Friday, December 31, 2010

Goodbye 2010...........BRING ON 2011!!

2010 is at it's end. Just when I finally got used to saying twenty-ten, another year is upon us and nobody has really indicated how we are supposed to phrase this one. Will it be twenty-eleven (doesn't sound right) or two-thousand and eleven? I assume the media will inform me tonight.

So, what have I learnt this past year?

I learnt that a red strip of hair is great for recognition but bloody expensive and time consuming to maintain. I learnt that it is easier to just be yourself and let people make up their own minds about you because they will do it anyway. I learnt that Cairns is discombobulated (I really love that word, it fits so many situations and emotional moments)and in desperate need of guidance and change.....kind of like our national cricket team. I learnt that it is easy to find out what people feel about the region and what they would like to see changed. You just have to ask them, they can't wait to tell someone, even me. I learnt that Federal politics can be cruel and that even the Prime Minister is not immune to employment redundancies. I learnt that the Global Financial Crisis is not 'global''s local. I learnt that the internet is a very powerful and useful tool but you must read articles all the way through to the end BEFORE commenting. And I learnt that this year was the year that Cairns got sick of stagnating and wanted something more for itself although it's unsure how to go about it.

You would think that after all that, I would have nothing left to learn. You would be very, very wrong.

Next year will be a big one for me, a big one for Cairns and a big one for our nation. It will start with hope. Cairns in particular is very hopeful right now. Hopeful that things can and will change for the better. Hope that the slump it still finds itself in will turn into a surge upward. Hope that the community can band together and bring life back into the city, the suburbs and the entire region. Hope that Cairns can get back it's verve, it's's soul.

There is a nasty wet season to get through first. We have been promised a doozy and so far, the predictions have been pretty accurate. Once we are through that period, we will have to face the real world again. Will we or won't we build a Cultural Precinct? We talk about the need to revitalise our city, the need to bring back culture and art to our public spaces, then in the next breath we denigrate our option for a world class facility that has the potential to do all that we are asking. Is it because we are just so used to the status quo we are scared to try something this big? Maybe.

Will we get through the tender process and solidify the direction of the re-build at Sugarworld in time to open it up for next Christmas? This process is one which has been slow but steady and I sincerely hope that it continues on in a forward direction so that we do not have another year of this waiting...waiting....waiting.

Will the Edmonton Town Centre and Leisure Centre be built next year? According to all reports, the Leisure Centre will be. Now that the State Government has been given the go-ahead on the land for the future health facility (hospital), it should be acknowledged immediately by all Councillors that Logomier Road needs to be made a priority in any development that is to commence next year. There is no longer any reason to stall on this one, just build it.

Will the Redlynch area get a major facility built right alongside the Crystal Cascades swimming area? Is there a need for such a facility? Will it be a blessing or a curse to those living in the area? We will find out next year.

Will the new Dental Clinic at JCU be worth all the fanfare? Are people lining up to get free work done on their molars? I have no idea, but if you need a tooth pulled out or just a good clean, get in line for's free after all!

We will be gearing up late next year for the State and Local elections that are to be held in the early stages of 2012. Will Desley Boyle be running again or will Tim Grau be her replacement? Will Steve and Jason cop a flogging at the election as predicted recently? Will we end up with Curtis Pitt being our only representative from the Labor Party here in this region? The deeds and words coming from these politicians in the whole of 2011 will give us all a better indication of that. My tip is that Jason, Steve and Desley (or Tim) need to start now to alter opinions and to produce ideas for Cairns and the Cape that will kick start a change for the better.

Will we still have the same Mayor or Councillors? Which of our Councillors will announce their intention to run for Mayor in the last few months of 2011? Will we end up with a complete change to the entire Council or will there be a severe lack of alternatives resulting in no change to the status quo? This election will be a very important one for our region and will be watched closely by most residents. Cairns is ready to make changes in all other areas, it would not surprise me at all if the Council joined the list.

Whatever comes in 2011, I will be watching. I will be involved in some way in my community and in the region. I can't help myself. In mid January I will begin my 'Polling the Neighbourhood' initiative again...asking the questions that people are eager to answer.

The first big thing I will be involved in next year involves the school my eldest daughter attends. In 2011, my middle child and only son will start Prep. It's a very big deal in this house. So while it's great to get involved in the lives other people have got, sometimes it's even better to get involved in your own!

Have a great night tonight everyone.....see you next year!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Wet, Wet, Wet.

Christmas is over and New Years is just around the corner. So far this festive season has been wet, wet and......well, wet. Yesterday I went to Cairns Central and in almost every shop they have the same sign. 'Due to flooding the items advertised have not yet arrived. We apologise for any inconvenience.' This message covered food, clothing, books, dvd's and any other thing you could possibly think of. Only a few weeks into a wet season we were promised would be bigger and wetter than ever before and we are already struggling to stock shelves.

The cyclone crossing on Christmas Day was a lovely little puff of air and brought the necessary rain with it to wash away the bad energy from the year. Most people slept through it. If only all cyclones were like Tasha. Unfortunately, they aren't. I have been through Joy, Winifred, Steve, Justin, Olga, Larry and many others that were memorable for all the wrong reasons. Lost roofs, trees, a car and on one occasion.....everything inside the home I had was lost (thanks Justin), so I know the power of a cyclone above a Category 1. Even Steve, which was a Category 1 and was downgraded to a rain depression after crossing, was a nasty weather system. Small and compact, it crossed with much noise and enough rain to isolate my home and make driving impossible for several days.

Never make the mistake of thinking that a lower category of cyclone or a small system will not do much damage. Never think that because a cyclone crosses outside the Cairns area it will not affect us. The damage that Joy, Winifred and Larry did to the greater Cairns region was pretty horrendous and the noise while they were crossing was unbelievably loud and frightening.

We are lucky in Cairns because the mountains and the islands protect us from most cyclones. We rarely get one that crosses directly above us and for that we should be grateful, but not complacent. Just because we have largely be spared the ferocity of a major cyclone is no indication that we will always be so lucky.

Even without the cyclone, we had a very wet Christmas this year. We are isolated again from all of the rest of the state. Cairns doesn't even need to record a high level of rain to feel the affects of rain, south of us is the area we feel it the most. The stores are feeling it, the travellers are feeling it and the businesses in the area are most definitely feeling it.

Flood mitigation is a great phrase and one which is dragged out every time we suffer a bit due to inclement weather. The reality is that it would be almost impossible to floodproof the Bruce Highway from a deluge like the ones we have seen this week. My entire life we have been cut off south of here every decent wet season.

The rain comes, the roads are cut (it used to be power too) and nobody really minded. Now, people panic if there aren't enough Doritos on the shelves. Along with a cyclone pack, we should all have a box of food that is for use when flood become a major issue. Fill it with all the goodies you wish you had access to all the time. I see no reason why it wouldn't be possible to have a cyclone kit and a flood kit ready to go every November, just in case.

The roads will be clear soon, they probably already are, and the food and clothes and books will all be in the stores before 2011. If you feel helpless and useless, even bored, while the flooding is occurring, why not consider being a part of the solution. I am positive that there are many ways we can all help make the wet season less traumatic.

Join the SES if you are really keen to help. They are out there in all kinds of tough situations, making our lives easier without questioning the need for their services. The SES trademark has been shown on plenty of backs during every news broadcast this past week. It's a noble thing to do, a necessary thing for the region and I am sure there is always room for more volunteers at your local SES office.

Become a member of the Red Cross. Throughout all of the coverage about these floods the one constant has been the Red Cross volunteers. They are there to help people pick up the pieces after a catastrophe, they are willing to lend a hand with the most mundane or the most complex of tasks just to help bring some order to the chaos. These volunteers are always available, always welcome and again, this organisation would probably be very happy to get some more volunteers on their books.

If the scope of the SES or the Red Cross sounds like a bit too much for you....go small. Keep in close contact with an elderly neighbour and check on them before and after storm activity. Invite the neighbours over for a cuppa every now and then to ensure that you all know one another and you are all there for one another if required. I have met some amazing people in all of the areas I have resided, been through cyclones with them, babysat their children, grieved with them and celebrated with them. I have many friends who once were neighbours and they still help me celebrate important events in my life.

Neighbourhood Watch is a very important organisation in every neighbourhood it flourishes. It helps to keep crime down and keep people safe and does a great job doing both of those things. There is nothing wrong with taking that whole concept a step further and starting to look out for one another in emergencies of all kinds.

We chose to live here in Cairns. The winter is luxurious and the environment is stunning. We are stuck sometimes in that tough place where we are unsure if we are a large town or a small city. We want the conveniences of living in a city but hate the lack of personality that goes along with that. We love the small town feel we still occasionally have, but hate the backward thinking and small scale progress that often goes with that. We will always suffer from isolation in the wet. Somehow we need to learn to accept that fact and turn it into a positive.

How successful we are at doing that depends on all of us. Being involved in the community will allow us to focus on our area and worry less about what is happening down the road. Compassion for those who have lost their homes and their livelihoods would stop us being so selfishly annoyed by what is happening to us. Joining a group that has a purpose in this kind of weather is a sure-fire way to stop feeling helpless and inadequate.

The short and simple answer to all of this is to get out there and get involved. Look out for neighbours, friends and family and most importantly....stop worrying about things you can't control.

Enjoy the start of 2011. Here's hoping the rest of this wet season is a little kinder than predicted but if not, stay safe.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Evolution = Equality.

