No, I haven’t suddenly become a Christian or anything – but I found out today that my PhD was confirmed. It’s been a bit of a nerve-wracking week. I had to give a 25 minute presentation to the department on my topic. Somehow giving a talk to friends and colleagues is a very scary prospect, probably because I really do care what they think – if it was a bunch of strangers, I don’t think I’d care so much. But amazingly enough, it all went fine. Then today, I had to face a committee to talk about my progress to date (I’m about half way through). It was actually tremendously useful to get some different points of view about approaches I could take. Whew! Now I can actually sit back and relax for five seconds – the last three weeks have been crazy.
Category Archives: Personal
Sorry to all who have been wondering where I have been. Unfortunately, the baby got gastro last week, and then I came down with it on the weekend. We are both better now. Normal posts will resume this week.
Last night, I went to a friend’s hen’s night, and after dinner, we went out dancing. I am not sure how many years it is since I have done something like that…a long time, to be sure. Anyway, I caught a taxi home, and my driver was a Somalian man of about my age. He had three children, and the two youngest were either side of my daughter in age. So we had a good laugh about the funny things little kids do, the temper tantrums they throw, their affection and all of that kind of thing. Then he was telling me about how he came to leave Somalia, how he goes back to help kids with medical problems, and the advantages and disadvantages of living so far from home in Australia. “The peace in Australia, it is beautiful,” he said. “If I was at home, I would have all my extended family. I miss that. But the peace here is so good.” We were then talking about the terrible things happening in Kenya, and hoping that civil war doesn’t break out there.
And as I type, I think about the terrible things happening in Pakistan. If I was a lawyer in Pakistan, I wouldn’t be able to speak my mind on a blog. I’d be in gaol, probably.
This is where I am a passionate believer in human rights; unfortunately, the kind of situations where they are most needed are exactly the kind of situations where they are unlikely to be respected. Mob violence, corrupt governments, anarchy, civil war…
How lucky most of us are in Australia. Most of us have clean drinking water, enough food, and do not have to worry about epidemic diseases for which immunisation and treatment is available. Since settlement, we’ve never had a civil war, never had a military coup, and never had a dictator.
The exception to this is of course, indigenous people, some of whom still do not have clean drinking water and suffer from treatable diseases. And the various phases of European settlement have had a devastating impact on indigenous communities and people. But otherwise, we are incredibly lucky. Sometimes it’s worth sitting back and thinking about that. Thank you to that taxi driver for making me reflect on how good my life is. And I wish he and his family all the best here in Australia.
I’ve got a job for next year. Phew! It’s still just a contract job, but it’s great to have some security!
Well, this post is probably a bit late given the stunning victory by Labor in the Federal election. But maybe it’s good to have time to mull over things. I feel nervous dipping my toe into the political quagmire surrounding unions: but here goes nothing!
On the way home from work, I drove past a billboard which for the last month or so has a poster which said “70% of Labor’s front bench are anti-business unionists.” Or some such slogan. That got me thinking. Are unions necessarily anti-business? And are businesses necessarily anti-union? Certainly, in practice, sometimes the two seem to go head-to-head in a stubborn fashion which leaves both sides looking pig-headed and short-sighted, but I think there are ways in which they can work together.
I have never been able to understand why workplaces would want to treat their employees badly. Many of my posts regarding law firms marvel at the way in which firms treat their staff. It seems quite amazingly short-sighted for firms to put money into training staff and then treat them so badly that they have left 18 months later. On the other hand, I have never been able to understand why unions would demand so many concessions from a workplace that it becomes unprofitable or inefficient. That seems like biting the hand that feeds you, from my point of view.
So it seems to me that many of the interests of unions and businesses should overlap. Both should want the particular business to be profitable and competitive. If the business fails because the company can’t afford to pay the high wages demanded of it, or can’t dismiss incompetent staff, the union members no longer have any jobs, so it is in their interests to ensure that the business stays alive and well.
