The Golden Rule of Christmas

I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.  Maya Angelou.

A new year begins.

There is a wonderful book by Anne Tyler, Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant, and that title describes how I often feel when Christmas comes round each year. Having been imprinted on a cold, snowy Christmas for years as a child, I have now, for many, many years  been living in a climate where Christmas is usually sweltering hot and somehow it still never does feel quite ‘right’.  For me, along with the current joys, this time of year is also always a time of unexplained ‘homesickness’ of Christmases past.

This Christmas was special with a new baby and a toddler to share the joys of our family’s Christmas and it is comforting to know that I am now contributing to the future memories of these little people …and how important it is in making good lifetime memories of love and happiness of how Christmas is supposed to ‘feel’, just as I experienced with my family all those years ago when I was a toddler having my first Christmases.

It seems to be popular nowadays for people to denounce religion and wear their atheism as some sort of badge of courage or perhaps, identity. Meanwhile, Time Magazine has declared Pope Francis as the Person of the Year in its annual feature issue for the closing of 2013.

And Christmas, too, seems to have a life outside religion with these declared atheists joining in Christmas cheer, Christmas holidays and Christmas gift giving. So far, Christianity is holding its own against the political correctness that tries to remove Christmas cheer from our classrooms and streetscapes in some sort of misguided attempt to sacrifice a country’s religious customs for fear they will ostracize non-Christians.

We went to the children’s Christmas Eve service of our local church. It was a lovely hour of children re-telling the Christmas story with humour and good will, and the church was packed with people and families of all ages, and all colours in a welcoming environment of Christian song, prayer and fellowship. It felt good to be there. It’s hard to explain but there is a ‘niceness’ to that experience. I felt sorry for the many little children in today’s society who won’t get a chance to experience a church service because their parents will never take them.

At the end of the day, religion is not about hellfire and brimstone, or about insisting that religious parables must take precedence over scientific fact. Religion is more about teaching the ethic of reciprocity, the golden rule that we should treat others as we would like them to treat us.

My daily newspaper today had a disturbing story about the rising statistics of primary school aged children now involved in crime in our State, from graffiti to theft, arson, home invasions, even a murder. The worrying statistics are being blamed by poor parenting, violent video games and children growing up ‘too fast’ with adult concepts.

There seems to be an anger, an unrest, and a spitefulness across much of our society and I think the golden rule goes a long way towards addressing this dilemma. We need to give kids (and adults, too) the skills to get outside of their own heads and understand the feelings of other people so that they can understand and relate to the consequences of their actions.

In my community we have pathways and roads that have to be simultaneously shared by pedestrians, cyclists and cars. If all these groups approach their journey with the golden rule in mind, I suspect we would not have the element of selfish rudeness and recklessness that sometimes occurs.

In my community we have wonderful playgrounds for children to enjoy. One day I had to go to three different playgrounds to avoid ignorant dog owners exercising their dogs  and ignoring the signs which declare their pets should be on a lead at all times. If these people were familiar with the golden rule they would instantly appreciate that their pet should be on a lead with small children present at a playground.

It’s now a new year and it holds a wealth of promise for us all.

Let’s be grateful that our hearts can hold love, let’s try to listen and learn more than we ‘tell’, let’s be good parents, grandparents and friends, and let’s always do unto others as we would have them do unto ourselves in the cathedral of our being.

As the piece of string gets shorter as we travel life’s many roads, let’s move away from those self-centred people who are only about themselves, focussed only on their own achievements and needs, and instead find the many kind, truthful, and thoughtful people who are driven by ideas, creativity , helping  and sharing with others.

Let’s identify the ‘good people’ in our lives and then try and help our little people create the qualities those good people have.

Oh would some power the gift to give us, to see ourselves as others see us.

Robert Burns, poem To a Louse

Jan Smith

The gender dilemma…he, she or hen?

There’s a saying that everything that comes round, goes round and I’m beginning to suspect I’m in the midst of another revolution.

Back in the late ‘60s, the hot topic on campus and magazines was feminism — championing women’s individuality through the likes of Gloria Steinem, Betty Friedan, Germaine Greer and Jane Fonda, to name just a few.

Now, in a somewhat scary article in TIME MAGAZINE,9171,2155554,00.html, I’ve been made aware of a social innovation or experiment (depending on your point of view) underway in Sweden’s preschools, to again address this issue of creating a level playing field for men and women.

