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.
Imagine a teacher from primary school remembering you vividly, fifty years later.
Sister Josephine Mitchell is a Josephite nun. A renowned champion of human rights and social justice, she is, among other roles, a former teacher, both in Australia and East Timor.
Educare, she says, means to grow. Teaching means helping young people to grow and realise their dreams. Providing education and being a small part of someone’s life is, to her, a privilege.
Sr Josephine tells a story about a little boy that she taught 50 years ago, on the banks of the Richmond River, in northern NSW. It seems, to me, remarkable, that she remembers individual students from so long ago.
“I can remember that little kid and many many little kids like that.”
“Most of the ones we dealt with in Timor really wanted to make something… they wanted to go further, but didn’t have any way to do it.”
The criteria for accepting children into the schools she taught in in East Timor were simple: The children couldn’t afford to pay for an education. Sr Josephine is fiercely passionate about working to alleviate poverty and to respect human dignity.
“A human person who is inhibited because… they’re not respected, they’re being persecuted, oppressed, living in poverty - in such poor conditions they can’t break out of that.”
To her, such injustice is intolerable. She doesn’t see it as helping though. There is a condescension to helping someone. It’s about working towards freedom, and that is a mutual process.
“They can reflect back to me who I am. Sometimes I’m not the most desirable sort of person and they can let me know that things aren’t going too well. They can affirm me. Their values, they can share with me, some things that I have not considered. Some of them overcome huge difficulties to keep developing. That’s heroic, some of them have very big obstacles.”
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.”
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.
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.”
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.”
In this episode, we talk about mental health, suicidality and abortion. If you are triggered, please seek the support of caring people. In Australia, you could call Lifeline on 13 11 14.
While Katie was at university, she became pregnant. Having children is something that Katie takes very seriously. It is not something to undertake lightly.
Katie carefully considered all her options, thought them through, discussed them with appropriate people, and came to the conclusion that an abortion was the best choice for both her and for the potential life of the foetus. She was simply not the right person, at that time, to raise a child.
Katie, a community lawyer and co-host of the Progressive Podcast Australia (https://progressivepodcastaustralia.com), is deeply committed to the values of justice and compassion.
In this episode, we talk about how a person who is supportive of early abortion and a person who is opposed to early abortion may, in fact, hold very similar values.
In issues that are potentially very polarising, we talk about the importance of seeking a balance of emotions and reasoning, of listening to people who do not share the same beliefs as us, and of acknowledging the truth, or validating, of experiences of people from all perspectives.