Civil Celebrant program in Australia 2015

This is to my friend Charles Foley. Giving my ideas on how to improve the Civil Marriage Celebrant program in Australia

Dear Charles
I have sent you these before but I still think they are relevant. The charging of  extra money has only solved the numbers problem to a very small extent. Once enthusiastic celebrants have lost interest – celebrancy has become only a small part of their lives. I have observed that because of the excessive numbers fewer come to celebrant meetings, and the ignorance shown on email forums is disheartening (I am a member of 3). 2000 celebrants would be plenty for this country but we have 8000, we used to have 11,000 we have 6000 in excess which leads to all the degrading of our role because of over competition and the lowest standards of ceremony in our history. I suggest a moratorium (with rare exceptions) – it might take five or ten years. Or thorough independent testing and assessments for applicants? (the applicant pays)
There have been many articles lately in the media on the exploitation of the government and the people by the plethora of Mickey mouse courses run by money makers — and not educationists. RTOs are generally bad across the board. TAFEs are going broke. Why are we in this system? We don’t have to be.
Citizenship Ceremonies
And then there are the possibilities for getting celebrants more involved in society and the culture. The late Tom Powell tried to get the government to approve celebrants (or selected celebrants) to preside at individual citizenship ceremonies. The person becomes an Australian citizen when they take the pledge in a ceremony. Then and only then. People who do not wish to go to a big ceremony, or who live in an area where the ceremonies are usually “sterile”, could opt to have a celebrant. Could the Department and the organisations work on this instead of legal trivia. Imagine how this would lift status, morale and enthusiasm.
 Here are my topics for the meeting which appear to me to come under the purview of the general agenda: the issues I raised before are still relevant. I have highlighted no. 4 in red because this is what should be 90% of any celebrant courses and OPD. Can you imagine a forum of surgeons ceaselessly talking about how to run an office, how to fill in the forms, how to market yourself better than other surgeons – instead of talking about what really matters – surgery that works, that saves lives, that help people regain health, and improves the body beautiful?
  1. The possibility of a new understanding of the relationship between the Attorney-General’s Department and working celebrants. i.e. Public Servants who are informed, supportive, and interested in what celebrants can do for individuals and society. AND celebrants who are informed with the knowledge of the history and purpose of civil celebrancy and who possess an attitude of cooperation.
  2. A thorough teaching of Section 48 of the Marriage Act – especially the last sentence of 48 (3). see – http://www.collegeofcelebrancy.com/pages4/Sect_48-Marriage_Act.html
  3. A Transfer of Section 39A to M – the powers of the registrar – to, mutatis mutandis, standing orders within the department – and the powers and responsibility be returned to the elected and accountable minister i.e. to the Attorney-General.
  4. That public servants dealing with celebrants undergo a course of training in the nature and evolution of ceremony, the importance of culture, the psychological power of memorable events, and the nature of society. The course should include attendance at celebrant weddings, funerals, namings, and other secular ceremonies — with reports and critiques – a thorough knowledge of the art and delivery of ceremony. Resources should be extensive.
  5. There should be a serious ceremony at which celebrants are inducted into the profession, attended by the Attorney-General or his equal.
  6. That the Attorney-General assist celebrants expose our exploitation by Funeral Directors, who effectively control fees by not sub-contracting any celebrant who does not conform to their low fee, thus depressing standards.
There are other issues which I have outlined in the following articles and blogs:

Alex Hutchinson-Road to Gundagai

DRM-Hutch
Dally Messenger (left) and my mate Alex.

30,000 Youtube Hits!!

My friend Alex Hutchinson has been earning living as a Musician since he was fifteen years of age. A summary of Alex’s life and achievements can be found at  – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alex_Hutchinson –
His own website is – http://www.jazzlegend.com

For many years, on Saturday afternoons, when I was an active marriage celebrant, if ever I had a time-space between marriages and I could manage it, I would go wherever he was playing (mostly clarinet) and listen to a master musician at work.

We share political ideals. We both believe in justice and fairness. How many of us are left?

They were the days, my fiend, before poker machines, when the hotels and many other venues valued Melbourne’s top class musicians. When I look at the scene now, I cannot help but think of the Buena Vista Social Club. Just like in Cuba, short sighted government money-chasing killed off much of the musical scene of Melbourne.

Alex turned 80 the other day. I was one of the few who had the privilege of attending his 80the Birthday celebration.

We are going to have another party to celebrate his 30,000 hits from all over the world. Music is the common language.

Have a listen – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Nrg6ytwDF0

Solar Powered House (only)

Solar Powered HouseLiving off the power grid gives me a buzz – July 27, 2014 – from the Age

Emma Sutcliffe

As the federal government touts the repeal of the carbon tax as a win for household energy bills, Australians are increasingly turning to renewable energy to save money.  My family and I went one step further, going completely off-grid and finding that it didn’t compromise our lifestyle.

My favourite phone calls start like this.

“Hello madam, I’m calling to reduce your power bills.”

My answer, usually a detailed description of why the caller is wasting their breath, can be distilled into two sentences.

“My house isn’t connected to the grid,” I explain. “I won’t have an electricity bill for the next 15 years.”

Usually I’m met with disbelief; most think it’s a novel excuse to get rid of them, others are more forceful.

“That’s illegal,” one telemarketer earnestly assured me.  “I can report you.”

I’m still waiting for the energy police to knock on the door, but, if they do, I’d be happy to show them around our own personal power station.

I’d point out the 30 panels on our north-facing garage roof, which connect to the two inverters mounted on an internal wall next to the mountain bikes and garden implements.

They’d admire my 24-cell battery bank contained within a neat plywood box complete with beautifully hinged sealing lid that my Dad, a former engineer, made for us.

In the house, we’d check the little electronic panel in the hallway that reads the current battery level which, on any averagely sunny Melbourne day, is usually at 100 per cent by lunchtime.

