The Right To Be A Bigot – Free Speech Vs Racism

I wrote this article for a newsletter I publish. I was always going to post it here. Today I received a request to have it re-printed in The Beacon, a publication for the ‘Melbourne Unitarian Peace Memorial Church’. Honored. Anyway sorry it’s a bit long.

‘The Right To Be A Bigot’

Last week Senator George Brandis announced in parliament that Australians ‘do have a right to be bigots’. ‘People do have a right to be bigots. In a free country people do have rights to say things that other people find offensive or insulting or bigoted’.  This comment by the senator came in response to questions from the first Indigenous Senator Nova Peris, in the Australian Parliament in relation to the Abbott’s governments proposed changes to Section 18C, of the Racial Discrimination Act.

While Australia grapples with the notion of the free speech of ‘bigots’ and whether minority groups should be protected from ‘hurt feelings’ (a statement made by the Prime Minister, Tony Abbott), resulting from the God given democratic rights of the so called bigots; being  overlooked, are the possible negative effects that this divisive debate maybe having.

This debate has not only caused anger amongst those in the Australian parliament, but also threatens to undo the progress that has been made towards healing the fractured relationship between the wider Australian community and the first Australian’s and also to Australia’s international image and race relations throughout the country and within the region.

Australia as a nation already suffers an international reputation of being a racist country, probably more so than it deserves. Throughout the last few years, infamous you-tube videos which depict us exercising our right to be bigots at the expensive of the emotional, psychological, and sometimes physical wellbeing of a member of some ethnic minority group in public places, (most commonly our public transportation system) have surfaced. They have been on display for the world to see just how bigoted we are and how we exercise our democratic right to free speech.

The current governments attitude towards the right of bigots vs the perceived weakness and the hurt feelings of the so called ‘victims of racial vilification’, is both insensitive and insulting to those who have had to deal with the crippling effects of racist attacks.

The prime minister appears to be presuming that racial vilification and bigoted behaviour only leads to a few hurt feelings.  It would be convenient to dismiss the effects of bigoted behaviour to just hurt feelings but Australia’s own racial history says otherwise. We only have to look at the wounds left by Australia’s racist past to know that racial vilification does more than hurt people’s feelings, it changes people’s lives for the worst, not for the better.

While I find the government’s lack of empathy towards native Australians and the growing ethnic population within its borders a little bewildering, I wonder why the current government is not trying to protect Australia’s economic future in a time of a widening government deficit and predicted forth coming job losses from the manufacturing sector, being predicted by economist.

I am not sure the government has thought about what the Chinese, Indonesians, and how other Asian pacific countries feel about doing business with ‘bigots’.

In 2009, the number of Indian students applying to study at Australian universities fell sharply. Amongst the contributing factors, were the number of racially motivated attacks on Indians in Melbourne.

A lot had to done to get students back to applying for study visas. Although the numbers have now increased, it’s hoped that the parliamentary debate on racial vilification and reapealing section 18C wont have an impact on this.

At risk is also the booming Indian and Chinese tourism market, of which we are competing with Europe and countries such as the US.

The government has already released its Exposure draft with amendments to section 18C and plans on deleting 18D.

It appears that although the reapeal of section 18C was not on the political agenda like the carbon tax, (of which the prime minister believes he has a mandate on), the liberal party has had its heart set on getting rid of it since Andrew Bolt was found guilty and lost the racial vilification court case against nine members of the indigenous community.

Senator Peris asked Senator Brandis, ‘Does the Attorney-General still propose to remove 18C from the Racial Discrimination Act?’. This was  in reference to a speech made to the Australian Liberal Students’ Federation in July 2012, where he had said:

‘If we win the next election and if I’m the Attorney-General in an Abbott Government, one of my first priorities will be to remove … the Racial Discrimination Act, the provisions under which Andrew Bolt was dragged before the courts’ … Does the Attorney-General still propose to remove 18C from the Racial Discrimination Act?

In an article published in the Australian, September 2013, ‘Tony Abbott to champion freedom of speech’,  written by  Paul Kelly and Dennis Shanahan, the then opposition leader  prime minister Tony Abbot, expressed his commitment to ‘work with his attorney-general, George Brandis, to require the commission to champion, instead of restrict, the right of free speech in Australia’.

