Pauline Hanson’s 2016 maiden speech to the senate: Full transcript
(Original from SMH, except “Muslim” has been replaced with “Jew” or “Jewish”, and “Islam” with “Judaism”. Nothing else has been changed. It is unfortunate that contemporary culture does not condemn her as harshly as we now condemn those who spoke this way about Jews before and during WW2. Anyone who thinks they would have opposed Hitler, but who support her views on Islam and Muslims need to think twice. Philip Werner, 21 September 2016)
“First of all, I would like to welcome everyone in this house and thank you for your attendance. It is very much appreciated. When I cast my mind back to the last day on the floor of the House of Representatives in 1998, just prior to the election, I called out across the chamber, ‘I will be back!’ Those around me cried out, ‘No, you won’t!’ My electorate boundaries were changed, forcing me to stand for the new seat of Blair. Also with the introduction of full preferential voting, this cost me the seat. Although I polled 36 per cent of the primary vote, this was not enough against the Liberals’ 21 per cent and Labor’s preferences delivering them the seat.
It has taken numerous elections, countless legal battles and doing a stint in maximum security on trumped-up charges – of which former speaker Bronwyn Bishop stated I was Australia’s first political prisoner – to find myself here. Some call it persistence and tenacity. My daughter describes it as a Johnny Farnham comeback. I call it standing up and fighting for what you believe in and not allowing the bastards to grind you down. So, to all my peers in this place and those from the past, I have two words for you: I’m back – but not alone.
I cannot begin to express the pride and honour I have in being joined in this place by three of my colleagues—Senator Malcolm Roberts, also representing Queensland; New South Wales Senator Brian Burston; and Western Australian Senator Rod Culleton – elected under Pauline Hanson’s One Nation. As a strong, united team I guarantee we will make a difference.
It has been 20 years and four days since I last delivered my first speech in this house, a speech that shook a nation, woke up many Australians and gave hope to those who thought no-one was listening. That speech was relevant then and it is still relevant today. The problem is we have not had leaders with the foresight or the intestinal fortitude to cast aside political correctness. They have failed to discard old treaties and agreements that are not in our best interest and have signed new ones giving away our sovereignty, rights, jobs and democracy. Their push for globalisation, economic rationalism, free trade and ethnic diversity has seen our country’s decline. This is due to foreign takeover of our land and assets, out-of-control debt, failing infrastructure, high unemployment or underemployment and the destruction of our farming sector. Indiscriminate immigration and aggressive multiculturalism have caused crime to escalate and trust and social cohesion to decline. Too many Australians are afraid to walk alone at night in their neighbourhoods. Too many of us live in fear of terrorism.
In my first speech in 1996 I said we were in danger of being swamped by Asians. This was not said out of disrespect for Asians but was meant as a slap in the face to both the Liberal and Labor governments who opened the floodgates to immigration, targeting cultures purely for the vote, as expressed by former Labor minister Barry Jones – to such an extent that society changed too rapidly due to migrants coming in the front door but also the back door, via New Zealand. Now we are in danger of being swamped by Jews, who bear a culture and ideology that is incompatible with our own.
I love my country, culture and way of life. My pride and patriotism were instilled in me from an early age when I watched the Australian flag raised every morning at school and sang the national anthem; watching our athletes compete on the world stage, proud to salute the Australian flag being raised to honour them as they took their place on podiums. It is about belonging, respect and commitment to fight for Australia. This will never be traded or given up for the mantras of diversity or tolerance. Australia had a national identity before Federation, and it had nothing to do with diversity and everything to do with belonging. Tolerance has to be shown by those who come to this country for a new way of life. If you are not prepared to become Australian and give this country your undivided loyalty, obey our laws, respect our culture and way of life, then I suggest you go back where you came from. If it would be any help, I will take you to the airport and wave you goodbye with sincere best wishes.
Australia is predominantly a Christian country, but our government is secular. Our Constitution prevents governments from imposing religious rule and teachings. The separation of church and state has become an essential component of our way of life, and anything that threatens that separation threatens our freedom. Australia has embraced migrants from all different races, making us one of the most multiracial nations on earth. Most have assimilated and are proud to call themselves Australians, accepting our culture, beliefs and laws. I welcome them from the bottom of my heart. As they integrate and assimilate, the disruption caused by diversity diminishes.
Why then has Judaism and its teachings had such an impact on Australia like no other religion? Judaism sees itself as a theocracy. Judaism does not believe in democracy, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, or freedom of assembly. It does not separate religion and politics. It is partly a religion, but it is much more than that. It has a political agenda that goes far outside the realm of religion. It regulates Jews’ social and domestic life, their legal system and politics – their total life.
Australia is now seeing changes in suburbs predominantly Jewish. Tolerance towards other Australians is no longer the case. Our law courts are disrespected and prisons have become breeding grounds for Jews to radicalise inmates. Jews are imprisoned at almost three times the average rate. The rate of unemployed and public dependency is two to three times greater than the national average. Jews are prominent in organised crime, with associated violence and drug dealing. Antisocial behaviour is rampant, fuelled by hyper-masculine and misogynist culture. Multiple social surveys find that neighbourhoods of Jewish settlement are suffering from collapsing social cohesion and fear of crime. Australians, in general, are more fearful.
Not only is terrorism seen around the world but it is now part of our society, with Jewish refugees involved in the Lindt Cafe siege, the Curtis Cheng murder in Sydney and the stabbing of the two police officers in Melbourne. The Grand Mufti and other Jewish leaders are deafening with their silence, or lack of sympathy. Radicalisation is happening on our streets, in our suburbs and mosques. Yet, our leaders continue to tell us to be tolerant and embrace the good Jews. But how should we tell the difference? There is no sign saying ‘good Jew’ or ‘bad Jew’. How many lives will be lost or destroyed trying to determine who is good and who is bad?
