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Farewell to a Fine Human Being: Captain Sir Tom Moore

Born in 1920 in Yorkshire, Captain Sir Tom Moore is the wonderful British grandfather who, last year, won the world’s affections after raising more than $40 million for Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) by walking 100 laps in his garden. Sadly, he has died of COVID-19.

Imagine the sorrow and pride England must feel all in one for this great man. Captain Tom was knighted in July last year. His story has been absolute light during the COVID-19 nightmare of the last year.

When the NHS was under pressure during the first lockdown – he didn’t just sit at home, he asked the question ‘what can I do to help?’.

Britain’s Health Secretary Matt Hancock, Wed 3 Feb, 2021.

His autobiography, Tomorrow Will Be A Good Day, is dedicated “to all those who serve on the frontline of any battle-be it military, psychological or medical”. Captain Tom writes that before the walk, he was a quiet little soul living out his days peacefully and reflecting on his life with a long and happy marriage, two lovely daughters and four terrific grandchildren. His exact words.

Of his achievement during the first COVID-19 lockdown in England, he wrote:

“Everyone keeps saying that what I did was remarkable, when it was actually what everyone did for me and for the whole country that was remarkable. It has certainly filled me with a renewed sense of purpose.

Captain Sir Tom Moore, Tomorrow Will Be a Good Day.


God bless this sweet man. He is not only a national inspiration for Britain. He is a global inspiration. If he could do what he did at 100 years old walking 100 laps around his garden to help his country’s health service, imagine what untapped potential lies within each of us.

Check out this delightful video of Captain Tom. England’s NHS Voices of Care Choir, Michael Ball, Captain. You hear his kind 100-year-old voice. He’s inspiring to say the least. Wikipedia: the recording topped the United Kingdom’s “The Official Big Top 40” chart. It sold almost 36,000 copies in its first 48 hours, and was the “biggest trending song” as measured by the Official Charts Company.On 24 April, it went straight to number 1 in the weekly “Official” UK Singles Chart, making Moore the oldest person to achieve that position and meaning that he was at number 1 on his 100th birthday, and became a one-hit wonder.

Final words from Captain Sir Tom Moore

Astonishingly at my age, with the offer to write this memoir I have been given the chance to raise even more money for the charitable foundation now established in my name. Its goals are those closest to my heart, with a mission to combat loneliness, support hospices and help those facing bereavement – all in the wake of the unprecedented crisis we found ourselves in. I am so deeply honoured to be given yet another opportunity to serve the country of which I am so very proud. This, then, is my story.

Captain Sir Tom Moore, Tomorrow Will Be a Good Day.





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Featured

EDMusos Christmas Eve: Medicine and Music

On Christmas Eve, 2020, this beautiful arrangement was released on Youtube. For your listening pleasure. The moment it dropped, it represented for me a line in the sand. I could actually think about Christmas. I worked Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. We didn’t have outbreaks to deal with on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, thank goodness. But there was still work to do. Much needed catch up with admin office work and follow up.

After the year we’ve had, oh how important it is for the mind and heart to do things like this wonderful project. The fact that people working in emergency medicine and public health on outbreak response can still sing is testament, I think, to the human soul’s desire for joy, even during the unprecedented year of 2020. It’s been an unbelievable year.

“The poets did well to conjoin music and medicine, in Apollo, because the office of medicine is but to tune the curious harp of man’s body and reduce it to harmony.” 

Francis Bacon (1561 – 1626).

Writing this in January, thinking about the year that was. What a year you were, 2020. As a professional working initially in emergency medicine and then public health in Australia, you hope to be useful in a pandemic. In public health, you hope your skills and experience will help others better adopt the COVID safety messages to reduce the risks of contracting a highly infectious disease . You want to keep people safe. You want to help lessen the suffering, however small your contribution. You hope you can do your best job, however small, even in unchartered waters. You want to be part of the solution, and serve communities, and help us all get out of this. That’s why I put up my hand last year to help.

Outbreak response in 2020 and heading into the New Year 2021 (Black Rock Outbreak etc etc) and the first few weeks of January has been relentless and fast paced. The pandemic with its necessary public health measures, and the rapidly changing inter-state and International border situation, means many were not be able to see their loved ones, their family, for Christmas. And it has been that way for nine months. The threat of COVID-19 saw Australian and New Zealand close their international borders since March to all, but returning citizens and residents. So, in the midst of all the outbreak response work, it’s great for the mind and heart to have diversions, however brief, like singing and music. That’s why I enjoy participating in EDMusos.

Thank you.

Merci bien.

Meitaki. Kia ora. Mahalo Nui loa. Fa’afetai lava.

Xin cảm ơn.

There are so many ways to say thank you, aren’t there? Thank you to the doctors, nurses and staff working in emergency medicine, and particularly to Dr Clare Skinner, the extraordinary energy and heart behind this musical effort. Medicine and music, as Francis Bacon noted, go well together. It did feel like Christmas listening to it. Thanks to everyone, especially Clare and Chris Wiseman, for bringing EDMusos to life.