Sweden’s solution for gender equality is gender neutrality…they are trying to create a society where gender doesn’t matter. They are starting young by banning any form of sexism in pre-schools. That means having dolls that have a range of facial expressions, but no obvious gender. Girls aren’t told they might get dirty if they play with mud, boys aren’t told that only sissies like ballet. Girls and boys both dress up as pirates and princesses, without being influenced by parental expectations.

Sweden has even gone so far as to create a new pronoun to replace the equivalent of he and she.  Ironically, for those who speak English, the word hen is now the preferred gender neutral pronoun after children’s writer Jesper Lundqvist used it in his book Kivi and the Monster Dog, in which none of the characters are identified by their sex.

According to the TIME article, in 1998 Swedish Parliament obliged all schools to work against gender sterotypes and the statistics are interesting — 47% of Swedish women now have university degrees compared with 26% of Swedish men, Women still dominate the university career paths that focus on caring, health and welfare, 45% of Sweden’s Parliament are women—way above the average of other industrialised countries, and 27% of Sweden’s companies have female board members, again way above the average for industrialised countries.

Contrast this with the world best-selling crime series Millennium trilogy, starting with The Girl with a dragon tattoo by the late Swedish journalist Steig Larsson. These books, graphic in their brutal sexual treatment of women, and with a brilliant but socially dysfunctional female heroine, have sold more than 30 million copies worldwide. The Swedish title for the first book was Män som hatar kvinnor – literally, Men who hate women.

The interesting thing about the Sweden push to eradicate sexual sterotyping through gender neutrality is that both sexes are crying ‘sexist’!  Men’s groups complain that the project aims to turn men into women, the feminists are claiming it makes them targets of ‘anti-feminists’ and the political correctness of the experiment stifles any  ‘robust’ public discussion in the mainstream media.

Add to this mix, the Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual and Transgender families and the Swedish gender neutral pronoun hen (first proposed in the 1960sseems, at first glance, an easy and ‘fair’ solution to a complex societal issue.

But is it really fair and does it reflect the reality of our complex society?

The fact is we are comprised of girls and boys who grow into women and men. I think the sexes are different. Ask any man or woman and they will agree that men and women ‘think’ differently, they behave differently and our biology gives both sexes skills that complement the other. There’s a reason for that.

An attempt to achieve societal equality by a denial of biology is setting a dangerous precedent and one wonders who determines the success or failure, against what benchmark.

Are we going to tell the next generation of little boys and girls what makes them happy, do we have to have neutral words for expressions like pretty or handsome to describe men and women? Will the day come when we cannot have ‘sexist’ Cole Porter lyrics in love songs?

At the end of the day this seems an exercise in replacing one societal bias with another politically correct bias.

It also seems fraught with psychological dangers where you are encouraging children to discount their biological differences through politically correct behaviours and toys, when inevitably their sex will always be a societal, and personal, distinction impacting on their individual lives. Interesting, too, to see if these children, in their later lives, develop a thirst to emphasise the sexual distinctions and behaviours they’re now being encouraged to suppress.

Somehow, the bra-burning of the 1960s was a much gentler and less scary solution to the timeless and time-honoured dilemma of gender equality.

Jan Smith


 Various writing ‘lists’ on the gender equality issue tend to focus on women’s issues


When is enough, enough?

A few news stories these past weeks and a swag of emails debating the rights of an ageing building have aroused a strange synergy, for me, with the on-going euthanasia debate, narrowly defeated yet again, this time in Tasmania.

In the 1990s I wrote passionately for our politicans to support euthanasia in a letter in a national newspaper and was amazed at the responses I received far and wide, even overseas, from people who agreed.

My father had just died, at the time.

There is a black humour joke that goes something like this:

A man goes to his doctor and the doctor  says, Do you want the good news or the bad news, first?  The patient says whichever comes first. Well, says the doctor, you have terminal cancer but the good news is, you also have Alzheimer’s, so you will forget about both after I’ve told you.

