Women and children – last
Yet again Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has demonstrated that he is captive to the ultra-right forces of his own party. Bowing to the extremists in the Christian Right, the Turnbull government has announced the first step in the destruction of the Family Court.
Consistent with other Coalition government actions it is the most vulnerable – in this case children from broken homes and battered women – who will be the main victims of this reactionary move.
Last week, Attorney General Christian Porter announced that the Family Court would be merged with the Federal Circuit Court to form a new court known as the Federal Circuit Court and Family Court (FCCFC). The Family Court as it exists now with its highly trained and specialist judges, consultants and other staff would be mainstreamed.
Porter pointed to a huge backlog in cases in the Family Court as the reason why change is required. The backlog is not a result of the system itself but the failure of the government to adequately fund and staff it. The government has not replaced retiring judges.
The first thing to be noted is that shifting the Family Court into the mainstream court system will not solve any problems. There are huge backlogs in all the courts, not just the Family Court, and the government has offered no guarantees of the necessary additional funding.
Chief Justice Diana Bryant, when head of the Family Court, repeatedly called on the federal government to boost funding to the courts to provide money for registrars and family consultants to ease pressure on the system. In April 2017, four Senators took up the call, passing a motion calling for action in the federal courts system.
Bryant, back in 2015, spoke out about family violence and called on the government to adequately fund the family courts which are at the frontline in dealing with parenting disputes involving family violence.
Additional funding would ensure that families that are involved in family law disputes, and have experienced family violence, can have their cases resolved in a timely, non-adversarial way; that issues relating to the safety of children can be quickly identified; and can ensure that there is adequate capacity to hear and determine interim arrangements pending a final hearing.
But the government has deliberately undermined the Family Court system.
If Porter’s plans are passed, there will no longer be a requirement for new judges to have any experience or training in family law, or understanding of children’s developmental and psychological needs.
It will only be a matter of time before the Family Court disappears completely.
Not surprisingly, there is strong opposition to the dismantling of the Family Court from the judiciary, lawyers, and others involved. They do not want a return to the horrendous pre-Family Court days.
National spokeswoman for Women’s Legal Services Australia, Angela Lynch, described the decision as “appalling”. Lawyers and judges have come out strongly against the changes to the system.
Specialists in the field of family law such as judges, lawyers, and those working with the victims of domestic violence were not consulted.
Women and children
The changes being proposed are a step backwards towards the old divorce laws where women and children often came second in a court’s considerations. They were based on an adversarial, at-fault system.
Furthermore, under the government’s plans, the judges would not necessarily have any expertise or experience in family law. As a consequence this could undermine the underlying principles of the Family Court system. The judges and magistrates will come from a system that is adversarial and punitive, based on wrong/right, guilty/not guilty.
Judges dealing with family legal cases will not necessarily have any training let alone experience in a child’s developmental needs or psychological and social issues – the human factor that is so important.
This can only result in damage to the children affected. Women are less likely if a case goes to court to have the resources to be represented in court and so defend their interests and those of the family.
There is a huge difference in administering family law and criminal law.
Before the introduction of the Whitlam government’s Family Court Act in 1976, a divorce could be granted if one party could prove that the other was at fault in the breakdown of the marriage. “Matrimonial offences” such as adultery, cruelty or desertion had to be proven before divorce could be granted.
The alternative was to prove that you had been separated for seven years, and then go on the waiting list for your case to be heard.
The whole process was very public in nature – divorce proceedings were conducted in the Supreme Court with all the profoundly private and personal issues involved in complex family matters being kicked around in a brutal blame-game.
The judge had incredible powers to refuse a divorce with anecdotal evidence of racism, sexism and personal religious beliefs held by the judge colouring his or her decisions.
The process could be extremely traumatising, for women in particular. The financial cost of this fault-based court process was prohibitive to many.
There were other barriers. For example, a woman who left the family home and took the children to escape domestic violence ran the risk of losing her children unless she could prove in court that she deserted on such grounds her safety or her children’s.
The Family Law Act introduced in 1976 is based on a “no-fault” system, where an individual no longer has to prove their partner guilty of adultery, desertion, etc. The Family Court was established as a dedicated legal forum for resolution of family law matters.
