Category: ACT

Autumn Thud

It is early Autumn in this part of the world and, in 2005, while staying with extended family in Queanbeyan, New South Wales, I started to write a poem in English.  In 2006, I submitted it to ArtsACT, as an entry for the 2006 David Campbell Poetry Prize for an unpublished poem by an ACT poet, where it sank into oblivion, possibly with a Winter Thud, as it was in June.  In December, I learned that there had been only thirty-eight entries in this category, which makes my result even worse.

In 2008, I dug it out and reduced it to sixteen lines, which greatly improved it, and it went off to the USA where it won a second prize, along with a great number of other people’s poems (there were over seventy second prizes, I think) but, as there were many thousands of entries, I thought that this result was not too bad.  Particularly as I had entered this competition many times in the past with no result.  Perhaps they were rewarding perseverance.

The poem was published in an anthology and I don’t think that I have written any poetry since, except perhaps a few haiku.  Poetry is meant to be read aloud and I have no-one to whom to read it.  In France, I had a captive audience several times a year and this gave me an incentive to write.  Here, in the Australian Capital Territory, I have no audience.  And the way things are looking, that is not likely to change any time soon.

So, to give Autumn Thud another airing, I’ve decided to post it here.  It’s Easter Sunday and you are all bound to be high on chocolate, so it might have more chance of pleasing someone today.

Autumn Thud


Autumn has fallen with a thud.

The temperature drop is ten degrees.

Cockatoos, magpies, pigeons, galahs

Risk short flights to cowering trees.


Waves of rain sputter and stop.

Brown leaves glisten on the ground.

A young magpie flutters down,

Holds out its wings, steps around.


Furious, the gale renews.

Rods of water hit the earth.

The magpie tumbles, flaps, screams,

Scuttles towards the tree of its birth.


Autumn has fallen with a thud.

It is windy and dark, cold and damp;

A time for my nest, feather quilt,

Cocoa, a book, and the fireside lamp.

(2008 version)


Right at this particular moment, I am proud to live in the Australian Capital Territory.

Since returning to Australia, I have often been puzzled, not to say annoyed, by the continual waffling of Australian politicians, as they try to avoid doing anything constructive about the environment.  Reams of paper have been devoted to all sorts of studies and surveys.  Experts have given advice.  Scientists have suddenly found themselves on national television, blinking in the unaccustomed light of public scrutiny, only to be shot down (figuratively, at this stage) by politicians spouting stuff where the words “feasibility”, “working families” (always a favourite with Labor) and the now rarer “not proven” are to be heard.

The scientists scurry back to the safety of their relative anonymity (they are often very well-known and respected in their own scientific circles) and politicians get back to more “serious” issues, like how much space should be allowed on footpaths for al fresco meals.  This last issue being important enough locally, to warrant quite a lot of Canberra journalists rushing out to interview a wide range of cafe and restaurant owners, and give them all a bit of free publicity in the local news.  Several days in a row.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the same Legislative Assembly which is so concerned about footpaths, in the places which actually have footpaths – we could do with a lot more of them – has been quietly setting up something wonderful in local schools.  We have yet to see how it will function, but the principle is something which, since returning Down Under, I have been screaming at my television set, every time that the word “environment” returns to the forefront in the news.

“Why on Earth don’t you work with our Aboriginal peoples?!”  I shout.  “It’s their speciality!  Their whole culture is about environmental conservation!  They have thousands of years of experience with Australia’s different environments!  Why are you all so stupid?!”  Sadly, the people inside the television set don’t hear me.  This must be the way that ghosts feel.  Ignored, as if they don’t exist.

Then, this wonderful thing happened.  On 24 May 2010, the ACT Government put out a media release, entitled AUSTRALIAN FIRST SEES ACT STUDENTS LEARN ABOUT ABORIGINAL LANDCARE.  Not a catchy title, but the contents of the release made me want to sing.  I didn’t, though.  I just shrieked “yes!” and forwarded the release on to other like-minded people, as we now say.  However, I did add a few gushing sentences.  No-one has yet answered, and today is 7 June.  They are obviously not as like-minded as I had thought.  “Alone, again.  Naturally.”

