Dad – What would he think?

I first published this piece about 5 years ago – time to re-post it.

On September 14 this year it will be the 10th anniversary of his death.

“I miss my Dad!” There, I have said it.  Not a day passes without me wishing I could pick up the phone or sit quietly opposite him and talk.   

There are so many things I would share with him, knowing he would hold my declarations in an impermeable confidence. There is something subtle about the inextricable bond between a daughter and her father. Not every father-daughter relationship has it or holds it in such a sacred place.  That, I accept.  

My father was taken in his 74th year, a victim of prostate cancer.

Every year, around 18,700 Australian men are diagnosed and more than 3,000 die of the disease, making prostate cancer the second largest cause of male cancer deaths, after lung cancer. Almost one man in eleven will develop prostate cancer during his lifetime. 

Source:  https://www.prostate.org.au/

While thoughtfully reminiscing about Dad, I decided to set out writing these words to offer respectful advice to men, all men.  

If you are a father, brother, uncle, nephew, grandfather or someone’s best mate and are aged over 50 or; are over 40 with a family history of Prostate Disease, you should make the time for a full health check-up with your GP.  I am not sure that I can add much more to that.  Suffice to say that we should all take responsibility for our own physical, mental an emotional health.

So many questions unanswered…

So I now set course on another tangent.  In today’s contemplations of Dad, I got to thinking about the wisdom and values of previous generations, Dad’s in particular.  What values will we impart on future generations? Every generation will have its challenges.  What can we learn from our forebears? What can our off-spring learn from us? 

There are many lessons Dad taught me.  Most of which are only now, as I am in my 4th decade (as at 1/9/19 my 5th), resonating with me. Dad had some unique ways to offer advice.  For example when I was very young and professed to be scared of the dark and of ghosts, he would tell me bluntly “You need not worry, it’s the ones which are alive you have to watch out for!” Touché!  

During troubled times and relationship woes he would always remind my sister and I that no matter what, the door would always be open and that we could come ‘home.’  We did. 

Dad didn’t attend school past the age of 13.  He left to help support his family.  But his wisdom, knowledge and insight into life and society were equal to any learned scholar. He worked hard and provided for us well.  

With a degree of doggedness he learned to love reading.   He took a keen interest in politics, the economy and environment.  Not in the sense that you might think but more of a healthy respect for each and an acceptance that his views may not be yours.  He believed in and practised integrity.  In his work he was firm but fair and for this disposition he earned respect.  He could be swayed in his opinions if he were to receive sound evidence which suggested his understanding of an issue was incomplete or flawed in some way.    

I can’t help but wonder what he would make of the current state of affairs, both locally and globally.  What would his commentary be? How would he discern the complexities of the many challenges we face?  If he were to read today’s papers and tune into the news services, what would his thoughts be? 

He would lament at what the future holds for his grandchildren, indeed all future generations.  He would despair at the inhumanity and poverty experienced on our shores and those beyond.  He would, however instil a sense of purpose in those around him by encouraging conversation and activism about things which matter. 

Thank you Dad, your advice, actions and opinions have allowed me to actively pursue change and I believe, to make a positive difference for my children.  They however, like me, possibly won’t accept or understand the advice I give them today or tomorrow for that matter.  My only wish is that they do come to understand that my guidance and importantly my actions to nurture, guide and curb when necessary, was in their best interest. 

At a conference in February last year I sat in a room with other likeminded rural women and we were all asked the same question. The question was “What did your mother’s mother do?”  Like most of the other women in the room, I struggled to succinctly answer that question, other than to state her name and country of birth.  For me that was yet another defining moment.  At that point, I knew I wanted my great grandchildren to know categorically, what it was “I did” and how I contributed.  

So, I continue ‘to do’. It has not been smooth sailing as I take small but calculated steps.  I, like many mothers’ today struggle with juggling work and life. I am sometimes conflicted in making sound personal choices, mostly because I put myself at the bottom rung of the ladder.  My struggle though, diminishes into insignificance compared to the challenges of so many others.   

Wouldn’t it be a fine thing, that our actions were to make a positive difference on our lives and the lives of others…just like Dad’s did?  

Mum’s the Word

I wrote this piece in 2014 – 5 years on, little has changed and yet much has….this is why I am respectfully abstaining from Mother’s Day

Is it wrong that I don’t want to celebrate Mother’s Day?

I am a mother, so why wouldn’t I want to be pampered, indulged, appreciated and respected?  After all, isn’t that what is supposed to occur on the second Sunday in May each year? 

Truth is I do crave those things, not just on one day of the year but at least every other day. 

I want those tangible things to be conveyed in such a way that they just happen, like breathing is natural and happens instinctively. I am not talking about diamonds and champagne, nor reverence beyond measure, just a healthy ration of recognition for being a mum, the most challenging role one could take on.   

I am not implying my children don’t love or respect me, they do.  It is much deeper than that. I love my family and I nurture and nourish those around me. I gave life to those two remarkable and amazing human beings.  I have also lost two babies before they drew breath and I do wonder, from time to time, what might have been.  

My face is etched with lines from living, loving and being hopeful. I have lost a parent and I can comprehend loss at that most primal level.  I know, feel and understand the bond between a child and a parent and that of a parent and a child. 

So I don’t need the mainstream media to tell me how I should feel, look, behave and conduct myself as a mother on this so called ‘Mother’s Day’….or on any day.   I am the best barometer of that; and also my harshest critic.   

I am not perfect. 

Who is? 

I get it wrong.  

Who doesn’t?  

I get it wrong a lot…and that’s OK!

So this year (again) I am going to abstain from Mother’s Day out of the respect for many.  Why out of respect and for whom you may ask?  Simply to honour and afford some protection to those who will feel pain on this very commercially focussed day.  

Here are my thoughts on who may feel vulnerable, for these women and men who have loved and lost I have the greatest respect, they are:  

Those whose mother’s heart no longer beats; 

Those women who hold their newborn babe in their arms and have no feelings, no connection, nothing but emptiness and numbness;  

Those women who are sad to the depths of their soul after giving birth and don’t understand why, because they are constantly reminded by friends, family and the media that becoming a mother should be the most joyous time in their lives; 

Those who do have a mother but do not have a cherished relationship with her; 

Those who mourn the loss of a child and whose pain is beyond compare; 

Those who will never be a mother because Mother Nature dealt them a cruel hand and left them childless; 

Those women, by choice, who have not procreated, yet struggle finding acceptance for their very personal decision.

Instead of a symbolic breakfast/lunch or dinner, I am going to request a novel gift.  I am going ask to spend some time, alone, reflecting on my life so far.  I am going to write a list of what is good in my life and I am going to give thanks for those blessings. 

I am not going to complain about missed opportunities because I am the only one to blame for not seizing those moments in time. 

