Thursday 31 August 2023

Going out on strike

is something I have never done. I don't think anyone in my family or extended family has ever done it either. We are not "militant unionists". We simply haven't had the sort of jobs where we felt strike action was right.

A lot of us have been teachers, doctors or nurses, or self-employed. Perhaps it is a clan thing. I don't know. 

I do know I could have taken two days out in my teaching career - and I made a conscious decision not to take either. Why?

In the first instance I was the school librarian. I saw very little of the staff room. Back then we had libraries in junior schools, libraries with full time librarians. I thought of it as my job to keep the library open through "play time". I snatched a fifteen minute lunch break before the children were free to play. If there was a staff meeting after school I attended it but, apart from that, I saw the teachers when their classes came into the library or they wanted audio-visual materials for lessons.

I must have been doing something right because the library was always crowded, sometimes so crowded I had to say "no more - you can have your turn tomorrow".  It was not something I ever wanted to say. The disappointment on a child's face was not something I ever wanted to face.  I really appreciated it when some of the older children said, "It's all right miss. I've got my book. He can have his turn" or something similar. 

The library was somewhere these children, often from very poor backgrounds with no books at home, liked to be. How could I deny them a school day of no books? They knew all about strikes and they wanted to know, "You will come to school won't you miss?" I went to school. Interestingly the other staff came too. Only one staff member wanted to go out on strike but the rest knew that showing the children how important they were was more important than going on strike. The about-to-be union (it still wasn't a union) people complained but other schools did the same thing. In the end the "strike" was little more than a few more militant teachers making demands that could not be met at the time. No schools closed.

On the second occasion there was a union by then. They wanted teachers to go out. I was working in a special education setting with profoundly disabled children. We didn't even need to make a decision not to go out because to do so would have put children at risk of harm. You cannot simply abandon children in that situation. We knew not all parents could cope if we took a sudden day off. The  parents rallied around us instead.

I would not have gone out even if the other teachers had decided to do so. It is something I gave some thought to, a lot of thought. I came to the conclusion that the answer would have been to donate a day's pay to the school. It could be used towards buying something the school needed if everyone else wanted to go out. 

Right or wrong? I maintain I was right. It seems most of my fellow teachers agreed with me.

Now it seems to be different. There is a strike called for tomorrow. The demands the union is making are, to put it mildly, ridiculous - probably deliberately so. Nobody is going to get a 25% pay rise for less work. Despite that, there are over six hundred schools closing and others staying open with just a few teachers in attendance. 

In many ways I do sympathise with the teachers. Their roles have changed - and not for the better. Yesterday when I was talking to one of the mothers in this street. She was telling me how her parents were taking the two children for the day. Would I go out on strike? She wanted to know. 

I knew my answer would be the same as before. No. The children would have to come first. I would give up a day's pay and donate it for their benefit before I went out and left them.  

Wednesday 30 August 2023

Old photograph albums are depressing

when there are thirty-four of them to remind you of the way things once were.

As some of you know I am slowly going through the house and giving things away, throwing things away and wondering what to do with things that seem "too good but who will ever use them?"

The photograph albums were out in the "other shed". The small shed where things like the gardening tools and the Senior Cat's conjuring apparatus and many other things have been stored for years. 

P... and I hauled them inside yesterday. They were mostly albums given to my mother by Middle Cat or Brother Cat or albums of trips Mum and the Senior Cat made. There are also pictures of the garden, of flowers and the last two cats we had. There are pictures of my siblings as well as my parents, of relatives no longer with us, of my parents' friends (all no longer with us) and an odd assortment of people I cannot identify. Most of the scenery is alien to me although I can guess some of it.  

There are almost none of me. When I do appear it generally indistinct. I am in profile or my face is half hidden by some other person or my presence is too small to be seen clearly. I do not photograph well but I am also conscious of the fact that my mother avoided taking photographs of me. Middle Cat appears, often with her two boys. Brother Cat appears with his children. The Black Cat appears with other family members or animals.  

Photographs of our childhood are almost all missing. There was 35mm camera in the family but my parents did not take many photographs in our kittenhood. It would have been expensive to get them developed I suppose but our mother did not seem very interested and the Senior Cat had no artistic sense. What photos he took make little sense. He had other ways of describing things.

Middle Cat says her eldest might be interested in some of them. She has not yet asked her youngest. I suspect one small collection for each of them might be the answer. Brother Cat may find the same is true of his two but, like Middle Cat, he has many photographs of the children. They also have the wonderful, almost professional DVDs that his partner has made - all well edited, appropriate music, good quality sound etc.

But I look at all these and think how young everyone looked. There are photographs of the teachers' college "C group reunion" Mum went to every year - and occasionally had here. Yes, most of them are older in the photographs - but none of them are alive now. There is a whole generation gone. Brother Cat and I are moving towards being the age of the people in the photographs. It's depressing.

I want to be rid of the photographs - and most of them are of no value to us as they are not very well composed pictures of scenery from trips or flowers given to my mother. I want to be rid of the photographs because I do not wish to be reminded of the traumas that often lay behind these things. 

Perhaps it is just as well there are so few of me.


Tuesday 29 August 2023

A guilty conscience

should make us vote "yes" in the upcoming referendum. If we don't vote "yes" the rest of the world is going to think we are "racist". It will harm our international relations and cause trading links to fail. We will be pariahs. 

And so it goes on. The latest person to be hauled out to make these claims is a former foreign minister. She was standing next to our current foreign minister as she said it - and the two are on opposite sides of the political fence.

The reality of course is that it would take a lot of courage to stand there and say, "I am voting no". Anyone with any sort of public profile who says that gets castigated in the media. People don't like being criticised or considered "racist". That the proposal itself is "racist" is something they don't want to face or, if they do, otherwise believe it is justified.

I am trying to be fair but the media is biased towards the "yes" side. It really has no choice. Advertising would be pulled if they promoted the "no" side.The livelihoods of too many people are at stake here. The government knows this. It is a referendum they cannot afford to lose. If they do lose it then they will take none of the blame. It will be the fault of people who have simply questioned the entire process. We apparently cannot ask questions, even the length of the document on which all this is based cannot be questioned. 

I am wondering even about my ability to count now. I am wondering about my ability to read and understand. The Prime Minister is saying there is a "one page" document. He has not read  any more than that. "Why would I?" he asked. I read something which ran to at least eighteen pages. The first page appeared to be a sort of summary of the rest of it. The rest of it frightened me. It is full of demands that cannot possibly be met and yet the Prime Minister claims his government is committed to "implementing the Statement in full". 

My friend M... has gone north, north to the remote communities where the Voice to Parliament debate should be under discussion. He has found people who have not even heard of it, something they will need to vote on in around six or seven weeks from now. When he tried to say something to one group they just asked if it was going to fix their health problems, get their children to go to school and stay there - or even perhaps just give them clean drinking water? They couldn't even ask these questions in English. How can they read a ballot paper and make an informed decision? Will they even be able to write the word on the ballot paper? Or, will they just do as others tell them they "must" do?

It is time we stopped pretending that this is a democratic process that will lead to better outcomes. It won't.  

Monday 28 August 2023

Starting school at three

is apparently now considered to be "essential" for the education and development of all children. 

There were more alarm bells being rung because "a third" of all children are "behind" in the national standards which have been set. This is despite the fact that children in this country already spend more hours in school than children in many other countries.

It is now being said that three year olds should be spending a minimum of fifteen hours a week learning in a "preschool" setting. What the powers-that-be think children are doing for the rest of the time I am not sure. Possibly they will say "just playing" without realising that "play" at that age is a form of work. Give children the right sort of environment in which to explore and they will be learning. 

As a young kitten I spent a lot of time out of doors. I was frequently filthy dirty from playing in the dirt and the mud. All too often I bled from scrapes and falls. I knew how to do things and how not to do things. I found out what worked and what did not work. I played with other children. We roamed the district and found out about fences and gates and gutters as well as all the usual things. We learned to watch for the little traffic there was. We also learned about what adults did with their days because we were permitted to watch and, sometimes, to "help".  In many ways I had what many would consider to be an idyllic childhood. I certainly had a fortunate one. It would not have been like that in the city.

