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The Bay


By | The Bay

By Dael Allison

A team, that’s what you are part of. A she-team. You repeat those words under your breath like a mantra as you stare at the notes in front of you, the report you will soon present.
    The dot points blur.
    You can do this. Show these women you can cope. Prove to them that this is where you need to be. Working in this team, protecting other women, ensuring they don’t have to live on the streets, that they have a safety net against physical, emotional, potential and real violence. So many vulnerable women. And children. Children who think instability and danger is something they and their mums just have to put up with. Kids need to be safe. They should have a future.
    Your throat tightens. You glance around the long table. No one meets your eye. Three women at the far end talk quietly together, others riffle through the agenda papers, some simply sit, preoccupied. Everyone waiting for Hanny to arrive so the meeting can start. Hanny, still in her office, talking with the police.
    You want this over and done with. To have said your piece, shown what you have learned, proven you can step up. But doubts press in. Nothing at uni – work placements, case studies, role plays, reams of reading – none of it prepared you for what you have experienced in these three months of internship. Women young, old and in-between, alone or coping with bruised babies, frantic toddlers, angry primary-schoolers, sullen teenagers. They come with depression, resentment, fear. They come damaged, undone by violence, betrayal, poverty, mental illness, lost jobs, failed mortgages – their possessions jammed into a car or stashed with sympathetic friends or stuffed into carry bags. Despite all this, some can still breeze in and make your day seem wonderful. Women who drop by to show you an op-shop treasure, an ugly glass butter-dish like one their mother had, a pair of leather baby shoes. Who might bring you a gift, a little pot plant, a Coles muffin. Essie re-appeared last Monday with a dozen books squeezed into the top of her battered shopping trolley. ‘Two dollars the lot,’ she’d gloated, pulling out Jung, Doris Lessing, a volume of poems by Neruda. ‘Stick this up on your bookshelf. Like an affirmation,’ she’d said, handing you a dog-eared copy of Stead’s The Man Who Loved Children.’ She added, ‘The title’s ironic of course’.
    Essie intrigues you. She is hard to place in emergency accommodation because she fears tight spaces, and most refuge houses are old, with narrow hallways. When everything is full, or there’s no room she’ll accept, she’ll say, ‘Another train adventure!’ and sail out the door waving away your apologies. You worry about her on the station late at night. You worry about her on the train. She’ll catch the last one to Sydney, sleep on it and return to Newcastle in the morning. She is well educated, invariably cheerful, but she has lived on the streets for years and you often wonder how she manages, sleeping on trains, in parks, to keep herself looking tidy. Once she asked if she could borrow some tweezers – you’d noticed straggling grey hairs under her chin. ‘The bathroom’s good here, it has a bright mirror,’ she’d said, though you knew the appeal was the room’s spaciousness, and it opened off a broad corridor.
    Grace, too, struggling on her allowance but always beautifully presented.
    Don’t think about Grace.
    You let your mind follow a loud rumble, something big passing in the regular grind of traffic beyond the building’s stout brick walls. A bus perhaps. Outside will be people walking beneath the newly budding street trees, getting on with their lives. Outside will be a normal, busy, noisy city day. Here, inside, nothing feels normal.
    Grace. The burst of colour whenever she appeared in the office. The shiny fabric of her clothes, the scarves she twisted around her head so flamboyant people often missed the scars that corrugated one side of her face. Fading machete scars. Yesterday she sat vividly beside you and gently rocked the stroller where Happiness peacefully slept. Beautiful Happiness, with her rounded breast-fed cheeks and lips, her liquid brown eyes, the tiny knots of rusty curls that covered her head. Grace, at forty, hadn’t wanted a child. Hadn’t wanted attention from any man. The name she chose for her daughter spoke volumes. You’d found it hard to pull your eyes away from Happiness in the stroller, her satiny brown limbs beneath the frilly pink nylon dress. Until Grace showed you a creased photograph. Sent to her by an aunt, back in Sudan. A village of round buildings topped by conical thatched roofs. Bare earth, a few twisted trees, brown and white goats, a scatter of chickens. In the foreground, a clutch of village children jostle to be centre of the picture. Torn clothes, skinny limbs, beaming smiles. Tears seeped down Grace’s furrowed cheek as she named three of them. Her three killed children.

Acid wells in your throat. You drag your eyes back to your presentation notes. ‘Nothing formal,’ Hanny had said, when she suggested you put something together. ‘An overview of what you’ve learnt so far, how you are travelling in the job. A chance for us to give feedback, help if you need it.’ You’d worked on it every night for a week, exhausted after long days of counselling and absorbing story after sad, disastrous story, determined to show you love this job and want to keep it, that you can broaden your role.
    Hanny rushes in apologizing profusely. She plonks beside you in the one spare chair, announcing, ‘The agenda can keep until later, and I’ll update you then on the meeting I just had. It’s been a hard morning for us all, particularly for Jaz as I’m sure you all know, so I think it’s best she gets this over with, don’t you?
    There is muttering agreement, smattered applause. Hanny turns to meet your eyes. You nod.
    The women here daunted you at first. They all seemed so in-the-know, capable, clear of purpose. Some daunt you still, but they have accepted you into their team. They feel like talismans. An image of dingoes flickers in your mind – the golden she-dingoes you often saw in your research year with desert communities, west of Tennant Creek. These women are like that, a pack with similar connections of responsibility and support. Similar tensions, loyalties, tolerance, willingness to share their wisdom. They have the same fierceness. Fighters, all of them, protective of their own but tolerating no bullshit. In this pack of experience you are an adolescent pup. Will they find you wanting?
    Yesterday Grace quietly told you that the bare, brick-walled room where she and Happiness stayed was isolating. That she feared she could never adjust to life without a village.
    Yesterday Grace nodded when you suggested she and Happiness get outside more. Take advantage of the spring warmth, sea air, fabulous views and explore some of Newcastle’s coastal walks.
    Yesterday, instead of taking the usual bus home to the refuge, Grace pushed her daughter in her stroller over four kilometres, all the way up to Strzelecki Lookout. She climbed through the barrier fence with Happiness in her arms, walked to the edge of the cliff, and fell.
     ‘Go on, Jaz, you’ll be fine,’ Hanny says softly beside you. Blinking back tears you pick up your notes, stare at the dot points. A bland list of demonstrable learning. Around you is your pack, women who want you to succeed. Are you here to tell them what they already know? Here for the pat on the head?
    In your gut unease turns to fierceness. You crumple the notes in your hands. Stand up to speak.

