Monday, September 24, 2012

No to Homophobia

I have just discovered that the following advertisement was shown at the AFL Football in Melbourne.
Apparently its airing was pushed by an openly gay footballer.

Also this weekend I read an obituary for the man who was my music teacher at high school way back in 1959. 
Denis helped develop my love of music, however I was struck by the following.
Denis Condon is survived by his partner of 47 years, Robert Mitchell.

I wish he could have been openly gay and therefore a role model for me. Of course, in those days,  he would have been sacked and possibly worse if he had come out.
Sometime I have to pinch myself at the changes that have happened since I was growing up.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Across Australia 4 Katherine to Lake Argyle

After 2 nights at Kakadu National Park, we began generally heading in a south west direction.  We drove 265 km to Katherine where I had spent a few hours on the train trip north.  On the way we stopped in Pine Creek where there was a museum in the old station. The new line bypasses the town.

We were in Katherine (population 10,000) for lunch and then restocked our van.  I find the town depressing as there is a very large Aboriginal population, many sitting on the pavements especially outside the government welfare agency, and I had to get out of the way of one woman, obviously off her brain with alcohol.  In the Northern Territory your driving licence is scanned before you can buy alcohol in bottle shops.   One man told me the Aborigines call the welfare payment "sit down money" but then another said why shouldn't they sit in the shopping centre just as much as in the parks.  While some work in national parks, they do not like being guides, very few are seen working in stores. I do not know what the answer is.
We went to the Katherine Gorge but both of us had been there before, even if 30 years ago, so just took a walk around rather than a boat trip.  I climbed to one lookout and took some photos.

Then we headed west to the Victoria River 190km.  There is no town there, just a Roadhouse with camping ground.  There are no allocated sites so, having found a flat space under a tree, we decided to stay there for a lazy afternoon rather than drive a few km north for a walk up the escarpment.  I was glad I left this till the following morning as it would have been a very hot climb.  You cannot take a dip in the river unless you want to be a meal for a saltwater crocodile however the escarpments around were very spectacular especially as the sun struck them at dawn.
The next morning  I took the 3km return Escarpment walk which was quite steep and rocky in places.

My sister did about half of it. Here is the view of the river from the top

Then we drove a further 319 km to our next night stop. There was only one "town" on the way. (pop 230).  This and the Victoria River Roadhouse are the only settlements in the 519 km between Katherine and Kununurra.  We bought petrol there and fortunately saw the sign that it was cheaper at the supermarket than the hotel (20 cents per litre cheaper). No service, you put your credit card in a machine which was heavily barred and prepaid the amount required.
We did however drive up to a scenic lookout over the town and found a memorial to the Nackeroos.  In formal army language they were the North Australia Observation Unit, a rough and tumble, bush-hardened bunch of soldiers who patrolled the north of Australia during WWII.  They were also know as Curtin's Cowboys.  Curtin was Australia's wartime prime minister.

I loved this plaque as it states well my feelings about this area of Australia.

Somewhere in Australia, where the sun is a curse,
And each day is followed by another slightly
And the brick red dust blows thicker, than the
shifting desert sand;
And the men dream, and wish for, a fairer, greener

Somewhere in Australia, where the mail is always late,
And a Christmas card in April, is considered up to
Where we never have a payday, and we never pay the rent
But we never miss the money, cause we never get
it spent.

Somewhere in Australia, where the ants and lizards
And a hundred fresh mosquitoes reinforce the ones
you slay,
So take me back to good old Sydney where I can hear the tramway bell.
For this god-forsaken place is just a substitute for hell!

Just after lunch we crossed the border into Western Australia and turned south for Lake Argyle.

Lake Argyle is Australia's largest artificial lake by volume.  It normally has a surface area of about 1,000 square kilometres and the dam was built in 1971.  The irrigation scheme has been controversial as there were many problems with tropical diseases and the native birds fed well on the rice crops.  However more successful crops have been found recently and the irrigation area is being extended.
The next morning we visited the old homestead, which has been moved from its original site now well underwater and also a went to a lookout then in the afternoon we took a sunset cruise seeing freshwater crocodiles. These are harmless to humans but I would not like to meet one in the water.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Across Australia No 3 Litchfield and Kakadu

It is hard to choose which photos to post. My Sister and I picked up the van which was to be our home for the next 20 days. They gave us an upgrade. The main advantages were a TV which only worked in a few places and a BBQ which was much used.