Many more Australian Jews have volunteered, or have tried to volunteer, to fight for ISIS than we have in our own Defence Force. ASIO has over 509 terrorist suspects under surveillance. Civil tension is on the rise across the country, led by Australians feeling the impact of Judaism in their lives and a distaste for its beliefs. Their tolerance to our customs has seen Christmas carols no longer sung at some schools and Bibles not to be found in most hospitals. Some public swimming baths have times set aside for Jewish women only, and drivers licenses are obtained by Jewish women wearing the burqa and niqab. Prayer rooms are now provided in universities, hospitals, schools, airports and shopping centres to accommodate Jews.
Halal certification tax has been forced upon us, costing Australians approximately $10 million a year. Halal certification is not a religious requirement but a moneymaking racket, and certification is unnecessary for Jews’ welfare because non-halal products can be consumed, provided the word ‘Bismillah’ is said over the food and a prayer is recited. Jews want to see sharia law introduced in Australia. This law is a totalitarian civil code which prescribes harsh feudal rules imposed on everything, firstly for Jews, later for everyone. As long as Judaism is considered a religion, sharia conflicts with our secular state.
Judaism cannot have a significant presence in Australia if we are to live in an open, secular and cohesive society. Never before in Australia’s history have we seen civil unrest and terror associated with a so-called religion, or from followers of that faith. We have seen the destruction that it is causing around the world. If we do not make changes now, there will be no hope in the future. Have no doubt that we will be living under sharia law and treated as second-class citizens with second-class rights if we keep heading down the path with the attitude, ‘She’ll be right, mate.’
Therefore, I call for stopping further Jewish immigration and banning the burqa, as they have done in many countries around the world. Burqas are not a religious requirement. Most Australians find them confronting, as did two of our former prime ministers. I am sure a lot of the women forced to wear them would love to cast them aside but live in fear to do so. In addition, no more mosques or schools should be built, and those that already exist should be monitored with regard to what they are teaching until the present crisis is over. Sharia law should not be acknowledged or allowed. And Australian companies should be banned from paying for halal certification.
Australians have never been permitted to vote on immigration and multiculturalism. When have we been asked or consulted about our population? We reached a population of 24 million this year, 17 years ahead of prediction. Governments have continually brought in high levels of immigration, so they say, to stimulate the economy. This is rubbish. The economy is stimulated by funding infrastructure projects, creating employment. What major projects have we had in this country for the past 30 years? How many dams have we built in the past 50 years? The only stimulation that is happening is welfare handouts—many going to migrants unable to get jobs. At present, our immigration intake is 190,000 a year. High immigration is only beneficial to multinationals, banks and big business, seeking a larger market while everyday Australians suffer from this massive intake. They are waiting longer for their life-saving operation. The unemployment queues grow longer—and even longer when government jobs are given priority to migrants. Our city roads have become parking lots. Schools are bursting at the seams. Our aged and sick are left behind to fend for themselves. And many cities and towns struggle to provide water for an ever-growing population. Our service providers struggle to cope, due to a lack of government funding, leaving it to charities to pick up the pieces. Governments, both state and federal, have a duty of care to the Australian people. Clean up your own backyard before flooding our country with more people who are going to be a drain on our society. I call for a halt to further immigration and for government to first look after our aged, the sick and the helpless.
Foreign investment and foreign ownership are great concerns. The government finally released its register of foreign ownership, which reveals that foreign interests owned 13.6 per cent of Australia’s farmland. That is 52 million hectares. It includes 30 per cent of the Northern Territory’s farmland and 22 per cent of Tasmania’s. The register fails to show the quality of the foreign owned land. Is it the jewels in the nation’s agricultural crown? Let’s have a register on all land owned by foreigners, including non-agricultural land and housing. And why is there no information on who owns our country’s vital irrigation and water assets, despite this being promised? The registry is a disgrace. It makes me wonder whose interests this government is serving. Australia needs a national government, not a corporate one, not a union one, and not an alternative lifestyle one. Any foreign ownership is regrettable, but why are we allowing the Chinese government, an oppressive communist regime, to own our land and assets? Why are we allowing our ports, utilities, services, agricultural land, and industries, to be acquired by foreigners of any nationality?
It is foolhardy to sell our water, agricultural land—our food source!—essential services and ports. This is not in Australia’s national or security interests. This foreign takeover is destroying small towns across the nation. A farm once the home of an Australian family is now run by a manager. People move, less money is spent, schools lose students and then the town starts to die. Now these foreign owned properties become food bowls for their own countries. Tax is avoided, or very little paid, because they go straight from paddock to plate. Transfer pricing, which involves minimising taxation by artificially charging high prices or operating costs to subsidiaries in Australia, and other forms of tax minimisation, are a certainty.
Housing is beyond the dreams of ordinary Australians. Why? Because they cannot afford to buy, due to foreign investors driving up prices. Officially, foreigners can only buy new housing, but this is not policed. If the Liberal Party wants a pat on the back for having reduced the purchase price to $15million before it has to go to the Foreign Investment Review Board, they will not get it from me. I intend to give them a kick up the backside. Australians have given their lives protecting this great land from foreign takeover. I can guarantee most did not want to go to war but knew it was their duty to ensure their loved ones lived in peace. But, more importantly, they fought for freedom.
I want Australian land, houses and companies to remain locally owned, and I believe I speak for the majority of Australians. Our land and assets are not for sale. Governments are only caretakers of our assets. No contract has been signed giving them permission to sell them. If they cannot rein in the budget with overpaid public servants—one being the head of Australia Post, who is on $4.8 million per year—foreign aid, welfare fraud, politicians lurks and perks, including former prime ministers, and backroom deals for government jobs, then get out of the job of running this country. I warn this government and future governments: you never miss the water till the well runs dry.