The truth is that living sans electricity grid is surprisingly simple.

When my husband and I bought our seven hectares of rocky clay in Little River, halfway between Melbourne and Geelong, we didn’t give any thought to power until we started to build in 2012.

The nearest power pole was over a kilometre away and a quote to install a new pole and connect power to our block came in at around $30,000, plus the costs of laying conduit-encased cable 400 metres up to the house site so the builder could fire up his nail gun.

Add ongoing quarterly power bills and it was tallying up to quite an expense; we were, after all, building a 38-square home for ourselves and two teenagers.

So began a search for an alternative which led us, via my parents’ plumber, to a couple of Geelong-based renewable energy gurus, Phil and John.

My first phone call to John was a confusing mish-mash of technical terms and questions about kilowatt hours, appliance energy efficiency ratings and absorbed glass mat battery banks.

However, it was clear that John knew what he was talking about, so I lined up a meeting and was given the address of his family home, a mud-brick four-bedroom house with composting toilets on  four tree-lined hectares in Wensleydale.

After lunch cooked on a proper wood-fired Aga, we crawled under the house to inspect gel-filled batteries and the small shed containing the back-up generator.

By the time we brushed the cobwebs off, we were sold; John and his family were living electricity-bill free in a beautiful, comfortable home – and without a dreadlock or tie-dye T-shirt in sight.

After completing an electrical audit listing which energy-guzzling appliances we’d be using, our 22 kilowatts an hour per day power station was designed and installed for $60,090, with a $7500 government rebate.

For the first few months we kept a nervous eye on the available power, but the anxiety soon wore off as the batteries hit 100 per cent almost every day.

Our first winter in the house had so few days of cloud cover that we postponed installing the back-up generator; we didn’t need it and we still don’t have one.

The maintenance required to keep the liquid electrolyte battery bank happy amounted to a quarterly top-up with demineralised water and ensuring tiny amounts of emitted hydrogen vented properly.

In two years, there have been a handful of days when we’ve been, unnecessarily, nervous about our available power, however a few hours with the TV switched off has been good for both the batteries and our square-eyed family unit.

Of course, it’s not for everyone, this off grid-goodness, especially given the upfront cost which we added to our mortgage and pay interest on.

It’s been difficult to work out whether we’ll be saving money in the long term, as somewhere around 2027 our battery bank will need replacing at significant cost.

However, with battery prices falling, we’re hopeful it won’t outweigh what we’d have saved on energy bills for the previous 15 years.

Whatever the monetary outcome, we wouldn’t have it any other way.

It’s a wonderful feeling, this knowledge that we’re naturally harvesting energy while giving the metaphorical finger to the fossil fuel industry, climate change sceptics and a federal government seemingly intent on shutting down the renewables industry.

We’re just an average family hoping that our experience without an overhead power line prompts the type of conversations I enjoy having with people.

Especially those energy company telemarketers.

Emma Sutcliffe is a Melbourne writer. http://theoffgridsolarhouse.com/

Gough Whitlam – my great moment

At the Pommery Champagne Cocktail party hosted by the Australian Ballet. From Left- Margaret Whitlam, Dally Messenger III, the ballerina Christine Walsh
At the Pommery Champagne Cocktail party hosted by the Australian Ballet. From Left- Margaret Whitlam, Dally Messenger III, the ballerina Christine Walsh

It was when I was the editor of Dance Australia Magazine. The French wine producer, Pommery champagne, had decided, for publicity sake, to sponsor a ballet in Melbourne to be performed by the Australian Ballet.

The chairman of the Australian Ballet at the time was Sir Robert Southey, who was also president of the Liberal Party of Victoria. The administrator of the Australian Ballet was Noel Pelly. The only person they knew who voted ALP, in the whole ballet scene, was me!

The Australian Ballet, as was its custom with new sponsors, put on a welcoming cocktail party for the Pommery people to which various dignitaries were invited.

Gough Whitlam next to my friend Lionel Murphy
Gough Whitlam next to my friend Lionel Murphy
Gough and Margaret Whitlam were known to Pommery Champagne. When Gough was ambassador for UNESCO in Paris (1983-1986) Pommery was the only champagne Gough allowed on the premises. So Pommery was constantly and exclusively served at diplomatic events, which he hosted.

Pommery (very aware of his patronage) asked that the Whitlams be invited to the aforesaid cocktail party as they were staying in Melbourne at the time.

So Noel Pelly asked me to please come to the party as he could not think of anyone else who would be comfortable talking to the Whitlams. This I did. And a very pleasant meeting it was. I had a great conversation with the Whitlams, and of course, Gough knew all about my Rugby League superstar grandfather, knew a lot about ballet and the arts. And fears unfounded, Gough and Margaret interacted wonderfully well with everyone there.

The next day, Gough was at some important meeting at the Arts Centre, and, after the meeting was over, was walking down the main hall to the ballet theatre.

He was a towering figure and as he strolled down the hallway he was flanked on both sides by at least a dozen of the most important people in Melbourne.
By sheer chance I happened to be walking in the other direction along the hallway.
Gough looked up and saw me coming towards him and cheerily said – “Good Day, Dally!”
Every eye turned upon me in amazement.
I cheerily replied – “Good Day, Gough”.
It was a great moment.

Asylum Seekers: Australia: Saved from Drowning?

TO AUSTRALIAN POLITICAL PARTIES

Oh, you saved them from drowning?

But then you killed them slowly, while they were still alive, by imprisonment without charge or trial, by depriving them of hope, and the consequent death by a thousand cuts of incremental mental illness.
———————————–
Life Member of the Australian Labor Party

————————————————————–

PS Australia is one of the richest, endowed, affluent countries in the world – mostly made up of migrants (25% of Australians were born overseas). Yet we lock up indefinitely asylum seekers who comes by boat. They are a minuscule number compared to other countries. (Less that 10,000 per year.

