Friday, 27 December 2013

A RUN UP TUGGERANONG HILL

    
A RUN UP TUGGERANONG HILL
 by Dave Wheeler
   
    This yarn describes a particularly enjoyable day I had in 2002. I first described that day in a book I wrote entitled "Tales and Philosophy of a Canberra Boy," which is now out of print. It preceded "Tales of a Canberra Boy," which is also out of print. 
   I thought I would rewrite the yarn for this blog because I still experience those sorts of joyful days and I am hoping what I experienced will be an inspiration to others, as such pleasures are readily available to all. One does not need piss or other drugs to enjoy life. Nor does one need buckets of money.
    With this in mind there are two ways you can read this yarn. If you read it anticipating adventure, sex or violence, which are the guts of most movies and novels, you will be disappointed. If however you read it with an open mind in a mindful and relaxed manner you may be able to enjoy vicarious pleasure. 
    A walk to the shops can bring pleasure to those who are able to truly savour the moment and it can be far more intense than the pleasure that is received by those tormented folk who shove alcohol and other drugs down their throats in the hope that they will quell their turbulent minds. Those who blindly and compulsively pursue wealth, sex, status, etc are like kittens chasing their tails, because the lasting satisfaction they seek will always be out of reach.
    
APOLOGIES-
I TRIED TO MAKE A MINOR ADJUSTMENT TO THIS ESSAY AND I AM NOW HAVING FONT PROBLEMS WHICH I AM TRYING TO OVERCOME. I HAVE THEREFORE DELETED THE REST OF IT, AS IT WOULD TOO DISJOINTED FOR A READER TO UNDERSTAND. HOPEFULLY IT WILL NOT BE TOO LONG BEFORE I CAN UPLOAD IT AGAIN.

Friday, 29 November 2013

A BAD MISTAKE ON MOUNT MAJURA
by Dave Wheeler   
   It was sometime in 1999 my elderly parents had a dispute with a bloke who lived over the road from them I will call Robert; a tall skinny, balding bloke in his early thirties.   
   I won't go into details of their dispute other than to say I was of the firm opinion my parents were not at fault.
   The above photo is of Mount Majura, which is where I made the bad mistake I have described in this yarn. It is also the scene for the song "Goanna Oil," sung by Raymond Crooke, which can be listened to free of charge on youtube by clicking
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4W6FJEZd3RM . It is also where we spread the ashes of my mate, the late Geoff Fitzgerald, as described in the story entitled "Fitz and Mount Majura," which is on page 190 of  "Takes of a Canberra Boy." The latter book can be downloaded free of charge by clicking on the appropriate button above. 
   It came to a head when my dad knocked on Robert's door after a certain event had occurred, which resulted in Robert screaming at my elderly cancer-stricken dad and physically assisting him off the property by pushing him. Had he not screamed or pushed him I would not have got involved, but because my dad's personal safety had been threatened, and was therefore still under threat, I felt morally obliged to become involved.      
   Getting assistance from the law would not have helped as it would have been difficult to prove my dad was pushed/assaulted because no injuries were made and there were no witnesses. The process would have also given my dad a lot of stress, which was something he did not need considering his age and condition. 
   How I would ensure it did not happen again was a challenge for me in several ways. I thought the problem could only be solved with physical violence or a threat of physical violence, be it from the law or elsewhere. 
   The universe operates as a result of physical violence, with superior forces always overpowering inferior forces, and it seemed to me human garbage like Robert would only change his cowardly ways if he thought his actions would result in his body being damaged or him being deprived of his liberty.       
   I find the idea of bullying abhorrent under most circumstances having been bullied myself as a kid. If however, I was to bully a bully like Robert, who I could tell was as weak as piss for a bloke his age, could it be morally justified?      
   When contemplating the morality behind using violence or threatening to use violence in certain situations I thought of the lobby groups who are strongly opposed to those who use violence as a form of control or to vent their wrath. These lobbyists recommend that violent people be dealt with severely with the full force of the law, particularly violent bullies, which is a blatant contradiction in their philosophy.    
    Don't get me wrong; I agree that violent people should be dealt with by the law. Where I differ from most of the lobbyists I refer to however, is that I am fully conscious of the fact that when the law is used to punish or control the violent a form of bullying violence is used to accomplish the task. I refer to when states, by way of police forces, use their superior force to overpower people, or threaten to overpower people, and/or lock them up; sometimes for very lengthy periods. Violence is violence is violence, whether it is committed by the state within the law by way of a police force or an army, or whether it is committed by an individual illegally.    
   It is up to us to decide when committing acts of violence can be morally justified, and in saying that I am referring to the morality of situations and am not encouraging anyone to do anything of an illegal nature.
  I worked on building sites in the Berra during my youth with many middle aged Germans, and almost all of them fought for Germany during WW2. These blokes were invariably very law-abiding and conservative and not at all violent in their day-to-day lives. Yet I wondered if they had learnt anything by the huge mistake they had made when they blindly followed the orders of the Fuhrer, their supreme authority figure during the war. 
   I don't know how many of the Canberra Germans were ex SS and actually performed atrocities on Jews, Poles, Gypsies, homosexuals, communists, etc, but supposing they didn't, and supposing they just fought for Germany during the war under the rules of war, that alone in my mind meant they committed acts of violence which could not be morally justified.
   I am not having a go at the Germans per se; as I believe most Australians would have done the same thing under the same circumstances, because most humans are sheep-like in nature irrespective of their race, nationality or creed. Hitler knew people were subservient to authority and took advantage of it. He was quoted as saying "The masses are blind and stupid." 
   In or around 1971 a couple of mates of mine were thrown out of the German Club, here in the Berra. Of course there would have been many Germans there at the time who had fought under Hitler. My mates stood in the entrance and yelled out "We won the war! We won the war!" They then made machine gun sounds and pretended to fire upon the Germans inside.
    Okay, let's get back to where I was with Robert. I knew something had to be done about him and I knew the last thing I needed at the time was to get in trouble with the law while trying to solve the Robert problem. I was working for the ACT government in 1999 and I did not want to risk the sack. 
   So rather than confront Robert and launch straight into an act of violence or a threat of violence I decided to sit on the problem for a while, although I did not want to sit on it for too long. 
   I'd been running up Mount Majura regularly (I still do today intermittently as it gives me great pleasure, even though due to my more advanced years I now run at glacial speed) and I thought I'd seen Robert up there on several occasions. I therefore also thought that maybe the opportunity to confront him may arise when there was nobody on the mountain but the two of us. 
   I had also learnt through experience that sometimes one's brain can solve problems if it is allowed to work on them over time non-consciously, and I was hoping an answer to how I would deal with the Robert problem would "come to me." 
   Not long after making my decision to not make an immediate decision on the matter I was running up Mount Majura by myself and I saw in the distance a bloke I took to be Robert walking towards me by himself. I was about three quarters of the way up the mountain whereas he had been to the top and was walking back.
    I was placed in the sort of situation people are often placed in when they try to give up smoking or drinking or eating garbage food. They see the positives and negatives of each course of action or non-action and can feel a sort of cognitive dissonance if they cannot decide immediately in a single-minded manner the choice they should make.
    I could have suffered in that way had I have not known how to handle such situations, as I had to balance the welfare of my dad and the welfare of myself. I had no wish to see my dad bullied again and I had no wish to be locked up and/or sacked from my job for committing an act of violence. 
   
