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Category Archives: 306 ~ Culture & institutions

Let’s talk about racist jokes

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Chris Lilley’s latest offering has been aired on television and the result has been a backlash on social media with the hashtags #MyNameIsNOTJonah  #ChangeStartsHere and #ProudPoly. See the the following article for a background ~ Chris Lilley facing social media backlash over ‘racist’ Jonah From Tonga.

Firstly, I need to state, I support the challenge being made by people questioning the representation presented by Chris Lilley. Australia has a long history of comedy where people from a class of privilege are making fun of people from backgrounds of which they do not come from. Think of the Comedy Company, for instance, on air from 1988 to 1990 and the infamous character of Con the Fruiterer.

The polemics around this issue are important and further discussion around issues of representation, who creates representation and what meanings are imbued in these representations are pivotal to understanding how power and racism are intertwined and reinforced with stereotypes as represented by people who are not from these backgrounds.

Not being from the background is a crucial point in this discussion. You see, when I’m sitting around having a yarn with my cousins and joking about ‘our wog life’, this is very different to when a ‘whitefella’ uses the term ‘wog’ in his/her jokes. My cousins and I are proud of our backgrounds and our jokes are not imbued with a malice or derision of our ways. Instead there is an affectionate understanding of what it means to grow up in this country from a specific vantage point.

The invocation of stereotypes, by people who are not of that background, comes with a derision and malice. The tone of these representations is a put-down. Essentially, it is a position that looks down on the ‘other’, something to be ridiculed and laughed at. It comes from a position of superiority, by the class representing the ‘other’, and reinforces concepts of erasure of cultural identity whilst preferencing ideas of integration. Racist jokes end up being statements to the ‘other’ that we should become more like the dominant class and culture because they are better.

…ok so this is a start. Let’s begin… let’s talk about race and racism in all it’s manifestations because talking about it is better than pretending it doesn’t exist…

 

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13 Project ~ Cyber Safety for Global Citizenship

Click on the image to go to the website and explore the cyber smart initiatives

Click on the image to go to the website and explore cyber smart initiatives

The primary school, where I currently work, is in the midst of investigating safe social networking sites for children. There is an acceptance that children are connected to technology on a daily basis, using it for educational and recreational purposes and in support of global citizenship. As a consequence, cyber safety is a significant focus. Currently, our students participate in many online environments including blogs, and posting to Vimeo.

The release of national statistics in 2012 by the minister for education, Peter Garrett point to disturbing figures of the prevalence of cyber bullying in his Be Bold Stop Bullying Facebook Campaign Launch. This is a major concern for the school community highlighting the need for constant revision of cyber safety practices. This has contributed to a greater focus by the school in assessing our current efforts and discovering where we can improve.

As part of this school-wide initiative, I investigated library based initiatives in support of schools’ efforts to promote cyber safety. I discovered the 13 project via a thread on the OZTLnet list serve and then investigated further. 13 Project was launched on 1st March 2013 by school library associations across Australia in recognition of the important role of school libraries and participation of school library staff in schools’ efforts to help keep their students safe online.

As a librarian, in a school based environment, being able to locate resources and provide access to these resources is of primary importance. This professional learning activity enabled a connection with the information needs of the school community and the library in resourcing those needs. Via the 13 project, some of the resources mentioned were areas our school identified for investigation, namely social networking sites that are safe environments for children in this age group. I evaluated the suggested social networking site Skooville. After the initial evaluation I shared the online resources from 13 project with teachers in our school and provided a recommendation of the Skooville program to be considered for implementation across the school. I attended the morning briefing during Cyber safety week and discussed this resource with staff thus saving them time in investigation of this important area.

Discovering a national library-based advocacy initiative, with a focus on cyber safety, was the most significant learning from this activity. With the networks to library professionals accessed via OZTLnet I can transfer the learning and extend the library into the school. This affirms the importance of the library for school based initiatives with a focus on curriculum and community needs. One of the tools particularly useful to school administration is the Safe Schools toolkit  as it provides an online audit tool to help with school prioritisation in this area. This information was shared with the leading teachers.

