23 May 2006

Health care? Who cares?

I don't usually rant here about stuff I read in the media. I usually vent my spleen on my poor, long-suffering loved ones.

But this has pushed me to speak up.

Our government has a legal responsibility to provide health care to people in custody. It's the law. But for some reason, detainees from Baxter have been taken from Glenside Psychiatric Hospital against the advice of their psychiatrists.

'The former director of mental health in South Australia, Associate Professor Jonathan Phillips, says he cannot think of any other case where a psychiatrist's recommendations for treatment were overruled.

"It worries me deeply if a treating psychiatrist or a treating physician or a treating surgeon, any medical person, is overridden because if you think about it, that is the person who deals with patient, the client, day in day out," he said.'

Of course the department of immigration has denied having anything to do with this, and claims they followed the recommendation of the facility's medical director. Well, that's not bloody good enough. Two of these men have since recieved psychiatric treatment at another facility. Their own treating psychiatrists did not think they should be discharged from the hospital. I simply cannot believe that this decision was made in their best interests. I could believe it was due to the politics within the hospital, rather than without. But the Director of the hospital should explain what caused him to over-rule the advice of those treating these people, and whether the decision was made under pressure from the government.

The immigration department's track record on health is absolutely shameful, with repeated and ongoing incidences of people in detention centres being denied psychiatric treatment.

You Aussies reading this will all remember the case of Cornelia Rau, an Aussie chick with schizophrenia who got caught up in the detention system as an illegal immigrant because she was too sick to give accurate information about who she was. Everyone said at the time that it was awful that such a mistake was made, that an Aussie was left in detention for 18 months or something like that (I'm too busy ranting to go find a link). The truly awful thing about that was the lack of mental health treatment she recieved while in detention. Even when she did see a mental health professional, their recommendations were completely ignored.

The fact that she was an Aussie doesn't make this any more awful. ANYBODY who the government locks up has a legal right to medical treatment. Psychiatric treatment IS medical treatment.

There was another incident where detainees got onto the roof of Baxter and stayed up there in protest. One report in one paper stated that they were protesting because their psychiatric medication had been taken away. One report. Subsequent reports in that paper made no mention of this at all, and portrayed it simply as bad behaviour.

That's half the problem. The media refuses to report on mental health issues that detainees have for what they really are. They persistanty structure their stories in a way that shows detainees as irrational, ungrateful, badly behaved, immoral, - but refuse to acknowledge that these are symptoms of untreated illness. And that these symptoms have been triggered by the conditions in Baxter.

It's not just an issue of 'illegal' immigrants. It's not just an issue of mental health. A few years ago the Australian governent invited some East Timorese refugees to Australia - and then refused to give the women Pap smears, even though it was known that this population of women had high levels of cervical cancer. Pap smears are preventative treatment. Preventative treatment is included under the government's legal obligation to give people in its care medical treatment. These refugees were not illegal. Our government simply does not give a shit about their duty of care.

The health system here is crumbling. The mental health system has been crumbling for years. The mental health services in this country are appalingly understaffed and underfunded. Our fucking government has thrown a wad of money towards mental health in it's most recent budget. It's not enough. It's nowhere even close. And a whole lot of it is going towards phone lines, in a pathetic bid to stop mental illness before it occurs. Don't get me wrong, crisis phone lines are valuble. But when people are dying because they cannot get a hospital bed, 'preventative' phone lines are not really the most important thing. I have known over half a dozen people who have died while waiting for a bed in a psychiatric unit. This is partly why this issue means so much to me. And when there are years of repeated suicide attempts at Baxter, and then the director of Glenside makes a seemingly arbitary decision to shaft the people who need care, something is wrong. And that something is wrong within the government.

17 May 2006

This morning

I hit the snooze button twice. Finally I dragged my arse out of bed and into the kitchen to make some coffee. I stumbled blearily into the computer room to check my emails. I opened the windows...

There was Squiggly. Stuck on the edge of the window frame, where she'd been squashed when Partner closed the window the night before.

I immediately erupted into great, choking, gasping sobs. I ran out to Partner, tears streaming down my cheeks and wailed, "It's Squiggly!"

