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Tag Archives: Victoria

Voting Liberal is neither liberal nor conservative

The parties of the right in Australia are changing faster than their voters might recognise. It is increasingly the case that a vote for the “conservatives” is a vote for the radical or religious right.

No doubt the leaders of the Liberal Party of Victoria are disturbed by the fact that Moira Deeming, their candidate for the Western Metropolitan Region seat is closely connected to an anti-choice rally set for this weekend, six weeks before the state goes to the polls.

The party has indicated that it wants to “pursue progressive social and environmental policies.” For a state that, as they acknowledge, would require a “genuine, modern alternative” government, this is likely to be imperative.

The Victorian Liberals expelled Bernie Finn, Deeming’s predecessor and mentor, to signal that they would not stand for the radical right populism he aims to foment, in particular anti-abortion comments. Awkwardly for them, the branch selected Deeming, noted for her anti-abortion and TERF (Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminism, more accurately depicted as Feminism-Appropriating Radical Transphobe or FART) statements.

Finn and Deeming are intimately connected with the organisation. He founded it five years after abortion was decriminalised in Victoria, aiming to recriminalise it, with his organisation at the forefront of the battle. Deeming stepped down as secretary last year, but was previously prominent, and continues her activism post-preselection. Amongst the key statements on the march’s Facebook page are claims that it is “never ok to slaughter a child” and “Let’s make Victoria like Arizona” after that US state made the medical procedure illegal. The implication can only be that this group aims ultimately to plant the most extreme Christian Nationalist abortion bans from American states in Australia’s civil soil.

Not only is “March for the Babies” intending to strip women of our bodily autonomy, but it is also closely connected to far-right and white supremacist activists. They are on film attending the marches, but in 2018 Finn even hired these notorious figures as his bodyguards* for the event. Deeming’s connection to the extreme anti-abortion movement, as well as her activism against Safe Schools and writing in support of Conversion Therapy, reinforces that her transphobic activism is based in extremist Christianity, not feminism. This movement aims to erase LGBTQI people from the public space. The coordination of oppressive Christianity with its western chauvinist cultural deployment is a common pairing in the international religious right.

Denominational branch-stacking is an old tradition in Australia, but as the religious right problem around the world becomes more extreme, the attack on “conservative” branches here grows more concerted. Nondenominational Christian lobby groups such as the Australian Christian Lobby illustrate how radical the positions are becoming. International experience shows that these forces are content to work with cultural conservatives such as transphobes in order to broaden their appeal.

Becoming a target for motivated religious groups, pushing preselection of less moderate candidates is only half the problem for the Victorian party in making sure that it can be a genuine “modern” option.

The other is that the radical right nature of the Liberal Party – and its National Party colleagues – around the nation is functioning as an employment ad to people driven by immoderate goals.

Brian Klaas has spent years interviewing and researching the personality type of people who misuse power from the petty tyrant in the office to nations’ authoritarian leaders. His book Corruptible is well worth reading for an insight into the proposition that the LNP, the Republicans and the Tories have declined beyond redemption.

One powerful example that Klaas uses to illustrate the impact of a literal professional advertisement is the police force. Naturally, this job wrongly done can be much bloodier than a politician’s, so the similarities are not equivalent.

Klaas contrasts two extreme examples of police career advertising to make his point. On one hand, New Zealand aimed to address the problem of the wrong people choosing a police career by creating a campaign that featured humour, a diverse array of backgrounds and a focus on a job as a support to the community. The campaign was a huge success, attracting women, Maori and people from other non-white groups to join in substantial numbers. Now the police are much more likely to look like the people they are policing, and the outcomes are similarly better.

The most extreme American ad came from Georgia. A small town website posted a recruitment video that began with the Punisher logo (a violent vigilante figure beloved on the extreme right) and continued with military vehicles, smoke grenades and firing with military-style weapons to the soundtrack of “Die MF die.”

The people who self-select for this police force are not the same people who select for the NZ version where people who return dogs to grateful owners or help hungry street kids are the personalities celebrated.

This is clearly a much more extreme career path than politics. The people harmed by politicians are usually separated by many layers of public service and are much harder to link causally to parliamentary and administrative decisions.

But the echo of the lesson remains: when a coalition of parties advertises itself as the home of self-interest and the celebration of prejudice and cruelty, who is likely to self-select? Klaas’s study suggests it is more likely to be people belonging to the “dark triad personality” type, already drawn to power.

The dark triad personality illustrates elements of the overlapping narcissistic, Machiavellian and sociopathic personalities. The impact is described thus: “People with these traits tend to be callous and manipulative, willing to do or say practically anything to get their way. They have an inflated view of themselves and are often shameless about self-promotion. These individuals are likely to be impulsive and may engage in dangerous behaviour—in some cases, even committing crimes—without any regard for how their actions affect others.”

