• 22Sep
                               (Lana Slezic produced a body of work on women in Afghanistan for the World Press) 

    Malalai Kakar

    She was murdered by the Taliban.

    “She was the pinnacle of strength in Kandahar at a time that was extremely difficult for Afghan women. She was the first female police officer in Kandahar and stood for the rights of women.
    “All the women of Kandahar knew who she was and knew they could come to her with their problems. Problems like domestic violence, rape forced marriage.”


    But PUP Senator, Jacqui Lambie uses this image for the purposes of creating fear, bigotry, racism and violence.

    She depicts this brave woman who gave her life in her struggle for freedom for Afghan women as a violent threat to Australians.

    Next to this photo she calls for the banning of the burqa.

    Not because the burqa is a symbol of oppression for women but for security reasons.

    She is saying we should be afraid of this woman; we should be afraid of those who are not like us.
    I wonder what Jacqui would say to this image.

    nun habit

    And if we are talking about the oppression of women let’s not forget the Catholic Church and its opposition to abortion and divorce.


    The image of this man is a reminder of the Catholic Church’s protection of child sexual abusers. What is hiding underneath his cloak?

    What does Jacqui and our Australian government say about the extreme right Christians in America who have bombed abortion clinics.

    Or what the Judaist religion says about women.

    In Judaism there is a daily prayer which says “I thank god that I was not born a woman.”
    I once had a Jewish colleague refuse to shake my hand in case I was menstruating and therefore deemed dirty.

    Let’s face it all of our major religions are patriarchal.

    And this is what this is all about. It is about patriarchal power and control.

    It is about competing patriarchies and their quest for control of resources and power.

    It is about patriarchal militarism and their intent to destroy.

    It is the women and children who are the victims of such wars. Women have been considered the spoils of war in so many conflicts.

    Women as collateral damage in men’s wars.

    So back home to the “degrade and destroy” Australia.

    Jacqui Lambi is not alone in creating fear and hatred in our community.

    The Australian government has led the world in its determination to go to war – to send troops to Iraq; to kill and maim, to degrade and destroy.

    And part of that process has been instilling in the Australian people hatred of the “other”.

    Their goal is to terrify and to create widespread fear.

    Mamamia has reported  – “So frightened are some in Australia’s Muslim community that a Facebook group dedicated to support for victims of hate crimes against Muslims was set up this week. Group members use the page to report instances of abuse and swap tips on how to stay safe. Posts like these feature on the page:

    “Early last week in the early evening A sister (was walking home) when a few guys came upon her and tried to burn off her hijab… She was a international student and is now wanting to go back home due to feeling traumatised and insecure.”

    “Two days ago, a group of men tried to rip the hijab off a sisters head at Garden City.”

    “Yesterday at 5pm, a sister from Logan was threatened by a guy that he would burn her house down.”

    And it is the women in their burqas, hijabs and their headdresses who will the focus of the bigotry and racism that is being invoked in Australians.

    Yes the burqa is a symbol of women’s oppression.

    Yes I will celebrate the day when no woman is required to cover herself and become invisible.

    I will also rejoice when women are not the victims of war, of rape, of violence and abuse in their homes
    There are many forms of oppression against women. We will not overcome this oppression by violent oppression of those we consider “others”.

    To quote a friend:
    “In her pursuit of populist media trumpeting, Lambie has desecrated and insulted the memory of this honourable and courageous woman.
      If women choose to wear a burqa, bikini, religious habit, goth gear, high fashion, low fashion or nothing at all, that is their decision.

    Our courts are not over flowing with woman wearing burqas but they are full of men in everyday clothes who have committed some fairly heinous crimes against women and children.

    Can we please turn our attention to the ‘real’ terrorists hiding in this country.

    The Malalai’s of this world speak for me not the bigots and racists. The world needs more Malalais and less Jacqui Lambies.”

    sept 11

    Women are murdered, raped, mutilated, humiliated, imprisoned, impoverished, appropriated, manipulated, marginalised and any one of a number of acts of violence, all over the world.” (Browyn Winter in the excellent book edited by Susan Hawthorne and Bronwyn Winter, published by Spinifex Press)

       unmaking warAnother book worth reading by Kathleen Barry

  • 03Sep

    This is an amazing, compassionate book.


