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Australia Observations

Australia and adoption

Last night’s news included a brief story on adoption in Australia. My ears pricked up at the mention of the word ‘adoption’ because I’ve spent 6 years working in communications at leading fostering and adoption charities in the UK, so I was very interested to find out about the situation in Australia.

It turns out Hugh Jackman and wife Deborra-Lee Furness are calling on the Australian government to urgently overhaul an adoption process they say is destroying children’s lives. According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Furness has ‘slammed Australia’s ”anti-adoption culture”, saying the country’s inaction on the global orphan crisis is a disgrace’.

She also said it was ‘a ”disgrace” that, with 18,000 children in foster care in NSW needing a family, only 65 were adopted’.

Adoption is always a tricky topic, but this story is particularly interesting because it seems to be trying to tackle the low adoption rate of Australian children within Australia, alongside a call for more adoptions of international orphans. But surely these are two very different areas that are hard to compare?

Take Furness’s comment that the number of orphaned children across the world is increasing, while adoption is decreasing, and her statement that:

“It’s a crime, what happens to these abandoned kids. They end up institutionalised and then have developmental delays and mental health issues, the human conditions, the kid on the street who becomes prey to predators, it is rife with danger and these children are vulnerable.” Read the whole article.

Of course, what can and does happen to vulnerable children on the streets across the world is horrific, and we should all do whatever we can to fix it. Adoption isn’t the only answer though – thanks to aid organisations like Save the ChildrenOxfam, and Plan International, there are many options for people who want to make a difference (and thanks to these charities’ infrastructures, the difference they make is on a large scale).

But the thing is, the situation in Australia is very different. Most of the children who come into the care system are not orphans on the street for whom adoption is the only option – in reality they often need a new home because of issues such as parental substance abuse and neglect. And most of the time severing all legal ties through adoption isn’t the right answer.

Instead thousands of children in Australia and the UK can and do benefit from the incredible work of highly trained foster carers and social workers. The child has a safe home for as long as they need it, while their birth parents receive support and learn better parenting skills, so they can be reunited later on if things work out. If the child can’t go back to their birth parents then there’s permanent fostering or an SGO to consider. These types of social care probably aren’t seen much in the developing world, if they even exist at all.

It’s a highly complex area, and I’m not sure I’ll ever fully understand it. I think the main thing to consider is that there are vulnerable children desperately in need of help everywhere – whether it is an orphaned toddler from a worn-torn country, or a neglected teenager from your own city. Adoption can be one way to fix things, but it’s not the only way. Thanks to aid organisations, local charities and foster care providers, there are many things we can do to help at home and away.

 

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Australia Review

Why I need to get a job… and soon!

Seeing as I don’t yet have a job in Melbourne, I’ve had the opportunity to watch more daytime TV than anyone in their right mind would ever want to.

Morning and daytime TV across the world is of course always terrible. They try to include discussions about politics, current affairs and world news alongside more light-hearted content and lifestyle tips, but in fact most of the programme just ends up being idle gossip about celebrity fashion. Australian morning and daytime suffers from this affliction too, but they also do something even worse…

I'm your friend so buy this hoover
I’m your friend so buy this hoover

They follow a piece on Lady Gaga with a segment about hoovers or saucepans that masquerades as helpful consumer advice from presenters we have come to know and trust, but is in fact a blatant sales promo. It would be fair enough if we had chosen to watch an infomercial or home shopping show, but this is thrust in our faces in the guise of normal TV. And there are loads of advert breaks in the show anyway! How dare they!

Everything about these segments seems dishonest, from the mock living room sets to the fake spills. And don’t get me started on the stiletto-wearing female presenters and their ‘bloke next door’ counterparts, who have clearly never even used a hoover before.

They ramble on and on about whatever ridiculous product they are selling today, presumably hoping you will lose the will to live and buy it to shut them up. And the worst part is that they never seem to tell the viewer the real cost, instead preferring to blindside us with the special ’28 day trial price’ and ‘free gift if you order NOW’.

After just minutes of watching these segments I feel like I’m being manipulated. I think it’s strange how little the producers must value their viewers if they think we deserve to be tricked and conned into buying pointless, over-priced products in this way. Luckily I reckon most of us see it for the underhand sales technique it is and just change the channel.

