Saturday, February 25, 2012

The True Spirit Of Cyclone Yasi.

Last night I went to the launch of a new book, made and collated in our own backyard (well, in Townsville, but I'm claiming it for us too) titled The True Spirit of Cyclone Yasi. This book is a collection of stories from various contributors all the way up and down the Queensland Coast.

The launch was great. The SES the recipients of door takings on the night and a huge presence of political beings indicating the respect that a project like this has in our region (notwithstanding the fact that it is election time). Bernadette Lawson, who was behind this book along with her husband Craig, made the trip north from Townsville and along with Lisa Robbie and Mayor Val Schier officially launched the book.

Most of those present had a personal experience with the storm last year and many had in some way helped to get residents through the day of destruction and the weeks which followed. From those informing and communicating via radio and print and photographic media, to the heroic acts of our SES and those who helped in the Community Relief Centres and Disaster Co-ordination Centres across the affected area.

The multitude of small acts which changed lives and the monster effort put in by some which changed the future for entire communities cannot be under-estimated. While the launch was indeed a fantastic event and a great opportunity to pay tribute to a few, it was the stories within the book that I was most anxious to take a look at.

Please note: this is NOT a book that you can 'take a look at'. It's a book you need to sit down with and read in it's entirety. It is a book that allows you to take a breather every now and then to regroup and clear your head. This is a book which you will visit again and again as the years unfold and Yasi becomes a memory from the distant past.

I read it, every single word on every single page. These words are not perfect. These words are not flowery. These words are not filled with the prose of perfect literature. That's why it's so easy to read and so very evocative. These are the words of those who lived through a terrifying experience. Some from afar with family caught up in the middle. Some from nearby as they waited to see where they would be deployed when the clean-up efforts began. Some from the very centre of the cyclone, who ran from their homes during the eye and somehow, extraordinarily, survived.

Some of these stories latch on to your imagination and take you on an horrific journey. The story from Tracey Dunlop, of her night spent bunkered down with her mum and Grandparents and at one point ending up in her car while riding out the gusts and gales. Her story is a heartbreaking one of loss, yet at the end she tells of the happiness her Grandmother feels now, making a new home for herself in her re-built house on the beach.

The stories by the Porter family of Tully are also inspiring, heartbreaking and somehow empowering. The courage shown in the telling of the story there for the reader to see.

The many stories by those who helped re-build the small communities affected so badly by the wind, the rain and the storm surges remind me again of the generosity of so many in the weeks following Yasi. The images provoked by the explanation of what a 'green ant dance' is as told by Bree from the SES volunteers. In my minds eye, I saw her charging in to chainsaw part of a tree for a few seconds, rushing away to do the jig which would rid her of the pesky, biting ants, then rushing back in to take another swipe at the tree.

Lisa'a story at the end of the book, of the recovery efforts and her large part in the coordination of that made me remember the times we at work baked for hours and two wonderful ladies (Mel and Corine) came by to pick up our cakes and deliver them to the hardest hit areas in and around Tully. Not exactly a huge effort, but reading Lisa'a story made me very glad we had done it.

This book is perfect. It is exactly how it should have been and exactly what we needed. A book of incredible stories from ordinary people who turned out to be far from ordinary when the need to act, be strong or to just survive was there.

The other thing this book does is remind you of your own Yasi story. We all have one. It's one of those 'Where were you when....' scenarios. It should never be forgotten and we must now remember that so many people were affected, so many still need our help and so many are still feeling the emotional toll of this event.

The book is $30 and worth every penny. 10% of all proceeds will go directly back into the areas worst hit, from Innisfail to Townsville. The True Spirit of Yasi is available from Sheds One 4041 3303, Compound 4051 3616 or the Westpac on Lake st are also selling them. Or you can call Lisa directly on 0402 210 330. Buy it. You will be glad you did.

After reminiscing all day after reading this wonderful collection of stories, I have chosen to re-post my poem that I wrote on my way home, a few short days after Yasi had been to Far North Queensland.

The Dall'Osto family went on a trip,

And they couldn't have been more ill-equipped,

In terms of clothing, food and with very little wealth.

They packed a few belongings,

But still had to go shopping,

For the mother forgot to pack clothes for herself.

Rocky saved our sanity,

Thank God they don't insist on vanity,

The van park full of those who got away.

