Creating positive images of Aboriginal fathers

Be there for usWe are surrounded by negative images of Aboriginal men and fathers. In the mainstream media, and even academic literature, they are mostly portrayed in a negative context: the focus is on crime, domestic violence, alcohol and other drugs, unemployment, and child abuse. It is time we started seeing more of the positives.

Craig Hammond, one of my colleagues at the Family Action Centre, has produced a range of resources (DVDs, posters and a book)  that offer more positive images.  In 2011 he  published a paper Making positive resources to engage Aboriginal men/fathers (Hammond, 2011)  in which he discusses some of his work helping to create posters with positive images of Aboriginal fathers in a number of communities. He argues: Continue reading

Posted in Community engagement, Families, Strengths-based approaches & ABCD | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Go home on time day!

Go home on timeToday is Go home on time day, so that’s what I’ll be doing.

The day was conceived in 2009 by the Australia Institute as a light-hearted way to start a serious conversation about the impact of poor work/life balance on our health, relationships and workplaces.

Although Australians often have a reputation for being lazy and taking lots of time off work, we actually work long hours and put in many unpaid hours (not including unpaid work in the home and volunteering). According to the Institute’s report Hard to Get a Break:

  • Australian’s contribute an estimated $110 billion per year in unpaid work
  • 1 in 5 workers don’t take a lunch break
  • Over half do not take all their annual leave each year
  • 50% of Australians who are overworked would like to spend more time with their family

Children need love and attention to thrive, so it is especially important that parents balance home and work. It’s also good for the parents! (The Raising Children Network has some great tips on easing the transition between your work life and home life.)

Although I work quite long hours, I’m lucky that my work is flexible and I’m able to make time for my family (e.g., get to special events at school, take time off if the kids are sick). I will often do some work after they have gone to bed so that I can take time off during the day or arrange my work hours around the family. Many people do not have the luxury of flexible hours and so leaving work on time is especially important.

Do you normally leave work on time?

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Making one piece of cling wrap last


(Photo from: Opportunity Green)

“Think about it. Why would you make something that you’re going to use for a few minutes out of a material that’s basically going to last forever, and you’re just going to throw it away. What’s up with that?” (Jeb Berrier, BagIt Movie)

My mum was in South Korea as a missionary in 1955 (only a couple of years after the Korean War) and lived in Busan. She lived with four or five other women and sometimes one of them would go to Seoul about 450 km away, which (in those days) was a day’s travel. Buying lunch on the train wasn’t an option so they normally took a sandwich wrapped in grease proof paper. On one trip to Seoul, one of Mum’s colleagues stayed with a North American family and when they made her lunch for the trip home, they used plastic wrap (or cling wrap). Mum and her friends had never seen it before, and thought it was fantastic. They certainly made the most of this great new invention. That one piece of cling wrap travelled back and forward between Busan and Seoul dozens of times, being shared by everyone in the house. After each use, this lone piece of cling wrap was wiped clean and put away in their shared kitchen.

How things have changed. How many of us would consider cleaning cling wrap or plastic bags? What a pain! How annoying! We now take plastic so much for granted that we see it as a totally disposable product. Yet this stuff that was seen as so amazing only a generation or two ago is produced using a very limited, non-renewable resource, namely oil. For some reason we think it is acceptable to use plastic cutlery, plates and bags once and then throw them away. We think it is acceptable to make plastic toys that are used once or twice as an incentive to buy more junk food. When will we realise that this is not how every other generation has lived, in fact it is an extremely recent phenomena. When will we realize that, sooner or later, we really ARE going to run out of oil and that we need to stop wasting it!

If you liked this post you might want to follow my blog (top right-hand corner of the blog), and you might like to look at:

  1. 10 ways to reduce your consumption
  2. Climate change: we need to clean up after ourselves
  3. 10 things you need to know about the lastest IPCC report on climate change
  4. Parenting for a better world
  5. The paradox of inconsequence
Posted in Environmental sustainability, Simplicity/consumption | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Our addiction to growth

The myth of infinite growthAccording to the G20 final communique:

Raising global growth
to deliver better living standards
quality jobs for people across the world

is our highest priority.

I’m sorry, I don’t agree. In fact, we need to kick our addiction to growth as a matter of urgency. Our modern economy is built on the myth of infinite growth: our mainstream economists seem unable to imagine an alternative and, without it, are at a complete loss. Our addiction to growth is fed by unsustainable  reckless consumption and short-sighted exploitation of non-renewable resources. When are we going to wake up?

