2020 A Dog’s Breakfast of a Year: in cartoons

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Cathy Wilcox

This year has been one hell of a ride, and not in a good way. Between fires, plague and pestilence, as well as extraordinary political maelstrom, it could easily be described as a ‘dog’s breakfast’: that is, a right, royal mess.

It has, however, provided an incredible amount of fodder for the pens of Australian cartoonists (and no doubt of those the world over). It seems entirely reasonable then that this year’s annual exhibition of the best of Australian political cartoons, launched last Friday at the Museum of Australian Democracy (MOAD), bears that canine reference: Behind the Lines 2020: A Dog’s Breakfast.

I admire cartoonists greatly. Firstly their ability to draw, but also their ability to cut through a thick forest of complicated issues and emotions and deliver a succinct gut-punch with an image or two and a few deft words. Well, often much more than that (First Dog on the Moon—I’m looking at you) but you get the idea. As a lover of words who often struggles with verbosity, I admire that latter quality greatly, and as someone with no artistic ability, I admire the former quality even more.

From the video of Cathy Wilcox illustrating how to depict doggie emotions

The exhibition features 104 cartoon from 36 artists, which this year includes digital work as well. So little can tell so much. It takes us back through the crazy year that was revisiting some of the horrors and messes that befell us, and perhaps helps us make sense of it. Or perhaps not. It references:

a country on fire while the PM was MIA and the effects of climate change knocking very loudly, though some politicians and media worked hard to play that down;

politicians behaving very badly

and political corruption (sports rorts anyone?);

COVID shutdowns, working from home and struggles with mental health;

Cathy Wilcox, Today’s Anxiety Level, The Sydney Morning Herald//The Age, 5 August 2020

culture clashes;

Fiona Katauskas, Eureka Street, 28 July 2020

strange social phenomenons;

and so much more.

The works so often cut straight though to the heart of the matters, as distressing and infuriating that may be at times, and present us with the bald truth. They often expose the worst in us, particularly politicians no matter which side of the house they’re on, but thankfully also occasionally bring out the best in us: resilience among the mayhem.

The dog’s breakfast exhibition is cleverly curated into a number of themes, reinforced with some complementary doggy phrases and images and lots of poochy puns – digging for bones, what the pup, let off the leash. You get the picture.

The exhibition reminds me of a teacher from many decades ago, ahead of her times, who brought cartoons into class depicting the controversies and atrocities surrounding the Indonesian annexing of Timor and the killing of the Balibo Five in 1975. I didn’t fully understand then the powerful role those cartoonists were playing at a time when much was swept under the carpet and the importance of free speech and the role of journalism. In a year where attempts to restrict shut down or sideline investigations, stifle questions and prevent access to information have been rife, the freedom of expression displayed by cartoonists, along with their journalist colleagues, has never been more important.

Simon Kneebone, Australian Socialist, 1 March 2020

This year’s gong went to Sydney cartoonist, Cathy Wilcox (her second), a Sydney-based cartoonist for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Melbourne Age. Her work is brilliant: so much in so little. As Daryl Karp, Director of MOAD described at the launch, through her cartoons Cathy captured the momentous events of the year as seen by ordinary Australians.

The cartoon selected as best in house was so insightful, so emotive, so close to the painful bone that it didn’t even run in all papers across Australia. In Victoria, the heart of the disaster, it would have been just too much.

Dr Karl was there at the launch (no, I’m not going to attempt his last name – you know who I’m talking about) to try to make sense of the some of the science underpinning some of the happenings of the year. He provided a raft of interesting titbits from his bulging store of fascinating facts though I’m still not convinced anything can properly explain the toilet paper hoarding effect. And you do have to admire a man who co-ordinates his joyful shirts with his socks.

If you live in Canberra, get yourself to this exhibition for a perusal of 2020 and its various disasters and political freefall in pictorial precis. If you don’t live here, consider a trip just to check it out, or perhaps take a peek online. You don’t even have to hurry—it’s on for a whole year.

2020 has certainly been a doozy of a year, but we have to hang on to optimism for the next one. As Cathy Wilcox wrote on the book I just had to purchase containing the entire collection of cartoons from the exhibition, ‘Next year’s going to be great.’

