Worth a Call

Convenor, ‘Speculating upon Biography’: An International Symposium dedicated to exploring the boundaries of biography, CQUniversity Noosa, 25-26 October 2018

Co-editor, The Australasian Journal of Popular Culture https://www.intellectbooks.co.uk/journals/view-Journal,id=202/


Professor Donna Lee Brien BEd (Deakin), GCHEd (UNE), MA(Prelim) (USyd), MA (UTS), PhD (QUT)

Professor, Creative Industries | School of Education and Arts
CQUniversity Australia, 90 Goodchap Street, Noosa Qld 4566 (PO Box 1128) 

+61 07 61 07 5440 7076 | E d.brien@cqu.edu.au


I respectfully acknowledge the Traditional Owners of the land on which we work and learn, and pay respect to the First Nations Peoples and their elders, past, present and future.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Calling all writers: Important Upcoming Symposium

Call for abstracts:

‘Speculating upon Biography’:

An International Symposium dedicated to exploring the boundaries of biography

25-26 October 2018, Noosa Queensland Australia

The etymology of biography comes from the Greek βίος(bíos, “life”) plus γράφω

(gráphō, “write”), which explains why most definitions describe this genre as a

narrative of a life, that is written by someone else with the intention of offering an

historically-accurate account of this person. Despite this emphasis upon veracity,

biography has long been a vibrant site for experimentation. Over forty years ago,

esteemed biographer Leon Edel acknowledged that ‘there’s a great deal of

speculation in [all] biography’ because biographers ‘can never know everything …

most readers understand that there will be a degree of ‘informed speculation’ (qtd.

in McCullough 1985, online).

More recently, some writers have chosen to experiment further with biography,

employing conjecture and ‘informed imagination’ to fill in the gaps and silences in

the archives, and when writing the lives of those who are under-represented in

sources and obscured from the historical record. Such works have come to be known

as ‘speculative biography’, not only because they challenge traditional notions of

authorial veracity but also because, in contrast to biographically-based fiction or

historical fiction, these experimental approaches are still clearly recognizable as nonfictional

attempts to explore and express the ‘truth’. And yet, despite the fact that

such speculative work has significant implications for postcolonial histories globally

as well as the way we construct notions of ‘truth’, little scholarly attention has been

devoted to the methodological and theoretical underpinnings of this new variant of

biography or to exploring key works thus produced.

This one-day multi-disciplinary event will remedy this by inviting investigation into

speculative biography and exploring associated practices and processes including:

Definitions, models and methods for writing speculative biography

Theoretical underpinnings of speculative biography

Possibilities and challenges of speculative biographical writing

Speculative biography and historical fiction: similarities and differences

Speculative biography and questions of truth, fiction and fictionalization

Speculative biography, lost lives and forgotten life stories

Past and recent speculative biographies

Ethical issues in writing speculative biography

Speculation, gaps in the historical record and fragmentary/unreliable sources

Beyond the violence of the archive

Writing and publishing speculative biography

Speculative biography for younger readers

Speculative biographical memoir

Speculative graphic and comic biographies

National histories of speculative biographical production

Implications of speculative biography for postcolonial historical enquiry

The reception of speculative biography

Other relevant topics and issues

Keynote Speakers

Professor Donna Lee Brien has been writing, and writing about, experimental and

speculative biography since the 1990s. Recent books aligned with the topic include

Recovering History Through Fact and Fiction: Forgotten Lives (with Dallas Baker and

Nike Sulway, 2017) and Assisting International Students Develop and Publish Accounts

of Learning Transformation Due to their Australian Experiences (with Alison Owens,

2015). Offshoot: Contemporary Life Writing Methodologies and Practice (with Quinn

Eades) will be published by University of Western Australia Press in 2018. With over

250 published book chapters, journal articles, refereed conference papers and

creative works, and editor of over 40 themed special issues of journals, Donna is the

current co-editor of the Australasian Journal of Popular Culture and past

Commissioning Editor, Special Issues, TEXT: Journal of Writing and Writing Courses.

