Amy Remeikis is a political reporter for The Guardian Australia, based out of that big office on the Hill.
With all that occurred through 2021 – those historic allegations made by Brittany Higgins at the beginning, and the year of turbulence and ‘reckoning’ that followed – Amy felt a rage so personal, so weighty, that it poured out of her, spilling into the pages of her latest offering.
‘On Reckoning’ is an essay part of the ‘On’ series by Hachette Australia, where journalists and other writers from across Australia focus their ‘On’ contribution on something that is central for them.
I sat down with Amy Remeikis at the launch her book for a ten minute chat to learn more about the process behind writing the essay.
Q. What led you to write it, and what pushed you over the edge that this was the time to put [the essay] out into the world?
A. It wasn’t just one moment, it was more, I suppose, a bunch of them, in that I just couldn’t stop thinking about what was happening in that moment of Australian politics. And wider than that – the grief, the devastation, the anger and the frustration I was seeing outside of it as well. It all stayed with me, and I just thought ‘this needs to come out of me’. It was kind of toxic living in there. So, I started writing, and it became the essay.
When I first started writing it, it wasn’t particularly with a point – but, as I went on, I was encouraged that maybe other people might find something in the essay to relate to as well.
Q. What’s been the response to the essay? How have people received it?
A. It’s been very overwhelming, and very honouring – very much an honour, because people have contacted me from all over, men and women, to say that the essay did say something to them. And I think that just speaks to the universality of the experience, that this isn’t something that happens just in Capital Hill or in a vacuum, it impacts so many people. More people than we think, more of our loved ones than we think, and I think that moment in Australian politics when everything converged, and everything was focussed on ‘what do we do about gendered violence in this country?’, I think it really opened up a conversation for people where they realised that they weren’t alone. But, beyond that, it was beyond time that we saw action.
Q. If you thought about a body of work that you might put into the world, that is on paper and that has your name attached to it – is this the essay that you ever envisaged you would write?
A. I don’t even think I thought about it to that extent. It wasn’t something I thought about in terms of a beginning, a middle, and an end. It just sort of came out, in terms of what I was feeling at the time, and what I was seeing and hearing from people.
I was surprised by the final result. I was surprised by how angry it was, and how much rage lived within it – which I probably shouldn’t be, as that rage still lives in me as well. I haven’t actually been able to re-read it since I wrote it and it went through the edit process as it is still so raw.
When I see some of my words I’m just taken straight back there. So I’m not sure if it’s the one I thought about putting out there in the world, but that’s because I actually didn’t think about it to that extent.
Q. From what it sounds like, it did just flow out of you, it wasn’t really a conscious decision as to do it. But, there were a lot of heavy feelings and anger and rage that came from you and went to exist in that book. Was it difficult to write through that process? Or did it feel more like a way of working through it?
A. It was really difficult to write, and I would often find that as I was writing it that I would be crying, and not realising that I was crying. A lot of it was tears of rage – I tend to cry when I get angry – but some of it was grief, some of it was my own trauma and hearing of other people’s trauma, so it was really difficult to write. And I know it’s difficult to read. It’s not an easy read. It’s not something that people pick up and go, ‘Oh, wow, that was enjoyable,’ I understand that.
But I think that the greatest thing to come from all that pain and grief and anger has been that people know that they’re not alone in how they feel and that it is okay to be angry when we look at what is happening, that it is okay to be filled with rage. It’s taking that righteous anger and turning it into something constructive, which I think is quite healthy. I think we’re still seeing that – people taking their anger and turning it into something that they feel is going to make a change for them.
Q. And as it is a thing that exists, that you can buy and hold – for someone who maybe has never heard your name before and walks into a bookstore and sees it and picks it up – if you could think of one thing you would hope they would take from it and carry with them, what would you hope that might be?
A. That’s a very hard question. For me, I would say that it is okay to be angry, and that you aren’t alone. That if you’re picking it up because you have experienced this form of trauma, then we see you. If you’re picking it up because someone you love has experienced this form of trauma, then we see the pain that happens wider as well.
And, if you’re picking it up just because you have an interest – thank you, but you don’t get a cookie, because more people should be interested in this. It’s not something that the women should all just have to talk about and keep coming out and saying ‘this happened to me’. It is about time that the conversation moved beyond that and was taken up by people who just want to make the world a better place, and that definitely includes men.
Original photos by Lara Stimpson