Welcome! I love to write, and I love sharing what I write with my readers. I vary my style as much as I can-posting events, creative non-fiction, prose and poetry and the occasional video. Enjoy!



Sunday, August 22, 2010

Sydney Harbor Bridge and Sydney Opera House By: Christine McFarlane


Friday, August 20, 2010

Australia Story

Australia Story:
By: Christine McFarlane

On the other side of the globe Aboriginal communities face similar colonial impacts as their counterparts- the First Nations people of Turtle Island.

“Colonization is not just about the settling of land, it is also a continued practice of dispossessing the Indigenous people through various means,” says Dr. Karen O’Brien, a lecturer in the Indigenous Studies program at the University of Sydney. On this July day, O’Brien’s class includes two Anishinaabe students from the University of Toronto who are participating in a five-week immersion program to learn about Aboriginal Australia.

O’Brien states “upon the time of contact in 1788, the Aboriginal population was estimated to be at 1 million.” It was after contact and the complete alteration of landscape that led to the extinction of native fauna and flora that “Aboriginal people became affected” and their ‘population became decimated through disease, social policies and violence and dropped to around 400,000 people.”

 Social policies in Australia have included the government-sanctioned abduction of Indigenous children—known as the “Stolen Generation”—and the implementation of the Aborigine Protection Board, a government agency established in 1909 that was given the power to remove children without parental consent and a court order. 

Though there was an attempt through social policies to remove Indigenous Australians from their place of origin, it is evident through the different lectures given by the professors at the University of Sydney that Indigenous Australians are anything but removed from their country, languages and traditions and that their heritage is alive and thriving.

Cultural identity for Indigenous Australians is similar to that of the First Nations people of Canada. They see land and culture as being inextricably tied together and they convey this through various forms of creative expression, whether that is through visual arts, music, dance or literature.

Throughout their time at the University of Sydney, students were introduced to various mediums to dispel any misplaced notions that they may have had about the Indigenous peoples of Australia, and learned that there are several hundred Indigenous peoples of Australia with many of their tribes existing before the British colonization of Australia in 1788. These groupings include the Eora; Gadigal; Guringai; Wangal; Gammeraigal and Wallumedegel people.

Site visits included visits to the New South Wales Art Gallery, the New South Wales Parliament House, a Tribal Warrior Cruise, where students embarked on a journey by taking a boat across the Sydney Harbor to an island for an authentic Aboriginal cultural performance.  They also watched Indigenous directed movies such as the film “Ten Canoes,” that was born out of a collaboration with the Indigenous Australian actor David Gulpilil and the non-Indigenous direcot Rolf de Heer, watched a narrative,”One Night the Moon,” directed by Rachel Perkins that showed the practical and moral implications that overt racism played out between the non-Indigenous and Indigenous people on the frontier, a documentary film on Australia’s grandmother of literature, Kath Walker, who was a poet, activist and public speaker, who in her time was “largely responsible for a change in attitude towards her people.”

Students also gained knowledge about the traditional food of the Ngemba Tribe of North West New South Wales when Sharon Winsor of Thulli Dreaming’s gave a bush tucker workshop that involved native plants, bush fruits, traditional cooking, plant uses and medicinal uses, and bush tucker tastings with damper, native jams and rainforest punch.  The workshop also consisted of Winsor discussing the various instruments used in hunting and the giving of an emu caller (a traditional instrument used in hunting that imitates the call of an emu) to each student to bring home with them.

Outside of class time, students did their own sightseeing with a few going to see the sacred Three Sisters formation in the Blue Mountains- The Blue Mountains region is an area close to Sydney in New South Wales Australia, and is less than an hours drive from Sydney. The name given to this grouping of 900 metre peaks refers to a legend of three Katoomba sisters who wanted to marry three brothers from the Nepean tribe, contrary to established custom. A witch doctor transformed the sisters into rocks to protect them in an ensuing battle, but the shaman was killed before he could reverse the spell. This legend is claimed to come from an Indigenous Australian Dreamtime legend of the Gundungurra People of Katoomba New South Wales, Australia, an Indigenous tribe whose land surrounds the Blue Mountains area.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Indigenous Creative Expression Week 5 from Summer Abroad in Australia