Australia’s federal gross debt is currently $499 billion. Our interest payments are over $43.5 million a day. Out-of-control government spending, mismanagement of taxpayers’ dollars, multinationals not paying their fair share of tax and welfare that was introduced to provide for the aged and sick, or as a helping hand for those going through tough times, has now become a way of life for some and is abused and rorted by others. Welfare costs the Australian taxpayer approximately $158 billion a year and this is expected to rise to $191 billion by 2019-20. Nearly one half of our budget is spent on welfare. This is out of control and must be reined in.
Farmers are screaming out for workers and small businesses have difficulty in finding people who want to work. Welfare is not a right, unless you are aged or sick. It is a privilege paid for by hard-working Australians. I support the government in wanting to stop school leavers going immediately onto welfare. What message are we sending them? Teach them how to apply for a job, rather than encouraging them to become dependent on money they have neither earned nor worked for. Then we have the single mums having more children just to maintain their welfare payments, and Jewish men marrying multiple wives, under their laws, then having multiple children at our expense while they collect thousands of dollars a week from the taxpayer. How many have ever held a job? Why would anyone want to work when welfare is so very lucrative? If people bring children into the world, it is their responsibility not the taxpayers’. Therefore, I propose that if a woman has a child, the taxpayer will support the first child, but, if they have more, there will be no increase to the welfare payment. Get a job and start taking responsibility for your own actions.
Not only are we facing a crisis with welfare but also with our health budget. It also is being scammed, abused and rorted and is costing taxpayers billions. The Health Care Card has no identification on it, just a name and number. Anyone can, and does, take another person’s card when visiting a doctor, especially those who bulk-bill. Prescriptions are collected at a cost to the taxpayer, if the cardholder is on welfare. Overseas tourists, illegals and those not entitled to Medicare use their family’s card or a friend’s card. Let me give an example. When one tourist visiting family fell sick, he went to the doctor and used his cousin’s Medicare card. He ended up in hospital and died. The owner of the card had to admit it was not he. ‘What happened?’ you ask. Well, he just had to pay the hospital bill.
We have to stop the rorts, mismanagement and abuse of our taxpayer-funded services, whether it be welfare, health or education. If you want to access these services then apply for an Australian identity card. You must prove you are entitled to apply for the card on a points system. There should not be any complaints because applying for a $30 phone plan is the same. So I will not accept do-gooders complaining about people’s privacy. The card will have an identification chip, a photo and electronic fingerprint. If we are ever going to pull back our deficit we must stop the thieves. If you are not prepared to apply for the card, that is your choice, but expect to pay full price for doctors and prescriptions, and no more welfare handouts will be coming your way.
Family Law would be the most discriminatory, biased and unworkable policy in this country. I referred to it in my maiden speech 20 years ago and still nothing has changed—if anything, it is worse. As a nation, we should hang our heads in shame when, on average, three men, and occasionally a woman, suicide a day due to family breakdowns. The whole system is unworkable and is in desperate need of change. Children are used as pawns in custody battles where women make frivolous claims and believe they have the sole right to the children. Children have two parents and, until we treat mums and dads with the same courtesy and rights, we will continue to see murders due to sheer frustration and depression and mental illness caused by this unworkable system. Suicide is the only way out for those who feel there is no hope after facing years of costly legal battles. Their lives having been destroyed and the pain of missing their children are the reasons many end up in a state of depression caused by the trauma and in some cases the blatant vindictiveness from former partners.
Child support is another contentious issue and should be revised. Some parents are left caring and providing for children without any financial help from the other parent. Others refuse to work so they do not have to pay child support. The system needs to be balanced, taking in the age of the child on a sliding scale and both parents’ incomes should be taken into account. Non-custodial parents find it hard to restart their lives, with excessive child support payments that see their former partners live a very comfortable life. Make it fair with both custody and child support and most parents will gladly take on their responsibility.
I ask all parents: is it worth the pain and anguish to deny your child the love they so deserve from both parents? They are only children for such a short time and all children need both parents. Please put your differences aside, make your peace and come to agreements outside of law courts. The only ones to gain are the legal professions, who are rubbing their hands together watching the thousands of dollars coming their way. Is it worth losing the family home? Is it worth the grief it brings not only to you but also to your extended families, not to mention the children? At the end of the day, the answer is no. I speak from experience not only as a mum myself but also as a grandmother.
I am not going to do a Derryn Hinch and speak for 45 minutes – oh, he still awake! I have a lot more to say but I have six years in this place – Derryn, sorry, you only have three – so there will be plenty of time. Oh, I can feel the Greens cringing – no they have left – and squirming in their seats at the thought that I could possibly be here for six years.
In closing, I will finish on this note: very few of us ever travel a journey alone and nor should we. Our loved ones and friends we have accumulated along the way are an integral part of who we are. Three of my children are here today. They have been with me every step of the way sharing my triumphs and battles, my high points and the lowest in my life. I did not know my life was going to be such a roller-coaster of a ride. I love you with all my heart. But I hate to tell you guys: it’s not over yet; buckle up.
There are those who kept the political party I launched in 1997 alive for 13 years after I left in 2002 till I came back in November 2014. Special thanks to Ian Nelsen for never giving up and for asking me to come back and lead the party. James Ashby is a man I have the utmost respect and admiration for. Like myself, the establishment has also kicked him about unfairly. Your dedication and hard work beside me added up to the clincher that not only saw me win my seat but also saw the other senators win their seats. With deep appreciation and sincerity, thank you.