Every year, from all walks of life, we hear the same catch cry over and over again. It resonates within the majority of the population and it always seems to get further and further away from resolution. What is it?..... EQUALITY!!

The gay, lesbian, transgender and transexual community are asking for same-sex marriage to be considered by the Federal Government, allowing people wishing to publicly celebrate their union as a couple to do so legally. This does not mean that churches will be forced to open their doors to preside over these occasions, most people these days go for Civil Ceremony's anyway, this will just give them the opportunity to have a big party with friends and family and officially unite their relationship, finances and families. As far as I am concerned, it's none of my business. I have the right to marry, and used that right more than once, so I have no issue with others wanting to have access to the same celebration as I did. Just another occasion when politics intrudes on the private lives of our citizens.

Then there is abortion. This is seen as an issue of equality also, as giving women the right to own their bodies is something that women feel men already have. And they may just be spot on about that. The right for women to choose how and when they wish to start a family is one which should be protected, safe, regulated and accessible. The safety of women is always a high priority of any forward thinking nation, and so it should be. Either way, politics aside, personal opinion aside, this is another example of the intrusion into people private lives that is not required, desired or necessary.

Equal pay for men and women. This issue has been argued for, lobbied for, legislated for, and still there is a huge gap. Why? Is it because women can leave the workforce at any moment when pregnancy occurs? Is it because women are still seen as the home-makers, not the money makers? Is it because the system is just REALLY slow to change with the times? Who cares? Just make it so. If the job is equal, the hours are equal, the conditions are equal......the pay should also be equal. Honestly, why is this even still an issue?

Equality for all races. The fact that our indigenous population has a much shorter life expectancy, higher infant mortality, higher percentage incarcerated, lower employment, much lower pay, lower average educational levels....and the list goes on, should make the rest of us question the current policies and measures in a much more vocal way. Why is the gap so wide? Indigenous people are not stupid, they are not ignorant, they are not uncaring individuals and they are not content with things as they stand. And why should they be.

Is this problem staying stagnant because we are asking the wrong people to fix it? Is it a matter of money? Is it that we are not really interested in bridging the gap and perversely prefer things as they currently stand? Perhaps a bit of all of those things. Maybe we are measuring the gap the wrong way and things really are being done in the communities to affect real change. I am told they are, I hope it's true.

It's a well known fact that suburbs with problem teenagers roaming the streets, stealing, joy riding, drunk and abusive, are those lacking facilities for them to attend and socialise, and learn how to be responsible members of the community. This is very simplistic but are the problems in communities simply there because they have nothing, and I mean nothing, to do? Take away all the jobs in Cairns (some would say that the process has already begun), remove all of the cinemas, the shopping centres, the cafe's, restaurants and any other place where locals gather. Then what? 50 bucks says that we would have significant anti-social issues that would rival any area throughout Australia.

This is not the only issue, I am not foolish enough to suggest that, but it just might be the part of the problem that is not being addressed fast enough to feel and see the effects.

Equality for all? What does that really mean? Do we really want equality? If we legislated in favour of abortion and same-sex marriage, fixed the inequality between races in this country and paid everyone the exact same amount of money would this make us all happy? Hell no!! There will always be someone who feels like they are getting the short straw in life. There will always be those who wish things had stayed as they currently are. There will always be problems with obvious solutions that take an eternity to resolve.

Evolution. That's what's required. We need to jump on that bandwagon and revel in the position we are all in right now. To abolish some injustices and give people a measure of freedom they should already have. The 60's and 70's were filled with forward thinking ideals, revolution and change. The 80's, 90's and naughties were stagnant. Now is the time to make our own changes, to revolt against the few who prefer the status quo and to leave a legacy that is as great as the good old days my parents are always talking about! Who's with me?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Giving, Sharing and Hope.

Last Christmas was largely anti-climactic. I am not really sure why it felt that way, I love the season so much that I realise I have high hopes but last year....blah. This year however, it feels like the city and it's suburbs are spreading the joy. The people are coming together for wonderful nights of feasting and celebration as they do every year, but this year there is hope in the air.

I have gone to the Christmas Carol night in Forest Gardens. What a lovely event that was. Held by the Rotary Club, it featured some fantastic singers, choirs and story-tellers. There was the obligatory fake candle to buy, softdrink to clear the throat for more warbling and chocolates on hand to top the whole thing off nicely. The crowd may not have been huge but it sure was passionate. There were families, elderly couples, single people and just about every demographic you could imagine represented. What a wonderful way to start the Christmas Season.

Edmonton Playgroup is a large group with close to 100 members. On Saturday I was privileged to host the annual Christmas Party where Santa was the star, the children all received gifts and the turn-out was spirited and enthusiastic. This group is made up of residents from all over the South Side, they are from every kind of background (socio-economic and cultural) and this year, they were all ready to jump right into Christmas. Again, a fantastic way to keep the spirit going this season.

There have been other events I have attended this December and plenty more to come and I am absolutely thrilled with the smiling happy people I am meeting on these occasions. I realise that for many, life is tough at the moment. Some are struggling to hold their heads above water, but it's through events such as these, with no or minimal costs, a large group of like-minded individuals and lots of excited children, that you begin to feel the magic of Christmas.

It's not about the presents, the size of them or the cost. It's not about which Religion you belong to or which you don't. It has not much to do with the big round tummy encased in Red that the man with the fake beard wears while shouting 'Ho..Ho..Ho'. It has absolutely nothing to do with a tree decked out in lights and the house that's now a fire hazard. It's not the songs, the food or the wine.

Christmas is all about the giving and the sharing and the hope. Giving the time to people who will appreciate every second you can spare. Giving a smile and a warm wish to those you meet throughout the next few weeks. Sharing a meal with people you love. Sharing a conversation with strangers who are all out with you, enjoying the lead-up to Christmas. Finally, its all about the hope. The hope that next year will be a better one. The hope that this year will end with a positive note. The hope that things will get easier and life will improve.

Those are the most important things at Christmas time. In the past week, I have seen plenty of giving, plenty of sharing...and most importantly, plenty of hope. Cairns is going to be just fine, just wait and see.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Polling the Neighbourhood ~ Lady Penrhyn Close.

Sorry to my faithful readers who have been eagerly awaiting the next instalment of this project. Unfortunately I have been working long and crazy hours and haven't been able to give the time required to have this in on time. This week I ventured to the area near Bentley Village as I go there a lot and I could do this in small parts. Hopefully I will have next weeks blog up on time but in the meanwhile, here are the results from this little Close.

Lady Penrhyn Close is off Friendship Street, which is the street I polled first in this initiative. It's a busy Close, with children playing outside, riding bikes, scooters, jumping on small ramps and playing football. These kids are not from the same house, they are all neighbours, which is evidence that in this street at least, the sense of community is strong. The yards are neat, the doors are open and everyone was very happy to have a chat to me about the area.

These residents love living in this part of Cairns as they see it as vibrant and verging on great things. They are excited about the possible opening of Sugarworld for the holidays and the opening of the new all-abilities playground which is imminent. The half pipe on Robert Rd is an ideal destination for plenty of these residents children and they are happy with the facility down there. The lack of things for children to do is a problem but it's seen as a temporary one and with the school holidays fast approaching they are managing to fill their schedules anyway.

A spare $50 would pay for dinner (again) or go towards the electricity bill. Most of these homes are owned by the residents although there are a few renters and several public housing homes so it's a bit of a mixed bag. They are all happy though, and claim to have some fantastic neighbours, so it obviously works to have a balanced mix of housing.

The Cultural Precinct is seen as a requirement. The Eisteddfod is an event that plenty go to every year and with some having children at Bentley Park College they are also aware of the problems with having the Awards Night at the Convention Centre. Aside from children orientated events they did not mention any others they would consider attending when the facility is operational but they did say they would love to take the family to the museum, especially if it's similar to the one in Townsville and fully interactive.

There is one area of concern to all of these residents and it was mentioned on several occasions. At the end of this Close is a park. The park goes from Lady Penrhyn Close through to McLaughlan Rd. This means that it comes out at the front door of Bentley Park College. It makes for a nice shortcut for the residents to take their kids to school but it also makes a lovely haven for those who should be in school but would prefer to sit in groups in the park and smoke and drink.

It's become a really big problem, police have been called several times but only drive past outside school hours when they are dispersed. The school has sent over truancy officers and they move the kids on but within a few hours, they are back. None of the residents here have forgotten being a teenager and wagging the odd day of school. They mostly object to the loud foul language coming from the park, the excessive drinking and the abusive comments they get if they should venture in during the day with smaller children in tow for a swing. This behaviour has rendered a small park unusable and unsafe during school hours and that is seen as completely unacceptable. The fact is, it IS completely unacceptable. But what are the alternatives?

The local Councillor is either unaware or has no interest in the issue, it depends who you talk to, and the police only have a move on policy which is temporary at best. The school is sending officers over but only sporadically and the residents are annoyed. I am positive that this problem is one faced by locals all over Cairns where there is a fairly secluded park so close to a High School, so it can't be an issue for these residents alone.

This problem is escalating and recently has become a daily occurrence so something has obviously changed in the area. Is it due to the lack of healthy options for the kids? That there is currently no other place for them to go? I realise they should be in school, so maybe the issue is one concerning the school itself? Perhaps Bentley Park College is suspending students too quickly or maybe they are having a truly horrible time there for some reason and need to escape into drink and rowdy behaviour? I have no idea. This is merely conjecture and could be far from the truth. It just seems that if the problem was non-existent this time last year, something has gone wrong in the past 12 months, somewhere.

