Modest Expectations – On the Seventh Day

Let us also pray for the Jews: That our God and Lord may illuminate their hearts, that they acknowledge Jesus Christ is the Saviour of all men. 

Pope Benedict XVI

Almighty and eternal God, who want that all men be saved and come to the recognition of the truth, propitiously grant that even as the fullness of the peoples enters Thy Church, all Israel be saved. Through Christ Our Lord. Amen.  Good Friday Prayer sanctioned by Benedict XVI.

I always impose a riddle when I construct each of my blogs trying not to repeat myself, and I prepare them months before they appear. This riddle was formulated in September. Therefore “On the Seventh Day” was a play on the Six Day War. There was an irony underlying the aftermath of the Six Day War. The seventh day was a day of rest traditionally for us Christians. So, its use is just coincidence with the assault on Israelis by the Hamas. Yet if it had not been this War, the title would have little relevance.

But not being a creationist, I do not believe that God worked on such an earthly timetable; the title of this blog was a metaphor for UN Resolution 242, which called for:

  • The establishment of a “just and lasting peace in the Middle East” with implied mutual recognition.
  • Israeli withdrawal “from territories occupied” during the war
  • The right of all states – including Israel – to live in peace within “secure and recognized boundaries” that includes “guaranteeing the territorial inviolability and political independence of every state.”
  • “A just settlement of the refugee problem.”

In other words – Resolution 242, the seventh day metaphor.

This followed the Six-Day War, where Israel destroyed an Arab attempt to take over Israel. To avoid accusations of bias, I quote a Jewish narrative: The tensions and incidents leading up to the Six-Day War were highlighted by repeated calls by Arab leaders for the destruction of Israel, Egypt blockading an international shipping lane and the decision by the UN to cave in to Egyptian demands to remove international peacekeeping troops from the Sinai with a subsequent massive military build-up on the Israeli border.

With Arab armies massing on its borders and Arab leaders threatening genocide, Israel launched a pre-emptive strike on June 5, 1967. Six days later the war ended with Israel having captured the Golan Heights, the west bank of the Jordan River, the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula.

With the Arabs having suffered a crushing defeat, the Arab League met in September and issued the Khartoum Resolution with the infamous “Three Noes” in which the Arab League declared “no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, no negotiations with it.

During the period since independence, the Zionists were as ruthless towards their neighbours and those whose lands they expropriated as the Arabs had been in the years leading up to the Six Day War. This hatred has been institutionalised on both sides, except for brief periods.

The UN Security Council Resolution 242 was adopted on November 22, 1967 and with it the hope for eventual peace between Israel and the Arabs. The resolution was followed by a UN peace mission lead by Swedish diplomat Gunnar Jarring to try and implement 242. His efforts culminated with a peace proposal presented in 1971, but failure to agree on how to implement it was finally shattered when Egypt and Syria attacked Israel on Yom Kippur in 1973 – the holiest day in the Jewish calendar. It is not a coincidence that the Hamas launched their attack on a Jewish holiday, Shemini Atzeret.

In 1988 the PLO accepted Resolution 242 in its declaration of independence. The word “Palestinian” was not used in Resolution 242. At the time the PLO did not explicitly recognize Israel nor call for a peace treaty nor a two-state solution, but instead accused Israel of seeking the “extermination of the Palestinian people.”  Yet in 1993, Israel and the PLO signed the Oslo Accords.

Israel has set up a technocratic country with the outward appearance of a European democracy. I am aware of a Voltaire comment. Voltaire said that he wondered whether Prussia was an army with a state rather than a state with an army. The basis of this comment was that Prussia was surrounded by hostile forces, whose foreign policy was to destroy this emerging European power. Prussia did not have the overwhelming support of an external power, as Israel has with the US. Yet the words of Voltaire seem very relevant today.

