Tuesday, November 27

Labour Victory

Last Saturday Australians elected the Australian Labour Party (ALP) led by Kevin Rudd to power; the result was the 3rd biggest swing against a sitting government since 1949 during a period of relative prosperity. The environmentally minded Greens also slightly increased their vote and will hold the balance of power in the Senate, our upper house of legislative review which reviews Bills passed in the lower House, the House of Represenatives.

Work choices with its perceived workplace inequity, an incomplete approach to climate change, education (although this is primarily a state matter) and ongoing participation in an unpopular war (Rudd has promised staged withdrawal from Iraq) were the key preference areas which generated a national 6% swing to Labour. Prime Minister John Howard became only the second prime Minister in Australian history to lose his own seat in Bennelong to former ABC presenter and Journalist Maxine McKew. Click here for her website. Prime Minister Rudd played tribute to Howard’s 33 years of public service in his victory speech. The most immediate changes will include the winding back of Work Choices, and ratifying Kyoto. Consultation will also begin immediately with representatives of indigenous groups on the most appropriate form of wording to an apology to be extended to the Australian aborigines.

Business does not see it as business as usual but rather as opportunity to benefit from improved co operative efforts between the States, which are now also all governed by Labour Governments. There will be no one left to blame over Commonwealth versus state funding and infrastructure bottlenecks, Heath funding and Education. The newly elected ALP will require the support of the Greens Party in the upper house to pass their intended legislation which will be slowed down to a trickle as they extract concessions in line with their own policy biases.

I think it is the passing of an era. Senior previous Ministers of the coalition have resigned and the new contenders for leadership in opposition such as Malcolm Turnbill,- click here for his website (who actively sought to have Kyoto ratified within his own party) seek a change in policy away from their ideological factions which have proven to be unpopular with voters.

Sunday, November 25

Just Enough Faith

What is faith and how important is it in our life?

One can simply say faith is faith in ourselves or it can be faith in the spiritual sense; a faith that underwrites our autonomy. Although we attribute great scientific discoveries to the minds of geniuses, asrophohsicist John Gribbin contends most discoveries arise from the painstaking work of ordinary people engaged in research who build on the prior work of previous generations and whose faith and curiosity create for us those great new discoveries without thought of personal glory.

Faith is the very essence of life; that vital ingredient that gives us our conviction and confidence. I was reminded recently of the dire consequences of losing ones faith by Jeff Gambin at a luncheon where he was the guest speaker. Jeff Gambin founded “Just Enough Faith” to help homeless people regain enough faith in themselves to lift them out of homelessness, and to offer a hand up to all those in danger of becoming homeless.

His story begins at University where he studied entomology (study of bugs) rather than medicine; contrary to a stern father’s wishes who consequently refused to financially support him. Jeff learnt cooking and became an expert chef to support his studies. After graduation he became a very successful Crop Duster, and later Restaurateur and Entrepreneur.

One winters night after experiencing a continuation of a conflict with his business partner he sat alone on a park bench to contemplate his future.
A homeless man offered him a blanket.
‘It’s cold out there mate. Better take my blanket.’
Jeff replied ‘I am okay’. ‘Just thinking.’
The Homeless man left but returned to repeat his offer ‘its cold out there mate, better take my blanket.’
Jeff was becoming annoyed, ‘You obviously think I’m homeless, but I happen to like my own company; I’m okay!’
The homeless man walked off leaving him with his blanket and commented ‘I have heard all of that before, you better keep warm tonight; it’s cold out there.’

This experience changed Jeff’s life. He spent weeks searching for the homeless man to thank and eventually found him. This man, who previously was a farmer had walked of the land during a prolonged drought and being unable to find work in the city, too proud to ask for assistance, had instead turned in solace to alcoholism and homelessness. Jeff wanted to help but found the homeless sceptical about his offer of help. Consequently with $4.50 in his pocket and only the clothes he was wearing he decided to become the equivalent of a homeless man, by staying in shelters, visiting welfare agencies and intermingling with other homeless people in his quest to discover why people became homeless and how he might best help them.

After many weeks the insight came to him; homelessness arises because people lose faith in themselves. How much faith do they need? Just enough to lift them up and out of that mindset.

Since forming Just Enough Faith(JEF), Jeff has amassed thousands of regular volunteers: dentists, doctors and helpers who each night deliver restaurant quality meals and other services to his clients and the homeless. Many thousands of homeless people have re-entered society directly as consequence of his efforts and those of the ever growing army of volunteers. He has continued with his own successful business which largely funds ‘Just Enough Faith’.

You can visit his website and read about his inspirational work by clicking here.

Tuesday, November 13

Ntandire Church /Hall nears completion

Here are some photos taken by Dyson in the afternoon on the 11th November 2007 which show the roof and doors now in place. Dyson tells me some parts of Malawi have received some good rains and people have planted maize. With further rains expected anytime this is good news for a country which is exporting its surplus storage stocks left over from last year.

We plan to have our own Christmas function in our school hall with entertainment provided by one of our Malawi support members whose band will entertain us on the night. The modest admittance fee will provide further funds to assist this community to refurbish the inside of their Ntandire Church/ hall.
Posted by Picasa

Friday, November 2


My youngest daughter has written articles on downsizing which caught the attention of a researcher from the Australian Readers Digest.

Consequently in this month’s edition (with Hillary Clinton on the Cover) you can read her thoughts on page 34 in an article entitled Sea Change in the city, together with stories of 7 other urban warriors.
She also appeared on Channel 9 for 'A Current Affair' at 6.30pm on Friday talking about downsizing with some of her songs.
You can also hear her songs at http://lessismoreblog.blogspot.com/

It also reminds me of the possible need to downside work commitments. Surveys have indicated today we work much longer hours than in the past with many regularly working over 50 hours a week. As a nation we rank alongside the United States for countries working the longest hours which can often mean there is insufficient time for family, friends and our communities where voluntrary work is similarly decreasing. I remember my own working life and for a period when I was the most productive and yet barely worked normal office hours.

I had worked with a large international group which had subsequently been taken over by another wholly Australian owned company which was the leader in its field. Despite being the one taken over I had secured a good relationship with the senior management and found myself reporting the MD with a very busy schedule and a number of major initiatives in the pipeline. However just prior to the appointment I had committed to participating in the Great Victorian Bile ride which involved cycling for over a 1,100 km spread into daily trips of 100km or more mainly along the Great Ocean Rd. To my horror I realised (not being particually fit and not having ridden a bike for over 30 years) I would need to do regular serious daily sustained training for at least 3 to 4 months beforehand. There was no alternative but to either cancel the ride to enable me to devote myself fully to the work tasks ahead, (what I would normally have done) or leave early each day and begin a sensible training routine. I adopted the latter alternative which necessitated tearing out of the building most afternoons early in order to do 2/3 hours riding where I could.

When at work I focused on my commitments and managed to secure my objectives. Nobody seemed to bother much about my hours. What it taught me was we work more effectively when we have a good work balance and during that time I think it was one of the less stressful, yet more productive and successful in my entire previous working life.

On the day I was due to take leave and take off the next day on the ride I mentioned to my boss I was leaving early, but he insisted I stay on as he said there was a presentation I shouldn’t miss. All of the staff had bought hilarious items for me to take with them which were all individuality presented to me amid roars of laughter along with a suitably hilarious poem.