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Tahlia Palmer: Steady Eye

Because of Her, I Can; A Reflection on Aunty Cheryl's Thesis and How It Influenced My Understanding of the Truth of Our Ancestry

Andrew Ryan

I recently enrolled at university, and one of the questions asked - at various stages of the application and enrollment - was: “Are you of Aboriginal or Torres Straight Islander descent?” I ticked the YES box with a passionate flourish. It’s the truth! I am! However, when the same bureaucratic process asks if I am Aboriginal or Torres Straight Islander, I have to tick the NO box, with a big old weight in my heart. It is complicated. But, thankfully, I have some understanding of this complexity, the emotional and political messiness which comes with living with the consequences of colonial attempts to erase indigenous identity. And I have a better understanding of my personal relationship with this complexity because of the hard work done by my cousin, my Aunty, Murri woman, Cheryl Moodai Robinson.

[All quotes throughout this piece come from Cheryl’s book, based on her 1997 honors thesis in Social Ecology: “Surving Alientation; An Artist’s Journey of Family History and the Effects of Colonisation”]

 Cheryl Robinson, "Branded For Life" series artwork, 1998

Cheryl Robinson, "Branded For Life" series artwork, 1998

“We have a fear of knowing ourselves - a lot of my relatives are afraid to know the truth. They can’t face up to it. This creates a lot of friction about our identity, our heritage, a lot of misunderstanding and isolation. For those who identify it’s worse because the others don’t want to talk to us. This continues the cycle of dispossession and dislocation. It continues to rub at the scars that Mary, my great-great-great Bargie (grandmother), had as a result of what was inflicted upon her. Each generation has inflicted the psychological scars onto the next generation. This is why I am writing.”


Growing up, I was largely disconnected from my father’s troubled family, which I now understand to be as a result of many layers of unresolved inter-generational trauma. A few years ago, when I was about 28, I went searching for more information about Dad’s family, a vague idea about uncovering more information about the occasionally hinted-at Aboriginal ancestry, googling the names of my grandfather, my uncles, following leads found in excerpts of books available online, coming across archived articles and newspaper clippings, and, nestled in an old edition of the Koori Mail, I found Cheryl. For this I will be forever grateful.

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Cheryl is a descendant of my great-grandmother’s sister. She is an artist, a wise woman, a grandmother living in NSW, and she worked tirelessly for decades to reclaim knowledge that was denied her. No other of our ancestors were forced to feel such shame about their identity as those who were Aboriginal, and in a colonial nation built on white supremacy, we both feel that we owe the Black truth to ourselves, to our children, to our grandchildren, the spirits of our ancestors and the broader Australian psyche, especially in the face of assholes who would still see us deny its importance. 

“Our connections with our birthright - our culture - have been decimated: we - my family - live in a cultural void, neither black, nor white. We were a disjointed, un-united, fragmented, culturally neutral family… Our relatives had been hidden from us.”

Coming across Cheryl’s book was a major turning point in my own journey towards understanding - and learning to heal - the pain that came to me through my paternal lineage. I’d like to tell you some of that story. There is not enough room here for the entire story. There is so much more to say, so much I am glossing over in the following paragraphs; the blind obedience to white men, the passing down of hard-learnt lessons about survival in the colonial situation, the colonial situation itself, massacres etc, but that will come later, in later written works, in later visual works. But for now, I will focus on the lasting effects of the “importance” of skin colour, and how language and culture was taken away from my family line. Assimilation. What has happened in the past is relevant to the present.

 My great-great-grandmother, Annie Eugenie Stiff seated in chair, my great-grandmother, Doris, seated on the floor to the right, date unknown

My great-great-grandmother, Annie Eugenie Stiff seated in chair, my great-grandmother, Doris, seated on the floor to the right, date unknown

 Great-great Grandmother Annie, Charleville, QLD, date unknown.

Great-great Grandmother Annie, Charleville, QLD, date unknown.

My great-grandmother, Doris Hagstrom, was Aboriginal. Doris was the granddaughter of Hannah, who was born in 1845 on the banks of the Narran River, in Southern Queensland. Her mother was a “pure-blood” Aboriginal woman known only as “Mary” in the records, and her father was a British man who may or may not have been a convict, from one of the first waves of white people to “explore” the area. First contact kind of shit. Hannah, my great-great-great grandmother, was a “half-caste”. She had children with an English man, and those children would have been considered “half-caste”. One of those children, my great-great-grandmother, Annie, married a Swedish man who fathered Doris (sister to Cheryl’s grandmother), and Doris, even as late as 2010 in this article about my great-uncle Kevin Palmer’s memoirs, was referred to as “half Aboriginal”. Three generations of half-castes.

This leads to my grandfather, Terry, son of “half Aboriginal” Doris (who, according to oral history recorded by Cheryl, may not have actually been aware that she was “half Aboriginal”) and a man of British descent named Grafton. Terry, may he rest in peace, had fair skin, looked a lot like his white father, and he and his siblings had limited access to their large extended Aboriginal family in the Maranoa region of Southern Queensland, especially once they were put into institutionalised care following the death of Doris. He was fair enough to be white passing. From what I understand, the truth of his Aboriginality was shameful to him.

 My paternal great-grandparents, Doris and Grafton, with their first born, also Grafton Jnr, my grandfather's brother, date unknown.

My paternal great-grandparents, Doris and Grafton, with their first born, also Grafton Jnr, my grandfather's brother, date unknown.

”Assimilation meant to my Numbardee (mother) and her brothers that they had to be the same as everyone else. My Numbardee was absorbed into mainstream Australia which effectively exterminated her cultural heritage and her identity became invisible.”

 The Palmer clan. My great grandfather, Grafton, seated. My grandfather, Terry, standing right. Great Uncle Kevin seated bottom right, date unknown.

The Palmer clan. My great grandfather, Grafton, seated. My grandfather, Terry, standing right. Great Uncle Kevin seated bottom right, date unknown.

My grandfather married a lovely white woman who birthed their babies, one of them being my father. They moved away from Queensland, first to the Northern Territory, then to Western Australia, following mining industry work. My father, with his fair skin (very easily tanned), hazel eyes and black hair met my mother - a white skinned, blonde haired, blue eyed daughter of Dutch migrants - in Kalgoorlie, which lead to me being born in Perth in 1987 with lily-white skin, hazel eyes, and a shock of black hair that became blonde by the time I was walking.

 Rum Jungle, Northern Territory. Tahlia Palmer, 2016

Rum Jungle, Northern Territory. Tahlia Palmer, 2016

I knew all about my mother’s Dutch heritage; I spent a lot of time with my Dutch grandparents, ate their stinky, salty food, learnt some of the language from boisterous card games with their Dutch friends, but I was raised with no awareness or appreciation of where my dad’s family came from. In fact, I remember being told there was Spanish in there somewhere, to explain the swarthier features present in Dad’s side (I have since searched through many generations on all sides of Dad’s family and have found no Spanish ancestors). I had all the privileges (and propensity for ignorant bliss) that comes with looking the way that I do in Australia. I remember being around 7, being friends with a Noongar girl from down the road and asking her if she was Indian. I had no idea. I was completely disconnected, because the truth, if it was even known during my childhood, was hidden from me. I didn’t know anything about it until I was a teenager.

”To understand ourselves we must know where we’ve come from, what our culture and identity are within the realms of our society, not the society that was forced upon us by another culture.”

When I was younger, I used to stare at myself in the mirror and feel guilty about having white skin, knowing that I escape the treatment given to my darker skinned extended family, purely because of skin tone and facial features. It always brings a bizarre feeling when I’m told by strangers that I look “exotic” (more common when I dye my hair dark), or when friends have squinted their eyes and say “yeah I think I can see it” when the subject of my ancestry comes up, but still, I escape racism because I am extremely, extremely white passing.

 My brother Troy and I enjoying a Christmas lunch with the Dutch side of our family, Kwinana, 2010

My brother Troy and I enjoying a Christmas lunch with the Dutch side of our family, Kwinana, 2010

 Me at Lesmurdie Falls, 2014

Me at Lesmurdie Falls, 2014

I am absolutely convinced that children like my brother and I were EXACTLY what old Australian governments had in mind when they talked about breeding out the black, those people who used a pseudo-scientific racial hierarchy to justify their positions of power in colonial settlements built on invaded, stolen land. We were classic 90's “Australian” kids, slim and blonde, running around, climbing trees, playing t-ball and kicking the footy on the sports ovals all over the grimy eastern suburbs of Perth, not knowing a thing about the fact that our Aboriginal ancestors were forcibly removed from their lands on the other side of the arid inland and treated like dirt because they were viewed as inferior.

“I may have been born into a Western society and I may not look traditionally aboriginal but my genetic makeup is Aboriginal. It has not been bred out and I believe cannot be bred out. The Colonisers believed that the indigenous skin colour and an indigenous mind would eventually be bred out, and indeed in our family we no longer carry black skin. However, Holland (Rhonda Holland, “Aboriginal Mental Health Through the Eyes of a White Mental Health Worker, Redfern, 1991) believes, “you may be able to erase the black skin, but you cannot erase the psychological make-up.”
‘Recent scientific research in to highly dilute solutions verifies that reducing a substance to a minute quality, such as a single atom, intensifies the need and capacity of that atom to bond with others and to imprint its own energetic qualities on the surrounding shell of different molecules. In 1976 a council of Aboriginal tribal elders proclaimed that as their racial blood becomes increasingly diluted in the engulfing oceans of white blood, the spiritual essence of Aboriginal blood will increase in potency and cause the consciousness of the Aboriginal race to re-emerge.’
- Robert Lawlor, “Voices of the First Day: Awakening in the Aboriginal Dreamtime” 1991  

 Ancestors. Tahlia Palmer, 2016 (acrylic and beading on canvas)

Ancestors. Tahlia Palmer, 2016 (acrylic and beading on canvas)

My own family line did not suffer the fate of many others, in that children of our line were not forcibly removed from their Aboriginal mothers (unless you count the death of my grandfather’s mother and his resulting placement in a Salvation Army Boy’s Home as forcibly removed), and I think this is largely because Hannah, my “half-caste” great-great-great grandmother, signed a piece of paper known as an exemption certificate, which signed away her indigenous identity so that she and her husband could live in town like “regular” people. She spoke five languages, but would only teach one - English - to her children. I learnt this because I decided to continue Cheryl’s research, went to Queensland, hooked up with a genealogist and scoured the state archives. I saw that old document, with the list of white male signatories from the town stating that the couple are cool or whatever, and suddenly so many problems made sense.

That document made me realise that this assimilation process was done for survival. How could Hannah have known that despite raising her children to be members of white society, their skin colour would prevent them from ever being accepted as equal in the colonies, in the towns, in the cities? How could she know that their skin colour would determine what jobs they were allowed to do, and whether or not they even got paid for their labour? Whether or not they were allowed to give birth in a hospital? Whether or not they were buried in marked graves? She signed a piece of paper that she thought would prevent her children from such worries. She could not have known how far the pain of suppressed cultural identity would travel through future generations.


 River Banks. Tahlia Palmer, 2017

River Banks. Tahlia Palmer, 2017

“To commence my own healing and dispel the anger I had regarding the colonisers and their affects and atrocities on my family, my artwork became my solace, my refuge.”

Cheryl went out on to the land of our ancestors, explored the tracks they made post-dispossession, she learnt traditional making practices, and she incorporated them into her art work as a way to make peace with ancestral pain. She explored her spiritual ties with the land and the stories of our ancestors and thus opened up a pathway for me to explore the same. It was through reading her book, and then conversing with her, that I finally felt a sense of permission to do what I do without shame, with the deep knowledge that, yes, I have a right to claim this heritage, and yes, I have the strength to face this. I will one day go to that country too, because she has shown me where to find it.

 Traditional Basket, made from the crown shaft of a pine frond, stitched with kangaroo sinew, the handle is driftwood. Cheryl Robinson, 2014

Traditional Basket, made from the crown shaft of a pine frond, stitched with kangaroo sinew, the handle is driftwood. Cheryl Robinson, 2014


Sometimes it is difficult, more difficult than I can ever express. To sit in front of a canvas I have painted, a painting borne out of a spiritual need to create an image that tells something of the story, their story, my story, my relationship with the Noongar country that I was born and again live on, my relatonship with my ancestors’ country that I have never seen, both Australian and European… it can be an incredibly emotional experience, at times powerfully sad, something that I can all too easily disassociate from. And it is not confined to painting; writing, photography, film work, almost everything I’ve created in the last four or so years has deep ties to this process of exploration and connection, and it is something I usually find hard to talk about, let alone share, even with those closest to me. Sometimes I am overwhelmed to the point of inertia.

 Pete Photographs a Dead Roo, Nannup, WA. Tahlia Palmer, 2016

Pete Photographs a Dead Roo, Nannup, WA. Tahlia Palmer, 2016

 Getting a Roo to the Funeral, Nullagine, WA. Tahlia Palmer, 2016

Getting a Roo to the Funeral, Nullagine, WA. Tahlia Palmer, 2016

 The Horse (Mary Was a "Drover's Boy"). Tahlia Palmer, 2015

The Horse (Mary Was a "Drover's Boy"). Tahlia Palmer, 2015

But as hard as it is, this is my healing, and the emotional and spiritual shift I felt once I started exploring my identity and my relationship with "Australia" in my art was immense, and I am certainly much stronger, and more focused, because of it.

 Convicts. Tahlia Palmer, 2014-17

Convicts. Tahlia Palmer, 2014-17

In the early days of my identity-exploration, back when I was more engaged with political activism, my sometimes-mentor Richard Bell told me that he reckons there’s gotta be at least a million “White” Australians in a similar situation, with their family’s black histories all but erased through denial, through hiding, through ignoring. Imagine if we all claimed our heritage, imagine if we all felt and understood the Black truth of Australian history, and imagine if we and our allies all voted accordingly… I tell my story now not just for me and my family, but for everyone else to learn from.

If you’ve got an inkling that your family is hiding something, go searching. If you know that history is there, fucking claim it. It’s hard, and potentially alienating, but using story-telling to save ourselves and our descendants from the cultural and spiritual void left by racist colonial brutality is something I think is pretty fucking important. Possibly the most important.

“Aboriginal memory preserves the unwritten black history of colonisation, which has been emerging in the public arena in the form of life stories of Aboriginal women. Aboriginal memory is transforming public perceptions of the past in post-invasion Australia.”
Anne Brewster, “Reading Aboriginal Women’s Autobiography”, 1996

Thank you Cheryl, from the bottom of everything that is my entire being. Because of you, I can.


