Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Pick up the Hot Potatoes: Asylum Seekers

The Road to Transformation is a film for The Hot Potato campaign of the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre.

It follows the #thehotpotato caravan with 10,000 spuds on its journey from Melbourne to Brisbane:

The asylum seeker debate is the Hot Potato in Australian politics. Everyone’s talking, no-one’s listening. We aim to change that. That’s why we created the hot potato van. And on the eve of the general election we took it on the road. Visiting 10 towns over 10 days, Busting 10 myths, Serving 10,000 potatoes, inspiring 10 million conversations. This is what happened.

These are real conversations about the myths, engaging and embracing the expressed concerns of people. "What they are actually angry about is politics".

Thursday, October 24, 2013

A Must Watch: Stop Watching Us

From The Electronic Frontier Foundation in the U.S.:

"StopWatching.us is a coalition of more than 100 public advocacy organizations and companies from across the political spectrum. Join the movement at https://rally.stopwatching.us. This video harnesses the voices of celebrities, activists, legal experts, and other prominent figures in speaking out against mass surveillance by the NSA. Please share widely to help us spread the message that we will not stand for the dragnet surveillance of our communications.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is a nonprofit civil liberties law and advocacy center that has been fighting the NSA's unconstitutional spying for years. Learn more at https://eff.org."

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Progress 2013 Conference to plot political futures

Tony Abbott wants us to repent. Well here’s my confession. I have sinned by:
• chipping in for the Climate Council
• signing GetUp! and Change.org petitions about asylum seekers, the Great Barrier Reef and Burger Off’s campaign against McDonald’s in Tecoma.
• voting for @Albo and agitating for Labor party reform
• joining Blog Action Day with a human rights post about Tony’s confessor Cardinal Pell
• posting questions on Our Say Australia’s forums
• commenting on stories at Guardian Australia and the Conversation
• retweeting whether it is insensitive, nay unpatriotic to use ‘bushfires’ and ‘climate’ in the same tweet
• sharing rabble-rousing republican propaganda
• adding to the Sumofus.org
• having boorish thoughts about Barnaby Joyce on QandA

It all seems very passive and dispiriting – not saving the planet, not even the backyard, but at least it keeps some of us off the streets. Or is that the problem? These are dark days indeed for progressive activists in Australia as we are rolled back to the Howard and Menzies years. Time to ask the experts.
For all is not lost. There is light in the hall. Melbourne Town Hall, that is. The Progress 2013 conference in Melbourne on 7 & 8 November is beckoning:
‘Progress 2013 is about what’s next: the issues, the people, and the strategies that will define Australia’s non-profits and social movements for years to come.’
Progress 2013 conference
There will be lots of the usual suspects coming: Jane Caro, Tim Flannery, Robert Manne, Sam McLean, Miriam Lyons, Anna Rose, Rachel Perkins, Will Stefen, Tim Costello.
It’s a very catholic gathering with specialists in: human rights law, the environment in all its manifestations, Asia, refugees, cancer, disability, indigenous peoples, film, the Middle East, public health, population, participatory democracy, international aid, the web, wilderness, women, workplaces. To paste but a slice, and that’s just the speakers.
As you would expect at this kind of get together, there are plenty of process people on the agenda: researchers, social entrepreneurs, communications nurds and social media geeks, digital natives [not my terminology], community organisers and campaigners, crowd funders, political campaigners.
There is at least one: singer/songwriter, union organiser, NGO CEO, refugee activist, charities, journalist, LGBTI advocate, columnist, feminist, digital strategist, marriage equality, youth group, philanthropist, academic, political sociologist, economist, publisher, B-Corporation (had to look that one up!], pastor and at least one citizen journalist. Some shade under multiple hats.
There are even a couple of parliamentarians coming: Wayne Swan and Scott Ludlam. The conference is not cheap, unless an organisation is sponsoring you, but it might be tax deductible. The pollies normally cover these events through their parliamentary allowances but that’s another story.
The OurSay  participatory democracy platform has 3 forums operating before the conference. The top questions will be asked of speakers during their sessions.

