Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Five top tips that will help you smash that job application!

I've just been recruiting people for a number of roles and the same issues cropped up time and time again. If you want to get a job, you've got to get the basics right!

None of what I am about to say is new, and it's certainly not rocket science. That being said, people are still not getting the basics of job hunting right! So here we go, my top five tips for applying for a job based on my experience of being an employer.

1. Do exactly what the employer is asking for in the job advert
This means you must provide all the information the employer is asking for and in the format she is asking. So, if the employer wants you to put a pitch in two pages, do it! Don't write a pitch in six pages! If you are asked to answer selection criteria, for goodness sake, answer the selection criteria!

If you miss out an element of the application, for example do not address selection criteria, or do not follow formatting instructions, your application will not even be considered for short listing, especially if there are a large number of applications. If you cannot even get an application right, how will you perform in the job is what the employer will be thinking. 

2. Give your future employer a KISS!
Not a real kiss, obviously - you'd don't want to miss out on an interview because the employer thinks you are weird. What I mean is: Keep It Simple Stupid. Write in plain English. Make sure you get all your grammar and spelling correct. Be concise. 
This is particularly important with your CV. Employers do not have time to wade themselves through pages and pages of your CV. I have 40 years of career to talk about, so I focus on elements that are of particular relevance to my job application in my CV, and summarise very briefly my career history. 

As an employer, I hate fancy and colourful CVs especially when they do not have the content to back them up. But obviously, if you're applying for a marketing job, a colourful CV might be totally appropriate. I would also advise that you do not put your photo on your CV because there is the potential to bias the employer against you.
3. Speak to the employer/recruiter/contact person before you submit your application 
There are several advantages of speaking to the employer/contact person before you submit your application. You will be able find out more about the job which will help your application. It may also give you an advantage against the rest of the applicants - the employer will remember you and give you a "brownie point" for taking the time to ring up. Of course, that can also go against you if you make a bad impression over the phone, so be very polite and ask sensible questions.
4. Be prepared at your interview
Do your homework! Read up as much as you can about your future employer. Talk to others about the company/organisation. The more prepared you are, the easier you will find it to answer questions and the more interested in the job you will appear to the interviewer. 
Have stories prepared to tell which demonstrate what your experience and skills are; how you go about doing your work; what you have achieved in your current and previous roles. Stories will back up your claims about how good you are.
Dress smartly, even if you are having a phone or online interview. It drives me mad when I see applicants dressed scruffy for a job interview. Makes me think you are not serious about the interview, and makes me doubt how serious you are about the job. 
5. Follow up your interview with a 'thank you' call  
It can feel humiliating to call up the employer after the interview, especially if you think you did badly. But again, it keeps you in the employer's consciousness. I interviewed a person a little while ago. I didn't give them the job but because they rang me to thank me and took my feedback very well, I thought of them when the next vacancy came up and give it to them. 

I hope you find these tips useful. What are your top tips for getting a job?

Friday, April 3, 2020

Covid, sourdough bread and Granfer

One of the impacts of isolation from covid, has been the over-whelming interest around the world in learning to make bread. I'm one of the many who has given it a go.

I decided to have a go at making sourdough bread because that is what I enjoy when I go to our local cafe for Sunday morning breakfast. What I didn't realise was there is a very definite art in making sourdough bread, and people become obsessed for years.

Ready, steady...get your starter   

The first difficulty was trying to decide what recipe to use, and to find out what a starter is. Apparently, you make your own starter and it can live in your fridge, like some slimy monster ghost from Ghostbusters, for years!  One of my friends told me they have moods....and different smells depending what mood they are in...and you have to feed it! Freaked me out, I have to say. 

In the end, I must admit I cheated and used this recipe which has yeast in its starter: How To Make Homemade Sourdough Bread. But another friend of mine loves this recipe, which uses a starter from just flour and water: Sourdough Bread: A Beginner’s Guide. The advantage of sour dough is it doesn't use yeast, which currently is really difficult to find, and apparently is better for your gastric system. 

Everything went well with the starter and five days later it was ready to go. I was afraid that I would not be able to find somewhere warm enough in our apartment to encourage the dough to rise, but it seemed to like our small laundry room which can get quite warm when we're using the washing machine.

Rise and shine

Another tip I was given by friends is that you cannot rush the rising stage. I got my timing all wrong because I didn't read the recipe right. Next time I'll be a little more careful with my planning because making the bread (including hours for rising) takes all day.
My other concern was that I wouldn't get the kneading right, or that I'd get bored. But I actually found it really relaxing and I was quite happy to knead away while I was listening to my audio book.


 Fire and water   

   Eventually I got to the stage I was ready to cook, but didn't have   a dutch oven. Not sure why I needed one, or even what a dutch oven is. But in the end, I experimented. One loaf I cooked in a Pyrex bowl with lid which seemed to work well. The other loaf I cooked on a baking tray which definitely didn't work, as you can see....got horribly burnt!  I also put a bowl with water in the oven. Again, I have no idea why, but it was on the advice of a friend.


It's in the blood!

