Saying Goodbye

It’s been four weeks since we said goodbye to Tyler aka The Big Girl. We held her gently while she dozed into that deep sleep that comes when legs have run far enough, a bark has softened and all the adventures to be had are now exhausted.

Tyler ran and barked and had adventures for 11 years. She came to us as a tiny puppy, abandoned in a box in the middle of a road with one brother for company. Were they dumped there to be run over? Did they fall, literally, off the back of a truck? We’ll never know.

What we do know is that the abandoned puppy, who was so small she wore a belled cat collar so we wouldn’t step on her, grew to be 40 kilograms of energy and physical strength, the type of dog who publicly exuded the air of her breeding – German Shepherd, Mastiff, perhaps Ridgeback. In private, she was a sook, pushing onto and into the bed between us for comfort, resting her head on our laps with those intense eyes never leaving our faces. She hated large loud people and would hide under the table assessing if they be friend or foe.

Tyler loved us all fiercely with the kind of love that a dog has when she knows she has received a second chance at life. She protected us and her loyalties lay with those she knew to be her friends – Jill who rescued her, Ange and Nick and Charlie their Dalmatian who she adored with the force of a whirlwind. She would greet them with a joy that had no bounds, crying and barking and racing about like a mad thing. When we returned home from work each day, she would streak to a bedroom to grab a shoe that she would wave in triumph as she danced down the hallway into the lounge then land, satisfied, on her bed.

And she loved Bailey who we brought home to keep her company after the loss of Tyler’s mentor, Boompa. There was just four months’ difference in their ages but Tyler was the leader. When she was too big to use the cat door, she figured how to pull the screen door open then whip around to enter the house. Bailey, alas, couldn’t work this out for love or money. Tyler simply held the screen door open for her, the concierge of Bailey’s life.

She was the bravest of dogs yet her courage was underwritten by an anxiety that we could never fathom. She destroyed a fence to chase burglars away one day when we were at work; from that day on there would, in her mind, be a burglar behind every noise, every storm. She ate and tore and dug her way through walls and weatherboards and iron fences to chase the imagined invaders away. She would escape to the back lane then reconnaisance with Bailey at the front gate, pulling it apart to liberate her best mate and accomplice.

She was so big, so loud, such a presence in our lives. Yet, she was the most gentle of dogs. I found her in the back yard, one morning, guarding a tiny bird stranded on our fence. She sat completely still yet completely relaxed with not a hint of any intent other than “Here, tiny creature, I will stay with you until you are rescued”.

Solicitous was the word that struck me that morning; she was solicitous and concerned and…..kind. This huge lug of a dog, who had once broken my nose with the full force of her head, was kind and gentle and loyal and loving. She loved us, I’ve no doubt. And we? We’ll never stop loving her. Ever.

IMG_2623.JPG

Dear Mr Hockey

Dear Mr Hockey

Today is my father’s birthday. A lovely event I imagine you thinking.

Except my dad is no longer here to celebrate with us. In years past, Christmas was a triple barrel season for my family – my parents’ wedding anniversary, my dad’s birthday, our family Christmas.

They’re probably the same celebrations you love sharing with your own family.

When you’ve not lost a parent, it’s pretty difficult to comprehend the meaning of that loss for those who have. Especially on birthdays, anniversaries and Christmas. But incomprehension can be tempered by grace and thoughtfulness.

When my mother faced her first Christmas season without my father in 57 years, all she wanted was the quiet reassurance of her children’s presence to hold memories dear and give comfort throughout those days.

Moira Gillard would no doubt want the same comfort from her daughters this coming week. Your mother, I’m sure, would want it if placed in the same circumstance.

Mrs Gillard has had a year from hell – bereavement exacerbated by by repeated insults of her  loss from your friends and allies by attacking her daughter. And then this:

image

And this:

image

I hope your mother never sees these tweets. She’d wonder what’s become of you. And wonder about the company you now keep. And hope that, should she be widowed, your political opponents offer you the grace and consideration in your family’s bereavement that you and your ilk deny the Gillards.

Merry Christmas.

Extract from The Bali Speech – International Women’s Day 2003

And so to Bali – where do I start to tell you here this morning of the courage of the women involved in the emergency response after the bombing and those now rebuilding their community step by step, day by day?

