The November Bourke Street Attack

On Friday the 9th of November, Hassan Khalif Shire Ali set alight his Vehicle and then stabbed three people in the Melbourne CBD. He was shot dead by police, and one of the people he stabbed died at the scene. It was a horrific and devastating attack. That should be condemned by all. Within hours the media was announcing that it was a terrorist attack, and maybe it was. It has now been four days, and the media is still covering the attack. The media has been discussing the loss of life, and the perpetrator Shire Ali, but also the heroes, such as the police who were at the scene and the ‘Trolley Man.”  However, the police have also been criticised for shooting Shire Ali, especially since the police officer who fired the deadly shot only graduated from the Police academy three months ago. The loss of life and the injuries (both physical and mental) are all tragic, however, in my personal opinion, I don’t believe the media’s coverage or our Prime Minister’s various public statements have been productive for the Australian Community.

For example, Scott Morison in one of his various public statements stated that Muslim Leaders have to take more responsibility for stamping out radicalism in their communities. (See article from the Sydney Morning Herald) While at the surface level this seems like a fair statement, it creates an ‘Us and Them’ dynamic. This dynamic divides Australia even further and after an attack like this, we need to come together not be pushed further apart. Regardless, this argument/statement falls flat as it has been released that Shire Ali had not attended his Mosque in nearly 20 years. How were the Muslim Leaders supposed to take more responsibility when he wasn’t even present or apart of his Islamic community.

The media is not innocent an innocent bystander, it has been creating fear and spreading hate. But what can we expect? Fear sells newspapers. How can newspaper headlines like “Kick Them Out” and “Refusal to tell the truth on Islam” be acceptable? This is racism, this is marginalising an entire group, because of the act of one man. This coverage has been continuous, and unforgiving and the fact it has been in combination with the words of OUR Prime Minister, it is disastrous.Hate

Regardless, it has also been released that Shire Ali was delusional and paranoid, as well as suffering from substance abuse. We don’t know if he was on drugs at the time of the attack because the toxicology report hasn’t been released to the public yet. Furthermore, a family friend has stated that Shire Ali believed that people with spears were following him. He was legitimately delusional. He was not mentally sound at the time of the attack; and we will never know if he perpetrated this attack because of his delusions, or if it was an act of terror. We can make assumptions and try to piece it together but we will never know because he is dead. To make matters worse, Scott Morrison also dismissed any and all claims about the mental health of Shire Ali, in saying that it was merely an ‘excuse’ for his actions. The last time I checked, Scott Morison wasn’t a psychologist, a mental health professional or someone that had even met Shire Ali, so how can he have the audacity to even make that call.

To prove the point about the damage that the media and specifically Scott Morison have caused in their coverage of this horrific attack we can simply reflect on popular Google searches performed since the attack. “Muslim Scum” has been searched exponentially more since this attack and Google refers to this tremendous increase in searches as a ‘Break out.’ “Muslim Attack” has been searched 1200% more, “Muslim Terrorist” has also been searched 250% more, and “Islamic Terrorism” has been searched 50% more. Is this not damaging to a whole community of people, the fact that people are searching and thinking that Muslims are Scum, and that Muslims are terrorists. This is simply not the whole truth, the large majority of people in the Islamic Community are loving and kind, this small majority that commit these terrible acts, make it so much harder for that majority. So I believe that the Current Government and the media with their cheap tactics need to have a serious look at themselves and realise that what they say and what they publish has a major effect on so many innocent people. As a society, we need to look past this hate and move past the fear. We need to create a loving and inclusive community that embraces our diversity, and works together to eliminate terrorism and extremism together. This cannot and will not be achieved if we continue to accept the ‘us and them’ dynamic. We cannot and will not have a constructive and safe society if we all continue to be absorbed by the fear and hatred that covers our screens and newspapers.

Is it not time to change?

Recently a woman by the name of Toyah was brutally murdered in Northern Queensland while walking her dog. She was walking along the beach on a sunny afternoon. This was just another woman that has died due to violence in 2018. This was just another woman who has died while going about a regular daytime task, a task that she should have been safe, but she wasn’t. Tonya’s death, her murder started the discussion and the standard disagreement over social media about men needing to change.

So before I begin this controversial post, I want to say a few things. Not all men are murders, not all men are violent, not all men rape women, not all men abuse women, but some men do.

I shared this post by Kon K on my facebook page. It was mostly well received, except for some upset comments from some men in my life.

