Welcome to another post of the We Are The World Blogfest where I’m just sneaking in before the clock ticks over to July. Please show your support to other #WATWB bloggers.
Australians are entering NAIDOC Week 2021. With the COVID Delta on the move, many Indigenous have opted out of in person and public events. But the memories and still there and the culture and stories are to be told. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are highly vulnerable to exotic viruses and particularly to the Corona virus.
But, there is this news from our state of South Australia:
‘Until recently Ngarrindjeri elder Stephanie Gollan had reservations about getting the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine.
But her feelings about the shot changed when she joined a program in Adelaide that supports Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders through the process.
Welcome to We Are The World Blogfest yet again. Unlike trains, I’m not on time. Did I miss Platform nine and three quarters? Hardly.
But, I’ve grown up in a family that had generations of us on and off the rails, so to speak! Both the paternal and maternal line of our clan (or crew) are loaded with railway people. Not least of these was our late Dad who served the New South Wales rail system for 43years.
So, I’m delighted to share with you the story of Heather. Meanwhile, mind the gap!
Heather in the Cabin. Source: BBC News accessed 31 May 2021.
Heather is a Scottish train driver. As the BBC News tells us:
‘As Scotland’s only woman freight train driver, Heather Waugh was already a pioneer. Then a tragedy from her past inspired her to take on a new mission – getting men to talk about their mental health.
When it was time to set off, Heather briskly pulled a handle towards her: “Star Trek-style”, she said, deadpan, as though she were Mr Sulu putting the USS Enterprise into warp speed. But this wasn’t a spaceship; it was a British Rail-vintage Class 90 locomotive. Its motors growled, then the train shuddered forward.
Behind her, container wagons stretched down the line for three-quarters of a mile. It wasn’t Heather’s job to know what sort of cargo she was carrying, just how much it all weighed – tonight, a little under 1,500 tonnes – and whether it included anything hazardous. Her task was to drive the lot of it south through the valleys of lowland Scotland and beyond.’
After a time, there was a tragic incident, and Heather found herself in a doctor’s surgery and with a month’s leave. Later she switched from passenger to freight trains and a strange, yet fascinating thing happened.
‘Historically, freight had been widely regarded – inaccurately, Heather quickly discovered – as dirty, heavy, physically draining work, and the workplace was exclusively male as a result. “In this day and age, you don’t expect to be the only woman,” she says. “Even with my background, it was intimidating.”
To her surprise, her new colleagues were overjoyed to have her on the team. They’d look forward to her being on shift – not because they wanted to chat her up, but because they could open up to her about their problems in a way they wouldn’t with other men, Heather found. “I’ve had conversations with colleagues where I know I’m the first person they’ve had that conversation with,” Heather says.’
Heather went and trained in new skills ‘”…teaching staff to recognise what is out of the ordinary,” she says. “As human beings it’s our job to go and take five minutes to speak to somebody and say, ‘Are you OK?'” she says.’
Heather helped men talk about their problems to, literally, lighten one of the loads they were carrying.
It’s about “rewilding” in Scotland. I know, some of us still think Scotland is a little wild – in a good way! But this is about the natural ecological balance in this beautiful country.
Euronews tells us that:
‘Rewilding has become an increasingly popular movement in Scotland over the last few years. Politicians are being called on by the Scottish Rewilding Alliance (SWA) to create policies that would see the country become the world’s first “rewilding nation”.’
We find it’s not just the government though.
‘The Scottish public is behind the idea too. Last year the SWA commissioned a poll across Scotland which found widespread support for the principle of rewilding. More than three-quarters of people who expressed an opinion backed the concept, ten times as many as those who objected to it.‘
Let’s hope that they have some success. There are also some videos available on Youtube by searching “rewilding Scotland“, such as this one.
You can check out other posts from our #WATWB too!
To join this post you’ll need to hop on the bus! The Sleep Bus to be more exact. Not far from where I live, a city of Queanbeyan, NSW (Australia) has acquired a Sleep Bus.
