Saturday, December 13, 2008

Book launch

On Thursday night my wife and I took the kids into the Northern Territory Library to see the book launch for Ted Egan's new book 'Due Inheritance'.
Mr Egan has long been an outspoken advocate and friend to indigenous people. The gentleman who introduced him at the book launch put his influence as the NT administrator into great perspective. We were reminded of just how important it was to have someone so outspoken and diplomatic as Ted Egan for our Administrator when very few people were willing to speak against the lack of compassion that filled the country at that time! Ted did and at various public events he brought us together as neighbors and friends when so many Australians were looking to condemn with labels like "Cue Jumpers, Itinerants, Longrassers" and so on.
When he was Administrator Ted Egan would get up on a stage and speak directly to the audience like he was talking to a bunch of old friends! He'd speak warmly about his Aboriginal mates, using language or sing songs about Darwin's Chinese founding families and characters like Granny Lum Loy! While Ted was administrator Darwin felt like an oasis from the cesspit of racism and fear that Australia seemed to be becoming during the 'Howard Years'!

Unfortunately the evening didn't turn out a great as I'd hoped it would be. Maybe I was expecting too much or maybe the events of the day had left my nerves in a frayed and agitated state. I just wanted to blurt out a few thoughts that have been burning in me since Thursday night.

On the way in to town at about 5:30pm we drove past a stretch of Bagot road that I often cycle home on at that time of day. Negotiating the usual aggressive traffic we passed some police cars with lights flashing on the other side of the road. They were blocking traffic from a cyclist and his bike which were lying beside the gutter! After both my wife and I acknowledged that something was wrong there was silence while the scene sunk in, we didn't speak for a few minutes... Then my wife became very agitated and exclaimed that it could have been me! ... (I thought to myself. Yes it could easily have been me! I've had several close calls along that road!)

We drove on and found a car park close to the Northern Territory Library. It was early so we had a wander around the library and listened to a choir that happened to be singing in there at the time. I was looking forward to hearing what Ted Egan had to say and to get a copy of the book he'd written. I was hoping his book would challenge ordinary Australians into thinking more carefully about the issues that face Aboriginal People in this country...

Ted Egan's book launch at NTL
It's all very convivial so long as you partake in the Grog culture

We were pretty thirsty but it looked like there would be refreshments and some nibblies for the big event. I went to the bar in the hope of getting a softdrink or some juice. I don't happen to drink alcohol and neither do my wife or kids... Unfortunately when I asked for a non alcoholic drink I was looked at with complete confusion... So I repeated myself. "Do you have anything to drink that does not contain alcohol?" The woman turned to her colleague and referred the question. The reply came... "Oh yehh... I think there's some soda water at the bottom of the Eskie..."

Grog culture
Water??? But can't I interest you in some lovely wine?

As a non drinker I do not begrudge other people having a drink, usually it doesn't bother me at all unless people's behavior is not suitable for the environment. So if I'm in a rowdy bar I expect to see somewhat excited and intoxicated people, or if I'm at a restaurant I might expect to see people drinking wine with their meal or at a concert there might be a bar set up and some people drinking. The usual thing... Even a bunch of people sitting around outside under a tree with a cask of wine isn't a particularly disturbing sight. However when I attend an event whether it is public or private, and there has been no provision for anyone but those who are drinking alcohol, that's a whole other thing! On Thursday night what could have been a pleasant time turned into something very unpleasant for me.
Now the whole room closed in around me! Reality came crashing down on my head! Here we were thinking we'd come to be amongst other people sensitive to the issues of Indigenous Australians. I was listening to a man propose all kinds of divisive approaches to dealing with alcohol consumption on Aboriginal communities yet there was precious little consideration for anyone who chose not to drink at the launch of this contentious new book! What if some of those people had actually attended the book launch? What choice would they have? What message would be sent about polite society when all that is offer is Grog?
It was like someone had written a bad script that didn't match the theme of the play! I looked around me and wondered if I was having some kind of bad dream. Maybe soon the white rabbit would come and lead me back to reality... NO! THIS IS REALITY!

Intellectuals...? @ NTL book launch
More conviviality...

For just one hour I was caught in some kind of Hell where the intelligentsia of a tiny 'Australian colonial outpost' were pontificating in their gay intoxication, what is needed to rectify the condition of their woe begotten Indigenous brothers and sisters. The suffering of the disadvantaged, the besieged "First Australians" seemed like no more than a topic of conversation. In my agitated state the whole thing appeared as a farce!

As we left the launch I saw a fellow sitting awkwardly in a chair at the back of the room and holding a half bottle of red to his lips. An ANGEL I thought! I looked him in the eye and he stared dully at me. I felt for a moment that the truth of it all was sitting right there in front of me. For that moment I saw an honest man! Why not drink it from the bottle if that's what you want? The glasses are only there for effect.

As we drove home the police were still putting together the evidence of the crime scene, apparently the cyclist was the victim of a hit and run! Reported slopily and hidden in an article about Cadel Evans at the bottom ofpage six in this morning's NT news! I called the hospital this morning to find out if he was alright. Apparently he lived...

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Australia the monolingual wonderland!

This week is the 60th anniversary of the UN Declaration of Human Rights (10th December).

