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Kathleen Mary Fallon – Police State

Profile Kathleen Mary Fallon LE P&W Oct 2019

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Police State, poems by Kathleen Mary Fallon

Kathleen Mary Fallon most recent work is a three-part project exploring her experiences as the white foster mother of a Torres Strait Islander foster son with disabilities. The project consisted of a feature film, Call Me Mum, which was short-listed for the NSW Premier’s Prize, an AWGIE and was nominated for four AFI Awards winning Best Female Support Actress Award. The three-part project also includes a novel Paydirt (UWAPress, 2007) and a play, Buyback, which she directed at the Carlton Courthouse in 2006. Her novel, Working Hot, (Sybylla 1989, Vintage/Random House, 2000) won a Victoria Premier’s Prize and her opera, Matricide – the Musical, which she wrote with the composer Elena Kats-Chernin, was produced by Chamber Made Opera in 1998. She wrote the text for the concert piece, Laquiem, for the composer Andrée Greenwell. Laquiem was performed at The Studio at the Sydney Opera House. She holds a PhD (UniSA).


Van Diemen’s Land 1991/2 (Tasmania will always be Van Diemen’s Land to me)

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Joe Gilovich, a post-traumatic stress-effected Vietnam vet, was shot
dead outside his home near Hobart
by an SAS crack-shot after being harassed all night
by phone calls every half hour
although rumour had it that it was  a cop grudge-killing
and there was evidence to support this
the commission said the SAS must be given the benefit of the doubt

at 2:00 a.m. one frosty morning a drunk off-duty cop
wielding a revolver broke into the home of a local Laotian family
he later told the judge that he had seen a suspicious looking person
running in the back lane
the Laotian family said he talked incoherently about his mother
while he pointed the gun at them
his mother, had, in fact, lived in the house some years previously
the judge at the hearing said that whilst the officer’s story seemed far fetched
he must be given the benefit of the doubt

one Saturday afternoon last Spring I saw an accident just outside the Raceway
a cop car had chased a ‘suspicious’ car at ridiculous speeds
finally driving the car into a tree
the single, ‘of Asian appearance’, female driving the car
was the mother of three returning from her weekly shop
there seemed no reason for the chase but the judge at the hearing said
the officers must be given the benefit of the doubt
the husband said my children have lost their mother I have lost a wife but what I do have is a repair bill from the Police Department for the damaged Police vehicle
in Hobart we eat at the Ball and Chain Restaurant, buy our bread from the Convict Bakery, build our weekenders at Eaglehawk Neck from convict bricks with all the olde worlde charm and authenticity of thumb-printed handmade convict bricks, stay in Colonial Accommodation without batting an ideological eyelash, the Labour MP who dobbed on Premier Grey et al for the bribery stunt, lost his seat last election while Grey, despite the findings of the Royal Commission, got more votes than any other politician in Van Diemen’s Land history

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Emcon’s ‘Yes Missus, No Missus’ domestic slavery song *

Missus: Is the morning fire ready in the stove?

Emcon: Yes Missus

Missus: Is the milk scalded?

Emcon: Yes Missus

Missus: Are the fruit and porridge prepared?

Emcon: Yes Missus

Missus: Has the dough for the day’s bread been put aside to rise?

Emcon: Yes Missus

Missus: And the butter had its first beating?

Emcon: Yes missus.

Missus: Make the tea strong and don’t forget the hot water?

Emcon: No Missus

Missus: Don’t forget to butter the scones?

Emcon: No Missus:

Missus: Butter them hot and let it melt.

Emcon: Yes Missus.

Missus: Lay the table.

Emcon: Yes Missus.

Missus: Peel the vegetables.

Emcon: Yes Missus.

Missus: Is the meat cooking?

Emcon: Yes Missus.

Chorus takes up both the following chants.

Emcon (repeated throughout): No Missus. Yes Missus. No Missus. Yes Missus.

