Prof. Adam Shoemaker with Tuesday Atzinger

Episode 21: Prof. Adam Shoemaker with Tuesday Atzinger

Tuesday Atzinger (they/them) is a recent Victoria University graduate who had a significant impact while studying with us.

Show notes

From working on an LGBTQIA+ student learning module to advocating for the Hidden Disability Sunflower – we are one of the first universities to sign up as supporters – Tuesday has never been afraid to embrace the different and diverse.

Beyond this, Tuesday has travelled the world, was a teen tennis prodigy, and spoken their truth on stage and in publications. What can’t they do?

I was delighted to find out more about their life and inspiration in the latest episode of my People of VU podcast.

Tuesday is wise beyond their years, and their empathy and respect emanated through every word.



Adam Shoemaker

Adam Shoemaker

Professor Adam Shoemaker has extensive experience in the Australian University sector and is one of Australia's leading researchers in Indigenous literature and culture. He commenced as the Vice-Chancellor and President of Victoria University in December 2020 after four years as Vice-Chancellor of Southern Cross University. He spent his formative years in a diverse range of fields, such as reviewer and columnist for The Australian, an ABC Canberra Radio programmer, serving as chair of the Brisbane Writers Festival in the mid-1990s and spending three years with the Delegation of the Commission of the European Committees.

View episodes

Episode Transcript

Speaker 0 00:00:00 Hello and welcome. I'm here to provide acknowledgement of country. For those who don't know me, I'm kj Karen Jackson, director of Moon Dani Baek. My genealogy tracks back to Moira Lakes in Baer Forest and Mount Hope in Pyramid Hill. Giving me my connections to Yoda and Barra language groups. There's a couple of things I'd like you to take away from my acknowledgement. The first is to remember the hidden history of Aboriginal people since invasion, our loss of language removal from country, and our new extinction from massacres and pandemics. The second is our strong and inherent connection to community and country. These connections have given us the resilience and courage to rebuild our languages, gain access to country, regenerate our cultural practices in acknowledging the traditional owners of the country on which you are now on. I'd like to sincerely thank them for their generosity and kindness in welcoming people onto their lands. Lands never seeded and lands that run deep into their being and spirit. I wish to pay my deep respect to the ancestors, elders, communities, and families of the rung wri on whose land I stand and who create connection and share knowledge with all of us. Thank you.

Speaker 1 00:01:15 Hello, colleagues. Firstly thank you to KJ for providing her acknowledgement of country at the beginning of every episode. We are so grateful to you, kj, and I personally really appreciate it as well. I also acknowledge and pay my deep respects to ancestors, elders, families of all of the traditional owners on all of our campuses here in New South Wales, and now in Queensland as well, in many different nations. And that is so important to the future of this nation. We're delighted to be here and I'm really pleased, really delighted to be joined today by a recent VU graduate. Welcome Tuesday, art singer whose pronouns are they them Tuesday. Thank you for being here.

Speaker 2 00:01:58 Well, thank you so much. Hello. I'm really happy to be here.

Speaker 1 00:02:02 It's just, just great. And as we were discussing a bit before, we see these Podcasts as being an incredible way to get to know people better who have a very interesting involvement with the university. Now, in your case, as well as being a graduate of the university and masters of Counseling, you have many different sides to your abilities and your achievements in poetry. And the written form you were talking before about performance and the, the work that you do explores and celebrates so many different things. Afro blackness, queerness, disability, feminism, and the fact that you've performed at the Melbourne Writers' Festival at the Fringe as well, and Emerging Writers' Festival there. There probably isn't a festival in Melbourne you haven't performed at.

Speaker 1 00:02:47 And if there is, we'll put them on the list and we'll go for them next. But while they were a VU student, Tuesday contributed to something really important, which is, which is called Understanding and celebrating l g bti, TIA plus Identities, A Guide for Students, which I have seen and, and endorsed myself and the working group around that. And what happened, and you appear in the module too, so they also co co-hosted a student led mental health panel. So all of those things, thank you in advance for doing it. So having said that, how do you feel about VU having it? It's in the rear view mirror, but it kind of isn't.

