Reading the Play on the Mental Health Crisis

Reading the Play on the Mental Health Crisis

Jasmin Pedretti

Jasmin Pedretti

Journalist

Reading The Play on the Mental Health Crisis

by Ponderings Radio

Reading the Play on the Mental Health Crisis

‘Read the Play’ is a mental health awareness and wellbeing program, specifically aimed at kids between the ages of 14 and 16. 

The program is presented at football and netball clubs and fuses fun with education. Games and jigsaw puzzles create a conversation and a safe space where kids can ask important questions.

We sat down with David Langley, chairman of ‘Read the Play’, to talk about the growing mental health crisis, how he created a movement, and what he has learnt along the way.

What is ‘Read the Play’s’ back-story?

As the community director of the Kempe Group, I wanted to change the Kempe sponsorship model and one way of doing this was to create a youth program and through the process ‘Read the Play’ was born, initially teaching kids about alcohol and illicit drugs and it was delivered by parents after an 8 training session with the first program running in 2007.

After running this model for several years, I wasn’t happy with the numbers and parents weren’t comfortable answering questions about topics surrounding mental health. Words like depression, anxiety and schizophrenia were popping up.

 

A new model/program was developed around a games night that would deliver the questions easier. We changed the philosophy to be more about mental health, and professional clinicians were engaged to deliver the program. 

 

The next year we doubled our numbers. We went from around 650 to over a thousand, and then gradually went up to 4,500 kids overall, across Victoria.

 

How successful are the results?

Deakin University is doing a two-year review program. They’ve already done one year. I can’t tell you the results but they indicate we’re making a significant difference. After the second year’s complete, we will have documented proof/evidence that we are making a difference in the communities we work in, which will allow us to present to government for funding. Even though we have great sponsors we require ongoing funding to ensure the stability and viability of the program long-term.

What makes people in business want to support something like this?

It’s for kids. Also, mental health touches 1 in 4 people; it’s everywhere we look. It’s not a hard sell. Some people don’t get it, and I can’t understand that. Mental health issues have touched my family network, maybe that’s the key to getting it. 

I get blown away at times. I get emotional because people are so good, I get angry, because of the people that would rather give money to a club to buy beer which fuels the problems ‘Read the Play’ aims to prevent.

What are the specific components you have learnt about creating a movement like this?

I didn’t realize when I started ‘Read the Play’, how big the problem of mental health was. I think that has staggered me but also been my drive. I’ve realized, we could be helping a lot more kids. So, passion is one component. 

The other is having a great group of dedicated staff and volunteers on board. 

Growth is hard to contain, so we’ve had to change our structure and work out how we can do better.

How do you envision the future of ‘Read the Play’?

‘We’re developing the program for under 17-year-olds, which will focus more on youth suicide and safe partying/driving etc. 

People in Melbourne are interested in what we’re doing and want to run it in their areas. 

Ultimately, my vision is to get to as many places possible across Australia and continue to develop a very professional program. 

I’m chuffed when I look back at the number of stories where we have helped kids. We can’t stop. We need to keep the momentum going.

There were moments during this conversation, where Mr Langley’s eyes would well up. Youth suicide rates continue to sky-rocket, and too many kids suffer from depression or anxiety. Mr Langley and his ‘Read the Play’ team are on a mission to change this. The program’s success is proof that an idea, once put into action, can become a movement that creates phenomenal change. 

 To be a part of the ‘Read the Play’ journey click the link. 

KIDS HELPLINE – 1800 55 1800
LIFELINE – 13 11 14
HEADSPACE – 1800 650 890

Reishi Mushroom Magic

by Jasmin Pedretti 2020 is the year of the rat. Thankfully, it’s also the year of the reishi mushroom, which is a lot more appealing. This mystical shroom is set to become one of the year’s biggest food trends thanks to its abundance of health benefits and wellbeing...

Fleishman is in Trouble

by Jasmin Pedretti ‘Fleishman is in Trouble', Taffy Brodesser-Akner's debut novel, has a voice that is pure and tells the story of three complex characters with profundity.  While Toby Fleishman is undergoing a bitter divorce with wife Rachel, she suddenly disappears,...