Mr Abbott said: “Any suggestion you can have free speech as long as it doesn’t hurt people’s feelings is ridiculous. If we are going to be a robust democracy, if we are going to be a strong civil society, if we are going to maintain that great spirit of inquiry, which is the spark that has made our civilisation so strong, then we’ve got to allow people to say things that are unsayable in polite company.

In a civil society, people care about other people’s feelings, Mr Abbott. I have yet to hear of a civil society where thinking bigoted thoughts and the verbalisation of those thoughts is perceived to contribute to ‘a robust democracy’.

‘We’ve got to allow people to think things that are unthinkable in polite company and take their chances in open debate’.

Prime Minister Abbott, people are thinking the unthinkable all the time without the states permission. The governments arguments against the need to lift the ban on publicly being able to express bigoted view and the association with free thinking, flies in the face of common sense. Just because people are not allowed to express their racial opinions publically, it doesn’t mean that they can’t think them or have them. If that were the case, racism along with the other ism of sexism would no longer exist and we might all not be having this wonderful debate right now.


We are expected throughout different areas of society to conduct ourselves in a manner that is respectful and responsible towards all members of our community. It’s what is called good manners and it’s something that most of our parents teach us, as children, in order to socialise us into the society we are eventually going to have to live in and be a part of.

Questioned about his commitment to changing section 18C, Mr Abbott said: ‘I think I can say I have helped to encourage George in that direction’.

In parliament Senator Brandis said: ‘It is certainly the intention of the government to remove from the Racial Discrimination Act those provisions that enabled the columnist Andrew Bolt to be taken to the Federal Court merely because he expressed an opinion about a social or political matter.

I will very soon be bringing forward an amendment to the Racial Discrimination Act which will ensure that that can never happen in Australia again—that is, that never again in Australia will we have a situation in which a person may be taken to court for expressing a political opinion.

The problem with section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act, as it is currently worded, is that it goes about the problem of dealing with racial vilification in the wrong way. What it seeks to do is to deal with the problem of racial vilification by political censorship.

There should never be political censorship in this country, Senator Peris. People like Mr Bolt should be free to express any opinion on a social or a cultural or a political question that they wish to express, just as Mr Bolt would respect your right to express your opinions about social or political or cultural issues.

Although Andrew Bolt was taken to court under the anti-discrimination act, the judge ruled in favour of the plaintiffs because:  ‘Four articles published by the Herald Sun columnist in the newspaper and his blog were “a head-on assault on a group of highly successful and high-achieving” Aborigines, Ron Merkel QC told the court.

Counsel for the plaintiffs conceded Bolt’s writings did not incite “racial vilification or racial hatred”, rather they “constituted highly personal, highly derogatory and highly offensive attacks” on the nine individuals, (The Australian, Sep, 2011).

Reason why Andrew Bolt was found guilty was because he misrepresented the facts in his article and according to the judge;

‘Andrew Bolt failed the test of reasonableness and good faith because “insufficient care and diligence was taken to minimise the offence, insult, humiliation and intimidation suffered by the people likely to be affected by the conduct and insufficient care and diligence was applied to guard against the offensive conduct reinforcing, encouraging or emboldening racial prejudice.”

Despite the media’s previous uproar regarding it’s right to be able to print and write what it wants, I cannot see how even it, could grossly ‘fail the test of reasonableness and good faith’ as indicated above.

There are fortunately for all of us, only a few people in the country or even perhaps the world who are as controversial as Mr Bolt, who in the above case showed a moral lack of judgement in his portrayal of the plaintiffs and therefore deserves his just punishment.


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The End Of Red Carpet Glamour? I Hope So!

The lifestyle editor of ‘The Age Newspaper’ classified Naomi Harris’s outfit at the BAFTA red carpet as a ‘Hit’ and stated that ‘If only more stars would dress like this to awards nights instead of the usual Rachel-Zoe-styled-stiff-taffeta’. Yes if only!

Long gone are the days when celebrities used to dress themselves. Nowadays they are all too scared to pick their own outfits and hide behind the skirts or pants of some of the biggest stylists in the world.

