Baptism By Fire: On Reading Your Words Out Loud And Finding Your Tribe

We clumsily made our way down to the beach. Our destination was a place called George’s Taverna, a tiny open air beachside café with animated waiters, easy food but mostly drinks, an Aegean breeze to die for and of course, free wi-fi.

We were late of course, running on Greek island time. The sun was starting to set and the night was urging us along the sandy beach, pushing us towards our intimidating destination.

It was a long walk and I could hear raucous laughter and applause emanating from the distance. Who was laughing, who was reading, what was going on?

I liked the idea of it in theory. I just hadn’t come around to the idea of ME reading something I WROTE to all the PEOPLE. The idea where we elected to read out our writing in our free time on the island in between classes and lectures and workshops. And by “elected” I mean Amanda walked around, saw you, wrote your name down and told you what night you were reading.

What would I read? Would I even read? Did I have a choice? Not at all and that was the best part.

We arrived to a hero’s welcome. The women and one man (hi Reade) were already there, cheering loudly as we took our seats.

Am I down to read tonight? I mouthed to Amanda. Of course, she mouthed back, as though I had just asked her if we were really on an island surrounded by water.

the great formidable fire that is Amanda

the great formidable fire that is Amanda

It was only our fourth day on the island. In total, we were only there for 10 days. Only, I say, still remembering how it felt like a lifetime, still aching for that to be the case.

The atmosphere was electric and wild with promise. Amanda, our hilarious host, would pluck out bits of paper from an ashtray and read out the bio for each reader, which was actually just the notes from the lectures and salons that we’d had already.

Everyone was in a gloriously happy mood. It was infectious. Sarah and I were frantically trying to connect to the wi-fi in the tavern so we could search for a past blog post to read out. We were ill-prepared to say the least. It’s not like we could read out something we’d written that day, right? It wasn’t good enough, surely? Our island writing was unpolished, rushed and unfinished and we felt underprepared. Surely it wasn’t enough.

But it was. It was all so wild and brazen and that was all it needed to be. So I pulled out my tattered notebook and knew what I’d read almost immediately. When my turn came up I was one ouzo down and halfway through straight Metaxa, a potent Greek brandy that Amanda kept raving about. I was buzzing already because there was energy in the room, something I couldn’t quite put my finger on. Something buoyant and happy; supportive, joyful, ready to laugh, ready to cry, ready to listen.

This was also showing in my physical appearance. The slight transformation reflected how I was feeling inside: warm and growing like a plant getting its intake of sunlight; a whisper of a golden tan, speckled with a little scorching from the sun and some freckles to show for it. Slightly tipsy, I must have looked like a crazed woman. Wearing my high-waisted vintage “mom” jeans and a white striped top cut down the middle of the back, flowing freely, so white against my fresh new skin. My unwashed hair was wild and untamed, the sea salt water curls flying everywhere. My lips were punctuated with a dark red lipstick. I remember how the small changes made me feel fierce.

I was here for the show, albeit unintentionally and the warm lights had been waiting for me all along. They were more ready to illuminate me than I was.

I can’t remember being nervous although I must have been because I always am, even when you can’t see it. I have the uncanny ability to wear my nerves like an invisibility cloak. I cracked jokes and pretended to jump up and down on the giant white stone step behind me, simulating actual stretches and warm ups. My new friends laughed and I could hear murmurs about how I was drunk but also, somehow, on fire. I felt that I was heating up for something, unsure of what exactly.

When the lights had dimmed and the chatter decreased and all you could hear was the sound of the crashing waves only metres away, or the movement of glasses being lifted every which way, the air heady with the promise of safety and warmth, full of kind faces staring up at you, waiting for the storytellers, waiting for you – I knew it was time to begin.

I read “my birth story from the perspective of someone else”. It was Rachel DeWoskin’s writing prompt for that day. My someone else was my Lebanese immigrant grandmother. I had to do the accents. I couldn’t read my scribbling scrawling from when we only had 25 minutes to write it. At first people didn’t laugh at the times I expected them to, but then they laughed uncontrollably, unexpectedly, so uproariously in fact, that, I struggled to get through the piece, to be heard over the laughter. I didn’t know what was happening. My face was burning up. The laughter increased. Did they like it? I had no time to double check. When I was done, their applause lifted me up like a procession through the streets. I sat down, my face entirely red. They were still applauding. The readings went on. I was glowing like a bloody glow worm. People got up to read, but afterwards something even more unexpected happened.

