Narungga Votes

First Published March 2018

In conversation with FX Medicine‘s Andrew Whitfield-Cook at the United in Compassion Medicinal Cannabis Symposium last week, I spoke of an exercise I undertook during the last SA State Election and how I put questions to candidates and then published responses…I’ve republished my blog…’s a look back.

At this year’s Federal Election I would encourage you to do the same and participate in democracy and make your vote count…do you have questions of your candidates? Now’s the perfect time to ask…..feel free to use some of my questions or create your own… Make your vote count.

Introduction: It is no secret I have a keen interest in politics; locally, nationally and internationally.  For the most part my background is unremarkable, but I will say that from an early age I have been inquisitive and hugely interested in people, democracy and in my (our) environment and the environment.

Where I have found my understanding of issues to be limited or knowledge-gaps needing to be filled, I have sought answers.  Importantly, where a once tightly held view has been influenced by my new learnings, I have freely acknowledged and disclosed my change in view (Medical Cannabis being a case in point).

This piece is not written with the intent to influence your view but rather provide you with some insights to which you may or may not have regard to when you cast your precious vote on March 17.  Your vote.  Your view.

Campaigning commences: As the race for Narungga unfolded and the five candidates’ identities became known, I decided to contact them individually and pose the same set of questions.  The purpose of this exercise was to understand more about what motivated them to stand as candidates and to see if one had a point of difference which would cause me to place a number 1 alongside their name on election day.

More about the seat of Narungga (including key boundary changes compared to 2014) here:

The list of the candidates, as they will appear on the ballot is at this link:

The questions: I posed a suite of questions which I felt would dig a little deeper and garner more telling answers.  More telling than the approved words, which often are common threads in media pieces, as candidates go about spruiking Party positions.

Here are my questions. 

What motivates you?

What skillset would you bring to the office of Member for Narungga?

What do you see as the challenges for Narungga?

What are the opportunities?

What are your views on affordable and less cumbersome patient access pathways to Medical Cannabis?

What are your views on an industrial Hemp industry on the YP & how would you support local farmers?

What is it about your Leader that inspires you?

Justice reinvestment – The principles of a justice reinvestment approach include localism, community control and better cooperation between local services. These also align with what we know about human rights-based practice in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander service delivery.  How would you better support Narungga’s First Peoples – particularly youth?

How would (insert Party) better support primary producers – markets/value adding etc?

Are you for or against Australia becoming a Republic?

Why should I vote for you?

I reached out to the candidates via various mediums including Social Media, (Facebook and Twitter) SMS, voice calls and email.

Of the five candidates, three engaged with me personally. 

You can read the unedited responses I was provided in writing at this link:


My interactions with the Candidates

Liberal candidate. Fraser Ellis responded to my meeting request in a very timely fashion.  I met with him in person and we conversed over coffee as I put questions to him and he later followed up via email with additional detail.   Fraser has made several contacts with me after that first meeting and has clearly demonstrated a willingness to better understand some issues.

Greens candidate. Jason Swales responded to my email and whilst there was a delay to the timeframe given we were able to negotiate an extended deadline and his reply was provided.  His reply was written in consultation with his Party Office. Jason also took time out to call me personally and invited me to meet him on his patch at the bottom of the Yorke Peninsula, an invitation I am yet to take up but am grateful of the offer.

SA Best candidate, Sam Davies communicated with me via email, SMS and voice calls.  I also attended, at Sam’s invitation, a SA Best Party event in Kadina where leader Nick Xenophon introduced Sam and formally launched his campaign.  SA Best Upper House candidates Sam Johnson and Andrea Madely were also in attendance. 

I did get an opportunity to ask a question at the forum, which I expressly directed to the candidate.  Sam started to respond however Mr Xenophon interjected and provided a broad response which, for me, diluted the opportunity for me to directly engage with the candidate.   It was also telling in that there were significant knowledge gaps for both Mr Xenophon and Sam in the areas of Medical Cannabis and Industrial Hemp.

Labor candidate, Doug Milera.  I initially reached out to Doug via his Facebook page (messenger) and received a SMS response and apologies for the delay in getting back to me.  I was invited to email him my questions, which I duly did, and he also offered an opportunity to meet him. 

Further attempts at communication seeking a meeting and/or response to my questions remain unanswered and I have had my access blocked via Messenger on the Doug Milera – Labor for Narungga Facebook page.

Australian Conservatives candidate Rebecca Hewett.  I made several attempts to obtain a contact number for Rebecca to arrange a time to meet her.  I was asked, via a third party to email my questions to the Australian Conservatives (SA Parliament) Media advisor which I duly did.   As a courtesy I also copied in Hon Robert Brokenshire MLC into the email. 

Mr Brokenshire made time to personally call me.  However, he did question my motives in wanting to meet with Rebecca and said that I could meet with her, but he would be present.  I explained my reasons for reaching out to the Narungga Candidates.  He offered some dates (6/7th March) and said he would come back to me with a time.  A follow up call has not been forthcoming and as at the time of publishing this piece I have not received a response to my questions either.  I understand that Rebecca was given my number and said she’d call me, I’d still be happy to take her call.

My conclusions: This exercise has been hugely informative for me.  It is interesting that my thoughts not only focussed on policies and party positions but also took into consideration personalities. 

For a local member to be effective, first and foremost they need to be accessible and respectful.  Whether in Government or in Opposition a local Member is there to serve his/her constituency. 

On any given day a constituent may make representation to his/her Member on a diverse range of matters.  Some matters may be very complex and sensitive, so for me, should I need to access my local Member I would have an expectation that I am treated respectfully, that I am listened to intently and that my issue or concern is taken seriously.

