MILK, the Bros, gongs for science, mitre stuff

Photo opportunity

This autumn an exhibition has been slowly touring the world. The MILK exhibition has been staged in Australia, first on the forecourt of the Sydney Opera House and then on the riverside walk of Melbourne’s Federation Square. The exhibition was attended by enough marketing and merchandising to make the average onlooker suspicious. But it was worth persevering. The exhibition had real substance, even if it sounded a little corny at first.

MILK stands for Moments of Intimacy, Love and Kindness. The project was the idea of a New Zealander, Geoff Blackwell, who was inspired by Edward Steichen’s renowned ‘Family of Man’ project of the 1950s. Blackwell gained the support of a publisher with deep pockets and soon began an extensive collaboration.

The project was looking for images that celebrated humanity, with an emphasis on immediacy rather than on technical achievement. It sounds simple, but the result was quite extraordinary. The competition attracted 40,000 photos by 17,000 photographers living in 164 countries. Three hundred photos were chosen for the final project. A good number of them are of the sick and dying; many of them reveal pain, ageing and poverty. None of them obscures hope.


Vale Bros

On 26 March, Father John Brosnan was reunited with Ronald Ryan somewhere—be it heaven or nirvana.

John Brosnan was the Catholic chaplain to Melbourne’s notorious Pentridge Prison for over 30 years, and he was with Ronald Ryan when Ryan was hanged on 3 February 1967 at 5pm—the last person to be hanged in Australia.

Brosnan had an extraordinary capacity to ‘walk alongside’ his fellow man or woman—no matter how flawed they might be. Brosnan also understood that many of those individuals in prison had little choice in the matter.

But Brosnan was more than a strong and compassionate force in the lives of prisoners. He was a brilliant and unrelenting advocate for prison reform. Brosnan knew that prison rarely improves a
person’s lot in life and in most cases strips the humanity from him or her.

Perhaps the most fitting tribute to Brosnan’s work would be for Australia to oppose the death penalty in Indonesia, should those accused of the Bali bombings be convicted.

John Brosnan, better than anyone, knew that because humans run the justice system, it is potentially flawed. He knew that human life is precious, and that revenge serves no useful purpose in
civilising a society.

Revenge of the nerds

For those who still think scientists are colourless, white-coated nerds cloned from alien life forms, this year’s winners of the National Science and Technology Medal from the Clunies Ross Foundation provide excellent contrary evidence.

The seven recipients of the award come from all over Australia. They include an Iranian immigrant engineer, a profoundly deaf researcher who is the proud owner of a bionic ear, a scientific entrepreneur who mortgaged his house to buy his company back from a multinational, a woman raised in a single-parent family, and an academic who listens to the Universe. They seem like just the sort of people who would struggle to gain support from the Howard Government.

Their projects are equally eclectic but all very practical. For example, Ron Grey’s scientific instruments can identify the elemental composition of a sample to parts per trillion in seconds. He exports to 85 countries, but says a lack of government understanding as to the uses of his equipment has meant he can’t export to countries like Iran—because of supposed ‘defence’ applications. He says the ban may eventually force him and his company offshore.

Together man

‘Nothing human is alien from me.’ The Roman playwright Terence’s slick catchcry is personified by the 104th Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams.

Rowan Williams is a participant in life, not an observer beyond contradiction. Fellow of the British Academy, Doctor of Divinity and youthful prelate, he is also an endearing and engaging human being.

Rowan Williams longs to renew the contribution that people of faith, especially Christian faith, can make to our society. He argues that Christians understand secularism; their tradition tests all claims to ultimate perspective and sanctions and fosters independent thought. But they also know the pull of allegiance to God above all else. They must be at the forefront of finding a better way beyond sectarian dominance and rootless democracy. By drawing together groups of differing views and beliefs, including their own, Christian communities can continue to aid the regeneration of politics and
public discourse.

At his enthronement on 27 February, Rowan Williams opened his heart. ‘The one great purpose of the Church’s existence is to share [the] bread of life; to hold open in its words and actions a place where we can be with Jesus and [learn] to be channels for his free, unanxious, utterly demanding, grown-up love. The church exists to pass on the promise of Jesus—“You can live in the presence of God without fear; you can receive from his fullness and set others free from fear and guilt”.’

 

 

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