A day in the life of a legal secretary

It’s about bloody time I wrote about something relating to my day job. I am a legal secretary and have been since 1998, predominantly in conveyancing. I was studying conveyancing in New South Wales, then the Global Financial Crisis happened in 2008 – and I moved to Melbourne from Sydney shortly thereafter. I continue to work in conveyancing, and will probably eventually get my arse into gear and become a licensed conveyancer (which I keep being told because I have the mindset for it), even though working in other fields of law have their merits.

First things first, let’s get this disclaimer in – this blog post should not be taken as legal advice, if you need to get legal advice on a contract of sale of land, take it to a licensed conveyancer or a lawyer that does a lot of conveyancing work. However, I have seen a lot of things that, from even a secretary’s viewpoint, is a no-brainer. For instance…

#1. Never rely on representations made by a real estate agent

Look, the job of the real estate agent is to market the property for sale, and get the best price for the vendor. The only thing they’re really concerned about is their commission after settlement of the sale, so they’ll tell you anything to get you to sign on that dotted line (within the confines of the law, of course). They may seduce you with buzzwords like “renovator’s dream”, but in one particular file I worked on a few years ago, the “renovator’s dream” turned out to be “asbestos in the garage”. The reason the client found out about the asbestos in the garage was that they got themselves a pre-purchase building report, which not only revealed the presence of asbestos, but also provided an estimate of the cost associated with its removal (as the client intended on carrying out extensive renovations after settlement). This provided an advantage to the client in negotiating a purchase price, and was able to get a reduction on the original asking price. Building reports can also report on pests such as termites and borers. They do attract a fee, but it’s a small price to pay, especially if the report reveals something that would otherwise cost you dearly later down the track.

Oh, and another thing – any real estate agent worth his/her salt will let you take a copy of the contract for a lawyer to go over and advise you on before you sign. If a real estate agent starts putting on the pressure to sign up, tell them to jump in the lake. You’re entitled to get legal advice on a contract before signing.

I worked on several off-the-plan purchase files a few years back. Most of the existing clientele had signed their contracts about a year or two before I started working at that particular firm, and settlement had been triggered about three years after the contract was first signed. When you’re buying “Off-the-plan”, it essentially means that you’re agreeing to buy a property (usually an apartment, but it can also be a house and land package in a new subdivision) that has not yet been brought into existence.

The common complaints that we got were the banks whose valuations returned at a much lower value than the contract price, clients who could no longer proceed with the purchase because of change in circumstances (for instance, losing their job), and banks refusing to provide finance because the finished property was smaller than the minimum size they would approve for loans on apartments (and in all those cases, the clients signed up before we saw the contracts). These are the risks you have to consider when contemplating buying off-the-plan – make sure you read through the contract with a fine-tooth comb and flag anything that either worries you or you don’t understand, so that your lawyer or conveyancer can explain it to you.

A good example of the worst case scenario in developments where apartments had been sold off-the-plan, is the Verge Apartments saga in Melbourne’s Southbank precinct.

#2. Do your due diligence

Make sure you explain to your conveyancer or lawyer your intents and purpose of the purchase – e.g. new home, upsizing, downsizing, investment, and whether you intend on doing any renovations or extensions to the property after settlement. One story one of my TAFE lecturers told during my conveyancing course was the man who bought a terrace house in an inner suburb of Sydney. His property had an easement for a party wall, of which his property had the burden. He paid no heed to that easement, demolished the terrace house then had to install beams against the party wall to stop the adjoining property from collapsing. (He may or may not have done his own conveyancing, giving some credence to the saying “he who pleads his own case has a fool for a client”).

You also need to consider council rates, water rates and strata levies, because you’ll need to pay those on top of your mortgage repayments.  In Victoria, a Due Diligence Checklist is required to be provided to potential buyers of residential property, and in all property transactions in Victoria, vendors and purchasers must undergo Verification of Identity. You need to satisfy yourself as to being able to pay your rates on time and your mortgage repayments.

It is standard conveyancing practice to conduct searches on the property by obtaining property certificates from various government authorities, the core searches being for council rates, water rates, land tax and, if applicable, Owners Corporation certificates. Depending on what state you live in, the other required property certificates can vary, depending on the extent of the vendor’s statutory duty of disclosure in your state. The last thing you want is to buy a property, only to have it acquired a year later by a government department for a road widening project, for example. When I was still living in New South Wales, it was standard to serve “Requisitions on Title” to the vendor’s representative. These were essentially questions about the property, e.g. whether any notices had been served on the vendor from a government authority, and were usually answered with “Not so far as the Vendor is aware. Purchaser should rely on own inquiries.”

You should obtain advice from your accountant in relation to land tax and/or capital gains tax liability.

#3. Explaining the rates adjustments

After you’ve done your due diligence and signed your mortgage paperwork and the bank is ready, you should be ready to go. A week or so before settlement, all rates will be adjusted on a pro rata basis. It is standard procedure to treat the rates as though they’re paid, then draw a cheque for payment of any outstanding balance. If I had a dollar for every time a client read the Statement of Adjustments then decried, “But why am I paying for the vendor’s rates?!”, I’d be able to retire at 40 and live in a mansion in Toorak, unencumbered.