We headed 100 km south of Darwin to Adelaide River which is now only a very small settlement but was a big army and airforce base in the 2nd World War after Darwin was bombed in 1942. We visited the war cemetery.

Then we went to Litchfield National Park for 2 nights and spent a day driving 200 km through the park first seeing Magnetic Termite mounds which in the natural environment take the place of native grazing animals in these savannah grasslands.So instead of the vast herd of antelope, zebra etc as in Africa you get miles and miles of these.

We took walks  to 3 different waterfalls. First the Florence Falls,

Where I climbed down lots of steps to the bottom and walked along a delightful cool stream.

My sister joined me for a walk a few kilometres over the plateau to the Tolmer Falls.

And finally the most popular, the Wangi Falls where we had lunch, took a walk through the rainforest but decided not to continue in the heat right around to the top of the falls but returned and bought a cool drink.

They must be very impressive in the wet season. I also visited a deserted tin mine.

Then we headed east to Kakadu National Park.
Covering nearly 20,000 square kilometres of exceptional natural beauty and unique biodiversity, Kakadu is one of very few places World Heritage listed for both its cultural and its natural values. Kakadu National Park is managed jointly by its Aboriginal traditional owners and the Director of National Parks.
We stayed at Yellow Water and were on a bus at 6.15am for a short drive to the jetty where we boarded small boats for a sunrise tour of the lagoons.

I could post lots of bird photos but as I did not take notes, many names are forgotten.

The other lagoon inhabitants are less pleasant. we did not trail arms and legs over the side. My photo shows a female "salty" bearing her throat to the large male to indicate she does not want to be dinner but is available for other pleasures. 
 He did not want either so she sulkily came over to check us out.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Across Australia No 2 On to Darwin

The following morning was spent in Katherine (pop 11,000) and during the 3 hour stopover I just went to the airconditioned sports club as I was returning there later in my journey.
About 6.30pm, after travelling 2,979 km (1850 miles), we arrived in Darwin (pop 150,000) the capital of the Northern Territory and on the Timor Sea.

I was last there in 1968 before the city was largely destroyed by Cyclone Tracey on Christmas Eve 1975.  It is much bigger now but still just as hot.  I had chosen to visit in the dry season but think I would have happily flown home the next day if my sister had not been flying in the next night to join me for the rest of the trip.  For some reason I feel ill in hot weather.
 However I attended a very informal Eucharist in the cathedral.  I was disappointed the Dean was on holidays as I had heard him preach at St James, King Street. I did not take a photo but here is one from the Net.

I was pleased to see Justice Michael Kirby was to speak on 'Five Uneasy Pieces' in August. Obviously an inclusive diocese.

We visited museums on the environment, Aboriginal and European history including the bombing by the Japanese in WW2 and the cyclone.  We took a sunset dinner cruise on the harbour.

And spent time on a very interesting tour of the new Parliament House.

Finally after 6 nights (for me, 4 with my sister) in a hotel room we picked up our motor home for the next part of the journey. 

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Across Australia 1 Melbourne to Adelaide to Darwin

Enough of the Jensens, lets think of more pleasant things.
In past years I have posted about my travels in Europe and  North America. This year I decided to keep to Australia and New Zealand.  I have always wanted to take the 2 great train trips across the continent from North to South and West to East.

At the beginning of July I flew from Christchurch to Melbourne. I spent a weekend there last August so mainly I wanted to meet up with a friend.  Eric was actually a student at the school in my very first year of teaching.  I did not teach him but he was part of a group which toured New Zealand in January 1967 when I first fell in love with the country.  He also attended the same church as me and much later we met on the gay scene. He was  very bright, entered the diplomatic service ( I once visited him at the Australian High Commission in New Delhi) and late became a university administrator. Although retired he is studying for a doctorate. We were going to meet at the Victorian Art Gallery then have lunch but he had injured his foot so I went to his home and we spent several hours in an upmarket restaurant several doors away.

The next day I travelled by train across to Adelaide where I stayed for 4 nights.
I visited the town of Hahndorf in the nearby hills.

This town was settled by immigrants from Germany in the mid nineteenth century and many of the old buildings have been preserved. While they were from Prussia, the present day town contains the usual Bavarian kitsch but after visiting the museum I had a lunch of Wursten and Bavarian beer so count that as my European holiday for 2012.
I also went to Choral Eucharist in the cathedral, visited the Art Gallery and a Railway Musuem and took a tram to Glenelg.

Then I boarded "The Ghan" for a journey of about 55 hours up through the centre of Australia. The train is named after the Afghan camel trains which opened up this dry area. The train had over 30 carriages on it.

