Six Myths about Fair Trade

In an increasingly globalised world, Fair Trade is becoming more and more recognised and debated. With this recognition, there also comes many misconceptions. This article seeks to dispel some of the common myths surrounding Fair Trade and hopes to leave you with a better understanding of what Fair Trade is all about.

Myth #1 Fair Trade is one word

This distinction can confuse a lot of people. Fairtrade (one word) refers to the certification system, AKA the little green and blue logo we see on many products. This ensures farmers are paid a minimum price for their goods and their communities are supported.

Fair Trade (two words) is the wider movement looking at the principles of fair business. While the Fairtrade mark is the most well-known image we associate with Fair Trade, organisations such as Amnesty International and World Vision – who have strong campaigns to end child labour and trafficking – would be considered members of the broader Fair Trade movement.

Myth #2: Cadbury chocolate is Fairtrade

Cadbury’s milk chocolate did carry the Fairtrade logo, but as of 2018 it has replaced it with a Cocoa Life mark. There are concerns because the Cocoa Life brand – which has similar aims to Fairtrade – is owned by Cadbury’s parent company. Therefore, its objectivity may be clouded by a lack of independence and accountability. As Fairtrade Australia and New Zealand CEO Molly Harriss Olson puts it, they are effectively ‘grading their own homework’. As such, it is difficult to determine whether their standards will be as high as established Fairtrade standards.

That being said, results from Cocoa Life’s program have so far been positive, with Cocoa Life farmers in Ghana seeing increases in productivity and income, while the benefits farmers receive from other ethical schemes have been falling, according to Reuters.

 So, while Cadbury still appears to support sustainable and ethical cocoa production, the drop off in transparency is somewhat concerning.

Cadbury’s move away from a third-party label in Fairtrade does not seem to be a growing trend, with companies like Ferrero Rocher just recently increasing their use of Fairtrade certified cocoa.

Myth #3: All Fairtrade certifications mean the same thing

With so many different Fairtrade certifications and labels out there, it can be confusing when choosing a Fairtrade product.  We’ve looked into some of the most common Fairtrade certification labels in order to help alleviate some of that confusion.

The globally recognised Fairtrade Mark

1.pngThe blue and green symbol portraying a farmer in a field is displayed universally on products that meet strict Fairtrade standards related to social, economic and environmental criteria. These standards have been developed by the governing body, Fairtrade International, in cooperation with producers, traders, NGOs and other important players in the Fair Trade arena. Each time you purchase a fairtrade product, you are choosing to support and make a positive impact on the lives of producers and their communities in some of the world’s poorest countries, as they will receive what their work is really worth.

Fairtrade Certified



This label is similar to the Fairtrade Mark, with Fairtrade USA working very closely with farmers, companies and their suppliers. There’s transparency throughout the supply chain, ensuring adequate working conditions and fair wages.  They are also helping to conserve the environment. Additionally, an amount from each product sold goes directly back to the source in the form of a Community Development Fund.

Fair for Life

4.jpgHuman rights are upheld at every stage of production and both workers and the local community are empowered by resources used for social projects and other initiatives. It is distinctive in that it recognises that ‘existing systems for assurance of social and Fair Trade conditions unfortunately exclude many operations worldwide from independent verification and certification of their performance’.

Ethical Clothing Australia (ECA)

5For clothing brands that make most or all of their products in Australia and are accredited by Ethical Clothing Australia, a peak body which audits the transparency of supply chains of Australian textiles and apparel companies.

Fair Wear Foundation


An international certification body that helps textiles and apparel companies achieve determined labour standard goals, including empowering producers with a living wage—which is one greater than a minimum wage and allows for savings.

Myth #4 Fairtrade is a rip-off

While Fairtrade products can be more expensive than their non-Fairtrade counterpart, it is important to remember that often this is because producers are paid enough to be able to sustain themselves and their families, which is otherwise not the case with non-Fairtrade products. Buyers of Fairtrade products must pay a minimum price towards producers. The minimum price is set based on a consultative process with Fairtrade farmers, workers and traders to ensure that they can build a decent livelihood off of their wage.

Many Fairtrade products are priced comparably to non-Fairtrade products, with Fair Trade organisations working directly with producers, and cutting out middlemen, to ensure that products are affordable while the producers are still paid decently.

Myth #5 Fairtrade takes away jobs from Australians

It can be easy to criticise Fairtrade initiatives overseas as harmful to Australian businesses and the Australian economy but the reality is that many Australian industries have long been moved off-shore in order to cut production costs. For example, garment production for Australian companies in Bangladesh has increased 1,500% since 2008. Generally, these industries are not employing Australians because production costs in Australia are too high. Fairtrade seeks to improve the lives of the poorest of the poor in countries who are often exploited by these industries by offering ethical alternatives to fast fashion.

At the end of the day, the choice often isn’t between Australian-made and Fairtrade, but is instead between Fairtrade and non-Fairtrade.


Myth #6 Fairtrade is a form of charity

Although Fairtrade and charity are both similar in their pursuit to improve the livelihood of workers everywhere, Fairtrade is not charity. Simply put, charity is about giving help (typically through monetary means), and Fairtrade is about paying workers a fair wage and empowering them to be able to help themselves.7

Fairtrade promotes a long-term and sustainable method of change through trade-based mechanisms that aim to pay a fair wage for work done. However, many Fairtrade organisations do support the Fairtrade premium—an additional paid sum that goes beyond a fair price into a communal fund for workers to use on projects that improve their social, economic and environmental conditions as they see fit.

—By Nathaniel Sage, Vivian Xin and Rebekah de Keijzer.

Interested in learning more about fair trade? Check out DUSA’s Fair Trade Vision Burwood today!


Ten Ways to Work through Writer’s Block

By Emily Grace

Has motivation left you standing in the cold rain with a bunch of wilted roses and a half-empty box of Belgian chocolates? Inspiration decide to take an unplanned, one way trip to Barbados without even the promise of a postcard?

Dear creators, do not fret nor fear. While these blocks may lend us untold amounts of frustration and misery, there are ways to abate and negate the undesirable curse that is Writer’s Block.

1. Write!

Wait! Don’t close the tab, just hear me out a second.

I’m sure we’ve all been given this advice before, and we’ve all tiredly reiterated that we’re ‘suffering from writer’s block and really could not write’. Well, I’m here to tell you that this insufferably simplistic piece of advice is actually pretty sage, in both theory and practice.

Have you ever heard the phrase ‘if you’re going through hell, keep going’? Writer’s block, and writing in general, is a bit like that. You’ll make it through eventually, but persistence is the winning ticket and the only way out is through.

So, write a page in your diary, or a scathing review of the coffee shop you checked out last week that didn’t offer any gluten free items. Anything to keep the pen in your hand steady and the keys under your fingertips warm. It doesn’t have to be good, or even make sense. It could be the same word written a thousand times over, until the word loses all meaning.

Just. Keep. Writing.

While doing so, of course, perhaps attempt one—or all—of the following suggestions to alleviate the sheer frustration of being in the middle of your own creative crisis.

