Midwifing Truth Through Free Speech – Grace Tame Shows Us How It’s Done

In light of the recent controversy on her nomination for a Companion in the General Division of the Order of Australia, Pastor and Australian tennis veteran Margaret Court defines and defends her theo-phobic views as free speech, or something like it, calling those who criticise her evangelicalistic views “bullies”. But while she was being cross about being taken out of context again, someone else quietly stood up to show us what free speech actually looks like. Margaret Court and the rest of Australia, we give you winner of the Australian of the Year Awards for 2021, Grace Tame.

This largely unknown and incredibly courageous young woman used her platform and the publicity to draw focus to the cause of victims of child sexual abuse. In doing so, she has ripped the shameful shroud of silence which clings to abuse victims, many of them having suffered at the hands of ministers, pastors, priests and Tame’s address is powerful, raw, confronting, and indelible (A partial transcript is posted below.)What was said can never go back in the box, and nor should it. Grace owned every truth she told in those few breathtaking moments, and it was all hers to tell. In doing so she made a way for others to speak out, but she also created a conduit through which we may listen to their stories, however painful or uncomfortable the truth is. That there was a change-making speech. That’s what free speech does.

Two women, very different attitudes. Both Tame and Court have fears and aspirations. Both have conquered greatly and been convicted down to their marrow about what they believe to be right, and what they feel is wrong. But only one has allowed her experiences, learning, conscience and conviction to lead her to embrace anything resembling free speech. The other so vastly peppers her orations with prejudice and vilification, it’s hard to tell where she begins, and the limitations to her understanding of anyone outside her narrow spiritual, social and cultural sphere ends.

Court believes in her heart of hearts in free speech. But as they say in The Princess Bride, I do not think that word means what you think it means. Free speech is not about being allowed to speak freely – it is speech that at it’s very core is of, for and about freedom. Hate speech can never be free speech because they are diametrically opposed. When a victim tells the truth about her abuse in an effort to set herself and others free, that’s free speech. But if we threaten, directly or indirectly, consequences of non-compliance to an ideology, blaming some higher power or greater mission for the harm and hurt perpetrated in our doing so, that’s not free speech. That’s shaming speech. That’s fear speech. In essence, that is hate speech. Faith in anything other than ourselves is an abdication of the self, and any speech which invites us to discard what we know to be intrinsically who and what we are is not free speech. Those who speak fear and hate are free to do so, but they are not free to claim it is in essence or intent free.

The courageous way of free speech speaks of truth in all it’s terrible detail, without the need to threaten, cajole or invoke the authority of an invisible god. This way involves bringing our own vulnerability and power together to create a safe space for truth – ours and others – to emerge. The courageous way owns everything that happened, everything that’s happening now, and everything that will happen from here. The way of free speech knows there will be consequences, but also knows, regardless of how painful or dreadful, nothing could be worse than what happens if the truth isn’t told. Free speech midwives truth into the collective consciousness, through those who are willing to be fully who they are, and want others to be the same. Grace Tame is such a midwife, and the light she has brought into our awareness via her authenticity and strength will help so many other prisoners of sexual abuse to be made free.

Margaret Court and others who hold to the same ideas are not homophobic, it’s God they fear. They feel no authentic concern that LGBTQI people might go to hell. They’re afraid they will go to hell for not reminding people “what the Bible says”. Margaret Court  is afraid when she stands before God to give account for her life, He will judge and condemn her for not “teaching” the “good news” as fully and truthfully as she could, about how wrong it is to love someone with the same genitalia as you, or accept yourself for who you know yourself to be rather than what society demands. No, Pastor Court has no fear of LGBTQI people, but she has no love for them either. She is not interested in their story. She has no time for their truth. And she is certainly not interested in their freedom.

Jesus said, ***“If you hold to my teaching [love your god with all your heart, and love your neighbour as yourself] you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” Now that’s free speech.