But even in the city I would have had many of those experiences. When we did get there we still saw adults at work. There was a bakery not far from us where the bread was actually made. We went into the butcher where meat hung in great slabs in the cold room. We knew what that sausage machine was. In the greengrocer everything was weighed out. We saw Mum hand over the money and get the change...and I knew to do the same thing from age three and a bit. Now everything comes in packets or plastic bags. The bread is already sliced and the meat is vacuum packed and stacked on shelves. The fruit and vegetables are already packed or they get weighed at the check out and you do not hear their names unless your parent or, more likely, grandparent talks to you as they shop.

I don't think three year olds need to be learning about letters and numbers and coding at a computer screen. They don't need to know about sex differences or climate change. They need to be learning about real life. 

Sunday 27 August 2023

Do babies actually wear these things?

We were putting things in the display cabinets on Friday when one of the other volunteers at the Showground held up a lovely little jacket. We both looked at it and wondered who puts little white lacy jackets on babies any more. 

"Probably not," was my answer, "It isn't the sort of thing you would do even for a Christening."

The winning item in that class was a tiny, bright red cardigan with two little Scottish terriers on it. Yes, it might need hand washing but it was soft, warm and otherwise very practical. 

But people still knit the other sort of garments for entering in the Show. I suspect they do it because they think this is what the judge is looking for - when the judge is looking for something modern and much more practical.

Lacey knitting is not good for babies. Their little fingers get caught up in it. Crochet is often even worse. I wouldn't make something like that but people still do. I saw one garment recently. It was made from cheap acrylic yarn and the "holes" in the crochet were large enough that there would have been no warmth in the garment at all.

Most babies wear those all in one suits now. They are made from the sort of thing you can "just fling in the washing machine". I imagine it is much easier to care for than the sort of thing my mother dressed us in.  I clearly remember that "buster suit" with the smocking on the shirt of the train. My baby brother wore that for "best" until the day he went to play with the men who were repairing the road with tar. I was not very old at the time but I can still remember my mother's fury. Hours of work must have gone into that. My brother's own children wore the "onesies" and then things from knit fabrics and items knitted by my mother or me over the top in winter. They dress their own children even more simply.

And then I thought of the family Christening gown. It is almost one hundred and fifty years old now and unlikely to be used again because the newest babies have all been too big for it to fit them. It is not a particularly lavish garment in terms of lace but it is made entirely by hand with many pin tucks in it. We think it was made by my great-great-great grandmother and, as a family, we are indeed fortunate that it has been cared for and the cousin who now has it has had an expert do all the necessary things to care for it. 

I wonder what most young mothers would think of it. A very few of them still have nicely smocked frocks. They appear in the display cabinets of dressmaking at the Show and I occasionally see little girls wearing them but I haven't seen one of those smocked shirts on a little boy here for a very long time. They did look good at the time - but they were definitely not practical! 

Saturday 26 August 2023

"Yes" or "No"

Yes, I promise to get back to something more "interesting" tomorrow but today needs to be devoted to an important issue. 

When Downunderites vote in the upcoming referendum they need to write "Yes" or "No". They need to write a word. They should  not under any circumstances put a "tick" or a "cross". 

The Electoral Commission is saying it will take ticks but it will not take crosses. Yes, this is legal but it does not make it right. It is wrong. You are being asked to write a word. A "tick" may signify you agree but it is not what you are being asked to do.

At the last referendum - which changed the Marriage Act - this was of far less importance because we were not being asked to change the Constitution of this country merely provide an opinion on same sex relationships. That could have been done without going to the people but it was such a divisive issue the government did go to the people. 

This is something entirely different. If the referendum succeeds then we are putting something into the Constitution which can only be removed by another referendum in the future.  This is not the "simple" thing the Prime Minister keeps telling us it is. If it succeeds it will involve a major change to the way we are governed.  What happens under that change may or may not be large but in itself it is a major change. It is a major change because it will give one very small group of people a potentially much greater say than the rest of the population.  

There are constitutional implications which are causing concern even among those who support the proposal. It is uncharted territory. It is a journey we do not need to take because the government already has the power to "listen" or "take advice" from the group in question. There are many, many organisations which provide this "advice". That is not a problem. The problem has been the willingness to take the advice on board and do what needs to be done. Changing the Constitution will not do this. 

The referendum is likely to be held in mid-October, almost certainly the 14th. You have until then to learn to read the voting paper and learn to write "Yes" or "No". Do not put a tick or a cross. This is the Constitution you are voting to retain or change. It matters.


Friday 25 August 2023

First prize, second...

third... and on it went. The judging for Handknitting and Crochet was done yesterday. We Stewards were working with a new judge and it was very interesting to have another approach to the task unfold in front of us.

I managed to learn a lot - always a good thing. There was some lovely work. The Best in Show for the knitting side was a lovely shawl with Celtic like cables. We all liked that but we all loved the fairy house made from a child's chair in crochet - of course it had to win Best in Show. It was not just well made but full of imagination. What a toy to play with.

We had some other lovely pieces too. A pair of socks knitted by a profoundly deaf woman I know. It is so good to see her actively participate in this. There were some more items by male knitters this year. That is so good. We want more of those.

I have notes to write up but I was very late getting home and I am just about to leave again as we still have to get the display together.

More news to come  -  and no, I did not disgrace myself. I managed to collect a couple of firsts as well.


Thursday 24 August 2023

"Are Aboriginals really less intelligent?"

was a question I was faced with today. Why I am asked such questions is beyond me. Yes, I studied psychology and still read about psychology - among many other things. It does not mean I can answer every silly question flung at me but I think I can say something sensible about this one.

Let's first imagine something. You are lost "in the bush".  You have no idea where you are or where to find water or what is safe to eat. The idea of building some sort of shelter occurs to you but you don't know how to set about it. 

Along comes an Aboriginal family from three hundred years ago. They are talking to one another in a language you do not understand but they are concerned for you. They look at your attempts to care for yourself and then set about building a shelter. They find food and water. The next day they lead you to a creek and indicate you need to follow it down stream to find the 21st century and what you regard as civilisation.

Who is the "less intelligent" person here? They have all the skills they need for survival. It might not be a very comfortable survival but they survive where you would almost certainly not.

Put those people into a modern city and they would be as lost as you would be in the wild. Ask them to do a modern "intelligence" test and they would almost certainly "fail". It would not be a lack of intelligence but a lack of experience that would cause them to fail. 

I have said elsewhere in this blog that I once taught a child who had been diagnosed as being of very limited intelligence. He was profoundly physically disabled and he came from a family where English was not spoken at home. He could "answer" you with his eyes and that was about it. A psychologist had "assessed" him and said he couldn't even follow simple instructions that would allow him to "point" with his eyes. 

Of course he could not do this because he did not understand what was being said to him. He was having to learn English by no other means than listening to what was going on around him at school. By the time I met him he had begun to understand everything that was being said, often far more than he should have heard. He was actually highly intelligent but the circumstances under which he had been tested had made him a "failure".

And so we do the same thing with many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who have not had the same contact with the items used in tests. Their children may not have been playing with the same brightly coloured blocks they are asked to place on top of one another but they can build a tower with a heap of stones and know that they need to go in order of size if it is going to be stable. They may not be able to copy a simple geometric shape but they can draw the shape a snake makes moving across the ground. 

A culturally appropriate intelligence test will reveal intelligence. It is also why we need to ensure that those children have the sort of experiences which will allow them to succeed on other "intelligence" tests. They also need experiences which allow them to succeed in learning the skills they need in order to live in the 21stC. 

A former federal MP has been heavily criticised for saying Aboriginal people should learn English. It is an unpopular view point among those on the "Yes" side of the campaign for the upcoming referendum but there can be no doubt he is correct in saying this. The experience of our migrant community has taught us this. Those who set about learning English, people like Middle Cat's father-in-law can become highly successful. He came here on his own at sixteen without having finished more than primary school and not being able to speak English. He left this world almost seventy years later having built a business, bought three houses and put four children through school and higher education. He worked very hard all his life but without English none of this would have happened here.

It is why we cannot persist in trying to "preserve language and culture" which does not provide the knowledge and skills required for full participation in the modern world. Policies like that simply and deliberately prevent Aboriginal people from using their intelligence to the full. 


