Your first fundraiser: why fundraise?

In 2011, I co-founded the Ada Initiative, a charitable organisation promoting and supporting women in open technology and culture. Between 2011 and 2014, we ran five fundraising drives, four successfully. This article is part of a series sharing what I learned in the hope that new women in technology groups and other activist groups can skip to advanced level fundraising much sooner and spend the least time and the most joy on fundraising that they possibly can.

Why you should have a fundraising drive

In 2014, in the Ada Initiative’s article on choosing a funding model we wrote:

Often activists will reach for every funding opportunity they can: individual fundraising campaign, yes! Government grants, yes! Selling stickers, yes! Sucking up to wealthy potential donors at lavish one-on-one dinners, absolutely! But it is crucial to pick just two or three funding sources and concentrate on them.

Raising money in any form takes time, practice, dedication, and skill. Pursuing too many forms of funding will just mean that you’re bad at all of them. Some diversification of funding sources is often recommended, but the base requirement is a reliable funding source[…]

Since mid-2011, the bedrock of the Ada Initiative’s funding has come from a few hundred individuals within the technology community. Being accountable to donors who are primarily interested in culture change even when it has no direct benefit to themselves allows us to take on more radical programs. This includes work that is not directly connected with hiring or careers, or that is connected with gift and alternative economies like media fandom with little direct connection to corporate profits.

Perhaps the most compelling reason to adopt an individual donor funding model is that donors often become advocates for diversity in tech themselves…

These are great arguments for individual fundraising. Another one is that individual donors are often the most willing to take a risk on a new, untested, project; corporate donors/sponsors are more conservative and often want to see at least an informal track record to figure out what they’re associating their brand with.

If you’ve chosen individual fundraising for these or other reasons, the next question is: why do a drive as opposed to popping a donation form or Paypal donate button on your website and waiting for donations?

The first reason is simple: a drive will earn a lot more money. The Ada Initiative was a reasonably well known organisation with a reasonable amount of web traffic, but spontaneous donations outside a drive were at the rate of one or two donations a month. Our last few fundraising drives on the other hand earned hundreds of thousands of dollars and attracted as many donors in a day as we would get in the entire rest of the year. Our experience was that fundraising revenue exceeded spontaneous donation revenue by a hundred times.

There’s a tempting line of thinking around passive fundraising — I’m prone to it — which is that if your mission was truly great and your approach to it truly excellent, then the world would discover it spontaneously. Asking for money would then prove the inferiority of your mission or your organisation. Here’s a counter-argument: in order to be successful, you need to be the most invested person. If you aren’t committed to your mission, your donors won’t trust you to fufil it. Taking a risk by openly asking for money, explaining why you need it and what you’ll do with it, is one of the best ways to convince your potential donors that you have a chance at doing what needs to be done.

As we wrote in 2014, a good fundraising drive has a complementary goal: raising awareness of your organisation, and getting people involved. There’s at least two possibilities here. If you’re raising funds from the same community you’re going to benefit, your launch donors are likely to be among your key volunteers or members shortly thereafter. If you’re raising money from a different community from the one you’re going to benefit, your launch donors will be key in reaching other donors, and developing your fundraising strategy in future.

In designing your fundraising campaign, you will raise the money you need, and building a community of members and volunteers, or ongoing donors, at the same time. Good fundraising is hard work, but it isn’t a tiresome distraction from your mission. It’s how you will build the community you need to fulfil your mission.

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Your first fundraiser: why fundraise? by Mary Gardiner is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at https://adainitiative.org/2014/06/10/the-ada-initiative-founders-on-funding-activism-for-women-in-open-source-from-model-view-culture/.

Flickr features I’ve known and loved

As the planning for the sale of Yahoo!/Altaba to Verizon continues, I’m not the only person worried about the fate of Flickr, which has been owned by Yahoo since 2005:

I’ve got a tediously backed-up local copy of my photos and won’t have to kiss them goodbye, but as a happy Pro user of Flickr I’m really worried about its future and beginning an active search for replacements. I’m going to start evaluating possible replacements on the basis of these specific features, roughly in order of importance:

My favourite Flickr features

Embedding my foremost use of Flickr is as a photo host for my parenting blog and, increasingly, to show off my best photos. The ability to embed photographs in third-party websites is essential to me.

