Tales from the Table: Stories from the Indigenous Hospitality House

We've just published a collection of our learnings from 15 years sharing our home with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander hospital guests. The book contains reflections from our resident volunteers and members of our broader community over the course of the project, and it has colour photos throughout.
You can order online through our bookstore. We can post your order to you or you can pick it up from IHH (and stay for a cuppa).

Healing Rites for Seven Sites

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A walking liturgy on Holy Saturday

On this walk we will hear the 'seven last words' spoken by Christ, and participate in words and actions of lament as we hear stories of Aboriginal people experiencing violence, suffering and injustice in our land.

For those who have ears to hear ... listen.

The walk will start at 2pm from Rushall Station (North Fitzroy) and end at approximately 3:30pm with afternoon tea at IHH.

Children are very welcome. Some guidance may be required.

RSVP by Monday April 10 to the Indigenous Hospitality House
1/907 Drummond St, Carlton North 3054
house@ihh.org.au
(03) 9387 7557

First 2017 learning circle and Aboriginal heritage walk

Uncle Den joined the IHH for our first Learning Circle of the year on healing.  We remembered the Apology to the Stolen Generations, and told stories about where everyone was when that event occurred and what it meant to us then and now.  We remembered how even as Kevin Rudd made the long-overdue apology happen, the opposition leader was still resistant and John Howard was the only living Prime Minister who didn't attend. As Uncle Den reminded us, 'you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink'. This seems similar to what Jesus said when he invited people to 'come and see' - he was always issuing invitations for people to follow him, but it was up to them.

In the spirit of taking up the invitation to 'come and see', Uncle Den took some folks from South Yarra Baptist and IHH on the Aboriginal heritage walk at the Botanical Gardens on Sunday. We learnt about bushfoods through smell and taste and touch. By paying attention in this way, we started to hear how Aboriginal people see the land as their mother.  The land which nurtures, feeds, supports.  Which can be hurt and damaged. Which cannot be owned, but must be respected and cared for. Uncle Den told us some hard truths about how the land and the first people have been damaged by invasion, and at the same time he was warm, funny, encouraging and invitational.

We can only start where we're at. Come and see.

- Samara

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Making Room at Christmas

(The last few years we've been invited to choose a song for Beer and Carols at the Quiet Man in Flemington.)
 

Why is ‘Joy to the World’ the IHH carol for this year’s Beer and Carols pub singalong in Flemington?

Last year we rewrote the ‘12 days of Christmas’, eulogising the various items that get donated to us:

On the 5th day of Christmas my true love gave to me…
Condensed milk that expired in 1999…
4 cakes of soap,
3 bags of rice,
2 tins of beetroot, 
And a kilogram of kangaroo!

 

This year, we’re singing ‘let every heart prepare him room’.  We spend time preparing for our guests by crawling around on bunkbeds tucking in sheets, plumping pillows, emptying the wastepaper bins, tidying, checking if we need to provide a heater or a fan.  At the same time, we are preparing our hearts to be open to whoever comes through the door, and our heads to learn something of what is going on for people with their hospital business, and in the social and political conversations about health and treaty and land justice.  And every so often, we’ll end up singing along with ‘fields, floods, rocks, hills and plains’ and Nathan’s guitar, to repeat the sounding joy.

- Samara

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Learning circle: What does healing look like?


Pathways to Healing by Jenna Lee

Pathways to Healing by Jenna Lee

The Indigenous Hospitality House is a learning community inviting people on a shared journey of cultural healing and growth in light of stolen land. Learning Circles are an opportunity to reflect on what we have been learning by offering hospitality to Indigenous people.

At our Learning Circle on October 24, Samara will be helping us explore the idea of mutual healing and the role it plays at the Indigenous Hospitality House. Feel free to join us for dinner from 7:00pm. We plan to start our discussion at 8:00pm.

If you are planning to come, please let us know by emailing house@ihh.org.au

Term 4 Dinner and Discussion

Fall into Ruin of the House of God, Cathédral d'Amiens, 1220-1240.

Fall into Ruin of the House of God, Cathédral d'Amiens, 1220-1240.

Throughout the year we've opened up unit 2 on Thursday nights for low key dinner and discussion of the previous Sunday's gospel reading.

Feel free to bring some food to share and we can discuss the weekly gospel readings as we eat together. We've been bringing the Bible stories into dialogue with what is going on in our current affairs, our national story and local communities like the IHH. A key thing has been talking about how the stories relate (or don't relate) to the practical things we are doing from day to day, and how what we're reading might be helpful (or unhelpful) for our work.

Our friend Mark Pierson says, 'Questioning allowed. Questioning aloud allowed.' What this means is it is okay to bring doubts and suspicions as well as faith and belief to the table. It's also okay to talk about how the Bible might be helpful or unhelpful.

7pm Thursday 13 October
7pm Thursday 20 October
7pm Thursday 27 October
7pm Thursday 3 November
7pm Thursday 10 November
7pm Thursday 17 November
7pm Thursday 24 November

If you think you'll come along let us know by emailing us at house@ihh.org.au

 

In Advent (beginning last November) we're also planning to do some Monday night studies on radicals discipleship. We'll have more details about that as we get closer.

Quaker Spirituality

Our most recent learning circle was about Quaker spirituality. The early residents at IHH were strongly influenced by Quaker spirituality and practices when the house was set up. In particular, we looked at how these practices can help us to be a prophetic voice within our own culture.

