2012 Editors’ Picks – Summer Reading Pack

By Right Now

As 2012 comes to a close, our editors look back at the year that was.

We’ve focused far and wide, as our monthly (sometimes bi-monthly) themes reveal. And, since our transformation from print in 2011 we’ve published over 300 articles.

This is our last article for the year, but we’ve collected enough reading here to get you through the festive period!

So, what were the best of 2012 according to our editors?

André – The Artist

Article of the Year:  I’m going to cheat and declare a three-way tie between “Please Resist Me” by Luka Lesson, Ellena Savage’s “A Man Like Ishmail” and Sienna Merope’s article dissecting the “push v pull factor” angle of the asylum seeker debate.

I chose these three articles because they give a great cross-section of what we’re trying to do at Right Now. Sienna’s piece on asylum seeker policy is one of the most lucid and reasoned articles on the topic I’ve read all year – and given the current tenor of the debate, it’s well-worth revisiting.

In Ellena’s essay she talks about her relationship with her Eritrean boyfriend – and the constant police harassment he faced because he was a young African man from the housing commissions. The essay is beautifully written, and personal in a manner that brings home the reality of police abuse of powers and institutional racism in a way that no amount of statistical data or factual reports could.

Finally, Luka’s poem, “Please Resist Me”, is a great example of the power of politically conscious poetry. The accompanying video is also one of the best things I’ve seen all year!

Theme of the Year: Indigenous People and Human Rights

As I said in my editorial for this theme, the topic of Indigenous People and Human Rights requires a delicate balance between the positive and the negative. Our June issue was my favourite theme because I think it manages to strike that balance – we didn’t shy away from the realities of Indigenous overrepresentation in prison or the appalling loss of Indigenous languages –  but we also featured a wonderful piece by Dr Bryan Keon-Cohen AM QC, junior counsel in the Mabo case, reflecting on the past twenty years in native title legislation and the need for reform; and the striking art of Reko Rennie.

Erin – The Lit Major

Article of the Year: Sonia Nair’sAustralian feminism in third-world countries: beneficial or problematic?

I’ve picked this article because it concisely articulates many of the problems that can arise when transmuting a Western concept of feminism to the non-Western world. Nair tackles the thorny terrain where women’s rights and an individual’s right to culture collide. (This idea is also the crux of Holly Kendall’s article “Clothing and Punishment”). To allow an abuse of women’s rights because of tradition or religion is to read that culture superficially, yet to assume that women are robbed of their agency because of their culture effectively denies them of that same agency. She draws on a number of researchers to uncover the myriad views that women have about their rights, and pits these against the assumption that feminism is an inherently Western phenomenon. Although it’s nearly impossible to inscribe a “universal” feminism, Nair finds two facets that affect all women regardless of their place in the world. Nair’s article ultimately calls for nuance – for a new language and a new understanding of women’s different experiences in order to undermine cultural stereotypes.

Theme of the Year: Children & Youth Rights (July)

I relished the opportunity to address Children’s Rights, an area of human rights law that I previously hadn’t given much thought. I adored Malihe and Mahdiye’s story – especially so because they told their own story in their own voices, instead of children’s rights being advocated for and spoken in the language of adults. For this reason, I also loved Mia Cox’s papercut art, which illustrates the rights of the child with child-friendly pictures. I was also fascinated by Michelle’s piece about philosophy for children – it demonstrates that philosophy is not exclusively adult or academic, and explains that a person’s understanding of human rights can be shaped by philosophy they delve into as a child. The Children’s Rights month highlighted that children’s voices should not be demeaned or drowned out, but valued.

Roselina – The Internationalist

Article of the Year: Malihe and Mahdiye’s Story

According to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, children and youth have a right to be heard and a right to freely express their views in matters that affect them. With this in mind, it was a privilege to publish the story of Malihe and Mahdiye, two girls who journeyed to Australia from Afghanistan with their family in order to seek asylum. Before their eventual arrival in Melbourne, Malihe and Mahdiye moved to four different countries – Iran, Syria, Indonesia and Christmas Island – in what was an arduous and at times dangerous passage to Australia. Too often governments and law courts debate what is best for children, without actually allowing those children concerned to express themselves. I hope Malihe and Mahdiye’s story will be the first of many articles in Right Now to feature the voices of children affected by human rights issues. 

