September 2014 archive

Putting Principle Aside

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I am an atheist. I do not believe in a god, or any gods. I do not believe in life after death or heaven or hell. I definitely do not believe in organised religion and the power it possesses in our world.

I was raised a catholic. I use the term “raised” lightly here – I attended catholic schools and we went to mass once a week and at Christmas and Easter but I certainly wouldn’t have put our nuclear family in the hardcore basket. I always had my doubts about the whole thing (cemented by being chastised by a teacher when I was about eight for asking our Bishop during a school visit why girls couldn’t be alter people!). After I left school and moved away to go to uni the catholic phase petered out for me and I treated the whole issue with benign neglect. That was until I started to work with victims of abuse by the catholic church in my professional role as a social worker and mental health clinician. My attitude turned from “couldn’t care less” to one of loathing and anger. My partner and I hold very similar strong views and we have recently made a decision to completely boycott all catholic institutions. We feel strongly that our young daughter will have no involvement with organised religion of any kind – until a time comes when she may make a decision for herself that is different to our own. This is a strong principle and belief for me that was recently challenged in a big way.

My partner’s 89 year old grandmother died two weeks ago after a very short illness. Her health had been deteriorating for quite a while now, especially since the death of her beloved husband almost 3 years ago, but I don’t believe any of us ever thought that long and hard about her death. In many ways she seemed indestructible. Grandma’s two passions in life were her family and the catholic church. Neither were fallible in her belief. Her funeral was held in her local church – the church she had attended all of her married life and the church where her own husband’s funeral had been held not all that long ago.

And so I had a decision to make – stick by my principles and boycott the funeral of a woman who I held in strong regard, or pay my respects and feel like I was letting my own belief system down. Those people close to me will know what a difficult decision this was. But in the end it was the photo at the start of this post that made up my mind for me. The photo is of Grandma with my little Sweet Pea on her first Christmas. Grandma loved my daughter, and her other grandchildren and great-grandchildren, with delight and joy. They brought so much happiness and comfort to her, she constantly asked after them and wanted them to be brought to her for visits. This photo is, for me,  just one example of how much love this woman had for my daughter – I feel that I owed her for that. Even if it meant going inside a catholic church.

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Why I’ll be reading Julia

Julia Gillard cover

Today is the much anticipated (well for me and a few other people at least!) release date of the memoir by our previous Prime Minister, Julia Gillard – My Story.

I have been very much looking forward to getting my hands on this book since the news was announced last year that Ms Gillard would be writing it. I am looking forward to reading about the tumultuous time of her leadership from her perspective. I am looking forward to reading her words and, as the title clearly indicates, her story. A story,  I think, has been somewhat missing until now.

I was one of the lucky few to hear Julia Gillard in conversation with Anne Summers last year at the Sydney Opera House. The woman I listened to there seemed so far away from the often stilted Prime Minister I had observed from my lounge room. I heard a confidant, relaxed, albeit somewhat broken, honest woman. I was enthralled by her and what she had to say about her experiences during her time as Prime Minister. I will be hearing her speak again when she comes to Newcastle as part of her book tour this November.

But in the meantime I have her book. There are a lot of comments about “the truth” and that by telling her own story Ms Gillard will finally “reveal the truth”. But this is not what this book is about for me. The truth is a variable, subjective entity in so many ways. My truth may not be the same as yours.

What I do hope to read is the story of a woman who dared to stand up and be a leader in a time of crisis – and who stuck around when the going got much tougher. I hope to read about strength, determination and resilience. I hope to read about fear, regret and hope. I hope to read the words of a woman talking about herself and for herself.

Do I agree with every political decision made by Julia Gillard? Of course I don’t. Do I believe that she has set a course for potential female politicians and community leaders in this country – I truly do. As Julia Gillard’s words on her publisher’s website say;

Many women and men still come up to me and ask me to sign something for their daughters, to inspire them to achieve in a world where true equality still eludes us. As I wrote MY STORY, I thought of our nation’s daughters and tried to provide some specific insights about women and leadership.

What a legacy to leave.

How about you – will you be reading Julia Gillard’s story?

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