I was pulled out of my dazed reverie by the line of women and one man who came to tell me that they loved it. Loved what? Loved my story, my words. What story, what words? I was in shock. They came to tell me that I had made them laugh. What, I demand you tell me at what point I did anything remotely of that nature. They held my hands, held my gaze, they sparkled with affirmative joy.

Mary said she simply had to record this story for a radio story. Another woman Janet came over and said that she nearly pissed her pants because of my story (“Amanda’s story made me piss my pants but your grandmother story started the piss trail!”)

I never thought that starting someone’s piss trail would be an indication of success but here in this parallel universe, what other measure could there be?

What was happening?! I had never done anything like this before. How did I not fall into the earth’s crumbling, fiery abyss?

Something had shifted, whether it was my world, my surroundings or maybe just me.

I had always been waiting on the sidelines, in the audience, waiting for someone to pick me first in the gym team of the writing world, to ask me to be the one to write something and to read it out loud, to prove that my words were real and worthy. I believed if I went to enough late night readings, comedy nights, story events – that eventually someone would recognise that little sparkle in me too and ask me to have a go at it. I never asked myself or offered to put myself out there. I was always too afraid of the no. Or even the ‘yes’ and not being able to deliver.

Instead I tried to subtly infiltrate the stark whiteness of literary festivals, make friends with the right people, the right/writer people. So I sat comfortably on the sidelines, almost too eager to be relegated there. I changed the narrative until I was convinced I was always meant to not get up there at all and forgot all about it.

Soon it started to dawn on me what was really at stake and what has always been slipping away from me, slowly but definitively. I would watch on as even “non-writers” got to have a red hot go at it, just because they knew the right people and took up the YES wholeheartedly. What chance did I, the imposter, even have?

I started to believe I was a joke to all my writer friends. That I was just pretending to be one. That no one would ever ask me to read my words out loud and that if they didn’t, it meant that I wasn’t really a writer. If I didn’t get validation from other writers, all types of validation became null and void. This became my burden, my deadweight.

I would say it was stupid to wait around all that time and not dive in to that ocean with both hands, both figuratively and then, literally in Patmos. But I did this reading not because I volunteered to do it, but because a guardian angel named Amanda put my name down before I even had a chance to say yes, no or let out a scream of panic.

I didn’t know that this was all I needed. I even made excuses like “I’m not going to read tonight”. I said that each night. But I read both nights anyway. Because I had to, I was called to. Amanda said my name and I stood up and I read and it was as simple as that.


Back in Athens, before the island, before the magic, before any of it, I caught a cab to the dock where the ferry would depart. Before the cab ride that changed everything, I first got to the café which inadvertently became a meeting place for the other course members. At first I was entirely alone. I was so incredibly aware of how alone I was, since I had all my luggage with me and no idea what to do there at that random beachside cafe in Athens. Until they found me, of course. First Reade and Martha wondered over to me a little timidly. It had to be the way. I could no longer summon the courage.

“Are you going to Patmos too? We just figured, you know, with all your luggage” they said.

Then Mayra came over too, we recognised each other in the same way and almost hugged each other with relief, until we remembered that we were still only strangers.

“You had your book out and I just thought, she has to be a Cheryl Strayed girl” Mayra said to me in that excited way you get when you’ve been flying for way too many hours with no rest or reprieve but you absolutely have to say the first thing that flies into your head. My heart soared at that simple recognition. We had come so far but we’d finally found each other.

Eventually I found Dunja (or rather, she found me since I was too scared to leave my chair and luggage) one of the other Australians there too and we instantly hit it off in a way that startled me; it was like talking to a more animated version of myself. Dunja and I got so caught up in our conversation, we almost missed getting a cab to the ferry. We rushed out, forgetting things like a phone charger, wondering if there was a cab left. There was.

“Get in our cab” two women shouted at us.

Mayra was there too and she was also getting in the cab, but then so were these two new women we hadn’t met yet. I quickly did the math and thought long and hard about the physics. It wasn’t possible.

“It’s okay, we’ll just get another cab” I called out in my sensible voice.

