Archives for posts with tag: australian government

Given the rise and rise of Donald Trump in the US I can only assume that Australia is not the only country to have a mixed approach to desirable standards for its citizens to achieve. If all else is equal then money (addiction) apparently surpasses everything else. We have come full circle since the Christian religion (amongst others) was the dominant force and there was a somewhat half-hearted attempt to spread wealth and assets more evenly so that all could benefit. Now if you are rich (a money addict) you are dominant and your ideas prevail. Your personal education, long since overtaken by your need for more and more money, is no longer important. For the record, it is 48 years since Donald Trump did any formal learning and 36 years for Malcolm Turnbull, in economics for Trump and Law for Turnbull. In both fields there have been dramatic advances in learning to adapt to our changing technological world in the intervening years.

If we turn to the other end of the spectrum, the unemployed and the welfare recipients, we find that there is a different emphasis. Suddenly we acknowledge the need for them to be educated, with both Australia and New Zealand recently assuming that lack of this vital commodity is their problem.

If we turn to our schools we also acknowledge the world we live in and realise that technology, including science and mathematics knowledge, is the way we should be going, equipping our children for this recognised future.

If we really want to create a viable world in which we all share its benefits regardless of our starting point in life, the skills we were equipped with, and the lucky breaks we have had along the way, then we need to work out together what our goals should be as we share this planet. Obviously we can’t all aspire to be like the people we choose as our leaders and potential leaders, collecting as much money as we can off other people. This is a limited goal for very few people and also not a very intelligent one.

So what is the solution? It is many years now since the term ‘lifelong education’ was introduced into our vocabulary but it has few adherents, surprising since the lack of it has so many consequences, particularly given the speed with which modern knowledge is expanding.

It is even longer since early man settled in ever larger groups and as the groups grew so did the pace of new ideas. Not only are we forming ever larger groups today but communication between different groups can be instantaneous, thus rapidly expanding our knowledge base. Knowledge, and its availability, are growing at an unprecedented rate.

Surely we should be capable of recognising the type of leaders appropriate for this new world and abandoning the old stereotype of those only capable of amassing personal wealth, taken off others, dismissing the need for personal knowledge accumulation. This is not a valid path for the world of the 21st century.

For years I have been advocating that older people are a bonus in our society, not merely an expense and finally parts of Australia seem to be waking up to this, albeit from the expense aspect. The recently retired government appointed advisor on ageing advocated that employers be encouraged to retain older people and to do so pointed out their value to society. Unfortunately her research didn’t extend to the fact that people retire because they are bored in their jobs and don’t feel appreciated, a fact which is unlikely to improve the situation.

To really tackle the problem of people retiring at 65, and possibly living for another 40 years with no purpose in their lives, we need to try to offer purposeful alternatives, such as encouraging the rising group of seniorpreneurs. To avoid joining the list of failed businesses these people need professional mentoring, preferably provided by the government. Another fruitful area could be provided by established volunteer organisations listening to the ideas their older volunteers have. It is no use trying to persuade employers that their older workers are valuable employees if the government itself is not providing a good example through projects it supports. I am continuously upset by the fact that the two main organisations who receive huge amounts of government funding in Australia to provide for, and involve, older people don’t themselves employ older people and therefore so often get things wrong about ageing. How insulting for older people. In contrast the organisation which does provide successfully for this age group, U3A, is self funded (it is run by older volunteer members) and is much more successful at the grass roots level.

Professional organisations are not necessarily any better. I would have liked to have stated our case at the World Congress on Public Health to be held in Melbourne next year. Most similar organisations offer a discount for pensioners but in spite of having ‘Life Stages’ as one of their themes, they apparently haven’t heard of, or don’t recognise, the later stage of life and don’t want to hear of it, in spite of having this discrepancy brought to their attention. Most conference attendees are paid for by their employers, including travel and accommodation costs, so affordability is not an issue for them. I hate it when an important organisation such as this suffers from ageism, particularly as the numbers of older people are growing rapidly, a factor they should be aware of. This organisation should be providing leadership in this field, not dragging their heels.

