Archive for August, 2010

New study shows: People don’t like their unselfish colleagues

August 30, 2010 Leave a comment

Spot the flaw in the following, ground-breaking research ….

PULLMAN, Wash. — You know those goody-two-shoes who volunteer for every task and thanklessly take on the annoying details nobody else wants to deal with?

That’s right: Other people really can’t stand them.

Four separate studies led by a Washington State University social psychologist have found that unselfish workers who are the first to throw their hat in the ring are also among those that coworkers most want to, in effect, vote off the island.

“It’s not hard to find examples but we were the first to show this happens and have explanations for why,” said Craig Parks, lead author of “The Desire to Expel Unselfish Members from the Group” in the current Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

The phenomenon has implications for business work groups, volunteer organizations, non-profit projects, military units, and environmental efforts, an interest of Parks’ coauthor and former PhD student, Asako Stone.

Parks and Stone found that unselfish colleagues come to be resented because they “raise the bar” for what is expected of everyone. As a result, workers feel the new standard will make everyone else look bad.

It doesn’t matter that the overall welfare of the group or the task at hand is better served by someone’s unselfish behavior, Parks said.

“What is objectively good, you see as subjectively bad,” he said.

The do-gooders are also seen as deviant rule breakers. It’s as if they’re giving away Monopoly money so someone can stay in the game, irking other players to no end.

The studies gave participants—introductory psychology students—pools of points that they could keep or give up for an immediate reward of meal service vouchers. Participants were also told that giving up points would improve the group’s chance of receiving a monetary reward.

In reality, the participants were playing in fake groups of five. Most of the fictitious four would make seemingly fair swaps of one point for each voucher, but one of the four would often make lopsided exchanges—greedily giving up no points and taking a lot of vouchers, or unselfishly giving up a lot of points and taking few vouchers.

Most participants later said they would not want to work with the greedy colleague again—an expected result seen in previous studies.

But a majority of participants also said they would not want to work with the unselfish colleague again. They frequently said, “the person is making me look bad” or is breaking the rules. Occasionally, they would suspect the person had ulterior motives.

Parks said he would now like to look at how the do-gooders themselves react to being rejected. While some may indeed have ulterior motives, he said it’s more likely they actually are working for the good of an organization.

Excluded from the group, they may say, “enough already” and simply give up.

“But it’s also possible,” he said, “that they may actually try even harder.”

The study is based on the reactions of psych students!

I had to spend a whole day with a psych student once. We were on a bridal party together. She stormed out of the reception and told the bride to “have a nice life” and we still don’t know why.

Maybe the authors of the study should try it again with participants randomly selected from the wider population? Just a thought. Yikes! (In the meantime, goody-goodies, take cover!)

Why Kids Need Ballroom Dancing

August 29, 2010 4 comments

ADS Winter Festival 2010. Image courtesy of reader Liz.

I’m a recent convert to the world of ballroom. I’ll admit to having been wary of it, thinking it was Prissy With Sequins and only for people who conform–not only with strict rules of dance, but also with standardised notions of what looks beautiful in a ballgown or suit. However, I cannot underscore enough, how surprised and delighted I have been with the reality of ballroom dancing for my child, as opposed to the stereotype I’d expected.

For years, I was Jazz & Tap mum, until recently, when the work far outweighed the returns – Miss 9 fell out of love with it all. It had become about raising the status of the dance school and a lot less about the individual children and the joy of dance. Besides, no matter how hard all the children might try, there was always a back row, and every performance was a group act with one or two favourites. Add to that, the fact that the performances could be complete disasters if choreographed inappropriately (as was the case at one local eisteddfod recently, where a dance teacher thought it okay for 7 and 8 year olds to faithfully replicate one of Beyonce’s sexy music videos.)

This is not to say that other forms of dance are no good or inferior to ballroom. Professional dancers need to be across styles. Some dance schools are better than others. All styles have their place, and time-poor and cash-strapped parents have to make difficult choices. That being said, society really needs to take another look at ballroom. It’s all about socialisation (or socialization, if you’re American).

If I had my way, it’d be made compulsory in Sports & Personal Education at least in primary school (acknowledging that it might be difficult to get some high school students to do anything, let alone dance. I have sympathy for teachers.) Not everyone can give their kids private classes, so instead of more tunnel-ball and t-ball, why not a term of partnered dancing?

