GetUp! Against #lightthedark


Thousands across the country rallied yesterday for a national candle lit vigil organised by GetUp! and Welcome To Australia in solidarity with asylum seekers in Australia’s ‘care’ (Facebook).

Candlelight vigils can be a powerful tactic of solidarity with those in and killed by mandatory detention, as well as building affective bonds for a social movement with a diversity of tactics.

But the way it was organised by astroturf[1] organisation GetUp!, isn’t about building a grassroots movement with a diversity of tactics; it’s about institutionalising the movement into official politics; that is the major political parties and voting—the very area where people are most powerless to create social change.

The problem isn’t necessarily with the tactic, but that the strategy enforced by GetUp! can’t win; it’s one deeply embedded in legitimising the very institutions that are implementing border imperialism in capitalism.

GetUp! has a long history of opportunistic jumping from campaign to campaign and current Labor Opposition leader Bill Shorten was a former board member. When the ALP introduced its own Pacific ‘solution’ last year, GetUp! failed to call even its own limited action; instead merely pushing people to enrol to vote. What good that did.

But now the coalition is in power and GetUp! has become more militant (/sarcasm). The Greens too with their alliance with the ALP in government failed to stop the progressive worsening of Australia’s border policies.

To the extent to which GetUp! has social traction is to the extent to which we are from undoing Australia’s border imperialism.

Even the imagery of the event was very telling; promoting the light is good, dark is bad night binary.

On Sunday, despite our Government’s best attempt to keep us in the dark, Australians across the country (and around the world!) are going to light up the night.

Indeed, it encapsculates one of the main problems with the ‘refugee movement’. From GetUp! to the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre to its more activist parts in the Refugee Action Collectives, it’s overwhelmingly run by white people with little grassroots direction from refugees, migrants of colour, and Indigenous people.

And I’m included here as a white person who’s been around groups that haven’t had a grassroots relationship of solidarity and direction with for example RISE (Refugees, Survivors and Ex-Detainees). It’s something that has to change.

Undoing Border Imperialism by Harsha Walia is the best approach I’ve read on building an anti-authoritarian movement to abolish oppression, capitalism and state borders, which is what the ‘refugee’ movement needs ultimately to be about. Based on grassroots social movement experience in Canada, Walia argues for a movement led by the most affected by borders, nationalism and racism.

‘Refugee movement’ is a bordered end

One of the main problems with the ‘refugee movement’ is that it fails to recognise the problem is borders themselves.

Any delineation of ‘legitimate refugee’s and ‘illegitimate’ refugees is to support the existence of the State’s maintenance of closed borders; instead of letting in all migrants.

That said, letting them in must be centred on recognising Indigenous sovereignty.

Indigenous sovereignty and solidarity

Abolishing borders doesn’t mean not having social relationships and deep ties to land. Any movement that isn’t deeply embedded in a relationship of Indigenous solidarity will merely reinforce the borders of white Australia; that is the borders of pretending they aren’t on stolen land.

Harsha Walia writes about No One is Illegal in Canada, which has Indigenous solidarity and support as a core principle.

In contrast in Australia earlier this year RISE split from their alliance with the Refugee Advocacy Network# in Victoria because of their ignorance of Indigenous Solidarity.

Some people wanted to organise a ‘pro-refugee’ ‘National Boat Day‘ action on Invasion day, which received inadequate responses after pointed questions from RISE (it was subsequently changed to the day after).

Beyond rallies – towards a diversity of tactics to disrupt mandatory detention directly

There is nothing that is going to kill the potential of an effective social movement faster than channelling dissent solely into predictable and repetitive rally after rally.

While rallies generate some public pressure, the typical march from A to B thing even in massive numbers like against the Iraq war, or the candle lit vigil we saw, by itself, rarely causes social change.

These repeat rally tactics mainly benefit groups that want to channel dissent into official politics or recruit to their own group, which in turn creates their own internal social basis for rally after rally.

One of the main replies to critics of rallies is what are these diverse tactics you speak of?

Over the last month there has been one prominent example organised by networks around artists, RISE, Beyond Borders Collective and cross borders (slackbastard and Crossborder Operational Matters)

They have called for the boycott of the high-profile art event, the Biennale of Sydney, in a strategic campaign against one company, Transfield, profiting from mandatory detention.

The excellent Crossborder Operational Manners blog offers one approach centred to disrupting mandatory detention, including things many people at the candle lit vigil could do.

For example: Transfield is implicated in millions of people’s super funds. Why don’t people not only light candles, but also investigate whether they should change or organise to change their super fund? Structurally, GetUp!’s privileges particular one-off dead-end moralistic actions, rather than build for significant change.

There are weaknesses in the Transfield campaign too. The only area to disrupt Transfield that has gained traction so far is the relationship Transfield has with the Biennale, raising questions about future targets beyond that event.

Further, for example with Beyond Borders, internal dynamics around race, gender and purpose are very much currently up in the air and need addressing.

Part of Walia’s book was about the importance of anti-oppression politics and for example incorporating feminist lessons into anti border imperialism campaigns and actively confronting oppressive structures.

Undoing borders shouldn’t just be about refugees, but borders that maintain the heteropatriarchy, ableism, white supremacy and other oppressive hierarchies.

Further, many students are in the movement and Universities are places where borders manifest. For example, restrictions on the rights of International students. In 2009, there were powerful demonstrations organised by Indian students against violence and racism (also see Mutiny for an analysis beyond that time).

Many international students are super-exploited in their workplaces, and there hasn’t been enough organising to confront bosses here.

Even on refugees, thousands are living in poverty with no work rights. Mutual aid is needed and has been organised on a grassroots level through RISE and other networks.

Wholefoods, a food co-op at Monash University last year developed a relationship with RISE and organised food collections for asylum seekers living in poverty.



Because borders are everywhere, there’s so many places to disrupt them, and unfortunately one major fence to undoing border imperialism in Australia is the shadow of gatekeeper institutions like GetUp!.

I’ll end with a quote I found in Undoing Border Imperialism by Gunnai man Robbie Thorpe: “The Australian Government has no legitimate right to grant or refuse entry to anyone in this country, let alone lock up people fleeing war and persecution.” (p. 38, Undoing Border Imperialism, Robbie’s website).

#Edited Mistake: I originally implied RISE were a part of the Refugee Action Collective (Victoria), which they never were.

