A journey into openness and honesty… Distilling truths about ourselves, others and life from shared experiences… Learning to live consistently with that truth… Becoming free to be who we truly are…

This week I turned 59…

It was a birthday like no other…

I was on my own.

I was driving in a remote part of Western Australia I’ve never been to before.

I’d forgotten to book my accommodation for my next destination and had no mobile phone reception.

I figured there’d be no gifts or birthday celebration.

But it felt good…

I was alone, but far from feeling lonely. Being alone and loneliness are two very different things.

I spent most of the day driving north from Kalbarri to the coastal town of Denham on Shark Bay. The weather was perfect… a brilliant blue desert sky set against the deep red outback earth and the low scrub… just a smattering of clouds, temperature in the mid 20’s.

I was doing something I love… exploring territory I’ve never been to before.

The desert countryside is never boring… a wide array of vegetation still manages to survive in this arid area. The wild-flower season is beginning… much of the roadside featured yellow wattles… in places the ground was covered with carpets of white flowers, then yellow flowers, interspersed with bushes displaying purples, pinks and occasional reds.

I’ve never been a wildflower enthusiast I found myself constantly on the lookout for new colours, and in some places the landscape took my breath away.


Unexpected birthday gifts…

Life has a habit of bringing surprises… it had a few in store for my birthday…

A long distance celebration…

My phone rang very early while I was half-dressed. My day started with a cheery Happy Birthday from a friend. For her sake and mine I’m glad it was audio only… my waist down got progressively colder during the call but it was well worth the birthday greeting!

Once I left Kalbarri that was it for mobile reception. When I arrived in Denham early afternoon my phone burst into life with a host of text messages and facebook notifications.

By evening I’d received a profusion of birthday wishes, messages and phone calls. I think more people wished me Happy Birthday this year than ever before in my life! I’d been blessed with a long distance birthday celebration… lots of love, care and encouragement ‘over the wire’… I really felt touched!

It’s the little things that count…

A free cappuccino. The young waitress making my coffee asked about my day… I told her it was my birthday. “That’ll be $4.50 thanks”… then a smile, and “No need to pay… it’s your birthday!”

The big things count too…

The key tourist attraction at Shark Bay is Monkey Mia… a beach 25km from Denham where wild dolphins come in every morning to be hand fed. Originally it was fishermen who fed them. Since then a whole resort has been developed along the beach and the dolphins are fed by staff.

According to Google the nearest Backpackers/YHA hostel was in Denham. Hostels in urban settings are not my ideal, but I was pleased at least there was one.

After leaving Kalbarri I realized I’d forgotten to book the Denham hostel. There would be no mobile reception until I arrived. A remote location… no accommodation booked… if all else failed I’d be rolling out the tent!

I stopped at a roadhouse for petrol and a coffee and spotted a brochure for a “Flashpacker’s Hostel” in the Monkey Mia resort complex.

The Flashpacker’s Hostel was a total winner! It’s located right on the beach where the wild dolphins come in. The hostel is clean and modern and I’ve got access to all the resort facilities… a restaurant, café, two bars, dining areas overlooking the beach, kayaks for hire and free WiFi to top it off. And so far I’ve had an 8 bed dorm to myself! To top it off it’s actually cheaper to stay here ($35/night) than in Denham!

My surprise accommodation was a BIG birthday blessing!

The biggest surprise of all…

A very precious birthday gift came the morning after I arrived… you don’t always get your birthday gifts on the day!

I woke much later than usual. The sky looked stormy and there was a strong, cold onshore wind… a total contrast to the day before… time for jeans, shoes and socks.

I wandered along the beach to get a coffee at the restaurant. I noticed people gathered at the water’s edge with a bloke in the water speaking to them. The dolphins had come in and it was feeding time! I hurried down to join them and got my camera ready.

The instructor explained only people chosen by staff would be permitted to feed the dolphins. Anyone who stepped into the water, waved their arms to get attention, or called out ‘Pick me!’ would be excluded. Most people were in shorts and bare feet. With jeans, socks and shoes on it never entered my head I’d be in the running.

Only two dolphins had come in. I stood there taking photos hoping for some good shots. One of the staff had a dolphin swimming next to her. She looked at me and called out “The guy in the green hat”. I was stunned, “You mean me??” I gave my camera to the lady next to me and tried to get my shoes and socks off as fast as I could. I could hear someone saying “You’ll have to hurry!” and almost fell over in excitement and haste. I waded out into the water, getting my jeans thoroughly wet, and had the superb experience of being up close to a dolphin and feeding it!

I could hardly believe what had happened! I wasn’t even heading to the dolphin feeding… I wasn’t dressed for it… I totally expected to not be picked given my attire… and here I was standing in the water in wet jeans just having fed a wild dolphin. What an incredible gift! Totally unexpected and literally ‘out of the blue’!


At a deeper level…

I sometimes say bushwalking for me is a spiritual experience.

Some people no doubt think this is a bit weird. Years ago in my Christian days I’d hear other people say this and think, “Sad, misguided … they’ve replaced faith in God with a poor, illusory substitute”. (It is so easy to be judgmental!)

Interacting with Nature has always been a spiritual experience for me. I don’t know how to understand it or explain exactly what ‘spiritual’ means for me in this context. What I do know is when I’m in the midst of the Australian bush, or surrounded by a beautiful rainforest, or working hard to reach the top of a mountain and then stand on the summit surrounded by incredible views, or walking along rugged coastal cliffs with huge waves pounding in below, or soaking up an awesome sunrise or sunset… my spirit is deeply touched.

I find myself in a special place… deep stillness on the one hand, deep awe on the other. I feel connected to something far greater than me and I am part of it.

It’s like I’ve come home.

The dolpin…

All the wild dolphins have been named according their personalities as observed by the staff. How ironic then, I had been totally surprised by a dolphin named ‘Surprise’.


One of the staff told me this was not ironic at all… the dolphins themselves have a role in choosing who feeds them. I felt my spirit being touched again.

Some gifts don’t bear analyzing… they are what they are… our spirit rather than our mind is the primary receptor. All we can do is accept them and appreciate the wonder they bring.

There’s many things we still don’t understand. For me it’s far better to stay open to new truths, whatever form they may take, rather than locking myself into a belief framework that may deprive me of new understandings of life.

A big thankyou…

I had a great birthday. Another memorable milestone in my life.
So many unexpected gifts from family, friends and Life itself.

A big thankyou to everyone who turned a very different birthday into an unexpected celebration!

Ian JamesIan + dingo


The 2016 Australian Census is almost upon us. The answers we provide on August 9th will be used by the nation’s decision makers to shape and direct Australia’s future.

Changes to the 2016 Census Religion question…

One of the changes to the previous census is in Question 19: “What is the person’s religion?”.

In the 2016 year census No Religion has been moved to the top of the list of choices.

