Thursday, February 6, 2014

All quiet for a reason

I have tried many times to explain why I just don't have the heart to write on here at the moment about all the lovely things happening in my life.  Several times I wrote long, depressing essays which I ended up deleting rather than posting.

Then today I found this image which sums it up nicely - only it should say morons and psychopaths. Honestly, Australia's current government is enough to give anyone with a heart and a brain a black dog.

In other news, we got a black dog. 

I'll try to get over my sadness about the fact that the Abbott government is systematically destroying all the best things about this wonderful country so that I can tell you about our puppy (his name is Pluto and he looks like a little black mop) and update you on all the other things happening around here. 

At least I am not alone in my concerns about the slippery slope Australia is hurtling down.  Check out March in March Australia.  I'll be there, with my marching boots on. 

There are so many reasons to march but No. 1 on my list is Australia's appalling, shameful and inhumane treatment of refugees and asylum seekers. To be fair, that has been going on for many years but the current government have ramped up the cruelty to an unbelievable and truly worrying level. Bizarrely, many Australians have completely drunk the Kool-Aid when it comes to what they call "boat people" and seem to believe that it is perfectly OK for their government to persecute and commit human rights abuses against this group of people.  It is not OK.  Not in my name.

If you don't know what I am talking about or suspect that you may even have had a wee sip of Kool-Aid yourself, then the following links will give you some interesting reading.

Myths about refugees and asylum seekers 
("Myths" seems far too benign a word.  If misinformation is actively spread by politicians and sections of the media for years on end, isn't that actually propaganda?)

Thursday, October 3, 2013

In our front yard

Well the election I mentioned in my previous post is now old news.  I read one summary of the result which pretty much nailed it for me: "Rupert Murdoch won.  Australia lost."   Some of the stuff going on here would be comedy gold - if it wasn't real. Time to focus on some positives.

Spring is wildflower season in WA and people come from all over the world to see the flowers in bloom. We've been on various local walks to hunt flowers out, but without wanting to sound like to much of a skiteypants, our own front yard is putting on the best show I have seen for miles around. (Admittedly I haven't been to King's Park in Perth for a while...)  

Just two years ago our entire front garden was just horrible skanky lawn with stupid sprinklers, much like every other front yard in the street.  Now it has no lawn, is covered in native plants and it certainly doesn't get or need watering. The only attention it gets is our Sunday morning peruse with coffee in hand (usually clad in our PJs).  It is colourful and alive and the birds and lizards love it.  I reckon it is a winner.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Choose wisely

The short version of this post:
Please do Vote Compass before you vote in Australia's election this weekend. Then vote carefully and wisely.  Please.

The long version:
I don't like to bang on too much on this blog about the aspects of life in Australia that depress, exasperate, disappoint, frighten or disgust me but if I'm honest, today, after stupidly deciding to listen to some political debate and commentary on the radio, that list is feeling a bit too long for comfort.  Before I moved here I thought Australia was quite progressive.  Sadly after living here for three years I don't think that anymore.  

I've found this election campaign truly depressing and I know I am not alone as so many people I know seem to be having great difficulty deciding who to vote for.  As one friend put it "It is like choosing between a really frightening option and a truly terrifying option".  I know what she means.  After listening to the radio this morning I found myself shouting at the two supposed leaders "Big picture guys!  Just say your vision for the sort of country you want this to be in 10, 20 or 50 years time then outline the steps you think we need to take to get there!  Even the hard, unpopular steps. And base it on solid research, not prejudice and unfounded beliefs!"  (Yes, I got quite ranty.) But instead all I heard was petty bickering over minutiae and the promotion of attitudes, policies and actions that seem surprisingly outdated and out of step with much of the rest of the world.  

(And before you think here that I mean that NZ has all the answers, I certainly don't.  If you ever get 46 minutes to spare, watch this: Mind the Gap by documentary maker Bryan Bruce .  Basically a New Zealand story but with lessons for everyone everywhere.  Hope that link works.  My internet speed is so slow that I couldn't check it.  Sigh.)

Here are some of the reasons I've found this election campaign so depressing.  

