Tuesday, January 31, 2006

More work on house

I know it's a sensible time to do work on the house but I always underestimate how distracting it is and how messy. We're getting the attic space converted into a storage room. This may change our life. It will mean no longer living surrounded by piles of old company archive boxes and plastic boxes filled with materials that are rarely accessed and in fact most of the time remain mysteriously opaque like the boxes that contain them. It will mean we can store our bikes in the laundry instead of the study. It will mean we can continue to collect bits and bobs of rather useless stuff and put them somewhere and forget about them. Unlike now, where we trip over them.

It's just on 6:00pm and people are starting to arrive home from work via various forms of transport. The drivers arrive with music up loud and kill the engine mid-song, walkers purposefully stride past with professional outfits, looking a bit creased and worse for wear after the days toil. The occasional neighbour arrives and shortly departs again with dog in tow panting with excitement and sniffing the scents the footpaths offer. I've done a quick clean of the house - vacuumed and dusted to get the worst of the dust off the surfaces. Probably inhaled a few tons of lead and other assorted toxins and have tidied the house to greet my Uncle who is an architect. He's coming over to hear the options for our house and hopefully give us a realistic perspective on whether to renovate or sell. I hate to feel like I'm on an owner-occupied-house -renovate-or-upgrade treadmill but something must be done. Actually nothing really has to be done. As one neighbour across the road said to me after two years of tortorous and slow renovations to her home, "why do it? Just live..." It's a good point and if it wasn't for the fact that our bathroom floor was about to collapse because of rotten floorboards and if the kitchen cupboards didn't smell like mould and weren't crumbling, I think I'd take her advice. The thing is houses are singularities for any budget. They seem to draw into their gravitational field vast sums just to keep them working the way you want them to. Having rented since I was 17 in shared pads or my own premises, owning a house has satisfied a strong desire to tinker and adjust my own surrounds (something pretty much unfeasible in a rented property). We bought an old inner city terrace that had been a rented property. We've done quite a lot to it in the time we've been here, all discrete projects that can be done over a day or two. Now we are faced with a decision about what to do with the remaining parts of the house that involve much more serious work. Do we really have the time to renovate ourselves? Is this even something we want to do? Compared to Sweden, the very concept of owning an entire house let alone renovating it yourself just seems like an extraordinary waste of resources and individual effort. Little apartments that involve negligible upkeep and a bit of decoration seem a much better way to go right now. We'll see what Uncle says. Selling and buying can also be a right pain in the arse.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Recruitment momentum

Slowly getting back into the PhD. Brain very slow still after holiday, settling in, animal dramas etc. I met with my supervisor and am now focusing my efforts on recruiting an organisation or two to participate in my study. I have a few leads and am casting the net as wide as I can. Just in case anyone reading this blog has any contacts in a suitable organisation, here is the email I'm circulating.

Seeking organisation/business to take part in research project
I am seeking an organisation to take part in an exciting research project for my PhD research. I am particularly interested in the ways that organisations apply technologies to improve their work practices or processes such as teleworking, work on the move, solutions for collaborative work and new office space arrangements. The organisation must be located in Sydney and have approximately between 50 and 200 employees.

My PhD project will look at the everyday experiences of office workers using information and communication technology and will cover issues such as:

-everyday experiences including problems with computing technology
-previous user experience with computer technologies
-organisational and self-management, personalisation and customisation of individual workspaces and collaborative environments
-perceptions of change brought about by computer technologies on work practices, self and the organisation

By participating in this project your organisation will be contributing to a better understanding of how people negotiate technology in their daily work lives and will help us to understand the implications of technology use on work practices and processes. Participation in the project is totally voluntary for all staff in the organisation. The research will be conducted in the first half of this year and the arrangements for the research will be coordinated with the organisation. If you are considering that your organisation might be able to participate in this study please contact Justine Humphry for further discussion on 02 9517 4616 or justine.humphry@gmail.com

Friday, January 20, 2006

Comment on another blog

I was reading a letter posted at another blog and decided to reply but unfortunately the comment script seemed buggy. I thought the letter was a good one and it relates to some thoughts I've had about the concept of "choice" so I have reproduced the letter and comment here.

Women's Choice?

November 16th, 2005

To the editor,

I am stunned and appalled at the audacity of Tony Abbott’s refusal to remove the ban on RU-486. (Abortion bill ban stays: Abbott 15/11/05). This drug is available in many countries and has been shown to be a very safe and effective alternative to surgical abortion.

In Australia however, the pill remains banned. Initially, it was so the government could score political points from Senator Harradine. Now it appears that Abbott’s religious beliefs are dictating women’s access to abortion.