We shouldn’t be complaining about huge national debts, which most countries seem to have, if at the same time we ignore the contribution the most rapidly growing section of the population could make if its talents, experience and knowledge weren’t ignored. I don’t think it is just a question of ignoring us, I think this attitude contributes to ‘the problem’ by making us feel a burden and useless. As we think, so shall we become.

This week, in a country to Australia’s north, students set off, unarmed they claim, to march to their Prime Minister’s office to protest against his alleged rorts, believing he is setting aside, inappropriately, money for his own personal use. The result was police firing on the students, with at least one in hospital and others too frightened to seek treatment. There are no reports of any police being hurt, certainly not shot. The political reaction has been just as bad with parliament suspended for many weeks, presumably so that no awkward questions can be asked, not only about what happened with the students but also about their allegations. Is this democracy and if not, why not?

The situation in the USA is equally inexplicable. How can a man whose only claim to achievement seems to be the ability to collect money off other people have the distinct possibility of becoming the next President? It seems that in the USA the present incumbent of the position is the only non-rich person who has made it to that office. The other current alternative candidate herself fits the rich bill.

In Australia the incumbent prime Minister has the same qualification, that of being able to collect money off others and thus become rich. He had a lot of ability when younger but hasn’t found it necessary to formally upgrade his knowledge base for nearly 40 years, in spite of the massive increase in knowledge in the world.

New technology, and other new knowledge, is rapidly changing our world but our leaders seem to feel it unnecessary to keep themselves up to date and we as electors seem to feel that the only criteria for leadership is the ability to collect money from others. If we look at the messy world around us it seems to be true that people get what they deserve when they vote yet there are so many others striving to create a better world in an infinite number of fields.

There is at least one movement in Australia trying to choose our representatives in a way that more accurately reflects what ordinary voters, and hence the majority of people want. I suspect that means a fair go for all and settling disputes through conversation, not useless violence followed by conversation. After all, it is ordinary people who suffer the violence and aftermath of it. The current refugees are testament to this.

Meanwhile the pot of gold at the end of this story continues to be overlooked. The enormous wealth of knowledge, information, experience and ideas locked up in older people continues to be dismissed as a burden, with older people regarded as second class, dependent citizens. I only hope that those who come after the present generation of leaders will have learned more from their education and recognise the knowledge, expertise and value, not burden, of older people. Then we can have the sort of world ordinary citizens, including older people, really want.

 

This is a strange time to be one of the elders of the world.  In developed countries in particular we haven’t yet come to terms with our ageing populations. We are adopting a ‘more of the same’ approach from the past which isn’t working  either for us older people or the communities we live in. I am under the impression that developing countries are starting to encounter the same problems.

Personally, in Australia which prides itself on being a multicultural society, I find myself facing very different situations. Twice recently I have found myself dealing with two people from very different non-Australian backgrounds. One decided that as a little old lady I could be bullied and she tried this approach. Needless to say it didn’t work- she had underestimated me! The other person, from a very different background, seemed to think that as an older person I might have an interesting story. We had a great conversation as we shared ideas. This second approach is the way to go and has more positive consequences. Our strength is in sharing intergenerational ideas, no matter what our background is.

Meanwhile those in power seem blinded by the idea that we older people are merely a cost and therefore a burden. All they can see is a generation which is adding to costs and will continue to do so as our numbers grow. I wonder how long it will be before our leaders see the older generation as an asset, with ideas based on historical development, not the here and now approach currently in play. We also need to realise that not all ideas are costly and need loads of resources. I will forever have in my mind the photo of the Indian mother and daughter who realised that if you slant the lines at the front of a zebra crossing it will look 3D and therefore slow traffic down. A simple, cheap idea which can save lives across the world. Why can’t all older people be encouraged to think differently and come up with such ideas, rather than merely being dismissed as an economic burden?

It’s not all bad news. Warrigal Care, which runs aged care facilities, from independent living to palliative care, on several sites in one Australian state is planning to celebrate ‘Go Grey in May’ and ‘the contributions older people make to our lives’ by having a photographic exhibition. I would like to think that this attitude is one everyone will have towards older people in the future.