    I was also aware however, that because we do not have contra causal free will Robert was not responsible for his actions in the absolute sense, which meant I did not feel as much animosity towards him as I would have had I have not been aware of him being no more than a collection of cells that had been involuntarily manipulated by the forces of the universe. This however, did not diminish a partial urge I had to slap him around and threaten him, as my paramount concern was my dad's welfare. Fortunately I am able to ensure I never suffer that sort of cognitive dissonance and am always able to make the sorts of decisions I was referring to in a single-minded manner. 
   My philosophy as described in the book I wrote entitled "A Rationalist's Guide to Life" which describes how one can overcome the sort of cognitive dissonance described in the previous paragraphs is beyond the capacity of most people to understand. I shake my head when I see people paying good money to attend "boot camps" to make themselves exercise or when I see "give up" groups dedicated to assisting people give up smoking or overeating. They need an understanding of how the decision-making process works and how one is able to ensure one can make decisions in a single-minded manner and as such devoid of cognitive dissonance. 
   This resulted in my approaching my quarry with no set plan. How I reacted would depend on how he reacted. 
I had the option of slapping him around a bit and applying a partial sleeper to his neck, making him think I was going to murder him at the time. I could then release him, then let him know what he was in for if he ever dealt with my dad the way he had again. But, as I have indicated, how I would react would depend on how he reacted, and I would make sure that whatever I did I could not be in trouble with the law. 
   So, while allowing the reptilian part of my brain to operate for a while I approached him. As I did my hands began tingling and I began to silently laugh to myself. I said to him in an appropriate tone of voice, “How’s it going mate?” Aren’t you the bloke who lives over the road from my dad?”
   In a shaking voice he said, “I think you’re mistaking me for someone else.”
   I asked him if he lived in Watson and when he told me he did not it struck me he seemed too well-spoken for the inbred I had presumed he was. It also struck me that the sort of person who exercises regularly does not usually fall into the inbred/bogan category, which was the category Robert fell right into. 
    On top of all that I became conscious of the fact that I have become a bit short-sighted as I aged, and for that reason I realised I may have made a dreadful mistake by thinking someone who looked like Robert was Robert.
    A sinking feeling hit me after a couple more seconds as I became fully aware of the fact that the bloke I had approached on Mount Majura was not the same bloke who had bullied my dad.
  I felt like crawling under a rock, and that feeling could have continued had I let it. After I sincerely apologised to the bloke for mistaking him for someone else he did not say much and instead of continuing his walk he ran off. I have not seen him on Mount Majura since. 
    I immediately continued my run up Mount Majura and did my best to savour the here-and-now rather than focus on the terrible mistake I had made. I focused on my breath, the wind in my face, the sun on my skin and the sound of the birds. Why people use drugs to sooth their troubled minds when such superior options are available is beyond me.
   Within a week of finishing my run I had a good close look at the real Robert and I could see the physical differences between him and the bloke I had confronted on the mountain, but the differences were not great. Through sheer bad luck on my part they had very similar ages, physiques and degrees of baldness. 
   The mistake I made occurred because I was not sufficiently conscious of the fact that some people do have near doubles and my eyesight could no longer be relied upon for viewing things at a distance.
   After the Mount Majura episode I made sure another event occurred which resulted in the real Robert being motivated to stay away from my dad for the rest of my dad's life. My dad had another 7 Robert-free years before his death at the age of 84.
FOR MANY MORE MAINLY CANBERRA-BASED YARNS HIT THE "HOME" BUTTON UP THE TOP.

Monday, 21 October 2013

CRACE-CANBERRA'S NEWEST SLUM OR AN URBAN PARADISE?

