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Winner of THE PEGASUS PRIZE FOR LITERATURE …

 

 

Mario De Carvalho’s book A God Strolling in the Cool of the Evening is well researched which is apparent when he takes the reader back to Rome around the time of Jesus.  The narrator is a Roman provincial official with whom we travel on  his rounds of duties in the township where he lives, in amongst slaves and the rest of the populace.

We learn how Roman officials spent their days and how they treated their women and their slaves.  He describes in detail his living quarters and official buildings and how governing decisions of the time were reached.  The book is  set in the era of Jesus’ preaching and that of his ragtag bands of followers.  Rome was then suspicious of their motives, before the time when Rome would eventually embrace this new religion as the state’s own.  Added to that, many felt threatened and alarmed by the way these ‘new sect’  devotees dressed and behaved.  It just wasn’t the Roman way.  Persecutions and killings of Jesus’  followers was rife but in spite of this, the bands grew in number and they willingly became martyrs for their new beliefs; they felt close to Jesus  spiritually, copied his  acts of compassion for the poor.  His God seemed a more humane one than the various Roman gods.

Rome and her officials were sinking into corruption and the poor suffered greatly at their hands.  For a Roman official to speak out for a pleb or a slave, was not self-serving; demotion or exile from one’s town,  often both,  would be the outcome.

This is a novel which offers a colourful insight into the beginnings of Christianity and the twilight years of the Roman Empire; although the second edition was published in 1999 it is still relevant, and a great read, today.  The Roman Catholic Church grew from these humble and dark beginnings into the massive and wealthy ’empire’ it is today.

The Daily Telegraph described Carvalho as: ‘…a storyteller of genius who has brought the dead past to thrilling life.’ That he has.

-Anne Frandi-Coory.  22 January 2020

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Bruce Pascoe  is of Bunurong, Tasmanian, and Yuin heritage.

  Award winning Author, Writer and Film Producer.

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I have lived in Australia for almost fifteen years and I am ashamed to say it is only in the last two or three years I have learned that although Australian Aboriginals were sometimes hunter-gatherers, they also lived in towns of up to a thousand people, they built houses, and they  were sedentary enough to have systems of agriculture and trading, to set large-scale fishing traps, and engaged in crop-saving irrigation practices. Archaeologists are now discovering artefacts, artworks and other evidence of Aboriginal life which attest to the fact that they were not solely hunter-gatherers. Author of Dark Emu,  Bruce Pascoe, through extensive research, has revealed the huge amount of information about the sedentary life of Aboriginals verified by early explorers and settlers in their diaries, in both the written word and sketches.

Dark Emu reveals how colonizers eventually destroyed the very settled Aboriginal way of life; their agriculture, their plants, their houses, their land; these supposedly ‘civilized’ invaders massacred First Australians in their thousands whenever they tried to defend their culture, their women, or their land. To justify this destruction of a culture that had survived in Australia for up to 80,000 years, successive writers and governments have set out to create the myth that Australian aboriginals were “savages” or “blacks” who aimlessly roamed the continent as hunter-gatherers.  Aboriginal children were taken from their families by Christian missionaries and placed in orphanages to “save them” from a “savage” and “heathen” upbringing.

Pascoe has much to say about the deliberate ‘cover-up’ of a pre-colonial Aboriginal democracy which had allowed ‘the great Australian peace’ across the continent for thousands of years. Tribes worked with each other sharing the land and whatever was harvested from it; flora and fauna alike. They stored and preserved food, they ground a type of flour and they baked a basic damper bread. David Maybury-Lewis, was professor of anthropology at Harvard University in the early 1990s when he included these statements about Australian Aboriginals in his book ‘MILLENIUM; Tribal Wisdom and the Modern World’:

*If one were asked to state briefly and succinctly what are the outstanding positive features of Aboriginal civilization, I for one, would have no hesitation in answering:

*Respect for the individual, irrespective of age or sex.

*The amazing degree of social and political integration achieved by them.

*The existence there of a concept of personal security which transcends all governmental forms and all tribal group interests and conflicts.

*The possibility of conceiving of an individual alone in a tribal sense is ridiculous…the very complexity of tribal life and the interdependence of people on one another makes this conception improbable at best, a terrifying loss of identity at worst.

