The big ride

I got my first bike when I was 12, and promptly fell off it going down our gravel driveway too fast. I limped home with a bloodied knee, but this accident did not deter me. Once my tears had dried, I got back on the bike.

The bike was blue, gearless, and it spelled freedom. I lived on a farm 5 miles out of town, but with the bike, I suddenly had mobility. Once I’d mastered the art of riding downhill, I explored the farm by bike. I rode to visit my cousins in one direction, my auntie and uncle in another, and the river where we used to swim, in yet another. Continue reading


Can we transition to a world that’s free of HIV?

With investment in health promotion and HIV prevention, and political commitment to protecting the human rights of the communities most affected by HIV, it just might be possible. We are certainly closer to ending HIV now, than we have ever been before.


This billboard popped up at my local station the other day, encouraging men who have sex with men to test regularly for HIV. In Australia, they are the population group most affected by HIV. Continue reading


Children like to set themselves challenges, and enjoy the sense of victory that results when they achieve their goal. Like G Ketewa hitching a ride on Abrantie’s bike.


This week’s photo challenge is ‘victory’, but as usually happens, I saw a few responses before I read the actual challenge, so my mind was full of ideas that, it turns out, are far removed from the challenger’s proposal that we focus on ‘that moment of glory and pride you’ll remember forever’. Continue reading

Winter Readathon update

A big thank you to everyone who’s supported me so far on my Winter Readathon to raise money for the Indigenous Literacy Foundation.

I’m well over halfway to reaching my personal goal of $500, and the team as a whole is only $411 short of its $5,000 goal.

The Readathon finishes at the end of July, so it’s not too late to donate to this excellent cause.

Books I’ve finished reading:

The Swan Book, by Alexis Wright (my review here)

Poor Folk, by Theodore Dostoevsky

The Death of Bees, by Lisa O’Donnell

Wrong Turn at the Office of Unmade Lists, by Jane Rawson (my review on Goodreads)

Hadji Murad, by Leo Tolstoy (my review here)

The Carpet People, by Terry Pratchett

I’ve also been nominated to read:

Wild Cat Falling, by Mudrooroo

Heat and Light by Ellen van Neerven

Today I’ve officially run out of books because I’m waiting for the last two to arrive at the library and won’t get them till Tuesday at the earliest.

Help me out — nominate a book for me to read!

If you’d like to make a donation you can do it here and the list of books I’d like to read is here, although you can nominate something else if you prefer.

Winter readathon

22654549 So after two weeks of umming & aahing, I’ve decided to join a readathon that’s raising money for the Indigenous Literacy Foundation this month.

The umming & aaahing was because I’m busy, and I felt anxious about having to read even more books than I usually squeeze in between work and family and the rest of life’s business and pleasures. I worried that people would want me to read books that I don’t want to read, or that I wouldn’t raise enough money.

imagesThen I figured, well, the point of any kind of ‘thon’, whether it be a running or cake-baking or reading ‘thon, is to take risks and stretch yourself beyond your usual limits for a good cause.

Indigenous literacy is an excellent cause, as Anita Heiss makes clear in this blog post, where she talks about how reading benefits her every day. Her post shows that reading is just a normal everyday skill that everyone should have.

23209924 The Indigenous Literacy Foundation, for which Heiss is a Lifetime Ambassador, “aims to raise literacy levels and improve the lives and opportunities of Indigenous children living in remote and isolated regions.”

Since they were established in 2004 the Foundation has supplied 120,000 books to 230 remote communities. What a great achievement. And it can only get better from here, right?

15730If you agree with me that this is a charity worth supporting, will you dob me in to read a book  … or several?

It works like this: you go to my readathon page and make a donation. For every donation made, I will read a book. You can choose the book, or leave me to my own devices. For donations of $40 or more I will also review the book, although I can’t promise that will happen within the readathon timeframe – it finishes 31 July.