Census 2016 - Q19

In previous years No Religion was at the very end of the list. The reader had to wade through a list of nine religions/denominations, followed by a large text box for Other (unlisted) religions. No Religion followed in an obscure location beneath the text box.

Census 2011 Q19

The value of a census lays in obtaining accurate data. The layout of Q19 has been changed for the following reasons:

  • In the previous layout No Religion could be easily missed, leading people with no personal religious beliefs to inaccurately select a nominal affiliation (e.g. their parents church, the church they were christened into, or where they attended Sunday School).
  • Completion of census form questions is made easier by having the most commonly selected options listed first. No Religion may well be the highest result (above any specific religion or denomination) in 2016 so it makes sense to move it up the list.
  • Having No Religion at the top simplifies completion of the question by effectively breaking it into two parts. Those who identify with No Religion can select this option and move straight to next question. Only those who identify with a religion need to go through the list to make a selection.

The implications…

When this change was introduced in the New Zealand census in 2013 the No Religion result increased from 35% to 42% (compared with 2006) while the total Christian tally decreased from 56% to 49%. For the first time less than half of the NZ population identified themselves as Christian. (Ref 1)

The 2016 Australian census may see a similar result. In the 2011 census the total Christian tally was 61.1%. The impact of No Religion trending steadily upward (22.3% in 2011, 18.7% in 2006, 15% in 2001) (Refs 2, 3), combined with the change to Q19 may result in less than half the Australian population identifying as Christian for the first time. (Ref 4)

The top three options selected in the 2011 census were Catholic 25.3%, No Religion 22.3%, then Anglican 17.1%. (The total of all other Christian denominations combined was 18.7%.) Given Catholic outranked No Religion by only 3% it is highly likely that for the first time No Religion will outnumber each of the Christian denominations individually in 2016, displacing Catholic from the top of the list. (Ref 5)

Percent people reporting No Religion - ABS

Some challenging questions…

Will government funding to Christian organizations be affected?

Secular groups lobbying for the Q19 change argued that a more accurate answer to this question would help ensure that government funds are distributed more fairly

“Many government services and resources depend on census accuracy, and the figures are used by religious organisations to maintain their status and influence in terms of grants, tax-free services, access to schools for religious instruction, and for their generally privileged position within the community,” president of the Rationalist Society of Australia, Meredith Doig, said. (Ref 4)

In the lead up to the 2016 census some secular groups have been actively campaigning for people to select the No Religion option if they don’t have an active religious faith. The Atheist Foundation of Australia website argues… “Accurate census data helps policy makers and political leaders make all sorts of planning and funding decisions. So if you’re not religious any more, mark the ‘No religion’ box on the 2016 Census.” (Refs 6, 7)

Will the claim that “Australia is a Christian nation” still be valid?

The claim that “Australia is a Christian nation” has been used by some far right wing political and religious groups promoting fear-based arguments that Australia should reverse becoming a multicultural, multi-faith nation. (e.g. Fred Nile, Catch The Fire Ministries/Rise Up Australia, One Nation) (Refs 8, 9, 10, 11)

If less than 50% of Australians identify themselves as Christian their claim will no longer be valid. If they dare acknowledge this will they revert to arguing “Australia has a Christian heritage”?
Personally this argument rankles me… Yes, we have a Constitution and legal system based on Judeo-Christian values. However Australia had an indigenous heritage in place for thousands of years before white men arrived. This heritage was replaced by a ‘heritage’ of British occupiers whose actions towards our indigenous people were anything but Christian.

A challenge to Christians and church leaders…

How should the Christian church react? How will the church react? Will the church react at all??

Regular church attendance has been falling significantly for decades. Fewer Australians have an active Christian faith or identify with a particular Christian denomination than ever before. (Ref 12)

The church has taken little effective action to date to stop decades of decline. If less than 50% of Australians identify themselves as Christian in the 2016 census will the church wake from its slumber and take action to stop it becoming progressively more irrelevant to Australian society?

Each increase in the No Religion result strengthens the case being made by secular groups to remove tax exemptions for religious organizations. If one day this case succeeds the financial impact on Christian denominations will be huge and further reinforce the demise of the Christian church in Australia.

Looking to the future…

While it is highly unlikely that the number of people identifying as No Religion in 2016 will exceed 50% (it would need to more than double from 22.3% in 2011) is Australia heading in this direction along with other Western world countries?

A recent National Geographic New article reported, There have long been predictions that religion would fade from relevancy as the world modernizes, but all the recent surveys are finding that it’s happening startlingly fast. France will have a majority secular population soon. So will the Netherlands and New Zealand. The United Kingdom and Australia will soon lose Christian majorities.” (Ref 13)

What do you think?

  • What is your reaction to the Q19 layout change?
  • Are you concerned about the No Religion result rising significantly while the Christian tally falls?
  • Do you think Australia is a Christian nation? A multi-faith nation? A secular nation?

I’m very interested to hear from both Christians and secular readers on this. Please feel free to comment either here on the blog or on the associated facebook post.


  1. http://www.stats.govt.nz/Census/2013-census/profile-and-summary-reports/quickstats-culture-identity/religion.aspx
  2. http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Lookup/4102.0Main+Features30Nov+2013
  3. http://profile.id.com.au/australia/religion
  4. http://www.smh.com.au/national/is-australia-losing-its-religion-20150827-gj94ts.html
  5. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religion_in_Australia
  6. http://censusnoreligion.org.au/
  7. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-07-22/census-2016-allows-people-to-select-no-religion/7653208
  8. http://www.christiantoday.com.au/article/fred.nile.in.nsw.upper.house.australia.is.not.a.secular.but.a.christian.nation/13382.htm
  9. http://riseupaustraliaparty.com/our-policies/policy-principles/ Policy principle (20).
  10. onenation.com.au/policies/islam Policy on Islam.
  11. Pauline Hanson on ABC TV Q&A 15/07/2016.
  12. http://mccrindle.com.au/the-mccrindle-blog/a-demographic-snapshot-of-christianity-and-church-attenders-in-australia
  13. http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2016/04/160422-atheism-agnostic-secular-nones-rising-religion/


Ian JamesIan + dingo

Mannequin on strings

The Experience…

Recently I was on a train crawling out of Richmond Station. My attention was caught by two big signs on a clothing factory wall. Together they proclaimed “Today’s Woman” and “Slim Form”.

Below the signs was a row of bare windows.  In one window stood a mannequin in a bathing costume. In another stood a naked mannequin with big bare breasts facing out the window for thousands of passing passengers to see.

The message…

It struck me that the signs and the mannequins sum up the distorted, damaging demand our society places on women…
You must be physically beautiful and have the ideal figure if you want to be valued.

Slim female bodies and big breasts are not a common natural combination and yet men in our society generally believe this is the ideal. No wonder the cosmetic surgery industry thrives on transforming perfectly normal, healthy breasts into the ‘perfect’ C or even D size.

Women generally believe a slim body with shapely, attractive breasts is the ideal. Unfortunately however, ‘slim’ usually means ‘I’m not slim enough’.

