March in March: A Vote of No Confidence in The Abbott Government

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The train, normally so quiet and empty on a Sunday afternoon, is packed. There are families, middle aged women clutching signs, men with beards and waist length dreads, an attractive woman wearing a maxi dress under a cropped denim jacket. Everyone is smiling, chatting, leaning forward to talk to their companions.

In a huge surge we exit at Melbourne Central. I have never seen it like this; not late on a Friday or Saturday night, not at peak hour on a weekday, never. We are slowly shuffled forward, unable to resist the flow of the crowd. We make our way through the twists and turns of the station and exit onto Latrobe St, directly across from the Melbourne State Library where thousands have already gathered for the March in March protest- a vote of no confidence in the current government and Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

The signs are eye catching, bearing slogans such as “We need an Abbott-Proof fence” and “Welcome Refugees. Deport Abbott.” Every now and then chants arise, led by speakers and groups within the crowds, cries of “Shame, Abbott, shame” and “People, not profits.”

The vibe of the crowd is good; strong and purposeful. It is hard not to marvel at the diversity of protestors. This is not just one group. Here are not just hard-leftists. There are grandparents, elderly wheelchair-bound individuals, mums pushing babies in prams, dad’s with toddlers high atop their shoulders, men and women with dread locked hair and bare feet, groups carrying tin drums, youthful university students, individuals wearing Anonymous masks, and many, many people carrying cameras.

One speaker calls for everyone in the crowd to pull out their phones, take a picture, and upload on all social media sites with the hash tag MarchinMarch. The crowd complies. They want this to be huge. They want to be heard. This protest was not organized by the usual activist’s groups- they attended but they weren’t running it. It arose through social media, through a nationwide discontent with the Abbott government. Afterwards, we would learn the hash tag MarchinMarch had been trending at no.4 since 10AM that morning; a success. The media would indeed report on the marches but the coverage would be minimal and mildly dismissive. It would comment more on the size of the crowds and the unpreparedness of the police, than the purpose of the march and the changes Australians need to see being made. The media would, however and to their credit, report with honesty that the crowd was benign and respectful. 

Many marching were doing so with the knowledge that as of September 1st in Victoria such political protests will be illegal, a law passed at 1pm on Friday 15th, dictates. This was added to the long list of things to infuriate the people of Melbourne.

The signs clearly proclaimed what many were marching for. Like me, they were marching for:

1.            Australia’s National Parks and Tasmania’s old growth Forests.

2.            Asylum Seekers on Manus Inland and the violation of their human rights.

3.            Women’s Rights (and against Abbott appointing himself Minister for Women and against the new Paid Parental leave scheme, which will make employer’s less inclined to hire women.)

4.            Climate change and the Carbon tax.

5.            The Great Barrier Reef.

And much, much more. The list is endless.

As a small van trundles past to lead, blaring up-beat music and encouraging chants, the march as it begins. We all begin to creep forward, signs and banners raised, ready to show Abbott just what we think. Many people walking by or eating at café’s whip out their phones to record us as we march by. Others stare in complete confusion.

One man has a little boy atop his shoulders. The boy, no more than four or five, is pumping a chubby fist in the air and shouting in a soft, rounded child’s voice “People, not profit! People, not profit!” Other marchers turn to look and take pictures. The boy’s dad joins his son, his voice deeper, louder.

“People, not profit! People, not profit!” My friend and I join in as do dozens of others marching alongside us.  I’m sure plenty will wonder what difference it will makes and perhaps it will make none, but the purpose is to express a vote of no confidence and when 30,000 people turn out in one city to march, that expression has to be heard. It’s not just Melbourne either. Thousands upon thousands of people in city after city are marching with the same purpose.

After all this, one would think Abbott would wake up and start listening. As one sign claimed, “The power of the people is greater than the people in power.”

Things Observed

Observation one:

It is not a good idea to press the buttons on a toaster with wet hands.

Observation number two:

“Look, man, I’m telling you just leave her,” a man says into his mobile. He rubs his hand across his forehead. “You’ve got to just get out of that situation.”

He pauses and I can hear the faint whine of another voice through the phone. His friend? His brother? Maybe it’s his boyfriend.

“Go and stay with Karla,” he is saying. This advice is followed by more muffled noise. I wonder who Karla is.

“Well, what’s going to change then?” He is shouting now, gesturing wildly around him. “She’s just gonna keep using you.”

The train pulls into my station. I stand and make my way to the doors. Usually when people complain about relationships, they just want someone to listen. As I step off I hear the phone-guy sighing. He must have figured it out.

Observation number three:

I stand at the counter; Olivia balanced on one hip with her arms wrapped around my neck. She smiles, showing off a dimple. The aroma of coffee is tantalising.

“Will there be marshmallows?” Olivia asks. I nod.