Locking at the photo level and guest access. It’s not easy to find non-recent photographs of my children on my Flickr account. That’s because I have a script that marks photos as private once they’re a certain age. Some other types of photos (for example, photos of other children) I often mark as private immediately.

Much of my web life runs this way: just because you can find my recent stuff doesn’t mean you get to casually browse everything I’ve done on the Internet since the beginning of time (circa 1999). I’ve taken full advantage of websites with individual locking every time I’ve used one, including WordPress sites, LiveJournal&Dreamwidth, Pinboard, and, yes, Flickr, and strongly prefer it.

At the same time, the chance of people who care about me obtaining a login to Flickr, or to social-photos-site-of-the-month in order to view pictures of a party we were at is basically nil, so the ability to share links to photos via Flickr’s guest pass system has made it useful to me for semi-private events and photos.

API access. I’m not locking all this stuff on all these sites down by hand! It’s all scripted and done via APIs.

Multiple albums for a single photo I look at my photos through several different types of, uh, “lenses”. There’s events, there’s individuals in the photos (mostly my children), and there’s my show-off albums for my favourite photos or ones most I’m likely to want to share with other people if only they’d ask to see more of my photos. I use albums for all three ways of looking at photos, and thus many of my photos are in both a “my kid at age 3” album and a “visit to the beach in November” album.

I also use tags and I might be able to modify my workflow to use tags to replace some of these features, although the result of a tag search would need to be viewable as a first class album, rarely true in my experience so far.

Creative Commons licencing. I like easily dropping my photos into a big pool of photos that might someday find good uses elsewhere and licence a lot of my non-portraits CC BY for (nearly) maximum re-usability. I fear that even sites that support CC licencing won’t end up being searched by anyone in practice, and if I note a CC licence myself in the description, it’s never going to happen.

Features I’d reluctantly sacrifice

Chromecast support. It’s been really enchanting having our TVs display great photos of our kids throughout their lives, travel we’ve done, and a lot of clouds, all via Chromecast’s support for using Flickr photos for background images, but I’m willing to give it up for my core set of features.

An app. Don’t get me wrong, I do like being able to peruse my photos on my phone, but I’d give it up if I had to. Because I do about half my photography with a DSLR, and edit essentially all my photographs, I don’t upload photos via apps in any case.

Less important

The social ecosystem. I started using Flickr regularly after a lot of people stopped, and I’m indifferent to the social features, eg favourites, comments, following other folks, putting my photos in group albums. I do use some of these, but I won’t be looking for them in a replacement.

Locking to different sets of people. I do use Flickr’s “friends” and “family” distinction a little, but in giving up social, I’m also happy to give up locking other than “locked” and “not locked”.

And now, I’m afraid, it’s well and truly time to go shopping for a new photo host. My favourite. Only not.

Your first fundraiser: what the Ada Initiative learned the hard way

In 2011, I co-founded the Ada Initiative, a charitable organisation promoting and supporting women in open technology and culture. Between 2011 and 2014, we ran five fundraising drives, four successfully.

We made a bunch of bad decisions along the way. For example, after our first drive in 2011, we stopped accepting donations, and moreover assumed that folks who had been denied the opportunity to donate in mid-2011 would still be there and keen in early 2012 (spoiler: no they weren’t). We offered t-shirts as a donor thank you gift. Worse: we offered t-shirts twice.

We also got a lot of excellent advice from fundraising experts and from our fabulous boards of directors, and through a combination of hard work (both ourselves and our volunteers!), good ideas, and good luck, had a lot of success. For several years I’ve been informally advising other women in technology groups on fundraising for the first time ever,

Over the next several weeks, I’m publishing a series of articles with my fundraising wisdom, with the hope that new women in technology groups and other activist groups can skip to advanced level fundraising much sooner. May you spend the least time and the most joy on fundraising that you possibly can!

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Your first fundraiser: what the Ada Initiative learned the hard way by Mary Gardiner is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Friday 6 January 2017

Between my weak right shoulder, my total dependence on thyroid replacement hormone and my extreme sentimentality surrounding changing anything at all for my children, I’m something of a soft target for anyone bent on my destruction.

