Saturday 13 December 2008

Three notable Australian men are outlined in three different vehicles: a newspaper and two magazines. Who said newspapers were irrelevant? Both the mags are supplements to The Sydney Morning Herald.

The Australian newspaper carries an article on Justice Micheal Kirby, "the great dissenter", and his lover Johan Van Vloten. Actually, it's really 'about' how the other justices on Australia's High Court found out that Kirby was a homosexual.

More interesting, because less well known, however, is Kon Gouriotis (pic from the (sydney) magazine, January 2009). Gouriotis runs an arts centre in the outer Western suburb of Liverpool.

This is about as far away from the visually rich area around Paddington/ Darlingurst as you can get without crossing any mountains, fording any major rivers or slaying any dragons. It's called the Casula Powerhouse and Gouriotis, the article, which is very short, says had an early ambition to work in the arts.

Like Wendy Were's 2007 Sydney Writers Festival theme ("I want people to argue"), Gouriotis' aim in his managerial method is to 'change minds' because "people ... have a very fixed view on certain issues or communities".

He most probably wants to help migrants by persuading locals to tolerate newcomers. At least that's my spin. Why? Because of what Gouriotis says next:

Too often a lot of people who migrate from oppressive environments are highly educated and they require space to perform.

This is true, as I personally found in Auburn in May this year, when I heard a number of people from non-English speaking backgrounds read their poems.

Christos Tsiolkas - Australia's best novelist currently IMHO - is featured in GW magazine this weekend. Tsiolkas is said to frequent Melbourne's Greek clubs where he dances.

"It reaffirms his roots, his identity, allows him to celebrate others, and lose himself in the moment," says Ana Kokkinos, one of the writer's collaborators on ongoing projects.

Including Blessed, a movie to screen in the near future. Caroline Baum, who wrote the magazine article, asks whether Tsiolkas is "one of the finest writing talents of his generation" or "a potty mouther provocateur".

Well, both actually.

Baum retails that Tsiolkas has "a hot temper" and that he admits to it. She tells us that The Jesus Man, which I maintain to be one of the best Australian novels of the last 20 years, was inspired by the writer's ambivalence about pornography.

Tsiolkas, who works in a veterinary clinic when not writing, also admits that fears about parental presuppositions - his partner is Wayne van der Stelt - helped steer him away from a career in school teaching.

This is sad, but Michael Pelly's The Australian story about Justice Michael Kirby - who is to resign in February - reveals similar fears. It took ages before he would reveal that he had a male companion to his benchmates.

Oddly, both Tsiolkas and Kirby have companions with Dutch names.

Reading about Kirby brings forth some interesting items.

Among the most interesting is possibly that it was originally Justice Lionel Murphy who "found there was an implied freedom of political communication in the Constitution" in 1977.

The High Court finally handed down this opinion in 1992 and it is a cornerstone of liberal democracy in Australia. This view goes that in order to have "responsible government" (which the Consitution mandates) there must be a broad freedom to voice opinion on political leaders and government.

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