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A sad day for the ABC August 19, 2011

Posted by Amanda in Australia, Media, Radio, Television.

It might seem strange to shed tears for someone you’ve never met, or met only briefly, but I’m sure I’m not the only person at the ABC who’s done that today.

This morning we heard about the deaths of Paul Lockyer, Gary Ticehurst and John Bean, and this evening the passing of Ian Carroll. I met Paul Lockyer a couple of times when I worked in NewsCAFF (News and Current Affairs) management in Sydney. He wouldn’t have remembered me, but my impressions married with the tributes that have been paid to him today – warm, approachable, a real people person. Although I don’t think I met any of the other three veteran ABC’ers who died today, I had certainly heard of them.
At the ABC we often joke about collegiality – it’s only one of our four key values, but it’s the one everyone remembers. Sometimes it’s thrown into a conversation when helping someone out, other times it’s used with a wry tone. But on days like these, it’s brought home that through the budget constraints, attacks by critics and challenges of working in a broadcasting bureaucracy, we really are all in this together.
For many of us, working at the ABC is a source of pride both in what we do and how we do it, and in being a part of one of the most respected Australian institutions. That pride binds us through triumphs and tragedies. I’m glad to be part of the ABC family today but I also shed tears for members of that family who I never knew but whose work is a shining example of what we want the ABC to be.

The weight of gender November 13, 2010

Posted by Amanda in Fashion, Observations, Personal, Uncategorized.
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Is it a boy or a girl?

It’s the first question someone asks when you have a baby – or even before. These days the gender question might be answered well before birth. It goes along with “do you have a preference for what you have?”

It must be so common to find out the sex of the baby that we had to ask what we’d had in the delivery room because no-one told us.

But since the moment they said “It’s a girl”, I’ve felt the weight of responsibility for bringing up a child of the female sex.

If you had asked me in my younger years whether I wanted a boy or a girl, I probably would have strongly preferred a girl. There are a number of reasons for this – I only have a sister, I went to an all girls school. I didn’t really grow up with boys and I think for a long time I didn’t really ‘get’ boys.

But when it came to realising that we were actually having a child, it mattered less and less. My only reason for preferring a girl was that we could agree on a name – something that eluded us for a boy.

Unlike many other cultures, it seems the preference for girls in western nations is quite common. I was surprised at the number of people who expressed a hope that I’d have a girl and I’ve heard parents almost defending why it’s good to have boys.

The marketing of baby goods is strongly skewed towards girls – go to any clothing department or baby market and the products for girls outnumber those for boys many times over.

I feel real pressure in bringing up a girl child. How do I instill in her the strength she’ll need to stand up for herself in this world where men still have so much of the power and influence? How do I help her to avoid the crippling problems of self-esteem and body image that I suffered? Can I let her know that being intelligent is a good thing for a girl and playing dumb isn’t a way to get through your teenage years?

Perhaps these are all problems that I’d have to teach a boy as well, but having a girl, I directly relate it to my own experience.

But the first issue I have to face is dressing this little being – I’ve never been a ‘girly-girl’. I remember loathing pink throughout my childhood and now I eschew anything that is overly feminine or that might cast me in a role of femininity that is contrary to how I’d like to be perceived.

During my pregnancy I was quite outspoken about my feelings about pink and haven’t been given much in that particular hue. But within me there is still a battle in my mind as to how we dress her.

When she was in hospital, she wore mostly gender neutral suits but on the day we brought her home, I put her in a dress for the first time and it shocked me to have her put so clearly into the gender box. Do I just accept that I dress differently from Chris and that’s the way the world is, or should I avoid the fripperies of so much female clothing? And then there’s the aesthetic part of me that wants her to look good – anyone who’s seen my wardrobe would understand that it’s something I care about and enjoy.

I suppose the only thing I have to fall back on is my own upbringing  In my recollection, my parents never tried to strongly put us in the girly camp. My dad took my sister and I hiking and surfing, and we requested and received more lego, car tracks and sporting equipment than we did dolls – or at least I recall preferring those toys.

Perhaps that’s the model I need to take with my daughter – don’t ask her to be feminine or not, just let her be what she is.



