Saturday 15 May 2010


“The lack of emotional security of our American young people is due, I believe, to their isolation from the larger family unit. No two people - no mere father and mother - as I have often said, are enough to provide emotional security for a child. He needs to feel himself one in a world of kinfolk, persons of variety in age and temperament, and yet allied to himself by an indissoluble bond which he cannot break if he could, for nature has welded him into it before he was born.” - Pearl S. Buck

Today is the day to celebrate the International Day of Families, which this year focuses on the impact of migration on families around the world. As the world becomes more and more a place of increasing social and economic disparities, people in many countries are forced to leave their homes and try to search for a better place to live and raise their children. Poverty, unemployment, political or armed conflicts or violations of human rights are strong incentives for migration. Opportunity is sought by parents through migration to improve the well-being of their children and other extended family members.

In the countries receiving the immigrants, families can earn a better living and send income to family members left back in the home country. Migrants contribute to the economy of the host country, while also enriching the social and cultural fabric. Women migrant workers can work, study and gain many opportunities denied them in their home country.

But all is not well in paradise! It is very often that migrants face harsh living conditions, low wages, prejudice and discrimination. They suffer disproportionately in times of economic hardship and unemployment can hit them first. Children of migrants are a very vulnerable group with a great toll to pay. Human trafficking, child labour and violence can damage them irreparably and the social, emotional and psychological effects are dire.

Migrants enrich and diversify our communities, stimulate our economies and provide a means of making the world a better and more equitable place. Acceptance of migrants as an integral part of society enhances our society in multiple ways. The family unit of migrants is usually a tightly knit one that has to survive in adversity, through love and mutual support. How often do we admire that quality in these families?

For Music Saturday, something that is very apt. A migrant family archetype is the Holy Family on its flight to Egypt, as imagined in music by Hector Berlioz. Here is King’s College Choir, Cambridge, singing  “The Shepherds’ Farewell” from “L’ Enfance du Christ”, Op 25.

Blest are ye beyond all measure,
Thou happy father, mother mild!
Guard ye well your heav´nly treasure
The Prince of Peace, the Holy Child!
God go with you, God protect you,
Guide you safely through the wild!

Thou must leave Thy lowly dwelling,
The humble crib, the stable bare,
Babe, all mortal babes excelling,
Content our early lot to share,
Loving father, loving mother,
Shelter thee with tender care!

Friday 14 May 2010


“My advice to you is not to inquire why or whither, but just enjoy your ice cream while it’s on your plate. That’s my philosophy.” - Thornton Wilder

A busy day at work today, catching up with much that had accumulated in my absence over the past few days. A series of meetings to attend, mail to go through, one-to-one meetings with staff and answering my emails. I have also brought work home with me to do over the weekend, and hopefully that will bring me up to date for the week up ahead.

It’s been a cold and rather grey autumn day here in Melbourne, so at the weekend it’s time for a nice comfort food recipe. A sweet and fruity dessert that is perfect for this season!


•    250 g unsalted butter, softened
•    1 cup caster sugar
•    1 egg
•    1 1/2 cups self-raising flour, sifted
•    1 1/2 cups plain flour, sifted
•    400 g apricot conserve
•    ground cinnamon, cloves to taste

1. Preheat oven to 180º C.
2. Line base and sides of a 30 x 20 cm lamington tin with baking paper.
3. Using an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
4. Add egg and beat until well combined. Add spices, flours and stir with a wooden spoon until well combined.
5. Press two-thirds of dough into base of prepared tin.
6. Form remaining dough into a sausage shape, wrap in plastic wrap and freeze for 25 minutes or until quite firm.
7 Put apricot conserve in a small pan over a medium heat and stir until smooth and spreadable. Stand conserve for 5 minutes to cool slightly, then spread evenly over dough in tin.
8. Take dough from freezer, remove plastic wrap and grate evenly over conserve.
9. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until lightly browned. Stand tin on a wire rack to cool. When cold, cut into squares or fingers.
10. Serve with ice-cream.

Thursday 13 May 2010


“It's good to have money and the things that money can buy, but it's good, too, to check up once in a while and make sure that you haven't lost the things that money can't buy.” George Horace Lorimer

The weather in Brisbane today was beautiful – a lovely, sunny, warm day with blue skies and just the hint of a breeze. As we progress into the Southern Hemisphere winter, the weather in my home town Melbourne gets progressively colder and wetter and greyer, while in Brisbane, the subtropical dry season is beginning, with equable temperatures and a dry, warm climate. Many people living in the southern states of Australia have their holidays up in the North in the midst of winter, as a relief from the winter blues.

I had to attend a ministerial seminar and workshop today, which although informative was at a low level and reading a webpage would have given as much information. However, it was valuable in that I made some good contacts who will no doubt prove to be very useful in the future. One wonders how much money from the public purse is wasted on activities such as this where guest speakers and consultants (who are paid a fortune!) are invited to “educate” high level people in education who are themselves experts in many of the fields that are covered…

Walking back through the City after the seminar I was surprised by the very large number of people milling around the busy streets and shops, the huge amount of traffic and the considerable construction that was going on. We are fortunate here in Australia that the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) has touched us but lightly and amongst the developed economies in the world we are doing very well. With about 5.5% unemployment and a moderate to low deficit, Australia seems to be an economic paradise when compared to the USA and some European countries. It seems we are still the “lucky country”, but for how long?