The treatment of Australians in scandals such as the Robodebt trial; our First Nations people in general; and the extremity of cruelty meted out to asylum-seeking refugees over the last decade all illustrate decisions that might have been made by people acting out of these personality traits. The fact that the scarifying treatment of refugees was the point, and that rotten publicity was welcomed for its deterrent effect, underlines the distorted thinking at work. We were intended to be – and be famous for being – worse than the Taliban, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, the genocidal Burmese and Sri Lankan armies.

It is hard to imagine wholesome people wanting to ally themselves with this brand. It is also hard to imagine them wanting to immerse themselves in a workplace filled with people happy to harm others.

This is not to argue that any other party is free of these characters, but all the rational parties do not market themselves as the party of cruelty, greed and memelord trolling of the vulnerable.

Most of the decent Liberals have left after failing to prevent the descent into radicalism. Indeed, their federal vice-president celebrated their departure as a cleansing of so-called “lefties” within the party at CPAC Australia recently. Their coalition partners have not shown such caution, maybe hoping that they can rescue their party from the trolls yet.

It is hard to know how Australia’s “conservative” parties can rescue themselves from this spiral of awfulness. In the meantime, their voters must know what is at stake.

*One of those “bodyguards” is alleged to have been amongst the group of Neo Nazis throwing the Hitler salute while protesting a youth LGBTQI gathering in a Moonee Ponds, Melbourne park. This is an echo of the Christian Fascist/Nationalist intimidation of many LGBTQI events around America in Pride Month 2022.

This was first published on Pearls and Irritations as Liberal candidate supports US-style abortion ban ahead of state poll

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What really happened, yes I really was told to ‘rough it’ and miscarry on the side of the road… (part 2)

Continued from Part 1

Meanwhile, still in a hospital bed [in an isolation room] and beside myself with grief, tears still streaming down my face and still in shock, after running some simple blood tests, the doctor informed me the miscarriage had likely not been completed and that even though they were certain I had lost the pregnancy, they could not confirm the miscarriage as medically ‘complete’. Following this knowledge, I was told I was free to go, as they told me the process would continue sometime between now and the next 14 days, advising me to follow up with my doctor when I got home. After I was discharged, I had explained to one of the nurses that I didn’t know what to do or where to go and one of them said ‘Well I’m just going to close this dose [the door in the isolation room] and pretend you don’t exist for the next 3 hours until you or your partner work something out or until your partner can come and get you’. But that wasn’t a solution, so I asked for the police. Why did they discharge me? Because they didn’t know what to do with me and would rather I was someone else’s problem. Additionally, there was no policy that could allow me to stay, since I no longer required urgent medical attention, and only medical and domestic violence emergencies are covered under quarantine directive. They had no-where to put me and just wanted to pretend I didn’t exist.

All I wanted to do was be with Mike, I didn’t want to be separated from him anymore. Unfortunately, the doctors and nurses treating me were not aware of the situation that would unfold soon after and assumed other arrangements by the police would be made, my guess is that they were busy and being in a small country town not really having dealt with real COVID-19 protocol, they never imagined or understood the sheer difficulty of my situation and just assumed the authorities and police would sort something out. Since I was considered under SA state government law, a public health risk, there was no possible way for me to arrange transport to Mike as I’d be essentially putting myself and others at risk and anyone coming in contact with me or him would risk 14 days of quarantine or by some miniscule chance contract the virus that at the time no one knew I wasn’t infected with. We have since received two negative tests and await the results of the third.

I was dependant on authorities for direction, so I asked the appropriate staff at the hospital to contact SA police to ask how I can get back to Mike (I didn’t care if his parents were coming that evening or not) all I wanted was to be with Mike so we could grieve the loss of his and my first pregnancy together. I pleaded with the nurses to help me get back to Mike and to contact the police to help me, as only they could tell me what to do and how I could get back to Mike and the car. The nurses at the hospital agreed to contact the police on my behalf since I wasn’t (for obvious reasons) capable of explaining my situation clearly. The nurses then told me it was fine and that SAPOL understood our circumstances and given that technically anyone in quarantine is not allowed to be out in the public, the nurses told me that SA police would transport me back to Mike. I finally breathed a sigh of relief because Mike was a long way from the hospital, it was dark and I didn’t even know what direction he was in and didn’t know how I was going to get to him and I have never been to this town. Learning of this news from the nurses, I agreed I wanted to be discharged then and there.

