Are we there yet?

The other day I packed the car to drive back to Sydney, and as I packed, I thought back to my childhood and how simple it was when going away.

All mines in Broken Hill would close for the month of December; then Broken Hill up and moved to Adelaide.

For those working at the Zinc and NBHC mines, there was a special summer holiday camp similar to those in the Carry On movies.

The North Mines employees moved to Glenelg and into every available boarding house. When walking down Jetty Road, it was just like walking down the main street of Broken Hill.

My mother would build up the back of the car so my brother and I would have a bed to sleep on, seatbelts were not even a consideration.   Dad would finish work and be home on the dot of twenty past four.  Mum would have filled the car with petrol; the Thermos would be in the picnic basket, and she would have collected the game cards called ‘Spotto’ from the BP garage. My brother and I would get a few games in before dark and then down to sleep for the rest of the journey.

I suffered terribly from car sickness, and so the first stop would be a hotel along the way where Mum would buy a brandy and soda for me to sip.  Now to all those throwing their hands up in horror at the thought of giving an eight-year-old alcohol, that was the norm, and I am pleased to say I do not like the taste of alcohol, argh bring back the parenting of the 50’s and 60’s. At the end of the month, everyone would make the return trip to Broken Hill and go back to work only to make the round trip again the following year.

What forced me to think about the simplicity back in the day?

Well as I was packing for the drive, I scouted around for my fast charger for iPad, iPhone, Apple Watch and laptop. Finally had everything together and packed in the car.  So go to drive off, and the GPS asks me if I want to add a destination and would I like to add waypoints, the screen then asks me if I wish to pair my phone via Bluetooth and I must search for USB cable to enable power. Then the radio needs to be tuned.  I was driving down the road stopping and starting, and I think it had taken a good twenty minutes before I had all my disruptive technology enabled and ready for the drive. While I complain, it is only for a moment as I do love the fact that the GPS takes me straight to my final destination without fuss or bother and I can sing my heart out to the old favourites that would have been playing in the car with Mum and Dad.

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Connectivity in Rural and Remote Areas – by Fiona, Guest Blogger

Guest Blog – Fiona Luckhurst

Writing this article has been a great example of connectivity issues in rural areas. My internet isn’t working so I can’t email it!! I will have to drive 100 km to get my laptop looked at to see if it is the problem as Telstra says it is not theirs! One positive example of connectivity though is that I read about the Dunedoo CWA in our local paper, the Coolah Diary, which does a great job of connecting local people to broader issues, events and services. So old fashioned paper and print wins over the worldwide web in this case.

Contemplating connectivity in the bush I thought first of mobile phone reception. Telstra and Government agencies ask for black spots to be reported in their coverage. Well I have renamed black spots black holes … they can hardly be called ‘spots’ when the lack of coverage area extends for vast areas of rural Australia, especially hilly areas. Telstra markets its coverage saying it covers 99% of the Australian population. However, the coverage for the non-coastal fringe dwellers … those in the bush, is well under this. I would say in my area, once you get out of town it is rare to have mobile phone coverage. Telstra, which is the only provider in my area offers specialised Yagi aerials and Smart Antennas to increase mobile signal at homes, however these are expensive (about $1,000) and no guarantee they will work. I have a Yagi aerial at home which I have to plug my mobile phone into … it works well, however, there is an issue that the aerial connecting plug doesn’t fit well into the aerial socket and so the adapter in the phone breaks after about twelve months of use, requiring me to purchase a new phone. There is only one smart phone available in Australia with an aerial socket, the infamous Telstra Dave phone which has numerous software issues and instabilities.

So when my phone is working I can use the phone as a wifi hot spot, except now, because it’s not working with my laptop … and … it is expensive to use internet in this manner with data costing $10 per Gigabyte. My other alternatives for broadband at home are the Telstra Wireless unit which was installed but failed consistently and again was expensive as it charged mobile data rates … or the new NBN broadband. This seems to be working well for people at the moment but I wonder if the satellite has the capacity once more people connect to it in their internet deprived glee of downloading and surfing where previously there was sinking sinking in slow slow not even speeds. Even the mobile phone network doesn’t seem to have enough capacity at times.

