Tag Archives: Tony Abbott

Richie Benaud…Oh What a Ripper!

Yesterday, Australia lost a very much loved, living legend, when cricketer and commentator, Richie Benaud, passed away aged 85. Richie Benaud was the “voice of cricket” and as Prime Minister, Tony Abbott said:Richie Benaud “was the accompaniment of an Australian summer, his voice was even more present than the chirping of the cicadas in our suburbs and towns, and that voice, tragically, is now still.”

There’s a fabulous cartoon by Shakespeare here:http://www.smh.com.au/sport/the-fitz-files/a-marvellous-man-and-a-true-gent-rip-richie-benaud-20150410-1mi854.html

Even though I’m not even close to being a cricket fan, Richie Benaud’s appeal went way beyond the pitch. Indeed, after commentating for so many years, he felt like something of an aged Uncle or Grandparent who chatted to us throughout the game, telling us what’s what. Like so many embarrassing dads, he had his own unique sense of style and a way with words that was legendary. Indeed, when you checked out the crowd at a cricket match, you’d find more than a couple of look-a-likes in the crowd. Golly, some of the interpretations of his hair, were almost as incredible as the man himself.

To see his loyal fans decked up in force: http://www.smh.com.au/sport/cricket/benaud-boys-pay-tribute-to-the-international-man-of-cricket-20120104-1pkog.html

A crowd full of Richie Benauds think the play is "marvellous"!!

A crowd full of Richie Benauds think the play is “marvellous”!!

Anyway, as I said, I won’t and can’t even pretend to be a cricket fan.

Indeed, I hated cricket growing up. Every Summer, my brother and I conducted our own fierce battles off the pitch as we fought for who controlled the TV.  I swear my brother could have spent an entire summer watching and playing cricket, which as I’ve found re-reading an old journal, drove me absolutely round the twist.

Back in the day before remote controls, that meant grabbing hold of the rotary channel  selector in one hand and the on and off switch in the other and somehow fighting off your opponent with any remaining body parts without letting go. It’s funny because even though a vehemently detested cricket at the time, that still remains the Golden Age of cricket for me and I now sing along with “Come On Aussie, Come On” choking back the emotions as I remember Dennis Lillee “pounding down like a machine”: www.youtube.com/watch?v=2qJLi5y2d2w

That said, I chuckled when I heard Richie Benaud talking about the upcoming Summer:”We won’t miss a ball of the cricket”. Thinking back to my brother, I now realise that things could have been an awful lot worse and I hope Benaud’s wife, Daphne, enjoyed being married to the game as well as to the man. She pretty much had to love cricket.

Richie, Richie and Daphne

Richie, Richie and Daphne

All I’ll say, is thank goodness for the Internet and two TVs. Geoff a serious cricket fan as well.

So, as a fleeting tribute to an incredible man who I’ve felt has been living in my lounge room for so much of my life, here are a few of Richie Benaud’s Classic Quotes:

BenaudEarly“The key thing was to learn the value of economy with words and to never insult the viewer by telling them what they can already see” – on commentary.

“And Glenn McGrath dismissed for two, just 98 runs short of his century” – on the Australian fast bowler, famous for his ineptitude with the bat. Just as well he could bowl!!

“Put your brain into gear and if you can add to what’s on the screen then do it, otherwise shut up”

“What I want most from being a television commentator is to be able to feel that, when I say something, I am talking to friends”: talking about his audience.

“There was a slight interruption there for athletics” – referring to a streaker.

“When my hair is long enough to be cut, I go to my wife’s hairdresser, and she generally ways for it.”

“I once said to (Australian all-rounder) Keith Miller how disappointed I was to have made my debut in the same year as Bradman retired. How wonderful it would have been to have watched him play at the SCG in 1940 and then to bowl at him on the same ground. Nugget remarked drily that everyone has one lucky break and that may well have been mine.”

Benaud said of his mother, “She improved my love of vegetables by introducing the phrase, ‘You can’t go out and play cricket until you have eaten all your vegetables.'”

Before I sign off in typical Richie Benaud style, I’ll play Anthony Lloyd-Webber’s Memory which was Richie & Daphne’s favourite piece of music, performed by Debra Byrne:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a-osxc7JKXg

Condolences to Benaud family, especially his beloved wife, Daphne. From all accounts, they had an incredible partnership!

I will give Richie Benaud the last word:

“This had been a presentation from Nine’s Wide World of Sports.”

xx Rowena

RIP Richie Benaud.

