2021 WAS PROVING to be a rollercoaster ride to rival the Tower of Terror or Arkham Asylum. Superheroes no longer had to live in Batcaves or steer clear of kryptonite. Nor was Hollywood necessarily on the Gold Coast. Those Hemsworth boys had made sure that Byron Bay was taking that dubious title, attracting micro-influencers like mice plagues to a grain silo. No longer were billionaires content to stand at the urinal together and swing their little fingers. No, they had to fly into space in crafts shaped like their underpaid and overworked minimum wage employees got together and said “Let’s design a ship that truly represents what we think of our boss”. Some people were lucky enough to escape the icy clutches of Melbourne’s winter and head north during the school holidays. They were awarded an extra 14 days off, isolated in their house with boutique bottle of gin, their mates Netflix, Stan, Amazon Prime and Disney+ passwords, and a few bonus Covid tests for their efforts. The snow lovers weren’t neglected either. After missing the entire 2020 ski season, 80 per cent of Warrandyte’s population threw on their roof racks, dragged out the rusty snow chains and added alpine diesel to the fuel tank. Then they remembered they had bought a new petrol car, with different size wheels and a wider roof. The kids had grown, the adults hadn’t lost their iso-gut and the Warrandyte Secondhand Facebook page broke the internet as ski gear was traded with the same ferocity and lack of understanding as BitCoin. I still have 15 pairs of skis, 19 pairs of boots, 38 ski jackets, 29 pairs of pants and 29,000 non-matching pairs of mittens if anyone is still interested.
Victoria entered Lockdown 5.0. Muscle memory kicked in. No need to panic buy, no need to exercise more than two hours a day, we could ignore soaring petrol prices; we weren’t going more than five kilometres from home. This lockdown had an entertainment bonus that the previous four didn’t. The Olympics. Who doesn’t love an opening ceremony that at best is three hours too long and at its very best is full of weird interpretive dancing and disturbingly bewildering characters? It was my time to shine. I could dazzle my disinterested offspring with my encyclopaedic knowledge of absolutely nothing. Eyes went blurry from uninterrupted screen-time, thumbs blistered from incessant googling and I acquired a strange mottled hue to my skin as I slowly morphed into an unwashed coach potato. Turns out quad skulls is a rowing race not a Russian drinking game and the Coxless fours isn’t just a boat without any males in it. But the real revelation was the kayaking and canoeing. What a sport, there had to be more steel in their abs than in the reinforced concrete of the course. As I gaze out at the murky waters of the Yarra River, I briefly consider that this could be the sport for me. I mean, sure it would take a bit of work to transform from a mouldy couch potato to a well-oiled French Fry, I’m scared of water and by the time I’d got my act together I’d be eligible for the aged pension. Not impossible but I reckon I’d be more likely to win a Tattslotto draw that I never bought a ticket in. Lucky I’ve got the Modern Warrandyte Pentathlon to fall back on. A collection of five events that require the cunning of a fox near a henhouse, the speed of a kookaburra at a barbie and the patience of a horse at an anti-lockdown rally. Event 1: The Duck Race Twelve ducklings whose parents have left them unattended in your pool, need to be rescued and returned one-by-one to the negligent Mum and Dad. Time penalties are given for any ducklings lost to a circling wedge-tailed eagle or if contact is made by the attacking Drake, who hasn’t worked out you’re actually trying to help. Event 2: The NBN Modem reset
When the power goes out it’s a race against time to reset the modem and get the wi-fi up and running before any teenagers emerge from their caves complaining the live gaming stream has dropped out. This a sport that requires precision timing. Too quick and you blow a fuse in the box and you’ll get lost in a telco call centre queue never to be heard from again. Too slow and hell hath no fury like an internet-less teenager, they can move lightening quick when they want to. Event 3: The Skatepark Challenge
The quickest to run over to the fish and chip shop, order and take delivery of your minimum chips, six fried dim sims and a bottle of Gatorade. Run back to skatepark, consume, drop all rubbish on the ground and run for the bus stop. Time penalties incurred for being yelled at by an adult before getting on the 906 and disqualified if called out by an outraged member of the Warrandyte Community and Business Facebook page. Event 4: The Mountain Bike slalom
The course runs along the river from Stiggants Reserve to the Stonehouse. Obstacles include dogs off lead, toddlers released from their pram and irregular groupings of baby boomers who drift like brown’s cows when you startle them. Bonus points for dog poo-less tyres at the finish line. Event 5: The Double Scull Simple — a pot and shot at the Grand Hotel. There are no rules and everyone’s a winner. The perfect end to a gruelling Modern Warrandyte Pentathlon.
But now Lockdown 5.0 is over; the roller-coaster ride continues with 6.0. The Gold Coast may still not be Hollywood, but it is now the home of the 2032 Olympics, the games that no one else wanted. And you can’t
The spotlights are back on at the Warrandyte Mechanics’ Institute, as Warrandyte Theatre Company presented Love/Sick, as collection of short plays. As we hit the streets, the production still has a week to run, so we have resisted the temptation to spoil the twists in the tail.
By BRIONY BOTTARELLI
JOHN CARIANI, actor/playwright and great observer of the human condition, brings to the stage a contemporary play about love in the form of nine vignettes, more specifically, nine ten-minute plays. But as the title Love/Sick suggests, it is also about dysfunctional love. It is a poignant portrayal of nine different relationships with the common thread of love or the lack of it. All the characters within this quirky, compassionate, funny, sad, devastating, but uplifting and very insightful work, reflect all that is encompassed within modern relationships. Although the characters are dealing with serious issues, they are presented to the audience in a comedic and palatable way. Clever, clever, clever! Not only the script, but the directors, the innovative and interchangeable sets, costuming and the transition from one play to another. I could not select one actor over another for their performances, they were all brilliant. Each actor played several roles, but their characters were never confused. If I had to sum up the whole production was polished and professional.
By DAVID HOGG
THIS VERY CLEVER and entertaining play by American playwright John Cariani brought to us by the Warrandyte Theatre Company (WTC) marks the next step forward in what will hopefully be a return to live theatre with full audiences. The Company had taken great care to comply with COVID restrictions, and the 25% capacity audience was seated in small groups booked at separate tables cleverly candle-lit. The first and last weeks were a sellout, with only a few tickets remaining for the middle week as we go to press. Love/Sick consists of nine funny and unconnected vignettes about the many dimensions of love. We were treated to an evening of superlative acting by the talented cast of eight, most of whom were familiar faces. Each act involved two people, and whilst most involved a male/female relationship one included a gay couple and another a lesbian couple. The plays themselves revolved around totally dysfunctional couples and throughout these acts I had a mental urge to bang the characters’ heads together. We could all see where they were going wrong, as they mostly portrayed the insensitivity of one partner to the feelings of the other, usually and ashamedly insensitivity of the male to the needs of the female. Yet despite our concerns with the annoying plots, in every case the acting was brilliant. To review each vignette would take too long; however, I must single out the Singing Telegram act for special praise. Lochie Laffin-Vines succinctly captures the part of a Singing Telegram Man who is reluctant to deliver his message. Simone Kiefer plays Louise, the recipient of the message, who is anticipating a proposal from her boyfriend. When she learns the actual contents of the message she portrays amazing versatility, turning quickly from the absolute joy of having the performer arrive to abject misery when she realises the message. David Tynan and Lisa MacGibbon are the accomplished directors. Lighting is excellent, as usual, and special mention must be made of the simple minimalistic set with a very cleverly designed doorway which can be turned to show a blank wall, an interior door, an ornate front door, or completely laid on its side to form a double bed. Thank you, WTC, for a most enjoyable night. Next up on the WTC stage will be Visitors by Barney Norris which runs in August. The long-awaited Calendar Girls by Tim Firth will finally be coming to our stage in late September. And the much-loved Follies returns in late November.
MY NAME IS Amari.
I’m a 13 year old girl who has been invited to write about climate change from the perspective of a young person, on behalf of WarrandyteCAN, our local climate action group.
I want you to know that I, and many of my peers, feel anxious about climate change, and I would like to share how we can manage to work towards a better future.
Knowing that we do have the solutions to fix climate change is inspiring .
And as you read this, even more solutions and ideas are forming.
All we have to do is use them.
Many friends I know fear climate change.
Every time I hear someone talk about climate change, global warming and the environmental risks facing our future, I have a sinking feeling in my stomach.
Some people don’t even believe in climate change.
I’ve seen climate change deniers that seem to be connected to the interests of big and powerful corporations —some of the greatest polluters and carbon emitters in our country.
Instead of trying to help, it’s easier for them to pretend that climate change is a myth.
But if you look at the facts, it’s undeniable and already starting to impact our world.
I recently finished reading a book called A Field Guide to Climate Anxiety by Sarah Jaquette Ray.
It went into detail about how climate change affects your wellbeing.
In one of the earlier chapters, a few students were asked what they saw in the future.
When they said that they couldn’t see anything, they thought they needed to try harder.
Whereas they later realised they were trying, but genuinely could not see anything.
And this isn’t restricted to just those students who were surveyed; people all over the world feel the same, including me.
I found I’m often thinking about what has to be done instead of recognising what we have done.
I would like to share that I am starting to feel more hope when I hear of big businesses making changes and taking responsibility for their emissions.
Although we have a lot to do, there is so much good, and we should recognise the good.
Energy use is one of the biggest causes of carbon pollution, with 35 per cent of total carbon emitted to create electricity according to the National Greenhouse Accounts.
I am happy to say many Australian retailers are taking responsibility for the environment and changing to renewable energy.
Coles, Woolworths and Bunnings have committed to being 100 per cent renewable in the next four years.
This would have sounded far-fetched only a year ago but is now fact.
