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Archive for the ‘Equality for all’ Category

I recently came across this site in my web-travels, and I was greatly encourage to realise that so many Australians feel deeply ashamed of our government’s current (and actually, many previous) policies towards Asylum Seekers. Especially those who arrive by boat.

I don’t believe for one second that any of our so-called leaders would hesitate to use whatever means necessary to protect the lives of their families. Even if that meant hopping on an ‘illegal’ boat.

It is not illegal to seek asylum, and yet we are treating asylum seekers worse than we treat criminals. Locking someone up indefinitely, and not giving any information about the progress of their claim, is obviously going to cause that person significant distress. At least criminals, trialled and sentenced by a judge, know how long they will be locked up for. At least they know what waits for them afterwards.

Imagine being so desperate for a chance at a better life and risking everything to get there in an overcrowded, unseaworthy boat. Imagine surviving such a journey only to be locked up on the other side. Imagine spending months, even years, hoping that any day now you will be released and you will be able to start the process of bringing your family to safety. If they are still alive.

Imagine dreading, at the same time, that any day now, your claim will be rejected and you will be sent back to the exact situation you risked everything to escape.

We have been doing this to people for years, under both major parties. This is bad enough. This should have stopped already.

But it hasn’t stopped. And now the government thinks it doesn’t have to answer our questions about what exactly is happening, and why it hasn’t stopped. They don’t think we need to worry about breaking international laws, or violating basic human rights.

That is why these pictures make me so happy. Australians are trying to show Asylum Seekers that we do care. That they are welcome here. That we want this treatment to stop.

I hope Asylum Seekers somehow get the message, and that it brings them hope.

I hope the Australian Government gets the message, too.

Last night I did this:

– bathed the kids

– cooked a meal (actually, I cooked two meals: one to be re-heated tonight as I knew today would be extra busy)

– emptied and re-stacked the dishwasher

– washed dishes

– read stories

– tucked children into bed at least 15 times

– packed three lunch boxes

– packed three school / preschool bags

– packed my own lunch and bag

– made myself and Tom a cup of tea

– sat down to do school work

Tom lent a hand with some aspects, but mostly sat on the couch doing stuff for work.

Tonight, I have:

– bathed the kids

– read stories

– brushed teeth

– tucked children into bed

– emptied lunch boxes and bags

– asked Tom to deal with the dishes and pack Tiernan’s lunch box for tomorrow

– sat down on the couch to do school work

– hesitated to ask Tom to make me a cup of tea. Because it seems like so much to ask, especially since I’ve already left other things for him to do.

– realised I generally do seem to have trouble asking for things, even though I feel I’m quite a giving person and wouldn’t hesitate to do the same thing for anyone else.

– went ahead and asked for the cup of tea, despite feeling like a burden for doing it.

– enjoyed my cup if tea and the piece of cake that unexpectedly arrived with it!

Okay so I’m waaaay behind the 8-ball here, but I just wanted to say my bit about the Olympics, which obviously finished quite a while ago. The Paralympics are still on but you wouldn’t know that from the amount of news coverage it gets… but anyhoo that’s another topic altogether.

I really love watching the Olympics. There’s something very inspiring about seeing people compete for their country at the very highest level. When we were young, my sister and I used to pretend to be Olympic Gymnasts, judging each other for our hand stands and cartwheels and then awarding each other gold and silver medals. I always won because I was a mean older sister and always gave Kate a lower score than what she gave me. Aww.

But she’s the one winning all the gold medals these days, and they’re not even imaginary.

So, yes, Olympics. I love it. Some of my favourite moments from this year’s London Games were:

The Rowing.

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<p>		<h5>Olympics Day 8 - Rowing</h5><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
<p>							<p>Kim Crow of Australia competes in the Women's Single Sculls Final on Day 8 of the London 2012 Olympic Games at Eton Dorney on August 4, 2012 in Windsor, England.</p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
<p>						&copy; Jamie Squire/Getty Images

In particular, Kim Crow (image from here).