On the other hand, both sides should want the workers to be happy and secure, and feel like they have a say in how the business is run. If workers are unhappy and feel like they do not have a voice, they will be unproductive, resentful, and may leave the workplace. In the short term there may be other poor sods who will replace them, but in the long term, this is a massive drain on the intellectual and monetary resources of the business. And if employees feel like they are not remunerated appropriately (while directors and shareholders line their pockets) – well, it’s times like these that I feel Marxism has a point…never forget that there would be no profit and no business without the labour of the worker. It just doesn’t make sense to treat your staff badly or underpay them.
Therefore, a scare campaign about unions did not resonate with me at all, because if they both work properly, unions and businesses are not incompatible…as long as they remember the big picture and do not enter into oppositional game playing. And I hate the politics of fear, as I’ve said before: decisions made out of fear are not good ones.
I think the Howard government failed to understand the job insecurity which faces many ordinary Australians, myself among them. I still don’t know whether I’ll have a job next year. As a consequence, funnily enough, I joined the NTEU about two months ago. It feels better to have collective might behind you. And as a member of the union, I can agitate for collective bargaining for sessional lecturers. I know unions aren’t perfect, but otherwise I’m one little lone lecturer with very little pull or bargaining power. It feels like me versus the Giant Machine. I have a vision of a little manga me facing a giant mechanical robot, like those ones Astro Boy was always battling. Wish me luck! Like Astro, I think I’ll be okay in the end…
(Taken from anime.com)
Lad Litter has tagged me for the earliest memory meme.
My earliest memory is of a man with crinkly brown skin and sparkly brown eyes sitting on a giant tortoise. Seriously.
I was two and a half years old, and my family had just been seconded to the UK for a few years (for the first time). We had a stop over in Mauritius for some reason (I think planes had to stop more frequently in those days). That’s where I saw the man sitting on the tortoise.
The other week I saw a photo of the aforesaid tortoise and man, taken by my Dad. The perspective is totally different to my memory. In my memory, the man looms hugely over me, and the tortoise was as big as a car. But in the photo, they appear quite small, and the enclosure looks smaller and drabber than I remember. Memory is a funny thing, isn’t it?
Other early memories: my Dad skiing down our street in England, my third birthday party (balloons with butterflies on them, no less), walking in the park and seeing bluebells with my Mum, seeing my sister for the first time and naughtily touching her eyelid (even though the nurse said not to touch her) and being the sheep in the Advent play at Kinder. I turned down the role of Mary to be a sheep. Who wants to just sit there and hold a doll when you can walk around on all fours baa-ing loudly, with your sister’s old sheepskin tied to you, and pretending to eat the carpet? It’s a no brainer.
I can’t even find the time to write blog posts! I have received a number of queries asking where I am, whether I’m OK and indeed, whether I’m still alive. Yes, I’m OK and still living and breathing.
Shortly, I am buried under marking. I’m 40% of the way there. I hope to be at least 50% of the way there by the end of the weekend. I really hate marking.
Apart from that, I have also just started assisting law students whose second language is English (a girl has to find some source of income over the summer break) and doing research assistant work. Sigh! No rest for the wicked. And I’m still supposed to be doing PhD… Hopefully things will slow down after Xmas.
I assure you that I am percolating a number of posts. Just to remind myself for when I get around to it:
1. Transit lanes on the freeway (mutter, mutter)
2. Putting the baby in creche for the first time (traumatic for both myself and the bubba)
3. Are the interests of unions and of businesses really so different? (yes, inspired by that Union = Anti-Business campaign) I know both like to see themselves as antithetically opposed, but I’m not so sure.
4. Can you believe the Christmas decos are out again?
Oh yeah, in breaking legal news, Pants Man’s contract as a Judge has not been renewed. Who woulda thunk it?