Dr Kiera Lindsey is an award-winning historian who published a speculative

biography entitled The Convict’s Daughter: The Scandal that Shocked a Colony with

Australia’s largest independent publishing house, Allen & Unwin in 2016. The

Convict’s Daughter received positive trade and scholarly reviews and is now in its 4th

print run. In 2017, Kiera was awarded an ARC DECRA for a project entitled

‘Speculative Biography, Historical Craft and the Case of Adelaide Ironside’. This

project, which she will complete at UTS, will reconstitute the scanty archive of

Australian colonial artist Adelaide Ironside into a narrative-driven speculative

biography, before critically investigating this process in a series of publications,

masterclasses and public workshops aimed at encouraging others intent upon

recovering lost lives for general readers. Kiera is an enthusiastic communicator who

recently appeared in a four-part HISTORY Channel TV series. She is also a regular

presenter on ABC’s Nightlife program.


To encourage discussion and explore the creative possibilities and challenges of

speculative biography, this symposium includes a Masterclass workshop. Together,

we will consider a host of case studies and potential methodologies useful to writers

wrestling with stories and sources that resist a straightforward approach. This

workshop will appeal to practitioners keen to experiment with biography and

historical writing as well as theorists considering the critical and ethical implications

of genre-transgression. We welcome those working in biography, history, creative

writing and life writing as well as family-historians and theoretical scholars.


An edited book and/or refereed journal issue will be produced from this event.

Abstracts (250 words max) and your name, email plus brief bio note (50-100 words)

due 30 May 2018, email to Kiera.Lindsey@uts.edu.au

**Please put ‘2018 International Speculating on Biography Symposium abstract’ in

the subject line of your email

Location CQUniversity, Noosa campus

90 Goodchap Street, Noosaville Qld 4566

Contact/ all queries Professor Donna Lee Brien

CQUniversity, Noosa campus d.brien@cqu.edu.au

We look forward to welcoming you to beautiful Noosa!


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Representations of the Mother-in-law in literature, film, drama, and televsion

Something different.

This new book, edited by Dr Jo Parnell, has a foreword by Conjoint Associate Professor Jo May, and a conclusion by the highly-esteemed, world known Shakespearian scholar, Professor Hugh Craig FAHA; all three academics are from the University of Newcastle, Australia.

This scholarly, international collection consists of chapters by well-known academics, writing about the mother-in-law figure as perceived in the various cultures around the world.

This book is a comprehensive study of some ways of treating the subject that demonstrate new and unusual perspectives, and provides a different approach to the popularly-held views of mothers-in-law; and that further address these works as popular culture; and as texts in their own right from within the framework of literary theory; and as works that demonstrate the ability to reach and connect with, and satisfy, both the general reader, the student, and the scholar, from all levels and walks of life.

Publishing with Lexington Books (Rowman & Littlefield), Maryland,  USA.

Due out in July 2018.

Pre-publication orders now open. View the sites below.

Representations of the Mother-in-Law in Literature, Film, Drama, and …

Edited by Jo Parnell – Contributions by Cecilia Alero Titilayo Saibu; David Wafula Yenjela; Shalini Nadaswaran; Marquita M. Gammage; Jane Bellemore; Terry … This book is a comprehensive study of some ways of treating the subject that demonstrate new and unusual perspectives, and provides a different approach to the …

Social Science / Media Studies | Rowman & Littlefield


Representations of the Mother-in-Law in Literature … – Amazon.com

Representations of the Mother-in-Law in Literature, Film, Drama, and Television [Jo Parnell, Cecilia Alero Titilayo Saibu, David Wafula Yenjela, Shalini … pages; Publisher: Lexington Books (July 15, 2018); Language: English; ISBN-10: 1498569064; ISBN-13: 978-1498569064; Shipping Information: View shipping rates and …

Available in Hard Cover and EBook
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Great Article