That was the fate of my father, and I can assure you it was not a happy, nor a forgetful, ending for those of us who loved him. I still ache with the remorse that someone who had led such a kind, generous and distinguished life had to leave the world in such undignified and unkind circumstances.  The long years of being a handsome pipe smoker had come at a terrible price. The doctors had pushed my mother to buy time, what turned out to be less than four months, with disfiguring and pointless mouth and jaw surgery to avoid ‘the stench of rotting cancer’, yet his nurses were still lighting candles in his room to cut the stench in his last days when we visited the confused stranger we still called, ‘Dad’. My mother had a brave and positive few more years, but when alone churned herself inside out that it was she who had somehow let him down, no matter how we reassured her. She died within weeks of a  terminal diagnosis of a body that was riddled with cancer and we then learned just how brave and ‘never again’ determined she had been, long hiding her symptoms from us, so that she could at least spare us the heartache and die ‘her way’, and with dignity.

Just before the most recent vote, on the Tasmanian bill for legalizing euthanasia, I thought a poignant story on the TV news, did a good job of answering the question, when is enough, enough?

A gracious and obviously intelligent lady, suffering from Motor Neuron Disease    was straightforward and unemotional in her argument for her desire for assisted suicide to be legalised.

She was aware that MND can be an unforgiving disease and had already lost the use of one arm. She argued that when the disease progresses to her other arm she will lose her independence, and it is her choice not to end her days being dependent on someone else and suffering the indignity of not being able to attend to her own intimate body functions. She argued that unless there is a form of legal assisted suicide while she is of sound mind and body to make the decision, it will be too late, and deprive her of her right to die with dignity.

And fair enough, say I. Just as she has been in command of her life up to now, she should be able to continue to be in command when she has a terminal and incurable illness.

Contrast this story with another reported about the same time, of the woman who contracted a rare bacterial infection and against all odds, survived, but had her arms and legs amputated as part of that survival. She is rejoicing that she is alive and, unlike the MND lady, is up to the challenge that the loss of all her arms and legs for the rest of her life has presented. However, she is young and she has a loving young family. She has everything in her life to live for, particularly seeing her children thrive into aduthood. Her story might be different if this happened to her when she was 75.

Neither of these stories changed my stance on supporting euthanasia, but curiously a little parish pump squabble did… through a swag of emails about saving a local heritage building.

Many in my local community want to treasure this first public building in Brighton built in 1869. However, despite the structure being ‘local heritage’ listed, and a Strategic Plan for our city that contains a myriad of motherhood references to protecting and celebrating heritage, the  City of Holdfast Bay Council wants to strip the Original Brighton Town Hall’s community land status and sell it, with an adjacent parcel of land, to a developer. Outrageously, the Council suggests to the community that the historic Town Hall building will be better cared for, when in a private developer’s hands.

One councillor, in particular, seems to be obsessed with his need to ensure this building is sold off the Council’s ledger. If you study his voting record on any culture or heritage issues in his six years on Council it clearly demonstrates his bias against cultural history and prejudice for money over substance.  In the above mentioned swag of emails, he bullies, displays his ignorance, and spreads half-truths with little sense of fair play in his attempts to control any informed debate on this issue. He is only a ward councillor elected in another part of the city, not where the threatened building stands, yet he has appointed himself the ‘Walter Mitty’ mouthpiece of the Council and its Administration, without portfolio.

Disappointingly, it has been left to a  passionate member of our local community to seek State Heritage listing for this building, as a means to further protect it, with the Council again not matching its actions to the lip service words it uses in its Strategic Planning documents.

Despite a community public meeting voting unanimously in support of keeping this community land, and despite petitions supporting protection of the building, the Council ignores the community voice… because it can.

This is what happens when the wrong people stand for election to Councils, and when people lose sight of who they are meant to serve. This is what happens when people who are incapable of seeing any reflection except their own are given a taste of ‘power’.

If this lack of compassion, intelligence and empathy is so evident in our parish pump politics that it can eradicate in one ignorant action, unique local history that has stood the test of time through 144 years of previous Councils, it sends a strong message to err on the side of caution in future.

I can just imagine if someone in high level Government,  with the personality type akin to these sorts of councillors, had control of legalised euthanasia it wouldn’t take long for the terrifying prospects of sales of body parts to the highest bidder, and the local nursing homes would have to ‘knock off’ those residents who had outlived their usefulness, to make room for those prepared to pay more, and so on.