I've always been afraid of making bread. My Granfer was a baker, and even worked as a baker in the army in WW2. But I never did any baking with him when I was a child so never learned any skills from him. My mother is a wonderful cake maker but she never got on well with bread-making. So whilst I learned to make cakes from her, I also think I learned from her that bread-making is hard and consequently have never really tried it. Even when I had a bread-maker, I never got on very well with it.

Ironically, it takes a world-wide epidemic to bring me to bread-making and a connection to my Granfer. I wish he were here so I could pick his brains for tips, but I am sure he'd be pleased that someone is carrying on the family tradition.


Sunday, June 2, 2019

Four top tips for managing money: how I live the Barefoot Investor life

I'll be honest...I've never been that flash with managing money. And life hasn't helped my cause, what with moving around the world, bringing up kids which is a very expensive process, and hubby being in low paid jobs at times.

It absolutely goes without saying that there are a hell of a lot of people in this world who are way, way worse off than I have ever been and to them, I am a millionaire. It is in that context that I acknowledge I am writing this post for people who live in resouce-rich countries and even then,
for those of us who are privileged to be employed, own property, have good health etc.  

All that being said, none of what I am about to say hasn't already been said time and time again, not least by people like Scott Pape, the Barefoot Investor. I read his book last year and it has really impacted on me, and led to my hubby and me making changes to our finance management. I do not necessarily agree with everything he says or even understand it, but the main principles he espouses hold true. Obviously, readers outside of Australia have different issues and may not have systems such as our mandatory superannuation scheme. Nevertheless, I hope there is still content here that you can relate to.

1. Move your operational and savings money to low/zero cost bank accounts 
I was doing all my banking with one of the big four which was costing me $400 a year. This included fees for an off-set account which was marketed to me as a way of managing my mortgage. But to be honest, because my money was going in and out, my off-set was making no impact on my mortgage payments. I am better off having a no-frills, no cost operational account, and paying all my mortgage payments straight into my mortgage. 

If you are not sure if it is worth having an off-set account, have a look at the calculators that are around the place to do some financial working out, like this one from ING: https://www.ing.com.au/home-loans/calculators/offset.html

I have moved my banking to HSBC who offer no-cost accounts. Their banking app is rubbish and it took ages to set up online banking, but hubby enjoys having physical banking offices where he can go and speak to someone face-to-face.  The ING Orange account also is no-cost, and I believe is an account that Scott Pape recommends.  

It goes without saying that you must always check terms and conditions, and it is worth doing a comparison of accounts and check for hidden costs.  

2. Review your need for a credit card
The Barefoot Investor advises that you get rid of your credit card all together because, put simply, it traps you into debt. The rewards you receive are not worth the interest you pay if you do not wipe your balance every month. 

I know there are some people out there who are real wizards at managing their credit cards to get free travel, but you've really got to know your stuff to do this, and be really disciplined. And you have to be mindful that in Australia since the banking commission, mortgage lenders are really cracking down on any sort of credit when deciding to give you a mortgage. I had to go through all sorts of hoops recently to show that I had closed down a credit card when re-financing our mortgage, and this was even though we had more than enough capacity to service a credit card on top of our mortgage.   

We have now got rid of our credit card which was more accidental than a conscious decision - we closed it because our bank were charging excessive fees, but that's another story. I do not entirely agree with Scott Pape about not having a credit card, because I think having one is useful for coping with emergencies. We have elderly parents in the UK and we never know when we will have to literally drop everything and fly back, which has already happened to us this year. Scott's strategy for coping with emergencies is to have emergency savings.  But I don't want to have heaps of money in a saving's account not earning much interest, when it could be on our mortgage. A credit card is also useful when traveling because some hotels will not accept a debit card for bonds/deposits - I got into real strife over this issue the last time I was in Bangkok.

For the time being, we're going to try to manage without a credit card and see how we go. If we need one, we'll apply for a no-frills, low interest card with as low a limit as possible. 

3. Make sure you are getting the best interest rate possible for your mortgage
Needless to say, The Barefoot Investor has some very strong views on how to manage your mortgage. The key things I have taken from what he says and recently enacted are:
  • have a no-frills mortgage which reduces cost
  • pay additional payments to pay the mortgage back sooner and thus reduce interest 
  • move from fixed to flexible rate mortgage which not only is cheaper than fixed rates, but also allows me to make extra payments.
By moving from our bank to an online mortgage supplier, Mortgage House and to a variable rate, we have saved ourselves nearly 0.5% in interest. I have to admit that moving across was a bit of a rigmarole, and moving away from one of the Big 4 to an online supplier who I had never heard of before is a bit of a step of faith. However, I am confident in the research we did before we moved, and my faith in the big banks' has hardly been reinforced during the Royal Commission.

4. Manage your superannuation 
I have to say that my understanding of the superannuation system in Australia has been woeful since moving here in 2012. And it's only in the last year that I have really understood how it works. This is a real worry because I am 57 now with potentially only 10-13 years left to work full time (god willing), and it is very clear that I have to be a self-funded retiree.