I personally I’m sick to death of watching award shows with every woman looking like a carbon copy of the other! There’s only so many times that one can endure the sight of sashaying gown trailing behind it’s wearer on the red carpet.

If you were a martian whose first and only impression of the earth was a celebrity red carpet awards event, you would go away thinking that all we earthling females ever wore were long dresses with trails, cut almost always firmly around the bust.

Thank you Naomi Harris for showing up to the BAFTAS in something a little less stiff and proper.

Naiomi Harris1 Naiomi Harris naomie-harris baftas-2014-red-carpet

And  good on you Angelina Jolly ( and I mean this sincerely) for reminding us all women that we can still look smoldering with minimal make-up and a low maintenance hairstyle.

Angelina Jolly

All of a sudden I am dying for a pair o tuxedo cigarette pants and a skinny belt We all know who wears the pants in your relationship!

Looking forward to individuality and personal style, not stylist style coming back to the red carpet. I hope Naomi Harris and Angelina Jolly have started a trend.

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Fashion Trends For 2014 -Spring/Summer

I have not lost my passion for fashion, I’ve merely become disillusioned. Bored with a repetitive diet of monochromatic hues, colour blocking, and the deconstructed ladylike silhouettes of the modern fashion era, where everything old is new again, and again, and again.

The last straw was the plastic fantastic polyester garments sold at ridiculous prices when in fact it’s being made out of some factory in south east Asia where people are being paid almost next to nothing.

Oh my how I long for the days when there was a bit of Oscar fashion scandal, when celebrities like Cher dared to wear nothing but a stocking with sparkles on it. I wish I could indeed turn back time and escape the age of the over polished botox celebrity beauties parading down the red carpet, flawless without a single imperfection. It’s just not natural.

Anyway…Recently while watching the news, I caught a glimpse of Roberto Cavalli’s bold recycled looks of the 1920’s (Which I’m sure must have been inspired by Baz Lerman’s ‘The Great Catsby’), I almost wet my pants!

Suddenly my desire to wear interesting clothes was sparked. It didn’t take me much to remember what I loved about fashion. The drama, contradictions, colour or the lack of it sometimes, and I was back trolling the net for inspiration for my next look for my wardrobe.  

Sadly what I found didn’t impress me much so I decided to take up sewing to make my own clothes, only to realize that I couldn’t find the patterns I wanted but I sure spent enough money (over $200 AUD) trying.

Don’t get me started on the fabrics! Anyway satisfaction finally came when I stumbled up on the easiest pattern making course on the planet! Really…They should call it pattern making for dummies and long story short, after a month of one day sessions in the course, I can finally make my own dresses, pants, skirts, and a few things in-between. I’m still learning!

The pattern making course is run at Astratex in Richmond, (, along with other sewing course! I’m loving it. It’s called Sitam Pattern Making. I just realized that most of you do not know where Richmond Melbourne is but the course is available world wide and is especially popular in Europe. And no you don’t have to be a rude and eccentric fashion student to do it! I just realized that I can with a lot of effort probably cut some of the designs that I’ve posted in this blog! Snap!

I encourage anyone remotely interested in fashion to consider making their own. You will be surprised how easy and fulfilling it can be!

Back to fashion…I’m going to like 2014 because designers have made some attempts at being creative.

The overly polished look of the last few years, that seems to have gone on longer than it needed to is finally coming to an end. I never thought I would be excited by the idea that fashion was getting a little more casual but I am over the moon about it. To see the relaxed chic re-enter the over perfectionist consciousness of today’s Fashionistas will be a refreshing breath of fresh air.

Yes most the looks still look quite polished but the fabric choices are a little more fun.

Metallic And Embellishments

Below Roberto Cavalli RTW Spring 2014.

Roberto Cavalli Spring1 2014 RTW

Roberto Cavalli Spring2 2014 RTW Roberto Cavalli Spring3 2014 RTW Roberto Cavalli Spring4 2014 RTW Roberto Cavalli Spring5 2014 RTW Roberto Cavalli Spring6 2014 RTW Roberto Cavalli Spring 2014 RTW

Casual Chic from the other designers…

Channel RTW Alexander McQueen1 Alexander McQueen Diane Von Furstenberg Marc Jacobs RTW Etro

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Perspectives On Black Identity

Map of Africa

Over the past few weeks I’ve been working on research for a documentary on the black identity and frankly it’s been a headache. So much so that I’ve pushed the subject to the side for now. After reading many articles, personal opinions, and psychological jargon, I’m in no better position at understanding what the black identity is, or, as according to psychological theory, the steps involved in the development of the black self, psyche, and individual identity.