Interview with Papaphilia

Andrew Ryan

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Papaphilia is coming to WA for the first time next month, and we here at Cool Perth Nights are very excited about it. Melbourne based producer, Fjorn Butler, brings to her craft an atmosphere of focused musical experimentation and intellectual exploration; it is a stimulating and inspiring electronic expression with beautifully layered sonic conjurations of fragments of society and culture and experience, with a sort of dystopian sci-fi bent that has no words to it other than the song titles, which in themselves speak worlds about the attitude behind the creations... I jumped at the opportunity to interview Fjorn before her upcoming Perth shows; I knew I could get to some satisfying depths with this human and I am completely taken (and certainly not surprised) by the consideration she gave to these answers. THE MUSIC IS GREAT. HAVE A LISTEN HERE AND HERE.


Firstly, you're about to come to Perth, have you been here before? What do you know about the city? What are you expecting? What have you heard?

I’ve never been to WA! So I have absolutely no idea or expectations for what I am up for, or what Perth is like. I’m excited to meet people who are putting their time and resources into music communities there. I’m seriously interested in how people can manage the balance of trying to survive while trying to maintain a practice that is not just a hobby, but something that is part of making that survival possible and worthwhile. I’m of the impression that in Perth it is probably more difficult to make music/work that is personal or reflects a more marginal representational intention, and to then have that work receive exposure and be appreciated widely. That is, I assume there are more challenges one faces, especially if you want to stay in Perth and also not compromise your politics or quality of your work.

Where does the name “Papaphilia” come from?

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Funnily enough no one has asked me this question. It’s not an easy one to answer to be honest! So traditionally the word is used in Christian religious institutions for a love of the pope, but in a broader sense the word “papa” generally refers to a patriarch, or father, and “philia” is a suffix that indicates a fraternal love for the subject.

I guess I was thinking about my obsession with daddies, specifically Greek daddies because I was going to a Greek social club called House of Hercules to dance with 50+ year old men.

But also I was forced to study Plato, mainly Plato’s allegory of the Cave, repetitively at university – I mean I’ve written around 3 or 4 essays on the bloody story, and of course there are so many interpretations of that allegory that take aim at how the political structure it espouses is tied to a particular societal structure, one that distinctly stratifies the domestic, and all infra-political structures tied to society (including slavery), from civic participation.

Anyway, so amongst all that I was thinking about the figure of the “daddy” in representations of desire, how they are structured and permeate deeply into personal libidinal urges. And I guess mainly I was interested in how this intersects with creative practice – how all these forces and urges and social institutions shape you so so deeply; questioning how foundational this structure is, can it actually be recognized? And if so, how do you challenge foundational structures in personal and interpersonal spaces?

I suppose ultimately it came from a fascination with the longevity of patriarchal societal and political structures and trying to recognize how they fit in my life and how I can make them work for me in a pleasurable way. Especially given that I tend to think of myself as a bit of a daddy lol.

What stuff is going on for you for this season? Current projects? Life movements?

I’m in the middle of trying to record music I’ve been developing and playing live for the last two years. It’s been an intense process so far because I’ve been trying to teach myself production techniques, so that everything sounds exactly how I want it to. You know, I want my kick drums to sound hard and bassy but still have bounce, and I want my hi hats to hit like hairspray! It’s a work in progress when you just don’t have the technical knowledge or the money to get someone to help you out.

Then I have to figure out how to conceptualise it all – there’s sets of narratives that are there in the music for me, inscribed in a way. A lot of the tracks were developed at pretty intense times in my life and are a response to, or reflect me simultaneously working through emotional as well as technical challenges. This I feel needs to be honoured in the end result of the work – but I’m not quite there right now, I’m still dwelling on it.

I also have a split cassette with Lisa Lerkenfeldt called Deep Blue that’s coming out soon, and will hopefully have a full length LP ready in the second half of the year.

Aside from that I’m in the midst of tremendous life shifts so I’m kind of just holding on and trying to move through mass transitions without completely falling apart.

 Poster artwork credit of  Molly Dogson

Poster artwork credit of Molly Dogson

In your interview with IdenticalRecords in Jan this year, you talked about how experimentation with repetition and rhythmic patterns has been your main focus since you first started making music.... what do you think sparked this interest, and what kind of ideas do you channel through this process? 

My work, whether visual or sonic, has always been foundationally about collage. The thing about collage as a technique is that its fairly loose and expansive; it traverses form and style, it can be evident as a motif, or it can be more elusive whilst still present – I mean in my opinion when you create you are pretty much producing a variation on form. There’s always a reference evident, always a dialogue or conversation to be had from an aspect of the work. So I suppose the interest in repetition and patterns draws from a place of acknowledging that creation isn’t necessarily concerned with a production of newness, but about challenging the ways that listening and conversing and visually engaging can take place. And given that a lot of the time when I am grappling with an idea or relaying a message – the message is never formed in the beginning, but develops overtime via the conduits I employ – I suppose the interest thus comes from the relationship between the conduit and the message.

In the same interview, you mentioned some of your musical influences at certain important points (which by the way, introduced me to Ghédalia Tazartès, thank you so much for that)--- can you describe your biggest musical influences, how they've influenced your work, why, and what you're currently listening to?

My music influences range fairly far – I mean Janet Jackson has had a huge influence on my life in terms of sexuality and sensuality in music. Learning flamenco and jazz styles on the guitar in my teens altered how I thought about melody and compositional form beyond pop and rock standard structures. I listened to Robert Ashley’s Automatic Writing a lot when I was making the first tape I ever put out – his stuff was influential in terms of considering how incidental weird sonic elements can actually be music. And psychedelic stuff like J A Seazer’s tracks for theatre and film, psych rock in general.

I’ve always been concerned with making music that would compel people to physically engage and respond my whole life, however I always framed it in terms of shock. Nowadays I want people to feel compelled to dance, or just move. In terms of what I am making right now, Detroit techno, Chicago house and Chicago Footwork have been super influential to how I’ve been integrating beats and drum machine in to the mix. But also Kwaito, Gqom and sghubhu styles, oh and shangaan electro – all that stuff has been absolutely dominating my playlists.

Most things require equipment, what is your favourite equipment? Music, research, garden or not garden, health, well-being, bureaucracy, any kind of equipment, physical or otherwise, what do you like using and what do you use most? Why?

I’m mostly attached to my ’94 Twin Cab Toyota Hilux. She’s been with me for a few years now and she’s developing a pretty big profile in the communities I’m in. She’s moved so many houses, been in a video clip (Various Asses ‘Down, Down’), caught fire and still bounced back, traveled interstate numerous times. She’s fairly versatile and I couldn’t imagine life without her.

What are your thoughts on the most recent federal budget?

Where do I even begin! It’s hard to have a critique of something that is so shrouded in secrecy with regards to the intentions of how it is structured.

And it is hard to critique just one budget – I see this budget as a point of reference in a longer timeline of conservative governments implementing neoliberal ideology and further trying to re-cement colonial forms of governance, especially at the federal level.

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You can try to take a positive outlook on some of the seemingly social-based funding allocations – say the supposed increased spending on mental health services, aged care, education – but there’s a real marked difference between the policy in abstract and the policy in reality. Eligibility to access care and social services is so policed, it’s unreal. The questions of legitimacy to access social service is always up for debate, and many sections of society that aren’t struggling seem to have no idea how extreme living can be on a day to day basis in this place. The deterioration of funding to services has been so extreme since the early 90s to now, that a small increase is really not enough to alleviate the stress from frontline services. And the constant shift in service structures and models has meant no consistency for struggling folk. This budget is light going for a conservative liberal government in many ways – however it’s only possible to view it in such a passive manner if you are aligned with its founding ideology. For one, so called Australia is a colonial occupation. Secondly the colonial form of governance that is very prevalent at the federal level makes possible the rapid implementation of political-economic structures that are hostile to any form of culture or lifestyle that deviates from a white hetero-normative entrepreneurial way of existing. There’s an expectation of citizens to obediently toe the line, whilst the very political ideologies that are supposed to support equal distributions of rights and resources are used against them to justify maldistribution.

We are very much in a place now where poverty is viewed as a consequence of bad economic decision making. So yeah, it’s impossible for me to give an analysis without taking this all in to account.

From what I can gather, the German philosopher Martin Heidegger describes anxiety to be where the free and authentic self first comes in to existence, and is experienced in the face of something indefinite. What are your thoughts on this?

Oh man, I have such a hard time dealing with ever thinking about Heidegger haha. Authenticity is a real weird concept, and although I understand he’s referring to it in terms of praxis and constant shift and renewal, it’s still a concept of subjectification that ultimately followed a linear and future oriented progression, thus it insists humans are one dimensional, not complex or fluid, to me anyway. The fixation on anxiety also infers that it is a generative process that takes a particular path and form – anxiety takes many forms, and yes we can learn from it, but I am not certain that it’s a purely individuated experience that reveals a truth that is so specifically fragmented from other people, society and its social institutions. Nor is enduring long term anxiety, some of which can be debilitating and come from sources of experience that are not always generative – like trauma for one – they are not experiences in life to be overcome, just managed as best one can.

I guess I just take issue with the idea of authenticity being thought of as this isolatable unique and knowable aspect that means humans are entities that should be thought of as containing pure positive individuality, because I also hold that society and social institutions are fundamental shapers of people, and they also shape how we experience anxiety.

Can you please describe your interpretation of cultural awareness, especially in an Australian context?

It’s kind of a joke that cultural awareness is the stage of engaging with difference that the so called Australian social context is at, especially given that non Indigenous folk, occupants of stolen land, have always been culturally diverse. And especially given the diversity of Indigenous peoples and culture! The myth of white purity that dominates the narrative of occupation since the declaration of terra nullius is just that, a myth. I guess what I am trying to say is that, it baffles me that a country that has been occupied by such a huge range of cultures, and that continues to expand this diversity, is still thinking about the reality of how to imagine the existence of so many cultures, how they intermingle and enmesh and what value they hold. It bugs me that people still conceptualise diversity in terms of how cultures and social worlds sit in reference to, and as a deviation from Anglo and English speaking ‘culture’. The way I see it, we exist amongst so much diversity – in terms of how people live culturally, in terms of sexuality and gender, physical and mental abilities and dispositions. So yes we should prioritise constantly developing and maintaining a strong awareness of the diversity that is the reality of social worlds, but awareness is barely the first step.


The Bird | Thursday May 31 w/ Baby Kool, Bahasa Malay, House of BOK | Info

The Moon Cafe | Sunday June 3 w/ Lana Rothnie | Info

Mojo's Bar | Wednesday June 6 w/ Hi. Okay, Sorry, Furchick, Erasers | Info

Images courtesy of Papaphilia (Fjorn Butler) and Poster artwork by Poster artwork credit of Molly Dogson


Emlyn Johnson - Contested Mark (2017, EP, self-released)

Andrew Ryan

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"Contested Mark" is cult Australian dark-folk-troubadour Emlyn Johnson's 8th record, and possibly my favourite, although to be fair, I haven't heard the first 5 in full (they're really hard to get your hands on). It follows along similar, meandering paths and themes on display on previous albums; stories about what he sees and people he meets and things he does and how things are, in his reality, in his world. If you are not familiar with his work, but are a fan of early Bill Callahan (smog), are interested in a postmodern take on the Australian Bush Ballad Tradition, and appreciate English language word-play, you should probably give this guy a shot.

The name of the album is from the AFL (Australian Rules Football), where the ball is caught after two or more players all go for it at the same time. The AFL Community Hub tells me that the amount of Contested Marks seen in AFL games have had a sharp decrease since 2012, which I imagine makes the game less visually interesting for those who find joy in watching groups of men jumping together to reach for the same ball. There must have been a lot fewer mid-air crashes in the last 5 years. Emlyn played in the Perth Community Cup recently and I think he won a prize or something. I wonder how many times he engaged with a contested mark. He's probably really good at winning those contests; he's very tall.

So the album is named after this AFL thing because of the drawing he did of a contested mark that was used as the album art. The original drawing is pencil on paper, is framed, and was put up for sale on facebook for $50, but he tells me that only his ex-girlfriend masquerading as David Walsh offered to buy it. She didn't end up buying it. The price has since been raised but I didn't have the guts to ask how much he now wants for it, given that even $50 is too much for me right now. He made sure to tell me it was more than $50. 

There is an ease and confidence on display in his performance on this album that is woven throughout the mostly-melancholic collection of songs, where Johnson is always bluntly honest about his experience in any given situation, doesn't shy away from ugly truths, says what he reckons without sugar-coating anything. When he's not telling those kinds of stories, he is playing with words and sentences and sounds in ways that are something like quasi-structured stream of consciousness, you can't quite tell what he thinks or feels when he does that, though he does lead the listener to intuit/interpret, playing, he's playing with you/me/us, a well-practiced method of lyric creation he's worked with for years.

It all serves to give the dedicated listener a lot to chew on. The live performance of this game-play is always a delight, and given enough beers upon hearing a song one has not heard before, it can actually be quite thrilling. I also like it when he shouts lists of things or says the same word over and over again. That is good too.

So there is confidence, and certainly some understated cheekiness, but I have to stress the strong under-current of melancholy, gawd I feel it when listening.

This man moves and travels around the south of the Australian continent, noticing the rubbish on the ground, reading the newspaper, reading books, generally ignoring social media, thinking about sex, thinking about love, thinking about money, thinking about politics, thinking about society, thinking about history, thinking about problems.

It's a lonely existence, moving place to place, I mean, even with friends in every city and town. I wrote the word loneliness in my notes about the album for almost every song - a particular kind of loneliness that I can't quite put my finger on, not sad-sad, but like, resigned, accepted, maybe even comfortable.

Maybe it's the loneliness that comes with not being rooted to one permanent patch of ground. As fellow Perth-borne writer Alex Griffin put it: “A certain kind of maplessness” (Swampland Magazine, Issue 2, 2017).

Maybe the melancholy also exists not just in the lyrics but in the almost lackadaisical delivery of the lyrics, it sounds like he barely gives a shit, but at the same time the cadence shows he does, he invokes satisfying feelings of slight menace (less snarling than previous releases), slight sense of impending doom (Trump Presidency and Australia's ongoing issues with Manus Island and all), a journey, a muted playfulness, not too intense, not too weak, dotted with perfect moments of monotone that make the playfulness all the more evident.

Playfulness also exists within that bloody keyboard he used; sped up Bossanova Beat presets and the like. Sometimes I bop my body along, and sometimes I sway side to side, and sometimes I find myself slumping and staring blankly at the corner of the room, not even noticing the spiders.

