I once ran a 10km beach race for a lark. I thought it’d make a good story. The longest I’d ever lightly cantered before that was about 5km. I didn’t have any gear so I ran it in my pyjama pants. I’d also thought it was a good idea to run it barefoot given I hadn’t packed any running shoes for this holiday. To be fair, I hadn’t planned on running 10km that particular Sunday morning (or ever, for that matter). 

I ran that whole race, even though my lungs were on fire, and even though the skin literally fell off the bottom of my feet. I mean literally in the true sense of the word: I couldn’t walk properly for a couple of weeks after and antibiotics may have been involved in the aftermath. 

It did make a good pub story. It was a tale of heroism with a touch of backfiring spontaneity, a challenge conquered by mammoth effort, rewarded with meat pies and beer. I thought that undertaking required strength of character. Others did too. Well.  Ha!  Pre-child me, you naive fool. You thought that took grit? Suck on the nausea-flavoured lollipop that is the four month baby sleep regression for a while, and running 10k on wet sand with grated feet might actually seem like the soft option. There is also precious little beer involved, and pretty much no one wants to hear about it either. 


The tiny tyrant demands to be held to sleep, disdaining slings and other such helpful devices. And so I sit here, a human recliner, typing one handed, trying to recall what life was like before my current career as some sort of sophisticated piece of furniture for a little swaddled sausage.

As I have mentioned to a dear friend, one strikingly different thing about the epoch BA (Before Ari) compared to AA is that, for the first time in as long as I can recall, the deep and abiding…something…rage I think, I’ve always felt about social injustice appears to have been blunted. The proverbial fire in the belly that sustained my working and personal life appears to be dampened, and at the time this realisation first occurred, it wasn’t clear to me what might have replaced it. My news addiction has been replaced with an active news aversion. I avoid the awfulness that each revelation on Australia’s asylum detention policy brings. I am unable to contemplate any aspect of governmental Indigenous affairs policy (potentially a problem for going back to work!). I’ve started just deleting every media release I receive in my inbox with a Commonwealth header without reading them. I can’t even listen to Radio National’s breakfast program anymore.

When in the past my friends have told me about what happened to their parents, and in some cases their siblings, how they were removed under the Aboriginal “protection” policies, I was, and still am, filled with horror and outrage. A 6 year old boy falls off the wagon and hurts his ankle. His parents take him to the hospital and are told they cannot stay overnight. When they return in the morning, he is gone, taken to a boys’ home 800km away where he will face unspeakable cruelty. His parents are not told where he has gone, and they never see each other again. The horror and outrage I feel was always fuel for advocacy, for seeking systemic change, for justice.

Now, reflecting on these stories in the AA era, it is clear to me what has overtaken my rage. When I think of these stories now, I quail. My breath shortens painfully and my gut actually cramps with anxiety and adrenaline.

Dr Cornel West said, “Never forget that justice is what love looks like in public.” I have always believed this, and I still do. But now, I am starting to understand that perhaps, what love looks like in private, in the secret unspoken stirrings, is a profound and crippling fear.

Enter, another insatiable galactovore in plastic pants

It is hard to comprehend that I have a daughter. 

I have a daughter. 

These words still seem surreal, like they can’t come from me, from who I am with my current set of sensibilities, capabilities and incapabilities. 

At the moment I can only focus on the micro. The endless obsessing and profound anxiety about every small cough or untoward squirm or unexplained trembling lower lip. The wide angled panoramic view is too much to process and deconstruct. 

Suffice to say, I am unsatisfied with the dominant but two dimensional narrative of “you’ll never feel love like this ever” and the almost mystical ​holy cow that maternal bonding is instantaneous and uncomplicated. It does happen, but I think the journey must be different for everyone. One of these days when I’m not destroyed by lack of sleep, and am not composing my thoughts one handed on a phone…perhaps then I’ll try to unpack this morass of murky frightening joyful ambivalent marvellous resentful fiercely protective feelings. 

Hello my girl. We’ll figure this all out together. I would be very grateful for your indulgence on the trial and error laden way. 

Pretty sure these things are capes

Justice on stolen land

A Darwin man, heavily affected by methamphetamine, runs over an 8 year old boy and kills him in a hit and run. He receives an 18 month suspended sentence, 6 months home detention (for failing to stop and assist), and a $2,090 fine for possession, use and dangerous driving.

Another Darwin man gets picked up and taken into police custody for minor alcohol offences under the Northern Territory’s new “paperless arrests” laws. He dies in police custody within three hours – for which there has not yet been any accounting.

In the first matter, the man was white, and the child was Aboriginal.

In the second matter, the man was an Aboriginal Elder. Of course, he is not the first Aboriginal person to die in police custody.

If the situation had been reversed, and a methed-up Aboriginal fella had killed a white child in a hit and run, I’d bet my last tooth that:

(1) the sentence would have been harsher; or

(2) if there was an equivalent sentence, there would have been immediate public howling for retrospective mandatory sentencing legislation – which would probably have been acted upon by the legislature (CF emergency NSW Parliamentary sitting of January 2014 resulting in utterly indefensible one-punch mandatory sentencing laws).

To be clear, I am not necessarily arguing that the first fellow should have been penalised more heavily. What I am querying is the appearance of two separate criminal justice systems, seemingly applied on the grounds of an irrelevant factor.

This…garbage… keeps happening, and I can’t help but think KRS-ONE got it right: “There could never really be justice on stolen land.”

