Tuesday, February 17, 2009

it's called censorship

…or perhaps just incredible naivety.

The Victorian police want to ban blog messages about the accused Churchill arsonist.

I’d think that there would be better uses for police resources right now. What about you?

Update: The Age has a digital front page headline 'Arson' blog rants pulled (once you click on the link the header is "'Arsonist' online threats taken down") though the article relates to Facebook and Myspace. Very sloppy reporting The Age. I am sick of bloggers getting a bad name.

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Monday, February 16, 2009

little losses

The Big Fat Hairy Ho is no more :(

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Sunday, February 15, 2009

trying to make sense of it all

We are all trying to make sense of this horrendous past week or so. Veteran ABC radio personality John Fain was heard to utter the phrase “If you are going to blame, blame early”, a parody on the bush fire alerts heard many times an hour on 774 that would end “if you are going to leave, leave early”.

And blame there is.

A suspected arsonist has been charged for the Churchill fires. No innocence til proven guilty for the locals on this one. Despite name suppression his identity is plastered to every lamppost in the town and he has become the definition of “dead man walking”. Don't get me wrong, any arsonist deserves the full force of the law - it's just vigilante action makes me feel very nervous.

This morning’s news lays the blame on the even more deadly Kilmore fire, that encompassed Kinglake, St Andrews and environs with a death toll of at least 100 and 1,000 houses destroyed, on the negligence of a power company. The State government and SP Ausnet are now the target of a class action, siting poor maintenance of a power line that allegedly fell and sparked the huge fire.

Global warming has had a huge look in.

Others get their revenge by blaming Greenies for being against regular burn offs of the bush and local legislation prohibiting some removal of trees from private property.

Lack of planning laws where the suburbs have met the bush has sparked spirited debate about the importance of “dugouts” and fire bunkers.

On and on it goes.

All I know is that is was darn hot on Saturday the 7th of February 2009. The mercury in Melbourne alone hit 46.4 C.

It has never been that hot in Melbourne before. With little or no humidity (around 4% at times) the dry air combined with the wind made the outside world a blast furnace. We took the government warnings seriously. Picnics were canceled. Air conditioning was cranked up. Oh and for some of us, supplies of beer were bought in. I bunkered down with a Queensland refugee in a spirit-of-the-blitz kind of way.

Which of course saying that now sounds shallow and facile.

In the height of it I snapped a quick shot of the chili plants burning before my eyes, before running back to the cool of the house and big slugs of chilled water.

The reality is this state is parched. I have never seen the local park looking so brown. The heat stressed trees are shedding their leaves as if it is autumn. It won’t be long before they drop big chunky branches on passing humans, pets or cars.

Maybe my insurance company was telling the truth when it told me that my proximity to inner city parks classified me as living in a bush fire zone? I know one thing for sure, if I thought the mooted 115% increase in this years home and contents policy was offensive, I hate to see what premiums are like next year after the companies cough up for all the bush fire damage and life insurances.

In the meantime, with a change in the wind, the city has been shrouded in smoke for the last couple of days. There is quiet mention of sore eyes, coughs and tainted washing on the line but no one is complaining. We just feel lucky to be relatively unscathed.

We are a nation that needs to make heroes. The CFA have long been mine, ordinary folk who volunteer to not just fight fires but attend all sorts of traumatic scenes as first responders til other emergency services can get there. It is amazing and wonderful that though there have been some casualties (a couple very serious), there have been no CFA fatalities that have cast an even greater pall over previous massive bush fires. Those wonderful women (and men) in the Red Cross, making sandwiches and other such tangible help as well as manning the phone for the appeal, running the blood bank and fronting the missing persons register do so without fame and glory. Even the new or lapsed blood donors deserve a pat on the back for contributing their bit.

However, for me there is a less likely ‘hero’ that has emerged from all this – social networking. An interactive board provided by The Age, helped me find out the fate of a client from Kinglake. I had some heart-warming email conversations with her neighbour who was looking for her, which ultimately resulted in good news provided by yet another stranger. Putting my plea out for a St Andrew’s family in great need of a rental home, may have struck gold through Facebook. While I only have 100-odd ‘friends’ many of mine have over 1,000. One wall message on a popular person's page has resulted in emails from the furthest coast of the country, trying to negotiate a family investment property for them in Melbourne. Whether this ultimately works out for them or not, it has made it more likely that the rental in question will get preference for a family affected by the fires.

We all just want to do something that makes us feel less useless in the face of all this horror.

I was going to write a post commemorating the anniversary this weekend of the allied bombing of Dresden in 1945, that killed 25,000 people in one night and the 100's murdered recently in the Gaza.

But one tragedy, even if it is comparatively insignificant, is all I can bear today.

Similar posts

Survivor guilt.

Putting it out there, trying to find a permanent home for just one family devastated by the fires.

