In Conversation with Gerry Georgatos

In 2014 we are honouring Ambassadors for “The Decade of Lateral Love™ Around the World 2012 – 2022” with a special Interview Series

Lateral Love™ Ambassadors are answering some important questions about their life journey especially for you.

Join us and gain an insight into the life of Gerry Georgatos, our first cab off the rank for 2014!

When and where were you born? 1962 – Homebush (Sydney)

Where are you from? Citizen of the world – Greek migrant parents from the island of Kefalonia.  Have travelled well.

Tell us about your family? Father born in the first year of the Great Depression, and both parents endured WW2 in Europe – poverty and marginalisation. Father never went to school and learned to read and write on his own. Mother excelled at school but was pulled out because it wasn’t the thing for women at the time, sadly, and picked up a trade as a seamstress. I am the first born of six children.

What can you tell us about your early life and upbringing? Racism stung me hard – it was my lived experience, and what would hurtle me into academic studies to better understand it and in finding the ways forward.

Who played the biggest role in your upbringing? My father, my mother, my personal witness of their toils, their labour, their bond. Books were my escape, I read thousands of books.

What do you remember about your schooling? In my early schooling, I remember that I was vividly different because of the colour of my skin. I was made to feel that I was different. I remember my sadness. But I also remember the joys of friendships born and that each morning was myriad bright, I have always been an optimist, my resilience born of the need to survive and to survive each day well.

Any High School memories that have stuck with you? The day I stood up for student from Cambodia – a former boat refugee – who spoke poor English, who dragged his right leg because of a landmine. He was being lampooned, made fun on and then belted by two students engaging in thuggish behaviour. I asked them to stop – “he has never done anything to you, leave him alone…” A fight broke out between I and one of the two students.

Tell us what experiences you encountered growing up? Though this is no longer the demography we live in, I felt much alienated in a predominant Anglo-Celtic Australia – the darkness of my skin made me stand out and I was called all sorts of derogations – ‘black bastard’, ‘coon’, ‘Abo’, ‘wog’, ‘dago’, ‘greaseball’, etc… but those with my heritage who were lighter skinned than I were less harassed, so I became aware that physical appearance, the colour of my skin were what mattered to some others.

Describe your personal life journey to date? That in Odyssey we thrive. We accumulate travails that either make us or break us.

Can you tell us about some of your work history from your earliest jobs to some of your most memorable ones? My most memorable ‘job’ was working as a clown for little children, often little children, children in hospital, it was a joy. I loved driving to work all dressed up in my clown outfit and clown face.

Other work I thoroughly enjoyed was math tutoring, changing the course of someone’s life was something I was pleased to experience.

I did some taxi driving at nights once upon a time and enjoyed the camaraderie with humanity, and I always felt it the was the right thing to pick up everyone, never turning away those that other taxi drivers either feared or did not trust.

Teaching, managing, research work, and a myriad of other jobs I have enjoyed. I do love to change ‘career’ again and again. We are the sum of us and not of anyone journey alone.

Have you experienced Racism throughout your life? Racism has been the predominant experience in my life, and it has defined many of my journeys. I have lived it since I was a toddler.

What forms of Racism have you experienced? Racism by hate, racism by fear, racism by appearance, racism by exclusion, racism by omission, racism by censorship, racism by neglect. It all hurt, still does.

What do you see as one of the biggest barriers for Aboriginal people? Racism itself, it comes in myriad forms, many veils and layers. I am disappointed in many of these layers which include ignorance among social justice change agents who are non-Aboriginal who often exclude Aboriginal peoples because they think they can do it all better – which of course defeats the purpose, and is racism!

What is the one thing you do to get through the darkest of days when they present themselves? I remember the resilience of my parents in their darkest days.

What do you see as the potential solutions to the barriers you have identified? Time, truth, and some of us to sacrifice ourselves by leading that far out from the front lines that despite us hated, marginalised and excluded others behind us will leverage some change. It is the way it goes.

What do you plan to be doing in the future? Who knows? Return to a not-for-profit organisation and do more of my bit. I have lived in a beautiful small country town with my family for the last three years, and I am returning to city living for various reasons and hence various opportunities should arise – opportunities that at this time I may not be aware of.

I may teach at a university for a period of time, continue some of the journalism I am involved in, go management again, or preferably do what my heart and soul crave for at this time, pick up a camera and make documentaries and short films – give rise to voices craving a say and back it all up with my volumes of research that sit around waiting and waiting.

How do you think Aboriginal people can more equally contribute to Australian society? They do, and they will more and more, and in time their time in true equality will arise. I hope I live to see it. When we get it right for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander peoples we then will have got it right for everyone.

Who are your role models? I don’t like answering this question – I have an accumulation of knowledge from many peoples – some well-known and some whose name has never been publicly uttered – and they are now all in my form and content.

What do you believe are the most important aspects of true leadership? Never to compromise oneself to what one is not about and be seen as selling out the cause.

