Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Do we really need a Cultural Precinct?

The biggest concern for most people when asked about their views on the Cultural Precinct is that it is too expensive. The second is that it is considered a 'huge white elephant' monument to Val. The third is that we have so many local suburban projects waiting for the green light and this one appears to be taking precedence over them.

All valid points.

Lets start with the cost. $240 million is a huge amount of money in anyone's language. It seems astronomical to most and people are rightly asking why we need something that big, that comprehensive and that expensive.

The cost is in line with most developments of this scale and is hugely over-priced. As are our houses and our business developments all over the country. The price of steel alone has leapt higher by monstrous proportions in recent years and that's without the added costs of plumbing, electrical work etc also rising.

When I was a child, the job of a builder was not a sought after career choice. Plumbers and electricians faired marginally better but it was still considered the choice for those who couldn't get into University or didn't have the 'people skills' for retail or hospitality. Now, the building trades are earning almost the same as our doctors and the prices for any small amount of work carried out by them is beyond the reach of most of us. Hence the rise in DIY accidents and the huge success of Bunnings. I am not judging the industry, it's not their fault that they are now worth a fortune, more power to them. Gaining a trade has never been a walk in the park and they probably deserve to reap some real rewards for all their hard work.

The size of the building in question is required if it is to become the hub of the cultural and artistic communities of Cairns. If we want a building that can be adjusted inside to cater for various sized performances (and we do) then we need a building large enough to support that. I have stated many times which design elements I would prefer and am hoping the architects are fairly like-minded and I still feel that the retail outlets are unnecessary and am concerned that the restaurants considered will be detrimental to 'eat street' (Shields Street). A better design can lower the cost slightly, while still giving us the precinct we need now and will need in the future.

As for it being 'Aunty Val's' pet project, it's probably fair to say that it is. She has long been associated with the artistic community in Cairns and has always been proud of that involvement. Before being crowned Mayor she was active in the arts and has remained so throughout the few years she has held her new role. Personally, I don't really care why we are now looking at this as a real possibility for the region, every Mayor has a pet project and a direction they want Cairns to head in, that's why we vote them in (or out). At least this project is one that addresses the very real problems we are having in the city with the bland, pasty persona it currently enjoys.

Then there are those who want the footpaths, the Sugarworld precinct, the other basic amenities and promised projects built long before we talk of building a giant monument to the arts. Fair enough. It's true that the suburbs are crying out for their facilities to be upgraded and in the southern corridor.....just a start would be good at this point. The Edmonton area was promised an Edmonton Town Centre, a Leisure Centre and the Sugarworld fix-up and has seen no progress at all in any of these, barring of course the half-hearted attempt at community consultation for the slide re-build. Is it any wonder that the residents of this area are annoyed that this Precinct, in the heart of the city, that most say they will rarely frequent, is taking precedence over their own local issues?

Do we really need the Cultural Precinct? Yes we do. Culture and the Arts are the soul of any community and the soul needs to be nurtured. The heart is the people that live in the community and the arteries are the amenities that keep us functioning within our own suburbs while keeping us connected to the entire region. All of these things need to be protected, nurtured and supported by our Regional Council and more precisely, by our local Councillors.

Culture is a word that encapsulates all of us in some way or another. Some are immersed in the fishing culture of Cairns, some in the sporting culture and many are part of the indigenous cultures of the area. While the fishing and sporting culture's have many and varied facilities to practice, revel and gather, the Indigenous cultures do not. At least not in a space that is available to all. They deserve a place that celebrates them and encourages them to share and interact.

The Arts is also a misunderstood umbrella word. It encompasses media, traditional art, performance art, comedy, ballet, school productions, plays, music and pretty much anything else you can think of that is creative in some way.

The Civic Theatre is archaic, has no wheelchair access, is falling apart and is much too small to support the population as it stands, never mind the increases in population forecast for us. You may only go there once a year, you may go for school productions, local productions (if you haven't seen 'The Man In the Pinstripe Suit' yet, you really should), maybe the Melbourne Comedy Festival Touring Road Show, the Queensland Ballet (good luck with that one as they can't fit on the stage)or perhaps you are one of those with very small children and Hi5, Wombat Stew and Dorothy the Dinosaur are more your cup of tea. Regardless of your preference, it must be acknowledged that the facility is widely used and in it's current form is a disgrace to the region.

The local roads, footpaths and facilities have equal billing with the Cultural Precinct in my mind. We should not have to choose between keeping the arteries going or nurturing the soul. I firmly believe that with careful planning and budgeting, we can have it all. Indeed we deserve to have it all. The entire community deserves the lot and we need to make sure we get it.

It is beneficial to us all to talk up the Precinct, not talk it down. We need to continue to stay angry about the lack of action in our suburbs and get the ball rolling on those issues, while encouraging the Council to further develop the concepts and the costings for the Cultural Precinct. I can tell you right now that if we felt that we were getting a fair go outside of the city area, we would all be much more supportive of the Precinct.

Take note Val, if you want to get the population you represent behind you in this one, you need to look after them in their communities. It's a simple and as complicated as that.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Miltonia Street - Polling the neighbourhood (week 2.)

Those of you who are reading these blogs with interest may notice that the street I polled was not the one my coin chose last week. Unfortunately when I travelled to the back of Edmonton earlier last week I forgot the all important paperwork and couldn't remember the name of the street. I knew it started with an M and the general area, so went with the closest one fitting that vague description. I had to travel back once again to get some more residents at home but by then I decided to just run with it. In a fortnight, I will be back in the street I originally proposed, so they aren't escaping me!

The results from this weeks visits were surprising again, but mostly for being so very different to the one I did last week. I assumed that some of the responses would be fairly similar but that was not the case at all.

The first thing that struck me when walking down Miltonia Street is the fact that all of the front doors are closed and the blinds are drawn. From the front, it looks as though there is nobody home, and it was the same for every house. The sense of community was not really apparent from appearances and that honestly threw me a little. I felt that I might struggle to get some answers and perhaps would be turned away from some homes.

I could not have been more wrong. The residents are friendly, welcoming and all who answered the door, which was all but one, also answered every question I had. This time I again got more than I bargained for as far as the responses were concerned and most were willing to chat about things outside of what I was asking.

Firstly, I have no idea about internet connection in this street but they all knew what a blog was and they all thought that my 'walk the street' initiative was a good one which leads me to believe that they probably do have home computers.

The Cultural Precinct got a big thumbs down if it was to stay the same as the 'pyramid' plan. In another guise, most like the idea so long as it doesn't mean that roads and basic amenities don't suffer. All of the residents thought it was too expensive and thought that there were more important things to worry about before the arts community. Two were in favour of it, although one, who was wheelchair bound, wants assurances that it will be fully accessible to her.

I was actually unaware until that point that the Civic Theatre is not accessible, to be honest it had never occurred to me. She was told that the plans they had to upgrade the facilities for wheelchair access have been put on hold indefinitely due to the Cultural Precinct plan. This won't be ready for a few years yet, so she won't be seeing anything for a while. If that is true, and it quite possibly is, then that's a really poor effort for Cairns.

Some have not been to the Civic Theatre since high school and two said they would prefer a sporting field as they liked sport, or had children who were sporty. None agreed that it should seat 20,000 as all those questioned believed that our population would not support a venue of that size.

One resident wants Sugarworld demolished and another twice it's size (at least) built nearby but all other residents want Option 2. The concern from the person who doesn't want it in it's current location was that it is far too small, too many kids in the small pools and it's unhygienic due to the overcrowding. I am sure that the regulations for controlling the water quality are fairly stringent but I have been there on the odd occasion it's been pretty packed so I understand the concerns.

