Old Edmonton mate Alan Lee is at the Pier with indigenous art!

Our old mate and former Edmonton resident Alan Lee has set up an indigenous art gallery at The Pier. It is just as you enter The Pier (on the right).

Alan is the son of the late George Lee who owned and ran the service station on the south side of Edmonton (where my mum used to pump fuel). It seems all my childhood friends have no hair or white hair these days!

Next time you are in town check out his gallery. It is very good!

Council puts its heart into festival parade!

Cairns Regional Council has called on its animal friends to help spread some Cairns Festival cheer.

Croak Daddy, Dewey the Cairns Libraries Frog, Reggie the Dog and Boots the Cat will join with Cairns Regional Council staff on a float at this Saturday’s Cairns Festival Overflow FNQ Grand Parade.

A team of more than 30 staff members, plus some extra “talent” will take part in the parade, which starts at 5.30pm.

Acting CEO Peter Tabulo – who will be participating in the parade – said it was great to see Council staff supporting a wonderful community event.

“Cairns Regional Council is made up of local people serving locals,” Mr Tabulo said.

“Council is the heart of the community and that will be the theme of our float.”

Mayor Bob Manning said he was pleased to see a Council float taking part, after recent absences from the parade.

“We put on Cairns Festival to celebrate everything that is great about the Cairns Region,” Cr Manning said.

“The theme of this year’s parade is ‘Living the Dream’, and that is exactly what we are doing up here.

“We are proud to bring you Cairns Festival. We are even more proud to be a part of it.”

The Cairns Festival Overflow FNQ Grand Parade will travel along the Cairns Esplanade, featuring more than 50 floats.

Road closures and changed traffic conditions will apply. Visit www.cairns.qld.gov.au for more information.

For more on Cairns Festival, visit www.cairnsfest.com.au

Caption: Council’s mascots Dewey, Reggie, Boots and Croak Daddy (front) are ready to take part in this Saturday evening’s grand parade.

Jonathon Brilliant – The Cairns Piece!

Jonathan Brilliant is a visual artist based in North Carolina. Jonathan will be creating an organic site specific installation in the Botanic Gardens Visitor Centre, from the 13th August, by weaving thousands of wooden coffee stir sticks in place using only tension and compression.

Watch as Jonathan builds this wondrous “Cairns Piece” and then learn as he delivers a ‘how to’ workshop at the Botanic Gardens Visitor Centre, Saturday 18 August, from 9.30am.

Frequency: Every day, until 2nd Sep 2012
Location: Cairns Botanic Gardens – Visitors Centre
Admission: FREE
Contact: +61 7 4032 6650
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=haVIMR-t_bA&w=420&h=315]

Can’t Do Campbell is telling more Porkies!!! Queensland just ain’t Spain!!!

Just in case you need further convincing as to how ridiculous the Premier’s comments re Spain were, here are a few comparisons:
* Spain is undergoing a banking crisis as reported by The Economist and Reserve Bank of Australia. Is the Premier implying Suncorp is bankrupt?
* Spain has a credit rating of BBB. Queensland has a rating of AA+ stable.
* The Reserve Bank’s board minutes from last month mention Spain’s debt crisis as a factor for interest rate cuts but not Qld.
* Spain has an unemployment rate of 24% – Qld’s is 5.5%.
* Labor left Queensland with a debt to GSP ratio of 12% for the General Government. The equivalent ratio as measured by the International Monetary Fund for Spain is 79%.
No comparison…just the running of a lot of bull.

Shame Gavin King and Shame Campbell Newman… where is your decency?