Especially if you’re moving into the place, the last thing you want to worry about is getting the rates paid, because moving house is damn stressful. If you’re still worried that you’re paying the Vendor’s rates, okay, hear me out.

The period for land rates follows the financial year (1 July 2016-30 June 2017) but allow for payment by quarterly instalments, Land tax follows the calendar year and water rates and strata levies are quarterly. Now, we’ll use land rates for our example.

Say the land rates on your property is $920 for the rating period (i.e. the financial year). Let’s say that your settlement is on… (let’s pull a random date from a hat…) 13 April. The rates will be adjusted so that you cover the period from 13 April to 30 June. That’s 78 days out of 365 (or 366 if it’s a leap year).

To calculate the pro rata figure, ($920÷365) x 78  = $196.60. So that $196.60 gets added to the balance of the purchase price. Now, let’s complicate things. Say the Vendor was falling behind on the rates, and the council had started adding on interest. The conveyancing secretary will be calling the council, water and body corporate authorities for an update on the rates. This is to find out if the vendor had paid any rates since the certificates were obtained, or if additional interest is payable since the certificate was issued. Let’s say the total amount payable to the council, after allowing for interest and council’s fees on the default, is $1,010.00. You’re still putting in your $196.60 – the rest is coming off the amount that would otherwise have gone into the Vendor’s pocket, had he or she paid the rates on time. The same principle applies to calculating the adjustments on the other rates.

More often than not, there will be a mortgage registered on the title. The Vendor will make an allowance for the registration fee to discharge the mortgage on the title, by deducting it from the balance of the purchase price.

Oh yes, I did say that working in other fields of law has its merits, didn’t I?

#4. The art of storytelling is an essential skill in the legal profession

I type Affidavits and prepare other court documents in between calculating settlement figures and preparing retail leases and contracts of sale of land. In an Affidavit, the deponent is essentially telling their story, the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth so help me God/Goddess/Allah/Flying Spaghetti Monster.  For instance, in an initiating application in a family law matter, the Applicant tells his/her story in his/her supporting affidavit. Then the Respondent files their response, and a supporting affidavit telling their side of the story. Every file tells a story.



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A little story to share for Harmony Day

With Benjamin Law starting the hashtag #FreedomOfSpeech on Twitter today, my little story to share for Harmony Day is too long to fit in a tweet, so I’ll share it here.

First, here’s Benjamin’s original tweet:

And now on to my story.

It was in approximately September/October 2011, and I was in a bar with my now-ex fiance and his best friend  (the dynamic of their friendship was more like that of master/servant, with my ex obeying his friend’s every beck and call without question – it was this incident where their masks began to fall off and I saw them for what they really were. Yes, I was in an abusive relationship – abusive in terms of mind games and gaslighting.) On the other side of the bar, was a man of African descent, seated with an Anglo-Celt woman. I thought nothing of it until the ex’s friend leaned over the table, pointing at the woman with rabid vitriol, and scowled: “look at that whore. Race traitor.”

I was too shocked to respond. Then, the man stood up and walked past our table, oblivious to our presence, towards the restrooms. The ex’s mate then panicked, and said, “Did he just hear what I said? He heard it. Let’s get out of here.” My ex just said “Yep” as though to agree, then I was hauled out in tow. Thinking back to that night, I was laughing about the mate’s hasty exit from the pub, despite all his grandstanding posturing, with or without any of the litany of knives, swords etc that he owns, when we visited him at his home. All bark and no bite.

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Let’s help keep young Wiccans and Pagans safe in our circles

Convicted paedophile Robin Fletcher has hit the headlines in recent days, with a judge recently handing down a decision to revoke a supervision order against him and the subsequent appeal against its revocation by the Department of Justice. What makes this case even more remarkably horrifying is that Fletcher is justifying his behaviour as being part of his “Wiccan” beliefs. To date, the appeal is pending.

The Pagan Collective of Victoria have released a statement, with several prominent figures in the Pagan community declaring no affiliation with Fletcher and condemning his actions. Pagans across Australia have also expressed their concern over his pending release. For the record, I have never met Fletcher, nor do I want to. The guy is scum, and he is not representative of the Wiccan/Pagan community.

Fletcher is a lot of things, but a Wiccan he ain’t, despite his assertions to the contrary. First of all, he has broken the Wiccan Rede, an it harm none, do what thou wilt. He manipulated his victims in order to facilitate his crimes, and in doing so, interfered with his victims’ free will (interfering with another person’s free will is also a huge no-no in Wicca). Let’s put it this way, Fletcher is to Wicca what the Westboro Baptist Church is to Christianity and ISIS is to Islam. He is twisting the interpretation of a religion and using it as an excuse for his actions.

