Community Consultation

I have just returned from a community consultation for a footbridge that was washed out just about a year ago. We discovered it would be at least two years before a replacement was constructed. After spending all day in a facilitation training session, it was pretty disheartening but not surprising to see zero facilitation skill displayed by the council reps nor the bridge engineers presenting their findings. In essence, the outcome was not an experience of being consulted, especially when the question about who was recording what the community was saying couldn’t be answered.

It was pathetic, and my faith in council has dropped to just about nothing. The start of the meeting didn’t thank people for coming, didn’t state the purpose of the meeting, where they were at in the process and only just outlined how the meeting would go. When chaos broke out and the engineer answering a question became a 1:1 conversation and people started talking amongst themselves, the council representative did nothing. At one point several painful minutes later he got the attention of the room and then quietly said, if there’s nothing else… not, does anyone else have any more questions, or thanking people, or being clear about next steps. Clearly a box-ticking exercise, not a genuine interest in drawing on the care and commitment present in the room full of local residents.

From the Friends of Edgars Creek website, not an image used in the presentation.

The wisdom in that room was vastly underutilised, people who clearly knew the area better than the engineers and council staff, people who had lived there and had family living in the area for 40+ years. People who had seen three bridges built, and washed away. Many of the people in the room were from Friends of Edgars Creek, had planted up the area over years, noting that Melbourne Water had provided funds for planting, yet they were the blockage in terms of standards for a bridge across a waterway they manage.

There was so much disconnect, the Edgars Creek Strategic plan being raised as a factor in the planning, yet the engineer and council rep not seeming to know about it. Later we heard they had been provided with a copy, but it wasn’t acknowledged. Very poor communication skills. I’m considering writing a letter and making observations about my experience and what could have made a difference. My cynical self noted that council really doesn’t give a shit. That the right hand not knowing what the left is doing is just normal, and the care factor in being any different wasn’t sufficient enough to warrant a letter.

The upside is that I got to see who cares about the issue. Lots of longtime residents, very few young people, a couple of families, mom’s talking about the impact it has on getting their kids to school, many members of Friends of Edgars Creek talking about the plantings, the strategic plan and clearly a strong understanding of every angle, incline and tree in the vicinity. It’s nice to know that people care and that as a new resident of a reasonably unwelcome development I can contribute to the expression of care for the place we live in.

This post is 33 in 45 posts for 45 years.


The perils of prediction. In our modern age of social media, if you make a prediction for a short-term outcome like weather, and it doesn’t come true, you’re subject to criticism. The recent ‘threat to life’ weather predictions made by the Bureau of Meteorology didn’t happen on Friday night as forecast. Weather warnings were issued via the news, the Facebook posts of the State Premier, and by text message to state residents.

Some regional towns were evacuated but because we didn’t have catastrophic rains in the metropolitan areas to the extent we were warned of, the predictions are being mocked. This concerns me, not that the bureau made a big deal out of something that hasn’t happened as they said it would, it’s the weather! My concern is that if people become dismissive and stop heeding these warnings, it could have disastrous results.

It also brings to mind my own reluctance to step out on a limb and share my predictions. At the Future of Work conference on Tuesday the first keynote speaker was on a panel and asked about what he expected to see in the future, he refused to predict because “projections are notoriously inaccurate”. Another panellist responded with a different sentiment that I appreciated a lot. He said he’d like to think it’s an opportunity to talk about what you want to see happen. This resonated strongly with me.

It gave me more courage to share my insights on the future, and what I’d like to see happen. I’ve played with this a little in my recent posts on the Future of Marriage, the Future of the TAC and the Future of Lawns. This is the tip of the iceberg. I have a lot to say about the future I want to create, and the concerns I have that we’re not prepared for what’s coming. We are facing a massive shift in the labour market and the skills we’ll need to ride the wave of disruption are not highly valued, nor encouraged in our society, not to mention widely prevalent.

The biggest prediction I have is that we are likely to experience a significant psychological crisis as the wave crests and people are no longer defined by their role at work, their level of productivity or contribution to the economy. This will likely lead to existential crisis and destructive anti-social behaviour if we aren’t able to find a new sense of purpose and a place to belong in society.

Until then, let’s talk about the weather and criticise those predicting the weather, because that’s much easier. While that’s going on, I might start writing more about the future I’d like to see.