As far as the city of Cairns and it's nightlife was concerned, the residents hardly ever, if at all, visit the city and those who do, go to the Nightmarkets and the Esplanade. One travels in for the Casino occasionally but does not go beyond there.
All think that the city is stale and colourless and also agree with one another that the city is dying and not very exciting any more. I believe that the removal of good quality live music venues and colourful characters have been a large part of the reason for that but that's just my opinion.

If I gave them $50 each they would spend it on groceries, petrol or the movies although one had a great idea that I am taking on board, she said that she would shout herself a massage. I like that one. Money seems to be rarer here and it seems that these people would rather use the cash to ease some of the pressure rather than splurge.

Two residents knew who their local Councillor is, that's much better than last week at least. One because she was unhappy with her and the other took a guess, and was very surprised that she guessed correctly. Essentially, no change there really.

Now Friendship Street, who I polled last week, all had issues with law and order and I was truly expecting more of the same here. WRONG AGAIN! These residents all have a problem with Housing Commission. Not the idea so much, most of them are living in public housing, but the saturation of it. A few stated that up until a year ago there was public housing spread out among the suburb and in the past 12 months it has intensified and is now much too widespread for one suburban area. The concern was that a high density, low socio-economic population would lead to another 'Manoora' situation and the schools, the house prices, the residents and those trying to escape the cycle will suffer. The only 'answer' I received was that perhaps EVERY street in Cairns should have ONE social housing home in it. Every suburb, every street, one home.

I don't really know what the real situation is at the back of Edmonton, I will try to find out though. What I do know is that I was raised in Miles Street. Smack bang in the middle of Manoora. It was not a nice place to grow up in. Not because of the high crime, not because of the backgrounds of people living there, not because of the lack of social conscience, but because of the desperation and despair of so many of those living around me. It is very hard to outgrow and overcome and I would be quite sad to see the same thing occur again in my home town. Manoora is overcoming it's past and could almost make claims to having moved on from the horrid old days but I bet if you ask anyone who grew up there when I did what it was like, the answers would not be pretty.

Well, that's it for another week. Thanks to the residents of Miltonia Street for your time, your patience and your wonderful friendly attitudes. It was a pleasure to chat with you all.

Next week I am aiming for the middle of the South Side in Berrima Street. I like the name of this street because I love berries (don't knock my reasoning) and it's a short one which means that I will fit it into my school holiday schedule. I only just made it this week!

Until then, keep reading the new posts and get out there and active in your own communities, you might be surprised at how much fun it really is!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Survey says?? In 30 years I see Cairns as..........

This week the Cairns community was invited to respond to a survey asking for our help in giving the Council our visions for the future and helping to piece together a 30 year plan for the region. I went immediately to it and filled out the questionnaire. It took far longer than the 5 minutes they suggest but I was happy with the results.

There are probably a few hundred people out there who will bother taking the time to head to the link and fill it out, what of the other 160 odd thousand? Will there be other ways these people can have a say? Possibly not. And what IS the best way forward for our region? I assume that most responses will differ from one another so how will they decide which opinions are valid or useful?

I don't know the answers to those questions, but I do know what MY response was.

Our region has long been the leader in ECO tourism for the whole of Australia. We have a brilliant natural environment suitable for a quick visit or total immersion. We have the best tropical and marine scientists and now, the facilities to support them. Why don't we take it one step further and investigate the possibility of becoming the ECO manufacturing hub of Australia? We could take ideas all the way from inception to design through to saleable products and in doing so, become a city suitable for environmentally sustainable workshops, conferences, scientific gatherings, eco tourism on a large scale and a model for other cities to follow. In this area we could be the best, the first and the ideal for the entire country.

We need the cultural precinct to happen. We need it to be built with the surrounding area taken into account and it needs to be as environmentally sound as possible. It needs plenty of large green spaces that are usable and have ample seating. It should be accessible to local schools for productions and awards nights, local artists, local performers and local cultural groups. There should be a large 'cultural garden' incorporated in the plan beside the buildings that has a circle of seats and plenty of shade for cultural gatherings and meetings.

We need to develop our industries to incorporate the boom in Papua New Guinea and market ourselves as a fly in fly out destination to the world. Also to the mines around us and the ones still to come(and they will come).

On the same vein, sporting events should also be marketed to under the same banner, we are the only regional centre with direct flights to almost anywhere in the world. We need a cover for the Tennis Centre, but how to do that without creating a bit of an oven, I will leave to the experts. A large cash injection to Cazaly's (which was recently begun by the Federal Government) to enlarge the current facilities and to incorporate a rectangular field would create further sporting opportunities for local and national teams.

Cairns needs to support it's outer suburbs more appropriately, with better access to bulk-billing doctors, better access to mental health facilities, higher police presence and more approachable community leaders. The small scale community events that occur all the way throughout the year need better attention from the media, as do the wonderful new initiatives and developments we have in our suburbs. The new facility (Mookai Rosie Bi-Bayan) in Edmonton housing 24 beds for new mums who have travelled from Cape and inland communities was opened this week and the lack of media attention to such a fabulous undertaking was marked.

Schools need to have more interaction between one another in the form of sporting events, music and performance arts collaborations and education based events such as a local regional spelling bee. There are already a few of these happening during the year and they are hugely successful and get the kids involved outside of their insular school environment and into the wider community.

The community needs to be re-engaged with the entire region and it's leaders. We need to be able to ask questions and get a response. We need to be able to adjust our way of thinking when required without being accused of doing back-flips and we need to feel a valued and integral member of the community we live in.

Cairns has so much potential in so many areas, it just needs guidance and support to start the process. I desperately want some action on some of the initiatives thrown around so that we can see some results and feel as if we are moving in an exciting, new direction.

Well, that's what I said I wanted......what did you want?

If you haven't yet taken the survey here is the link information...

Who Am I?

Recently I was having a conversation with a prominent member of Cairns about the region and it's future when I was asked a question that left me a bit lost for words. They knew me well as I am an active member of the community and I have had several interactions with them in the past. The conversation was going so well up until that moment and then it took a dive into obscurity and the person in question actually turned away from me immediately afterwards.

And the question? 'Who are you exactly and what is it that you do?'

Sounds like an innocent enough question really and most of you would probably have a ready response involving some business contacts, a bucket-load of education and a history of great choices in an increasingly unstable world. I obviously didn't.

So, who am I then? And what exactly DO I do? Well, I still have no real answers for that one other than the truth, which in the above mentioned case, wasn't enough.

This was my response.....'I am a local woman who believes that Cairns is turning grey, lost it's colour and becoming voiceless, uninteresting and bland. I have lived here almost my entire life and have seen the changes first-hand and none of them are doing the region any favours. Businesses are floundering, tourism is stagnating and suburban life is no longer inclusive.

I work hard in my community to try and make a difference on a small scale, firmly believing that this will encourage others to become more active in their own suburban regions, having the flow-on effect that will benefit the wider community. As a member of many organisations and committees I advocate strongly for those who are too shy, too scared, uninformed or simply feel too disconnected to use their own voices. Most of the locals know me because I am everywhere and into everything and those who don't soon will.

What do I do exactly? Well, I write on my blog, I write letters, I ring people, I talk to people and I act. That's what my 'job' is. As a member of the community who wants things to improve for everyone, it's the only way to make some changes long overdue. There are several people in my area alone doing similar things which is fantastic because the more who make the effort, the better outcomes we will have.'

This was the answer I gave. It was not the answer they wanted. The next question was....'Yes, but who are you and what do you actually DO exactly?'