Momentum is building quickly, and it is so exciting to be part of this change. Some people have this excuse that we don’t have the technology to fix climate change.
Maybe this was once true, but not anymore.
We do have the technology.
Some people have these excuses that it’s too expensive but in reality, it’s cheaper.
I recognise that it’s not just big businesses and governments that need to act.
In our own lives, we can all be doing things to make a difference.
We can fix our mistakes.
We just need to move fast.
Because every day is one day closer to a disaster we can’t fix.
We can all do simple and small things to help.
You don’t need to be the hero and change the world.
Some people might want to help but don’t know how.
Feeling overwhelmed won’t help them.
So, inspire people and lead by example.
Remember to congratulate yourself and the work you do, no matter how small.
Also, make it fun.
Maybe organise something with your friends or get in touch with a local action group.
Amari Larratt is a supporter of WarrandyteCAN, a Year 7 Secondary School Student and a Warrandyte Resident. To learn more about WarrandyteCAN find them on Facebook: facebook.com/warrandytecan
VALUES are at the core of self.
Understanding your values helps a person decide what is most important in their life.
Being able to identify those values is a little bit trickier, because values can be influenced by so many different things and it can be hard to recognise which are our values or those of someone else.
In general, values are related to the way in which we decide to live and work.
Our values should determine our deepest priorities, without any outside influence.
However, being influenced by outside sources happens whether we like it or not and these can impact our actions, unintentionally or intentionally, changing the way we behave or the way we live or the way we work.
When we live by our own values, we tend to be happy, content and relaxed. Satisfied even.
When we move away from our values, by outside influences perhaps, we become unhappy, anxious and stressed.
We feel uneasy.
Living by our values is very important for our mental health, once we understand what our deepest personal values are, we are able to assess if we are living by them, or if we need to change the way we are functioning.
It is also important to understand that over time, our values may also change, depending on our life circumstances, but core values never leave us.
If you are thinking that that sounds like a contradiction in terms, you are right.
The point is, we have a set of core values that are at the centre of our being that are usually pretty sound, and yet some of our other values don’t have such strict boundaries and may alter as life develops, as we enter relationships, have children, develop our careers and so on.
What was important in the past, may not be so important now.
Values are the principles by which we live our lives.
Our earliest values are dictated by family, friends and relationships.
But as we grow and mature, we are able to fully identify and develop our own set of values.
Take a moment to think about your own values, perhaps make a list of them.
Where did those values come from, who influenced them and more importantly what influenced them?
Determining your values can be as simple as thinking about the things that have had a positive influence on your life, things that have made you happy, that make you feel safe, that you are proud of, et cetera.
Once you start thinking about your values, it is easier to understand your core values, the things that matter most, that are unwavering.
Sometimes it is hard to live by our values, because life throws curveballs at us that might try to knock us off track.
This is normal, it is how we react to these curveballs that is important — once we have identified our core values, handling difficult situations becomes less stressful.
For instance, identifying the direction in life we wish to take, making important or life changing decisions or knowing how to act in awkward situations becomes easier.
Being true to yourself is living by your core values.
These core values are the foundation for a strong and healthy, happy life.
If you cannot or have not identified your values, then how do you know when you have violated one of them?
Usually, it is because you have a deep sense of unease, you feel sick in the stomach, you become anxious or feel guilty or even shame.
Essentially, when we have identified with our values and live by them, we experience a deeper sense of happiness and peace of mind, we function better and become more productive, creative and respected.
It is important to remember however, that not everyone shares the same values.
Respecting your own values as well as other people’s values is important.
Remaining non-judgemental and respectful to other people’s values is an attribute that is worthy of being on everyone’s list of values for a more harmonious existence.
Stephanie Foxley has lived and worked in the Manningham district for over 20 years. Now relocated to Queensland she offers online counselling services via Zoom. Medibank, Bupa, Police Health Fund and Doctor’s Health fund accredited. Member of ACA and CCAA and PACFA Mobile: 0407 921 122 Email: email@example.com Website: www.newlifehealing.com.au
Beyondblue Australia: 1300 22 4636 Lifeline: (Crisis Support) 13 11 14 Headspace: (12-25 years) 1800 650 890 Coronavirus Health Information Line: 1800 020 080 Health and Human Services:www.coronavirus.vic.gov.au
WE WOULD think that anyone with a high level of intelligence would run through all the scenarios and then make the best choice, right?
Indeed, they often do, but something may have happened to them where making the right decision becomes complex, and they cannot choose the correct response at that moment, which is annoying for them and the people wanting an answer.
You can probably recall a scenario where you asked someone a simple question: do you want a cup of tea or coffee? or what do you want for dinner? or can you do this small extra project/task that must be completed within a tight deadline?
This added pressure to make another decision or do one more thing can cause a person to get into the flight, fight or freeze, get angry, storm out, cry, walk away, quit or some other irrational response.
They have no capacity left even for simple things at that moment.
Think of how many decisions you or they make in a day.
The bigger decisions may be more obvious, but do not overlook all the small ones.
On reflection, we may discover the person was in a state of overwhelm, fear, stress, or anxiety; therefore, they did not have access to the complete resources in their mind to choose wisely.
When people are in these states, the mind can experience confusion, a foggy brain, numbness, cannot interpret a simple question, and cannot think rationally or clearly.
They feel pressured as someone needs their attention and response now, which is next to impossible for them to do easily.
Living or working in a constantly stressful environment
Henry J Kahn, MD says it is easy to forget that stress is one of your body’s warning signals that tell you something is out of whack.
“If you ignore those signals, especially your emotions, you could become so accustomed to the stimulation of stress, ongoing tension and strain that stress can start to seem normal. When many people in a particular environment are stressed, they can create a climate that makes it more difficult for anyone to see his or her own stress clearly.
When you have a whole culture pushing high performance, sometimes people don’t want to admit it or address it.”
Mr Kahn notes some coping skills people use to help the mind and body cope with stressful events., which may not be beneficial in the long term such as: holding their breath; take substances such as caffeine, alcohol, tobacco; misusing medications; eating the wrong foods; or going extra hard at the gym or playing sport.
“These substances and actions may become a part of your everyday life even when not stressed because we are also creatures of habit or addiction,” he says.
Physiological stress responses
We can experience a physiological stress response by a perceived or actual threat to our safety or well-being.
We literally cannot think about anything except get to a safe place; our mind responds to the actual or perceived fear.
If a snake is in your backyard and you, your children, or pets are near it, and you have a fear of snakes, you may go into flight or fight or freeze response — an actual fear.
If you are at work and hate it there, have an enormous workload, dislike your boss, and they are ringing you, and you haven’t completed the job due to a ridiculous workload or timeline, you may go into a perceived threat for the security of your job.
Chemical responses in the body
Often, we can manage short-term stress, and some people thrive in a stressful environment; however, prolonged exposures can perpetuate cortisol dysfunction, inflammation and pain.
The body triggers the sympathetic nervous system and produces a chemical response to cope with the situation and releases cortisol to prepare for survival mode and have the safest and fastest possible outcome for you.
Cortisol is an anti-inflammatory and helps to trigger glucose reserves for energy and modulate inflammation.
It can stay in our body for up to 12 hours, just from one significant event.
Multiple events throughout the day will keep topping up the cortisol —so when will your body recover?
Discover resilience skills to improve well-being
Breathing Techniques: Breathe in a way that triggers your parasympathetic nervous system to release all the good happy hormones to balance the body.
Slow, deep breathes into the heart or chest area
Diaphragmatic breathing techniques
Discover some great breathing technique by Heart Math Institute, Wim Hof, Patrick McKeown and James Nester. Meditation: A variety of methods takes us into a state of mediation, such as gardening, swimming, yoga, Thai chi, sitting still, knitting, breathe work, reading a book et cetera Self-Talk: Learn to be kind to yourself. Often people will beat themselves up for not having answers, think they are worthless and so forth. Stretch and Exercise: Remember to include the physical body to help with the flow of blood and energy in the body.
Coherence vs Relaxation
When you are relaxed, you do not necessarily want to run a 100m sprint or have a tennis game with a strong competitor; however, being in a coherent state, it’s more of an active, calm state and perfect for a run or sports game, work environment and making smart, effective decisions.
If you find yourself not coping as well as you once did, you can download a free ebook, 12 HeartMath® Tools for Reducing Stress and Staying Balanced www.heartmath.org/resources/downloads/12-heartmath-tools
Maree Zimny is a qualified Clinical Hypnotherapist, NLP and HeartMath® Certified Trainer and Quantum Frequency Coach. Specialist in Anxiety, Stress and Communications 0403 325 858 www.facebook.com/thereliefcliniconline
I have borrowed the title from Thomas Pakenham’s book that reflects on the character of the old, the sacred, the mysterious and the poetic through 60 of his favourite trees.
Unbeknown to many, trees serve us way beyond the comfort of shade on a hot day or ascetically pleasing additions to a garden.
Through 17 products derived from trees, they provide for over 5,000 of our daily commodities from mobile phone screens (cellulose acetate) to strengthening concrete (lignin).
Because of this, mono-culture plantations are a massive global industry predominantly operated by multinationals in collaboration with governments.
Our world forests are under threat and with the climate in crisis, attention is due.
On the flip side, much is now being discovered about the importance of diversity in old-growth forest and how trees communicate via a vast underground network.
Interest is growing, and trees, just like us, are becoming recognised as deeply fascinating individuals wholly reliant on their environment for survival.
In my experience, fostering a relationship with the trees based on curiosity and connection has been a necessary step towards creating personal climate-crisis solutions rather than being overwhelmed by the bigger picture.
I want to share this journey with you by seeking out and presenting the bold, the beautiful, the humble and the dignified in the Manningham’s community.
