I began to read all
sorts of things, such as one fantastic book called LESBIAN NUNS: BREAKING
SILENCE (ed. Rosemary Curb & Nancy Manahan, Bantam/Corgi 1985.)
nuns stood in various relationships to their Christian or Catholic faith.
Some of them lost their faith and became pagan and others even stayed
within a convent setting and considered themselves an 'out' lesbian.
It was a big thing
for me to read that book. At that time I joined a group called the Christian
Lesbian Collective, which was operational in Melbourne and Sydney. I began
to be involved in 'gay' activism within the Anglican and broader church.
There was a split
within the group between those who wanted to embrace activism and those
who didn't. It was also my first awakening to what class was - for example,
I was already relatively highly educated with the support of my parents
and I hadn't realized what a level of privilege that was. That was a pretty
big thing to take on board.
I met a woman in
this group who wanted to set up an urban community in North Melbourne.
She was living with a friend, a straight woman, and we all got on well.
I moved in.
Unfortunately that eighteen months was a fairly disillusioning experience,
but it was in that context that I first listened to South African freedom
and other social justice activist music.
We also did lots
of things within the churches in North Melbourne, putting on various services
using this music, and this was my politicisation at that time.I
also became involved in the movement in the Movement for the Ordination
of Women in the Anglican church.
In 1988 I went to
England with a contingent of Australian women who joined a women's protest
group from countries that have the Anglican Communion, like Canada and
various African countries. These were fantastic activist women, and at
this gathering I even had the opportunity to meet one of the women who
had been part of the so-called Philadelphia Eleven - women from
the US who hung out for women's ordination. They approached a sympathetic
retired Bishop (once you are a Bishop in the Anglican Church you never
lose the power to ordain people) and arranged an irregular ordination,
which then could not be revoked.
So these eleven women
became the first women priests in the Anglican communion. It was a long
time before the first Australian would be ordained - Britain got there
I couldn't bear
the inequitable language in the Church - it never seemed to change. I
wanted inclusive language and would go to church and keep going for, probably,
another ten years and keep being faced with non-inclusive language when
" I don't have
to make it all ok for the Church. I can let this go".
Also, the sense of
faith I had grown up with as a child changed.
So, with an extreme
sense of loss, I left the Anglican Church. It was my culture and my community
up to that point so it was a big loss. I had been immersed in the Church.
I was singing liturgical music the whole year.
I felt then that
feminism was my main way of viewing the world. The church had been by
whole life, really, so I wondered what I was going to do with myself from
the age of 26! I applied to study music therapy. I had been really impressed
with women's activism in Britain. I had visited Greenham Common in 1988
and I thought that British women had written the book on direct action.
I was so impressed by that I wanted to go back to England and to spend
time there. I thought
"how can I do
I applied for a
music therapy course and funding and got a British Council Grant and a
place in a course. It was supposed to be for a year but I stayed there
for seven years. It was good - really good.
When I was in Britain
I was active ANTAR (Australians for Native Title asnd Reconciliation)
and it was eye opening in terms of getting a different perspective on
Australia's racist history, particularly as it followed involvement in
racism awareness work I had done in Australia. In 1988 I had been to a
racism consciousness raising workshop in Healesville. It really opened
my eyes. It was a truly amazing weekend.
There were Aboriginal
speakers there and it was from then that I started to write songs. One
of the earliest ones I wrote was about a place called Coranderrk, and
Tom Roper handing back the cemetery there to the Aboriginal people whose
ancestors were buried there. Eventually, due to a number of factors (high
amongst them being the difficulty of getting adequate housing when on
a fairly low income), I came back to Australia. The first couple of years
were just survival but in 2003 things really started to connect when I
began Buddhist meditation and I read the work of a woman called Joanna
She is a fantastic
author who has explored Buddhism for its resources for activists, connecting
it with a way of working known as Deep Ecology, which invites people
to practice locating themselves in a bigger picture, both in the world
community, and also in the history of the planet, in order to begin to
feel some empowerment around issues such as nuclear warfare, climate change,
loss of habitat, the extinction of species, and so on.
I suppose I am a
bit between being an eco-feminist and being a Buddhist. That is where
my focus lies now. I look to the resources of spirituality, meditation
and inner resources, the connections with earth and the web of life, to
I had a brief period
of involvement in an anarchist group in London, and also in the anarchist
scene here in Melbourne. It was never a complete fit for me but I realized
I was much more of an anarchist than a socialist or a Marxist communist.
Anarcha-feminism works for me as a political outlook, but alongside a
framework of earth awareness and some commitment to cultivating spiritual
There is no such
thing as freedom in one sense - you can be free of great need and relatively
free of oppression but this does not mean freedom from any kind of constraints
or limitations. To me freedom means the liberty to be able to function
autonomously within the whole web of life and with awareness that what
we do has an impact on everyone and everything else.
It requires thought
and constant mindfulness. It only works to try to create conditions that
give rise to a better life if you are doing it with the whole in mind.
The moment what you do is inequitable and the moment one group is benefiting
more than another, well, life has a way of trying to iron that inequity
out. So, in this time we are living where there is that much inequity,
people rise up. Of course they do - to try and redress the balance.
I like working one-on-one
or in small groups of people and I do that with teaching in various ways.
I run a women's drumming group and I do instrumental teaching and music
therapy. For the last 12 year I have mainly worked in disability as a
music therapist, though also in other client areas such as mental health
The other area that
really embodies my activism is my work as a singer-songwriter. I have
been active as a singer-songwriter (as I mentioned earlier) since my awakening
to Indigenous history in Australia, which was in the late 80s. I combine
personal songs with songs of observation and story-telling about people
I hear about, activists, people struggling to live in situations of violence,
live with the effects of globalisation and so on. I try to bear witness
to and to honour the amazing efforts of the people whose stories inspire
me to keep going.
Just this year,
a new area of work has opened up for me, and I am now doing less music
therapy and working in a community for homeless women. With its roots
in the Catholic church, the house was set up by Sisters of Mercy, though
it is run as a business now, with a casework team of which I am now a
I made a connection
through The Grove - a women's spirituality centre in Brunswick.
I started working there as a music therapist.
Women become homeless
by various routes such as domestic violence, refugees without a support
network, many different ways.
Working there has
really put things in perspective for me. It shows me how relatively privileged
I have been and seeing how the resources you have had and your family
background have shaped your life, and I see what a life is like without
Reconciling the workload,
and the level of need, and the number of people needing this service with
the time and hours allotted to meet this is stressful, but what keeps
me going is the women.
They are fantastic
and I just really love them.