However, when SAPOL arrived, two men (Berri police officers) stood in front of me and having known my full situation miscarriage and all, said the opposite to what I had been expecting: ‘We can’t transport you from the hospital, you are not permitted to travel with us and unfortunately we can’t help you’. They continued ‘Because you are a health risk, you would put our car out of commission for the evening and we don’t want to do that because that’s one less car for all of us, so it’s unfortunate we just can’t help you, but we have spoken to your partner and he is coming to get you’. At that moment I breathed what I thought was another sigh of relief, thinking Mike had somehow made other arrangements under their directive and that they had organised a means of him getting to me… ‘So you arranged something for him instead though?’ I said. To which they replied ‘No… he is walking to come and get you and you are walking back with him’. My knees started to buckle and my hearted started to pound in panic. I was essentially haemorrhaging and had no control over the process. It was hard enough to control in the hospital setting and I had no idea if it was going to get worse or if I would be able to manage the 20-minute walk. The pain was intermittent and would come on suddenly and immediately bring me to my knees and I had no control over the bleeding nor its intensity, not to mention I knew I shouldn’t be using any public bathrooms for fear that on the small chance I was more than a normal risk of having COVID-19.

Tears started to well up soaking my mask as they went, before I then said; ‘But I’m bleeding heavily, do you think it’s a good idea for me to walk that far?’ ‘I also haven’t had dinner, I’m woozy from blood loss, I’m dizzy, I’m hungry and how will we get food?’ I continued, ‘We aren’t allowed to go to the shops… I don’t know what to do?’ ‘Please, there must be something you can do, please help me, please contact someone higher up, I need help, I don’t want to walk, I’m so tired and I don’t think I can handle such a long walk whilst I’m bleeding heavily, I really need your help…’ They stared blankly at me. I paused still trying to grasp the gravity of the situation. ‘Why can’t you HELP us, I thought it was your job to help us?!’ To that they replied, ‘Well, we can’t offer the help you are looking for, it’s a small country town everything is shut now anyway, what would you have done otherwise?’ I looked at them still with a pleading look whilst I started to imagine what will happen with my bleeding as I made the journey. They didn’t even consider my personal tragedy and that walking will not be simple and that I couldn’t even get a taxi to Mike (which I would have done if things were different), and so they continued ‘It’s not our problem that your car broke down- this happens to lots of people and they get through it, we’ve all had a tough year and that’s just how it is now, that’s COVID-19, so you’ll just have to ROUGH IT’.

My head started to spin, and I thought to myself, ‘Rough it!? ROUGH IT!? But I am having a miscarriage. I am bleeding uncontrollably, I am grieving, I am in pain and I can barely comprehend my reality…’ He continued, ‘Look it’s been a tough year for all of us, that’s just how it is now, but your partner will be here to get you soon’. I stood there bemused, they were talking to me like I was property or just some other man’s problem. I was completely lost for words; these men were sexist. I tried to imagine who among the 3 of us in that moment was truly suffering and having a tough year and it wasn’t them. How was I supposed to ‘rough it’… how was I supposed to ‘rough it’, whilst my body was violently miscarrying my first pregnancy, and how was I supposed to ‘rough it’ as the process would continue even more violently, the more walking I did. How was I supposed to ‘rough it’ as my uterus violently bled at a pace and speed I could not predict and would not be able to control when it did.

In that moment I just froze, and I looked into their eye’s scanning them for a shred of empathy and just I couldn’t find it! This is one of the strangest moments in my life. I realised they simply did not have a shred of human decency inside them and did not care to imagine not only what I was going through, but how impossibly hard it was going to be to make that 20-minute journey by foot whilst bleeding heavily and uncontrollably. Overwhelmed with their total lack of human qualities I tried through exhaustion to open my mouth to speak, but they spoke over the top of me, so finally I gave up.

But this is what I had tried to say: ‘Plenty of people have not been in our situation! How many people do you know who are in a pandemic, are told to return home to a cut-off that is physically impossible to meet, who are advised to drive on a dangerous road that leads to a popped tire… how many people do you know that have not only been through that, but at the same time are also violently beginning to miscarry their first pregnancy!?’ I also wanted to say: ‘When was the last time it was considered unsafe for someone to use public spaces and amenities such as toilets and purchasing food/drink from the shop? When was the last time it was considered unsafe for one to arrange transport other than our own… ?’

Whilst I would rather health directives that are overly cautious there should never be a time when the authorities don’t know what to do with situations that are human and out of one’s control, let alone force a woman to undergo immense pain, needless suffering and humiliation simply for being born with a uterus – an organ who’s function they cannot control. So what I really really wished to say was this: ‘I am bleeding out of body and I am sorry that the fact that I have a vagina means that you don’t know how to treat me like a human being!’. Instead, I stood there in silence. Then the nurse then spoke to me and offered me some food before directing me to the waiting room where I would wait for Mike. Not wanting to cause a panic in a pandemic among people from a small country town, I asked for another option and to simply wait outside. So, in the grips of sobbing after having tried to get the two men to display even an ounce of empathy and help me, they both gestured to a park bench whilst one of them said: ‘There’s a picnic bench across the road, you can go and wait there whilst you wait for your partner to come and get you’… and that was it. Both of the officers turned around and went back inside without even looking back or with a second thought.