The psychological studies on identity have historically been conducted on Caucasians and focused on the development of the white psyche.  Identity theorist, Erick Erikson, has acknowledged his neglect of this area of psychology but there have been new developments on the area of race and identity and the new models and schools of thought have attempted to include race as a factor in the development of the identity of black people.

These new directions and research are limited to the experiences of African Americans and do not take into account the experiences of the greater African diaspora world wide or the identity development of Africans in Africa.

It’s here on the internet were one experiences a myriad of black experience. As a writer, blogger, and curious social observer, I’m fascinated by the different non stereo-typical black women I encounter online.

For many years having lived under the stressful stereotypes of what the society I live in thinks is the black psyche, it’s refreshing to escape these often negative ideologies, even if it’s only temporary online to positive examples of members of my race even.

Race and Identity

I meet a lot of black people who are often conflicted about the role that race plays in the way they see themselves.

Many of us don’t want to admit that we struggle with the negative stereotypes and the unfortunate under reporting of positive contributions that blacks have made throughout history, yet most of us are always searching for positive examples of black people in history and modern day.

We do want the black hero and we’re very critical of each other, making sure we don’t slip into the generic stereotypical behavior that has been used to define us for hundreds of years.

Some of us feel that our race does not define us but many of our everyday experiences are shaped primarily by our racial identity.

Many of us spend our lives promoting or stamping out the existence of racial stereotypical behavior in our own personalities and constantly trying to reinforce and promote racially positive behavior while being overly critical of those who display what we believe is behavior that will make our race and therefore our race look bad.

Just a few hours ago, I asked a young black journalism student to write about her experiences growing up in a white country as a member of a minority black community for a community magazine I’ve been publishing for the last two months. She replied that she did not feel comfortable discussing her personal feelings about how she felt about being black.

While I respect her personal opinion, I may have been the first person to ask her opinion on this, but I wont be the last. For as long as she leaves and works in this country, she will be asked how her experiences as a black women would have shaped her career and perspectives on life.

There’s a small and emerging black community in Australia which is as diverse as the entire united nations with representatives from almost every country in Africa and if not the world. Despite our acknowledgment of each others different cultural and ethnic backgrounds, we understand that the rest of Australia as simplified us into one single digestible racial  and cultural group, black.

This categorization has been entirely based on race and is completely independent and devoid of language and culture. As far as I’m concerned there is no such thing as a unifying black culture although the dominant African American culture has gained residence and is what is used to define the majority of black people in the African diaspora.

Most people confuse me with being African American, Jamaican, and even English. I’m neither of those and I’m very much used  to correcting people of what my national identity is of which I’m very proud of. I used to get annoyed, but now it doesn’t  matter anymore. When I was in New Caledonia, most people thought I was one of the Kanaks (indigenous Melanesian people of New Caledonia in the South Pacific).

I see many young women these days trying to find themselves. They are forever walking the tightrope of identity compromise, re-modelling the traditional perceptions of black culture and tradition (whether it be African or African American in origin) and blending it modern western culture.

For a long time race has played too greater role in the way that we as black people define ourselves simply because other people judge us by our race first. This has often put us in a precarious position that, when we meet new people outside our race, we are constantly trying to dispel racial myth and stereotypes.

To would be nice to one day free ourselves from this burden of responsibility.

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Walking Group @ The Melbourne Botanical Gardens AKA ‘The Tan’eal

Hello Ladies…

As part of my plan to stay in shape this winter I’ve decided to start a walking group around the beautiful botanical gardens of Melbourne to keep fit by walking around the ‘Tan’. Anyone interested please contact me. Walks will take place Monday to Friday, Mornings and evenings, time to be confirmed.



This is free! Just turn up and we can go for walk. Bring your runners please!