RIP Richie Benaud. This was the old test pattern, which used to broadcast in the good old days when the TV went to sleep.

 

Brain Plasticity & Saving Two Australians on Indonesia’s Death Row

Frankly my dear, I do give a damn!!

When it comes to fighting for justice, I will personally stand up and be counted, even when the case is rather controversial. After all. it’s easy to have compassion for someone you love. It’s much more challenging when someone has a few prickles…or a past. Yet, sometimes our journey takes us down that road and we are forced to argue the points backwards and forwards inside our heads until we can make sense of it all and hopefully judgement turns to love.

I don’t know if the imminent execution of two convicted Australian drug smugglers in Indonesia has made International news. However, as citizens of the world, this case affects each and every one of us who believe in the sanctity and importance of justice and the capacity for humanity to change and redeem itself.

We are all called to stand up and fight.

The case I am referring to is the imminent execution of two convicted Australian drug smugglers in Indonesia: Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan, who were part of the notorious Bali Nine. Since their conviction, these men have completely turned their lives around and deserve a second chance. I’m not saying that they shouldn’t be punished. Just that they don’t deserve to die.

Portrait of Andrew Chan by Myuran Sukumaran.

 

My justification for clemency lies in the science of brain plasticity or neuroplasticity. If you know anything at all about brain plasticity, you will know and understand that these men have changed the very physical structures of their brains through rehabilitation and are no longer who they were. That they are, indeed, very different men. After all, if you have a different brain, how can you possibly be the same?

Victorian Supreme Court Justice Lex Lasry , summed  this up well when he addressed the Melbourne vigil held on 18th February, 2014. Lasry had been involved in the case of Van Nguyen, the Melbourne man who was executed for drug trafficking in Singapore in 2005. Lasry said that he has visited Chan and Sukumaran in jail in Bali several times and was in no doubt the pair had redeemed themselves.

“The reality is that if Indonesia go ahead and execute these two men, they’ll be killing an artist and a church pastor,” he said.

“The drug traffickers have gone. The drug traffickers left in 2005. “4.

About Brain Plasticity

Neuroplasticity, also known as brain plasticity “refers to changes in neural pathways and synapses due to changes in behaviour, environment, neural processes, thinking, emotions, as well as changes resulting from bodily injury.[1] Neuroplasticity has replaced the formerly-held position that the brain is a physiologically static organ, and explores how – and in which ways – the brain changes throughout life.[1]

In The Brain Which Changes Itself, Norman Doidge M.D. a psychiatrist and researcher set out to investigate neuroplasticity. “He writes that the brain can change itself. It is a plastic, living organ that can actually change its own structure and function, even into old age. Arguably the most important breakthrough in neuroscience since scientists first sketched out the brain’s basic anatomy, this revolutionary discovery, called neuroplasticity, promises to overthrow the centuries-old notion that the brain is fixed and unchanging. The brain is not, as was thought, like a machine, or “hardwired” like a computer. Neuroplasticity not only gives hope to those with mental limitations, or what was thought to be incurable brain damage, but expands our understanding of the healthy brain and the resilience of human nature”. http://www.normandoidge.com/?page_id=1259

This brain plasticity isn’t just something for the laboratory or people experiencing chronic medical conditions or disability. It affects us all and is a more “scientific” explanation for what we have always known: “Use it or lose it!!”

To get an idea of how brain plasticity works, picture an old fashioned telephone exchange with all those cables plugged in. Our brain is built of these cables. So for example if we keep getting angry, those anger pathways will keep getting bigger and bigger just like exercising a muscle. Moreover, the bigger these pathways become, the angrier we will become unless we take action.

Conversely, each and every time we appease our anger and breathe deep, count to three whatever it takes, those neuropathways shrink and actually disappear. These are actual, physical changes in the structure of our brains. The brain map is different.

I have experienced these changes myself after undergoing brain surgery to treat hydrocephalus. I have experienced many changes but probably the most surprising is that I can actually play the violin and I now play in an ensemble. That takes some pretty complex brain and physical developments, which I never thought possible. I only took the violin up to help my daughter.

My argument is that through rehabilitation, Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran have demonstrated that through such brain plasticity, they are no longer the men they were.

Therefore, as an exceptional case and while not dismissing the severity of their crime, these new men deserve a compassionate response…jail not execution!

This quote from US President John F. Kennedy sums it up well:

“The problems of the world cannot possibly be solved by skeptics or cynics whose horizons are limited by the obvious realities. We need men who can dream of things that never were.”