Based on this exercise there are two candidates with whom I would feel confident in making representation to.  Both Fraser and Jason (undoubtedly their communications styles are very different) gave me a sense that if I presented with an issue that my voice would be heard and that there would be a willingness to broker a solution for me and importantly, with me.

My vote

My views align with policies of the Centre-Left of the political spectrum blended with a shade of Green.

In terms of policies – at this election, the SA Greens and Dignity Party are clear winners.  From matters ranging from human rights, creating awareness and enshrining greater equity into law, better patient access pathways to medical cannabis, justice reinvestment and caring for our environment, (which without we would have no economy); they show leadership.

When voting in the electorate of Narungga I will be casting my number 1 preference with Jason Swales based on his Party’s policies and on Jason’s personal disposition. 

Even thought I do not agree with some of the Liberal Party’s positions, for instance their willingness to legislate to raise the maximum penalties for Cannabis possession from $500 to $2,000 (this is not, as they claim, aligned with community expectations) Fraser Ellis will receive my second preference because of his willingness to be an accessible member.

Although Doug Milera blocked me on Facebook, his Party’s policies mean I will be placing him third.

With a lack of policies in general and limited understanding of some of the issues I am known to advocate strongly for, I will be placing Sam Davies fourth; and the Australian Conservatives candidate Rebecca Hewett will be fifth on my ballot paper.

In the Legislative Council I plan to vote 1-12 below the line.

I will be starting with the Dignity Party.  Kelly Vincent’s outstanding 8-year term deserves another, as does Tammy Franks of the Greens.  Following voting for Kelly and Tammy and others on their ticket, I will continue to number my ballot paper below the line, selecting candidates from the Animal Justice Party and the Liberal Democrats (based on drug law reform policy) until 12 places are marked. 

Voting – some interesting facts: In Australia women who were British subjects, 21 years and older, only gained the right to vote and the right to stand for parliament in 1902. South Australia was a bit more progressive and allowed women to vote and stand for parliament in 1895.

Sadly, it wasn’t until 1962 that the right to vote in federal elections was granted to Australian Aboriginal women who, together with Australian Aboriginal men, had been specifically excluded from the franchise in Australia by the Commonwealth Franchise Act 1902.

If you are unsure about how you can cast a valid vote, follow this link to learn more:

My prediction for Narungga.  The Liberal Party will retain this seat.

However, I believe the margin (currently 14.1% in favour of the Liberal Party – Two Party Preferred – which does not take into account the SA Best factor) will receive a hammering.  

The margin may well be decreased to 5-6% largely due to what is expected to be strong polling by the SA Best Candidate. 

Making Narungga closer to marginal, if not marginal, would be a good outcome whichever way you look at it.

Closing remarks: I say emphatically to everyone, especially young people (those voting for the first time) you have the right and freedom to participate in this democracy, so do so.

Be informed.  Be motivated to make your vote count.

Your vote is a powerful and precious thing.

Foot note: I was employed by the Crown for four-and-a-half years (2009 – 2013) as Principal Assistant to Independent Member for Frome Geoff Brock MP.  In 2013 I ran as an Independent Senate Candidate. 

I have been an ally (for want of a better word) of several political figures, including Tammy Franks MLC, Kelly Vincent MLC and Kyam Maher MLC in my advocacy for Medical Cannabis and Drug Law Reform. Each Member from diverse and different Parties but each with progressive, people-focussed views.

I did consider running as an Independent Candidate for the Seat of Narungga at this election however a few factors meant that the timing simply wasn’t right for me.

Banish the Bully

This piece was first published on 12 July 2014 – I was recently motivated to re-post it here.

Bullies don’t just reduce their prey to emotional rubble; their conduct leaves a trail of untold destruction; of broken spirits and of broken dreams for those close to the victim too. 

If you are a witness to bullying do you reach out to protect and defend the victim or do you look the other way?  Onlookers can be either part of the bullying problem or an important part of the solution to stop bullying. 

During the past many months, indeed years, I have tried to come to terms with the affects that bullies have had on those close to me and those who have made representation and sought help via my former workplace. 

It is true that kids can be cruel and one could argue that bullying is part of growing up.  I don’t agree, and that train of thought doesn’t make it at all acceptable.  

When taunts are delivered in such a way that the young victim questions their self-worth and their confidence is crushed to a level resembling the pulverisation of rock to fine grains of sand, it is not OK to look the other way. 

In school yards and in workplaces everywhere students and employees have the right to be protected and to feel safe as they go about learning and earning.  When those who have the capacity and the obligation to intervene and stop the bullying behaviour and either chose not to, or their actions are ineffective, that is when lives and livelihoods are placed in jeopardy. 

In schools there are policies and procedures, forms and frameworks.  However they are only as good as those left to administer them.  Fortunately for me, those who are in that position of power and trust are putting measures in place to deal with the issue brought to their attention with respect and authority. 

As at January 1 2014, the Fair Work Commission has the jurisdiction to deal with bullying complaints raised by workers and powers to make an order for the bullying to stop.  If a worker reasonably believes that he or she has been bullied at work they can apply to the Fair Work Commission for an order to stop the bullying. 

Whilst the workplace bullying provisions under the Fair Work Act 2009 will not create powers to make orders on reinstatement or compensation, there will nevertheless be increased pressure and onus on businesses to be proactive about preventing workplace bullying and promptly dealing with any related complaints, in order to avoid an intervention by the Commission.  