But body shape is only the beginning.

The problem…

It’s not wrong for women to be physically attractive. We can all appreciate women who are beautiful, and, let’s face it, physical attraction is one of the fundamental drivers for men and women to form relationships, and ultimately perpetuate the human race.

What IS wrong is that physical attractiveness has become the basis of how women are valued by our society. Little or no consideration given to a woman’s personal qualities, capabilities, values, attitudes, goals and achievements in life.

The true value of women has been undermined by a lie. The lie is so pervasive and powerfully reinforced that most men and women have come to believe it. The insidious result is that we, the victims of the lie, perpetuate it ourselves.

What drives the ‘ideal’ female image?

The ideal female image has been created to achieve one thing… to make money.

Advertisers use highly effective, research-based strategies to form our beliefs about women and our attitudes toward them. We are constantly bombarded with carefully crafted messages compelling women to reshape, re-clothe and ‘beautify’ their bodies, literally from head to toe, in order to attain the ideal image and the supposed benefits it offers.

The strategy for manipulating women is very simple and seductive…

  • Play on women’s natural human needs for love, acceptance, security and significance.
  • Create in women the fear of ‘not being good enough’.
  • Convince them that attaining the ideal appearance will ensure their deepest needs and desires are met.
  • Convince them that spending their money on the endless range of products and services promising beauty and attractiveness will enable them to approach the ideal.

The strategy for manipulating men is even simpler…

  • Create an image of the ideal female body in men’s minds.
  • Use sexualized images of women to get men to focus on whatever product you want to sell.
  • Sell almost anything!

These strategies are highly refined and totally deliberate. There is no innocence on the part of those using them. Behind the scenes the corporate owners rub their hands with glee as the products roll out and billions of dollars roll in.

The damage…

  • The self-worth and confidence of women is being undermined by fear.
    Very few women can attain the ideal image. Every other woman is told they risk being undervalued and missing out because they not attractive enough. The self-worth of women is being attacked at the very core of their beings.
    How much anxiety do women from teenage years onward experience because they fear not being “attractive enough” to make friends, get the job they want, find a partner?
  • Women are pressured to spend huge amounts of money trying to achieve the ideal appearance. The demand to be attractive drives endless spending on clothing, makeup, jewelry, beauty treatments, cosmetic surgery, exercise programs, weight loss treatments and much more. Consider the amount spent constantly updating wardrobes (already full of perfectly good clothes) with the latest fashions.
  • Women are pressured to spend hours each day ‘beautifying themselves’.
    Every hour of our busy lives is precious. Why should women have to spend an hour or two every day maintaining their appearance instead of doing activities that would add true value and enjoyment to their lives?
  • The ideal female image is even being used to manipulate the buying habits of pre-teenage girls and their parents. Fashion for “tweens” has become a thriving industry as young girls are sold the lie that they too must look like the adult women even before they’ve reached womanhood!
  • It distorts employment opportunities. Discrimination based on appearance is illegal, but also very difficult to prove. How many employers (both male and female) rank ‘attractive’ women ahead of women with better capabilities? This discrimination may not even be conscious because “attractiveness = value” has been so deeply scripted into our thinking.
  • It destroys our appreciation of the natural beauty of the broad spectrum of female appearance. Everyone loses when we can no longer see the beauty in woman of all shapes and sizes. And we lose far more when we only see beauty in terms of external appearance and stop appreciating a woman’s personal qualities and capabilities.
  • It distorts how men view and treat women.
    • “Attractive” women get more attention. They are more likely to be spoken to, listened to and included by men in all arenas of life.
    • It encourages men to sexualize women and view them as objects to be used, rather than seeing  and appreciating the whole person.
    • Seeing women as objects helps men ‘justify’ violence against women.
  • It distorts how men choose women to date and partner.
    Men usually agree that a wise choice of partner is based on the ‘total package’ and not just appearance. In practice however men are powerfully driven by hormones to choose women they find visually attractive.
    Distort men’s definition of ‘attractive’ and you distort and narrow the range of women that men choose to partner. Sadly ‘less attractive’ women with whom they could have a stable, long-term relationship based on love and a deep intellectual and emotional connection can all too easily be overlooked.
    How many relationships and marriages end in grief when men discover that physical ‘beauty’ does not guarantee relationship compatibility? Or because a ‘more attractive’ woman comes along?

What can we do about it?

We need to get our values straight…

  • All women (and men) are immeasurably valuable human beings worthy of being loved, accepted, respected and appreciated for who they are.
  • “Love one another” does not include any conditions regarding appearance… or abilities, social standing or achievements.

These values are easy to acknowledge but are very difficult to practice.

Grow your awareness…

  • Don’t underestimate the extent to which your thinking has been conditioned.
    It’s very easy to enthusiastically agree there’s a problem, and not realize how thoroughly conditioned we’ve become to judge women by their appearance.
  • When you’re next in a group relating to women observe your own thoughts and actions. Which women do you tend to gravitate towards? Why?
  • When you’re watching TV ask: Would I still enjoy this program if the female characters were plain looking? What if they were ‘ugly’? This question did my head in last night when watching one of my favourite comedies “Friends”.
  • When you see advertisements look for the subtle (and blatant) ways attractive women are used to sell the products. Question it. Object to your thinking being manipulated.

Choose to think and act differently…

  • Choose to reject your association of a woman’s value with her appearance. Choose to value women for who they are. Appreciate their qualities and capabilities as people. The theory is easy. Practicing it with integrity can be very difficult (for men especially).
  • Keep an eye out for women who are being left out of the group. Actively choose to talk to them and appreciate them as people. (Keep an eye out for men who are being left out too!)
  • Where appropriate, let the women in your life know why they are valuable. Start with the women you love and respect (e.g. family members and close friends). This will help you redefine your own measure of what makes a woman valuable… it will also encourage them!

Help others to become aware…

  • Discuss the issue with friends, family and other people to help increase their awareness. You will also learn from their experiences.
  • Where appropriate, ask women in your life how this issue impacts them. Not only will you gain valuable first hand insights, you will also be affirming their value and worth. You may even open their eyes to the lie and encourage them to free themselves from conforming to it.
  • If you have children or grand-children talk to them about what makes women (and men) valuable. Develop their awareness of the distorted standards and advertising pressures being foisted on them by the media and advertising.
  • If you have daughters and granddaughters reinforce that their own self-worth does not depend on conforming to an unrealistic ideal appearance.

You CAN make a difference…

Stop believing the lie.

Change your thinking. Women are valuable for who they are, not because of how ‘attractive’ they are.

Break the scripting and conditioning of your own mind.

Change your actions. Work at valuing all women. Appreciate each of them for their unique personalities and capabilities.

Grow your own awareness.

Increase the awareness of others.


You can still appreciate physical beauty… but keep it perspective. The true beauty of a woman is in who she is, not her external appearance. 

