John Doherty RIP

Portrait of Tony by John Doherty

Tonight my social media feed is carrying sad news of the death of John Doherty, artist, storyteller, smoker, Catholic and so much more.

I came to know John in my role as a community worker supporting people with disability and mental health issues to live with independence. John and I were the same age and shared a similar love of cinema, culture and religion.

We documented each other in the remarkable exchange of camera and paintbrush. On my bedroom wall I gaze with gratitude at a portrait John painted of me a few years ago. It captures my passion for Aboriginal politics with the colours that I wear around the brim of my hat.

Tonight as a tribute to John I publish for the first time an insight into my collection of portraits taken of John over the last ten or more years. This collection includes rare images of John in his home/studio where he playfully poses with the ciggie always close at hand.

Farewell John, I will miss our conversations about Audrey, Cary and those idols of the silver screen. I was always remember our last conversation in the hospital where you asked me for communion and a coffee.

Rest in peace from the struggles and the worry. May the Malboro Man and St Peter welcome you home and may the angels sing you gently as you join those heroes you brought to life on canvas.

NAIDOC Week 2019 Reflection

NAIDOC 2019

Another NAIDIC Week across the country has provided opportunities for sharing culture, community and the political reality of First Nations peoples in Australia.

I spent much of the week taking advantage of the many local events to immerse myself in relationships and awareness of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

Three moments stand out for me as highlights of the week:

On Monday of NAIDOC Week I attended the Brisbane Launch in City Hall. Later in the afternoon I dropped into a local city bar which is a favourite hangout. I was wearing my trademark hat with the Aboriginal colours around the brim. As I walked into the bar a women called out to me and admired the hat. She introduced herself as Jackie from the Torres Strait Islands and we chatted about some of the events scheduled for the week. Jackie insisted on a selfie with me in my hat and asking my name said she would tag me as “Uncle Tony Robertson” in her post. To be tagged and named as “Uncle” in such a way is an honour and a responsibility particularly as a white fella. This is the tag that some of the young Murris have also given me from our conversations and encounters on city streets.

The second moment happened on Friday of NAIDOC Week. I boarded a bus from my usual stop for the city and three young Murri boys sat a couple of seats in front of me. Again I was wearing my trademark hat with the Aboriginal colours which they noticed. After a few minutes one of the boys turned to me and asked where I got the hat. This was the beginning of a conversation that took us into the city over the next 25 minutes. We sat across two seats, a 66 year old white man and a young 18 year old holding the plastic bottle from which he inhaled as we spoke. It was a remarkable conversation about the reality of addiction, the alienation from culture and the families and people we knew in common. My phone camera with its collection of images of Aboriginal Elders is a great asset in these moments. The young man told me his name and proudly spoke of his tribal group for which he had a hand signal. He trusted me with. his personal details and I promised to look out for him if I was around the spaces he hangs out. We got off at the same stop but walked in different directions.

My third NAIDOC moment was on Friday evening at the launch of an art exhibition at the Francis Rush Cente for the Cathedral of St Stephen Art Group. I was honoured to do the Acknowledgement of Country. The place in which the exhibition was held also included works by well known Aboriginal artists. Judy Watson‘s Empire Stakes feature as part of Brisbane’s Heritage Trail and are installed just outside the Francis Rush Centre in the Cathedral Precinct.

The other Aboriginal artist whose work is currently displayed in the Francis Rush Centre but not mentioned in the online resource is Fiona Foley. A panel of the Cathedral art collection is a brief clue to the series that are mounted in what is now a foyer space:

The story of these beautiful works and their mistreatment is recorded strangely enough in the documentation published by those who agitated for the works removal from their original installation inside the Cathedral of St Stephen. Since their removal the works have suffered from neglect and abuse in unprofessional storage.

Telling the story of Fiona Foley’s was an important part of acknowledging that the voice and truth themes of NAIDOC 2019 will take all of us into uncomfortable places on the journey to reconciliation.

My images and captures of my support for events during NAIDOC 2019 are available here.

Week of Solidarity for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

How Open Are My Eyes?

Image of eyes with text: We Don't see thongs as they are, we see things as we are

Week of Solidarity for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

From 21 to 27 March is a week of solidarity for the elimination of Racial Discrimination

In Australia this usually begins with Harmony Day (which was yesterday)

This is the week when we consciously look at our own actions in regards to racial discrimination, our own attitudes, and then that of our country, our world…
• Are we discriminating against others on the basis of race and if so what can we do about it?
• How can we be compassionate to the victims of this discrimination, to those enabling this discrimination?
• How can we raise the powers of love upwards to the next stage of consciousness – consciousness that will lead to action?
Perhaps if, for one week, I lived in the shoes of someone suffering daily racial discrimination, my eyes would be opened
Read the whole reflection here

Singing My Way Through Catholicism

Two weeks ago I celebrated my 66th birthday and give thanks for those who sent good wishes. Today I mark another milestone with the 66th anniversary of my Baptism.

Yes, with names like Anthony Gerard it is pretty obvious that I was baptized Catholic an acknowledgement I make with some trepidation in the current climate.

However, there is a spectrum of Catholicism. At one end you will find George Pell and at the other, Andy Warhol You will find Mary Queen of Scots, but you will also discover St. Mary MacKillopTony Abbott and Barnaby Joyce carry membership cards as did Mum Shirl. and Fr Ted Kennedy of Redfern. Scoundrels, saints and sinners , have filled the pews,written our history and taken us on the highs and lows of human experience.

I grew up in a era of Catholicism that nurtured a love of music and singing. The popular Hymn, “How Can I keep From Singing” is rarely sung in Catholic Churches but it captures a sentiment that some of us will identify with as we scroll our social media and watch the reports of clergy abuse dominate our screens.:

Thro’ all the tumult and the strife
I hear the music ringing;
It finds an echo in my soul—
How can I keep from singing?