This is post 30 of 45 posts for 45 years.


Giving my shadow side permission to write leads to raw writing:

I’ll be honest. If you went to the races or bet on a horse today, I’m judging you. You don’t need my approval by any stretch, nor do I need yours. I have strong beliefs about how animals are treated and I see the races as a glorified excuse to binge drink in fancy clothing. Nothing to do with horses. Horse racing is an afterthought to many who attend the races. This breaks my heart. And when I allow myself to get really dark, it disgusts me.

There are plenty of reasons to get dressed up, and if you really want to wear a fascinator, you don’t need the races to give you that reason. There are plenty of reasons to party, but using horse racing as an excuse it pretty sad. Especially considering how the welfare of the horses seems to take a back seat when it comes to the races.

I know people in the equine industry both as hobbyists and professionals and most of them care deeply for the horses. They aren’t who my judgement is for. It’s for the mindless party that doesn’t want to know what happens to the horses before, during or after the races. There are plenty of meme’s and posts and websites and even billboards that provide us with an opportunity to get educated about how the horses are treated.

And to be transparent, before the final race today, I found myself thinking about looking for evidence to support my view about poor treatment of these beautiful animals. But this isn’t about evidence, this is about what the races have become. It’s about feeling deeply saddened when I see photos of people I know going to the races, and hearing about people placing bets to gamble on the outcomes. This just seems ridiculous to me. It’s about the principle of not wanting to support something that is so bad for the physical welling of the horses. I can’t conscience being supportive of it.

I won’t apologise for judging you for going to the races or for betting, and you need not apologise for how you respond to my judgement. Let’s release ourselves from “I’m sorry but,…”  We can have different perspectives on it. I won’t unfriend you, but I will respect you just a bit less. I want you to care as much as I do but I recognise that different things are important to different people, horses for courses if you will. I’m not even going to ask you to reconsider your perspective, if you’ve read this far, you’re most likely aligned with my passion for animal rights. If you have and you are, thank you.


This post is day 16 of 45 posts for 45 years.


Cleaning out the house for new renters brought a few thoughts to mind today. I thought about what I learned over 10 years ago from environmental cleaning expert Bridget Gardner about non-toxic cleaning. She said the best thing to use is hot water and a microfiber cloth with a bit of elbow grease. So that’s what I used.

I thought about how much I hate cleaning, especially stuff that 1) will be dirty again in minutes, 2) you can hardly tell it was cleaned and 3) won’t be appreciated by those it’s being cleaned for. But I couldn’t not clean.  Oh did I mention, cleaning up after other people, yeah, I love that, not. However, I expected it to be worse.

I thought about how gendered cleaning is. That might be related to why I hate it so much. In fact, I don’t really want to talk about it anymore. Actually, I’ll make one exception.

The technology that helps me clean. At our new place, we have a couple of robot vacuums that clean the floors. They’re not perfect but they are pretty good. I like having them. I also really appreciate our dishwasher, washing machine and dryer. I love how much time they save me and reduce the need for me to clean things. I’m grateful to be alive at a time when this is a possibility.

#metoo We Have a Choice to Make

There is great potential in the tidal wave of posts related to the #metoo campaign which demonstrates the scope of how women are treated in our society. I acknowledge that women are not the only ones affected by this. Children, men, trans and non-binary gendered people are affected. It’s not an isolated issue, it’s not a simple issue, it has no simple answers. Yet several posts in my feed call for action to respond to #metoo. What will the outcome be?

From my perspective, we could go in a few directions.

One direction leads to a flop, a blip on the radar:

  • A flurry then fade effect that it inspires action for a short time before the status quo regains its hold. I can hear your inner cynic predicting this outcome. I know mine is!
  • Reactions in heated online discussion provoke further suppression. Of course, this isn’t desirable at all, and possibly our worst outcome.

Another direction could take us into new territory. Our collective voice making space for something unprecedented to emerge. What would this mean?

  • Men being inspired to raise their voice in support after reflecting on what it means for them and society. This is starting to happen on a small scale.
  • We begin to behave differently. We speak up when we witness and experience harassment and others back up these dissenting voices.
  • We educate ourselves about what harassment actually is and what constitutes assault,  adopting an attitude of intolerance of these behaviors.
  • And we are compassionate as we create this new normal, we make it ok to speak out we make it safe for those who engage in harassment and abuse to heal too.