After that I sobbed and wailed on the phone to Mike to find out he was still 15 minutes away and so I waited in the dark afraid, because I am a woman and being alone at night is dangerous. For the next 15 minutes whilst constantly looking over my shoulder, I also watched people walk in and out of the hospital to their cars and not one person came to ask me if I was okay. I was, for all intents and purposes released into the wilderness by two men with less than a shred of empathy and human decency. Two men who also seemed to have no concept that women cannot control when they bleed and that when we do, the situation can often be humiliating if amenities and appropriate sanitary items are not around. Everybody just wanted ‘the risk’ i.e. me, to disappear into the wilderness. So like many women early in this century and centuries gone, like an animal of prey bleeding and vulnerable to predation, I was left on my own to deal with what nature had thrown at me.

Finally, and out of the corner of my eye, about 15 minutes later I see Mike, he was running to me. He did not walk to me, he ran to me, desperate to be by my side. Only then did I learn we would be going home (expected to arrive home at 4.40am) but also learning it would still be another 4 hours before the car would arrive. Unfortunately, I still had to make the 20 minute journey back to the car, the only place in public we were provisionally permitted to be in- until such time that it was logistically possible for us to self-quarantine. So until then, I surmised to myself that the pain, suffering, torture and loss of my dignity was simply not over yet. So we walked the several blocks to the edge of the town where the car was. On the way and of no surprise to me and Mike I was not able to walk well, and several times I had to stop and let the violent process that was taking place in my body continue to expel the pregnancy. Not knowing the location of and also too afraid to use public amenities to clean myself up; for fear of breaking the law and also for fear of endangering anyone with the miniscule chance I was unknowingly infected – the humiliation continued as I was forced to stop several times… Whilst having a miscarriage I was more concerned about my impact and presence in the community for fear that I may be infected and transmit the virus. I abstained from using a toilet as we passed a service station to firstly protect others and secondly because I did not want to break the law.

When we finally reached the car, I was in so much pain that I knew what was coming; and there was nothing I could do to stop it. I asked Mike to find me ‘somewhere’ where he could shield me from passing cars and in that moment ‘following the health directive’, not far from the repair place, with no amenities in site and with Mike by my side, my last shred of dignity as a woman that bleeds, gave way. There in the most private place a woman would find, in a gully hidden from the road; pants down under a huge Eucalyptus tree, I passed a 4-week-old embryo. I had completed the miscarriage. Pregnancy hormone levels, previous to and post to have since confirmed that completion indeed occurred at this point. All the hopes, all the dreams of a mother-to-be lay on the ground. All the early pregnancy advice, all the careful eating and all the sacrifices I made, it all lay on the ground underneath my body, in a pool of blood, exposed to the elements and passing cars – in Australia on the side of the road, under a Eucalyptus tree.

The trauma of a miscarriage should end at the miscarriage. I was in pain, I was not at home, nor a place of comfort and I was not afforded even the dignity of using a public toilet, as it was against the law. That night I was not considered a human being and I just have to hope no one saw me. I continue to relive the trauma of that evening in my nightmares. Every night since the incident I have had nightmares of being in a public place, naked and exposed and covered in blood with prying eyes everywhere. In these dreams I am covered in blood and trying to find a toilet. I was denied basic human rights and I felt like a farm animal. And maybe this has happened to women before me, and maybe even to some women in Australia but for as long as I will live, I will never understand why any woman in Australia would be discharged from a hospital, be completely aware they were in the process of a miscarriage but would have no choice but to miscarry under a tree on the side of the road. What’s more, I will never understand how on that night, that woman under the tree… was me. My name is Nicole Clark and I’m telling my story publicly because I want the authorities to know I want the last woman to ever go through this, to be me.

Final words and message to the South Australian Government

I will not let you sweep this under the rug! I was humiliated beyond all words, there are no words to describe what it felt like as I squatted on the side of the road, I was treated like a second-class citizen or like a dog on heat. I demand a full and formal public apology from the South Australian police. As Mr Grant Stevens stated in his Commissioners Message “you expect us to be there in times of personal and community emergencies.” It is clear this did not occur, a personal emergency occurred at the border check point, yet a lack of basic human empathy was not displayed, let alone what would be expected as a minimum from a police officer(s) who are supposed to be serving their community.

This was further evident when police were unwilling to explore any options regarding the transportation of me or potential emergency accommodation for the night. Making me walk was painful and humiliating; for a police officer to tell me that I’d have to “rough it” it for the night with no consideration for my basic human needs and the trauma I had just experienced is disgraceful. South Australian police have already made a statement saying, “it was not the responsibility of police to make quarantine accommodation arrangements,” however I would have expected the police officer to at least have made some enquiries to see what could be done for both the transportation of me and possible accommodation. This did not occur, and the police officer made no attempt, their only concern was that we either stay put in the car or make our way home somehow.

