Unapologetic insolence from an aging subversive

Unapologetic insolence from an aging subversive

Friday, 24 October 2008


It's been an interesting week. I spent Monday to Friday traveling around my largest circuit which took me 700 km west. The work is largely about supporting students with physical impairments, and some of it involves visiting the families where these children live, particularly when they're very small, so that plans can be set in motion to make whatever adjustments are necessary to allow their access to school. I've covered over 2500km this week.

Because it's Queensland, the schools are almost universally built on stumps, accessed by stairways. This is a problem for kids in wheelchairs. One of my jobs is to write access audits for the principals so that they have the information they need to plan for these students. Often, because of financial planning issues, the reports need to be available many years before enrollment. So I try to make an assessment of the student-to-be well in advance of actual enrollment, and often the children are as young as three.

On Thursday, I visited the home of a three year old girl with an undiagnosed condition. She is a beautiful child, but requires around the clock care. She is tube-fed, and still doesn't sleep through the night. She is delightfully responsive, mostly cheerful and loved dearly by her mum and dad who live on a very remote cattle and sheep property accessed by a road that is impassable after a few showers of rain.

Her mother has done a fantastic job in setting up learning programs for her, ably assisted by a visiting support teacher who spends a few hours with her every week. It takes about two hours to get to the property from the nearest town, and the nearest (very small) school is about an hour's drive to the south.

There is support from health and disability agencies, but the support teacher is the only professional who actually visits her home. To access therapy (very important for this child), the mother has to take her to a health clinic. Routinely, she has to travel the 600km to Brisbane to access the range of specialist services necessary.

This is by no means an unusual situation. The devotion and sheer grit demonstrated by her parents in ensuring she lives the best quality of life possible is inspirational, but not unusual in rural communities. Her mother simply hasn't had a break in three years, since her little girl was born. She dismisses this with a philosophical shrug – for her it just isn't an issue.

On the day I was there, her dad was out meulsing, but he came in for lunch, and after a quick cleanup (meulsing is a messy activity), he and his two brothers sat down with his wife and the visitors (the support teacher and I) to have lunch. There ensued a lively conversation, and one of the issues discussed was executive remuneration. Given that lack of public funding is often given as a rationale for lack of services in the bush, it occurred, as a passing thought, how much difference the injection of some private money might make to this situation. The parents could, for example, get some respite. They could also employ someone to run a stimulation programme with this little girl so that she might develop some language skills. She's certainly showing some strong pre-communicative behaviours.

I wonder if any of the Masters of the Universe receiving packages in excess of say, 10 million per annum, spare a thought for people in these situations? I wonder whether there is any angst associated with these obscene amounts?

I guess not – Australian Execs aren't noted for philanthropy.

In any case, I find the selfless love demonstrated by these families inspirational, and you can't put a price on that.

Sunday, 19 October 2008

Review of 1942

This week's review is 1942 by Bob Wurth.

I have always been fascinated by this period of our history. This probably developed from my childhood in North Queensland, and my dad's occasional stories about his time in the RAAF in New Guinea. Listening to him, it was abundantly clear to me that many Australians genuinely feared a Japanese invasion, and living in the area which at that time was considered to be under great threat also focused my interest.

There has been historical disagreement about whether an invasion of this country was intended at the time. I won't spoil any reading of 1942 for you, except to say that different elements of the Japanese military hierarchy held different ideas about invasion.

The other contending views about this dangerous time relate to the role of the Americans.

Wurth's view of this is interesting in that he describes a strong personal relationship between Macarthur and Curtin which he concludes influenced American tactics at the time. He takes a different and refreshing look at American motives, exposes some disagreement between the military and political arms of the US administration, and sees Macarthur as an ally for Curtin in his disagreements with Churchill.

This is rivetting stuff, and some of it is bound to send some of the more extreme right-wing interpreters into meltdown. Wurth's conclusion about war in general, and Japanese suffering, in particular, will raise hackles –

Japan's war cost the lives of 17501 Australians and millions of others. How many more, though, had the brash captains and the bellicose admirals of the Inland Sea had their irrational way?

Of all the foibles, war is the worst, equaled only by ignorance and disinclination to discover the truth of it.

"I'm fed up to the ears with old men dreaming up wars for young men to die in."

George McGovern.

After the rage generated by my review of Paul Ham's article, it appears my lack of condescension to the reigning historical orthodoxy has already caused deep offence.

Wurth's research gives the story life and authenticity. It also reveals that very strong opinions and old grudges are still held in Japan over the course of events. He spent a lot of time in and around the Hashirajima anchorage, where the great ships of the Japanese fleet found refuge, and thoroughly analyzed Senshi Sosho, the Japanese official war history series on the Pacific campaign.

The book is available in soft cover at good newsagents. It's a great way to spend $34.

I'll be travelling with work this week (Roma, Morven, Charleville, Quilpie, Cunnamulla and Eulo), so will be at the mercy of Nomadnet to respond to comment, but I'll do my best.

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