I am not going to write a ‘bucket’ list of my own but rather I am going to commit to doing more for my children and for their future.  I don’t know what that will look like but I know that I will recognise the actions required.  I will act on my instincts because that type of spontaneity is intrinsic in mothers. 

I am not going to stop worrying about whether my great grandchildren will have clean air, clean water and nutritious food.  To do that would not express a mother’s love or her concern. 

I will always have high expectations of my children.  I quietly observe their relationships with others and reflect on their ability to show respect and to be respected. I believe that through nurture and by their very own nature, they too will work hard, be focused, motivated and passionate. 

It pleases me that they value their friendships and their loyalties to others, as I do.  I am proud of their deep sense of empathy and compassion for their fellows and that they care for those around them.  

I hope they never stop believing that it is better to talk to resolve issues rather than to bear arms.  I will continue to be in awe of science and look to the night sky with amazement and I will encourage my children to do the same. 

To act with grace, believe in justice and in being socially responsible will take them far in this life.  I am confident their love and respect for the landscape around them will never be taken for granted. 

My children will continue ask questions in pursuit of knowledge and they are learning to be good listeners.  How do I know these things to be true?  Because I am a mother; I am their mother watching them evolve into amazing people. 

I see, feel and live this every day.  I can see through their eyes.  I see their thirst for knowledge and adventure, their community spirit and their empathy for others. 

There will be times when their self-esteem will be crushed, their hearts broken and their morals called into question. But they have learnt to be resilient, they have self-awareness and have emotional intelligence and with that comes the amazing potential be part of a better world.

Importantly though, they have a mother’s love.

So this Mother’s Day, I am asking for the gift of time and solitude so I can stop, think and reflect.

That will be their gift to me and one day they will come to realise my gift to them.

If you or someone you know might be experiencing depression or anxiety during pregnancy or the perinatal period seek help and contact a health professional.

More resources can be found athttp://www.beyondblue.org.au/ or by calling 1300 22 46 36

http://www.beyondblue.org.au/resources/for-me/pregnancy-and-early-parenthood

Blog image: Painting by Hughes Merle “Mother & Child” (Copyright expired – in the public domain) 

Justice for Jenny

On Thursday November 7th, 2019 in the Adelaide District Court (Criminal Jurisdiction), the sentencing of Jennifer Lee Hallam took place at 9.43am before his Honour Judge Soulio.

Jennifer, Jenny to her friends, arrived at Court Room 8 impeccably presented but visibly shaking, with tears welling in her eyes. 

She was greeted, with a warm embrace by an integral member of her legal team, her Solicitor (& Barrister) Jessica Kurtzer.  Barrister Greg Barns, unable to be in court for the culmination of this process, had worked alongside Jessica to ensure the best possible outcome for their client.  The many hours of diligent work and counsel by this exceptional legal team was about to be tested for what, they’d hoped, would be the final time.

This process, the process of justice, had taken its toll. Today Jenny, along with a small gathering of her closest friends and supporters, were about to walk through the heavy wooden doors into a light-filled, almost clinical room, adorned with paintings of former Judges who had presided in that place.

There was quiet chatter amongst the media contingent and gentle touches and caring smiles of assurance in Jenny’s direction. 

Jenny had pleaded guilty (albeit late in the piece) to manufacturing a controlled drug, Cannabis oil, between 1 November 2016 and 5 January 2017, and possessing Cannabis oil for supply to another person on 4 January 2017.

The maximum penalties are a fine of $30,000 or seven-years imprisonment, or both, and $15,000 fine or three years imprisonment, or both, respectively.  Judge Soulio noted that such offending covers a wide range of circumstances.

The full sentencing remarks can be found here:

http://www.courts.sa.gov.au/SentencingRemarks/Pages/lightbox.aspx?IsDlg=1&Filter=8517

That said, I encourage and urge respect and caution in sharing the full extract given the very personal information disclosed as part of this process. Jenny’s life is now, for all intents and purposes, an open book. 

There are some chapters that had to be aired to ensure that every mitigating circumstance was disclosed.  That disclosure was traumatic and harrowing for Jenny and I would suggest equally so for her friends and supporters.  This is personal.  Deeply personal.

Judge Soulio said upfront that the genesis of Jenny’s offending was to be found in her experience of chronic pain and subsequent psychological issues, and her reliance on and subsequent addiction to, opioid medication and psychotropic medication.  Jenny is not alone in that regard.

To summarise succinctly Jenny’s lengthy medical history as recited by Judge Soulio, licit opiates and antidepressant medication had been ineffective to treat her chronic pain and had produced wide-ranging side effects. 

Other therapies and prescription medications were described by a treating doctor as “sub-optimally effective, and not without side effects.”

The list reads like a copy the Monthly Index of Medical Specialities (MIMS).  MIMS is a pharmaceutical prescribing reference guide.  For the record, I’m certain you will not find whole plant Cannabis or Cannabis oil amongst its pages – I’ll happily stand corrected.

Jenny was quite rightly described by a treating doctor as “resilient, resourceful and an independent person.”  The doctor, in a letter tabled as part of many submissions, had also set out a history noting that Jenny had not been satisfied with the limitations of conventional therapy for her afflictions and had sought alternative approaches.

It was during that epic journey that Jenny discovered the benefits of Cannabis and Cannabis oil, which proved to be effective in managing her symptoms.  Jenny had become adept in ‘fine-tuning’ the product she made which gave her the best relief.  In doing so Jenny, Judge Soulio, reflecting the doctor’s viewpoint said, “true to your altruistic personality you saw the potential benefit for others suffering from cancer pain, epilepsy and other medical ailments for which conventional medicine proved wanting.”

Compellingly, since early in 2016, because of Jenny’s own initiative in identifying Cannabis oil as providing therapeutic benefit, Jenny no longer required the use of prescribed opioid analgesics, or antidepressant or anxiolytic medication

Ironically, it was in 2016 when the law shifted in Australia.  Patients in South Australia could legally access Medicinal Cannabis medicines as a result of federal legislative changes which came into effect in November 2016 and the development of a patient access pathway. 

I will say again, as I have many times, the patient access pathways are cumbersome and largely unaffordable.

The same doctor expressed the opinion that “conventional medicine had been less than effective in the management of chronic pain and many other conditions and could no longer claim a monopoly in pain management.” He said, “opioid analgesics use had reached an epidemic and crisis point overseas.”

They have also reached crisis point in Australia.  There are now huge billboards dotted around the nation that point this out.

This is an extract from a piece published in September this year via Medical Xpress.  Medical Xpress is a leading web-based science, research and technology news service which covers a full range of topics.

“It’s depressing at times to see how we, as practitioners, literally messed up our communities,” said Dr. Bastian Seidel, who warned that Australia’s opioid problem was a “national emergency” two years ago when he was president of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners. “It’s our signature on the scripts.”