Reaction
This Jingle Bells arrangement was so enjoyed by the little ones in my scattered family, in Singapore and Australia’s remote states. Their reaction were my litmus test. If they loved it, that would bring me untold joy on Christmas Eve and beyond. I knew it would warm their little hearts. I wanted them to have that memory of me for their Christmas gift.

COVID-19, like so many families around the world at this time, has meant I didn’t see my little family in person at Christmas, since March. But I can’t complain. It doesn’t feel right to do so. Many people have died, many have been infected with COVID-19, many of them alone during this pandemic. People have lost their jobs and livelihoods, or their ability to keep studying, and the means to support their families. Many businesses have closed down permanently in the CBD, as a result of the pandemic. And of course, millions of families were separated from their loved ones around the world, some of whom would have been young children caught in border closures and apart from at least one or both parents. So, how can I complain when my pain pales in comparison to what others are going through?

Gratitude
Being thankful, keeping the mind busy and learning something new. That is what has helped me get through this past year. Trying most days to remember every blessing, every good thing, every good person that’s been in my life. Counting them one by one. And trusting that one day, I will be reunited with my little family, more than just via Zoom. That’s our prayer. Our online family catch ups at Christmas time, the little ones sang Jingle Bells back to me with the same vigor as we did in EDMusos, as though we were present in person with each other.

And on that note, thank you to fellow colleagues who took part in EDMusos. Everyone who participated in this, myself included, did this in our own personal time. It took more than several takes. Let’s say, I pluck a figure from the air, oh say, at least a 100 takes (maybe, tongue in cheek)….I can laugh at that memory now…

Hope you enjoy it. My family’s little people certainly did.

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Stressed out, dropping out: COVID has taken its toll on uni students

Nathan Dumlao/Unsplash

Susan Harris Rimmer, Griffith University; Kate McGuire, Griffith University, and Neeraj Gill, Griffith University

It’s a tough time to be a university student. Amid a global pandemic, overstretched mental health services and sweeping university staff cuts, students have had to attend classes and hand in assignments while juggling work, family and finances. For international students, isolation, cultural differences and extra expenses added to their worries.

Unsurprisingly, university enrolments have plummeted. While COVID-19 has taken a toll on everyone’s mental health – Beyond Blue reported a 66% increase in demand for its services in April compared to 2019 – it’s a massive concern for many young people. Yet tertiary students have been largely overlooked.


Read more: ‘No one would even know if I had died in my room’: coronavirus leaves international students in dire straits


To counter the looming mental health crisis and improve student retention, federal and state governments must respond to the needs of these students beyond spouting platitudes and advising them to exercise, drink water and think positively.

Under pressure before the pandemic

Here are the facts: about 60% of university students are aged between 15 and 24. Suicide is the leading cause of death in this age group. One in four young people experience depression or anxiety in any one year.

The average wait time for a first therapy session at a Headspace centre – a government-funded youth mental health program – is 25.5 days. Many don’t reach out at all because of the stigma surrounding mental health, privacy concerns, lack of time and financial constraints.


Read more: Why coronavirus impacts are devastating for international students in private rental housing


And 2020 made life harder

Then COVID-19 struck.

This pandemic has increased youth unemployment, added to academic stress and made it harder for students to follow self-care routines – the daily habits that are vital to good mental health and well-being. More students than ever are at risk and the mental health system might not be able to cope.


Read more: 5 charts on how COVID-19 is hitting Australia’s young adults hard


After COVID-19 restrictions took effect, the unemployment rate of students aged 15-24 who study full-time increased by up to 12% in June compared to 2019. Their participation rate – the proportion employed or actively looking for work – fell by 21% in May compared to 2019.

Financial pressures associated with job losses can increase the risk of mental health problems. Particularly at risk are international students who were excluded from JobSeeker and JobKeeper payments and isolated from their families and support networks. International students may also face challenges seeking assistance due to stigma, language and cultural barriers and financial issues.


Read more: COVID-19 increases risk to international students’ mental health. Australia urgently needs to step up


Challenges increased at uni too

Students have also had to adapt to online learning. Many universities still haven’t gone back to in-person classes. Online videos replaced lecture halls, despite students being told pre-COVID that attending in-person lectures was vital, with lower attendance linked to poorer results.

Some universities did adopt measures to help minimise the impact of COVID on student grades. Even so, the sweeping staff cuts at several universities will have impacts on learning outcomes.


Read more: As universities face losing 1 in 10 staff, COVID-driven cuts create 4 key risks


Academic success is harder to achieve than ever and the stakes are high, especially when you might be paying thousands of dollars per course. Bad grades reduce your future employability and repeating courses affects when you graduate.

Stay active, eat healthily and reach out when you need help is the traditional mental health advice doled out to first-year students. But in 2020, when the gyms closed and you couldn’t go out with your friends, it wasn’t that simple.