Wednesday 23 August 2023

"Oh, look at the unicorn!"

people were saying. It had arrived looking a little shy. It proved to be extremely cuddly and very friendly.

It was exactly the sort of "cuddle toy" we want in the Show section we call "Handicrafts for Others". The toys go to the Children's Hospital where they are given to children in very special need of something to comfort them. 

I wish we got more things like that. There were other toys as well. We prodded and poked - and several of us did sneak in another little cuddle with the unicorn. There is no entry fee in this class and I wish more people would make these wonderful squishy sort of things for it. Yes, they are a lot of work but, believe me, the comfort they give is worth the work.

When I was working in special education I taught children who were in and out of hospital. I made a point of visiting them, something not everyone did. I thought it was important for them to know their teacher was thinking about them. I always took some very small thing with me.  I would make a "wrist puppet"... really just a finger puppet attached to a wrist band. Often the children I visited were children who had no way of communicating through speech. They were often unable to hold things very easily, if at all.  Hospital visits were especially frightening for them and having a "friend" there was intended to help. If our state Show does that sort of thing for just one more child then I consider it to be worthwhile.

I looked at other things yesterday - some weird and wonderful theatrical costumes, at some hats I cannot imagine anyone wearing, at embroidery that must have taken hundreds of hours to complete. There was dressmaking, something which varies wildly from the old-fashioned to the into the future. It was all very interesting but my eyes kept going back to the little unicorn now sitting up in a display cabinet surrounded by new "friends" and looking out at the world. I wonder who the little unicorn will go to. The children these toys are given to are chosen carefully. They are almost always children who will be there for a considerable length of time or don't have family who can be there with them. I know the little unicorn will go somewhere to be loved and appreciated but we will all miss this one! 

Tuesday 22 August 2023

Endangered crafts

  indeed some critically endangered crafts appeared in my timeline yesterday. Perhaps it is time to write a reminder to myself (and perhaps you) that these things matter. They matter just as much as trying to save a language only five people still speak. 

Making things with our hands matters, creating things matters. The most interesting people I know are people who make things, create things, design things with all sorts of materials and words.

I remember talking to a speech pathologist once about a group of people I know who use what is sometimes called "augmentative and alternative communication". They use it because, for one reason or another they cannot speak easily - if at all. They use it because their desire to communicate is much, much stronger than their willingness to remain silent. They want to be heard. They have things to say - even if they are just simple things. Being able to create and deliver those messages is so important. It is far more important than the speech pathologist recognised. She was more concerned with feeding and swallowing issues. 

I remember P... who seemed to have a very, very severe problem with drinking at school. He couldn't seem to swallow. He spluttered everywhere. The speech pathologist, the teacher aide and his previous teachers had all tried various ways of doing it. Nothing seemed to work. In summer people were worried about him being dehydrated.

The children were all given "orange juice" to drink. It was an artificial mix of some sort with extra vitamin C - thought to be good for the children. I tried some one day. Ugh! It was very sweet and left a metallic aftertaste in my mouth. 

"Do you like the orange juice P...?" I asked as we were getting ready for lunch.

He looked down quickly...his way of saying "No."

"I don't either," I told him. As I have problems holding things steady I was not sure if I could try giving him some water instead but I did. Okay, some of it went down the front of his t-shirt but most of it went down his throat. We looked at each other in amazement. He grinned. He knew I knew what the problem was then - and what the solution was.

I thought of this incident as I looked at the list of endangered and critically endangered crafts in the <>. It might not seem to matter very much to most people if the art of cricket ball making is extinct in the United Kingdom and Downunder but it matters to cricketers, to the future of cricket, to all the children who will grow up without a real cricket ball. I am reliably told there is a difference between the real thing and the artificial version.  

We need to be able to communicate these things and act on them. I will spend today at the Showground, the first of a number. I will be talking to people who communicate in many ways. I will see many examples of that capacity to communicate through "making" and "creating". Some people, the drinkers of the orange juice perhaps, will communicate by following patterns exactly, perhaps even to the colours used. Other people will use watered down versions and add their own variations to produce something recognisable but different. Yet more people will have designed and made their own. What they produce will be unique but they will still be helping a craft survive. The items they make will go on to inspire still other people.

We need more of this, much more. Human beings need to create, to design, to build. We need to be able to say, "I made this."


Monday 21 August 2023

Union bullying tactics

are in the news this morning but I also heard something about them from a neighbour before they reached the media.

My neighbour's job is the running of big building operations - not your average house or small business site but major engineering undertakings. He deals with unions all the time, one union in particular. He believes unions still have a place in the workforce but he also says their role has changed over the years. 

There is one union however where those in charge believe the role has not changed. They are there to dictate to those who employ them, those who pay them. This union believes it is the master, not the servant. They can get men (there are almost no women) to down tools and walk off the job for the smallest imagined infraction of the rules and regulations they have laid down.

Union membership is no longer compulsory in this country - unless you want to work in this industry. Forget trying to get employment unless you join the union on these big sites because these big sites won't even exist. Nobody is going to get the contracts unless the union is involved and the union can dictate the terms of the contract. 

I don't know how things got to this point but it should never have been allowed to happen. This union came in from interstate a little while back and has simply taken over. One site has reportedly been shut down forty-nine times over a twelve month period...and that is just one site. It is driving costs way above what they should be and the bullying that goes with it is apparently unchecked.

Of course the Labor party in this country arose out of the unions. It is still union based. It gets massive funding from the union movement. Labor does not want to upset the unions, particularly this union where so much employment lies. 

My neighbour has to deal with this union. It is the one which causes almost all his problems. They seem to have influence everywhere, not just on the actual site. When he last spoke to me they were preventing the transport and delivery of supplies on a site because someone was not happy about a tool which had been supplied. It had come from somewhere that was not union approved. The union approved tool is more expensive but, according to my neighbour, the quality is not there. It is not difficult to imagine that there are "arrangements" along the line.

I thought back to an organisation I once belonged to. That organisation has since become a union. The role it once undertook, which was clearly for the benefit of the members, has changed. They are now spending a very large sum of money on a political campaign which cannot be said to be of any benefit to the members.  It is not the intended function of any union.

Unions should be there to ensure the safety, well being and proper employment of their members. They should not be there to dictate. How did things get to this point? 

Sunday 20 August 2023

"Are you at all interested in the women's football?"

a friend in the UK asked me in an email.

The answer to that was, "No R... I am not." I am not sure he is either. It isn't something he has ever mentioned before.

I think "our lot" lost another match last, one that would have given them third place rather than fourth. No, I haven't looked at the result. I am going on the fact that there is nothing to be seen on the front page of the on-line paper. 

How quickly our heroes become nothing but losers again! 

It is very unfair on them. Even I can acknowledge that they worked hard. It isn't the sort of work I am interested in but I know enough about the psychology of sport to know there is more to this than physical fitness and the capacity to kick a ball.  Still, it is all too much about nothing important as far as I am concerned. There are more important things in life.

Nobody in this street seems to be very interested in any of this. There has been no green and yellow bunting on display. The neighbour across the road was wearing his old rugby top while cleaning his gutters - but then he is a Kiwi by birth and rugby is apparently the "thing" over the ditch. 

I cleared out a few things from the shed yesterday. I brought in about twenty photograph albums we had stored there because bookshelf space was at a premium. Over the years Middle Cat filled these albums for our mother. They were largely of her two boys doing things that boys do but there are no photographs of them kicking a soccer ball or a football. They played a minimal amount of soccer as required at school. That was it. They played basketball instead - perhaps not a great deal safer but at least you don't deliberately hit the ball with your head. They played tennis and cricket in summer and of course they still race go-karts. Yes, they have had their fair share of sporting activities.  I am not expected to take any great interest in any of them. They did not expect it of the Senior Cat either. He had even less interest in sport of any kind.

There are a few family photos on display in this house. I have simply left them there, those that the Senior Cat did like. None of them are sports related. 

But there will be families who now have all sorts of digital albums filled with pictures of their team at work and their own family members trying to emulate them. I just wonder how often they will look at these.  