They were instantly aghast at this, like, what are you insane, there’s no time! They waved us away and insisted we get in their cab. The two new women turned out to be our other two guardian angels, Amanda and Bek.
“Do you guys know each other?” We asked them both, since they had such a familiar rapport with one another.

“Ha, no we literally just met like five minutes ago. Let’s go, let’s go, let’s go!” Bek cried out.

I’ll never forget that taxi ride. Five grown ass women squeezed in together, limbs flying everywhere, a giant paranoid taxi driver telling us to duck our heads so he doesn’t get fined. We were so far squished up to each other I don’t even know where my body ended and their’s began but it didn’t matter. I laughed so hard for those 20 minutes (he sped to help us get to the ferry in time, and also to dodge the police), that everything inside of me hurt. I’ll never forget Amanda interrogating that taxi driver about his being a spy for the US government.

“What’s your story, George?” she said so earnestly, so unintentionally hilarious in that way that only she could do. George’s story was ridiculous but he loved telling it to us. Dunja and I were in stitches. All our fears on that trip subsided. I felt calm, safe, protected.

That was Amanda. She asked you to tell your story and you did, you did until you laughed so hard you cried. And then maybe you cried because you finally got to tell your god damn story, and then watched as people still wanted more from you.

I realised in the past I was always looking for a crew of creatives I could lean on. I was searching for it everywhere, even in the way I would support everyone in my life who had a passionate creative endeavour. I would just do it so sincerely and unabashedly, unthinkingly to promote everyone without them even needing to ask in the first place. Something inside of me hoped that I’d be good enough for someone to return the favour, unprompted. And it always hurt when it was never reciprocated, an open hand left out to shake and no one there to shake it.

You see, I thought the already established ones; those who studied with me, who wrote around me and inside the lines, they could pluck me from the crowd and usher me towards a place of confidence and self-assurance. I never imagined it would be the uninitiated tribe from all parts of the US and a few places in Australia and even Canada, who would find me there on the isolated and quiet island of Patmos, the island of magic, of unfulfilled promises. They were the ones who illuminated me.

At the final reading, when I was convinced that what I read was not good enough, when I regretted reading that story for reasons that are hard to articulate, a procession of people came to my seat to reassure me that I made the right choice and to thank me for sharing a story that was hard to put down in words and even harder to say out loud.

My darling Mary came by with joy in her face: ‘Now that’s two stories I want to record!”

“I watched Rachel’s face while you read. She said “wow”

Monique came over and sat next to me. She held my hand and came in close to say she understood my story, she had a similar experience. She said I was not alone but I was brave to speak that truth finally. I couldn’t look her directly in the eyes because I still didn’t believe that story was capable of anything except maybe being too long and boring people, or because maybe my eyes were welling up.

Ben hugged me and said it brought a tear to his eye. And since I could literally see the tear he spoke of, I started to believe it, slowly.

On Patmos, on Greek time, there was no doubt about our hidden talents and our worthiness to step up and be the storytellers. There was no longer any doubt that we could hold two truths in two hands, and walk forward (Cheryl Strayed’s direct quote fyi).

We could be, in those moments, both ordinary and extraordinary. We were writers and we were not writers. We came in a little weary but bounced out full of life and electricity, charging each other up like powerful volts you can’t contain.

To feel worthy, I had to first realise that it would only take an entire international tribe to finally give me something even better than permission: the realisation that I did not need to ask first or ever. That I could come and sit at this table and exist, that I could go and carve out new paths, start readings of our own. That I, too, could ask people, “what’s your story” and listen as intently as five women squished together in the back of a cab in the manic lanes of a struggling Greek city.

I am eternally grateful to the kindred spirits I found there on that special island who opened me up and showed me what I could do. I’ll always remember when time was measured by meaning and try to hold that sliver of eternity we captured in both hands forever.