Christine McFarlane
Reflection Journal Week 5

I especially liked our topic for our final week, Indigenous Creative Expression, and how we were able to see the work of various Indigenous artists of Australia. I have found that throughout my studies here in Australia, and back home in Canada, Aboriginal visual art, music and dance has become an integral way of maintaining cultural identity.
Cultural identity through creative expression is important for everyone but with Indigenous peoples, I believe creative expression takes on a lot more meaning because the art of Australian Aboriginal peoples is one of the oldest, richest and most complex forms of creative expression in human history. Through art and its various expressions, the non-Indigenous society can be privy to how a culture other than their own keeps their traditions and customs alive.
According to the book ‘Aboriginal Australia: An Introductory Reader in Aboriginal Studies’, authors Colin and Eleanor Burke and Bill Edwards state “ the art of Aboriginal Australians today take on many forms”(Bourke, Edwards) and “despite significant change and diversity, the art retains an underlying unity of inspiration-the land and human relationships that are associated with it. It has solid links to the past, but is firmly rooted as political, social and creative action in the present.” (Bourke, Edwards)
The statement that ‘art retains its political, social and creative action in the present” was clearly evident when lecturer Michelle Blanchard relayed how Indigenous film portrays Indigenous people, issues or stories and allows mainstream society to witness “Australia’s relationship with its Indigenous peoples and heritage.” (Blanchard)
It is interesting to note that since the 1970’s, the portrayal of Indigenous peoples has transformed them from being seen as the stereotypical “uncivilized, noble savage’ to a people that are now conveyed as “fully fledged human beings with a normal range of personality” (Langton) and their presence is seen with a subtlety and human fragility that we see in other mainstream films in the non-Indigenous film industry.
This is evident in not only the movie “One Night the Moon” directed by Rachel Perkins but also in the following short film clips of “Nana”, “Hush”, “Bloodlines”, “Two Big Boys”, and “Custard,” produced and directed by a Bit of Black Business. (Film Australia) In “One Night the Moon”, the narrative is based on the true story of a child who went missing in the outback of New South Wales in 1932. Due to its time in history, we see how overt racism plays out on the frontier when the father emphatically states “no blackfella is to set foot on my land”. (Langton) The father ignores the fact that the Aboriginal tracker who is considered the “best tracker” by the police to find the girl, could very well find his daughter alive.  The very nature of how racism plays out on the frontier at that time, results in tragedy because the little girl is eventually found dead, and this distrust of someone who was seen as very capable of finding the little girl, because of his skin color, and what he represented draws the audience into the very “vexed nature of racism”. (Langton) The audience is also drawn into its practical and moral implications, especially on behalf of the Aboriginal tracker, who must stand back and let the father of the little girl do what he believes to be right, which entails not using the Indigenous man’s expertise and knowledge of the land.
In conclusion, the five short film clips that I have also mentioned shows how the Australian Indigenous film industry has blossomed and has given Indigenous artists a wider sense of agency as to how they want to relay their stories, cultures and traditions. With this greater sense of agency, in the words of lecturer Michelle Blanchard “the ones who write the history also have agency of the past, present and future.” (Blanchard) This is an advance in the Aboriginal art and cultural movement that is truly inspiring to witness, because it plays an important role in helping to change the non-Indigenous peoples attitudes towards Indigenous peoples and brings about positive change.

Works Cited:

            Bit of Black Business. Film Australia. 2007.

Blanchard, Michelle. (29, July 2010) Class Lecture. University of Sydney, Koori Centre.

            Bourke, Colin& Eleanor, Edwards, Bill: Aboriginal Australia: An Introductory Reader in Aboriginal Studies. University of South Australia, 1994

            Langton, Marcia. 2006 Indigenous Performing Arts; Aboriginal Studies; The Performing Arts (incl. Music, Theatre and Dance); Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage.

Perkins, Rachel. One Night the Moon. 2001

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Child, Child

Child, Child:
By: Christine McFarlane

I hear your cry
And feel your pain
I know it comes
From deep down within

I hear your cry
And see your slumped shoulders
When you are feeling defeated
By the ghosts that haunt you

I see your tears
Glistening in your eyes
And how you fight
To keep them in

I want to hold you
And pull you close
Wrap you in my arms
And tell you
Everything will be okay

Child, Child
I hear your cry
And feel your pain

I know the courage
It takes
For you to tell your story
And hope that others are listening

I am here to tell you
I am listening
 And that you will be okay

You are not alone
Nor will you ever be
Because I will always travel with you
In this journey
I call life

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Christine 's Blog: Did I Ever Tell You?