My further response was........'I am raising three children to be strong, conscientious, active members of the community and have a very supportive husband. My family is the main reason I am so community minded and a political being. If I can do good things now, they will all benefit later. I attend community events, forums and connect with those who have just as much interest as me in affecting change. I am a community engagement officer but without the name tag, status and pay packet.'

Still not good enough? Apparently not. What they really wanted to know was how I earn my money. I knew that, they knew that, but really....... who cares? Does that define me? Make me who I am and what I am? God, I hope not. With those parameters not many people would stand up and count themselves as important members of society.

So what do I do? Well, I work at Squeekers, the Fun Club and Cafe on the highway at Edmonton. I do it part-time and am also the new Marketing Manager (which is not as glamorous as it sounds). I really love my job. I get to interact with families from the whole region and help them have a fantastic few hours in a safe, fun and friendly environment. You simply cannot work in a place like that and be miserable.

But does it define me? No, it does not. But the answer I gave was enough to convince this person that I was largely irrelevant and not worth any more of their time.

Before I became a mother I worked in a career much higher up the social ladder but was not vocal about the needs and wants of my area at the time. I have since grown up and realised that I have the capacity to engage the community and to have an affect in it's future. I am what is commonly referred to as a 'people person', I can talk to anybody and engage in debate about the most obscure of things when required. I have good ideas, people around me have GREAT ones, and I am more than happy to be their voice. My job at Squeekers is just a job. I love it and am thankful to have one that allows me to be at home when my children come out of school but it is far from who I am .

Next time you ask someone the question -and you will- think about how you really want them to answer. Does your job define you? Perhaps you are in a career that makes a huge difference to the lives of those around us and feel it really does define you. Most of us though, just have jobs to pay the mortgage and to contribute to society and are happy if it's in a fair, enjoyable, well managed environment.

In the meanwhile, I will continue to do my 'job' for the people in the southern corridor and surrounding areas and stay secure in the knowledge that my family and community think I am a very worthwhile person to have in their corner. After all, they are the ones who really matter.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Part 2- the reason that I have decided all bets are off!!

Most of those who read this blog will also be readers of CairnsBlog, Hillbilly Watch, Raj Cairns Report or the Northern Truth and whatever other local political blog you can find. That being the case you will have noticed the completely partisan views from almost all readers in their comments.

We have learnt over time to recognise who votes which way and that they are very single-minded. I am one of them. You will also notice on occasion there are those who comment without caring which party they are attacking, though they are few and far between.

Readers of political blogs are by nature, political beings. The reason we all follow all of the different blogs available is because these give us the opportunity to express our views where mainstream media does not. For some reason we feel more powerful and a legitimate part of the democratic process by acting through the internet.

I have found that when a political representative does something good, those who support them say nothing, and those against rant. When the representatives do something stupid, both sides vie for time and space in the comment section. This means that we all recognise that defence is only called for when necessary, and when someone does the right thing, it's unnecessary.

I am concerned that more and more effort is required to defend the actions of the members of our region. We are at the ready with fingers nimble and pre-written phrases in our heads, just waiting for the next opportunity to defend those actions that require it. What it is effectively doing, is widening the divide between local members of the community and causing dislike and, some would argue, hatred within our own ranks.

What makes us the same is that we all support the causes and the parties we are so quick to defend, what sets us apart is the same thing. What the current representatives do not yet understand, is that this division is growing, it is not cause for celebration and it is working against them, whoever they are. We are no longer debating about the future of Cairns and it's surrounding suburbs, instead we are arguing about the merits of what stupidity occurred yesterday.

Until politicians stop giving us so much ammunition, things will not change. I challenged them to stop in the last blog and this is the follow up one which explains where my opinions arose from so I do not need to reiterate. I will be taking note of which, if any ARE actually trying though. All I have to do is read the comments.............

All Bets are off!!

It's all fun and games.......till someone actually does the right thing....then, all bets are off!

Politics, the unlikely saviour for the less fortunate (I always wondered why they are called that? Less fortunate than who exactly?), the down-trodden and the hopeful.

We have a current State Government that is Labor, perhaps not for much longer. I get the feeling that some of those in our region will fail in their bid to be re-elected (or to win the seat with another candidate after retiring) while others will buck the trend and do surprisingly well, Curtis Pitt being a clear example of one who has a pretty good chance of re-election.

The Council is, for the most part, Independent. Even those with the same political affiliations work separately from one another, rarely voting together and have, to date, not formed any sort of block. In contrast to those who do vote as a block yet claim no team, political party or otherwise exists for them.

Add to that a Federal member who is Liberal and you get a combination of just about every party, except Green, running the region we live in.

Those who hold the power to make changes to our city, our lives and our jobs seem to be spending more time arguing about who is failing in their job rather than in actually doing anything worthwhile. They constantly bicker amongst themselves, citing party affiliations as the reason for the differences in opinion.

Frankly, I just want them all to shut up. Do your jobs people and stop trying to convince us you are making big changes because I can't see any!

It pisses me off (yes, I am resorting here to swearing, that's how annoyed I am) that they all think we care about whether or not one is better than the other. It annoys me no end that they appear to care more about the swinging voters and the next election than in doing something NOW that will get them noticed for the right reasons.

I am equally annoyed with Val, Warren, Steve and Jason and don't really care about party politics right now. The recent election is over people! The next one is not for another 18 months. Do not spend that time frittering away the chances you still have to do some truly great things. Forget about which party you represent for just one minute and worry more about the PEOPLE you represent. Remember that those who did not vote for you and do not even like you are still members of your constituency and you are still their representatives.

Would I rather a Labor, a Liberal, a Green or an Independent representing me? I would rather an EFFECTIVE person. At election time we all choose the party we like the best, the one who represents who we feel we are and where we want to go, but now, when there is no election in sight, we just want the job done properly. We had our say, we will have our say again in 18 months, but for now, the people voted in are the ones we are stuck with so don't give us more reasons to vote you out.....give us reasons to vote you in.

Don't worry about the political affiliations of the other people in similar positions to you, work with them anyway, for the good of your region, and get some RESULTS!! If I hear one more person refer to a 'hostile' this or a 'stonewall' that or a 'stooge' or a 'lackey' I will not be responsible for my actions.

You can not control everything or everybody and you feel out of control when you try.....but what you can control is your own voice, your own choices, and your own actions. You will find if you rely only on those things you can control, if you are positive in attitude and behaviour, the results will speak for themselves.

Try it...I dare you.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Polling the neighbourhood, Friendship Street.

Well, here are the results you have all been waiting for.

Friendship Street lived up to it's name and all of the residents approached answered the questions I had for them. Only two of the houses did not have anyone home and while I did go back twice more to try again I had no luck.

Let me start by saying that I had some pre-conceived notions on what the responses would be and I was completely wrong on some and absolutely correct on others (but I am not telling you which....). I also need to add that while I did not exactly ask the question, when I told the residents I represented a blog some of them asked if that was some sort of 'computer thing' and most told me they didn't have a computer in the house. That made me wonder if I am actually superfluous to the needs of my area and am effectively ineffective in the way I communicate with them. What it did point out, was that the tried and true method of 'door-knocking' is actually the best way to find out what people are really thinking so I am very glad I decided to take my queries to the street.

One of the questions I asked was regarding the Sugarworld Upgrade. I asked if they had seen the options available and if they had chosen one. Nearly all had seen them, not via the internet of course, but in The Cairns Post. They all wanted option 2 but most had not officially had a say via the survey that was in the paper. It appears that The Cairns Post was the vehicle by which all information regarding local issues was monitored. I have questioned in the past the poor efforts by those in charge of community consultation and engagement on this issue and it appears that these concerns were proven true. If the survey was available to be returned via a phone call, more residents would have responded already. Why could there not have been a simple phone line similar to those used by reality shows where you simply vote 1,2 or 3? The need for a detailed answer is surely superfluous to requirements?

