Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Review - The Memory of Genocide in Tasmania, scars on the archive by Jesse Shipway

The Memory of Genocide in Tasmania is a daunting, exhausting and devastating book that examines genocide and modernity and the attempt to desecrate Aboriginal culture in Tasmania. It looks at the delusions that have led generations of Tasmanians to consider that the palawa people were extinct and sharply interrogates how Tasmanians interpret the island and its myriad cultures.
The only thing this review can do though, is to skim the surface and to over-simply the hard wrought arguments. This book, as a result of the dense academic language, is destined for a small readership. Despite that, it is an incredibly important book. It includes a consideration of Tasmania as a collective noun, a challenge to “imaginary imputations of islandness,’ and a thorough exploration of the theories of genocide. There are moments of deliciously acerbic turns of phrase and it is shot through with profoundly detailed analysis. It is often the most difficult books that afford us the most change.
Shipway questions why we believe we should have a history that we should feel good about, he names Tasmanians as having an “exorbitant frontier privilege,” an “unjustified belief in our own innocence,” and a “a schmaltzy fondness for cozy smallness”. There are close readings of Richard Flanagan’s novel Gould’s Book of Fish, which he slices through a Freudian filter, explaining how the novel echoes a move towards modernity. He challenges the notion of modernity as being endemic to larger, progressive cities and he closely examines the 1978 film, The Last Tasmanian. This is a film whose offense has rightly endured, as its conveys the archaic belief that there was no living aboriginal culture in Tasmania.
There is a rigorous intellectual debate around whether genocide occurred in Tasmania and much of this is around semantics and technical definitions. It is also the site of what appears to be an academic stoush, where Shipway takes on Henry Reynolds and Nicholas Clements and their interpretation of the history of this island and their claims that it was not genocide. While the extent of Reynold’s work is considered and lauded, there are some fairly acute barbs.
It is lamentable that we must have the conversations this book forces on us, though it is necessary. Tasmanians must face the past to move on, and face it with a fearless and honest desire to probe and question. I also lament that this book is so densely theoretical and at times, difficult to read, as it is seminal. While it may be an insult to the author, I sincerely hope he can bring these deeply considered and researched notions to a more general readership, with the same succulent writing that often shines through.

Tasmanians still have a long journey ahead in terms of true reconciliation, especially with the incumbent generations of leaders having grown up being fed misinformation by the education department, heirs to a lazy acceptance of the 18th century historians who presented the traditional owners as past, whereas the reality is they have been present on this island for around 2000 generations. 

The Memory of genocide in Tasmania, 1803 – 2013,
Scars on the Archive
Jesse Shipway
RRP $135
Palgrave Macmillan

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Paige Turner - July

Lugubrious and lubricious are two wonderful words I’ve recently been rolling around my tongue. I set myself a challenge to include at least one in this month’s column and have exceeded even my own expectations and it is only the first paragraph. Auspicious.

Good things ahead include the Poets and Painters Exhibition which opens on July 18 at the Moonah Art Centre. Featuring nine poets paired with nine painters, this exhibition is part of a wonderful continuum in a long series of these creative fusions. I look forward to seeing and reading this work.

Adam Ouston was the judge of the inaugural Smoke international microfiction competition from Transportation Press. A collection of the winning work will be launched at Quartermasters Arms in Elizabeth St Hobart from 5.30 on July 19. Readings, and a chance to have a yarn with Transportation Press’ International Guard Tadgh Muller, meet the writers, the judge and me too, delight of delights that I am. Fullers Bookshop are the generous sponsors of Smoke. The stories will be printed on individual pieces of fine paper, available in bundles and by PDF, direct from the press.

The day after this, Ouston will be in conversation with Robert Dessaix at Fullers. They will be marking the launch of Dessaix’ reissued backlist. His books are a such a special treasure and while I’m yet to lay eyes on these editions I am sure they will be beautiful publications; it would be a waste otherwise. They will be
talking about each of Dessaix’ books, piecing together an overarching narrative of his work.

Australian Slam Poetry heats are au go go in July. Slamduggery is presenting "Words of Winter" on Tuesday 18th at the Oak in Launceston. Consider it a chance to warm your vocals and our cockles before the Tasmanian heats of the Australian Poetry Slam. The Launceston heat is on 1 August at the Oak, Hobart at World’s End on 8 August, Deloraine at the Empire on 16 August and Ulverstone on 11 August at The Gnomon Pavillion. Check them out on Facebook.
The final will be held at the Launceston Workers Club, 30th August. from 7pm.

Releasing the Genie is an anthology of erotic poetry edited by Marilyn Arnold and Evie Wood. It will be launched by Tasmanian author Robyn Friend at Petrarch's Bookshop, Launceston, on Friday 7th July. The poets will read from their work. Also at Petrarch’s, on July 6 is the launch of
Transported by Brian Harrison-Lever.

On July 8, Launceston based Poet Musing will be reading at MellowFest. Poet Musing, aka Stephen Johnstone is a mental health advocate and he is performing at 4.30pm that day,.
The illustrious Hobart Bookshop has two events lined up for July, firstly Monica McInerney, an event they are very excited about. This event will celebrate the release of her new book The Trip of a Lifetime. The second event is the launch of the effervescent Eugenia Williams’ The Stone Fiddler on 21st July.

Flit is a fringe literary fest with an open call happening in Hobart in September. Click here for more details 

The Society of Women Writers Tasmania presents The Robyn Mathison Poetry Prize 2017. With a first prize of $200.00, second of $50, and a variety of acknowledgment certificates up for grabs and a closing date of August 31, you still have time. It is open to all poets and more details can be found here.

Also up for grabs is the Margot Manchester Memorial Short Story Writing Award. This gets my prize for alliteration. These guys are seeking short stories between 1200- 1500 words in length, no theme with cash money up for grabs for the winning authors. This also closes on August 31st and more information is available here.

Lesley Harrison has launched her first book, Behind the Boomgate, which is about what it’s like to live in caravan parks. She utilised a broad range of sources when writing the book, ranging from doctorates on the subject, government reports as well as lived experience. Books can be purchased from Foot and Playsted and Petrarch's Bookshop or the author on lharriso2 at bigppond.com.

Award winning Tasmanian musician and writer Sofi Chapman's lesbian romance 'Untitled, or The Seat of Narcissa' returns to the stage for the celebrations of Melbourne’s legendary La Mama theatre's 50th birthday Mini-Fest Weds. 26-Fri 28 July at Carlton Courthouse, Melbourne.

The Tasmanian Writers’ Centre are soon to release the program for the Writers and Readers Festival in September, I am seriously tantalized. In July they are hosting an essay writing workshop with James Dryburgh. Creative Non Fiction and the Art of the Essay is happening on July 23rd.  Pictured is James' first book, Essays From Near and Far.

On July 24th, Seasonal Poets winter readings at Hadley’s will feature Louise Oxley, Pete Hay and Kristen Lang. More info here.

