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.

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 🙂

It’s fairly commonplace these days for projects, events and endeavours to be crowd-funded. This involves raising a specific amount of money from (usually) a large number of people. It’s not a new idea, but has really taken off in the last 10 years or so. It’s allows artists, writers, developers, etc. to engage directly with their audience via fundraising platforms such as Kickstarter, IndieGoGo, and CircleUp and so on.

In simple terms, the entrepreneur – let’s call her/him Sasha – comes up with an idea (otherwise known as a cunning plan) and selects a funding platform. Next s/he sets a time frame and a financial target, factoring in the 5 – 7% fee that many crowdfunding sites charge.

Next comes creating a succinct and persuasive sales pitch. For the best outcomes, Sasha needs to have a clear message – one that tells a good story and makes people care about the developer and the product. This really means s/he needs to know the target audience and is prepared to use social media to effectively promote the project, create awareness, generate a buzz-factor around the product/idea, and then sustain that by posting regular updates.

Ideally, lots and lots of people then rush forward to pledge an amount towards the goal 🙂

Sometimes the pledges are simply a set donation, but in many cases it’s in exchange for some sort of promised reward – the larger the pledge, the greater the reward. No funds (or rewards) actually change hands if the target goal isn’t achieved within the set time frame.

In my experience, the rewards that are offered as incentives have ranged from a signed letter of thanks to a range of products/services. Many people choose not to select a tangible reward at all, depending on the project and/or their relationship with the developer. In the best of circumstances the projects go ahead, rewards are received, most ‘investors’ are at least fairly happy with the outcome – and the crowd-funding ball keeps on rolling.

Over the years I’ve noticed that other sorts of funding have emerged. One of these is Patreon, which is really aimed at funding ongoing content creation via monthly subscription. This helps artists and creators to focus on content creation, rather than trying to fit their art in around day jobs. It’s simply a modern take on the notion of arts patronage, where artists receive encouragement and financial aid from supporters / philanthropists.

GoFundMe is a somewhat different sort of fundraising. It allows people to launch funding campaigns for medical procedures, emergency help, charities, educational opportunities and so forth. In many instances, people are more than willing to help out wherever they can without expectation of reward. It often depends on what the fundraising rationale is and whether it inspires us or simply gives us a feeling of obligation.

For example, a friend’s sister periodically raises money for her ongoing medical needs this way. Someone else I know is raising funds for a trip overseas. Another needed help to pay emergency vet bills when her dog was hurt. How would I choose who to fund?

Some of these feel like a hand-out, rather than a hand-up. But others, such help with the vet bills, no so much. That particular person felt very uncomfortable asking for money – it felt very much like begging to her. But she needed the help. So she offered to make beautiful handmade earrings (or something similar) for anyone who pledged their help. This made it easier for her to ask for help – and for her friends/family/others to provide it without an overt sense of obligation.

This works for me. It feels like I’d giving a hand up, as though something positive and useful is being done by all concerned. I’d definitely have helped this young lady out if I’d known in time – and not bothered to take up the incentive. The offer would have been enough. Although she does make great earrings….

Over a thousand people gathered in Forrest Place in the Perth CBD recently. Strangers, we came together in the hopes of making a powerful statement to government and to the broader population, using silence as a means to protest the Perth Freight Link project and its impact on the Beeliar wetlands.

Beelier Wetlands is part of the greater Beeliar Regional Park, which extends for 25km along the coast, south of Fremantle. It covers about 3,400 hectares and comprises 26 lakes and a number of wetland regions. The Perth Freight Link – known as Roe 8 – has become a major election issue. The current Premier is determined to see it through, despite clear flaws to the planning and tendering process, repeated breaches of environmental conditions and ongoing public outcry.

A range of protest action has been underway for some time and, with state elections less a month away, the pace has picked up. The objective is to halt – or at least slow – the project in hopes of a change in government on March 11 and subsequent policy change on this issue.

What are you watching?’ someone called out from the balcony overhead.
I wanted to shout back, ‘the incremental, ruthless decimation of beauty!’ – but I didn’t.

Standing in that well of silence in the middle of a busy city was a remarkable and humbling experience. The rumble of traffic behind us, the people-noise from the Sunday Hawker’s market on the other side, and a gaggle of happy kids playing in the fountains in the middle – it all highlighted the  well of silence surrounding 1,000 people.

Silent protest isn’t something that comes naturally in this world of constant noise, activity, mobile phones, internet and people – so many people. Can silence work where vocal outcry and physical obstruction appears to have failed? I don’t know. But what I do know is that when that many people are prepared to give up their Sunday afternoon and stand together in silence, it speaks volumes.

At least to those who are prepared to listen.

This amazing street art went up Stevens Street Reserve in Fremantle last week to draw attention to the issue. Sadly, it was defaced by vandals within days of being painted. Perhaps it’s a little too close to the bone for some?

Whether the combination of our silent protest, the wall art, the determined and committed protesters on the ground on the Roe 8 site and support in the Senate in Canberra make a difference, the reality is that nothing fails more surely than NOT TRYING.