This edition has many unusual aspects – Mel Campbell’s desire to understand her 25-year obsession with a low-fi computer game, Michalia Arathimos’s reflection on the 10-year anniversary of her partner being charged with terrorism, Alice Melike Ülgezer’s fictional meditation on the lives of refugees in Turkey, Allan Drew’s examination of the persisting influence of Paradise Lost, first published 350 years ago.
On the morning of 11 August 1993, my partner and I took a train and then a bus from Milan, where we lived, to Courmayeur, an alpine town near the French border. We didn’t book any accommodation, but headed with our blankets a little way up Mont Blanc, in search of an open space protected from the lights of the city.
In a world marked by pain and damage, it’s difficult to put down our shields. Most of us have them; I have several. Usually we are born with them, but sometimes we make them. We hold these shields in front of our faces, to protect ourselves from the pain of others.
Four years ago, the federal government embarked on an expensive branding and education campaign to convince Aboriginal people and broader Australian society that we should be given formal ‘recognition’ in the constitution. No wording was formalised and the process remained vague at best, and many Aboriginal communities remained sceptical of a proposal regarded as nothing more than a symbolic gesture.
Wave 1 – Annoyer (25 points)
Crystal Quest is a 1987 action game for the Apple Macintosh. The word ‘quest’ implies some kind of drawn-out chivalric expedition in search of an elusive goal, but this videogame’s design is simpler: moving the mouse, you pilot a hockey-puck-like spaceship around the screen, collecting star-shaped crystals.
My pilgrimage to Milton’s cottage began with my first experience of Paradise Lost. I say ‘experience’ because my initial exposure to the poem wasn’t in print, but rather through an audio book. I listened to it – all 10,000 lines of verse – in my car driving to and from work. Milton, I like to think, let me come to him.
On 15 October 2007, my partner was arrested for terrorism. This came as a shock, as I hadn’t been aware of any nefarious activities. This sense of disbelief continued in the years that followed, during which we hoped the charges would be dropped and my partner would avoid prison.
December 1972. Edward Gough Whitlam is elected as Australia’s first Labor prime minister in twenty-three years. In the United States, the Watergate scandal is smouldering, and former president Harry Truman, the man responsible for the 1945 nuclear strikes on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, dies aged eighty-eight.
It’s also the month of Apollo 17, the final NASA mission to the moon. The two astronauts who land on the surface, Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt, busy themselves collecting various soil and rock samples, driving around in a lunar rover and setting off explosives for a ‘seismic profiling experiment’.
Since first contact, Indigenous people have been viewed as a problem that needs to be solved.
This viewpoint, rooted in ethnocentric colonialism – a form of cultural supremacy in which specific cultural groups strive to make the world in their image – remains pervasive over 230 years later. It’s visible in the current epidemic of child removals (Indigenous children are eleven times more likely to be removed from their families, and one in five lives with a state-appointed carer) and in Australia’s abhorrent detention statistics (Indigenous children are twenty-six times more likely to end up in juvenile detention than their non-Indigenous peers).
Look, it hasn’t been a great year for women artists. But let’s be frank: it very rarely is.
In January, the Australian Book Review launched its inaugural Gender Fellowship, which asked a writer to produce an article on gender in contemporary Australian letters, only to later decide that none of the applicants had met the criteria ‘in sufficiently new or compelling ways’. Leaving aside ABR’s poor judgement in launching a gender fellowship dictating recipients must write about gender issues, the magazine then announced that the initial applicants weren’t good enough on International Women’s Day.
Euthanasia remains a polarising topic. It garners popular support, incites expert opposition and sparks heated water-cooler discussions in offices around the country. Why? Because death is the one issue that affects everyone.
Euthanasia is illegal in Australia (with the recent exception of Victoria). While it’s not a crime to take your own life, it’s a crime to assist in the act. For a brief period, the Northern Territory’s Rights of the Terminally Ill Act 1995 permitted assisted dying – the first law in the world to do so – but was later voided by the Euthanasia Laws Act 1997, a move by the federal parliament to bring the matter back under its jurisdiction.
