Yielding - Professional Development @ Metro Arts

aka - Alone in a room with reams of butchers paper.

I don't know how anybody else works but I find that surrounding myself with space and paper and fat nibbed textas is very conducive to 'perfect world planning'.  

Let me preface this - too late I know - by saying that I have not professionally developed myself - ever.  So being taken through the  induction to the Metro  Arts space meant I did a lot of head nodding and 'oh ok's.  All I knew for sure was that a space was mine.  The deep basement space of cheap pine ply, industrial air conditioner drone and buzz key entry was going to feel like home with in 20 mins of me throwing down my bag - and it did.

My aims were

  • to distill the recordings of the Carers QLD interviews into key concerns/topics to later weave into the script of Yielding
  • create a concept brief for Let's Speak Of The Unspoken. 
  • develop funding strategies.
  • research Community Cultural Development projects.

Metro Arts offered great guidance in regards to CCD projects and contacts.  It felt strange at first to be articulating what it is I was wanting to achieve.  For so long, I had been having conversations in my head.  In those discussions I was alway succinct, witty and knowledgeable.  Somehow, when the conversation involved a real person, my thoughts would clang about, falling out of my mouth half-formed and spoken without taking breath.  I calmed down after the second day - I think. Metro Arts may have a different recollection.

At the end of the 5 days I had a clear vision of LSOTU. I could see the steps I would need to take.  I accepted early on that I would need to self-fund the initial stages, but knowing the direction I will take this project, I'm not too concerned (famous last works) that I won't be able to generate funding via small community grants.  

This is a long term project for me.  Generating my own work and providing employment opportunities for artists is high on my 'to do' list.


Yielding - The Interviews

A very tired and possibly hungover man I worked with early on as a Support Worker told me - "You're not a carer.  You're paid to do this shit."  A wise woman I worked for told me - "Don't eva call yaself a carer luv cos tha real ones'll rip ya a new one."

I get it.  I was paid an hourly rate, with penalties, sick leave, holiday pay, even salary sacrifice in some cases.  What I took home each week wasn't graded on the 'needs' of the clients I supported.  If I sat with a man for three hours and got soundly beaten in game after game of backgammon I was paid for my time. If I was sent to 24hr shifts where sleep wasn't an option I was paid - well. I've provided personal care that may take ten minutes - may take three hours.   It is accepted that to have support provided by an individual, the individual requires adequate recompense for their time and expertise.  

As a carer - its a totally different story.  You have to prove your worth and the value what it is you do to care for your loved one.  There are Carer benefit schemes and allowances provided by government, but it is by no means an easy or guaranteed process. For many years, I was privileged to be invited into people's homes and trusted to care for their loved ones.  It is something I never took lightly - more for the fact that no matter how hard and draining it may've been for me, I got to leave.

I approached Carers Queensland early on in the piece to gauge their interest in being involved in the creative development of Yielding. I had draft scenes, but felt the necessity to hear more from carers beyond the context of my observations as a support worker.  I knew from experience that many carer's are reluctant to give up their time to a random stranger coming with yet another new idea to get 'their story told'.  There were two ways I expected carers to react.  I'd either be told to sod off "what business is it of yours?" or the flood gates would open and several hours would fly by on tales of doctors visits, respite traumas, hurtful things family have said and friendships that have slipped.

Carers Queensland facilitates support groups through out the state and allowed me - after seeking permission from it's members - to speak to several groups around the Brisbane greater area.  I won't forget the experience in a hurry.  In Capalaba, Westside - Kenmore and Brisbane South, I was astonished by the generosity and openness of every person. I had a series of questions and topics I wanted to cover but most of that went out the window.  What I found most compelling was the self awareness of many in the meetings.  Their ability to articulate what it means for them to care for a person - who in some cases is nothing like the person they loved - was remarkable. 

"You can't explain it unless you've lived it"

"A front is put on.  Behind closed doors - you either sink or swim."

"You can't live in grief everyday"

What I took away at the end of each meeting was that a carer's time is as precious as air.  For each one of those people I met, talking to me cut into time they could've been spending on the thousand other tasks they needed to get done.  I was beginning to understand the depth to which I would need to take Yielding.  As a work, it would need to hover between the myriad of experiences of caring but retain a truth to which these people could see themselves reflected.

Oh, and after one of the meetings a carer approached me and said

"I knew you were a good egg as soon as you said you were a support worker, not a carer. "

So thank you tired, possibly hungover man and wise woman.


Yielding - The Seed

To be forgotten, passed over, even openly ridiculed for attempting to participate in a world that wants you to stay quiet and out of sight in crushing.  It isn’t until we are personally affected, when a loved one can no longer look after themselves, that we begin to comprehend the magnitude of the responsibilities taken on by these forgotten, unheard many.  Each deserves the respect and acknowledgement of us, the lucky few with energy still to shout above the din.

There are 2.7 million unpaid carers in Australia.
— ABS (2012) Survey of Disability, Ageing & Carers
It is predicted that 1 in every 6 people in Australia will suffer a stroke in their lifetime
— source - strokefoundation.com.au

I want Yielding to explore what these statistics mean when viewed through the prism of an ageing mother and her adult daughter - dignity, social isolation, personal autonomy, euthanasia and consequence, the repositioning in familial relationships after trauma.  

There is no discrimination to becoming a carer or suffering a stroke. There is no demographic, sector or group that remains untouched.