Kon's post about Tonya

After posting this picture, I was sent an article by a friend about more men being murdered in Australia than women. This article was sent to me with the following comment “why are female deaths such an outrage, when in 2017 60 more males died to violent deaths than females did. 108 compared to 48.” All of these deaths were tragic and could have been prevented, and yes there were more male deaths, however, 82% of these deaths were alleged to perpetrated by men. I am not saying that all men are the problem, but what I am saying is that statistically more men commit violent crimes when directly compared to women.

However, I don’t think that all men are inherently more violent.  I believe that society and societies expectations of men force them to be. In 2018 gender roles still remain so prevalent, and masculinity still remains socially expected. With this in mind, men can’t help but react differently to women in social situations. Men aren’t supposed to show emotion or talk about their problems, and when they do it is seen as taboo. This needs to change. Gender roles, and a toxic level masculinity leads to so many issues and problems; without a change in the way we view men, a change in the way men view other men, we will never escape this cycle of violence.

Recently I watched two social experiment videos on youtube. Both videos were about leaving children without adult control in a house for 5 days. These two social experiments had one key difference; one had 10 boys, the other had 10 girls in the social experiment. The results of each experiment were interesting, in both experiments, there were cases of bullying, isolation and lots of sugar consumed. However, personally, the most memorable feature was that the boys absolutely and purposefully destroyed the house in which the social experiment took place. The girls while causing drama, mischieve, and accidental damage, did not necessarily cause purposeful harm or property damage.  Is this just boys being boys? Or is there an actual underlying issue here?

I personally believe that there is an underlying issue. Men are still taught that they cannot cry, they cannot show emotion as previously mentioned, also femininity is still used as an insult; ‘don’t be a sissy,’ ‘you throw like a girl,’ ‘be a man.’ This has implications on both the men and women of society. Men are taught that there is something inherently bad about being a woman, and women are taught that being a woman is inferior. Women are still taught to be gentle, and sweet and kind. Whereas men are taught to be strong and smart. In school, we were sat down at lunchtime and told that the way we were sitting in class (in our dresses that had to be longer than knee length) was distracting male students and teachers, the boys were never told to change anything they were doing. When I was attending a church summer camp the girls were told to be mindful of what we wore as our ‘brothers’ were built differently and we had to be respectful to their needs. Is this not problematic? As children, we were told to react and change to cater for the men in our lives but this was not taught to our male counterparts. Society seems to be raising boys and girls differently, and not in a progressive or productive manner. Yes, we are improving, yes times are changing but Australia still has one of the highest rates of sexual harassment and assault in the world, maybe this can be related to the lack of respect that is taught to us as children. Maybe we should be changing and speaking out against this. By we, I mean MEN and WOMEN, because we will never create meaningful change if only one half of society is speaking out for it.

Furthermore, I see a level of disrespect towards women so often in my everyday life. At university, I have been faced with male students talking over and interrupting me as I speak, as if their opinions and arguments are more important than mine. I have faced disrespect within the workforce, being called Sweety, and Princess by a male colleague, to which I confronted, and he didn’t see the problem. I have been involved in conversations with young men about women’s health, as they believe they have a say over what women do over their own bodies, and instead of having reasonable arguments they have informed me that I am obviously just not loved. I have seen women be physically abused on the streets in broad daylight and stood there shaking as I called the police. I have held my friends as they sobbed because they had been violated by men. I have been catcalled when walking in the middle of the day by groups of men driving past. I am also sure that many other women have experienced similar experiences because it happens every day.  Women deal with prejudice that I have not seen men have to deal with, but not only that, everything I have mentioned from my personal experience stems from a lack of respect towards women. I am not disregarding men’s struggles, young men are the most at risk category for suicide and are less likely to receive custody of their children, but I believe these are overarching social issues, they do not stem from a lack of respect towards men.

Why did I mention all of these issues? Why did I mention these examples? I mention them because they all have to do with how we raise our children. They all have to do with the respect towards women but also how men are taught to behave. Men are taught not to be feminine, they are taught to be strong and show no emotion, this leads to so many issues, that need to be solved. Boys need to be shown that it is okay to show emotion, and that it is okay to not always be strong. We all need to stop using feminity as an insult, and call out sexism and misogyny that we see in our society.

My call to action is this:

Men,

When you see your friends being sexist, catcalling, or violent. Call them out. Speak to them. When young men are playing sports, don’t tell them to man up, don’t tell them that they’re playing like a girl, because being a girl isn’t an insult. Being masculine isn’t necessarily better. When one of your mates, or yourself is struggling, talk about what is bothering you, find healthy ways to deal with your emotions, and ask your mates how they’re really doing. Join the discussion, ask the women in your lives what they face on a daily basis, ask them if they’ve ever been disrespected, and listen to them. Remember to be kind.