Simon Corbell, who is the ACT’s Minister for the Environment, Climate Change and Water, announced that, for the first time in Australia (which saw European settlement in 1788) students will be taught about the traditional landcare practices of our local Aboriginal Elders, the Ngunnawal People.  Minister Corbell said:

“Aboriginal communities in the local region have a rich history of landcare and there is a lot we can learn to better our current practices and strategies in Canberra.

“Our younger generations are the environmental advocates of the future and giving school students this valuable knowledge can only have a positive impact on the local environment into the future.”  Commas are often rare in Government media releases.

The programme is called Understanding the Land through the Eyes of the Ngunnawal People – A Natural Resource Management Programme for ACT Schools.  Another not-very-catchy title.  Governments specialize in them.  The programme will be taught in ACT schools from Pre-School to Year 10.  The Minister also said:

“The information provided in this curriculum will help our children understand, respect and value special sites and areas around Canberra, places like Sandwash and Tidbinbilla.

“The programme will also support Aboriginal children with a continued sense of pride and give them an opportunity to teach fellow students some of the landcare practices of their elders.

“Schools will be given a range of resources supporting the programme, including specific information and photographs on local Aboriginal flora and fauna, audio interviews of local Aboriginal Elders, a booklet for teachers and a DVD.

“I am pleased to have the opportunity to launch such an important curriculum for ACT students and look forward to seeing some of the results in our local environment over coming years.” 

Nice one, Minister.  Now, may I draw your attention to the fact that, according to Jessica Good on WIN News, the ACT has just experienced its wettest Autumn in twenty years?  The Territory’s rooves, unaccustomed to so much rain, have been leaking to such an extent that my roofer is two months overdue in his running repairs to mine.

With all this water, could you possibly see your way clear to having another look at our Stage Three Water Restrictions status?  It would be nice to pop down for a visit to Stage Two for a while.

While we’re on the subject, should the ACT Government really be putting all that time and effort, not to mention taxpayers’ money, into advertising the joys of Living in Canberra, in the hope of encouraging people from overseas and interstate to move here, when we are still on Stage Three Water Restrictions?  Wouldn’t it be more intelligent to fix the water supply first?

In the meantime, congratulations to the ACT Government on this Australian First with the First Australians.  How long will it be before all of the States and Territories follow this example?  Five years?  Ten?  Twenty?  At least the ball is rolling.

And, right now, I am very proud to be living in the Australian Capital Territory.

I have rediscovered a fascinating story reported by L. G. Capers of Vicksburg, Missouri in the American Medical Weekly (131, 7 Nov. 1874) and quoted by The Lancet (476, 1875, I, 35).  It is about an incident which took place during the American Civil War.

On 12 May 1863, during a skirmish between Grant’s army and a few Confederates, a young friend of the author stumbled and fell to the ground.  At the same moment, a piercing scream was heard from a nearby house.

The wounded soldier had received a bullet which had travelled through his scrotum and taken off his left testicule.  The same bullet had apparently penetrated the left side of the abdomen of a seventeen-year-old girl, passing between the navel and the front part of the iliac bone touching the spine, and had disappeared inside her abdomen.  The young lady subsequently suffered from peritonitis but, after treatment, had completely recovered two months later.

278 days after receiving the bullet, the girl gave birth to an eight-pound baby boy.  The hymen was intact and the young mother insisted that she was a virgin and had no idea how she could have conceived.  Naturally, she was not believed by her family and friends.

About three weeks after this birth, Doctor Capers was called to examine the baby because its grandmother was adamant that there was something wrong with the boy’s genitals.  The doctor’s examination revealed a hard, swollen, tender scrotum, containing something hard.

The doctor operated and was able to extract pieces of a crushed bullet.  He concluded that it was the same bullet which had taken off his friend’s testicule, and had penetrated the ovary of the young girl.  The few spermatozoides which were on it had fertilized the young lady.

He was so convinced of this that he contacted the young man and told him the whole story.  The soldier didn’t really believe him, but agreed to meet the young mother.  They became friends, and eventually married.

The couple had three children, but the one who bore the most resemblance to the father was the first-born.