The latest budget delivered by our government has started some alarm bells ringing and the opposition is forecasting doom and gloom (but after all that is the job of the opposition, is it not?). The GFC is far from over and Australia’s healthy economic is about to take a beating according to some economists. Australia’s natural resources and its mining wealth seem to have been one factor that protected it from the worse of the crisis. Now with the new tax on mining some politicians are predicting dire financial effects. However, the tax on profits of multinational companies that exploit Australian resources before these profits leave the country seems only fair to the local population. Time will tell where these times are leading us, I just hope it’s not the case of “let’s start third world war in order to resolve all sorts of problems all at once”.

finance |ˈfīnans; fəˈnans| noun
The management of large amounts of money, esp. by governments or large companies.
• monetary support for an enterprise: Housing finance.
• ( finances) the monetary resources and affairs of a country, organization, or person: The finances of the school were causing serious concern.
verb [ trans. ]
Provide funding for (a person or enterprise): The city and county originally financed the project.
ORIGIN late Middle English: from Old French, from finer ‘make an end, settle a debt,’ from fin ‘end’. The original sense was [payment of a debt, compensation, or ransom]; later [taxation, revenue.] Current senses date from the 18th century, and reflect sense development in French.

Wednesday 12 May 2010


“Success: To laugh often and much, to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children, to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends, to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others, to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.  This is to have succeeded!” - Ralph Waldo Emerson

I have had a very full, busy and tiring day today. I don’t mind hard work at all, but there some things that really grate on me and exasperate me. One of these is betrayal, the other is people that act in a petty and vile manner for no reason at all, are hateful and nasty just for the sake of it, and the other is individuals who are so inflated and full of their own sense of self-importance and infallibility that they ignore everyone else, stepping on corpses to achieve their hollow goals.

Today, unfortunately one of my direct reports revealed herself as one of these rare individuals who betrayed my trust, acted in a petty manner and tattled on her staff on a vile manner, and was nasty for no other reason except to elevate herself in the eyes of her supervisors. The display shocked and dismayed me, especially as I had helped this person achieve her position and had believed enough in her to allow her to occupy a position of trust and responsibility.

What satisfaction can there be for someone who achieves success by betraying friends and colleagues, stabs people in the back, plots and schemes, lives by laws and rules dictated by greed and egotism? What satisfaction can there be for someone whose happiness is based on the misfortune of countless others? How can such persons sleep easily at night, knowing their actions have caused so much misery?

I wrote this poem as I tried to calm down this evening in my hotel room, and attempted to work out strategies to deal with this difficult situation…

Reaching for the Light

I try to touch the brilliant light
To win the shadows and the dread of night;
I try to search and find the truth
Like in those days long gone of youth.

I do a daily battle and I hope to win
The spreading evil and the vile chagrin;
Of countless disappointments, of loss,
Of pressing weight of heavy crushing cross.

I shake the dark cloud of despair and woe,
While freeing my soul from baseness low.
I try my best, act fairly, strive for good
All for the sake of amity and brotherhood.

And yet the vile dark worm of greed
Consumes all good, while selfish ends do breed;
Corruption, filth, false values gain foothold
Innocence, purity and goodness bought and sold.

How can my puny hand wield mighty sword,
What courage can I find to battle endless night?
How can my single effort win the endless horde,
Can my resistance overcome such an unequal fight?
With singleness of purpose and with rich reward
We few of honour can make all wrongs right.
With perseverance and thought of defeat ignored,
We crush ignoble acts and thoughts, to find the light.

Jacqui BB hosts Poetry Wednesday. Please visit her blog for more poems.

Tuesday 11 May 2010


“The most important trip you may take in life is meeting people halfway.” - Henry Boye

Hello from Brisbane! It’s no rest for the wicked, it seems, but I think I must have been wicked in a past life – hence the punishment in this one! When one travels for work, there are many imperatives that are operative and one soon loses most of the enjoyment that is usually associated with travel. My flight was delayed today and then on approach to Brisbane airport we flew through a tropical storm, which made for a bumpy landing. The traffic getting out of the airport was horrendous, something obviously due to the weather, but also because the major arterial out of the airport had major roadworks that we battle with.

Nevertheless, I finally got to my hotel and after freshening up, I joined my colleagues for dinner at an Indian restaurant in New Farm, called “Sitar”, one of a chain. There were about 30 of us and the service was rapid, although not very good and the food was standard, nothing very special. We did have a good time, however, as there was much catching up, conversation, joking, and even discussion of some work projects.

Tomorrow is a full day with much to do, many meetings and a full schedule. On Thursday I have a workshop to attend at the Office of Higher Education and then finally back home on Thursday evening.