Jo Hilder (c)

Quotes by Margaret Court

  • The 78-year-old, who is now a reverend in Perth, wrote an open letter in 2017 saying she would boycott Qantas over its support of same-sex marriage.
  • In 2013, Ms Court wrote a letter to the editor in a newspaper lamenting the birth of Australian tennis player Casey Dellacqua’s child in a same-sex relationship. “It is with sadness that I see that this baby has seemingly been deprived of a father,” Ms Court wrote.
  • “When she talked about children of transgenders being from the devil, that put me over the edge.” – Billie Jean King
  • “There’s a whole plot in our nation and in the nations of the world to get the minds of the children.” – Margaret Court on a supposed media, educational and political LGBTQI brainwashing agenda.
  • “Tennis is full of lesbians. Even when I was playing there were only a couple there but those couple that led took young ones into parties.”
  • “We’re there to help them overcome. We’re not against the people.” Margaret Court on loving the sinner, hating the sun.
  • On marriage equality: “We know that homosexuality is a lust of the flesh, so is adultery, fornication, all those things … they too know this, this is why they want marriage, because it’s self-satisfying. I think they know it comes against Christianity, the beliefs of God, but in some way it’s justifying.”
  • “That’s what Hitler did. That’s what communism did — get in the minds of the children. There’s a whole plot in our nation and in the nations of the world to get in the minds of the children.” Court comments on an LGBTI movement and culture she imagines is indoctrinating youth.”

Grace Tame – 2021 Australian Of The Year, Partial Transcript Of Acceptance Speech

“I lost my virginity to a paedophile. I was 15, anorexic. He was 58. He was my teacher. For months he groomed me and then abused me almost every day: Before school, after school, in my uniform, on the floor. I didn’t know who I was.”

“Publicly, he described his crimes as ‘awesome’ and ‘enviable’. Publicly, I was silenced by law. Not any more. Australia, we’ve come a long way but there is still more work to do in a lot of areas.

“Child sexual abuse and cultures that enable it still exist. Grooming and its lasting impacts are not widely understood. Predators manipulate all of us — family, friends, colleagues, strangers in every class, culture and community. They thrive when we fight amongst ourselves and weaponise all of our vulnerabilities.

“Trauma does not discriminate, nor does it end when the abuse itself does. First Nations people, people with disabilities, the LGBTQI community and other marginalised groups face even greater barriers to justice. Every voice matters.”

*** John 8:31 (parentheses mine)





Things Not To Say About Australia Day – A Call To Prime Minister Morrison To Not Pull The Convict Card

I am a seventh generation First and Second fleet survivor descendant. That my ancestors were able to endure exile from their homeland, the journey here under the most horrendous conditions imaginable, meet, then make a life and legacy together never ceases to amaze me. Brought here against their will, they suffered unspeakable abuses and conditions, prevailing to instate a sort of life in an inhospitable country defying the odds. I am proud to be their descendant. However, when it comes to Australia Day, I’m not wont to crack a beer and raise it high with cries of “STRAYA MATE!!!!” It’s a day of sombre remembrance for the sake of the complete and enduring generational and cultural catastrophe which was the empirical colonization of this place, and let’s face it, for the most part the devastation was borne by First Nations. We white people actually seem to have come out of it pretty well.

My pride in my predecessor’s mettle is uneasily tempered with the understanding they were participants – however unwitting or unwilling – in the travesty that was the tossing of England’s unwanted pillories onto supposedly barren shores as far away as they could sail them. These exiles could not know what lay ahead and were powerless to be anything else but complicit. But whatever power our forebears lacked before or on arrival, they still had fifty times more control over their destinies at the hands of the British than the Indigenous population of the time. However, and whenever, we white Australians came to be here, and whatever we suffered on the way, we do not get to discuss those circumstances in the same conversation as the consequences on First Nations people of white occupation. No, we do not get to do that, Mr Prime Minister.

As a person of British/Irish descent, I would not be here except for the injustice, oppression and colonialism thrust upon my forebears, not to mention whatever actions led them to be here. I fully know when it comes down to it, this is not my Country. This is not my place. I am connected to this land only by its grace and goodwill. It has accepted me, this Country, cherished and nurtured me as its own. I rue that my ilk and peer very often have not returned the favour.

One of my closest friends is Indigenous, a First Nations descendant. We’ve spoken many times about our cultural and societal histories and the ironic, complex issues which could conceivably cause conflict in our dialogue. But they don’t. They give cause for deep reflection, empathy, listening, respect and understanding. Without either of us ever articulating it we agree this is key to moving reconciliation forward. We have the will, believe in a way, and trust the gestures we make at this intersection may somehow become part of a collective re-imagining of the relationship between who we understand to be the invaders, and the invaded, and who the silent, invisible phantom is who stands in the corner of the room. As dissonance continues about what a day for Australia looks and feels like, the fact we didn’t colonise ourselves seems to strangely hardly ever arise, and perhaps we might give pause to whether it ever actually stopped. In all our conversations I know I cannot speak to her pain regarding the colonialist past of this country. It is for me to listen, learn, and allow deeper respect and understanding to flourish between us.

