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Silent and fortressed no more - turning to community

Prepare to be shocked - the real news. A quick scroll through The Saturday Paper (June 23-29, 1981; No 210) shows a newspaper consisting of an array of articles that are worth paying attention to.

The front page tells of the the latest killing of a woman in Australia, Eurydice Dixon, aged 22 (Taking the long way home, Laura Jean McKay, p.1). She was walking home through a park at night. Clearly it's more than numbers, but her death brings the toll to 30 women known to have been killed by violence in Australia in 2018 (Counting the dead, Destroy The Joint and Counting Dead Women Australia, p. 14). The youngest was 20, the oldest 83. It's heartbreaking - and trust-breaking.

Then we have the news of the suicide of 26 year old Iranian asylum seeker Fariborz Karami after repeated pleas by his family over time for mental health support. There also is the Australian authorities' refusal to allow dignity and peace for a Hazara man who is dying of lung cancer (Hearts in darkness, Martin McKenzie-Murray, p. 3). What's going on here?

Next up is the account of what is clearly unacceptable behaviour - a KKK party behind labelled as "politically incorrect" (Until you're black in the face, Omar J. Sakr, p.7). Sakr makes the astute point that so much now happens behind that term, and that No, bad behaviour is bad behaviour and not to be brushed aside. I totally agree. (We sigh for the power of language to mislead!)

In my last reminder of litany is a Bob Brown Foundation ad urging support to fight off a host of environmental,cultural, life-destroying travesties.

It's no less than shocking, yet it's around us every day. No wonder we fortress ourselves away, terrified of the consequences of absorbing this dread which is the reality of our world today.

Yet by doing that we build a silent wall that protects and appears to support the very acts we condone. The problem with doing that is that we suffer, as the frustration, guilt and disempowerment build up inside us, forming knots in our stomachs and making us emotionally callous. That is not the way of healing and it is not the way of community. As our living circumstances become more challenging, and as we become more isolated from our communities, we shut down, and we lose our purpose in life. I believe that we have a personal need to step out from our shelters and acknowledge what is happening, and be silent no more.

On Facebook an event pops up in my local area. It's a Community Grief Ritual at Tecoma, at the Uniting Church. Opening up to the world around me can be depressing, I realise that I need to commit to doing the healing work of grieving, as it is grief that I am experiencing - grief for the world I knew, grief for the loss of freedom to feel safe outdoors, grief for my grandchildren and the world they inherit, grief that the animals are disappearing. Even just acknowledging that I am feeling grief is like an instant pressure valve release. Coming together in community to express shared grief (or anger or fear) can help us to deal with these emotions and be strengthened in the process.

Theatre offers another way of expressing deep emotions. Symbols, sounds, movement and gesture can indicate a full expression where words cannot be spoken. Through theatre workshops, also, we can face up to the world as we know it today and the issues that we struggle with. For me it is exciting to realise that I can offer this process to the community to help find that supportive community where we can be without hiding away but by living and growing together.

We can be silent no more. If we fail to speak out or express our concern and grief in some way, we are failing to support those in need - which is, after all, us! By engaging in creative expression we can heal ourselves in the process of reforming community. And this is something we so much need!

I'm planning now to start running Real Life Theatre community workshops, based at Mt Dandenong Ranges but working in Yarra Ranges and more broadly in Melbourne and beyond. These theatre workshops, in the modality of Theatre for Living, provide opportunities for community expression of concern, fear, love and support. They're also for businesses who are dealing with workplace relationship issues or just need professional development in bringing staff closer together. I've personally experienced great fulfillment, excitement and the forming of workplace friendships through PD, and recognise that businesses are all about people and can be hotbeds of social struggle!

I send out a huge thanks to Christina for her Community Grief Ritual as an inspirational spark for working together on and in peace - maybe I'll see you there!

0418 753 867

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