#MeToo: Stories from the Australian movement

#MeToo: Stories from the Australian movement

Edited by Natalie Kon-yu, Christie Nieman, Maggie Scott and Miriam Sved
Picador Australia


In the wake of the #MeToo movement in 2017, editors Natalie Kon-yu, Christie Nieman, Maggie Scott and Miriam Sved have pulled together a collection of poetry, fiction and essays placing issues of sexual violence and harassment in an Australian context. This incredibly timely and hard-hitting collection is a must-read for Australians of every sex and gender. While many of the personal stories in this anthology can be confronting and visceral in their discussions of sexual harassment and abuse, they serve as a vital testament to the importance of opening up nuanced and often hard-to-have conversations about the issues facing women, non-binary and transgender people in Australia.

One of the things this anthology does best is its ability to bring together works from a diverse range of voices, providing a truly intersectional perspective on sexual violence and harassment in Australia. This includes stories from women of colour, immigrant women, LGBTQIA+ people and women with disabilities. This intersectionality is made all the more important when you consider the often over-bearing whiteness of mainstream feminism. For many women of marginalised backgrounds the ability to speak out, to share a #MeToo story must be weighed up against the risks of financial, social and personal repercussions.

With this in mind, some absolute must-read pieces in this collection are: Eugenia Flynn’s discussion of Aboriginal women and gendered violence, Carly Findlay’s piece on sexual harassment and accountability within disability and activist communities, Rebecca Lim’s ‘#MeToo and the Marginalised’ and Kaya Wilson’s piece about the transgender perspective of gendered violence and  harassment.

Something many of these stories have in common is the complexities involved in speaking out when you belong to a marginalised group. As Eugenia Flynn notes, ‘It is the #MeToo movement not hearing all the times that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women did not speak out, for fear of further stereotyping our men’. Multi-layered identities, in which women belong to multiple groups facing unique issues, make navigating the #MeToo movement much harder.

What the stories in this anthology do is remind us all of the voices left out of movements like #MeToo and the need for all of us to listen to, and support, the women and people whose voices cannot be as readily shared without an awareness and understanding of intersectionality. It’s for this reason that this book is so vital, and why I recommend it to all adult readers. We all have a lot to learn about one another and about gendered violence and harassment. This book is an important step forward for these discussions.

 

5/5 stars

#MeToo is available to purchase here and through any good book store.


Words by Lisandra Linde

Djuki Mala

On a bustling Friday night, I had the pleasure of witnessing the legendary Australian Djuki Mala, or Chooky Dancers. The seats were all filled to the brim, and although we were squished in like sardines, the audience soon forgot as they were transported only by a stage, music, and four energetic men. From the moment the show began, I was absolutely spellbound by their grace and rhythm.

Trying to think of phrases or words throughout the performance was completely hopeless because I was so ensorcelled by these four men. The team pays a beautiful homage to past and present Aboriginal tradition. Right from the start, they educate the audience with a multitude of reasons as to why bringing their culture around the world is so important to them. I witnessed expressive dances interspersed with short clips of video explaining the history of the Djuki Mala group and their roots.

The show was vivaciously cheeky and spiritually moving all at the same time. Blending traditional Aboriginal culture with modern dance, the energetic performance left me with a full heart and a greater knowledge of Aboriginal culture. The elation that I experienced was akin to no other, and a smile was permanently glued to my face throughout the entire performance. The absolute openness and effervescent attitude of the dancers was reflected in the audience’s joyful atmosphere.

Going 12 years strong and travelling all over the world, Djuki Mala are obviously doing something right. The independent company thrives on locals and tourists alike taking time out of their day, so why not come and see for yourself this Fringe season and help them make a big difference in their community. Take everyone you know; you won’t be disappointed.

Go and see this heart-warming show and remember your own roots. Anyone can enjoy this masterpiece of movement, no matter what their age. Come down and embrace the story of the Djuki Mala, and they’ll embrace you back.

 


Words by Sarah Ingham

4.5 stars.

Djuki Mala is playing Umbrella Revolution at the Garden of Unearthly Delights nightly (except Mondays) until March 17. Tickets available here.

Beneath the Mother Tree

Beneath the Mother Tree
D.M Cameron
Midnight Sun 2018


 

The island is unsettled and Ayla’s Grappa thinks the mythological Irish figure of Far Dorocha is to blame. Mosquito specialist Marise has moved her only son Riley to the secluded island after the death of her husband and his stepfather. Their arrival sends ripples through the place’s normally serene ecosystem, and adds pressure to their already fraught relationship. Ayla, lost in her own way, and Riley form a connection, which is in turn strange and familiar. D.M Cameron’s debut novel, through Midnight Sun, is a dark narrative of love, belief, and twisted family ties.

For the most part this is a narrative about strangers in a small town. Marise and Riley are interlopers to a close-knit community, and Marise in particular struggles to acclimatise to their new life. She is drawn there by a house on the edge of a marsh heavily populated by mosquitos. For Riley, this is the first chance at a ‘normal’ life – his mother is a restricting and at times abusive woman and he was not allowed to go to school or foster relationships with outsiders. When hit with the double blow of Ayla and Riley’s deepening relationship and the local council’s decision to spray Marise’s precious marsh in order to control the insect population, she is forced to use some truly dark techniques to get what she wants.

Irish mythology plays a heavy part in the events of the novel. Grappa, in an almost childish way, believes in the spirits and creatures in the stories he tells Ayla. Ayla too, see-saws on the truth of her grandfather’s stories. When the bad things begin happening on the island – animals behaving strangely, the death of beloved pets through a deadly virus cultivated by Marise in her research – Grappa is convinced the evil Far Dorocha is at work through the scientist. Indeed, Cameron creates an almost magic-realist landscape for her characters – there are many scenes where Marise dreams she is transformed into a cloud of mosquitos, only to wake and find the pet of the islander she’s been having is dead; the titular Mother Tree seems to cast a protective shelter around Ayla.

