Thursday 25 November 2021

Time for new adventures

I'd only intended this 'sabbatical' to last for a couple of months, and though the latest lockdown threw a spanner in some my plans for my 'doing whatever I want' time, there have been a few concerns growing in the back of my mind:

  • Money. It almost goes without saying, but money is kind of a necessity in our society. Whilst I've saved to create an adequate buffer for the short-term, it will run out, and I'd like to have a job before that happens.
  • Time. Few people would blink at a resume gap of a couple of months. More than that, and it becomes an issue. Whilst I enjoy having this time for me, I'm aware that there's a growing risk of long-term unemployment, the longer I take.
  • Collaboration. But most importantly, I do miss having a team of people to gather with on a daily basis and work on interesting and challenging projects together. Jobs allow us to do this *and* get paid for it. I do currently get to do a little of this through my volunteer work, but it's mostly with people who volunteer on the side of full-time jobs, and so naturally it's not the same as collaborating with somebody who can dedicate a lot of time and energy to the thing.
So, I've been searching and applying for jobs. I've set myself a few ground-rules:
  • Don't pigeonhole myself. It would be natural to simply just search for 'librarian' and 'communications' work, but there are interesting jobs out there that sit outside this scope. In fact, one of the more interesting jobs that I had an interview for was completely out of left-field, but still aligned closely with my skill-set. Similarly, temp agencies have sent me job descriptions for work that I would have never have considered. Admittedly, some of them were clearly not a good fit for me, but other suggestions have expanded my outlook for the kinds of work that I might want to consider.
  • Don't apply for just anything that I can do. There are definitely jobs out there that I could do quite confidently, but I know that my heart just wouldn't be in it. If I have doubts during the application process - especially after speaking to the hiring manager - then I give myself permission to bow out, and focus more on those applications that I really feel enthusiastic about. Applying for jobs is hard enough, without dedicating the time and energy into an application that I'm not one hundred per cent sure about.
  • Get paid more or learn more. I know where my strengths are, and what I'm worth. However, I also know where I want to build new skills, and in those areas it's worth considering roles at a lower level than I'm used to. To expand my experience at a comfortable level of responsibility, whilst being mentored by a good supervisor - definitely worth taking a pay cut.
There's one thing that I've particularly found useful and enjoyable about this process, that I haven't always taken advantage of previously. You see that bit in the job ad that says, 'For more information about the position, contact xxxxxx'?' I've come to realise that it's such an important part of the process that is often understated.

Firstly, it's an opportunity to become a familiar name and face if you're an otherwise-unknown entity. You can't assume that there won't be internal applicants - I can almost guarantee that there will be. It's a chance to make an initial impression on somebody who will be shortlisting applicants. So, while you're asking questions about the role, be sure to add little tidbits of information, like, 'Oh, I worked at the National Library for a few years and they used XXX platform. Do you use something similar?' It's also encouraging if they also ask you questions about yourself - so be ready to pitch yourself!

It's an opportunity for them to move away from the corporate speak of the position description, and give you a meaningful interpretation of what the job entails, and what particular skills and experience they prioritise and value. A good manager will already have a good pitch ready - after all, they want to attract good people to the role. If you come away from the conversation still having little idea of what's involved, then that could be a red flag.

Finally - and most importantly - it's a chance to gauge what this person might be like as a colleague and supervisor, and perhaps glean something about the work culture. In some cases, a couple of initial questions have turned into a fun and stimulating chat, all about the way they work, what some of the pleasures and challenges are about the job, and the different approaches there are out there in addressing the prevalent issues. These conversations really get me excited and enthusiastic about applying - and I hope they also get the hiring manager looking forward to seeing my application. These social connections are so important, right from the get-go, because they are going to influence everybody's impression of whether they want to work with you or not.

In one such conversation that really resonated with me, the manager acknowledged that they was a lot of movement happening, and that they were looking to take a chance and attract staff from the many people out there who were currently seeking 'new adventures'. 

New adventures sound great to me, and I'm all for it.

