Entries by

Augustine Zycher

Dr. Lowitja O’Donoghue: Against All Odds

We need to take the time to reflect on the heroism of Dr. Lowitja O’Donoghue who passed away on 4 February aged 91.

Consider the odds against her.

She was stolen from her Aboriginal mother when she was only two years old in 1932.
Lowitja was stolen from her siblings and her extended family.
Her identity was stolen from her when she was forcibly placed in a mission home, her name anglicised.
Her heritage and her culture were stolen from her as she was prohibited from speaking her own language and removed from contact with her mother or with any Indigenous community.
Her agency was stolen from her as she was left alone and powerless.
Her education and prospects were stolen from her as she was trained for a life of servitude.
Her sense of self worth was stolen from her as she was repeatedly told by the matron of the home that she would never amount to anything.

And yet.

Against impossible odds, Lowitja O’Donoghue took her place as a truly great Australian woman.

Why Is The Israel-Hamas War Different From Other Wars?

The Hamas-Israel war that began on October 7 2023 is a war different from other wars in the modern era. It is a war in which women are a strategic target.  It is a war spearheaded by sexual violence. Female casualties are not ‘collateral damage’, the unintended consequences of war. They were designated by Hamas as military and political objectives.

Since Hamas launched its assault on Israel on October 7, it has succeeded in winning multiple victories despite not winning any military victory.

Its victories stem from its use and abuse of women.

Israel’s losses stem in part from its failure to listen to women.

The Power of the People

October 7th had a transformative impact on Israeli society. But it was probably not the impact that Hamas had intended when it launched its meticulously planned massacre of 1200 Israeli civilians and the taking of 240 hostages. A key element of the Hamas plan was the assault on Israeli women and girls. “The torture of women was weaponized to destroy communities, to destroy a people, to destroy a nation,” said Cochav Elkayam Levy, the head of a nongovernmental commission investigating crimes of murder, rape, sexual atrocities, beheading and mutilation perpetrated by Hamas. 

But instead of destroying a nation, it unleashed a dramatic upsurge in ‘the power of the people’ civic activism and an intensification of solidarity amongst Israelis. 

The Moral Clarity of Marcia Langton

Indigenous leader, Professor Marcia Langton, has expressed once again the moral clarity at the core of courageous leadership in her article on the Hamas-Israeli war.

“ The loss of thousands of lives in Gaza is unjustifiable. I condemn Hamas. I am horrified and deeply saddened by the loss of lives in the Levant, the Israelis who were murdered and kidnapped by Hamas and the innocent Palestinians who are being used as human shields by Hamas.

As an Indigenous Australian, I can have little effect in stopping these horrors but it is necessary to be clear about a few matters.

‘Blak sovereignty’ advocates have entwined two extraordinary propositions – one that is simply untrue and one that is a moral outrage.

Our Jewish and Palestinian communities deserve respect and compassion. ”

The Sophisticated Strategy of Barbarism

The Hamas attack on Israel on October 7th, had been meticulously planned for over a year. It was the expression of a sophisticated strategy designed to implement barbarism as a means of achieving Hamas’ political goals. The primary goal of Hamas, as part of  the regional alliance led by Iran and its other proxies Hezbollah and the Houthis, is to bring permanent war to all Israel’s borders in order to ” annihilate Israel “.   

The timing was targeted to shatter a trilateral deal between the U.S, Saudi Arabia and Israel to normalise relations and change the face of the Middle East. 

There are 5 key elements to the Hamas strategy of barbarism.

Older Women – Targets of Hamas

Never before have I had to tell the stories of older women designated as targets for terrorism and hostage taking. This is what happened in Israel on October 7th. Older women were not the only target of Hamas, but they were a deliberate target.

There were many older Israeli women amongst the 1,400 massacred on that day. There are also many older women amongst the estimated 250 hostages Hamas took to Gaza. Whole groups of 80 year-olds were abducted.

The New York Times reported that Hamas documents at the scenes of the massacres revealed that it was a meticulously planned assault with precisely designated targets. The objective of the heavily armed Hamas militia was not to battle with Israeli soldiers. It was to kill as many civilians as possible, in their homes and at the music festival, and take large numbers as hostages.

Whose Intergenerational Tragedy?

It is hard to forget the cries of “intergenerational tragedy” that greeted the latest Intergenerational Report released by Treasurer Jim Chalmers. The lively reaction to a potential “tragedy” in Australia in 40 years time stands in sharp contrast to the failure to deal with Australia’s present generational tragedy unfolding in real time.

The problem is not just the alarmist nature of the IGR with regard to the ageing population. It is that the IGR reflects the ageist thinking of governments and society in general. Older generations are seen as a threat to national wellbeing. They are calculated as a national liability and an unbearable burden on future budgets.

The countries that will be the most successful with ‘generational change’ will be the ones that provide the best integration and opportunities for older people. Put that in an Intergenerational Report, Treasurer.

Mutual Obligations & Women

‘Mutual obligations’ imposed on jobseekers are a rank misuse of public funds, ineffectual, and crippling in their consequences. The majority of those on Jobseeker are women aged over 50, so ‘mutual obligations’ affect them most.

Rick Morton of The Saturday Paper disclosed that outsourced employment services providers are funnelling more than $40 million a year “in government funding earmarked for jobseekers through their own companies, related entities and labour-hire outfits, creating paper empires out of their impoverished clients.”

999 Names for an Old Woman

Google offers over 999 words to describe an old woman, and they are uniformly pejorative. The top 4 are: “ distressingly ancient; squat and dumpy; dismal and lonesome; insanely suicidal.”

Some common names for old women are: old bag, granny, biddy, crone, hag, witch, harridan, bedlam, old bat, old boiler. And if that’s not bad enough, you can also resort to descriptions such as: “withered and bitter; almost well-dressed; unnaturally lusty; crazy and uncanny; entirely uninteresting; exceptionally invaluable.”

What’s in a name, you may ask. The answer is – a minefield. Language reflects and reinforces prejudice and discrimination and has terrible consequences. Arguably, there is a direct link between this gendered ageism and the social crisis that Australian older women are now experiencing. It is a multi-faceted crisis that is distinctive to this demographic. It negatively affects their employment, housing, livelihood, and mental and physical health. Older women are ending up on the dust heap of the nation’s economy.

The Politics of Wellbeing

We need to discuss the politics of ‘wellbeing’. Australia has a low level of unemployment and yet never before have there been so many Australians hungry and homeless. Each month an additional 1,600 people become homeless. Never before has an unprecedented number of Australians depended on food banks and been unable to afford essentials. Yet research shows Australians are working some of the longest hours of employees anywhere in the world.

The just released report on homelessness recognises that ”older low-income earners, particularly those on fixed government benefits, experience more homelessness.”

It reports that the scale of housing insecurity amongst older people aged 55+ in Australia is “significant and growing”. At least 270,000 people are already homeless or at risk of homelessness, most of them older women.

In this context, the Treasurer Jim Chambers recently produced what he called the Government’s first ‘Wellbeing Budget’.