Australia

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Source: The Australia Institute

 

Last week’s federal budget announcement is pretty big news right now.  Australia had some idea of what was coming, and after months of rhetoric from Abbott and Hockey about Australia’s so-called ‘budget emergency’ we all understood that the announcement would be tough.  We had been warned that we must all share in the ‘heavy lifting’ of a budget characterised by widespread cuts.

However I don’t think many of us expected to be handed a budget in which those who are already most disadvantaged would shoulder a disproportionate percentage of the load.

I want to have a real conversation about this.  After a few days of reflection I have put some of my thoughts down and I really hope to hear from others – especially if you disagree with me.  I am not an economist; I can’t pretend to give an expert analysis of this budget.  I don’t think that this limitation excludes me from commenting on the consequences of widespread cuts to our welfare system and essential services.

And there will be consequences.

 

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My disappointment with this budget has nothing to do with my own situation or personal needs.  Tim and I are both fortunate enough to have as much work as we need, at a salary that allows us to live comfortably and to pay our bills – including the HECS debt that I still carry.  We have both studied hard, we are hard workers and we contribute our fair share as Australian taxpayers.  My family is concerned about our financial situation because we’re long-term renters but I can’t deny that our lives are pretty good.  Tim and I understand how lucky we are.

According to Hockey we’ll be working until we are 70 years old and we’ll pay more for our petrol than we used to.  We’re finding it utterly impossible to buy a house, but we will be okay.  There are so many others who can’t say the same.

 

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Source: http://greens.org.au/

 

There are many Australians, other people who work just as hard as us and pay their taxes, who will be significantly worse off under Hockey’s changes.  If you’re having trouble understanding what all the noise is about perhaps you could try to imagine life from the perspective of these people:

    • Senior citizens:  Commonwealth Seniors Health Card holders will lose the Seniors supplement, which currently sits at $876.20 per year for singles and $1,320.80 for couples.  That doesn’t sound like a lot of money when you’re a young salaried person, but to a pensioner this could easily affect the quality of their diet, affordability of medications and their willingness to see a GP when needed.  At this vulnerable time in their lives (and after a lifetime of paying into the Australian welfare system) they find themselves on the chopping block.  And the cost of living continues to rise.
    • Young people:  The government will provide cash incentives to businesses to hire people over the age of 50, placing a further obstacle in the path of young jobseekers.  There is an assumption that there are plenty of jobs to go around, but take a look at the unemployment rate in regional towns to understand how bad the odds are for jobseekers already.  Furthermore, people under 30 who are unemployed will have to wait six months to be eligible for welfare assistance.  Once eligible they can only claim for six months before it is cut off and the cycle begins again.  Anyone who thinks that this won’t lead to an increase in homelessness, crime and abuse is ignoring reality.  This is serious stuff.
    • Students:  In addition to the above, a university education just became less accessible for those from a lower socio-economic background.  And if they graduate at 22 they face the six-monthly cycle of welfare ineligibility if they can’t be placed in a job immediately.
    • Sick people: I have a fundamental issue with sick people being taxed more than healthy people for the purpose of raising money for medical research.  It is my firm belief that the sort of person who can casually say, “it’s only $7!” does not understand what it’s like to not have $7.  Add to that the increased cost of PBS medications, co-payments for blood tests and other procedures, and you’d better hope that your other children don’t get sick at the same time.  Put simply: this co-payment will mean that fewer sick people visit their GP.  It will mean that fewer children are immunised for killers like whooping cough.  And I don’t mean to tell the Treasurer how to do his job here, but perhaps he’d like to consider how the cost of treating preventable illness in our community will affect health spending.
    • Indigenous people:  Hockey has told a particularly cruel joke here, raising the Australian pension age to 70 while the average life expectancy of an indigenous male is just 69 years (and 74 for females).  Our government has responded to this gross inequity by cutting $534 million from Indigenous programs, many of which are health care services.  Have you seen the stats on preventable blindness in our very own backyard?  Are we proud of that?
    • Asylum seekers:  Let’s be clear about this – asylum seekers are permitted by law to seek refuge in another country.  This isn’t even up for debate – if you believe otherwise you have been taught a terrible lie.  You have a responsibility to stop that lie from spreading any further.  In the Age of Information, ignorance is a choice.

The fact remains that, however unpleasant the Australian government tries to be, it cannot match the terror from which those who are genuine refugees are fleeing. That remains the fundamental flaw in the policy of deterrence.
– Malcolm Fraser

Source (plus a bunch more info): http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-05-13/budget-winners-and-losers/5433178

 

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There seems to be a pervasive attitude amongst Australians that conservative parties care about the economy, while the left-leaning parties just spend money and jump up and down about trendy welfare issues.  As long as we subscribe to this attitude we can never have adult conversations about the shape of our nation.  Political discourse will continue to be driven by catchy, fear-mongering headlines and insults.