Isolated young woman staring out of window
Enforced social isolation made it hard for many students to follow the routines that maintain good mental health. Adam Nieścioruk/Unsplash

Most universities do offer some mental health support services. However, these vary between institutions and were already overstretched before the pandemic. While a new framework released by youth mental health research centre Orygen is a promising start, it is yet to be implemented.

The support available to students can be overly reliant on self-help methods or involve long wait times. During COVID, many of these services have gone online, which raises concerns about efficacy and privacy.

Domestic students are eligible for a government-subsidised mental health plan, but the public system faces many of the same issues as university services. International students must pay the full cost.

With the challenges 2020 has thrown at students, it’s no surprise tertiary enrolments fell. Enrolments for 20-to-24-year-olds were down by 66,100 students from 2019. The loss of fee revenue has already undermined the university sector.

The implications for gender equity are also serious, as those who dropped out were overwhelmingly women.


Read more: No one escaped COVID’s impacts, but big fall in tertiary enrolments was 80% women. Why?


We can do more to help

So it is a tough time to be a university student, but does it have to be? Solutions have already been proposed. In June, a Productivity Commission inquiry report called for:

  • expanded online mental health services for tertiary students
  • increased data collection
  • greater support for international students
  • legislative amendments requiring all tertiary institutions to have a student mental health and well-being strategy.

In September, the Australian Human Rights Commission recommended:

  • more investment in youth-focused mental health services
  • more government support for educational institutions to deliver quality online learning
  • making youth employment a key focus of the economic recovery.

Other measures such as psychological support services on campus, university-run guidance programs, greater flexibility regarding workloads and reassurance that students won’t be discriminated against due to mental illness would also help.

If the government were to adopt any of these suggestions it would be a step in the right direction. However, despite the dire consequences of mishandling this issue, it remains to be seen whether the government will step up and support universities and the mental health of students.

Susan Harris Rimmer, Professor and Director of the Policy Innovation Hub, Griffith Business School, Griffith University; Kate McGuire, Research Assistant, Griffith University, and Neeraj Gill, Associate Professor and Clinical Lead, Mental Health, Griffith University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license.

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Australian and NZ EDMusos sing Te Aroha

“Languages, just like people, are worlds within themselves. They have the incredible ability to provide us with a clearer, more profound and detailed perspective of a culture and its views on life, nature, and death.”

Orge Castellano

Listen to the harmonies. Apparently, if you listen to it with your earphones, you’ll hear the harmonies ( I can hear them without the earphones too). Singing during Melbourne’s lockdown has been a balm, for many including myself. Te Aroha, which means love in te reo Māori, is a well known waiata (song) in Aotearoa New Zealand. It sings about love and peace (rangimārie).

Many in Aotearoa sung Te Aroha publicly after the tragedy and loss of life on Friday 15 March 2019. in solidarity with the Muslim community in Christchurch and around the country.

For many in EDMusos, a group of healthcare workers working in emergency departments, this may be the first time singing a waiata in te reo Māori (the Māori language), indigenous to Aotearoa New Zealand. And that’s an incredible achievement because the vowel sounds are very different to English.

The vowel sounds for te reo Māori are similar in sound to French vowels, as well as for other languages of the Asia-Pacific region. For example, among indigenous tribes of Taiwan, as I discovered some years ago when meeting with Taiwanese indigenous language champions and film makers, there are similarities with words in the Māori language and with the ancient language of Taiwanese indigenous peoples.

EDMusos is a special collaboration for healthcare workers working in emergency departments. It is a project initiated during COVID-19 by the extraordinary Dr Clare Skinner, Director of Emergency Medicine, at New South Wales’ Hornsby Ku-ring-gai Hospital.

Everyone who participated in this did so in their personal time., myself included.

“If you cannot teach me to fly, teach me to sing.”

Sir James Barrie, Peter Pan

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“Always Goodnight” by Scott Alan, Sung by Cynthia Erivo

“After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music.”

Aldous Huxley

Today is 11 September in Australia and New Zealand. Tomorrow it will be the 11th September in New York City. That’s the day many of us will never forget. On that morning in 2001, New York Time, I was working as a foreign news TV producer at TVNZ’s Auckland bureau. It was the most emotional and heart-shattering day I’ve ever had as a journalist in a newsroom.

That morning, actually it was long day and night, on shift. I still remember it and think about it every anniversary. I felt differently about journalism after that day. The world and the skyline suddenly felt dangerous in a way that I’d never considered before. It was followed by months of producing news stories on the anthrax attacks, the War on Afghanistan, bloodshed over the disputed Kashmir region, and suicide bombings in Israel.

This is a tribute to the families and friends of those who lost loved ones that day and the months and years since, as a result of 9/11. And for any who have lost loved ones and are grieving. This song is for you. Take care.