Yes, I’ve changed my mind on euthanasia and now think politics should stay away from legalising euthanasia. We should err on the side of caution and euthanasia should continue to be a moral issue between people and their God.

And at the local parish pump…we’ve had enough! We need to examine more carefully the calibre of people that  we want to represent our community voice when elections come around again.

For thought-provoking readings on these themes, I highly recommend:

Moral Hazard by Kate Jennings

Love among the ruins    by Evelyn Waugh

Memento Mori by Muriel Spark

Jan Smith

A home among the gum trees

This week, along with a group of 40 Holdfast Bay residents, I travelled up to the German village, Hahndorf,  in the Adelaide hills, specifically to visit The Cedars, the family home of two of Australia’s more well-known artists—Sir Hans Heysen, and his daughter Nora.

Surprisingly, it was the first visit to The Cedars for at least two-thirds of this group of people who have travelled the world and interstate on sight-seeing holidays throughout the years.

We had  an enthralling visit to The Cedars and left me wondering …Why are we always so reluctant to explore and celebrate what is in our own back yards? Why had people never bothered to explore this fascinating site, which is a popular Adelaide destination for our international tourists, but not it  seems (if our group is any indication) with Adelaide locals?

Most South Australians know that Hans Heysen was a famous artist and painted gum trees, but know little else about him. Less still is known about his daughter Nora who was the first woman to win the  prestigious Archibald Prize, and the first woman to be appointed as a war artist.

It highlights a sad fact of life, people get forgotten when they die, unless there is someone actively marketing the legacy they leave behind.

Sir Hans came to Australia as a seven year old with his family in 1884.

He grew up in  and around Norwood and then as a young man he was encouraged by four Adelaide businessmen who appreciated his talent and supported Heysen financially to undertake a study tour in Europe. In return Heysen promised to send them all the work he produced during his years overseas.

He returned to Adelaide, married, and started an art school.

Heysen’s first interstate solo exhibition, held in Melbourne, was opened by Prime Minister Alfred Deakin! This brought his work to the attention of prominent buyers, including Nellie Melba.

He purchased the Cedars in 1912, on the back of a second art exhibition in Melbourne. He lived on the Hahndorf Property for the rest of his life, raising a big family and significantly leaving us with a picture of rural life and of the men and animals toiling in the fields around the town of Hahndorf  in the Adelaide Hills, in addition to his wonderful landscapes, still-lifes and other activities in the art world. He also became a ‘greenie’ conservationist before his time, buying up surrounding land parcels only because he wanted to save the gum trees and habitat corridors for birds and animals. The original 40 acres he bought in 1912 expanded to 150 acres in 1938, and remains that size today.

Visitors are welcome to walk the grounds and follow Heysen’s footsteps to 11 of his favoured painting locations, with interpretive signs that match his paintings to the real life gum trees on the property.

Sir Hans was well travelled and well-connected and despite being in this country since the age of seven, he was subjected to the local prejudices of being of German  origin during wartime. He had financial success in Melbourne and overseas, yet he chose to still remain in Adelaide as his home. He was famous for his landscapes and his still-lifes – including one he famously refused to  Russian ballerina, Anna Pavolva, when she saw it, because it had been specifically painted for his wife, Sallie. (Pavlova subsequently famously refused a replacement painting he did for her, because it wasn’t the one she wanted!)  You can see the painting Pavlova wanted still hanging in the house today and it is exquisite, almost giving the effect of three dimensional flowers, when viewed in the light Heysen intended for it. However, when his daughter Nora began having success with her still life painting, Heysen graciously stopped doing them, because he thought his daughter’s technique was better.

Today, the home and studio are pretty much as the artist  left them, when he died at the age of 90 in 1968. In the home, you immediately feel that this has been a happy, warm and welcoming home, even before the guide tells you the stories of a happy marriage and visits by Dame Nellie Melba, Pavlova, Vivian Leigh, Lionel Lindsay and Harold Cazneaux, among others. A bedroom with its double bed and wooden cradle and a formal dining room complete with raised stage and piano give insight to a simpler, but somehow more genteel, yet sophisticated, time of life that has probably been lost for today’s generations and beyond.

The formal sitting room with its beautiful Bay window looking out to the familiar Heysen landscape against a backdrop of bookshelves laden with the books of Hans and Sallie Heysen and family photos are further proof of a life well loved, and lived.