As I have foreshadowed, what will Netanyahu do after levelling Gaza in his search for what is apparently a very highly technically advanced tunnel system under Gaza, leaving a passel of Hamas fighters very protected, while ensuring with the blessing of the USA that every Gazan is killed, including the systematic killing of children. Netanyahu seems to be emulating a version of what the Romans did to Carthage, sowing the land with salt; Netanyahu is creating mountains of rubble. How is Netanyahu going to delight his far-right constituency enshrouded in black and hatred as they do their ritual prancing. I for one was not particularly enchanted by the sight of these people spitting at Christians. What a good idea, kill every Palestinian Christian as well.

I do not condone war. I do not condone brutality. I do not condone torture. I am ashamed of former Australian Prime Ministers being seduced by the Zionists to sign a Netanyahu panegyric. At least Gillard should have known better.  Paul Keating to his credit refused.

In many ways the USA has led the modern world, including Australia into a morass where any moral compass has been lost. In any comments, nobody would condone what Hamas did, any more than actions depicted in those confronting images provided by ISIS showing what they did to their prisoners during the Iraq conflict would be condoned.

Much of this criminal behaviour is done in the name of religion. My fellow Australians condone what is happening in Gaza by a group of adherents who constitute 0.4 per cent of our population, who seem collectively to be cheering one of the monstrous perpetrators in this morass, Bibi Netanyahu. We with connivance of the media have allowed a range of stunted sociopaths to glimmer in this morass trickling towards Armageddon.

I doubt if anyone is listening to Benedict, but his prayer at least was not written by the Zionists.

White Jews of Kerala

I first went to Kerala at the end of 1983. I had watched a Malcolm Muggeridge documentary about India. He inspired my desire to go to India, and particularly to sit in the Viceroy’s Chair in Simla, the hill station for Britons fleeing the Delhi heat in summer. Simla is nestled in the foothills of the Himalayas. That was one action of his that I did not achieve.  I went to Simla in the middle of winter and that was a remarkable trip to Himachal Pradesh from New Delhi.

Muggeridge created another image of India. He stood on a beach in Southern India, which he identified as Kerala. I had never associated palm trees and sandy beaches with India. This only served to confirm my intention to go and stand on a beach in Kerala with arms outstretched in the seductive atmosphere of Southern India as Muggeridge had done. My eventual stint turned out to be a month when I travelled the length of India. When I had landed in Bombay, as it was then called, I wondered why I was there. By the end of that month, I knew!

Paradesi Synagogue, Cochin

Beaches were not the other reason to attract one to Kerala, a state with a significant Christian population that votes Communist. It is its diversity. I had heard that there was a Jewish community in Cochin, called the White Jews of Kerala. Along a narrow street, to which we had been directed, there was a nondescript building. Behind the façade was the Paradesi Synagogue, which had been constructed in the 16th century by a group of Sephardic Jews who had come from Portugal. There had been a group of Jews there before. These were named Black Jews, the origin being more problematical and whom the “invading” White Jews prohibited from becoming full members of the White Jew synagogue.

When we visited the synagogue, there was an old man who acted as the caretaker. A White Jew – he frankly did not have any distinguishing features from those of any other South Indian I had met. He remembered a rabbi, but that was long ago. Still, he said that the White Jews had a minyan – just. Most of the White Jews had left – gone to Israel. He was old, as were those who stayed, and he recognised clearly that soon there would be no more White Jews. He showed us the synagogue, which had been well kept. He told us not to take photographs but sold us a postcard.

This showed the image which fixed our gaze when we had sat on one of the benches – a golden image of the raised platform where the service is led and where the Torah is read, being freestanding and roughly situated in the middle of the sanctuary and the ark (called the hekhal by Sephardim). The hekhals are essentially cabinets or armoires storing the sefer Torahs along the wall that is closest to Jerusalem.

There was a ner tamid or oil lamp hanging in front of the Ark; the tables of the Law surmount it. The seven-branched candlestick, the menorah, was placed at the side. It was only the second time I had been in a synagogue, although I have had many Jewish colleagues.

When I went back to the Paradesi synagogue years later, the White Jews were no more and the synagogue was now a tourist attraction, which one had to pay to enter. I did not want to see the relic of a vibrant religious community. I reflected how I had been privileged, meeting one of the last White Jews in a working synagogue.