Theme of the Year: Children & Youth Rights (July)

(See Erin’s overview above)

John – The Consultant

Article of the YearEllena Savage’sA Man like Ishmail – Police, Relations and Race

While at times (it seems) Ellena goes out of her way to affront the scruffy, lefty stereotype by conforming to it, this is forgiveable. It may be accurate. But, in places, Ellena’s prose is Murakami-esque – evocative but simple. In the process of exposing the dark heart of our blue boys, she exposes herself. Both are topics few would broach. It reminds one that while courage is content-less (in both ways), it makes possible the exercise of virtue.  Or, Ellena might just be foolish … a possibility she doesn’t deny (and few should).

Theme of the Year: Prisoners’ Rights (February)

‘Why care about the scumbags?’ There are many potential answers, but it comes down to this: rights are inalienable, and if at least some people in a given society care about prisoners’ rights (and the majority are unobstructive) that society is in a good place. It is a sign of health. That’s my way of saying what Dostoyevsky said some time ago: “The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons”.

Ollie – The Filmmaker

Art of the Year: Reko Rennie’s Recent Works

This is an Australian artist challenging traditional conceptions of indigenous art by reminding us of those living in urban environments and the different influences that pertain to their work. Rennie is a great contemporary artists who has exhibited all over the world and collaborated with a number of other well regarded artists internationally so I was particularly pleased to feature his work on Right Now.

Candice – The Reviewer

Selecting my favourite review of 2012 was a more difficult task than I initially anticipated. We have had some fantastic contributors throughout the year, whose thoughtful reviews of topical events have made my editing job a consistently engaging one. Nevertheless, in having to choose, the standout reviews have, in my opinion, been those by Angus Baird.

Angus has written three reviews this year, each of an art exhibition that took place in Melbourne. Particularly striking is the style of writing that Angus consistently deploys in his work, portraying quiet sentiment without ever being sentimental. He takes an insider’s point of view – his reviews don’t consist of a looking-down or looking-on from some external point of judgment. Instead, they depict a sort of internal monologue – rather than an intellectualised portrayal of the art in question, we gain a deeper glimpse into the way it made a person think and feel.

Behind the law and politics that obfuscates much of the discourse of human rights lies the human, whatever that means in different times and contexts. In choosing not to explicitly draw out connections to human rights in his reviews, while at the same time introducing personal narratives, Angus’s work celebrates the subject of those rights and transcends the moment of the exhibition and the review.

You can read the review of “The Greater Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere” here.

You can read the review of the “Yulyurlu Lorna Fencer Napurrurla” exhibition here.

You can read the review of “Human Effect” here

Rose – The Multi-tasker

Article of the year: Being “without” – Who are the Bidoon of Kuwait?

This article describes the plight of the Bidoon of Kuwait, a group I had never heard of before. I love the way personalised stories are intertwined with factual information about this marginalised group. The article also makes an effort to describe the implications of Australian Government policy and how it impacts groups such as the Bidoon despite the distance and lack of responsibility we feel from here. The passion that the author has for the subject matter is clear, making it an excellent read.

Theme of the Year: The Environment and Human Rights (August 2012)

While initially I had reservations that it would be difficult to gain sufficient content for this theme, I now feel that this is one of the best we have had this year. The diversity of views that were represented demonstrate that there is a strong appetite for discussing human rights in the context of the environment. From the Muckaty Station case to Australia’s responsibilities in trading uranium, to the impact of climate change on islands in the Pacific the breadth of issues discussed was vast, providing diverse and interesting reading.


Review – Renewal: Five Paths to a Fairer Australia

By Georgia Cerni

Sophie Cousins’ book Renewal: Five Paths to a Fairer Australia is, in many respects, a proposal. For Cousins, the COVID-19 pandemic has provided Australians with an opportunity to reconsider the ways our society currently functions. Cousins aptly makes her case – while in some ways the pandemic reinforced burgeoning inequalities, it also presented us the chance to apply collectivist values to solve systemic problems.