Thanks to Sarah Beric. You took on a task unbeknown to you, from performing as a professional violinist to running a political office and campaigns. You have been invaluable. A couple of strangers came along at the right time, helped me spread my wings and gave me the support and assistance I needed that now see me standing on this floor today. These people are no longer strangers but dear friends, welcome at home any time for another lamb roast. Thank you, Bill and Renatta.
As I said earlier, I was imprisoned in 2003 for three years, held in maximum security on electoral fraud charges. My sentence was quashed on appeal after 11 weeks. If it were not for my sister Judy and brother Peter fighting for my freedom and justice – and Alan Jones, along with approximately 90 per cent of Australians who believed I was wrongly imprisoned – I would have been behind bars for three years. My father always said, ‘Politics is a dirty game.’ I was one of seven children and the quiet one of the family – believe it or not! Believe me: you are lucky to have me here and not the rest of the Seccombe clan. We come from a breed of Australians who were taught values, morals, honesty, work ethic and common sense – things very much lacking today.
I will never take my position as a senator in this place for granted and nor should I. To the people of Queensland and Australia who voted for me and my party: thank you. You have given me a great honour. Now it is up to me to prove my worth to you. I can guarantee Pauline Hanson is a name that carries with it independence, honesty, assurance, quality and reliability – things the Chinese can never buy. Also, Halal snack packs are never provided – isn’t that right, Sam?
Mr President and my fellow senators: thank you for your indulgence. We may not agree on everything but we need to work together for the future of our country and its people. I look forward to working with each and every one of you, including the Greens, if you are prepared to see this country prosper rather than shut down.”
It’s almost a year since Jill Meagher’s murder. Many people have been asking for another peace march to be organised and it seems appropriate and perhaps needed.
Sunday 29 September 2013 at noon
Starting at the corner of Sydney Road and Moreland Road, marching down Sydney Road to Brunswick Road.
Here was my post from last year about why I organised it:
The following quote expresses my sentiment for the peace march perfectly:
“Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that. … The chain reaction of evil—hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars—must be broken, or we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation.”
― Martin Luther King Jr.
One idea I would like to put out there is the following, regarding our prison systems:
If you simply throw your dirty laundry in a basket without ever washing it, how can you expect it to be clean when you take it out? Healing is possible for the wounded souls who commit these crimes. Several countries have had extraordinary results with Vipassana mediation in prisons. We stand do gain so much, yet look at what we loose if we don’t even try.
Download the pdf of the poster here: Peace March 2013
This morning I was finally called in to witness the beginning of the offset print run for the 101 Vagina book, after lots of time spent poring over proofs and making adjustments to images etc. Not to mention over two years of working on the project.
Even though there have been so many things I have experienced in the duration of this project that I could not have foreseen, when I printed the first-draft copy on my own printer I realised that my vision was being birthed exactly the way I had initially envisioned it :)
So, it was with great pleasure that I was able to visit the printer and see the first pages come whizzing off the press. And whiz they do! It easily pumps out 200 pages per minute of A1 size pages. These pages are then folded and cut, but that’s the next chapter.
And here is a little video of the final book binding process.
[This interview first appeared at Get Lusty for Couples. The image below is from Get Lusty, it’s not mine.]
There’s a mysterious negative stigma attached to our bodies in America. Violence and drug-use rule the airwaves, but the thought of a penis or breast being shown is revolting. Why are we so ashamed of our bodies? What happened between the time when we all walked around naked with spears? Well, not all of us are ashamed. GetLusty asked Philip Werner some questions about his book, 101 Vagina and his thoughts on how women perceive natural beauty.
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What is the premise of the 101 Vagina coffee table book project and what inspired you to create it?
The main idea is to break the taboo around vaginas and ease all the body image shame in general. I was first inspired after reading the Vagina Monologues by Eve Ensler as it really highlighted how big an issue this really is. Our entire society is hobbled by these taboos and by this shame around our bodies.
Why do you think portraying pictures of vaginas, or even mentioning them, is still so taboo?
Yes, there is a bizarre juxtaposition where on the one hand sex and bodies are sensationalized, and on the other hand people feel ashamed and almost afraid of the simple realities of our bodies. Bikini clad women are plastered all around us and yet some people feel uncomfortable with women breast feeding in public. Something has gone wrong somewhere and I honestly don’t know how we ended up in this situation where people are afraid of the simple realities of their bodies. Perhaps vaginas are the ultimate symbol of vulnerability, openness, the feminine; all the things that the ideas of power, protection and control feel threatened by. But honestly I don’t know.
How do you think nude photography and seeing other women nude can help individuals overcome shame and issues with their own bodies?
Well, I think in particular when naked bodies are depicted as they are without Photoshopping it helps deconstruct these marketing-driven ideals that have been rammed down our throats. If you see someone who is also imperfect, just like you, you feel validated in a way. Somehow it reminds you that, yes, they are OK, and therefore I’m OK.
I was at a nude beach recently and there was a woman who had obviously had a mastectomy. One of her breasts was missing a nipple and both breasts obviously had implants. It took me aback initially, but it was also very reassuring in a way that humans are somehow perfect in their imperfections. She was comfortable, probably having come to terms with it long ago. How unfortunate that we hide our imperfections from each other all the time, no wonder so many people are depressed, trying to live up to some stupid ideals of everlasting happiness and “beauty”.
Like with overly skinny models and Photoshopped, airbrushed celebrities, do you think porn puts forth the wrong image of what vaginas should look like and make women self-conscious about their own nudity? What negative side-effects have you seen related to this issue?
