On Monday the 25th of May, a chill went through my veins in a way that is indescribable with words, as my arms started to convulse in the throes of an overwhelming anxiety attack that left me feeling sick to both my personal and professional cores.
There in black and white on the screen in front of me, was a paragraph that challenged not only my gender identity and sexuality, but my ability to remain professional and impartial in a way that no journalist, let alone person, should ever be expected to face. Like a rabbit caught within the eyes of a snake, it left me feeling terrified in a way that I had not felt in years, as the memories of some of the worst times in my life came flooding back. Read more
A few days ago, The Guardian’s Fred McConnell asked a question that’s left me thinking pretty seriously about the society that I’m living in today. Namely, does Sydney have a progressive enough environment that LGBTI people, particularly Trans-people, can feel loved and safe within.
Now to most people that would be a pretty straight-forward question, however after some of the events that I’ve experienced over the past few months, I’m reticent to give either a definitive yes or no as an answer.
That’s because while there’s undeniably a lot of goodwill towards the LGBTI community as a whole present within the Sydney metropolitan area, there’s also a lot of issues, concerns and events that get conveniently swept underneath the carpet within this city on a day to day basis, by both the powers that be and the LGBTI community itself as a whole.
Now for the most part, I’ve been extremely lucky ever since I packed my bags and headed down to Sydney a couple of years ago from the far reaches of northern New South Wales. From having the unwavering support of service providers such as The Gender Centre through to having a lot of friends and mentors from both the LGBTI and wider community who’ve stood steadfast beside me each step of the way, I couldn’t have wished for a better time or place to transition in.
Needless to say, with friends, mentors and allies such as Kate McClymont, Christine Forster, Michaela Whitbourn, Virginia Edwards, Amy Coopes, Lauren Ingram, Rachel Smith, Julie Lawless, Mark Textor, Sarah Davis, Ebony Allen, Peter Lloyd, Penny Sharpe, Tracey Spicer and a whole studio full of people from places such as Fairfax, News Corp, The Hoopla, SBS, Seven and the ABC amongst others, I know that I’ve got both the personal and professional networks that I need here in Sydney not only in order to thrive as a person, but to love life in general as well. Read more
If there’s something that I’ve always wished for throughout my life, it’s been the ability to always be myself all day and every day in ways that I could only dream of previously imagining.
From exploring the utter highs and lows of humanity through to the journeys of family, joy, sorrow and love, I’ve always wanted to experience everything that life could offer me, while embracing it all.
Now while I’m now doing that and I feel as if I’m experiencing the much lauded concept of “having it all”, I can’t help but recognise the fact that for each and every one of us that there’s a different meaning to that phrase which in turn directly challenges how we live and engage with the never ending events within our lives.
Like a massive soap bubble taking shape within a home-made bubble wand, our minds are constantly moulding the desires that each and every one of us has throughout each and every stage of our lives. So while sometimes “having it all” may feel impossible to grasp and comprehend for any of us, at other times it can be completely and utterly within our reach.
If there’s one thing that will stay with me for many years from the afternoon of the Lindt Cafe Siege, it’ll be the memory of seeing families strolling up the length of Martin Place and taking “selfies” from just beyond the confines of the police barricade. Like moths being entranced into the flame, it was almost as if some people were viewing the ultimately horrific scene unfolding across the street from the 7 newsroom as a festival, rather than a psychological nightmare that’d emerged from the depths of Hell.
But while the general public is often shielded from such atrocities (hence their fascination with such events when they happen on their front door), more often than not it’s the emergency services, professional media, victim’s families and social workers amongst others who bear the full brunt of the stories that tend to unfold in extremely graphic fashion around them, as it’s ultimately their responsibility to do so. From the Royal Commission into Child Abuse through to the events within the Lindt Chocolate Cafe, sometimes there’s scenes that can neither become unseen nor be forgotten by those who witness them.
With ICAC’s Operation Spicer having recently drawn to a close, many people around New South Wales (and Australia as a whole) have been wondering over recent weeks just how deep the taint of corruption has reached within both state and federal politics over recent years.
From coal loaders & “Black Ops” in Newcastle through to property development within the Western Suburbs of Sydney, neither Labor nor the Coalition have escaped the ICAC’s 007-like wrath during Operation Spicer, with over a dozen current and former politicians having been caught up within one of the longest public inquiries of the Independent Commission Against Corruption’s history.