The PBS Newshour (August 2014 – before the “Caliphate”) gave the following figures for less affluent, and troubled, countries, who protect and care for asylum seekers from Syria:-

North Africa —- 23,367
Egypt ——— 139,090
Jordan ——– 613,252
Lebanon — 1,175,504
Iraq ———— 215,369
Turkey ——– 832,508

Churchmen defend children

Nine Churches and three ecumenical groups challenge Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Immigration Minister, Scott Morrison.

‘The Lord your God … shows no partiality,” Moses told the Israelites. ”He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt.” (Deut 10: 17-19)

Saving just a few people, perhaps, from death at sea, and then killing all who survive by depriving them of hope and freedom, and thus causing them to die slowly from non-recoverable permanent mental illness.


from the Melbourne AGE – Julia Baird – Aug 1, 2014

A quiet, curious insurrection has been happening on the periphery of the public eye in Australia in the past few months. Nuns arrested, priests occupying politicians’ offices, bishops slamming government policy as ”cruelty”.

Usually dutiful Christians have been radicalised by a mounting outrage, concern and grief at the way we have been treating asylum seekers. This has prompted an unprecedented coalition of church groups determined to persuade the two Christian leaders responsible for the policy – Tony Abbott and Scott Morrison – to show more compassion to the vulnerable.

‘The Lord your God … shows no partiality,” Moses told the Israelites. ”He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt.” (Deut 10: 17-19)

The Bible is irrefutably clear on two things:
first, that all Christians should show love and hospitality to strangers and,
second, and crucially, we should protect and care for children. There is nothing ambiguous about these claims.

So the reaction of some to the appearance of the interdenominational group Love Makes a Wayformed to end “inhumane” asylum seeker policies through non-violent protest, was: ”At last!” or ”Where on earth have you been?”

For this is surely one thing on which all Christians can agree.

It was sickening to hear Human Rights Commissioner Gillian Triggs report this week that nearly all the 174 children on Christmas Island were sick, depressed, self harming, having nightmares, swallowing poisons, wetting beds, wandering aimlessly behind barbed wire. It was chilling to hear babies were not crawling.

All of this under our watch?

Professor Triggs says the children were suffering symptoms similar to post-traumatic stress disorder, and called on the government to process them onshore. There were 128 reported cases of children harming themselves in just 15 months.

Immigration Minister Scott Morrison cast doubt on Triggs’ comments, saying she was not a doctor (even though she is a widely respected law professor), and dismissed her statements as “sensational” and untrue . But the next day the claims of Triggs, who pointed out as a lawyer she was trained to deal in evidence, were backed up.

At the inquiry into the detention of children, a former director of mental health services at detention centre service provider International Health and Mental Services (IHMS), Peter Young, alleged the government had covered up – or doctored data on – the level of distress among child detainees.

Dr Young said they had collected data showing ”significant” mental health problems among child detainees, ”perhaps a little higher” than adults. But he added – when pushed – that the Immigration Department ”reacted with alarm and asked us to withdraw these figures from our reporting”.

A very serious, troubling claim.

There were further allegations of physical and sexual abuse on Nauru against children by staff.

These kids are in our care. And many in the churches are horrified and furious.

In a foreword to a report by the Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce – which represents nine Christian churches and three ecumenical bodies – the Anglican Dean of Brisbane, the Reverend Peter Catt, said Morrison’s position, as guardian of these children, was ”untenable”.

”The churches have a responsibility to speak,” Catt said, because of their own history. ”We’ll never again stand by and do nothing about child abuse … Institutional child abuse occurs in many different settings and it’s illegal, it’s horrific and it’s unacceptable.”

Sister Brigid Arthur from the Victorian Council of Churches went further. She said the fact that we condone the indefinite imprisonment of children ”seems to be abusive and it is state-sanctioned”.

Morrison, a policeman’s son, would hardly agree. He has been asked many times how he reconciles his Christian faith with the misery of asylum seekers and statements like that of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference that our asylum seeker policy ”has about it a cruelty that does no honour to our nation”.

In response, he has repeatedly pointed to the fact that their parents brought them here, and that he has effectively stopped or dramatically slowed  sea arrivals, which put children at great risk, and reduced the number of children in detention overall. If we welcome some, his logic goes, we endanger thousands of others.

There is truth in this.

But the problem is this: What are we doing to those already in our care? Have we not all concurred, when John Howard agreed to pull children out of detention, that this is something we do not want? Tony Abbott has said no one wants children in detention. Yet the creep has continued. More than a thousand children are locked up.

So now we need to agree to get those children back onto the mainland, where we can monitor them properly, ensure they are in good medical care, and able to go to school. Where we can make sure they don’t waste precious years depressed or regressing. The Australian Refugee Taskforce also recommended an end to closed detention of children, a national policy framework, consistent standards of care and independent reviews of claims for unaccompanied children.

Speedy processing is crucial, says the Sydney Archbishop, the Right Reverend Glenn Davies, as ”vulnerable children can be scarred by detention and feel as as though they are being treated as criminals behind barbed wire”.

Even Pope Francis has condemned the ”globalisation of indifference” towards refugees.

Obviously, this is not just a matter for the church.

But the church has a moral duty to press for this.

The founding director of the Australian Centre for Public Christianity, the Reverend John Dickson, says while the church has ”lost some credibility” when it comes to the treatment of children, the Bible ”placed the highest demands on believers to honour and protect children, especially orphans, as special examples of God’s own precious children”.

”When Jesus saw his own disciples preventing children from being brought to him, ‘he was indignant’, the text says, and uttered those famous words, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these,’ ” he said.

”These words should haunt the Immigration Minister, every Australian politician, every Australian with a vestige of respect for Christ, as our policies prevent children, many of them deeply traumatised, from entering into the freedoms and protection of our little kingdom.”

