Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Pat O'Shane (Thanks, Louise)

I think the week I watched The First Australians was around the time we elected Obama as President. Since then I haven't written much about Indigenous Australians. Now this is the week that Obama actually becomes president. And I'm back to writing about Indigenous Australians.

I didn't plan it that way. I swear. But I think it's pretty cool.

It's amazing to sit there and read about American and Australian racism in the 1960's and then think...look how far we've come.

Having a black president doesn't mean racism is over in America. It's still here. But there's hope. There's hope for America. There's hope for Australia. There's hope for everywhere.

Things aren't perfect. They never will be. But they can be better.

Anyway, the Indigenous Australian I'm looking at today is Pat O'Shane.

He sounds Irish. Is he part Irish?

I guess I shall find out.

Well, first of all. He is not a he. Pat is a she. Oops.

She was born in 1941. Lord Wiki doesn't have an exact birthday for her.

Little Pat was born in Mossman Queensland. It's about an hour north of Cairns. Her father was Irish and her mom was Aboriginal. Lord Wiki says she received racism from both ends because of her mixed heritage.

In the 1960's, O'Shane worked as a teacher at Cairns State High School. There's some disagreement on whether O'Shane was admired or disliked. Students and coworkers seemed to think she was too aggressive. The principal claims she was well-liked. That could be true though. I think there are often teachers like that. Some people like them and some people hate them. Although maybe this is what the principal should express rather than saying she was well-liked. Maybe the principal was one of those who didn't keep herself aware of people's opinions.

The school is a state one.

Ugh. I don't like what the principal says at the end of his message. We are very proud of our school and we are sure that Cairns State High School is the school for your child. I understand he's trying to promote his school. And it might be a great one. But no. You can't know that one particular school is best for every child.

There's just something presumptuous about that. And to prove my point that this school is NOT best for every child. Here they say, As an Education Queensland school, Cairns State High School meets government regulations with regards to facilities. The school is, however, not generally suitable for wheelchair or visually impaired students. I'm guessing when the principal wrote that message to the parents of Cairns, he didn't imagine that some of them might have children who used a wheelchair or were blind. To their credit though, their new buildings are accessible. And they have a program for international students that looks pretty great.

I wonder what O'Shane taught at the school?

And how did she go from being a teacher to a Barrister? Lord Wiki says this is what she became in 1976.

She also became the first female head of the New South Wales Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs.

In 1986, O'Shane became a state magistrate. I have no idea what that is. I'm reading what Lord Wiki has to say about it. It sounds a lot like a judge. Maybe it's just a different word for judge?

I don't know.

In 1993, O'Shane became Chancellor of the University of New England. When I saw New England, I thought of the the United State's New England. But it turns out Australia has a New England as well.

Does every offspring of the UK have a New England? Maybe it's something we all have in common.

Lord Wiki says that O'Shane's nephew was burned in a horrific event. He was a little six-year-old playing in his school playground. A man came over and set him on fire. Just like that. The child wasn't expected to survive, but he did.

What bewilders me is Lord Wiki says that Pat O'Shane says the criminal's punishment was too harsh. What? Why? He burned her nephew. That's so incredibly cruel. I think he deserves a lifetime in prison. But maybe I don't understand the whole story. Maybe I'll run into something later that gives me more insight.

In the past few years, O'Shane has had some personal problems. She found out her husband was cheating on her with a neighbor and she wasn't too happy. I'm not sure what she did, but it must have been pretty substantial, because her husband was able to get a restraining order against her.

It seems she has some issues with bipolar disorder and has received electro-convulsive therapy. Yikes. I can't imagine going through that. I'm sure people have persuasive arguments in support of it; but sorry, I still see images of Jack Nickolson in One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest.

I'm sure there ARE extreme cases of depression and other mental illnesses that might benefit from it. But I have a feeling it's the same story as psychiatric drugs. What should only be prescribed to a few is being prescribed to way too many.

I don't know. The husband you loved and trusted betrays you. Are you not allowed to be super depressed and angry about that?

But that being said, it's not just her husband she targets. She has an issue with police officers.

This is interesting. Some women defaced a billboard with a Berlai bra advertisement. O'Shane declared that the women shouldn't be convicted; that the real crime was the advertisement itself. I'd like to see this ad. Was it really offensive? With this and other occasions, O'Shane has spoken in defense of women. But on another occasion she said that she knows that women sometimes lie about rape.

I don't know. It's conflicting. But there's a truth to it. There IS violence against women. Women ARE degraded. We should fight both of those. Yet, I'm sure there truly are cases where women lie about being raped. It's so hard though because I think it would be so awful to even begin to accuse a women of that.  It's also horrible for an innocent man to be accused of something he didn't do. But to be raped and then have people not believe you?

