Phoenix Project is a new and very exciting series of community events coming to my home town of Cobden, Victoria.
Phoenix Project really is the perfect name. Almost a year ago, Cobden, Camperdown, Terang, and much of the surrounding area was either destroyed or threatened by bushfires. Homes and livestock were lost – but miraculously, no lives. Our town, and those others nearby, emerged covered in soot and smelling of smoke, but determined to recover and keep on going as we always have done before.
That’s something I’ve had to do in my own life, too. I’ve been through some pretty tough seasons when it felt like my life was burning down around me. Yet I’ve emerged, covered in soot, and smelling of smoke and… you get the idea. As I observed last night, I’m a bit of a phoenix myself.
There’s no doubt the fires were an absolutely awful experience for everyone involved. But we got through it.
And those hard times in my life – I’ve come out braver and stronger than I’ve ever been. Well – mentally and emotionally, at least. My spine would tell you a different story.
I was very privileged to be one of the featured artists on the opening night of The Phoenix Project, alongside outstanding blues musician Alister Turril and Josh and Yas, spoken word artists from lowercase poetry in Geelong.
I shared some of the poems from ‘Smoke and Shadows’ that I wrote during and after the St Patrick’s Day fires, followed by some of my fantasy style poems because I didn’t want my bracket to be too heavy or confronting for a largely local audience.
The poems I shared all focused one way or another on the idea of resilience, and getting through the trials of life stronger and wiser than on the way in.
It was a great night. The music was cool, the poetry was powerful and thought-provoking, and the tone of the evening was 100% positive.
Phoenix Project continues this weekend with a great lineup of musicians and artists to feed the soul of everyone who comes along.
Today I caught a train into Melbourne for an appointment tomorrow.
That doesn’t sound like a big deal, but.. ouch.
I didn’t even think about only being seven weeks post-surgery when I got on the train. I probably should have done, though.
Here’s the thing. A country rail journey here is bumpier than a car trip and the jostling is constant. You can’t adjust the seat or change your position, so it is what it is.
The great thing was that my travelling companions were a. people I know well, b. very helpful and c. not actually able to walk much faster than me, so apart from the jiggling it was quite a good trip.
By the time we arrived at Southern Cross Station in Melbourne, my back was feeling very tender indeed. It was great to get off the train and walk for a bit, which helps to relieve the inflammation and get the circulation going again.
I also really like this railway station. Melbourne has two iconic stations: Flinders Street Station is old and beautiful, while Southern Cross is funky and cool with its sleek designs and wavy roof. I find it hard not to look up at that roof and think, “That’s SO cool!”
From the station, it was only a short cab ride to the hotel. Now that I am lying down in my hotel room and have had some ibuprofen, I feel quite okay, so no harm done.
As of today, Amazon’s new rule about Australians only buying from their AU store will apply. Yet again, it seems that living at the arse end of the earth isn’t enough of a disadvantage. We already have to pay more to go anywhere and to send things overseas in the mail. Having anything delivered from overseas is ridiculously expensive. Now this.
I’ve yet to see how the new rule will affect my ability to actually buy kindle books and leave reviews for them.
I’ve definitely spent the required $50 in the US store, so I should still be able to leave reviews if it doesn’t happen automatically. It’s just an extra thing I’m going to have to do if I want to leave a review.
Are they going to make me spend another $50 in the AU store before I can leave reviews there, though? That remains to be seen, but I’m guessing so.
I feel as though I’m being screwed over by the Zon, yet again.
I’m so thankful that I have all my universal book links and custom shortlinks set up as part of my own branding.
At least none of that will have to change.
One quick virtual tour through the AU store confirms what I already suspected – prices for everything are higher, even factoring in the exchange rate. I can tell you where I won’t be shopping for anything other than eBooks! And if the books I want to read are available elsewhere, I’ll be giving the fine folks at Kobo some business.
Today is ANZAC Day: the day on which Australians and New Zealanders stop to commemorate and reflect on the sacrifice of all those who served our countries – very often side by side – in World War I, and ever since.
