Not In My Name

I’ve been getting angry on the internetz, again. I was about to go for a walk, try to calm down and disconnect from the rage, but I’ve decided to write this instead. Because sometimes it’s good to have that rage, sometimes it’s what’s really needed. So here goes.


It’s yet another day of yet another barbarity inflicted on yet more innocent people. Today’s is that the High Court of Australia just said “yeah sure, go ahead and send 267 innocent people (including 80 children – 41 of them babies for crying out loud) to our homegrown, corporate profiteering, torture chamber. Sure, women and children are raped and abused and men are tortured and die from curable illnesses there, but that’s OK, carry on”. Because apparently that’s the kind of country Australia is. That’s apparently OK in a 2016 world.

I don’t get it. I cannot for the life of me understand why we are letting this happen. Not just this despicable treatment of refugees, already so desperate for a better life that they risk such a dangerous journey in the hope of finding safety, but all of it. The climate, racism, employment and welfare systems, gender inequality, profiteering warfare, the TPP, all of it. Our governments are inhumane, corrupt and disconnected from reality. Their laws are defunct, designed to protect corporations instead of wethepeople. AND YET WE CONTINUE TO ELECT THEM. What in the fucking fuck is wrong with us?

I know no one likes to be blamed for anything, especially when we feel ourselves innocent victims as much as the next person. But this is our fault, guys. WE did this. WE do this every election by voting them in. WE do this every day with our compliance within this system. WE are responsible. Us. Every Single One Of Us. I don’t care if there’s ‘no one else to vote for’, that’s just a cop out. By voting them in -and by accepting their governance- we agree to live in their house by their rules. Repeatedly these governments demonstrate that morality has no place in their house or rules, and by accepting their ‘leadership’ we have to face up to the fact that morality no longer has a place in ours, either.

Yes, I just told you that you have no morals. Worse, I told you that you have no right to have any morals. Pissed at me yet?

My typical mantra at this point is “we don’t know why we exist on the planet and yet we’ve somehow ended up in a nightmare, 9-5 commuter belt, feedback loop to hell”. Once upon a time a bunch of human-shaped bodies somehow arrived on this sphere. Sometimes we bumped into each other and fought, sometimes we fell in love and had babies that connected us as families, tribes. Mostly we learned how to adapt; with each other, the ravages of weather and terrain, seasons of plentiful foraging, and periods of drought, famine and disease. I wasn’t there at the time so I can’t really assume much more than that. But however it all worked out in the details, we somehow continued to keep going without decimating each other entirely.

If we’re prepared to listen, Aboriginal culture -the oldest living civilisation on the planet- tells us that we have a responsibility to each other and the Earth. The basis of Aboriginal lore is “do no harm”, to each other and to nature. You take care of the planet, the planet takes care of you. Sounds simple, eh? Once upon a time in much more recent, westernised human history, we had The Commons – communities shared land and waterways for hunting, grazing, foraging, travelling, living. Then we had Enclosure, where we supposedly exchanged protection for our communities with a percentage of our crops. Then that protection became oppression, if we didn’t share all our crops then we were enemies of the state and must be punished. Then we had the Industrial Revolution, where we all (regardless of age) worked in the factories with our meagre salaries docked for ‘food and board’ (if you’re lucky, meaning a bed in a shared house with some stale bread and water for sustenance) while trying to not get mangled in the machinery. Then we had a more official form of slavery, where white underclasses finally had someone else to officially look down upon – hello racism. The white rich get richer while the white and non-white poor die of starvation, slavery, or just plain old legalised murder.

But that’s just history, right? Things are better now! We have a UN declaration on human rights! We have medicine so people live healthy lives for longer! We have an abundance of supermarkets and fast food joints so we’ll never run out of food! We have welfare for the old, infirm and unemployed! Um. Yeah. We have human rights abuses that continue, legally, on our own doorsteps and all over the world. We have bigpharma so those who can afford medicine can live forever and everyone else can just get addicted to things they don’t need that’ll kill them when they try to come off them, while naturopaths are quacks and cannabis is criminal. We have a healthcare system that suffers cut upon cut, privatisation upon privatisation. We have welfare recipients who have to justify their existence in a jobless future, fighting for a pittance on a debit card system which controls where they spend it, all while being labelled doley bludgers. We have pensions which force the average Jo/sephine to work until they’re 75, without carers, heating/aircon and the little things in life… like food. We have farmers who battle against genetically modified crop corporations while being told ‘customers don’t like curved carrots but you’re under contract to us supermarkets so you can’t sell them elsewhere, and here use this pesticide which kills bees’, adding entire harvests to landfill whilst people starve. And we have fast food outlets that serve up what can only be described as ‘plastic’.

“Do no harm” has become “Get rich quick”. The “Aussie fair go” and “American dream” have become an expectation that we work under conditions devised during the Industrial Revolution – long hours for minimal pay; living in tiny rabbit hutches with huge mortgages which we can never pay off, unable to afford (or have time to grow) the fresh fruit and vegetables that we so fundamentally require. Attempts to take care of the planet have become “lawfare” with whistleblowers and activists being sent to overflowing prisons. People who live any kind of life which veers from the mainstream white, western, corporatised dominance are labelled “other” or “terrorists”. And people, like me, who were brought up within the Western model and chose to drop out of its controlling tendrils are called ‘radicals’, ‘selfish rabble‘, ‘hippies’ and ‘lefties’. Hell, Jeremy Corbyn, the only UK potential-PM in my lifetime who both has morals and lives by them, has been labelled a radical socialist by his own damn party, simply for returning to the core values on which the original Labour Party was built.