If we cross our fingers very tightly …

Peter Broelman, Syndicated, 14 April 2020

A weekend away to relax, or maybe not

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It seemed like such a great idea in the planning. How about we escape for a couple of nights away, just me, my daughter and her three little children for a bit of down time away from life’s responsibilities. Something really laid back and easy so there’d be no stress and somewhere fairly close to home so there wouldn’t be much driving.

Have a relaxing weekend, they said!

To be honest, I think it might have actually been me that said that.

We found accommodation that was perfect for our needs: the large upstairs of someone’s house down near the coast. Not particularly salubrious but it also came with five separate bedrooms for spreading out, a kitchenette and a portacot, and – most importantly for the kids – a massive library with thousands of books, and most of them for children. New books, old books, classics from my childhood, classics from their childhoods. It even included a complete set of National Geographics dating from the ’60s and a set of Childcraft encyclopedias. I could have lost myself for days among them, if only I’d had the chance. It even came with a little cane table and chairs complete with teas sets all ready for tiny little tea parties. Perfect!

Outside was just as exciting. A low-hanging tree swing, an encircling timber verandah with kids tractors to ride around it on, a rocking horse, and a huge backyard, neatly mowed and complete with cricket bats and stumps perfect for backyard cricket, a complete revelation for Master 4 who’d never held a cricket bat before. And there was more excitement on the animal front: visits from a friendly cat, a flock of sheep in the next paddock and early morning visits from wandering kangaroos. Plus, it was not too far from the beach for a day of sun and sand. A kids’ paradise really.

In short, it had everything that could possibly make little kids happy for an entire weekend, or at least a full day. You’d think with all that going on, everyone would be deliriously happy.

But you’d be wrong.

Well, to be fair, they were deliriously happy at many times, but not necessarily all at the same time. With three, there’s a good chance that one will be over tired, over excited, or grumpy or hungry at any one given moment, maybe even two at the same time. Either that or injured, perhaps from skidding wildly down the walkway at the coast lookout that’s paved with industrial strength gravel, a little bit like a cheese grater on steroids that’s clearly designed to shred small children’s knees and leave permanent scars, or perhaps from taking terrifying leaps from tables onto fences or perhaps onto soaring monkey bars at the park, and missing completely.

Aah yes, what it’s like to take a holiday with a pack of small children came flooding back to me within hours of leaving home, after we’d been through 27 different car games and adjudicated twelve fights. I’d actually forgotten how thoroughly exhausting little people can be for long periods, and just how much food they can consume in a three hour car trip, and how much of it misses their mouths and lands in the car instead, and just how resistant a two year old can be to going to sleep, even at 10 pm.

I’m a pretty hands-on grandma and I see these kids nearly every day, with many a day out and sleepovers galore. But I’m telling you, this was intense! I love these little people with all my might, but dear God – they’re exhausting, and that was after less than 48 hours uninterrupted time in their company.

Normally when I’m away on a little trip I’m all about reporting back on the best cafes, sights to see, things to do. Sorry – not this time. Too much juggling going on. I can tell you the beach at Tathra was lovely, the hotel overlooking the coast at the top of the hill an excellent place for dinner with kids, and that you need to take extreme caution on that razor sharp coastal walkway.

When I arrived home at the end of the weekend, I was completely shattered. Done in. Exhausted. I thought I’d have a quick snooze on the couch at 7 pm to liven myself up for the evening but instead I gave in and slept for a solid 13 hours instead, and then snoozed for another hour when I woke up. And there is not the least bit of exaggeration in that statement. Not one bit. Why can’t kids sleep like that, I ask you?

I immediately had immense sympathies for the mother who didn’t get that same respite on her return but instead got another three days home alone with them while Dad was away on business. And yes, of course we helped – it would be cruel not to.

And guess what? Number 4 is due early next year, which will tip the odds even further in their favour.

I now have renewed respect for all parents of small people and I’d like to remind each and every one of them out there with little ones – you’re doing a great job.

Maybe you need a relaxing weekend away?

The months that were: on the move and waiting

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I’m sitting in a gorgeous white timber cottage perched at the bottom of a sprawling garden flushed with spring in the midst of the Southern Highlands. I have coffee at my fingertips, tiny fairy lights draped not far from my head, it’s pattering rain outside and there’s not a soul around. As Joan Armatrading sang several decades ago, it’s just me, myself, I—and I’m in seventh heaven.