Monday 8 November 2021

The great reinvention

For months now, we've been hearing about the great resignation. As society starts emerging from 12-18 months of lockdowns and working from home, there is - unsurprisingly - a trend of people leaving their jobs, often without something secure lined up. Some have decided to return to study whilst others (such as myself) have decided to take a short break, and bank on having a number of choices reveal themselves in the coming month.

Indeed, just scrolling through my LinkedIn feed yesterday, I spotted a couple of posts from people in my extended network saying things like:

"I've made a tough decision to say farewell ... So, where am I off to? Well, I don't know yet! My new adventure is still unfolding, even to me... looking for the right fit, a place where I can add value and make a sustainable difference with my skill set... it felt right to close this beautiful chapter before starting a new one."


"I have always been so proud to work at XXX and always felt safe, supported and enabled. But not us the time to take a risk and try something new. ...Time for a small break and onto the next opportunity."

In a way, it's a comfort to know that it's not just me that is doing this!

And it's certainly not a reflection on my previous employer. I was talking to a friend recently who told me that they were just exhausted, and wanted to do something different, but also didn't have the energy to learn a new job from scratch right away. And with this exhaustion, they weren't in the right mindset to go through all the processes of job applications and interviews.

So, when I heard word of a 'great resignation', I was initially skeptical. After all, we've been waiting for the retirement of baby boomers for 15 years, and perhaps the imminence of a great resignation in Australia has been greatly exaggerated. Still, it makes sense in theory - many of us have spent much of the past two years holed up in the same domestic space where we sleep, eat, work, read/watch tv, and sleep again.

Whilst working in a busy office has its share of social interactions, distractions, and the gratification that comes with collaborating and having in-person validation from professional peers, working from home is an entirely different experience. It is an isolated time with plenty of opportunity for introspection, and where I often get energy from the presence of colleagues to stay motivated and on-track, when I'm working from home, I have to come up with all that energy myself.

It can be exhausting, and when you need to summon up all that energy, the questions arise: Why am I doing this? Is this all there is? What do I want to do when the world opens up again?

Again, no shade on my previous employer, who were a wonderful team to work with, but if I'm not being my best person in the workplace, then maybe it's time to move onto something else.

Which brings me to my gripe of today - the phrase 'the great resignation'.

When I see this term arise, it comes out of a place of panicked fear - and from the perspective of the employer. Oh no! People are deciding that they want something else from their lives, and now you must quickly change your work culture to keep them! Here's a listicle on how to make your brilliant staff stay!

Firstly, people have *always* been resigning from crappy jobs, so this isn't a new trend, but by all means, if you manage a team with a toxic culture, you should probably change that. Secondly, my best managers have always been 100% supportive of my leaving to take on new and exciting opportunities, and if you really care for your workers, the best thing you can do is shake their hand and offer to be a reference once they start applying for jobs.

And then you can go out and start headhunting rising talent that have left other organisations in search of a new challenge to shine in.

So, I'd like to rename this current phenomenon as 'the great reinvention'. A time to switch things up again, try new things, build new teams, and explore new opportunities with a new workforce with new skills.

One thing's for certain - if this pandemic was already too long to be locked up in the same space day in, day out, then life is definitely too short to be spending it doing the same thing year in, year out. So, let's embrace change!

Wednesday 27 October 2021

When words matter

In last month's post, I made mention of those people who, opposing vaccination passports, claim that this will create a kind of 'apartheid' society. I said that they weren't entirely wrong - and I still believe that these kinds of punitive and restrictive actions do have the (perhaps unintended) consequence of furthering inequalities in society and reinforcing misinformation amongst those who feel that they are being discriminated against. And whilst the vast majority of our population are on the way to being fully vaccination, there has been a slower take-up amongst marginalised communities - particularly people who are Indigenous, from migrant backgrounds or living with a disability.