But it’s OK guys, we’re gonna be fine, because we have celebrities and TV and Hollywood and the internet, right? Wrong again.

“What movies like Harry Potter 7 and Star Wars the Force Awakens take away from our psyche is that sometimes fascism doesn’t come all wrapped up in the trappings and trademarks of Nazi Germany. Sometimes fascism comes with a smiling face and promises of wealth and security. Sometimes fascism comes slowly, endorsed by the major media networks and seeming so innocuous, just slightly worse than before, maybe a little overzealous with the patriotism, but not too far gone to come back from…. And before you know it, your country is running concentration camps where children are sexually abused, women are raped, and young men are allowed to die of curable illnesses and injuries… and whistleblowers can go to jail for 10 years for exposing the truth. Fascism is here, but you wouldn’t think it, because Hollywood has us believing that unless the cops are wearing khaki grey Hugo Boss uniforms and shiny boots, there’s nothing to fear. [Millie Bird’s facebook status yesterday]

I’ve ranted before about the dangers of our current internet culture, so I’ll leave that one for now. I love a good bit of escapism, and I have a lot of love for well written and produced TV drama (though I have a rant that one day I’ll share about its evils). I’ve recently been watching “The Man in the High Castle”, based on the 1963 novel by Philip K Dick. Its premise is an alternative history where WWII ended differently; Japan and Nazi Germany run the world with totalitarian dominance. I’ve been watching this thinking that actually, the inhumanity depicted there, the lack of basic human rights, basic freedom to just be, is exactly the kind of authoritarianism that we all face today.

Aboriginal peoples talk about assimilation, the eradication of their own culture and connection to country by submitting to white, western ways. But we’re all assimilated, it’s just that so many haven’t seen it yet. I find myself feeling sorry for those Reclaim Australia racists and Men’s Rights/’neomasculine’ types. They’re scared, hurting, lost, struggling and desperate, and they think it’s just them, that no one sees their reality, that no one cares. The crazy thing is that they’re kicking out at the wrong people. People of colour, of different cultural/religious beliefs and women are not to blame for everything wrong with the world – how could they be, when they have never been in control of their own lives, never mind anyone else’s?! Our governments, our legal systems and capitalism are the culprits. Fight the real assholes, ffs.

So, it’s all broken, we’re all powerless, wtf do we do?

I urge you, ask you, gentle you, to please not spend your spirit dry by bewailing these difficult times. Especially do not lose hope. Most particularly because, the fact is that we were made for these times. Yes. For years, we have been learning, practicing, been in training for and just waiting to meet on this exact plain of engagement.

Regarding awakened souls, there have never been more able vessels in the waters than there are right now across the world. And they are fully provisioned and able to signal one another as never before in the history of humankind.

Look out over the prow; there are millions of boats of righteous souls on the waters with you. Even though your veneers may shiver from every wave in this stormy roil, I assure you that the long timbers composing your prow and rudder come from a greater forest. That long-grained lumber is known to withstand storms, to hold together, to hold its own, and to advance, regardless.

One of the most calming and powerful actions you can do to intervene in a stormy world is to stand up and show your soul. Soul on deck shines like gold in dark times. The light of the soul throws sparks, can send up flares, builds signal fires, causes proper matters to catch fire. To display the lantern of soul in shadowy times like these – to be fierce and to show mercy toward others; both are acts of immense bravery and greatest necessity.

Struggling souls catch light from other souls who are fully lit and willing to show it. If you would help to calm the tumult, this is one of the strongest things you can do.

[snippets from “We were made for these times, Letter to a young activist during troubling times“, by Clarissa Pinkola Estes]

What I think we need to do, what I am trying so hard to do myself, is to stop for a moment. Get off the hamster wheel and look deep into ourselves and around us. Peer behind the curtain and reveal the lies which hide behind, the world we have become. Then fight back, in any way we can. Not amongst ourselves, tearing down those on even lower rungs of the ladder, but upwards and outwards. Call out inhumanity, stand with the oppressed, engage in dialogue – especially outside of our physical and social media echo chambers, especially with ‘otherness’. Listen, with patience, tolerance and a willingness to be proven wrong. Educate ourselves without waiting to be taught and question those voices which may have their own motives. Trust our instincts, wear our hearts on our sleeves and our souls on our faces. Stand together, in all our glorious differences, and say loudly, and for as long as our lungs have breath:


Open Letter to Regional Arts NSW re Artlands Dubbo

OPEN LETTER published via reallybigroadtrip and sent to

Artlands - Part Conference, Part Festival

Dear Regional Arts NSW,

I am writing in response to your reminder for a call to presenters for Artlands Dubbo 2016:

After much thought and with great sadness, I shall not be applying to your event. I say this despite being a maker and supporter of regional/remote community creative practice and a previous Keynote Speaker for RAA at Kumuwuki in Goolwa.

My reason is that it is impossible to work and travel without any form of payment, never mind being expected (on top of working for free and at great personal cost) to then pay for registration, even at the early bird discounted rate. It is also unacceptable to expect us to apply elsewhere for limited available funding so we can cover these costs for your events.

This isn’t a personal attack on Artland Dubbo’s organisational team; I know many previous RAA gatherings have also adopted the same policy (also resulting in my non-attendance at those events). I understand that budgets for events like these are tight, but so is the economic environment for artists and educators, especially those in the community arts and experimental/emerging arts sector.