They came from far and wide,

And drove all night to get inside,

Some queued up but there was no room left to stay.

Cyclone Yasi was a big one,

And we knew it would be no fun,

To hang around and listen to it's roar.

So we all holed up together,

And stayed tuned to the weather,

Some were praying as she came closer to the shore.

We might have been well out of reach,

But even in Rocky she let out a screech,

And we held our breath as Yasi let out hers.

She crossed the coast with much ado,

Flung tin and banana's as she went through,

Her name became the locals favourite curse.

We waited and we watched ,

As she made her way across,

Hoping houses were all she would destroy.

After several very long hours,

We learnt what happened to ours,

And the cat we left behind - that poor boy.

Turns out we were one of those she missed,

And most of Cairns was on that list,

But others didn't fare so well we found.

All the way from Ayr,

There were signs that she'd been there,

And debris was scattered all over the ground.

Entire towns were flattened,

Some were bruised and some were battered,

But all our prayers were answered by that storm.

For while she puffed with all her might,

And she stayed for half the night,

Only one young soul wouldn't live to see the dawn.

The pictures that came through,

When the day was shiny new,

Broke our hearts with the devastation that was shown.

All those places we know well,

Had gone through some kind of hell,

This was the biggest ever cyclone that they'd known.

Now we are here just one week later,

Seeing the mess left by Mother Nature,

The people standing strong and side by side.

As they all join in together,

And things start to look better,

The people here won't run, nor will they hide.

In this place where all their homes are,

Yasi has left some awful scars,

And sometimes the job ahead must seem too tough.

The residents are covered in mud and grit,

And they haven't lost heart, or hope, or wit,

But they'll need help from us all cos things are rough.

We need to give all that we can,

Be it cash or food or hands,

It's a monumental task from what I saw.

Buy bananas, buy good steak,

Right from the farmer's gate,

Together, let's make things even better than before!!

Friday, February 24, 2012

The Ruddspillard saga........

Well, who would have thought it, KRudd fights back!

Almost two years on and he has finally decided that enough is enough and wants his old job back. Oh, we knew this day would come. We all saw the writing on the wall from the moment that Kevin was given the job as Foreign Minister.

What we didn't see coming was the completely orchestrated manoeuvring happening via our media and the frankly appalling come-backs from the Gillard camp. It's the biggest train wreck we've ever had to watch, in slow motion replay.

I'm a talker by nature. I do it well and do it often. Verbally and written, I have had the same conversation with people all over the region on this disaster and the future of the Government. There is no point being a talker if you aren't also an active listener. In that, I am constantly improving but here's what I have learnt so far.

The general population prefers Rudd but won't commit to actually voting for him and nobody except ALP members themselves even like Gillard. ALP members are overwhelmingly in support of Gillard. I assume that is because she has actually done a pretty good job at balancing the requirements of a hung parliament (something that Gillard supporters are positive Rudd could not do).

While door-knocking and participating in street stalls at shopping centres people can't wait to tell you their views. I have no idea how they usually vote, but most of them voted for Kevin. All of them have a strong distaste for Julia. People can argue as much as they like about what is best for the ALP but the reality is, if only ALP members voted for either of the two involved in this, they would lose the election next year.

Social media has become a hive of activity on this topic, with the following some of my favourites so far:

On Facebook:

Dear Mr Rudd,

Mr Rudd I think you need to be reminded that there was no midnight coup. You were challenged to put the leadership to the vote and you didn't.

Instead, after walking away from the ETS, you let down all of your supporters once again and resigned rather than put up a fight that you had a better chance of winning back then than you do now.

You were then given the foreign ministers job rather than shoved on the back bench and you've done a brilliant job representing our great country.

But behind the scenes' your leaks and secret conversations with the media and sabotaging the 2010 election was nothing short of treason.

You go on about faceless men, yet you tell your media friends that you will disclose information as long as they guarantee your anonimity and then claim you know nothing!!!
Who's really the liar then Kevin?
Who's really the faceless man behind the Labor Party?