CRACE-CANBERRA'S NEWEST  SLUM OR 
AN URBAN PARADISE?
by Dave Wheeler


    Before discussing the new Canberra suburb of Crace I will say that Canberra has changed a lot since I first arrived at the age of 8 turning 9 in 1961. Although I am conscious of the fact that sometimes when people look back in time they think of the positive things they experienced and forget the negatives and thus give themselves a false impression of what things were really like, I can’t help believing that Canberra now delivers most people a poorer quality of life than it did in my youth. I can back up my beliefs with some relevant facts.
   Let's take housing and housing affordability. Buying a house cannot be compared to the purchase of items such as jewelry or items which have a limited use, such as electronic gadgetry. Having one’s own territory is basic to our species, be it collectively or individually, and it is something most humans have always had and something which usually improves a person's quality of life. And buying a house with a reasonably sized backyard is something which was well within the reach of most Australians up until the mid 1990’s.
  In 1981 a basic 12 square house with a backyard of around 800 square metres in an outer suburb of Canberra was easily affordable for most people, and this also applied to most of the rest of urban Australia. During this time period a person earning around $23,000.00 pa (which is what a tradesman would have earned on a 38 or 40 hour week or what an unskilled person would have earned for the same hours with penalty rates) could buy a house of the latter description in an outer Canberra suburb for around $46,000.00. Low interest government loans were also available provided your income was not too high. 
   If you don’t believe me have a look at 1981 copies of the Canberra Times where jobs and houses are advertised. I know this to be the case because I bought such a house in 1981.
   A tradesman living in Canberra today would have to be on around $220,000.00 pa for such a house to be as affordable, because the same house I bought in Chisholm in 1981(a modest 3 bedroom 12 square house without an ensuite on an 800 square metre block and still located in an outer suburb) would sell for around $440,000.00.
   Houses were even more affordable in the 60’s, and people were often able to get 100% low interest government loans to make them even easier to pay off. It was also easier to rent a government-owned house and they could usually be purchased with a 100% low interest government loan after a couple of years of renting. 
   Govies also did not have the same stigma as they do today as they were not reserved for the very poor. I know several school teachers who were living in government houses and who later purchased them with cheap government loans during the sixties and seventies. There is no way a schoolteacher would be given a government house today.
   Pig Iron Bob Menzies, not long after the war when building materials became more easily available, was determined to make the purchase of a basic house affordable for all working Australians because he was of the belief that if people owned their own houses it would stop the spread of communism. He achieved his goal, and maybe housing affordability, plus virtually 100% employment due to our having high tariffs, did make people less politically active than they would have otherwise been simply because life was easy and most people were satisfied with their lot.
  (Menzies' protectionist economic philosophy was a long way to the left of the left of today's Labor Party or today's Greens. High tariffs also reduced greenhouse gases considerably as it meant items had less distance to travel between producer and consumer.)
   Today even houses with tiny backyards, such as are found in much of the Canberra suburb of Crace, are far less affordable than a house with an 800 square metre block was in the early 80’s. Some of the blocks in Crace are as small as 250 square metres and I have not seen many larger than 550 square metres. About 450 square metres seems to be the most common size, which is tiny relative to the size of most Canberra blocks up until relatively recently. 
   (The issue of our having smaller blocks is very controversial and I can recall not long ago seeing signs advertising Crace which had been defaced by having the letters "Dis" sprayed on them before the name "Crace."
   Having said that, presumably because it has so many tiny blocks, I was not surprised to read an article in the Canberra Times on the 17/10/13 which claims that Crace is second to Charnwood as the most affordable suburb in the ACT to buy a house, with the medium price being $392,308.00. Charnwood's cheapness can be explained by the fact it is an outer suburb and a previous administration made the enormous mistake of placing a large number of government houses in close proximity to each other, thereby increasing the crime rate. I am not sure how many govies there are in Crace or how the presence or absence of govies may affect the price of Crace blocks.) 
     We are now seeing in Canberra continuing "infill” in an attempt to Gungahlinise the place and thus ensure most residents will eventually be living cheek-by-jowl like they do in much of Gungahlin. 
   Normal sized blocks anywhere in Canberra are now expensive, and as a result pensioners who own houses in the inner suburbs like Braddon and Ainslie are being forced to move out because they cannot afford to pay the hefty land rates, which have risen at a far higher pace than the CPI.
  POSSIBLE PROBLEMS ASSOCIATED WITH LIVING IN A HOUSE WITH A SMALL BACKYARD AND CLOSE PROXIMITY TO NEIGHBOURS  
  Our local Liberal, Labor and Greens politicians think living cheek-by-jowl is great, although probably only for people other than themselves. The main reason they like it is because when a given area of land is sold to a developer and the developer divides it into small blocks it will mean more revenue per hectare for the ACT government in the form of initial stamp duty, (even if stamp duty has been reduced), but more so in ongoing rates. As previously stated, land rates have increased at a far higher pace than the CPI and they are destined to continue on that path. It also means less costs in infrastructure. 
   One would think the Lib's by being in opposition would have something to say, but they have always been in the pocket of big business and they will also grab the revenue if they ever get into power, (which is unlikely because of the way they tried to reduce the pay and conditions of ACT public servants when they were in office).
   The Lib's, Labor and Greens also rarely speak out against the destruction of the buildings I grew up with, and as a result I have seen Civic turn from a quiet and relaxed place, where one could park easily for free, to an absolute sewer. The word “vibrant” is now used to describe the place, which I see as a sickening euphemism for the words hectic, noisy and overcrowded. I do my best to avoid Civic and I think that if Walter Burley Griffin came back to life and saw how far Canberra has deviated from his plan he would vomit. 
   In regard to our loss of heritage and the matter of wastage, I’ve seen some very historic buildings in the Civic area destroyed over the previous 4 decades and I have seen on certain blocks 3 or 4 buildings erected and destroyed during that period. Think of the energy that went into making those buildings and the CO2 that was produced with every rebuild! And it continues!
   I believe most members of the ACT Heritage Council are a bunch of gutless wonders because I see their stance as blatantly pro development considering what they have knocked back for heritage listing, the Turner PCYC being an example. I have been told by what I believe is a reputable source that some Council members are on the take, but I am unable to provide any evidence to back that claim. Yet even the ACT Heritage Council had their heritage listing of St Pat’s school in Braddon overturned. I suppose the historic Northbourne Oval will be the next to go. 
   The ACT government has recently announced that they may not open the Civic Pool again because of the extreme cost of fixing a leak. This is really insulting our intelligence. How gullible would you have to be to believe that? if they want to bring in the bulldozers and sell off the land why don't they have the guts to just say it? I wonder if certain ACT politicians are having their palms greased.
   Where this is leading is to my being contacted by a person who is also concerned by the relatively recent trend in Canberra of building houses on tiny blocks, particularly in new suburbs, and with "infill." He believes the ACT government is trying to con us into believing that living like sardines will improve our quality of life (social engineering) and that we have no choice other than to accept smaller blocks for environmental reasons. 
     He sent me a link to a letter to the editor in the Canberra Times which described the new Gungahlin suburb of Crace as looking like “a new slum," presumably because it has a large number of very small blocks within it. 
   The writer was commenting on an article by Canberra Times journalist Emma Macdonald entitled "Search for World's Happiest Suburb starts in Crace, Canberra," which appeared on the 10/9/13.
   Emma was reporting that a team of University of Canberra academics is attempting through the ''The Crace Study'' to find out if the communal design of Crace will have long-term benefits for resident's health and wellbeing. Apparently homes are built around communal and recreational areas and people regularly meet in places such as the communal vegetable garden. The article said in part “The world will be watching, with the World Health Organisation a keen observer of strategies that could be replicated in future suburbs around the globe.”
    The letter-writer seems to be sceptical of the study, as was the person who sent me the clippings. The writer seems to suspect that the developer or the ACT government or some other body which may benefit financially from the project directly or indirectly may be funding the survey. 
    The letter-writer seemed to be implying that if this is the case the survey may not be done with open-minded detachment by the academics (it may be a con-job) and it may be a case of "He who pays the piper calls the tune," meaning whoever pays for the survey will get their preferred result. 
     And as I have suggested, the developer may benefit by being allowed to sell tiny blocks, but more so the ACT government by way of initial stamp duty and ongoing rates, given that the rates are increasing so dramatically and given that it would earn more per hectare in rates with tiny blocks than it would with normal sized blocks. 
   The letter also stated in part "I call upon these academics to assure us the research is not being funded by a developer, the ACT government or any other body which gains financially by selling as many blocks as possible."
   At the date this story was first posted, the 22/10/13, I was not of the opinion that the academics tried to answer the question through the Canberra Times, although I was told by one of them at a later stage that they tried to answer the letter but the Canberra Times chose to not publish it. 
  