Trauma. Mental illnesss. Self harm.

We can’t ignore this any more. Enough.

Read more: http://www.theage.com.au/comment/asylum-seeker-children-in-detention-why-the-church-has-a-duty-to-speak-up-20140731-zz6ca.html#ixzz39IWH85yP

http://www.theage.com.au/comment/-zz6ca.html

 

Sense of Entitlement – Rich and Poor

Ill fares the land, to hastening ills a prey
Where wealth accumulates and men decay.
The Deserted V
illage – Oliver Goldsmith

I extracted this letter from the Age in Melbourne (Wed June 3, 2014). I do not mind people being reasonably rich but I do object when I sense an attitude that they are entitled to what they have, but the poor and struggling are not entitled to what they have (Because they do not work hard enough!).

I’ve had enough 

In these times of class warfare, it’s important to remember how the extremely wealthy became so and remain so. Over decades, financial elites took manufacturing offshore, exploited workers, used child labour, downsized the labour force, engaged in rentseeking , pillaged the environment , treated other species as objects for trade and experimentation, made political donations in exchange for privileges, tax cuts and changes to industrial relations laws, and hid wealth in family trusts and offshore tax havens. Wealth has also been inherited, as in notable cases of media and mining empires. 

In light of the attack on the less privileged, we should challenge the legitimacy of extreme wealth. Wealth doesn’t arise from a vacuum – it comes at a cost to other people, to other species and to the environment as a whole. Nevertheless, the ongoing accumulation of wealth depends upon the passivity of the exploited and I sense we’ve all had enough. 

Tim Hartnett, Mont Albert North

TIME magazine: Australia’s Shame

TIME MAGAZINE HEADLINE : Australia’s Shame

It’s harsh policy toward asylum seekers betrays the human rights values it should stand for. 

(By Ian lloyd Neubauer – Page 33,  March 31, 2014)

Slightly edited extracts from the article. (found at http://time.com/author/ian-lloyd-neubauer/ )

Over the past six months I have watched in muffled horror as my country, Australia, voted in, and then loudly applauded, a government that has put into play a policy to stop asylum seekers from landing uninvited on our shores …

Australia sends asylum seekers to outsourced tent prisons run by private security companies in Papua New Guinea and Nauru.

Their inmates stand a chance of being raped, catching malaria, and  growing so desperate that some have sown their lips together to hunger strike, or have asked their keepers for gasoline to self-immolate.

In February a 23 year old Iranian, Reza Barati, was killed during a riot at the detention centre on Manus Island.

Inmates are denied access to lawyers and journalists, and pressured to return to the hellholes they spent their life savings running away from.

The UNHCR has criticised the camps as unsafe and inhumane.

Behind the government’s smug righteousness lies a powerful but unspoken undercurrent of Islamaphobia rooted in the White Australia policy.

We hope that the government will close the camps, and find a humane solution worthy of a wealthy, multicultural nation, lest the world begin to look upon us as the monsters we have become.

————————————————–
And from Phllip Freier (Who happens to be the Anglican Archbishop of Melbourne) on the Children.

http://www.theage.com.au/comment/-zqvtu.html

Manus Island – Refugees

Colin Smith writes to the Age – Apr 6, 2014
We are the problem!

”100 days without a boat” reads the headline (30/3). Problem solved.

But what was the problem? They were ”illegal”?
No. What is illegal is our failure to honour the Refugee Convention.

Photo-AchmadIbrahim
Asylum Seeker returned to Indonesia. Photo: Achmad Ibrahim

They are all ”economic refugees”?
No. Nobody would take such risks merely to better themselves. More than 90 per cent are found to be genuine refugees.

They will be a burden?
No. The burden is the huge cost of indefinite detention. And by getting here they have proved their courage and character.

But they may be terrorists?
Hardly. They are fleeing terrorists.

We must save them from drowning?
But if we were worried about that we would listen to the Greens: process people over there, determine who is genuine and fly them here – as Malcolm Fraser did with the Vietnamese.

But then we will be swamped?
No. There will be a queue at last. We will, indeed, be deciding who comes to this country and the circumstances in which they come.

So there’s no problem?
No. There’s a terrible problem. It is what we are doing – to them and to ourselves.

Colin Smith, St Kilda

 

Sinodinos, Russ Hinze, and Conflict Corruption

What I cannot follow is this — how the whole Liberal party cohort of spokespeople are describing Sinodinos as a person of “incredible integrity”.

He was a shareholder, director, chairperson, and paid employee of a company that was seeking a make-you-for-life government contract. And yet he was heavily involved in politics. And this same company had 5 “lobbyists” in its employ. 5 Lobbyists? – what do these guys do all day – or are they sexy persuasive women?

RussHinzeIn the Royal Commission into corruption in Queensland a few years ago, Commissioner Tony Fitzgerald asked government Minister Russ Hinze (pictured), when Hinze was given a  ca.$400,000 loan at low interest, did the lender mention the fact that his lucrative commercial development was up for approval before him as Minister that afternoon.
Said Hinze:  “You don’t have to say anything, Mr Commissioner. It doesn’t work like that. “


Sinodinos was / is in a very influential position, mixing with ministers and assistant ministers and public servants who know him, maybe like him, maybe fear his influence and power. He doesn’t have to say a word. They all know he would like his company to get the contract. They all know he would like $20 million?  Who wouldn’t?

Am I too straight or something? And there is Sinodinos is personally standing to gain the aforesaid  $20 million if the contract comes through for Australian Water Holdings – and does anyone doubt that, with the assistant treasurer etc at the centre and Liberal governments all over the place – that it would not come through? — $20 Million !!!

ObeidThe ALP is fairly muted. Now I wonder how many members of parliament (apart from Eddie Obeid and family and friends) have shares in companies that are after government contracts. This should not be allowed at all.