In 1999, O'Shane dismissed charges against a man who shot the police. Well, I guess he shot at them, but didn't hit them. Later, the man was convicted of three murders. Yikes.

In 2005, she dismissed charges against a man who yelled obscenities at the police. She said this type of behavior was to be expected. I don't know if it should be expected. I guess it would depend on the situation. I don't really know if it should be illegal. I guess my feelings is it would depend on whether it's illegal to yell obscenities at anyone? If you're allowed to yell obscenities at anyone, than I think you should be able to do it towards the police as well. I'm not sure why they should be treated any differently.

She doesn't like my subject from yesterday....Charles Perkins. She said he was promoted beyond his capabilities. Ouch.

Now we're getting into stuff that might make me not love O'Shane too much. She defends a man named Geoff Clark who has been accused of rape. And who knows...maybe he's innocent. Maybe she's a good woman defending an innocent man when hardly anyone else will. But I keep thinking of that episode of McLeod's Daughters. Becky was raped by Brian, the friendly owner of the local hotel. When Meg found out, she refused to believe Becky. She defended the asshole. Fortunately, later she came to her senses. How many rapists and abusers are defended not with evidence but by their reputation in the community? Oh, he's a fireman. You know how many children and cats he's saved? He would never rape anyone!

O'Shane was arrested for drunk-driving. Her blood level was at .08. My sister was severely injured by a drunk-driver so I'm pretty intolerant of the whole thing. .08 doesn't sound incredibly high though. I have a feeling a lot of people get away with that.

This is interesting. Lord Wiki has the blood alcohol laws of various countries. Australia is stricter than the United States. Their limit is .05 while the US is .08. Although it varies state to state. Some countries have a zero limit (Brazil, Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania, Russia Saudi Arabia, Slovakia, United Arab Emigrates).

This article says there was a study done that says using a cell phone while driving is just as dangerous as driving at a .08 level. I agree. Certain people in my family talk on the phone while driving and it really scares me. I personally never do. If my phone rings while I'm driving I refuse to answer it. The article says the people who did the study are not trying to say drunk driving is okay. They're trying to say you shouldn't do either. Don't drive while intoxicated and don't talk on the phone. And then there's even people who send text messages. I don't see how they do it. I have enough trouble sending a message when I'm not behind a wheel. I'm sure some people would defend their actions. I send messages everyday and I've never been in an accident! It's fine. Yeah. Whatever. It's not your amazing ability to multitask that has saved your life. It's pure luck. And one day your luck might run out. You'll probably survive the accident. But you'll kill someone else.  Maybe the father of three children, Maybe an elderly women on the way to the hospital to see her first grandchild.  Maybe a car full of children on their way to school.

I think anyone who chats on the phone while driving; sends a text message while driving; or drinks under some type of chemical influence is being incredibly irresponsible and selfish.

And you know what. I'm partly to blame. I TALK to people while they're driving. No more. I'm going to be strict about this for now on. If someone calls me from a car phone, I'm hanging up on them. That probably won't do that much good though. They'll just call someone else.

People in my family defend their phone use saying they use hands free devices. I sometimes think that's worse because it takes so much concentration from them. They say the name they want to call and then the car robot thing doesn't understand them. Then they get all frustrated and keep repeating the right name. I don't think they're giving any attention to the road.

Okay. I should get off my soapbox now. I'm actually pretty worked up about it though. I just sent out an email to my family because most of them don't ever read my blog. I said they can do what they want, but I'm not talking to them while they do it. And I also said Jack is no longer allowed to ride in the car with them if they're going to do it.

I am putting my foot down!!

Yeah. But I should probably return to Pat O'Shane.

I'm done with Lord Wiki.

I shall go exploring elsewhere now.

This biography website has some facts. I used to go on this website. I haven't seen it it in awhile. Oh wait. It's ABC. I think I go to that everyday. But this particular section of the ABC website is for young people, and I haven't been THERE for awhile.

O'Shane was the first Aboriginal female teacher in Queensland.

She says her mother taught her to be soft and her father taught her to fight. I think we all need a little of both.

Because she had the wrong skin color, O'Shane's mother was not allowed to go to school. But she still wanted to learn. She'd ask her daughter to read the newspaper to her, and she would have her daughter bring books home from the library so she could read them too. I'm thinking of Becky from McLeod's Daughters again. She was an adult who didn't know how to read fluently yet. She kept it a secret because she was ashamed. But once people found out she would have them read to her. It was a very touching storyline....made me cry.