He sees Australia moving with wilful ignorance toward a disaster.

“Unfortunately, in Australia, we’ve followed the bad example of the U.S.,” he says. “And now we have the same problem.”

The full piece can be read here: https://medicalxpress.com/news/2019-09-australia-opioid-crisis.html

The Australian Medical Association (AMA) in a statement released on September 9, 2019 spoke to The Therapeutic Goods Administration’s (TGA) announcement changes to reduce harm in relation to prescription opioids.

In a statement, the TGA says pharmaceutical opioids are now responsible for far more deaths and poisoning hospitalisations in Australia than illegal opioids such as heroin.

“Every day in Australia, nearly 150 hospitalisations and 14 emergency department admissions involve opioid harm, and three people die from drug-induced deaths involving opioid use,” the statement says.

https://ama.com.au/ausmed/upcoming-changes-opioid-prescriptions

The changes will be phased in from January 2020. All the changes and the full TGA statement can be found at:  https://www.tga.gov.au/alert/prescription-opioids

It perplexes me that the TGA can tie Medicinal Cannabis up in so much red tape that it is out of reach for most and that the AMA aren’t more supportive of GP education around Medicinal Cannabis and the streamlining of the process of prescribing.  Not to mention updating the curriculum for those currently training to become doctors and allied health professionals.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics reports that “Opioids accounted for just over 3 deaths per day in 2018. The majority of these opioid-induced fatalities were unintentional overdoses in middle aged males involving the use of pharmaceutical opioids, often in the presence of other substances. Opioid related harm, including mortality, is a serious public health issue both in Australia and internationally.”

Age distribution of opioid-induced deaths

“The age distribution of opioid-induced deaths differs considerably from that for all causes. The highest proportion of deaths (30.4%) occurs in those aged between 35-44, while 87.5% of deaths occur between the ages of 25-64. In total 39,221 years of potential life were lost, and on average a person dying from an overdose with opioid involvement died 34.9 years prematurely.”

https://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Lookup/by%20Subject/3303.0~2018~Main%20Features~Opioid-induced%20deaths%20in%20Australia~10000

To bring this point home – not one person has died from Cannabis.  I would suggest it is fair to say that lives have been saved and lives have been and will continue to be prolonged.

Back to Jenny’s story – “new modalities in pain management were urgently required” – treating doctor. 

The judge said time and time again that he regarded such expressions of opinion as ‘personal opinion’ and not necessarily medical guidance.  I however, consider it to be a powerful combination of both.

There is a shift in public opinion regarding Medicinal Cannabis. 

Legislators take heed.

As a result of Jenny’s pursuit of an ‘alternative therapy’ she no longer requires “prescribed medication for pain and negative mood, and that the use of cannabis oil had resulted in the restoration of (her) physical function and had aided in your psychological wellbeing.”

Following delivering his summation of the submissions tabled, Judge Soulio returned to Jenny’s offending.

“There is no suggestion that any recipient of the cannabis material you were producing and supplying suffered any harm. Indeed, as I have said, the only evidence I have is strongly to the contrary.”

“There is no suggestion that any recreational user of cannabis obtained product from you, and no evidence that any product was on-sold by the recipients of your products.”

Jenny produced two products, a coconut-oil-based product and a full extract cannabis-oil product, which she supplied in syringes and capsules. During the raid of her home the police took Jenny’s client lists, which in Judge Soulio’s view, made it clear by the information recorded that the supply was solely for medical purposes.

Judge Soulio then recounted Jenny’s personal circumstances. He regarded Jenny to be a first offender and against the background he turned to the question of sentence.

He noted that “the paramount purpose of the sentencing legislation is the protection of the community” and he took that into account along with legislative provisions in relation to the general principles of sentencing and the individual sentencing factors to be taken into account.

Jenny’s counsel submitted, and the judge accepted, that Jenny recognised the wrongfulness of her conduct by way of her plea of guilty, “which although entered at a late stage, was in circumstances complicated by the scientific evidence relating to the production of cannabis oil, and the issue of whether the cannabis oil you were producing fell within the purview of the Controlled Substances Act.”

Jenny has been offered employment – an adverse outcome, in terms of sentencing, would unequivocally mean that she would not be able to consider that offer further.

Judge Soulio had regard to other cases when considering the sentence he would impose upon Jenny.   The details are included in the transcript.  I believe now that Jenny’s case will now be precedent

“Ms Hallam, in your matter I have come to the view that the appropriate basis upon which to proceed is to require you to enter into a bond, without recording a conviction or passing sentence.

The bond will be in the sum of $1,000 and will be for a duration of two years. The only conditions of the bond are that you are be of good behaviour, and that you are to come up for conviction and sentence if the bond is breached.”

“I want to make it clear that that is not a licence to produce unregulated medical cannabis. I regard yours as an exceptional case, strongly supported by persuasive evidence, as to your personal circumstances, the circumstances in which you came to use cannabis oil for your own purposes, noting as to the fact that by the use of that cannabis oil you have been able to free yourself from an addiction to opioid medication and anti-anxiolytic medication, and as to the fact that your provision of that material to others who suffered a range of conditions was motivated by a genuine compassion to help others, and was not motivated in any way by commercial gain and indeed, as I have observed, at considerable expense to you.”

“I also take into account that in addition to those exceptional circumstances, you have been involved in what was for you a traumatic legal process, which of itself has been obviously a salutary experience for you and indicates to you the seriousness with which such matters are regarded.”

Adjourned 10.45am

My conclusion

Throughout Judge Soulio’s summation (close to an hour of commentary), personal and professional testimony was recounted.  

I sat in the court room transfixed and hung on every word.

Judge Soulio’s ruling today demonstrated deep wisdom, understanding and shrewd perception of the matter before him.  Above all, it revealed compassion and significant promise for the future of drug law reform in South Australia and in other jurisdictions. 

If we are to take seriously the narrative and that has just been aired in the Adelaide District Court, then each politician (and those who aspire to be) and their staffers must read the sentencing remarks. 

Once read, they need to be fully briefed by those in the know. 

To make it simple here is a very short list (noting these people wear many hats):

  • Carol Ireland – CEO and Managing Director of Epilepsy Action Australia.
  • Professor Iain McGregor, Professor of Psychopharmacology & Academic Director of the Lambert Initiative at the University of Sydney.
  • Greg Barns, Barrister & strong advocate for Drug Law Reform
  • Dr Alex Wodak – President of Australian Drug Law Reform Foundation
  • Associate Professor David Caldicott – Emergency Consultant at the Emergency Department of the Calvary Hospital in Canberra and a Clinical Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Medicine at the Australian National University
  • Lucy Haslam – Founder of United in Compassion
  • Prof Simon Eckermann – Health Economist – University of Wollongong
  • Mick Palmer – Retired Australian Federal Police Commissioner
  • The wider constituency.

