Posted by: jkirkby8712 | September 10, 2011

Friday, 19 August through to Wednesday, 31st August 2011 – as August winds down & Winter moves along!!

Well now, it is a couple of weeks since I have been here, having devoted a lot of time to preparing material, for the little family history trip to Charlton, at the beginning of September. So this will be a bit of a marathon blog, taking you day by day to the close of this year’s Winter season, with a call to bring on the Springtime sunshine. Actually, over the past few days, despite the cold nights and early mornings, we have enjoyed some rather pleasant daylight hours.

Friday, 19 August 2011  – a little football match!!

Confirmation came through today of the deaths of the three ABC newsmen, in that helicopter crash last night – I guess the people at the ABC must have had as traumatic night from when the first reports came through late last evening that a helicopter had gone down, and realising that their crew was over in that area, and that attempts at contact with the three ABC guys thereafter had failed .A reminder I suppose of the dangers of journalism, thinking back for eg, to the East Timor murders of the Bali 5 newsmen in 1975 by Indonesian forces.

Meantime, Susie headed back up to Bendigo for a few days, and I was destined to have that time to myself at home. Actually intended to go to the football tonight with Jodie, but with rumours on the move that all tickets were sold, spent a bit of time trying to ascertain the accuracy of that –  which eventually was confirmed. The match was sold out!! Now while I would have liked one last opportunity to see the Blues play before the Finals series commenced, deep down, I think I was rather pleased to be able to return straight home after work, with the prospect of watching the game on the TV.  Jodie came over to home, just before the coverage began, with boyfriend, Ash, and they joined me for the evening’s viewing. Ash was a West Coast supporter – if Carlton lost tonight, West Coast would almost certainly replace us in the Top Four teams, and that situation would not change again, before the finals!

Not a good start to the night  – a terrible first half and a bit by Carlton, and it looked as though the night was going to end in a monumental disaster, and I was quickly rather glad that we were here, at home, rather than at the football ground.  Thankfully, the Blues launched an extraordinary second-half charge but it was the Hawks who secured a top-four finish in front of 52,052 fans at Etihad Stadium on Friday night. The Hawks were harder, more organised and used the ball better in the first half, restricting Carlton to just one goal while booting seven of their own. But after trailing by 45 points five minutes into the third quarter the Blues finally sprung to life, booting the last four goals of the term to cut the margin to just 20 points at the final change. Brett Ratten’s men then had most of the momentum in the final term and drew to within 12 points when the outstanding Kade Simpson booted back-to-back goals early in time-on, but the Hawks did just enough to run out 10.18 (78) to 8.18 (66) victors.  The result extended Hawthorn’s winning streak against the Blues to eight, but more importantly,  Carlton’s  top-four prospects were seriously damaged by a heartbreaking 12-point loss eventually.

Final quarter by quarter scores revealed the following outcome.

Hawthorn Hawks:                  4.4.28    7.10.52     8.14.62     Final:     10.18 (78)
Carlton  Blues:                       1.4.10    1.8.14       5.12.42     Final:      8.18 (66)

[At the same time, on the other side of the Yarra River, the Melbourne Storm Rugby League team, extended their current winning run, with their 12th consecutive victory, to remain well entrenched on the top of the National Rugby League Ladder.  This was Storm’s comeback year, after being suspended from the competition [as far as any results being recognised] in 2010, and having their previous two premiership wins taken off them, for breaching that infamous salary cap.

Saturday, 20 August 2011 –  slow Saturday

It was indeed, and I didn’t venture very far,  concentrating on more preparation work for the next couple of weekends –  found I’d been given yet another job, with a request to make a brief presentation at the church anniversary service in Ballarat next weekend.  I had been given two minutes, but as I would sit down over the next couple of days, and try and draft up a few words, I would quickly realise that it is not possible to say very much in two minutes!! That probably suits most people, but, as readers will have discovered through my writings, I do tend to become a little ‘long-winded’, especially on paper!!  Oh well, another little exercise to get beyond over the next week or two.

I was in the ‘betting chair’ again today for a little horse racing tipping group  – and like last week, with just a couple of races to go, not looking good. However, a couple of favourable results at the end of the afternoon, put my tips in front again, meaning I would probably be given the job for yet another week!!  I treat this little arrangement as more or less a ‘Christmas savings account’  –  each member  contributes a fortnightly amount, and while in total, that is a substantial fortnightly addition to the ‘bank’, the weekly member ‘in the chair’ as I have been for the past couple of weeks, only has $40 available to ‘invest’ at a time, so the potential weekly losses are limited to that figure, most weeks we tend to come out in front, even if only by a small margin. Gross bank balance at the end of the year is then divided evenly between all members – hence my ‘Christmas Club’ idea.  A worthwhile little exercise, from that point of view, in addition to the annual end of year ‘social’ outing of all members.

Sunday, 21 August 2011 – Sunbury’s history is recognised

The highlight of this Sunday for me, came tonight, with a dinner at a local restaurant, as a part acknowledgement of  Sunbury’s 175th celebrations this year.  Susan was away in Bendigo this weekend, so I had the house to myself, plenty of quietness and looking after oneself [apart from the occasional need to attend to the ‘needs’ of Susie’s two cats, which I could personally do without!!]. As usual, after a slow start, I enjoyed my two hours+ on the radio this morning, then advised my listener[s] that I would be missing for the next two weeks!  I have only missed one Sunday morning this calendar year, a record of consistency I’m usually rather proud of, so any decision to be missing for even one week is never taken lightly or without an adequate reason.

