Women’s networks, sessions and webinars – are they useful?

I started late last year, deciding I needed to expand my skills and networks to include more busy women with ambition, ideas and directions. I am a member of the YWCA, Women on Boards and Business Chicks and decided that I need to (as a member) go along to these seminars that they run.

I have decided I want to get onto a Board and need to be Board ready, I did the YWCA ( there is one in every state in Australia)  “She Lead Board Training” one day workshop. I found it very useful and the connection of the girls was vast and a great network. It’s upside was it was informative, inclusive, relevant and talked on Governance. It’s downside it is geared towards the younger ladies, who are considering Boards or school councils (I have passed these). So I highly recommend this for any lady who has wants to get a basic understanding of Boards, committees and Governance issues.

I followed this up with Women on Boards “Getting Started: Realising Your Board Potential” run by Director and co-creator Ruth Mudd. This was another workshop, which I can say matched where I thought my ability and levels were at. It was again full of women. Ruth gave practical and at time complex knowledge of the dealing of Boards and where to target your skill set, and how competent one is to apply for the different levels of Boards. I found this extremely helpful and though this does not open the door to Boards you get exposure to what is a minimal requirement to get on Boards and the big highlight here was “if you don’t understand the financials you are not of use to a Board”. Taking it the next step, we got given a list of Courses to do, places to do them and homework, Identify a mentor and work with that person who needs to be a Chair of a Board. The downside, not enough education events and course are run in SA mainly NSW & VIC, which can make them expensive. They offer great discounts to members so if this is where you want to place yourself become a member, they will work with your CV to make sure it is Board ready.

So I set about going off to do the Financials for Non Financial Managers through AIMSA, part of a Cert IV in Financial Management. It was interesting, hard and extremely helpful and I highly recommend this for all people on Boards. Knowing this was the minimal requirements set for Professional Boards I wanted to be Professional at the very least.

I followed this up with a talk by Elaine Bensted CEO of the zoossa, hearing her talk about their financial stress and their business plan to overcome their troubles which seem to becoming less of an issue. Pandas aside. If you do get a chance to hear her talk she was great, open and honest in her appraisal of the situation and herself and role in the recovery of the Zoo.

This year I have kicked off with a Karen Brook “Bringing Ideas to Life” Webinar. Here is another young woman putting herself and her business out there. It was well worth the hour of my time. She talked on how to move your business forward, branding, communicating in the business world and purpose and direction. It was very thought-provoking and does leave you thinking you need more. A one on one with her is recommended, I am yet to do a workshop.

Australia Day Honors

Australia Day Honors are awards to people who have achieved much in their life to assist fellow Australians, most of these people come from sporting, medical, community careers that afford them a state or national profile so that people remember them when the nominations are called for.

Most of these people are worthy of their nomination but for years now I have questioned the validity of sporting people. I know this won’t make me popular but I do, perhaps there should be a separate category instead of placing them in the “Australian of the Year” category perhaps it should be “Australian Sporting person of the Year”. I know most of them do good things in their community, assist with charities and are patrons to some. Yet there is evidence that they can be ‘not so sporting’ in their chosen sport. Some engage in foul mouth sledging, some engage in physical violence on the field, some engage in violence against women, some engage in violence against men,  some also make issue and call out 13 year olds alleging racism. There are countless examples of doping, drug taking, sexual assaults, supplement scandals and the list goes on and on.

Yet the majority of the population hold them in the highest order, award them with “Australian of the Year.” It does astound me. The highest award a country can give, people nominate them and then the committee who selects them from countless nominations award them, I wonder what the selection criteria reads “ignore major public incidents tick” as long as they go out and have photo opportunities with indigenous students, in hospitals and anywhere they can. You don’t see Dr’s having photo’s taken with their organs and animals they work on to find cures for diseases, the Veterans having photos taken armed and fighting for their country for if we did there would be an outcry of horror at the horror we would be witnessing.

In the year 2014 the “Australian of the Year” nominees were, a sporting person (I won’t call him a hero as quoted in many news services) lots of photo ops, national TV coverage, etc then we have an anti-bullying campaigner – no photo ops, just tireless volunteer hours teaching about bullying, a singer and Health Campaigner in the NT, a Neonatal Doctor, works to save lives of small babies, a Professor of food safety and education around food safety, a Dancer who works with all people, another professor working with boys and men who need engaging and support, a Local Community leader who spends her time, educating and fund-raising – yet again we have a sporting person winning the highest honor. Is this because we have another Sporting “legend” head of the council, so the bias is already leaning toward them?