Tansy Rayner Roberts is offering writing workshops for kids during the school holidays at Kingston Linc (July 14, Exploring Fairyland & July 18, Hero Quest). More details on Tansy’s website

On Saturday 29th between 1-3pm, Poems for Peace will be read at Collins Bookshop, Launceston. This is part of the Tamar Valley Peace Festival

And that’s a lovely way to end this month’s column. Drop me a line Racheledwards488 at gmail.com

PS I think you should look at this artist. He is my cousin and I love him fiercely, and his work takes my breath away. Will Whitehouse.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Review - Tasmania’s Forgotten Frontier by John Beswick

Tasmania’s Forgotten Frontier, a history of exploration, exploitation and settlement around Tasmania's far north-east coast
by John Beswick

This is an impeccably researched, clearly written history of North East Tasmania, an area rich in ancient culture, maritime history and agricultural settlements. Author John Beswick is a former Deputy Premier of Tasmania and a sixth generation Tasmanian whose ancestors were amongst the first white pioneers in the region.
His obvious affiliation and personal knowledge of the region shines through in the book and he has an especially endearing style of writing about seafarers.
The book covers in detail; first contact, the sealers, the Van Diemonian Wars, the farmers, the industries, and contains a wealth of curious anecdotes.
Some of these include mention of the escaped convicts who became pirates and ran vessels around Preservation Island and that of Mrs Eliza Bowen who is said to have gone grey overnight at seeing the Loch Finlas, a large barque bound for Peru founder and wreck before her eyes. It is said that generations of locals have enjoyed possession of beautiful sets of crockery salvaged from the vessel.
The book, while generally compelling and clearly written becomes a little dessicated towards the end, covering in great detail pastoral leases and details of livestock. It is a little dry for the lay reader. These swathes are luckily broken up with intriguing sometimes poignant stories of individuals and political intrigue whose tendrils still hold the state in sway today, including some innuendo around British Tobacco (BT) and the creation of the Mount William National Park and the involvement of Kevin Lyons, the Deputy Premier, who resigned in 1972 following exposure of his corruption. Lyons received $25 000 from BT to write his memoirs, a book that has not ever eventuated. In separate incidents, Federal Hotels paid $29 000 off Lyon’s mortgage, as well as the offering him a job with an equivalent salary. The latter is covered closely in James Boyce’s recent expose into gambling and corruption in Tasmania, Losing Streak.
While the book contains lots of detail it does not cover the Aboriginal community in the NE, after the decline of the sealing industry. This is an oversight in which author Beswick is not alone. The structure of many books on Tasmanian history focus solely on white settlement alone, rarely glancing at the history in the Aboriginal community, which, in the NE were especially important. An uncomfortable oversight with this particular text is the fact that Chapter One is called ‘The Europeans Arrive’.
The years that Beswick spent on his meticulous research have certainly paid off. This is a comprehensive book that explores in detail an area of Tasmania that does not have many books dedicated to it. Forty South continue to publish strongly, augmenting a rich written Tasmanian history and this book is a prime example. While it is not a book for everyone focused as it is on such a tiny pocket of the world, it is a book for those interested in the region, as well as recent Tasmanian history and development.

An edited version of this review appeared in TasWeekends, June 24, 2017

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Mandy and Khin and the Yangon Literary Magazine

Podcast of an interview with Mandy Moe Pwint Tu and Khin Chan Myae Maung, co founders of the Yangon Literary Magazine and I was fortunate enough to sit down with them when I was in Yangon last year.
In this articulate and eye opeing interview, they muse on the energy in the literary and creative space in Yangon these days, the origin story of the magazine they cofounded along with Paul Chan Htoo Sang, and the move to print alongside the production of  digital editions

They talk about their own writing and their influences, and they comment on the feminist movement in Myanmar today.

The discussion about what may be considered "thematically Burmese," is fascinating, with a conclusion - that it's either politics or love.

The interview took place at the time of Lionel Shriver's incendiary comments about cultural appropriation and the ensuing debate and commentary. Mandy and Khin respond to this situation by describing their personal experiences seeking publication,  The interview is marred, however, by my unwieldy rant-style lead in question about this particular subject. They also ofer some perspective and insight into books about Myanmar by foreigners.

Mandy and Khin were such a pleasure to interview. Erudite, intelligent, opinionated.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Paige Turner, June 2017

Waaay too much going on to allow space for any chitchat banter or personal rhapsodisations on recent reads. (I took Paul Auster with me to Bangkok, The New York Trilogy, adored it to pieces, three stories of detectives and identities lost and assumed and as slippery as fiction. Then Olga Masters’ Collected Short Stories which was dry and dusty and I did not persist, then Gao XingJian, Nobel laureate and his One Man’s Bible, sexy, lively alongside a despotic regime. I will return to him.

Loud MouthTheatre Company presents SHIT by Patricia Cornelius at The Backspace from June 21. The fabulous Maeve Macgregor is directing and the precis runs like this -Bobby and Sam are survivors who combat the restrictions enforced on them by their gender and their class, and our expectations of them: but how much can they get away with? Tickets at Theatre Royal.

Poet Gina Mercer and yoga teacher, Shanti Panaretos are hosting a retreat with yoga, writing and very good food. Gina is a recognised Tasmanian poet and this sounds like a lovely weekend; guided in movement, encouraged in writing and eating good food. It is taking place in Dodges Ferry at the end of July. Get in touch- shantimacan AT hotmail.com

Forty South have got a few newbies out, I’m reading Tasmania’s Forgotten Frontier, a history of exploration, exploitation and settlement around Tasmania’s Far North-East Coast by John Beswick. Fergus Gives a Hoot (pictured) by Kathleen McLaren is being launched by Donald Knowler, journalist, author and the most wonderful writer of birds on 1 June, 5.30pm at the Hobart Bookshop. The book is about roadkill and it is for kids.

The Tasmanian Writers Centre are in a busy and curious space in the lead up to their Writers and Readers Fest, the program is coming soon. They are also hosting the sharply generous Benjamin Law, on June 18 for a workshop on Memoir and Life Writing.
22 June is a Twitch event, Twitch being the centre’s youf arm, currently without a rudder I believe. I’ll still celebrate the Young Writers in the City: Glenorchy event, 5.30pm at the Moonah Arts Centre. More information? Click here.
The wonderful James Dryburgh is also hosting a workshop with TWC about writing essays. James' collection Essays from Near and Far gives an introduction to his thoughtful writing.

The Comic Art Workshop do excellent things. They did a residency on Maria Island and the next one is in Yogyakarta, Indonesia later this year. Some of the work from the Maria residency is in an exhibition at the chapel in the Penitentiary on Maria, at Darlington. More reason to visit Maria and remember to tell the tourists to watch out for the waist high devils that may attack.

Hobart local Kate Gordon is working with multi-award-winning publisher Twelfth Planet Press to launch their new children's imprint. Titania's books will be aimed at children between the ages of 3 to 13 and will have a focus on diversity and inclusiveness, within magical worlds. The first project for Titania will be a children's book by award-winning writer and scholar Nike Sulway. You can follow Titania on Twitter at @Titania_TPP, or via their their Facebook page.

