A Lateral Love™ welcome to 2014

Lateral Love™ Australia would like to send you all, our family, friends and supporters the world over, a special wave of lateral love and spirit of care today and all year through.

May your 2014 be filled with caring, sharing, nurturing, love and respect for all humankind.

Love from Brian, Nicola, Andrew, Tyler and the Lateral Love™ Team xox

Welcome 2014

Ambassador News Archives – Archie Roach

The Global Mail - Independent Journalism for Independent Minds
Archie Roach


Stolen, Lost And Found

By Bernard LaganOctober 26, 2012

Archie Roach has emerged from grief and illness to produce the album of a lifetime.

The face is a little fuller, movement comes slower. A small tremor ripples across his hands. A slight cough betrays a recent illness. But the old presence is here, the gentle dignity that comes to a man who knows more loss and pain than men should; who found not rage nor bitterness but forgiveness and gratitude.

Along the way Archie Roach nearly gave up. In 2010, his partner Ruby Hunter died; she’d been his music soul mate and the mother of the couple’s two boys. The next year a stroke felled Roach just as he was resuming his musical career at Turkey Creek, near Broome. Last year he was told he had lung cancer.

Who could not understand his desolation? The stroke was as cruel as the loss of Ruby. The pair, who had been together almost 40 years, met as teenagers on the streets of Melbourne; both were homeless then and heading for addictions. Children came. So did more alcohol. Ruby left with the kids and Archie had to make a decision: the bottle or the family? She’d told him: “Alcohol — I can’t do that anymore and see my children suffer.”

Archie remembers: “Ruby took the kids and left me. So it was a choice I had to make. Either keep drinking alcohol or have my children with me. So it wasn’t really a hard choice.”

Good decades together followed and so did the songs. Fame came with Roach’s 1990 album, Charcoal Lane, and the haunting ballad, Took the Children Away — an ode to the generations of Aboriginal children, Roach and Ruby Hunter included, who were forcibly removed from their parents by Australian government agencies.

He was to take the loss of Ruby hard: “I just wanted to go away, to be left alone. I just wanted to lead a pretty quiet existence. It was a hard thing when Ruby passed away. It knocked me down pretty hard and I didn’t want to get up.”

He resumed touring a year or so later. Then the stroke. Roach could not walk, could not play his guitar and had to be wheeled into his bathroom.

“My right hand was just useless,” Roach recalls. “I couldn’t pick up things, I couldn’t button up a shirt, I couldn’t put my clothes on, for goodness’ sake. When that happened I felt pretty depressed. That was just pretty devastating.”

Despair stalked him, and Roach wasn’t sure he wanted to continue with anything much at all.

Offended by the loss of his dignity, he resolved to drag himself into his bathroom.

His strength slowly returned. Urged by medical staff to fight to regain the use of his hand, Roach again picked up his guitar and, slowly, the chords came back. So, too, did that smokey, weary voice that carries so many stories in from the missions and the desert.

“Ruby took the kids and left me. So it was a choice I had to make. Either keep drinking alcohol or have my children with me. So it wasn’t really a hard choice.”

But Roach had trouble finding his old songwriting skills. Says his friend, the Melbourne record producer and founding member of The Killjoys, Craig Pilkington (who accompanies Roach on guitar in our video and audio): “He had not been writing songs and he felt that his life had changed. He didn’t have the usual infrastructure, I guess, of sitting around the kitchen table with Ruby, playing songs to each other, which was how they had worked. He found himself a little bit at sea and he was worried that he’d sort of lost his creative mojo. He did say he was really concerned that the shock and change in his life had made him creatively impotent.”

Pilkington remembered that years before, Roach had recorded a couple of songs for a demo tape that had never been released, but which deserved to be. One song Roach had written, a couple of years before her death, was an ode to Ruby. Mulyawongk, a haunting, spare love song, is named after the spirit that guards the part of the lower Murray River where Ruby had spent her childhood. The song had been inspired in Roach when the pair travelled back to the river. Ruby tumbled back into those waters, shedding tears of joy. It was there that she had been taken away from her parents as a child.

And Ruby left the river,

she cried so bitterly,

she was born by the water’s edge, underneath this tree.

“Craig got that old tape and as soon as I heard it again, it hit me straight in the heart,” recalls Roach. “I think it means more to me today than when I wrote it, when Ruby was still alive. It’s the Mulyawongk calling Ruby back to her river and her dreaming.”

As Pilkington had hoped, Roach’s rediscovery of the song penned long ago for Ruby served to kickstart a new album that would revive his songwriting career. The album, Into the Bloodstream, is a triumph over everything that has been thrown at the man. And it is, arguably, Roach’s best yet.