Then, quite simply, they need to act.

If you don’t have time to review the whole transcript, here are some extracts from the sentencing remarks attributed to Carol Ireland and Professor Iain McGregor.

“Ms Ireland said she had never encouraged anyone to break the law but had not judged those who had done so in desperation for the sake of their loved ones.”

Professor McGregor referred to an authoritative review of the literature by the United States National Academies of Science Engineering and Medicine, published in 2017, which concluded that there was substantial evidence to support the use of medicinal cannabis products in treating chronic pain, as an anti-emetic in people undergoing chemotherapy,

Professor McGregor noted that as part of the work of the Lambert Initiative surveys indicated that over 85 per cent of the community in Australia supported the availability of medicinal cannabis products to patients in need.

Another Lambert Initiative study, published in 2018, showed that many families with severely epileptic children treated their children with illicit cannabis products. Parents felt compelled to try illicit products because the prescription medications prescribed by neurologists either did not work or caused intolerable side effects, and because official government schemes to allow access to cannabis products were too restrictive or offered products that were simply unaffordable.

Professor McGregor said that the inability of the official Therapeutic Goods Administration Scheme to service the majority of patients in Australia, could be attributed to at least four factors, the third of which was that the expensive nature of the products meant that a chronic pain patient would need to spend $20,000 per year for official products, and the family of an epileptic child more than $50,000 per year. He said that patients can expend a great deal of effort going through the process of obtaining official access to medicinal cannabis products, only to find the products are unaffordable.

Professor McGregor concluded that whilst it is clear that you were breaking the law, it is also clear, in his opinion, that there was sufficient evidence, having regard to the effectiveness of cannabis oil on the various conditions that were you helping treat, that your (Jenny’s) conduct was understandable. He said while it is never preferable for homemade artisanal oils lacking proper quality control to be used as medicines, his research had shown time and time again that desperate patients have little choice. Moreover, many of those patients achieved significant and sometimes miraculous relief from their afflictions.

I have nothing but respect and admiration for Jenny and for her legal counsel.

The outcome of this protracted case is not just vindication for Jenny but significantly, it is a win for the case for compassionate access to cannabis.

I will continue to advocate for a legal framework that not only allows for affordable access to whole plant medicine but also to fast-track the decriminalisation of cannabis.

Giving thanks, being hopeful, loving…. and not letting the Sun set on regret

I wrote this piece in March 2015. At the time I was inspired to put my metaphorical pen to paper following a simple conversation.

During that conversation I was asked a profound question about the matriarch of a family I know,  a woman I had grown to love, respect and adore as a strong, nurturing and resilient woman.

I was asked what it was that allowed me to form such a special bond with her.  To this day I really don’t know and really it doesn’t matter.

Almost in her 97th year, that woman’s heart has now stopped beating but memories of her, her love and influence will live on. Vale Vida.

These are my original words.

Do you ever doubt your choices or feel regret about a decision?  I am not afraid to admit that I do and I’d challenge anyone who claimed that they always, unreservedly, made the right choice.

For some reason my sense of vulnerability is heightened at the moment. It’s partly about my environment, both physical and emotional; and partly about my choices. From an environmental perspective I can’t ignore the course mankind is taking.  Our leaders, in my opinion, are not making the right decisions about the key elements which sustain life as we know it; air, water and food.  I do live in hope though.

Emotionally, it’s more about my evolution as a woman and challenging myself in ways I have never considered in the past.

My choices are more measured than ever before.  Whilst family is pivotal in many of my decisions, I am giving myself permission to make choices which, whilst not selfish in the true sense of the word, are about me and importantly my wellbeing.  In terms of my vulnerability, I can’t pinpoint why I sometimes feel vulnerable but I do know it’s a feeling which will pass and I take some comfort in that.

Positively, my intuition is the strongest it’s ever been.  Like a muscle, with use it is becoming more robust, sculpted and healthy.   My honed intuition has enabled me to be more in-sync, in-tune if you like, with others around me.

I do understand and appreciate how fragile life is.  One only has to listen to a news broadcast to ponder the many pressing issues which are facing us, issues which are often a direct result of a choice or decision, informed or otherwise.

So, as I age, I comprehend more readily how the decisions and choices I make will affect me and importantly others in my circle of influence.

I was asked a profound question recently about the matriarch of a family I know, a woman who I’ve grown to love, respect and adore as a strong, nurturing and resilient woman.

I was asked what it was that allowed me to form such a special bond with her.  To this day I really don’t know and really it doesn’t matter.

The remarkable woman I’m referring to was born in the 1920’s.  She was born a twin.  She and her sister were so tiny at birth, less than 2 pounds each (about 900 grams, less than 1 kilo), and they were literally sent home by the doctor to die.

They did not die. They fought the harshest of odds and survived.  This woman survived not just her infant years through untold adversity but continues to survive to this day. This woman exudes resilience and strength beyond compare.

She worked hard from a very young age.  It was physically demanding work.  When she married, her life was not made easier by the union but rather her role expanded to that of mother, carer, farm-hand and so much more.  A compliant, faithful and nurturing woman, her family was and still is her world.

I wonder what might have been if this woman were to be born today.   

With medical advancements in our country, it would have meant that her mother would have received exceptional antenatal care.  She may not have been delivered at term but likely very close to; and would have been of a healthy birth weight.  Vaccinations would have been a blessing; her only brother was crippled by Polio.

Her early childhood through to her late teens would have been very different too.  There would have been access to an education system which would have shaped her in a very different way. 

The social norms of today would have enabled/empowered her to make choices about her lifestyle, a career (her career) and taken her on a pathway which can only be imagined.

You cannot have regrets if you don’t know what you don’t know.  Nor can you have missed opportunities if they don’t present themselves.  You can however reflect on the passage of time and wonder what might have been and then look forward in such a way to positively shape the years which follow. 

For me, I wonder what might have been if I’d studied harder and listened to advice which, at the time, seemed to be uninformed.  I also wonder what might have been if I’d had been more accepting and patient.  In essence, if I had made very different choices.

I know that the remarkable woman I speak of reflects quietly on what might have been.  I believe that she does think deeply about what path she may have trodden if different opportunities presented themselves. 

Regret is too heavy a word in this instance.  Because of her nature she would never ever perceive her life with having regrets. 

From her very being a lineage continues to grow, a piece of her character, living on in so many for perpetuity. Her morals, her beliefs, her standards and her poise are reflected in her progeny and their progeny.  It may not be evident immediately but if you scratch the surface of each who carries a piece of her DNA then a piece of her lives there.