I am a left-leaning voter.  It’s a source of amusement to some people in my life, and I’ve been called a ‘hippie’ by more than one for the concern I have shown about asylum seeker issues and the environment.  My beliefs don’t stem from some childish need to be different or because I enjoy jumping up on my soapbox – I actually find political discussions with conservative voters really stressful, particularly when they’re people I care about.  I am a left-leaning voter because human beings are more important to me than Gina Rinehart’s power and comfort.

  • I don’t support my tax dollars being used for subsidies for big business at the expense of struggling families.
  • I don’t want families to pay more for fuel while the mining industry pays less for theirs – especially if we continue to ignore investment in renewable energy (the Australian Renewable Energy Agency has been axed too).
  • I believe in protecting our Medicare system, and I believe that senior citizens who have paid into that system over the course of their lifetime should be the last to lose it.
  • I believe in on-the-ground, practical support for our indigenous communities and refugees.  I also believe that any ‘solutions’ created and sold to the nation from Canberra will fail.
  • I believe that a tertiary education should be accessible to all, and that the resulting debt should not be equivalent to a mortgage.  I believe that disadvantaged people will be less likely than their financially-stable neighbours to take up a university place because of the eventual debt and that this will widen the gap between rich and poor.
  • I believe in the work of the CSIRO and independent media such as the ABC and SBS.
  • I believe that some school chaplains do good work and that much depends greatly on the individual and the power/scope granted to them by their school board.    I do not support the federal government’s commitment to provide $250 billion dollars to the school chaplains program over the next four years at the expense of the vulnerable groups above.  Instead, I support the provision of qualified counsellors to schools, especially if the government insists on slashing the income of Australians who are already struggling to make ends meet.  Sadly this is not on the table.

I could go on, and on, but you get the idea.

What are we doing here, Australia?  How is it that in the year 2014 we have become such a mean, self-satisfying nation with the government we deserve?  Why is it that we, with our AAA credit rating and our capacity to dodge the full weight of the GFC, can justify such appalling injustice for the sake of achieving a surplus?

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I was fortunate to attend a speech and Q&A session with former Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser last night.  He spoke about his new book Dangerous Allies and the need for Australia to stop cuddling up to the USA and Britain for protection.  He had some other pretty big ideas too: increase the population to 40 million, triple our spending on defence and start acting as though we belong at the grown-up’s table on our own merits.

You’d probably expect this sort of leader to be big on border protection and preserving our national identity too – you know, the sorts of excuses that people give for rejecting immigration and refugees lest they change our ‘way of life’.  Instead, he condemned the two major parties for the inhumane way in which we have treated these vulnerable people and for neglecting our duties in the region.

When one member of the audience asked Mr Fraser which of his achievements in office he was most proud of he referred to the bipartisan efforts of Whitlam and Fraser to take in large numbers of refugees following the Vietnam War and to crush the White Australia Policy.  In 1980 he gave a speech saying that the age of bigotry and racism in Australia had come to an end.  “Had I been right about that,” he said last night, “that would have been my greatest achievement”.

I wonder, had both major parties decided not to spike election issues with racist fear-mongering language, what sort of government would we have today?  And what sort of budget would have been handed down if bigotry had not been such an effective election strategy?

 

Can Kevin Andrews tell me how many chaplains it will take to make up for the damage that has been done to disadvantaged people in his care?  I just want to make sure that we’ve allocated enough cash.

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Ameristraliano

by Elizabeth on April 14, 2014 · 6 comments

in Australia, Family, Life

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Last week was a huuuuge one at our house.  With just 10 days notice Tim was invited to attend a ceremony to finalise his Australian citizenship, and so ended 6.5 years of his status as a Permanent Resident.  He’s been working towards this day for about 8 years!

His ceremony was a small catch-up event which was designed to ease pressure on the city councils who had huge waiting lists.  This meant that he could only take 2 guests and there were no gifts handed out.  But it was still a beautiful venue to take the pledge and become an Australian.

Tim’s family was too far away to join us, but luckily my Mum was able to come down from Brisbane.  It was a beautiful rainy day and very exciting to be reaching this milestone with Tim.

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Once the ceremony ended Tim (sadly) had to hurry back to work.  Mum and I made a quick stop to buy him a very important piece of national attire and then we raced home to set up a little Tuesday night party in his honour.  Pretty much everything went wrong that afternoon (including me burning my hand with boiling sugar, and heavy rain that threatened to push the party inside) but by the time my extended family arrived we had pulled it all together and the rain hadn’t washed everything away.  We ended up  having such a great time together, and Tim passed the ultimate Aussie test by barbequeing for everyone in the rain.  One of us!