Saturday 19 August 2023

Third world hospitals

are not "tin sheds" on the outskirts of the "square mile" of the city I live in. 

There have been some complaints recently about the "emergency department" of the major hospital in the city.  It's an almost new hospital and was one of the most expensive buildings in the southern hemisphere when it was built. It is also possibly one of the worst hospital designs ever built...but it is not third world.

Nephew, the doctor one, has worked there. There is no staff room, no meeting rooms for staff, no canteen where they can snatch something to eat and no place where they can catch a short nap if they are on extended duty. The building is laid out in such a way that access is difficult and confusing. Every patient may have their own room but there are not enough staff employed to cover each area and it is much more difficult to monitor staff than it should be. (It is why I once had a phone call from a patient at midnight and had to get back to the hospital to get her the help she needed.)

All that said however the hospital is not "third world". It is very definitely "first world". On the whole the staff do their best.

Third world hospitals are something entirely different.  Yes, some of them are actual buildings - although I have been told of hospitals in tents or even under plastic tarpaulins. They are often filthy by our standards. I know of one that has a dirt floor and a roof that leaks when it rains - which happens frequently.  There are no beds.

In many other places there are not enough beds. Patients will lie on the floor. Unless there are family members to help they will get almost no care because the nursing staff have other things to do. It is family members who will bring you anything you might get to eat.  Medication? You might be lucky to get some if you are writhing in pain but it is more likely they won't have any. The medical equipment is not there because they cannot afford to buy it.

I could go on. There are "good" hospitals in those places, in the quieter and more peaceful places but they don't have the resources our hospitals have. They are not the waste of space and money that the big hospital here is. This one was built as a political gesture. The medical profession kept telling them it was not adequate. Something could have been built with more beds and more facilities for half the cost and it would have been just as valuable, perhaps more so. They are repeating the mistakes with the new build of the children's hospital - but the government is not listening.

It doesn't make any of our hospitals "third world" however. I am reminded of someone I knew who each year spent half his annual leave in a third world hospital. The locals built it around him. He started in one small hut but it is now a plain, functional building. It has one small luxury - a small room with a cot like bed that the doctor on duty can snatch a few hours sleep on if everything is quiet. That's a good, third world hospital.  I don't think we have anything to complain about here.

Friday 18 August 2023

"Why did you quit teaching?"

There was an article in yesterday's paper about three teachers who had "quit teaching" and of course I was asked why I had given it away as well.

There were a number of reasons why I gave it away. I rather fell into teaching. My parents were teachers. It was what I knew. I had done rather a lot of it even before I went to teacher's college. That sort of thing tended to happen in rural schools where there were no classroom assistants to hear the little ones struggle through a page of reading and no relief teachers available if someone was ill. Senior students who were willing and able tended to be used instead. My brother, one sister and I all went into teaching - and then left it.

The Senior Cat had taught me about things like "the disciplinary question" in order to obtain and maintain control of a class. My mother taught me about listening to young readers and how to get them to work out things for themselves if they could.

I quite enjoyed it all but I wanted more. Teaching students with special needs was more challenging but I knew there was more to it than most of the people I worked with were suggesting.  Then of course they moved all the children in special education into the regular class room. It was a money saving move dressed up as social inclusion. It meant that many teachers in special education no longer had work unless they went into the regular classroom.

I did more research and the other role I was working in exploded. I went off to do a degree in law because I needed the knowledge - or some of it - in order to do the job. I tutored in psychology, statistics and specialist English to feed and house myself. I have gone on tutoring and occasionally lecturing. It is teaching of course but not all day every day school based teaching.

I doubt I would like school based teaching at all now. The teachers I know are generally exhausted. Discipline seems to be much more difficult. They seem to be constantly on-call. Parents seem to be much more demanding. They are expected to teach not just a curriculum but woke ideas. The list of what you cannot do and cannot say seems to grow ever longer. There are issues with computers and whether students should have access to phones. 

We all dealt with behaviour issues but the bullying is now on social media. We all dealt with children from problem homes but now that both parents are at work there are other problems as well. Teachers are expected to monitor the contents of lunch boxes when we just tried to ensure that everyone had something to eat. Even late primary students are involved in drugs.

When I was teaching the male staff wore a collar and tie. The women wore skirts or dresses. They were addressed as Miss or Mrs not Ms. There were no tattoos in sight. Chairs in classrooms faced the front except on rare occasions. Students were expected to be quiet when the teacher was talking. All that has changed. It might be part of the problem.

I would be looking for different employment too if I was teaching now.  

Thursday 17 August 2023

Football fever has

subsided somewhat.

It is just as well. I am sorry "that team" lost "that match" as I am sure they were very, very disappointed after having worked so hard. I don't doubt the other side worked just as hard but of course the losers will be disappointed.

Aside from that, I'm sorry but I just relieved. There have been pages and pages in the print press, more on-line and hours of it over the air waves. I really was not interested. I know other people who feel the same way.

"Got any half way decent videos we can watch Cat?" someone asked me yesterday, "Even something we have watched before would do."

I directed her to the little pile Middle Cat keeps forgetting to take with her. In that there was "The lady with the van", "The King's Speech", "A room with a view" and a couple of other eminently watchable films. 

My inquirer departed in a much happier frame of mind. I did try to suggest she read a book but she keeps telling me, "I'm not much of a reader". 

I went to my sleeping mat with an interesting book and read for longer than I intended. We cats know how to live!

When I eventually turned the light out I did not know the results. This morning I wondered how many people now regret the thousands they have spent cheering their team on. It's an expensive business. The money I might have spent is still in my bank account. Perhaps I am also financially fortunate I don't care for football?


Wednesday 16 August 2023

Throwing away new clothes

is not something I do. The idea that young Downunderites throw away fifty-five million of them each year when people are going less than adequately dressed leaves me stunned. Is the article in the paper really right? 

Apparently 347.2m garments are bought each year, an average of seventeen per person. Then 25% of them get returned and 65% go to landfill. Even if those percentages were reversed I would be concerned.

I thought of my wardrobe. I am a very conservative cat when it comes to dressing. As I have worked from home for years I have almost nothing "smart". I do not own a dress or the shoes which would go with it. I don't need to own those things.

So far this year I have bought myself two new long sleeve polo tops. One cost me $5 and the other $7. I bought two t-shirts for Middle Cat at the same time. I added two new pairs of the jeans I like (they have a pocket which fits the phone and cards)  and added a number of other things for other people so that none of us needed to pay postage. We bought them during an on-line sale from a reputable company. We probably paid about what they were actually worth. 

I passed an old t-shirt and an old polo top over to my BIL to use as rags in the work shop. I committed the grave sin of throwing out the old jeans at a recycle place because, unlike the young, I do not wear jeans with air-conditioning in strategic places.  It was a big year for clothing.  

In my wardrobe I have an Aran style pullover I made in 1984. It is definitely rather worse for wear but it is still fine around home. I have a Liberty print shirt I bought in 1987 from the rack at a factory outlet. I thought I was being extravagant at the time but, despite a great many wears and washes, it is still good.

Buying clothes is one of my least favourite activities...and do not even ask about the business of buying something to wear on my rear paws.  I would much prefer to buy books or knitting supplies. There has never been a year in my life when I have managed to buy seventeen new pieces of clothing. I don't need that many.

I still have the denim jacket I bought in a local charity shop. It was brand new, still with the shop tags on it. It was marked at a tenth of the original price. I actually gave the charity more than they were asking for it because - well because it was brand new and not something I would ever have bought at full price. It replaced a previous second hand one from the same place. Between them they have lasted me almost twenty years.

I suppose I am not "hard on my clothes". The reality is that I just wash and wear them in a very normal sort of way - but I do wear them. They don't hang in the wardrobe forgotten. I don't have that many clothes. 

I suspect most people do not need all those clothes...maybe I don't need all those books (but I have read them).  


Tuesday 15 August 2023

Safety vests and tests

for the purposes of fulfilling "occupational health and safety" requirements have been on my mind.  It is "that time of the year" again. We are all getting ready for the state's annual Show. 

Yes, I am involved again. Of course I am involved. I pulled out the spare safety vest yesterday just in case the judge needs one. She has not done the job before and is filling in for the regular judge who cannot be there. 

