Sunday 14 April 2024

Six dead and more critical

is not the sort of news anyone wants to hear. 

I tried not to panic yesterday because a family member could easily have been in the shopping centre where the incident occurred. Having heard nothing I assumed that person was safe but I knew others had not been so fortunate. It was all a little "too close to home" as they say. It was not the sort of thing we expect to happen in this country either. This is "not that sort of country" - or is it?

Quite possibly the person who committed this act was mentally ill. We will never know for certain what he was thinking because he is dead. It may be that this is better for all concerned. It is still going to cost a great deal of time and resources to investigate. There is the cost of the emotional and physical trauma for those directly involved and the emotional trauma of those peripherally involved. The financial cost will be high too but it is the other costs that really matter.

Those costs will go on for years. If the nine month old baby survives she is going to grow up without a mother - and that is a life sentence. I wonder what makes someone attack a mother and child, people they do not know...and I think of this happening in other places because there are people who are fighting for supremacy and control without any care for the individuals who stand in their way.

I am wondering too how the policewoman who shot and killed the perpetrator feels this morning. Yes, it is something she was trained to do but it would never have been something she really expected to do. She now has to live with the fact she has taken the life of another human being in an ordinary suburban shopping centre. Her action was to shoot and her reaction was to start CPR on the same person. The latter says a great deal about what sort of person she is likely to be. I hope she gets a lot of support from now on. She is going to need it...and telling her she is a "hero" is not the sort of support she needs.

No, we don't expect anything "like that" to occur here and it is wrong. It is also wrong it is happening in other places. I want people to think before they act - and they won't. 

Saturday 13 April 2024

Some of you are going to disagree

with this but I am going to say it anyway. We do need some special schools.

This morning's paper has a story about a child who was given "time out" for an entire day because he fought with another child in the classroom. His mother is up in arms about it. The school principal has been "counselled". The media is suggesting it was "inappropriate". I could go on. 

I do not know the circumstances so I cannot comment. However I have just been having one of those quick conversations with a local dog walker. He had read the article before I had and wanted my opinion. I was cautious about responding but he was not cautious about his own views. His grandson is in the same class as another very disruptive child. 

"My daughter says the kid is autistic. If he is then he needs to be somewhere else. It's not fair on the other kids."

I know this man's daughter and I have heard about the problem from her. I have seen the child in question, although not in the classroom. I have seen him more than once in the shopping centre with his mother. Yes, he is a problem. His behaviour is bizarre. In a classroom it would be very, very distracting for everyone. His teacher is doing an amazing job coping with it for short periods each day. The rest of the time it seems he is "wandering" around the room interfering with what the other children are doing or he is "one-on-one" with a teacher aide who is really there for three classes, two of which have children with other very special needs. 

There is no other school placement available for this child. There is no "special" class, unit or school available. It is all too easy to say he is "better off" in a regular mainstream classroom surrounded by children who behave "normally", that he needs to be there for his own benefit. The question surely has to be "what about everyone else?"

Even if this child is given one-on-one attention all day what if he is still shouting and lashing out? Is a mainstream classroom really the right place for him? Does he find the situation as confronting as others find it having him there? Is this what it is like for the child who was given "time out" all day?

School is a very different place from the schools I attended and even the schools I worked in. Education methods have changed dramatically since then. I am not sure they have necessarily changed for the best. Countries where methods are more "traditional" do seem to have higher levels of achievement - and I am not referring just to places like China. It might just be that the way schools are functioning now simply does not suit all children, that there are children who find the situation simply overwhelming and that those who would once have found it hard to function in a regular classroom now find it impossible. I know I could not work in classrooms I have seen in recent years. They seem noisy and chaotic to me. If what is going on inside your head is noisy and chaotic too this must make it worse.

Would providing a small, well regulated and quiet learning space actually be a better thing for some of these children? Would it be better even if it isolated them from the mainstream and treated them as "special"?

 

Friday 12 April 2024

Talking to strangers

is something we are taught not to do as children - and rightly so. It is also something most of us do not do as adults. 

I am prompted to write this because someone I know has just written she has been "breaking all the rules" and talking to people on London transport. The encounters were apparently good ones too. 

It reminded me of an incident several days ago. I was in the Post Office. It was the first really cool day for a very long time. I was actually wearing a heavy cotton jacket. The girl behind the counter said something about the fact that it was "so cold" and that she "might put the heating on tonight". Someone else joined in. I know the staff in the post office quite well - well enough for us to know each other's names - so I said, "Softies!" They laughed and a complete stranger joined in with, "Well I live in the hills and it is colder up there so I turned my heating on last night."

We all looked at him. He gave a cheerful grin and said, "Well, that's my story and I am sticking to it."  

All this was simply cheerful, friendly chat but I left the Post Office thinking that there is not a lot of that sort of thing any more. People don't talk to one another as much as they did. I wondered yet again whether it has something to do with the fact that many people get in their cars to go somewhere. They don't walk. They don't catch public transport. Now they also have the added distraction of their mobile phone screen. It is all a perfect excuse not to talk to other people.

I am going to get my 'flu vaccination this morning and I am almost certain that I will go into a silent waiting area. That might be understandable in a medical setting but it seems to be the same in the wider community. What happened in the Post Office seems to be rare and I think we all felt better for it.

Middle Cat seems to be able to talk to anyone anywhere. My friend G... is much the same. They can get a life history from anyone in no time at all. Much as I like listening to other people I cannot bring myself to start a conversation in that way - or ask the questions which will keep it going. 

I will respond to other people though. I am not going to stand and stare straight ahead. My phone screen holds no attractions for me.  I am never going to drive a car. I should have more conversations than I do. What is going on? Are we losing the art of conversation?

Thursday 11 April 2024

The Tickle v Giggle case

is one which all women need to be aware of and I am concerned that it is not being given the coverage it should be given. It is a case which will be pivotal in determining whether those born female have the right to female only spaces or whether those born male have the right to use them if they are transgender. In short the court is being asked the question "what is a woman?"

It is a big question. It is a very important question. It is a question of whether biological identity or gender identity should prevail. 

It is well known that the author of the Harry Potter books, JK Rowling, has been criticised for saying that traditionally women's only spaces should remain that way. It may be that she is right.  I have had a little to do with one of the women's shelters here in this state and I would say that allowing any biological male in there as a client would be extremely distressing to the biological females seeking shelter there. The Senior Cat did maintenance work there on a voluntary basis for over a decade. Before his death he was aware of the way Rowling was being criticised and he was upset, indeed very upset, by it. "Don't people realise how vulnerable these women are? Don't they realise how hard it has been for them to get there? The last thing they need is their safe space being invaded."  

When accused of "invading their space" himself he would just shrug and smile. After the first few weeks word got around that he was a "safe" person. The message was handed on to new arrivals. He never had any trouble. He was there simply to do small maintenance tasks. The women accepted that. It is quite different from going into a group expecting to be accepted as a female whatever the reality.

The problem here is that, in 2013, the government amended the "sex discrimination act". They removed the biological definitions of "man" and "woman" and allowed discrimination to be based on the gender identity of a person instead. The end result has meant that women actually have less protection than they had before 2013. Ten years later this has finally come to court. It should never have come to court. There were others who were aware of the problem but did nothing about it. They put their heads in the gender sand and hoped it would go away. It is legislation which could have and should have been written differently. 

The decision in this case will have far reaching implications - not just here but perhaps elsewhere as well. We need to be aware of what is going on.

Wednesday 10 April 2024

Are we being too sensitive?

Those of you who read this blog on a regular basis will know that I had a slight altercation with a car the other day. The driver called me a "f...spastic bitch" and drove on before anyone managed to get his number. I was shaken but not injured. 

I have also recovered although I am perhaps being even more cautious than normal but now I am wondering what would have happened if he had stopped, if I had been injured, if... there are a number of possible scenarios. What would I have done if he had stopped and checked? Would I simply have said, "Could you please be more careful?" Would I perhaps have shouted at him? 

People can do unexpected things when they have been frightened. The reaction is sometimes anger. I can understand that. 

