Today saw the start of a trial series of community workshops at my workplace. We’ve been very excited about these sessions, which have been tailored to suit a specific clientele.

Broadly speaking, women from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds face the double whammy of cultural diversity and gender when applying for jobs in Australia. This infographic from the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows a significantly lower rate of participation in the workforce on the part of this group compared to other women in Australia or, indeed, men from CALD backgrounds.

Having identified this need, our goal was to provide a safe and supportive learning environment for women from CALD backgrounds who are interested in trying to jump that barrier and find jobs in Australia.

The notion of a safe space that’s also a learning environment resonates strongly. My experience and background have taught me that learning is most likely to be successful in complex situations if extraneous factors can be limited. And yes, of course the real world is full of ’extraneous factors’ and job situations throw those at us every day. But until one has the tools to deal with some of those situations, that’s almost beside the point.

So what is a positive space? In an artistic sense, positive space refers to the main focus or subject of a picture rather than the background – which sometimes called the negative space. Together these form the picture as a whole, but there are times when the subject of the picture needs all our focus in order to reach its potential.

Socio-cultural situations are no different – and this is where a positive (or safe) space fits in.

My perception is that such as space should be one of empowerment. It should be somewhere that individuals, whether marginalized or not, should be able to come together to achieve their goals without fear of judgement relating to their age, gender, ethnicity, race or cultural context.

In the best of all possible worlds, these positive learning spaces – whether they are at a school, university, convention or community centre – should be inclusive, accessible spaces that can allow you to be who you are and provide a level of affirmation that you and your goals deserve support and care.

Does this concept open the door to misuse? No doubt it does. But the door that we’re trying to open is one in which an opportunity for best outcomes is created for the participants. In this scenario, we’re simply trying to provide a space from which people can then take a step forward into a future that they envision for themselves.

The workshops we designed cover a wide range of topics, from generating a resume to interview techniques. It also provides an opportunity for participants to practise their spoken English, pick up on current vernacular and learn a little about the Australian workplace. We’ve even included a mock interview scenario – and we’re all pretty excited to see just what can be achieved over the next few weeks.

I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m really not cut out to be part of that happy band of people who seem to revel in the process of turning a ‘nice little fixer-upper’ into something amazing. This revelation came to me soon after we decided to embark on a long delayed renovation project. In our wisdom (!) we chose to do the interior and exterior at the same time. Perhaps not the most cunning of plans, all things considered.

Stage one was the removal of a dilapidated in-ground concrete swimming pool. Measuring 4.5 x 9.5 metres, it sloped steeply from 1.2m to 3m in depth. This epic water feature was installed well over 30 years ago and the original owners made a range of interesting choices at the time. These included a rough pebble aggregate surface across the entire interior, which had the dual ‘benefit ‘ of clinging to algae highly effectively and also abrading the knees and elbows of unwary swimmers.

Despite this, we put the pool to good use for many summers. But eventually too much of the aggregate surface was breaking away, some tiles had started to crack and fall off, and the pool surround had dropped. It was clear that the pool was in need of a serious (and expensive) facelift – or removal.

After costing the options, we chose to option three: remove and replace with something more suitable. After traversing the dangerous DIY ground of ‘oh yes, we could just do the job ourselves’ for a while, we went hunting for tradies with skills – and younger backs. They started by demolishing a three metre section of our back wall to provide access for machinery and workers, trucking in vast amounts of soil, building an access ramp (from that soil) to manage the drop from street level. Next came the diamond tipped saws to cut through the concrete and steel reinforcing embedded in the pool shell and brining in an excavator and bobcat to haul away the one metre square sections, each of which weighted about a tonne.

And that was just the start. The entire backyard rapidly turned into a luna landscape and we spent weeks stepping over drop sheets, avoiding paint tins and coping with endless quantities of sand everywhere.  After many weeks of tradie-wrangling, dog management and sleepless nights, things started to take shape. We’re not quite done yet – things simply take longer (and cost more) than expected – but we’re almost there.The dogs have coped with all this about as well as could be expected, although the little one did end up needing to see a dog whisperer to manage her stress-induced aggression. And there are certainly days when I know just how she feels, which is partly why I’m so impressed with a friend of ours who has (almost) single-handedly renovated most of her apartment in one month – and remained calm throughout, despite minor disasters such as falling off a ladder and crashing through newly assembled cabinets!

© F. Diprose

This time last year I committed to two things. To my surprise, both turned out to be far more sustainable options than my usual last minute random NYE resolutions.