Roach has set down his life in the album’s dozen tracks. The cover is a reproduction of an Aboriginal man’s painting — done in the desert style — of the Framlingham Mission in Victoria’s southwest. Roach had lived there with his six older brothers and sisters before he was forcibly taken from the family when he was three years old. Looking at the album cover, Roach picks out his old house. He never saw his mother or father again. Instead, he was to pass through orphanages and at least one bitter experience in a foster home until he ended up with a kindly farming family, the Coxes. They had a large record collection, and in amongst it Roach discovered Mahalia Jackson, Nat King Cole, The Ink Spots, and happy years in what he describes today as a beautiful family.

Eventually, a letter from one of his sisters arrived, telling of what had happened to him as a child. This would later trigger his spiral into teenage homelessness.

Roach writes more personally than he has ever done about being taken from his family in the track Old Mission Road; he imagines his hand in his mother’s as he walks with her through Framlingham and hears her stories of his early childhood. It is a burning lament for the mother he lost.

Won’t you walk with me, darling,

Just a couple of miles,

Won’t you tell me the stories of when I was a child.

Now age 56, Roach still has flashes that come like Polaroid stills of the day he was taken; “I remember running through bracken near the mission. I do remember stopping somewhere. They told me later it was the old Geelong prison. All the children stopped there for a break. I do remember some big man in jacket, a navy-blue jacket with a lot of silver buttons, picking me up on his shoulders and walking around.”

The dark years of living homeless and in the grip of alcohol are sung, relived, in Big Black Train — a story of his experience and a plea to young people to avoid that journey; “It was pretty hard. Me and Ruby, we ended up going to a half-way house. It was Ruby who led the way. She just grabbed the children one day and said, ‘I can’t live this life anymore.’”

There is a striking gospel influence in Roach’s latest work, enhanced by Craig Pilkington’s arrangements. Pilkington says: “The new songs that Archie was writing were such message songs that they’d naturally fallen into a bit of form that to me was traditional Gospel.”

“When your body starts to fail and you get sick, you’ve really got to dig deep in yourself to come out of that, to also find the strength to be grateful.”

The arrangements were also inspired by a special moment in Pilkington’s recording studio in the Melbourne suburb of Coburg, when Roach was talking about his hard-living, hard-fighting Uncle Banjo, who still got himself to church every Sunday because he loved to sing hymns. Then Roach led the musicians in an impromptu version of Just a Closer Walk with Me, and talked of his own love of that hymn as a child.

Says Pilkington: “In some ways, this is Archie returning to a musical form he was really comfortable with.”

One day during the making of Roach’s new album, the singer/songwriter and Roach’s old friend and collaborator, Paul Kelly, turned up at the studio. Kelly had brought along a half-finished version of the song I’m On Your Side, to work on with Roach. Roach also had the beginnings of his own song, We Won’t Cry.

Says Pilkington: “It was a really magical studio afternoon… because we realised they’d both brought songs of mateship and support and of sticking together for each other.”

Both songs made the album. Kelly features on one.

It was in the midst of making the album that Roach’s manager, Jill Shelton, noticed he was sometimes short of breath. She spoke to Roach’s doctor and arranged a chest x-ray.

“We had started doing the album and, bang, I was diagnosed with lung cancer,” says Roach, who had been a smoker.

Late last year half of Roach’s left lung was removed. Again, he raised himself from a terrible setback to complete his new album.

“You have to really. When your body starts to fail and you get sick, you’ve really got to dig deep in yourself to come out of that, to also find the strength to be grateful. To be grateful just to be here. Grateful every day. It could have been different. It could have been much different.”

Into the Bloodstream is out on Liberation Records. Archie Roach will begin touring with a 13-piece musical ensemble and a gospel choir in November. Details are at www.archieroach.com.au


Ambassador News Archives – Auntie Pat Leavy

I never thought I’d be a mother to more than 60 – ABC Gold & Tweed Coasts – Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

3 September, 2010 4:31PM AEST

I never thought I’d be a mother to more than 60

Aboriginal Elder Aunty Patricia Leavy has opened her front door to kids who need a safe home. In her 60s there is no sign she will be stopping anytime soon.

Aunty Patricia Leavy was one of the first recognised Aboriginal foster carers in Queensland.

Despite having three children of her own, and looking after many family members, Aunty Pat has been a mother to more than 60 children in need of love and a home.

At 64 years old she’s still got a full house providing a home to seven.

Aunty Pat is also known for her voice in the community, her passion for the rights of Indigenous people, her trademark dreadlocks and wicked sense of humour.

I knew Aunty Pat had a great story having interacted with her professionally and socially for more than 20 years, and have grown up with many of her children.

We did the interview over a long cuppa with some laughs and tears shared.

It was important for me to see Aunty Pat’s reaction to the final piece and seeing her emotionally moved was confirmation that I had told her story properly and acknowledged her contribution to the Gold Coast.

