Death, taxes….and redundancy.

 

In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.
Benjamin Franklin

 

In my situation I would add a third thing. Redundancy.  I am thinking this as I am now facing my third redundancy in my working life.  I guess some have faced more (some of my colleagues had faced this situation only three years ago).  But then I know lots of people who have been working in the same organisation for more than 20 years and never ever faced the R word I wonder “how have they done it?’

Redundancy comes in uninvited, suddenly and in this case unexpectedly.  In the first case it was the election of the Jeff Kennett government that did me in when he decided to swathe through the Public Service with an axe in Genghis Khan fashion.   I was fortunate to get a job community organisation work almost immediately afterwards.  But ironically, where the first time I was made redundant by a Liberal government, this time it was (indirectly) the advent of a Labor government which was the cause of my demise.  This community organisation, hostile to the Liberals was very close to the ALP, and this meant more funding which meant that they could pay more for someone much more experienced than me. So out I went.

So when in May we got the news that despite what we have been told just a few months earlier we were facing a staff downsizing/restructure/redundancy process I went  ‘oh no, not again’.  I must done something terrible in a work situation in a previous life.  Maybe I was an evil boss who sacked lots of people and made them destitute.

The big difference this time is that when I was made redundant before, in both of those cases while unpleasant (especially in the first one where I was ‘targeted’ and I was the only one laid off in my team) I already made up my mind that I wanted to change my career and become a librarian.  Just that the decision to leave was not mine and earlier than I would have liked.

Getting a job at a university was such a godsend.  It was a fairly basic job. Copy cataloguing in what it was termed as the ‘technical’ section.  Which meant working as a library tecnician downoading records, printing and sticking barcodes and labels on the books etc.  it was not an onerous job. But I was working in my preferred academic library, and it was a start.  But it meant even more because after the storms I experienced in the previous years it was such a great feeling finding a steady job, a desk to go to in the morning, having a role, working amongst other people.  I didn’t care that I was at the ‘bottom of the ladder’ I had a job in the library. And that was enough for me.  Eventually I after a few tries and knock-backs I got the job I wanted after nine years of working there.  And here I am after five years facing losing it.  I guess I have to be philosophical.  There are lots of people in the world that never had a chance to work in their ‘ideal job’.  At least I had that experience, even if it represents only 17.2% of my total working life.

I felt that my employer was quite a good one.  Some of my colleagues didn’t agree with me, but I guess after working in the public service with Jeff Kennett as Genghis Khan if felt quite nice.  But in the back of my mind I knew it couldn’t last.  Eventually the R word would catch up with me again.  I knew that it happened to other sections where I worked so it could happen to me, and it has.  The brutal reality of corporate economics means that positions have to cut back.  No more Mr. Nice Guy.

This job that I love didn’t just fell on my lap.  I had to go and get it. And now as I submit my CV again and hope I do well in an interview I am thinking…this is the third time I have to apply for it, and I may lose it.  A job that I thought I did well (well…my boss was satisfied)

But then  I think whether any organisation can give anyone a guarantee of a job.  Ultimately the organisation has a number of roles they think they need.  They fill those roles with the best person they find.  But it can be argued that if the organisation feels that the role doesn’t match their purpose no longer whether they have the right to terminate that role.  It is a contract between a provider of work and someone who fulfill the task that the organisation feels it needs.  The problem is that the employee is at the mercy of the employer.  Many times, to soften the blow, we’ve been told that it is not the person that gets redundant, it is the position.  Still, this is meager consolation if you finish unemployed. Especially at my age.  A job is not just a job.  Especially if it interest you it becomes a really meaningful part of your life. It becomes a place where doing well can give you acknowledgment. It is something that gives you a sense of identity.

Now that’s gone.  So here I go again. Putting my best foot forward. Convincing others that I can do the job. I feel so tired. But I have no other options.

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I don’t want an Australia with Mosques in the Attic.

Amsterdam conjures up few things. Canals, bicycles, coffee shops, red light district, AFC Ajax.  But I remember that in a TV program I saw something that really intrigued me.  In central Amsterdam there is a Catholic Church which is invisible to the outside world.  The Church is called ‘Our Lord in the Attic’, because it is.  It is a church built in an attic.

In 1581 the northern part of the Netherlands was a Republic, where the ruling class was made up of an aristocracy of city-merchants. The main religion was Calvinism,    On the 20th of  December of that year, the Dutch Republlic officially prohibited the overt practice of the Catholic religion.   So Dutch Catholics had to clandestinely practice their faith establishing private churches. They celebrated mass in their living rooms, places of work and warehouses.  The authorities closed an eye as long as these churches remained unrecognizable from the outside.