We crossed into the Northern Territory about 20 hours after leaving Adelaide.  In the afternoon we had several hours in Alice Springs (pop 28,000) almost in the centre of Australia. I stayed there on another school trip way back in 1968 but took a bus tour and wandered around the Botanical Gardens of desert plants. I climbed a hill and took a photo of the Heavitree Gap in the MacDonnell ranges.

The Todd river flows through the gap but it is usually dry.  A regatta is held every year in which a race is held although the boats have no bottoms and the "rowers" run the course.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

More on Jensen

I have received a copy of the media release by Changing Attitude Australia from Fr Andrew Eaton in Bendigo. Thankfully the number of Anglican churches and Dioceses around the world which support gay people seems to grow. When I was a teenager, it appeared none were supportive although I know that was not completely true even in evangelical Sydney but everything was so concealed in those days. Perhaps the ridiculous comments by the Jensens and their ilk these days is the last backlash of a losing minority. I pray that may be so.
Letters to the Sydney Morning Herald have pointed out the problems with the studies these fundamentalists like to quote.

So, we have two studies claiming gay men's life expectancy is shorter than heterosexual men. One of those, according to its original authors, is out of date (Vancouver at the height of the AIDS crisis). The other, according to independent analysis, is irredeemably flawed. These are the facts. They were not difficult to find and they have not been censored. They do not come from the publications of gay rights groups or other activist organisations, but from the research of professional scientists and statisticians.

Another points out

Perhaps if Jensen, Jim Wallace, et al had grown up hearing that, because of their Christian faith, they were an ''abomination", mercilessly bullied in the schoolyard, treated as a social pariah, disowned by their families or even outcast by their entire community, they may have some understanding of why so many young gay and lesbian people fall into a self-destructive lifestyle of drugs, casual sex and nihilistic hedonism.

Surely the ability for young gay men and lesbians to meet socially, to be proud in front of family and friends of who they are, to form life long same sex partnerships, create their own families, even marriages will reduce the temptation to seek refuge in destructive lifestyles. Churches should be encouraging this not leading the attack on such developments. However to quote Jeremiah:

Hear now this, O foolish people, and without understanding; which have eyes, and see not; which have ears, and hear not:

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Just Shut Up, Archbishop Jensen

He is at it again.
It is reported in the Sydney Morning Herald that last night on TV he said
'As far as I can see … the lifespan of practising gays is significantly shorter than the ordinary so-called heterosexual man … what we need to do is to look at why this may be the case and we need to do it in a compassionate and objective way.''

I hate the way he says  "compassionate".  He is one of the least compassionate people I have ever had the misfortune to meet. The look on his face as he says such a thing makes me want to spew up.

One of the reasons gay men I knew have died is that they committed suicide as they could not reconcile their evangelical upbringing with their gay feelings. They did not even have to be "practising" to die that way.

I will name one.

Rev John Turner was my Rector when I was worshipping at St Thomas, Kingsgrove from about 1966 to 1970.  He was a wonderful holy man but left the parish after being admitted to hospital with a nervous breakdown. That hospital specialised in dealing with problems arising from same sex orientation.  It was largely due to this that I realised that ministry in the Sydney diocese was not for me.  Years later he committed suicide. You could say being a minister in the Sydney Diocese was not good for his health .

I personally know 2 other men who were Anglican and in the Sydney University Evangelical Union with me in the early 60's. They later committed suicide due to the pressure of trying to reconcile their gay feelings with their evangelical teachings.
Yet still today the Rev David Booth who has some role, not clear, at St Matthews in Dunedin uses outdated studies to claim we choose to be homosexual. That is a blatant lie. St Matthews is obviously one church in Dunedin I do not and will never visit and I was even horrified to see an advert for their youth group in our church bulletin.

Fortunately our Diocese is led by a much much wiser bishop and the majority of parishes are inclusive. Bishop Kelvin has a link to my blog from his and is well aware of my views.  My only complaint is that he is more careful in his public statements now that he has become bishop than when he was vicar.

A few months ago I was having coffee after the ordination as deacon of a lady in our church. As I looked across the room to the bishop with whom I had just shaken hands, I shocked some around me by saying that if he was one of the Sydney bishops and walked in that door I would walk out the other door.  I have complete and utter contempt for them and their "compassionate" views.

Jensen, I am only a year younger than you and thank God am reasonably healthy. My major health concern is skin cancers. Now surfing when I was young, that was a health hazard.