I had an email from this new one yesterday. She had some questions, sensible questions but questions which told me she does not know some of the things she needs to know. Yes, we do need to wear safety vests during this time. It is a "working" location. There are fork lifts in some parts of the building and men with all sorts of other things. They are setting up stalls for other people. 

In the "gallery" area in the centre of the building the glass cabinets will already have been set up although the names along the top may not all be in place. That depends a bit on how many items we get in some sections. There will be long trestles between them. We put the items to be judged on those before everything goes in the cabinets. As soon as judging is finished - some time the following week for the cookery classes - the trestles will be put back into storage. But, in the meantime, it is a location where people need to watch out for these things and each other. 

I was worried about taking the Senior Cat's walker last year. Would it be a help or a hindrance? I was told, "We can put it behind the desk if we need to but we can also put things on it. You will be more useful that way." So, I will take it again this year - and I will feel much safer.

Then there is that "on-line safety induction". You need to do it each time you volunteer for anything at the showground...and yes, they do check. I have done the same test four times now. It isn't hard. It is commonsense but I know that there are always people who will panic in an emergency. At least in our area we are not using electricity or other equipment. We let the "egg-artistry" and "china painting" stewards carry the entries for their classes but the other items, while sometimes quite fragile, do not pose the same sort of dangers. We are more concerned about damage to the entries than the danger to people. 

What I am again in awe of is the amount of work that goes into all this, work that most people never see. It is not just the amount of work that goes into the making of some entries but the amount of work involved in administering all this, in calling for entries and seeing to the "paper work" involved. It is the setting out, the judging, the displaying and yet more. Now there is more and more done on line. The entry cards were sent out in emails. Anyone without an email address had to deal with the office procedures for obtaining theirs in other ways. The entries and deliveries are accepted on-line. As a steward I will have someone to help me record the results where it was once done all by hand. (Oh, we still do a certain amount. They do not rely entirely on computers.)

I thought of how much had changed even in ten years. There are good things about this I suppose. It's faster and it seems more efficient but they employ less paid staff now and the volunteers need to do more. Even the Show, which some outsiders view as "old fashioned" and "not changed" has had to come of computer-age.   

Monday 14 August 2023

The "Reconciliation Action Plan"

of our local council was flung at me by an irate councillor yesterday. I had written an email to all the councillors querying something which was reported. This councillor responded telling me to "get out from behind the keyboard" and come and face them at a council meeting.

I would actually be happy to do that but it isn't going to happen. For a start I was merely querying something. I was not stating it was a fact. His indignant response suggests I had actually hit on a very sensitive nerve.

He sent three attachments with his response. One of them was to do with the council's "Reconciliation Action Plan". I read it with interest and more than a little concern. We apparently have a huge problem here, a problem almost everyone appears to be unaware of. Apparently we need "skilled appropriate advisors for many more activities into the future", activities that is for "culturally sensitive issues".

What are these activities? I looked at the list. There were cultural practices for events on it:

"Welcome to country ceremony"

"Smoking ceremony"

"Dance" (Corroboree)

"Traditional Music" (Yidaki)


This was in addition to things like "cultural awareness inductions" and "language and naming of public places" along with "heritage" and "management" and walks and more.  Apparently we have been neglecting these things for years and now it is costing the council a significant sum each year to restore these things.

I sent all this off to my friend M.... in an email. I knew he would be interested. What did he think? 

As I have said elsewhere M... is an Aboriginal man, very definitely Aboriginal. He can trace his ancestry back to his great-grandparents. Seven of the eight of those great-grandparents have births recorded as being of aboriginal heritage. The eighth he has not been able to find but, as he puts it, "it is more likely than not" he is aboriginal. M...gets his surname from that man's occupation.  

There was an answer from M... this morning. He dismissed the "Welcome to country" outright. We both know that it was something invented for Downunder's equivalent of Woodstock - the Nimbin festival. (Brother Cat passed through Nimbin recently and says it is still a town of ageing "hippies".)

M... did the same for the "Smoking ceremony". "It means nothing Cat, you know that."

The words "dance" and "Corroboree"had the comment "ROFL". "Do they," he asked, "expect people to prance around half naked for the benefit of tourists?" It is not what corroborees are about. I know I am never going to be invited to one. They have nothing to do with reconciliation.

Traditional music (Yidaki) had him puzzled for a bit apparently. I need to explain here that the council is apparently talking about "didgeridoos" and the "yidaki" is the particular form of the Yolngu people who live a long way from here. M...'s response was, "That Mob" (meaning the tribe which was here at white settlement) "didn't use them". 

No, I know that not all Aboriginal people used didgeridoos or boomerangs. It is convenient to believe they did but it simply is not the case. 

All of this however is apparently being "sensitive" and "respectful" of "local culture and traditions". We apparently need to spend many thousands of council dollars on such things each year.

"It's really more than a bit insulting Cat," M... told me, "Now they are trying to teach us how things are done." 

That doesn't seem very "culturally sensitive" to me.   

Sunday 13 August 2023

Human interaction was

under discussion yesterday...on line at least.

On line was also the way I "talked" with other people. It was a dismal sort of day - about 11'C for the most part. It rained. I decided not to get my fur wet and stayed at home because I could. A day without face to face human interaction doesn't bother me too much. I have plenty to do and a couple of interesting things came up in other ways.

As I was giving the refrigerator a little clean I was also thinking about "self-service" in the supermarket and other places. I was also thinking about the lack of social interaction.

When I was a mere kitten and we lived in the country social interaction was a very different sort of thing. Even before I went to school I was able to pedal off on my "Dinky" trike with the carry tray on the back. Mum would actually send me down to the one shop or to the butcher or to the baker. (Yes, they were actually separate places.) I knew how to buy what was needed - hand the note over in the shop or the butcher or tell the baker's wife we needed a loaf of bread. I knew to wait for the change and more. 

I also knew that part of the process was about talking to people. I knew I was expected to thank whoever opened the heavy doors for me. I knew I had to answer polite questions about whether everyone was well or agree that we had enjoyed the Sunday School picnic. It was all part of normal life in the country. All the usual residents of the little place knew me and so did most of the outlying farmers and their families. It was the same for every other child. I suppose we were safe because of this. There was never any trouble - or not that my parents told me about later in life. 

On Sundays people went to church. Afterwards the adults stood around and talked. It was "catch up" time. I suppose it must have been gossip as well but it served a purpose. If "X" was not at church and known to be unwell then people knew about it, knew if help was needed. If "Y" was not there it was because a new baby had arrived in the night. There were all sorts of reasons. 

People looked out for one another. If you helped your neighbours they helped you. It might not have eradicated loneliness or mental illness but it went a long towards supporting those who were lonely or had issues with depression.

Here in the city it was different but people still went to church and shopping was a social experience. You expected to change a few words about the weather or a child or some incident when you bought the Sunday joint or stopped to get the bread. While the shop keepers did not know all the children they knew the very local children - and the troublemakers. 

Now you can do an entire week's shopping and not say a word to anyone. It might be much faster but is it really a good thing? What is it that everyone is doing that is so urgent they can't even say "thank you" to the steadily dwindling number of check out staff? 

Yesterday a team won a sports match. "Everyone" (but only one family) in our street seems to have been "cheering them on". It means so many people are on a short-lived adrenalin "high". The "buzz" might continue until the next match is over but it is not going to be the same sort of long term feeling of well being that comes from close and caring contact with each other.


Saturday 12 August 2023

Paying rural teachers more

may not be the answer. The suggestion, in this morning's paper, that those "volunteering" to go should be paid another $20,000 on top of their current salaries and allowances is interesting but will it work?

We have a good many rural schools in this state, some of them in very remote areas. There aren't too many "one teacher schools" left. They have been closed in favour of sending children long distances by bus to larger schools with "better facilities". Even some of those "larger schools" are not the answer.

The Senior Cat started his teaching career in a "one teacher school". It was a very remote school indeed and, as a city born and bred boy, he was completely out of place in a tiny community on the railway line which runs up to the other end of the continent. He stuck it out but the Education Department must have realised it was not the right thing. He had to live at the pub because there was no other accommodation available...and he didn't drink alcohol. He knew nothing about football or racing or mustering cattle...and they were the only topics of conversation among the men. The Senior Cat spent a year there before being moved to a not quite so remote but still remote location with another one teacher school. He spent two years there and, having met our mother at a New Year's Eve party in the city, was itching to get a transfer to somewhere closer so he could marry her. 