One of these churches that remain is the Church of our Lord in the Attic (Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder).  It is built in the attic of this bourgeois house hidden away originally built in 1663,  it is now mainly a Museum, but it is still consecrated and it is used as a Church for some occasions.  I went to see it the first time I visited Amsterdam and it is amazing to see the ingenuity of how little space was used so effectively. Ikea eat you heart out.

 

You wouldn’t know that this house has in its attic a fully functioning baroque church.

 

I was thinking about this church when I saw the islamophobes protesting about the proposal of building a mosque in the Gold Coast.

This sort of thing doesn’t happen only in Queensland.  Same thing happened when a mosque was proposed in Ballarat earlier this year.   It seems that no matter where Australians of the Muslim faith want to build a place of worship they will be met with ferocious protest.  Whether from locals, or from outsiders who will spread misinformation and hate.  There may be legitimate causes to oppose a mosque (noise, parking etc.) but there is no denying that there is always an element of Islamophobia in these objections.

Of course Muslims wanting to practice their faith are asserting their rights, and so they should.  And any other Australians who are against racism and discrimination should support them.  But I would not blame Australian Muslim to put this in the too hard basket and practice their faith hidden away.

It would be like the  situation of religious intolerance of Europe in the 17th Century.  You know when the Islamophobes/Xenophobes say that Islam hate the west and what it stands for, or they don’t accept other religions etc. when they are the ones that are intolerant, and are denying Australian Muslims having a place to worship.

I don’t want an Australia where anyone practicing their religion has to do it in a clandestine fashion.  We don’t want ‘Mosques in the Attic’. We want a multicultural Australia. Where everyone is free to practice (or not to practice) their religion.

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When it comes to multiculturalism, both FFA and AFL are on ‘Team Australia’

I often said that one of the things I find fascinating about how Association Football is perceived in Australia is how it is able to bring to the surface aspects of Australian culture that often stay submerged and more or less unnoticed.

The issue of ethnicity and Association Football in Australia has been a discussion point even in the late 1800’s where it was called ‘British Association Rules’ football (I’d imagine to distinguish it from the ‘Australian Rules’ variety). The influx of post war European migrants did boost the participation of the sport in the country, but as often clubs were created by these groups partly to find a common activity to meet in a foreign country it amplified the perception that the game had gone from being ‘British’ to ‘European’ and therefore (in the mentality of the 50’s it became ‘wogball’). The fact that Australians enthusiastically took on very British sports like cricket and rugby and made them part of the Australian identity, but somehow rejected soccer (and in the case of most states created their own football code) for a number of reasons.

I don’t intend go over stuff that has been discussed many times over the past few years. But the fact remains that Association Football became identified with ‘migrants’ and therefore not only it was a ‘foreign’ sport to begin with (in contrast with Aussie Rules and Rugby League) but this amplified its separateness from the mainstream even more. Thrown in some ‘incidents’ between some teams that had a tradition of ancient conflict and the cocktail of soccer being un-Australian was made.

I don’t know whether it was a cause and effect occurrence, but I also sensed that many soccer fans liked it that way. I think some liked the feeling of being a minority and that they were different from the mainstream. They were following their ethnic based teams with defiance. That was their heritage and the mainstream could get stuffed. So even when Soccer Australia and David Hill forced teams to remove any link to their ethnic past they would defiantly chant ‘Hellas’ or ‘Croatia’.

And here I will say something I have said many times before. There was good arguments on all sides. The traditional ethnic clubs were those who kept the light alight through dark times. Through all those evenings and weekends, all the volunteering work of love to keep teams afloat. And I think most football fans can’t deny that the 2006 team that did so well in the World Cup in Germany was mostly a product of those teams.

But on the other Football in Australia was a marginalised sport, viewed by the mainstream as a foreign import. I guess some of the traditional supporters couldn’t care less. In fact they probably liked the fact that they belonged to a group on the outside. But the sport was going down the gurgler. Not because the support was dwindling, but also because of the monumental ineptness of Soccer Australia. Knop, Labozzetta etc. well meaning but their administration left something to be desired. The Crawford Report and the creation of the FFA was a necessary circuit breaker. And while many teams that were created by particular groups were true community teams, the perception (whether true or not) that they were associated to a particular ethnic group was not good for a brand new competition. Teams had to be a clean sheet, where fans would be able to attach their own meanings without other influences.   Where everyone could attach its feeling to a team because its main focus was the Australian geographical area it represented, rather than a cultural heritage.

But as in many revolutions things get thrown out that perhaps shouldn’t be. And with the creation of the new A-League those who held the torch for the sport were not only discarded, but decidedly made to feel unwanted. ‘Old soccer is now the new football’ the slogan said. It is understandable that many felt bitter towards the FFA, the A-League and the ‘plastic teams’ that it formed.