[1] *Astroturfing?

Grass can never be replicated by artificial astroturf, and ultimately is dead, not alive and doesn’t sustain an ecosystem of life from the soil up to the shoots. I use this image as a metaphor for the sorts of movement that is sustained by GetUp!. G

GetUp! acts as a movement gatekeeper and directs the movement towards the gate of politicians, corporations and parliament; and instead is a revolving doors within these structures that maintains oppressive systems.

There is also the conception of astroturfing I initially was exposed to through academics such as Sharon Beder that explains them as particular front groups funded by corporate interests that attempt to mirror grassroots pressure social movement groups.


Fuck virginity

up yours virginity

Trigger warning: General discussion of rape culture

I regretted one thing I left out of my original asexual coming out post. I overemphasised the whole asexuals can engage in sexual behaviour with other people just like allosexuals (those whose sexual orientation aligns towards experiencing strong sexual attraction). This was ironic, because my personal experience is the opposite. Yes, the fact I’ve never had ‘sex’, as it’s commonly understood.

A friend asked a few months ago if I was a virgin, straight up. I was super-embarrassed and blushed with shit sticky feelings of stigma before giving an indirect cryptic answer, and then finally admitting to it.

Another time, I blurted it out with a far longer silence than usual—as someone renowned for their silences.

A few months ago, I wrote list of stuff I wanted to do this year. One of them was have ‘sex’.

Since these experiences, I’ve come out as asexual and my thoughts on virginity have developed away from shame.

I now think the guilt and shame I experienced about not having sex is part of heteronormative patriarchal social relations in capitalist society. They specifically relate to compulsory sexuality: what Lisa describes as “a set of social attitudes, institutions and practices which hold and enforce the belief that everyone should have or want to have frequent sex (of a socially approved kind).”

I explore the concepts of virginity, sex, male virginity and rape culture, which raises more questions as much as answers, and raises interesting problems for what sex and asexuality means.

Virginity and sex

Virginity is socially constructed as the supreme status according to Google of ‘never having had sexual intercourse’. Sexual intercourse is involving ‘penetration’ ‘especially’ heteronormative ‘insertion’ of ‘a man’s erect penis into a woman’s vagina’.

This logic is the logic of the heteropatriarchy. It excludes all other forms of sex, which is particularly queerphobic at a deeply institutional level. It’s from the penetrative perspective of the penis, not the vagina enveloping the penis. It’s stuck in the gender and sex binary, that excludes those born as intersex, and those whose gender identity is not ‘man’ or ‘woman’.

What is with this obsession with ‘virginity’ and not other things? Limiting myself here linguistically to the English language, there is a term for virginity—demonstrating its importance—but equally important—there is no word for ‘non-virgin’. In contrast, there’s no words for someone who has or has not experienced deep emotional love for significant other(s).

Some argue the gendered tropes and language attached to virginity, such as ‘popping your cherry’ and the verb ‘losing’, grants an expectation of something happening to undo the assumed ‘purity’ of the hymen, which encourages uncomfortable penetrative sex.

It’s a dangerous assumption that one ‘loses’ something by having their first sexual experience with another person. The gendered belief that a woman or gender nonbinary person is more ‘pure’ because she or they haven’t had sex feeds into slut-shaming and the contradictory policing of the virgin/whore binary.

The invention of virginity has long been about male policing and possession of non-male bodies.  Hence virginity conjures up images of policing of anatomy like the hymen as ‘scientific’ proof of virginity, but not so much images of men. Google retrieves four and a half times more hits for female virginity compared to male virginity, demonstrating the invisibility of male virginity.[i]

Male virginity and biology

Masculinity itself is generally constructed as if men are always interested in sex and should expect to become non-virgins fairly automatically, when this is not normal for many men. In contrast, femininity is constructed as the oppositie, as if women are generally less interested in sex and have to ‘value’ their virginity, which is essentialist patriarchal rubbish. However, in a highly sexualised society, there is pressure on all genders to have sex, with men privileged with sexual entitlement.[ii]

In their cut chaptecut chapter from Virgin, Hanne Blank writes on male virginity:

Can we even speak of such a thing as a male virgin? The word “virgin” stems from the Latin “virgo,” a word whose double meanings signified both girl and virgin, but etymology isn’t the only factor that makes it necessary to use the qualifying adjective “male” in front of the word “virgin” if we intend not to speak about women.

Men’s virginity, as far as the historical record shows, has never been thought of as being the same as women’s. Where women’s virginity has, virtually without exception, been valued very positively, men’s virginity has (with only a few limited exceptions) been valued negatively.


Part of the hugely pervasive sexual double standard that has historically permitted men far greater sexual latitude than women is that men have simply never been expected or mandated to be virgins. Every male, like everyone human being, necessarily goes through a phase of his existence in which he has not (yet or ever) engaged in any sort of sexual act. But a man’s virginity is, from a cultural perspective, nothing like a woman’s. In many ways, there is not and never really has been such a thing as a male virgin.

Virginity has no biological basis. Blank writes of the frenum—skin connecting the foreskin and the underside of the penis below the glans—as an ‘equivalent’ to the hymen to indicate virginity. Like the hymen, the frenum is no marker of whether someone has had normative sex with another person as it’s biologically different for different people, and easily breaks from washing and masturbation—although a 1958 study recorded injury to the frenum during male defloration.

I do not recall much discussion about virginity at my all-boys high school—although there was an expectation one would have sex at some party somewhere—and if you weren’t you were a socially isolated ‘ugly’ loser.

This expectation in rape culture is structural male entitlement, male violence and male privilege that men expect to be able to demand sex from women.

The flipside of the gender roles of men in patriarchy is that those men like myself who don’t have sex, or have not have much sex, feel particularly guilty and embarrassed for not doing so.

Men having lots of sex is seen as the ideal, underlined by the fact there is no derogatory term to refer to men who do (unlike women); instead, men who have lots of sex are studs.[iii]

Looking back at the few times I assumed that others have appeared sexually interested in me—before I identified as asexual—I felt social pressure to be sexually attracted to them and ‘lose my virginity’, not being able to immediately walk away despite ultimately not being interested.

The patriarchal gender roles here are why some have suggested asexual men struggle more at coming out as on the asexual spectrum. Other factors I think are the slippery broad uses of ‘sex’.