It’s been a busy few months of being on the road and in other people’s places. We made a mad dash up north just before the Queensland borders were due to shut in early August (for the second time) to make sure we’d be there in time to greet the newest grandbub and provide some support for the one giving birth and the toddler in tow. We made the border crossing (by a couple of hours) after a long inland trek, and then came a long wait. As it turned out, the borders opened again for flying visitors just prior to the main event, but we weren’t to know that at the time. It meant though we had an unexpectedly long visit in the Sunshine State.

Firsty, it was a time to really get to know the little blond one. There were many long walks and excursions, and trying out as many parks in Brisbane as possible. At each one, we had to start with a picnic with the carefully packed lunchbox and picnic rug. Sometimes we would have three picnics on one visit. This is a child who is very committed to food and a routine.

There was a lot of time to explore Brisbane, usually with a little one in tow, and most of the activities were daytime ones. I’ve been trying to keep up on social media but there are more tales to tell of places to go and things to see.

We took the chance to wander a little north and spend a couple of weeks in Sunshine Beach, located just minutes from Noosa. A delightful spot indeed and time to wander and take many photos. I even read a book, a rare feat for me these days. And yes – there was much eating of great food. Had we known the bub would be a late arrival, we would have stayed longer.

All of this took place with the most marvellous display of weather. As a Canberran, let me attest to the glory of a Queensland winter and early spring. While I adore my hometown and her great beauty, even in winter,  it was rather nice to escape that little icy/snow episode that befell the capital in August and lounge in the norther winter sun instead, interrupted as it was by many grandparent duties. This should become an annual pilgrimage.

The baby arrived safely, and she is a delight. Perfection really. Of course, all grandparents say that, and they’re probably all right. Here she is in her newborn glory if you want proof.

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Not long after, we headed south and took a break on the Gold Coast, rediscovering areas I explored long ago as a teen. This visit was far more fancy than the one I had during school days, with much less beach-going and sunbaking, and I have much to share. Given my predisposition to good food, recommendations of great places to eat will feature highly.

It’s been a strange time, moving around carefully (and traceably) but freely while others in Australia—and indeed the rest of the world—are so restricted and doing it tough. It’s been good to be able to support businesses as we go but there are many signs that things are far from normal and difficult. The abundance of empty business premises and closed cafes and restaurants attest to the turmoil and tragedy that confronts so many. And that was in Queensland.

And then, I will be home in my own bed, in my own house, in my hometown, and that will be lovely. No doubt there will be many visits from other little people who’ve missed us dearly, and a sleepover with lots of grandchildren, and that will be lovely too.

Let’s celebrate National Op Shop Week

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op shop fashion finds

It’s National Op Shop Week in Australia, and for anyone with an interest in retail therapy, community works or reducing waste, this is a week well worth celebrating.

The week, from 28 September to 4 October, is all about raising awareness about shopping at op shops and the great things it does for our community, environment and budget.

In recent years, shopping at Op Shops—charity stores, thrift shops, call them what you will—has become the new black of shopping. No longer is it an a place where just those struggling with life’s demands went to shop. While op shops certainly still support those doing it tough, they do a whole lot more besides. Nowadays, picking up a bargain at an op shop is quite on trend, for all sorts of reasons, and even some of the celebrities we see on tele choose to dress from their op shop finds.

I have to say I’ve been a big fan of op shopping for many years and have picked up some brilliant finds over the years. Not just scouting for things to wear for dress ups, but there’s some serious high fashion to be found with a little practice and patience. One of my faves is a ivory lace jacket I snapped up for $18 and recently wore to a wedding. And just days ago I picked up a fab pair of classic black pants, as new Vera Wang, for $8. Winning!

But of course it’s not all about the great items you can find at bargain prices. These stores are doing a great service for the community and the stores fund a range of good works, like domestic violence refuges, homelessness services, migrant and refuge assistance, food vans and food vouchers, drug and alcohol counselling and disaster relief.

On top of that, the proliferation of op shops means that a hell of a lot of material otherwise destined for landfill is being recycled and reused—and that’s a hugely important thing to do in these days of wanton resource overload.

As Craig Ruecassel, creator of  ABC’s War on Waste and supporter of Op Shop Week says, “As we discovered in the War on Waste, clothes are a huge part of our waste stream. Donating clothes to op shops means they can be re-sold and that money goes to great causes.”

The retail shopping that keeps on giving!

If shopping at op shops isn’t your thing, fear not – there are other ways you can get involved.