It's good music for this turn of the season to hot-hot-hot. I want to tell you what my fave track is but I actually can't choose. That never happens. Emlyn is really good at this thing. He's made a fine record. I hope he puts it on vinyl soon. 

  Contested Mark  by Emlyn Johnson

Contested Mark by Emlyn Johnson

The Galilee Basin; Part One

Andrew Ryan

The Galilee Basin, found in deep QLD, is massive. It has coal in it. Government wants to make coal mining happen there. In order to make coal mining happen there, they need to develop a port and a rail way to the port from the mine. Government wants to help an Indian company, Adani, develop a rail system to make the mining happen. Stuff started happening in 2014, and now, three years later, with the Great Barrier Reef that much closer to certain death, the mine and the port and the rail way are that much closer to being a reality. there have been ongoing legal hurdles, environmental and native title, hurdles strengthened by citizens who seek to protect the land, and the water that lays beneath it.

 Location of the Galilee Basin, wikimedia commons.

Location of the Galilee Basin, wikimedia commons.

 ABC NEWS Lateline - Barnaby Joyce interviewed by Jeremy Fernandez

ABC NEWS Lateline - Barnaby Joyce interviewed by Jeremy Fernandez



JEREMY FERNANDEZ:         On the matter of the Adani coal railway: is the nation really in such desperate economic circumstances that taxpayers need to put a $900 million loan on the table for a foreign company to build a coal railway?

BARNABY JOYCE:                 OK. First of all, it's a loan. That means you get paid back. And actually, we hope to make money on the loan.
Secondly, it gives us that tipping-point capacity to develop the Galilee Basin. We make money in this nation by the stuff we put on a boat: coal, iron ore, cotton, beef, sheep, grain.

[but what if it doesn’t get paid back? what if the project is a bust? or is it an investment? why aren’t you calling it an investment if you’re planning on getting money back from it?

The Australian Conservation Foundation has had legal advice: the people who approve said-loan, the Northern Australian Infrastructure Facility, could face legal action, could be found in breach of their duties if they don’t consider climate change when Considering Financial Risks of the Mine, I wonder if the directors of the NAIF are climate change deniers, there’s gotta be at least one of those guys there right, especially if they’re pro-coal mine development, or are there climate change Acceptors who are pro-coal mine development? people talk about “clean coal", and wouldn’t ya know it, some people BELIEVE in it.

From: Clean coal explained: Why emissions reductions from coal remain a pipe dream
“It works by forcing the exhaust from a coal-fired power plant through a liquid solvent that absorbs the carbon dioxide, heating the solvent to liberate the gas, then compressing it and sending it away for storage underground.
Great in principle, but the technology faces big hurdles in practice.
One is the huge cost and logistical challenge of transporting all the captured carbon dioxide and burying it.
It would require a vast network of pipelines and storage sites.”

doesn't seem very sustainable. also, the thing that really concerns me is the thing that happens to get the coal out of the ground. tearing up ancient landscapes. tearing up ecosystems. continuing deep cycles of environmental, cultural and social abuse through NOT LEARNING A DAMN THING from history or the voices of people who have dedicated their lives to learning about such things, like scientists, for example.


BARNABY JOYCE:                …of course there's going to be environmental controls on how you do it. But if you use this sort of blinkered mechanism to say, "Well, we're just not going to export product anymore, especially the one that everybody wants to buy: coal for India, so poor people can turn on lights like we have lights." I mean, surely we...

JEREMY FERNANDEZ:         India is aiming to buy less coal. They're aiming to be coal-free by 2050. This is...

BARNABY JOYCE:                Good luck to them. Good luck to them and God bless them. But in the meantime, they want to buy coal. And really, why are they buying coal? It's not because they want to buy coal. They're buying power. They're buying power because they've got hundreds of millions of people who, I think, have a right to turn on a light like we have a right to turn on a light.

[bit rude, Barnaby, having your One God bless them when you’re very aware that most Indians have Dharmic faiths. Also, there are other ways to power lights. It’s not just coal barnaby. It doesn’t have to be just coal.]


BARNABY JOYCE:                We make money in this nation by the stuff we put on a boat: coal, iron ore, cotton, beef, sheep, grain.
Now, we send that off in one direction and back in the other direction comes your terms of trade: everything you're wearing, everything your listeners - your listeners are watching TVs from overseas; they've probably cooked on a stove from overseas. They're driving a car from overseas.
Well, somebody somewhere has got to be putting something on a boat and sending it in the other direction. And this allows us to do it.
Now, if we stand in front of it and say, "Oh, well, I just don't believe in coal mining anymore or the money you make from it," you're a fool because you'll go broke.

[bit rude, Barnaby, assuming that everyone buys things or wants from overseas, also rude to assume that your audience is a bunch of idiots who don’t understand how global shipping economy works I mean maybe a bunch of people who voted your government in didn’t quite understand the global shipping industry because if they did they probz wouldn’t have voted for free market capitalists like yrselvzz to rule over them with a greedy, clammy, coal-smudged fists but then also maybe they just don’t care, maybe they actually don’t care about changing things for the better because it’s Too Hard or it’s Too Late.
what about the people who don’t buy things over overseas and buy things from Australia or want to buy things from Australia but can’t afford to because global shipping economy has created a situation where things from overseas can be more affordable than local produce, don’t you think that’s weird, Barnaby, weird and kind of shit for local economies, Barnaby, do you, do you think it’s a bit shitty? Don’t you think we should look at that? Or do you just want to keep those ships coming and going because it reminds you of being in a bath tub and playing choo-choo tug-boats with yr mamma


JEREMY FERNANDEZ:         I mean, we're talking about 1,500 jobs which is what Adani says under oath: 1,500 jobs. Is that a fair exchange for the contamination of water...

BARNABY JOYCE:                Well, I don't think that. I...

JEREMY FERNANDEZ:         ...for the risks to the Great Barrier Reef?

BARNABY JOYCE:                Well, first of all I think there's indirectly up to 10,000 jobs and many more after that. Secondly, it allows others companies to come into that precinct and also develop coal mines.

[Bruce Currie, farm man from QLD, went to India on an Adani fact finding mission: he found stories of environmental disregard at previous Adani run projects and sites. Illegal land seizing. Fishing catch reduced by 90% in a place where Adani built a port, what use is a job building said port when it’s done and there is no more job and suddenly you can’t even catch fish to feed your family. Worse poverty. Even worse. Coal dust on crops. That’s disgusting. Fucking polluted ground water. The last companies you’re going to trust with environmental issues are the ones that profit from completely ignoring environmental issues.]


BARNABY JOYCE:                And you know, this sort of - This is conceit. This is the sort of conceit where we say, "Oh well, we're all right, Jack and you can just stay poor and cold or poor and hot or just poor and miserable." I don't buy that argument.

[I don’t think many people would argue for keeping people poor and cold or poor and hot or poor and miserable, only callous arseholes would even think of such a thing, what kind of callous arseholes are giving those arguments to you Barnaby they sound horrible. I think most people who don't want the coal mine would be arguing that we can do other things to help alleviate the poverty you’re kind of half-describing without any actual sense of humanity or descriptive recognition of real struggles. Who are you talking about? The poor in india or the poor in Australia? it's hard to tell and you are confusing because your mind works so differently to mine, we seem to care about very different things and your values kind of upset me barnaby]

And the second thing I don't buy is: you've got to actually turn a dollar. If you want to pay for your pensions, if you want to pay for your defence force, if you want to pay for your hospitals, your roads, your school teachers, et cetera, we have got to actually make a buck. And the way we make a buck predominantly in this nation is things we put on a boat. And they're mining products and agricultural products, some services.
But if we start closing our eyes to that and start living in this naive world where you think, "Oh well, we just don't need to do that anymore," well, you'll pay for it because you just won't make the money to be able to pay for all the things that you think are your birthright, such as pensions.

[Yes there are some communities and families and individuals in QLD who may benefit in the short term from this, the short term, maybe a generation if we’re very lucky will benefit from coal mines economically but what about when they empty, when the market grinds to a halt because all those forward thinking nations have hit their energy sustainability targets, the renewables are in mass use, and no one needs your dirty coal? do you even pay attention to what’s going on in the rest of the world? you’ll be dead by then so you don’t care? green money can pay for the pensions too barnaby, we don't have to put things for sale on a boat barnaby, there have to be other ways we can try, why not try something new that might be safer and healthier and more sustainable, why not try?]


This shit only gets worse when you look at the Wangan and Jagalingou Native Title / Land Use Agreement stuff surrounding this mine. These things will be covered and explained next week in Part 2. 

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An Interview with Cough.

Andrew Ryan

Cough are a very heavy band. They are very, very good at loud, doomy, epically sad music that vibrates in your guts so much that it makes you feel sick. They are great. The last time Cough came to Australia was around 2011. I saw them play at The Tote, my favourite Melbourne workplace/second lounge-room, and it was fuckin badass, I was super impressed by the insane heaviness they created, such fire, such loathing and disdain, it was blissful, thank fuck for good sound, I was changed for the better, I don’t even remember many details  about the show but I did take photos and those photos were used by the band so that was nice for me and also, I guess, for the band.

This time around, they’ll be coming to Perth!!! Thank fuck; they didn’t do that before, fingers crossed that the Rosemount has what it takes to respect them, and they will joined by label-mates Windhand, omfg that band is good too, that show, It Will Be Furious. 

I had a little chat with Parker, who is the bass player of both Cough and Windhand. Our communication technologies were pretty hit+miss, too much miss for me, I nearly cried, I hurt my back and everything, so the conversation was a bit stilted. I wanted so badly to go in to more details, hear more stories, but could only grasp at the basic bits the shitty phone reception allowed. Life is not easy, and the contemporary world is designed to exploit the vulnerable for the benefit of the elite. \m/

~~~Do you reckon you could tell me a little bit about where you guys are from (Richmond, Virginia, USA)? 

---“Yeah, It’s a college town, art university- it’s not primarily an arts school but it’s one of the top ten arts schools in the country, underground scene for music, right off the highway, between Washington and north Carolina, gwar is from here.”

~~~what kind of shitty jobs do musicians have to get in your town?

---“I’ve been working at a paint store for the last 15 years, part time. a lotta times they’ll fall in to construction or stuff like that, there’s a pizza shop that at least one of the members of Cough works at, there’s another store at the university that employs plenty of musicians, treats the touring ones well.” (~~~very important!!) 

~~~Any expectations for second Australian tour?

---- He doesn’t know much about Australian culture, but is interested. They did the classic kangaroos koala wombats meet-and-greet the last time they were here, so maybe this time around we can get them on some first nations culture understanding experiences or something?  

~~~Cough’s new album ((“Still They Prey, 2016)) took 6 bloody years to release, and is easily the most satisfyingly depressive thing I’ve heard in quite a while. Wadhaz the band been up to since y’all put it out?

---“Played handful of shows in The (united) States (of America), a couple of shows in Europe, trying to gear up for the Australian tour while also working on some new stuff.  We don’t want it to be another 6 years between releases.”

~~Feck, me either.

~~~What’s coming for next release?

-They’ve now got a keyboard player, who was recruited for the tour after the band solidified some excellent atmosphere on the new record and needed to flesh it out like that On Stage! The practice space previously used by “pretty much every band in Richmond” was sold last year, so they’re thinkin’ about using combined construction skills to create a proper music space for the band on the drummer’s property, where the album was recorded, sounds bloody ideal to me mate.  

~~~A track on “Still They Prey”, Master of Torture, was written a few years ago, apparently inspired by a few days spent in jail at the beginning of Cough’s first US tour, can you tell me more about this? Please? ::::  

-- A “mistake” was made. Parker’s sister was getting married in Florida so the band took a couple of days off the tour… something about taking the van and having a party… unfortunately this part of the conversation is garbled and we both laughed heartily at something, something about shoes? Something about the first amendment? Fuck. I don’t know. Someone went to jail, but luckily they didn’t have to cancel any of the shows, LUCKY LUCKY. And they got a song out of it. Cops can be brutal, prison system can be pretty of whack.

~~~I love the cover art. It’s like a still from a film of a witch performing a ritual, but like, dreamy. A nice twist on a well-known doom trope. Please tell me about it, who made, where did it come from?

- The photographer is from Ohio, Alison Scarpulla, analogue, film photo. They’ve been in touch about record artwork for a few years and were finally able to get her work for this release. It reminds them (and me too) a lot of different album covers, “we all saw something different but we also saw all the same stuff”.

~~~In an interview you did last year, you mentioned that a few members of Cough have started families. I’m interested in learning about how having babies around affects the drive to make the Heaviest Darkest Saddest Music You Can Think Of… got any thoughts?

---given that he ain’t got no babies (expect dogs), he couldn’t comment too much on the kind of brain-workings I was interested in, but he has some views on the practical elements of it all… “it’s not like this is a way to provide for a family or anything” (tru, art never is)… the impact of New Families has largely meant that the new dads can keep a much better schedule these days, and turn up to practice etc on time. Perhaps one could say it has made the band more responsible. No more trips to the lockup? Who knows. 

~~~ I looked at your Instagram and you have many photos of dogs. I love dogs. Tell me about your dogs. Do they like metal too? 

---They don’t like music too much. One’s a pitbull, the other is an Australian shepherd. He loves his dogs.  But when he starts to play guitar they growl and leave the room. Dogs are the best.  
~~~I love heavy-sad-doom-metal because it releases a lot of pent up pain, anger, frustration, resentment etc etc from alllllll the bullshit things in the world and my brain, past trauma, current horrors. Are you guys engaged with politics, social issues, anything like that?

---[long thinking-gap] …. “I try not to preach”. 

Again, here the recording goes haywire so I missed some of the initial thoughts about it, but a big example of the shittiness he’s encountered and thinks about is lack of healthcare in the USA, he can’t get healthcare. Another issue that bugs him is the lack of separation between church and state. He thinks it’s likely those thoughts have given their music some of it’s flavour. Heh. Probz m8. 

“When punk came out, it was a rebellion against the norm. and then I think the world became more and more liberal, and now there are conservative punks, they’re rebelling against what they think is the norm. it’s really interesting. We don’t write about anything political, it’s always personal, but it sounds sad, and there’s plenty of reasons it’s sad.”

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Jones at the State Archives

Andrew Ryan

Second trip to the Queensland State Archives today; I’m waiting for the bus, across the road diagonally from Runcorn station, sitting on the grass behind the stop--- half an hour ‘til bus, gonna sit and have my first ciggie of the day in a bushy suburban park aww yehhh… and within 5 minutes some cops pulled up on the main road, got out of their car and walked towards me.

