The other race that stopped our nation

In Australia, we have an idiom for the big horse race, the Melbourne Cup. It is known as the race that stops the nation. It is run annually on the first Tuesday in November. It is, regardless of whether you live in Melbourne or not, more or less a national holiday. Offices hold sweeps and long lunches breaks, women who wouldn’t normally wear a hat become fascinated with fascinators and even normally fairly serious news presenters and politicians are dressing up and talking or tweeting about their tips. These tips are often based on very random criteria, rather than any sort of history with the form guide. After all the fuss, the people who can and do stop to watch the race do so for the 3 minutes or so it takes to run and then return after a bit of celebration to merry-making or work.

In years past, the US election has been held in the same week as the Melbourne Cup. I recall 8 years ago, watching the horses one day and Obama’s speech the very next.

This year it was the week after, and more so than any other election “over there” that I can recall, ordinary Australians were glued to the news channels on Wednesday as the news came in. I was at an airport way ahead of my flight and everyone was talking about it among themselves and even to complete strangers. It was shock and disbelief. But we were glued to it for a good couple of days later. Friends who I don’t normally talk politics with were expressing shock and degrees of discomfort at the idea of Donald Trump as the leader of the free world and what that says about our global mindset and future. I’m sure there are messages there to be examined even before he takes command in January.

The last time I remember seeing Australians glued to the tv for events overseas like they were a week ago was when the World Trade Centers went down. Seems we tend to be the onlookers to the crashes we can’t tear ourselves away from.

My recovery method has centred around becoming hooked again on the West Wing. I know it is fiction but it has to be based on some degree of reality or it wouldn’t work as a drama right? I want to use my intellect more and use it for good .

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Tuesday tidbit: wish I’d known

Wish I’d known about below the line last week. And had electoral commission staff patient enough to let me decide between above and below the line myself (as I have every other election) without pressure and with a proper privacy screen.

For those wondering about my broader reaction to the election and/or my voting experience, I’m working on an email to a disability org so a post or two will no doubt come out of that. In short: could be better, could be worse.

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So Redfern station is to get a partial solution to access eh?

I understand the government wants to get people to Australian technology park, but what then? And it doesn’t really address what I see as Redfern’s main role in the system -that as hub.

I agree with REDwatch it’s a step in the right direction. My worry is that Redfern will as a result go to the bottom of the to-do list for future upgrades.

I also wonder what it says about the government’s lack of expectation of us as full citizens with full contributions that one platform is meant to be enough

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A big moment yesterday Newtown station works

An SMS I sent yesterday

“After waiting for 17 years for accessibility I’m waiting to board my first train to NEWTOWN train station”.

Yes after what seems a long slow build and a lot of behind the scenes work the station is operational.

I was quite emotional. I tried to engage the station staff at central station in the joy which wasn’t that apparent, but to no avail.

I weeped and giggled from central. I sheepishly explained to the sole occupant of the level bit of the carriage that I had waited a long time. She said they had done a good job. I noticed that very soon she will be pushing a pram and using the very lifts that I am lording.

I have done two single trips arriving at Newtown station. I have shared the lift with 3 mums with prams, 2 small children, one young man who is on crutches for 10 weeks and an older gentleman with walking sticks.

Clearly well needed

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what a gaffe: Open letter to the cabinet

This happened on my mothers local radio station.


He’s a happy little vegemite, that’s at least a good sign for a foreign minister sprooking a “once Australian” production.


Not that anyone will ask my opinion on the matter but for what it’s worth I think that the only “reasonable solution” (the time has passed for a “good” solution) is to have a challenge. Do it openly, loudly even. Plan it, book it in. Just have it. Have anyone whose name has been mooted by the media make a “real” statement as to status.

Then you have two options, just two I figure.

1. Kevin wins,well  so that the electorate’s original wish is respected. He might lose the election but he can push it back a bit at least . Then when you lose you can play swapsy if you like. If he wins and keeps winning he needs to talk succession. But if he wins in the world outside the cabinet room, then in one sense, the cabinet needs to suck it up. The people have spoken. Democracy has then done its job.  If he’s that bad at internal consultation there’s always Dale Carnegie! But I doubt they will win again.