It’s a tragedy that whole generations of children are growing up into people who don’t know how to dance with other people, but rather, copying aggressive music videos, dance against others. Life is a fight, seems to be the message. Dance which draws inspiration from gang wars, sweaty poles and domestic violence has its own place as a form of artistic expression, but it’s concerning that it’s taking over as the only form of dance expression that many people understand. Agro is the new cool.

Ballroom has the following benefits (especially for kids):
* increased confidence, not only within themselves, but also with interacting with the opposite sex in appropriate and respectful ways;
* co-ordination (dancing opposite someone is quite complex and more difficult than dancing in formation or alone);
* opportunity to build meaningful rapport with dance partners and others in the class, because it is face to face;
* develops an appreciation for collaborative and complementary effort;
* fun (we’ve found it a lot less pressure than our last big dance school, even with exams and comps);
* having a skill for life that comes in handy for social occasions which require something other than crumping, pirouettes or jazz hands;
* can start at any age (dependent upon individual circumstances); and
* there is no back row – everyone is front and centre when performing.

Ballroom students don’t do concerts–they do medals (tests) periodically and competitions (if and when they’re ready). The great thing about the tests and comps is that parents and guests are watching them–the kids are not taken away to a locked room down a corridor to face an examiner or panel of examiners, alone. Through and through, ballroom is a collaborative effort and is inclusive rather than exclusive. After the medal tests, there’s supper and everyone gets up to dance (if they want to).

There are children (and adults) of all shapes and sizes, from all walks of life. People don’t typically come with partners, in fact, most don’t. Partners are arranged for medals and comps as required, if there’s no permanent partner.

In terms of curriculum, I’d highly recommend that schools consider implementing some form of ballroom dance for the sake of the children and the society which they will grow up to lead. For parents who want to try something good for their kids – I say “give it a go.” For those on school committees – bring it up at the next meeting.

P.S. Thanks to Blair Pettard and Natalie Perry – both awesome teachers at Perry’s Superior Ballroom. Perry’s is available for in-school lessons.
[UPDATE: image removed for copyright/privacy reasons]

Please feel free to add your own comments or experiences and let us know if there’s a great ballroom dance school in your area.

[UPDATE: post edited for length & clarity. Comments regarding bullying deleted in acknowledgment of reader LD’s point that it can happen anywhere and is subjective. Furthermore, I can appreciate that with so few males dancing, finding a permanent partner for comps and being asked (or not) to tryouts is another whole world of pain.]

Check out some gorgeous pics by Brock McFadzean.

Catch your own TinkerBell – DIY fairy house

August 27, 2010 Leave a comment

Catch your own TinkerBell - DIY fairy house

Being Book Week in Australia and all, some of us have been obsessing about how to dress our kids for the school fancy dress parade. Some people, like The Auntie Who Thinks of Everything, go so far as to make props.

As I’m severely allergic to craft, and could only bring myself to make a swag (comprising stick with tea towel tied to the end of it) for one of my children’s props today (Miss Nine went as pretty-boy, Huckleberry Finn), I thought I’d share Auntie’s more inspired creation.

The lid flips open and the interior has been tastefully decorated in fully fledged fairy style. Awesome work,

If anyone has photos from Book Week or special crafty ideas they’d like featured on the blog, contact me through the comments box and I’ll see what I can do.

Happy fairy hunting, and good reading!

Categories: Art, Australia, Books, Movies, Parenthood

La Spina invents heroic pop-era: Always You

August 26, 2010 2 comments

La Spina – Always You

A week after being released, there’s a new Aussie album at the top of the classical music charts. So, what about it, you may ask.

“Always You” is the first album by La Spina: Rosario La Spina and younger sister, Anna-Maria. What’s interesting, is that Rosario is an accomplished operatic tenor and Anna-Maria, a pop diva. They’ve combined their styles and creative energies into this highly original album, complete with 65-piece Melbourne Symphony Orchestra…. Bizarre to purists perhaps, but quite beautiful and more accessible to those who aren’t so staunch in their classical music consumption. But then, I own an expensive Shih Tzu-Poodle cross and a generic black cat: cross-over suits me fine.