Background to the Bali Nine

Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan were the ring leaders of a group of Australian drug traffickers known as “The Bali Nine”. On 17 April 2005, the Bali Nine were arrested for planning to smuggle 8.3 kg (18 lb) of heroin valued at about A$4 million from Indonesia to Australia. These men were no angels and heroin, as we know, is a hard core drug which destroys lives. Authorities must do whatever it takes to get heroin off the streets. While people do dispute the death penalty, they are not advocating a more relaxed after to stopping the trade of heroin.

Going back to the time of their arrest, I didn’t have any sympathy for the Bali 9. Due to the very publicised case of alleged drug trafficker, Australian Shapelle Corby, the severity of Indonesia’s drug laws had been front page news for some time. I might not agree with the death penalty but Indonesia’s tough anti-drug laws most definitely weren’t a secret.

Australian Shapelle Corby had been arrested in Indonesia on 8 October 2004 when she was found to have 4.2 kg (9.3 lb) of cannabis in a double plastic vacuum-sealed bag in her unlocked bodyboard bag. Corby was convicted on 27 May 2005 and sentenced to 20 years in prison by the Denpasar District Court and imprisoned in Kerobokan Prison. To this day, Shapelle maintains her innocence and there have been numerous theories about how the cannabis got into her body board bag. Her case became a “cause celeb” and during that media frenzy, the severity of Indonesia’s drug laws was made very, very clear.

From where I was sitting in front of the TV, you’d have to be a complete idiot or have a serious death wish to even consider smuggling drugs in or out of Indonesia. I know people talked about making their luggage more secure after Shapelle’s arrest. Indeed, I’d even be checking the paperwork on my prescriptions before heading to Indonesia…especially given the amount of pills I take in a week. They could easily be perceived as trafficking quantities!

Those were the sorts of precautions your average Australian traveler was taking when the Bali 9 were arrested. Nobody wanted to be another Shapelle Corby and we were leaving absolutely nothing to chance. The consequences were just too great.

Given the historical context, the Bali 9 did come across as a bunch of idiots who had earned themselves what’s known as the Darwin Award: http://www.darwinawards.com/ After all, they didn’t need to be Einstein or have some kind of mystical crystal ball to know what they were getting themselves into. They just needed to turn on their TV. Shapelle Corby’s face was everywhere. Remember: Shapelle Corby was arrested on the 8th October 2004 and on the 27 May 2005 she was convicted and sentenced to 20 years in prison. The Bali Nine was arrested On 17 April 2005, the Bali Nine were arrested right in the middle of Shapelle’s trial. You do have to wonder what they were thinking and if they were even thinking at all and certainly you would never expect these men to amount to anything much at all!!

That was then. This is now.

Self-Portrait by Myuran Sukumaran

Self-Portrait by Myuran Sukumaran

Fast-forwarding nine years, Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan are changed men and are inspiring other prisoners and leading exemplary lives. These are not the same men who were convicted back in 2006. Their names might be the same and they are older versions of themselves but in terms of their soul, spirit, character and no doubt even the neurofibres in their brains, they are not who they were. Therefore, executing these men would be a great travesty of justice.

Victorian Supreme Court Justice Lex Lasry has long campaigned against the death penalty and was involved in the case of Van Nguyen, the Melbourne man who was executed for drug trafficking in Singapore in 2005.

 

Julie Bishop, Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs  outlined how much the men had changed when she addressed Federal Parliament on 12th February, 2014:

“Both men are deeply, sincerely remorseful for their actions. Both men have made extraordinary efforts to rehabilitate.

Andrew and Myuran are the model of what penal systems the world over long to achieve.

Successive Governors of Kerobokan Prison in Bali – whose prison has given Andrew and Myuran the opportunity to reflect and change – have testified to their remarkable transformation.

A decade on from their crimes, Andrew and Myuran are changed men. They are deeply committed to a new path.

Both men are paying their debt to society. With dedication and unwavering commitment, they are improving and enriching the lives of their fellow prisoners.

Andrew has completed a theology degree in prison. As a pastor, he now provides religious counselling and guidance to fellow inmates. On the day he received the President’s rejection of his clemency application, Andrew’s Australian lawyer Julian McMahon said he was nowhere to be found, for even at this moment of undeniable personal anguish, Andrew had taken time out to comfort a fellow inmate who was seriously ill.

Myuran – referred to by many as the ‘gentle giant’ – has nearly completed a fine arts degree in jail. He has had the opportunity to become an accomplished artist; his raw talent recognised and fostered by his friend and mentor, renowned artist Ben Quilty.