Speaker 2 00:03:25 Yeah, I feel really proud in all of the projects that I contributed to. I think I met a lot of really wonderful, amazing people who are so, I guess, dedicated to the wellbeing of the marginalized, I guess, students here at vu. And I, I do look back on a lot of my, my classes and, and professors with a, with a lot of fondness.

Speaker 1 00:03:59 Oh, that's, no, that's great. Look, fondness is a, is a great, is a great word. I mean, honestly, and when you think about too, Victoria University, the fact that people come not just from diverse backgrounds, from diverse nations as well. I mean, technically speaking, I think you came to to Melbourne as an international student, so did I to Australia. So joined that club. And, but in a way it's just the world, you know? It's the air we breathe because in a way it's those with visas and those not, but we're all from different parts of the world. So when did you actually come to Melbourne?

Speaker 2 00:04:32 I first came to Melbourne in 2015. I studied at Monash University. I, I completed an undergrad in, in sociology, which was I think, really valuable and contributed a lot to, to, I guess in an academic sense, my understanding of my own identity and, and, and place in the world and I guess also place in this colony. So

Speaker 1 00:05:01 Yes, that's true. Yeah. Well, that's a, that's a good, good place to put it. And interestingly, a number of the places where you have lived include both colonies and the metropol in different ways. So when, for example, you're in England as opposed to Zimbabwe, I'm wondering how that felt given your very strong views about colonialism. So maybe just explore, explore that a bit for us.

Speaker 2 00:05:23 Yeah, I, I will say that, but embarking on my first undergrad in England, sort of with my own background as, as a colonized person, as a Zimbabwean was interesting. And I think the first thing that I really, truly learned was the importance of community and the validity of anger and frustration. Because oftentimes I think as a marginalized person, you are taught to sort of assume that a little bit for the comfort of of others. So I, I think being held in community and having, I guess the sort of frustrations that I had been taught to ignore validated was really valuable to me in that, in that respect.

Speaker 1 00:06:23 So people have often used various phrases, you know, righteous indignation or opposition that is founded in a deep seated sense of injustice. It sounds like that's what you're talking about too, very clearly. So is, was there a turning point say in, in the UK where you said, I really feel like I can make this stance now?

Speaker 2 00:06:44 I wouldn't really say that there was a particular turning point. I think it was me slowly realizing over time that a lot of the things that I had been taught growing up sort of implicitly and, and explicitly about my own and inferiority as a disabled person, as a black person, as a queer person, were not true. Mm. And slowly, I guess unraveling a lot of things, a lot of ne negative beliefs that I had held about myself and then realizing through community that it's not just me. Mm. And that, that was a long process and, and a process of learning also about people with other identities and, and learning that the struggle was interconnected. Yeah,

Speaker 1 00:07:50 Yeah. I really get what you're saying. It's, and so the term intersectional doesn't do it justice really, but it gets closer. And it's this idea of community as an empowering, not just device, but uplifting. It's never individual, in other words, so many communities. And I think it's fantastic. So I wasn't sure about the sequence. Did you live in Austria after Zimbabwe, or was that, what was, tell us about the sequence of these various countries. So Zimbabwe first, but then what's next and what happened after? So just trace that through for us.

Speaker 2 00:08:20 Yeah. Well, I was born in bolo whale in, in, in Zimbabwe. But with my dad being Austrian, I then spent a lot of my childhood in Austria and pretty much traveled between the two countries also because my parents really loved tennis and very much wanted me to go pro. Oh, I, at the time, very exciting for me. Didn't actually do that much school because I was traveling for tennis so much.

Speaker 1 00:08:58 Oh, I see. I didn't know that. Okay. And did you have a particular favorite, you know, coach or, or club or was it done? How was it done?

Speaker 2 00:09:08 So I had one, I had a couple of coaches actually. Yeah. I think the most humbling for me was playing at Sanchez Casal. That's a tennis academy in Barcelona. In Spain, yes. For a few months. And that was absolutely amazing. What a privilege, actually, I think I appreciate, I know to appreciate that now, now that I'm older. Yeah.