One of the major parties has released almost no policies and absolutely none aimed at addressing what seems to me to be one of the main challenges for Australia in the coming decades: climate change.  Every year since we have been here numerous weather records have been broken, with this latest one being the hottest year on record.  Australians apparently have the biggest carbon footprint of anyone on the planet and as coast dwellers are extremely vulnerable to sea level rise.  Years before I moved here I heard talks from a panel of international water experts and their predictions for Australia's future in a world of changing weather patterns, sea level rise and increasing soil salinity were dire.  They predicted that within my children's lifetimes, great chunks of Australia would be so adversely affected by climate change that the country wouldn't be able to feed its population. Since moving here I've heard similar predictions many times from many different sources, yet from Australia's two main political parties there is near silence.

The Murdoch press are blatantly backing one party. News Corp Australia is by far the most dominant player in the newspaper market here so they have considerable clout among people who believe what they read in newspapers. A commonly held belief is that News Corp are doing this because the party they are backing would ditch the National Broadband Network currently being built, which would leave Australia with its current snail-pace internet speeds, which would effectively lock new players out of the internet-entertainment industry (watching TV on demand here is often p-a-i-n-f-u-l-l-y slow) which would then protect Murdoch's income from their Foxtel interests. Surely that can't be true. It's like something out of the Simpsons.

Recently I have been on my first protest march in many years because each of Australia's two major parties are trying to outdo each other with ever more cruel asylum seeker policies.  Obviously they are doing this because they think this will win them votes, but I am horrified by the measures they are promoting.  I was so shocked by the ghastly Tampa affair that I became a volunteer helping refugees to settle into life in Christchurch and I did that for several years until we left NZ.  But attitudes towards asylum seekers have become even worse here, to the extent that human rights lawyer Julian Burnside recently described asylum seeker bashing as Australia's new national sport.  

Choosing who to vote for here becomes even more difficult because of Australia's crackpot Preferential Voting System which ensures that votes get skewed and diluted; it looks to me like a system made up by a bunch of gambling drunks.  The more I analyse this system and the seats it delivers compared to votes cast, the more it reminds me of many board-games that are essentially strategy undermined by randomness.  There are all sorts of complicated electorate by electorate guides on how to vote to ensure that your vote actually has the effect you want it to.  There are better ways people.

I can't vote here but I really do care about Australia and the many serious issues it faces (or refuses to face) and therefore I really do care about the election result.  So I have been spreading the word about the most interesting thing I have seen in the whole election campaign.  The ABC is hosting an interesting tool called Vote Compass which basically compares your answers to a whole series of questions to the policies of the main parties.  Then it tells you which party you are most closely aligned to and why.

I recommend that anyone out there who can vote in this election gives Vote Compass a whirl.  Then take a deep breath and think very carefully if it gives you a completely unexpected result, as it has for many people I know who have had their entrenched voting habits challenged by this tool.  Then vote very carefully and wisely this weekend.  

Then go out somewhere nice on Saturday night as whatever the result, watching the election result unfold on TV will surely be a very grim way to spend an evening; we are treating ourselves to a night out at Circus Oz.

Hopefully by the next election Australians will be given a choice between real parties, with well thought out policies and honest, credible leaders.  Maybe that is too much to hope for, but Australia is a great country and it certainly deserves better than the nonsense they have been offered this time around. Then hopefully sometime in the not too distant future Australians will realise what a complete barking dog their electoral system is and change to a less crackerdog one.  One that actually reflects who Australians vote for.  What a novel thought.

Friday, August 30, 2013


Photo by Hanne Johnsen taken as part of the Place in Time project, 2002
Every time one of my children has a birthday I find myself saying their age over and over again in an effort to get my head around the fact that they are now that age.  I know I am not the only mother in the world who does this.  

An Adult in the Making exhibition, Christchurch, 2007
Today I have been saying "Fifteen! FIFTEEN! How can you be fifteen?"  because today my daughter turned fifteen.  I looked through some old photos, determined to finally print some off.  There she was in her preschool sheriff phase, then her dinosaur phase, then her space phase and her most recent fangirl phase.  In our photos she wears a stetson long before Matt Smith made them cool, wears a headlamp when baking in a too-dim kitchen, earmuffs when her father and brother are dancing to too-loud music, a winter hat with earflaps which she named Humphrey and a "headsock" which she invented and knitted herself.  I have photos of her with towering Lego creations, earnestly digging for fossils and grinning in the uppermost branches of trees.  She has always been her own girl and long may that last.