EIGHT Wacky Fads That Should Never Come Back

Okay, so these actually happened. Before Tik Tok and flossing, our human race got into some pretty bizarre stuff. It’s amazing what the world can obsess over. We have collated the eight most absolutely wacko fads of all time for your amusement.

The Paramedic and His Quest For a Fear Less Life

Chris Breen is a paramedic, a father and husband, and a friend to many. He has assisted at terror attacks in Melbourne and saved lives. But one of the biggest battles he faced was the onset of anxiety

Will the #lifegoal meet the #reality?

Will the #lifegoal meet the #reality?

Will the #lifegoal meet the #reality?

Will the #lifegoal meet the #reality

by Jasmin Pedretti and Melbourne Social Media

by Jasmin Pedretti 

Life goals vs reality.

A phrase we see bouncing around the insta-phere is life goals. So, what is the ultimate life goal? For some, it might be climbing the Eiffel tower, for others it might be running with bulls, but with some of us at Ponderings, it is just finding a hobby that we like. So, we have decided to search for a hobby. Will the #lifegoal meet the #reality?

Japanese forest bathing.

First of all, we have the Japanese art of Shinrin-yoku, described in Professor Yoshifumi Miyazaki’s book ‘The Japanese Way of Forest Bathing for Health and Relaxation’. And we put it to the test.  

 Jasmin told Kate that they would be dabbling in the art of Forest Bathing. She got quite a shock when she found Kate wrapped in a pink, velvet dressing-gown with a matching shower cap, holding a giant rubber duck. Kate thought this attire would be suitable for bathing, little did she know there was no water involved.

Jasmin tried to show her how to connect with nature, relish in the healing power of trees and immerse herself in the forest atmosphere.

While Jasmin’s stress slowly depleted, she looked over at Kate, only to see that she was playing with her rubber duck. There was more quack than luxe. Let’s just say someone ended up with a splinter somewhere we shouldn’t mention.

Crocheting

Life goals vs reality. A phrase we see bouncing around the insta-phere is life goals. So, what is the ultimate life goal? For some, it might be climbing the Eiffel tower, for others it might be running with bulls, but with some of us at Ponderings, it is just finding a hobby that we like. So, we have decided to search for a hobby. Will the #lifegoal meet the #reality.

 No longer the past-time for nifty-nanna’s, and according to most reputable hipster clubs, the art of crocheting is now a funky past-time for millennials to master. 

 Jasmin could not wait to learn how to create a beautiful rug of her dreams. She watched as Kate seamlessly thread yarn through a stick. She nodded enthusiastically as Kate showed her the technique, her nimble fingers expertly looping and interlinking, slowly creating an intricate masterpiece. How hard could it be? Finally, it was Jasmin’s turn. 

To this day, no-one knows what happened. Quicker than a clove hitch at a Scout camp, Kate was presented with a twisted, tangled, terrified Jasmin.

Who knew that baby-pink wool could be so menacing. Is knitted shame a thing?

Maybe we should check in with Brene Brown.

Got a cool hobby? Drop us a comment on our Facebook Page with a pic of your latest achievement! 

A Period Through Time

The design of sanitary period items are made to conceal, discretion please! We don’t want everyone knowing our uterine wall is shedding

 

 

 

 

 

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Meet The Mother Who Turned Grief Into A Refuge For Kids

Meet The Mother Who Turned Grief Into A Refuge For Kids

Meet The Mother Who Turned Grief Into A Refuge For Kids

Deborah Saunders experienced a mother’s worst nightmare when her son was killed in a tragic car accident at age 17.

She recalls how the press bombarded her family, and mainstream media reported misleading articles. Everyone deserves a chance to tell their story. Here, Deborah explains in her own words how she coped with her son’s death and has healed her broken heart by looking after children.

 

The Barnardo’s Mother of the Year VIC 2019, has raised four children independently and fostered countless teenagers. She has devoted her life to providing young people with a home, a safe space and a chance for a better life. Deborah’s guiding light has saved those who have found themselves travelling down a dark and troubling path. Her home has been a place of protection and nurture.

 

Children, entrenched in a world of drug and alcohol abuse, in an endless cycle of poverty, full of uncertainties such as when or where they will get their next meal, yearn for the love and stability that Deborah provides. The number of children dependent on this support continues to rise. 