A new journey November 10, 2010

Posted by Amanda in Blogs, Observations, Personal.
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“Carry the bags” was a phrase that Chris used when we were headed overseas for six months of travelling. Sometime he’s a reluctant traveller until he is actually on his way so he complained one day that the mammoth journey wasn’t for his benefit, he was just going to carry the bags. It became a bit of a joke between us, but really the phrase has a lot more weight than just a flippant comment.

There are lots of journeys in life and we have just embarked on one from which we can never return – parenthood.

Of course the phrase ‘carry the bags’ is one that’s very applicable to any western parent because all of a sudden it seems our life has been invaded by more ‘stuff’ and more ‘bags’ than we’ve ever had before. We’re the type who travel for six months with 15 kilo backpacks and yet now we’re lucky if we can leave the house with equipment that weighs less than that.

And yet of course the blog title is also apt considering we really are on our way to destination unknown – does parenthood even have a destination? Or is that just the desperate hope that you will live to old age and die before your offspring?

Perhaps now this blog can be an occasional drop-in point for my thoughts on this trip of a lifetime.

Many of our friends were surprised, if not shocked, when we said we were having a baby. We’d managed to cultivate the impression that we were quite happy with our two cats and yearly overseas jaunts. The truth was that although there wasn’t the desperate need to have children that some people experience, it is something we had long hoped for, but for a while it didn’t seem like it would happen and we were in the process of accepting that perhaps it wasn’t meant to be.

I found out I was pregnant in February and it was a big surprise to both of us –  a pleasant one, but it was hard to believe. In fact I stayed in denial until the day our daughter Freya was born one week ago.

I had meant to blog throughout the pregnancy, but it just never happened. I was fortunate to have the easiest pregnancy of anyone I know – no sickness, no cravings, no real exhaustion. Even though I ended up having an emergency caesarean after about 24 hours of labour, I can’t even say the birth was something I look back on as being particularly eventful until the last hour or so. It was frightening when the baby’s heartbeat dropped low enough to warrant the emergency button being pushed and being rushed in to surgery but maybe the drugs have made the rest a bit of a blur.

Having never been a ‘baby’ person, I was a little concerned about how I would relate to my own child. I can’t say I’ve felt the overwhelming rush of love for my child that many seem to experience in the delivery room but it’s certainly something different and deeper than I’ve felt before. There is something special about holding this little warm bundle who is totally reliant on me.

I thought I was having that moment of ‘falling in love’ with Freya late one night when I was in hospital. I had just fed her and she was sitting in my arms looking into my eyes for what seemed like a very long time. I really was overcome with wonder that this small child was mine and she was staring into my soul. Then I realised she was actually concentrating on the enormous green production in her pants. But perhaps that’s the first lesson in how children keep you grounded.

She’s asleep now and will soon wake up needing to be fed. This isn’t the post I sat down to write but it’s an introduction to how I might use this blog from now on. I have no intention of becoming one of the myriad mummy bloggers and it’s more of a place to sort my own thoughts and make some sense of what’s happening to us.

I’m glad I called this space “Carry the Bags” so long ago. It might just be a place to dump all my mental luggage as well.


Co-housing – dream to reality June 19, 2010

Posted by Amanda in Uncategorized.
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Welcome to my old dead blog. Maybe I should resurrect it. Thanks to Kathleen, Pete and Memily for giving me something to post even if it is three years old.

This is an article I wrote about co-housing. Since the article was written I’m not sure how much has changed, but I know Sarah and Brian are still there and recently had a baby. As far as I know it’s going well.

Last September, nine people, two cats and four chickens moved into a block of flats with a vision not just to live next door to one another, but to share their lives and resources. This suburban street in Annerley is the site of one of Brisbane’s newest co-operative housing experiments.

There are a growing number of these urban “intentional communities” springing up around Australia. Many see communal housing as a viable option to combat the increasing loneliness of urban societies and to positively impact the wider community.

For the Annerley group, the decision to share a space came out of many years of dreaming and an earlier co-owned house that didn’t allow for expansion. In the end it came down to the tenacity of Sarah Eastwell who doggedly searched for the perfect place for her utopian dream.  The block of four flats was eventually purchased by five of the current residents.

The large back yard is strewn with play tents, swings and toys as well as a complex chicken run and the remains of a demolished BBQ.  It serves as the communal area for the residents who congregate around rickety wooden tables and tell tales of impromptu night gardening sessions after work.