Do you have a tree favourite tree in your own garden or a tree you are fond of in your area?
Please email me at the address below.
I’d love to connect with you and hear your story.
There is no set criteria.
Large, small, young or old, character is all that matters.
Let’s celebrate Manningham’s forest.
By way of introduction then, meet March’s beauty.
Just down from the corner of Park Road and Feversham Avenue in Park Orchards, resides a tall and elegant eucalypt, who has taken an approximate 150 years to reach maturity.
At a distance she is well-balanced, neither thick in canopy nor thin, but just enough to see her graceful arms reaching up.
As I approach, a delightful mess of shredded skin crunches underfoot.
Her girth is furrowed with age-old protective layers, and looking up, her formidable branches carry the elegance and colour typical of early Victorian paintings: dark shadows highlighted with soft, silvery greys.
Creamy smoothness that merges into the blue-green tone of the canopy.
There are cavities emerging from some of her branches; a borer making a home, or larger hollows resulting from a branch felled by stormy weather.
Residing in deep time, it will be decades before any such borers outdo the tree.
Meanwhile,larger hollows provide nesting sites for our native parrots, cockatoos, and owls.
(On that note, if you need to trim or remove a tree, consider the possibility of providing a nesting site.
The hollows take decades to develop and a good arborist can advise and trim your tree accordingly).
In all, this Faversham resident presents a lovely impression of the many unique characteristics of Australia’s eucalypts.
As I watch and listen, I ponder what the breeze would do without long, slithery greenery to play with.
How would our days be without wind in the trees, and what would stories be without the touch of leafy whispers?
SOMETIMES I THINK of Melbourne as a vast living organism, growing ever larger, slowly spreading across the surrounding countryside and devouring everything in its path.
No one can stop Melbourne growing, and the best that governments can do is to control its growth and try to ensure that it is sustainable.
Melbourne’s 12 green wedges, including the Manningham and Nillumbik Green Wedges, are a good case in point.
These are non-urban areas lying outside Melbourne’s Urban Growth Boundary that have been designated for the protection of natural and rural values.
They contain a mix of low-density uses including farms, parks, water catchments, cultural heritage sites, and residential land on large allotments.
The policy of protecting green wedges from inappropriate development is set out in all planning schemes covering metropolitan Melbourne.
Green wedges are a product of the great foresight of people like Rupert Hamer, Minister for Local Government in the late 1960s and later Premier of Victoria.
According to Hamer, in planning for the growth of Melbourne:
“Nobody could happily contemplate a future metropolis of seemingly endless suburbia spreading out to infinity.”
“The future planning of Melbourne should take account of the surrounding countryside as a vital part of the metropolitan environment.”
Hamer’s vision for containing Melbourne’s urban sprawl was reflected in the 1971 report entitled Planning Policies for the Melbourne Metropolitan Region, which supported the establishment of urban growth corridors separated by “green wedges of open country protected from urban development”.
Fast forward to 2021, and the need for green wedges is stronger than ever in the face of climate change and rising average temperatures.
Green wedges, along with increased greening of areas within the Urban Growth Boundary, serve to absorb carbon and to mitigate the urban heat island effect.
Moreover, as the Minister for Planning, Richard Wynne, has noted, the importance of these areas will only increase in the future as climate change impacts where crops are grown and the green wedge and peri-urban areas are relied upon more to grow food.
Green wedges also provide vital recreational resources for Melbourne’s population and greatly contribute to our quality of life — a refuge from the concrete, asphalt and traffic of suburbia.
It is not surprising, however, that over the decades since they were established, Melbourne’s green wedges have faced significant threats from those eager to open up these areas for development.
In recent years, the Manningham Green Wedge faced such a threat by way of the Manningham Council’s proposed amendment to the Manningham Planning Scheme known as Amendment C117.
That proposal involved (among other things) changes to the Scheme that would have allowed more commercial and tourist development in the Rural Conservation Zone (RCZ), which covers most privately-owned land within the Manningham Green Wedge.
However, an independent panel appointed by the State Government recommended against those changes and instead put forward its own version of Amendment C117 aimed at preserving the status quo.
As the Diary reported in February 2019, the Panel concluded that “the broader policy position to support more tourism in the Green Wedge is contrary to sound planning and runs counter to the purposes of the RCZ.”
In September that year, the Planning Minister decided to accept the panel’s recommendations and adopt its version of the amendment rather than Council’s.
The State Government is currently undertaking a project aimed at deciding how it can best protect Melbourne’s green wedges.
At this stage, it is considering submissions received from stakeholders and community members, and is due to provide a report about this in mid-2021.
WarrandyteCAN strongly supports the protection and preservation of our green wedges, especially as they represent an important part of our response to climate change and are vital for Melbourne’s sustainable future.
Let’s hope 2021 is a successful year in your chosen endeavours after the turmoil and instability of last year.
Personally, it was tough for me as I am sure it was for many of you.
Besides losing my studio in Warrandyte, I lost my way and didn’t feel I had a real sense of purpose.
I found it a challenge to function day-to-day, finish tasks, and wound up isolating myself more.
This led me to a path of what I’d call self-destruction where I’d fall into bad habits.
I struggled for motivation; I was staying up too late, therefore sleeping in too late.
I was drinking more alcohol than normal and just generally partying too hard.
My body and brain were not functioning as they should.
They were real “groundhog days” just accumulating until things got back to some normality.
I can’t afford to lose sleep nor over-jam my schedule.
I need to keep up with those good habits for the sake of my heart, mind, and physical health.
I believe this is the same for everybody.
When you’re stressed or emotionally distressed, your heart is one of the first organs in your body that will feel the pain and react.
But here we are in February 2021, we are back working hard, kids are now at school, holidays are over, so I thought I’d share some healthy habits with you.
There are so many of them, but I thought I’d give you five that will hold you in good stead this year and beyond.
Get a morning routine that suits you
How you start your day really matters.
The way you approach a morning determines what mood you’ll be in that entire day.
If you wake up on the wrong side of the bed, rush to get dressed, skip breakfast or shove something in your mouth and rush to work, you’ll most likely feel rattled for the day.
A morning routine will help you ease into your day and start off on the right foot.
If you have had a goal to have more time in the mornings, start in 15-minute increments.
Wake up 15 minutes earlier each day until you are happy with the time.
More time in the mornings means more time and attention to work obligations and people you care most about.
Exercise for at least 30 minutes a day
Don’t just grab another cup of coffee — get up and move.
Have a PT session, do a fitness class, lift some weights, go for a jog followed by some stretches.
It is great for your body and mind. Just 30 minutes of walking, five times a week, may help keep the blues at bay.
And if you can’t do it all at once, short bursts help, too.
Organise your home or workspace for 15 minutes
15 minutes of cleaning a night (or morning, whichever works best) will add time to your life.
Your home should be your oasis.
A clean place is vital for stress management.
I just let my place build up with untidiness, clutter, and dust, I just could not face cleaning it.
It affected my mood and motivation.
Make sure all the dishes and washing are put away and the beds are made in the morning.
Shower before bed and enjoy fresh sheets on the bed, it really does make a difference.
Develop your evening routine
An evening routine can consist of reading, Yoga, meditation, cleaning and organising, or doing an exercise.
Winding down is critical for mental health management.
Three hours before bed might be the time you want to start allowing your brain and mind to relax.
Your evening routine can entail anything that promotes peace and serenity.
If something relaxes you and gets you prepared for bed, do that.
To make a health goal into a habit, set a time to stop working.
Keep a journal
This is something new for me, but I love the idea and think it’s really helping me.
It can be done in three to five minutes.
Try logging what you accomplished each day and what you need to do the next.
Create a comprehensive outline showcasing how much you have achieved and what else needs attention.
You will be amazed when you realise how much you’ve done in a day and hopefully will stop being so hard on yourself.
I am ridiculously hard on myself, unnecessarily so, and it’s unhealthy for the heart and mind.
This journal writing saved me in a lot of ways.
I’m now ready to make 2021 my most successful year ever and I hope it will be for you too.
Yours in good health, Chris.
Chris Sharp is a Personal Trainer at Advance Fitness-Doncaster East and can be contacted 0419 553 058
LOCKDOWN had taken its toll.
Starved of words and stories but definitely not starved of calories, I found my letter tank empty.
A Scrabble board with no tiles.
Although it appeared my jar of clichés was overflowing.
Vacantly staring at my laptop, I am hoping a half page story would miraculously appear across my screen.
The only things less likely on my laptop were getting a virus, catching fire or getting smashed by massive hailstones from hell.
Oh, wait up.
Yeah, nah, it is 2020, that is probably going to happen.
Instead of wallowing in my own wordless stew, I wander out the back gate for a restorative stroll along the Yarra.
It starts with no more than a very low gentle whisper.
“I could help you.”
I glance around to see where the voice came from.
“Over here,” comes a gentle gurgle.
Perplexed I turn to the river.
“Yes, that is right.
“I have got some stories to tell you,” burbles the water flowing over a rapid.
Glancing around, I check for people in white coats waiting to haul me away.
“Why would I believe you?
“The EPA says you’re full of sh&%,” I reply.
And while that may be so, who am I to kick a gift horse in the mouth.
In fact, I thought the probability of me being able to kick anything post-COVID without pulling a hammy was statistically insignificant.
Pulling up my favourite rock to sit and ponder, I let river wisdom wash over me.
High rainfall coupled with Upper Yarra Dam works has led to said rock being submerged.
So now not only am I conversing with a river, but I am doing so with a very wet bum.
“You know what?” asks the river.
“I love flowing past and people watching.
“Humans can be quite odd.
“Present company most certainly included.”