In prison, Andrew and Myuran sought permission from prison authorities and began an array of courses to benefit fellow inmates, and to prepare them for their return to society.

They have led extensive and varied arts, cultural and vocational courses. Some of their courses are aimed directly at drug addicts, equipping them with the skills to beat their addiction, saving their lives and giving them real prospects in the future.

Andrew and Myuran have raised money for fellow inmates’ medical procedures; for victims of Typhoon Haiyan; for Indonesia National Day festivities.

Indeed, such is the profound effect of Andrew and Myuran’s inspiring humility and service, their fellow prisoners have come forward to lend support, even offering to take their place in execution to President Widodo…

Their remarkable rehabilitation, and the circumstances of their arrest, has prompted five successive Australian Prime Ministers to make representations in their name. [2]

What Brain Plasticity Means For Chan & Sukumaran. Why Spare These Men?

If somebody completely turns their life around and becomes an entirely new and different person on the inside, should they still be judged and sentenced to death because of crimes they committed in the past? Although they have the same name and DNA, they are a different person and things become very problematic.

Would justice truly be served and can we as a global community just stand back in good conscience and do nothing to spare these men? Or, do we both as a society and as individuals need to do whatever it takes to prevent such a tragic and unjust loss of life?

The answer is a resounding “yes”!! After all, two wrongs have never made a right!!

Although I have never met these men and I certainly don’t support the use or sale of such drugs, there is such resounding evidence that these men have significantly and are now dramatically improving the lives of those around them as well, rehabilitating and educating other prisoners much more effectively than other methods.

“Power is of two kinds. One is obtained by the fear of punishment and the other by acts of love. Power based on love is a thousand times more effective and permanent then the one derived from fear of punishment.”

-Mahatma Gandhi

Deputy Opposition Leader Tanya Plibersek, whose husband was charged and convicted of a similar crime to Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, spoke out in Parliament saying: “criminals can be redeemed – my husband is proof.”

She adds that the laws which underpin the executing these men is the basic “eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth” law that has influenced the Old Testament and earlier legal codes in countries around the world. But that’s 3,700 years ago. We’ve moved on a great deal from an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth”. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-02-12/plibersek-these-men-deserve-restorative-justice-not-execution/6088334.

I also thought it was interesting that at last night’s vigil, emotional statements were read from the pair, which acknowledged their original stupidity,  saying that  the “compassion and kindness from people forgiving our stupidity” has made them feel “truly blessed” 4″

Their Last Words

Andrew Chan: “Thoughts from the Edge

“Thank you Jesus that you give me the strength and courage that I need to stand strong and to trust in you when the waters arise.”

“I thank you Jesus that you never give up on me and that your faithfulness is what helps me striving forward. I thank you for all the family and friends you surround me with in life and how your love pours out from them.”

“The Lord is revealing to me through this scripture is about how he’ll fight the battles for us and that we won’t be defeated if he goes ahead of us… The truth is God is remind us that when all seems helpless and you feel as though the enemies army surrounds you, God is telling us to stand still, take up our battle stance but do not move.[3]

Myuran Sukumaran – Thoughts from the edge

“When you are young you think money is the only way to get happiness … after being here for eight years you realize it is not.”

“After being in prison for eight years I only realized when it comes when it comes to drugs nobody gets rich – there are a few people – most get caught and end up in places like this and that’s the lesson.”

“I want to become a better person and I want to help everybody else become a better person as well. It is like a vehicle for everybody to travel in to better themselves.”

Last Words or a New Beginning…

Time is running out and I don’t know what any of us can do at this late hour. I understand that over 30,000 Australians have written to the Indonesian Attorney General pleading for mercy and many many people have spoken publically. Last night, a vigil was being held in Sydney to pray for the men and their families and this was just one of many. I can sense a collective heartache if these efforts fail and these two young men are put to death.

Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran are in my heartfelt prayers.

And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus”.

*Please reblog this post and spread the word. It now looks like the lives of these men rest on divine intervention and people power.

As the saying goes: “Never give up”!!!

Love & Blessings,

Rowena

[1] · Pascual-Leone A., Amedi A., Fregni F., Merabet L. B. (2005). “The plastic human brain cortex”. Annual Review of Neuroscience 28: 377–401. doi:10.1146/annurev.neuro.27.070203.144216.

[2] Parliamentary motion: Chan and Sukumaran, Address to House of Representatives Speech, E&OE, Parliament House, Canberra,12 February 2015.