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Oh, and see that little tree up there in the middle of the table?  When I found out that Tim’s ceremony wouldn’t have any gifts I was a little bit sad, since I’ve always pictured him receiving a little native tree with his certificate.  So Mum and I went out and bought one instead.

I love that someday that little tree will be planted in the garden of a house that we own, and we will remember the night that we sat around it and celebrated Tim’s big day.  It’s been really special for me to see how my immediate and extended family have fully embraced Tim over the years, especially since his own family is literally on the other side of the planet.  He misses his people a lot, but at least he is surrounded by people here who really love him to pieces.

So a big congratulations to my Ameristraliano.  Still every bit American as when he arrived*, but now a fully-fledged Aussie too!

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* except for all those times when he said, “thanks mate” to shop assistants and waiters when we last visited the USA!

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Item #36 in my 101 Things in 1001 Days project: Hike a trail in a national park

Last November, instead of watching a bunch of terrified horses run around a track, Tim and I put our walking shoes on.  I had just finished re-reading that iconic Australian novel Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsey (is there an Aussie kid alive who didn’t study it at school?) and was so engrossed when I finished it that I followed it quickly with a viewing of the Peter Weir film.

If you don’t know (or don’t remember) the story, this trailer beautifully illustrates how deliciously creepy and cheesy it is.

Picnic at Hanging Rock is a 1975 Australian mystery film directed by Peter Weir, adapted from the novel of the same name.

It premiered at the Hindley Cinema Complex in Adelaide, South Australia on 8 August 1975. It became one of the first Australian films to reach an international audience, receiving international acclaim and commercial popularity, and thus has an important place in both cinematic and Australian history.

The film stars Helen Morse, Rachel Roberts and Vivean Gray.

St. Valentine’s Day, 1900. On a beautiful summer’s day a party of virginal Australian schoolgirls from an exclusive finishing school giddily prepare for an excursion to Hanging Rock, a magnificent natural monument drenched in a mysterious atmosphere.

The girls gain permission to explore the upper slopes of the rock. Edith takes a nap and wakes to discover that the other three girls have removed their shoes and stockings and have resumed their trek as if in a dream, disappearing into a passageway in the rock itself. What eerie events took place that day, and will those involved ever rid themselves of the demons that the ill fated picnic unearthed?

Based on the classic novel by Joan Lindsay, ‘Picnic at Hanging Rock’ is both sublimely spooky and majestically beautiful, boasting visually hypnotic photography by Oscar winner Russell Boyd, a haunting score by Bruce Smeaton and the timeless ethereal beauty of Anne Louise Lambert as Miranda, this classic helped revive the Australian film industry and established Director Peter Weir as a major international talent.

Despite our best pan-flute imitations we never found Miranda.  However, we did find a wild rabbit to pat and that was just as cool.

I was the happiest little photographer on earth exploring Hanging Rock.  The rock formations fascinated me, and every time we turned a corner we discovered a new breathtaking view or life growing happily in a crevice against all the odds.  I had to keep reminding myself to turn around because a single stack of rocks could look vastly different from the other side, so I guess that explains why the descent was every bit as good as the uphill walk.

We spent hours up there, and went off-road a lot of the time to get away from the crowds and spot wildlife.  We became pros at one-handed rock navigation and knowing when it was time to pass the camera back and forth.

I started this post with far too many photos, so believe it or not this is the edited list!  It’s still very photo heavy but I hope you guys will forgive me for that since I try not to do that too often.

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Warm all over

by Elizabeth on February 21, 2014 · 0 comments

in Australia, Life, Melbourne

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Oh, my God, I feel it in the air
Telephone wires above are sizzling like a snare
Honey, I’m on fire, I feel it everywhere
Nothing scares me anymore… 

Sorry, not sorry for putting that song in your head.

 

Summer in Melbourne has finally broken, I think, but just last week bushfires were raging throughout the state.  For a few days the city was blanketed with a thick smokey haze that made everything look mysteriously beautiful, while just an hour away homes were burning.  It was eerie.

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The sun was especially spooky.  Hidden behind that thick veil of smoke it looked more like the moon with its sharp outline and translucent light.  These photos could almost pass as shots I took of the supermoon last June.

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I set up my video camera one afternoon hoping that the sunset would be spectacular, but as the sun dropped towards the horizon it was swallowed up by the smoke until suddenly it was gone.

There are aspects of our little house that drive us crazy sometimes.  There’s no built-in storage and our landlord takes months to approve repairs.  But one of the things that keeps me here is our view of the sky – the sunsets, the middle-of-the-night stargazing and glimpses of the International Space Station from our driveway.

We will be very lucky if we can still see all this sky from the driveway of our next house.

 

I’ve been MIA again, I know.   There are reasons for this, as usual, but I’ve missed this place too much to let those reasons get in the way of writing here the way I used to. 

Over the next week I’ll be sharing some posts that have been collecting dust in my drafts folder, including a whole bunch of 101 Things in 1001 Days progress. 

