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How ISIL got here

The attack on Jakarta Thursday, was  part of a campaign targeting citizens of countries fighting Islamic State (IS) in Iraq and Syria, according to a statement released by the group.

In a timely reminder of how we got here, We Are Many, is a film that finished touring Australia at the end of last year to tell the story of the huge opposition to Iraq’s invasion, and what happens when politicians ignore the people.

I put this story together about the film, with with David Cosgrove .

A Year of Exchange: Susan Price on being a socialist

Nadyat El Gawley


April 25 2015

It was a year spent on an international student exchange that got Susan Price, Summer Hill’s Socialist Alliance candidate, interested in politics. That, a relationship and a film.

Tall with red hair, Ms Price says her friendships with Chileans while on exchange in the United States in the early 1980s was the starting point of her political activism. One of her first serious relationships was with a Chilean who had left his homeland with his family after the 1973 military coup in the country.

The violent ouster had removed the democratically elected Salvador Allende government, and installed the US backed military regime of General Augusto Pinochet.   Many thousands perished in the subsequent crack down on the left, including Salvador Allende , and the gifted New Song Movement’s Victor Jara.

Not long after coming back to Australia, Ms Price, 48, saw David Bradbury’s searing documentary, Chile, Hasta Cuando, (Chile, When will it end?).   It was “consciousness changing”, she says. She was horrified to learn that people can “suffer in that way and be summarily executed and disappeared”.

David Bradbury’s Oscar nominated documentary was described by The Sydney Morning Herald then as a “film full of the pain of an abused people … in rebellion against institutionalised torture and murder.” Its impact on a young Susan Price was far reaching. She had encountered, for the first time, film makers who took risks to expose the world of exposing human rights violations .

“It was probably the process of meeting friends in my late teens as an exchange student that opened my eyes to a whole other world that I had been protected from as a child.”

Susan Price

Socialist Alliance candidate Susan Price campaigning in Marrickville at NSW’s 2015 state election. Photo: N. El Gawley

On Marrickville Road outside a pre-polling booth are representatives of The Greens, Labor and Liberal Parties and the Socialist Alliance candidates and volunteers.

At the Marrickville Rd Café nearby it’s busy and noisy, but the heady aroma of coffee fills the blue grey air.  Ms Price talks about her involvement with progressive Christian groups as a teenager in Brisbane. “You know, the do unto others kind of thing,” she says.

Her interest in left wing politics drew her to the only non-mainstream party in the early 1990s, the Democratic Socialist Party. The party grew out of various formations of Marxist-Leninist groupings in Australia and merged into the Socialist Alliance in 2010.

The Alliance has been contesting elections since 2001, and this is Susan Price’s third state election. The pace is grueling with 12-hour days and weekends that include door knocking, letter boxing, having a street presence and attending public events around the newly formed electorate.

The seat of Summer Hill has replaced the old electorate of Marrickville, and takes in most of the Marrickville area, parts of the Canterbury and Haberfield electorates.

Marrickville has been a Labor stronghold for many years, but The Greens are making significant inroads into the political life of the area with their concern for the environment, refugees and the impact of big business resonating with community.

The Socialist Alliance’s platforms are determinedly left wing with policies on participatory democracy, electoral reform, renewable energy and making NSW a refugee safe haven. The party is campaigning on a platform to shut down the Villawood Detention Centre in Sydney’s west, and allow refugee applicants to live in the community while their claim is being processed.

She regards the latter initiative as an important protest against the way the Federal Government is treating asylum seekers. “It’s going to take that kind of initiative to force the Government back.”

Drawing on examples of national and international issues being taken up by local government, Ms Price likes to bring issues down to the grassroots level such as the refugee welcome zone effort promoted by the Refugee Council of Australia. More than 100 councils across the country have signed up to this powerful and symbolic gesture according to the Council.

It is reminiscent of an initiative from the 1980’s and 1990’s when local governments across Australia declared their areas to be “nuclear free zones”.

“It meant that you could not drive trucks carrying anything radioactive through the City of Brisbane . And there were people who supported that policy who would have been happy to get out and put their bodies on the line to ensure that was the case if the Federal Government or a mining company tried to challenge it.”