So much of what Pascoe writes about in Dark Emu is in harmony with the above academic statements; but further, he gives us an in depth analysis drawn from his own ancestral knowledge of pre-European Aboriginal life, and backs this up with compelling evidence gained from his research around the early explorers’ and settlers’ diary notes, stories and sketches held in libraries and museums around Australia. He also discusses how Australian Aboriginals managed the threat of bushfires and how they used the best land for agriculture and the poorer, less productive soils for growing trees, planted in specific formations. They had a spiritual and emotional connection to the land; a great understanding of fire and how to control it. Tribes harvested a variety of yam and many other ‘bush tucker’ plants across their land, but later all were destroyed by herds of cattle and sheep brought in by the early settlers.

In Dark Emu, Pascoe brings home to us that we can no longer assume our 21st century ‘developed’ way of life represents the most advanced stage of progress and that Aboriginal society was less successful, less meaningful than our ‘superior’ society today. Surely this knowledge will enlighten us, open up the richness and variety of what it means to be human and perhaps we can learn from the peace and harmony evident in pre-colonial Aboriginal tribal life.

To me, their spiritual beliefs such as ‘Dreamtime’ make far more sense than the religion of Christianity ever did; Aboriginal spiritual beliefs are intertwined with the land, and I wonder if we had followed their path in this regard instead of trampling all over it with introduced cattle and sheep, or by planting out pastures never suited to such a dry continent, would Australia be burning as it is right now, in catastrophic bushfires?

If you haven’t already read  Dark Emu please do so, and encourage your children and grandchildren to read it, or read it to them, like I have done.

 

– Anne Frandi-Coory.  9 January, 2020

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Lewis Carroll, born Charles Dodgson, was the son of a cleric and it appears that he had a rather boring and ‘funless’ childhood. He was deeply religious, eventually becoming a deacon in his church.  Paradoxically, this austere, possibly very lonely man, went on to write two of the most famous and popular children’s stories of all time: Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland and its sequel, Through The Looking-Glass. During and following his lifetime there were myriad plagiarized versions of his stories, many using the name ‘Alice’ and the word ‘Wonderland’ in their titles; 19th century England did not have copyright laws so plagiarism was rife. Before the Alice series, children’s stories were largely moralistic in tone or derived from biblical narratives.

Carroll’s drawings and sketches were childlike and did not meet his exacting standards, so he employed professionals to do the artwork for his published stories… and then later the first camera was invented. Carroll was inspired to add his own photographs, mainly of little girls, to his prolific writings, and it must be said, for his own enjoyment and collections.

To be a Victorian photographer, wrote Robert Douglas-Fairhurst, the author of The Story Of Alice – Lewis Carroll and the Secret History of Wonderland, required “the knowledge of a chemist, the eye of an artist, and the patience of a saint”. The new craft suited the meticulous Dodgson, and the art of photography further inspired his alter ego, Lewis Carroll the story teller. He could prolong his fascination with childhood by photographing little girls, ideally in the nude. “A girl of about 12,” he wrote towards the end of his life, “is my ideal beauty of form.” And he could never understand … “why the lovely forms of girls should ever be covered up”. It is true that Carroll preferred images of prepubescent girls to those on the cusp of womanhood.  It disturbed him greatly to witness the physical changes in his Alice …that is Alice Liddell, who inspired him to write about Alice’s Adventures.

Christ Church at Oxford was the epitome of an academic and social establishment, where the eccentric Dodgson fitted in perfectly. He never really left once he had moved in. In his reality, Charles Dodgson and Lewis Carroll were two separate people so he certainly did not appreciate his fans addressing letters to ‘Lewis Carroll’ at Charles Dodgson’s rooms at Oxford. He preferred to keep his two selves quite separate. In the opening pages of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, it is made very clear that Alice “was very fond of pretending to be two people”.

Pretty eight-year-old Alice Liddell, especially, captivated the young Charles. Her father was Dean of Christ Church and Dodgson often took Alice and her sisters boating on the river, while telling them enchanting stories he’d made up. Alice had dark, elfin features, and the kind of fashionable clothes that made her look, says Douglas-Fairhurst, “rather like a well-dressed doll”.

Author Robert Douglas-Fairhurst is also an Oxford don, which allowed  him a good perspective from which to explore the story of Alice and her brilliant creator, while Oxford itself is a kind of Wonderland  where figures like Humpty Dumpty might be found sitting on any of the high walls, instructing students that “a word means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less”.