Today, our Prime Minister stated, in defense of Australia Day being a celebratory event, that “when those twelve ships turned up in Sydney, all those years ago, it wasn’t a particularly flash day for the people on those vessels either.” Firstly, let’s note they did not “turn up” in Sydney, like invited but forgetful dinner party guests who neglected to send their RSVP. The white occupiers dragged a dozen, sorry ships ashore after months at sea and deposited almost fifteen hundred diseased, depraved white humans smack bang in Warrane, Gadigal Country. It was a place with a name and a population way before it was named for the British home secretary of the time. It was known as Eora, as were the people who lived here. The name literally means “here” or “from this place”. One might say “I am Eora, and Eora is me”. Eora were in Country, and Country was in them. It was the centre of their being- their universe – without and within. This is startlingly, and shamefully, opposed to the British Government’s opinion this land was barren and devoid of human habitation. The British government knew about the great south land for many years, having heard glowing reports from botanist Joseph Banks, a prior visitor in 1770 with old mate James Cook. Banks also brought back some very pretty pictures of various exotica and anecdotes of how absolutely perfect it would be as the location for a lovely little colonial concentration camp, with white picket fences and all. But Banks was, frankly, full of shit. New Holland was in fact wild and tough, and did not suffer fools, not to mention being widely inhabited by a widespread and functioning society, already demarcated into nations with their own laws and culture. But thanks to the ambitious botanist’s glowing endorsement, and the impatience of authorities to be rid of their prisoners, the mission went ahead. Colonizers gonna colonize. Being on the opposite side of the world, and apparently empty, it seemed the perfect patch on which to shit England’s most (allegedly) abominable human refuse. Undoubtedly, if the original inhabitants knew what and who was coming, they may have expressed concerns, if not downright resistance. Mr Morrison, a great many of us feel that particular white arrogance, white ignorance and white occupation isn’t something to be especially proud of. It’s something to be apologizing for.

It may surprise Australians, particularly in light of his insensitive remarks, to learn Morrison himself is a descendant of First Fleet colonialists, descended from William Roberts, transported for stealing yarn. No doubt this legacy gives him some pride, as it does many of the descendants including myself.  But when our Prime Minister blithely retorts from a colonialist perspective, making the white invaders into the victims of the Australian story, and those invaders’ white victims into martyrs, something is very awry. There can be only one lens through which to view this tragic episode in our history. What was done, both to the convicts and to the Indigenous peoples, was wrong. And despite the fact our ancestors came here under duress, we as their descendants are not exonerated from the crimes against humanity which followed our being flung here. All of us who came here under an English flag, indentured by choice or force to a quest to vanquish both land and peoples by sheer force of our privileged, power-laden populace, are guilty by association.

My ancestors did not choose to come, but despite their valiant survival, they contributed to the oppression of First Nations peoples and the decimation of this fragile, foreboding land. It behooves us to feel some shame for this. If we refuse to feel in all its gravity any grudge born against us as white non-belongers, we only deepen that shame. That our chief political minister would stand up, without a shred of humility or recognition of his white privilege or his glaring colonialist apologism, uttering “all victims of British colonialism matter” is to take the cause of reconciliation back at least twenty years. Good for you, Mr Morrison, if outright denial makes you happy. But you were not given your office to make yourself happy, not even to vent your stale, pale male banter on camera for your NLP, WASP, GOP maaaaates. Your job is to lead this nation well, and all Australians, as best you can. You get paid to be the best Australian you can be and govern as such. It’s incumbent on you to be the Prime Minister we all need now and, in the future, whoever we are and whatever our survival story is – because when it comes to white, patriarchal colonialism, everyone has a survival story, and that’s a goddamn fact. You don’t get to stand up as our boss man in government and play the invaders and invaded off against each other. This is not about which party was hurt worse by white colonialism in the past. It’s about the impacts of white colonialism here and now and into the future, because despite how invisible it might be to white Australians, that colonialism is very much alive and well.