In the Fast Lane

Some years ago, I did a regular locum for a couple of Polish doctors. They were Jewish, and he was in the Polish army during World War 2.  He had not been recognised as a Jew. He thus avoided being sent to a concentration camp. However, that did not exempt him from brutality by the guards in his POW camp, and he was never keen on Latvians, but that is another story. Anyway, as he recounted to me, one day in the prison camp he was deprived of any food and drink. He said that he was able to find out the date. It was Yom Kippur.

A Lesion in Brevity

For several years, I have been playing around with the challenge of writing a short story in less than 500 words. I intended writing a quintet as I had done for the Kimberley, and car accidents. The first drew their inspiration from my trip round the Kimberley in 1979, but my five short stories were hardly Ion Idriess; the second quintet I wrote after I had a nasty car accident driving near Shepparton on a cold rainy winter’s night in 1981; and the third on episodes tied into religion. As with the other sets, it was supposed to contain five short stories, but along the religion trail, I had run out of inspiration.

Thus, I just embellished a visit I had made.

When visiting the Cathedral of Notre Dame located in the city of Lausanne, a Roman Catholic Church confiscated by the local Evangelical Church – a Calvinist offshoot, I saw an exercise in flamboyant religiosity, which I translated into the 370 word narrative below which I entitled: Oblivia – A short play with words:

For her she had come for Inspiration. 

She, the lady in the crimson turban and gathered pleats threw up her arms and then prostrated herself before the altar.  It was a small stage, there were no saints alive in the rose window above her.  A window held true to its 13th century countenance as sketched by Villard de Honnecourt; as constructed by Pierre d’Arras.  An Imago mundi which Oliver Cromwell would never have countenanced in the Protestant acquisition had he been allowed to get out of his Albion cage.  So he would not have she decided.

A vague thought, but not “nouvelle”.

She did not see her companion fall down, striking his head on the stone floor.  It was academic whether the fall preceded the fit; or not.

She did not hear the head strike the floor. 

She remained prostrate.  Precisely on the stroke of the 120 “cat-and-dogs” mantra, she raised herself to a kneeling position and carefully flicked the crucifix from the pleats.

Her companion was bleeding from the right ear – unseeing eyes beneath increasingly blue-tinged eyelids – body quivering in the throes of grand mal epilepsy.  Body askew on two levels.  The head on the step – the body across the flag stones.  Not particularly good for maintaining the airway.

The earplugs in her ears as she listened to the Tallis motet Spem in allium made communication difficult, especially as the videte miraculum had just commenced.

Her companion was dusky and his sounds were of one choking. 

She crossed herself – an extravagant flourish considering the Calvinist surroundings – stood up only to genuflect – then plunged into a kneeling position, head upturned towards the Inspiration.

The workers fixing the heating system in the Grand Bay of the Cathedral had dropped their tools and run the length of the nave to the fallen person.  One rolled her companion over; another had run back to where the mobile phone had been left and called the ambulance.  One worker was wrestling with the airway; could the colour be reversed?  Another had fingers on the radial pulse.  The fitting had stopped; the eyes remained without recognition. The light filtering down from the rose window elicited no response. 

For him, he was left with no Inspiration.

OK, this was a serious literary conceit.  This past year I was challenged to write a short story in 100 words where you get 10 per cent leeway – thus 110 words max. I responded with an anecdote (micro-story) derived from my childhood entitled “Green to Red”.

The aunt’s villa had a long corridor. On the left side people lived; on the right, the doors were locked. One day the small boy found one door unlocked. He peeped in and saw a mass of green-inked paper. 

The hand on the shoulder. She hissed: don’t go in, there are carpet pythons.

He pulled back, scared. 

Years later he learnt there were no carpet pythons, never had been; but why wasn’t he allowed to go into that room? 

He went back to the villa, now empty. Doors were locked, except one. The paper was still there, but red-inked.  

He felt something on his shoulder. It hissed in his ear.
A resident carpet python

Excluding the title, the above narrative hits 110 words. Bit like 20-over cricket in reforming the classic short story which often dribbles on to being a short novel. Yes, the title of the segment is “lesion” – only one letter and one vowel eliminated away from “lesson”.