While waiting for the proofs of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Dodgson noted with distaste that “Alice seems changed a good deal, and hardly for the better”. She was then 13. Already, from 1858 to 1862, Dodgson’s peculiar intimacy with Miss Liddell had become the subject of intense Oxford gossip.

The charm of photography [for Dodgson] Douglas-Fairhurst suggests, is that it prevented children from changing; what photographs offered was “a new way of grappling with the power of time”. Adults, Dodgson noted, “look before and after, and sigh for what is not”, whereas a child can say “I am happy now” and that moment in time can be caught with a click. In this sense, writes Douglas-Fairhurst, photographs are like dreams; the dreamer sees the world once again through the eyes of a child. This dream-like effect is captured perfectly in the Alice books.

Just as Alice grows an incredibly long neck and then shrinks to the size of a mouse, language also alters and expands. The Oxford English Dictionary contains almost 200 examples of words and phrases from the Alice books, including ‘beamish’, ‘chortle’, ‘frabjous’, ‘galumphing’, ‘curiouser and curiouser’, and the now ubiquitous ‘We’re all mad here’.

Dodgson/Carroll forever changed stories written especially for children…from tedious moral lessons and formidable biblical characters, to nonsensical humans and animals inhabiting dreamlands full of mysteries and dramas. He was a brilliant master of the English language which, combined with his vivid imagination, made him the ultimate children’s story teller.

Douglas-Fairhurst is the latest recruit to an army of Alice analysts baffled to distraction by the quest for answers to the Alice conundrum. But Carroll’s apparently inconsequential wordplays which he loved sharing with his child friends, are replete with consequences. As the Queen of Hearts says: “Every joke should have a meaning.” Along with the Bible and Shakespeare, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass are among the most quoted works of English literature. “Nonsense” is a peculiarly English genre, and Virginia Woolf is said to have commented: ”…these are not books for children. They are the only books in which we become children”.

Was Charles Dodgson aka Lewis Carroll a ‘paedophile’ or a creative genius? Was it possible he could have been both? It is interesting to note that this particular word first appeared in public around this time.  Dodgson always insisted, following the success of his Alice in Wonderland tales,  that he was two different people, and maybe this allowed  him a Jekyll and Hyde existence; his wholesome alter ego Lewis Carroll wrote children’s stories, and played games with friends’ children, while the ‘real’ Charles Dodgson, the loner, the man who seemingly never wanted to become an adult,  harboured  private black thoughts.

However, the author of The Story Of Alice is having none of it! He argues that Charles Dodgson was not a paedophile and there is no evidence that he ever acted improperly with Alice the child, or any other children. Indeed, Alice Liddell never accused Dodgson of abusing her in any way and in fact she became a fund raiser after he died, helping to collate and organise his papers and works and install them in a museum. She also appeared at celebrations of Carroll’s life and his extensive works. In the end though, it is apparent that Alice Liddell was “tired” of the never-ending media hype surrounding her as being the ‘real’ Alice of Wonderland fame. However, there are the missing pages from Dodgson’s private diary which were removed after his death, probably by his family, so there will always be questions and suspicions swirling around Charles Dodgson’s close friendships with several young girls.

Robert Douglas-Fairhurst loves Carroll’s books and they motivated him to study Charles Dodgson with an open mind, despite the suspicion with which others may view Dodgson, particularly since the early 20th century. The Story of Alice is a comprehensive study into the enigma of Dodgson’s complicated life within a Victorian ‘wonderland’ encompassing the Victorian era’s methods of austere child rearing, alongside Christian belief systems; the fantastical dreamlands that Lewis Carroll’s Alice stories allowed bored and lonely children to escape into…a realm of make-believe and wide-eyed wonder.  Still, concludes Douglas-Fairhurst, the quest for answers “cannot be satisfied by anything we know” and he reaches “the probable conclusion” that Dodgson’s  “strongest feelings were sentimental rather than sexual”.