Two burly dudes, short hair, looking fairly intimidating.
“Are you alright?” one of them asks, “Were you laying down just before?”  
“Uhhh. nope? I’m just having a cigarette while I wait for the bus”.
Turns out someone called them about me, and they came to check on my welfare or something. They used the word welfare.
“Uhhhhhhhh. I’m fine. Just heading to the state archives.”
“Oh yeah?”
“Yeah, family history research.”
They asked where I was from, asked to see my identification etc etc.
[I stub my cigarette out on the side of my boot, go to put the butt in my bag pocket]
One says:
"Nah don't worry, just chuck it on the ground"
"I'd rather not-"
"I used to smoke, I don't care, I used to chuck em anywhere."
"-Oh haha, yeah, nah, I do care though, I try to dispose of them as best I can."
"Nah seriously just chuck it on the ground"
[I put it in my bag and stare at the trees behind them]
[pause while the other guy checks my ID (a Western Australian Working with Children Check btw, don't have a passport or a drivers license) in his digital machine]
“Any criminal convictions in Queensland?”
[puts the machine back in its holster]
“Alright, all good, have a good day.”
“Yeah, you too.” (Big Smile from Me to Them; Work It Tiny White-Skinned Girl, Work It.)

I wonder if the caller was the guy that was looking at me heaps on the train? I was sniffling a lot on the train, felt sickly, a cold? Hay fever? Both are very rare for me. I chugged a berocca that i dropped in to my water bottle in a minute (maybe it looked like booze?), I was probably visibly uncomfortable because I was sniffling and my jaw hurts and my head hurts and they've both hurt for a week or more and also I could feel him watching me… hell, maybe he was concerned and called the cops for safety precautions of some kind. Or maybe it was the old couple I walked by on the way to the bus stop. Maybe they didn’t like the look of me. It was about 10am. They seemed very much like that suburban area’s locals. Jeez, am I really that bad? I'm just trying to live my life *exasperation*.

It was the first time I have encountered police responding to a call about me specifically, if it even was about me. I make a point of only very very discreetly breaking colonial laws (minor ones only), if at all.

And it was interesting timing, given that I would leave the archives later that day with a copy of a photograph of my great-great-great uncle Frederick, a photo taken after his release from prison in 1913.



I was sniffling a lot during today’s archival session. I was a lot more prepared than the first time around, and had a long list of items to look at, printing off about 10 request forms in my 10 minutes, just before a round of retrievals began. My work flow was good, I timed things right, I’d planned it well in my head, and I was moving smoothly and taking notes and looking hard and reveling in the opportunity to access historical papers that marked the control over our 'Strayan ancestors. They also sometimes marked who did the controlling, and often how. It’s very easy to figure out when you know what you’re looking at. I wasn’t entirely sure of what I was looking at most of the time: colonial English was written VERY differently to the various styles of English that I am familiar with. There are so many things I probably missed. Most it of was heaps of blatant sucking up to people in positions of authority though.

I have to admit that I wasn’t as reverential this time around.

On my first trip, last week, I unfolded the packaging of the collection that held my great-great-great aunt’s “Lunacy” files, absorbing every detail of every precious moment of the unveiling of this material. I will never forget that feeling. It was like the time I let myself in to an abandoned, burnt out building at the edge of Collingwood, and found piles of antique spools of thread tumbling out of their rotting packaging, peeking out from beneath the fallen-in ceiling. Awe. Reverence. Inspiration. I was elated. Giddy.

This time, though... maybe because I was sniffling so much, maybe because I was tired, maybe because my back hurt... I didn’t feel so holy, so drowned in sacred light.

This time, I made sure I ritualised the unpacking and repacking, because I knew I owed the relics and their spiritual populations that much, but most of my historical journeys today were spent scanning for names, not knowing if my ancestors would show up, having to ignore all else. They showed up where I knew for sure that they would, but all the other items, their names, which I hoped would be there, were not, or if they were, I could not decipher the colonial scrawls.

Very little Aboriginal history is on display at the ol’ Queensland State Government Archives. Their PR/Social Marketing team seems pretty concerned with Happy Nostalgia For Fun Times Passed, and also Respect For Those Who Experienced WarTime... but the vibe reminds me a lot of how I understood Australian past when I was learning about it in late primary school. Shallow.

Granted, I did not spend time looking at the displays in the front foyer, as the day was short and my item list was long. Maybe if I'd taken the time, I would have spied something deeper than Respect for Australian Service Men and Women. Maybe. I hope so. Maybe next time.
I was one of the youngest people in that building; almost everyone was old enough to at least be my parent, if not my grandparent. I wondered how many Grey Nomads drive through Brisbane just for the archives; or like, do they notice them in a little foldout tourist guide and think “AH-HAH! NOW IS THE TIME TO LEARN OF MY LONG DEAD GRANDPARENTS”?

A woman approached me in the microfiche room and asked what I was up to. She was surprised when I said “Family History Research”, because she had assumed I "was writing a thesis or something", because I’m "so young". I told her I hoped to write a book about it eventually. She seemed pleased. She was researching the history her recently acquired, "very old!" home.


I look closely at the photo of my great-great-great uncle when I get back to my hotel room, where I’m living for these two weeks. I’m looking closely at Frederick W. Stiff (alias Jones)’s calmly serious face. He is the grandson of English Wealth on one side, and pre-1845 Aboriginal/European Biological Union on the other. In his face, I see traces of sadness, of curiosity, of resignment; and eyes that sparkle with emotion and intelligence. Placidity. Compassion. Discomfort.

What you reckon? What can you see in his face? What do you think he’s seen?

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Jigalong, The Pilbara

Andrew Ryan

I’m on a trip. A working trip, a road trip up to the Pilbra to document music workshops and concerts and whatnot put on by a group called Desert Feet Tours. They travel to remote Aboriginal communities in Northern WA a couple of times a year. I’m only going to one community with these guys, a place called Jigalong, around 2 hours drive east-ish of Newman, which is where I’m writing this from.

It took 2 and a half days to drive out here, stopping when the sun went down, lighting a campfire, pulling out the swags, falling asleep early. I spent those first 2 days sitting in the passenger seat of a big ol’ truck that converts in to a stage, and the last half-a-day riding around in the little “troopy” 4wd so we could stop more easily for me take photos along the dirt road from Newman to Jigalong.

I kept something of a little diary as we drove north-east, my first time traveling in this direction from Perth, but it was very, very hard to write in my notebook in both these cars, so fkn bumpy, words scrawled so that they were almost illegible, so I spent most of the time just staring out the window, got a lot of thinking done, not a lot of good thinking for writing though. Two days of staring out the window, felt like I was in a dream, slight out of body experience, not quite all there, existing in the future, but one that was completely foreign, unexpected; my first time in a remote community, my first time in a spot where English was not the first language, my first time on the edge of this desert, hanging out with the descendants of the last of the Martu to be brought out of the desert.

Jigalong’s history is interesting. The Nyiyaparli are the owners of the land this community is on, but given that the Martu were forced out of the desert and placed here by white people during the 50s and 60s, the Nyiyaparli handed the land over to the Martu, traditional ways, granted them custodianship.

You can read more about it here, if you wish :

This is some of the stuff I’ve written in my notebook:

Bindoon is for fruit. The roads are bumpy, the town seems to be well off. Sheep too, and horses. Driving through a gash made through a hill, look left, out the window, and see the layered rock folding/folded, pushed up, an angle, tectonic forces or something, pretty.

New Norcia seems shocking in terms of history. I want to go back and explore. Slavery, abuse, stolen generations. Church. Ew. Church. Abuse. The colonial buildings proclaim themselves, overshadowing everything else. Imposing. Rigid.

Pithara looks like it’s close to death. Main road is tiny, shops closed. Looks like it hasn’t had a new building made since the 90s. May turn GhostTown soon.

Past wheat area, now in Mining Country, where native bush/shrub land flourish, looks untouched but it’s probably been grazed into something foreign to natural, introduced hooves trampled for decades, tiny white flowers carpet the red dirt, looks like snow, with a purple tinge, under the overcast afternoon light.

Mt Magnet after dark. The town name reminds me of my childhood, I don't know why, some distant association, not quite tangible, just like almost every other feeling or thought I've had since leaving Perth. Have stopped at the road house for ages, waiting for the others. I want to sleep in the truck but I can't get comfortable. There’s a cat creeping around, bit skittish, a Toll Road Train Driver who pulled in just after us walked by my table after getting himself a snack, so I asked him if the cat was his. “Nah he’s a local Moggy I think”. I texted Emlyn to tell him I could hear the capital M in the way the driver said Moggy. I made the driver smile.


Moving through those areas, and the areas in the time afterwards, and spending time on this little chunk of land, so far from anything I am familiar with both culturally and environmentally, I have been asking myself a lot of questions, have had lots of thoughts come in. It’s interesting. It’s challenging. It’s hilarious and it’s brutal, it’s hard and it’s easy. It’s weird. But it’s good. I have nothing proper to say about it all as yet, it’s all still floating unformed in the air above my consciousness. There’s always so much to learn. So much to consider. Here they take days to make a decision. Days to have quiet chats in comfortable space with trusted people to decide on what to do about a thing. Things here stay broken for a long time because it's too expensive to get anything fixed. The local people aren't trained to fix things themselves. I have thoughts but there's not much room for another white person to make comments about things they know little about. I sit and I watch and I think and I photograph and I smile at the kids and I let them use my camera and I appreciate the sky and the sunset and I kick the stones as I walk and I crave a cigarette but I don't smoke one and I hope to see the brumbies galloping on the edge of town again even though I know they're bad for the natural environment, and I remember the rabbit I saw just outside of Mt Magnet, it had myxomatosis , it's eyes are scarred and closed and it looked weak, pained, and my heart went out for it, even though it is a pest, the disease was introduced in the 50s to destroy the rabbit populations but it hasn't destroyed them, it's only inflicted pain on them for decades.

I'll go back out to the kids. Go back out to my job. Try not cry because of my nicotine craving. Try not to cry about how unfair it is that their grandparents were forced to leave their homelands, their country. Try not to cry about the death of the young man who crashed on the road to town last night. This is not a sad time though. It is just intense.

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An Interview With Chief Richards

Andrew Ryan

Tonight I sat at a table on a nature strip in Spearwood, near the current home base of Perth’s most mysterious musical act, Chief Richards.

A friend told me he saw Chief play at some sneaky squat party recently; Chief was wearing a bra, tight jeans and a Gorilla mask, making fucked up and amazing music with a guitar and some loop pedals. He said it was the best thing he’d ever seen… so when I saw that this enigma was having a “Career Launch” this Friday at The Fly Trap in Freo, I got in touch about an interview, hoping to find out more. He agreed, but only if I was fine with him wearing the mask. He told me to meet him at the nature strip on his street, and that he’ll be waiting with a beer for me. And he was. And I drank it. This is what we talked about.

Tahlia: So, Mr. Richards, how did you get your start in music?

Chief Richards: You mean in the biz or just for funsies?

Funsies, your first instrument, for example...

Well, my Grandad gave me this old trombone when I was about 5. It was bigger than me; I think he thought that was funny. But I played that thing, I played it good, practicing along to Grandad’s old jazz records… eventually I was keeping up with the greats.

Did you take lessons in school? With your granddad?

Well yeah I took lessons, math, reading and writing, agriculture, all that stuff, but never music, Grandad said music was not something that could be taught; it had to be felt.

That sounds like good advice; have you found it to be true? What other instruments do you play?

I can pretty much play everything but I mostly stick to the iPhone these days. Great little things them! In terms of Granddad’s advice, well, of course music can be taught. People have jobs teaching other people to play music. He drank too much cider, went apple-mad, used to say all sorts of crazy shit to entertain himself and confuse me... as I've grown older, I've learnt that there was some truth in his rants. I'm living proof that you don't require a teacher to become a master of your craft.

You're almost half a century old, twice the age of most first-time-releasers I have known in my lifetime, you’ve never released any music until this year - why so long to launch your music career? And what was your previous career?

Well, the family apple farm down in my home town of Donnybrook has kept me fairly busy. I've recorded hours worth of material over the years but never had much of a platform to release it. This year I thought to myself, "platform or no platform, it's time to release some shit." I mean, 2016 is my year; even my 3 year old kid knows that. Apples still rule my world, but now people will be able to take a little bit of Chief home with them, you know? Come to think of it, I released a track on a compilation tape a few years back in Melbourne: 'Non Precious Vol. 2'. It was put together by a nice capitalistic young man named Liam.

I’ll try to find it. Um, apples in Donnybrook; is that a long tradition in your family? Is anyone else in the family musically inclined, other than your grandfather?

My grandfather wasn't musical, he just got drunk and thought it'd be funny to watch a 5-year-old try to play the trombone. Sick bastard. I'm the only musical one; if it wasn't for my cider sippin grand pappy's twisted sense of humour and my absolute dedication to putting him in his place, there would have never been a musical note floating from my family home. EVER. But apples, hoooo boooyyy we been ploughin' that trade for a goods manies years in my family.

What about your son, does he seem interested in picking up a musical instrument?

Daughter. Nice assumption. God I hate men.

Oh fuck. My mistake. I can’t believe I assumed that.

This fucking patriarchy!! AAAHHHH!

Oh god I’m sorry. It's broken my spirit too, Chief.

We'll see about that...

I'm sorry Chief?

No, no... I’m sorry [coughs]... what were we saying?

Your daughter? Fuck I’m so embarrassed about that.

Yes! My daughter. She's more focused on visual art. She likes taking mashed apples and putting food dye in there and splattering it all over my walls. It looks great, she's very talented.

[Chief is evidently proud, you can hear it in his voice.]

That's great to hear, I love it when kids are in to art. I have to ask, is Chief your real name?


Why the pseudonym, and how’d you come up with it?

I like to sometimes get a little bit freaky with my musical activity, and I don't want it to hinder the apple business. One time, I sucked a male prostitute’s dick on stage for 45 minutes with a contact mic on my throat going through all this fuzz and sonic manipulation, it was crazy. The 70's were fucking crazy. But my Dad would have killed me if he found out about that. No one wants to buy apples off a cock sucking gorilla. Not where I come from, anyway.

Mmm... if they're good quality apples, I'd probably still be keen. Maybe this musical project will open up a whole new apple-sales market?