The aim was to provide a less adversarial processes for the resolution of cases concerning family law. As Prime Minister Gough Whitlam said at the time, the at-fault process promoted indignity, bitterness and hostility.
It was structured to foster an informal, supportive atmosphere with proceedings based on the notion that family law matters should be perceived as matters of inter-personal relationships, rather than morality. Emphasis was on mediation and reconciliation where agreement had not been reached.
Once the laws were enacted, a couple had only to show that their marriage had suffered an irretrievable breakdown – a separation of 12 months – in order to be granted a divorce.
The parties could continue to reside at the same address but be defined as “separated”. The law abolished the requirement that blame be assigned in order to dissolve the marriage.
Since 1976, the Family Court Act has undergone a number of amendments, increasing the emphasis on the importance of decisions in the best interests of the child and where possible ensuring that children have the benefit of both parents having a meaningful involvement in their lives. Specific mention of the need to ensure safety from family violence has also been introduced.
There was vocal opposition to this reform. Self-appointed moral guardians – sprouted in numbers in the Liberal-National Coalition parties – argued that it would increase marriage breakdown and relationship instability and would encourage promiscuity and destroy the institution of marriage.
Wither on the vine
Should the government succeed, the FCCFC would have two divisions. The existing Family Court will become division two with existing judges transferring over. They would handle both family law and general federal law matters. As judges turn 70 years of age they are required to retire.
Over time this will mean a decreasing number of specialist judges, each with a smaller proportion of their time on family law matters.
Angela Lynch, national spokeswoman for Women’s Legal Services Australia, warned that the overhaul would have significant consequences for vulnerable women attempting to navigate the legal system. New appointees to the court will not be required to have any expertise or experience in family law, a highly complex field in which a great deal of understanding of domestic violence and the needs of children is required.
Deal with Hanson?
Lynch also raised the concern that the government may have done a backroom deal with the racist, xenophobic Pauline Hanson who has been persistently calling for the destruction of the Family Court since her first speech in the Senate.
Following Porter’s announcement, Hanson immediately took credit for the overhaul, saying she was “proud” of the role her party had played in prompting the shift.
Former federal Attorney General George Brandis commenced the process of dismantling the Family Court when he appointed John Pascoe, Chief Judge of the Federal Circuit Court, as head of the Family Court in October 2017, just 14 months out from turning 70, the mandatory age for retirement.
Pascoe is there to do a hatchet job on the Family Court so that the changes can come into force at the beginning of 2019.
The government’s decision to dismantle the Family Court pre-empts the findings and recommendations of an 18-month review of the Family Law Act being undertaken by the Australian Law Reform Commission.
There is some room for improvement in the system and this is what the government should be addressing, not throwing it out.
This is yet another move by the Coalition government to win over the extreme right, in particular the forces who might be attracted to Hanson’s One Nation party. The Family Court system must be defended and adequately funded, resourced and staffed.
Corporate globalisation is a socio-economic offensive to impose free trade deals and other corporate schemes on all national economies, forcing some to integrate into one imperialist cartel or another, while excluding others to the very margins of the global economy. It is an unprecedented attack on workers’ rights and living conditions through privatisation, the destruction of public programs and services, legislative attacks, and state repression.
At its spearhead is the military-strategic offensive of US imperialism and its allies to crush resistance and impose its global domination.
The process of globalisation itself intensifies these tendencies of war and aggression. This comes precisely because of the fact that in its efforts towards the economic re-colonisation of the third world, globalisation has led to an intensification of economic exploitation on a world scale.
Inherent in this is the sharp widening of inequalities, both between the developing countries and the developed countries and between the rich and poor in all countries, leading to large-scale depravation and want. The contradiction of the capitalist system seen in this large-scale impoverishment of a majority of the world’s people means the reduction of their capacity to be the consumers of the products that this globalised economy produces.
So, in Australia we have the Turnbull government cherry-picking economic statistics and mouthing of “jobs and growth” while supporting the corporate push for cutting wages. including the minimum wage and the penalty rates of shift workers.
The US and its allies do not have the capacity to control the world: They can, however, destroy it.
The US doctrine of unending war also has its domestic expression – to take back every gain won by the working class and people over the past century. It entails a massive shift in wealth to the rich and a new concentration of monopoly power, including greater concentration of the corporate mass media.