Keep working to break free from the lie.
Deeply scripted thinking and habit patterns require hard work and practice to change.


Ian + dingo


Ian James

A reflection on the last 18 months since losing Rosie… prompted by events of the last 6 weeks…


The last 6 weeks have been difficult and challenging.
Losing my step-mum Dot brought its own grief. It also caused the even deeper grief of losing Rosie to resurface, along with the pain of many other life events going right back to my childhood.

However, this time has also given me two profound gifts…

  • The opportunity to face and deal with unresolved issues in my life.
  • Something I have never experienced before… surrounding the grief and turmoil… a deep overriding sense of peace.

Losing Rosie thrust me into an unfamiliar, empty place.
I had no choice but to go there. Much of what defined ‘me’ disappeared.
Alongside grief I was faced with the need to redefine myself and my life.

This recent turmoil has also helped me see how many changes have already occurred. I’m standing on the threshold of a new life and I’m so grateful to be here.

However I dare not take it for granted and so remain vigilant. Life never stops challenging us with tough times and I have no desire to take the ‘downward’ path again. 

My life is changing…

The grief of Rosie’s death is slowly giving way.

An energy I’ve never had before is creeping in.

I’m beginning to discover a new identity;
the freedom to make choices and set a new course.

I’m filtering my beliefs about life and myself…
Keeping the beliefs that are life-giving,
Discarding the beliefs that brought decades of fear and depression,
And giving myself freedom to question them all.

I’m learning what it means to love and accept myself for who I am right now.

I’m forming new relationships and deepening existing ones.

Peace is replacing anxiety,
Insecurity is giving way to quiet confidence.

For the first time ever…

I’m starting to dream of the future,
and wake most mornings with
Hope and Anticipation.

And occasionally,
I experience two strange new feelings…
Excitement and Joy!


 Ian JamesIan + dingo

Rachel is Dot’s first-born grandchild and gave this touching reflection at her funeral on 6th June 2016.

A Reflection on the life of Dot James by Rachel Ploegsma

For those that don’t know me, I’m Rachel, Dot’s eldest granddaughter. Today I would like to share some special memories of my grandmother who we called Nana, and her great-grandchildren called Nana-the-Great.

When my oldest daughter was born, my sister Miriam, coined the name Nana-the-Great instead of Great Nana. Everyone else had a Great Nana but ours was special so we had a Nana-the-Great.  This was a lasting term of endearment that Nana was especially proud of.

And great she was for so many reasons, including her gentle nature, kindness, acceptance of all people, along with an attitude to life to simply get on with things without complaint. Sometimes I think how amazing it would be to emulate all these qualities.

Something most relatives and close friends here today can relate to is how Nana always remembered our birthdays. She had a unique way of making each person feel special after carefully selecting the words for each card. Hers was usually the first card to arrive and always by mail even if she was seeing you for your birthday. Nana knew the exact number of grandchildren she had, as well as the ever changing number of great-grandchildren who she was always proud to tell people about.

As a child, my sisters and I spent many weekends staying in Healesville with Nana and Grandie. These were happy times where we were given money to spend at the shops, which usually culminated in us having enough provisions for a midnight feast. Nana would spend time lovingly brushing our hair and always obliging when we asked for a longer hair brush. She would supply us with fruit loops for breakfast and cook pikelets for lunch and marvel at how many we could eat in one sitting. We would giggle away when Nana would iron our socks and undies yet enjoyed the warmth of putting on these freshly ironed garments.

There was a huge a tree in Nana’s backyard where I’m sure most of the grandchildren would remember climbing and making their own fun and games amongst the branches. One time we even had a family Christmas gathering under the tree. Much time was also spent at Queens Park just down the road, and being so fond of this place I chose to have my 11th birthday party there.

A special treat was to take a ride on the ‘diesel’ train that ran from Healesville to Lilydale, and scare each other as the train went through the tunnel. Nana enjoyed watching the rabbits scamper along the tracks and loved pointing out varies sights along the way.

Sometimes on these weekends, we attended church services which I believe were held in this very church. Nana would provide so many of her handmade items to the church fetes such as her fruit jams, her lacy coat hangers, lavender bags and potpourri bags made from her own flowers from her well kept garden.

One thing I do still feel bad about though was a time when Nana and Grandie took us to the local swimming pool. I was a fairly competent swimmer, whilst Nana was very hesitant around water. This resulted in us only being allowed to swim in the shallow pool, much to my annoyance. One time, and probably the last time we were taken to the pool, I took it upon myself to swim down to the forbidden deep end. As I was swimming I saw the panicked look on Nana’s face and pretended I couldn’t hear her calling out to me. When I reached the end, I decided to hold my breath for as long as possible at the bottom of the pool and act as if I couldn’t swim. From the bottom of the pool I could see both Nana and Grandie leaning over the edge. Needless to say I was in trouble and must apologise to the subsequent grandchildren who probably weren’t taken to the pool.

I really also need to apologise to Nana for one other thing. When  Nana was offered a glass of wine as a bottle was being shared, Nana would always say “No thank you, I’ve never put alcohol to my lips!” We all knew this, but also knew that Nana loved to be included and was always offered a glass just like anybody else. What Nana perhaps should have said was that “I have never knowingly put alcohol to my lips!” At my 40th birthday party, Nana came up to me with a glass of punch in her hand, remarking how lovely it was and “What do you put in it?”. I didn’t have the heart to let her know about my secret ingredient, except that it was noticed that at the age of 89 she took to the dance floor and karaoke machine like someone half her age.

For the last 21 years my husband and I have run a football tipping competition from home, and from its beginning Nana has always been a member, including this current season. In the earlier years Nana wasn’t necessarily an avid football supporter despite always having a loyalty to Footscray, now known as the Western Bulldogs. As the years progressed, when I would either ring or see Nana to put in her tips, she would enter a tip before offering an explanation of why she was tipping a particular team. She would use terms like “they are injury plagued”, “not enough inside 50’s” and “the coach has them rattled”. It soon became apparent that Nana was keeping herself well informed and when I asked her how she knew this she said “Well on Thursdays I stay up late and watch the Footy Show!” Having never won a major prize in the competition, I felt Nana loved just being a part of things and being included in what the family was doing. Interestingly, Nana’s chosen password when the competition went online was ‘Nana-the-Great’.

Nana will leave a lasting legacy that will shine on through the generations. One grandson described Nana as being ‘accidently inspirational’ after she inspired him with her love of fine fabrics, sewing and corsetry. My sister Catherine tells how her passion for flowers was ignited by watching Nana arrange her beautiful floral arrangements for the mantelpiece. For others it was her love of God and her quietly encouraging ways that inspired them. Another grand-daughter mentioned the endless love in her heart. This love extended to our spouses and friends who also described Nana a kind, gracious and elegant lady.

Finally, I would like to thank my mother Del, for overseeing Nana’s care for the last 6 years whilst she was in residence at Monda Lodge.