The Barefoot Investor spends a lot of time talking about maximizing superannuation.  This is probably the area of financial management that I feel least confident with. The actions he recommends that I have taken are:
I know there are high preforming superannuation schemes with very low fees that I should consider moving to, but I am just not confident to make that move. I know I should also move to a lower level of risk investment because of my age (being near to retirement) but again, I haven't got around to doing that either.

And despite being happy about the life insurance I have at the moment, I am conscious that it ends when I am 75 years old. I do not want to take out additional life insurance with an insurance company because it will be expensive - my hubby is paying way more than I am with an insurance company because he wasn't able to increase his insurance through his super scheme. But his life insurance continues until he dies, whatever age that is. So I am dithering about the issue of life insurance.

Resources that I have found useful 
  • MoneySmart which has all sorts of resources such as superannuation calculators, and reiterates all the principles that the Barefoot Investor talks about
  • The Joyful Frugalista - Selina gives great practical advice on her blog and has recently published a book - it was she who put me onto Mortgage House.
  • Barefoot Investor Australia Group for Over 50s - there are various communities on Facebook for people interested in BI
How are you doing with your financial management?  What tips would you like to pass on that I haven't talked about here?

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Tips for preparing for death

Death is not something we like to think about but the sooner you start to get yourself organised for death, the better it is for you and your family.

I have recently found this out the hard way. A family member passed away a few months ago. This person was well into their 80s, and what we'd call 'old school' which included a considerable reluctance to talk to family about death, funeral arrangements and financial matters. I understand this may be a generational issue, but boy, did it make things difficult when the person passed. We didn't even know what sort of funeral the person wanted which was very distressing to us, as we had no way of knowing if we were doing the right thing. In the end, our decisions were driven by finance, which was a horrible position to be in, and not one I want to inflict on my family.

Being the wrong side of 55, this experience has got me thinking about how well prepared I am for old age, sickness and death, especially in relation to the responsibilities it brings to my own family. I have spoken to my kids about what sort of funeral service I want. And I keep talking about updating my Will, but that's about all I have done. 

So, based on my experiences of the last few months, here are a couple of tips that I suggest you start to think about and do to prepare for your own death. This will make life so much easier for your family at a time that they will be particularly stressed and upset.

1. Have an up to date Will
This is not rocket science and there really is no excuse not to have one in place, even if you are in your 20s/30s. If you cannot afford to get a solicitor to put one together, you will find your state Office of the Public Advocate will be able to help, or you can write a home made Will

Your Will will include financial matters, and gives you the opportunity to make specific requests, for example, what you want done to your body (gifted to the local medical school?) and funeral arrangements. Leaving clear instructions is a favour to your family because, let's face it, you won't be any the wiser on the day! 

2. Have your affairs organised and up to date
One of the things that I found very time consuming following death of our family member was trying to work out their financial affairs. For example, what bank accounts were current....what insurance policies were in place...where birth and marriage certificates were kept...and so on. 

I think the big favour you can do for your loved ones is to keep all your documentation up together and up to date so that family know where to find stuff, and your executor/s can carry out their duties with the least amount of hassle as possible after your death.

I have put all my documentation in a file and printed out a master document with all the details I can think of, from the password to my lap top (which I'll have to remember to keep updated) to my log-ins to my bank account. So if the worse comes to the worse and I get knocked off my bicycle this afternoon, my kids will know exactly what accounts/insurance/mortgage/superannuation/property contracts etc I have, and how to access them. I have even listed all my bills and utilities. 

The other thing I have on my list of to-dos is set up my enduring power of attorney.    

3. Talk to your family about your death
The problem with many of the older generation is that talking about death is not the done thing. I have tried to talk to my parents about their deaths and funeral arrangement etc, which sounds very cold I know. But to this day, I don't know what they want, or how I'll need to manage their financial affairs. This is particularly tricky if one parent dies, and the other parent is not capable of organising their affairs. 

My kids know how I want to die and what sort of funeral I want because we talk about death fairly regularly, especially as I have got older, and I will document request in my Will which I am about to update. The other thing I have just done is gone through my master document with all my personal details on with the kids. They are not keen on the conversation at the moment but one day, they'll be grateful that I am as organised as I am.

There are heaps of resources online and in the community that will help you ask the right questions about death and how to prepare including:
 How are you preparing for death?


Saturday, July 21, 2018

6 tips to help you make policy submissions

One of my big frustrations with people is how they are so quick to complain about policy, yet when they have the chance to have their say, for example during a consultation, they do not engage in any way with policy makers.

I have to be honest and admit that I am as bad. Only the other day there was a local consultation on a new bus route which I felt reasonably passionate about because it would impact on my ability to get to work, but I did nothing to get my views heard.   

I think there are a number of reasons for this. People are too emotionally drained, and do not have the energy to get involved, or cannot make the time. They may not hear about the consultation, or they feel that there is no point in making a submission because decisions have already been made. Another big barrier is not knowing to what say in a submission.