2. Go for a Walk

Alas, I’m sure this advice is also overused, but just bear with me as I explain!

The feel of a cold breeze as the smell of freshly moistened gravel and garden waft tantalizingly through the swaying branches; the thick sound of traffic in the suburbs during peak hour; muffled laughter distant conversation flowing seamlessly together through the open windows and backyard barbeques.

There are many reasons why taking a walk might aid you in your quest for motivation and inspiration. It gives your body and mind something else to focus on, allowing your mind to process all the things keeping you from writing. It’s also a great way to engage with the world (more on this in the next step), giving you access to new settings and environments–no environment is the same from one day to the next; there is always something new, though you may not know what or how.

Even if you just wind up pacing around your own backyard–just get up, get out, and stretch those legs of yours. If that’s not a possibility, then perhaps simply try a change of scenery.

3. Go Somewhere Public

As with the previous suggestion, this involves leaving the comfort of your home–and maybe even your comfort zone in general. That local coffee shop just down the road from you where the coffee is too bitter but the smile of the barista is like a warm embrace; the library in town populated by students working off hangovers to the sound of crumpling paper and the smell of dusty pages. You could go to the museum, or to the zoo, and surround yourself with excited school children and exasperated parents and teachers alike.

Go somewhere where there is conversation. Take out those earphones and take your eyes away from your phone. Listen to your surroundings. Sometimes the greatest prompts come in the form of an overheard conversation. Who is that man talking to on the phone? What is the call about? What about that toddler babbling to the empty seat beside them? Who (or what) are they talking to?

And it’s not just dialogue! You can get some serious inspiration for how to write human interaction through the simple act of bearing witness to or experiencing it. Here are some examples for you: the man that rushes towards the door but bumps into the elderly woman entering and forgoing an apology in his rush. The child tugging incessantly on her father’s flannel jacket as they pace the garden section of the local supermarket. The group of teenagers draped carelessly over the furniture and each other in that dimly lit café. Anything could be that thing to bring a spark to your mind, and it’s the perfect excuse to hang out with a friend you’ve been neglecting during your attempt to cure the writer’s curse.

4. Read.

Sometimes, living in someone else’s fantasy is just what you need in order to escape from the ever-present agony of being unable to string together a single sentence.

Try reading something you wouldn’t have picked up under normal circumstances. You don’t even need to get through it, honestly. Read it and think about what you’d do differently if it had been you writing it. Read it out loud in the most obnoxious and exaggerated accents you can think of. Read aloud to your pet or read to the moon, nobody will judge you here, I promise.

5. Dictate or Record Rather than Write

Got a fantastic idea but not a clue how to write it? Or maybe every time you reach for a pen or your laptop your mind goes completely blank?

Sometimes it’s easier for us to simply speak our ideas.

So maybe you’ll take your phone and record the concepts that cross your mind at 2am, exhausted but unwilling to allow an idea to be lost due to sleep; or maybe you’ll download a dictation software and spend some time enacting dialogue between your characters. You might even decide to do both (though maybe not at 2am; you do need to sleep at some point, you know).

6. Do Some Research

Writing a short story that involves Victorian era aesthetics? What about a novel about a young mermaid drawn into a battle against climate change? If you’re struggling to write, researching things might help jog that stubborn motivation.

Sometimes the more we know about a topic, the easier it becomes to write about it.

It doesn’t even need to be relevant to the piece you’ve set your mind on writing: find the newest Attenborough adventure, or set yourself up with some serial killer speculation; or maybe whatever pops up first on Netflix or YouTube. You could spend a few hours trawling through Wikipedia one link at a time, or searching up conspiracy theories. While it may not assist you in the writing endeavour you’d initially planned, knowledge is power and the more you know the more you’ll be able to write confidently on (and, besides, it may push you into starting something new!)

7. Stay Hydrated!

Aside from remembering to drink plenty of water, take the time to make yourself a beverage of a different sort. Hot or cold, bitter or sweet, alcoholic or non-alcoholic. Preparing drinks, and even food, is a great way to relax while also focusing on a task. This gives your brain the opportunity to process ideas without agonising over them to the point of futility.

Whether you enjoy tea, coffee, or hot chocolate; fresh-pressed apple juice, or the bite of freshly juiced lemonade; or perhaps you’d prefer a fiction-inspired cocktail to take the edge off–take just a little time to grab some refreshments (not to be confused with the necessary ‘sustenance’, consisting of water and three square meals).

8. Write a List

You might be thinking, ‘Hey, why isn’t this a part of the ‘Write!’ section?’ Well, let me explain: writing a list, while an aspect of simply ‘writing’, adds a whole different spin on the action of putting pen to paper or finger to keys. It focuses your attention on a very specific cause that you can expand at will. Start with a short list of supplies one might need in a zombie apocalypse, and go further from there to include things one might find that could be useful.

You could write a list of openers for when you meet your favourite celebrity, or even the reasons why you think Steve Rogers (a.k.a Captain America) is an iconic Mary Sue character. Create lists for each of your characters. List their top five traits, or the seven things they find most admirable in an adversary. The list could range from strictly improbable to wildly impossible; or, you could simply stick close to the mundane and write a shopping list.

Lists are a very active aspect of writing and shouldn’t be dismissed as unimportant or thrown to the wayside. So, give it a shot. You may be surprised at the results.

9. Listen to Music

Listen to music—I don’t just mean the same ten pop songs you’ve heard a thousand times. Be as diverse in your auditory experiences as your reading experiences. Don’t stick with one genre; explore! There are millions—possibly billions—of things to listen to, and you might find something new you enjoy that you never would have expected. I, for instance, am currently writing this while listening to that horrendous hold music so coveted by the Centrelink offices.

For extra inspiration, look to soundtracks from your favourite movies (instrumental, of course), or even from your favourite video games. The Skyrim soundtrack, for example, is masterfully crafted to insight certain feelings within the listener/gamer as the soundtrack progresses, as is the case for a multitude of soundtracks available for streaming.

So, whether you open Spotify and choose a random playlist or search up lo-fi hip-hop livestreams on YouTube, music might just be the life-line you’ve been looking for.

For reference, here are some favourites of mine:

10. Don’t Give Up

What are we most likely to do when we’re struggling? That’s right–a lot of us might simply give up.

I’m here to tell you that, while you can certainly give up and let the block consume you, it’s better in the long run to just keep on pushing through. It might seem like hell at first, and it’ll pull at your confidence in yourself as a writer, but you’ll be writing, and that is the most important thing.

So, give a few of these tactics a try and keep up the good work. You’re doing great, even if you only manage to write a dozen or so words a day. Just keep on keeping on. I believe in you.

5 FREE Apps For Students

Words by Bonnee Crawford

It’s 2017 and just about everyone has a smartphone. While this technology is fantastic for letting people stay socially connected while they’re on the go or keeping them occupied during a long commute, a smartphone can often be detrimental to a student’s productivity. I’m no stranger to scrolling through Facebook or sending Snapchats when I should be studying or doing an assignment and I dare say, dear reader, neither are you.