Each year I publish a list of hymns and music that I have sung in Catholic communities from childhood to my adult years. The list now runs to 66 pieces to commemorate this anniversary. If you are Catholic you might enjoy a trip down memory lane. If you have never sung with Catholics, you will probably be amazed at the clips you can find on youtube!!!

I hope the sharing of this post nurtures hope for all of us who live in these days of “tumult and strife”

Singing My Way Through Catholicism

Web of the Cross

jesus1

This online meditation was launched in 2000, the Year of Great Jubilee. I have published it  each year since  with updates to the links and reflections  as some material goes offline and new resources become available.

The Stations in this collection  are those used in theMelbourne Way of the Cross, an ecumenical devotion which began on Good Friday  2000 and  has continued each year as pilgrims process to Churches around the city.

The image, Jesus of the People by Janet McKenzie is kindly allowed for use by the artist. Janet’s Stations of the Cross set has been published in a work featuring writings by Joan Chittister

The Web of the Cross

January Retrospective

A New Year

2018 is one of those significant years in my life. I celebrate my 65th birthday which still marks a watershed moment for many as the era of  “retirement”, grandchildren and far less clubbing. I am considering a change in my workload and a simpler lifestyle. The “grandchildren” are borrowed from friends and clubbing has been  added to the agenda thanks to sharing a house as well as lots of time and friendship with a much younger housemate.

This year is the 70th anniversary of the Declaration of Human Rights with an opportunity for everyone to contribute to a global campaign of awareness and solidarity.

The Calendar Storyboard

Despite the digital frontier I hold on to some  classic practices including  physical calendars. As a child I  learnt o check the days from the calendar my parents had in the living room. We grew up in a traditional Catholic Family where the Columban Calendar was the norm. As well as providing useful information on holidays and  saint days it served as a mini gallery of the European masters in our humble house.

In recent years I have attempted to be a little more frugal by recycling calendars where the year was a repeat. The 2007 calendar is a match for 2018 but I only had one in my set from the Holy Spirit Missionary Sisters   Having space for 7 calendars can be a challenge but if you spread them between bedroom, kitchen, bathroom, study  and hallway you can create a pretty  colourful set of wall hangings.

 

Cinema

During the month I managed to get along to two cinema events:

I am Not Your Negro A powerful documentary about race

Cherbourg Women  Trailer A moving public viewing with Cherbourg Elders at Bunyapa Park in West End

 

Photography

Public art is more than decor. It educates, challenges, inspires, and amazes us. One of my commitments for 2018 is to share the art works I see in my daily travel.  This piece is in the foyer of the Mater Mother’s Hospital South Brisbane.

Churches are  a great source of inspiration for photography. I celebrated Christmas  with the Byzantine Catholic Community on January 7th

Invasion Day is an annual pilgrimage of justice and solidarity with the First peoples of the land.

 

Politics

Some pretty  vigorous discussion happened on my Facebook wall when I posted the following comment:

This government is bereft of morality, undeserving of respect, and callous in its commitment to abandon integrity. Those who hold membership or support the Liberal and National parties should hang their heads in shame for their failure to stem a culture of cruelty, abuse of human rights and failure to work for the Common Good of Australia.
Malcolm Turnbull Liberal Party of Australia #tonyrobertson

PM spruiks jobs for local manufacturers but Tim Costello of World Vision has previously attacked policy as ‘exporting death and profiting from bloodshed’
THEGUARDIAN.COM
 You can follow the discussion here.

 

Social Media

Although I have cancelled my Linkedin account I still get requests so if you sent a request please note this account is inactive.

Feature addition of the month was a new item to my Manhood Mates and Masculinity page.

There are a couple of clips from Invasion Day on my Youtube Channel and plenty of news on my Twitter account.

 January Odd Spot

Thanks to  Catholicism there is never a shortage of “odd spots” to lift the eyebrows.  This month the Catholic Leader takes the cake with a new year item, What Brisbane Catholics are reading this summer. Now you might wonder why not “What Brisbane Catholics are eating this summer” or “What Brisbane Catholics are drinking this summer”. However, the books won and 6 lucky contestants got a guernsey.  To their credit they gave four possies to women and only two to blokes. All  were “professional” Catholics and no one from an Indigenous or Non English speaking background.

The item itself was interesting with a broad range of texts and the usual suspects from the enclosed religious whose library probably doesn’t run beyond spiritual reading.   The story didn’t make the Twitter feed of the CL but it did make the Facebook feed.  The FB feed only attracted 9 likes and three shares. What is interesting is that not one of those interactions thought to add their reading selection to the conversation.

So, my summer reading in fact, part of my daily reading for the year: Classic Catholic with good wine.

Celebrating Our Faith In Same Sex Commitment

On the day that the Australian Parliament passed legislation allowing for same sex marriage it is worth remembering and celebrating the diversity of queer friendships that punctuate our religious history and heritage.

D1015D04-814F-4258-8962-2C14224CCCF8To honour this day I publish two of my fave icons of Saints Perpetua and Felicity next to Saints Sergius and Bacchus. These ancient martyrs have been revered and honoured for their witness to same sex affection, commitment and devotion.

My thanks to FB friend Paul Halsall who in 1997 published a comprehensive Calendar of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Saints

We who are people of faith celebrating our diverse sexuality can look back to a rich history of mentors and witnesses to the grace of love among our LGBTIQ ancestors.

On this historic day let us unite in prayerful thanks for this legislation and invite our Church to begin a new journey of affirmation of our love and commitment.