My partner expressed concerns that staying in the car all night was not an option as I needed access to a bathroom as I would continue bleeding all night, the only alternative was for my partner’s parents to drive 3 hours in the dark on country roads to come get us. My partner told the police officer he was concerned that his parents are close to 70 years old, they have to use country roads through the hills, and they would not arrive until 1am. The police officer seemed unfazed by this. My partner further stated it would mean we wouldn’t arrive home until at least 4am and he was concerned about the already long journey we had undertaken the previous day from Hay and the trauma we have both endured. Again, the police officer seemed unfazed of the severe fatigue my partner would face driving back home, and potential for another fatality on the road. This also goes against Mr Stevens message of “you want to travel safely on our roads”… how is encouraging two people to keep driving at that time of night and after what they have endured considered to be at all safe?


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What really happened, yes I really was told to ‘rough it’ and miscarry on the side of the road…

The following story may seem completely unbelievable, but unfortunately every word of it is true. What I’m about to tell you is a complete, full and factual recount of what happened to me, as featured on ABC News Adelaide and in The Guardian. Readers are advised that this story contains descriptions of miscarriage and pregnancy loss, hence some readers might find the following story confronting and may not wish to read on.

This story is not a light-hearted read, it is long and will take some time to digest. This story will shock you and may spark rage in you, you will question whether something like this could really happen in Australia especially if you are a woman, but it is so important that I tell it exactly as it occurred, for it is an example of what is seriously wrong with Australia right now. It is not easy to tell this story and most people who read it will question its authenticity, as it just seems so unbelievable, however all I can simply to say to that is, every word of it is true. In fact shortening the story would only create confusion – as told by the media and the public’s reaction to it over the past week. I have provided a short version below to draw you in until you can get around to reading it. I am not a journalist, so I have nothing to gain by not telling you the truth. I’m telling this story as I refuse to let this be swept under the rug! The public must know how I was treated, so I have chosen to share this story not out of sympathy but as a matter of Public Interest – nevertheless it is a deeply personal and humiliating story so please be respectful when making comments.

Brief history

Readers are encouraged to follow my journey on Twitter but in short, I am a COVID-19 scientist who was just awarded a full PhD scholarship here in Adelaide. Adelaide is a long way from where I grew up in rural NSW, so at the end of 2020 and due to border closures it had been a year since I had seen my family. With my grandfather in particular being very frail and in his late 90s and my grandmother in her late 80s and with COVID-19, we decided there may never be another chance like it. When the South Australian borders finally opened up to NSW, my partner Mike and I were eager to travel the 15 hours by car (over two days) to visit my family in rural NSW.

The very short of it

On the 01.01.21 I miscarried my first pregnancy. That’s where the trauma should have ended, but it didn’t. On the 01.01.21 I miscarried my first pregnancy AND the entire ordeal was nothing short of inhumane and utterly humiliating.

After attempting to transit through Victoria to South Australia, in which we were not permitted because of inconsistent and non-publicly available advice regarding border closures, we arrived at the South Australian border check point where officers were informed we needed an ambulance due to what we assumed at the time was a miscarriage occurring.

Not a single police officer was interested in offering compassion and assisting him nor me, despite I was hunched over in pain and sobbing by the car. No body offered me a drink, a tissue, or to use the toilet, despite being fully aware of the uncontrollable and deeply personal tragedy I was facing; and shockingly too, there were women at that site.

I was pregnant and then I wasn’t and the circumstances and the way I had to endure the miscarriage was not dignified and the hospital and the police were fully aware that I was in the process of going through a miscarriage.

As per South Australian Quarantine directives, the only mode of transport I was permitted to use was my own two legs and I was not permitted to use public spaces, this includes a public toilet- which I desperately needed.

I could not get a taxi. I could not get a bus; I had no choice but to walk for 20 minutes back to our un-drivable car to the car repair place (read on to find out why) where it had been towed. It was dark. Our un-drivable car was 20 minutes’ walk from the hospital.

Mike was not with me at the hospital at any point, I was forced to endure the miscarriage of the life we created TOGETHER in hospital ALONE he was not permitted to be by my side whilst I was in hospital, he was not permitted to enter the hospital. This means he also was not there when I was discharged.

Mike was with the car and in the car were all of my toiletries and personal belongings. I just wanted to be with Mike, and he was a long walk from me, he left the car at the repair place and walked to me to help me make the long 20 minute journey back to the car. The walk took me 35 minutes because I could barely contain the product of the miscarriage as blood soiled my clothes.

The South Australian State Government and associated departments had a duty of care to transport me safely and humanely, since I was dependent on their direction under quarantine directives. They refused to transport me despite knowing I was enduring a miscarriage and that doctors advised I should not walk.

They humiliated me and forced me to endure a miscarriage in public. This did not need to happen, I could have miscarried and bled in privacy because I knew it was not over, they knew too. I had no choice but to bleed onto the side of the road because I could not even use a public toilet.