Sex and asexuality

Thinking of sex as something that is of a sexual nature between at least two persons is limited because something solo like masturbation is often seen as inherently sexual. The association was one thing that put me off considering asexuality fully for months.

One person’s definition of masturbation as a sex act has lead them to conclude that kids ‘lose their virginity’ by playing (as I did) with their genitals.

Asexual people can have ‘sex drives’ of all different sorts. Some asexual people may engage in what is commonly viewed as sexual behaviour. Many asexual people like me masturbate, a commonly understood sexual behaviour, many do not. But asexuality is the lack of sexual attraction to other people.

The phrase ‘asexuality’ has many limitations when it’s describing an orientation which really means lacking the experience of sexual attraction—lacking-sexual-attraction-ality—not can’t and haven’t had ‘sex’ necessarily, or although some do not, not can’t find sex pleasurable, or although some do not.

Asexuality is more social than physical. Lack of feelings of sexual attraction are here separate from one’s ability to be physically aroused or respond to sexual stimuli. [iv]

Ultimately because ‘sex’ itself is such an unstable concept, sexual attraction too is grey and not black and white. It can be easy to be pulled back into binary opposites, asexuality and allosexuality; as if there was an easy distinction between attractions and behaviours between consenting people, be they what is commonly (but not always) sensual such as hugging and sexual such as genital contact.

All of these complications about sex flow to the policing of virginity being especially problematic, and its normative understanding leading to feelings of shame. For many asexuals, the concept of virginity is unimportant and harmful. On their asexual blog, Jo argues neatly for undoing virginity:

But I think feminism especially needs to recognise that sex has different levels of meaning for different people, and sexuality is not something that can be assumed in everyone. The concept of virginity, and all the significance that is placed on losing it, does just that: it assumes sexuality, often only heteronormative sexuality. Participating in the dichotomy of virgin and non-virgin, experienced and inexperienced has nothing positive to give: so it’s time to ditch the concept completely.

Get ‘lost’ virginity

It’s important to note I felt more stigma attached to being open about my sexual experiences than my sexual orientation, and left out this discussion until now. I think they’re both deeply personal, but I think it might reflect the difficulties of overcoming internalised acephobia and misunderstanding of asexuality.

I’ve felt fake; that identifying as asexual can’t be real unless I have sex with someone; and then can ‘know’ for ‘sure’ if I’m yet sexually attracted to anyone. And to think how absurd it would be to question someone’s heterosexuality just because they had not had sex.

But it’s also crucial to understand the fluidity of sexuality, and that my sexual attraction may not be fixed. One example may be that in a close relationship with someone, it’s possible I could develop sexual attraction, which is termed in the ace spectrum as demisexuality.

People should be free to have as much or as little to no sex as they like. All virginity and heteronormative understanding of sex do is provide a framework to police sex and sexuality, and perpetuate heteropatriarchal social relations.

Because the concept of virginity is so fucked up, I now no longer feel any need to see myself with that label.

When I came out to myself I wrote, “Quite frankly, if I die a virgin, I don’t care.”

Now I think, “Quite frankly, if I die without conforming to mainstream expectations of masculinity, I don’t care.”

[i] Googling “male virginity” and “female virginity”, 39500 to 179000 hits (21/12/13).

[ii] Michael S. Kimmel, The Gender of Desire: Essays on Male Sexuality (SUNY Press, 2005), p. 14.

[iii] Jessica Valenti, He’s a Stud, She’s a Slut, and 49 Other Double Standards Every Woman Should Know (Seal Press, 2009).

[iv] Anthony F. Bogaert, ‘The A, B, C, and Ds of Sex (and Asex)’, in Understanding Asexuality (Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2012).

GetUp! and wave at ‘hot’ climate catastrophe



You catch the train. You stand and clap your hands at speakers in a public park. You wave your hands in the air. You update your social media. You endure crude jokes on ‘hot climate action’. You chat to some friends. You go home. This is the sort of political action that made today’s rally.

Up to 10,000 mobilised in Treasury gardens for ‘climate action’, heeding the call out from organisational gatekeepers of the climate change ‘movement’.

There’s many of these organisations, but let’s focus on one. Who is GetUp! anyway?

GetUp! is a corporate hierarchical non-government[1] progressive organisation created in 2005 after the Howard Government won control of the senate.

Its founders modelled GetUp! on MoveOn in the US.[2] They both share the same astroturfing tactics that poison the possibilities of a grassroots movement that not only focuses on human-induced climate change but interlinks it with wider systemic critiques and struggles against domination, exploitation and oppression.

GetUp! is an opportunistic organisation. Along with a host of other NGOs like AYCC they supported the introduction of a market based carbon tax scheme relying on the same market that had just caused global recession not to mention having puny targets and giving away hundreds of millions in ‘compensation’ for big polluters.

With the Labor (with Greens support) government in power, GetUp notably toned back its limited calls for ’climate action’, and now with Abbott in, it’s back to being the fizzy drink that bubbles away people’s anger at Abbott’s agenda to invisible effect on CO2 levels.

Rallies and climate action

The rally itself was a standard affair, speeches and tired pleas for change from Tim Flannery, the usual vague soundbites from politicians, the youthful clichés of the Australian Youth Climate Change Coalition and a phalanx of trots selling publications on the busy corner. Perhaps the only good part of the rally was a performance by Blue King Brown who raised some questions of the system at the end – but by then many were leaving as this was left as a footnote after the rally.

Rallies themselves are generally centralised and hierarchical affairs. A small organising collective decides all the details and asks its followers to come and listen to the central part of the rally – speeches. Elements of decentralisation can also exist with the existence of a multiplicity of banners, but today that was drowned out with mass-produced pre-made placards and banners.

Of note was the funding for the rally came from ‘Australian ethical’ superannuation, who obviously scored some great product placement from the organisers.

The funding was needed to pay all the extravagance from cherry pickers, to big trucks and big tents and big signs and big banners to big bureaucracy.

Even if a rally was called by some radical left grouping it wouldn’t necessarily be that much more participatory even if its politics were more anti-systemic because of the stage-managed centralised nature of most rallies.

The leaders of the rally made much of the necessity to get a ‘picture for the media’ in a glorified ‘selfie’ that everyone was to share around on social media to show they supported ‘climate action’.