However, as with most things, their usefulness and functionality boils down to how we use them. Although the initial purpose of buying a smartphone often is for the social-on-the-go aspects, it’s absolutely possible to make them beneficial for students. The best part? You can do it for free, starting with these apps.

* * *

  1. Calendar

If you own a smartphone, chances are you already have a built-in Calendar app. Even my ancient flip phone from when I was in high school had one. Forget keeping a paper day planner or physical student diary—you know you’re going to forget to check it or take it with you. Whether you just want to use it for scheduling study time, or if you want to use it to plan the rest of your life too, pick the date and time and your phone will remind you to do it. And we both know you’re 100% less likely to forget to check your phone than you are to check your student diary. Want something a little fancier than your standard Calendar app? Try downloading something like TimeTune (Android), My Study Life (iPhone), or any of the countless other free timetabling/scheduling/time management apps). Get a feel for what sort of features work best for you. Everyone’s a little different.


  1. Tide: Focus Timer to Study, Work & Relax

I found this app quite recently and it is amazing (like I am obsessed with this app right now). Tide combines ambient sounds like rain with the Pomodoro technique, which traditionally separates periods of focus into twenty-five minute sessions with short breaks in between. Pick your background sound (the lapping ocean, steady rainfall, forest noises, gentle piano, or café chatter), start your timer, and get down to business. Short focus periods with frequent breaks may sound unproductive at first, but when a timer is ticking you’ll be surprised at how much you can trick yourself into getting done. This app comes with pretty background pictures and inspiring quotes, as well as features that let you set goals and track how long you’ve focused each day. Tide is also great for unwinding—listen to one of the relaxing tracks while you get ready for bed to promote some restful sleep (which will help improve productivity the next day!).

Compatible with Android and iPhone.


  1. 30 Day Fitness Challenge

I don’t know about you guys, but I could not afford a gym membership during my undergrad. Going for a walk or a jog instead is a good way to keep active while you’re studying, but these activities get monotonous after a while. 30 Day Fitness Challenge is a great way to mix it up. It’s like having a little personal trainer on your phone, and you don’t need gym equipment to do the exercises. There are six levels to choose from based on your abilities, and you can choose to focus on particular muscle groups or do full body workouts. The app will time you while you complete each exercise and allow you to have a break between each set (and a rest day every 4 days!). The exercises can all be done at home and the gamification that comes with building up your streak keeps you motivated to return to the app each day. The levels start off short and sweet on day one and build in intensity over the 30 day period.

Compatible with Android and iPhone.


  1. GymBetter

Okay, so you don’t want to commit to a gym membership because damn that’s expensive, but you would like the option to sometimes go to the gym without spending the same amount on casual entry that you would have spent in a fortnight on gym membership anyway. GymBetter gives you discounted casual access to participating gyms (YMCA*, Fernwood Fitness, and Goodlife) and you can even go to a group class. If you don’t have the funds for a gym membership, or you know you wouldn’t go often enough to make it worth paying for, download GymBetter so that you can get casual entry without going broke.**

*The campus gyms at Burwood and Waurn Ponds are operated by YMCA.

**If you have private health insurance with Medibank, get an extra discount, because Medibank made this app.

Compatible with Android and iPhone.


  1. Groupon

Speaking of discounts … students deserve to go on cool adventures and eat at nice restaurants too! Groupon offers a smorgasbord of discounts on everything from fine dining to skydiving. The possibilities are endless and if you’re a poor uni student looking for somewhere cool to go or something fun to do, you should definitely check out what you can find on Groupon.

Compatible with Android and iPhone.

* * *

Although your smartphone can distract you from being a student at the worst of times, there are ways for your mobile device to help get you through. Whether that’s in the form of helping you focus and manage your time, or making sure you keep a healthy balance between studying and the rest of life without going broke, there’s bound to be something you can download for free in your app store that will help you justify to your parents why you’re glued to your phone. Oh, and it can totally help you do better at uni and feel better as a student—remember, it’s about how you use it.

Why I didn’t join the gym sooner

I’ve been saying that I want to get a gym membership since I moved out of home. At first, I kept putting it off because I was just dirt poor and couldn’t afford it. For the first two years of uni I lived near a good walking track, and within walking-distance of the university, so I consoled myself in the fact that I was keeping active enough without spending the extra money. Then I moved in third year, and it wasn’t a practical walking distance to uni anymore. I started catching the bus and sitting still. On top of that, I was getting towards the end of my undergraduate degree, which had me glued to my desk chair to study for longer periods of time. I started working a lot to keep up with rent and bills, and overall I didn’t feel like I even had time to go for a casual walk. The kilos started piling on, the stretchmarks made their impressions on my skin, and I started to feel incredibly self-conscious about my body.

At the start of 2016, I realised I’d put on around 30 kilos. Honestly, it made me feel really shit. I’ve always agreed with the talk about body positivity and self-love, but when it came to looking at my own body in a mirror, I felt disgusted. My mother is severely overweight, but when I was little that didn’t matter to me. I thought she was beautiful, even if she was bigger than other kids’ mums. But she had a bad attitude towards her size 26 outfits, and every time she asked, ‘Do I look okay?’ and my sister and I would tell her she looked fine, she wouldn’t believe us, and would say things like, ‘I’m so fat and ugly,’ or ‘I don’t look good in anything’. After this went on for a few years, her attitude made us start to believe it, and she began projecting these insecurities onto us as we got older. She would hound us about our own eating habits, sporting activities, and weight. While I was in high school, I was involved in martial arts, Girl Guides, swimming club, and a netball team, which I started dropping out of closer to VCE when I needed to focus on my studies. As soon as I stopped being as active Mum started policing everything I did even more; every time I put something in my mouth, every time I took a break from studying without doing something active to counter all that sitting, every time she just didn’t feel like I was doing enough, she was there, ready to tell me what she thought I was doing wrong. As a teenager, I became self-conscious of a problem I didn’t even have because of my mother’s constant surveillance and criticism.

When I started putting weight on at uni, she told me that my arse was getting big. I was mad for a number of reasons. First, because I didn’t feel like she had the right to criticise my pants going from a size 12 to a size 14–16 when she had been a size 26 for as long as I could remember. Secondly, because she expected me to do something about it even though she never made an ongoing effort to change her own body. And finally, because at uni, I was being exposed more and more to the idea of accepting the bodies we have, of anti-body shaming and self-love, especially for women. So although I didn’t want to listen to my mother criticising my body, I had an evaluation dilemma: no, I didn’t want to be ashamed of my body and I didn’t feel like I should be criticised by others for it, but at the same time, I wanted to be healthy, and putting on a lot of weight from sitting down all day wasn’t a great indication.