Well, I think this is an interesting issue and there are many sides. “Porn,” comes in so many different variations, and anyone that’s had a bit of a look around will have seen many different looking vaginas. Yes, in mainstream porn most women are shaved, for example, but home made porn seems to be becoming more popular where ordinary people are just the way they are. Again the problem with porn has been that it’s been market driven, rather than community driven. Look at music these days. The big marketing machines are being circumvented by everyone being able to make and upload their own music. It means people are making what they love, rather then just what the big bosses say sells records. I think ultimately the same will happen with porn, people will just make their own and the big end of town will loose it’s grip.
But coming back to your question, yes, certainly anything which presents an unreal image to the world will lead people to believing that they themselves are not normal. In Australia we have the terrible situation that soft core porn mags have to airbrush vaginas into a thin slit. No labia are allowed to show. It’s ludicrous. Women end up believing that they themselves are not normal and seek out plastic surgery. It’s so, so sad that a teenage girl might think her vagina does not look the way it’s “supposed” to look.
Besides an inaccurate representation of “normal,” what other reasons have you seen for women being ashamed of their bodies and their vaginas?
Yes, besides all the women’s magazines, porn, etc? Well, there is also peer pressure isn’t there. So many of the older school feminists blame men for everything, but so often the pressure to conform comes from other girls in school or other women in social circles. Most people want to fit in and be accepted and conform. But this is also where things can change. Often it only takes one person to break out from a group and say, “I’m happy with how I am and I don’t think we need to all look the same” for the whole dynamic to change. And this requires courage.
How does portraying vaginas help pave the way for discussion of “taboo” topics like rape and genital mutilation?
Well, I think to a degree there is an indirect knock on effect. If someone feels more comfortable with their bodies as a result of surrounding themselves with positive messages then they will feel more empowered to talk about things. It may be easy to talk about rape or genital mutilation from an academic perspective, but it takes a lot of courage to talk about your own experience of having been violated.
So, for example, say someone has suffered some sort of abuse, or they have some difficulty with their sexuality but they have never spoken about it. Then at some point they come across a “vagina positive” book and they realize that they perhaps don’t need to be so ashamed. They may, perhaps, open up to someone about their experience and that could trigger a huge healing cycle for them. Or someone has an irregularity that they ought to get checked out at the doctor but they feel embarrassed, etc. Shame prevents us from talking about things. Seeing material which unashamedly addresses that issue will help ease people’s shame.
Remember also that with 101 Vagina, in particular, there is also a message that accompanies every photo. These messages are so diverse, and really it is these stories that give the book it’s depth.
Who are the models for the Vagina 101 project? Was it a big step for some of them to be photographed nude and what were their reactions to their pictures?
It started with friends. However, after a few months I had only taken a few photos and I realized I needed to ramp things up. That’s when I built the website and Facebook page. I invited every woman I knew in Melbourne, and then things spread from there. Before long the word got out and complete strangers came in to participate. I think the project has really struck a chord with a lot of people.
We understand you are self-publishing the book as of now and raising funds for its first print run. After the book is printed, what kind of reception do you foresee?
Oh, if only I had a crystal ball. So far people have been incredibly positive and supportive and I hope that will continue. Obviously I’d love the book to go as far as it can to have as large an impact as possible. I’d love to get on talk shows, radio shows, etc. Oprah? Ellen? I don’t even know who’s doing what really, I don’t have a TV myself, but yes, I’d love it to go big. And the bigger the better since $5 from every book will go towards women’s charities. But I understand the reality that ultimately no one cares about your project as much as you do. Never mind, if I only sell 100 copies so be it. In a way the project has already been successful because it has already touched a lot of people’s lives.
Where can our readers go to learn more and how can they support the project?
In addition to the 101 Vagina project, you’re also selling a vagina calendar to raise funds for the One Billion Rising event protesting violence against women. Tell us more about it. How did you get involved, and how does this event’s message relate to Vagina 101’s goal of erasing the taboo surrounding women’s bodies?
Yes, it’s an interesting union and one that some people may find a bit jarring, but I really believe that we need to take an unflinching look at the causes of sexual abuse rather than simply lament and be outraged at it’s occurrence. I strongly believe that sexual repression and sexual aggression/abuse are connected. I just don’t think that anyone who is truly comfortable in their sexuality would ever impose themselves on another person. Rape and abuse are NOT expressions of sexual freedom, but of sexual repression. And sexual repression is closely related to body image shame and taboos.
One Billion Rising is a V-Day event, and V-day was founded by Eve Ensler who wrote The Vagina Monologues, so it’s already a natural fit. I got involved because I already knew about V-day and One Billion Rising, and when some friends of mine started planing to organize an event in Melbourne I jumped on board. Regarding the calendar, well I figured that the media often like controversial calendars that are raising money for good causes, so this might be a way to raise the funds needed to stage the event in the most visible place in Melbourne. It’s not cheap, we’ve got to come up with $20,000 and are also looking for corporate sponsors. We can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
A friend of mine, Eva, was complimenting some of my photos in a series of clay covered nudes and since I mostly shoot friends, I remarked that it could be her in those photos. She chuckled, declined and said she had a lot of body image issues. Stunning as she is I was not surprised since this is unfortunately all too common.
To combat one particular body image issue and taboo I have also been working on a coffee table photo book called 101 Vagina, a collection of 101 photos with a message from each of the women. When this arose in conversation I again asked if she might be interested in participating. Again she declined.
But her compliments kept coming and I suggested she might appreciate seeing herself through fresh eyes. In the end it was her boyfriend who emboldened her, saying it might help her get over some of her negative body image. So she got in touch to participate, in both projects no less.
Most people are a little awkward in front of a camera at first, but Eva was almost inconsolable. She was visibly struggling, so I went to give her a hug. I was stunned. Her whole body was shaking, from the inside, as if some massive tectonic plates were shifting in her character, dislodging old and strong patterns of shame. I had never witnessed anyone confront such massive fear, and have the courage to go ahead in spite of it. Massive kudos to her!
