Saturday, July 31, 2010

We are all boat people.

My husband wrote the following piece before the last election, when the issue of 'boat people' was just as prominant. I think it is still as relevant today as it was then.


Who are we? What is a true Australian?

Many years ago my Pop and Noona left Italy to escape Musilini's fascist regime to come to Australia. My mother's family, originally from Northern Ireland, emigrated from London after many years of dealing with the German bombing blitz. From these personally and psychologically devestating situations, Australia recieved my family, all of whom arrived on boats.

My ancestors, along with many other immigrants, from many other countries throughout the globe, gave everything to their new adobted home. They worked hard and copped a lot of flak from the locals. My Pop often said (in a strong Italian accent) that he was an Australian, and nobody was going to deny his family that right. He himself was interned by the Australian Government, even though he was a farmer, and also tried to enlist in the army to protect his new home. He never saw the need to return to Italy, our nation was his.

My mother's family, including four brothers, all became committed Australians.

If anyone questions the benefits of immigration, a snapshot of my family includes, doctors, nurses, accountants, farmers, police officers, soldiers, scientists, inventors, tradespeople, musicians, engineers, business owners, lifeguards, Australian representative sportspeople, coaches and some fantastic cooks. Members of my family have recieved medals for their committment to the community and to sport. This is like many other immigrant families who offer so much to their new home and it must be remembered that without these people Australia would not be the great nation it currently is.

In 1788, Australia recieved it's first white immigrants. Aborigines immigrated an estimated 50 thousand years earlier, and have cared for and shaped our environment. Australia is a land of immigrants.

Today we have a different group of boat people but they, like my own ancestors, have been dealing with terrible times. They come from places ravaged by war and extremist views. They want someplace safe to raise their families and can offer so much, if given the opportunity.

It is often said that immigrants need to speak our language and adopt our cultures. If the Aboriginals had thought the same, we would be barely clothed, hunting with spears and speaking one of the many hundreds of languages spoken by Aboriginal Australia. That doesn't sound too bad to me, but what about pizza and pasta, stir fries, fish and chips, chilli, chocolate, burritos, curries, beer etc...? If you ever question the benefits of immigration, just take a look at the menu. We all know that good food is at the heart of every healthy nation.

Letters to The Editor.

I have been writing Letters to the Editor frequently for the past few weeks on the Federal Election and it's issues. None of these have been published. For that reason I have decided to use this opportunity to publish a few of them myself. Why rely on the Cairns Post to do it when they fairly obviously are not interested in the views of ALL the people?


Cairns is right now, on the verge of a new beginning. We have many fantastic projects within weeks of a start that will change the whole outlook of our beautiful pocket of paradise.

My fear is that with a change of Government now, these things will never go ahead and we will go back to barely functioning.

We have a great Highway Upgrade on the south side of Carins coming that will enable us to travel from Gordonvale to the city without hitting a single traffic light along the way. We have a Cultural Precinct in the preliminary stages that already has partial backing from the Federal Government. We have several smaller projects about to commence that are partially or totally funded by the Federal Government. All of these projects are at risk.

Julia Gillard has announced a new initiative called 'Building Better Regional Cities'. This is primarily in regard to planning for growth in terms of roads, parks and facilities in order to have a sustainable future. Cairns is one of only 44 regional centres applying for the 15 positions in this program. I would like us to have the advantages it offers but if the Government changes, we won't have a chance at all because the program will no longer exist.

I have seen footage and pictures of the visits thus far to the North by the Opposition. Out of all of them, we recieved no promises, no guarantees and frankly, no ideas.

JiM Turnour has worked hard to get the funding for our region so that we can open our opportunities to more than just overseas tourism. It has taken him the past few years to secure this and now, just before the beginning of it all, it is all at risk.

I urge the people of Cairns to vote for the future of our region, it's businesses, it's people, and it's personality.


A few short weeks ago, Kevin Rudd lost his position as leader of his party due to public opinion that he had grown arrogant, single-minded and had lost touch with the general population. Julia Gillard entered the position promising to re-connect with the people, listen, talk and make decisions only after consultation had occured.

She immediately set about establishing dialogue with the mining community, resulting in a fairer tax package for all. Then she contacted East Timor, trying to establish a broader solution to the 'boat people' issue, resulting in open and transparent communication that included us all in the process, regardless of the outcome.

The next issue she tackled was Climate Change.

The ETS was thrown out because it did not have the support of the Greens, the Opposition or the wider community. The Greens wanted more, the Opposition wanted none of it and the rest of us just wanted to know if it would change prices for utilities and groceries. Nobody really knew anything about it, unless they worked in the field.

Julia has decided that a group of 'everyday people' will be afforded the explanations, the right to debate the issue and given the opportunity to come to an agreement that should be of benefit to us all. Nobody seems too sure what this really means exactly.

It's pretty simple really. The public want to be informed. Julia will establish dialogue with the public through this small group. When the issue has been consulted over and a decision has been made regarding the exact direction the Government will take on Climate Change, we will be the first to be informed. Using this approach means that the decision will be made as fairly as possible, and according to the exact wishes of the people.