   Above is a photo of Crace's spacious housing, showing residents hugging each other and displaying a sense of community. How far would kids have to walk to kick a footy? I am sceptical about virtually anywhere in the Western world today being able to promote a real sense of community having experienced an early childhood without TV and then having seen how its introduction had such an adverse effect on Canberra's sense of community. This was brought home to me when I spent 3 months in Tonga and 4 months in the Cook Islands in 1975 prior to those places having TV or videos. People were far more likely to visit and talk to each other instead of vegetating in front of a box. Things have got progressively worse in the Western world in regard to the destruction of any sense of community with the introduction of multi-TV channels, mobile phones, the device I am using at the moment and other forms of electronic entertainment. These are the "bread and circuses" which stupefy people and allow them to continue to be shat on without them even realising it.
   In relation to the Crace study, as well as asking some pertinent questions I will present what I see as some possible "confounding variables" which could arise when the results of the survey are known. I called upon the academics at the University of Canberra who are conducting the survey to email me by way of the above contact button and explain why the points I have raised may not be an issue. I assured them when this post was first published that I would publish what they have to say in full as soon as it came to my attention. I did receive responses to the concerns I raised, although they were not all answered
The concerns I outlined were as follows:
1/Who is funding the survey? I contacted Professor Helen Berry, who I believe is heading the study or is the head of the university's "Healthy and Sustainable Communities Research Program," and therefore possibly overseeing the study, about this matter. She assured me the study is not funded or undertaken on behalf of the developer, even though the developer provided a very small degree of in-kind support such as advertising the study on its website and printing information leaflets about the study for residents. She also explained that they have a written agreement with the developer asserting and assuring the independence of their research and that it was prepared with the active support of the developer. 
   She did not however, tell me who is funding the project, so I wrote back to her assuming it was not being funded by any body which may benefit directly or indirectly from the outcome of the survey, but she did not write back to me assuring me I was correct. And even if the developer is not providing a direct injection of funds to the survey is the assistance he/she/it is providing saving the university a lot of money?
    Why I asked this was because I received from a mate an invitation he received to participate in the study. I am presuming it was sent by the developer and it offers those eligible to participate in the survey a chance to enter a draw for prizes if they participate. 
    What I was asking was that if we accept that the developer is not funding the study directly, if the developer was not promoting the study how would the University of Canberra have got anyone to participate? Would it have meant the academics had to knock on doors to get people to participate or pay others to knock on doors? Surely the developer's assistance would have saved them a lot of time and therefore a lot of money in the form of wages in this respect? 
 