He asked what happened, but I couldn't say. I could only take him to the room and point at her while trying my hardest not to look. That split-second glimpse of her had been enough. I couldn't bear to look again. Partner kindly took the body away while I sat in the other room bawling. I cried non-stop for about four hours, and spent the rest of the day holding back tears.

Squiggly was the closest thing I had to a pet since I was a little girl. She may not have been soft and cuddly like a cat or a dog. But anyone who's had non-cuddly pets will know that they can be just as cute, just as full of character and personality. You can develop a relationship with any animal if you see it as a distinct being in it's own right.

And maybe it's because when I moved here, I had no one but Partner. Squiggly's constant presence was a comfort to me. She was like a friend who made no demands at a time when I had nothing to give. I grew attached to her. I cared for her. And Partner cared too. He shooed away the bigger geckos when they challenged her territory. He spotted her outside and let her back in. He even, in the past, ushered her away from the window when he was closing it so she wouldn't get squashed. Last night he noticed her missing and went around the room, checking behind furniture and curtains.

We don't know what happened. Maybe she was trying to get back in and misjudged the timing. Maybe she was too secure, knowing we wouldn't hurt her, and therefore didn't run when Partner came near like the other geckos would. Maybe she thought she was hidden and didn't realise the danger. Maybe, in her pin-prick brain, she thought nothing at all. Maybe she was already dead.

At any rate, she was quite flat, and her guts had kind of smeared out. That image, that first, terrible sight was etched on the back of my eyeballs and has been haunting me all day.

For exactly three months we have had this place. For three months I had a gecko friend. Now I just have lots of nameless geckos that wander around. But no Squiggly.


Here is the scene of the crime after the body was taken away. Note the small bloody smear...

Goodbye Squiggly.

13 May 2006


After writing the post below, I got to thinking. Go read that one. Then come back.

I wouldn't want anyone to think that I subscribe to the idea of 'proper English'. I don't.

I have a friend who's much older than me. When he was young he was told to speak 'the Queen's English'. But is this really about speaking the same language as the Queen? Or is it more about speaking the form of English that people of his parents' generation were familiar with?

Australia for a long time tried to be like a piece of England that had been set adrift. Part of the mechanism for this was denigrating any other forms of English. But language is a living thing. It grows and changes. It evolves. Unless it's a dead language like Latin. Or a stillborn one like Esperanto.

When groups of people leave the 'motherland', wherever that may be, they take with them the form of their language that they know. Often they keep that form, while the country they left behind changes - and so does it's language. Australia has many remnants of a form of English that's no longer spoken, and now seem perculiarly Australian. At the same time, words have entered into the Australian lingo that aren't from England at all. The Australian accent in some places bears the remains of Cockney because of our convict history (this shows especially in our rhyming slang). In other places it's a touch more Scottish. Where I come from, it's a very 'proper' form of English. People I meet when I travel around Australia often don't think I'm Australian at all - especially if I'm travelling in the company of a Westie from Sydney.

This brings us to the Americans. I've read in a couple of places that the American accent derives in a large part from the time that America was settled. This means that if you took a modern English speaker from England, and a modern English speaker from the US, and put them both in a time machine and sent them to Shakespearian England - the American would sound more like Shakespeare than the English person would. In terms of accent, at least.

And Shakespeare is the classic example of the evolution of language. It would be folly to try to calcify language and keep it forever the same - it's virtually impossable. The people whinging about the corruption of the English language by youth are fighting a losing battle. But they fight it just the same, because they aren't comfortable with modern usages.

I must admit here, that I'm not comfortable with some modern usages, and some changes. But that is because they are unfamiliar to me - I didn't grow up with them, and occasionally I don't understand them. It's not because I think that English should always and forever more sound and look exactly the same as when I grew up. Words change their meanings, and new words emerge. Spoken language changes a lot faster than written language - which is why I can understand this, even though I find it hard to read. I may not like it, but I can't stop it. That's also why I don't get the shits up with young Aussies who write ass instead of arse. I could bitch about it, if I wanted to waste my breath. But I don't. American English is just as valid as Australian English or the Queens English or Aboriginal English.

I still think it's useful to learn to write with commonly accepted spelling and grammar - for the same reason that it's useful to learn table manners, even if 99% of the time you eat in front of the TV with the plate on your lap. Some day, for some reason, you might need to know.

