Sharing a moment from the lives of real women. A moment used to uncover their personal values and beliefs.
It’s about encouraging a respect for women, and a solidarity among women; the dignity and validation that comes from having an audience, albeit invisible, bearing witness to the story you tell; creating a moment of shared understanding of emotion between very different kinds of people. It’s Michel Foucault’s truth effect. That's why CSP talks to Aboriginal women, Muslim women, environmental activists, neuroqueer and queer mothers, women married to each other, old women, young girls. Any woman you see, any person you see, has a story, if you can be quiet long enough to listen.
Cherie Johnson is passionate about Aboriginal education.
I interviewed Cherie at the Indigenous Chamber of Commerce, while she participated in a program for entrepreneurs. While we spoke, she brought to life the landscape around us. Sydney Harbour is the traditional land of the Gadigal people. Long before colonisation by the British, this was a harbour into which whales came to breed. It had a rich social history, a shared space that saw peaceful trading with many other nations, including the Dutch and the Indonesians.
When I studied history in Australia in the 1990s, we covered aspects of the histories of many nations. In Australian history, while certain aspects of colonisation were addressed, the Myall Creek Massacre being a notable stand out in my memory, this was not a focus of our education. The white settlers were the focus. I have no memory of being taught anything about Australian history prior to colonisation, which was often, and still is, referred to as the “early days” of Australia.
Cherie believes passionately in the importance of Indigenising the Australian school curriculum. For example, Cherie means that we need to include much more Aboriginal content, such as teaching a history that doesn’t start with the colonisation of Australia.
Cherie feels it is also important to recognise that, while Australian education is typically focused on verbal ways of learning, Aboriginal people, and many non-Aboriginals, learn much more through kinetic and visual ways: learning through having a go at a process and then solidifying the learning with the written process.
These are topics that can be uncomfortable for non-Aboriginal Australians. An Aboriginal perspective can be a “narrative that is foreign.” Cherie wants to support non-Aboriginal Australians to implement these perspectives, to talk about “topics that they don’t find completely comfortable but [are] navigating anyway.”
Her sense of herself as an Aboriginal woman is ever-present in her story. For me, a settler woman, it was a privilege to listen to how Cherie’s understanding of her identity is located so strongly within her culture. A Wailwan woman, part of the Gomileroi language group, her family is from northern NSW. From a strong line of women, Cherie lives now on the land of the Awabakal people, not far north of Sydney, Australia.
As Cherie says, “at the base of who I am, I’m an Aboriginal woman.” That means she will always ask herself what is important for her people, her community, her family network. It means being strong in herself.
Cherie doesn't devalue the existing Australian education system. In fact, as well as raising her children and running her business, she is completing a PhD, seeking to empirically validate her beliefs about the importance of Aboriginal education. She hopes to bring together what is important in both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal perspectives.
As a non-Aboriginal, I am steeped in the settler narrative. My education and upbringing enculturated me into that focus. And, as Cherie said, it can be uncomfortable to take another perspective.
But discomfort, really, is where growth lies. Sitting and listening to Cherie's perspective of this land created an expansive feeling. It was a glimpse into the way another person, another group of people, view and make sense of the world.
As Cherie says, of the way her cultural identity shapes her life and her perspective, “it’s like the steering wheel of my life and my body.”
Ashley Avci has not only heard about it, she has been there. She has stood for long hours, days, weeks and months, a horrified witness to slaughter. She is a Cove Guardian with the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. In this episode, she talks about her personal experiences in Taiji.
Ashley has put her head into the water and listened to what can only be described as screaming, from pods of up to eighty dolphins and whales. And then, the silence when they are all dead, from great-grandparents down to the smallest calves.
Passionately and fiercely opposed to the hunting of whales and dolphins, Ashley was quite prepared to accept the emotional toll that it has taken on her. It seemed an acceptable price for attempting to bring to the world’s attention and so, hopefully one day, stop this practice.
To her, it is simply unacceptable to turn away from suffering and injustice.
“I cannot sit back while I know there is so much hurt going on in the world.”
Briannon is an autistic parent of three autistic children. Several years ago and before Briannon knew she was autistic, she was shamed by a work colleague for “that weird thing” she does with her hands. Recently, her six-year old child has started hand flapping. This story is about the joy and pride of being autistic.
Lee is the daughter of the Australian realist artist, Nutter Buzacott (1905-1976). This year, Lee curated an exhibition of her father’s work in the Lismore Regional Gallery. In this interview, Lee talks about her father’s art and her relationship with that art. A former communist and a humanist, the impression that is left is of a man who closely observed people and landscapes, and cared deeply for what he observed.
"His art allows the viewer to see something of people’s real life. And I think that’s worth looking at.
Those people, in my father’s art, are not going to change the world. They’re ordinary people, in ordinary clothes, making a contribution... What are they hoping to get out of life? I’d just like us to wonder about them."