As for the Cultural Precinct, the dollar value of the project was the primary concern although all agreed that it was time for a major update of current facilities. School events, such as the Eisteddfod and Awards Nights, and large concerts were the main reasons residents would use this venue although a couple stated that they would not attend anything at all.

The alternative with the football stadium and the smaller precinct were sneered at as the residents felt there was not enough support for such an ambitious project. It was felt, however, that the current sporting arenas could be improved to allow for larger football events and with the Pride doing well, crowds are likely to increase (though they felt it would probably not get close to 20'000).

The city is not somewhere the residents of Friendship Street frequent. They very rarely head in there at night. One said they go to the Esplanade sometimes but the rest claimed to never visit the area unless it's for work. The city needs a re-paint and some colour injected into it as it's dull and boring at the moment and offers no incentives for locals to venture into town.

Every single one of the people questioned want an increased police presence. There is an apparent 'hoon' issue in the street that is not being dealt with and they have had their cars broken into, or know someone nearby who has. Law and order was a real concern and they all felt that the local Neighbourhood Watch program needed to be more pro-active and work in concert with the police to make sure the neighbourhood was effectively monitored.

I asked each resident what they would do with $50 if I gave it to them and almost all stated they would go out for dinner. One said they would use it on bills and one said they would spoil the kids with it. Take note restaurants of Cairns, they want affordable, child-friendly restaurants with great food. Preferably NOT pubs, they have enough of those. If there was something on the south side of town, at least 20 people I know of would go.

The final question I asked was 'Are you happy with the way your local Councillor is dealing with the issues in your area and do you know who they are?'.......and the answer? Nobody thought the local councillor was effective enough but much more surprising than that was the response to the second part of the question. Every single resident answered 'No'. Not one single person in this street knew who was representing them in Council. In fact, one resident asked me if it was Curtis Pitt!

What does all of this say about the south side of Cairns? Not much. The information gathered thus far is from one street only and can't really be said to give a true opinion of the entire area. There were some interesting early trends that I will be watching closely to see if they continue, such as the lack of information gathered via the Internet and the lack of knowledge regarding the local Councillor. Beyond that, the need for a suitable family restaurant on this side of town will be further noted and the call for increased police presence will also be taken into account. The Sugarworld surveys should always have been made available via print, internet and phone methods so I will learn nothing new as I continue with this project on that subject and the Cultural Precinct will still feature in the questions asked.

To the residents of Friendship Street I say thankyou. You welcomed me into your lives for a few minutes and gave me all of the answers so that I could have a better idea about what you really want and need. That was the purpose of this, and without your co-operation I would have failed. I met some wonderful people during the week I spent in your street.

Next week I am off to the back of Edmonton to ask the residents of Meranti Street. I chose this one because the 5 cent coin landed on it when I opened the map of Edmonton. Not very scientific I know, but nonetheless, that's what I am doing.

See you next Monday for the results.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Warren, doing the job.....just not his own.

I have noted with interest that in the few short weeks that Warren Enstch has been our Federal Member he has appeared quite frequently in all forms of media. He has been lobbying and chanting the interests of the locals and is reportedly getting results. Isn't that what we wanted?

On closer inspection, all of the articles feature State issues. With the notable exception of the Cultural Precinct which is a three tier issue, the other's are all outside of his area of expertise. While I am all for making yourself be heard and highlighting the issues of the electorate, perhaps he should take a step back, off the feet of Steve and Jason, and focus instead on his own job.

Someone reading this will no doubt post a comment that he would if the State representatives were doing their job, or something along those lines, but if you take a look at the issues reported on, all were resolved through the proper channels, with the help of both Steve and Jason, and not through Warren and his apparently massive influence.

I have yet to hear Warren's thoughts on Climate Change and the Carbon tax. This has made national headlines over the past few days and Warren is silent on the matter. Then there is the NBN which most local residents want built in our region as soon as possible. From Warren we have heard precisely nothing. What about the Dugong and Turtle protection schemes he promised? He never qualified it with 'Only if Tony is Prime Minister' and the people who are very keen to see results in this area are still waiting with baited breath for answers. The new medical facility in Edmonton will begin the building process very soon and I haven't heard boo from him about the benefits of that to the fastest growing area in Cairns.

Perhaps Warren is a victim, just like most of the other political members Australia wide, of the fickle press. Maybe he has quoted and lobbied for our region on these issues but it is conveniently being left out of the media statements. I am willing to give Warren the benefit of the doubt on this one because I have seen just how much the mainstream media can corrupt information and steer debate to suit themselves. He is possibly doing all of the work and getting no reward or attention and needs some help to get it out there.

Warren, if you are reading this, here's some advice. Stop intervening in State issues and stick to the Federal ones. By all means make statements of support for organisations, schools, businesses etc.... but do not make wild claims that you were the one in charge of the whole thing and you are the one who got the results. It's simply not true and it detracts from your real job. Start making statements about your actions on the Federal level and what you are proposing to take with you to the table in the new, more open form of Parliament. Tell us how you are going to take advantage of this opportunity to get your voice heard for us here in the North and what you are going to be most vocal about.

Send the information to me if you don't think you are being given a fair go by others, I will print it. Just don't tell me anything that hasn't really got anything to do with you. Leave that stuff to the ones who CAN affect the changes in those areas.

Sugarworld Survey....NOW!!

What is that, you ask? Well, it is the link you will need to go to in order to fill out the survey for the Sugarworld options. The options are available for viewing at and will be available for just one week. Please take the time to look through them and choose your preference.

This facility is a much needed one for the entire Cairns community and has always been a busy place during school holidays and during the whole of summer. Having it closed has had a much greater impact on the options for those with children than I think anyone predicted.

My personal preference is for Option 2 as this one allows for more people to slide at any one time, better facilities for those with small children and a much better overall experience for everyone who visits. The addition of racing slides would be a lot of fun and excellent for those who hate feeling closed in. The tip bucket and wet mats are a great idea and the extensive covers are also essential in North Queensland.

The only concern I have is the cost of entry when the park re-opens. There is no mention that I could find of the projected fees which is always a concern. The price previously was affordable, particularly for those of us with large families, making it the ideal venue for parties, get-togethers and community fun days. Hopefully the price will not be inflated and we can still have affordable access to a great facility.

Whichever option you prefer, please fill out the survey at let them know. There is only one week for viewing and that week starts TODAY!! Get on, get typing, get involved.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Get educated about your choices.

The end of the term is upon us, for those with kids and those at Uni, this is the time when we all start to wind down and re-charge for another exciting term ahead. The next one is always the most interesting, it's the last of the year. Will the report cards or academic results be good ones? Will the results reflect the talents and struggles of the entire year accurately and will they be worth the pain of an entire year of study, new subjects and insular discussions?

This is also the time of year when parents with young children start thinking about the future of their babies. There is no information out there for parents and it is really difficult to find out what you need to know about schooling and education for your child.

Here are some tips and pointers.

When do you enrol in Kindergarten? When you are pregnant.

I kid you not. The Kindergarten at Edmonton is full to overflowing and the waiting list is hundreds long. Most other Kindy's have the similar waiting lists. Why? There are a few reasons.

Firstly, there are only 40 - 50 places in each Kindergarten. These spots are prized in the community because of their rarity and the act of just placing your name on the list comes with a $10 non-refundable price tag, not much I know, but those little bits add up for the centres and make a tidy little sum.