It seems that O'Shane wasn't a stolen child, but she feared it would happen to her.

The website has some quotes from O'Shane. She says, The government, through legislation has proved it is racist, and we're going to take over...take over our own affairs, we're capable of doing it. Aborigines throughout Australia have shown themselves capable of controlling their own destiny.

I agree! Some might argue that it's been tried before and there's been too much corruption. Or maybe we could say it didn't accomplish enough. Okay. That might be true. But white government has corruption too. And they don't always manage to accomplish what they need to accomplish.

Governments need to be a mixture of colors. There needs to be a mixture of genders, sexual orientation, religion, and ethnicity. I don't see any good excuse for there to be anything otherwise.

At Queensland University, O'Shane met her first husband. They had two children together. Then O'Shane's mother died, and O'Shane moved to Sydney. I'm not sure why the death of her mother caused her to move to Sydney.

Anyway, the website says she was sick around this time. I think maybe it was a mental/emotional type of sickness? But she managed to go to university and get a law degree. Meanwhile, her marriage broke up and she became a single mom.

It took her seven years to recover from her personal hell. And the website says then she got the degree. I guess she was in school for seven years?

She sounds like an amazing woman...very interesting. She has a very strong reaction to hardship and adversity. She doesn't sit alone in her room and quietly cry about it. She becomes mentally ill. She becomes violent enough to get a restraining order. Yet at the same time she fights for the community and she makes huge accomplishments.

She is certainly not boring.

She is certainly not weak.

Now I'm moving onto another ABC website. This one has an interview with O'Shane.

She's back with the husband who had the affair.

I'm reading about what she did to get the restraining order. She yelled at him and threw all his clothes outside. I don't blame her one bit. I think when you're the victim of lies and betrayal, there can be an incredible amount of anger. I think if all you do is throw someone's stuff...and you don't physically assault the asshole, I think you should win some kind of medal.

This summer, I had a moment where I felt very betrayed. I'm not a violent person. I may be a fighter, but I fight with words not with physical aggression. But I totally lost it at that moment. I grabbed a plate and slammed it to the ground. It shattered everywhere. I had never done something like that before, and I felt like it was the end of the world. I felt like I was a horrible person. But later I put things into perspective. I had all that rage, and all I did was break a plate. I didn't aim it at anyone. I aimed it at the floor. I didn't come at anyone with a knife as I've heard some people do. I didn't physically attack anyone.

I think, in the scheme of things, I did okay.

Some might say my rage itself is enough to feel shameful about.

I don't think so.

I mean I think if it happens to someone on a regular basis, they might need anger management therapy. But I think it's natural and okay to feel extreme anger on an occasional basis. And if you can deal with it in a way that doesn't harm other people, I think that's good.

I do feel bad about the broken plate, though. I apologized for that.

O'Shane still seems to love her man. I think it's nice that they got back together. It doesn't always happen that way and sometimes it shouldn't. But I think sometimes you can work past betrayal.

It does make me mad that the woman who slept with her husband put out an AVO on O'Shane. Did O'Shane actually assault her in any way? Or did she just throw some stuff?

I think what O'Shane says here in response to the question of whether it's fair that members of the judiciary are faced with higher standards.

Yes, I think it is appropriate that the public expects high standards from the behaviour of those in authority, yes I do. And yes, I think I have said it before you know, if I do the wrong thing then I expect to take the consequences. I mean we can still have our frailties, how we manage those is really up to us, isn't it.

I don't know the whole story yet, but so far I like this woman. I admire her. She's human. She makes mistakes. She's had a tough life. But she still manages to be strong and accomplish things.

O'Shane says her colleagues were very supportive of her during her ordeal. That's sweet. Reading that actually brought some tears to my eyes. When your world is falling apart, it's nice to know that there are people standing behind you.

O'Shane supports the use of psychiatric medicine. I'm not a big fan of it, but do understand that it might be helpful in extreme cases. She talks about how depression has become an epidemic in our society. I agree. But does this mean we should just keep medicating more and more people? Or is there something wrong with our society that needs to be fixed? O'Shane says, I mean the more crowded our cities become, the more crowded the world becomes, it seems the more apart we are from each other, the more lonely we are. There is a breakdown of the sense of community. It's very difficult for people to maintain a sense community, in fact to be members of a community.

Maybe instead of prescribing drugs left and right, we need to establish more community programs. We need more HUMAN support for people and less drug support. I've had very sad times in my life. I didn't need drugs. I needed a hug. I needed someone to listen to me. I needed someone to let me cry as long as I needed to.

I'm done with the interview. I'm still loving this woman.

I love Obama too. His inauguration speech was my opinion.