This feeling remained over the 10 years of the A-League existence. Previous big teams such as South Melbourne and Marconi continued in the State Leagues being followed by dedicated supporters. But this year something happened. The FFA has with the creation of the FFA Cup brought back some of these traditional teams if not back in the fold somewhat in the tent. The amount of support and good will that this competition created was considerable, I was quite surprised by it.  Reading twitter I could see so many fans delighted that they had the teams they grew up with such as Sydney Olympic, Brisbane Strikers, Sydney United and Adelaide City in a competition with the A-League teams together, like a NSL-A-League combo. Many reminisced about the 80’s when those teams were in the top flight. Remarkably many fans when referring to these teams decided to use their original names which carried their ethnic origin, which contained words such as ‘Juventus”, or ‘Olympic’ instead of the de-ethnicised names of the post-Hill era. For a reformed Euro-snob such as myself, it was heartwarming to notice the amount of affection these teams still had amongst Australian football fans

The FFA however was being paranoid about allowing the ‘ethnic’ element back in the football mainstream. After suppressing the ‘foreign’ element of soccer with the advent of the A-League they were not going to allow the genie out of the bottle. Before the competition started it put out an edict forbidding any team to “use, advertise or promote (or permit any other person or entity to use, advertise or promote) any ethnic, racial, religious or political identifiers in connection or association with the Club”. The prospect of those old NSL clubs identifying themselves as coming from a particular group was too much for the FFA that somehow thought that these teams, now playing in a new competition with A-League ones, would somehow re-label the code as wogball again, tainting the clean white bread image of the A-League.

What it is interesting is that at the same time the FFA is doing this, the AFL is desperately trying to boost its multicultural credentials. It has a Multicultural Round (watch the heart warming videos) and it ensures through the media any player which is ‘diverse’ gets coverage.

So what’s going on? Basically is the ‘A’ word again, assimilation at play here.

Since the 70’s we’ve heard a lot about multiculturalism but again football (of both codes) shows what really is meant by this word. It is not multiculturalism at all, it is really of re-enforcing the mainstream template. The AFL with his multicultural PR demonstrate that the code allows you to become an aussie, like everyone else. The FFA is basically telling fans and teams to go in the same direction. Forget about your heritage. We don’t want to look foreign. Please put anything un-Australian away. So we can have all fans from both code feeling all warm and fuzzy in ‘Team Australia’.

I say to the FFA to break the mould, don’t be so paranoid. The FFA Cup is for the true believers anyway. I don’t think that a Melbourne Victory playing an Adelaide Juventus is going to ‘taint’ the A-League. Even the mainstream media is sophisticated enough to see that this is a different type of competition. On the contrary it may feel many football fans that felt ostracised by the advent of the A-League to be back in the fold, and it will finally recognised the heritage of Australian Association Football. Without kowtowing to an image of white bread Australia. Time to recognise that a team is Australian. Whether it was created in the 1950’s by a bunch of migrants who arrived by boat or one who is 10 years old and created after the Crawford Report.

 

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The AFL Multicultural Round

Jock: You did some nice things last week. Not one of your best games but you did some nice things. Glorious mark you took in the second quarter. You just seemed to go up and up.

Geoff: I felt like Achilles.

Jock: Who’s he?

Geoff: A Greek guy who could really jump.

Jock: [nods] Some of our new Australians could be champions if they’d stop playing soccer and assimilate.

The Club, Act 1. David Williamson – 1977

 The quote above comes from David Williamson’s play ‘The Club’ (which was subsequently turned into a film) that deals with the clash of values that were occurring in a VFL club in the mid 70’s.

If you haven’t seen the play this scene is between Jock, the vice-president of the football club, who I would guess is in his 60’s representing the ‘Old Australia’ of post war picket fences and white bread, and Geoff a young star recruit who goes to University and is questioning the ‘old traditional’ values of the Club and football in general. It is also a very perceptive line about the role of Australian Rules football compared to Association Football (aka soccer) and how the role of Aussie Rules is seen as a way of enabling assimilation.  This was in some way reflected in my own journey.

When I started to follow the VFL in the late 70’s, one thing that attracted me to the game, and made me feel welcome was that there were plenty of non-English/Celtic name playing.  My father and I barracked in Italian and never anyone said anything to us.  Granted we were following Carlton, and perhaps fans thought that it was quite normal.

But if I remember the Carlton team in the late 70’s and early 80’s – a golden period for Carlton – there was Jesaulenko, Bosustow, Klomp, Marcou, Perovic, Bortolotto, Kourkoumelis, Marchesani, Silvagni, Dorotich etc. Plenty of NESB (Non English Speaking Background) names.  And of course we had NESB players from other teams such as the ‘Macedonian Marvel”, or that big Hawthorn man with that unpronounceable name.