GetUp!’ is hierarchical activism par excellence: sign a petition and get e-mails or other notifications for life, occasionally come to something.

On the one hand it’s probably the biggest climate action rally since before the election of the ALP in 2007. But then to put things in perspective, a similar number rocked up to attend the Melbourne Cricket Ground’s 175th anniversary Open Day today.

I don’t have the answers in what exactly to do to combat catastrophic climate change but I reckon any ‘solution’ has to have an analysis of the system that’s driving it, capitalism. I have an anti-capitalist analysis, and any diminishing of climate change in this system built on neverending growth on a finite planet is merely a palliative to an inevitable death.

While Abbott steals the anarchist line of ‘direct action’ it’s funnily enough that sort of direct action where people assert their collective power without mediation from representatives like politicians that is most needed.

[1] Like most NGOs, the name is actually misleading as they’re very tied to maintaining government and have a revolving door with government

[2] A Trotskyist perspective on GetUp! on the World Socialist Website reveals some interesting connections:

Decolonising self and place

An edited piece of an assignment I wrote a couple of years ago (first line edited, as well as a few mistakes and the addition of the footnote).

Here I explore readings based on ‘The Concept of Terra Nullius and the ‘moral right’ of Christian nations to colonise.’ First, I reflect on who I am. Second, I highlight the role of discourse and narratives in legitimising the colonial project in Australia. Finally, I attempt to show the concrete implications of discourse through dispossession, genocide and place.


Who am I? My grandparents on my father’s side migrated from Holland after World War II.  On my mother’s side, my grandparents are born in Australia and trace both their ancestry back to Ireland. I do not have any strong cultural ties. My parents sent me to Catholic schools, although I do not consider myself Catholic anymore. I am procrastinating. More to the point, I am abnormal. I am socially anxious. Consequently, I am statistically more likely to be unemployed or working in jobs far below my intelligence, depressed, unmarried and an alcoholic. I do not openly tell people these things because of stigma and stereotype. I note the –ab prefix, shared with words such as abuse and Aboriginal. It certainly seems derogatory. Why not call Aboriginal people the Original people, rather than add a prefix? Regardless, I do not have to suffer from this labelling because of my privileged white middle class background.

I was an outsider at school. I spent more time reading than messing about. I was into caring for the environment before it was fashionable. I copped some flak and learnt how to re-position my identity to not endure too much more. I had that luxury.  I made the link that our society is destructive and could not understand why. One memory stands out, massive rainforest tree stumps lying desolate in my grandfather’s banana farm. The natural world was at the bottom of society’s concerns, at least I thought then. I know now the global genocide of Indigenous peoples is below that.

Towards the end of school, I grappled with the Catholic Church’s ignorance on environmental issues. I learnt about the reformation and drew the inference that the Church is still corrupt today. At the time, they received money from people to guarantee their soul left purgatory. It did not seem like Jesus’ Church of the poor. But I knew the Church was declining and began to start to think of the new ‘Churches’ society is now worshipping. Through the blatant greed of the ‘global financial crisis,’ I read scholars that showed the emperor had no clothes. I stumbled upon ‘Australian Indigenous studies’ by accident. At Monash, I accidently chose the Indigenous literature week, which forced me to think about place. I soon realised learning about dissent in ‘Australian history’ suited my abnormality.

I had a psychological ‘terra nullius’. I did not think much about Indigenous people. I constructed the ‘other’, thinking about Indigenous people as ‘them’ and ‘they’. I generalised and stereotyped. Indigenous people were always distant, away from the city, a travel market for tourists. I encountered Indigenous people through prescribed books with ‘strange’ expressions like ‘deadly unna’. Indigenous people seemed to be great at football, but absent from cricket, just a random oddity. I encountered Indigenous people in environmental history as causing the extinction of the megafauna as they came to Australia. This implied there was something inherently destructive about humans, rather than just this human culture. My mind was colonised. In contrast, it feels intuitive now to trust Indigenous people’s perspectives versus official lies. It is like the mother asking an older son and younger son about who to believe did something wrong; the mother trusts the youngest because he has the least power and would suffer the biggest consequences for lying (at the hands of his brother).


Discourse can legitimise the most heinous actions. In Henry Mort’s (1844) letter, he paraphrases others arguing for the moral right to invade ‘a country inhabited by savages’. The paraphrase is replete with positive connotations for the ‘Christian Nation’ that is ‘morally right’ and ‘more intelligent civilised race’. He assumes superiority. In contrast, he describes the action of invasion and genocide of peoples as to ‘extirpate savages from their native soil.’ It completely downplays and dehumanises the ‘other’.  I am using the similar propaganda techniques to construct my narrative. Simplistically, I invert the connotations that privilege the grand narrative of the oppressors. Henry Mort as a detractor, somewhat aware of contradictions in the supposed moral right to colonise, eventually employs similar levels of dehumanisation and contradictions. His final sentence is telling: ‘Yet I would say, let England increase her Colonial possessions, let commerce be extended & let the Ministers of Church carry out the sacred torch of civilisation & religion so that the darkest & most remote recesses of heathen barbarism may be illuminated nearby.’ This translates to me as economic imperialism. He uses the same positive images of ‘sacred torch’ as opposed to ‘heathen barbarism’ to justify colonialism. I find it hard to understand the difference between the two positions. Ultimately, they lead to the same outcome. Just as acting ‘shy’ is my coping strategy to escape from the world, here language is used to justify colonisation after the fact. Embedded connotations in the English language are a powerful way to make the ‘haves’ feel superior and the ‘have nots’ feel unworthy. Terra nullius is an infamous example of how discourse can cover up genocide.

The implication of terra nullius (nobody’s land) is Indigenous people are not human. Even worse the ‘territories’ they live in are ‘waste’ (Reynolds 1989:69). It is telling to note that the British Empire’s ‘privy council’ endorsed terra nullius in 1889. Privy councils are the forerunner to representative democracies. The same structures exist today and unsurprisingly continue to oppress Indigenous peoples. In a way, terra nullius does not matter. Despite the Mabo case, I had a psychological terra nullius and so does Australia’s institutions. Colonialism runs deep in the groundwater feeding Australia’s ‘growth’. Multinational mining companies maximise profit on stolen land, pay some royalties to government, the economy ‘booms’, Indigenous people are poisoned and their culture extinguished. Why not admit that colonists invaded Australia by conquest? It would destroy the authority of the most sacred Australian institutions: the constitution, legal system and government. Instead, the High court employs deus ex machina, with the invention of native title. Conveniently, native title had always existed, the High court just forgot about it. The colonisers rely on an evolving meta-narrative justifying their occupation and genocide on stolen land.