The Next Governor General

A few blogs ago, I suggested that the next Governor General should be an Aboriginal person. My vote would be for Tanya Denning Orman, described as a Birri (Queensland Channel Country) and Guugu Yimidhirr (Cooktown) woman from Central and North Queensland. She is vibrant – a person of the emerging generation who, in a five year tenure in Yarralumla, could do what the recent referendum failed to do. She could become a face of her people not only worrying over a Terra Cotta redress, but giving a vital interpretation of what it is to be an Australian, a true exemplar of hybrid vigour.

Another worthy contender is Narelda Jacobs OAM, a Whadjuk Noongar woman who is a journalist and presenter on SBS. As has been said about her, she is someone who really understands the responsibility that comes with being seen. Neralda’s mother was a northern Irish immigrant and the founder of the first Noongar Church in Perth; her father was a Whadjuk Noongar man and a pastor who taught his five mixed race daughters that they “belonged anywhere”.

The suggestion has been made that Linda Burney should replace the current incumbent, the strange serviceman with the tinkling wife, and restore some relevance to the post of Governor-General is a firm “no”.

In my lifetime, the value of the post has been reflected by the individual’s ability. Ninian Stephens, William Deane, Bill Hayden were all great men. Quentin Bryce – the first woman to be appointed Governor-General, with whom I once clashed in a medical ethics forum in my only encounter – I grudgingly admire although I’m unsure of her legacy.

If it is true that the Government is seriously considering Linda Burney for the role, it would be a grave mistake at a time when the Aboriginal people need a different role model to lead their cause. Linda Burney, as the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, showed how inadequate she was during the Referendum campaign. She needed to do a lot more than sloganize. Now is the time for strong leadership, especially given the reaction of the Australian community to the referendum.

Let’s face it, giving her a five-year retirement package would be to miss an opportunity, but given the way the NSW Branch of the Labor Party functions it would be its classic Lilliputian way of doing anything.

Rumours are that Burney has a heart condition, which added to her other shortcomings, would not augur well for what should be a positive contribution to the future of the Aboriginal people, especially given the reaction of the Australian community.

Assuming the Burney becomes a non-runner, it is then time for the next Governor-General to take a leaf out of the Nelson Mandela workbook, rather than that of Malcolm X. I have advanced two names; but those who could select these or any other young Aboriginal women should realise the opportunity that must not be missed.

Mouse Whisper

When you people believe Netanyahu is out to exterminate every Gazan, you realise us mice are liable to be collateral damage, especially when you belong to a species of mice found only in Gaza.

I did not know about them until one of them left his mouse pad out. They are a sept of us house mice discovered by human scientists about 15 years ago in Gaza. These mice are distinguished from other mice by their light and dark brown colour with white big patches on the fur. The new subspecies was named “Muscles” Gazaensis. Presumably to survive they will follow the Hamas into the tunnels, but unsurprisingly we have not heard from them lately. However, we mice have strong survival instincts.


Modest Expectations – Geelong

Noel Pearson said if the referendum failed to pass he would fall silent. Full stop!

Somebody should remind him. It would be a blessed relief.

Clueless in Gaza 

“I would like Gaza to sink into the sea, but that won’t happen, and a solution must be found.” Yitzhak Rabin (1992)

Hamas has poked a sleeping tiger. Now, the Hamas terrorists are likely to learn what other authoritarian aggressors have learned before them: that liberal democracies can be extremely ferocious and supremely effective at war-fighting when roused from their peacetime slumber. As Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower wrote at the beginning of World War II: “Hitler should beware of the fury of an aroused democracy.” Washington Post

Speaking to the Israeli Knesset, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Iran and Hezbollah, “Don’t test us in the north. Don’t make the mistake of the past. Today, the price you will pay will be far heavier,” referring to Israel’s 2006 war with Hezbollah, which operates out of Lebanon.

