Episode Twenty-Three: Aileen Moreton-Robinson

December 10, 2020

Special guest Distinguished Professor Aileen Moreton-Robinson joins us to discuss the 20th anniversary re-release of her seminal book Talkin’ Up to the White Woman: Indigenous Women and Feminism and what it means to be an Indigenous feminist.

Links to topics discussed:

Shout out to:

Distinguished Professor Aileen Moreton-Robinson is a Goenpul woman of the Quandamooka people (Moreton Bay). She is Australia’s first Indigenous Distinguished Professor and is Professor of Indigenous Research at RMIT. She was formerly the Director of the Australian Research Council’s National Indigenous Research and Knowledges Network (NIRAKN) and served as President of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Higher Education Consortium (NATSIHEC). She is the founding President of the Australian Critical Race and Whiteness Studies Association. Her recent monograph The White Possessive: Property, Power and Indigenous Sovereignty (2015) won the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association’s (NAISA) subsequent book prize in 2016. And in 2020, Professor Moreton-Robinson was elected as a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. 

Prior to her life in the academy, Professor Moreton-Robinson worked in public administration and served as a board member on a number of Indigenous community organisations. Her advocacy and intellectual work focuses on Indigenous sovereignty.

EPISODE TRANSCRIPT

Aileen Moreton-Robinson: Well, yes, I’m a woman, but I’m not a white woman. And I could never be a white woman. And I don’t want to be a white woman.

Steph Van Schilt: Welcome to the Sisteria, a podcast about women and non binary creatives and their experiences creating and consuming arts and culture. I’m your host Steph. And in today’s episode, I was joined by none other than Distinguished Professor Aileen Moreton-Robinson on the eve of the 20th anniversary re-release of her seminal book Talkin up to the White Woman: Indigenous Women and Feminism. Aileen is a Goenpul woman of the Quandamooka people. She’s Australia’s first indigenous Distinguished Professor, and is Professor of Indigenous Research at RMIT. Her advocacy and intellectual work focuses on indigenous sovereignty, and she’s the founding president of the Australian Critical Race and Whiteness Studies Association. I was utterly honored to speak with Aileen about the timely rerelease of her book, what it means to be an Indigenous feminist. And she was even kind enough to give a poetry reading towards the end of the episode. I started off by asking Aileen, where she was calling in from…

Aileen: North Stradbroke Island or, um, in Quandamook in Moreton Bay. So yeah, I’m on Country at the moment.

Steph: It looks lovely and sunny outside compared to I’m in Melbourne, so Naarm.

Aileen: It’s always lovely to be here.

Steph: Did you grow up there?

Aileen: I grew up here at a place called Moopi, which is means sort of what also known as One Mile in the bush with my grandparents. My grandparents raised me with seven other grandchildren. And I say, yeah, this is where I went to school. And, because this is our traditional country, so I was very fortunate to be raised on Country. Yeah, it’s just it’s just fantastic. You know, being able to be here, return home, I guess, after a life, more or less lived elsewhere, to be able to come back and spend the remainder of my years here until I join my ancestors.

Steph: So where else have you lived? You said, you’ve spent the majority of time elsewhere.

Aileen: Yeah, I’ve lived in Brisbane, I’ve lived in Canberra. And I’ve lived on the north coast of New South Wales. I’ve worked there on one of the reserves in the 80s, 1980s. And but yeah, they’re the three kind of where I’ve lived in what, three areas. Yeah, that’s it. That’s Oh, Adelaide. I was in Adelaide for a year teaching Women’s Studies. That was the other place.

Steph: When did you decide that you were going to go into academia? Because obviously, you have a long running career there. And you just said you went and studied, or you went and taught Women’s Studies in Adelaide? When did that move happened for you that shift?

