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I remember the night I was gifted my first mobile phone. Mum, Dad and I were sitting at a local restaurant – fine dinning, with while table cloths and polished silver to boot – and I had just been announced as (Co-) Captain of my school. I was super excited, but also bummed because I’d really wanted House Captain of my house, Oswald, so I could spend my time making up chants and buying green pom-poms and get kudos for it. But there I was, co-captain of the Junior School. And all that responsibility and achievement in my parents’ eyes had merited my very first cellular telephone. I. Was. Stoked. Not a lot of my 11-year-old friends had a mobile phone, but I distinctly remember one friend who had the prized Nokia 3200, one of those ones where you could change the cover and even collage your own on paper and stick it under that wonderful plastic backing. And the game of the moment was Bounce. Fuck, I loved Bounce. Getting that little red ball over jumps and passing levels. I remember when I finally finished the game (ie. completed all the levels), I felt like I’d won the lottery. Bounce was kind of a progression from the Old School Snake (an example of a game that has disintegrated and disappointed thousands of kids across the globe through it’s reincarnations). I played snake on my mum’s Nokia 3410, which she got as part of her work plan. Now I’m more of a Sudoku kinda gal. Gotta love a bit of Sudoku when you can’t sleep at night.

Nokia 3200

Nokia 3200

Nokia 3410

Nokia 3410

But my obsession with all things mobile started prior to my school captain election, in Year Five. We were given the task of our own personal project. We could research, write up and present to the class on any topic we wanted. So while most sensible girls chose to study volcanoes and make cool explosions with bicarbonate soda happen on classroom tables, I set out to ‘prove’ to my parents I needed a mobile phone. The truth be told, I did very little actual research for that project and I don’t know how I got a good mark for it because the teacher must have known I was full of crap. I remember sitting in front of our old, big, blue-backed Mac in my dad’s studio, typing up lines that were founded and composed completely from my imagination. Obviously a bibliography was not important in Year Five, or if it was on the criteria, it certainly wasn’t checked prior to marking. I probably just bullshitted and wrote http://www.nokia.com, http://www.sonyericsson.com and http://www.telstra.com without even clicking a button. So from memory, I ‘analysed’ the best plans to go on, the benefits of Telstra vs. Nokia (clearly not comparable ‘items’ one being a provider and one being a phone manufacturer), and printed and cut out pictures of phones I thought were pretty cool and would look good in my hot little hands. Pretty hilarious nearly a decade on. Since then Sony Ericsson has dropped the Ericsson and Nokia’s have been largely superseded by the infamous iPhone and it’s competitors. But the aim of my project was to get a phone. And I guess it worked.

My first phone was the Nokia 2600. I remember taking it home, opening up the manual and letting it ‘fully charge’ over a no doubt sleepless night. It lit up for the first time and I went to school a very happy chap. Not long after, I got a Roxy lanyard and a purple Von Dutch cover for my buddy, and I was right up there with the cool kids. Who could resist a girl with a cellular in her pocket?

Nokia 2600

Nokia 2600

In the summer between Years Five and Six, my family took a trip all the way up the east coast of Australia. We stopped off in Canberra, and then drove for two full days before reaching the Sunshine Coast. I think that entire summer I spent only $10. I reached the end of my credit period (my phone was prepaid) with over $80 left. I was economical and responsible, and I was proud. I also was highly antisocial and rude to anybody that texted me as I’d only reply to the most important of messages, things that deserved a reply. I don’t think I ever made a phone call. It was all about the texting. I remember my aunt and grandmother commenting on how good I was with my phone use, and my younger cousins being jealous of my new acquisition. My mum was so happy with my (bare minimum) usage, and I managed to keep it up for quite a long time. I think I mainly used it to tell the time and played around with all the settings and the screen savers. Oh, and the games.

At the time, personalising your ringtone was just about the coolest thing you could ever dream of. I remember being excited when I got my 2600 because the manual said it had polyphonic ringtones. My mum’s stock standard 3410 was only capable of blasting monophonic brutalities of Bach and Mozart, whereas I could have Rhumba and Calypso. Life was a dream. Television ads selling ringtones and tacky screensavers were common, and watching late at night gave one options some might consider verging on pornographic, suitable for Adult Viewers only. I remember visiting the Vodafone store on my phone and laboriously considering ringtone after ringtone, wondering whether it would be worth all of those $3, and if it would unknowingly find me in a situation of monthly deductions from my $10 allowance. I don’t remember ever making the purchase. It was probably for the best. Mobile phone providers and fellows seem to have a knack when it comes to scheming and reeling in customers unawares.