Australian workers are feeling the effects of these processes, as are the workers of every other capitalist country. Although each country will have its specific experiences and situation, the underlying processes are common to us all.
The global financial network is a constantly changing maze of currency transactions, global securities, euro-yen swaps and an ever-more innovative array of speculative devises for repackaging and reselling money.
This network is much closer to a chain of gambling casinos than to the dull, grey banks of the past. Twenty-four hours a day, trillions of dollars flow through the world’s foreign exchange markets. No more than ten percent of this staggering sum has anything to do with trade in goods and services.
A common development is the rise of working class and community movements against these policies and their effects. There are strikes and demonstrations against the attacks on trade union and workers’ rights, for wage increases, for shorter hours, for collective bargaining rights, for health and safety on the job, against privatisation, against cuts in services, in defence of democratic rights, for women’s rights, for national independence and sovereignty, for preservation of the environment.
Of the utmost importance is the strengthening of cooperation and solidarity among people, workers, communist and progressive forces of the world.
In a world more and more divided by the social, economic, political and military barriers of corporate globalisation it is crucial to develop friendships and forge new alliances based on common cause, and relations of friendship and solidarity.
Book Reviews by Graham Drew
The need for a broad breadth of Marxist writers (and readers) in these times
Definitely the quickest cover-to-cover read (no index) by me of a contemporary book about Marxism is Total propaganda: basic Marxist brainwashing for the angry and the young by Helen Razer (2017: Allen & Unwin). She appeals to millennials to read a bit of Marx and Marxist writers, including Lenin, with the view of them embracing unity in the face of social and political issues left as problems by previous generations – not least of all, of course, the environment, housing and the like.
Razer is unforgiving about the shit capitalism has created and reminds a lot of smart academic Marxists that cultural studies was a useless diversion amongst other confusions and finger-pointing (from baby boomers and the like) that young people must unpack. And yes, identity politics is put into its hole and idealism/ideology gets its just deserve. Historical materialism is clearly and succinctly explained with accessible examples for the contemporary reader. Alienation is simply described, along with the inherent contradictions of capitalism though she doesn’t really deal with the “state” – maybe a complexity, amongst other pressing questions, best left for another book.
Helen Razer clearly is proud to be known as a communist writer and more than adequately applies her journalist skills to explain most things about capitalism and Marxism that I have been asked about by young (and old people) over my years as a student, a unionist, a worker (labourer, social welfare, administration and teacher) and parent.
Equally, having such a book when I was young would have assisted me in appreciating the political work/arguments that I encountered in my youthful inclination to join the CPA in the late 1970s. This is a book that can be shared, particularly with your children and friends, to help them understand how a Marxist sees and seeks to act in the world.
Whilst it is rightly made clear that generation X and baby-boomer Marxists indulged in the farce of cultural studies as their contribution to the development and perpetuating of Marxist thought, Razer does not make clear how new left-wing activists can avoid, other than liberalism, experimenting with (or getting caught up in) other such dead ends in pursuing the course to revolution. However, she is clear that a socialist/communist revolution is very much the desirable end game.
Istvan Meszaros and his book The necessity of social control (2015: Monthly Review Press), is presented as a simplified read of an insightful and formative thinker/philosopher recommended by the likes of Hugo Chávez, Michael Lebowitz and Bertell Ollman. It is a book I have been reading for the last three months or so – of course off-and-on with necessary periods of varying lengths of time for reflection[s] resulting in other reading[s] being enjoyed and critically digested.
Istvan Meszaros does tend to have rather long, multi-subject qualifying sentences and there were paragraphs that despite re-reading remained un-clear to me. However, I think I am clear in my appreciation that he challenges us to understand that it is the “labour-capital” relationship which is destroying humanity and that the rule of capital, understood as a student of Marx, is an epoch approaching a very dangerous/self-destructive end (for all of us).
Needless to say, Istvan says much more than this and his discussion of the nation-state, amongst a lot of things, deserves debate. Along with his view that the Russian revolution whilst important in seizing the means of production didn’t overthrow the rule of capital in the labour-capital relationship and this is why the collapse of the USSR/or the return of capitalism was possible.
My favourite “line” from Meszaros is that “wealth is to create society rather than society to create wealth”. And whilst the following quote has a sobering implication, and Istvan says we have a gigantic mountain to climb, not to struggle/organise is to surrender to a final end – and not just darkness.
