PIVOT 03 Story Title Equity THE JOURNAL OF THE FULCRUM .AGENCY ISSUE 04
From Latin aequitāt-, stem of aequitās ‘evenness, smoothness, fairness’: 1 justice according to natural law or right. 2a the money value of a property or of an interest in a property in excess of claims or liens against it. 2b the common stock of a corporation. 2c a risk interest or ownership right in property. 2d a right, claim, or interest existing or valid in equity. 3 a branch of law that developed alongside common law and is concerned with fairness and justice, formerly administered in special courts.
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Team Emma Williamson Co-Founder / Partner Kieran Wong Co-Founder / Partner Nick Juniper Principal Andrew Broffman Principal Emma Brain Head of Communications Heather MacRae Associate Akira Monaghan Architect Tessa Ansell Creative Direction & Design Mark Braddock Project Manager Jessica Richings
Photo by Bo Wong
REFLECTIONS ON EQUITY
This issue sets out to explore equity, and in doing so highlights and foregrounds inequity, often easier to describe and demonstrate in our contemporary society. Inside are discussions of the role of equity in finance (always good to have lots of equity!), in society, in housing, in how our governments act towards us, in what pandemics expose, in who owns what and how. We often frame our work in the pursuit of equity. It provides a challenge to our values and ambitions, and yet is equity enough?
Our recent visit to the Garma Festival in Arnhem Land highlighted the ongoing effect of the inequities of land distribution, settlement, and policy. Barriers literally baked into our founding documents, systemically designed to foster inequity. And yet Garma provided highlights of hope, with people pushing back against the notion of ‘wicked problems.’
And of course it would be unprecedented of us not to mention the pandemic. The impacts of lockdowns were minimised here on the west coast and minimised further for those fortunate to have access to sick leave, online learning platforms, schools that could operate
digitally, families that had NBN and laptops for each of their kids. The inequities of access to education were highlighted after tearing our hair out from two weeks of home-schooling and then reading about the single mum in Sydney, working through lockdowns with four kids at home alone with no computer …
Perhaps equity is simply the starting point, the call to arms in an ongoing search for justice. We’ve delivered five issues of this journal since founding The.Fulcrum. Agency. Each issue has helped clarify our thinking, broadened our relationships and networks, and reminded us of why we practice. We still have a long way to travel but it feels now is the right time to draw a breath, refocus our collective thoughts and create new opportunities in 2023. We are very much looking forward to sharing this with you.
EQUITY 05 Opening
Kieran Wong and Emma Williamson Co-Founders, TheFulcrum.Agency
For each journal we choose a word to drive the content. We think our chosen word has an initial directness; we feel we might know what kind of content it will deliver. We are always wrong. Every word is loaded, deeper and multiple readings of it exist. Our contributors find ways to stretch the limits of what it could be, how it can be applied, and what it could mean.
My name is Thom Studio A is a Sydney-based arts company that provides professional development for artists with intellectual disabilities. To learn more about what they do, we spoke with Founder and CEO Gabrielle Mordy and artist Thom Roberts, who shared an insight into the curious and delightful lens through which he sees the world.
The north of Australia is warming at a concerning speed. Housing in remote communities is not designed to shield its occupants from the intense heat brought about by climate change. In his typical punchy style, Kieran Wong asks what can be done to enable First Nations people to remain on Country when temperatures no longer support human life?
We’ve long admired Nightingale’s resolve to disrupt the housing market. In Victoria at least, they’re making an impact in the delivery of socially and environmentally sustainable housing, at a price that allows a new gener ation of buyers to enter the market. Amelia Borg reviews their first regional project in the charming Gold Rush town of Ballarat.
01 of 09 Akira Monaghan 11 02 of 09 Andy Fergus 17 03 of 09 Angelina Pillai 19 04 of 09 Maria Osman 23 CONTENTS On ‘EQUITY’ 08—
Pain it Forward
Someone rightly made the point that up until now our journal had not included any content from anyone under 30. We didn’t have to look too far to find Jemima Williamson-Wong, law and sustainability student, climate activist and fledgling Instagram influencer. In Pain it Forward, Jemima asks her Gen Z followers a series of questions about their thoughts and fears for the future.
In the latest edition of the Fatin Tapes, Meri talks to Dr Josie Douglas, Wardaman woman, GM at the Central Australian Aboriginal Congress and signatory to the Uluru Statement of the Heart. Together they contemplate truth-telling, the need to give First Nations people a voice, and the complexity of passing on culture in a modern world. This is critical reading as we move closer towards a referendum.
A Silly Blue Jumper
Like many West Australians, we laughed hysterically at Premier McGowan’s ‘going for a run and having a kebab’ comment. It provided a moment of collective joy during a period of grim lockdowns and fear. Emma Buswell loved it so much she turned the iconic line into a jumper, building on her portfolio of knitwear as social commentary. Now it’s time to see what she does with the infamous $11.99 lettuce …
Art historian Melissa Miles examines the media portrayal of women in cities at night, and how these constructed images fail to capture the breadth of safety issues in public space. Miles argues that we need to look beyond white, middle class and heteronormative experience to develop cities in which all people can feel safe.
05 of 09 Franca Sala Tenna 29 06 of 09 Natalie Jenkins 33 07 of 09 Stephen Ivey 37 08 of 09 Zac James 49 09 of 09 Andrew Broffman 55
Equity — our most challenging theme yet. Fortunately, we live and work amongst a community of people who have each brought their own intelligent take on the word, and in doing so opened our eyes to new ideas, provocation, and creative action. Be challenged and enjoy.
Illustrations by Queenie Thum
EMMa wIllIaMsOn Architect
Editor-in-Chief, architect, co-owner of WA’s best plant shop and campground. There is nothing Emma cannot do. thefulcrum.agency
EMMa braIn Comms Director
After more than 10 years of working with Emma and Kieran, EB has become a professional cat wrangler whose calm exterior belies her challenge.
EMMa bUswEll Artist
Textile artist, curator, writer and the creative genius behind Premier McGowan ‘there’s nothing unlawful about going for a run and eating a kebab’ sweater — it still makes us smile! emmabuswell.net
A Silly Blue Jumper (p60)
Has limited regard for print deadlines but we love him all the same. Kieran’s essay sets the tone for each edition. thefulcrum.agency Hot Mess (p08)
Founder & CEO
Founder and CEO at Studio A, a Sydney-based agency providing support and opportunity to artists with intellectual disabilities.
My name is Thom (p40)
Uni Student & Climate Activist
As WA Convener of the Australian Youth Climate Coalition, Jemima is busy getting young folk to engage with the climate crisis through positive actions.
Pain it Forward (p20)
aMElIa bOrg Architect
Amelia is a Director at Sibling Architecture and our go-to person for project reviews on the East Coast. siblingarchitecture.com
Nightingale Sings (p50)
Jess keeps us (by that we mean Mark and the two Emmas) focused on the finish line. We’d be lost without her. blockbranding.com
PrOF. MElIssa MIlEs Art Historian
Melissa is an Art Historian at Monash University with expertise that includes photography history and theory, feminist art history and theory and contemporary visual culture. monash.edu
An Archibald Prize finalist and Studio A member, Thom uses art as a medium to share his passions and experience of the world.
My name is Thom (p40)
MarK braddOcK Creative Director
Co-founder at Block Branding, creative consultant to TheFulcrum. Agency, and the one who makes these pages sing. blockbranding.com
MErI FaTIn Journalist
The mind behind the Fatin Tapes. Meri conducts each interview with the right balance of inquisitiveness and empathy. merifatin.com
Healing Hearts (p24)
Despite an increasing focus by government and their agencies, the impact of climate change on remote First Nations communities has been wilfully underestimated. Here, TheFulcrum.Agency’s Kieran Wong asks what will happen to these communities when their Country becomes unlivable.
Words by Kieran Wong
2022 was a pretty great year to attend Australia’s premier Indigenous cultural exchange, the Garma Festival. It was equal parts electric and emotional. To be under the shade of a large tin roof, in view of the Gulf of Carpenteria, whilst the newly appointed PM outlined the referendum questions that would enshrine the Voice in our Constitution … it felt like a moment of sunshine after a long and challenging winter of silence.
I even got to ask a question on Q&A. According to my family it was a career highlight, but in truth it wasn’t the question I had hoped to ask. I submitted two questions but the more pressing one wasn’t selected by the show’s pro ducers. Missing from Garma’s forums and Q&A’s panel was any discussion around the impact of rising temperatures on culture and community and the viability of inhabiting Coun
try across the north and at the centre of Australia. After failing to get traction in my one shot on national television, I have been testing my concerns in smaller forums. Since returning from Garma, I have been talking with John Singer, Executive Director at Nganampa Health Service on the APY Lands. John has described the way in which cultural practice is changing to deal with the increasing heat; ceremonies and activities are either taking place in the evening, reduced in length, or not being done at all.
If the science holds true and the situation worsens, what is the future of cultural practice on Country that is being irreversibly changed as a result of the warming planet? John noted (with irony) our new Government’s acknowledgement of the impact of the climate crisis on our Pacific Island neighbours, without recognising the crisis that’s occurring in our own country — displacement, forced migration, loss of culture, community and the ability to care for Country. He questioned whether the Govern
EQUITY 12 Hot Mess
ment would acknowledge that ‘climate refugees’ exist here in Australia right now.
The standard definition of the term ‘refugees’ refers to people fleeing across national borders. People displaced inside a nation are generally not considered refugees under international law. If we think of Australia as a place more akin to Europe and made up of numerous nation states, then the movement of people across First Nations borders (with ‘Nations’ being the critical bit) aligns more closely with the UN HCR definition of a refugee. That is, people moving across national borders as, ‘persons displaced in the context of disasters and climate change.’¹ We need to acknowledge the multitude of nations that make up the continent we now call Australia, and the real and challenging impact of movement
1 https://www.unhcr.org/en-au/ climate-change-and-disasters. html
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Akira Monaghan Architect
Indulge me while I attempt a connection between ‘equity’ and poo.
A colleague recently had an unfortunate encounter with raw sewerage in his backyard. An inspection opening overflowed in what I visualise to be a type of chocolate fondue fountain, but less fun. The sewerage then flowed into his swimming pool. Not to worry though, it’s too cold to swim, and the poo breach was dealt with swiftly by the authorities, who treated the situation as the biological hazard that it was.
At TF.A, we work on housing projects in remote Aboriginal communities. Raw sewerage in yards is commonplace, but unlike Perth, there is no rapid response from the authorities. A blocked septic tank can lead to the failure of health hardware such as toilets, hand basins, and kitchen sinks — thereby seriously inhibiting the ability of people to remain healthy.
I want to see infrastructure equity between urban and remote homes. I mean shit happens, but shit fountains shouldn’t!
EQUITY 13 Hot Mess
Kieran Wong asks a question of ABC’s Q&A panel at the Garma Festival in 2022.
‘Australia posts Southern Hemisphere’s highest temperature of 2021
‘A weather station in Mardie, WA has just registered the highest tempera ture of the year in Australia and the Southern Hemisphere.
‘Northwestern Australia has been baking in an intense heatwave over the last several days, with a stubborn mass of hot air sending temperatures soaring into the mid-to-high forties day after day.’
across these nation state lines for Indigenous people.
Human comfort is the result of the right mix of factors, in particular temperature and humidity. A critical measurement is known as the ‘wet bulb temperature’² (shown in degrees Tw) and indicates the temperature of a thermometer after a wet cloth has passed its surface. With higher levels of humidity, less evaporation occurs to cool the surface. Humans rely on sweating to cool their bodies and wet bulb temperatures of 31.5Tw have been described as the upper limits of human survivability.³
Several places around the world have recently recorded wet bulb temperatures of above 31.5Tw and this includes two sites in Western Australia and the Northern Territory. So far, these temperatures are unprecedented (and brief in occurrence), but most climate experts predict that wet bulb temperatures above 31.5Tw will occur in more locations and for longer periods as vulnerable re gions are increasingly affected by the climate crisis.