Soon after he spoke, the Knesset floor was evacuated as rockets headed toward Jerusalem. Sirens in Tel Aviv prompted U.S. and Israeli officials to take shelter in a bunker, officials said. Boston Globe

Yitzhak Rabin

In 1995, I went to Jerusalem when Yitzhak Rabin was Prime Minister. Rabin had been a prominent brigade commander in the Palmach, which was one of the militias that formed the backbone after independence in 1948 of the Israeli Army. The Palmach had been blooded fighting the Vichy French in 1941 in Syria and Lebanon inter alia with Australian troops.

It was a fortunate time to visit Israel when I did in 1995, in particular because Rabin had mastered a living space for the Nation, when there was as much latent hostility surrounding him in the Arab nations supporting the Palestinians. The Jews had suffered discrimination, pogroms, holocausts – all designed to encourage the segregation of the ghetto or the creation of an independent nation.

What I remember with greatest awe about is the Dome on the Rock. This extraordinary building on the Mount, where tradition says Solomon built his Temple, demolished 2,500 years ago by the Babylonians. A long time ago but still an os contentionis. That is the problem, the more you stay in Jerusalem the more you seem to be tripping over religion; but when there is a secular peace, this religious overlay becomes tolerable. I found both the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem underwhelming.

However, the highlight was going to Bethlehem, then a ten-minute uneventful taxi ride from Jerusalem. No walls. As we found out, Bethlehem at that time had a significant Christian Palestinian population. One of the young guides was one such Christian, whom the late Chris Brook befriended. They stayed in contact for some years until one day there was no response. Through his contacts Chris tried to find out what had happened. A murky trail of sketchy information ended with bad news – the young fellow had been killed. No further information or at least Chris never told me.

The embedded silver star

There was a silver star embedded in the floor of the Grotto of the Nativity. Pilgrims bent low to kiss the silver star, with its central hollow where Christ was reputed to have been born.

I cannot remember what I did. Probably saw the people in front of me as an excuse not to bend down; and those with me followed my lead. There were better ways to show my devotion. Then logic kicked in – how the hell would anybody know the exact place of His birth?

The Church’s governance is divided between Roman Catholic, Orthodox and Armenian churches, with the various Oriental Churches given a few nooks and crannies.  I passed one such space, and saw two eyes peering out, the rest of the person enshrouded in darkness. I was told later he was a deacon of the Ethiopian Church. The relations between the three landlords are often acrimonious, leading to physical altercation and being dismissive of the others. Not a good look!

Yet since I have been there, during the Second Intifada in 2002, the church was the site of a month-long siege. Christians in the Church gave sanctuary to 50 armed Palestinians wanted by the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) giving them food, water, and protection from the IDF soldiers stationed outside.

My memento of Israel was a necklace which I purchased for my wife in Bethlehem. The Stones of Eilat are a gemstone found only in Israel Eilat is the actual site, and it is no longer mined. The stone is a green-blue mixture of several secondary copper minerals including azurite, chrysocolla, malachite, and turquoise. It is a beautiful necklace, and recently I read that much sold as genuine is in fact not so. My wife says it’s genuine.

I had gone to a Conference in Jerusalem and even then you were subject to detailed questioning by young officious Israelis. I had flown in on a British Airways 737, because given the length of time of interrogation, any bigger plane would have compounded an already intolerable situation. It was not much different from the departure grilling. Sarcasm was not a quality much appreciated, so you just resigned yourself to the rudeness.

What I found the most confronting were the ultra-orthodox Jews who seemed to inhabit a cavern alongside to the Wailing Wall when they were not praying at the Wall. One bearded man in the black gear so typical of his form of Judaism engaged me in conversation. The filth that he spewed out about the Palestinians took me aback. Here was a protected species, who avoided military service while urging the elimination of all non-Jews. I cut short the conversation, at which point he lifted his beard to show me his tracheostomy. Good one … whatever your name was.

I’m not surprised that  an ultra-orthodox Jew who, not long after, assassinated Rabin. Yet these people are now running the government, providing the current Prime Minister Netanyahu with a shield.

As the Guardian has said “Netanyahu, who is facing a corruption trial and weekly mass protests against his coalition’s attacks on the judiciary, hopes that a military victory might save his job.”