Nine of the thirteen tracks are original. Anna-Maria has started to come into her own with writing music, as well as performing it. She showed talent early on: while the rest of us at Mt Alvernia College in Brisbane, squeaked out our Hail Marys and volunteered each other to the ex-nuns for the next liturgical dance opportunity, Anna-Maria was belting out songs with a strength and maturity that was simply astounding. She was even on tv and won “Star Search” aged 17. Big back then, much bigger now. Anna-Maria toured with Savage Garden and worked alongside many internationally acclaimed artists. If her brother, Rosario, is called “the Australian Pavarotti”, then Anna-Maria is probably a more soulful “Australian Celine Dion” or maybe Streisand, or maybe Cher. It’s a big voice and it doesn’t readily compare to most pop princesses.

The album itself mostly comprises stadium-sized sounds: you could open the next FIFA World Cup or Olympics with a bang this big. It’s not tea and scones music.

To list a few of the songs:-
I love “The Prayer” – stunningly beautiful, is all I can say.
“Heavenly” is motivational … “in every cloud your rainbow waits”. The ex-nuns would be proud.
“Time to Say Goodbye” – will make your hair stand up on your arms.
“Vivere” – gosh, if they put this at the end of a Stuart Little or Lion King type kids’ movie, there wouldn’t be an adult in the cinema with dry eyes.
“Always You” is lovely in Italian and English.
“I Wish I’d Never Known” could’ve been written for a Roman Polanski film.
“Everyday” is easy to listen to and harks back to its pop origins. This could be remixed as commercial pop.

La Spina’s take on Iron Maiden’s “Run to the Hills” would be fabulous to crank up on full volume to encourage door-knockers to move on, quickly.

Give it a go.

Categories: Australia, Music

Mouse in need of a chiropractor & ALP in need of a bigger trap.

August 25, 2010 Leave a comment

Reader JB, sent in a picture and her experiences with this particular mousetrap…

JB writes:

Mouse eventually got caught using my home baked choc chip cookie in trap. However new fangled traps not good for an extra large mouse…very distressing night. Woke with banging and loud squeaking to find mouse had been caught by trap which was on my kitchen bench and its struggling caused trap to move along bench and off the end on to floor resulting in mouse running around my kitchen with trap on its head. Very disturbing night. Scott got it outside and released trap to allow a mouse to slowly walk off with a crooked neck! All this at midnight last week! Not good! It was an extremely large mouse though. Guess the moral of the story is to use the old fashioned traps which were not available in our Woolies though!

So, the mouse ran off with a crick neck (right-leaning) and was last seen in the marginal seat of Lilley.

All things considered, this is probably a good metaphor for the ALP’s 2010 federal election campaign — mistaking man for mouse. Julia, you’ll need a bigger trap to catch Tony and you might need reader JB’s recipe for choc chip cookies…

Last Run: Making sense of the Australian ski field tragedies

August 21, 2010 3 comments

Last Sunday week, I’d just arrived at the Snowy Mountains, to be prevented from going into the Guthega ski hire centre, by half a dozen Mountain Operations staff and a cordoned off area.

Behind the unusually stern-looking staff, was parked a black, unmarked van with no back windows. “It’ll all be over in 10 minutes,” said the young chap nearest me. But he wouldn’t say what. This was 4:30pm. Then the centre closed for the night.

We trudged uphill with our supplies, sans kids’ hire skis, wondering what that was about. Others staying at the lodge didn’t know either. Mention was made of a priest exiting the building. Someone who arrived minutes after us, noted that there was a body in the back of the van: it was the coroner’s van.

Bit by bit, we pieced together the story of the tragic death of Michael Meagher. He’d collected a tree on the last day of his skiing holiday. It had been the perfect day, sublime, in fact – clear blue skies, good snow cover and an easy run (Wombat’s). It was all wrong, that an experienced skier could die in such circumstances.

The accident had happened at about 10am and was witnessed by a poor chap who’d just bought his lift pass and was on his first trip up. He handed his ticket back and spent the day recounting his horror to police. Luckily, Meagher’s tween-age son didn’t witness the accident, but did endure the agony of watching medics trying to revive him. The family spent the rest of the day with Michael’s body in the ski hire shop. This is no way to end a family holiday.

Michael didn’t have a helmet on and it sounded like he did that run alone. It is said that he had a helmet, but chose not to wear it. It is also the opinion of at least one person who saw the aftermath, that the helmet would’ve saved him – but that’s for the coroner to decide, not an untrained casual eye – albeit one that has seen many ski field horrors. One news report says he broke his neck. What we’d heard was that it was massive head injuries.