Knowing this, I am left to wonder why employers are not more proactive in investigating and supporting those who report instances of bullying and harassment in the workplace.   

In a case close to home, I am led to wonder how things might have been had the matter been treated differently.  I am not suggesting that there was a lack of action but rather that in some cases different forms of investigation must take place.  Not everyone is able to easily articulate their concerns either verbally or in writing.  Some employers seek to have a form completed before action is commenced.  This immediately puts those who are not able to fluently write their story; or are reluctant to for fear of further harassment, at an immediate disadvantage. 

When an adult is reduced to an anxious mess, seeks intervention and can no longer function on many levels, it is then that the true impact of the repeated and habitual abuse, intimidation, aggression and domination takes hold.  

It is often left up to the individual, with the help of their support networks if they have any, to build a road to recovery and to commence healing.  Sadly, not everyone completes the journey. 

With our aging population I fear there will be more cases and instances of elder abuse and bullying in care facilities and behind the closed doors of homes in our neighbourhoods.  

For those who have the means and there are resources in our communities to care for our aging loved ones, we hand over the care and control of their welfare and wellbeing.  In doing so, we place absolute trust in the institutions to provide a safe haven.  Care environments, especially those catering for people with special needs are challenging places to work in.  I personally could not do the work the thousands of carers and nursing staff do on a daily basis. 

So given the challenging environment it would be ignorant to believe that bullying and harassment does not occur. Not all alleged cases of bullying are obvious though.  Some bullying is done in a way which is so meticulous and callous that it mostly goes unnoticed.  I recall stories of family members telling me about instances whereby their loved ones were left to sit in soiled bed linen as a form of punishment or where food and drink was placed just out of reach to torment.  This form of bullying is at its most cruel and is socially and morally unacceptable. 

Then there are the conversations which are had which are more representative of a parent admonishing a child rather than two adults engaging in dialogue which is respectful and cordial.  This too is form of bullying whereby the bully, in a position of power, engages in verbal, social or psychological behaviour that is harmful.  How does it go unnoticed and unreported? 

This blog would not be complete without my thoughts on cyber bullying.  Information and communication technologies, when used in the way intended, are powerful mediums for sharing opinions, news, thoughts; and for those who are isolated through distance or disability, are marvellous ways to connect socially. 

Every minute of every day codes of conduct (written and otherwise) are broken. Cyber bullies trawl the depths of social media sites to deliberately post provocative messages with the intent of causing maximum harm.  You can either choose to react and fuel the argument or you can chose to ignore it and stop the troll in their tracks. 

My final word is to those in positions of power and influence (eg politicians, sports men and women and celebrities). 

You have the ability and are in the unique position to be role models and to lead by example.  I would ask that use harness this amazing position and to act each day with decorum, dignity and above all with respect.  Your actions will speak louder than words and you may just inspire someone to take a different path.  

Bullies do not win.  Nobody wins.  

Bullies destroy lives and extinguish once vibrant souls. If you are a bully, you probably have not read these words but if per chance you have; and I have pricked your conscience please get help. 

If you are the victim of bullying or know somebody who is, my message is simple, report the abuse, take control and change the course on a heading for a more resilient you!  

Here are some useful links: 

The Australian Human Rights Commission (1300 656 419) has a complaint handling service that may investigate complaints of discrimination, harassment and bullying’s-going-on/bullying-and-cyberbullying

Kids Help Line 1800 55 1800 is a free and confidential, telephone counselling service for 5 to 25 year olds in Australia. 

Lifeline (13 11 14) is a free and confidential service staffed by trained telephone counsellors.

A Measure of Time

A year.

Twelve months.

365 days.

525,600 minutes.

42,048,000 beats of a heart.

What really is a measure of time?  Why is there so much importance placed on the ritual of closing out a calendar year and commencing a new?  

While it is necessary, in our society, to have the order that a measurement of time brings, be it an hour, a day, or a week; there are days that I ache for simplicity.

The simplicity of rising as the Sun throws light across the land, I do love mornings…and then, after a full day, gently allowing my body and mind to give itself to the night as it envelops me and my surrounds. 

This past year, 42,048,000 beats of my heart, I have felt some of that simplicity in very different settings. 

I recall the captivation of waking to unfamiliar sounds of nature, deep in the Amazon Jungle.  A world away from the familiarity of my sanctuary at Moonta Bay, the warm, damp air filled my lungs. Filtered, golden light streamed through the canopy of gossamer-like netting enshrouding my bed. Magical.

No alarm. No prescribed list of matters to attend to, just the simplicity of being present in a moment in time and woken ever so gently by nature.

I love the simplicity of the change in seasons. One does not need to look at a calendar to know that autumnal stillness is near.  You feel it. The heat of summer leaves the earth in a way that you can almost hear the parched soil sigh.  The coolness of still, clear evenings under a brilliant southern sky are enough to re-calibrate your body and prepare it for shorter days and to feel enlivened as temperatures begin to tumble.

I love the simplicity of not measuring one’s age by time and a date but rather feeling each stage of life, truly feeling it.  Notwithstanding bodily aches and pains, the feeling of love, loss, giving birth, happiness, sorrow, pleasure and pain are by far a better measure of a life being lived than a number, or a date on the Gregorian Calendar.

I love the simplicity of feeling the need to fuel my body, its hunger at times insatiable but mostly understanding the nourishment and nurture it needs to serve its purpose, to allow me to live and to breathe.

