Blog by Tanya

By Tanya Self, Apr 21 2014 05:34AM
Calling the Dingoes

We didn’t embark on a family camping trip until I was nearly 12 years old. Our first trip was to Fraser Island, together with my grandparents and uncle and auntie and their two children. To be 12 was quite ‘old’ to finally experience something considered a ‘way of life’ in our part of Australia. Dad had often longingly reminisced of the adventure of camping. His family had always camped for Easter and Christmas holidays: Evans Head, Hervey Bay, Yamba had been regular treks from Warwick. We kids would listen enraptured. Mum was never keen, as it hadn’t been part of her upbringing at all. And her fastidiousness, obsessive cleanliness and addiction to routine didn’t accommodate the great unknown and unbathed experience of camping. So, it took a while for our family to warm into it. We shared facilities with dad’s family to go for the first time and borrowed a friend's 4WD. But thereafter, every birthday and Christmas, we added to dad’s camping gear. My youngest sister, eight years younger than me, can more fairly claim to have, “grown up” on a staple diet of the “great Australian weekend”, camping. And camping certainly became among the most happiest and relaxed family times together over the next few years - most surprisingly and gratefully, for mum. “To relax” was otherwise not in her vocabulary.

Fraser Island has a large native dingo population and we were often told that because of its isolation from the mainland, it had the most pure strain of dingo in Australia. With hindsight, the wild packs of very “German Shepherd-looking, bitsa” dogs, robust and tall, black and grey, that we saw running the sand dunes lining the ocean side gives me reason to doubt that claim. [1] But when we saw a purebred dingo, it was unmistakeable and dad would point out what to look for: small in stature, gold/orange coat, yelpy and snappy, and emaciated. This was a pure bred dingo.

Dingoes (and/or packs of dogs) surrounded the camp sites at night all along the surf-side of Fraser Island. They were very flighty, but cunning – leftover, or unsecured food was sure to be ravaged, so we were very careful. But what the dingoes didn’t find, the goannas would. And they were everywhere – most were more than one metre long, hissing, skulking miniature dinosaurs (or so they seemed to me) – ugly and frightening.

Relaxing around the campfire, crashing surf in the distance, blankets of stars above, we came to know the cry of a dingo, echoing behind and above us. We were camped just off the beach amongst the Spinifex and Morning Glory behind the wind break of the She-oaks. We'd play, hanging from the branches at night with sand dunes and coloured sands cliffs at our backs, and Eli Creek within reach until we were worn out enough to settle down around the fire with the grown-ups.

A dingo cries. It is not a howl, as in a ‘wolf’- nothing like it, actually. And anything sounding like a wolf was said to be packs of wild dogs, before domestic animals were banded on the island. This was 1983. The high-pitched, elongated, singular note of a dingo has a distinctive falsetto break towards the end of its breath that is almost an octave above the original note and fades to a whine. With such a ‘song’ to its cry, I was fascinated – and knew immediately, I could sing those exact notes - same tone, same break.

Sitting quietly across from the fire on my beach towel in the shadows, watching the crackling coals, listening to the dingoes on the wind, I answered a dingo cry.

Mum flew off the fold-up chair in such a fright thinking a dingo was right behind. Grandma and grandpa were up. Everyone was looking around.

Dad said, “Tanya…….” (I thought I was in so much trouble).
But he smiled and said, “….do it again”.
Everybody nervously laughed and waited.
“Go on - do it again”, he encouraged.

It was eerie.
And the dingoes over the hills went quiet.

Grandma said, “That’s it! Don’t do it again”. She was adamant, “The last thing we need is more dingoes around here. I’ll have to go to the toot out there tonight!”
Grandpa said, “Well, we have a dingo caller amongst us”, and I got to sit on his lap for a while.

I never did it again - not on that camping trip, anyway.

[1] According to DNA-examinations from the year 2004, the dingoes on Fraser Island are "pure".[26] However, skull measurements from the 1990s detected crossbreeds between dingoes and domestic dogs among the population.[27]
Wikipedia. (2014, April 3). Fraser Island. Retrieved April 21, 2013, from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fraser_Island

By Tanya Self, Apr 17 2014 05:23AM

I’ve passed so many 4WD’s these past few days, tinnies on top, campervans towed behind…everyone getting a jump start on Easter weekend.

This is what I remember most about Easter.