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Me Myself And I…What The Hell Have I Been Upto

Dear loyal followers. Thank you very much for following me, liking me on Facebook and for just showing an interest in some of the posts have put up. I know I’ve been very quiet with posts on this blog. I have a good reason. Suddenly I’m busy trying to manage an emerging writing career and new life as a spoken word artist (new to me. I never saw myself as such).

Ukfoto Portrait

Any hoo…Just wanted to let you know that I’m still writing…Just finished my first short film script and I’m half way through my first play. I will also be performing a piece of poetry at the Africa day Gala Dinner on the 24 May, and Will also be one of the featured acts at the opening of the Projection Festival on Gertrude Street this year (19th July 2013).

While I am enjoying the challenges of performing, I’m loving writing my film scripts and play as I can create black characters and stories that reflect some aspect of Black and African culture. Can’t wait to one day be able to share one of the finished pieces of my work.

Thank you very much for your support over the last two years. Every like and every person that’s ever commented of read anything I’ve written has given me the courage to write and continue what sometimes felt like a dead end.

I can’t thank you enough for your encouragement over the years.

Kisses and hope that your dreams and desires are coming true.

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Will The Real Feminist Please Stand Up! My Life As A Non Feminist.

I learned about feminism from my high school teachers at Altona Secondary School in the western suburbs of Melbourne. Feminism wasn’t something my mother and I discussed nor did we need to. She was a very capable woman whom life didn’t indulge her the pleasure of wondering if Prince Charming was going to come along and rescue her.

black princess

Being the oldest girl in our family, I didn’t have a big brother to defend me or protect me and my parents never made me feel like I was somewhat deficient in anyway because of being a girl. They never made me doubt my ability to care for myself and I never have.

Since my mother never taught me to use my feminine charm to get by in this world, I relied on the three skills that she taught me. Follow your intuition above all else even if sometimes it doesn’t make any sense, use your brains and creativity, and finally use sheer strength of will to get things done.

When it comes to dealing with men, I stare them straight in the eye and treat myself as an equal. I understand that we re not build the same or even think the same, or that some of them may even question my abilities. They do this to their own peril.

Growing up there was never any talk about my place in the world as a woman and how limited that might be or would be…Just the usual reminder to be weary of the occasional male who may choose to use his power to get into my pants. My mother was an honest woman.

And so it was news to me in the 90’s in high school when it was pointed out to me that there was inequality based on gender in this world and all my teachers male and female spent a lot of their lessons programming me to become a feminist. I was taught to focus on intellectual pursuits a university degree and what not. Somewhere in these lessons housework and the once traditional home duties were deemed evil. Yet in home economics they taught us how to bake, in sewing class, they taught us how to sew.

There was also pottery, metal work, and woodwork which I loved just as much as I like making stuffed animals.  All male and female students had to do these classes. There was a big push for girls to study science and mathematics then, I did both and I loved it. I was told that I was as smart as the boys in my class, personally I thought that I was smarter. I was told that I could do anything boys could do, I believed I could do better.

Arrogant you say? Not really…Just aware of my own abilities and most importantly my own desires. I wanted to get better grades than they did so I worked harder. I wanted to be physically strong so that no one could push me around male or female and I was.

It wasn’t until I got to university that I understood why my teachers had tried so hard to make me aware of sexual inequality. Being at the bottom of the perking order so to speak (black and female), my university life was a depressing one.

The fact that I was a woman and that some members of humanity thought me somewhat inferior became very clear to me. One of my lectures constantly made comments about my looks and the apparent wild life that he thought I lived. The other girls in my course were submissive, soft spoken, and didn’t understand the meaning of standing up for themselves.

Their mother’s had obviously loaded them with an overdose of feminine whims and ways to charm the pants off most men. They went through their days awkwardly smiling their way through situations they weren’t happy with while at the same time using their femininity to pacify the most aggressive brutes to get what they wanted.

I used to get a little jealous, watching them smile sweetly through situations that for me would have ended up in an argument. This was made worse by the fact that most of the boys on campus were scared of me.

Soon I learnt that this wasn’t such a bad thing and started using their fear of me against them. Rather than smiling sweetly and lowering my voice to get something, I would look them straight in the eye and say ‘I want that’, ‘fix this’, and so forth. It worked. I said very little, socialized even less and for the first time in my life I wanted to be invisible.