Next, Kindergartens are rated amongst parents, the same as elite schools and some have more social impact than others. I accidently enrolled my son in one of the elite ones and discovered that I was soon the envy of many, just because it was the nearest one to me and I got in on time. There are some new Kindergartens opened in long day care centres and schools in Cairns. One in Redlynch at St Andrews, and one in Forest Gardens at ABC Tamarind Gardens. The latter program offers fully qualified teachers, the same Kindergarten curriculum and better fee structures than the others, but the numbers are so low they can't fill a room.

The Cairns Post featured a letter recently from a mother who was concerned with the lack of places in Edmonton and she was angry that the Bligh Government promised to expand Kindergarten services and haven't. Not true. Only a few kilometres down the road she will find the ABC centre and there are plenty of available places. The real problem with filling the spots is the stigma that comes with a Day Care Centre. I have been in there and the place is clean, friendly, well staffed and the staff are enthusiastic about the Kindy program, I liked it so much that it's where my youngest will go in 2012.

Once you have gone through the angst of finding a place, securing the spot and paying through the nose for a years worth of Kindergarten, the attention of every parent turns to Prep.

By the time you are into March of the previous year, most spots are full at the private schools and the catchment zones for the public schools are shrinking, eliminating choice for most parents.

So, how do you choose a school? Do you aim for the closest? What if there are three in your suburb to choose from? How expensive is private and can you afford it? Is the public system rubbish?

The best advice I ever had was to make an appointment at each of the schools in your area, do the 'tour' that they all offer, and pay particular attention to the library. Is the library big enough to allow for further enlightenment if your child wants more information on a class topic? Is it equipped with new technologies and are staff trained in how to use them? (You would be suprised to discover how many 'smart boards' are sitting in libraries unpacked because nobody knows how they work!)

After the library, investigate the schools 'community' feel. Do they participate along with the wider community in events and activities? Do they reward students who are community minded? Teaching a child to read, write and add up are not the only important things in life. They are vital, but so is learning how to actively participate in the real world, learning respect for others and simply 'getting along' with people of different cultural, social and ethnic backgrounds. Ensure that the school you choose fosters this.

Public v's Private. In all honesty, just try and choose a school that suits you and your children. Some private schools are very expensive and can cost up to $3000 per term which puts them out of reach for most. Catholic schools sit at around the $450 per term mark, making them cheaper than Kindy or Day Care but still out of reach for some. Do not try to struggle along, falling deeper and deeper into dept over school fees believing you are giving your child the best start in life, because you aren't. While Education is extremely important, so is a childs social development and sporting pursuits. If all of your money is tied up in the school, you will have none left to give your child a 'rounded' education. Besides which, most schools are good ones. The public system is actually a very good one (contrary to popular belief) and do just as good a job as the private schools. Maybe a private school would suit your needs better. It's a personal choice as well as a financial one.

Do not use the My School website as the basis for your choice of school. By all means visit it if you wish to. Have a look at all the details they put on there, but be aware that actually walking into a school and getting a feel for the place will give you much more information than the numbers in rows on a website.

Lastly, take note of who your child is. Do they require additional assistance with speech, gross motor skills, been diagnosed with ADD, ADHD, Aspergers, Autism, or anything else that may impact on their ability to learn. You will find, (I did) that even public schools differ in what they direct their additional funding toward. This is mostly dictated by the needs of the broader community around that particular school and may mean that the closest school, is not the best one for your child.

We have a child who is 'outside the box' and it took three goes before we got the right school. At one we didn't even get past the initial interview. They were very upfront about their lack of facilities in the areas we required for our daughter.

Whatever you choose, also know this; teachers come in all different shapes and sizes (literally AND figuratively) and you can choose the school, but you can't choose the teacher. You can pay a fortune for education and still get a bad teacher. You just have to grin and bear it really, but make sure any complaints you have are directed at the Principal and not other parents. Often teachers are trying their best and are unaware there is a problem with your child. They are only human.

So....Enjoy the final term for those of you with kids already at school, start studying up on your options for those who don't, and get out over the next two weeks, meet some other parents and enjoy the school holidays!!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Eternal Optimist V's the Eternal Pessimist.

Do you ever wonder why there are so many people out there with perpetual frowns on their faces? Why life is a sore disappointment to them and they have stopped hoping it will get better? I am not talking about people with genuine depression or anxiety, I am talking about the classic pessimist. You know the type, complaining about traffic chaos, the neighbours dog, the rubbish pick-up schedule, the crack in the pavement that's been there for months.

I am not saying that these concerns are not valid ones. They are. Directing the complaints at the nearest ear is not going to change things though, unless the nearest ear is a councillor or the CEO. Tell these people to write a letter to Council, State Member or Warren and they say 'Why bother? They don't care or listen anyway.' Well, to be honest, they CAN'T care or listen if nobody tells them there is a problem.

I am the eternal optimist. Irritating I know, but I firmly believe that asking for help, informing the person in charge and following up on it, will achieve positive results. Sad isn't it. The really interesting thing is that, provided the request is reasonable and achievable, I often DO get results. Making me even more optimistic the next time round.

Sometimes the answer is to revisit the question, but the engagement and acknowledgment are there and the result is always a compromise we are all happy with. It could be anything, small things and large scale problems. The amount of people who do not ring up the manufacturer if an item they purchased has broken and the warranty just ran out. Often the answer will be along the lines of.....nothing we can do for you, but sometimes, in the interests of good customer service, you will get the right response......yes, I realise that your problem is a valid one, how can we fix that for you.

Broken phone, kettle, washing machine, PVR or TV? Write to the manufacturer. Purchased some cleaning products that aren't cleaning as well as the ad said? E-mail the manufacturer. Ordered a new phone and it's arrival has been delayed by yet another week? Call the manufacturer.

Problem with the neighbours dog? Let the neighbour know. Write them a letter or knock on their door. Nine times out of ten, they are unaware of the issue.

Now that I've got you all writing letters, tying up the phone lines and knocking on doors it's time to turn the attention the other way.

If you own any business at all, customer service is the key. I am one of those people who will abandon the store or restaurant if the service was awful. I will spread the word and I will be quite vocal about it. Do yourselves a favour and make sure your staff know that the customer is the most important part of their job. Once a customer has chosen your business to walk into it takes a lot less effort to get them to stay than it does to make them leave. A happy customer will also be vocal about their experiences, how do you think some restaurants get so busy and stay that way? Word of mouth is the most powerful marketing tool you have, use it wisely.

If you work at Cairns Regional Council or are one of the Government representatives for our region, the same applies to you. Word of mouth is much more powerful than you think. Be careful how you treat that annoying person who won't be satisfied or go away, they are the most vocal when scorned. Be careful of thinking that some people are not worth the trouble or have issues too petty to bother with. Every person that you represent is important.

To be completely honest, the pessimist will always be the pessimist and the same goes for the optimist but I would love to see the day when the pessimists among us are complaining that they can't go anywhere without seeing happy, smiling people who are eager to help. When they complain that the response was too fast and they were still in the middle of writing a back-up letter of complaint when the company/business/Councillor responded.


Maybe it's just the optimist talking.....

Monday, September 13, 2010

Polling the neighbourhood, starting Monday 20th.

Time for a proper rant!

I am getting a little sick and tired of the people at The Cairns Post,, the CairnsBlog, any other blog (including mine!) assuming that they know what is best for the local population. It is irritating to think that most of us have a core group of about 200 people that we rely on for information, views, opinions and new directions. There are too many locals without a voice, who prefer to remain quiet and talk amongst their own group of friends and foes but don't have anyone in that group with a blog, so essentially, aren't being listened to or heard by those of us with the luxury of a written platform.