    In summarising the point I was making, it may well be that the Uni of Canberra's survey is not being funded by vested interests, but if this is the case we need to be assured this is the case, because any study which is being funded directly or indirectly by a body which may benefit from a preferred result is not worth two bob. I say this because many people, including me, believe in the adage, "He who pays the piper calls the tune." 
  (I have since discovered Professor Berry was overseas when I first wrote to her, hence the delay in a response, and after having made contact with the UC their response to the matter of funding is shown at the base of this post).
2/ I would have thought the survey would have been confined to those who have lived in Crace for more than a year in order for such folk to have been able to give a true opinion on the matter, but I am led to believe this is not the case and that even people just intending to purchase in Crace are allowed to participate. If I am correct how could such people know what it was like to live in Crace if they have never lived there?
  (Professor Berry bought in Crace, which should disqualify her from carrying out the study considering her property may rise in value if the study suggests the residents have an increased quality of life. I strongly suspect that would be her preferred result, and if so there would be a real conflict of interest).
3/ Those who live in Crace would be mainly those who have moved there by choice, as opposed to someone like me who would not choose to live in Crace. Therefore, it would be more than likely they will not speak as negatively about the place as someone like me who would not go there by choice. If this is the case the usefulness of the survey may be limited to the extent that it would not necessarily mean a broad cross section of Australia's population would enjoy living in a suburb designed like Crace even if the results indicated that Crace residents enjoyed living there.
4/ If people have put their life savings towards a house in Crace are they going to admit to themselves let alone those conducting the survey that their neighbourhood does not deliver them a high quality of life?
5/ Is the survey going to find the mean level of contentment of the varying categories of people who live in Crace, ie single people, married people, married people with and without children, people with and without pets, migrants from a variety of countries, retirees, all of the former who are either renters or house owners, etc, or is it going to gauge the level of contentment for each of a myriad of groups?
  I say this because one person's hell can be another's paradise, and I can see for instance that someone raised in high-density London, Shanghai, Hong Kong or Calcutta would be more likely to find living cheek-by-jowl in Crace acceptable, whereas someone raised in Australia in a house with a normal sized backyard may be far less likely.
6/ Is the same survey being conducted in older suburbs in Canberra with normal sized backyards where residents are able to keep dogs, throw parties, have their kids run around while they are being watched, plant fruit trees, etc, to compare the quality of life experienced between the suburbs? If not why not?
7/ If I had just bought in Crace I would be aware that if the survey revealed that the residents of Crace were happier than anywhere else in Australia it may improve dramatically the value of my property. For that reason I would be tempted to tell the survey I loved the suburb even if it made me feel as miserable as a bandicoot. Has this question been addressed?
8/ Given that so many Australians own dogs or would like to own a dog if they could, living in one of the tiny blocks found in Crace would ensure a moral person did not purchase a dog because in doing so it would be cruel to the dog and a pain for neighbours who would be in close proximity to its faeces and possibly its barking. This is not so much of a problem in suburbs which contain blocks of a normal size. With tiny blocks a dog owner would have to be waiting with a spade for his dog to defecate so he could pick up the faeces immediately after it was laid to ensure its smell was not inhaled by a neighbour.
   I emailed Professor Helen Berry about this issue and asked her if they had consulted the RSPCA as well as the health authorities in regard to the keeping of dogs in Crace. She told me the survey was not focusing on pet ownership and they had not been in discussions with the RSPCA but she did not say why. This issue needs to be addressed because pet ownership is part of the Australian way of life, and when dogs are kept in small blocks the issues of hygiene and animal welfare are real.
9/ Many Australians do not like to live near government housing. It is not my intention to discuss whether this is because of blatant unwarranted prejudice and snobbery or whether it is because many Australians rightly or wrongly believe that government housing tenants are more likely to have social problems and are as such more likely to be unpleasant to live near.
    Australia's prejudices on this matter seems to be proven by the fact that privately-owned property adjoining or near government housing is worth considerably less than identical privately-owned property with little or no nearby government housing. For this reason it would seem that people living near government housing would be more likely to be dissatisfied with where they live than people who are not, and as such may be more likely to record a lower level of wellbeing. 
   In relation to Crace, I do not know what percentage of the houses are government-owned or how the government housing may be distributed. For all I know Crace may have no government housing at all. 
    Therefore, if the Crace survey is going to compare the level of wellbeing of Crace residents with the level of wellbeing of residents from other Canberra suburbs, it will need to establish how much government housing each suburb has on a percentage basis and how it is distributed. After doing so the survey would need to explain how the suburb's differences in government housing percentages and distribution and their differences in design were taken into account when comparing the levels of wellbeing of residents from each suburb. 
    In regard to the government housing tenants themselves, if they have a lower sense of wellbeing than other Australians because of them being on the lower rung of the socioeconomic ladder, it presents yet another reason for the survey having to take into account the percentage of government housing tenants in Crace compared to the percentage of government housing tenants in other Canberra suburbs. 
  I do not know if the Crace survey is addressing this issue or how it could be done.
IS THERE A CHOICE? 
  Okay, let's forget about the question of whether the Crace project has any worth or whether it is a con job and instead ask ourselves if we have a choice other than to live on small blocks. It is claimed that living cheek-by-jowl encourages energy efficiency and will help us save the planet from the effects of CO2, but does it?
  To answer that I will first say that there is good argument to suggest that the old suburban ideal of a quarter acre can already be very energy efficient if we can disconnect from the power grid, water and sewerage services and grow our own veggies, which some people have already done. 
   We already have the technology to do so, and if batteries which do not wear out are ever invented there will be a rush to disconnect. Those who live cheek-by-jowl in Crace may not have the capacity to fully benefit from disconnecting from all services should this technology become available. 
   