Discussion at the lodge turned to the issue of helmet wearing – should it be compulsory? Some of us, particularly those with younger kids in ski school, chose to wear them for protection (mostly from other less-controlled or inconsiderate skiers and boarders) and to set a good example for the young ones. But, many other skilled riders chose not to and would not change their habits even in light of the tragedy on their very doorstep.

The next morning, we weren’t served by the usual young fellow at the ski hire shop. In the village-like atmosphere of Guthega, you get to know the faces over the years. Turns out, the poor young man had acquired a brain injury from a snow-boarding accident the season before and “was no longer the same person.” He didn’t have a helmet on.

Mandatory helmet wearing seems like a good idea, but as other blogs note, it could be problematic (read: expensive) to enforce. My personal view is that kids should come with lids for snow sports just as for biking, and while I’d love to see more adults wearing helmets, it ultimately comes down to personal choice and responsibility. Perhaps helmet wearers could get a discounted lift ticket – incentive rather than stick.

More enforcement of the Alpine Responsibility Code (read: fine print on your ticket) would also help to reduce many injuries (but probably wouldn’t have saved Michael – assuming it was a single person accident), but that’s hard to do when Perisher had already started letting staff go en masse after the southern states school holidays ended. In the week that I was there, I’d observed that maintenance staff were doubling up as lifties and runs weren’t being groomed daily. This is not a good thing. Thirty-odd boarding instructors had been let go. International ski instructors were told their work was ending weeks before their return flights home. (In terms of staffing, the international reputation of Perisher is on shaky ground at present). I wonder how iron-clad Perisher’s exclusion of liability clause would be, if tested. While there’s an inherent risk in the sport (as in any sport), if conditions aren’t maintained to a reasonable standard, it’s arguably reasonably foreseeable that something bad’s going to happen. Perisher is being run on a shoe-string. Maybe Jamie Packer does casinos better.

I do have issues with people wearing headphones or earphones and listening to music while they ski or board – and having them wear helmets doesn’t give them a tick in my books. Full attention on the snow and others around you, or GET OFF THE MOUNTAIN. In fact, more injuries happen through collisions with others than through collisions with inanimate objects. (It’s just that trees are deadlier). Cocky, inexperienced people who ride beyond their means are particularly dangerous. We met several victims in the medical centre this year, who’d been run into and injured by others. The medical centre easily sees 20 knee injuries a day, according to staff, and that’s a happy day when there’s nothing more serious than torn ligaments and broken limbs.

We take risks in life, and sometimes they backfire. On the snow, however, the circumstances are less forgiving. Freak accidents can happen anywhere and to anyone, but there are certainly steps that can be taken to reduce their likelihood.

What the news reports don’t explain clearly enough, is that the deadly collision-type accidents tend to involve great speed and going off groomed tracks. The other ski field tragedies tend to involve young people not respecting their surrounds. Being invincible at 20-something after a night at the pub with not-enough-clothes-on, becomes the next day’s headlines. While I won’t speculate that this is what happened this week at Mt Buller (because again, it’s for the coroner), it’s happened enough times that it’s tediously predictable. Have fun, but don’t go stupid.

Similarly, clueless people of any age, going hiking in the snow (disregarding blizzard predictions) invites questions of what did they think they were doing? And don’t they give a hoot about risking the lives of others who have to go looking for them? Soon before our snow trip, some hikers nearly died on the mountain when they became lost overnight. Unfortunately, after being rescued, they, in their infinite selfishness, decided to go out and look for their gear and got themselves lost a second time – needing to be found, again. I hope they’re charged the full amount of whatever it cost for the two search parties – they owe their lives twice over, plus some.

This week, Bill Findlay, a retired Macquarie Uni administrator, was reported to have died of a heart attack during a cross country skiing competition, in the Perisher resort (Guthega is a part of Perisher). While being a dreadful loss to his family and friends, I can’t say that this is a ski field tragedy as such, although it has been reported that way. Presumably, the poor man could’ve had a heart attack anywhere. He didn’t die of exposure or collision.

In Guthega, we’d noticed that a black Holden ute had been parked in a no parking area outside the ski hire shop, in the day-parking area for the whole week. In fact, other lodge members noted with concern that it had been there the previous week also and had not been moved. Snow was piled on top of it and no-one knew who it belonged to. In light of the cross country skiers going missing and Meagher’s death, people in Guthega were becoming increasingly concerned. The owner of the vehicle didn’t think to put a note on the dashboard with a mobile phone number or the name of the lodge she was staying at. It was only when word spread that the vehicle was going to be towed that somehow, the owner emerged. It was a person who should’ve known better, someone who worked in the resort, but clearly didn’t have much consideration for other people who not only missed out on parking there for two full weeks, but also who were wondering whether to send out a search party and where to start looking.

