'Ich komme nach Australien aber ich wohne in Irland'. Thus I explained myself to the people I met when I was living in Berlin, 'I am an Australian but I live in Ireland'. Why was I in Berlin when I work in Ireland? Well, I am currently entering the fifth month of 12 months of sabbatical leave. Basically this means I am paid by my university to leave the country and pursue opportunities to research and publish.
My first stop was Berlin where I was Gastprofessor for four months in the Institute for Music Therapy at the University of the Arts, hosted by Professor Jahn-Langenberg and her staff. I am currently in Australia and will head to the USA in March to participate in a symposium about music therapy and 'end-of-life' patients, in New York hosted by Dr Joanne Loewy. Then I will visit the University of Louisville in Kentucky with Professor Barbara Wheeler and then on to Pennsylvania to spend some time with Professor Susan Hadley. I then plan to take a break in Los Angeles and visit friends from Ireland who now live there. After that I finish my sabbatical break as a by-fellow of Churchill College in Cambridge, UK for the Easter term and will also hold a visiting lectureship at the Faculty of Music at the University of Cambridge for the same period.
In spite of my 11 years working as a full-time course director in music therapy, 7 in Queensland and 4 in Ireland, I have never had a sabbatical before. Having a whole year is such a treat and I have had great opportunities so far to have a good old think about music therapy and my interests and pursuits in relation to it. It's especially good to have time to finish off some pieces of writing that have been lingering for a while in an almost-ready-to-publish state and to start to think about some new ideas. The University of Limerick facilitated my break and I am grateful to them and also to Vicky Abad who has stepped in as course director for the MA in Music Therapy at the Irish World Music Centre (www.iwmc.ie).
While writing has taken most of my time during the sabbatical leave, I have also had a chance to catch up on some reading. That book of Adorno essays on music that I only ever just managed to dip into, the Oxford very short introduction on the Celts, a compilation of essays written by Australian authors, a further reading of the revised Handbook of Qualitative Research by Denzin and Lincoln, and also a book by Stuart MacIntyre and Anna Clark on 'The History Wars' - this is a sobering debate in Australia over a split between historians (and arguably also citizens) who are described as, on one side those who take a 'black armband view of history', that is, that colonisation and by association the current Australian community are responsible for the losses in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture and identity in this country, and those described as the 'three cheers' group who think that colonial past of Australia is a story of great heroism and achievement and these achievements should be celebrated without reference to the indigenous community by the invasion and taking of land by Europeans. If I've made it sound simplistic, it's not.
I guess the starting point is a couple of hundred years ago but in recent history, the Australian Prime Minister, John Howard, when called on to apologise to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people for what happened in the past, following the findings of a Commonwealth Inquiry called 'Bringing them home' (http://www/austlii.edu.au/au/special/rsjproject/rsjlibrary/hreoc/stolen/); a investigation into the forced separation of children from their parents by the State, would not apologise for what had happened to these people who began to be known as 'the stolen generation'.
There is much more to this story. I write a little of it here for you because it affects me and also my identity as an Australian is so bound up, of course, in links to Australia's past. My own family history is of recent migration to Australia so perhaps I could argue it's nothing to do with me; but of course it does have to do with me, to facing and being aware of injustices that exist currently, the origins of that injustice and the current mechanisms that contribute to perpetuating that injustice. I could also argue I do not live in Australia any more and I am applying for Irish citizenship however I am Australian. I grew up here and I am located here even when I reside in other places that have an idea or feeling of 'home'.
Please come to Australia for the world congress next year, you will love the beautiful weather, the friendly welcome and the wonderful events planned. By all means be scared of such things as our sharks, snakes and crocodiles (we are!) and also have a good old laugh at the bush slang that some Australians use (such as cobber, fair dinkum, mate, bewdy), but perhaps it's worth being mindful that these words have their origins in Australia's colonial past. That past it is not just about brave Europeans working against the harsh Australian elements but also what resulted in the dislocation and dispossession of people from their land by foreign people who until a national referendum in 1967 when the Australian community agreed indigenous people should be allowed to vote, did not even view the indigenous population of Australia as citizens.
So, how can I tie the above comments into a column that is about music therapy? I believe music therapy is about the context in which it takes place as much as whom it is for in terms of patients, clients and services. That context here, in Ireland, in Berlin, in New York, in Cambridge, is in turn affected by what we do as music therapists. The atomisation of which some postmodernists speak regards the way we are bombarded with a wide world of experience and events that can lead us to feel insignificant and helpless must be resisted. All behaviour is connected, influential, potentially grand, important and provocative. Your interactive vocalising with a severely disabled person who is not able to remember their musical capacities demonstrated in their past music therapy sessions affirms life, all aspects of life.
Brisbane, January 8th, 38 degrees celsius
Edwards, Jane (2004). Ich komme aus Australien aber ich wohne in Irland. Voices: A World Forum for Music Therapy. Retrieved May 15, 2013, from http://testvoices.uib.no/?q=fortnightly-columns/2004-ich-komme-aus-australien-aber-ich-wohne-irland