Interview at Bunjil Place Library

Scott Pearce spoke about his debut novel, faded yellow by the winter, in a conversation we held at Bunjil Place Library in Narre Warren. During the conversation he outlined his process as a writer and his methods of developing a narrative and characterisation.

He also spoke about his conflicted pleasures in enjoying Australian Rules football, his engagement with the mythology of the game, toxic masculinity and the meanings of footy clubs to small towns.

Thank you to Sam Benton of Bunjil Place for facilitating the event.

The book is available for order, here.

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Sayap dan Cakar

Ellen van Neervan Makanan Nyaman

“Sayap dan Cakar” was first published as “Pinions” in Comfort Food, St.Lucia: UQP, 2016.

Translated by Nuraini Juliastuti

Soto Ayam
Soto Ayam: aku makan ini tiga hari setelah Ibuku meninggal pada tanggal 9 Juli 2019.

Aku ingin tahu apa yang didapatkan burung elang itu di rerumputan

Apa yang dimakannya hidup-hidup

Rumput panjang dimana Fogarty, Sandy dan Currie berjalan

Cemerlang dalam hal tulang belulang, tangan bumerang

‘Kau yang terakhir yang kami harapkan untuk melakukan ini’

Aku tidak tahu bagaimana perasaanku, kecuali terhadap gunung-gunung

Dan jika mereka membawa artefak-artefak itu kembali

Apakah mereka akan dipulihkan?




USD, KHR, dan politik perasaan atas jumlah

Kesan kuat yang mewarnai perjumlaan pertama saya dengan Phnom Penh sebagian dibentuk lewat kebingungan saya atas jenis mata uang yang dipakai untuk transaksi sehari-hari. Sebenarnya ini bukan kepergian pertama saya ke Phnom Penh. Saya mengunjungi Phnom Penh di 2006 (atau mungkin 2005?). Tapi kunjungan itu begitu singkat; semua tentang kota ini terasa begitu kabur.

Saya tahu bahwa uang dalam bentuk United States Dollar (USD) digunakan secara luas di negeri ini. Juga saya tahu bahwa secara bersamaan, Cambodian Riel (KHR) juga dipakai sebagai nilai tukar yang sah. Tetapi, mungkin karena kali ini, saya akan berada di Phnom Penh cukup lama, saya makin bisa menangkap kerumitan praktis dan personal yang diakibatkan oleh pemakaian mata uang ganda tersebut.

Nuraini Juliastuti-RSP-Kunci-USD in Phnom Penh
Salah satu karakter tempat yang melangsungkan transaksi dalam USD adalah mereka yang menawarkan atau menjual barang-barang berkategori mewah. Di foto ini, saya menggunakan USD untuk membeli secangkir Cappucino. Untuk secangkir Cappucino, saya membayar USD 3.

Pelajaran pertama yang saya dapatkan adalah bahwa sebagian besar sopir TukTuk mengenakan ongkos perjalanan dalam USD. Tetapi mereka mengajukan harga yang menimbulkan kesan bahwa sesuatu yang mereka ajukan itu murah. Tergantung jarak tempuh, sejauh ini, ongkos transportasi yang saya keluarkan untuk satu kali perjalanan di dalam kota berkisar antara USD 2 sampai USD 5. Suatu kali saya bermaksud memberi ongkos tambahan, dan saya memberi seorang sopir TukTuk USD 5, dan bukan USD 2 harga yang ia minta. Kerumitan timbul ketika tiba di tempat tujuan, sopir tersebut memberi saya uang kembalian dalam KHR.

Nuraini Juliastuti-RSP-Kunci-KHR di Phnom Penh
10000 Riels, yang saya dapatkan dari sopir TukTuk.

Kebingungan yang saya alami ketika menerima kembalian itu dipicu oleh dua hal. Pertama, saya belum menguasai konversi dari USD ke KHR. Hal ini menimbulkan dugaan, atau tepatnya perasaan, bahwa apakah saya diberi jumlah uang yang lebih kecil dari yang seharusnya saya terima? Kedua, tetapi kebingungan ini lalu saya redam. Ia saya redam, dan tidak diungkapkan dalam bentuk kekesalan langsung ke sopir TukTuk. Menurut saya ia seharusnya dipendam karena ia berawal dari niatan saya sendiri untuk memberi uang lebih kepada sopir TukTuk. Ia adalah niatan yang saya sadari dipengaruhi oleh campuran dari sedikit rasa kasihan dan semangat untuk bersedekah. Tapi ternyata ia menuju pada kompleksitas perasaan lain yang mungkin masih akan menuju pada hal-hal tak terduga lainnya.