Kim Crow (image from here) won bronze in the single scull and silver in a double scull with Brooke Pratley. Kim is the first Australian woman to contest both events in an Olympic Games and she did so brilliantly.

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<p>		<h5>Olympics Day 5 - Rowing</h5><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
<p>							<p> Silver medallists Sarah Tait and Kate Hornsey of Australia celebrate with their medals after competing in the Women's Pair Final A on Day 5 of the London 2012 Olympic Games at Eton Dorney on August 1, 2012 in Windsor, England.</p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
<p>						&copy; Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Sarah Tait and Kate Hornsey (image from here).

Sarah Tait and Kate Hornsey (image from here). They won silver in the women’s pair. I found Sarah Tait’s story particularly inspiring because she is one of the first mothers ever to row at the Olympics for Australia. During the Games coverage, I saw an interview with Sarah, who said she did her research before making the decision to return to elite rowing after having her first child: other countries had a strong history of mothers competing and she was able to use this information to help gain Rowing Australia’s support. Good on her! The Australian rowing team for the London 2012 Games also included mothers Dana Falatic and Hannah Every-Hall. Awesome.

Oscar Pistorius (image from here).

Oscar is a South African competitor in the 400m. He is also a double-amputee, the first to compete in an Olympic Games.

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Damien Hooper. Image from here.

Okay so I don’t watch boxing. I don’t enjoy watching people beat the crap out of each other. But I do acknowledge that it’s a sport that requires strength, fitness, agility and skill.

Boxing aside, I have to say I really admire Damien Hooper for proudly wearing his people’s flag as he walked out to the ring. Why shouldn’t he? I thought the discussions surrounding the event were quite interesting. On the one hand, the shirt was not the official Australian uniform, even though the Aboriginal flag is an official flag of Australia. Then there was the argument that the Olympics are supposed to be free from politics. I don’t know whether Damien was intentionally making a political statement by wearing the shirt but the fact remains that the official uniform does nothing to acknowledge or represent Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander competitors at the Olympics, just as our current flag does nothing to acknowledge or represent Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people.

Will we ever get it together and change the flag?

I had other favourite moments watching the diving (so sad for Matthew Mitcham who narrowly missed the final), gymnastics, equestrian, swimming, triathlon, sprinting, pole vault, hurdles and cycling. The Olympics makes me a bit of an all-rounder. I like it all. Except the boxing.

But now it’s all over (bar the Paralympics). The next Games are in Rio and my sister is hoping to be there. So am I. As part of her entourage, of course, not competing (although that would be fun…!). I really hope the media actually shows some of the Paralympics in 2016. If they do, I will be waving from the stands, cheering Kate on.

If she gets there I promise I will award her full points.

More books

Posted on: March 14, 2012

A while ago I wrote about diversifying our book collection. I’ve continued on my quest for this, and recently added some more books to our library:

The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch and Michael Martchenko. This one was recommended to me by a friend. She said it was one of her favourites as a child, and I can see why. It has the word ‘bum’ in it, which my kids think is absolutely hilarious, but also, it’s about a girl with spunk who outwits a dragon and then tells a rude, ungrateful boy where to go. Fun!

 

The Skin I'm In: A First Look at Racism

The Skin I’m In: A First Look at Racism by Pat Thomas. I must admit I haven’t actually read this one to the kids yet. I think the language and the depth in which it explains racism is more suited to slightly older children than mine – I don’t want to put words into their heads (like racism) that they don’t really have a concept of just yet. However, when the time is right, I will introduce this book to them. The simple message that, as humans, we are all equally deserving of a happy, fulfilling life, and that it is easy to get along if we try, is an important one.