It is not the same as the sort of behaviour currently being reported in the press. This is not the same as the apparent "anger" of the mother who removed her children from a school because one of the children was given detention for refusing to stand for the national anthem. It is not the same as being angry because a local council decides to consult the community about an issue.  It is not the same as being angry about being denied entry to a women's group because the group does not consider you to be a woman. All those things have appeared in the media over the past twenty four hours, along with some other issues. 

I am a person who waits to be invited to visit, to join in a conversation, to participate in something. I am sure there are other people like me. We look on those people who seem so confident about their welcome with envy. 

I know why I am like this too. My parents never went visiting without an invitation. They rarely invited people into our home. It was seen as something you did not do. As children we never stayed for "sleepovers". They were much less common than they are now but we would likely not have been permitted to go because it would have meant returning the invitation. There were also the added difficulties of my physical limitations - not to be talked about or even mentioned and brushed off by my mother if anyone dared to mention them. I had to leave home and go to the other side of the world for a time to get away from that.

All this was not about being "too sensitive" it was about the way I was being brought up. I think this is what worries me now. We are being led to believe we should be "sensitive" about all sorts of things, that we should not "offend" other people by behaviour which was once considered simply impolite or insensitive or even normal. We are being asked to accept that a young child is now offended by a national anthem. The anthem is not offensive in itself. They even changed the words to make it more "inclusive". That child has been taught to be offended.The person who does not want public consultation about an issue is afraid of being "offended" if others do not agree with the stance she has taken. 

So what does it really mean to be "offended" or "denied" or "hurt" or "traumatised"? Are we really teaching children they need to be "sensitive" about such things or are we teaching them something else?  It will be interesting to see which way the Tickle v Giggle case goes.

 

Tuesday 9 April 2024

No, social media is not to blame

even though it may be convenient to blame it.

An acquaintance of mine was complaining about social media yesterday. She was blaming her son's broken ankle on social media.

"If he hadn't seen that damn video he wouldn't have thought of trying something so stupid!" she fumed, "Now I'm going to have to cart him everywhere for months."

T.... has broken his ankle in multiple places. He has had surgery. It is pinned and screwed together. The surgeon has warned them there is a very long road ahead to recovery and that he "won't be playing football again". 

He was on his skateboard fooling with friends. He was doing what all teenage boys do in such situations. They had all watched something on a video clip that one of them had found...and they had all tried the manouvre.  They had all failed. It was T.... who came off worst. His mates had dealt with the situation sensibly and efficiently. They are not a bad bunch of kids. I know them slightly. They will acknowledge me as they skate past at speeds that scare me even while I recognise their need for speed, their need to take risks.

T...'s mother actually seems more worried about her own inconvenience than the potential problems for her own son. I can understand that having to take him to and from school when, at fifteen, he has been going alone is an inconvenience for her - except that his grandfather will probably do the job. I suspect T... has mates who will see to it that he gets there and back in other ways as well. She will no doubt equally resent his need for physiotherapy later and the trips to and from the surgeon and others. According to her it is all the fault of social media, of that video clip.

It is easy to blame social media for the accident. Perhaps she is right and the boys would not have tried doing what they were doing if they had not seen it there. It seems to me though that they might just as easily have seen it on television or during a film. They might have heard about it from others or seen someone they did not know do whatever it was they were trying to do. 

If it is there on a screen they are likely to watch it but simply suggesting that everything dangerous, harmful or hateful be taken down is not going to solve the problem. It is rather like suggesting that the graffiti at the railway station be taken down. It is removed frequently...and just as frequently it reappears. The young (and not so young) graffiti artists consider it a game. They spend hours refining their "tags". The idea they might be caught just adds to the "thrill" of doing it.  Making it an offence to sell spray cans of paint to the young just added a layer of challenge to the offenders. I suspect trying to remove anything and everything that could be deemed harmful, dangerous, offensive and hateful from social media would be the same. We can try but it won't work.

Yes of course there are limits but social media in itself is not to blame. It is the people who put that sort of material there who are to blame...perhaps we should be doing more about removing their access to social media? 

Monday 8 April 2024

Yes, you do stand for the national anthem

if that is what you are told to do at school. You do stand for it out in the community too.

There is a story in the paper this morning about a mother who has apparently removed her children from a small, fee paying Christian school. The reason? Her daughter was given a lunchtime detention for refusing to stand for the national anthem during a school assembly. The woman claims the national anthem is a distress trigger for her child because she is aboriginal.

The school says there is more to the story than that. I have no doubt there is. I also wonder where the child got the idea the national anthem was supposed to be distressing for her but not for other children.

I personally dislike the national anthem. I think it sounds like a dirge. I feel no stirrings of pride when I hear it. That said I will stand for it if I am expected to stand for it. I will stand for the national anthems of other countries as well if that is what is required of me. If I am asked to remove my shoes before entering a place of worship I will. During a religious service I will do as is expected of me even if I do not believe in what is taking place. This, and other things, are simply good manners. 

My nephews here went to a Catholic junior school. The reason they went was not because they were Catholic but because it happened to be nearby and their parents considered it was a better school than the nearby state primary school. In that they were probably right. It was a small, caring school where the older children really did watch out for the younger children. The teaching may not have been outstanding but it was as good as it was in the state school. It was the "family" atmosphere that mattered to Middle Cat and her partner. Middle Cat's partner was brought up in a Greek Orthodox household so the religious nature of the school was not that different. If there were differences they handled it. There were other children in the school from other faiths. The school handled it all in different ways but every child went to morning assembly and was expected to stand for the national anthem and be quiet during morning prayers. It was part of being a student there. It was not a matter of belief. My nephews knew full well that the kid with the turban did not believe what they believed but they would have been shocked if J.... had not stood for the national anthem. 

The mother in the present story seems to believe that the rights of her child should override the rights of everyone else and that good manners do not apply. She has apparently removed her children from the school. Will she remove them from the next school too? What is she teaching her child? Will it harm them or help them?

 

Sunday 7 April 2024

Yes, you can go to work

and no you will not get that cushy "disability support pension" you had your eye on. You will not endlessly get the "unemployment benefit" either. 

I know someone who has just gleefully informed me that they will be "pension age" in a few weeks. "That means I won't have to worry about all those stupid courses they kept sending me on," he told me.

This man has managed to avoid work almost all his life. He has had occasionally had a few months work here or there or elsewhere. He left school without any qualifications. He "injured" himself at the only job he ever got - on the production line in a factory. He was on a disability support pension for a while after that, then a part pension when he was told he was able to work for some hours per week. He has been sent on one low level course after another. He managed not to complete any of them so he remained unqualified. He was sent to "volunteer" at a charity shop and, although the manager is one of the most patient people I know, he was asked to leave. Now he will get a full pension with rent assistance. He will spend his days "watching the telly", playing cards and drinking with a mate who is in much the same position as himself.  It surely is a wasted life but he does not see it this way.

I cannot help contrasting him with the disabled woman who works in a local business. She is also on a disability support pension and she struggles to cope with her role at times but it is something she does with a real sense of being useful. It might just be for a few hours a week but she knows she needs that work. Her workmates are alert to her needs and will give her a little extra time when she needs it. "But you could just get the pension," is something people have discovered you do not say to her.

Yes, it might be a matter of personality and attitude. That said I still see no reason why the first person should be in a position to "work the system" when the second person does everything to avoid it. 

I am therefore increasingly concerned by the increasing numbers of children accessing NDIS payments. Some of them will genuinely need help but do we really have a country in which ten percent of boys and around seven percent of girls need to do this? Something has gone wrong somewhere. 

What is going to happen to these children when they leave school? If they had something they did not really need and had it for nothing at school are they going to expect the same as adults?  It may be that some of them will...and that won't be good for any of us.   

Saturday 6 April 2024

Too many people?

There was a much larger than usual inflow of people than usual into Downunder over the last twelve months. Now there are demands to reduce migration.

Downunder was made what it is today on migrants and this was not just the first settlers.  They may have done the initial hard work, some of them reluctantly, but they were followed by others. There are people who like to acknowledge their ancestors came here as convicts, others who like to acknowledge their more recent ancestors came here after WWI and then more still after WWII. Then, when policy changed and more Asians were allowed to live here we had an influx of Vietnamese and smaller groups from countries like Cambodia, Tibet, Nepal and the like. Even more recently we have had people from Africa, often people who have been through extreme trauma before arriving here.