A short distance from the house is the Heysen studio, famously photographed by Harold Cazneaux. You enter this building, again, just as Sir Hans left it, and he is everywhere – his art supplies, his travels, his quirks, his personality—you don’t need interpretive museum signage to explain this man. The windows in this studio are specially treated to ensure the right levels of light for the artist through imported glass that Heysen shipped from Europe in barrels of molasses, so that the glass did not break.

Our host for our visit was Glenelg resident, Peter Heysen, the eldest son of the eldest son of Sir Hans. It is largely his love for his grandfather, and his desire to pay tribute to the achievements of Sir Hans and his wonderfully talented aunt, Nora Heysen, that has ensured this family estate has been preserved after their deaths as a tourism landmark.

It has been a struggle that is increasingly difficult to maintain  as a family enterprise in modern times and generational change.

Peter Heysen is now attempting to create public ownership through a Foundation to ensure the long-term future of this property for the enjoyment of art and history lovers. Let’s hope that this is a hugely successful venture and that our children’s children will still be able to experience this wonderful era of Adelaide’s art and culture in times gone by and the Heysen legacy will live on.

In the meantime, if you have not been there…now is the time to visit!
Details about getting to The Cedars are on this link .

Jan Smith

Who knows only his own generation remains always a child

I live in a wonderful seaside village that dates back to the beginnings of my State’s history. The government of the new Province of South Australia was inaugurated in 1836 on Glenelg soil. The State’s first Governor arrived at Holdfast Bay on the Buffalo, and our first European colonist mainland settlers arrived here before expanding their reach to all parts of our State and beyond.

We have a rich memory of local residents representing  our state’s and our country’s former ‘movers and shakers’ in politics, sports,  and business throughout  Australian history living in Glenelg, or nearby Brighton… names like Henry Ayers (Premier), Thomas Elder (pastoralist/philanthropist), Lionel Logue (King’s speech), Jimmy Melrose (aviator), Henry Sparks (Adelaide oval), Alf Roberts ( Adelaide stock exchange, golf, professional tennis) George Soward (architect of Adelaide’s Beehive Corner), Douglas Mawson (explorer), and Adam Lindsay Gordon (poet) to name just a few. Horse Trainer Bart Cummings was born on Farrell Street, and Sir Mark Oliphant romanced his future bride here at her home in Glenelg. As well as residents there are all the travellers that our famous Red Rattler trams have brought to Glenelg… even the legendary Racehorse, Pharlap. James Stobie,  inventor of the Stobie Pole, attended our Glenelg Primary School. We had the first licensed cinema in Adelaide, we had the tallest residential building in the 1970s, we have the only Ring Bowl club in the country, we are the home of Bay Sheffield footrace, and the traditional finish line for the City-Bay fun run. And rumour has it that our most recent, historically famous, resident is our country’s first female Prime Minister, Julia Gillard.

So with all this rich and lasting  cultural history, I was bemused to recently read this paragraph from our Council’s CEO as a welcoming message on the Council website:

Yes, we’re a little biased down here at the Bay. Holdfast Bay is the proud birthplace of the State of South Australia where Governor Hindmarsh arrived in The Buffalo back in 1836, but there’s more to The Bay than just history.

It’s that little word, just, that rankles and left me bemused.

 Who knows only his own generation remains always a child  is a quote from George Norlin (1871-1942) inscribed on the Norlin Library at the University of Colorado. Those readers who enjoy history might like to explore the story of this interesting man.   The writings of Cicero (106BC-43BC) are said to have inspired Norlin’s quote above.

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it , from the pen of George Santayana, is also said to be influenced by Cicero.      

We have had a classic example of Santayana’s quote at our local Council. Within weeks , they have made two decisions that explain perfectly what he was talking about!

Two Councils ago, (about 6 years ago), we had a fragmented dysfunctional Council that was at war with itself and had factions that sided with the then CEO, or the Mayor. There is an accepted caretaker convention during Council elections that no major decisions are made until the newly elected Council concurs, however that was disregarded and the then CEO pushed through a beachside kiosk development decision with the help of Councillors who opposed the Mayor, who was himself against the decision being made. The current Council has now bought its way out of a bad contract  as part of that rushed  development decision six or so years ago, at the 11th hour of a new Council election.