“Grow or perish” continues to be the order of the day, and the meaning of growth, in the spirit of the prevailing order, is fetishistically reduced – by violating the truth and absurdly imposing its destructive transfiguration as falsehood, not in the “world of beyond” but in the actual existing one, through the naked instrumentality of state-legitimated “arbitrary force” – to its fallaciously asserted identity with wasteful capital-expansion. (p.280)
How we can quietly keep alive the understanding and intellect of the many students of Marx, like Istvan and especially Australian writers like Helen Razer, deserves our immediate attention.
Nappies, sanitary products and surgical masks are washing up on NSW beaches after a ship lost at least 86 shipping containers in rough seas off Newcastle.
A Liberian-registered ship bound for Port Botany, south of Sydney, lost the containers after being struck by high winds and a heavy swell en route from Taiwan. Another 30 containers were reported to be severely damaged.
The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) has issued navigational warnings and asked other vessels to report if they see shipping containers floating just below the surface of the South Pacific Ocean.
Shipping containers have already been reported to be drifting south of Port Stephens, just north of Newcastle, an AMSA spokesperson told The New Daily.
While the containers do not represent a threat to larger vessels, a collision with a thin-hulled yacht can – and often has – lead to disaster. A helicopter scoured the coastline for the 12-metre containers while nappies, surgical masks and plastic containers are among the first debris to wash up on Jimmys Beach and Rocky Point.
“Likely many of the shipping containers have sunk, but some float low in the water, with vessels able to see them and report them to the AMSA,” the spokesperson said.
The spokesperson said the containers went overboard at midnight on Thursday, but the operator did not report the incident to AMSA until 11 am on the Friday after.
AMSA sent an aircraft past the vessel on Friday to capture vision of the damage and pollution offshore and planned to send inspectors on board once the ship berthed.
The ship, YM Efficiency is a Liberia-registered ship. Operator Yang Ming Marine Transport Corporation Australia managing director Steven Ka told The New Daily all parties were working to get the vessel into Port Botany as soon as possible.
“As far as we have heard from the master of the vessel, some containers were falling overboard,” Mr Ka said.
Mr Ka said fortunately all of the crew on the YM Efficiency were safe, nobody was hurt and there had been no significant damage to the vessel.
“So she is still sailing on the way to Port Botany,” he said.
Mr Ka could not confirm the contents inside the shipping containers, but said they were “full” of “all kind” of items and “so far we know there are no dangerous cargoes involved”.
The Australian Associated Press reported the company was informing customers and discussing the next steps with its insurer.
At time of writing, it was thought that somewhere between four and 27 shipping containers are lost in oceans around the world each day, according to BBC nature documentary series, Blue Planet II.
UK newspaper The Telegraph reported shipping containers can take up to two months to sink, while refrigerated containers can be buoyed in the water for longer due to internal insulation.
Contents of shipping containers can pollute the ocean and waters with hazardous chemicals or materials, but food, clothing and even toys have also been found on beaches around the world.
In 2006, thousands of bags of Doritos crisps washed up on the sands of the North Carolina Outer Banks and LEGO pieces continue to wash up on the Perran Sands in Cornwall in the United Kingdom after a container ship full of toys was hit by a wave in 1997.
In another incident, 29,000 plastic yellow ducks, known as the “Friendly Floatees”, red beavers, blue turtles and green fogs lost in the Pacific Ocean in 1992, were sited at beaches in the United States, South America, Europe and Australia.
The Muck of Ages
Soon, I expect, another fiasco in our so-called “democratic system” will take place to choose which of our two political parties we will elect to lead us by the nose. There is hardly any difference between Labor and the Liberals: both are controlled by the corporations and the banks. And we can see the moral abyss into which that has led us. The ACTU secretary, Sally McManus is telling us that it’s time to change the system, which Marx was also saying over 100 years ago.
He realised then that it’s fine for philosophers to “interpret the world in various ways, the point is to change it.” We’re not doing a very good job, are we?
Marx also realised that the working class was being manipulated and this manipulation continues to the present day. He referred to it as “the muck of ages” and it is plain to see this being used by the dominant “elite” today in the way they preach division (the fear of the “other”). How else would they be able to get away with the vile practice of imprisoning asylum seekers offshore in such dreadful conditions?
