a hybrid affair

The launch of Journeys in Canberra on 16 July was a hybrid event – pandemic style – live and via zoom. Not a fortunate coupling without adequate technical support, but “we’re all in this together” and “we are constantly having to adapt”. Those of us on zoom could see the speakers, and hear those with louder voices. At times the camera turned to the audience and from zoom we saw them and heard fragments of their questions / comments.

Photo: Manon Saur, Ruth Adler, Remo Moretta, Caroline Schuster

The Australian Ambassador to Mexico, Remo Moretta, spoke about elements the two countries have in common, one of these being indigenous populations and history. It’s not all about trade and money, he said, we could grow and learn by sharing indigenous experience, past and present.

At least that’s what I think he said, I was a bit distracted because a dear friend and colleague was urging me in the chat room to put my hand up and say something. She tried several times, and finally wrote “think of your mother” (founding force behind Riverton Press). So I did, and I remembered something about her that related to one of the questions, about the book’s cover image. In the end I didn’t get a chance to speak, so I’ll tell you here.

Manon Saur’s painting for the cover has a skeleton in it, why is that? someone asked (I think). Obviously both the question and the skeleton are pointers to speak about the annual major happening in Mexico that is the Day of the Dead. Manon was one of the launch speakers, so she related some of her experiences of el día de los Muertos. Thanks to Penny’s urging, I remembered when my mother Nita visited Mexico and we went to Oaxaca.

We didn’t particularly plan it that way, but it was THAT time of year. Oaxaca was dressed for the occasion and the streets were full of performers dressed as skeletons. I found it a bit mono-thematic, given that Oaxaca is so rich in history, art and social currents. Of course, we visited the archaeological sites of Monte Alban and Mitla, were gold-struck in the church of Santo Domingo, tried the mezcal and ate the mole, but each evening we were pursued by noisy and colourful skeletons. I think Mother was a bit frightened, she had asked if it was safe to go out at night.

At the end of the weekend her comment was, I was chased by death, I was nearly grabbed by death, and when I got back to the hotel, death was waiting for me (in the form of miniature you-know-what on the dresser). I’m still alive, hurrah!

Later when she talked about what she liked of Mexico, she would say that she loved that it was not a materialist society in the way of money-loving, real-estate-hugging Australia. She admired Mexicans for having the spirit to look death in the face, play games about death, and not hide it away. Nita appreciated that in Mexico there was space for magic.


We launch in Canberra

Journeys: Australian Women in Mexico

Compiled and edited by Ruth Adler, Jacqueline Buswell and Jenny Cooper
(Riverton Press, 2021)

The Australian National Centre for Latin American Studies (ANCLAS) is pleased to invite you to the Canberra launch of Journeys: Australian Women in Mexico. The event will be hosted by Dr Caroline Schuster of ANCLAS and the book launched by Australian Ambassador to Mexico, Mr Remo Moretta. Other speakers include Mr Eduardo Martínez Curiel, Minister/Deputy Head of Mission, Embassy of Mexico, Dr Ruth Adler and (via Zoom) Ms Pamela Skuse.

Friday 16 July, 2021, 10:00am – 11:00am
Level 1, Lecture Room 2, RSSS Building, 146 Ellery Crescent, ANU

If you are able to attend in person, RSVP  by Wednesday 14 July.

Copies of the book available for sale. Price: $25 (Cash sales only)

All proceeds go to Misión México, a refuge for children in Chiapas, Mexico, established over 20 years ago by Australians Pamela and Alan Skuse. Their project also includes teaching children to swim and surf, and the photo (taken from Pam’s chapter in the book) shows us that it’s a very good thing.

Join Zoom Meeting if you are unable to participate in person: 
Meeting ID: 825 5131 0998 Password: 12345

Or an H.323/SIP room system:

Dial: +61262227588 (AUCX) or
Meeting ID: 82551310998      H323/SIP Password: 12345
Join by Skype for Business


a story about the brolga

The book sprinting on quicksand includes a poem about the Australian crane known as the brolga. Well, really it’s about the near extermination of the brolga in the Riverina, New South Wales, and it concludes:

until I see the brolga dancing

I swear

I’ll write no poem about the crane

More than one of my critics/readers have contested that last line, they say, “Well, you have” and I say, no, I’ve written about their absence.

Those of you who know Wagga will know the Wollundry lagoon, one of many billabongs along the Murrumbidgee River that rise and fall / fill and empty according to floods and water flows. Mary Gilmore talks about the Eunonyhareenyha waters in her book Old Days, Old Ways (1934). The original Wiradjuri name for the Wollundry lagoon was Walangduray, according to

Now in Sydney’s inner west, in Covid lockdown, condemned to endlessly walking the local streets, I saw a mural high on a house the other day and had to get closer, muttering, they look like brolga. And so they were, two brolga dancing!

You can listen to the poem here.

brolga dancing