I feel pretty good about that.


Letters To the Editor are consisting primarily of Liberal voter's views, there are pages and pages about how a stadium we could not hope to fill is somehow an essential part of the immediate future of Cairns, letters stating that Warren's plan with the $240 million is a much better one. This is the most interesting point of view expressed so can he spend state and local money earmarked for a Council run development? It's not even a Federal plan!! Bizarre. The letter's insisting his track record and experience should speak for itself. It does. It says precisely nothing! Name one single thing that Warren achieved in the 12 years he was this regions' representative? Can't? I am not suprised. Even after researching, I can't find anything.

If this is an election run on spin, Warren and his cronies are spinning us around so far, most people can't see straight.

Where are the letters stating the fact that Jim has secured funding for the starting phase of the Cairns Cultural Precinct, funding for stage one of the Highway Upgrade, or funding for the entire GP Super Clinic in Edmonton? No sign of those.

In just 2 and a half years, Jim has accomplished more for our region than Warren did in 12. Warren appears to have friends at The Cairns Post and he appears more than willing to use them.

I just hope that at this election, people will vote with their eyes wide open.



Letters to the Editor are a bit monotonous sometimes, and at election time, repetitive. Here's some fun quotes by the Opposition that are just for entertainment value.

Reporter: 'RU486?" Tony Abbott: 'I am for 86ing anything not in the bible.'

Tony Abbott once said that therapeutic cloning could create 'demonically possessed, animal-human hybrids.'

'It is estimated that there are around 176'000 Australians living with dementia.......almost the whole of the Northern Territory.' Julie Bishop.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Compost the 'worm'!!

I watched the GREAT DEBATE with much interest last night and was fascinated by the actions of the 'worm'. So much so that I changed channels several times to see if the worm was showing up different reactions on the two channels. The one with three colours was the most interesting. I noticed that women like Julia and men like Tony (if they want to be as popular as Kevin was, they need to get used to being called by their first name only).

Not sure why men are enamoured by the wingnut but I have decided that perhaps it's because he is not an Alpha threat to masculinity. We already know that women don't like him because he is a chauvinist and has shown himself to be uncomfortable around women when they are not in a kitchen environment. We know that he prides himself on being archaic and he has shown no interest at all in changing that side of himself.

Men appear to like him because he is more familiar to them and of the two sexes, men are traditionally more opposed to change (have a look in my husband's wardrobe if you don't believe me, or watch his face when I suggest he take another route to pick up the kids from school.) and will gladly go with the 'known factor' over the 'redhead who brought down Kevin 07'. Men hated what they saw as a 'knife in the back' thrown at Kevin. They pride themselves on being loyal to a fault, even though they are just as aware of why it happened and that it was a necessary occurance.

Women like Julia because she is not ashamed of who she is (childless and single). We are constantly having to explain to other women about choices we have made in our lives.

'No, I am not barren, I just don't think that children are necessary to my existance'.

'Yes, I am having a third child because I really want to, not because I accidently got pregnant and yes I know I already have one of each sex.'

'No I don't want to breastfeed past 1 year.'

' No I don't want to stop breastfeedinng at 1 yr'.

'Yes, I do like the fact that I have painted one wall in my house fire engine red'.

'No, I don't want to go to see Sex in The City at the movies, it frankly doesn't interest me'.

'Yes, I did go through the whole of this year with only 4 pairs of shoes, so?'

And so on....and so on.....

Julia being so honest and upfront about who she is, the decisions she has made and the future she sees for herself, is fascinating to the rest of us. We are still struggling to work out who we are now, what we want out of life and why people like a man who wears speedos.

It's all just a big mystery. And the worm says, the winner at the election will be the one with the higher gender proportion enrolled to vote.

It's a Party!!

Yesterday my son turned 5. To celebrate we held a Mad Hatters Tea Party for him at Sugarworld Gardens. He had 30 of his closest friends there (wish I was that popular) and all of the parents came too. I would love to post some pictures but can't as I was having so much fun I forgot to take my camera out of my bag!! Whoops.

The day was damp and dreary, the sun was nowhere to be seen. The playground was wet and soggy, and we had to set up his 'picnic' under the new shed-like building near the car park. The kids didn't care. They decided that the slide goes faster when wet and the rain was not too cold. The three legged race featured all who were there and as long as the food stayed dry, nobody was complaining.

There are not many areas in Cairns, on either side, where you could have a party in the rain. Not many have a space that is covered that will fit 50 people under it comfortably. If I had decided to hold the party anywhere else, I would have been forced to cancel.

Sugarworld Gardens and Sugarworld Slides are both pretty much all-weather venues. The fact that we have more rain here than most places in Australia dictates that we need spaces like these to be functioning and available all year round.

What I did notice however, was that the Gardens are more suited to wet days than dry ones at the moment. The playgrounds are not covered, meaning they can't be used on hot days (and we get plenty of them too). The Slides have been shut down for months of consultation, design issues and budgeting restrictions so that even the small play pools are no longer available.