Our tweeting councillor is proudly noting that the new decision to buy out of a bad deal represents a 12% return to ratepayers. He conveniently, or ignorantly, disregards all the lost income to the community of a bad leasing arrangement of the years of the initial contract and that the return is going to the Administration coffers, not necessarily as a dividend to ratepayers. It represents a 12% return to the Council Administration finances  (if the Councillor’s facts are correct, there’s been no public announcement to ratepayers about this) . The Council does not pay tax and, with this latest decision, is now a landlord to a commercial enterprise competing with other rate paying and tax-paying commercial enterprises in our community… is that now what ‘good’ local government is all about? Profiteering at the expense of the taxpayer?

At the same time, in a sort of ‘déjà vu’ for residents, our council was rushing through a plan to hand over air title, and revoking community land  beneath it , in agreeing to an unsolicited proposal from a  private developer, where the public details were sketchy, the traffic management had not even been considered, and local businesses directly affected were not even consulted. The Council ignored its own policy to tender, on the magnitude of the proposed development, and ensured it was a Category 2 development which our tweeting councillor then boastfully reminded us meant ‘no appeal rights’. And most interestingly, again, the Mayor was against this proposal, on procedural and financial grounds, not emotional grounds, yet it was again a rushed decision based on factions, ego, and spite. What is going to happen in years to come with this latest decision? Will a new Council have to buy back the air titles it has currently given away and again say it was a bad decision by a bad Council?

Why is it that 13 elected adults sitting around a Council table become more like a schoolyard of immature warring and mischievous adolescents, than a forum for good decision-making? Is it because they are only interested in themselves and their own generation of Council, as per George Norlin’s wise words.

There are several instances on this Council where petty personal disputes and arrogance are resulting in playing with people’s lives and livelihoods. This happens, I am sure, on other Councils, too.

Interestingly, those Councils that have a rich sense of their history, seem to be better at decision-making.


Children Learn What They Live

Dorothy Law Nolte wrote a classic poem on child-rearing ‘children learn what they live’ in the 1950s that was distributed to millions of families by a different form of social media for those days, advertising for a baby formula!

In the 1970s Nolte copyrighted her famous words and they live on today in a range of posters, cards, bookmarks  and also expanded into a wonderful little book, co-authored with Rachel Harris, that should be given to every new parent.

Nolte’s wise words came to mind when I read the newspaper front page the other day reporting that free- to- air TV stations now want to screen adults-only shows 24/7, and end the current ban on adult-only programming until children’s bedtimes at 8.30pm.

The TV industry argument was rational, but sad. They claim the ban is now irrelevant because parents have access to DVDs, parental locks, and can simply focus the kids’ eyes on the two dedicated children’s programming channels provided by the ABC.

I agree with Australian Council on Children and the Media chief executive, Barbara Biggins blasting this proposal as ‘outrageous’. As she points out, not all children grow up in families where parents are vigilantly watching over what their kids are seeing on tv.

And where is our society’s preoccupation with sex, violence and violent sex coming from, anyway?

Yesterday, on World Suicide Prevention Day, I found myself watching one of the formula forensic medicine crime programmes that was all about a doctor being forced to operate and remove people’s spleens and replace them with a bomb, so that an ex-soldier could be a suicide bomber on a plane as payback for all his countrymen who did not give a damn about his now broken life, and the sacrifice he and his fellow soldiers had made in Iraq. The doctor’s daughter was a diabetic being withheld her medication to force the doctor to comply as a subplot and the broken people behind this plot had decided to let her die, too, because after killing the first person, the second one becomes easier.

I  began to ask myself  why was I watching this stuff… was it really enjoyable entertainment? On one level it raises an awareness of the pain and suffering that leads to mental derangement, it resolves an horrific circumstance with a happy ending and presumably there is the emotional creativity of the actors to appreciate… but does life have to be that gory and graphic for this message and artistic engagement?

Contrast this with that wonderful programme Compass on the ABC, which recently featured a story about people’s resilience when bad things happen to them. The story traced the personal journeys of two quite different people… a woman who had been severely burned in a bushfire in the 1970s , and a young man who has recently broken his neck in an accident. The stories of how these two people fought the personal horror of what had happened and tapped into an inner strength were remarkable and inspiring in equal measure.