As one, myself, the Yarra and my soggy pants gaze at the opposite bank bearing witness to:
River Visitor Category 1
These visitors will only be observed during the day, mid-week and in packs of three to four couples.
They BYO picnic tables, chairs, automatically-refilling plastic red wine glasses and have empty shopping bags tied to the table — one for rubbish and one for recycling.
At least two, small, fluffy, white dogs will be observed comfortably snoozing in their owner’s laps, occasionally interrupted by outbursts of laughter and colourful language when the photo of the prized grandchild that they spent 20 minutes locating, magically disappears from the smartphone screen.
Never to be seen again.
Generally found in the perfectly scouted flat but shaded area, because after 70 plus years of the Aussie sun, these wily visitors are sick of spending half their superannuation at the dermatologist.
River Visitor Category 2
Turning up early afternoon on a sunny day post-exam, joyfully shedding school uniforms to run into the river, theses visitors will invariably live to regret their decision three hours later.
Calculating their departure to coincide with when they should have been leaving school, these TikTok Generation students hurriedly attempt to reapply crumpled filthy mud streaked dresses and school shirts over beet-red shoulders.
These “old enough to want independence but too young to realise potential consequences” mid-teens express horror on their sun-fried faces as they wonder how they can possibly explain losing a bra and one sock at school to their parents.
River Visitor Category 3
Arriving anytime from 3pm onwards, the group will swell as members turn up one, two or three at a time.
At no time will the gender ratio be even.
This peculiarity will lead to constant peacock preening and galah screeching behaviour.
Muscles colourfully covered in ink will be strong enough to carry whole slabs of Great Northern, four packs of Spritzers and minimum chips to the river’s edge.
Once the final inflatable flamingo has been popped on a jagged rock our intrepid visitors are so exhausted, they can barely crawl back to their utes.
There is no way they could possibly pick up the empty bottles, shredded cardboard packaging or sad flattened flamingos before they float through the tunnel.
River Visitor Category 4
Abundant anytime during the day, any age, and every gender.
Characterised by active wear, a takeaway coffee in hand, phone in the other and dog lead in the… oh wait… dog somewhere in the general vicinity.
Outrage is genuine.
Shock is real.
There they are walking along the river track minding their own and everyone else’s business when a snake has the audacity to cross their path.
The path that has been put in smack bang, right in the snake’s territory, somewhere between their snake house and snake food.
Quick, someone call the snake catcher
Not the one that never wears a shirt.
The other one.
Now where has that sod gone?
I did not have time to get an out of focus photo to put on Facebook.
River Visitor Category 5
“These are my favourite river rats,” announces the river suddenly.
“Which ones?” I reply startled
“These three walking into the water now.
“I like to move rocks around and submerge trees to try and trick them into slipping and getting their school bags wet.
“Imagine their parents face when this lot have to pull dripping laptops and phones out.
“There would not be enough rice in the world to fix that mess.”
Quickly retreating towards my back gate, I whisper over my shoulder, “The only reason these three walk home through the river is because I told them I am way too busy and important to pick them up.
“Now raise your water level a little to slow them down.
“I need time to make it look like I am busy and important before they reach the back door.”
THIS STORY BEGINS somewhere around the middle of the last century.
One bright, spring day, two women alighted from the train at Ringwood station with the aim of walking and botanising their way to Warrandyte.
Although there were some rewarding Indigenous plant finds along the way, it was when they finally reached the corner of Tindals Road and Warrandyte-Heidelberg Road, they found a hill top of extraordinary wildflower complexity.
Jean and Winifred bathed in the glorious richness of Indigenous plant biodiversity.
Jean Galbraith was a gardener, writer and long-time champion of Australian native plants.
When Jean’s book, Wildflowers of Victoria, appeared in 1950, it was the first accessible field guide published on Victorian flora.
Combining botanical knowledge with evocative descriptions, her writing skills made her field guides accessible (Encyclopaedia of Women and Leadership).
Winifred Waddell shared these interests and skills and co-wrote the book Wildflower Diary with Jean and Elizabeth Cochrane in 1976.
Jean and Winifred petitioned the local council with the assistance of local residents to buy the newly discovered site and set it up as a Wildflower Reserve.
Dorothy Rush assisted with raising funds to fence the Reserve.
I found the Tindals Road Wildflower Reserve in the early 1980s and spent many hours there identifying the wildflowers using my very worn-out copy of A field guide to the wild flowers of south-east Australia (1977) written by Jean Galbraith.
However, the Reserve was in a sad state, and threatened to be over-run with weeds.
Through the Friends of Warrandyte State Park, we petitioned the local Doncaster Council, and Val Polley and I met with the Engineer John Prince about getting some weed work done there.
I pointed out a cactus that I knew had been dumped in the reserve several years ago.
John responded wonderfully and decisively and soon had a botanical survey organised which was completed by Ecology Australia.
The report in particular noted the invasion of the Reserve by introduced weedy grasses, Quaking Grass and Panic Veldt Grass in particular, which were threatening the survival of its Orchid populations.
But which way forward from here?
Bushland management or ecological horticulture (where ecology meets horticulture) as it was becoming known, was in its infancy.
The first Course in Ecological Horticulture in Victoria was run in 1982 at Latrobe University.
It was only in the previous decade that National Parks managers had accepted that fire was an intrinsic part of management.
There was much to learn.
To be a practitioner of ecological horticulture, an enormous amount of knowledge is required.
For a start, there are the 400 or so plants that consist of the local Indigenous and introduced flora, their growth periods, flowering patterns, physiological dynamics, their response to weather and management actions.
What long term strategy does one employ to remove the weeds?, what tools, what techniques?
What planning and coordination skills are required for this new profession?
Enter another two women
Systematic observers of the natural environment the Bradley sisters, Eileen Burton Bradley and Joan Burton Bradley, observed in NSW during the 1960s attempts to control weeds by slashing and clearing resulted in rampant weed regrowth, and they formulated an alternative strategy.
The sisters were keen gardeners and hand-weeded where they walked, doing less than an hour a day and being careful to replace the bush litter which — they believed — contained the seedbank for new growth.
They waited for the bush to regenerate.
They developed the three principles of the Bradley method of bush regeneration: work outward from less infested to more seriously infested areas; minimise disturbance, and replace topsoil and litter; allow regeneration to set the pace of the work.
Selected hand-tools were the only implements permitted.
The Bradley’s opposed the use of chemicals and criticised the controlled-burning programme begun in 1971 by the State’s Forestry Commission (Australian Dictionary of Biography).
It’s one thing to have the basic principles of ecological horticulture, quite another to be able to look at a piece of bushland that is a complex matrix of the ecological functions of people, plants, soils, seeds, wind, weather, insects, fungi, birds, mammals and fire, and devise a strategy to heal the land and to be able to work on country and peel back the degradation that has occurred through weed invasion, tree clearance and neglect.
Then two Warrandyte women
Jane Pammer, a keen gardener had spent a year in Japan as a horticultural exchange student, before working in ecological horticulture with Save the Bush.
Then during the recession of the 1990s, lead a Green Corps Team through the L.E.A.P. employment programme at the then Doncaster and Templestowe Council.
Jane successfully applied for the permanent position in bushland management working with the Council in their Parks and Gardens Unit as Certified Gardener — Bush Regenerator.
Jane was managing the day to day work in the Manningham managed reserves: Warrandyte Walk, Tindals Wildflower Reserve, Zerbes Reserve, Mullum Stage 1, 100 Acres and others.
Jane began a systematic programme of weeding and observation keeping a diary of work completed in each site.
Jane’s tight control of ecological maintenance programmes, re-visiting each site on a 10 week rotational schedule, quality control and conscientious thoroughness, brought back the bushlands from the brink of oblivion, rescuing our priceless natural heritage.
Today, Tindals Road Wildflower Reserve is an absolute credit to Manningham.
This year in particular, it has produced an exceptional flowering display that has brought many people the simple and profound joy of bushland magic.
This was something that could hardly be imagined in 1985.
Manningham has been a civic leader in municipal environmental programmes over the past 25 years; with a range of integrated programmes to assist residents protect our natural heritage, as well as its own management of bushlands for which it has responsibility.
The ecological horticultural work along the Yarra River below the village called Warrandyte Walk, is the best example of environmental restoration of riparian (waterway) vegetation along the entire length of the Yarra River.
It is by far more successful than anything agencies or other shires or Councils have achieved.
Manningham should be extremely proud of that achievement.
It is also a tribute to Jane for her dedicated vision and skills.
In the most difficult of vegetative zones, they have produced a world class result.
Many walk past the native grasses and shrubs without actually appreciating the difficulties of the site and the vision and skill required to unearth and maintain its intrinsic qualities.
Sharon Mason was an intrinsic part of the bushland management journey with Jane. Sharon for most of this time has led a Bushland Maintenance Crew of skilled ecological gardeners to implement Jane’s programming and to join in the discussion, development and refinement of Jane’s programme of bushland rejuvenation.
Together, they implemented an incredibly successful operation.
Jean Galbraith put her money where her mind was and donated the land to establish the first wildflower sanctuary in Victoria in 1936, in Tyers, in the LaTrobe Valley — the first privately donated reserve in the State of Victoria.
The Latrobe Valley Field Naturalists recorded an extensive list of flora in the Reserve in 1967, but over time, many species were impacted by weed invasion and a loss of interest in maintaining the site.
This changed in 1999 when an enthusiastic group of residents in the Tyers township formed to resurrect the Reserve and highlight its botanical and historical significance.
Winifred was responsible for securing the first wildflower sanctuary at Tallarook, Victoria, in 1949.
Throughout her nearly 70 years of garden writing, Jean wrote about all aspects of garden-making but remained an indefatigable champion of Australian flora, ignoring fashions in plants, and like Winifred, Eileen, Joan, Jane and Sharon, kept working in the wild garden that she loved.