The Gardens are about to get a major upgrade with a new playground going in (or at least, it's supposed to go in.). It's been talked about and consulted on for a few years now and we all think it's time to get on with it. If this is not possible, time to put new shade covers up!!

Slides need to be decided on quickly and the building of them completed asap. This is not something that should be unavailable over the Christmas break but I have serious doubts about the immediate future of the venue. Both parts of this much used family friendly facility need re-builds. Can we please do that before building any more unnecessary sporting arenas.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The big 3 - that no one is talking about.

Most people are expecting some big announcements during the leadup to this Federal Elaction from both major parties. Some will affect the entire population, some will be local. Nothing has been announced so far that is anything other than what we already knew. No fresh ideas, no promises, nothing to sway our opinions.

Perhaps nothing will be announced that will be suprising or new, maybe the focus on getting the budget back in the black has left no room for anything else.

If anything does happen though, I would like it to happen in these three areas.

Firstly, in dentistry. Forever ago (about 3 years) it was announced that all Australians would have access to free dental care at some point. I just want to know when. If it's not happening for a while then I would like to know why Dentistry could not fall under the specialist category, allowing us to take our reciepts into Medicare for a partial refund. Surely this is not too much to ask. The cost of visiting the dentist is getting beyond the majority of the population, not just those on low incomes, and that needs to change.

The second improvement I would like to see is in Mental Health. Currently, you can have a Mental Health Plan done for you at any GP free of charge. This plan enables you to have several visits to a psychologist, at a heavily discounted cost, over a few months. You can have these plans done again when your current plan expires and this is a huge help for those who require it. My concern is not with this process, it's a good one and it works.

The area I would like to see improvements in is the process by which a mental health illness is diagnosed. Most people are unaware of the signs to look for and continue through life undiagnosed. This puts pressure on loved ones, schools, collegues, but most importantly, the sufferer. We desperately need more education on these things, similar to the advertising campaign for youth that is currently running.

Men in their 30's are committing suicide on an almost daily basis throughout Australia and this must stop. Women of all ages are suffering panic attacks and undergoing various tests, trying to find the source of the problem and wasting valuable time, as we know that early diagnosis of Panic Disorder, Anxiety Disorder and Agoraphobia give you the best chance for a cure. Depression and anxiety are absolutely, most definately, treatable. The treatment is good, the process is not expensive. The signs are there, we need to give all of the population the tools needed to recognise them.

The third area that requires immediate consideration is related to those with children that fall outside 'the box'. It is proven that early intervention is the key to overcoming most learning difficulties faced by those with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) and I am sure it is equally important for those with ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) or ADHD (Attention Defecit Hyperactivity Disorder). These are conditions being diagnosed much more frequently, primarily because our diagnostic tools are better.

The problem is not the treatment, if accessed early, those available are fantastic. The problem is the diagnosis. I have heard year 4 teachers say they have a student they suspect of falling into one of these categories but was undiagnosed. Without diagnosis there is no treatment and without treatment, by year 4, these disorders are have already made learning at school much more difficult. Too many children are falling by the wayside because we do not have adequate training for our Kindergarten and Prep teachers. Not only is early diagnosis important for the student and their ability to learn, if diagnosed after the age of 7 funding for treatment is no longer available to parents. This means that parents have to pay for specialists and tools required out of their own pockets, in full. Before age 7 there is an excellent funding package that allows parents to get their children access to all the necessary processes annd treatments available, free of charge.

In this, the age of the Education Revolution, it is essential that we don't just give our children the best quality education available, we must also give this to our teachers. Parents are ill equipped to recognise the signs of high functioning ASD such as Aspergers, as often, the things our children do that put them in these categories are subtle in the home. Not so in the classroom however.

Teachers need to have the support of the school when aproaching parents regarding their child, they need to be confident that the possibility is high for a diagnosis and they need the support of the community in treating the child so that they get the same quality of education as all other students in the class.

With adequate dentistry available to the broader population at an affordable cost, help in recognising the signs of mental illness's that respond best to early treatment and equiping our teachers and schools with the tools to give all students the best start, we would have the beginnings of a healthier, smarter, more confident Australia.

Monday, July 19, 2010

The toilets are where???

Ok, here's an issue mostly for the mums but really it's relevant to anyone with kids.

Today I went to the Pirate Ship in the Esplanade with two friends and our offspring. We had 7 kids between the 3 of us and one of us has a new baby. During the 3 hrs we spent there I had to take the kids to the toilet twice, another took them once and the one with the baby was stuck watching those left behind, while breast-feeding her bub. The toilets at the Pirate not exist. The nearest ones are 200 metres away which is a bit of a hike for 2 year olds and almost impossible if you are pregnant.