Sneaky beauty

I was surprisingly taken by this view yesterday in my neighbourhood.

Summer Hill morning
Click on me!

I may have been disproportionately grateful that someone had cared enough (about something – beauty?) to hang those wicker ball-skeletons* up on this wintry tree. And then organised for the sky to be so charmingly blue so that it could all be shown off, so filigree-ed and pretty-like.

In other news, Canada, we will be hitting you up for a late summer jaunt! When I was a kid I used to make myself almost sick with excitement.** Apparently, this personality trait never goes away.


* Perhaps better descriptor words could have been chosen. But my brain literally hurts from having to think about statutory torts for privacy. Should we have one, or should we rely on the equitable action of breach of confidence? You say potayto, I say deep-fried Mars Bars.

**I may have been accused of never learning temperance, of guarding against feeling all the feels way too much. In my defence, riddle me this: what’s the point of holding back, of NOT really feeling all the feels?***


***You know you’ve lost control of the post when your footnotes have footnotes.

A non-believer’s faith

At the national access to justice and pro bono conference last week (also known as the one time in every two years that community and legal aid lawyers get a decent feed), I attended a session rather pretentiously entitled “Disruptive and Dynamic Lawyers: Gatekeepers of Social Justice.” It turned out to be an excellent session – who knew lawyers liked pretentious? But yes, it was a much-needed re-gingering of the soul for social justice advocates; a welcome tonic for tired battlers. There’s something to be said for being in a room full of people who all pride themselves on being contrarian for a cause; who are generally considered pains in the butts, and who wear that view of them as a badge of honour.

As we were being exhorted to, as lawyers, “make visible the invisible” and to take responsibility for shining a light on, and addressing injustice, the thought occurred that the idea that it is possible to achieve a just and equitable society by both using the laws, and getting them right, is an article of faith. And it may be the closest thing I’ve got to religion (apart from my slightly fanatical belief in the power of probiotics). Of course, the supporting dogma necessarily includes the following beliefs, that:

1. Nothing is inevitable and that individual action can in fact Change Things; and

2. Principles are always worth fighting for and sacrificing (enormously) for; and

3. Tenacious, rational discourse (and testing propositions through argumentation basically) is an effective means of Changing Things.

I don’t know about you, but the longer I’m alive, the less true these propositions can sometimes appear. Especially the third one, which, let’s face it, can make a person a rather tedious spouse who might turn even the most patient partner a bit stabby (or so I’ve heard). And yet, like many a good zealot, it seems that the shakiness of the foundations has yet to affect what faith I have, which surprisingly, is still a fair bit.

Fun fact if you didn’t already know it: Donoghue v Stevenson would not have been possible without pro bono assistance as Mrs Donoghue was (as the Court declared) a “pauper.” And so, from little things big things grow and so forth. Such as massively profitable product liability practices. You get what I mean.

Onwards to a fairer world, but perhaps first, a cup of tea and a biscuit.

The problem with delegation

Like many others, I have been dismayed, sickened really, at the recent executions carried out in Indonesia of eight men for drug offences.

There were many problems which have been well documented, but in particular, there were so many problems with the legal process. One person apparently in fact lacked capacity to stand trial, and did not understand he was going to be executed even hours off from the event. Two others maintained their innocence, and one of those was herself claiming to be a victim of human trafficking unknowingly forced into drug trafficking (she received an 11th hour reprieve – obvious problems with the blanket denial of clemency requests there Mr President). There were allegations of serious corruption in the sentencing process. Lawyers for the Australians claim that the sentencing judge asked for $120,000 for a life, rather than death, sentence. Investigation into these claims have not finished. And, in some ways, perhaps most incomprehensibly for lawyers, there were two appeals pending for the two Australians who have now already been executed: a constitutional appeal and a separate judicial review.

In this case, the rule of law was replaced by power politics. The Australian men were, in my view, pawns in a geopolitical wiener-waving competition. Further, Australia’s position was hopelessly compromised by our own terrible policy positions on asylum seekers, including reliance on Indonesian support to tow back the boats of asylum seekers to Indonesian waters, and complete inconsistency in our advocacy on the death penalty.Trading on the lives of people to make political statements is, in my view, an inherently evil thing.

Most of all, it’s a ghastly example of how the death penalty is just too irrevocable a sentence. As Bryan Stevenson says, it’s a perfect solution, but we don’t have perfect systems. He says a lot of things about the death penalty that should have a wider audience, so listen to that talk if you haven’t already. Something I’ve been thinking about though is the question of agency. I understand that of the six member firing squad, three guns have live ammunition, and three carry blanks. The very fact that we have to have these mechanisms for obscuring agency, of distancing the agents from the act itself, is surely a clear demonstration of its inhumanity, of the fact that it brutalises all who become involved.

I think it is problematic that the person who makes the sentencing decisions, and who has power to grant clemency is different from the person who actually carries out the execution and has to tend to the rest of the consequences (and I’m making this argument in respect of all jurisdictions that have the death penalty). In this case, maybe the judges may have been less cavalier if they were also responsible for implementation. The President may have actually turned his mind to the merits of those 64 clemency applications he rejected in a blanket fashion if he’d had to deliver the decision directly to those he denied, tie them to stakes, pull the trigger, collect the bodies, dress them for the funeral, and then had to face the loved ones of those he’d personally executed.