I started looking at other women’s bodies and comparing them to mine. Women with long, slender legs and thigh-gaps, perky bums and skinny arms. Their bellies were flat and they all looked like supermodels. They could fit into the dresses that hug your figure, which I could hardly look at myself wearing in the change-room mirrors without cringing at the way they clung to my tummy. I realised I couldn’t fit into one of my favourite dresses without this problem, and I stopped wearing it. As much as I enjoyed good food, I found myself hating everything I put in my mouth, wanting to bring it back up so that it wouldn’t cause my body any more problems. I started watching what I ate. I started making time to go for walks, and watching Pilates videos in my room at home. And it made my body feel better to do some of these things, but when I didn’t see results within a couple of months, when I still couldn’t fit into my jeans, I really started to hate myself.

At the start of my fourth year of uni, I was in a safe enough financial position to get a gym membership, and at first I told myself that I was going to. But I realised while I was thinking about this, that the way I was thinking about my body was not healthy, and that the thoughts I was having about my own body-image were not thoughts I wanted to have with me when I started going to the gym. I realised that I needed to change the way I was thinking about my body, before I tried to change my body itself. For months, I trained myself not to compare the size of my waist or legs to that of other women. I started trying to develop healthy eating habits in a general sense, instead of trying to diet. I stopped myself from focusing so much on losing weight and being a certain size, and started thinking more about how healthy and strong my body was. And although the number on the scales hadn’t changed much, I started thinking more positively about the body I have.

At the start of Trimester 2, I joined a gym. It was tentative, and I was even more hesitant to have the sit-down with a personal trainer to get a program sorted out. But I’m glad I did, because he seemed to sense the lingering discomfort and doubts I was having about going through with the membership commitment. While we were talking, I mentioned that I’d put on a lot of weight the previous year, and that it would be nice if I could lose some. Instead of giving me some insane workout, he gave me something basic to start building up my strength, and told me not to worry about my weight and not to get obsessed with the number on the scales or what size clothes I could fit in to. It was more important for me to aim to make myself healthier than to focus so much on getting skinny, and between losing fat and gaining muscle, the number on the scale might not change so much anyway. That sort of encouragement made me feel a lot better about what I was doing, and I got the membership and started using it whenever I had time.

It is so ingrained in our culture to expect the perfect woman to be slim with a nice bum and big boobs, a flawless complexion and minimal body hair. I praise the movement against these norms. Instead of pushing ourselves towards the socially constructed image of the ideal woman, we should focus on validating all people in the bodies they own, and to teach ourselves and each other that we are worth more than our outward appearances.  Everyone has the right to be proud of their body. Now that I’ve changed the way I think about my body, I’m not afraid of making an effort to go to the gym and be active and healthy in other aspects of my life. Even though I can’t always see the results, I know them from the way my body feels. I’m still sitting at a size 14-16, and maybe I always will, but my body feels healthier and happier, and so do I.

Words by Rebecca K.


 First, came the silence.

The silence of people used to waiting, waiting for it to pass so they could go on with their lives as if nothing had happened. For some it was a silence to show strength and how little it affected them. A tilt to one side, then to the other. Nothing to worry about. For others, it was a scared silence, embarrassed to vocalise their fear, because like many other times, it would be over soon. Another tilt to the right, then left. A hand gripping the nearest table. Nothing to worry about.

The waves kept getting stronger. Until you felt your body flowing along with it, because not flowing meant falling. And when the lights went out and the waves got stronger, that confidence and fear melted into panic, settling right in our guts. And as the movement kept going, that panic rose up our throats. It tried pushing its way out, but was trapped within us.

No sound other than the stunned silence, a silence that came with the realisation that it was not going away. That we weren’t going to go on with our lives just yet. That this time, something did happen.

And then, it was over. Our everyday comfort, shattered by the earth beneath us. The silence shattered by the clapping of shoes on concrete, the hurried whispers, and the screams finally making their way out. People tapping on phones, searching for answers to what just happened. Is my family okay? Are my friends okay? Where was it? How strong was it? How many dead?

Are we okay? Are we okay? Are we okay?


In the morning, the news completed what social media had told us the night before. The epicentre was in Pedernales, a small, coastal town, 250km away from Guayaquil, my hometown.

7.8 magnitude. 233 dead, 558 injured, and counting.

Over the following days, the numbers kept climbing. People who’d been there as volunteers, rescuers, medics, said it was worse, much worse than what the news was showing.

By the end of the week, after the rescuing brigades had finished going through most of the debris, the death toll tripled, and the injured increased tenfold.


Earthquakes, I’ve learned, change the way you see everyday things. The roof over your head is no longer a source of comfort and safety, but of fear, a threat, looming over you whether you’re sleeping, shitting or eating. You are more aware of any shadow of a movement than you’ve ever been in your life, to the point where the sway of a lamp, even a ripple in a glass of water makes your muscles freeze and your skin tighten until it suffocates you. Anything more sends you running out in the open, where there is nothing between you and the sky.

Then, there are the aftershocks. They sneak up on you in your sleep, days after, weeks after, months after, just when you’re starting to feel safe again, to make sure you don’t get too comfortable. For us in Guayaquil it meant more sleepless nights. But for the people in Pedernales it meant sleeping outside, preferring the cold mattress of the street than the possibility of another ton of bricks or wood collapsing on top of them. What was a simple fear for us in Guayaquil was a reality for them. Their worst nightmare had already happened, and yet there was still the possibility, the very real possibility, of it repeating itself.

Before this happened, I, along with many other Ecuadorians, had no idea Pedernales even existed. Now the town and its people were there, every day, on my TV screen, on my phone, in my friends’ conversations, and on my mind. When you see news of a disaster on TV, you feel bad for the people, but there’s distance. This time, that distance disappeared. Because those people weren’t suffering oceans away. They were part of our country, right in the nearest province. They were no longer strangers, they were our brothers and sisters, ones whom we would work tirelessly to help.

That day also changed the way I saw my neighbours and fellow Ecuadorians. People who wouldn’t even be speaking to each other, working shoulder to shoulder, united to deliver help. People calling everyone they knew to collect donations, staying until midnight organising them to be shipped to the victims, people offering their homes, their garages, their warehouses as collection centres for donations. Supermarkets flooded by people buying water, tuna cans, powdered milk, leaving the shelves empty for days. Pharmacies went out of stock for first aid kits, because everyone wanted to contribute, if only with some Band-Aids and rubbing alcohol. Even Ecuadorians living or studying abroad made donation websites, collections for money or products to send here. I had never felt more proud to be a part of this small country.

Earthquake 4

Photograph by Claudia Sensi Contugi.


Three weeks after, I went to Pedernales with a brigade from Hogar de Cristo (which means ‘Christ’s Home’ in Spanish), a humanitarian organization that specialises in providing assistance to the homeless. Our mission in Pedernales was to do a census of the areas where the people were most affected so that we could start building emergency homes.

We left Guayaquil at 11PM and at 6AM the bus dropped us off at the central square of Pedernales. In the middle of the square was the façade of a church, the only thing standing from its previous structure. We lay our backpacks on the concrete floor and sat on metal benches, nailing at the chipped paint while we waited for the leaders to guide us to our headquarters for the weekend.