We have a lot of depressed, angry, violent and unhappy souls in our society if the tv, newspaper, and social media are any indication.

Closer to home, I was dumbfounded to see ‘twitters’ last week from a Local Government councillor in my community commenting that:

1960’s copper wires do not provide enough speed to make porn interesting. I need NBN.

And also,

 ‘Real Solutions’ can be achieved by electing a Liberal Government or masturbating. I suspect some promises are the latter.


This man is often mentioning the school children he counsels as part of his employment, so I question his maturity in thinking that writing on social media about downloading porn and masturbating is at all humorous, or being a good role model to young people, or reflective of his community position as an elected Local Government councillor.

Children do learn what they live, and the onus is on our adult society to set the values for the kinds of adults we want them to grow up to be.

It’s also never too late to have a happy childhood… and set some new examples for ourselves to follow.

Tomorrow is RU OK? Day — a reminder to regularly ask ‘are you ok?’ of family and friends who might be going through a tough time.

Bad things are always going to happen to good people, no one escapes, but if we instill the right values in our children they’ll have a better chance of having that confidence, courage and resilience they’ll need to weather life’s storms, without becoming angry, violent, jealous, or spiteful.

If anything, I think we should be putting more family-friendly programming on our free-to-air TV.

Jan Smith

Noisy Minorities

It is one of those statistics one can neither conclusively prove nor disprove, but indications are that less than 3% of the Australian public are homosexual.

So why is Gay Marriage such a contentious issue in our country? Is it really only about the rights of two same sex individuals to have legal ‘wedded bliss’?

Somehow, amazingly, it has become a make-or-break issue for candidates in some quarters of the Federal election and the church-going Kevin Rudd has, in this election year, even reversed his stance to now become a strong advocate of gay marriage to the point of bullying on national TV (Q&A, ABC) a church minister for having a contrary point of view.

We seem to have a new political force in our country… a minority cleverly dictating the popular agenda. Examples are plentiful:

The bike lobby… millions are being spent on bikeways, pedestrians must now share footpaths with speeding cyclists, drivers must endure those ‘master of the universe’ cyclists who weave in and out of traffic and spoil it for all concerned. The cyclists get every consideration but the motorists pay the license fees and road taxes.

Smokers…Sit down in an outside café and who rules the roost? Smokers. I was recently at an outdoor café and three tables surrounding me had people eating meals. The fourth had a couple chatting away, with a woman oblivious to her lighted cigarette that was burning away in an ashtray as she chatted, making the air reek of her smoke as we ate.

Dogs… dog owners don’t seem to realise that their dog is not always the brightest beacon on the block! If a person went up to a stranger and started chattering away and giving him a nudge and a pat on the back, one may take offence, yet we’re supposed to say ‘how cute’ when someone’s out of control dog invades our space. More importantly, if said dog frightens our children, or attacks our own pet, or knocks over granny, then we are the ones with the problem children or pets… and  what are we thinking letting granny out for a walk, anyway?

In all of the above examples, gays, bikes, smokers, dogs, if you have a different point of view about one of these minority lobby groups and try to stick up for your viewpoint, expect to be attacked as sexist, anti-social, anti-exercise, anti-environment, anti-animal liberation, etc. Kevin Rudd’s attack on the church man was a classic example and hugely applauded on social media.

So back to the minority of Gay Marriage.

Do gay activists actually want to change the Marriage Act?

The Marriage Act defines a union between a man and a woman, so if you change that to include same sex unions, what happens to the definition of marriage for heterosexual people? Gay people have the right to call themselves ‘Gay’ , but by insisting on this change to the Marriage Act, they are taking away the right of heterosexual people to define themselves as ‘heterosexual’, and  also disregarding the strong religious beliefs of some members of our community … is that fair?

I certainly agree same sex relationships should enjoy the same legal and wedded rights as heterosexual unions, but let’s keep the detail intact. Why not take a hint from Shakespeare… a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, and come up with another name for specific legislation that defines and  makes same-sex unions legal and accepted throughout our community.

What about calling it a Homage Ceremony, where two same sex people pay homage to each other through their legal union?

At the moment, this issue seems to be about taking away credence from one group to give credence to another…surely there is a better win/win solution.

Jan Smith