The social work Alumni lunch at Lennons was an interesting event.
I've always liked Julie Macrossan, who won me over whilst co-hosting Life Matters with Geradine Dougue on Radio national each weekday morning. Alas they have both left the program since, but i was lucky enough to hear her speak this week in Brisbane.
Julie was asked to speak on "Hot Topics in Socal Justice". Lots of juicy and, by definition, complex topics that could be spoken about under this banner. Julie did choose however, an issue that she described as "making the sky weep and the blood come from the stones"; the issue of alcohol abuse in indigenous communities (and making me think of my 'Uluru Bleeding' post last month.)
For a brief moment a few weeks ago Australia's media swarmed on this issue...prompted by the comments of Nanette Rodgers and Indigenous Affairs Minister Mal Brough.
Julie explored this issue, citing the influence on alcohol in traditional communities and referring to the ideas of Aboriginal leaders such as Noel Pearson and his speech " THe Human Right to misery, mass incarceration and early death" delivered as part of the the Charles Perkins Oration in 2001.
Whilst she was careful to warn of seeking simple answers to complex truths, one particulalry strong point she made was her conviction that alcohol was not merely a symptom but rather the cause of so much of the suffering being experienced today. Poignantly she drew a comparision to William Hogarth's 1751 etching " Gin Lane" and the impact of alcohol on the new working class, and how this affected the English working class families of the time... a visual analogy that i found intriguing.
There was no other way forward, she argued, than to accept we are in a post-colonial environment and need to work with the realities in front of us. This means ensuring basic needs such as safety and protection of children, providing support to aboriginal parents, assistance with nutrition (or at its most basic mere provision of food) , education, care and meaningful work.
To achieve this Julie stated we need to strongly affirm and support Aboriginal leaders such as Pearson, provide scholarships and encouragement for outstanding aboriginal leaders and students and further encourage the involvement of organsiations such as the Fred Hollows Foundation, and International Aid agencies to assist where necessary to provide impoverished Aboriginal communities with access to basic human rights and dignity, and a future worth living.
In a room full of social workers it was quite sobering (pardon the pun) to hear such a strong straight forward message devoid of the shackles of political correctness.