No matter what term you use, taking the huge step to leave your spouse or accepting that they have left you is an emotionally stressful and unsettling time.
It is even more so if you don’t know which way to turn or who can help you.
It is a very lonely time.
From seeing this regularly, daily in fact, I can assure you that this is temporary and a whole new chapter of your life awaits you… but first, let’s face the matter head on and protect you — together.
There are a number of aspects of a separation when we look at it from a legal angle and I will cover some of these below.
But before I do, the most important thing is you and (if applicable) your children’s safety.
Sadly, following separation, it is not uncommon for raw emotion to get in the way of what should be an amicable arrangement.
Sometimes, this can end up in you or your family being concerned for their safety.
To be clear, there is nothing a lawyer can do to ensure your safety from an immediate perspective.
This is a police matter and they can assist you ensuring your safety and protection.
An Intervention Order is relevant here and is a court order usually applied for by the police on your behalf.
Unfortunately, this process is sometimes abused and you might find yourself on the receiving end of one.
Navigating the law and process of both applying for (either with the police or on your own) or receiving one is something a lawyer can assist with once the immediate safety concerns are dealt with.
An Interim Intervention Order may be put in place promptly and then the Final Intervention Order may be granted following a legal process.
An Intervention Order can affect you in a number of ways from a criminal record, reducing work prospects, suspending your firearms licence and having your firearms confiscated, and of course, it can affect your Family Law Matter.
The term divorce is thrown around in society as being used for any kind of finalisation of a marriage.
The first comment to make is that whether a couple are married or in a de-facto relationship, the legislation is essentially mirrored.
When dealing with a separation of a married couple, divorce (in a legal sense) is isolated to the divorce order which, without sounding insensitive, means you are not legally still married and you can now marry another person if you so wish.
This is completely separate to any financial or children’s matters.
When it comes to the process, we always advise parties to finalise the financial and/or children’s matters first as once a divorce order is granted, time limits commence which may affect your financial matters.
When dealing with any financial matters, you need to know what you would be entitled to if the matter were to progress to court.
I know…the dreaded word “court”.
At Rush & Hampshire, we do everything we can to keep you out of court as the legal and court fees will likely exceed the gap between the parties’ offers.
The vast majority of matters settle either between the parties or their lawyers.
In saying that, in some matters there is no other option than to issue proceedings but this is not done lightly and we clearly set out the possible costs involved.
Sometimes this is a strategic move but in some matters we must strap in for the long haul due to a difficult party.
Once you know what you would receive at court in a financial settlement, you will be equipped to negotiate, either yourself if you feel confident enough to, or alternatively, we can act on your behalf in this respect.
If your matter is in the vast majority then once negotiation has been completed between the parties, either with or without lawyers, and you have agreed on a settlement, we can assist you to draw up the appropriate paperwork.
In order to protect yourself moving forward, there are two ways you can settle your financial matters.
Firstly, if both parties have lawyers, a binding financial agreement may be drawn up.
There are strict rules on how these must be completed by the parties and it is important that the document and the process of executing it complies with legislation and case law to avoid it being open to an application to be set aside.
Secondly, and more commonly used either when neither of the parties are represented, one party is represented or both parties are represented, is consent orders.
Consent Orders are an application to the court with the orders the parties have agreed to be made.
The court will then ensure these comply with the legislation and case law and if approved, they are sealed in chambers.
This means there is no appearance or court hearing required.
It is important that the consent orders and application is drawn correctly to ensure there is compliance with the legislation to minimise the chance of it being rejected.
Children’s matters are completely separate.
The media and TV/movies may have you referring to this as custody.
A number of client’s prefer to keep the children’s matters separate from the financial settlement and either stick with the status quo or amicably work towards a mutual informal agreement.
Children’s matters can be addressed as part of the consent orders if the parties wish but similarly to if the parties cannot agree, there may be certain circumstances where the only option is to proceed to court.
Again, due to the costs involved, this is a last resort.
Regardless of whether you wish to address the children’s matters as part of your separation with solicitors or not, you need advice to ensure you understand what your rights are so you can proceed to obtain a just result.
The child’s or children’s best interests are paramount in all matters.
On a side note, you also need to be aware of the child support ramifications of your children’s arrangements.
Family Law is a very involved area of law and very distinct to all other areas.
Every matter is different and unique and therefore there is no “one size fits all”.
It is important you know your legal position and are guided through the practical aspects of your matter so you can get a just or good result.
At Rush & Hampshire Barristers & Solicitors, we generally meet with you for an initial consultation and then assist you moving forward based on your needs following discussing the options with you.
We tend to relate this to a smorgasbord; we present it and you choose which meal you want and then we can tailor it for you.
Rush & Hampshire Barristers & Solicitors are still available full time, working from home as most of us are of course, due to the current restrictions.
We can arrange a time to meet you via telephone or video conferencing.
Feel free to call us to see how we can help you.
If you wish to phone us and reach our voicemail, please leave a message as we are prompt in our responses.
Alternatively, you can send us an email but please include your phone number as we will need to call you to discuss your requirements.
Aaron Farr is the Principal Lawyer at Rush & Hampshire Barristers & Solicitors, 163 Yarra Street
THIS MONTH’S article moves away from the customary focus on tax tips and tax information and is dedicated to my readers who may be struggling to cope with the pressures and uncertainties we are experiencing under the ravages of COVID-19.
Resilience and wellness are key concepts I explore in the holistic life-planning sessions I usually hold with my clients.
Good financial planning is about having a holistic approach, and the lessons we learn from holistic life-planning can be applied to surviving the challenges of COVID-19.
The tasks we face of surviving both the financial and health impacts of COVID-19 are more likely to be successful if we focus on and accept the importance of building up our resilience and our wellness.
Resilience and wellness
I will define resilience as simply the degree of willingness to overcome obstacles.
Resilience develops from the knowledge and experience of how to cope in spite of setbacks, barriers or limited resources and the ability to bounce back when things do not go to plan.
It also requires good mental health, sustained positive emotional strength, good physical fitness and physical health.
Obviously, there is no magic drug to take in order to develop resilience, but developing a history of surviving challenges helps.
Those who have coped with disasters, such as the loss of their home through a bushfire, the death of a child or life partner, or overcome severe physical or mental disabilities, will understand what resilience is.
Those who have survived wartime and recessions/depressions will also understand the importance of resilience.
Wellness could be viewed as a pathway to — or the process of — becoming aware of and making choices toward a healthy and fulfilling life.
Once achieved, it is a state of complete physical, mental, and social wellbeing supported by beliefs, principles, and values that give meaning, purpose, and direction to our lives.
Walking the road
As is the case with world wars, financial depressions and recessions, bushfires, droughts, floods and plagues, we can be certain that it will end, so instead of asking “how long will it take?” we should be asking “how can we manage the journey?”.
There is only one road out, and we are all on the same road, but how we walk this road is important.
We can walk it reactively, or proactively.
If you choose to travel reactively, you will sit and wait and when the situation affects you in whatever shape or form, you then react to it by borrowing money, calling your accountant, calling on a friend or family member, visiting a medical practitioner or a psychiatrist or simply panicking.
If you choose to travel proactively, you will be thinking ahead, planning what outcomes or goals you want, thinking through how you are going to get there, and when and how it will occur.
Planning in proactive mode
Most successful businesses and entities have a plan or a budget.
How else could you know how you are tracking if you do not have a plan to compare your actual outcomes against?
So, now let us apply these concepts to the family unit, couple or individual level.
In many other areas of our life; holiday, bushfire, household budgets, we often have a plan in place to maximise the outcome.
Regardless of whether you plan, or live from-day-to-day, if there was ever a time to be planning ahead, it is now.
Emotional health plan
There is a strong likelihood you or a member of your family may experience a bout of depression or a sense of helplessness, experience the loss of your job or business, a breakdown in a relationship, children not coping with home-based learning, or it all just getting too much to deal with.
Are you going to wait until the situation reaches crisis point, or will you work on a contingency plan?
Even just a list of health professionals, support services such as Beyond Blue or your GP, along with their contact details, may suffice as a plan.
Talking through your feelings and concerns with a trusted friend or family member is usually a positive starting point, as you are acknowledging that you have a problem, that you are willing to talk to someone about it, rather than just internalising your pain and retreating to within yourself.
There may also be things you could plan to do to assist in reducing stress levels either in your person or your household, such as walking your dog, or offering to walk your neighbour’s dog, or even considering buying a pup to nurture.
Other alternatives you may consider in your plan might be taking up yoga, meditation — or even a relaxing massage.
The important thing is to have thought ahead in “what if” mode, and recorded some notes and discussed it with your partner, family or friend.
You may also keep an eye out for Stephanie Foxley’s monthly Mental Health column or Maree Zimny’s Wellness column.
Physical health plan
It is widely acknowledged that there is a strong connection between physical health and emotional health.
A regular cardio work-out seems to kick in the endorphins which can relieve stress and produce feelings of wellbeing.
In my case, I have found on the days I have a one hour workout first thing in the morning that I am cognitively sharper and better equipped to deal with the more challenging mental demands of the day.
I have observed over the years a number of people who have experienced major emotional traumas and have taken up walking or jogging, even running in marathons as a means of coping with their depression or loss of self-worth.
I strongly recommend you put together a physical exercise plan that embraces a range of exercises including cardio.
You may have to be more creative while confined to home by using substitute objects to facilitate certain exercise routines.
You may also wish to check out Chris Sharp’s monthly Fitness column for some great ideas.
Human contact plan
Stage 4 restrictions are challenging and the drastic change in lifestyle can exacerbate feelings of aloneness and isolation which can impact on our emotional health.