Here is My Napoli

Napoli brews fire; its main commodity. Napoli is an eruption that hasn’t happened yet. Napoli is not quite walking in a straight line and giant, wild hand gestures, swinging personalities, trust in the right neighbourhood, dodgy, shifty manoeuvres in the wrong one, shady characters and a warm hospitality, an unexpected embrace. It’s your Airbnb host making you fresh coffee and explaining how the Napoli coffee pot differs to the moka one. It’s drinking a 1 euro plastic cup of prosecco on a narrow dark street while you wait for the famous pizzeria that has Bill Clinton’s face on the menu from that one time he went there. It’s taxi drivers gathering together to loudly instruct and argue with your taxi driver over the best route to take you where you need to go, that same taxi driver calling his mate for directions and still needing to ask his “colleague” (a random taxi driver on the street) who responds with a series of emphatic gestures and him finally driving you towards the little street but he can’t drive through it so he’s pointing in the direction so you don’t get lost but has no qualms about almost running a woman with a pram over to get there. It’s making sure they always give you the right change, even if it’s 10 euro cents and being delighted when you laugh and leave it as a tip. Napoli is casually finding out you’re staying in a beautiful 17th century building where writer Goethe once lived. It’s periodic strikes of lightning lighting up the dark sky. Everything is the most Italian thing ever; cliches but if cliches were pumping out from a wild manic heartbeat. I’ve never been so enthralled by a place before, so unequivocally taken in. A waiter in Amalfi told me I have “the face of a Napoli woman, the most beautiful women in the world” so naturally I’m now acting like a kingpin local around the joint, downing espressos while standing at the bar, nodding knowingly, hobbling along the cobblestones with my aching calves, hoping I’ll see the ghost of Sophia Loren around every corner whispering “benvenuto a casa” even though she’s still alive and I might have already tried to find her house.

One AmsterDay when I was AmsterDone

I overheard my boyfriend in the lounge room of the small apartment we’re renting in Amsterdam, the one with the lone bright yellow wall.

“Siri, what’s the weather like today?”

I don’t hear the answer.

Later he tells me she said “some rain” which incidentally does not describe the “code red” storm that was coming for us. It was not the day to be meandering aimlessly through the canal-lined streets. But that’s what we were doing when the gusts of wind and sleets of rain smashed us around like fragile figurines.

The day started innocuously enough. We stumbled into the first cute café we saw and devoured coffee, oven-toasted croissants filled with ham and cheese and Greek yoghurt with honey and a random assortment of fruits like apricots, banana and apples.

We continued to wander until we found the main city centre. Despite the rain, we thought we could keep going, keep checking in to cafes for coffee with a side of free wifi, and figure out our next move. The city was uncharacteristically quiet for a Saturday. Shops were randomly shut.

Half of my mouth was lined with giant ulcers that had grown in Greece and refused to heal. We searched for a chemist. Most were shut. Eventually we found a health food shop who joked that they were a kind of chemist. I did not know what this meant. The guy wore a crazy assortment of coloured pants and an entirely mismatched coloured jumper. He along with another store worker and a customer, attempted to diagnose my problem in Dutch and help me track down the right place for my mouth.

We eventually found some antiseptic mouthwash. The chemist told us the reason for the quiet was that a code red storm was coming. Kyle said that maybe in Dutch code red isn’t all that bad. That maybe “code clog” was the one you wanted to watch out for. I laughed hysterically. Code clog became our new way of identifying when something was really beyond the pale.

She recommended we go into a café to gargle. I pointed to the one across the road and she nodded. The café was called Jimmy’s coffee shop. It was not a café with coffee. It was a tiny marijuana joint. I wondered about the chemist’s sanity.

“Oh no!” I cried. “This is not the time for this, people!” before rushing out again. Kyle laughed and said that we looked like prudes who disapproved of freely available marijuana. I did not disapprove of it. I was considering it for medicinal purposes. But the café did not have anywhere I could gargle.

My mouth was on fire.

The sleets of rain hammered down harder than ever, blinding us, and the many crazy people still riding their bicycles through the rain. A crazed looking man walked past and announced to the tourists beside us that the trams were no longer running. I did not believe him. A local woman nearby confirmed this fact and I was sorry for not believing the crazed loner. She informed us that our only options were to find a taxi (which was expensive) or to walk. She shrugged. She was walking.

I was not wearing adequate shoes or clothing. We were already so soaked. The wind was throwing me around. We sought shelter in a nearby Starbux. Kyle offered to wait outside to hail a taxi but quickly ran inside when a giant tree fell a few doors down from us, and then we watched as another giant tree fell directly opposite us. I ran around the Starbux trying to ascertain the place least likely to expose us to falling trees. The staff tried to help us but couldn’t direct us anywhere that was safe and the roads were cut off and the taxis weren’t answering their phones.