This breeds hatred and intolerance of people who are the same as us – downtrodden workers. This isn’t difficult, of course, as the majority of the working class has already been placed in the position – on the treadmill – of placing food on the table and a roof over their head, leaving little time for actually analysing their situation, whilst steeped in despair and self-loathing. Is that too strong? How many “happy” workers do you speak to every day?
We’re experiencing a society replete with increasing alienation, cynicism and feeling of inadequacy as individuals. We’re seeing increasing unfairness and injustice in our society with instances daily of corporate greed on the one hand and homelessness on the other. What do our elected representatives do? We’ve forced them into a Royal Commission about the banks, when it’s been obvious for years of their malpractice, and union insurrection has finally forced an increase in wages.
What do we see actually happening to address the growing inequalities in our society – an increase in armed police? Marx understood this situation as early as 1852 when he saw a ruling class state with the power of suppression. He realised that if the state machine remained whole there could never be a better society for all people.
Nowhere is this better epitomised than in the actions of the US, who have ruthlessly tried to crush any sign of communism anywhere in the world. At last there seems to be a sense of gathering outrage, which appears to be more of a whimper here in Australia.
There will be no change for the better if we keep supporting the corporations by voting in this two party system.
The United Voice union has joined the ACTU in welcoming the increase to the minimum wage. The power of unions played an important role in securing this wage rise.
However, the Fair Work Commission acknowledged that the raise will not lift all award-reliant employees out of poverty. Nor did the decision address the gross inequity of penalty rate cuts, which will see hospitality workers lose out on any gain.
The decision highlights the need for a bigger, systemic fix for Australia’s low-paid workers.
In a statement the union points out that the answer is simple: allowing workers to effectively bargain and restoring their voice in a system that has been stacked against them for years.
Overall the decision only demonstrates the need for a stronger system for workers, where we can bargain across our industries for all workers and for more than the minimum that this decision provides.
The next penalty rate cut is to begin on July 1. The 3.5% rise is not a meaningful increment for workers facing an upcoming cut to their penalty rates. The next 10% transition to Sunday penalty rates hits on exactly the same day this minimum wage rise begins.
Hospitality workers stand to lose $16 for a Sunday shift for the next 12 months (which will total $40 from July 2019) – a significant portion of their award rise. The decision today did not acknowledge the penalty rate cut with respect to the workers it impacts. Workers cannot afford and do not deserve the July 1 penalty rate cut.
United Voice national secretary Jo-Anne Schofield said: “It is of great concern that the award wage system that is supposed to be a ‘safety net’ is now the source of wages and conditions for nearly a quarter (23.9%) of the Australian workforce – an alarming rise from the 15% of workers covered by the minimum wage and awards in 2010.
“This, along with the continued collapse of the enterprise bargaining system, is clear evidence of the need for a stronger industry bargaining system for workers.”
Standing the test of time
Ten Marxist ideas that define the 21st century
Sergio Alejandro Gómez
Every time the alarms sound announcing another economic crisis, sales of Karl Marx’s books skyrocket. Few understood how capitalism works and its consequences for humanity like this 19th-century German thinker.
No matter how hard the hegemonic propaganda machine has tried to refute his analysis and decree the death of the ideas to which he dedicated his life, Marxism resists the test of time and its validity – not only as a method to understand the world – but as a tool to transform it, is proven.
Two centuries after his birth, Granma International shares ten of Marx’s predictions that set the pace of the 21st century.
The concentration and centralisation of capital
In his masterpiece Capital, Marx defined economic reproduction in capitalism and predicted the tendency to concentrate and centralise capital.
While the first aspect refers to the accumulation of surplus value – the value created over and above the labour power of workers (surplus labour), appropriated by the capitalist as profit – the second term consists of the increase in capital as a result of the combination of several individual capitals, almost always as a result of bankruptcies or economic crises.
The implications of this analysis are devastating for the defenders of the ability of the “blind hand of the market” to distribute wealth.
As Marx predicted, one of the characteristics of capitalism in the 21st century is the growing gap between rich and poor. According to Oxfam’s latest report, 82 percent of the wealth generated worldwide in 2017 went into the pockets of the richest one percent of the global population, while 3.7 billion people, the poorest half of the world, saw no increase in their wealth.