[3] http://www.news.com.au/national/six-living-former-prime-ministers-make-united-final-plea-for-doomed-bali-nine-duo/story-fncynjr2-1227222259664

4) www.abc.net.au/news/2015-02-18/vigils-held-for-bali-nine-pair-facing-execution/6143978

Paintings: http://www.news.com.au/world/asia/bali-nine-member-myuran-sukumaran-paintings-in-melbourne/story-fnh81fz8-1227049488225

I apologise  for any breaches of copyright regarding the images used in this post. I am merely trying to support their cause.

The Struggle to Heal: the broken foot and the Sydney Siege.

Have you ever considered the different way we respond to physical injuries versus psychological trauma? There’s absolutely no stigma going to a physiotherapist to treat your physical injuries, whereas admitting to seeing a psychologist could well open a whole can of worms.

Quite a double-standard, isn’t it?

It’s now almost been two months since the horrific terrorist siege gripped Sydney as a gunman held 18 people hostage in the Lindt Cafe in Martin Place at the heart of Sydney’s CBD. While the hostages each have their own story, I am addressing the ripple effect which spread beyond the Lindt Cafe and held Sydney in its grip and is still rippling in the shadows. As evidenced by the thousands of floral tributes which overflowed through Martin Place and a Facebook request to send Christmas cards to Katrina Dawson’s kids spread; many, many people were deeply moved and grief-stricken over what happened. We truly and genuinely cared. This concern is naturally mixed with grief, fear and compassionate empathy and there’s naturally a need for psychological healing here too. There has been such grief for the Katrina Dawson and Tori Johnson…two courageous heroes…strangers we’d never met before.

Flowers Martin Place

Flowers Martin Place

The night before the siege, I broke my foot and I felt this coincidence provided an opportunity to explore the differences between physical and psychological healing. The hostages were interviewed at length on TV last night and they each have their story. Naturally, I am very mindful of their trauma and send them my love and prayers. However, I’m looking further afield at how Sydney is responding to its psychological wounds. Are we undergoing treatment?

As I mentioned in my previous post, I returned to Martin Place for the first time since the siege last week on my way home from a series of medical appointments. I usually go off on a bit of a detour on the way home and quite intentionally don’t declare my whereabouts. This is Mummy’s secret escape…an absolute indulgence. I usually end up in a gorgeously quirky vegan cafe in Sydney’s Surry Hills. There’s a portrait of “The Vegan Mary” at the entrance and they make the most scrumptiously divine Coconut Chai Lattes. They’re like drinking a coconut cloud.

However, this time I decided to go to Martin Place and pay my respects to the siege victims and survivors. I didn’t know what to expect. I naturally thought I’d get emotional when I reached the Lindt Cafe but what surprised me was the creepy uneasiness I felt even walking through Martin Place. Quite out of character, I wondered whether I should report in and call home. Let my husband know where I was just in case. After all, nobody knew I was anywhere near the city. I was meant to be on the train heading home, in the absolute opposite direction. If something happened, no one would know I was there. Not that anything was going to happen. After all, lightening doesn’t strike the same place twice. That said, we didn’t expect it to strike the first time either. Now, we’ve woken up. Sydney is on alert. Not red alert but we’re certainly no longer asleep.

You see, despite the superficial rhetoric that Sydney is back to normal, things have changed. Something has shattered and the pieces don’t quite fit back together like they used to. Everything is just ever so slightly disjointed, out of kilter. Although we’re getting on with it, that doesn’t mean we don’t feel or haven’t been changed. It’s only early days and it really does take time for any kind of healing…physical or psychological.

As I mentioned, I broke my foot the night before the terrorist siege. Therefore, the progress on the foot front provides a good platform to discuss how Sydney is psychologically recovering from the siege versus the physical healing of the foot. I should also mention that I live with a severe life threatening auto-immune disease and been through a bit of trauma myself…especially where my kids are concerned.

While I did play my violin in the Christmas concert straight after breaking my foot and I also staggered into school the next day despite excruciating pain to watch the kids perform in the end of year talent show, that all stopped after the x-ray. Once I knew it was broken, it was sentenced to 6 weeks in the protective boot and I was also prescribed Panadeine Forte and had to rest it. The kids were incredibly caring giving me a massage and doing everything for me…at least for a few days!! I’ve been severely ill before and the kids have never given me the red carpet treatment rolled out for the broken foot. That really intrigued me.