Anyway, this evening I headed up to the Pitruzzello Estate, just a few kilometres north of Sunbury. A few notes of interest about the Estate, to put you in the picture:-    ‘Perched on the granite hills of Sunbury in rural Victoria, Pitruzzello Estate Olive Grove and Vineyard is the creation and passion of owner Sebastiano Pitruzzello.  Arriving from Sicily in 1963 with just a suitcase and a dream, Sebastiano became one of Australia’s first independent cheese makers when he established the Pantalica Cheese Company in 1973. Now turning his attention to his other great love of olive oil and wine, Sebastiano has realised his dream with the establishment of Pitruzzello Estate.  Conveniently located just seconds off the Calder Highway for visitors heading to the Macedon Ranges and beyond, the estate features a 158 acre olive grove, boutique vineyard and modern cold press olive oil processing facility.  Pitruzzello Estate is home to award-winning olive oil, with its Extra Virgin Olive Oil a Gold and Silver Award winner at the Royal Melbourne Fine Food Awards 2008.Its range of olive oil and delicate wines are available for tasting and purchase at the cellar door, which also features a selection of olives, cheeses and anti-pasta.  The Estate’s gourmet cafe is also very popular, open for lunches and light refreshments with a wide range of tasty choices available including fresh pasta dishes, pizzas, arancini, wraps and focaccias. Of course, coffee and a wide selection of cakes are also always available, while you take in the view across the olive grove’.  Mind you, most of those delicacies, I’m not able to ‘get into’ much these days, not so much by like’dislike but simply because the diabetes does not react well [as I would discover later tonight] to  most forms of Italian food.

Nevertheless, it would be a memorable evening, thoroughly enjoyed in the company of fellow members of the Sunbury Family History Society.  Our current President, Peter Free, was also president of the Sunbury Historical & Heritage Society, the group that in conjunction with the Pitruzzello Estate people, had organised this night, as a part of 2011’s celebrations to recognise Sunbury’s 175th anniversary. Representatives also present from the radio station, and various other friends and acquaintances – good to see Barry & Ruth present. Also noticed that my old ‘boss’ from the Shire of Gisborne was sitting over at Cr Ann Potter’s table, but he disappeared halfway through the night before I had the opportunity to speak to him. Meanwhile, one of the principal guests tonight was a former Mayor from the region in England near Sunbury on Thames, from which the name of ‘our’ Sunbury was originally derived. An interesting chap, his only drawback being his frequent references during the evening to the current superiority of the English cricket team, their current series against India [which they were winning convincingly] and recent victories over Australia!!  From memory, by the end of the night, he had been presented with some form of ‘momento’ of the Australian Cricket team!!!

‘My’ Sunbury was ‘informally’ established in 1836 when George Evans and the Jackson brothers drove their sheep from Williamstown [now a bayside suburb of Melbourne] to the area which would become Sunbury. George Evans then built what is Sunbury’s oldest homestead, still operating a few kilometres from where I live, the ‘Emu Bottom’ homestead. Interestingly, 7 years later, George, then aged 58 years, would marry 18 year old Ann Holden, and produce 6 children. Meantime, it would be 1851 [the year that Victoria became a ‘separate’ colony from New South Wales, before the Government Gazette formally announced a site for the town of Sunbury.  A couple of other dates of interest  –  1859, Sunbury Railway Station opened; 1873, Sunbury’s first race meeting was held  [the race course no longer exists, which is a pity], the site now covered in housing, a kilometre or so south of my home; 1865, the Industrial School opened on Sheoak Hill [now, Jackson’s Hill, where my radio station is located], and that site in 1879 became the Sunbury Lunatic Asylum, with inmates and staff transferred from Ballarat; 1892, first issue of the Sunbury News was published; 1952, a Back to Sunbury event held; while in 1986, just after we came to the town, Sunbury celebrated it’s 150th anniversary, and our friend, Peter Free, was involved in many of the celebrations associated with that year also!

This night [in 2011]  included the presentation of a formal ‘souvenir’  booklet –  which had been  beautifully put together by Peter [our local historian and photographer], who also introduced a little section during the night of historical photographs of the town which he had collected from various sources and/or taken himself. Whenever there is any kind of activity happening around Sunbury, you will be sure to find Peter around somewhere, recording the event on his camera. Various speeches throughout the evening from Council representatives, and others, but the most impressive of all was presented by the current Secretary of the Historical Society, Kath Tremlett, who spoke at length about ‘her’ Sunbury –  as she went through over 60 years of notes about characters, businesses, and events of the town in her lifetime.  I have only been a resident of Sunbury since 1983, but even in that brief time, so much of the landscape of the town as it was when we came here – ‘Country living, city style’ –  has changed considerably, and much of the latter part of Kath’s presentation, I found myself able to identify with.

As for tonight’s food  – as expected, very tasty, very Italian, and most enjoyable [I had the fish dish], and a beautiful dessert, but, as anticipated, later tonight, it would result in a relatively sleep deprived night, and a morning which I would eventually describe as a ‘diabetic hangover’!!!  Oh well, no pleasure without pain, these days! We also took away a wine glass, especially engraved for the occasion. Meanwhile, the souvenir booklet included a little poem, written for the occasion by Sue Fisher [whom I think is a local] a couple of months ago, and I shall conclude this contribution, with that piece of verse.

Sunbury [by Sue Fisher, June 2011]

A township nestled ‘neath the hills

The Southern Cross above

The gateway to the rangers

That’s the Sunbury I love.

 

The dreamtime forged the craggy Bush, alive with scrudding rains,

That shaped the verdant grasslands of the settler’s Emu Plains,

From homestead small and stately hall they planted grain and corn

Along the banks of Jackson’s Creek – so Sunbury was born.

 

A town northwest of Melbourne where the paddocks gleam with gold,

And the vineyard’s purple harvest by meandering creeks unfolds;

In the shadow of Mount Lion sheep once roamed the dappled grass,

And diggers came to stake their claim around Mount Aitken’s Pass.

 

The lure of gold brought hopeful men – some stopped and sometimes stayed.

The railway line increased the work; foundation stones were laid,

To this place just outside Melbourne, where the hot north winds can blow,

The migrants came to chase their dreams – so thus did Sunbury grow.

 

The passing decades saw the growth of Airport, house and store.

It’s boundaries ever stretching to encompass even more;

The Birthplace of the Ashes – with a touch of ‘come-what-may’;

A dream that keeps on growing is the Sunbury of  today.

 

And it has so much to offer

To those who’ve called it home

A place of ‘Good returning’

Wherever you may roam

 

Monday, 22 August 2011 – rumblings of discontent on the work front

I would willingly have foregone my presence at my place of employment today  – however, with the monthly scheduled  Committee Meeting due to take place, didn’t think that a good idea.  And trouble was brewing, amongst one or two committee members, and some from outside of the committee. In the almost five years that I have been here, there has always been a small group of individuals [whose names have not changed much over the years] that seem to have been on a constant path of negativity, destruction and disruption to the running of the organisation and the people responsible for doing so. Over the last year or two, things had settled down in that respect under a new administration and more cohesive committee, but all of a sudden it seems, that old question of paranoia, has risen it’s head again  – something, which I’m told, and the records indicate, has been a bugbear of this organisation since it’s creation from another body in 2001.  The ‘working’ environment was not good in my first couple of years here, improved under Jackie’s leadership, but is gradually ‘drifting’ back to the unpleasantness  of that earlier time.