The kids are angry, they are gathering in groups and they are exhibiting bully tactics and anti-social habits.

More and more residents I speak to are dissatisfied with the school their children attend. The lack of adequate assistance for children with special needs is the biggest complaint but many are appalled at the culture of bullying that is prevalent in all of the local schools. Suspension of students didn't work when I was at school, why are there still no alternatives? You would think that in the years since then (and it's many more than I care to think about) they would have come up with some appropriate measures that would actually be affective. Instead we are still living in the rollercoaster world where we get called into the office because our child has been bullying, or is the recipient of bullying, the bully is sent home for a weeks 'rest' and then they come back and...surprise, surprise...bully again!

Zero tolerance just means more suspensions. It solves nothing. They need to offer counselling to bullies and the bullied, they need to ensure that the counselling is attended regularly and only then will they see results. In the adult world, we are charged with assault if we bully, or some other charge appropriate to the crime (note the word - crime). We are counselled and we pay the fine. If the bullying is really bad, we go to jail. I am not for one second suggesting that we send kids to jail for schoolyard bullying, however, I do believe strongly that counselling actually does achieve results. Most bullies have a reason for their behaviour but at the moment the action, not the cause, is the only thing looked at and if that doesn't change then neither will the bully.

The residents of this Close do not know who their Councillor is, but feel they are not being effective in their job. They said that if the job was being done adequately, they would know the name of the Councillor and would see them around the area. Fair enough.

The Christmas lights are out, the kids are playing on the street. This Close is full of the Christmas spirit. They are excited about the season ahead and just as excited about the future of the area. The park issue is one that will go away for a few months now as school ends in two weeks. Next year things may change, for the better? I don't know. Hopefully the schools will look more closely at the behaviour of their students from a different perspective, one which may just get some results. Kids who exhibit poor behaviour will invariably become adults who exhibit bad behaviour.

In the meanwhile, enjoy the lead-up to the festive season, go for a night drive to see all of the beautiful light displays and, if you haven't already, introduce yourself to the neighbours. A great neighbourhood starts with you.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Permaculture evening~ how to reap the rewards from your own backyard!

Through this blog I have met some very interesting and exciting residents of this region. I have been contacted by some asking for help with petitions, some with details on workshops and events they are holding and others who want some help to get an idea or business off the ground and flying. I am not sure I have been a huge help to some but am glad to have had the opportunities all the same. They all have great ideas, wonderful passion and they will do brilliantly with, or without my help but I am very happy to provide a small measure of assistance where I can.

Kym and Georgie from FreeRange Permaculture contacted me regarding an upcoming workshop and talk presented by an esteemed member of the Horticulture world that will be presented locally for all interested residents. Joel Salatin (the Lunatic Farmer) is an enthusiastic farmer who has written 6 books and received several awards including the Heinz International Award for Environmental Leadership.

He will be giving a talk at the Shangri-La Hotel at The Marina on Sunday 5th December from 6-9p.m. The evening will be opened by Costa Georgiadis (who is absolutely incredible, those of you who watch Costa's Garden will know exactly what I mean) and there will be ample time to ask any questions at the end of the presentation.

Tickets can be booked online at and there is also a 2 day workshop at Mt Molloy available for those interested in delving further into the idea of Permaculture and food gardens.

This opportunity is a great one for all of those with huge grocery bills and some space in the backyard sitting idle. At the moment it is very difficult to get enough fruit and veggies into your own diet, let alone any children you might have, because the long wet winter has led to food shortages in almost every area. I even resorted to buying tinned fruit last week because the cost was so high for apples, bananas and oranges. The beauty of Permaculture is that it is appropriate whatever the size of your veggie patch area. It saves you money, is great for the whole family to get involved in and teaches your children the value of home grown produce.

I encourage everyone who is able to take the few hours out of their Sunday night to attend this fantastic presentation and get yourselves on the way to picking your own salad and veggies. Nothing tastes better than a home-grown tomato. Last night I made a salad to go with our lamb chops and the lettuce, cucumber, capsicum and tomatoes all came from our garden and it tasted so good even my kids ate it!

Caring for our environment by taking the pressure of the over-worked farms and using organic pesticides at home is making children healthier and adults are also reaping the benefits. It's such an easy thing to do, costs very little to start up and will be useful for as many years as you live in the same house.

Visit the website mentioned above for more information or just to find out what Permaculture actually is and if you think it might suit you, buy a ticket and go. You have nothing to lose and so much to gain.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Another one bites the dust!

Some of you are aware of the fact that I work at Squeekers in Edmonton. It's an indoor playground with a cafe that is one of the best places I have ever worked. Kids and adults come in laughing and ready to have a great time. Parents network and socialise, read papers and complete assignments. I make a mean cup of coffee and fabulous scones. Kids leave tired and parents leave satisfied. Not many places of work offer you the opportunity to make a child's day and make parents happy at the same time. I frankly love my job.

Unfortunately, due to the economic downturn here in Cairns, Squeekers will be closing it's doors on December 24th and not re-opening....EVER!

Is it due to the cost to go there? Partly, yes. It costs too much for the average family to visit weekly, which would be required to keep it viable. Can the prices be lower? Well, no. They are already lower than they should be and it's still a struggle to get people returning regularly.

It's simply a case of average families being broke. There is no spare money floating around households for frivolities such as this. They are carefully squirreling away the few dollars they may have so that they can afford to give their children a good Christmas, or budgeting well in advance for the school year to pay for the books, uniforms and fees that will be due in January. Even public school is no longer free, I am not sure that it ever really was, and the cost of uniforms alone is quite high. Parents no longer take the kids out for dinner to celebrate birthdays, or just to get out of the house. It costs too much.

Nobody is using the infrequent day off when a grandparent, friend or day care have the children, to socialise with other parents and have coffee and lunch somewhere nice. Instead, they are spending that time wondering how they can possibly get a fraction of what is on the Christmas list under the tree to avoid disappointment.

This is not a problem facing parents only though. It's a problem facing all of the local area. My neighbour owns a local restaurant. Because of the nature of his job, he finds out everything he can about any potential competition in the city as the dollars aren't there and they are all fighting for every customer. Last week alone, three cafe's and two restaurants announced they will be closing before Christmas.

In times when the population is cash poor, the first to suffer will be those businesses seen as luxury options. The most prominent of those are food outlets. How anyone can pretend that we are doing okay, when businesses are going broke in large numbers and the tourist ventures are discounting to the bottom line, and still struggling, has got their head in the sand.

I don't care how well our dollar is doing, couldn't care less if the stock-market is flying along. I care about the small business owner who can't afford Christmas. The parent who can't afford to buy their kids new shoes. The elderly couple who can't afford to take a trip to visit family for the holidays. These are the people who are doing it tough. These are the ones we should be focussing our spending on. These are the ones we should all care about.

There is very little I, or most of you, can do about the situation as it stands. In real terms, I have little extra myself as do you. However, I still need to buy the Christmas goodies, buy the pressies for under the tree and send out cards to family far away. To do that, I am insisting on buying only locally, from local businesses, with local owners. The presents for the kids have come from Juniors at Edmonton and Toyworld in Earlville. The chicken and platters have been ordered from Piccone's Edmonton and the decorations have come from the Florist and Gift store in the old section of Piccone's village. I have purchased presents for the adults from markets, from the gift store mentioned and from friends who are talented. A few came from Oxfam and I also purchased two loans from Kiva but I have stuck pretty closely to my goal.

Will I save these companies....NO! But you can. If everyone bought just half of all of their groceries, toys, gadgets, flowers, decorations etc.. from local businesses, we might just make enough of a difference that will see them still around in the new year. My goal is to try, and to get you all to as well.

The best part about shopping this way, is not just the benefit to the store owner, but the fantastic finds you come across that will help make someone special smile on Christmas Day. There is no better feeling than that.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Wet Season and water hazards.

Welcome 'Cairnsites' to what is fairly obviously a precursor to the imminent wet season. It's been stormy and windy, raining and bleak. The humidity is rising and the water holes and creeks are looking like a fabulous option on the weekends. This wet season is predicted to be a doozy. It's been suggested we will have increased cyclone activity, monsoonal rains and the possibility of flooding.

Sounds like the wet seasons of my childhood. Cyclones came once every couple of years and frightened us into bathrooms for a few hours. Neighbours packed together like sardines in our house, firing up the barbie and eating everything out of the freezer before it went bad. Chainsaws started up and cleared away the trees and we swam to the shop for milk. The sad thing is, I am not even making this up! I actually swam to the shops on the corner of Reservoir Rd and Pease Street on more than one occasion.

There are a few positives from this type of wet season. Firstly, it encourages people to clean up yards that need a once, or twice, over. Secondly, it gives us less chance of a Dengue outbreak. We all know that they breed in still water in shallow containers, roof gutters, old tyres and palm fronds, but they can't breed if the water keeps getting flushed out by more rain. Simple fact.

Lastly, it fills all of our catchments and water reservoirs with clean, fresh water. This will negate the need for any water restrictions or rises in water costs by Council. That's a bonus for all of us.

There is just one down side of a wet season like the one predicted. Water. It will beckon us all on the days when the humidity causes you to physically begin to melt from the forehead down. Swimming pools, creeks, water holes and drains will entice. The down side? Kids will also feel the same need to cool off. Little kids and big kids alike will head for water.