Aileen: Oh, look, it was an accident. I never actually intended to be an academic. And I entered the Australian National University as a mature age student, but there wasn’t any Aboriginal entrance. So we had to sit for a test and I think there would have been I think about 300 that set for the test, only 60 of us were accepted into ANU. And, but I did love being at university, I loved learning and I loved the debates, intellectual debates. And it just helped me make sense of the world in a way in which I didn’t know, you know? Because I I think it to give you some context like Stradbroke, basically was predominantly an Aboriginal community. So growing up in that and we had to go to the mainland to go to high school, which I failed miserably. And I think that, you know, going to uni provided me with an understanding about white Australians in terms of the structure of society. A whole heap of things that I learned that I knew that, you know, we were up against. It’s just, it’s the invisibility of things when you don’t understand. You know, the relationship between institutions, you know, the power of institutions, those, the role of the state, all of those things. Yeah, I found it really interesting and I basically absorbed like a sponge. So I, you know, and I love to learn. I mean, I haven’t, you know, one of my…when I think about where I would like to be, I would love to be a postdoc, again, where I could just indulge myself, I don’t have to do teach it and have to do anything except just read and think that was such a wonderful thing to do. At that, you know? Yeah. So you know, and I think that if you’re, if you’re a good scholar, you’re always a perpetual student. You’re always learning.

Steph: And interrogating and questioning.

Aileen: Yeah, absolutely.

Steph: Where along your career trajectory did Talkin Up to the White Woman come about? Was that postdoctorate? Or was that your doctorate, or…?

Aileen: Yeah, that was my dissertation. So it had eight typos, that was it.

Steph: Wow.

Aileen: In terms of amendments. And so, it was Professor Gillian Whitlock, who was the head of the examination committee. It, she was the chair at Griffith University. She was the one that approached University of Queensland Press to consider publishing it, unbeknownst to me until…

Steph: Oh, you didn’t know.

Aileen: No, until they contacted me.

Steph: How was it receiving that contact?

Aileen: Strange…Yeah, it was very strange. And I, you know, I just thought, Why would you want to turn this into a book? So, you know, you’ve got to remember, this is kind of like I, you know, I was number 22 of Indigenous people that had PhDs, awarded PhDs. I was the first to graduate from out of the Queensland University, first Aboriginal, first Aboriginal woman. And 10 of those PhDs are in theology, so they were Aboriginal people who become priests. And so, you know, there was 12 of us that really were in different disciplines. And I only knew two, two of those other people. So I didn’t..and they weren’t in, in Queensland, like Uncle Eric Willmot was in Canberra, I think living at the time, and Aunty (indistinct) was in Melbourne. So I didn’t know anybody I didn’t know anything about, you know, academic life. You know, it’s very, it still remains secret business to a large degree. Mainly because of the very individualistic nature of it and the competitive nature of, of being an academic. It, so I had no idea about the fact that one needs a monograph in order to get promotion. You know, so I guess, mine was very much a make mistake, learn make mistake, learn make mistake, learn. There were no there were no role models. And as I said, it was very you know, I just found being in the academy, very alienating. And the best support I guess I had was when I was in women’s studies. And a big, big call out to Professor Yvonne Corcoran-Nantes and Professor Sue Sheridan — they the two women that supported me and Professor Sue Sheridan taught me quite a lot about being an academic, the requirements of that and also how to be you know, strategic within the university itself. So I, yeah, so I was kind of like, was just like the accidental academic. In that sense, you know, I never really, you know, I, yeah, just I didn’t think of it because I didn’t think that I do well, I mean, you got to understand that I went to university with more or less a grade seven education. And I didn’t think I’d pass, let alone excel.

Steph: And how was that experience of overcoming that, I guess, fear and going into this completely different world with that level of education? And like, how was that in terms of shaping you?