If you had 10 Million Dollars how would you use it to benefit Aboriginal people? There could be many responses to this, and others would argue wiser investments than I will. I would do as I have always done – give it to those who need it. I would help as many people get a start in life as possible – and through those people may they go on to help others.

Tell us about your passion in life? Difficult question, because passion can be many things, or about many things, or passion may underwrite all things. My passion is to write at speed and disseminate, rather than labour over one work as if it is be all and end all. My passion is the truth. My passion is the cessation of vanity. My passion is nature and its myriad beauty. My passion is to right wrongs. My passion is my partner, Jenny and daughter Connie. My passion is to love others as they should be loved, that love is unconditional.

What motivates you? The morning that I wake to. Each day.

Walk me through 5 things you would do if you were Prime Minister? Reduce the defence budget and spread the money around as if I am spreading the love around. I would easily end extreme poverty in this first world nation. I would bring on equality, have the conversation on racism that we have never had and I would bring on TREATY. As Prime Minister I would work to end the disgrace of 18,000 children under the age of 12 living homeless.

What do you feel our children must have to reach their full potential in life? Equality and opportunity from the beginning of life.

Tell me about one of your proudest moments? Contributing to the freedom of Indonesian children from our adult prisons. Helping a student who thought he would never do well at school excel in mathematics.

Removing people I met out of homelessness and into other pathways.

Helping people into education after leaving prison.

Being the one of the first three Senate candidates ever for the WikiLeaks Party.

As a journalist standing up in the Supreme Court and refusing to retract my stories (the truth), which would have been cowardice and shameful to do so.

There are many proud moments, in that knowledge too I am proud.

Tell me about one of your saddest moments? My grandfather dying after we just made it to see him – travelling half the world to reach him – he died 8 hours later, my father just made it in time thanks to my mother.

And when a senior officer at my University said to me, “What do these black want Gerry, an education? Send them back to the bush to where they belong?”

And when the University then set me up for denigration and public humiliation to cover their backs.

When I was dragged into the Supreme Court for defamation on a watertight story by corrupt individuals to cover up their wrongdoing – I am still in the court on all this.

When the Australian Greens organised media hatchet jobs on me as the WikiLeaks candidate – and I fell only 3000 primary votes short of being elected as a Senator – because I chose to give a symbolic preference to David Wirrpanda for the work he does through his Foundation.

If you could create the perfect society what would it look like? I wouldn’t hazard an image – I don’t think we should hazard what something should be like. It would be like only the messages of being honest, kind, generous, good to one another to make the differences that we may need. I don’t’ think poverty would exist in a world of honesty and kindness and generosity and bathed in apothegms underwritten by what is good.

Do you know much about Cultural Safety? Yes.

What does it mean for you to feel culturally safe? Everything. The right to be free.

How do you see Cultural Safety being of benefit to society? Equality. Social wealth.

What do you see as the necessary foundations for mutually respectful relationships to be formed between all Australians? All of the above – love unconditional, the rest will come.

What does your role as a Lateral Love Ambassador mean to you? That you have included me, that I am on board, that we are all on board, that example is our only immortality.

How important do you feel Lateral Love is for the future of our families and  communities? Essential.

Tell me about your grassroots community involvement? I would rather others tell it. I believe it is well-known. I hope that I am in the hearts and souls of enough people for some of them to be able to tell it as they know it.

What would you say to people who are reading your story and may have been through or be going through similar experiences to yours? Forgive, redeem, go on, love one another, more to life than what some would have us see.

What do you know about Lateral Violence? I have lived it. Its embers will one day be extinguished. We are unfolding into a social justice vocabulary that will bring on the love.

What is your interpretation of the Colonial impact for Aboriginal and Islander communities? Indeed it was genocidal and more than just disenfranchisement and apartheid. Its embers languish, with every raise of expectations from Governments to the people, this is followed by an immediate betrayal of trust in those expectations.

How do you think we can improve the future for our young people? We stand solid, and never compromise the ways forward I have described above.

How do you feel about the recent statistics in the media regarding Aboriginal youth suicide? I have been one of the researchers and lead writers on this tragedy in recent times, and have devoted much research to premature deaths, unnatural deaths and child and youth and adult suicides. They are happening because of the veils and layers of racism, and till we unveil them the suicides may well continue.

Has suicide touched your life or your family? Yes.

What advice would you offer to a young person who is clearly struggling or having suicidal thoughts? Rather than advice, we need to be there, people need to be there.

Do you believe there are links between youth suicide and Lateral Violence? There are links but the factors are many, not necessarily complex, but many but unlike what many say, they are solvable.

Colonisation and the manifestations of Lateral Violence are difficult topics to comprehend. Where do you think is a good starting point? The truth.

Can you tell us what types of things help you to feel empowered to lead a fulfilling, meaningful life? The truth. The ability to discover the truth is outstripped by the capacity to manifest deceit, but I live to challenge this premise and strive only within the truth.

What is your vision or purpose in life? The truth.

Any other issues, questions or topics you wish to discuss? Many, many, but we need the days ahead and billions of people in our world to also bring them on. Much respect and much, much love, eternal love.

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