Twelfth Planet has also launched crowdfunding for an ambitious anthology, Mother of Invention, which will feature diverse, challenging stories about gender as it relates to the creation of artificial intelligence and robotics.

On June 2 at Utas the Human Rights Art and Film Festival, is screening Constance on the Edge. There’s a panel discussion and more details can be found here or by searching HRAFF on Facebook. The eponymous Constance is a strong Acholi woman who was one of the first refugees from South Sudan to settle in Wagga Wagga with her family in 2005

Alongside the stylish and interesting quarterly Island mag publishes, they also host one of Australia’s most important poetry prizes, The Gwen Harwood. Entries close in August. Utas is running a writing prize with Island, open to all current and former students and staff of the institution. Well worth a look. Island 149 will be out for winter reading and contains an art feature on Sonia Heap’s the Armoury,  Bruce Pascoe’s Lin Onus Oration- Sea Wolves and a piece on Chauncy Vale and Nan Chauncy by Brigid Magner plus an essay on Queenstown and the Unconformity fest, by Tas Poetry Festival Director Cameron Hindrum.

Fullers in Hobart, on June 8 is hosting the launch of Nic Gill’s book Animal Eco Warriors, Humans and animals working together to protect the planet which looks wonderful. Nicole is one of Australia’s increasingly recognised science writers and this is her first book.

Tansy Rayner Roberts is leading a workshop called Scavenger Fiction at the Resource Coop in South Hobart on June 25. This is a creative workshop set amongst the South Hobart Tip Shop Bookshelves; the works as inspiration and Tansy there to guide through the writing process. Bookings are essential for this June 25 workshop, education@resource.coop or call 6332 3891

Make sure you check out the Huon Valley Midwinter Festival’s call for entrants to the Storytelling Cup - coming soon.

And if you want to drop me a line, tell me what you’re reading or what you’re writing or any other news – racheledwards488 AT gmail.com

A version of this column was also published in Warp, June 2017

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Review - Flame Tip, Short fictions by Karenlee Thompson. Foreword by David Walsh

Flame Tip is a collection of short stories that pivots around the devastating 1967 bushfires that ripped through Southern Tasmania, leaving 62 people dead, 900 injured and over seven thousand homeless. These fires have been seared into the Tasmanian psyche and, fifty years on, even as history drags this moment in time away from us, Tasmanians are hyper vigilant and aware of lessons learnt from those days. Those attributes, which could be as a result of trauma suffered by the community more broadly, have meant that recent suburban and peri-urban fires and the damage wrought is felt more keenly, but also that they have been responded too more wisely.
I often get nervous reading new short fiction, as it is rare to find true gems amongst any literature, even rarer amongst the smaller population of writers in Tasmania. I breathed a sigh of relief after the first story in this collection, confident that KarenleeThompson can construct a solid story and take the reader on a short journey with her prose. These stories hum a good tune, and are generally well constructed.
As mentioned, the book’s stories pivot around the ’67 bushfires, but they also cover the territory of domesticated life, love and romance. Some of them delve into deceit and one of them, ‘The Keeper of the Satchel’, fairly distinct in the collection, delves into a man’s mind as he creates a new dictionary, a dictionary that better reflects his understanding of the world. A recurring theme is the burnt, or deceived woman, which is treated with a small element of bitterness in the poignant story, ‘A Bird in the Oven’, where a wife is left by a husband who is dizzy with a new woman, and the story follows her personal regeneration, and that of her family.
Alongside the destruction of fire and ensuing loss are other motifs including the tacky ex husband. These stories have an edge of spite to them, though the cuckolded woman is the victor. They do seem to be a little raw though, a little as if it has been written as a revenge story, and this detracts from the reading experience. They feel burdened.
In her introduction, Karenlee Thompson borrows from the Nobel Prize winning Chinese writer Gao Xingjian, and talks about presenting a version of truth ‘under the mask of fiction’, and this does leave the reader to wonder what aspects of the stories are autobiographical, but that is superfluous, really, as these stories generally, save a few, have a good narrative arc and propel the reader onwards.

The book also has a foreword by David Walsh, with typically wonderful and obscure references, which has surely lead more people to pick up a book of short stories, which is a good thing.
The fact that the book pivots around the fires is tricky territory, as this book’s readership will predominantly be in Tasmania and to bring a version of fiction to an event that is painfully true for many, is brave, and ultimately healing. We must, however, consider that the fire has been carried on, through living memory and even through epigenetic dispersal (not to get too Walshian on you’all) and that to bring it front and fore not only offers space for healing, but also for pain to arise.

Versions of this review have been published in Warp (May 2017) and TasWeekend magazine (May 27, 2017)

Monday, May 15, 2017

Sholeh Wolpe and the essence of contemporary Persian poetry

Sholeh Wolpe is a wonderful poet and translator, hailing from Iran, currently residing in LA, via the UK and Trinidad, where she was sent to live with her aunt at age 13. Her work, while contemporary, is part of a centuries’ long Persian love and respect for poetry, and in this interview, recorded in Guangzhou, China late last year, she will tell you of childhood call and response games that revolved around poetry.
She is not able to go back to Iran, partly because it would mean giving up citizenship elsewhere, and partly because she translated the powerful, erotically charged poetry of Forough Farrokzhad, a poet, whose words, says Sholeh, unveiled the words of Iranian women. Her new translation, of the twelfth century Sufi Mystic, and teacher of Rumi, (who is incidentally the biggest selling poet in the USA today) Attar’s Conference of the Birds,  will be released from WW Norton this year.
This interview was first published on Transportation Press.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Richard Fidler on the process of interviewing

A few years ago I had the absolute pleasure and delight of interviewing Richard Fidler on the art of interviewing. You can hear the full interview here. A couple of the gems he imparts in this discussion include
Interviewing "allows you to ask impertinent questions of interesting people and gives you a plaform to do it". "Radio is the most beautiful medium, it is just lovely". (oh! how I agree with this)
When interviewing "you should imagine you are at a cocktail party and you must always bring the listener in, and make sure they don't keep looking after your shoulder".
He talked about how curiousity is so important and how Virginia Trioli said that you must bring out your inner five year old and get rid of a perceived need to sound authorative
"If you are authnetically curious people respond to that, the trick is to not interview anyone unless you are really curious."
and that, as an interviewer, it is "incumbent on you to read and research as much as you can".
Have a listen here.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Review - Seven Stories, Dewhurst Jennings Institute, edited by Ben Walter