Like many parts of the world we have issues here with homelessness. People who cannot find or fit in a home to live. The Sleep Bus movement provides a shower and short-term bunk accommodation for homeless people. A great idea.
You can check out a report from our Channel 9 Network that they posted to their Facebook Page.
You can hear more about Sleep Bus from their website, as their founder, Simon Rowe (what a first name!) talks you through with short video updates.
What a rolling, practical way to give some help to those needing somewhere to sleep.
“Bashar Hanna fled Iraq after the war and later set up a choir for others who have left their homelands. Amid the lasting mental health impacts of the coronavirus pandemic, he says he’s doing what he can to help.”
A choir member, Rula, is humming what turns out to be a tune “called Mother Earth, the lyrics describe living in peace, without war.”
The theme resonates with teacher, Bashar, and his student, Rula. Having both fled Bagdad as refugees it is consoling for them. This is because the COVID lockdowns led to these refugees reliving some of the traumas of the Gulf War.
So… Bashar “founded several art-based therapy groups including The Choir of Love, which partners with STARTTS, the NSW Service for the Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture and Trauma Survivors.”
“Music, from my point of view, is a very powerful tool; it’s a language.” BASHAR HANNA
You can read more of the SBS news report about Bashar, Rula and others here.
The We Are The World Blogfest started around this time a few years ago and has continued on most months of each year. Please check out posts by our co-hosts and others. You can also follow #WATWB on all the main social media.
I don’t need to post a poem this time around as music is a poetic medium. We are so glad it is too!
These words were not easy to write. None of us like to be the “kill joy” to others bliss. But as with Mother’s and Father’s Days, Christmas, New Year and so on, Valentine’s Day can be a day of pain for some whom we know. As with those other days, on Valentine’s Day, I’m reminded of the tristesse of those who are widowed, divorced, abused, single and feel isolated and alone. That brings me to the second reason why these words were hard to write. To write them means to see the faces and feel something of the pain of those whom I know and some whom, in my own way, I do actually love. So for them… for those you know…. and for others too… Who speaks?
It’s almost hard to believe that we are in 2021. As Aussies down South (where I am) are coming through a heatwave, those in the North of our world are playing in the snow. We are all trying to do the best we can to both contain COVID and to keep connected.
The We Are The World Blogfest #WATWB is all about connecting us with good news. For the first month of 2021 our co-hosts are:
Living through the fires of Summer 2019-20 and across COVID into 2021 is itself good news. But this week we celebrated Australians of the Year. ‘Australia Day’ itself is being debated. Which is also good news for free speech as people search for the reasons of who we are and what we stand for.
In the midst of that I present recipients of Australians of the Year under four categories. These are people who shine a light for the way of humanity.
Senior Australian of the Year:
“Dr Miriam-Rose Ungunmerr Baumann, an Aboriginal elder from the Nauiyu community in the Katherine region of the Northern Territory, is an artist, activist, writer and public speaker. “
Young Australian of The Year:
“At the age of 18, Isobel Marshall, from Adelaide, and her school friend Eloise Hall set up a social enterprise to end the stigma around menstruation and improve access to female hygiene products.”
Australian Local hero:
“Kenyan-born Rosemary Kariuki, from Oran Park southwest of Sydney, fled family abuse and violence in her home country in 1999. She became a multicultural community liaison officer with Parramatta Police in 2005, helping migrants fleeing domestic violence.”
Australian of the Year:
“Grace Tame was 15 years old when she was first groomed and raped by her 58-year-old maths teacher, who was later found guilty and jailed for his crimes. But while her abuser was able to speak publicly about the case, Ms Tame was gagged by an archaic law in Tasmania that prevents victims of sexual abuse from identifying themselves. With the help of the #LetHerSpeak campaign, Ms Tame applied to the Supreme Court for the right to publicly self-identify – and won.”
Prose addendum: Here’s a fun fact for reader’s. My maternal Grandfather, Patrick Anthony Thomas “Pat” O’Reilly, was known to write verses for his mates at bowls and in the then local newpaper. He died on 1 December in the early 1950s. On 1 December 2020 I woke to the beginnings of this poem rattling around inside me!