Speaker 1 00:09:43 Is, isn't it? It's like, it's one of the top two or three such academies in the world, I guess, along with, you know, volunteer and a couple of others. You know, it's along those lines. Yeah. That's amazing. So did you play singles only or doubles? How did you, what did you prefer?

Speaker 2 00:09:59 I preferred singles because I was a very nervous child and I didn't wanna let anyone down. But when I, I feel like I'm just name dropping things now, but when I, when I was in my, I guess I was around 15, I lived in South Africa for a while and trained at an academy there. And my best friend at the time, we would wear the same outfits. Right. And we had our little sort of like high fives that we do. And that was so much fun, just Oh yeah. Being on the court as as, as a team and a partnership and maybe behaving just a little bit ridiculously and, and just having a lot of fun. So,

Speaker 1 00:10:44 So this is performance poetry. Before you were writing poetry, it sounds like poetry in motion at the net. So have you written about the tennis era in your poetry?

Speaker 2 00:10:54 No, I, I haven't. That's, that's such an interesting actually idea. I've never thought to, but I think, I think what does connect the experiences, I, I love the attention, but I hate the attention, right? I don't love the anxiety, but I can't seem to stop myself from getting involved in projects where people have to, I guess it's like licensed to be a bit of a class clown and, and dramatic in front of people.

Speaker 1 00:11:31 But isn't that fantastic? Honestly, if you talk, and of course we are speaking here at a university which, you know, venerates a lot of sports science and it's involvement, but also it's risks as well, you know, very strongly. And one of the things which is often said is that in sports it's all the preparation, which is nerve wracking. And it's, whether it's the starting pistol or the first stroke in tennis, or the first ball being bold, then it happens. You know, like there's a very strong difference between the before and the moment of commencement and the after. So were you one of those people where as soon as you'd done done your first serve, you were in the zone?

Speaker 2 00:12:08 Yes, actually. And I think that you've brought up something that I find really, really important in general in life and, and also now sort of working as, as, as a counselor. Mm. Is it's so much more important to focus on the hard work Yeah. And to celebrate the hard work than it is to celebrate the outcome. Because there are so many other variables that we are all just one person and you can't control those things. But you can control the, the compassion that you have for yourself and the hard work that you, that you put into something. And hard work doesn't have to be suffering, but just, just the energy that you pour into an activity that is, that should be lauded Yes. Over the outcome.

Speaker 1 00:13:10 I think that's a fabulous look you should be teaching in the first year of college. That's exactly the kind of thing people need to hear. And in fact, it's a wonderful thing in the block model here that people get to hear, you know, in insights like that in a smaller group. Because often that's missed in a, I found, you know, in large scale lectures, you know, I've taught in both systems and there is something special about that here. So, but what led you to study the master of counseling here and at Victoria University, given the fact, like what was the reason? How did, how did it occur?

Speaker 2 00:13:40 Yeah, so I started looking up what I, what I wanted to do next in the middle of lockdown. So mental health was really on the top of my mind, and I think at the top of everyone else's mind. And I had just graduated from Monash and was thinking about how I was going to use the, the skills and, and the other projects that I've been involved in, in a, in a way that could make a positive impact. And also what VU had that other universities didn't is I could actually look at what the coursework was like and actually see whether or not I was going to enjoy it. Because there's something different about looking at, oh, this is what you're going to study. Yeah. Versus this is what the coursework is going to look like and these are some of the questions might look like, and Vu had that very readily available and that made it a very easy choice to make.

Speaker 1 00:14:53 It's great to hear that it was so visible. We want it to be not on show, but available. I think that's the key word you've used. And so, given that, I mean goals are related to everything, including sports, but did you decide at, at some point that counseling was a career that you wanted to follow as well? That was, was that the reason?