So, what is the link to ‘equity’ here? There are many — the first being the inequitable distribution and impact
of the climate crisis on poor and vulnerable populations. Think here of the people without insurance in Lismore, or displaced farmers in Pakistan flooded by unprecedented monsoonal rains. Our neighbours in the Pacific Islands are experiencing ongoing inundation and coastal erosion, while wildfires ravage rural populations in Europe. Those with the least are being hit the hardest, and this, of course, includes many First Nations communities around the world.
Migration due to the climate crisis is happening across all populations, with many people in wealthier com munities and populations around the world participating in what’s known as a ‘managed retreat’.⁴ In Australia, the search for better climates is often part of a midlife sea-change, made easier by digital connectivity, improved regional infrastruc ture, and the accumulation of wealth as a result of a suite of generous tax incentives focussed on housing.
Our government is acutely aware that many voters view Australia’s housing supply as a wealth-creating asset, not as a human right or societal responsibility. This is especially relevant to First Nations communities, where
EQUITY 14 Hot Mess
2 Wet Bulb Temperature: The Tem perature of Evaporation. The wet bulb temperature Tw (or tw) or isobaric wet bulb temperature, is the temperature an air parcel would have if adiabatically cooled to saturation at constant pressure by evaporation of water into it, all latent heat being supplied by the parcel. https://www.sciencedirect. com/topics/engineering/ wet-bulb-temperature#:~: text=2A.&text=The%20wet%20 bulb%20temperature%2T, being%20supplied%20by%20 the%20parcel
3 Wet bulb temperature: The crucial weather concept that actually tells us when heat becomes lethal https://www. salon.com/2021/07/18/ wet-bulb-temperatureclimate-change/
4 See: https://theconversation. com/managed-retreat-doneright-can-reinvent-cities-sotheyre-better-for-everyoneand-avoid-harm-from-floodingheat-and-fires-163052 or, https://theconversation. com/government-funded-buy outs-after-disasters-are-slowand-inequitable-heres-howthat-could-change-103817 or, https://theconversation.com/ how-managed-retreat-fromclimate-change-couldrevitalize-rural-america-revisit ing-the-homestead-act-169007
5 https://www.shelterwa.org.au/ wp-content/uploads/2021/05/ HousingHealthWealth_ Summary_Oct2020_ SUMMARY.pdf
6 Chris Bowen’s comments as Minister for Climate Change and Energy such as at the Electric Vehicle Summit on 19 Aug 2022: https://minister. dcceew.gov.au/bowen/ speeches/addressnational-ev-summit ‘As we acknowledge our First Peoples, I’d like to acknowledge two truths: Firstly, that there is no inequality that climate change doesn’t make worse. This includes Indigenous disadvantage, whether it be people in sub-standard remote housing or the people of the Torres Strait dealing with the impacts of climate change on their beautiful island homes that I visited recently. And secondly, First Nations people must be partners in charting the way forward. I was pleased that my state and territory Energy Minister colleagues agreed with me last week to the development of a First Nations Clean Energy Strategy that will be co-designed with First Nations people.’
7 The IPCC finalised the first part of the Sixth Assessment Report, Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis, the Working Group I contribution to the Sixth Assessment Report on 6 August 2021 during the 14th Session of Working Group I and 54th Session of the IPCC
people have been dispos sessed of land, ‘resettled’ into reserves, pushed off Country and had their traditional lands acquired, thereby denying them the means of intergenerational wealth accumulation afforded to the settler state.⁵
There is also vast inequity in infrastructure be tween Australia’s urban towns and cities and our regional and remote communities. Access to clean drinking water, reliable power, adequate telecommunications, safe roads, and appropriate waste removal varies significantly depending on where you live. The divide between remote communities and mainstream Australia is stark and well documented.⁶
And let us also consider the inequity of mobility. The movement of people due to seasonal, cultural, or social reasons, has always been viewed as problematic by governments who like to be able to ‘see’ their subjects at
a known fixed address. Tying a citizen to a parcel of land (and thus keeping them sedentary) certainly assists. It is interesting to contrast this ‘problematising’ of mobility in Indigenous populations by the State, and the subsidi sation of mobility in wealthier cohorts, such as holiday house owners through taxation systems and infrastructure investment.
So how can we address this lack of equity — and the combined impacts of a warming climate, poor infra structure, and the requirement for mobility? And, perhaps more importantly, is there even the desire to do so? The Sixth Assessment Report by the IPCC⁷ suggests that we only have a very small window to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, and even then, substantial global warming is inevitable. For people already living on the edges of climate survivability, this has dire consequences, and it is not something we have started to meaningfully address. For many First Nations communities, the predicted effects of rising temperatures do not need to hit the extremes of probability to make a real difference to the
EQUITY 15 Hot Mess
Many Australians view housing as a wealthcreating asset, not as a human right or societal responsibility
Are we ready for the moral, ethical and logistical
requirements to move people off Country?
already over-stressed health system and individual vul nerabilities. Community infrastructure has been neglected for decades — power outages or disconnections are com monplace, air-conditioning often doesn’t work, insulation is lacking, buildings offer no shade or thermal control — all amplified by the negative impacts of crowding. It is an ecosystem of policy and delivery failure which demands urgent, system-wide reform.
In Indigenous Affairs, reform has been a word rolled out across successive governments, Ministers, and bureaucrats. Despite this reformist zeal, genuine action and meaningful change has been glacial in pace. And thus, communities have become adept and skilled in the art of waiting. A large part of this waiting can be seen in the ‘testimony’ of housing adaptations. It is one of the few areas where agency is seen in the built environment in In digenous communities. Building ‘hacks’ are commonplace, removal of louvres to install cheap wall air-conditioners, the use of tarpaulins, aluminium foil and shade cloth to protect inhabitants from climatic or privacy pressures, or
the re-alignment of living/sleeping spatial norms most houses are designed to construct.
Governments have paid little heed to this testimony. While tenant involvement in Indigenous housing design is often recommended, it seldom takes place in practice. Demand for housing continues to outstrip supply, and in rental situations, it can be difficult for tenants to have much of a say about the design features that would im prove their everyday living conditions. Each building hack holds clues that would help architects, planners, builders, and policy makers deliver new housing and refurbish ments in harmony with tenant needs. Unfortunately, In digenous tenants instead occupy the space between ‘take what you can get’ and ‘no money for appropriate designs.’
Despite research and community advocates who repeatedly recommend Indigenous-led housing design processes, Indigenous tenants in social housing are usually represented by organisational brokers, and if consulted directly, will be asked questions about their likely household composition/demographic profiles. These
EQUITY 18 Hot Mess
In remote communities, building ‘hacks’ are commonplace. Cheap air conditioners, tarpaulins, aluminium foil and shade cloth increasingly protect inhabitants from climatic pressures.
Photos: Kieran Wong
‘briefing sessions’ reduce people’s agency to a function of bedroom and bathroom allocations. Tenancy Agreements forbid tenants from making any structural changes to their housing and design responses fail to address basic needs.
I was trained in the value of passive design — responding to a site’s climate by seeking opportunities for natural ventilation, effective shading to shield summer sun and welcome winter rays, and orientation that assists all the above. Air-conditioning was seen as a design failure, an inability to design sensitively to your context, to ‘touch the earth lightly’. One could think of this approach as a kind of ‘thermal moralism’ — design judgments that believe natural systems are inherently better than me chanical (or man-made) ones. Design responses that took advantage of the site’s natural attributes, buildings that ‘breathe’, ensuring its occupants were in harmony with nature were celebrated as exemplars of the archi tectural discipline — positioning itself against the mindless housing of the mass market, which was closed and shockingly reliant on air-conditioning to maintain thermal comfort.
What is our design response when the temperature outside be comes lethal? Are we positioned as a profession to care about challenges such as cyclical maintenance, crowding and mobility, dust and corrosion
02 of 09
Andy Fergus Urban Designer, Critic, Advocate, Teacher Melbourne andyfergus.com.au
‘Equity’ in common English conjures notions of inclusion and equal opportunity. In the making of cities it can often describe the precise opposite.
Equity, in the financial sense, speaks of the command of resources that allows an investor to initiate the making of new city fabric.
Equity brings control, ownership and by extension the privilege of agency.
Equity investors can assert values, dreams and ethical ambitions, or can simply pursue the extraction and accumulation of private wealth.
If we want to set the agenda of our cities in the context of climate and ecological crises, we need to carefully reframe the rules which govern this source of investment.
EQUITY 19 Hot Mess
Can governments and agencies adapt quickly enough to support seasonal or continuous mobility without penalty to tenants?
that have left so many architectdesigned ‘remote houses’ derelict without the ongoing maintenance support that is needed? Architects have ‘declared’ it’s a crisis, but in what ways are we acting?
And what then about the impending challenge of ‘managing the retreat’ of communities away from Country due to human-induced climate warming. Are we ready for the moral, ethical and logistical requirements to move people off Country, far away from their homelands? Again. Are our regional and peri-urban centres ready for this forced migration; places already feeling the squeeze of the housing crisis and impact of tree/sea changers? And how will we, as a nation, grapple with the shame of forced migration due to climate warming — an ideology of ne glect — not only of the planet, but of the First Peoples who are disproportionately affected by it? Can governments and agencies adapt quickly enough to support seasonal or continuous mobility without penalty to tenants?
As always, there are pockets of hope. Places where
communities are taking control, driving towards their own localised vision of community infrastructure, appropriate housing, responsive and culturally safe policy. There are innumerable advocates pushing for change — from Tangentyere Council delivering cogent arguments against government energy policy, or rental calculations, to practical demonstrations like Norman Frank Jupurrurla’s practical activism against energy poverty and for improving housing standards. We need a massive investment in housing upgrades to make them thermally effective, to install air-conditioning, to change the system of power sup ply in community, and support ongoing planned and cyclical maintenance. We need new housing to be built in a way that is mindful of the impending future, to have climate boundaries drawn on maps not by policy-makers seeking to simplify the lives of building certifiers, but as an accurate response to the changing climate. We need better tenancy policy to enable mobility, supporting people
EQUITY 20 Hot Mess
to move between regional centres and homelands. These are not issues of equality in housing supply for social housing tenants, and the likely comments sections of news sites calling out perceived unfairness for Indigenous peoples ‘being given two houses’. These are issues of equity, of justice and the re-distribution of the wealth.
This is complex, messy and challenging terrain. We must be open to this conversation, even as we argue for a Voice, for greater community control, for a handing back of land and assets. This must not be done as a way of retuning places devoid of liveability, the creation of a new form of Terra Nullius — a land nobody can survive in. John Singer and the count less others calling for a response cannot be left waiting any longer.
For tens of thousands of generations, culture and community have not just co-existed, but thrived across this continent, nourishing through intimate connection to Country, ceremony and law. We are facing the very real possibility that this could be lost within the next two. The Uluru Statement called for Australians to walk together. I reckon we need to start running.
03 of 09
Angelina Pillai CEO
Assoc. of Consulting Architects Australia (ACA) Melbourne aca.org.au
Ostensibly, I believed I enjoyed equal opportunities in education, social networks, personal growth and professional development. However, over time I realised this was not true.
Growing up in my home country, even while studying at one of the nation’s finest schools, I soon realised I didn’t have the same rights as many of my peers. While gender wasn’t an issue (in an all-girls school), other defining differences like race and religion subjected me to discriminatory quotas and grading criteria.
This inequity pervaded into my early career, and it wasn’t until my thirties that I began to acknowledge the significance of the injustice I faced, because of who I was.
I then made a conscious decision to systematically regain my power and prove my worth.
I commanded my heritage, upbringing, education, gender and capability to transcend the prejudice to give me agency, pride, confidence and the right to equity. For others, compromise for inclusion’s sake was the only choice. For me, equity is the ethical option.