Thanks for still checking in here, despite the recent radio silence x

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Hey Aussies, if you’re casting a vote on September 7 this is something you should read!  A very big thank you to Patrick Alexander of Chicken Nation for creating this comic and allowing the rest of us to share it so freely.

Here’s what he has to say about his comic:

 

Dennis the Election Koala gives Ken the Voting Dingo an important lesson in civics!

Any time there’s a federal election approaching, you’ll see and hear Australians saying things like, “I’d like to vote for [Minor Party/Independent] but the most important thing is to keep [Major Party A] out, so I’d better vote for [Major Party B].” But this concern doesn’t apply in Australia; we have a more elegant voting system than that. We seem to have picked up ideas about “wasting your vote” from American TV shows or something.

So here’s a comic designed to clear up this common misconception and explain how preferential voting works! It’s four pages long — just the right size for a pamphlet. I’ve tried to make it non-partisan and future-proof, and you are encouraged to share it online and in print. Letterbox your street or apartment building, or hand out copies at a polling booth!

 

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Makes sense, right?

This comic is available in various web and print formats, and the author is encouraging people to share the message.  So head over to Chicken Nation, print a few copies and stick them up in your staff room at work.  More people need to know how this stuff works – preferably before September!

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Prime Minister Kevin Rudd yesterday confirmed a deal that will see asylum seekers sent to Papua New Guinea for assessment.  If found to be genuine refugees they will be settled in PNG, with no prospect of ever being settled in Australia. I’m not sure if this announcement would have been less shocking if it had been delivered by Tony Abbott. I am opposed to this deal for the following reasons:

This arrangement outsources our ethical and legal responsibilities as a signatory to the UN Convention on Refugees, which gives every human being the right to seek asylum.  Most Australians are fortunate to not really understand the importance of this right.  What would you say if your next door neighbour asked you to pay his annual taxes for the next 50 years in exchange for the veggies from his garden?

This deal further de-humanises the human beings who seek asylum in Australia.  Have you ever heard a politician or media outlet refer to a drowned asylum seeker by using their name?  This is important, because as long as we consider asylum seekers as other than human, we will care less and vote accordingly.  (This is why you will never see me use the term “boat people” to describe asylum seekers who arrive by sea.)

This is an attack on people smuggling, not a solution for asylum seekers.  Kevin Rudd has used his considerable influence to launch an attack against people smugglers, which is another important issue to be tackled.  But he has done so at the expense of many genuine refugees, Australia’s responsibilities under the UN Refugee Convention, and actual human lives.

More than anything, this is a strategy to win your vote.  The Labor Party is in trouble, even though it gained a bit of ground with last month’s leadership spill.  Kevin Rudd has used this critical issue to bank on the fact that most Australians are mostly uninformed, a little bit racist, and very fearful of the people who show up on our beaches (thanks for that one, Australian media).  Kevin Rudd is counting on the fact that we see these people as “queue jumpers” rather than genuinely desperate people.

When Bob Carr took the opportunity to talk to Lateline hours after the leadership spill to describe asylum seekers as mostly “economic migrants”, it was a disturbing sign of things to come.  If this is truly the case, why are 9 out of 10 asylum seekers determined to be legitimate refugees?

 

We are being lied to.  I doubt that any of us would put up with this kind of dishonesty from our partners, so why do we allow the leaders of our country to say such things unchallenged?  The good news is that each of us has the power to do something about it.

Please keep reading.  Make a really informed vote in September and base your decision on the issues that are most important.  I don’t pretend that this will be easy because our politicians are hardly even talking about their policies – they’re more interested in distracting us from their policies.  But read anyway.  Pretend you’re buying a new car or choosing an insurance policy.  Will you just choose the product with the shiniest packaging?

I say this as somebody who no longer knows what to do with her own vote, so I’m not trying to drum up support for a particular party here.  I just know that this asylum seeker crisis deserves my care and compassion, and at least as much consideration as my other concerns like climate change policy.

 

There are lots of people writing really intelligent commentary about this decision and the impact it will have on all of us, but especially the desperate people who seek legal asylum for reasons beyond their control.  I’m going to keep adding to this post as time goes on, as I’m sure that the discussion is only going to get more comprehensive.

The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) on the difference between asylum seekers and refugees.  It’s pretty simple – asylum seekers are people whose refugee claims have not yet been determined.

Julian Burnside’s excellent article You’ve been misled on boat people: Here are the facts.  This article is an excellent starting point for people who don’t know much about the asylum seeker issue, but also for the rest of us.

Amnesty International strongly condemns yesterday’s appalling announcement by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd that he will now refuse to resettle asylum seekers who arrive by boat in Australia.  “Mark this day in history as the day Australia decided to turn its back on the world’s most vulnerable people, closed the door and threw away the key”.