Monday 10 May 2010


“Be nice to whites, they need you to rediscover their humanity.” - Desmond Tutu

Well back home today, but only for a short time as tomorrow I am off to Brisbane for a few days for work. I saw Clint Eastwood’s 2009 film “Invictus” on the plane on the way to Perth in my recent trip. I have gained a lot of respect for Eastwood’s directorial work in the last few years and this film was no exception, up there with “Unforgiven”, “Gran Torino”, “Bridges of Madison County” and “Million Dollar Baby”.

Firstly let me say that I don’t follow rugby and was not familiar with the real story on which the film was based. However, I was aware of Nelson Mandela’s return to power and this for me was the real story. The rugby story was window dressing (which rugby fans will probably disagree with), and for me a metaphor for South Africa, the country and its people, struggling to heal the damage done by decades of apartheid.

The film starred Academy Award Winners Morgan Freeman as South African President Nelson Mandela and Matt Damon as Rugby Captain François Pienaar. “Invictus” is a movie full of emotional highs and lows, passion and poignancy. It tells the story of Nelson Mandela's first years as President of South Africa in the 90’s, a riven country, which apartheid has scarred. In a master-stroke of unification of his people, Mandela used the country’s love for rugby to connect the whites and the blacks. The national team, the Springboks, have a poor record of winning but Mandela taps the captain of the team to rally his troops and surge into battle for the greater good of his country.

“Invictus” is a short 1875 poem by the English poet William Ernest Henley. The title is Latin for “unconquered”. The poem mirrors the spirit of the film and I give it to you here in its entirety:


Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
                         William Ernest Henley

Freeman gives a wonderful performance and one sees that this role meant a lot to him. Damon is less convincing as he is not as hulking as the real rugby player Pienaar, perhaps, but the intensity of his performance does counterfoil Freeman’s cool, calm and collected Mandela. The personality of the leaders (of the country and of the team) is countered well, and the differences between black and white in the divided country are exposed for the world to see by Eastwood’s sensitive handling of the material that is more than 95% true.

I shall probably watch this film again, the second time not on a plane as I am sure there are many bits of dialogue I missed and the screen on a plane is poor substitute for the screen of a cinema or of a TV screen at home. However, even when watched in the less than ideal environment of a plane, the film was very good and I recommend it most highly.

Sunday 9 May 2010


“A mother is the truest friend we have, when trials heavy and sudden, fall upon us; when adversity takes the place of prosperity; when friends who rejoice with us in our sunshine desert us; when trouble thickens around us, still will she cling to us, and endeavor by her kind precepts and counsels to dissipate the clouds of darkness, and cause peace to return to our hearts.” - Washington Irving

Happy Mothers’ Day to all mothers! Especially in keeping with the spirit of the day, here is a painting by Mary Cassatt who understood the genre of mothers and children, with many of her works.

Mary Cassatt, born May 22, 1844, in Allegheny City, Pa., USA and died June 14, 1926, Château de Beaufresne, near Paris was an American painter and printmaker who exhibited with the Impressionists. The daughter of an affluent Pittsburgh businessman, whose French ancestry had endowed him with a passion for that country, she studied art at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia, and then travelled extensively in Europe, finally settling in Paris in 1874. In that year she had a work accepted at the Salon and in 1877 made the acquaintance of Degas, with whom she was to be on close terms throughout his life. His art and ideas had a considerable influence on her own work; he introduced her to the Impressionists and she participated in the exhibitions of 1879, 1880, 1881 and 1886, refusing to do so in 1882 when Degas did not.

She was a great practical support to the movement as a whole, both by providing direct financial help and by promoting the works of Impressionists in the USA, largely through her brother Alexander. By persuading him to buy works by Manet, Monet, Morisot, Renoir, Degas and Pissarro, she made him the first important collector of such works in America. She also advised and encouraged her friends the Havemeyers to build up their important collection of works by Impressionists and other contemporary French artists.

Her own works, on the occasions when they were shown in various mixed exhibitions in the USA, were very favourably received by the critics and contributed to the acceptance of Impressionism there. Despite her admiration for Degas, she was no imitator of his style, retaining her own very personal idiom throughout her career. From him, and other Impressionists, she acquired an interest in the rehabilitation of the pictorial qualities of everyday life, inclining towards the domestic and the intimate rather than the social and the urban, with a special emphasis on the mother and child theme in the 1890s.

She also derived from Degas and others a sense of immediate observation, with an emphasis on gestural significance. Her earlier works were marked by a certain lyrical effulgence and gentle, golden lighting, but by the 1890s, largely as a consequence of the exhibition of Japanese prints held in Paris at the beginning of that decade, her draughtsmanship became more emphatic, her colors clearer and more boldly defined. The exhibition also confirmed her predilection for print-making techniques, and her work in this area must count amongst the most impressive of her generation. She lived in France all her life, though her love of her adopted countrymen did not increase with age, and her latter days were clouded with bitterness.