What if she were to be born in this century? I envisage a woman who would be heavily involved in the education of others or maybe the humanities. I see a woman who would captivate and inspire on a far greater scale because of the technology which is available to us today.  I see a woman who would lead but also know when to walk beside others when called for.

In her twilight years we can learn much from her and others of her ilk.  It’s never too late to ask those pressing questions of our families’ treasured elder men and women.  It’s never too late to just sit and listen, over a cup of sweet tea poured into a fine bone china cup and learn about their life, their thoughts and what might have been. 

Voltaire said, “The one thing we learn from history is that we don’t learn from history.”

We all live with hope and some of us with regrets….don’t we?

Perhaps this is an opportunity to learn? Talk, listen, learn and above all love…..those conversations may well steer you down a road less travelled and maybe even prevent you from having one less regret.  

Living in poverty & being unemployed in Australia – what does that really look like?

I first published this piece in July 2013 – Still we are stigmatising the unemployed and underemployed. Still governments use a punitive approach to ‘monitoring’ and measuring job search efforts. We must raise the rate. No question.

Many different approaches to eradicating poverty have been attempted in our country, however approaches which focus only on economic growth have proved to be unsustainable.

Our Government must create an environment whereby unemployed Australians and those living below the poverty line are able to re-claim their dignity and their basic human rights.

Human rights in Australia have largely been developed under Australian Parliamentary democracy but it would seem that our Parliament doesn’t really understand what it is like to be unemployed or in a cycle of poverty.    There is increasing international evidence that when governments adopt anti-poverty plans, they can make meaningful steps to reduce overall levels of poverty.

You may have heard the words before or even uttered them yourself, words such as ‘dole bludger’, ‘jobless’, ‘unemployed’, ‘idle’, useless and ‘redundant’.

These words evoke pain in the eyes of a parent trying feed their child or a carer who has not had a break from caring, not even for a minute, for months.  Those words are often interchanged and embellished with offensive language.  Those words cut to the core of most Centrelink Income Support recipients.  People who often don’t have the energy or self-esteem to respond.

I have a proud background in Public Service; in what some would regard as the most difficult of service delivery agencies our Government has in place to support our society, that being the Department of Human Services, Centrelink.

For many years I worked as a ‘customer service advisor’ in a regional ‘customer service centre’.  No two days were the same.  No two ‘customers’ were the same.

I unequivocally support the efforts of the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS). I support an increase in the basic rate of income support for all welfare recipients.  There is an increasing demand for services but this has not been met by additional assistance from any levels of government. 

You only have to speak with any NGO involved in assisting people to overcome barriers to living meaningful lives to know that their finite resources are stretched.  These organisations also advocate for strong communities, and for justice and fairness in our society, these organisations understand that bringing a family out of poverty has so many tangible benefits.

One such organisation is ACOSS.  They are the peak body for the community services and welfare sector and the national voice for the needs of people affected by poverty and inequality.

ACOSS’ vision is for a fair, inclusive and sustainable Australia where all individuals and communities can participate in and benefit from social and economic life.

We, as a society have a moral responsibility to support the disadvantaged and impoverished and lift them out of poverty and welfare dependency.  You can’t achieve that on $32 per day.

I would encourage you to learn more about the remarkable work ACOSS and locally the work of SACOSS..

Visit http://www.acoss.org.au/policy

The Jigsaw

Picture, if you will, a delicately engraved box; the sort that the matriarch of your family may have tucked away in a drawer containing treasures.

The box is not too big, not too small nor deep in its size.  It has a distinctive look, feel and bouquet.  It looks old and it feels velvety and its smell is that of age but it is not unpleasant but rather it’s familiar and comforting.

As these words spill across my screen, in this instance and in this moment, the box is a metaphorical one.

From time to time the box has been carefully removed from its place of safe keeping to have items added and some removed.  The items removed are never removed permanently but are taken out to be cherished, contemplated and some to be studied in a discerning way. Once reflected upon all are returned to their resting place with unconditional care.

The place of safe keeping is my heart and my soul and that box contains a jigsaw puzzle. 

The puzzle is that of my life.  The puzzle of my life is like a colourful mosaic which is yet to be completed. The artist started with a blank canvas and every day of every year, pieces are added to give life to both a picture and a narrative.   

There are pieces of my life’s jigsaw that fit together flawlessly.  Those perfect pieces include my children.  Their lives are coloured with light and shade and filled with hope and love.  Other fragments which sit naturally within me and are part of that puzzle are my memories. 

Most are pleasant to recall and some distressing but all form essential pieces of the mosaic that makes me whole.  Every day I create new memories and each finds its resting place in that box. 

The pieces of the puzzle which are missing, or rather yet to be shaped and encouraged into place, are the parts which will add to my story and one day upon my death, will complete it.  

I am not sure how the pieces will fit into my ever changing puzzle or what pieces of the existing puzzle may need to be reshaped to enable them to fit.  I do know though, that there are pieces I’d like to remove but in doing so would, like a house of cards, make the mosaic of my life crumble and become unrecognisable.

So rather than forcibly remove those pieces, I am going to let nature takes its course.  I am happy to ride what seems to be a predetermined path for now.  Slowly and methodically though, I will change course and navigate to a place I want to be rather than a place I need to be.

I accept that there are things that I cannot change but those things I can influence, I will.  If I see a piece of my puzzle within reach and can see it fitting into my mosaic perfectly and naturally, I will gently bring it to rest in its rightful place.  In doing so, that piece along with all the others will add colour and light to my life’s beautiful puzzle.

The Gift

First Published 4th January 2015

They sit comfortably as a sea breeze funnels along the verandah and touches their skin.  Chilled glasses of sparkling wine are held delicately in manicured hands.  Three like-minded women are deep in conversation.  The conversation, spontaneous in its evolution, is centred on how fortunate they are to live their mostly contented lives in Australia. 

In their circle of family and friends their children have never had to worry about from where their next meal was to come; or if their water was safe to drink; or if they had shelter from the elements.

Their children are loved and rich with possessions. Their children have access to health care; education and the ability to one day earn a living regardless of gender or ethnic background. Their children are indeed fortunate, privileged really; and it is my hope that they and the generations to follow never have to fight for survival.

I am part of this conversation. 

The children we speak of include mine. 

In a perfect world no child or person would be exposed to, or have to endure suffering or hardship but our world is far from perfect.   At any given moment in time many people on our fragile planet are being exploited, persecuted or are experiencing hardship due to the extremes of our climate.  The exceptional circumstances they find themselves in are well outside of their control and influence and they fight to survive.   I can’t begin to imagine what that would be like. 

Whilst I don’t want my children to ever have to experience adversity to the levels we see and read about in news bulletins, I do want them to be exposed to some level of hardship in a way in which they can at least begin to understand and comprehend what adversity really is and genuinely appreciate what they do have.   And if the unimaginable happens and they are placed in a dire situation, I want them to have the ability to endeavour to survive. 