Christine 's Blog: Did I Ever Tell You?: " Did I Ever Tell You?By: Christine McFarlane Did I ever tell you that I don’t know what it is like to have a mother? ..."

Did I Ever Tell You?

Did I Ever Tell You?
By: Christine McFarlane

Did I ever tell you that I don’t know what it is like to have a mother? A mother who can give me comfort, nurse a hurt, bandage a cut or wipe away my tears when all I am feeling is despair

There is a woman I know, who gave birth to me but I really don’t know her. She may have given me life but I was taken away from her when I was just six months old, through no fault of her own. My siblings were taken away from her too. Mother I ask you, How do you deal with that type of pain. Inside it would make me want to curl up and die. My heart aches for you but I am not sure how to reach out and heal that bond that was broken. I also don’t want to be hurt again either. What if I got in touch with you, got to know you and then you died shortly after? It would be another loss that I am not sure I can handle.

Did I ever tell you that what I have learned in life has been from strangers I have encountered on my journey in life. That they were the ones who taught me to keep my head up and tell myself “I will be okay’

Mother, I wish I had gotten that from you. I wish I knew you like a daughter should know her mother. Inside it makes me cry because instead you are out there and I barely know you. I call you Anna because to call you mom is something I do not know.

I often sit and ask myself, can a bond ever be healed. Will I ever know you like a daughter should. After all, Anna, you were the one who gave me life

The Chance of A Lifetime: By: Christine McFarlane

A Chance of a Lifetime:
By: Christine McFarlane

Participating in a Summer Abroad Program and travelling to Sydney Australia for an intensive five weeks to study Aboriginal Australia is a trip that I will not soon forget. I am especially thankful to First Nations House and Woodsworth College of the University of Toronto for helping to fund my trip.

Initially when I applied for the Sydney Australia Summer Abroad Program, I had misgivings because it meant that I would be away from my usual support system in Toronto. It also meant that if I experienced any anxiety, or had any other problems, I would really have to get in touch with myself and rely on myself to get through any rough moments. This was something I was fearful of at first because in my healing, I have often had people who were readily accessible with if I experienced any difficulties. With being on the other side of the world this meant that my access to these supports was a bit limited. I had to learn when I needed to connect with someone, when I needed a break and to take some time for myself and not forget the things I had incorporated into my routine to help me get through the rough moments. Initially this was more difficult than I thought it would be but with some help by a friend who was in the program with me, and the independence I managed to gain, I learned to deal with my anxiety and get to the point of sightseeing by myself.

Before attending our first lectures at the University of Sydney, I did not know much at all about Indigenous Australians and I had the belief that their history was different from those of the First Nations people of Canada. The similarities between Indigenous Australians and the First Nations people of Canada was something I really did not expect. Issues that we discussed in lecture at the University of Sydney included pre colonial and post colonial Australia, Indigenous rights, land and culture, Indigenous health and creative expression through film and art.

Just like their Canadian counterparts, Indigenous Australians have fought for recognition as being the original inhabitants of Australia.  Their struggles with governmental policies and representations are coined in different terms and there are ‘competing viewpoints’ that determine how we view Australia’s history and colonization, which is much like what First Nations people of Canada struggle with.

Another topic that I found especially intriguing was Indigenous rights. The Human Rights and injustices that I learned about in regards to Indigenous Australians, though named and dated at different times in Indigenous Australia history are ones that are and still being committed against First Nations people of Canada.  As an example, the issue in regards to the implementation of the Protection Acts imposed upon Indigenous Australains is similar in Canada, however for First Nations people in Canada, it is called the Indian Act. The Protection Acts that were imposed upon Indigenous Australians was a system of direct rule where Indigenous people could not hold land, they were controlled by how they took part in ceremony, banned from speaking their languages and inferred upon Indigenous peoples the distinction of being different from the rest of society.

I thoroughly enjoyed learning the history of the Indigenous people of Australia, their struggles and their triumphs because it reminded me very much of the struggles my own people have had to fight to get to where we are today.