The snow is a place which demands some respect and common sense. Mindfulness of the surrounds and consideration for others goes a long way towards keeping safe. Beyond that, there’s a certain element of luck that can be present or absent on even the most glorious of days.

The mantra on the mountain ought to be: “make it a GREAT run, not the last run”. Because, we just never know.

RIP Michael Meaghaer, Bill Findlay and others tragically lost on the ski fields and condolences to the families and friends.

N.B. I took the photograph of the ski patrol assisting an injured patron. It was one of 5 accidents I saw that day, but didn’t in any way relate to the persons named in this story.

Kids in Adult Prisons – only in Queensland

August 18, 2010 2 comments

Eighteen years ago, on the 5th of August, 1992, the Queensland Labor Government made a pledge to amend the law so that 17 year olds would be transferred back into the juvenile (now, “Young People”) detention system and taken out of the adult prison system. Labor has forgotten its pledge to Queensland children and there is a campaign afoot to remind it.

You might wonder why this matters. You might also think there’s nothing you can do about it. I know: both those thoughts crossed my mind too. Some time ago now, I’d worked for almost 2 years in criminal defense, which is enough time to become cynical about the world and burnt out by the misery of it all – so much so that defending insurance companies afterward seemed like a cake walk. However, I digress.

In 1992, when the Juvenile Justice Act (now, “Youth Justice Act”) was passed by Queensland Parliament, the Labor Government pledged:

“It is the intention of this Government, as it was of the previous Government, to deal with 17-year old children within the juvenile, rather than the adult system, as per the Kennedy Report into prisons. This is consistent with the age of majority and avoids such children being exposed to the effects of adults in prison, thereby increasing their chances of remaining in the system and becoming recidivists. This change will occur at an appropriate time in the future.” (Qld Parliament, 5 August 1992:p.6130).

There’s always been the legislative scope to easily change the position to allow 17 year old offenders to be dealt with pursuant to the Youth regime rather than the adult regime, but no regulation has ever been established, meaning Queensland is the only state that treats 17 year old offenders as adults.

This raises a number of questions:
* Why use tax-payer money to fund a report which the government chooses to ignore? I want a refund. Or value for money. And an apology to the author of the report.
* If Queensland is the Smart State, how come the law defines an adult to be an adult of 18 years except when it’s a 17-year old committing a crime here and not elsewhere? Something yonder brays.
* Under the Child Protection Act, there is an obligation to investigate incidents of children who may be at risk of harm. How does this work when the government is the one putting the child in harm’s way?
* Is it not foreseeable that putting child offenders in with adult offenders would increase risk of injury to the minors? One might cough sideways three times in a way which could sound like “negligence”.
* How is this not a contravention of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child? (as Damian Bartholomew points out).

Queensland’s Children’s Commission, Anti Discrimination Commissioner, Queensland Heads of Churches, United Nations and youth and legal advocates have urged the government to fulfill its commitment to transfer 17-year olds from adult prisons to juvenile detention centres. The Youth Affairs Network Qld, which is the peak body promoting the rights and interests of young people in Queensland, has postcards circulating, which people can write comments on and send in to the Premier, Anna Bligh. While one must appreciate that there are plenty of other priorities in government, especially now, with election fever and State Labor struggling in the polls, it’s inexcusable that a decision can take that long to implement. But of course, bad kids don’t win sympathy or votes in voter-land. Besides, kids don’t vote, either, so screw that.

You might ask what’s the hold up. The answers would seem to be: money and public sentiment. The spoils of the never-ending mining boom have been lost and there simply is no money to improve or extend existing facilities for young people – it’s easier and cheaper not to change things. And besides, most people wouldn’t know this was even an issue and even fewer would care, unless they really thought about it.

I’ve spoken to people on both sides of the debate. Police, who are faced with controlling other people’s unruly and criminally-inclined children are sick of the repeat offenders and the slack, limp-wristed punishment given to young offenders (which don’t have the requisite deterrent effect). Police have no interest in amending the law, and who can blame them. No-one should have to put up with the rubbish that they endure on a daily basis, while the rest of us sit back and demand better law and order but vote with our eyes closed, nonetheless.