No, Mr Morrison, you do not speak for me when you declare all lives matter as concerns the invasion of Australia. This posture misses the very important point that someone chose to send white people here without asking if it was okay first. Someone decided the Indigenous civilization already in residence were not human and played them for fools. Someone decided sending what it considered to be its human garbage to the other side of the world, along with a patriarchal, racist militia, was a solution to economic and class-related crime in their own fucked up country and a jolly idea. Someone signed off on Australia as an alternative to prisons the Empire insisted they could not afford to build on their own corrupt territory. Someone decided this, and now it can’t be undecided. We do not get to compare our suffering as white occupiers to that of the civilization we decimated. Our grave responsibility is to work through the aftermath. No, it isn’t fair our ascendants came to be here, and it’s true the circumstances were unjust, but so was the indigenous genocide that ensued, the Stolen Generation, and the fact First Nations people were not acknowledged as human beings with rights by the Australian government until the year before I was born – 1967. That’s 179 years of patriarchal white politicians bleating bullshit about “all lives matter” all the time making sure great swathes of humanity didn’t get to be counted as having lives that mattered in the first place. Australia didn’t colonise itself. Someone did it, and whether white Australians like it or not, our presence represents a deep wounding of this place and its people. When white people elect to see through the lens of the colonial empire and it’s white victims, rather than healing our own ancestral wounds and proffering active empathy and support for Indigenous victims, we only further the insult we perpetrated against them in the first place.

When Mr Morrison awkwardly attempts to paint white victims of colonialism in this country as equally put upon as the original inhabitants, but he must appreciate, with humility and respect, this is not our card to pull. We may not deign to give commentary on the impacts of colonialism on white people in the same breath as the impacts for First Nations people. Why, Mr Morrison, would you continue the systematic dismissal of the pain of First Nations people, and further isolate them by naming white pain? The two conversations may well be conjoined at some juncture, but for fucks sake, this isn’t the way to go about it. Do not trophyise my wound as a generational victim of colonial oppression, and do not assume to compare it to the catastrophe we perpetrated on First Nations’, like these injuries were scones in a CWA bake-off competing for a ribbon. How dare you, sir? How dare you?

Our colonial past cannot he erased – it can only be healed, and the first step to healing is acknowledgement. We cannot help what we refuse to learn about or understand. We cannot reach where we withdraw empathy rather than extending it. Empathy does not say “what about me.” It says “I see you. I hear you. Despite the pain your pain causes me, whether I am to blame or otherwise, I will be here where you are. I will see things through your eyes, because I am willing to set my perspectives or defenses aside. I am present. I know I cannot expect trust where there is no vulnerability. I want to understand from your perspective. I do not expect forgiveness, and I do not ask for it. I ask only that you let me stay with you, because you’re wounded, and although I don’t have the power to heal you, I know it isn’t good for the wounded to be alone.” First Nations people need to know we as white Australians are invested in their healing and the restoration of their culture on their terms because the future of this country not only includes them, it simply will not exist without them. Always was, always will be.

Mr Morrison, at the risk of putting words in your mouth, I’m about to put words in your mouth. Here’s what you say whenever Australians decide to encompass the burgeoning movement of reconciliation, understanding, empathy and societal evolution by deciding not to use the term “Australia Day” or acknowledge January 26th as a cause for celebration. You say, “I think I speak for all the imported rabble chucked on First Nations soil for one reason or another when I say I would like to acknowledge the traditional custodians of this land and pay my respects to the Elders both past and present. We are grateful every time we place our feet on this earth and stand under this southern sky. We are humbled to be here alongside you at this point in history. There is much to learn and much to forgive. Let us continue to work towards reconciliation between the people of this country, and a healing of the past with a view to the future. We have no right to ask for your forgiveness, and we thank you for your willingness to teach us and wait while we discard the wrong attitudes and right the harmful actions of the past. Thank you, unequivocally, in every way.”

There you go, Mr Prime Minister. Never let it be said our side of the dialogue wasn’t explicitly clear. It’s time you decided once and for all to remove yourself from a harmful and hurtful colonialist victim posture and took your place as the facilitator of reconciliation our country needs now and into the future.