Josephine May (2018) Gender and hyper-linear history in the representation of the female Australian primary school teacher in Marion (ABCTV, 1974),

Download a free copy at Taylor & Francis Online from the following link:  http://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/swyrqCbpkCPMTGHJEvRB/full



History of Education

Journal of the History of Education Society

Volume 47, 2018 – Issue 2: Sight, Sound and Text in the History of Education

CrossRef citations


Gender and hyper-linear history in the representation of the female Australian primary school teacher in Marion (ABCTV, 1974)

Pages 209-224
Received 17 Mar 2017
Accepted 14 Dec 2017
Published online: 15 Jan 2018
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Worth a Read

Recovering History through Fact and Fiction: Forgotten Lives, eds. Dallas John Baker, Donna Lee Brien & Nike Sulway, 2017 http://www.cambridgescholars.com/recovering-history-through-fact-and-fiction

Reviews for Recovering History through Fact and Fiction

“In exploring and discussing new and very different ways of approaching the genre and associated forms, this book models diversity and coherence, and challenges the reader’s intellect. The work also challenges the ways in which biography and auto/ biographical writings within established areas have been previously viewed, and it has the potential to broaden one’s knowledge. The book invites critical thinking and raises new questions about new and unusual approaches to the form. Together, these factors result in a book that raises the benchmark for this life writing genre and its associated and multifarious forms and hybridisations, and sub-generic forms.”
Dr Jo Parnell
University of Newcastle, Australia




Life Sciences
Health Sciences
Physical Sciences
Social SciencesSeries

Subscribe to our newsletter:

Picture of Recovering History through Fact and Fiction

Recovering History through Fact and Fiction

Forgotten Lives

Editor(s):Dallas John Baker, Donna Lee Brien, Nike Sulway
Contributors:Catherine Padmore, Bernadette Meenach, Alison Bedford, Libby Connors, Donna Lee Brien, Laurie Johnson, More…

Book Description

This edited collection brings together research that focuses on historic figures who have been largely neglected by history or forgotten over time. The question of how to recover, reclaim or retell the histories and stories of those obscured by the passage of time is one of growing public and scholarly interest. The volume includes chapters on a diverse array of topics, including semi-biographical fiction, digital and visual biographies, autobiographies, and memoirs, among others. Apart from the largely forgotten, the book provides fresh perspectives on historical figures whose biographies are distorted by their fame or limited by public perception. The subjects explored here include, among others, a child author, a Finnish grandmother, a cold war émigré, an Elizabethan era playwright, a castaway, a celebrated female artist, and the lauded personalities Mary Shelley, Judy Garland and J.R.R. Tolkien. Altogether, the chapters included in this collection offer a much-needed snapshot of new research on biography and its many variations and hybrids which will be of interest to academics and students of biography and life writing in general.


Date of Publication:01/12/2017
Pages / Size:200 / A5


Dr Dallas John Baker is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Arts and Communication at the University of Southern Queensland, Australia. Under the nom de plume D.J. McPhee he has published three young adult fantasy novels: Waycaller (2016), Keysong (2016) and Oracle (2017). He has served as Editor of Special Issues of TEXT: Journal of Writing and Writing Courses, and his current research interests are memoir and memory, scriptwriting, and publishing.

Professor Donna Lee Brien, PhD, is Professor of Creative Industries at Central Queensland University, Australia. Her publications include John Power 1881-1943 (1991) and the Girl’s Guide self-help series. Past President of the Australasian Association of Writing Programs, she is co-founding convenor of the Australasian Food Studies Network and Commissioning Editor of Special Issues for TEXT: Journal of Writing and Writing Courses. In 2015, she co-edited New Directions in 21st Century Gothic: The Gothic Compass with Lorna Piatti-Farnell, and she is currently co-editing Offshoot: Contemporary Life Writing Methodologies and Practice in Australasia with Quinn Eades.