 

The latest figures from the Australian Institute of Family Studies have shown that the number of children in care has risen in Australia by 18% from 2013 to 2017.

Winning Mother of the Year has in no way affected her humility. Throughout our small chat, Deborah oozed motherly compassion and a determination to help kids that need it.  

 

What would you say is your biggest passion?

I think the rights of young people. Definitely. The rights of dignity and respect. Some of the young people I work with don’t have housing. They’re living in poverty and experiencing drug and alcohol abuse, childhood abuse. The worst part is it just keeps going. It doesn’t get addressed. There’s no healing, so that’s my job. 

 

Has there been an experience that inspired your passion for helping foster children? 

I think it was my childhood. I didn’t realize it at the time, of course, but it was a bit rough. I think also being a young person growing up in poverty, and then being able to reflect on actually how tough it is for these kids. I was one of the lucky ones because I had a family. Also, my kids would always bring friends home. We ended up with some staying, and these moments would help me reflect on how fortunate I was. 

 

What advice would you give to women who feel inadequate as mothers?

Be kinder to yourself. It’s tough to seek help but don’t be too proud to do it. My mum used to tell me, take it one hour at a time, if you can’t manage a whole day, break it down. 

 

Would you rather live in a treehouse or a cubby house?

A treehouse. 

What is your favourite book?

The Outsiders. It’s an old one, but it’s one of the first books I read.

This book may have shaped Deborah’s passion for the plight of the troubled youth.

The Outsiders is known as being an authentic depiction of teenage struggles since a 15-year-old actually wrote it. It is a story of children deprived of love in the pursuit of redemption. Aiding this pursuit is what provides Deborah with purpose every day.

 

Her daughter refers to her as the strongest woman in the country.

In 2009, her 17-year-old son Jack died instantly in a car accident. 

When asked about Jack, Deborah wants people to know that he was more than just a statistic. He was the glue of the family. He lobbied for his right to wear a mohawk when he was told to get rid of it in year 8. Jack was intelligent but also social and fun. He read a lot, could not abide bullies and questioned everything from the time he was little.

 

“I know all mothers think their kids are special, but Jack had a presence, he was larger than life and had a charisma that attracted all sorts. He could talk to anyone. I miss our long talks the most.”

Jack came to Deborah one Sunday morning and told her of a dream he’d had. The angel Gabriel had come to collect Jack, telling him he needed to go and help him save young people. The two of them laughed it off.

 

Deborah remembers how perfect the weather was the day her son died. Jack entered a car to try and intercept a fight and help a distressed boy. This mistake cost him his life as both boys died instantly. Jack was found to have a low alcohol reading, yet the media went on a rampage reporting a story of “drunken hoons”. It made the agony of losing her boy unimaginable. 

Denied the chance to see her son, Deborah felt she might have been able to save him.

 

“I still feel in my soul, that if they’d let me see Jack, I may have been able to bring him back. I think it’s a mother thing.” 

Deborah still cries. She still feels overwhelmed by grief and misses Jack with every breath. She was not alive or awake for the first twelve months after losing Jack. Losing a child is the loneliest thing on earth. 

“I can’t imagine what Jack would be doing for a living now, or even what he’d look like. It’s too painful. I tried writing to him, but it’s too hard, I talk to him all the time and especially at bedtime. Losing Jack has changed me.” 

 

However, Deborah knew she had to put one foot in front of the other to keep a roof over her other children’s heads.

 When faced with the devastating anguish of losing a child, Deborah has not allowed adversity to trump her soul. 

 

Horrifyingly life-altering and debilitating grief has brought Debra to her knees and yet within this, she has forged healing and a sense of peace through helping other kids and being of service to those that need love and stability in their lives.

She has put the pieces of her heart back together and offered it to those in need.

We salute this beautiful woman and can only ever hope to look to her and her story of her family and her beautiful Jack for inspiration and courage. 

 

 

We acknowledge the people of the Kulin Nation, on whose unceded sovereign land we work. We pay our respects to their Elders, past, present and emerging.

Socks and Sandals To Help The Homeless

Socks and Sandals To Help The Homeless

Socks and Sandals To Help The Homeless

Underworks has partnered with the Salvation Army, who together are on a mission to provide socks to those experiencing homelessness. #igiveasock is trending around Australia and its exciting to see an family business doing their bit. 