It is therefore important to use the digital and visual media such as FaceTime, Skype and Zoom to regularly stay in touch.
Plan to contact family and friends at regular times and do not be reluctant to discuss how you are coping with everyday challenges.
Sometimes, comforting exchanges between family and friends that are experiencing similar challenges can be just as therapeutic as a visit to a psychologist or counsellor.
Finally, we need to address the most challenging aspect of surviving COVID-19 and that is finance.
When we refer to finance in this context, it embraces the income you earn from employment, your business, your investments, plus your access to borrowed funds through mortgage loans, and other forms of bank finance, credit card and pay later finance, and assets you own that could be sold to release funds such as investments, superannuation, financial support from family, friends, your community and the government in the form of pensions, JobKeeper, JobSeeker and numerous other types of support currently listed at dhhs.vic.gov.au/financial-support-coronavirus-covid19.
Once again, I hope you will choose to travel proactively and prepare a financial plan for your household and for your business if you have one.
The greater the uncertainty we face, the more crucial it is to plan ahead rather than wait for financial disaster to hit you unexpectedly, with no pathway to guide your financial decision making.
A good financial plan should enable us to project where our financial resources may be sourced from and how much we may need to fund our projected expenditure.
Available financial resources are what fuels our daily activities and needs in the same way as petrol or diesel fuels your travel needs.
If you run out of fuel your vehicle grinds to a halt.
The same drama can occur in your home if you run out of access to financial resources, so your financial plan in this time of great uncertainty should take top priority.
A useful starting point if you do not already have a personal or household budget in place is to go on to the ATO website (ato.gov.au) and look for the personal living expenses comprehensive worksheet (NAT 72959-12.2015).
Alternatively, for an excellent and more sophisticated budget planner with the option of using an excel based spreadsheet go to moneysmart.gov.au/budgeting/budget-planner.
Tips on preparing a budget
Select the most appropriate time frame, weekly, fortnightly or monthly, depending upon your pay period or most convenient period for estimating your cash flows and convert all income and expenditure amounts to the equivalent amount per period.
Access the last 12 months bank statements and credit card statements and any other necessary supporting documents in order to build a record of past actual income and expenditure for the time period chosen.
Sort your expenditure items into those that are essential or unavoidable and those that are discretionary.
Use your historical data as the starting point in estimating your budgeted amounts for the first period of your budget.
Ask yourself whether the historical amounts are likely to be repeated or not, and note why your estimates are expected to differ e.g. now working from home or children are learning from home.
Amounts received or paid quarterly or annually etc., will need to be entered into the period they are expected to be received or paid so your net cash flow will vary up or down each period accordingly.
Structure your budget to take you through to December 31, 2020 at least and subsequently extend it to March 31, and finally June 30, 2021.
There is a lot of merit in monitoring your actual monthly receipts and payments against your budget estimates and where necessary revising your estimates for future periods so that your finance plan becomes a living plan.
Preparing a personal or household budget is important because it will inform you — ahead of time — when you may be able to bank surplus cash flow to cover future commitments, or in the absence of cash reserves to draw down on, allow you to plan forward, proactively, and work on where the additional cash can be found, be it selling down shares, seeking additional paid work, cutting out certain discretionary expenditures, or discussing your financial needs with your bank, instead of just taking a punt on providence.
The content of this article is not intended to be relied upon as professional advice.
It reflects insights I have gained from my experience as an educator, small business owner, practicing accountant and custodian of my parents’ and grandmothers’ respective recollections of surviving the privations and challenges, resulting from two world wars, the Spanish flu epidemic and the 1930s depression.
Their stories have left me with a deep appreciation of how resilience and wellness are so essential for survival when the unknown overwhelms our consciousness.
THIS MONTH’S column draws your attention to a number of issues that may be relevant for you at this time of the year, when your mind turns to getting your information ready for tax time.
There are a few changes this year that have implications for the preparation of your personal income tax return.
These changes include income from JobKeeper or JobSeeker payments, termination or redundancy payments and deductions for work related expenses such as home office expenses, car expenses, uniform/protective clothing claims, changes to phone and WiFi usage, depreciation deductions and claims for super contributions using the catchup-up opportunity et cetera.
Whilst some of these issues, such as making superannuation contributions and claiming home office expenses, have been covered in earlier editions of my column, you may find preparing your own tax return this year more challenging than in prior years.
Furthermore, the ATO has warned of increased audit activity particularly in the areas of claims for concessional super contributions and work related expenses, given the significant impact of COVID-19 on employment and working from home.
It may therefore be an appropriate time to consider using the services of a registered tax agent to prepare and lodge your 2020 income tax return and relieve you of the challenge of coping with these changes.
A further benefit of using a tax agent is that you may delay lodgement of your return as late as May 15, 2021.
If you expect to have a tax liability and are struggling financially, payment can be delayed until your assessment issues, or even later if your tax agent negotiates a payment plan for you.
You should of course engage a tax agent’s services prior to October 31, 2020 to take advantage of the agent’s later lodgement date.
Accessing your Income Statement or Payment Summary
If your employer is reporting payroll information each payday using Single Touch Payroll (STP), they are no longer required to give you a payment summary.
You will instead receive an Income Statement which you can access through the ATO online services via myGov, once it has been marked as “Tax ready”.
Most employers with 19 or more employees have until July 14, 2020 to finalise their payroll data whilst those with less than 19 employees have until July 31.
The tax office will send a notification to your myGov inbox when all of your income statements are “Tax ready”.
If you have earned interest on bank accounts or investments or have shares that are paying dividends or received distributions from trusts you should delay lodging your tax return until all information needed to complete your tax return available through the ATO Online services has been accessed.
Likewise, if you are using the services of a tax agent, they also will not be able to complete your tax return until all pre-filling information is available from their software or online services for agents.
Although you may be eager to lodge your tax return or have it completed and lodged by your tax agent, it may cause you further inconvenience and cost if subsequently additional information becomes available necessitating the preparation and lodgement of an amended return.
COVID-19 income support reporting
a) JobKeeper payments
If you are an employee and your employer received JobKeeper payments for you as an eligible employee, the reimbursements received by your employer are included in your gross salary and reported at Item 1 in your tax return.
If you are self-employed and operating as a sole trader, eligible JobKeeper payments you have received will be included in your Business Income at Item P8 of your individual tax return.
b) JobSeeker payments
If you were in receipt of JobSeeker payments this is assessable income and will be included in the information available from the ATO Online services through myGov and must be included in your tax return at Item 5 — Australian Government Allowances and Payments.
c) Cash Flow Boost
If you are a sole trader with employees and were fortunate enough to be eligible for the cash flow boost, these payments are classified as non-assessable non-exempt income and are not included in your tax return.
Yes, that is true!
d) More good news
If you missed out on buying depreciable assets over $30,000 and less than $150,000 by June 30, 2020, the good news is that the Government has extended this generous allowance until December 31, 2020.
e) Not so good news
The ATO has increased its focus on the tax gap of $8.4 billion between what individuals not in business are paying compared with what they should be paying if they fully complied with the tax laws.
Yes, that is correct!
As a result, the ATO has implemented several key initiatives to reduce the estimated tax gap for this taxpayer group, many of whom prepare and lodge their own tax returns.
These include amongst others:
increasing the quantity and quality of the data the ATO collects (particularly through the ‘I’ return).
helping taxpayers and their tax agents correctly report income and deductions up front, using prompter messages, emails and letters to alert them early where amounts reported on the return are unusual compared to similar taxpayers.
taking firmer action to address non-compliance among higher-risk taxpayers and agents including additional audits in areas driving the tax gap.
The content of this article is not intended to be used as professional advice and should not be used as such.
Brian Spurrell FCPA, CTA, Registered Tax Agent, is Director of Personalised Taxation & Accounting Services Pty Ltd. PO Box 143 Warrandyte 3113. Mobile: 0412 011 946
AUSTRALIA’S PER CAPITA carbon footprint is usually among the largest in the world, though over the last three months the Coronavirus lockdown has caused a dramatic reduction.
With the easing of restrictions, our carbon emissions will rise again substantially.
Yet there is growing recognition that we should treat recovery from the COVID-19 crisis as an opportunity to reduce reliance on fossil fuels, wasteful consumption and unsustainable growth, and make our society cleaner and greener.
This issue is especially important given the need to drastically reduce our emissions by 2030.
According to the UN Environment Programme’s Emissions Gap Report 2019, to prevent warming beyond 1.5°C, we need to reduce emissions by 7.6 per cent every year to 2030.
Emissions reduction is of course dependent on making an effective and urgent transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources.
Government spending aimed at achieving economic recovery should be directed at investments that facilitate that transition, while at the same time creating jobs and business opportunities.
Reducing emissions is also closely tied with reducing consumption — a crucial issue for affluent countries like Australia, whose consumption of resources far exceeds what ecologists regard as sustainable.
To reduce consumption, we need to make lifestyle changes.
And on this topic, I can recommend a favourite book that I re-read recently: Affluenza by Clive Hamilton and Richard Denniss (Allen & Unwin, 2005).
Affluenza (subtitled When Too Much Is Never Enough) is about overconsumption and waste in the Australian context, and causes us to question our expectations, the way we live, and how much we consume.
The book’s central premise is that Australian society, like other rich societies, has become addicted to overconsumption driven by aspiration, resulting in high levels of personal debt, overwork, stress, obesity, hoarding, and extensive waste.
The book examines overconsumption in its many forms, such as:
Buying more food than we need, which then gets thrown out.
Our demand for increasingly larger houses since the 1950s, while the average number of occupants has decreased.
The purchase of household goods that we don’t really need.
The popularity of large 4WDs despite the safety hazards they pose and their poor fuel economy.