In early 2014 I dutifully trotted teeny floppy little baby A, aged 11 weeks, to her new daycare, and yesterday she ended her time there with last snuggles with the carers who looked after her as a baby, and I think I felt exactly the same both times. It feels like less of a “my baby, her first/last day of daycare/school!” cliché when you’re in it, and I haven’t always been this change-averse. It’s new as of about a year ago when even adventurous V was not happy to be starting a new school.

People tell me kids cope just fine, but I was in my fifth school by my ninth birthday and I think it’s not a coincidence that I feel like this about jerking my kids around between institutions and Andrew, who changed school only once other than the primary to high school change, doesn’t. V has recently become very curious about the whole idea of moving, and asked about all the houses I’ve lived in. So I tallied up all of them for him, and the grand total is twenty, ten of them in adulthood in Sydney.

It’s the season for looking back again. Sure, yes, New Years. But I compounded that for myself by having children in January. Since the children are very nearly exactly four years apart in age, I’m doomed to spend my entire parenting journey reliving the events of four years ago but in January it’s extra acute as both of their birthdays approach. Seven years (two moves) ago, it was a hot hot hot summer and I hadn’t received the memo about taking it easy in late pregnancy, even though I was also having regular monitoring for V’s health. Four years (one move) ago, we were free of nappies for a brief window and commencing our second lonely year in that suburb. (For all that I intensely miss it now, it really did take about two and a half years to feel at home there. Don’t move, kids.) Three years (also one move) ago, I was having very stressful late late late late pregnancy monitoring with A; is it that you need a coffee, or your baby needs to be surgically removed? So hard to tell.

I’m not looking forward very far at the moment, but Monday is A’s birthday, and her last day at another daycare I’m far less sentimental about, and then Tuesday is her first day at a daycare across the road from V’s school, where he’s finally been for just as long as his first school, and I’ve almost finished converting my former home office into a TV room for me and Andrew, and I’ve cleared out a bunch of giveaways from the attic, and our baby things will soon be trucked over to a pregnant relative, and maybe, just maybe, the house move we made in May 2015 is finally finally done.

Ten years

Andrew and I got engaged ten years ago, on December 23, 2006. We were married in May 2007.

Sailor’s Thai, where I proposed to him, closed earlier in 2006, so we went to Longrain on the 22nd.

Engagement anniversary

Longrain wound up being similar in spirit to my two visits to Sailor’s Thai (the second was on our first wedding anniversary) in that the entrees were much more memorable than the mains, and the betel leaf one most of all. After we were done, we still had two and a half hours of A’s babysitter time left, so we did a very us thing, and walked around in the nighttime, catching a ferry to Kirribili, walking through the backstreets of Kirribili and down the harbour walk on the southern point (past at least four other couples sitting in the darkness), and around to Luna Park. We then caught a ferry to Balmain and then walked from the top of Balmain over to Rozelle. Between the two walks, it captured a lot of our time in Sydney; we used to live up the hill from Luna Park.

It’s been a long and difficult two years, but a good ten. Happy anniversary Andrew.

If you’re still maintaining a LiveJournal, your journal’s now in Russia

Signal-boosting this news as I know a few people still maintaining a LiveJournal who might choose to delete it, or change their use of LiveJournal after learning about this.

LiveJournal is now hosted in Russia

As of late December 2016, the LiveJournal servers (computers) are now hosted in Russia. While LiveJournal has been owned by Russian company SUP since 2007, the servers had until now been hosted in the US and access to them somewhat controlled by Californian law.

SUP has, to the best of my knowledge, not announced or commented on this themselves, but there’s more information at rahirah’s Dreamwidth journal with links to different evidence of the new location of the servers.

A Russian-language LiveJournaller appears to report that Russian law then allows that all the confidential information of [LiveJournal] users is available for [Russian] domestic security services in real time [note though that that’s a automated translation].

A BBC report on Russian law regarding social media in 2014 seems to confirm this:

A new law imposing restrictions on users of social media has come into effect in Russia.

It means bloggers with more than 3,000 daily readers must register with the mass media regulator, Roskomnadzor, and conform to the regulations that govern the country’s larger media outlets.

Internet companies will also be required to allow Russian authorities access to users’ information.