According to what I read this morning on a GetUp email, Australia is the only democratic country in the world without formal human rights protections!

This year also happens to be the:
United Nations International Year of Languages

Here in the Northern Territory we witness and engage in the subtle art of cultural annihilation and much of it is touted as being in the best interests of Indigenous People! Currently as far as I can see, for all the interest that is being directed at Indigenous communities, people only appear to be receiving more of the same! A constant barrage of upheaval and changes to their daily lives without due consultation, respect, or regard for their own aspirations and wishes.

I have only worked with Indigenous people in the Territory for less than one year but in that time I have seen people face many changes to the way they are expected to go about their daily business. I have heard stories about the arrival of the intervention team at Elcho Island. Yolŋu were astounded and shocked to see a fleet of Government 4x4’s roll out as the barge ramp was lowered. "It was just like an invasion" some said.

Communities have had their local councils amalgamated into Supershires that have no clear links to many of the communities they govern and Federal ‘Community Managers’ have been assigned to oversee the implementation of Intervention activities. The Federal Intervention has lead to cultural protocols being ignored, legitimate organizations dissolved, sacred sites desecrated and people generally disempowered!

Now comes another blow from the NT Education Minister Marion Scrymgour. The effectual abolishment of the Bilingual Education Program!

In some parts of Australia Aboriginal children are still able to speak the language of their ancestors! For those who are lucky enough, their language has been developed into a written language that can be used in class rooms as the means by which children learn to read and write! While they are introduced to the same concepts in English. Bilingual students have the potential to become literate in at least two languages!

The Top End of Australia is an international Hot Spot for language extinction. Indigenous languages have already disappeared from just about everywhere else in this country. As far as I can see this decision by the Minister for Education will only further disintegrate the Peoples Own Tongue! It seems outrageous that our Government would make a decision that will endanger such rare languages when it seems to be an accepted fact that children who are bilingual are more likely to become better students in the long run.

Many educators are questioning the logic behind the Minister for Education’s poorly conceived plan to improve literacy and numeracy outcomes in the Territory. Results in literacy and numeracy are low right across the Territory yet the minister has decided to remedy this by imposing a crippling demand on Bilingual Schools and the communities that depend on Bilingual Education.

If it weren't for suggestions that the program is being dismantled because of financial reasons I would almost have concluded that her policy was devised as an elaborate political pinata!
Imagine this... The Minister for Education has her political colleagues blindfold her, she is then armed with a big stick before her most trusted advisers proceed to spin her around several times until they let her go and yell start swinging until she smashes something!

A group has been formed to combat the assault on Bilingual Education. That group is called:

Friends of Bilingual Learning (fobl)

If you're interested in this issue please read up on the benefits of Bilingual education!
fobl has produced postcards that can be sent to both Marion Scrymgour and Julia Gillard

Save Bilingual Education postcardfobl postcard

Below is a link to a Radio National program called Awaye! which features an excelent story about the attack on the Bilingual Education programs and includes interviews with Marion Scrymgour.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Seven Facts (apparently it's a meme)

There's these things that people write about themselves on blogs and myfacespacebooky things and they write some trivial facts about themselves and they get their friends to do the same and I'm not sure why but it's called meme.

Anyway I've been 'tagged' to do one by The Tropical Vegan and I couldn't resist the desire to talk about myself and so here I go.

Seven facts
about me that will probably confirm your suspicion that I am not very cool actually.
  1. I don't actually know what a meme is (or why I'm actually doing this)
  2. My first attempt to entertain a new friend at home was a disaster! I think I was in about grade 4 primary school. He was a really funny guy and he was always cracking gags. Everything was going fine until he cracked a funny as I was trying to drink a glass of lemonade. I started laughing and snorting while attempting to swallow and ended up snorting half a glass out of my nose! I tried to make him stop being funny but everything he did just cracked me up and eventually resulted in me snorting the remainder of my drink out of my nose. My eyeballs bulged and were full of tears, my nose felt like I’d been sniffing borax and a some of the drink even found it’s way past my oesophagus and into my lungs! I was heaving and roaring with rage but still couldn’t stop laughing! I kicked him out and told him to go home! But I was still laughing so hard that I nearly choked which made me even madder! I can still remember him wandering back down the street I don’t think he remembered how to get home… Oh SHIT! I hope he made it.
  3. My subsequent attempts at friendship have been equally successful
  4. I didn’t learn to ride a 2-wheeler bike until I was about nine or ten years old, apparently it was hard for my Mum and Dad to find training wheels to fit the bike I learned on.
  5. My year 10 Social Studies teacher told me I would be unemployable (He wasn’t to know that Australia would go through a period of record employment and would become a place where even students with the least potential would be able to find a job).
  6. I occasionally have these dreams where I can swim underwater for extended periods by very shallowly breathing the air that is trapped in my nostrils… (It’s true! It’s kind of like a flying dream… I know I can’t actually do it)
  7. Twice on the way to work this week I stopped and had conversations with complete strangers. (actually this is a pretty cool thing to do. I recommend this.)

I think I'm supposed to tag someone to do the same thing now but I'm going to bed coz like I said in my meme, I've been light on friends since that incident in grade four.