If you are someone who would like to become more involved in making submissions but don't know where to start, here are six tips to help you have your say, be it a national government consultation or your local club wanting to know your opinion about something.

1. Keep abreast of the news
If there is a particular topic, area or organisation you are interested in, sign up to follow them, join their Facebook page, subscribe their email lists, check their website etc, so you know when they are consulting on a topic. For example, you can find out about government consultations on their consultation web page, and sign up for emails to "receive updates on proposed policy or regulation changes and details of how you can have your say." The Senate also has a webpage that lists all its inquiries.

Organisations and other bodies have similar information, for instance, the Nursing and Midwifery Board has a web page where you can see current consultations, and previous ones.  The Australian College of Midwives  has a consultation page here.  

2. Read the instructions for the consultation
When you decide to make a submission, check the instructions for how to do it. Consultation take various guises including online survey, written template, email comments, or face-to-face meetings. For the most part, there is no strict hard and fast rule on how you respond eg formality of the language you use. However, some government consultations will refuse to accept a submission if it does not follow the format that is prescribed.

If all else fails, don't be afraid to contact the identified contact person if you need advice on how to respond to the consultation. There's some great advice about how to make a submission on the Parliament of Australia website that applies across the board.  

3. You can make a difference
It can be very daunting when faced with a national consultation where you know there will be some very vocal and powerful stakeholders involved. And it can be easy to be dissuaded from putting in a submission because you think no-one will pay attention. This is not true. If you submit a cogent piece that is easy to follow, it will be read and taken into consideration.

A great example of how stakeholders were able to overturn a consultation was the 2017 national maternity services framework. Stakeholders, including consumers, were so disgusted with how the consultation was being run that they protested, and the government was forced to start again with a new strategy and consultation

4. Tell your story
Another thing that puts people off from making a submission is the fear that they won't do a good enough job, or that they do not have the ability to make an academic response. My answer to that is not to worry about writing academically, or regaling reams and reams of research but rather, to tell your story. Obviously, you may have a framework or template within to work, however do not be afraid to weave in your story: why you have an interest; what your experience has been; what research you would like to share, and what your recommendations are.  

5. Learn from others
Having just said that you should write your own story, it also doesn't do any harm to see what others have written, either in past consultations or current ones. Many organizations and government departments publish submissions once consultations have ended which provides an opportunity to see how others write submissions.

Some organisations even publish submissions before the consultation period has ended. Recently, I was tasked with writing a response to the Senate about stillbirth. I was a little hesitant about how to start, so I found it really helpful to be able to see other people's approaches on the Senate inquiry website.

6. Join a collaborative submission
For whatever reason, you may not be able to make an individual response to a consultation. If this is the case, have a look at what others are doing in the area and see if you can contribute to a submission that they are developing.

Often organisations develop key points for their members to use as a guideline and get you started. If you are affiliated with an organisation, such as a representative body, and you want to know what the party line is, do not be afraid to contact the policy unit for their advice on what to say. For instance, you may belong to a union and wish to make a submission about workloads. It would make sense to be giving the same message as the union, who is also advocating for improved work conditions.

Having worked in a policy unit for a peak body for nearly six years, my personal plea is that if you are a member of an organisation, and there is a call-out for feedback on a submission they are writing, please take five minutes to drop them an email or call, with your ideas and information.  It makes life so much easier for policy staff, and facilitates a higher quality submission from the organisation.

Have you ever made any kind of submission? What was it for, and how did you find the experience? What are your top tips for making a submission?

Image: 'Tannoy' http://www.flickr.com/photos/38184732@N00/5426747110

Monday, July 16, 2018

5 tips for working in the policy space

I have just finished working for nearly six years as the policy adviser and manager at the Australian College of Midwives. As you can imagine, I have learned heaps about lobbying, advocacy, writing submissions, researching, and reacting to issues that arise very quickly. 

 Reflecting on the last few years, here are 5 tips for anyone wanting to move into the policy sector, from paid employee in a government department to volunteer role in a not-for-profit.

1. Be consistent with your message
It is very important to know what your organisation's position is and be consistent about it through the weeks, months and years. This applies not only to your own work, but also to the messages that are coming from the rest of the organisation, be it the communications' department, or key staff such as CEO or president. 
If your organisation and you are giving out mixed messages, not only will you confuse your audience, but your credibility will be damaged and your ability to influence will be reduced.

2. Use any opportunity to send the same message
If you are wanting to make a point or send a particular message, use every opportunity to emphasise it. For example, in the last three submissions I wrote before leaving the ACM,  I talked about continuity of midwifery care which is one of the ACM's key messages, yet the consultations/topics were very different - maternity services in general, breastfeeding, and stillbirth. 

It's like being a leaky tap - drip , drip , drip until someone takes notice!

3. Keep a track of the latest research that will support your message
I found it so much easier to write a credible submission, or give a strong verbal message if I had current research to back up what I was trying to say. It's worth keeping a database or record of research that you know is credible and influential, and know it inside out so you can quote it whenever you are asked.