2. Someone else wins and everyone else shuts up and winner gets given three clean news cycles. Yes I know technically the media decides that. But the party PR machine needs to cheer loudly. Keep all the news coming from the Government, Party and Country coming from this mouth ONLY. I think there are too many egos for this to work. But it must, because the Party can’t afford a bi-election. Nor can the liberal-minded of us all migrate to New Zealand quickly enough!

Even people I know with little interest in politics are taking bets on Julia remaining PM. Lets deal with it.

Why one might ask is this still an issue. Why is Kevin Rudd still on the front page of the paper every time he coughs?

Despite the carbon tax Copenhagen/mining tax mess up, I think that the polls that resulted were only meant as a slap. A punishment, not an execution. We figured he’d get the message that he had upset us and he’d have the time to kiss us and make up. He was still charming to us. So we didn’t know that he was hard to work with. But that wasn’t our problem. The spill made it our problem because it happened quickly, but not cleanly. and neither the mining tax, nor the carbon tax have looked like clear and clean wins for Julia Gillard anyway.

You turned our slap into your execution, without asking us. Clearly we don’t like that type of responsibility. We are happy enough (or not) with the responsibilities we have, thank you very much.

So now we are nervous about why the choices we make mean. Some are learning what the rest of us knew; you elect a local member and the rest happens in green and red rooms elsewhere.

But, even to those of us who do intellectually understand that though, you do sell the leader you have as prime ministerial candidate versus “other guy”. It’s not “our prime-ministerial candidate” versus “other guy” versus “whoever else we might like later”. Not in the first term.

However and whoever might lament  the Americanisation of politics; it is done as I have just described. Both sides have used this method. It is how it is. Yes we all need civics class to learn more about what our election day choices really mean and all the green and red rooms involved, that will have to go into an education package later on.

In the meantime you have two choices. But first have the challenge. Then decide and make sure everyone gets the memo this time


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As the dust settles

Yesterday NSW had an election. It was a landslide. that many others will no doubt talk of for many days to come.

Picking up on a post from Mary over at HAT, yes I think she might be right. From what I saw in the literature, there was a higher number of “baseline” accessible venues.

But I never left the house to vote.

I iVoted. At home. On my own laptop. More privately than I did more than once at a polling place.

Designed for people with vision impairment who use screen readers and various other disabilities – they broadened it out to allow travelling folks to feel included too.

The information on the iVote website read:

You can vote before Polling Day using iVote if:

  • your vision is so impaired, or you are otherwise so physically incapacitated or so illiterate, that you are unable to vote without assistance,
  • you are unable to vote without assistance or have difficulty voting at a polling place because you have a disability (within the meaning of the Anti-Discrimination Act 1977),
  • your real place of living is not within 20 kilometres, by the nearest practicable route, of a polling place; or
  • you will not be in New South Wales throughout the hours of polling on polling day


The process was painless enough for the fact it was hard to see the bigger Legislative Council in its entirety, and I had to do this sequentially as opposed to top and tailing it as I normally do.

Yes I would do it again. But my question is; is this going to simply be a work around so the various electoral commissions don’t need to improve the distances to and percentages of accessible venues. I hope not. But sadly I fear so


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my take on the Brisbane floods – a need met and posturing

I’m not going to start with an apology for my silence. I’m just going to start. I’m going to start with some good news amid chaos.

There have been two simultaneous tragedies recently on the world stage. Both have caught my attention, for very different reasons. The floods. The assassination attempt of Gabby Giffords.  Both sad. Both with disability implications. I’m going to start with the one closest to home and more immediate in its implications and in this case celebrations.

Heroes big and small

Amid all the tragedy of the Queensland and northern New South Wales floods there have been many stories of heroism, and many stories of loss.

Whoever coordinated the AUSLAN (Australian sign language) interpreter service accompanying the police briefings and Premier’s  speeches every time I saw them on TV is my hero. Particularly on Channel 10 and Foxtel (who didn’t crop the interpreter out of the picture, somewhat defeating the purpose I would think). It’s the first time I’ve seen inclusion work so effortlessly upfront in the mainstream Australia media. In their press release, available here, the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network congratulated the Queensland government and I will to. Of all the many things they will be congratulated for, this won’t be remembered as broadly as it should.

As to the floods more broadly

Friends of my brother’s were affected, but otherwise it didn’t touch me personally.