‘If we had come here two weeks ago, you would’ve had to bring all your meals and water,’ said a curly haired girl, one of the organisers. ‘Thankfully, the economy’s reactivating, so you can go and find some breakfast nearby and meet us here at 6:35.’

We followed the smell of a bakery. As we walked, I noticed almost every building still standing sported several cracks racing up their walls. One of them had its entire second story exposed, and among the piles of bricks, you could see a bed, flipped upside down, a table with broken legs, and a toilet. Signs that it used to be a home.

‘Last weekend, there was a three story building there,’ said our group leader, as he pointed to a terrain piled with crumbled concrete, wooden shards and strings of rebar bent and rolled like a ball of yarn. He took one last bite from his bread, then led us to our camping site. The first thing we saw was a white tent and church pews lined up below. Further in was a square of grass, and a small building with living quarters.

The group leader spoke as he laid his backpack on one of the pews. ‘Hogar de Cristo had spoken to a group of Jesuit nuns who lived here, and they offered us the yard so we could set up our tents here. The nuns used to live in the church, but when it collapsed, they came to live here. A priest comes on afternoons and evenings to celebrate mass. Come, sit.’

We sat and waited to be assigned an area to cover for the day.

We spent that morning doing surveys with different families. We asked them about the damages of their home—was it partially or completely destroyed? How was the quality of the roof, the walls?—We asked about the shelters they were staying at—did they have access to water? Sanitation? Medical attention?—And which of these things they needed the most at that moment. Then came the tougher questions. Any family members injured, disappeared? Any losses?

The families I interviewed were lucky enough to have all their members together. But I discovered that what affected them the most wasn’t when they spoke of the damage of their home or what was needed the most at that moment. It was when I asked about their lives before the earthquake. What was their home like? What did they do for a living? Were they still able to do that job?

One of my interviewees was a teacher. When I asked how the catastrophe had affected her work, she said, ‘Well, the school collapsed, so I don’t work there anymore.’ She looked down and her eyes trembled. ‘I had only entered the school three weeks ago as a secretary, and now it’s gone.’ These questions were necessary for us to understand the structure of the town and to help reactivate their economy in the future. But for her, it was a painful reminder that things weren’t going to be the same. That she would not be able to return to what her life used to be.

Earthquake 5

Photograph by Claudia Sensi Contugi.


In the afternoon, we stopped for lunch at one of the semi-collapsed houses. From outside, you could tell it used to have a second story. Doña Dolores offered us a seat in the plastic tables on her terrace, and brought a bowl of shrimp soup and white rice; the only meal she would serve today, in her home-turned-diner.

Doña Dolores was a mother of three. While we ate, her youngest, Dasha, a curly haired wonder dressed in pink, would ask us all kinds of things. When we asked her age, she lifted three fingers. When I asked if she had a favourite animal, she said ‘cow’. She asked if I liked colouring books, and when I said yes, she brought a thick photocopied book with pictures. I wondered if her mother had made it for her.

She showed me the pictures in her book. ‘This is a dog, and he is talking to this bird, see? And this is his mother. She is angry because he talked to strangers.’ She kept pointing to pictures and explaining each one to me, and even when the food arrived, I had to eat looking at her.  Andrés, one of the guys from my group, joined in, teasing her, acting as if he didn’t know the animals.

‘So … is that a cow?’

‘No, silly, that is a dog!’ said Dasha.

‘Now, that’s a cow,’ he said, pointing at another picture.

 ‘No, no, no! That is a goat! See the horns? Goat.’

‘Well where are the cows?’ he said, barely able to conceal his mirth.

Dasha became exasperated with him and turns the pages looking for a cow to show him. ‘See? That is a cow!’

‘Ooh, I see,’ he said, and I laughed at them. I scooted near her to see the page, and I pointed to a picture of a school. ‘And what’s that, Dasha?’

‘This is my school …’ she said, and I nodded, reminded of my niece, who once insisted a picture of a dog in her school book was one of her dog, not a dog.

‘But the building isn’t like that anymore …’ She then pointed to an image of a park. ‘And that is the park that got destroyed. ’ My smile fell as I locked eyes with Andrés.

Dasha turned the page and pointed at a picture of three little girls. ‘And these are my friends who died.’ She looked at her mother, not sensing the tension around the table. ‘Right mommy? These are my friends who died.’

Doña Dolores looked at us with sad eyes as she stroked her daughter’s hair. ‘She was playing with two friends in the house when it happened. She got caught under the rubble but I was able to pull her out. Her friends ran but the walls collapsed over them. She saw everything’. I looked down at Dasha and saw her smiling at me. She asked me if I wanted to be her friend.

‘Of course,’ I said, not having any words left.


The next morning we went to a refuge camp where people who had lost their homes were staying in tents. It was a place called Coaque, in the outskirts of Pedernales. I surveyed over fifteen families living in those tents. Some had little children, some had elderly parents. Others had family members who had fled to another city. Most of them only had a mattress and the clothes they had on, as they were living off donations rationed by government officials. None of them had jobs and no way to make a living at the moment.

They told me about their experiences from that day. How they had friends who had lost every member of their family and how they were able to escape. How an old man had gone outside just seconds before a wall fell, crushing his bed. How one of the children, a little girl of seven, saved her younger cousin of from the rubble that used to be their home.

They also told me about their situation at that time. How the men would go into the city and help others to rebuild. How they found some kitchen utensils in what they had gathered from the rubble and made a station to cook for all of them. How they would take turns watching each other’s children. How they supported each other during the horrible situation they were going through.

At midday, we went back up the road to wait for the car to pick us up. And I noticed something I hadn’t when we first arrived. Right in front of the slums, the sun was shining over hills covered by teak trees. The trees were lush, their leaves a green so bright they screamed life. It struck me as odd how such beauty could live alongside all that destruction and suffering. And I realised there’s a kind of beauty that always comes alongside disaster. These people had lost everything but still had the strength to go on, to smile, to help their neighbours and be grateful to be alive and to have their family with them—that was beautiful. The people back in Guayaquil delivering help in any way they could—that was beautiful. The group of volunteers around me, eager to lend their hands—they were beautiful.

The nuns who gave us a place to sleep. The lady who lent us one of the rooms of her hotel for us to shower. The families who offered us a place to sit in the shade while we were doing the survey. The councilor and his daughter who drove us to and from the farthest counties of Pedernales. Doña Dolores, creating a diner from what she had left of her home. Those families in the refuge camp, who shared what little they had left and supported each other, even if they weren’t family, even if the only reason they had met was because of this tragedy.

These people represented the strength of this town, the strength of Ecuadorians. That no matter how much we lose, we can have strength to stand up again.


Photograph by Claudia Sensi Contugi.

Words by Claudia Sensi Contugi. 

Claudia was an exchange student at Deakin University in 2014.