Eastwell says that she was motivated by the realisation that her social circle was shrinking.

“As we got older, our friends had children and moved to the suburbs and we didn’t see one another anymore,” she says.

Eastwell’s partner Brian Murphy lives in the community as a non-owner and describes her as the ‘burning soul’ who brought the project together.

“Sarah is the key instigator, the catalyst, the chairman, the banker. It really did take one visionary,” he says.

Sarah has always enjoyed share-housing and the informal interactions that come from having other people around.  She says their flats allow all participants to have their own space but still have the social advantages of a share house. She finds the idea of a nuclear family isolating.

She says that this model takes the pressure off her relationship because she is not reliant on her partner for company and it allows her to spend more time with her sister and her niece who also live in the community.

“This is almost like a chosen family, which can work so much better because you have similar ideals and values which you don’t always share with your own family. It makes the concept of family a bit broader,” she says.

Dr Bill Metcalf started exploring communal living after the Aquarius festival at Nimbin in 1973. Over the last 20 years he has lived in a variety of intentional communities and as a social historian, he has spent more than 20 years studying them. He is currently researching the history of communal living in Australia. He says that communal living has changed since the stereotypical communes of the 1960s and 1970s.

“People have a vision of somebody at Nimbin smoking dope and wearing gumboots but there are many other options,” he says.

Metcalf says one of these options is a movement termed ‘co-housing’. He says it is the way of the future for communal living. Co-housing involves urban developments of inter-connected townhouses or apartments. Each family or resident has their own living space, but relationships are developed through shared facilities such as kitchens, dining rooms and child care facilities. Members maintain a level of privacy but are encouraged to participate in community meals and other activities.

Metcalf says that a shared vision and communal meals are the keys to successful communities. He believes that the sharing of meals is fundamental to communal living as it encourages communication and cooperation between the members of a cooperative.

Shared visions may be religious beliefs, environmental concern or simply a desire to stay connected with others, He says that the vision must include a conviction that sharing is good and is a moral responsibility.

Metcalf says that communal living is like any important close relationship,

“If you think you can be in a relationship and it will all be roses. It ain’t like that, you have to put energy in and you have the downs and the ups,” he says.

One of the greatest challenges faced by residents of intentional communities is the establishment of appropriate boundaries between personal and communal spaces.

Boundaries have been a cause of tension for marketing academics Terry and Rosie Gatfield who, along with their daughter Emma, son-in-law Steve Lamar and their three children, moved to adjoining houses on a hillside at the Gap four years ago.

The Gatfields had long had a vision of a “clan house” for their extended family where they could live communally. The project stems from a Christian faith that says everything should be shared and family is central to this vision.

Terry has found that community living is a place of growth and great pain. He says that pain comes from letting go of the expectations that he had about community living that are not shared by those around him.

“You start off with an unwritten contract that I had firm in my own mind but it doesn’t get realised in other people’s minds,” he says.

Terry had expected that boundaries would be looser and that the space would be shared more freely.

“If boundaries are that important, you should not go down that path,” says Terry.

But, psychologist son-in-law Steve says that he still feels some need to protect the identity of his nuclear family and he has struggled with the open attitude of his wife’s father.

“For Terry it is relatively boundary-less, your space is my space, my time is your time, it comes from his Christian framework, he is very idealistic about that,” he says.

The children who are a part of this experiment have adjusted to community living well and at times have shown their parents and grandparents the way.

“ Children work out community in the most natural way of all of us, they just buzz in and out. As a result of that, on a Saturday morning, the three kids might disappear and we discover they are watching TV in Terry and Rosie’s bedroom.  For our kids, they see Terry and Rosie’s house as much their house as our house”, says Steve.

His wife Emma, an artist, says her children have a much closer relationship with their grandparents.

She says, “When you are family, it naturally kicks over into community in lots of ways. For example (my son) Toby has breakfast there almost every day”.

Grandmother Rosie says that western societies have lost something, now that having an extended family close by is no longer common.

” Reclaiming something beyond the nuclear family is just wonderful. People are giving that up now and they don’t know what they are giving up. This is not abnormal in a lot of communities, it is normal,” she says.

