Thursday, 30 September 2010

Parental support for students

We divide issues into portfolio responsibilities, and into federal, state and local spheres of government, but rarely will issues agree to be pigeonholed in the way we hope.

Recently I spent some time at University High School talking to senior staff.

One of the issues staff have to deal with is the number of students at the school without parental support.

There is strong demand to attend University High School - not just locally, but from overseas.

Frequently, an overseas businessman pays a substantial bond (or "designated investment") to obtain a business category visa for Australia. This entitles their children to study in Australia, including at a school like University High School.

In most cases the children are properly supervised, but too often they are in the care of siblings, or a relative who then goes overseas, and then just no one at all.

This places immense strain on school staff, who have to look out for the students when they do not attend, or when they are ill, and who have to deal with personal needs of young students far from home, lonely, and in a strange environment. This is not confined to the school itself: it often requires attending at students' residences. All this is becoming a significant drain on senior staff time to the detriment of other students.

This is not just an education issue. It is also an issue in relation to the terms on which business visas are granted (Commonwealth) and in relation to child welfare (State).

Most of us take for granted that we will support our children closely as they go through their education. Where that doesn't happen, the rules should reflect the reality, not the ideal. In particular, the terms of business visas should be altered so that support for children in our educational system is expressly required.

And if we are going to deal with the problem, we cannot confine ourselves to a single portfolio or level of government.

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Australian films

The film was hyped, and because I thought it would be pretty blokey, I got together some male friends to watch it. We had dinner together, and then went to see Kokoda.

In the darkened cinema, when the curtains parted and the feature began to roll, I sat ready - waiting - to be moved and entertained. Then, as the film screened, I began to wonder how it had ever been made.

We stumbled out of the cinema together, paused awkwardly as we held back sharing our impressions, and then out it came: general consensus that this movie was a dog. I'd arranged the event, so felt the disappointment all the more acutely.

Australia has in fact made many wonderful films. Everyone will have their own lists, but here are some that I particularly like:
Several artists nurtured in Australia – actors like Mel Gibson, Nicole Kidman, Hugo Weaving, Russell Crowe, Eric Bana, Geoffrey Rush, Judy Davis, directors like Peter Weir, Phillip Noyce, Fred Schepisi, to name but a few - have gone on to make films which have resonated round the world.

But too often we are disappointed in Australian films. Many have spoken of a malaise in our films. Producer Antony I. Ginnane put it this way in his inaugural speech as president of the Screen Producers Association of Australia in 2008: "If they premiered most of the Australian films of the last 24 months on an airplane people would be walking out in the first 20 minutes — and that's not good."


The great screenwriter William Goldman (Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid) famously said about cinema that "Nobody knows anything".

I've made a few small films, and love the medium, so perhaps I have that most dangerous commodity: a little knowledge. But I think there are some reasons for our disappointment.

The first is budget. The average US feature film costs over $US100 million. The only Australian film to have approached this was Baz Luhrmann's Australia, with a budget of $A130 million. Most Australian features are made for less than $5 million. We are being outspent by a factor of 20 to 1.

Script development in the US is considered vital. Before shooting starts several individuals and teams rework every screenplay. These people are well versed in the craft of screen writing, and take that craft very seriously. This does not happen in Australia. Recently several Australian films have been badly hurt by scripts that have not been rigorously worked through. The approach adopted for the more transient – and usually short form - medium of television will not do for feature films. Shooting should not start until the script is right, but several films have been made in Australia where the script has fundamental flaws. Writers can get away with this in a half hour television program, or a ten minute script, but in a 100 minute film the defects are there for all to see.

Then there is the small number of films made in Australia. Not every film made by a film industry will be successful. It is the production of a large and consistent number of films which builds the experience of film makers and allows really excellent films to stand on the shoulders of others. A handful of films a year, which is all that Australia can claim, makes this near impossible.

Film-making requires a creative partnership between those who make films and their financiers. A film needs both. If there are several films, not only can film makers build their craft, but financiers can spread their risk. In Australia there is very little prospect of making a large budget film ("Australia" is about the only exception). Writers, actors and directors have to work within the constraints of what are, in world terms, tiny budgets, and the creative limitations that imposes. If many small budget films are made, however, the possibility of one or two large budget films becomes real.