This government is great at spouting the rhetoric of choice - as seen in the ironically named WorkChoices bills - but they seem very eager to limit women’s choices. Why should a woman who wants an abortion be denied access to an effective, affordable and non-invasive option? It is clear that Abbott values his own unrepresentative morals more than the welfare of women.

Stop patronising us, Mr Abbott. Australian women do not need you or your religious beliefs when it comes to decisions about our bodies.

Yours angrily,

My comment:

Great letter. It's good to see a fellow letter writer and PhD student. I've just fired one off to Carmel Tebbutt - actually my second to her (she's probably added me to her "to avoid" list). This letter attempted to get her support for legal reform to obtain equal rights for same sex parents. Your letter made me think about the government's frequent deployment of the word "choice" in their rhetorics. You have cleverly used it above to question the government's act of limiting women's choice while espousing "choice" as integral to their own policies - the word itself forming the title of their new industrial relations policy.
The word "choice" is co-opted by many ideological positions and is such a powerful term that I think it deserves further analysis. When the government refers to "choice" they seem to draw on a history of the word with its associations of consumer power within a market economy. The kind of "choice" you referred to draws on a feminist interpretation of "choice" - that women should be able to make their own decisions about their bodies. In both cases, but with the emphasis skewed towards one axis or the other, choice is both an act of decision making and a capacity to choose from a number of available options.

When the government refers to "choice", it comes loaded with all these meanings and perhaps because of this, it obfiscates the master move which extinguishes one or other parts of the term - either the right to decide or the availability of options leaving the choices that workers and women find themselves with very limited indeed.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Frankenstein's Bride

Originally uploaded by Juzzzy.
It's been a cat-astrophic week. Actually it's turned out OK. Our cat disappeared again and then we discovered a lump on her back. She was behaving a bit oddly so I took her to the vet early this week. Turns out she was in a cat fight and was bitten a number of times. An absyss developed as a result of the bites and she was running a fever. The vet recommended an operation the next day to drain the absyss. She has been home for a day or two now and though a bit horrifying to look at has pretty much come good. Here she is gazing out the window. "How dare they keep me locked up inside. It's outrageous."

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Hot, hot, hot

Geez it's humid today. It's taking me a while to adjust to the Sydney January weather after my winter abroad in Northern and Central Europe. I've always enjoyed the cooler times of year more than the summer months. I like the crisp chill of a clear winter morning in Sydney, the feeling of being invigorated by the cold and the cool air in your throat and mouth when you inhale. I like getting rugged up in layers of clothes and clomping around in heavy boots. I enjoy the feeling of moving from outside to inside and actually detecting a change in temperature - unlike summer where the house is just as muggy as it is in the backyard.

My cat went missing last night and this morning. My partner and I had a short period of panic calling for her and searching in all the likely nooks and crevices. It's unlike her not to come in for a drink and feed in the evening. We both shared our fears that she had been snatched by someone in the street. We get very concerned about our little furry dependents. Calming down, we suspected she was under the house, stretched out on the damp dirt. We called and called but she didn't come. Eventually I heard a very quiet mieow and she appeared in our neighbours backyard. She too finds this weather uncomfortable and probably discovered a nice cool spot somewhere a few houses down.

I have arranged to meet my supervisor tomorrow morning at Uni. First time I've been out there in three months or so. I'm not feeling very prepared. I think I've forgotten what I'm doing and have little momentum right now - that's the problem with taking an extended holiday I think. Hopefully the meeting will help to get me moving and also thinking again.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Sperm for others

My partner and I have been continuing our research into having a child. She contacted the fertility clinics to get more information about donor sperm and artificial insemination. One of the clinics - The Royal Hospital for Women in Sydney - informed her this morning that they have limited sperm stock. My partner was honest and upfront about the arrangement and explained that we are a lesbian couple. The woman disappeared for quite some time and when she returned said to my partner that no sperm is available at this time. My partner asked whether this applied to everyone or only to her. The woman said that she could not say.

Neither the news about the sperm shortage nor what came across as a clear act of discrimination really surprised me when she told me the outcome. I have read numerous articles and news pieces on the shortages in donated sperm in Australia. This shortage seems to have been exacerbated by the recent legislation that requires that donors disclose their identities to be made available upon request to the children of donors when they turn 18. To my shock and with some ironic amusement, I heard on the news a few months ago that politicians had been written a letter from one of Australia's largest fertility clinics requesting that they consider donating sperm. I read recently on the Internet that the clinic has received no replies. Perhaps a mixed blessing - I'm not sure which irks me more: the idea that there is an extreme sperm shortage in Australia in fertility clinics or that there would be a very high chance of aquiring sperm from one of Australia's politicians if we proceeded to try to have a child.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Same-sex parenting

I have continued my research on the legal situation of same sex couples in relation to parenting in Australia. The fact is that many lesbians and gay men are having children through formal and informal arrangements such as fertility clinics and donor insemination. According to a number of web sites I came across, research shows that over 20% of lesbians and 10% of gay men are already parents and many more want to have children.