Women,

When men in your lives are being sexist, or disrespectful; speak up. If you’re being interrupted, speak up, ask to be able to finish your sentence, argument or idea. Remember to ask the men in your lives how they are really doing, and support them if they’re having a hard time. Start conversations with the men in your lives, tell them how your feeling, tell them about the issues you face, because they may not even realise. Let men join this fight for equality, and for safety because we will never create meaningful change if only one half of society is speaking out for it. Most of all remember to be kind.

Australia’s International Aid

Recently the Australian Coalition Government announced a 10% cut in International Aid. This may not seem like much however Australia’s aid budget is only 0.22% of its Gross National Income which equates to $3.8 billion. The economical amount may seem like a lot however it is only 22 cents per $100 in gross national income. That leads me to the UN foreign aid target.

The UN foreign aid target is at least 0.7% of a Country’s Gross National Income. This amount is so small in comparison to the National budgets and the amount of income a country is earning; however nearly all countries fail to meet this target. As of 2015 only seven countries met or exceeded this goal. Only seven countries seem to believe that foreign aid is important to them, that foreign aid is important to fund.

However, the countries that have spent the most amount of money on foreign aid is slightly different, as countries with larger economies (such as the US) have higher gross incomes and therefore can donate less when scaled to their incomes but more in numerical values. As seen below

Australia’s contribution to international aid does not make the top ten countries for contributions with either percentage or numerical amounts. Does this mean that Australia doesn’t see the importance of international aid?

International aid funds so many causes from food, medical care, drinking water to education and supporting economies. This may seem like it’s not our problem right? However, education has been proven to move people away from extremism, violence and crime, and also leads to people being more likely employed. This keeps Australia safe and can lead to better trade.

Two prime examples of where foreign aid has lead to better trade are China and South Korea. They were some of the largest receivers of foreign aid in the world; now they are some of the largest players in the international market, as well as being the top trading partners with Australia (1st and 3rd in 2017 respectively). If humanitarian, and safety reasons are not enough to demonstrate the importance of foreign aid, then economic value must be a sure fire way to. Foreign aid is like an investment and can lead to more trading partners, and economy boosts for not only the country receiving the aid, as well as the home country.

So with all this in mind foreign aid achieves a lot and would seem important. But here’s the kicker; Australia receives its own foreign aid through the Department of Immigration and Border Protection.

For me it’s a no brainer. Foreign aid is important; it improves the life of human beings all over the world, it boosts economies and is along term investment for the global community. It seems simple to me, but why is this not the case? Why is Australia contributing so little to foreign aid? Why is most of the International Community failing to reach the goal of 0.7% of Gross National Income to foreign aid? Again I am left with questions that I can’t answer. Again, I am left with questions that I hope I can one day answer and fix.

The United Nations Security Council

This year I came into studying political science believing that the UN was this magical organisation that saved the world. I was incredibly idealistic; but I’ve come to understand that the UN and all of its other substitutes are still human organisations, and therefore they still have flaws, some of these critical flaws.

The biggest thing that I have learnt so far is about the UN Security Council, the P-5 and the Veto power. The UN Security Council is a council consisting of 15 members from 15 states. 10 of these members are from various countries that are on two year terms, ultimately they are rotating members and change every two years. The other 5 members are the P5 or Permanent 5 members which consist of Russia, The United States, The United Kingdom, France and China. The P5 members do not rotate and are awarded an extra level of power called “veto.” This power allows the P5 member to deny any resolution put through to the UNSC, even if there is a majority that want said resolution to occur.

In most recent times Russia has used their veto power twelve times to deny any action from the UNSC to act or intervene in the Syrian Conflict. (BBC) This has led to 7 years of conflict. SEVEN ENTIRE YEARS. Not only this, but it has also led to 11 million people being displaced. (Syrian Refugees) So instead of the UNSC being able to act or create change, Russia has prevented any action from occurring.

This leads to the realisation that these P5 have this extra power, but they still have their ulterior motives, they still have their Home Country’s interests as a primary motive, they do not act for what is the best action for the world or other states. So it leads to the thought, why do these P5 members have this power? Should the veto power be rotated? Should all members of the Security Council be on two year terms? Why is it fair that these five states have more power than the others? I am left with all of these questions that can’t be answered simply, all I know is people are dying, people are losing their homes, children are losing their childhoods and their education, and that Syria was once a beautiful country is losing everything – if this conflict does not come to an end soon, there will be nothing left.