The instability of capitalism and cyclical crisis
The German philosopher was one of the first to understand that economic crises were not an error of the capitalist system, but one of its intrinsic characteristics.
Even today attempts are made to peddle a different idea.
However, from the Stock Market Crash of 1929, to the crisis of 2007-2008, there is a clear course that follows the patterns as outlined by Marx. Hence, even Wall Street magnates end up turning to the pages of Capital to find some answers.
Perhaps one of the most revolutionary Marxist ideas was the understanding that “The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles,” as we read in the Communist Manifesto written by Marx and Friedrich Engels in 1848.
That thesis threw liberal thought into crisis. For Marx, the capitalist state is one more tool of the hegemonic class to dominate the rest, while reproducing its values and its own class.
A century and a half later, social struggles are fought between the one percent that dominates and the other 99 percent.
The industrial reserve army
The capitalist, according to Marx, needs to keep wages low in order to maximise profitability. This can be achieved as long as there is another worker waiting to take the place of one who refuses to accept the conditions. That’s who he called the “reserve industrial army.”
Although the social and trade union struggles from the 19th century to the present day have changed elements of this situation, especially in developed nations, the quest for low wages continues to be a constant in the business sector.
During the 20th century, large manufacturing companies in Europe and the United States relocated to Asia in search of a skilled workforce they could pay less.
Although recent governments point to a loss of jobs through this process, as the Donald Trump administration in the United States has, the fact is that these companies managed to maintain their high growth rates thanks to the exploitation of cheap labour.
Regarding wages, current studies show that workers’ purchasing power, in terms of what can be bought and not their nominal value, has been decreasing in western countries for nearly 30 years.
And the gap is even greater between executives and low-level employees.
According to an article in The Economist, while in the last two decades workers’ pay in countries like the United States has stagnated, the salary of top executives has increased significantly: they have gone from earning 40 times the average pay to pocketing 110 times more. (www.economist.com/node/8554819)
The negative role of finance capital
While Marx details the mechanisms of exploitation inherent in the process of capital accumulation, he is especially critical of financial capital, which does not have a direct material role in the economy, but is created in a “fictitious” way, such as a promissory note or a bond.
In his day, one couldn’t imagine the modern development of this sector of the economy, thanks to the use of computers to carry out financial transactions at the speed of light.
Speculation and the elaboration of complex financial mechanisms – such as the so-called “subprime,” which triggered the crisis of 2007-2008 – are currently solid confirmation of Marx’s concerns.
The creation of false needs
The 19th century had not yet seen the boom of commercial advertising on radio and television, much less modern mechanisms to personalise advertising messages on the Internet, but Marx already warned of the ability of the capitalist system to generate alienation and false needs among people.
“The extension of products and needs becomes a contriving and ever-calculating subservience to inhuman, sophisticated, unnatural, and imaginary appetites,” he predicted over 150 years ago.
In today’s world, cell phones become outdated in just a few months, and advertising is responsible for convincing users to buy the latest model. Meanwhile, household appliances are built with planned obsolescence to ensure they stop working after a few years, and thus create the need to replace them.
“The need of a constantly expanding market for its products chases the bourgeoisie over the whole surface of the globe. It must nestle everywhere, settle everywhere, establish connexions everywhere,” Marx and Engels wrote in the Communist Manifesto.
Their portrait of the globalisation of markets, accompanied by the imposition of a culture determined by consumption, could not be more accurate.
The prominence of monopolies
At the same time, this trend is accompanied by the creation of transnational monopolies. While classical liberal economic theory assumed that competition would maintain multiplicity of ownership, Marx went a step further and identified the market’s tendency to amalgamate based on the law of the strongest.
Large media, telephone, and oil conglomerates are some of the current examples of the process described by Marx.
The suicidal tendencies of capitalism
“All that is solid melts into air,” is one of the most enlightened reflections on capitalism in the Communist Manifesto.
Marx and Engels understood the creative and at the same time self-destructive nature of capitalism, in which the pursuit of productivity at any price imposes an inhuman rhythm of production and unsustainable consumption.
It is precisely this trend that currently has our planet on the edge of collapse.
The impact of human beings on the rise in global temperature is scientifically proven, although certain presidents, such as that of the United States, continue to deny it.