Alison Gerard, Senior Lecturer in Justice Studies at Charles Sturt University says this: “Like other proposals put forward by this government, it is likely to be robustly contested in court as a breach of basic human rights. Internationally, it stands out as one of the most reactive and punitive asylum seeker policies, lacking in both compassion and a sophisticated understanding of migration in the Asia Pacific.”

Jon Stanhope, Christmas Island administrator, asks the Australian government: How many must die for us to show compassion?

 

As usual, some of the  best commentary is only 140 characters long.

 

* Time to start working on a new National Anthem, I guess.

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This funny little film popped up on my Facebook feed today and it was too awesome to keep to myself.  Anyone who is familiar with Melbourne’s pretty cityscape is going to love this naughty lizard!

Bless You is what happens when an architect in the skies tires of his creation and decides to spice things up a bit.  (The artist hasn’t actually come out and said this, but maybe the lizard is supposed to symbolise Myki?  You know I’m right about this.)

The man behind this short film is Philip Watts, a Melbourne-based editor with, you know, a handful(!) of TV episodes under his belt. His other passions include cartooning and animation, and lately he’s been putting them all together to make his own little films.  Let’s hope he keeps going!

 

Meanwhile, ever wondered what might happen when a hungry alien with anger management issues meets a faulty vending machine?  Vend Your Anger is a rough approximation of my most recent vending machine tantrum.  Only I’m pretty sure I didn’t look this adorable at the time.

Go and show Philip Watts a little love on Vimeo.  He’s rad.

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Beautiful treasures outside ‘Mollisons’ of Kyneton.  I’d like to come back to this store with an hour and a fistful of cash!

The last couple of weeks have been strange, and I’ve noticed that whenever things in my life are out of balance the blog is the first thing to go quiet.  I’ve been taking a little bit of time to get my groove back and it’s done me a world of good to just press pause.

The Boston marathon bombings have coloured much of the past two weeks for me, and it didn’t seem right to talk about it when I had nothing new to say.  As the drama unfolded we were glued to a live stream of a Boston news station for two days straight, and it struck me how often I recognised a spot where I had stood just six months earlier.  I took a bunch of photos in Copley Square last October that hold even more meaning for me now.

Since my very first visit to Boston six years ago I’ve felt a kinship with that city that’s hard to explain, and I’ve had trouble getting Sweet Caroline out of my brain for the past couple of weeks.  Boston is the toughest city I’ve ever known and I don’t think I’ll ever forget some of these stories of tragedy and heroism.

(Tim’s sister was supposed to be working at the medical tent at the finish line that day.  I can’t even let myself imagine how different things might have been if she hadn’t changed her plans at the last minute – there must be thousands of people wondering the same thing, for different reasons.)

… and just to keep things interesting, while this was going on our little fleabag had a medical emergency of his own.  In the course of a single weekend we had five trips to the vet and he got very sick.  He’s on the mend and should make a full recovery, but man.  I love that dog, and he really gave us a scare.

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Today was a bit gloomy, and we decided it was a good time to get out of the house and see something new.  I wanted to see some pretty autumn leaves before they all disappeared so we jumped in the car and checked out two towns we’d never been to before – Macedon and Kyneton.

The foliage wasn’t quite as perfect as our stay in Vermont last October (that was magical!) but the colours were so much brighter today than I had expected.  I’m so glad that we were able to see it this weekend while so many of the leaves were still hanging on.

If you live around here, I bet it’s still going to be incredible for the next couple of weeks.  You should go.

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asylumseekers

Wait a minute Tony, is that even true?

I’m going to let a clever gentleman by the name of Ben Peek answer this question instead, since apparently Tony Abbott isn’t all that great with numbers:

In case anyone is confused about this, the answer is none.
Do you know why?
Because seeking asylum is not illegal.

Seeking asylum is not illegal.  Seeking asylum is not illegal!  This isn’t opinion, it’s not even open to interpretation because seeking asylum is protected by law.  I cannot figure out why so many Australians don’t know this.  I can’t figure out why so many politicians lie about this.

How many people are going to let racism and fear determine their vote in September?  There are a stack of reasons to be angry at Labor right now (including treatment of asylum seekers once they reach our shores) but in the words of David Ewart:

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Think about the aftertaste.  Make an informed decision.  Our politicians don’t always tell us the truth, but that’s not a good reason for being an uninformed voter.

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I’m tackling a project to complete 101 Things in 1001 Days.  #59 on the list is Get some new glasses with bright frames.

Before I tell you about my rad new glasses, I’d like to make it super clear that this isn’t a sponsored post.  I know how frustrating it can be to read somebody’s blog and discover at the end of a post that they were paid to write it, or that they got stuff for free.  If you ever see sponsored content here on Scarlet Words (which is pretty unlikely, by the way) I will tell you before making you read through it.  I think that’s good blogging etiquette – and you know, just good manners.