Thanks though Theresa it was pretty cool to do and brought back some fun memories.
... Actually I come to think of it I do know someone who I can Tag... Lucy Rogue of Terrible Beautiful, she's into these things... Hey maybe I should ask her what a meme is.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Friends pets

Just for some fun I thought I'd post a few photos my friend Lira gave me of her new pet...


I wonder how long those mangoes lasted?

Sunday, November 09, 2008


I think it was back in about 2001 when I was read that Nina Simone was still performing and was about to do some concerts in Paris... I was seriously considering withdrawing my savings and flying myself and my wife over to see her. Her music had moved us so much!

Then in April 2003 we heard that she had died and we were both so sad that she had passed and before we could see her in person. If you've listened to her music you would know how deeply she can affect her audience.

Nina spoke openly against inequality and oppression in the United States.
I wish Nina Simone had lived to see the day... that an African American would become the President.
I wonder what she would say to Barack Obama.

Backlash Blues Nina Simone

Here comes the sun.

Thursday, October 30, 2008


Tonight at 9:30 the ABC is showing a documentary that looks into the Emergency Federal Intervention into NT Indigenous Communities. The documentary discusses the impact of the Intervention with members of communities over a 12 month period.

The intervention was the Howard Government's response to a Board of Inquiry into the Protection of Aboriginal Children from Sexual Abuse, known as the Ampe Akelyernemane Meke Mekarle “Little Children are Sacred” Report. The report identified child sexual abuse as a very serious problem in Indigenous communities, but made a point of identifying the apparent increase in sexual abuse in the broader non indigenous society also.
As the inquiry was focussed on Indigenous communities it's recommendations focussed on what needs to happen in Indigenous communities in order to eradicate the root causes of child sexual abuse. The Government's response appeared to take rather a different form to the approach recommended by the Board of Inquiry.
Having read some of the report and compared it to statements by the previous and current ministers responsible for Indigenous affairs my feeling is that the intervention directly contradicts the forms of assistance recommended by the report. In fact some of the underlying causes of dysfunction identified by the report would very likely be intensified by the previous Government's approach to this very sensitive issue. Since then there has been a change of Government and an opportunity to alter the course of this discriminatory process... Unfortunately it seems the current Labor Government is also committed to imposing their "Intervention" onto people living in Indigenous communities without engaging in the consultative and cooperative approach recommended in the Report.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Body Art Ride - Sydney - 2009

It looks like the die (or is that dye?)has been cast for a human rainbow on wheels!
The Sydney Body Art project is up and running. The event is planned for 15th February 2009.

Hundreds maybe thousands of people will join together for a group ride through Sydney. Their skin coloured and all painted up for the special ride.

This ride is a celebration of life, care for each other and concern for the planet. It is an expression of the individual's freedom to be but is also an act of a community united. This is a way for people to come together in an exuberant and uninhibited display of colour, joy and compassion.

Funds raised from the ride are donated toward Child Cancer Research
Check out The Sydney Body Art Ride

Monday, October 27, 2008

The Aleoca folding bike

Well my bicycle fetish has landed me with another bike... This one is incredibly practical. It's a folding bike made by a (NOT Italian) company called Aleoca. You can fold it up and stash it away when getting on a buss or when you get to work. It fits easily into the boot of our small ford festiva and best of all it's a dream to ride!

folding bike
Aleoca folding bike

I happened across the bike while riding past a certain chain store that specializes in selling second hand stuff. I wouldn't normally shop there but this bike really caught my eye! (Probably the metallic paint)

It went together quite easily and was incredibly comfortable and easy to ride when I test rode it. Having bought it I had to subject it to the standard test I give all my bikes. The 10 or so km commute to work and back.

folding bike
Folding bike on the commute (with full pannier)

folding bike
Taking in the view of traffic from the shady median strip

Well she passed with flying colours! The gearing is great. It's incredibly comfortable and it cruises along like a dream. I don't care what I look like riding it this bike is really nice to ride! The rack on the back fits my panniers so I can carry as much load as I would on my other road bikes (Except the Xtracycle... It is in a league of it's own!)

To top it all off I actually managed to get my wife to ride it to the pool yesterday (Only a couple of km) and she fell in love with it instantly! The folding bike is a winner! And I have some ideas of how it can be used in conjunction with the Xtracycle... Stay tuned for the new Airport Transfers vehicle!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Rapid Creek Revival

Rapid Creek revival
Err the picture tells the story

It was on today... There was heaps of stuff for kids to do. I didn't have time to post about if beforehand so if you didn't already know you've missed out coz it's just finished! Sorry bout that but I tell you I'm really busy!

There was a great band, a Tang Soo Do demonstration, heaps of activities for the kids to do, a fancy dress bike parade and stuff like that. We got fresh fruit and just about everything was free for kids!

I took a few pix mostly of bikes...