But things got complicated when other friends got the Nokia 6101, and similar phones that had more impressive features than my 2600. Infrared was never really used amongst my cohort, but Bluetooth became all the rage. Flip phones were ‘in’ and my lanyard was pulling me back. So my jealously and I grew simultaneously. On another note, for some reason, Year Six saw a rebirth of the Tamagotchi. And I refused to get one, because I wanted to be the first one to be ‘over’ it. You see I was ahead of the pack in other ways. I’m still kind of like that, refusing to get involved in things because I want to be the first one who’s passed it. I tried this with Instagram and succeeded for a while. I thought it was pretentious. But whom am I kidding? Photos of food, feet and (duck) faces are sadly addictive (and eat up my data allowance every month).

Nokia 6101

Nokia 6101

With Year Seven came new friends, a new experience despite being at the same school, and new mobile phone trends. Around this time, Orange was phased out and 3 because the hottest provider. Friends held their mobiles together tight when transferring songs via Bluetooth, much like one did with a Tamagotchi. The strength of the Bluetooth signal wasn’t revealed until later, when we realized immediate proximity wasn’t as necessary as we’d previously thought. I remember pressing play for Anthony Callea’s Rain on my portable CD player and holding my phone next to the speakers to try and record an enviable ringtone. Unfortunately, I was unsuccessful, one, because it sounded like crackly shit, and two, because apparently, Anthony Callea was in fact not cool. At the same time, I unfortunately made my email address about him, and created a Piczo site with the URL of ‘mscallea’. Obviously my priorities were in tact, and my preference in guys, spot on. When I found out he was gay I was pretty devastated.

My Year Three teacher’s fiancé had proposed to her while he was swimming in the shark tank at the Melbourne Aquarium. And he worked for Sony Ericsson. So basically, I thought the company must have been pretty sweet to get a guy like him. I got my Sony Ericsson z550 as a present from my grandmother around Year Eight. Super happy to get a phone with Bluetooth (and a camera!), I was all over that shit. Until the first one had a technical malfunction. And the second one, I dropped straight into a glass of water at a restaurant, in front of the grandmother who’d purchased the product for me. And the third one, which was stolen. Boo.

Sony Ericsson z550

Sony Ericsson z550

I called my number from my mum’s phone after realizing it’d been stolen and the guy who’d stolen it answered it with “Fuck off, Mum”. Obviously it’d said ‘Mum calling’. I cried. I also remember losing one yellow and one metallic green Haviana thong that night. Should have thought about being trendy and indie, wearing one of each before realizing that I’d be stuck with a permanently mismatching pair of thongs as a result. You live and you learn.

Throughout the rest of Year Eight and Year Nine, I made my way through a number of friends and family member’s old phones. None of them were memorable, and many were largely unworkable, too. I chose to go the summer between these two years, mobile free. I was again, pretty ahead of the game, but maybe by 200 years or something (will they ever be entirely superseded?) and it kind of sucked when I couldn’t wish a friend happy birthday because I was stuck in northern New South Wales without access to another phone. I thought she’d hate me after that. To my surprise, we happened to be mature enough to move our friendship beyond it.

My next new (read: store bought) phone was the oh-so-common silver Nokia 3110, probably still living an infrequent existence today. It came with a Casino Royale theme and got me through the long days, late nights and drunken calls of Year Ten. Its camera was sharp and enabled me to have crappy techno music as my ringtone, so I was sufficiently happy. With this as my staple, I seemed to pass over the various editions of the fad, pink Motorola Razr’s which greeted you with “Hello, Moto” each time someone turned them on. Additionally, I missed the craze of slide phones and the Nokia E Series. That was definitely due to my insistence that I would not get something that everyone else had. Instead, in 2010, I got the Blackberry Curve 8520, which I never turned off silent or vibrate, so much so that when I passed it onto my mum the next year and heard it ring, it’s sound was foreign and unrecognizable.

Nokia 3110

Nokia 3110

Motorola Razr

Motorola Razr

Nokia E(72) Series

Nokia E(72) Series

Blackberry Curve 8520

My Blackberry saw me through hard times and some months my $29 cap was barely dented. I have always had a thing about saving messages, and it has been very rare that I ever delete one. I’m sentimental and a hoarder. Not the greatest trait to have but technology comes with a lot of memory these days, so why delete if it isn’t necessary? I loved its trace/sense mouse and enjoyed the having the full QWERTY keyboard to twiddle my thumbs over. I got into apps with my Blackberry, most notably Facebook, which I had unlimited access to. I also checked my email and did a few web-based things on it but it was pretty clear that it was a man’s phone, a business phone. Is that sexist? Probably.