I am a card carrying member of the Labor Party. I support the Labor Party's core beliefs and am a strong advocate for them when I feel it is necessary. I also have no compunctions in giving the party a kick up the bum if I feel that is required instead. I pride myself on being able to see the merits in both sides of an argument and have found myself having meaningful debates with followers of the Liberal Party where we both came away better informed. The bulk of my friends outside the party are Liberal voters so if I did not have some measure of objectivity, I would lose my friends, my childrens friends and a pretty awesome support base I rely on when times are tough.

I live in Bentley Park. This means that the majority of my sounding boards are also from the southern corridor. Our views, our wants and our needs as a community are vastly different from those at the beaches or the city. I make an effort to reach out further than my own backyard but I know that this area is my passion so I am better positioned to advocate for this side of town than any other area.

It's time that the whole thing changed. It's time that the entire Cairns Region was 'polled' and we found out what the silent majority want for their home city. All of the media, in all of it's forms, are filled with the news that affects the noisy sectors of the communities, these are the lobbyists, the activists, the teachers, the student bodies and the journos. Most people do not fit into any of these categories, so who is listening to them?

Some of the comments I recieve on this blog or via Facebook and e-mail state that they have conversations with sectors of the community and their comment to me comprises of the results of those conversations. In effect, they are giving me the information and insights into THEIR groups of friends and foes. I currently have 1300 people visiting my blog per month. It's not much I know, but for a blog that's been running for three months, it's not bad either. Most of the comments I recieve are positive ones and those that aren't are always informative. This may not be the biggest blog or have the readership of a newspaper but I am going to do something different starting next Monday, the 20th September, and I am hoping that you will all spread the word so that this particular idea becomes beneficial to all of the region.

This week I am visiting the residents of Friendship Street in Bentley Park. I chose this street because I like the name and it suits the idea behind this. I will go to every house on this street, introduce myself and ask them to tell me a bit about themselves. Some might refuse, and that's their choice, but for those who don't, next Monday's blog will be about them. No names, no addresses (besides the street name) but THEIR views. They will be asked about the Cultural Precinct, the alternative with the football field, Sugarworld re-development, public housing, whether they have children or Grandchildren and what they would spend $50 on if someone handed it to them.

Every week I will choose another street, all in the southern parts of town. I will try to find out what every resident of my area wants, needs and hopes for. Will they use the Cultural Precinct? Will they use Sugarworld Slides? Would they object to public housing in their street and do they have an opinion on the one proposed for Palm Cove?

I will endeavour, by the time the next election is due, to visit as many streets as possible, get as many views as possible and to give a voice to the entire area. I strongly encourage those of you living on the North side of Cairns to find someone in your area, willing to donate some time to the cause, send the results to me, and I will get that information out there too. One person for each Division of Cairns would be great and if we can find them, I will give each one equal time and space on here. If I can figure out a way to fit it in, I will travel all over the place myself. Maybe between the few of us, we can make a real difference to Cairns future directions.

I think it's time we found out EXACTLY how many people want what's currently on offer and what the priorities of Cairns should be.

I will continue to write my own personal views as I have always done, I am too opinionated not to, but I would dearly love the support of you all on this blog, every Monday, starting next week.

I can't wait to see what the results will be. See you then!

(send information, submissions, questions and answers to )

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Gavin King....the diabolical villain.

Gavin King....Love him or hate him, the man is popular. This morning he expressed his views in an article in the Cairns Post which is sure to raise an eyebrow or two and cause spontaneous combustion in other's.

My confession is that (aside from the vitriol drivel he spouts about Val) I actually look forward to reading his caustic commentaries on anything local he feels worthy of attack. I often disagree with his opinions but if you can't clearly recognise the other side of an argument, it's not worth having one. Occasionally I actually agree with him, and I stress occasionally.

This mornings rant was rather disappointing though. It was simply a rehashed article comprising of various parts of similar arguments made all over the country about the political system during the past few weeks. That makes this article, at best, yesterday's news.

Much has been made about the fact (and it is 'fact') that the left side of politics is suffering from the 'political machine blues'. The Labor Party and the Greens have always been the parties offering hope, honesty and a straightforward approach. At the moment, the Greens are still doing that well, but Labor is not.

The Liberal/National Coalition have been broad in their scope in gathering their candidates and have stuck to the usual message that they can do it all better. It has always worked well for them, and continues to do so.

'The Drum' featured several panelists this week who all lamented the fact that Labor are getting too polished and are appearing 'out of touch'. They have stopped listening and they are worrying so much about themselves that they are BECOMING a community rather than REPRESENTING the community. According to the data, there are only two members of the elected Federal Labor team who are not previous staffers, politicians or lawyers. Does this mean that the community is not effectively represented? No. Someone said to me recently, who cares what you did before politics, it's what you do while you are there that counts. It does however, mean that for the Labor Party, it's time to look further afield for potential candidates so that 'ordinary' people feel more connected to their politicians.

For the Liberal Party, that's unnecessary, the core voters on that side are white collar business owners, and high income earners. Those demographics do not NEED to feel a connection to their representatives, just see that the job is done.

Blue collar workers, Unionists and low income workers form what used to be the core voting demographics for the Labor Party. These people NEED to feel a connection to the person they are voting for. They want to know that they are listened to personally, AND see the results.

Gavin King is right in that most of the elected politicians we currently have in our region, in all tiers of Government, are not well liked. The spin and the polish have distracted us from seeing the results. And there have been results. Last week the Council voted on some very important environmental policies that will ensure our region maintains it's sustainability amongst a herd of other great things, all obscured by the argument that Cr Lesina should not be able to vote on an issue concerning a second cousin's separated husband (are they kidding?).

Before Jim was knocked off, he spent over 2 years getting vital funds for JCU, approval for several key projects and many other newsworthy achievements, all of which we never noticed because the media were too focused on his personality, or lack thereof.

The Bligh Government were actually doing ok, travelling along nicely, until the introduction of the asset sales. The explanations and discussions over these are irrelevant. The simple fact is, the majority of people don't want them. As soon as you start to argue for something that most people don't want, they switch off.

So for all the parties, big and small, here is the simple message. Spin has got to go (yes, for you too Warren). The party machines have got to be switched off. The candidates and elected members need to get out more (with the exception of Curtis Pitt, who appears to be everywhere) and instead of just nodding heads all in a row....listen to what the public are saying (all of the public), take those views with you to caucus, and vote on THOSE issues. Stop considering each opportunity to achieve something, or discuss something, an opportunity for re-election, and start thinking of it as an opportunity to really engage with the public.

Lastly, .....encourage debate. Stop flicking the off switch when people from your own party are telling you that you are wrong. Opinions are many and varied, and no, you can't please all the people all the time, but why not at least take some time to explain yourself.

To the media, start printing (in BIG letters) the achievements from all forms of government, and from all sides of politics. Focus on what is being done, not what is NOT being done. Just try it for a few weeks and you will find that good things are happening, some ordinary things are too, but it's not actually as bad as you would have us believe. Politicians are accountable to the people, who are you accountable to?

Community....just another word?

Every day, somewhere in Cairns, we hear about another local person who has done something extraordinary or we are celebrating the achievements of entire groups of people. We have Mother's Day and Father's Day, we celebrate sporting achievements, academic achievements, promotions, acts of bravery and our local high achieving community organisations. These people are our heros. These are the ones who are doing great things, some in small ways, some on a large scale. For that reason we should continue to support them, encourage them and celebrate them.