It has changed this country and most would say it has changed it for the better. There is a great deal made out of saying things like it is the most successful multi-cultural country in the world.  

Now though questions are being asked. How many more people can we accept? There are genuine concerns about this. It may look to the rest of the world as if we have vast spaces which could be filled and that we should be taking in ever increasing numbers. We can't do that.  

We can't do it because we don't have the resources to do it. Water is a huge problem in this country. It is a problem now and it will be an even greater problem in the future. It is probably the biggest problem of all. 

There are other problems too. People need to be housed and fed. We need the infrastructure which will allow this to happen, which will allow people to move around, receive an education and medical services, which will give them employment and so much more. The city I live in has a dire shortage of housing. It is being hampered by planning regulations and the belief that everyone has the right to a single dwelling unit on their own plot of land. Nobody wants to live next to a "high rise" - even one that is just three or four levels high. This is happening while we have people living in cars, in tents in the parklands and on the street.

We need to change our expectations about how we are going to live in the future. I need ground floor accommodation or a very reliable lift because climbing stairs will eventually be beyond me. It doesn't mean I am also going to be lucky enough to end my life in a place where nobody is living above me. I will need to be even more quiet and thoughtful of my neighbours in such a place. Others do not want to face such restrictions.

I thought of this when I read an "indigenous" group is trying to prevent a housing development going ahead because it is on "their land" and it has "cultural significance" and it will "disturb" their ancestors. They want open spaces to be retained not for the benefit of all but for themselves. There are already areas we cannot enter in this country and they are determined there will be more. It will be interesting to see who wins this "battle". It may well be that there are already too many people. 

Friday 5 April 2024

I came close to being killed yesterday

and no, I am not exaggerating. I was on the road. I had no choice but to be pedalling my trusty trike on the road. The footpath was blocked by a tradesman's vehicle. 

On the other side of the road there were three of those enormous vehicles that pump concrete into building sites and a pump across that footpath. That hazard also had to be avoided.

It is a corner I cannot avoid and one I am always particularly cautious about. I looked both ways went down the closest driveway and planned to move back on to the footpath after I had navigated past the tradesman's vehicle. It was all perfectly reasonable and it should have been safe. I was even halfway to my destination when someone came around the corner far too quickly. He was doing more than the speed limit. He was clearly ignoring the notices which had been placed informing people work was taking place.  

Next thing I found myself in the gutter. No, I was not injured. There was no damage to the trike. I managed to swerve just in time and wobbled off instead. 

Instead of stopping to see if I had come to any harm the driver yelled, "You stupid f.... spastic bitch! Get off the f.... road."  He then sped on. Two of the workmen came over to make sure I was all right. Neither had managed to get his number plate and neither had I.

I wish I could say I saw the driver a little later, preferably being held up by the police as they wait in one of their preferred locations to nab people who fail to stop at a nearby stop sign. No, there was nobody there. 

One of the problems with this incident however is that I did not hear the car behind me until it was almost too late. It was one of the new electric vehicles. Yes, they may be much quieter. It may seem nice in our noise polluted cities to have these allegedly green dream machines. It is nice they do not pollute the atmosphere with carbon emissions or noise emissions but it is also dangerous if you are not aware. Had the driver been going at even no more than the speed limit it would have been much safer for everyone at any time.When he was breaking the speed limit in the circumstances around him it was dangerous. He got away with it so he will almost try again - and blame me. 

I thanked the workmen and pedalled cautiously on. I reached the library and had to sit there for a moment before going in. When I went in I must still have looked a bit shaken because one of the staff asked, "Are you okay Cat?" That question actually made me feel much better.   

Thursday 4 April 2024

Children do not need to know

about bestiality or any number of other things it now seems they are being confronted with in school.

Two things prompt me to write this, or perhaps three. The first is the report in this morning's paper of a "respectful relationships" session held at a state school in which bestiality was talked about along side with LGBTQIA+ relationships. Parents were not even informed the session was taking place - but students had to attend it. The second is a report I had from a child of my acquaintance that he was punished when he described a child he did not know to his teacher. "I said he had hair that was like the colour of a carrot and she told me I was very rude and we deserved it if he wasn't being nice but I didn't say it to him. I said it to her because I didn't know his name." 

Like being told the Easter Bunny does not exist it seems that there are issues of which I am not aware but that young people need to be taught.  Let it be said here that if I was the head of a school I would not be running any sort of "respectful relationships" sessions without the consent of the parents, indeed I would not be running any at all unless I was required to do just that. The reason for this would be that I would expect children to respect each other and the other people in their lives.  

If a child came to me and reported a serious incident involving another child and described the child as having carrot coloured hair I would say, "I can understand why you are describing him in that way but it isn't considered to be very polite. Let's find out what his name is before we talk to him." 

Am I wrong in suggesting that making an issue of these things is making matters worse?  We have a situation here where someone who is apparently the "e-safety Commissioner" is taking Elon Musk to court because his X or Twitter platform allowed someone in Canada to make a negative comment about someone here. The person here took exception to the comment and complained. X has blocked the comment here in compliance with the law but that apparently was not good enough. X is now challenging it and, while I think far more needs to be done about bullying and hate speech on social media, I hope X wins.  The comment in question is critical but it does not fit the definition of hate speech and the person who complained has caused far more harm than the person who made it (and who continues to advocate for the safety of children). Simply being a person with a particular characteristic does not give you the right to be offended by all statements about your status. It becomes an offense when it is done with malicious intent or an intention to do actual harm. It does not make you immune from criticism.  Children do not need to be taught that some groups with a particular status or characteristic are more deserving of respect than others. They simply need to be taught about respect.

Wednesday 3 April 2024

Food is used as a weapon

of war - and it is a very effective one.

I was talking to someone yesterday. It was just after the death of the aid workers in Gaza had been confirmed. We both felt upset but the person I was talking with was far more shocked than I was.  

"But their vehicle was marked as aid. They were delivering food. It is what everyone keeps talking about. They keep saying they need a ceasefire to do it. All they have to do then is open the border and let them in or just drop it from the air."

I took a deep breath and wondered if there was any point in trying to explain. It is not that simple.

Hamas is using food as a weapon. Hamas controls the distribution of food. Aid agencies do not control the distribution of food in Gaza or anywhere else. They can only negotiate the distribution of food and even that is uncertain.

The distribution of food in complex humanitarian emergencies (and the situation in Gaza is a complex humanitarian emergency) is not a simple matter of "everyone line up and you will get a fair share". It depends on all sorts of things. I have lost count of how many times I have been asked to help aid workers try and communicate food distribution information. I have also lost count of how many times I have been told something went wrong.

Dropping food parcels from the air sounds easy but it is one of the most inefficient means of sending in food aid. What doesn't get lost or damaged in the process will get picked up by the strongest, the most able and the most powerful. They will then decide who gets what is available. Many people will miss out. Those who do get some of what is available will owe a debt. It will not be a debt to the aid agencies involved. It will be a debt to those who have the food. 

Getting food through border crossings is no easier although it may be a little more certain. In the instance of Gaza the Israeli army can try and prevent more weapons and more ammunition entering Gaza by inspecting what goes in. That is still far from certain. It is time consuming and expensive. Aid does not flow freely through any crossing. Opening up more crossings won't prevent those problems.

The other big problem once the aid is in is the way in which it is distributed. No, the aid agencies do not have control over that. In this case Hamas does. They know where they want the aid to go. It may look as if the aid agencies are in control. It may sound as if they are in control. They are not in control. If Hamas does not want any food aid to be distributed at certain points then they will prevent it.  At those points they will, despite all appearances, be the ones to decide who gets aid.  Those who accept aid from agencies are in debt to Hamas. They will do as Hamas wants, as Hamas decides. This debt will last long after any "ceasefire" is over.  It does not matter how hard aid agencies try to control the situation they simply cannot do it. 

If you are parents and your children our starving then you will do as those really in power order - do it in order to try and save your children. Food is a weapon of war. 