Between delivering detailed analysis and commentary of the events occurring at ICAC over recent months with a smattering of cricket related puns and Shakespearean prose for SBS News, not to mention live tweeting the proceedings of the commission to the point where even Counsel Assisting The Commissioner Geoffrey Watson was publicly saying that I was proverbially on fire, I’ve essentially had a front-row seat (with my Nikon D3200) to one of the most spectacular periods of political intrigue in Australia’s history over the course of the past few months.
Now while such comments would obviously partially be the result of Mr Abbott and his Coalition colleagues being generally unhappy with the ABC’s portrayal of intelligence related stories and the airing of asylum seeker claims of abuse over recent weeks (which Scott Morrison has ineptly managed due to his steadfast refusal to provide transparent immigration information and video content to the Australian public which would refute such claims), it’s not as if the ABC hasn’t been giving away “Free Kicks” to their critics of late. As evidenced by the ABC’s New Year’s Eve coverage earlier this month, the drunken actions of a few ABC journalists, comedians and presenters can be all the mud that’s needed in order to make it appear that a public broadcaster is completely and utterly out of control when attached to other grievances.
But are claims that the ABC is biased, unpatriotic, under-regulated and un-representative of Australian society valid, or are they simply just an obvious level of pandering to a small but vocal ideological element within the Liberal partyroom and ideological base, which would like to see the ABC privatised? Furthermore, do such claims really stack up when you take into consideration that of the 19 former ABC empolyees that had gone on to become politicians as of a Senate Estimates inquiry into the issue on the 23rd of May 2007, that nine had joined the Coalition, while the remainder had joined Labor?
Well, the devil is in the details in regards to those particular questions.
Now not counting the digital radio networks, the ABC has 60 Local Radio stations and 4 national radio networks within its possession at this time, not to mention four nationally broadcast digital television networks. From music through to sport, arts culture, agriculture, law, mining, religion, history and science amongst others, the ABC has a wealth of units and a broad church of staff, which help them to fulfill their government mandated charter. Needless to say, all of these facilities provide a massive amount of content on a daily basis to all elements of Australian society, most of which statistics would show, isn’t of a political nature.
In order to prove that point, I’m going to put the spotlight on the staff and facilities of the first radio station that I interned with a number of years ago, ABC New England Northwest, which is nestled up in the foothills of the Great Dividing Range in Northern New South Wales. A funky and innovative group of people, these journalists highlight the diversity, professionalism and patriotism which is found across the ABC on a daily basis.
Instead, it was a whole bunch of journalists, comedians and presenters embarrassing themselves on air during the New Years Eve celebrations in Sydney, due to what appears to be a series of over-indulgences with alcohol.
Now “teetotaler” jokes aside, I’m not someone who’s against having a good time or the occasional tumbler of single-malt scotch. I am however, a person who’s an absolute sticker when it comes to maintaining professionalism on air. That’s because while the cameras and microphones are on, you are for all intents and purposes, the public face of the organisation that you are broadcasting for. Whether it be the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, CNN, BBC, News Corp, Fairfax, Ten, Nine, Seven, Southern Cross Austereo, SBS or even a little university radio station like my beloved TuneFM, as journalists and content producers, we all have a responsibility to uphold the values and public trust of the organisations that we represent.
I’m going to be blunt about @ABCTV’s #NYE coverage – Some people need to be pulled over coals for drinking on air. Not professional at all.
Call me an idealist if you want, though I’m a firm believer that those things still mean something in the modern world. Whether it be online, on-air or in print, people still gravitate towards quality and will often be a lot more forgiving in their commentary, when they see that something was a genuine problem, rather than an embarrassment that could easily have been avoided with a little bit of responsible forward thinking. These are principles that were instilled in me by a mixture of mentors, friends and colleagues long before I even looked at uttering a single word on air, and have served me well over the years in multiple situations.
A few weeks ago, my friend and colleague Monique Schafter gave me a heads up that a documentary on pedophilia that she’d been directing would soon be airing on the ABC. Entitled “Our Little Secret”, Monique’s documentary follows the personal survival story of Chas Fisher and his pursuit to determine what makes some people sexually abuse children.