Six weeks later, I’m starting to ease out of the boot and started physio. Of course, she’s not sending me straight back out there cold turkey running along cracked and broken footpaths wearing my high heels. No, she’s given me a couple of very simple, basic exercises, which require many, many repetitions. These are aimed at retraining the nerve endings in my ankle to stop it from flipping over. This retraining process sounds very similar to the neuroplasticity in the brain. Hmm…I guess that means I have a brain in my foot.

While nobody’s been pressuring me to get over my broken foot, I do feel that Sydney is being pushed and expected to recover from the siege quickly. While it is important to reclaim our city and not let terrorism cramp our style, this can also be a gradual process. We are allowed to inch our way back and not just jump in the deep end when we’re not ready. It’s also perfectly okay to get professional psychological advice and support just like I’ve had physio to help my foot recover…even if you weren’t one of the hostages and perhaps don’t even work near Martin Place.

Boys Don't Cry.

Boys Don’t Cry.

I try to laugh about it
Cover it all up with lies
I try and laugh about it
Hiding the tears in my eyes
‘Cause boys don’t cry
Boys don’t cry

The Cure – Boys Don’t Cry

 

 

 

This psychological pressure to simply get over it is exemplified by these no doubt well-intentioned words from our esteemed Prime Minister Tony Abbott: “The whole point of politically motivated violence is to scare people out of being themselves. Australia is a peaceful, open and generous society. Nothing should ever change that,’’ Mr Abbott said.

“I would urge all Australians today to go about their business as usual”….

“Our thoughts and prayers must go out to the individuals caught up in this. I can think of nothing more distressing or terrifying.”[1]

Does anybody else see the contradiction? How could we simply go about our business as usual when 18 people were being hostage by a seeming terrorist? While people have been sympathetic and understanding about how long it takes a broken foot to heal, there is quite a double-standard when it comes to psychological trauma and scars. There’s this expectation that psychological wounds should heal quickly…almost like clicking your fingers…especially when you were indirectly affected. However, it seems quite logical to me that if you go through a dreadful, traumatic ordeal that you would have some kind of lasting reaction. Moreover, this reaction deserves (at the very least) the same kind of treatment, respect and TLC that my broken foot has received. This can include learning techniques and skills from a trained psychologist just like I’m getting exercises for my foot from the physio. After all, if you have a significant injury of any sort, it requires treatment.

Whether your wounds are psychological or physical, professional advice can boost the healing process. It makes good sense.

To make sense of the psychological kickback from the siege, we need to return to 15-16th December without injecting hindsight. While it is easy in retrospect to minimise the threat this lone wolf gunman posed, he had staged his campaign with maximum impact. Firstly, he chose the prominent Lindt Cafe opposite the Channel 7 TV Studios in Martin Place for maximum coverage. Then, he bluffed his way through the siege claiming his backpack was a bomb and that other “brothers” had bombs in other strategic locations in Sydney’s CBD. This threat had to be taken seriously and brought Sydney’s CBD to a grinding halt. The pre-Christmas rush vanished leaving an eerie ghost town behind. The Opera House and Cahill Expressway had been evacuated and Martin Place Train Station was closed. This was perceived as a potentially serious terrorist attack on Sydney and was dealt with accordingly. Thank goodness, it wasn’t but we still went through “the motions”.

Map Showing Roads Closed During the Sydney Siege- SMH 15.12.14

Map Showing Roads Closed During the Sydney Siege- SMH 15.12.14

Since then, events in Paris have also dwarfed what happened here. However, Sydney could have been a different story. We can not minimise what people have been through because something even worse happened somewhere else. Once again, that is the power of hindsight… something anybody who lived through the siege, didn’t have at the time.

As I mentioned earlier, the impact of the siege has rippled far beyond the hostages and their families. TV and other forms of media bring events right into our lounge rooms in vivid technicolour, drawing us in. We are human beings, not robots, so of course we have emotions, feelings…a response!!! Moreover, although Sydney is a big city, it still has an intimacy about it. Somebody always seems to know someone involved. As it turns out, I used to work closely with one of the Sydney hostages many years ago. I must admit I felt quite shattered hearing her talk about the intense trauma she endured on TV last night…especially when we were so bright-eyed and bushy-tailed all those years ago. That was my first full-time job.

There are also those people who work in or near Martin Place and those who frequent the Lindt Cafe but through some almost freakish twist of fate, they weren’t there that morning. They slept in. Missed the bus or were sick. Started a diet and swore off chocolate. Just like the siege survivors are asking, “why me?”, they could well be thinking: “It could have, or even should have, been me.” That intense sense of identification, another form of survivor’s guilt, deserves compassion just as much as my foot and yet these walking wounded have no walking sticks or boots to communicate their angst. Their own grief and anxiety seems hard to understand and perhaps even self-indulgent, attention seeking. They could well have a whole Pandora’s Box of questions, emotions and fears even though they were nowhere near the place. They also deserve hugs, understanding and compassion.