Aileen: Oh, that was…Well, I knew this was it. Right? This was like I had to pass, there was there was just, there wasn’t an option. That was basically I had to succeed. I might add the other difficulty I had in my first years, my eldest son was killed. I have very vague recollections of my first year, except that I walked out with three HDs, I think in a Distinction. You know, like I but everything is a blur, really. And I had to cope with that, on top of just being there, that was really, really difficult for me. And so I, and it was really, him I guess, that kept me going. Because when I was actually thinking of pulling out, because I didn’t think that I’d be able to do and my son stood beside me just said, Mum, if you can’t cope with this, don’t expect me to. And that he said that to me two weeks before he was killed. So I’ve, I kind of hung on to that. And that’s what got me through. So there you go.

Steph: You’re an incredible person, honestly, like, I already thought that from your work, and just talking to you now, like, what an amazing story. And here we are 20 years later, and the book, your book is being re-released. And the press release called it both timely and timeless. How do you feel having…

Aileen: But it’s again, it’s an accident. Right?

Steph: Right.

Aileen: Because what you know, like, again, it’s an accident, I get called in, like I so I get invited to give a public lecture at RMIT. And one of the people that was putting together the the Broadside at the Wheeler center, heard me speak, I thought that they should invite me to be on a panel. And it had been 10 years since I’ve been invited to any feminist thing, right? So I thought, oh, it was strange, but you know, okay. And what happened was, apparently, like, the panel went off, I was kind of just, yeah, went off. And they sold out of the books. Like they had people lined up outside the Melbourne Hall right up the street for book signing. Which, you know, I, again, this is this kind of, I had planned to go to dinner straight after the panel, I had no idea that I would have to sign books or, and then I kept just so it ended up that I was there for a couple hours on the books, and dinner was late. But again, it was a similar situation where I, well, you know, I was sort of, in this context. And then kind of what happened was, I think, University of Queensland Press I saw that opportunity, because there’d be no mention of them doing anything prior to that, I think they just saw the opportunity and thought, well, this is timely, we should do something about the 20th anniversary. So again, the accidental how I’m here is really, you know, because they decided that that would be a great thing. And so it’s kind of surreal to be sort of like I write so I’m writing the preface, the new preface in you know, in the middle of us being in isolation and having again to deal with kind of, you know, death in that 13 of those women have passed on the cover of the book and making sure that I honor them in the preface. And yeah, it was really to reflect I guess, on…there were things that I wanted to say in the preface. I wanted to speak to young Indigenous women about the idea of feminism. I wanted to say, look, you need to understand where this comes from, and you need to think about really, you know, is a feminist what you really are? Or are you a, you know, Goenpul warrior? Are you, you know, are you a Yorta Yorta warrior woman? Or are you, you know, are you… really like what does it mean to be an Indigenous feminist? Is, you know, one level when you come like I come from a very strong matriarchy, and so I don’t necessarily see. you know, like, well to be honest, I had taught myself feminism in writing the dissertation, I haven’t done any gender studies anything as an undergrad. So I came to feminism in that way. So it didn’t really have an idea about what being a feminist was or is. And to then have to learn about that. But at another level, it was still not something that I felt was connected to me in terms of the way in which Aboriginal women’s lives are and, and, and what our priorities are. I mean, the big, you know, feminism itself is disconnected from the body, not the body, disconnected from the planet. So all the theorizing remained human centered, which is very much a product of the enlightenment. Yes? So, except that gender is actually the epistemological center of feminist theorizing. Yep. And so that’s still primarily concerned with the human. So I, and so therefore, feminists, were not really concerned about how you theorize… how your relationship with other reflects the way in which, you know, the West has basically understood the planet. You know, so I couldn’t, in that sense, call myself a feminist. And I had read Alice Walker’s stuff, or, you know, her, she says, like, womanism is to feminism as lavender is to purple. Right? Because it, you know, and so, those, even those kind of debates in the States made me think about, well, yes, I’m a woman, but I’m not, I’m not a white woman. And I could never be a white woman. And I don’t want to be a white woman. Right. So if we take the logics of feminism, which says that we theorize from the embodied and sexual situatedness of being a woman, then the theorizing from the social situatedness, of being a white woman is not going to be the same for Indigenous women. Yeah. So that is what I do not say I’m a feminist.