Easter meant camping. Packing up the gear and heading out to Paradise. Paradise was a property on the Burnett River, near Biggenden, complete with abandoned mine shafts, ghostly stumps of the remains of gold rush cottages strewn on the hills above the river, dingoes howling up the valleys and islands of “climbing rocks” piled in the middle of the river that made great “houses” to play on all day. We’d help unpack the car and pitch the tarp over the tents, begrudgingly – anything that stood in the way of us pouring out of the car and flying down to the river bank to get our adventure underway was a hindrance.
When we’d finally get the, “Right, you can go”, we’d be off like lightning.
We’d play till sun down, swimming when it heated up, basking on the rock “lounge” to dry. Lung fish were in the Burnett up at Paradise. With so few campers, we invariably had the mountain, both sides of the river to ourselves.
We’d explore and Dad would hike along, pointing out this and that. I would be way out in front of everyone and often chipped for getting too far in front.
The family joke was usually played on me.
“Tanya, which way’s home? Where’s the campsite?” Of course, I’d look around with great consternation, calculate where the river in relation to us, very seriously, and realise belatedly I didn’t have a clue. Everyone would wait, snickers under their breath and I’d have to take a stab in the dark…
“That way! I’m sure!”
Hilarity would erupt - crying eyes everywhere. Mum would double-over laughing so much. And my younger sisters got the one-up (at last).
“What?..What?” I’d ask.
Dad would take me by the shoulders and turn me around the other way, “See that tiny spec of blue tarp, that’s our campsite.”

So, direction was not my thing….

Oh…but I could call the dingoes from the campfires at night….and nobody laughed about that….

By Tanya Self, Apr 2 2014 06:44AM
The Easter Bunny tends to leave snowy white footprints down our hallway, raids the carrots, and drops little solid eggs from the children's easter nest, out through the door. We've often wondered if this is because his exit is so rapid should the children stir..and we try to encourage them to sleep soundly, yet every year he leaves this messy egg trail. Mmm.. maybe he needs a carry basket with a lid!

What are your memories of Easter?

By Tanya Self, Apr 2 2014 04:02AM
After a casual conversation with friends that sparked my curiosity, I happened to chat to a high level executive and I brought up the subject of social media searches on prospective employees; whether this is routine; whether it carries any weight in the decision to hire the person. As a mum of a teenager I can say that our schools are doing their best to educate teenagers about their lifelong digital footprint. But people in their 20's and 30's (and 40's) missed this revelation, but are no less proficient in every area of social media and digital technology on the dating scene.

So I put forward the scenario:
Your prospective employee is male, late 20's, has all the qualifications, personal attributes and experience you are looking for. You investigate their social media public accounts and online activity and do various, quick searches to ensure there's nothing unsavoury about the person that could jeopardise the reputation of your company, place other employees or the company itself at risk, etc. You uncover some very "uncovered" images, shared privately a few years before (so he was 18+), initially, but posted by ex-girlfriends for whatever reason. Does this impact your decision to employee him?

The answer was immediately no, that the company makes it's decision on the candidate in front of them and their capacity to do the job, not what photos there are of them online. What they do in their personal lives, is private.

Good answer.

Playing "devil's advocate", I asked, so what if you found topless images of a prospective female employee under the same circumstances?

Wait for it.......
He said:

I know this might be sexist, but hear me out... I would have to seriously consider the distraction to my existing staff of this person as an employee. 80% of my staff are male who work hard, do a good job. But I can't dictate their attitudes towards women in general, and some of these blokes are pretty rough around the edges - that's not to say they'd ever treat a woman badly, or that I have any knowledge of that....but I don't employ them for their edicate towards women - it's not a test they have to pass to get the job. If I can find these images, they can too. And as bad as it sounds, there's a respect and a safety issue, emotionally and physically.
If we could tell by talking to a man or getting him to fill in a questionaire whether he was likely to sexually intimidate women (or worse), there wouldn't be any rapists or whatnot because they'd be all indentified and locked up (I hope). The law doesn't even protect a woman from declared intention or actual incidents. Look at the restraining laws. "Restrained" from what - an invisible line?
This is probably the only real way I can protect her with certainty, given what pictures like that might stir up. We can run workshops about equality, and workplace intimidation til I'm blue in the face. Don't get me wrong, we don't condone sexual intimidation in any form...never have, never will and it would result in dismissal...and more!
I employ hundreds and hundreds of men. The thing is, I cannot know what I've got among my workforce. And naked images of a female employee online could be a real problem - for her, mostly.
She has a right to feel safe, be safe and respected...I get that completely, but I'd have to say, I would seriously reconsider. In the reality of the real world, I wouldn't want any of this sort of stuff to happen in the first place, and no one can 100% guarantee that. That kind of damage you can't just undo.
It would be for the best. I'm being pragmatic.

I continued:
So for a bloke, it's none of your business and irrelevant. But for a woman, it's everybody's business....