It has been a hectic few weeks. Teaching has ended for the year. As always, I got a corker of a comment in the student feedback surveys. One student said that I should “dress up as a gangsta” and bring my daughter to class as an example of “ginger power”. That made me laugh. I don’t even know exactly what dressing like a gangsta is, but I suspect it’s not something I’d normally do. My husband is wondering if I did anything to provoke the gangsta comment (wore bling, carried a glock, talked about my beee-artches or anything like that?). No, I did not. I suspect it was totally random.
Last semester, one of the comments suggested that I should run for Prime Minister because I would be more awesome than John Howard. I told the class that I am obviously more awesome than John Howard, but I won’t be becoming a politician any time soon. I’m far too tactless for the job. Not that I’d go as far as Tony Abbott – rudeness is not my style – but if someone asked me what I thought on a matter, I’d probably blurt out what I really thought, not the party policy, and then I’d get in trouble.
There is also a “multiple choice” part of the questionnaire that students must fill out. It contains a really silly question which says something like “I felt part of a group of students and staff who were committed to learning”. What does that mean exactly? There’s too many variables. I suspect that the real question is whether the teacher actually cares about his or her subject and the students. One always enjoys a subject more if the teacher is enthusiastic. I like the written comments on the questionnaires the best. They are the bits I take to heart, both positive and negative.
Does anyone else have trouble filling out multiple choice forms? I always find that there’s not a box for the option I want. Perhaps I am just strange. But I was filling out a government form the other day, and got very frustrated. Grr. And every now and again I do those marketing multiple choice surveys, and they ask dumb questions like does an ad for a particular brand of car or beer make me feel confident or sexy. Um, no. Ads generally make me yawn. Luckily I don’t need no car or beer to make me feel good, wiggity whack.
“In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.” (Andy Warhol)
Seems like it’s my turn to have 15 minutes of fame. On Sunday, The Age had an article about legal blogs, featuring a quote from yours truly at the end. The hard copy is even better because it has a picture of the banner from the blog (with the awesome eagle picture which Iain found for me). I’ll scan it in and put it on the blog when we get set up in the new house.
Moving day is tomorrow. Telstra cut our internet off a week early, hence my lack of blogging, commenting or anything else. I’m typing this before class starts…zounds, better get to class!
I really hate being a sessional lecturer. Most of the time, I feel like I’m an un-person as far as this university is concerned. I do not have a proper office; I have to squat in the office of whichever person happens to be on leave at the time. I do not have a proper phone number; I have the phone of the person in whose office I am presently “squatting”, so there’s no point writing it down as a contact number, because it will change in a few months. I am not on the official website as a staff member. I’m not on the staff e-mail list. I do not get a business card. I do not get a parking space. I have to pay an exorbitant yearly fee in order to be able to park in the staff parking lot. Ironically, if I had a proper ongoing position, I would not have to pay this fee, even though my income would be higher. I don’t get sick days, I don’t get holiday pay and I don’t get maternity leave.
Worst of all, I have no job security or certainty. At meetings, people often factor me into next year’s plans and ask me what I think about the syllabus or a particular point of law. I have to quietly remind them that I don’t know what I’ll be doing next year. I don’t even know if I’ll still be teaching at the university, although I hope and presume that I will be. And I certainly don’t know what subjects I will be teaching. I won’t find out for a while yet.
It’s been going on this way for a year and a half so far. It looks like it’s going to keep on going for at least another year. Sometimes I find it soul destroying. Other days, I try to look on the bright side, and consider myself lucky to have a job at all.
The issue reared its ugly head again because I found out today that I was left off an e-mail list, as I am not on the list of “staff members”. I almost missed out on an important piece of information as a result. It’s times like this when I feel deeply resentful and angry. Other staff say, “Don’t worry, they’ll employ you as ongoing eventually, you just have to wait and be patient.” That’s bloody hard to do when you have a family and a mortgage to pay.
I’m sure it will all work out in the end, and this will be a faint memory. But I just need to get this out of my system now, so that I can go home and be happy for my darling little girl. After all, I work to live, not live to work.