Monday, October 29, 2012

Nursing the work life balance

I’ve been struggling with the whole work-life balance concept recently, not so much in the traditional sense in amount of time I spend working and playing but coping with shift work.

While it is a fundamental part of working in a hospital, the 24/7 nature of the sector seems to make working to live more difficult.

Trying to organise a life around an ever revolving shift pattern has been very difficult. With most people generally working on a 9 to 5 ish timetable and Monday to Friday (I do appreciate that many people take work home, stay late or go into work on weekends) means that a lot of social events and things such as book clubs, sport, music, political meetings, evening classes, etc occur during in that evening time slot.

Although you not always working a late shift, the logistical difficulties in ensuring that you’ve got a  particular evening off so you can go to something involves planning ahead 6 or more weeks in advance.   

Even then, you’re not guaranteed anything and trying to swap post roster being issued is almost impossible.  

Ever since I began as a Nursing Assistant on a very busy general medical ward in a large metropolitan hospital, I realised how completely physically and emotionally demanding working there could be.

It is not like a desk job where you are sitting down for much of the time. Nursing gives you a big physical workout with being on your feet for 8 hours and the heavy lifting.  

By the time the weekend comes around, you're exhausted and worn out in a way that doesn't occur when you're at a desk for the majority of your working week.
Not only are the shifts full on but you’re often expected to work a late shift followed by an early shift which, if you’re not an early morning person like me, leaves you with very little energy to do anything else.

This raises the question, what happens to your “work-life balance” if your work is so physically demanding that, at the end of the day, you collapse on the couch with little energy to follow your dreams, do what you love and spend time with your family and friends?

Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Abbotts wrong on daughter - feminism link

Margie Abbott, the wife of Australia’s Leader of the Opposition came out recently to remind us of Tony’s feminist credentials as the result of having daughters.

Mrs Abbott wanted to remind us that because he has three daughters and her Husband, Australia’s alternative Prime Minister, is a feminist and “gets Women”.

But I am not convinced about Margie’s promotion of Tony as feminist.

Choosing to watch Downton Abbey over the footie does not show that you “get women”

Having three daughters or sisters does not does not make you a feminist.

People operate within a belief system/culture, which in Tony Abbott’s case, is Catholicism and he has continued to show that his patriarchal catholic values influences everything he does.      

But if you don’t follow Australian domestic politics, ultra–conservative Tony Abbott regularly shares his rather traditional worldview regarding women.

For example, in 2010, he said that having a baby is “at the heart of the real life of Australian Women”. So if you don’t have children for whatever reason, you are not a complete individual.

In 2006 he said that he wouldn’t be rushing out to vaccinate his daughters against Cervical Cancer because it “promotes sexual promiscuity”.

He is also on the record in March 2004 as seeing Abortion as the “easy way out”.

2002 saw Tony declare that paid maternity leave will “happen over his dead body”.

He also reminded Australian women that they are the ones doing the ironing.

More recently during the protest against the carbon tax, Mr Abbott had no problems with addressing a crowed that had signs reading “ditch the witch” and referring to Julia Gillard (Australia’s first female Prime Minister) as being a “man’s bitch”.   

It is comments like these that Australian politics does not need. We live in the 21st century where women have contributed to the progress made in this country and will continue to do so in the future.

Feminism is not about hating or belittling men, it is fundamentally about gaining gender equality.

In the past, we have seen women campaign about the right to vote, the right to be financially and socially independent (for example not having to resign once you get married or needing your husband’s permission to get a passport) as well as the right to have control over your body.

Currently, more flexible working conditions, better support from their partners in managing domestic and child rearing responsibilities, gender pay differences and issues surrounding maternity leave and job security are some of the issues facing women.

As you can see, these issues would fundamentally clash with Abbott’s values.

Apart from having control over your body and life, gender equality also means being able to contribute to public life without ridicule.

Maybe the challenge for the feminist movement in the future (among many others) is to eradicate the behaviour see from Tony Abbott.

Until Mr Abbott learns not to make sexist remarks out loud, he will continue to be the target of the “handbag hit squad” and any women who are sick of his misogynistic discourse.

I’ll leave you with the amazing speech given by Australia’s first female PM. It both reminds us how far we’ve come and how far we still have to go.  

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Are Australian youth orchestras failing to develop tomorrow’s audience?

Being a bit of a music fan I often to the many concerts in Perth. If  it is a gig at the Ellington Jazz Club or as part of the Perth Festival, many of the people are my age or younger but when I go to a classical music concert and look out to those enjoying the performance, I can’t help but notice that, collectively, the audience is not looking so young any more.