So just to recap: This post isn’t sponsored.  Oscar Wylee has never heard of me or my blog.  I paid for my glasses, and I love them so much that I’m planning on buying a second pair.  I’m writing about them here because I am so happy with my purchase, and I was blown away by the price.

Oh, blogging!

Let’s move on.

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Last February I had my eyes checked by my brand new eyeballologist, who updated my prescription and took photos of the backs of my eyes.  While I was there I chose a hot pair of Bvlgari frames with more bling than I knew what to do with and I’ve been enjoying the sparkle ever since.  They’re perfect for work because of the classic wayfarer shape, and the diamantes make them feel polished.  They definitely get attention when I wear them.

However, I knew that with all that sparkle I was going to feel a bit too noice, maybe a little too Kath & Kim if I wore them around the house with my sweatpants.  I wanted to find a pair that was casual and fun, and maybe a bit more adventurous than my usual black frames.  After trying on hundreds of glasses at my local optometrist stores I decided to take the search online.

A quick Google search told me that there are heaps of online stores selling prescription glasses.  We have a few in Australia, but most of the ones I found looked dodgy and the pictures were too small.  There were plenty of overseas sites that would ship internationally for a pretty reasonable price – in fact, some of the prices were so cheap that I wondered whether they would even last, and whether they’d get my prescription right.  Were they going to use the best materials for my lenses?  Would they get scratched after a week in my purse?  I started to get nervous about spending money on something I couldn’t see for myself.

I’d heard a lot about BonLook and Warby Parker from American bloggers that I follow (my glasses crush is Keiko Lynn), and trusted the reviews enough to know that the quality would be good.  But I still hesitated because I couldn’t try them on myself.

That’s when I discovered a new Australian-based company called Oscar Wylee, and their awesome free 5-day trial.

oscarwylee

It works like this:

Start by browsing through the frames on their site, including all the different colour options for each style.  When you see something you like you can click the ‘Add to Home Trial’ button.  You can choose five different frames (or just five different colours of the one style!) for your free trial.

The trial really is completely free.  You will be asked for your credit card details during the checkout process and charged $1, which is refunded immediately once verified.  After this your credit card will not be charged again unless you fail to return the frames.

Aside from the fact that I really love their glasses, it was the packaging and no-nonsense delivery arrangements that impressed me most about Oscar Wylee’s home trial.  My glasses arrived in a beautiful fabric-covered box with individual compartments for the glasses I chose.  Inside, the glasses were packaged in individual plastic pouches and arrived with non-prescription lenses already installed, with none of those annoying stickers that you have to put up with at the optometrist.  You’re encouraged to wear them to work, out to dinner, and to get everybody’s opinion before it’s time to send them back.

The box also included a information about how to order, how to return, and a pre-paid label to attached to the parcel when it was time to send them home.  There was even a lollipop in the box to sweeten the deal!

I wore my glasses around constantly for the next five days, and it’s funny how much my mind changed during that time.  The glasses that I loved on Day 1 felt a bit boring by Day 3, and others were eventually dismissed as being too ‘out there’ for everyday wear.  I spent the last two days of my trial being completely obsessed with the frames in the photo below: Xander in Sapphire Tortoise.  Once I stopped being intimidated by their size I realised that they really were the best of the bunch.  Go big, or go home – right?

 

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Xander in Sapphire Tortoise – how pretty are those little flecks of blue?  The colour is definitely less intense without all the backlighting of a professional studio, but they’re much more interesting than your average tortoiseshell glasses.

On Day 5 I sadly sent my box of glasses back to their home in Sydney, which was just a matter of popping them back in their box and sticking on the label provided.  To console myself I jumped on to their website and placed my order, using the prescription I had obtained from my optometrist.  I had expected that the price would increase when I entered my prescription and was kind of stunned when I realised that the lenses were included in the price.

The final cost: $98.  Shipping was free, once again.

And look, I’m getting a bit gushy here but there are some other cool things to know about this brand.  I’m getting a bit long-winded so let’s just dot-point them, yes?

  • If you don’t need a prescription, you can still order glasses with UV-proof, anti-reflective, anti-scratch lenses.
  • They have a big range of prescription sunglasses too, for both men and women.  This is next on my agenda, and if I’m honest I might even be choosing the same frames again for my sunnies.
  • They work with your health care provider to provide the usual rebates that you would expect for your prescription.
  • Although they only ship to Australian addresses right now, international shipping is on the horizon.
  • This one is important: They have a One for One scheme partnering with non-profit organisations around the world to help ensure that many people in poverty-stricken countries will be able to obtain the fundamental human need of sight.  Hooray for global awareness and social good!

oscarwylee1

Summary: Great company, beautiful glasses and the quality (and the price!) is excellent.  The prescription is, as far as I can tell, identical to the expensive glasses I purchased through my optometrist and I’ve had a couple of months to really test them out and be sure.