Then there is a lack of integration between production and distribution. In the US major film corporations have controlled several distribution chains around the world for most of the last century, giving confidence that there will be a distribution market for their films and enabling investment with real prospect of return. In Australia it is much more hit and miss. Lack of vertical integration has meant we cannot attract the funds which US film makers enjoy.

There is confusion about what an “Australian” film industry means. Increasingly films – even Hollywood films - are made with money from other countries, filmed in a variety of nations, and use stars and technicians from a range of countries. In a way, film is an international medium now. Australians can justly claim stories from around the world as fit subjects for their films, and they can also make films peculiar to our own special landscape, history and culture. We should embrace the wider film industry to do this – not seek to keep it out.

One proven way to encourage national film making is to impose a box office surcharge which is then spent on film-making in Australia. This could not be confined to “Australian” film companies – film makers from any country should be welcome to use such funds, provided they come here to make their films. Similar methods were used with success by the British and Italian film industries. Distributors do not like box office surcharges, and would be likely to campaign against such an added impost. But in the longer term they depend on a good supply of films which Australian audiences like. Some will be satisfied with what is on offer now, but others want more. A revival of interest in film in Australia is good for distributors in the long term, as well as film makers.

Making a film is not like writing a novel. It involves creative collaboration between many highly trained people, in partnership with financiers. Passion, people and money. Australia has all of that - but we do need to reorganize it.

External Link

Friday, 24 September 2010


Jim was a man who looked old to my young eyes, but was in fact in his late 40s. He had seven children and worked as a labourer when he could get work at all. He lived in modest circumstances in Bruthen - about 25 kilometres from Bairnsdale. Balding, overweight, and bulbous-eyed, he loved playing the bass drum for the local brass band. He once said to me, on condition that I didn’t tell anyone at the Bruthen pub, that if he could have his life over again he would be – a ballet dancer.

During my time in Bairnsdale I always had a legal file open for Jim. I obtained a divorce for him from his estranged wife of years before, so that he might marry the de facto by whom he had his seven children. He showed me a car he had managed to obtain and make roadworthy for $500. He came to me a few weeks later because a tree had fallen on the car during a storm, wrecking it. There was no one he could sue for recovery, and the car was uninsured.

But I also started a worker’s compensation claim for him.

Jim had been overworked and had terrible degenerative conditions as a result. The insurers wanted him examined by Collins Street specialists. I said that I didn’t know how he could get to Collins Street – it was a big outing for him to get from Bruthen to Bairnsdale. They arranged rail vouchers for him.

Jim had not been to Melbourne since 1950 – thirty years before. It was a huge event for him to get there. He arranged to stay with his sister in Heidelberg.

He came to see me on a Thursday before he caught the train out of town. He showed me his rail papers and checked through the appointments he had to get to the next day. He was due back after the weekend.

From my office in Bairnsdale the following Monday I could hear the Melbourne train arrive in the middle of the day. I knew it would not be long before I would receive a visit. Sure enough, the receptionist rang me to tell me that there was a clent here to see me.

He bustled up the stairs and into my office, bursting to tell of his experiences. How he got lost in Collins Street, and “Brian, the size of those buildings!” He told me that he and his sister, catching up on the Thursday night, had not seen their father for thirty years. Their mother had died when they were teenagers, and their father had remarried. They hadn’t got on with the stepmother. After numerous fights, their father had thrown them out of the house. They hadn’t seen him again.

He told me how he had caught the train to Flinders Street Station (this was before the City Loop existed). It was the Friday morning, the day of his appointments, and he got off the train at 9 o’clock at the height of peak hour. He was overwhelmed by the crowds.
He tripped over an old guy’s walking stick, and turned to apologise. There was something familiar about the face. An old man, suddenly crying on the platform, saying, “It’s not Jim is it? It’s not Jim?” And then he realized that it was his father, who had spent the last thirty years trying to find his son.

Jim’s father came to live with him later, and I met him. They argued again, and fell out, but didn’t lose each other this time.

Monday, 20 September 2010


This was the promise made before the 2006 State election:
Labor will establish two new co-educational select entry year 9 – 12 schools in North Melbourne and the outer eastern growth corridor at a cost of around $20 million each.
The promise was in the "Better Schools, Better Performance" policy document of the Labor party, as well as their "Victorian Schools Plan".

The North Melbourne select entry school was to have been in the disused State School 307 in Queensberry Street North Melbourne. Locals were delighted that there would be another opportunity for students in the inner west of Melbourne.