I guess I don’t really care so much this time – about the paranoia, and the associated verbal and written attacks on the committee and/or ‘paid staff’ [the generic term used, rather than individually naming the ‘boss’ by some of those responsible] – I won’t be around much longer, with retirement a few weeks away- but it will be a pity to leave behind that kind of environment. Oh well, my departure, for a change, is seemingly going to be well timed!

After a relatively stressful day [environment wise, not so much for the writer personally], it was rather nice to have as three hour late night shift on the radio to look forward to, and, as is usual, thoroughly enjoyable it was too.

Tuesday, 23rd August 2011 –  300 ‘Show-times’ later!!

Today’s date – the anniversary of my mother’s birthday, and were she still alive, she would have been 88 years old today! Interesting, that in an email from brother, Robert today, on another matter, he commented that it would have been ‘Maud’s birthday’ today  – that was the affectionate ‘humorous’ term or name that he and one of our sisters used to generally refer to Mum, even in her presence. I have no idea where it came from! Anyway, Rob doesn’t generally comment on personal events of that nature, but just lately, he has been coming up with a few questions about family dates, etc.  Meanwhile, in respect to my visit to Ballarat next weekend to attend the 150th anniversary celebrations, at the former ‘family’ Church, I had asked each of my siblings, if they could contribute any bits of information about our time at the church in Ballarat, in view of the request which had just recently been made of me, to give a small address on the family’s connections with the church. Rob’s response was along the following lines:- 

Sorry, can’t think of anything particularly inspirational re Neil St, or at least nothing suitable for remarks to a church congregation!  Do recall the irony (or maybe good sense) of Dad being a lay-preacher (although rarely at Neil St, I think) but easily falling asleep himself and quietly snoring through other preacher’s sermons at Neil St!

 Also recall our house had the church on one side and church hall on the other; with memories of lying in bed being kept awake by the sound and shape (reflected on church hall windows) of “wild” square dancing in the church hall. Funny that I never wanted (or was allowed) to participate and here I am ballroom dancing 45-50 years later!  Hope the anniversary goes well and good luck with your remarks.

Well, that little piece actually gave me some material, other than what I have gathered myself, to make use!  I personally don’t recall Dad’s ‘snoring’ but then maybe I was sitting with others my age, rather than with the family, in fact I don’t recall Dad been in church too often, as he was usually on shift work, either driving taxis, or later, working as a psychiatric nurse, up at the Ballarat Mental Hospital, as it was then called.

Yes, tonight was my final ‘SHOWTIME’ program on the radio  –  300 editions since around the 12th May, 2005.  With no-one on air  prior to or after my show, despite commitments to do so [a fact, which in past weeks had annoyed me immensely], I was able to enjoy the final opportunity for ‘this’ show, to extend my two hours, to almost an extra hour. Apart from including a few ‘old favourites’ from some of the earlier Broadway productions, today’s show was basically dominated by the new music and songs from the musical still currently performing at Melbourne’s Regent Theatre – ‘Love Never Dies’ – and as we went through the music, we covered the storyline as well – but not to the very end.  For the benefit of any listeners who had not yet been to the musical but intended to do so, I stopped before we got to the end of the respective cds, rather than give away the story’s ending. Love Never Dies is of course, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s sequel to ‘The Phantom of the Opera’.   And of course, I couldn’t let the show go, without one more ‘interval treat’ where I had been in the habit of including a 20/25 segment of a non-show music feature – tonight, my favourite Australian contemporary jazz singer, Katie Noonan, where I played 4/5 tracks from some of her albums.  No doubt, Katie will get plenty of future airings on my other shows in the months and years ahead.

My only disappointment of my final [300th] Showtime –  not one phone call during the show! I’m sure that I wasn’t my only listener, but it sometimes feels that way. One reason I’ve discontinued, was the time slot – not good for radio listening of this genre of music.  But I had anticipated a call or two!  Not to be!

Wednesday, 24th August 2011 – overnight tragedy in Queensland

Very unpleasant news first thing this morning – a house fire south of Brisbane has apparently claimed the lives of up to eleven people, probably mostly children, overnight. A number of families from Tonga, living in the same house were involved.  From the early reports, heartbreaking scenes of grief have played out at Slacks Creek, south of Brisbane, where 150 Tongan and Samoan mourners gathered to sing prayers for those lost. Three men from two Pacific Islander families managed to escape the blaze with their lives, but face grief of enormous proportions.  Among them is Jeremiah Lale, who has lost his wife and five children, aged seven to 18.  He had fought with everything he had to save them from the fire that tore through their home with deadly speed early on Wednesday morning.  With flames all around him, he broke a second-storey window and hurled mattresses on to the ground, screaming for his family to follow him.  He leapt out and opened his arms to catch his children but they didn’t come. Nor did five others who had been asleep inside the tin-and-fibro home.  “He called them to come and he jumped down and waited,” said Faimalotoa John Pali, the chief and president of the Voice of the Samoan People in Logan, who sat with Mr Lale on Wednesday.  “But they all ran into the one room together and, I think with the others, they all died in that room.”