Always Goodnight, composed by the inspiring Scott Alan, he delicately touches on one of life’s heaviest experiences: grief and loss, death and dying. I wonder if he had angels guiding his words. The incredible Cynthia Erivo’s voice is so divine, sombre yet comforting. Her voice gently falls and lifts. It is like a warm cloak being wrapped around your heart.

Composer Scott Alan and sung by Cynthia Erivo.

Lyrics

If there are times
You find that that you are feeling weak
Lie next to me
I’ll hold you ’till you fall asleep
At any time of day
There’s nothing to explain
I’m always on your side
Hold on to me
I’ll steal you from the hardest days
Don’t be afraid
You have me here to guide your way
Through storms I will be here
I will not disappear
I’m always by your side
Always
Always
Always
Always
Always
And on my heart I promise I will see you through
When pain arrives
I’ll be right here to hold onto
With laughter and with prayer
I promise I’ll be there
Always by your side
Dry away the tears
Lay aside your fears
No more pain for my
I am here
Now go to sleep
And when the angels come
I know that they will treat you well
And they will pull you through and lift you up from all that’s held…


“Death is not the opposite of life, but a part of it.”

Haruki Murakami

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Australia’s “One to Wait” by Bobby Alu


Discovering Bobby Alu’s music during Melbourne’s first COVID-19 wave has been the best experience during lockdown. It’s soulful. Playing this in the background at home could find you dancing around the room. True story, maybe.


“And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.”

Friedrich Nietzsche

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This Anti-Fog Face Mask Idea Works

This works. Not Mona Lisa’s mask. But the idea in this tik tok video works. I’ve tried it and now use this when walking outside during the permitted time we’re allowed out during Melbourne’s Stage 4 restrictions. During the first half of Melbourne’s second wave of COVID-19, I walked without my glasses until I found this. For one, I can see clearly, no fog, no ascending cloud formations appearing on my glasses. The first time I tried this, it felt like an earth shattering revelation.

So if you’re loving your walks during the permitted time we’re allowed outside the home during Melbourne’s Stage 4 Restrictions, and you need your glasses to see, give this a go. You can’t leave home without wearing your face mask out in public. And this method means you don’t have to lose your sight when you’re walking outside with your mask on. So simple too.

Other options? A face mask that ties at the back, rather than the sides.

A friend in Ireland uses face masks (non-medical grade ones) that tie at the back of the head, rather than ear loops, like this one. Three layered, it seems to prevents glasses from turning into cloud storms. This is a link my friend shared if you’re interested. Photo below.


What doesn’t work: the wash-your-glasses-with-soap idea floating around social media. Did consumer testing, of course.

A word of caution
This is not medical advice. This is just what worked for me in the search for anti-fogging artillery. So that I could wear my glasses and wear my face mask and not experience glass fogging, when outside walking. I expect readers to test and verify this information for yourself. And do the right thing and wear a mask. That’s all I wanted to say, folks. Take care.


“If everything didn’t happen the way it happened this year, then think about it, everything would just be the same. And there’s something very wrong with that thought.

It wasn’t supposed to remain the same, going on and on in an endless hum drum motion, repeating all the old rhythms…

It needed to end. Something needed to be over. Something new needs to take its place.”

C. JoyBell C

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Children in Darwin are more worried about their safety than their grades

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Amy Graham, UNSW and Georgina Nutton, Charles Darwin University

At a time when the world has been in chaos, it’s easy to forget young people might have completely different, yet significant and real, worries. We asked children about their sense of safety and what they worry about in their community.

In July to August 2020 we used anonymous surveys with 176 young people aged between five and 15 from several schools in Darwin, Northern Territory. These data were collected at the time of the COVID-19 pandemic, so it is likely concerns were heightened generally.

Here is what kids want you to know

In the NT, addressing community perceptions of safety and concerns about crime levels has long been a priority. We asked students what they were worried about in their day-to-day lives with some specific questions on their sense of safety in the community.

This was an open question in which students could freely respond with three worries of importance to them.

We put children into two groups: 30 children aged ten and under, and 146 children aged 11 and over. Around 30% who responded were male across both age groups. Overall, the major themes that emerged about their worries were:

  • personal safety (44%)
  • crime (16%)
  • bullying and school behaviours (10%)
  • mental and physical health (8%)
  • school performance (8%).

More than half of students under ten (66%) and over 11 (53%) worried about safety in their local community.

Some of what children said about personal safety was:

I worry about drinking and fighting outside on the street.

I am scared walking home by myself.

Another common worry was a fear of being exposed to crime and racial violence:

I worry about getting kidnapped while walking home from school.

I am scared of people breaking into our home and attacking us.

Health was also a worry and reflects the timing of the survey with references to parent mental health, COVID-19 and death of family members.


Read more: Young people’s mental health deteriorated the most during the pandemic, study finds


This community of schools had delivered some campaigns to support children and their families about domestic violence and resilience. Some children said:

I am worried that mum might hurt herself.

I worry about this pandemic throughout the world.

In the consent process for our surveys, we offered access to supports for children who might have disclosed concerning worries.