New South Wales as a safe haven for refugees is an issue close to her heart, and she and she is keen to see people providing sanctuary for refugees, or blockading the Villawood Detention Centre to prevent deportation of asylum seekers.

“You can just start to imagine what could be possible if you had that kind of political position in a state like NSW and a big city like Sydney.”

It is here that Susan Price’s deep political engagement with human rights, connects with her lived experience. After completing her student exchange placement in the United States, she moved to Sweden for a couple of years with her Chilean partner. There, she taught English and was a care worker in a nursing home, where she had to learn Swedish to communicate.

“I’ve lived as a migrant overseas, and that was actually an eye opener. It was a bit of an opportunity to walk in someone else’s shoes for a change.   It was partly got me active in the first place in solidarity and internationalism.“

She sees it as an accident of fate that people end up being refugees. And with an insight gained from that experience, she ends her answer to the question with another.

“It could easily be you or me. And what makes anyone there-from Afghanistan or Sri Lanka or anywhere else any different to any one of us?”

Saving Racehorses: Reform or Revolution?

Note: I wrote this story before the Melbourne Cup and the tragic death of two horses there yesterday.  I have since tried to talk to the Australian Racing Board about whether they will now talk to animal advocates given this is the second year in a row where horses have died at the race.  They haven’t responded, but I will be keeping an eye on this story.

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Nadyat El Gawley

November 5 2014

The Coalition for the Protection of Racehorses (CPR) is calling for reforms to the racing industry as the country prepares for the Melbourne Cup. The animal welfare group is urging the public to ask whether the glamour of horseracing is worth the cruel deaths of horses every year.

According to the group’s website, 125 racehorses have died on the track between August 2013 and July 2014 from catastrophic limb injury.

“Unfortunately there has been no meaningful change [in] the industry,” said Communications Manager, Ward Young via email. “That is why we are calling on racegoers and punters to support our call to reform the racing industry and create a better world for horses.”

The group’s controversial billboard of a dead horse erected by a city expressway in Melbourne was pulled down after only four days in early October. However, they said public support has been overwhelming.

CPR’s billboard erected on the City Link Freeway in Melbourne October 4 2014. It was pulled down October 8 2014. Image source: CPR’s Facebook page.

CPR’s billboard erected on the City Link Freeway in Melbourne October 4 2014. It was pulled down October 8 2014. Image source: CPR’s Facebook page.

A spokeswoman for the Victorian RSPCA said while they acknowledged the confronting nature of the billboard, it showed “ the outcome that will face many horses when they finish racing.

“We believe the industry that profits from these racehorses needs to do more for their welfare when they retire,” the spokeswoman said in an email.

The industry defends its reforms and points to a retirement plan announced in July that makes it mandatory for owners to report the reason for their horse’s retirement, as well as plans beyond racing.

“The data …will provide the industry with greater insight into the reasons horses retire and their activities post racing,” said Caitlin Lei Sam from Racing NSW.

Ms Lei Sam said the industry can use the information to create more rehabilitation programs which would help alleviate public concern over animal welfare.

CPR accepts this as a good start, but they point out one of the retirement options is ‘livestock sale.’

“While there is a chance the horse may be rehomed,” said Young, “there is a much bigger chance they will be purchased by kill buyers [for] abattoirs and knackeries.”

“It is so important … the racing industry uses its money and power to ensure racehorses aren’t sent to these kill-houses of despair. ”

Last year, CPR proposed a retirement plan which allowed for every horse in the industry to be rehomed. It would cost 1 per cent of the betting turnover and end the ‘discarding’ of horses bred for racing, but that don’t make it to the track. According to the group, these horses make up the bulk of what’s referred to as ‘wastage’, and end up being slaughtered.

The plan was rejected by the Australian Racing Board who would not comment on why they had dismissed it.

In the clamour following the installation of the billboard, the Australian Racing Board’s Chief Executive Peter McGauran told The Age he had no respect for CPR because they spread ‘myths’. But others in the industry have taken a different view.

Scott Brodie who runs the unique Thoroughbred Rehabilitation Program funded by Racing NSW, is persuaded by the value of communication. With a wide background in horse training and education, Brodie’s networks have included animal advocates. And he’s tried to reach out to them.

The former NSW Mounted Police horse trainer said he thought he might be able to unofficially mediate between Racing NSW, and animal welfare groups.