I don't know which idiot decided that they should be built between the skate park and the Pirate Ship instead of one each but they most definately need some further north immediately. Most parents would be happy with a toilet similar to those in the parent room at Stockland. Large open space with a child toilet, an adult toilet, two hand basins and a bin. That's it. It's big enough for the disabled to use and big enough for mum and child together. Children do not go to the toilet alone until they are about 5, before that they need help, or they just need someone to ensure they won't lock themselves in (it happens).

I understand it would be a very expensive undertaking as plumbing needs to be extended etc to get there. I don't really care. I want them anyway. Everyone today wants them too. Anyone who has ever gone there, and believe me a lot do, wants them. Apparently the Coucil has recieved many requests for them to be built. So why aren't they?

This is just a case of those with the power to do something not using the facility they are in charge of, so dismissing the complaints as irrelevant, motherly waffle. It's not. I can't wait for those few deluded souls to take their pregnant wife there, or fall pregnant (depending on which sex they are) and see if they can hike 200 metres, pregnant, when nature calls. See if they can round up all the kids because just one needs to use the toilet. Many don't bother with the walk and encourage their child to head for the trees. Great idea, except the trees are only about 10 metres away and all the kids play around them so it's not really ideal.

There is even a Facebook page dedicated to the cause (which of course I joined). Send any complaints directly to and ensure all correspondence is marked Attention CEO. It's time to get serious about this if it is ever going to happen.

Cairns Who?

I have been reading our paper, the letters, blogs and chatter online and it appears that one major gripe that people have at the moment is Cairns' lack of identity. The fact that we threw all of our eggs in the one 'tourism' basket in the Warren Entch days and with the Global Financial Crisis being exactly that, people in the area are now wishing we had diversified. We need different industries and businesses here and more investment from all. To get that, we need a brand, an 'identity'.

I really don't care if Cairns does not have an identity.....I would prefer it to be known for it's personality. We used to be the place that everyone Australia wide wanted to be. The place where Victorians came for a holiday and loved it so much, they are now locals. It used to be that we were known just as much for our laid back, casual people as we were for the reef and rainforest. We welcomed strangers and gave them such a great holiday that even if they did go home, they came back, time and time again. It gave us the complete package, our environment and our people; our vibrant personality.

We seem now to be less proud of our beautiful spot in the world, less inclined to bragg, less willing to show others which parts we like the best, or why. It's kind of like a mid life crisis for the locals. We are disillusioned, feeling ripped off and some are just plain angry.

This all started long before the Financial Crisis. I have lived here almost my entire life and I think it started about 10 years ago. Somewhere around the time we became the subject of a well known American song. It was the day the music died. Cairns once had a tremendously well patronised local, live music scene. Friday nights at the Crown watching Mangrove Jack, Saturday nights at Johnno's Blues Bar and Sunday sessions at Ellis Beach. And those were the regular ones. Snake Gully performed all over the place, as did Mangrove Jack, Andy Collins and Johnno, just to name a few. Younger bands thrived, with a Battle of the Bands event held every few months in Port Douglas, Yungaburrah and Munro Martin Park. Festival Cairns was called Fun in The Sun and it all kicked off with a free concert by some great local acts. All venues worth their salt had a live band Friday Nights, even the Big O (which most people will not remember and those who do, will groan) had a great live scene.

Some bands had fans that followed them to every gig, some won awards for song writing and travelled the world with their music but when they came home, they still played at the local pubs and the people came to watch. Most of these venues were standing room only and boasted sticky floors from fallen beers. There were dodgy folk who came for a fight and were promptly kicked in the butt by the bouncer, families who's children slept under the tables after meeting new friends and chasing each other around the tables till tired and the music lovers, who knew all the words to all the songs, bought the albums and turned up every time to buy the band a beer.

Now maybe my reminiscing will not change things, it won't help make things here in Cairns different and there is no way we could go back to those days anyway. So, what exactly is the point of all this then? In Cairns today we still have that same artistic base. We still have the artists, the singers, the songwriters and the performers. Almost all shows at the Tanks Art Space are sold out. Time OUT, put on by the Cairns Post is very well patronised and features several local performers who battle it out for the privilege. Local artisans show their work at the new art spaces in the City Place and on opening night, there is always a crowd.

THIS is Cairns personality, it is who we are. We are not all artistic or musical but those who aren't are the audience. We all love a good party and Cairns was always famous for it's nightlife and it's talented people, almost as much as for it's 'tourist' attractions.

With the added extras of the wonderful food we now produce, the dairy products, the chocolate, the coffee and the wine, who would want to leave?

Through initiatives like the Ukulele Festival and the Cairns Cultural Precinct we have the opportunity to re-claim our persona and to once again be the ones famous for our joyous celebration of life. Stop being stodgy, stick in the muds, with more gripes than a baby with colic and get out there and enjoy your life. Most of Australia is in the same boat as us financially and while our unemployment levels are ridiculously high, it's all about to change. We are on the verge of great new things and each one of these major developments will create jobs, wealth, security, and as the line in that terrible Kevin Costner baseball movie goes...'if you build it....they will come'.