I wish I didn’t have to write this letter, nor bring the discussion to a broader public attention, but I feel that without speaking up about this issue nothing will ever change. It gives community arts and regional arts a bad name to not fairly support those who wish to share their skills, knowledge and creations with your attendees. This policy limits your presenters to those who have the independent means by which to cover their own costs and does not give a fair reflection of the expertise and enthusiastic efforts of the broader sector.

The attendance fees themselves ($625 Early Bird / $825 Full Price) equally present a massive barrier to independent artists and producers wanting to attend any RAA events as delegates.

Independent artists have for far too long been told that their work is worthy enough to be selected, but not worth enough to offer anything more than ‘exposure’ in return, and this has to end.

Yours with deep regret and a hope for a more constructive, contribution to the development of our collective sectors,

Fee Plumley

I’m white, I’m British, so why am I running an Aboriginal Rights project?

I’m a white, British immigrant with Welsh blood and no ties to Australia, bar the decision to move here almost eight years ago. And I’m running a project about creative digital culture for social change, with a specific focus on Aboriginal Rights. No one has yet asked me “why?” but I think it’s useful to give some background for those who don’t know me. It’s timely, too, given that 26th January is once again upon us.

2003 – My first trip to Australia as a visiting artist.
My only exposure to Aboriginal Culture was the first time I experienced a Welcome to/Acknowledgement of Country at events. I ask a lot of questions, all the time, and was told that this was a very arts-scene thing and not common elsewhere. The next year, back in the UK, I sent a “Happy Australia Day!” email to everyone I’d met while visiting. I got -rightly- Ripped To Shreds (in the most beautifully constructive way, for which I remain truly grateful). This rapid-fire education explained why Mourning/Invasion/Survival Day was not a thing to be celebrated and how it was more about beer, bogans and flag-waving nationalism. Lesson One – which of course comes with #allthequestions and prompted my desire to learn more and, maybe, one day, work with community.

2005 – My third trip to Australia as a visiting artist.
One of our gigs over a three month trip was with the Awesome Arts Festival in Perth. They sent us up to Karratha as part of their community outreach program. While there we randomly met the wife of one of the local rock art experts who invited us to go out to view two sites in the Burrup. One was prolific with what Glen called ‘sketches’ (rock-artists-in-training!); the other contained less work but of a much greater detail and more narrative-driven. I took some photos at the time which aren’t great resolution but you get the idea.

big hands, aboriginal rock art, burrup WA 2005

suddenly i see where crumpler got their logo from!

2010 – Working as Digital Program Officer for the Australia Council for the Arts on a business sponsored visa.
One of my ‘clients’ was Bangarra Dance Theatre, so I had the luxury of watching a couple of their stunning performances. I also worked with them to find the right Geek in Residence for their needs (GiR was my favourite of all the initiatives I created in my role for OzCo), so had a great deal of conversations about Indigenous use of digital culture both on Country and urban areas (like “can you get online in the desert?!”). My curiosity was increasingly piqued, especially on learning that there wasn’t a word for ‘art’ in Aboriginal languages because art was so intrinsically linked within every aspect of their worlds *swoon*.

2011 – A holiday break from OzCo.
I took the opportunity to visit the phenomenal Alex Kelly (whom I’d first met at Crossover Media Lab in 2009) in Alice Springs, attending Wide Open Space Festival and taking a daytrip coach out to Uluru (and no, I didn’t walk on the rock). This was my first time glimpsing the red centre and again I didn’t have any direct contact with community, mostly because I wasn’t invited and it didn’t seem right to poke my nose in. Regarding Uluru, while I expected to be impressed by the beauty of the scenery I didn’t expect to feel that incredible spiritual energy. Kata Tjuta (The Olgas) gave me a particularly cosmic moment… but that’s not for this post.

2012 – Keynote Speaker for Regional Arts Australia’s Kumuwuki in Goolwa, now a Permanent Resident.
My absolute highlight of the whole event was hearing the late Ngarrindjeri elder, Uncle Tom Trevorrow, Manager of Camp Coorong (a centre for cross-cultural learning in South Australia) deliver a plenary. I’m not ashamed to say that I cried three times during his talk. His gentle voice spoke of such deep spiritual connection to Country, who wouldn’t have been moved?!

“Within the Ngarrindjeri nation the 18 clan groups all have a Ngarjtis (a totem animal, bird, fish or plant) that connects us to Country. I have a duty of care to look after the Coorong, to look after my Ngarjtis because my Ngarjtis looks after me. If my Coorong dies, then my Ngarjtis dies, then I die. … So you see that’s our culture, our connection to Country. But also it’s a management plan of how to care for Country and to care for our birds, our animals and all living things. … We want to spread a message about caring for Country: Don’t be greedy, don’t take any more than what you need. Share with one another. Don’t tell lies. Be respectful. Because if we don’t then everybody will suffer, everybody will be punished.”

In writing this I’ve found a soundcloud recording of his talk (which made me cry again), although I advise caution as Uncle Tom passed away the following year and this recording contains his voice. The Sea Nation Plan which he discusses in the recording can be found here.

2013 – Invited to apply for a grant to work in Indigenous communities.
That talk got me thinking. I was about to get the bus, planning on going out to regional/remote Australia sharing what I knew and learning what they knew. I was already in talks about the Nomadic Fab Lab (talking about 3D Printing and the like)… so would these types of conversations help Aboriginal communities too? Not “hey why don’t you stop making your own work and become a plastic-producing nerd” but “what do you do, how do you do it, and what -if any- digital practices might make any of that easier/cheaper/etc?”. Much like the Geek in Residence program, each situation would be bespoke, responding to the needs of each space. The focus could be about improving digital literacy; finding lower-cost, higher efficiency solutions to general operations; creating or improving online marketing/audience development; as well as the more artistic side of things.

