In the European spring of 2015 I was on tour in Paris with an Australian dance company. Three nights before our première at the Théâtre National de Chaillot, we were invited to a cocktail reception at the ninth-floor penthouse atop the Australian Embassy, residence of our ambassador to France. His name was Stephen Brady. He had a photograph of Tony Abbott on his wall, but he was gay, and early in his assignment that had been an issue for him—his partner Peter had had to stay in the car when they’d greeted then prime minister Abbott at the airport. We arrived […]
‘What a fucking waste of time.’ The marine who said this was talking to me, to the desert around us, to himself. There had been a flurry of activity when the helicopter arrived, in a howl of dust and kerosene. The ambulance had rumbled by, the driver’s face tight as they drove the casualty to the main entrance of the hospital, and then some muted shouts as the broken man was wheeled inside the faded green tent. We had hung around at the smoking area, not wanting to be the first people to go back inside, but not wanting to […]
As my 20-year working life at the University of Melbourne was coming to its natural end by teaching for the last time an introductory subject on modern poetry during the first half of 2018, Andrea and I were planning to spend the following four months travelling in the far north of Australia, first crossing the Great Sandy Desert on the Tanami Track up from Alice Springs to revisit a community in that desert where we had lived for most of the past two years, and then crossing and recrossing the area of Western Australia known as the Kimberley, a craggy region of spinifex, boab trees and laterite still sparsely populated and still unforgiving to the unprepared.
On Sunday afternoon I go to a queer speed-dating event in Newtown. The event organisers have teamed with a rescue group, and the proceeds are going towards rehoming stray or neglected pets. I picture huggable puppies with shiny coats and swishing tails but, when I arrive, there are only two rescue dogs in the courtyard: an unaffectionate husky and a brindle bitsa with a scab on his head. The scab breaks and bleeds. I can’t stop looking. As I move from table to table at the sound of the bell, clutching my square of pink paper, I smile at strangers […]
1. The club is down an alley in the top end of city. It looks like an office building or a hotel. There is a doorman in the foyer and a pale-green velvet couch. A clothing rack filled with designer coats. I am wearing an ankle-length blond fur. My auntie kisses me hello, she comments on the fur in a tone that could equally be admonishment or admiration. My sister, when she first saw the coat, asked if it was made out of guinea pigs. The women at the club are all blonde or blow-dried brunette with fine auburn highlights. […]
When he left the country, her father’s bones remained. He packed them in a wooden box decoupaged with butterflies. Brian from Ballarat—nature photographer, only friend left in Australia—was happy to give that secret box a home. Over time, he took the bones from their butterflied hiding place and displayed those private things on his mantelpiece with cabinets of dead moths and blurry photos of the sea. The butterflies peeled from the empty bonebox. Dust took to the cracks in its wood. It stopped being a memory and started being an object, so Brian put it in the garage with his […]
Crotty is back on the map, thanks to one of the driest summers on record … The ruins of the once thriving mining town are soaking up sunlight because of the shrinking Lake Burbury, just one of many hydro lakes that are at historically low levels. —Saturday Mercury, 14 February 2016 ‘Crotty!’ I had yelled. ‘It’s back!’ Rushing home, I started heaving raw supplies into the back of the car while Suzy hugged her belly in the driveway. For here was Crotty risen—it was risen indeed!—and even though we had never lived in that town, never seen its ruin slumped in the […]
Despite the shoddy disco ball, the mysterious ‘plum wine’ and the melodramatic video clips, I am of the mind that karaoke is good for the soul. My friends and I arrive at Echo Point close to midnight, stumble down the steep staircase, overhear the howling from the other rooms and defiantly think, that won’t be us. Usually, choosing a playlist is easy, and we sing along without much reference to the (often dodgy) lyrics on the screen. But this time it’s different: we struggle to select songs to sing, and there are mumbled pauses in place of previously well-known refrains. […]
From a young age, names preoccupied me. As a child I didn’t like my name and I would often daydream about changing it. Na’ama (in Hebrew, נעמה) was too heavy for me.
The dank editorial offices of the Bulletin in Sydney’s lower George Street in the 1950s were a daunting place for a raw teenager from the remote south-western Sydney suburb of Revesby. I found myself there in response to an advertisement for a copyholder to the proofreader, and landed the job. Overawed at first by the Dickensian ambience of the offices, I enjoyed a lift in spirits when introduced to the associate editor, Cecil Mann. A grey-haired, balding, bespectacled man in his sixties, seated at a massive oak desk, he looked up from subediting with a steel nib dipped in red ink […]
It all started with a question I should never have asked. ‘So, do you have sexual fantasies?’ I was thinking about how we’d both been reading Nancy Friday’s My Secret Garden, popular once again now in the post–AIDS-is-going-to-kill-us-all nineties, and how liberating it was to share fantasies that were once thought to be taboo. ‘Sure I do,’ Paul says. ‘When you masturbate?’ I ask. I’m 19—and curious. ‘Yeeeah.’ I can tell he’s wondering where this is going. ‘Doing it with two girls, a threesome?’ Paul stops to look at me and traces his long fingers, soft and olive, along my […]
September 2012 The crime would have been no less vile had Jill Meagher been a 40-year-old shift worker in Warrnambool or a teenage student from Frankston or any other female abducted, raped, murdered and dumped in a hastily dug grave beside a commuter shortcut. But certain facts gave her violation and death a particular, heart-sickening quality that felt personal. Although I’d never met Jill Meagher, I could easily imagine circumstances, professional and social, when I might have done so. She worked, as I did, in the world of culture and media. She was close in age to my daughter and her […]