But on 1st April 2008 the government announced that the school would not be in North Melbourne at all, but in Wyndham Vale, in the outer west of Melbourne. The outer west needs resources, and no one can begrudge them this educational opportunity.

But it shouldn't be a competition between suburbs: inner Melbourne also needs educational resources, with its huge recent developments in Docklands and Kensington, and with people moving into the whole inner city area including the CBD.

According to the Productivity Commission's latest report, Victoria spends less on education per student than any other State, and we would have to spend another $1 billion just to get up to the national average - let alone reach the top of the class.

We are short changing our children's future.

Comparing ourselves to NSW, each year Victoria spends $636 less per pre-school student, $1,148 less per primary school student, and $1,334 less per secondary school student.

The latest Victorian budget had no new educational initiatives.

We also have large class sizes: Australia has average class sizes of 23.8 - the sixth highest in the OECD, and they should be lowered to a maximum of 20 students.

On the site for the select entry school there will instead be established the Bastow Institute of Educational Leadership, designed for those who will take a leadership role in schools and early childhood development. Again, encouraging leadership in education is a good thing - but schools near the inner Melbourne growth areas would be good too, and that's what we were promised.

There is also a real need for a school for Docklands. Many people have been attracted to the area by the promise that they can live there without cars, but if they want to take their children to school, there is no school they can walk to or even reach conveniently by public transport. Some have moved out when their children reached school age.

Time for a recommitment to proper investment in our children's future.

External Links

Saturday, 18 September 2010

The Bet

Omeo Court House

When I worked in Gippsland, I regularly appeared in the Omeo Court. There was always something interesting happening in the Omeo Court. I had one client called Merv, who worked driving a grader for what was then called the Country Roads Board, and had ten children. 

Merv liked a drink. There were two hotels in Omeo – the Golden Age, better known as the “bottom pub”, and Faithfull’s, better known as the “top pub”. Merv had been banned from the bottom pub, and so, on this particular evening in the late 1970s, was drinking in the top pub, along with another bloke - also banned from the bottom pub – Charlie.

They were well in their cups, and Charlie turned to Merv late in the night and said “You’re an alcoholic.”
“I am not – I could give up the drink any time I liked.”
“I bet you $1,000 you could not stop drinking and smoking for six months.”
“You’re on.”

$1,000 was a lot of money in those days, especially to a person like Merv. In the end, they both bet each other that they could not stay off the grog and the smokes for six months. Merv couldn’t afford to offer $1000, so he put up $200.  They went to the Omeo branch of the CBA bank, and opened a joint account for the purpose.

The six months went by. Both of them were shouted drinks by everyone in town. Offered smokes. No, they just drank lemon squashes. They both kept to the terms of their bet.
At the end of the time, Merv put out his hand for his money. “No,” said Charlie, “I don’t believe you could have kept to the bet. But I did, and I want my $200.”
Merv was furious. He couldn’t believe what he was hearing. He’d spent six months living for this moment.

They argued and argued, but Charlie wouldn’t budge. Eventually they went to the bank manager and asked him to adjudicate. He said he wasn’t going to adjudicate, and they could both take out the money that they put in. So, instead of his $1,000, Merv received just $200, and reckoned he was $800 out of pocket.

Months went by. It was Grand Final day in 1979, Carlton v Collingwood. Charlie and Merv, along with a hundred other drinkers, were at the top hotel. The bet was over now, and they were both well and truly drinking again.
The bar at the top hotel is arranged as a large “U”. Near one end of the bar, Charlie had two $50 dollar notes, and was calling out “Come on, who’ll bet with me – I’m backing Collingwood.” And he slapped his fifty dollar notes down on the table.

Merv was standing just to his left. Charlie was looking at the rest of the bar to his right. Merv sidled up to Charlie. In full view of the 100 drinkers in the bar, and with a wink to them all,
Merv picked up the two $50 notes and pocketed them. Then he tapped Charlie on the shoulder and said “That’s 700 you owe me, Charlie.”

Charlie was furious. He went to the police station, staffed by a single Sergeant of police, and laid a complaint of theft.

The policeman went down to the Omeo Highway where Merv was working on his grader and hauled him back to the police station for a record of interview.