I knew Country Arts SA from their Geek in Residence, and my contact there, Steve Mayhew, introduced me to Merilyn Cox just at the moment my head was exploding with ideas. She invited me to apply for a grant to find out. Usually -and rightly- you don’t get funding to work on Country unless the application comes from a community. I didn’t know any communities, yet somehow I got the grant. I’d specifically framed the application around needing to go and learn more first, taking a year to do the project to give what I thought would be ample time to learn, make contacts, try things out and see what happened.

2014 – Memefest.
I’d delayed the project because I wasn’t ready, the bus wasn’t ready. Transitioning into #buslife had taken much more of a learning curve than I had naively anticipated. This project mattered to me and I didn’t want to mess it up. Another factor was that an unfortunately common trait of community arts around the world is that artists get dropped in to a place without being invited. The (usually unaware) artist makes something (often with high end swanky digital kit, or worse, with the locals not really getting to do much themselves) and then leaves, taking all their toys away. Where’s the legacy? Where’s the ownership? What the hell is the point?! My old UK based company, the-phone-book Limited, had a policy of never going down that road, and I had no intentions of changing things now. Invitation was everything, but I hadn’t yet been invited.

I’d received an email asking me to be a mentor for a Swinburne University program about design and direct action, Memefest, from Lisa Gye whom I’d met on my first visiting artist trip in 2003. Already veering more toward activism and social change, I of course said yes. Little did I know that Memefest had previously been up in Brisbane where they’d worked closely with the Aboriginal Embassy. Some members of the Brisbane Aboriginal Sovereign Embassy and Grandmothers Against Removals (GMAR) had come along. This was the first time I’d heard so many heartbreaking stories straight from the horses mouth, and not just about the past but about atrocities still continuing to this day.

I felt sick.

2015 – Canberra Embassy, Nullarbor, Nyoongar Embassy, Women’s Culture and Law Camp, Yambah.
It wasn’t long after Memefest that the threats of forced community closures hit. All the conversations I’d had there and since refocused everything else into this one area. I stopped applying for arts residencies and grants or daydreaming about future creative practice. I started helping to organise campaigns, attending and documenting rallies (see Flickr and YouTube), visiting Embassies and shouting loudly online.

After a while I was warned of becoming ‘overly earnest’, which at the time confused me. Why shouldn’t I speak out? Why the fk weren’t more people speaking out?! Turns out not all white Australians had received any education about Aboriginal history or culture, let alone were told the truth about past or present treatment of these communities. Some of those didn’t want to know that such things were happening today (a kind of entrenched white guilt, maybe? I know I feel that weight). Those who had (or who had self-taught) were involved as much as they could be and cautioned me about the typical white error: “speaking for, not walking with”.

In my gusto to ‘help’, to ‘do something’, I had in my rants occasionally used my white privileged voice to talk for them, instead of stepping back, with them in front. In my ignorance the name of the project was originally “niinamarni” (Kaurna for “hello”), I’d even bought the domain name. I had no idea that it was culturally inappropriate to use language without permission – and have subsequently not renewed the domain! I still make mistakes (there’s probably something in this post which is inadvertently inappropriate – if so, tell me and I’ll change it) but I’m learning (reading Decolonising Solidarity by Clare Land has helped).

I’ve learned more about Culture and Country both from patient individuals and personal research, about the Frontier Wars and the dubious ‘recognise campaign’. I’ve had the most astonishing privilege of travelling with an Elder and into community. I’ve seen, heard and learned things which I now can’t un-see, un-hear, un-learn. I’ve subsequently been adding a better understanding of social change so I can begin to grasp what’s come before and what’s possible next. I still struggle with imposter syndrome too – what do I know? what use can I be? I still don’t know enough, I doubt I ever will. But I can try.

2016 – to be continued…
So that is why I’m calling for expressions of interest for this project. Their voices, their needs, their knowledge is what needs to be shared, not mine. My role here is as a creative producer, to discuss projects and help find the right partnerships (just as I did with Geek in Residence) or fill in any missing pieces; to drive us wherever we need to go; to support the delivery of sessions; to document what happens and help connect the physical nodes through nomadic dotted lines; to celebrate the astonishing work that has been done in the past and which continues to thrive against all the odds. We all stand on the shoulders of giants, these giants just happen to be the oldest living culture in the world. What an honour to be able to stand with them, on January 26th and every other day of the year, every year. As GMAR say, sorry means not doing it again. It’s long overdue time that this brutality ended and the beauty more readily celebrated by all Australians and beyond.

My deepest thanks goes to everyone involved with GMAR (Grandmothers Against Removals); Luke at IndigenousX; the Aboriginal Tent Embassy (Canberra), the Nyoongar Tent Embassy (Perth); the Collie mob (south of Perth, who showed me the devastation that mining causes); Uncle Chris who travelled with me for much of last year and introduced me to the other members of the Original Sovereign Tribal Federation (Alice Springs); the NPY Womens’ Culture and Lore Camp (Ernabella); Call to Action Adelaide; and the countless individuals who have inspired this perspective and held my hand through my clumsy learning curves.