Reynolds (1989:73) notes the change in narratives of Aboriginal land from ‘uninhabited’ to that possessed by ‘aimless wanderers’. Yet colonisers also noted the contradictory evidence of Aboriginal attachment to land, while employing the latter narrative. Just like the High court, they are using evolving narratives as coping strategies to justify the same outcome: colonisation. I contrast the Supreme Court’s view of Australia as ‘uninhabited’ with a letter writer suggesting instead ‘they [Indigenous people] were inhabitants, but not the proprietors of the land’ (Reynolds, 1989:72). Here again is the familiar homogenising use of ‘they’ and assumed superiority of an anglocentric way of using the land, which feeds stereotypes. The astonishing ignorance of Aboriginal connection to land and genocide suggests there was little interaction between the colonists and the colonised. The Sydney Herald calls Australia pre-colonisation as a ‘desert’, virtually ‘without inhabitants’. A common thread to these narratives is dehumanisation and silencing the ‘other’.

The narratives are contradictory. The Southern Australian accuses Aboriginal people of standing in the way of ‘progress’, with ‘resources undeveloped’(Reynolds 1989:72). Yet in Coranderrk, applying farming did not matter.[i]  Instead, oppressors invoke the grand homogenising theories of social Darwinism and utilitarianism to justify further extinguishment of ‘Aboriginal reserves.’ Reynolds (1989:71) cross quotes Vattel’s The Law of Nations who suggests that Indigenous use of land would ‘maintain a tenth part of its present inhabitants.’  I disagree that the economic order in which he is defending is in any way sustainable. In fact, I think it is endangering humanity entirely through the destruction of life. Life is essential to keep the earth’s support systems operating. Anthropogenic climate change is a symptom of the imbalance and greed internalised in the current global system. Ironically, it would now have been better from a utilitarian perspective to have humans remained as ‘hunter gatherers’. From there, many multiple generations would likely persist, living in a semblance of balance with the earth. Typically, utilitarianism ignores long term consequences.

Dispossession is a result of history, but so is the long term result of continuing colonial genocide. Reynolds (1989) uses the term ‘dispossession’ frequently to describe the invasion of Indigenous land. This sidesteps the massive depopulation and cultural destruction of Indigenous peoples. I would call this genocide. Reynolds uses long quotes from official sources like judges to illustrate his short points. His argument mainly speaks through the selection of sources he has chosen to present. As I have discussed, the narratives are often contradictory and make it hard to call the passages Reynolds quotes definite genocide. The primary sources show clear recognition of dispossession. Hence, Reynolds calls his book ‘dispossession’. Genocide, according to the United Nations requires ‘an intent to destroy’ (UN, 1948). This is equivocal. In the particular case of Australia, the British did not declare war and it is tough to directly draw that inference for the whole regime. Moreover, it is rare for people to admit they are a part of genocidal structures. The common response – as described in The Nazi Doctors (Lifton, 1986) – is to do whatever is possible within the structures of the system to alleviate harm. Therefore, doctors who abided by ‘the do no harm’ principle were willing to work within the Nazi concentration camps. Arguments about semantics can be false debates. I think it is important to judge the intent in the context of a common outcome.

I live in one of the most colonised places in Australia, home to its own holocaust. A little research confirms to me that my suburb was home to a concentration camp. One prominent news story appears in The Argus (1861a) on the Mordialloc Aboriginal reserve, ‘given’ to the Bunurong Aboriginal people. Briefly, a pregnant Aboriginal woman named Betsy, and her newly born son die because of the immediate factor of a lack of blankets. She was only 25. Her leg was crippled and she was on crutches. ‘The Mordialloc tribe’ receive rations once a year, which includes one blanket and no meat or extra provisions for injury or pregnancy. Moreover, the Mordialloc tribe receive no medical care, unless they walked to Melbourne. Mr McDonald, who provides ‘the Mordialloc tribe’ with rations, is also the grazer who claims the Aboriginal reserve was stolen off him (The Argus, 1861b). There is similar abusive dependency today between Indigenous people’s representation and mining royalties (Aboriginal Land Rights Act 1976 and native title), and government as a whole. Indeed, ‘we’ still have quasi-reserves, and prisons, which deliver similar outcomes of ill health from institutional racism. The incident is deplorable enough for The Argus to publish a letter from a conscientious coloniser, who mentions the shooting of Aborigines for sport (M’Farland, 1861). Later, The Argus (1877; 1928) reports the Mordialloc tribe (falsely) dying out and human bones being dug up in a garden, which the article speculates ‘may be those of an aborigine [sic]’. Based on the general structural suppression of Aboriginal struggle and history, the dispossession narrative is inadequate.


Through discourse, we tend to internalise our own propaganda. Genocide is different from just mere dispossession. Genocide implies irredeemable structures within society that leads to unequal and racist outcomes. Dispossession implies there is (false) hope that the return of some land may return Indigenous peoples to normalcy. So from my perspective it tells me the struggle is fundamentally against the system. It tells me decolonisation is an ongoing process. It shows my ignorance, but also gives me hope that I am starting to remove the shackles of my coping strategies. I have been past that Aboriginal flag in Mordialloc thousands of time. I only recently starting realising I am walking over a concentration camp. I need to continue to decolonise my mind, take action and educate others.


The Aboriginal flag at Mordialloc flying high in front of the pub, also known as ‘the bridge hotel’.



Lifton, R. J. (1986). The Nazi doctors : Medical killing and the psychology of genocide. New York, Basic Books.

M’Farland, R. H. (1861). “THE MORDIALLOC INQUEST UPON THE ABORIGINAL BETSY AND HER CHILD.” The Argus 14/04/1877. Retrieved 31/03, from

Mort, H. (1844). “Henry Mort’s letter to his mother and sister.” Journal for my children and grandchildren 28/01/1844. Cressbrook, MSS, Oxley Library.


Reynolds, H. (1989). Dispossession. Sydney, Allen & Unwin.