Its natural to be angry, hurt and upset when you were put in that position. But you stayed on as part of the team and yet you were hell bent on destabilising it to the point where we stand a very good chance of having Tony Abbott as PM.
He has a lot to thank you for at the moment Mr. Rudd. Well done.
LNP cannot ask for a better opportunity- but where are they? The best Julie Bishop can muster is to point out that Australia prefers dysfunctional and backstabbing labor pm's to giving mr no policy Abbot a crack at the big chair.
whilst the rest of Australia is wondering who's gunna be prime minister who wants to join me in toppling the government and opposition and running the country our selves.
Hmm who to pick, Australia's worst ever Prime Minister or the man she knifed to take the title........ Of the worst ever Prime Minister.
I am hoping Ruddy slips back into power. Julia is not good in anyway for our business or our industry. Infact we have hoped from her first moment in power that it was time for her to leave!

On Twitter:

I don't believe Kevin Rudd is the son of Satan, but I DO believe he is the son of a Lego figurine and a blank A4 sheet of paper.
. @Therese_Rein owes every electorate officer in this country a present. If you are ringing your MP, make sure you ring federel, not state.
Rudd says he is not Captain Perfect. Anthony Albanese stops memorising "Oh Captain, My Captain" speech from Dead Poet's Society...
Gillard says it is not an episode of Celebrity Big Brother. Although at this stage I might vote for Warwick Capper's penis...
Julia Gillard says Monday's #respill "is not Celebrity Big Brother", presumably because people will be watching it.
And there you have it. A small snippet of interaction regarding this weeks political upheaval.

Is Kevin one of the 'faceless men'? Is this a long term plan that he began in 2010?

Is Julia good for this country and the ALP? Are the comments made recently by her supporters and herself doing her campaign to keep her job any favours?

Frankly, I don't care.

Just fix it. On Monday, whatever the outcome, move on and do what you are paid to do. The voters chose both of you at different times, pull your heads in and think of them before your own ambitions and ego's threaten to cause a complete meltdown of our Federal Government.

Both have promised that Monday will be the end of it. Both have agreed to move to the backbench and never challenge again if they should lose the ballot.

That promise is one which everyone is hoping they adhere to, regardless of the political views they hold.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The true value of a dollar.

After watching the news this week and following it up with an excellent documentary on the rise and rise of the Tea Party in the US I have come to realise that there is more going on worldwide than a simple need for change.

With record debt in most countries (thankfully not ours....yet) and the plight of third world countries still front of mind and very much in need of attention, there is only one logical answer. And it's one which will never, ever happen.

What is not yet being recognised is the fact that austerity measures are in general terms, unworkable. Hiking taxes unpopular and unaffordable but in some cases necessary. Squeezing the few extra cents from the population while houses are foreclosing in record numbers, also unworkable.

This entire situation, worldwide, is a recipe for disaster. It is already showing it's cracks in the many riots and vocal and occasionally violent protests. The rise of the Occupy Movement and the Tea Party are seemingly polar opposites but actually based on the same initial problems, just directed to different methodology and with vastly different rhetoric.

The solution is obvious, and as mentioned before, impossible.

Wipe all debt. From every country in the world. Give each country a zero balance and allow them to start from scratch. Essentially, reset the system.

(I told you it was impossible)

After decades of misuse, the Governments in charge of almost every nation now have to deal with a problem not of their own making. They have to make seriously unpopular decisions and essentially force an entire population into accepting second rate services, loss of essential healthcare and education options. They are placing the people in situations where they are forced to choose between food and clothing just to recoup some of the losses from previous Governments.

In every news article and every economic outlook paper, the problems with European debt and American debt are deemed to be long term (perhaps decades) and some have even indicated bankruptcy or default is inevitable. No wonder the people are rioting.

This is also creating a situation where each elected official is seen to be the cause of this, rather than part of the solution. What that means is that a strong dislike, even hatred, of those in charge will have the logical conclusion of creating a revolving door for politicians. No continuity there. That means more rules, more regulations, more cost cutting measures......all ineffective in the face of such massive debt.

Chaos. And it's all based on one thing. Money. The value of the dollar. Even that is subjective as depending on which country you are in the value of a dollar is vastly different.

In my dreams there is a reset button. A void for debt that in extreme cases can be activated. Placing every country on an equal footing, needing to look after it's own citizens without having to pander to the needs and wants of another. Where proper management of taxes is able to build the very best in hospital care, education centres and all other essential services. Where the dream of owning your own home can actually come true in your lifetime and your income will help pay for those services mentioned but there is also enough left over to pay for your house, transport costs, good quality food and the necessary amount of clothing.