EQUITY 21 Hot Mess
Pain it Forward
Equity. The act of things being fair and just. Gen Z, the Tik Tok generation, wasting too much time online. Finance. Money, the disparity between socio-economic levels, stress, luxury.
Words by Jemima Williamson-Wong
As a 20-something, I’ve found myself feeling a bit hopeless when it comes to my financial future. No matter how much I try to better my financial situation, I worry I will never own my own house, aka the predominant marker of success. I’ve also come to realise that these feelings are part of a broader attitude amongst Gen Z — it seems everyone is demoralised when they think about their financial future.
I know that I am privileged. My parents own property, I went to a private school, I’ve had help getting jobs, I was taught how to save and manage my money. I’ve had so many leg-ups and yet I still feel my financial future is bleak — and certainly won’t look anything like my parents. I’m 20 and I’ve already started saving for a house deposit — a house I probably won’t be able to afford for another couple of decades.
It’s an uncomfortable feeling carrying this concern about my own future, and at the same time, facing the boomer narrative that Gen Zs don’t work hard enough and choose smashed avocado on toast over saving for a house.
It’s hardly motivating to live frivolously when your entire news and Instagram feed is about the latest grim housing statistic. Or when every older family member you see lets you know they’ve been feeling worried that you may never be able to afford a home.
Through conversations with friends of a similar age, I noticed that I wasn’t alone in the way I was feeling. Three areas of concern had started to emerge: financial education, housing and wealth redistribution. To learn more, I put the following questions to my followers on Instagram (all 832 of them — I know, #influencer).
How do you feel about your financial future?
Eek. I feel like I have to work harder in my youth to be financially set up for uni years
A little worried tbh, I’m entering a pretty competitive area with my degree
Anxious and pessimistic feel like the cost of living and the pay rates are so drastically different to what they’ve been
Uncertain — but less worried than I feel like I should be
Not good! Prices for houses, cars, cost of living continue to fluctuate, and inflation is scary!
I reckon prices for things have gone up eg. housing and wages haven’t grown enough. Bit worrying
Do you think there is financial fairness between generations?
That’s a tough one but no I don’t think there is fairness. Also depends on class
Nope! Unfortunately not :-(
Noooope hell no Lol no — my grandparents paid off the war. My parents nothing. I will pay off the results of Covid I do not! I think it’s harder for younger generations to feel financially stable
How do you feel about housing?
i will not have one probs :-(
Worried that I won’t be able to afford one! And I’m in a privileged position which makes me think about those who are in a lower socio-economic bracket than me and those without the option of living with family as I am now
I feel like it is becoming very inaccessible and that scares me Concerned … scared, the average cost of a house compared to the average income is insane. Even paying rent is hard to cover on minimum wage Worried that I won’t be able to own my own home How do you feel about financial education (and how it’s impacted by social media)
Not enough of it! School did jack shit to teach us real life financial situations everyone seems to be financially comfortable on social media but it’s not real we weren’t educated enough in school and e-com makes it look so easy to make money online
Thoughts on wealth redistribution?
It is pretty important in my opinion. Everyone should be able to afford basic essentials!
I think it is important but it needs to be done right
Universal income ftw
It makes me so sad to see the contrast between billionaires and those who have so little
Any other thoughts?
there’s a lot that’s wrongly attributed to gen z’s work ethic or lack thereof
i think there’s a lack of understanding between generations.
Putting these questions online and reading the responses helped me to organise my own thoughts about this mess …
There is obviously a strong awareness about the inequity between the generations. We know that we will be inheriting trillions of dollars of government debt due to Covid, the climate crisis and all the other ‘unprecedented events’ that we are repeatedly experiencing. This cynical acceptance has fed into our attitude of hopelessness, pessimism, and anxiety about what our financial futures will look like.
It’s hard not to feel annoyed when I look at how older people view my generation as though we don’t work hard enough; if we spent less time on our phones we could get ahead.
I think there are two things at play here. First, there seems to be a lack of understanding about the way that social media has influenced our lives, and how it continues to shape different avenues of wealth creation. Successful influ encers are the wealthiest people of our generation and they only got there because they hustled — on their phones.
Secondly, when I look around at my friends, I see a generation of hardworking hustlers. Of people trying to bring in money from multiple streams and yet are only just able to cover the cost of basic essentials. As Gen Z influencer and media personality Flex Mami put it, ‘the difficulty of Gen Z is that they have been touted to be these radical change-makers, and it is a lot of pressure for this environment we’ve built up. How do you be a changemaker when you have to pay your rent?’
EQUITY 24 Pain it Forward
Maria Osman (M.Ed GAICD) Non-Executive Director Perth
If we accept that the financial gap between generations will never be closed, why then do we continue to work towards the same financial aspirations as the generations before us? Because of this, I am starting to question the pursuit of financial security through property.
If we truly are the generation facing global catastrophe, owning a home and creating a wealth base through property hardly seems like a priority. Instead, would it be more prudent to focus on re-writing our expectations? To balance the need for a house and stability in a world marked by increasing volatility. Would there be more freedom, would we be happier if we could let go of this archaic pursuit of ‘to succeed in life’ you need to own a home and instead create a rental system that could provide stability?
This idea of balancing expectations is something I’ve come to after spending time trying to unpack the complicated mess of expectations, attitudes, reality, and stereotypes that surround housing and financial futures. I still haven’t resolved whether I’m willing to accept that my financial future and property ownership will look vastly different to my parents.
All I can ask from whoever is reading this, is that you take the time to think through my argument in light of your own context. No doubt many of you will own investment properties. What we really need is better tenancy laws that will provide us with security while we get on with trying to fix the mess the genera tions before have made of the planet.
Equity means … applying a human rights lens to Everything … in the hope of removing the systems of inequity and oppression that have persisted for far too long. I‘m proud of my Somaliland-Anglo heritage — it is central to shaping my identity, values and beliefs. I’ve experienced racism, microaggressions and bigotry; been judged by the colour of my skin and not the content of my character or ability.
A lifetime working in human rights has provided me with a solid foundation to navigate intersecting systems of oppression. I have used my voice to fight for racial justice and feel a rage at the treatment of First Nations people in this country. There is no greater equity issue than standing in solidarity to support the Uluru Statement and Voice to Parliament.
As migrants to this amazing country we must all learn the true ‘his/herstory’ of this nation because healing the past benefits all of us.
EQUITY 25 Pain it Forward
Words by Meri Fatin Illustration by JESWRI
As a signatory to the 2017 Uluru Statement of the Heart, Josie Douglas is deeply invested in its process and petition to the Australian people. Meri Fatin chats with Josie about her drive for social justice and the enormous potential offered by the Voice to Parliament for First Nations people.
THE FATIN TAPES
Meri Fatin [00:00:00]
Josie, it’s interesting timing talking to you in the middle of Reconciliation Week. It seems to mean different things to different people, even in terms of using the word ‘reconciliation.’ What does it mean to you?
Dr Josie Douglas [00:00:42]
It [reconciliation] must start with settling the origi nal grievance of Australia — that sovereignty wasn't ceded. I want to focus on the Uluru Statement from the Heart and focus on that. Sequencing is very important. The Voice to Parliament is first and foremost, and then cascading from that is Treaty and Truth Telling. And that comes in under the establishment of the Makarrata Commission, which is a Yolngu word that means ‘coming together after a conflict’. I really do think that for substantial reconciliation for Australia as a modern nation, it needs to be led by the Commonwealth in settling the original grievance.
Meri Fatin [00:02:30]
On election night the Prime Minister stood up and started his victory speech by saying that he commits to the Uluru Statement from the Heart in full. What did it feel like to hear him say that?
Dr Josie Douglas [00:02:46]
It was pretty extraordinary. I think there were a lot of tears of joy shared around Australia by Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people. I think there’s real hope but it needs to be delivered.
I was involved in developing the Statement through my work at the Central Land Council. It was an exhilarat ing process given the state of Aboriginal affairs and the lack of progress in terms of constitutional reform. We had five Prime Ministers, both Coalition and Labor, committing to constitutional reform but who kept kicking that can down the road.
And so now we’ve got a newly-elected government, the 47th Parliament, and I think that Aboriginal leadership around Australia is really hoping Labor will deliver on its commitment to implementing the Uluru Statement from the Heart in its entirety.
Meri Fatin [00:06:34]
A friend pointed out to me that the word reconcil iation implies that at some point the relationship was one of equals and that they just need to sort things out. And that’s not the truth, which is what you've spoken about with sovereignty not being ceded.
Dr Josie Douglas [00:06:57]
Yes, and that’s what the Voice to Parliament is seeking to address. It’s actually in the statement — I tend to quote it — it’s the ‘powerlessness of our people’. Even though in this election we’ve had the highest num ber of Indigenous people voted into Parliament, we’re still only 3% of the population and so it’s very difficult to influence policies and laws that are being made about Indigenous people.
Of course, we have our peak organisations. But there’s something much more fundamental to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people having a voice and being able to influence the laws and policies that are made by Parliament. Indigenous people are tired of each new government coming into power, coming up with a different policy setting and different legislation for Aboriginal affairs. It feels that we take one step forward, two steps back wards. So, the Voice to Parliament is about ensuring that those decisions that impact Indigenous people’s lives are taken out of the realm of politics, out of political ideology, and into the realm of Indigenous people having a say over matters that impact our everyday lives. And that’s whether you’re in a remote community in Central Australia or you’re
EQUITY 28 Healing Hearts
in a metropolitan urban area. I think Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people really want to be able to provide advice to Parliament, not to government. And that distinction is important. Having a substantive amendment to the Constitution will compel Parliament to consult with us.
Meri Fatin [00:10:38]
You talk about it as a substantive change to the Constitution, and it’s interesting that Mr Albanese has committed to the Uluru Statement of the Heart in full. Earlier iterations of what previous governments were willing to propose as a change to the Constitution were watered-down versions of the full Uluru Statement. What do you think that interim period is going to be like for Indigenous people as that process begins of con vincing people who don’t see a Voice to Parliament as something that ought to happen?
Dr Josie Douglas [00:11:31]
I’m much more hopeful when it comes to the Australian people and where they’re at. Finally government has stepped up to the plate and they’ve caught up to where
EQUITY 29 Healing Hearts
Josie Douglas and sister, Cass, in Darwin 1970s, post Cyclone Tracy
society is at. What needs to happen between now and if we go to referen dum in May 2023? I think it’s important to have an education campaign, so people really understand what the Voice to Parliament is about, what the constitutional reform agenda is about, what it means and what it doesn’t mean. I think there’s also a lot of misinformation and misunder standing within the Indigenous community over exactly what it means.
Meri Fatin [00:14:24]
What’s it been like dealing with the pandemic in Central Australia? How much agency have you had in being able to direct things the way they needed to be directed in your part of the world?
Dr Josie Douglas [00:14:38]
So I’m currently the General Manager for the Health Services Division at the Central Australian Aboriginal Congress, which is the largest Aboriginal community-controlled health provider in the Northern Territory
EQUITY 30 Healing Hearts
Josie — keen trail runner, pictured on trail between Anthwerrke (Emily Gap) and Atherrke (Jessie Gap)
and one of the largest in Australia. We cover the town of Alice Springs as well as five remote clinics. It has been challenging and difficult. We’ve had workforce issues, like there has been around Australia with health profes sionals and staffing, but I think in terms of being community-controlled, we've been able to respond quickly to people in need. It’s much more than just ensuring that people are getting their first, second, third, fourth vaccination. It’s the whole wraparound service ensuring that there’s food security, there’s energy security, that people aren’t missing out on benefits because they’re in isolation or they're a close contact. So, it’s been about looking after the complete person and full complement of their needs as well as their needs in relation to the pandemic. It’s been a real feat and I think it comes back to Congress being able to respond in an agile and flexible way to the needs of community. And in responding to the pandemic as a primary comprehensive health service, we’re also mindful that there’s the health needs of our clients that we need to be managing, including chronic disease and childhood immunisations. So, all that busi ness of delivering comprehensive primary health care had to continue in our remote clinics and our town clinics. We had to make changes to how we were operating in early 2022 when there was the outbreak of COVID in Alice Springs. And that meant we had to pull staff back into one central clinic and focus our resources on responding to the pandemic.