We went to look at that school twelve years later when we lived in another location further up the track. It had not changed. It was still a single class room on a rough plot of land with "long drop dunnies" on the far side of the plot. The children were still washing their hands in a bucket of water put there by the "water monitor" first thing in the morning. I think there were eleven children enrolled. That was three better than another school. We thought our school was "big". Our parents taught forty-six children between them. 

You cannot provide the same facilities even for forty-six children. We went on after two years to a much bigger school but it was still too small to provide the same facilities as a big city school. The "secondary" section was just one class, the first in the new "area" school. There was no subject choice. We were taught the basics, nothing more. The Senior Cat did his best but he had inexperienced teachers in their first year out. In many ways the three years we spent there were good for other reasons but the education we were getting was not good. 

We went on to yet another rural school, a big "area" school. There were more students but similar problems. In the "academic" stream there were no subject choices. You did English, two unit maths, physics, chemistry, geography, history and woodwork or needlework. Both the geography and the history syllabus varied little from what we had been taught in the primary section. It allowed the primary teachers to take classes in those subjects in the secondary section. There were no languages taught. The "area" stream added metalwork, cookery, agricultural studies and art instead of physics, chemistry, geography and history.  Yes, it was an education of sorts.

Surprisingly some of us actually managed to go on to higher education but there were too many left behind and would it change now? I doubt it. 

Young and inexperienced teachers might think the extra money would be good for the couple of years proposed but they would want to move on. If you really are keen on teaching then the facilities are not there even now. You won't have the same opportunities to mix and meet. You are isolated in many ways that only become obvious when you are there. Country people are often incredibly friendly and welcoming but there is always the sense of being an "outsider" and having to constantly watch what you do and say. 

Trying to get older and more experienced teachers to go and stay will be much harder, especially when the idea of permanent employment has given away to short term contracts. Teachers want to buy their own homes in the city now. They don't want their children to have a lesser education.

To lift rural education to the same standard as city education and with all the same choices would be impossibly expensive. I thought of all that. I also thought of the demands made by some to teach aboriginal children in their "first language" and how that is even more impossible to do. We are setting too many children up to fail. Education, a good education, is expensive. It is about much more than paying teachers more for a couple of years.

Friday 11 August 2023

$300 a week to feed a family of five

is apparently "difficult" but not impossible. There are people who do it.

I have been wondering about this and how easy I would find it. Over the past week there have been a number of news items about this, about hospital food and about prison food.  

I once saw the "dining room" of the state's prison. It was many years ago and I have no idea what it is like now but, back then, it was nothing more than row upon row of individual school like desks all facing in the same direction. We were told the inmates didn't like to eat with each other.  The only other thing I remember was the fact that each "table" had a currant bun on it - made that morning in the prison bakery.  

I don't know what they get to eat now apart from the fact that it is high in carbohydrates because carbohydrates are cheaper than protein.

I know more about hospital food. I know it varies greatly. I have seen it, more than once. The food the Senior Cat was given on various stays varied so much it is hard to believe that they were all hospitals. In one the food was almost inedible, certainly not what should have been given to people who were unwell. There was also the problem of trying to fight your way into the packaging if you could actually reach your food in the first place. No, don't ask. The rooms are all individual so there is nobody to help.

Another hospital had a kitchen on site and the Senior Cat was given half size but high energy serves. He said, "Not too bad actually - not like yours but definitely edible." Staff in the same place made sure he could reach his food. When he had difficulty uncapping the orange juice (which was actually juice) on the first morning the man in the bed opposite came over and helped. At the request of the over worked staff he continued to help.

The Senior Cat and I spent a day in the emergency department of another hospital. He couldn't have breakfast "just in case" but when the first investigation was over and he could have something they gave him tea and a packet of biscuits and cheese. I opened those for him. Later in the day they gave him sandwiches which were actually fresh and attractive looking. They also quietly passed a spare packet to me. There were four different fillings - one triangle each. The bread was fresh and the fillings identifiable.  It wasn't food we would have eaten every day of the week (the bread was white) but it was still good food, especially in a setting like that.

Yes, it can be done - even on a budget. So, $300 to feed a family of five for a week? A woman was saying how "difficult" this was. Yes, it probably is. I wouldn't want to try and feed three teenagers who play a lot of sport on that sort of money but I think I could do it. What is more I think I could do it with more than a lot of carbohydrates. So why is it such a problem?

I know part of it is a "time" issue. If both parents go to work then "cooking from scratch" isn't always easy unless you do batch cooking on your days away from work. That however may only be part of the problem. Too many people know very little about how to shop cheaply and how to cook the cheaper options. There are the expectations of what will be eaten too. 

I have said elsewhere that, as children, we ate a lot of mutton. We ate it along with potatoes and pumpkin and whatever vegetables the Senior Cat grew or, in one place, Mum managed to buy. As children we didn't know any different. It was food. It appeared after we had set the table. We did the washing up afterwards.  We saw Mum preparing food. If Grandma was around we "helped" and then really did participate. 

I suspect much less of that goes on now. I know T... and H... across the street can make themselves snacks like "toast and Vegemite" and "beans on toast" using the microwave. They know more about making pizza than their father does. I was told about that recently! (Their mother worked in a "proper pizza place" while at university.) S... engages them in the process but it is time consuming and it is time many parents seem not to have.

But I think I could send three children to school after a breakfast of cereal and toast. They could take a "food police" approved lunch. They could have an after-school snack and an evening meal which included adequate protein, vegetables and fruit as well as the inevitable carbohydrate. They would get their daily ration of milk.

What lost me when the woman was talking about the difficulties was something else. She was complaining she had to buy "snack" food from the cheap variety stores. There it is likely to come from somewhere in Asia even while it is labelled with familiar labels. 

That sort of food is empty carbohydrates, high in sugar or fat or both. The salt content is far too high even if you are not particularly health conscious. It really isn't that cheap either. If you want that sort of thing it is better to put money aside and wait for the "specials" in the supermarket. 

It seems that many children expect that sort of thing however and parents will buy it. Mum didn't buy it because it didn't exist packaged in those little convenient "individual" packets. I doubt she would have done so anyway.

We still had our treats. Come school holiday time Mum would sometimes make "peanut brittle" or "almond brittle" - clear toffee with a great many nuts in it. It wasn't in the least bit good for our teeth but it tasted delicious.  

Thursday 10 August 2023

A holiday for a sports match?

The Prime Minister of Downunder has been saying we should have a holiday if the soccer team wins the final game. Really?

I remember a previous Prime Minister of the same shade of politics suggesting that we should have a holiday when Downunder won a sailing race. It didn't happen.

And why should it? We didn't actually win that sailing race at all. A team of people using their skills won the race. Perhaps they deserved a day off? It had nothing at all to do with anyone who was not involved. Cheering them on didn't count. It certainly didn't mean we needed a holiday. 

As I said, it didn't happen. It would have been a mistake if it had happened. I don't think anyone really took the PM of the day too seriously. 

This time around I am less certain. There are people who believe the present PM would do this for the populist vote. He seems to head off to the sport and expect to get his photo in the paper for being there. If he wants to go to a sporting event of some sort or another and he has the time fair enough but do we need to know about it? No, we don't.

I know people who think that having a holiday if the soccer team won the cup would be a "lovely" idea. Yes it might be - for them. What about the people who have to pay for them to have this holiday? What about the people who do the sort of jobs where you can't "just take a day off"? 

For years I worked some hours on Christmas Day. I always did the early shift because I knew other people wanted to be with excited children who were opening parcels. I was fortunate that it was just a few hours doing nothing more than monitoring a website and being prepared to spring into action if there was an emergency. It was actually quite restful, a sort of calm before the storm of the rest of the day. I know some of the team used other parts of the day to escape from the noise. We all knew it had to be done. 

