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Wagga Spirit & Ed Sheerin

May 23, 2017

Note: I did not meet Ed Sheerin, though, I do hope to one day - to weave a star and sing back up vocals, of course! Ha!


 Beautiful art work by one of the women at the Wagga Women's Health Centre.


I love listening to my jams when I’m travelling. Music is a beautiful art that can act like a soundtrack to your life. I listen to my tunes to help me to get ready for what I’m about to do. Music gets me in the zone, it energises me, calms and inspires and even gets me fired up. I love how music can bring people together too. Knowing that there are hundreds of thousands of people who sing the same words to a favourite song somewhere in my neighbourhood and around the world is pretty cool.


I’ve been admiring Ed Sheerin for a while now, his easy going, fun, “this is me,” humble energy is comforting. His voice and musical talent is something else. I get the sense that he just has a go and does what he loves and enjoys.


During my trip to Wagga Wagga, NSW last Tuesday, Sheerin’s song, ‘Castle on the Hill’ had been on repeat on my playlist. Before I truly understood why, I could only explain it as a “good feeling” song. I was quite surprised too, that some life experiences of a red haired English/Irish man would remind me so much of my own, from another part of the world where there are big pohutakawa and coconut trees, instead of castles.


Wagga is a special place for us because it’s where our eldest son, Malik, was born. It’s always special to go back to Wiradjuri country and to visit friends and communities who call that place home. There is a strength and resilience to this town that I feel every time I go there. Neighbouring towns of Tumut, Cootamundra (another special place for our family), Junee, Tarcutta have their own vibrant communities and many of these are star weaving as well. The community I visited to star weave with was the Wagga Women’s Health Centre, who are part of the Wagga Star Weave Community led by Linda Elliot (Wagga Wagga Art Gallery). We had a lovely small and closed workshop in the morning for women who visit the health centre. We chatted about Rosie Batty’s visit the week before, which locals seemed to be buzzing about. Ray Martin was in town filming Rosie as part of his new show, “Dark Secrets: Australia’s Hidden Shame” a documentary of interviews about domestic violence in parts of Australia. Some of the women were thrilled to have met Rosie and Ray, adding a bit of celebrity excitement.


Ashmont Community Resource Centre. Wagga Wagga.


What astounds me is that where ever I travel, someone will always tell me how their town has the highest rate of domestic and family violence in the region and that they cannot bear it any more. It makes me wonder, is domestic violence high everywhere or has it been the same for years only more people are speaking about it? Betty Rose, from the Rose Foundation, speaks of domestic and family violence not as “coming out from behind closed doors,” but as “hidden in plain sight.” Violence is quiet and destructive in the most subtle ways and is not always screaming and yelling and throwing objects. It can be happening right in front of us, but most people won’t be able to see the signs. Just because we can’t see it, doesn’t mean it’s not happening.


While many of us feel a deep connection to a place - it’s castles, trees, people and childhood memories, there is often deep sadness and trauma in that place as well. Some of us stay to work in those spaces and enact change and solutions, some of us leave because it’s too painful or life just takes us elsewhere. Some of us have families and friendships that remain and so our identities are part of that place.


 Getting started. Awesome to see media from PRIME, WIN and ABC Radio.


‘Castle on the Hill’ always takes me back to memories of growing up in Auckland, Melbourne and visiting Samoa. It also reminds me of the struggles I’ve had to overcome in those cities/countries and the resilience I developed to pursue my passions and grow my family relationships. This song also reminds me of friendships lost along the way, friendships gained, happiest moments, personal achievements and what matters most – the things that make me happy and strong in myself.


“I'm on my way, I still remember
This old country lanes
When we did not know the answers
And I miss the way you make me feel, it's real
We watched the sunset over the castle on the hill

Over the castle on the hill
Over the castle on the hill” Ed Sheerin. Castle on the Hill.


This verse is my favourite, particularly the highlighted lines. When we did the second star weaving workshop at Ashmont Community Resource Centre, that afternoon, we had locals and Anglicare Riverina join us. We discussed how relaxing and fun this craft is and all the positive things about doing something so simple – it stills your mind, it helps you to focus, it’s enjoyable and makes you feel good. It’s real. It’s not something someone can give you, you have to weave the star yourself and experience the simplicity and therapy in your own time and way. What people often say, as well, is that the stars look so beautiful and difficult to do, but their beauty and the people that are sitting to make them encourages them to have a go, even if they are doubtful and apprehensive. For me, the “sunset” moment, the reward or gift of weaving a star is being able to complete one by yourself. It doesn’t matter that it took you a couple more minutes than the weaver next to you or that the point may look a bit crooked, the completion of a star helps people to feel capable. When people feel capable, they feel positive. When people feel positive, they feel like they can do things that might seem difficult – like speaking up, like getting help, like wanting to change. Even little things like having the confidence to be on camera and be interviewed as part of the the One Million Stars story.


Some of these stars weavers in Wagga will continue weaving for a long time, to remind them they are part of a community that cares about ending violence and that we can do it if we work together. Some will keep weaving, in their spare time, because it makes them feel good and is a great way to be around the others with the same value and spirit – to be in community, to be resilient and creative. To not feel alone and create happy beautiful memories in this special town that will nurture them for a long time. 


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