I’m Kevin Hume, aged seventy two, and I just relocated from Sydney three months ago. I’ve moved in here, first tenant in this place, at the back of the Centre for Stories, which is fabulous. I really enjoy this place, enjoy Northbridge, enjoy being back in Perth after being away for 25 years.
You say ‘back in Perth’, were you born here?
I arrived here in 1982. My partner I met in Wellington when I started broadcasting in 1972–and he started gay liberation–was a parliamentary officer, parliamentary lawyer. We fled New Zealand and went to live in San Francisco as a lot of gay guys did in 1981, beginning of the eighties. And then Lawrence was head-hunted to become clerk of the state parliament here in Western Australia, so I followed, and I started working as a broadcast journalist. Reporting for Seven Thirty Report–the ABC, for example–and then fronting for the program as well and then I went to Channel 7 along with Susannah Carr. They took us from the ABC, and I fronted the State Affair, Current Affairs program at six thirty. Susannah is still, after thirty-four years, reading the news at six. So, I started in broadcasting here, had ten years of rather grotesque celebrity in radio and television, and then went to Sydney in ‘93 to front a breakfast show, Daybreak, for Radio National for the ABC. Then went on and did human rights work and a whole variety of other things. Then I started teaching meditation and have been teaching it ’till early this year and I’m over seventy, so I have come back to Perth.
You said you ‘fled’ New Zealand, what does that mean?
Very conservative society in those days with a Prime Minister who acted a little bit like Donald Trump. Very unpleasant man and quite, quite terrifying in some ways. Very repressive country. Our telephones, for example, were bugged by the New Zealand security intelligence service and special branch–from when Lawrence and I got together–because he had started gay liberation which was considered extremely dangerous to the state and society. We were under surveillance by special branch, and, as gay men who were kind of out, we got rather tired of the prospect of the door being kicked in at 3 o‘clock in the morning by the vice squad. The chances of that happening became less towards the end of the 1970’s, but it was just a police state, essentially, extremely boring. So, we just decided that we would go to San Francisco and have a bit of a party. And we had a bit of a party, which was all very nice, just as plague started. So, HIV/AIDs started while we were there, and we started reading in the gay newspapers in San Francisco of young men in their twenties and thirties who were just dying of really weird cancers and pneumonias and all that kind of stuff. Amidst all of this, Lawrence got summoned to work here in Perth for the State Parliament, so we both ended up here. Just as well we did.
How does Northbridge compare to the other places that you’ve lived? And how is it different and similar?
Berlin, Amsterdam, San Francisco, London. Inner city gay man. You don’t want to live in the country where red necks are going to beat the crap out of you. Or the suburbs; very boring, the suburbs. So inner-city is much more interesting, and I’ve always been an inner-city sort of guy, from student days back in the 60’s in New Zealand for example. Pretty run-down kind of parts of Auckland which were quite cheap. In Wellington, Lawrence and I again were inner-city guys, and in San Francisco we lived in Haight-Ashbury, which is the kind of hippy neighbourhood, had been the hippy neighbourhood. And inner-city is much more diverse, it’s not so sterile and boring. It’s not just people with families. It’s much more diverse, more single people, more people of colour, more lesbians, and that appeals. It’s very different to what it was first off, say 25 years ago.
Perth is much more racially diverse, so a lot more Asian presence, a lot more African presence as well. So, now there’s even greater cultural diversity. When I arrived in Perth–even in Northbridge in the early eighties–it was still white-boys society. A lot of British migrants here, ‘Sunshine, oh my god get off the boat, get off the plane, stay here!’ These days it’s much more diverse, and that racially, ethnically diverse society is one that I like and it’s something which is quite different in Northbridge now to what it was, say 25-35 years ago. Contrast to other cities in Australia, very similar to where I was living in Sydney, east Sydney close to Darlinghurst. Melbourne similarly, and when I lived overseas, I’ve lived in quite diverse inner-city neighbourhoods as well. I feel safer in the inner city. I don’t feel safe in the suburbs, and I don’t feel safe in the country, still. Attitudes have changed, but, even so.
You were a journalist and newsreader, what made you stop doing that and teach meditation?