The coordinator Leigh & her townie
Catwalk for bikes in fancy dress

kids bike comp
Bike show was pretty popular with the kids

Check out the little climber top left... WOW

Bike Friday 2
This cool tandem can be adjusted so that it's suitable for a child or an adult to ride

Bike Friday
BIKE FRIDAY - with tinsel

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Ride to work day

Xtracycle rides to work
Xtracycle does Ride to Work

Yesterday was National Ride to Work Day and it came complete with free breakfast and coffee for those who wanted to cycle into one of the officially listed Ride to Work Day free breakfasts. **Yay**
October is a pretty tough month to be trying to convince people to ride to work in Darwin! The humidity is generally quite a bit higher than it was just a month or so earlier. Regardless of the heat there was quite a good turnout in the City. Unfortunately I heard later that the breakfast at the Uni went a bit pear shaped.

Rain the night before made the morning ride wet and hot! To compound my discomfort I had only 10 pounds pressure in my tires! I tried to get some air at a couple of servos but some little creeps had cut the hoses so I had to drag my slow, lazy butt all the way into town!
Having chosen to go the long way around Nightcliff foreshore I arrived at the Roma Bar feeling totally exhausted! I was in such a state that people actually thought there had been another downpour somewhere along the way!
"No rain actually guys just me sweating!" ... "Eeww!"

Annie and Hector
Hey there's Annie with Hector the road safety cat

Cyclists arrive
Isn't that Charles from the Environment center arriving at the party?

Blocked access
Wheel chair access?

Ride to work
Roma Bar... Good coffee but the cue was sooooo long

Monday, October 13, 2008

Equality for Arnhem Landers?

Since I have been too busy living to write about what I like to do with my life there have been very few posts here at the Balanda Eyes blog...
Plenty has been happening but I don't have much time to tell the story of it all. My job has been pretty busy over the past couple of weeks, I've had a shocker of a cold for a week or so, the family has also been unwell, I started guitar lessons tonight (I think my teacher agrees that I have no rhythm). Haven't ridden to work in over a week and I've already had to let the belt out a notch!

If you're interested in the state of justice in this country (Australia) and wonder about what is happening on indigenous communities in Arnhem Land you might like to watch this video

Ceremony - Yirritja Ngarra 'Riyawarray: Common Ground

There is law in Arnhem Land and a culture that has withstood many assaults from the domineering culture that has imposed this current Federal intervention. Despite the offenses committed against these people they are still prepared to share their culture and their knowledge. When will we take up the offer of friendship and understanding?

Another sad story to add to the list. (Warning: this story refers to a recently deceased person)

If you think these issues have nothing to do with your life... you may be right. But one day you may wake to find that oppression and domination are the codes that govern this country.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Still cycling

I haven't posted much since putting the xtracycle together.
So for an update I thought I'd just like to say that I LOVE IT! This bike is awesome! I am riding it all the time and now want to get rid of all/most of my other bikes! I don't need them any more.
I feel complete on this bike and my 4 year old loves it too!

I will be doing the weekly shopping this week on the xtracycle so hope to put those huge bags to the test.

The road to work gets pretty busy and there's a terrible lip between the bitumen and the curb. It's a main road with a speed limit of 80km and nowhere safe for cyclists to ride so I tend to get into the zone while I'm on there, kind of enclosing myself in a mental tunnel, holding the straitest line as close to the edge of the road as I can. There hasn't been too much trouble with drivers lately but there can sometimes be. I have to admit that I sometimes find the agro from drivers unsettling. I know that when I remain focussed I can block out a lot of the road drama and just keep to my task of staying upright and out of the line of aggressive drivers. However I need a way to deal with the occasional unprovoked outburst of "Road Rage" directed at me as a cyclist.
I found just the thing on the Sydney Body Art Blog this morning. The post was some sagely advise from the 'Swami Velotananda' and it has given me a new way of dealing with what I had previously thought was negativity from other road users.

Now I can't wait to get back out there and share in all that love On the Road!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Xtracycle Finaly fitted

the Xtracycle fitted
My new Xtracycle - cargo bike - dream machine

With virtually no free time available to me over the past couple of weeks, I've managed to fit the free Radical kit to my old mountain bike without a drama.
It was really easy to put the whole kit together. After whipping off the rear wheel, chain, dérailleur and brakes I was able to connect the frames, mostly with my left hand while holding a baby in my right arm!
Although I rarely had time to go out and actually work on the bike I actually managed to read bits of the instruction manual from time to time! This allowed me time to think about the process before diving in and trying to do it all in a single unconsidered spree.
After removing the rear wheel I discovered that the original wheel had a couple of broken spokes and several bent ones! (I have no idea when or how this happened!) I also discovered that the original dérailleur wouldn't fit well so I bought a new 'free wheel' and made a trip to the tip shop for a dérailleur. I connected the extra chain links to a brand new chain and ran the chain through the cogs of the rear dérailleur. The new chain had more links than I needed so one night I snuck out in the dark and removed the excess from the chain then re-connected it... Not sure if I took too many.
Having thought about how the cables would all go together I managed to thread the gear cable and tune the gears in a matter of a couple of minutes before breakfast (Not something I am at all practiced at!) The cables and extra housing fitted perfectly.
I needed some new brakes but couldn't wait to see how it looked so I put on the free loaders and snap deck, pumped up the tires and took her for a spin. WOW! The gears changed beautifully! The chain felt smooth and peddled easily with no slack! Best of all the bike felt more stable than I'd expected! It rolled true and I could take my hands off the bars and coast along easily! It was awesome! I couldn't wipe the smile off my face!
Over the past couple of years I'd read heaps of testimonies and had become a little cynical. maybe the authors were all part of the Xtracycle propagandah machine? or could they just simply be wanting to justify their expensive purchase? Or were they simply towing the line for the sake of making political or even fashion statements? Maybe? But now that I've ridden an Xtracycle I have to say I love it simply because of the way it feels to ride! And the stand actually holds my bike up straight!