Dr Nike Sulway is the author of several novels, including Rupetta, which—in 2014—was the first work by an Australian writer to win the James Tiptree, Jr Award. Her previous publications include the novels The Bone Flute, The True Green of Hope, and What the Sky Knows, and her works have won or been shortlisted for a range of national and international awards, including the QLD Premier’s Literary Award, the Commonwealth Writers Award, the Children’s Book Council of Australia’s Book of the Year Awards, the IAFA Crawford Award, and the Norma K Hemming Award.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Old Friends and New

While we were in Thailand Bob and I made many new friends. We first met one of our new friends,  “Mr. A.”, a truly genuine young man who  drives his own taxi for a living, purely by chance. We were out walking one day, passed him on the beach, said g’day, and got talking. In the course of conversation we mentioned that we were staying at the Manathai in Surin Beach. “Mr. A.” gave a surprised laugh, and told us that Dome, a manager  at our hotel and another of our new friends, happened to also be his best friend.

For a good part of our stay in Surin Beach  “Mr A.” was our constant companion. He’d drive up in his taxi straight after breakfast and take us exploring for the day. He introduced us to his friends, told the locals to look after us, and was never short of suggestions about marvellous places to visit. Some of the places he took us to were known to tourists. Other places were off the beaten track and known only to the Thais: mostly, these were “nature” places, the forest hideaways, the rivers and creeks and swimming holes and waterfalls, and the forest walks and clearings that the local Thais took their own families to for picnics and swimming on Sundays and holidays.

With “Mr. A.”, we poked around, talked to the people, discovered beautiful and fascinating places that are virtually unknown to tourists, and learnt a great deal about the Thai culture, the people, the local history, and the traditions and customs.

One of the beautiful spots that “Mr. A.” took us to was  a natural sea-channel that is almost hidden from view.  During bad storms, super tides, and tsunamis, the Thais use this natural channel as a safe haven for their long-tail fishing boats.  Running alongside this sea-channel is a narrow, stone-walled road that opens out to end on the beach. If I understood our history lesson correctly, the local Thais built this walled road by hand.




We explored tiny secret bays and beaches.



In the forest, we saw a great many coconut palms and a lot of different  kinds of edible fruit bearing trees. Some of the trees, such as the mango trees for instance, we already knew, and others, such as the durian, we recognised instantly even though we had never seen one in our lives before.  The durian has quite a distinctive smell. No-one could possibly mistake a durian tree for anything other than a durian tree–the stink of its fruit hangs in the air and instantly lays you flat. In the forest, many of these fruit  trees grow wild, and many more are planted there by the local farmers. In the forest, we climbed steep, rocky, mountain paths, marvelled at  huge edible fungi that are a highly prized delicacy in Thai cuisine, and learnt to identify the various gingers and other edible plants.


Below, left: An act of nature; the dead canes of the giant bamboo fall to the ground and become pipes that channel ground water down the hillside. 

Then there are the waterfalls and the hidden creeks and the leafy, tropical glens.



On another day, we drove along rural back roads beside rubber-tree plantations,


met some of the local farmers,

looked at great stretches of swampy land where water-buffalo once wallowed, and were shocked to see how it is now being cleared ready for future building developments–luxury villas, apartment blocks, and hotels–

and drove through country villages

before finally stumbling upon the inevitable and coming back to the reality of globalisation and commercial-wrappers on heart-attack hamburger buns …

Another of the places  we explored with “Mr. A.” was Old Phuket Town. He took us through the old French Quarter and the old Chinese Quarter and the other quarters and sections, told us the history of the town and its quarters, then dropped us off to walk down an old, old street made famous by the traditional silk merchants.  In this street, nothing much has changed for centuries. The modern-day silk-merchants  still conduct the same businesses their forebears had established long before. Silk-businesses were passed down through the families from generation to generation. At the bottom of this old street we rejoined “Mr. A.” and his taxi, and the three of us went looking for somewhere fairly reasonable to have lunch.