The problem is that some of those kids will find themselves in situations they hadn't envisioned when they thought to get wet. Drains are extremely dangerous places to be in flood times. We all know that, but kids sometimes forget. When it's really hot and humid, safety is not always the first thought you have.

Backyard pools of the blow up ring around the top kind, available from every department store at a bargain price are the next to fail under scrutiny. They have nowhere for kids to hold if they fall in. They are usually not fenced (although regulations require it) as they are seen as a toy, not as an actual pool. Those things scare me more than any other backyard object.

Regular pools are also the cause of many accidents, near drownings and the occasional fatality and when do more incidents occur? The wet season is the most likely culprit.

Kids are curious, adventurous and fearless. They are not thinking of potential dangers when they do most things and being close to water is unfortunately one of those.

We need to get support for parents to encourage them to put their children into swimming lessons at a very young age. Six months is the recommended starting point. We need to make it more affordable to do that.

Here in the tropics, activity near or on water is a regular past-time and this needs to be acknowledged by facilitating water safety courses or by providing assistance to parents so they can enrol their children now. Perhaps a Government subsidy for all children under 5 to get the basics taught. Swimming lessons are as essential as learning how to read as far as I am concerned. It's nearly impossible to suffer brain damage while reading a book or spelling a word. Education of our children is the priority for all parents, this should be part of that process.

Unfortunately, swimming lessons can cost anywhere from 11-20 dollars per half hour session. It's actually more expensive than any sport and out of the financial reach of many parents. It doesn't make them bad parents if they can't afford to take their kids to lessons, parents pay a lot to raise a child these days and swimming lessons are as much a luxury as petrol for some.

Whether your child is a confident swimmer, struggles with a poor dog paddle or is too tiny to reach the bottom on tip toes, the best way to ensure your children stay safe is to watch them. Stay vigilant around water, teach them to stay away from flood waters and drains and for God's sake, throw the cheap blow up pool in the bin unless it is fenced with regulated fencing.

Above all else, have a safe and happy wet season. Enjoy the water, the bbq's and the holidays but make sure you also stay alert near water, keep little fingers away from hotplates and drive safely. Next year will be a great one, help to ensure it starts well.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Why is the Precinct a dirty word?

The meeting yesterday afternoon at the Council Chambers was an open meeting with all members of the public invited to attend. The gallery was full of opponents to the Precinct and not many in support of the whole idea. Is the dissent caused by cost alone, as the walk the streets initiative I have begun indicates? Is it the position of the Precinct, on land some believe could be better utilised? Or is the real answer much more simple, yet harder to counteract than that?

The cost has been adequately responded to by Council officers and Councillors in the past few weeks. It will mean a $33'000'000 outlay by the Council, taken as a loan over 20 years. This is an achievable target that is well within the reach of our current Council coffers. It would mean no impact on rates and would still leave us with a large borrowing capacity.

There are questions on the ongoing maintenance and running costs of the Precinct and they need to be answered as soon as possible but should not exceed the $3'000'000 prediction. Will the restaurant and retail aspects of the development be required to make it viable? If so, there are more questions requiring answers because businesses all over the city are closing and empty stores and restaurants are only going to have a negative look, feel and the possibility of a large hole in the budget, all of which will need to be addressed. It should not be a hard task to answer those questions though and overall, there is no real financial reason that this project should suddenly be a non-viable one.

The land can be argued about till the end of time but reality says that it has been gifted to Council by the State Government, it is suitable for the purpose, it has no alternate use and it will not cause any problems for the waterfront shipping ability of Cairns in the future. Simple, straightforward and truthful. The public can't ask for more than that.

The picture of the 'Valcano' was the beginning of the confusion and dissatisfaction from the public. It is an ugly picture, there is no doubt about that, and people are finding it very difficult to distance the picture from the whole project. It doesn't help that it's featured in the paper every time they write two words about the Precinct. Mind you, without an alternative picture, what are they supposed to do? Someone needs to get onto a new 'concept' design picture that can be used while the preliminary process is still going on. Give the damn thing to the paper and tell them to use it instead. Again, easy to fix and not the real reason for the argument against.

The real reason that people are so opposed to the Precinct going ahead is a very, very simple one. They hate Val. This is seen as 'her' idea (despite the fact it has been looked at in various forms for the past 16 years) and the people of Cairns don't like her. They didn't like Byrne either. Mind you, he did build a horrific mushroom in the City Place and surrounded it with bizarre paving off-cuts and public urinals (oops, I mean sculptures) and capped it off by providing no shade and concrete seating in the sun. It's understandable that they would be reluctant to go along with any plan he may provide for a future development. Even the fabulous Esplanade development with Muddies and the Lagoon was a Tom Pyne initiative so there is very little, if any, public amenities or facilities that Kevin was responsible for that aren't ugly and inappropriate.

Val has had a hand in several projects, such as the Cattana Wetlands area, that are world class and entirely appropriate to who we are and how we want to be perceived. You would think that this would be enough. It would prove she was capable. Apparently not. Apparently she is seen as a dictator, hard, unyielding and completely non-likeable.

Cairns, like the rest of Australia, needs to form a relationship of sorts with the leaders we have. We need to 'bond' in some way with those who make decisions for us, or we simply hate everything they do. It's not particularly scientific, perhaps slightly unreasonable, but it's who we are.

If Oprah had come to town and told us all that we need a cultural hub in this city, one that would allow local people to interact, perform and be entertained, we would all be jumping up and down demanding that it occur. If the Government THEN said to us, here's 40 million to get started, we would celebrate and start planning tomorrow.

Unfortunately for Cairns, the dislike for the Mayor may well become a bigger problem than us just not having a warm fuzzy feeling toward her. It may end with us losing the biggest opportunity Cairns has had in a very long time, certainly in my memory.

Besides anything else, liking someone does not make them good at their job, we have proven that with more past Prime Ministers, Premiers and Mayors than I care to think about. Sometimes the ones who are without emotional connection, at least from all appearances, are the best at making dispassionate decisions when it's required.

Go ahead and pick on Val if it will help you feel better, but don't let Cairns fall further behind based on a petty personality issue. The Cairns Cultural Precinct is a requirement for Cairns' future development and growth, please don't let this opportunity to do something great fade away. At the next Precinct meeting I expect more people in the gallery supporting this development, over-riding the loud dissent.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Walking the Streets ~ Beagle Close.

This week I went to three separate streets in the same area trying desperately to find some residents at home. Obviously a bad time of day for the first two but the third had nearly all at home and they were willing to spend a few minutes having a chat. The area is in the middle of Bentley Park and one which I am very familiar with, having lived there previously for a few years. The street, Beagle Close. Off Resolution Drive.

The houses here are more established than the previous few streets I have been down and it's obvious. The trees are large, the houses have plenty of personality and the residents are true locals. They were very happy to impart their knowledge of the area and add to the store of information I now have due to this initiative. One resident was very enthusiastic and spoke for a good 45 minutes about the area he very obviously loves and what he sees as it's potential pitfalls.

How would they spend a spare $50? Buy something for the kids or go out for dinner. Once again it became apparent that the lack of choice for evenings out on this side of town is detrimental to the residents and they would frequent restaurants if there were any. The local pubs are good, the food is okay and the kids are catered for but if you want a night out without children in a restaurant that has a bit of atmosphere, there is very little choice out here.

Sugarworld is missed by all of the people living in the South Side and this street was no different. There was disappointment by some that the new all-abilities playground is now fully fenced. This means that you can no longer take a picnic down there, place a rug on the grass and let the kids go back and forth between the playground and you. Instead, they will be in a fully enclosed playground area without adequate seating, no space for placing rugs on grass, an entry/exit gate that is not close to the toilets and the open, spacious feel of the facility is now a thing of the past. This is believed to be the result of the all-ability requirements that dictates children must be fenced in to create a safer environment for them to play in. I disagree and believe that safety was never an issue as the playground area is far enough away from the car park to enable parents to head off children before they get into any kind of danger. The playground is not yet open or operational though, so we will soon see if the end result is better than what is indicated at the moment.

The Cultural Precinct is an obscure, unreal, distant thing to these residents. Most do not have children old enough for school productions and they all indicated that they would not care if there was a museum in the area as they were highly unlikely to go to it. They conceded that the Civic Theatre is ugly and old and were happy with the Cultural Precinct being built, as long as the basics in the suburbs were not going to suffer.

Playgroups are an important part of weekly life for all of these residents. They all stated that there was not enough for kids to do in the area and that without Playgroup the kids would be going stir crazy. They can't afford the cost of places like Squeekers. For one family I visited, three children under 5 plus two older ones would equal an entry fee of $36, add the cost of drinks and snacks and it's a rare treat, not a weekly social outing. A trip to the movies would be $90 for tickets and approximately $40 for 3 drinks and popcorn to share. Dinner at the Grafton Hotel would be at least $150 for the family. Understandably, they don't go out much.

There is free sport for kids at Ravizza Park at the moment on Friday afternoons. This initiative is one from the Council and is happening in several suburbs around Cairns, including Woree, and it should be advertised in school newsletters and not just via Councillor's newsletters and blogs. Something that is free, available to all, has separate groups for different ages and is running every single week should have loud and large proclamations to inform the public that it is happening. Five houses in this street with kids......not one single one of those knew about the sport activities. That's poor.