Speaker 2 00:15:15 I feel like I fell into it actually. I, I can be a, a bit of a contrary sort of person and I am neurodivergent and a lot of the rhetoric around neurodivergent people is that we have difficulty relating to others or, or, I'm, I'm air quotes here, sort of darth of empathy. And I was sort of like, well, no, I, I've done a lot of things in community with other people and, and I really wanted to work towards something that worked to my strengths. And I think for everyone who studies mental health, I, I also just sort of wanted to figure myself out. So

Speaker 1 00:16:08 No, look, I honestly believe many the best university studies do enable one to discover that it's never just the topics, you know, it's that, that self-discovery, the discovery of confidence or different forms of learning or reading or being, I think that's absolutely terrific. And, and look, when I look at, so you've done so many interesting things, but one of them, if I just quote an example though, in addition to all the fabulous studies, is that you were involved in i the whole campaign to do with the Hidden disability sunflower movement, if I can call it that. I think, and that university is actually one of the first to sign up as a supporter of that approach. What, what does that sunflower mean and why is it important?

Speaker 2 00:16:53 So I, I wouldn't say that I was very heavily involved, but I am very passionate about it because, so the Hidden Disability Sunflower is an initiative that I believe was started in the UK Yes. In around 2016. And it's, it's to, I it's for people with invisible or invisibleized disabilities to wear a sunflower lanyard. Mm. And that communicates that you might need more understanding, more empathy from the people around you and, and maybe not to have your disabilities. So quite so invisibilized,

Speaker 1 00:17:39 I think that term invisibilize is a fascinating and important one cuz it's rendered, unseen, rendered. It doesn't just happen, things occur to make it that way. And, you know, drawing back curtains, we're in a room by the way, listeners where there are lots of curtains and we've drawn them back. But you have to actually do that in, in life as well. That's why I believe that's an important symbol. Would, would you think there are other ways that you, and you know, in your career you could draw back more curtains? Is that one of the things you hope to do?

Speaker 2 00:18:08 Yes, absolutely. I think it's really important to meet people where they are at. We live in a society that is very hierarchical, very, very structured, very, very capitalist. And it is, I would say that life is inherently disabling. Aging is disabling and sort of working oppression, marginalization, disabling and very many different ways and normalizing that people need access and that it's not an individual shortcoming, but a societal shortcoming that really only caters to a very small, a society really only caters to a very small subset of people who are not going to be sort of abled their entire lives either.

Speaker 1 00:19:12 It's, it's true. And often when you think that the labels that we applied the professions are part of the problem too, because, I mean, I'll just give you an instance that I discussed at one stage with members of parliament. Wouldn't it be incredible if all new mps had an ability to, for example, spend a week in an aged care facility as a volunteer to actually spend some time in prisons to actually see the inside of different institutions they'd never been part of before, before taking office. I must say that hasn't been taken up, but it was a fascinating thought because to represent societies to represent those kind of areas where, which are also often invisible to a lot of people.

Speaker 2 00:19:51 Yeah, absolutely. And, and I, I also think that a really important part of leadership is also knowing when to pass the micro microphone on. So rather than the sort of idea of, of expertise being about speaking on behalf of, it doesn't take away from you to allow other people to advocate for themselves because people know, people incarcerated people, marginalized people, people know best what they need better than a representative who who's there to sort of witness. And I, I do think that witnessing and empathy and understanding are important, but allowing others to speak for themselves, to really advocate for themselves because lived experience, they're, that's where the expertise is.

Speaker 1 00:20:52 Yeah. There's so much truth. Hey look, I promised, I said I'd talk about poetry and I didn't wanna let that go because it's such a big part. It was in our introduction. And I wanted to ask you, when do you recall writing your first work in poetry? When was that?

Speaker 2 00:21:08 Oh, well this is, yeah, I remember it vividly actually. I was a teenager, an angsty teenager going through a very angsty emo phase and we were tasked in high school with writing a poem about color. And I realized I think, oh, this doesn't have to rhyme. And then it got really quite dark and I wrote a poem about the color black and it's inky tendrils and things like that. And it was, I had a great time, but I know that everyone in class looked at me. I'm just a little bit different after that.

Speaker 1 00:21:54 But you can recall it to this day. Yeah.

