Yellow Roses – my thoughts on Estate Planning (first published August 2016)

My choice is roses. Yellow roses; many beautiful yellow roses, some in bud and some in full bloom; but all cast adrift on the sea by family and friends.

The timing is uncertain and so it should be; but the place is definite.  This celebration and commemoration must take place in my sanctuary and it must be at sunset.  I am writing about my explicit wishes for a farewell upon my death.

Do you have a valid Will?  If you do, when was it last updated?  Does it reflect your wishes and does your family know and understand and will they respect those wishes?

This subject may be confronting for some but it need not be.  I’ve recently made the time to update a suite of important legal documents because my personal circumstances have changed.

I’ve updated my Will, my Enduring Power of Attorney and an Advance Care Directive.   There is another document I have completed and I will come to that.

Whilst this subject is very personal, I don’t have any reservations in sharing my thoughts.  Perhaps it’s because I am more comfortable and confident in my choices and decisions than I have ever been because I accept, with pragmatism, that from the day we are born we are on a trajectory towards death.

In the contest of life I have chosen to be proactive in so many ways.  It is cathartic on a spiritual and emotional level but it also makes sense on a practical level.

So what have I done? First and foremost I have sought and gained the trust of people I love and respect.  I’ve entrusted special people in my life with a very important responsibility.  I have asked them to act confidently on my behalf, in the event that I cannot.  I have legally appointed those chosen to act for me through the mechanism of an Enduring Power of Attorney.  I have also asked them to execute my Will following my death.  Importantly, they have accepted this responsibility without reservation.

I have also updated an existing advance care directive.  This has enabled me to determine what I want to happen in relation to certain personal areas of my life.  This relates to my health care, residential and accommodation arrangements, and other personal affairs.

In South Australia from 1 July 2014 the Advance Care Directives Act 2013 (SA) came into operation. This allows a person to:

  • set out values and wishes to guide decisions about their future healthcare and other personal matters
  • set out what, if any, particular healthcare they refuse and in what circumstances and
  • appoint one or more substitute decision-makers.

More here: http://www.lawhandbook.sa.gov.au/ch02s02.php

In terms of my Will – my instructions are also explicit.  In South Australia, it is important to note that if you die without a valid and up to date Will or without a Will altogether then you will have died ‘intestate’. This means that South Australian laws will determine how your estate will be distributed.

Just a few examples of what might happen are:

  • Any real estate you own may be sold instead of being left to a loved one.
  • Special personal items, such medals of service may not be given to the family member of your choice.
  • Your grandchildren may not receive the benefits of your estate.

The ‘other document’ I referenced and what I consider being the most delicate and personal decision I have made is that I have decided to be a body donor.

Put simply, in the event of my death and if my remains are deemed to be acceptable for donation, I have chosen to donate my body to the Adelaide Medical School Body Donation Program.

My reasons are many and each carefully considered.  This is not a decision I have taken lightly but it is my decision nonetheless. Importantly I have made this choice known to my family and they accept it (at least they are telling me that now).

In reviewing the information provided to me by the University of Adelaide, School of Medicine I read, “Donating your body to science is one of the greatest gifts one can give to make a lasting contribution to the education and training of our current & future health professionals and to advance science through research.”  I am pragmatic, I am a free-thinker and I agree.

More here: https://health.adelaide.edu.au/medicine/facilities/body-donation/

A recent conversation I listened to between Richard Fidler and Dr Walter Wood also informed my decision and I truly believe it is the right one.  If you are interested you can listen here:http://www.abc.net.au/local/stories/2016/04/14/4443060.htm

So, if you care about your death as much as you do your life; and you feel strongly about your wishes being respected and honoured, then plan now and let your wishes be known.  Make your wishes legal.  There are many law firms and legal practitioners well placed to provide sound and cost effective advice.  The cost to your family may be far greater if no plans are in place.

This blog does not constitute advice but rather I am sharing my personal opinion about the importance of estate planning.  I hope these words spark a conversation with your family or loved ones and that you consider seeking professional legal advice for your own peace of mind and that of your family.

In closing, if you have a preference to be cremated rather than buried or for a Beethoven, Mahler, Rachmaninov or Sibelius symphony to be played at your funeral service make that known too.  Your loved ones may just choose for you and my guess is that it may not reflect your very personal preference.