I'm gonna take a break, read to Jack, and then I shall return and do more research....

This SMH article says that after O'Shane pleaded guilty to drunk driving, she wasn't allowed to deal with drunk-driving cases. I have to say that make sense.

This article here says that although her breath test was .08, her later blood test was at .05 which is right at the legal limit. She was not convicted; got a good behavior bond. What is that? I shall go check. Lord Wiki's friend, WikiAnswers says it means that the offender promises to be on his/her best behavior. The article says the conviction wasn't recorded. That makes me laugh because it's probably recorded in every newspaper in Australia. It might not be on her official legal record, but it's definitely on record.

Here's the Green Left's view on Pat O'Shane.

Oh! They talk about the bra thing. The advertisement had a picture of a woman being sawed in half. The slogan said you'll always feel good in Berlai. The graffiti artists wrote under that, Even if you're being mutilated.

I don't know. I'm against the defacement of property. I think they should have been arrested. But then I think they should have also won an award for what they did.

O'Shane said, The real crime in this matter was the erection of these extremely offensive advertisements. Let nobody be under any misapprehension about it. And what redress does 51% of the population have? Absolutely none. Not only because of that male dominance ... but also because of the massive power that is exercised through huge financial resources.

The Green Left says, The four women who painted the billboard, and magistrate Pat O'Shane, have set a courageous, radical, imaginative and uncompromising example. It's up to activists around the country to keep up the pressure.

Amen to that!

Now I'm going to O'Shane's open letter to Kevin Rudd. It's about the intervention in the Northern Territory. She was disturbed about Rudd's support of Howard's plan. She says that Howard's declaration that it was a national emergency was a political stunt just as the Tampa thing was.

I still don't know all the details of this intervention thing. I guess I'm learning it bit by bit as I do this biographical research. But I'm starting to form opinions. They're not fully educated yet, so I might change my mind later.

I think I might agree with O'Shane though when she says, While it is expected that you would agree that Indigenous child sex abuse is shocking (by the way, is it any worse than child sex abuse which is endemic in Western society?), it is quite another thing for you to agree to Howard's raft of proposals for dealing with the issue in NT Indigenous Communities, which are punitive, destructive, and frankly racist.

I also agree with her when she says, that solutions to the crisis of child abuse have been highlighted in a raft of domestic and international texts which do not promote deployment of police and the military as the frontline response: it requires a health, education, human services and housing response.

When you have a community that is lacking resources, I think abuse is more likely to happen. I think if you build up the community and give people what they need, the amount of abuse will be reduced.

I'm going to look at Google News now.

O'Shane was involved with the case against the host of The Biggest Loser, Ajay Rochester. Rochester committed welfare fraud. She got money when she wasn't supposed to. O'Shane let her escape conviction. She had sympathy for the woman for raising a child with Aspergers by herself, and she had admiration for the community service she does for women. I'm not sure I fully understand the story or whether I think some involved with fraud should get off so easily. But I do understand that single mothers have it very tough. I think when you're in that situation, you do what you can to provide for your child. You might not always do the most ethical thing.

What I don't understand is did she DO something to get the money, or did she accidentally get the money and just not tell anyone? I think there's a difference. It goes along with the question of if you get the wrong change at the grocery store, do you speak up? Yes when and if you understand that the money doesn't come from the tooth fairy. It's likely to come out of the cashier's pocket. I've never needed that money. For me, it would just be a fun little bonus. It's easy to give it up. But what if I NEEDED that money? I'm not sure I'd be so ethical.

I find this story interesting. I'll come back to it. I'm adding Ajay Rochester to my list. My list is extremely long right now. It might not be until 2010 that I get to her.

Here's an interview where she talks about her comments regarding women making false rape allegations. It seems it was a response to the allegations against Geoff Clark. O'Shane says, I'm not going to say one thing one hour, and change my mind the next just because some people bleat about it. I mean, it's a reality of life that people make allegations against other people every day. She goes on to say. It's a fact of life. People do it. I'm not saying that all people who make all complaints are fabricating them. Far from it. But there is no question but that women do manufacture complaints against men, just as men manufacture all sorts of allegations against women and, for that matter, against each other.

In terms of her coming to the defense of Clark, she says, I'm not jumping to Geoff Clark's defense. I am taking exception, and very strong exception, to the way in which the media is conducting a trial against him. When complaints have been investigated, dealt with in a court and dismissed. He's just the latest victim of this kind of witch-hunt which the media conducts against people like him.
The interviewer asks if rape victims should be concerned about getting a fair trial with O'Shane. She says, No, that's just rubbish. Of course not. I deal with them every day. And I don't dismiss them every day. That's ridiculous. And she says, I don't have a certain opinion about rape cases. I will deal with everything that I ever hear on the basis of the evidence that is presented to me.

