Archive for May, 2010

I have developed an addiction over the last couple of months which is providing me with a wonderful high, although the habit is proving to be expensive.  I have weathered two music festivals, the Sydney Writers Festival and next week I’m launching into the Sydney Film Festival. World music, blues and jazz have pulsated through my veins. International writers, including many of our home grown Australian authors, have kept my endorphin levels up and guaranteed that my neurological system continues to function. I was on such a high by the end of last week that I was like a jack in the box. Anyone could be forgiven for thinking that a little sedation might have been appropriate.

What was it about the Sydney Writers’ Festival that left me in a state of euphoria? The enthusiasm of the author, his or her capacity to draw me into their text, to transport me into unfamiliar spaces, other countries or imaginary worlds. Until the Writers Festival I had never heard of Reza Aslan, William Dalrymple, the accomplished young writer Kalinda Ashton or the monologist Mike Daisy. But by the end of the week, I knew them all.

Australian publishers outlined their readiness for e-publishing, although they anticipate that e-books will only constitute 1-2% of their market in the next financial year. I raced down the hallway to Interrogating Twitter because I didn’t want to be locked out of the digital revolution and what did I find – that the session was full. I was furious because I don’t want to be a fossil!

At future festivals retirees should demand that the principles of affirmative action be applied to all sessions related to the digital revolution. We need neuro enhancement as much as anyone in the gen X or Y category. They can wait at the back of the que.


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NSW Writers Centre courses inspire, challenge the imagination and make you laugh while simultaneously calming the adrenal glands. Following a short meditation practice we were asked by our teacher, Joyce Kornblatt, to transport ourselves into an imaginary world. Feeling stumped and working to a very short dead line, my tranquillity took flight. Like a young child I immediately thought of fairies and Santa Claus. Feeling the pressure of time, Santa Claus won out.

If I could fly like Santa Claus, drop down chimneys, sashay through open windows or magically walk through locked doors, the contents of my stockings would bring joy to every corner of the earth. Every household would have an abundance of water, fresh food and stockings that contain a love potion. This would ensure that anyone in need of a soft touch, a kind word or a thoughtful gesture would have their needs met instantly. If I could anchor a happiness cloud over every house, for just one day, then I would be content with my imaginary world.

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There aren’t too many things that make me speechless, but this morning I was floored. I was shocked to read that the Australian government had allocated an additional $487m in this year’s budget for enhanced protective measures in Afghanistan. How can Australia continue to be involved in a war when relations between President Hamid Karzai and the US deteriorated, earlier this year, to the point that Karzai was threatening to join the Taliban if the US didn’t stop telling him how to run the country. Karzai accused the west of interfering in last year’s Presidential elections and behaving like invaders rather than allies of his government.

While ever Australia, as a US ally, continues to pump money into the war in Afghanistan, we will see more refugees arriving in boats. Having helped to create this refugee problem the Australian government believes it needs to invest more money on border protection i.e. eight new patrol vessels, including $42.6 million over four years for ongoing costs.  There is $471million for offshore asylum seeker management, $32.9 million over four years to help Indonesia combat people smuggling and $143.8 million for upgrading the detention centre at Curtin and other onshore facilities.

While ever civilian deaths continue to grow in Afghanistan, the west has Buckley’s chance of ever winning the so-called war against terrorism. Everyone knows the Karzai government is corrupt. Even Obama is beginning to realise that lecturing and threatening Kazai merely gets his back up. That’s why the White house has changed its’ strategy to wooing him. It will be interesting to see if rolling out the red carpet, over the last few days in Washington, brings about any change in Karzai’s attitude to the US.

If, by the end of this financial year, Australia withdrew its’ troops from Afghanistan the government could save $487m. That money could be used for preventative health services for aging baby boomers. Now I’d fully support that budget item.

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I’d entered into a partnership with Optimism, with whom I thought the dividends would be fantastic, but I find that our collaborative venture has taken a dive.  What led to this slump in optimism? The truth lies in a darkened cinema which frequently provides hours of pleasure. I’ve always liked the predictable Hollywood formula for cowboy westerns because the goodies always kill the baddies. Certainly the movie Avatar fulfilled my expectations with three dimensional environmental crusaders saving the natural environment.  The problem is not all films stick to simplistic formulas. There are those rogue independent film makers who integrate fiction with social reality such as Philippe Lioret in the film Welcome.

Welcome left me pondering the plight of refugees from war torn areas of the globe. I began to ask questions about the number of asylum seekers in France compared to those seeking asylum in Australia. Google quickly presented me with answers from the 2009 United Nations High Commission for Refugees’ (UNHCR) annual report.

Last year 45% of all asylum seekers came from Asia. Refugee applicants from Afghanistan increased by 45% making it the major country of origin for asylum seekers. Of the 44 industrialised countries included in the report, France received 41,980 applications from asylum seekers making it the country with the second largest number of applicants. The US had the largest number. During the same period Australia received a mere 6,170 applications. So why is there such brew ha ha about the number of refugees arriving by boat in Australia? Why is anyone surprised by the number of refugees arriving from Afghanistan when the home countries of refugees seeking asylum in Australia are aligned with international trends?

The rhetoric of the Rudd Labor government and Tony Abott has been challenged by many individuals and groups within Australia, but I want to offer a challenge to Australian Independent filmmakers. Why is no-one making contemporary dramas about the challenges facing those refugees who make it to Christmas Island?  What about our latest offering, the Curtin Defence facility in Western Australia which is so remote that it’s impossible to deliver adequate services for traumatised individuals. Mainstream Australia needs to view homegrown films like Welcome if we are to change attitudes to asylum seekers in Australia.

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