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.  

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.  

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?  

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.

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) 

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…..here’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: https://www.ecsa.sa.gov.au/electoral-districts/electoral-district-profiles?view=article&id=847:narungga

The list of the candidates, as they will appear on the ballot is at this link: https://www.ecsa.sa.gov.au/2018-state-election-narungga-electoral-district-candidates

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:

Table-of-Q–A_Narungga-candidates.pdf

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:

https://www.ecsa.sa.gov.au/voting/voting-at-the-state-election/how-to-complete-your-ballot-papers

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 http://www.humanrights.gov.au/complaints_information/index.html 

http://www.humanrights.gov.au/workplace-bullying-violence-harassment-and-bullying-fact-sheet

http://www.fairwork.gov.au/employee-entitlements/bullying-and-harrassment

http://www.safework.sa.gov.au/show_page.jsp?id=5082#.U8ClQU2KBow

http://www.youthbeyondblue.com/understand-what’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. http://www.kidshelp.com.au/ 

Lifeline (13 11 14) is a free and confidential service staffed by trained telephone counsellors. http://www.lifeline.org.au 

http://www.bullyingnoway.gov.au/

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.