Tuesday, September 01, 2015


In my town there had been a long running dispute between the city and a major local body. Nothing moved. In response, I wrote this piece and was about to offer it to a local newspaper when, wonderfully, something happened. (The only addition to the original is the last line.)
It is to be hoped that the something, the seeming breakthrough, lasts and that both parties keep to their commitments.

here it is:

Leadership has been a consuming interest of mine much of my adult life. Here are some of my favourite definitions.

"A leader is best when people barely know he exists and when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: We did it ourselves." Lao-Tzu

“Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.” Dwight D. Eisenhower

“The final test of a leader is that he leaves behind him in other men the conviction and the will to carry on.” Walter Lippmann

“The essence of leadership is the acceptance of responsibility,” General Peter Cosgrove

“The best leaders know when to lead and when to follow,” Jon Doust

And now let’s take a look at a hypothetical example and imagine what an active leader might look like.

Let’s say, for example, in your local community there is a major dispute between an important group, like a major festival committee, and the local shire.

This dispute has gone on for years and the two central figures are men who don’t like each other and can often been seen and heard yelling as though the volume, or the consistency, will change the mind of their opponent.

It never works, just like it never works when you yell at your teenage son or in the face of someone who doesn’t speak your language.

In this situation, if one of them had a solid understanding of leadership he would approach the other and say: “You know what, Fred, we’re looking like a couple of boofs with no brains. What say we find a neutral space, go into a room, just the two of us, lock the door, and we sort this mess out. Time we took the bulldust by the horns, threw out the bath water, and came to grips with the meat and gristle. What do you say?”

And Fred, because his leadership gene has been challenged, responds positively. The two boofs go into a room and come out four hours later changed, transformed, with renewed vigour and the community celebrates and moves on to more pressing issues.

Yes, I know, it seems like a dream, but I have seen it happen.

OMG, I think it just happened again.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Thursday, May 21, 2015

The Promise

Besart Berisha is an Albanian footballer who recently helped Melbourne victory win the Australian A League final. I didn’t watch the final but the many stories of Barisha intrigued me.

The soccer mad youngster was born in Kosovo during tough times and when he was seven his family fled to Germany where his skill with the round ball was soon recognised. They spent some time a refugee camp and it was there that the boy developed a determined will to succeed.

So why the intrigue, the interest?

The Kosovo War was fought in the late 1990s between the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, made up of the republics of Serbia and Montenegro, both Christian countries and the Kosovo Liberation Army, essentially a Muslim force.

The Berisha’s fled for a better life, but there was another time in the history of Kosovo-Albania when others fled to Albania in particular seeking refuge from an even greater evil – the Nazi version of Fascism.

During WWII Albania was first occupied by Italian troops and, after the collapse of Mussolini, the German army.

And only in recent times, following another collapse, that of the Iron Curtain and Enver Hoxha’s Albanian communist dictatorship, is the world hearing the remarkable story of the Albanian Muslims who saved almost the entire population of Jews in the region.

During the Nazi occupation, Muslims managed to not only save Jews, but also the lives of deserters from both occupying armies, men who could no longer obey orders from their screaming and insane leaders.

In an introduction to Besa, Muslims who saved Jews in world War II Akbar Ahmed writes: “Norman [the author] has shed light on the true nature of Islam as both a compassionate and an Abrahamic religion. For these Albanian Muslims, saving Jews was a religious calling because of the close bond between Jews and Muslims in Islam. By saving Jews they were being good Muslims.”

Given what we read today, who would have thought such people existed, but they did and they still do.

Norman H Gershman spent many years tracking down these Albanian saints and he also took part in a documentary that follows the journey of one man as he tracks down a family in Jerusalem so he can return three precious Hebrew texts left behind during the war. 

Rexhep Hoxha, a Muslim-Albanian toy shop owner, said by returning the books he was following his father’s wishes: “He only wanted me to finish what was left undone.”

These Albanians were not alone. Turkish ambassadors during the war were ordered by the country’s president, Ismet Inonu, to issue visas to Jews escaping Nazi death camps. Over 100,000 were issued in France and Germany alone.

Jews in Albania were hidden in the mountains, in basements, clothed as peasants, adopted as long lost cousins from other cities, it didn’t matter, their lives had to be saved. It was all about Besa, the promse

During the communist dictatorship of Enver Hoxha these stories were never told, were hidden, banned and no contact was allowed between the saved and their saviours, but now the stories have been released the world can see another kind of Islam.


Thursday, February 19, 2015


i must be honest.
i am forced.
here are some facts of my life.
my father was a member of the Liberal Party. (he resigned in the 1990s)
his father was a green man and a hippy before such things.
i was in the group that founded the WA Wilderness Society branch.
all three of us read and chatted with intense curiosity.
i have all their books and all my books in this house i share.
people died, people divorced, and so my father's father married my mother's mother and they made each other laugh.
the mother's lead the family laughter.
all these snippets and more have gone into the story that is me.

i have never, ever, been disappointed by the Liberal Party.
why not?
because i have never, ever, in my entire life, placed a first vote beside any member of that party, on any voting slip.
The Labor Party, however, has been a constant source.

an essential characteristic of humanity, one no culture can live without, is the ability, the desire, the willingness, to tell stories.
stories inform, inspire, challenge, inflame, nurture imagination, creativity, empathy and probably help us sleep, develop better language skills, and strengthen memories.

only a barbarian would slash an already meagre investment in a state's ability to tell it's story.
there was man in Queensland who killed his government's investment.
the barbarian has left the building.
by popular vote.

this story will not have a happy ending.