The full story

My family, like us, were separated and protected by the countryside where they were hundreds of kilometres away from any hot spots or confirmed COVID-19 transmission. So coming from South Australia with 0 community transmission to a rural area with 0 cases and also 0 transmission; and fearing the next time may be too late, we travelled the 1,360 km and spent Christmas with my grandparents and the rest of family. Unfortunately, we would not be able to visit my other grandparent who lives in Sydney. Strangely, the previous New Year, on what also started on New Year’s Eve, [whilst visiting other family in Sydney] we became separated from my immediate family on the South Coast, by none other than the fires; and so spent the night in a rescue centre in Sussex In-let- with hundreds of other climate refugees. So, we were accustomed to foregoing New Year’s celebrations and acting quickly to any public health directives and in all types of situations.

On the 30th of December following multiple cases exploding all over Sydney (still more than 400 km from the rural town we were staying in) in the late evening, the South Australian government announced hard border restrictions were coming. On the following morning of the 31st of December (to our surprise) the South Australian government gave the directive that all South Australians visiting NSW must return home immediately before midnight or else face mandatory quarantine. The rules had changed very quickly. The previous day the borders were open, the health directive was that all returning travellers from rural NSW into SA would not be required to quarantine but simply to get tested and isolate until they received a negative test. The rules had changed so suddenly that we were not able to follow these unrealistic expectations and cut-off.

Both my partner and I looked at each other as we realised avoiding quarantine was not an option for us. There was no way we would reach the border in time, just absolutely no way. So we both needed to get home in time in order to complete quarantine by the 15th which marked Mike’s return to work; and the commencement of my PhD journey as a COVID-19 scientist. So we packed up our things immediately, said goodbye to my family within the hour, (for what will likely be another year) and we left the area to get as close to the SA border as possible (safely). We were hoping for some sort of leeway in the process, as it would take 2 days of driving to finally reach the SA border.

Additionally, I had not long found out I was pregnant. It was my first pregnancy, and I was dealing with pregnancy symptoms that lead us to stop almost every hour along the way. So again, there was absolutely no way we would ever reach the border by midnight on the 31st of December. Since the journey to SA involves passing through Victoria, we had resolved to the fact that we may have to explain our situation very carefully to allow us to pass through Victoria and onwards to home, where once reaching the SA border we understood we may need to quarantine but hopped as with other states exceptions (even for Victorians) it wouldn’t have to be the case. After spending the night in accommodation in Hay NSW, we set off first for Victoria.

When we arrived at the Victorian border, met by police we were told due to border closures it was not possible to pass through Victoria and that we had to traverse across countryside and take ‘back roads’ through NSW to reach SA. Following that directive, we proceeded to drive the extra 4 hours around Victoria to hopefully reach our destination. Since the police took our details, 2 hours later we received a phone call from the same Victorian police officer that told us we couldn’t pass through Victoria, that the directives had changed and now we can. The officer said that the information they gave us about travelling through Victoria was incorrect and that we should be able to go online and get a permit to pass through, giving us the directive to travel to Mildura and present our permit. So we began to abandon our plans to traverse across NSW, stopping frequently due to my pregnancy symptoms; and head for Mildura after filling out a permit online as directed. However, when we arrived back at the Victorian border we were again told the information we had been given previously was incorrect and again told to traverse across the country side and take the back roads through NSW. So taking a deep breath we proceeded with our initial plans as directed at the first Victorian check point. We were told the back roads should get us to our destination and we set off again.

Not more than 2 hours later following the directions given by the police officers in Mildura we arrived at a turn off to enter a 130km stretch of road in an arid zone known as ‘Renmark/Wentworth Rd’ and to our surprise less than 20km in, was a sign that said ‘unsealed road ahead’. My partner looked at me nervously as our car hit the dirt road- it is not at all designed to go off road. But since it was our only choice, looking at each other, we both shrugged and thought ‘well this is the only way, and it must be safe considering this is the path we were directed to take by the authorities i.e., the Victorian Police. The stretch of road was dangerous, we had to drive slowly, and our car struggled. Outside it was 36 degrees, phone reception was patchy, there was no shade, no trees and we were looking at a vast empty landscape in all directions. We didn’t see another car for over an hour. So if we ran into any problems, a tough potentially dangerous situation lay ahead for us. It truly was a dangerous road. Unfortunately, the unthinkable happened and only 1 km from the check point our tire suddenly popped, and Mike and I got out of the car to investigate. At that very moment I also felt a sharp pain in my abdomen and buckled to my knees, I was losing my first pregnancy right then and there.