At the launch of Seven Stories in Hobart recently Booker Prize winner, Richard Flanagan said “this is a significant book in Tasmanian letters.” I’ll go further than that - this is a significant book of contemporary writing in Australia, that deserves an international audience.
It is a selection of seven short stories (hence the title) by people writing in Tasmania today. These are writers who are committed to their craft and they are also some of the most exhilarating voices in contemporary literature in Australia. Without exception they transcend the fads and fashions of Australian literature, which is currently stultifying around ‘dusty realism’ and a banal Sydney-Melbourne banter. Seven Stories houses the genius brigade of writing in Tasmania, some of the most exciting writers on the ground at the moment.
The subject matter and styles of these writers vary wildly. There is acute suspenseful realism in ‘The Shy Birds’ by Emma L Waters in which she takes the reader alongside a couple walking on an East Coast beach. They meet an old fellow who offers to show them a special nest, is he genuinely friendly, or malevolent? The tension ebbs and flows with a perfect foreshadowing from the sound of gunshots (the couple then realise there is a rifle club up the road), and the nervous “pip-pipping” of the black and white birds.
Robbie Arnott’s story, ‘The Reach’ is a punch in the guts. Told through the eyes of one young brother experiencing a fit (epilepsy?) and ruining the other’s Lego, it is a tragedy of filial relations in two pages.
Ben Walter, who, through the elusive Dewhurst Jennings Institute put together this selection which won a Community Writers Award (Fellowship of Australian Writers) in 2015, is at his flagrant poetic best with the wild ride that is ‘An Anti-Glacier Book’. This is a lush story, not easy to read, replete with some literary trickery and nods towards writers who made significant literary change in the twentieth century.
Ruairi Murphy roams the library knowledgably and with aplomb, his story about a library closure and what that means for individuals who frequent it, is constructed as a series of vignettes. It is wryly funny, and shot through with darkness. Susie Greenhill, who was awarded the national Richell Prize for manuscripts last year is back with her delicate prose, this time in a story that speaks of love and loss in a war zone. Seem like too big a theme for a short story? Not in Greenhill’s increasingly deft hands.
‘The Chaos of Life Beyond Death in the Outback’ by Adam Ouston is a rambunctious and exhilarating story of a man hitchhiking in the eponymous Outback, picked up by a zombie film making crew, who he eventually murders. Michael Blake’s ‘Donny and Bucket on the Treeless Plain’ completes the anthology. It is about two teenage boys making the break from their home town, making a run for it. It is a liminal story, one that does not cover a journey, but a decision.

The print run of Seven Stories is tiny, but the book is now being picked up by booksellers around the country, I urge you to get your hands on the book while you still can.

A version of this review appeared in TasWeekends, May 6, 2017 
This review is dedicated to Tadhg Muller who coined the term "genius brigade"

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Paige Turner, May 2017

A few writers I am loving at the moment include Lidia Yuknavitch and Lucia Berlin. Yuknavitch’s novel, The Small Backs of Children is chilling and beautiful and violent and sexy; it’s about being an artist and about how art cannibalises life. Add some Lucia Berlin into your lives too, her short stories, collected over many years are now available in a book called A Manual For Cleaning Women. Berlin has a wild energy in her writing (and her life too, many of these stories arise from life) and she cuts through all of the flab of the world, with a sentence or two.Recent local work that is excellent includes Seven Stories, a collection of short stories edited by Ben Walter that houses some of the best writers in Australia, who happen to reside in Tasmania, and Jesse Shipway’s difficult and challenging In Memory of Genocide inTasmania, 1803-2013, Scars on the Archive.

Event wise, and as usual there are lots of offerings from around the state. Let’s start down south, at Kickstart Arts and as part of their fabulous program, Creative Exchange. On May 23 at 6.30 Yoav Bar-Ness from Tasmanian Geographic will be teaching tools on how to craft an engaging narrative with a focus on adventure and memoir. You can explore how non fiction can best utilise the tools of fiction writers. Thirty bucks, bookings essential. Kickstart are also also calling for people to run courses in anything creative in the world  to “teach what you love and get paid”. Register here. Ivy Alvarez, poet, via Tasmania, via Wales, via Philippines, via New Zealand, has edited an edition of Atlanta Review, which contains general poetry submissions, as well as poetry by writers from New Zealand. This is the Spring 2017 issue (indeed, the world is upside down, but it is Spring in Atlanta).
Publishing comrades in Thailand, Crime Wave Press are about to publish two new books, one an anthology by Andy Rausch, a Hollywood screenwriter, Riding Shotgun and Other American Cruelties. The other is a noir-esque thriller a la Dennis Lehane by Tony Knighton, Three Hours Past Midnight.
I normally focus on celebration of writing and events in Tasmania, but I seriously celebrate all small publishers from around the world. Check out theirnifty vid here.

Last month I was fortunate to attend a full day amongst inspirational people discussing Creative Activism. Organised by Victoria Ryle, Sara Wright and Simon Spain as part of All That We Are, I am still percolating. Karen Revie was one of the artists I met. She has spent a long time in the visual arts and is returning to writing of recent times, and she’s off to Flinders Island to write, as an artist in residence at the Mountain Seas Artist Retreat. Karen's artistic process involves the investigation of magic in science and science in magic.  Her current writing project is a fantasy narrative about dragons and is a literary compliment to Draco, a permanent public sculpture by Karen on the grounds of QVMAG.
My interest is piqued -
The Tasmanian Writers’ Centre is gearing up towards the September festival and in May are offering a workshop with the erudite, experienced journalist, Claire Konkes. This workshop is on May 21 and will cover the following; writing profiles, magazine features, reviews and opinion, how to pitch articles and get paid, how to structure magazine features, including literary devices, elements for effective writing and also working with sources. I think this is a seriously good opportunity, Claire has the knowledge and is able to convey it effectively. The Writers Centre, in collaboration with Recognise and National Reconciliation Week are hosting a good looking session on May 30 at the Moonah Arts Centre, with speakers including Uncle Jimmy Everett, who I had the pleasure of meeting at Nayri Niara good spirit Festival, and New York Times correspondent and author of The Memory Bones, Caroline Brothers.

Hobart Bookshop are delighted to host an event to celebrate the release of Robert Dessaix's

newest book, The Pleasures of Leisure. Robert will be in conversation with writer Adam Ouston (whose PhD thesis focussed on Dessaix's work) at the Salamanca Inn on Monday May 8th. The bar will be open and you’re come along to hear these two writers in conversation – it promises to be an leisurely and pleasurable evening. This is a free event from the ever generous Hobart Bookshop. Respect.

Tasmanian writer Nicole Gill is heading north, almost as far as you can go. She'll be speaking at the Northern Territory Writers' Festival in the middle of the month, almost as graphic novelist and publisher, Josh Santospirito returns from one of his homelands, Alice Springs. Tag.
Finally, Transportation Press, a space where I spend quite a bit of time, has extended the deadline of their internationalmicrofiction competition, Smoke, until May 16. This comp is generously sponsored by Fullers Bookshop and has $800 in prizes available for your 320 word piece of fiction. Get amongst it – transportationpress.net

If you have any book or writing news please drop me a line -racheledwards488@gmail.com


Monday, April 17, 2017

Birdsong, A Celebration of Bruny Island Birds

"Poetry is like a bird, it ignores all frontiers"
Yevgeny Yevtushenko

Yesterday was Easter Sunday and I spent it on Bruny Island in Southern Tasmania. I had been invited by Bruny Island Arts to hold an 'in conversation' event with Pete Hay, a man whose poetry and other work sings of Tasmania like no other. He's a teacher, an elder, and a rum'un, and delightfully rich pickings for the likes of me, generous with his considered conversation. At some point Pete mentioned that the most electric energy anywhere in the world is where the sea meets the land. A forcefield on every island. 