4. Build up a network of experts
Leading on from the last point, it is also worth building a network of experts who you can approach to help you understand a topic, critique research, and update you on the latest issues. It is likely that you will not be an expert in everything, so it is invaluable to know who you can turn to quickly for advice and information. 

5. Collaborate with like-minded people and organisations  
One of the most beneficial things I did in my role was connect with people doing similar work to me in other organisations. We kept each other updated with the latest news, collaborated to support each other on joint projects, and came together to send united messages. Collaborative action is often far more effective than working on one's own, especially when you are trying to influence government policy and politicians.  

I hope you find this helpful information. 

What have you found to be useful strategies when working to lobby or advocate in the policy space?

Thursday, April 12, 2018

I'm white and privileged! What should I do about it?


I'm white and privileged! I am white, and I am privileged because I am white.

There you are. I said it.  I feel like I should be at an AA meeting...”my name is Sarah and I am white and privileged”. Clearly it's not a secret that I am white -you've only got to look at me to see how 'white' I am. And when I open my mouth, that Southern Counties English accent (used to live in Salisbury, England) still summons up images of thatched cottages and Pimms on the lawn...or so I've been told. I was 16 years old before I spoke to a 'black' person, and that was only because I had gone to the East End of London for a week to do some volunteer church outreach work. Before that time, the nearest I had got to a person of colour was when reading Enid Blyton's golliwog stories.  

I am not sorry about who I am, nor that I am white. I am who I am, and I am proud of the family I have descended from. So why is it, as I write this, I feel an unease in my gut; I'm almost embarrassed to admit to being white. I know how privileged I am when I watch the persecution of the Rohingya people, or bombing of Syria on TV.  But what does white privilege mean in the Australian context, and especially in relation to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people?

I have only recently become aware of the idea of white privilege, which is a theory that explains the inherent privilege and advantages that white people have over non-white people because of skin colour. Having lived in New Zealand for nearly 20 years, I have been fully conversant with cultural safety which somehow was always tied up with the Treaty of Waitangi, and did not have a deep, personal  impact on me.  But it was recently since I moved to Australia that I have been challenged about white privilege at a workshop facilitated by the Congress of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nurses and Midwives, and how it feeds into my attitudes and beliefs about the world.

What white privilege means in reality, has been especially driven home to me on two recent occasions.
Close the gap!
The first occasion was when I met a wonderful Aboriginal woman who I immediately felt a real connection to. Although she was ten years younger than me, we found we had many similarities and shared experiences, and we become friends very quickly. It is not often I make those sorts of deep relationships because usually I am a bit of an introvert. What dawned on me and saddened me greatly, was that despite the age difference between us, she was likely to die the same time as me because Aboriginal women have a life expectancy of nearly 10 years less than non-Aboriginal women

Institutional racism 
The second occasion was when I was supporting an Aboriginal family receiving healthcare in a hospital. The family described the care they received and the attitudes displayed by staff, which seemed to me to be sub-standard to say the least. But when I arrived, it appeared to both myself and the family that attitudes changed, communication improved, and the care provided was much more in line with what I would expect.  It is my perception that me being there made a difference to the attitudes of staff and care provided, and I sincerely believe it was because I was a white woman.   

Nursing and midwifery Codes of Practice
So, maybe acknowledging our whiteness SHOULD be embedded into the Codes of Practice - we should acknowledge that  Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander are likely to die younger than us; more likely to be incarcerated, die of suicide, diabetes and heart disease than non- Aboriginal people. And maybe that is why there is such push back over the new nursing and midwifery Codes of Practice - because we know in our hearts that we're privileged, but we're not doing anything about it!

It is time us whities stop being snowflakes and acknowledge the universal truth that being white does give us an inherent advantage over non-white people.

There's nothing wrong with being white. What is very wrong is being white, knowing how that plays out especially in healthcare, and doing nothing to redress the inequity that our privilege fosters and promotes.

Image: https://unsplash.com/photos/4Ia348kvX7A     

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Fake news and lies! Nurses, midwives and white priviledge

In the last few days the main stream media has picked up on a story that should have died a death months ago. The word going around, propagated by Grahame Haycroft of the Nurses Professional Union of Queensland,  is that the new nurses and midwives' Codes of Practice require nurse and midwives to tell the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people that we work with, that we are sorry that we are privileged because we are white.

There's so much wrong with this, I do not know where to start. Needless to say, this story is one of life's fabulous examples of fake news.

The significance of this is that the Codes of Practice are issued by the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia, which makes the content of the Codes a regulatory requirement whereby nurses and midwives can be notified, disciplined and even de-registered if we breach them. According to Haycroft, we could lose our registration if we do not admit our 'white privilege'  to every Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander person we care for.