But I wonder whether our PM really understands that sort of thing, whether most people understand it in fact. He obviously has no idea how much would be involved in declaring an unexpected public holiday. He should have more idea because I am sure he knows when the referendum will be held. The fact he has not announced it yet and that it can cause major disruptions to other people is something that doesn't seem to be of great concern. His major concern is that it isn't held on the day or weekend of a major sporting event like a big footy match. If you care about which way a vote goes then this sort of thing might be important. Sport is big business in more ways than one.

But - we don't need a holiday because someone else has done the hard work.   

Wednesday 9 August 2023

"He has bright green hair"

someone tells me. She is looking at me for an answer. Who is that person?

He was also wearing knee high lace up boots below a plain black kilt like skirt, a flannelette shirt, a masculine shoulder bag over one shoulder and yes...the almost fluorescent green hair. Yes, he stands out in a crowd. Yes, he is definitely "odd". 

He is merely an acquaintance of mine, the friend of someone I don't even know well. To the best of my knowledge he has never held down a proper job. He is quite a skilled artist of sorts. He once gave the Senior Cat a rather clever print he had made of a cow. Middle Cat has it now because, as she said, "It is rather a fun sort of thing." 

When he did that he was having an "up" phase. When he has a "down" phase nobody sees him apart from his friend, the one I know. She has checked on him for years now. He isn't "normal". He would be described as "mentally ill" by many people. 

I like to think of him as "different", just "different". He has always been extremely polite to me. On this last occasion I was unlocking my trike ready to pedal off when he came up the ramp and spoke to me. We shared a joke and a laugh. I don't ask personal questions of him. He will sometimes tell me things he wants me to know.

He was heading to the chemist for his medication. He was in an upbeat mode but he was looking at me and I saw something there that I don't see in other people. For all he dresses to stand out in the crowd it is not really the way he sees himself. He knows he is "different", that he doesn't really fit in with the rest of society. It has been easier since someone found him some proper accommodation.

"I've got a place of my own now, a proper place. There's a lot of light there...not the bedroom but there's a sort of living space with a kitchen bit and a bathroom. I've set my things up."

I tell him how good that sounds. I hope S..., who looks out for him, will find it a bit easier to do the amazing job she does.  He is half way to the chemist when the other person asks about him. I just say, "He's the friend of someone I know. He is kind and funny and I like him."

I don't tell her he is mentally ill. She can see for herself he is not like most people. I don't want to talk about that because, when he is up, he really is kind and funny and I am happy to be seen chatting to him.  

Tuesday 8 August 2023

The "protest" letter I wrote

about the council representatives spending rate payer money on a political campaign has resulted in two responses. I expected both of them. 

The first was an acknowledgment to say it had been received. The second was a one sentence response from a councillor which said nothing more than "thank you for letting us know how you feel". The response was nothing more than a pro-forma one sent by someone who does not even represent the ward I live in. It would be the same response they are giving possibly hundreds of other people - even those planning to vote "Yes" in the upcoming referendum. Most people simply do not believe council money should have been spent in this way.

Yesterday however I was accosted by a former neighbour who is a very strong supporter of the "Yes" side. She knows I am concerned by the proposal but she has never given me the opportunity to explain why. We have never sat down to talk it through. Like many people who are passionate about a cause she will hear nothing against it.  Yes, no doubt we are all guilty of that at times.

This time around however I have tried to listen, look and learn. I have talked to many people. I have read arguments for and against. I have heard debates for and against. I have sought out other material. At the start of my journey I felt uncertain, now I am concerned, very concerned.

My former neighbour is now treating me as if I am a poisonous snake which needs to be captured and cast out of the Eden she is so certain will be created when Yes prevails.

"You're not going to win Cat. You are on the wrong side of history. I didn't think you were a racist."

I have been told this more than once. It was all said again. She believes absolutely in teaching children in their "first language" and the idea "they have the right to live the lifestyle they choose". She will tell you there were "thousands of children stolen and we are still doing it". 

And yesterday she was applauding the council move to spend money on supporting Yes. "It should have been $100,000 at least, probably more. All these people who want the council to stick to roads and rubbish just don't understand how important it is."

I think many people do understand how important the issue has become. They understand how it is dividing the community rather than bringing it together. They are genuinely concerned for the future and the children of the future. 

Ideas have changed since 1967 - the year the policy of "removing" children from their families to get an education ceased. It was a policy I certainly feel was wrong. By 1997 the "Bringing them home" report had not only recognised that but made many recommendations and changes. 

Twenty-six years later ideas have changed again. Looking at the wish-list composed by those seeking to have control does not fill me with hope for the future. Council money would have been better spent on library books in English for the future.


Monday 7 August 2023

"Victimhood" is now

an industry. It seems we all need to be victims of some sort or another. We need to have a grievance. Something has to be "not fair" and, if something is "not fair" then we need to be "compensated" for it.

Nobody from the "Yes" campaign knocked on the door yesterday. There was nobody in the street. Never mind there are a few weekends to go before the referendum yet. No doubt they will still be accosting people at the library and in the shopping centre and elsewhere. They will tell you "it isn't fair" and "if you vote no then you are racist". I am not sure what that means.

I have been listening to the "leaders" of the Yes side. One of them has actually spoken of plans to "smash your Constitution". The list of things they plan to demand "when the Voice gets up" is ever growing.  Their voices are getting more strident all the time. 

Our Constitution is a written one. It is the document which allows parliament to make laws for the good governance of the country. It should be something which unites us, not divides us. This is one reason to oppose the proposed Voice. It puts a division in place, a division which could only be removed by another referendum. It is really stating "Aboriginals will always be disadvantaged. We need to feed that disadvantage to justify its place in the Constitution." It is about ensuring that the "gap" so often spoken about can never be closed for if it is closed there is no need for that Voice.  It is about ensuring that grievances remain live.

They are now getting schoolchildren to raise money to provide more books for Aboriginal children. Sounds like a good thing doesn't it? But these books will be books "in their own language". They are not really designed to "preserve a culture". That "culture" has already been lost. There was never a written form of any Aboriginal language before white settlement. What little has been passed down has changed beyond recognition. These books are not about cultural preservation they are about maintaining a gap. The initiative is dressed up in all sorts of ways but this is about the power to control. It is about attempting to turn people into victims - and yes, you are a victim if those above you make decisions which deliberately disadvantage you. 

"It's better than nothing" you tell me? I think not. It is surely better to have ten books about their life in English than one in a poorly reconstructed version of a language spoken by very few which tells you, "I am a victim."





Sunday 6 August 2023

Door knocking?

Don't do it here.

There is a polite message at our front door asking people not to knock. Obviously this does not include people I know or people I have asked to come. 

It does include people collecting for charity, religious groups, environmental activists and others.

Charity groups need to be aware that I have a limited income and I do what I can with that. I am not going to donate to people at the door or in the shopping centre because, more often than not, you are being paid to collect and the money is going to charities where as little as eighteen cents in the dollar is actually going on a service to help those in need. I want my money to go to those actually in need, not the person organising the distribution.

It is much the same with environmental organisations. They could do far more if they got out there and actually planted trees instead of handing out glossy pamphlets. (How many trees were cut down to print those?)

Religious groups infuriate me. I haven't seen any Mormons lately. Perhaps the pandemic has reduced their activities and I must admit the one lot before that just walked out again. They must have read the notice. 

I have had more than one run in with the Jehovah's Witnesses. They were so persistent that I ended up writing to their head honcho and threatening legal action. I would take it too. They prey on families of the deceased and I find that despicable. 

There is another persistent group from a local "Bible" church. I thought all churches were Bible based but apparently I am wrong. This lot believe that they, and they alone, are right and they are determined the rest of us should know it. It isn't really helping those in need.  They even tried confronting an Anglican priest who happened to be here one day. He was in civvies. He let them talk for a moment and then, gently, told them what his occupation was and suggested that they find better ways to support people in need. They scuttled off.

And now it seems there is to be a "massive" door knocking campaign for that "other" issue - the Voice issue. It will be "all about Yes". 

I have no doubt they will ignore the notice on the door. They will knock. They will see it as their right to "inform" me. That I might already be well informed, perhaps even better informed, will be of no interest to them. In this district they will inevitably come from the "reconciliation" group.