Just after finishing school, I got a car and finally rose to meet the iPhone trend. I decided holding back from this one for the sake of individuality would actually be stupid rather than self-proving. And I’m so glad I did. I do use folders under the titles of Utilities, Reference, Games, News, Uni & Work, Photography, Melbourne, Sound and Health, but some of the apps don’t really fit into the folder they’re found in. Facebook and Twitter are out there on their own, showing their significance, and the frequency of which I use them. After placing such a focus on transferring music via Bluetooth in the past and making sure you had enough memory to do to, the iPod is now an inherent feature of the iPhone. Alongside its touchscreen, it’s almost strange to imagine being without it. And from monophonic tones through to techno trash, I now settle for the factory default ringtone and message tone. I’ve never even bothered to look twice. I love the Do Not Disturb setting, and the way everything syncs with my beloved MacBook Pro, including iMessage working across Apple platforms. My iPhone 4s completes me. We are engaged and in love. And it’s the greatest, most superficial and one-sided relationship I’ve ever had.

iPhone 4s

iPhone 4s

I don’t know if I’m part of Generation Y, or Generation Z, or the Techno Generation. But I know that my generation’s use of mobile phones, living in a developed country, has evolved as I have. My friends and I have gone from playing games on each other’s phones, to asking to look at another’s phone and pretend to be playing games while really reading messages to find out what they’re hiding, and have now reached a stage where our mobile phone ownership and use is fairly independent from one another, if not incredibly dependent on the device itself. But it’s the way of the world. And nothing’s going to stop its constant evolution. But as a consequence, the next time someone fails to reply to your message within a few hours, you’d be pretty right to think they‘re hating on you. But in the same respect, don’t be one of those people who sends messages consisting only of question marks. Because no one likes a hassle-r. So save yourself. Because that’s one reputation you’ll struggle to lose.

Yesterday, I worked at the Melbourne Big Day Out. Leaving the house before 8am and travelling home in the dark, it most definitely lived up to its name. I worked at a token booth, selling little pieces of paper to attendees at $4 a pop that with a proof of age wristband, entitled them to enter the licensed areas of the premises and purchase extremely expensive beverages to fuel their drunken fun. For one token, you got water. Two gave you a beer or a cider, while spirits cost you three. I was stationed at one of the quieter booths, which enabled me to get to know the other girls I was working with. There were five of us, plus a supervisor. What follows is a singleminded, stereotypical overview of each of those girls. Please take this with a grain of salt. I have no doubt there is so much more to these girls than this piece will contain. But for the sake of some simplified, cliched humour, I will introduce you to each of them as follows. (Inspired by the lists of Thought Catalog).

The Diehard Music Fan

The Diehard was your ultimate festival go-er. She knew who was playing when, on what stage, and could identify each sound that made its way into our booth with it’s creator, performer and their last performance. She’d celebrated new years at Falls and spoke about BDOs of years past. She proclaimed to have “strategically scheduled” her breaks around acts she most wanted to see, and stuck to her guns, refusing to take a break at any other time meaning the rest of us had to work ours out around her musical preferences. She might have had #99problemsbutfailing3Gaintone because she knew the set lists off by heart. Her friends consisted of likeminded Diehards and when they came within hearing distance of our booth, she took it upon herself to scream “OMG SCOTT! SCOTTTTTTTTT! OI, SOMEONE GET THAT RANGA OVER THERE!”. After blasting our ears and those of the customer she was serving out, said Ranga would then stumble over to her counter being like “OMG NO WAY! HOW DID YOU GET THIS GIG!? THAT IS SICKKKKK!”. Note the use of the word ‘gig’ to identify her job as a sales person – a telling sign of a true muso bunch.

The Self-Confessed Bitch

The S-CB was all over this job. Used to bossing people around as a personal trainer and dealing with perving males while dressed in a skimpy outfit during her “promo work”, she made more sales than the rest of us put together. While not working for money, she spends her time working out at the gym, lifting heavy weights five days a week, and following a strict diet, packed full of protein, training for body sculpting comps which she enters every few months. She has two trophies already, and breaks up with anyone unable to handle her strict eating/lifting regime. She’d prepared her meals for the day and packed them in a Cool Bag to ensure her minced Roo (yes, kangaRoo) and greens, and her two eggs were kept fresh and clean. In answer to the question you’re all wondering, yes, it was clear she Did Lift. Interestingly though, she made fun of all the young girls with intense spray tans waddling around before our eyes, while it was clear she too was sporting one herself. Ahh, the beauty of irony, or is it coincidence? Whatever it was, we all learnt a thing or two about attitude and that her father had paid $50,000 a year for her to attend an elite private school which was “totally worth it”. Good to know you’re using that knowledge well, girl.