Along with other forms of art such as ballet, classical music (and to some extent music education) seems to stir up socio-economic connotations that relegate it as bourgeois activity only available to the “elite”. As a result, opportunities for people to be exposed to music and to understand it seem to be limited.

There are few opportunities for people just to have a go.

This is a real shame because it is a genre that has many different styles and I am sure that if there were more opportunities to participate just for the fun of it, people would be more likely to buy tickets to watch the professionals play.

If we make it all about the elite we forget what music is really about.

The benefits of music of every kind have on people and communities are regularly spoken about. It inspires us, it also lifts our spirits and it helps us connect with others. The educational benefits for children of playing musical instruments of every kind and genres are well documented.

Australian Commentator Hugh MacKay’s pointed out that ‘learning to paint or write (in a class that creates its own sense of belonging), putting on plays and musicals, organising festivals, making movies, taking up photography.....singing in choirs, dancing, playing in bands....these are pathways to mental health for people whose daily lives are mostly spent in non-creative pursuit’ (2007:339).     

Since the health and social benefits of music are so obvious then why are opportunities segregated to the “gifted and talented” so soon?

Why the disproportionate focus on developing players rather than developing a wider appreciation of the art form?  

community orchestras, where people play for fun
One study that I looked at argued that, generally, Children exposed to the arts though a good quality art education programme are much more likely to have a lifelong participation in the arts (Kotler and Scheff: 513-529).

Would it be in the best interest of professional orchestras to improve the quality and reach of their education programmes so that that tomorrow’s adults actually want to pay to attend concerts?
Since one of my jobs as university student was as an Arts Administration Student with the Youth Orchestra here in Western Australia, I wonder how youth orchestras in Australia are ensuring the sustainability of the art form both in terms of players and of audiences.

For orchestras to be sustainable, they need people to buy tickets to see them perform.

At the moment in Australia the focus seems to be two fold. The focus can be split in to two unequal parts: “Player Development” and, to a lesser extent, “Outreach”/“Community Access”.

It is the overemphasis on the “Player Development” to the detriment of “Audience Development” that causes people to ask if Australian classical music is in crisis.

The problem is that Youth Orchestra Associations as well as many of the State Orchestras disproportionately work on developing the next generation of players rather than people who will come to listen.

My concern is that in 20 or 30 years there will be many orchestras full of gifted and highly trained players but no-one to watch them play because no-one other than these gifted musicians have been exposed to any kind of classical music.      

While there is nothing with elite musical training (because we all appreciate great players, including the synergy that occurs when they come together) but it is a lack of investment in those who will continue to buy tickets in the future that, in my opinion, is one of the biggest problems facing the sector today.

The “outreach” part of the equation usually involve tokenistic performances aimed at pre-schoolers (aptly named “cushion concerts”) or the odd concert in school halls on the fringes of the metropolitan area. Kids are hardly going to hooked for like as a result of 40 minute concert.

But the thing is, while Youth Orchestras and other non-governmental arts organisations are the only ones with the responsibility for this but they are the central part of the solution.

There is an interesting article called “Actively Finding an Audience” Greg Sandow, argues that is defiantly worth a read but I posed him a question on the role of youth orchestras in improving the attendance at classical music concerts.

In his answer he described an interesting paradox where the youth orchestras in the states are thriving but ironically, this doesn't translate into people going to concerts

So, what are we going to do about it?

Australian Chamber Orchestra (ACO) Musical Director and Lead Violin Richard Tognetti once said, in an interview on ABC Radio National’s The Music Show, “that if you look after the milk, the cream will rise to the top”.   

Meaning that if you widen the net of opportunity to a wider range of people, there is no reason gifted and talented will not reach great heights and continue to entertain us with their music.  

It is worth taking a look at some great but under-reported work done in this area. Both the ACO and Britain’s Orchestra of St John Smith Square actively run programmes for with kids who might not be future musicians but just to get them excited about music.

Pity that these sorts of programmes are small in comparison to what happens elsewhere in the world.

Take a look at the youth music programmes in the Berkshire area of England with something for all instruments and abilities. They seem to understand that playing music isn’t just something that should be enjoyed by those who are going to make it their profession but by everyone. 

As a result and as Kotler and Scheff argued, these programmes will have a lasting impact on those who participate in them including greater participation in music later in life.

It will be interesting to see if there will be any classical music when I am 85 years old and if I am the only one in the audience but I am sure it will work itself out, it has to.  Luckily there are lots of other kinds of music to be enjoyed and I look forward to tagging along with my nieces and nephew's children to whatever gigs will be on at the time.   


Kotler, Philip and Scheff, Joanne. Standing Room Only: Strategies for Marketing the Performing Arts (Boston: Harvard Business School, 1997) 

MacKay, Hugh. Advance Australia Where? (Sydney: Hachette Australia, 2007) 

Friday, October 5, 2012

It’s all about the coffee

I love a good cup of coffee and especially if it is in a cool little cafe with a good vibe.