 

Jasmin Pedretti

Jasmin Pedretti

Journalist

Socks and thongs are a combo NOT made in heaven and neither is being displaced or homeless. 

This month, Australian family business Underworks is encouraging us to embrace this fashion faux pas to bring awareness to homelessness. They have partnered with the Salvation Army to provide a pair of warm, comfy socks to those that need it most. The mission is to help the thousands of homeless Australians who do not have access to this simple necessity that we may take for granted.  

All you need to do is upload a photo of yourself posing in socks n’ thongs (or sandals) to Instagram, along with the hashtag #igiveasock and the tag @underworksaustralia. 

With every post, a pair of socks will be donated to someone who needs it. The goal is to deliver 20,000 pairs of socks, which is almost half of Australia’s youth homelessness and a fifth of Australia’s total homeless population (2018 Census). 

Socks might not seem like much, but they are incredibly important. In fact, they are the most requested item by local shelters and least donated. Wet socks breed bacteria which causes infection. Not only this but wearing socks with holes decreases a person’s self-confidence, feeling of self-worth and motivation to seek employment. 

 

The Salvation Army Major, Brendan Nottle says that there is an increasing number of people who do not have access to clean socks. 

“In our experience working on the streets, we have seen an increasing number of people with serious foot diseases. Even worse, we have seen people lose their feet and, in some cases, lose their lives because they cannot access clean socks” says Brendan. 

A donated pair of socks will help keep people warm this winter, improve hygiene and health, and ultimately save lives. We think its worth posting a quirky pic for. 

Underworks has been keeping our tootsies warm and stylish with quality socks since 1999. They are one of Australia’s largest sock companies with a reputation for excellence.  

For this cause, they will be distributing a one-size-fits-all pair of socks made from premium excess yarns with a unique design to protect the feet from the elements.

Plus, Underworks have ensured minimised fabric waste, so the earth does not suffer. These brand-new socks have been specifically designed for the cause. 

Underworks founder and CEO Sam Todaro says:

“I Give A Sock is all about giving and offering some warmth to those who need it most. We’re proud to help make a difference.” 

You can help make a difference too. Instead of your usual selfie post, show that you give a sock and post something that will have a significant impact on someone’s life. The quirkier, the better!

 

Let us all embrace our inner bogan, put on our finest pair of socks n’ thongs and wear them with pride.

 

This is the perfect excuse to shake the dust off those rainbow-striped toe socks you have hiding in your drawer and give them the chance to shine for an unbelievable cause.       

 

You can track how many socks have been donated so far, here

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Independent Media is critical; it means no large media giant is pulling our strings or dictating what we write. Ponderings provides an alternative to networked media, producing stories about issues of social justice and humanity; that might not otherwise be told. Some you will need no introduction and some you will be uplifted to find out about and be inspired by. This year, in particular, our lineup is going to delight and surprise you.

 

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Bear Fire, Five Minute Reading Meditation

Bear Fire, Five Minute Reading Meditation

Instructions – please use a laptop or Ipad for this activity

*Attach your headphones-
*Click Play and on the Featured Artist.
*Skip the Ad! Adjust the volume for comfort
*Get Comfortable
*Read
*Ponder

So what is Mindmusic ? The first of it's kind just for you.

Instrumental music and language are syntactic systems, employing complex sequences in the Broca’s area of the brain. Linguistic and musical syntactic processing, these two human abilities can cross paths- sounds complex right? Let’s break it down- listening to harmonized music while reading a story designed to help you imagine and be mindful of the two experiences simultaneously. 

At first, it might seem distracting, but just like meditation, the more you practice, the better you get!

We have some uplifting and inspiring pieces coming up for you, paired with some of the world’s most beautiful harmonies. We have crafted some written pieces with a rhythm in the syllables and consonants.

We share it with you. A first of its kind in the world. May you imaginate while stimulating your senses and strengthening your mind. The first one is below- Bear Fire.

Bear Fire, our very first reading meditation. Plug in your headphones and select the music we have paired for you, relax, read and escape. Adjust the volume to suit your comfort. 

