103 years ago Australian and New Zealand forces landed at Gallipoli. Their aim was to capture the capital of the Ottoman Empire, a staunch supporter of Germany, and to open up the Gallipoli Peninsula and thus the Black Sea to the Allied forces. Australian and New Zealand servicemen were dropped off at the wrong location and soon found themselves in a stalemate with no hope of progressing. After 8 months of futility and death the Anzac forces were evacuated. Over 11,000 Australian and New Zealanders died during these 8 months. Being countries with such low populations the effects were devastating.
Captain, oh my Captain. How I wish thee were a minister and not a senator so that thee could become Prime Minister of Australia. Senator Wong is quite simply the best person in Australian politics. She can manage to give the vibe of an eye roll without being so petty as to resort to an eye roll. She is one of Australia’s most popular politicians and it’s because of two simple things, which should be common in politics but are unfortunately rare, she’s firm but also fair.
In 2016 Senator Brandis tried to language police Senator Wong, trying to shame her for using standard expressions instead of formal English at all time, she responded with this ripper, ‘Would you just like to be pompous for the whole day, or only this question?’ And I swear a bit of excited wee snuck out when I heard that. In 2018 when Michaelia Cash, our Minister for Women FFS, decided to randomly slur all the younger women in Opposition Leader Bill Shorten’s office rather than answer a question posed to her. Senator Wong wasn’t even in the hearing, heard about the outrageous slurs against women being made be our Minister for Women, rocked up to the hearing, demanded an apology, refused to accept Michaelia Cash dodging the issue, and indeed got an apology. I know who our real Minister for Women is, Senator Bloody Wong. Furthermore, in 2011 when David Bushby meowed at her during Senate she gave him such an unimpressed look that I thought he might just whither and die. Later he claimed he wasn’t being a sexist fool, yeah right mate you meow at men all the time, but Senator Wong was having none of his shit. She responded, which was important for all women, because it is past time for us to ignore these constant, sexist microaggressions and time for them to stop. #timesup. Senator Wong said, “It is just extraordinary. The blokes are allowed to yell but if a woman stands her ground, you want to make that kind of comment. It’s not schoolyard politics, mate.”
When she first assumed office in 2002 Senator Wong was one of only a handful of women in higher political positions and certainly the only gay Asian female candidate. In fact she was the first Asian born member of an Australian cabinet, the second openly gay member and the first openly gay female member. Things have changed in terms of diversity thanks to Senator Wong’s impressive lead but we still have a long way to go. In 2013 Senator Wong was appointed as Leader of the Government in the Senate and was the first woman to hold that position. Late in the same year when Labor lost government she was appointed as the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, she is the first woman to hold this position also.
Senator Wong was appointed Minister for Climate Change in 2007. She made significant advances in funding renewable energy, in particular solar and wind power. She also helped to develope the government’s emissions trading scheme under the Rudd government which was to significantly reduce our greenhouse emissions. In 2010 she was appointed as the Finance Minister and helped develop Australia’s budgets during the Global Financial Crisis. Australia has been praised as standing relatively secure during this time. During this time Wong most notably implemented a policy to ensure women are considered for senior positions in both the government and corporations. She truly is our Minister for Women and I cannot think of a better politician to discuss on International Women’s Day. On top of this Wong was instrumental in changing Labor’s policy in regards to Same Sex Marriage. Labor had initially opposed SSM but through work by Penny Wong and other members of Labor the policy was changed and they began to actively campaign for a change in Australian marriage laws. From January 9th 2018 on SSM has been legalised in Australia.
In 1997 Pauline Hanson released Pauline Hanson: The Truth in which she claimed that by 2050 Australia would be run by an Asian, lesbian Cyborg… named Poona Li Hung. She actually named it! Let’s not unpack all of that right now because this is Senator Wong’s entry not Pauline Hanson’s. But Australia is more than happy to drop the cyborg bit and bring the date forward for Penny Wong. Please become our supreme ruler, we love you.
Senator Wong sitting in front of a grey background with her hands folded in front of her. Soft but cheeky smile. Wearing blue suit with purple and white vertical stripe top. Quote: You can choose not to be interested in politics, but you can’t choose to be unaffected by it.
Read my profiles of the Australian Book Industry here.
The passing of Gough Whitlam, an iconic Australian politician, has stirred many feelings amongst the Australian public. For me I admired how once ousted Whitlam picked himself up, dusted himself off and set about taking his life in a different direction but still bringing about change to the Australian public. He embodied the phoenix rising from the ashes. This starkly contrasted with another recent Australian former politician, Kevin Rudd, who when ousted set about quite an aggressive campaign to claw his way back into his previous position. The changes he had wanted to bring to the Australian public had been all but forgotten and all he wanted was the position. He couldn’t see the forest for the trees. These two ex Prime Ministers demonstrated two very different approaches to adversity and ruin. Rise up and away from the adversity and continue on to live your dream in a more liberated way, or, become so obsessed with one detail that the bile and the hatred flows out of you destroying yourself and those around you.