23661154Hint: Books pictured are on my to-be-read list, but you can nominate any book, it doesn’t have to be one of them. Suggestions, especially by Indigenous authors, are welcome. Although remember – the shorter the book, the more I can read.

Soooo …. Ready, set, GO!




In exile, but ‘Still a Pygmy’

still-a-pygmyI admit I felt a bit uneasy at the idea of reading a book called ‘Still a Pygmy’. Isn’t that a bit, well, politically incorrect?

Apparently not. The pygmy in question, Isaac Bacirongo, beams from the cover of his memoir. Hard to argue with that endorsement.

His collaborating author, white Australian Michael Nest, knows that potential readers may feel the same political squeamishness as I did, so he explains in the introduction that using this word is completely fine. Even if he hadn’t done this, it becomes clear as you read the book that Bacirongo is claiming the name with pride, using it to strip away the cloud of invisibility that surrounds his people, the Indigenous people of the rainforests of Central Africa. Continue reading

Bring back our girls

The image at the top of the Bring back Our Girls Facebook page is a reality check. It’s a montage of portraits of (I assume) some of the girls who were kidnapped by Boko Haram in Northern Nigeria a year ago. The faces of sixty teenagers and young girls, most of them looking directly at the camera, as though asking the viewer, ‘what will become of us?’.

Tomorrow, April 14th marks the one year anniversary of the kidnapping, and this week there are actions around the world to remind us all that the girls are still missing. My small action is this post.

Originally I planned to only share songs from Nigerian women. My intention was to showcase the power and talent of Nigerian-heritage female vocalists as a counterpoint to the victimisation and disempowerment of the Chibok girls. Women like Wunmi, shared above, Asa (pronounced Asha), and their musical forebears the Lijadu sisters.

Then I found that the campaign had inspired people around the world to make their own songs and poems. Some are predictably maudlin, with sad piano and placards asking us to imagine our daughters being raped. Thanks, I’d rather not.

It’s great that they are adding their voices to the global chorus demanding the girls’ return, but I prefer songs that are more hopeful, more political, or more angry.

I particularly like the image of the lighthouse which will not be submerged by a wave, in this spoken word piece.

Like the shooting of Malala, the Chibok kidnappings have mobilised people around the world who know the value of education and independence for women and girls. Here’s an upbeat contribution to the campaign from a North American women’s fitness club.

As I write, hundreds of people in southern NSW are celebrating the life of an Australian woman who recently lost her life to male violence: Stephanie Scott, who should have been married on Saturday.

No-one can bring Stephanie back, or the many other women around the world who have been killed or abused by greedy, disturbed, spiritually ugly males who feel entitled to decide whether we live or die.

At least we can make sure women like Stephanie, and the Chibok girls, are not forgotten. We can honour their lives by working towards making this world safer and more humane for everyone.

Sometimes, when young men commit horrible crimes, I feel a measure of sympathy for them. I wonder what has brought them to such a situation, where they have so totally stuffed up so many people’s lives, including their own  I don’t believe anyone is born evil, and I know that there are social determinants such as racism and classism that can badly damage and distort people’s relationship to their world. So I give people the benefit of the doubt, I try and remember their humanity and vulnerability, and try to practice forgiveness.

But frankly, this week, I’m over it. I’m not feeling very forgiving. These men have made terrible choices that others in similar circumstances would never make.

I don’t feel very optimistic about Boko Haram releasing the schoolgirls. From my safe and privileged home on the other side of the world, I can’t do much more than hope they are all still alive, and are somehow able to make the best of whatever situation they are in.

And of course most of all, I hope that Boko Haram can heed the message that people all around the world are trying to get across to them — beautifully expressed in this old song from Onyeka Onwenu — and find enough love in their hearts to let the girls go home.

Looking back on what I’ve written, I guess finding love is a challenge for me too. Perhaps, in these awful times, it is for all of us.

So I leave you with Onyeka’s warmth and love, which I hope will soothe us all and help us through hard times.