Monday, October 26, 2015

Experimenting with an inground compost

One of the disadvantages of living in a flat, as opposed to a house with a garden, is that I cannot do anything useful with my food scraps. Now I have my little plot in the Kingston community garden, I can go back to saving food scraps for compost.
 One of the gardeners in Kingston has recommended that I try to develop an in-ground compost system. This requires "planting" a plastic container in the plot, with its bottom removed, like this upside down ice cream container. It needs a lid that can be removed. Waste food then goes into the container. Hopefully, worms make their way to the food  and break it down, and then the material is placed around plants to nourish them. 
You can buy the containers from places like Bunnings. I am using an ice cream container but I think it is going to be too small and I might need to progress to a larger container.

Have you ever used an in-ground compost system, or worm farm? How did you get on? 

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Do you make the most of life's little explosions?

I had the pleasure of meeting Paul and his wife last weekend. Hubby and I were staying at a guest house in Eden for a couple of nights so we could go whale watching. There we met Paul and his wife who were traveling around Australia on holiday from England. We were on the same whale watching trip and had supper together several evenings.

Paul was very kind and told us how much he enjoyed meeting us because our meeting was an explosion in his life. I wasn't too sure what he meant by that because, to be honest, it didn't sound like a good thing!

But Paul explained that he viewed random meetings like the one he had with us as explosions that go off in his life. An explosion may be something as fleeting as a smile of a stranger that comes and goes in a few seconds. Nevertheless, these explosions add to the richness of his life and gives him great joy.

I love this idea of explosions - although I would probably see them more as fireworks - set off by random acts of kindness...smiles...conversations with strangers...connections with people, places or a space in time. It got me thinking that I should be more in tune with the explosions in my life, and be mindful about how I can be an explosion in other people's lives. 

How about you? How do you celebrate life's little explosions?

Monday, October 19, 2015

Concerns about insurance for Kiwi nurses and midwives

As health professionals, nurses and midwives in Australia must have professional indemnity insurance to be able to practice - this is a regulatory/legal requirement. If we don't have insurance, we are unable to go about our jobs and may lose our registration if we practice without adequate insurance.

In the last few days it has been revealed that the ANZ has discontinued insurance to Kiwis because they are deemed to be temporary residents, and not permanent residents, due to changes to visa regulations for New Zealanders in 2001.

This has raised a number about questions about insurance for Kiwis, and the message that those of us who are Kiwis living in Australia need to take on is to check the terms and conditions of any insurance packages (or any other financial arrangements). If the T&C exclude anyone who is not a permanent resisdent or citizen, then Kiwis may have serious cause for concern.

As for New Zealand nurses and midwives living in Australia, my advice is to check terms of insurance with anyone who provides professional indemnity insurance for practice:
This will probably turn out to be a storm in a tea cup but in the meantime,  please let me know if you find out any additional information about this issue.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Got me a plot in a community garden!

I moved to Canberra three years ago, and have recently bought a flat that is currently being built on the edge of Lake Burley. Whilst I am looking forward to moving in, I am very sad that I will no longer have a garden. So, luckily for me, I recently found a community garden nearby in Kingston, and I have been fortunate enough to have been allocated a plot that I can use for as long as I wish.

The plot isn't too large - big enough for me to potter about and keep me out of mischief. I am a lazy gardener - I like to grow plants but not so keen on weeding and all the maintenance work that a garden needs. So I was grateful to my hubby who came down and fixed the plot frame which had started to come apart, and readied the plot for planting.

The garden has a strict organic policy so I am having to find out what makes the best organic fertilizer. And another challenge is to work out how best to compost my waste food and utlise the power of worms. I have been introduced to the concept of the in-ground worm farm, which I hope to introduce to the plot.

My hubby bought me a plastic green house which I have been making use of on my flat balcony to get chilli and tomato seeds started. I think I'll grow from seeds, getting started in the greenhouse and then moving the seedlings down to the plot when they are ready. Hopefully, I'll be able to grow vegetables all year round.