Picnic scenes (1)

Among thousands of pictures and photographs about picnic or picnicking collected by State Library of Victoria, there is a series of photos that interest me. The series was titled “Picnic Scenes,” and it is categorised under Rural Water Corporation collection. It consists of 23 photos; this writing analyses the first five photos of the series. The whole set was created by Victoria State of Rivers and Water Supply Commission Photographer.

There is no further explanation to the location of the photos, except an indication that they all took place in Victoria. But this makes the series intriguing for me. I like the uncertainty feels brought about by the series. It means I can imagine the location in accord with my knowledge of Victorian landscape. I should say it ‘the locations’ as it seems that the photos were taken in more than one place. There is a bush, a river, and a hilly scape. It can be Yarra Bend Park, or Flinders Beach. Most likely the locations were in places that I have never been into before.

Another point which I like about not knowing the exact location of the place in the pictures is because I can imagine the resourcefulness of a place, and not being confined within the popularity of a certain picnic spot. It reminds me of finding old photos in flea market; each photo would make us speculating about the people, the places, and the activities captured. What makes a place picnic spot? Perhaps a place regarded a potential picnic spot if there was a nice view to look at while enjoying picnic spread, or to take a collective photo at the end of the picnic. A place would be a perfect picnic spot when it has appropriate infrastructure to support picnic activities.

picnic scenes 2
A woman and three men by the river
picnic scenes 3
Three women and picnic food spread
picnic scenes 1
Two women washing cups
picnic scenes 5
A group of women took a souvenir photo–probably before leaving the picnic area


Public barbecue equipment: A note on generosity

We like going to a park. We went to a park for various reasons. A park is a place for Cahaya to play in the playground. It is common to see benches and tables; they are comfortable to sit and eat on properly. Children could play around the park, while parents supervise, and perhaps prepare food on the table. A park is a place for slowing down a bit, relaxing, enjoying the environment, and eating something–to make the relaxing situation more pleasurable.

In many parks or some open spaces here, there are barbecue equipments that are available to public use. To provide a barbecue gear in open spaces is such a thoughtful idea; so it was my first thought of the existence of this tool. We can do a picnic, and eating barbecued meats or veggies at the same time. The fact that they are available for public use opens up a possibility to talk about it as a sign of generosity. It is quite a generous act to provide barbecue grill equipments for free in many parts of the city.

Often I saw these barbecue tools were just standing idle. They seemed to be waiting for someone, a family, or a group of people, to cook something on them. So far I have never seen anyone using them outside the scope of picnic or barbecue activities. I always see them being used within picnic or barbecue activities. A public barbecue grill is functioned within familial and communal environment. It is a cooking tool for sharing with others in the park. The food cooked in the grill would be eaten together. A public barbecue grill is a friendly public equipment.

Barbecue in Wattle Park
A barbecue equipment in Wattle Park

To see the idleness of the barbecue tools in the park makes me wondering whether it would be considered appropriate to cook on them outside picnic activities. Would it be considered appropriate if someone cook in the park in early morning (for cooking breakfast) or in the afternoon (for cooking dinner)? Perhaps there were people who had tried to do that.




Arisan revisited: Notes on precariousness (2)


As a savings association to base on mutual help principle, the operationalization scope of arisanis limited to small groups in which the members know each other. Researches on arisan confirm the condition that it would not occur in a group where the members are unfamiliar to each other. The meaning of mutual help is restricted and not inclusive. What criteria for someone to be considered and invited as an arisan member? Inclusion and exclusion are two factors to govern the existence of arisan. It points to the limit of the common aspect of a community-based alternative financial group.