It’s not every day that I’m so thoroughly impressed with a purchase, so I guess I just wanted to spread the word!

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Goodbye, and thank you.

by Elizabeth on November 23, 2012 · 2 comments

in Australia, Family, Life

In a final interview for Penguin, the man who has regularly been Australia’s most popular novelist said he was going to die at precisely the right time, while he still had his intellect and energy. ”The time is right, it’s beautiful, it’s gorgeous.”

Bryce Courtenay passed away today after a battle with stomach cancer.

I have only read a few of his books so far, but there are scenes in The Power of One that are so deeply embedded in my mind that I know I’ll always carry them in my memory.  I read the book when I was barely a teenager, and when I discovered the sequel Tandia I devoured it in a weekend.  I just couldn’t put it down, and that was a thrilling feeling when I was 13.

I often wonder how those books would stand up now that I’m an adult.

 

When I was sixteen I worked for a family as a nanny for a few months travelling all over the world.  Our final stop before home was a short stay in Sydney, and by the time we arrived there I was jetlagged and exhausted from head to toe.  I’d hoped for a sleep-in that morning but the kids had other ideas.  Their body clocks were confused and they needed to be fed and entertained.

We got dressed as quietly as we could and snuck down to breakfast in the restaurant in the foyer of the hotel.

I remember taking the two smallest children up to the buffet to help them choose their breakfast.  They were pointing wildly at all the sugary foods that they weren’t allowed to eat at home, and as I filled up their plates there was a lot of negotiation and compromise going on.  I was slowly inching my way backwards along the counter while we talked, keeping an eye on their little hands in case the temptation of chocolate for breakfast was too strong.

What happened next was like a cheaply-written sitcom.  I took one backward step too many and bumped right into a man who had been doing the same thing from the other end of the buffet.  It gave me such a fright that I almost overbalanced, and I would have taken both plates of food to the ground with me.  The man instinctively stuck out a hand to steady me, straightened me up and we both apologised at exactly the same time.  The kids had the giggles because it was so ridiculous that we’d collided at such a slow speed, and the laughter was infectious.

When my embarrassment had finally subsided I looked up from the ground and realised that the grinning face in front of me was the same as the one in the dust jacket of my books.  I was doubly mortified and made a swift exit after apologising a few hundred more times.

He seemed amused.

 

My grandmother (right) and her sister.

But Bryce Courtenay wasn’t the only wonderful person that the world lost today.  This afternoon another wonderful storyteller took her last breath and left behind some pretty heavy hearts.  She didn’t have a chance to say her goodbyes like Bryce, but perhaps that’s a blessing of a different kind.

She’ll be so badly missed, especially by her sister – my grandmother.  They’ve been next door neighbours for 17 years, and best friends for 97 years. My grandmother has been a widow for longer than she was married and in January she will turn 102 without her best mate by her side.

We’re so worried about what’s next for her.  She’s seen two world wars, the sinking of the Titanic and buried her own husband.  But how do you survive another broken heart when it’s been working hard for more than a century?

 

Every day is such a blessing.  I hope my grandmother will find the strength to live many more.

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BOO! A Summer Halloween.

by Elizabeth on October 31, 2012 · 1 comment

in Australia, Cool stuff, Life, Melbourne

 

We had heaps of cute little trick-or-treaters come by the house tonight.  Lots of witches, superheros and animals helping themselves to the cauldron full of chocolate, and plenty of comments about our funny pumpkins.

It was really nice to meet some new neighbours, and get to know our community a little better.

Halloween is so much fun when you’re as immature as us.

 

Special congratulations to my lovely friends J & G, who welcomed a much prettier Halloween pumpkin into the world today.  Little Georgia Mae, you are already so adored!

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My very first pumpkin! (2008)

Every year somebody in Australia writes a lengthy rant about why their family doesn’t celebrate Halloween, and the many ways that it is destroying the fabric of Australian society.  They usually trot out the same tired trifecta of criticism: childhood obesity, stranger danger, and Americanisation.

It’s my personal belief that your child won’t get fat or kidnapped if you engage in a little active parenting.  They won’t start spontaneously singing The Star Spangled Banner either, since Halloween is a) not American; and b) NOT AMERICAN. 

Halloween is once a year, and I think it’s a great excuse for kids to dress up, spend time with their friends, and actually meet their neighbours.  Not everybody likes it, and that’s okay too!  You won’t be disturbed on 31 October if you leave your porch light off. 

I’m not exactly passionate about Halloween, but I’m not against it either.  It annoys me when people rain on each others’ parades, that’s all.

 

Moving on.