Over the past few years I have met another group of heros who are not celebrated, recognised or compensated for their tireless efforts. Some work as hard as any full time employee would, they often carry the workload of 10 people amongst two or three of them and they all are trying to make their community a better one.

Who are they? They are the committees of the local organisations and schools. The P&F, P&C, AFL, NRL, RSL, Baseball, Soccer, Gymnastics, Leukemia Foundation, COUCH, Hambledon House, Mission Australia, PCYC, Autism Support Group, Playgroup, and any other organisation you can think of. We all, at some stage, will reqire their help; to find out about upcoming events, to give us advice, to help our children participate, to inform the community and to supply us with the constant stream of sausage sizzles we rely on for a quick meal at Bunnings.

I currently participate heavily on four of these committees and have witnessed how hard they are to run. Sometimes it is tough to get enough people together willing to give up some time to the cause and committees struggle along with heavy burdens.

School communities do not function as successfully without their Parent Committees. These are responsible for a majority of the fundraising through Fete's, Trivia Nights, Garage Sales, BBQ's and a variety of other events. The funds raised pay for vital equipment for the school, education nights, science nights, musicals and tuckshops and benefits every child in attendance. Sporting clubs without a restaurant and bar also use various fun days, raffles and events to raise much needed cash for sporting trips, equipment and staffing. Others like the RSL, COUCH, Autism Support, Hambledon House etc..use the money raised to educate the community, offer services desperately needed and a support base for those requiring it.

A committee comes from a large base of people and consists of the very few who are willing to contribute their time to the cause. There are often barely enough people at meetings to run one and they are overburdened with the majority of the work. They are in charge of organising the events, raffles etc.. and quite often end up spending all their time running the whole thing as well. More and more people are choosing to support important groups with a few dollars (which is still needed) rather than with time and it's causing stress and disillusionment for those who are willing to give so much.

Nobody can deny that all of the community groups are essential ones and that we need them to continue to function well. I would like to take this opportunity to thank every single member of every community based committee and congratulate you all on your extraordinary efforts. I know it's tough sometimes, but I have a proposition to make to the rest of you.

I propose that every single adult donates three hours of their time, every year, to one local organisation they have an interest in.

If we all gave just those few hours away, the benefit would be huge and our communities would prosper. If you have more time available than that, say three hours per month, then for goodness sakes, join a committee. Do it even if there is no benefit to you except to help out where you are needed. Give something back to the community and you will find the rewards are substantial. You will meet people that you would never have met otherwise, you will form friendships, you will interact with the local residents, you will feel useful and you will be greatly appreciated.

A friend of mine recently posted a comment somewhere asking for responses from us all on what we thought 'community' meant. It was worrying that responses included 'There is no sense of community any more in Cairns'. I really hope that that is not true. I feel like a valuable member of the community here in Bentley Park and Edmonton. My neighbours all help each other out when required, the school my daughter attends has a wonderful sense of community and is actively involved in participating in more community based events. Mission Australia runs several events here for families to attend that are well run, busy and a lot of fun for kids and adults alike. My local Playgroup has given me the opportunity to become an integral part of it and my kids and I enjoy our weekly visits very much. Edmonton Community Kindergarten has afforded me the opportunity to participate in many fundraising events this year and along the way I have fostered friendships with many parents and my children have done the same. The ANZAC Day celebration this year in Ravizza Park was a particularly wonderful day to be a part of and I await with anticipation the Carols By Candlelight evening at the end of this year.

Our communities are only as close as we allow them to be. If we feel disconnected and removed from our surrounding area then we need to actively get out there and become a part of it. I have, and I cannot recommend it enough. There is nothing quite like the feeling you get when a class full of kids recieve a new computer, when single parents with no local family feel supported, when Diggers have a place to go for a cuppa and a chat, when families don't have to struggle to pay the bills while a member of the family undergoes cancer treatment, when a disillusioned teenager offers respect because they recieved it from you.

Live every day as though the community you live in is part of your extended family. Give them your time, without expectation, and 'community' will no longer be just another word.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

And then.............(after 17 days of waiting)

So now that the procrastination is over and we finally have a result at Federal level, does that mean that things will improve or stagnate here in Cairns?

We have a Government who have chosen the NBN as being an important factor in the decision making process. Good news for us. This means that sooner, rather than later, we will be on equal footing in the north with those who reside in and around Capital cities. We will be able to access quality, fast internet at speeds never seen before in regional Australia which means that our children will have a better education, our doctors will have better support and businesses will thrive. Locally, things are looking good in that regard.

The Independants also listed the environment and climate change in particular as being a primary concern for them. The Green member in Melbourne also (obviously) listed this as an integral part of his decision. Will this mean that the fishing industry will be out of work? Well, quite simply, no. What it will mean is that the Barrier Reef will be further protected from over fishing (note the word; OVER) so that the fishing industry can enjoy decades of sustainable business. We are leading the world in this area and are one of only a handful of countries ensuring we will have the benefits of omega 3 products beyond 2030. It will require adjusting to and it will have an initial stage of confusion, these things always do. Beyond that however, commercial fisheries will flourish and continue to thrive. Locals wanting to throw in a line will also continue to be allowed to do that, most of the space gazetted is not used currently by the average recreational fisherman anyway.

Climate Change will be re-visited. It has been acknowledged by almost all politicians that this is still an area we need to improve on and we need to get urgency back into our debates. This issue polarises Australians and locals regarding the best method of addressing the issue and the need to do it quickly. Cairns is opposed to change, the majority of us are happy with the status quo, good or bad. At least that way we always know what to expect, and our expectations of politicians is frightfully low. Will there be an ETS? Probably. Will it impact on prices for petrol, food and services? Maybe. The real question we should be asking is 'How can we become less reliant on fossil fuels?'. My hope is that this will be discussed more fervently than ever before and real measures to encourage innovation in this area are implemented and correctly marketed.

The final 'sticking point' was the health system, with one MP making a deal for Tassie a week ago and another two today brokering a deal which will see round one of the health package, total value of 1.8 billion, being offered by tender process, only to Regional areas. This means that Cairns will get a go at part of that BEFORE Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne etc...I see no bad points in that one.

Hopefully the GP Superclinic in Edmonton will continue to get the go ahead. Living in that area myself, I am keenly aware of the need on this side of town for a medical facility that is open after hours and on weekends. We have excellent GP facilities already, as I am sure the city and the beaches also have, but travelling all the way in to the city to access a doctor with three kids in tow, at 10 p.m is never anyone's idea of a good time.

My further hope is that the hospital development in Edmonton recieves partial funding to get the ball rolling. I realise that this is a State issue, but Federal help will not be shunned, of that I am positive.

Lastly I hope that the Council will consider an idea of mine to open a facility within the current 24hr City Medical Centre that has a dedicated nurse dealing ONLY with tourists and locals requiring vaccinations for overseas travel. This aspect of the services offered at the centre accounts for a large proportion of visitors and holds up assistance for those who are actually unwell. I realise that the payment they recieve from these people probably helps fund the entire facility but customers would be less frustrated and get medical help quicker if there was a dedicated area for these patients. Federal funding may just be available shortly to help with that.

Locally, we have much to look ahead to. There are quite a few positives to come from this decision, regardless of your political slant. It will no doubt be an interesting ride, but one I am more than happy to go along for.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Left or Right? Which way will Australia turn?

Hi. I am Leigh, I live in Bentley Park and I am sometimes considered one of the worlds greatest procrastinators. I take a ridiculously long amount of time to choose food, clothes and entertainment and am quite well known for it. It is frustrating for others, I know, but even I pale into insignificance when compared to the decision waiting to be made by three Independants.