In the meantime, the GetUp organisation is on the campaign trail again  – I didn’t hear or read about MP Bob Katter’s comments last week, but I can imagine they would have been ‘shooting from the hip’ with little thought of the consequences – which of all places, have come from his step brother!! Anyway, I’ve already said that I was not interested in putting my name to this particular campaign petition, but I will be interested in the outcome of today’s events in Federal Parliament, yet I still believe there are more important issues that this country’s leaders should be dealing with.  Anyway, this was what I received from GetUp

“Dear Bill, Last week Independent MP Bob Katter said gay marriage ‘deserves to be laughed at’. Today, Bob’s brother Carl has his say.  He says it broke his heart to hear his brother’s hateful and homophobic comments last week because he thought of all the young gay people growing up feeling like they are alone, just as he once did.  Advocates against marriage equality just held a press conference at Parliament House — they claim to have 2,000 more signatures on their petition against marriage equality than ours for it.  We’re presenting our petition to Parliament in just a few hours — can you take a moment to watch Carl’s message and add your name now? Today, in a special session of Parliament, MPs will report back on the views of their electorates regarding marriage equality. But only 20 are slated to speak, and some supportive MPs are still reluctant to take a stand — let’s see if we can’t convince them.  Almost 50,000 people have already signed our petition calling on the Government to allow same-sex marriage, and recent poll found that 62% of Australians support marriage equality. This afternoon we’ll present that petition to MPs in Parliament House and we’ve taken out a full-page ad in the Australian newspaper today too, to make sure that support is no secret.  Just like Carl, the most important thing we can do now is tell our stories.”

Thursday, 25th August 2011 – internet usuage by us oldies!!

In for another pleasant pre-Spring day, well at least this morning, the sun was shining brilliantly.  Meanwhile, up in Queensland, at the scene of Tuesday night’s tragic fire, friends and relatives have kept an all night vigil outside the ruins of the burned house – people from Tonga and Samoa in the main –  basically waiting I guess for emergency workers to continue to sift through the ashes for remains of the victims, for of the eleven recorded deaths, only four bodies have so far being recovered. What a terrible experience1!!

Meanwhile, some interesting comments made by the National  Seniors organisation,  in respect to use of the internet. More than 40 per cent of older Australians say the internet is too expensive, putting them at risk of being excluded from important online health and financial services, according to new research. Queensland University of Technology (QUT) research shows seniors, particularly pensioners, are at risk of being left behind as businesses and governments shifted more services to the web.  “With the government and private sector spending billions on the National Broadband Network, we have to make sure that the internet can be used by all those who need it the most,” Dr Sandra Haukka said. Dr Haukka’s nationwide study, called Older Australians and the Internet, surveyed 149 members of National Seniors Australia. It also included in-depth interviews with seniors who did not use or rarely used the internet, including those who lived in urban, regional, rural and remote areas.   She said society’s increasing reliance on the internet for commerce and services was leaving older Australians with low web skills unable to conduct business transactions, access services, find out about community events or use the internet to communicate with friends and family.  “There are serious negative impacts for those without access to it (the internet), such as the inability to access Centrelink, which is shifting more and more of its services online, or obtaining their health records from Australia’s e-health record system when it becomes widely available in July 2012.”

Major findings in the report included:

  • 53 per cent of participants said their interest in the internet was ‘moderate’ or ‘above’, while 46 per cent said their interest was ‘nil’ or ‘low’.
  • Almost two-thirds of participants said they had ‘very low’ internet skills.

“Many seniors told us they need one-on-one help, more cheap classes, equipment, a helpline and clear instructions,” Dr Haukka said.

Friday 26th August 2011 – from two organisations on the  refugee question.

I’m back on the ‘refugee/asylum’ issue, with no apologies, but this time, just presenting for the interest of those readers who are ‘interested’, the current thinking by two different ‘campaign’ organisations  – GetUp, which creates activism on a broad range of subjects, and Chillout, which is specifically concerned with the refugee issue.

Yes, the GetUp organisation continues to frequently arrive in my Inbox, and one of their major ‘concerns’ at present relates to the Government’s ‘problems’ in respect to refugees and boat people, to which I refer often, as well. My only’ gripe’ with GetUp, and this need not necessarily be a criticism, more an observation, is that they are a strictly reactive body – responding to a range of ‘issues of the day’ where they see the immediate need for some response to. The following is the basis of  one of their current campaigns, on the refugee question..

Malaysia, Nauru, Papua New Guinea — we’ve heard a lot of debate about sending asylum seekers overseas recently.  But right now, mandatory detention of asylum seekers here in Australia is at crisis point. The numbers tell the story1:
5,880 people were in detention by the end of June this year.
991 childrenwere in detention on June 30 (including 513 in community detention).
316 days in detention is the average time it takes from arrival to receiving a visa.
240% increase in reported medical conditions including self-harm, hunger-strikes and suicide.
722 million dollars is how much the policy cost taxpayers in the last financial year.

But a new cross-parliamentary inquiry is looking at mandatory detention right now. It’s the best chance we’ve had in years to say ‘enough of this madness’ – but without a public outcry it could amount to nothing. his new inquiry is precisely the circuit breaker we’ve been waiting for. Because committee representatives come from Labor, Liberal and the Greens, they all have to listen to the same testimony, consider the same evidence and work together to deliver their final recommendations.
 The time for change is now. Last week, the head of the Immigration Department himself asked politicians to consider whether mandatory detention is actually a deterrent. Then the head of the Australian Medical Association appealed directly to both Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott to end mandatory detention.   In addition to hearing from experts, this committee is inviting public submissions.   Here is a summary of some key themes relating to Australia’s immigration detention network that GETUP considers it’s supporters might like to include in their [assumed] submission.

1. Children should never be held in confinement where they can’t move freely. Other than in exceptional circumstances, and in line with the best interests of the child, families should be able to stay together – children should not be separated from family members.
2. Immigration detention should: be used as a last resort;  for the shortest practical time;  be subject to independent (administrative or judicial) review;  be subject to independent monitoring and oversight; and,  only be used for the specific purposes of managing genuine risk.
3. Alternatives to immigration detention should be developed, adopted and implemented ASAP.
4. All members of Parliament should commit to improving the public debate and refrain from political point-scoring about asylum seeker issues, acknowledging that it is not illegal to seek asylum and that Australia has freely entered into the international obligations contained in the 1951 Refugee Convention and other international instruments.

Meanwhile, from the CHILLOUT organisation [who, as the name indicates, have a prime desire to get refugee children out of detention], we learn of concerns from a slightly different, and in my view, more actively concerned aspect, of a particular problem.

“This newsletter will outline many of our concerns about the immigration detention regime.
It will be gritty reading. We all have better things to do than read, never mind act on it. But can we urge you to persevere? As we have asked so many times in the past, if you don’t, who will?  We cannot tell you how many children remain in detention as DIAC is not maintaining its statistics page.. We do know that last week there were 160 children in detention in Darwin. The same facility where three men accepted as refugees 21 months ago were subject to alleged attacks by SERCO staff after they conducted a peaceful protest.