113 years after the ANZAC forces stormed the beaches and clambered up the cliffs at Gallipoli, we stand in sombre silence and remember the enormous losses of life suffered on that day, and every other day, during major conflicts like the two World Wars. Every year, attendance at dawn services, ANZAC Day marches, and commemoration ceremonies around Australia grows, even though all the soldiers who fought in World War I, and many who fought in World War II, have passed away.
Peter Rock, the MC at this morning’s ceremony at the cenotaph in my local town, made a profound observation in the early moments of his opening speech: “Those who are surprised by the fact that ANZAC Day commemorations continue to draw record attendance understand very little of our national character.” He went on to speak about how and why we remember those who fought and sacrificed themselves for our freedom. Their bravery is renowned, but so is their commitment despite adversity, their mateship, and their love for their country. He’s absolutely right – those are qualities that have indeed become part of our national character. Our freedom and our mateship are the rewards of their courage and service.
That’s something my town has been reminded of in recent weeks. This time, our enemy was fire, and our battle was fought with water and fire retardant foam, not with bullets and mortars. Those who faced the danger and fought to keep the rest of us safe did so knowing they were putting themselves at risk, but that didn’t stop them. Behind the fire front, they were supported by others who worked tirelessly to supply and feed them, but also to care for those who had to flee from the fires, and for all those who were traumatised by them in various ways. Of course, it’s a very different scale to what was experienced by the soldiers who went to war, but the selflessness and the determination to serve and protect is the same.
Thankfully, no lives were lost in that particular war, although there were numerous casualties in terms of homes and livelihoods. It has been relentless and exhausting, yet our community has come together yet again to help, support, and defend. People may have lost their houses, but they are not homeless: we are their home, and we will make sure they have what they need to start over and keep going. In true Aussie fashion, our local community has been incredibly generous, as have many people from beyond the local area. There really is no better place to live.
Today’s ceremony was, as always, very well attended. Representatives from service groups, churches, local government organisations, school students and professional organisations laid wreaths in memory of the fallen. Families stood together, some wearing medals that belonged to fathers, uncles, or grandparents who served in the military and have since passed on. The flags of both Australia and New Zealand were flown at half mast until after the minute of silent reflection, and the national anthems of both countries were sung. Tears – whether of sorrow for the fallen, of thankfulness for the freedom we enjoy, of patriotic pride, or a combination of all those factors – were shed.
This afternoon, there’s a big concert being held on the local football ground, not just to raise funds for fire relief, but also to give some joy and celebration back to a community that has done some really hard yards over the past six weeks. Talents from both the local area and further afield will be performing. Local businesses are providing catering, entertainment, and every other service that’s needed.
And you can bet your bottom dollar that the locals are going to turn out in force to support that concert, and each other, because that’s what we do. We stick together in times of trouble, and we cheer each other on in our victories. In doing that on ANZAC Day, we will continue to remember the lessons we learned from the ANZACS and all our other diggers.
At the going down of the sun, just as we did in the morning, we WILL remember them.
On Friday afternoon when I left town for a family wedding a couple of hours’ drive away, my greatest concern was that my father wouldn’t feel too lonely while we were away. When we left the wedding reception on Saturday night, and I checked my phone, my heart leapt into my throat as I began to realise what hell had unleashed back at home.
It is late in the season for fires, but there has been very little rain and the region has been tinder dry. Hot and very windy weather conditions created the opportunity for fire to take hold and spread rapidly through both farmland and natural bush.
One outbreak led to another, and another, and then another. My town, and those nearby, were experiencing the greatest crisis in decades. Surrounded by a ring of fire, people watched, worried, and sought refuge in the middle of town.
Social media posts showed what locals could see from their yards or where they had been driving. A friend who lives nearby posted photos of what she could see – and it was terrifying.
The emergency services website showed incidents all across the region, one after the other, spreading in a grim pattern of danger and destruction.
Roads were closed. Authorities forbade people from driving into the area. The situation was officially described as catastrophic. And my 86 year old father was at home on his own. Nausea swept over me as I struggled not only with fear, but also with feelings of absolute uselessness: there was absolutely nothing I could do.
Needless to say, I didn’t sleep much. The radio stations weren’t forthcoming with updates until after 3am, so I turned to social media for information. With the aid of Facebook, I consulted with neighbours and made sure that our uncle had taken steps to make sure Dad was okay. I tried to call, but was unable to make contact. In the end, I just had to trust that things at home were as under control as they could be.