  1. Declutter – You can take the opportunity to do a spring wardrobe or garage clean out and donate items to your local store. Be mindful though—they don’t want rubbish, and anything they have to take to landfill themselves costs them money, which could otherwise have gone to providing services. If you have electrical items or furniture, you might have to check first with local stores as different places have different rules in play about what they accept. During these days of COVID-19, some other restrictions may be in place as well.

2. Volunteer – It’s a great way of keeping busy and being useful and it’s also a good way for young people to get some brownie points and retail experience. Some stores have really elevated their visual displays so there’s some opportunities to learn some merchandising skills as well.

But if it is your thing and you need some tips on how to get the most out of your op shopping, I’ve got you covered:

10-tips-for-shopping-success-at-op-shops-thrift-stores-if-you-must/

If you want to know more or get involved, there’s a dedicated National Op Shop Week Facebook page and also a website where you’ll find shopping tips and other resources.

You can type in your postcode at dosomethingnearyou.com.au/national-op-shop-week/ to find local  op shop stores in your areas and how you can get involved.

Happy decluttering, op shopping or volunteering – the choice is yours!

Are you an Op Shop fan? What are your best finds?

My find from two weeks ago – $5 gummies, along with a whole bag of books for $6. I chose about 10 pristine interesting ones but there was heaps of room left.

Remembering Sydney 2000, the greatest Olympics Games ever

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It’s 20 years since the 2000 Olympic Games were held in Sydney. It was the year Australia put on a great big party and invited the world, even though we ended up doing most of the partying ourselves.

I was seriously excited for those games. I’m not generally a great sports fan but this wasn’t just sports: this was a world event, and in 2000 it was playing out in our own backyard. History in the making.

The opening ceremony was the big ticket item. So big you had to go in a lottery draw to win the chance to buy a ticket. I desperately wanted to go but didn’t manage a win. Instead I counted down the days until it was on and watched every second of it live and pretended I was there. I bought the CD soon after and sang along madly with John and Olivia and Nicky and Tina and Vanessa too, although I could never get anywhere near those ear-piercing screams she emitted at the end of her song fit to burst an eardrum.

It was a spectacular opening and everything we hoped it would be, from our favourite singers, extraordinary visuals, our history summarised in dance and symbols, and horses galore galloping to the rousing strains of The Man from Snowy River. Well apart from those four excruciatingly long minutes when the lighted cauldron failed to lift as it should, and left Cathy Freeman standing in front of the world expectantly, a flaming torch held aloft in her hand and a torrent of panicked expletives in her ear, waiting for something to happen. What a remarkably calm performance she put on, slowly turning around at one point as if it was orchestrated. We watched with bated breathe and white knuckles hoping something would happen and thankfully finally it did as the back up plan kicked into gear, luckily just seconds before all the gas ran out entirely and we were shamed before the entire world. We all breathed a big sigh of relief and cheered some more. How proud we were to be Australian.

This was possibly a once in a lifetime event and we were super keen to go along and be part of the event as a young family. We travelled up to Sydney to attend the modern pentathlon event. I didn’t even know what a modern pentathlon was before we went, but it was excellent value and suited our budget and seemed to have our name written on it. In case you’re wondering, it consists of five events: fencing, shooting, swimming, horse riding (show jumping) and (3 kilometre) long distance running. That meant it kept us busy for the whole day following the competitors around the different events and venues.

As it turned out the Australian guy didn’t do all that well (Robert McGregor was his name, I had to look that up) and he came 20th out of 24th, but as he bowed out of contention for a decent placing he ‘handed ‘over the crowd to his Italian competitor instead so we all started barracking madly for him instead.

I can’t remember who won. I do remember though how friendly everyone was and how much fun we had. The crowds were huge, a solid seething mass making its way down Olympic Parade at Homebush, but no one was in a hurry and no one pushed or shoved. Everyone was just happy to be there and that’s what made it so extraordinary. (It was also extraordinary that the ever-smiling volunteers didn’t disappear entirely under their massive, multi-coloured vollie-outfits.)