Jo Hilder



Dearest Karen…

Hello, fellow Karen,
Yes, you know I’m talking to you.
I am a Karen, and I have questions.
I want to know why I feel so empowered to intimidate those who are in fact much less empowered than I am without even noticing.
I want to know if I’ve come so far past caring being the “bad guy” I might’ve lost sight of what it is to be one.
Karen’s are not a recent American phenomenon. We’ve been angry and showing it for years, in many places across the world, and racial tensions are not our only trigger. We’re angry about a lot of stuff and have been for decades. It’s just now we’re being filmed doing it. And it’s not pretty.
White the fucks we gave for that have since flown, we need to take responsibility for our actions, and our evolution. Change – social, political and spiritual – is upon us, whether we like it or not.
Our work as white, middle aged privileged women is to identify the triggers for our indignities, measure their worthiness against justice and morality, heal our prejudices, and detach from the heirarchal-patriarchal systems in which we’ve sought refuge, however hostile the relationship.. Once we do this, we’ll be a positive force to be reckoned with, rather than being walking pistols with a hair trigger and one bullet in the barrel.
What do you think?

When Things Happen Through You, Not To You

Each time we endure and survive a difficult time, be it mental, emotional or physical, we learn to a deeper level exactly how much the dross and periphery of living has taken up our time and energy up to that point.
Each time we come through, we can see more clearly what our true self looks like, feels like, wants, understands and believes. And each time, we may realize we are faced with losing something of these, and it will needs be by choice. Is it an inauthentic aspect of self? Is it repeating situation or relationships, or a habit that results in emotional turmoil or drama you’ve simply had enough of? Desires that no longer interest us, which turned out to be distractions from our path? Or beliefs which turned out to be for beliefs sake?

Shadow experiences ask us to shed inauthentic or superfluous aspects of ourselves, perhaps taken up to impress others, to belong, to be left alone, to stay safe, to be saved from sin, to avoid our own thoughts, to avoid death.

When I had cancer, I railed against anyone who implied I’d become a better person because of it. The very idea I might have been presented an opportunity to evolve spiritually by a higher power via cancer understandably pissed me right off. In fact, for me, experiencing a life-threatening illness reinforced exactly how arbitrary these things are. I will never forget what I saw – and who I met – along my cancer journey, and the people I know who live with it now.

Living with shadow, doing the work it presents to us, committing acts of intentional survivorship, creates a breadcrumb trail of courage and hope we can backtrack on when shadows descend again, as they inevitably do. Avoiding shadow times is pointless, denying them, a farce. We will be asked to walk beside the things we fear most many times in our lives. Many of those things we will come to see are not to be battled, resisted or fought against, but treated with compassion. When be we sit with our shadows, no matter how distasteful or terrifying, we see clearly our fears and flaws are made of us, and deserve not our disdain, but our deepest love and healing.

If you stumble often into shadow, as I do, I would have you consider your shadow is also your refuge. Be close to your self in these times, and don’t hold yourself in judgement because you feel weak or vulnerable, or like a failure. Shame will come, but shame is a trained reflex, and not our natural response to finding a soul faced with pain and suffering. That response is quiet. Accepting. Warmth. Peace. Gentleness.

When I was in the cancer ward, the man in the bed opposite me asked his doctors to stop his treatment. He was elderly, infirm, obviously seriously ill and dying. I panicked, and despite the fact I too was seriously ill and in a cancer ward, felt compelled to find a way to get out of bed and speak to the man and make sure he had made peace with god so he could go to the afterlife I imagined for him. It ripped me up inside for days, because I knew I could not do this thing my “faith” and my fear compelled me to, which I mistook for love, but which was actually fear. I remember crying silently in the shower for ages hating myself for being so useless in that man’s time of spiritual need. But as I later realized, his spiritual need was all in my head. The fear and doom I sensed around his situation belonged to me. I was having a spiritual crisis, not him. I, unlike him, had not faced the reality of being a sick person unto death. I did not know how to be helpless, how to rest, how to surrender, to begin the process of healing. But I did come to learn these things. I learned a lesson there and then about the difference between fear and love.

My surviving cancer and treatment taught me death was close, but was not the enemy, and is to be treated with respect and not fear. I learned I can be alone, and that being surrounded by people can be the loneliest experience. I lived side by side with dying people for two months, while we all shared the shadow, and found such sadness in that place I thought I’d never recover from the grief of it. The best and the worst of people. And I’ll never forget it. It was beautiful. There was no fear there. Most were beyond that, or gathering breadcrumbs back to those things they understood to represent light, and love.