Firstly, before you jump up and down, and join in with Haycroft denouncing a politically correct world gone mad, take the time to actually read the Codes because clearly, most of the journalists reporting this story have not! No where in the Code does it say that we have to declare our white privilege – this is a lie! The Codes are easily available on the NMBA website where you can check this out yourself: http://www.nursingmidwiferyboard.gov.au/Codes-Guidelines-Statements/Professional-standards.aspx

What is cultural safety?
In the definition of cultural safety in the Codes,  nurses and midwives are encouraged to “ undertake an ongoing process of self-reflection and cultural self-awareness”. The Code goes on to say “cultural safety provides a de-colonising model of practice based on dialogue, communication, power sharing and negotiation, and the acknowledgment of white privilege.”  The NMBA have already discussed why this definition of cultural safety,  and if you're not sure what cultural safety is, have a read of Janine Mohamed's explanation of why it is so important in healthcare.  Ruth DeSouza has also written an excellent piece called The Five Myths of Cultural Safety.

The NMBA process of consultation and collaboration
Secondly, you need to be aware of how the Codes and other regulatory requirements are produced. The NMBA do not just wake up one morning and say “We're going to make you naughty nurses and midwives do this, this, and that....because we feel like it!”  The Codes and similar regulatory documents go through an extensive process of research, collaboration, and industry and public consultation, for instance, the NMBA carried out a serious of  road shows around the country which gave nurses and midwives an opportunity to give their feedback in a face-to-face environment.

Rather than being divisive as Cory Bernardi claims, nursing and midwifery peak bodies and organisations have been united in accepting the Codes as they are, because we were involved in the drafting and development of the Codes right from the start. As a member of the working group who consulted on the midwifery Code, I am extremely proud that it acknowledges racism as an unacceptable behavior. You can see all the consultations the NMBA held on the Codes, as well as the feedback submitted to the consultations on the NMBA website, and guess what...there's no submission from Haycroft, so I guess he was not that concerned about the content of the Codes that he felt driven to make a submission.  You can also see various joint statements from the likes of the Australian College of Midwives and the National Rural Health Alliance that confirm that the professions value and support the new Codes.    

Thirdly, you have to be aware of the politics around the dialogue generated by Haycroft. You do have to ask who he is, what his political agenda is, and what he aims to achieve by driving story.  He is in competition with the Queensland Nurses Union, so he will see the publicity he is currently receiving as a nice piece of free marketing. Needless to say, he has been thoroughly discredited, and this story should be put to bed now!

Thursday, May 11, 2017

What do you get out of being a volunteer?

I have the privilege of working for the Australian College of Midwives, and a lot of the work we do would be impossible without the legions of volunteers we have who help us out, from being a board Director to providing us with feedback for our submissions.

This week is National Volunteer Week, and we've been running a campaign at the ACM to thank everyone who works with us. I had my arm twisted to make a short video, promoting volunteering for the ACM - if you want to have a look, but I wouldn't recommend it! - you can see it here on the ACM Facebook page

This got me thinking about my volunteer work over the years and I have to be honest, I haven't done as much as I should have. Nevertheless, I am proud of what I achieved with the Virtual International Day of the Midwife, which is still going strong and just had its ninth year. And the Midwifery Evidenced-Based MOOC was another achievement that I am extremely proud of. Both activities have been about my passion for supporting the professional development and education of midwives, at home and in developing countries.

More recently, I have been a Board Director at the Canberra YWCA and am now on the inaugural executive committee of the complex of apartments I have just moved into. As much as I have volunteered for these activities and others for altruistic reasons, ultimately I have gained more in terms of learning and professional growth than I feel I have given. 

But that's the joy of volunteering....you get as much out of it as you put in. 

Do you volunteer? What do you do and why? What have you gained from your volunteer work?

Thursday, April 20, 2017

10 years of open access - a Slideshare case study

I have been passionate about open access and open access education for many years, and have been committed to sharing my content using creative commons licenses; allowing people to download and re-use, for over 10 years. So I have decided it is timely to review the responses to my online content, using Slideshare as my case study.

What is Slideshare?
Slideshare is a platform whereby you can upload and share PowerPoint presentations; it is similar to YouTube for videos. I published my first presentation on the 4th October, 2007 and as of the 16th April 2017, there are:
  • 76 uploads, with
  • 289,699 total views, and
What presentations are most popular?
The 10 top presentations with the most views can be found in Table 1. These statistics are based on the Slideshare analytics on April 16th 2017. 

Table 1. Top 10 views

However, the number of views isn't necessary helpful because you would expect the longer a presentation has been published, the more views it would receive. So to get a better sense of what presentations are more popular, I divided  the views of each presentation by the number of days it had been published to find out how many views a day each presentation had received, in Table 2.

Table 2. Top 10 views per day

Which presentation is most useful?
Views are one thing, but what I am really interested in is how useful my presentations are to the wider community. To measure that, I have looked at the total number of downloads of each presentation – my 10 top download loads can be seen in Table 3.

Table 3. Top 10 downloads 

As with the total number of views, the total number of downloads is skewed by the number of days each presentation has been published. Therefore, I looked at the number of views of per download, with the theory that the smaller the number of views per download, the more "useful" a presentation is. In my mind, a presentation that has 1000 views with 10 downloads is more “useful” than a presentation with 10,000 views and only one download.