I thank you for your generous introductions to your families, your knowledge, your resilience and your connection to Country which has held you together despite all harsh brutalities past and present. I stand with you in solidarity, offering my time, skills and compassion to your campaigns for self determination & self governance, and I thank you more than I can express for the world I now see with new eyes.

#alwayswasalwayswillbe x

poor #homeJames

I must admit I’ve been putting this post off as it’s been a tricky time and not particularly fun to talk about. However so many of you gorgeous people have been asking how #homeJames is faring (and most importantly, she’s back!) so I reckon it’s time for an official update.

/ TLDR: #homeJames just went through a major engine rebuild and it’s cost around $9k to fix her. I’m actively seeking paid work so I can repay the people who have loaned me money to cover the cost, and if anyone feels the urge to contribute, I’m accepting donations. Read on for a (fairly lengthy) journal of what happened to the bus and what I have been doing for the last year instead of working for the man… /

A fateful journey

October 13th - #homeJames on a flatbed truck :(

October 12th – #homeJames on a flatbed truck :(

On 12th October, travelling back from WA on our fourth Nullabor trip in less than 12months, plumes of white smoke started pouring from #homeJames’ exhaust. I was somewhere between Port Pirie and Snowtown on the highway heading toward Adelaide, and pulled over immediately (which I really don’t advise – trucks hurtling past making the bus shake is hardly my idea of safety but hey, needs must). I let her cool down while contacting my go-to-guy Jimmy for advice. (Some of you might remember the story of how I found my gorgeous bus – or rather, how she found me! – but you may not know that the team at Roundabout Charter have been the most unbelievable support ever since). Jimmy said it sounded like a cracked head… which is BAD NEWS.

I rang RAA to find my membership had lapsed. More bad news. Fortunately they let me renew without a penalty charge and sent out a mechanic from Port Pirie to investigate. I limped her to the nearest safe space and waited…and waited…and waited. Turns out I was extremely lucky; typically the RAA ask that broken down vehicles are taken to the mechanic’s base for investigation before deciding whether or not vehicles were eligible for towing home, but this lovely gentleman decided to fight my corner. He spoke to the RAA guys, said he was sure it was a cracked head and recommended he took me straight back to Adelaide on his flatbed. More luck – my RAA membership only allows a max towing distance of 400kms. I was 366kms away. (I hate to think what would have happened had I broken down on the Nullarbor). He also elected to not charge me for his return trip to Port Pirie – another beautiful gesture. Incredibly the RAA took all this on board and told me that yes I could be taken back to Adelaide, and that they would not charge me anything more for the journey (which would typically cost at least $600). They also informed me that this generosity would likely never be repeated, but that was enough for me (phew and thank you!).

Back in Adelaide Jimmy and Craig (the mechanic who’s been working on her since she was four) agreed on brief investigation that yes, it looked like a cracked head and recommended a trusted mechanic with the necessary tools for the job. She was tucked away there for nine weeks… nine weeks away from my home. I’m so very lucky to have great friends in Adelaide (some being the closest I get to family over here) so I have had places to stay. But it was hard being separated so long (I get separation anxiety when I’m away from her for a day!) and it also prevented me from attending the Canberra Aboriginal Tent Embassy’s national gathering “Self Determination, Governance and Treaty” where I was supposedly headed next.

The soul of a vehicle

#homeJames on our third anniversary - not the way I expected to celebrate :(

#homeJames on our third anniversary – not the way I expected to celebrate :(

You’ve gotta have a sense of humour in this life; mine comes from my wonderful Grandad, Arthur Cooper. I’m also an old hippy (in case you hadn’t noticed – thanks mum for that one) so on hearing the engine would need replacing my first thought was “but will she still be homeJames?!”. After he’d finished laughing at me, Jimmy informed me that in boat culture if you want to change the name of a boat you have to change the paint job. With that in mind, and given I have no intention of changing her red and white glory, it seems her name/soul will remain intact. Phew.

homeJames’ odometer sat at 976720, less than 25,000kms away from clocking her which I have been really looking forward to doing. But if she needs a new engine, she gets a new engine. Fortunately there was an engine going locally, same type (1HZ block Land Cruiser engine, for the nerds) and with only 104kms on the clock (!). Unfortunately by the time we confirmed our supposed first-refusal they’d sold the fuel pump from it. Gnatch. With no other viable engines available we returned to the rebuild option.

Nine weeks down the track we ended up being held up by the lack of suitable gearbox. Apparently if you’re gonna take out the engine you may as well check up on the gearbox/clutch too and these hadn’t been changed in a while. After two duds (one wrong type, the other more buggered than my original) we opted to rebuild mine. Again a win for keeping her original soul… but not a win on labour costs.

The cost of a rebuild

broken #homeJames - cracked head and dropped (5th) cylinder

broken #homeJames – cracked head and dropped (5th) cylinder

Bottom line: this all adds up to around $9,000. Gulp.

“So you’re doing a another crowdfunding campaign, yeah?” EVERYONE has asked that question. Many have even said they’d contribute if I did (bless ya!). But I’m not. I can’t. For several reasons.

The first is that it might look like a slacker’s begging option but it’s REALLY BLOODY HARD running crowdfunding campaigns (especially when you’re doing it on your own, are not famous, and are not pre-selling an event/product) and I simply haven’t got it in me to go through that again. The second is that there are still outstanding rewards from the original campaign – something I am not happy about at all because I can’t get closure on it until it’s done. Some are outstanding because of difficulties connecting time/place (like dinners on the bus), some because of life’s shifts (for me and the supporter) but regardless, I can’t feel OK about another campaign when the first ‘debt’ isn’t fully cleared (although it’s worth noting that everyone I’ve spoken to about this says they didn’t care about the reward they just wanted to be part of my ‘journey’, bless ’em).