The Apple God works in mysterious ways! Anyway, I came up with the name Chief Richards when I was partying with my buddy Keith Richards. We took all this acid together, and it's like we were each other, and I kind of became him, and you can see if you look at documentation of Keith, right, his soul and his colour and his essence really disappear more and more as time goes on. That's me collecting what is truly mine, bit by bit.

THE Keith Richards?

I'm not sure how many Keith Richards are out there but this guys name was definitely Keith Richards.

Like, from the Rolling Stones?

Well... let's just say he's got pale skin, and his best mate has an abnormally large mouth.

Ah, okay, keep the mystery going, I get it. I’m really intrigued hey, I like your story… you just kind of came out of no-where, and now you're launching your bizz at The Fly Trap on Friday night... I've only been there once, and it seemed like a good little space. Have you been to gigs there before? How did you choose it for the big launch?

You calling Donnybrook no-where mate?

[It’s really hard to tell what’s going on with a man wearing a mask. At this point I felt particularly unnerved by not being able to see anything but his eyes, and his eyes looked wild all the time.]

Naaah just joking, you're alright.

[I seriously breathed a sigh of relief and felt my muscles relax.]

Fly Trap...I was drawn to it because I sometimes feel like a fly, floating through eternity just picking at loads of shit, and I long to be forced into some kind of end...

[He looked away, and paused for a few moments. I took a massive gulp of my beer while I processed what he said.]

Naaaahhh I just know the boys down there, they're good blokes and offered me a date and I thought, hey fuck it, let's have a party, maybe I can do some shit.

[Oh man, he got me hard. Cheeky bugger.]

So now I've been trying to make this bloody album. I never gave a fuck before, but now I must admit I've got a bit of the old “normal person anxiety”, which I don't usually like to permit in my existence.

What is "normal person anxiety"?

You know, all that shit that normal people feel and let dominate their lives. Emotions and that. I generally just feel apples and rock solid beats, but all this thought I've been giving to this particular set of recordings, all this work I've been doing… it's made me get to a point of wondering if it's all for nothing. I should just bloody can the whole charade.

You can't do that! It's so close!

I like to keep things unpredictable. FUCKIN CHAOS MATE. Beautiful. Fucking. Chaos.

I can appreciate that, for sure. But let's just say that you’re going to keep the date at the Fly Trap, what can punters expect?

Well I've had a sore throat the past few days so I won't be sucking anyone off, that's for sure.

[I laugh and nearly choke on my beer.]

I mean, if I’m going to be honest, people can just expect a good tasteful show by a well dressed boy from the country who’s wants and needs are very similar to that of their own, and wants nothing more than to make them smile and make them love him. But often my shows don't go to plan, so bring a change of clothes and ear plugs.

[He sounded serious.]

What about the music though, how would you describe it? Just to give people an idea- you've only had music out for a couple of days, and from what I understand, it's quite eclectic.

It's like a year on earth. Made with a phone and a guitar. A fairly loud year.

[At this point, Chief finished his beer and pulled out his phone, and started watching a video of Triple J news. The reporting I heard was atrocious. Talking about what people commented when they tagged their friends on an announcement about Laneway’s Lineup.]

Oh yeah, Laneway’s coming up. Are you going to go?

I might pop down. Danny and Jerome usually give me a few complimentary tickets.

[He looks back down to his phone. I sense we’re done.]

Alright, let's wrap it up. Thanks so much for welcoming me to your street! Is there anything else you'd like to say to the readers?

[He sat up straight, then leaned towards me, speaking slowly.]

Be the guy you need to be to have the time you want to have.

[Then he leaned back and folded his arms across his chest.]

Wow. That's some pretty solid advice. Oh, and just quickly, do you follow politics at all? What are your thoughts on the Australian government?

All I can say is bring back Molly Meldrum.

[Fuck, all I could do was laugh.]

Thank you Chief.