Wicca is certainly more liberal in matters concerning nudity, sex and sexuality, but consent is paramount. Whether or not the witch works skyclad (the witches’ term for naked) during ritual work in the privacy of their own home is their own business. There are dickheads in any group, and unfortunately, Wicca has its fair share too. Trust your instincts. If you have recently started working with a group, building a mutual trust, only for a member of the group trying to pressure you into doing anything you’re not comfortable with, speak up. Anyone worth their salt will respect your boundaries. If they disregard your concerns, give them the flick and find another group. No one should be pressuring you into doing something you’re not comfortable with. If they start harassing or intimidating you (or worse, physically harm you), go to the police. No group is worth the trouble. You may have seen the movie The Craft? The scene where Nancy threatens Sarah with bad things happening to her should she leave their coven? Prime example of unacceptable behaviour. You should be free to leave any group if you no longer feel comfortable with the direction the group takes, or if you feel you’ve outgrown it. If you are a member of a group and someone leaves, it’s okay to let them go. If you took an oath not to divulge any details of ritual workings within the group, be sure to keep your oath, but if any of those “workings” broke the law (for instance, sexual assault or aggravated animal cruelty), report it. No one should be able to conceal their crimes under the guise of an oath.

Just in case you’re a young person who’s only just discovered Wicca and your parents are probably worried that you might become a victim of someone like Fletcher, here is just a basic outline of what you’ll find in the pagan community.

Public rituals – As the term suggests, public rituals are conducted on public land (in a park, for instance) and generally family-friendly. Anyone can attend, but there is a general requirement for minors to be accompanied by a parent or guardian. Casual clothing is fine, although you’ll find a plethora of hooded capes and robes – just make sure you wear comfortable shoes, because you’ll likely spend a majority of the time on your feet. Alcohol is forbidden at public rituals due to liquor licensing laws and laws against consuming alcohol in a public place. Juice and cookies are usually on offer after ritual for “grounding”, brought in by either the organisers or other attendees, or both. If there is a donation jar, it is prudent to offer a donation, preferably gold coin, to help the organisers cover the costs for the food and for ritual items used, such as incense and candles.

If anyone in attendance at a public ritual behaves inappropriately towards you, speak up. The organisers can tell the offender to leave, or call the police if needed.

Private covens – private covens usually meet in a private residence or other private venue by arrangement. Unlike public rituals, private rituals run by covens may be more in-depth, hence an oath of silence. All covens require new members to undergo initiation rites to varying degrees. Some covens may have age restrictions, or at the very least will require parental consent from minors. They may also have various prerequisites that must be met before being initiated. They want to make sure that you will be a good fit in their group, and that your joining them will enhance not only your own workings, but the overall workings of the group as a whole. Be patient, if there is a group that you really want to work with, they will grant you admission. I am an initiated member of a ceremonial magick group, and it took a good nine months before I was initiated into that group.

Workshops – New Age/occult retail outlets such as the Esoteric Bookshop in Vermont, Victoria, and The Modern Witch based in Sydney, regularly run workshops in relation to all things witchy. Some organisers will have regulars that attend several workshops through the course of the year.

Social gatherings – There are social gatherings for young and old alike, organised by various pagan and Wiccan community groups. If you are at least 18 years of age, there are Pagans in the Pub meetups in various cities across Australia. (If the venue is at a pub where minors are permitted if accompanied by a parent or guardian, and you can get your dear ole’ Mum or Dad to tag along, all the better.) A Google search of “Pagans in the Pub” with your city should point you in the right direction. Some occult/New Age retail outlets will even organise the occasional open day, with the purpose of socialising and also having items available for purchase. House of Hexenn is one such retail outlet.

The Mind Body Spirit Festival is the most widely known gathering of Wiccan, Pagan, New Age retailers, herbalists, psychics, tarot card readers, health food vendors and natural therapists, among others. View their website here. They also have seminars conducted by prominent figures in the Pagan/New Age community. At past MBS festivals, I have attended seminars by Stacey De Marco (The Modern Witch), tarot reader Paul Fenton-Smith and Rose Inserra, author of Dream Reading Cards: Discover the Purpose of Your Dreams and other books on dreams and dream interpretation, among others.

Security guards are on duty at all times during the MBS Festival, which in itself should act as a deterrent for any unsavoury behaviour, and deal with such behaviour should any problems arise. In my 5 years (2017 is going to be my 6th year) attending the Mind Body Spirit Festival, I have found the MBS festival generally safe, especially since I often go on my own. Ultimately it is up to the discretion of young people and their parents to decide whether to go – Melbourne MBS is at the Melbourne Exhibition Centre, near the Crown Casino, with plenty of cafes and a gelato bar along the Yarra River.

If you’re a young adult who has discovered Wicca, Paganism or other like path, exercise caution, trust your instincts and you will find people in whom you can put your trust. I discovered Wicca at age 14 and was lucky to have trustworthy mentors – and I want the same for you.