Matilda Bay, Perth, 2011
I loved the words Fiona Farrell wrote to go with the photo of my daughter when it was in the "Adult in the Making" exhibition as they suited her so well.  They were "the deeply serious, poignant and thoroughly delightful business of being a child".  What a thoroughly delightful privilege these fifteen years have been for me as my daughter's mother.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Kalbarri holiday: the rest

Whose dopey idea was that "Day one", "Day two" carry on?  Mine obviously while in ridiculously deluded holiday mode.  So here we are weeks later, with our holiday feeling like very old news, and I'm finally getting to finish that off - and only because the washing machine broke and I am waiting for the repairman.  And now Blogger is playing up yet again so I'll just slip in this short summary in case it all goes pear-shaped: 
You know how lots of towns have a slogan?  Well Kalbarri's is "You'll love it" and in our case they were absolutely right.

Australia has some incredible landscapes.  No surprises there.  But in many cases you have to travel a long, long, long way to see them.  Then it costs a fortune to stay there.  Then it costs another fortune if you feel like eating.  Then you have to walk for miles in the stinking heat while being used as a food source by thousands of tiny creatures to get to aforementioned incredible landscape.  Well Kalbarri isn't like that.

Kalbarri hands its amazing scenery over on a plate.  There are breathtakingly dramatic landscapes very close to the town, with great access roads then superbly maintained short walking tracks straight to the action.  We took all the warning information seriously (it gets to fifty degrees in these gorges in summer) so we wore proper shoes, took lots of water, our first aid kit, hats etc.  Then we get there and are walking alongside people in jandals.

We oohed and ahhed our way over every short walk in the park and also a couple of the longer ones.  We saw emus in the wild several times and my partner and daughter even saw an echidna.  I snapped away furiously at postcard-worthy scenes, all the while oblivious to the fact that my camera was on the wrong setting. 

We chose the perfect day for our canoe safari.  Half way through the "suitable for all ages and all abilities" safari, when our shoulders were aching with the effort, my daughter and I said to each other "whose dopey idea was this?" and I could see from the look in my son's eyes that he was thinking the same over in his canoe with his cheerily paddling father.  At the end of the safari when we were soaked and muddy but thrilled after seeing stunning scenery that we would never otherwise have seen, we said "whose great idea was this?"  The next day when we couldn't move our arms we said "whose dopey idea was that?"  I'm very pleased we did it, but I do think their "all ages and abilities" line is somewhat optimistic.

After a week we left lovely Kalbarri and headed to Geraldton.  On the way up we'd been a bit disappointed with the famous "pink lake" so we checked it out again on the way back.  This time we certainly were not disappointed as on this visit  Hutt Lagoon was fabulously and freakishly pink.

I tend to do all the holiday planning in this household.  The rule is that if I do all the research, planning and organising then nobody who has just come along for the ride is allowed to say "whose dopey idea was this holiday", but I certainly didn't hear any complaints this time.  I think Kalbarri is an excellent place for a family holiday.   It might not suit families who like theme park/shopping/blingy holidays, but for people who like beautiful scenery in a relaxed small town setting then I highly recommend it.  

It felt like we'd really been out and explored more of Australia, which is excellent, because that, after all, is the reason we are here.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Holiday day five: A holiday from Interwebland

Late on day four we discovered that the "week" of internet access I bought for while we were in Kalbarri was all used up after nearly 36 hours. Oops. Being offline was actually rather nice but we got home tonight and BOY do I have some catching up to do tomorrow.

This picture is of one of the very many beautiful plants we spotted while getting on with our lives in Realworldland.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Holiday day four: Parrot watching

Today the youngest member of our household chose the day's activities. He loves reading, likes his tucker and is fascinated by wildlife.

We all slept in late then stayed in bed and read until we were hungry.  Then we strolled down the foreshore to have brunch at a cafe. On the way my son and I stopped to chat to a kooky (but lovely) local chap about the storm brewing offshore and the fact that yet again this year's rainy season has been nowhere near rainy enough.

Next stop was a visit to Rainbow Jungle parrot breeding centre. 

It was fabulous. My daughter's favourites were a pair of enormous and gregarious macaws.

I couldn't choose a favourite but I know which one wasn't my favourite: the one that shat on me. Apparently that is very lucky but I sure didn't feel lucky.

On the way out some members of my party stuck to local custom and stuck their entry stickers on the rubbish bin and sign. (Not me. Too prissy.)

Just after we left the storm finally hit.  

My partner has chosen our activity for tomorrow: he has booked us in for a canoe safari down the Murchison River.  Yesterday when is was calm and sunny and 23 degrees that seemed like a grand idea. Tonight with the storm crashing and howling outside I'm not so sure.