I Would Never.

I would never.

When I was little I did something naughty which I’ve long forgotten and my mother smacked me. I remember saying to her, “When I’m a mum I will never smack my kids.”

I have smacked my kids. Not often and not anymore but yes, I have smacked them. Now days this is a bit taboo. But when I was a kid, it was part of growing up. Maybe we know better now, but most of us survived unscathed so I guess it’s a bit of a wash what happened 30 years ago. I’m not going to debate the merits of smacking or not smacking: that’s a different post. What I want to talk about is ‘I will never’. I want to talk about the line in the sand we draw all the time on different topics and different days. I want to talk about the times you draw the line and at some point your find yourself standing at it and thinking…”I gotta move this.”

Generally I think we draw the line when we see the world in black and white. When you explore the issue further you realise there is a whole spectrum of grey you never knew existed and when you’re standing in the middle of that grey area it’s hard to see your line anymore.

There is a lot of places this comes into effect – abortion, welfare, asylum seekers, homelessness, the death penalty, even murder.

One area that this is a current issue in Australia is the cashless welfare card. The brainchild of someone who has never been on welfare and I doubt runs in circles that has a lot of welfare recipients, the cashless welfare card is basically a debit card that allows the purchase of life’s necessities but doesn’t allow purchases of certain items (gambling, alcohol, cigarettes). In theory that looks okay, I suppose. You can withdraw a very limited sum in cash out of it, so almost every purchase would be tracked to a degree. The flaws in it mean that you cannot buy from markets, home businesses that don’t offer Visa, online shops in many instances, gumtree, buy/swap/sell pages, some people have even reported issues paying their phone bill. And a lot of supporters are like, “Tough shit. Get a job. I pay taxes and so should you.”

Oh. But where is your line in the sand?

I work in the disability sector. My clients are often bed bound with complications from their conditions. As a support worker I frequently have to go to the store for them for bread, milk, medication. Under the contract I have with my workplace I am not allowed to take a debit card to the store. I may take cash only. I return with change and a receipt. If my clients receive a cashless welfare card I can no longer do this shopping for them leaving both my client and myself with some tough choices. If I arrive on shift and my client has run out of a staple item do I breach contract and take the card? Or do they hope they have a friend or family member ready to drop everything and come collect the items they require? They can’t go themselves.

Is that the line? Bed bound disability recipients?

What if my client CAN physically get to their chair but is in pain that day? What if it’s raining? What if they have $20 to last 6 days and they CAN go themselves but the taxi they would have to take would mean that when they got to the shops they no longer had the money to buy the item they needed?

What about my client who needed new wheels for his chair and ordered online? He can’t do that anymore.

Okay, should we draw the line at disability pension? Did we move it already?

What about the long term unemployed? Should we just throw them on the cashless welfare card? I have a friend who has a chronic illness. She is in extreme pain most days but can’t actually get on a disability pension because her lifelong chronic illness was put in the temporary category. Actually, it’s been two years now since her assessment so I should really check if she is cured yet as Centrelink said she would be. I’ve read of people with terminal cancer that have been unable to receive a disability pension.

What about the person that is unemployed and shares a house (because there is no way you could afford to solo rent on Newstart) – how are they paying board? Private rental? Fuggetaboutit. What about those unemployed because of mental illness? That’s not their fault.

Okay. Line in the sand.

Should we target those with known issues? Drug addicts? Alcoholics?

Let’s forget about the root of the issue for a second. Let’s forget that often those issues stem from the aforementioned mental illness issue. Let’s not fund programs for rehabilitation. If we give them the cashless welfare card won’t they just straighten out their act?

Maybe. Or maybe they’ll turn to crime to fund it. Maybe they’ll buy something they CAN buy, like nappies and sell them on a buy/swap/sell page and say they got the wrong size. Maybe they have a myriad of ways around not having to use the card.

Where is your line? Is it still black and white on all welfare recipients? Can you see the greys?

Life is like this a lot.

I would never.

I would never.

I would never have an abortion. Until I was told my 16 week pregnancy was incompatible with life. Until I was told he would not survive. Until I couldn’t be reassured he wasn’t in pain having his brain completely exposed in utero.

“Oh, we didn’t mean you. That’s different.”

So I am afforded compassion in that instance but if I already had a bunch of kids and my contraceptive failed and I’m already working two jobs and I need to keep them because look at how welfare recipients are treated and I get so damn sick when pregnant that my eldest daughter has to bring me my toothbrush and a cup to spit into in my bed – no compassion?

“I guess if you were really sick I understand. It’s just those people that use it as contraception, I can’t stand.”

I would never. I would never.

“I didn’t mean you. I meant career dole bludgers.”

“I didn’t mean you. I meant those people that come to Australia and don’t want to conform to our laws.”

“I didn’t mean you.”

“I didn’t mean you.”

“I didn’t mean you. I meant those other people that I have never met. Not you. Not your story.”

Lines in the sand.

I would never.

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Hello 2017.

The last two years I created a flipagram to document the year that was. This year I began dumping photos into it in July so come December I wouldn’t have to spend hours finding them and putting them in. It also meant that I took more photos consciously because I wanted the memories.

The funny thing about being a photographer was that my family actually ended up with less photos of ourselves rather than more. Half the reason was because when you do something for a job you don’t really want to also do it in your spare time, you can almost always spot a photographer at school plays and concerts because they’re the ones on their iPhones instead of hauling the big camera out. We are tired of the big camera, we don’t even want to look at the big camera. The other half of the reason is because I’m a cull-er. I might take 10 photos and I will chose one – the best – and throw the rest. So it’s hard for me to bother bringing the big camera out if the light isn’t good, if the kids have their hair unbrushed, if in the background I know we still have the breakfast dishes unloaded from the dishwasher. I know if I saw that photo in a gallery I would cull it, so why take it in the first place? So I had to consciously let go of the fact my five year old had moved and I chopped her toes or the image was grainy because I pushed the ISO at 6 at night. Take it, take the photo, no one is entering awards with this.

I have a few favourite photos of my mother’s childhood. In one, a Polaroid, she is standing with her sisters and my great aunt who looks like the most fabulous person, some kind of 70s celebrity, and it’s colours are retro and the focus is soft and it’s one I would have culled if I took it. But I love everything about it. A real memory, frozen in time. I love the photo of my aunt and grandfather and my aunt’s boyfriend making teacups out of string with their fingers. I love the photo of my mother clearly caught unaware as someone entered her bedroom and she was sitting in front of her dressing table.

And we are so blessed to live in an age where we don’t have to worry about the cost of film and developing. We can just shoot and shoot. What a treasure trove of captured memories we will leave to our own children.

But the other thing I wanted to talk about as we enter 2017 (which, please universe, cut us all a break on) is actively CREATING memories. I’m not talking about booking European river boat cruises (although if money is no object by all means) but simple things, read to your children, take a bush walk and collect shells, go on a picnic, try something new. I wrote a list of 50 things for 2017, some are huge big-dreaming things but many are small achievable experiences that I can fill my year with and create memories. My mother said to me the other day that she keeps saying she wanted to go somewhere with Dad and that it hasn’t happened yet because she hasn’t planned it. Some memories happen TO us – but sometimes memories are like anything else…you get out what you put in.

Write that story, visit the rainforest, collect wildflowers, bake with someone you love, have a water fight. Dream and dream and dream…and live.

And take the damn photo.

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