I don’t know but it has left me questioning the validity of these awards and that is unfair to the countless people who do hour volunteer work to assist others, highlight issues to get support and are working to keep themselves relevant. I think of my friend Kate Swaffer a sufferer of early onset Dementia and since diagnosis has worked countless volunteer hours to make this a national issue. I am sure everyone could point a finger at a person they know and think they should be Australian of the Year, well perhaps next year Nominate them,instead of letting a finger pointer ‘win’. this is my lasting image of our “Australian of the year” hmmmm

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Tourists in the fire zone

We were asked by media yesterday to take them up to our boundary where the Ngarkat fire went through so they could get a feel of what happened and get our story. The lovely Wendy Collis from the abc country hour drove out to our property and spent the afternoon with us. It was the first time I had been out there as well to look at it, it was very upsetting. I will put the link up for the interview once I have it, but waking up and hearing ourselves on radio twice brings it home a little more.

As we look to the west, north and south it was nothing but black charred sticks where once there was trees. It was stumps in the ground or worse still nothing but grey sand where small native yakka’s and shrubs were. There is evidence of the speed and furiousness of the fire, blue tongue lizards, reptiles, kangaroos who couldn’t escape. This vegetation will not recover for many years, nor will the native animals and pests that died during this fire.

I felt an overwhelming sense of sadness, there was nothing we could do nor we should have done during this fire, no life is worth losing for vegetation. we are insured and are thankful that we will only have to replace fences. It is only slightly annoying to not have a landline – but this is something I know people are working on and will fix when they can.

Chris and I spent the afternoon with the lovely Wendy Collis reporter from the abc country hour, who came out to the property to interview us and have a look. She was taken aback by the sight and during our interview along comes a car of tourists, no word of a lie, they were travelling in Ngarkat along the fire track, stopped and got out to talk with us. I asked him what he was doing “are you sight-seeing?” “yes, we just wanted to have a look rather than drive round.” “right then” we all stood and looked at him with his teenaged daughters as they waited. We think they wanted us to regale them with the story of the fire but we stood silent. I wanted to scream at them, but this would engage them and encourage them to stay longer, we all laughed as they got back into their car and drove off. These people were at least 16km into the park, no protection, nothing, they were not even locals, they wouldn’t have known driving off whether they were driving into harms way or not or even the terrain they were travelling on, it still is head shaking.

Here are the two pictures one at the fire and then after it has been through

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Back to normal?

Here we are it’s Monday and it feels surreal that we had a fire here only 4 days ago and a really big fire at that. But now that it’s over and I have cleaned ash out of the house it’s back to the business of getting things done. First call, insurance company to inform them we had a fire and that we will be requiring their assistance as we lost fencing.

Yesterday I called Telstra to let them know we had no landline to be told that the exchange was damaged in the fires and they will be out to fix it as soon as they were able and it was safe to do so, they were hoping to have it complete by Wednesday this week. They have redirected all calls to my mobile and given us a tag so that when we call out it is charged at the cost of landline rather than mobile, they are doing all they can for fire victims.

We have had friends call, text and email us that saw me on the TV in other states, it has been nice to hear from everybody as they showed concern. I have had face book and twitter messages that have meant a lot and spoken as best I can standing in the one spot in my kitchen that you get mobile signal from, with the people who I love and care about.

Part of the bonus of the fire (if you can call it that) is that having the sprinklers on for days at a time we have luscious lawns surrounding the house and we have let the Dorper Lambs in to eat it down. As I sit and type they are baaing at each other and eating as much as they can. It is a lovely noise to listen to, no longer is the UHF on the emergency channel, nor the radio giving us fire updates, I like the silence today, I have a breeze blowing in and the sun is shining, all looks good in my little world.

I have managed to clean the house of the ash and the place looks incredibly tidy, one thing I have been doing as I go is taking pictures of all of the furniture, pictures and nick knacks in each room, should we ever lose the house to fire we would have a pictorial diary of our contents and things. The other thing for me is to now look at getting rid of some of it. Why? you ask, well these are the things we would leave behind and do we want to keep them around us now? Things like bookshelves full of books one only reads once, DVD’s that sit around waiting to be watched more than twice, items we have kept “incase” we need them, well after this fire, I have realized we don’t. Everything I wanted was packed ready to leave with me and it wasn’t a lot, photo’s of my daughter as she was growing up – before digital.

It is amazing how two people can accumulate so much but being alive nearly half a century, you do gather stuff, now is the time to start getting rid of it, give it away and or sell it. I did this 14 months ago after the last fire, so now it is time to do it again. It will take a while but it is something I will be doing so that we can reduce the fire load in the house. Have a great Monday, here are some of our Dorpers in the yard see they really are grass-fed.

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Waiting …… fire

Waiting

Ready

Resting

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Relief danger has passed

These are the clothing that provides protection and identification for my husband when he goes off to fight fire. They are protected and cared for as they cover one of the people in my life that I would find very difficult to live without should these clothing not do the job for which they are designed.

They wait outside for they smell of smoke and inside it is over powering

They are ready to pull back on whilst we still have fire in our area.

They are resting from the last 4 days of being used for hours at the end

They provide a picture of relief, he is home and the danger has passed us, not others though.

Our thoughts are with all those in these zones that didn’t get much sleep last night, that are surrounded by smoke and that feel the stress of these fires.

Where there’s smoke….