Lastly, one of my most triumphant moments was when I booked a day tour and went by myself to visit the famous Blue Mountains. Visiting the Blue Mountains was an amazing experience for me because not only did I conquer my fear of going farther than what I called my safety zone in Sydney, I also got to see the mountains for the first time in my life. There was something about seeing the mountains that was incredibly breathtaking, especially when I was able to see a set of mountains that is considered sacred to Indigenous Australians-the Three Sisters formation.  The Three Sisters is a famous rock formation and one of the Blue Mountain’s most famous sites, towering above the Jamison Valley. Their names are Meehni (922 m), Wimlah (918m) and Gunnedoo (906m).  The legend surrounding the Three Sisters formation is claimed to be an Indigenous Australian Dreamtime Legend, which was the closest I was able to get to sacred land throughout my trip.

Australia was an amazing experience. If I could do it all over again, I would in a minute!

The Power of Choice

I am not one to usually go to talks that involve religion but recently I went to the opening night series talk by Joyce Meyer at the Air Canada Centre. Joyce Meyer is considered to be one of the world’s leading practical Bible teachers, and she is a New York Times bestselling author. Through Joyce Meyer Ministries, she teaches on hundreds of subjects, has authored over 80 books and conducts approximately 15 conferences per year.

Most of Meyer’s talks, though they have teachings from the Bible here and there, are motivational and inspiring. This talk was especially intriguing to me because she focused on the issue of choices and how it is through choices that you make that can determine the way that you live.

I find that choices we make determine so much of our lives and having the ability to make choices is a gift in itself. It is through choice that we determine whether we are to live in happiness and peace or to live negatively and feel angry at the world around us. For me, for the most part choices have helped me to get to where I am today. It has been through choice that I made the decision to stay on my path of healing and no longer let my past define how I was going to live my life.

I have learned that everyone has the power of choice within them and the talk by Joyce Meyers definitely reinforced the importance of how choice plays an integral role in our lives. Choices and how we choose to listen to them, after all is how we all learn to live in a good way. 

Monday, August 9, 2010

The Stolen Generation and Reparation: By: Christine McFarlane

The Stolen Generation and Reparation
Christine McFarlane

As a First Nations woman of Canada, I can identify and also relate with the struggles of the Indigenous people of Australia, although some of their struggles with governmental policies and assimilation strategies are coined in different terms from the policies and practices that have been initiated and have been in practice in Canada. However the focus of my paper will be to look at what Australian society understands as the ‘Stolen Generation’, the culmination of what it was and what happened, to examine briefly the government report of “Bringing them Home” and to look at reparation, and what it specifically means for Indigenous Australians today.
               The ‘Stolen Generation’ was a period in Australia’s history that saw Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children forcibly separated from their families and communities.  This government sanctioned abduction of Indigenous children according to the ReconciliaAction website states that “the forced removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families was official government policy from 1909 to 1969,”(1) and the implementation of this policy took place “before and after this period, with government, churches and welfare bodies” all taking part.
            The Aborigines Protection Board (APB), a government board that was established in 1909, managed this removal policy and was “given the power to remove children without parental consent and without a court order.” (1) According to the time, “under White Australia and assimilation policies Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who were ‘not of full blood’ were encouraged to become assimilated into the broader society so that eventually there would be no more Indigenous people left, ”(2) and this viewpoint that assimilation was better for Indigenous people was according to lecturer Dr. Karen O’Brien, a “part of the colonial discourse” (O’Brien) that early Australians saw shape their society. 
It would not be far reaching to state that the ‘Stolen Generation’ was perhaps one of the most critical assaults on Aboriginal culture because it undermined and brought chaos to Aboriginal social structures that are central to cultural practices and cultural transmission. I strongly believe that cultural practice and transmission are integral to the very identity of who you are, not only as an individual but also as a collective. Therefore the attempt of the Australian government’s assimilation policy was nothing but a policy of systematic genocide and an attempt to wipe out a race of people. This is a crime that speaks for itself.
            It was with this ‘removal policy’ in mind that the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission started a national inquiry into the Australian governments practice of removing children and this report “Bringing Them Home” was tabled in Parliament on 26 May 1997.” (2) This report details the devastating impacts that the child removal policies had on children and their families, and it found amongst other atrocities that “many of the institutions and homes in which children were placed were very cruel, and sexual and physical abuse of the children was common.” (2) It also found that “many of the people who managed the removals, including both the government and churches, abused their power and breached their supposed obligations as protectors and ‘carers’. (2)
Furthermore, in the ‘Bringing Them Home’ Report it is highlighted how “the practice of forced removal was highly traumatic not only for the children but also for their families.” This statement is backed up by one of many personal accounts I read in the book ‘ the stolen children: their stories’ edited by Carmel Bird. One woman by the name of Carol writes:
“FIVE GENERATIONS OF MY family have been affected by removal of children. Four generations of my family have been removed from their mothers and institutionalized. Three generations of my family have been put into Beagle Bay Mission dormitories. Four generations of my family went without parently love, without mother or father. I myself found it very hard to show any love to my children because I wasn’t given that, so was my mother and grandmother.”(65-66)