Syria’s use of Chemical Warfare

Yet again we find ourselves witnessing another chemical attack against innocent civilians in Syria. This Chemical attack in Douma although it is not entirely clear it is believed that at least 40 people have been killed and hundreds affected. (NY Times and Al Jazeera) It is also believed that a large number of these casualties are children.

The US has threatened retaliation again, but does this just mean more air strikes? Are more civilians going to be killed by outside nations dropping bombs?

The worst part of all of this in my opinion is that this isn’t the first time that chemical weapons have been used against the Syrian people. Since 2013 we have seen countless chemical attacks with thousands of people affected and so many dead.

The Syrian Government has again been accused for this attack and is said to be responsible. Will the Al-Assad regime ever be held responsible? With the Syrian Government again claiming that the use of chemical warfare was fabricated; What does this mean for the justice of the Victims? Is the rest of the world just going to sit by and watch these human beings suffer? Is it not time to take R2P action? The Government is clearly failing it’s responsibility to protect its citizens, does this not mean anything anymore? Does the slaughter of children not invoke action? This civil war has gone on for far too long and seen far too much bloodshed.

The rest of the world should put aside its differences and save the citizens that are left in Syria. I know that this is incredibly idealistic but it’s beyond the point of return. Al-Assad continues to use chemical weapons on his citizens, and the outside world continues to just bomb strong holds of various groups – which seems to cause more civilian deaths rather than anything else. I don’t know how we can fix this, or how to stop the pointless loss of life, but something needs to change. Maybe every other state that is interfering should withdraw? Maybe the US and Russia should stop with its airstrikes? Maybe the different states should stop funding the various groups? Maybe the rest of the world should take more responsibility and evacuate as many refugees as possible? Maybe countries like Australia should accept more refugees and guarantee safety for these people? I don’t know what the solution is, but there must be something more we can do.

Political Freedoms and Protesting

I’ve been learning a lot lately. I’ve learnt a lot about the UN, Syria, WWII, The Cold War, Freedom, Equality, Democracy and so many other different things in this world that I feel like it has truly opened my eyes.

One thing I’ve learnt that has really hit home is in countries with totalitarian regimes and violent and oppressive leaders citizens; are not afforded the same luxuries as someone from a country with a peaceful democracy. I know this sounds straight forward and may seem quite obvious but have you ever thought about the fact that in Australia you can protest and no real harm will come to you? In Australia you can take to the streets, voice your concerns in a peaceful manner and the worst that could happen is being arrest and taken to the watch house. You won’t be shot on site or killed for standing up for your beliefs; not everyone gets this luxury, not everyone can take to the streets to peacefully protest without risking their lives. With this realisation, I thought it was important to voice it and show whoever will listen how fortunate we are, and how far the world still has to come

George Orwell wrote an entire piece on the effect of peaceful protest called Reflections on Gandhi which in short says that for peaceful/non-violent action to be effective one must presume compassion from the perpetrator, simply put there must be a certain level of freedom and a level of compassion. This is something that I have never considered.

All we have to do is reflect back to China in 1989 where thousands of people (mostly students) took to the streets in protest for the end of corruption, peaceful reform, economic reform and political reform. These protests saw thousands of people detained, imprisoned, tortured and executed. This peaceful protest turned violent and it is known as the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests. These citizens expected their Government to listen to them, to do right by them and to change, however instead they were murdered, tortured, and imprisoned.

In more recent times we have the case of Syria. In 2011 many people took to the streets to Protest Bashar al-Assad’s presidency, the rate of unemployment and the high level of poverty. They were basically asking for more freedom and a higher level of dignity for themselves and all citizens of Syria. They wrote songs, danced in public squares, gave roses to soldiers, and peacefully protested for their beliefs. The Government and it’s forces retaliated by murdering activists, shooting protesters in the streets and ultimately starting this civil war. The protesters then took up arms and began defending themselves. This was roughly 7 years ago and this civil war has grown and become a conflict that is so complicated that I won’t go in to it any further (in this post at least). For more information about the Syrian conflict, here is an article by the BBC.

In both of these examples of China and Syria you have a leadership that lacks compassion. The al-Asad regime has been accused of using chemical weapons on their on citizens and China in 1989 was a heavily communist society with high levels of poverty and corruption. You can see how these societies lacked compassion and it is just shown further in their reactions to civilian protest. These citizens lacked the freedom to be able to use non- violent means, and their Governments failed them in not showing them the compassion to do so.

How is it that in the 21st century civilians cannot take to the streets to make themselves heard?