School performance and behaviour at school were a concern for 10% of young people aged over 11.

Middle-school students told us:

I worry about passing the year.

I’m worried about what people think of me, my grades and schooling.

How students help themselves

We also wanted to understand how emotionally aware the young people in our survey were. So we asked them: “When you get upset at school, can you make yourself feel OK or good again?”

Three girls at school talking at the desk.
Some children turn to their friends for support. Shutterstock

We also asked where they learnt these strategies and where they sought help.

Only 14% in the over-11 age group reported not being able to feel good again once becoming upset at school. And only 3% of children under ten reported not being able to make themselves feel good again.

Of those who said they were able to calm down in the over-11 group, 58% said they “just know how to do it” and 19% reported “learning it from their family”.


Read more: ‘It’s real to them, so adults should listen’: what children want you to know to help them feel safe


In the under-ten group, 45% “learnt it from a teacher” and 23% “learnt it from their family”.

This suggests young children have greater need for explicit instruction when learning how to self-regulate.

Among children in the under-ten group who said they can’t calm themselves, 42% selected they “get help from a teacher”.

This reinforces the critical role of teachers in these formative years and the time children are likely to be most receptive to help.

Only 3% of students over 11 identified teachers as a source of support. While 39% said they “mostly want to be alone”, 20% “get help from a friend” and another 20% said they “get angry”.

It is reassuring 87% of young people over 11 reported “good” and “very good” family relationships. And 86% said they have three friends they can turn to when in need.

We should appreciate how real children’s concerns are to them and check in with how they are feeling.


Read more: ‘The Australian government is not listening’: how our country is failing to protect its children


Teachers, parents and other adults need to know how to support young people with their worries, and access information to help them develop self-regulation and problem-solving strategies.

A reliable resource for this information is Be You.

This research was conducted by Charles Darwin University

Amy Graham, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, UNSW and Georgina Nutton, Senior Lecturer in Education (Early Childhood), Charles Darwin University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license.

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The viral ‘Wellerman’ sea shanty is also a window into the remarkable cross-cultural whaling history of Aotearoa New Zealand

Whaling brought newcomers to Aotearoa New Zealand in significant numbers from the early 1800s. Once predominantly American-based crews had exploited Atlantic whale populations, they moved into the Pacific to seek new hunting grounds. … Continue Reading >The viral ‘Wellerman’ sea shanty is also a window into the remarkable cross-cultural whaling history of Aotearoa New Zealand

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Domestic violence soars after natural disasters. Preventing it needs to be part of the emergency response

Domestic and family violence soars in the months and years following natural disasters. Following the 2009 Victorian Black Saturday bushfires, more than half of women in one study reported experiencing domestic and family violence. Many had never experienced it before. … Continue Reading >Domestic violence soars after natural disasters. Preventing it needs to be part of the emergency response

 155 total views

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Melbourne CBD’s Oldest Home, 330 King St

It’s overshadowed by Melbourne’s modern day buildings. Still, this historic house stands silently on the corner of Melbourne’s La Trobe and King Street doing its best to stay. It’s almost 200 years old. Propped up by scaffolding on one side, it is scarred by graffiti tags on the wall facing La Trobe Street.

I took the photos during the permitted walks outside of the home in August during Melbourne’s Stage 4 Lockdown. Despite its neglected state, this tiny building is one of the remaining glimpses into Melbourne’s frontier beginnings. When it was built around 1850/1851, it must have been quite the house.

The back end facing towards La Trobe Street, Melbourne CBD. That might be an oak tree in the backyard. Image Credit: Vienna Richards

Some interesting things in Melbourne’s archives.

1800s Map of West Melbourne showing Spencer, La Trobe, King Sreets and Flagstaff Gardens. The green mark

Melbourne CBD Map 1855
1855 Map of Melbourne’s CBD, West end with 330 King St marked in green.

Kings Street, West Melbourne looking south, Flagstaff Gardens in front [Victoria[Charles Nettleton]National Library of Australia Photo: circa 1867.

Much has already been written about the most recent owners. But there’s very little information that I could find about the man who built the house, James Heffernan.

Charles Nettleton, 1826-1902, photographer

Mr Heffernan’s name and occupation, a plasterer, is found in the Port Philip archival records of 1847. It’s interesting to see this list. Check out the occupations listed e.g. sawyer, farrier, stud-groom.


Another mention of James Heffernan appears in a 1861 passenger list on board the ship Latona departing from Otago, New Zealand, to Melbourne. All the passengers are listed as diggers. They would have been returning from the Otago Gold Rush.

And that is all I have time for, right now.


 760 total views

Vienna Richards website
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With the election campaign underway, can the law protect voters from fake news and conspiracy theories?

It’s not a new problem. As far back as 1688, the English Privy Council issued a proclamation prohibiting the spread of false information. The difference in the 21st century, of course, is the reach and speed of fake news and disinformation. … Continue Reading >With the election campaign underway, can the law protect voters from fake news and conspiracy theories?

