The tip turkey and the eagle hawk

In Healesville, where we lived until recently and where we have our community ties, there are two famous birds: the indigenous eaglehawk and the ibis.

As you drive in an out of the Healesville area, you can often see an eaglehawk, a key spirit for local Wurundjeri people known as Bunjil, circling above the highway near where it crosses the Yarra River, chilled, calm, on the lookout for juicy mice in the paddocks and gems of lizards in the bush land lining the river.

As you park in town, you may be warned by a local to not park under the conifers lining Queen’s Park, as the ibis, otherwise known as Bush Turkey, Tip Turkey or Healesville Seagull, is known to sit up there and just shit over everyone after stealing the leftovers of picnics.

Years ago, when as a young person I began my career as a university student, I remember being able to clearly see what a crappy essay on a particular topic would look like and what a really great essay would look like. The visions of these two essays were so clear, it was almost impossible to deliberately attempt to write the crappier one, and I was instead channelled into writing the good one. I wore what I liked and I always looked good; I would not think twice about striding all the way from outer Fitzroy to RMIT in platform boots and something so short it no longer qualified as a kilt.

Then I graduated and my ability to see what I was about to write was just as sharp, only I was now making plenty of money from it. Think, see, write. Think, see, write. Invoice. Collect. Think, see, write.

As I head towards the end of my Master’s degree by attempting a small research project, I am reminded by these two sets of images: Bunjil versus the tip turkey; the great essay versus the pass essay. I want so much to be Bunjil, but now that I am 46, a mother of some experience and responsibility, a person who has fought battles that ought to have not been fought and been too tired to fight the ones that really should be fought, who had too many boyfriends when young and none enough in later years, who has less friends but more time, I find the tip turkey and the pass essay merging with anything I plan in my mind’s eye.

Now that I’m old enough to really care who my friends are, to start to be a contented person, to have a career scurrying around after this research topic or that and to just sit quietly and be paid to write, why can I not clearly see the eaglehawk? Why are my dreams infested with tip turkeys?

Some call this ‘imposter syndrome’. It’s not.

It’s not about tip turkeys, you know. It’s deeper and gentler and it has a bigger purpose than just the service of my ego and the cultivation of my career. It’s the cool wind blowing that causes me to think twice, the wait on the platform for the train to arrive, the pause to take in the big work of art instead of instant absorption, categorisation, and evaluation.

The confidence of youth has given way to doubt as I age; the doubt now needs to be fashioned into something elegant and intriguing, wearing toned-down bias-cut silk and crafty flats, the counterbalance to the brash assertiveness of my uni days, all platform boots and miniskirts.

The bobbed hair and the naughty grin get to stay.


A post I just found, which I wrote in 2013

I found this post, written in 2013. No doubt that these days, they would not allow you to just get a letter from the agent. What have we done to our bureaucracy?

Department of Human Services – Public Housing 20.07.2013

People who are relatively comfortable (ie own their own home, have jobs etc) often don’t realise how much things go wrong for poor people or people disadvantaged in other ways.

You hear stories about Poor Unfortunate Individual going from mishap to mishap and assume that the individual is responsible for at least some of it. But I am sorry to report that in those areas of law and bureaucracy that are unpopular and unglamorous, such as fines, child services, aged care and so on, errors in processes and procedures germinate and multiply, spreading and causing more forms to be filled out and more people to process them, until the issue comes to rest in the inbox of the one person who happens to have the energy and courage to deal with it at that moment in time.

There’s nobody in South Yarra or Elizabeth Bay lobbying their local member to have a systemic review, or to contract a firm to overhaul a department’s database, or take leadership of training and recruitment. That kind of attention gets turned on education or health or transport, but not the poor-cousin-departments.

I went to the Department’s office in Ringwood yesterday to drop off an application for a bond loan. If you are poor, the Department will lend you the money for your bond.

As with many services catering to poor people, the department is staffed by under-paid but kind staff who work too hard and aren’t paid danger money for the stress.

Probably 30% of the stress is caused by unworkable policies and processes. Nobody has complained about it to me; this is from observation.

Here is a perfect example of the quality of processes and policies you get in departments that deal with poor people constantly. You can get a bond loan for a residential tenancy, but only one at a time. You must have paid back the first bond loan before you take out the second bond loan. Yet the residential tenancies system relies on overlapping leases – and certainly overlapping bonds – to work. So, to accommodate this, staff have developed a system of asking people to provide a letter from their current agent stating that they are unlikely to be making a claim on the bond. This works creakily in practice, but is even worse if the reason the person is leaving is the poor behaviour of the property manager.