It would be remiss not to mention that incredible smile that captured every essence of Nana’s happiness whenever a loved one walked into her room. Even on the morning that I said my final goodbye to Nana, she  still mustered one of her smiles. This smile is how I will always remember my amazingly kind-hearted Nana. Thankyou.Rachel+Nana1

Rest in Peace Nana



Rachel Ploegsma
6th June 2016

This post outlines my thinking on  NEGATIVE GEARING and why I can’t support the policies of either major Party in the 2016 Federal Election.

Negative Gearing and its Impacts…

  • Negative gearing is a tax deduction for people who already own their own house and are buying another house as an investment.
  • By definition it cannot be accessed by first home buyers.
  • This inherently favours those who have accumulated enough wealth to both own a house and invest in a second house, i.e. it favours the the wealthy in our society and is mostly inaccessible to poor
  • Many people who invest in buying or building a second property do so with the intent of renting it out so that the rental income pays off much of the mortgage for them. The ‘ideal’ situation is to have the tenant pay off your investment property for you. This is a perfect example of using money to make money… at the expense of other people.
  • High house prices along with high rental costs (particularly in Australia’s cities) mean that many of the young in our society, along with those who don’t earn high professional salaries, will never be able to save enough money for a house deposit while paying rent.
  • As a result many of our children and grandchildren will never be able to own their own home and will spend their lives paying off investment properties owned by people at the wealthier end of society, i.e. the rich get richer while the poor get poorer.

My conclusion:

  • At a personal level, negative gearing is making it more difficult for my own children to buy their own homes.
  • At a national level negative gearing contributes to the growing divide between the rich and poor in our society.
  • I therefore believe negative gearing should be stopped for the purchase of both existing properties and building of new homes.
  • The substantial tax revenue saved can then be diverted to implementing other policies that will benefit our children and grandchildren instead of harming them, e,g, reducing the accumulated deficit we are leaving them to pay off.

The bottom line (for me):

I cannot support either the Coalition’s or Labor’s policies to retain negative gearing in any form.

Have I got it wrong?

Have I got it wrong? Is my understanding too simplistic?
I’d welcome your feedback on this.
IJ Icon - Blog
Ian James

Haven’t decided who to vote for in Saturday’s Federal election?
You’re in good company!

Or, maybe you have decided.
Or, maybe you’re planning to vote informally as a protest.

If any of these describe you, read on!

The aims of this post are simple…

  • To challenge you to take your vote seriously.
  • To help you arrive at the voting booth with a clear, well-informed decision in mind.

This post is NOT going to tell you who to vote for… that’s totally up to you!

Why bother to vote?

I know you’ve heard it many times before, but it is absolutely true:
Your vote is important. Make it count.

Our right to vote in Australia is a great privilege. It is also a great responsibility. Don’t treat this privilege and responsibility lightly
and don’t throw it away!!

Casting a meaningful vote means putting in an effort.
Yes, to make an informed choice you DO need to spend time studying the policies of the political parties.

If this sounds like hard work, I’ve got some good news… there are many resources available to assist you.

If politics is something you dislike or find boring, you may be in for a big surprise. Education on any important topic in life is a powerful thing… it may well impact you in ways you never expected.

Becoming familiar with current political issues may open up a whole new realm for you.
It can empower you to discuss issues you never felt confident talking about before.
It can inspire you to take action on some of the vital issues impacting our society and the world around us.

How to throw away your vote… and…
Why not to…

The worst thing you can do in this election is put in an informal vote
(called a donkey vote).

Typical reasons why people do this… and why these reasons are flawed…

  • “I’m totally unhappy with all parties. I’m going to vote informally to protest.”
    The only person you hurt by doing this is YOU! You’ve just thrown away your right (and your responsibility) to make a decision about which party is going to govern Australia, and your own personal future just may be affected by whoever wins.
  • “The parties are basically the same so it doesn’t matter who I vote for.”
    The parties may have some similarities but they are NOT the same.
    Whoever wins the election will have different impacts on the direction Australia is heading.
  • “Both parties are full of wankers… You can never believe anything they say.”
    Yes, many politicians are experts at telling half-truths and distorting reality to make their policies look great, and the other parties’ policies look like disasters. BUT at the end of the day, whoever wins the election will have significant power to affect Australia’s future, and yours and mine along with it.
    Our job, as members of the public, is to hold those who form Government to account. A tough job? Yes, but politicians ARE sensitive to public opinion, and even more so in this age of social media.
  • “I can’t be bothered… It’s all so boring… I’m too busy.”
    I respectfully suggest it’s time you did start being bothered! Many aspects of your own future, that of your family, your local electorate and community, and Australia’s future depend on it.
  • “I know so little about politics… It’s all so confusing… I’ve never had time to understand it.”
    Understanding politics is like understanding anything else in life. If you take time to learn about the parties and stay informed of current issues your understanding will grow.

How to Use Your Vote Wisely…

So you’re not going to throw away your vote… that’s great! The challenge now is to use it wisely.

Common thinking that leads to a wasted vote…

  • “The leader of the Party A is a better leader, so I’m going to vote for their Party.”
    It is essential you look beyond the personalities of the leaders and base your vote on the Parties’ policies. Yes, the leaders do influence the policies adopted by their parties, but they are far from being in total control.
    The major parties are based on very different political philosophies. They are also driven by different (powerful) influences and vested interests outside the parties.
  • “I’ve always voted for Party A so that’s how I’m going to vote this time.”
    If you’ve done your homework and are convinced your values are better represented by one party above the others then maybe this approach is valid. But maybe not too.
    The current policies of your preferred party may NOT represent your current values and opinions on the current issues being faced by Australia. A wiser approach is to evaluate the issues and policies specific to each election rather than relying on your personal status quo.
  • “My local member is doing a great job so I’m going to vote for them rather than a candidate of a specific party.”
    Yes, your local member may be doing a good job of representing issues in your electorate. However, your vote is not only about what is best for your electorate. To my mind, your primary responsibility is to vote for whoever will deliver the best outcome for the whole of Australia, not just your local community.
  • “My parents (or my partner, the leader of my religious community, or some other person who I respect) are voting for Party A, so I’m going to vote for Party A too.”
    If this person is well-informed about current issues and party policies and their values align closely with yours, it’s good to take note of who they’re voting for. But don’t just fall in behind them… Ask them the reasons why and see if you do agree with their assessment. Remember, even highly respected people have biases… and their perspective is just one of many different perspectives.It’s far wiser to talk to a range of informed, caring people who are voting for different parties. Other perspectives may also be supported by sound reasoning. Understanding them will put you in a far better position to make your own informed choice.