    But it is not easy to read. It is set during the Nigeria-Biafra civil war of 1967-1970.
    As I began to read distant television images from that time (when I was still a teenager) came to me. I only recall images of starving African children and the feelings of horror and shock that accompanied them.
    But I had no idea what these images related to.
    Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche took me there in this book and showed me graphically and poignantly what this war was about and its horrific impact on the Biafran state – the violence, the abuse, the slaughter – and the starvation and death of so many when they were deliberately cut off from many supplies of food, water and basic needs.
    She takes us on this journey through the eyes of two sisters, their partners and families, their houseboy and an English writer. Chimamanda creates these people so vividly on the page that I grew to care for them deeply, as they struggled with their emotional relationships through this horror.
    She cleverly outlines the impacts of British colonisation and its creation of the country Nigeria. The Igbo people, one of the oldest kingdoms in Nigeria, lost its sovereignty to the British in 1911. Following independence from Britain, they sought to establish a separate country from Nigeria, the state of Biafra. This led to civil war, with Britain and Russia providing military support to the Northern Nigerians.
    What she shows us is that everyone is a victim in wars – the women and children raped, slaughtered and starved to death; the creation of hatred between people when they don’t know who they can trust and when they compete for meagre amounts of supplies; the soldiers who learn the culture of murder, rape and hatred.
    It has left me pondering deeply about so many people, in so many different places, attempting to survive in their worlds where war continues – In Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, parts of Africa, Syria, the Ukraine etc. – whilst Western capitalists (men in blue ties) send weapons, drone fighters and bombs to protect their own interests.
    Here is a quote from an interview with Chimmanda Ngozi Adichie
    “I wrote this novel because I wanted to write about love and war, because I grew up in the shadow of Biafra, because I lost both grandfathers in the Nigeria-Biafra war, because I wanted to engage with my history in order to make sense of my present, because many of the issues that led to the war remain unresolved in Nigeria today, because my father has tears in his eyes when he speaks of losing his father, because my mother still cannot speak at length about losing her father in a refugee camp, because the brutal bequests of colonialism make me angry, because the thought of the egos and indifference of men leading to the unnecessary deaths of men, women and children enrages me, because I don’t ever want to forget.”

    This is an unforgettable book which I highly recommend.

    Here are two more of her books which are also very good.

    Purple Hibiscus -Based in Nigeria about catholic fanaticism and domestic violence
    Americanah – A powerful, tender story of race and identity

  • 03Jul

    Funding announcement for domestic violence – is it about violence against women or another chance to vilify other cultures?

    Last week the Federal Government announced $100 million dollars to address violence against women and children.
    A most welcome announcement.


    There is some sad irony that  this announcement is being made when women’s shelters in NSW are closing down due to lack of funding – and the Queensland government are planning to do the same.

    SOSwomen's services


    Nevertheless it is good news that the major focus of the new funding is on developing and testing

    “a prototype for a National Domestic Violence Order (DVO) Scheme, to strengthen the identification and enforcement of DVOs across state and territory borders.”


    This is indeed important news.

    How then is this being reported in the media?

    The media focus has been on forced marriages and genital mutilation.

    These are certainly serious and concerning issues, although not reflective of the media release from the Government.

    The Australian started this way:

    “PROTECTION against genital mutilation is one of the measures to safeguard women under a new $100 million domestic violence plan announced by Prime Minister Tony Abbott.”

    Further down in the report Social Services Minister Kevin Andrews

    “We need to respond to harmful cultural practices in woman and their children.”

    The other focus of media coverage is on women with disabilities, women from culturally diverse backgrounds and indigenous women.
    It certainly is true that these women do have additional barriers within the current system in achieving safety from violence. (For more information about these barriers check out Women’s Safety After Separation website under Violence and Abuse).
    For example, women who come to Australia on temporary visas to either partner with an Australian man, or with a partner who is also on a temporary visa do find it difficult to separate from an abusive man, given their temporary visa status. Developing better systems to help these women and lessen the barriers to safety is worthwhile.

    There is always a dilemma when reporting on male abuse of indigenous women, migrant women and women from culturally diverse backgrounds.
    It can feed into racism and cultural imperialism.


    We risk sending out the wrong message

    – that domestic violence is not a problem for white middle-class Australians

    – that the problem lies in ‘other’ cultures – in cultures that not our norm.


    I am suspicious that these headlines perpetuate this myth and feed into racism that is far too evident in Australia today.

    And I wonder if this is a deliberate tactic on the part of the government and mainstream media.
    The Coalition Government’s Immigration policy certainly points to the racism and cultural imperialism that exists.

    And a news report from February 17, 2011 tends to confirm the tactics of the Coalition government, where the suggestion is that Mr Morrison is trying to pursue an anti-Muslim political strategy.


    In NSW, under Going Home, Staying Home reforms, women-only refuges are being given to other organizations, most of them large religious charities:

    “The other big change is that the ”big four” religious charities (Salvation Army, Mission Australia, Wesley Mission and St Vincent de Paul) are now the main non-government providers of services for homeless people. Of the $16 million handed out for inner-city services, $11 million has gone to the big four via an invitation-only tender process, according to a document prepared by a women’s services advocate. Another person close to the scene has calculated that 62 per of the tenders have gone to these charities, either as lead agencies or as partners.” Anne Summers


    So let’s put them together

    • anti-Muslim strategies,
    • a focus on “other cultural practices” in relation to domestic violence,
    • and women’s shelters in NSW being run by large Christian organisations.