Boredom. I’d been doing it for too long, twenty something years. Fascinating, you meet all sorts of people, but the downside to it is I just got sick of dealing with lying politicians. I was just getting too angry. I’d always been–as a journalist–a truth seeker. That’s what’s important, and you can only take so much crap from liars for so long. I mean, Donald Trump again, if I had to deal with Trump, I mean really, what do you do with that man? What’s he told–one thousand, nine hundred and fifty lies since he became president? According to the fact checker of the Washington Post. Dreadful. But I just got tired of, you know, talking to–quite often they were just little men. The John Howards of this world, for example. Who needs it? So, I just got rather tired of doing all that and wanted to do something else. Got involved in human rights, was media advisor to the President of the New South Wales anti-discrimination board, who was a former liberal senator. Did that for five years, that was really interesting. Because that was when that Pauline Hanson popped up for the first time. So that was kind of interesting, dealing with race, sex, and gay-lesbian discrimination, disability discrimination and all that sort of stuff. Enjoyed doing that for five years, it was good, it was a good fight. Then went back to New Zealand to work with a friend who was a law professor, to work as one of her senior advisors and Helen Clarke’s labour government 20 years ago. And really enjoyed working in a government run by women as well, that was good, and my ex-girlfriend from Woman’s Lib days, by that stage, still gorgeous and blonde, was a Greens MP, so sort of one of the benefits was catching up with people I had been close to in the past. I enjoyed doing that. So always there had been an interest in doing something else, and I started doing meditation and mindfulness, because my teacher who taught me in Perth, I’d had no idea what to do.
I was kind of burnt out, pretty stressed-out still from working at a pretty high level in politics and broadcasting and wanted something sort of more chilled out. And he said ‘why don’t you teach?’ Which I’d been doing anyway to a lot of friends. So, I started teaching meditation. When you get into the corporate world–if you go into the corporate world–it can eat your soul. Also, it can be very stressful and cruel as well. There’s not much respect for people, I don’t find in the corporate world. Occasionally you’ll come cross really great employers, good companies. But mostly they just chew people up and spit them out when they’ve had enough of them.
Your website describes your teaching style as innovative. What do you do that is different to other meditation teachers?
The work experience that I’ve had as a communications consultant in the corporate and government world, for example, and as a journalist as well. So, I’ve had a huge background across all sorts of special fields. I’ve done economics, for example, watched the financial industry. That’s useful when you’re talking to people who work in that area. There’s a whole range of things that I’ve dealt with professionally–as a journalist–which gives me an insight into the work that people do and the pressures that they have. So that’s unusual. A lot of people teaching meditation are people who think it’d be a fabulous thing to do, how lovely, but really don’t have any kind of experience that relates directly to the stresses Australian people in that corporate and government world are facing on a daily basis.
So that’s one of the programs that I’ve created, that are quite innovative, they set a context which is directly relevant. Work-life balance, connection to nature, dealing with stress, anxiety, difficult emotions, all those sorts of things. Physical health issues can come up as well. How you put particular techniques to relax when you’re very short of time. What sort of techniques can you use going from one meeting to another meeting, for example? And all of that is stuff that I’ve done and provided a different context to what a lot of people actually get when they go for meditation. So that is actually very appealing, because I don’t really know anybody else that takes that kind of approach. Even though there’s a huge interest academically in terms of medical research, neuroscientific research in meditation. So that kind of evidence-based perspective and that broader context which to set what I do, is becoming internationally much more evident than it has been before in the past. So, what I teach is quite different to the sort of, ‘sit crossed legged and kind of create a beautiful picture of a place that you want to be’. You can do that if you want to, but that’s not really the most practical way that you can learn to master the difficulties of life, I think.
Your house has a lot of art and sculptures, could you talk about those?
Look, I’ve kind of studied a whole range of ancient wisdom traditions, if you like. Buddhism, Islamic Sufism is interesting, Christian mysticism, whatever. I’m more interested, frankly, in Paganism and sort of druidic knowledge, Norse mythology, Greek, Roman mythology as well. Interested in ancient thinkers, but aesthetically for some reason, I don’t know, past life? Who knows, I’m drawn particularly to Asian cultures of a certain sort and they’re quite often Buddhist; not always. Daoism for the Chinese ones, but I’m kind of drawn to the aesthetic of those cultures, I think.
Have you been to those places?
Some. Indonesia, for example, Bali, which has a lot of Hinduism and some stuff here. That Buddha over there comes from Bali for example, that Ramayana the Hindu God other side of the cabinet also comes from Bali, furniture stuff comes from Bali as well. Hong Kong–some of the other material comes from Hong Kong. These four wall panels of Chinese courtesans come from China Town in San Francisco. So yes, they’re drawn from different kind of places, but most I’ve got in Perth or Sydney.
Is there any advice you could give to the general public?
Think for yourself. Be skeptical about everything you are told, including advice anybody gives you. And find your own path; I found it useful following my heart but using my head to support it. And that’s all I’d say, I’m very reluctant to give advice other than work it out for yourself. But follow your heart, I found following your heart is really good.