The system is awash with suicide attempts and self harm. Until recently there was a ten week waiting list for torture and trauma counselling for asylum seekers in Darwin. What else needs to happen before the powers that be accept indefinite incarceration aggravates and compounds , if not causes, trauma and degradation of mental health.  People are then removed from Darwin to Christmas Is where The Australian reported changes have been made to the Red Block:
   “Serco recently converted the centre’s feared isolation cells, called Red Block, into a full-time behaviour    management unit where asylum-seekers who are violent or try to kill themselves are held and observed, including in the shower, where a camera is fixed to the wall.  “They are sometimes fitted with soft helmets and handcuffs to stop them cracking their heads against the floor or walls or harming themselves in other ways.”  And all the while children are caught up in this system which has government-run departments blatantly damaging people – to no widespread condemnation? And even where children are placed in community care, we are hearing very disturbing reports about the quality and monitoring of that care, the behaviour of the carers and the ability of Unaccompanied Humanitarian Minors (the term now applied to UAMs) to make complaints.

Ten years to the day from ABC’s 4 Corners screening of The Inside Story, their expose of the plight of 6 year old Shayan Badraie, advocates around the country were making their submissions to the Joint Select Committee on Australia’s Immigration Detention Network. The most obvious point to make was there shouldn’t BE an Immigration Detention Network! (beyond the bare minimum needed for compliance and deportation reasons).  Sadly there are many significant ten year commemorations coming up. (See Events Section) Politically, shambolic policy making continues. The Malaysia Swap Deal is unworkable and stalled in the courts and we viewed with horror the proposal to re-instigate remote detention on Manus Island.  Yet perhaps cracks are appearing in the facade that this country will cease to function unless we continue to treat fellow human beings appallingly?

1. The financial costs. Not surprisingly in the Tele this week “AUSTRALIA’S detention system has experienced a staggering rise in serious health incidents – including hospital admissions and “self-harm” attempts – and a 400 per cent blow-out in operating costs.” The system is imploding. It costs too much and damages people inside detention – and out. 
2. Public Opinion. 53% of respondents to the recent Age/Fairfax poll think people should not be sent to third countries. Only 15% think they should be sent back to sea!
3. Pollies speaking out. We acknowledge the bravery of Anna Burke in speaking out against the Malaysia Deal and standing up to the ALP Caucus. In June Melissa Parke also said she could not support a deal that was not backed by the UNHCR.
4. As are major charities. Scrap the Deal says Vinnies. But more than that, John Falzon, Vinnies CEO is calling for “both the Government and Opposition to abandon their policies of offshore processing and mandatory detention.”
5. And, at last!, the voice of reason from the Bureaucracy? Andrew Metcalfe, Secretary of the Immigration Department has asked a cross-party parliamentary committee to rethink the way Australia deals with asylum seekers and questioned the practice of mandatory detention. 

We have to remember the victims of suicide now include a staff member at Curtin Detention Centre. Yet more reason to acknowledge this policy has mal-functioned for long enough.  I know we’ve been at it for years but we might just be building up a head of steam here and it is crucial we keep at it. Please continue to write to newspapers and lobby your MPs that there is another, more humane way to treat people. We don’t really have a problem in world terms.
Call for:-
• Abolishing the mandatory and indefinite detention of asylum seekers.
• Legislation to ensure children are never detained for immigration reasons.
• Asylum seekers who arrive without a valid visa to have their claims for asylum assessed while living in the community
• An increase in places for off-shore refugees and humanitarian entrants from Malaysia and Indonesia. [Taking 4,000 pa instead of the paltry 47 or 49 we have been accepting from Indonesia in itself would provide a recognisable, safe alternative to the boat journeys and do much to eliminate the people smugglers trade.]
• Assuage the community fears that have been purposefully stirred up for political gain, by instituting a public education program to provide regional and international perspectives of Australia’s responsibilities to refugees and children

Next Friday 26 August [today] will mark 10 years since the events surrounding the MV Tampa’s rescue of 433 asylum seekers… the legacy of which we are very much living with today, with offshore processing, mandatory detention, and excision of island to Australia’s north still advocated by both Labor and the Coalition.  Last Tuesday, SBS Insight filmed their Tampa anniversary special. It will go to air next Tuesday night 23 August at 7.30pm on SBS ONE. They have only included Tampa refugees, their friends and family, and a couple of members of the general public (no politicians or advocates). There will also be an online chat after the program next Tuesday night which will start at 8.30pm at http://www.sbs.com.au/insight.
Refugee activist groups around the country will also be commemorating this anniversary, stressing the need for the refugee movement to eclipse even the force it was during the dark years of the Howard government”.

Saturday, 27th August 2011  – the Blues, music and African athletes.

As the weekend arrives, I find there is no game for the Carlton Football  team this weekend – in the 17 team competition, it is the Blues turn for a ‘bye’, a weekend off!!  Good news as a supporter – popular Indigenous player, Jeff Garlett has finalised discussions with the Carlton Football Club that will see him remain with the Blues for the next three seasons. Carlton President Stephen Kernahan announced the re-signing at a function for over 200 VIP Members at Visy Park today. Each of the guests has been a member of the Carlton Football Club for more than 50 years. “I am delighted to announce to our very special members that Jeff Garlett has agreed to terms that will see him remain at Carlton until the end of the 2014 season,” Kernahan said. “Jeff has had another great season this year and it is great that he, like the other players that have recently extended their contracts, is keen to be a part of our future here at Carlton. There is a great feeling among the playing group and we know they want to achieve something special together,” added Kernahan.  The quietly spoken Garlett was pleased to know his future was at the Carlton Football Club, however he is looking forward to the next match against St Kilda more than the future.  Meanwhile, After a quiet start to the week there will be no rest now until the Carlton season finishes, hopefully in early October. The round 24 match against St Kilda is being played at the MCG on Saturday September 3rd at 7:10pm and as it is member appreciation round the Club is looking forward to a huge crowd at the final home and away game for the season.