For me it is roses…lots of yellow roses….and for my cremated remains to be returned to nature and the sea with a beautiful symphony upon the ether, at sunset; and in my sanctuary.

In the name of the Father (first published June 2015)

 

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse is investigating how institutions like schools, churches, sports clubs and government organisations have responded to allegations and instances of child sexual abuse.

The remit of the Royal Commission is to uncover where systems have failed to protect children so it can make recommendations on how to improve laws, policies and practices.

The terms of reference (Letters Patent) of the Royal Commission can be found at this link:http://www.childabuseroyalcommission.gov.au/about-us/terms-of-reference

I have been following the investigations and resultant media with interest, a very personal interest.

Not long after my father was diagnosed with Prostate Cancer I decided that I wanted to tell his life story in a book, a personal family memento to hold dear.  Dad was more than happy to oblige, a gregarious story teller at the best of times, we got to work.

For the most part the recital of his life was him re-telling stories I’d heard some many times before and most delicately brushed with embellishments and augmented by old photos we poured over.  Whilst there was hardship and adversity, his life was predominantly contented.  It was a life of opportunities, which when they came knocking, were eagerly embraced.

Amongst the adversity lay a piece of darkness which was so dark no light could penetrate, Dad told me the story of his exploitation.  The abuse was perpetrated by a Catholic Priest and occurred when he was but a boy, an altar boy at St Anthony’s Church in Port Pirie.  It occurred in the 1940’s.

I know I should choose my words carefully and preface ‘abuse’ with ‘alleged’ because the claims are; and will remain unproven, indeed were almost unspoken.  However I won’t in this instance purely out of respect for my father.

Dad almost took his secret to his grave, I wonder how many have and how many will.  I told him, I promised him, I would seek answers but it wasn’t until 3 years after his death and following the airing of an ABC Four Corners program “Unholy Silence” that I chose not to keep mine or my father’s silence.

I sought an appointment with the Bishop of the Diocese in which my father spent his boyhood years. The meeting was cordial, respectful, business like almost.  I recounted the details my father shared with me and how his life was affected, immeasurably affected.

I wasn’t expecting answers or apologies but I wanted to be assured that if I, the mother of a young son and daughter, were to approach the church (any institution for that matter) with an allegation similar to my father’s claims that in this century I could be confident that the matter would be handled appropriately and impartially by the Church.

I received an expression of sorrow during the meeting which was later re-stated in writing along with findings.  My report was taken seriously and upon investigation it was discovered that there was a hearsay report about a priest in the parish in the early 1940’s, no actual report and no victim named.  It was also reported to me that a second priest was complained about for having ‘interfered’ with a young girl back around about 1920.

I was offered counselling “Towards Healing”, which I respectfully declined.  My wounds were superficial in comparison to those my father bared.

Remarkably, after the meeting and subsequent correspondence from the Bishop, I was not left with a sense of confidence that if a victim were to come forward in modern times that their complaint would be referred to the appropriate authorities for investigation.

I have tried to understand the actions of and I do have empathy for the (alleged) perpetrator.  I honestly can’t understand how a man or a woman for that matter can be expected to commit to a life of celibacy without support.  What that ‘support’ might look like is a mystery to me.

Celibacy, from the Latin, ‘cælibatus”, the state of being sexually abstinent, usually for religious reasons is, for most, is a foreign concept.  I personally struggle with how a human being can overcome the most primal urge to have sex.  I struggle with how some people of the cloth claim to practice and observe chastity but behind closed doors commit heinous crimes against innocent children to satisfy that primal instinct.

I can’t imagine how difficult it would be to choose or be asked (given orders) to take a path of chastity and in doing so how the Church cannot take some responsibility for the actions of their flock when they do commit horrendous crimes.

I accept that paedophilia is a psychiatric disorder and as such those who are diagnosed should be treated with respect as their illness is not something they fashioned but rather a disorder which can, in most cases I’m lead to believe, be treated.

What I can’t accept is the lengths the Church has gone to and continues to go to, to what I can only describe as to protect their brand, and power base.

I accept that Cardinal George Pell has been the target of many.  He has been scorned from within his Church and by the media.  That level of attack is not true justice but rather pursuit of the man and not the matter.  Despite that I do feel contempt for the Church despite what action has been taken.  For me it is personal, it is about what they have failed to do.