Tuesday 2 April 2024

April Fools' Day jokes are only

jokes if they are genuinely funny and do not harm other people. 

I actually avoided hearing or seeing anything yesterday. I hibernated. It was a relief. This morning I caught up.

There have been some funny ones in the past...like a neighbouring state announcing they were going to divide time into ten New Hours instead of the current twenty-four.  This time around the "pickle flavoured lamingtons" are amusing. 

What I find less amusing is the claim that a drone with a 250ml cup of water can put out a fire in the hills and that there are plans to build a monorail between two heavily populated areas of the city. Perhaps they are funny to some but, to me, they make fun of serious problems. 

The Senior Cat, who loved telling jokes and all sorts of genuine humour, never encouraged such "jokes" at school. I cannot remember our teachers trying any on us. It is unlikely they were told not to do it. They just did not see the need to do it.

Now I wonder if "April Fools' Day" is less popular than it might once have been because some have had their "fun" by making fun of issues which have actually harmed some people. If you have experienced a bush fire then jokes about them do not seem particularly funny. 

It was funny when my mother told a neighbour that we had just bought a second new car. We had actually bought a new to us car some weeks before. Mum had managed to get her grandsons a model of the same type of car. Mum had J... convinced for a short time and then they both laughed. 

That was not the case when someone else I know told someone she had just had a baby and appeared to be carrying one wrapped in a cotton blanket. The "baby" was one of those "reborn" dolls which I detest. The problem with this was the fact that someone she was about to proudly display this to had just lost a baby in the last stages of her pregnancy and this woman knew it. To say it was insensitive and "not funny" would be an understatement. 

It makes me wonder what "humour" actually is. I do know it is not about making fun of people in ways which exploits their weaknesses or distress.  I am happy to leave the "jokes" to other people. 

Monday 1 April 2024

A bone marrow transplant is for life

if it is successful. 

I don't know that much about them but I do know they are an important, indeed vital, part of modern medicine. I have grappled to understand them and the vocabulary which surrounds them to help medical professionals do aid work. I have heard doctors and researchers talk about the need for them.

At the back of my mind at all times has been the thought of the patients who need them. This morning's paper really brought the need for such transplants home.  A family here has young twin boys, their only children, and both the children need bone marrow transplants to survive. The boys have something called "hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis" or "HLH" for short.  It is an inflammatory disease and very, very painful. 

The family and their medical team are looking for a donor, a donor who matches the needs of their boys. They only need one donor because the boys are "identical" twins.  Obviously the point of the story is to try and find a healthy, matching donor - one between the ages of eighteen and thirty-five. I hope they do...and that is all I can really do. I am too old to go in and say, "Am I a match?" I don't have millions to donate to research about that and so many other things.  

And then I started thinking about other things. This is a story in the paper, a paper a lot of people will not read. The word needs to be spread. Doctors need to start talking to patients who could be potential donors. The media needs to do more to inform the general population about how to go about registering and what is involved. Employers need to tell their staff, "If you are a potential donor then you get paid time off to donate." The government needs to do much more about widening the potential donor register. 

All those things are not that expensive in themselves. The process to save two young lives is much, much more expensive but it is also something we cannot put a price on.

If you are reading this then, wherever you live, please put the word out to the healthy young. It may not save the life of these twins, although hopefully it might, but it may save other lives.  

  hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis (HLH)

Sunday 31 March 2024

The importance of eggs

is not to be underestimated.

Last week I gave a friend of mine some egg cartons. I had been saving them for some time. I kept forgetting to give them to her and there were several waiting for her. 

As I passed them over she remarked, "We both eat rather a lot of eggs don't we?" 

This is true. She has hens so I am the occasional lucky recipient of a few very fresh eggs that come from well fed hens who roam her garden. That's even better.

But eggs have been on my mind for other reasons this past week. It is Easter Sunday and there are eggs everywhere. I am not doing an Easter egg hunt in the garden this year because half the children in the street are away for the weekend. The general feeling was that it was "not fair" if the absentees missed out. That's fine with me. It's been fun but it is a bit of work. I have showed two of the children around the corner how to dye their own eggs "like our yia-yia used to do". (Their grandmother was Greek-Cypriot.)  I only know how to do that because another Greek-Cypriot grandmother, Middle Cat's late MIL, showed me. P... was horrified to discover Middle Cat and I did not know how to do this. Those eggs were just plain hard boiled eggs dyed so as to have red shells. 

I have seen fancier eggs of course. There are always some in Handicrafts at the state's annual Show. The Stewards refuse to handle them. They look too delicate. The problem of handling and displaying them is left to the judges. There was always one by a friend who now sadly has dementia and has been taken by family "back home" to Europe.

And there were the Easter eggs of my childhood. There was the little egg-sized egg we were given at school. It was made from cheap chocolate covered in foil. We children ate those on the day we were given them. Then, in my family, we would be given two more. 

My maternal grandmother insisted on giving us eggs made from sugar-paste. "They last much longer," she would tell us. Really? They were supposed to last?  We dutifully thanked her each time. Mum would put them up in the cupboard "so you don't eat it all at once". She would break off bits and give them to us. We would take the pieces outside and bury them in the garden because, although we liked our fair share of sweet things, we did not care for those eggs.

My paternal grandparents gave us chocolate eggs. They were Cadbury chocolate eggs of course, probably all that was available at the time. They would also be broken into pieces and we would suck the pieces slowly to make them last. I can never remember chewing a piece of chocolate egg. It was something you simply did not do. 

Now eggs of the Easter variety seem to come in all sorts of varieties and sizes. I observed at least seven different sorts at the supermarket checkout. There were chocolate rabbits and chocolate bilbies too. I do not care for the idea of the latter. Chocolate bilbies are just politically correct nonsense and not nearly as popular as one or two people like to make them out to be. I looked at them and wondered, yet again, if I should find out what those "creme" eggs are all about but did not bother.

Yesterday I saw some beautifully dyed and decorated eggs. One of the Ukrainian refugees had made them. Today they will be given to people who have been good to her and her family.  Her neighbour N... showed me these as he photographed them so she could send pictures back to her more distant relatives in Kyiv. He isn't a religious man at all. He describes himself as a "devout atheist" but he said, "This is what Easter should be about."  

Saturday 30 March 2024

They had an election and (almost)

nobody voted.  There were just 2,583 formal votes for the state's "indigenous voice to parliament". This despite the fact that there were more than 30,000 people eligible to vote. 

There were forty-six people elected, twelve with less than twenty votes each. Four of the unsuccessful candidates received no votes at all - which means they did not even vote for themselves. Now the Minister responsible for this "voice" is telling us it is a "strong first result".

I am sorry but I think this is absolute nonsense. The whole thing had plenty of publicity, a lot of publicity. My good friend M... wanted nothing to do with the whole thing. He felt the national "Voice to Parliament" had been firmly rejected at the referendum and that the state "voice" should not go ahead. "It isn't what people want." 

It seems he is right. Last night I heard one of the successful candidates interviewed on the only news program I watch. She was asked why it was important to have a voice and what they hoped to achieve. Her response was just as I feared it would be.  For her it was all about the same policies that divide and separate, that are supposedly "saving" a long lost culture. It was about "preserving" and "reviving" languages which are not only no longer spoken but not able to be revived at all. Even if they could be revived they would not be fit for life in the twenty-first century because they do not include the ideas and vocabulary needed to survive. 

Her response was not about how to address the issues around the learning and skills needed for life in this century.  It was still about clinging to some sort of imaginary, romantic past.  That will not work. 

The result of the election was not a "strong first result". It was an indication that this is not what people want. They did not feel it was important enough to go and vote. As M... put it, "People are being told what they want again. They were asked if they wanted that sort of voice and they said no. It's a waste of money."

The whole exercise has cost a great deal of money so far. It will cost more as the members of this "voice" meet. They will make demands which cannot be met and do not meet the needs of those they have been "elected" to represent. This "voice" is about politics, not people.  

Friday 29 March 2024

Is the Easter Bunny real?

Apparently one of the children at a local school asked this question of a Baptist pastor this week. He told them "no"... and upset a lot of children in the process.