OurSay is also giving away three tickets to the winning question at each forum. There is still time to post a question as voting closes on 2 November. It is very democratic. You get 7 votes to spread around or give to one question. [Confession: I’m in the running]. So vote early and vote often, as was oft heard around the Collingwood or Richmond town halls of yesteryear.
One of the forums is Words Count. The questions are for ‘Messaging guru and author’, Anat Shenker-Osorio.

Timely given the insistence of Immigration Minister Morrison that asylum seekers be labelled “illegals” when they arrive by boat and “detainees” when he’s locked them up out of sight in our latest version of purgatory.
Finally, if you’re a follower of fashion then the flavor of the month is orange, part of the livery of Cathy McGowan’s successful Federal election campaign for Indi. Since we are having trouble getting our act together globally, we are all now thinking locally. Community campaigning is the rage since her triumph.
Ben McGowan, co-founder of Voice for Indi will be there. A drink or two with Ben and Obama field campaign director, Jeremy Bird, should be a door prize but you’ll have to elbow past me to be part of that round. There is a conference party for ticket holders at Thousand Pound Bend that will be opened by local member of the House of Reps, Adam Bandt. All expenses paid perhaps – if so it’s his shout.
Following last Saturday’s NSW Miranda by-election, I fancy an orange firies’ suit for any kitchen table talk.
Anyway, come along and help plot a progressive future. If not then follow @ausprogress#progress2013 or the Facebook page.
* The conference is organised by the Centre for Australian Progress ‘a new organisation dedicated to building the advocacy capacity of Australia’s civil society’.
For further coverage of Progress 2013, please watch this space.

Update: A list of Who’s coming to Progress 2013

Update 30 October: Video - 7 days to go - will you be there?

Cross post with No Fibs.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Support the National Day of Climate Action 17 November 2013

"The last month was the hottest on record.
The last 12 months were the hottest on record.
The last summer was the hottest on record, breaking 120 records.
This year? Summer has come early and bushfires are burning.

Meanwhile, Tony Abbott and our new Government are already going backwards on climate change. They've cut the climate department, abolished the Climate Commission, and are getting ready to try repeal a price on pollution and renewable energy funding.
Politicians have severely underestimated how much Australians care about climate change. Right now, it is more important than ever before that we make it clear that the majority of Australians want climate action.

Chip in at www.getup.org.au/climateaction and help us make this massive climate action project a reality."

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Australian Catholic Cardinal Centre of Child Sexual Abuse Scandal

This Human Rights post is part of Blog Action Day on 16 October 2013. It is a cross-post at Global Voices Online.

Two sisters were repeatedly raped by their parish priest in an Australian primary school. One later committed suicide. The other became a binge drinker and is disabled after being hit by a car. Their parents want laws to make the Catholic Church look after victims properly. Their mother told the story in her book Hell On The Way To Heaven.

Since its publication in 2010, action is finally being taken. There are currently three government inquiries in Australia into institutional responses to sexual abuse of children.

As Clerical Whispers reported in May 2013, the State of New South Wales investigation followed police whistleblower Detective Chief Inspector Peter Fox's allegations of Catholic church cover-ups in the Hunter Valley region.

In the State of Victoria, the Family and Community Development Committee of parliament has the task of reporting:
...on the processes by which religious and other non-government organisations respond to the criminal abuse of children by personnel within their organisations

The committee was set up after admissions by the Catholic hierarchy of forty suicides among 620 victims of child sexual abuse by its clergy. It is due to report in November 2013.

Then Prime Minister Julia Gillard established the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in late 2012. The commission is examining:
...how institutions with a responsibility for children have managed and responded to allegations and instances of child sexual abuse.

...any private, public or non-government organisation that is, or was in the past, involved with children, including government agencies, schools, sporting clubs, orphanages, foster care, and religious organisations.

Despite the broad brush of the terms of reference, the Catholic church has taken the brunt of public criticism so far. In particular, the Archbishop of Sydney Cardinal George Pell has been the centre of the controversy for his approach to offenders and victims over an extended period. His appearance at the Victorian committee in May 2013 created a storm when he admitted church cover-ups.