And while we are at it, could we please change the name of Festival Cairns BACK to Fun in The Sun? We really loved it and if Raintrees can do it...........

Friday, July 16, 2010

Highway Upgrade.

I have spoken to many people in the area south of Cairns about the proposed highway upgrades for this side of town. The first stage will change the area around Ray Jones Drive and all who have seen the plan agree that it will be a great improvement on what currently exists. The part further south is where all the commentators begin to get unsure.

One concern is the need to remove existing dwellings to make room for the road system. This angers those living in the houses (fairly understandably) while simply confusing others. Why do we need to go that way? Is there not a better way? Well, I cannot accurately guess the entire process but am pretty sure it took several much more informed people than me to decide that this option was the best one. Feasability studies, draft after draft would have been performed and I don't doubt that this option was thrown out initially due to the severity of the action but had to be re-assessed as the only option. This will impact on the lives of many residents in our community and the fact that this was done without their approval must be acknowledged. It is not a good outcome for them and I sincerely hope they will be adequately compensated, both for the cost of replacing their homes and the grief they will go through while doing so.

Another frequent observation is that it is a 30 year plan and we need it NOW!! While this is probably true, we are quickly discovering that when things are rushed it is not the best outcome for anyone, with three tiers of Government everything is negotiated to death and anything of this scale, costing this much money, will take a while to complete.

The most common comment I hear though is the one that indicates a second road from Gordonvale, through the back and over Admiralty Island is the better option. This is actually not an option at all. The cost would be completely ridiculous, the bridge across alone would cost pretty close to what this entire project is costing. There is no need for a second road into town. Most areas approximately the size of Cairns have one arterial road which branches off in much the same way as the proposed plan. There is only one highway running all the way down the coast of Queensland and it has never been suggested that we have another running parallel to it. That would be ludicrous.

Currently, from my home in Bentley Park, I can travel all the way to the city, or even out to Smithfield, without going near the highway. While this alternate route will never be a thoroughfare in the way that highways are, if I hear on the radio there is an accident near Mt Sheridan Plaza, I can bypass it completely.

In any city, town or region throughout Australia, if there is an accident on any main road, traffic chaos ensues. What on earth makes us think we are any different, or should be? Reality states that on a good road, only bad drivers are the problem. Unfortunately there will always be poor drivers on our roads and the only cure is to ride a bike, if you are game.

The current system is dangerous as travelling along a major road at 80 klms per hour and having to stop suddenly due to red lights, over and over again, makes it very difficult to travel smoothly and makes it almost impossible for Learner or P plated drivers. Even after doing it almost daily for several years, I still see drivers turning in front of semi-trailers at the last moment, drivers running up the backsides of overly cautious drivers and drivers running through lights while they are turning red.

I, for one, am looking forward to travelling on a major highway with simple exits to each suburb and no traffic lights along the way. While I acknowledge that the final result is 30 years away, I am impressed with the fast approval once a plan was decided upon and the speed in which it has been funded with thanks to the efforts of Jim Turnour who recognised the need for this. Whether or not I still live here when it is finished, rest assured I will still be in the area and will drive it as often as I can.

Regional card!!

Ok, so I have only just blogged my thoughts on this issue but an active mind requires time to process it's brilliance and I have just got to post my thoughts on what could (?) be a great solution to so many of the issues raised.

Previously, we recieved a small discount for paying our rates by the due date. This was obviously not generating enough revenue as we all paid them on time to get the discount, so it was removed. Now there is no incentive to pay those large amounts on time. I wonder how many are now paying later or not at all compared to the old system?

Anyway, previously I stated that we, as locals of our region should demand more, especially if we are forced to pay more, from our Council, in terms of roads, cycle paths, art/ sport and cultural facilities. I also stated that a discount for locals could be the answer to having a great Cultural Precinct.

I propose that we bring back the incentive in the form of a ' Regional Card'. Those who pay their rates on time will recieve one for their household. This would entitle them to get a discount at all council run facilities over the course of the 6 months the rates are valid for. It would have the names of those who pay the rates and there would only be one per family/ individual. Businesses could recieve a similar card that entitles them to discounts for conferences, staff parties etc... as long as they are held at Council facilities.

The Regional Card could also contain locals discounts for other local businesses if they choose to participate, reducing their current advertising fees for similar incentive programs run individually, therfore helping local business as well. We would all recieve a flyer informing us of facilities, businesses etc participating and the discounts they are willing to provide.

Would it work.....Is it even a remote possibility? I don't know, but it sounds pretty good to me!!

Quality of life - at our expense.

This week I have had the distinct pleasure of housing a student from America for a Homestay program that the local Kindergarten takes part in. During his stay I took him out to lunch, drove around to see the local environment and also took him grocery shopping. He commented several times on the high prices we pay for petrol, food and houses here compared to what they pay back in America. He said we spend more on groceries in one day than they spend in a month and even the food at McDonalds (which I did NOT take him too!) was exhorbitant.