The One With No Personality

There’s always one.

The Blissfully Ignorant Immigrant

When told the event was scheduled to receive an impressive 50,000 attendees, her eyes lit up and her jaw dropped. From the developing world, via Adelaide, she spoke fondly of the round tokens in bars of her hometown, and her time dressed up in an animal suit while she supported herself through her studies in the nation’s City of Churches. The only problem was though, her speaking fondling never really seemed to stop. She spoke constantly, of anything and everything, and poached customers from the lines of those next to her. “Excuse me! Excuse me!”, she wailed, trying to attract the attention of those dazed and distracted in the lines before us. She couldn’t understand how so many people would choose to get drunk, during the day time, with relatively no productivity or beneficial outcome other than pure drunkeness. I must admit, part of me struggles with this too. But as it was blatantly obvious to all, it was Straya Day, and what true Aussie doesn’t love a beer or two to celebrate their country’s pride? We told her it’s tradition. “Ohh, is it? That’s strange, isn’t it?” Well whether it is or it isn’t, she sure got the message by the end of the night.

The Mum

All crude humour aside, our supervisor was lovely. She truly helped us through stubborn customers, balancing our books and straightening out any potential harassment issues. She brought us together and laughed at our jokes. We found you could gage one’s usual level of drinking by how they responded to a) the prices of the tokens (and thus, drinks) and b) how many they purchased. We giggled at one man who forked out $200 off the bat, without thought, which would get him 25 beers, and noted others who came for just three or four tokens, managing their drinking wisely and responsibly. We learned about her 21 month old daughter, and about her family and lifestyle. We supported her when her one vice ([soy] coffee) was a let down, cold and icky, and she kept us going through sales peaks and lulls.

The day was a success even if Melbourne’s weather wasn’t. I just hope there aren’t hundreds of kids too sick to go back to school this week because they dressed (completely inappropriately) in short shorts and a singlet, for 40 degrees when I’m sure it barely made it to 20. But I guess that’s a sneaky way out of a new school year, so maybe today’s youth are smarter than we all thought?

Working hard, or hardly working?

Working hard, or hardly working?

Imagine how different the world would be if we were confined to the boundaries of our hometown or city. If we could visit other states and countries but had no option to relocate permanently or temporarily, despite feeling more comfortable in the alternate environment. What if the path you chose as a 17 or 18 year old, confined you to one industry or one vocation for life? There was no option to retrain, go back to university, no excuse or remedy for a ‘mid-life crisis’, no way to shift between sectors or orientations. What if the materials of your childhood home defined you in some way or other, the hospital you were born in restricted your options in life, or your first word was utilised as a tool for dividing the population in groups that would somehow shape the rest of their lives. Each factor above contributes to the way we live, how we shape our relationships, how we build our sense of self, how we interact with others and respond to our feelings. Certain people are able to cope with change better than others. Some people are born into wealth while others struggle just to get by. Some people are brought up vegetarian, others are brought up as surf-lifesavers. We can be city people or country people. We might come from a small family, be born to a single mum, or have a dozen brothers and sisters to play with in a bustling household. I might play netball while you choose hockey as your preferred sport. I like Modern Family, you like Neighbours. I eat spearmint Extra, you chew on peppermint. My mum taught me to tie my laces with one loop but your dad ties his with two.

In life, there are many circumstances we can’t control. You might be in the wrong place at the wrong time, or the right place at the right time – either way, you could not foreshadow the events that day, or that hour presented you with. Other factors are a mixture of preference, influence and understanding – I say tomAto, you say toma(R)to. I like yellow and you like green. I like JT while you prefer Jay Z. No one is right or wrong, these things are a matter of choice, generally with reasoning behind it even if only that you see one more desirable than the other, or your were brought up one way rather than another.

Now if an employment agency were recruiting for a bunch of people to ‘sell’ the colour yellow as The Face of Summer, naturally they’d be looking for people who saw yellow as a happy colour, a motivating colour, maybe those who saw yellow as the colour of late nights on the beach and days running through a field of blooming sunflowers (or whatever). To employ someone who associated yellow with sickness and disease would be rather a strange choice. They are unlikely to get the same return on investment as their aforementioned, summer-loving counterpart. In the same respect, choosing someone who favoured green, purple or navy blue may not be a wise move, as their personal preference for another colour might present an obstacle in them achieving their targets, and in turn, yours, as the employer. But luckily for you, it would be relatively safe to assume that those who had gone through the application process, put in the hard yards to submit their resume, cover letter and maybe even attend an interview, are not the people who envision summer in shades of green, purple or navy blue. People apply for positions of responsibility whether paid, voluntary or for work (or life) experience based on their skill set, their passions and their curiosities. As a communications student, I am not going to apply for an engineering internship, nor would an engineering student apply for work at a public relations firm. Sure, in the future our interests and abilities may change as we steer ourselves in a different direction. And we are lucky to for the most part, have the chance and receive the respect to do just that.