Table 4. Top 10 must useful presentation (number of views per download)
You will see with both views and downloads that the picture changes a little when you drill down to views per day and views per download. For example, 'My midwifery philosophy' is in the Top 10 list for most views, but it is 'Introduction to midwifery documentation' that is in the list for most views per day, which is arguably the more accurate measurement. That being said, the presentations that were in all four lists were, which makes them, in my mind, my most popular and useful:
  • Intravenous cannulation
  • Amniotic embolism
  • What is evidence-based midwifery?
The topics of presentations that appeared in both of the two top views lists were the above, plus:
  • How to prepare a portfolio
  • Journaling and reflective practice
  • Types of reflection
  • Social media, birth and midwives
The theme starting to emerge here is reflective practice and midwifery. This surprises me on the one hand because I would have thought that people, especially midwifery students, would be able to access information about reflective practice from textbooks and course materials. On the other hand, reflective practice is a core principle of midwifery education, so I am making an assumption (but have no proof) that a lot of people accessing these presentations are midwifery students or involved in education.

What does this tell me?
To be honest, I cannot conclude anything much from this exercise because of the small numbers. However, it is interesting that my most popular presentations have a midwifery focus, as opposed to a more general teaching and learning. 

The questions I am left with are:
  • Does the number of views make a presentation more popular, or number of downloads?
  • Who are the people downloading my presentations?
  • Why do people download presentations?What happens to the presentations?
  • Should I endeavour to meet the apparent needs of the audience based on statistical analytics eg if it appears that clinical topics are most viewed and downloaded, should I deliberately publish presentations that address those topics, as opposed to the approach I have taken thus far which is to just publish presentation I give at conferences, tutorials, lectures etc. 
  • How does open education/access theory stack up 10 years or more down the line, when looking back at the reality of open content?
What is next?
The next activity I plan is to drill down more into the analytics of the downloads to find out what, if anything, that tells me. Depending on the quality of information I find via Slideshare, one idea worth exploring may be to contact the people who downloaded my presentations with a short survey to find out more about the whys and wherefores.

Do you have a Slideshare account? What are your most popular or most viewed presentations? Is there any other information I should look at to inform my research? Have you ever downloaded one of my presentations? Why, and what did you do with it?  

Monday, April 17, 2017

Three benefits to starting the day with standing meetings

A couple of weeks ago, I asked the team I work with if we could pilot the idea of starting the day with quick, 5 - 10 minute standing meetings. I am been pleasantly surprised with how well received they have been, and some of the unforeseen benefits that have materialised.

Standing meetings
The idea of of a stand up meeting is that it is quick and to the point, because standing around for too long becomes uncomfortable and stops people going off the point, or lapsing into gossip sessions. Of course, you do need to pay attention to people who, for whatever reason, cannot stand and make other arrangements.
What do you talk about
In standing meetings, participants are asked to talk about:
  • what they want to achieve during the day
  • what the barriers are
  • and what they'd like to acknowledge or celebrate in terms of success or achievement from the previous day/s.
Benefits of stand-up meetings
This idea has been around for some time, and has been considered a useful strategy for team building, reducing time wasted in pointless seated meetings, and getting people away from their desks.

Outcomes I have discovered
In the short time we have been trying out standing meeting to start the day, I have found:
  • We start the day as a group of people connecting with each other, rather than rushing into our various offices and not speaking to anyone for hours on end.
  • As manager, I have a better understanding of what is going on for people so I can focus on who needs support, and what form that support may take. I also have a better understanding of what people are achieving across the organisation as a whole, and have been enjoying learning all sorts of things about people's work that I never knew.
  • We have an opportunity to brain storm together and share ideas across the whole team. I have been delighted with how everyone has pulled together to share solutions to problems, so there has been cross-pollination across units, and everyone has a voice.
  • We feel an accountability, and therefore motivation to complete work. In other words, if we say we're going to do something but we don't do it, then we have to explain the next day to the team. That sounds a little scary, but team members have actually felt it to be a benefit to their work management, which has come as a bit of a surprise to me.
  • We enjoy celebrating the small successes we have with each other as we complete activities or overcome barriers.
  • This has been a great way to get to know new members to the team and introduce them to life in the office.
What I would like to explore in the future is the effectiveness of walking meetings.

Do you have standing meetings at your place of work? How effective do you find them? What are your tips and tricks for successful standing meetings?

Image: https://unsplash.com/search/meeting?photo=cQCqoTjr0B4

Saturday, April 15, 2017

My PLE - reflecting on the last 10 years

About 10 years ago I became very interested in the use of social media for personal and professional teaching and learning, as well as development and networking. Over the years, as a clinical midwife, midwifery lecturer and eventually instructional designer and staff developer, I have charted my use of online technology and changes in my personal learning environment (PLE). I am just starting a project where I am looking back on the last ten years of open access education and all the concepts that interlink. So it's timely to reflect back on the evolution of my own PLE over the last 10 years.

I tracked my use of online technology for teaching and learning from 2008 to 2011. I haven't posted about it since then, probably because my job changed from working in education to industry, which raises an issue about relevance and applicability that I will come back to later.