Now "no" may be the correct answer but it was also the wrong one. He acknowledged that but I suspect the damage has been done for some children. 

This last Christmas I asked T... across the road to dress up as a Christmas elf and deliver the activity packs to the other children in the street. He is old enough to know that Santa Claus or Father Christmas does not and does exist. He just gave me a knowing grin and went off to do the job telling me it was "fun" to help. He told me later his younger brother, H..., was still not sure about this. It was important not to spoil it for him or for the younger children in the street.

Until his death Middle Cat's father-in-law used to dress up as Father Christmas for an hour or so on Christmas Day and hand out presents. We all knew, children included, who it really was...and that it wasn't him either. It was all a bit of harmless fun. 

I know I stopped believing in Father Christmas before I went to school but I kept my mouth firmly closed in case adults stopped giving me presents if I did not believe. I also remember my first year at school. The "Easter Bunny" came to visit. We had all made little cardboard "nests" in which to put an egg. The whole of the infant school was sitting on the floor in the hall when one of the teachers looked out the window and told us she had seen the Easter bunny.  I looked at her and she gave me a look back which told me not to say anything. Later she told me something like, "You know it's just pretend but some of the others don't know that. Don't spoil it for them."

And that's the thing isn't it? It's "pretend" but it is "pretend" for the fun of it, to bring a little pleasurable anticipation into life.  I rather wish I had gone on believing in Father Christmas and the Easter Bunny much longer than I did. It might have been fun to go on an Easter egg hunt believing a rabbit had left them there.

Middle Cat's MIL was a very devout woman. When "Greek" Easter, Orthodox Easter, came around she would dye eggs the obligatory red and give them to us. It was not the same as the Easter Bunny coming to visit. She knew that and there was always an Easter egg hunt for her grandchildren...even when they were just a little bit too old for it all. As one of her grandchildren put it, "It's just as important for Yia-yia to be the Easter Bunny as it is for us to pretend." The Easter Bunny does exist for that reason alone. 

Thursday 28 March 2024

Would you like to vote for someone else?

The recent result in the by-election for a seat in state parliament has shown how ridiculous our electoral system is. 

We do not have "first past the post" here. I acknowledge that there are problems with that. It will often mean that a candidate a minority voted for gets in. That is why there are "run off" elections in some parts of the world for the most important positions.

What we have instead is a system of preferences. In a sense it is a sort of "run off". We are told if we do not like candidate A then we can choose candidate B and then candidate C and D and E or however many candidates there are on the ballot paper. That sounds fair and reasonable - until you realise that to make your vote for Candidate A a valid one you must also preference, in the order of your choosing, all the other candidates on the ballot paper.

This is where the system falls down. I have explained why elsewhere but I will explain it again. Say you have three candidates. At an upcoming election there is a debate about reintroducing the death penalty.  Candidate A is strongly opposed to this. Candidate B supports bringing it back in for a number of offences and Candidate C supports bringing it back in for murder. 

You are also strongly opposed to the death penalty so you want to vote for Candidate A. In order to vote for Candidate A you must also preference Candidates B and C. 

Now comes the problem. Candidate B belongs to the party which is promising free child care to parents of children under the age of ten. It is a very popular policy among families with children of that age but not popular enough for Candidate B to win the vote outright.Candidate C agrees to tell people to preference B if B agrees to tell people to preference. Candidate A has no such agreement but suggests that C is more moderate and compulsory preferences should flow to them.  Voters go off to the polling booth and do just what "their" first choice candidate tells them to do.

All this can (and is) manipulated in attempts to win seats. Both the local and the federal seats in my area changed hands at the last election because of some very clever manipulation of preferences. We can say all we like about it being ultimately up to the voters but many voters are like sheep and do just as they are told. They vote for the same party all their lives and do it unthinkingly. Those who do think find themselves voting for candidates whose policies they oppose.

If we are to have compulsory attendance at the ballot box then we need to be done with the compulsion to preference against our will.

Wednesday 27 March 2024

A legislated age to use social media?

There are renewed calls for a legislated age to use social media. It seems that some people believe there is a means of preventing children from using any sort of social media.

I doubt that is possible. There have been attempts to bring in rules banning the use of mobile phones at schools. Given that students almost invariably have lap tops now that is not going to impact their ability to learn. Turning off the phone may actually increase that.

I know teachers who have welcomed the phone ban. It is difficult to teach when students are sneaking peeks at their phones and sending messages to their friends (and enemies) during a lesson. During my time at school people made paper planes and sent their illegal classroom messages that way. They were much more likely to get caught. I never used that method. (No, I was not "good". I could not make paper planes and being "the teacher's kid" puts a stop to a lot of things.)

There are suggestions that banning mobile phone use during the school day has helped to improve behaviour, reduce bullying and increase social interaction. If it is true then there is something to be said for it. 

Would it work if they tried to ban social media use? I am not sure they can ban social media use. If they could and it actually worked then what would take the place of it? I am concerned about the increasing use of our education system to try and inculcate left wing ideas into students. They need to be presented with a range of ideas without being told this one is right and that one is wrong. If face to face contact increases and students talk more to each other away from screens it might be useful but only if they are presented with that range of ideas.

If we try to prevent all social media use then it will only seem even more desirable. It isn't good for a seven year old to spend hours playing games. It is good when a thirteen year old teaches learns about tatting from You Tube videos and comes to knitting group having mastered the basic knot. There needs to be a balance there. If the means is there to prevent a young child from signing in to unsuitable matter then it should be used. If the means is there to prevent children spending more time at a screen than a set number of hours week then it might be a good thing. Apart from that I doubt that banning social media will work. That horse bolted long ago. 

Tuesday 26 March 2024

Fake media?

I have no doubt at all that the "bots" have been flooding social media. The idea that the Russians and the Chinese are trying to "destabilise" other countries is all too believable. If you are a dictator concerned with increasing your grip on power then bots on social media are sure to be seen as a way to do it.

I know there are "scam farms" in some countries. They are there to take money from the gullible and even the not so gullible. I do not tell myself I am immune from all this even if I am aware of it. There are measures I can take to try and prevent this but I may still be a victim as they become increasingly sophisticated.

It is much harder to try and work out what is "real" and what is "fake" when it comes to "news".  It is much harder to do this even when I am in the "fortunate" position of sometimes getting information from people who are actually in a situation the news media is talking about. I know that even then the information I am getting is coming from people who will have certain prejudices, who may not be fully aware of what is actually happening, or who may not be able to say what they wish to say unimpeded by censorship.

Not so long ago I was at a meeting where an issue was brought up. Three people in the group were absolutely convinced that something had happened. I knew it had not happened and so did someone else. We were both there at the time. We directly observed what was going on. We said this. 

Were we believed? No. We were told we "must be wrong" and "it could not have happened like that".  I asked where they had obtained their information. Yes, a commercial news network, then "Twitter" and "an internet site". Those three sources had all repeated a story which was completely wrong but it was believed. It was believed over what two of us who had actually been there observed. This is the power of not just social media but mainstream media. It frightens me.

There is technology out there to prevent some of this but there needs to be more than that. We need to teach children reading comprehension. They need to learn to read critically, to question what they are being told and the sources of the information they are being given. What concerns me is that they are not being taught this because it would prevent schools being used to indoctrinate as well as educate.  

Monday 25 March 2024

Are the results being inflated?

I saw a young friend yesterday and she proudly showed me something she had done at school. 

"I got a gold star!" she told me. I told her I was pleased she had a gold star but when she went off to play her mother told me something which disturbed me.

"Everyone got a gold star." 

We both agreed that this was wrong. Her daughter's work was good but it was not outstanding. She is not yet old enough to really understand what the "gold star" meant.

Apparently you no longer give gold stars for outstanding work or outstanding effort. Everyone gets a gold star. You all "win".  I actually thought her school had stopped giving out such "awards" but apparently not. 

I did not give out gold stars to my year 6 class. Back then they were, on average, a year younger than they are now but they did not want gold stars. We actually talked about how I might reward them for extra effort and the most popular suggestion was "tell my Mum about it". I did tell their parents about it. I wrote a note home for one boy one day. He had been really struggling with something. His father, a policeman, was not very sympathetic towards his son. The following day however he turned up (in uniform) and told me how much he had appreciated being told his son had put so much effort in. For the rest of the year that child worked so hard.