I have now attached a new set of V brakes and have taken my 4 year old for a ride and the jury is agreed. The Xtracycle Rocks!

Friday, August 15, 2008

A FreeRadical

Yesterday afternoon I got home to find a card from the Post Office. My FreeRadical had arrived!
I have finally taken the plunge and purchased an Xtracycle conversion kit.
I have been deliberating over spending the money for about two years since I first heard of the Xtracycle but have decided this is something that must be done!

I could not find a dealer in Darwin, or even Australia for that matter. When I mentioned it to the sales fella at one of my local bike shops, he snuffed at the idea and wasn't interested in them at all. So I searched further afield. I contacted the Xtracycle crew in USA and they suggested I talk to the guys at Southend Cycles in Levin, New Zealand.
Brian and Brenden were really keen to ship the unit to Darwin and had it here within a week of me ordering!

FreeRatical 14.08.08
The conversion kit unpacked

So now I have the hardware, I need to attach it! There are a few issues I am concerned about, such as the frames fitting each other, the long chain and getting the gears working. I will try to give a couple of posts to share these experiences as I progress towards an almost "car(e) free" existence!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Down at The Patch folks are preparing for the Open Day between 10:00am - 11:30am on Thursday 14th August.
The open day is an important opportunity for the students to present their projects and engage visitors. A lot has been done during the first half of this year and there will be heaps to show off.

View Larger Map
Enter The Patch via the gate on Leanyer drive, follow the road straight through towards the big clump of trees at the end of the long Shed, park your car and follow the sound of happy people and you will find The Patch.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Malak community garden begins

As we look towards an uncertain future of high fuel prices, and growing pressure on food supplies there is a movement amongst urban people who have the vision to realize that we need to re-connect with our environment.
At the same time the Northern suburbs of Darwin have attracted a rather bad reputation for crime and violence by young people. There is a perception that the situation is becoming very quickly out of hand and with an election looming Law and Order is high on the agenda. But how do we bring peace and stability to our fracturing society?

It's obvious that the answer needs to be in the hands of the community itself. The general impression I have from speaking with politicians and councilors is that they want their names attached to grand events and big money deals. Many of our elected representatives do not appear to be truly connected with the local community. From my experience they are quick to give lip service to our projects but when it comes to the crunch they are seeking something more grandiose and are reluctant to commit to supporting real community action!

There are all kinds of community building activities happening in our town that are acting against the fragmentation and alienation of our society. After spending a little time down at the Malak shops on Sunday my spirits were raised to see the efforts made by Darwin Community Arts.

Darwin Community Arts, appears to be an unbrella organization for a wide range of community services. As interested as I am, I have not previously had any contact with this group and was awestruck by their connectedness to my local community.

On Sunday they had an official opening of their Malak center which included the creation of a Community Garden. I arrived at 4:00pm with the two kids and watched as a very enthusiastic group set about transforming a tiny patch of dust into a magnificently designed herb and vegetable garden plot. There were bands scheduled to play later in the evening and I noticed the mob from The NEo there but unfortunately we had another event to attend that day.
I did manage to have a chat with on of the organizers of the Malak center who explained the reasons behind moving their operations to this site. Darwin Community Arts is based in Malak so that it could be closer to the people it serves. Malak is very close to where I live and just the area for an injection of community spirit.

Malak community garden.1
Building raised beds and watering in soil

Malak community garden.2
Adding manure and straw

Malak Community garden.3
Preparing beds for planting

Malak community garden
The garden planted out complete with banana trees at on the side

Good on them for realizing what is needed in our local communities! These community gardens have a curative effect on the soul and can address many of the social and micro economic issues faced by many members of our community. There is also another garden in Bagot community. This is another community that could seriously use some TLC. Gardens are the way!
You just have to see what is going on down at The Patch to realize how beneficial these projects can be for bringing communities together.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Sydney Body Art Ride: Effective Speed

I was just reading this story on The Sydney Body Art Ride Blog and thought it was worth posting a link.

Sydney Body Art Ride: Effective Speed

Due to the fact that I've never really been committed to a career or too concerned about status, I am one of those people who works simply to bring in the money needed to sustain a reasonably comfortable life. My thinking has always been that if I reduce my needs then I can life happily on less.
I've spent some time adding up the associated costs of running a car because I've occasionally been short on funds and I hate spending money unnecessarily. Eliminating cars from my life can give me the freedom of less financial commitments. (Having said this we have just committed to a new/secondhand family car...) The true cost of which I have not calculated but having just read the article above I am feeling the pinch!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Surviving Peak Oil and thriving

On Wednesday night the Darwin Food Care Group hosted a film night at The Grove. We watched a film called 'The Power of Community'
The topic was Peak Oil and the steps taken by the Cuban people to adapt to an energy crisis that we shall all soon face.