The Argus (1861a). “DEATH OF AN ABORIGINAL WOMAN AND HER INFANT.” The Argus 25/09/1861. Retrieved 31/03, from


The Argus (1861b). “THE MORDIALLOC ABORIGINAL INQUEST.” The Argus 10/04/1861. Retrieved 31/03, from

The Argus (1877). “SATURDAY, APRIL 14, 1877.” The Argus 14/04/1877. Retrieved 31/03, from

The Argus (1928). “HUMAN BONES FOUND.” The Argus 29/06/1928. Retrieved 31/03, from

UN (1948). “Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.” Retrieved 01/04, from


[i] Coranderrk was a designated ‘Aboriginal reserve’ where Aboriginal people were so successful at gaining autonomy from farming that it was then destroyed by government policy including the infamous Victorian 1886 ‘Half caste act’ that employed the language of eugenics violently separating the ‘half castes’ off into the wider community and left the ‘full bloods’ at the reserves, making the depleted reserve unviable.

State attacks fractured Melbourne student demo

Most of the time demonstrations in Melbourne are sedate affairs where you could easily stroll in and out and buy an icy pole and relax knowing the police were merely directing traffic like they might do during a blackout. But today wasn’t that, it was a day that exposed the violence of the state, with 7-8 students arrested for demonstrating for better education.

I missed the beginnings of the demonstration. So I’ll quick sketch what I’ve heard about that first. [Update – Go to the end for the context of the demonstration]

Those early to the demo reported cops had amassed in numbers, over 30, well before the scheduled start. Around the start of the demo at 12:30PM Liberal Treasurer Joe Hockey walked by Parliament House and students adeptly rushed to surround him. He was then according to the mainstream media ‘rescued’ by police. When I walked past to get to the demo I noticed 5 cars of the notoriously brutal ‘Public Order Response Team’ parked at the site of the ambush.

I found the demo the best of ways, following a parade of cop cars with lights flashing and smelling the smoke of burning Liberal politicians.

Effigies of them that is—the demo was at the intersection of Exhibition and Bourke Sts—where a couple of effigies of Liberal politicians were burnt, with numbers at around 100.

From here it was down Exhibition to Liberal Party HQ. As expected the small entry to the office was shut with a roller door closely guarded by a few cops. After a bit of chanting and mass shoe throwing the cops now in numbers of maybe 50 decided to launch a counter attack.

Suddenly there were protestors defending themselves against attacks from police. There were crys that one person was arrested then two, followed by a failed attempt to surround the cop car.

I suggested the rally should go to the cop shop in solidarity with the arrested and this was taken up with the protest organisers on the megaphones. Leaders then directed the rallly to retreat away from Liberal party HQ. Cops continued there offensive, following the rally and attempting more arrests, and intimidated the protest by sending the cops on horses out to follow the rally.

After some breathing space, the cops got organised again and surrounded the small crowd now numbering around 40 to prevent it from marching further down Bourke St just before Swanston St. Many had left the demonstration around Liberal Party HQ and dispersed amongst the crowd of office worker onlookers.

Then our police liasons suggested the cops would allow the protest to continue on the footpath. But of course cops lie. Not long after on the footpath the cops targeted an Aboriginal man and arrested him. The protest then sat down on one of the corners of Bourke and Swanston St.

Protest leaders then decided to direct the rally to Trades Hall, which I disagreed with. It was a tricky adrenaline rush situation but in general I thought going to a police station after arrests is a good principle to follow. In hindsight, given how murky the cops were about where they were taking arrestees this wasn’t the most clear cut thing necessarily to do.

The rally then marched up Swanston St and the cops continued with their snatch and grab and arrest tactics.

Eventually the cops stopped following the sedate footpath walkers, after waiting patiently at Swanston and La Trobe for the pedestrian lights and reaching sanctuary at RMIT, to debrief in the cafeteria.

Here exemplified the worst and best of what is the ‘student movement’. There was a strong feeling of solidarity for some but also contempt for those who were not at or left during the demonstration. Much of the contempt was for the National Labor Students who decided to quit the rally when or just before the police starting attacking the demonstration.

The leaders of the rally were the big force in the student movement in Melbourne, Socialist Alternative, who were easily the majority of the rally—not a good sign of a vibrant student movement—but also exhibiting to SAlt’s credit their numerical strength.

The demonstration raised some questions that I felt like were worth attempting to answer. Firstly starting with the immediate chants of the rally.

Why do we need to call protests ‘peaceful’?

Chant: “This is a peaceful protest. That is police brutality”

I found myself saying at the time this chant was too defensive. We had just seen a bunch of protestors throwing a bunch of shoes and defending themselves against police violence. I think the framing of ‘peace’ is a problematic one.

We don’t live in peace, we live in class war enforced by the State via the violent police force and legal system. Self-defense is completely legitimate. The force came from one side as usual—the police thugs who I saw assault many protestors in their protective gear—but to describe the entire protest as peaceful potentially marginalises those pushing back in a way beyond the acceptable realms of ‘peace’ and suggests it was not space embracing a diversity of tactics. This is unsurprising too because Socialist Alternative infamously tried to isolate anarchists who were ‘bad’ protestors in the G20.[i]

It’s a concession to the idea there are ‘good’ and ‘bad’ protests—the binary the media likes to construct as acceptable or unacceptable. The mainstream media is not on our side, claiming we’re peaceful to them isn’t the main and most honest point, rather the thuggery of the cops and cuts to education are. It’s not the media that’s going to win campaigns but direct action on campuses or shutting down production in the city at major corporations exemplified by Quebec in 2012.

What state isn’t a police state?

Chant: “This is not a police state. We have the right to demonstrate”

What state’s aren’t police states? I see this as basically saying there’s a difference between some states where there are limited forms of public assembly and others that outright ban it, but I think the distinction is too easily made. When it’s a situation where the cops want to break a demonstration it seems something along the lines of “this is a police state, we fight back and demonstrate” is a bit more honest about the situation. Surely protests would be better served with chants attacking the police than those that appeal to the police’s institutional moral compass of not doing their role under all capitalist states.

Why this demo?

