The right to speak for our own communities

Credit:Illustration: Megan Herbert

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The right to speak for our own communities

Hazel Edwards – “After more than 200 books, don’t tell me who I can write about” (Comment, 11/2) – desperately misses the point. The “woke” argument is not merely that she should stick to her lane and write only within her own experience. It is much more nuanced than that. It is a question of whose voices are amplified, who gets promoted in the public sphere and who is allowed to speak for marginalised and under-represented communities.

By working with Muslim and trans people to create and publish the Hijabi Girl series and The Boy Within, Edwards has done the bare minimum. I hope she has also helped her collaborators connect with writers from their own communities, and used her deep experience to champion their work to publishers. You cannot argue that within Australia, there are not any Muslim women and trans people who write to publishing standard.

And if established writers cannot find any, then they should help develop the talent. How hard would it be to contact English teachers at one of the Islamic schools and ask whether there are any students who would like to collaborate on a book about being a Hijabi? Imagine the opportunities that would create for a talented, aspiring young Muslim author.

Sure, it is not the job of established authors like Edwards to single-handedly overhaul the publishing industry. But the problem is that publishers’ lists are small, and opportunities to be published and supported by their PR and marketing machines are few and far between. Sadly, there is not space in the market for numerous books on hijabis or trans people, even though these communities are hungry for representation, and want and deserve to have their own speak for them. (I write as a 40-year-old Asian-Australian woman who identifies as a person of colour.)
Jasmine Chan, Coburg

Absurdity of restricting who can write about who

Apparently, I cannot write a memoir about my diverse family. I am a white man and according to those who want to police what I write, white men should stick to white men. My daughter’s mother is Aboriginal, so I can forget about mentioning them.

My brother had a son with an Italian woman, so I will leave them out just to be on the safe side. That son married a Jewish girl whose relatives died in the Holocaust. They definitely will not appear. My uncle married a Japanese woman with whom he had a son, my cousin. He lost his life in tragic circumstances many years ago. It would be best not to memorialise him either.

Trying to restrict who can write about who in our complex multicultural world is absurd. Indeed, shoving people down ethnic silos is not only impossible, it never works.
Philip Batty, Blackwood

The keys are quality and honesty, not background

Hear, hear to Hazel Edwards on her well-timed article. As one of her many publishers over many years, I congratulate her for speaking out courageously on the ridiculous demand that only those of a particular background are entitled to create or review works of art. All that matters is quality and honesty.
Sue Donovan, Abbotsford

Edwards’ ability to understand children and teens

I could have cried when I read Hazel Edwards’ response to criticism of her wonderful fiction and illustrated story books. Her understanding of all the social distinctions that occur in schools and the community that can inhibit a child’s feeling of belonging are the strengths in her works.
The children, from the little ones to the teenagers, can hear or read for themselves about someone who has a similar sense of insecurity, or feel the loneliness of not belonging, as they may have. There is always hope for change of hearts and lots of joy in our children’s world. You are a legend, Hazel Edwards. You have brought, and continue to bring, joy to all.
Carmel Dunstone, Newtown


The security dangers

Removing surveillance cameras from government agencies just because they were made in China (The Age, 11/2) is hard to justify if the surveillance system was installed, maintained and updated in accordance with Australian government protective security requirements.

A security issue arises with cameras made by any country if they are linked to the internet. Cameras used in or near sensitive areas should always be hard-wired without any external connectivity and the images stored on a computer system that has an air gap between the system and the internet.

Major security vulnerabilities for many organisations, both within and outside government, have come about as a result of imprudent, cost-saving measures. These include unprofessional CCTV installations, the outsourcing of building management systems, and contracting security and IT staff who are not cyber security-literate.
Clive Williams, Forrest, ACT

Everyone deserves a home

I agree wholeheartedly with your correspondent – “So many homes left empty due to their owners’ greed” (Letters, 11/2). Here in Brunswick West, there have been at least five houses vacant for one to 10 years, in our not very large block of maybe 40 sites.