How to be informed…

There’s only a few days left until the election, but here’s some ideas…

  • The ABC’s Vote Compass is an informative and helpful place to start… https://votecompass.abc.net.au/.
    The website takes you through a multiple choice questionnaire covering key election issues. The questions will help you understand the key issues and help you determine your own values and position on each of them. The outcome is a ‘graph’ showing where you are on the ‘political landscape’ compared to the three major Parties (Coalition, Labor, Greens).
    You can also ‘drill down’ to see how your position compares to each of these parties on each key issue.
  • Keep an eye on the news for the current issues and the policies/promises being offered by the parties to address them.
  • Watch TV programs that probe politicians and issues in depth and bring the wisdom of commentators and experts to bear. The ABC’s Q&A program each Monday night is brilliant for this… it is both informative and entertaining to watch.
  • Keep your B.S. meter set on ‘High’. Look out for three word slogans that vastly oversimplify complex issues, and for scare campaigns and half-truths designed to use fear and deception to capture your vote.
  • Ignore political advertisements. They are generally unhelpful and often downright misleading (see previous point).
  • Read in-depth articles on key issues and policies. These articles can help to place what politicians are saying in a broader perspective. Too often the full facts reveal that ‘great promises’ are political gimmicks attempting to win votes. But beware also… the media is driven by its own vested interests.
  • Check out each of the major parties websites for details of their policies on key issues.
  • Talk to other people, especially caring, wise people who keep themselves politically informed. You don’t have to agree with or follow other people’s opinions or beliefs, but openly discussing political issues will help ‘sharpen your sword’ when it comes to understanding the issues and discerning the wisdom (or otherwise) of what the political parties are saying.

A Final Thought…

Your vote on Saturday is important… Make it count.
If you don’t feel adequately informed when you get to the voting both, commit yourself to be informed before the next election.

Your vote in EVERY election is important.

Ian + dingo


Ian James

Did Britain really vote to leave the EU?

Today the news headlines are plastered with reports announcing the outcome of the Brexit referendum…

“Britain votes to leave EU!”

“See EU goodbye!!”

While Britain as a whole voted to leave the European Union it is important to recognize almost half of the voting population wanted to stay (51.9% Leave, 48.1% Stay).

The Brexit Affair…

I wonder if for many British people, being carried along by the Leave campaign is going to end with similar consequences to having an affair while married.

If you’re unhappy with what you’ve got (and the status quo always has shortcomings) getting involved in something new that offers tantalizing changes can carry you along with great excitement… for a time. However, when the shortcomings of your new relationship inevitably emerge, you are very likely to wake up in bed one morning thinking “What on earth have I done??” You may also find not only do you have a broken marriage, but your new relationship is falling apart as well.

While the possibility (likelihood?) of disastrous economic impacts for Britain, the EU and the rest of the world are of huge concern there is another potentially serious, but less obvious, impact on Britain as well.

The Brexit campaign highlighted and powerfully reinforced deep divisions in public opinion between the Stay and Leave camps. The outcome of the referendum will likely deepen those divisions further as the British public experience negative impacts of a decision only half of them supported. Those who voted to stay are not going to remain silent… the end result may be a nation divided against itself.

In Scotland 62% of voters opted to stay in the EU. Now the Brexit has succeeded a second referendum is likely to be held on the issue of Scottish independence, followed by Scotland subsequently rejoining the EU! What Britain is now facing is the potential breakup of the United Kingdom itself!

Democracy can be dangerous…

The Brexit referendum has highlighted one of the deep flaws in our democratic system of government.

Leaving it up to the public to make decisions on issues which have profound long-term impacts on the future of a country does not guarantee that wise decisions will be made.

Very few members of the public have the necessary understanding and expertise to analyze extremely complex issues (such as leaving the EU), and independently make a truly competent decision. In the case of the Brexit, as with all complex political issues, not even the experts can agree on how beneficial or disastrous the outcomes will be.

In practice, the outcome of a referendum (or election of a new government) depends on which ‘side’ can mount the most persuasive campaign. This in turn can be heavily influenced by how much funding each side attracts from vested interests in their policies, along with the vested interests of media owners.

In addition, public opinion can be powerfully influenced by fear. The current Australian federal election campaign provides an excellent example. Leaders on both sides have shown little hesitation resorting to “three word slogans” and deceitful scare campaigns, both of which vastly oversimplify and distort complex issues, in order to frighten the public into voting for their party.

While I fully support our democratic system, we should all take heed of the wisdom of Winston Churchill…

“Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others.”

Ian + dingoIan James

Dad jokes

Every now and then my overactive, somewhat quirky brain comes up with spontaneous “Dad jokes”. Family and friends often groan, shaking their heads sadly, or they simply look blank. I think I’ve cracked a great joke 😂 and they just don’t get it! 😕😕
Occasionally however I do prompt a chuckle or sometimes (rarely) uproarious laughter! 😂😂😄😃
I’ve decided to progressively build a collection of these jokes as they come to mind… was that more groans I hear? Well nevermind, I think it’s essential for great (unrecognised) talent to not be lost. 😃😃👍👍

24/06/2016 – Bathroom Humour

I was out at a cafe the other day discussing the subject of relationships with a good friend. After we’d downed a few cups of coffee I needed to go to the “bathroom”. As I opened the door I noticed the typical “Engaged/Free” indicator.

Now for the joke…
“Why do toilets live such anguished, heartbroken lives?”

“Because they’re forever getting engaged but no-one ever makes a long term commitment!!”


My 96 year old step-Mum, Dot, passed away recently on Friday May 27th.

My step-sister Del, captured her Mum’s life history in her very informative and touching eulogy at Dot’s funeral on Monday June 6th.

Thanks Del, for giving us a cameo of your mum’s life… an inspiring story spanning most of the 20th century and the early part of our current century… one that captures the personal joys and traumas of a very special woman who lived much of her early life against a background of great social and personal upheaval. Thankfully Dot’s later years settled into a period of relative peace and happiness, interspersed however with difficult and challenging life events.

Del & Dot

Eulogy for Doris Irene Tarrant
3/12/1919  –  27/06/2016

“Fear no more the heat of the sun
Nor the furious winter rages
Though thy worldly task hast done
Home art gone and taken thy wages”
William Shakespeare

Childhood years…

Doris Irene Tarrant was born in Cobden on the 3rd of December 1919. She was better known as Dot or Dorrie, “Mum” to Max. Cheryl and myself, Nana to her many grandchildren, and to her 35 great-grandchildren, Nana-the-Great. Mum’s step great-great grandchild was born recently. Great Nana-the-Great would have been a bit of a mouthful.

Mum’s parents were William George Tarrant an ANZAC and Elsie May Wickens an English girl. They married 8th March 1919 in Newbury England. Elsie, pregnant with Mum, with William, set sail from England on the troop ship “Katoomba”, arriving in Australia 22nd September 1919.

William with his dear Elsie travelled to Cobden to live with his parents.

Two months later Mum was born. The second name Irene was chosen because it means “Peace”.

From about 1921, Mum lived at 24 Warleigh Road, West Footscray.

A copper plaque “Katoomba” greeted visitors at the front door.

On August 30th 1922, her brother Ron was born, and brother Eric was born September 14th 1925.