Speaker 2 00:21:56 Fascinating. Yeah, the, the, the teacher at the time had asked me if someone else helped me to write it and I was like, no, I'm just deep and profound.

Speaker 1 00:22:08 I've got all that in me. Yeah, yeah, that's right. Imagine asking if someone helped you. That's very insulting in a way, really. Yeah.

Speaker 2 00:22:15 Yeah. I I I still am insulted actually, I think fair amount of, of racism involved in that question actually. Yes. That

Speaker 1 00:22:28 Wasn't about authorship in a way.

Speaker 2 00:22:30 No, I think,

Speaker 1 00:22:31 Yeah. You know, at least that's my interpretation of what you've said. Yeah. So when you talk about performing poetry though, that's a really interesting question because it's on this edge of acting, on the edge of, if you like, music and rhythm and everything else, all of it together. So is there a venue that's your favorite for performing poetry?

Speaker 2 00:22:52 I, I don't have a favorite venue. I've learned to love everything. I, some of some of the festivals that, that you mentioned earlier took place of a zoom and that was a really interesting, different, fascinating way to engage, engage with an audience. I think what I, what I what I like the most is, is, is audience energy. Yeah.

Speaker 1 00:23:24 Well, you know, we, we were talking before we began about putting poetry into different venues that are maybe not traditional. Okay. And for example, in airports or on ferries or indeed in zoos, you know, this kind of thing like tourist sites that you might not expect cuz people actually love it, but they don't always have the exposure and they not, they wouldn't necessarily be confident enough to use that term you had before to attend a poetry, I'll call it performance or recital. But if it's there, it's incredible. So do you think we should set up a little bit more pon spontaneity around the performance of poetry?

Speaker 2 00:24:01 Yeah, I, I think having poetry be more accessible and not just, I I I think a lot of people have this sense of poetry as something that is difficult to understand and very sort of high and mighty in a way. And that can be a deterrent to, to people writing their own or to attending. And there's so many different types of poetry that are accessible and, and fun and, and speak and, and can speak to different experiences and, and, and different people. And it, it doesn't really have to be that in impenetrable. Mm.

Speaker 1 00:24:50 And if people doing poetry slams, I mean, that's hardly penetrable. It's, it's, it's beautiful, you know, and it's, it's so inclusive. Right. And ironically, Australians sometimes say they fear poetry, but the same person will two sentences later say, oh, there's movement at the station at a barbecue. And they're quoting from poetry and they don't even realize it. You know, it's just there everywhere. So I really hope that we can quote from yours in the future as well. So just my final question is, looking back over the experience that you've had, you were involved in the LGBTQI plus student module working group. You did a fantastic amount of work there on a guide for our community. What do you think is the most, the high point of all that achievement and where do you, where would you like it to go in the future for VU and for the people with whom you worked?

Speaker 2 00:25:37 Oh wow. Oh, that's a very big question. I think what I, what really what really stuck with me was everyone, everyone worked together so cohesively and really respected each other's expertise and opinions and within the, within the queer community, there's also a lot of diversity. And we all came from a space of not assuming we knew everything and we want to, to sort of bring that to the project and I guess educate people without shame. Yeah. Because shame can be, shame can build up walls. Yeah. And can stop people from engaging. And I guess my hope would be to carry that forward. The, the idea that it's not bad not to know something, but keep trying. It's, it's, it's interesting have that curiosity and, and that empathy about other people and their experiences. It makes life so much richer.

Speaker 1 00:26:56 Oh, I love it. Curiosity, empathy, respect. It's pervading everything we've been saying since the beginning of this podcast. And to be honest, it's also rela related to that whole question of beginning, you know, whether it's in sport or performance or study or career and not being afraid to embrace the different and the diverse. So Tuesday Azinger, I have enjoyed this so much, this discussion. What we must do when this podcast comes out, we must link it to some of your performance poetry, if it's okay with you, with your permission, so that people get a sense of the spoken and the herd and the scene and the total. You Thank you so much for being part of it.

Speaker 2 00:27:36 Well thank you so much for having me.

Subscribe now

Get new episodes of People of VU automatically