The fires continued to burn and spread throughout the night and the following day. As people’s stories of loss and devastation were told, offers of help were made and communities rallied, even while the fires still raged. There is no doubt about Aussies – they know how to help a mate, and they don’t hesitate to step in where needed.
Even late into the afternoon, the roads to home were all still closed, so we made our way back to a neighbouring town to wait until we could get home. One road opened at 5.50pm; we only needed one road, so we headed home. We knew that even though the road was open, authorities didn’t want people just driving into the area without good reason, but my dad was a very good reason to be making the trip.
We were very glad to find that Dad was fine, our home was safe, and the town itself was untouched except for smoke. Our local football oval was filled with emergency service manpower and vehicles from other places. They had come to help fight the fires and provide relief to the local crews, many of whom are volunteers, who had been working for many long hours to defend and protect people, properties and towns.
Fifteen minutes after returning home, a succession of five fire trucks went zooming down our no-through road, and my heart was in my throat again. Whatever had them rushing out had to be close, as there’s only about two kilometres of road past our place before the road ends. Within half an hour they had sorted the issue and came trundling back. My neighbours and I applauded them, gave them the thumbs up, and cheered them to show our gratitude for their quick response. They waved back and returned the thumbs up, their smiles letting us know that they understood and were thankful for our response, too.
Not long after that, new plumes of smoke not too far away indicated that there were new fires springing up. I could hear the sirens as they rushed out of town to meet the new emergencies, and reminded myself that the crisis wasn’t over just because my immediate surroundings were relatively safe.
Thick smoke once again settled over the town. We took encouragement from the fact that warnings were downgraded to critical from catastrophic, and the symbols on the emergency services’ online fire map gradually began to change from red to orange.
Incredibly, no human lives have been lost and very few serious injuries have been suffered. This is testament to the dedication, hard work and training of our first responders, particularly our firefighters and State Emergency Service volunteers.
Despite the smoke in the air and the knowledge that the crisis wasn’t over yet, I slept so much better last night knowing that we were being protected by hundreds of committed and able firefighters, first responders, police, and support crews. It is not possible to adequately put into words how thankful we all are for the job they’ve done and continue to do.
This morning the pall of smoke blanketing our town was thick. It stings the eyes and the throat, and it smells. Yet that is the only discomfort I suffer, and for that I am incredibly thankful. What a blessing to be able to say that.
The waterbombers and helicopters are flying overhead, and the work to control and extinguish these fires continues. People who are much, much braver than I are working in difficult and dangerous conditions, and for that we are all incredibly thankful.
The warnings for my town have been downgraded to Watch and Act but others are still in danger. We all have to remain vigilant.
Beyond that, we all have to care for each other.
People have lost homes, or farms, or herds… or all of that.
Our local community in the southwest of Victoria has been shaken and found strong, supportive and caring – and now, we must continue that by caring for those who have lost so much.
I have no doubt that Cobden will ace that – we’ve done it before, and we’ll do it again.
As I’ve said on numerous occasions, we’re incredibly blessed to live in Cobden. It’s a great community, and I’m thankful that it has passed this most recent test.
A horrible chain of events occurred in Melbourne today. A man drove a car into a group of people, killing some and injuring others, including children. Some of the injured remain in a critical condition.
It wasn’t terrorism. Just an angry man in a car.
Funny, though. Nobody has mentioned his religion, and there have been no popular calls for his particular ethnic group to explain or apologise for his actions.
Nor should they be expected to. Ever.
It’s his responsibility, not theirs.
But you can bet your sweet patootie that it would be a different story if he were a Muslim or a recent immigrant from the Middle East.
We’re not judgemental, though. Nor racist. Mmmkay?
I love watching the Olympics on TV. The achievements of the competitors are amazing, and I can only imagine what it must feel like to be part of the atmosphere there with the cheering, whistling, and excitement of each event.
I am getting increasingly frustrated with the TV and radio commentators, though. I don’t know what it’s like in other nations, but the Australian media seem to be frequently making remarks about our competitors not winning medals when they were “expected to”, with the implication that they’re letting us down somehow.
Let’s stop and think about that for a moment.
Whose expectations and assumptions are we working on?