Animal cruelty is a horrific crime which takes many forms. It demonstrates the abuse of power and control people hold over the lives of other creatures. Some may feel that it is easy to show their seemingly supreme nature through acts of unkind treatment or the abuse of control over the voiceless soul of a poor animal. But I believe the true nature of humanity is found in the ability to recognise and banish such indecent desires to inflict pain upon another living being, and rather show compassion. Encroaching on an animal’s wellbeing with acts of violence or entrapping them in a life of mistreatment is no celebration or act of bravery. In fact, it is an act of cowardice and shows a sheer lack of humanity in a person. But we are not ignorant towards the storm in the lives of animals when they are being abused. Speaking out against animal cruelty is an act which truly satisfies the heart and gives us the incredible power to transform dark days of suffering into illuminative ones. The result of lighting up another being’s life in this way is something we can all treasure and cherish forever.

It should be impossible for anyone to turn away from the sufferings of an innocent animal caused by ghastly human acts. However, according to the RSPCA annual report for the 2014-2015 financial year, statistics show a terrifying total of 60,809 cruelty complaints, of which only 263 resulted in successful prosecutions. Earlier this year, I read about an incident which blew my mind and I will never forget what it was about. The story was about eight two-week-old puppies who were hurled against a boulder right in front of their mother. The reason behind this horrifying act was an attempt for the old lady to assert her utter dominance over the mother dog; to scare the dog away and teach her a lesson for having puppies in a dry drain under her gate. The mother dog lost her puppies right before her eyes. She was helpless to stop what was happening, and bewildered by the brutality, which traumatised her until she passed away six months later. I am still rendered speechless when I remember the awful details of that story. This barbaric act took away eight precious lives, and destroyed what could have been an innocent and happy family. We would never allow these things to happen to our own kind—our own families—and merely the thought makes my heart skip a beat.

Abandoned pets are an unfortunately common example of animal cruelty. They are warmly welcomed into families full of excitement, as birthday or Christmas surprises, but they are eventually ignored and left in dire circumstances. It’s hard imagining the plight of a three-month-old pet dog tied up in a polythene bag, or beaten and left to die in a deserted place with no shelter, food, or water. When pets come into our lives, they are meant to bring us happiness, but they also become our responsibility. They should not be treated like a commodity with some expiry date. And just as pets should not be treated this way, wild animals should not be treated this way either. How many news stories have appeared recently about sea animals who have been dragged out of water for a selfie, only to suffer injuries and death?


Even the thought of the way animals are slaughtered sends a chill down my spine. It is beyond human strength to witness the slaughtering of animals. From their heart-wrenching cries as they are queueing for their gruesome deaths, to their numb faces in torturous captivity. The images that depict their short and painful journeys are horrific. Their strong spirits are broken for ‘human entertainment’ in zoos and circuses. Our humanity is above and beyond everything, and we must all keep it alive until we die.

There are laws in place to punish those who commit crimes of animal abuse, and now more than ever, animal rights activists are growing in numbers and fighting for their cause. However, the unfortunate truth is that many of those who commit these crimes still get away unpunished. But I think it is important to remember that the universe finds a way to make us reap the consequences of the deeds that we have intentionally committed. It’s better late than never to understand our responsibilities towards the lives of animals and to help them bloom in any way possible. It is high time to respect their lives as equal to our own and do our bit to help them survive. Either choose to be protective towards them or stay miles away from their territory. We don’t own anything in this world, and we have been blessed temporarily with whatever we have. Just as some people think that they can take away the life and dignity of an animal, the supreme forces of nature can take away ours.

Words by Nisha Subhanje.


Everything Eddie McGuire didn’t say—his silence spoke louder than any ‘shotgun apology’ could

When Eddie McGuire landed himself knee-deep in a media s*it storm for his ‘playful joke’ about drowning a respected, female colleague in icy, cold water, it was a very strange affair.

It was strange that the media waited a week to attack McGuire, not acting until days after the broadcast had been aired. It was strange that callers joined in on the joke. I think of the little girls that were forced to listen to this on the morning drop-off to school. It was strange (but not surprising) that McGuire refused to apologise … until the eleventh hour.

This may be Eddie’s most disastrous fiasco to date—but it’s far from his first. Let’s not forget, this is the same man who compared Adam Goodes to King Kong, threatened to ‘bone’ journalist, Jessica Rowe while she was under employment with the Nine Network and thinks ‘mussies’ is a term of endearment for Muslims.

But now we go to that ‘shotgun apology’ that was uploaded to the Collingwood FC website very late the same evening.

I can only imagine that Eddie didn’t relent without a good tantrum. His apology said a lot.  It ticked all the clichés of a carefully crafted PR apology. It even managed to squeeze in some justification.

If there’s one thing worse than having to make an apology—it’s having to sit through a fake one.

In the spin that lasted just two and a half minutes, much was said. But what wasn’t said screamed out from behind McGuire’s carefully composed veneer.

Here’s my deconstruction of Eddie McGuire’s apology

‘TO THE Collingwood and the football community at large, I’ve spent the day taking counsel from friends and foes, senior government politicians, the AFL and community leaders.’

Translation: ‘This apology was made under duress—please buy it.’

‘In particular, Rosie Batty and an old footballing and political mate, Phil Cleary, both of whom have seen first-hand the tragic consequences of domestic violence.’

Translation: ‘I have no problem using the tragic circumstances of others to get myself out of hot water.’

 ‘I’m long past thinking of Caroline as anything but Caroline Wilson.’

Translation: ‘I’m long past thinking of Caroline as anything but one of the guys.’

‘In the last 24 hours, and particularly since this morning, I’ve seen the impact of the comments on her.’

Translation: ‘In the last 24 hours, and particularly since this morning, I’ve seen the impact of the comments on ME.’

‘No person should ever feel uneasy or threatened in football’s family.’

Translation: ‘Remember the 90s when my career would have never been threatened by this? Ah, memories.’

‘For that, I am deeply sorry and I apologise unreservedly to Caroline for putting her in that position.’

Translation: ‘Are you … are you buying this yet?’

‘I am a father and a husband.’

Translation: ‘My wife and kids like me … can’t you too?’

 ‘I am really disappointed that I made remarks that are at odds with my views on the place of women in modern Australia.’

Translation: ‘I am really disappointed that I can’t crack one little drowning joke without a public apology.’

‘On July 23, our club, in conjunction with the Pratt Foundation, will host a scheduled fundraising function with Rosie Batty.’

Translation: ‘When all else fails throw money at the problem.’

‘Today, on what would have been her son Luke’s 14th birthday, and having spoken to Rosie earlier, I’ll be making a personal contribution to support the victims of domestic violence.’

Translation: ‘Seriously, other people’s tragedies are a rich tapestry to exploit.’

‘At a time when I am so looking forward to being president of three women’s sporting clubs — Collingwood women’s football, Collingwood netball and the Melbourne Stars women’s cricket club, it is important to show leadership on this issue.’

Translation: ‘I’m letting them play professional sport out of my own pocket. Isn’t that enough?’

‘That includes being able to admit you are wrong and willing to learn.’

Translation: ‘I haven’t learnt jack and with the attention span of the Australian media—neither will most of you.’