After announcing this however, he also stated that our quality of life was much higher here. We have more faith in ourselves to succeed, we have more facilities available to us, we have more schools, a better health system and we have pride in our country, which apparently is dwindling over there.

It made me think a little on what we have now, what we will have in the next 5 years and what is still 30 years away and how it will affect our lives.

I wonder, if the Cairns Cultural Precinct was built tomorrow and we, as locals, recieved 40% off all ticket prices for local performances, shows etc... would we feel happier about the big spend required to build it? If we had a new highway upgrade right now that would enable us to travel to the city from Gordonvale in only 15-20 minutes, would we feel better about the entire concept and cost? If we had access to Sugarworld for $1each more than previously, would we be happier to pay that per visit than get a rate rise for the whole community? If we ensured that all local producers had access to our supermarkets would we be happy eating according to seasons rather than complaining about the cost of cherries in July? If we paid an extra 5 percent on top of the current 5 for our rates but had access to great roads, bike paths, sporting facilities and cultural facilities would we still be concerned about the cost.

Sometimes it pays to look at the benefits of paying for what we want and need. We have free hospitals, free education and free parks and amenities. If we want these improved, and we do, then we need to be prepared to pay for that.

It is absolutely true that we get what we pay for. In America they pay for these things as they go, we pay as a group and should therefore all benefit.

It is not beyond the realm of possibilities that we should not get our cheap tickets for a precinct we provide, it is not too much to ask Dairy Farmers to lower their price by 50 cents per 2 litre bottle (or even have them on special occassionally) so that we buy their products all the time. It is also not too much to demand that we have the facilities for our kids and ourselves that we want, as a tradeoff for paying more for everything.

Compromise is not a word we use often because we often feel that in doing so, both parties miss out, but it is something we should all embrace (Council, Government and the people) so that nobody ever feels like they are getting nothing or conversely, everything. We are the employers of our governing bodies so we have the right to ask for what we would like. They have the right to disagree, but at some point, if we all just listen instead of talking over each other, perhaps a compromise could be reached that we are all happy with.

Saturday, July 10, 2010


Most, if not all, of you will be aware that there is a young lady facing charges in Cairns courts for procuring her own abortion. Since charges were laid there has been a great deal of debate locally and statewide about the issue. It was a great suprise to many to discover that abortion is illegal in Queensland and all abortions performed are done so without the protection of the law.

Last night I attended the launch of Caroline De Costa's new book titled 'Never, Ever Again' at the Cairns Base Hospital. The launch featured a prominant activist on the issue who managed, after 4 years of constant lobbying, and with the help of many, to remove abortion from all sections of law in Victoria. This makes it not only legal but also gives the procedure the same standing as any other medical procedure performed in any hospital.

There were several members of various political sectors there along with many concerned members of the general public and discussion following the launch was much the same. It centered on 'why' it should prove so difficult to remove this law in Queensland and the arguments for and against.

My personal opinion on the issue is........irrelevant. So is yours. Abortion should not be a decision made by the population as a whole, it should be a decision made by the woman involved and a doctor. It is not up to me, or you, to decide for them. If I choose not to have an abortion, I simply won't. If I choose to undertake the procedure, I should be entitled to decide for myself, and should be protected by the law whatever decision I make.

Making abortion legal will not make it become a form of birth control as some would have us believe. However 'easy' it becomes (whether taking a simple tablet or booking yourself into a day clinic) it is never going to be an easy decision to make. It is a tough choice and the mental and physical implications must be acknowledged. In making it legal, abortion can be talked about openly and information would be readily available. This education will give women more facts, therefore making any decision they make an informed choice.

We all, men and women, need to lobby our state members (nag, argue, write letters, hold up a sign) until they understand that not only is it not my right to decide for others, it is most definately not their's either.

According to the whispers, the young woman to be back in court shortly to face the charges against her and her boyfriend will be pleading guilty. She has possibly decided that despite being the only woman on record in Queensland charged under the abortion laws, she is tiring of the fight. I am tired of all the arguing. Just change the law. Then let the arguing occur wherever people see fit to discuss the issue for debate is a valuable tool.

Thursday, July 8, 2010


Every parent wants only this for their children, that they be happy, well-adjusted, reasonably successful adults. It might not seem like much but as we all know, it's a lot harder than it sounds. Most adults are not all of these things, yet we try raising children to have those things we do not necessarily have ourselves.

A couple of recent items have been brought to my attention that have solidified this ideal for me. One is the tragedy that occurred yesterday involving a young mother, her 8 month old baby and the baby's father. The needless deaths of the women and her child and the injuries sustained by the father could, it now appears, have been prevented.

It seems likely that the young woman suffered from Post Natal Depression. This is a serious condition affecting a larger majority of the population than figures indicate. Many will go undiagnosed (as this particular woman did) and will suffer through unaware that it is treatable, de-stigmatised and while not common, is not rare either. This person was unfortunate in that she was a single mother, separated from the father of her child, so was possibly thinking that being alone while raising a child was her only problem. Nobody witnessed her pain as the neighbours said they never met and rarely saw her. She was isolated by circumstance and also, to some degree, by choice, which left her even more vulnerable to this.