Our whole economic system is based on consumption, and growing consumption. To question our consumption levels is to question the way our whole society is structured. But we live on a finite planet, so infinite growth is not possible. Even much of the environment movement seems afraid to confront over-consumption or to promote a steady-state economy (i.e., one not based on growth). While it is safe to talk about new technologies, new forms of energy production and increasing efficiencies of energy and material use; our actual levels of consumption is a topic that governments and society in general prefers to avoid.

Underlying our addiction to growth are a number of assumptions including:

  • Growth is good; in fact businesses and economies must grow
  • Even though we live in a finite world, we should behave as if it were infinite
  • As our standard of living increases, so will our happiness
  • The depletion of natural resource and the degradation of the environment do not need to be included in measures of economic health
  • We need economic growth to eradicate global poverty and solve environmental problems
  • Human ingenuity and technological developments will allow our economies to just keep growing.

It is time start challenging these assumptions. As Naomi Klein argues in This changes everything:

Our economic system and our planetary system are now at war. Or, more accurately, our economy is at war with many forms of life on earth, including human life. What the climate needs to avoid collapse is a contraction in humanity’s use of resources; what our economic model demands to avoid collapse is unfettered expansion. Only one of these sets of rules can be changed, and it’s not the laws of nature.

Once again, our world leaders have let us down and wasted the opportunity to put environmental sustainability at the heart of our economic and political deliberations.

If you liked this post you might want to follow my blog (top right-hand corner of the blog), and you might like to look at:

  1. 10 ways to reduce your consumption
  2. Climate change: we need to clean up after ourselves
  3. 10 things you need to know about the lastest IPCC report on climate change
  4. Parenting for a better world
  5. The paradox of inconsequence
Posted in Environmental sustainability | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Climate change: we need to clean up after ourselves

(Photo: Evan Leeson)

(Photo: Evan Leeson)

We often tell our children to clean up after themselves, but when it comes to the climate, it seems we are happy for them to clean up the mess we have created. The evidence is clear: we need action and we need it now. We know that the longer we delay, the harder it will be to prevent drastic climate change; and yet we keep avoiding meaningful action out of fear that it will have a negative impact on the economy or our standard of living.

I am so angry, particularly as a parent, when I see political, business and community leaders making decisions which prioritise short-term economic gain over long-term environmental sustainability. Until the recent agreement between the USA and China on reducing CO2 emissions, Australia had resisted calls for climate change to even be on the agenda of the coming G20 meeting. Today, the Australian Treasurer said the while climate change will now be discussed at the G20, “There will be no single issue that will distract leaders or anyone else from the task of delivering on growth and jobs.” Australia’s political leaders just don’t seem to understand the impact climate change will have on everything in our future, including the economy.

It may feel like we can’t make a difference, but it will be even harder if we leave it to our children to tidy up after us.

As a parent, do you worry about the state of the world we are leaving our children?

If you liked this post you might want to follow my blog (top right-hand corner of the blog), and you might like to look at:

  1. Focusing more on parenting for the environment
  2. Parenting for a better world
  3. Strengths-based approaches = HOPE
  4. 10 ways to reduce your consumption
  5. 10 things you need to know about the lastest IPCC report on climate change
Posted in Environmental sustainability, Parenting | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Digital Parents Blog Carnival

Digital Parents Blog Carnival

I recently joined Digital Parents, an Australian community of parent bloggers. As I’ve started to focus more on parenting I thought it could be interesting to start building connections. As part of the community, each month bloggers can submit their best post for the past month which is then listed on one of the blogs from the community to create a blog carnival. This month it is hosted by Mums on the Go.

It seems that most are Mummy Bloggers or people writing for mums, but there are a few other fathers.  There is a range of posts including:

There are some interesting posts. I decided to submit my post on The paradox of inconsequence. I don’t think it will be all that popular, but that’s OK!

If you liked this post you might want to follow my blog (top right-hand corner of the blog), and you might like to look at:

  1. Focusing more on parenting for the environment
  2. Parenting for a better world
  3. Playgroups as a foundation for working with hard to reach families
  4. What is Kids’ Vegies on the Verge?
  5. The paradox of inconsequence
Posted in Parenting | Tagged , | Leave a comment

10 things you need to know about the lastest IPCC report on climate change

(Human sign at St Kilda Beach. Photo: Andrew North)

(Human sign at St Kilda Beach. Photo: Andrew North)

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recently reported its fifth synthesis (or summary) report. Grist has provided a useful list of The 10 things you need to know from the new IPCC climate report. The 10 things are:

  1. We humans really, truly are responsible for climate change
  2. Climate change is already happening
  3. … and it is going to get far worse
  4. Much of recent warming has been in the ocean
  5. The ocean is also becoming more acidic
  6. Climate change will hit developing nations particularly hard, but we are all vulnerable.
  7. Plants and animals are even more vulnerable than we are
  8. We must switch mostly to renewables by 2050, and phase out fossil fuels by 2100
  9. We already have the answers we need to tackle climate change
  10. This dire report is decidedly conservative

For more details (easy-to-read) see their post.