Steph: What advice would you give to up and coming emerging Indigenous women critics, writers, thinkers, academics who are talking up to the white woman and getting backlash?

Aileen: Well, I mean, if you understand power, then your expectation should be that it will exist. And that will happen. So if you start from this, start from the position that and, you know, I don’t, I don’t expect the power relations to change. But because power is relational what I would like to see is that, you know, for white feminists to practice what they preach. Let’s not be hypocritical girls, you know, if you’re going to say that you’re on about, you know, improving the lives of women, and all women, and that you are concerned with the inequity between men and women in the world. And, and you you, you know, one level a lot of the theorizing, universalized is that concept. So one assumes that, by default we’re at least theoretically, included in the idea of the universal that you should practice what you preach. And that’s what you know, and if you’re concerned about about the biggest inequities, then surely you start with those that are at the bottom of society, the women that are at the bottom of society, understand the kind of privileged position that you’re in, you know, and yes, there, you know, I’m not I’m not kind of diminishing in any way that the way in which feminists is still fighting for a whole heap of things. But what I’m trying to say is that if you put forward a position about all women, then you have to look at your privilege, and you have to look at your privilege in relation to others. And you should use that privilege in relation to others if you’re going to improve the lives of all women. So, you know, that would be the thing that I want to say it’s like, I think one of the things I was taught, you know, it’s very, like, you can respect people who basically say, I don’t give a shit, and I’m not gonna do anything than the ones who pretend that they want to. Right, it’s, it’s like you can you can deal with the overt racist because you understand where they’re coming from. And at least your expectations and your reactions to some way are determined because of that knowledge. But when you have a situation where people what you know, women are saying one thing, but not practicing it. That’s that is just plain hypocrisy. I’d rather you just say, I don’t care about Indigenous women, I put your position, claim it, don’t try and make make excuses for your inaction, based on my supposed principles that you adhere to as feminists.

Steph: I completely agree.

Aileen: You know, and for young Indigenous women who have expectations, maybe they should think about why they had those expectations that things will be different. Or, and to understand, you know, surely by now, you’ve understood the cost of speaking out. There’s always a cost for Aboriginal women to speak out with its price, you know, our lives are forged through struggle. It’s not forged through privilege. You know, again, it’s about, I think, understanding, sure, we’ve got to keep trying. And that’s really hard. But we should also be mindful of the power relation that we’re in, because if you understand that, then to some degree that you can also use it in different kinds of ways. And it is, unfortunately, what we’re involved in. I mean it’s not just feminists, it’s basically Australian society.

Steph: Absolutely. And I did want to just go back to how you said you were invited to Broadside and it was the first thing you’d been invited to, to speak a for such a long time. You talked about that in your preface, as well. And that blew my mind. Do you think that it will be the same this time around? Have you on release of this book so far have you received more interest? Do you think things have changed in terms of people wanting to hear your messages? And why do you think that was to begin with?

Aileen: Look, I think that the book was ahead of its time. Right? Which, you know, when one is doing the doing the work, you don’t think oh my god, is this book ahead of its time,  or? You know, and so it, I think it’s probably more pertinent at this time, for a number of reasons. I mean, the most I have received a heap of media attention, which I have to say, I am not really, not really, I don’t really like being on media. So…

Steph: Well, thanks for talking to me (laughs).