To me personally, this book is an in depth analysis of 19th Century English literature and how children’s stories and ‘fairytales’ developed over time as a specific genre which encouraged children to read and collect their favourite books.  Alice’s dream adventures instilled in children worldwide, the passion for reading; that thrill of opening a book full of weird and exciting characters who occupied a fantastical world of dream images. They also later inspired two Disney brothers to ‘dream up’ one of the most famous childhood cartoon characters, Micky  Mouse.  The catalyst was one eccentric, very intelligent loner, with a split personality, who preferred the company of little girls to that of adult women.

-Anne Frandi-Coory 11 November 2019

 

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‘FALLEN’ written by investigative journalist Lucie Morris-Marr, follows the courtroom dramas of cardinal George Pell’s two closed court trials. The first trial was abandoned when the jury  could not reach a unanimous decision. Morris-Marr attended every court sitting over both trials. However,  only lawyers and barristers appearing for the Crown and for the Defence, along with the two juries, were permitted to hear the testimony of the surviving choir boy (‘Witness J’) in a closed court . He accused Pell of historical child sexual abuse offences committed when he and his friend were 13 years old.  The other choir boy involved in the sexual abuse offences at St Patrick’s Cathedral in Melbourne, died in 2014 of a heroin overdose.
Pell’s second  five-week trial ended in December 2018, when a jury found Pell guilty of sexual penetration of a child under 16, as well as four counts of committing an indecent act with, or in the presence of, a child. The verdict relates to two different incidents that took place when Pell was the archbishop of Melbourne.  Evidence was presented that Pell abused the two choirboys at St Patrick’s Cathedral after celebrating one of his first Sunday masses as archbishop. He abused Witness J a second time, two months later.  Parts of Witness J’s  testimony were read out by the prosecutor and Pell’s defence barrister during their closing arguments to the jury.
In Witness J’s  statement read by his lawyer outside the court following  the guilty verdict,  he dedicated the guilty verdict to his deceased friend and asked journalists to respect his privacy and that of his family including his young children, by not revealing his identity.
The harrowing accounts Morris-Marr writes about in her book relating to her investigation of George Pell over many months leading up to his secret trials, the loss of the job she loved at a Murdoch Media newsroom, and the physical strain on her mind and body, bear witness to the power that Pell and his supporters, both within and outside  the Catholic Church, wielded in Australia and around the world. The fact that the compelling testimony of  Witness J  swayed the jury to convict  such a powerful man must cement our faith in Australia’s  judicial system.

George Pell had the best Defence team money could buy and the onus was on the prosecution to prove Pell’s guilt, so the stakes were extremely high. When the unanimous guilty verdict was read out by the jury foreman, there was an audible collective gasp around the courtroom. It was evident that none was more shocked by the guilty verdict than Pell’s highly paid and over confident QC Robert Richter.  A subsequent Appeal by George Pell in the Victoria Court of Appeal  failed by two to one.

This book is a valuable record of the weeks and months leading up to the closed court trials and subsequent conviction at the second trial, of Australia’s highest ranking Catholic cleric and the third highest ranked Vatican official at the time of his arrest.

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Reviewer’s Note: I am surprised that the editor of the book  ‘FALLEN’   written by author/journalist Lucie Morris-Marr and published by Allen and Unwin,  did not pick up a significant error in the book before its publication. Another important book written by Chrissie Foster about her dealings with a callous George Pell when her two daughters had been repeatedly raped by a Catholic priest, is erroneously referred to in ‘FALLEN’ as  ‘Hell On The Way To Hell’  when in fact the correct book title is: 
Ms Foster also wrote the forward in Lucie Morris-Marr’s book.  Not a good look for either the author or the publisher of ‘FALLEN’. Hopefully this error can be corrected asap.
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-Anne Frandi-Coory  3 November 2019

I first read In God’s Name in the early 1990s when I was at university, and although I was by then a lapsed, disillusioned Catholic, nothing prepared me for the revelations in the book. Until then I had no idea how deeply corrupt the Vatican/Catholic Church was, and specifically, the Vatican Bank. I have recently read it again.

Then I saw a Daily Mail post:

Mobster claims he helped Poison Pope John Paul I with cyanide and threatened to kill Pope John Paul II because they both tried to expose a billion dollar stock fraud scam involving cardinals and gangsters in Vatican City. (see full post below).