But, as Mike pointed out, the use of the word 'apartheid' in this context is inaccurate and, let's be frank, offensive. Words matter, and for these groups to adopt language such as 'apartheid' and 'segregation' - that has historically referred to policies of cultural and racial discrimination - is creating a false equivalence. Nobody chose to be black in US states that adhered to Jim Crow laws. Nobody chose to be Indigenous in Australia at a time when they weren't even considered fit to vote until 1967. Whereas everybody now has a choice to be vaccinated (except those with a medical exemption). It's no more a case of discrimination as it is to prohibit people from smoking inside buildings and many public spaces - a habit that poses a health risk to others around them.

Similarly appalling is footage of anti-vaccination protests where people are chanting, 'My body, my choice' - a familiar feminist slogan in the ongoing fight for women's reproductive rights. To equate these public health measures to patriarchal oppression on women's bodies is, again, downright insulting to all who have fought for women's rights.

On the flip side, looking back at media reports and commentary around last month's anti-vax protests in Melbourne, the term 'thug' is often used to describe those protestors. Whilst this word has not historically been so problematic, the context of its common usage in recent years - especially in the US around police brutality and  the Black Lives Matter movement - indicates a strong racial element in its usage. And whilst these is an very strange irony about a group of predominantly white right-wing anti-vaxxers being described as 'thugs', it's time that we think a bit more carefully about the words that we chose, and the ways that they might be unintentionally loaded and misconstrued.

And finally, there's that word, 'freedom' - particularly common in regards to reports of 'new freedoms for vaccinated people' in media releases about easing of restrictions. It implies that that those who are not vaccinated are not free - which really is a misnomer. They always had a freedom of choice, and they are still free to get vaccinated. And living in lockdown, we were still relatively free from the risk of COVID - especially when you compare the statistics with those from other countries.

Words matter - they deserve our care. They have meaning to those who have historically suffered from discrimination, and they are not there for others to twist and adopt for their own unrelated grievances, and add insult to injury.

We're intelligent human beings - we have a responsibility to find better words to serve our purposes if we need them.

(Also - if you can, please get vaccinated. If you have doubts, talk to your medical professional about why you should get vaccinated.)

Wednesday 13 October 2021

A month of finding balance

When I'd first told people that I'd be resigning from my job, and taking 'a month or two' off working, the first thing everybody asked me was, 'What are you going to do?' My half-serious response was always, 'Whatever I feel like I wanna do. Gosh!'

But seriously, before making any grand plans or taking up new creative pursuits, I mostly just wanted to get my life in order. For the longest time, I've felt like I've been unable to adequately manage all of my 'life admin', that adult humans are generally expected to be able to manage in the time when they're not engaged in full-time work. To be frank, I'd feel accomplished if I'd managed to cook my meals, wash my clothes, and pay my bills in the waking hours between work and sleep.

And so, today marks one month of my self-imposed unpaid sabbatical, which seems like a good point in time to consider what I've achieved in that time in terms of imposing some better discipline in my life admin.


This was always going to be at the top of my list. For many years now, I haven't been doing enough exercise, and so this was the first thing that needed to change. In fairness, I'd ride my bike to and from work most days, but the switch to work from home arrangements in early August changed that. With the recent lockdown, residents were permitted two hours of exercise a day, which set my parameters. And so, my daily routine started out as:

  • Ride my bike 6.5km to the Australian War Memorial.
  • Walk up and down Mount Ainslie (4.5km return trip)
  • Ride my bike back home.
I've also taken the opportunity to switch things up and explore the many trails up Red Hill and Mount Majura.

One month in, I'm not sure if I'm actually any fitter yet - those hills are still a struggle to climb, with both my legs and lungs hating me for it, but I can usually manage it without too many stops along the way. However, there's something quite meditative about walking and pushing one's body's limits, and it's given my plenty of time to think and process where I am in life and where I want to be. And when that's a bit too much to tackle, I've also been exploring the world of podcasts.

I've also discovered that Spring has been an excellent time for flower-spotting - especially native orchids. I do plan to also visit Black Mountain very soon, as I keep reading accounts of other rare native wildflowers there.