 

I have attended 2 functions this week which were dealing with the way older people are treated, in very different ways. One was  research from two universities, the other by people researching care both in the community and in residential care. The different contributors showed very different approaches.

The two University studies were about intergenerational interaction. The first proudly described a project in which children’s play areas are built near aged care facilities. I got the impression that the older people had not even been consulted. Given that some older people, particularly the fragile, do not like boisterous children around them, I felt that this is very much a ‘client’ program.

The second study was from the University of Queensland. It linked older native foreign language speakers, in this case Chinese, with students in years 11 and 12 who are learning this language. It meant that the students heard the language from native speakers and also learned about their culture. For their part the older people felt that their lives were suddenly more meaningful. They had an important purpose in their lives. A win/win for both groups.

The second function united researchers looking at assistance for older people, with older people using these services, particularly those living in the community. It provides a link between the bureaucrats and the customers or clients. One person in the group objected to these words, pointing out that we are actually ‘people’.

The main problem in Australia seems to be the ability of older people to access information, finding out what help is available. Given that home care is much cheaper than nursing home care it is a major problem. There were complaints about telephones not being answered, and web sites that were hard to use. This is easily blamed on the lack of computer knowledge on the part of older people, not considering that it may actually be a problem. From my own limited experience the fault lies with the on-line programmes which are usually very badly written, making them inaccessible. As long as older people, not the programmes, are being blamed little is likely to change.

Some of the comments described older people who needed help showering at home having to wait long hours, in one case until 5pm, for the provider to arrive. Another was of a newly arrived resident in a nursing home being told to go to bed at 7.30pm. She protested that this was not her custom. She was told she had to because they all had to be in bed before the carer could end her shift and go home. The carer settled the impasse by turning the light off. This was appallingly dangerous. Let’s not rush to blame the carer. The fault is with management which created this rule. There are so many stories of inadequately trained, uncaring management it is time such problems were addressed. Where management in any workforce situation does have the necessary knowledge and attitude, sick days and staff turnover are greatly reduced. It is more profitable!

Meanwhile the voices of older people must be heard in any situation in which we are involved. We are people! Such an attitude creates a better, more efficient, happier  and cost-effective world for all involved.

 

The history of mankind is that we started out as hunter gatherers, then moved on to a more stable life as agriculturists. Industry was the main contributor to us creating towns and then cities. One of the common elements of each type of lifestyle is that we passed on knowledge to each other. The extent to which this happened depended on the size of the group we were part of, with education taking on a more formal approach as our numbers grew and we learned to communicate through writing as well as speech.

Today’s huge cities and the new ways of communicating not only makes knowledge more accessible but it is leading to an astronomical growth in the amount of that knowledge. As our groups increased in size only the elite had access to it and were educated, but gradually we are realising that we can all benefit from universal access. To enable this societies have set up schools, firstly primary, then secondary with universities as the third stage. The extent to which it is available to the whole community is a gradual evolution, with most country’s realising that the more educated the population is, the more prosperous the country is likely to be.

I feel that many countries now accept this and are enabling all education to be available to the whole population as they want it. This raises the question of ‘where to from here’? I suspect that we will come to a realisation that as we progress through the knowledge chain much of our early learning becomes out-dated. Does the information we learned at high school or university 20, 30 or more years ago still apply today and is it still relevant? What has happened to our brains in the meantime? Are they still operating at the high standard we forced them to reach when we reached the end of our formal education?

I often consider this when I hear our leaders, particularly our politicians, expressing their views on topics. Many of them seem to be relying on what they learned during the final years of education and their brains have had a nice sleep since! Not only do they appear out of date and foolish but as some of them are senior policy makers this can be quite dangerous. The statement made this week that the new rules to make it harder for ordinary citizens in Australia to stand for Parliament unless they are aligned to one of the major parties give us a more democratic society is nonsense. I believe that restricting candidates to 1 of 3 major parties is in itself undemocratic. It disallows other views, which can never be an intelligent move.