Youth advocates also come in all shapes and sizes and have dedicated their lives to trying to help the sometimes un-helpable. Which begs the question: how, as a society, are we letting it get to this?

My personal view is that the law should be consistent – an adult is an adult, not a child with one year to go – and the government has a responsibility to children in its facilities (to protect them from harm and not to put them into an environment which all but removes any chance of rehabilitation). To that effect, the law should be changed, as promised. However, we’ve had Labor both at State and Federal levels and I, for one, would like to know why so little has been done in the way of law and order as well as for the protection of children. The social engineering sins of the past are wildly bearing fruit and rotting before our eyes. And it stinks.

Children go off the rails for various reasons, but they stay off the rails because of inadequate parenting, inappropriate social infrastructure and the decay of respect for the law and those who uphold it.

Demand that the law be changed, but also demand a change to the circumstances that see those children going to prison in the first place.

Thanks to readers: David, aa, Cheryl, Darren and ak.

Please feel free to add your comments, below. Anonymity will be respected.

This issue makes Australia look bad internationally. It transcends political battle lines.
Thank you to the following people for their speedy and thoughtful responses:
Damian Bartholomew, solicitor.
Wendy Francis, Lead Senate Candidate for Family First
Dr Andrew Jeremijenko, The Greens Candidate for the Division of Lilley
Andrew Bolt, journalist.
Nick Earls, author – Thanks for the words of support!

K Rudd ‘on the hustings’ …

August 6, 2010 1 comment

Kevin Rudd’s from Queensland and he’s back again, to help some more …

I’m not sure why, but the image of our rebel chook, sitting on top of the 8-kilo cat’s pussy palace, resonates. Perhaps both K-Rudd and Dixie have a death-wish? But unlike Dixie, K-Rudd seems to have more than one life.

In fact, watching internal Labor politics of late is reminiscent of some 80s horror flicks. Probably Dead. Then Alive. Then Probably Dead Again. Alive Again. Then Really Truly Dead. Until the Sequel. And there’s always a humongous knife left lying around.

With K-Rudd crawling out of hospital and back onto the hustings, voters are left wondering how the sequel will end. And how many sequels there’ll be.

(With apologies to Dixie the chicken.)

Categories: Australia, Pets, Politics

Unequal Partners? Women in the legal profession.

August 5, 2010 9 comments

People ask me why I left the legal profession. Depending on how much time they have, one response is that the hours weren’t compatible with life, let alone a family life. I’d worked in the very smallest of law firms, to the very largest (and even tried the Public Service) and uniformly found, that commitment to the legal life was an all-or-nothing proposition. What’s more, there were grinding inequalities which came with the territory, but which we dared not speak of.

My generation of women–those who graduated during Keating’s “recession we had to have” of the early 1990s, were just so happy to have a job. Yes, we graduated with those purple and green stickers that declared “Women can do anything”, but to us, it seemed a silly statement of the obvious. Of course, we were only in that fortunate frame of mind because of the work of generations of women before us, who’d made equality an expectation, not an aspiration. However, the expectation was not only to be allowed into the profession (that happened well over 100 years ago, in Australia), but extended to equality of participation, including progress on merit. Management theories for years supposed that having increasing numbers of women in the profession would iron out any inequalities and change the profession. However, what would seem to be the case, is that women have taken on and adapted to the environment, rather than changed it. The end result is that lots of women go into the profession, and are churned back out, with broken hearts and ambitions unfulfilled.

This is not at all about man-bashing. I’m rather fond of men. I could do a Tony Abbott speech and say I even married one, and have several other men in my family. But on a serious note, there is a very specific and ingrained culture in the legal profession, that still treats women as second-best, and pays accordingly.