In fact, the mood for the day was set on the way there. With an 11 and 13 year old in tow, we were wandering along a main road heading towards the bus stop to catch the designated Olympics bus. We saw it coming and had a bit of a vain attempt at running up the hill towards the stop but gave it up as a lost cause and resumed our walking pace. As we got to the top of the hill, lo and behold, the bus driver had seen us (the kids and backpacks must have made it obvious where we were headed) and was waiting for us! How could that be? Bus drivers in Sydney don’t wait for you! So we picked up our pace and boarded the bus, and then the other passengers cheered. Welcome to Sydney 2000!

That night we ventured into the city of Sydney and joined thousands of others watching the games from huge screens in Martin Place and other venues dotted across the city. It was just one big party. On the train home, we got into conversation with other passengers about the events, everyone excited and animated. It was a city transformed – people talking to each other and interacting like never before. It was like the whole city was on happy pills.

There’s so much great stuff to recall from those games, including the great tally of wins and medals of course, from expected places and unexpected ones, and other cherished moments as well, like Eric the Eel from Equatorial Guinea struggling through his heat of the 100 metre freestyle,  barely able keep his head above water at the end but with the whole stadium going crazy and the whole of Australia urging him on. We witnessed the making of Ian Thorpe, the revelations of beach volleyball, that wild high jumper and our adopted Russian pole vaulter, and the straight-shooting Simon Fairweather of gold medal archery fame (who incidentally came around for dinner at our house some months later, the then partner of a girl my hubbie used to work with, when we discussed how the bow makes a permanent dint in archers’ noses!). And of course we celebrated Cathy Freeman’s legendary win in her green space suit in the 400 metres in a moment forever etched into our collective memories.

And to top it all off each evening, we got to spend two hours with Roy and HG on The Dream, and listen to their hilarious gymnastics commentary which traversed and sometimes confused the rest of the world and introduced new words into Australian lexicon, like battered sav and hello boys, and a fat-arsed wombat became just as famous as a mascot for the games as Matilda the ‘roo was and perhaps more beloved.

It’s very different this year, which should be an Olympic year. It must be incredibly disappointing for all those athletes who were training for this year’s event and who had their dreams snatched from them. Hopefully they’ll have another chance to make another games and reach those dreams.

Thanks for the memories, Sydney 2000 – you were bloody great. In fact, in the inimitable words of Juan Antonio Samaranch, you were the greatest games ever.

What about you? Did you go? What did you get to see?

Discovering the cool of Cooroy: a secret of the Sunshine Coast

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Often a break on the Sunshine Coast means sand and sun and long days on the beach and Noosa tends to feature strongly. But if you venture just a little further afield and a little bit inland, there are some little gems to discover including historic Cooroy.

Cooroy is a small heritage village in the Sunshine Coast hinterland, an easy 20 minute drive from Noosa. Starting life in the 1860s on the back of the tall timber stands in the region, the village grew as the railway reached town thirty years later and supported the local forestry and dairying industries. It once housed two sawmills and a butter factory, but nowadays plays host to an internationally acclaimed library and national body art festival instead. Of course, not this year folks, thanks to Rona.

A walk around town with a historic walking trail map in hand (available from the library or local tourist offices) will reveal a lot about the town’s past days. Don’t miss the railway station, the post office and the timber drying kiln, all heritage listed. If you want to delve a little deeper, drop in to nearby Pomona to visit the Noosa Shire history museum. It was founded by the Cooroora Historical Society in 1985 mainly as a means to preserve what was rapidly disappearing of the past and is open Tuesday to Thursday and Saturday from 10am to 3pm.

The forestry and industries of days of old may have disappeared but Cooroy is reinventing itself with a little bit of cool. It even has its very own app which introduces you to the business around town and all the latest events and happenings. Just type in Cooroy into your App Store on your Iphone (everyone’s got one of those, right?).

Parts of Cooroy’s history have been reimagined. The Butter Factory, operating from 1915 to 1975, now serves as a vibrant arts centre with regular exhibitions, events and workshops where you can release your inner artist. We were fortunate to luck the Maleny Cream @ the Butter Factory exhibition featuring ceramics, sculptures, paintings and drawings by a range of talented artists. If you’re in the area, you’ll have be quick to get a look as it’s only on until 8 September. The whimsical little creations made from childhood treasures were delightful. Baby boomers – keep your eyes out for the old cuisinnaire rods that appear in a couple of the pieces.