I suspect that the next move in society’s attitude to acquiring knowledge and learning will lead us to recognise the importance of, and necessity for, lifelong learning. No longer would a high school certificate or university degree be accepted as the end of an individual’s learning. Knowledge is expanding too rapidly, and becoming out-of-date to soon for that. We will need to insert a next step later in life. How we will do it, and who will pay for it, is a problem we aren’t even aware of yet.

For some time now I have been concerned at the way democracy seems to be rapidly disappearing from the political scene in Australia and in the USA. In the case of the latter country, I find it unbelievable that someone with a limited amount of adherence to acceptable standards could be seriously considered to be the next President, particularly given the powerful role the US has in the world. I understand that even if he is endorsed by the time of the election, his party may overrule this which is not only a relief but does question the democracy behind the procedure.

Meanwhile in Australia there is constant speculation about when the election will be held and whether it will only involve the lower house of parliament, or if both houses will be involved as punishment to the upper house for not passing all the government’s legislation. I find it hard to align either of these with a genuinely democratic government. In the latter case some members of minority party’s are likely to lose their jobs. There is the presumed message, either you pass our bills or you may lose your job. This is not democracy, it is bullying. As for the timing of the election, one gets the impression that the date will be decided by the current government to enhance their maximum re-election chances. None of this has anything to do with democracy or the best interests of Australia. This presents a good case for fixed elections which are beyond any tinkering by the government in power.

These are only two of the world’s countries but I wonder if other jurisdictions are going down the same path or if genuine democracy is being upheld in other places? Is it a world trend or just two wayward countries which are exceptions?

As people gathered into towns and cities for work, mainly originally manufacturing, the bigger numbers living in close proximity to each other found the need to form some sort of protection in the form of government for these people. As numbers grew, even bigger areas felt that they had a lot in common and needed protection and other rules and regulations were enacted to protect all of these citizens. Natural boundaries, such as coastlines and rivers, were used to define these areas, where available. Otherwise manmade boundaries were created, not always successfully.

Eventually these countries found it beneficial to work together and the league of nations was formed, later the United Nations. Not all countries recognise the benefits of working together: North Korea is a current example of this.

As for those countries which do see the value of cooperation and have democratic governments, I wonder if all are going through a continuously evolving process or if some have already plateaued. As the world continuously grows and becomes more knowledgeable, does democracy have to keep changing to match this and can we ever guarantee that this evolution will always be positive? The current situation in the USA and Australia suggests not.

The other day I listened to an interview with a scholar who has recognised the importance of this attribute in the world and at all levels of society. It was not something which had been brought to my attention before but the more I thought about it the more I realised that this may be the missing link in modern societies. The more we crowd together in cities the more it seems to become a survival of the fittest. We come to know fewer people around us and the rest are regarded as strangers about whom  we know little, if anything.

During the interview mention was made of an exhibition in Melbourne, Australia, on the topic. The exhibition was apparently made up of people who are more disadvantaged than the rest of us and who had recorded their stories and left a pair of their shoes. Visitors to the exhibition were asked to stand in a pair of these shoes and listen to the person’s story. This physical contact was very important and those who visited it came away saying that it had been a very emotional experience and had changed them. They had experienced life through the eyes (and feet) of somewhat more disadvantaged than themselves. It was based on the old suggestion that we walk a mile in the shoes of someone less privileged than ourselves to better understand them.

It is many decades since the last world scale war and the cessation of these could be a measure of our progress towards a more peaceful planet, but there are so many wars going on at any one time, creating millions of refugees and injured people, as well as those who lose their lives, are we really making progress? Does the problem lie with the sort of people we choose as , or who are able to become, our leaders, whether we have a western style democracy or a dictatorship? We don’t realise, or we fail to admit, the extent to which empathy should be part of any such selection process.

During the interview I was listening to, the comment was made that rich people tend to have a lower level of empathy than the rest of us, which fits in with the definition of them as money addicts. Certainly in Australia we would have a very different type of person in our Parliaments if the degree of empathy of potential candidates was able to be measured and was taken into account in the selection criteria. This would also seem to apply in the USA in the current Presidential election process.

Is the study of empathy, and ways of measuring it, our key to a more successful and prosperous (for all) planet? What a breakthrough that would be. No more competition to build the biggest and most effective weapons with their power to kill and maim the greatest number of people as a measure of a country’s success.