 

I Can Do It!: A First Look at Not Giving Up

I Can Do It!: A First Look at Not Giving Up, also by Pat Thomas. A lesson in perseverance, which is timely, as we have daily exclamations of, “Argh, I CAN’T DO IT!!!”, followed closely by the sound of shoes, shirts, puzzles, and various other sources of frustration being thrown against a wall.

 

Jane and the Dragon

Jane and the Dragon by Martin Baynton. This one we borrowed from the library. It’s a story about Jane, a courtier who, instead of becoming a lady in waiting, wants to become a knight. Even though she is laughed at for having this dream, she eventually does prove herself brave and worthy enough for the honour. My kids really enjoyed this story, as did I. Apparently, it’s also a TV series (says so on the cover). I especially love that this is a feminist book written by a man.

 

How To Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran. This one was also recommended by a friend. When I started reading this one to the kids, they were horribly confused and wanted to know where all the pictures were and who the witch was on the front… Okay, I made some of that up. I didn’t read it to them (this one’s for me!), but they were curious about the ‘witch book’ that kept making me laugh out loud. This book was very enjoyable to read. Very relatable, often hilarious, sometimes very serious – a perfect mix, really. Read it.

I decided not to write about Australia Day this year. You can go here to read my last year’s post, my stance is still the same.

However, comedian and broadcaster Meshel Laurie did write about Australia Day this year, and she did it brilliantly, here on the Mamamia site. It’s worth a read, if you’re interested. I agree with everything she says!