Along with the Irish mythology, Cameron tries to include some Indigenous history and culture. For me, this was of the book’s biggest problem. Cameron’s fictional island, like most of Australia, contains a deeply colonial history and the site of a mass murder of Indigenous peoples is a reoccurring image and theme. However, this examination of Australia’s colonial violence feels heavy-handed and uneven as the novel only has two Indigenous characters – a teenage girl who studies on the mainland and has no narrative weight, and a wise-woman who also carries no real narrative importance. Given the importance placed on the Aboriginal mythology, it would have been beneficial to have an Indigenous voice to weigh in on the events of the novel. Instead, the weight of this piece of the island’s violent history is mostly carried by Ayla – a white character. Ayla spends much of the novel coming to terms with the massacre but given the lack of Indigenous voice I wasn’t sure what Cameron was trying to achieve with its inclusion.

The character of Marise was one of the novel’s short-comings for me. As the novel’s primary antagonist, she is a ruthless and possessive woman, who will do anything to get what she wants. However, her portrayal at times felt a little too cartoon villain-like. There was a lack of clarity in her machinations that made it hard to understand or empathise with her. Often the menace of an antagonist comes from their internal logic, twisted though it may be, and Marise’s internal logic was a little too murky.

However, Beneath the Mother Tree is also home to some moments of genuine sweetness. The sweetly awkward budding relationship between Ayla and Riley was a treat to read. The same could be said of the relationship between Grappa and his granddaughter. Ayla has a deep love of the Irish folklore and it shapes her entire character. Cameron also managed to capture the insidious, insular nature of small towns with some skill.

 

2.5 stars


Words by Riana Kinlough

 

The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart

The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart

Holly Ringland

Harper Collins 2018


I picked up The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart shortly after its release, and since then I’ve read it not just once, but twice. This is something that is highly unusual for me, particularly in such a short period. The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart, Holly Ringland’s bestselling debut novel, has been out since March and since then the rights have been sold to a number of countries internationally.

Ringland takes her readers on a journey through Alice’s harrowing life and her healing process. Wounded by secrets and lies, Alice truly comes into her own when she is allowed to live her life as herself, exploring her talent for writing, embracing her family, and preparing for her next journey.

The novel’s opening is dedicated to Alice’s childhood among the sugar canes with her mother, her father, and her little deaf dog Toby. Her mother was loving and unfortunately prone to periods of depression, but her father was volatile; Alice liked it better when he wasn’t there. Toby was just Toby, her first and best friend. But beneath this basic information we see something more sinister. We see this in the bruises on Agnes, Alice’s pregnant mother, or Alice never going into town, even for school. After a fire on their property destroys everything, Alice is left orphaned of both parents, her baby-brother and her speech.

Terrified and unable to protest, Alice is taken by her absent grandmother to her new home at Thornfield. Alice makes a life there with the women on the flower farm and the boy next door, Oggi. She grows up among the flowers with June, Twig, and Candy Baby, but Alice has always wanted something more. She longs to get away. It’s only when Oggi and Alice decide to run away to Bulgaria together that Alice’s life once again takes a dramatic turn. Oggi leaves for Bulgaria without her and without even an explanation. Furious and confused, Alice does the only thing she can: she continues her work at Thornfield.

Alice was never meant to stay at Thornfield, and while June and the others only ever wanted to protect her, she kept Alice in the dark for her entire life. Truths have a way of slipping out and it is the truth of Oggi’s disappearance that drives Alice out into a night of torrential rain as flood threatens the flower farm. It is time for Alice to move on.

Alice is eager to live on her own and quickly finds that while finding her feet she will inevitably make mistakes along the way. When she meets Dylan, Alice is unable to stop thinking about him and as their relationship blossoms she misses the all-too-familiar warning signs that should have encouraged her to run. Instead she finds fault with herself, as many tend to do. It is only with the help of her friends and her family that Alice finds her way forward again, this time moving towards the truth and light that has always hidden behind the secrets and lies.

There is a lot of beautiful, floral language throughout the piece which some readers might criticise. However, I would say that it is important to the novel being a very poignant work to give both the reader time to process not just the story, but how they relate to the work.

The novel addresses several heavy issues including: child and domestic abuse, illegal immigration, conservation, alcoholism, and the treatment of Indigenous Australians and their culture. Not only does this work of fiction have a healing element, but  encourages readers to consider these issues and their complexities.

The story revolves around all those things that remain unsaid. In life, it is impossible for June to admit why she never knew Alice prior to her parent’s death. As June never reveals this secret, Alice cannot deal with the guilt heavy on her heart over her parent’s deaths. Alice’s life is filled with unsaid things and it takes their revelation for her healing to begin.

Nature is presented as crucial to the healing process in a very unobtrusive way. Alice is always running for the ocean or the river, identifying flowers, going for walks, or tending to the farm. She is very in touch with the land, often remarking during her time in the dessert about the red earth and the dunes. This lends the novel an element of tranquillity as the reader must slow down and take it all in.

Ringland’s debut novel is unlike any other I’ve read before, taking the Victorian language of flowers and presenting it in an Australian context is a nice touch, drawing readers not just into the story but to the natural world around them. Set across the Australian landscape this novel demonstrates the diversity of our country and focuses on its beauty.

I absolutely loved this book. I loved it the first time and I loved it the second time. I would highly recommend it, particularly if you’re agitated as the language is very calming, the story engaging, and the introduction to floriography fascinating.

 


4.5/5 stars

Words by Kayla Gaskell