“I didn’t really get good feedback … it was really disappointing at the time.”

“It’s good to have someone that’s got a foot in each camp and as a mediator, have an understanding of both environments. There’s an opportunity there to bring people together,” he said.

 

Scott Brodie with one of the horses stabled at Canterbury Racecourse. Photo: Nadyat El Gawley

Scott Brodie with one of the horses stabled at Canterbury
Racecourse. Photo: Nadyat El Gawley

Brodie oversees an estimated 30 volunteers and a partnership with Corrective Services NSW’s St Heliers facility at Muswellbrook. The program also has a number of staff who look after the horses at its headquarters at Canterbury Racecourse in Sydney.

“The horses come from owners, trainers, studs,” he said. “We have horses that have been racing for 10 years; we have some horses that never even made it to the race track. “

“They go to the prison… [and] because we’ve got plenty of land up there, the horses will have six months just in a paddock being horses.”

“And once they’ve had that six months…we introduce them to the inmates [who] do six weeks with each horse utilising natural horsemanship techniques which is horse whispering.”

Mr Brodie regards the program as one providing holistic approaches to horse training where gentle interaction is core. But he also sees it as one which helps both horses and people in the art of communication.

A staff member working with Mr Sublime at Canterbury Racecourse. Photo: Nadyat El Gawley

A staff member working with Mr Sublime at Canterbury
Racecourse. Photo: Nadyat El Gawley

“I’ve seen some unbelievable stuff,” he said about the turnaround in the lives of the inmates. So far, he says, no one who has gone through the program has returned to gaol.

About 100 horses go through the program each year and according to Lei Sam, there’s a great demand for it. However, there are “ many owners and trainers who already have future plans for their horses once retired…”

It is a point of contention with animal welfare groups who say the industry is not doing enough to save the lives of retired or working horses.

A disturbing video posted on CPR’s website in 2012 taken at the Victorian Laverton Knackery during Cup Week, showed horrifying treatment of horses. The animals were shot in front of one another with one horse dragged across gravel still alive after its throat was slit.

For Ward Young, watching it all has profoundly changed him.

“It does something to you that cannot be undone. For me, it stained my psyche and I could not in good conscience turn away and let it continue,” he said.

 

Climate change, a clarion call for the arts

September 26 2014

Nadyat El Gawley

In a week when thousands marched across the globe calling for action ahead of the UN Climate Summit, Australian artists were asking how will we live?

As part of the fifth Sydney Fringe Festival, 14 artists and architects have collaborated to explore domestic spaces in an era of environmental destruction. The work is presented by Branch3D in the Sydney suburb of Forest Lodge, and is set in a private home with a difference: there’s a shop front entrance.

Sarah Nolan, who lives in the house and is director of Branch3D, has been using the shop front window as a gallery. Passers by have enjoyed the art, and the festival has drawn a wider audience. People are “intrigued about a show of artworks throughout a … private house,” said Nolan.

The site-specific work, Bunkered, takes visitors through the impact on domestic life when the outside world becomes hostile.

“I like the idea that a bunker can mean so many things… hiding yourself or disguising yourself,” says one of the participating artists, Lisa Andrew. Her work, Droom, is an exploration of what she calls the “make do” future possible in a world ravaged by climate change.

Andrew’s work is installed in a bedroom. It is a fabric construction surrounding a bed with inkjet images of wood, brick and cardboard. A place to hide or shelter in, as Bunkered’s catalogue essayist Yvette Hamilton writes.

But it’s the dramatic text stamped on the installation the visitor first notices: “Australia told to feed region or face invasion.” It’s a screen shot from an ABC news report two years ago when it reported a speech by the head of the Australian Agricultural Company.

Detail: Droom by Lisa Andrew. Photo: N. El Gawley

Detail: Droom by Lisa Andrew.
Photo: N. El Gawley

“When I first took the photograph it seemed so out there,” says Andrew. “I was gleaning from surfaces around us to construct this incubating space that would almost be kind of camouflaged that you could exist in another way within it and not be noticed. So in a way I was playing a lot more on the actual idea of the word bunker.”

Droom is located alongside a video installation titled Emergency News Broadcast. It’s a live news report going wrong, with the anchor and reporters unable to connect, adding to the anxiety in the space.