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6 Features in Game of War: Fire Age that Machine Zone forgot

2016 saw more new research, new buildings, new cores and new set gear, then the introduction of hero level 75 just before the new year. There was something new every 1-2 weeks (and more often than not required in excess of USD $1000 to be maxed again).

With all the new shit that’s rolled in, much of the existing shit has fallen by the wayside. Remember when…

#1. Kill events that run for three consecutive days

3-day kill events were before my time in GoW, and when Kingdom v Kingdom kill events started (usually when a kingdom is around 2-3 months old), they ran for 24 hours. Nowadays, the only place you’ll find a 3-day kill event is in the Kingdom of Fire, and that only opens once a month if you’re lucky. Kingdom v Kingdom kill events now run for 15 hours – Great if you live on the west coast of the United States, but you’re screwed if you live in the UK or Europe (forget about it if you live in Australia, New Zealand, Japan etc). The most action happens in the last few hours of the kill event -One kvk, I just happened to wake at 2am with an hour and a bit to go, and we were able to rally a player with a poor defence setup. Earned the third tier prize as rally leader, and got our alliance the third tier prize – and our master trap account player, cursing me because I scored higher than he did.

The kill events against multiple kingdoms are great, but once upon a time…

#2. Declare War 2.0 KvKs

Go to your wonder and tap on it, then tap on War List . When a Declare War 2.0 kill event was announced, anywhere between 4-6 kingdoms (including your own) would be shortlisted. The current reigning King would select a kingdom from that shortlist to fight against, but that means spending crowns to do so. Other players in the kingdom could vote on which kingdom they would ultimately go toe to to with at the kill event, but the selection ultimately rested with the King. The kingdom to make the declaration of war against their chosen kingdom would then get access to some boosts that would give them the upper hand against their chosen enemy. The kingdoms were selected a day or so in advance of the kill event.

I was still in Ferdi (kingdom 498) when these kill events were in vogue, and we saw Maccabee, kingdom 492, quite frequently when the opportunity arose. (when I saw an old battle report of my very first tile trap in Maccabee, I tapped on the coordinates to discover that they’ve since lost a merge war and absorbed into another kingdom. As to which kingdom, I don’t know yet.)

To date, I haven’t seen a Declare War KvK for at least a year. Maybe longer. Maybe those in the newer protected kingdoms are seeing it, but us old fossils in the ancient kingdoms haven’t seen them in yonks. Speaking of ancient kingdoms…

#3. Merge KvKs

I have made myself a new resident in Kingdom 801, Adlan. I joined an Adlan-based alliance shortly after they became ancient (they became ancient on or about 16 January 2017), then ported there at the beginning of February this year. About a month has passed since Adlan became ancient, and not a single merge kvk in sight. Ferdi got its merge within a week of becoming ancient, as did Kalmarsa (Kingdom 657, lost to Latrell, k659).

Machine Zone even forgot at least two kingdoms when they made the older protected kingdoms ancient – Kingdom 322 (Dion) is still a protected kingdom at 2 years 4 months, and Kingdom 689 (Kisul) is also still a protected kingdom at 2 years old. While MZ are deciding what new things to throw at the players, these two kingdoms are chomping at the bit, sending ticket after ticket begging MZ to make their kingdoms ancient, to a non-responsive Customer Support.

I somehow anticipate a merge kvk happening after this blog post is published. I’ll keep you posted. If you’re in either Dion or Kisul and your kingdom goes ancient after this blog post is published, make a comment below.

And gods, I wish we could buy ancient teleports in the bazaar – oh wait…

#4. The Bazaar

When was the last time the items available to sell in the bazaar was refreshed? It’s the same old shit. And the copper limit boosts? I haven’t seen them in packs in ages. The stuff available to buy in the bazaar hasn’t refreshed either. There’s only so many Great Wave gems and pink fireballs one can sell, only to discover you can’t get turret manuscripts to help complete alliance city turret research, or coat of arms to upgrade the War Council building. We just need to catch a monster in the World Boss dungeon for the hall of monsters…

#5. World Boss Monsters

Just as I got my World Boss research maxed, I looked around the kingdom (which, at the time, was Katara, k354) for a world boss monster. Nada. Zip. Zero. Zilch. I haven’t seen a single world boss monster for at least eight months, but mythics and behemoths abound! Speaking of dungeons…

#6. Wonder Dungeon packs

If you’re like me and you haven’t completed the dungeon mastery research, you’re probably also wondering if the Wonder Dungeon Pack ship has sailed. Apart from the shrapnel of crystal fragments and shards MZ puts in the packs, a pack with enough to get a good chunk of dungeon research done is as rare as hen’s teeth.

Okay Machine Zone, before you introduce your next new brainfart feature, how about giving us more mileage out of  your existing features, mmkay? Fix the lag and the other glitches and problems that are ruining our enjoyment of your game (which have done for the last two or so years). We’re beginning to wonder if NASA will soon be conducting test flights between your ears.