There are plans to refurbish an empty house on the property for use by other family members, one of whom is expected to move there later this year. Terry has visions of spiritual retreats and artistic endeavours in the surrounding bushland.

Terry and Rosie say they hope to remain in the ‘clan house’ until they die, and they would hope that the house would never be sold to someone outside the family.

Dr Metcalf says that for those who do not have the connections of a family, communal living can be a more than adequate substitute,

In his opinion, people are hard wired to be social beings and current trends of single person households are dangerous to mental health, He says that communal living is a positive force for the individual and the wider community.

“The benefits to the individual are quite basic. It helps with loneliness, it helps with psychiatric problems, it helps develop social skills, it gives you a place, it gives you a home, it gives you a sense of belonging.”

There are financial benefits to living communally with shared resources and facilities, but Dr Metcalf along with the residents of the Annerley house agree that this cannot be the primary motive for developing an intentional community.

“You have to want the communal aspect because there is a lot of negotiation and there is a lot of decision making, and it can be really hard,” says Sarah Eastwell.

The main benefits to the wider society are environmental.  A group that lives communally has been shown to consume one third less energy than someone living on their own.

Communal groups also often resolve conflicts and problems without the use of outside groups like social workers and psychologists through mutual support.

Dr Metcalf believes the future of communal housing is looking bright. He says that although there is no hard data, anecdotally, intentional communities are on the rise and that most Australians could imagine themselves living in a co-housing arrangement.

At Annerley, the household believes that the group dynamic facilitates creativity and working together. The group plans to build a sewing room and a permaculture garden.

They are looking forward to establishing a communal area under the building that will allow for more interaction between all the residents. They also have plans for an outside eating area.  Sarah speaks admiringly of another co-housing project that has its own home brewery maintained by the community.

“You can create something bigger than if you are on your own. You can have a shared vision and work together. You can do ordinary, everyday activities but in a social environment,” says Sarah.

Sarah says that she often wakes up in the morning, wanders out to the verandah she shares with other community members and is overjoyed that she has achieved her goal.

“I see myself here forever, I see it as a nest, somewhere to come back to.  I can’t think of anywhere I would prefer to live.”

Brisstyle markets July 2, 2009

Posted by Amanda in Uncategorized.
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Cannot wait for the Brisstyle markets this weekend – Brisbane etsy sellers come together to sell their wares in real life!

You’ll find the cutest clothes and jewellery plus bags and lots of children’s stuff.

It’s at St Augustine’s Church Hall in Hamilton this Saturday 4 July.

Blogged out October 26, 2008

Posted by Amanda in Uncategorized.
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It’s been nearly a year since I updated this blog.

But now I’ve linked it to my name domain, I don’t know what to do.

I’m not that interested in blogging like I used to … twitter takes care of that.

Not sure where to go from here.

Ugliest ever November 21, 2007

Posted by Amanda in Fashion, Television.

This outfit was on Oprah’s favourite things for this year so I expect there are now thousands of American women wearing the ugliest pyjama-like creation I have ever seen. Let’s hope it doesn’t make it to Australia. Talk about unflattering!


Wake up October 21, 2007

Posted by Amanda in Cats, Media.
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This is currently my favourite Youtube video

Gnome tales October 16, 2007

Posted by Amanda in Australia.
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Found this on Flickr today … and I thought I had too much time on my hands.

Expensive Australia October 8, 2007

Posted by Amanda in Australia, Observations, Travel Diary.

Whenever I return to Australia from overseas or look at travelling in Australia, it strikes me just how expensive this country is. One good example is walking tours.

Chris and I are going to Melbourne in December* and I wanted to do a walking tour of the art and grafitti of Melbourne- it is $55 per person for three hours, and that is the cheap tour. Some of the others are up to $95. I couldn’t believe how this differs from the walking tours we have taken overseas. That is the great thing about walking tours- the overheads are low so they are usually affordable. But not in Australia apparently. See the list below for a comparison

Berlin €12=$18 AUD and this walk was more than seven hours long! The tours are all conducted by people who have degrees in German history.

London £6 = $14.00 AUD

New York $15 US = $16 AUD

At least two of these cities also run free walks- why is it so expensive here?

*ok the one thing that is not expensive about this trip is the flights. We are going with Tiger for $40 each return including taxes!