We drove around looking, found a restaurant, and while we were waiting for “Mr. A.” to find a parking spot for his taxi and join us, Bob and I  walked around a corner and bumped into Ronald–a familiar and somewhat vivid character whom we had already met in Australia.  It is widely known that Ronald is an American, and a globe-trotter. Or perhaps I should say he has clones all over  the world in places one would least expect. He has even set up a camp at the base of the great pyramids in Egypt, so I’ve been told.  In any case, Ronald is also a bit of a clown by nature and he couldn’t stop grinning when we met him in Old Phuket Town. In fact, he seemed so delighted to see us that Bob decided to brave the fierce, hot, dust-laden wind that threatened to blow us away, and renew the acquaintance by getting up close and personal.



Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Following Up…

Well, following on from my post of last week, it seems that in America the presidential election race is now done and all over bar the shouting, and it seems to me from what I’ve heard on radio and television here on the north coast of Eastern Australia that there is a whole lot of shouting going on. But for all this, I suppose that what it comes down to in the end, is, the people of the USA as well as world trade, world economics, and every other thing these presidential matters affect, now have to be prepared for change.  The powers that be are trying to bring about a smooth transition from the outgoing Obama administration to the incoming Trump administration, and who knows, the transition may well be smooth.  But whichever way you look at it, what the general outcome of the new US Presidency will be remains to be seen as time goes by and the scene unfolds, and history is writ.  As I see it, with what is going on at the present time with the various countries all over the globe, world history is at one of those stand-still,  melting pot points where the whole world is in a shake-up process of redefining itself.  Scary!!! I wonder where the world will be at, in, say, 50  years down the track from now?

In my last post I also noted that according to the Worldometers on the net, as of January 2016 the population of the United States of America (USA) was estimated to be 323 025 335 people, and the population of Australia was estimated to be 24 168 303 people. In regards to where the population figures will be in Australia and America respectively in, say, 50  years from now is a little beyond my maths, but I imagine that  if the population figures in both countries keep climbing the way they have been over the last few years, and the area measurement  in both countries is exactly the same it is deemed to be now, the peoples living then might all be in terrible trouble.

Australia’s Size Compared – Geoscience Australia http://www.ga.gov.au/…/dimensions/australias-size-compared

Australia’s Size Compared. … Calculations on Australia’s area are based on the coastline data as explained in Geoscience Australia’s GEODATA Coast 100K 2004 …

Australia is the planet’s sixth largest country after Russia, Canada, China, the USA, and Brazil. At 7 692 024 km2, it accounts for just five percent of the world’s land area of 149 450 000 km2, and although it is the smallest continental land mass, it is the world’s largest island.

Australia /United States of America overlay comparisons


Calculations on Australia’s area are based on the coastline data as explained in Geoscience Australia’s GEODATA Coast 100K 2004 page. The coastline data is nationally uniform, is sourced primarily from the 1:100 000 scale National Topographic Map Series and is the most authoritative data source currently available to calculate the area of Australia.

United States (Contiguous 48) vs. Australia: Compare Area … https://www.comparea.org

Australia is 1.2% larger than United States (Contiguous 48).



Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

So the Race is On

Well, seems that the US of A Presidential election, the day that has been in the news for so long, is finally here, and as we all know it’s Hilary Clinton v Donald Trump. It also seems to me that at this current time the eyes of the world are on the US election  situation, and holding its collective breath as it awaits the outcome–Clinton or Trump? Trump or Clinton?

Heard the renowned political commenter Laurie Oakes on the television news last night. He more or less implied that the outcome of this race is anybody’s guess, and he said: “My guess is Hilary  Clinton. But I fear Donald Trump.” Personally, I do not dare to put a bet on one or the other for fear I’d lose my money.  But from what I’ve heard they are taking bets on the potential outcome in America.  There are only two possible outcomes–Clinton, or Trump–and whichever way you look at it, or try to predict what either of these hopefuls would be like as the US President, would still only be a bit of a guess–maybe a fairly educated one in some instances, but a guess nevertheless.