Mum, her brothers and our Dad attended Tottenham State School. After two years attendance at Footscray Domestic Arts School, Mum qualified for her Merit Certificate, a very good qualification to enter the workforce.

Apparently the boys from Footscray Technical School teased the girls by referring to the school as the Footscray Donkeys School, and Dad still teased Mum about that when Max and I were kids.

Teenagehood, growing up…

At the age of 14, Mum left school and worked as a seamstress, using a treadle sewing machine at “Lucas’s” making corsets. She made lifelong friends there, all of whom she outlived.

Mum lived in interesting times, extraordinary times. She knew many personal hardships but her focus was always on ‘forbearance”.

She often quoted…
“Life is mostly froth and bubble
Two things stand like stone
Kindness in another’s troubles
Courage in your own.”
…and lived by that.

The first half of Mum’s life was in really tough times for everybody. One coped and made the best of things. One learned to survive without complaint regardless of distress, disappointment, sorrow or tragedy.

Mum’s childhood followed the aftermath of the Great War but peace had broken out.

Her teenage years were lived during the darkness of the ‘Great Depression”. Money was scarce. The Tarrant family lived frugally, nothing was wasted, and they were grateful for what they had.

Even at the end of Mum’s lifetime, she would often say “I don’t need that”  Nice new clothes for her when she resided at Monda Lodge was met with  “I don’t need them. I’ve still got my Fletcher Jones trousers that I bought when I went to England, and they’re still good”. Now that momentous trip was in 1979 ….is that over 30 years?

A young woman in wartime…

Mum’s young adult life was spent in wartime. Boyfriends, brothers and cousins were sent to war. War time conditions prevailed. Mail was censored for fear of interception that would advantage enemy forces. Mum only knew Dad was ‘somewhere in the Pacific’. Food, clothing and household goods were rationed and there was a perceived risk of being bombed.

Mum spoke of an air raid warning when a Japanese reconnaissance plane flew over Footscray. That was kept secret. An ammunition factory was at Maribyrnong. She scratched the glass of her very precious 21st birthday watch scrambling under her bed.

Young men of Mum’s age were conscripted into military service and were replaced women, as part of ‘The War Effort’.

In June 1942, by private arrangement, Mum became a ‘land girl’ and worked on a farm at Jancourt. She milked the cows and undertook farm work in general and loved it. With many women working on the land, a desperate Australia was able to recruit more men into military service.

While working on the farm, Mum had a boyfriend she loved very much. There is one photo of him still in her album. Some men get killed in wartime. That’s what happens.

We know he rode a motorbike and Mum rode pillion passenger. On one occasion Mum came off the back of the motor bike, rolled several times down an embankment and split her knee open.

Her knee had a long memory and had become very painful when she was only eighty years old, so she forced herself to see her doctor about it. The doctor asked if she had ever injured it. When she told the doctor she fell off the back of a motor bike when she was young, the doctor’s head spun around “like that.”

Mum was very popular with the boys. She was very proud of her natural eyebrows. She never had to pluck them and proudly told me that ‘boys could not believe that eyebrows just grew like that’. She was also very proud of her thin ankles and shapely legs and remained proud of her hair until the end.

On his last leave before moving to Queensland with the Army, Dad travelled to Jancourt to visit Mum with high hopes. He proposed marriage to her, but was turned down. Mum was just not ready yet, but she agreed to write to him. He wrote to her almost every day.

In 1943 Mum’s father became desperately ill. Mum was needed at home to help out. She again felt the need to contribute to the war effort.

New Guinea had been invaded and it was thought that Australia was under direct threat. Postal delivery on bicycles was definitely a man’s job, but more men were needed for military service. Mum became a post girl at Footscray, one of the first women to do so. Mail was delivered twice daily but only once on Saturdays. She was very proud of that contribution to the War Effort.

Mail was placed in a sack carried over the shoulders. The soldiers in New Guinea came up with a novel idea. Letters written on scratched coconuts were sent to the folks at home… that idea was soon squashed when the posties complained! Delivering letters written on coconuts was a real nuisance as not many could fit into the mail bags and that made a long day.

Mum and other posties blew the whistle three times to let loved ones know that easily identified cards from POW’s had arrived. She shared the joy. Many on her postal round came to the church to see her married.

Early married life with Len…

In January 1944, Dad was deployed for combat in New Guinea, but still managed to pen a letter every day. In July 1944, Dad  proposed marriage again…. this time in writing. Mum accepted.

Engagement rings were unavailable. Dad bought a second hand engagement ring from a mate whose girlfriend had written a ‘Dear John letter’, with the returned engagement ring enclosed.

Dad bought and posted the ring to his father, who placed it on Mum’s finger on Dad’s behalf. Later, in November 1944, Dad was posted to Bougainville. From February 1945, he was in constant combat. Following a particularly disastrous battle with heavy casualties behind enemy lines at Porton Plantation, he was granted leave to return to Australia with the expectation of returning to War.

Mum became Mrs Holt when she married Thomas Leonard (Len) Holt on 21st July 1945 at Paisley Street Baptist Church in Footscray. Their courtship and engagement had been entirely by letters, all of which had been censored by the Army Intelligence.

Mum and Dad had not seen each other for over three years. The wedding was organised in ten days. Mum borrowed her friend’s wedding dress and veil. Aunty Bev’s mother made the bridesmaids’ frocks from organdie which was see-through, but that was all that was available. Borrowed pink and blue petticoats worn underneath made the bridesmaids dresses respectable.

Wedding presents included war ration coupons to buy fabric and shoes for the wedding, and to help purchase household goods such as sheets, towels etc. which were in increasingly short supply and rationed as the war dragged on. Dad married in army uniform as he had no other clothes.

They honeymooned in Marysville. Dad returned to active duty. He had barely arrived at the Army Depot in Queensland when the war ended. He was then stationed in Brisbane and the War was over. After reporting for duty daily, he was given the day off as there was nothing to do.

Mum, now pregnant with me, travelled by train to Brisbane in September. That was an arduous trip. Dad always maintained that troop trains to Queensland were especially fitted with triangular wheels.

That time in Queensland they both described as an extended honeymoon. Dad was demobilised in November 1945.

Establishing a home and a family…

Mum and Dad lived with Mum’s parents for over 2 year due to housing shortages. I was born on 1st May 1946. Max was born 12th March 1948 and he too lived at 24 Warleigh Road. A few weeks after Max was born, on my second birthday, 1st May 1948, Mum and Dad moved into their newly built weatherboard house at 10 Cornwall Road, Sunshine. It had a brick chimney.

Dad was asked some time later, how he’d got the bricks. There was silence. I knew the answer, “Mummy and Daddy got them on the black market!” Oops!

That generation knew how to survive and appreciate the good things that came their way. Mum was a typical housewife of that era. She listened to the wireless as she ironed and sang along with the happy songs that reflected the hardships of wartime starting to disappear.