As it's October, I've also been participating in the Great Cycle Challenge. In previous years, I've set my goals at 250km, but this time I decided to challenge myself to complete 500km in 31 days. So far, I'm on track to meet this target, having down 229km - almost halfway there! I'm also very grateful for those who have donated money to support cancer research (which you can do here if you like).


So, this isn't a new thing, but volunteering takes time. With my volunteer commitments at IFLA, I'd say that it averages at around five hours a week. But it can also easily snowball during busy times, and so this month has been a chance to immerse myself into the list of things that I meant to get done over the past three months - specifically, train myself up in using the new content management platform and repository systems, update parts of the website, and catalogue all of the Section's documents and publications from the old website onto the new repository - so far, over 100 records and still more to go. In essence, it feels like a part-time job, with irregular hours, but I know that this is just a busy time of change, and once I get over this hump of work, things will settle again. Plus, it's been a good opportunity to keep exercising my information skills in writing and editing online content, cataloguing records, liaising with web managers, and working on team projects.

Life Administration

I also made a list of all of the things that I'd been putting off, including:
  • Clearing my computer desktop and either deleting or organising all my electronic documents into folders
  • Backing up all of my important electronic documents
  • Setting up a hanging file to organise all of my paper documents and records
  • Clearing my personal email inbox
  • Reorganising my automated banking transactions
  • Contacting the property manager to fix a number of things around the apartment block which had been unreported for many months
These are all just little things that I've let slide, but really, they're low-hanging fruit, and it's been great to tick all of these things off.


Thankfully, going out to work on our garden patch at the Canberra City Farm has been a permitted activity during lockdown, and so I've headed out there every few days to do a bit more weeding, plant a few more seedlings (keeping my fingers crossed that the frost doesn't kill them) and lay down more fertiliser, compost and mulch. It's looking pretty amazing now!

Now I'm working on growing tomatoes. After last year's tomato crop, we kept a heap of seeds, so I've been germinating them over the past few weeks, and now have some successful seedlings growing.

I'm looking forward to getting these into the ground - after Melbourne Cup Day, of course. (That's the rule for Canberra tomatoes!)

Tidying up

Finally, it wouldn't be spring without some spring cleaning. I've been going through my clothes and methodically 'weeding my collection'. So far, I've realise that I have twice as many t-shirts as I actually need (or wear).

Being in lockdown, there have been reports that many of the usual 'op shop' organisations are overrun by donations of unwanted clothing. That's why I've decided to go with UPPAREL to upcycle/recycle my unwanted clothes. Yes, there's an associated cost involved (rather than just dropping them off at the op shop), but they are focused on minimising clothing waste, either sending wearable clothing to charities who need them, or upcycling and recycling textiles into new products - none of it ends up in landfill. I really do want to be more sustainable in the way I dispose of household materials, and this is one way that I can make a difference.

Other little things

  • Eating and sleeping at sensible hours - clearly I still need to work on getting to bed earlier!
  • Limiting my caffeine intake. While I was working, my day would start with a few cups of filter coffee, and then a double espresso coffee at morning tea time. I still start with filter coffee, but I'm cutting back on the espresso (especially since I no longer have the budget to buy daily coffees!)
  • Donating plasma - once every two weeks
  • Catching up with people - strangely enough, it's actually been easier to catch up with friends when they've been working at home, and looking for an excuse to leave the house and have an impromptu cuppa in the park.
  • Reading - I thought I'd have a lot more time to do this now, but I still need to work on setting that time aside. Still, I've made some headway in reducing my to-be-read pile of books.
So, what happens next? My main goal at the moment is to try to keeping drilling in daily routines that keep my mind and body healthy. I'm not sure if it's working yet, but I've definitely reached the point where I feel like I can actually do this, so I guess the next steps are to keep doing it!