Your move, how will you face adversity? Whitlam it or Rudd it?
There is a lack of Indigenous Representation in the type of literature that kids like to read. This is something I initially posted about on my personal Facebook profile rather than on this blog because I was concerned about being torn apart like so many people trying to tackle this incredibly sensitive issue before me. I’m white, I’m female, I’m educated and these days I’m middle class, so what do I know about these issues? True. I am utterly unqualified. I am not an Indigenous Australian, I have not lived an Indigenous existence and I do not live in an Indigenous community. I cannot deny that, nor am I trying too. But I have decided that this issue is too important for me not to say something. So even if I get called ignorant or superficial at least people will be thinking about it. And hopefully those thoughts will help come up with a solution. So here is my Facebook post cut and pasted directly here.
Alright people. I’m doing it. I’m going political… or cultural. I’m going something controversial, not sure of the label but it definitely would have one.
Let’s talk about the lack of representation of Indigenous Australian characters and stories in Australian Literature and “white man’s” (self included) fear of portraying them.
I think we can all agree that there is a lack of Indigenous representation across all genres. Sure there is some literary and memoir style Australian fiction out there looking at settlement/invasion/colonisation, but let’s be honest, how many children sit about thinking, “Gee, I’d love to read some literary historical piece that can be very heavy handed and judgemental.” Not many. They’re thinking things like, “Harry Potter is awesome, Twilight is tots romantic, Hunger Games is the bomb yo.” So if we want our youth (black, white, green, purple, sparkling) engaging with Indigenous issues/characters/themes, then surely we need to but it into novels that they’ll actually want to read.
Now the three novels that I’ve mentioned above that have taken youth by storm are all Speculative Fiction, which to me means Australian writers need to put Indigenous content into this genre. But how can we when we’re too scared too. Yep, there I said it, I admit it, I’m too scared too and I’m not the only ones. Now I’m sure Indigenous authors aren’t too scared to. That they feel totally comfortable writing about their own heritage but there’s a slight problem with that. The problem isn’t only that we have an education gap making literacy levels low amongst indigenous populations low, hence writing a whole novel and going through the long journey to get published quite challenging. But also that even in an ideal world where this gap is bridged, the Indigenous population only accounts for around 3% of the Australian population. And let’s face it, not everybody is born to be a writer, so we’re looking at a very small drawing pool. On top of that not everybody has exactly the same taste is books. Even amongst Speculative Fiction fans you have those that both love and hate Tolkien. So to expect this small drawing pool to produce works of mass appeal is just ridiculous. Sure it only take one, like JK Rowling to come along and inspire a generation, but we cannot expect every writer in the Indigenous community to be the next Rowling anymore than we can expect it of any other community. Not only that, not every writer wants to write for children or young adult. The pool gets smaller yet.
So, how do we fix it? Forced breeding to increase the population? Let the petrified white writer have access to the stories as well? Do nothing but whinge? Do what we do now (self included), have Indigenous minor characters but avoid drawing on the Dreaming or any settings or major characters? I honestly don’t know how this issue can be fixed. I could rather glibly say that stories should be available to everyone. That Celtic and European folktales, myths, legends, history and religion seem to be open slather for anyone to appropriate, so why can’t writers of any culture just draw on anything and anywhere to serve their story. But I can tell you this, I love the stories from Hinduism but I’m sure not going to write about that either. Because not only am I scared that this Celt would unintentionally offend someone but also because I know I would get crucified for it. White writers who tackle other cultures, even previously popular writers, have a history of being torn apart. I, an unpublished, very pale skinned, blue eyed, woman of Scottish and Welsh heritage, am surely not the one to fly in the face of this history and solve all problems. So for my part, I’ll continue to have Indigenous minor characters and refer to Indigenous plants but who will do more? Who can bridge this gap and solve this lack of representation? Thoughts?
I would normally blog about something this lengthy (and yes I know I’ve barely scratched the surface of this incredibly complex and sensitive issue) but quite frankly I have no desire to be called a stupid racist by complete strangers… I’ll leave that to my friends 😉
This rant was inspired by something #KateForsyth said at the Monsters Under the Bed discussion hosted at the New South Wales Writer’s Centre #nswwc about the need to increase the representation of Indigenous stories and the complexities involved in this.