As for this summer, I am going to try tomatoes, chilies, cucumber and capsicum. I am also going to try to grow some herbs, parsley, basil and coriander, because I haven't had any luck so far growing them in pots.

I have been learning about companion planting so am going to mix in some french marigolds. I also want to attract bees to the garden, so will either plant a lavender bush or sage - I haven't made up my mind what to try. What other flowers could I plant that are pretty and also good for attracting bees and butterflies?

The big challenge will be keeping the plot well watered, especially in the depth of the hot Canberra summer. So the next thing I want to do is investigate watering systems.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Moving to Australia? Kiwis beware!

One of the joys of being a Kiwi ie a citizen of New Zealand, is that you can freely move back and forth from New Zealand to Australia. The Trans-Tasmin Mutual Recognition means there is fluidity between the two countries, and certainly makes life a lot easier for New Zealand nurses and midwives obtaining registration in Australia.

However, as a Kiwi who has moved permanently to Australia I have found out that life is not as straight forward as I expected, especially for those who want to settle and retire in Australia. So if you are moving to Australia from New Zealand, here are three things (amongst others!) you need to think about before you arrive.

1. Residency and citizenship
In my naivety I thought that there were conditions that I had to meet after a certain period of time and then as a Kiwi I would be granted permanent residency and citizenship. That is not the case. In fact, it is very difficult to get citizenship here as a Kiwi, especially if you are over the age of 50.  

Just about the only way you get get residency is if you are sponsored by your employer. So if you are thinking about moving over, talk to your potential employer first to make sure he supports this and your situation meets all the criteria for sponsorship.

2. Pension
I was told by my KiwiSaver provider that I could transfer my pension over to Australia, just as Australians may do when they move to New Zealand. And indeed, it is legally possible to do this. However, at the moment only one pension fund in Australia accepts transfer - WA Super. I am about to start the process of transferring my KiwiSaver over to WA Super - I'll let you know how that goes.

3. Impact of not having citizenship
As a Kiwi, I can work, live and die in long as I can self-fund. This means that if I need access to government funding, eg financial help with study (student loan), pension, disability or unemployment benefit, I am not entitled to apply.

There are also a number of jobs I cannot apply for, such as bureaucratic jobs with federal government or armed forces, and I cannot access scholarships such as the Nursing and Allied Health Scholarship and Support Scheme. Obviously I pay tax, but I am unable to vote. The only good news is that educational fees are set at local level, and Kiwis are not required to pay International fees.

This is in direct contrast with how Australians are treated when they move to New Zealand, and there are currently campaigns being led to lobby Australian government to iron out the inconsistencies that face Kiwis in Australia.

Are you a Kiwi living in Australia who has managed to get permanent residency or citizenship? How did you manage it? 

Monday, October 12, 2015

5 reasons for integrating social media into your professional role

I have just been asked to comment on my use of social media in my professional role as Professional Officer at the Australian College of Midwives for a Japanese magazine, of all things! This has got me reflecting on my professional use of social media, and what lessons I have learned that I would like to pass on.

I have significantly altered my use of social media since taking on this visible, national role especially compared to when it was my job to promote the use of social media in education previously. To be honest, I am not half as open as I was because of the issue of professional online identity. Nonetheless, I believe social media can be a very effective tool in the working life of professionals including those who work at higher levels in companies or organisations, or have very public profiles.

Here's 5 reasons why I use social media in my working life, in no particular order.

1. Carry out environmental scans
I find it very useful to carry out a scan of social media because I pick up on the latest news and trends, and find out what issues are being talked about often before they have hit main stream media. This is especially useful when I am trying to find out what our members care about.

Environmental scanning also means there is the potential to pick up criticism of the organization I work for, or the work we are doing. This can be quite confronting and it is very hard not to take personally. But it does allow me to reflect on what the organization and I are doing and make changes accordingly, which hopefully improves people's understanding and engagement with our work.  

I know this sounds a little sneaky, but online environmental scans also allow me to see what other organizations in the maternity space are doing.  This may show up potential opportunities for collaboration and joint work. It may also give me the heads up about issues that we are falling behind on and need to address.