“Look, you did say on this trip that as long as we’re together, everything will be okay,” Kyle reminded me.

“That was before a giant tree fell over right in front of us!”

Falling trees changed everything.

We ordered two “regular” coffees that were literally bigger than my head.

It was either flee or spend out our last days in this Starbux. Eventually we decided to make a run for it.

This is madness.

“Let’s walk” I declared. Kyle continued trying to hail a taxi to no avail. I waited in the doorway of someone’s home. I passed time by helping a woman carry a pram up some stairs, “don’t worry there is no baby” she said. Great, I’m not even saving Dutch babies with golden tufts. Nothing made sense. There were no free taxis in the entire city.

So we walked. Google maps helped us walk 1.7km in the maddening rain, wind and cold. I saw millions of bikes piled up along the streets.

“I think the time has come for us to finally steal a bike.” I announced.

“Cut to Sheree summoning the strength to break open a steely lock” Kyle laughed.

But I wasn’t kidding and I continued to look for the unlocked bikes. Frankly those scantily clad unlocked bikes were asking for it. Oh my god I am victim blaming the bikes.

We discovered a part of Amsterdam we might not have otherwise with quaint houses, quiet streets, less wind, subsiding rain. It felt better in this area.

I was growing restless. Kyle was unabashedly positive. He always is. I wanted to get mad at him for it. I wanted to tell him this wasn’t the time and that his jokes and cheeriness irritated me and he wasn’t helping and I felt moody and uncomfortable. But then I remembered how he held me at the metro stop, partially covering me with his perfect Swedish raincoat in an effort to keep me warm and sheltered, whispering “I’ll keep you safe, I won’t let anything happen to you”.

Remembered how he kept offering to wait in the rain to find us a way home. How he held my feet in his lap, covered in a cardigan to keep me warm. How he shared his tea and soup with me. How he navigated for us and took charge. I watched him in front of me and saw that he looked like a little boy in the rain, sweetly trying to find his way home, not for himself but for me, his only priority. I couldn’t cry but the rain made it feel like I was anyway.

I felt a sadness run so deep inside of me.

“I wanted to get mad at you for being so positive” I wailed at him. “But I can’t! You’re my everything!”

I ran to catch up with him and he made some more jokes. I put my face up to the dark clouds and laughed at the rain. Between the rain and me, I knew I was still the bigger person, maybe the only person, for rain is not a person, but precipitation. Rain is water.

“Do you know how much water we have in our bodies?” Rebecca said to me, while wading in the corner of the pool in our hotel in Patmos, Greece.

“80%?” I offered up, thinking I knew where this was going, feeling helpless all the same.

“Our bodies are 70% water. I want you to get in the pool if you can and I want you to imagine that your body is water and there is no barrier between you and the water. That only your skin and bones feel the pain of this experience of an awful man trying to hurt you, but the skins and bones don’t exist in here. In here you are only water. Nothing can hurt you”

So I did. I got up from my paralysis of fear and I waded in, fully submerged, feeling the salt water run through me. The tarot card that I picked out that same day from the Cuban goddess Mayra was the one for “tranquility” and it told me to submerge myself in salt water. So I did.

The rain still beat down on us as we trudged along the Amsterdam alleyways, only now we were invincible. Smashed apricots, apples, peaches and oranges littered the street as the wind blew the cart over. The fruits were so beautifully massacred and sacrificed on the road, a kaleidoscope of colours. Somebody would miss the fruit in their lives. We dodged each one. We were almost home.

I love these stairs, I cried out as we climbed the narrow steps up to the second floor of our borrowed home.

I saw him, the love of my life, still somehow miraculously and boundlessly positive, as he shook off the wet clothes.

“That could not have gone worse,” he declared with a huge grin on his face.

It was not the stairs that I loved, or the sanctuary of a room and a roof, or the unknown thrill of travel and its tribulations, although I loved all these things. I loved the warm body that held me under the falling water, promising to keep me safe.

Kibbet Raahib: A Monk’s Soup

By: Miriam Succar By: Miriam Succar

Miriam Succar shares a traditional Good Friday soup recipe, brought to you all the way from a mountainous village in the north of Lebanon via a south-west Sydney kitchen.

