Easing the burden by reaching out

Burden of elephant supported by balloonsClients often experience a wave of relief after their first counselling session.  Their burden is shared and they feel joined on their journey.  That old saying, a worry shared is a worry halved rings true.

Sometimes, you don’t recognise how burdened you’re feeling until the load eases, as I experienced recently.   I’d been working on Ms Forgotten Australian’s biography for over four years and had come to the end of my skills, capability, and motivation. I knew I had to do more but had no idea Continue reading

Australia’s own Spotlight? Is this finally a crisis in the Catholic Church?

Writing the biography of Ms Forgotten Australian led me into a foreign world, one of abusive Catholic clergy and the ominous power of the Catholic Church. Ms Forgotten Australian spent her childhood in the now infamous St Joseph’s Orphanage, Neerkol. Sadly her time there included child sexual abuse by priests and systemic cover-up by the Church.

In May 2018 Archbishop Phillip Wilson was convicted of the cover-up of sexual abuse of altar boys. Priest Jim Fletcher abused the boys in the Hunter Region of New South Wales during the 1970’s. Last month Magistrate Robert Stone found Wilson guilty of concealing a serious indictable offence of another person.  This is a landmark Australian case due to the precedent it set.  The conviction Continue reading

Meeting Alice’s Daughter on Sorry Day

On Saturday Ms ForAlice's Daughter gotten Australian and I listened to Rhonda Collard Spratt, who, with Jacki Ferro has authored Alice’s Daughter: Lost Mission Child.  Rhonda is Alice’s daughter and she is a delightful raconteur. She shared stories of her life, enlivened with music, poetry, and much laughter.  Aunty Rhonda, as she is known, brings warmth and inclusiveness to a story of violence and separation.

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Silenced!

Victims voices are often silenced

Victims voices and stories

are often silenced.

A parent abuses a child, yet that same parent is also responsible for feeding and sheltering the child. Fear of retribution deftly silences the child.  No adults are seen as safe.

Condemnation and punishment await an unruly and antisocial boy, who has no words to describe his chaotic emotional world or the abuse he is experiencing. Opportunities for disclosure are lost.

A teenage girl internalises her shame, silenced by the myth of the perfect family. No one would believe what happens in her family. The self-inflicted slashes on her thighs scream her pain, but no one hears. Continue reading

Lucky Cardinal Pell

Lucky Cardinal PellCardinal George Pell, Australia’s most senior Catholic leader, was committed to stand trial for historic child sexual offences last week.  He is currently on leave from his role as treasurer of the Vatican and the Holy See. The Holy See is the central governing body of the entire Roman Catholic Church and operates from within the Vatican City. The Vatican City is an independent state located on Vatican Hill in Rome.  This high-ranking position puts Cardinal Pell third in charge after the Pope – that’s a position that wields a lot of power and controls a lot of money.

After two months of deliberation, Magistrate Belinda Wallington ruled, on 1 May 2018, that Continue reading

The Birth of a Book- The story of a Forgotten Australian

I’m writing my dear friend’s biography, which has the working title of Not Forgotten.  It’s been a labour of love, but often, more like hard dull labour than passionate love. I have felt like a pregnant elephant, holding this huge story deep inside me for the longest time.  But elephants only gestate for two years, and this book has been in production for over four years.  I now know that four years is not unusual for a book.  The process seems endless – interview, research, write, get feedback from readers, edit, interview more people, write, get more feedback from readers, edit.  Repeat multiple times.  Then become overwhelmed by the enormity of the task, drown in self-doubt, pick yourself up and get going again.

I blogged in 2015 for a year. The purpose was to hone my writing skills while my husband Steven and I enjoyed six restorative months away from our busy lives, travelling the world.  Those posts are still here, now mostly irrelevant, but I can’t bear to delete them.  Since then I have continued to work on Not Forgotten. Now I’m firing up the blog again to motivate me through the final stages of labour – getting it from a manuscript to publication.

Birth of a Book - The story of a Forgotten AustralianDuring the gestation period Not Forgotten has led me to thought-provoking places; the magnificent State Library of Victoria, an orphanage for critically ill children in China, a psychiatrist’s room, a rock climbing expedition and decaying buildings in Far North Queensland.  I have become the keeper of my friend’s family history, with cupboards overflowing with documents, diaries and photos of people I do not know.  My life has been enriched by the growth of a cherished friendship.

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Women’s Work is Never Done

TableRecently we went to the launch of Be Enterprise, an innovative social enterprise program of Logan Women’s Health and Wellbeing Centre. The evening combined the launch of the program with a healthy amount of fund raising. The invitation to attend had been extended to me by Liz Irvine, Chair of the Board, and since I’d had a role in her being on the board in the first place it was an offer I really couldn’t refuse.

It’s been a long time since I’ve been to a women focused event and it was great to step outside my normal routine. I felt recharged after the night as I listened to women with conviction and passion speak about the work they do to make a difference to women’s lives.

Shannon Fentiman MP – Minister for Communities, Women and Youth, Minister for Child Safety, Minister for Multicultural Affairs and Member for Waterford reminded us that the gender pay gap is still alive and well, with woman being paid, on average, 17% less than men. I thought of a recent conversation Continue reading

Inside the 中国小花 China Little Flower Orphanage, Beijing

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One of the bedrooms

In Beijing we are staying with Wei and Karin.  Wei, a pediatric surgeon, planned to visit an orphanage and I was keen to accompany him.  The book I am writing, currently called Not Forgotten, is the life story of a woman who was in an orphanage in Australia from 2-10 years old, so I have developed an interest in orphanages and how they operate.

Even though Wei told me that the children we would meet were the most severely handicapped, I still had a naive view that we would be seeing some cute, chubby faced adorable Chinese babies who would be smiling and gurgling at me, but that was not to be.

When we arrived at China Little Flower Orphanage we were greeted by Lily, the administrator, and asked to Continue reading

Where a journey takes you

P1080249We take many journeys through life and they are not all connected with travel.  Major life journeys I have enjoyed include studying at university, getting married, building a house and of course having children.  I love the way you start at some place with no clear view of where you will end up, and the journey unfolds as you go along.  I have long believed that life is about the journey not the destination.  Writing the book of my friends life has been another journey that has led me to delightfully unexpected places.

When I agreed to write the book, I envisaged Continue reading

Touching the ghost of my childhood

Yum - Fairy Floss
Yum – Fairy Floss

I left New Zealand when I was 19 years old, my first experience of running away. Since then I have tried to come back every two or three years to see my family. Each time I feel compelled to reach out and touch the ghost of my childhood and wonder whether others have similar experiences. I devour chocolate fish and pineapple lumps, (New Zealand confectionary delights), candy floss, mixed lollies sold in paper bags, hokey pokey ice creams, spearmint milkshakes which must be served in an icy cold aluminium container and for a savoury dish, bacon and egg pie with sliced tomato on top. I could buy these in Australia but somehow it would be traitorous to eat them there.

Then there is the drive past the family home, sold when my mother died 15 years ago, Continue reading