 It was heart wrenching to read the many accounts of the devastation that this removal policy had on the Indigenous people of Australia and not get caught up in my own memories of what happened to my family. The child removal policy, according to the ‘Bringing Them Home’ report “broke important cultural, spiritual and family ties which crippled not only individuals, but whole families and even whole communities.” (2) To this day, many parents whose children were taken away never saw them again and siblings were separated, and many Aboriginal people still do not know who their relatives are or have been unable to track them down. This is identical to my own situation as I was a part of what Canada called the “Residential Scoop.” I still do not know members of my biological family or know the whereabouts of the two brothers that my mother also gave birth to.
There are still many impacts as a direct result of what happened during the ‘Stolen Generation’. Impacts that according to an article on Cultural Maintenance and Trauma in Indigenous Australia reflect “ disturbingly higher reported proportions of Indigenous imprisonment, infant mortality, suicide, drug dependence and substance abuse, and general medical conditions as well as lower life expectancies.” (4) Within the same article it also argues “Indigenous people show very high levels and rates of self-reported hopelessness, helplessness, and disorientation as well as anxiety, irritability and insomnia and are four to five times more likely to die from the consequences of a mental disorder than the non-Indigenous Australian population.”(4)
It is important to note that the Bringing Them Home Report made some key recommendations. The key one that I am mentioning is one in which an “official apology from the government, as well as financial compensation for the suffering caused by the government,”(3) is made. The recommendation of an apology was not well received by the then Prime Minister John Howard in 1997, but the new Labor Government that was elected promised to finally make an apology to the Stolen Generations in 2007. It was at the first session of the new Federal Parliament, on 13, February 2008 that the new Prime Minister Kevin Rudd issued an official apology to the Stolen Generations on behalf of the Government.
Though an apology was issued, and there was the establishment of a reparations tribunal there is still a lot of unfinished business to take care of in regards to Indigenous peoples of Australia. According to the article Election 2007: Indigenous Policy-unfinished business written by Megan Davis of the University of New South Wales, “Australia resists negotiating a final settlement with its first peoples and continues to challenge the internationally accepted idea of the inherent and fundamental rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The situation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in Australia remains the great ‘unfinished business’ of the Australian state.’ (Davis)
It is with the above comment in mind that I question whether reconciliation and reparation will ever be fully achieved. In the article Reconciliation: Moving From Rhetoric to Reality Through the Education Revolution,” the author, John Davis states that though the formal apology was “an important moment in our shared history,” and was “widely perceived and portrayed as a transformative experience for our nation,” there is “much more to be achieved if we are to realize the true extent of this post-apology potential. Reconciliation is not yet a reality.” (12)
In conclusion, reparation for Indigenous Australians who were removed from their families will take a lot more than just an apology. The ongoing failure of the Australian government to address the magnitude of the moral wrongs perpetuated by their assimilation policies leaves Australian society and those who have undertaken studying their Indigenous people to wonder if reconciliation will ever become a part of their society so others do not continue to suffer in the years to come.

Works Cited:
Carmel Bird: the stolen children: their stories. Random House Australia Pty Ltd. Milsons Point, NSW 2061.1998

Bringing Them Home: Chapter 1. Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission Report. Report of the National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from Their Families, April 1997. Retrieved July 30, 2010.

John Davis: Reconciliation: Moving From Rhetoric to Reality Through The Education Revolution. Indigenous Law Bulletin June/July 2008 ILB Volume 7, Issue 6.

Megan Davis: Election 2007: Indigenous Policy-unfinished business. Australian Review. November 2007. Retrieved July 22, 2010.

Michael Halloran, Lecturer, La Trobe University School of Psychological Science. Volume 11, Number 4 (December 2004) Retrieved July 22, 2010.

Karen O’Brien. Class Lecture. July 2, 2010 Koori Centre University of Sydney
Stolen Generations Fact Sheet, July 28, 2007. Retrieved July 20, 2010.