On the musical front, I notice an interesting innovation happening up in Sydney, not sure if this year, or later,  but the formation of  ‘The Australian World Orchestra’  is going to bring together Australia’s finest classical musicians from around the globe to form one of the country’s most electrifying orchestras. Not just a series of concerts but a history-making event to be held at the Sydney Opera House [ a bit like the Australian soccer team, which for the purposes of international competitions, usually consists of ex-patriots who currently play for teams around the world, but being brought together as an ‘Australian’ team for the purpose of our national commitments’

Meanwhile, I have been keeping a note of the World Athletic Championships currently underway in South Korea, and two of today’s events were the Women’s Marathon, and the 10,000 metres  –  and the results gave further indications of the amazing superiority of athletes from the African nations, particularly in relation to longer distance racing.  The first three women placegetters in each of the above events today were ‘all’ from Kenya!  1st, 2nd & 3rd, amazing performances. Admittedly, teams such as Kenya, or Ethiopia, so often run these races as tactical team events, with the individual aims of the competitors only coming to the fore in the closing stages. In speaking of these championships, in the meantime, I’m not going to have much to report as far as Australian performances are concerned – up until the final couple of days, our athletes did not have the best of competitions.

 

Sunday 28th August 2011 – 150 years of the Neil Street Church, Ballarat

A rare Sunday morning, when I didn’t have to be away from the house soon after 6am – a bit of extra sleep, with a break from the program, but a reasonably early start on the trip to Ballarat. I haven’t been down here for a few months, but no real plans or time for sight-seeing today.

The purpose – to be a part of the Neil Street Uniting Church 150th Anniversary celebrations – 1st ‘church’ -1861; 2nd ‘church’ – 1867;  3rd Church opened in 1892. We as a family, were at the church for about 87 years between around 1953 and 1961. I think I recall coming down for the 125th anniversary, joining Mum, who in 1976 was still living in Ballarat. It was 19 years later that she would come down to live in Sunbury. The program for today was to be the anniversary service from 10am, followed by a luncheon and general social gathering around the middle of the day.

Yes, I was a little apprehensive – not so much at the fact that I had been asked to give a small address, but more worried, because I realised that what I wanted and planned to say, was going to go well over the two minutes I had been asked to talk!!! I’d already planned ways to shorten what I’d written to a small degree, but it was obvious I was still going to exceed the limit. Oh well, I suppose they can always show me back to my seat, if it’s felt I’m going on too long!!!

Met Bill Graham and wife Beth out front of the church, and in fact, I ended up sitting with them close to the front of the church, which was where I basically wanted to be, didn’t want to have to walk too far to the front, when called out. It was Beth’s father, Winston Loveland, now 91 years old, who had been one of the organisers of today’s event, and from him, the invitations had gone out to myself, and my other siblings. One of them was also here this morning – sister Jean, and her daughter, Rosemary, and they joined me also, where I was sitting. Thankfully, my ‘little speech’ was on quite early in the service, and that meant it was able to be able and done without too much waiting time. While the actual  given address was a more abbreviated version of what I had initially planned to say, it still lasted from 7 to 8 minutes, while the other two speakers who had also been invited to address the service, obeyed the ‘rules’ and kept to the timeline. I’m glad that I was first to speak – would have felt under even more pressure, had I followed one of the 2 minute versions!!  For posterity and record keeping, that ‘address’ appears after  this ‘August’ blog.

Mention was made in that address of the small cottage located between the present church and the  2nd building. That cottage is still standing, and is currently used as a form of archive centre and/or emergency accommodation for visiting preachers, etc. From the history of the three churches, as printed in today’s ‘order of service’, we read that “With so much property to care for, a 4 roomed Caretakers Cottage costing 120 Pound was built in 1892, between the new and the second church buildings’.  It was in that small house, that my family lived for almost 8 years, moving in as 2 adults and 4 children, and leaving with 2 additional children, my two youngest siblings, born while we were at Neil Street. Looking at the cottage today, I found it so difficult to imagine how a family of eight could possibly have managed with any degree of comfort, but in those days, comfort and luxuries were on a different scale. Certainly, it was a rather fascinating experience to be able to wander through the cottage today, with family & friends, and able to point out the rooms that myself and my siblings lived in, and to generally explore the property, which as a young boy, had actually seemed quite large!  I even found on display, some copies of the old Church newsletter which my parents were basically responsible for the production of, as part of the editorial committee. Interestingly, there was a D W Brown included on that committee –  a lad in his teens a few years  older than myself, who had been a protégé of Dad, and part of the youth group and basketball teams that my father basically ran at the church in those days. I met this ‘David Brown’ after this morning’s service, and was amazed to realise that he and his wife were the same David and Mrs Brown who have members of the Sunbury Uniting Church for the past few years. I’d never made the connection prior to today. He and others I met today had nothing but praise for the work that my father had undertaken back in that period at Neil Street.

There was only one ‘real mate’ of my age that I could remember from those days –  a boy named Darryl Murnane, and during my ‘address’ this morning, I made mention of the fact that if anyone present knew of his whereabouts, I like to speak to them.  Well, he was actually there, and introduced himself to me, during the ‘very crowded’ luncheon function in the second church later on.  It was great to meet up and renew acquaintenances again after a period of  over 50 years. I chatted with Darryl, and the son of one of Ballarat’s top furniture restorers & salesmen of those times, Charlie Jones. Ross, the son, was the spitting image of his late father, a short, round stocky man.  My ‘only’ disappointment of the day was the absence of Ross’s sister, Heather, who at the age of around 9 or 10 years was the first girl I ever fell in love with [not that she ever knew it] –  one person I had hoped to catch up with today. Apparently she was baby-sitting grandchildren! Anyway, throughout the afternoon, it was great to met up with so many people, most of them quite elderly, who while they may not have remembered me personally [as a young boy in the Sunday school in those days] but they certainly remembered my parents [Keith & Betty Kirk] and their involvement  in the past life of Neil Street.

Before I left Ballarat this afternoon, I had a final nostalgic look through the old cottage, and the property in general, where during my time there, I recalled spending a lot of time and effort maintaining vegetable & flower gardens in the back yard, between the house and the second church building [think I had the whole of that area established as gardens] as well as caring for the gardens in the front of the property and between the two churches. I think there was at the time an ‘official’ caretaker who I guess would have maintained larger items such as the lawns, etc, but I don’t really recall who did all of that, just that I myself certainly spent a lot of time in those gardens and amongst the shrubs, purely as a hobby, keeping things in order.