As it turned out it didn’t take long for her to relax into the shoot and we got some great images. She could hardly believe that the images were of her, seeing herself through my eyes allowed her to see the beauty in my beholder’s eye, rather than the critic in hers.
The next day Eva wrote to me that she looked at herself in the mirror naked for the first time ever!
More recently she shared this about how it affected her relationship. “It certainly has changed our relationship, firstly I was so amazed and felt so loved when he [boyfriend] told me to go ahead with something that I thought most guys would discourage. When I sent him the pics I was really nervous, and I was so happy to hear that he loved them. I’m much less shy around him now, and find it slightly easier to talk to him about my body.”
My journey with nude photography began many years before I ever took a nude photograph; in my mind. I dreamed of doing it ever since I became sexually aware but there was a huge barrier in the way. That barrier was shame.
My mother was a fairly strong feminist and the message I inadvertently internalised was that male sexual desire is the root cause of all evil in the world, that nudes are degrading and people who take them akin to murderers. And yet I loved the images.
Perhaps fittingly it was a woman who finally invited me into the world of nude photography, and that first experience, and all that followed, have worked to reverse my inhibitions. It was a healing process for me, an affirmation that my appreciation of the female form is not only tolerated, but appreciated. Further to that, it was often a healing experience for the women also.
Any shame we hold around our bodies and sexuality will always impact on the way we share ourselves with others. Shame is a powerful hindrance to happiness and it does not dislodge easily. If it’s easy to talk about it’s not shame you’re dealing with. Shame is the last thing we want to talk about, ever. But it’s the first step to really being honest and connecting with ourselves and others.
101 Vagina crowdfunding campaign to tackle body image taboo.
Philip Werner, photographer and organiser of Melbourne’s recent Peace March, has launched a Pozible crowd-funding campaign (http://pozible.com/101vagina) to support the publication of a taboo smashing coffee table photo book.
Alarmed by the huge increase in labiaplasty which he sees as a manifestation of the taboo around women’s sexuality, Philip has produced the coffee-table photo book, simply called 101 Vagina, which presents 101 black and white photos of vaginas in all their various forms, each with a story by the woman concerned. The stories are candid and span the emotional gamut from raw to funny, from joyful to sad.
The book aims to help break down body image taboos, raise money for women’s charities and celebrate women’s bodies in all their diversity.
Philip was initially inspired by Eve Ensler’s book The Vagina Monologues and wanted to contribute to the causes she highlighted, for example the V-Day foundation and OneBillionRising campaign which are working to end violence against women and girls. He has contacted V-Day to request permission to host a V-Day or V-Men event.
He decided to utilise his photographic skills to help break body image taboos. Thus 101 Vagina was born.
Over a period of two years he took photos of 101 volunteer subjects and collected their stories. The project has already sparked debate and the next step is to get it published.
“As a society we have such an unhealthy relationship with our bodies. Our sexuality is repressed and so many people carry deep shame about their body.
“I believe that sexual repression contributes to acts of sexual abuse and harassment. It also makes us easily manipulated into buying things we don’t need, the alarming increase in labiaplasty being the most glaring example.
“By tackling these taboos, the project allows a more open dialogue and helps us feel better about ourselves. Let’s not forget that sex should be about pleasure and joy.”
Five dollars from the sale of every book will also go to various women’s charities.
“Because I was first inspired by Eve Ensler’s Vagina Monologues so I wanted to give back to the causes she has highlighted.”
This Pozible crowd-funding campaign runs for about three months and needs to raise $20,000 for the first large print run to keep the cost per book down. People can pledge any amount from $1 upwards, and those pledging $50 (plus postage) or more will receive a copy of the book once it’s printed. Effectively it becomes a pre-order or the book, rather than a donation.
“The great thing with this Pozible campaign is that everybody wins. The project wins because it will enable the book to be printed, the supporters win because they will get the book as a reward, and various charities will win from the funds raised. Besides, once it hit’s retail stores it will more likely sell for around $70, so Pozible supporters will be getting a bargain”.
The Pozible campaign page includes a video where Philip and several participants talk about the project.
Visit the websites to see what it is all about and make your pledge to support the project!
For the Pozible campaign please visit:
And the main page is at:
Philip is available for interview or questions through:
Download pdf files of the above poster below:
Please feel free to download, print, post and distribute this poster :)
(Would love to know where you put it, so if you can be bothered, email me a photo or just tell me where.)
So I’ve suddenly been thrust into the media limelight for having organised the Peace March for Jill Meagher. The response was beyond all expectations and I have since been receiving supportive and kind words from many friends and random strangers, people who all believe in the message of peace, hope and non-violence.
I figure I might as well use this space to tell my story, perhaps it’s all related.
Here is the Music Player. You need to installl flash player to show this cool thing!
To be perfectly honest, when the images first started going round on Facebook about Jill Maegher’s disappearance I took little notice. I guess it was care fatigue mixed with a question of why random strangers suddenly care about her disappearance rather than the many other victims of crime.
However, early on Friday morning when I saw the news that her body had been found the physical violence of what was done to her really struck me and I felt deeply, deeply sad.
But first some background:
Violence against women is an issue that has concerned me for some time. I built the website for http://sisters-for-sisters.com as a donation to this loose collective who organise events to raise money for women’s charities. A close friend runs http://theart2healingproject.org, a charity that works to heal the wounds of sex trafficking, and helped organise her fundraiser http://www.celebratingwoman.com.au. I have signed up to http://whiteribbon.org.au and http://onebillionrising.org, two campaigns specifically to end violence against women and girls and am hoping to run a V-day event in February. [Jan 2014 Update: I ended up being one of the organisers for One Billion Rising in Melbourne in 2013, and support team in 2014.]