There were a few residents who were upset with the lack of care that Council is showing the local parks and recreational areas. There was concern that graffiti on the half pipe on Roberts Rd is being ignored for too long and that beer cans and rubbish are strewn through some of the local park areas nestled in the suburb.

One resident spoke to the area Councillor about their concerns regarding the use of trail bikes in the area and wanted signage back up in the park to inform people that trail bikes are not allowed. He was told that it was not an issue for Council and instead he should call police. This response was seen as an inappropriate and unacceptable one. His belief is that the Councillor should listen to the residents about their concerns and then should follow them up. If they are not Council issues, they can still forward the information to the correct area or give the resident the details so they can do it themselves.

Being a Councillor does not end on election day (his words, not mine) and his belief was that this Councillor was highly visible prior to being elected, but faded from view immediately after. According to him, it's likely that the Councillor will come back in the public eye shortly, to prepare for the next election, but for him at least, it's too little too late.

Interestingly, he was the only resident who knew the name of the Councillor so it appears she is becoming known for all the wrong reasons.

Another week, another street. The messages from this week? Simple really, advertise properly if you are holding an event or an activity that is available to all and is low or no cost to residents so that they can utilise them. Also, if you visit a park or a facility in any area, clean up after yourself. Lastly, if something is bugging you about the street you live in, the suburb you live in or the region you live in, write a letter to the Editor, make a phone call and kick up a bit of a fuss. Nothing is ever achieved when we all stew quietly. Get loud!!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Tis the Season

Yesterday I went shopping to Stockland Earlville. No really amazing information for you all in that. What I saw when I wandered through the centre (well, as much as you can actually 'wander' with two small children in tow anyway) was mind boggling.

It appears that it's Christmas time already folks, the decorations are out, Christmas trees are erected, Santa's chair is ready to go and toys are literally EVERYWHERE! I found some truly amazing things along the way too. A large chocolate Santa (for those who would like to combine Christmas with Easter), a big envelope made of red felt that said 'Letters to Santa' on the front (for those who need a carry bag to get a letter from home to the Post Office) and tiny little elf costumes made of polyester (for those who wish to find out how long it takes a baby to pass out from heat exhaustion on Christmas Day in the tropics).

Everything in every store is on sale just waiting for you to get excited about the price, even if you don't really need the product. Layby queue's are long, filled with mothers trying to attack the huge layby totals with gusto so that they can actually feed the family at Christmas time, as well as watch the kids open 60 perfectly wrapped things they never knew they wanted. Some stores are even offering interest free loans for jewellery, camping equipment and toys. This practice encourages those who really can't afford it, to buy up big and spend the next two years paying for one days entertainment. I guess they don't call it the silly season for nothing!

At this point you are probably wondering if I am some sort of Scrooge who hates Christmas and all that it entails. Nothing could be further from the truth. I am Christmas obsessed. I decorate my house, my lounge room, line up at the mid year toy sales for hours on end, get my children to write letters to Santa and generally spend all year on the look out for the perfect gifts for family and friends. I ask everyone who wants to buy me a gift to get me vouchers that I can use on Boxing Day because nothing pleases me more than the throngs of people pushing and shoving each other to get to the last 70% off item in the store. I love it. All of it. It's people like me who are attracted to all of those bizarre Christmas gimmicks and this is the reason I dislike them so much. Stick the 'sucker' label on me and call me foolish but I came home with yet another layby and a bag full of knick knacks that have no purpose except to please my eye on Christmas Day.

My favourite part of Christmas though, is the giving. My children have a large extended family so they really don't require a whole lot from us. Unfortunately there are plenty of children who do not have the luxuries we do and will miss out on the spectacle that is a Christmas with all the trimmings. These kids will wake on Christmas Day with all of the same excitement but without the bonuses of knowing that Santa got you what you wanted, or that the house will soon fill with people bearing gifts and plates of food for everyone to share.

You can't love Christmas without wishing that these kids could have a chunk of the fun bits that my kids will have. Thankfully, there are numerous charities with hands outstretched, who will help give as many kids as possible just a small taste of a carefree, joyous Christmas Day. The Salvation Army does this job brilliantly, the Mayors Christmas Cheer Appeal is a easy one for most of us to support if you attend the Carol night because there you can help to fill the coffers. The K-Mart and Target trees are right in front of us. It's not too hard to add a gift to the already huge layby's, wrap it up and put it under the trees. Get the kids to do it, teach them that Christmas is not the same for everyone and they should be very grateful for the merriment they experience every year.

There are many, many more ways to help out at this time of year. Even the donation of time is something that will be appreciated by anyone who needs it. So next time you wander through the shops looking for Christmas delights, have a little think about how you can add some luxury to the season for those who can't afford to add it themselves. It's Christmas time, give a little (or a lot), it's what the season is all about.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Awareness Overload!!

Every month in Australia we are bombarded with days of awareness or weeks of awareness, or both, and November is no different. This month so far we have had Autism Awareness Day, Legacy Week, Grandparents Day and the entire month of Movember. This week we will have Remembrance Day on the 11th of the 11th at 11a.m. And that's all in the first two weeks of the month.

What I was wondering about all of these special days is the relevance to the majority and whether or not people are even noticing them, celebrating the day or are they simply ignoring them all? Should we just concentrate on the major holidays and forget all of these extra little blimps in the year or are they worth keeping?

Let me concentrate on just the ones mentioned above. Autism Awareness Day. Is it relevant to the majority? Well, according to those in the know, approximately 3 students in each classroom fall under the Autism Spectrum, although the real number is hard to ascertain due to lack of diagnosis and is possibly up to 5. That's in EVERY classroom. On it's own it may not seem like much but if you take that statistic outside the class environment and consider that each classroom holds approximately 25 students (on average), then almost one fifth, or 15-20% of our kids have autistic traits. Now add all of the parents, extended families and siblings to the numbers. These are also affected by the diagnosis and have to adjust many things in their lives to compensate.

All in all, this is an issue that affects large numbers within the population, however those without Autism in the family are not just unfamiliar with the diagnosis but can occasionally be unkind or impatient when confronted by someone who is. This is why Autism Awareness Day is so important. It highlights the need for people to practice understanding, congratulates the parents for their sometimes very difficult job and gives those falling in the spectrum a day to shine.

Grandparents Day is new to us, this year was the first one ever celebrated. I completely forgot until one of our Grandparents reminded me, but hopefully next year I will be ready for it. It's a great opportunity to thank those with such a large influence in our lives for their contribution. There is one group of Grandparents who badly need to be given an extra special thank you, from all of us.

Too many grandparents are forgoing their retirement time, when they should be taking it easy and travelling to places they have always wanted to see but never had the time. Instead, they are becoming full time child care for their grandchildren while their children continue in their chosen careers. The problems with this are many and varied. Isolation, lack of support both emotionally and financially and exhaustion are just a few of the issues facing these exceedingly generous individuals. Ask them if they would like to stop however, and plenty would say no. They enjoy the contact with their grandkids, love having purpose to their day and feel valued and needed.

They do miss out on a lot though. The isolation is perhaps the hardest part and several new organisations such as the Grandparents Support Group are working hard to change that. Working in similar ways to a mother's group or Playgroup, they are encouraging interaction and involvement between others in similar situations and this is an essential process for which those facilitating should be rewarded.

There are many Grandparents who are not carers. They are there for guidance, encourage our children to learn better manners, teach us more about our past, pass down recipes and skills and are generally an invaluable asset to the family. For this reason alone they should be acknowledged and celebrated.

Legacy Week and Remembrance Day are different but celebrate a similar portion of the population. Remembering all those who have played their part in keeping our country free and the price they paid for achieving that by taking just one minute out of every year to stand still and think is not even close to feeling like enough, but it's certainly not a hardship. Having a week to re-invigorate the community spirit and encourage donations, while highlighting the essential work that Legacy do is also no hardship and a fantastic cause. Legacy works tirelessly to support those left behind in every way possible and their good work is attributed to saving lives, houses and families every single year.

These days and weeks should never be underestimated or disregarded.They are both of vital importance to our past, our present and our future.

Lastly, we have Movember, an entire month dedicated to smooth faced gentlemen and the quest to grow the most atrocious hairy specimen located on the upper lip. The contest is fierce, the cash flow it generates is large and the's mental and physical health. Most specifically depression and prostate cancer. Two of the biggest killers of men and the easiest to diagnose and treat. Men have ignored these two illnesses for far too long and the awareness and resources that this initiative bring to the cause are unparalleled and appear to be working.

Women have turned the world pink for breast cancer, now basketball players and cricketers are sporting pink outfits for the cause and men have encouraged this. Women need to encourage their partners participation in Movember, or if the prospect of your mate wearing a hairy caterpillar on his face is too much for you......spend up big instead and donate to the cause.

So, another day....probably another Awareness Day. Are they important? Yes they are. Should we keep them? Yes we should. They are all significant in their own right and deserve our attention, but now it's time to stop. It's enough thinking required, enough donations, enough diary obligations. Take it from me....we are aware!!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Barramulla Close ~ Walking the Streets

Hello all and welcome to the next instalment in my 'walk the street' initiative. This week I chose a street close to the middle of the area I walk simply because I drive past it every day but have never ventured down that way before. It is off Ravizza Drive roundabout on the left side of Logimier Rd where there is a very small but compact group of houses surrounded by the obligatory 6ft fence.