I am very appreciative the local library has free wifi so even though the library opening hours are limited, I can use their hotspot.

Other connectivity, hmmm, TV – I don’t have TV reception at home. My house in Coolah had poor reception for digital TV even with a booster. Guess I could get satellite TV… more cost, more objects on my small roof which already has two aerials and solar panels. If only I had good, cheap, unlimited broadband like my friends in the city and regional towns I could watch online TV. I am only 20 km from town …

Radio, yes, before digital radio there was radio reception at home, now it is poor and requires an aerial to access only two radio stations – 3 rivers FM and JJJ. Neither of which I would listen to if I had a choice.

Well I guess that leaves me with Face to Face connectivity. It’s a pity my road only gets graded every three years due to Council budget limitations. I have just had to spend more money on getting my car repaired due to the bad condition of the road and I fear my new tyres won’t last long. The wildlife hazard on the road has increased with the rain – last night in the 6 km of my dirt road I came across one wombat, seven kangaroos, several wallabies, a rabbit and two separate herds of feral pigs. Luckily I did not connect with any of them!

When I got home I had a warm soy milk. Home is a pleasant place, free from the incursions of the rest of the world through phone, TV adverts, radio, internet. I am the only person living on my road. My closest neighbours are 6 km away. Except the Jehovah’s Witness that managed to find me here, and, surprisingly the census collector, the only other incursions are from the illegal hunters who think it’s OK to shoot on private roads and even spotlight and shoot on my property. Unfortunately this issue is not addressed in any real, meaningful way by either police or Local Land Services.

Luckily if I do get accidentally shot by illegal hunters we have a great ambulance service which can transport me 150 km to the closest full hospital. Gosh, here in Coolah we are so grateful for the limited health and other services (oh, that’s right we don’t have a bank, Centrelink, Medicare, youth services, disability services, government offices, court house … but we do have part time dentist, counsellor, RMS office … and a few other services, of which we are very grateful).

Three weeks ago the water pump on my bore broke. I am not on town water. It is expensive to get someone out here to fix the pump. I can live without running water at the house for a while, but it is rather inconvenient. Maybe being connected to town water (if it was possible) would be cheaper and more reliable, but the nearest water pipe is a long way off. Same with power. I installed off grid solar here as even though the house is 100 years old there has never been electricity. When it goes bung the closest registered solar electrician is one and a half hours away. Again, I can live without power, but it is inconvenient … and I can’t charge my phone!!!! So, I need to solve the problems myself, and feel grateful for the initiative and resilience this kind of problem gives me the opportunity to develop.

Well, according to my brother, a senior executive in the public service in Canberra, I should never whinge about the difficulties of living in the country because I chose to live here. So true. So even with all my seeming whinge over lack of connectivity, I am still here, and choose to be here. But I can’t say the ongoing  issues outlined above about connectivity – phone, internet, power, water, road funding, lack of health and other services – are likely to attract people to live in the bush, or to encourage young families or youth to stay in the bush.

I wonder where our food will be grown in the future if the population continues to decline? It will be harder to keep coal mines and gas explorers out of good farming land soon. These money grabbers don’t have what most people here have and what keeps them here – a strong connection to the land, a caring for the land, this land that provides our food, textiles and oxygen we breathe. Surely the contribution made by rural people in producing the food and materials other folk need is valuable enough to throw some dollars into supporting basic connectivity of people on the land to the rest of the world – services, roads, telecommunications, radio. It is hard to run a business with poor internet, let alone do your personal banking, find out important information and function in an internet centric world.

Connectivity in the bush is not just about personal issues, it’s about people contributing to society, accessing services, earning a living and being active informed citizens of our nation.

'Can you hear me now?'

National Carers Week

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During National Carers week, people are asked to become involved by attending or hosting an event. This can be a morning tea, afternoon tea, a walk or some other activity to raise awareness of the diversity of carers and caring roles, who they are and what they do.

What is a carer? – Well … a carer is anyone who cares (paid or unpaid) for a friend, family member or client who due to illness, disability, a mental health problem or an addiction cannot cope without their support.