Ian Richardson's reaction was typical of the twitterverse:

Rock in the grass was incensed by the Cardinal's moralising:
Sam Butler made the inevitable comparison with Rupert Murdoch’s evidence in 2011 to the British parliamentary committee concerning the phone hacking scandal:
It was just one of a multitude of tweets linking to well-respected journalist David Marr’s report for the Guardian.

Meanwhile Cartoonist Jon Kudelka had his usual eye for The Details:

The Details - Cartoon courtesy Jon Kudelka
At The Conversation blog Judy Courtin assessed Pell’s apology:
If we were to rate his performance as an actor with his apology he would have just passed as an actor. The apology, along with any empathy or compassion, was entirely lacking.
Subsequently David Marr has written an in-depth essay for the September Quarterly magazine: The Prince: Faith, Abuse and George Pell (Essay 51):
He [Pell] knows children have been wrecked. He apologises again and again. He even sees that the hostility of the press he so deplores has helped the church face the scandal. What he doesn’t get is the hostility to the church. Whatever else he believes in, Pell has profound faith in the Catholic Church. He guards it with his life. Nations come and go but the church remains.
Jeremy von Einem's tweet is representative of the general reaction to Marr’s essay:

John Lord captured the revulsion and the anger that many readers felt:
Whilst reading it I had to stop many times and reflect on the enormity of the sins of the fathers. More than once I shed a tear whilst uttering the word, bastards.

But this essay is as much about Pell (I don’t feel the need to be particularly aware of protocol and use his title) the man as it is about child abuse. When all is stripped back we see a man of very little love for flock but great love for the institution of church, the privileges that come with it and the power it commands. Consequently Pell is adored by the church but despised by the people.
Cardinal Pell responded to the essay with a written statement:
A predictable and selective rehash of old material. G.K.Chesterton said: 'A good novel tells us the truth about its hero; a bad novel tells us the truth about its author'. Marr has no idea what motivates a believing Christian.

The Prince has its critics. Andrew Hamilton is consulting editor at Eureka Street, the online publication of the Australian Jesuits. In his analysis Marring the Cardinal's image he sees the essay as “elegant” but “unfair”:
The limitations of Marr's account are the obverse of its virtues. It is not a dispassionate judgment but a prosecution brief. It sifts Pell's motives and words but not those of his critics, and simplifies complexities.

Kate Edwards at Australia Incognita is a critic of Cardinal Pell but thinks Marr missed the ‘Real Story’:
The article provides no new insights on the Cardinal's various disastrous interactions with victims and the laity in relation to the scandal; no new insights into just why he and many others in the Church were so reluctant to listen or act. To me that seems a great shame.

Despite being the central player in the sordid history of abuse and cover-up, the Catholic Church was not first case study off the rank at the Royal Commission public hearings. That dishonour went to the Scouts, reinforcing a long-held stereotype.

The Catholic Church’s Truth, Justice and Healing Council has made a lengthy submission to the Commission’s Towards Healing processes. Meanwhile, an appearance at the inquiry by Cardinal Pell is eagerly awaited by both critics and supporters.

Outside the Victorian inquiry, support group CLAN (Care Leavers Australia Network) spoke for people brought up in "care":

Care Leavers Australia Network outside Victoria's Parliament House.
Courtesy CLAN website

The Royal Commission is expected to take several years to complete its investigations and make recommendations to the Federal government.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Story of Stuff: Not Just More - Better!

From the Story of Stuff Project

The Story of Solutions:
...explores how we can move our economy in a more sustainable and just direction, starting with orienting ourselves toward a new goal.

In the current 'Game of More', we're told to cheer a growing economy -- more roads, more malls, more Stuff! -- even though our health indicators are worsening, income inequality is growing and polar icecaps are melting.

But what if we changed the point of the game? What if the goal of our economy wasn't more, but better -- better health, better jobs and a better chance to survive on the planet?

We definitely need more game changers!