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May 16, 2022

Here & Now 175: Saturn and the secret

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Here & Now 175
Here & Now 175

Nimbin. Saturday, 7.15am

Okay. She’s only eight, but soon she’ll be nine (as she often reminds me). It’s an endearing, innocent age. She’s inquisitive about this world we live in. And not only about this world. Apparently her tablet, a constant companion, has not got all the answers. (Pftt. Android.)

‘Have you been to Saturn?’ she asks, sipping a chococcino.


‘It has rings.’


‘You should go.’

‘How could I get to Saturn?’ I say, looking around to see if anyone is listening. We have a family secret.

She looks around too. You cannot be too careful with secrets.

A woman with grey dreadlocks is shouting good morning and how’s Sally to a woman without dreadlocks across the street who says Sally has gone to Sydney to see her mum.

An Aboriginal bloke is loudly rapping in the street, busking for breakfast. It has to be the world’s longest rap song; it’s been going since we’ve been sitting at the cafe. Still, you don’t get to have a 50,000 year history by catering to short attention spans.

‘Fly to Saturn? That would take…’

I do some mental calculations: 1.2billion (kilometres at closest point to Earth) divided by 900 (cruising km/h of Boeing 777) divided by 24 (hours in a day) divided by 365 (days in a year) – rounding off, of course.

‘… about 150 years with Singapore Airlines. No stopovers,’ I say. (That’s arithmetic, folks. Learnt it from nuns.)

‘No, Grandpa. I mean…’ She looks over her shoulder, leans into a conspiratorial whisper, and slightly raises her right fist: ‘… fly!

‘Oh,’ I say. ‘I don’t know anything about that. I’m just a humble reporter…’

She has the best laugh. I love this kid. She makes me wish I really was Superman (I’m not. Truly. Just a bumbling reporter…) and could make the world a better place for her. A bit of truth and justice would go a long way right now.

Like, for instance, how come we can bomb grandfathers and children in Syria without needing a plebscite (whose result isn’t binding), or a royal commission (whose recommendations are never implemented), or even a bloody parliamentary debate (which makes a playground brawl sound sophisticated)?

But try to close an inhumane detention centre, or give gay people their due rights, or deal with the tragedy of Aboriginal youth suicide and… nothing. Dither and splutter.

If I was Superman (and I’m not, really) I could stop the bombing, the discrimination, and the denial of the Australian trauma. Immediately.

How? I would make the US tell Australia to do it.

And it would be done. Straight away. No report, no commission, no plebiscite, no interruption to Parliament playtime. Just done.

‘This cafe has the best coffee in the universe,’ I tell Granddaughter, as I sip my latte. Loudly. For her sake.

She laughs, and says, ‘Yes, and it has the best chococcino in the universe, too.’ She sips. Loudlier. For my sake.

‘Oh shut up,’ someone sweeping the footpath yells to the Aboriginal fella, who has started freestylin’ verse number 50. He doesn’t.

Aboriginal culture had no history of suicide until about the 1980s. Since then, the rate in some communities has skyrocketed as exponentially as the corporate profits wrested from Aboriginal land. Kimberley Indigenous suicide is seven times the national average. And Indigenous suicides are getting younger.

Earlier this year, a 10-year-old girl hanged herself.




‘How long would it take to, you know, fly to Saturn?’

‘Fly to Saturn? That would take…’

I do some mental calculations: 1.2billion kilometres…

‘… twenty-six minutes. No stopovers.’

‘Can we go? Please?’


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