Dad and Mum were so happy. They enjoyed their garden. The world was getting back to normal again. Rationing of food, clothing and goods was fast coming to an end.  Life was simple and they were free. People were grateful just to be together as a family.

In 1953, we moved to a 40 acre property in Christmas Hills. The house was an old pioneer house with a kitchen separate from the rest of the house. The roof leaked big time when it rained.

Dad rode his BSA motor bike to work and Mum worked the farm, milking cows and feeding the chooks and ducks, fending off the crows stealing the eggs by filling the empty eggshells with mustard to burn their tongues. Crows like mustard flavoured eggs.

Our cousins still talk of their happy times staying on the farm. We kids put on concerts . I remember Dad, Uncle Ron and Mum’s cousin Jack performing their old army songs, and we kids performed songs and plays while the womenfolk sat as the audience, glad to just sit.

Mum loved the CWA (Country Women‘s Association) activities. The “Chin Waggers Association” according to Dad!  Our whole family attended the weekly Christmas Hills dance of a Saturday night.

Mum loved to make jam and preserve fruit from the fruit trees albeit that meant slaving over a wood stove in the middle of summer in a very hot kitchen. Mum loved the life of being like a pioneer, but it was a hard life. We did not have electricity until 1960.

Tough times again…

In December 1953 calamity struck.  Dad worked at a timber mill. A truck load of dressed timber fell on him and crushed and almost severed his leg. One surgeon was keen to experiment with a new idea – experimental microsurgery. He had the right patient. The surgeon ventured into the unknown. Dad was hospitalised (Max feels it was for 18 months) but he kept his leg. Mum acted as his physio and daily massaged his leg with peanut oil and fitted the calipers to his leg after milking the cows.

That accident put the family in dire straits. Things fell apart. There was financial hardship, and the stress of the injury and incapacity again triggered “War Neurosis”. Dad had horrendous war experiences. Post-traumatic stress was not understood. Life was extremely tough for Mum.

Mum secured a job sewing corsetry. Mum’s bosses were survivors of a Holocaust Concentration Camp. They were very kind to Mum and our family. They never put her under pressure and it was not unknown for her to receive a bonus every now and then.  It is appropriate to express gratitude to Mr and Mrs Zimmet and Mr & Mrs Lander. They knew what suffering was.

Mum’s mother died unexpectedly in 1959 and Mum was heart broken

Mum and Dad got back on their feet, and things were going well. Mum gave up work. On January 16th 1962, a raging bushfire – an inferno – surrounded us. We could not escape. Our house was completely burnt to the ground and nothing in the house survived. But we survived, and to this day, I don’t know how. This trauma for the family was unbelievably difficult.

For seven months we lived in a house built only to lock up stage. It was a very cold winter and there were no facilities or heating. The wind blew through the gaps, but it was better than living in a tent, and we were grateful. We moved into our newly built house in August that year.

Mum’s father died in 1964.

In 1967 notice was given that the Sugar Loaf Dam was to be built and Mum and Dad’s farm property was to be compulsorily acquired.

Losing Len…

In 1968 Dad, at the age of 47 years, developed acute leukemia and within three months of diagnosis died. He had ensured Mum was settled in Healesville, but died 2 weeks after moving into 376 Maroondah Highway.

Mum was now a widow but too young to claim social security. Mrs Lander offered her employment again. Mum traveled to Melbourne by train from Healesville each working day. Mrs Lander was a matchmaker in her Jewish community and knew of a very wealthy Jewish man who was looking for a wife and offered Mum a chance to live an easy life. That was a foreign idea to Mum. Mum believed that you only marry for love.

New beginnings…

In 1969 Dot became a grandmother… Nana.

She met Jack James. They married in 1972. Two people who had known great hardship now found stability and happiness and adored each other. Two adult families melded. Mum and Jack put life’s tragedies behind them and were happy. They belonged to many organisations – St John’s where they both taught Sunday School, Probus, the Masonic Lodge, Garden Club, Legacy – and had many friends.

The grandchildren of both families were equally adored by them.

Losing Jack…

Sadly Jack died in 1995.

Elderly life… Nana-The-Great…

Mum then adored the great-grandchildren of both families as they arrived. Mum’s focus was Family. She loved her family and we loved her.

The Craft ladies motivated Mum to create “one off” presents for family members. The coat hangers and lavender bags were legendary. Mum always looked forward to Craft Group.

She was an expert knitter and hand embroiderer.

Mum loved her garden and some of it followed her to Monda Lodge. Mum’s garden was her trade mark and that stands out in everyone’s memory.

A secret revealed…

Mum had bundles of stuff that I regarded as personal and private when she moved to Monda. When clearing her room at Monda, we found a bundle of hastily written notes sealed in plastic, that she had written to Jack. When I read them, I discovered an aspect of Mum that I didn’t know, nor did Ian who had lived with Mum and Jack for 3 years.

I just have to indulge and share two of the notes which are pretty much the same as the other notes in the bundle.

Be prepared. I think you too will discover an aspect of Mum that may surprise you.
Take a deep breath…

“Dear Jack,
Hi di Hi
Been a good boy? Weeeeell!!!!
I’ve been a good girl too.   Love you Smoogy
Dot, Dar”

It gets even better.

“Sweetie Pie, Smoogie
I hope you enjoy your dinner. It’s on the stove.
Be a good boy and don’t flirt with any girls ——or women
Love you,

Mum always said, “I was lucky. I married two very good men.”


On behalf of all the Family, I wish to express enormous gratitude to the staff at Monda Lodge. Mum was always happy there, always valued, understood and treated with dignity and respect. Thank you for all that you did that enabled Mum to live out her last years peacefully with dignity and purpose.

Thank you also to Rev Tim Anderson who ministered to Mum’s spiritual needs regularly, and gave Mum such peace and comfort.

My Mum…

Mum was a quiet, well presented, unassuming, genteel, polite, considerate and well‑mannered lady whose struggles are now over and now revealed. She never gave in to sorrow and misfortune. She lived for strong family values, loved her family and was loved.

She always just accepted her lot and rode out every storm without complaint. People have expressed that Mum had such a good life. She did, but she did not always have an easy life. Times were very tough, but that generation was resilient. They had known so much deprivation, heartache, grief, suffering and hard work. They learnt to never give in and to always value what you have and not whinge about what you don’t have. We who follow her have a lot to live up to.

The slide presentation of Mum’s early life is set to Franz Schubert’s “Litany for The Feast of All Souls” sung in German. The English translation of the chorus and one verse expresses an understanding of Mum’s life and passing.

Rest in peace, all souls
Who have done with anxious torment
Who have had done with sweet dreams
Who, sated with life and hardly born
Have departed from this world:
All souls rest in peace.

 And those happy ones in the rose garden
Tarrying with their joyous cups,
But then, in one horrible moment,
Tasting the bitter dregs at last:
All who have parted from here
All souls rest in peace.

Rest in peace Mum, rest in peace

Delyse Brown
6th June 2016