Instructions – please use a laptop or Ipad for this activity

The old man sits by the river, watching the ripples turn and eddy around branches. Shining egg like rocks weathered by eons of water flow shaped the movement of the water, and the old man smiles. His weathered face a portrait of a lifetime, and his smiles now as his grandson throws a rock into the water.

Why do you sit by the water so much Grandfather? The young man asks. Thinking how boring it must be to always be seated like this looking at the same water. His long grey hair is pulled back into a ponytail, he has humoured his granddaughter that morning and agreed to a pink sparkled hair tie with a small plastic butterfly glued to its edge. 

“You are in exploration, my child. But one day, when you are craving peace and stillness, you will understand that nothing remains the same in this water, it changes all of the time. Its the moments of contemplation that creates curiosity.” 

The young man grinned, so often his grandfather who would forget his truck keys would be full of this riddle like wisdom. He found him amusing. 

The old man sees the innocent amusement and understands it for what it is. Not mockery, but a youthful exuberance yet to know. 

His grandson is young and energetic, playing the sports of his peers, driving cars and holding the hands of pretty girls, he is good. He has made time to sit together.

The old man hopes that these small moments will stay with the boy when it is time for the old man to journey to his ancestors, for he knows it is coming soon. 

“Can you explain to me why you need to come here, other than getting away from the noise of the house?” asks the boy. 

“Ah, yes, the noise. It is the noise” he returns quietly as he reaches for their mugs and the thermos of tea he bought with him.  He hands them to the boy and motions with his wrinkled brown hand to pour.

Returning to the fallen branch he sat on, like a saddled old friend, he takes out the leather pouch and small packet of waffery papers.

The damp hairs and strands of tobacco are pressed into the paper, held gently between his fingers, and he breathes in deeply as he rolls it back and forth. The scent is earthy and whiskey, warm and sweet, amber and leathery. Like home. 

“Those will kill you, Abuelo,” says the boy. 

“Most likely,” says he. “Most things you love do in the end.” 

“We wear layers my boy, coats and shirts; the stories we are told and form our love and friendships, our beliefs and the things we use to survive. But sometimes we have worn them so long the fibres have etched into our skin.

We keep this hidden skin, and it keeps us warm, but we must be careful. The skin can become forgotten and grows knots and tears. Every so often, we must be still” he lights the tip of the cigarette and draws the sweet smoke in, exhaling slowly.

“By being still, we are reminded of the threads that need trimming, the loose threads that no longer serve us but bind us. New skin grows with a new coat, full of promise and hope. This is what our ancestors want for us, and it only comes from the stillness. I come here because Out There is a wild place of an exaggeration, it makes our senses run like a bear with his paws on fire, and we do not know it. We smell the smoke but do not know what it is. So I come here to put my paws in the water.”

“Moments are the currents in the stream you and I sit beside, coursing along, flowing and ebbing, running into each other. Without them, the fish cannot swim, the water does not stay fresh and vibrant. Such is flow. Without it, the water becomes stagnant, the heart develops a sickness in the soul, and the tragedy of moving through life without purpose is sad and causes anger.” 

“Like old Martha?” asks the young man. Old Martha was the woman who lived near their village, coming out every so often to yell abuse and grumble at every person for all the perceived wrongs only a bitter heart can conceive of. Her walking stick was as sharp as her words and her hatred for small children was notorious. People were frightened of her rage. 

“Yes, like old Martha, shaking her fist at our ancestors, because she feels they left her. But they did not, and neither did God, she forgot to be still so she could hear the whisper, the movement and the rhythm of life within the stillness. One day she will know it, and it will be a refreshing drink on a hot day, parching her poor soul. We must show mercy to those in anger for their longing.”

“Abuelo, how do you know all these things?”

“Because I did not rush, and I listen for a lost language.” 

“What is this language you talk about?” asked the boy. 

“It can’t really be explained, you either hear it or you don’t” he replied. 

The boy smiled at his crazy grandfather and they sat, listening to the sound of the water, the bird and the movement of nature. 

The boy was still and the old man smiled.

Did you enjoy our reading meditation? We would love if you would like and share it, or leave us a comment and tell us what your experience was.

Leave us a message on Insta or Twitter with #ponderingsmeditation.