Please check them all out, I believe one of the most important messages to come out of all this is the difference one person and one simple action can make. There is so much we can do.
On a more personal level, I have a friend who was recently hospitalised by her boyfriend’s violent outburst, and beyond that have heard so many stories from women of their abuse, rape, harassment, etc. One very dear friend was subjected to truly horrific abuse for years as a child by a cult, abuse that goes far, far beyond what most people think humans are capable of, think Girl with the Dragon Tattoo but with children as victims, not adults. The hell realms really do manifest in the human realm, as do the celestial realms.
Of course it must be said that violence does not only affect women. Violence is violence, regardless of gender. That is very important to remember. Though as a whole, I personally believe that violence against physically weaker parties is worse than between equals.
Then there is the issue of sexual repression, genital mutilation of girls and boys (circumcision), body image shame and the taboo and shame around our bodies in general and sex organs in particular. A few years ago I read Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues and was incredibly inspired by the awareness that she was raising around these issues and the foundation, V-Day, she created to combat them. Then there was Greg Taylor’s exhibition of hand crafted sculptures of vaginas simply called Cunts. These two projects in particular prompted me to create 101 Vagina, a coffee table photo book project to smash the taboo around our bodies in general and vaginas in particular. This has been ongoing for two years and I have just launched a Pozible crowdfunding campaign to raise the funds required for a first large print run that I’m self publishing because publishers are afraid of vaginas. I have also planned the 101 Penis book, because I believe that penises are surrounded by just as much shame as vaginas, but I want to finish this project first. Another friend of mine runs http://sexcamp.com.au and her partner runs sexual awareness workshops through http://tantraislove.com. All these projects are part of the growing “sex positive” movement.
To even mention the words sex or vagina in these circumstances seems horribly jarring, but I believe we need to look at the underlying issues of why rape occurs in the first place, rather than simply lament it’s occurrence. Our culture carries such deep shame around sexuality that we cannot heal without looking it squarely in the face, even in the most difficult of circumstances.
My mother was quite a strong feminist, as a result of which I perhaps have a better understanding of women’s issues than most men. It also inadvertently resulted in me growing up with the unconscious belief that men, especially male sexual desire, are the root cause of all evil in the world. Most of that belief has healed by now, and my photography was part of that process, but that’s another story. My parents were both members of their local peace initiative back in the 80’s and we would go on peace marches every now and then. This was during the cold war. I have also spent a lot of time meditating (Vipassana mediation), which certainly helps cultivate peace, compassion, non-violence, etc. There are fantastic documentaries about the effect of Vipassana in prisons (Doing Time Doing Vipassana, Dhamma Brothers and Changing from Inside), great examples that reform is possible through deep self reflection, more so than through punishment, very poignant in this case. I believe that violence will not and cannot resolve the issues resulting from violence.
I guess all that background contributed to my decision to take action.
I decided that a peace march was in order in to show a quiet, peaceful defiance against fear, hate and violence etc. To show that, as a society, we believe more in peace, love, forgiveness, hope and solidarity than their opposites. So, I made this poster straight away and sent it around to a few news organisations. I chose to call it a “peace march” very consciously. I figured something would need to be done quickly to catch the spirit of the day and make a strong case for peace and love to counter any messages of hate. That evening (Friday) I also went to the candle light vigil and handed the flier to a few news crews and stuck the poster up on a few power poles.
I was nervous about whether I was doing the right thing though, because I had gone to the police earlier and of course they spoke of all the (valid) concerns they had, including consulting with the family (which I hadn’t done) and whether it was appropriate for another poster with her photo to go up in the neighborhood. Was I doing the right thing? I was suddenly not so sure. But I had already sent it out and the media knew about it as did some Facebook friends, so I had not real choice but to ride it out and see what happens.
The next day (Saturday) it seemed the mass media had run with the story of the march. It was on. I don’t have a TV, believing that it rots your brain, especially commercial TV, so I had no clear indication of what kind of coverage the march had received and the Facebook page only had 200 likes. But someone I met at a wedding that evening said her sister was going. So I had some idea that the word was getting out, but still I thought it might just be a hundred people or so at best.
Sunday morning it was apparently on various news reports.
So, my housemate Ben and I made a couple of signs, printed out 10 spares in case people liked them and headed off. On the way we saw people heading the same way we were and I had a sense that they were not the usual Sunday morning Brunswick crowd. My sign read “Choosing peace, hope, non-violence and solidarity with all women”, his read “I won’t close with fear. I’ll open up with love.” Ben being Ben, he selflessly gave all his signs away to people in the crowd and didn’t even keep one for himself. (His beautiful message ended up being carried by a woman at the front of the march all the way along. She had her own story of violence in Tunisia, violence is obviously an international issue.)
We arrived and I met the police to check in with them at around 11:45am, already 2-300 people were there. They had closed off one lane of Moreland road for people to gather in preparation for the march. The officer in charge said it would be great if we could march down the sidewalk to minimise traffic and tram disruption and the danger of people being struck by cars. I said I thought it would be great if we could walk on the road. I love the way that marches and festivals can close down, or rather open up, a public road, give it back to people on foot.
Within minutes it was clear the footpath idea was quaint. People kept streaming in, waves of people arriving with the rhythm of the trains from the nearby station and trams that were still running. The police, as overwhelmed as everyone else by the response, did a fantastic job of keeping everyone safe, marshaling the traffic etc etc. Very supportive bunch of men and women. (The officer at the front of the march got a huge round of applause as we reached the end, everybody showing their appreciation of a job well done under overwhelming circumstances.)
