Category Archives: Community

Lovely Grace

Lovely Grace

I enjoy my Meals on Wheels round on the 1st and 3rd Monday of each month. It’s my opportunity to care a little for elderly people in my area.

Our position in old age is outside our control. Will we be healthy and physically and mentally capable of caring for ourselves? Will we be financially independent? Will our friends and family offer support, care and love? Only time will tell.

I spend a brief snippet of time with each person I deliver a meal to. It is interesting to observe the level of interaction and personality of each client. There are a range of responses illustrating a multitude of personalities, from appreciative, endearing, cheeky, vibrant, optimistic, surviving, struggling, lonely, hermit to no longer hygene conscious.

Grace was one of my favourite clients. Although she’d had a stroke that left her with physical challenges and some slight communication issues, Grace was always resilient, appreciative, pleased to see me, happy, pleasant, engaging. I didn’t mind taking 20mins or so to chat with Grace and to assist her write out her menu selection. The contrast between Grace’s lovely nature and that of one of my other clients left me curious from a social science perspective. The contrasting client whinges every single time I deliver a meal. The glass is always half empty. I leave wondering whether all her life she has held this negative, critical outlook. How has this influenced her friendships, relationships and opportunities in life?

I hope I can age Gracefully.

Turning Point – belief, encouragement and an hour

Turning Point – belief, encouragement and an hour

I encourage you to notice someone within your family, friends or workplace with untapped potential. Would they benefit from your expressed recognition of their skills, your belief in their ability to achieve their potential and a small amount of your time? I want to share my story of how my university degree can be attributed to an hour of time a former boss invested in me and how I too hope to support someone so they can create a turning point in their life.

At the completion of year 12, I returned to Melbourne after spending a year living in the country with my mother and sister. At seventeen years old, I found a job as a clerk at one of the major banks. I was a conscientious and hard worker so I regularly assisted management with their enquiries and other tasks. Within a few years I moved into their IT area where I enjoyed reading system user manuals, performing user testing and writing some simple business requirements.

At twenty-one, my boss offered me a job as a trainee computer programmer and encouraged me to attend university. I estimate he invested an hour of his time preparing a letter of recommendation for the university and assisting me with the process. This was a turning point in my life for which I will be forever grateful.

After the Black Saturday bush fires, I donated some new and used outdoor furniture to my old boss whose house unfortunately burnt down. I gave him a card thanking him for playing such an important role in my life. He was unaware that this seemingly little deed, such a small investment of his time, made such an impact.

I hope that I can assist others achieve their potential by supporting them with belief, encouragement and a little of my time.

Social Yikes! Australia, we need to change.

Social Yikes! Australia, we need to change.

I attended on the weekend. I decided to put my name down for an open discussion session on ‘Tools and solutions to address key issues facing our society’.

Melbourne is the second most liveable city according to the Global Liveability Survey list – compiled by the Economist Intelligence Unit, yet I don’t believe we’re the second healthiest and happiest nation.

I am alarmed by statistics and trends around the rate of antidepressant usage, obesity rates and alcohol consumption. Thankfully, I believe technology and social media can reverse these trends. In the following paragraphs I outline a few concerning statistics and discuss great examples of technology based solutions.

Depression & Mental Health Disorders

  • Antidepressant use continues to escalate in Australia. In 2008-2009, there were 12.3 million scripts written for antidepressants, according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s report on Australia’s Health 2010.
  • The 2007 National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics found that an estimated 3.2 million Australians (20% of the population aged between 16 and 85) had a mental disorder in the twelve months prior to the survey.
  • The World Health Organisation has predicted that by 2020, depression will be the second biggest health problem world-wide, behind heart disease.


Obesity in Australia

  • More than 14 million Australians are overweight or obese, according to Monash University’s Fact & Figures.
  • If weight gain continues at current levels, by 2020, 80% of all Australian adults and a third of all children will be overweight or obese.
  • Obesity and being overweight pose a major risk for chronic diseases including: Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hypertension and stroke and certain forms of cancer.


Alcohol Consumption

  • It is estimated that about 3200 people die as a result of excessive alcohol consumption and around 81,000 people are hospitalised annually. The cost to the Australian community of alcohol-related social problems was estimated to be $15.3 billion in 2004/05.


“Alcohol plays an important role in the Australian economy. It generates substantial employment, retail activity, export income and tax revenue. Alcohol also has an important social role. It is a familiar part of traditions and customs in this country and is often used for relaxation, socialisation and celebration. Eighty three percent of Australians reported drinking alcohol in 2004. It is a drug that can promote relaxation and feelings of euphoria. It can also lead to intoxication and dependence and a wide-range of associated harms.”

Tools to help fight these trends:

I feel we need to collectively take a more active role in discussing and finding solutions to key challenges facing our society. We could start by raising awareness of the issues and talking about solutions.

I’m pleased with the changes introduced affecting the cigarette industry, government banned glamorous advertising, made packaging contain health warnings and look hideous, ran advertisements alerting you to the dangers of smoking and hopefully shifting your attitude towards smoking, increased the purchasing age, introduced legislation so supermarkets no longer display stock and can only use black and white stickers to show the brand and price, increased taxes to make the product less affordable. Do some similar style changes need to be applied to our Fast Food industry?