Thank you Tahlia.

~~~follow Tahlia on Patreon~~~

Dinewan Healing

Andrew Ryan

"Recent scientific research in to highly dilute solutions verifies that reducing a substance to a minute quantity, such as a single atom, intensified the need and capacity of that atom to bond with others and to imprint its own energetic qualities on the surrounding shell of different molecules. In 1976 a council of Aboriginal tribal elders proclaimed that as their racial blood becomes increasingly diluted in the engulfing ocean of white blood, the spiritual essense of Aboriginal blood will increase in potency and cause the consciousness of the Aboriginal race to re-emerge.”
- Robert Lawlor, “Voices of the First Day: awakening in the Aboriginal dreamtime” 1991

For those who read this column regularly, you may have noticed a little drop off in my contributions, so I’d like to take this opportunity to share with you just why that is.

For the last couple of months, I’ve been exploring my paternal family history, after a lifetime of very little contact with that side of the family. I’ve known since I was a teenager of my Aboriginal ancestry on that side, but due to family disconnection, bad vibes and all kinds of other circumstances, the details have remained fairly elusive to those of us who want to connect with our roots.

I started with a google search for my father’s father, and have since followed every pathway that came from there.

This search has met a few dead ends, but it has also opened up a wealth of previously unknown family members, some of whom have quickly become very dear to me, for the help and support they’ve given me on my search for identity, the kindness they’ve shown me, and the information they’ve shared.

I got sucked up in to the research. I have gone as far as the genealogy websites and other online resources can go, have read the books of a few family members, spoken to them, looking for stories, looking for clues as to where my Aboriginal ancestors were born and raised, what their country - my country - is, our totems, our traditions… but it’s difficult to pinpoint, so much knowledge has been lost to every generation, because the mothers knew they would risk having their children taken from they should they raise them not according to European traditions. So much pain, repression and denial.

There are a lot of questions floating around my head, a big drive is running through my veins, and the search for those answers has become all encompassing, that drive has taken over all others.

The more I learn, the harder it is to separate myself from the chilling effect colonisation had on the spirits of this land’s First Peoples, because my family is embroiled in the mess and pain of dispossession, my family struggles with the trans-generational trauma of the loss of family connections, loss of traditional culture, forced assimilation and racial vilification, I have suffered from this unconscious handing down of fear, self-loathing, resentment, confusion… the process of learning and coming to terms with the realities my not so distant ancestors faced has been incredibly eye opening, mind expanding, heart warming, though still painful... it is healing. The torture I used to feel about disconnection from this aspect of my heritage has dissipated considerably, because I am on that journey towards re-connection. I’m finding my ancestors, finding my country, and I will sit with them all there soon.

The waves of emotion and understanding I’ve been riding since beginning this journey have lead me to where I now sit, on a little sandy island resting spot, on which I have been contemplating where to take this energy that builds inside me.

Two major decisions have been made: travel to QLD asap (where my family is from), and create art work+write a book about the entire experience, to be completed by late 2017.

The first step towards these goals has been hooking up with a Brisbane based genealogist, who will mentor me in family heritage research. With these skills, not only can I conduct further research in to my own bloodlines, but I can also empower other people who are interested in learning more about their families to do the same. There are so many Australians with Aboriginal heritage who are, through no fault of their own, disconnected from the traditions and culture that can keep our people strong. Together we can work towards bridging the massive cultural divides in this country, and it all starts with paying respect to the people who suffered, and continue to suffer, at the hands of the colonial, white supremacist, mentality. Learning why, and how. Learning to care. Learning from mistakes.

The Australian Cultural fund as afforded me the profound honour of being included on their website as a cultural project worthy of donations, of which I am incredibly grateful. I am fundraising to help pay the costs associated with this Brisbane based mentorship, with a target of just $1500, which I have very nearly reached within one week!!! There is one more week left of the fundraiser, and I’m hoping to go well over the target, with your help, to make the trip more fruitful; acquiring further research material, travel expenses to the towns important to my family line, art supplies…

Over the coming 12 months, I’ll be putting all of my energy in to this project. There is a lot of work to be done, a lot of people to talk to, a lot of traveling and searching and recording and thinking, soooo much thinking, so much writing, so much video editing...

If you’d like to donate to the cause, please have a look at the following link. More information is there. And if you’d like to chat with me about anything to do with this, please send me an email:

Racial Tensions in Kalgoorlie: RIP Elijah Doughty

Andrew Ryan

A few nights ago I had a sleep over at my grandmother’s house after she had a minor surgical procedure.

My grandmother, known to her grandchildren as “Omi”, migrated to Australia from The Netherlands as a teenager during WWII, and has been here ever since. As she gets older, she told me she experiences more and more post-traumatic stress symptoms (my phrasing, not hers), like when a helicopter flies over her house, and she freezes in terror, momentarily brought back to The War.

She and my “Opi” raised my mother and aunts in Kalgoorlie, Western Australia, before moving to Perth when the kids were grown up. She was a nurse in Kalgoorlie, and the only things I can remember her saying about this time was that spinal surgeries were awful back then, and that “black people stink”, because the Aboriginal people she dealt with as a nurse at that time were often living in horrible conditions.

I’ve always felt uncomfortable about this predilection my grandmother has towards a racially defined view of the world. I mean, I love her dearly, she is a kind lady, she volunteers at an aged care facility even though she turned 80 this year and all that - but she seems to have never come to grips with how this sort of Othering can negatively impact society. When she talked about her nurses at the hospital, she referred to some as “Negroes”, and sitting above the bed I slept in were a pair of Golliwogs, which she also referred to as her “Negroes”. She’s like a less abrasive, less funny, much more kind-hearted version of Uncle Pete from “Horace and Pete”.

I spoke to my mother about her time growing up in Kalgoorlie in the late 60s/early 70s. She described Kalgoorlie as being quite racially segregated. She said most Aboriginal kids were in separate school classes, and that she and her friends were quite scared of “blacks” because they beat up white kids occasionally. I didn’t ask her how often whites beat up black kids. She said the segregated groups didn’t socialise together, that there was a complete lack of cultural understanding. The white kids were taught in school that Aboriginal people lived in mia mias, threw spears to hunt kangaroo, and went walk about. That’s it. Which is only a little less than I was taught in school in the 90s. The Aboriginal people they mostly saw were the “full blood” “bushies” who sat in the park drinking, camped on the outskirts of town. Did the white kids see them hunting kangaroos with spears? I doubt it.

She said there was not a lot of animosity, just separation, and avoidance. But that tension bubbles, and every time I've been to Kalgoorlie, I've felt it, seen the massive inequality between the different coloured members of the Kalgoorlie community.

40 years later, today, Kalgoorlie experiences a “riot” in its city centre, in which police cars get smashed, the court house windows get smashed, and police officers are injured. That's what was reported in news media. Why did this happen? A 14 year old boy was found dead in some bushes, with a stolen motorcycle by his side. A man was arrested and charged with manslaughter, but was not locked up. Family and friends protested outside the courthouse, and the protest turned violent.

 The boy was Aboriginal. The man accused of manslaughter is White.

Cue the negative racial stereotypes against Aboriginal people written by White people all over news media facebook comments sections. White people with little to no compassion claiming it’s the boy’s own fault for stealing, that the protestors/rioters are animals, claiming that it isn’t a racial issue, whilst also giving shit to “dole bludging” “blacks”.

Never mind that there Is documented evidence of white people talking about running over black kids on Kalgoorlie social media pages. Never mind that the Western Australian reports on the riot in terms of the court house windows getting smashed being the most important issue, not that a CHILD was killed in what is seemingly an act of vigilante justice. Never mind the history of racial tensions in the area. Never mind the countless examples of horrific examples of Aboriginal deaths in custody all over Australia. For more information, read this New Matilda article.

Those bloody blacks, always complaining, always hung up on the past, always looking for an excuse to get angry, right White Guys?

Fucking hell.

The community around this boy are grieving. This boy was the third death in one family in the last month, and what appears to anyone with all the facts to be a MURDER, is being trated as manslaughter. The accused man was not held, despite manslaughter charge, while Aboriginal people around the country are detained for UNPAID FINES. No wonder 200 people protested outside the court. No wonder people were angry. This kid shouldn’t have died.

And let’s not forget the history of racial segregation in Kalgoorlie, home of the Super Pit that has its own fucking micro-climate - no doubt that boy’s adult family members were subject to that same segregation my mother described, as well as countless other experiences with Australian Systemic Racism, something White People rarely have to think about, let alone experience, and the young people are fucking angry about this shit, all of this shit, their friend is dead, no one should be killed for stealing a bike, though some are doubting he even did steal a bike, and goddamit those screengrabs of white dudes saying they’ll run the black kids over are horrific.

The situation is fucked. The reporting is fucked. The charges are fucked. The ignorant commenters are fucked. Some of these commenters cry “TOO PC, TOO MUCH SENSITIVITY” but there is such a big line between my grandma and Uncle Pete’s kind of non-pc old person word usage, and the kind of overt, hateful racism on display here; and FUCK, the shameful ignorance of the media in focussing on the riot instead of the awful situation that lead to it only furthers White Denialist Cause by giving an excuse for racial vilification. White Australia loves an excuse to racially vilify, ready to counter with “REVERSE RACISM” or “BUT MY FREEDOM OF SPEECH” when anyone calls them out on being insensitive assholes.

“Well, he’s never going to steal again, is he?”

No, he’s not, if he ever really did in the first place. A 14 year old boy is dead, and yet another Aboriginal family is in mourning for a death that shouldn’t have happened.

In a violent colonisation, the colonised have no choice but to respond with violence against the colonisers. For more on this, please read Frantz Fanon's "Concerning Violence".

Conan and Weedeater at The Rosemount: Doom Comes Full Circle

Andrew Ryan

Years and years and years ago, I regularly went to see a band called CEASE. They were the heaviest band I’d ever seen, and would continue to be the heaviest band I’d see for some time. It was not until Many Years Later that I realized what genre of music they fell in to; I just knew them as CEASE, the Loudest Band In Perth (to my limited knowledge), and eventually they became my buddies too.

Eventually I got a little more into and knowledgeable of these heavy genres, Doom Metal and Sludge and all that, heavy and satisfying riffage, massive drums, slow, chunky, aggressive, powerful--- during my time in Melbourne I was lucky enough to work at a few pubs that somewhat encouraged delving in to these styles, and I met plenty of people who shared this taste for brutality in music. I learnt to pull the claw. My ears and guts and bones were shaken by down tuned basses and fucking loud everything, and it was a good way to live life in a cold city, Electric Wizard blasting in my ears as I walked down the rainy streets.

Among these bands I grew to love, Conan are right up there among my favourites, so What A Bloody Treat it was to learn that they were embarking on an Australian tour with fellow Massive Heavy Weights Weedeater, and I went to that fucking show, and I knew it would be a fucking good heavy time, and it fucking was, fucking yeahhhhhh.

Peter and I arrived at the Rosemount, unfortunately not in time for the support acts, which is a bummer because I was really hoping to catch Territory. But, arrived with a belly full of food and a strong inkling I’d see some good old mates there.

I was not wrong. Shiny Joe and Ringham just got back from tour, and they were there at the table, smiling all big at me, and Steve S was there too, like I hoped he would be, and he and I chatted about how influential CEASE were in our appreciation of this genre we were about to immerse ourselves in...

…and then appeared Nick Odell and Andrew Britton, CEASE members right there in the flesh, lurching towards our table with excitement on their faces, and it felt like my life hit a funny little full-circle at that point, knowing I’d be standing in the audience of these bands blasting our fucking eardums with the very men who introduced me to Doom in the first place around 10 years ago… It had been a long time since we’d all been in a music venue, all of us together, all of us in the audience of CEASE gigs at the Hydey, when it was a gross punk venue, Back in the Day.

My guts were shaken, my bones shaken, eyebrows furrowed for moments of intense concentration on the movements of the music, absorbed in the wall of sound, cheeks hurting from bursts of massive smiles, wrapped in a black shawl feeling like some kind of dark princess, giddy from the realization of years-long-dreams of watching Conan live, and so happy that Weedeater lived up to the hype, the bassist chugging his Jack Daniels straight from the bottle, the drummer sitting real low at the real-low kit near the front of the stage, belting it so slowly and so powerfully, twirling the sticks and throwing them up in the air between WHACKS seemingly to keep his hands busy during the immense restraint it must take to do that kind of drumming when you’re such a fucking good drummer, water he poured to cool his face collecting on the drum skins then flying up around his head as he WHACKED them with such force, it was almost impossible for me to keep my camera away from my face throughout the first few songs, so enamored was I with this display of power and aesthetic consideration. MAN OH MAN WHAT A FEAST FOR THE SENSES.

But my heart still lies with Conan, they’re my faves. So slow. So heavy.

I did have a sense that, somewhere, somehow, both these bands would be more at home somewhere other than at the Rosemount; volume restrictions, equipment restrictions, size of venue and whatnot… what I wouldn’t give to see Conan in a smaller space, with a big sound… but it was a treat none-the-less.


Andrew Ryan

My brother won a seafood platter on the weekend. Seafood platter from a pub in the area we live in, a coastal place, pub is a Fish Pub, there was a raffle on while he was there, Lions Club or something, 5 bucks for 3 tickets, and my brother won sooooo much seafood.

He invited me over for dinner, and picked me up from my house because a 15 minute walk is too far in this cold wet weather when you’re as skinny and skittish as I am, and on the drive I asked him if he knew where the two crabs in the prize came from, he said nah, but they were fresh, not any more though! In the freezer! Frozen crabs are better than no crabs. Too right.

Our meal for that night was not the crabs, but the mussels that were also part of this prize. 2 kilograms of mussels, his first time makin’ Chilli Mussels, go for it bro, and it was delicious, a touch more watery than he expected, I think, but I put that down to the amount of ice attached to the mussels that were thrown in to the pot straight from the packet. I didn’t get a look at the packet to see where the mussels came from. I was too distracted.

Distracted by talking about our recent acquisition of family history knowledge, while he and his mate were preparing the food. We talked about it a bit over dinner too. We’ve recently gone on hunts to find family, you see, cousins we haven’t known since we were little, which I was keen to do because there are heaps of them, and some times I’ve felt a little lost in the world knowing that there is plenty of family out there that I don’t know much about. Through the searches, I found out that an uncle and a great uncle had each written a book- the uncle on his military career, the great uncle on his theatre career. We found where our Aboriginal heritage is, found out that me and my brother are the first generation on our dad’s side that wasn’t born in Queensland, right back to QLD’s first people, I shit you not. I’m not sure how much seafood our Mandandanji ancestors would have eaten. I look forward to learning about that history. Also, mine is the first generation of our Palmer name that wasn’t involved in the military, all the way back to 1700’s England. How’s that? Straya.

We chatted about all these things a bit, over mussels of unknown origin, relishing in a food-treat neither of us would think to purchase for ourselves. Talked about how our great-grand mother was an aboriginal woman who’s aboriginality (and, subsequently, ours) was repressed thanks to shitty governmental policies. The decade we were born, the Queensland government was still projecting to the world that Aboriginal people didn’t know how to use money, didn’t understand land ownership, young people taken away from their families and raised in missions, beaten for speaking their language, the Australian people ignored the realities of the sub-standard living conditions that the government had created and maintained over multiple generations… despite countless political actions throughout the country to fight for Indigenous Rights.

I held my tongue at the time about this next thing, but I was also thinking about how Bibbulmun people, Southern Western Australian natives, left the coast this time of year. They would leave the coast upon the arrival of Makuru, the cold wet season, and head inland, up to the hills, the place where my brother and I spent our teenage years. This time of year, traditionally, according to the seasons, people of this land weren’t eating seafood, they were doing the inland diet of kangaroo and tubers.

Storms, dude, they’re pretty heavy this time of year. That’s why people with brains/money don’t hang out here when they’re around. I don’t do well in the cold, I’m pretty skinny and pretty broke all-the-time too, so luxuries like leaving during Makuru, or like, living in a properly sealed house and using a good quality heater are not things I have known well for the last few years. I also have a strong set of environmental and socio-political values that make me feel soooooo not good about using those sorts of things that even in other peoples houses, even in my old therapist’s office, I would prefer to have heating/cooling systems left off. Suck it up. It’s where we are. Should just build better buildings instead of contributing to the economy of digging up more sacred places and exploiting other humans in order to feel more comfortable in the environments we were born in to. Only we can make the change.

I ate those Chilli Mussels, and I relished the first meal I’ve eaten with my brother since moving back to Perth. It was a bit weird when his mate’s brother + basketball team members rocked up after their sport victory and were all testosterone fuelled talking about dicks and sex and feinding for beers and calling me darling in That Weird Masculine Way right after our lovely respectful meal but like, you know, I held my own and dealt with it the best I could.

My thoughts about that particular interaction are a story for another time.

The End.

Show Me What You Got: The Arts and Corruption in Australia and Papua New Guinea

Andrew Ryan

So what’s happened recently?

The Arts Party popped up on my facebook feed, being all totally non-left-or-right (maybe depending on your understanding of political ideology I guess) but they’re all about just being pro Artist. I think that’s cool, because I’m an artist, and I am happy to see a party that accurately represents my interests: re: showing more care to artists, show more care for affordable education, because it’s really tough being an artist, especially if for whatever reason you’re not quite financially or emotionally capable of going through 3-5 years of institutionalized arts education, which doesn’t Make an artist, but certainly helps when it comes to getting to know people who have enough money to purchase art that isn’t a digitally reproduced printed canvas of Motivating Words from that discount store across the carpark from Woolworths and Bakers Delight in South Freo (deep breath).

Also I think it’s cool that Ben Quilty, who went to Afganistan as Australia’s Official War Artist is pro Arts Party.

The Greens responded to this with a call to give Australian artists help towards not being broke constantly and like, supporting them (us) and stuff, which I also think is cool. Up the exposure guys, we’re definitely worth something.

I was at this announcement in Melbourne in 2011 when the then Victorian premier Ted Baillieu wanted to go on record saying that in that place, at least, the arts were a substantial part of the local economy (some photos here)


If we’re gonna play the economy in politics card… why not help foster local creative talent, what with the potential for even more increase in cultural tourism around the country and all, let the artists do some art, work together to make beautiful art, do cool things that entice spenders here, inspire some people, show them what we’ve got, word of mouth plus good social media campaigns wouldn’t hurt according to market trends, as well as non repressive state government structures that show more care towards keeping the special, inspirational and meaningful things about this chunk of world healthy and sustained, like land, like trees, like ocean, like wildlife, like history; people come here to spend money to see that stuff, to experience it, and learn; not just to sit in a fancy restaurant that specializes in expensive Exclusive Fusion Cuisine…

We may be multi-cultural, and proudly so, but we should maybe spend some more time focusing on the culture that was born of this ground that all our houses are built on. As a nation and as a voting democracy we should be working much harder with the people who know the land, making sure that the babies of those ancestral lines, as far as they reach, are encouraged and respected in their acquisition of that knowledge, AND create culturally safe pathways of education for that knowledge to be shared with everyone who resides on this land, while providing support structures to keep everyone healthy, bring the stories home, learn the land, move with the earth… post-colonial concerns should be with atoning for the crimes of the past (AND ensuring no more destruction or forced assimilation), I reckon anyway…

Speaking of ground, and country, and nations and stuff, four students were shot by police in Port Morseby the other day during a protest against the PNG government, which they were protesting because of government corruption, allegations which are tied to $30 million of fraudulent legal bills being paid – upon the prime minister’s instance – to a legal firm, which was apparently then siphoned in to Australia through real estate and other investments.

Dude. That’s so shit.

And four young educated people were shot while they protested this situation in their nation’s capital.

This same nation’s supreme court recently ruled the detention of asylum seekers sent from Australian waters on their soil (Manus Island) illegal according to the country’s constitution.

Australia all but ignores the ramifications of this ruling.

Remember last ANZAC Day, when heaps of stuff was going around about PNG’s “Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels”?

…sigh… we’re fed 70 year old mythical (bordering on infantile) stories about the Kind and Cute Ones Up North and not kicking up a stink about how condescending that weird “war is good Because Mateship but don’t look at what’s happening in contemporary wars” story is in light of our current situation regarding putting asylum seekers – from wars our own military is involved in – in prison on their shores, against their constitution… presumably thanks to the kind of corruption which students are getting shot for publicly protesting about?

Hey also, do you know that Geronimo song? By a band called Sheppard. You’ve probably heard it on commercial radio, or seen the cutie-pie cardboard army film clip on television screens in places where they get paid to play video clips on certain channels or some shit…

Well, two of the band members grew up in Papua New Guinea, and their father owns the business side of the band, AND he is a partner with a law firm linked with significant political corruption AND was a former director of a security firm operating the Manus Island detention centre.

WHAAAATTT? That’s crazy right? The further you go with this shit, the weirder it gets. Stinks like oily propaganda, keeping audiences placated with inane meaningless bullshit, and mutual-benefit-backslapping to me.


Paul Hasluck, the guy the electoral division of Hasluck (big chunk of eastern perth area including Gosnells and surrounds, Kalamuunda, Midland, Wattle Grove etc) is named after (and also his author wife), said in his 1988 book “Shades of Darkness: Aboriginal Affairs, 1925-1965) that:

“To practice politics or to discuss political affairs without the illumination of history is as risky as performing surgery in an operating theatre without lights.”

That’s all I got.

Being a Nerd

Andrew Ryan

Last week I began watching Star trek for the first time. It was one of those shows that I kind of mostly ignored, for years, too much pop cultural influence without anyone in my life being in to it, until a good friend recently recommended it, over and over, as a counter to the occasional bouts of compassion fatigue I experience as I continue with my studies and Australian history research without the aid of a therapist. There’s only so many case-studies and accounts of horrible violence+colonial genocidal practices you can take it before it all gets a liiiiiiiitle bit too much, you know?

And the show works, as my friend said it would! It’s fucking great. Really. Quality viewing for everyone with a decent command of English. It champions diplomacy, cultural sensitivity, and highlights the importance of recognizing how values can shape a society. It’s inspiring. And to top it off, each of the main characters is, generally, treated by every other character with complete respect and appreciation of their skills, knowledge and background. Empathy, on that spaceship, abounds beautifully.

Funny things is though, the show was originally created through inspiration gathered from Captain Cook’s voyages around Earth. James Kirk. James Cook. I haven’t seen the Star Trek featuring Captain Kirk. I cannot comment on that aspect. Though I’m sure Captain Cook wouldn’t have ever come even remotely close to the amount of compassion and respect for other cultures that Captain Picard displays as he navigates through unknown space… not saying Cook was necessarily an asshole or nothing, but you know, different times, different minds…

Anyway, thank fuck for Star Trek.

The enjoyment I take is not unlike that which I gain from playing Civilization V (specifically Brave New World expansion pack).

Diplomacy, culture, technological evolution.

Avoiding war at all costs.

I have played Civ for a few years now, quite regularly. Some might say too much. I sometimes think I play too much. It’s exciting to start a new game: what conditions will there be? How will I shape my first few cities? How well I can I train particular units to defend neighbouring city-states from invading barbarians? Sometimes I sit down to play, look up at the clock and realize with a start that it’s been 4 hours since I started and I’ve been chain smoking for most of that time, especially if my position on the map is in close proximity to war-mongering AI players and they hella want my land.

It’s easy to get lost in the game. It is complex; you have to consider every element, have to have a strategy, have to have a goal for victory.

You don’t want to neglect your culture points as you boost your science points, otherwise your citizens mayy become dissatisfied and push for a revolt against your chosen ideology. You can’t let the happiness of your empire drop whilst building up your army, otherwise overall productivity is severely affected, as is the performance of your military units. You can’t neglect the building up of your military forces while you strive for quick accrual of culture and tourism points, otherwise stronger civilisations will attack and totally fuck you up. You can’t ignore global technological advancements because they may be charging ahead towards a scientific victory, or may obliterate you with atomic weapons before you’re able to decrease their effects.

Also, you get to see, hear and read excerpts from great works of art/music/writing occasionally too.

It is complicated, time consuming, and immensely satisfying when a cultural or diplomatic victory is finally achieved. I strive for cultural victories, it is always my end goal, and I avoid wars as much as possible. I think, for me, it comes down to wanting to prove to myself that it is not necessary to be a Military Might in order to achieve “greatness”. You must defend yourself, of course, because a few other civilisations are programmed to just want to destroy everything in their paths, but it’s Doesn’t Have to Be Like That, especially, I’m told, if you’re playing with like-minded individuals (friends, even) in a LAN setting. I wouldn’t know about that, because I’m a loner.

That’s why Start Trek is so good too. For loners! Not really, but kinda. The value system championed in the show is that Aggression is Loathsome, and I absolutely agree. It is only necessary in a fight for survival, if someone is attacking you first, but with such great technological advancements and apparent ease of food and energy production, fighting other people just ain’t a thing that needs to be done. In the show, I mean. Not today’s world. We’re still too troubled for all that.

And it is when I get to those thoughts, the “we’re still too troubled” thoughts, that I turn away from my screens and sit in front of a canvas to paint it all out.

I feel like playing Civilization V and watching Star trek: Next Generation have a useful purpose, for me at least. In times when I do not want to create something, in times when I do not want to spend time with other people, in times when I do not feel like studying, or reading books, I will play that game or watch that show and learn, without evening trying, some vitals clues as to how our world functions, how values shape our attitudes, how culture can emerge and move and be exchanged, with the idea of harmony never really too out of reach. Hell, if I can ensure my Polynesia civilization wins a cultural victory before war-mongers try their best to tear it apart, then I feel that, you know, maybe there is hope in this world after all.

Also, it’s a very good feeling when you notice yourself getting better at the art of strategy.

Also, I lied: tonight I started a war with America because they were sending their archeologists to dig through ruins within my territory. I ain’t having that. A blatant attack on my interests! Cheeky buggers.

Throwing a Dead Cat on the Table.

Andrew Ryan

(warning: lots of swear words)

‘In short, “to throw a dead cat on the table” means you’re raising an issue that’s unpleasant (dead cats do smell), can’t really be solved (the cat is dead), and would be avoided by most people (what can you do with a dead cat?). But everyone will talk about the dead cat, which means they won’t be talking about some other topic. More importantly, they wont be talking about a topic you would rather they didn’t, perhaps one you’re trying to hide.’ – Richard1098 forums
Sep 2013

My rant begins now:


I hate this, all of this.

Fuckiiiiiiiiiing “they’ll take our jobs” and “they’ll be in the dole cue” at the same time bullshit; it’s almost as if the man is insane, but he is probably not insane, probably sociopathic, he’s using that fucked-up and cold tactic of appealing to the rotten racist streak that stinks up the fabric of Australian society. This country was founded on the idea of white supremacy, and it continues to be influenced by this factor, brown people in off-shore prisons funded by our government, setting themselves on fire out of sheer desperation to show how fucked up their treatment has been and continues to be and Your Average Aussie is all like “but did you know that those queue jumpers are swapping their TAX PAYER FUNDED cigarettes for booze and weed??? NOT ON MY DOLLAR SEND EM BACK TO WHERE THEY CAME FROM” while they dream their aspirational dreams of negative gearing on their second investment property and their young adult children smoke so much meth that Western Australia has the highest amount of meth users IN THE ENTIRE FUCKING WORLD.

These are the voters Dutton and Turnbull and Bishop are hoping to hook here, allowing those ignorant bigots to “freely express” their agreement with which ever bit of the corpse they feel most strongly. You make that dead cat gross enough, and that racist stink completely overwhelms that of any other issue in the media.


Did you know that during the time of “White Australia” policies (various immigration restrictions between 1901 and the late 1970’s), not only were non-White/non-European people not allowed to immigrate here, but Aboriginal people who left the country could also be refused re-entry? THAT’S WHAT WE COME FROM.

Someone close to me works in construction, and he’s been telling me about the racist shit that gets thrown around on site, my favourite example is when they were listening to my friend’s choice of radio station, some chill early rock and roll stuff to break the monotony of Commercial Hits, no one complaining, work getting done, but when the presenter’s voice came on saying “You are listening to Noongar FM” the Irish bloke suddenly expressed extreme distaste, something like “What teh fook are we doing listening to this shite, this is the Abo station”. My friend regularly pulls his workmates up on racism (“you know it’s their land don’t you mate?”), and is often met with that whole “you can’t talk about that shit on site” response. No one likes being called racist because being racist is fucked, but so many people who legitimately display racist behaviour and speech can’t admit that’s what it is, cry “PC POLICE”, to which I want to cry “JUST DO US ALL A FAVOUR AND ADMIT THAT YOU THINK NON-WHITE PEOPLE ARE INFERIOR” because then we can deal with it all properly, have proper discussions about it, you won’t have to pretend anything, just be real jeeeeeeeeeez.

I almost can’t deal with this any more. I mean, I still have hope that this awful shit will push voters capable of critical thinking towards non-Lib votes but like, what if that doesn’t happen, and then the Liberals could trot out the “we have a mandate” line again that makes them think it’s okay to keep flouting Human Rights and Indigenous Rights, AND ALSO, they’re proposing something that looks almost like worker-exploitation on poor young people, cutting education funding but giving businesses up to $10,000 for hiring “interns” so these young people can get another $200 on top of their well-under-the-povety-line Newstart Allowance for working 25 hours a week, creating a situation where full-time workers could be replaced by these financially lucrative “interns” thus creating even MORE employment problems…

My gut is screaming that, as a nation, we can do much better than that. Given the rapid evolution of technology and issues related to this evolution, and the continued dying-out of various industries etc, wouldn’t it be a better long-term strategy to invest in free education…?

But that’s not the conservative agenda. The only “future” these sorts of politicians appear to think about is one where they are better off, unlike progressives, who want to see EVERYONE better off.

I guess it makes sense that conservatives are in power during this time of massive social/cultural/technological/economic upheaval/change, change is scary, BUT IT CAN’T BE AVOIDED, the mines won’t last forever, the oil won’t last forever, we NEED sustainable energy, we NEED to pay attention to ecological damage, we are part of that ecological system, we live on this planet amongst it all, to behave as if we are separate from it is narcissistic, broken; the mistakes of the past + the actions and social construction of history’s most greedy, selfish and disconnected leaders have lead us to this place where humans all over the world with resources in abundance are completely unwilling to part with them without a profit in return, patting each other on the backs for their hard work, even though the nature of profit means that someone somewhere else is loosing out, it’s an unsustainable process, there is no balance, and without balance, systems break, people suffer. History shows this, over and over. Education is the key to not making the same mistakes again, and it makes me want to pull out my hair thinking about how little emphasis is placed on equitably accessible quality education in the broader public discourse on how this country distributes its resources.

I know I’m preaching to the converted here. The chances of you, the reader, disagreeing with the statements made here are slim, as is the nature of communities who give a shit about creative cultural expression. So what’s the point in slagging off our immigration minister in capital letters for your eyes to read? Expression of frustration, a hope that you understand it, a hope that if you feel the same way then maybe lots of other people do too and we’re not alone in caring about people more than profit.

In conclusion, please let’s try to ignore the festering carcass our “democratically elected” politicians have thrown on to the media table, and instead keep talking about the things we NEED to change in order to build a better, more supportive, more harmonious and open minded society.