The interesting thing, though, is that I still don't feel like I've suddenly got a whole bunch of free time. Those 37 hours a week that I would have spent working in a job has just filled itself up with what still just feels like the essentials of life. We talk a lot about work-life balance, and in the absence of work, these life essentials have consumed most of my time. The next-next step will be figuring out how, once I start working again, I keep my life in balance, and stay in control of all of the things, whilst finding some free time to spend on more creative pursuits.

Tuesday 5 October 2021


It was a moment five years ago, today - 3:25pm, Wednesday 5 October 2016 - when I stepped into the Arrivals Lounge at Canberra Airport. It was one of those crossroads moments. I didn't know what the future held in store, but it was time to take a leap in a new direction, and trust that my skills and experience would carry me.

I'd pressed the pause button on my career. My next options were to either un-pause or reset.

This was on the back of having spent much of the previous four years living and working abroad in the development sector, and a particularly enjoyable two months of backpacking around Europe for the summer. However, I'd decided that I'd done my stint of globetrotting and exploring weird and wonderful places, and it was time that I got on with being serious about my career and settling down. 

Canberra seemed as good a place as any - it had its share of cultural institutions and I wasn't ready to live in a big city yet. I didn't have a job to go to, but I had some promising leads, and within a couple of weeks I'd managed to land two jobs. One of them was in Sydney, which posed a logistical challenge, but I made it work for the short term until I finally committed full-time to the role in Canberra.

Five years on, I find myself back at those crossroads.

I feel like I've now come full-circle, and the time that I've taken in recent weeks has helped me re-centre and provide the opportunity to consider my future directions. (A couple of months backpacking in Europe would have also helped, but I clearly need to postpone that for the immediate future.)

Looking back, I realise that I've subconsciously been taking the time to 'reset' every 5 years or so. Ten years ago, in September 2011, I left my job to go and live in Japan - again putting my career on hold for a period of time, before seeking new career directions and adventures. Pause. Reset.

In hindsight, all of this has made me appreciate the importance of taking proper breaks in our working lives. Whilst I'm immersed in a busy job, I don't have the space and time to deeply consider my place in the world and what new opportunities to take. Now I'm on pause, I feel like I have all the time in the world before making the next move - whether I unpause and do more of the same, or completely reset and find a new direction.

And then... bring on 2026!

Monday 20 September 2021

A roadmap for libraries?

Last week, the NSW government announced its upcoming 'freedoms for fully vaccinated people', with Victoria announcing their 'roadmap out of lockdown' over the weekend. Both of them have incentivised vaccination by eventually easing restrictions for people who have received two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, and can verify this through a 'vaccination passport'.

So, what does this mean for libraries? How do these principles sit with values of freedom of access to information and privacy? Can libraries open up and still keep people safe? Let's take a look.

Re-opening libraries

In NSW and Victoria, many library buildings are closed, and offering contactless 'click and collect' services. Whilst neither of these states specifically mention libraries, NSW's roadmap mentions that once the state reaches 70% double-vaccinated (approximately 5 October), "indoor entertainment and information facilities including cinemas, theatres, music halls, museums and galleries can reopen with 1 person per 4sqm or 75% fixed seated capacity", but these will only be open to those who are fully vaccinated or have a medical exemption. (On a side note, I was curious to see the mention of music halls - perhaps they did some research on the reopening of cultural venues coming out of the Spanish Influenza outbreak of 1920.)

On the other hand, Victoria has indicated that its community facilities in metropolitan areas should stick to click and collect until 80% are fully vaccinated (approx 5 November), at which point in time they can have vaccinated people inside the library (1 person per 4 sqm, max 150). Regional Victorian community facilities are already allowed up to 20 people indoors per facility, increasing to 1 vaccinated person per 4 sqm with a max of 30 ppl on 26 October, then 150 people on 5 November.

Of course, the big condition of re-opening libraries in these cases, is that people must be fully vaccinated to use these facilities, and wear a mask indoors. Given the trouble that libraries have already encountered in the past managing those who do not want to wear masks, asking visitors for evidence of vaccination is going to be another requirement that will not be fun for frontline staff to enforce.

