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Let’s talk about guns...

My Father was a wheat and sheep farmer, and up until the age of five and half I lived on a farm. Then we moved at my Mother’s insistence and belief that a sea change would give my father a chance to recover from his alcoholism and get away from the environment she believed supported this behaviour. In theory that would have been a good idea, however hotels are more available in the city, and there is a lot more people to drink with. Also my Father being a shearer would often travel back to the country at shearing season to earn money, and those blokes drank a lot after a hard days work. It was their culture, and therefore acceptable. It was also a common practice that all farmers had guns for shooting wild animals for food and I imagine pests such as wild dogs, foxes and feral cats. I only remember Dad shooting kangaroo, ducks and rabbits to supplement the family food supply and very likely for the thrill of the kill. Naturally he would kill a sheep on occasion, but they were mostly kept for their wool, and others were fattened up and then sold to market for income. My father also used his guns as weapons to threaten us when he was drunk, or alternatively threaten suicide. After a number of years of this behaviour, particularly the part where he was threatening to kill himself, I would hope and pray he would. Lets face it, listening to his drunken tirades was so painful, and repetitious, and it was unbelievable that he would blame his children for his violent behaviour. And the person that gave birth to us; our Mother On the other hand when he had all of us out of bed and lined up in the kitchen in the middle of the night, threatening that if we made one move he would shoot our mother and then us. This was so numbingly frightening it was like living in a horror movie. To this day the horrified faces of my siblings and my Mother will be forever etched on my brain. Its amazing he didn’t carry out his threats, because when he was drunk he was reckless, and so angry he could have easily lost control. Even today when you see on news broadcasts of people killing their children and then taking their own life. I understand how it happens, as it could have easily happened to us. Blind rage leads to many occurrences of domestic violence, and its just really sad. I guess you’re wondering why my mother stayed. She was a practicing Catholic and probably deep down blamed herself for his alcoholism; in her mind she just wasn’t enough to make her husband happy. And oh my goodness he was persuasive when he was sober. With so many promises and apologies. There were periods of our lives when he did try to rehabilitate, but without success. I also remember a bit later on when my siblings were at boarding school, being dragged to AA meetings with my Mother. They were also painstakingly uncomfortable and traumatising for a nine- ten year old. But as there was no one to care for me, and as my mother was ashamed to admit her husband was a drunk, I was dragged along to the meetings. We also had no family support, as no one would accept that Dad was a violent alcoholic, and pushed it back on my mother to improve her behaviour as his wife. Basically, what could she do to make it better? Meanwhile back at the event about being held at gunpoint late at night in the kitchen. What has this experience taught me? Firstly, I couldn’t protect my mother emotionally although I tried for years, and the guilt I felt about not being able to do this has finally been let go of, even more significantly since her death in 2012. Secondly, I wasn’t to blame for my father’s behaviour as I had the right to life, and all the good things life has to offer me. Even though he obviously felt I didn’t deserve it. (Gee that has taken a lot of therapy.) Thirdly, although I have known such extreme violence and trauma, I have survived it with grace, and for the most part with my integrity intact. Lastly, I honour the courage of my child, who remained hopeful in the face of such adversity. And although I am a survivor of domestic violence I have been determined not to repeat those behaviours as an adult. With Love, Claire

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