I like how she answers the questions. I think she's a wise woman.

The thing I do question though is whether she defended Clark because he's an Aboriginal leader. I do think people tend to come to the defense of people who are from their own group. What if Clark was white? Would she have defended him then?

Is O'Shane right? Was it a witch hunt? Or is it like the denial of what happened to the Tasmanian Aborigines? You label a crime a fabrication so people can save face. It's like the whole OJ Simpson thing. Was a man wrongly accused of murder? Or did a bunch of people defend a man simply because he belonged to their racial group.

I think two things often happen when one of "our people" is accused of a crime. We either deny the crime happened, or we deny that person is part of a group. A Jewish man goes into a Mosque and shoots praying Muslims. We can't deny it happened. But we can say, Oh. He's not a real Jew. He's a crazy sick bastard. Yeah. But he's a crazy sick JEWISH bastard. I think it's better to be honest. There's horrible people in every group--including our own.

Still, I don't know the truth about Geoff Clark. He could be innocent. Four people accused him of rape though. Each one of them is lying?

I've been on both sides of the story. I think I mentioned in a previous entry that as a child I was accused of something I didn't do. That's a horrible feeling. And recently I had the experience of being told by Tim that something, he did which upset me, never happened. Fortunately, the incident wasn't as horrible and traumatic as rape...not even close. But it was painful for me, and being told that it never happened made it even worse. It made me feel very unsure of myself.

I think you begin to question your own sanity.

Oh! And actually recently again I was accused of doing something I didn't do. Actually though it wasn't a case of me denying that I had done something. I did something. Well, I wrote something and someone misinterpreted it. I tried to apologize. I tried to explain myself. And I wasn't believed. That's very frustrating. But that's a different situation. Neither of us are lying. We both KNOW what was said. But we're interpreting it differently. I KNOW the truth. I know what I really meant. I know I meant no harm towards this person with what I said. But I can't convince her to believe my truth. She can't read my mind. So in some ways, I have sympathy for her position. If I was in her shoes, I might not believe me either.

Misinterpretations are different from outright denial. If someone says something hurtful and I take it personally, I can't know for sure that I'm right and they actually meant me any harm. If someone does something and then says it never happened, the only way I could be wrong is if I'm lying or losing my mind. Now let's say I go to an outside party and tell them the situation. Then it's open to interpretation again. I say one thing happened. Another person says it didn't happen. What's the third person going to believe? I KNOW I'm right, but how do they know that? How are they going to know who to believe? What if they believe me and I'm lying? What if they get angry on my behalf at someone who is completely innocent? And if they choose to believe the other person? Then I don't get the sympathy I deserve and need.

I could never be a judge. I don't even think I could be on a jury. It's just too hard.

I don't know who to believe.

I can imagine a man raping four women back in his younger days and then becoming a politician. That could be very well happen.

But now I'm seeing that there could have been a conspiracy. Parliament abolished the ATSIC (Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander Commission). The lovely John Howard did this. Who was leader of ATSIC? Geoff Clark? So yeah. I can imagine someone coming up with a rape conspiracy. You don't need the guy convicted. You just tarnish his reputation enough, and it will be easier to disband this organization. From what I'm reading in this SMH article, there was controversy besides the rape regarding the commission. It wasn't doing what it needed to be doing. And there might be merit to that thought. But how did we get from there to the idea that a Caucasian woman needs to be in charge of Aboriginal affairs. Can't there be a middle ground? Why not abolish the ATSIC, but then have an Indigenous Australian be in charge of that part of the Federal Ministry?

I could be reading this wrong. I might not be fully understanding things. I am getting that even many people in the Aboriginal community were dissatisfied with the ATSIC. With that in mind, I can imagine it might have had some serious faults.

What I feel has happened is many people have taken the attitude of Well, look we gave the black people some power and they totally messed it up. They're hopeless. Let's just take care of them ourselves. We know better. I think a better attitude would be, Well, things aren't working out the way we hoped. Let's try to work together and fix things.

Why dismantle the ATSIC? Why not just get new leaders? Look at America. We were corrupt. There was all kinds of shit going on during the Bush Ministry. Did we dismantle America? Oops. Americans don't know how to lead themselves. They're incapable and corrupt. Let's send the British back over. Well, some people made that suggestion, but they were kind enough to just leave it as a funny email forward. We were allowed to continue our little country. We were given a second chance. We're not a perfect group of people. We have some bad ones here and they were given too much power. But most of us are good. And some of us are capable of doing great things.