There is a can of worms bursting here, touching on so many issues, from ethical conduct online, to societal perception of woman, to the age-old equality of women in the workplace, onto sexual intimidation and gender imbalance, the topical "to sext or not to sext", and inadequacies in laws to protect women ...the list is long.There is enough here to raise the hackles on all walks of life, men and women, side by side. But it is the "did you know", "are you aware" aspect (and a healthy dose of pique)that sparked the blog. There is still so much work to be done in this civilised society of ours. Where do we go from here....? For a start...pause before you post...at least until we've moved a little further along the evolution chain...

Sep 8 2014 11:04AM by Smithc675
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By Tanya Self, Mar 16 2014 02:43AM
Our neighbour, Rebecca (Bec) Beckwith and her two children, Wil and Ella are among our closest friends. Her husband, Peter, served on HMAS Newcastle and passed away five years ago. Ella was just a baby; we’d not long celebrated our eldest daughter’s eighth birthday with a party on our deck, altogether – and he was gone six weeks later. It was so tragic - all the more for his little five year old son who idolised his ‘da’, Pete. Peter had been sick with a brain tumor caused by a radiation leak and lost an eight year battle, spending his last few years at home, raising his son. As his neighbours, we saw a lot of each other – for the most part, you would never have suspected the blackness eating away his brain, except for the last two weeks. And even then, we were completely in denial. He was larger than life and way too young. We were all renovating our homes and had lots in common. Pete was big and boisterous, funny as hell with an endearing perspective on everything and he was everyone’s mate. And our sons became mates, too.
With Pete’s passing, Wil was a lost little boy, struggling to make sense of it all. He was always chomping at the bit to come by for a play. We were all in the back yard. My husband was working in the shed when he suddenly found Wil companionably by his side, tired of playing with our son who is three years younger.
Blessed with his father’s matter-of-factness, Wil piped up to say, “My da’s saw is better than that. But da’s dead now. He’s in heaven. But he’s got a shed just like this. Probably better. It’s a good shed.”
Andrew agreed, “Yep, I reckon your da’s got a pretty good shed.”
“You could probably borrow his saw, sometime. He’d let you. I’ll let you.”
Andrew was struggling to hold back the flood. “Thanks Wil, I’ll see how I go,” and continued sawing away, head down….Wil hanging by, picking up this and that, never making eye contact – both of them.
I overheard that conversation by accident and will remember it for the rest of my life - the volumes spoken in so few words: the lesson, the nod of respect, the acknowledgement of the ‘new man of the house’ – priceless.
I’ve caught similar moments a time or two between my own son and both his grandfathers. I see it with Wil and Bec’s dad who plays an integral role in helping Bec raise the children. Boys need that connection with a male role model – to pass down what is difficult to articulate; there’s no handbook for it; it’s pure gut instinct - men’s business.
Good men raise great men. Who will raise the children of the great men we lose?
For some, it’s their grandparents. For others, Legacy is an integral part of picking up the pieces.
These were the thoughts that inspired the song, initially. I was bawling my eyes out, in my bedroom, reliving and pouring out precious moments onto paper, trying to capture the essence of the connection I’d witnessed so many times – and tell the story with imagery.
And whether we come to a place of understanding within ourselves or not about the nature of war, we all, from time to time cannot help but ask, why. And just like a child, we ask more with resignation and fear than curiosity, and it is a difficult question to answer. My own son says he wants to be an “armyman”, and I’m scared as hell of that eventuating.
I have watched, first hand, the support Legacy has provided our friends. Legacy is there in their time of need. If you serve your country and your family loses you or is confronted with hardship, then they’re there. They won’t leave your family to ‘soldier on’ alone. And this is comforting for servicemen. It was for Pete. He knew Bec would have to ‘go it’ alone in so many ways, but he also knew there was help for her. And Legacy was going to be a big part of it.
When I finished the song, I played it for Bec. I took it into the Legacy office in Brisbane to play it for them and said they could have it, if they wanted it, to help them raise funds to keep them doing what they do.
Metaphorically, Legacy are “fixing things” as best they can – the families shattered by wars of today and yesteryears, supporting the 100,000 widows and 1900 children still in their care. “Fixin’ Things” is an anthem for what Legacy does, uniquely.
Wil Beckwith is so loved. He is our family’s special friend. He is undoubtedly destined to fill the shoes of a great man with equal passion, unparalleled perception and big-hearted love. I dedicated the song to Wil and all the children who are left behind. I pray that each of them have someone to watch over them as Wil does.
Further, let this generation of young boys never forget from whom their seeds were sewn but let them lay their little heads on a pillow every night, and know they are deeply loved, understood and safe – and it takes so little to convey so much to a child.
Wil is ten years old, next week, 4 September.
Lest we forget.
In loving memory of Peter Beckwith – our friend.

Tanya Self
31 August, 2012

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