Nobody can countenance the Hamas raid with their associated brutality. However, the response of unleashing all your advanced weaponry has been shown to be self-defeating unless you win over the population – see Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq. Thus an Israeli response of the magnitude threatened will only deepen the hatred which will mean nothing in the longer term for the stability of an Israel converted into a ghetto.

Garrisoning a hostile population is very expensive unless as some of the right wing fanatics seem to suggest – kill the whole population and there will be nothing left to garrison.

The population is mostly children. Are the Israelis really intent on killing every child in Gaza, just short of a million? The images of such carnage would be of the same order as the concentration camps, with bodies piled high.  The Baptist hospital bombing in Gaza City, whoever did it, reinforces that point.

Invasion would produce a low success rate, if they wish to rescue any live hostages. This is not Entebbe, where the Israeli hostages were rescued by Israel commandos and where Netanyahu’s brother, one of the commandos was himself killed. In this case, the number of Jewish hostages killed would pale in comparison with Palestinian casualties.

Eliminate Gaza; eliminate Israel as a democracy. So heed the words of Dwight Eisenhower, who knew the meaning of “restraint”, but emphasises that he was speaking for democracy not for an embattled faux-theocracy, however described.

In conclusion, having been in Israel in a time of comparative peace, let me say something briefly about the difference between Rabin and Netanyahu. Rabin was an honourable warrior.

Chiefly, the right light? 

Ben Chifley

We have a great objective – the light on the hill – which we aim to reach by working the betterment of mankind not only here but anywhere we may give a helping hand. If it were not for that, the Labor movement would not be worth fighting for.  Ben Chifley (1949)

I’ve liked writing, but like many who write, I probably over-estimate my ability. When I look back, I have been fortunate in many ways, but choosing to do medicine was the wrong pathway. By that I mean that as I had been seen as a “swot” at school, amassing a library of prizes through my school years, I would naturally gravitate to an area where I excelled. I wrote as well as anybody at school of my vintage, except one guy who had an immense talent but squandered it.

But I didn’t follow a similar course. As I grew older, I realised how much I loved words, but at the time I was faced with a combined course with law as my tertiary destination. It has been convenient for me to blame my father for pushing me into medicine but being academically bright had not served me well at school. Languages were taught appallingly, and besides Latin, only French and German were available. Journalism, in which I would have found the same collegality as I did in medicine, was never an option. There was no obvious role model for this, although I knew Chester Wilmot, the acclaimed war correspondent was at school with my father.

The other area was the armed forces. I remember a couple of boys who went off to the Naval College as early recruits. One of my best friends went through the training, and when we talked, I was lucky that I did not choose that route; but anyway, I would have failed the medical, as I did for National Service. Flat feet, calcanea vera causing spastic peroneal muscles – a recipe for being unable to walk the next day after marching was the reason. Marching for a prolonged period thus was just not an option, especially when compounded with my eyesight being afflicted with myopia, astigmatism and strabismus.

What undertaking Medicine gave me was an enjoyable sense of collegiality. From being an oddball on the fringes at school, I became an oddball in the centre of the action at the University for a few years. I found out my place when I achieved a leadership position, I had an intuitive grasp of how meetings worked. The ability to work with the knowledge that today’s allies may be tomorrow’s adversaries was an essential ingredient for collegiality that I found out. Then, if resolution could only be achieved by conflict resolution, the art of successful collegial alliances was crucial.

Throughout my professional life I have been driven by what in society I perceived as in need of change. A recurrent theme of such a desire to see change is that I always outlived my welcome, because in pursuing change I upset so many of those whose comfort zone is the status quo, as the collegiality with this group begins to fray. Hence, the wider my ability to shift my collegial scenarios – reinvent oneself every five years – helps if it can be managed. When I hear somebody is a “change agent”, that person is the direct opposite. They mistake the light on the hill for their guttering candle.

One can always live too long, and there is ever-diminishing collegiality, the essential driver for what I used to achieve. People stop listening to you. People pass away. Then I have reverted to that lonely teenager on the fringe, because equally I am alone in my old age.