Sponsors and even Football Clubs are removing themselves from Eddie, and there’s hope in that. But as I sit here writing this just over a week of bad publicity has washed over Eddie McGuire—the furore is already simmering down.

Caroline Wilson may accept McGuire’s apology—but I and many other people will find it unforgivable and unforgettable.

Words by Natalie Corrigan.


Social Enterprise Conference 2016

On Thursday 19 May, DUSA club SeCo (Social Enterprise Collective) hosted the third annual social enterprise conference on-campus, featuring a number of inspiring change-makers and go-getters as guest speakers. The crowd got to hear from Thankyou’s Justine Flynn, Hunter Johnson from The Man Cave and Foundation for Young Australians (FYA), Long St Coffee’s Jane Marx, and Andrew Mahar from xpand Foundation.  Through listening to each of the speakers, their stories, and their advice, it was clear that each of them represented integral aspects of social enterprises that also brought to light the things they value personally.

Perhaps best known to the crowd was Thankyou’s Cofounder and Director of Brand and People, Justine Flynn. Thankyou was created by this brilliant woman, mother, and Deakin alumni, and her husband Daniel with the aim of funding life-changing water, food, and hygiene and sanitation projects through their sales. For Justine and Daniel, it all started with bottled water, which globally we spend over $60 billion on every year. Meanwhile, a quick web-search reveals that 783 million people around the world don’t have access to safe drinking water. This was the first global problem that Thankyou aimed to alleviate, and their goals have broadened to funding other projects to help people in need since, with over $3.7 million given so far.

But the start was bumpy, from teachers discouraging the initial idea, to problems with the factory and distributor, and overall the fact that Justine and Daniel started Thankyou without really knowing what they were doing. However, there was plenty of generosity and luck, including a gift of $20,000 from a marketing teacher, and the success of the Coles and Woolworths Campaign, in which a helicopter with a banner flew around the supermarkets’ headquarters asking them to stock the Thankyou brand.

The second speaker of the evening was philanthropist and man of laughs, Hunter Johnson, Cofounder of The Man Cave and Innovation Manager at Foundation for Young Australians (FYA). Hunter started with a story about how he went from a hyper-masculine athletic upbringing to being involved with social enterprises after a horrific football injury that nearly took his life.

FYA is Australia’s largest youth foundation which teaches young people entrepreneurial skills and backs up other similar programs, extending their resources to remote and regional areas. In his role with FYA, Hunter said, ‘I literally get paid to work with young people. I work with five year olds. And I work with thirty year olds. And some thirty year olds act like five year olds.’

By cofounding The Man Cave, Hunter hopes to tackle the toxic masculine mindset that says all men must be strong, athletic, and emotionless by providing a preventative mental health and emotional intelligence program. This builds support and tools to strengthen the emotional literacy of the male population.

‘Emotional literacy, especially with young guys, is stunted,’ Hunter said.

The Man Cave deconstructs, challenges and redefines what it means to be a man. The Man Cave runs different activities such as word and image association games that encourage discussion and critical non-judgemental evaluation of the self, perpetuating a healthier discourse around men and their emotions and ideals.

Next we got to hear from Jane Marx from Long St Coffee, which started  when Jane was volunteering her time to teach English to asylum seekers and refugees in Collingwood and coming to understand the lack of work opportunities these people had available to them after fleeing their war-ravaged homelands and settling in Australia. With a strong hospitality background and a passion for human rights and change-making, Jane and her partner Francois started a series of pop-up cafes which eventually grew into the establishment which is now Long St Coffee.

Long St Coffee provides six months of training through part-time internships for refugees seeking asylum, under the age of twenty-five, with no previous hospitality experience required. They secured funding for their social enterprise through competitions, bank loans, crowdfunding, and even personal savings.

The final speaker for the night was social enterprise veteran Andrew Mahar, who has been in the change-making business for over twenty-five years. Andrew’s current work is through the xpand Foundation, which supports several initiatives in Timore Leste: InfoTimor, WithOneSeed, WithOnePlanet, and WithOneBean.

InfoTimor aims to create positive social change through the use of information communication technology. Through this initiative, people from Timore Leste were trained in order to be able to maintain the technology Andrew and the InfoTimore team set up for them. The WithOneSeed initiative led Andrew to meet Tim Flannery, with whom Andrew discussed the idea of replanting the forests in Timore Leste and creating opportunities for the communities there by paying them to care for the new trees. Timore Leste, like many other places around the world, relies heavily on fossil fuel, and the cycle of deforestation, top-soil erosion, and failing cash crops shows the impact using these non-renewable resources can have on a community. Replanting forests also takes a step towards countering the effects of fossil fuel carbon emissions.

‘4% of carbon emissions come from the technology we use,’ Andrew said.

WithOnePlanet strives towards climate change education by linking school communities from Australia and Timore Leste and challenges students to think about carbon, culture, and citizenship in line with Australian Curriculum. The initiative encourages them to think about creating an environmentally sustainable future. The last initiative that xpand Foundation supports is WithOneBean, which supports coffee farmers in Timore Leste, working to end poverty and hunger, replant the forests, promote education, and replenish the planet with its organic, ethically, socially and environmentally sourced coffee.

Through listening to the stories being told by each speaker and the impact they are making around the world, many positive characteristics shone through to embody what social enterprises are really about. Justine’s Thankyou story was one of courage and bravery, not only in facing hardships, but also in trying something new, failing, and learning. Many of the jobs we do can be broken using the 80-15-5 rule, in which 80% of what you do can be done by someone else, someone can be trained to do 15%, and only 5% is something that only really you can do—and that should be your focus and your purpose.

‘Your WHY is your biggest anchor.’

Hunter shared how he found his purpose during his recovery, when he was depressed because he wouldn’t be able to play sports again and he felt like he had lost his masculine identity. One day, his grandfather said, ‘If you were so good at sport, why couldn’t you put that energy towards something a little more meaningful?’

This imparting of wisdom helped Hunter to become aware that he’d been defined by stereotypes of masculinity when he didn’t need to be, and strive to change that within himself and the world around him. Similarly, Jane had to challenge dominant social values in order to get Long St Coffee up and running. There has been ongoing negativity around asylum seekers from many Australians who make assumptions about how and why these people are different. Jane talked about how teaching these young people employable hospitality skills and letting them serve people coffee and meals helps to normalise their presence. Long St Coffee is creating a change in the way people think about refugees and asylum seekers to encourage a more inclusive and culturally diverse Australia, which will only serve to create more opportunities for these hard-working people.

‘We were very creative about who we asked for help,’ Jane said, listing off a plumber, two property lawyers and a cobbler who helped them get started.

Jane’s conviction and creativity in making change is also embodied by Andrew, who has maintained his drive for doing good in the world for a long time and has strived to address numerous global issues in innovative ways.

Andrew defines a social enterprise as a business model which is about delivering community wealth, and this is reflected through the goals and values of each of the speakers and their social enterprises.