Peaceful drive back to Sunbury later this afternoon  –  I thought of calling in upon another ‘old girlfriend’ at Melton, along the way, but usually don’t like calling in on anyone unannounced, so once again, left that little plan until another time.  Actually found myself feeling rather weary on the way back –  not quite as able to withstand the longer trips these days, or simply don’t undertake them very often anymore!

Finally, in regard to Neil Street, a brief look at the written welcome, and  the Vision Statement –  :Welcome one and all as we celebrate 150 years of worship at Neil Street. Today is about the people; from those early men and women who had an influence in building this church to the youngest members and visitors here today. Each one of us has had a part, whether big, small or in-between, in building the Neil Street Church. Some of our buildings are looking tired [after all one is 150 years old] but they are still functional and witness many events during the year. But the church is about people. Without people all we have is an empty building…..”………………..and to the Vision Statement: –  “The congregation of the Neil Street Uniting Church is an intergenerational congregation which aims to provide a place of Christian love and Teaching, Public Prayer and Worship, and aims to emphasize care and concern for people of all ages while continuing to provide a presence for the Uniting Church in Ballarat”.

 I received a phone call tonight, from a Bill Kirk of Drouin, a small town in Gippsland. – he was not related to our families, but he told me how  his grandfather came out from Ireland on ‘The Champion of the Seas’ in 1864 from Ireland.  Opened a blacksmith shop at Smythesdale, near Ballarat  in the gold rush days, and various other similar  establishments undertaken in succeeding families including the Kirk Bros at Clayton [Clayton Bros]

Meantime, in the World Athletics Championships, a real sensation tonight  –  the fastest man in the world, the Jamaican,  Usain Bolt, lined up for the final of the 100 metres, which he could rightfully expect to win in convincing fashion. Amazingly, he couldn’t wait for the starter’s pistol, and as a consequence, broke!!  In world athletics these days, that action means instant disqualification, irrespective of who you are. Bolt, who knew immediately what he had done, was out of the race before it started. Personally, I think the instant disqualification rule is overly harsh, but there were obviously a number of reasons for it’s introduction. As for the Men’s 10,000 metre race tonight, another exciting finish between a couple of Africans –  an Ethiopian,  and a runner, now competing for Great Britain, but from a similar part of the world. I think from memory, that I sent a text message to my brother [Robert] to let him know this race was on – in any case, as a former long distance runner himself, he managed to catch the race, and responded accordingly

Monday, 29th August 2011- putting it together

I used a bit of spare time today [and my own materials/paper etc], to print off some copies of my little booklet, which I had prepared for next weekend’s visit to Charlton. Had a bit of time at home tonight, before I went out to the radio station, to start the process of actually putting the booklets together. I was actually quite pleased with the outcome. Not perfect, nor as professional as I would have preferred, but nevertheless a job I felt would be reasonably acceptable to the intended recipients.

A phone call tonight from a Betty Dyke of St Arnaud – my letter, sent to her last week, had gone to her son  – she was another descendant of the John Kirk line [another brother of my Great Grandfather], and thought she just  might get up to Charlton next weekend.

Another great night of music on the radio, although for some reason, I was feeling much more tired than I normally would – I would discover why as the week progressed! In the meantime, whilst thoroughly enjoying presenting the show that I was, I was this week, rather glad when time for the end of the show, came along.

 Tuesday, 30th August, 2011- defining refugees or asylum seekers, and some Centenary notes.

I received a phone message/call from Jodie later today   – she had got the job that she went for interview to on Monday  – with Life Saving Victoria – admin/rostering etc initially. Congratulated her, with a subsequent phone call, later on.  I also received a phone call from Dianne Carroll of Newstead regarding next weekend – she had apparently only just found my letter of invitation, and was intending to come up to Charlton this weekend, and has booked a room in the same motel, by coincidence, that I will be staying at on  Friday night.

I saw a note in one of the ABC online mediums today, talking about a program which had arisen out of the current Sydney Writers’ Festival – a panel discussion on the topic of  current policies relating to asylum seekers. In introducing the article, reference was made to a line from the ‘mostly-mumbled’ second verse of our National Anthem, the words of which are seldom sung, nor does anybody know them – but they include ‘For those who’ve come across the sea’.  It was noted, that despite those ‘official’ sentiments, these days we aren’t so willing to share our ‘boundless plains in order to ‘Advance Australia Fair.  Anyway, the question to be discussed and debated by the panel was prefaced as follows. ‘By boat or by plane, people continue to arrive on our shores outside our immigration system. So, what is to be done? Why can’t Australia come up with a humane, compassionate and fair set of policies on asylum seekers?  A good question, indeed. Well I think, that by the time I read that,  the problem/panel discussion was in the past, so I really must see if I can find a reported outcome, interested to see if the four ‘expert’ panellist  had come up with any reasonable suggestions!

Interestingly, related to that question, is the uncertainty that arises in people’s minds, when trying to distinguish between a refugee and an asylum seeker. One possible explanation comes from www.safecom.org.au/refugees  which explains, in abbreviated form from a long document, that  “All refugees have at one time been asylum seekers but once their status is recognised, it is no longer appropriate  to use this term’………………’Some asylum seekers are refugees. The act of recognition of refugee status does not make someone a refugee. He/she has been a refugee all along; the granting of status merely makes it official. This is why it is important to presume that asylum seekers are refugees until proven otherwise. Failure to do this can mean that a country does not meet it’s legal obligations to genuine refugees’.

Or, another  description, from the same source, I think. ‘For some of the world’s refugee population it is either impractical or impossible to go first to a neighbouring country and then to seek resettlement from there. This could be because the neighbouring countries are not signatories to the international laws that would ensure their protection in these countries [few countries in this region, Asia, for instance, are signatories to the Refugee Convention]. It could also be because they would not be safe in a neighbouring country, in particular if that country was sympathetic to the persecutory regime. In these cases, individuals may choose to try to go directly to a country, such as Australia, where they can seek protection.  Such people are called asylum seekers. Those who come  to Australia have usually entered with a visitors’, student or other temporary visa. Some arrive with no documents, or with false documents’.

