I've been inspired by reading Anita Heiss's book Am I Black Enough For You?
Anita is an Aboriginal author who has dedicated her life to writing and speaking about what it is to be a First Nations woman in this country. She discusses the bias and misrepresentations she encounters in many people, and the fights our Indigenous people have faced and continue to face for equal rights and equal acceptance. And this in a country that has only been peopled by Europeans for a little over 200 years. How shameful that our First Nations people have suffered so much, and continue to face bias and racism in so many ways today, with little thought in our community of the reparation which is so sorely justified!
Anita has delved into the world of fiction with a number of books, one of which (Tiddas) led me to her memoir. I've got to say I appreciated the Anita I met in her non-fiction so much more than the fictional characters, but I am keen to keep on and read her other books, and the many references she gave. This book brought me to tears in a number of places, the most touching being the recount of events around Kevin Rudd's Sorry speech. It was something that was needed and so long overdue, yet tragically some parliamentarians were not able to accept it with grace. Also tragic is that we are still waiting for the subsequent flow-on of achievements in closing the gap faced by our Indigenous people in justice, child raising, education, health and general living conditions at the very least, especially in outback areas. I agree that the Northern Territory Intervention and the closing down of the Community Development Employment Project has been another tragedy (I made a short documentary about CDEP just before it was closed down - it was doing a lot of good for a lot of people). Anyway, I thank Anita Heiss for her wonderful courage in writing so expressively and honestly, and she has inspired me to write more openly to share my thoughts and values on a range of issues.
Reading Anita's book is for me part of the research that I'm doing for Real Life Theatre, where I'm working with a form of theatre called Theatre for Living. This work brings me into the thick of community groups and their issues, exactly where I want to be, helping build the just and equal, inclusive and empathetic, sharing and creating sort of community that I long to be part of and to see all about me. These theatre workshops and forum theatre represent the best way that I can imagine being able to contribute towards this dream, and at last I have the opportunity to be doing just that.
Part of my Justice Arts time out took me along to Cameo Cinema in Belgrave (one of my favourite places) for a Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF) roving film - The Coming Out Again Ball Movie. What a beautiful film!. I was so touched by the work of the creative and dedicated team who found senior LBGTI people in their homes and care situations and brought them back out into a welcoming and honouring gala event. This is another group that has long fought against inhumane laws forbidding people freedom of choice and discriminating against those with values different to 'mainstream' culture. The planning came to fruition after three years at the The Coming Out Again Ball, held in Melbourne Town Hall ("the biggest public room in Melbourne") and, by serendipity, within two weeks of the legislation change for equal rights marriage - a double cause for celebration! The film was wonderful.
I have to come back to my work with Real Life Theatre. Having the freedom to express ourselves without fear of recrimination, abuse or shame is so important. We need to understand social issues that are happening in our communities and foster an environment of acceptance through understanding and empathy, outcomes of these theatre workshops. Through this work that encompasses conflict resolution and relationship building, I feel I am helping build the world that I want for my grandchildren and future generations.
People may seem to be very different, but inside we are all the same. We all have the same fears and the same emotions. Try as we might, we cannot escape the need to grow at all levels of our being. We are, after all, a tiny cog in the wheel of Life in this vast universe. So here's to recognising and accepting each other and celebrating the ways in which we come together as one humanity, caring for our planet and for all the life forms on it!