The total financial worth of the Church could never compensate the victims for the loss of self-worth, loss of dignity and for some the loss of their life.

I thought long and hard about writing this piece, however on this occasion I have let my heart rule my head. It is about my father, it is for my father.

I hope that in publishing this piece that if there are other men and women from my home town of around my father’s age (had he been alive today) that they may come forward in an attempt to get help and support.  Indeed anyone who has been a victim of child sexual abuse.

Maybe, just maybe they can find some peace by shining a light on their personal darkness.

If you or someone you know has been affected by child abuse there is much support available. Details of that support can be found at this link: http://www.childabuseroyalcommission.gov.au/support-services

Cannabis – Sharing your lived experience

 

This weekend’s event, incorporating Adelaide’s Inaugural Hemp & Cannabis Expo would not have been possible without the tireless work of Alex & Allison Fragnito – I congratulate them for taking the initiative and I thank those who have embraced the opportunity to participate and share their passion and their vision for Cannabis and Hemp.

A narrative is a spoken or written account of connected events; a story.

Everybody has a story to tell and when it comes to Cannabis, health and well-being for every positive story, there are many which don’t have happy endings.

It is my aim to empower you to have the courage to share your stories with those who can effect change. That is – those who make laws, our legislators, our Members of Parliament.

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.

There are so many stories untold and many yet to be created – let’s make them positive stories of recovery, cure, health & well-being.

Every day I hear that people don’t want to have to continue to break the law to access cannabis – so let’s be part of the movement that changes the law which opens the door much wider on safe and affordable access to cannabis.

Some History

Mankind has been purposefully consuming Cannabis to cure what ails them, for as long as the plant has been in use for agriculture. The earliest written records date back to around 2700BC, when Chinese physicians were recommending tea made from Cannabis leaves to treat ailments such as gout and diseases such as malaria.

It was also a constituent of what was thought to be the world’s first anaesthetic.  Western society did not realise its potential until the late 1700s. It was found to have many medicinal applications and became a common remedy for ailments ranging from asthma to yellow fever.

Hemp

Hemp, like Cannabis has a long history in mankind’s evolution. Fast forward to present day – The potential to support employment via regional cultivation, processing and manufacturing of Industrial Hemp is evident due to the multitude of end uses this ecologically and economically sustainable crop can offer.

I was delighted to learn that the first Industrial Hemp crops will be in the ground later this year, following the State Government’s approval of the first cultivation licenses.  Primary Industries & Regions SA (PIRSA) and the other client departments involved are to be congratulated for their part in supporting this process from its inception.

I am a strong proponent of the establishment and development of the industry in South Australia. The possibilities are endless, provided the formative industry is well supported and nature delivers optimal growing conditions. I applaud the primary producers who have recognised the immense potential of including Industrial Hemp into their cropping rotations.

It is important to remember Tammy Franks’ MLC (Greens) dedicated support in the South Australian Parliament and the introduction of her Bill in November 2016.

Just 12 months ago, on April 13, 2017, the Bill to allow for the cultivation of Industrial Hemp passed the State Parliament with the support of the State Government and the Opposition (now in Government) – all citing a win for jobs and the environment.  I would have to say a huge win.

I would be remiss of me not to recognised the advocacy of the Industrial Hemp Association of SA and its founder Teresa McDowell who said it has been her “life-long goal to see the emergence of the Industrial Hemp industry in this State”. 

The Government is stating that based on current predictions, it is anticipated that within five years an expanding industrial hemp industry in South Australia could have a farm gate value of $3 million a year.  I strongly believe that number will grow rapidly.

Cannabis Legalisation

This a bold and smart move by the Greens’ leader Richard di Natalie.  While Medical Cannabis is now technically legal in Australia we still have a long way to go to bring about safe and affordable patient access pathways.

I am hoping this plan to decriminalise and legalise Cannabis more broadly will motivate the Federal, State and Territory Governments to lift their game in the Medical Cannabis space too.

I have no affiliation to a political party, but I will state that I believe The Greens’ deserves to receive multi-partisan support.

If you had asked me 30 years ago, I would have been fiercely opposed any decrimilisation or legalisation of Cannabis. However, my mantra is now “Education is the Key” – I have taken the time to educate myself and the science is breathtaking.   This means that now my view is very far removed from that of the 80’s.