We are increasingly becoming a land of extremes, the kind of extremes that Dorothea MacKellar talked about in her poem; which I did elocution lessons on as a teenager. It includes the following stanza.

I love a sunburned country;
a land of sweeping plains,
of ragged Mountain ranges;
of droughts and flooding rains.
I love her far horizons,
I love her jewel-sea,
her beauty and her terror–
the wide brown land for me!

Last year and many years it has been fire that has ripped communities to the core. Floods have been devastating for local communities and growing up in the country area I saw a few of those though thankfully never first-hand. However, they have never been so wide and broad in their scope.

I’m not sure whether it is a change in the weather pattern, the 24-hour seven day a week news and online cycles or a combination of factors but these disasters seem to be coming thicker and faster. It’s probably a combination of these factors.

Giving campaigns

What also seems to be coming thicker and faster are the appeals for help. . There have been fundraising efforts by every television network in Australia, many shopping chains, including coffee shops and high-end boutiques.

Even Naffnang are holding an online auction of some sort.

Please don’t get me wrong. I don’t think that banding together as a country to support those who need it in at the moment of crisis is a bad thing. But even this seems to now be turning into a bit of a commercial competition of one-upmanship. Who can pull at the heartstrings tightest. Lovely in sentiment. But perhaps not in the delivery.

Ultimately if the money goes where it is supposed to, to the individuals who need it the most, and not just those with the best connections, or the squeaky-ist wheel, it will be good. Or not even good, but great.

Personally I’d rather just write a bigger cheque to the one organisation, or to people I know personally who need it and stay away from feeling like I have to donate every time an organisation decides to raise money and look good.

My local television station doesn’t need my donation to choose to make a donation in its own right. they have enough money to do it without announcing it or seeking my help. My local coffee shop can too without selling me a muffin or cupcake. They don’t need to tell me how good they are. I’m reminded of a Bible verse which has nothing to do with Noah. From Matthew 6;

Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.

So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

Believe in the religiousness of it or not. My point is that surely now isn’t the time to be posturing or letting our media do it for us. Now is the time to back each other, report on the news, give us the updates if that is your job, but stop competing to be fund-raisers.

I get that some people need reminding to give. Some people need the opportunity to be right in front of them. Some of us don’t though. It feels too much. And it is starting to feel insincere. The fact is that those who will give will find a way to do it.

Perhaps a bigger change …?

It is time to start assuming that people know the right thing to do and are capable of doing it, whatever that is. It is time to raise the level of public debate. It is time to stop catering to the lowest common denominator. It is time to do the right thing, just because it is the right thing to do.

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Therese made me cry

Despite the mood then I admitted to doing my earlier post, the Human Rights Lunch and Awards ceremony was not only a highlight for the Human Rights Commission’s year but mine as well.

It was an interesting mix of people from all community and social spheres in Australia, ranging from what I could see, the full gamut from refugee soccer players who had been the subject of a winning documentary to politicians and journalists.

The situation that indigenous Australians have found themselves in this year, especially since the Northern Territory intervention imposed by the federal government was present and was a recurring theme. Refugee issues were also prominent in award recipients, while Catherine Branson QC spoke on bullying and violence and harassment and the tendency of the rest of us to be innocent bystanders and ignore these kinds of human rights violations.

My highlight came when Therese Rein, the wife of the former PM was awarded the Human Rights Medal. In announcing the winner Ms Branson talked about a whole range of Ms Rein’s well-informed and lifelong community service activities; such as her work with homelessness issues, youth issues women’s issues and several others. In her acceptance speech she could have spoken with eloquence on any of these topics. Instead she talked quite personally and very profoundly about the real challenges faced by people with disability. Unfortunately she was unable to attend in person, but regardless my cynicism about whether people actually get what it is like to participate in daily life with a disability softened to tears. I think she gets it, in a way that I’ve not heard politicians or community members, or indeed even some family members get it.


I’m touched by the fact that she acknowledges and expects participation. I’m touched  by the fact that she engages with the family members in a real and direct manner. I’m touched that of all the issues she could have covered with a captive audience of 3 1/2 thousand people or so this was the topic of choice to a sympathetic audience of folks that can remember it.

I’m noticing that she talked about marginalisation in a way that has rarely been done effectively except in relation to race matters.

What do you think of it? Leave a comment here.

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