That last part is the one I am most concerned about. I would like to think we could accept responsibility and work through this difficult issue, but that cynical part of me is quite loud. This stuff is generations old, back in the day rape within wedlock was legal. It wasn’t even considered rape, women were, effectively property. To make the shift from acceptance and tolerance of women being treated as objects to respect for self-determination is going to take a serious stepping up.

Unfortunately, I see little evidence of our capacity to make this transition well (yes, my inner cynic). It will be messy and uncomfortable. We will be tempted to simplify, stereotype and point fingers. Attacking and shaming perpetrators who speak out, sadly emulates the abusive and disrespectful behaviors we so desperately want to leave behind. We don’t know how it will turn out but we have options about how we engage, behave and advocate.

We can make a courageous choice in each interaction. It’s possible for us to take collective responsibility for how we behave toward each other and bring empathy and compassion to the healing process. Of course, that’s far easier to say than do, but despite my loud inner cynic, I also have a perennial optimist that has faith in humanity. And I will keep banging on about what’s possible for my own sake as much as anyone else’s. What will you do?


This is day 2 of 45 posts for 45 years. It was hard two write but I did it anyway.

In Defense of Self-Love

I got a bit fired up reading Laurie Penny’s Life-Hacks of the Poor and Aimless. Part way through I found myself writing this short piece. By the time I got to the end of the article I could see that the author might not disagree with me, yet it seemed worth blogging about. That feels like something worth acting on at the moment, considering this is my first blog this year and I have a lot of unpublished work that has been victim to my doona dive.

While I agree that positivity isn’t the answer to a sick society, I think self-care is a worthwhile pursuit on the path to collective wellness. We are more able to collaborate for planetary solutions when we are in a healthy relationship with ourselves.

From my own personal experience in collaboration change agents, I certainly prefer working with people who have a decent relationship with themselves than those whose activism is sourced in misanthropy as a thin veil for their own self-loathing. 

Taking responsibility for our personal wellbeing is the first step, not the only step, toward planetary wellbeing. It can be confronting and our society certainly doesn’t have a lot in the way of role models for taking personal responsibility, much less collective responsibility. And, conversely, of course it’s easier to stay focused on ourselves than trying to make a difference in a world where being able to affect global issues like poverty and climate change seem futile.

Society is mad and messed up, and if we react from despair, what does that lead to? If we can get ourselves from reaction to response, responding with wisdom, it might create a new story, a new future. Easier said than done, I hear you say. But considering our reference point, and taking responsibility for what we bring to the collective table starts with loving ourselves. All of ourselves, including the part of us that has misanthropic tendencies and embracing our darkness/shadow/ego, so we can shine a light alongside those who curse the darkness.

This is also on my mind after reading Umair Haque’s Peace and Violence. If you read it, see my comment at the end.

Drinking Culture

I recently completed an RSA (Responsible Service of Alcohol) course, for people working in hospitality to learn about serving alcohol responsibly. It provides a certificate that will enable me to get work in a bar.

On the train to Oakleigh I passed a revolving sign posted above a building, on one side it says “Alcohol doesn’t cause violence.” On the other side it said “Blame and punish the individual.” I’m all about identifying the true cause and would totally agree that alcohol itself doesn’t inherently cause violence. Blaming and punishing individuals, however, negates the bigger picture and the systemic issue of how we as a society relate to alcohol. Australians love to drink and as I learned at the course, 70% of all emergency room visits are alcohol related. This problem is widespread, pervasive and highly contentious.
We were asked to identify the benefits of alcohol in society. What it came down to was economics, huge industry, lots of jobs in hospitality, tourism and entertainment. When we consider the health and social impacts I’m not sure it measures up. RSA is part of the state’s response to dealing with the negative impacts, and intends to reduce the harm. I’m doubtful of how much it impacts, being focused on the service side, but better than nothing. Especially given our culture doesn’t favour personal responsibility. Responsible service is one aspect of the equation. Responsible consumption is another and to expect this in a personal responsibility vacuum is a bit unrealistic.