I know I don’t have to watch it at all, but what else is there to do when you’re eating breakfast at 9.30am on a weekday morning? I just need to get a job soon so that I’ll be out of the house by 8am and watching dreadful morning TV will no longer be an option!

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Australia Review

A Murder is Announced

Through a very kind acquaintance we managed to get free tickets to the opening night of ‘A Murder is Announced’ at the Comedy Theatre and it was an absolute treat.

(If we were going to choose any play to see during our first fortnight in Melbourne we might not have picked a typically British murder mystery, but free is free, and it really did turn out to be great!)

First off, it was a miracle that I’d never seen it before, as British TV churns out more Agatha Christie productions than Rod Stewart releases Greatest Hits albums. But every scene was a surprise, with twists and turns all over the place, and the production seemed genuinely original and fresh despite the play’s age.

It was the kind of production I love – where every scene takes place on the same set (the sitting room at Little Paddocks) – so there was none of that ‘I’m a stagehand moving furniture but I’m dressed in black so you can’t see me’ nonsense. On top of that, the costumes were perfect down to the smallest detail, and the sound effects and lighting all seemed to happen at the right times (which you would expect from a professional production, but I still always worry that something might go wrong!)

The all-Australian cast (including none other than Pippa from Home and Away) had perfected their English accents and seemed to give 100% to every scene. And (apart from the curtain call of course) there were a couple of occasions when every single cast member was in the scene – lined up and spanning the entire width of the stage – which really brought the diversity of characters and costumes to life.

It was a fabulous production, and everyone involved gave the audience a hugely enjoyable and suspense-filled evening.

A Murder is Announced
A Murder is Announced

 

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Australia Chuckles

Australia and the UK: an early comparison

We’ve been in Melbourne for a week now and it’s been awesome so far. We’ve explored St Kilda and checked out the CBD, and today we moved across the city to our new home in Brunswick.

A home away from home
A home away from home

Before we came here someone told us Melbourne is ‘the London of Australia’ – and judging by how quickly we’ve settled in they could be right. Everything is strangely familiar (including the street names!), and the tram system is so user-friendly that even I have managed to navigate around the city with ease!

I’ve already slipped into some of my UK bad habits – like planning to go for a run, and even laying out my running gear the night before so it’s all ready for me, yet somehow not actually going after all! I’ve also continued to watch Neighbours and managed to fit in a good few afternoon naps.

Alex is also much the same, except he’s chosen to eat soup twice, whereas UK Alex usually avoids soup altogether.

There are plenty of differences too – like the cost of internet packages, clothes and eating out. And it’s not just eating out – our first supermarket shop cost $75 (about £45) and we reckoned we could have bought the same stuff in Britain for closer to £30. And for some reason TV shows and films seem to start on the half hour, rather than on the hour – madness!

And last week we stumbled upon a real life house auction, which took place on the street right outside the house and involved last minute bids and all sorts of drama – just like on Neighbours! With all the auctions going on we could probably hit a new one every weekend. This is the sort of free entertainment you just don’t find in London!

Auction!
Auction!

So all in all we love this place. The people we’ve met have been incredibly friendly, the food has been delicious, and tonight we’re going to the theatre for free courtesy of our last Airbnb host! Plus the tram system really is excellent (and actually cheaper than Oyster prices in London), and they seem to sell pancakes and milkshakes everywhere. What more could you ask for?

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Adventure Australia

The adventure begins!

On Tuesday at midday Alex and I hopped on a plane at Heathrow’s Terminal 4 to start our 365 day adventure in Australia!

I was feeling slightly anxious about being 3kg over the luggage weight limit, but the nice man at the Malaysia Airlines check-in desk either couldn’t add up or decided to turn a blind eye, so I didn’t have to fork out the £30 excess baggage fee after all – result!

Just 24 hours later, after watching The Internship, The Heat, A Perfect Getaway (I hadn’t heard of it before either!), World War Z and several episodes of Two and a Half Men and The Big Bang Theory, we arrived in Melbourne. And just two hours after that we arrived at 1 Acland Street in St Kilda – our Airbnb accommodation for our first 8 days in the southern hemisphere.

Our first day (Thursday possibly? It’s hard to know!) started with a yummy brunch across the road, and then went by in a blur of jet-lag and shock at the cost of pretty much everything here compared to the UK! I had an afternoon nap, then we meandered along the beach at St Kilda and through Albert Park, where the cloudy weather made for chilly walking but beautiful photos!