We’ve seen similar tactics from police in Sydney where they have quickly shut down student demonstrations and now it’s beginning in Melbourne. The demonstration vocalised its intent to burn effigies and throw shoes at Liberal party HQ before the rally. I think this contributed to the police mobilising strongly, also knowing the demonstration wasn’t going to be particularly big. The ambush of Joe Hockey also set the mood. It may be that with wall-wall Liberal governments in Victoria and Federally that Victoria police is changing their tactics— but then again—the sort of tactics, the stalking, snatches, grabs and random dumpings of arrestees were seen most notoriously during the eviction of Occupy Melbourne two years ago in 2011.

What next?

There hasn’t been a radicalisation and mobilisation of students and staff engaging in a diversity of tactics necessary to mean parliament won’t legislate the cuts fully in November. The battle has to turn to on-campus activity that stops University administrations from introducing the cuts while awarding themselves million dollar salaries. At the same time the bigger picture Federal stuff can be raised. It seems more possible that not all administrations will introduce cuts in one big swoop. Consequently, the more common death by a thousand cuts has to be tackled with a mode of organising that may not exist yet on most campuses, collective organising at a more local level against changes to conditions that directly affect students and staff. Skill shares and planning around this over the break could mean this appears quickly in semester 1 next year.

If we’ve going to have more demonstrations, then next time we should be more organised. It’s now clear it’s time for students to adjust and prepare better for demonstrations with the expectation more so than usual that you could be arrested. It’s time to have the infrastructure for this at protests—legal teams, first aid and care—as well as planning before so students know better ways to collectively resist police break ups. Further, police repression could be more easily fought if students organise into affinity groups that can make quick decisions and instantly know if someone is arrested so we’re not left in a situation where some arrestees are unknown. Importantly, central demonstrations should be accountable to local groups on campus otherwise they may fall on too few central figures and be isolated from the mood on campuses.



The Victorian Education Action Network, led by Socialist Alternative and National Labor Students of the National Union of Students plus some independents, organised a demo in reaction to the Federal Liberal government mooting a review of Universities including capping University places and cutting the Student Services and Amenities Fees late in September. This week, Education Minister Chris Pyne has refused to rule it endorsing a proposal being considered by the business boss run Commission of Audit on the privatisation of student debt.

More media

***skynews***, ***Swanston St arrest***,*** Aerial observers***,*** Channel 9 lead story***,*** Channel 7 lead story***,***10***,***ABC video clips (#1) (#2)***,***ABC News item***,*** Google news aggregator***,***3AW Interview***,***Andrew Bolt (#1),(#2)***

[i] Violence is a big discussion, also see Ward Churchill’s Pacifism as Pathology.

My ace confession

Stuck on a bus—on roads known best as car parks—I opened my laptop and typed down my screeching thoughts.

“I’m not fucking normal. All people are different. What are my differences?

I feel emotional writing these blatant statements. Feelings of regret, confusion, anger and ignorance flood like the fury of the stalled traffic and make me high off the exhaust fumes.

I was just thinking before, holding back these tears of emotion that yes, I’m fucking asexual. That’s my difference. And it explains all the different feelings I’ve had in my life.”

This was the first moment I confessed to myself that I identify as asexual. I had over the summer break read some stuff about asexuality and noted it sort of fit my experiences, but I had dismissed it as all too much to consider.

In one evocative sentence in February this year, I wrote: “Too many questions, brain overload and fade, plunge back into a box of Shapes and snack my life away.” And for much of the year, I probably did. I identified as queer for some time but was murky on where exactly I situated myself under that umbrella. I write this as a white cisgendered male, and I speak for no other asexuals but do generalise as I now give a little asexuality 101.



Image: Asexuals are known by the shorthand aces, and a black ring on the right middle finger is a marker for some asexuals (here improvised with my black straw).


It’s a so little-known (a)sexual orientation that I typed later I could not even name a single other person who identified as asexual. Last week was the official awareness week, where there was a bunch of co-ordinated activity across the world.

I think of asexuality as not experiencing sexual attraction or sexual attraction at low intensity, with the key being self-identification.

Asexuality is better thought of as a spectrum of sexual attraction, with the other pole being allosexuality (those experiencing sexual attraction), rather than a solid block. There’s a large amount of terms to name different experiences of the asexual-allosexual spectrum. Many fit in the grey zone, often under the umbrella Gray-A. One is demisexuality, for those who don’t experience sexual attraction unless they’re in a close relationship with the person first.

There are a range of attractions people may experience. Sexual attraction does not equal all attraction. Asexuals may experience romantic attraction, and be in romantic relationships with people. This complicates the normative understanding of relationships that put many forms of attraction including romantic, affectional and sexual attraction together—the latter commonly thought as ‘superior’ to platonic attraction.

Asexuals are commonly divided based on romantic attraction that mirror sexual attractions in their terminology including heteroromantic (romantically attracted to the opposite sex or gender), homoromantic, panromantic, biromantic and aromantic (does not experience romantic attraction). However, these same categories apply to allosexuals, except because many allosexuals assume sexual and romantic attraction match they are not typically applied. I identify as aromantic.

Confused yet? Well, maybe I should turn to something attractive to allosexuals.


There are lots of frustrating points of ignorance that often come up for asexuals on the question of sex. One crucial point is that sexual behaviour does not necessarily match one’s sexual orientation. Many asexuals do have sex, but the sexual attraction component is typically not there for many on the spectrum. Just like heterosexuals may have sex with someone of the same sex or gender and still identify as only being attracted to the opposite sex or gender.[i]

Second there’s the topic of masturbation, and likewise masturbation does not determine someone’s sexual orientation (simple really). Masturbation may satisfy some asexuals’ sex drive, which is again separate from someone’s sexual orientation. Arousal can happen without sexual attraction.[ii]

Third is one of my favourites (/sarcasm) as someone who’s studied biology. No, asexual humans do not reproduce asexually—that is cloning themselves. Although I like strawberries, I don’t clone myself like strawberries by producing runners. Biologically asexuals are like allosexuals, with the same variety of biological diversity, and for many that includes the capacity to reproduce.

Asexuality should not be confused with celibacy which is often a choice to not have sex for some period of time, or otherwise it’s involuntary for the person, who regardless continues to experience sexual attraction.


There is a large diversity in how different people experience themselves over time, with for sexual attraction specifically meaning some people remain with the same attractions and for others they change regularly, falling under the concept of fluidity.[iii]

I find now I try to fit in my past experiences before I identified as asexual as asexual. Some definitions of asexuality explicitly exclude the possibility of fluidity by suggesting it only applies to those who have never experienced sexual attraction.