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Stage 4 Melbourne CBD on Monday 31/08

Stage 4 Day. It’s a sunny Monday. Hallelujah. I’m loving the sun, the sight of Melbourne on a warm day. I live in the Melbourne CBD so I take these photos during walks within a 5 km radius of my apartment. Spencer Street. It’s a day off work today so I’m out doing essential things and managing to do a walk with it.

These snapshots are taken in a moment while walking. They’re not perfect photos but they capture the day, and as I mentioned. Stage 4 Melbourne CBD on Monday 31/08

Mask wearing outside of home is mandatory in Victoria. I always wear a mask outside of my apartment, including when I am in the foyer of my apartment building. Melburnians are permitted out for up to an hour to exercise or walk. I’m used to it now that I don’t think about it because it’s just the way it is. I’m fine with it.

This lockdown, this pandemic, is a great lesson in learning to accept things that we can’t change, and being at peace with it, and discovering how much time you can devote to improving or learning new skills. So I’m counting my blessings in lockdown. There are people in situations far worse than anything I might be going through in Melbourne, in or out of lockdown.


““We learn more in crisis than in comfort.”

Abhijit Naskar

The Fogging Test


One of the things I tested today on my essential time out of my apartment was the foggy glasses test. I read somewhere on the Internet and on social media that you could remove fogging from your glasses when wearing a mask. The idea, which had at least a few people on social media adamant it worked, was to wash your glasses in soap. Yes, soap, I kid you not – and once you do that, your glasses will not fog, apparently.

I normally don’t wear glasses when wearing a face mask because of the fogging. But I gave the soap idea a go especially because some stranger on social media was adamant it worked. I questioned that and so I thought I need to test it for myself. Testing was conducted in real time. And I’m very sorry to report that, whilst there was a reduced level of fogging for a few seconds, I did not get the results I hoped for. This is not a cure for foggy glasses when wearing face masks.

It just goes to show that you can’t really assume anything you read on social media is reliable or accurate. Would love to hear any fogging glass solutions that worked for you.

On Sunday we’ll find out what the next stage of restrictions will look like for Melbourne and the rest of Victoria.
As at today, the COVID-19 death toll in Melbourne is 565 lives lost.

Stage 4 Melbourne CBD on Monday 31/08.

Contact Vienna



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A Speech only Former First Lady Michelle Obama Could Give

The first minute of former First Lady of the USA’s speech from the heart went like this. “Good evening everyone. It’s a hard time and everyone’s feeling it in different ways. And I know a lot of folks are reluctant to tune into a political convention right now, or to politics in general. Believe me, I get that. … Continue Reading >A Speech only Former First Lady Michelle Obama Could Give

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Melbourne’s La Trobe and Spencer Streets, Friday Lunchtime

Stage 4 in the city. Melbourne’s La Trobe and Spencer Streets at Friday lunchtime. Even though I have been living in the Melbourne CBD since March, when the first stay at home orders were introduced, there are some days when the road traffic feels or looks emptier than usual. Lunchtime traffic on the road and footpaths of La Trobe on Friday 28 August was one of those days.

I was standing in the sun at the pedestrian crossing when I first noticed the emptiness across all the roads at the intersection. I was walking out of the home for one of the permitted essential reasons. And this is a snapshot of what I saw.

Pre-pandemic, lunchtime would normally be busy and bustling. Melbourne has a worldwide reputation as a vibrant global city, full of life, art, food and entertainment. It is a stunning city. But it’s very quiet and empty now, which is a good sign for public health.

Standing in the sun

Melbourne’s La Trobe and Spencer Streets at Friday lunchtime. A thought hit me standing at the traffic lights. There will definitely come a time when things will return to life again, a new normal. And who knows, my mind said, this empty street look under Stage 4 restrictions will become a thing of the past. So remember how this looks like. This is history in the making. So I took these photos to document this history for my own family history records.

And yes, I admit I felt a tinge of sadness seeing these empty streets and the many closed businesses along these streets. Knowing some of these businesses that I used to frequent, like the hairdressers, restaurants, cafes, this felt sad knowing some of the individuals I would normally see, before COVID-19 came along. Hope they’re doing ok.

So I took these photos while standing at the pedestrian crossing and as I was walking across La Trobe. It’s still unbelievable to me to see this, even five months later.

Balancing act

But, the other side of this pandemic challenge is that in terms of public health and preserving life from a new infectious disease and virus for which there is no vaccine, these empty streets mean the majority of Victorians are following Stage 4 restrictions.

So far in Victoria, as I write this, more than 500 individuals have died from COVID-19 since the pandemic hit Melbourne. Any death is a high number. And more than 2000 active cases.

That is why public health measures and restrictions are so important to comply with during a pandemic. Without public health measures to control infection spread, we’d be looking at an American style worst case scenario replica here in Melbourne. So it could be far far worse than what we’ve seen already, as we’ve been reminded by the Victorian Government’s Chief Health Officer.