The Warrior, the Compass and the Fight for Truth

The Warrior, the Compass and the Fight for Truth

The Warrior, the Compass and the Fight for Truth

A medical system in crisis, and one doctor’s fight to restore the moral compass. We unpack the issues with Paddy Dewan and put an invitation out to the Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt…

 

There are archetypal roles in human history, representing and maintaining the “moral compass” aspect of our human collectiveness. 

Shaman, Cleverman, Kung, Elder, Healer,  Judge, Psychologist, Nun, Yogini, Pastor, Rabbi, Journalist, the list of these intended guarding personages goes on. They all share a common fibre; people have looked to them to show us the way, to set the example and uphold safety, truth and care for the good of each other.  One such very admired role is that of Doctor.

The learned person who cares for the vulnerable and ill. Yet according to many in the field, it is becoming frighteningly apparent in many Australian medical establishments, the rose of the medical compass is faltering, no longer pointing North but rather  bending towards closed doors.

Yet there are those who are relentless in their dedication, these warrior types who continue to strive and fight to uphold the ideal, climbing through the trenches onward to navigate treacherous roads for the people left broken hearted and left wanting.

Missiles and words from colleagues are thrown, twitter grenades are launched and the very processes needed to keep the soles on their warrior shoes and continue the roles they have worked so hard for are being stripped away. 

 

People are hurting. This is real.

The hand on heart promise to ‘remember that there is an art to medicine as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy, and understanding may outweigh the surgeon’s knife or the chemist’s drug. I will not be ashamed to say “I know not,” nor will I fail to call in my colleagues when the skills of another are needed for a patient’s recovery.” These are the words formed so long ago adopted and adapted all over the world. The Oath of the Doctor. 

Vulnerability, accountability and tough conversations are no longer the growth tanks from which new ideas and ways spring forth. Instead of peer reviews, tainted news reports waxing lyrical into the hearts and minds of the general public seek to control the wheel.  The puppet strings are pulled by the powers to be, and brilliant journalists are haunting the halls with silenced mouths, and empty pens.

An underground smattering of Doctors and patients afraid to speak up and operate, patient’s heartbreaking -purposefully buried beneath a decaying process that may have lost its way. 

The inability for Surgeon Dr. Paddy Dewan to perform a life-saving operation in a public hospital because he has upheld his oath in favour of kowtowing to the people who have forgotten the face of their teachers. 

A surgeon banned from working in a host of public hospitals, not because he is not brilliant at what he does, it is because he says, he has tried to hold people accountable for mistakes, to make sure they don’t happen again.  

Yet people like Paddy are accused of the very thing they fight against- power and ego.   

There are not enough walls to fill the qualifications, I have never seen so many in one space. Then there are the photos, photos of happy kids and smiling parents. He fights day in day out from a tiny office in Sunshine, with old lino and bare of the glitz and glamour of the Eastern Suburbs. He is a globally respected surgeon, he runs a successful charity called Kind Cuts for Kids, helping save lives of children in developing countries and he gives a shit. 

Courage is a tangible and often instinctive response to a threat or a need to protect others, how do you believe it is forged? 

I was walking with my nephew many years ago, in a paddock. We were going to dig for worms beside a dam. I looked at my hand on the long-handled shovel as I raised it in the air and thrust it in the direction of his foot. I cut off the head of a snake that was just next to him, between the two of us.  

My primitive brain saw, heard and directed the message to the action centre, bypassing the white-matter neocortex that is much slower.  When it comes to the survival instinct in my medical career, I obviously prefer the primitive pleasure of the joy of the family to the strategy of ensuring you ingratiate oneself to colleagues – I probably would have died early in the German times of Hitler or the Pol Pot regime in Cambodia.

Courage is also demanding physically and mentally when it is an ongoing requirement to work in your field – where do you find the guts to keep going? 

Like the real Patch Adams, I get my inner strength from the families I assist. He rang me a few years ago after one of “my” families arranged for him to come to a charity function in Sydney. He said, “Hi Paddy, its Patch here. I gather your system is as fucked up as ours”. I agreed!  His phone call that day was an inspiration.

When the protectors and the lifesavers are desperately trying to uphold the moral compass when their intention is PEOPLE and not power or ego, what can they do to help you, what can everyday people do? Democracy is built on the tribe having a say in their rights. 