Courage is often a word synonymous with racing into burning buildings or protecting your children from physical threat. And there were certainly many acts of enormous courage in the immediate aftermath of the bombings – these should never be left unacknowledged and all possible accolades should be accorded those who displayed such courage.

But, there were other, quieter acts of courage just as effective, just as resolute.

One of the most striking images in the immediate days following the bombings was the televised footage of schoolgirls – some as young as 13 or 14 years – working as volunteers in the morgue, shifting bodies and body parts as needed.

Take yourselves back to your own adolescence and imagine carrying out such tasks. And yet these young women were uncomplaining despite the makeshift conditions, despite the oppressive heat, despite the enormous emotional trauma in the environment surrounding them.

And they were not the only volunteers who assumed tasks that they could never have imagined assuming during their lifetimes. Let me tell you of three remarkable women – Rosa Norita, Viebeke Asana and Teresa Allen – two for whom Bali is home and one who will now always have a home in Bali.

Rosa Norita is a granddaughter of a Japanese general who led the invasion of Indonesia during World War Two. And, if ever the strengths and talents of her forbears were needed, they were needed with certainty in the immediate aftermath of the Kuta bombings.

My favourite image of Rosa is a photo published in a Balinese newspaper. It shows a woman rushing through the corridors of Sanglah Hospital, her arms filled with an enormous load of medical supplies. Rosa had gone to Sanglah after hearing of the bombing, assessed the number of wounded arriving there and immediately set about collecting additional medical supplies from pharmacies throughout Denpasar, Kuta and other nearby areas.

Nor was Rosa satisfied with just this contribution to the disaster response. She worked tirelessly as a volunteer at the hospital, assisting with patient and family care wherever required; located families across Denpasar, Kuta and Sanur to advise them of family members killed or injured in the blasts and liaised with government and other officials to address the needs of the wounded and their families .

Rosa then flew to Jakarta an spent an entire day knocking on the doors of Indonesia’s captains of industry, raising 60 million rupiah within twenty four hours for distribution to affected Balinese families.

I met Viebeke Asana at the first meeting of NGOs held to coordinate the longer term recovery strategies following the bombings. Viebeke heads Parum Samigita, an NGO focussed on community development in partnership with the Kuta Legian Banjars.

Like so many others, Viebeke and her colleagues volunteered immediately to assist at Sanglah Hospital. However, even at this point, Viebeke was planning the forward strategies to deal with the expected economic and social dislocation that would inevitably arise.

Under her leadership Parum Samigita raised and distributed funds to those families whose source of income was lost due to death, injury or unemployment. This was not simply a response to the enormous tragedy affecting each family but part of a wider strategy to ensure that social and political unrest did not follow the trauma of loss.

My final snapshot is that of Teresa Allen, an Australian burns nurse. We met at Darwin Airport while waiting to board the Garuda flight to Denpasar. I was surrounded by the fifty seven tea boxes of supplies donated by Darwin residents and businesses within 48 hours of the bombing.

A woman who I have never laid eyes on before approached me and introduced herself. Teresa had travelled to Darwin as a nursing consultant for a travel insurance company after injured survivors arrived at Royal Darwin Hospital. With the announcement by John Howard that the federal government would meet all medical costs for injured Australians, Teresa found herself suddenly without a job. She then simply bought herself a ticket to Denpasar in the hope of linking into the aid movement under way in Bali, offering her expertise in burns nursing to Sanglah Hospital.

Through the networks of Rosa Norita, we were able to convince Sanglah Hospital management to utilise Teresa’s skills in the wards. Teresa continued working in Sanglah for over four weeks. And when her support was no longer needed by the hospital, she took her expertise to the villages of Bali as part of an outreach team established by expatriate David Webb at Bedugal.

Teresa then spent another month travelling on the back of a motorbike with an interpreter – treating villagers who had been injured but fled to the safety of their homes and patients discharged from hospital who required follow up care and advice.

So, when I think of Bali now, it is these three women I think of. Ordinary women going about their lives in such different ways before 12 October 2002. And yet, they each epitomise the enormous courage and resolve which women show when confronted by disaster and trauma. Ordinary women who, when required, do extraordinary deeds.

And they are the face of all women who contribute to the international aid movement. They are, and will probably continue to be, unsung when the books are written and the documentaries made. In the words of the Reverend Kristina Peterson: ‘When such women have access to the tools of change, those tools will not be put down until the job is done’.