Missus: Don’t’ forget to dust and sweep and polish and peel and cook and stir and wash and wipe and bake and launder the linen and blue the whites and hang the washing nice and neat coloureds here and whites there
just so
and iron the skirts and iron the shirts and make the beds and fluff the pillows and empty the potties and pluck the poultry
and stuff the chicken and sizzle the mutton and baste the meat just so
and brew the tea and mix the jellies and cool the custards away from the flies
and polish the silver and place the napkins and match crockery and smooth the tablecloth and lay the table
just so
and if any of my Royal Albert China gets chipped
I’ll have you whipped

The Missus’ good-old-days-have-gone song

Missus: (repeated plaintively): But the good old days have gone.

Emcon’s Hungry song

Emcon: and wrap the left overs and hide the loaf and the crusty buns and a pad of butter

just so
in my apron pocket
just so
for the women and the children
back in their hungry, bug-infested barracks
she’ll never a miss a pinch of this and aspoonful of that and a handful or two of tea
and a billy can full of sweet, sweet sugar for the men
back in those hungry, bug-infested barracks

Chorus why-shouldn’t-we song

Chorus: why shouldn’t we

Have jam and tea
And butter and milk
And meat and mutton
Back in these hungry, bug-infested barracks

Emcon’s I’m-not-a-woman-to-be-messed-with stories

Emcon: When she saw my belly swelling she threw me out to work in the green, green cane … I slashed and slaved in the fierce sun from daylight to dark with my sharp cane knife and my baby growing in my belly and when I lay down in the shade for a spell, hot and tired with my fierce baby in my belly that overseer man kicked me up to my feet … I wove a green cradle from the green, green cane and I laid her down in the coolest shade and I went back to work, bending my back to the fierce sun and when she cried I took her up to my breast my sweet little baby … and when that overseer man saw me he kicked me again … so I got straight up with my sharp cane knife and  I slashed his fierce red belly and we buried him shallow and secret more blood and more bones for the green, green cane … I’m not a woman to be messed with.

And I did the same
With another overseer man
I killed him dead in a tricky, secret way
I’m not a woman to be messed with

We had carefully planted taro and sweet, sweet potato
In a little garden by the hungry barracks
They were nice and green growing and almost ready
Our mouths were ready and watering
And nasty man that he was
For no good reason
He kicked them dead
Ground them into the dirt
With his boot while we watched
With a nasty smile
On his nasty face
I’m not a woman to be messed with

So I waited my time
Till I saw my black anger
Coiled like a snake
In the dark of my heart
A nasty big black one
Nasty as he was
Nasty as the anger
Coiled in his heart

So I found a stick and a sugar bag
And I coaxed it inside
And I waited till midnight
And snuck into his room
Like a slithering snake
Silent as midnight
Slipped it under his blanket
And I let that nasty snake
Do its nasty work
Under his bedclothes
He was dead in the morning
No, I’m not a woman to be messed with

And when he sent for me
That boss man from Sydney
I ran to Weloa and Wacvie
And we knew it was time
For freedom

Wacvie harnessed the horse
To the bosses new sulky
And we drove straight through
To Cudgen
To freedom

 

* This is based on a book by Faith Bandler, Wacvie. It is the fictionalized biography of her father who was ‘brought’ from the island of Ambrym in what is now Vanuatu. Once called ‘Kanakas’ (now referred to as Australian South Sea Islanders), approximately 62,000 men and women were ‘brought’, by fair means or foul, to work primarily on the sugarcane fields of Queensland between 1863 and the end of the 19th century. With Australia’s Federation in 1901 two of the first Acts passed were the Immigration Restriction Act (the basis of the notorious White Australia Policy) and the Pacific Island Labourer’s Act which attempted to ‘repatriate’ i.e. ethnically cleanse all Islanders back to home islands, even though many had been in Australia for generations. Approximately seven thousand were ‘repatriated’, some forcibly, but, through Islander activism, a Royal Commission was established and approximately 2,000 were allowed to remain.

Wacvie tells the story of Islanders escaping the harsh, slave-like conditions on Queensland’s sugar plantations and fleeing south to New South Wales, ‘to Cudgen’, where conditions were better.


© Kathleen Mary Fallon