Imagine you have had your third baby. He is beautiful, perfect, just like his brothers. You breastfeed your baby boy, and he grows quickly, adding a kilo to his birth weight in just three weeks. He is healthy and happy. He smiles, goos and gurgles away as he approaches two months of age. His only issue is vomiting after feeds, but you know this is quite normal for small babies. You treat his ‘reflux’ by burping him after each feed, and elevating his head when he sleeps in his bassinette. But the reflux slowly gets worse. You decide to see a doctor, because you think it can’t be good for him to be vomiting so much. The doctor sees your baby, who is still generally very happy and healthy, apart from the vomiting, and a cold. He diagnoses bronchiolitis, a respiratory ailment often brought on by a cold virus. You accept the diagnosis, even though it doesn’t sit right with you – he does have a cold, and he may even have bronchiolitis, too, but the vomiting does not seem to be associated with coughing. You wait another week or so. The vomiting has continued to worsen, and now your poor little baby is starting to look unwell. His colour is just not right, and his growth has slowed down. You go to a different doctor. Living in regional NSW, there aren’t a lot of doctors to choose from, but you do find one and you tell him your concerns. This doctor diagnoses bronchiolitis again, as well as mild reflux. You are told to keep doing what you’re doing. You protest that what you’re doing isn’t working and you think it may be more serious than simple reflux – he is projectile vomiting after every feed. He is not gaining weight anymore. This isn’t right. Your cousin had a stomach condition as a baby, called Pyloric Stenosis. Could this be the same? The doctor shakes his head. He doesn’t say it, but it is clear he thinks you are overreacting. You take your baby home, knowing deep down that something is wrong with him, but doubting your instincts because you have been put in your place by someone who tells you they know better. Again, you wait. But your baby is not well. You take him to the hospital and explain the whole story all over again. They send you home. He has reflux. Soon you notice that your baby is actually losing weight. You know this is very bad news. Your baby still smiles and goos and gaas at you, but he’s more irritable and upset than is normal for him. His nappies are not as wet as they should be. His poos are black. You suspect he is becoming dehydrated. You take him to another doctor. He listens to you. He can’t believe you haven’t been referred to a paediatrician already. He agrees that your baby shouldn’t be losing weight. He sends you home with reflux medication to try for a week. If this doesn’t work he will send you to a paediatrician. You feel relieved that someone has finally listened. But you still think it’s not reflux. After three more days, your baby is still projectile vomiting. You wonder how he can possibly hold medicine down when he can’t even hold his milk down? You are deeply worried about him. You muster the courage to face the doctors at the hospital again. You know they think you are just another overprotective mother. You try to believe it yourself. But that nagging feeling, that there is something seriously wrong with your baby, just won’t go away. You take him to the hospital again. You insist that this is not reflux. You argue that you want tests done for Pyloric Stenosis. They send you home once again, with no investigations or treatment, but with a referral to see a paediatrician in two days’ time. The next morning, your baby is listless and wailing in pain. He has not had any wet nappies in 24 hours. You are at your parents’ house. Your Mum is also deeply worried about him. She drives you and your baby back to the hospital. “This time”, she says, “We are not leaving until you test him.” You and your husband agree that if they send you home again, you will drive your baby to a hospital in Sydney and insist on tests there. Finally, they listen. Finally, they give your baby more than a passing glance. He is clearly a sick little boy. They admit him into the children’s ward. It is no surprise to you when they declare him dehydrated and in urgent need of intravenous fluids. It is no surprise to you when an ultrasound reveals a blockage in the base of his stomach. Pyloric Stenosis; a condition that develops in babies between three and five weeks of age, where the lining at the base of the stomach continues to grow and thicken, restricting (and eventually blocking) the flow of milk into the intestines. Your baby needs surgery. It can’t be done at your local hospital: they find you a bed at Westmead Children’s Hospital (WCH) and prepare you to be transferred first thing in the morning. However, in the morning, there is another problem. The admissions department at WCH won’t accept the diagnosis. They want the tests to be done again before they will agree to admit your baby. Your local hospital re-runs the tests. You are very frustrated – all of this is taking up precious time. You are no longer allowed to feed your baby. He is upset and in need of comfort, but all you can do is hold him and rock him. He needs surgery to get better, but you are still waiting. Later that day, WCH is still not happy with the second round of tests. They agree to have you and your baby transferred, but will not admit you directly: you will have to start the entire process again through the emergency department. You are incredulous that the children’s hospital will not admit a 10-week-old baby, who is on a drip because he simply can’t feed properly. You are so tired of the whole ordeal. But you have no choice. You and your baby are transferred by ambulance, and arrive at WCH at midnight. Your husband takes your two other children to stay with family who live nearby, before joining you in the emergency department to start all over again. At 3am you see a surgeon. He quickly agrees with the diagnosis of Pyloric Stenosis, and puts your baby on the urgent list for surgery in the morning. He is appalled at the treatment you have received at every turn. He informs you that babies with PS usually do not live as long as your baby has. The condition is usually picked up within a week of its onset, and after surgery, most babies have fully recovered within two weeks. He tells you that your baby’s recovery may be prolonged, because he has been suffering for so long. During the rest of your stay at WCH, the treatment you receive from doctors, nurses and staff is exemplary, reminding you of how simple the whole process could have been. Seeing other sick children makes you feel grateful that your baby has something that can easily be ‘fixed’. Some families are not so lucky. The surgery goes well. Your baby does suffer from some discomfort afterwards, but he tries his best to be his normal, happy self. You are allowed to start feeding your baby small amounts of expressed breast milk later that night. It takes a day before he starts to keep the feeds down. With some milk in his belly at last, he instantly starts to look better. Soon, you are allowed to offer him the breast. You rejoice in his enthusiasm as he latches on. He feeds as though he never wants to be parted from you again. The feeling is mutual. You are relieved when your baby is discharged from hospital just days after the surgery. You and your little family return home together, where your baby continues his journey towards health and happiness once again. You are grateful to have your baby at home, recovering, but you are still frustrated and saddened. Your baby should not have been turned away all of those times. During your stay at the hospital, you learnt, from a nurse, that the black poos your baby was producing are a symptom of starvation. You burst into tears on hearing this. Your baby was starving, and no-one paid any attention until it was nearly too late.