After giving birth to all three of my children I had to attend a 6 week check-up for mind and body. This entailed asking me a series of questions regarding my mental health and reminding me that having the 'baby blues' is very common but if the symptoms are strong, last a while and I feel 'out of control' I possibly would have PND. I was lucky and only felt 'lost' for the first few weeks. My entire family, especially my partner, were very supportive in that time and I did not ever feel isolated or alone in my journey.

I have always wondered about the consultation with the nurse though and felt that my partner, mother or other support people should also have been asked these questions. At times I know that a new mother is not comfortable telling people how frustrated she is, how angry she sometimes gets, how tearful she often is. Another observer would be just as aware of behaviour anomalies and might be a good person to ask. Surely a second 'opinion' is not a bad idea. At risk are the children, who are faultless, the mother who gets overwhelmed by guilt, anger, frustration and the enormity of her task, unaware she is not alone in her feelings, and the lives of all those around them who may, like the father of this baby, have to face the loss of their child.

There must be a better way to diagnose and help these women than those which currently exist. They are very good, but obviously are not doing enough.


Last night on the news a story about the football player who ran over his 15 month old boy in his driveway was shown. His child is expected to make a full recovery with no outward effects expected from his horrific injuries. That is fantastic news.

The parents were arguing their opinion that all driveways should be fenced off from houses to help prevent this from occurring. Apparently over the course of a year, an average of 40 children are run over in driveways in Queensland alone.

This astounded me. Not because I have no idea how it could happen but because this statistic is not given more priority. I am fully aware that children are fast, unthinking and fearless, so that this happens at all is of no real suprise to anyone with children. Most people I know have reverse sensors, worry about the prospect of this happening and sometimes get out of the car to double check before driving away.

Is there an answer to this one though? Probably not. Children run fast, so reversing sensors are of no use, they have no concept of the danger posed so education is probably not going to be effective (especially for a 2 year old) and fencing off a part of your yard will only work if you also install child locks on all gates, make sure they stay closed and warn all visitors. Probably not the most practical idea.

Our children are our first priority until they can fend for themselves (and I am unsure when that happens as I am still guilty of calling my mum to ask for advice!) but cottonwooling ( I know it is not a word) is not the answer. Children will break bones, scrape knees, gather bumps on heads, eat dirt and get up and go again. They will defy all of our sanitising of houses and jump in the first muddy puddle they see. It's what they need, it's how they explore their environment.

I know people who have blocked off parts of their houses with millions of child gates and put child-proof everything, everywhere. These kids have still had worms, head-lice, rashes and spots. Probably more than kids who have been exposed to dirt and dust bunnies.

The answer to everything is a very simple, but time consuming one, watch your kids. Be aware of the dangers they face, but not frightened for them, expose them to the world, but keep them close by, and do not make the mistake of thinking you can prevent everything bad from happening to your precious babies. We are, after all, only human.


There is an organisation running in Cairns and Innisfail (I think even to Townsville) that is one I admire and support and would like you to support also. It is called 'Backpacks 4 Aussie Kids' and they do one very extraordinary thing. They collect items like toothbrushes, toothpaste, torches, clothing and old backpacks and make up 'care bags' for those who are temporarily, or permanently, entering foster care.

These kids often do not have time to pack a bag of belongings when they are taken from a poor environment so turn up on doorsteps without a thing of their own. Children need a sense of purpose and a feeling of confidence in order to thrive. Having nothing in your hand and entering a new house must be horribly disheartening and they must really struggle to find a sense of themselves.

The backpack idea is a brilliant one, started in Innisfail by Des, a women who cares for foster kids and was aware of the need for this to happen. The torch in the bag is for nights when the children wake and can't remember where they are, or the layout of the home. This part in particular really struck me as being brilliant and could only have been thought up by someone this aware. Baby bags are also made up, with bottles, nappies etc. Each bag holds two days worth of clothing and each also has an activity book and pencils or a stuffed toy or something similar.

I will include contact details below for anyone interested in supporting this initiative. I strongly urge you to do so, it's a great one!!


Tuesday, July 6, 2010


To all those who competed in the recent Eisteddfod held over two weeks at the Cairns Civic Theatre a big congratulations. The children displayed such great talent for our region and conducted themselves beautifully. The program was long, the hours got later and still they shon and sparkled their way through the routines and performances.

A special congratulations to all the parents, who attended sessions their own children were starring in and often came early or stayed late to watch the other kids perform. This takes dedication and will be appreciated by your children for years to come.

As far as I am concerned, you were all winners, but the results puplished in today's paper give the real results. Well done to all!!

Facilities for kids.

It has been brought to my attention by members of my community and others in the entire Cairns region that all major works in the pipeline are for the adult sector.

There is a great need for a Cultural Precinct, adequate Tennis Centre, an Edmonton Town Centre, new highway routes into Cairns from Gordonvale and essential upgrades to bike lanes throughout the region. In order for these public facilities and works to maintain high usage for years to come there must be more money, significant money, spent on youth development in this city.