Thursday, November 06, 2014



Read Bill the Bastard, Roland Perry. Great tale of a horse and THE men who loved him. Caught me choking.  Also some surprising facts I didn’t know about the 10th Light Horse after Gallipoli. They took Damascus in a mad rush of revenge. Why don’t we remember that?

Coffee with me mate and psych.
Another coffee with a bloke from the city with whom I am hatching small, good and cost neutral plots.
The rest of the day: script meetings, reading more about Bill the Bastard.
Then the house filled up with women and needles. Knitting. Hatching a large and positive plot.

7am met Claire Moody from ABC 7.30 report. She is small and warm and easily distracted by me and my scattered approach so I have to walk away and allow her to focus before I come back for the serious work. She wants to talk about the Albany Anzac thing and I do, with gusto, and scatter.

I realise I am excited about the days ahead.
We drink coffee. Don Perfrement in his little waterfront box makes a good espresso.

After the interview I’m pumped and have no idea what to do. I wander aimlessly. Then I remember I have tasks to complete. I set to.

I meet old friends for lunch in Due South, huge barn like new restaurant also on the waterfront. I’m spending so much time on the waterfront I expect Marlon Brando or Rod Steiger to pop up.

I come home to read more of Charles Bean by Ross Colthart. Ross writes that “28 ships left Albany”. Most accounts say 38. Typo?

Day 3
Up early and on Radio West with Terry Siva. We have some fun and I sob when talking about Uncle Amos Doust, up and over the top but not for long because he’s dead.  You know what surprises me? My anger and sadness all mixed in together. Anger at the brass, the generals, the Winston Churchills, the pricks who sent them over, wave after wave, to be annihilated. For what? Nothing.

I have to go see my doctor, but he isn’t there. Forgot. He leaves early Wednesday. The nurse opens up my wound and we discover that it is not healed. The hole is still empty. Better take it easy over the next few days.

There’s a dog in the street, every time it see me it goes me. No reason. I like dogs.  It has an insane hatred of me.

Day 4
Bugger. It starts today.
First, the doc. He doesn’t like the hole in my leg. Says it’s time I acted my age. I ask him how old is that. He hands me a mirror.

I drive into town. Wander up York Street, limping. All looks good. The work is not yet done but nearly done, close to done, good enough done. Too late now. Oh, someone tells me a whole lot of seats were made to commemorate Anzac, artistically prepared and now will not be installed. That’s sad.
I hang around. Drink coffee.

At the main stage the MC is a nervous young women and I offer to introduce The Coynes, led by Lester. Their solid rock is damn good and I wonder why they are not on the next day when the show really starts.

Day 5
Jesus, help me.
Early in the street. A coffee. I don’t start gigs with coffee. I start with a coffee.
Can’t start without acknowledging Menang Boodja, then Uncle Amos Doust, and others.
It’s a slow start.

My co-MC Stand Shaw (ABC) eventually shows (he’s got a job) and we have fun with the Green Islanders (Flinders park Primary), a fabulous group of young singers, then the Great Southern Grammar music extravaganza which blows us all away and forces me to join a woman on the tarmac and throw a leg in the air.

Roland Perry shows and takes up most of the day leaving Adam Morris time for one song, or so he says, but when he stops grumping and sings we learn that he can, man, can be sing.
At the end, after the Peperjacks, I am exhausted and the leg hurts but we have to watch the sound and light footage on the AEC roof.

The sound and light show is all about the Lighthouse Girl. It’s a great roof-top film.

Day 6
This is supposed to be the big one.
Crowds nowhere near 60,000 so far.
I start with a coffee. I never start with a coffee. But I do.

The day is a blur. I see people from yesterday, from the day before, from a past life, people I never saw before, but I never forget Blencowe Green, the boy who signed up for a few quid, at 16, then tries to get out when war is declared, but he can’t, is sent to France, and dies.

Everyone is in town. No, not everyone, but a couple of PMS, a GG, and G. They are followed by entourages. The Turkish Defense Attache and official Turkish representative for the 100 Anzac commemorations is also in town and the word is he walked everywhere, caught busses, and was a decent and honourable man.

I stay late to introduce Gina Williams and Guy Ghouse. He plays guitar like a magician and Gina sings like an angel.

We walk down to Centenial Park where Mal Dix MCs, Katie Noonan sings, the Waifs sing, Dan Sultan plays, struts and sings and WASO and Navy play and play and play.

Day 7
Quiet day.
But I cannot forget Uncle Bill Baker, or Uncle Jim Baker. Bill served in France and my mother was named after the farming women who took him into her home. Jim went to Anzac Cove and came home radicalised. His sister, my grandmother, would speak of him as “that communist”.

At some point I realise my brain is not on task and I have to leave. I can’t, but then I can. So I do.

We drive down to Ellen Cove to see the poppies.

We drive home and collapse.

Day 8
I have nothing more to add. I am sleeping.

Someone asked a number of people for their highlights. Many said the march. I missed the march. Others said the warships. Some the sound and light shows. Others meeting the PM. Then there were the poppies, at Ellen cove and in the Albany Entertainment Centre.
The reading: All Quiet on the Western Front (Erich Maria Remarque), Bill the Bastard (Roland Perry), Charles Bean (Ross Colthart) and Gallipoli (Peter Fitzsimmons).

Then there was telling of Amos Doust’s story for a sound and light film, as though I was my Grandfather Roy Doust.

The reading, the research, the story telling, all connected me to the horror, the incompetence, the futility, the bravery, the madness, the needles deaths, and I once again became my Grandfather, a man who could not go to war because of his disability. Through him I remembered the time and all his maimed and lost friends and relatives, and I wept.