At this stage, I can see there is more that can be done by the library and staff in this area. Prior to this, our library had no knowledge of 13 project and the Skooville site. This activity has enabled the beginning of this knowledge and connecting with the wider school as a result.

The next step in this professional learning will be to involve the school in some of the other suggested initiatives as part of the National Cyber Security Awareness week. This will be explored for the next year.

Cybersafety is an ongoing learning curve needing constant evaluation and awareness raising. 13 project is a great starting place and resource.

 

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Censorship of Children’s Books ~ Banned Books Week

Working in a school library, censorship is a constant focus with challenges to the provision of information coming from many angles, including teachers, the government, community and parents. Edwards (2006) states that the challenge to books has been increasing in recent years and most common reasons for challenges include morality, obscenity, profanities and, witchcraft and occult themes from wizards to ghosts.

The State Library of Victoria provides a list of ten most challenged books and on that list is To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, and Brave New World by Aldous Huxley.

Some issues confronted at the school level can pertain to covert forms of censorship contradicting standards for professional practice and the commitment to provision of access to information that has a right to be represented in the school community (Asheim, 2009). In this regard reference is made to value judgments by library staff in the selection process, leading to exclusion of resources or making access to information difficult. This is evident in the following examples

  • Expressed preferences for certain formats over others.
  • Positioning of books/information where it is not easily accessed.

The focus of this professional development activity is to highlight a commitment to the promotion and advocacy for freedom of information and the rights to reading. By committing to raising awareness amongst the school community I have chosen to investigate Banned Books Week; celebrating the freedom to read.

Banned Books Week is held during September 22-28, 2013 and associated activities for potential inclusion in the school library program during this time are being investigated.

Why is this important?

In discussion with teachers, parents and staff, I have learnt that censorship is highly emotive when it concerns children as the audience of information. Many have strongly formed attitudes that in turn impact on objectivity in this area including collection selection. Choosing to raise awareness with a Banned Books Week program provides an avenue to explore censorship in a manner that feels safe and non confronting. Some of the books on the list are highly valued by many, thus providing an avenue to delve into this topical area whilst promoting critical reflection.

Being able to instigate discussion around censorship is important for my professional practice and commitment to advocacy for the right to provide access to information objectively is demonstrated in this programming.

Exploring Banned Books week provides an insight into activities that can be implemented at a school level; including displays of books that have been challenged, readings of passages by students and teachers and displaying lists of the challenged books over an historical timeline. Coming across the lists of books that have been challenged, provides a tremendous insight into the need to continue raising awareness as it is ongoing and increasing.

National Archives Australia provides a great resource exploring Books and Magazines Banned in Australia from the 1920’s to 1970’s. The University of Melbourne has a website, Banned Books in Australia linked to ‘A Special Collections ~ Art in the library exhibition’.

Why not visit Banned Books Week Virtual Read-out and hear some passages of books being read

Asheim, L., (2009) Not Censorship but Selection, Children’s Literature in Eduction, 40(3), 197-216.

Edwards, H., (2006) Censorship of Kids books on the rise, The Age, April 30 2006.

 

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National Sorry Day

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Bringing them Home: The ‘Stolen Generation’ Report was released in 1997. On May 26 1998 the First National Sorry Day commemerating the Stolen Generations took place. The official apology by an Australian Government occurred on February 13, 2008. Kevin Rudd as Prime Minister apologised.

National Reconciliation Week 27th May to 3rd June, 2013

Following National Sorry Day is National Reconciliation Week. Check out the website to see whats on and for school based activities visit the Reconciliation Australia School Resources site.

 

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Shida : Ecstasy in the Abyss

SHIDA-PROMO-PRINT1I’m totally enamoured with the art by Shida. Such an incredibly original style and artistic ability that is baffling. Ive had the privilege of seeing Shida create some of the amazing art on the streets and I always feel astounded. I’m delighted that Shida will be having a solo exhibition opening on April 19th at Backwoods Gallery. Check out the following promo video.

 

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Happy World Puppetry day

March 21st is world puppetry day. Following is a video that provides information about World puppetry day as well as the launch of the website Puppetry News last year on this day.

