from a quiet blog, some very good news for disability campaigners

Apart from reviewing occasionally for The Ember (rather too occasionally, as I’ve become a bit prone to pick my reviews to pieces before submitting), I’ve been keeping an eye on the proposed National Disability Insurance Scheme since I last wrote about it here. Well, things are hotting up in that area, and I have decided now is a good time to blast this closed blog open very briefly to bring you up to date with this once in a lifetime opportunity to reform disability services in this country.

Here’s a summary I drew up to send to family and friends recently, and a few suggestions for yourself following, if you’re drawn to read that far.

I hope you will be – this is really starting to grow into something to talk about. But first, the news so far:

Last year the Productivity Commission began an inquiry into the feasibility of an NDIS and received over 600 submissions from families and organisations. A draft report was published in April and a full report will be made public by the Government in November.

Discussion forums and a nationwide conference have been held since early 2011 to increase people’s understanding of the reforms, and you will find information on this on the NDIS website.

I’ll  save you a little time by highlighting two:
1.the one that impresses us the most is the recommendation that the Commonwealth take over responsibility for disability funding in the future. The double layer (sometimes even more layers in service provision) of Government is one of the biggest moneysuckers from disability funding in this wide brown land of ours, and this reform would hopefully bring Government money closer to the people it’s supposed to help.

2. This recommendation ties into the first: the Productivity Commission does not recommend that  a Medicare-style levy be introduced, but that real Govt funding be increased by States handing over their current disability budgets and the Fed Govt committing to real guaranteed increases in future. Hopefully this lessens the possibility that this reform can be dismissed or killed off in the Parliament as one more tax.

Two other external factors that are exciting:
1. a whopping great number of disability organisations have banded together, put their differences aside and are supporting this, because they know enough is enough, and that people with disabilities and their families are suffering too much. For a list, see here

2. there appears to be quite solid bipartisan support across political parties for the reforms – one of the reasons the Productivity Commission was asked to conduct an inquiry in the first place. There seems to be general agreement, even in the media, that the system is broken and that things cannot continue as they are.

Now, dear reader of surprise guerrilla postings on closed blogs, if this news captures your imagination,

you might like to register your support for the campaign at the website, send messages to your friends,


(kind of unofficially, this…!!): if you are a GetUp supporter and would like to send some votes our way, add your voice to those requesting support at GetUp, where the NDIS is currently under review as a cause to support.

My family thanks you for reading this and showing an interest in our future, which seemed precarious until these reforms became a strong possibility. Tell me I’m dreaming. Will this really happen?? I’m just daring to start hoping that it might.

I didn’t write much about my son on this blog in the past, I know – but he is 26, he loves having us to himself whenever he can get us, and he is starting to put two words together on an irregular basis. (Two of them being ‘driving faster’!)

For someone who started saying no at eighteen, that’s progress of its kind. He suffers from irritable bowel about one week out of every four, and has adjusted with no complaints to a fructose diet and gluten free foods recently. He enjoys tidying (I don’t lose pens or scissors any more, they get put back in a stand immediately they hit the table), lining things up, brushing leaves off park benches all year round, would watch Thomas for an hour if we let him, and became quite annoyed recently when a pathology nurse failed to draw a blood sample from him – he’s a results guy.

I can’t quite believe yet that this campaign may, in five years or a little more, deliver one of the major results we need, in the form of a home for him with full time carers who can continue to help him grow and learn through his adult life.

It’s so close I can smell it, even at five years distance.

It has put the spring back in my step, and should be putting a spring in the step of everyone in the country who knows someone with a disability. It’s going to be amazing. So let’s make it happen, yes.

Posted in in the neighbourhood | Leave a comment

that’s right, it’s over

It has come to my notice that I have new subscribers – no doubt this is due to my decision to maintain the Randolph Stow tribute post at the top of Reeling and Writhing's front page (though they could also have moved from Bloglines, which is closing, to Google Reader).

Be advised, all ye, to avoid further confusion of new visitors, that of today STUMPS is the top post. 

But while I do have your attention – it's cheering to know that the Productivity Commission's inquiry into a national disability insurance scheme attracted a whopping number of submissions. Those which have been put online can be read here (mine is no. 420). For more about the NDIS, see the disability politics tab above. If you do hear from me here again, it will be a notification that I have a disability politics blog elsewhere…

As you were, enjoy your reading.

Posted in blog writing, Current Affairs | Leave a comment



photo by Brian Yap – found via Trove.

The time has come, a fact's a fact. Though Peter Kenneally has gently accused me of being all Farnsey about it*, I am  pulling up stumps here, and decamping quietly to my
internet scrapbook at Mulberry Road. (It's okay, you can all come…if you like. But it will be quieter.)