The number one thing you will notice in this area is the size of the blocks. They are absolutely tiny, filled with house and you can almost reach over the fence and touch your neighbours walls. Backyards are apparently unnecessary and provided you can fit in the clothes line that's all the space you should ever need. 'The neighbours are lovely though', I was told by many, they probably all get along well because they are forced to due to the close proximity to each other. This street is definitely in a funny little pocket of the world, sandwiched between the creek and a huge cane farm they are sort of isolated from the rest of the suburb but link two suburbs together so they are really smack bang in the middle of it all.

While this street is fairly small, I still didn't get a huge amount of people at home so in this instance I will focus on just one issue as it came up in every home.

The usual responses were gathered........Cultural Precinct, too expensive (although this time around they were not as dismissive of the project so perhaps the advertising is working). Sugarworld, hurry up and open it up. Councillor, who?

One thing they are all in agreement over is the road outside their back fence. This is Logimier Road. It runs from the roundabout towards the new Coles shopping centre but abruptly stops about 300 metres from Walker Road. This means that if these residents want to visit Coles for groceries, they can see it from their homes, but can't get there unless they go backwards all the way to Mill Road roundabout and up to the back of Edmonton. The long way round is very frustrating for those living here as they are so close, but must travel so far to get there.

The road is also used by hoons who travel along to the end, then hit the dirt track at speed, doing beautiful doughnuts and flying along to the end of the proposed road, mostly late at night.

The completion of this road is part of the Edmonton Town Centre plan. When built, one side will be the Town Centre, the other will run alongside the Leisure Centre. At this point in time, the Leisure Centre is earmarked for building in mid 2011 and the Town Centre still has no dates for a start. If the Leisure Centre goes up first then these residents will feel even more isolated, as it will back onto their street, yet they will not be able to access it without travelling all the way around.

I have no idea how difficult it would be to take the road off the Edmonton Town Centre plans and make it a stand alone project, building it immediately. This road is straight, short and a much better access to the back of Edmonton for not just this street, but the entire of Bentley Park.

The residents of Ravizza Drive are living in permanent fear that someone will plough through their front yard. It's a windy, long Drive that was never intended to be the access between the suburbs but is used for that purpose every day, by hundreds of vehicles. They have put in traffic calming measures, reduced the speed limit to 50, added mirrors, put in raised dots on the corners so you can feel your car crossing the line and they do regular police blitzes. All in a effort to reduce the risk.

Completing Logimier Road will not stop all traffic on Ravizza. Those wishing to access the highway or Piccone's will still travel this way. If the destination is Sugarworld, Coles, Isabella School, The Leisure Centre, GP Super Clinic, Edmonton Town Centre, SES, Domino's Pizza, Chemist or anything else near Walker Road, Logimier Road will be the safest, quickest and easiest route to those destinations.

Personally, I travel down Ravizza Drive approximately 6 times a day. With Logimier Road there I would reduce this to 2.

It's worth a re-think at the very least.

Monday, November 1, 2010


Ever find yourself wondering when Cairns will start looking outside the box and become the leader instead of the follower? I do. I often wonder when we will start actively searching for ways to diversify our economy and if we will ever be able to step out of the shadow of Townsville and count ourselves as the something.

We have so much to offer the world that we are not showcasing. Outrageously good at the Arts, some truly spectacular sports people and some of the best minds in the country. Finally, I can see the light at the end of the Tourism tunnel.

The Cultural Precinct is going to provide an astounding array of opportunities to our entire region. A museum, performance spaces both big and small, usable outdoor facilities and some great food make it ideal for singles, couples, families of all ages to flock to and marvel at our local creative endeavours. The population of the area isn't yet convinced, the cost is quite large (although our contribution is minimal) and plenty still think of the arts in terms of plays and ballet, forgetting entirely about the comedy shows, the Eisteddfods, the awards night, the bands and the children's performances. The reality is that the arts community is not a minority and this venue will house an extremely diverse range of events making it essential to the growth of our region.

Last week an announcement was made regarding the upcoming Adventure Sport event. Again, this fills a niche that has been left gaping for some time now. We have long been recognised for our extreme sports facilities but without any competition, very little marketing has come from them being seen as tourist attractions. This large event will bring world attention to this area, athletes from all over the world will congregate here for the entire showcase and the benefits will be huge. The best part is that we have some of the athletes who will take part right here on our doorstop and this will give them the opportunity to show the world what they are capable of while beaming with pride at the facilities that they helped create.

The final void is now at the early stages of being filled. The Tropical Innovation Awards are currently under-way with over 40 projects being considered for the top prize. These are sourced locally, are well worth a look and with the help of this initiative will gain the prominence required to get them operational in terms of production and marketing. Design and ideas sourced locally, potentially the manufacturing and marketing also garnered locally, this project is one that needs to be followed through to the end and repeated over and over again. I went online to the Tropical Innovation Awards site to vote in the People's Choice Awards and was frankly astounded at the choices and the quality of the entrants. I urge you all to vote yourselves as there is a certain number required to keep this project going. I will tell you that I voted for the solar panels on the telephone poles but it was a tough choice as I also quite liked the banana blankie and the shower device.

Finally, the niche's, the gaps and the voids are being filled. Finally the Council is taking notice of the effects that putting all of your eggs in one basket can have. Finally, the locals and their strengths are being catered to. Finally, it is being left up to us to market ourselves. It's about bloody time!!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Edmonton Markets ~ Sunday 31st.

So, what do you imagine is the best way possible to engage the community? Walk to each home and have a chat? Stand around in shopping centres handing out fliers? Hold public meetings? Invent a festival? Nope, nope, nope and nope.

The best way to engage a community is to give away free stuff! It's simple, it's tested, it works! The latest person to do this is Lou Piccone. This Sunday (31st October) Piccone's Shopping Centre at Edmonton will play host to the very first Edmonton Lions Community Markets. It will run from 8-1 and it will be in that spot every single week from now on.

Sounds great but how do you get people to come? Give them stuff! There will be 4 shopping vouchers up for grabs, several raffles, free face painting and balloons for the kids and unbelievable deals on alcoholic beverages from his brand new, huge, bottleshop. If that's not enough to get you there, nothing will.

The stalls will fill most of the carpark and be entirely undercover so no umbrellas required (although the weather looks pretty good anyway), there is an emphasis on fresh and locally made, so I can get my watermelon and pineapples while buying up big on handmade cards and fabulous jewels. There will be stalls selling specialised birthday invitation packs for busy mums to buy, a stall where you can line up to sign letters of support for a repeal of the Abortion Law and discuss it if you want information, raffles to fund-raise for local clubs, dance groups and whoever else needs our help. This is a local market, by local people, supporting the local community.

The ideology behind it is made abundantly clear when you discover where the cash goes from the sale of the stalls. At $20 a pop it's cheap to buy but also makes a nice sum of money, so where does it all go? The money gets divided amongst Bentley Park College, St Therese's Primary School, Hambledon Primary School and Isabella Primary School. If there is a fifth week in the month, that extra cash goes to the Lions Club. More winners from a fabulous initiative and all worthy of their reward.

In order for this great idea to work.....people have got to go! I will be there Sunday, I hope you will be too. What a great way to have some fun, grab some bargains and support our community. It doesn't get much better than that.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Why nobody seems to care what happens in 30 years!

There was a Council meeting today beginning at 10 a.m in the Council chambers. I was there, so were two other people who didn't have to be. A little later two more arrived and it was almost a party in the gallery!! Upon arrival we were presented with the fattest wad of paperwork I have ever seen. I estimate it was 8 c.m tall and largely full of waffle. There were several slightly interesting parts to the whole proceedings but one in particular which I would like to share.

We are unfortunate not to have a trolley for loading the manuscript out of my car and my back will thank me for leaving it in there so I won't go into detail about which agenda item it was, who put forward the motion or seconded but can tell you that it passed. It was related to the community engagement process that encompasses the 30 year 'vision' locals have for this region. It was full of praise for the process, mentioned several 'fringe' festivals that officers attended with the paperwork and stated that the process is continuing and all was well in the world.

Then the fun began. Apparently the amount of locals who have been 'engaged' in this process is minimal at best. According to all reports the emphasis has been on marginal groups and ensuring that those who would not normally contribute, can and do. It was further stated that the online aspect of the mainstream marketing was not particularly engaging either and it was urgent that this be addressed.

It's pretty simple really. Give every school, sporting club, shopping centre and bank hard copies for every interested person to take home. This gives the recipients adequate time to read through the paperwork (which is quite complex) and discuss the issue with their family before writing a measured and educated response to the questions. Following that, all shopping centres should have large boxes (similar to ballot boxes) placed at all customer service desks for completed surveys to be dropped into.

The cost? It can't be more expensive than employing staff to stand around at Envirofiesta and other small festivals handing out this same paperwork. It can't cost much to get some large boxes with slots in the tops. Schools, sporting clubs and banks might be willing to be part of this community engagement process for free, it's part of what they represent anyway. All in all, the cost is minimal but the benefits would be much more substantial than those seen so far.

It is months into the process and the completed surveys number in the just over one hundred, the community is clearly not engaged and continuing along the path of irrelevance is not doing anyone any favours, least of all the Council.

I previously blogged on this urging the public to fill out the online survey and received quite a few responses from locals who had done as I suggested so apparently I am more successful than an entire group of staff at a festival. For goodness sakes people, there are ways of engaging the community that are much more effective.......but they require you to actually be part of your community.....maybe that's where it's failing.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Petition ~ Sugarworld facility.