According to Erik Bähre, when writing about ROSCA in a South African township, ‘helping each other’, in many contexts, is often not compatible with ‘taking care of oneself’–“ ‘helping each other’ centered on sharing, while ‘taking care of oneself’ valued accumulation.”[11] The politics of everyday life is composed of countless moments where one has to make, again Bähre, “precarious choices” concerning when to help the others and to take care of personal safety. When helping each other and taking care of oneself collides, it results in frictions and episodes of what Bähre coined as “reluctant solidarity”.[12]


Difficult times often come unexpectedly. It causes precarious feeling. Not everyone has an advantage of being in a position where the availability of resources is abundant, or having a wealthy network to hold on. And nothing can be more dreadful than having debt bondage. The fear for debt is strong. Credit and debt have a long history in Southeast Asia. They informed social structures in many levels.[13] It tells about the power of the creditor and the limitation of the debtor. Arisan emerges as a support institution that derives from the familial realm. At once it is a mechanism with the certainty that each person would be able to support his or her own needs.

Arisan is often considered a typical ibu-ibu, or woman’s practice. Plenty of research suggests it is not a gendered practice. To locate arisan in the everyday domain of women provides space to examine the use of arisan and imagination of precariousness within the inter-relational framework of the wife, the husband, and the family. Hanna Papanek and Laurel Schwede read arisan as part of a woman’s strategy to help deal with economic stress of the family. Further, they see it as part of the conscious decision of a woman to actively engage in earning and managing in the family.[14] It signifies a degree of independency. The husband, the children, or other members of the family usually do not put serious attention to arisan. Such attitude stems from a perspective of the practice as woman’s practice. It has made arisan a special locus to lend freedom in managing the fund obtained.

A woman and mother, in Papanek and Schwede’s research, found many reasons to participate in arisan and to think about how to make and save more money for her family. Throughout time women have been affected by different kinds of uncertainty—the inflation of the 1950s and 1960s, the Japanese occupation, the fear of hunger, the fight for independence from the Dutch—experiences, which shaped childhood and disrupted schooling.[15] Each woman might have different reason, which encourage her to join an arisan. My mother always thinks about her desires for having enough money for my sisters’ family and myself. The purpose of the money does not need to be specific. What is important is there is enough money to be used when the needs call. My older sister always thinks about money to fund the education needs of her children.

Keep going

There have been attempts at modifying the structure of arisan. In a recent conversation with a friend, I was told that she participated in anarisan, in which three persons would get the money in one ‘pull’ (narik). It reduces the amount of money received, since the lump sum fund needs to be divided into three. At least, it is certain that fresh cash will be at hand on a scheduled time. There are many factors to ignite precariousness. Hence the feeling seems to be persistent. This is a factor to maintain the relevancy of arisanArisan is a known practice emerged as cultural reference to approach uncertainty. It is an attempt to come to grips with difficult situation. It shows the will to find something to hold on, and to endure.

[11] Bahre, Money and Violence: Financial Self-Help Groups in a South African Township, 90.

[12] Bahre, ibid., 99.

[13] Henley, “Credit and Debt in Indonesian History: Introduction”.

[14] Papanek and Schwede, “Women are Good with Money: Earning and Managing in an Indonesian City”.

[15] Papanek and Schwede, ibid., WS-77.


Bahre, Erik. 2007. Money and Violence: Financial Self-Help Groups in a South African Township. Leiden & Boston: Brill.

Geertz, Clifford. 1962. “The Rotating Credit Association: A Middle Rung in Development.”Economic Development and Cultural Change 10, no.3: 241-263.

Henley, David. 2009. “Credit and Debt in Indonesian History: An Introduction”, in Henley and Boomgaard (eds.), Credit and Debt in Indonesia, 860 – 1930: From Peonage to Pawnshop, From Kongsi to Cooperative, 1-40.

Hope, Kempe Ronald Sr. 1993. “Growth and Impact of the Subterranean Economy in the Third World.” Futures October: 864-876.

Miguel, Edward, Paul Gertler, and David I. Levine. 2006. “Does Industrialization Build or Destroy Social Networks?” Economic Development and Cultural Change 54, no.2: 287-317.

Newberry, Jan. 2007. “Rituals of Rule in the Administered Community: The Javanese Selametan Reconsidered.” Modern Asian Studies 41, no.6: 1295-1329.

Papanek, Hanna., and Laurel Schwede. 1988. “Women are Good with Money: Earning and Managing in an Indonesian City.” Economic and Political Weekly 23, no.44: WS-73-WS-84.

Shanmugam, Bala. 1991. “Socio-Economic Development Through the Informal Credit Market.” Modern Asian Studies 25, no.2: 209-225.