There are so many things wrong with this story. I’ll outline just a few: why, when we have the money and resources available at our fingertips, is our health system so completely screwed* up? (*I want to use a stronger word, but will refrain). How can mothers be dismissed and ignored so easily? What would have happened if the mother involved had not had access to the resources that enabled her to (eventually) be heard?

I don’t have the information to answer the first question, except for a little insider knowledge that has come from someone I know who works in the health system. She works in mental health, and she sees cases like this all the time, where paperwork is more important than actually spending time with, and talking directly to, the client. If the paperwork isn’t filled out, you are prone to litigation. Everyone is so busy filling in paperwork, they don’t have time to do their actual job, which is to assess, treat and follow up with clients. Also, I have a feeling that this is all tied up with funding. I’m sure hospitals have to justify every single test they run, investigation they start (probably with mountains of paperwork), in order to satisfy budget restraints. So they don’t want to do anything unless it’s truly necessary. But, in this case, the warning signs were all there. Why did no-one listen?

Which brings me to my second point. Why do we have to constantly struggle against this ‘overprotective mother’ image? Why can’t we be respected as concerned parents and care-givers, as one of the people who know our child best? It took immense courage for the mother in this story to continually seek help, even though she was made to feel stupid for her concern. I’ve been there, myself. Whilst pregnant with my first, I had symptoms of a serious illness, but was turned away and made to feel like an idiot. I put up with the worsening symptoms for three more weeks before my body began to let it be known that something was very wrong. My baby and I were both put at risk because a doctor did not take me seriously. Why does this happen over and over again? Is it simply another symptom of a patriarchal system, in which all power is placed in the hands of the professional, whilst mothers, unpaid and undervalued, are assumed to know nothing? My mother put it best, in a discussion we once had on this issue: Munchausen’s by proxy is rare, yet every mother is assumed to have this syndrome, until proven otherwise.

My last point is to do with social and cultural capital. The mother in this story has some privileges, which helped her to eventually demand the help she needed. She has a supportive family network to draw strength from, and to help in caring for her two other children while she tried to get help for her baby. She and her partner have their own transport and enough money to be able to get their baby to Sydney if necessary. She is white, and had the necessary language skills to express her concerns (even if they weren’t listened to at first). Now imagine she was a migrant, with little money, or family support network. Imagine she didn’t speak English well – it is hard enough to express concern for a child, without appearing too emotional (because that earns an immediate dismissal), when you are speaking in your own tongue, let alone trying to do it in another language. Or, imagine this mother was Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander – imagine the extreme anxiety that fronting up to an institution with her tiny baby, seeking help, but not knowing what might happen, may have caused her.

This is so wrong. On many levels. Luckily, this story ended well. But I wonder how many others have not? It’s not over, either. The mother involved, and her family, have registered a complaint to NSW Health, and I congratulate and support them in this.

Perhaps the hardest thing about this, for me personally, was visiting this tiny baby in hospital the day after his surgery. I had been involved in the saga, but had not actually seen him until this day. He looked sick, even though he was already much improved, due to the IV fluids he’d been on for days. But sick is sick. He’s a tiny baby. How could anyone turn away a tiny, sick baby and his frightened mother? How could this have happened?

Go Sofya!

Posted on: April 29, 2011

I was watching Playschool this morning with Tiernan and Molly, and noticed that Sofya, a presenter who is hearing-impaired and who presents with sign language, as well as with spoken English, appears to have finally been given the status of a full presenter. I’ve seen Sofya on the show many times over the last few years, but she is usually there as third person, almost in a guest-presenter role. It was nice to see her given equal status with Jay this morning. Sofya performed more rhymes and songs than she normally does, and I found her very entertaining. She did a great job. I briefly checked out the Playschool page of the ABC website (see here for Sofya’s profile, where the above image came from), and learnt that Sofya is a professionally trained actor with loads of experience. I wonder why it has taken this long to see her as a full presenter on Playschool? Anyway, keep up the good work, Sofya.