*I have misremembered that – it was somewhere else, regarding something else. Sorry for taking your name in vain, sir. I do feel like Farnham though.

I did try to manage my
internet habits so that I was no longer a purveyor of links. But…I
think I actually got worse before I got better.

Let's face it – the news is all around you now, from SPUNC, City of Tongues, Kill Your Darlings, LiteraryMinded, Kerryn's new offering Read, Think, Write, Meanjin, Overland, the Wheeler Centre, Unwakeable, the Oz, even the Paris Review – so all good Ozlit news junkies know where to go.

As I say goodbye
(though this site will stay here so links will be
maintained), I want to note that the death of Randolph Stow in the age of digital publishing is as good a time as any to say goodbye. The last post will remain at the top of the page here as a memorial, because I can, because I'm a fan

I hope you won't mind keeping an eye out for news about the National Disability Insurance Scheme during the Federal election (and the State, if like me you are unlucky enough to have two this year). I've created a page with  some links and information for interested parties – click on the tab above for details if you'd like to know more.

Thanks to all who have visited, commented, sent me books, and invited me to events or made me welcome at their gatherings, and above all, been friends through some testing times. It's been a great ride, and I've enjoyed your company. Take care.

Posted in Australia - Writing, blog writing | 8 Comments

disability politics – Australia

In 2010 in Victoria we will be voting for State and Federal governments before the end of the year.

A host of disability organisations, along with families and friends of carers, are campaigning for increased government awareness and action towards the implementation of a National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).

It is hoped that the implementation of such a scheme would see the beginning of a dedicated income stream to disability services that would support the delivery of desperately needed services across the country, including longterm accommodation and respite care.

Read more about:

The National Disability Insurance Scheme

Follow the NDIS on Twitter and Facebook

The Productivity Commission’s hearing into the implementation of an NDIS in Australia

Please consider supporting the campaign, which is supported by many disability organisations, by emailing your candidates before the elections, or your MPs now.

I will add further links of interest as I find them.

June 2010.

Update: August 2010

As I will discuss in a brief post later, the issues paper from the Productivity Commission’s inquiry is worth reading. It shows that there is genuine interest in reforming a broken system.

The National Disabity And Carer Alliance website is now fully functional and contact details for the Executive Director, Kirsten Deane, are available. Their most recent media release shows that they have appointed a National Campaign director to oversee an ongoing campaign funded by a coalition of disability groups to promote the NDIS.

Late September 2010.

August 16, the deadline for submissions to the Productivity Commission’s inquiry, saw a huge flurry of email hit the PC’s inbox. As of today (Sept. 21), a whopping 473 submissions have been publicly posted on the PC’s website. Mine is no. 420.

If I have any more thoughts on this matter, I’ll start a new blog! and advise you forthwith. Otherwise you can keep in touch with the The National Disabity And Carer Alliance via their website, or follow the NDIS on Twitter and Facebook.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Randolph Stow 1935-2010: two poems

For Sidney Nolan

The love of man is a weed of the waste places,
One may think of it as the spinifex of dry souls.

I have not, it is true, made the trek to the difficult country
where it is said to grow; but signs come back,
reports come back, of continuing exploration
in that terrain. And certain of our young men,
who turned in despair from the bar, upsetting a glass,
and swore: "No more" (for the tin rooms stank of flyspray)
are sending word that the mastery of silence
alone is empire. What is God, they say,
but a man unwounded in his loneliness?

And the question (applauded, derided) falls like dust
on veranda and bar; and in pauses, when thinking ceases,
the footprints of the recently departed
march to the mind's horizons, and endure.

And often enough as we turn again, and laugh,
cloud, hide away the tracks with an acid word,
there is one or more gone past the door to stand
 (wondering, debating) in the iron street,
and toss a coin, and pass, to the township's end,
where one-eyed 'Mat, eternal dealer in camels,
grins in his dusty yard like a split fruit.

But one who has returned, his eyes blurred maps
of landscapes still unmapped, gives this account:

"The third day, cockatoos dropped dead in the air.
Then the crows turned back, the camels knelt down and
       stayed there,
and a skin-coloured surf of sandhills jumped the horizon
and swamped me. I was bushed for forty years.

"And I came to a bloke all alone like a kurrajong tree.
And I said to him: 'Mate – I don't need to know your name –
Let me camp in your shade, let me sleep, till the sun goes


 And indeed I shall anchor, one day – some summer morning
of sunflowers and bougainvillea and arid wind-
and smoking a black cigar, one hand on the mast,
turn, and unlade my eyes of all their cargo;
and the parrot will speed from my shoulder, and white yachts
welcoming out from the shore on the turquoise tide.

And when they ask me where I have been, I shall say
I do not remember.

And when they ask me what I have seen, I shall say
I remember nothing.