   The idea of local communal reservoirs which collect rain water could also be a solution as could be the case for local power production such as by way of wind turbines or solar technology. 
     Since writing this post I have been told there was an article in the Canberra Times which maintained that the temperature in the older leafier suburbs of Canberra is around 7 degrees lower than the newer sardine-like suburbs during heat waves due to there being more vegetation around the older houses. If so imagine the amount of power the residents of Crace will use on their air conditioning compared to those who live in the older suburbs during the summer months.
   The other alternative of course is for us to not increase Australia's population, because in doing so Canberra will grow far more slowly or not at all, and tiny blocks will not be necessary. 
  This however, would involve economists and federal politicians discarding their growth mantra in regard to the economy and population. (The Stable Population Party is the only political party which has done so, although no representative holds office). It would involve them accepting that nothing in the universe can grow forever, but unfortunately most politicians (other than the lone Labor voice of Kelvin Thomson) are too egotistical, bent or stupid to accept such a reality.
    To explain how we could jump off the growth train and alter our economic system to ensure we had full employment and were ecologically sustainable in the process would require a book, although Ernst Schumacher goes part of the way in explaining how it can be done in his literature.  
   Of course Canberra could go it alone and and send a strong message to our federal politicians by simply not releasing anymore land, thus leaving it to the Queanbeyan Council to either take up the local overflow from our ridiculously high level of immigration or to go the same way as Canberra. 
   Our local Labor, Liberal and Green politicians, who are puppets to big business, would not be in it, although there is a possibility the Greens could eventually be pressured into taking such a stance, because in the eyes of true conservationists their "big Australia" stance makes them look like absolute hypocrites who care little or nothing about future generations of Australians. I know several ex Green members who have resigned because of the Green's gutlessness on this issue and many current members who are trying to change things from within.

UPDATE-26/10/13 
   I emailed our pseudo Green, Shane Rattenbury, who amongst other things is our minister for housing, on the 26/10/13. I asked his office if the ACT government is partly or wholly funding the Crace study. I was told the Crace study was not being funded by the ACT government either partly or wholly.


FURTHER UPDATE-5/11/13-
  I had further communication with a person from the University of Canberra regarding the Crace Study who I will not name as I am paraphrasing what I have been told and I may get some information wrong. 
    I will now paraphrase what was communicated to me to the best of my ability.
    I was informed by a person involved in the Crace study that the University of Canberra is preparing a "summary explainer" regarding sources of research funding and how they approach their possible influence on their practice. I was told the explainer will be made available on their website when it is ready and that their website is 
     In regard to general points I made in this post I was told that the UC takes the issues I have raised seriously as does the person I communicated with, and that the UC has numerous sources of advice and regulation to assist researchers, as well as being subject to national regulations around research and ethics and financial accounting, and that they are all publicly available. In addition to this I was told that general information about their research centre and projects can be found at the previously shown link to their website.  
    I was told that in addition to working with colleagues at the UC and other universities sometimes non-academic partners are involved when it is possible and appropriate. I was told this may include representatives of government, industry, the non-profit sector and other representative groups. 
   The view expressed to me was that research is better designed, conducted, interpreted and shared if undertaken with suitable partners. 
   In regard to the continual job the researchers have of sourcing funding for research when it is required, I was led to believe that until a fairy godmother appears all they can do is seek funding from a wide variety of sources, including research funding bodies, and that, as previously stated, the conduct of such relationships is governed by numerous regulations and guidelines and that the partners are usually governed by similar regulations of their own. 
    I was told the personal practice of the person in charge of the Crace study is to make the source of funding procedure overt and that that person conducts bonafide research and applies scientific principles at all times in order to design and conduct the research. I was also told the interpretation and publication of research findings is not negotiable and made clear.
    In relation to the Crace Study, I was told that it has received no direct financial support at all from any source.

FURTHER UPDATE 4/10/16. If the questions I have raised were answered on the previously shown link to the Crace study website, as I was told they would be, I could not find where they were answered. Actually it took me to a Canberra Uni log in. I presume the site no longer exists. If I am wrong and the study and site still exist I am happy to publish the details of any update should someone in the know care to contact me. I strongly doubt I will be contacted.

FURTHER UPDATE 31/3/17
   On the ABC TV program on the 31/3/17, “ The Link”, Professor Helen Berry was interviewed about the Crace Study by Stan Grant. 
  I think Stan did an appalling job as a journo in regard to the questions he asked. He had no hesitation in getting stuck into Dick Smith last week regarding Dick wanting to stabilise our population, why did he not at least play the Devil’s advocate with Professor Berry? 
   As Professor Berry owns property in Crace why did he not ask her why she did not disqualify herself from the study and instead study somewhere else, given that her property value is likely to rise if the research indicates the people in Crace are happier than elsewhere?  Surely there is a conflict of interest there? If someone studied the health benefits of avocados and he had a large avocado farm is he likely to be objective? Studies like that are not worth two bob.
   Why did Grant not question the idea of Crace being designed to improve people’s wellbeing, as is the claim? It seems obvious to me Crace was designed to get as many blocks as possible into a given area of land to maximise the developer’s profit and to increase government revenue through stamp duty. 
  I also noticed professor Berry has an English accent. Most English live in built-up high density areas. If this was how Professor Berry lived when she was in England she may enjoy living like a sardine and it may be why she chose to live in Crace, but that does not mean Australians who were raised on their quarter acre also block feel that way.
   I look forward to reading the results of the Crace study and seeing if any of the points I have raised have been addressed.

 
Above are cheek by jowl dog boxes that are being made in Molonglo (September 2016), probably from a lot of prefab Chinese material. What an existence! Who wants to live like a battery hen?
Below is a photo of Hong Kong. The lowlife that governs the ACT (Labor, Canberra Liberals and Greens) would love to see us live like they do in Hong Kong. It would be really "vibrant."




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Friday, 13 September 2013

LEGALISED CHILD ABUSE AT SCHOOLS IN THE CANBERRA DISTRICT DURING THE 20TH CENTURY.