The revolutionary potential of the working class
Marx’s greatest impact on history was not his profound analysis of the contradictions of capitalism, but his call to build a new kind of society: based on communism.
His message that the proletariat has the potential to free itself from oppression and inequality forever changed the twentieth century and inspired revolutions in Russia, China, Vietnam, and Cuba, among other countries. His call to working class unity remains fully valid in the 21st century.
When one of the cousins in her family committed suicide, as the oldest of her generation, Larrakia woman Jada Alberts felt a sense of responsibility. She wanted to help her family by finding a way to talk about what had happened and allow everyone to deal with the trauma and help each other.
Ms Alberts, a writer, director and actor, used the power of words to create the play Brothers Wreck about Ruben, a young man who discovers the body of his cousin and struggles to deal with it and talk about his grief. Now in its second run, the award winning play will be performed on the stage in Melbourne and Adelaide during June and July.
“Within our family, there’s been a lot of mental health issues – I suffered depression myself,” Ms Alberts said. “It’s not the first time there’s been a suicide in my family and I remember when I was 14 a friend told me she told me she was going to do it – and then she was gone.
“No-one wanted to talk to me about it, even though we all knew she was suffering from a trauma that kept her depressed.”
It can be confronting when writing about an issue like suicide, but Ms Alberts said she doesn’t get scared easily and leans “into emotional situations rather than lean out”.
“The world around teaches us to shut down and man up – you’ll be right,” she said. “Our society has this thing about not talking about it – it’s a particularly Western way of dealing with things.
“Naturally, I’m interested in dark material and how much it can teach us. I really wanted to know what my cousins went through that morning when they found their loved one. I wanted other people to know as well – to look and not pretend.”
Now in rehearsals for the play, Ms Alberts said it was difficult to ask actors to put themselves in the head space needed to act out the story.
“But this is a hopeful story, so we start somewhere dark and move through that as a group and find a way to talk about trauma in a helpful, productive way for each other,” she said.
Brothers Wreck was first performed in 2014 and nominated for numerous awards.
For its upcoming second season, Ms Alberts said they are changing it and stretching out the internal world and psychology of the characters.
“We’ve had positive feedback from school students who were asked about the show and its impact,” she said. “They got so much from the show, like remembering the people in our lives we take for granted sometimes and we shut down to self-preserve, but it’s those people who can help us to get through things.”
Ms Alberts said she’s always been interested in theatre and acting and originally studied performing arts at her artist mother’s suggestion – and fell in love with it.
She crossed over into television in the series Cleverman, scoring an acting role as Nerida – wife of bad guy Waruu. She then became the associate script producer on the show’s second series and co-wrote two episodes.
“It’s one of the greatest experiences I’ve had,” Ms Alberts said. “I’ve continued to write for TV and I’m working on a new play for the theatre.”
Ms Alberts said telling stories is her great passion and, while in her early days as an actor, she was “always typecast in an Indigenous role”, she now enjoys being able to control how stories are told.
“Indigenous writers and directors have more opportunities to saturate that space now and say, ‘Hey, our lives are not dissimilar to yours – even though we all come from different places.’
“For young blackfellas watching, it’s important to see themselves on screen. It’s a form of trauma to not see yourself reflected in the world around you. Being invisible is something blackfellas had to put up with for so long and it’s starting to change.
“The work I do is about telling black stories and diversifying the stories we do tell – and letting black bodies fill that space and take it back into our power.”
Brothers Wreck will be performed at Malthouse Theatre in Melbourne from June 8-23 and in Adelaide from June 27-July 14.
For more information, visit
Readers seeking support and information about
suicide prevention can contact:
Lifeline 13 11 14
Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467
Kids Helpline (aged 5-25) 1800 55 1800 78
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander support services can be found at: naccho.org.au sewbmh.org.au or healthinfonet.ecu.edu.au
The following articles were published by The Guardian, newspaper of the Communist Party of Australia, in its issue of June 13, 2018.
Reproduction of articles, together with acknowledgement if appropriate, is welcome.
The Guardian, Editorial, 74 Buckingham Street, Surry Hills, Sydney NSW 2010, Australia
Communist Party of Australia, 74 Buckingham Street, Surry Hills, Sydney NSW 2010, Australia
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