Monthly Archives: February 2010

Sunday Mail Column: Labour Of Love

Today is not a good day for many people. Not because anything particularly horrific has happened. They haven’t – collectively – been fired. Or robbed. Or been told their new haircut makes them look just a little bit like Barbara Bush. No today is horrendous simply because it’s Valentine’s Day, they’re single and they don’t want to be. Sound like you?

If you think couples everywhere are exchanging lovey-dovey cards today, you’re wrong. Married couples are currently having the awkward “I thought we weren’t getting each other anything?” conversation. I’m joking, of course. Some married couples aren’t even talking to one another.

Anyway. You don’t care about that because you’re single and today is nauseating. I hear you.

So I’m going to pass on some lurve advice given to me a decade ago by my friend Kim who has been happily married for twenty years:

  1. You don’t stop getting in a car just because you’re afraid of having an accident. The same is true for love. Just because you’re afraid of having your heart broken doesn’t mean you shouldn’t put yourself out there.

Some of us complain about being single and spend our days wishing for a companion all the while living the life of Agnetha from ABBA (Famous hermit. Try to keep up).  If you want love, you have to leave the cave.

  1. Next time you meet someone and you think, “Nah, they’re not my type” – ask them out. Your type isn’t working for you. Try dating someone who isn’t your type and see what happens.

If you can look back on your dating history and the word “always” comes up (I always date cheaters, I always date commitment phobics) – then you have a type. Next time you meet a nice person but dismiss them for not being your ‘type’- give them a chance.  You may be pleasantly surprised.

My old school friend Jane works as a professional matchmaker at Ideal Introductions. I also asked her for some advice. Here’s what she said:

“Make up your mind to start doing something differently.   If you’ve been single for an extended period of time and aren’t thinking about activating change, then you’re still going to be single this time next year.  Get out in different social circles, join sporting or cultural clubs, investigate introduction agencies and dating websites.  Most importantly of all, be happy.  Open up your heart and your mind. Be the kind of person you would want to date. Believe that the right person will come into your life. And they will – when the time is right.  It’s ALL about timing.  So good planning is essential.  Get yourself ready so fate can do its thing!”

And finally I’m going to finish with a quote from that well-known sage (ahem), Cher.

“If grass can grow through cement, love can find you at any time in your life.”

Amen to that.

A second update from Tara June Winch:

Dear Sunday Mail readers,

My heartfelt thanks extends all over Queensland, even to our other states, and all over the Pacific – where First Sunday Club touched readers. I have just returned from Turkey and Pakistan and I am pleased to tell you that the  money you donated is currently being spent on supporting four projects in Pakistan; A higher Education Fund at Karachi Nanahul Baby Center (An Orphanage with 106 girls) the majority of which are ten and over, the girls with be supported through the metric, college, and university if they choose.  A library, resources, tables, a playground and subsidies for teachers and school fees at an Afghan refugee school in Sohrab Goth, outside Karachi, Bombasa Tuition Centre will be supported with generators and resources to continue to run their womens safe house and tuition centre out of a large room in their home in Karachi’s most notorious areas for gang violence – this place is the only place to be safe and learn, and Lyari Community School – with over 700 students, totally community run and funded, the teachers focus on female education, with secondary school only for girls, we are building a computer lab for the girls and keeping a onethousand higher education fund, for the girls to access help to University, we are also to continue to run programs for Larkana Womens Jail, Karachi’s Panah House Women’s Shelter and Civic Hospitals in Larkana and remote regions – distributing and training Ophmapologists to administer self-prescribing glasses for the elderly – AdSpecs. Programs in Turkey to support Kurdish girls and women and coming along very carefully – official resistance toward the education of female Kurdish is evident, and saddening – though makes this work all the more necessary. Our Ambassador on the ground is Bejan Matur and we are meeting up again in April in Turkey to travel through all the Kurdish region and face to face engage with the women, the children and the huge human rights issues they will face. xxxxx.  Thank you again for your efforts and if you would like to continue to be updated on our work, go to  Warm regards Tara June Winch

PS For those wanting to send cheques, please send cheques to


Wollongong University

2500 NSW

Sunday Mail Column: Street Swags

It’s the first Sunday of the month, which means our First Sunday Club is back! In January I launched the First Sunday Club asking readers to join me in donating $10 to a specific cause on the first Sunday of every month.  Ten dollars isn’t much but through the “power of many” we can make a difference.