Aileen: I’m exhausted, exhausted. But it’s also your understanding that power when you also, you know, a relationship in the media is an understanding that you have no control over meaning. Like, you have to give that up in order to participate. So I, you know, I kind of like I’d rather just write, I just rather do the, you know, I’d rather just do my analysis and put it out there for people to read rather than listening to me answer questions that may seem at one level to be simple, but in actual fact very complex in terms of trying to find an adequate response. And so it’s like, you know, well how did I think, I didn’t think about it being ahead of its time and now a lot of that a lot of their responses have been from Indigenous media and Women of Color media. Right. So, and I think that’s where the interest in the book is at one level. Do I think that I’m going to be inundated with feminist requests? No. Do I want to be inundated with feminist requests? No. I, you know, I have enough. You know, you know, I’m inundated to speak all over the world. I mean, the invitations come in. I know I have to say no, like, I it’s not I don’t. I don’t particularly like public speaking. I, you know, believe people would probably find this hard to believe, but I am an introvert by nature. And, you know, it’s why you don’t see me on Facebook or social media commenting and doing that kind of stuff, I just don’t. It’s not…I’d rather just do the solid research and the work and publishing. So yeah, I don’t I don’t expect to be inundated. And that and I don’t even, I mean, yeah that’s fine.

Steph: Well, yeah. And you were elected as a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences like…

Aileen: Yeah, look, I’m, you know, again, I didn’t know I was nominated. I when I received the email, I thought it was spam.

Steph: Oh, no.

Aileen: I did. My son texted me and said, Mum, have you have you read your emails? And I went, no, I’m on my way to the doctors actually. And, anyway, yeah, I read it. And I was like, How did this happen? So and they were, well, they’re supposed to have it big induction. So they’re going to be doing it virtually. And then next year, we’ll be you know, I have a huge dinner in they… it is an amazing Academy. I’m doing some stuff, which I sort of can’t talk about at the moment with it with the Academy’s since then. And yeah, I, you know, I, I don’t know. I mean, I, it’s hard to sort of kind of react to, to say, well, how do I feel about it? Well of course, I feel very honored. You know, I do. And I’ve yet to find out, though, what it is to be a member of the Academy, like, what my roles and responsibilities and all that. So yeah, very, very, very interesting. The, the reception to the work overseas compared to here, and, you know, Australia doesn’t have race studies, Australia doesn’t have critical whiteness studies taught in the universities. You know, race in Australia has only been been a thing like the constitution had its race clause, the first piece of legislation, immigration restriction act of 1981 was the White Australia Policy. So race in one sense in Australia has been configured through policy and law. Right. And so, but it’s not actually being taught within the curriculum. So you can understand to some degree, why there’s a dismissal of it. Like as though racism isn’t a problem as though race doesn’t exist? Because most people think, at one level, they’re colourblind. And yet, the question always, for me is if you’re colourblind, how do you know I’m an Aborigine? Well, if you’re colourblind, how do you know that that person is an African? Right. So the, the idea of colourblindness is fundamentally about, you know, not wanting to own the power that comes with your race privilege. And it’s about how you can pretend to be colourblind, when actual fact you are seeing color, you are seeing race, we’re all raced. But the reason you haven’t had to account for your race is because race has always been acquainted with blackness. Race has not been acquainted with whiteness. So only only People of Colour and bla(c)k people have had to account for race. We’ve been, you know, it’s the prison of race. We’re prisoners of race, whereas white people have never seen themselves as being raced. And that’s about power. Because if you’re, you know, because if you’re powerless, how can you make white people said that, excuse me, but you’re white, and excuse me, you are racialized. We racialized you as much as you racialize us. Because we’re in we’re in that relationship. You know, you only know what your whiteness is, because you’re not black. Right? So that that kind of binary opposition, the logics are within the English language, you know, whiteness only sees itself or by what it’s not.

Steph: You also mentioned in, I think it might have been the conclusion of the book, or maybe the response, about getting feedback to an Australian Research fund submission that your work was maybe too political. And I know that you’re you do a lot of advocacy and policy work as well. But you talked about that feedback, why is that only given to you because, for instance, if me as a white woman put something in, related to anything, they would never question my politics, even though I’m inherently political as a white woman, because I have this power. Do you want to talk a little bit about how that impacts your work, getting feedback like that, but also, how you do balance academic work and your advocacy work?