In agony and unable to control the process, I bent down on the side of the road… and there as I called to Mike in the hot scorching sun my body started to let ‘it’ go. Not two minutes later, another car crossed our path, so I rushed to make myself decent, temporarily stopping the process with what little I had on hand. Still 2.5 hours from our home in Adelaide, but with advice from the well-seasoned off-road driver, we managed to limp to the border check point and were greeted by SA police. In agony and in tears, as well as in complete shock, I stayed in the car trying to work out what we needed to do next and more importantly what I needed to do next, as I knew I needed urgent medical attention – after all it was my first pregnancy and though it wasn’t very far along I had no idea if what my body was doing was normal or whether I was having a dangerous pregnancy such as ectopic or molar pregnancy. It definitely didn’t feel normal. Since we arrived from NSW our situation required support and direction from the authorities, we were dependant on them for direction if we were to get home and begin our 14-day quarantine. We needed a new tire and I needed urgent medical attention. Both my partner and I assumed the SA police would know what to do and would understand our situation and show compassion. Unfortunately, instead we were met with complete hostility as if we somehow broke the law when we couldn’t control the reality of being unable to meet the impossible border closures and cut-off that occurred 24 hours prior.

So, despite my partner telling the officers our ordeal, explaining that we came from rural NSW and how we couldn’t have made it to the border any sooner, with him finally also telling them I was having a miscarriage. To our surprise, not a single police officer was interested in offering compassion and assisting him nor me-despite I was hunched over in pain and sobbing by the car. We posed little more than a normal risk of transmission and certainly no more than anyone else who had previously crossed the border less than 24 hours before hand that were less than 12 hours from the border when closures begun. None of that mattered, to the SA police we were considered ‘infected’ and nobody would come near us even with safe protocol. We were not even offered a mask and ours were not on hand. Nobody offered me a drink, a tissue, or to use the toilet, despite being fully aware of the uncontrollable and deeply personal tragedy I was facing; and shockingly too, there were women at that site. One female police officer even asked ‘where is she bleeding from’ to which Mike perplexingly explained ‘from her vagina’…

Nobody knew what to do for us or what to do with us we were simply an inconvenience- since we couldn’t simply follow the health directive and drive straight home to quarantine. In fact it was Mike, my partner, who decided the only option for me was to call me an ambulance and as the ambulance arrived whilst I was being wheeled on a stretcher, despite Mike had made them fully aware, a female police officer aggressively demanded I tell her what part of NSW I had come from as Mike was reaching for my hand to say goodbye. Mike was not allowed to come to the hospital with me because a) we were considered ‘high risk’ but only by SA standards, in fact even in Victoria we were considered a normal risk and b) we no longer had a road worthy vehicle for him to travel to me and he was not allowed to use alternative forms of transport, this includes a taxi or other means.

On the way to the hospital in the nearest town, Berri South Australia whilst under the care of the hospital staff I was thankfully treated with dignity, however that soon changed when the hospital had begun the process of discharging me. They too like the police, realised that with no policy in place they had no idea what to do with me or what they were permitted to do. Whilst I was tended to at the hospital, Mike organised a tow truck to take him to the town and to the nearest repair place to arrange for a new tire- though unfortunately given the time of the year and the fact it was a public holiday we would not be able to get a new tire for likely several days.

I am not on anyone’s side and frankly I have little faith in democracy, this may sound like I am slamming COVID-19 policy or that I disagree with it but it is about consistency and this is simply a factual recount of what occurred. I was given a mask as soon as I entered the ambulance, but I was not offered one prior to this. If Mike was a risk as the police or as policy had surmised, well then they also did not ask him to wear a mask and SAPOL (SA Police) did not seem to care that the tow truck driver was also not wearing a mask either. The police told Mike we were permitted to get a hotel for the night but had to remain in the hotel room until the following morning where they expected us to arrange transport back home the following day- in a process that also presumably couldn’t be in breach of the Public Health Act. However, if you stop to think about this for a moment, you quickly realise the idea of not coming into contact with others and putting others at risk is more than the health directive requires and it goes beyond the job of a police officer enforcing a simple directive to return home and quarantine. No, instead it requires compassionate thought, innovation to adapt to the rules (safely) directives from others higher up the chain and most of all common sense- none which were evident amongst any police officer we had come across that day!

The tow truck driver was permitted to transport Mike to either a hotel or to the repair place, but there was no way for me to be transported to Mike – wherever that would end up being. What’s more, the tow truck driver was not expected to quarantine, presumably because the police had surmised we were not a risk to him? So by the time the car was towed to the repair place under the directive of SA law, Mike was forced to wait by the car whilst I lay in a hospital bed on the phone to him- desperately wanting him to be by my side, sobbing uncontrollably over the loss of our first pregnancy- whilst I struggled to comprehend I was no longer a mum to be all whilst my battery threatened to die. Unfortunately, we were refused a hotel because a) we were considered a risk to other hotel guests and any business is allowed to refuse if they feel unsafe b) because we had our dog with us. So Mike chose to make other arrangements where his parents (in their 70’s) came in two cars leaving the other car with us. Initially it was thought [due to circumstances outside their control] that his parents could not make the 3.5-hour journey from their home that night, and neither of us knew whether I’d be staying overnight in hospital or whether I’d be discharged that evening. So at that stage I had not received the update from Mike and did not know we would be going home that night. Really all I wanted to do was be with Mike and grieve the loss of my pregnancy and what to me was a baby – in that moment nothing else mattered to me nor Mike.