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Let’s just get it over with and make marriage equality in Australia a reality

Right now, the plebiscite vote as to whether same-sex marriage should be enshrined in law, is the hot topic du jour. Yes, grown adults in parliament wanting to conduct what is essentially a glorified opinion poll (because the result of a plebiscite vote is not legally binding, therefore the government is not legally obliged to act on the result) to determine if the majority of voting-age Australians agree to two consenting men or two consenting women being allowed to marry.

For the record, I am a straight, cisgender female and I say “yes” to marriage equality. I’m a bit sick and tired of the same old arguments being trotted out by the anti-same-sex marriage brigade. It’s time to do a hatchet job on those arguments, once and for all.


The argument: “But marriage is between a man and a woman!”/”It’s ‘Adam and Eve’, not ‘Adam and Steve’!” etc etc ad nauseum

The definition of marriage and the purpose of marriage has changed over the aeons. Marriage was once a means of forming a strategic alliance between families, has not always only been between one man and one woman, and consent wasn’t a prerequisite until a Benedictine monk decided that consent should be a thing. Hell, marital rape wasn’t even outlawed in Australia until the 1980s. And even now, there’s bound to be at least one person out there who is still yet to accept that a woman in a relationship/marriage doesn’t have to just “lie back and think of England“.

And before anyone harks up about homosexuality being “unnatural”, let’s just point out that homosexuality has been observed in 1,500 known species. Homo Sapiens seems to be the only species that has an issue with it.

Lastly, before anyone bangs on about same-sex marriage “destroying the sanctity of marriage”: Look at the divorce rate in Australia and then come back and say how same-sex marriage will “destroy the sanctity of marriage”. Hands up those who know any same-sex couples who have been together longer than some marriages!


The argument: “But a child needs a mother and a father!”

I wasn’t raised by a same sex couple, so I don’t really have a basis for comparison. But, here are two videos from adult children of gay parents, who talk about their experiences. We’ll just leave these videos here:




But wait! There’s more!



And we’ll leave you with one more for good measure…



I will also leave this video of a young girl who wrote to US President Barack Obama about her two dads:



So that I am not accused of cherry-picking, here are two videos, one from Millie Fontana, and one about Heather Barwick, adult children of gay parents. The former speaks about the impact on how her parents denied her contact with her biological father, and the latter is a report on Heather Barwick, who opposes same-sex marriage. Now, before you start firing off with expletives, hear them out:




Fontana’s argument is not so much an argument against same-sex marriage as same-sex parenting. While Zach Wahls and Erin Judge seemed not to be bothered about their paternal line, Millie wanted to know hers. This argument can be brought up in several scenarios not related to same-sex couples, and there are legal, moral and ethical issues to consider, e.g. anonymity of sperm and/or egg donors.

Barwick argues that same-sex marriage should be opposed because her dad abandoned her, despite the fact her mother and her mother’s female partner loved her very much and did a good job raising her (on her own admission). However, to deny other LGBT people the right to marry because her dad was a jerk is about as absurd as an adult child of heterosexual parents calling for marriage between a man and a woman to be outlawed because one parent repartnered/remarried and the other parent abandoned them. There are heterosexual couples/people out there who aren’t exactly a shining example of how to guide young people to behave as an upstanding member of society. Exhibit A: the father of Brock Turner.

There’s a Yoruba (African) proverb, it takes a village to raise a child. Anyone seen the movie Preaching to the Perverted? [SPOILER ALERT] Remember the very end of the movie? Without giving too much away, let’s just say that the infant girl at the end was the luckiest baby in all of London – she had her dad, her mum, her mum’s (presumably) female partner and her paternal grandmother, all with love in their hearts and all happy to help in raising this child.

The argument: “But same-sex couples have the same rights as heterosexual couples anyway!”

Well, not quite. In 2007, the Australian Human Rights Commission released this report into the systemic discrimination against same-sex couples enshrined in law at the time, and same-sex law reforms were passed in November 2008. To read the Act in its entirety, click here. These reforms addressed discrimination with regard to social security, taxation and the like. So yeah, Centrelink recognises same-sex couples like it does a marriage or a heterosexual de facto couple.

However, the right of next-of-kin depends on which state you live in. In 2015, in Hobart, a man was denied the right to be next-of-kin of his deceased same-sex partner. Then there was the case of David Bulmer-Rizzi, who died in an accident while honeymooning in Adelaide – and authorities refused to recognise his widower, Marco Bulmer-Rizzi, as David’s husband, let alone his next-of-kin. Victoria, at least, has some legislation in place to help prevent something like this from happening in the first place.

Anyway, enough of the rebuttal of the existing arguments against marriage equality. Now to present some arguments in favour of marriage equality:

#1. John Howard did not need a plebiscite to amend the Marriage Act in 2004

These amendments included the insertion of Section 88EA of the Marriage Act and the definition of “Marriage” under Section 5. And if John Howard didn’t need a plebiscite then, then Malcolm Turnbull certainly doesn’t need one now, especially considering senator Eric Abetz has gone on the record to say that Coalition MPs won’t be bound by the plebiscite result and Liberal Party senator Cory Bernardi has also stated that he will ignore a ‘yes’ result and vote against any marriage equality bill in parliament, which kinda makes the plebiscite pointless.