This week I have done very little walking but a heck of a lot of driving.

The Edmonton/Bentley Park area have a strong advocate for their children in Lisa Robbie and she has organised a petition for those she knows (myself included) to distribute to any local shops, groups etc....for signing. The petition has gained several hundred signatures in it's first week and when it ends on Friday, should have numbers well over one thousand, possibly closer to two.

Admittedly, this is not a tremendously large amount if you take the entire population of the region into account. However, if you take it for what it is....a localised initiative with only 10 days to's a more than reasonable effort.

This petition is focussed on getting the Council to continue negotiations and get the results for Sugarworld. Not the slides, that part of proceedings is travelling along on schedule, but the pools, the picnic area and the kiosk. What is really being asked for is not a whole lot really, opening up the working parts for the school holidays and only during the normal trading hours.

The large amount of children living here currently travel into the city for an almost identical experience in the Lagoon on the Esplanade. Opening Sugarworld would benefit the area, the road traffic, the kids, the parents and would utilise a facility that is already there, already being maintained and is very well known. There are actually no negative aspects in this idea.

Of course, it was immediately pointed out by the local Councillor that it was not conforming to the exacting standards for petitions as accepted by the Council. We don't care. The only thing not compliant is not going to interfere with people's ability to sign this. There are no facts missing, it is not hard to understand, it is available everywhere and it states the name and phone number of the person responsible. The object of it is to get the Council to fully understand the benefits to opening up the facility over the holidays and to inform them that people will go. They will spend a few dollars, they will pay the entry (it's cheaper than a bus to the city, or petrol) and they will do so in large numbers. That is the purpose of the petition and with the numbers seen so far, it's proved the point.

This is the reason for all of my driving. Dropping off and picking up petitions, all over the area. When the numbers are in and the forms all collated, they will be presented to Council as evidence that this option is a viable one and if they choose not to notice, or don't pay attention to the numbers, they simply aren't doing an effective job. The people want this to occur, the signatures say that. In an entire consultation process on the same facility about the slide options locals were in favour of, they received just over 700 responses. If that was enough for Council to notice then this one is unavoidable.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Polling the Neighbourhood........Meranti Street

Just past Miltonia Street, which I walked a few weeks ago, is another 'M' street only this one is much longer, much quieter, much more least it was from the outside.

I mentioned before that Miltonia Street was all locked up from the front and not inviting at all. Meranti Street is much the same. I wonder if it's the fact that it's a new area that makes it lack a little pizzazz? Perhaps it's the fact that the entire neighbourhood has 6 foot fences surrounding each home making them look even more closed off and isolated to the rest of the world. It may even be as simple as the fact that these houses are so alike, they almost blend into one another, not a good way to advertise the personalities and vibrant people hiding behind the beige walls.

And believe me, these residents were FULL of pizzazz!!

The number one topic was Sugarworld. Not because of the slide debacle, although that was mentioned often, but in reference to it being the only usable green space in the area. It was mentioned so often that it became abundantly clear that this was a really significant problem for those living in this area. I have looked at the maps thoroughly and can see for myself that they are absolutely spot-on in their claims. There are a few little areas dedicated to so called 'green spaces' but they have no swings, no park, no seating and no pathways. They are also so spread out that they are not really accessible to the majority of the population in the back of Edmonton.

There is a new large playground due to start shortly at the end of Slipper Street, adjacent to Blackfellow Creek on the western side of Walker Road, that will feature many and varied play equipment like swings, forts, slides, rope ladders and bobbles. That's fantastic, it will be good for nearby residents to have a destination to take small kids to, maybe a packed lunch, and enjoy the views and the lovely spot they are in. It is of no use to those I spoke to this morning though. They want small spaces, suitable for all ages, where kids can ride their bikes down the road, not have to cross any busy streets, and have a bit of fun. Perhaps a small half-pipe, or half of a basketball court? With house lots getting so small, yards shrinking fast, it's up to the developers and the Council to ensure that we don't end up with a whole community filled with bored kids aged 5-15. They are old enough to ride a bike, too young to go far alone. Large parks are great for the entire community but the little spots at the end of streets with trees, swings and a space to kick a ball are more beneficial to everyone in the long run.

I don't know if it's too late for this particular area, but the new houses popping up all around this street need to have plans to involve adequate and usable green space within their developments.

Plenty of people living in this street have complained about the cost of living, most specifically the cost of electricity. The houses have solar hot water but due to the lack of sunshine this year, have had to use electricity for most of the time. Those renting are struggling to get landlords to put them on a lower tariff, so they are also paying the highest rate available. It should be common sense to all those with investment properties to place the electricity costs onto the lowest tariff possible. I actually thought that the renter was responsible for all of that anyway, but I haven't rented for several years so I am very likely incorrect in that assumption.

These residents would all spend their $50 on bills or their kids. New shoes, new clothes, school uniforms and sports uniforms make up a large percentage of a family's household income. As a mother of three I am well aware of the costs of keeping my children clothed. There are always bargains to be had but for some reason, schools and sports clubs do not take bargain shopping into account when they design the uniforms. They are usually only available at one or two specialty stores and the costs are, on average, $70 per uniform and $50 for shoes. Without adding the cost of socks and (for girls) hair ties, this is around $120 per uniform. Each child would need about 3 uniforms each (minimum) and if you, like me, have three children, that leaves you over $1,000 out of pocket each time your children have a growth spurt and that happens far too often for most budgets. Some schools have excellent second-hand stores within the school that offer some items at very low cost for those who are struggling or just need a spare uniform at home but the sizes are limited, they are usually in pretty poor condition and they often don't stock sports uniforms.

The final concern for this street was the lack of funding for local sporting groups and the lack of adequate facilities. I was told that the southern rugby league team had over 30 members in it's under 13 side this year. That meant that they had to rotate players every week, they had to deal with angry parents and bored kids and this problem will only increase next year and all subsequent years. There are only a certain number of teams allowed in the competition in the Cairns Region. Because of the rules, the south side can only enter one team. This leaves lots of kids sitting on the sidelines when they should be out there playing the game they signed up for. They play in the facility at Peterson Road, which has been denounced many, many times over the past few years for it's lack of....well.....everything! There are two toilets, one mens, one womens. There are insufficient car parks and parents are getting booked for parking on the street outside the facility. There are inadequate lights, which results in some teams having to share one third of a field for practice. On weekends when a game is on, there are approximately 300 people at this facility. Did I mention before that there are two toilets? You do the math.

There are teams in other sports who run out of the south side area but are actually north side teams, simply because there are not enough kids on the north side to form teams, and there are too many on this side.

The baseball team has no diamond. It probably doesn't seem like that big a deal to most people, but if you love the sport, you have the numbers to form teams and you have parents who are dedicated to the sport, not having anywhere to play would be pretty horrendous. Not to mention frustrating, annoying, disheartening..........the list is endless.

These residents don't care about the city, they all avoid it. They don't have strong opinions either way about the Precinct, but they all want a new Civic Theatre. They want Sugarworld up and running as soon as possible and they would all be frugal with their spare cash.

Nobody knew the name of their Councillor but that no longer surprises me.

This street has a family focus. They want their kids to have access to local spaces for them to play, access to adequate sporting facilities and more understanding from Governments on the true costs of raising a family.

Nothing that any of the streets I have so far travelled to have asked for the impossible. They have all had realistic goals and their wants and needs are pretty simple really. For some reason this area appears to be lagging behind the rest of Cairns in regard to having those needs met. Perhaps they do have the same as most other areas have, but this area is not the same. There are more kids here, there are larger populations, more dense populations and this is growing rapidly. If Council are focussed on forming a 30 year plan for Cairns, they need to start now, they need to build what this area needs and they need to ensure that any future development in this area does not have the same concerns and problems as those only recently built.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Are you Okay?

I am sure that most of you are aware of this, but it's Children's Week next week and this week it was Mental Health Week. Someone suggested to me that the order is wrong as it's having children that often dives you crazy and they are probably right.

The serious side to mental health awareness is one that often crosses my mind when I am talking to others and listening to what concerns them, what they are going through and what they are trying to do, alone. I have conversations with plenty of people who tell me that some days are really hard to get through, that they often have moments where they feel violently ill for no apparent reason. Where they are feeling extremely sad, or worthless. Some suffer from panic attacks in the grocery store at the checkout, having to leave a full trolley behind to get outside for some fresh air. They struggle to breath, feel a tightness in their chest and their vision wavers.

A panic attack is not as rare as you may think. Plenty of people have them, some only once or twice in their entire lives, some struggle for months, even years with them, before getting control back and moving on with their lives. The thing that strikes me about this particular disorder, particularly in my everyday life, is the amount of people who have it and don't even recognise what it is. Some GP's will actually tell patients to 'go out and get a life, forget about how you feel and embrace the good things you have'. Not very useful really. In order to 'get over' Panic Disorder you need to see a professional psychologist, or psychiatrist. Even then, it's a long process and one which has ups and downs, sometimes medication, sometimes it feels impossible and always, it's a struggle. Eventually though, you reach a point where life gets bearable, panic attacks still occur but you can control them better. Some days you forget to be afraid and just live in the moment. For many, those days become the norm and they are truly 'cured'.