Each time we go through, survive, endure, let go a little more, surrender a little more, have our beliefs or our body or mind broken a little more, something comes away from us that once was part of us. We can grasp it back and cling to it in denial, therefore to carry it forward, unhealed and growing ever heavier until it breaks us again. We can recognize the broken piece as something perhaps that was never part of us at all, and let it go. Perhaps we will hold the broken fragment away from us at arms length, see it for what it is, and then tend to it, deliberately and diligently undertaking the patient process of healing. When experiences happen through you and not to you, it changes everything.

(C) Jo Hilder

Young Australian Parent, Don’t Let Them Scare You Into A No Vote.

Dear young Australian parent,

Here we are, all about to choose yes or no on a legislation which will impact our children’s generation in ways we can only begin to understand. For many of our generation, the idea that a great many of us are gay is still difficult to accept, let alone that our children may be as well. You may have deeply held convictions and beliefs about what homosexuality is and is not, and what ought to be done about it. We enjoy the privilege of living in a nation where we’re are free to have our beliefs, whatever they are. And I’m not going to try and change them, even if I disagree with them.

But as we move towards this plebiscite on marriage equality they say we must have, I feel as an older women and mother of four it’s my responsibility to drop some wisdom I’ve learned. And I’ll cut to the chase. Whatever your beliefs, dear one, your child may not grow up to share them. And if you love them, want them to be healthy and free, you’ll let them believe their own beliefs, and you won’t take it personally or as a sign of failure if they don’t share yours.

Secondly, as much as this may alarm you, a good many of us are parenting children with a sexual identity we may not understand, like or even believe exists. As they grow, their explorations and questions about that sexual identity will confront us in many ways. And many parents whose own beliefs about sexual and gender identity are underpinned by fear or confusion may project this onto their children, and the child becomes just one more source of fear and confusion. And fear makes us do things often we later regret. Anger, denial and rejection are inevitably actions parents regret when directed towards their child, whatever their justification.

Thirdly, your love for your child is irreplaceable. It is everything in your child’s world, and will be always, no matter how flawed or fragile your attempts at it are. If you allow yourself to be forced into a position where you must choose between your beliefs about homosexuality and whether to show your child you love them no matter who they are, no matter what they do, your child learns something about themselves. And it is not a good something.

Any beliefs you hold so to which force you to reject your child, will not fly across the country to hold your hand in your last moments, will not look into your eyes and tell you they love you, will not name their children for you for the sake of your love. Your beliefs will be like empty chasms at the end, and you’ll see the folly of them. All those others with whom you comforted yourself when you put your child away will go away to their own families and homes, and you will be alone with your beliefs. And your child will be motherless, fatherless, but they will go on in the world they created without you, the world you made necessary for them.

Lastly, in the time leading up to this vote, don’t let them make you afraid. Don’t let them tell you a wave of sin and immorality is coming, and it will swamp your child and you won’t be able to save them, to reach them. Don’t let them frighten you with horror stories of sexual depravity passed off as education. You are and have always been your child’s first teacher. So stand confident in that. See your child as they are, and love them as that, and everything will be fine. Nobody is going to make your child gay. Nobody wants to. If they are, they already are. It may be neither of you know it yet. And that may be terrifying to you. But know this.

Whatever comes, you can handle it. You’re amazing at this parenting thing. You’re great, and your child loves and trusts you. They’re watching you. They’re watching for signs you’ll accept them no matter who they are, by seeing how you accept others. They are afraid they will disappoint you, displease you, disgust you. Make sure they know they can’t, no matter who they are. You can. You can do it.

Don’t let them scare you. Don’t let them belittle you into thinking your love isn’t enough. Don’t let them terrify you with stories about your lack of control over all this, over the future. The truth is, you don’t have it. Not over the future, not over your child. None of us did. Your child will be okay. It will all be okay. You can handle whatever comes. Love wins. Remember that. Love always wins.

Jo Hilder


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Tattoo Chronicles #2 – A Miraculous Homecoming.

This is my second tattoo. My dragonfly.

I’ve always loved dragonflies. They symbolise new beginnings.

I got this tattoo many years after cancer and the survivor tattoo, after Ben and I separated and he went away to rehab. He was never coming home. Our marriage was terribly, terribly broken. And so were we.