Meri Fatin [00:19:27]
I read a news article from early 2022 where you were calling for the ability to put the communities into lockdown for a week. You were being overruled by the government. What happened there?
Dr Josie Douglas [00:19:53]
We wanted government to mandate lockdown for one week only. It was just to buy us time to get the supply in. Our supply was an issue at that time. We weren’t getting on top of the outbreak. It was spreading across town camps, across public housing in Alice Springs. And so the lockdown that Congress was calling for was to buy us time to slow the spread and to ensure that we could get adequate supplies of vaccinations, PPE, masks, you know, really important new medica tions that are available.
Franca Sala Tenna Director, Legal Practitioner
Equity is different from equality. Equality’s challenge is to treat all people equally — this is already hard to achieve, as the biases of my upbringing prevent me from see everyone the same, and therefore, sometimes treat people less favourably than others.
But equity goes a lot further than equality. Equity says, ‘I need to treat people differently because of who they are and their history of prejudice and disadvantage’. There are different ways of living out equity. For some people, it is becoming one of ‘them’ — living with them and walking in their struggles. For others, it is advocating for the rights of minority groups — being a voice where they have none.
But for me it is giving money. I’ve realised that my gift in the space of equity is that I am good at making money and unattached to it staying with me. I am passionate about making a difference in the lives of women and children, in the space of health, education and personal safety and so this second half of life, for me, is to give away as much money as possible to these areas.
Equity is a verb; to rebalance.
EQUITY 31 Healing Hearts
05 of 09
There were a lot of tears of joy shared by Aboriginal and nonAboriginal people.
there’s real hope but it needs to be
Meri Fatin [00:20:51]
And did you succeed in that?
Dr Josie Douglas [00:20:56]
No, Government did not support our calls for a lockdown. So we just had to continue to do the best that we could. And I think Congress’ role in managing the COVID response in Alice Springs and remote clinics was exceptional.
Meri Fatin [00:21:42]
Josie, I’d love to hear a little bit about your story. About your mob and where you grew up and why you ended up doing this work?
Dr Josie Douglas [00:21:51]
Yeah, sure. I’m Darwin born and bred and I’m a Wardaman woman, that's south west of Katherine. So Northern Territory, Top End. I have been living in Alice Springs for 30 years. My husband is from Alice Springs, he’s a local Aboriginal fella. I love Alice Springs; it does get a bad rap at times, but it’s got such a strong sense of community. You come
EQUITY 34 Healing Hearts
Josie’s children – Jackie, Shawn, Acacia and Luke
to Alice Springs, you hear Language being spoken as you walk down the Todd Mall and you know that you’re on Aboriginal country and that you're surrounded by Aboriginal people. It’s got a real sense of community, you know, Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people. I like to think that Alice Springs is quite progressive, given the recent result of Marion Scrymgour, an Aboriginal woman winning the seat of Lingiari. You want to know a bit more about me? I've got four children and two grandies — all Alice Springs born and bred. I suppose I've got a strong sense of social justice. Even as a little child, I was seeing things and questioning why? Why is it like that?
Meri Fatin [00:25:00]
Is there a story that springs to mind as an example of that?
Dr Josie Douglas [00:25:04]
I suppose as an Aboriginal kid in the seventies, just being very aware of the difference in how I was living, you know, the house that I grew up in, the extended family that was living in my house compared to some of my school mates. I think there's a noticing. Noticing that’s an anthropological term, you know, noticing.
And I was, I think, just noticing the differences from a very young age and always being curious about people and their stories.
My parents really shaped who I am. My mum Lorraine, was politically-active, combined with my Dad who had a really strong work ethic. Both growing up with not much but making the best of what they had. And I think my education was fundamental. It was always about ensuring that you got a good education so you could get a good job. Because I think not having a job in my family was like a sin. And that comes also from my Wardaman family — growing up working on cattle stations outside of Katherine and having a very strong work ethic despite the rations they were receiving.
Meri Fatin [00:28:43]
So obviously that noticing was felt deeply and it’s apparent across your career too.
Natalie Jenkins CEO Block Branding Perth blockbranding.com
I think equity is a challenging lens to look through unless you’ve experienced inequity. To remind myself of what it means, I reflect on the cartoon showing the difference between equality and equity, where people of different heights are looking over a fence. Giving them the same-sized boxes to stand on just gives the tallest one even more advantage over the others, whereas different size boxes — and only for those that need it, ensures they all get to the same level. It illustrates that different measures are needed to ensure equity for everyone — it’s not about treating everyone the same and I’m comfortable with that.
Equity has a very different meaning in business or financial terms and I find it interesting to compare that definition to what equity means to me. It seems worlds apart, however in financial terms it reflects value, and therefore, equity is valuable. That works for me.
EQUITY 35 Healing Hearts
You come to Alice Springs, you hear Language being spoken as you walk down the Todd Mall and you know that you’re on Aboriginal country
06 of 09
Dr Josie Douglas [00:29:29]
What drives me to fight for social justice, both per sonally and professionally, are the social determinants. It is about housing. It is about access to drinking water. It is about having a better Community Development Program. It is about ensuring that all young people on remote com munities are signed up to access the citizen entitlements that they're entitled to receive and are not dependent on a great grandmother to financially provide for them. It’s all these social determinants of health that I strongly advo cated for in my role at the Central Land Council.
Meri Fatin [00:31:23]
All of those components lead to the one outcome of good health and wellbeing.
Dr Josie Douglas [00:31:31]
Yeah, so now I’m at the pointy end of making operational decisions in terms of how health care is delivered. At Congress we have a strong CEO and Chair who are both advocating for policy changes to influence social determinants of health.
Meri Fatin [00:31:57]
I’m really interested in your doctoral research project. It was described in an article that you examined the lives of young Aboriginal adults and the role they fulfill in acquiring and transmitting Indigenous ecological knowl edge. Tell me more about that, because this is a critical kind of moment where we’ve realised with human-caused climate change, that we need to return to this kind of
EQUITY 36 Healing Hearts
Uluru Statement from the Heart, 26 May 2017
“We, gathered at the 2017 National Constitutional Convention, coming from all points of the southern sky, make this statement from the heart:
“Our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander tribes were the first sovereign Nations of the Australian continent and its adjacent islands, and possessed it under our own laws and customs. This our ancestors did, according to the reckoning of our culture, from the Creation, according to the common law from ‘time im memorial’, and according to science more than 60,000 years ago.
“This sovereignty is a spiritual notion: the ancestral tie between the land, or ‘mother nature’, and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples who were born therefrom, remain attached thereto, and must one day return thither to be united with our ancestors. This link is the basis of the ownership of the soil, or better, of sovereignty. It has never been ceded or extinguished, and co-exists with the sovereignty of the Crown.
“How could it be otherwise? That peoples possessed a land for sixty millennia and this sacred link disap pears from world history in merely the last two hundred years?
“With substantive constitutional change and structural reform, we believe this ancient sovereignty can shine through as a fuller expression of Australia’s nationhood.
“Proportionally, we are the most in carcerated people on the planet. We are not an innately criminal people. Our children are aliened from their families at unprecedented rates. This cannot be because we have no love for them. And our youth languish in detention in obscene numbers. They should be our hope for the future.
“These dimensions of our crisis tell plainly the structural nature of our problem. This is the torment of our powerlessness.
“We seek constitutional reforms to empower our people and take a rightful place in our own country. When we have power over our desti ny our children will flourish. They will walk in two worlds and their culture will be a gift to their country.
“We call for the establishment of a First Nations Voice enshrined in the Constitution.
“Makarrata is the culmination of our agenda: the coming together after a struggle. It captures our aspirations for a fair and truthful relationship with the people of Australia and a better future for our children based on justice and self-determination.
deeply-known ecological knowledge.
Dr Josie Douglas [00:32:59]
Most of my working life has been within the cultural sphere. Whether it's working at the Central Land Council, for an Aboriginal community-controlled health centre or many years ago at the Institute for Aboriginal Develop ment. I’ve been lucky to be in Alice Springs, working with senior knowledge-holders, particularly around language maintenance. People like M.K. Turner and Veronica Dobson, very senior knowledge-holders, published authors and women held in high regard within the community for the depth and breadth of their traditional knowledge. So, over many years, I’ve heard the older generation talk passionately about keeping language and
culture strong for future generations. And at the same time, the flip side of that is worry and despair that the younger generation weren't interested in the old ways, that they were only interested in new ways. Senior Aboriginal people feel a moral imperative to pass culture on, which is the foundation to Aboriginal society, the continuity of Aboriginal culture going forward. So young people are seen as the heroes in terms of their role in that, but also the villains in terms of how they were undermining that. My PhD asked, where are the young people’s voices in all of this? It turns out they were missing.
The focus of my PhD was on the social and cultural practices of young Aboriginal people in relation to tradi tional and Indigenous ecological knowledge. Young people
EQUITY 37 Healing Hearts
want to learn, but my PhD reveals how things have been completely turned on its head in terms of the available time. People need to be out on Country to learn, but that is being squeezed into school holidays. It’s not an iterative, daily learning process as it once was. It’s fitting it into a Western calendar. It’s fitting it into the availability of family members and senior family members.
There are genealogical gaps in the demographics of Aborigi nal Australia. Families aren’t intact anymore. Generations aren’t intact anymore. So young people aren’t born with culture, they grow up in the culture of their parents. My PhD unpacks the change the Aboriginal com munity has experienced over many decades and where young people see themselves in it. Young people want to learn, it’s just that they've got less time and less people to learn from. Fortunately, there's been pragmatic and innovative approaches to the role of institutions in knowledge transfer.
EQUITY 38 Healing Hearts
Josie is passionate about AFL, particularly the Pioneer Football Club in Alice Springs. Josie pictured here (front) with 2022 Premiership team. Both her sons played in this team.
Photo: Charlie Lowson, AFLNT
The role in Country visits, the role of school programs, the role of organi sations like the Central Land Council in facilitating Indigenous ecological knowledge transfer. For instance, at the CLC, young people and older people are involved in the ranger program, from a governance level through to doing the physical work on Country.
Meri Fatin [00:38:45]
What did you find was behind the perceived lack of engagement from young people?
Dr Josie Douglas [00:39:07]
It wasn’t about young people pushing it away at all. I think young people were desperate for more engagement, desperate to be doing more and learning more. But there's so many challenges in the face of that. Young people are very interested in language and being out on Country. Young mums are interested in smoking their newborn babies and participating in different cultural practices. And I think en gagement with traditional knowledge comes through in contemporary life, hunting, going out to collect bush foods or bush medicines. Beliefs and practices are still strong, it’s just that in a contemporary context it looks different. And it is different, but I think it's still foundational to young people's identities.
Meri Fatin [00:41:26]
On the converse of that, you said part of the issue for young people is the fact that there aren’t as many people to teach them culture, there is the burden on senior Aboriginal people in the community and their responsibilities. What’s your observation on that?
Dr Josie Douglas [00:41:48]
I do write about this a lot in my PhD that the responsibility does fall to a few. And that's because of the mortality rate. It comes down to the life expectancy of Aboriginal men and women. There are genealogical gaps in Aboriginal families and that’s through early deaths. The situation is now that you have one old person in a culture camp or on Country teaching a group of 10 to 15 young people, and that within itself is new. That isn’t the traditional way of learning in terms of practice space, you know, that nexus between practice and belief.
07 of 09
Stephen Ivey Principal
Highgate Primary School Perth highgateps.wa.edu.au
In my school there are over 900 students. The students represent 70 nationalities, there are 54 different languages spoken, we have two women’s shelters in our catchment area, and we have about 80 students who attend our Intensive English Centre. We have millionaires through to families living in cars. Lots of room for inequities. That is why notions of equity take up lots of my time and thoughts.