I love the simplicity of an impromptu conversation, one that feels like five minutes, but lasts 4,800 beats of a heart (an hour) or more.  I love the simplicity of a kiss that may be fleeting, or one that may linger, each not needing to be measured by time but rather by the intensity and intent with which it is given and received.

I love the simplicity of the lines on a face, the scars on a body, the colour and wisdom in eyes, all perfect ways to measure time. 

This year, as I am compelled to start a new year, I will be thinking about the beats of my heart, the lines on my face and the wisdom in my eyes and I will allow those attributes to be my measure of time.

In case we forget…

I woke this morning to the sounds of seabirds and other creatures greeting the rising sun and, in the distance, the gentle cadence of waves folding into each other and onto the sand.

I think a lot and deeply, some may argue too deeply, and my thoughts turned to date and time.  In parallel to my thoughts, pondering the significance of 11/11/18, I also thought about which route I would take on my morning walk.  Would I head south or north along the beach, my sanctuary.

I was drawn to the North. As I slowly warmed up to a steady pace I looked around through a different lens on this day and in an instant the world felt brighter, the air fresher and the rising Sun warmer.

I give thanks every day for the life I live and for those close to me.  There is also not a day I don’t think about those who have gone before us.  Today the thoughts of my father and my paternal grandfather, whom I never met, were heavy on my mind.

My grandfather, Frances (Frank to his mates) had a dual role, he served in the 10th Battalion AIF, a member of the Military Band and I’m told a stretcher bearer.  I’m also told that when he eventually returned from the Western Front after serving around Ypres, in West Flanders, Belgium – he was never the same.  He turned to alcohol to soothe his pain.

When I returned to my home (no lengthy, uncomfortable sea voyage for me), legs stretched, and lungs filled with fresh salty air, I unwrapped the paper which had been delivered with remarkable precision to my front door.  Coffee hot and electronic device starting up, as with most mornings, I took a dip into the news of the day.   The tribute on the cover of the Tiser, names of those fallen wrapped around this edition, digitally enhanced to paint a portrait of a digger.  The young man could have been anyone’s son, nephew, brother, mate, father even. Commemoration, commentary and carefully chosen images filled pages and spaces in print and on a virtual page, all in some way, speaking to the horrors of war and how we should remember those who lost their lives because of an act of vengeance in a faraway land.

Mid-morning, I donned a broad-brim hat and headed to the small but sacred piece of land adjacent the Moonta Bowls Club, the place of a memorial to locals who died during the Great War, the War to end all wars.  The crowd was modest, the sky blue and the Catafalque Party, young men and women from our district stood almost lifeless, in a stance of respect.

For me, I dig deep to discreetly place myself in the crowd, year after year, on this day and on April 25.  I have overwhelming respect for those who serve however I question the integrity of those who give the orders to send troops into battle – battles, because of our allegiances, we join forces to fight.  I also dig deep because although I’m attending a commemorative service, it is, when pared back, simply a religious service.   I don’t hide the fact that I am an atheist.   That said, I respect those who have faith and turn to prayer and their God or Goddess for solace.

As I listen to the words of the Minister of Religion and his reading of scriptures I grapple with the words of apparent wisdom.  Why? Because as I listen, I also look around and read the body language of those around me.  Some are nodding in agreement and others shift uneasily, probably because their legs or backs are aching but also probably, they recognise they too need to forgive those who trespassed against them.

Again, I think. Again, too deeply.  As the Last Post is played, heads bowed in prayer or quiet reflection and as the silence is finally broken with the words “We will remember them” uttered softly by the crowd I think, we have already forgotten.

There have been wars after the said war to ‘end all wars.’  We have troops currently engaged in conflict and peacekeeping activities and our Governments are actively pursuing contracts and procuring items to build defence capability.  Those items and weapons of war have the means to inflict great harm and pain when the time comes…. not if…but when.

Until peace becomes profitable and so it will go…Leaders elected to lead will order troops to fight conflicts usually because of an act of greed or vengeance  in a faraway land or, as I predict, future wars will be geopolitical for reasons of food and water security – an insatiability to feed the world’s growing populace.

Young men and women, men and women of all ages will be lost, and their lives mourned.

We will remember them, we will grieve for them and we will still need reminding of the futility of war, in all its incarnations, just in case we forget.


Down the road of food security – A wicked problem

Note:  This piece first published 1/4/13:

In March 2018, South Australia saw a shift in the political landscape with a changing of the guard and the installation of a Marshall Liberal Government. Will we see a shift in the actual landscape? The heat really is on and each of us should be concerned about food security. 

My words from 2014  – A blog is always in transition. The information I publish today might not be valid or accurate in the future.  Content, sources, information and links may change over time. The opinions expressed here represent my own and not those of my employer.

Fact or fiction?  The distinction is yours to draw…

On Friday March 28 Julian Cribb, author and science communicator, delivered a keynote address at the Yorke & Mid North Regional Sustainability Forum in Port Pirie. He opened his address by declaring to those assembled that meeting the 21st Century food challenge is a ‘wicked problem’.  “Be in no doubt” said Mr Cribb, “we are facing the greatest challenge in human history. ”

That challenge you ask?  Put simply, it is how to feed ten billion people through the peak in human population, without famine or disaster.

I believe it is time for a new ‘crop’ of politicians to consider a view far beyond the next political cycle and make decisions, many of which will be hugely unpopular and immensely difficult, in order to deliver food security for our state, our nation and our planet.

Sadly, I also believe that this issue will be far more difficult to even start to overcome, as I am yet to discover a Government or a world leader who has the answers and the political will to shift the course on which we are headed.