I have a recipe with a story.

Not only is this dish delicious, but I’m also pretty sure it’s the only thing my grandmother has eaten on Good Friday for a solid 70-plus years (always after attending mid-morning Mass and fasting, of course).

It’s called Kibbet Raahib (Monk’s Soup is the common English translation, thanks Google) – a hearty, lemony bean soup, which has delicious burghul balls floating around in it, traditionally eaten on Good Friday. And it’s a soup with a throwback to the man of the hour himself: Jesus.

As my mother explained to me for many years, the lemony nature of the soup (brought on, in fact, by the abundance of sumac in the soup…

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now we fight

Our friend’s last and final appear was rejected before it was seen by the Minister of Evil Border Protection or whatever his job title is now.
The lawyer wrote:
‘I cannot see anything else that I can do to help him remain in Australia.
You will remember that from the first time that we spoke I explained that it was my opinion that a repeat appeal to the Minister was the only last, possible chance that I could see for him.
I am very sorry that I do not have better news for you.’
This joke of a “government’ deserves everything that is coming to it. If you are okay with condemning an innocent man to a lifetime in detention simply because the powers that be cannot concede on its nauseating, never ending, xenophobia, on it’s policy of keeping everyone out and the principle of only favouring rich white men, then go on and live your life unencumbered.
Everyone else can fucking fight with us as we take these bastards down.

no es amor

«“Por amor” aguantamos insultos, violencia, desprecio. Somos capaces de humillarnos “por amor”, y a la vez de presumir de nuestra intensa capacidad de amar. “Por amor” nos sacrificamos, nos dejamos anular, perdemos nuestra libertad, perdemos nuestras redes sociales y afectivas. “Por amor” abandonamos nuestros sueños y metas, “por amor” competimos con otras mujeres y nos enemistamos para siempre, “por amor” lo dejamos todo… Por eso este “amor” no es amor. Es dependencia, es necesidad, es miedo a la soledad, es masoquismo, es fantasía mitificada, pero no es amor».

(Coral Herrera Gómez)

Help Us Flood The Government With Letters To Support Refugees

Last week I went on a 72-hour hunger strike to draw attention to the plight of refugees in Australia. You can read more about my reasons for taking part here.

But more importantly, we need urgent action. We need to flood our members with letters opposing this brutal treatment of the world’s most vulnerable people.

Here is an example of my a letter my boyfriend sent to Peter Dutton’s office. If you are moved to do the same in contacting your local members as well as Dutton, please let us know by posting your letters in the comments below.


Dear Minister Dutton,

I’m becoming increasingly uncomfortable with Australia’s polices towards refugees.

No policy objective can justify the terrible conditions in which we are detaining men, women and children. Every day  I read another publication detailing instances of abuse and neglect in the detention centres we set up, we run and we have control over. These are no longer isolated cases, they are systematic to the whole way we handle refugees. I’ve seen and read first-hand accounts of how the contractors and staff that we pay for are the ones perpetuating this abuse. Our policies place people in detention for months and without recourse. The hopelessness this creates is the direct cause of the high rates of mental illness, self-harm, attempted-suicide and the ongoing hunger strikes I see reports on almost daily. You cannot convince me that a system that leads to such desperate behaviour could ever come close to meeting our human rights obligations. This is compounded by the large numbers of children also being stuck in the middle of all this.  How can we justify treating vulnerable people in this way? Regardless your party’s policy how can you feel comfortable with this? There has to be another option.

I’m a 26 year old professional working in Sydney and I’m growing more and more disengaged with the type of nation we are becoming.  We have placed vulnerable people in a hopeless and powerless position and our handling of their care is leading to abuse. I don’t want that done under my name. I don’t want my tax dollars paying for peoples’ abuse. This is as important as an issue can get.

Minister Dutton, I’m asking you to please take my concerns sincerely. I honestly feel this issue goes beyond your obligations to represent your party’s policies. As immigration minister you have a huge influence over the treatment of these vulnerable people. No policy of determent can justify how poorly we are treating people in our care. I ask for immediate efforts to be made to improve the conditions at detention centres, for more transparency and for an approach to refugee policy that honours our obligations to human rights and doesn’t leave these people in a hopeless limbo.