Needless to say, this time I was more prepared, what with the child sexual abuse scandal that has since rocked the Church to its core. The comments by the mobster confirm everything that investigative journalist David Yallop had revealed in  his book about the murder of a  pope… In summary:

During the late evening of September 28th or the early morning of September 29th,1978, Pope John Paul I, Albino Luciani, known as the smiling pope, died only thirty-three days after his election. The cause of death (Vatican officials refused to allow an autopsy) was announced to the world by the Vatican as ” myocardial infarction”. Yallop interviewed many people when he was writing In God’s Name including the pope’s  long  time personal physician. The doctor was absolutely shocked because as he told Yallop, his patient, a relatively young pope in his 60s,  was in perfect health and the only pills he took, were extra vitamins and  mild medication for low blood pressure.

During his research for the book, Yallop uncovered a huge chain of corruption  linking leading figures in financial, political, criminal, and clerical circles around the world in a conspiracy. The new pope was, although a humble man who enjoyed a simple lifestyle, a fierce opponent of corruption with an inner strength that must have alarmed his ‘minders’ when he ordered an investigation into the Vatican Bank, and the  methods employed by its President, Archbishop Paul Marcinkus. Yallop’s intensive research over three years maps the subsequent cover-ups and  upheavals within the Vatican,  and the actions of the mysterious and illegal branch of Freemasonry called P2  extending far beyond Italy in its accumulation of wealth and power , and also penetrating the Vatican.

In God’s Name is an informative and educational  read for Catholics and non-Catholics alike; for anyone who still believes that religious organisations are  in existence purely to set humanity’s moral compass or to direct the worship of culturally specific gods.  -Anne Frandi-Coory 

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The Daily Mail Post:
Mobster claims he helped Poison Pope John Paul I with cyanide and threatened to kill Pope John Paul II because they both tried to expose a billion dollar stock fraud scam involving cardinals and gangsters in Vatican City.

A mobster from the Colombo mafia family claims he helped poison Pope John Paul I with cyanide 33 days into his reign to stop the pontiff from exposing a billion dollar stock fraud scam. The startling revelation comes from 69-year-old Anthony Raimondi’s new novel When the Bullet Hits the Bone.

Raimondi was a loyal member of the Colombo family – one of the notorious five Italian mafia families in New York City.

The Colombo family dealt in a host of criminal enterprises, including racketeering, contract killing, arms trafficking and loansharking.

The scene begins in 1978 when Raimondi, the nephew of infamous godfather Charles ‘Lucky’ Luciano, was recruited by his cousin Paul Marcinkus, who ran the Vatican bank in Vatican City.

The New York Post reports that Raimondi’s job was to learn the Pope’s daily habits and be there when Marcinkus spiked John Paul’s nightly cup of tea with Valium.

Raimondi notes that the Valium worked so well that the Pope wouldn’t have woken up ‘even if there had been an earthquake.’

He said: ‘I stood in the hallway outside the Pope’s quarters when the tea was served.’

‘I’d done a lot of things in my time, but I didn’t want to be there in the room when they killed the Pope. I knew that would buy me a one-way ticket to hell.’

Meanwhile, Marcinkus prepared a dose of cyanide for the Pope.

‘He measured it in the dropper, put the dropper in the Pope’s mouth and squeezed. When it was done, he closed the door behind him and walked away,’ Raimondi said.

Shortly after, a papal assistant reportedly checked on the Pope and screamed that ‘the Pope was dying!’

At which point, Marcinkus and two other cardinals rushed into the bedroom and pretended to be horrified by what they saw.

Raimondi said if the Pope had kept his mouth shut, ‘he could have had a nice long reign.’

Next on the list was John Paul II, who seemed set on exposing the inside job as well.

Raimondi, a [self] made man, was called back to the Vatican and told to prepare for a second murder at the behest of the fraudsters.

He reportedly told them: ‘No way. What are you going to do? Just keep killing popes?’

Knowing he risked being killed by the mobsters, John Paul II allegedly chose to keep quiet about the illegal dealings.

John Paul II would go on to serve the second longest reign in modern history before he died at age 84 in 2005.

This apparently prompted days of drunken partying for the mobsters and corrupt cardinals in Vatican City.

Raimondi said: ‘We stayed and partied for a week with cardinals wearing civilian clothes, and lots of girls.’

‘If I had to live the rest of my life in Vatican City, it would have been OK with me. It was some setup. My cousins all drove Cadillacs. I am in the wrong business, I thought. I should have become a cardinal.’