    What is the real agenda here?

    Suspicions about the Liberal-National party’s statements about addressing domestic violence are also confirmed when we see the budget cuts and their impacts on women.

    Cutting support to single mothers, cuts to women’s legal services and GP co-payment are all strategies which will reduce women’s abilities to escape from violent relationships.

    Senator Larissa Waters from the Greens in her media release has stated:

    “… the proposed budget cuts were “insensitive” to victims of domestic violence and could trap women in these violent relationships by cutting support for single parents and women’s legal services, and the GP co-payment would mean women in violent relationships may not be able to see their doctors without their partners knowing.”

     “The Abbott Government’s abolition of the National Rental Affordability Scheme will force women back into violent homes and increase the pressure on already under-funded women’s shelters.”

    The Greens have initiated a senate inquiry into domestic violence.


    You can understand my skepticism that this current government is serious about bring about any significant change for women subjected to male violence.

  • 02Jun

    Shame, Rage –  and a great sadness.

    This is what I felt after watching John Pilger’s ‘Utopia’ on Saturday night on SBS.


    Shame, for myself and all Australians, that our First Nation’s people live in such poverty and degradation.

    Shame for my apathy and ignorance, for Australia’s apathy and ignorance.

    Rage at the inhumane, racist treatment that our First Nation’s people are subjected to.

    And a great sadness not only for our First Nation’s people but for all Australians.

    For the dehumanisation, degradation and humiliation that we subject indigenous people to, dehumanises, degrades and humiliates us all.

    It would be beyond me to do justice to the power of this film, but I do want to document some impressions I gained from the film.


    The film shows a number of ironic juxtapositions.

    One of them is at Rottnest Island W.A.

    I was ignorant of the fact that Rottnest Island was used as a penal settlement in the 1800’s and that thousands of Aboriginal men were imprisoned there.

    Pilger shows around the luxury hotel which was once the prison compound – with little indication of its dark past.

    We fail to acknowledge in our history books, our museums the horrific history of white invasion of Australia and the treatment that our First Nation’s people have been subjected to since the invasion.

    If there is no acknowledgement of this history, of these harms, how can we ever expect healing and reconciliation?

    Poverty and Housing

    On the news we often see the horrific conditions under which remote Aboriginal communities live. And so often the inference is that it is their fault.

    Pilger highlights how negligent consecutive governments have been in providing adequate living conditions for these communities.

    Another ironic juxtaposition – the luxury hotel at Uluru – and out of tourists’ sights – the asbestos-filled, derelict houses that the Aboriginal people are forced to live in.

    The Northern Territory Intervention

    Allegedly in response to ‘Little Children are Sacred’ report the Howard government instituted the NT Intervention.

    Rather than following the report’s recommendations – they sent in the army.

    An ‘invasion” as experienced by the communities.

    Pilger also underscores the role that ABC’s Lateline on 21 June 2006 titled “Sexual slavery reported in Indigenous community”. He interviews Chris Graham, founding and former editor of the National Indigenous Times who shows how this report was based largely on fiction.

    So it was all based on lies and more lies.

    One of the interesting facts highlighted by ‘Utopia’ was that the Northern Territory has the lowest rates of child abuse in Australia.

    For more information see Myths and Facts about Intervention

    Pilger shows clearly that the NT Intervention was really about controlling the people and their lands and highlights the powerful interests of the mining industry.

    And the impact was described as “Collective despair” and sense of betrayal – yet again.

    And State child protection agencies continue to discriminate in specifically targeting Aboriginal children and their families.

    There is a new stolen generation  happening today – in our time.

    Tamworth-2014-April 11


    Indigenous Incarceration and Deaths in Custody

    Most heart wrenching were the pictures of police brutality of aboriginal people and incidents of deaths in custody.

    No charges laid; no convictions for such atrocities.

    As stated in the film: “There can be no reconciliation without justice.”

    Connections were made between Australia’s treatment of our First People with the apartheid regime in South Africa – but there is no international condemnation.

    And there was the statement: “We are refugees in our own country.”

    Thank you John Pilger for your courage and passion in speaking out.

    And thank you to all those First Nations people who told their stories.

    We must ensure that these voices are not wasted.

    But in this current political climate this is unlikely given that the Coalition government is about to cut $534 million from the budget from Aboriginal programs.

    Abor budget

    Shame! Shame! Shame!


    Read more about the continued removal of Aboriginal children from their mothers

    forced adoptions