I was reminded of this gorgeous book, a delightful hardcover that includes the work of some of Tasmania's best poets and visular artists. Here is a review, first published in Warp, 2016.

A Celebration of Bruny Island Birds
This is a gorgeous, gorgeous book of words and art that, as the title suggests, celebrates the birds of Bruny Island. It has been edited by Anne Morgan (poetry), Victoria King (art and design) and John Cameron (essays) and it starts with a quote from Yevgeny Yevtushenko, “Poetry is like a bird, it ignores all frontiers”.
It is the second edition, this time in hardcover and it includes work from some of Tasmania’s (and beyond) best known and loved writers and artists including Ron Moss, Michael Leunig, Janet Fenton, Don Knowles, Lyn Reeves, Jane Williams, Pete Hay - and I could really go on writing the names of each contributor, the work contained is so rich, and such a considered celebration of an island that means so many different things to different people.
It does not do the book justice to single out contributors, but I must make mention of Pete Hay’s poem White Faced Heron with its almost perfect structure, the kind of poem that leaves you sadder, richer, wiser, and finishes with the lines

“The heron stays its stately hunt:
its stark eye skewers dusk.”
This poem is accompanied by a print from digital image by Barbara Tassell ‘A Common Elegance- White Faced Heron’ a gentle and wise juztaposition.
Adrienne Eberhard’s lyrical and warm poem ‘Fledglings, Wood Ducks’ is typeset around a beautiful pastel drawing from Tasmanian writer, elder and artist, Janet Fenton, called simply Wood Ducks. It is drawn in a singular blood red and captures the “peep, peep, peep” of the birds, onomatopoetically referred to in Eberhard’s poem.
“Black Swan Event, Adventure Bay” by Anne Morgan talks of place, of land and shore and history, alongside the currency of day to day life on the island, the poet kayaking

“I hunch to glide
between concrete piers
Dodging lines of hopeful fishers,”

The book also contains essays and a wonderful collection of photographs of all the endemic species of birds on the island by Chris Tzaros.
Bruny Island is one of the many magical places and one of the hundreds of islands off the coast of Tasmania, a major tourism attraction and also home to some of the best cruising waters for sailors in the world. It is also home not only to vibrant and in twelve cases, endemic, bird life, but to an annual Bruny Island Bird Festival.

This is a book whose motivations are not simply to inspire the soul through words and images, it is a book whose profits are turned into research – in this case, research into ways to mitigate predation threats to the critically endangered, hollow-nesting Swift Parrot, a lovely bird whose habitat has been under destruction for many years from forestry in the state. Future profits will fund community education around cat management on the island. 

Friday, April 14, 2017

When Did You Tell Your Mother You Were Straight?

When Did You Tell Your Mother You Were Straight? Three Generations of Gay and Lesbian Experience in Tasmania.
This is an interview with three generations of Tasmanians. It was first published in Island 133, Winter 2013 and I am publishing it here now following the Tasmanian Government's official apology yesterday, to the LGBTI Community for any pain caused arising from oppressive laws that were only repealed in 1997.

Conversation with Miranda Morris, Dave Arnold and  Lochsley Wilson
Dave Arnold is 84 retired from teaching and education administration in 1959  when he decided that he wanted to be a gardener. His partner Pete, who he met in 1984, following his divorce, and have lived together since 1987 and have travelled extensively since then. He was involved with gay law reform in Tasmania from the beginning, present at the very first meeting, “when Rodney (Croome) and Nick (Toonen) took the ball and ran with it. Bob Brown was there too. It was a meeting deciding that just something had to be done and that was when the activity started.”  He has three children and seven grandchildren.

Miranda Morris, is 60, a writer, historian and academic, who has also worked on adventure playgrounds and radio scripting. She is currently working full time writing espionage novels. She is the author of The Pink Triangle, the definitive book about the gay law reform and human rights issues which incited Tasmania and the world in the late 80s and early 90s.

Lochsley Wilson is 18 and lives in Launceston. He is currently on a ‘gap year’ and is going to the University of Melbourne next year to do a Bachelor of Arts possibly followed by a Bachelor of Law. He has recently wrote a story in response to an article in The Examiner (Northern Tasmanian newspaper) about gay marriage. The story “started a domino effect,”  which took him to Canberra for the ABC Regional Writers Summit for JJJ’s  Haywire. The story was then recorded and broadcast on Radio National.