Raimondi dismisses those who question his story or say it closely resembles ‘The Godfather III.’

‘It was a terrible movie. To tell you the truth I don’t really remember it,’ Raimondi told The Post.

‘What I said in the book I stand by till the day I die. If they take [the pope’s body] and do any type of testing, they will still find traces of the poison in his system.’

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Author Peter Fox acknowledges in his book ‘Walking Towards Thunder’  that so many people supported  him, and joined with him, to pressure the then prime minister Julia Gillard to set  up the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses  into Child Sexual Abuse, but there is no doubt that Fox’s  fight to put children’s safety  ahead of the reputation of the Catholic  Church was the catalyst. As has often been stated since, only an atheist, female prime minister would have listened and acted; whatever the truth, the timing was crucial.

What is truly appalling is that a corrupt NSW Police Force destroyed Detective Chief Inspector Peter Fox’s exemplary career in order to protect the Catholic Church, its wealth and power in Australia. It’s difficult to fathom that this corruption could even take hold and destroy hundreds of children’s lives in a modern secular country like Australia.

Fox’s empathy for the children abused by Catholic clergy and their distraught families shines through the pages of this book.  The heart wrenching stories are even more soul destroying when no matter what Fox did, there was nowhere to turn to get help for these suffering children, while paedophile priests were shifted around from parish to parish, supported by bishops and archbishops. We now know that paedophile priests passed around the names of children they had abused to other priests so that some children were raped repeatedly by more than one priest and yet the NSW Police and the Church continued to attack Peter Fox and deny this was happening.

Fox’s attention to detail in writing reports and conducting interviews showed him to be an outstanding detective, but this did not save him from the endemic corruption within the NSW police force which allowed the Catholic Church to hide the crimes of its clergy for decades.  Peter Fox writes about the similar ‘brotherhoods’ operating within the Church and police force and how they close ranks to protect reputations at all costs, but these costs were too high for child victims, and for Detective Chief Inspector Peter Fox and his family.

The chapter on the NSW commission of inquiry into police corruption with Margaret Cunneen appointed as chief commissioner, will leave readers wondering just how deep corruption is within our justice system. The days of tortuous, seemingly aimless questioning  of Fox, whose health was visibly deteriorating;  a detective  who was doing his job and doing it diligently, is particularly harrowing to read. The intimidation of Fox’s wife in the courtroom during his interrogation is unsettling to say the least; it was devastating for Fox who was well aware of what was happening while he was being interrogated in the dock.

When the Child Abuse Royal Commission was finally announced many had expected the then NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell would abandon the planned  Cunneen NSW Police Inquiry as being a smaller inquiry covering the same matters.  However, the Police Inquiry proceeded.

Around the time the Cunneen Inquiry’s report was being  completed, and the Child Sexual Abuse  Royal Commission was about to begin, George Pell was promoted to cardinal by his Church and a “discreet farewell’ for him was attended by, among other dignitaries, NSW  Attorney General Greg Smith and NSW Premiere O’Farrell, who expressed the “greatest respect” for George Pell and his Church.  One can only imagine how this made the victims and their families feel.  And  then O’Farrell made a statement that surely will go down in history as an indictment on the NSW state government which must have been  well aware of the children reportedly raped by Catholic clergy at the time, and in light of Pell’s later conviction for child sexual abuse: “In Australian society the [Catholic] Church always gets priority and central position.”

In my view, after reading ‘Walking Towards Thunder’ the Cunneen Inquiry appears to have been set up solely to destroy Peter Fox, along with the rape victims’ statements he recorded and other documented evidence he had collected.  Documents and statements mysteriously disappeared and police officers giving evidence at the Cunneen Inquiry claimed that those documents and statements never existed, even though victims, journalists and family members all confirmed Fox’s evidence which he gave under cross examination, which I have already noted was brutal.

These are my own assessments after reading ‘Walking Towards Thunder’ and I have no doubt that history will hold the NSW Police Inquiry up for what it was; a sham! The ABC later reported that the four-volume report, three volumes of which had been released by Commissioner Margaret Cunneen SC, uncovered no evidence to show that senior police ever tried to ensure child abuse offences were not properly investigated. History will not be kind to Commissioner Cunneen. We now know that Police did conceal evidence, destroyed or ‘lost’ statements by victims and witnesses, and police had evidence that the Catholic Church was intimidating witnesses and victims so they would not go to the police with their claims.  These matters were all later revealed during the Child Sexual Abuse Royal Commission.