To meet the growing world demand to feed our rapidly expanding population we need to think differently about food; how we produce it and how we consume it.

Regrettably we missed an opportunity in September 2013 Federally, as it would appear that the current Federal Government has not demonstrated any traits of forward-thinking in terms of food security.

Locally, South Australia has recently seen the Weatherill Labor Government returned to office, with the backing of regional Independent MP Geoff Brock, to form a minority government. Perhaps we can influence policy and effect change, in terms of climate change and food security, now that the regions are back in the limelight. The greater challenge will be how to make this important issue of food security popular.

Food security has become a significant geopolitical issue in recent years.

I have made reference to this in earlier blogs and again I will quote from an article written by student Alyce Johnston for the South Australian Globalist Magazine in 2012.

“According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation, food security occurs when people have both physical and economic access to safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences.

“This definition is more relevant to people in the developed world, as opposed to those living in developing nations who are more concerned with survival, rather than nutrients or dietary preferences.”

Research shows, when people in developing countries are lifted out of poverty, their diets change. In China, meat consumption has tripled in the past 15 years, meaning more grain is needed in order to feed their livestock.

With increased production comes an increased cost of that production, including the cost of oil. When oil prices increase, the demand for biofuel grows and food prices also go up. According to the World Bank, five million hectares of cropland were used for biofuels rather than food production between 2005 and 2008.

Pressures on water resources and agricultural land have contributed to food security worries and high food prices. Climate change will continue to exacerbate this issue globally. Nations such as China and Saudi Arabia (who is particularly vulnerable in terms of food security) have found a way to secure their future food supplies through the use of foreign land.

Oxfam predicts as much as 227 million hectares of land in developing nations has already been sold or leased to foreign investors since 2001, with half of this land being in Africa. To put that figure into perspective 227 million hectares is about 90% of Western Australia.

We know that foreign agricultural purchases have occurred in Australia, but the exact details of these foreign land deals are widely unknown and that troubles me.

There is evidence of corruption by governments of developing nations. In 2008 the Cambodian Government leased rice fields to Kuwait and Qatar in return for $600 million dollars in loans, while the United Nations World Food Program delivered $35 million dollars’ worth of food aid to the impoverished Cambodian people.

Food security, or rather ‘insecurity’ is real.

Land acquisition in foreign nations, commonly referred to as ‘land grabbing’ has become a way for developed nations to secure their food supply.  It is not unreasonable nor scaremongering to suggest that future conflicts will not be fought over the fossil fuel we need to run our economies but rather food ‘fuel’ we need to nourish our very being.

Mr Cribb said: “While food demand will double by 2060, scarcities are emerging of almost all resources to satisfy it.  This challenges us to rethink food itself and how we produce it, and to create diets and foods for the future which are safe, healthy, and nutritious and tread less heavily on the planet.”

I cannot agree more.  So how and where do we begin?  Really, we should have begun many years ago but we have not taken past warnings seriously.

A case in point is the 1992 World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity. Read more here:

For the record this significant warning hardly rated a mention in the mainstream media at the time and now 22 years on not much has changed.

What can you do you ask?  If you weren’t able to make it to Mr Cribb’s Keynote address on Friday you can read his presentation here:

Along with this there is much other reading to do.  If you do make time to read and reflect and you come away with a sense of urgency and you want to act, then do take action.

Act with conviction and in good faith.  Act with passion and a desire to leave this planet in a better state that it is now. Start a conversation with your neighbour, your work colleague, your local MP.

A wise man once told me to stay on my soapbox!  I can guarantee that I will.

Step up, not back. Cannabis Law Reform in South Australia

Increasingly, even though we have a legal framework to access Medical Cannabis, there are still significant challenges for health consumers in finding safe and affordable patient access pathways to Medical Cannabis.

Access to Medical Cannabis is a human right, yet in Australia it is still strangled by Commonwealth and State red tape.

Punitive measures rarely work, if at all.

Every day people are being forced to turn to the alternative (black) market to access cannabis for medical purposes. In doing so, they run the risk of being caught breaking the law in growing their own; or sourcing product of an inferior quality.

A Marshall Liberal Government wants to legislate to raise the maximum penalties for Cannabis possession from $500 to $2,000.

It believes that this is “keeping penalties in line with community expectations.”

How wrong can they be?

Former Commissioner of the Australian Federal Police and Barrister, Mick Palmer AO, has stated that there “lots of support across senior ranks of police for Medical Cannabis.

So why is then that so many people are needlessly targeted by police, tying up resources which could be better used in real crime prevention and community engagement?

Personal narratives are powerful instruments of change. Respectful, lobbying and activism is a commanding way to be heard.

You don’t always have to raise your voice to be heard, it’s often those who are quietly spoken and considered in their approach who are listened to.

So, don’t raise your voice, improve your argument and lobby for Cannabis Law Reform which will benefit not harm our communities.

After you leave here today – continue the conversation – and tell your story to your local Member of Parliament.

Justin Sinclair, Pharmacologist and Research Fellow at the National Institute of Complimentary Medicine house at Western Sydney University quotes Cicero in getting his message across “Salus populi suprema lex esto” which translates to

“The health of the people should be the supreme law.”

We must let science and those with lived experience to ultimately inform evidenced based Medical and other Cannabis policy.

Medical Cannabis – Time to regain our bearings

“Where is North?”, I asked my cab driver as he assisted me from the car.  I had arrived in Melbourne and I felt disorientated by the long shadows and grey buildings as I looked skyward to find the Sun.  The man looked at me, somewhat puzzled and hesitantly he pointed in a very general direction.  I smiled and thanked him.