Without a doubt America does indeed play a big part in the world; in one way or another, it has a very strong pull on so very many other countries in the world, and it is also seen as the leader of the western world. Speaking as an ordinary Australian citizen who has been reared on a political system that uses mandatory voting (a system which, in the best interests of the general population, gives everyone a voice, and allows the people to cast a vote for the government of their choice), I see the American political system as being a bit of a mad, unnecessarily prolonged process.  One of the things that seems to me to be totally whacky with the American system  is, that, for an election event that appears to be so important to world trade economy (and hence to America) and world politics (and again, hence to America), voting is not mandatory in the United States of America. How can it possibly be in the best interests of the general population of America if voting is not mandatory? Not everyone would get a voice, and the outcome of any presidential election would therefore be based on only the voices of the relatively few citizens who do cast a vote. In a country that prides itself as being the home of democracy, is that democracy?

It has also been reported by the Australian media in today’s news, that in numerous places throughout America there are various problems with some of the electoral polling stations. In many instances, the queues of people waiting to cast their ballot are so long that voters stand in line for hours. Would it be any wonder if some people, the old or infirm, say,  just gave up and didn’t vote at all? Given that the queues are so very lengthy, the other danger is that the polling booths may close before some people get a chance to cast their vote. How democratic is that?

America boasts a simply huge population  of roughly about 324 million people. So, given that the Trump v Clinton business seems to have raised so very many hackles between the for and against on both the Republican side and the Democrat side, and given that the suitability of the two presidential hopefuls has been so hotly debated elsewhere, and given that it has been said that a great many Americans went to the polls early and pre-voted, I was rather surprised when I heard on the 8 a.m. radio news this morning that only a very small number of Americans who are eligible to vote had actually cast their votes so far.

According to the information given by wikipedia (a site which we academics know never to cite or otherwise admit to viewing since it is unsupported and therefore untrustworthy, but which most of us do nevertheless look at on occasion),  the United States of America is:

a country of 50 states plus a federal district, five major self-governing territories, and various possessions. The 48 contiguous states and federal district are in central North America between Canada and Mexico, with the state of Alaska in the north-western part of North America and the state of Hawaii comprising an archipelago in the mid-Pacific. The territories are scattered about the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. At 3.8 million square miles and with over 324 million people, the United States is the world’s third-largest country by total area and the third-most populous. It is one of the world’s most ethnically diverse and multicultural nations, the product of large-scale immigration from many other countries…. [1]

On the net, I came across the  Worldometer, which gives the following information on the population number for the United States of America:

As of 1 January 2016, the population of United States of America (USA) was estimated to be 323 025 335 people. This is an increase of 0.75 % (2 414 202 people) compared to population of 320 611 133 the year before. In 2015 the natural increase was positive, as the number of births exceeded the number of deaths by 1 397 865. Due to external migration, the population increased by 1 016 337. The sex ratio of the total population was 0.975 (975 males per 1 000 females) which is lower than global sex ratio. The global sex ratio in the world was approximately 1 016 males to 1 000 females as of 2015. See also map of the world by sex ratio of total population.

Below are the key figures for United States of America (USA) population in 2015:

  • 4 039 700 live births
  • 2 641 836 deaths
  • Natural increase: 1 397 865 people
  • Net migration: 1 016 337 people
  • 159 469 031 males as of 31 December 2015
  • 163 556 304 females as of 31 December 2015

During 2016 United States of America (USA) population is projected to increased by 2 432 381 people and reach 325 457 716 in the beginning of 2017. The natural increase is expected to be positive, as [projection studies indicate that] the number of births will exceed the number of deaths by 1 408 390. If external migration will remain on the previous year level, the population will be increased by 1 023 990 due to the migration reasons. It means that the number of people who move into United States of America (USA) (to which they are not native) in order to settle there as permanent residents (immigrants) will prevail over the number of people who leave the country to settle permanently in another country (emigrants).