I think I might search further afield. With those statements, it was suggested that they should help with an understanding of the differences.   I’m not so sure, with to my mind, a degree of ambiguity coming into that second definition.

In the meantime, I used another night at home, to complete my ‘packaging’ of the centenary booklet for the coming weekend. As the length of the ‘booklet’ as such, is about 18 pages, I’m a bit reluctant to refer to it as a booklet, hence the term document has been used as an alternative option. That document commences as follows:-

“William Kirk was born at Dysart, in Fife, Scotland, on the 18 March 1830, and he was baptised about 7 weeks later, on the 3rd May, also in Dysart.  He died in Australia [in Charlton, Victoria] on the 3rd September, 1911, exactly 100 years ago, this coming Saturday.  This document attempts to provide family members and other readers with a précis picture of the life of William Kirk, both prior to his arrival in Australia, and subsequent to that time. It is in no degree as complete as I would have preferred at this stage, restricted by the degree of known facts, time to research, and the lack of information passed down from earlier generations. I’m sure that there remains valuable data out there in the various family circles, that at this point in time, the writer has been unable to access. However, it is to be hoped, that from this document, enough questions will be raised to encourage other members of William Kirk’s now vastly ‘extended family’ in Australia to come forward with additional information, corrections, new facts, etc, to enable us all to have available a much more complete picture of the life and achievements of our common ancestor.    As you read on, readers will find that this document does raise a few questions, and perhaps, doubtful suppositions.  Even the original obituary, which I will be honoured to read to those family members assembled at the Charlton Cemetery on the 3rd September, contains hints and little ‘teasings’ almost,  of  occurrences in William’s life, but without any further elaboration. If only, we could go back and have a conversation with the writer of that obituary!  So, please, if any reader thinks they have the answer to such ‘questionable facts’,……………….”

Wednesday,. 31st August 2011 – last day of Winter

I would not have liked to have been driving ‘out’ towards the airport this morning – major ‘police incident’ on the Tullamarine Freeway [the only description of whatever was happening with a large section of the Freeway closed – and slow on the inwards side going in, due to ‘rubber neckers’  – large blue tarpaulin in the middle of the lanes on the other side, and police everywhere!!  Guess we might eventually learn what was happening!!

Anyway, after my usual brief stopover of a Wednesday at the radio station for the local sports report, managed to reach Clifton Hill area earlier than usual despite the freeway delays – time to sit down this time, for a cappucinio in Ahmed’s café, and a brief look at this week’s Weekly Times. Promising story for farmers on the front page –  ‘Farmers across southeast Australia are ready to reap the rewards of one of the best Springs in years. Spring officially starts tomorrow, with booming bull sales, an improved cattle market and crops growing taller by the day, reinforcing the positive vibes for farmers……[and amongst other factors]……The rising confidence of beef producers has pushed them away from trading and back into breeding, leading to strong restocking values for cows and heifers during the past six months”.  Well, let’s hope for the sake of the farming community, that kind of optimism is not dampened by a summer of floods and/or bushfires, amongst the various other kinds of natural disasters – rabbit, mice, locusts plagues, and so on –  that our rural friends so regularly have to contend with!

Today’s media, and for the next few days, would be dominated by the  High Court’s decision to overturn the government’s Malaysia solution swap deal has been applauded by Australia’s leading ethnic advocacy group.  The High Court today ordered Immigration Minister Chris Bowen and his department not to send asylum seekers to Malaysia. The government had wanted to send 800 asylum seekers to Malaysia in exchange for 4000 already processed refugees. The Federation of Ethic Communities’ Councils of Australia praised the court’s decision, and said it would continue to advocate for “a just and humane way” to process and settle asylum seekers who sought refuge in Australia. “As migrant communities who have sought the shores of Australia and contributed towards the prosperity of this country, we welcome this decision,” FECCA chairman Pino Migliorino said. “Today, we can be proud to say that institutions in Australia do respect human rights and our international obligations.” “This decision has ramifications for the concept of offshore processing and we would welcome a reconsideration of this policy.” Mr Migliorino said it was still important to consider the government’s commitment to settle 4000 refugees from Malaysia. “Many families have been waiting to start new lives where they can work and educate their children in Australia,” he said. “FECCA does not want to see this set aside in the wake of the High Court decision.

Of course, the Opposition were quick to jump back on the attack!  Today’s High Court ruling that has scuttled the Gillard government from implementing their Malaysian people swap deal is another devastating blow to an incompetent government that just can’t get anything right. The Gillard government’s border protection policy is now in tatters. This is another demonstration of an incompetent government that has failed to stop people arriving illegally in Australia by boat. Today’s decision reinforces the fact that whether it’s the pink batts, the school halls rip-off, the NBN and now the Malaysian swap deal, this government cannot get anything right.  In Julia Gillard’s ‘year of delivery’, it’s clear this government cannot deliver on anything.

Mind you, I was not too worried about all that – had my mind on other matters, particularly the way I was feeling, health wise today! With as big few days ahead, I was disappointed  to feel the vague beginnings of a throat infection of some sort. Certainly, at the office I was not feeling well, and in fact, decided to live mid afternoon before the worst of the peak hour traffic took it’s full affect. This morning, after an early visit to the radio station for a brief local sports report, during which it was noted by my co-host, that my voice was not sounding the best, I’d almost considered driving the long way to work, and avoiding the freeway traffic, though as intimated at the beginning of this blog, that decision wasn’t made.

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Responses

  1. Hello Bill, You’re back!!!!

    I was missing your blog.

    A nicely written summary though, worth waiting for me thinks,

    and the piece at the top about your family was lovely to read.

    Welcome back 🙂

    Hami

    • Hi there Hami, Thanks for your welcome back, lol – there is another ‘consolidated blog’ coming in the next 24 hours, have been rather ‘slack’ lately, busy, and a little unwell, but trying to catch up at present 🙂 as I do like to try and write each day – which is probably why I don’t have many readers – haha, my daily blogs must feel like an inbox stalker to some people!! Oh well, readers or not, I enjoy writing p and reading blogs like yours, quite an education really. Hope all is well with you in Japan, Looking forward to ‘your’ next contribution, Cheers from ‘Aussie’ Bill


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