Jane Hope started our learning circle on Quaker spirituality with silence. On a table in the centre there was a vase of daffodils, a Bible and the book Quaker Faith and Practice. It is at the heart of Quaker spirituality that those of the Religious Society of Friends (known derogatorily as Quakers because they often 'quaked' when they rose to speak at a meeting) try to respond to all things out of a deep silence. This is because a core belief is that every person can have direct access to God through silence. This is part of the testimony of truth.

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There are four key testimonies that Quakers hold to for personal and public life: the testimonies of peace, equality, simplicity and truth. At the IHH, we have been conscious of the 'peace of the house' which reminds us to be aware of what we are bringing into a space, and how we respond to situations of tension or conflict. In sharing living spaces with guests, we are seeking to relate as people equal in worth and dignity, while recognising that our circumstances are unequal due to the ongoing impacts of colonisation. We have tried to keep our household simple with many items donated - and the fact of living communally means we don't need (and can't fit!) duplicates of items such as ironing boards and fridges and bicycle pumps. And we seek to be open to truth from whatever source it may come, so our residents and volunteers have come from all sorts of backgrounds and faith traditions.

Quakers are also formed by a regular practice of reflecting on queries and advices. Thus, they are likely to ask questions more often than leaping to criticise or make a judgement. It is easy for us to loudly criticise and judge the society around when we see injustice and suffering (and we can also judge ourselves). Our learning circles invite us to sit and reflect contemplatively, and ask questions about ourselves, our culture and what the Spirit might be saying to us.
 

Power and Vulnerability

I’ve been thinking a bit lately, about power and vulnerability. Sometimes, at the house I forget how much power we residents have. Power to choose who can stay with us, for how long and when. I forget and feel disempowered, squeezed out, pushed to the edges of my own home. My natural tendency is to give preference to our guests. To try and accommodate them as much as possible. I usually find I can do things this way in the short-term, but in the long-term it means I end up feeling resentful. If I am not able to take back some of the power I have given to guests, this resentment can build and impact negatively on my ability to host. It can then cause me to resent myself because I am not hosting well, which means I feel further disempowered in my situation.

Some of our most recent guests were grandparents of a premature baby boy. They stayed with us for just under a month while the baby was in hospital and then, while a maternal health nurse from VAHS came to see how the baby was doing. Like most grandparents, they doted on their grandson. Showing him off and tending to him so naturally. They had quite a bit going on, including housing pressures, and so DHS was also involved. While this family showed so much resilience and strength in dealing with their circumstances, it was revealing to see their whole attitude and confidence level drop when both DHS and VAHS were visiting. They seemed to become unsure of themselves and their abilities.

A friend came to visit last week. He lives just outside of Brisbane, and often hitchhikes in order to travel long distances. I was asking him about his choice to travel this way and mentioned that while I thought it was a great way to get around, I wouldn’t — as a short, young-looking woman —  feel confident hitchhiking on my own. He told me that he had not had any negative experiences, and knew of some women who traveled in pairs, and some older women who traveled independently this way.

Sometimes, at the house it can feel like we’re not doing enough. We justify our time off by maintaining that we are volunteers, and that we need our home to ourselves some of the time. This argument can fall down though when confronted with continuing unmet need. It seems selfish to be looking forward to having a break, when our guest’s hospital business continues and they have to find alternative accommodation. However without these short-term breaks, the long-term work could not continue.

My friend who hitchhikes has had trouble finding work. So, maybe what I see as an act of adventurous independence is — for him — a practical solution to the real problem of not having enough money to get around. Or maybe he sees not just the risks but also the benefits of catching a ride with others; providing company for people who are often traveling long distances alone, creating safer communities by encouraging generosity and finding new friends, all while getting where he needs to go. Maybe strangers aren’t so very dangerous after all?

Surprisingly at the end of last week the grandma who had been staying with us made a choice. She made the choice to leave our house of hospitality and put herself and her family in a more precarious living situation. She told me, 'I’m going to do it my way now.' She had understood that while she and her family were staying with us they were not perceived as vulnerable enough to need immediate attention. She understood that in order to get what she and her family needed in the long-term she had to act counter-intuitively in the short-term. She had to put her family at greater risk in order to become more secure. 

Perhaps it is our broader systems of power that need some work…

- Mehrin

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Songlines Tour

On August 1, the IHH Learning Community did a Melbourne Songlines walk with Nick Wight and Uncle Roy on a very wet and cold night!  Uncle Roy brought along a possum skin cloak, but we had to make do with umbrellas and huddling.  (Possums are still protected in Australia, so in recent times possum skins have been sourced from across the ditch.  I wonder where we will get possum skins from now that New Zealand/Aotearoa are planning to eradicate destructive introduced predators, including possums?)

One site we stopped at was the statue commemorating John Batman at the Queen Victoria markets.  We heard all sorts of stories about Batman and his role in ‘founding’ the village of Melbourne, but what struck me at the statue was that he was younger than my earliest ancestor to arrive in Australia, William Maum.  Batman was born in Parramatta in NSW in 1800, and died in Melbourne in 1839.  My convict forebear was born in Ireland in 1780 and arrived on Eora country in Sydney in 1800.  By 1835 when Batman made his treaty with the ngurangaeta on the banks of the Merri Creek, William was living in Clarence Plains in Tasmania (Moomairemener country) and his fifth child Mary was 1 year old.

Increasingly I realise that my history in this country is very, very recent.  Our paths back to the time when land was first stolen is not a long journey. 

- Samara