I want my children to have the confidence to reach out with care to another human being in need and not be afraid of what others might think but to reach out and offer solace because it is the right thing to do.

In life, I want them to be able to act instinctively as they contribute in a meaningful way to our society. 

For our children to be the best they can be they must have empathy and compassion.  They also need to be resilient and adaptable.  These are traits which may be intrinsic but mostly they are learned.  

Education is at the heart of this message. 

You don’t have to leave our shores to encounter hardship; there are many examples of need and destitution in our own backyard. Broadly, Australian’s believe they are resilient and adaptable to change but I do question if we really have had those traits tested in recent times. 

I believe the last three generations have been fortunate in life but has our resilience and adaptability really been put through its paces, that is beyond our adoption of technological toys?  

When all is said and done are we truly able to deal with significant social and environmental change?  Could we really cope with events of the magnitude we see all too often on our TV screens? 

Australians from many cultures and diverse backgrounds, including our first peoples, have fought alongside our allies in wars on foreign and home soil.  We endured conflicts we did not choose to engage in but were rather drawn into because of our allegiances.  

We have succumbed to hardship and will continue to encounter drought, fire and flooding rain, pestilence and plague. We have risen in the face of adversity to overcome stark odds. By no means trivial, such events in our short history since colonisation have reinforced our resolve and strengthened our character as a nation and as a people. 

How do we teach, model and impart the traits of resilience and respect to our children when their level of exposure to adversity, thankfully, is non-existent?  Leading by example is one way and certainly living our life in a way which embodies empathy and compassion is fine start. 

We may have grievances from time to time but in the scheme of things, from a global view, they are largely superficial.  The next time you believe you have been dealt a cruel hand, a heavy blow or things just aren’t going your way, step back and put the situation into perspective. 

If no-one has died or is seriously ill or has lost their home, then the matter is likely one which will soon settle in the archive of your memory, a place to learn from; and to grow from.  

By all means give your children material gifts because you can, but give them a gift which money cannot buy, give them every opportunity to grow emotionally and to be able to discern the emotions of others. 

With this most valuable gift they will be able to act with dignity, grace and self-respect and in-turn earn the respect of others.  

Medicinal Cannabis – some useful links

For me, this weekend has been both inspiring and hugely frustrating. Many people have been brave enough to share their personal stories with me and some with the wider audience during the panel sessions.

I say again…..personal narratives are powerful instruments of change.

As introduced during the various sessions, my advocacy for better patient access pathways to Medicinal Cannabis is well regarded and wide-ranging throughout South Australia and beyond.

I receive contacts, not dissimilar to those received this weekend, regularly. It is a telling sign of the society we live in when there are so many people who may benefit from Medicinal Cannabis therapy and yet affordable and simple access is all but unreachable.

For the record – I am not able to provide ‘advice’, nor am I qualified to. That said, I can share information I have gathered/learned so that you may make your own choices.

Some background

For those of you who don’t know what started my advocacy, here is the back story. There is always a back story.

When my father was diagnosed with Prostate Cancer about 12 years ago – it was not operable and metastasised to his bones – he died in September 2009. It was during that time I started my quest for better treatment options for him during the palliative time.

Cannabis was an option but accessing it was futile and it was a criminal act to access it. Not much has changed – though legal now – the patient access pathways are cumbersome and expensive and medical professionals are mostly uneducated and unwilling to consider cannabis as an option.

Not putting too finer a point on it, the lead up to his death was painful and we lost him long before he died thanks to the opiates he was prescribed for pain relief – he was mostly so sedated he couldn’t communicate and all activities of daily living were done for him by my sister, my mother and I.

An undignified death for a dignified man. My fight for better access to Cannabis is both personal and ongoing.

Fast forward to 2019

Whist there is a Federal legal framework (from 2016) for access to Medical Cannabis the States/Territories have the responsibility for regulation.
As I mentioned above, safe, affordable patient access pathways remain the challenge.

Here are some useful links

If you go decide to venture down the legal path it may be useful to review this link: http://www.integrativehealthsolutions.com.au/2017/10/03/patient-pathway-to-access-medicinal-cannabis/

This is the most recent guidance from the TGA https://www.tga.gov.au/medicinal-cannabis-guidance-documents/

Here is some info regarding access in our State (SA). The challenge will be to find a doctor willing to prescribe.

https://www.sahealth.sa.gov.au/wps/wcm/connect/public+content/sa+health+internet/health+topics/health+conditions+prevention+and+treatment/medicines/medicinal+cannabis/medicinal+cannabis+patient+access+in+south+australia

There are many resources available and this is one I often refer people to https://grannystormcrowslist.wordpress.com/the-list/

Simply search for the diagnosed the condition/s and a range of link will come up – ranging from studies to scholarly articles.

United in Compassion – this extract is from the UIC Website. Please take a dip into the site in an effort to understand Dan’s story and the incredible work this organisation is undertaking. I have nothing but pure respect and admiration for Lucy Haslam and her team.
https://unitedincompassion.com.au/

Our philosophy is the dignified alleviation of suffering with compassion & empathy according to ‘Dan’s Test’

Our primary mission is advocating for patient access to Full Spectrum herbal Medicinal Cannabis extracts and dried herb Cannabis; in a manner which is safe, effective, affordable, equitable and favorable for patients, for the dignified relief of suffering.

Dan’s test – sets high quality product expectations, that are legally and easily accessible to patients when they need it, with no one left behind :

  • Equitable and favorable for patients
  • Naturally outdoor/greenhouse grown herbal Medicinal Cannabis
  • Organic principles.
  • Incorporates a wide range of herbal Medicinal Cannabis varieties, to treat a wide range of health conditions.
  • Full Spectrum plant extraction processes.
  • Dried Herb (Cannabis floral clusters); for use in electric personal vaporisation devices. 
  • Ensures high standards of production & manufacturing, by employing the principles of Quality Assurance

Dan Haslam was instrumental in bringing the issue of the therapeutic use of herbal Medicinal Cannabis to the forefront and into the national Australian consciousness. Dan benefited dramatically from his use of local Australian grown herbal medicinal varieties of Cannabis, during his battle with cancer.

Dan passed away on the 24th of February 2015, but his legacy lives on. “Every step we take on Medical Cannabis, will be built on the footsteps Dan Haslam left behind” Mike Baird – Premier of New South Wales

UIC supported the making of the documentary High As Mike.

If you wish to host a screening of this most compelling documentary visit FanForce to learn how:
https://fan-force.com/films/high-as-mike/

For those of you who saw the doco in Adelaide you would have come to understand that many people can benefit from Cannabis therapy.