And perhaps this sticks up my nose as much as anything. The great advocates of the open market and free trade and dog-eat-dog competition – guess what – they don’t want to get out there and compete – they want government contracts and PPPs –  government private partnerships  – where the government ensures the private firm cannot lose !! –  (But the government doesn’t have to put expenditure on their books – who is fooled?)

Asylum Seekers and the riot on Manus Island

My colleague Linda has written the following to her local Member of Parliament – I could not agree more. I reprint with her permission.

I have sent you three letters, and I believe that this is my third email to you, since you came into office. I even hand delivered one of those letters to your office personally. However, I have not received a single response from you. I wrote to the Queen and I received a response within 17 days. As your local constituent, I am extremely disappointed with your disinterest.

My letters and emails have been in relation to the Coalition government’s inhumane policies on asylum seekers, which are in direct opposition to international law. My letter to the Queen was on the same topic.

I am deeply disturbed to read and hear reports about the riot on Manus Island, but I believe a riot was inevitable. When you lock people up indefinitely in conditions that have been condemned by the UN and Amnesty International; do not provide adequate welfare services; do not process ANY of their claims for asylum; and tell them that their only chance for resettlement is in a country with corruption, high infant mortality, regular gang rapes of women, incarceration for anyone who is gay and little or no employment opportunities, you should realise that a riot is likely. When you locate this lock-up in a country with a history of corruption, violence and little law and order, you should also realise the locals will respond to a riot by breaking into the compound and beating and attacking people.

Current Immigration Department and Border Protection policies are cruel and inhumane. They destroy people mentally and physically. They inflict more torture and terror on those who came to ask for our help to escape persecution and torture. I will not stay silent and let the government do this in my name, and I would like some sort of response from you outlining how you are comfortable with supporting the policies of your party.

Yours Sincerely,
Linda Cusworth

Alla Famiglia — a Memoir from Alma De Santis

In Remembrance of the US First Division Marines who visited Melbourne for R and R during the Second World War.

The author, Alma De Santis,  is a close friend of mine, and a pioneer Civil Marriage Celebrant from the time of the founding Australian Statesman, Attorney-General Lionel Murphy.

For another audience I wrote the following reflection on her memoir.
I was deeply moved by the recollection of Alma de Santis, my dear friend, in the accompanying memoir.
When I was six or seven years old my family too hosted visiting American servicemen. They came here to heal after battle, before they headed back once again into the conflict zone – many of them to die.
It was President John F. Kennedy who famously said – “one of the greatest tragedies we humans experience is the death of young men.”
It is also said that the only real memory we preserve is “the speaking”.
Alma speaks – she speaks of a real and vivid memory over seventy years old, the time she was an impressionable young girl excited by the presence of a group of vital and fascinating young men who lit up her home and her household.
It is an historical pericope of life, love, excitement, loving and dying. It is a window on the bonding of the USA and Australia, it is a nostalgic longing for a short happy time burnt deep into the writers memory.
It is vivid moment which records the horror, the tragedy and the futility of war.
It is a moment strongly related to the immortal lament of the renowned poet Rupert Brooke

These hearts were woven of human joys and cares,
Washed marvellously with sorrow, swift to mirth.
The years had given them kindness. Dawn was theirs,
And sunset, and the colours of the earth.
These had seen movement, and heard music;
known Slumber and waking; loved; gone proudly friended;
Felt the quick stir of wonder; sat alone;
Touched flowers and and cheeks. All this is ended.

—————————————————–

ALLA FAMIGLIA -1942-43 – MELBOURNE (Alma Florence de Santis nèe Resuggan)

Over-paid over-sexed over-here were the headlines of the National Weekly Newspapers 1942—1943 of the friendly American invasion of approximately 15,000 First Division Marines in Melbourne, Australia.

The Marines were shipped to Melbourne for rest and recuperation after the grueling Guadalcanal campaign. They were suffering battle fatigue, dengue fever and some had malaria.

This is my story of our Marine family in Melbourne 1942/3. I am in my nineties now and didn’t want these stories to die with me, nameless, faceless, story-less and forgotten. So much has been written about the First Marine Division, “The Old Breed” in the Pacific 1942—1945 but not very much about their 9 months in Melbourne until they were shipped out on August 7, 1943.

To Robert, Tyrone, Seth, Carlo, Billy, Jim and Max of the First Marine Division, we knew you, we loved you, and we remember you.

May God bless “The Old Breed”. They all left their footprints in our hearts.

1stMarineDivision

………………………………………….

The majority of the Marines were 18 to 20 years old. For many of them this was their first time away from home. These young men formed enduring friendships with Australian families. They fell in love with Melbourne and we Australians reciprocated with affection.

They spread new ideas about music, sport, food and culture. Of course they were not here for a vacation, but to build up their strength and heal, refit and rest for future combat. If they were well enough and wanted to they could work on large building sites, concreting, laboring or doing frame and form work.

At that time my father’s firm was building the Royal Children’s Hospital. Dad had many Marines who liked the idea of helping out at the Children’s Hospital. When given leave from Balcombe Barracks and their part time training they would work at the Children’s Hospital with my father.

Dad liked the Marines and invited many home for Mum’s home cooked dinners, family picnics, family outings and trips to the country. They became part of our family. From memory our regulars were Robert, Tyrone, Seth, Carlo, Jim, Billy, Max, and Bud – more about Bud later.

A number of my family were in the army. I was working part-time in the Women’s Land Army. My brother George and my cousins had not yet left for Japan. They all got along well with the Marines. I remember they would all visit The Dugout, the Trocadero and Palm Court where the troops and the girls gathered to meet and dance. I didn’t go to the dances with them as I had only just turned 18. My brother and his friends would also take them to Luna Park, ice skating and to the football.