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microphone ED Musos
Featured

EDMusos Sing for a Whole New ED World Post-COVID

“After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music.”

Aldous Huxley

About EDMusos

The ED Musos are a group of health care workers from Emergency Departments in Australia and New Zealand. During the COVID-19 pandemic, we turned to making music together to lighten our moods, connect with others and to give us the strength to show up to work each day.

Introducing ED Musos
Video Info

This song was performed in July 2020 by health care workers in Australia, Aotearoa New Zealand, the UK and the USA.

We send our love and support to everyone who has felt the impact of COVID-19.

We made this video in our own time.

Together, we hope for a brighter future.

#wholenewED @EDMusos

Lyrics by Natalie May , Sue Herzberg , Sue Ieraci, Simon Judkins, Jane Munro and Clare Skinner
Music score by Jane Hart, Clare Skinner and Christopher Wiseman
Based on ‘A Whole New World’ , Music by Alan Menken , Lyrics by Tim Rice , © Walt Disney Music Company.


It debuted virtually yesterday at the DFTB’s acute paediatric care conference,.

Joy Is the Best Distraction

So one Sunday evening in July last month, I sung my heart (and my performance anxiety) out to a re-versioned cover of Disney’s A Whole New World in the Alladin movie. And so did everyone else in this choir and this video is the result. They are people I respect. I love the end result. Amidst what has felt like a heartbreaking pandemic at times in Melbourne, being part of EDMusos has been a balm for the soul.

Funny and serious all at the same time. I laughed , and laughed at myself at the multiple video takes before I finally just stopped stressing and just accepted my imperfections. I laugh when I write this part because that might be an understatement.

EDMusos sing for a whole new ED World post-COVID. If watching this brings a smile to your face and makes you laugh, please share the aloha (the love) with those you love and care about, and people you don’t know. My friends and I certainly had a laugh when they saw my performance, and that was a great feeling. Too much. Every bit of dress up came from whatever I could find in my wardrobe.

It has been a privilege to be a part of this. Music has been part of my life since I was born, thanks to my mother. It’s my happy place. It is like having my mother around me, covering me with her love, when I do things like this…and especially if it brings cheer to others, as well. It gives me comfort, joy, peace and laughter, when I need it.

Watch the credits at the end to see the names of these ED stars involved in front and behind the scenes.

#EDMUSOS Rocks. #COVID19Wellbeing.

EDMusos sing for a whole new ED World post-COVID.


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In search of Melbourne's oldest home
Featured

In Search of Melbourne’s Oldest Home

As part of my very imperfect ‘Melbourne CBD history walks’ also known as my one hour max of walking outside within 5kms of home, I went looking for the city’s oldest home. Built about 170 years ago, I couldn’t wait to find it. So off I went after work one day. In search of Melbourne’s oldest home.

A friend told me about its location: ‘it’s behind the scaffolding, you’ve walked past it all the time on the corner at La Trobe and King St’ something along those lines.

This was the only place that came to mind. This fenced area right on Flagstaff Gardens, closer to the Flagstaff train station. But it wasn’t on the corner of King and La Trobe. I couldn’t remember seeing any scaffolding on the corner, or on the street. On closer inspection this week, as demonstrated by photographic evidence, exhibit one…it was clearly fencing.

In search of Melbourne’s oldest home.Before I go further, this story serves to remind me how little attention I paid to things like scaffolding in the CBD. My mind did an interesting leap into the next best connection, the fencing here. Not a great start to historical walks. Maybe the fencing is also called scaffolding?

Flagstaff Gardens, August 2020 – The La Trobe Street end where I mistakenly thought this was the location of the oldest house in Melbourne. I peered through the fencing only to see rocks and an empty space with no building on it. Image credit: Vienna Richards


So, as a result of my brilliance, I walked right past the real historical location on the corner of King St and La Trobe. In the process, I missed the historic building entirely on that walk. Something called a looming curfew prompted an early end to my walking investigation.

Is this Melbourne’s oldest home?


A question mark hung over this discovery. Am I blind? Image credit: Vienna Richards

“Go somewhere you know nothing about and see what happens.”

Karl Ove Knausgård



But before I had to return back to my apartment, I did walk all over Flagstaff Gardens and found the red brick house on the grounds. Could this be Melbourne’s oldest home? I can’t imagine so. This definitely wasn’t built in the 1800s or 170 years ago. The good news is that this is where the penny started to drop. But before it could drop further and distil an ‘aha’ moment, I batted away my doubts and remained in my ignorance. And returned home to ponder some more.

I found it!