Most certainly, not mine.
I don’t think the competitors have those expectations, either. I have no doubt they have hopes and aspirations as they pursue their dreams of victory and success. They put everything into it that they can. Nobody goes in half-arsed and decides while competing that it doesn’t matter so much.
It’s important to remember that every single one of them is a champion for just getting there. They’ve beaten a bunch of other competitors who wanted to be there too. They’ve achieved personal bests and performed feats that are pretty much impossible for most of us ordinary folk.
Our commentators aren’t doing anyone any favours by adding more pressure with the weight of comments that imply that someone was expected to win, and didn’t. Going into the Olympics, there were reports of Australia hoping for a certain number of medals, particularly in certain events. It wasn’t the athletes or swimmers who expressed those goals, it was the media. And how the people “back home” interpret the results is strongly influenced by the ways in which the events and results are reported on and discussed in the media.
It’s easy to want to win everything. It’s easy to consider our own nation a “favourite” among others. We need to keep an open mind, though, and remember that everyone in other countries has the same hopes as we do for our competitors. Just because someone holds a world record doesn’t give them any entitlement to win that event again. As Australian swimmer Bronte Barratt said on Thursday before the Women’s 4 x 200m Freestyle Relay, “As we’ve proven many times before, if you’ve got a lane, you’ve got a chance, so we’ve got a great chance.” She’s absolutely right. Everyone has an equal chance once they make the final.
As for the competitors, they want to do their best. Of course they’d love to win, and they’ll be disappointed when they don’t. But to be there is a victory in itself, and we shouldn’t let any commentator diminish that. And when the race is over, we should be praising and encouraging, not criticising.
It’s 40 years since the dismissal of Gough Whitlam’s government in 1975 by the Governor-General, Sir James Kerr.
Tomorrow – September 9th – will see Queen Elizabeth II become the longest reigning monarch in British history.
What if Australia were to celebrate both anniversaries by having the Governor-General sack the PM again?
Australia would have a new lease on its political life, possibly even in time to prevent our becoming unable to ever look the rest of the world in the eye again.
The economy would receive an enormous boost because people would be throwing parties and holding street parades through every town. Freedom of the press to call it as they see it would return, and Australians could celebrate being Australian without wondering if they actually were on Team Australia or not.
The ABC could continue being fully funded and independent, we could go back to funding schools, roads and hospitals, and asylum seekers would be welcomed without being “filtered” according to artificially imposed rules and guidelines that make those who dream them up almost as bigoted as the people the asylum seekers are running away from in the first place.
Australia could once again be the “lucky country” with boundless plains to share, where the little guy can achieve something great once in a while without being accused of having a “sense of entitlement”.
Stop for a moment and think about it.
It really would be the gift that keeps on giving.
It’s been a funny old day in Australian politics.
On the front page of the national newspaper today was a picture of Tony Abbott, Prime Minister of Australia, being “bunny-earsed” by some kid at a reception for the Diamonds, the Australian representative netball team.
I really enjoy this picture, because it looks like it’s Bill Shorten, Leader of the Opposition, doing it. That would be funny, too, although perhaps a bit harder to justify as an innocent prank. The second picture definitely shows that it’s a kid’s arm behind the PM.
Personally, I think someone should give that kid a knighthood, or at least a medal. With one gesture, he has summed up the feelings of many Australians. Moreover, it’s humorous and typical Aussie larrikin behaviour, without causing any harm or any significant disrespect.
Let’s face it, giving someone bunny ears in a photo has been the Australian way for generations. How many years worth of school photos do we all have where someone is doing the bunny ears, or crossing their eyes, or wearing someone else’s glasses? Those are the things that make actually getting those photos taken worthwhile.
It’s also a reminder that we are very privileged to live in a country where we can meet and mingle with our national leaders without getting tasered or spear-tackled to the ground and, in the case that we should survive that, arrested. I can’t imagine being able to get close enough to Vladimir Putin, or Kim Jong Il, for example, or daring to “bunny ears” either one of them. And taking on the POTUS bodyguards? No. No thank you. I’ll be good.
Australia really is a great country. It’s a great place to live, especially if you’ve got a bit of a sense of humour and don’t take yourself, or your politicians, too seriously.