Rainbow over Melbourne
Rainbow over Melbourne

The afternoon nap I had so craved at the time proved to be a terrible decision as I lay wide awake at 3am. And again at 6am! Luckily enough, Alex got tangled in the sheets at 3am and woke up, so I took the opportunity to provide him with a detailed account of the nightmare I’d just had, to help pass the time. Then when I woke up at 6am I managed to keep quiet for about an hour, but then I thought ‘screw this, I’m really bored’ – and in no time at all I’d woken Alex up too so I had someone to talk to. Plus what’s the point of sleeping when there’s a whole new country out there to explore!

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Adventure Travel/holiday

Oh I do like to be beside the seaside

We’re currently in Cornwall on a family holiday and I’m loving it here! My sister Nicola and her boyfriend Alex (yes another Alex – confusing I know!) were here until Monday morning, so now it’s my mum, dad, dog Tasha, and Alex, plus my unofficial godmother, Rosie.

So far we’ve been on walks along the cliffs and beach in Porthleven where we’re staying, visited St Ives, Land’s End, Penzance, Padstow and Truro, and been to Falmouth twice to get contact lenses for Alex in preparation for a certain water-based activity!

Surfin' Cornwall
Surfin’ Cornwall

Now that we’re moving to Aus in less than a month I decided a surf lesson was definitely in order, and there just happened to be the Dan Joel Surf School in Poldhu, right along the coast from where we’re staying. (It was only later that we found out that Dan Joel used to be the UK champion – he was far too laid-back, friendly and modest to admit that to us in person!)

In my mind I’ve always been an excellent surfer who just doesn’t yet know how to surf. But in reality I was just like any other beginner (if not worse!) – I spent most of the time floundering in the sea with water up my nose. Alex and the other guy in our lesson were better – I reckon partly because they were stronger and so found it easier to get into position to catch a wave and then stand up quickly. By the end of the lesson they could stand up pretty easily and were even starting to turn!

But alas I have no upper body strength, so when it came to trying to stand up on the board I really struggled to hoist myself up onto my feet. The few times I nearly managed it, the wave died and I had no choice but to fall off! Until the last wave of the lesson, when I actually did stand up, and basically surfed all the way into the beach like a total pro (as I assume I must have appeared to on-lookers).

I found the lesson completely exhausting, and was slightly disappointed not to be a complete natural at this sport I’m so desperate to be good at, but I still massively enjoyed it. Dan was a fantastic instructor and I can’t wait to make surfing a regular part of my new life in Aus!

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Adventure Australia

How to quit your job and move to Australia

The stages:

  1. Decide you want to leave your job and move to Australia
  2. Make it seem more real by telling your friends and family
  3. Sort out your visa
  4. Quit your job
  5. Book your flights.
Australia
Australia

The slightly longer version:

Way back in January I realised it was time to leave my job. I looked around for other, similar roles in London, but then Alex and I started to think seriously about leaving the UK altogether and moving to Australia for a year. It had to be now or never, as Alex was going to turn 31 in a couple of months, and after that he’d be too old for a working holiday visa. So pretty shortly we began to set the wheels in motion!

It took a while to sort out my working holiday visa as I had to renew my passport first, but then there was nothing stopping us. My mum and dad also thought it seemed like a good idea, so when I was granted my visa in June the only obstacle left was the business of handing in my notice…

By this time, my lovely manager knew that I wasn’t enjoying my job and that I wanted more from my career than the organisation was able to offer, but it still wasn’t going to be easy to break the news to her! In the end our oft postponed 1-2-1 meeting finally came around, and in answer to her opening statement: ‘Is there anything big you’d like to talk about first?’ I answered: ‘Um…. I’m planning to leave here so I can move to Australia for a year’. After getting over the initial shock my manager said she was really pleased for me and that it was a great thing to do!

Next we decided we wanted to live in Melbourne first of all, and then we booked our flights. And that was it really!

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Chuckles

The perils of having too much power

Just a quick blog post today, but I can’t resist sharing this!

On Saturday it was the annual Wood Street Village Show, a day of children’s races, a car boot sale, food and drink stalls, and most importantly, the judging of various food, drink and art exhibits.

My favourite comment from the judges was this one:

Read the rules!
Read the rules!