Now I’m under no illusions about how provocative “Our Little Secret” is going to be once it hits ABC2’s airwaves at 9-30pm on the 11th of December. That’s partially because unlike most people I’ve seen Monique weave her magical media skills in person, but mostly because I’ve spent most of the past 18 months investigating both historical and more contemporary pedophilia allegations, convictions and court appearances from across the New England region of New South Wales. From instances of child abuse involving the Church through to parents and other family members assaulting their own children, the horrendous nature of such abuse touches everyone who investigates it, whether they be emergency responders, officers of the courts, medical practitioners or journalists such as myself.
Throughout the time that I’ve been investigating this issue within the New England, I’ve come across content that rivals (and in some cases also involves) some of the worst of the evidence presented during the Special Commission into the Maitland-Newcastle Diocese of the Roman Catholic Church, with hundreds of child sexual abuse cases being reported within the New England region between September 1986 and March 1987 alone. As well as this, I’ve seen friends repeatedly shatter themselves to pieces once the haunting dread of pedophilia has crept upon their doors, while I’ve also uncovered manefesto-like academic thesis’s of self-confessed child abusers who have attempted to apologise for their actions utilising historical prose, questionable financial transactions that have been designed to protect offenders and some seriously disturbing actions that have been undertaken by the Police and Judiciary from that region, which should have been the subject of an inquiry a long time ago.
But are the thoughts, experiences and opinions that Chas Fisher exhibits along with the people that he interviews within “Our Little Secret” unique, or are they more broadly representative of pedophilia survivors as a whole than we are currently aware? Coincidentally, many of the questions that Chas Fisher asks during this documentary are also ones that were raised by current affairs programs in the New England such as 9-8’s (NEN) “Monday Report” during the late 1980’s. Entitled “No Excuses”, parts of Neil Warren’s story focused on the experiences and thoughts of a pedophilia survivor who was refered to as “Jane Doe” throughout the course of the production. As evidenced by the edited footage attached below, there’s a remarkable similarity between the questions that both victims and victim support facilities are asking now, in comparison to what was being asked by society in general throughout other times in Australia’s history.
A U.S. embassy spokesman in Jakarta declined to comment, but a U.S. government document showed the unit had received technical support, training and equipment under the State Department’s Anti-Terrorism Assistance (ATA) program since 2003.
An Indonesian official, who spoke on condition on anonymity, confirmed the unit got Australian and U.S. help in advanced wiretapping technology, and also some British and French aid.
Indonesia and the United States are likely to discuss further security cooperation during Obama’s visit. Washington has been considering whether to lift a ban on military training for Indonesia’s notorious special forces unit, known as Kopassus.
A few days ago, Andrew Stafford posted one hell of an interesting article on Mumbrella about freelance journalists and other content producers not getting paid for the material that they produce, by various media outlets. Needless to say, it was fiery and gave me the general feeling that a river of blood had been created during its production, purely from the frustration of seeing hours of work being all for naught time after time, with only the hint of “exposure” being given as potential remuneration.
But why stop there? While I admit that it would be fun to grill both Crikey and MamaMia amongst others in-depth like Andrew has over their policies towards the remuneration of bloggers and various freelancers for their time, perhaps the way that some parts of the media treat casual employees (and how freelancers often view themselves and their work) can help explain why so many media companies worldwide are in the dismal states that they find themselves in. As fanciful as this might sound, it’s a thought worth pursuing given some discussions that I’ve had with some Human Relations experts over the past few days.
During one such discussion, I had one of the aforementioned experts explain to me the intricacies of the “Personal Advertisement” and the impact that it can have on the way that people are not only viewed by others, but how they view themselves. As simple as it sounds, the way that somebody (such as a freelance journalist) communicates with others either within their CV, story pitches or the first 30 seconds of encountering them in a public setting, can be the difference in whether they get work awarded to them or not. Consequentially she said, if we don’t value ourselves as people and wear a uniform of confidence and honesty when we meet new people, then it will be impossible for them to trust and freely desire to engage financially with us. Needless to say, that kind of got me wondering if the same thing could be said about the media industry as a whole, which would in turn explain why some media companies are thriving, while others are in dire financial trouble.