This amazing story has been used as a remarkable example of medical imagination, and does not appear to have been generally accepted by other members of the medical profession as being a description of what really happened.  What was their explanation?



In the heart of the Year Thousand that comes after Year Thousand

Each person will be like a measured footstep

They will know everything about the world and about their bodies

They will cure illness before it appears

Each person will be healer of himself and of the others.


They will have understood that you have to help to be able to maintain

And man, after the times of narrow-mindedness and of avarice,

Will open his heart and his purse to the poorest

He will feel himself to be a knight of the human order

And in this way a new time will at last begin.


We shall know all about the world and our bodies, so we shall be able to prevent illness.  We shall be able to heal ourselves if we do become ill, and we shall be able to heal others too.

It has always been possible to heal ourselves and to heal others, although, strictly speaking, we do not “heal” others;  they heal themselves.  We can kick-start the healing process in other people, but the actual “healing” can only be done by themselves.

This is perhaps not the place to enter into details, but I, myself, have had some small experience of helping people and animals to heal themselves.  Anyone can do it.  There are different ways of going about it.  The way in which I feel the most comfortable is by “plugging in” to the energy floating about in the air.

I am not a physicist, so cannot explain it in scientific terms.  However, I believe that this energy is a form of electricity.  The same sort that flows through our bodies and through everything on Earth.  What I do, is to use my body as a sort of lightning rod, fill up with this energy, then project it through my hands to the body in need of it.

It is illegal in most Western countries to do this sort of thing with humans if you do not have a medical degree, which I haven’t, so I have only practised directly on animals.  However, it is also possible to do the same thing at a distance, and without the knowledge of the human receiving the help.

I find it very contradictory that you are not allowed to help someone to heal, but that you can also be legally charged with non-assistance to a person in danger, if you don’t help him.  However, at the moment, it is best to keep any assistance secret.

John tells us that the time will come when men’s minds will be opened and that this sort of thing will be understood and accepted generally.  Then, those who practise it, will be able to do it openly, instead of having to hide.

The main reason for it being illegal, is financial.  Doctors spend long, difficult and expensive years getting their degrees, and do not appreciate “uneducated” people helping some of their medical failures to get better, free-of-charge.

It is unfortunate that our modern Western doctors are not taught any of the “alternative” techniques of helping others to heal.  Surgery has its place, but does not need to be used nearly as often as it is.  Chemicals should be only a last resort treatment, when there is no natural remedy available.

John is telling us that these problems will be resolved in the future.  He also tells us that men and countries will start to share their riches with the poorest among us, and that each of us will feel himself to be in charge of protecting others, like a knight of the human order.

Thirty-ninth prophecy tomorrow.



In the heart of the Year Thousand that comes after Year Thousand

Men will be able to go down under the waters

Their bodies will be new and they will be fish

And some will fly high, higher than the birds

As if stones don’t fall.


They will communicate with each other

For their minds will be so greatly open that they will receive all messages

And dreams will be shared

And they will live as long as the oldest of men

The one of whom the Holy Books speak.


This prophecy is a difficult one for me to comment.  Is John just having trouble describing future technology, or is he saying that our bodies will have changed so much that we will be fish?  He does not say “like fish”.  He says that we will “be fish”.

There has been some experimentation in filling our lungs with a substance which allows us to stay under water for extended periods of time.  This was a few decades ago.  I don’t know if this sort of thing is still being done.

We know that some animals, such as dragons and dolphins, returned to the water, having previously left it to live on land.  Dragons came back onto land, and are now mostly extinct, which shows that dolphins made the right choice.

During our conception and development in our mother’s womb, we go through the entire cycle of evolution.  We don’t actually use our lungs for breathing until we are ejected from the womb.  Theoretically, it could be reasonably simple, with a bit of genetic tweaking, to transform some of us into “fish” again.  Unlike the dolphin, we would not have to adapt “naturally”, which would take numerous generations of us living almost continuously in water.  We could change our DNA and transmit the change to our children.

If large chunks of our planet disappear under the rising seas, this could be part of our coping strategy.

John also speaks of us flying higher than the birds.  He doesn’t mention any machines, so he is probably referring to some sort of levitation.  Some humans are able to control levitation.  Most of us, if we levitate at all, are unable to control it.