Does the kid who has just enrolled, escaping from domestic violence, and living temporarily in the refuge cause me some equity thoughts? You bet.
Does the child who just arrived in Perth, who can’t speak more than three words of English, currently enrolling in our Intensive English Centre cause me some equity thoughts? You bet.
Does the student whose school attendance has dropped below 40% due to family dynamics cause me some equity thoughts? You bet.
I have concerns about equity for nearly every student and family. Life is messy. You do you. Let me do me. That at least feels fair and equitable.
EQUITY 39 Healing Hearts
Meri Fatin [00:43:39]
Would that ratio have been more one-on-one in the past?
Dr Josie Douglas [00:43:46]
One on one, plus you would have had a greater number of peers, of middle-age people, of the old er generation. You would have had a greater number wrapping around that little person from two, three years old and staying with them as they grew up. Whereas now what's happened in terms of demographics is that you’ve got many more young people. You know, it’s a pyramid. Smaller numbers up top and more young people at the base. But there’s still peer-to-peer learning for young people. Some people will have grown up with grandpar
ents and aunties and uncles who are very much going out bush, who are learning and knowledgeable, and they will teach their contemporaries, their peers. But, yeah, there were just many more people for young people to learn from whereas now it looks completely different. A lot fewer old people. The middleaged generation is also missing and they’re crucial to knowledge transmission as much as the older people are.
Meri Fatin [00:45:25]
The two dates that have been potentially forecast for the referendum are May 27, 2023, and January 27, 2024. In the lead up, what would you really want to underscore in the public conversation?
EQUITY 40 Healing Hearts
The middle-aged generation is also missing and they’re crucial to knowledge transmission
With Megan Davis, Pat Anderson, Noel Pearson and others accepting the Sydney Peace Prize for the Uluru Statement from the Heart, November 2022.
Dr Josie Douglas [00:46:25]
Well, I think it is education. People need time to fully understand what the Uluru Statement from the Heart is, and what the Voice to Parliament is. And to understand that you need a community education campaign at differ ent levels, from the grassroots to corporate Australia.
Meri Fatin [00:49:45]
Thank you so much Josie. It's been a real pleasure listening to your thoughts.
EQUITY 41 Healing Hearts
My name is
the Burj Khalifa,
EQUITY 42 My Name is Thom
is Thom.Khalifa, the tallest building onthis earth.
EQUITY 43 My Name is Thom
ART An article in two parts – an essay by Gabrielle Mordy, founder and CEO at Studio A and a conversation (like no other!) between artist Thom Roberts and TheFulcrum.Agency’s Emma Brain.
Words by Gabrielle Mordy, Thom Roberts & Emma Brain
“Many years ago now I met a collective of people with intellectual disability who liked making art and clearly had a skill in what they made. I met them in a community art program for people with disability in suburban Sydney. Thom was one of these artists.
I studied visual arts at university and I love the experience of being really absorbed in making artwork. I equally enjoy going to exhibitions and seeing my work on the wall and chatting to other people with similar interests. I like the feeling that I am a skilled and recognised ‘artist’. It is even better when I get paid for it. To me this is the essence of meaningful work. I think this is an experience that lots of Australians can relate to.
It became quickly apparent to me that the people I met at that community program in suburban Sydney did not have the same opportunity that I had (as a university graduate) to exhibit their work and pursue a career as an artist. They were making art, however they had no opportunity to exhibit, earn income, develop their skills nor meet like-minded artists.
If you struggle to read or write, send emails, compose a CV and/or travel independently, then it is really hard to pursue a career as an artist. It does not matter how great the art is that you produce. Often, if you have an intellectual disability, you are really locked out of the mainstream art world, and you are locked out of all the personal, social and economic benefits that come with being a part of that world.
In late 2016 I founded a Sydney-based com pany, called Studio A, with my colleague and friend Emma Johnston. Studio A exists to ensure talented artists with intellectual disability can pursue a professional career. We provide a specialist studio space along with the administrative and managerial support our artists need to pursue their dreams.
Thom Roberts is now a Studio A artist. Jump forward to 2022 and Thom’s work has been selected for a second consecutive year as a Finalist in the Archibald Prize at the Art Gallery of NSW. His artwork is in prestigious Nation al collections and he has undertaken international art residencies.
For Thom, professional success means he can purchase whatever he wants at Kmart and can make as many photocopies as he likes at Officeworks. These are the activ ities Thom values and his earnings mean has the choice to access them. Professional success means that in a social setting when he is enjoying what he terms a ‘juicy beer’, and when someone asks him, ‘What do you do?’, Thom can confidently look them in the eyes and say, ‘I am an artist’.
EQUITY 44 My Name is Thom
Being in the Archibald makes me happy, smiling and proud. I would love to inspire other people to become a famous artist. I would like to be an artist until I am a very old man.
EQUITY 45 My
Name is Thom
Thom Roberts, 2021 A Portriff of Adam (Shane Simpson AM) (1015×1015mm) acrylic on canvas courtesy the artist and Studio A
toKennySylvester, his light inartwork is part of my
—Emma Hi. Nice to meet you. I’m Emma.
—Thom Can I call you Woody Tiger?
—Emma Say it again?
—Thom Woody Tiger.
—Emma Woody Tiger. I like that. That’s one of the better names I’ve been called.
—Gabrielle Can you tell Thom what your job is? Thom has a passion for buildings. And Thom, was your dad an architect?
—Gabrielle Was Buddy Brown Boy an architect?
EQUITY 47 My
Name is Thom
Thom Roberts, 2020 Magic Robot Machine (590×590mm) acrylic on canvas courtesy the artist and Studio A Commissioned by Artbank for their collection on the occasion of their 40th anniversary
EQUITY 48 My Name is Thom Express
Country Express Service,
What did you say to Kenny Sylvester the other day? He’s actually Matt Calandra. What did he say across the room to you?
That we’ve got a sandwich or left overs. And I say, ‘My jail is Simba. It’s six in the morning, man.’
Where is it six in the morning?
I made a bike chart.
And, you’re where?
Well, according to Kenny Sylvester, his light in artwork is part of my sunrise.
Thom Roberts, 2019 Thom Roberts Counts Trains 18 resin-coated polyester fabric banners courtesy the artist and Studio A Installation view Carriageworks, The National: New Australian Art, Sydney, March 2019 Commissioned by Carriageworks
Photo: Tim Oxford
Thom Roberts, 2020 A Silvery Side (1160×808mm) acrylic on canvas courtesy the artist and Studio A
Order! Order! Hungry Jacks.lunch to order! Order! Order now! —Gabrielle Who is the judge based off? Was it Gladys? —Thom Gladys, yes. —Emma Gladys Berejiklian? —Thom Yes. —Gabrielle And, what did you call her? I remember, you called her, ‘Wrinkle’. —Thom I call her, ‘Mrs. Wrinkle’.
Thom Roberts & Brayden Gifford
Courthouse Cats, 2022 Four-channel immersive video installation courtesy the artist and Studio A Installation view, Cement Fondu, Magical Putt Putt, Sydney, January 2022 Commissioned by Cement Fondu Photo: Jessica Maurer
Zac James Actor Wongi, Yamatji, Murri @therealzacjames
Equitable change, it’s a mouthful.
For a very long time, theatre has been the place to share stories, to stage our issues. To shed a light on the grim underbelly pinning our collective societies, and for a long time, there has been a drive for equality within that space. Equality without equity however lead to tokenistic gestures and unsafe spaces for more vulnerable minorities.
For Aboriginal people, for myself, as a proud Aboriginal man, theatre of the 21st Century has been a mixture of trauma, dispossession and caricatures of our beings, often written by people that were not even First Nations. Yet there is change, a slow ripple that is growing into a chasm. A gaping hole that is being filled with our voices, full-bodied, proud and triumphant.
Equity is making the space for people to tell their stories the way they are intended to be. To empower and enrich our families, our friends, the people we’re born to create art for. This change is power and it’s a welcome one.
EQUITY 51 My Name is Thom
08 of 09
Located in Victoria’s third most populous city, Nightingale Ballarat seeks to turn regional living on its head. Amelia Borg explores what happens when one of Melbourne’s most successful ethical developers brings their sustainable model to town.
Words by Amelia Borg Images by Kate Longley
EQUITY 54 Nightingale Sings
The architects describe the building as an ‘elegant response to Ballarat’s late 1800s boom-era architecture and the rhythm of its more austere brick neighbours.’
hrough innovative developments touted to address sustainability and housing affordability, Nightingale Housing has gained an almost cult-like following within the Melbourne housing and architectural community. The Nightingale model was conceived to address a housing system that its founders saw as ‘inequitable, environmentally-unsustainable and eroding the community it was meant to serve.’
The model promotes a triple bottom line approach to all developments, prioritising financial, environmental, and socially sustainable outcomes. The founders had a vision for a new housing system; ‘It was about building homes, not real estate as a commodity. It was about fostering community to combat rising social isolation, and designing buildings that positively tackled the issues of climate change rather than adding to the problem.’
Since its inception in 2007, the model and organisation have changed forms several times; however these founding principles have remained, along with the motivation to remove what is seen as the exorbitant profit margins applied by developers.
EQUITY 55 Nightingale Sings
The courtyard is a semi-public space, providing shade, greenery and a place for residents to meet and children to play.
Homes are sold at cost price, with a 2.5% margin for Nightingale operations and access to purchasing apartments through a ballot system.
Response to the projects has been extraordinary, echoing a widespread hunger for new models of housing development. There is continuous popularity with potential homeowners, while several Nightingale projects have received industry accolades, including National Architecture Awards for Housing and Sustainability. To date, Nightingale has delivered 13 multiresidential developments, mostly in the inner-city suburbs of Melbourne, with another 15 either under construction or in development. The model is gradually shifting beyond Melbourne, with soon to be completed projects in Marrickville (NSW), Bowden (SA) and Fremantle (WA). The first regional Nightingale project has just been completed in Ballarat and was designed by Breathe Architecture. This project came about through a desire to address the issue of urban sprawl through the Nightingale lens. Located 113 kiometres north-west of Melbourne, the current population of Ballarat is close to 116,000, making it the third largest city in Victoria. The city is undergoing huge growth, with the population projected to rise to 160,000 by 2040. Up until now, this growth has been accommodated in newly
formed suburbs sitting on winding streets on the outer fringes of the city, where new house and land packages of almost identical appearance are sprouting up on what was once agricultural land. Suburbia is springing up in all directions.
On top of this, the houses that are being built are much larger than they need to be; 65% of the households in Ballarat have a make up of one or two people, whilst less than 20% of the dwellings are two bedrooms or less. This type of development has a significant impact on the environment, and continued sprawl has exacerbated the reliance on cars. In response, the City of Ballarat created a comprehensive strategic plan to increase medium-density housing within the centre of town. The Nightingale project was to act as a test case, building appropriately-sized dwellings in the centre of town, whilst also having the job of changing community attitudes towards apartment living.
Back in the 1900s, the centre of Ballarat was bustling and vibrant. The Gold Rush began in Ballarat after the discovery of gold in 1851. For a time, Ballarat rivalled Melbourne in terms of wealth and cultural influence and continued its prosperity until the late 19th Century. During this time the city was lively and easily traversed by foot or public transport. At its peak in 1937, the Ballarat tramway network was the largest in Australia outside of a capital city and
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09 of 09 Andrew Broffman Principal TheFulcrum.Agency Sydney www.thefulcrum.agency
There is a quietude on desert Country that permits stillness. It is a place where the busyness of life folds into the marks of geological history and creation. Here, human endeavour would seem to follow the cycles of time that govern the movement of the night sky, or the dry salt lakes that whisper of rains that have come and gone.
Yet we do much to shape this Country. We desperately cut the earth and scrape the soil. We choke the sky with a fine dust. We push water further from our reach. And the wealth that attaches to this extractive business is extraordinary.