It seems during the time covered in Peter Fox’s book, good priests who tried to expose child sexual abuse by fellow clergy were ostracised in their parishes, honest police were leaving the police force and school principals were driven out of their jobs for trying to protect children under their care. Every one of them paid a heavy price, some tragically more than others.

This is a well written book which may have been enhanced with a reference index notating names, important events and dates to enable the reader to traverse the wealth of information contained in the book.

‘Walking Towards Thunder’ will give readers a close up look at how a hard-working, honest police officer fought the powerful Catholic Church and the NSW police force to protect victims of clergy sexual abuse from further abuse and to stop more children being abused in the future. He and his family have paid a huge price. I have no doubt he will be vindicated. It is also a must read for all victims and survivors of child sexual abuse by Catholic clergy. Simply by victims revealing what had happened to them, meant they were vilified by people in their own parishes for tarnishing the reputation of their beloved church.  Most of the books about Catholic paedophilia I have read and reviewed, were written by victims and survivors or their families. Peter Fox’s book gives us a clear view of this Catholic scourge from a different angle, thereby revealing just how the Church hierarchy in Australia was able to coverup the rapes of hundreds of innocent children for decades.

-Anne Frandi-Coory 24 September 2019

 

 

‘Heartbreak In The Himalayas’ by Dr Ray Hodgson

 

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If nothing else, reading ‘Heartbreak In The Himalayas’ by Dr Ray Hodgson has made me realise how lucky I was to have the best prenatal care and my children delivered by well qualified doctors and nurses in a modern New Zealand hospital, with the best equipment. Postnatal care for mothers and babies is vital for their ongoing health and to detect any abnormalities in the babies’ or their mothers’ recoveries.  Not having ever travelled to Nepal, a patriarchal country with appalling rates of death in childbirth of both mothers and babies, I had no idea of the primitive conditions mothers and their babies still have to endure, even in this 21st century, and it is not surprising that so many do die. There is very scant basic prenatal or post-natal care, and often when women and girls are seen by a doctor, or midwife, it is too late to save their babies.

But this inspiring book is so much more than a reminder of how lucky we are to live in a wealthy and largely egalitarian country, which we take for granted. It is an insight into the enduring spirit of poor rural Nepali women and girls who suffer debilitating pain and social stigma from the horrific effects of pregnancy and childbirth as a result of giving birth too young, too many pregnancies, and with little spacing between those pregnancies. The most common problem among these mothers is uterine prolapse estimated to affect 850,000 females in the country. Amnesty International suggests that the condition impacts around 10 percent of the country’s total female population of almost 14 million and it is considered to be a human rights issue as well as a health issue by Nepal’s Supreme Court. Cultural attitudes favour males over females and as a result, according to the World Economic Forum, the 2016 Global Gender Index ranks Nepal 110th out of 144 countries on gender parity. Girls receive a basic formal education, or none at all, while boys are encouraged to stay at school and later to travel to cities or overseas to further their tertiary studies.

Females grow and harvest crops, take care of children, cook meals. Mothers carry heavy loads while pregnant, and also immediately after giving birth; there is no relief from their punishing workloads.

By comparison, unless men travel to India for seasonal work, their light work load entails selling any excess crops grown and harvested by females.

Dr Ray Hodgson is an associate professor in Obstetrics and Gynaecology based in Australia. Following his discovery of the appalling state of women’s health in Nepal in 2010, he founded the humanitarian organisation ‘Australians For Women’s Health’. As a specialist gynaecological surgeon and obstetrician, Dr Hodgson leads teams of volunteers on medical camps to remote regions of Nepal where they provide surgical care, and treatment of general female health issues, to underprivileged woman and girls. During the temporary camps, each member of the medical team even manages to pass on their skills to Nepali doctors, nurses and midwives.  They often have to work in tents using flashlights during power failures, and at times have had to donate their own blood in order to save dying patients.