Below is a review of the evening. I hope some the interest shown on the night will translate into more people actually growing their own food locally. Maybe even come down to The Patch in Leanyer and consider starting their own garden plots.


Unaffordable oil . . . .

A hundred and fifty people packed into The Groove Café in Nightlciff on Wednesday night to watch the film-

“The Power of Community -

How Cuba Survived Peak Oil’

Afterwards the audience engaged in open discussion about the rising costs of fuel and food in Darwin and considered ways in which we may have to adapt our lifestyles to cope.

Amongst the group there was a feeling of urgency, a feeling that we needed to start preparing ourselves for the repercussions of unaffordable oil.

As one person from the audience mentioned, “food security has nothing to do with carrots running around with guns”.

Leigh Spicer, the coordinator of the nonprofit group FoodCare NT added, “The issue of food security in our rapidly changing world is a serious one, why isn’t everybody talking about this?”

Saturday, July 26, 2008

All the fun of the carnival

Yesterday was Show day in Darwin, so what better place to be than the Royal Darwin Agricultural Show? Well I could think of plenty of places actually but we went just the same.

whip fighting Darwin Show
Whip Fighting

My Show day experience was kind of... well... Odd. Kind of an assault on the senses. Bizarre!
We drove in and found a car park about a kilometer away from the gate, then stood in the slowest line in the sun for about 20 minutes. As we stood in line, thirsty and cranky, the Red dust rose like a putrid fog from the over trodden ground. It mingled with fowl smelling cigarette smoke and caused the muscles in back of my throat to seize and refuse the fetid air to pass! My nostrils clamped involuntarily and I had to force myself to breath. (The kids seemed fine)

Inside the gate the scene felt hostile, but I knew it must just be me. I'm not used to being amongst so many people for such little reason. Mothers with prams laden to overflowing with show bags, stuffed with sugar and plastic. They are unfazed by the hustle and bustle. Accustomed to the angst, the hype and the constant demand to buy more, delighted by the spectacle. Turn the music up! Louder! "It's great mate, so much fun! It is clear. You can see them attempt to satisfied the insatiable desires of their overstimulated and excited kids. Is it possible? (So many bags so little worth carrying.)

The show is a special place. So many people flock together to blow their money on nothing. High on the carnival atmosphere. The corruption and the decadence, the freedom and the madness.

We enjoyed watching the horses and visiting the baby animal display. I have to admit the whip fighting was pretty cool! It's nice sitting out near the main arena but generally the Show is kind of weird to me... It is freaky actually and it's intoxicating.

What did I notice most of all?
  • This year it was the carnival atmosphere! I saw some of the same faces running stalls as last year. There were a few travelers in the mix but also a bunch of long time show people. The bloke at The Jolly Giant blew me away! he didn't miss a beat! Watching all the goings on, spotting every potential player, providing commentary of everything that caught his eye on his patch and singing karaoke style to Johny Cash songs (without missing a beat). The man was an artist!
Jolly Giant
Jolly Giant
  • Parents blowing smoke directly into the faces of their children
  • Toy Guns - Imitations of weapons designed solely for the killing and maiming of people. Replica's of AK47s, the kind of gun that are actually used by kids, no older than the ones these toys are being sold to, to kill their neighbors.
The most common of the toys
Assault weapon fun

Early training
Checking sights... It's OK they're suitable for kids 3 and above
  • The volume of the sound system at the dancing hall will always be to loud
  • You can always expect to find an uninstalled phone booth whenever you're in desperate need
Where's the phone?
  • Portable toilets always have more piss on the floor than in the tray
  • Once you step through the gates no matter how much money you take in you can usually guarantee there'll be none on the way out
  • Within one week of having been there you won't have a clue what you spent your money on at the show
  • People are actually still allowed to breed pigeons... And let them loose in the wild (they don't all come home!)
  • Mutant birds are not cool! Playing god with animal genetics is more than weird... It's kind of obscene.
I had quite a few intense feelings while at the show but by the time we got home I couldn't remember much at all. My nose and lungs slowly became accustomed to the smoke and dust, the smell of popcorn and burned sugar started to feel a bit more natural to me. Luckily for me we left when we did... My Wowserdom has been long fought for and defended... I would hate to have given it all away for the lure and charm of one traveling carnival.

Whip it!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Sustainable development... ?

This past week I've been driving back to Darwin from Melbourne with my Parents and Brother. We've seen some amazing country, felt the cool desert air and I have had time to contemplate many things.

There were some lovely sights. As always I noticed a lot of bird life including many Wedge-tailed eagles feeding by the roadside. I stopped half a dozen times to remove kangaroo corpses from the road in the hope that I might save an eagle from becoming the next fatality.

Crested pigeon
Crested Pigeon NT

Major Mitchel Cocatoos
Major Mitchel Cockatoo NT

Wedge-tailed eagle
Wedge-tailed Eagle NT

While away I read a book called The Road by Cormack McCarthy. It moved me deeply and left me feeling quite raw and busted open... cracked like a nut.
Possibly one of the best books I've read. I don't know why, there were so few words. It was bleak. It was like eating a dirt sandwich with nothing but ash to wash it down with and the bleak miserableness of a wet cold bed for comfort! READ IT YOU WILL KNOW!