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If you’re looking for the newer cool side of town, you must drop into the local library, awarded as one of the six coolest libraries in the world. The world! Built in 2009, this innovative building cut into the ground boasts a grassed roof that doubles as an ampitheatre, complete with a little garden and its own supply of frill necked lizards out the back. Apart from books and cutting edge technology, it also features a terrific little shopfront selling the wares of local artists and groups as well as a cafe and various community spaces including workshop area which runs a series of workshops on various topics. It even has its own robot called Dewey.

There’s a plethora of cafes and places to eat in the village. In fact, the local librarian told me there’s actually a choice of 30 from whence to get your caffeine fix. The hotel is a hub of activity with a string of events and live music gigs. It’s not the original hotel; sadly the grand old timber one burnt down which seemed to be the fate of a lot of buildings around the area.

If you venture a little further out you’ll find The Shed at Cooroy, a cute cafe doubling as a vintage and retro shop where old is becoming the new chic and you may end up taking home more than you intended. Just around the corner is Hinter auctions which has just started regular auctions of old and interesting stuff.

Fairly new kid on the block is Copperhead microbrewery, a small bespoke brewery of warm timbers and cool stone which produces a number of unique brews including its ‘experimental batches’ or EBs. It doesn’t wholesale anywhere so you have to try them onsite. It’s a brewery which pays just as much attention to the food as they do to their ever changing array of beers. As a non-beer drinker, I turned instead to the gin collection and discovered a blood orange gin by Nosferatu. I might even have added a bottle of that to my own collection the very next day.

bar at Copperhead Brewery Cooroy Blood orange gin and tonic

We didn’t even get to venture to the nearby hinterland villages of Ponoma and Kenilworth, or get to visit Lake Macdonald or the nearby Noosa Botanic Gardens. Next time.

Farewell winter, you cold but pretty thing

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We’re leaving winter behind for another year. I do love living in a place like Canberra with four distinct seasons, each with their benefits, and each year I relish the gorgeous photographic scenes winter affords me in Canberra.

I have to say though that I don’t always relish the cold temps that come with it, and by the end of August I’m ready for some more warmth and long days in the sun.

Because I didn’t have a car for six weeks of the two months of winter in Canberra I had, my opportunities to go out exploring on a crisp icy morning or days when the fog lingered as much as I’d have liked, but here’s a few scenes from when I did manage an outing.

So long winter with your icy morns, bare branches and soft hues.

Now I’m ready for spring.

What about you? What’s your favourite season? Do you like winter?

A sudden trip to Queensland and a little Sunshine Beach escape

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The last couple of weeks have been a little unexpected. I’d planned to be at home in Canberra all August to see out winter with a long to-do list to hand, but suddenly the borders to Queensland were going to close (you know, that COVID thing) and all in a rush we found ourselves racing off north to beat it.

There was a reason for the mad rush: the next grandbaby is due to arrive in September and we’re the planned support carers. It meant if we didn’t go then (ie, way earlier than planned), we mightn’t get in at all for the birth and may not even be able to meet bubs for six months or more the way things are going with this wretched virus.

So off we went on a loong drive north and made it through on the last evening.

Then we were suddenly staying in someone else’s house nearly a whole month earlier than planned. A two month stay is a long one so thoughts of a little pre-baby getaway were quickly hatched.

Hello Sunshine Coast!

In particular, hello Sunshine Beach. For those unacquainted with this gem of a place, it’s a little beachside village just ten minutes from Noosa Heads and all the other Noosa-somethings. With a lovely collection of shops, restaurants, cafes and its own surf club, it’s big enough but not too big at all, and of course, it has beaches and trails through the national park for days. It’s considered low season at the moment as we’re still in winter, but let me tell you – winter in Queensland is a pretty terrific sort of thing. I thought it was particularly terrific on the day Canberra shivered through a little bit of sleet and snow and I wandered barefoot on the sand.

There’s a lot to see and do and eat and explore around this neck of the woods, especially if you’re intent on doing it at a very relaxed pace. There’ll be some posts coming soon on some of my favourite finds to assist those who may be visiting soon.

But in the meantime, here’s a little pictorial summary of some of the highlights.

We booked for a week. We stayed for two. We’re planning to come back, and we might even have been having a little peek at real estate. It’s been a pretty nice stay.

In celebration of World Photography Day

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It’s World Photography Day so that would seem an opportune time to do a visual post featuring my great love (don’t tell my husband) and obsession.