Here in the ACT, libraries are closed, and do not offer click and collect. The ACT Chief Minister has already indicated that they will not be implementing a 'vaccine passport' system. What this means for libraries safely reopening remains to be seen.

Finally, there are the libraries in all of the other states. At the moment, it's business as usual with physical services on offer, but it will be interesting to watch is how libraries will need to respond once the state borders re-open, and they move from living in a 'Zero COVID' environment to a 'living with the virus' environment. It won't be an easy adjustment, but that will become the reality in the new year, and libraries in these states may need to implement restrictions to reduce the risk of the spread.

Quarantining books

This has always been one of those contentious issues, ever changing. We did a lot of book quarantining last year with the first lockdowns. Then it pretty much stopped once we returned to COVID zero and now we focus more on using gloves and sanitiser on hands. However, once books come back into circulation, in a 'living with the virus' environment, there will need to be a new benchmark for managing the risk of infection through book surfaces - especially if libraries move into a hybrid system of in-person browsing and borrowing (for those fully vaccinated) and click and collect (for those not fully vaccinated).

Vaccinating library staff

This has not been mentioned in either of the roadmaps, but in the US we are already seeing instances of organisations mandating vaccination of all employees. Whilst I would hope that all librarians would have the skills to manage and identify misinformation around COVID-19 vaccines, and get the jab themselves, there are instances in the US where a large proportion of staff are refusing to get vaccinated - and indeed, we already see it happening amongst health care workers in Australia. Library organisations owe it to their workers to ensure that they have a safe workplace to go to - and that includes keeping them safe from other workers who choose to not get vaccinated. 


This is a big one. Both the NSW and Victorian roadmaps hinge on the principle of controlling the movement and activities of those who are not vaccinated - which means constantly asking people for personal information, which might include:

  • Full name
  • Age
  • Vaccination status
  • Medical reason for not being vaccinated
There were plenty of concerns expressed around libraries gathering personal information for contact tracing purposes last year. What is proposed will be next level - it will be intrusive, confronting, and sends the message that only certain people are welcome to enter the library. A vaccination passport is effectively an ID card that everybody will be expected to carry with them and produce when requested. And whilst it may be absolutely necessary for keeping staff and other library users safer, it's not going to be sending a positive message to the community.

Access to information and services

There are already many who are opposing the establishment of a 'vaccination passport' system, saying that it will create a kind of apartheid society - and they're not entirely wrong. Whilst there are many who choose not to get vaccinated as a result of misinformation, there are also those who have medical reasons for not being vaccinated. There are fundamental principles of freedom of access to library resources that should be considered. Of course, keep your staff safe, but provide equal services to all - don't promote library access as a 'special reward' or 'freedom' to those who are fully vaccinated. A freedom for a select group of people is a restriction for everybody else. Find ways to equitably reach out and connect to all in your community - not just those who are allowed to walk in the front door.

Keeping library workers safe

I've already mentioned staff vaccination, which is an essential part of worker safety, but there's also the occupational hazards of delivering frontline services. Last year, when libraries reopened but required users to maintain social distancing and wearing masks, it was those workers on the frontline who were on the receiving end of customer abuse. Adding the above privacy concerns to the mix raises the risk to our workers, who may be expected to further police the rules of entry, and ask each and every person coming to the library to provide their evidence of vaccination. Frontline staff will be putting their physical and emotional wellbeing on the line every time they do this.

So, where to from here? My personal opinion is that libraries should only provide contactless services to their entire community until it is safe for them to reopen in-person services to their entire community. Unfortunately, it's not going to be possible to provide physical services safely for the near future - especially once we come out of lockdown, the borders reopen, and we have to 'live with the virus' at the expense of those who are not vaccinated (whether that be of their choosing or not).