Technology Based Solutions

Technology – Global Collaboration Challenges

An awesome, American based 5 day speed innovation challenge called ‘ No Right Brain Left Behind’ was run in collaboration with Social Media Week 2011. Advertising agencies, innovation companies, design consultancies and communication schools were invited to concept ideas to for the creativity crisis in U.S. schools “The power of an idea can transcend wars, politics, races, and economies. We hope that this collaboration will demonstrate the ability of our leading creative minds to step up to the challenges where conventional thinking fails.” At the end of the 5 days, the best ideas were selected to pilot in 2011 and 2012. I submitted a few ideas to Bud Caddell’s Bucket Brigade entry: The power of opening up social problems to the world for feedback is why I am a huge technology fan. Interconnected Social Media applications make collaboration easy. I saw Bud’s tweet using TweetDeck, clicked through to his WordPress blog and submitted my entries via his Google Docs form. He then compiled and reviewed all the entries and submitted 14 entries to the competition. The ‘crowd’ then voted for their favourite entries by using the ‘Like’ button. The most ‘Liked’ entries were shortlisted.

I hope that industry, individuals and the Australian Government can run a similar speed innovation challenge to address some of the key issues facing our society.

Technology – Online Memberships fostering real life Meetups

Humans are social beings. I believe we’ll reap huge benefits by increasing social participation. I recommend the site It is not a dating site, it is a site that allows you to find groups of people with similar interest in your area. Their tag line: ‘Do something, Learn something, Share something, Change something’. In Melbourne the photography club has 700 or so members that get together and help each other learn and improve their skills as well as socialise. There is a ‘two legged walking club’ which arranges walks across Victoria and grades each walk so that people of varying fitness levels can participate. I hope to see a rise in the number of applications developed harnessing the power of ‘Location Based Services’.

Technology – promoting good causes

Great initiatives run by not for profits, community groups and government are now more visible:

Hello Sunday Morning – for those ready to take a three month break from our drinking culture and find out what life is like without a hangover.

Blossom Project is designed for young women aged from 16 to 25 who are experiencing anxiety and depression.

General Comments

How can friends ‘sponsor’ their friends, to help them reach their goals? For example, agree for a friend to come to their house and weigh in once a week, talk about their eating habits and share favourite healthy recipes.

The lunch shop at my children’s school sells: hot dogs, dim sims, party pies, pizza, chicken schnitzel rolls, zappos, crisps, sweet biscuits etc. I believe they are consequently endorsing poor food choices. My son gets a treat in his lunch box most days, for example an Uncle Toby’s muesli bar which is roughly 35% sugar or an LCM bar which is very highly processed and full of sugar, however he complains that there is only one other child in the class that gets less treats than him and that most children get multiple treats each day. Healthy nuts are banned. How about banning processed foods with a sugar content above 20% or saturated fat content above 10%. Ultimately, I want a healthy and happy future for my kids.

Chocolate Quit Campaign – what are the percentages of women that would say chocolate contributes to their weight related issues? Mmm, chocolate.

Where to from here?

I will share this blog entry and continue to research and talk about these issues and encourage others to do the same.

Links: For those ready to take a three month break from our drinking culture and find out what life is like without a hangover.

Monash University article on Obesity in Australia:

Article ‘Tackling the blues – facts about depression’:

Government preventative health initiative:$File/nphs-overview-oview.pdf

National Alcohol Drinking Strategy 2006 – 2009 – Towards Safer Drinking Cultures:$File/nas-06-09-1.pdf

Ten tips to cut down on alcohol:


Upgrade Cheaply and Donate Items to Flood Victims

Upgrade Cheaply and Donate Items to Flood Victims

It would be a great initiative to have anyone who is considering upgrading their TV (and other needed appliances/household items including computers) to do it now and send their old ones to under or uninsured floor victims.

It saddens me to see so many potentially working or fixable TVs thrown out at hard rubbish time because they’ve been upgraded to a sleeker modern version or perhaps a 3D TV. People who have multiple TVs may also want to donate one. I find just owning one TV brings the family together (and you can always watch ABC iView on your computer if you really don’t like what’s on TV).

The government is requesting businesses to dig deep. Sponsors could step up and offer:

- free trucking/rail/airline services to transport the appliances

- a discounted bulk deal for new appliances to encourage people to upgrade and donate their old appliances (GroupOn style)

- electricians and technicians to test the appliances for safety and fix any items needing repair

- donations of discontinued or obsolete stock

- collection points to accept donated appliances

- heavy discounts to flood victims

- free IT skills to set up the website which maintains a register of numbers and types of items required, donations being made and where you can register to offer a GroupOn style deal or where you register your interest in a particular type of appliance that you would purchase if a deal came up.

- marketing expertise and production capabilities (print, online etc)

- free advertising

It would be sensational for Australia to collaborate and get this project off the ground.

I’d be keen to be part of the website team.

What could you do to help?