Aileen: Okay you see if we see ourselves as embodying knowledge. Yes. Which actually, I didn’t invent, which, like, I’m just saying, that comes out of whiteness. White feminism talks about the embodiment of knowledge, the social situated knowledge via theorizing from that position, right? So if we accept those logics, then everybody is an advocate, like every academic is an advocate and every academic, it influences the work that they do and influences the questions that they ask, you know, and I’ll give you an example. So Michel Foucault, basically, why did he write about the history of sexuality? Because he was gay, and he was repressed. Why did he talk about the history of manners? Because his parents had sent him to a psychiatrist from 10 years of age, to assess what was wrong with this child. Right. So the very, his formative years, are shaped in a particular way. And they’re the kinds of questions that he investigates as an academic, in his life. We can turn to the idea of Stuart Hall, like Stuart Hall, you know, came, he came to the mother country, like, you know, to the center of Empire, and transitioned into an academic, middle class academic within the Academy, writes about the social construction of black identity as being sutureless. And how it, there is a great degree of flexibility and mobility within it, because that reflects actually the experience of his shift from out of one context to the other. Yeah. So your life actually does shape the kind of questions that you ask and the things that you are interested in, like feminists became feminist because why? Right? Um, peace studies people become a studies people because of why? You know, Australian studies, people become Australian studies, why? You know, like, so there’s always some kind of personal, emotional, psychological in everything that we do. And for some reason, we may or may not want to make a difference within that. So advocacy to me is not just about standing up and enunciating a position. It’s also about the way that we think strategically in how we construct knowledge. There’s an advocacy in that. So I don’t see how anybody really is, unless you want to use the old you know, enlightenment, separation disconnection, categorization, lovely objectivity idea that this actually can be done, when actual fact the only way it can be done is because humans do it. And it because humans do it, that kind of thinking can be undone. Anyway, so I um, I just think that I’m probably a little bit more honest, than most people about my positioning. And um, I’m not into deluding myself that I’m something other than what I am.

Steph: And I think that’s great.

Aileen: You know, I honest conversations with self really, and pretension is not part of of Aboriginal, you know in the Goenpul lore ways pretension is one of the worst things that we can do. You know, dishonesty is one of the worst things that we can do. Because that speaks to your integrity as a person. And so one must always walk an honest path, even though there’s been big costs to that, because me being honest, in bastions of whiteness has been a problem. But I stay true to my lore way, rather than succumbing to pretending I’m something that I’m not. And that, you know, I got told Aileen, one never one never criticizes, you know, the hierarchy in public and public being in a meeting and I said, Well, so let me see, it’s alright to do that and private, so you stab people in the back in private, you gossip, spread that through through through, you know, your network. Like you won’t say anything publicly, too bad about the behavior. Right. So again, that separation between the personal and the professional, I find problematic, you know, reading this stuff, I know, I’ve commented this on a couple of times, but just understanding how that relationship works to basically allow things like racism to persist, sexual harassment to persist in the workplace, is because of that demarcation. We don’t associate the behaviors, the personal, but what we perceive as the personal behaviors with the professional conduct. Right. And and what I mean by that is, we can think that a high court judge, you know, because they’re amazing in terms of judicial work, and that’s professionally who they are, we can turn a blind eye to what else they’re doing in the office. Whereas, you know, I was taught that integrity, like integrity is integrity. Yeah. And you got to be held accountable. Doesn’t matter who you are, whether you’re the Vice Chancellor of a University, whether you’re a high court judge, I mean, if your behavior you know, it’s just like, I know I’m held accountable for my behaviors. But those are that those with no power usually aren’t they.

Steph: I was about to say it’s all power again. It’s all power.

Aileen: It is. And ah, so, yeah, anyway.