The whole question of the future of the Lindt Cafe in Martin Place confronts these psychological scars head on. Personally, I can’t understand how they could ever re-open it at that location but others have called for it to re-open and there will be a touching memorial inside. I know the chances of a repeat of the siege must be statistically unlikely but with all of Sydney open for coffee, I’d rather be gentle with my soul and go somewhere else. I don’t need to go through that emotional stress…especially when I’ve never been to the Lindt Cafe before.

I’d much rather head back for that heavenly Coconut Chai latte in Surry Hills and think about something else…like a buying a box of Lindt chocolates at the supermarket.

Any thoughts?

xx Rowena

PS I should mention that just as people may experience Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, survivors can also experience post-traumatic growth. I have experienced both. It would be an intriguing process if only it didn’t hurt so much!!

[1]The Australian Financial Review: http://www.afr.com/p/national/islamic_state_linked_terror_grips_Ck62N1NvnYuygeXu1rfXbI

 

Map Showing Roads Closed During the Sydney Siege- SMH 15.12.14

Map Showing Roads Closed During the Sydney Siege- SMH 15.12.14

 

 

A Vote for the LIttle People

Even if you’re not a political beast, it’s hard not to be drawn into the pre-election madness and at the very least have an opinion…especially when you live in a marginal seat and your vote actually counts.

The Australian Federal Election is coming up and from where I’m sitting, the outcome could be anybody’s guess.

Moreover, the results of this election will probably be determined by the likes of me…the undecided voter. I won’t say swinging voter. I mean undecided!

The undecided voter gets a lot of bad press. Typecast as wishy-washy, apathetic fence sitters, we’re expected to be on one side or the other. This is usually interpreted as having “an informed opinion”.

But what if you want something more? Something which isn’t currently being offered on the menu? What about the idealist, the visionary?

Undecided voters often have strong values, beliefs and principles. We can be very committed to changing the world but perhaps we’re just a bit jaded by the political juggernaut.

I know there are good people in politics but we don’t often see much of that. Besides, how are you  supposed to vote at all when you don’t believe that shafting people is how to run a nation? We might have great local candidates who I respect but when you look at politics as a whole, it can be pretty appalling. All the very worst behavior we work so hard to stamp out in our kids, is actually nurtured and encouraged in our national mosh pit. Bullying, teasing and name-calling are fought out to the political death. You just need to watch Question Time to see it all in action. Nobody can behave like that outside Parliament and still have friends. I think they call that “Parliamentary Privilege”. Everywhere else, we call it “bullying”.

Yet, come election time, these same bullies are all charm smooching the nation.

After that little rant, how am I going to vote?

At this point of time, I’m still sitting on the fence.

In the past, it didn’t really matter how I voted because I lived in a safe seat. My vote didn’t count. However, now I live in a fairly marginal seat and when the balance of power could be dangling from a thread, my vote actually counts. I have to be responsible and make a well-considered, conscious choice. We’ve had hung parliaments before and the future of our nation could be riding on my shoulders. That’s a huge responsibility (even if it is an exaggeration).

So how am I going to make up my mind? What’s going to be the clincher?

For me, it all boils down to jobs. I work in a small business and I want to keep my job. Moreover, I’d like to stop the flow of locals down to Sydney each day commuting to work and instead see more fairly paid local jobs. That would make a huge difference to our community.

More jobs also means, more spending which in turn means more jobs.

I like spending!

A faster train to Sydney is also a necessity. Commuting is a hard slog!

I would also like to remind the media that this election is about people. I’m not talking about Kevin and Tony. I’m talking about us…the little people. This country is made up of little people…just like lots of little Lego bits of all shapes, colours and sizes joining together to make a house.

I’m a little person and I know a lot of little people too.

There are quite a number of empty shops around at the moment. Empty shops mean broken dreams, incredible personal loss and hardship. For every empty shop or office, there are also a lot of businesses struggling to survive. These are very tough times.

Secondly, I have kids at school and I see what goes into giving all kids a sound education. Our teachers are the most amazing people you will ever meet. Being a parent isn’t easy and we hand our kids over to their teachers everyday and expect them to solve all sorts of issues which leave us for dead. They usually succeed in doing that as well as well as teaching them the 3Rs. Well done!