I hope that the exhibition mentioned above will be able to move to many more places and many more countries so that it can be experienced across the world and take on the importance it seems to deserve. Maybe the missing link in our search for a better world is the lack of recognition of the importance of empathy as a human trait.

I was listening to an interview with an Australian woman who has been fighting for equality for women for decades. It was a reminder that there is still a long way to go before people are judged on their talents, knowledge and ability rather on their gender. At about the same time the Prime Minister had called a meeting of a wide variety of groups to obtain their input into how to create a better, and more prosperous, Australia in future. I didn’t hear of any group representing older people being present and I suspect that there weren’t any. The trouble is that there aren’t any. The two major ones, both of which used to, and maybe still do, accept major grants to keep  afloat, don’t seem to believe in employing older people themselves so they certainly wouldn’t have an appropriate seat in the discussion.

Canada recently announced that it had more people over the age of 65 than under 15. I’m sure it will soon be joined by many other countries. We are so keen to promote ageism, just as for centuries we have promoted sexism, that we don’t look on older people as being a valid part of the economy. In both cases the country misses out on the talents, knowledge and skills, potential or otherwise, of a huge section of the population. I argue that in a highly competitive world we can’t afford to do this.

If we start fulltime work at 20 roughly, allowing for trades and university, and work until we are 65 then we have worked for 45 years of our lives. With the average life expectancy at roughly 85 (it soon will be) then we have another 20 years of life left if we retire at 65. For most of this time we will still be relatively fit. Do we really want to spend these years just filling time, finding things to do or would we prefer to be achieving, doing all the things we always wanted to do and achieve? One piece of research I came across found that people who leave work, retire, as soon as they can are people who feel dissatisfied and unfulfilled in their work. What a sad reflection on employers. One senior public servant told me that this happened in the public service. It certainly did with me but a found several other jobs which were more satisfying!

From the figures available we know that we are under-utilising our workforce based on gender and trying to fix it up but how long must we go on doing the same with problems based on age? I am not saying we should all continue with work, particularly fulltime work. What I am asking for is the opportunity for older people to use all our unused skills and ideas. It will happen in a more free thinking world in the future but what about missing out on them in the meantime. We live in a very competitive world. Can we afford to miss out on blatantly obvious solutions to many of our problems?

When I was looking after my grandchildren the other day my grandson came across an iPad. He immediately switched it on and started swiping the screen. I am sure that this behaviour is regularly repeated in homes across the world but what makes this a bit different is that he is only 14 months old! I assume he had seen his older sisters doing this and knew what an iPad was for and how to use it.

The event led me to speculate on his future and the very different lifestyle he could lead. By the time he is an adult we will probably have solved the problem of getting to Mars, or be well on the way to getting there. He could well choose to be involved in that. I can only hope that this may be a choice for him and that we haven’t wrecked the earth so much that those coming after us have no choice but to seek a more comparently friendly environment in which to live.

We tend to leave choices about managing our environment to governments, forgetting that there are so many of us on this planet that governments have to make the big choices but any decisions we are able to make collectively will have an equal effect. A friend pointed out today that she had enough to live on comfortably but this raises the question of what ‘comfortably’ means. For many people in poorer parts of the world what we mean by this expression, to them would be defined as luxury. We tend to take for granted that having enough to feed ourselves on, having adequate shelter (frequently above ‘adequate’) and be suitably clothed is what we define as enough but so many others who share this planet with us are lacking in at least one of these areas. Should we be more willing to restrict ourselves to ‘comfortably’ and thus save the extra strain on the planet our living more than comfortably creates? Where should we direct our ‘surplus’ in order to create maximum effect?

These are the debates we should be having to preserve our planet to make it habitable, and comfortably so, for those who come after us. I’m sure that I and other grandparents would hate to think that we had lived our lives so selfishly, going beyond ‘comfortably’, that the planet we left behind wasn’t suitable for our precious grandchildren. I believe the time has come to be having these debates, changing our ambitions, and recognising our collective responsibility.