How do you choose when there are so many thousands on hand, and on just about every device you own? Aahh, the discipline of culling is a much needed thing in my life. I avoid it like the plague and resort instead to buying more storage, which of course only encourages further bad behaviour. I must reform.

It seems I have passed my obsession on to my children as well so we are all competing for who can take the most photos. I think it’s me, just quietly.

So Happy Photography Day and herewith a snapshot of my life in pics with just a tiny smattering of some of my faves.

Keep snapping. Don’t forget to cull, and backup to avoid heartache.

Your legal rights in the days of COVID-19, and does it really even matter?

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If you live in Australia, you’ve probably seen recent media coverage of various people filming themselves and/or others while trying to exert their purported ‘rights’ to do or not to do certain things in relation to managing the outbreak of COVID-19. (Actually, it probably doesn’t matter where you live in the world—no doubt there’s a small number of people everywhere doing a similar thing). No, I don’t have to wear a mask, no, I don’t have to tell you where I’ve been, blah blah blah.

It’s had me seeing red. Really pissed off and angry red. Especially when you read in the next news article about the number of people dying, or a newborn baby being diagnosed with COVID-19.

It makes me really angry that a small minority of people can be so selfish and continue to put their own ill-informed opinions and often bizarre beliefs ahead of the health and safety of the rest of the community, and sometimes seek out fame and notoriety in doing so. Or do really important things like: drive 100 kilometres across Melbourne to buy takeaway curry from a particular restaurant, or have a dance party for 150 people, or sneak into another state from a banned location hiding in a boot, or refuse to wear a mask and make a song and dance about it claiming it violates their rights and freedoms.

But the thing that really gets up my goat even more than this is people falsely claiming that the law is on their side and trying to convince others of this in a totally inaccurate and ignorant way. I’m the sort of person that wants to delve into the detail of a matter and uncover the facts—and in this case the specific legislation—that would prove them wrong.

I haven’t had a lot of luck in finding any articles which set out how the laws work in Australia and what role our ”human rights’ play in this whole mess. So, being a bit of a stickler for verifiable sources of information and in the interests of community education, I’ve put together some facts about what the law actually says in Australia about the restrictions and regulations in place at the moment to manage the pandemic here. People in other countries—you’ll have to do your own research but I’m guessing if you live in a democratic society, it’s pretty similar.

What’s the legal basis for the current rules and regulations?

Do the police and other authorities have the right to compel you to behave in certain ways in this pandemic?

Yes, indeed they do, in many wide-ranging ways. In Australia it’s a combination of Commonwealth (Australian) government legislation (laws) as well as state and territory legislation—which is largely responsible for health matters—that allows this.

The Commonwealth powers come under the Biosecurity Act 2015. On 18 March 2020 in response to the COVID-19 outbreak in Australia, the Governor-General declared that a human biosecurity emergency exists. The declaration gives the Minister for Health (that’s Greg Hunt) expansive powers to issue directions and set requirements in order to combat the outbreak. This is the first time these powers under the Biosecurity Act have been used in Australia.

The Health Minister’s power under this act are expansive. They allow him to:

  • regulate or restrict the movement of persons, goods, or conveyances (that’s what allowing the banning of international travel and compelling quarantine at the moment)
  • require that places be evacuated
  • make directions to close premises.

There are some limits to his power and other measures can only be authorised under a human biosecurity control order, made by the Commonwealth Chief Medical Officer or a biosecurity officer in relation to a person who may have a listed human disease (including COVID-19).

The act also recognises its limits on interfering with states and territories, who are largely responsible for health matters, so the two levels of government are working together in Australia.

During a public health emergency, as we’re in now, once a state or territory has declared a state of emergency, they have the legislative (legal) authority to give directions as required and apply penalties. This authority is passed onto members of the police force and other public officials.

For example, in Victoria, our worst affected state at the moment, The Public Health and Wellbeing ACT 2008 authorises Victoria’s Deputy Chief Health Officer the power to issue public health orders, and he did that here. Each state would have its own health act, which has been passed through both houses of parliament, that authorises someone to make rules in the case of emergencies. That allows necessary decisions to be made quickly in response to a fast-changing environment.

This week, big Clive Palmer is challenging that Western Australia’s decision to close their border for health reasons in the High Court claiming that it doesn’t have the constitutional authority to do so, so it will be interesting to watch what happens there and the dissection of the laws that take place. But until and unless that happens, the word is that yes indeed you do have to do what officials such as police and defence personnel are telling you – or suffer the consequences.