I can’t help but think that a similar sense of confusion has fallen over our legislators and policy makers when it comes to Medical Cannabis.  I have just spent three full days at the United in Compassion Medical Cannabis Symposium listening to an array of world class speakers and experts in their field sharing their knowledge, their concerns and their hopes.

It is all but impossible to capture every highlight and compelling narrative from the event, however what is clear is that the public are overwhelmingly in favour of and are seeking Cannabis as a treatment option.

Prior to the symposium commencing a day was dedicated to offer a Workshop which was Australia’s first Medical Cannabis course, designed for health care practitioners, by health care practitioners.  Dr David Caldicott who designed and delivered the training reported that attendance was high (92 participants) and the Basic Science Module met the needs of participants to a very high degree. Invitations have been received to deliver more training and it would be prudent for all jurisdictions to get on board.  Wise too for those who design the curriculum for medical and allied health students to incorporate more than a cursory reference to cannabis in the curriculum.  Dr Jeffrey Hergenrather, MD of California rightly stated that Cannabis does not have an advocate in medical training.  It should. Opportunity knocks.

Delegates heard heartbreaking testimonials from loved ones who spoke from lived experience as they recounted their very personal stories and the daily challenges they face in accessing medical cannabis via safe and affordable pathways.  The veteran community is heavily impacted with scores of returned service men and women in need of effective treatment options for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.  Cannabis is a proven medicine.  I would go further and suggest that any of our front- line responders who dedicate their lives to serving  in the Emergency Services deserve access to medical cannabis as a treatment option when the need arises.

Compassion for those wanting to access medical cannabis is seriously lacking by our legislators. It need not be that way.  I wonder if our legislators had lived experience of combat, peacekeeping, responding to emergencies and caring for our communities, if their view of Medical Cannabis would be different? I suspect it would be.

Delegates heard from Senator Richard Di Natale who rightly stated that “forcing patients to act like criminals is the crime”.  Senator Di Natale again called for an amnesty and access to home grown Medical Cannabis. I welcome his move to introduce a Private Members Bill into the Parliament to effect this.

Barrister and writer Greg Barns believes that Medical Cannabis is a human right, yet in Australia it is still strangled by Commonwealth and State red tape. Former Commissioner of the Australian Federal Police and Barrister, Mick Palmer AO, told the audience that there is “lots of support across senior ranks of police for Medical Cannabis.”  So why is then that so many people are needlessly targeted by police, tying up resources which could be better used in real crime prevention and community engagement.  It was encouraging to learn that Greg Barns is currently exploring the option of a medical necessity defence for alternative (black) market healers.  Compassionate suppliers do genuinely meet an unmet need, albeit illegally under current law.

We heard of the incredible opportunities which exist for our aging population.  We learned about how creating environments in which people can thrive and “challenging the malignant philosophies” can deliver very different and positive outcomes in aging.  We learned that Medical Cannabis has a role to play, especially in alleviating chronic pain and other effects of aging.  The benefits to the economy in terms of the health budget alone are breathtaking.

Professor Simon Eckermann, Senior Professor of Health Economics at the Australian Health Services Research Institute and University of Wollongong has recently published Health Economics from Theory to Practice.  It includes full Medical Cannabis policy illustration.  This publication is a must for all Parliamentary Libraries and Health Policy units.  A preview can be found here:

The technical and scientific keynotes can’t be captured in the space of this blog but I’d encourage anyone wanting to know more to visit the UIC website in coming days and download the papers of interest.

For me the second to last word(s) comes from Justin Sinclair, Pharmacologist and Research Fellow at the National Institute of Complimentary Medicine house at Western Sydney University quoting Cicero “Salus populi suprema lex esto” which translates to “The health of the people should be the supreme law.”

The last word(s) are mine… Let’s find our bearings, look to the Sun and the stars if you must, but really you need not look further than the to the real and valid observations of those who work in this space. It is those observations and lived experience which should ultimately inform Medical Cannabis policy.

A note of gratitude and much respect to UIC Executive Director Lucy Haslam who believes that once you understand the benefits of Medical Cannabis and its potential to relieve suffering, you cannot hold on to views that were born of the “war on drugs.” Lucy rightly predicts that Cannabis will one day be viewed as a ‘wonder drug’ and hopes that mothers and nurses can lead the revolution. 

Lucy is but one strong voice, together we are many. Whist we do have an access framework in place it is cumbersome and access is also cost prohibitive. If you want to help it is quite simple.  Please add your voice by lobbying your local Member of Parliament (State & Federal) and together let’s work for safe, affordable and simple access to Medical Cannabis. 

The Heart of the Owl

The Heart of the Owl

 I hung a photograph on a wall in my home recently.  Oddly enough it wasn’t a photograph that I had captured.  It was taken by a dear friend.

When I first laid eyes on the image some months ago it spoke to me.  The words were not clearly audible, but I knew that in a matter of time the message would be deciphered, and the words would resound.

The moment came in the early hours, late last year.  Words filled my head and my heart and moved my soul.   I heard the words with such clarity I knew action needed to be taken and I felt I was ready.

I made a bold choice to walk a different path and with a sense of calm and reason I uttered three words “I’ve had enough.”

Those words said, a mixture of emotions ran through me and actions unravelled, some clumsily and some with absolute precision.  Then it struck me, all but one action had been taken.  I needed to hang that photograph.

I had been waiting for the right signs to guide me to the moment, and to the place it I would install it.  It did take time, but it eventually made its way from the corner of my home office, facing inwards, to a wall of my choosing, facing anyone who may have the privilege to gaze upon it.