Confronted with the allegation of theft, and with 100 witnesses to the fact that he had taken the money, Merv made no mention of the bet – he denied taking the money.
He was duly charged, and he came to me to represent him.

The court room was packed with every drinker from miles around. The first witness was Charlie. I had one old crone, smelling of sherry at that early hour, telling me I should ask him about this and that previous outrage.

I cross examined him. At first, he denied there had been any bet at all with Merv. We had the bank manager in court on subpoena – and when I pointed out that he would be giving evidence, Charlie reluctantly admitted that there had been a bet, but reverted to claiming Merv had not fulfilled his part of the bargain. Eventually he admitted that Merv had used the words “That’s 700 you owe me, Charlie”.

My client gave evidence, and admitted that he had lied to the police, but explained why he had taken the money.

I argued that it was not a bet at all (which is unenforceable at law) but a prize, as it depended on the conduct of the parties. But in any event the defence was a claim of right, and even a mistake of law would not vitiate a claim of right.
We won.

A few months later Merv came to see me in my office in Bairnsdale. He thanked me for my help in the case, and wondered if I could now take action against Charlie to get the remainder of the money back.

Friday, 17 September 2010

Make Melbourne Democratic

Melbourne Town Hall

The City of Melbourne provides local government representation for about 90,000 residents. Local government is important and valuable: it makes decisions on issues very close to the community, and has the capacity to be very responsive to the community.

In Melbourne, as the capital city of Victoria, there are also many businesses both small and large, and the Melbourne City Council must also consider their needs.

To have a strong connection between the community and local government, it is important to have the best possible electoral system. The electoral system for the City of Melbourne has several unusual features.

1. It is a postal ballot, so there's only limited information and often no real sense of the amount of community support particular candidates enjoy, and what's more the Victorian Electoral Commission has acknowledged that it does not have the power to check the authenticity of the signature or the date of birth on the envelope containing the ballot paper. Postal ballots are notoriously open to abuse: we should consider a return to attendance polling;

2. Businesses get two votes - even if the owners live outside the country. The nominees of the business do not even have to be shareholders. It's not clear how this weighting can be justified - especially for those without a genuine link to the community: it should be citizens who elect the Council;

3. There are no ward councillors: the whole electorate elects all of the councillors, so no one representative has responsibility for a particular neighbourhood;

4. Despite the size of the municipality, which runs from Kensington to East Melbourne, there are only nine councillors: that's a big workload for each councillor.

5. There are two separate elections - one for the Lord Mayor and Deputy, and another for seven other councillors: a candidate must choose which ballot to contest. That's not a good way to maximize the talent pool for the council. And it also means that only those with a large campaign budget are able to win the Lord Mayoralty;

6. There is a "deeming provision" under which many voters are deemed enrolled even though they have not applied and frequently do not even know they are on the roll;

7. Above-the-line voting is permitted for the councillors, so that voters need only vote for one candidate. A better system would require voters to number the squares for at least the number of positions for election (currently seven).

8. There are no requirements to disclose election funding sources.

For residents, there is no councillor who is dedicated to serving their local needs. With the small number of councillors, it is hard for councillors to respond to all the concerns that are raised.

It is time for a review of the Council. It is the only council which does not automatically have a regular review under the Local Government Act. That review should also reconsider the electoral system, and the effectiveness of local representation.

The Council has itself requested a review on more than one occasion, but has not had a satisfactory response from the State government.

A review is an important opportunity for improvement of our local government system: Melbourne deserves this no less than any other municipality.

External Links

Thursday, 16 September 2010

The Bali Nine

Scott Rush

On 17 April 2005, Queenslander Scott Rush was arrested at Nguraj Rai Airport in Bali with 1.8 kilograms of heroin taped to his legs. He had been about to fly to Australia with the drug. He was 19 years old, and on his first trip overseas.

Rush was clearly no "Mr Big". He was a mere novice drug mule, at the bottom of the drug-trafficking food chain. He had a history of drug abuse in Australia since the age of 15 and had the sort of criminal record fairly typical for those with a drug habit.

Indonesian police arrested several other young people over the next couple of days. Together they came to be known as "the Bali nine".

On 13 February 2006, Scott Rush was sentenced to life imprisonment. Prosecutors appealed to the Supreme Court, and on 6 September that year his sentence was set aside, and a new sentence imposed: death by firing squad.