Thanks to my original source of information about this (found via @anatsuno on Twitter).

siderea expresses several important concerns with this:

  1. if you’re in Russia or vulnerable to Russia, and a political opponent, you could now be more easily identified by Russian security
  2. regardless of where you are, your LiveJournal could be possibly be deleted without notice for expressing opposition to Russia or its interests or for other content censored in Russia (eg LGBT-related content)
  3. the flight of LiveJournal users from LiveJournal following this news could simply kill the business and cause everyone’s journals to disappear without notice (Archive Team is storing public entries, regarding it as an at-risk site)

Readers’ connections to LiveJournal aren’t private

LiveJournal redirects secure https links back to insecure http. For example, if you visit https://ohnotheydidnt.livejournal.com/ your browser will connect, but it will be instructed to head to http://ohnotheydidnt.livejournal.com/ before loading the page. (Info from this Dreamwidth comment by mme_hardy, confirming my personal experiences with LiveJournal RSS feeds over the last several months.)

What this means is that the content of any entries you read, including locked ones by both you and other people, are trivially visible to anyone who can eavesdrop on your net connection, including (often) other people on your local network, and anyone on the path between you and LiveJournal such as your ISP and anyone with access to the data flowing across international cables or access to the data as it enters the Russian hosting facility, whereas https connections are encrypted in a way such that those people can see that data is flowing but can’t read it absent considerably more niche and intensive technical measures. (Even if HTTPS were turned on by LiveJournal, you wouldn’t be safe from the Russian law, since they can ask LiveJournal itself to turn over your data in addition to whatever nation-state attacker level techniques they can employ.)

Given my experience with LiveJournal RSS feeds, I’m fairly sure this has been true for some time, predating the move of the servers to Russia. (Here’s one other report that this was already true as of September 2016.) Regardless of timing, this speaks of, at best, disregard for the privacy of their users’ explicitly private (because friends-locked!) information. It’s 2017, mandatory HTTPS for transmission of any data that is sensitive or might, conceivably, somehow, maybe, be sensitive is an absolute minimum standard for user safety. LiveJournal doesn’t even have optional “if you have HTTPS Everywhere installed” or “if you remember to stick the s into the URL yourself” HTTPS (which would still be insufficient as you cannot control whether your readers use HTTPS when reading your journal).

Getting your content out of LiveJournal

If based on this you choose to delete your LiveJournal, here are some options to keep your entries. This list isn’t comprehensive.

If you want to move the content to another website, here’s some blogging platforms that provide imports from LiveJournal:

If you want to download your entries for private use, you can:

  • use LiveJournal’s own export tool but rather painfully (you’ll have to do one download per month), and without comments
  • use ljdump on the command line, which worked for me as of 2015 when I deleted my LiveJournal, but will require that you’re an experienced command line user
  • use BlogBooker to export it to a Word or PDF file (disclosure: I haven’t used this site in quite some time, and would appreciate hearing if it works, but I suggest people at least try it because it exports to a non-programmer friendly format that people could keep as a private archive, and claims to include comments and images)
  • Archive Team lists other backup tools

If your LiveJournal made use of their photo hosting, I am not sure which backup solutions will import your photos or how they will be stored. I am also not aware of any import tool that replaces LiveJournal entries with a “this entry has moved to URL” message or similar. If anyone is working on a competing LiveJournal import/export tool, photo export and redirection text are both features that my friends and I would have found useful at various times.

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If you’re still maintaining a LiveJournal, your journal’s now in Russia by Mary Gardiner is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Sunday 1 January 2017

Our history with Sydney fireworks is mixed.

Sydney Olympics 2000: Andrew and I waited patiently at Circular Quay for the closing fireworks from around 2 or 3pm, initially sitting mostly with bored families. I remember watching a kid teach another Towers of Hanoi. Later in the evening, as more and more people flowed in, it was standing room only, and eventually there were waves of pushing and stumbling in the crowd as people cried in fear and sick people were crowdsurfed out. I’ve never seen fireworks from the main foreshore since although it seems like their crowd control is more intense now. I think it was that time too that we queued in crowds for about an hour for a train home from Central.

I also remember how odd and stuffy talks of counterterrorism preparations seemed at the time.