But I couldn’t. My skin colour made me stand out and so did a set of double F cups firmly planted on my chest. Another lesson my mother taught me was to be comfortable with my body. And so I was. I wasn’t shy about my hourglass figure and wore clothes that complemented them. The level of comfort I felt with my body, the sense of freedom and the lack of fear of having to hide the size of my butt or chest meant that I was a bit of a destruction. This didn’t bother me. I couldn’t have cared less. I just wished to God I didn’t live in a world that expected me to be any less of myself because I was female.

Most people might describe me as feminist. I don’t see myself as that. Where I come from their no such things as feminist and people are treated according to their own merits and these are the principles I was raised on. For me, a man’s job is one that requires more physical strength than a woman’s body is capable of doing that’s all. And these days most women can get around what is called ‘a man’s job’ through mechanical machines or paying for the labour.

It has nothing to do with mental strength, intellectual ability, creativity or anything else. As a small framed woman, I know that most men are going to be physically stronger than I am. They are not necessarily going to be better than I am.

I’m always angry when I read articles about a woman’s place in the home and the war and debate over those who go to work and those who stay at home. I think that this argument is so old and probably affects a lot less women than some feminist would like to admit.

In the area that I grew up in, the mothers didn’t have time to worry about whether they were wasting their education by staying at home and not pursuing a career. They had to work because their livelihoods and their families depended on it. They worked alone or together with their husbands or partners to make sure that they all had a roof over their heads.

The argument about stay at home mom’s vs working mom’s, shouldn’t even exist. The choices that women make around their lives, personal relationships,  should not be a matter for public debate. It’s a very personal one. Those of you who feel that life has to stop because you’ve got children and you want to stay at home and raise them, more power to you. And for those who’ve worked hard at developing your careers and you find it satisfying, should not yield to social pressure to stay at home and stop questioning whether you’re a good mother or not. Your kids are the best judge of that.

I don’t have children myself but I’ve found very little in the behavior of friends kids who stay at home and those who go out into the work force. Most stay at home mothers want a medal for raising their own children. They are your children you gave birth to them! Why should the rest of us have to treat you differently and put you on a peddle stool because you’re staying at home to look after them.

Feminist are also worried about the apparent disturbing trend of women turning their backs on board rooms to return to the kitchen and bake cakes. They are calling this ‘the retro mum’ movement. Another first world problem. Really…baking cakes  and cup cakes a threat to the working woman? Me thinks not.

There’s nothing wrong with baking cakes and those women who have chosen to throw their careers away and are sitting on their laurels thinking that this is life do so at your own peril. The world we live in and the times we live in demand that most of us have to be financially savvy and ready for anything that might or could happen. Don’t lets forget the 50% divorce rate or the financial crisis which could mean that even the bread winner of the family could suddenly lose their job. And then what?

Feminists fear not. The women living work to bake cup cakes and cakes are not affecting the rest of us, who’ve been brought up to cringe at the sight of a baking pans. The only way I’d give up my complete freedom and ambition and dedicate my life to rearing others would be if hell froze over… And my boyfriend knows that. I expect nothing less of myself than to have children and have a job, call me a bad mother and selfish if you like. I know I do have a selfish born in my body and it doesn’t bother me a bit. I call it self preservation.

I don’t feel comfortable with the word ‘feminist’. I think feminists should focus less on the so anti-feminist attitudes of modern women and look at ways in which women can be empowered to be themselves and rise above their limited social expectation. Forget boardrooms raising girls differently from boys can foster the feeling of inferiority.

The real battle is on the play ground. Mothers who tell their kids that they can’t do this because they are a girl or making statements such as that’s not lady like are digging their daughter’s strength into the ground. They wont make it into the board room if they think a discussion about asking for what they want is seen as being aggressive and contrary to the way their gender should behave.

What most of us women forget is that we make our own choices even if we’ve got limited options in life. We choose the partners and therefore the father of our children. We choose which men we want in our lives and which ones we don’t.

Parents if you want to make sure that your daughters grow up to be independent, strong, and self sufficient, lead by example!

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