‘Social enterprise is about community. It’s not about one person. That’s really important,’ Andrew said.

And when questioned about their views on failure, another thing they all had in common was their ability to view bumps in the road as opportunities to learn and try again rather than reasons to give up—to be honoured rather than feared.

‘Sometimes we have to blaze trails and we have to learn as we go,’ Justine said of her experience with Thankyou.

The speakers at the Social Enterprise Conference shared inspiring stories of failing, learning, and successful change-making. But more than that, Justine, Hunter, Jane, and Andrew encouraged us to be conscious of the products we consume and how our decisions could shape the world around us. Everyone has the potential to make a difference and should strive to do so, even in small ways. That’s not to say that everyone should start their own social enterprise, but simply by thinking like a social entrepreneur and seeing what changes you could make to your lifestyle, and subsequently the world around you. If not you, then who? If not now, then when?

Words by Bonnee Crawford. 

Floating In-Out (Same Boat)

I’m being told, constantly
And constantly ‘being’ something
Whoever the ‘they’ are,
They’re great at convincing me of who ‘I’ am, of who ‘we’ are
It’s a riddle wrapped in a puzzle,
A conundrum, without a doubt

Jeff told me that he would make a million dollars by age 23,
I believed him

Jason told me that he had thought long and hard but that, at the end of the day,
He was ‘pretty sure’ that he wasn’t gay
I didn’t believe him

Jeff’s dead now
Jason’s married

Married to a wo-man
Married to a fe-male
Married to an ‘ideal’

You know, when you’re moving around, shackles will weigh you down, to be sure
But if you’re lost at sea, trying your best to float
They’ll kill you, however slowly

Married to a woman
A constant fog
Medication that’s purposefully administered

Ideals of the ‘they,’ enforced

The ‘ideal’:
Right Wing-Republican,
Straight-white, American Male’

Todd stood up and said it,
By some sort of goddamn miracle, I was ready
I heard him
I hear him in every quiet moment since
There is no respite

And I miss my friends
I’ll tell you this,
I fucking miss my friends

I’d floated for a long time,
27 years, A sodden-log in a sea wet with shit
Going with the flow
Taking the waves as they came
But seeing Jeff there, in that bed,
With the tubes and tape and wire running in and out of him,
Tributaries funnelling electric-life into a hollowed out husk,
An organism that had at one time been so robust,
So beautiful

I was overcome
Overcome, because it was the first time I ever recognised my friend
The first time I ever recognised him and everything that he had suffered through
That I had suffered through
That we all suffer through, every day of our lives

The ‘ideal,’ the ‘ideal,’ the ‘ideal,’

‘They’ have bestowed upon us their own image of what we ‘should’ be
‘They’ have created our shackles and we wear them willingly

But, you know, you can really only ever drown if you stay floating in the water

Words by TJ Boone

5 Things that Hurt on my Way Out

I was in early high school the first time I realised I wasn’t only attracted to guys. From a rural country area where all of the schools that weren’t considered ratty were religious, I’d been to a Catholic primary school and was attending a Christian high school when I first admitted to myself that I wasn’t straight. But I was raised by a relatively progressive family who had taught me that there was nothing wrong with liking the same sex and I didn’t really have a lot of friends, so I wasn’t particularly worried if my newfound sexuality made the other kids at school think I was weird. But despite these reassurances, coming out wasn’t as easy as I had pictured in my head and there have been many things along the way that hurt me.

  1. I was forced to tell my mum

I wasn’t afraid of coming out to the one girl at school who I considered at the time to be my best friend. I told her that, at the time, I liked girls and boys. And she was fine with it. Except with my confession to her came an unexpected pressure to come out to my mother, on my friend’s orders. To be perfectly honest, I wanted to tell my mum, but at that point in time, I certainly wasn’t ready. But when the only person you feel you can be open with tells you that you have to tell your mother your big secret, or she will, you end up feeling like you don’t have much choice.

  1. Bisexuality isn’t real

So I went ahead and came out to my mother, late one night while she and I were just sitting in the lounge room watching T.V. I told her I was bisexual*. She smiled at me, but then she told me that bisexuality isn’t real. ‘People either like boys, or they like girls. And you have always liked boys,’ she said. And I was so crushed. In my eyes, this woman had been the pillar of progressive thinking in our family up until that point. She had been the one to teach me that there was nothing wrong with loving the same sex. But when I came out to her, she told me, as many tell their same-sex attracted children, ‘It’s just a phase. You’ll grow out of it.’ She went as far as to forbid me from telling anyone else about it, because it would be ‘social suicide’ (just in case the fact that she wouldn’t let me shave my legs when all the other girls at school did wasn’t already a central topic for bullying**).


CC image credit: Pablo Fernandez

  1. No apologies

A few months after that conversation, I got my first girlfriend. I decided not to tell my mum (and thankfully my so-called best friend decided not to force me this time, considering the reaction she had to my coming out). But I suppose when you have the same girl (who very openly identified as lesbian) over to your house multiple times a week, a mother would start to get suspicious. Anyway, after some poorly thought out Facebook privacy settings on my girlfriend’s part, and some stalking on my mother’s part, we got busted and I got my head ripped off for having a girlfriend behind her back. My reasons for not telling her meant nothing in that conversation and seven years later I have not received an apology for her reaction to when I came out, or her reaction to discovering that I had a girlfriend.

  1. My daughter isn’t a lesbian anymore

My dad did a pretty good job of being accepting that I had a girlfriend, but he still has a lot to learn. When my girlfriend and I broke up, his reaction was ‘So, my daughter isn’t a lesbian anymore’. I sort of just slammed my head into a wall. While I know the comment wasn’t malicious or intentionally dismissive, the ignorance still hurt. I’d never claimed to be a lesbian, even if I was in a relationship with another woman. And that break-up in no way marked the end of my feeling attracted to other women.

  1. You’re dating a guy, so you must be straight

To shift away from the high school days, I’ve now been in a relationship with a boy for several years. Unfortunately, despite these happy circumstances, people now assume that I must be straight. This is not only an assumption of my sexuality, but also of my boyfriend’s gender identity, which isn’t exactly cis anymore (though that isn’t public knowledge). I can’t express my frustration at having my sexual identity erased by people who make this heteronormative assumption based on what they see. I don’t think anyone has the right to assume somebody else’s sexual orientation or gender identity and I think in 2016 we’ve moved far enough away from homophobic and heteronormative dinosaur attitudes to know better.

Neither of my parents have acknowledged that I am still anything other than straight, and I doubt that my sexuality will cease to be erased while I’m in a seemingly heterosexual relationship. But that doesn’t make any of these things okay. It doesn’t stop them from hurting me. And it doesn’t stop them from hurting the masses of other people who are trying to come out, or have come out, as anything other than straight and cisgender.

Words by Rebecca K

*I stopped using the bisexual label when I got to uni, as I realised it didn’t quite fit for me. I now prefer the term pansexual.
**I still don’t shave my legs, but now it’s by choice rather than because someone told me I’m not allowed to.