It was an absolute delight to have Stella in Australia. A member of the FLOW Board since it was founded in 2014, Stella has been integral to the success and direction, offering her vast experience in the not-for-profit sector whilst running her own NGO Zingela Ulwazi.
We hosted our first presentation in Melbourne, at Loop Space Bar where we met Nha Phuong of UMAPS (University of Melbourne Animal Protection Society) who was touched by our story and very keen for us to present at Melbourne University whilst Stella was here. We presented to a wonderful group of bright eyed passionate students on the 23 March just before Stella left for home.
Our presentation covered the FLOW journey, how Stella and I met at the Global White Lion Protection Trust in Timbavati South Africa, only to discover that we’d been in the same room a few years before when Andrew Harvey (spiritual teacher, author, Rumi translator and founder of Sacred Activism) had presented in South Melbourne. I returned from that talk to look at Harvey’s website and quickly signed up for a workshop being held at the Trust and Stella went on to leave Melbourne to work there.
After my first visit to the Trust in 2011 I had a extraordinary encounter with the lions. On the first morning out, in the crisp morning air in the back of the open air vehicle, where Linda Tucker (CEO and Founder) had expressed that it’s essential that eye gazing with the lions is kept soft and that you remain still and quiet. All I can say is that the meeting was one I’ll never forget. As we turned the corner in the vehicle we surprised the Royal pride who sat bolt upright with one of the young adult males locking eyes with me. Despite all that I was told, I could not remove my eyes from this exquisite being and I started to sob (uncontrollably), trying as hard as I could to not make a noise!
When we returned to camp, that’s when I heard the term canned hunting for the very first time and I can tell you I was outraged. On asking both Linda and Andrew what to do with this rage, as it was something very primal and potent, Andrew looked at me and said these words…“now that you’ve been brought to your knees, in your indignant rage, your despair, your heartbreak. I want you to pull these energies through your passionate heart and go into the world and do something.” How’s that for a call to action?!!!
Our presentation covered the visits with some beautiful images of the white lions, extraordinary footage of them collapsing by the vehicle in a complete love fest! And how the work was informed by these animals. We discussed interspecies communication, working with the Australian Government, how we are all challenged by these universal themes:
- No tribe but plenty of purpose
- Being a citizen with heartbreak
- Compelled to take action
On one of the journeys to South Africa, I met Pippa Hankinson who went on to produce the multi-award winning Blood Lions documentary and campaign that has changed the conservation landscape with regards to Africa’s lions; exposing the unscrupulous industry of captive breeding and canned hunting. Pippa generously introducing Ian Michler to FLOW who mentored and continues to support our work.
Getting the ban on lion trophies was difficult work with opposition from not only the obvious – the hunting community but also fellow advocates with most telling me that I was wasting my time, that the Liberal Government would NEVER pass such a ban. Despite much angst and opposition from a variety of political players, Jason Wood MP and then Environment Minister Greg Hunt stood firm and proceeded with their pledge. The ban announced at Federation Square in March 2015 despite fierce opposition.
Our talk included Stella’s work in South Africa, sharing why multiple sites of power are crucial to a democracy and why a vibrant civil society is critical in providing that. Her work with local communities and schools is powerful and essential, always weaving in conservation.
Thank you to all that attended, we were deeply inspired and touched by the feedback and grateful for your passionate hearts and your loving support. For those that assisted along the way, we thank you for your generous contribution whether it was supplying equipment, being on the door, helping set up – all helped enormously.
Donalea Patman, Founder