The third (and probably most absurd) reason is that frankly I’m pissed at myself for not having the resources to fix this situation on my own. I’m a fiercely independent woman, always have been (often to my own detriment). I’ve already received so much generosity around rbrt that to set out on a whole new campaign simply to ask for more when I’ve been apparently incapable of taking care of it myself simply feels wrong. It’s my fault I’ve ended up in this situation. It’s my job to fix it. (Although it’s worth mentioning that it isn’t my fault this happened to the bus. I’ve already asked that and been told it can happen to any vehicle at any time). Of course there’s a lot of underlying self-blame/criticism in this which I recognise and am trying to be pragmatic about; my thanks to many lovely people who have picked me up on this, it’s a bad habit for anyone.

Oh and to the one person who said “Oh well, it’s been, what, three years now? That’s a decent run. You should sell what’s left of her […WHAT’S LEFT OF HER?! WHAT NOW?!…] and use whatever’s left as a deposit on a house”. Yeah: no. Honestly I am stunned. You will remain nameless but you should bloody well know better. I didn’t start rbrt so I could take other people’s money and use it to turn a profit on an old bus and go on to live a nice little stable life in a house somewhere. I am FAR from done with this life. It’s bloody hard a lot of the time but everything about my life is now different. The freedom overall is unreal and I can’t see myself ever giving that up. I also have a lot of work to do, there’s so much I haven’t even begun to scratch the surface of. Sell what’s left of her – seriously? GAH!

So, no, I’m not running another crowdfunding campaign. Thanks to amazing friends I have been able to borrow the money (and accept a few generous donations) to urgently deal with the situation (THANK YOU, you know who you are! xxx). I’ve already had a bit of paid work (thanks Unfixed!), am about to sell everything I don’t need (instead of giving it away like I usually do) and am planning on heading off to do casual fruit-picking/whatever-I-can-find between now and the next gig. Most awesomely (sorry…) I was the last successful recipient of 2015 for a perfectly-timed Adelaide Awesome Foundation $1000 grant (thank you too!). So I’m trying not to freak out, but if you hear of any paid casual work, going please let me know (seriously, I’ll do anything).

Having said all that, thanks to a lot of people telling me I’m too stubborn and proud and should accept donations, I am accepting donations. Does that make me a hypocrite? I don’t know, but if you want to help out there’s a Paypal donations link here (which has been there since I launched the blog in 2011) or if you prefer I can send bank details by private message.

So, why haven’t you got any money?!

When I started out on rbrt I had every intention of storing away a $5k slush fund for emergencies. Sadly things haven’t worked out that way but I haven’t been on some elongated, crowdfunded, luxury holiday, I assure you.

For the last year I have been working on new learnings in grassroots organising for social change and solidarity movements, alongside long-lead development for a project on creative digital culture for social change in Aboriginal communities. I’ve been living and working with Aboriginal communities including the national GMAR body (Grandmothers Against Removals); the Aboriginal Tent Embassy (Canberra), the Nyoongar Tent Embassy (Perth), the Original Sovereign Tribal Federation (Alice Springs) and being a volunteer for the recent NPY Womens’ Culture and Lore Camp (Ernabella).

During that time, knowing the battles to come in our oh-so-broken world, I have been getting myself ready. I have helped organise protests against community closures with Call to Action Adelaide. I’ve undergone training in grassroots organising through the Perth Community Organising Collective, Rethink the Link non-violent direct action, CCL (the Citizen’s Climate Lobby where I became a founding member of CCL-Fremantle), attended the recent Organise conference in Sydney, and I’ve just finished Amnesty International’s online ‘Human Rights’ course. I’ve dabbled with a few ways to build and maintain online activist communities, raise awareness and share knowledge (some public like Sunday Afternoon Activists Club and Little Activist, some finding their feet, some yet to be revealed). Needless to say as an artist/creative producer I’ve been part of #freethearts too, submitting an angry rant to the Senate Enquiry into Brandis’ NPEA-theft of OzCo funds and feedback on NPEA (now Catalyst). I have attended every rally I have been capable of getting to (often documenting them – see Flickr and YouTube), I’ve been doing a lot of reading (including the fantastic Decolonising Solidarity by Clare Land), a great deal of listening and a fair amount of ranting. In fact many of my friends whinge at me for being overly earnest and ‘taking life too seriously’. Maybe, but isn’t life -and the planet- worth taking seriously?

So yeah, I’ve been pretty busy. But funnily enough, no one wants to pay activists, especially nomadic ones learning the ropes! (We should consider ourselves lucky to still be able to peacefully protest legally, right?!). Financially, aside from a small commission fee for running hammocktime at WOMADelaide earlier this year I haven’t been actively seeking paid work… until forced to by my traitor of a bus! I’ve also not been on Centrelink, partly because I am (stupidly) too proud to give idiots the opportunity to accurately label me ‘a doley bludger’ (despite the biggest doleybludgers being corrupt corporations who refuse to pay their taxes and mining companies who take unbelievable amounts of subsidy to run their profit-making, planet-destroying enterprises), partly because my #lifestylechoice isn’t exactly conducive to the neoliberal definition of welfare (can you imagine the conversation?!) and partly because I haven’t felt unemployed because I’ve been so damn busy!