RE –One thing that is extremely apparent to anyone with an awareness of Tasmania’s recent gay history is that we have ricocheted from extreme to extreme – from a state where male homosexuality was illegal until the early 1990s to setting an international standard in human rights, following the United Nations decision in 1994. As we delve even further back into history, a lot more richness is revealed.
LW: my sister was born in the 1994, the year that the UN Human Rights Commission condemned the intolerance of Tasmania at an international forum. I mentioned it in a speech trying to encapsulate family and my experience growing up within the context of gay law reform. That speech was really interesting to write because it made me realise how I really am at a point in history where things have gone from us being the last state to decriminalise homosexuality and the first house of parliament in Australia to near legalisisation of same sex marriage.
MM  I was working for the Health Department at the time of the Parliamentary debates around law reform – it was obviously a pretty hot potato there. They were trying to stop the spread of HIV but men who had had sex with men were reluctant to be tested because it was a notifiable disease and people who tested positive were put on a register. It was tantamount to turning themselves in, because sex between men was illegal. This was not the area I was working in but I could see the political quid pro quos that were happening.
 I always find it a bit difficult to work with the grain, so the opportunity to write a book about something that was going to be quite challenging was absolutely exactly what I liked to do. The book came about at the time the Preventative Measures Bill, which included the decriminalisation of homosexual acts between men, had just failed to pass for the third time.  The book was funded by a grant from the National Council on AIDS, and its aim was to understand the issues underlying the debate. The Tasmanian Gay and Lesbian Rights Group (TGLRG) wanted attitudes towards homosexuality in the State to be examined in a broader context – to remove the pairing of AIDS and homosexuality. It was tricky because at first I was housed in the AIDS Council, as was the TGLRG, but then the TGLRG became too political for the AIDS Council and had to move – and I had to make the choice about whether to stay in the AIDS Council premises, or move with the TGLRG. It was an interesting thing to try and write because I was trying to write it historically but things were happening every single day –it was always in the news, always being debated in parliament. Phones were ringing, banners were being raised, people were helping out with paints so it was very much full immersion journalism that I was doing.
 LW –how did you go about counteracting bias in your book? What sort of mechanisms did you put in place to try and make sure you were seeing more than just your side?
MM Well, there are two things, one is about ‘the side’ – because the debate was thrown into diametric opposition between people who felt that the gay law reform shouldn’t happen and that gay people should not have relationships and then gays and lesbians themselves who figured that they should. Gay men and lesbians were not in any way suggesting that heterosexuals should not be having relationships with one another– so it felt to me that the bias was incredibly strongly one way. This kind of false argument was to entrenched that a heterosexual on the interviewing panel for the book, someone who very much supported law reform, expressed concern about my being appointed because, as a lesbian, I would be biased. You would never have someone's heterosexuality questioned in this way. Law reform was a human rights issue so I guess if anything, I felt there should be a counter bias. In the event , I didn't feel I needed to intervene much around what people had said. The debate was loud and with lots of spectacle. The polarised sides were vocal and unapologetic. I used first person quotes– from Hansard, the media and interviews. I guess that my bias wasn’t so much in what I chose to say, but the way I organised the material. people said things that I wouldn’t have dreamt of writing myself because it would be slanderous. I felt that by using their words, anyone reading the book could decide for themselves.
I had an advisory committee and its members had been involved for a lot longer and had strong opinions and that was an interesting thing to find my own voice. I went from being on the within a small community, but this full immersion was from my first day of employment onwards. It took about 18 months to write and one of the frustrating things about the book was that the publishers wanted it to be completed and  I really wanted to wait for the Tasmanian government. We knew it was imminent that the law would be changed and we did manage to include the whole of the United Nations period so that was very, very exciting as it was a huge thing to go to the UN. They had never had anyone approach them around sexuality and human rights, it was of international significance. In fact I think it was the most significant thing to come out of this was to get that on that agenda. Because a lot of the signatory countries are pretty conservative, not just us. And for me, personally, it was a major coming out. My photograph was plastered over the front page of the Mercury.
LW –When I was first coming to terms with my sexuality I was on Google, looking at what has happened in Tassie and it was really shocking for me to find out that I was born in a time that homosexuality was illegal. My parents had always been supportive and I was never really under the impression that it was abnormal. In that sense I am living in a far more progressive time than you have all grown up in. From that perspective it is a huge change and I guess something we can all be thankful for.
RE – one of the many interesting comments in your book Miranda, was that there were many  feminists keen to support the gay law reform movement in Tasmania especially as  they had had more experience of organising and collectivism but there was a group of women who said “no, we’re not going to help these blokes,” which led, in part, to lesbian separatists. This sense of bringing knowledge in - or conversely, condemning others to repeat mistakes they’d made was an interesting divide.
MM yeah, that was quite a difficult one too because on the whole gay men hadn’t been very sympathetic.  Lesbian separatism had grown out of the older homosexual law reform movement that wouldn't include lesbian issues on their agenda. And I mean certainly the issues were very different for men and women -  sex between women wasn’t illegal but women were often losing their children in court because they were lesbians much more out as feminists and quite loud in Hobart. The focus for lesbian feminists was to rethink patriarchal structures of all kinds. But most recognised the gay law reform opposition as being the result of homophobia that affected both gay men and lesbians.
DA I felt as if they were more accepted because they used to go around together and could hold hands but men couldn’t.
MM I don’t know how many women would have felt comfortable about holding hands, I remember we had a, not a march exactly, of women deliberately walking through the mall holding hands. It wasn’t something I felt able to do. Certainly it was likely to cop verbal abuse.
LW – do you think that Tassie will ever get a strong gay and lesbian community?
MM there is one
LW – well I suppose I’m in Launceston, I don’t know what it’s like down in Hobart but it seems like the only way there is a sense of community is with a few Facebook groups trying to find casual sex
MM I think that having a political focus helped us in the late '80s and early '90s.  I don’t know if you felt this Dave, but it was interesting that a lot of older people didn’t get involved in the political aspect at that point. They had had to be covert for so long it was a really difficult place to be.
DA – yes, in the shadows. I was involved with the AIDS council from the word go. As it grew bigger we left it to the younger people. I was also involved in a phone counselling line for about 14 years. We used to get calls from all sorts to ask all sorts of things - at funny times of the day sometimes-  but that was interesting
MM – Dave, do you think a community grew out of that with people? Talking to a lot of people who were quite isolated, was there any way they became more socially involved through talking with you?
DA – they could have but I don’t know on a group scale. There was a man from Tullah who used to ring and tell me what he was wearing, describe it in great detail. He used to dress up at the weekend in camp. This phone line must have grown out of a good deal of tolerance. But I was also amazed at the change in people’s attitude when the law reform was passed. We had some parents ringing up about their son that they thought was gay, he wanted someone to talk to. That was indicative, I think and we became much more tolerant people.