It is impossible to deny the truth in this book and it evokes a grief that is as unfathomable as the nature of God itself or the stark possibility oblivion instead.

The Pope is in Sydney today addressing the World Youth Day pilgrims. We listened to his speech with some interest and I had a bit of a moment of clarity when I heard the familiar slogan 'Sustainable development' mentioned. The concept of sustainable development has been sinking in with me lately and I have decided to turn my back on the whole concept as an oxymoron! It is an illusion devised to deceive the population of industrialized countries into feeling better about our continued efforts to plunder the earths resources. For Jargon like this I must be a skeptic.
It seems to me that in the minds of human beings, in commerce and in political spheres, the word development is linked directly to construction and expansion. With the world in such a state of environmental degradation and when food production is so obviously suffering from the effects of exhausted natural systems we must accept that our current concept of development is in direct contrast to any notion of sustainability.
Will we ever learn to nurture a realistic social and environmental habitat in which we can thrive? Or will we continue to subscribe to the sustainable development mantra and remain committed to the destruction of our only beloved Earth?

Discussing these issues with my wife she came forth with an alternative slogan that offers some real hope for a future.


The reduction of human pressure on the Earths precious resources for the future welfare of all life on Earth.

harvest times
Some of the recent harvest from "Our little Patch of paradise"

Thursday, June 26, 2008

The phoenix has landed... Chinese bicycle story

I couldn't resist posting some photos of my new bike!

The Phoenix

About 4 months ago I saw this beautiful classic designed Chinese made bicycle parked gracefully on it's center stand at the Parap pool. I ogled it for a good 10 minutes and had to be dragged away by my wife. I had to look; you just don't see bikes like this in Australia any more.

As I was leaving the owner approached his bike so I ran back to complement him on his stylish ride. It turned out he would be leaving Darwin soon and needed to sell the bike! (WOW... An opportunity for me??? COOL!)

I gave him my number and hoped to hear from him for weeks but the call never came. I often thought about the bike but conceded that the opportunity had probably been lost. Then. Just when I'd pretty much given up on the idea. I got a call from a woman living in town who had the bike and wanted to sell it.

The Phoenix.1

Yesterday afternoon I got a lift into town and exchanged a small amount of money for my beautiful new Phoenix bicycle! Cool! It's not a great bike for commuting 10 km to work every day; It's appeal is more aesthetic. Although it is a Chinese bike it looks very much like the British bikes of the 1940s, I'm thinking I need to get myself a tweed cap, some Knickerbockers, long socks and brown shoes... It is also the kind of bike you might still find in Indonesia so maybe just a sarong will do.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Trevor and the mountains of trash

Most people who live in Darwin would have heard of or seen Trev by now. If they haven't seen him on the street they would certainly have seen signs of his presence. The piles of trash on the curbsides of Darwin streets are examples of his work.

Trev and a bit of urban sculpture. (How many green cans are enough?)

I first met Trev about a year and a half ago on my way home from Palmerston. (about a 20 km ride) It was getting close to dusk when I saw some bloke dragging junk out of the long grass beside the bicycle path. It was the middle of the wet season or maybe the build up and it was really hot! He was black with grime and didn't seem to have any water with him; he looked totally exhausted, so I stopped and offered him a drink. We had a chat and I soon discovered I had accidentally bumped into an amazing character. I got home kind of late that night.

We've had quite a few discussions since then and when I stop to chat I often find myself getting home later than I should. I think I've mentioned in a previous post, that Trev picks up rubbish along our roads and has become well known for his service to the community.

I don't know how so much stuff can accumulate on our streets in such a short time but I'd say it has something to do with the fact that Territorians seem to have no qualms about dropping their rubbish in the street or from their car windows. (A child of the Keep Australia Beautiful campaign in the 70s /80s I find this astounding)

:) :) :) :) :) :) That's what I'm talking about.... (: (: (: (: (: (:

Hmm Vanderlyn Drive on a Sunday afternoon?

Come on guys even ABBA say KEEP Australia Beautiful!

What stood out to me when I happened across him today was the amount of beer cans he had managed to pick up in one place. There was a mountain of them!

Wondering about the connection between empty cans and damaged people

This afternoon I stopped to thank Trev for finding my thong... It's a long story but basically I dropped a thong from my bike while on the way to work last week. It could have been anywhere but as Trev does such a great job picking up all the stuff from the street I actually found it atop a one of his piles on a median strip right outside my car door while I waited for a set of traffic lights to change! I couldn't believe my luck. I'd found the other one on a footpath about a kilometer away just a couple of days before but had given up on ever finding the second one.
So once again I have to say Good on you Trev! You're a champion!

Is it time for Territorians to start to DO THE RIGHT THING?

Sunday, June 22, 2008


Some days I think I already did...

Nothing new happening.. just the circus is in town...

Sam and the kids went... I missed out.