We are no longer surrounded by smoke, we have clean smelling air, I look to our west, north and east and no longer see smoke clouds, it’s a relief. Also last night husband and CFS volunteer was in by 11pm and asleep by 1am, he is currently still in bed – he has had 6 hours of unbroken sleep. That is the longest he has slept for over 4 days, he sleeps and I keep the phone by my side of the bed, the uhf radio in the house kept on the emergency channel has been silent for the same amount of time and no longer are the fire trucks and private vehicles racing up and down our road, it seems we have got the upper hand. PHEW!!!

What is left behind after a crazy fire storm like this is the remnants of ‘normality’. I have in the oven unfinished roasted vegetables which will go to the chooks today. He came home from fighting the fire and just as he was about to head back out the skies burst with rain. The temperature dropped and so did that alertness that we both had been living for the last 3 days and he asked for a roast vegetables and meat for dinner, he has been living on sandwiches and rolls that he has taken as he has run out of the door to get to another fire or nothing at all depending upon the time and location he was fighting a fire.

With the rain came more lightning and a ground strike and fire – it was 6km’s away on a neighbours property. From the start it was all talk of asset management, that is protecting the house, they knew they would lose the paddocks of feed and fencing so the house needs to be saved and off they went, these people, farmers, friends, strangers all working to put out the fire and save what they could. They come from near and far to assist, some have had no sleep in the last 24 hours and others perhaps 2, some are fresh to the cause but they work in unison and as a team putting out a fire.

Now having watched it first hand up close and in the safety of my husbands direction I can appreciate these volunteers  more. It doesn’t make me want to go out and become one, it just makes me grateful there are those people who do this, race into fires to assist themselves and each other. I again could see the orange / red glow of the fire from my front door this time it still makes me anxious, not for me I was safe but for all of them out there fighting.

We all know it’s going to be days before the Ngarkat fire goes out and most people (including me) will spend time checking our boundary for spot fires. We know we are lucky we are not under threat any more but there are others who are and some have lost homes and a life was lost in Victoria. Nothing is worth losing your life over, make your plan, tell people your plan and stick with it. Leave, get out of harms way if not for yourself for those brave people out there who have to fight the fire, not try to save your life because you wouldn’t leave. Today I shall put away my fire plan, all our important documents, re display my jewelry and unpack the clothing.

Where’s there’s smoke there was a fire or there is the start of a fire or there is a fire, it’s just different degrees of adrenaline. Never walk away from smoke, kick sand over it, pour water on it or call 000 and report it.  Your actions could help save the lives of others, animals and help CFS volunteers know that they are not the only ones on constant look out. This was our flare up yesterday, unbelievable.

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Fire

Well we didn’t get lucky and escape these South Australian bushfires, the one I have been concerned about for the last couple of days had a wind direction change and it came on to our property, Caloundra Station. Luckily for me, my husband a veteran CFS volunteer happened to be here as the fire truck that had called for him couldn’t wait the 20 minutes for him to travel from our property to the fire shed.

I was out watering the tomatoes (as you do) and preparing the property for another hot night when I noticed white flakes coming from the sky and appearing on the cat’s fur that had followed me up to the vegetable garden. Being a city girl I had to ask the question, “are we safe with ash raining down on us?” the fire was over 16km away at this stage. The answer was yes, but we had better check the Mount Rescue our Ngarkat boundary.

There is was, we could see the flames from a distance away but none the less we knew it was going to hit us. We weren’t as safe as we thought. Husband donned his CFS gear and headed to the fire whilst I got ready to leave, but then it all happened quickly. He called, I couldn’t leave as there wasn’t time for anyone to come and help so I also put on fire appropriate clothing (his old CFS uniform) boots etc and drove up to him. We then had to sit and wait with the fire fighter at the ready. We retreated back as the flames were a couple of stories high and not safe for anyone to enter into. My heart races, my mouth dries up and I know I shake – adrenaline fear.

We waited for it to jump the fence and start spot fires, and just as it was doing this the CFS fire truck turned up, you do not know how welcoming those red and blue flashing lights are. The people who are on them give you the thumbs up as they drive directly into the line of fire.

They are in uniform, gloves, boots, hard hats and safety masks – it was still over 35 degrees when this was happening. But it is safety first. It jumped and raced along faster than anything I have seen, the sky around us was very black and thick with smoke and you sit there dripping with sweat waiting to go in and help extinguish fires. I watched it race and heard it running into neighbours properties, as more and more fire trucks turned up.

Then we see the wild life, the kangaroos who happened to get out of fire, come racing towards us. They stop and rest, some don’t survive, some are singed and others just fleeing to safety away from the fire. They shall live on our property for days till the land cools and here there is water and some feed. My husband says he saw about 40 of them this morning all milling around watching and waiting. We are safe, no livestock lost, our neighbours are in the same boat, it’s fencing and trees.

Stay safe everyone, stay alert and thanks for everyone’s thoughts and good wishes, it’s trying times for all in the Upper South East of South Australia. Here is a picture of the fire jumping into our property at 2100 last night.

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