~~~follow Tahlia on Patreon~~~

The Game Has Got to Change

Andrew Ryan

Last week I promised an exploration of Australia’s relationship with France re: Submarine Design Contract Signing, but given the events of the last week, that won’t be the focus any more, I’ll have an explore of that next week. Instead, I offer a brain vomit of thoughts and ideas, very little structure, influenced by the current cosmic weather and the confusion and pain that comes from keeping an eye on Australian politics. If you’re as frustrated and upset as I am, you’ll understand.

Sometimes people are blinded by career goals, selfish individualism and greed; they can’t feel the presence of all the other human beings on this planet, all of the people, can’t feel the ones who live a different way to the well-educated, well-off white political elite of Australia, even the poor white people in Australia, they can’t feel them, let alone the poor Dark Skinned People of Australia, or the Dark Skinned People of any country for that matter, unless they’re well-off, then they matter, because they can give some of that Money to Australia if Australia can convince them to do so; stick all heads in sand to deny the social problems, the racism, the cultural divides in neighbourhoods and sprawling suburbia, all encouraged to connect in money, nearly everyone’s got access to a Coles Supermarket now, food shipped all over the country, the imperfect apples left to rot at the back of a farm somewhere in deep South Australia while every two year old in the city is being fed berry flavoured candy and crunchy m&ms in between doctors appointments to figure out why they scream bloody murder when the ipad is taken away, the coles will employ their teenage siblings right, give them some internships to keep them off the street and off the dole but won’t pay them enough to allow them to ever dream of buying a house, never mind the man down the road encouraging his son to hate what he fears, like cultures he doesn’t know, generations of anti-Aboriginality “terra nullius” distorting into the words “keep away from them / we grew here, they flew here” instead of “want to invite them over for a bbq?”

Did you get partiotic on ANZAC weekend? None of our ancestors died so that we could be free to be bigots if we want to be bigots. We should be free to demand justice, to punish political bigots for the harm they’ve caused to humanity, but this does not seem possible. However, when a governmental policy is a racist one, it is the nation’s fault for allowing it to go through, and only we have the power to decide who leads on our behalf, up to us to pick an actual leader, leaders who educate and consider, not dogwhistlers who allow tax breaks for the super rich.

It is as if the government knows they’ve gone too far, and cannot even consider letting those who have suffered at their hands in to the country without either:
a) paying the individuals a massive compensation
b) completely upgrading social services so that it is actually affective at providing helpful assistance to those in need of it (see: the poor)
c) risk letting anti-government feelings ripple through the families and friends and extended communities around the individuals involved
or the people who uphold the current asylum seeker policy legitimately don’t believe the people deserve our assistance.

Sometimes people choose to ignore things that are too painful, or too confronting, and people can die, do die, because of it.

Paying off our island neighbours to inhumanely and undemocratically imprison people who are not criminals rather than making sure the nation is socially equipped to handle the arrival of people in need is revolting.

Profiting from someone else’s loss shows a lack of empathy for others. If you could factor ethics in to risk analysis, if you could work within the boundaries that humans are more likely to show compassion than not, then the game is changed. Game theory was conceptualized by a human with paranoid schizophrenia, and the very real presense of altruism has been all but ignored ever since. Society has become a paranoid schizophrenic. Human children can be taught to be selfish, and they can be taught to have compassion. If the world they grow up in teaches them to be selfish, then they have no choice but to be selfish within that system, lest they risk getting fucked over by people more selfish than they, feeling the weight and the pain of doing what they can to help the people who are ignored by the greedy, being ignored themselves, or ridiculed, for not being self-serving. If the world taught children how to be compassionate, and share, then everyone would be sharing and no one would go without. There would be people who chose to be selfish among them, but I imagine their lives would be lonely and unfulfilling. The story of Scrooge ceases to be a warning when it is bands of Scrooges running the country I was born in- they are not lonely when they have each other.

I guess it comes down to the simple question of: how would you rather live?
Luxuriously with the knowledge that other people are freezing and starving to death, or moderately with the knowledge that no one is freezing and starving to death?

How can anyone be so brutal as to choose the former?

HMAS Bourgeois Bogan

Andrew Ryan

I recently acquired a radio, probably the first one I’ve owned myself for more than 10 years; a little $9 score from Cash Converters. At first it was in the kitchen, and I enjoyed cooking and bopping along listening to RTR FM (bigs ups for a gorgeous In the Pines this weekend just gone!), but then I started to crave it in my bedroom, a shack too far from the house to pick up internet, my music collection just not cutting the mustard. So out the back the little radio came with me yesterday, and I ended up listening to ABC 720 Perth for many hours straight, hearing news updates and discussion and callers from around the state, and you know, I think I now prefer radio as a news source than the internet. I learnt some stuff, thought about some stuff, and then went inside to research a few of them, and I’m going to write about one of those things for you this week.

I heard lots and lots of times the announcement that France won the bid for Australia’s brand new submarine fleet. It’s a big contract. Massive. $50 Billion. Imagine all the people you could feed and shelter and educate with that money! Upon hearing the announcements, some (Rupert’s) media outlets very quickly chose to focus on the fact that Japan missed out on it. Presumably this is important to said media sources because it was Tony Abbot who signed a defence agreement with Japan in 2014, and Tony Abbot seems to still be their champion, and also, pissing off Japan isn’t really a great idea for ongoing ”stability” (see: no obvious warfare) in our part of the world.

I feel like it was a need for regional superiority that lead the government to decided on the winning bid: France can provide “experience” and “propulsion” while Japan’s big sell was on “defence” and “geostrategic advantage”. Very different styles of Submarine, and what those differences look like to me is that Japan was offering a peacekeeping deal to further the defence agreement but Malcolm Turnbull kind of kicked it in their face being all “I’m the boss now and I want to make sure we have complete control over this area if we need it, don’t really trust you guys, France can make us zoom quicker through the ocean to fuck enemies up.”

For actual details on the designs and bids and whatnot, it’s all laid out very clearly in this piece in the Conversation:
It got me thinking about what’s going on in France at the moment, lots of worker strikes, student strikes, and a protest movement not dissimilar to all that Occupy stuff from a few years ago, all around concerns about treatment of refugees, concerns about workers rights and proposed Employment Law reforms. I got in touch with a friend who lives over there to get an update from a local, and that will all come next week, when I explore FRANCE: AUSTRALIA’S NEW FAVE SUBMARINE DESIGNERS and see what kind of ridiculous connections I can make.

During the hours over which this story developed, for one split second I was worried that Australia wouldn’t actually retain those jobs promised by Japan in their bid. Malcolm Turnbull and France would have to fucking make sure that MOST of those jobs are within Australian borders because goddamn there is a generation of teenagers coming in to adulthood who are gonna need those fucking jobs if the government wants to keep people out of the welfare system. I got riled up and then Bill Shorten was all “KEEP THOSE DAMN JOBS MALCOLM” and Malcolm was like “oh yeah election” so there are apparently a big chunk of jobs coming, despite some stuff having to be done in other countries, just so long as it’s not unethical foreign production; if I was a real journalist I would be demanding transparency for all of that business.

Dotted between segments on 720 was a little fun, “quirky” competition inspired by “Boaty McBoat Face” to name the first French-Australian submarine. The prize? A book called “The Truth About French Women”, no author mentioned. Classy! I was glad my phone wasn’t working, otherwise I would have been compelled to enter via text, simply for a real reaction out of the host, after I cringed for ages hearing her strained and tired laughs at the mind-numbingly obvious suggestions from callers. Here are some examples, for your health:

The Aussie Frog (“a very clever play on words”), HMAS Frog’s Legs (“some wit from Jeff in Bunbury”), The First Canoe, Foie Gras, Oh La La, HMAS Escargot, Esperance (“Fremantle’s got one, Bunbury’s got one, it’s about time a submarine was named after Esperance”), The Soggy Croissant…

I felt like crying after “HMAS Kermit” was offered by a fragile, shaking super-old-man voice, straight after “HMAS Frog’s Legs” by another caller… it’s too much for these people, I thought, France means so little to them. They have no idea what is going on outside of their own lives.

My suggestion for a name for the First French-Australian Submarine, one of 12 they’re spending $50 billion on instead of feeding and housing the nation’s homeless?