Emergency Broadcast, Kuba Dorabiaski Photo: N. El Gawley

Emergency Broadcast, Kuba Dorabiaski
Photo: N. El Gawley

In an observation on how instant news is incapable of giving audiences context in crises, artist Kuba Dorabiaski shows us what happens when “Everything has collapsed.”  In her artist statement, she asks: “ What do they report when everything is news and nothing is anything anymore?”

“To me it’s about things not working. They can’t hear each other, they can’t communicate to the public because things are shutting down,” said Sarah Nolan.

Climate change is an issue Australian artists are increasingly addressing. Writing in the Guardian last year, lecturer and art critic Andrew Frost said concerns around climate change are shaping new Australian art. ‘’The return of landscape and nature as major themes is undeniable,’’ he said.

Climarte, a Melbourne based organisation working with artists on climate change joined the thousands strong march in Victoria Saturday September 20 as part of the global protests on the issue.

On the group’s Facebook page, they say artists need to make a choice.

“This is an invitation to join others who work, live and play in the arts in taking a stand. It is time for us to come together, as representatives of all that is creative, imaginative and hopeful in humanity.”

Climarte at Melbourne’s march for climate action. Source: Facebook

Climarte at Melbourne’s march for climate action.
Source: Facebook

The organisation has run forums and engaged with thinkers on the issue. Next year, in collaboration with arts institutions, it will hold the ‘Arts+Climate=Change 2015’ festival to make climate change a focus for the arts and its audiences.

Back at Forest Lodge, Lisa Andrew points out how the artworks connect with the house.

“A lot of the work is site specific,” she said. “These were lodged into the space to bring attention to the architecture and the living environment.”

Doggone

September 3 2014

Nadyat El Gawley

Leading animal and transport advocacy groups have criticised the sudden decision by Transport for NSW to ban dogs from the light rail in the inner west.

The ban has come after months of allowing commuters to take their pets on the trams since the service opened in March.

Michael Wright from Animal Medicines Australia says the decision was regrettable. “It would be disappointing if we approached human animal interaction in an overly risk-averse way,” he said.

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Hawthorne light rail station overlooking the Hawthorne Canal Reserve leash free dog park in Leichhardt. Photo: N. El Gawley

Dulwich Hill resident and dog owner Charlotte Manne was planning to visit Leichhardt’s dog park on the tram and was unaware of the ban.

“We have very few dog parks, so you need a bit of community engagement to find out what we actually want,” Ms Manne said.

“We’re at  a loss as to who made this decision and why. We will be asking the Minister to clarify,” said a spokesperson for NSW Greens senator Jamie Parker, via email.

“We’ve spoken to a number of residents in the area who are angered by the ban.”

“One pensioner had to make a four hour trip – on foot – as when arriving at the station, was told the dog was not allowed on the light rail, ” the spokesperson said.

Dogs NSW said state governments are ’unresponsive’ and ‘ out of step’ with the times.

“Australia is one of the highest dog owning countries in the world,” said spokesperson Brian Crump. “We believe … public opinion would support … dogs on public transport.”

Animal welfare consultant Maryann Dalton says there’s plenty of room for discussion on this.

“If they were to introduce a policy of allowing dogs on public transport, there should be particular carriages or services available to accommodate the animals and their owners,” she said.

With 63 per cent pet ownership, Australia is estimated by Animal Medicines Australia to have one of the highest pet ownership rates in the world.

Their latest survey, Pet Ownership in Australia 2013, shows dogs to be the most common pet, with 39 percent of households owning a dog.

This change in lifestyle will “increase pressure on the authorities [to provide services]” said Co-Convener of Ecotransit Sydney Gavin Gatenby.

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Gavin Gatenby and his Dingo Jesse at Sydney Dog Park in St Peters. Photo: N. El Gawley

The non profit group which works on public transport issues points to European countries where dogs have been able to travel on public transport.

“It’s just regarded as part of life,” he says.

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Mustapha Altinci and his rescued Rhodesian Ridgeback at Hawthorne Canal Reserve, Leichhardt. Photo: N. El Gawley

Dog owner and Leichhardt resident Mustapha Altinci said: “If it’s technically possible in any other country, it should be allowed in Australia.”

Transport for NSW and the transport minister’s office have not responded to requests for comment.

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