To talk about the future, you have to first imagine there is one. This is a lesson learnt by some of the more intuitive among us – the fiction writer, say, who looks at the state of the world and traces the contours of a future path that is only, just now, a distant possibility. It’s a path carved from the imagination, but with both feet firmly planted in the present. Jump forward 50, 100, 1000 years, and in the writer’s imagination you will find our planet’s destruction, or maybe its future hope.
I knock on the door at exactly 9am, and she opens it a few seconds later. Her clothes are all wispy layers of black and she has bright red hair clipped up on top of her head and lipstick the same colour as her hair. She is far more beautiful than I had imagined when we talked on the phone, but also far more anxious – her hands flutter to and from her face as she shows me around, and she apologises constantly for the mess, even though the house is spotless.
Lying still, Skilton imagines little robotic Pac-Men chomping through the inflamed tissue along her spine. Their mouths, almost half the size of their heads, are gobbling up everything that hurts, swallowing the big glob of shadow she remembers from her X-rays. It’s like they jumped from one of the machines they’ve put in all the pubs and landed in her back, devouring her pulpy tissue like they do ghosts.
Outside, night had fallen. The low rolling plains were blind with snow and the trees stripped of any shelter. There was a small building ahead, visible in the cone of the truck’s headlights. A trail of footprints had sunk in the grubby white, and exhaust fumes dissipated in whirling drifts. Karl could only imagine all of this. A blindfold had been tied around his head.
The 53 bus rollercoasters Robsons Road.
My small son and I sit up the front.
From every crest we share a lordly view
Kindness and the mask of kindness are the same:
a kindly man, with blue
irony and kindness. Ashbery days
Wide open chords raise a blue night on the orange grove
of crossed lines. We angle towards metaphor, as if art
travels deeper through weird parallel: arms might be
Like rope and pulley work to hold up pink
and stodgy cherubs. Like the apple of my
iPhone, faint of charge. Like the superfluity
Animals attack whichever celebrity.
can be summed up as tennis.
I tend to judge the wildness of a night
by how often you say bitches. There always used to be
a car, at least, on fire. There’s that obsession
Lighting, perhaps, the cigarette
of the woman you love for the first time –
still carrying matches,
offering me honours
sorbet for heart-wrenching situations
coffee sweetener wallpaper
In ‘learn’ mode, stepping back through
equations, cut grass, considerable geraniums
just to get to where the circles meet.
We’ve gone inside with the bluebells, literary bluebells
naturally. I am in your shirt pocket, where I always
wanted to be. New Order plays somewhere outside but
Artwork for this edition by guest artist Laura Wills.
Laura is an Adelaide-based multidisciplinary visual artist, who explores social and environmental themes through the innovative use of found materials, collaborative processes and community-based projects.
In the three years since the Fair Australia Prize first began, as global inequality has increased, the failure of neoliberalism and capitalism have become clearer, sparking important debate here and overseas. If the system is no longer working, what do we do next?
If I were quizzed about my values,
I might recall some of the things
I value most: the endless meals
Alice Springs, 28 September 1958: Albert Namatjira, first Australia’s first citizen, enjoying a quiet drink with his mates down at the local. That’s Albert on the left of the photo, hand in pocket standing alone appearing bemused – the man whom fellow painter Charles Blackman said had the saddest eyes he’d ever seen – looking through the crowded room into the distance.
Having only lived in town for a few weeks, I asked one of my new co-workers why council would be so committed to vigorously cleaning the play equipment. She explained that just a few years ago there were no playground washers, until some environmental researchers from Sydney found dangerous amounts of lead dust on the hands of children who had used the playground for just 20 minutes.
It began as a loose congregation in Victoria Park. The Parramatta Road smog stifled by the last bout of rain and the air smelt like fresh laundry. The plan was they would march down Broadway and George Street and loop around. Gradually, more arrived and were met with warm embrace.
Nicky Minus, winner of the 2017 Fair Australia Prize – Cartoon, examines contemporary labour and conditions.