In 2008, my blog and e-portfolio (which was hosted in a wiki) was the central point of my PLE, with tools such as Delicious, Wikispaces, Wikipedia and RSS hovering around the edges. I was talking about my blog being the central point of my PLE where I was doing all my thinking, recording and analysis, which resulted in outputs which I displayed in my e-portfolio. However, there was no sign of Facebook, Twitter or other social media tools.

2009 saw the appearance of Facebook, Twitter (more prominent than Facebook), and the virtual world, Second Life.
 My blog was still central but stating to drop off because of time constraints. Slideshare and Youtube were used heavily as alternative places to find information for my teaching, as well as display and share content.


The comment I had to make in 2010 was that my use of tools depended on the work I was doing. For example, Second Life had dropped from the PLE because I was no longer using it in my work. But that in itself is telling, because if it was worthy of use, I would have continued to use it even after my Second Life project had completed. Other tools had dropped off just because they were no longer available such as iGoogle and RSS. Facebook was growing in importance, as a means of networking and sharing information, and I was using tools like Animoto and Screenr to produce content for teaching and so on. I was also using wiki in various form to facilitate online collaboration. 


The last analysis of my PLE was in 2011 when I felt that my core tools remained much the same ie blog, e-portfolio, Facebook, Twitter, Slideshare, Youtube, Skype. However, the number of tools had reduced and I concluded that if a tool wasn't simple and intuitive, then I would not use it.


As I reflect over the last six years, I see that there are two major changes immediately noticeable.
  • My PLE has divided, like cell mitosis into two domains: desk top computer/lap top and mobile phone. As you can see, there are tools and activities that cross both domains such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Skype. But, there are other tools and activities that I use specific to a particular domain, not necessarily because they cannot cross into the other domain, but I choose not to use it. For example, I don't use Dropbox on my phone because it's a tool I use mostly for work; as my phone is my personal phone, I don't access work materials on it.
  • The second big change is that Facebook is now the hub of my PLE, with my blog, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn integrated into it. This is a complete change from before when my blog and wiki e-portfolio were the hub. I do not use wiki at the moment, and LinkedIn now acts as my e-portfolio.
As tools, apps and platforms have moved in and out of favour, there are a few that have remained my 'tried and true' favorites such as Slideshare, Flickr and YouTube.  I think this is testament to their usability, compared to other platforms that have been 'sparkly' in the short term but have faded from favour. But the range and use of tools may also reflect my own job. For instance, now I am not teaching, I am not using the tools that helped me to develop content. Similarly, BlackBoard and BlackBoard Collaborate are only in my PLE at the moment because that is where/how my MBA is being delivered.

The other thing that has changed, but might not be quite so obvious to people passing by, is that there is a lot less blurring of use across the platforms. For the most part each tool and platform has its specific target, audience, or place in my learning; Linkedin and Slideshare has professional uses; Facebook is mostly personal; Instagram is where I connect with the local Canberra community. Skype and YouTube  are the two main tools that cross over both personal and professional spaces. And as for my blog, I have just started blogging again after a time away, so not sure how that's going to go.

This is the start of a bigger project where I want to look at how my content has been accessed and used over the last 10 years, in relation to open access and open education. I think its going to be a very interesting journey.

How has your PLE changed over the years? Do you still blog or use wiki? How big a place in your learning does Facebook play? What the latest new tool that has come out that you love? Is the PLE such a thing, or just  trendy term that we used back in the day?

PS: If you're interested in tracking your use of social media and online tools over the years against the global trends, have a look at Jane Hart's Top Tools for Learning Lists which she has been amalgamating since 2007. 

Friday, April 7, 2017

The dark...where no one can see what you do *cue spooky music!

I am a fabulous dancer....a cross between Ginger Rogers, Margot Fonteyn, and the latest winner of "So you think you can dance"...or at least.... I am in my head!

The sad truth is that I am crap at dancing. I hear rhythm in my head, but somehow there is a break down in the message between my brain and the rest of my body, which means my coordination with the music is rubbish.
Like, I had ballroom dance lessons with my hubby and did my back in. Another time my daughter took me to Zumba classes but ended up banning me from going again because I ran over a beautiful little disabled lady at the back of the class - my daughter says she's never been so embarrassed....until the next terrible thing I did!

But this week I was thrilled, because my daughter gave me one last chance and took me to "No lights, no lycra", in Reid, Canberra. I have to admit to being rather nervous, but it turns out that it's a dance class that you do completely in the dark. The good news is you do keep your clothes on! AND, it's only 5 bucks!

I absolutely loved this dance class. I was able to release my inner wild child and dance my crazy moves which I think is innovative choreography, but daughter calls mortifying. To be completely uninhibited and not worry what anyone thinks is truly liberating. Plus, I got a great work out.

To all you people out there, or at least in Canberra, if you fancy a boogy-on-down, a bit of exercise, or just an hour of fun, I can't recommend the class enough: Wednesday evenings, 7:30-9pm, at St John's Church Hall in Reid - $5 on the door. Check out the details on the Facebook page here.