We desperately need a multi-purpose OUTDOOR facility in the Bentley Park/Edmonton area for football codes, baseball, soccer and softball. Currently we have inadequate areas in which to train, play and learn these sports. This MUST be a priority for those with the power to make it happen. Lighting would need to be installed for games that end after sunset and the necessary amount of car parks are also essential. This would enable those with an interest or talent in these sports to take part in the social, physical and community aspects of the game.

There is need for more facilities like the one at Woree State School to teach young children road rules, safe cycling practices while getting them outdoors and active.
This facility is a fantastic one which benefits the entire school and therefore, the community around it. It features lanes, road signs, crossings etc and gives these children the confidence required to safely use the road. One of these on the north side at Smithfield or one of the beaches would be excellent and another near Gordonvale.

More money needs to be injected into sports which are individual but more costly, making them beyond the reach of the larger population. Gymnastics and Martial Arts are a great way to learn strength, discipline and confidence but are too expensive for most families. The Southside Gymnasium needs to be twice the size to accomodate the need it currently has and both Gyms in our region need funding for more coaches and a boost in attendance.

I have also been informed that a clay based court for tennis is the best way to get children to continue in tennis if this is their chosen sport. A green court has too high a bounce and makes it difficult for young people to serve the ball. Frustration leads to a great big case of giving up. I do not know what the feasability is for this type of surface, apparently there are 'false' alternatives that do the same job but are more appropriate to our weather conditions. Either way, it deserves consideration.

Sugarworld needs to be upgraded and re-opened at the earliest possible time. This facility is one which was enjoyed by the whole of Cairns as a cheap, fun way to spend a day and all ages were catered for. The new water park near Smithfield will be fantastic but not affordable for more than the occasional visit.

Our children need to be 'entertained' and kept active so that they do not follow other, more negative pursuits. Sport and outdoor activities are a fantastic asset to Cairns and while it is always about the cost, it should also be about our children and their future. These children will grow to be the ones we watch at the new Tennis Centre in another Davis Cup tie, they will be the ones we cheer on while holding our Footy Double tickets, the ones we wear green and gold for at the next Soccer World Cup. We need to invest a lot more in our greatest assets.

On a side note;

Rebates or grants are in existence for power, houses, petrol and many other living expenses. It would not be much of a stretch to allow a rebate for sport also.

It has been proven that scholastic education is equal to sporting pursuits in raising well-adjusted children. Currently we recieve a rebate of up to $350 per year for Primary School students and $750 for Secondary for educational expenses, if this was equalled for sport and dance and we could produce reciepts for swimming lessons, Choi Kwang Do, baseball, football, soccer, AFL, gymnastics, dancing etc......more parents would get their children to participate and our children would all be healthier, more confident and far less 'bored'.

Just a suggestion.

Cairns Cultural Precinct.

The current model for the 'volcano' under consideration is one that has caused a great deal of public divide. Surely a plan of this scale, allegedly costing 241 million dollars to build should be loved by more than 50 percent of the population?

In no way do I make claims of being a design architect, nor a builder of anything bigger than a chicken coop for my backyard, however, could we not have a design that better reflects the whole region and those artists among us?

Our regions artists live in Kuranda, Trinity Beach, Palm Cove, Bramston Beach, Edge Hill and various other visionary areas of Cairns. These are all pockets of loveliness with beautiful outlooks and a casual, chic ambience. Surely a building set to house our local art community's work should better reflect the environment they come from?

I propose a building much closer to the ground, with HUGE metal mangroves (two) as the frame to the entrance. These should have lower 'root structures' that children can explore but be too slippery to climb. This would directly reflect the background for this building and the backdrop for all those who live at the beaches. The roof should be reflective of the water in the inlet and be gently undulating 'waves' which also tie in with the roof from the convention centre.

Some part of this structure MUST reflect the Aboriginal and Islander culture of our region and perhaps a large 'serpent' could be built as a walkway between the buildings.

I firmly believe we need an iconic building as do those with a vested interest in the current model but want to see one that embraces our relaxed, visually stunning part of Australia and not one which would be more suitable for a capital city.

I also believe there is not need for a multitude of shops at all. We have plenty of retail opportunities in the area and do not need more. This particular building will house art and artistic pursuits with conferences also a major attraction. People visiting the precinct will need good food, a cafe and a retail outlet that sells artworks. Other than that, no other retail facilities are required. The food should represent the area also and be made from local produce to support and advertise the other attractions in the region. The coffee shop should be owned and run by Coffee Works, Skybury or one of our other great coffee and chocolate makers. We have so many fantastic opportunities for our entire area if this is brought to fruition and I am a huge supporter of the need for this facility.

Bear in mind that my ideas are only ideas and not a direct view of all locals. I would love to hear other opinions on what could be incorporated in the design along with, or differing from my own. I am on Facebook for those who would like to respond.