 

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Will Coles: an appreciation

I first stumbled upon the street sculptures of Will Coles in Sydney, in the May Lane area of St Peters. The first work I noticed was the balaclava clad face. It looked familiar and I was somewhat sure I had seen it in Melbourne, though I didn’t feel certain. Then on the opposite side of May lane I noticed the baby doll, ‘context’.

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‘Context’, May Lane St Peters, Sydney.

‘Context’ was new to me, making me pause and stop for quite some time. I looked at this doll and wondered why it was there and what it meant. It was lying on the ground with mangled body looking as if it had been left by a child who no longer wanted to play with the doll. Maybe it had fallen out of a pram whilst in motion, and parent and child didn’t notice. There it was near the gutter in a laneway, looking unloved, out of context and even disturbing. Of course, I had to move closer and discover the word ‘context’ written on it as well as some paint marks over its face. The paint marks on its face were additions and yet they reminded me of how my children would draw on their dolls faces. I knelt closer and had to touch it. I had become curious. What was it made of?… It was cold hard concrete and the coldness seemed to emanate another dimension to the meaning it seemed to evoke within me. This work seemed to elicit a few responses from me yet, what resonated was the memory I had of my childhood when I accidentally left my doll that could sing (as it had a little record player in its back) out in the backyard. That night a heavy storm started with thunderclaps and rained heavy drops all night. The next day my doll could no longer sing. She was broken and I was sad. After crying for some time she was then discarded by my mother, who has never been a hoarder. I somehow loved my doll less once she was broken. As if voiceless she was no longer alive. That became one ‘context’ of the meaning for me. How easily the doll was discarded when she seemingly had no use, was broken and then lifeless. This mangled doll on the ground before me looked lifeless.

Leaving this work behind me I suddenly started to notice other Will Coles works. I stumbled on what appeared to be a crushed can that had the word ‘work’ inscribed on it and then some more…

At this stage I did not know who Will Coles was or the body of work on the streets and in the galleries. However, it did not take long to find out. With the help of the virtual sphere and the benefits of the hashtag I could seek out more information. Posting photographs of the sculptures to instagram, it wasn’t long before someone popped into my feed and informed me that this is the work of Will Coles… and so the discovery began.

Looking at the #willcoles on Instagram I was able to see photos that others had posted in Melbourne and Sydney. Since then, finding a Will Coles work has always been exciting. Researching and reading about the works of Will Coles has added further insight. Seemingly, there is no end to the layers and meaning and I discover more and more all the time.

Back in Melbourne, I started to look out for the works of Will Coles on the street and in laneways. What I discovered about his work is the placement often appears hidden. Sometimes, I have spent hours just trying to locate a work so I can take a photograph, as I did in Canberra. I knew Will Coles had some works left around the gallery and other places in Canberra. However, they were not easy to spot and I walked for two hours trying to find them. Luckily, just as I was about to give up the work appeared before me…

The works seemingly become part of the environment. With so much detritus strewn around the streets and in lanes, a sculpture of a crushed can with a word on it becomes hidden or seemingly part of the detritus. As a concrete sculpture it often melds with the concrete surrounds and yet taking on the form of our discarded lives it seems to be part of the rubbish just lying around. However, I learnt to look in gaps in walls, on little ledges, on the ground near poles, up high, over and under places and with time the works start to materialise. Once you start seeing a Will Coles sculpture, they just start to appear everywhere you look.

Following are some links that provide more information about Will Coles and his work.

Will Coles | Sculptor and Freelance European the artist’s website.

Interview with Will Coles by Invurt

Will Coles at Brenda May Gallery

Mr Will Coles’ photostream on Flickr

Artist spotlight: Interview with Will Coles by The Flying Room

Will Coles as documented by Dean Sunshine on Land of Sunshine

If in Melbourne, you can see the works of Will Coles in his first solo exhibition in Melbourne that is currently on. This was the first time I saw the works of Will Coles in a gallery context and I have been four times already. The last time I had the pleasure of perusuing through a document with statements on the works by Will Coles. This added further insight into the works, the thinking behind the works and the intentions.
Details of the exhibition are in the poster that follows:

aposter

Finally, here are some photos I have snapped of Will Coles works on the streets of Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne.

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