At the same time, on the same Country, children sleep in broken houses while their parents squeeze the last few dollars of credit to keep the ceiling fans whirring against the summer heat.
On desert Country equity would describe a balance: an expansive horizon where we are not the shapers but the shaped.
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many people lived and worked in the centre of town. Now the city is dominated by cars and the centre is made up of commercial and retail spaces with very few homes.
Located in the city centre, the Nightingale site is close to key amenities including the civic centre, hospital, library and train station. The site used to be a lawn mower factory, and the immediate surrounds include low-rise industrial buildings with some residential neighbours to the west. The building responds to its context through generous and thoughtful setbacks. On the east, the frontage matches the height and materiality of a neighbouring heritage brick warehouse. Supersized brick archways punch into the facade providing a rhythmic second skin to the street and activation to the commercial tenancies on the ground floor.
Offering a total of 33 dwellings, the make-up of apartments is predominately two-bedroom. All apartments are organised around a large central void and courtyard, which is surrounded by a ring of open-air walkways. These internal streets not only provide fresh air and cross ventilation to each of the apartments, but also act as a place for children to play, and residents to encounter one another. Residents share a communal laundry and have access to a communal dining space and veggie garden. In all Nightingale developments,
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The architects worked with the Council’s heritage team to restore the ‘McK’s Jelly Crystal’ sign to give a glimpse back in time.
a portion of the apartments are allocated to a community housing provider. Here, five homes were pre-allocated to Housing Choices Australia and were designed with specialist accessibility features.
This building continues Breathe’s approach in the reduction of materials. Superfluous finishes are done away with, including the removal of all unnecessary plasterboard and other linings, concrete ceilings and floors are exposed, as are fire and hydraulic services. Materials were sourced locally where possible; the bricks came from a recently demolished nearby warehouse and the timber floorboards were also recycled and sourced locally. Local craftsmen were enlisted to make the windows, pre-cast metalwork and joinery.
The building has an impressive list of sustainable features. As with all Nightingale projects, the building is carbon neutral in operation and has an 8+ NatHERS rating. All materials have a low embodied energy and toxic glues or adhesives were avoided. The building is 100% electric with the roof hosting a 27.65KW photovoltaic array has embedded Green Power and is completely gas free. A CO2 heat pump provides hydronic heating to apartments.
Consultation with the community happened throughout the process to ensure that the design response met the specific needs of a regional context. Apartments are generally larger than the city developments
with the addition of separate study spaces. There are no studios, and more threebedroom types are offered than what would be in an inner-city context. Whilst most of the inner-city Nightingale developments cut out car parking altogether, in this context that would be a hard sell, so 14 car spaces were built and could be purchased separately to dwellings.
The previous inner-city Nightingales have been most popular with first home buyers looking for a home that is competitively priced compared to other apartments, but offering principles of sustainability as well as a strong community. Interestingly and to the surprise of the project team, the demographic of those purchasing into Ballarat were predominately older couples who were downsizing and didn’t want the responsibility of upkeeping a block of land, as well as older single women who wanted to be part of a community.
This project acts as an exemplar model for medium-density housing in a regional context. It provides a refreshing alternative that champions environmentally sustainable living and the potential to build strong communities through responsible development. As suburban sprawl seems to continue unabated, it is examples such as this that will change attitudes in this type of context and accelerate the production of and access to more quality housing.
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Supersized brick archways punch into the façade provide a rhythmic second skin to the street.
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A Story About a Silly Blue Jumper
Stretching lazily and golden across the road, the sun wormed its way through the plexiglass of the car window and the thin membrane of Leah’s eyelids. A sharp pain throbbed in the back of her head, a shady companion to the deeper pang in her gut. Groggy and disorientated she pulled her torso into an upright position, shifting aside the copy of Road Atlas 2004 from her chest where it had lay, open and dog-eared and well used.
She preferred the old map book because it featured pictures of the land as it had been, a network of roads and intersecting wa terways with green spaces dotted here and there, coloured upon the page to look almost like one of those old Colour-byNumbers books.
This had been her second day running without food, relying on a sugared drink and a no-brand vitamin supplement she’d managed to get at her last check stop.
Drifters like Leah lived on the road. Bouncing from town to town, wired into a radio network of alerts and price warnings. She’d been doing this the last little while, when her firm had finally pulled the plug and she’d had to leave the estate she’d been living in for over ten years.
Leah’s old firm catered to a group of Richling men and women who liked to spend their money on championing the various pyramid schemes, vogue causes, and other pursuits of their brethren, stroking the egos of the Crats and caring for the cultivated environments filled with the types of exotic bird, animal and plant species they found fetching and quaint and had established as a series of trendy and members only self-named parks along the stretch of riverways in the city.
Leah had worked as a Sourcer. Sourcers were a class of workers whose chief employ was to find, buy and trade goods and services on the behalf of the wealthier elite, the Richlings and the Crats, as the bureaucrats, govern ment agents and staffers were called by Leah’s ilk.
Words by Emma Buswell Images by Mark Braddock
Leah had managed to stretch out her final sever ance payment from work and her meagre savings over a week and a while but eventually, she’d had no choice but to pack up her small one-bedroom studio apartment, flog most of her belongings and pack the meagre leftovers in her car.
Feeling a bead of sweat pool against the skin of her back she stretched her arms overhead to remove the old worn blue jumper she wore at night. While the median daytime heat might be scorching, it was bitterly cold at night with the lack of cloud cover.
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She carefully folded the garment, crossing each arm over the chest before folding it into thirds. She reached back into the rear of the car and tucked it away back into its spot.
The jumper was a wool one, rare enough these days and something from another era. Its colour had remained relatively steadfast. A deep, rich cobalt blue, worn away at the cuffs and with a small hole under the left armpit she had on occa sion worked her pointer finger into to scratch the side of her breast when it itched. It was clearly a handmade garment, tension just slightly wrong all throughout, a clear indicator it hadn’t come from the factories up north. On the front of the jumper, hard to make out at first glance, an iceberg lettuce emblazoned in green with black outline. Underneath in yellow and red a ticket price of $11.99.
She’d grabbed it one day when a sudden and fanciful whim had overtaken her. Perched on the very top of a pile of shirts and singlets in the last truck stop, she’d noticed it initially for its colour and the softness of the fabric. It was rare for Leah to have the extra cash lying around for such a purchase but she’d had a windfall with a discovery of dehydrated OJ she’d man aged to up-sell at a Trading Post earlier along that par ticular drift. She’d thought to spend the money before it could be seized, stolen, or claimed through one of the Government’s tax loop holes set up to catch out the un-lawyered and unaccountant-ed. She’d allowed herself this one luxury. This one reminder of when times hadn’t been so tough.
Truck stops and road houses that were dotted along the Great Southern often had rails of discarded clothing items left behind by other drifters and wanderers available for sale. Its novelty had appealed to her. Who now adays paid $11.99 for a lettuce?
You’d be lucky to even find one out this way. The last time she’d even purchased one had been with the company’s card and it’d cost them $35.99. One of the ladies they serviced, a Crats wife she thinks, had seen a recipe in a vintage book, 2020: Work From Home & Feed Your Fam ily: The Modern Woman’s Guide to Having it All. The recipe called for using the luxuriant leafy green as an envelope of sorts to contain steaming morsel of barbequed beef stir fry and fresh cut capsicum.
Snapped back into the world by the car’s internal alert messaging software, Leah tuned the dial on the radio deck on the dash board to a local frequency in time to hear the mornings announcements.
‘Tinned tomatoes $7-a-can but only available for the next couple hours. Our man on the ground reckons supply should run dry by 11 today. Better get in quick … Powdered milk, last couple boxes remain ing at the shop on Exit 7 … Farm in Section 3 has just called in saying they have a few Prime Parcels available for anyone who’s got some extra credits this week … There’s a lad out South Ways that needs to hike a ride back into town if anyone’s about. Name’s Jessie. Sounds like a nice enough lad …’
The announcer droned on for another 15 minutes and Leah jotted down what she would be able to afford on the small notepad she reserved for this purpose in the passenger seat.
‘Folks we’ll be back before evening news with more notices. Until then happy drifting, and remember stay alert and keep an eye out for Pirates. We’ve had a few callers ringing in to let us know there’s whispers they’ve parked along Route 15. As always, tune in for more Price Watch and look alive out there!’
As Leah keyed the car into start, she leaned forward in her seat to look out over the dash. The miraculous had happened again as it did everyday. By the time the Price Watch broadcast had ended the light had gone from atmospheric, golden and warm with haze to a glaring beacon, lighting the world with a stark clarity. The sun was already arching high over head, marching onwards along its daily path. As she emerged from out under the pass, Leah observed as the shadows along the road resolved into the shapes of farmhouses and wind turbines, moving listlessly across the course gravel. It was the wrong time of year of course for the wind fields to be of any use.
She drove. And drove and drove and drove. Finally she pulled into a small lot by the side of the road that sat near to a charging station and small kiosk. Stepping out of the car, she walked to the rear and pulled out the extension lead from the bottom cap, plugging into the first of the solar-paneled pillars near the front of the lot. Thankfully this station had all four pillars. There were four kinds of pillars available for charging. Though sometimes a stop might only have one or two in actuality.
Pillar One was free of charge but left the user stuck waiting for hours on end.
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The second was for those who’d lucked out and signed up for the Govern ment’s long awaited and disappointingly delayed Electric Vehicle Rebate Initiative that taxed citizens at a higher rate and com pensated them with access to a faster charge.
The third metered out the charge with efficiency and aplomb, if you could afford the outright expense.
The fourth was for senior members of government and industry, and the Crats they deemed loyal enough to reward with free, unlimit ed, and immediate energy.
While she waited, she entered the kiosk shop, moving through a door that chimed upon entry and swept past a tattered noticeboard with images of Pirates the Authorities were on watch for. She wandered the bare shelves and emerged into the back of the kiosk that opened out to a small Internet café. Extremely old, a suite of almost-novelty iMacs and Window’s Surfaces lined a low-lying desk sat against the window that looked out over the lot.
Leah pulled up a chair and waited for the purr burp whirl of the computer fan to signify the device had rec ognised her presence. The thing positively spluttered into life. She gently tapped its side as if to provide comfort and typed her au thentication details into the screen. Clicking past sev eral advertising reels into the portal, she checked to see if her credits had been transferred.
Leah thought back to the stories her older relatives had told of how things had come to pass. Back in their day they hadn’t had to make the choice between renting a flat and finding dinner. They’d been able to afford fresh produce, and the time required to cook and craft it into a meal. They spoke fondly of times spent after school sneaking into pubs and generally being hooligans. That was a time when credits hadn’t been awarded based on properties you owned, or the number of people you employed. When your rights as a citizen weren’t based on your asset accu mulation or the dollars in your account.
Things had started to shift when the space between crises shrank, and the once-in-hundred-year storms and fires the people on the broadcasts liked to talk about happened every other year. The floods and fires devastated the land scape and fields of crop and livestock lay in ruin.
The land couldn’t recover between each increasing disaster, and the lack of productive agriculture meant that food scarci ty became an everyday threat. The government of the day teetered between acknowledging cost of liv ing pressures and bowing down to the richest among us. Tax cuts for OnePercenters and the miners that plundered the earth took priority over looking after the most vulnerable.
For Drifters the next few years were crucial. This was The Lull.
The Lull was the time between the El Nino and La Nina weather cycles. It was a time of relative ease between seasonal fires and floods.
She remembers her parents talking about when this cy cle truly became the every day playbook people based their lives around. Decades of conservative govern ments had dismissed ideas of the great warming. And finally, when citizens the world over protests, many hundreds of thousands of them school aged children, they pointed their fingers at those children and told them it was their genera tion, her parents’ generation in fact that would save ev eryone. Future technologies would be the answer to the then imminent crisis.