New Year’s Eve 2000: we met friends at Balls Head around midday, and after securing a mediocre spot, found a rock platform to clamber down onto so that it was just us and the fireworks. Andrew and I had brought bikes to the park and rode them home; hairy across the Bridge as drunken people partied on it and through the city amidst taxis and unpredictable traffic, after that it was a

New Year’s Eve 2003 and 2004 we were living in North Sydney with a good view of the Bridge and Opera House. We hosted mediocre parties both years. I started 2005 by being hit on the head with a falling bottle dropped off the roof of our building onto our balcony. Living there, we found that there are a lot of fireworks on the harbour all through the year; Lucy Turnbull was the Lord Mayor of Sydney during this period and was quoted saying that being tired of fireworks was like being tired of life, and I did wonder if my soul had vanished. Half the joy of New Years Eve there was seeing waves of people flowing down the hill to McMahons Point all afternoon and evening and not having to be among them. I clearly passed my twenties in style.

In 2005 we moved away from the harbour and away from doing much on New Years Eve, especially once V was born in 2010. We’ve had a tradition since around 2001 of making pancakes on New Years Day, which has gradually evolved somehow into specifically pancakes, mango smoothies, and lounge music. We used to invite other people to it but haven’t for a few years now.

Google lets employees watch the fireworks from their offices. We watched the 9pm family fireworks with V on New Years Eve 2012 and 2013. 2013 was a struggle for us all; I was almost 42 weeks pregnant with A, it was an unexpectedly cold night, and V had a toddler’s hatred of cold winds and whinged inside the whole evening. Then we uncomfortably stuffed ourselves on the light rail home. Those years we watched the midnight fireworks from the partial view our balcony had, and in 2014 we had a friend over for the evening and did the same. Last year we’d moved to somewhere without a view and I fell asleep before midnight in any case.

But like the rest of Sydney, I have to try and try again. One of my new colleagues has a good view of the Bridge from Kings Cross, so we took the kids there for the 9pm fireworks last night. We expected transport to be hell but it was very smooth in both directions. The train and bus after the children’s fireworks are much less hellish than the light rail, it seems. Town Hall station was clearly prepped for 12:30am with barriers to herd the public out of the station, and groups of police but V must think we are panic merchants after being carefully prepped for body-to-body crowds and finding himself led carefully through a brief twenty person halt. The kids got really worked up staying up late for the fireworks, so thank goodness for 9pm fireworks and a quick retreat home. They really enjoyed them though. For 2017 or 2018 we’re considering camping at Cockatoo Island over New Years and maybe then our Sydney fireworks story will be complete.

2016 in threes

End of year reflections: 2016, at its low points, has been the worst year of my life, and many people including me fear that it is the year that marks the beginning or escalation or point of no return for a time of increased oppression, war, and death.

This is thus hard to write, but 2016 was also a year in my life, such as it is, and remembering is part of living as best I can, so here we are.

There are several pieces of writing that have been important to how I feel about the world right now, here’s one:


(Transcript of poem at the bottom of the entry. If this poem speaks to you as it did to me, consider tipping its author.)

Three moments of 2016.

May: Another visit to Dolores Park, a place in San Francisco that’s been important to me in 2016. I was restless and in a bad mood so I walked up and down the hill, around and around the park, and then up to Market Street as the sun set and along and eventually caught BART back after dark had fallen and I’d walked several kilometres.

September: A family member who is ill and was visiting for medical treatment came to lunch at my house with other members of my family. My daughter A, who was 2¾, had taken a long long time to come out of her shell with strangers, and was only just starting to agree to interact with them at all. But she ended up playing with water guns with the teenagers, aiming water at our window where adults were protecting themselves, while dancing and cackling.

November: I found out Donald Trump was likely to win the US Presidential election on my final day of isolation due to radioactive iodone treatment for thyroid cancer. I was out of strict isolation in hospital but still not allowed to be physically close to anyone, particularly my children, so I was driving a carshare car by myself to visit my parents. It was a rainy drive, I stopped in the light mist at Sutton Park to go to toilets there — it’s a lovely park and rest area largely used as a chance for a loo break — and looked at the news on my phone and then drove down into the bright sunshine and ludicrous green on the other side of the mountains and started thinking through the implications.

Three meals of 2016

All in the US, where I spent six weeks this year.

1. May, Zuni Café, San Francisco: the second time a friend and I have eaten there, this time upstairs with a reservation rather than squeezed in near the kitchen, both times with the fried chicken. I have never gone anywhere for the fried chicken. I have never imagined I would. All the better.