What has promoted my thoughts on these issues today, is the current debate over a new rights bill that allows religious organisations and companies owned by religious groups to discriminate against potential employees that in some way, challenge their religious foundations or orientation. This includes public services such as hospitals and educational institutions. The Catholic Church are one of the largest employers in the country. International cereals company Sanitarium is owned and operated by the Seventh-Day Adventist Church. As outlined in their Guidelines, Sanitarium “recognise[s] the 7th day as a day of rest therefore we do not support events requesting commercial or promotional assistance during the hours of Friday sunset to Saturday sunset (the Sabbath).” Therefore, a business with an estimated turnover of $300 million a year and potential employment opportunities for hundreds of Australians, under this Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Bill, will have the opportunity and the right, to deny those who seek to work commercially or on promotional jobs for the company on the Sabbath, as well as those who more generally are not in favour of such work, yet are neither opposed to it either.

Supposedly, the Bill will allow religious groups to discriminate against those if “is necessary to avoid injury to the religious sensitivities of adherents of that religion”.

While many people are subject to discrimination, the focus of this campaign lies predominately with discrimination against same-sex attracted individuals. Two of my closest friends are same-sex attracted. One male, one female. Some of my family’s closest friends (practically extended family themselves), are also same-sex attracted. The Oxford Dictionary defines discrimination as “the unjust or prejudicial treatment of different categories of people, especially on the grounds of race, age, or sex“. It is thereby, by definition, unjust to vet people based on their sexual orientation. Furthermore, allowing religious organisations to do just so gives them rights that extend beyond non-religious organisations, so far in fact, that if a secular organisation were to do so, it would be illegal under Australian law.

This is a Labor government. How can a party who by their own values say they strive to give “every Australian opportunities through education and training, ensuring fairness at work…”, continue to support a bill that will ensure just the opposite? And to further the contradictory action, the Minister looking after the motion through the Senate is Finance Minister Penny Wong – a committed Christian and a lesbian. She is quoted to have said that Labor are ”seeking to balance the existing law and the practice of religious exemptions with the principle of non-discrimination”.

And sure, I sympathise with the dichotomy the government are presented with. Well, at least to some extent. I do not want to discriminate against those of any religion. I don’t want to undermine their beliefs nor am I saying the circumstances can be easily navigated and resolved. I am, however, in favour of equality. I would never want to know someone, or even hear of someone, who has been denied their right to work for an organisation purely based on their sexuality. I never want one of my friends to find they have lost an important employment opportunity to someone with a lesser skill set, relatively no experience and sketchy references, just because they are gay.

Unlike the many determinants in our lives over which we have control, our sexual preferences and thus our personal identity, are not simply matters of one or the other. These desires are innate, they are unlearned. Unfortunately, many people with mental illness or chronic disease suffer these same or similar prejudices, and the stigma associated with conditions, preferences or individual (dis)abilities must be reduced if we are to exist as a society of equals, unhindered by possible rejection or unfair dismissal.

In November 2012, Australian marriage equality advocates welcomed a new draft national anti-discrimination law that aimed to protect gay Australians from unfair treatment in employment and services. Yet this is exactly what we are being faced with a mere two months later. Lobby group GetUp!, the Atheist Foundation of Australia and the Greens have also all criticised the current Bill for not offering proper protections against discrimination for LGBTI people. Others who may face discrimination include pregnant women, women who are thought to “potentially” be pregnant, and couples living in a de facto relationship.

Amidst all this darkness though, there is some light. Social welfare charity, Anglicare, introduced a formal policy welcoming and supporting inclusion and diversity nearly a decade ago. South Australian branch chief executive, the Reverend Peter Sandeman is quoted to have said ”Jesus didn’t discriminate in who he associated with and helped and neither should we”. Another light shines from the south, where the Tasmanian Anti-Discrimination Act penalises church-based schools and welfare agencies if they are found to discriminate against LGBTI employees, students or clients.

Now is not the time for Prime Minister Julia Gillard to be losing supporters. The year’s first Newspoll suggests the Coalition has retained the lead on a two-party-preferred basis, 51 to 49 per cent. But a more conservative government is even less likely to fight discrimination cases. So what can you do?