According to the authors,
“People afflicted by affluenza have an insatiable desire for more things.
Although our desire might have no bounds, our capacity to use things is limited: there is only so much we can eat, wear and watch, and a house has only so many rooms we can usefully occupy.
The difference between what we buy and what we use is waste.”
In regard to food waste, for example, the authors refer to a, then recent, survey showing that Australians threw away $5.2 billion worth of food and drink in 2004.
The situation has not improved since then.
The most recent Rabobank Food Waste Report has found that Australians wasted $10.1 billion on food in 2019, up from $8.9 billion in 2018, making Australia the fourth-worst food waster per capita in the world.
The authors do not advocate that “we should build humpies and live in self-satisfied deprivation”, which they say would misconstrue the purpose of their book.
As they explain.
“It is not money and material possessions that are the root of the problem: it is our attachment to them and the way they condition our thinking, give us our self-definition and rule our lives.”
Affluenza challenges us to think about and avoid overconsumption, of which we’re all guilty to a greater or lesser degree — a very timely challenge in the wake of the Coronavirus upheaval as we return to the “new normal”.
Jeff Cranston is a member of local climate change action group WarrandyteCAN.
If you’d like to become a climate change hero, join them.
WE ARE ALL living in a period of great uncertainty.
There is a barrage of, almost daily, statements and articles about new government assistance to individuals, employees and business, plus regular updates aimed at clarifying or adding to earlier information releases.
If you are working from home either under instruction from your employer, or running your own business out of home then this month’s column should be of interest to you.
If you have not read the April column titled COVID-19 Tax Update onWorking from Home, may I suggest you read that in conjunction with what follows, a copy of the column can be found on my website.
The new fixed rate per hour method
In a media release on April 7, the ATO announced a “temporary simplified method (or shortcut method)” to make it easier for individual taxpayers to claim deductions for additional running expenses incurred, such as additional heating, cooling and lighting expenses, as a result of working from home due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
Based on this announcement and further details in the ATO release entitled Working from home during COVID-19, updated on April 15, 2020, the ATO advised it will allow individuals to claim a deduction for all home office running expenses incurred during the period from March 1 until at least June 30, 2020, based on a rate of 80 cents for each hour an individual carries out genuine work duties from home.
This is an alternative method to claiming home running expenses under existing arrangements, explained in my April edition article, being 52 cents per hour for heating, cooling, lighting and office furniture depreciation.
What is covered in the new
80c per hour option?
The new 80c per hour method is designed to cover all of the following running expenses associated with working from home and incurred from March 1, 2020:
Electricity and gas expenses
associated with heating,cooling
and lighting the area at home
which is being used for work
Cleaning costs for a dedicated
work area such as a home office.
Phone and internet expenses.
Computer consumables such as
printer paper, ink cartridges and
Depreciation of home office
furniture and furnishings such
as an office desk and chair, filing
cabinets and bookcases.
Depreciation of home office
equipment such as a computer,
printer and scanner.
Advantages of using the
80c per hour method
Under this method whilst separate claims cannot be made for any of the above running expenses, which could be substantial, the advantages of using this method from March 1, 2020, are as follows:
No record keeping is required
other than a record of the number
of hours you have worked from
home as a result of COVID-19
such as timesheets, diary notes or
There is no requirement to have a
separate or dedicated area at
home set aside for working such
as a private study.
Multiple people living in the
same house could claim under
this method at 80c per hour
excluding school students of
Implications of not electing to use the 80c per hour method
You may elect to continue to use the 52c per hour method that was available from July 1, 2019, but that rate will only apply to running expenses for heating, cooling, lighting and furniture depreciation from the above list.
Unlike the 80c method, you will still have to undertake an analysis of the work related percentage of all of the remaining running expenses.
You will have to continue to maintain records of expenditure and retain all supporting documents as well as a time usage diary.
If you elect to use neither method, then you will have to resort to the actual expenses method for all expenses which is explained in detail in the April edition article, and have a dedicated work area or study set aside for work purposes.
If you are working from home only due to the consequences of COVID-19 you can’t claim occupancy expenses such as mortgage interest, rates, insurance, land taxes or rent.
Implications for the preparation
of your tax return
Regardless of whether you use a tax agent or prepare your tax return yourself, if you have, or will have, spent significant time working from home, you have to decide which of the three methods of claiming home office expenses you will elect to use for the period from March 1 to June 30 2020, and which of the two methods, 52c per hour or actual expenses method for the prior eight months.
If you elect to use the 80c rate you or your tax agent must include the note “COVID- hourly rate” in your tax return.
A word of advice
For many of you who have, or will have, spent a considerable amount of time working from home, it may well be worth devoting your time to:
Documenting the hours you have
worked at home for work related
purposes, or as a requirement
from your employer or in
running your own business from
Recording and filing all necessary
supporting documents relating to
allowable home office
Working out the percentage split
between private and work related
portions of jointly incurred costs.
Armed with this information you or your tax agent should then be able to determine which of the three methods will deliver the greatest deductions for the eight months to February 29 and the four months June 30, 2020.
The ATO will be anticipating a significant increase in both the number and the amount of home office expenses claims for 2020 and consequently you can expect a much higher level of scrutiny of your claim.
The content of this article is not intended to be relied upon as professional advice and should not be used as such.
If you have any questions you should consult a registered tax agent.
Further information on claiming work related expenses and the Covid-19 Government Assistance to Business and Individuals updated to March 30, 2020 is available on our website.
AS WE ARE FACED with increasing boundaries in our normal day to day life and as isolation and social distancing are required to flatten the growth rate of COVID-19 many people will find themselves struggling with their emotions.
It is really important that we, as a community, look out for each other; especially the elderly, the vulnerable, those with asthma, compromised lung capacity or auto immune problems.
But it is equally important to be considerate to other members of our community too, those who live alone or have no family.
There are many people out there who already struggle with isolation from their families and friends; especially those who live with depression, anxiety and stress.
If you know someone who is struggling, reach out to them; if you know someone who lives on their own, no matter what age, reach out to them; if you need to make a trip to the shops, offer to help do the shopping for them; check in with them, make a phone call or a video call, give them a “virtual” hug, you might be their life saver.
Anxiety is a normal response to stressful situations or perceived threat, and currently Australians and other nationalities around the world are under threat from the COVID-19 virus.
This anxiety ranges from the sense of uneasiness to increased worry or fear, to severe panic.
It is important that if you are feeling heightened feelings of anxiety to seek help; to talk to a friend or a member of your family, ring a counsellor or call a hotline.
These feelings may include “fear of this situation”, that “this situation is really bad” or that you “can’t cope with this”.
In extreme cases your behaviour may become uncharacteristic, like being aggressive, restless or irrational.
We have all seen some of these responses on television where people have been fighting in the supermarkets.
Your counsellor will be able to help you manage your thoughts, assist you with some relaxation techniques and breathing exercises.
Families who find themselves in isolation will inevitably struggle with the close proximity in which they are having to live.
Extended periods within the same four walls will no doubt lead to some form of conflict.
“Effective coping strategies can transform a conflict into a problem that can be solved mutually” (from Learning tocopewithconflictandviolence: howschoolscanhelpyouth by Susan Opotow and Morton Deutsch, inLearning to Cope: Developing as a Person in ComplexSocieties, edited by Erica Frydenberg).
So, it is time to be even more considerate to one another, give each other some space and if possible, come up with constructive systems that promote positive outcomes.
Avoid situations that might increase tensions and anger.
While getting angry is a normal human emotion, so long as it is managed well, it should not cause a problem.
Anger can range from slight annoyance to severe rage, and it is these heightened feelings of anger that need careful consideration especially when having to live in close proximity, confined to your home.
Anger, in extreme cases, can lead to violence and if you are at all concerned about your own anger or that of someone close to you, it is important to reach out and get help.
Isolation can lead to other mental health issues, and prolonged isolation can lead to feelings of being “trapped” or “cabin fever”.
When you are confined to a small space or restricted against your will in your own home it is possible that you can begin to feel irritable and restless.
These are claustrophobic reactions to being confined and may occur if you are faced with self-isolation or if there is a total quarantine lockdown.
Keeping yourself motivated is important, finding constructive things to do is helpful and reading a good book or playing an engaging game will also be advantageous.
Contact a friend for a video chat, or simply pick up the phone and talk to someone; tell them how you feel, that you feel like you are going to go crazy, reach out and share these emotions, once shared, they are halved.
We live in a community that cares, be there for one another, it might be your turn to need help next time.
Stephanie Foxley is a Warrandyte based counsellor who offers face to face and online counselling services. Medibank, Bupa, Police Health Fund and Doctor’s Health fund accredited. Member of ACA and CCAA, Provisional member of PACFA
HAVE YOU ever given thought to when we talk about emotions, why we talk about our heart so much more than any other parts of our body?
We don’t say your words hurt my liver or kidney;” we blurt out, “you hurt me”, “you hurt my feelings”, which means you hurt my heart.
Let’s explore this further.
Science has finally caught up with what the ancient people and mystics have always believed; that our heart is more than just an organ that pumps blood throughout our body.
In ancient history, we discover the heart is at the centre of all spiritual traditions.
As we dig deeper into many sacred texts, they often refer to the heart as the place where God and spirits dwell.
Most religious traditions talk about the heart not just as an organ but that it also feels, ponders, and remembers things.
It can even access information beyond our logical understanding.
We also now know the heart has its own brain.
As we look further into ancient cultures, we discover a theme:
in Taoism/Confucianism, the yin-yang symbol represents heart-mind;
in The Bible, the word “heart” appears over 1,000 times;
in Christianity, the cross and the heart are united;
in Catholic theology, the sacred heart of Jesus is the most used Catholic devotion.