Uterine prolapse is a debilitating condition which can cause years of excruciating physical, emotional, not to mention, social pain.  Uterine prolapse is also commonly referred to as pelvic organ prolapse or genital prolapse. Nepali men are generally uninterested in what they perceive as ‘female problems’, comfortable as they are in their total ignorance of what women actually suffer and endure. Added to that, cultural norms dictate that education is ‘wasted’ on girls, because they are expected to work with their mothers in the fields and at home. Their formal education is basic and they often marry too young, before their bodies are fully grown and ready for sex, or for giving birth.

Menstruating women and girls are evicted from their homes, with their babies, and young children, and even exiled from their villages, adding humiliation to their extreme physical suffering.

Nothing demonstrates the disregard men have for their wives’ and daughters’ suffering more than the banishing of menstruating females to the windowless, doorless, menstrual huts or chhaupadi, due to Nepali cultural rituals of impurity or menstrual taboos and Nepal has one of the most brutal cultural practices of this type in the world. The use of chhaupadi continues to cause the deaths of hundreds of women and girls from exposure, dehydration, snake bites, smoke inhalation, starvation, blood loss and many other health issues. One is left to wonder how Nepali husbands and fathers can be so cruel and uncaring about what happens to their wives and daughters banished to the outdoors in one of the harshest climates around the globe. These unfortunate females are expected to walk for hours, sometimes days, with uterine prolapse, and other debilitating internal injuries, to get the most basic health care. The great majority of pregnant women and girls do not receive any prenatal or postnatal care at all, so that their own ignorance in caring for themselves is exasperated and passed on from generation to generation.

Dr Hodgson promises to change that. His camps have already improved the lives of hundreds of mothers and their babies, and he wants to do so much more. Sadly, each day the short-term camps operate, there are endless queues of desperate women who have to be turned away, and this in itself is heart-breaking.  The doctor goes on to say that the severe gender imbalance in rural Nepal is one of the reasons he believes his team’s work is so crucial.  When the first camps were implemented the team focused primarily on helping women with prolapse but the extent of the problem loomed so large, their life-saving work extended to include general women’s, and maternal, health.

The author’s aim is to raise enough money to build a permanent hospital for mothers and babies in remote Nepal, not only as a base for his team’s life-changing surgery and maternal healthcare, and to end the frustration, the inadequacy, of the short-term camps, but also to provide a teaching hospital to train more midwives and surgeons. Dr Ray Hodgson hopes that the sale of his book ‘Heartbreak In The Himalayas’ will generate enough funds to finance his hospital, and perhaps in the future his project will influence cultural change, but he is also realistic: “The challenges are both medical and cultural in what is a highly patriarchal country.”

Dr Ray Hodgson’s story details the adventures and challenges that present themselves during a four-week surgical camp in a remote area of Nepal. The story is based on, and contracts, actual events that he and his volunteer group have faced over the years. But ‘Heartbreak’ is not all about the suffering of women and girls…it is also about hope for a better life for all females in Nepal in the future and Dr Hodgson is right when he says that when girls are better educated, Nepal will become a more equal society. His views are supported by historical evidence that well educated women make better and healthier mothers who in turn are delivered of healthier babies who in their turn pass this on to future generations.

To illustrate his prediction, Dr Hodgson has cleverly incorporated in his beautifully written book, a thread running through the main events, which helps to alleviate the horror the reader finds within these pages; it features an intelligent and resourceful 12 year old girl called Poppy.  Poppy helps in the camp’s kitchen, before and after school, to provide meals for the medical team and its staff, who have all come to love her.  This young girl has a particularly difficult life, living with her brother and father, without her mother who tragically died giving birth to Poppy. By this process, we are given a closeup, insightful view into the hardship young girls face, and what life is like living in a primitive one room hut with no privacy. Poppy’s future appears bleak indeed, but there is hope that Dr Hodgson might find a way to convince Poppy’s father that she deserves a good education, with the help of a scholarship, and that she in turn will be able to help the people of her country appreciate the contribution women could make in transforming Nepal into a more modern and egalitarian society.

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Please help author Dr Ray Hodgson raise enough funds to build his teaching hospital for mothers and babies in rural Nepal by buying his  book; you will not only be buying a great read, but most important  of all, you will be helping to save the lives of hundreds of mothers and babies which will in turn set rural Nepal on a path to a more equal society where females are valued  as much as males are.

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-Anne Frandi-Coory 16  July 2019 

 

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