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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

putting it out there

I was talking to my sister in NZ on the weekend. She’d just got off the phone to a good friend in Melbourne, arranging a catch up for her upcoming visit. She was told mutual friends were frantic as their son was at home in St Andrew’s when the fires hit. They were out of town that weekend and were distraught, not knowing what had happened to him.

I got an update today:

C and D have lost their son, who was 22, in the fires. They still have their daughter (20) and their two dogs. They have no extended family in Aus and can't get back to their charred remains or have a funeral for their son yet. They are homeless and have a couple of very short-term places to stay. Then they will be looking for a place to rent in the Northcote, Preston, Coburg area because their daughter needs to be near the Hurstbridge train line for Uni. So if you know of anything that might meet their needs (2 dogs as well) please let me know. I thought it worthwhile to put the word out as I guess there will be many people looking for somewhere to rent now. I imagine once they have a home-base they will start feeling a little better.

Anyone got any firm leads on a long-term rental for this family?

The news from these fires just keeps getting worse.

My thoughts are with this, and every family, caught up in this unbearable horror.


Monday, February 09, 2009

survivor guilt

I've not been able to find the words to describe the emotions that the bush fires are stirring up. For those not from Victoria, so many of the devastated areas are a short drive from the city. I figure everyone in Melbourne knows someone or has some kind of connection to the places these tragedies are occurring.

Despite not feeling able to articulate this, I did manage to respond to a post by Poppalina and rather than try to recraft them - if sums up how I feel about this horrible, unimaginable disaster.

Survivor guilt. I think we've all got it right now and those of us who are enjoying the comfort of our city homes feeling a strange mix of bewilderment and utter uselessness.

I spent yesterday afternoon visiting my neighbour who'd lost her home in the Ash Wednesday fires. I figure PTSD runs deep, 26 years is nothing and all it takes is a whiff of smoke and 24 hour a day emergency radio broadcasts to bring it all back. She was holding up ok but her husband was feeling very wobbly. They couldn't bear to watch tv but had been listening to radio. She wanted to talk about the day her life changed and pulled out a photo taken the day after their house burnt down. It was gutting. Totally flattened, the odd brick recognisabe, a garden light and the water tank the only remaining items. She pointed in the direction of another property naming the dead, recalled another neighbour who's frantic knock on their door in the middle of the night had saved their lives (exhausted from weeks of hot weather and alerts and 7 months pregnant she was sound asleep up to the moment the fire reached their property)....

Somehow the couple of hours we sat chatting made me feel better. As devastated as they are, those that survive just with the clothes on their backs but with no direct loss of lives feel grateful. Human resilience is amazing.

But 108 confirmed dead and rising far too swiftly...now that leaves too many ripples in far too many peoples souls...

It goes without saying that I, along with every other person with a heartbeat around here, wish I could do more than donate money (the relief centres don't want material donations right now and I am ineligible to be a blood donor). I suspect we can offer more concrete help once the immediate crisis has passed.

There are 100's of CFA volunteers on the front lines, working around the clock. My utmost admiration to all those amazing men and women who risk their lives to do this. I also think of volunteers' families back home who can't help but worry about them as they fight the fires.

Thanks also to ABC radio 774 for their around the clock emergency broadcast, so many people in front of and behind the microphones providing amazing coverage.

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Wednesday, February 04, 2009

single gal seeks stimulation

For someone who has ranted previously that I am largely invisible when it comes to government sweeteners, in the near future I will potentially* become the recipient of a goodie or two from the latest “stimulus package”.

Getting the nightmare visuals of the Ruddster attempting to stimulate me in any way out of my head, while on the one hand I am a tad excited that ‘singles’ are to be acknowledged in the kind of handout territory usually occupied by families, on the other - its still plain wrong.

The pre-Christmas government bonus to families and pensioners did little to get people spending more. Most preferred to tuck the cash under the mattress for a rainy day or pay off some debt. Some pundits claim there was a small January spending spree, a late bump in the country’s dire discretionary spending but the majority of people surveyed said they didn’t whoop it up with the dosh.

I can’t actually say no to the little gift in the bank account if/when it arrives. In reality it will pay a pittance of my tax bill and head straight back to the ATO.

But theoretically at least I wonder – if you were given $950 and told to go off and buy as many lollies as you’d like with it, how would you spend it?

So far, the only thing I have put off buying is a new electric toothbrush to replace the one that carked it a while back. If the sum was significantly larger I could finish the work needed in the backyard, get a water tank and buy solar panels. However each one of those projects cost significantly more than the bonus.

Though on second thoughts, it would take a large dent out of the cost of a water tank. But then again, will it ever rain in Melbourne again?

* Eligibility for the bonus is based on your 2007-2008 tax return. While there is no doubt that my meagre income meets the means testing, I have yet to do the paperwork. I guess that is a rather good incentive to get the return done ASAP.

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