Frackman the movie – saying ‘no’ to coal seam gas

Dayne Pratzky aka The Frackman

Dayne Pratzky in his alter-ego as the Frackman says he is ‘the worst environmental activist the world has ever seen’. The thousands who have flocked to see the documentary ‘Frackman’ suggests otherwise.  Directed by Richard Todd and produced by Trish Lake (Freshwater Pictures), Simon Nasht and Kate Hodges (Smith & Nasht) the film documents Dayne’s five year battle to prevent coal seam gas conglomerates from drilling their way through Queensland’s pristine landscapes and the community of Tara in which Dayne lives.  Pratzky in his white Frackman overalls, turns out to be a real-life super hero with powers he didn’t know he had.

Dayne’s path to accidental activism started when he received a knock on the door in 2010 from the Queensland Gas Company. They advised they intended to drill a bore on his property to look for gas and there was nothing he could do to stop them. This is because government not the people, own the resources beneath our feet and the rights of citizens and property owners alike are virtually non-existent in those circumstances. Having bought a parcel of land and with dreams to build a home and a life in Tara, Dayne makes the decision not going to take it lying down.  As the juggernauts from Queensland Gas, Halliburton and Santos rip their way through a once tranquil and contented community, Dayne galvanises the locals to put a stop to it.

Joining him in the push, to push back invasive CSG mining is the Lock the Gate Alliance spearheaded by Drew Hutton. They are joined in their campaign of peaceful resistance by local agriculturalists, environmentalists, indigenous communities and other concerned parties committed to locking their gates to coal seam gas. The film follows Frackman Dayne and community members along their path of peaceful civil disobedience cataloging the highs and lows of a battle we’re left wondering if they can ever really win.

Frackman_press_130711-021The film opens audiences’ eyes to the reality of the seismic changes taking place as a result of multinationals scrambling to take advantage of the next resources boom and get their hands on the spoils. Queensland and New South Wales already have close to four thousand wells anchored into the landscapes. The ariel shots of the carve-up of the landscape are in themselves quite shocking. The process of fracking involves ‘high pressured injection of sand, water and chemicals into the coal seam gas well. The injection causes fractures in the coal seam allowing the gas to flow to the surface of the well’ (Lock The Gate). The toxicity of the chemicals used can potentially leach into the water table and cause serious environmental and health outcomes, which are documented in the film and backed up by experts in the field.

aerial-view-csg-mining-Tara-Qld-460x250The audience hears about the deterioration in water and air quality via local families who report their children suffer from persistent headaches, nosebleeds and rashes as a result of the activities taking place virtually a stone’s throw from their doorsteps. We learn of the physical and mental despair of communities under siege, held over a barrel by multi-national conglomerates who hold all the trump cards. Rivers and waterways which once provided a summer sanctuary bubble and ripple continuously suggesting the presence of escaping gas.

There is plenty of laughter to be had in the documentary with its array of colourful characters as they work to outwit the gas companies, but the message about the impact of relentless coal seam fracking is a serious one.

Frackman_press_130713_166On the flipside, further up the Queensland coast, community residents from Gladstone talk about how their town has benefitted and will continue to do so from the investment and economic boom associated with the arrival of gas companies and that the ‘risk is worth it’. But with the health of marine life deteriorating in the Great Barrier Reef, in what was supposed to be a world heritage listed site, the evidence appears to be under our noses. Colin Hunt, Honorary Fellow of Economics at the University of Queensland also points out that the Environmental Impact Statements conglomerates produce are often ‘done by private companies hired by the businesses backing the project’ so how’s that for a conflict of interest?

This conflict of interest also had me wondering when at the end of the film it transpired that after five years, Dayne had signed a confidential settlement with the mining conglomerate against whom he had long campaigned.  Although I could understand the overwhelming pressure to regain some sense of normality and to get his life back, his subsequent alliance with Simon Sheikh had me scratching my head.  Sheikh is the CEO of Future Super, a Super Fund which does not invest in fossil fuels which in itself is a great step forward.

However to see Dayne sit on stage alongside the CEO of a Super Fund made me feel uneasy because it seemed to me that he had jumped into bed with big business.  And although that big business is concerned with ethical investment and divestment away from fossil fuels, I wondered if that would be enough to stop the main problem of excessive CSG mining.  I don’t think so.  The preventing of future coal seam gas mining can only come from a political imperative (pushed heavily along by grassroots activists) so surely it is at the ballot box that we have the most power to effect real change.  But I do understand Dayne’s desire to get ethical investors in big business to pitt themselves against those who invest in fossil fuels and so perhaps to him, this association was a sensible one.  Viewers will make up their own mind.