Start by signing these two petitions:

GetUp!’s WE ARE ALL E=UAL campaign, and

Community Run’s WHAT’S GOD GOT TO DO WITH IT? REMOVE RELIGIONS’ RIGHT TO DISCRIMINATE

The Bill itself can be viewed here. Public submissions can be seen here.

And just consider what it would be like if you couldn’t get a job because you were brought up in a brick house, when all a company was considering were those who’d spent more time in a weatherboard. That determining factor is or was, out of your control. You didn’t choose the house you lived in as a child. But it became part of who you are. That house shaped you and will forever be in your heart. So don’t discriminate, because you’re hitting out against someone else’s home every single time.

Today I was in the city with friends and money arose as a topic of conversation. How to make money, how much money things are worth, and what we paid for certain acquisitions. One friend had paid $70 for the t-shirt she was wearing. The other was wearing a shirt that he’d cut to suit his own style, supposedly worth $100 at the time of purchase. Food was bought, myki cards were topped up with money for necessary travel into and out of the city, and we were all (of course) dressed and groomed with clothes and styling products/makeup/at-least-shampoo that had cost someone some dosh somewhere along the line, too.

We talked about haircuts. How much to get your hair dyed at a salon? How much to do it yourself? I used to have bright pink, dip-dyed ends on my long (read: extra spending) hair. I don’t know how much it cost because my mum paid for it, but I know that it was a lot. I also know that I had to pay the same stylist to un-dye it when I changed schools to meet the school’s uniform policy. I’ve also dyed my hair on many occasions at home, or with a friend, for a much smaller price. A packed of hair dye might cost anywhere between $10 and $35, depending on the brand. My friend’s hair was dyed currently, and she’d saved herself some money by cutting it and dyeing it herself. Boys, on the other hand, we were informed, needed their hair cut every four weeks, my other friend told us. So while guys haircuts are usually much cheaper, the cost adds up when you take into account how frequent their trips to the hairdresser are. Or how shitty the hair dye you buy from the supermarket is and need to re-dye it after its faded a week after you last forked out $15.

While we were out, one friend wanted to buy a ring, but it was $20 she didn’t have right now. The other told me his iPhone earphones were ‘only $35’. And that’s when it hit me. On January 1st, the Labor government cut the Newstart Allowance significantly, to an equivalent of just $35 a day. The majority of Newstart recipients are single parents (mostly mothers), meaning that not only does that $35 have to sustain one person for a day, it is likely to need to be stretched to support two, or more persons, children with needs, wants and wishes a parent only dreams to fulfil.

When you think of $35 it might not sound that bad right off the bat. But as soon as you start to consider some of the things mentioned above, it disappears without a trace. Hell, that’s without life’s necessities of health care, educational expenses (such as tutoring), extra curricular activities, hobbies, a gym membership to keep you in decent shape, food, rent and other living costs. How one, let alone multiple people are meant to survive on just $35 a day baffles me completely.

Families Minister Jenny Macklin suggested that she could do it. Acting Greens Leader Adam Bandt will actually go on the dole for a week and see how he fairs with such a measly amount. But the experiment, while interesting, will be rather inconclusive because everyone, including Mr Bandt, knows that once his seven days are up, he’ll be going back to conditions that enable him to work, eat, sleep and thrive as a politician and as an Australian not subject to these conditions.

I doubt anyone would choose to live consistently on $35. The unemployment crisis in Australian is again, set to peak, and as a person without a job, the prospects for gaining one are looking slim. Of course, I am lucky to be fully supported by family, but I cannot imagine this news being sunny for anyone. Especially those receiving the Newstart Allowance who are being told it is just a safety net and are highly encouraged to go back to work. What if there is no work to go back to?

So tonight when you are spending money on dinner, drinks, a movie or even on petrol, spare a thought for those that aren’t so fortunate to own a car, to go out to eat, or who can only afford fast food. Without money for formal or organised exercise, or the motivation to better yourself provided by such environments, many will find themselves travelling down a path of chronic disease and ill health… but that’s another story. And anyway, the government and tax payers have got their back, right? Yeah, right.

Last month I received a fine for not having a valid ticket to travel on Melbourne’s controversial public transport system. This is my letter to the Department, seeking a review of my case. The fine is a hefty $207. Have you ever received a fine like this? Would you pardon my case? 

 

22 December, 2012

To Whom It May Concern:

 

My name is Esther and I am writing to the Case Review Area of the Transport Infringement Administration in regards to a Ticket Infringement Notice I received on the 17th of November 2012.

 

On the 19th of October 2012, I ‘Fail[ed] to produce [a] valid ticket’ at Flinders Street Railway Station. The time of the offence was approximately 9:38am.