#2. Same sex couples shouldn’t need the permission of the Australian public to marry

Same sex couples are adults. They vote. They work. They pay taxes. They can buy liquor and cigarettes. They are serving in our defence force. They do all the adult things, JUST LIKE US STRAIGHT FOLK! Married couples, did YOU have to ask permission from the Australian public to marry? No. They will also have the choice whether to marry or not, just as heterosexuals have that choice as it stands.

#3. What two consenting adults do in the privacy of their own bedroom is none of your damn business

Dear people who oppose marriage equality, is the marriage of a same sex couple going to affect YOUR life in any way? Let me tell you now, it isn’t going to affect mine, so it’s hardly going to affect yours. Never mind this married couple who claimed that they will divorce if same-sex marriage became legal. It’s still their choice, not to mention that they’re “destroying the sanctity of marriage” by divorcing and “living in sin” (an archaic term for a couple living together as husband and wife but not legally married).

#4. It will benefit the wedding industry

The wedding industry in Australia is worth about $2 billion annually. Imagine all the extra revenue generated for businesses such as florists, photographers, jewellers, bakeries (for wedding cakes), formal wear and catering. That means increased employment (directly and indirectly) and more government revenue in the form of income tax and GST.The Liberal Party of Australia are the self-proclaimed champion of small businesses, yet if they want to stimulate “jobs and growth” as they parroted out in the last election, surely this a good start.

Once marriage equality legislation passes and everyone gets over themselves, 40 years from now, people will see the current arguments over same-sex marriage as absurd as our generation sees the hoo-hah over interracial marriage back in the 1960s.

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Learning from the past: Why Mike Baird’s new counter-terrorism bill will fail

On May 4, 2016, New South Wales Premier Mike Baird announced on his Facebook page about new legislation that was tabled in NSW parliament this week.

Today we introduced legislation into Parliament that will allow our Police to detain and question individuals, without charge, for up to 14 days if they are suspected of committing or planning terrorist acts. The laws will apply to anyone over 14 years of age.

– Excerpt from Mike Baird’s Facebook post, 4 May 2016

Those who forget their history are doomed to repeat it.

“But what could possibly go wrong?” I hear you ask…

The British Parliament enacted similar legislation in the 1970s to combat the IRA terrorist threat

In 1969, the Irish Republican Army was founded. The Provisional Irish Republican Army is the recognised terrorist organisation, not to be confused with the Official Irish Republican Army. The PIRA’s goal was to remove Northern Ireland from British rule and unite it with the Republic of Ireland. Until the PIRA declared a ceasefire on 19 July 1997 (effective 20 July 1997), they were responsible for several bombings and assassinations (among other things) around Northern Ireland and Great Britain, targeting British government officials, military targets, civilians and police.

In 1974, in an effort to combat the IRA, British parliament passed the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1974, which enabled police to detain suspects for up to five days (initially 48 hours) without a warrant and on reasonable suspicion that they were guilty of a terrorism offence. Sounds good in theory, but in practice…

The only people arrested and convicted under the Act were innocent

On 5 October 1974, the PIRA detonated bombs at two pubs in Guildford, Surrey. Their targets were chosen based on the popularity of the two pubs among British army personnel from nearby Pirbright barracks. Then on 7 November 1974, a shrapnel bomb exploded in the Kings Arms pub, Woolwich.

The Guildford Four, as they became collectively known, were:

  • Gerard Conlon
  • Paul Hill
  • Patrick Armstrong
  • Caroline Richardson

The Maguire Seven were arrested on suspicion that they had supplied explosives to the IRA. They were:

  • Anne Maguire
  • Patrick Maguire (Snr)
  • Patrick Maguire (Jnr) (a minor aged 14 years at the time of the bombings)
  • Vincent Maguire (a minor aged 17 years at the time of the bombings)
  • Sean Smyth
  • Patrick O’Neill
  • Patrick “Giuseppe” Conlon

The Guildford Four and Maguire Seven were arrested shortly after the bombings. Despite having alibis that were verified by witnesses, they were detained and charged. They were allegedly beaten and tortured, an allegation which Gerard Conlon maintained right up to his death in 2014. An inquiry was conducted to investigate the failings of the police investigation at the time, but it stopped short of suggesting that there was an official coverup. Gerry Conlon had spoken candidly about the impact the wrongful conviction had had on him and the others since their release, and wrote an autobiography, upon which the movie In the Name of the Father was based. Paul Hill’s letters to his family were donated to the Archive of the Irish in Britain.

The four IRA paramilitaries involved in the Balcombe Street Siege in December 1975, were arrested and brought to trial in 1977. During their trial, they claimed responsibility for the Guildford pub bombings, stating that “four innocent people were in prison for a crime they didn’t commit”, referring to the Guildford Four. Despite this confession, they were never charged, let alone tried, for their alleged involvement in the Guildford pub bombings.