In the end collegiality is ephemeral, whereas dynasty is not – and that enables any legacy of my lifetime to be forgotten or dismantled. But such is life and mate, the light on the hill, as I’m about to depart, has been obscured by the fog that will never lift. 

An Uncommon Birri (Queensland Channel Country) and Guugu Yimidhirr (Cooktown) Woman

Thank God, the referendum is over. I was heartily sick of the mantra that Aboriginal people are the oldest civilisation in the world, and the parade of Aboriginal professors mouthing elitist “we know best for you whitefellas, while at the same time not being prepared to cope with the criticism of the structure of the so-called campaign.” I am sick of being asked to come on a journey, to walk in their shoes.

The referendum was soundly defeated. Everyone seems to be forgetting that when the referendum was being mooted, the “YES” was over 65 per cent at the outset, and still 60 per cent at the time when the Cabinet actually decided on the referendum, and the question Australians over the age of 18 years would vote upon in placing the “Voice” in the Australian Constitution.

It is hard to take the aim of closing the gap or other catchphrases that are easy to mouth, but have been of no moment in improving the marginalised Aboriginal people, without having a definite set of aims. Let us take the medical profession. Over the past 40 years, since the first Aboriginal doctor graduated, there have been over 520 medical graduates who are Aboriginal. This is thus evidence of developing a professional stream; but how many Aboriginal medical graduates are the “gap-closers”. How many of these should be active clinicians rather than advocates in administrative roles?

Therein lies the problem. The “yes” campaign group was led by a group of self-styled academic Aboriginal intellectuals using the Uluru Statement as their talisman. The problem with the document is that it didn’t speak in the language of the people it was supposed to represent, and its uncritical acceptance by the Australian community. The Government’s poor decision to base the referendum solely on this document has been borne out. For instance, the use of “Thither”. Who uses that archaic word?

The aim now should be to replace the Aboriginal academic hierarchy who were the “leaders” of the “yes” camp by a younger group more able to connect with their white contemporaries.

How should this be done?

The next Governor General should be an Aboriginal person – relatively young, not one of those who were part of the Uluru Statement. Not one of those Aborigines who have been awarded  academic titles, as though colonial vestments substitute for wisdom. It needs to be someone who can champion the connection to the oral traditions and traverse the wide variety of these traditions.

For unlike the indigenous people of other countries, how many of these aspirants have met the number of Aboriginal mobs crammed into one country, where the traditions have developed in a way that the term First Nation papers over the atomisation of the Aboriginal people which has occurred over the eons in which they roamed the countryside.

Because so much of the oral tradition remaining is linked into the art, much of the remaining traditions have been disrupted, although whitefella involvement in recording some of language and subsequent phonetic interpretation should be acknowledged, as should those elders who have maintained the traditions of culture without political contamination.

This above provides the background.

Tanya Denning Orman

My vote would be for Tanya Denning Orman, described as a Birri (Queensland Channel Country) and Guugu Yimidhirr (Cooktown) woman from Central and North Queensland.

She has both grace and gravitas.  She is strong enough not to be engulfed by the communal structure of Aboriginal society, where the pressure for sharing everything leads often to the lowest common denominator rather than the highest common factor.

Moreover, she is not a token but someone who could preside over this elusive treaty, because in support of the referendum she has travelled widely, and finally she exudes optimism. In other words, she has already trod the traditional pathway of a Governor-General. She has the qualities to emulate the first woman in the post, Quentin Bryce. Moreover, she would have five years to effect what the referendum failed to do – to bring about unification of intention, and yet still be young enough not to be discarded with that title consigned to the has-beens – “emerita” at the end of her term.

The Torres Strait. Where are You?

The Torres Strait Islanders have been linked to the recently defeated Referendum with the Aboriginal People.

As far as I can determine, one advocate was Isabella Higgins, a young ABC journalist who is a Torres Strait Islander. Ms Higgins was awarded the 2019 Walkley Award for Young Australian Journalist of the Year.