It is disgraceful that these owners do not make the houses liveable. Yes, as suggested, charge them the going rental rate or more if they leave a house vacant. That might help to get them going.
I too spoke to all local candidates about this at last election. Come on politicians, people need housing. It is cruel not to create systems and rules and laws that make it possible for everyone to be housed.
Joanne Goodman, Brunswick West

Our right to invest wisely

Your correspondent gives no evidence for his dubious claim that there are “thousands” of unoccupied houses in Melbourne owned by people who are “house banking”.

Investors waiting for capital gain will almost always seek rent to offset the considerable costs of owning and maintaining a house, not to mention our state government’s egregious rates of land tax. And since when is it wrong to stump up your own money and/or borrow for a chance to gain a return on investment?

Is it greedy to put money in a deposit account too? There are also people who bought and maintain holiday homes as a second principle residence, for lifestyle reasons. Should they be penalised for not renting them out?
Paul Kertes, Templestowe

Where the fault really lies

The headline to your article should read “Rugg versus Albanese” rather than “Rugg versus Ryan: the bigger picture” (The Age, 11/2). The Prime Minister was responsible for cutting staff numbers for independent MP Monique Ryan from four to one. It was poor and mean-spirited “leadership” on his part.
Belinda Burke, Hawthorn

Unsafe work pressures

Monique Ryan should have employed a medical registrar as her chief of staff. Medical registrars such as my husband are accustomed to working ridiculously unsafe hours (sometimes more than 100 per week) without complaint. I am not saying this is a good thing, I am just saying that parliament is not the only workplace where expectations need to change.
Name withheld, Box Hill South

Bring in black voices

Without even referring to it, John Silvester (Naked City, 11/2) has articulated perfectly why we need an Indigenous Voice to parliament when he writes that the decision makers “are all white”.
Elizabeth Long, Collingwood

Imperfect, but consistent

NAPLAN assessments have been under attack for a long time, and the change from a 10-point numerical scale to a 4-point descriptive scale (The Age, 10/2) will do nothing. Some students will do well, some will not, and most will do OK but this will tell parents and teachers little.

The overall student body will have a few geniuses, but not as many as parents think, and some, more than parents think, who will find the material challenging no matter how hard they work.
The ATAR, a competitive ranking between 99.95 and 00.00 of each student’s year 12 results (The Age, 10/2) and the 10-point NAPLAN scores are not fair to all students, but they are equitable and consistent.
Dennis Fitzgerald, Box Hill

Wealthy and battlers

Australian basketballer Isaac Humphries’s story of coming out as gay (Good Weekend, 11/2) was an inspiring read. However, what really caught my eye was the account of his life-changing move to the exclusive The Scots College in Sydney. Isaac says that when he wanted the benefits of training at 3000 metres above sea level, he could use the school’s hypoxic chamber. Seriously?

If ever there was an argument to review tax-payer funding to elite schools, this is it. No doubt The Scots College makes a tidy profit on its high tuition fees to boot. How can it be justified that public schools have to struggle and beg their communities to pay levies to provide “luxuries” like craft materials and books, whilst public money is directed to institutions with so much of the green stuff they can afford hypoxic chambers?
Peter Harris, Preston

The onus is on us to vote

Re “Why are voters in retreat?” (The Age, 11/2). Unfortunately people are becoming rather disillusioned about what politicians really can do to help their constituents. What they say and what actually eventuates can be very different.

By not voting or by putting in an invalid vote, you are saying you don’t care about the outcome – but at the same time, you whinge loud and long about how your needs are not being met. Start caring again, because the only way pollies will do what you need them to do is by your voting appropriately at elections. Not voting is a cop out.
Catherine Gerardson, Watsonia North

Frivolous resignations

Let’s save on the cost of byelections. If an MP resigns within a year (or 18 months maximum) of an election, then the Australian Electoral Commission should announce whoever had the second highest number of votes is the new MP for that electorate. Since this person will invariably be from an opposition party, it might stop MPs frivolously resigning shortly after they have been elected and treating their electorate with contempt.
Robyn Westwood, Heidelberg Heights

Democracy, rural-style

Re restricting public access to council meetings (Letters, 11/2). Not only does the Rural City of Wangaratta open its meetings to the public, but it actually takes them to the public. It holds the meetings around the local government area, publicising the dates in advance or we can watch them online. Democracy in action.
Viviane King, Milawa