And if they should ever tempt me to speak again,

I shall smile, and refrain.

(Both in A Counterfeit Silence. Angus and Robertson, 1969. And I do wish Typepad would leave my spaces where I bloody put them.)

Updated: Age obit here, and The Australian's is here

From Stephen Romei's fine post at the Australian Literary Review blog, Ragged Claws, comes this beautiful tribute from John Kinsella, with news of Stow's last published works, posted in the comments by his partner Tracy Ryan:

“This is a great loss. I also consider Stow one of Australia’s greatest
writers. For those of us living and schooling in the West, he was
inevitably a huge influence, along with Dorothy Hewett, Jack Davis (see next comment) and Kenneth
‘Seaforth’ Mackenzie. I did my high schooling in Geraldton—I knew his
merry-go-round well (it is still there), and one couldn’t write without
being saturated in his consciousness of light, space and issues of
‘belonging’. I always liked the partially ‘surreal’ quality of his work,
especially the poem ‘Dust’ and the novel Tourmaline. I met up with him
at Harwich about 12 years ago and he showed me a variety of notebooks
which had a large amount of new poetry and other work in them. I managed
to convince him to allow me to publish 2 of those in an American
journal around the year 2000. I’ll never forget sending him a letter
early on in my writing life, and receiving a really positive,
handwritten response. He was generous that way. It became a guiding
light for me.”

There's a comment from Robert Adamson as well:

Randolph Stow was a great writer, ‘A Counterfeit Silence’ is one of the
most important and powerful books of poetry written by an Australian. I
love this book and have been reading it constantly since 1969 when it
was first published.  Stow, with his sly humour and indelible images,
beautifully written lines and stanzas, will continue to sustain readers
and poets for as long as there are copies of his books available. He
lives on in my imagination and I see his world expand each time I take a
look into the dark tide of his poetry. 

As another commenter notes,

Then the wind died down, and the voices faded, and at last Midnite fell

Good night, beautiful writer.

June 2nd Update: some final words that are more fitting come from Roger Averill, whose longer comment is below:

Although an intensely private person, Mick (as he was known to his family and friends) laughed at the way he was sometimes portrayed in Australia’s literary pages as a recluse, for he was in daily contact with people in Harwich and welcomed frequent visits from relatives and old Australian friends.

I am heartened by the attention Stow's death has received in the media and hope it helps him posthumously gain the readership his work deserves, particularly among younger people. I think only fitting that I give him the last word, words from a remarkable passage in 'The Girl Green as Elderflower' which offer some counter-balance to the alienation and despair of Cawdor in 'Visitants':

'Truly there is in the world nothing so strange, so fathomless as love. Our home is not here, it is in Heaven; our time is not now, it is eternity; we are here as shipwrecked mariners on an island, moving among strangers, darkly. Why should we love these shadows, which will be gone at the first light? It is because in exile we grieve for one another, it is because we remember the same home, it is because we remember the same father, that there is love in our island.'

Posted in Australia - Writing, Obituary, Poetry | 9 Comments

news to me (that it is June tomorrow? aaargh)

So many books, only one life…I thought at first Mr Deaver was a serial killer, which is why I clicked on this when it came up in my reader. Got him confused with someone else….It is, after all, a fine name for a crime thriller writer .

From last week, there are five book reviews up on the blog at Overland. What a great platform for blog reviews – good to see this.

Included is a review of Lisa Dempster's Neon Pilgrim, Alec Patric's poetry collection which has been released as an e-book, and Emmett Stinson's short fiction collection, Known Unknowns, from Affirm Press.

Academic librarian Constance evaluates the Kobo reader, recently sold out at Borders stores across Australia.

Maud noticed this, and I thank her for it.

Not in a book group? try this one on for size. If you're not in the States, you might like to use it as a reading list later on. With notes.

The Duck has found us all something really good and silly to finish on.

Posted in Australia - Writing, blog writing, Media and Technology, Newsy stuff, Reviews | 5 Comments

reading: Glissando by David Musgrave

Musgrave, David. Glissando. Sleepers Publishing, 2010.

Glissando is remarkably close to its name in its inception and execution: a ripple across strings previously played by others, to largely dramatic effect, with a melancholic afterglow.

The strings have been noted by others – Murnane and White come to mind (think plains, hidden properties, maps, remarkable houses, Voss-like travels, a melancholy narrator.)

The problem with this book to me, if there is one at all (and I think I'm nitpicking when I say this), is that dipping into such a potent mix carries the hazard of producing a pastiche from the contents. I think Musgrave manages to avoid this, but it is a narrow escape.