In case you can’t read the comment, it says:

The best marmalade on the table today but:

1st prize withheld because

– you have used a trade jar (see rules p 3)

– jar a little underfilled

– give full date of making (see rules p 3).

Fancy finding the best marmalade of the day but deciding to withhold 1st prize for such trivial reasons! Those are surely the words of someone with too much power!

Categories
Travel/holiday

Nice times in Nice

For 3 weeks in July Alex scampered off to Nice with his bike and his friend Greg to cycle, watch cycling and talk about cycling (lots).

While I’m not a fan of cycling in any way, shape or form, I really do like the weather, food and shops of the French Riviera, yes I do. Alex and I had a brilliant week-long holiday in Nice last year, so I couldn’t resist inviting myself to join in the fun – but this time for three nights only!

Nice apartment
Nice apartment

We stayed in a brilliant little Airbnb apartment near the centre of Nice, which had an awesome bunk bed thing on stilts! Alas we discovered after the first night that it was too hot to sleep up there (GCSE physics was right – hot air does indeed rise), so in the end we slept on the sofa bed on the ground instead!

Plenty of tasty food eating ensued, including several trips to Arlequin Gelati on Avenue Malaussena for their to-die-for gelato. We also paid a much-anticipated visit to Rendez-vous des Amis (an amazing restaurant near where Greg was staying that we also went to last year) for three courses of deliciousness. The chef came all the way from a Michelin starred restaurant in Paris and it’s always full of locals – living proof of how good it is!

French views
French views

To get into the spirit of my little holiday I was reading Ernest Hemingway’s unfinished novel Garden of Eden, where a newly married couple travel around the south of France and get up to all sorts of mischief. While I was reading the part about them driving past Antibes, Alex and I were actually on the train to that very same place (in case you’ve read the book, I hasten to add that all similarities ended there!). In Antibes we found a lovely sandy beach to lie on and the warm Mediterranean Sea to dip in (much nicer than Nice’s pebbled beach and rougher sea!), plus lots of cobbled streets to wander through. During my short stay we also went on a road trip with Greg, taking in the winding cols of the area outside Nice, including the beautiful village of Eze and the hills above Monaco. I couldn’t turn my head without being smacked in the face with another amazing view!

In no time at all it was time to say goodbye to the gelato, the sun and the sea, and leave Alex and Greg to their cycling adventures. I’ll always love Nice and would love to make it an annual holiday, but next year that won’t be possible as we’ll be 10,000 miles away in Australia! More about that to come…!

Categories
Adventure Review

A free trip to Alton Towers for work (yes really!)

On 1st June I got to go to Alton Towers for free – for work!

Alex and I went up the day before and stayed at the Splash Landings Hotel. My cousin Abby was right – it looks and smells like a giant swimming pool – but the smell of chlorine aside, it was a very fun and cheery place. There were ducks waddling around on the patio! And cocktails! And a free all-you-can-eat breakfast!

On Saturday morning, after my free all-you-can-eat breakfast, I headed over to the conference centre for some presentations about Merlin partnerships and their hospitality areas (the work part of this trip) and my second free breakfast! Alex grabbed his free ticket and went straight to the park, then started texting me about all the amazing rides he was going on (with no queue time because the park wasn’t even open to the public yet!). The Merlin team were kind enough to keep their presentations short, so before long I was standing under the Sonic Spinball ride, waiting for Alex to finish spinning so we could explore the park together!

First of all we hit the brand new ride, The Smiler. It was supposed to have opened a few days before but was broken (eeek!), so we were among the first people to try it out. The queue was enormous – about 3 hours long – but we opted for the single rider queue and walked straight on with no wait at all! I screamed my way around all 14 loops, and then went on again straight afterwards like some crazy loon. I ended up sitting next to a teenage boy who worked at Alton Towers and had come in on his day off specially to ride The Smiler. When I spoke to him he was on his 6th go!

Having fun at Alton Towers
Having fun at Alton Towers

We then went on a multitude of other rides, including Oblivion, Air, Hex, Ripsaw, Nemesis and Nemesis Sub-Terra. Even though it was a Saturday we were very lucky with the queue times. We even got front row seats on the Runaway Mine Train, but were kind enough to give them up to a small child and his dad – making the little boy’s day and ensuring good karma for the rest of our lives I would think.

By the end of the day I was exhausted (and dreading the long drive home) but very happy that my first trip to Alton Towers had been such a blast – and free of course!