LEGALISED CHILD ABUSE AT SCHOOLS IN THE CANBERRA DISTRICT DURING THE 20TH CENTURY.
   Matters relating to very serious child abuse that occurred during the 20th century have been brought to the public's attention during the last 20 years and are well-documented. I refer to the theft of Aboriginal kids, sexual abuse of kids in institutions and the abuse and virtual slavery of Pommie orphans who were placed in Australian institutions after WW2.
  It is because corporal punishment in schools during the 20th Century was mainstream, of a less immoral nature than child theft or sexual abuse and usually carried out with the permission of parents, the matter has been virtually ignored and is not at all well-documented. With this in mind the purpose of this particular yarn/rant is to record incidences of legalised child abuse in schools in the Canberra district during the 20
th century which involved humiliating kids or perpetrating acts of physical violence upon them.
   It of course occurred throughout Australia during this period, but as this blog is Canberra and districts-centric I am confining the documentation to Canberra and surrounding districts. 



   Corporal punishment was a part of the culture at the time, and this was probably because of the biblical notion of sparing the rod and spoiling the child, although such ideology based on Christian dogma obviously spread into secular society.    
  I can recall while attending Maclean Public school in 2nd class (Year 2) seeing one particular lad whacked because he was writing with his left hand. Apparently there is some primitive association in Christianity between left handedness and Satan.
   In documenting abuse in Canberra and district schools I will start with the public school system. I will begin by recounting what my mum told me about the violence she witnessed while she attended a public school in Queanbeyan in the 1930’s, during the Depression.
   She recalled to me how during that period she saw poverty-stricken kids come to school in the winter with bare feet. Some kids had burst eardrums from untreated infections and others suffered rickets, goiter and other diseases caused by poor nutrition. 
   She also told me of one particular lad who came from a very poor family who was a bit slow, and at the age of around 7 or 8 he was regularly beaten over the knuckles for not being able to answer questions which were obviously far too difficult for him to answer. He would stand there sobbing, and of course my mum and other more sensitive kids suffered vicariously. She also told me of one little girl who was made to stand up inside a chimney and how the teacher beat her because she got soot on her dress.
   In regard to my own experiences, when I first came to Canberra in 1961 I was 8, turning 9 and in 3rd class (Year 3) attending North Ainslie Primary. Not long after I arrived I received a hard caning (2 cuts) on the hand from a male teacher who held a senior position and I almost passed out from the pain and trauma.
   During my 4 years at North Ainslie I saw and experienced much in the way of physical and verbal violence towards kids. When in year 4 my mates and I were whacked regularly on the arse, usually 3 or 4 times, with a large blackboard ruler. It was very painful and left bruises. I suspect the perpetrator got a sexual thrill from it.
    The worst form of humiliation at North Ainslie I witnessed was that of a mate who, like me, had no interest in school. When he didn't know what a verb was he was asked to stand up for an extended period. Several kids from years below us were asked to come into the classroom and tell our class what a verb was in order to humiliate him by demonstrating how far behind he was in his work. I think he was caned after the humiliation but I am unsure. 

   Violence seemed completely acceptable in those times, or at least not taken too seriously. I can recall when I was in 4th class seeing a fight between a large kid in 6th class and a smaller kid about the same age, where the smaller kid was knocked unconscious. He was dragged away to the sick room by a teacher. Apparently the perpetrator received a couple of cuts of the cane, which would have been no more than what he would have received had he have been sent out of class for talking. Today such an offence would have been taken much more seriously. 
   I was contacted by a person who attended North Ainslie primary several years after me who had the following to say regarding physical abuse by way of the regular caning of a lad who may have turned out to be gay. If so it would have been the equivalent of caning a little girl.
  "When I was a student at North Ainslie Primary School in the late 1960's the boys were often caned and the girls received a ruler to the back of the legs, as was the norm in all schools at that time. This however was just the physical punishment received by those who had allegedly erred. Psychologically the ripple effect was also at play. What still stays with me today is hearing the sickening pleas and cries from a boy in the classroom next door to mine when in Year 4 or 5. He would cry and plead "Please Sir, please don't hit me" and when I would eventually hear the inevitable thwack from the cane hitting his hands, he'd scream at the top of his voice with every stroke. Inside our classroom, and possibly inside the others along the corridor within earshot of the caning, we would all be absolutely silent and our heads would be bowed down at our books trying not to listen. I remember feeling like I was going to be sick. I can still hear the terrified cries today and remember how it affected me at the time. I can't imagine the effect it must have had on him." 
       Another person who contacted me regarding North Ainslie Primary was 3 years ahead of me. He told me of a bloke who came to the school on several occasions to give students IQ tests, which would have eventually guided the high schools in regard to which classes kids should have been placed in.
   When he mentioned the IQ tester's name I could recall the man, and my memory of him produces in me visions of a bloke I thought at the time was angry, violent and bullying. According to the bloke who contacted me, just before his class was about to sit for one of their final IQ tests the apparent sadistic bully gave a lad a hard slap across the face. If this did occur, with the shock of it all I can only imagine how poorly the boy performed in his test on that day and how his poor performance would have affected how he was placed when he reached high school. 
   When I went on to Dickson High in 1965 the caning culture continued along with other forms of physical and psychological abuse. One particular male teacher at Dickson High who was there in 1965 was an absolute psycho. I won't name him, but any student who was at Dickson High at the time will know exactly who he is. 
   I was in 1st form (Year 7) and aged 12 turning 13 that year, when he walked past our classroom. We were making a noise as our teacher had to step out, so when he saw my mate, Jan Aamodt, and me turned around and talking to the kids behind us he walked over to us and slapped us both across the face. Jan got one hard slap but I got 2 and felt some concussion at the time. I was very frustrated by the fact that I did not have the physical capacity to give him a hiding. I was told however, he received a couple of hidings from older kids at various times during his teaching career. What a piece of shit! I really hope he's dead. 
    A year later I was picked up and thrown by a very powerful teacher, and a year after that he caned Slob Kirby and me. I once received 6 on each hand from another teacher but there was no comparison between the 12 I received on that occasion and the 4 we each received on the occasion I am referring to. I don't know how it didn't break the bones in our hands! We each had bruising and blood blisters running the entire width of our hands from each stroke we received and the pain after the event was intense.
   The male teachers were by no means the only perpetrators of violence and therefore not the only ones who should be vilified for acts of child abuse. Most female teachers were more  than willing to send kids to male teachers knowing full well it would result in the kids being caned, which meant they may as well have been doing it themselves. It's no different than a person paying a hitman to murder someone and then somehow trying to claim he is less immoral than the hitman.
  