Leah remembers her moth er talking about how unfair she thought it all, being priced out of a future before it even became her present. The burden of a responsi bility for a whole planet, a whole civilisation, a whole global ecosystem resting on the shoulders of a group so young they hadn’t even learnt to drive yet.
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Those future technologies had come too late. By the time Leah had been born, the cycle of destruction, upheaval, reset and rebuild had become a way of life. For Drifters, this was the time to find work and supplies, to build up stores of conserved goods and to drive along the vast net works of roads that clung to Coastal Australia.
Her body had adapted to lack of nourishment. Fasting was a way of survival now. It was remarkable what the body could do on so little. Today though, was a good day, for on the screen before her, a small full green circle illuminated the space beneath her name.
Her credits had come in.
The Government had made some concessions though for policy missteps of its predecessors. A credit sys tem, the Universal Valua tion of Citizen Contribution Means (UVCCM) scheme, judged the usefulness of each citizen to the system and awarded them relevant credits based on their individual or household wealth and what they could contribute.
Once credits were depos ited into an account, the receiver would only have two weeks to spend them before the credits were wiped. As a citizen who was a Drifter, a no-fixedaddress denizen of the roads and highways, she didn’t get as many credits to her account as a Rich ling, Sourcer or Crat.
Leah was a single woman, without child, or home or house, she hadn’t been awarded the bonus credits upon contributing a child for the nation. She’d pre ferred to keep her freedom. She was a Wanderer. Her value to the system was minimal, but today, two credits were deposited into her account.
Today would be a good day.
Leah logged back out of the portal, collected her bag from the table with its UVCCM Card inside and made her way back through the isles of near empty shelves. She picked up a small bottle of recon stituted juice flavoured water, a single prepack aged sliced soy cheese sandwich that proudly stated ‘Soy Yum’ on the label and a roll of two-ply recycled toilet paper.
The irony that a single roll of bog was more expensive per unit than the bulk value pack was never lost on her.
Leah approached the reg ister with a smile, handed over her card, received back her acquisitions and moved back out into the sunshine and toward her car. Opening the door, she sat down on the seat, propped her feet up on the Pillar and thought out how best to spend her remain ing credits.
She’d go looking for the tinned tomatoes, she thought.
And maybe, just maybe, she’d get to see an iceberg lettuce.
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Emma Buswell is a Western Australian artist, who uses traditional craft as a medium to comment on political, social, and cultural issues and ideas.
This knitted jumper is her take on the inflated price of lettuce that emerged in 2022 through a confluence of disasters — think diesel prices (Ukraine), farmers selling-up (veggie farming doesn’t pay well); and the impact of extreme weather events.¹
The jumper is available to purchase through Emma’s webshop: emmabuswell. bigcartel.com
If you (or your nanna) knit, then download the pattern at www.thefulcrum.agency — a momento of these strange times.
1 https://theconversation.com/ why-is-lettuce-so-expensivecosts-have-shot-up-andwont-return-to-where-theywere-184449
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HyperSext Gender, Safety and Public Space: From Representation to Co-creation
Since 2016, the Monash University XYX Lab has been addressing the complex intersection of space, gender and identity through design practice and research. Navigating the territory of gender and sex and their relationship to cities is complex. XYX Lab’s research grapples with conflicting perspectives tied to personal (or ‘lived’) experience. This research area requires that they are at ease with the connections that this work surfaces as well as many moments of dissonance and conflict. Where one person may argue that sex is the biological framework, and that gender is the social construction and experience of masculinity and femininity, another may contest the concept of female or male altogether.
Words by Melissa Miles Images by XYX Lab
Visually representing the anxiety experienced by many women and girls, particularly those who are members of the LGBTIQ community, when walking city streets alone at night involves contending with a weighty tradition. Decades of crime reporting, TV and visual culture have solidified into a set of visual tropes that are both pervasive and persistent.
The empty stretch of footpath. The young woman seen from the back, walking alone. Perhaps she’s looking over her shoulder. Harsh streetlamps creating disconcert ing deep, dark shadows. Blurred neon or oncoming car headlights flaring on the camera’s lens, obscuring visibility. Grainy CCTV footage. The empty carpark. Misty roads and parklands. An imagined figure lurking in the dark. An abandoned shoe lying on its side. A handbag left in a lane.
Flowers and candles transforming a street into a makeshift memorial. What geographer James Tyner describes as the ‘politics of fear underlying our representation of the street’ has been distilled over decades, from Jack the Ripper to crime films and more recently, news reports on the Claremont killings and Jill Meagher’s ‘final walk’.¹
Commercial stock photo archives like Getty Images and Shutterstock are indicative of the ubiquity of such imagery. These massive image archives trade in generic photographs for billboards, brochures, websites and magazines, forming what media theorist Paul Frosh refers to as the ‘wallpaper’ of cities and consumer culture.² Getty Images offers staged and documentary photographs of women in city streets after dark by the thousands. Yet four types of images overwhelmingly predominate: young, pretty ‘feminine’ women smiling and confident when walking with their male partners or friends; young, pretty ‘feminine’ women standing alone but confident because they are connected to
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others through their mobile devices; young, pretty ‘feminine’ women isolated, unidentifiable or vulnerable when walking alone after dark; and sexualised young women walking alone and looking provocatively towards the viewer. The repetition of very limited tropes like these in news, entertainment and commercial media produces more than just ‘wallpaper’. It helps to create an ambient image environment that habituates members of the public to certain types of people in particular contexts and reinforces expectations about who is entitled to access certain types of spaces with confidence and who does not.
This essay asks what is at stake in such representations of gender and safety in urban spaces, and how we might move towards more productive conversations. Imbued with very potent ideas about crime, fear, risk, race, and heteronormative and middle class norms, these images of urban threat, desire and safety are ingrained in us and inscribed into the spaces in which we live. Consciously or not, they inform where we walk, when we walk, how we walk and how we feel when we walk with others. Cumulatively and over time, these representations reinforce impressions of the urban spaces and conditions in which women and girls can reasonably have an expectation of safety and those which
1 James Tyner, Space, Place and Violence (New York: Routledge, 2012), 102. For examples of this representation of the city as site of risk see: Candace Sutton, Shadowed by a killer: Jill Meagher’s final walk, news.com. au, 4 May 2017. https://www. news.com.au/national/victoria/ shadowed-by-a-killer-jillmeaghers-final-walk/newsstory/ebe461b014086b7a31c 6c8d47d5ee0cf; Three women were murdered in Claremont. This is why it took two decades to reach a verdict, SBS News, https://www.sbs.com.au/news/ three-women-were-murderedin-claremont-this-is-why-ittook-two-decades-to-reacha-verdict
2 Paul Frosh, Is Commercial Photography a Public Evil? Beyond the Critique of Stock Photography, in Photography and Its Publics, ed. Melissa Miles and Edward Welch (London: Routledge, 2020), 195
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Above: Monash University XYX Lab, 2021 A Billion Views Director/Producer: Ella Mitchell
Left: HyperSext Exhibition Photo: Brett Brown
HyperSext City HyperGraphic by Gene Bawden
Data Visualisation is a powerful communication tool. As exemplified in the HyperSext HyperGraphic, XYX Lab utilises visualisation techniques to translate data into public, powerful and immediately understood representations of gender-based spatial inequity.
The technique makes visible the urgency of the issues that otherwise remain hidden in indecipherable and inaccessible spreadsheets, government reports and paywalled digital repositories. The process provides visible clarity of complex information, and connects disparate data sets in order to prioritise the most pressing concerns.
The capacity for policy makers, designers and other decision makers that influence urban futures to quickly comprehend important data is paramount if they are to respond to these issues effectively.
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are sites of risk. For perpetrators of verbal harassment, physical intimidation and violence, they may also help to validate or legitimise abusive behaviours in certain types of spaces. Scholars have pointed out how the mass media’s disproportionate focus on a relatively small number of murders of young women by strangers also renders thousands of daily experiences of harassment and violence invisible.³ Catcalling, unwanted sexual attention, objectification, stalking, harassment and physical violence form part of a spectrum of behaviours, which are the products of a culture that sustains heteronormativity and related constructions of masculinity and femininity.⁴ The challenge for those seeking to address issues of safety and urban gender inequity visually, is that attempts to capture the public’s attention with imagery that already has currency risks inadvertently supporting the very problems they seek to overcome.
In the geographies of risk mapped in popular representations of urban safety, the journey home is a particularly perilous terrain. The space between workplace or venue and home is a recurring trope in reporting of
random attacks on women in public, where phrases like ‘just a kilometre from her home’ and ‘walking towards her home in the early hours’ are used to strike a chord with readers.⁵ Home is figured as the safe harbour in this problematic public-private divide. Although we know that that violence against women is most often perpetrated by someone they know, in the spectacularised culture of urban crime drama and reporting, the devil we don’t know looms far larger than the ones we do.⁶
Police warnings and media commentaries supplement these narratives and images with cautionary tales. Victoria Police’s Acting Commander, David Clayton, controversially warned Melbourne women after the rape and murder of Eurydice Dixon in 2018: be ‘aware of your surroundings’, ‘walk in well-lit areas and if listening to music … consider using only one headphone in’.⁷
For many of us, these and other behaviours taught by parents, authorities and peers to supposedly ward off the threat of violence and harassment in public are so normalised that we may not attach them consciously to a sense of fear. Walk with bravado — appear assertive.
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Home is figured as the safe harbour in this problematic public-private divide
Don’t meander or dawdle.
Don’t attract attention. Stick to the well-lit streets. Vary your route, but don’t take quieter paths. Be careful where you park your car. Carry your phone. Be aware of who is around you. Carry your handbag close. Tone down your look. Don’t show affection in public. Look out for your mates. Text a friend when you get home. Take a taxi. Behave like ‘a good woman’ and you’ll be ok.⁸ Tell yourself it’s just anxiety. Don’t be hysterical. Tell yourself that women are more likely to be attacked or killed by someone they know by than a stranger in the street. Deny that the social relations, cultures, gender values, expectations, institutions and structures that give rise to and sustain domestic violence have any connection to acts of genderbased harassment, abuse and violence by strangers in public.⁹ The unspoken flipside of these self-help crime prevention strategies (or myths) is highlighted by Elizabeth Stanko:
Women who do not follow the rules for prudent behaviour, it is presumed, deserve to be excluded from any benefits of public provision of safety, because those women fail to take appropriate measures to protect themselves from harm.¹⁰
Social geographer Alexandra Fanghanel points out the ultimate irony:
3 Janine Mary Little, Jill Meagher CCTV, Feminist Media Studies 15, no. 3 (2015): 407. For a compelling account of incidents of domestic violence in just one day in the UK, see Elizabeth Stanko, The Day to Count: Reflections on a methodology to Raise Awareness about the Impact of Domestic Violence in the UK, Criminology and Criminal Justice 1, no. 2 (2001): 215-26.
4 Alexandra Fanghanel, Disrupting Rape Culture: Public Space, Sexuality and Revolt (Bristol: Bristol University Press, 2019), 8.
5 See, for example, Bill Hosking, Anita Cobby murder: ‘Everyone in the car that dreadful night had a passport to doom’, The Guardian, 20 March 2017, https://www.theguardian.com/ australia-news/2017/mar/20/ anita-cobby-everyone-in-thecar-that-dreadful-night-hada-passport-to-doom; Aisha Dow, Murder of Jill Meagher was ‘preventable’, Victorian Coroner finds, The Age, 27 May 2016, https://www.theage.com.au/ national/victoria/murder-of-jillmegher-was-preventablevictorian-coroner-finds20160527-gp5y0w.html; Eurydice Dixon’s killer stalked her for 5km before murder in Melbourne park, The Guardian, 15 August 2019, https:// www.theguardian.com/ australia-news/2019/aug/15/ eurydice-dixons-killer-stalkedher-for-5km-before-in-mel bourne-park
6 Little, Jill Meagher CCTV, 407.
7 Andie Noonan, Eurydice Dixon: Warnings over personal safety spark social media backlash, ABC News, 15 June 2018. https://www.abc.net.au/ news/2018-06-15/warningon-personal-safety-aftereurydice-dixon-deathcriticised/9873588
8 Elizabeth Stanko, Safety Talk: conceptualizing women’s risk assessment as a ‘technology of the soul’, Theoretical Criminology 1, no. 4 (1997): 486.