Below are some that are new to Perth and some that are old favourites.

Uncle Joe’s Mess has only been open about 3 weeks and is where Zukka was.  This Cafe is tucked away up a corridor behind a shop on King Street.

It has a bit of a war/MASH theme and looks like it should be part of Red Cross field project in Afghanistan.

It has great coffee and lovely food. Defiantly a good place to go!

Uncle Joe's Mess Hall on Urbanspoon

Another newish Cafe that has to be visited is Standing Room Only.

Don’t expect to be able to sit here because it is literally standing room only. Based on the Italian espresso bar, SRO is down Piccadilly Arcade and caters for the true lovers of coffee.

There are no cheap and “starbukky” gimmicks here, just great coffee.
Standing Room Only on Urbanspoon

If you want “starbukky” gimmicks without having to step in side in to a chain of cafes such as the Dome or Gloria Jeans, then try Infusion, down Plaza Arcade.

They are famous for their bags of flavoured coffee and random blends of the day such as Krakatoa East of Java and The Cartel which, from memory, is a blend of Columbian, Brazilian and Guatemalan coffee.

With its friendly barista Terry who is always up for a chat and a laugh, Infusion is great if you want something different.

If you really can’t face another coffee (is that at all possible??) but want to go to a chilled out venue try Cabin Fever, tucked away down Bon Marche Arcade. I tried their Ice Tea and was glad to see that not just a bottle and they made an effort to present it well.

Cabin Fever, like so many cafes have taken on the retro theme. It's retro fitout is is defiantly kitsch but something about the chilled out vibe makes it not too much of a cliché.     

Finally, The Suite in Shenton Park is a cool bar/cafe that also is decked out with that Retro theme. It also has a cool (but small) function room of the same style if you're into that kind of thing. 

It has totally cool menu and great drinks of all kinds and coffee that isn’t bad.  It’s great for coffee moments with dad before work.

Anyway, I hope that this has been helpful and furthered your enjoyment of Coffee.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Urban food is a reason why city living is so cool

Kuza Urban Japanese Food on Urbanspoon

I don’t know about you but I love food, especially if it is spicy and tastes good.

While I love England, I am not real fan of its traditionally bland food and this is why I love living in large cities where there is lots of different food available.

Today I got to have lunch at Kuza which does Urban Japanese Food in Victoria Park.

With its funky interior, I was keen to see what the food was like and the fact that the other people eating there looked like they were from Japan or the wider Asian region was a good side.

After looking at the menu, I decided on a Ramen Soup (they also do Sashimi and Sushi) and the waitress recommended the Kuza Original with Chashu, Crabmeat and Egg.

I was not disappointed.    

It had a strong seafood flavour that was complimented with plenty of seaweed. At the same time, the fishy flavour wasn’t overpowering and broth wasn’t oily nor was it too heavy.

Their Japanese Green Tea was also great and more than just bland tea bag verity.

So, if you are in Vic Park, drop into this great place and enjoy the great food.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Exploring the Hood

Despite moving in to my apartment several months ago, I haven’t really had the time to explore what my neighbourhood had to offer and now I am on holiday I have the time to explore the area.

My not so new neighbourhood is commonly associated with car yards, funeral parlours and little weatherboard houses, not to mention being a culturally diverse area.

Apart from the cute but plain little houses (although, the area has gone through a long period of gentrification where some more up market places have gone up) that are everywhere, being an inner city suburb it is full of places to entertain and to hang out, even if they are cheap and cheerful.

Many of the places are along the main drag which is quite spread out but thanks to the many buses that go along this bit of highway, it doesn't take long to get around.

One of my favourite places is The Imp and this cool little cafe is always packed. What is so great is this place is the coffee and the very decadent deserts.  The rest of food is ok but the vibe makes up for it.

Another cafe that is worth visiting is Cafe Gelato. This place doubles up as a photo processing shop which sounds a little cheesy but with its cool décor it does have a funky and relaxed feeling about it. The coffee is average (maybe I am just getting picky in my old age) but the Italian Ice cream is amazing.

Being close to Curtin University who attracts lots of students in the Asian Region, there are lots of places to eat and grocery shops that reflect the diversity of cuisine in that region. Thai, Japanese, Chinese, Korean, and Nepalese - it is all there.

Of course being Australia, there is also a heavy Italian influence as well as many pubs.   Cafe Zucchero is another venue that is always packed on the weekend and has a great food menu but the coffee is ok. This cafe is totally worth a visit with friends on any fine weekend.

I am loving living here and look forward to exploring the many other places that are here.  

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