So far several other members of the Bali nine have had their death sentences commuted. However, Myuran Sukumaran (from New South Wales) and Andrew Chan (also from New South Wales) were sentenced to death also, and their sentences have been upheld on appeal. Last month (August 2010) Scott Rush (who was not on any view the ringleader of this group) launched his final appeal and was granted a judicial review. He is now awaiting an outcome of that process. He continues to face the real risk of execution.

Here in Australia, the death penalty has long been abolished. (It has never been thought appropriate for offences like drug trafficking anyway.) As a matter of fundamental human rights, we regard the state as not having the entitlement to take the life of a citizen.

To give further force to this, there is an important qualification on our dealings with overseas countries in relation to criminal matters: no such co-operation should be afforded where it might lead to the death penalty being imposed. There are two statutes which give effect to this: under section 22(3)(c) of the Extradition Act 1988, the Attorney General may not surrender a person to another country where the penalty of death might be imposed unless satisfied, on the basis of an undertaking from that country, that the sentence will not be imposed or carried out.

There is a similar provision under s 8 of the Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters Act 1987.

It is a serious matter for officers of the police to undermine this important public policy, but that is exactly what the Australian Federal Police did in relation to the Bali Nine. Scott's parents tipped the AFP off about the proposed trip, and asked the police to intercept him at the airport and prevent him going on the trip. The police could have prevented his departure. Alternatively they could have waited until he returned and arrested him then - along with the others in the group. Instead, the AFP provided Indonesian police with the names and passport numbers of all those involved, intending that the Indonesians would arrest them and well knowing that they faced a real risk of execution at the hands of Indonesian authorities.

The conduct of the AFP was gravely immoral. It knowingly placed the life of Australians at risk.

Scott Rush's mother said that she felt "very let down by our Australian Federal Police", but the AFP said publicly in response:
In South Africa, in the Mohamed Case, the Constitutional Court held that it was unlawful for authorities to co-operate in the deportation of a fugitive to a foreign country where he would face a trial for his life. This was held to be "inconsistent with the government's obligation to protect the life of everyone in South Africa, and it ignores the commitment implicit in the Constitution that South Africa will not be party to the imposition of cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment."

The same rules should have applied to the conduct of Australian police - who administer the law on our behalf - in the Bali Nine case.

The resources of the Australian Federal Police should not be used to expose Australian citizens to the death penalty. A simple arrangement requiring an undertaking that the death penalty would not be imposed before exchange of information would prevent this situation occurring in future.

There is still hope that Scott Rush, Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan will not be executed. Whatever happens, we now know that further control over the conduct of Australian Federal Police in their overseas dealings is overdue.

External Links

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Double Jeopardy

The Victorian opposition leader has announced that he would abolish the so-called "double jeopardy" rule. This is the rule that makes a verdict of “not guilty” final, and a bar to any further prosecution for the same offence.
Ted Baillieu announced the same thing before the 2006 election, so we are going over old ground – yet again.
This is part of the “tough on crime” race to the bottom which we see all too often before elections.
Determination of guilt or innocence is imperfect, depending as it does on human fallibility.
Criminal trials are prosecuted by the executive branch of government.
There is, generally speaking, a significant imbalance between the resources available to the State in prosecuting offences, and the resources available to individuals in defending them. Generally (but not always) the State has far greater resources.
Unless there are some limits to the criminal justice process, it can be used, as it has been used in otherwise civilized countries in the last 60 years, as an instrument of tyranny by the executive.
The principle that a verdict of acquittal is final is one of the most important safeguards circumscribing the prosecution process. The term “double jeopardy” is a misnomer. If the verdict of “not guilty” is no longer final, then a person may be tried again – and again – and again – and again.
They are not called “trials” for nothing. A criminal trial places immense strain on those involved – not just the accused, but witnesses and victims and others involved in the process. The whole future course of lives will often be at stake, and it is important that we can draw a line under this process and declare it over, so that controversies are not allowed to drag on and on.
Human rights are not abstract concepts which are to be given lip service but no teeth. They are our protection against tyranny. They are hard won in struggles that have extended over centuries. Take them away, and we place our whole way of life in jeopardy, because we open the way to abuse of power.