2. September, SHED Cafe, Healdsburg: a lemon pancake which was in fact a lemon pudding. Not even in disguise, it came in its own ceramic dish it had been cooked in. It wasn’t self-saucing or it would have been lemon delicious pudding in disguise. It was left off the order originally, I got two kaffir lime waters in apology. Unnecessary.

3. October, Andrew’s Cheese Shop, Santa Monica: a work dinner, comprised of gourmet grilled cheeses with matched beers. Again, I would never ever think to do something like this for myself.

Three photos of 2016

The first day of a silly between-jobs project of exploring the City of Sydney swimming pools:

Making a little tour of the City of Sydney pools this week.

A selfie I’m pretty happy with:

Mary

I was still taping the thyroidectomy scar at the time; it’s more purple than it looks there.

Someone climbs a rope, hands-only, as the sun sets over Santa Monica beach:

Rope climb

Three pleasures of 2016

1. I did do the intermediate run on skis I wanted. The very first one was the result of a misunderstanding; my skiing buddy thought I’d done intermediate runs in Australia and therefore after warming up could do one at Heavenly. Instead it was a first. The day went downhill (ha) after part of the resort was shut due to wind, and we missed lunch, but the cold grey morning was lovely.

2. Being taken to the ward after my thyroidectomy and having Andrew smile at me and squeeze my hand during the brief moments I was able to be awake for that afternoon.

3. The feeling of my hair swishing on my neck now that it has grown long enough.

Three news stories from 2016

Putin, I think? I’ve talked enough about the US. So: Putin, Aleppo, Brexit.

This is not fine.

You have to be a better and stronger person than I am to find something else to say.

Three sensations from 2016

1. “Koala” snuggles with my daughter, who is not as demonstrative as her older brother, except when she curls firmly into me to avoid anything or anyone she doesn’t like. Or when she’s ready for bed. Fierce sleepy marsupials are about right.

2. The taste of Haigh’s chocolates on several occasions: I bought them for myself for both cancer treatments, and when I left my job mid-year (between treatments). I remember the sweetness of the cremes, so sweet it hurts, but what I recommend is the truffles.

3. The taste of lemon sherbet boiled sweets. I went through a bag of them on medical advice during the radioactive iodine treatment; the I131 also gathers in the salivary glands and gives them mild radiation burns. Getting it excreted is the main fix, hence sour things.

Three sadnesses of 2016

1. A number of serious illnesses that aren’t mine, so aren’t mine to talk about.

2. Speaking of illnesses, but that are, or were, mine, the morning before a surgery is always a terrible time for me.

3. I actively chose to switch jobs again this year, but it was really hard and sad.

Three plans for 2017

1. I’ve started cycling in the last few months of this year. It’s a nice ride just shy of 4km with enough hills to get some exercise and a long bridge ride. In 2017 our ongoing ridiculous childcare situation will be improved, and I’m hoping riding three or four days a week will be my normal thing.

2. A peaceful week-long holiday with Andrew and the kids at Lake Macquarie. I find skiing hard work, so this will be only the second relaxing holiday we’ve all had together in the three years since my daughter was born.

3. As little travel as I can get away with. I’d love to clock up six months without a boarding pass.

Three hopes for 2017

This year, a very close cousin of “three fears”.

1. I hope my strong and wise friends are here and fighting and see something good growing from their hard work and their fear.

2. I hope it’s still possible to work for US headquartered employers in my industry without rapidly worsening complicity in human rights abuses.

3. I hope for at least one night out together with my husband that isn’t “last night before I go away for work” or “last night before I’m admitted to hospital again”.

Poem transcript

Transcript of the poem by Saladin Ahmed:

How do you talk to your kids?

Spit out the scorpions
Spit out the cyanide
Fill your mouth with thorny
flowers

Sit and hold their hands
Sit staring at their
superhero posters
Explain that villains win
sometimes

Tell them no one can tear
apart their family

Even if it’s a lie

Tell them that no one can take
away their home

Even if it’s a lie

Tell them you will keep them
safe
Even if you can’t

Teach your daughter to throw
a punch if she has to
Teach your son to cry if he
has to

Give them knives
Give them the sturdiest wax
you can find

Teach them to make candles

—Saladin Ahmed, buzzfeednews/reader

End of year prompts

I came up with my end of year prompts in 2014, feel free to use them yourself.

Previous years: 2014, 2015.