2. Network with influencers
In every day practice, it is often not possible to meet and talk to key people that influence thinking, policy or outcomes that impact on the organsation or profession. Politicians, policy advisers, journalists, senior executives can all be difficult to access for one reason or another. Following and engaging with these people via social media can be hit and miss at times, but at the very least I can see what they are interested in which may give me clues about how to focus my interactions with them. And if I am lucky enough to have them follow me, I can be very strategic about what I post in order to inform them about issues I want to highlight.

3. Make individual connections
In my role I am expected to be outgoing and talk to people about the College, midwifery and so on. But I am not a naturally extrovert person in the face-to-face setting and sometimes I do find it difficult to start up conversations with complete strangers. What I have experienced is that by posting personal information about me, people see my "human" side which makes me more approachable. This gives me a hook into conversations with people which I  use to make personal connections before I progress into discussions about professional/business topics. For example, I have been posting on Facebook lately about my poor gardening skills, and at the recent ACM conference I had people come up to me and ask about my tomatoes which has been a fabulous ice breaker for us both.

4. Access the crowd knowledge and skills
One of the most exciting use of social media in my job has been crowd sourcing ideas, information, resources and volunteers to become involved with College activities. We do use more traditional methods of recruiting volunteers for projects that are successful but social media facilitates immediacy of response and is a lot less bureaucratic. It's when I am doing work like responding to a submission, that has to be submitted yesterday, that I find real advice or information so useful to glean via social media. And we've even had people join the College to do projects that they've heard about on Facebook etc - doesn't get any cooler than that!

5. Reduces professional isolation
There's much talk in health about the isolation of health practitioners working in rural and remote areas. But I think practitioners can feel equally as isolated living in urban areas, and that geography isn't relevant in some cases, but rather it is the role that can make one feel isolated.

In my case, there are not many midwifery  policy advisers in Australia so I have to look further afield for the support that I may need that is specific to my context such as the #WeMidwives community. Or, look at connecting with professionals with similar roles but in other industries in LinkedIN.

Do you use social media in your professional role? What tips would you pass on about integrating SM into your work?   

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Ditching my e-portfolio for LinkedIn

I have been reviewing my online spaces and how I use them. One of the decisions I have made is to move from the e-portfolio that I have been maintaining on Wikispaces to Linkedin.

What is the advantage of using open software for e-portfolio?
I kept my e-portfolio on an open wiki from about 2008-2012. I really enjoyed the freedom that it gave me, allowing me to design my content in which ever way I wanted.

It felt very exciting to be modeling to people what can be achieved and I had lots of inquiries and comments about the legalities of having my work openly available over the years. I have written about my experiences, and the challenges of presenting my work as a practicing midwife, especially around the issues of confidentiality of patient/client information: Making practice transparent through e-portfolio (Women and Birth, Vol. 26, Issue 4, e117–e121).

Why I am making the move to LinkedIn
The disadvantage to using the wiki is that I don't feel it has the "professional look" that other platforms such as Linkedin has. The wiki was perfect as a "sandpit", especially in my role as educator. However, now I have more of a corporate role, I feel LinkedIn is a more appropriate space to highlight my professional activities.And as well as providing an e-portfolio capability, LinkedIn allows me to connect with other professionals and provides access to news and information relevant to my work.

Downside of LinkedIn? 
For the most part, LinkedIn provides appropriate space for my work. It does have constraints that I have to work within that my wiki never had, which is a little frustrating at times.  And I don't like the vertical structure which forces readers to be forever scrolling down to get to information. However, I do like the guidance it provides which I think is really useful to people who are new to e-portfolio. And the ability to upload evidence of work into LinkedIn makes the platform more than a glorified CV. 

One issue that I need to explore is how to back up my work, or download it. I don't know what ability LinkedIn provides to ensure I do not lose my material.

Do you have a LinkedIn account? How do you use it - for professional networking, e-portfolio, or another purpose?