World War 2, Germany

By | The Bay

by ???

I first met my father when I was 7 years old. He was a prisoner of war and he’d been released to come home.
    Before he came home there was only my mum, my sister and me. It was during World War 2 in Germany. My mum would often go away for days at a time to barter for food. We didn’t have much to eat, sometimes only potato skins to make soup. There was not real school because everything was bombed; we learnt what mum taught us. We would have to stay with neighbours and if the air raid sirens went off we would all have to run. One time they went off and I couldn’t find my sister. I made it to the shelter and when I came home I found my sister hiding under the sink.
    When my dad came home, everything changed. I didn’t like this strange, stern man that would look at me with his mean eyes. It always seemed like I did everything wrong.
    My mother would often stay in her room for days at a time and I remember my father telling me not to upset mum. We didn’t know it then but she had bi-polar and would later go on to take her own life.
    When the war was finished, eventually we were able to go to school and I liked school. I didn’t have to be home and sit in a quite house under the disappointing gaze of my father.


By | The Bay

By Grant Palmer

I’m Mum, my kids Jack and Jill
I fixed up mangled bodies
Soldiers, women and kids.

Now I am fucked in the head
With nightmares each night
Mangled kids that look like my own.

And I left them with their father
When I left to serve
In Screwedupistan against the Taliban.

Their father left when I came home
He couldn’t handle my shit
I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t touch his dick.

The money from Screwedupistan
Paid off his debts so he’s no longer bankrupt
Won’t take the kids, he fucks another woman.

Society isn’t ready for me
A female veteran
All screwed up.

“You cannot wear your father’s medals
On the left hand side”
In the RSL they say.

“Fuck off their mine”
I angrily retort
Burning tears like acid pissing from my eyes.

I cannot work that is all to hard
Who wants a broken women
Tearing up as she cleans the room.

A final repossession notice, screaming red
Is in the mail today
I can’t get a rental and I cannot feed the kids.

I went to DVA starting 18 months ago
Paperwork with legislation I don’t understand
“three months to work out that you served.”

Sclerotic bureaucratic impenetrable
Are you sure you cannot work?
Aged Care Nursing perhaps?

“A nurse” you say “near dying people”
I’m not sure that’s a good idea
I have had enough of that.

The only Pysch available doesn’t take DVA
$250 a session Medicare pays $130
I need that TPI you pricks.

I need help to feed my kids
Try the Salvos they say
A leaner not a lifter.

Looking through wanted ads, anything
Escort and brothel jobs
Melbourne CBD immediate start.

I ring the number mentioned
“Can you do an interview?
You’ll need to strip down naked”

I decide I need to go
“To old” at 30
Says the mutton dressed as lamb.

Fuck her I decide to go alone
I call up some of the others
To learn what I have to do.

I buy a new phone
Cheap lingerie from Kmart
Place an ad.

Text preferred
Incalls prior arrangement
Outcalls hotels only.

Fuck and a blow job
$300 an hour cash
No judgement in return.

I have never done fucking for money
Fucking meant something once
Scared and confused I need to feed the kids.

He sends me a txt, a hotel room at $120 a day
The Pysch’s session Medicare gap $120
Yippee $60 for me.

I hope he is clean
I hope he isn’t fat
What if he wants bum sex?

Do I ask for the cash up front?
Does he just hand it over?
Don’t negotiate a price at all!

The hotel room
Clean but showing its age
Just like me.

Cheap black lingerie brazilian neatly trimmed
Porn silent on TV condoms by the bed
A part time Juliet for Romeo

Fuck you Taliban
Fuck you my ex
Fuck you DVA.

The knock on the door
Ready to be fucked
To feed and house my kids.


By | The Bay
By ????
I lived with Mum and my little sister for the first part of my life. Dad was in jail and we were waiting for him to get out.
    Mum had a house where my sister and me had a room each but it belonged to a man and he kicked us out.
    We would stay at lots of different places with lots of different peopled and mum would work all night. In the mornings I would
have to yell at Mum right up close to her ear because she always had her eyes shut and looked like she was asleep sitting up.
    We stayed with a couple once and they had a little girl. The lady made us dinner -vegetable soup and sausages with mashed potato
and vegetables - it was so yummy. We would have dinner, a shower and get to watch TV then go to bed while Mum was at work. It was 
really good.
    But Mum took off and didn’t come home for a few days so we had to leave. They were nice people.
    We moved next door and the man was mean. I never went to school and I would look after my little sister.
    Dad never did get out of jail and Mum ended up going to jail. I never saw my sister again because we got split up when Mum went to jail.