From this weekend alone, it was clear to me that many people are either accessing the alternative market (with risk) or going without, too frightened to run the risk of becoming tangled in the criminal justice system. Sadly, too many are dying waiting.

It is understood about 1 million Australians have turned to the alternative market in Australia, a market which is estimated to be worth $4.5Billion in Australia each year. It does make you think!

I hope one day, in the not too distant future, the landscape is very different.

Be an advocate – tell your story – Don’t raise your voice, simply improve your argument.

Strength to each and every one of you.

Yours sincerely

Dianah 💚💚💚

Embracing Change & Opportunity

For my children and my grandchildren – yet to be born.

If, one day, my children have offspring, I fear I’ll have some explaining to do…. or I can dig deep and continue to embrace change and be part of that change and tell a different story.

If I do nothing, they’ll pour over my photographs of days gone by, of healthy cropping land, stunning natural landscapes and pristine beaches with eyes wide open and curious minds and wonder why things are now the way they are.

They’ll want me to tell them stories about how their planet was. Not whimsical fables but rather truthful tales of what used to be.  They’ll ask about creatures now extinct yet only a handful of years ago graced this planet.

They’ll ask questions about what it was like to feel sand between my toes at sunset in my sanctuary; breathing cool air after a Summer thunderstorm and; how the rain sounded on a tin roof during a cold snap in the depths of Winter…. and they’ll ask me why, in just two generations, their future was placed in peril at a polling booth.  They will simply ask why.

As, they help me to tend to my garden which will grow herbs for health and sustenance, they will ask why I’m forced to break a law so I can be pain free in my advancing years.  I will hold back tears as their soft, gentle hands guide mine, now aching and arthritic, over carefully prepared loam as we plant seeds.  The water we pour sparingly over the soil and seeds, almost more precious than life itself, collected in a tank from my roof (when it does rain – events are rare) because the cost of water is so high.

They’ll ask me to explain what it is a politician is elected to do and why the nation’s politicians, still a majority of whom are male and of a certain ilk, make decisions and laws which seem to harm not help.

They’ll ask me why our Nation’s first people are dying of disease and ailments which should have been eradicated and why those who can’t find work are submitted to drug testing, turning to licit and illicit drugs to ease their pains, the symptom of a wider malaise.

They will ask me what it means to seek asylum and I’ll have to find words to explain that now there are people from around the world who are not just escaping conflict and persecution but are hungrier than ever before.  Food security has become more than a significant geopolitical issue in recent years, wars are being waged over food and water not fuel of another kind.  And I weep.

They will ask me why I openly protest, out loud, even when there’s no one else around, about the ‘news’ I read on my device, written hastily by journalists beholden to a news cycle driven and drip fed by political overlords.  I will struggle to explain.

I am in my advancing years but I’m still required to work.  Fortunately, for me, I have skills that are more than manual capacity.  I’ll never be entitled to a government pension or other income support and my superannuation is having to be supplemented by whatever earnings I can make.

I don’t want to shower my grandchildren in material gifts, I wouldn’t even if I had the means, but I want to shower them in love and in wisdom and to give them strength and hope that it’s not too late. And I weep.…..

So rather than paint picture of what a dark future may behold, I’ll dry the tears of today and I will dig deep to embrace change and all that it stands for. 

In years to come instead of telling tales of woe, I’ll share stories of battles won and compromises reached.  Of conciliation and reconciliation, of hopes realised and dreams shared. 

The photographs will depict changing landscapes with environmental flows returned to once parched riverbeds and wetlands. 

Cropping rotations will include non-traditional crops for our arid climbs and backyard gardens will include a herb once demonised – no question. 

Communities will be healthy, the gap will have closed on indigenous health, asylum seekers will be embraced into regional and urban communities and their skills and cultures valued.  Racism will still bubble to the surface in some, but largely, acceptance, tolerance and respect will prevail.

Rule of law will truly underpin our society.

We would have slowly, and not without pain, transitioned to a low carbon economy and renewable energy will be driving industry and households.  Energy will be affordable and manufacturing for a brave new world will bloom.

Our aging population and those with disability will be cared for better than ever before.  Resources will be plentiful because we have created a thriving industry born out of a plant.  We will see the rise of the Cannabis Century and with it an array of new visionary jobs and opportunities.  Without our environment there is no economy.

Importantly, my children’s children will not fear the future as we once did.  They may be battle weary, but their successes will be celebrated.

Politicians will govern for people, all people.  Multi-partisan approaches to complex issues will be bargained for and brokered.  Blood and tears will be shed but not on battlefields and not in the way of the past. Conflicts will be circumvented because woman in leadership will use the gift of negotiating and simply talking to resolve issues rather than bearing arms.  Those elected to political office will have run and sought office because they believe in democracy and in the role – there will be no other agendas but than to serve selflessly.

They will know that as a parliamentarian they are both servants of the people and carers of the nation…..and I’ll smile….in some way I have been able to effect change…and be part of that change.

I don’t pray – never have, never will – but I do live in hope.

Licorice the Cat – A true story

Introduction: This short story written by Sherrie Simms-Farmer, daughter of Spencer Gulf Fishing Icon Ben Simms, recently took out the Kernewek Lowender – Copper Triangle Writers’ Group Literary Prize 2019 – in the Short Story Category.

It is a privilege to share this piece as a guest’s contribution on my site. Sherrie, humbled at the recognition, read this story through misty eyes to those gathered at the event in Moonta Bay as part of the renowned Cornish Festival.

I love the picture this story paints of the life of Licorice. We can all learn a lot from animals.

Licorice, so named because of his luxurious black coat, was born in a small litter on the veranda of the old family home at Trelawney Street, Simms Cove (near Moonta) in 1960. The day was perfect with big fluffy white clouds scudding dreamily across the sky. Ben was walking to his grandmother’s house across the salt pan from his home about half a kilometre toward the beach.

He knew the track well. Now a narrow dusty path cut into the boxthorn, salt bush and acacia. A wonderful haven for the bird life and nectar-loving native insects. Something was flowering in every season of the year. He moved down the belly of the salt pan and up the other side to the very top of the cliff. An imposing 25-mitres the cliffs seemed mountainous to Ben when he was a boy. Today, as a man, he gazed far, far out to sea. His weather worn eyes studied the horizon carefully, reading it to forecast the climate for the next few days. Looking down to the base of the cliff was the whitest sandy beach one could possibly imagine. Paradise right there on the edge of the scrub country. The Spencer Gulf was in Ben’s blood and he would not contemplate living anywhere else. When he was not out fishing Ben trudged this worn path every day and sometimes two or three times. He loved nothing more than to be reminded of the ghost of great uncle Rick and recollect a grand story of his fishing prowess. No need to make them up there are amazing reports of record-breaking journeys in the 54-foot cutter the Minnie Simms. Perhaps the one where he and his lovely wife Clara were becalmed between Thistle and Taylor Islands where their son was conceived.