The Guildford Four and the Maguire Seven had their convictions quashed in 1991.

A similar case is the Birmingham Six.

The Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act didn’t make the British people any safer, as evidenced by the continued IRA activity up until they declared their ceasefire.

And the legislation currently being tabled in New South Wales isn’t going to make the people of New South Wales any safer either.

“But what about the Lindt Cafe Siege?”

Let’s get this out of the way. Man Haron Monis, the gunman responsible for the siege, had no connections with any terrorist organisation (let alone the Islamic State), was on bail and awaiting trial for being an accessory before and after the fact in the murder of his wife, and for several sexual assaults. Further, ASIO dismissed Monis as a “serial pest” and didn’t take reports regarding posts on Monis’ Facebook page seriously. Muslims who were contacted to help the police comply with Monis’ request for an IS flag, felt as though they were set up. If state and federal governments and the judiciary in Australia treated violence against women as seriously as the threat of terrorism, Monis wouldn’t have been out on bail and the Lindt Cafe siege would never have happened. The last act of terrorism to happen in NSW was the Hilton Hotel bombing in 1978. That’s 38 years ago. And yet, as at 3 May 2016, 30 women have been murdered by a current or former partner in 2016.

Now, just say, hypothetically, that this bill passed into law. Replace “Irish” with “Muslim” and 25 years later, we will hear about how NSW Police tortured suspects and coerced them into signing false confessions, and these confessions were the only piece of “evidence” that the Police had to support their case. Despite having witnesses coming forward to provide evidence supporting alibis (and in this day and age, CCTV footage which proves their suspects were elsewhere at the time of any crime), they will withhold this evidence from the defence to secure convictions, or the defence will otherwise be unable to obtain this evidence to defend their case.

“But wait”, I hear you say, “the police wouldn’t do that!”

NSW Police have a history of corruption

Remember the Wood Royal Commission into Corruption in the NSW Police Service? Do you really think we will trust them to act reasonably? ‘Nuff said.

Still not convinced? I’ll leave you with this little gem:

Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
– John Dalberg-Acton

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Memento Mori: the facts of life that we need to talk about

“Over my dead body…”
“I’m here for a good time, not a long time…”
“Would you jump into my grave as quickly?”

You may have heard someone say those words in response to certain scenarios. It’s an acknowledgement of our own mortality.

It’s a reminder that we aren’t getting any younger. And, as the Southern Hemisphere descends into winter, southern hemisphere pagans recently celebrated Samhain (April 30 in the southern hemisphere; 31 October in the northern hemisphere. It’s the original Halloween). As the leaves on the trees wither and fall to the ground, the days get shorter, the nights longer and colder, nature gives us a stark reminder that nothing lasts forever, that certain things need to come to an end before we begin something new. It reminds us of the reality of death.

Samhain was/is the Celtic Festival of the Dead, a time during which deceased loved ones and ancestors are honoured and remembered. It is not so much a mourning of their passing, but a celebration of their lives.Think about it – you are alive because of your ancestors. Mexico has a similar festival, the Dia de Muertos.

Which brings us to the topic of this blog post. Yep, today’s pep talk is about this guy:

grim reaper

The Grim Reaper (Still from the movie Metropolis)


We dodge him, cheat him (and then sometimes follow through with a kick in the balls), we dread that one day (if we even acknowledge it), he will come beckoning at our door. And yet, we have become so divorced from Death that we look upon it as though death is something to be conquered, that we are invincible (News flash – we’re not invincible). And yet, when a loved one, be they human, canine, feline or otherwise, passes on, we are left with heartache, loss and grief in their wake. We are given the cold, harsh reminder of the permanency of death.

Which brings us to the old adage: “There are only two guarantees in life. Taxes, and Death.”

So, let’s explore humankind’s love-hate relationship with death.

The English language  probably has almost as many slang terms for death as it does for sexual intercourse. Here is a clip from the movie Patch Adams, where Patch Adams (portrayed by Robin Williams) gives comfort to a patient who is dying of pancreatic cancer:


Rather than holding the view that the world became poorer on Williams’ passing, the world became richer because he lived. Williams left quite a legacy – and he will be fondly remembered as Mork from Mork and Mindy, not to mention the countless films in which he starred. Arguably, his most memorable moment would have to be his performance in Good Morning Vietnam. The manner of his passing also highlights the need for us to do more for mental health services – it was that dreaded black dog that robbed the world of a beautiful soul. To learn more, I recommend a visit to the website of the Black Dog Institute, which is a non-profit organisation that specialises in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of conditions such as depression and bipolar disorder.

The reminder of your own mortality still hasn’t sunk in yet…


Just be thankful those days are over.