I have written about her. I cannot find any contribution from her reviewing the place her Islander people actually played. In fact, I cannot find any intervention; any statements issued by the Torres Strait Islander leadership. Who are the leaders?

Vonda Malone has been the CEO of Torres Strait Regional Authority since last year. The following excerpt from her bio says it all. “With more than 20 years of experience working across 3 levels of government, specialising in Indigenous Affairs, she brings a unique international perspective to the role through her positions with both the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the United Nations Office of the Human Rights Commission, Geneva.”

She had been the Mayor of the Torres Strait. She is thus the complete bureaucrat, whose professional life has been lived away from the Torres Strait until she returned in 2016.

The Chair of the Authority is a retired RAN maritime engineer, Napau Pedro Stephen. Again I can’t remember him being mentioned during the referendum. Who I do remember is Gaetono Lui, who chaired the Authority in the 1990s – a natty dresser with dark glasses, whose role model seemed to be some of the Caribbean leaders. Not the picture of disadvantage.

Eddie Mabo and Jack Wailu on Mer (Murray Island)

Above all, the Torres Strait Islander, who has been far and away the most influential, was Eddie Mabo, who came from the remote Murray Island in the Strait. The High Court sided with his contention that the indigenous retained rights which were not extinguished by white occupation of the lands.

The decision led to the Native Title Act (1993) which created a framework that recognises Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have rights to certain land because of their traditional laws and customs. It allows access to land for living, traditional purposes, hunting or fishing and to teach laws and customs on the land. Mabo died before the High Court decision was handed down.

Some may dispute that there have been Aboriginal people who have made as big a contribution – a person such as David Unaipon, the man on the $50 note, a recognition of the Aboriginal genius adapted to whitefella society or the 200 Wave Hill stockmen who walked off the Vestey’s property in 1966, and whose land claims were ultimately recognised by the Whitlam government symbolised by the soil poured by Gough over the Wave Hill leader, Walter Lingiari’s hands in 1975. Neither were much quoted as exemplars of Aboriginal success, because it may have compromised the narrative of oppression, incarceration and chronic disease.

A young Aboriginal Governor General has a chance to change that narrative using the positive lesson at set out above, with more involvement of the Torres Strait people.

Crossing the Rabid Jordan

On July 12, 2022, Jordan tweeted to the Washington Examiner that a report of a 10-year-old Ohio girl traveling to Indiana to obtain a legal abortion after being raped was a lie. He deleted the tweet on July 13 after the rapist was arrested by police and confessed to raping the girl twice, and police confirmed that the report of her abortion in Indiana was accurate.

Until he withdrew on the last day, the race for the Speaker of the House of Representatives has been centred on Jim Jordan, the extremist representative from small town Ohio being elevated to Speaker. Before he was elected to Congress, he had form as an assistant wrestling coach at Ohio State University, which has been swept under the mat, never resolved.

The Speaker’s empty Chair

As if in anticipation of the elevation of Jordan, now very less assured, the Lincoln Project has observed: The Speaker of the House, the person who holds the gavel and dictates the legislative agenda of the most powerful country on the planet, will not be one single person. 

It’s going to continue to be a collection of radicals and sycophants who are guided by the deranged delusions of the MAGA movement. Most of all, they’re guided by whatever words the Dear Leader whispers into their ear. 

That’s all you need to know about this Speaker race.

Amen, while the world goes to Hell in a Handcart, an artist has been commissioned to paint a bunch of narcissi over the door leading to the Chamber, but Jordan will be no longer portrayed.

Mouse Whisper

I asked myself in this year of the Referendum why Mickey was black. It is easy to say that he was drawn in a black and white world, but Walt Disney, in the definition below of Mickey, does not mention the colour of The Mouse.

Disney wrote: 

His body was like a pear, and he had a long tail. His legs were pipestems and we stuck them in big shoes (also circular in appearance) to give him the look of a kid wearing his father’s shoes. We didn’t want him to have mouse hands, because he was supposed to be more human. So we gave him gloves. Five fingers looked like too much on such a little figure, so we took one away. That was just one less finger to animate.