Dad once asked an officer friend of his who was a Major in the Army about the First Marine Division. The Major said “Harry, they are the best of the best, an elite corps, their values are high, they train hard, fight hard, work hard, drink hard, love hard and hurt hard.” Dad never forgot those words.

We had a self-contained bungalow in our garden and when on leave two or three or more of the boys, Mum never minded how many, would stay in the bungalow if they had overnight leave.

Every time we sat down to a meal with them you would feel the love and affection. Carlo would raise his glass, and say “alla famiglia” which in English translates to “the family”. Seventy years later though there are only two of us left, we still say “alla famiglia”.

The boys would spend a lot of the time in the kitchen. I remember any one of them would sneak up behind Mum and undo her apron. The others would scramble to pick it up and the offender would get a slap from Mum’s wooden spoon. Mum loved them.

Robert and Tyrone were both 20 years of age with a healthy interest in girls. Like so many of that age at that time, it was their coming of age, their rite of passage to adulthood. Melbourne equated with coming of age to many of these young men and many romances and sexual relationships began.

Robert and Tyrone met two nice girls a little older than themselves. They would go to dances, concerts, drives to the country and beaches. They brought the girls home once for dinner and to meet Mum and Dad and show their bungalow. The boys were always respectful and any romantic occurrences were never, ever conducted at our home.

After 2 or so months, the boys moved onto other girls, other interludes and other experiences.

Seth was a dear boy and a wonderful singer. I remember he would say “I sing like my Daddy”. He would sing ballads, blues, anything. I recall “Paper Doll”, “That Old Black Magic”, “My Foolish Heart”, “The Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” and so many others. He was a true southern laid back boy and would often say “goodnight y’al I’m going to bay-ed now”. He would go off singing “gawjah on my mind” in his southern accent. We could always forgive Seth anything when we heard him sing.

Seth initiated sing-a-longs which we would all enter into with much enthusiasm. Someone found a guitar and a violin which would rev things up a bit. Seth was semi-engaged to a girl back home but after being away for so long, he asked his Daddy to buy an engagement ring and planned to marry soon after his return to the U.S.A.

Seth was a friendly gossip who could not keep a secret. Snippets of his gossip would sift through our sunroom windows from the bungalow if the door was open. We could sometimes hear them discussing Carlos’ intense sexual episodes or stories about how Jim lost his innocence at 17 on a blanket in a cornfield or that Max had an affair with a librarian in the library at St Kilda. I recall Tyrone’s coming of age was whispered and incoherent and all that we heard was “Wow” at the end of the story.

Seth would sing “Georgia On My Mind” with tears in his eyes and say “Daddy and I will sing this together again soon”. Seth and his Daddy never got to sing again after the war.

Now to “flash” Carlo, born of Italian parents in America. He was very charismatic, very handsome, 24 years of age and a real ladies man. He loved the girls. As my aunt would say he had “molto sensuale eviene a letto con quelli occhi” (very sensual and come to bed eyes). When on leave Carlo would get dressed up, drop into the building site for two or so hours and a quick talk then go. A day or so later he would come home to the bungalow, come into the kitchen, kiss Mum on the cheek, tell her she was beautiful, have his breakfast, have a shower and go to bed before going back to the barracks.

Mum worried about Carlo, and asked Dad to talk to him “like a father”. I recall Dad saying “but Alma he is 25 a grown man this isn’t his coming of age. Carlo probably wrote the book on sex.” Mum insisted so Dad took Carlo into the lounge. Dad told Mum he spoke to Carlo about life, safe sex, unwanted pregnancies, loose women, gold diggers, family trouble and Marine trouble. The basis was girls and sex.

Evidently Carlo listened quietly, smiled and said “I thank you sir, that is real good advice, but haven’t you heard a Marine is a warrior by day, a professional by training, a lover by night and by the grace of God I am a Marine but I thank you sir for your advice and concern.” What could Dad say? Carlo kept to his pattern and Mum still worried.

Jim was an introspective, intelligent boy beyond his 20 years. Jim was a living image of the young Robert Redford with the same mouth and slow smile. Jim was an enigma. He never talked much about his family or his life back home. Jim could talk about anything if encouraged. He could talk about philosophy, mechanics or destiny.

Jim loved Mum and would spend time in the kitchen cutting up vegetables. Jim always told us all “The only thing I will promise a woman if she is with me, she will wake up smiling” and I bet many did.

Billy came from New Jersey. Billy was a delightful boy. He and Jim were mates and they would go to the movies, loved the country, and enjoyed trips to the mountains with us or by train.

Billy was engaged to his childhood sweetheart. Their wedding, her bridal gown, the wedding rings the honeymoon, reception, all arranged but the First Division was shipped out a week before it could take place. Billy would tell us with tears in his eyes “I have promised that we will marry a week after I am discharged.” They kept everything planned. Billy never got home, he was killed at Pelelui.

We heard later that Jim carried him to the wounded area but Billy had already gone. Retrieving wounded comrades from the field of fire is a Marine Corps tradition more sacred than life.

Dear Max, a boy from a broken home sent to live with his elderly grandmother when he was 12 years of age. His grandmother died when he was 15 years old. Max was alone with no family anywhere after his grandmother died. The school social worker heard his story and took him under her motherly wings and spoke to the school committee who kept him at school until he graduated with his High School Diploma.

Max was street smart and book smart and an avid reader. He was polite, friendly and a very nice human being.

He had worked after school in a hardware store and lived behind the shop and had done so since he was 15 years old.

After his graduation and the week he turned 18 years he joined the First Marine Division. He said “it was the only time in his life he belonged to anyone or anything important”. Max was so proud to be a Marine. Of all the boys his shoes were the shiniest, his clothes the best pressed, they were all, always neat and clean but Max was a degree ahead. Max loved the brotherhood of Marines above anything else and wanted everyone to know it.