Lots of people land at my site each October because they’re trying to track down pumpkins in Melbourne.  I decided to call around today, and here’s what I’ve been able to find this year:

  • Some Coles and Safeway/Woolworths stores still have them in stock.  Call first!
  • Georgie’s Harvest at South Melbourne Market
  • Pino’s at Prahran Market – UPDATE: sold out!
  • Queen Victoria Market – UPDATE: sold out!

Failing that, carve a watermelon instead!  You can turn the insides into something delicious for dessert, and since they’re in season they won’t be quite as expensive. 

Oranges make a cute little alternative too, or if you’re feeling brave try a butternut or kent pumpkin (but watch your fingers – they’re tough!).

Finally, if you’re celebrating this year check out my post about the Halloween party we hosted a couple of years ago.  There’s plenty of inspiration there for spooky food (witches fingers and worms!) and decorations.

Most importantly…

… remember to smile!  It’s just a holiday.

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Death by brushtail possum

by Elizabeth on October 27, 2012 · 1 comment

in Australia

Tim and I watched Cabin In The Woods tonight to kick off Halloween week.  It’s a great little movie about a group of friends who drive to a remote little cabin for a fun-filled weekend, and after a while things don’t go so well for them.  Mostly because of the bloodthirsty things that are trying to get into the cabin.

It should be mentioned at this point that I am not very good with scary movies, and this was a scary movie.  However, by the time the credits began to roll I realised I had maintained a level of dignity that I have not previously enjoyed.  There was no jumping, no screaming, no covering of my eyes because I didn’t trust my eyelids to sufficiently block my view.

Nope!  I was the perfect cool, calm viewer.  The credits ended, and I gave myself a little mental high five for being such a grown-up.

And then we heard this outside our window:

We have a brushtail possum living in our yard somewhere and I hear him almost every night, but never immediately after watching Cabin In The Woods.  When I heard that sound I immediately decided three things:

1) It was going to murder me in my sleep;
2) There was going to be a lot of blood;  and
3) I needed to leave evidence for the coroner.

So, in case I don’t make it through the night, here are some photos of the pink-nosed assailant that’s currently residing in my tree.

 

Never heard of an Australian brushtail possum?  Here are some things you need to know about them, by Kate McCartney:

If you don’t know what a Common Brushtail Possum looks like, let me sketch you a picture world with my word pencils. They’re about the size of a cat and range in colour from reddy brown to grey-y brown to grey-y reddy browny grey blacky whitey grey-y grey. Common brushtails sort of look like a sentient ball of dryer lint, but that’s not their fault. Like any good camouflagenist (probably not a word) they’re just mirroring the colour of the place they live, which is Australian eucalypts. And Australian eucalypts, to quote Banjo Paterson, are grey as shit. If you want an interesting-coloured animal you need to go to the ocean where pods of blue whales use their total invisibility against the blue water to mug sharks or South America, where panthers are black because it is mainly night and everyone is a Goth.

The author goes on to explain why hearing a possum directly after watching a scary movie is especially bad for you:

Next is a highly developed larynx that makes close to 20 distinct vocalisations. These vocalisations are normally heard just outside your bedroom window at 1am after you’ve stupidly watched a Japanese horror film about a haunted minidisk player on SBS. The sounds, as you well know, range from the low growl of something that is probably going to kill you, to the rasping hiss of something that is definitely going to kill you. And so you curl up into a tight ball of bedsheets, listening to the commotion outside until finally, fear cuts off circulation to your brain and you pass out, dribbling and pantless.

In fact, Common Brushtail possums use these vocal acrobatics to make sure their basic message of “Get the shitting fuck out of my tree” is articulated without having to resort to potentially fatal physical contact. It’s a very smart ploy for the survival of their species, but for our species, is like trying to sleep through a metal dinosaur dry-humping your eardrums.

You should probably read the entire article, although it worries me that this so-called “expert” appears to be biased towards these killers.

I guess that’s it then. If I die tonight please bury me with my blog.

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I don’t blog about politics as a general rule.  But get a load of this.

What an excruciating interview.  There’s a really enjoyable blow-by-blow autopsy at The Vine

The result is 12 and a half minutes of painful (but thoroughly watchable) digression, admission, hedging, inconsistency and general inability to answer basic questions. The thing is, I don’t even think Leigh Sales was pushing particularly hard here. Abbott simply cannot function in an uncontrolled environment. To quote George Costanza, he’s “like an old man trying to return soup at a deli”. And also, in all likelihood, our next Prime Minister. Quake, people. Quake in your shoes.

If you don’t have time to watch, here’s what you need to know:

  1. Tony Abbott is comfortable commenting on critical company statements that he hasn’t actually read
  2. Tony Abbott refused to accept that it is legal for refugees to seek asylum in Australia

Regardless of your stance on ‘boat people’ (I despise this term) this admission should anger people on both sides of politics.

Australia’s next Prime Minister? Not if I can help it.

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