But this is reality. In reality the situation is escalating. It will be no surprise to me if civil war breaks out in countries where war is a distant memory. It will not surprise me if we need to remember the name of the new Presidents, Prime Ministers and other leaders on a regular basis. This world is on the brink of financial war. There is no obvious solution. And it's all about the dollar.

This is all made more obscene by the news of record profits for the banks, news that mining magnates are now able to purchase our news and entertainment services and news that the richest people in the world are paying the least amount of tax. It's obscene. Gross even. I guess some people have spent their lives knowing the absolute power of a dollar, not just it's market value.

I can't fix it. You can't fix it either. What you and I can do though, is make sure we understand just how much every dollar we make and use is really worth. Spend it wisely. Spend it locally. Spend it on products and services which do good things for humanity, not detrimental things. Give some away as often as possible but again, do it wisely. Don't wave it in front of your neighbour when they have none. Shout someone a coffee just because you can. Let them shout you if they can. And no matter what, never let the value of your dollar become the most important thing in your life.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Communication, collaboration, commitment.

A great deal of discussion in the community is centred around what is important to each individual in order for them to be happy with their representatives. This includes, Councillors, State MP's, Federal MP's and even our community organisations such as schools and welfare groups.

I would be really interested to know what skills and attributes are important to you but even more importantly, HOW you would like your representatives to behave.

Personally, I want three things.....communication, collaboration and commitment.

Take the Council as an example. It gets somewhat irritating when a person who stands before you claiming to represent your future options is not asking first what it is that is most important to you. Even having the opportunity to be part of a consultation process is unsatisfactory as quite often we are presented with a limited range of options to choose from. This does the opposite of making the process inclusive as it turns the whole thing into a myopic issue by dictating which way to go and not allowing dissent from the narrow path we are all urged to follow.

Part of the problem is the initial communication. There is nothing wrong with utilising those who are trained and have studied the issue in consultation with the Councillors who are representing their community. Council Officers have a very important role in this and in order for them to be effective they must educate all Councillors in the same way. At the moment they are seen as the 'faceless men' of Council (although quite a few are women) because they are dictating to the Councillors rather than advising them. Part of the reason for that is possibly the opinion that they know the particular issue better so it's easier to go with the flow.

Some Councillors get the next part right but many are not even trying.

Once the advice has been given, the Councillor then has a responsibility to go into the community of their own Division and collaborate. Hold a few different meetings with interested citizens at differing times so that more people have the opportunity to be involved. Let them know the advice given and then ask them all their opinions. Ensure you invite parties that have a vested interest in the outcome. Basically, workshop the idea and create a final plan. This process is the most important as it requires direct input and discussion which is the most ideal way to get a result that the bulk of the community will be happy with.

Finally, commit to it. Take that final option to Council office and complete the collaboration process with the other Councillors....all of them. Stay true to the primary goal but remind yourself what your community wants and commit to getting as much of that as possible from the outcome.

If the final result errs from the community goal, get your butt back out there and explain why. Sometimes it's a simple explanation that will be understood by the majority but keeping them in the dark will create conjecture and a ballooning sense of failure which is what currently exists in the community.

Following the above methods, there would be little need for ongoing community consultation in Council chambers, online and via The Cairns Post, all of which have been proven a failure. The money saved would go directly to the community in basic services provided by Council as these things are what we all want improved.

Is this even possible? Yes. The community is not impressed with the current situation where plans and designs seem to suddenly appear, without local input and collaboration. That's actually a fallacy in part, as the consultation process is always there. It's just not effective. It doesn't reach the majority.

An even better question would be....Do locals even WANT the opportunity to take part in decision making? The answer is both...yes, and no. Plenty of residents are happy with the situation where input is not required of them and decisions are made on their behalf. Those residents deserve a representative who reflects most closely what their ideas might entail. Alternatively, there are certainly lots of residents who do want more of a say. Who desire information and deserve the opportunity to have their say.

I attend many community events on a regular basis, particularly those which occur in my own backyard (obviously not literally). At these events there is a strong community based organisation presence. Mission Australia, ARC Disabilities, Lifeline, Autism Qld, Community Health organisations, Parenting magazines....just to name a few. Isn't it time that Council considered itself as more of a community organisation? Yes, it's a business. Yes, it is one of our tiers of Government. But surely it's primary job is to work in the best interests of the people in our region. In the same way the other organisations mentioned do.

Isn't it time that the community were approached, listened to, and informed?