It was through salty tears that I realised where I would hang it and when.  I was sad because this moment was as much about loss as it was about new beginnings.  I was leaving behind aspects of a life I wore like a comfy cashmere wrap and other aspects which ripped out my heart and eroded my very being.  With that sadness also came a sense of liberation and at that moment my tears stopped and I smiled.

Years of care, commitment, duty and responsibility have etched lines on my face and left scars, some virtual and others very real on my body, as it enters its 50th year.

I am a nurturer.  I am known to be reliable and down-to-earth.  I am acutely aware of the feelings of others, often to the detriment of my own.  I am comforted by order and structure and will more likely avoid confrontation and conflict than invoke it. Being kind, loving and compassionate comes naturally as does acceptance.

Let me tell you about the image.  It speaks to me and of promises I have made.  They are promises I have made to myself and to others.  When I look at the photograph I don’t just see…. I hear, I feel, I taste, and a heady scent consumes me.

I see wisdom and desire.  Not desire in the passionate sense, it is more profound than that.  If adoration, devotion, care and respect each had a sound, a note…. I would hear beautiful music. I do hear beautiful music.  Above all though, I feel.  I feel unconditional love, but it is of a love lost.  Each of those notes, if you will, now come together to create a striking sonata.

The image I have carefully fixed in place is that of an owl. A masked owl.  For me though, my mask has been ripped off, not peeled away but torn and discarded.

The Masquerade is over, my heart and soul are laid bare.

I am now writing the last few paragraphs of a chapter in my life which I knew had to draw to a close.

I have given, and I have received.  I have loved, and I have lost.  I am richer, stronger, at peace and above all, I am calm.

The owl has a downward pose.  It is respectful, as am I. Its eyes almost closed, yet open enough to acknowledge its surrounds and as if to pay tribute.  Its delicate plumage is so very intricate. A heart frames its features.  My heart forms a frame around memories I have created, and it beats for memories yet to be.  So many yet to be created.

There is no colour, there need not be, this moment is purely black and white. Ebony and ivory, a raven’s feathers falling on virgin snow, the plumage from a Pacific Gull washed onto a pristine beach.

It is black and white.

The heart of the owl.

This image  is subject to Copyright and is used with the permission of Annette Marner.


Oils ain’t Oils – Teresa McDowell

About the author of this piece:  Teresa is on a mission to empower people to harness the hemp life and lead a healthy living.  At the forefront of the movement since 2006 is Founder and Hemp Living Advocate, Teresa McDowell.  Since making her first, and most popular product, Skin Soothe, in Mt Barker, South Australia, Teresa has transformed her hemp skin care range into a brand with passion and purpose.

Oils ain’t Oils

Much has been shared in the media over recent times regarding hemp oil or ‘medical cannabis’.  For many people confusion remains around the differences between cannabis oil and hemp ‘seed’ oil.  Today I will endeavour to clear up some of that confusion.

Cannabis oil (sometimes referred to as ‘hemp oil’) is extracted from the flowering head and leaf of the cannabis plant.  Tinctures and oils made up of high THC (tetrahydrocannabidoids) and CBD (Cannabidiol) oil are used medicinally to treat chronic and terminal illnesses such as cancer, epilepsy, Parkinson’s, Multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, PTSD, pain etc.

Medicinal cannabis is only legally available through prescription and access is currently very restrictive in Australia.   More needs to be done to allow sufferers quick, affordable and safe access.

CBD oil (the non-psychoactive cannabinoid) is also scheduled as a class 4 drug leaving sufferers with no option but to go through the lengthy TGA process via a GP willing to support them.  There is necessarily no guarantee however of a successful outcome.  The current process, in my view, is morally bankrupt given this healing herb has no toxic or hallucinogenic side effects.  I would remind our regulators and legislators that one of the fundamental principles of medicine is ‘do no harm’.   What harm are we doing as a society when nature is criminalised?

Hemp ‘seed’ oil is a dark, golden-green oil cold pressed from the industrial hemp seed and doesn’t contain any of the psychotropic properties of medical cannabis. It has very low levels of THC, down to 0.3% with a maximum of 1%.

Akin to a health supplement (such as fish oil) it may help prevent conditions such as heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis and auto immune diseases by limiting the inflammatory process.

With the perfect balance of omega 3, 6 & 9 essential fatty acids (EFA’s), hemp seed oil is packed with anti-inflammatory compounds which is beneficial when dealing with degenerative diseases caused by inflammation.

A nutritional powerhouse, hemp seed oil is rich in essential vitamins and minerals including magnesium, zinc, iron, phosphorus, vitamin E, D & A.  Healthy fats (EFA’s) and plant-based proteins help maintain heart health, lower blood cholesterol and improve cardiovascular health.

Hemp seeds and oil are now legal to consume in Australia with regulations enacted on November 12, 2017.  This finally brings Australia in line with the rest of the western world and Aussie consumers can now enjoy the health benefits and delicious treats hemp foods offer.

Hemp Hemp Hooray!

More here:

The Breakwater (first published February 2016)


The Narungga people have always lived on Yorke Peninsula. Their country extends as far north as Port Broughton and east to the Hummock Ranges. Their neighbours were the Kaurna of the Adelaide Plains and the Nukunu to the North, with whom the Narungga would meet for trade and ceremony. Their expertise at fishing was admired by many of the early European settlers.

The first European settlers in this area were Joseph (Curley Joe) Simms and his wife Blanche who arrived in the early 1860’s.  The area known to the early Europeans as Glencoe was later, and still is, known as Simms Cove.