Some things which women lawyers have indicated to me over the years, in confidence, include, for example:
* In the 1990s, if a woman wore trousers instead of a skirt to court, a male judge might say “I cannot see you.” I made this mistake once, because as a (then) construction lawyer, who could be called out for site inspections, trouser suits seemed sensible.
* In the 1990s, if a woman wrote down “Ms” instead of “Miss” or “Mrs” on the appearance slip in court, a male judge might say, “I cannot hear you.” I made this mistake once, also.
* Blokes get to walk in front and not carry a thing. Women walk three steps behind, carrying the folders or pushing the trolleys to court. This is not just a seniority thing. A woman lawyer could do all the work on the file, but then when a corporate representative of the client was due to come to court to watch the progress of the matter, the woman would be told not to speak with the client, not to take any credit for work done, and to walk three steps behind all the men. The women doing all the work on the matter could also be overlooked for the celebrations afterward, so that the bloke who was being groomed for promotion, could step in and take all credit.
* Blokes in charge of junior female lawyers have been known to cross off time from their underling’s timesheets and transfer it to their own, to make budget and get that next promotion. Women couldn’t do much about it, for fear of being branded troublesome and losing their jobs. Where the pressure to make billable hours is so great, there are sometimes bad eggs to be found.
* There were so many female graduates in my time and subsequently, that we were seen as easily replaceable. (Too many new law schools opened up after I graduated, creating a glut). We were routinely told that we were less valuable than the secretaries, and that if we upset the secretaries for any reason, we’d be fired. Apparently, some secretaries had a devilishly good time with this.
* Women were mostly called upon to do the unbillable work in the firm, while blokes got the plum files.
* Part-time work after children was a no-go zone, even in some parts of the Public Service: “In or Out” was the mantra.

Dr Geraldine Neal has produced an exceptional and brave thesis about the state of gender equality in the Queensland legal profession. She graduated with a PhD in Law from Griffith University, last week–a big congratulations to her. Take a look:

Unequal Partners? Women in the legal profession thesis.

Graduate Careers Australia (GCA), has recently published research indicating that in 2009, the average entry level salary for male law graduates was A$53,000 whereas the female equivalent was A$48,600: an 8% difference. But why, for graduates with equal inexperience?

Across the board, female grads under 25 were paid 3% less than male, but the disparity was 8% for lawyers. Oddly, the situation seems to be worsening recently – in 2008, the gap for young lawyers was only 2%. The statistics include people who are not working in law firms, but remain in the legal industry, so it’s not just big, bad law firms: the industry itself is inequitable. (GCA material was sourced, with thanks, from RollOnFriday.)

This weekend (starting Friday), the Third Annual Australian Women Lawyers conference is on in Brisbane, with a fabulous line-up of speakers. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to attend it, as I’ll be out on the Australian ski fields, however, I do wish all participants well, and hope that gentle and deliberate progress is made … in the name of genuine equity.

1. The examples cited above are generic and do not relate to any specific instances, firms or judges. Practices which were common and accepted in the past are not necessarily so common or accepted now, but some of the underlying issues linger.
2. I remain passionate and positive about the law, equality and justice, even though I choose not to practice as a solicitor. I have no regrets about my experiences, no axe to grind and no David Jones-type claim to make. I am grateful for the opportunities I’ve had and I’m proud of the achievements of all women. They all have the potential to make the world a better place for the next generation, including my own daughters (who show great aptitude for heated debate, at the tender ages of 6 and 9. I fear they may become litigators).
3. I have a PhD in Philosophy, undergoing examination. Wish me well.
4. My novel, about gutsy women lawyers, no less, is being lovingly (with loving, comes loathing) edited for a big publishing house. I wish it would edit itself. The publisher thinks the original working title of “Six Minutes” (in honour of the terrible timesheet) sounds too thriller-ish. I’m open to comments from the floor – should I change it to “Law Life”, “Every Six Minutes” or keep “Six Minutes” because it’s enough to make any lawyer’s blood flow backwards (for enough time to pick up the book and check out its contents…)? Wish me luck. It’s about time the Brisbane legal scene was written about.

LOL: Joolia Trickles Up (video link)

August 5, 2010 Leave a comment

Finally, someone nails the Julia Gillard effect, perfectly. Sadly, I won’t be able to get that voice out of my head for the rest of the day … The question is: would she sound better in Opposition? I’m starting to think so.

The New Real Julia is the Former Julia on an even slower bpm (beats per minute). Just. In. Case. Voters. Miss. Any. Of. The. Mar-vell-ous-ness. I’m wondering where the Original Julia went.

I’m told, by people who’ve worked with her in the past, that she’s a warm, engaging, funny and highly intelligent and competent person. Perhaps the Labor machine chewed that one up and hopes voters don’t notice that Julia’s been replaced with a metronome set on largo. Perhaps it’s to lull voters into thinking there’s no way a person who speaks so slow, could pull a knife so fast.

Sixteen more days of unabated boredom to come. This has been one of the dullest campaigns in memory.

A metranome in Brisbane, today.