Because this is such a complex topic, it will need to be explored in a series of blog posts, rather than a single one. So, here’s one more to drive home your own mortality:


Now that we’ve driven the point home, it’s time to think about what to do with the time that we’ve got, i.e. while we’re still alive. We also need to get our shit sorted out so that our worldly possessions are divvied out in accordance with our wishes. So, Chapter One of Memento Mori will be all about all the things to do before we die. Here is a list of inspirational quotes to get you going. When you’re done, let’s continue.

Get your affairs in order. Write a will. You’re probably thinking, “But I don’t own a house. I don’t need a will.” Do you have superannuation? Do you have a car? Are you a performing/literary/visual artist whose works are still earning you royalties? Do you have any specific instructions, e.g. cremation or burial, exclusion of specific people from making a claim on your estate, or you have your wishes as to how and where you wish to have your funeral service and wake? Do you have other valuable possessions, such as jewellery or musical instruments, that you wish to be passed down to any specific person? You need to put that in a will. There are DIY will kits available if you know what you want and understand the advice given in these kits. But, if there are any questions you have that aren’t answered in the DIY will kit, or you have complex arrangements (such as a testamentary trust for grandchildren), or if you have debts (such as a mortgage), you need to see a lawyer. A lawyer will be able to draft the will and make sure that it accords with your wishes, advise you on the consequences of making the will, explain the role of the executor appointed under the will, and to make sure that the will revokes any previous wills or codicils that you have made. The lawyer will also ensure that the will is properly executed and witnessed in accordance with the applicable laws to ensure its validity.

But, have you already made a will? If there are changes in your circumstances, such as marriage or divorce, then you need to update your will. Victorian law firm Slater & Gordon has a comprehensive overview of wills, probate and estates, which you can read here.

Is there anything you really, really want to do while you’re still alive? Write a bucket list. This list is limited only by your imagination. Remember, you’re never too old to try anything. Don’t think you’re good at something? Do it anyway, the time will pass regardless. This list below is not necessarily my bucket list, but an example of what a bucket list can look like:

  • Drive the Great Ocean Road
  • Learn a second language
  • Travel and explore foreign lands
  • Learn a new skill, e.g. photography, sewing
  • master a musical instrument
  • Be part of a TV studio audience
  • Learn how to scuba dive/bungee jump etc
  • Make a pilgrimage (e.g. Wacken Open Air if you are a heavy metal fan, Summernats or NASCAR if you are fond of cars or car racing)

Spend quality time with family and friends. Among the most common regrets of the dying, is that they wished they didn’t work so hard, and wished they had spent more time with family and friends. Remember the lyrics to the songs Puff the Magic Dragon and Cats in the Cradle? The former is about a little boy who lost the magick of childhood after he became a man and bearing the burdens of adulthood (not about drug use – go and read those lyrics again some time), and the latter is about a father who regrets not spending more time with his son, to quote the final verse: I’ve long since retired and my son’s moved away, I called him up just the other day. I said “I’d like to see you, if you don’t mind”, he said “I’d love to Dad, if I can find the time. You see my new job’s a hassle and the kids have the flu, but it’s sure nice talking to you, Dad, it’s been sure nice talking to you.”  When I hung up the phone it occurred to me, he grew up just like me, my boy was just like me…

Go and scrutinise the above picture of the Grim Reaper again. Apart from the scythe, which is his most notable attribute, his other attribute is the hourglass. See if you can find it in the picture. The hourglass serves as a reminder that time waits for no one, and that our time is finite.

Let go of the past. You are not your past. Are some people beyond salvation or redemption? Perhaps they are. Or maybe not. One of my good friends, who passed away in late 2014, was an ex-con, but he was a man who stood by  his convictions, whatever the cost. Writing music became his outlet, his vehicle of expression. Which brings us to…

Be more creative. Creativity heals, creativity inspires, it keeps us out of trouble (we hope). Our modern society devalues creativity, dismissing it as folly. People who make a living in any creative arts (especially photographers and seamstresses, for example) have to fight tooth and nail to justify their rates for their craft. Memes such as this have become necessary to express the bugbears of the creative:

Cinderella sew meme

Add a couple of zeros to that figure and then we’ll talk. (Still from the movie Cinderella)


“But I don’t have a creative bone in my body.” I call bullshit. Everyone has the capacity to create. Some will take longer than others, and that’s okay. Hell, there was a time where I couldn’t even do so much as sew on a button. Still not convinced? Here’s a bit of inspiration. You’ve heard of a guitarist Steve Vai, right? Steve Vai has stated on the record that he was not a natural when he first began to learn the guitar, and practiced 11 hours a day to get better.

And here’s a select clip of Steve Vai in action:


You don’t have to create for the benefit of other people. You create for the benefit of YOU. Even if drawing stick figures on a restaurant napkin serves as a creative outlet, if it gives you satisfaction, that’s all that matters.

The next instalment of Memento Mori will explore death’s place in folklore through the ages, including folkoric tales of the afterlife and the undead (yes, that includes vampires).

To end this blog post, here is a shortlist of movies that deal with the topic of death and dying, in the context of this blog post:

Big Fish
Steel Magnolias

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