I was on my own with the kids and I needed something beyond surviving to help me start again. I designed this piece and took it back to the same tattoo artist as did my first one. She sighed – again with the scrolls, she said. After I had this piece done, the place where we lived – on acres by a creek – was inundated with dragonflies. I imagined I was their queen, and they were sent to protect and guide on my way to my new beginning.

I want to sneak in another story here. My very, very first tattoo was actually a teeny strawberry on my back I got when I was in my early twenties. I never showed it to anyone. It was mine and Ben’s little secret 🙂

Some time after Ben was gone and I got my dragonfly tattoo, I was flicking through a magazine and stumbled across an ad for a necklace – with a dragonfly and a strawberry hanging from it. My heart leapt. I cut it out of the magazine and taped it next to my bed. My two totems, in one gorgeous picture. I thought perhaps I might even buy that necklace one day.

But I got something better.dragonfly tattoo

It was many months later when Ben woke from his addiction in rehab and wondered where his marriage had gone.

After six months separated, and after he completed treatment, Ben came home.

The first day, he was unpacking his things when I caught him standing just staring at the picture I had taped next to my bed. “Pretty cool, huh?” I said, smiling. He looked at me, and said, “I want to show you something.” He reached down into his bag, and pulled out the exact same picture, cut from the same magazine, which he taped up beside his bed in rehab too.

Miracles happen, I’m here to tell you. This tattoo reminds me they do.
Love, Jo xxxx

Tattoo Chronicles #1 – Survivor

My first tattoo. Got it in 2008, five years after surviving cancer.

I drew this design up myself, and the tattoo artist commented it was obvious I wasn’t a tattoo artist – too many fiddly little scrolls.survivor tattoo

I wanted this tattoo more than anything. I needed a permanent reminder to never take my body for granted, and always listen to it when it speaks to me. The non-hodgkins lymphoma was stage 3B by the time it was found, undiagnosed for seven months despite my repeatedly visiting a doctor asking for tests. I knew I was sick. He told me I was just tired and working too hard. I walked into my local hospital emergency department on July 17th 2003 and told them if I was going to die, I wanted to do it in their waiting room, not in my kitchen in front of my kids. They found the saucer sized tumour in my chest within an hour of my arrival. Rushed to a bigger hospital in an ambulance, then airlifted two days later to Sydney. Three months of chemotherapy and two of radiotherapy. I learned a lot about myself in that time.

First thing I learned is my body knows what sometimes my mind and will refuses to admit. I thought I was living a good life, but it was a cacophony of compromises. My body said, fine, go there if you like, but I’m not coming with you.

It took time for me to relearn my body’s signals and to rebuild the trust between it and me. Now, I ask it first before I do anything where it will be required to bear the weight of the consequences. Sometimes it says, hell yes! Sometimes it says, are you kidding? Sometimes my body says, look at your arm, girlfriend. And when I do, I’m sometimes reminded I am not made of iron and stone. I can break. But sometimes looking at my survivor tattoo reminds me I can do very hard things. It reminds me not to expect so little of my body.

And sometimes, my tattoo reminds me becoming a survivor requires one almost die, and then come back from that…..but there be a day when I will not come back. Is this that day? No. This is not that day. Today, I live. Every day, until that day. I live.

Selah, my friends.
Jo xxx

Art is the ultimate truth telling. Tell it.

Art is the ultimate truth-telling. Creativity is given us so we can speak out the truths laying inside us, unspoken and unrecognised, that we might recognise them. Each word and brushstroke, every step in the dance and note in the song is us tracing over with our body what we see when we look inside our heart.

Art, like all truth, tells us not what it is, but what we are. We know what we know when we see it standing outside of us, looking us back in the face.

The tracings of our heart out in the world are truth, but there is never just one truth. If you close your eyes and listen to a choir singing, you will hear each voice inflected with a unique experience, with divergent timbre, age and accent and emotion. Art shows us the potential for harmony in our difference. It shows us it’s okay to be us, or think what we think and believe what we believe, and possible to be one, all at the same time.

In seeking to tell the truth from our spirit out into the world, we send an irresistible invitation to the unseen realm, from where all making and life and creativity comes. The silent, sublime power who formed us at the beginning will come and join the song with us. This is inspiration.

When the Spirit of truth comes and joins with us in our making, holiness ensues. With inspiration, the Spirit at our side, and a deep knowing of our truth inside, as well as a willingness and will to tell that truth, we can indeed make holy, Holy things.