I didn't go to the Circus with the kids. I stayed home and got bombarded with percussive bangs and fireworks and the dog went mad and the sky shimmered and all like that and windows rocked and I thought I'd like to go to the Circus... but... I just didn't.
And then I remembered 'The Wild the Innocent and the E Street Shuffle'! Buy it!
I threw on a CD and got a good dose of Bruce Springsteen for the evening. The gritty circus world of 'Wild Billy's circus story'! What a great song!

Here it is on youtube, (My apologies Mr Springsteen)

Wild Billy's circus story by Bruce Springsteen

Friday, June 20, 2008

Who will stand by the people of Borroloola?

Once again the traditional owners of land currently occupied by mining company Xtrata have been forced to give way to the powerful mining company!
According to an ABC report on Wednesday, our own police force stood between indigenous people from four different language groups and a sacred site! On an ABC TV news report I believe I heard a representative from the mine informing the group that the land is private property and they would allow one elder only to enter!

Once again the people have been squashed and their religious beliefs disregarded. Why aren't we fighting for these people's rights! How can they be so easily pushed aside?

In an ABC radio interview last Friday Territory parliamentarian Malarndirri McCarthy, one of few members of our government who is prepared to put the rights of Australian people before the dictates and demands of a mining company, voiced her hope that the federal environment minister would take some action. But Mr Peter Garret has shown his true colours and refused to stand up for the protection of this important river. When the damage to the environment becomes known I hope he is held accountable for what he has allowed to happen.

traditional owner Jacob Lansen gave gravity to the significance of action taken by Xtrata to divert the river.
JACOB LANSEN: "We've got to prove to you mob that we've lost everything, we've got nothing and that it doesn't stop us from fighting. We've still got to fight even though we've lost everything."
Listen to the interview Here

The Northern Land Council say that the lock-out could be illegal and wants the matter investigated. Queensland Aboriginal activist Murrandoo Yanner has joined the fight to protect these peoples rights and the river, he is calling on others to stand up and has vowed that this will be a long fight.

I find it ironic that one of the most popular Australian films is "The Castle". We like it because we can relate to the battle between a regular Australian and powerful forces threatening to displace him and his family from their home. And we all seem to ascribe to the philosophy that a man's home is his castle... Yet who will stand with the people of Borroloola and the McCarthur river when they fight for something that in terms of cultural, spiritual and personal significance absolutely eclipses our notion of a castle? Who will stand with them as they fight to protect what is central to their very existence?

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Djambarrpuyngu bible dedication weekend

Bible Dedication Celebration Weekend Galiwin'ku Elcho Island


People waving flags

Welcome signs were hanging from poles along the main street

bible translation center
Translation Center

Thanks to my new job I had the great privilege of Attending the Djambarrpunyngu bible dedication at Galiwin'ku on Elcho Island this weekend. The event marks the completion of thirty years translation work of the New Testament from English into Djambarrpunyngu (a Yolngu Language).

Elcho Island is located in the far North East of Arnhem Land. Arnhem land is an Aboriginal Reserve in the Northern Territory of Australia and the traditional home of Yolngu Clans for 100's of generations.

This was the first time I have visited this part of Australia and it was a rare treat. Due to it's remoteness and the fact that it is in the middle of an Aboriginal reserve (Arnhem Land), most Balanda wouldn't have the opportunity to visit. (Not necessarily a bad thing for Yolngu)

marching with flags
Men dancing with flags (I wasn't sure about the significance of this)

running with flags
Kids running with flags

The community on Elcho went out of their way to make this event an incredibly moving, intense and unforgettable event for all who attended. Their hospitality was outstanding and the weekend was crammed with colours, music, food and a strong feeling of celebration. The community really came together, and visitors were made to feel welcome and included.

Bible translation team
Translation team and contributors

The event was a marathon of services, ceremonies and speeches beginning in the early afternoon on Saturday and running well into the night only to begin again at 9:30 on Sunday continuing until fairly late in the afternoon. There were a lot of people to be acknowledged and each was given an opportunity to share their experience, hopes and dreams. People mingled and chatted as mobs of kids, Yolngu and Balanda played in the sand. Everyone seemed happy and proud of this great achievement.

dancing with flags
Silk flags of all kinds of design

It seemed to me that the important thing about this weekend is that people in this community who have been Christians for many years; and who live in a town that came into existence as a Methodist Mission, now have the opportunity to read the Bible in their own language. I am not an expert on Christianity and have no idea how it has been presented to Yolngu people by Missionaries over the years. However surely it must be a liberating thing to be able to read or listen to the stories of a book that has had so much impact on their lives in a language that they truly understand.

cycle to the beach
Sam's old bike... I sent it over on the Barge and left it on the Island to be of use

shelter for the moment
Temporary shelter

I chose to camp at Elcho rather than be billeted to someones home. The opportunity to camp out in this amazing part of the world was impossible to resist. I wasn't disappointed! The camp site was on high ground with a perfect view overlooking a fantastic beach! The ground was flat and dry and the elevation and breeze meant there were no sand flies or mozzies! On Saturday night I rolled out my mat and slept comfortably on the ground, with the sound of the Arafura Sea lapping at the shore of a rarely visited beach and no city lights to obstruct my view of a perfect starry night.

view from camp
View from camp

For more photos see The Flying Bible Man's Photo gallery