 

I strongly believe this Infringement Notice should be reviewed under the grounds (c) stated on the Infringement Notice – the conduct for which the infringement notice was served should be excused having regard to any exceptional circumstances relating to the infringement offence.

 

I am a student, and at all times carry my Concession card and my Myki card. I presented both to the officer on said date. The reason for my offence on this particular date was a combination of my respect for punctuality, misunderstanding and a one-off error. I boarded the train at ***** Station at 9:10am. I had an important appointment for which I could not be late beginning at 10am. It was crucial I board this train so that I could catch a connecting tram in order to meet my schedule.

 

I got to ***** Station just as the train arrived at the station and ran for the train. I thought I had touched on successfully and heard the Myki reader beep, but did not look at the machine to check my balance. As it happens, I was then travelling on a negative balance. However, this is the first and only time I have done so, and I always carry money in order to top up my card. The only reason this did not occur was simply due to a lack of time.

 

As soon as I arrived at Flinders Street Station I was going to check and top up my Myki. However, the officer at the exit gate got to me first. I told her I had every intention of topping up, as I did, and explained to her the unfortunate circumstances of my rookie offence.

 

Consequently, I received this Infringement Notice, which I believe should be excused. Since this date, I have never travelled on a negative balance, have made sure I leave more time to sufficiently top up or check my Myki balance, and continue to carry my Concession card and Myki at all times when using Melbourne’s public transport system.

 

I am currently without an income and in the event of having to meet this fine, would go into debt. It is under these circumstances that I hope you will review my case and my respect for the public transport ticketing system, carefully. I have no other offences to my name and have all intentions to never make this same mistake again.

 

The Infringement Number is *******.

 

Sincerely,

 

Esther

Pleasure is such a simple noun. Yet its interpretations are as varied as those who experience it through satisfaction, gratification, and freedom in living. Today’s youth have been categorized as the techno generation, whose pleasure is obtained through means of online communication, digital media, mobile phones, game stations and virtual worlds, where face-to-face interaction has been depleted to a minimum at the expense of physical nurture and embodied experiences. Additionally, the International Diabetes Federation has stated the younger part of my generation are predicted to be “the first generation where children may die before their parents” due to sedentary lifestyles, poor dietary intake and diminishing use of support networks, whether it be family, friends, community groups, health services, or financial subsidies. Yet while vivacity and adventure are being drained from some, others are embracing their circumstances, their unique characteristics, their gifts and their passions. You can find such inspiration at the respite program run by Jets Bundoora, a creative arts facility owned by the Banyule City Council.

 

Twice a week, Jets opens its doors to youth who face unique challenges with everyday living. Monday Night Rock Stars focuses on social connectedness in a supportive environment, using music and movement to build resilience and confidence amongst its participants. I attended a session with ten 18-25 year olds, facilitated by two qualified carer-musicians with a therapeutic background and, like the participants, was treated to a special guest artist, David Wells, who was to run the night’s session.

 

The program responds to the participants’ interests, and activities range from dance, improvisation, drama activities, songwriting, performing, recording, to self-expression as it evolves throughout the sessions. Having arrived early to meet the staff and help prepare for the night, I was struck by the enthusiasm and energy that entered the space when the clock ticked over to 6:30pm. With warmth, smiles and stories to tell, the regular members hugged each other and voiced their excitement about what was to come. As they discussed their weeks and chatted amongst one another I immediately felt connected and engaged. The young people were open, telling me what they had done that day, who they lived with, what their hobbies and interests were and stories from their past, like we were old friends reuniting after a long hiatus.

 

Their attention and focus was like nothing I’ve experienced before. The young creatives’ commitment to the program for their personal wellbeing is proof enough of the admirable use of government and community resources to fund such a program. I listened to an overwhelming amount of appreciation for the Jets program and how it was the event many of them most looked forward to each week. For some, it was the chance to play the guitar and sing to their peers. For others, it was the chance to socialize with “nice boys” and loving staff. And for me, what became the most uplifting experience was the constant encouragement and support they had for their peers, cheering them on whilst they danced, thunderous applause and “You go, girl!” when they finished, and countless comments of how talented and “awesome” the others were. There were occasions when a member didn’t feel comfortable to participate in the activity for whatever reason, but this was only met with further reinforcement and understanding. I said then and it continues to resonate with me, that if only my own friends gave each other such support we might be kinder and more appreciative individuals ourselves.