I went on to have a conversation with first the mother of the little girl and then her father when he came inside. We agreed that the results children now get are being inflated with praise. There seems to be a constant flow of words like "good job" for the most average of efforts. 

I know I always being told I could "do better than that". My brother agrees. (We talked about this last night when he called me about something else.) We remember the gold and silver or the coloured stars at school. They were something special. They were something we worked to try and achieve.

On top of that there seems to be another trend. There is a trend to give students higher up school and into university better results than they actually deserve. I have marked many essays for students and have been told all too frequently that my assessments of their work are too low.  I have even been told, "You can't fail anyone." The students have complained I am "too tough".  Is it really too tough to expect an essay which shows evidence of having read the required text, thought about the problem and given the answer some sort of structure? Is it too much to expect the ability to write a sentence and spell the words correctly? Why should I give a Credit to something which is not worthy of it?  Thankfully I no longer mark papers on a regular basis. It was a constant worry.

We don't need constant approval. Even as children we should be working for gold stars not merely being given them.  

Sunday 24 March 2024

There was a by-election yesterday

and I consider myself fortunate I did not have to vote in it. This has nothing to do with the mud-slinging which was going on between the two candidates put forward by the major parties. What really worries me is the more than twenty percent of people who voted for the Greens.  I wonder how many of these people have actually read the Greens manifesto.

Manifesto is particularly apt in this case. The Greens are what I have heard described as a "watermelon" party. They are green on the outside and red on the inside. They are a party with communist like policies. The policies often sound wonderful but, if you really think about them, they won't work. Communism doesn't work. 

This is not about people being rich or poor or equal in all things. It is about what will actually work and allow everyone to eat. The Greens are all for making sure there is more public housing. That may well be a good thing in itself. They are also about increasing the size of the population by bringing in more refugees. The problem is that we already have a housing issue and other issues. We brought in 528,000 people last year - into a country which has a major housing issue. We have made the situation worse not better. We don't have the land for housing, the infrastructure like roads and power and sewage are not there. The materials to build houses are in very short supply and the prices have gone up so far that they are becoming unaffordable. 

The Greens say this is not an economic issue. They simply say that taxes, especially taxes on "big business" have to rise. At the same time as they are saying this they are endeavouring to stop all mining and make sure that nobody builds houses on areas that "belong" to "First Australians". They cheered recently when the greater part of a small remote town was "returned" to the local aboriginal community - without the people who lived there even being consulted. 

Their policies are full of contradictions and economic impossibilities and yet people will vote for them. They vote for them because they keep being portrayed as "saviours" of the environment, as the only party which has the plans to halt "global warming".  The major parties are worried but they won't condemn them too hard because they know that people will still believe they are nice, friendly, warm and cuddly tree huggers who have the answer to our environmental woes.

It is time we taught people to read party policies and the economic consequences of the same.  

Saturday 23 March 2024

Not just a "privacy" issue

and those who are still claiming they have a "right" to know need to shut their mouths and pull their heads in.

The news that the Princess of Wales has cancer is not perhaps as great a shock to many as it might have been. Thoughtful people would have realised that it was something serious. The fools who hang on every word uttered about "the Firm" or Royal Family of course did not realise that. All they were concerned with was that "information" was "being kept from them". 

Well it was information they had no right to have. Yes, that's right...it was information they had no right to have.

My late mother had cancer. She died following a diagnosis of stomach cancer. Our family had to go through all the associated problems of supporting her, supporting each other, dealing with all the well wishers and much more. There were issues some families did not have when faced with such a diagnosis. My mother was a Christian Scientist, a member of a sect which believes any illness is an "error" of mind which can be treated without medical intervention. Now she had to accept medical intervention in an attempt to save her life. My youngest sister did not cope at all and caused all of us even more worry when she tried to make the problems all about her instead. The Senior Cat, a man who did not even notice other women, had to face the fact he was going to lose the love of his life. Brother Cat and Middle Cat had to find ways of telling their children their grandmother was ill and going to die. In the middle of it all I was trying to make sure a household was kept running as well. 

Mum left us of course. We were adults. We knew what the diagnosis - stomach cancer - meant. We knew our mother was going to die. It was a matter of finding ways of coping with that and, apart from the Black Cat, doing our best to support the Senior Cat. 

Although we had many people give us support, something I will always be grateful for, it was still a family thing. We did not have to endure the media constantly speculating. There were things we could still keep to ourselves. There were no demands for statements, interviews, announcements or details - and those demands from strangers, from people who had never met our mother.

There are three young children in the other scenario. They will know their mother is not well. They will know it is serious. What they do not need is the scrutiny which is currently taking place. They do not need the other children at their school asking questions, perhaps even making fun of the situation. They do not need the paparazzi trying to take photographs or intrude on their lives at any time but they especially do not need it now.  They do not need the constant, time consuming criticisms made of their parents for refusing to share the details of what for anyone else would be a private matter. 

To anyone out there who thinks they have a "right" to know the most intimate details of all this - you don't. You have never had that right. It doesn't matter what position someone holds in the community you will never have the right to such information.  

Friday 22 March 2024

The "unholy" row about

private religious schools being able to "discriminate" against students and teachers who do not adhere to their teachings and beliefs is puzzling me. Why would you want your child to attend a school which did not support your beliefs if there was an alternative? Why would you want to work in one which did not support your beliefs?

It brought me around to thinking about another issue as well. How, as a parent, do you face the fact that your normal, average, taxpayer funded state school is almost certainly teaching your child things you do not believe and may find offensive?

I have been to both state schools and a fee paying school. I attended the latter only because it was not possible to complete my education at the state school the Senior Cat was then the principal of. Nobody could. It only went so far. Students who wanted more had to go elsewhere. My parents wanted us to finish our schooling so off we went. 

At the school I attended there was an attempt to make me attend confirmation classes for that particular brand of the Christian faith. I remember sitting in the headmaster's office as he explained the importance of all this. I listened to him and then told him politely that arrangements had already been made for me to attend confirmation classes elsewhere. The way he had been putting the need for me to be confirmed could hardly prevent that. 

I know now he was not happy about it but there was no "unholy" row about it. I was the only student who was not going to be confirmed in his church but I was going to be confirmed. It was a compromise on his part I suppose. 

But what if I had simply refused to be confirmed at all? What if I had said that I didn't believe any of the Christian teachings of the school? What if I had actively tried to disrupt what was a major part of the school's teaching? (We had a "religion" lesson every day at that school - forty minutes of it.)

I think at the latter point the headmaster would have been within his rights to say I would not be welcome there. I know there are people who will disagree with me about this. They will say the school should still have accepted me and accommodated my beliefs. They will say it is "discrimination" not to do that but I don't believe it is. There may have been an alternative. Perhaps I could have gone to other schools. That one was chosen because it happened to have a place for me as a boarder.  (It was not a good school and I was very unhappy there but it was not because of the religious teachings.) The decision had to be made quickly because of the circumstances at the time. It was a compromise. (My mother wanted me to go to another state to a school for "Christian Scientists but the Senior Cat opposed that strongly. He was right to do so. It would have been a disaster.)

Adults have choices denied to children but they come with responsibilities.  There are times when people need to compromise. The proposed legislation does not allow for that and it may do more harm than good for that reason.

Thursday 21 March 2024

Trump v Rudd?

I never thought I would agree with anything Donald Trump had to say. That I almost agree about something worries me. His words about the former Prime Minister of Downunder turned Ambassador to America were not far off the mark.

Kevin Rudd is not a nice person. When he was Prime Minister I heard endless complaints about his behaviour, especially his behaviour off-screen and out of the public eye. A veteran of his side of politics once told me "he is the rudest PM I have ever had dealings with". This man considered him worse than Paul Keating. 

Both Rudd and Keating are former Prime Ministers who should get out of politics. They are a danger to the country. They are not the "China" experts they would have us believe they are or that others would have us believe they are. Their real skill is in doing what China wants and making it look as if this is what we want. As they also still wield a good deal of power over the Labor party (make that a lot of power) they are still dictating policy. It's not good.