Alas not today, he arrived to find silence through the house. He suspected that grandma Alice would be taking her afternoon nap. Yeah, and Uncle Bill was probably at the beach or in the shed mending net. ‘Nah he’d be at the beach for sure on a day like this’ Ben thought. Starting off toward the beach Ben headed to the back door.  Taking in the scene he was startled to find Uncle Bill sitting on the grass just outside the back veranda. A ray of dappled sunlight shone through the plants to fall on his dark hair. Surrounded by kittens Bill was sitting on the grass with one kitten hanging from his coat sleeve, another sitting in his lap, and yet another climbing up his other arm toward his shoulder. They were meowing and scratching him which he seemed to enjoy. Eventually Ben noticed another one as his eyes fell upon an all-black kitten sitting at his feet looking up at him. Ben was mesmerised by the fire in the yellow eyes of the kitten and he instinctively bent to scoop him up and placed him in the top pocket of his shirt. “What are you doing Uncle Bill?” Ben asked. “Playing with the kittens before they find a new home”, Bill replied. “Are they being given away?” Ben enquired as he felt the needle like claws dig into his chest. “Yes, I’m going to miss them, and Ross said if they’re not gone by tomorrow some will have to be drowned.” Ben felt a knot tighten in the pit of his stomach. The little kitten mewed, and they looked at each other a moment. Without another word Ben said his good byes and headed back across the paddock with Licorice still in his top pocket. This was the beginning of 17 years before the mast on the fishing vessel the Mary-Ann Simms.

Two years earlier Ben had commissioned the building of a 57-foot schooner rigged wooden fishing boat. It was his pride and joy and Licorice, still in Ben’s top pocket, was taken aboard in the dingy later that very day. After the daily inspection of the engine room and most importantly the bilge water level they stood in the galley where Licorice was given some milk. Ben sat on the bunk awhile and Licorice leaned against him and began to clean his paws and whiskers. He soon fell into a sound sleep so appealing that Ben laid down to join him. The gentle rocking movement of the boat saw them both fall asleep. Ben woke with a mild start after rolling over somewhat concerned that he had squashed poor Licorice. He sat up steadying himself on the bunk while he cleared his head. Licorice was not there.  Ben searched and searched but couldn’t find him and, in the end, decided he’d be back the following day anyway and would look again then.

Early the next morning Ben sculled the dingy out to the boat that laid at anchor some hundred mitres north of the Moonta Bay Jetty. He moved with vigour carrying, among other supplies, a couple of tins of cat food. Ben found Licorice contentedly sleeping on the bunk and was not disturbed in the least by Ben’s arrival. Down the ladder to the engine room he checked and emptied the bilge water and started the engine. The slow revving diesel motor purred into life and soon slipped into the rhythmical sound now so familiar to him. He would stay onboard for an hour and give the engine a good run. Licorice was fed and watered. Ben even bought some of his mother’s scalded cream! He placed an old jumper on the bunk and Licorice curled around and around and slipped back into a sound sleep assisted by the graceful rocking of the boat and the sound of the waves lapping against the hull. For Ben it was the sound of the straining ropes and wind whistling through the riggings that he loved most. This freshening change would blow out tonight and they would fish tomorrow leaving early in the morning.

Favouring Garfish Licorice enjoyed a diet rich in fresh seafood. But when the boat was laying against the jetty in safe harbour, he could be seen trotting down the jetty toward the town of Port Broughton and returning with rabbit, mouse or bird to supplement his fare. Many adventure stories were chronicled highlighting Licorice’s star character. In an article by Stan Wickham, a journalist of the day with Advertiser Newspapers Ltd., Stan confirms the almost acrobatic ability of Licorice to “scamper up and down ship ladders with the aplomb of a mountain goat”. He continues to share the story of Licorice standing up to the Aussie rules star Neil Kerley on a day the football players went on a Schnapper fishing jaunt on the Mary-Ann. Licorice won the tangle biting Neil Kerley’s powerful legs so that “Kerl’s had to back off” according to Stan’s first-hand report.

Ben put the Mary-Ann on the slip for painting and maintenance every year and sometimes twice a year. On this memorable day in Port Adelaide when the time came to go off the slip Licorice was nowhere to be found. Ben steamed the boat across the Port River and along side the wharf. Despite driving back around to the slipway a little later that day – still no Licorice. By this time Ben was thirsting for some of the local ale and went to the British Hotel. While they were there some of the crew travelled the short distance to the slip looking for Licorice but again came back empty handed. With a heavy heart Ben went back to the boat to prepare to sail the next morning. On arrival at the boat Ben met the Wharfinger who said, “If you’re looking for Licorice Ben, he’s in your wheelhouse, and on the bunk drying himself. I watched him swim across the river and climb aboard your boat half an hour ago!”. They were together again.

Ben will never forget the day he had to leave Port Lincoln without Licorice aboard. He’d waited longer than he should have as it was and eventually had to leave him behind. Ben was due to return home at the end of the tuna season and spirits were low. Everyone in Port Lincoln knew that Licorice had missed the boat and they were all looking out for him. Ben called in by radio from time to time but alas Licorice was not sighted. Before he arrived home, Ben heard the heart-warming message that Licorice had been found. His cousin, Thistle Simms, found Licorice pacing up and down the town jetty looking for the boat. Not risking Licorice disappearing again Thistle promptly put him in a cardboard box and took him aboard the Claire Crouch where another cousin, Garth Simms, was the skipper. The acid tanker was due to move up the gulf to Port Pirie that very day. Ben dropped anchor north of Cowell at Shoalwater Point and waited for the Claire Crouch to sail up the gulf. In radio contact with Garth Ben knew when to expect the boat. At 9pm when Ben could see the lights of the Claire Crouch ahead, he jumped in the net dingy to intercept her.

When Garth ‘hove to’ Ben went along side. He could hear Licorice going mad in the cardboard box and Ben suspected he had recognised the sound of the net boats motor. Once aboard the dingy Licorice escaped the box and crawled under Ben’s oil skin coat.

To live to such a ripe old age could not have been imagined if you knew of him and his courageous adventures. Just sleeping in the folds of the sail was a dangerous past time. One day while doing just that the sail filled with a strong puff of wind and Licorice flew across the deck to land without incident on all fours.  And then there was the day that Ken Tidswell, the skipper of the fishing vessel the Estelle Star, brought his sulphur-crested Cockatoo aboard the Mary-Ann. They spent all afternoon with the crew enjoying a BBQ on the back deck and drinking beer together like good friends do.

After a long, full and adventurous life, wrapped in canvas and chains, Licorice was given a fitting sea burial. The fishing ground, proudly called Licorice, is to this day known for huge shoals of schnapper.