It is easy to think that as ordinary people we have no real power.  It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by an issue that is bigger than we are as individuals.  It’s easy to think there’s nothing we can really do.  So what can we do to make sure our voices are heard on Coal Seam Gas?  Well, remember we all have a vote.  Let’s use it wisely come the federal election in 2016.

Let us stand beside the farmers who feed us, let us link arms with our indigenous custodians, let us show the mothers of those sick children that they are our children too.  Let us join the alliance to Lock The Gate until the evidence is in.

Leave a comment »

Destination Relaxation. THE best holiday house in Sussex Inlet


I’ll cut to the chase.  I’ve just spent a long weekend in Sussex Inlet on the south coast of New South Wales.  I went there with my other half and two lots of friends, six adults in all.  My friend made a booking online and I didn’t really know what to expect. I wasn’t expecting anything too swish to be honest.  However from the moment we stepped into the house we were blown away by the accommodation.  It turned out to be the most gorgeous holiday home I’ve ever stayed in.  And here’s why.  Take 90 seconds to see for yourself and then read on:

The property is owned by the two Terrys – Terry and Terry, a husband and wife team. The warmth of the welcome is evident the moment we step into the house.  The two Terrys showed us around and told us where we could find everything we needed, what restaurants were worth a visit and all the activities we could enjoy over the weekend.  The property, Terry’s Waterfront Retreat, is a five bedroom house which includes three Queen sized bedrooms all with ensuites.  As well as the formal dining room, there is a spacious kitchen diner, enclosed sunroom with dining table and outside patio dining in the bbq area next to the pool.


I got the impression one of the Terrys might have come from an Interior Design background because every room in the house was simply a pleasure to relax in and had a beautiful creative thread running throughout the house.


Leave your stresses at the door and chillax.  Board games supplied – we enjoyed the game Mid-Life Crisis which is very apt given the name of this blog!  There is also an ample supply of DVDs for visitors to enjoy.


We slept so soundly in this bed – no early starts for us on this weekend away.


Did I mention the pool which is surrounded by lush vegetation?



Once you’ve had a dip, there is a little nook where you can enjoy a coffee or drink nestled in the surrounding vegetation.

path to pool

The property is situated right on the Inlet with the back garden leading down to a private jetty.  We found a mother and baby Roo there relaxing in the sunshine.


Once the roos had moved on I managed to get a piccie of the jetty and the crystal clear waters of the inlet.


 You can swim, fish, hire a boat or use the canoe which is free for visitors to use during their stay.

IMG_20150309_103117The dining area in the enclosed sunroom – lovely for breakfast, lunch or dinner.  We spent a lot of time chowing down at this table – and why wouldn’t you?!

How often do holiday lets get a big thumbs up and a five star rating and I’ve only just seen this.  If you need to unwind and get away from the frenetic pace of city life.  I couldn’t think of a nicer place to stay.


But finally before you do that, I almost don’t want to tell you this.  Terry and Terry are looking to sell this property as we found out this weekend.  The property includes all furniture and bookings up until the end of the year.  I really hope the new owners keep it as holiday accommodation so we can go there again and again.  It’s only 3 hours from Sydney or Melbourne.  So if you or anyone you know is in the market for an investment property, or holiday retreat, then this property is what dreams are made of. It comes fully furnished so all you have to do is walk in and put your feet up or dive into that refreshing pool.


Go on – treat yourself.

Leave a comment »

Aspergers Syndrome – putting together the pieces



A little while back, I found the message below scrawled on the wall inside a toilet cubicle in the womens’ bathrooms.


“I found out I probably have Aspergers.

Now I’m going through all the existential crap I went through in my teens, including writing on bathroom walls.

And the real kicker is, I’m not even that brilliant at anything.

 All of the broken bits and none of the good bits”

None of the good bits.

Asberger Syndrome is a condition which sits under the umbrella of Autism spectrum disorders.  People with Asbergers typically experience difficulties in communicating and developing social relationships, tend to lack empathy and may also appear physically clumsy.  They often have repetitive behaviours or interests and preoccupation with particular routines or rituals.  In other words, they’re quirky individuals, perhaps obviously so, to other kids growing up around them.

Perhaps for a person with Asbergers the ‘good bits’ might be, that one day, you are the one of the ones on the inside looking out, not the one on the outside looking in.