Today’s blog is about the ‘unpaid carer’.

Am I correct in thinking that carers come about through necessity and not by choice? I read and re-read this assumption several times and think about how I came to be a carer. I guess it was out of necessity, but also it was my choice  to do it out of love for a family member. So whilst it sounds a bit harsh it also rings true! 2013_05_31_elderly_people_holding_hands_large

Words you hear often are that carers tend to neglect their own needs for that of the person being cared for. To a certain extent this is true, but unpaid carers often find it hard to take time out. In the case of one documentary I watched recently, the carers felt that only they could provide the standard of care needed and because the illness was terminal they wanted their daughter to see their faces in her last moments. This type of caring puts a strain on the whole family and in this situation the two older sisters had been totally neglected … is this fair?

There are many reasons carers work providing unpaid care, from financial necessity to social interaction or down to the fact that placements are just not there.  Recently whilst looking for a place for Sharon I found there was not a place anywhere and our nearest offer was Melbourne which is 1000 km away. After having someone in my life for 42 years and her brother’s life for 60 years we could not dream of sending her there to be alone without any family members.

Although caring can and did have many positive and rewarding aspects, there were times when balancing these two roles was challenging.  Caring can have an impact on many facets of your life in that you can become physically as well as emotionally exhausted. This can be because of suffering,  pain or confusion on the face of the loved one. Time and time again you hear stories of emotional suffering of carers in caring for loved ones with dementia.  If you know a carer give them a hug, cup of tea or even just the time of day, not only during National Carers Week but all year round.

A current Honorary Member of CWA of NSW, Mr Jack Heath, is CEO of SANE Australia. Sane Australia offers the following advice and tips:

  • Caring can lead to stress, depression and other mental health issues.
  • Caring can affect your relationship with your partner or other family members.
  • If you are caring in a couple you may no longer be able to have the physical or emotional life you had together, nor enjoy shared activities or plan for a future together.
  • Find local care and carer services near you
  • Connect with other carers online and get support from our online communities
  • Young carers can find it hard to go to school/college/university or keep up with course work.
  • Give them time. Some people might prefer a text message or email rather than talking on the phone or face-to-face. This means they can get back to you when they feel ready. What’s important is that they know you’ll be there when they’re ready to get in touch. Others may prefer to hear a human voice, with a regular phone call instead.
  • Try to be open-minded and non-judgemental. This can be hard with some of the behavioural changes associated with symptoms. For example, if someone starts staying in bed rather than meeting their responsibilities it can be tempting to attribute this to the individual rather than the condition. It is best to focus on how to deal with the symptoms rather than judge the behaviour
  • Remember you are not to blame if things get difficult and try not to take hurtful comments personally. Some mental health conditions may involve increased anger and irritability that can be difficult for the person to control. At the same time, aggression and violence are always unacceptable. Do not hesitate to call on help in these circumstances, even if this involves the police.
  • If you know someone has been unwell, don’t be afraid to ask how they are. They might want to talk about it or they might not. Letting them know they don’t have to avoid the issue can be helpful.
  • Try to avoid clichés. Phrases like ‘Cheer up’, ‘I’m sure it’ll pass’ and ‘It could be worse’ won’t help and can make the person feel more isolated.
  • Don’t just talk about mental health. Keep in mind that having a mental illness is just one part of a person’s experience. People aren’t defined solely by their health problems.
  • Encouraging the person to do things without being unrealistic or demanding. For example, social contact is very important to our wellbeing and so encouraging outings and meetings with others can be helpful. Bear in mind this can sometimes feel daunting for someone affected by mental illness.
  • Consider the person as a whole. Remember that they have the same range of personal, emotional and sexual needs as anyone else. Is their physical health being looked after by a GP? Are there alcohol or drug problems that needs attention?

If you are concerned about your caring role or its impact on you, contact the SANE Help Centre on 1800 18 SANE (7263) for information, guidance, and referral for support.

See what support is available for carers? Click here or go to https://www.sane.org/families-carers/35-what-support-is-available-for-carers

 

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