Story concludes tomorrow

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Mental health perfect storm

Media release from the Office of the Public Advocate

Assaults and violence in Victorian mental health facilities drawn to the attention of Community Visitors have increased by 77 per cent in the last two years.

Public Advocate and chair of the Community Visitor boards, Colleen Pearce, said that the figures – 101 in 2017 and 179 this year and published in the volunteers’ annual report today – were the “tip of the iceberg” because many incidents involving the one patient can be recorded as only one incident. In addition, Community Visitors get their information from viewing incident reports and access was only provided in 51 per cent of visits last year.

“Insufficient beds is one of the key reasons for assaults and violence in the mental health system because critically unwell people cannot get help until they are at risk to themselves or others,” Dr Pearce said.

Violence was also an issue in facilities for the aged where a high number of assaults, including physical and sexual, continued. One Community Visitor reported a patient punched a nurse in the face and attacked them with a chair. The nurse had to go to emergency. One facility saw 13 incidents in two months including 11 aggressions against staff.

Dr Pearce said these issues would only be addressed with more staff as well as better-designed facilities to allow full view of a unit, and with greater investment in therapeutic activities.

Another critical issue was that patients were often being discharged with nowhere to go. One patient in Hume was discharged to homelessness with a coat and a sleeping bag.

Unstable accommodation continued to be a serious issue, Dr Pearce said, with adverse consequences for people’s recovery and often leading to revolving-door admissions.

Of 92 patients who have been in facilities long-term, 25 cannot be discharged because there was nowhere suitable for them to go.

Other issues included staff shortages, especially in some regions like Hume, suicides and self-harm, staff recruitment and retention issues due to workplace violence, gender safety, plus restraint and seclusion.

This year, 80 volunteer Community Visitors made 1670 visits to 170 units across the state identifying 1486 issues.


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Would you give your bank statements to Births, Deaths & Marriages?

For reasons of privacy, I don’t like giving my bank statements to the government – but I’ve just been required to do exactly that.

After four marriages the time had come: I’m reverting to my birth name. While most people married and divorced within Victoria would have no problem reverting to their birth name, I am sure many other women in Victoria fall into my category: getting married overseas causes issues.

It starts when you get married overseas. While Australia recognises overseas marriages for most legal purposes, an overseas marriage certificate is not recognised for legally changing one’s name. For that (in Victoria at least), a Change of Name is required. Once you have had one Change of Name, you can forever thereafter only change your name by applying for another Change of Name.

To apply for a Change of Name at Births, Deaths and Marriages you must provide proof you have lived in Victoria for the preceding twelve months. There are four ways you can prove this, as shown in the above photo.

I had been living with my daughter and her husband for ten of the twelve months. Therefore I have no utility accounts covering the period. I did not have a lease agreement with my daughter (although Centrelink accepted a rent certificate from her). I was not enrolled in a Victorian tertiary institution (I was enrolled at an RTO). That left me with only one option – providing twelve months bank statements showing Victorian transactions.

When I objected on the grounds of not only privacy but also security (Births, Deaths and Marriages now has all the information required to impersonate me on the phone to the bank) I was told everything was strictly confidential as they are a government registry. Excuse my concern, but in my experience that doesn’t absolutely guarantee security. One just needs to look at the Trump leaks at the moment for evidence of that.

I also asked why a statutory declaration from my daughter was not acceptable. After all, Centrelink had no issue with accepting the situation. “Centrelink and us operate differently“, I was told.

So, much against my better judgement, I handed over twelve months worth of bank statements.

I can understand a car registration not being acceptable as proof I have been living here. After all, yes, I could live in NSW but own a car in Victoria which I let a family member drive. I’m not sure why my mobile phone records would not be acceptable, but then again do I want them knowing who I have called any more than I want them to have my purchasing history? We are required by law to change our address with VicRoads within fourteen days of moving, so I am not sure why my licence was not acceptable proof.

My situation is, I admit, rather unique. However I can’t help but feel this is yet another example of “big brother” being just a little too brotherly. There are other ways to prove I’ve been living in Victoria: payslips from employers, Centrelink communications to me in Victoria, licence (as noted above), medical bills from Victorian providers, a statutory declaration.

This whole situation made me feel decidedly uncomfortable. I am seriously considering closing that bank account and opening a new one. For security purposes.

The Births, Deaths and Marriages staff were lovely. They don’t write the policies, they just have to follow them.