I’ve coped on a day to day basis thanks to contributions toward fuel costs and dinners from friends and colleagues, amazing communities like FERN’s Soup Kitchen and the Free Haven squat in Fremantle, skip-diving, and accepting that luxuries are not part of my world right now. It’s been hard at times but I consider myself unbelievably fortunate to have had the experiences I have had and I wouldn’t change any of it for the world.

So, that’s me. Quite honestly I’m exhausted, scarily poor/indebted and have felt more homeless/vulnerable than ever. But above everything else I am so deeply sickened by the greed and corruption of our global neoliberal system that I’m not giving up. I can’t. Consider this a temporary glitch; bear with me while I get myself back on track and then watch out for the projects to come. 2016 will kick off with a second run for hammocktime, this time at Adelaide Fringe Festival – for the whole season! – and then I’ll be off around regional/remote Aboriginal communities with a creative digital culture for social change project.

2015 has been a hard year for a LOT of people and I know I have it comparatively very easy to many – hence why I feel the need to keep learning/sharing/fighting for those who can’t. 2016 has a lot of threats to face (can you believe they approved the Adani mine that will destroy the Great Barrier Reef immediately after returning from COP21?! Bastards!) but it’s rich with opportunity too (like an action to Close Pine Gap, teehee). Onwards and upwards, eh?

So enjoy your holidays, take care of yourselves and each other, and let’s kick some serious ass in 2016, hmmkay?! x

rcws – bushaters vs buslovers


There’s enough negativity in this world so I usually only share positive stories from my random conversations with strangers. Today this story had a ‘faith in humanity = restored’ outcome, so it’s shifted from a facebook rant on Dec 29th to a little story here. For anyone curious in broader context (e.g. why this little exchange irked me so deeply), I’ve previously written about a call for common land for nomads, which responds to some of the most regular criticisms of nomadicy.

Here’s the original rant:

Just got asked to move homeJames so a truck could get up a side road. I’d not even gotten out the bus before a local came and asked how long I’d be there. My joke about that being an existential question sadly fell on humourless ears.

I’d specifically not used this new (temporary, til the truck leaves) spot because it’s under shade making it highly sought after (I notice these things and always try to respect the needs/norms of locals). This woman told me they want those spaces, said she knew about the truck and knew I was housesitting for a couple weeks (so why ask?). Then she said another local had complained that the bus had ‘been here so long it’s obviously abandoned and someone should report it’ (it’s been parked there three days since xmas & 1 day before! I’m not even living in it, ffs).

Jeez people, I know you like your shade, your habits and your perceived possession of space, but there’s nothing illegal about me parking my vehicle in a street with no parking restrictions… anywhere I choose. I’ll move her back when the truck leaves but basically your passive aggressive assumptions/criticisms can go screw themselves. Merry season of open hearts and compassion… Not. *sigh*

After posting that I made a note to put in the windscreen to try to dissuade bushaters from reporting my baby as ‘abandoned’ (see top photo). I hoped someone would reply, but nothing happened… until today, when I spotted this:

Thank you, dear buslover, for making my day! <3
And it seems I’m now building a note empire for my last few days here…
All the best for 2016, may your hearts be full of love and acceptance of otherness and your streets be full of nomads! xx

How can we harness the power of creative digital culture to improve Aboriginal rights?

reallybigroadtrip is calling for expressions of interest from artists, geeks, filmmakers and social change warriors. Join us in a South Australian/APY Lands Aboriginal roadtrip, April – August 2016.

#homeJames, Uncle Chris and I being sent off with a smoking ceremony from the Aboriginal Tent Embassy, Canberra

#homeJames, Uncle Chris and I being sent off with a smoking ceremony from the Aboriginal Tent Embassy, Canberra

Digital literacy is often considered to be lacking in Aboriginal communities, yet smartphones, social media, games, music and film production can be prolific. Storytelling sits at the heart of social change, yet (despite increased solidarity) non-Aboriginals often haven’t experienced what life is like for remote communities such as those currently threatened with closure.

This begs the question: How can we harness the power of creative digital culture to improve Aboriginal rights?

reallybigroadtrip invites emerging or established artists, geeks, filmmakers and social change warriors to help respond to this question. Thanks to funding from Country Arts SA, travel (on the reallybigroadtrip bus, homeJames), subsistence and a negotiable artist’s fee will be provided to selected candidates.

Aboriginal applicants from South Australia and the APY Lands are strongly encouraged to apply.

About the project

The overall roadtrip will take place between April and August 2016. We aim to visit a number of Aboriginal communities, with locations and durations determined according to proposals received and permissions from those communities. Potential locations include (but are not restricted to) Adelaide, the Coorong, Point Pearce, Port Augusta, Coober Pedy, Ernabella and Alice Springs.

Our activities at each location will depend on the proposals received and subsequent conversations with selected artists. Anticipated activities include (but are not restricted to) workshops, screenings, exhibitions, creative productions and collaborations within each community. A budget for materials is available but know that we will preference legacy and agency over expensive, hard to access kit.

Expression of Interest

Please email with an Expression of Interest (EOI) and a response to the question “How can we harness the power of creative digital culture to improve Aboriginal rights?” by February 22nd, 2016. Your EOI can be informal but should include your contact details and give us an indication of who you are, where you’re from, what you do, where you’d like to take us, why you chose that location, and what you’d like to share or create in our time together there.

A selection panel will review proposals and contact a shortlist of candidates for discussion around detailed logistics and collaboration. The final selection will be announced in March 2016.


