Wednesday, November 05, 2014

"From Little Things Big Things Grow" Paul Kelly Kev Carmody and friends

“Vincent Lingiari, I solemnly hand to you these deeds as proof, in Australian law, that these lands belong to the Gurindji people and I put into your hands this piece of the earth itself as a sign that we restore them to you and your children forever.”

   I don't quite know why I am so emotional today watching on ABC TV the Memorial Service for Gough Whitlam at Sydney Town Hall and various live sites across Australia.
   At home recovering from surgery with some good outcomes, unable to do much more than rest, but thinking I guess about the way in which EG Whitlam's story and time in history frames my own political consciousness or some thing much simpler like my growing up.
   On one level I think as a community of people we just do so well at celebrating life, through sense of occasion, music and vivid story telling. There's something too about a persons opportunity to have a say in shaping their own service.
   More fundamentally I guess I still remember Bruce Humphreys, our Year Master at Maitland Boys' High, coming around on the 11th November 1975 to our Maths lesson and interrupting to let us know the Governor General had dismissed the Federal Labor Government and installed Malcolm Fraser as caretaker... in some ways my other memories of that revolve around the sublime work of Norman Gunston on the steps of Parliament House in Canberra. Only as I became more politically minded in the years that followed and only as I studied Economics in Year 11/12 and onwards at University did I come to understand the social revolution of Medicare, free University education, aboriginal issues, social change and the many reforms prospered in that all too short era.
   I also studied the advent of 'stagflation' or the coincidence of high unemployment and inflation which ruined world economies and challenged all conventional monetary and fiscal policy so that Labor would be judged unfairly over the country's interest rates, slowing development and the less than wise steps taken to re finance our economic growth.
   Still, social reform and a change of outlook that also saw Paul Keating and others take the reins of the economy to float the dollar and open us up to Asia, are irreversible aspects on todays Australia.
   Many years later, meeting Freda Whitlam, Gough's sister, a female 'Moderator' of the Uniting Church in Australia, I understood those indefinables of a heart for people, for western Sydney, for justice and opportunity, with humour, grace and disarming grace and humour.
   As a young politically 'liberal' person growing up in the 1970s my worldview changed. I have most certainly moved to the left in my leanings and while I still value the ethic of people 'having a go' and taking opportunities, I am committed to the idea that not everyone gets those chances and we must all work as a community to care for each other, whether that's free national health care, or values of justice an service.
   My faith and my vocation are informed, shaped and fuelled by an indescribable feeling for people, those I am comfortable around and those who are not my natural group but in whom I see pain, loss, disadvantage, struggle, doubt and life waiting to break out... my following is about participation in the world to reconcile and renew the whole of the creation, even if only in my little corner. I guess in some way my emotions today are for those Gough Whitlam seemed to know, understand and stand up for... a vision of opportunity and hope in fundamental human endeavour... lived by a man who described himself as a 'fellow traveller.'
   The story that drives this is the story of one who came to testify to the idea that God is love, that grace and compassion are the building blocks of salvation [of saving from all that life throws up at us, from ourselves and from disappearing up our own fundamentalist ideals in some cases] and that it isn't about me but us... my call is to take seriously who Jesus stood with, favoured and spoke for... in building a community of inclusion and gospel values... in some circumstances this is particularly about voiceless young people, but not always... unreliable memories and thoughts indeed...

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