Levitation is due to a change in the way that we vibrate, usually connected to our emotional state of mind.  This change eliminates part of the pull of gravity and can send us soaring into the air.  When this happens unexpectedly, it often causes fear.  As soon as we feel fear, our vibration changes and we come back down to earth – or remain desperately clinging to a tree branch, waiting for help.

I had one brush with levitation when I was eight years old.  It was preceded, and accompanied, by a feeling of great joy, happiness and love for the entire Earth.  I wanted to hug the sky.  I was running at the time, and did not immediately realize that my feet were no longer touching the ground.  I only rose about 30 centimetres, and kept travelling forward at the same speed, but I have talked to people who had friends who had had the “whoosh, then treetop” experience.

In the middle of the nineteenth century, a gentleman by the name of Daniel Dunglas Home floated in and out of upstairs windows in London, as his party trick.  So he could definitely levitate at will and control speed and direction while he was doing it.

Perhaps, when our spirituality has developed more universally, we shall be joyful and loving enough to levitate at will.

In the second part of this prophecy, John appears to be speaking about telepathy and sharing dreams.  We know that people often communicate mentally with each other.  I used to communicate in this way with my cousin.  That was before mobile telephones.

I also sent messages in this way to my dog, who responded to them.  It is very easy to do this with animals; you just have to remember to send images, not words.  It is also easier for humans to receive images rather than words, although we can do both if we imagine the word written down, and send it as an image.

John tells us that we are going to live much longer, too.  A healthy, stress-free, spiritual life of love and understanding toward all living things, is guaranteed to lengthen our lives.  We are genetically programmed to live 130 to 140 years.  Already, our average life expectancy increases by three months every year.  If this keeps going, who knows where it will end?

Thirty-fourth prophecy tomorrow.



When the Year Thousand that comes after Year Thousand begins

The sun will burn the earth

The Air will no longer be a veil which protects from the fire

It will be only a curtain with holes

And the burning light will eat away skins and eyes.


The sea will rise like boiling water

Cities and seasides will be covered

And entire continents will disappear

Men will take refuge on the heights

And they will rebuild already forgetting that which has happened.


This prophecy starts by speaking of the holes we have caused in the layer of ozone and of the resulting danger of exposing our skins and eyes to sunlight.  Skin cancers and cataracts are eating “away skins and eyes”.

The second part speaks of rising sea levels and tidal waves.  It tells of the cities, and even continents, which will disappear.

It warns us again of Man refusing to listen to the Earth’s warnings, and building again in the same places where the tsunami have wiped out whole towns.

A lot of small island nations will disappear over the next few decades.  If the waters continue to rise, cities like New York, San Francisco, Melbourne and Sydney will follow them.

Urgent action is needed to slow down, then reverse, global warming, which is causing the ice at the poles to melt, thereby raising sea levels.

Twenty-fourth prophecy tomorrow.



When the Year Thousand that comes after Year Thousand begins

Man will have peopled the Heavens and the Earth and the Seas with his Creatures

He will want the powers of God

He will know no limit


But each thing will turn against him

He will stagger like a drunken king

He will gallop like a blind knight

And with his spurs he will push his mount into the forest

At the end of the road will be the fall.


Man has travelled into space, he has explored the Earth and the seas.

Now he is experimenting with clonage and other reproduction techniques.  He thinks that he can play God.

Already, his technological experimentation in other fields has been applied to war, and has caused devastation and ongoing health problems.

Man’s technological advances always seem to end up hurting both the Earth and Humanity, usually because they are used primarily as a source of profit for someone, and too intensively.

We are now using Science as a source of profit, rather than as a path to knowledge and understanding, and it is turning against us.  Basically, we don’t know what we are doing;  we only think that we do.

“At the end of the road will be the fall.”

Third prophecy tomorrow.

According to ACT Health Minister, Katy Gallagher MLA, 90% of Australians support organ donation, but only 50% of families give their permission when it comes to the crunch.

“Many Australians are not aware that, even if they are registered as an organ donor, their family will be asked to give permission for organ donation to proceed.  That is why it is so important to discuss your wishes with your family,” she said.