9 For more on these systemic issues, see Geraldine Connon Becker and Angel T. Dionne, eds., Rape Culture 101: Programming Change (Ontario: Demeter, 2020).
10 Stanko, Safety Talk: conceptual izing women’s risk assessment as a ‘technology of the soul’, 486.
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HyperSext City Opening Night Photo:
… even the notion of personal security, of things that you could do to make yourself safer in order to avoid rape and sexual harassment, are ingrained in vernacular rape culture that fetishises safety at any price, and casts public spaces where these attacks are imagined to take place as inherently dangerous, from which women as always-already victim, should be excluded.¹¹
The offensive judgements implicit in recurring cautionary tales are not simply linked to certain self-regulating behaviours. As the plethora of stock photographs of women alone on the streets at night attest, there is a preferred cast in representations of fear and risk in urban spaces. The so-called ‘innocent victim’ is typically a cisgender woman, white, able-bodied yet apparently helpless, young, pretty and childless.¹²
Scholars looking at news accounts of violence against women through an intersectional lens have shown the striking variability in reporting of the deaths
of women based on the extent to which the victim aligns to these ideals. In their study of media coverage of the deaths of Irish woman Jill Meagher, Indian woman Jyothi Singh and Indigenous woman Lynette Daley, Chelsea Hart and Amanda Gilbertson show how some crimes are presented as more ‘grievable’ than others based on preconceptions about the race and class of the victim.¹³ In popular representations of gendered risk in public, different lives seem to matter and different ways. Conversely, perpetrators of ‘grievable’ public attacks on women are commonly framed as deviant or disconnected from society due to mental illness, disability or other supposed outsider status, as was the case with Meagher’s, Dixon’s and Aiia Maasarwe’s killers. Media depictions of ‘evil’ criminals and abhorrent crimes troublingly ‘sustain the inaccurate myth that violence against women is rare and when committed, not reflective of society’s true values.’¹⁴
It is clear that we need alternative ways of representing the experiences and risks of gender-based
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harassment and violence in public. We may use social media and public gatherings to reclaim the streets and the night, march against violence and hold vigils for peace. Tweet our rage, Insta-empowering images, and Facebook our own stories. However, there is also a risk in unwittingly figuring urban space as the inert stage for violence and harassment, rather than the product of decades of non-gender-inclusive design produced by those with the privilege of feeling safe in public space. We must remember that gendered spatial inequity is not simply the product of harassment or violent acts that occur in public. Tyner puts it succinctly: We need to recognise that violence not only takes place, but that violence is part of place, that violence and place are iterative. In other words, both that violence contributes to the production of place, and that place is foundational to the practice of violence.¹⁵
The ability to occupy and traverse urban spaces free from harassment and violence is the product of privilege. And when cities are designed as though this privilege is the norm experienced by all, spatial inequities quietly persist. As Michael Kimmel writes in his study of masculinities:
The processes that confer privilege on one group and not another are often invisible to those upon whom that privilege is conferred. Thus, not having to think about race is one of the luxuries of being white, just as not having to think about gender is one of the ‘patriarchal dividends’ of gender inequality.¹⁶
Privileges also function by degrees. To suggest that spatial inequity and injustice operate according to dualistic gender categories is to deny intersectional experiences and gender diversity. When ‘public spaces are (over)coded as androcentric, heterocentric, ableist, transphobic, racist, [and] classist’,¹⁷ they perpetuate inequity, hinder engagement and delimit full participation in urban space in myriad ways. For LGBTIQ+ communities, unsafe spaces can be spaces that are heterosexualised through the prevalence of advertisements and displays showing images
11 Fanghanel, Disrupting Rape Culture: Public Space, Sexuality and Revolt, 12
12 Stanko, Safety Talk: conceptual izing women’s risk assessment as a ‘technology of the soul’, 483.
13 Chelsea Hart and Amanda Gilbertson, When does violence against women matter? Gender, race and class in Australian media representations of sexual violence and homicide, Outskirts 39 (2018): 1-19. See also Jay Daniel Thompson and Rebecca Louise, Sexed Violence and its (Dis)appearances: Media Cover age Surrounding the Murders of Jill Meagher and Johanna Martin, Outskirts 31 (2014).
14 Hart and Gilbertson, When does violence against women matter? Gender, race and class in Aus tralian media representations of sexual violence and homicide, 3.
15 Tyner, Space, Place and Vio lence, 166.
16 Michael Kimmel, Foreword, in Masculinities Matter! Men, Gender and Development, ed. Frances Cleaver (London: Zed Books, 2002), xi-xii.
17 Fanghanel, Disrupting Rape Culture: Public Space, Sexuality and Revolt, 13.
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Monash University XYX Lab, 2021 A Billion Views Director/Producer: Ella Mitchell
of happy heterosexual couples and nuclear families. Such spaces can create a sense of being out of place and act as reminders of vulnerability to harassment, verbal abuse, intimidation and physical hate crimes.¹⁸ In her study of the experience of architectural space for trans and gender diverse people, Simona Castricum also notes: Trans people who live with different aspects of marginalisation as well — through race, class, ability, or a combination of these — experience compounding effects; this is one reason why particularly trans women of color endure disproportionate amounts of extreme violence and murder rates in their communities.¹⁹
We can choose to turn away from exclusionary images altogether and let the numbers speak loudly to the scale, breadth and complexity of the problem. The Australian Bureau of Statistics, the Australia Institute and Plan Australia tell us that ‘90% of women in Australia have experienced catcalling or sexually aggressive comments, and more than half were still children the first time it happened.’²⁰ While 80% of Australian men report feeling safe while walking alone at night, a 2019 Community Council for Australia report notes that only 50% of women say the same. This gap between the perceived safety of women and men in Australia is the largest of all OECD countries, and is growing wider in Victoria where women’s perception of safety is diminishing.²¹
While the particular experiences of trans women were addressed in this report, The 2018 Australian Trans and Gender Diverse Sexual Health Survey found that 53.2% of trans and gender diverse people had experienced sexual violence, compared to 13.3% of the broader Australian
population.²² According to the 2020 Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety report Crossing the Line, trans women from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds report more frequent instances of sexual harassment by a stranger than other groups of women.²³ Data is power, but it is also partial and says more about effects than their cause. While shocking data like this can form a compelling call to action, it does not show the way forward.
Criminologists, geographers, philosophers, feminists and social scientists have spent decades studying women’s experiences of public space, yet gendered experiences of sexualised harassment and violence persist. These are complex issues — too complex to solve with a silver bullet. Single propositions, whether they be design or policing strategies, queer practices or feminist imagery and analysis, will not be able to compete with the cumulative effects of decades of news coverage, popular culture, gender norms, classism, homophobia and transphobia, racism and deeply ingrained intergenerational anxieties. Like any long-term systemic change, we need to come together and be in it for the long haul. Intersectional dynamics will be a source of strength. We need to talk and to listen; really listen, sensitively and respectfully. Only through a comprehensive, interdisciplinary and intersectional practice can we create shared understanding and a common vision for change. People from across the spectrums of age, class, gender, profession, experience, interests and skills can together activate new pathways and forge new spaces, and through a multitude of small, complementary actions, can help edge closer towards long-overdue change.
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18 Karen Corteen, Lesbian Safety Talk: Problematizing Definitions and Experiences of Violence, Sexuality and Space, Sexualities 5, no. 3 (2002): 260.
19 Simona Castricum, When Pro gram is the Enemy of Function … Gender- Nonconforming Experiences of Architectural Space, Architecture and Culture 5, no. 3 (2017): 378.
20 Jane Gilmore, If you don’t believe the harassment statistics, listen to these women, Sydney Morning Herald, 10 May 2019, https://www.smh.com.au/ lifestyle/gender/if-you-don-tbelieve-the-harassmentstatistics-listen-to-thesewomen-20190509-p51lp2.html
21 Community Council for Australia, The Australia We Want, Community Council for Australia (Canberra, 2019), 3233, https://www.community council.com.au/sites/default/ files/Australia-we-want-Sec ond-Report_ONLINE.pdf
22 Denton Callander et al., The 2018 Australian trans and gender diverse sexual health survey: Report of findings, The Kirby Institute (Sydney, 2019), 10, https://kirby.unsw.edu.au/ sites/default/files/kirby/report/ ATGD-Sexual-Health-SurveyReport_2018.pdf
23 Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety, Crossing the line: Lived experience of sexual violence among trans women of colour from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds in Australia, ANROWS (Sydney, 2020), 10, https://apo.org.au/ sites/default/files/ resource-files/2020-06/ apo-nid306359_0.pdf
Thank you to Research Assistant Geraldine Fela for her assistance with the literature search and thoughtful comments.
Research for this essay was also supported by the Australian Research Council grant FT130100012.
Australia, Community Council for. The Australia We Want. Community Council for Australia (Canberra: 2019). https://www.communitycouncil.com.au/sites/default/files/Australia-we-want-SecondReport_ONLINE.pdf.
Callander, Denton, Jeremy Wiggins, Shoshana Rosenberg, Vincent Cornelisse, Elizabeth Duck-Chong, Martin Holt, Mish Pony, et al. The 2018 Australian Trans and Gender Diverse Sexual Health Survey: Report of Findings. The Kirby Institute (Sydney: 2019). https://kirby.unsw.edu.au/sites/default/ files/kirby/report/ATGD-Sexual-Health-Survey-Report_2018.pdf.
Castricum, Simona. When Program Is the Enemy of Function... Gender- Nonconforming Experiences of Architectural Space. Architecture and Culture 5, no. 3 (2017).
Connon Becker, Geraldine, and Angel T. Dionne, eds. Rape Culture 101: Programming Change. Ontario: Demeter, 2020.
Corteen, Karen. Lesbian Safety Talk: Problematizing Definitions and Experiences of Violence, Sexuality and Space. Sexualities 5, no. 3 (2002).
Fanghanel, Alexandra. Disrupting Rape Culture: Public Space, Sexuality and Revolt. Bristol: Bristol University Press, 2019.
Frosh, Paul. Is Commercial Photography a Public Evil? Beyond the Critique of Stock Photography. In Photography and Its Publics, edited by Melissa Miles and Edward Welch. London: Routledge, 2020.
Hart, Chelsea, and Amanda Gilbertson. When Does Violence against Women Matter? Gender, Race and Class in Australian Media Representations of Sexual Violence and Homicide. Outskirts 39 (2018): 1-19.
Kimmel, Michael. Foreword. In Masculinities Matter! Men, Gender and Development, edited by Frances Cleaver. London: Zed Books, 2002. Little, Janine Mary. Jill Meagher Cctv. Feminist Media Studies 15, no. 3 (2015).
Safety, Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s. Crossing the Line: Lived Experience of Sexual Violence among Trans Women of Colour from Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (Cald) Backgrounds in Australia ANROWS (Sydney: 2020). https://apo.org.au/sites/default/files/ resource-files/2020-06/apo-nid306359_0.pdf.
Stanko, Elizabeth. The Day to Count: Reflections on a Methodology to Raise Awareness About the Impact of Domestic Violence in the UK. Criminology and Criminal Justice 1, no. 2 (2001): 215-26. ———. Safety Talk: Conceptualizing Women’s Risk Assessment as a ‘Technology of the Soul’.” Theoretical Criminology 1, no. 4 (1997): 479-99.
Thompson, Jay Daniel, and Rebecca Louise. Sexed Violence and Its (Dis)Appearances: Media Coverage Surrounding the Murders of Jill Meagher and Johanna Martin. Outskirts 31 (2014). Tyner, James. Space, Place and Violence. New York: Routledge, 2012.
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