Moving to Australia as a progressive in 2016: discrimination, violence, and activism

This article is the conclusion of a short series on one person’s perspective on what people might want to know before considering immigrating to Australia as a person with progressive politics, in 2016.

The goal of this series is, if there’s issues that affect you and/or you are active in and/or you want to know more about, to give you a capsule summary of the issue from my point of view, with links for further reading. Where I have them, I’ve given details of activists and organisations I follow in the space, and in some cases well known organisations that I don’t personally follow. In this last entry, I’m dealing mostly with identities and rights where I am not in the affected group and where I have no specific expertise. (Being a woman is the major exception to this, but even there I’m not a specific expert on women’s rights in Australia.) So rather than attempt to do justice to anything in detail, in most cases I’ve listed up to five things to learn more about, and then some follows of groups and individuals you can learn from.

Thanks to the many folks over the years who’ve developed the resources I relied on for this, ranging from Twitter to Wikipedia to our beleagured ABC. Most links from this entry are to Wikipedia; this is due to my limitations in finding the best sources. I strongly encourage you to treat Wikipedia articles as an overview and one source of further reading, not the last word.

Indigenous dispossession and oppression

Warning: this section uses the surnames of deceased Indigenous Australians, and links from this section may contain images and names of deceased Indigenous Australians.

In moving to Australia, unless you are an Indigenous Australian, you are inevitably taking part in the dispossession of Australia’s Indigenous peoples, who lived here for tens of thousands of years prior to European invasion two centuries ago.

Four things to learn more about:

Follow: The Land Councils (the list seems very incomplete, it is missing eg the New South Wales Aboriginal Land Council), Black Australia Tumblr (see their FAQ on non-Indigenous readers), Celeste Liddle at Black Feminist Ranter and Daily Life, the @IndigenousX tweeters together with @TheKooriWoman, the 2015 IQ2 Racism Debate and 2016 Wallace Wurth lecture speeches and ‘The Australian Dream’ Quarterly Essay by Stan Grant. National Indigenous Television is made by and for Indigenous Australians under the auspices of the public Special Broadcasting Service, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation maintains an Indigenous news portal and The Koori Mail is an Aboriginal-owned and operated national newspaper.

On January 26 each year, Invasion Day protests and Survival Day observances protest the original invasion and celebrate the continuance of Aboriginal communities and culture. If you are visiting or living in Australia on January 26 2017 as a non-Indigenous Australian, observing, supporting, and attending these (where appropriate) is a possible way to begin to support Indigenous activism.

Refugee rights

Australia has a punitive, human rights-violating regime of imprisoning asylum seekers, particularly those who arrive by sea. Many asylum seekers are imprisoned on Papua New Guinea and Nauru where the refugees have less access to basic needs, lawyers, activists, and the media (and as noted in the last entry there are also strong restrictions on media reporting). The government is trying to arrange it so that any refugee held in these prisons will never be offered asylum in Australia, with recent proposals that they would never be allowed entry to Australia under any circumstances on any visa.

The UN has repeatedly condemned this regime, finding that it violates the Convention Against Torture and calling for immediate movement to humane conditions. Among the deaths in offshore detention centres are those of Reza Berati in 2014 at the hands of prison staff and, just recently, Faysal Ishak Ahmed after alleged serious medical neglect.

Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott (whose party remains in government now, under PM Malcolm Turnbull) has given lectures promoting this system to other countries. At present, while dislike of and protest against our torture of asylum seekers is widespread, it is not a core political issue for many Australians, and it gains support whenever it is relaxed and asylum seekers begin arriving by boat, and dying at sea, in larger numbers. The ALP, currently in opposition, supports offshore imprisonment continuing. The Greens are the largest party committing to ending it in their policy platform (and as best I can tell, even the Greens are not opposing imprisonment within Australian borders).

A selection of detailed reading on Australian refugee policies and immigration detention:

Follow: RISE (Refugees, Survivors and Ex Detainees), Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, Human Rights Law Centre, Refugee Action Coalition. Julian Burnside (a barrister who acts pro bono on refugee rights) has assembled a long list of asylum seeker support organisations. In May 2016 No Award published things australians can do to support asylum seekers.

Workers’ rights

Five things to learn more about:

Follow: The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU), the ALP’s workers’ policies (see also those of the Greens), the ACTU’s list of individual unions and Diversity Council Australia for equality initiatives in the workplace.