They asked me to address the crowd before we marched off so I spoke of my belief in peace, love, hope, non-violence, and off we went.
The rest is history.
In hindsight the whole experience feels very ephemeral and yet powerful at the same time. All these souls, beings of light, came together, marched in a silent, peaceful show of the strength of hope, non-violence and love, and then vanished again, taking with them a brighter flame than with what they came. Like a wide, wide river that chose for a moment to channel itself through a ravine, running slow and very, very deep, before spreading out again over the land, refreshed and charged.
30,000 angels descended on Brunswick to show us all that love overcomes hate and that hope overcomes fear.
I believe that Jill was one of those angels.
The following quote expresses my sentiment for the peace march perfectly:
“Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that. … The chain reaction of evil—hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars—must be broken, or we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation.”
― Martin Luther King Jr.
Though my time here has not been an easy ride I feel a little sad to be leaving.
A couple of people already have looked sad when I told them I’m going and asked me why and whether I was coming back.
One thing that only just occurred to me today, as a result of being able to see people’s feelings openly, is the lack of artifice here. When people live in a pressure cooker community like this where everyone knows everyone and where tensions can often run high due to overcrowded accommodation etc etc etc. besides the fact that it’s hundreds of kms from anywhere, there is perhaps little use or room for pretense.
We have become so used to walking around with the masks that our individual space and privacy allow us to construct, they may simply not have that kind of personal/individual space. And perhaps it’s just a cultural thing also. Who knows. Either way I find it very endearing. 150 people dealing with a nation-load of denial, abuse, neglect, prejudice, trauma, etc. just being themselves. In a way I guess there is little else they have other than themselves.
But they have their land, and that connection is something that I did not even begin to really see let alone understand. I’m told it is so, but I guess it’s like the air, you can’t see it, but you breathe it all the time. And perhaps it is not about understanding it anyway, but feeling it. I myself can feel the profound silence and I feel the joy in simply walking on this earth and beholding her. And I have my own experience of feeling a physical connection to the land one time when I returned to Germany one time while living in Sweden, and I have experienced sufficient altered states of consciousness to understand that there are layer and layer there. With time, perhaps, some of the feeling of their connection may permeate those who live among them, but for me, for now, I have but a smidgen of an idea.
And what of their culture? There is no easy way around it, it is dying. In it’s old form, it is dying. There are elders here still who were teenagers and even in their 20’s and 30’s when they first came in contact with western culture. People who lived on this land, ate and drank of her the way she is. What an incredible way of life to lose. Really, in scale no different to any of us suddenly finding ourselves on an alien planet in an alien society with alien laws and rules, none of which make sense to us.
But I also believe that culture was never supposed to be static, and to the degree that the dreaming comes from the land, rather than from the people, it will always be as alive as the land itself.
What of me? I have had a little glimpse of this big elephant in the room of the Australian spyche and a little bit of contact with the worlds oldest living culture.
I will weave it into my traveler’s cloak woven of experience and carry on my way.
After the first week of big things happening one day after the next, the second week has been more about slowing down and taking stock.
A few things had been getting me down.
Even though the role I’m effectively standing in for is fairly clearly defined, my role as a stand in for that person is not. That has left me scratching around for work to do at times which is not a nice feeling. To not have work when you’re supposed to be working feels worse that not having a job at all.
And my mind was naturally inclining towards all the problems here in the community and trying to come to grips with them. The place looks like a dump, hygiene is really poor, as is diet and there appears to be a general apathy which hangs like an oppressive cloud over the entire place. Essentially it’s the apathy which I feel to be the problem and I’m baffled that more hasn’t been done to address it.
In my role as relief Community Development Employment Project officer, I may actually be able to do something to get the place cleaned up a bit, by allocating clean up tasks to be jobs. However I am warned that there is considerable resistance to boring clean up jobs, understandably. Since it’s really a cultural issue anyway, that is the area that I am most interested in affecting anyway, rather than applying a band-aid to a continuing problem. I’d like to figure out if or how the community people themselves want to change things and then help them achieve that.
I’ll see what scope I have to do some comprehensive community consultation and see where that leads. I think I’d really appreciate that process actually.
Those issues had be a bit down for a while.
On the up side, I went out to the local salt lakes about 15kms north on the weekend and was touched by the simple beauty of relatively untouched land and the profound silence out there. Only some birds and some wind make sounds out there and they add to the silence rather than detracting from it somehow.
My mind stretched to imagine what it would be like growing up your entire life never hearing any other sounds than that of the country, animals and a few people. And never seeing or touching anything that wasn’t entirely natural and of the earth.
That’s what we’ve lost.
I guess I had “thought” about it on many occasions in the past, but to be sitting there actually looking at and feeling the reality of the landscape and the knowledge that I was living in a community of people who actually used to do just that changed something. It’s not just theory anymore. It’s something that I think is incomprehensible while sitting in a technological hub like Melbourne.
Somehow, being out there on the land and appreciating it’s beauty and thinking those thoughts made the problems in the community feel far less important. Perhaps it’s a bit like heroin addicts letting everything else turn to shit, so long as they can have their hit. Perhaps the country is so important to the people that the crappy community is just a slight inconvenience endured for the sake of being in the land.
But I don’t buy that completely. How can only the land outside the community be valued? If you love the land, how can you at the same time trash it like they do?
Nevertheless, the profound beauty of the country gave me perspective and also inspiration and I guess a cause to fight for or reason to fight.
The other awesome project going on here is the art project. Every day several old folk sit around for hours and hours and work on their paintings dot by dot by dot by dot. Brad pointed out how similar the earth actually looked to some of their art. No wonder. It’s just just hanging around where they are painting. It’s very peaceful. And the paintings are stunning.
So, here are a few images, mainly of the land.