Could there be better education about responsible consumption and are there vested interests that are all about industry profits? Sure, but where the average person can actually have an impact is not here, it’s in the realm of personable responsibility. How often do we excuse ourselves from stupid things we’ve done while intoxicated? For years I would wake up from a big night out with a feeling of regret, remembering snipets of what I did or said that were shameful or embarrassing!  Did it stop me from drinking to excess? Nope. I do remember occasional strategies like setting myself a limit of 6 drinks or having water after the 3rd. Perhaps these contributed to my eventual shift in consumption and responsibility but I spent a decade partying hard and I can’t imagine the damage it did to my liver and brain! I am responsible for the choices I made and there is also some influence from social norms. It may seem like passing the buck, and maybe I am.
When I think of how blind we are to the relationship we have with alcohol and how easy it is for young people to go out and get smashed, weekend after weekend. They’re so busy trying to be accepted and to look cool, are strategies for responsible drinking going to get a look in?
A few days after the RSA course I celebrated by 40th birthday. It was the first time I really put a strategy in place that worked to limit my drinking after my judgement became impaired. I put two ciders in the main fridge, two in the outside fridge and told myself I’d have two glasses of ginger wine after the (easy to drink) bottles were gone. It worked, I didn’t drink more after that and I was certainly feeling the effects of 6 drinks over 6 hours. I felt proud of myself for achieving this, but when I think about how long it took me and how many people drink to excess in thier 20s & 30s and beyond, I wonder what hope we have of being responsible drinkers.
Wondering what it will take to shift our relationship to alcohol? How has your’s changed?

Unhappy Customer

Rant alert! At Flinders Street Station there are two cafe type vendors on the concourse. Coffee HQ and Baguette. Coffee HQ will happily use your reusable mug, Baguette won’t. Coffee HQ will give you your purchase without a bag if you ask. Baguette says it’s the ‘rules’ and what you do with the bag afterward is up to you and be a jerk about it. It’s nearly 11pm and Coffee HQ is closed, now I know with certainty that I will never give my business to Baguette again.

Whats going on in the world?

I have a cousin with a Hummer in Alberta, an aunt and uncle on either side of Australia that don’t believe climate change is happening despite fires and floods, preferring to leave it up to god. I have an activist friend in California who knows better, but wants to leave the country because of the corruption she sees, unable to appreciate the positive movement afoot. It reminds me of a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson “People seem not to see that their opinion of the world is also a confession of character.”

Yet we have people in Madison, Wisconsin inspired by what’s happening in Egypt, standing up for their rights. No longer being willing to let cynicism and complacency rule, stepping out into a possibility of the future is that they create not sitting down and letting it happen to them.

So I wonder, where can I stand up for what I believe in and be empowered to create the future I want? Oh yeah, my life! That’s a good place to start. If I am responsible for myself, I am responsible for the world.

Being the worm

One hundred of us in the Channel 9 TV studio in Richmond watched PM Kevin Rudd and Opposition Leader Tony Abbott as the debated Healthcare funding and hospital reform at the Press Club in Canberra.

Each of us had a hand held device with a keypad to record our approval or dissaproval of what was being said by the leaders. 1 being the lowest and 9 for the highest indicator of approval. The data was gathered wirelessly and reflected on a screen we couldn’t see (to avoid influencing our opinions) but was on the screen below the leaders as it aired live. Viewers could see our collective response as “the worm” rising and falling like a wriggler on the screen as we either liked or disliked what was said.

At the end the host and Canberra correspondent noted the times the worm peaked and troughed. I heard from a colleague who watched it live, he said the worm went down most of the time Tony Abbott spoke. It was good to hear, I don’t think I had any thing higher than 5 when he was talking. Sure he was on the back foot to start with, however that position doesn’t come with a license to complain incessantly.

The debate could have been over in 15 minutes, very little new content was contributed by either leader after that point. Repetative mudslinging was the main theme for most of it. Though Rudd attempted to stay positive he did his share of defending and attacking.

It’s a sad state of affairs in australian political leadership. Perhaps it’s the norm but I refuse to be satisfied with mediocre! Today’s display may have been consistent with historical behavior, and that’s no excuse! More of the same produces more of the same. I see little reason for optimism yet I manage to hold out hope that a new kind of leadership is emerging from the shadows. If I can help support this shift you know I will!