I am an everyday person; I am a plumber, a boy from the bush but, I roar like a tiger when I see injustice in medicine. If everyday people informed themselves, then reacted, we would have a better world. Others can contact their politicians, contact the regulator and make those that are advocating for them feel they are not alone. 

The problem is that most are self-interested – once the champion has solved their problem, they lose interest in the problem they have created for the champion.

You are brave, and you are human, not infallible and not emotionally bulletproof, when you read and hear negative comments from peers and the institution you have invested time, education and faith in, what does that feel like? 

Such negative comments led to me writing “Look the Tiger in the eye”, while in the witness box.  I am reminded of the father who punched the door when I said his boy needed an operation – because he was so angry with the neglect of others. In the VCAT courtroom, the AHPRA barrister was presenting a barrage of negative comments about me.

That very same father stood up quite fiercely and said: “I am not listening to this fu**ing bullshit any more”.  

I am also reminded about Lindy Chamberlain, then I go and use a chainsaw or build a fence, or go to a developing country. Sometimes I am angry, but these days I feel more resolved than angry.

 

What does it feel like to hear positive and endearing commentary from peers and those who believe in you and what you do each day, preserving health- what does that feel like? 

I love hearing the positive comments, and more-so, I enjoy the positive body language. The look and behaviour of friendship, thanks and caring. This is everything. 

What do you believe drives a person to protect their career more than the care and life of a person?  

Human nature! Selfishness, money, greed, a lack of caring. Often it seems that those who are better at protecting their career have less clinical skills. Within organisations, it appears that those who are not a performance-comparison threat are more likely to be promoted.

The opinions of others are none of your business, and yet they seek to destroy and hurt. What is your go to, to help equalise and keep you focussed on your life and your life’s work?  

Writing Poetry, dancing, some art and furniture making, farming, a 1962 Fordson supermajor tractor, developing country visits, my Australian patients and, last but far from least, my wife, Padma.  I blame Rudyard Kipling!

What does your family love most about you? 

Standing at the kitchen bench typing, as Padma says, “my multiple abilities” – so I remind her I fixed the heating yesterday.

Were you a rebel when you were younger or have you been forced into the perceived role of rebel rather than simply being someone trying to do their job? 

I was the “father” in the family home. I learnt to cook and clean had an after-school job and was top of my class. I was good friends with all the teachers and had great friends from all backgrounds.  At university, I had little money so wasn’t a pub lad, but couldn’t afford haircuts. But I could dance, which was a bit radical – it certainly didn’t make me popular with the guys!

Then in Ireland, I experienced medicine by the spin doctor (which led me to do a PhD to prove what many were saying was “product driven medicine”.)  Then on return to Australia, I found poor standards accepted, false indications for surgery supported. I was soon elevated to the status of a radical when I refused to accept certain events.

I have been presented by the media as a radical as a way of them supporting the poor standards of the regulator, VCAT, the coroner, medical administrators and other surgeons.

Is the moral cost to you submitting to the system trying to force your hand higher than the one to keep going and fighting?  

Absolutely, a German officer was quoted to say – something like – If you have a difficult decision to make, look to consider the worst possible outcome of what seems the right decision and, if you can tolerate the consequences, then make the morally correct decision.

If we imagine humanity as a linear story – if you had to choose just one person as the protagonist for choosing good over conformity who would it be? 

Nelson Mandela – his time in prison reminds me of the little time since 2003 when I lost my position at a major hospital for choosing justice over conformity.

Favourite photograph and why? 

The wedding photo of Padma and I standing by the water of the Woolshed falls, which is on the creek. Our wedding was on the land on which my great-grandparent looked for gold (5 acres),  near Beechworth.

We purchased that land, and a little more, on the 10th anniversary of our wedding, on the anniversary of my mothers birthday (23rd May), which was one of our two weddings, the other was on the 50th anniversary of Padma’s parents’ wedding, on 20th June (Padma and I will exchange crystal on Thursday).

We both love the wonderfully romantic story of our two weddings.

Documentary or Netflix binge when travelling? If so, which one do you recommend? 

I NEVER watch television when I travel; I watch an occasional movie on a plane – I often crying during movies. But if I was to binge it would be on documentaries.