While the thought another Trump Presidency alarms me it may bring about the end of Rudd's ambitions. He is possibly doing less harm there than he would have in his preferred role as Secretary-General of the United Nations but he is still doing harm. He interferes in matters no diplomat should interfere in. He is still managing to have far too much influence on policy here. I know there are people who are worried he will one day say something that will cause a really major issue between people who really do matter.  

It is said that diplomat is a man who is sent abroad to lie for his country. In this case we have a man who has been sent abroad and now lies to his country. He does not have Downunder's best interests at heart. I am not sure the man he criticised has his country's best interests at heart either.

 

Wednesday 20 March 2024

We need more information

and it needs to be actual and accurate information about many things. 

There is a by election coming up in this state. It is in a very marginal seat. The retiring member is in the Opposition. Naturally the present government wants the seat. It will allow them to say that their "policies are working", that the government is popular and much more. 

One of the candidates once worked for a big accounting firm. After she left some of those who worked there were found guilty of wrong doing and sacked. Apparently this means that she was also guilty of wrong doing and should have been sacked. She was also a sleeping director in another firm which went bankrupt and apparently she is also responsible for this, indeed solely responsible if some comments n the media are to be believed.

The other candidate who matters (in that they might have a chance) has come under similar levels of criticism. Her husband's business is alleged to have been getting preferential treatment because of her relationship with the party. She denies any association with this although she is named as having an active role in his business.

I am happy I do not need to vote in the by-election. Why? Because these allegations are not helping people make up their minds. They are actually a hindrance. I, and many others, want to know whether a candidate has the qualifications for the job. What have they got to offer? What are their actual skills?

It is the sort of information which is kept from us at almost every election. We get told all sorts of things. Mud is slung but facts are few and far between. We vote blindly. Actual information is apparently of no importance.

It seems our federal government does not want vital information either.  We are now being told that the heads of the two most important national security agencies will not be present when national security is being discussed. Yes, they did the government some bad news recently, very bad news. It is their job to do just that but I suspect this news was even worse than usual.  

National security is not there to give the government good news. It is there to tell them the bad news, that things are not working the way they should, that a senior "someone" has passed on information which has harmed the country and so on. It is information the government needs. 

Of the two issues I find the second one, our lack of information about national security issues, far more concerning but it is brought about by the poor quality of the candidates and the even poorer levels of information about them. We need people who can seek out actual information and make informed decisions on that basis. Can anyone else see a problem here?


Tuesday 19 March 2024

The late Stormy Summers

was a stormy woman.

For those of you in other parts of the world allow me to introduce the late, great, weird, wild and stormy Stormy Summers.

Stormy Summers ran a brothel before brothels were even mentioned in the "city of churches". She was a "character". 

I always thought Stormy was a lot older than me. Yes, she was older than I am but not quite as old as I thought she might be. Perhaps it might have something to do with the life she led.

She smoked heavily and drank heavily (mostly scotch) until about ten years ago. She dyed her hair outrageous colours long before dyeing your hair outrageous colours was acceptable. She often dressed in outrageous clothes. She drove a black BMW sports car (won at the casino). It had the number plate "STORMY". She ran for parliament and once ran for Lord Mayor. (She didn't get either job but she made a very good showing at the polls.)  

The "sex industry" is something that deeply disturbs me. I find the idea of it sickening. I am also realistic enough to know that we are not going to stop it. There is a need for laws around it, not simply laws which try to halt it. Stormy knew that women were at risk, that some of them were doing it to support families. She tried to give them a safe place. 

Despite the cigarettes and the alcohol she was implacably opposed to other drugs. Anyone caught with drugs on her premises was out on their ear with no second chance.  I heard about this from a woman I once helped with the pile of forms she needed to fill in. She loved Stormy for helping her turn her life around. The other "girls" she "employed" loved her too. 

Even the cops admitted her premises were clean and well run. The problem was that they were not legal. The cop who referred the woman who needed help with the forms actually said to me, "It would be better for everyone if she could run that damn place without interference from us."

Stormy had her ups and downs. Some time ago I did actually wonder what had happened to her. I assumed she had died but no she was still alive at that time. She had "retired" long ago. She was apparently caring for her third husband - a man she had already divorced.  

The men in her life were often rough and tough. They were members of bikie gangs and more but there were also politicians (often of left persuasion) and one of the city's most colourful journalists. I know of one Roman Catholic priest who counted her as a good friend because of the way she helped some of his parishioners.

Stormy was a "character". She was one of those people who does a great deal to help others without making a fuss about it. There was an occasion on which a hotel in the city was going to sell their old blankets before buying new blankets. Stormy went in and bought the lot. Then she went around the park lands and made sure that the homeless had new to them blankets.

And yes, she ran a brothel - and therefore had run ins with the law. Eventually the police managed to get the brothel closed down although she defied them all the way...and not just to court. Many in the community argued it was wrong to prosecute her.  Stormy ran a brothel because she cared.

 

Monday 18 March 2024

Is a "traumatic upbringing" the

answer to everything?

There is a second case of someone using NDIS funds to enable them to have sex with an underage girl.  The abuser in this instance is said to be "autistic" and to have "cognitive impairments".  Apparently that excuses the behaviour.

My question is "does this person know the difference between right and wrong?"  I know people who are autistic and who have learning issues. They also know the difference between right and wrong. Their behaviour may be impulsive and they may behave in ways which seem strange to other people but they obey the law. Indeed these people are much more likely to wait for the green man before they start to cross the road than most people. They don't shoplift. They validate their tickets on the train too.

Perhaps they have not had a "traumatic upbringing" though. Perhaps it is a valid excuse for behaving badly. It is certainly an excuse that is used often enough to try and explain away wrong doing. 

This bothers me because I know other people who have had very traumatic upbringings who have done well in later life. They have, against all odds, managed to succeed. These are people who have lost both parents in childhood or have fathers who have been (or still are) in prison. They are people who have been sexually abused. They have been through refugee camps and come here with nothing but gone on to be successful members of the community.  There is G..., an orphan, who lost both hands after being attacked by a machete in a refugee camp. He now teaches maths in a higher education facility in Africa. He has married and has two children of his own. There is J... who was brought up in the cult like atmosphere of a religious sect and not only left at sixteen but finished school and went to university. He supported himself throughout. There is M... who, at sixteen, was told she would be marrying a much older man. He was a widower with three small children. She sought help before it happened and left her family and her community. There is Y... who was sexually abused by her father and grandfather who finally found someone willing to help her. She has gone on to have a professional career and to care for the person who cared for her. 

A traumatic upbringing is not the sole reason for wrong doing. It may well contribute to it but people do overcome that. It isn't easy to do but they have done it, even without high levels of support from others.

I admire the people I have mentioned above. They have had to work to get where they are today. There are others I know who do not have that intellectual capacity but they are not likely to break the law. They would not seek sexual pleasure using NDIS funds. If NDIS funds are being used for that purpose then all their funds need to be withdrawn.  There are other people who can use the funding. 

Sunday 17 March 2024

Eek! It's St Patrick's Day!

Actually I am not too sure about this "day" business.

As regular readers of my witterings on these pages will know I have a very good friend who just happens to be a nun. I have known her for a long time. We have had many a conversation over the years but I don't think we have ever had a conversation about St Patrick or any other "saint" as an individual. 

I know very little about "saints". I do remember saying something to a former priest of the church the Senior Cat attended about some tedious process requiring "the patience of a saint" and his response as we were still trying to get the task done, "Most saints were very impatient people." I have also said it to some dog owners I know as they wait, with varying degrees of patience, for dogs to do what dogs do. I am impatient too but I am no saint.  

I am not really sure what saint hood actually is. What are these things called "miracles"? Most of them sound pretty unlikely to me....and others can be explained in other ways.  Perhaps it is the timing of things which matters. If miracles occur then it was surely one when, after months of not going into his beloved shed after my mother died, someone phoned the Senior Cat and said, "I need some timber cut on your circular saw." It meant opening the shed and the two men spending a morning carefully cutting some of the most valuable timber available for the purpose of repairing something in the cathedral. 