Speaking about little people and big achievements, I wanted to share with you about a painting I bought recently at the school art show. It’s a painting of a rainbow elephant. The elephant is made up of multi-coloured thumb prints. Each student had their own colour and they carefully dabbed their thumbs in the paint, blotted off  the excess and stamped their thumb onto the canvas without so much as a smudge. That’s a huge achievement when you really think about it. Now this masterpiece was created by a small class of primary school boys and their amazing teacher with such love and patience. I mean, how many parents actually let their children paint at home? Most don’t. Their teacher helped them do it. Helped them achieve the seemingly impossible. After all, how many boys do you know who sit still? (Thinking about this artwork…it is a great example of teamwork in action and could teach those people down in Canberra a thing or two!)

It’s kids, who by the way can’t vote, who really need to be in the forefront of political thinking. They have their entire future ahead. They deserve to reach their whole potential whatever that might be just like a small acorn growing into an amazing oak!

Lastly, I have to mention the health system. I have way too much to do with this land of hidden cutbacks. I have been having blood transfusions every three weeks for the last five years. Each transfusion takes about 4-5 hours. I used to have these treatments on weekends down in Sydney and my parents minded the kids while I was there. When the hospital moved into the new building, weekend services were axed and I had to have my treatments during the week. These decisions were made essentially to save money. Reduce expense. This was very difficult for me juggling the kids at school but it was impossible for anyone who worked full time. Heaven help you if you are sick and have a job! The “system” somehow seems to forget that even sick people need to eat. I wrote several letters but in the end, I voted with my feet. I now get my transfusions at our local hospital instead. This is still a juggling act but it largely works for us. Not everybody has that choice. (I must also comment that I have always had the very best care from all my doctors and nurses. They have quite literally saved my life!)

This brings me onto homelessness. Homelessness can be in your face but it’s also hidden…underground. Perhaps the most unappreciated fact about homelessness is how quickly it can happen and that nobody is immune. It just takes a few twists and turns of fate. You lose your job. Get sick. Relationship busts up. Bad things often happen in threes. The “homeless” are often just very normal, everyday people. It could be you. It could be me. We all need to love and embrace them. Offer a helping hand.

So whatever you might believe about public spending, we all depend on a safety net and having the basics. That needs to include jobs, good public education and good public health so that when your world falls apart, there is always a net and people don’t fall through the gaps.

I just had a tea break and realized that I haven’t mentioned the carbon tax or boat people. These issues are supposedly quite big in the campaign, although they’re beyond me at the moment.

I am very concerned about the environment and I’m serious about doing my bit. When it comes to food scraps, we have a worm farm at home and the dog eats the rest. At the start of the year, I decided not to use any plastic packaging in the kids’ lunches and I have succeeded. You would be surprised just how much plastic packaging gets wasted in kids’ lunches. I’m not perfect. Our coffee machine uses a lot of plastic pods. Grr!

As for the carbon tax, it is beyond me at the moment. I can’t afford high power bills and am fairly dependent on the clothes dryer due to my health. At the same time, we have to do whatever it takes to slow down global warming.

Hard decisions!

Although I live on the coast, people smuggling seems a long way from home. That said, no child should be in prison and children need to be with their parents. That is a basic human need. Every child needs to be with their Mum and Dad. As a parent, I wouldn’t jump in a boat with my kids and head off across the seas but I was born in the lucky country. It is not a choice I’ve had to make. That said, I am currently researching my great great something grandmother who I believed came to Australia to escape the Irish Famine in the 1840s. However, on closer inspection, it turns out she arrived after the famine and only months after the discovery of gold in Bathurst was proclaimed in 1851. So what was she? Refugee or fortune seeker? I don’t know but the grass certainly wasn’t greener for her in Sydney’s Surry Hills, even if they did have a good supply of potatoes. She lost three of her nine children in infancy.

So here I am at home in my pyjamas.  Playschool is on in the background while I’m metamorphosing into some kind of political animal. Perhaps, it is all because of the book I’ve been reading about the Irish famine which shows that governments can make a difference but they can also turn a blind eye to even the most acute forms of human suffering.

I wonder if governments are only as good as the people who vote them in and sustain them.

That’s why my vote is actually important. I might not like “Canberra” but at least I’ve had my say.

As for anybody who reads this post and dares call me a “mummy blogger” commenting on the Federal Election, remember I’m a person. I just happen to be a woman who has kids and shouldn’t be judged by my parental status!

Do I get your vote?

Getting off the fence...soon.

Getting off the fence…soon.