A country boy at heart

Of course Emma Kearney is enjoying coaching at North Melbourne with the legendary Alastair (“Clarko”) Clarkson (Sport, 11/2). The man is a quality country lad after all and I am also sure that his, and his then-Hawks’ efforts in Gippsland post-Black Saturday, will be never forgotten.
Ian Macdonald, Traralgon

Still checking the letters

What a lovely tribute to former Age letters co-editor, Peter Anthony, by Jewel Topsfield (Insight, 11/2). It is good to see such well deserved recognition. Peter has improved many a letter and I hope he is around to enjoy readers’ contributions for many a long day.
Kerry O’Shea, Hampton

Pension is for the needy

Thank you, George Cochrane (Money, 12/2), for reminding the reader who had a query that very large superannuation balances are there to fund one’s living costs, not to be manipulated so the man and his wife can get a taxpayer-funded pension in three years.

With more than $1.6million in mostly tax-free savings, they have no right to even think about their eligibility for social welfare. I have heard some discussion about taxing very large superannuation accounts, and after reading that letter I am inclined to think this might be worth considering.
Meg Orton, Brunswick

Send Harris to India

Whilst last summer’s mediocre cricket boosted averages and egos, it did nothing to prepare Australia for future challenges. David Warner has been nearing the end of a great career for some time but our selectors refuse to acknowledge this. Marcus Harris played little cricket instead of being groomed to take over. He should be on the plane to India.
Tony Jackson, Fitzroy

The very slow express mail

Re the current unacceptable delays in the post – “Parcelling up postcard” (Letters, 11/2). My local post office informed me the express post option for a letter to be sent from Melbourne to Sydney could take up to three days.
Ewa Haire, Moonee Ponds

When private is best

I am a romantic person with much understanding, but am puzzled by those who choose to make marriage proposals in public – “Popping the Question” (The Age, 11/2). This turns what is essentially a special, private moment into a show for onlookers, who may smile, boo or roll their eyes. Perhaps couples should decide together privately, then celebrate publicly with family and friends to avoid any awkwardness.
Mary Cole, Richmond

Maybe a bit over the top

I am 73 and have been a subscriber to The Age for most of my life. I love the vigorous journalistic code of presenting the facts. However, I was taken aback by the headline “Disaster of the century” referring to the Turkey/Syria earthquake (Online, 12/2). I thought that could not be right, what about the 2004 tsunami when 227, 898 people died or were missing. I implore The Age to avoid such dramatic headlines and maintain a sensible perspective.
Ian Dickie, Beaumaris



Lidia Thorpe’s only real campaign is to keep Lidia Thorpe in the news and preferably on the front page.
David Parker, Geelong West

Alan Tudge said he was an unusual Liberal in that he was most drawn to social policy. Robo-debt victims can vouch for that.
Ian Hetherington, Moama

It’s good to know that you can screw up and still be applauded on your resignation. How happy am I that my taxes contributed to Tudge’s generous superannuation.
Anne Holmes, Port Melbourne

I take issue with Tudge’s detractors. Why, last week he made his greatest political contribution by retiring.
Ian Grandy, Nunawading


What goes through Putin’s mind when he sees the devastation caused by earthquakes? Maybe, “I can do that every day. And I do.“
John Bye, Elwood

Unidentified objects shot down over North America and barrages of missiles, many shot down, directed at Ukraine. As far as I can tell, no submarines were involved.
Loch Wilson, Northcote

So UFOs aren’t science-fiction any more.
Sandra Torpey, Hawthorn

At long last we know where all those UFOs came from.
Mark Freeman, Macleod

While rescuers are saving lives in Turkey and Syria, Putin is destroying innocent lives in Ukraine and Russia.
Roger Christiansz, Wheelers Hill


Depression: watching Australia’s batsmen trying to combat spin.
Brian Morley, Donvale

How about George Bailey for Reserve Bank governor and Philip Lowe the chairman of selectors?
Gerard Reed, Brunswick

The RBA’s threat of further rate rises reminds me of the old medical adage: don’t kill the patient by curing the disease.
Sean Geary, Southbank

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