When B... asked for that and the Senior Cat said, "Of course" then things changed. The Senior Cat went back into the shed. Things did not "go back to normal" because "normal" had changed but the Senior Cat went back to creating things for other people. That mattered. It was a huge step forward in the grieving process for the Senior Cat - and a huge relief for me. 

B... would laugh if I told him he was a saint. He isn't one. He is just an ordinary human being who happened to ask for the right help at the right time, help to do something for someone else. I suspect this might be true of a lot of "saints".  His surname happens to be an Irish one.

I won't go looking for leprechauns today. I will smile if P... tells me it is St Patrick's Day and there is some sort of special mass for the occasion. I am conscious we don't seem to worry about St David or St Andrew in the same way.  It will be good if some of my Irish friends have some fun in their own way.

And I will remember the man who said, "I need some timber cut on your circular saw."

 

Saturday 16 March 2024

"Mac" attack?

Apparently there was an IT problem yesterday - at the location of a "MacDonald's" frequented by a young male of my acquaintance. No, he is not related to me. I know his grandparents. (His grandfather told me about this as he was out walking the dog.)

It is this boy's habit to go home or to his grandparents from school via this fast food establishment. He has more pocket money than his grandfather thinks a boy should have and some of it is spent in this way. Yesterday disaster hit. There was an IT problem. The place was closed. It wasn't fair! 

He turned up at his grandparents place "starving". There were apparently a great many other teens from his school in the same position. 

"He had two slices of toast and Vegemite instead," his grandfather told me, "Of course M... (his grandmother) wasn't going to see him "starve". The kid doesn't know what "starving" means. We don't either."

No, we don't. Food was sometimes short in our house when I was growing up but Mum always managed to put a meal on the table. We ate home cooked food, had the once a term "treat" of buying our lunch from the school canteen and the once a holiday treat of fish and chips out of greasy butcher and then newspaper wrappings. We thought those occasions were wonderful.

Yesterday I took some time out and went with one cousin and his partner to see another cousin and his partner. The second set have not been well and they wanted to celebrate some good news at last. We had a simple "brunch" sort of occasion at a small cafe overlooking a lake. The surroundings were very quiet and very peaceful. We chatted quietly and caught up with each other's news. We watched people walking their dogs and the boats sailing on the lake. The temperature was perfect for sitting outdoors in the shade. 

"That was as good as being on holiday," my cousin's partner said at the end of it.

He was right. It did feel like that. We had "coffee" and a small amount to eat. The food was good and the staff were friendly and helpful.  None of us do it very often. I certainly cannot afford to do it. It makes such occasions all the more special and memorable.

The young male who goes home via "Maccas" everyday will never have that pleasure. I really feel rather sorry for him.

Friday 15 March 2024

Building houses in remote

indigenous communities is the latest move by the current federal government in their attempts to "lift" the well-being of these communities.

The cost is said to be $4bn over the next ten years. They will build two hundred and seventy houses a year - at a cost of $1.5m a house. $1.5m? That alone should be ringing alarm bells about the scheme. Even allowing for the extra cost of building anything in a remote area that seems excessive.

Something similar was tried more than two decades ago under another government. They took the advice of the now defunct ATSIC (Aboriginal and Torrens Strait Islander Commission) and built some houses in a remote community. It did not work. The houses have been trashed.

One major reason for it not working was because the houses were built where there was no work. They were built where people said they wanted to live because it was "their" land but they had no means to support themselves there.  And they are doing the same thing all over again. They are building houses where there is no work, where there will be no work. 

"Oh but this is where they want to live," is the argument being put forward, "They have the right to live on the land they consider their tribal land, the land to which they have a connection. We need to provide housing where people want to live."

No, we don't. You provide housing if people have no other choice. It might sound harsh but this has to be an economic decision as well as a lifestyle decision.

My parents were required to teach anywhere in the state. The Senior Cat had some tough schools, much tougher than many of his colleagues. He was regarded as the Education Department's "trouble shooter", the person sent in to sort out issues and then be moved on. We lived in some remote places and yes, housing was supplied. It was not supplied to all teachers. Young single teachers lived with families. They often shared a bedroom with the students they were teaching. In one place they lived in caravans parked next to the houses the government had supplied to people moving in to clear land and farm. We lived in the most basic of fibro asbestos housing. In one place the house was so poorly built there were tree growing under the house because the land had not been properly cleared. The bedrooms were so small Middle Cat and I spent our time there sleeping on a mattress on the floor. There was no running water or electricity when we arrived.

We put up with all this and many other issues because we had to. The place we lived in has barely grown in the past fifty years. There is a silo there now that was being built when we left and that is the only reason the population increased. It will not increase in any other way because there is no work there. The farms are being consolidated as young people move to where the work is.

In other remote areas other young people are also moving away because there is no work. According to the last Census the communities in which it is proposed to build these houses are also smaller than they once were. People are drifting away, even those who claim great cultural attachments to the land. They are moving to areas where life is more comfortable and a lettuce does not cost $11. They want all the stations available on the television set not the single station which supposedly caters to their interests. They want the doctor and the hospital. 

Those of them who are concerned about such things also want opportunities for their children. They want their children taught in English in schools that have more facilities. That may be the most important issue of all.

So why are we going to build houses in those areas? Is it really what people want or need? Or has it got more to do with people who live much more comfortably in the city and who have employment telling us something else? Is this really about "preserving the culture" of the wrongly named "oldest living continuous culture on earth"? If it is then that is nonsense. We may not like it but the "traditional" culture and way of life no longer exists. Building houses is not going to help that but employment might help to preserve what remains.  

Thursday 14 March 2024

Who should pay for aged care?

 There is currently a "discussion" about who should be paying for aged care - and the inevitable suggestion that the "wealthy" should pay more.

I am not wealthy by any means.  For the purposes of this argument I would be considered "poor", even "very poor".  That said I am not expecting the "wealthy" to pay more for their aged care than they already do. Most of them are already paying more anyway.

The Senior Cat was paying 85% of his income into the nursing home at the end of his life. It was by no means the only expense involved. That was just the base rate. There were all sorts of hidden costs involved. We dipped into his savings all the time he was there. We did his laundry because it was an additional expense. We bought his pharmacy items. (We also bought the latter from the chemist of our choice which was much cheaper than the chemist the nursing home used. They had a neat little arrangement between them.) We paid for anything above his basic board and lodging, even the "entertainment" he was often helping to provide.

Despite all this he would be one who would be "caught" by the current proposal. The house would have been sold and yet more money would have been taken from the proceeds. I doubt the standard of care would have gone up. The Senior Cat had a reasonable standard of care given to him but it was (a) because he was articulate and polite and (b) because Middle Cat and I took it in turns to go in on alternate days. That was hard work but I do not regret the commitment we made one little bit. It was the only way we could be sure he would be as well cared for as possible under the circumstances. I still wish he had been able to end his days here in his own home. I still feel guilty that I am no longer going in and out of that nursing home on alternate days because, as one of the staff told me, "Visitors like you keep us on our toes." They should not need visitors to be doing the right thing.

I am tired of being told the elderly need to do more to pay their own way. They often have. Many of them have worked hard for fifty or more years. They scrimped and saved and bought their own homes, homes without landscaped gardens, patios and swimming pools. If they went on holiday it was not to Bali. Most of them made one big overseas trip when they retired. Some of them bought a caravan and "did a bit of travel" around the state - or even to another state if they could afford the fuel costs. 

The next generation, the more recently retired who are not yet in need of home care packages and nursing home facilities are retired only from paid work. They are the generation which do the school runs, the before and after school care and the school holiday care. They care for children when they are ill and often for the very elderly as well. This is also the generation which coaches the footy team and makes sure the school has enough volunteers to help with hearing the little ones read. These are the people who do the vast majority of the "volunteer" work without which society would fall apart. They spend their days so busy doing things for other people some of them wish they were back at work for a rest. 

An aging population is an issue. It is a problem. The idea that everything should be taken from them in order to pay for their care is not going to solve the problem. If people believe that is going to happen then they will simply spend what they have while they can.