When you’ve been this long between updates it doesn’t always make sense to recount things chronologically. I’m writing this the day after Australia Day (months later) and I’m happy to report I escaped the whole thing wtihout a hangover to speak of. Kind of impressed with myself, actually. Especially since this auspicious day is sometimes referred to as “Invasion Day”. While I’m not up to speed on the politics of it I had always thought of it as an invasion day of sorts, specifically the day of my liver being invaded with alcohol. This year was a nice and restrained event at The Pad, beer but no flags – just how it should be done.

The organisation formerly known as AQIS

Really what has been consuming most of my time of late is work. But I say that in a good way! Over a year into our project now and I’m even more glad we have the team of people we do. A few significant events over the year, specifically a week long mission to Botany Bayand then, not too long ago, being promoted to a supervisor role that will persist to the end of the project. Cool.

The trip to Sydney was mind blowing. The point of my job is to understand what happens at every stage of getting something into the country from a ‘biosecurity’ perspective. It meant being given what almost amounted to an all-access-pass to the people and the places where all of this happens. From cargo bonds, air passenger clearance, international mail screening with detector dogs, huge wearhouses, animal clearance facilities for cats, dogs and horses, to huge post-entry grow houses for incoming plants and nursery stock. I was teamed up with my colleague Reinaldo Bravo for this trip, and we certainly made the most of it. From watching the loading process of the huge ’40 footers’ to chatting with entomologists (Russian background, very appropriate for a lab setting like the one we found ourselves in), vets and dog handlers to plant pathologists, there really is far too much to cover. We were operating out of what turned out to be a nice hotel in Kings Cross. It was nice to return to comfort after each day, given the early starts and the very large number of places to go, people to meet. By the end of the week we were just running on adrenaline. We returned to Canberra on the Friday afternoon after a rather long taxi ride to the airport from Eastern Creek, knowing that we’d just been through a fairly unique week and sure that we were better armed to do our job ‘going forwards’.

Meanwhile back at HQ, my supervisor Hayley was busy getting more and more pregnant, in the end missing the Carl Barron show at the Canberra Theatre to give birth to a wonderful bundle of life, Georgia. The second Quarantine Baby this project has had to date! Her little fingers are the smallest things in the world. Since Hayley now had her hands full and was on leave, the powers that be offered me her position which I was very happy to take. I’ve only been at it for two weeks now, and it’s been very good so far. The next year will be a challenge, the tasks ahead certainly not insignificant. All I can say at this stage is that I’m about to learn a lot more about plants…

The Queen, Gilad Shalit and The President

When we saw Air Force 1 making it’s approach to the runway, from a particularly well placed vantage point in our offices, there were a number of us fairly excited about it. Whatever the politics of America right now, I saw it as a chance to view exciting technology as much as anything else. Big, blue, and full of a remarkable array of people and things. Those people and things, along with the most police I’ve ever seen (and will ever likely see, in one spot), happened to shut down my route home for a good hour. We’d made plans to actually go and watch the motorcade but scrapped them, and a good thing too since every part of every area that passed the road was absolutely out of bounds. From a biosecurity perspective the whole thing may have fallen to pieces as soon as the diplomats stepped off the plane. Fortunately our allies are well aware of our needs and wants and it’s likely they didn’t step off that plane with anything that could cause us harm. Sure!

Image by 0ystercatcher.

That same week the Queen visited Canberra, I watched the arrival on Sky from my hotel room in Sydney. I probably would have gone along to see what was what, had I been at home. I’m not actually a Republican, which surprises a lot of people. It just seems to me a bit of a waste of time and money declaring independence at this stage. And given how we sometimes behave in patriotic zeal, well, I’d also say maybe we’re not mature enough as a nation yet. Britain is learning hard lessons now and has learned so many in the past. I think there’s value in paying attention to those lessons. The Queen seems like a reasonable person. For whatever reasons that may be, I’d say generally she represents a lot of good ideas I also believe in. When she’s gone, well, then the whole thing is up for revision…

The thing I want to avoid is flag waving. It makes me uncomfortable. Especially in Australia where it seems to me that there should be no confusion about where you are. You don’t need an Australian flag flying to know you’re in Australia and you don’t need to fly the flag to show you’re Australian. You saw a lot of that as Israeli soldier/hostage Gilad Shalit was released by Hamas in an arranged prisoner swap. It happened during an evening, so again I was able to catch the event on Sky. Months later, as analysts predicted, no progress towards peace has been made. Closer to war with Iran, though! Fantastic.

Somewhere in Central Vietnam

Peter Kabaila has done exactly what he said he’d do – provide thousands of dollars to a Vietnamese orphanage for disabled kids in order to purchase playground equipment, chickens, and to cover study costs for the women that look after the children. The exercise has been an interesting one to watch and there have been many lessons learned. The end result is probably better explained in a picture:


The story is better detailed on the official site so if the project interests you, check out http://hporphanage.asn.au/.

More to follow…!