12 May 2006

When I was a kid... musings on the US

When I was a kid, I thought it was really cool that all Americans used gas in their cars. I mean it's cheaper, more environmentally friendly, and goes further than petrol. A whole country that doesn't use petrol! How cool is that.

Then I realised - gas is petrol.

Which led me to wonder - If Americans call petrol gas, then what do they call gas? I asked a couple of Yanks this question - it just seemed to confuse them.

When I was a kid, I was told in no uncertain terms that words like colour and flavour had a U in them - to spell them without one is American, and not proper English. And words that end with ise or isation didn't have a Z in them - again, an Americanism that was not tolerable in any other English speaking country (so we were told). It plays havoc with spellcheckers, which seem to all be American at times.

When I was a kid, I thought that the word 'ass' meant donkey, and wondered why Americans couldn't come up with a better insult - like arse.

When I was a kid, I laughed my head off when I heard Americans talk about 'fanny-bags'. Such a strange mental image. Wouldn't it be more comfortable to wear a 'bum-bag'?

When I was a kid, I read American books - and learned to convert the farenheit to celcius, and the miles to kilometers.

When I was a kid, I sometimes found a new book by a British author I loved - then opened it to find the same text I knew. There was a different title on the cover because that edition had been published in the US.

Over here we get used to all this stuff when we are kids. We learn how to convert 'American" into 'Australian'. We learn a lot about the US. Meagen once wondered on this post if only American kids played cowboys and Indians. It really made me wonder if people in the US realise the extent that their culture is transported around the world - it's not for nothing that we call it cultural imperialism.

But I've realised the extent to which I make assumptions about the US. I assume that, while we have to understand you, you have never had to understand us. I've noticed on my blog, and the comments I make on others, that for some reason I feel the need to clarify things when I know the Americans do it different. If I say fanny I have to emphasise that I mean vagina. If I write arse or colour I cringe in case you think I just can't spell. I feel the need to convert ks to miles for your benefit. I wouldn't just write Howard and assume you knew who he is, even thought you just write Bush (see, even slipped a hint in there!).

I could never tell if you just don't know that things are different elsewhere, or if you just assume we can work it out for ourselves. But I haven't given you the benefit of the doubt, assuming that you do know or that you can work it out for yourselves. This is very patronising on my behalf.

So, from now on, I'll try to minimise my explainations. If I write about the Anzacs and you don't know who they are, you can ask, or just look it up. If you think my spelling sucks - you may well be right, but you can check an English dictionary* (not an American one) if you want to make sure.

But before I go, I really want to know some things.

Do you know that we call gas petrol?
Can you convert miles into ks and farenheit into celcius?
Do you know what fanny means over here (or did you before you read my blog?)
Do you know that Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's stone is actually Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone everywhere else?

Maybe we've been underestimating you.

*Bugger the English dictionary. Check the Macquarie dictionary.

2 May 2006


Well, I vowed to blog a bit more often, but lately I've been too stressed and too tired to write anything much. So here's a few bits of random bloggy stuff.

* The most common search term leading to this blog is fanny lickers, due to this post. I should have guessed. But I never would have guessed I'd be number one on the google list for that!

* On the same topic, almost all of those people searching for fanny lickers come from England. Now, I know the rare one from Australia is looking for vagina lickers, while the rare ones from the US are looking for arse lickers (sorry guys, I won't write ass - oh damn, I just did). But what are the English ones looking for? Vag or bum? Unfortunately they never seem to get beyond that page - that post's not what they're really looking for I guess! Maybe I'll stick a note on there to ask them.

* Other odd search terms that have popped up are Kaurna traditions, How old is Gloria Steinam, Meeting his Mormon parents side affects of stress and tickling lesbian feet. Hello people!

* I've noticed my IP address keeps changing. I've found out what mine really is, and somehow the connection gets put through others (don't ask how, something to do with the server). It kept telling me I was in Sydney, of all places! I'm not. I think I'd have noticed if I was. But it explains why my safe list on hotmail keeps getting diverted to junk when my posts automatically arrive there. And why several people seemed to be accessing my blogger account.

* I finally worked out how to get what I'd written in the footer bar to appear. I'm so 1337! Scroll down and have a look, it's ever so profound.

* More pictures coming soon, when I can be bothered. Not possums.

* And a real post too.

* I'm going to bed. Bonne nuit!