Asbergers is different from other developmental disorders on the spectrum because early development and language is normal, so it is not uncommon to be diagnosed later in life or in adulthood.  Children with Asbergers find it hard to ‘fit in’ but may at the same time be gifted in other ways.  Think child prodigies, brilliant mathematicians or kids who get university degrees in quantum physics before they even hit puberty. I’m thinking of my own eccentric uncle who although extremely intelligent, has little common sense and a complete inability to self-censor.  The family dynamics are never boring.  But he’s also extremely funny.  At least he thinks so…..

Several years back I read John Elder Robison‘s book Look me in the Eye which is his account of his life as a person with Asbergers.  He had a hard time growing up because he was different from other kids.  Other kids were cruel and he found it difficult to make friends.  He had a lonely childhood.  Despite that he learned how to behave and what to say and how to read circumstances so he said the right thing at the right time, even though he may not have felt it.  In his book John says “As I got older, I found myself in trouble more and more for saying things that were true, but that people didn’t want to hear”.  Despite that he eventually learned to play the game, survived his childhood and moved on to greatness.  At the age of 13 John dropped out of school and spent all of his time at the university where his parents worked and emmersed himself in the study of electronics.

John went on to have an extraordinary career in the music business, designing and hand making exploding guitars for the band KISS.  There was nothing he couldn’t fix, build or design if it contained electronic circuitry.  He later went into the car business repairing vehicles which others said were unrepairable and eventually expanded his business to employ 12 people. John is bright, creative and has a very fulfilling and rewarding life, eventually marrying and having children.

He was officially diagnosed with Asbergers in his forties when a friend handed him a book called ‘Asbergers Syndrome’ by Tony Attwood.  John devoured the book and says “Just reading those pages was a tremendous relief.  All my life I felt like a fraud…but the book told a different story.  I was normal, for what I am”. Finally, in his forties, John realised he was not alone and there are others like him.  In knowing that and understanding that, he finally found a sense of peace, acceptance and identity. Now he helps others.  John talks about the socially crippling aspects of Autism and the complexity and diversity of the spectrum and what we need to do to fix it.

To the person who wrote the message I would say this.  Getting the diagnosis must be a shock.  But perhaps it can also be the key to unlocking who you really are and to finding those ‘good bits’.  They are in there for sure.  The ‘what’ has been answered. And although the ‘why’ may never be, at least you can now see the road ahead and can take the first steps on the journey to your true self.  Be careful what you wish for – you just might get it.  And in doing so will start to put the ‘broken bits’ into a pattern in your life which you might quite like.

You can do it.

Leave a comment »

the problem with Tony Abbott (according to my mum)

Trust me image:

Trust me

My mum doesn’t think Tony Abbott should lose his job in next week’s leadership spill. She thinks it’s wrong for a leader to be ousted in the way we’ve seen in the past.   But she thinks he will for one very simple reason and that is, whenever he steps up to the podium to make a policy announcement or give a speech; the Australian public rolls their eyes and switches over to another channel.  “he says every single thing twice and I havn’t got all day for him to get to the point”.


Tony Abbott has, and has always had, a communication problem.  In Tony’s case, it is the messenger as much as the message which has rapidly turned the electorate against him.  So when Luke Simpkins said voters had ‘stopped listening’, he was right.  And my mum agrees.


For Abbott’s staff, there are simply not enough cupboards to bundle the Prime Minister into every time he says or does something un-primeministerial, to get him out of the path of an electorate ready to lynch him.


In the relentless frenzy of the 24 hour media cycle and with voters chipping in on social media, it’s a challenge for any politician to be heard.  TV media only allows for a four second grab on the news so what hope have they got?  Thus the adoption across politics of the ‘three word slogan’. Three word slogans work in Opposition because they’re not the main event. All you they need to do is keep up the pot-shots at those opposite.  Tony Abbott was very effective at this.  He’s been less effective at being Prime Minister.


Voters are familiar with Tony’s tried and tested mantras ‘stopping the boats’ …’debt and deficit’ of ‘no new taxes’ (remember that one).  But the devil is in the detail and the devil was missing in action prior to the election.  Voters are mature enough to understand that paying down debt will require revenue raising either through tax increases or by cutting funding elsewhere.  If you explain the why and the how, particularly to low income earners, you should be able to sell the message but that process has to start years out and there’s the rub.  Short-term politics i.e. getting elected, hamstrings long-term policy planning.