MM There were an awful lot of concerts and cabarets to go to, with mainland and international artists giving their time to raise funds: Elvis Herselvis, Paul Capsis, Julie Small and others. I think the social life around that time had that edge of political push, it was very, very exciting. The other aspect of this community was that it became almost everything I did. Everything I did in those two years was related to either writing the book or being involved in the gay community and actually at the end of that I just wanted to be really be able to express the other aspects of myself and not always be socialising with the same people. I wanted to be much more integrated and I think one of the reasons that there doesn’t seem to be much of a community is for positive reasons
LW –yes, that’s the thing, I think it almost feels like there doesn’t need to be a ‘community’ because everyone is more open – and it has only been through the same sex marriage situation that there is a need for a community and a need to harness support. I’m ready to use these policies as leverage towards a sustainable gay community in the North. I think it is especially important for people to come to terms with it whether they are younger or older but if you don’t know any gay people, where do you go? How do you meet gay people? There’s no gay bar in Launceston – though there is one in Hobart, obviously.
DA – in the sixties I used to go to the back bar at Hadleys and that was a community. A group of people who used to meet there on a Friday or Saturday night. I was still married then but I used to pop in there for a couple of beers and to meet people. That was perhaps the beginning of me becoming part of a gay community.
MM I think it was you who told me initially Dave, that the front bar was filled with lawyers who acted as a kind of padding between the back bar and the public.
DA it was a matter of getting into the back bar without being seen
RE – One of the loveliest things that I read in research for this conversation was somebody saying that at the Sydney Mardi Gras you’d always know where the Tasmanian float was in the parade because the cheers were loudest.
MM the first time especially – people were absolutely in tears about it because they were so excited. We were such a long time getting there, such a long time until legislation was passed in Tasmania. When it was passed, the community generally had become used to the idea and there had already been a lot of behind the scenes liaison meetings with the health department, the education department and the police. When the law was changed they were ready to take positive action. It was amazing to see the legitimacy for homophobia being lifted when the laws changed.
LW –  I guess my involvement in gay rights has really been about the same sex marriage debate. I initially wanted to focus on issues I felt were separate from me – human rights in West Papua, or climate change and how that’s affecting small island states -  all things that didn’t really relate to me other than my empathy. Then there was an article in The Examiner by Claire Van Ryn. She was comparing the sanctity of the Tarkine to the sanctity of marriage and saying that if the Greens are so fervent in pushing for the Tarkine why aren’t they trying to do the same for the institution of marriage? The whole thing was a convoluted metaphor.
RE – and we’ve heard that argument before ‘Are the Greens For Nature or Against It?’ So 1990s!
DA – yes, we’ve heard it before!
LW - I read it and saw everyone on Facebook having this huge anger rant about how terrible the article was and how it completely misrepresented the issue. They were going off and sending her hate mail. I thought these things were completely counter-productive. I’m kind of glad for Claire Van Ryn* – that was why I wrote the story for Haywire.  
When they talk about this sanctity they obviously have a biased idea of what nature is. I see sexuality as something that is biological though clearly the people opposing it see it as a choice and I think that’s why the Tarkine metaphor is really quite powerful – it’s something that everyone can enjoy – marriage is not so. Claire Van Ryn started it for me!
The debate at the moment is still very male centric. At least in the way it is framed – in the ads you see for gay marriage it is always two guys and the whole gay marriage debate actually forgets that is marriage equality because there are transgender people and a myriad of different demographics trying to fit into this gay marriage debate. It’s so important that we don’t continually focus on gay law or lesbian law instead try and think of it as part of a wider community.
MM I have a problem with gay marriage as an issue from a feminist point of view. In the 70s and 80s the debate was around abolishing marriage not trying to make it more inclusive. We seem to have lost the debate around what marriage is.
LW – I personally believe that the government should have no intervention in our relationships at all but should be for everyone not just gay people so I am trying to get census marriage for everyone. I support these issues because I want people who want to get married be able to.
MM  it’s still not about the big picture, because marriage privileges couples and certain kinds of couples. Certainly not everyone can get married, I mean some people can’t because they can’t find a partner, others because they don’t want to get married, other people want different relationships to be considered that would not be allowed under marriage, so if your most significant relationship, even it is not sexual, was with your brother or sister for example that would not be allowed under gay marriage so it seems to me elitist, even if it is. broadened.
DA –we are recognising relationships though.
MM The Significant Relationships legislation was really progressive. It broadened our frame of reference and encouraged recognition of cultural diversity. I feel as if the next step should have been making that the umbrella legislation and phasing out marriage legislation altogether.
Why does anyone need public recognition for something that is a private relationship?
LW I guess it’s one of those things. Marriage is of huge cultural significance, whether you are religious or not and I guess it is one of those things a lot of people want to experience. They want to have the big white meringue and they want to have the dress and the cake and the wedding bells and the arch and all these romanticised ideas of love. From a historical perspective we have so much hinged on this idea and to be told you can’t do it with the person you love is to quite devastating to a lot of people. 
MM it seems to me that there is a difference between a party and legislation – I mean legislation is intended to privilege one group and exclude all others.
RE one of the things that crystallised the situation for me was when I went to the wedding of two dear (lesbian) friends. As part of their ceremony the celebrant had to legally say something that meant “well, I’m not properly marrying you.” It seemed to be a statement that was intrinsically anti gay marriage.
MM But that is pretty recent. There had been no requirement for the gender of a couple to be mentioned until the Howard government introduced an amendment in  2004.
 LW it is just trying to get a point where we can retract those backwards moves and then we can work to find a fuller equality. I’m thinking about what Christine Milne said on the Mama Mia blog recently.  It was talking about the quote by Michael Ferguson that she was the “mother of teenage sodomy”.  Although she is a politician and an environmentalist, she was talking about that experience primarily as a mother.  It was an extremely powerful article, to consider that a politician, in this case Ferguson would even say that – and that my mother could be called the mother of teenage sodomy was horrifying.
RE – each of you have come at out a different time, under different laws and levels of acceptance. How different were your experiences ?
DA well, I was married and I have three children and seven grandchildren and they accept our situation. All of the grandchildren have been born since Pete and I were together – so it’s always been Pop and Pete. The acceptance of the family has been on both our sides has been fantastic, I think it’s part of the general acceptance that there is in the community these days. We live out in Lenah Valley and we’ve got gay people around us but nobody bothers us and we’re accepted. I’m sure people know – if they don’t know they should.
MM   – how was it initially Dave?
DA – well it was never really different. I remember an occasion when we did a TV interview for Lateline about gay marriage and they wanted a couple of normal looking people to introduce the topic.  They took tape after tape and after this went to air, it was only a snippet, two minutes or less. My brother in Queensland phoned me a few weeks later and he said “hey, we saw you on television,” and I thought “oh god, here we go,”  – he’s six years older than me, and I thought they’d be in bed by 10.30 when Lateline started.  Pete and I had stayed with them but we’d never talked to them about anything to do with gays and things. Anyway, he said “gosh they must have paid you some money for that”. But he didn’t say one thing about “oh, you’re gay.”
I am amazed about how supportive my kids are – they wouldn’t let anyone say anything against gay people or against our relationship in their presence I’m sure, they’re just totally supportive.