“Will it have chocolate?” she asks the woman making the drinks.

“Yes,” she answers her, smiling.

“Thank you,” Olivia says. The conversation done, I lower her to the floor to stand next to me.

A woman with white hair pulled into a bun gestures her dark, wrinkled hands toward Olivia who, shyly, grabs my hand. The woman catches my eye and smiles.

“Isn’t she cute?” The blonde sitting next to her says.

“She is, she is cute,” another agrees.

I smile back. Then, turning, I tune back into Olivia; she’s happily chatting about the curved, silver fan above us. It is, apparently, a magic fan.

Parasomnia: Sleepwalking and Other Fun Activities

I am bone-numbingly, skip-dinner and collapse into bed tired. This is the result of a particularly bad few weeks of sleep.

I have parasomnia. Now, I’ve had insomnia (or as I think of it “real insomnia”) before. It’s draining, exhausting, and more than a little weird. It’s different to parasomnia.

Parasomnia isn’t defined by a lack of sleep. Oh no, you sleep alright. The problem is sleep-walking and sleep-talking or, in my case, sleep-screaming. By this I don’t mean the story everyone can tell of that one time they went sleep walking or the time they mumbled that hilariously random thing in their sleep. This doesn’t happen once or twice a year, not even once or twice a month. Instead, it’s multiple times a week, sometimes multiple times a night.

It must be eerie to wake up to someone, eyes wide and vacant, opening your door and silently crossing the room to stand at your bedroom window.

It’s also inexplicably bizarre to discover that during the night you have retrieved a brown texta (from where? You don’t own any textas. In fact, you live in a house positively bereft of textas) and drawn all over the bed with it; long, thin scribbled lines on the pale green sheets.

I can’t speak for the people unfortunate enough to share a home with a parasomniac, but I imagine it’s downright creepy. Whilst Miss Parasomnia is thrashing about in her sleep, screaming her head off at whatever horror she’s witnessing in dreamland, her poor housemates are sitting bolt upright in bed, heart pounding, wondering when the deranged murderer who has clearly broken into the house is coming for them.
Not that Miss Parasomnia gets to sleep through the screaming. No, she also sits bolt upright, heart pounding, trying to sort out the mess of vivid awfulness that was her dream as it lingers, still fresh in her mind.

This happens again and again and again and again and again and… Until you all awake to the nasty chirping of alarms, warily facing off over morning coffees. There’s no need to ask how the other slept when it can be clearly seen in the purple, lined bags beneath their eyes.

Yours
Zzzzzzzzz

Code of Silence

“Congratulations!”  Your best friend leaps at you, wrapping you up in a hug. “Why didn’t you tell me sooner?”

You are six weeks along; both excited and nervous at the changes taking place.

“I think I’m having a miscarriage,” you whisper into the phone.

Silence from your best friend as you start to cry.

“Firstly, was my blood test positive?” You ask your doctor.

“Yes,” he smiles. “Your tests indicate you’re almost seven weeks. You’ll be able to see us for the duration of your pregnancy, if you’re planning on going ahead with it.”

“Yes. Yes, I am but I started bleeding last night.”

“It could be nothing,” he assures you.

“But it’s most likely a miscarriage, right?” You ask calmly. You’ve been crying all morning. You can manage a controlled calm now as you sit in this small, white office facing a doctor who isn’t willing to say the words.

“This happens pretty commonly. It could be fine.” He repeats. He prints off a referral for an ultrasound and you thank him. Walking from the clinic you glance down at the doctor’s notes on the mustard-yellow sheet in your hand. “Inevitable miscarriage” the words glare up at you. Inevitable miscarriage? Inevitable.

“The doctor wrote I’m having an inevitable miscarriage.” You tell the person this affects the most, second only to you.

“Are you ok?” he asks.

“No,” why should you lie? “Will you come to the ultrasound with me?”

“No. I’ve got to work.”

Silence.

You go away to visit with family for a few days.

“Ella is pregnant, and so is Rita,” your dad announces during dinner.

“How far along are they?” You ask but what you really mean is; are they safe yet? Are they safe? You feel like screaming.

You go to the ultrasound. As you lie down on the bed the technician performing the scan turns the big screen off. They’ve never done that before. Obviously, you’re not supposed to see this scan.

“So, you took a pregnancy test?” The technician asks.

“I was pregnant,” you answer. “I had a positive blood test.”

She begins performing the scan, muttering something under her breath.

“You’ll need to go to your doctor to have it confirmed but it looks as your doctor said.” She tells you quietly.

You go to the doctor.

“Your results were normal,” he stammers. You can’t help but stare. Normal?

“What did you have the scan for? You got a period?”

Who has a scan because they got a period?

“No. I was pregnant. I had a miscarriage.”

“Yes, uh, they, uh, the results show no foetal matter so…” He trails off.

Silence.