One night coming home from the movies Max heard a small whimper from the corner of a shop front and stopped to investigate. He saw a small kitten. He brought it home to the bungalow where Robert and Tyrone were playing cards. They gave it milk and the kitten curled up on Max’s bed and slept.

In the morning they came to the kitchen and saw Mum. Dad was at the office. Mum said “What have you got under your jumper Max?” They all said “a cat, a kitten”. “Can we keep it please?” Mum said she looked at three tough Marines with wide eyes soon to go off to battles again, and said “is it a boy or a girl?” “A boy” they said in unison. “Well” said Mum “if he is going live here he will have to go to the vet or he will be out all night like Carlo looking for girls”. Mum and Max took him to the vet and so Bud became a much loved very spoiled member of the house.

Bud adored the Marines and when they went back to barracks to duty he would sit by the front gate waiting for them. He was known by all the neighbors and the passersby who would call out “Bud, not home yet mate”. Bud lived with us until 1957. He lived for another 14 years but was never quite the same after the boys left. Bud had the same close bonds of fidelity with the boys as they had for each other.

In early July 1943 the boys were taken off the building site and all returned to Balcombe Barracks. They would have weekend leave, but not together.

When Dad said goodbye to them all and thanked them he said he felt like crying. Dad told them as the Major said “you are an elite group”.

In the next few days Dad couldn’t find their tools. Eventually he found out that when the Marines had finished that final day they had thrown their picks, shovels, hammers and all their tools into the wet cement. There were about 35 to 45 Marines working there on shifts at that time. Dad’s only concern was that if in the future the hospital was demolished they would find the hospital was reinforced with picks, shovels and hammers.

The Marines knew there was something big ahead of them, more brutal, more bloody conflicts, their leave was considerably restricted and rarely together though there was than 15,000 Marines at Balcombe.

Serious training now as the First Marine Division was a land and sea amphibious unit. They practiced dawn landings from the H.M.A.S Manoora off the cliffs at Mt Martha near the Balcombe Barracks.

Dad rang his friend the Major and asked one favour. The favour was given but for just this once.

Four weeks before they left Melbourne on 7 August, 1943 they all came to the house and we all sat down to a wonderful meal together. Carlo said “alla famiglia”. Carlo called it “The Last Supper” but none of us laughed. Max said “Well mates if I charge follow me, if I retreat shoot me, if I am killed avenge me.”

We didn’t say goodbye just “we will see you all again” not believing it. Dear Mum had a code “never let anyone leave your side without feeling happier” but we all broke Mum’s code on July 6, 1943.

Robert, Tyrone, Seth and Billy were killed at either Guadalcanal or Pelelui. So many broken dreams. Whoever wrote “freedom is free”?

Jim and Carlo were honorably discharged. I heard Max stayed on with his band of brothers as an enlisted Marine.

War ended in 1945. As someone said “it’s the land of the free because of the brave”.

One of Dad’s brothers was killed in Europe. Another was a prisoner of war in Germany and another brother a highly decorated officer was home from Japan. My cousin returned from Japan as did my brother who then went back to Japan with the Occupation Force.

Life went on with only Bud left in the bungalow.

Letters with the remaining boys were sporadic then eventually ceased.

“Alla Famiglia”  (“The Family”)

We heard that Max was in Korea although we never heard any more about Carlo.

Then in early March 1946 Mum answered the front door and there smiling and standing tall was Jim Murlie Clifford from Deer Park, Washington. Youth hadn’t lasted in his face but maturity beyond his years was there and unwavering pride.

Some people live a lifetime wondering if they have amounted to anything, but Jim didn’t have that problem Mum said “the war is over Jim, you got home safely”. Mum said he replied “Mom I got malaria, dengue fever, battle fatigue, heart ache, but I never got killed” that’s all he said. For those that understand no explanation is necessary and for those who don’t understand no explanation is possible.

I remember Jim saying in 1946 that he could sum up everything that he had learned in three words “life goes on”.

Jim moved into the bungalow with Bud who was delighted to see him. Jim worked with Dad for a week or two then moved on. The Marines had taught them all how to kill but not how to deal with the killing. I think that was why Jim was a roamer and a wanderer. He was struggling with his demons.

Jim never stayed long anywhere and he really never ever left the Marines. Jim fought for peace but never found it. He missed the brotherhood, a friendship beyond friendship. Jim was so proud of the Marine tradition and of the First Division particularly. Hard to believe but it is the truth.

We heard that from 1946 – 1952 Jim employed a few tradesmen, designed and built 3 houses and built a beautiful 3 roomed log cabin in the mountains. We heard it was the talk of the area. I believe Jim moved on bought and sold real estate and cars, got married, got divorced, moved on, we heard he was living in the Pilbara, the iron ore fields in Western Australia but moved on again. We heard in 1958 he was with a woman down south but had moved on. We never heard anything more after that.

We put notices in the paper but received no response. We all hoped and prayed Jim had gone back to the United States, joined the Marines (which he had never really left), got married again, had children and settled down.

Dad’s brother a LT Colonel served in Japan and Korea and knew only too well the trauma and emotional causalities among the returned servicemen. They were hurting and emotionally damaged with recurring thoughts of the horror and atrocities of war. I recall Dad’s brother saying “A wanderer is not necessarily lost he is looking for a place of no remembrance which poor soul he cannot ever find in this life.” I remember him saying “There is no greater fortitude than courage in the face of overwhelming odds. Servicemen know all about that and the post traumatic stress”.

So that is the story of our Marine family in 1943 and of the happy times we all had. They were family to us like they were our own sons and brothers. For that short time a state of happiness existed between us all.

In conclusion, I want to share something amusing and truthful with you. Father Kevin Keaney, First Marine Division Chaplain wrote “You cannot exaggerate about the First Marine Division, they are convinced to the point of arrogance that they are the most ferocious warriors on earth and the amusing thing about them is that they are”.