Depression is not something that only middle aged men suffer from. It's affecting teenagers in much higher numbers and it's affecting more women than ever before too. It also has a 'cure'. Again there are many suffering from this mental health disorder alone and unaware that there is help available. And the help they require really works. The methods are tried and tested, they are affordable with the right person directing you and they are absolutely brilliant.

It bothers me that there appears to be so many doctors, particularly GP's, who are not encouraging these people to get the help they desperately need. Why are they only encouraging a positive attitude and not any real solutions? It's not a problem that will just go away on it's own. Yes, some anxiety is short-lived and may be centred around a particularly traumatic or overwhelming event, but if you are at the doctor, asking the questions, the answers given should be much better. They always say that they only help people who are willing to help themselves, well these people are trying to do just that.

More needs to be done in the Mental Health field during training for GP's. Someone recently mentioned that out of the 7 odd years of training, only a few months are dedicated to Mental Health. That's pretty poor. Perhaps it's not the doctors who are at fault but the system which allows them to treat patients with mental health issues but leaves them wholly unprepared to do so. There is no access to mental health treatments if you are not referred by your doctor.

The main message of Mental Health Week was to talk. Talk to your neighbour, talk to your co-worker, talk to your boss, talk to your best friend. Ask them how they are feeling. Tell them how you are feeling. Essentially, just make sure that everyone around you is okay. It's not too much to ask, it only takes a minute. It may be the one minute that encourages someone to reach out and get the help they need. So, while I know that Mental Health Week is officially near it's end, keep asking the question. It doesn't have to last for just one week every year, because God knows, none of the issues I mentioned work on a schedule.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Results from an active community.......

I have been completely unsuccessful in getting the posting up this week in my 'Walk the Streets' initiative. I apologise for not being on time but have not had much luck getting anyone at home. I have a few responses but it's not really enough to make any quality resolutions from. As this is proving so difficult this week I have decided to give myself a bit of a break, continue to get more responses and get the information out to you all a week late. I know that those of you hanging on my every word (that's everyone right?) will be disappointed that it's not on time, but I promise to keep going with the project as it is as interesting to me as I hope it is to you.

In the meanwhile, I have been attending numerous community meetings and having conversations with all and sundry to try and keep up with what is happening on the South Side. It's been tricky because of the sheer scope of things and the high growth out here has meant that more and more projects in every size are under-way or being discussed, than ever before.

What I have learnt from attending these meetings, is that while there are many and varied groups needing assistance with getting a brilliant idea moving along, not many of them know where to look for that help, and are failing to realise it is often right in front of them.


There are small groups of dedicated people who tutor at-risk students outside of school hours but within the school grounds. These individuals are doing a service that not many would volunteer for, yet the results are proving to be quite astounding. Basic training of these volunteers is hard to come by, the Education Dept is of no help in this area and the courses available are priced beyond the reach of many volunteers. The answer? Contact the school P&F or P&C committee.

They work really hard all year to raise funds for the children in the school to have access to a better education so this project and ones like it, are the perfect avenue for some of that money. It may take some convincing, parting with cash is not easy for some, but if you can show the worth of the project and the need, there is no reason that some of the Committee funds could not be utilised to train volunteers. Hopefully those groups who are now approaching their P&C Committees will get the answers they seek.


The Edmonton/Hambledon RSL Sub-Branch has been searching for a space to erect a new hall for a little while now without success. Last week a breakthrough occurred that will see the process sped up and at the next Council meeting they will present their preferred option to all Councillors and a final okay should result shortly after. This would be fantastic for the group as they desperately require somewhere permanent to hold meetings, store memorabilia and run events such as ANZAC Day from.
My hope is that their new plan, which looks and sounds like a great idea, is acceptable to all Councillors and they are allowed to begin construction.

Here on the south side our population growth has not only resulted in much higher numbers of families, but also higher numbers of older men and women. This, coupled with the fact that the recent and current wars feature many Australians, means that the group is also growing much larger and with a recruitment drive about to begin they are expecting to assist huge numbers of former and current Diggers in numerous ways. Any organisation that supports members of our community needs to be supported by the entire community when there is a need. Whenever you see them out the front of Piccone's selling raffle tickets, buy a few. When the building goes up early next year you will know that you helped build it.


Today, Wednesday 13th, sees the results for the Sugarworld consultation being voted on by Council. This will hopefully see all Councillors vote for the preferred option which was fairly obviously going to be Option 2. A concern has been raised that the final paper presented on the consultation tells a few whoppers in regard to costing of the project and it is hoped that all Councillors will have done a bit of their own homework on this one so it is not lost in translation.

Without adjusting Option 2 in any way, the cost in total should come out at just under the $4 million allocated. This means that the time frame for tendering and construction should not need any alterations and it can all proceed as quickly as possible.

While it may feel to some like Sugarworld slides are progressing at a snails pace, it should be acknowledged that the community, with the help of several of it's most vocal members, have ensured that this issue stays a priority with Council and without their stance, this may well have stalled.


Road upgrades have occurred near Coles in Edmonton that initially seemed quite badly done, within a few days of completion and after much heavy rain, the section that was widened was full of potholes. One letter to the Council CEO from an outspoken resident and this morning, I drove down a (very) recently re-covered section of road that was nicely laid. Hopefully it stays that way.


The residents of Friendship Street are putting their foot down, figuratively speaking, and after my walk down their street where every resident had an issue with the bad 'hooning' problem in the street, they have decided to approach the Council via e-mail to see if something can be done about the problem. The small street is the best avenue for use by those wishing to avoid the lights at Roberts Road and cars scream down it every day. Most of the residents in this street have children and none will let them play outside, just because they fear they will be hit by an out of control car. At the corner of Friendship and McLaughlan, if you look closely you will see the house facing both streets has several new fence panels. This is the result of cars losing control and hitting the fence, knocking it down. Thankfully there have been no serious injuries as a result but there must be some way to alleviate the problem, for motorists and residents alike.


Further investigation by the second street in my walks has led to them discovering that part of the CEC asset sale they rushed through to stay afloat was to the State Government. This is the reason for the sudden rise in Public Housing in this area. The State Government needs to look more closely at how dense this population is, and perhaps sell some of the homes and buy more elsewhere.


All of the issues, resolutions, decisions, actions above are a direct result of Community involvement by residents who have a common goal. Some of these perhaps needed the help to get them started on the right path, others were lucky to know someone vocal in the area and some just took it upon themselves to get the job done. It doesn't matter how you become involved, how much time you give or how dedicated you are to the cause. Working together as a community is the best way to affect change and it's extremely heartening to know that there are plenty of people getting together and doing something positive for those around them. You just need to get out there, talk to your neighbours and get busy. Off you go, no time like the present.

Monday, October 11, 2010

The trial begins.

Today at the courthouse in Cairns there will be three very different groups of people, two vying for media attention, one hoping nobody will notice them. All of these groups believe they are justified in their stance and none will move until the trial is over.

The issue? Abortion.

The first group will be the accused and her family. She used a drug that her boyfriend imported for her and gave herself an abortion. She did not suffer any ill effects but was charged under Queensland law as here, in this state, procuring an abortion is illegal. She is the woman that has garnered attention world-wide as this pre-historic law (I should just say antiquated but it doesn't seem strong enough) is put to the test.

The second group will be the members and other interested persons representing Pro Choice. An organisation committed to raising awareness of the issue and getting the Queensland Government to remove the law from the criminal code. These people are holding a vigil at the courthouse until this trial is over. They believe very strongly that abortion should be a woman's right to choose.

Lastly, we will have a dedicated group of people representing Right to Life. These are just as passionate but for very different reasons. They are passionate about not just leaving the law as it stands, but ensuring no woman can procure an abortion anywhere in the world. They stand strongly by their conviction that abortion is killing an unborn child.

Amongst all of this chaos will be the media that will stand by just waiting for one of the Pro Choice supporters to attack a Right to Life representative, or vice versa. Their interest is not really in the trial, although I am sure it will be reported vigilantly, but in the fact that this issue is a polarising one and has always been shrouded in controversy.

I hope that through all of this, nobody forgets that there is a young lady at the centre of the whole proceeding who is facing charges, therefore possible jail time, or a very large fine. She is the one who is really making a stand, she did so many months ago when she asked her boyfriend for help. He has stood beside her in support all of this time and should be recognised for that.

Here is a prime example of why this law should be removed from our criminal code. Forget for a moment what you personally think of abortion. Forget about putting yourself in her position, or his, and think instead of what THEY did. Now imagine that the law was even stronger, as the Right to Life organisation would prefer. Do you imagine for even a moment that this couple would NOT have made this same decision anyway? They more than likely would have. As many couples and woman, always have.

Abortion is not a procedure that has only existed as long as the law has allowed it. It was illegal for many decades prior to that. In the days of truly illegal abortion, many women died, and countless others were injured permanently, procuring illegal abortions. Regressing the law will only take us back to that time in our past and women the world over deserve better than that.

Legalising it properly does not mean that the whole country agrees it is a morally acceptable choice, only that we all believe that women should be protected and as safe as we can possibly make them. That is the very least of what we should do and I still can't believe that our Government, here in the Smart State, is backing away from making this decision. This is not a decision about whether or not women should have the right to make this choice.....whatever is decided, women will continue to choose abortion anyway. This is about removing the potentially harmful side-effects of that choice.

Over the next few days or weeks, as this trial continues, please write a letter of support for this couple and send it to your local MP, e-mail them or give them a call. Let them know that we all want women to be safe and we all want women protected by the law. I have.