RE – Miranda, what about you – when you  arrived here in Tasmania in 1973 were you out?
MM no I wasn’t, I married out here and I have a child. When I was first becoming aware of my sexuality, I was a bit of a late bloomer I was about 30 -  and it was from reading Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville West and then reading about more and more lesbians in the 1930s and I began to think “oh gosh! I wish I’d lived then when there were lesbians.”
The debate following gay law reform involved quite a lot of discussion around gay and lesbian parenting. When I was approached by television and papers about whether I would do an interview about parenting, I had to really think about it. I didn’t want to involve my daughter in a political debate it felt unfair on her. As it was, as soon as they knew I was a single parent, whatever my sexuality they were completely not interested. They wanted people who were clearly going to have sex with each other! I was too ordinary. It was quite weird and really most of my life since my marriage I have been living as a single person and it’s quite difficult socially, people make assumptions that you’re not gay and it’s no kind of well “here’s my partner, meet my partner,” making it clear and I still find that I get to this awkward position when I’m talking to people or introducing myself  about whether I say anything or I not because I know that the assumption’s there that I would be heterosexual, but at the same time it seems completely unnecessary for me to state my sexuality to somehow draw attention to it..
DA – we don’t feel the need to tell anybody but if they ask we respond truthfully in most cases.
MM it’s kind of clear from your living arrangements but I also get to the point with  some people that I’ve known for a long time and not said anything, I find myself getting really scared that they’re not going to like me if they find out and they’re going to cut me off.
DA – well it makes no difference!
MM – well, I would it wouldn't. I’m just thinking that it’s still a hangover from before, that kind of self censorship.
RE –Lochsley, you mentioned when you were starting to come out you were googling, what was the experience of coming out for you?
LW – well, coming out in a time where we were one of the first generations where we had internet access readily available, when I wanted there were places to go. It was both a  blessing and a curse because while I was reading information how “it’s ok” and all the supporting documents but I would only need to a go a few more pages down Google I would find the ‘God hates you’. I think it made it more difficult as well as easier, especially because there were the social networks. I wasn’t at a point where I was able to tell my parents or my friends it was good to be able to get it off my chest to someone, even if it was only in a chat room.
I had told my Mum when I was in primary school but she said I should wait! So in year seven and I wanted to have my friend Olivia stay the night and she said “Lochsley, I know what you’re trying to do” and I was like “no Mum, I’m gay.” It was all really quite easy for me though it isn’t for everyone in my generation, though I would like it to be.
I have a friend last year who told his mother who went to the minister of her church, who recommended that he was kicked out. This was a month before his 18th birthday, at the end of year twelve and of all the things that go on as an 18 year old.  You’d want support from your mother at least.
DA – very different from when I was growing up! There was no ‘gay’ word – I suppose there was ‘camp’ but not homosexual –
LW-– Why SHOULD we come out? and it’s kind of a tricky kind of thing because the more people that come out the better known it is, the more people accept – and the more people that know a gay person, it’s suddenly less foreign, suddenly so much more approachable but at the same time the fact that it’s assumed you’re straight until…well, innocent until proven guilty.
 I don’t think it should be the way -  I shouldn’t have to had ever tell my Mum, but I did – I hope that the more work we do now, that when I have children it’s never assumed and that they can be who they are without any thought or fear about anyone else knowing.
RE – Let’s go back a bit futher–to the comparatively ancient history since white settlement in Van Diemen’s Land – and before that.
LW –It is so tricky without a scribed history – and indigenous culture was sent down through generations through oral language or dance. It is so hard for us to know what happened. We can go back to Ancient Greece and we can see Plato’s Symposium and the discussion about sexuality there so it‘s much easier for Western culture to see where it started there than it is for Australia’s oldest culture.
MM it’s interesting what the impact of exactly when Tasmania was settled has had. I think if it had been settled a century earlier then perhaps we wouldn’t have seen quite the same trajectory.
DA – but the type of settlement must have had something to do with it –because it was mainly male wasn’t it?
MM it was mainly male but it was also the beginning of a kind of bureaucratic surveillance – a sense that you could have not just physical control over people but moral control as well and that you could control it from a distance, from England. This meant that  moral codes were set in writing.
LW –What discussion of homosexuality was there in the penal colony?
MM Oh! There was masses! There was a big report about it. There were people who desperately wanted transportation to end and one of the best ways of garnering support for this was to show how morally depraved the system was. Sodomy in particular, actually not just sodomy, it was sexual relationships between women and men which were listed in various reports to try and show how appalling it was.
  We have some very interesting and quite detailed reports of same sex relationships - sometimes you get something lovely (for an historian) but normally it’s just in police records that we actually hear about any kind of same sex relationships. It’s also a class thing, so we’ve got records from the working class for that convict period and a few more from the literate upper class sometimes revealing things through letters. Everything we had is so fragmented. The information that has remained is very, very select. A title of somebody else’s book is ‘Streetwalking on a Ruined Map’ and I really love that as an idea of how history works, you know you just have to somehow piece together; you know you’ve got far more gaps than facts and you know you can’t extrapolate but we tend to because that’s just how we’re made and we want our stories to work.
DA – We like to have things clear cut don’t we? Precise.
RE –One of the quotes that you mention, Miranda is Flinders of Bass and Flinders fame, quoting in his diary about  Bass – “there was a time when I was so completely wrapped up in you that no conversation but yours could give me pleasure. Your footsteps on the quarterdeck over my head took me from  my book and up on deck to walk with you.” Which is just beautiful.
LW and clearly very romantic as well
MM that’s ever so interesting, it was a Georgian relationship so before Victorian times. People were much freer in expressing  who they were before the 19th Century. It’s easy to see ourselves as having a kind of progression but there’s an absolute backwards move that corresponded with the rise of the bourgeois family.
LW it feels like it goes in varying states – I wonder if will go backwards again. They used to call all homosexuals Florentines because in Florence during the Renaissance lots of people were homosexual, especially with the big art community it seems like it was accepted.
DA I suppose it’s just the tide of history – Queen Victoria had a lot to answer for
MM no no no, she wasn’t to blame!
DA she wasn’t to blame?
LW do you find there’s a blurred line between historical fact and historical fiction when we have to fill in the gaps for ourselves and try and figure out – especially with something like gay law reform?
MM We certainly are, especially if you are politically involved because you really need to believe on one level that what you do is gapless and whatever your focus is you have to really believe that it’s true because otherwise you lose the energy to see it through. It’s a fragmented story and we’re in much more danger of creating a fiction if we’re involved in trying to make change than if we’re not. I can’t really stand outside that. The sense of community that existed in the early 90s meant it necessary that we didn’t show too many cracks.
RE –What can you tell us aboutt the niece of Sir Joh Bjelke Petersen, Marie who was a romance fiction writer in the 20s and 30s and grew up in Tasmania? Marie was an early ‘out’ lesbian, it seems
DA Did Joh know!?
MM –Marie Bjelke Peterson lived with her loved one Sylvie, and about that, there is no doubt in our minds. She also wrote film scripts and one of them is called Jewelled Nights. It’s set up in the North West coast of Tasmania in a mining town and it’s about a young woman who is unhappy in love and goes to the mining town dressed as a miner, a very glamorous miner. This chap falls in love with her and it’s very Shakesperean as there is the issue being the ‘wrong’ sex to be in love with. It is slightly coded but it was quite advancied. Louise Lovely, who starred in it was a Hollywood film star who came back to Tasmania with her husband. They had the Prince of Wales Theatre in Macquarie Street and she also ran screen tests for anyone who wanted them at the Theatre Royal. 
In terms of Marie Bjelke Petersen and Joh knowing about her sexuality, well Bob Brown decided to propose making the criminal act gender neutral. It was just around the time when anti homosexual laws had been introduced in Queensland. As soon as Bob Brown had got it through the lower house he realised that this meant that, to change the language to gender neutral, sex between women would become criminalised. He was horrified and approached the speaker and asked whether it could be rescinded but it did go through to the Upper House. He then discovered that in Queensland Joh had specifically asked that women be excluded from this political code and although he didn’t say, why it is quite interesting. It would make some level of sense because Marie and Joh were quite attached to each other as aunt and nephew.
RE where do you see the movement going and what would be an ideal future considering the conversation we’ve had today?
LW I would like to see the marriage equality legislation passed, whether it’s in Tassie or nationally, leading to a nice bed for the next movement maybe laws for parenting and surrogacy. This is where I see myself campaigning in future.
DA for our relationship we need nothing to change, we’re happy and we couldn’t marry if we wanted to – and we’re not interested. I’ve said before if I were going to be in a straight relationship I wouldn’t marry again. However, I support the Bill for those who wish to marry.
MM I would like it to be absolutely ok for children to be growing up with parents in gay relationships and for their peers to think it’s OK for their parents to be gay. There can be bullying around parents and their own sexuality. I want being gay to be absolutely fine for children in schools and accepted. I would just I would love this fundamental Christianity -  fundamental any religion, - really strong anti gay predjudice to be dissipated. I know that’s not really within our control but the fundamentalists of any persuasion are making lives an absolute misery for gay, lesbian and transgender people.
LW one of things I would like to see is about how a young person should never have to come out. I say to my friends “when did you tell your mother you were straight?” Keeping in mind that everyone is individual and everyone should be not just tolerated but accepted and embraced for their difference.
DA it’s a matter of total acceptance, not just a matter of tolerance. It’s a great ambition and something to work towards.
MM –even in movies, on television and in the media generally if there is a gay relationship not only is it hardly ever women, mostly men and hardly ever the focus of the movie.

LW – like in Modern Family – the jokes are always about who is more camp than the other and although I do find it quite funny I would still much rather if you could have that relationship without the focus on sexuality.

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