 

Each activity was a team building experience. Throughout the night I danced the tango, was courted by a charming young man to waltz, moved my way through the space following the shapes and poses made by other participants, and clapped along to interpretive performances both group and individual. Moving and responding to the sounds and songs, the participants became part of the music and soundscapes through simple improvisation, using inspiration from their lives, their space and those around them. It was amazing to watch each personality emerge and evolve through their performances, giving me insight into their values and skills.

 

The two hours were up before we knew it. After only six weeks in operation, the Jets respite program is appropriately and subtly structured as well as adaptable, giving parents of the young people time for themselves, with the knowledge that their children are in the hands of people who genuinely care for them and respect their individual differences. Monday Night Rock Stars is a program full of pleasure gained through community involvement, creativity, care and supportive networks. All in the name of assisting and empowering those in the local area living with a disability.

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Visit the Jets website here or their Facebook page here.

Day Four of the Carnival.

Official Flower: Red Rose

Today had ‘a pleasant and relaxed atmosphere’ drawing families, school friends and all the regulars to the track for the final day of the Spring Racing Carnival. As I mentioned in my last post, I wasn’t rostered on to work today but received a call yesterday afternoon asking to report to Tote Control this morning to wait to be allotted a placement. We’d been asked to keep all four days free and I was more than happy to finish up the festivities with the crowds.

Completely coincidentally, I ended up at the very say tote of the very same station I’d been at on Thursday, so I was familiar with the supervisors and many of the other workers. On the train in I saw many young girls and boys dressed up in suits and floral dresses, the girls discussing how they were wearing makeup and the specifics of what their mothers had applied to their faces.

Special stalls and areas set up for Family Day included a Boost Juice truck, a large fairy floss store ready to ruin teeth for decades to come, face painting and special kids areas. We’re not allowed to sell bets to kids under 18, nor to adults who are obviously betting on behalf of someone underage but I so no one refused when fronting up with the cash. They’re pretty clearly underage when two young people say ‘I’ve never done this before so you’ll have to bare with me’ and then are profusely thankful for you helping them along the way. I saw no 18+ wrist band but they were served regardless. Same goes for the six, seven and eight year olds who were held up to the counter to place ‘their’ bets with one girl I’d say as young as four even taking the tickets and putting them into her own little purse. What’s The Law?

I saw many young couples with their arms around each other, the girls looking at least two years older than their boyfriends in their heels, splashed faces and tightly pinned hair. All the dresses today were fresh and appealing. I really saw such a mix of colours, lengths, styles and fits, but less peplum than the previous days. The kids and teens sent me back to 2008 when I attended Stakes Day with friends. To be honest, our favourite part was getting ready for the day, but I hope all that attended today were thankful for the sun and celebratory spirit.

There were prams that’d been absent all other days as families flocked to the track for their big day out. There was a stronger police presence than I’d seen before, too. Safety first. Two things I’ve been meaning to mention are as follows. Number one: in no circumstance should stockings be worn to the races. They look ridiculous. The races are a spring festival, so no matter what Melbourne throws at you, you must adhere to the rules of Spring fashion. No fishnets, no patterns and certainly, no black stockings. The same goes for leggings and tights. Just no. Secondly, it’s been really lovely to hear a range of accents around the racecourse. I’ve spoken to many Pommes, heard Italian accents, Americans, New Zealanders and South Africans.

One couple I served multiple times today were from Wellington. They were moderately intoxicated but were fun and having a lovely time. They kept coming back to me, their ‘lucky charm’ to place their bets, and learned my name to personalise things a little. They offered to bring me back fries to eat because I’d been such good luck for them, which I politely declined. But they won in every race they bet on, so you can’t ask for much for than that. I also chatted to a British soccer player who said he was inebriated and here on holidays, who asked me out for drinks. Again, a polite decline was satisfactory but he was fun to have a laugh with for a minute or two.

It’s funny because after four days at Flemington, I saw precisely zero horses. That’s a measure of how big the area is. On the train home, I listened to a conversation of a group of friends, probably in their 20s. One guy was legitimately confused when his friends corrected him saying Indonesian food was from India. ‘Thai food is from Thailand, Indonesian food is from India! A 50 cent cone is 50 cents!’ He had no conception of Indonesia as a separate country, let alone a country in its own right at all. It’s a worry, is it not?

After I changed trains I sat across from two gentleman who I’d say were in their 60s. For one, it was his first train trip in 20 years. He still remembered nearly all the stations, in order, as I confirmed his guess upon request. He also offered me a job at his cafe in a nearby suburb which was kind.

Emirates Stakes was a good day. Girls grew up, families had fun, babies cried and money was won. A more than adequate end to a wonderful Spring Racing Carnival. Congrats Melbourne, you’ve done a nation proud.