What irritates you more, losing a sock or being late? 

I have a system of keeping track of “one-tys” so that never worries me. And I love mending them, I call it “cycling” (as compared to recycling). I prefer not to be late but relax in a traffic jam.  

Are there other people like yourself believing in upholding the moral compass within our institutions that strive as you do regardless of the threat to their credibility and reputation? 

Yes, I have met some of them via the Healthcare Excellence Institute Australia – Jane Bannan and Jane Tolman, for instance.

How does it feel when a patient celebrates a birthday because you were brave enough to do an operation or find an anomaly that helps promote life? 

Interestingly, this question reminds me of the occasions where I have helped families come to terms with the death of their child. On a visit to PNG, I saw a boy with a big lump on his chest wall. He was about 10 yo.

The next day I saw the family with a chest x-ray that indicated he had a terminal illness. I said in my broken PNG language, “him buggarup algetter” which implied he would die from the illness. They said as I was almost in tears, “we are happy that God has given him to use for 10 good years”. 

During the same trip, a judge and his wife were losing their boy to kidney cancer, while he was on his death bed, they were phoning Europe to chase more refined histological interpretation and were falling apart.

The first family taught me how to cope with death, and has helped me teach other families around the world. Not from a religious perspective, from the importance of knowing what can be changed, and accepting it. And, knowing you have saved a life and enabled another birthday celebration is amazing.

How does it feel when a person is diagnosed correctly after misdiagnosis?  

Lucky; the more I practice, the luckier I get; the more I listen, the more I know.

Do you cry very much? 

Usually while watching “call the midwife”, and while watching “Invictus”, the movie. Sometimes when flying away from the countries, I have gone to treat kids in developing countries – tears of joy really.

How hard is it to separate your emotions when you like a patient? 

I like most of my patients. Operating on someone is a very personal thing, with great responsibility. Maybe it is like a pianist and the piano – great music can be created, great admiration for the instrument,  

Is there a legislative action that can be taken to protect those that seek to protect us? 

We do not have free speech in Australia; the media publish to a formula, not in the pursuit of truth and many politicians are liars and cheats. 

What is the point of difference between you and the Doctor who looks a patient and their family in the eye and says “there’s nothing we can do” when in fact they know there is and they know they are being influenced by peers and boards to say no?

I once wrote a poem called “you child becomes mine”, which says it all – just by the title. Others seem to have the attitude that if something went wrong and they were not on-call, it was not their problem. The best example was when I was a registrar in Dunedin. A fellow trainee had operated on a man in his forties for varicose veins.

While operating in the back of the knee, he injured the main vein of the leg. When he was called to suggest he come to help fix the damage, he refused “because he was not on-call”. He got away with what I thought was unthinkable behaviour.

Are there many others like you that have seen the character assassination and are frightened to make a stand? 

Yes and there will be more!  I work on our farm, volunteer overseas and review coronial cases and report adverse events to the surgeon, the hospital involved and the regulator. I give expert opinion in coronial cases, spend time organising meetings to review the regulatory process, and remain determined to make medicine safer.

Are you a hindered lifesaver? 

Yes and No. As a result of the Australian political rubbish, I have made a huge difference in developing countries.

If you could tell the Australian public one compelling aspect you wish they knew about our current medical establishment, what would it be? 

Education of the public to enable them to get the best health outcome for their children is not a priority and combined with a failure to listen to and respect parents results in overtreatment, undertreatment and adverse events. I invite the Health Minister to sit down with me to discuss the coronial process and regulations, the system is broken and this is not getting taken seriously. 

Dr. Paddy Dewan’s eyes light up when he speaks of his charity, his love of helping others and the curious nature of those possessed by ego. Every day he marches on, fighting for the rights of Australian’s to have access to truthful medical care. We have pondered with him and its the kind of ponder that you leave better than when you started. 

So – Hon Greg Hunt MP will you ponder with Dr. Paddy Dewan? Are you prepared to sit down and listen to a man dedicated to the oath he took and the protection of the integrity of our medical system and those whom you represent? 

A Period Through Time

The design of sanitary period items are made to conceal, discretion please! We don’t want everyone knowing our uterine wall is shedding

 

 

 

 

 

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