The Bourgeois Bogan.

drops mic


My Record Store Day, Fremantle, 2016

Andrew Ryan

It was a Friday night not unlike a few I’ve had before, though they are not regular: hunched over my computer, chain smoking jazz cigarettes and listening to music, trying not to get too frustrated with the limited RAM capacity, slugging beer after beer as I edit together video footage I’ve shot along my recent travels, trying to make something that will look fucking cool projected over a bunch of musicians on a stage of some sort the following evening.

That was last Friday, the Friday before Record Store Day, the Friday before Yardstock. I was shit-faced, still awake at 6 am, sun pretty much up, birds definitely singing, and the thing was kind of almost finished after a last-minute 12 hour slog on a slow machine, very professional like. Sometimes these passion projects work out, other times they don’t. Later that morning I woke up in Pete’s bed to the sound of humans clomping around the house moving musical equipment, dogs barking probably, Ray coughing because he’s sick, poor fella, sick and running around organising a suburb-wide music festival/party all day, Pete helping, coming in and out of the bedroom, giving me shit about “the life of an arrrrrtist” because I got to bed after the time he would normally be getting out of it in order to go to his construction industry job… welcome home Tahlia, you’re truly back in to a life now, in all its weirdo, confused and frustrating glory.

Settling back in to a city is nice when you’ve got good pals around doing cool things. Pete played that day and made a bunch of people smile at Mills Record Store in Fremantle, I was feeling pretty great despite the massive night of solitary, frustrated intoxication in front of a computer screen which brought me in to the day, a bit bleary eyed but more than comfortable with my body, I danced with Nick a little, which was nice, breezing around the record store, pulling out Electric Wizard and Mayhem, shoving them at Pete hoping he’d acquiesce and purchase them because my broke-artist-ass couldn’t afford such a luxury, Pete’s set was wonderful, he was so clear-headed, oozing confidence and comfort, the set and playing tight and well-paced, the new space upstairs Mills the perfect place to play an afternoon session, can’t wait to see some art up there soon. A nice little crowd showed up too, Pete signed a record, and a young man’s day was made when he introduced himself to Nick, so nice to meet your musical idols huh, Happy Record Store Day!

After that, we had to organise all kinds of things for the final venue of Yardstock. We’d missed the whole day’s journey around Freo and surrounding areas, the little flyer I made a few weeks ago the only available guide to the houses holding music, left in Mojos Bar to be picked up by those interested, little map directing what must have been, by all accounts, an enthusiastic crew from house to house, and Pete was playing again at the final venue, a big ol’ amphitheatre tucked away somewhere in White Gum Valley, had to organise gear acquisition and transport, luckily my brother and his housemate were up to the task, and we sat around drinking beer and talking shit at home for a while, finalising plans and having nice times, then OFFFFF to the place we go, all the things in Troy’s car, me Pete and Nick in an Uber, Joe on his freshly salvaged and reinforced scooter after some dickhead attempted to steal it, apparently the cops were dickheads about it too, but that ain’t my story to tell, you’ll have to ask Joe.

We got to the place, were lost for a while, it’s a big parkland, not much of it untouched by the ravages of population growth and colony expansion, constructed park as far as I could see in the darkness, wondered what was there before in that place that was concreted like an old Greek construction, small though beautiful as it was, made from stone that looked local, sweeping broken glass to somewhere the bare-footers wouldn’t hurt themselves, ultimate freedom, ultimate responsibility and all.

So, so many people ended up filling those stair-case seats, they trickled in slowly at first, as I was trying to set up the projections, coming to the disappointing realisation that the lack of one little adapter I had never heard of before would mean noooo projections at all, such a bummer, so I packed it all up, determined to be more prepared next time, like actually learn what machine I’d be using at least a day before the event, and then suddenly there were hundreds of people, smiling laughing dancing cheersin’, pretty glorious to be honest, glory at celebration of musical culture in this city, shared through backyards and along the streets, a mixed bag of attendees all attesting to the serious drawcard of high quality live music, of which this town can provide in spades. Even though the hunched computer work I put in was not to be realised in that setting at that time, I had no weight on my shoulders, only smiles that community organisation is getting better and better, things are growing, if we can direct these energies in the right way we can easily have an even greater positive impact here, just gotta show the Big Important things the care they’re really worth, you know? Music is about people, and people are society, and society is tied up with all kinds of problems. If music works for getting people smiling and working together peacefully, then fuck, maybe some of that music-spirit in to other fields? I’m rambling now. I’m still pooped from all the things I just told you about.

For photos of Yardstock, take yourself to this wonderful album by Amber Bateup, one of Perth’s finest, hardest working live music photographers.


Pic By Amber Bateup

Smiles at Fron Voyage, Nannup, 2016

Andrew Ryan

Fron Voyage m’fkers! The last time I went to a festival at that secluded little property outside of Nannup, I made a list of places of note in which I sat. I came back, two years later, the festival different and smaller, a familiar crew and organizational team (the super chill, community minded hilarious badasses in the Good Time Arts/Doogs collaboration team), and golly, what a treat.

It is often said about camping festivals such as this that you are taken out of your reality in to something else. And in some ways, I feel like that could be true, but I also think it’s like… you are, for a short time, joining your needs and desires up with those of similarly minded people, in a beautiful setting that reminds one of the existence of lifestyles outside of the one you’ve ended up in… if you feel like you’ve left reality to go there and have a real nice time, it means whatever your reality is outside of that leaves you wanting.

I reckon, anyway.

And it’s funny how, in that experience, I was able to forget the ills of the world for longer than usual. When you’re trying to feel your way through bushland on a cloudless, no-moon night to get to the place where your water is, which is also where your big coat is, because your friend is a bit chilly after lending her only coat to someone else who was a bit chilly, well, you’re in true communal-survival mode, and there is nothing quite nothing like communal-survival to keep you going. It is indescribably more life-affirming than sitting on a tram taking the same journey you’ve taken at the same time most days for the last however long you’ve had your job. Nature is good for the health.

So a list, to keep my theme of that property going. It was a very different experience to last time I was there: less intoxicated, that’s for sure… more cognizant, less overwhelmed, more comfortable. Older, too, I guess. Brain is a little different to how it was a few years back. Was nice to revisit faces I haven’t seen since then and see how the various sparkles in everyone’s eyes have evolved….

Some of the Places I Smiled At Fron Voyage:

- at the top of an unknown hill, in the dark. When Eva and I got lost, singing The Nanny theme song at each other, both of us enjoying the act of singing that loudly and freely and passionately, so distracted by the joyful interaction that we got ourselves lost.. that was where we found ourselves. We could hear Doctopus clearly, though we couldn’t see them through the trees… we shouted at the tops of our voices. I think I wanted a magic connection with everyone we couldn’t see. I have no idea if it worked. We eventually followed what Eva remembered of Amber’s travel advice, and got back to our camping area without injury. Stimulating journey.

- at our Office, the fold-out chair and tables Pete and I trekked across the country with a few months ago, used this time to host some of our bestest buddies in the world at the front of the van at our campsite, animated conversation abounding, Shiny Joe and Pete and Nick and Ring and Amber and Eva and Bridge and Chris and Ana and anyone else, chatting and shouting, excited and happy and comfortable, drunk too, what a pleasure to be in fresh air even though I smoked tobacco heaps, what a pleasure to be back with some amazing pals, feeling at home on the fold out table and chairs surrounded by the people, pleasure.

- by the edge of the water, the beeliar, listening to it, in the dark, almost blind but for Ring’s special spotlight torch, looks like a theatre light, the water so loud. The bush across the water looked like a wall, and I pondered over how strange it must have been for the European settlers who decided to make camp in this country, to be affronted by a landscape so different to what they knew. I thought about the Europeans who, individually, joined in treaties with local groups, sharing resources… but once the colony started to expand, boatloads of more Europeans getting dropped off every few months… well… treaties expired, were broken, the colonial land sold off, the new owners leaving the first caretakers with few options. Where are the traditional land owners of this property now? Do they know their birthright?

- in the van, waking up on Sunday, a wonderful evening behind me, a comfortable sleep on our blow-up mattress, Pete looking all disheveled and gorgeous in the sun, looking out the window and seeing Amber packing up her tent, early morning rise, I went back to bed for a little more snoozing, so sleepy and comfortable on the bed in the back of the van, smiling myself back in to a lovely slumber. I missed out on breakfast at the Odell camp though, cheeses and meats by gahd, I would have smiled if I’d eaten that breakfast with Nick and his two little kids, which leads to the next one…

- hulla hooping with Archer and Ziggy on the sand in front of the stage! Such a good activity for people to do between band sets, get some energy pumping, entertain the children. I remembered some tricks I learnt when I did circus skill classes in highschool (hey, I’ve always loved trying fun things- I can firetwirl on stilts if I have to as a result), showed them off to the two children I was watching over, Archer, the oldest, was like “that’s cooooool” and I was like “hell yeah a 5 year old thinks I’m cool keep doin what yr doin tahlia”, that kid is cooooool. I had a lot of fun, so many smiles for and at those boys, Ziggy so little with such long hair, throwing the hoop because he couldn’t quite be bothered getting the hang of twirling it around his body. Such sweet, innocent fun, the darkness is so easily uplifted when a tiny little human is holding on to your hand and looking all the way up to your adult face, placing their trust in your protection and guidance, makes you swallow everything else for the sake of seeing them smile. And it gives me such a massive smile.

Fron was lovely, Fron was good, Fron does things just like they should.

The music was sick too. Read Lydon’s review for that side of the story <3

From Hamilton Hill: The Gathering Place

Andrew Ryan

When you walk from the supermarket to the community garden near my house, you walk across an expanse of grass, dotted with weeds, surrounding the vestiges of what would have been a much larger chunk of native flora before the council got to it a few decades ago.

Apparently, it was a wetland, and it was a place of traditional importance for gatherings by the original inhabitants of the area; Whadjuk Nynguah people have inhabited this locale for many thousands of years. So many generations of people attending to their tribal relations in that very spot. I like to imagine the songs, the dances, the jokes, the stories when I think of that filled in swamp. I swear that energy still permeates this area, without seeming mystical about it (I’m not); the more open minded residents are involved in their communities, in environmental protection, working together, the freshness of the breeze still coming from the near-by ocean like it has done for longer than most of us could comprehend.

Before the council filled in the wetland, way more decades before they filled it in, it shared the hill with an estate, a big ol’ colonial home for white landowners to live in luxury as they controlled the land, profited from working it with European agricultural systems. The portion of that land which was used for keeping horses still stands today, one of Australias oldest still running stables. Its just there, down the road from me, right near a small chunk of native trees, some old enough to have the scars of Nyungah craftsmanship on their trunks. These heritage protected trees, which could be threatened in the face of local land development, are about an hours walk from the place the first English flag was struck in to this land, an ideal spot for a new colony. And what a colony. Fremantle and Perth enable lots of money to flow in and out of the river systems they inhabit.

I was told that in the 1970s, the council filled in the wetland that had remained mostly untouched the formation of the colonial government. They filled it in to deter groups from gathering by it, you know, that whole “fuck with their cultural sites and you get them out of view”attitude or something. I wonder if they gave a thought to where the gatherings would happen instead of there, if at all, and how actively seeking to destroy a tradition based on place can uproot a sense of identity related to that tradition? Or if they thought about how the act of dispersal, of moving on in a public space can be felt as oppressive? “But this is MY land!” must be a cry that haunts the dreams of politicians and bureaucrats across the nation of Australia.

“Yagan again stepped forward, and leaning familiarly with his left hand on my shoulder, while he gesticulated with his right, delivered a sort of recitative, looking earnestly at my face. I regret that I could not understand him, but I conjectured, from the tone and manner, that the purport was this: “You came to our country; you have driven us from our haunts, and disturbed us in our occupations: as we walk in our own country, we are fired upon by white men; why should the white men treat us so?”

– George Fletcher Moore, Government appointed Advocate General. May 1833,

(Published in Nyungah Land – Records of Invasion and Theft of Aboriginal Land on the Swan River 1829-1850, 2005, Bevan Carter. Swan Valley Nyungah Community)
I saw a thing pop up today informing me that commercial news outlets around Australia are spreading the vibe that the University of New South Wales is “attempting to re-write history”by recommending that students work within the viewpoint that this country was “invaded” and not discovered+settled by Europeans, causing an uproar in weirdos who are somehow offended by this fact about our history, some of them claiming that this nation should not be made to feel guilty about its creation, that guilt is destructive, that in international law we are all good (that’s not technically true btw).

Dude, guilt only arises when you feel like you’ve done something wrong, and in this case, when you’ve got a mountain of evidence that something wrong did indeed happen, of course people are going to feel guilt once they realise, especially given that their way of life is based right on top of on the destruction of those who were here before. Guilt is normal in the face of this information.
“They [colonists] knew that their own welfare depended on avoiding hostilities; and it is due to them to state that their conduct, as a body, has been marked throughout by an anxious desire to avoid, on their invasion of this territory, every unnecessary injury to its earlier inhabitants.”
“…establish and regulate, upon general principals of mutual benefit, the future intercourse between the invaders and the invaded.”
James Stirling, the first Governor and Commander in Chief of Western Australia, published in the Perth Gazette, July 1, 1837.

If that guy (and, as is documented, many others of the time) can recognise what happened as an invasion, then for what reason should this truth not be taught in our universities? There is no ideology here, it is factual, and creates a place of cultural safety for First Nations students to learn within.

And if people feel guilty upon learning these facts (I certainly did when I first became cluey about these issues), then they need to be given time to think about it, space to sit with it, and more information to understand how everyone else who knows this information has dealt with it, how this country has and continues to deal with it, how the people who have been fucked over and oppressed since the invasion have been working and fighting to stand up for their rights in the face of such such a big blanket of ignorance and denial of the truth, their truth, our shared truth. More education is needed, more variety of perspectives is needed, and most important of all, we need way less less colonial assimilationist types who benefit from the denial-of-fact telling people how to think and how to vote.

A bunch of people near that old filled in wetland area near my house want to see it brought back to what it once was.
I feel like this attitude is one that healthily works through the guilt of knowing what was destroyed: you see a problem, and you do what you can to find a solution that is respectful and healing and powerful in giving the finger to decades and decades of blatant disregard for and disrespect of the people who’s families are involved in the oldest human culture in the world, one that overcame the compulsion that was the end of so many others throughout human history: a destructive greed for resources.

Imagine how much richer the cultural life of this area would be if the traditional owners could gather here again, with the strength-in-knowledge that they wouldn’t be unfairly shooed away from their places by some white people in suits who don’t like to think about how the past and the present can and does negatively affect Aboriginal people. I feel like the time of everyone thinking about the truth is coming, quicker than I could have imagined only a few years ago.