Thank you,

‘Write the Book That Keeps You Awake at Night Scared’

Yes, yes all the yes.

This is not the story of your life. This is not your version of the best-selling novel everyone’s talking about. This is that one tangle of somewhat imagined, somewhat overheard, somewhat experienced events your spirit relates to with authority. Of all the stories you could tell, it’s the weird one. The one whose emotional terrain can bring you to tears. The one that keeps you awake at night scared that maybe, if it were published under your name, so-and-so might get upset and speak ill of you.

– Mark Wisniewski, source

will I be free one day

  1. We need help from Humanitarian nation, we are Human. We came here for peace and safety not being in the Cage.
  2. We are Human like you.
  3. 19 Months process not fair.
  4. We believe on God, on you. (On their Shirts written)
  5. Awaiting for your help. (On their Shirts written)
  6. Freedom, Freedom
  7. Will I be free one day. (On their Shirts written)


                                           Warm and best wishes for you.


Hazara Afghan Asylum seeker,

Darwin, NORTH-I, Detention Centre, Australia, January 25, 2011


I have not eaten in 50 hours and I have a quiet fury raging inside of me, deep in the space where sustenance usually lives.

Fury sustains me.

It is unreal, perplexing, rage-inducing how utterly wild people get when you tell them you’re doing a hunger strike for refugees. So many of these holier-than-thou smug dude bros emerge with their opinions. ‘What’s the point’, they decry, ‘like what is it even going to change right this second immediately because of your actions’ they say, from their smug, privileged lives where they have never had to know suffering, never had to question themselves before leaving the house at night simply because of what is between their legs, how society is completely conditioned around the premise of devaluing you as a human being, to never think twice and try to determine if the person in front of you is a racist scumbag who would do you harm and wish that you and your family had never stepped foot in a country that does not belong to them.

No, no, no, why would you put yourself in such an uncomfortable position when it won’t change anything! They say, smugly, self-assured, always right, never wrong. Look at how they literally whitewash every narrative. ‘Manus will close because the boats have stopped!’

The White Australia Policy never died, White Australia never died, it lives in these people.

They’re so incredibly buoyed down by their own egos and the bodies that carry them. As though their body is paramount to all things and all life! Proof that they are alive! It rules all! Their bodies are everything, because in their minds they are everything. The physical body puts them into a world of such incredibly intense privilege and they hold onto it with a despicable desperation.

But the body is nothing more than a vessel. And if you have no power over your mind, if you cannot discipline yourself for a brief moment in time in an effort to help others, if you cannot grasp the fact that we are so fucking insignificant, then it is only you who has everything to lose. And those who can rise above the body, the ego and the mind – we have a world to gain.

These people lack the discipline to rise above their egos, to transcend those egos and realise that there are some things worth fighting for in however way you are fit and able to fight. Some people opt for non-violent forms of protest. Some would argue, Gandhi among them, that this is the most courageous path. But Gandhi also said that if people are invading you, if they are coming for you and your family, then you have every right to fight back and fight back hard. It is that powerful, non-Hollywood version of Gandhi that I aspire to.

Maybe they think it’s all for nothing (‘I don’t believe that Joseph’s week of hunger strike means anything. I don’t know if this achieves anything. It is barely better than sitting down and typing into a thread on the subject). A man is about to die and this wise guy thinks that his ‘comment in a thread on the subject’ is on par with someone denying themselves food for 72 hours, someone who actually has multiple platforms with which to express herself. They have had power all their lives, that they cannot recognise when someone else takes that power from them and fucking runs with it.

Let me make this absolutely clear. If you can make only one person – just one person – think differently about this situation — well that is one more person than there was previously. For me that is everything. For you? I don’t care care what it is. Because it is not about you. It is not about me. It is about them, this is their narrative.

This non-violent form of protesting is not just about change or changing the powerful. It is to mobilise action in the ordinary citizens, to raise people’s moral conscience, so we can act quickly. It is to not let this man’s death be in vain. It allows those without power to reclaim the narrative. My actions are not even a fraction of an echo of that, but if it means you are reading this right now, then that is better than doing and saying nothing.

No more of this, Australia. Rise the fuck up.

I have not eaten in 50 hours and I am fucking livid, wild with rage.