When the Liberals sprung the Medicare co-payment onto voters and got a two fingered salute in return, they then imposed it on doctors via the back door. Has this government heard of stakeholder engagement? Cutting the medical profession out of the picture from the get-go was amateurish in the extreme.  Why would they not have done that in the first instance.  Perhaps it is because they want to silence dissent by preventing there being any in the first place.  Abbott’s proclamation that ‘Australia is open for business‘ on election night did not mention that it would be ‘closed to negotiation or collaboration’ as we have since learned.  The electorate does not like strong-arm tactics and they don’t like being treated like idiots.


And any commitments the government has delivered on become irrelevant to voters when they’ve stopped listening to you because you have a credibility problem.  The government has ticked both boxes of late.


Tony Abbott has spoken lately about his status as Captain and more importantly of being a ‘good captain‘.  Captains, in whatever realm, are not infallible. However when they’re in the top job, they should have a clear line of sight out to the horizon to prevent the ship from disappearing into the abyss.  In Abbott’s case he has persistently steered them towards it.


Abbott was relentless in his pursuit of Julia Gillard and in calling her a liar. But Abbott has lied repeatedly to the Australian people.  Gillard’s only ‘lie’ was solely due to having to compromise as the result of a hung-parliament and by contrast to Abbott, she proved early on, her capacity to negotiate and find common ground in order to find a solution.   Abbott however, deliberately withheld his government’s true intentions prior to the election and has broken promises on many others.  His latest Captain’s Pick has been the final nail in the coffin of his credibility with the electorate. His decision to award Prince Philip a knighthood has exposed Abbott for who he really is – an ultra conservative, backward looking, boot-licking royalist.  His choice was completely unfathomable to ordinary Australians.

The Liberals are now in permanent damage control and require a full-time pooper scooper running around after him. Peta Credlin must be a saint.


His own party are now calling time on his prime-ministership with a leadership spill imminent. The time for pretending is over.  If they don’t get rid of him now, Abbott will be the albatross around their necks all the way to the next election.   And they know it.  Death by a thousand cuts.  But their hope of installing an alternative candidate, one who is more palatable to the electorate, may well put them back in business and back in office at the next election.  And ultimately that’s the end game.


The last word goes to my mum who says “he wouldn’t be so bad if he didn’t open his mouth but once he has done, I wish he hadn’t bothered.”

Okay then.


Leave a comment »

the new guy


ladies, please form an orderly queue

ladies, please form an orderly queue

Last week at work our team welcomed our new boss.  There has been much chatter over the last six weeks about what he might be like.  Whether we think he will cope with the job and the swapping of any bits of gossip we have managed to get hold of.  Oh and not forgetting the usual snooping on Linked-in, Facebook and Google thanks to the Internet.

So on Monday he arrived.  A strapping colossus of a man.  A man who takes up space.  The kind of man who has to watch he doesn’t smack his head on the door frame when entering any room.  The kind of man you can’t help but notice.  The kind of man, regardless of whether you are partnered or single, compels you to do a double-take.  So what’s going on here?

Well over the last few years our all girl team has also had two female bosses. Perfectly competent, likable, inclusive.  All of that stuff.  But also in their own ways, quite girly. Women-only offices over time, eventually seem to spiral into gossipy cliques.  In a nutshell, we get sick of each other.  So a great big boy taking his place at the heart of the team has seriously changed the dynamic.

It’s only been a week but I feel like I’m trapped in a harem of women all vying for the attention of the alpha-male.  The office mouse strode in mid-week sporting a perfect red lipstick pout, a clear departure from her usual neutral tones.  The waft of perfume being re-applied throughout the day is unmistakable.  Even the office matriarch has been seen giggling like a schoolgirl and fluttering her eyelashes in his direction.

I’m just waiting for someone to up the ante by sucking on a lollipop in his presence.


What is it about the arrival of a man in a mostly female team which triggers this change in behaviour?   A study conducted by Jon Maner and James McNulty suggests that women can literally smell the competition from another woman which in turn drives up their testosterone levels.  Beforehand there was no competition as such because we had a female boss.  But the arrival of a gargantuan man has changed all that.  In addition, a study from Professor Townsend from Syracuse University reinforces the notion that women are hardwired to be attracted to powerful men.  We just can’t help ourselves it seems. But what, my friends, are we competing for?   Well influence of course – the currency of office politics.

The obvious ingratiation tactics from the pack in order to place themselves on the radar of the new guy is certainly amusing.  A week long seduction strategy.  Minus the sex of course.  He’s only a man. But he’s a colossus of a man, who for the moment at least, has us all eating out of his hand.