 

Peter Daicos, played at Collingwood between 1979–1993 and was named the ‘Macedonian Marvel’.

But the underlying belief for me, which I didn’t realise at the time, was that being a footy follower was a way of become more part of the city I lived in.  There was no sinister outside force compelling me to do this.  After migrating from Italy, then going to Sydney and after three years to Melbourne, I found in this city finally a safe harbour, and supporting an VFL team (which was as a Carlton resident my ‘local’ one) was part of it.  I did read later that in many ways there was a similar journey for many of the NESB people who got involved in Aussie Rules.  Even our current Socceroo coach felt that that way.

It was later, especially as I got interested again in the code of my childhood – Association Football – that I started to see the cultural divides implied in the game of Australian Rules.

Let me say that I think that the AFL does well in celebrating its traditions.  It has placed a strategy where certain rounds are dedicated to a section of society that has contributed to the game.  We have an Indigenous Round , a Women’s Round and this weekend we had a Multicultural Round.  It is a substantial PR exercise.  We have heart warming videos such as this one.

And we have media support.  An example was an article in yesterday’s Sunday Age by Geelong player, Jimmy Bartel  explaining the thinking behind the Multicultural Round.

 

We have the most inclusive game in this country and are the only football code that plays for professional points in every state and territory. Any Australian should feel comfortable to take his family or mates to a game and cheer home their favourite side. I like to look into the crowd and see a snapshot of society watching – although, perhaps not heckling me too much.

As I was watching the videos, and reading the articles I was thinking why the AFL is so keen in demonstrating its ‘multicultural’ credentials.  As I stated earlier having NESB players in the competition is nothing new. And it is fine for the AFL to celebrate these players.  But when we look at the message, the AFL is more interested in us looking at the future, rather than the past.  Yes we have the players that played in previous years, but the images and the narrative is about children, about the young.  I do wonder whether this stems from that inexplicable insecurity that Australian Rules football has about its position in a global economy.  I do wonder whether they feel that the old ‘assimilation’ ethos that existed in the 50’s 60’s and 70’s is no longer there to motivate NESB young people to choose Australian Rules over other sports (or any activity for that matter) and so they re-create it with the image of ‘inclusiveness’.  But we also have to ask.  Is it ‘assimilation’ with new updated clothing?

Look for instance the way the media has gone in overdrive when someone who is from a different culture from the mainstream joins the AFL.  Awer Mabil is an Adelaide United player who has played in the Young Socceroos in a recent tournament in the USA. He was born to South Sudanese parents in Kakuma, located in northwestern Kenya and lived in a Refugee Camp with his family until 2006 when his family moved to Australia. Maybe Adelaide media had some stories about him,  but I haven’t seen much coverage here in Melbourne.  In comparison when another Sudanese young person, Majak Daw started in AFL there were articles galore in the Victorian media.

Why this difference? Is it because despite everything deep down Association Football is still a ‘Wog’ sport? And therefore having a player representing Australia is not much of a story?  While Aussie Rules is seen as ‘Australian’ and therefore white Anglo/Celtic and therefore when someone from Africa join its ranks it is a big deal?

It really goes back to what Jock indicated in Williamson’s play.  That playing Australian Rules for a migrant is a sign of integration. Of becoming part of Australian society.  While playing Association Football is the opposite. Is to opt to remain an outsider. A migrant that chooses to play a ‘foreign sport’.  Terms might have changed, but the sentiment hasn’t.

I can see the point made by some Association Football supporters that are bemused that AFL is hailed when someone who is not an Anglo/Celtic is part of it, while Association has been multicultural by its nature from the beginning, but this is not often seen as a positive, in fact it is seen as a negative.  So much so that the governing body, the Football Federation of Australia is almost paranoid to have any slight whiff of ‘foreignness’.

Ultimately the conclusion we arrive is that despite all the efforts of the Football Federation of Australia it is still seen as a ‘foreign code’ which is played and followed by ‘migrants’.  While Australian Rules is the epitome of Australian Culture, and someone not from the mainstream culture, someone from a Non English Speaking Background joining it is a sign of assimilation.  And this also makes the mainstream culture comfortable.  Because the Australian psyche is deeply anxious of outsiders and ‘foreign’ influences.  We can see when the tabloid media over-reacts when there are some incidents at an Association Football match, while similar incidents at an Australian Football match are not covered to the same extent, or even ignored.  This is why politicians from both mainstream parties go to such cruel measures to ‘stop the boats’ and keep asylum seekers out of the country.<

One last example? Look at this brand new promo by the ABC.

Yes wonderful multicultural.  But again it shows different cultures playing Aussie Rules, not a round ball in sight.  Because that's the measure of integration.  Outsiders and becoming like 'us' by playing 'our' game.

AFLGirls

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