More info for those who love details

If you want to know more about how Australia is managing COVID-19, the Australian Government’s Health Department has information about who’s doing what.

If you want to know more about how the biosecurity legislation works in Australia in relation to COVID-19, there’s a really good explainer here.

Do businesses have the right to refuse entry?

Yep, they do. On private property, store owners have a legal obligation to keep their premises safe for staff and visitors. To do so, they’re entitled to set reasonable conditions of entry, especially if that protects the health and safety of their staff or customers. For example, you can’t wear sandals on a building worksite, you can’t wear a helmet into a bank, and you can’t wear certain clothes into clubs or restaurants.  We’re subject to all sorts of regulations in all sorts of ways, because that usually makes safer and more pleasant for all of us. Often the regulations came back to Health and Safety laws.

Declaration of Human Rights

“Karen from Bunnings” as she’s now known (with sincere apologies to all those sensible, decent community members out there who just happened to be called Karen and are being caught up in this name-calling, mud-slinging mess) claimed loudly it was her human right under the 1948 Declaration of Human Rights as a ‘living woman’ (not even sure what that means, but her words) to not have to wear a mask when she loops around Bunnings looking for nuts or bolts, or maybe rocks up just to antagonise the staff and police.

And what do you know? She’s dead set wrong. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights does not provide anyone with the right not to wear a mask. Surprise, surprise, it doesn’t mention clothing at all! But it does describe the right of community members to health and safety, which is what is being jeopardised by idiots like this.

But let’s look at where these ‘human rights’ come from.

The President of the Australian Human Rights Commission, Emeritus Professor Rosalind Croucher,  explained in an article this week that:

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted in 1948, as a consequence of the atrocities of World War II. This was followed two decades later by two other major components of what is known as the International Bill of Rights—comprising the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

The declaration is an aspirational document comprising 30 articles which set out a number of individual rights. These aren’t legally binding in themselves but may be in some cases be supported by other legal instruments or legislation.

Professor Croucher noted that while Australia was a founding signatory to these three legal instruments, little has been done to enact the rights and freedoms they describe into Australian law. So, even if they did mention mask-wearing or being denied entry into a shop, there’s no actual law to rely on for Bunnings Karen and they’re not enforceable in our justice system.

Importantly, the rights of one person are always balanced against the rights of another person. Professor Croucher goes on to explain that “even if there were direct laws about rights, it doesn’t mean that everything is a right; nor does it mean that rights are unqualified. And all human rights come with the corresponding responsibility to respect the rights of others.”

Have you ever heard the expression “Your right to swing your fist ends at the point my nose begins.”. You don’t just get to do whatever you want when that impacts negatively on others.

She also says that “… wearing a mask as a public health measure is a legitimate requirement when framed in that context. It is a minimal intrusion on our rights and freedoms. In fact, wearing a mask is the very thing that will protect our rights and freedoms – especially our rights to life and health, and to avoid another widespread lockdown that restricts our movements and activities even further.”

And just to be clear. I’m not including those who legitimately find mask wearing difficult or impossible for medical reasons. I’m talking about those making complete dicks of themselves by trying to whip up a media storm by their actions and trying to misinform others.

But even if it wasn’t the law …

But here’s the thing. Let’s put the legislation and human rights aside for a sec. Even if the laws didn’t exist (they do) and the Declaration of Human Rights covered the right to go maskless (it doesn’t), it shouldn’t matter. Why on earth would we insist on doing things that we know are endangering others, and possibly killing them, just because we can or think we should be able to? That’s just selfishness and narcissism at its finest.

Sure, it’s an inconvenience to wear a mask for a while in you’re out and about. It might be a bit uncomfortable and fog up your glasses, but it’s not as uncomfortable as having a tube stuck down your throat to allow you to breathe. Yes, it’s a pain not being able to visit family or friends in other places at the moment with current restrictions but it’s worse if they die and you never get to see them again.

Let the crazies of this world know it’s not just about them and their sometimes-imaginary human rights. It’s about common sense and common decency. We’re trying to prevent a European-style lock down here at the moment and we’re trying to save lives. The thing that’s causing the breakouts and the grief at the moment is largely people’s unwillingness to stay home when they should and play by the rules.

Get a grip Bunning Karens and Eve Blacks of the world, and get to know what the rules actually are.