Applicants are advised to check out the blog, Facebook page and homeJames flickr album to get a feel for the journey so far. You can also email with any queries prior to applying.

We look forward to hearing from you!

Frequently Asked Questions

I’m getting a few common questions coming through so will add them and their answers here as we go.

Does my project have to cover the entire April to August period?
No, the overall roadtrip can start in April and will finish at the end of August. Each project can last anywhere from a week or two upwards but are expected to be individual blocks within that four month period. Of course that largely depends on the proposals we receive – some might want to start in April then come back again at further stages, or might have a physical presence in one community then continue as a digital experience across the rest of the time. We’re keen to keep things open until we’ve seen what people want to do.

Do I have to be based in South Australia to apply?
No, the project’s activities will take place around South Australia and the APY Lands, but applicants can come from anywhere in Australia. Sadly we don’t have budgets for international travel, so if you are from overseas and want to apply we would love to hear from you but you will have to seek alternative funding for the international component of your travel.

Can I propose a project but not be involved in the roadtrip?
Possibly… but projects demonstrating an active engagement with community will be given preference. If you think you can demonstrate significant engagement without being physically present then feel free to send in your ideas, but please pay special attention to explaining how you think that can be achieved.

Why are you running this project?
I’ve not actually been asked this, but I felt it would be useful to give some background for those who don’t know me.

lateral drifts

Increasingly pissed off with Facebook’s continued disrespect for our personal rights and privacy, I’ve started using a new platform for my personal ramblings, to begin taking myself out of the anti-Net Neutrality world.

Known lets you publish status updates, etc, which are then pushed to Facebook, Twitter, etc (it’s in beta so there’s a lot more to come too). This means you own all rights to your content rather than giving them away to walled gardens that are more interested in your data than providing the open service you originally signed up for.

Check out more at and follow my lateral drifts at

Nomads in Residence

Since things are starting to hot-up around here it seems to be time to post a bit about what I mean by “Nomads in Residence”.

These nomads are basically my guests in the bus. They must be from the creative digital culture space but I’m really broad about that. By “digital culture” I mean artists, makers, hackers, coders, practitioners, researchers, games developers, animators, filmmakers, policy folk, arts workers, cultural practitioners… ummmmmmm…. other people who play creatively with technology. The point is to be INclusive, not EXclusive, so if you’re not included by title here but feel you should be included by practice then message me regardless.

I have a list of people I have already personally invited. I also have a bundle of folk I have just loved working with/around over the years and will be contacting in due course. But there’s also folk I stumble on/am introduced to who just spark something and need to be invited. For example, I just contacted my first total stranger because her work suits my thinking perfectly, and there might be the perfect match event coming up next year.

And then there’s the unknown-yet-by-me. Of which there are many!

I do not know everyone (or everything). Obviously. This whole project is about getting out there and seeing who/what I don’t know, as well as sharing who/what I do.


The ‘challenge’

  • Location: You don’t need to be from another country; plenty of you gorgeous Australians are on my list. I need to see this country through your eyes and be introduced to your networks too.
  • Your mission: I ask all my “Nomads in Residence” to define where you want to go, who you want to meet and what you want to achieve from your trip.
  • Networking: Once I know your intentions I can help make connections with people you could meet both with me and outside of your time with me. I really encourage you to spend extra time in this amazing country if you can. I can also follow up on people you tell me I should know about in case we can meet them together.
  • Duration: I would love you to stay with me as long as you can, but I understand time is a valuable commodity and you are probably travelling a fair distance. When I started visiting Australia from the UK our costs were often split across a few organisations and that worked a treat, but affects timing/demands, etc.
  • Monies: As you can see from my crowdfunding campaign, this is all very DIY. I would love to offer you travel/accommodation, a nice fat artists fee and a luxurious ‘maker’ budget, but that’s not something I can promise. Especially right now. But I can fundraise (either through crowdfunding targeted to both our communities or through traditional arts funding) and co-productions/shared visits are pretty straightforward to coordinate. You will at least get standard return flights, acommodation/food in the bus and some kind of artist fee.
  • Accommodation: The bus will have a ‘bedroom’ space, a sofa-bed in the ‘lounge’ space, a swag (traditional aussie sleeping bag/tent), and an extra tent. You can choose which you’d like, even on a daily basis.

The Bigger Picture

This often freaks people out when I talk about it; “Your plans are too big, Fee. Calm down and take one step at a time”… Um, no. I think big missions help you better achieve baby steps… but that’s just me.

The big picture plan is to start the model in Australia but then take the concept all over the world. I’ve already been talking to a University in Canada who likes the concept as a research methodology. At some point we’ll run a co-production together to raise funds for a bus and the same process over there. That bus would of course drive across Canada, down to America and then South America, scooping more locals and international en route. I’m also British, so at some stage I’ll be setting up another bus in the UK, which would go to Europe… and so on.

The really-big-picture is that eventually I would like to have a bus in (or within access of) every continent. While I’m not using it the bus would be available for other digital culture practitioners. If they maintain the bus and continue to support the concept (capturing/sharing data, etc) they can have it for free when it’s not being used. If they want to do their own thing then they can hire it and any proceeds will go back in to the project.

National / International

This really isn’t just an Australian project, it’s a digital one. Like the internet it’s inspired by community, collaboration, creativity and connection. The potential is huge but the baby steps are really manageable and realistic. It just takes a little bit of conversation and we can make amazing things happen together.

So if you’re interested, message me with some responses to the above ‘challenge’ and we’ll take it from there.

UPDATE: Get a flavour of some of the Nomads.