Steph: This actually leads me into our Sisteria Shout Out, I wanted to give a shout out to Boe Spearim’s podcast Frontier War Stories. I don’t know if you’ve heard of this Aileen, but he is indigenous himself. And he’s dedicated to truth telling about a side of Aboriginal history that has been left out of the history books. So each episode, he speaks to Aboriginal and non Aboriginal people about research books and oral histories, which document the first 140 years of conflict and resistance. It’s really great. Boe is amazing. I highly recommend that you listen to it with your ears and open your eyes a bit more. And also, obviously, your book, Talkin Up to the White Woman: Indigenous Women and Feminism. Everyone must read it. It’s that simple. That’s it. That’s all I have to say. What did you have for a shout out for us today?

Aileen: I’m going to give you a Shout Out, I’m going to read a poem. And this poem is by my brilliant cousin, Romaine Moreton. I want to shout out her work. I think she’s probably for me, it’s not just because she’s my cousin, I think she is our best poet. I really do. Like I just think she’s so under, undervalued. But then listen to this and you probably understand why. This is called I Shall Surprise You By My Will.

“I will make oppression work for me,
With the turn and with the twist,
Be camouflaged within stated ignorance,
Then rise,
And surprise you by my will,

I will make oppression work for me,
With a turn and a twist,
I shall sit cross legged like a trap door,
Then rise,
And surprise you by my will,

I will let you pass over me,
Believe me stupid and ill informed,
And once you believe me gone or controlled,
Will rise,
And surprise you by my will,

I shall spring upon you words familiar,
Then watch you regather as they drop about,
Like precious tears thick with fear,
Hear you scream and shout,
Then I shall watch convictions breakaway,
And crumble like paper bags,
And then as beauty I shall rise,
And surprise you by my will,

It is only when you believe me gone,
Shall I rise from this place where I
Wait
Cross legged
Wait,
To surprise you by my will.

In the alleys, in the clubs, in the parliaments,
In the courts of law, parking cars, driving buses,
And generally watching you
Watching me
As you pass me by,

I shall wait cross legged,
Wait,
To surprise you by my will.

For I shall stumble from houses of education,
And I shall stumble from institutions of reform,
I shall stumble over rocks, over men, over women, and over children,
And surprise by my will,

I shall stumble over poverty, over policies, and over prejudice,
Weary and torn,
I stumble,
Then bleary and worn I shall rise,
From this place where I wait cross legged,
Wait,
And surprise you by my will,

For the mountains we crossed,
They were easy,
And the rivers we swam,
They were easier still,
And even then,
As I attempted to outrun inhumanity,
I surprised you by  my will,

I have witnessed the falling of many,
Heard them cry and hear them still,
Even with grief inside me growing,
I command my spirit to rise,
And surprise you by my will,

And for all people,
We are here and we are many,
And we shall surprise you by our will,
We shall rise from this place where you expect
To keep us down,
And we shall surprise you by our will,

For the bullets we dodged,
They were difficult,
And this ideological warfare
more difficult still,
But even now,
As we challenge inhumanity,
We shall rise,
And surprise you by our will
— Romaine Moreton.

Steph: That was incredible. Can we find her work online?

Aileen: You can! She’s also on Auslit. You can find it if you put Romaine Moreton in her work will come out. She has books. She is amazing. And I you know, I when I read her work, I, she’s just yeah, you just go wow, if only I could write like that.

Steph: Different kind of writing and thinking — you’re both doing very important things just different.

Aileen: And I hope the listeners enjoy that.

Steph: Incredible, incredible reading. Incredible shout out. I appreciate it so much. And thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me today on Sisteria. It has been a complete and utter honor. So thank you very much.

Aileen: Thank you. Thank you Steph.Steph: Sisteria is supported by the Melbourne City Council Arts Grants program and recorded on the lands of the Wurundjeri People of the Kulin Nations. We pay our respects to the Elders past and present and to the Elders of all the lands this podcast reaches. Subscribe to Sisteria everywhere and follow us @sisteriapod. Links to everything discussed in the episode are available at sisteriapodcast.com. Our theme music is by Rainbow Chan, the song is called Last and it’s from her album Spacings. Thanks so much for listening. Stay safe and we hope to tune in again soon