Gift of Life President, Anne Cahill Lambert AM, reported eight multi-organ donors (hearts, liver, kidneys, etc.) in the ACT this year, and more than sixty tissue donors (corneas, skin, heart-valves, etc.).

“Even skin is important, especially during the bushfire season when, sadly, a number of Australians require skin grafts,” she said.

The ACT has significantly increased its corneal tissue donations, with fifty-six so far this year.  It is also working with the Australian Organ and Tissue Donation Authority and is moving toward implementing the National Reform Package.

The ACT Organ and Tissue Donation Service has been re-named DonateLife ACT.

Dr Imogen Mitchell has been appointed Territory Medical Director for Organ and Tissue Donation, and Dr Craig Hollis has been appointed Deputy Director.

ACT Health is now recruiting for a range of positions, including a DonateLife Manager, a Nurse Educator, a Communications and Administrative Officer, and an additional Organ Donor Co-ordinator.

If you are not already registered as a donor, discover the facts about it on  Then you can make your decision and discuss it with your family.

Mine already knows about my own registration and, if they refuse the donation of my organs and tissues when the time comes, I promise to come back to haunt them.

ACT Health Minister, Katy Gallagher MLA, has been working overtime during this Christmas period.  After her advice on food (see previous post), she has now reminded us of the dangers of sun and heat.

“There’s a high probability that the 2009-10 summer season will include extended periods of above-average temperatures, so people should take precautions,” she said. 

“Many of us take beach breaks at this time of year and make the most of the outdoors, but it’s important to follow the five sun-protection measures:  slip on some sun-protective clothing; slop on SPF 30+ broad-spectrum sun-sceen;  slap on a hat;  slide on some sunnies;  and seek shade whenever possible.

“This is important, not only for sun-protection, but also to minimise heat-related stress, which is serious and, if not addressed quickly and appropriately, can lead to death.

“Every year, many Australians suffer from heat-related stress and illness.  Symptoms may include headaches, dizziness, faintness, nausea and vomitting.

“The risk of heat-related stress increases dramatically when temperatures rise above 35 degrees Centigrade.  This is especially so for the very young and the elderly, whose bodies do not adapt as well to temperature changes and extremes.”

The Minister recommends some simple precautions for avoiding heat-related stress, which include:  drinking plenty of water;  avoiding tea, coffee and alcohol – these can have a de-hydrating effect;  staying out of direct sun;  keeping an eye on vulnerable members of the community, including the very young and the elderly, and making sure that they get enough water.

With all this worrying about our holiday health, will the Minister find time to relax?  After all, we can’t have her becoming ill, can we?

ACT Health Minister, Katy Gallagher MLA, has been kind enough to furnish a list of precautions that should be taken with food this summer.  She is worried about the contamination of food with bacteria or other micro-organisms.

“The risk of disease spread by food is particularly high in Summer because bacteria multiply faster in warm environments, and this can cause serious illness,” Ms Gallagher said.  “The festive season is a time when we all tend to over-indulge and ‘graze’ over longer periods with family and friends, without thinking about leaving food out in summer temperatures.”

The Minister advises:

When shopping, do not leave food articles in a hot car;  buy chilled and frozen food last;  pack cold food in an insulated bag or Esky;  refrigerate food as soon as you arrive home;

At home, set your refrigerator to five degrees centigrade or below, and avoid cramming it;  set your freezer to minus eighteen degrees centigrade or below;  keep raw meat in a container, separated from fresh vegetables and fruit;  store cooked food in a container with a lid;  when preparing food, keep it out of the refrigerator for the shortest time possible;

For the barbecue, choose food items that are easy to handle outdoors;  prepare your meat at home (marinades, skewers, etc.);  wrap meats carefully so that juices do not leak onto other food;  cook meat so that the juices run clear when you prick it, and always put it on a clean plate;  carry food in a cool box – pack plenty of ice or frozen bricks;  carry plenty of water with you, and dispose of waste carefully.

Good advice.  However, I am a little disappointed; I think that she could have thrown in a few recipes while she was at it.  Along with another prawn on the barbie.  Why do our ministers never live up to our expectations?

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