The science could not be clearer about the need to act. To borrow from Mahatma Gandhi, it is time for us all to be the change we need to see in the world.

If you liked this post you might want to follow my blog (top right-hand corner of the blog), and you might like to look at:

  1. A statistically representative climate change debate
  2. Climate change is real: an open letter from the scientific community
  3. Consumption and the Transition movement
  4. 10 ways to reduce your consumption
  5. Parenting for a better world
Posted in Environmental sustainability | Tagged , | 1 Comment

What are complex problems?

We are surrounded by complex problems. Many of these are new, very difficult to solve or control, and very threatening. They are generally outside our day-to day experience, there is disagreement about how best to overcome them (but not tackling them may lead to a major disaster) and addressing them will require major changes in human behaviour and broad social change (Mumford, 1998). Some of these complex problems are so complex that they are described as wicked problems. Wicked here is not used in terms of evil but rather as “an issue highly resistant to resolution” (Australian Public Service Commission, 2007, p. 1). Examples include climate change, world poverty, the global financial crisis, child abuse, terrorism and drug abuse.

Glouberman and Zimmerman (2002) highlight the difference between simple problems, complicated problems and complex problems by comparing following a recipe (a simple problem), sending a rocket to the moon a (complicated problem) and raising a child (a complex problem). While I hesitate to call raising a child a “problem”, it is a useful comparison. Continue reading

Posted in Environmental sustainability, Social change | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Sculpture by the Sea as community engagement

Rest in summer by Manuel Ferreiro Badia

Rest in summer by Manuel Ferreiro Badia

Sculpture by the Sea brings together sculptures by artists around the world and the natural beauty of the shoreline at Bondi Beach. As a setting for art, it is magnificent. As an example of a community event it is popular and success. But is it community engagement?

Some of my students recently submitted papers critiquing an example of community engagement of their choosing. I advised them to avoid charity events like Race for Research and the World’s Greatest Shave because, while they are great ideas, as an example of community engagement, they are somewhat limited, and students have struggled to identify how the events actively engage the community in a meaningful way. While some people volunteer to help organise the events, most people are fairly passively involved (e.g., they take part in a fun run and maybe raise some funds, but they don’t really have any input in to the program and don’t really engage with the issues involved).

As well as enjoying Sculpture by the Sea, I couldn’t help but wonder why, unlike many charity events, I think it is an interesting example of community engagement. Like the charity events, many volunteers are involved in the organisation and running of the event, but I think there are two features of Sculpture by the Sea that make it a better example of community engagement. Continue reading

Posted in Community engagement | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Talking with children about the environment

Conversation (by Rohit Rath

(Photo: Rohit Rath)

When our children are babies, the focus of eco parenting (or green parenting) is how to be environmentally responsible as parents. As they grow older, we need to shift our focus to encouraging our kids to be environmentally aware and environmentally friendly.

We also want to ensure our children our not overwhelmed by the enormity of climate change and other environmental issues. So how can we talk to our children about environmental sustainability and the many environmental challenges we face?

The Australian Psychological Society has some great information on talking with children about the environment. They suggest eight steps:

  1. Provide your child with time to spend in nature
  2. Help your children find something positive to do for the environment
  3. Listen to your children’s concerns about the environment
  4. Allow children to tell you how they feel and think
  5. Find out what your children know
  6. Be aware of how you talk
  7. Monitor how much your children are being exposed to media stories of environmental problems
  8. Reassure your children and give them hope.

For each of these steps they give specific information relevant to preschoolers, primary school-aged children and adolescents. It’s well worth a look.

As part of my greater for on parenting for the environment I’m interested in how parents talk to their children about environmental issues. How do you talk to your kids?

If you liked this post you might want to follow my blog (top right-hand corner of the blog), and you might like to look at:

  1. Parenting for a better world
  2. What is Kids’ Vegies on the Verge?
  3. The paradox of inconsequence
  4. A Transition Streets water challenge
  5. Focusing more on parenting for the environment
Posted in Environmental sustainability, Parenting | Tagged , , | Leave a comment