The unfortunate reality, though, is that there is a stronger appetite to completely reopen than there is to stay closed. We know that there is value in libraries marketing themselves as 'essential' rather than 'nice to have' - especially when it comes to funding and budgets - and when library buildings are closed, many staff are stood down without pay. On the flipside, we currently see university libraries in Melbourne that have stayed open through lockdown, with casual frontline staff put in the unenviable choice of either taking paid shifts and risking their wellbeing, or not getting paid. The risk is that this will become the norm, where those who can work from home will continue to do so, whilst frontline staff are sent back to the frontline.

Finally, the ALIA Board have just released a statement, highlighting the importance of keeping staff safe, countering misinformation around vaccines, and ensuring that library services are open to all.

How we actually do that will be the big challenge, moving into 2022.

Friday 20 August 2021

What do you say to taking chances?

Nineteen months ago, I took a huge risk. I resigned from my job in an organisation that I'd had my sights on for more than ten years, and was very much a dream employer in my eyes.

January 2020 was a complicated time. I'd returned to Canberra, two weeks after my father's funeral, to a smoky hellscape of a city, due to the ongoing devastation of bushfires across New South Wales. I saw a newjob opportunity that I thought I would be well-suited for, which was a sideways shift in my career, focused on publishing and communications. I put in an application, and was offered the job. In hindsight, it was a hasty decision - possibly a rash one - but it was the right one for me at the time. I needed a change, and this was a chance to focus on something adjacent to my previous career, but quite different.

I started in mid-February, and by mid-March... well, you know how the past 18 months have been. I produced a lot of work that I'm incredibly proud of, and in doing so, I built my skills as a writer, editor and creative producer. I also learnt a lot - about what it meant to be a communications and campaign manager. How strategic communications are meant to operate, and the importance of being proactive and responsive during times of crisis. I worked hard on this, and whilst with the right guidance, I was able to get a lot of this done, I continuously found myself second-guessing my skills, and my ability to get a satisfactory outcome from an advocacy campaign.

There were the most painstaking moments where I would lose sleep over whether we were getting the messaging right - or horribly wrong - and whether the right approach would make the difference between enthusiastic take-up from our stakeholders and quiet non-participation - or worse, downright hostility. This is the continuous brain space of being a communications manager, and after eighteen months, I was exhausted, mentally and physically.

In this role, I was not always the best person that I could be.

So, last month, I took a huge risk. I put in my resignation, allowing for plenty of time to have a thorough handover of the role. I don't have a new job lined up at this stage, but to be perfectly honest, I'm not keen to rush straight immediately from one job to the next. It's been five years since I had a break between jobs, and the thought of taking a month or two to refresh, reflect, regenerate, and focus a bit on my mental and physical wellbeing, is something that I'm really looking forward to.

Of course, I have doubts about whether this has been the right decision. I've enjoyed my time with my current employer - they're good people and they're doing good things. I care about the work that they do, and if I'm entirely honest, I'd say that they deserve better than what I have to offer. I'm also grateful for the opportunities that they've provided, and through them, I've added an impressive suite of achievements to my career path.

I guess I always knew that it was never going to be a 'forever job', but now it's time to move on to something that focuses more on my strengths, where I can be the best me. Whether that's as a writer, editor, content producer, or moving back in line with my previous trajectory in the area of cultural institutions, I'm excited about moving forward to a possible future where I can excel at the things that I'm good at.

Saturday 3 July 2021

On identity by blood quantum...

It was a seemingly harmless conversation with an Uber driver.

We got chatting about our lives - she was from Kenya, and after moving to Australia she had married a local, and now she has two kids who are "half-black and half-Aussie".

I cringed. I would have said something, but I didn't want to affect my Uber rating by giving her my five cents' worth about how people of colour demean themselves by referring themselves as half-this and half-that.

And it's fair enough. There was a time that I would have referred to myself as 'half-Chinese'. I wouldn't even need to mention what my other half was - it would have been assumed to be white Anglo-Saxon. That's the way that white supremacy works.

It was only when a friend told me about a conversation that they'd had with a relative, who was doing her usual 'racist aunt' schtick and talking about how awful all the Asian immigrants were. "What about Andrew?" my friend asked. "He's Asian."