In Australia we recently held a vote to decide who would govern our country. Are we left, centre or right? Apparently we are all three. The vote was so even that after two weeks there is still no clear outcome. A decision will be made tonight or early tomorrow depending on how talks go today in Canberra but the real question is not what will we end up with, but what will really happen over the next three years.

I wonder if those who voted for the right side of politics had any idea that, even if their choice of Government is successful, the result will be as far left as it can possibly go without ending up in the ocean. Even the left side of politics is amazed at what has occured. We have gone from having a center right Labor Government to potentially having a far left one. All the directions sound interesting but what do they really mean?

Will the fact that the Green Party have managed to secure the balance of power in both tiers of Federal Government mean that we will have a much more open, socially aware and environmentally sound Australia by the time three years have passed? An accountable Government with a strong focus on rural and regional Australia, fixing the neglect that these areas have suffered over the past few decades.

Alternatively we may well end up with a Government that says one thing, tries to do another and everything is blocked. We may end up in a situation where we are visiting the polls again next year to try once more for an obvious outcome, therefore wasting the six or so months until then with an essentially useless political system that is working for nobody.

Realistically, until the Independants choose their leader, this is all speculation and conjecture. Even after that point, the moment next year when the Senate changes will be yet another test for whoever leads the country. My fear is that whatever the outcome, Australia will stagnate under the talks, the compromises and the lack of real power for either major party. My hope is that this new form of Government will be more accountable, more willing to listen and will affect change that will bring real benefit to the entire of Australia.

Fingers crossed. There's not much more we can do now really.

Friday, September 3, 2010

WAR!! What is it good for...absolutely nothing!!

This week is Legacy week where we remember those who have lost their lives in war and contribute to the much needed effort that helps those left behind. Earlier this week the US President announced that the war in Iraq is officially over and all troops will be withdrawn by January. Today in Brisbane, another soldier who lost their life will be laid to rest.

Next week is Child Protection Week, where we continue in efforts to ensure all children are safe in their homes, at school and in care. We will look at statistics and see that the efforts are not in vain but are not stopping the problem. It will embarrass leaders, teachers, parents and families but is required to ensure the work currently done is working, is continued and is enhanced.

My eldest daughter turns 9 next Friday. Almost 9 years ago I gave birth to a beautiful, healthy, blue eyed, blond baby girl. I was the proudest parent and immediately fell in love with my perfect bundle. She slept well, ate well, smiled often and was an absolute joy.

The following day, no one came to visit. Not one single person dropped in to see my gorgeous girl. No family, no friends, no one. I was in a room at the Cairns Base Hospital with two other new mums and no one visited them either. For most of the morning we were left wondering why.

Late in the morning when the midwives did the rounds and checked up on us, two of them commented on the terrible turn of events and expressed their shock at what had occurred. We had to ask them what on earth they were talking about. They both got up, went to the tv's in the room and quickly switched them on. Confronting us was the news that the World Trade Centre in America had been hit by a plane. Within seconds of us assimilating that information, a second plane hit the building. As one, we turned to our tiny, newborn babies and wondered.

What would their futures hold? Would they know the freedoms we had? Had we made a terrible mistake in bringing helpless children into the world at such a horrible time in history?

In the time since my first child was born, she has never known a day when Australia was not involved in conflict. She has alway lived with the knowledge that there are wars, we are a part of them, and lives will be lost. I find that fact extremely sad.

I can't shield my children from the real world. I can't keep them sheltered from the truth. My job as parent is to keep them safe while they are with me and to teach them how to make good choices when they are not. My role is simple. The world is not.

My hope this Legacy Week, is that while we continue to pledge our support to families suffering huge loses due to war, we also look at our reasons for being there, we think more of our children and the world they are living in, and we make different choices to prevent these losses.

As Child Protection Week looms, remember to reassure your kids that they are loved and you are proud of them. Continue to give them the tools required to contribute to society and make sure that you are leading by example by contributing your own time, money and passion to giving them a better community to grow up in.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Culture Revisited.

The talk surrounding the possible building of a Cultural Precinct in Cairns has stepped up a notch with the election of Warren Enstch as our federal member and his well known opposition to the idea. His preference is for sport to be the focus of new facilities, the art sector loses out and the performance space shrinks significantly. It has been suggested that perhaps the reason he won was due in part to his alternative proposal and that the precinct is not something most locals are in favour of.

What rot. Almost all of Cairns is in favour of supporting our local artisans and fabulous performers by supplying them with a suitable building. Locals are keen to have a hub for creativity along the waterfront with adequate space for conferences and large expos if possible.

What they do object to is the cost and the design as it currently stands. It is my understanding that the cost could be lowered if the retail outlets were removed from the plan. Realistically, we are struggling to fill shop fronts all over the region so putting more in would be a bit silly really. The costing is based on the total structure and surrounds at completion and as it is able to be built in stages the funding will not be a giant lump sum required all at once.

The design is not the final one, in fact the final design will look nothing at all like the 'Valcano' plastered all over the paper. The design originally touted was effective for it's purpose however. It started the debate, planted the seed for thought and it got the State and Federal Governments to look at the idea, find it plausable, and started the funding process. As a concept it was very successful. As a final design, it is really ugly.

I have spoken before about my ideas for this building and the surrounding precinct but having had the benefit of more thinking time I have several more suggestions to add. As previously stated, I firmly believe that the Precinct should reflect the environment and the cultures surrounding it. I thought that a wavy roof reflective of the Convention Centre would tie in well, large metal mangroves should mark the entrance by forming part of the structure and be large enough for kids to run under the lower limbs. The giant fish in the lagoon are proof that something iconic does not have to be ugly. I also suggested that the walkway between the Convention Centre and the Cultural Centre should be serpent like, indicitive of the Rainbow Serpent present in much of the Aboriginal Dreaming. Now I would like to add my new thoughts.

Why not have one of the walls be a wall of timber slats, where every few metres a frame is built into it, and a painting by a local artist is displayed, permanently. These 'canvases' would be made from render and painted in paint hardy enough to withstand our climate. This way, an entire wall would be a gallery of sorts.

My pet peeve with any council built facility is the way in which they plant the trees. They rely too much on the trees growing large enough to provide shade but let the public swelter while we wait. Large wooden poles placed throughout the plaza area should have white shade sales attached, reflecting the sails on the boats and the waves of the sea. These poles should be painted or carved, by local cultural groups and artisans. Somne could be dot paintings, some carved totum poles, some having seascapes, some rainforest scenes. Once the trees planted have grown to a decent size, the sails can be removed, leaving beautiful, colourful poles dotted around the space and continuing to create interest. I can actually picture tourists choosing a pole they like and having photo's taken beside it, much the same way they would the mangrove structures, the artists wall and the serpent walkway.

Seating around the place should be in timber and carved to reflect the surroundings. Some could be dug-out canoes with a space cut out for seating, others could be carved to look like crocodiles, serpents, tree frogs....the list is endless.

We live in an area filled with beautiful surrounds and with talented individuals and groups. We should be excited that we have the opportunity to give that community a space to show the world what they are capable of. We should be eternally grateful that we will be close enough to have the first look at some of the amazing productions, compositions and art coming from the Cairns region.

We need to be much more vocal in our enthusiasm for this precinct. We need to trust that the many architects asked to consult on this right now, are looking at the Cairns region and our environment and people for ideas, and not their own potential to star as the creator of a building that is iconic, but not reflective of who we are. I look forward to seeing the ideas from them shortly and sincerely hope that they do not focus on cement and palm trees because we are much more interesting than that!