Curley Joe began fishing at the time copper was discovered on the Yorke Peninsula and in the families that arrived, Curley Joe had a ready market.  All seven of Joe’s sons became fishers (he and Blanche had 11 children).  Over the next many generations numerous Simms’ boats were commissioned and when not at work were anchored in Simms Cove.

For those of you reading this piece and have seen my photography captured in the place I refer to as ‘my sanctuary’ would be familiar with an iconic part of the Simms Cove-Moonta Bay landscape.  It is known as the breakwater.

This remnant timber has fascinated me for years so I set out to learn more.

I took the time to sit and listen to a remarkable local and extraordinary man, a descendent of Curley Joe, Ben Simms.

Ben is in his 84th year.  Ben has been many things in his life, a writer, a poet and a horse trainer but it is his affinity with the sea and fishing which is striking.

I was compelled to write these words after spending an afternoon in Ben’s company.  These words are my take on the ‘Sentinels’ at the bottom of the cliff at Simms Cove –  the remnant timber, the Breakwater.

These words are written from the perspective of a tree, a tree destined for life beyond its native forest, and are dedicated to Ben.

The Breakwater 

I grew from a seed and put down my roots in nutrient-rich heavy, clay soil.   I grew tall and straight and stood shoulder to shoulder in a forest of my kin.  My home, my sanctuary is on the eastern seaboard of Australia.

I am already 200 years old and I am the keeper of secrets.

It is spring and I’m adorned with a flourish of rich creamy flowers, native bees work busily in my canopy. I hear the crack of a stock whip in the distance as the cloven hooves of bullocks’ crash through the understory. The bullocky calmly encourages his team of beasts to ‘walk-on’ but not with a word but rather with nurturing actions.  A small band of sinewy, keen-eyed men mark my brethren for felling and I am targeted too.

I feel the bite of the saw rip deep into my bark and my flesh.  My scent, my blood, the smell of what they describe as turpentine is heavy on the ether as my leaves are crushed.  It is matter of some time until my remnants and broken spirit is heaved onto the flatbed dray and my journey begins.  “Walk-on”, the bullocky gestures.

I am a tree – I am supposed to stand sentinel for the term of my life but I am now moving. I am being moved.  I am moved.

Days later I reach a harbour, it’s bustling.  Hemp lines hold a cargo vessel alongside a makeshift wharf. The loading begins.

I am manhandled into the hold and wedged between my kin – we are heading to South Australia.  The journey around the rugged coastline is uneventful.  Spring turns into summer.

The activity at this port of Wallaroo is lively and hurried.  Steamers and majestic sail boats sit high on the tide.  The construction of a wharf is underway and farther down the coast, the construction of a jetty. The year is 1872 and the port is Moonta Bay.

I am surplus to requirements…or am I?  Have I been hand-picked to provide a safe haven for a fishing fleet?  Is this my destiny?

My length has been reduced now and I’m rolled, hauled and then suspended over a cliff and painstakingly lowered to a sandy resting place below.  Fishers are now also lumberjacks and engineers, they start to design a haven, a breakwater.  They get to work.  I am to be the centre piece.  There are more than thirty pieces of my kin now implanted in a watery bed.  I listen to the fishers and workmen as they recount their embellished tales.

I am the keeper of secrets.  With every passing day I add more to my vast chapters of knowledge and understanding.

I have served my purpose well and I have now seen many seasons. The tides ebb and flow, the ferocious sou-westerly gales gnash at my very being but I remain steadfast.

On calm clear nights I bear witness to the intensity of the celestial landscape.  I see black velvet scattered with precious gemstones.  Diamonds, rubies and large magellanic cloud are suspended in the vastness of space.  The Southern Cross pointed out by alpha and beta Centauri hangs.  I wonder how many navigators have gazed upon the crux – a welcome escort to those seeking direction or comfort.

I have afforded shelter to the Challa, the Rum-Runner and many other vessels over the years.   From time to time cutters, anchored in the deeper cooler water off-shore renew their rigging and chain.  The heavy chain, now compromised by the elements of salt and water are brought to my watery forest.

I am wrapped in chain and for a moment in time I am connected to my fellow sentinels.  It is said this is to add strength to my purpose.  I disagree. The sea soon erodes the chain and it disperses into the sea, fragmented and broken.  I remain steadfast.

I have been a bystander as skippers and deckhands, their backs braking and muscles burning with the sheer weight of their bounty finally get their prized catch to the top of the cliff.  Their catch is destined for market and so the next part of the journey begins for fish and fisher.

I am the keeper of secrets – I dare not tell a soul.

Young lovers meet at dusk at the base of the cliffs when the tide is near high.  The lovers embrace and collide with passion, they are alone.  They believe there are no witnesses to their unbridled desire.

I am the keeper of secrets – I dare not tell a soul.

I am weary; my years now number more than I care to count.  I’m weathered, I’m windswept but my surface is smooth.  No splinters, no shards which might catch and rip at a cloth.  A pacific gull, not long past its juvenile years, extends its wings and stretches.  As it does, its talons dig into me so it can maintain a steady balance.

I feel no pain but I do feel pleasure.  I feel the connection with another living creature.  It is comforting and gives me comfort to know that the majestic seabird picked me to perch upon.

You may think I am dead remnant timber soon to be lost to a watery grave but I am alive.

I live in a sanctuary and I offer sanctuary. I am part of an irreplaceable history but importantly I am very much part of the future.

I am the keeper of secrets.