In Australia, people are awarded the luxury to protest for their beliefs. Marriage equality, refugees, pro-choice/pro-life, Adani are all topics in which people have tried to have their voices heard. People have taken to the streets in protest, they have had banners and marches – people didn’t die, no one was shot, people were able to go home and hold their families. These Australian’s had the privilege to speak up against their Government with no (or little) consequences, if nothing else I want everyone to realise how privileged they are, and how lucky they are to be even given the option for that.

Manus Humanitarian Crisis

I live in a country of egalitarianism. I live in a country of mateship, in the country of a fair go. I live in the country of the Australian dream, the country built on the blood, sweat and tears of criminals, convicts and migrants. I live in a country where one of our national heroes was a bush ranger and a criminal, where one of the most recognised songs known by Australians is about a swag man, ultimately a backpacker.

I also live in a country where it’s citizens seem to have forgotten who built this great nation. They seem to have forgotten that the majority of the population originally came here by boat.

I am a 7th Generation Australian. I am the relative of Convicts, of a Light horse man, of soldiers, and of farmers. I am also a 2nd Generation Australian, the Granddaughter of two migrated English men. I grew up in a Country Victorian Town, and I was born in Northern Queensland.

I am also a strong believer in equality and the egalitarian beliefs that this nation has thrived on. I am a young woman that will sing my national anthem with pride and hopes that my home, my country can follow through with its core ideals.

To simply start

In a Manus Island Detention Centre controlled by the Australian Government 606 men have been left with no power, no running water and no food. Which the United Nations has declared as Humanitarian Crisis. These men were originally taken to this detention centre unlawfully and have ultimately been treated worse than animals.

Manus Island is situated in Papua New Guinea, The high court of PNG demanded that the detention centre be closed as the UN had declared it unlawful, and in breach of human rights. I’m not sure if you know too much about the PNG, But in simple terms it is not a safe place, foriegners can be gravely unsafe and crime rates are high. So in great Australian fashion the detention centre has been closed and the 606 men were given the option to be placed in an alternative facility in Lorengau which is believed to be unsafe, and would put these refugees at a higher risk of danger and harm.

To make matters worse, our neighbouring nation New Zealand offered to take 150 of the Manus island refugees and the Australian Government denied that offer.

This makes it seem as though it is a stand off between the Australian Government and the Refugees fighting for their right to life, safety and to seek asylum and the Government’s policy to ‘stop the boats.’

The part I always find most ironic about this is that the Australian anthem, the song that is supposed to represent my country has these lyrics:

‘For those who’ve come across the seas 

We’ve boundless plains to share; 

With courage let us all combine

To Advance Australia Fair.’

Does no one else see the irony in that? My Government is doing absolutely EVERYTHING in its power to stop people coming by boat entering this country, yet the anthem, the Country’s National anthem literally states that they are welcome. How far from Australian ideals can you get if you are walking away from the song that brings our nation together.

Furthermore, you have the parts of Australia that have low levels of immigrants and high levels of intolerance. I grew up in a town full of refugees and it was successful. I was surrounded by refugees from so many African and Middle Eastern Nations; as well as immigrants from Italy, Greece, China, India, and who knows where else. We all lived together, we all went to school together, we laughed together, we ate together and we grew together. We didn’t see the skin colour or the heritage that made up our pasts, we saw the individuals who had their quirks, their own sense of humour, their own way of showing love and kindness.

We were kids that didn’t talk about the atrocities that some of my beloved friends had gone through, we enjoyed the fads of Gangnam style and listened to One Direction like any teenagers of my time. I honestly believe that that’s what the world should be like. It shouldn’t be about where you were born, or what horrible things you have had to face. It should be about giving people the chance to be their best selves, about letting kids be kids, about giving every person the same chances, and hoping beyond anything else that as a Nation we can grant safety to at least a few people that honestly and truely need it.

Call me biast if you like. God knows I am, I have experienced what I have experienced and I have seen a successful multicultural community thrive. I have seen people come together, I have seen families accept other families and the true harmony and love of a community that didn’t just judge people by their skin colour, but rather by their character.

That was one community that I lived in, that I grew up in, and if what was so successful why can’t more be? Why can’t more communities in Australia allow refugees and asylum seekers to settle there. We have the room, and not only that we have an AGING POPULATION, which means to be able to support our aging population we need more young people to be educated, working and paying taxes to support the ever growing number of older (and elderly) people who cannot support themselves.

I will not apologise for how I feel and I will not stop talking about how poorly our Government has handled the international refugee crisis. All I can say is that I stand with the men on Manus, I stand with the people on Nauru and I hope that some day soon we all wake up and realise that we are all human and these poor souls seeking asylum deserve every opportunity we have been granted in our wonderful country that is Australia.