Queensland Premier Campbell Newman must rearrange his spending priorities and contribute funds to the National Disability Insurance Scheme, one of the state’s foremost disability advocates has urged.
Mr Newman failed to bid for a NDIS trial site in Queensland or offer any extra disability funding at yesterday’s Council of Australian Governments’ meeting, claiming the state’s financial position was too precarious to do so.
It has also emerged today that the Newman government would not provide a subsidy for taxi drivers to help passengers in wheelchairs, dismissing it as an unfunded Labor election promise.
At a forum today on cost-of-living issues, Mr Newman reiterated that his government was aiming for a surplus in 2014-15 and vowed to look at increasing disability support at that point.
“When we have national issues like the NDIS, … I just keep reminding myself and my team that the thing that matters to people right now is the cost of living and our government, our team, went to the election saying that we would do something about the cost of living,” he told those gathered for the forum at a bowls club in Capalaba in Brisbane’s east.
David Barbagallo, the chief executive of the Endeavour Foundation, said he was dismayed by the “spectacle of bickering” at COAG that left Queensland without a trial site for the NDIS.
He said the Newman government’s stance that it could not afford to contribute until it returns the state’s finances to health was “short-sighted”.
Economic modelling showed that if just 10 per cent of Australia’s 700,000 full-time carers returned to the workforce, the economy would get a $3 billion injection, Mr Barbagallo said.
If just 2.5 per cent of people with a disability had enough support to re-enter the workforce, it would have an additional $2 billion impact.
“Along with the cost of propping up a broken system, this economic modelling shows the NDIS is not a scheme that just costs money, it has the potential to pay for itself over time,” Mr Barbagallo said.
However, Youngcare acting chief executive officer Anna Cox said Queensland families and carers were more concerned about the impact of NDIS on individual disability funding packages, than having a trial in the state.
“One of the big reasons Youngcare supported NDIS is because we need a national approach,” Ms Cox said.
“We need to get away from this situation where the level of care someone receives after an accident or after they’re diagnosed is totally random depending on where they live.”
She noted the federal government only promised four NDIS trial sites.
“It was never going to be the case that every government in Australia was going to get a trial,” she said.
Queensland Deputy Opposition Leader Tim Mulherin said yesterday Mr Newman was never serious about having an NDIS trial in Queensland.
Queensland Greens spokesman Anthony Pink pointed today to “the LNP’s alarming anomaly” in the Newman government’s refusal to put $20 million towards the NDIS as it spent $110 million upgrading the Gold Coast Turf Club.
“Campbell Newman is showing callous and careless disregard to the most vulnerable in our society, while at the same time throwing million of dollars at some of the state’s most wealthy,” Mr Pink said.
“I have no problem with turf racing in Queensland, but if we are in ‘Spanish Debt Crisis’ levels of debt, why can millions be spent on these facilities rather than helping disabled people struggling to survive?
“Campbell Newman can’t have it both ways, either we are saving or we are spending.”
Against the backdrop of debate over disability reform, the Taxi Council of Queensland revealed today the Newman government would not implement a taxi disability subsidy flagged by the previous administration at the March election.
The former Labor government had promised the $6.50 subsidy to compensate taxi drivers for the extra time it takes to transport wheelchair-bound passengers.
The council’s chief executive, Benjamin Wash, said it was a “bitter pill” to have lost the subsidy before it had even started, after the industry had lobbied for the subsidy for more than 10 years.
“I received a call from Transport Minister Scott Emerson last night to advise that the government had decided not to honour the commitment,” he said.
“Western Australia has just increased their subsidy to $20 and even $30 in some circumstances, and we can’t even provide $6.50.”
A spokesman for Mr Emerson said the subsidy scheme was nothing more than a Labor election promise.
“The $6.50 payment to taxi drivers for assisting wheelchair passengers was an unfunded announcement by Labor made one month before the election,” he said.
“With the state heading towards a $100 billion debt, we are focused on delivering our cost of living commitments for Queensland families.”
– with AAP

Read more: http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/queensland/leading-disability-advocate-condemns-lnps-stance-as-shortsighted-20120726-22tj0.html#ixzz21jPfesL9

Ruth Crouch confronting the suicide taboo!

Daniel Strudwick, Saturday, July 14, 2012 © The Cairns Post

RUTH Crouch misses being a school mum. She mourns those parent-teacher nights and she longs to go to another school play.

They might seem like odd things to grieve for a woman who lost her teenage son in the most tragic and public fashion, but she damn well misses them. And her Dec, of course. Always her Dec.

Confronting the taboo of suicide:Ruth Crouch at her Machans Beach home. Picture: MARC McCORMACK.
Confronting the taboo of suicide:Ruth Crouch at her Machans Beach home. Picture: MARC McCORMACK.

It’s been more than a year since Declan Crouch’s body was found in dense scrub behind the family’s Machans Beach home. The 13 year old was missing for three months and sparked an exhaustive search of the nation that recalled the frantic panic to find Daniel Morcombe eight years earlier.

Declan’s resting place turned out to be just walking distance from his home, at the end of a narrow access road beside the property.

He had taken his own life.

“I never gave up hope once,” Ruth says.

“I knew, I knew that there was a chance that he had suicided, but none of it made sense – he’s got a loving family, he’s got heaps of friends, he’s not being bullied, so why would he?” she asks herself.

“I thought, if I could convince myself that he’d only run away, it might actually be true and this helped me get through those three terrible months.”

Looking back, there were telltale signs of Declan’s deep despair, but Ruth didn’t pick up on them. The tragic irony for the 56-year-old social worker is that her daily work involves assessing the suicide risk in her distressed clients.

“You go through all these different emotions – I’ve been angry with Declan, I’ve been angry with the world.

“But most of all, I’ve been angry with myself for having knowledge in that area and still not being able to pick it or prevent it in my own family.”

Only in retrospect is Ruth able to see what seems so obvious to her now. Her son Declan, who was enthusiastic and social during his pre‑teens, had become withdrawn and disinterested in the friendships he used to treasure.

“I was actively encouraging him by asking ‘Who are you going to see this weekend’, or whose house do you want me to drop you at or do you want to invite somebody over?’ but he would just say ‘no’,” Ruth remembers.

She could have had no idea about the private Facebook conversations Declan had with his mates about suicide or the sketches scrunched up in the back of his drawer depicting suicide.

But there are things Ruth knows now about suicide awareness that she wishes she’d known then. And it is this information that’s helping her heal as she shares it with others.

Suicide isn’t all that uncommon. It is not in the newspapers unlike other deaths that occur by car accident or at the hands of others, but it happens. Just usually not as publicly as Declan’s  had been. His disappearance made him a headline, and the unfortunate conclusion of the Declan Crouch saga was that he had killed himself like 2360 other Australians every year.