I wish they really were a "reconciliation" group. If they were they would think very differently. They would not be trying to divide the community with the proposed "voice". They would not be playing into the hands of people who are determined to forever maintain that gap by way of their grievance industry.  It will do so much harm. 

I'd like to try but I don't think they will listen to my voice.  

Saturday 5 August 2023

Political campaigns

should not be conducted by local councils in this country. It may well be that elsewhere it is acceptable. Councils elsewhere have other functions and politics do come into that.

Here councils are there to deal with things like roads, rates, rubbish, community facilities and the like. They are not there to donate ratepayer funds to one side of a political campaign and not the other. They are not there to support one side of a referendum and not the other.

Our local council has gone too far, much too far. They have donated $50,000 of ratepayer funds to "Yes" for the upcoming referendum. They have donated nothing to "No". They should not have donated money to either side. What is more this has been done without the approval of - or even consultation with - ratepayers. $50,000 would do a great deal more good elsewhere in our area.

No, I am not happy with what they have done and many other people feel the same way. It has even got a negative mention in this morning's editorial. 

The council has added to the problem by allowing a "Reconciliation" group to station themselves at the entrance to the library. They are campaigning for "Yes" of course. It is a highly political group which has been able to get a number of items through council - name changes and a refusal to make an environmentally sound change that might have "disturbed" something we have been told is "significant".

I was at the library yesterday and saw this for myself. Indeed I was not able to go into the library without being stopped by these people. Even when I made it clear, quite politely, I did not want to speak to them they persisted. 

I spent a little time observing them. Did they do the same to other people? Yes, they did. 

As I left the library they tried again. Outside someone I know by sight said, "I don't like that."

No. I don't like it either. I know that a "No" group has been denied the same right to put their case.

There are two, perhaps more, sides to this referendum. At one time the government did not even want to send out a "yes/no" case, just a yes case. It is only funding, albeit indirectly, the Yes case. There are serious flaws in the Yes case, flaws which could lead to unexpected places.  The No case is leading to other problems but would at least maintain the status quo for now and may even lead to changes in the future.

Whatever happens I believe the council should be neutral. It should not be spending funds on anything like this, particularly without ratepayer approval. It should not be approving one side of such a serious issue and not permitting the other to be heard.

And all readers should be able to enter the library without being harassed by a group which is feeding division in the community.  

Friday 4 August 2023

Country people are

different. No, not all of them of course but there is something which marks them out. There is something about people who come "from the bush", or from "out back".

I was, briefly, in the shopping centre yesterday. Coming back from the chemist I have to pass four clothes' shops. The first of these is rather expensive but there is usually a "sale" rack out the front. A blue cardigan caught my eye, not for me but for one of the residents of a local nursing home. She had asked me to keep an eye out for such a thing. If it was her size it might, if under a certain price, be something I could ask the manager to put aside for a day. (I know the manager for other reasons.) 

It was not her size and it was more expensive than I or L... would have been prepared to pay for it. The other woman looking at it shook her head as well. 

"Good wool is so expensive and we don't get much for it," she told me. 

Immediately I knew she was from the country. It wasn't just her words. They are common enough among the farmers or graziers in this country. The days when we "lived off the sheep's back" have long gone but we still grow some of the best wool in the world. No, there was just that "something" about her. The way she was dressed was smart enough but it was practical. Her hair style was practical. Her nails were short. Her skin was that of someone who has, while attempting to protect it, spent years outside.

I asked her where she was from, "A little place you have probably never heard of," she told me and named it.

"Just north of where I was born," I told her with a smile.

"Oh," she looked delighted and we went on chatting for a little while finding people she knew and who might have been there when I was a very small kitten. Some of the names were familiar.

Her daughter reappeared with her shopping and we laughed at the "coincidence". 

"We'll be down again for the Show," I was told.

"Come and find me in Handicrafts on the Wednesday and Saturday," I told them, "I'll give you a guided tour of the exhibits."

"Yes. I was going to put in some spinning but...things happened. It was so good to meet you."

Off they went with a smile and a wave. And yes, unlike a lot of other casual conversations of that nature, we might briefly meet again. This is what happens when people live in more remote places. Those apparently casual conversations mean more to people who might not see anyone apart from family for days on end. They make connections city dwellers cannot make in the same way. 


Thursday 3 August 2023

Too expensive? Price gouging?

The state's annual agricultural and horticultural "Show" is coming up at the beginning of next month. The ticket prices have just been announced. Yes, they have gone up. 

There have been wails of protest. People are saying it is "too expensive". Even the editorial in this morning's paper was saying this.

I looked at the prices. I then looked up the price of going to a football match - the AFL sort. I also thought back to the price of going to the much talked about "Taylor Swift" concerts. 

The Show is a once a year event. You can go early in the morning and stay until late in the evening. Along the way you can see all sorts of animals, farm produce, market garden produce, flowers, art, wine, honey, handicrafts, wood chopping, all sorts of other events in the arena (lots of horsey things if you like horses) and displays of all sorts. The police band plays and there are other free concert events for adults and children. There is an art display. Add to that there are side shows and rides and all sorts of businesses displaying their wares.  In the evening there is a fireworks display as well. (Yes, I hope it doesn't rain!)

If you pre-purchase your ticket it is actually cheaper to go to enter the Show for the day than it is to go to the footy for an afternoon. You can take your own food and drink to the Show if you don't want to buy anything there. You cannot do that at the footy. It is cheaper to do either of these things than go to that concert for a couple of hours.

The Show is run by a private not-for-profit charity. It relies heavily on the services of volunteers. Without them it would be much more expensive. It is also the premier event for the rural community. We need the farmers and other agricultural people. Awards there can boost business and that helps the entire state.

It was a little disconcerting to find the editorial complaining about the price rises. Yes, they were steep but the Showground lost money for the two years the event could not be run. Like every other organisation the RAHS has to pay taxes and wages for the permanent staff. Costs have risen.

It is still a cheap day out compared with that concert or the footy.  

Wednesday 2 August 2023

"The Beatles are coming!"

I can remember hearing that a very long time ago now. I can remember the excitement of the person who told me. 

"Yes! It's going to be fantastic! Amazing! I've just got to go and see them!" 

We went in the school gates. Even the prefect on duty (checking hat, gloves, stockings) looked excited.

I was bewildered. I had found out who the Beatles were by then but we didn't listen to that sort of music at home. If my parents turned the wireless on - a rare occurrence apart from the news services - it was to listen to something entirely different. In the rural area I had been living in most students knew more about classical music because that was what the farmers played to the cows as they did the milking.

At the all girls high school in the city it seemed each girl had "my Beatle". They discussed them at recess and lunch times. They discussed ways of getting their parents to agree to them going to the concert and whether they would be able to skip school to go and line the streets from the airport when the Beatles arrived.

I don't think anyone in Intermediate A went to the concert. If they did they most certainly did not boast about doing it. The rest of the class would not have appreciated that. In the week before the Beatles landed there was a school assembly. I remember the Deputy Headmistress standing there and telling us that on the big day there would be a roll call for every lesson. Any girl who was not there had to have a medical certificate or a verifiable reason for absence that did not include lining the streets. 

The disappointment was palpable. I was still bewildered. It would never have occurred to me to skip school to go and stand on the side of the road and hope I might see these people. It was clear however that the other girls were very, very disappointed. There were a great many grumbles.

On the great day we were all at school. There was still a buzz of excitement. The girls had all decided they could go and stand outside the hotel these people were staying at. If they were lucky they might catch a brief glimpse of these people. There was a decided lack of concentration in classes.

And then we had a Latin lesson. The teacher was close to retirement age. She came in and put an alarm clock on the desk and set it going. "Now girls, when the alarm rings the plane will land. At that time we will stop work and you can tell me about these Beatles. Before that I expect you to work."

She was as good as her word. The last ten minutes of what should have been a Latin lesson was spent in the other girls telling her how "fabulous" the Beatles were. 

I don't think any other teachers did anything like that. If they did we didn't hear about it. We thought, as one of the girls put it, our Latin teacher was "pretty terrific".

Now we apparently have Paul McCartney coming to give a concert. I wonder how many of the girls I went to school with will remember that - and will they go to the concert?