In January we kicked things off with – an organisation headed up by Aussie writer Tara June Winch.  Tara works with established charities in Pakistan, Turkey and Afghanistan bringing literacy resources to women and children. You want to really help someone in a developing country?  Teach them to read.

For an update from Tara and an address for those wanting to mail cheques go to the BLOG section of my website for more details.

So where is your $10 going this month?  Street Swags.

Thirty-year-old Brisbane schoolteacher Jean Madden is on a one-woman crusade to help Australia’s homeless. There are at least 100,000 Australians currently sleeping under bridges, in cars, bus shelters, parks and doorways.  It can be hard to understand how someone “becomes homeless” but mental illness, drug and alcohol problems, unemployment, domestic violence, long public housing waiting lists and skyrocketing rents are some of the factors forcing people – including families with young children – on to the street.

When Jean and her husband Tim watched a doco about the physical and mental impact of sleeping rough, they felt an urgent need to take action. What they came up with is the Street Swag – a warm, waterproof portable bed. What’s really clever is that it’s designed to look like a carry bag during the day to help preserve the dignity of the homeless and help them avoid being attacked. Jean and Tim now dedicate their time to producing and distributing their swags to the homeless. (Jean’s design is so innovative it won a major design award in Denmark last year!)

Today Jean – who also happens to be Queensland’s Young Australian of the Year – has distributed about 13,000 swags through the Salvation Army, St Vinnies and Mission Australia. But she says, “We’re barely scratching the surface.”

Each swag costs $60 to make – mostly because of the specialised waterproof canvas used – and as a not-for-profit organisation Jean relies purely on donations. That includes the donation of time from family, friends and, well, prisoners.

Since 2005 the inmates of Woodford Prison have been making Jean’s Street Swags for her.

“The majority of our Street Swags are still produced at Woodford,” says Jean. “Then they travel to Nudgee College where the students roll the swags and put other essential items like toiletries and blankets into them.”

Street Swags are also made in Grafton Prison and in the Northern Territory where some of the Aboriginal Communities make them for their families, gaining government employment and home industry skills along the way.

So that’s where our money is going this month. Join me. Let’s help pay for some more swags. Donate $10 at

Sunday Mail column

So we’re moving. AGAIN. I know, I know. I move house like someone who’s on the run from the police. But Brad’s job means we get shifted like a Rubik’s Cube – at least for the next few years.  On the down side, there’s the packing, the cleaning, the expense, the stuff that inevitably gets broken (stuff always gets broken), the stuff that inevitably gets lost (stuff always gets lost). On the up side …What are you on drugs? There is no upside. I hate moving.

Okay, there is an upside. We get to shed. Shed as a verb, not a noun. There’s nothing like moving house to motivate you to get rid of the stuff you just don’t use. My parents? They lived in the same house for thirty years. So when they moved– Lordy, it was a nightmare.  We were all ordered over there to clear out our junk. I use that word loosely. There is nothing “junky” about my Grade Seven assignment on the Alsace-Lorraine region of France. My French teacher, let’s call her Mrs Yoplait, LOVED me. And that assignment rocked.

Where was I?

The upside of moving. Right.  See, you’re forced to spring clean and get rid of the clutter. Some stuff goes straight into the bin.  But what about the items you don’t want but still love? The things you want to send to a new home where someone else can use and appreciate them.  What to do with them?

Selling things at garage sales and in the paper can be disheartening. At my last garage sale people were trying to buy our practically new computer printer for $5. I decided then that I’d rather give it away to someone who really needed it then sell it to an eBay hunter for $5.

Well now you can freecycle. Freecycling is all about giving away your no-longer-needed stuff to someone who could really use it.  Or as they put it “It’s a grassroots and entirely nonprofit movement of people who are giving (and getting) stuff for free in their local areas, thus keeping good stuff out of landfills.”

It’s like a free version of eBay. And the best bit is that YOU get to choose who gets your items.  You list your lamp or kids bike on the site and people get in touch with you through email. My friend Al says the key is to not give your item to the first person that emails you.  Wait until you get a few emails from different people and then decide who you’d like to give it to. (This way you’re more likely to give it to someone who genuinely needs your item rather than someone who just wants to get it for free and then sell it somewhere else for cash).

The whole process is free. All you need to do is join up at then type in your city or region.  There are more than six million freecyclers across the world. Why not be one of them?