Racial equality and anti-racism

Five things to learn more about:

Follow: I don’t have a solid set of follows in the anti-racism and racial justice space yet. I’d love some suggestions in comments.

LGBTI rights

Five things to learn more about:

Follow: the Star Observer has a list of national and state LGBTI Community Services and Organisations.

Women’s rights

Five things to learn more about:

Follow: the monthly Down Under Feminist Carnival collating feminist writing in Australia and New Zealand

Disability rights

Four things to learn more about:

Follows: Sam Connor, Lauredhel at Hoyden About Town and Feminists With Disabilities, the late Stella Young and other writers at the ABC’s now defunct Ramp Up website, Australian Centre for Disability Law, The Conversation‘s disability rights writing, Our Consumer Place (a guide by and for consumers of mental health care).

Sex work

NSW is one of the few jurisdictions in the world where sex work is decrminialised. Some other states and territories have legal sex work in some circumstances (eg in brothels, or privately) but not others, it varies quite widely. The Scarlet Alliance has a state-by-state breakdown.

Follow: Scarlet Alliance.

Tuesday 27 December 2016

Speaking of the connection between Christmas breaks past and present, twenty five years or so ago in Tamworth, in addition to sunny afternoons in the neighbours’ pool, there would have been a lot of gossip magazines involved. I’m not sure now whether they were a long-time feature of my grandmothers’ life, or whether she suddenly got into them, because they just seemed to show up at some point. Woman’s Day and New Idea every week, Women’s Weekly every month (I at some point decided that there should be a Women’s Monthly that came out once a year). I never read them at home, gorging on them was a visiting tradition. I knew and maybe somewhere still know an awful lot about the lives of large multiple birth families, partying European royalty, and somewhat wholesome Australian soap stars of the early 1990s.

Well, clearly at some level I know it, because I managed to hook it all together reading yet another book about Everest and high altitude mountaineering, Michael Kodas’s High Crimes: the Fate of Everest in an Age of Greed (Having read High Crimes, the Into Thin Air controversies seem oddly gentle.) High Crimes mentions, briefly, the death by overdose of Constantine Niarchos in 1999, which was shortly after a successful Everest climb (from Niarchos’s point of view that is, one of his team-mates, Michael Matthews, died). Niarchos’s step-mother Tina Onassis Niarchos (who was also his aunt, his mother Eugenia’s sister) was the ex-wife of both Aristotle Onassis and the 11th Duke of Marlborough.

The Duke of Marlborough connection was itself interesting to me, because both the 9th Duke and the 9th Duke’s uncle Randolph Churchill played a starring role in Gail MacColl’s and Carol Wallace’s To Marry an English Lord: Tales of Wealth and Marriage, Sex and Snobbery, having both married American heiresses, Consuelo Vanderbilt and Jennie Jerome respectively. (Randolph and Jennie Churchill were Winston Churchill’s parents. I got about halfway through relaying this to my mother a couple of years back when she said something like “yes, of course, you should read Winston and Jennie Churchill’s correspondence, it’s really good”, which goes to show that I get any interest in historical gossip honestly). The intermarriages of ludicrous amounts of money and the English aristocrats didn’t end in the gilded age.

And then I wound my way back to Aristotle Onassis, or rather, his granddaughter Athina. Athina was the “poor little rich girl” of the 1990-era gossip magazines, because her mother Christina had only died in 1988, and she was still a really young child apparently showered in skiing holidays and new horses, and that time she may or may not have got a flock of sheep and a shepherd as a present after liking Baa Baa Black Sheep. Only Prince William (then a child of about 8) and his similarly aged cousins could be of as much interest, and the contrast of tragedy and wealth couldn’t be laid on nearly as thick with them. (This was all before, although not long before from this distance, Charles and Diana separated, and several years before she died.) So I went and caught up on Athina’s last 25 years, which have been less fairytale, and for that matter, while working the Onassis connection, realised how close in time the death of John F. Kennedy and Jackie Kennedy (later Onassis)’s son Patrick — who was born prematurely, and lived two days — was to his father’s assassination. Just a bit over 100 days.

In some ways, the world hasn’t turned so far since hot Christmas holidays in Tamworth in the early 1990s. In some ways it could stand to.