The main issue in Australia in relation to co-parenting is that only biological parents are recognised as having a legally recognised relationship with a child in Australia. Same-sex parents do not have the same legal status as heterosexual parents. This means that most gay and lesbian parents and their children are left with no legal protection.

The broader issue is that the legal recognition of gay and lesbian relationships in Australia is very limited and this impacts on many aspects of life for gays and lesbians.

As far as I can tell from my reading to date, there are three relevant areas of law in relation to the issue of same-sex co-parenting: marriage, adoption and defacto relationships.

The Federal Marriage Act excludes gays and lesbians completely and therefore none of the laws that apply to marriage cover gay and lesbian relationships and this includes parenting. Despite the fact that there are now five countries in the world that recognise same-sex marriage and a trend which suggests that this will increase, in Australia the federal government made recent amendments to the 1961 Marriage Act to enshrine the common law definition of marriage as being between a man and a woman. This did not have any impact on the current way in which gay and lesbian relationships are or are not recognised, however it does prevent valid foreign same sex marriages from being recognised under Australian law.

De facto relationships:
According to a fact sheet published by the Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby, NSW has only recently recognised lesbian and gay de-facto relationships and this recognition has not flowed through to recognising other family relationships, including those with children.

In Australia, states have their own adoption laws. There are only three states in Australia - Western Australia, Tasmania and the ACT that recognise same sex relationships in their respective adoption acts. In NSW lesbians and gay men can legally adopt children as individuals but cannot adopt as a couple.

The best chance of ensuring legal protection for gay and lesbian parents and their children seems to lie in advocating for state-by-state law reform. In NSW, The Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby (GLRL) have recommended law reform options to ensure the recognition of relationships of gay and lesbian parents with their children.
These are the recommendations contained in the report And then the Brides Changed Nappies (April 2003):

  1. Amend the Status of Children Act 1996 (NSW) to make the definition of de-facto partner gender neutral. This will deem consenting co-mothers of Donor Insemination (DI) babies born to lesbian couples as parents in all NSW laws.
  2. Amend the Births Deaths and Marriages Regulations 2001 (NSW) so that co-mothers of DI children can be listed as the second parent on birth certificates.
  3. Change the Adoption Act 2000 (NSW) to make the definition of de-facto partner gender neutral so that gay and lesbian parents can use the current step-parent adoption provisions when they are actually in the position of step-parents.
  4. Change the Adoption Act 2000 (NSW) to include a new provision for “co-parent adoption”. This will allow gay and lesbians co-parents to adopt with a presumption in favour of adoption where there is only one legal parent.
  5. Introduce a simple and inexpensive mechanism by which lesbian mothers can seek child support from one another if their relationship breaks down.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Arrived home on New Years Day

We flew back to Sydney over New Years Eve. The flight was pretty fun. The hosties wore party hats and gave us a glass of champagne. We got to celebrate the ushering in of 2006 a number of times since we crossed multiple time zones. We arrived in Sydney on the hottest day ever recorded in Sydney. It was still hovering around forty degrees when we landed in the early evening. Coming from a European winter, it was a shock to the system. It felt like walking into an oven when we left the air conditioning of the airport and headed to the car park. A southerly blew in at around 9pm and cooled everything down. What a relief!

The last few days have been spent settling in, recovering from jetlag and enjoying time with the dogs. We're looking after an extra one for a week until Sarah's parents return from the UK.

I've decided to officially call my holiday over at the end of this week and will start to get back into PhD research from next Monday. I've hardly thought about my research for about a month with all the travels and celebrations but I feel it's time to get going on it again.

The only study related work I did during my one month off was finish off the book review I had started in Copenhagen. I sent it off to the editor of the Japanese Studies journal just before Christmas.

I've been doing some research on same sex adoption laws in Australia. My partner and I have talked about having a child but we haven't come to a decision about it yet. Meanwhile we've both being doing research on the topic in our own ways. The issue triggered me into looking into what kind of legal protection the non-biological parent would have in Australia and I was shocked to discover how backward our laws are. Perhaps I wasn't shocked. In many respects, particularly when it comes to gay and lesbian rights, Australia has fallen behind the rest of the world. There are now five other countries that have passed laws recognising same sex marriage. Can you guess which ones they are? You might be surprised... The relevant legislation in Australia that I'm concerned about is the Marriage Act and the Adoption laws.