Take 2. Action. Second time lucky. In search of Melbourne’s oldest home. I went walking after work and I found it by accident. Right on the corner of King and La Trobe. It was waiting patiently there, where it has always been, even on the night I couldn’t find it. Exactly where my friend said it was…

Inner city Melbourne’s oldest store and home dwelling dating back to 1850/51, 170 years ago. Now covered in graffiti on the upper side facing Flagstaff, and dwarfed by high rises, it does have scaffolding. It is situated at 33 King Street, corner of King and La Trobe Streets, Melbourne CBD. Image credit: Vienna Richards

The next time I write about this home and store, I will have learned more about its unique place in Melbourne’s early history. In the meantime, this is the plaque on the building. Check out the brick work. Fascinating, isn’t it?

Finally, tonight I saw a comment online about another oldest home in Melbourne. The commentor said the home dates back earlier than 1850. I’m at the start of this adventure. And, by most accounts I’ve read so far, this is the oldest but I’m here to learn about this amazing city. So, could it be that there is a distinction between the function of the building as to which was the oldest? The answer is already out there, I’m sure.

I’ll tackle that question in my next post on 33 King St. #LockdownMelbourne just got exciting again.

Vienna

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Southern Cross Station, Spencer St, Melbourne
Featured

Why Melbourne’s CBD History Walks Rock in Lockdown

It happened very suddenly. The thought. The idea just came. I was walking along Melbourne CBD’s Spencer Street at the start of the second wave of COVID-19 in late July, on a permitted walk under Stage 3 or 4 restrictions, when I had a brainwave. Why don’t I learn about the history of these buildings and streets that I’m seeing on my walks? An exciting proposition, I thought. Melbourne CBD history walks. Let’s write about it. In these unprecedented times, with #StayatHomeSaveLives the new norm, it just made perfect sense.

Turning my regular walks into a history sojourn to learn, research and write about Melbourne’s CBD is a simple way to feel joy. At least for writers like me. I support all the public health measures during this pandemic. My goal is to stay alive and not get infected. I want to create and learn new things in isolation. That’s my natural bent. And just as important, I want to stay positive, strong and focused on the long game during this public health emergency. The size and scale of which we have never ever seen or experienced in our lifetime.


Why this matters

Staying mentally strong is vital. It matters to the many people who love you and care about your well-being. Few, if any of us, are spared from the challenges and anxieties of our time. But I’ve discovered during this second wave of COVID-19 in Melbourne, and the curfew and walking restrictions which are fine, that these walks can give a writer like me a much needed creative outlet. It feeds my brain and my soul, my joie de vivre, replacing that ground hog day feel about a Stage 4 day. It gives me a clear separation mentally between work and personal space.

So here I am.

Welcome to my rather imperfect virtual version of Melbourne CBD history walks. I’m a team player so it makes sense to me to share this in case it helps in some tiny way, someone else, near or far, those I love and those I don’t know during lockdown and isolation life.

King St, Melbourne CBD, August 2020. Image credit: Vienna Richards

“It is in dialogue with pain that many beautiful things acquire their value”

– Alain de Botton, The Architecture of Happiness

Before and after


Pre-pandemic life, when the streets and roads were humming with people, I was too busy rushing here and there, to pay attention to the history of this beautiful city. But that’s changed now. These days, there are very few people out and about in the CBD, other than residents, Victorian police and Australian defence force and food delivery couriers.

I’m walking around a historian’s dream. I could document my neighbourhood, why not? I’m loving the Sherlock Holmes-like purpose my walks have taken on.I’m seeing things I never noticed in Melbourne before. The old historical buildings and the plaques (or did I mean plagues? ). There’s the old police station on Bourke St West built in the 1800s, a warehouse on King St, and churches from a bygone era more than a hundred years ago. And they’re within a 5 km radius of my apartment. That’s the permitted distance to go walking or exercising during this lockdown.

Is Narnia here?

Discovering this beautiful amazing city’s history catches my delight. Curiosity takes over. It’s like stumbling across a secret chest in a scene from C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia…well, I’m completely over reaching and dreaming on that analogy. But there is a certain undeniable excitement that comes with discovering history. A lot like family history.

A history that I never thought about, before this pandemic. A history that manages to shine through, even during these painful times in Melbourne’s life.

Thank you for reading me. Writing this helps me. If reading about Melbourne city’s history brings light relief to your day, that makes me happy. If just one other person finds this helpful, then I’m more than good with that. Feel free to drop me a message if you’d like to share your walking adventures.


I am terribly imperfect

Forgive my typos. I built this site and write and edit but that doesn’t mean I’ll always spot my typos. I focus on getting it done good within the small amount of spare time I can give to this. So, rather than perfection, I aim for getting the job done as fast as possible with the minimum of fuss, if I have any hope of publishing online in a timely way.

When I use my photos here, I confess the photos don’t do justice to Melbourne’s beauty, not one bit. Stage 4 restrictions means I take photos quickly, as I’m walking or during a momentary stop with my smartphone. Literally a moment to take a snapshot. Clearly, I’m not a professional photographer and I try to leave photos as untouched as much as possible. When my photographic efforts fail, fear not. I have a back up plan.

If you have a street in the CBD with a history or building you think I should check out, let me know.

Stay Safe, Melburnians.

Vienna

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