The first of these commitments was to choose the word active to be my compass for 2017, to help me to focus on completing projects, starting new ones, trying new things and making the most of opportunities.

The second was to start a happiness jar. I hoped this would encourage me to be more present in my life and to pay attention even when things got busy or difficult.

I aimed to think of one thing each week that had made me smile, write it down on a post-it note and then pop it in the jar. All year.

 When I opened my jar of happies on New Years Eve I found 54 post-its – clearly a longer than average year!

Friends and I took turns to read them aloud as midnight approached. Each note reminded us of what sorts of things make me smile, many of them to do with my garden, the dogs and the people I love. They brought the year back into focus, although it was rather reminiscent of listening to a story I know, but have half forgotten. So many  ‘ah yes’ moments, laughter and even a little sadness.

2017 was certainly a busy, sometimes overly active year and, whilst blogging (and writing in general) took a bit of a hit as a result, many things were achieved personally, professionally and creatively.

Selecting a word for the year and gradually filling my little jar of happiness made me feel positive about the year as it unfolded, and I’ll be taking both ideas forward into the years ahead.

My jar has been emptied and awaits its first post-it for the year.

For a multitude of reasons, I’ll be focusing on resilience as my word for 2018.

I could have chosen fortitude or exercise or creativity or fun – they all popped into my head as possibilities last night. But resilience carries with it the notion of strength that could provide me with the framework for everything else this year. It encapsulates a level of both mental and physical robustness, the ability to bounce back, to cope with change, plan for the future and enjoy the present.

And that’s what I need this year: more bounce, more plans, and a whole lot of enjoyment!

How about you?

Whatever you choose, I wish you the very best of years.

With Christmas on the horizon I’m starting to feel I ought to get organised, plan menus, shop for gifts – do all the things that I do every year to ensure my family has a good time over the festive period.

We’ll start the season with a trip to Mandurah to admire the Xmas lights in early December and follow that up with our (now) traditional eggnog night a week or so later. Some of us will make gifts to share, we’ll shop for get our Secret Santa gifts and – with luck – move smoothly through the rest of the Xmas festivities. It’s a happy, sociable time for all of us.

Sadly, Christmas isn’t a happy time for everyone. For many it’s stressful, bringing feelings of desperation and sadness rather than joy as people struggle to provide for their families over the holiday season.

According to the 2017 Foodbank Hunger Report, more and more Australians have to choose between feeding their families and paying their bills – and this is never more apparent than over the Christmas period.

So what can we do? We help – in any way we can.

In December 2015 Daughter Dearest and I took part in a reverse advent activity, collecting food items over several weeks and then delivering the hampers to Foodbank just before Xmas that year. Shopping for other people, thinking about what they might need or want was a real feel-good experience and we wanted to do it more regularly.

So, in 2016 we launched a quarterly food drive. We set up a Facebook group, called it Food Fight and invited a few people to join in. It started out small, with just a few of us contributing whatever non-perishables we could every three months.

In 2016 we collected and delivered over 200kg of food to Foodbank for them to distribute to those in need. This year we overtook that target in September, when we reached the 236kg mark. A great result.

The challenge is to see if we can crack 300kg by mid-December 2017. Can we do it? Can we, between us, contribute at least 70kg of food within the next month?

I believe so – and hope you do too. If we work together we can and will make a difference to some of Perth’s least advantaged people this Christmas.


  • Get a box
  • Add a couple of extra items to your shopping trolley each time you shop over the next few weeks.
  • Choose some of items suggested by Foodbank (below) – but please remember, NO GLASS
  • Deliver your box of goodies to Menagerie10 (our place) by Thursday 14 December or contact Nik to arrange for a pick up run on Sunday 10 December.

Let’s work together to make Christmas a little brighter for some Perth families this year.

Life got busy over the past few months. Really silly, mind-numbingly busy. It crept up, tasks and commitments snowballing over us and gathering us up in their wake. It’s the kind of crazy downhill slalom that I find tends not provide much in the line of personal satisfaction, even if I know that the end result will be worth it.

Then, this evening, two things happened: I noticed we still had a giant pumpkin in the fridge – and a friend sent me a link to this video.

Ignoring the pumpkin, I sat down to watch the video. The take-home message for me was that being super busy can end up being isolating.

But we all need to eat – and eating together is more fun. And I have a giant pumpkin…

So, busy or not, the giant pumpkin’s been cut up and vat of soup is underway. Sourdough bread mix goes on next – and will be baked tomorrow when we randomly open our very sandy, discombobulated home to whoever feels like sharing a spontaneous pot luck meal.

Hope you can make it 🙂