But even a Holy thing is still just a thing.

Truth is confronting, challenging, even terrifying. The Spirit, always acts from love, but the truth she inspires in the teller can be confronting, challenging, terrifying. Not all prophets are inspired, many are mere fortune-tellers; our fortune and our truth are not the same thing. However, all artists and creatives are prophets, and, unlike fortune tellers, true prophets are seldom very popular.

Artists, creatives, prophets and truth tellers have long been persecuted and assassinated for their truth telling. Their Holy works and art and words have throughout history been dismantled, reinterpreted, appropriated and distorted to validate and defend all manner of things. The makings that come from our truth telling are powerful, but too fragile to be used as foundations, weapons and shields. When we attach our agenda to them, when we refashion them from mirrors into altars, into objects of worship and a foundation for culture or ideology, power crumbles and falls away like sand through the fingers. Truth is not out there. It is in us. Always, always in us.

Art is a mirror. Expression is a reflection. Even we are a merely a canvas upon which inspiration makes her marks. God knows this, and thus, in desiring to show us both who we are, and who God is, gave us the Most Holy Words in a work of art, accepting fully the risk every single word could be misunderstood, distorted and misused. Love is letting go. Besides, God knows when we are able to undo the cipher of who we are, seeing ourselves reflected in the inspired work of truth, we will then see and understand God, the ultimate creator.

And hopefully see and understand ourselves.

Love is a story worth telling, it’s a dance, a prophecy, your words, a song. It is the ultimate truth telling, and the ultimate truth is love.


Small and Pure – an interview with Jo Hilder

Ahem. A quick interview with myself about Small and Pure, off the cuff. Just a chat with author-me so you can get to know my littlest protagonist a little better.

Q) Jo, how did the story of Small and Pure come about?

A) Thanks for asking me about that, Jo. One day, when we were living on the farm in Victoria about eighteen months ago, I was daydreaming as I worked around the house, and felt an urge to write a short story about a little person – a small, pure someone – in fact, it was her short-life story.

So I sat at my desk – it was an easy desk to write at, as we were at that time living inside the 1850’s built mansion/homestead on the Victorian-era property, filled as it was with the shadows and ghosts who resided there, and my desk faced a nine foot tall window which looked out through the bluestone walls across the croquet lawns towards the creek lined with agapanthus and pepper trees – and the story just seemed to tumble out of me. It was almost as if a small, pure person had climbed into my lap, and was telling me what to write.

And I looked, and behold, there she was.

She told me her name was Small and Pure, so I started with that, and just allowed her to guide the pen with her words. As we worked together, she snuggled into my belly, and I noticed her hair was wild and tangled, and her toes were crusted with dirt, and her arms were smudged with muddy streaks. Her clothes were frayed and her hair smelt like pine needles and honeycomb. All the time we were together that morning, she sat in my lap as if we hadn’t just met, but had known each other for many, many years.

I think we have.

So I wrote. I did as I was told. After all, wild things don’t climb into your lap and ask you to write down their story very often, do they?

That’s how the story of Small and Pure came. It literally came. I wish it was always that easy to write stuff.

Q) What, in a few words, is the book of Small and Pure about?

A) It’s about you. It’s about me. It’s about the Small and Pure self who resides with all of us. It’s about the truest, most essential part of our spirit and soul and self. Small and Pure is like us – she is us. But something happens to her in the book, and it’s something I think we will all relate deeply to.

Q) What happens?

A) I can’t tell you. That would be giving it away. 🙂

Q) Where is Small and Pure now?

A) She will never leave me, but as to where she is now, I don’t know. Sometimes I close my eyes, and I smell pine-needles and honeycomb, and I know she’s close by. I feel her. She is safe, and she is well – I know this, and it gives me great joy to know it. But she’s a wild thing. It’s her work to remain elusive to me, and my work to seek her. I wouldn’t have it any other way, by the way. 🙂

Q) What message does Small and Pure have for the readers of your book?

A) Ah, people will have to wait and read the book. But I will tell you she wants those who will listen to know their own stories matter, and need to be told, as hers does, and will be.

Q) Thanks Jo!
A) Hey – no problem!

Small and Pure – A Cautionary Tale is due for release on June 1st 2016.

Pre-order your copy now.

View the book trailer here