Ambassador News Archives – Andrea Mason

Interview with Yanyi Bandicha and Andrea Mason

Posted on 25 September 2013 under Making Decisions & Radio Interviews.
Tags: governance & women
Interview with Pitjantjatjara/Yankunytjatjara interpretation


The Ngaanyatjarra Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Women’s Council is the peak organisation for Anangu women on the APY Lands (and in adjoining parts of Western Australia and the Northern Territory).

Last year, the Council won Reconciliation Australia’s Indigenous Governance Award for “outstanding governance in an Indigenous incorporated organisation.”

In this interview, Chairperson (Yanyi Bandicha) and Coordinator (Andrea Mason) talk about:

  • the Council’s governance structure,
  • the processes it follows for electing and supporting new Directors,
  • the way the Council makes decisions and is accountable to its funders, and
  • the importance of keeping the organisation’s broader membership informed and engaged.

Yanyi and Andrea also reflect on the connection between good governance, Anangu culture and the way important decisions were traditionally made.

More information on the NPY Women’s Council’s governance can be found on its website.


Ruby of the Month: Andrea Mason

07 May 2013

Andrea Mason is a passionate believer in the value and work of the NPY Women’s Council. She is not the only one. There are many other converts in public and private life, government and non-government roles, and, of course, every one who works at Women’s Council.

For 32 years the Directors at NPY Women’s Council – mothers, grandmothers, daughters, wives – have set the course and strategy, working quietly and effectively to improve the lives of Aboriginal people across two states and one territory in central Australia.

And they have done this by applying these three principles to what ever they do, says NPY Women’s Council Patron Professor Marcia Langton, the chair of Australian indigenous studies at the University of Melbourne:

They “preserve and protect the life affirming values of Aboriginal society and women’s law and culture.”

They “engage young men and women in opportunities that raise their ambition for higher expectations such educational attainment on and off the Lands, promotion of young people’s aspirations and opportunities to shine, youth leadership and employment.”

And, they “support and provide assistance to individuals and families that empowers them to rise above the social profile that society has said is their future because of who they are, where they were born and where they live.”

For four years, come this August, Andrea has been Women’s Council’s Co-ordinator and has helped support the Council steering this path.

With a first degree in Aboriginal Affairs and Public Administration and second in Law, Andrea has spent her working life creating connections, and communication paths between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians.

“In my mid-twenties I used to run workshops for non-indigenous managers who may have to train indigenous workers or come into contact with indigenous workers,” begins Andrea.

“It was about supporting those managers to be able to work with indigenous workers and to have those workers transition to the workplace successfully. I’d divide the room into groups and have these Sale of The Century style warm up quizzes to break the ice and start everyone thinking. There’d be questions worth 10 points each around indigenous people in popular culture, sport, politics. The final question worth 100 points could bring any team back from the dead if they were behind.

“Team members had to be able to name five indigenous people with whom they had a personal relationship,” Andrea says, pausing.

“They could club together,” she finishes.

The point of the exercise, says Andrea, was to illustrate the importance of relationships to Aboriginal people and relationship building.

“For Aboriginal people the core value is about ‘being’,” explains Andrea.

“For most non-indigenous people in the workplace it’s about ‘doing’,” she continues.

“The ‘you need to be doing this’, ‘you should be doing that’, ‘what are you doing now and why aren’t you doing that’ style of thought is not something indigenous people are familiar with,” she says, going on to explain that if the whole process of transition to workplace is to be a success for non-indigenous managers working with and training indigenous people then understanding the importance of ‘being’, building and having a relationship, is paramount to that success.

Once ‘being’ is established, Andrea says, you are then able to work toward why they would ‘do’ something with or for you.

In Melbourne, alongside Women’s Council staff members and a number of its Directors, Andrea is building relationships and so getting the word out on NPY Women’s Council about what it does and how it does it.

Surrounded by corporate Australia and national leaders, it was a privilege to glimpse how these women work and to see the formula behind the award winning organisation’s success: it’s equal parts ‘cultural authority’ to drive, persistence and passion.

The NPY Women’s Council’s story is one of success and achievement won from hard fought battles, heartache and loss. Battle stories that can make the hair on the back of your neck rise in awe at the courage and conviction of the grandmothers, mothers, daughters working to benefit the individuals, families and communities in which they live.

And the rule of thumb for the Women’s Council in any advocacy campaign from minimising the risk of Domestic Violence to reducing the effects of kidney disease is the success of their advocacy campaign around petrol sniffing.

Of the 6000 people living in the region 50 percent are under the age of 25. Petrol sniffing was destroying that population. In 2005 after more than 10 years of advocacy by NPY Women’s Council as well as talking with government and producers, Opal fuel was introduced. The low-aromatic fuel costs more to produce, which is subsidised by the Federal Government, and is saving millions in health costs and family and individual devastation.