In today’s world, the Dali Lama sums it up nicely:
“Never give up. No matter what is going on. Never give up. Develop the heart. Too much energy in your country is spent developing the mind instead of the heart. Be compassionate not just to your friends but to everyone. Be compassionate. Work for peace in your heart and in the world. Work for peace. And I say again. Never give up. No matter what is going on around you. Never give up.”
It all makes sense when you give it some thought.
So how did we lose the heart soul connection, where did it go?
Dr Joe Dispenza states in his book Becoming Supernatural:
“In the 17th century, during the early years of the scientific revolution, French philosopher Rene Descartes argues that the mind and body were two radically distinct substances.
Through this mechanistic view of the universe, people began to view the heart as an extraordinary machine.
The mechanism of the heart as a physical pump began to overshadow its nature as humanity’s connection to an innate intelligence.
Through scientific inquiry, the heart slowly ceased to be recognised as our connection to feelings, emotions, and our higher selves.
It has only been through the new science of the last few decades that we have begun to reconcile, understand, and recognise the true significance of the heart both as a source that generates electromagnetic fields and as our connection to the unified field.”
Find your self
Are you ready to try a little test?
Get your finger and point to you, yourself.
Now, where did you point?
Most people will point to the heart or chest area.
Is that a coincidence, or is this because our heart is connected to our spirit?
Find your heart
To reconnect with your innate being, your soul and heart, you can do some of the following:
Church or religious services
Time in nature
Time around children and pets
And focus on your heart and allow yourself to gently breathe in and out and allow positive feelings to radiate within it and around it.
When you quieten the mind, the heart will speak to you, the voice may be quiet, or it may be booming.
It’s that intuition you have.
You may say “my heart”, or “my gut” says yes or no.
Learn to reconnect and trust it.
Listen to your heart
In his book, The Heart’s Code, Dr Paul Pearsall, talks about a young girl who had a heart transplant.
After the successful transfer, the young girl started to have nightmares.
As the heart came from a young girl that was murdered, her dreams were taken seriously.
Her dreams were so accurate, that it led to the capture and conviction of the murderer.
Remember when the head and heart take opposing sides of an issue, don’t decide until they align, or you listen to your heart.
By doing this, you will reduce the “I should have listened to my instincts, heart or gut.”
If you feel lost, disconnected, hurt, anxious, remember to stop the mind chatter, by switching your attention to the heart and doing things that bring you to a state of calm, and ease helps.
If the condition moves beyond normal, seek professional help.
TURNING THE calendar over from January seems a bit like firing the starters pistol at an athletics track.
The moment it turns; the cruisy, lazy days of January start to fade from my memory, the prompts on my calendar no longer visible, and the days ahead fill with routine and to do lists that require the skills of a hurdler.
But before it fades completely I want to grab hold of a few moments and set them firmly in place.
One in particular was from our annual family trip to Tasmania to see my mum.
Typically, we don’t venture far from Mum’s place, instead we just slow down, enjoy long walks on the beach and a few too many serves of hot chips and ice-creams after swimming in the ocean.
But this year we added a little something extra and took off for a few days to the Tasman Peninsula, primarily known for its main attraction, the Port Arthur Historic Site, and some incredible rock formations at Eaglehawk Neck.
We skipped Port Arthur and its busloads of tourists and instead found spectacular beaches, captivating scenery and a remote gin distillery that makes Butterfly Gin — a deep blue gin that turns pink when tonic water is added.
It was an impulsive escape, and we just happened to be the lucky family that got the last available room on the entire peninsula that weekend — staying at Pirates Bay (how fun does that sound?) — one of the aforementioned beautiful beaches.
The peninsula is host to amazing walking tracks, many taking you to cliff tops that make you feel giddy as you look over the edge at powerful waves that crash the rugged coastline beneath you, and small seaside villages that offer magnificent views.
Doo Town is one of these villages.
A tiny seaside town of shacks at the south end of Pirates Bay, it is famous for its quirky house names.
A tradition that started in the 30s, when Hobart architect Eric Round named his shack “Doo I”.
His neighbour quickly replied with Doo-Me and a friend followed up with Doo-Us.
The tradition still continues today with most of the town’s shacks having “Doo” names, such as Dr Doolittle, Toucan Doo and a favourite of mine, Doo-write, and then there is Doo-lishus, the food van at the nearby Blowhole.
The hunt was on for the best name.
And then we happened upon Doo Drop Inn and I firmly announced that was the winner for me.
I love it when people drop in.
It doesn’t happen often and of course you can be caught unawares, but it makes my day when a friend just drops in because they were “in the area” or “had a few minutes to spare”.
But it is rare, perhaps a thing of the past, a habit of bygone days when neighbours and friends just dropped in for a cuppa.
According to my research, which involved the very scientific face to face conversations with local friends and a social media post, I’m of a rare breed myself and most do not like a drop in.
I was shocked.
It seems the drop in has been replaced by invitation only, with busy lives set up to take the blame.
I wonder how much the pressure to have things in order adds to it, and of course, the Instagram images of beautiful homes feeds the inadequacy many feel in relation to housekeeping and home decorating skills.
One research participant said, “I need a few days’ notice, so I can tidy up, bake, make the house look nice and make sure there is a bottle of wine in the fridge.”
My oh my — that sounds more like a fancy dinner to me, and unfortunately her sentiment was echoed by many others.
And to that I say stop this madness.
What are we doing to ourselves that how our homes look is more important than having an open door?
What are we doing that our lives are so busy that we must schedule every visit, every cup of tea with a friend?
Here’s the challenge — stop the styling, stop setting ourselves up for perfection, just let go and instead breathe deeply of the friendship and spontaneity of a friend at the door — they didn’t come to see your house.
Perhaps be the one that drops in on friends, maybe it’s time to start a revolution and bring back the drop in.
As an extrovert I love to see my friends, any time of day and night, and I am happy to be distracted, to discard any task for a conversation.
So if you need somewhere to practice — doo drop in.
IT HAS BEEN a sad month of November as we learn news of the ravaging fires up north and the decimation of our beautiful country, farmland, National Parks, the wildlife, birdlife and other critters.
It brings to harsh reality the dangerous place we live in.
We rely on Mother Nature to look after us, and for our neighbours to be aware and watchful of how they tend their gardens, their cigarette butts and just their consideration of others in general.
December 1 is the time when panic sets in on when we last cleaned out the gutters, is our fire plan in order and have we cleared flammables from around the house.
We look in admiration at the CFA as we drive past the station, knowing they will have our backs when we need them.
Are we leaving out water bowls for the birds and animals?
It is amazing how many native animal sighting there have been this year.
How many are frequenting our gardens and river.
me laugh when someone comments on Kevin the Kookaburra who arrives on their balcony waiting for tidbits and someone else comments that “this is not Kevin” but their kookaburra Harry.
My water lillies are showing their faces out of the murky water of my old copper near the front door.
They flower year in and year out. Just a single simple plant.
I love how the birds come to admire themselves in the water while they are drinking.
Try popping a little chunk of manure in an old piece of stocking and weigh it down in the water with an old brick.
This is all I do to fertilise my waterlily.
It thrives on the neglect.
A little bit like my orchids.
I pull my blinds open in the morning and just spend a couple of minutes taking in all the plants that come to peer in the window.
The salvias, struck from tips put into the ground this time last year, are now two feet high and flowering.
The clematis and Pierre de Ronsard roses entwining each other — clamouring over a rusty old arbour.
The euphorbias, an old reliable in the garden, are flowering profusely, the Jerusalem Sage a pop of yellow and always covered with bees.
Poppies that I have never planted have decided that they will come to stay; probably brought in with bird droppings.
The scent of the lemon blossoms, mock orange, the scented verbenas and the roses of course, waft through the window on the morning breeze.
The day will always be a rush but this is the few minutes of peace we can have.
Moments to plan. Moments to contemplate life and its ups and downs.
The vegetable patches are looking a bit forlorn this year. We have the lettuce, spinach, peas and beans, tomatoes, basil, fruits and herbs.
Still all doing their thing even though they have been neglected this year.
There is nothing so humbling as finding the plants flowering and fruiting even though no one will be there to witness it.
December is a time to batten down the hatches as we prepare for the predicted heat waves and scorching north winds that will dry out the garden.
Hopefully you took my advice last month and got on top of the mulching, trapping the moisture underneath it in preparation with the dry months ahead.
Make sure your taps, hoses and buckets are all in position.
That there is a bucket collecting water in the bottom of your shower, ready to be tipped on the plants closest to the house.
Remember to wander around the garden in the afternoon snipping off the dead heads of the annuals, perennials, roses and lavender — make pot pourri with the cuttings.
It is not too late to plant seedlings in the vegetable garden.
Beetroot, lettuce, parsley, peas, pumpkin, silverbeet and radish.
Cistus is a great plant to plant out now.
It is a Mediterranean native from Italy and Greece.
They love sunbaked soils and are drought tolerant.
Always remember the plants with grey leaves or spiky small leaves are an indication that they like arid conditions.
Salvias, the perfect example; rosemary, lavender and catmint others.
Maybe hunt down the beautiful pink rosemary and the white lavenders.
Or catmint (nepeta) “Six Hills Giant” that will grow up to a 70cm high and one metre across.
Remember that basil, lavender, and catnip are all plants that mosquitoes can’t stand, while other varieties, like lemon balm, are best crushed up and applied to skin for a natural insect repellent.
Packets of seeds are always a beautiful gift, as are new gardening gloves.
Or of course a pair of secateurs.
Wishing everyone a happy and peaceful Christmas surrounded by your garden and those that love you.
Wishing you peace in the new decade, and a garden that always blooms.