It’s the eerie quiet surrounding suicide that frustrates Ruth, so she is making some noise about it.

“Once it happens to you, you are so shocked and horrified, it’s like the scales have dropped off your eyes and you look around and you say ‘Oh God, why aren’t we doing something about this?’” she says.

In fact things are being done about suicide prevention and awareness, but research takes time and the outcomes of studies often conflict with the outcomes of earlier studies. It means authorities don’t know where to stand when it comes to talking about suicide. If they promote suicide awareness and prevention, might they accidentally promote suicide itself?

“I know where that’s coming from,” Ruth says, “but I believe in being direct, taking suicide by the horns and saying ‘Let’s really look at this and talk about this’.

“I feel like I owe it to other parents, I suppose.”

Ruth has partnered with Cairns-based public health group, the Dr Edward Koch Foundation, to achieve three goals: Break down the stigma of suicide; increase education, training and support; and lobby for proper mental health facilities for young people so they are not sharing with adult patients.

At a recent national suicide conference in Cairns, she presented the first edit of a DVD she has compiled with Declan’s friends to spread awareness about the signs to look for in a suicidal friend or family member.

It was those young friends of Declan’s that spurred Ruth into action as she watched them come to terms with the sudden death of the boy they called Father Bear (because Declan was such a protective friend, they say). If they knew how to detect despair in a friend, Ruth reasons, Declan might still be alive today.

Dulcie Bird counselled Ruth through those painful months after Declan’s death and she does the same for countless other families in Cairns when a loved one suddenly dies, whether by suicide or not.

Dulcie, who is the CEO of the Dr Edward Koch Foundation, says the friends and family members of a suicide victim are sometimes at a high risk of suicide themselves.

“It doesn’t mean that everyone is at a high risk, but you have some of the trauma that the dead person has, and you also have to deal with the bereavement, which is a very different kind of bereavement compared to other deaths,” Dulcie says.

“It’s a whole different range of emotions – there can be feelings of frustration that you couldn’t help the person, anger at the person because they took their own life, or rejection because they preferred to go rather than stay with family.”

And just as Ruth did, parents will invariably want to understand why their child chose suicide. Dulcie insists there is no answer.

“I think there’s a need to try and understand; to make some sense out of what happened,” she says.

“That’s always a very difficult question, but it’s not possible to find an answer. You just have to live through that period of grief and learn to come to terms with the fact that you will never understand.”

Ruth says her grief followed the classic lines Dulcie describes. She and partner, Peter, were also suddenly confronted with empty nest syndrome, when parents have to deal with no longer having kids around to keep them busy.

“You have your routine, especially with kids, you get through all the tasks of the day and you know what you’re doing.

And then all of a sudden, that’s just gone and as a couple you suddenly have all that time for each other,” Ruth says.

“And so we worked through that.”

Throwing herself into work with the Dr Edward Koch Foundation is helping Ruth reach a “new normal”.

“The old normal’s gone, completely gone,” she says. “The new normal is me being a parent to an adult child (her daughter, Grace) but no longer parenting a young teen, and that’s been the hardest part. I was anticipating at least another five years of parenting him through a difficult transition period. But I feel really driven now and I can’t stop.”

Ruth doesn’t hear much from the other school mums nowadays. But she doesn’t blame anyone for keeping their distance, especially the mothers of other young boys around Declan’s age.

“If it was you, wouldn’t you be thinking ‘Oh my God, I wonder if it’s contagious?’”

“I miss those relationships, I really miss them, but it’s not their fault. They’re just responding to the stigma as well.”

Ruth remembers what she was like at Declan’s age, an innocent child growing up in Bristol, England. She hit her rebellious years at 17. Her daughter Grace reached them at 15, and Declan even earlier. She has discovered that he was occasionally smoking cannabis and drinking alcohol, but realises now that he was probably trying to escape whatever pain he was feeling.

She wonders if her mourning might be easier if it happened away from the public eye. If Declan’s suicide had happened like the others, she could have been left to grieve in private, letting the quietness of suicide swallow her like it does to so many.

But no, she says. This is her healing. And she owes it to other parents to share what she knows.

This way, maybe she will spare another mother like her from knowing how it feels to have no parent-teacher nights to go to.


Anyone in distress should contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or the Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467.

Young people in distress can visit www.headspace.org.au orwww.reachout.com or ring KidsHelpline on 1800 55 1800.

Signs a young person may be suicidal

– Threatening to hurt him/herself or suicide
– Looking for ways to suicide e.g. seeking access to pills, weapons, or other means
– Deliberately hurting him/herself i.e. by scratching, cutting, or burning
- Talking or writing about death, dying or suicide
– Hopelessness
– Rage, anger, seeking revenge
– Acting recklessly or engaging in risky activities, seemingly without thinking
– Feeling trapped, like there’s no way out
– Increasing alcohol or drug use
– Withdrawing from friends, family or society
– Anxiety, agitation, changes in sleep or appetite
– Dramatic changes in mood
– No reason for living, no sense of purpose in life

A Far Northern Life