I guess he should and we should, enjoy the honeymoon because as sure as night follows day, it is unlikely to last.   The scales will fall from our eyes, the pedestal be replaced with a step and we will all wake up to ourselves.

And I say hallelujah to that!

Leave a comment »

Maccas – the great social leveler


Ahhhhh life on the road.  If it’s Christmas, it’s the annual road-trip to far flung, or not so far flung, family and friends.    The loading up of the family vehicle usually entails games and gadgets for the kids, water obviously – this is Australia.  And snacks, lots and lots of snacks to keep everyone satisfied and contented for the long haul trip.


However, wherever you may be headed, one thing’s for sure, it is very very difficult to bypass a trip to the Golden Arches.  The mecca that is a McDonalds restaurant. Even if you’re not hungry.  And usually especially if you’re not hungry.  It’s just an opportunity to stop and stretch the legs and body and to escape being cooped up like a chicken for around twenty minutes.  The mental equivalent of standing under a long hot shower.  Right?


Well maybe.  What I love about McDonalds is that it is the ultimate social leveller.  I don’t care how many degrees you’ve got, what high-falluting job you have and whether your pile is in Vaucluse or Point Piper.  Chances are at some point on the road-trip you will have no choice but to enter between the hallowed Arches and have a dining experience of a different kind.  This holidays was no exception.


Invariably there is someone who looks as though they’d rather not be there.  Whose body language says it all; elbows and forearms pressed together across their chest with hands locked under their chin.  A look of mild distress on their faces with the voice in their head screaming “I don’t belong here”.


I have been that person and I’m not even a vegetarian.  But the point is, that we do belong here, because McDonalds whole ethos and their story is about putting their customers first and constantly adapting and changing their menus in response to customer demand.  You’d have to be hard-pressed not to find a few things on the menu these days which are pretty yummy.  I have to confess to really enjoying McDonalds coffee.  And their mini mint slices.  And I’m a recent convert to their Crunchy Noodle Crispy Chicken salad.  And how addictive are the fries?  The Group is the ultimate Darwinian survivor evolving to ensure everyone feels they belong.  If you’re normal, there is something on the menu for you.  And if you’re a food fascist or food neurotic or if you have food allergies or intolerances, then rest assured, there is something on the menu for you too.


But just so we’re clear – I’m not from Macca’s PR department.


But each holidays and at least once a month if I’ve had ‘one of those days’ and don’t have the mental energy to cook, off to Maccas I go.  Only now I inwardly chuckle as I survey the throngs of my fellow diners as we shuffle towards the front counter.  Old, young, affluent, not.  Whether we’re dressed in Aarmani or a Big W t-shirt and shorts. When we’re standing in the queue at Maccas with chips trodden into the soles of our shoes and greasy fingermarks on every visible surface, on some level we love the ritual, the familiarity and the unavoidable pleasure of reaching the holy grail.


Maccas: the ultimate social leveler and I say Hallelujah to that!


Make mine an Apple Pie to take away…..

Leave a comment »

gorgeous Gayana: enriching Canberra’s community

a labor of love

a labor of love

If you think these flowers are beautiful then you’d be right.  But what’s more beautiful is the story behind them.

Today I met Gayana Wijewickrema, a beautifully cute fifteen year old and her gorgeous sisters at Canberra’s Living Green Festival. Gayana has Downs Syndrome and is the inspiration behind the family’s fledgling flower business GGs Flowers.


flowers 8

Gayana and her mother Geetha design and create floral arrangements with a business focus on providing people with disabilities with employment opportunities. GG’s ethos of ‘flowers with a purpose’ is what distinguishes them from other florists. The business is not driven by profit, rather they are motivated by providing full and meaningful life opportunities for their daughter and for others with a disability.

Downs Syndrome is a genetic chromosomal disorder resulting in babies being born with an extra chromosome, 47 rather than the usual 46.  It is a lifelong condition which means children such as Gayana may have some health and developmental challenges as well as intellectual disabilities.  The extent of those challenges varies from person to person.

flowers 3

Downs Syndrome Australia says that “To be a part of a community you have to be in it”.  It is something most of us never even have to think about.  Sadly people with disabilities are generally under-represented in the workplace and in our communities.

GG’s are challenging the paradigm by putting Gayana at the heart of the family business and her local community.  We are all richer for it.  I hope Canberrans looking for floral arrangements will support the company ethos of ‘flowers with a purpose’ and get behind this local family.  Their prices are reasonable, the service personal and the love and commitment plain to see in every stunning arrangement.   With young Gayana at the heart of every bunch.


Leave a comment »


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 388 other followers