    I can also remember a female teacher we had ordering the late Bluey Cowan to put a small rubbish bin on his head. He quite rightly refused, so she threatened to send him to the headmaster to be caned. He then told her that if she sent him to the headmaster he would get his father involved. So realising the repercussions of the situation she backed down, but when doing so she called him a weak person for resorting to the use of his father. 
   Even at that age I could see the large flaw in her argument. She was happy to bully him when she thought she had the weight of the Australian government backing her up but she thought Bluey weak for threatening to use his father to challenge the system. What a sack of shit she was!   
    In regard to Catholic schools, there was also obviously abuse, although I never went to one. I have however, debated over the years with some of my mates who went to Daramalan College as to whether the teachers at Dickson High were more brutal and abusive than those who taught at Daramalan. 
   As far at the secular vs religious schools brutality debate goes, from what my mate who bordered at Yanco Agricultural College told me it would seem that the secular schools were far more brutal, at least as far as boarding schools were concerned. Having said that, I do not know anyone my age who went to a Protestant or Catholic boarding school. When my mate and I started the equivalent of Year 7 in 1965, (he went to Yanco and I went to Dickson High) the most senior year was Year 11 (or 5th form). My mate tells me that at Yanco during that period their prefects, who would have been kids who were 16 turning 17, were given the authority to cane kids who they thought were misbehaving after school hours. Apparently they did not hesitate. My mate needs to write something about his experiences at Yanco Agricultural College. I will not say anymore in this post about the place because this site is Canberra and districts centric. If anyone who went to Yanco Ag College during that time thinks I have it wrong let me know and I will publish your comments.
   I was also told by a mate who went to Marist College here in Canberra many years after I had left school that Marist kept a large, thick strap, and many parents signed a note giving permission for it to be used on their kids. The older teachers at Marist also apparently continued to use the cane for some time. 
   I received the following from a mate who attended St Pat's in Braddon in the fifties.
   I started primary school at St Pat's School in Braddon in 1957. A few years later they changed the name to "Our Lady of Mercy" but a more appropriate name could have been "Our Lady of No Mercy." I remember a nun who taught me in second class who was prone to violent outbursts. She must have had training in martial arts as she did not use weapons to discipline children and instead used her hands and fists. She would grasp the child by the hair from behind, reef the head back and simultaneously punch them in the back. I can't remember it happening to me most likely because I was careful to avoid doing anything to warrant such treatment.
   Let's however, go back in time to when Benedict House in Queanbeyan, which is now a cafe, restaurant and craft shop, was running as St Benedict's Convent. If the following information supplied to me by a person who recently visited the place is correct it would seem the abuse at St Benedict's was rife until its closure.
     "Last month I had lunch at the cafe at Benedict House. As I was interested in the story of the old building I asked one of the women working there about its history. She explained the rooms downstairs were once classrooms and the nuns and the female students slept upstairs. She said that many nuns and ex students had visited in recent years and their memories have been written down and a book has been produced. She said there seemed to be too much of an emphasis in the book on the punishments the nuns gave the girls rather than an emphasis made of the positive happenings at that time. Therefore they weren't making the book available for sale to the public." 
  Footnote on the above- If anyone would like to contact me disputing the information I was given regarding the said book about St Benedicts being withdrawn from sale for the reasons stated please do so. 
   The Australian historians who, through self-censorship during the 20th century, decided to distort our history by not telling students about Aboriginal massacres and the abuse of Aboriginal children, are now despised for their efforts. If the previously mentioned book that records memories of Benedict House is not being made available to the public because of a desire to censor history those responsible should also be condemned.
   In regard to further comment about abuse in Catholic Schools, I can recall many years ago being told by a girl several years older than me who had attended Catholic Girls' High in or around 1960, (It is now called Merici College), about a nun allegedly hitting a little puppy which was running around the playground on the head with a heavy stick, causing its death. I worked with a temporary worker about 10 years ago who had attended the school during that period and when I asked her about it she told me she had witnessed the event and that what I had been told was accurate. She also told me she cried her eyes out for the rest of the day and all that night and that it caused her a lot of trauma.
  If anyone would like to dispute the event regarding the puppy occurring please contact me. 
   This post will be an ongoing project with stories of abuse I receive added on as I receive them. If anyone would like to contact me giving details of abuse they have suffered or witnessed in schools in the ACT or surrounding districts during the 20th Century please do so by email by clicking on the contact button above. Your name does not need to be published and the teacher/s responsible for the abuse will not be named. 
Dave Wheeler

UPDATE 12/2/16
I received yesterday the following email. For legal reasons I am not publishing the name of the author of the email or the teacher he is referring to. 

Hi Dave,
I read your piece on corporal punishment and violent Canberra teachers. I wonder if you have any information on a teacher called Mr----------- who was at Campbell Primary school around 1969 and the early 1970's. He was a true sadist and psychopath. He was obsessed with building canes in the craft/woodwork room and loved caning children. He provided his caning service for all the school with such a passion and urgency. He actually whimpered audibly with excitement when he did it.
Aside from caning he could be very violent physically and I was one of many kids that was violently assaulted by him. Today he would be jailed for a fraction of what he did to children.
Regards,
-----------
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