In the context of compulsory (allo) sexuality, which assumes everyone experiences sexual attraction the same way and consequently must have lots of the same sort of ‘normal’ sex,[iv] it can be hard to retrospectively disentangle different forms of attraction and desire.

Strangely, thinking that I just needed to wait for some magical sexual attraction to happen (i.e. my fluid path turning back to ‘normal’) was one of the barriers to me identifying as asexual, I think


Why are some forms identity marginal and the heterosexual couple tied to the ‘normal’ family so central to mainstream society? Asexuality has a long (and continuing) history of pathologisation by psychiatry as a disorder.[v] What does it say about a society that regularly pathologises people for identifying in ways different from the compulsory heterosexual norm?

The maintenance of ‘normal’ relationships is part of the reproduction of capitalism, patriarchy and heteronormativity. I think this plays out in the policing of myself and others as I see myself feeling compelled to act in a particular role, struggling against obsessions over body image and what constitutes relationships.[vi] The attachment of all forms of masculinity in patriarchy to sexual attraction makes me ponder how I can exist.[vii]

It’s hard not to internalise the idea that ‘one’ ultimate sexual relationship is best through popular culture, often tied to the legal and financial privileges of state-sanctioned marriage and pushes to widen that institution;[viii] and that as I have no interest in either, I’m stuck alone for the future. But there’s a whole other plane of different relationships, from platonic crushes known as squishes, to close queer-platonic relationships known as zucchinis.

From my perspective, it’s not enough to just use some tasty asexual lingo and raise awareness of asexuality—what I consider a small issue—that plays a part of systems of oppression and exploitation. Instead, as an anarchist I want liberation that intersects across differences not limited to race, gender, sexuality and ability and ends class domination by rulers. I want there to be grassroots dialogue on colonisation, the land of the Boon wurrung and Wurundjeri and peoples that I write this, Australia’s state violence, amnesia and genocide.[ix]


So that’s a personal (and political) side of me. And I write because… I felt like I should come out to many over words because it’s too exhausting face-face. I felt frustrated by times I could not say anything because I’d have to out myself and derail the entire conversation. I felt like I was all alone and now after reading what other people have written I know writing can change consciousness. I felt like none of this would seem so alien if people actually began to learn about it. I felt annoyed by lack of awareness and ignorance. I felt awareness as a goal is limited and game-changing goals of ‘impossible’ actions and worlds are possible. I felt like you might like to know me better.



Premier site on asexuality, lots of questions answered and raised there:

AVEN. The Asexual Visibility and Education Network | Retrieved October 27, 2013, from

Book online:

Archive, A. (2012). Asexuality: A Brief Introduction. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform. Retrieved from

An excellent zine on asexual feminism from here that I have re-ordered for easier web reading here, via: Mage. (2010, October 11). Another Asexual Radical: An Update on Zines. Another Asexual Radical. Retrieved from



[i] An article separating sexual attraction from desire to have sex [Trigger warning: rape]. Mage. (2010, October 10). Another Asexual Radical: Attraction versus Desire, Why It Matters For YOU. Another Asexual Radical. Retrieved from

[ii]  An article written examining the autonomic functioning of the nervous system during arousal [Trigger warning: rape]. Ace. (n.d.). PopSci Article: “What Science Says About Arousal During Rape.” The Thinking Asexual. Retrieved October 27, 2013, from

[iii] Fixed and Fluid Sexual Identities (from an ace perspective). (2013, March 10). A life unexamined. Retrieved October 28, 2013, from

[iv] “Compulsory sexuality’ refers to a set of social attitudes, institutions and practices which hold and enforce the belief that everyone should have or want to have frequent sex (of a socially approved kind).” Sex-Positivity, Compulsory Sexuality and Intersecting Identities. (2012). A life unexamined. Retrieved October 27, 2013, from

[v] Flore, J. (2013). HSDD and asexuality: a question of instruments. Psychology & Sexuality, 4(2), 152–166.

[vi] A queer activist grouping on the US/Mexico border made the point of how borders play on the big state level to the personal level. HAVOQ. (2011). UNDOING BORDERS a queer manifesto. Retrieved from

[vii] See the asexual feminism zine in the reading section.

[viii] Marriage ‘equality’ is beyond the scope of this piece, but something I might return to discussing later. See here for a brief critique: NickCooper. (2013, May 30). Equal to What? | Free Press Houston. Retrieved October 28, 2013, from

[ix] One of many websites written by those colonised exposing the history of colonisation in Australia. Treaty Republic – Indigenous Australia Sovereignty, Genocide, Land Rights and Pay the Rent Issues | BLACK GST – GENOCIDE to be stopped; SOVERIGNTY recognised; and a TREATY made. (n.d.). Retrieved October 28, 2013, from


Normal Allosexual Awareness Week


Normal Allosexual Awareness Week, a week to recognise and celebrate normal sexual attraction began on Sunday, and will run through to today, and then continue for every week of the year in the media, schools and popular culture.

Occurring in conjunction with the Marriage History Month, the initiative “seeks to educate those about the compulsory nature of heteronormative sexual attraction and to widen the ultimate form of sexual attraction and all relationships, the institution of marriage, which reproduces life through the nuclear family.”

Allosexuality is for most a very visible and legitimate way of identifying for in particular many heterosexuals, but the same individuals are claiming that asexuality is threatening their assumption that everyone experiences sexual attraction. In a video celebrating Allosexual Awareness Week, several participants vocalise their frustrations surrounding the weird perception not everyone shares their identity.

“I would love to see a future in which allosexuality is automatically assumed as the form of all attraction, instead of being confused and damaged by all this talk of different forms of attraction and relationships” noted one participant. “This would involve no talk of this attraction rainbow rubbish and putrid patriarchy in the mainstream media,  no coverage in sex-ed curricula, and no representation in any kind of survey that cover sexual orientation — never have a box to check anywhere and everywhere that allosexuality isn’t compulsory and marriage isn’t primary.”

Check out popular culture everywhere for some personal perspectives about what it means to be a normal allosexual person and to discover what Normal Allosexual Awareness Week is all about.

Have questions about normal allosexuality or want to become involved in Normal Allosexual Awareness Week? Do not head on over to asexuality websites for more information.