I do like the central conceit of the lost wager of the National Theatre, tying Murnane and White together with a bond of pure whimsy. And the empty house, Glissando, with its library containing the narrator's grandfather's journals, reminds me of another house in another book, by Alex Miller. But perhaps all that means is that Australia is full of empty settlers' homes with mouldering libraries in them.

So the worry for someone like Musgrave, following in these people's steps, is not pastiche, but simply, how to make this a memorable excursion, when one's fabric is shot through with so many other threads? Madame is a good start, as is Reggie, the narrator's disturbed brother and maestro pianist, travelling the world like David Helfgott. But I am concerned that I will mainly remember this book because it reminded me of others (and pasting in all of the travelling company from Voss doesn't help with this.) It would be better to be able to take away the deeper satire at the expense of theatre, notably at a Rabelaisian feast later in the book, but regrettably that has not stayed with me.

Nor do the notes of sadness struck in the coda act as a satisfactory recall of earlier themes for this reader – Archibald Fliess is first and foremost a narrator, and doesn't quite emerge as a full character, so it's a bit late in the day to start giving him a personality at the end, I think. Though this is not unknown in literature, of course, as many great satirists play outside the margins, do they not? Once more, the aptness of that title springs to mind.

It is pretty much imperative that one has read Voss before reading this, and reading Gerald Murnane's The Plains wouldn't hurt either. Having read David Marr's biography of Patrick White just prior  was, for this reader, one of those remarkable reading coincidences – is it accident that the Fliess grandfather is a great collector, as was one of White's uncles at the fabled Belltrees? I don't think so. That music has a dying fall indeed.

Posted in Australia - Writing, Readings | 3 Comments

speaking of emerging writers…Chris Meade and others report

It is such a pleasure to see video making its way into reportage from the truly excellent Emerging Writers' Festival – three cheers for director Lisa Dempster who has been packing her video camera every day. Here's Chris Meade from if:book London (who clearly packs a camera as well), interviewing Lisa earlier this week (taken from his blog BookFutures.)
Meade has another video at that post, and earlier on the blog has reported on the Bloggers' Brunch and the festival. The very fine discussion at the Brunch on digital publishing and writing futures is still open for latecomers (you will see me promising to come back if you get to the end of it…obviously I didn't quite make it.)

Meade is posting more videos later this week, so clearly the festival made a good impression. Go EWF team.

Update: I did say others – here is Andrew Wrathall at Fancy Goods, the Bookseller & Publisher blog, with a terrific wrap of events up to Friday 28th. The weekend is still to come…hoping to get to hear Jill Jones tomorrow, and see Derek Motion pick up the Overland Poetry Prize. That's my Saturday.

Posted in Festivals and awards, through the streets of your town | Leave a comment

news to me 27.05.10

Alice has been walking and taking photographs at her mother's command. The results are bewitching.

Writing at Desktop, Australian blogger Gerard Edelson calls Banksy's film, Exit Through The Gift Shop,

'that rarest of things in the internet age: a cinematic Trojan horse.'

His full review will be posted on his own blog, Celluloid Tongue, in good time, in good time.

One of my favourite short story writers is putting one up a month as a podcast, and selling the print version from her website as a zine (and Jen makes pretty ones.) We are lucky punters. Get over there and listen, and send off for a bundle when she has a few more up. I will be.

Polari's first issue features an interview with Edmund White, poetry
by Pam Brown, the short fiction of Dallas Angguish and the writing of Staceyann Chin. This new international journal is is currently holding an open call for submissions from LGBT and queer
writers for its second issue, with a publication date of October 1st 2010.

And finally this link from John Williams at The Second Pass, to an interview with US historian Jill Lepore, carries a very sweet tale of an inspiring letter with it. What an interesting idea for a teacher to have, taking letters every year from 15 year old pupils and posting them back five years later. I wonder if he ever got any of them mixed up…(yes, that would be me if I was that teacher.)

Posted in blog writing, Film, Interviews - writers, journals, Newsy stuff, Poetry, Publishing | 2 Comments

Lethem to leave the Chronic City

A change of scenery has worked for Lethem in the past. “The way people respond to this news is ‘Oh no, what will this do to your writing about New York?,’ as though I have to be on the streets. I wrote most of ‘Fortress of Solitude’ when I was living in Toronto and most of ‘Motherless Brooklyn’ at Yaddo.” It may even be, he told me, that getting out of town was necessary to his development as a writer (he lived in Berkeley in his twenties): “There was something about working from the margin and not right under the shadow of the publishing industry. You should find a way to slow that down and dwell in your apprenticeship and take pleasure in being playful and unfinished while you can. Once you professionalize this activity, there’s no turning back.”

I really liked this news piece from the BookBench blog at the New Yorker. Hopefully there will be something as intense as Fortress of Solitude coming out of the California dreaming.

Posted in Interviews - writers | Leave a comment