"Oh, Andrew's okay, because he's only half."

I kinda wish my friend hadn't told me that story - I kinda never looked at that racist aunt the same again. But it also made me think... am I really "only half-Asian"? Which half, exactly.

Furthermore, it was through listening to Indigenous colleagues in my previous role that I started to realise exactly how offensive this kind of wording was, defining people's race by their blood quantum. It's still in Australia's living memory that Indigenous kids who were were taken away from their families on this basis, as a way of defining who was a 'real' Indigenous person, and who wasn't. And, indeed, this language still emerges from time to time to question one's status as an Indigenous person.

Needless to say, terms such as half-caste are deeply offensive, and for somebody to describe their cultural identity of being 'half'' anything just plays to water down the authenticity of one's identity.

This much feels obvious to me now, and yet it upsets me when I see people of colour continue to define themselves in this way - for example, on a recent show on national TV, when a presenter referred to herself as half-Asian.

So, white folks, please be mindful of using this kind of language, and people of colour - yes, I realise that this kind of terminology is prevalent in Asian cultures (I'm thinking terms like 'hāfu' in Japan, and similar in places like Malaysia and Singapore), but we need to transcend this kind of thinking, otherwise it'll continue to be used against us. I'm sorty of okay with being called 'mixed' or 'Eurasian' - whilst not as offensive as being called 'half', they're still not great. At the end of the day, it's probably easiest to ask how people prefer to identify - and don't do it by asking 'So... what are you?'

Anyway, here endeth the little rant.

Wednesday 30 June 2021

Blogjune Days 20-30 - The party at the eye of the storm

So, I have neglected to blog these last five days. In my defence, I've had quite a busy week.

On Tuesday evening, I boarded a flight from Canberra to Adelaide for my longest work break since last Christmas. I'd been getting rather anxious about the news of the Bondi outbreak coming out of Sydney, especially with reports of early-holiday-goers racing across the border to the ACT before the restrictions kicked in. I arrived in Adelaide without incident, but if I'd opted to go a day later, I would have been turned around due to the fact that I'd recently been to Queanbeyan, which is technically in NSW despite being closer to where I live than some of the farther-flung suburbs of the ACT.

Anyway, Adelaide! The last time I'd been here, it was for WOMAD in March 2020, mixing with thousands of strangers in a music festival setting. Two weeks later, we were all in lockdown.

This time, though, it finally felt like things were getting back to normal - with the additional task of checking into every venue and shop on arrival. There were fun adventures to a craft brewery with fancy beers, an inner-city distillery with fancy gin, and the Adelaide wine centre with an extensive range of wines available to taste. We also engaged in fun adventures around town, from wandering the Botanical Gardens to visiting random museum exhibitions.

And then there was the Adelaide Cabaret Festival. I have been wanting to visit this festival for years, and I'm glad that I finally had an excuse to go! My budget only allowed for a few shows - Alan Cumming was utterly charming with the world premiere of his cabaret show - performed in a theatre will thousands in the audience - and the Sisters of Invention were an absolute delight. Other evenings were spent singing along with Trevor Jones in the piano bar.

And then there was the final night of the festival on Saturday night, at the festival bar, 'Club Cumming', where Alan entertained a crowded dance floor with DJ antics and guest entertainers (including a surprise performance from Trevor Ashley as Shirley Bassey). The drinks were flowing, the dance floor crowded and stomping, and the fun and frivolity aplenty.

I'm not a big party person, but after a few days of being re-immersed in live music, theatre, and culture, I just felt so alive again - something that I haven't really felt in over a year and a half.

Then Sunday came, and we trudged, sleep-deprived and brain-weary, back to Adelaide Airport for our return flight. At the gates, we were told that South Australia had just closed their borders to the ACT, so we'd better be sure that we weren't planning to come back any time soon.

And now, three days later, all Canberrans are instructed to wear masks in public, a substantial proportion of Australia is going into lockdown - or stay-at-home orders - and it all feels a little bit like history repeating...