God bless all Marines past and present so many of you have served your time in hell. If we ever get to heaven I know we will see you guarding Heaven’s Gates. Semper fidelis “always faithful”.

Alma de Santis nèe Resuggan
Justice of the Peace and Civil Marriage Celebrant Australia

My thanks to Marcus, Sharon and Kara for helping me type, proofread and format the story of my Marine family. I embrace you all.

First Marine Division “The Old Breed” – History

First Marine Division Regiments were in existence as early as March 8, 1911 when the first Marine Regiment was formed at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The First Marine Division was activated aboard the battleship USS Texas on February 1, 1941. It is the oldest, largest and most decorated in the United States Marine Corp.

Guadalcanal was the first major American Pacific campaign in World War II and the First Marine Division conducted combat operations as a division.

The Division’s actions during this operation won it the first of three Presidential Unit Citations during the war. The battles of its Peleliu and Okinawa culminated in additional citations.

Their shoulder patch was the first patch to be approved in the war and specifically commemorated the divisions sacrifices and victory in the battle of Guadalcanal.

The First Marine Division has served in the Korean War, Cuban Missile Crisis, Vietnam, Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm, Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. They have also provided disaster relief in Somalia, Bangladesh and the Philippines.

Whilst in Australia during World War II, the First Marine Division adopted the song “Waltzing Matilda” as a favourite and it soon became their official song.

Their motto is “No Better Friend, No Worse Enemy”.

Asylum seekers & 60% of Australians

Asylum seeker boatSo 60% of my fellow Australians think that asylum seekers are not genuine – and, wait for it, the government is not treating them harshly enough.


So where are these non-genuine asylum seekers from?


They cannot be from Iraq.
This place is a seething cauldron of violence – Shi’ites versus Sunnis – ceaselessly blowing each other to smithereens because God is on their side.


They cannot be from Afghanistan.
Afghanistan is in the midst of an endlessly violent civil war — Taliban versus the rest — and whatever you do, don’t even think about driving a car because roadside bombs are a dime a dozen, and chances are you will be blown to bits.


They cannot be from Iran.
The place is run by religious nutcases and if you show your head or express an opinion you may well be executed. Iran is the world record holder for executions –  more capital punishment even than China.

They cannot be from Sri Lanka.
One lot of Sri Lankans carpet bombed and blew to pieces thousands of innocents so they could kill the soldiers/terrorists/ freedom fighters who took refuge among the innocent people – and by all reports whatever Tamils are left are being horribly mistreated by their former enemies.

So where are these non-genuine asylum seekers from, Mr and Ms sixty percenter ?

Illegals

Maybe you have been influenced by this false word – and you have taken it in. This is the Hitler-Goebbels propaganda ploy right from the history pages of Nazi Germany.

Mr Abbott and Mr Morrison are saying that  people who come to this country asking for asylum are illegals.

Since when has it ever been illegal to come to a border?

Since when has it ever been illegal to come to a border and ask for help?

The real answer is never.

Legally, morally, socially any way you want to think about it – it is not illegal to come from a nut case country – especially a country in which we participated in a war, and thus exacerbated unbelievable misery and conflict.

People who live on this planet are entitled to ask for help from each other and the whole world recognises it, except Australia and, in the past, Nazi Germany.

And 60% of my fellow Australians have accepted this nonsense. Where is your intelligence?

Principles

I am told that Mr Abbott, Mr Pyne, Mr Hockey and Mr Rudd are practising Christians. Well, how about “do unto others as you would have them do to you”.

OR

Love the Lord they God with thy whole heart and thy whole soul and thy neighbour as thyself.

OR

What about the corporal works of mercy? (seven of them) These sum up Christian values of helping others for centuries. Look them up on Google.

Perhaps your are not a Christian or of another religion  but I am willing to bet you believe in fairness.

So a person comes to your border and asks you for help. So what do you do? You lock her up in a place very similar to a jail or concentration camp indefinitely.

She has committed no crime – the place you send her to is malaria infested or savagely hot, confined and uncomfortable. So you give her a choice – go back to the country where you will possibly face persecution, misery or death or keep living here in this disease prone place.

A lot more I could say –
our cruel stupidity and lies have led us to destroy our friendship with our closest neighbour,
the number of asylum seekers is minuscule compared with our total immigration intake,
we welcome people by plane but not by boat (how stupid is that?),
we are one of the most prosperous and affluent nations in the world etc. etc.

We are trying to stop people smugglers are we? Well go after the people smugglers, not their victims.

90%  of those processed in previous years have been found to be genuine refugees – if you are a sixty percenter and you think the government should be “harsher” on those we have locked up or locked away – I ask you to think again – there are better solutions to this problem – the current government is taking you for a sucker. Please don’t fall for it any more.

Demise of GMH in Oz

The Auto Industry – Holden Closing

Holden Monaro
I think the capitalists do not understand the difference between competition and over-competition.
Gideon Haigh, the sports writer , recently wrote a book on the car industry in Australia.
I am pretty sure he said that there are 350 new model cars for sale in Australia today.
It is too many.
It is like marriage celebrants – 2000 would be plenty for Australia – with tons of competition – yet they have appointed 10,500 !! How can one sustain skills with such bitter undercutting competition –
What if you made every car a taxi – increasing competition – disaster!!
No wonder Holden has gone under.
Limited Capitalism works in limited arenas, with strict regulation. Like a game of Rugby League – the competition is fierce – but the regulator (the referee) has to be tough, alert, transparent and just. The competition does not work without the regulator. And it does not work if there are a hundred teams in the competition. For crying out loud we need good government as well.

Gideon Haigh’s Book

http://www.penguin.com.au/products/9781743483510/end-road-penguin-specials