According to Liza Balmer, NPY Women’s Council’s Deputy Co-ordinator: “It’s about removing the substance, stopping supply, to give young people the space to see the alternatives, and us the space to provide the counseling, the health work and education these kids need to explore those positive alternatives.”

As Women’s Council’s story slowly unfolds, picking up momentum as it goes, Andrea’s role has been to facilitate that momentum using every opportunity. Through the support of its outspoken and feisty Patron, Professor Marcia Langton, as well as through such eye-catching initiatives as its Tjanpi Desert Weavers social enterprise, she has done that.

Tjanpi has been called the “happy face” of Women’s Council.

Begun in 1995 Tjanpi Desert Weavers provides a means for community members, especially those who wish to stay living “on country”, to address unemployment and lack of job opportunities and career pathways in the 26 remote NPY communities located in a vast geographical area covering the Northern Territory, South Australia and Western Australia.

The “arts based social enterprise” aim is to empower women in the NPY region through the provision of meaningful and culturally appropriate employment in their homelands. Women create intricate artworks out of ‘tjanpi’ (desert grass), which are sold by the artists to galleries and wholesalers.

The pieces created over the years have been award winning and are highly collectable. There are about 400 women working in the medium across the communities, producing around 3000 pieces a year, including baskets, animal sculptures and beads.

Group trips to country to collect grasses, visit cultural sites, perform ‘inma’ (traditional dances) and collect bush tucker and medicine, contribute to the artists’ and their communities’ well-being. Children accompany their mothers, aunts and grandmothers on the trips, providing invaluable opportunities for traditional knowledge to be transmitted, language and culture to be maintained and the strengthening of cross-generational activity and communication.

The other face of Women’s Council work, which revolves primarily around advocacy, provides mentoring for people in the communities and community leaders to speak up, speak out and be heard.

According to Liza, who has been with the organisation for 17 years, “Women’s Council doesn’t just talk. It also delivers.”

Among the vast range of activities it undertakes, Women’s Council delivers counseling and support services for domestic violence victims, youth work, health services and initiatives, aged and disability care services. It does this across an area the size of Germany (350,000sq kilometres) to its 6000 people in 26 communities.

Through its own means as well as through ethical and collaborative partnerships, Women’s Council’s aim is to protect two core values that it knows from experience are intrinsic to its continued success improving the lives of individuals, families and community in the western and central desert regions of Central Australia. Firstly: it protects the place and authority of NPY women, their law and culture, and secondly, it protects the important role of women in the region to their families and communities.

The success of Women’s Council can never be underestimated, believes Andrea.

They have proved the value and importance of working with the authority naturally invested in and held by the elders and leaders of the Aboriginal community.

“The problem is that without greater investment towards the future to increase the number of people, especially young women and men, receiving adequate education and employment possibilities we cannot create the leaders of the future. The consequences of poor education and unemployment will undermine the achievements of Women’s Council and others, including government, who have invested in the communities,” says Andrea.

“Our young women’s conference needs funding and a conference we want to start for young men also needs resourcing. We see these initiatives as the ‘clearing houses’ for this sort of change. If we can get our young people the space to see the alternatives, to experience the power of positive choices through better education outcomes and employment opportunities, then we will get the leaders with the capabilities to live confidently in both cultures – traditional and modern Australia,” she finishes.

No matter your political persuasion everyone agrees, NPY Women’s Council’s work, its cultural authority, ongoing strategic planning and initiatives, must continue not just for another 32 years but for as long as it takes to create strong healthy families, lives and leaders in Aboriginal communities in Central, South and Western Australia.


Westpac and the NPY Women’s Council
The Westpac Foundation provided a substantial grant to Tjanpi Desert Weavers in 2010 to support the development of local and national sales and marketing strategies and their implementation, and the employment, professional development and training of sales, marketing and Indigenous staff.

The grant has been delivered over three years and has helped build Tjanpi’s capacity to effectively use the media, to better promote its work and processes, and expand its audience and diverse product and customer base. The grant also supports research and development of new income streams to build the economic stability of Tjanpi Desert Weavers, and increase the financial returns, well-being and artistic opportunities for the artists.

“It has been wonderful to secure funding from the Westpac Foundation as we have a greater capacity to ensure we are a sustainable social enterprise activity of NPY Women’s Council, share with the wider Australian community the activities and achievements of Tjanpi and extend our benefits deeper and wider across the NPY Lands,” says Michelle Young, Manager of Tjanpi Desert Weavers.

For more on Tjanpi Desert Weavers www.npywc.org.au


RIP Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela – Madiba

It is with a heavy heart that we here at Lateral Love™ must pay our respects to the late Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela – Madiba.

The world has just lost one of our most prominent inspirations for Lateral Love.

In unity through lateral love and spirit of care,

Brian, Nicola and Andrew