Do you remember The Man from Snowy River? Or more specifically the blog I wrote about a paper I gave at the 2019 Australian and New Zealand Supreme and High Court Judges’ Conference?
The presentation at that conference has led to the great privilege and opportunity to speak at a number of conferences, workshops and events during 2019. This has allowed me to widely share messages about low-level language. And about how communication can be so difficult when the skills and rules of communication are not accessible to the reader, listener, speaker.
In that blog, I wrote:
The more that people can understand the way communication works, its robust fragility and its challenging beauty, the more we will grow our happiness, and a shared grace within a challenged world.
These are messages worth sharing.
The most recent of the presentations I have given was the keynote at the NSW Mental Health Tribunal AGM, in Gladesville, Sydney: “Clear Kind Accessible Communication”.
The message was about being seen, being heard and paying attention to other and to self. Of course I also spoke about effective and therapeutic kindness. About connection. And effective communication. And about A Man from Snowy River.
“Compost”? “Cow pats”? “Farrck”? There is method here, folks.
Part of the day included a tour of the site of the AGM – at the Gladesville Mental Hospital, formerly known as the Tarban Creek Lunatic Asylum. It was Sydney’s first purpose-built asylum, at Bedlam Point on Parramatta River. It was established in 1838 and officially closed in 1993, with the last in-patient services ceased in 1997. The word asylum points to ‘protection’ and ‘care’ but a quick Google search will reveal tales of sadness, mistreatment and, well horror, for anyone wanting to learn more about this place.
The “ha-ha” wall at Gladesville.
On my tour, I learnt two other remarkable things.
On the grounds is a “ha-ha” wall. Yes! It’s a thing!
A “ha-ha” is a sunken wall. It was a design feature popularised in the 18th century English Landscape style of garden. It resembled an empty trench, and functioned as a fence or boundary that contrived an illusion of tranquil pastoral views, and a sense of land ownership which extended into eternity. When I was shown the “ha-ha” wall in this context, however, there was no sense of its landscaping richness. This looked to me like the place where those on the outside (those with) could look down on those on the inside (those without) and laugh at them. I could, in my imagination, see it and hear it.
It’s exactly what I speak about. When one doesn’t have access, one is left vulnerable, isolated, at risk. And it is exactly why I speak at these gatherings (and others) – because we can change this.
The second, and less harrowing, discovery was this:
Adjacent to the site where I presented, is the former home of none other than A.B. (Banjo) Paterson’s grandmother! The Man from Snowy River’s author spent much time on this land on which I was now standing!
His poem had, not 12 months ago, opened up opportunities for me to speak about kindness and access and understanding to many groups; and here I was, standing where he had stood, about to speak again. What a journey.
Thank you to those who have asked me to speak to their gatherings over the past year. It’s been wonderful.
Always finishing with a poem… and here’s a beauty by William Stafford…