The war on drugs is futile. Drugs are a health and social issue. Dr Alex Wodak, AM who among other things, is the President of the Australian Drug Law Reform Foundation has stated that “current drug policy is politically motivated and ultimately unsustainable”.  I must agree.

It is time to wake up Australia and develop and implement smart, pragmatic policies which will deliver better social, health and justice outcomes for Australians.

There is so much stigma surrounding Cannabis, much of it stemming from its prohibition in the 1930s and the unfounded claims about the plant.  There is still a lot of work to do to bring alignment between those who are opposed to legalisation and those who know and understand it is not a matter of if but when.  Regulation not only has the potential to generate hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue but there are significant social, health and environmental benefits too.

So far this year, 1,590 Australians have been killed by alcohol and there have been zero deaths from Cannabis, ever.  In 2017 alcohol was attributed to 5,475 deaths in Australia. That’s 15 deaths every day and that doesn’t cover off on those living with chronic illness as a result of alcohol consumption.

So where to you fit into this picture?  It’s simple – I need you to tell your stories.

I say again -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.

Here are the links I demonstrated during my presentation.  Explore them in your own time.   Identify your Elected Members and share your story.

https://www.parliament.sa.gov.au/HOWDOI/Pages/FindmylocalMember.aspx

https://www.aph.gov.au/Senators_and_Members/Guidelines_for_Contacting_Senators_and_Members

https://www.aph.gov.au/Senators_and_Members/Parliamentarian_Search_Results?q=&sta=SA

https://www.parliament.sa.gov.au/Members/Pages/List%20of%20All%20Members.aspx by Electorate

https://www.parliament.sa.gov.au/Members/Ministers/Pages/Ministers.aspx

Our Government will tell us that we need more studies. In the case of Medical Cannabis there is robust scientific, peer reviewed evidence and more than 17,000 scholarly articles speak to its efficacy and still there are doubters. Future generations will wonder what all the fuss was about.  Granny Storm Crows List is a fabulous resource – take a dip.

https://grannystormcrowslist.wordpress.com/the-list/

Encountering resistance   – This is a useful document identifying the range of types of resistance, primarily to gender equality but has wider application, and ideas on what framing strategies to use.

https://www.vichealth.vic.gov.au/media-and-resources/publications/13-steps-to-tackle-gender-discrimination

Framing Equality – Gives ideas on framing social issues to win support.

http://www.equineteurope.org/Framing-Equality-Communication-Handbook-for-Equality-Bodies

How to talk about economics: A guide to changing the story

https://australianprogress.org.au/tag/guide/

You may also find some useful stuff on the New Economics website

http://neweconomics.org/

United in Compassion

https://www.unitedincompassion.com.au/2017-Symposium

http://adlrf.org.au/

Dr David Caldicott, Australian Medical Cannabis Observatory https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=meDlQ7Qow-A

http://www.anu.edu.au/news/all-news/anu-provides-australia-first-doctors%E2%80%99-workshop-on-medicinal-cannabis

The SA Offi e of Industrial Hemp & Medicinal Cannabis

https://statedevelopment.sa.gov.au/industry/office-of-industrial-hemp-and-medicinal-cannabis

The Office has been initiated by the Government of South Australia to support the establishment of medicinal cannabis and industrial hemp industries.

Acting as a single point of contact the Office will work with industry and across government to provide ongoing support and advice, particularly for new ventures in the cultivation and processing of industrial hemp or medicinal cannabis.

I have to say it was very disappointing that the Office was not represented at the Expo.

So, I will conclude where I began….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.

There are so many stories untold and many yet to be created – let’s make them positive stories of recovery, cure, health & well-being.

 

Welcome

Hello, nice to see you…

While you are here, take your time to sift through theses pages where I have written about issues which move me.  Many things inspire and motivate me, more often than not it is people and it is places.

I believe strongly that without our environment there is no economy. I am  proponent Medical Cannabis and Industrial Hemp, I advocate for stronger regional communities through regional development and I am a proud supporter of Australia becoming a Republic.

I  believe that securing our food and water into the future is not something we should hope for but rather something we should strive for and that we should allow science and research to drive innovation and economic growth.

I often retreat to the sanctuary, my sanctuary, of the beach at Moonta Bay to find peace and equilibrium.

My frown lines are borne out of concern and sometimes fear and sadness; and my ample laughter lines are from living, loving and being hopeful.

Dianah