychotic?  The list goes on.  And how many children are also exposed to this nightmare?

 Is it possible that Mel Gibson has become violent, abusive and menacing after his 30 year marriage to Robyn Gibson ended?  Yes it is.  Is it likely that he was never verbally abusive to her?  I would argue that unfortunately, no it is not.  I suspect that Mel has been skilled at hiding his abusive nature under his oh so public front of devoted Catholic father.  He has been quick over the years to refer to his Catholicism as though it somehow made him above reproach. 

 Domestic violence is an insidious and on-going problem which permeates all walks of life, from the rich and privileged to those on the poverty line.  It knows no class divide and domestic violence is predominately perpetrated by men, against women.  In far too many cases, we hear of the perpetrator attempting to discredit his victim in order to reduce his culpability.  It is very disappointing not to have heard from other prominent male figures in Hollywood regarding this incident.  I realise that the media are still using the words “alleged” and “apparently” in their reports and that we have still only heard Oksana’s side of the story, but just once I would like to see a group of well known, easily recognised men, genuinely speak out against the crime of domestic violence, instead of the victim frantically scrabbling to keep herself safe, lest the perpetrator be successful in convincing everyone that she, is in fact, to blame.

 As more information emerges, particularly that which is detrimental to Oksana, we would do well to remember that domestic violence is a crime.  It does not matter if she was having an affair, or if she wore something Mel didn’t like or if she told him to go take a flying leap.  She is the victim.  It is the perpetrator who must be brought to task.