Monday, 13 September 2010

Finding Our Way

It is an enchanted memory. After two days of walking, Chris Baxter and I reached trackless, tangled country where we would have to thread our course with pinpoint precision between a series of ambiguous landmarks.
Using the map and compass, we set our course and made our way to the first point. Then we recalibrated the compass and set off again - and again.
As the golden light of the afternoon flooded the bush around us, it seemed we floated from one point to the next, feeling the lie of the land beneath our feet as if it were part of us, carrying us. Both Chris and I felt a growing exhilaration as we picked our way through the forest, using the land itself to help us on our way, and finally reaching the exact point we had hoped to find.
I have never used a GPS, although I’d quite like to have one. They’d be particularly handy for the high rolling tops in places like South West Tasmania, where cloud cover can swirl in and leave you quickly disoriented. But I do use a map and compass; navigational aids are only common sense for serious walking. Be careful about trusting to a “sense of direction”. We do not have some homing pigeon part of our brains which tells us where we need to go. Knowing where you are is a product of careful observation as you pass through the landscape.
Careful observation when we navigate can also provide us with wonderful moments – such as the afternoon Chris and I spent - where we come to experience the bush in a special way.
Bernard O’Reilly, in Green Mountains - his classic account of his search for the Stinson wreck in the Lamington Ranges of southern Queensland in 1937 - writes of navigating through dense, untracked rainforest:
“And how do you keep a straight course?” perhaps you are asking. Well, no course in this country can be exactly straight; you tack about to find the easiest way down the cliffs and the easiest grade up the other side of the gorge, but you know by your map that the big lateral ranges are running from south to north, so if you cut them at right angles, you must be going west. Then, too, the jungle is full of other signs to tell you the points of the compass. Northern and eastern slopes are always matted with the heaviest growths of lawyer and raspberry vine, while southern slopes give way to forests of fern trees and great clusters of lilies. Also, the southern side of a tree is heavily covered with lichen and moss, while the northern side shows a smooth bole. It is a great help to have a knowledge of trees and shrubs which bloom in this area. Down in the lower jungles at the foot of the ranges, a certain species of tree will bloom six weeks earlier than the same species on the loftiest heights. At the lower levels, the tree will be going to seed, while at two thousand feet it will be blooming, at four thousand feet it will be in early bud. So with a good knowledge of plants, it is possible to estimate your altitude very accurately, and since altitudes are marked on the map this is a very important thing. The same sliding scale applies to the nesting of birds, so that all nature is willing and anxious to help, if you will only take the trouble to notice.
Australian bush is remarkably varied, but the dense forests are wild places. When the eminent wilderness photographer David Tatnall goes into forests like those of East Gippsland to create photographs, one piece of equipment he carries is a step ladder. He needs that to elevate himself above the dense understorey so that the camera can take a photograph which has some perspective. Bush like that is not a place for a Sunday stroll – to go into it requires the kind of robust commitment that helps you feel alive.
Europeans come to the forests of Australia with a legacy of myth and story which sees the forest as a dangerous place – a place of savage beasts and dangerous monsters. Hansel and Gretel encountered the cannibalistic witch when lost in the forest – having been left there to die. Red Riding Hood was rescued from the wolf by her father – a wood cutter. In the great German saga The Ring of the Niebelung, the dragon Fafner brooded in his forest lair. Forests were the haunt of outlaws like Robin Hood.
In our western psyche, the forest – the bush – is the dark side of civilization. It is a place to pass through quickly, where the forces of nature are untamed, mysterious, wild.
So why does anyone go bushwalking? After all, the bush can indeed be dangerous. People have been lost in the Australian bush, and never found. You can suffer injury there, or bad weather, or run out of water. When you spend time in it, the bush can seem friendly, hostile, or immensely indifferent.
But how lost can people find themselves in the bewildering byways of our civilization – with its corporate jungles, political swamps, and dark valleys of loneliness?
To sojourn in the bush – away from the man-made comforts of civilization – is to confront the wildness in oneself. One reason we go off into the bush – and the one which draws me back again and again - is to engage in a journey of self-discovery.
The indigenous peoples of the North West Pacific area of America lived in the vast forests that covered that region. The advice of elders to young initiates as to what to do when lost in that immense wilderness is encapsulated in a poem by David Wagoner:


Stand still. The trees ahead and the bushes beside you
Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.
The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,
I have made this place around you.
If you leave it, you may come back again, saying Here.
No two trees are the same to Raven.
No two branches are the same to Wren.
If what a tree or bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows
Where you are. You must let it find you.