Population dynamics in 2016: According to our estimations, daily change rates of United States of America (USA) population in 2016 will be the following:

  • 11 151 live births average per day (464.63 in a hour)
  • 7 292 deaths average per day (303.85 in a hour)
  • 2 805 immigrants average per day (116.89 in a hour)

The population of United States of America (USA) will be increased by 6 664 persons daily in 2016. [2]

Being an Australian who lives in Australia (a country which many older Australians and some others fear is edging towards becoming a little too overcrowded), I thought it might be rather interesting to  compare the statistics given for America to those given for Australia. So I had a another look on the web, and found some information gathered by the Australian Government 2016 Census. I also had a look at the Population Clock from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, a project based on the estimated resident population in Australia at 31 March, 2016 [3]:

As of January 2016, the population of Australia was estimated to be 24 168 303 people. This is an increase of 1.57% (372 640 people) compared to a population of 23 795 663 the year before [2015].  In 2015 the natural increase was positive, as the number of births exceeded the number of deaths by 161 573. Due to external migration, the population increased by 211 068.

Below are the key figures for Australia population in 2015:

  • 321 003 live births
  • 159 431 deaths
  • Natural increase: 161 573 people
  • Net migration: 211 068 people
  • 12 045 541 males as of 31 December 2015
  • 12 122 762 females as of 31 December 2015

During 2016 Australia population is projected to increased by 378 476 people and reach 24 546 779 in the beginning of 2017. The natural increase is expected to be positive, as the number of births will exceed the number of deaths by 164 103. If external migration will remain on the previous year level, the population will be increased by 214 373 due to the migration reasons. It means that the number of people who move into Australia (to which they are not native) in order to settle there as permanent residents (immigrants) will prevail over the number of people who leave the country to settle permanently in another country (emigrants).

Population dynamics in 2016: According to our estimations, daily change rates of Australia population in 2016 will be the following:

  • 893 live births average per day (37.22 in a hour)
  • 444 deaths average per day (18.48 in a hour)
  • 587 immigrants average per day (24.47 in a hour)

The population of Australia will be increased by 1 037 persons daily in 2016.

Population clock: On 9 November 2016 at 09:19:48 AM (Canberra time), the resident population of Australia is projected to be 24,266,812.  This projection is based on the estimated resident population at 31 March 2016 and assumes growth since then of:

  • one birth every 1 minute and 44 seconds,
  • one death every 3 minutes and 20 seconds,
  • a net gain of one international migration every 2 minutes and 32 seconds, leading to
  • an overall total population increase of one person every 1 minute and 29 seconds.

These assumptions are consistent with figures released in Australian Demographic Statistics, March Quarter 2016 (cat. no. 3101.0).  [3]

In comparing the population of America to other countries in the world I also had a look at the world population graph on the Worldometer <http://www.worldometers.info/world-population/>  [4]. I found an interactive graph that was extremely interesting and also more than a little frightening. I will not go further into this now, but leave it to those who may be interested to have a look at the website themselves.


Works cited: 

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States

[2] U. S. Population (2016) – Worldometers  http://www.worldometers.info/world-population/us-population 

The current population of the United States of America is … Population of the United States (2016 and … 2016) chart plots the total population count as of …


[3] Population clock – Australian Bureau of Statistics <www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/94713ad445ff1425ca25682000192af2…>  <http://www.abs.gov.au/websitedbs/d3310114.nsf/home/population%20pyramid%20preview&gt; <40.nsf/94713ad445ff1425ca25682000192af2/1647509ef7e25faaca2568a900154b63>

[4]  World Population Clock: 7.5 Billion People (2016 http://www.worldometers.info/world-population Video embedded · World population live counter with data sheets, … Urban Population; 2016: 7,432,663,275: 1.13 %: 83,191,176: 29.9: 2.5: 57: … in the United States … <http://www.worldometers.info/world-population/&gt;


Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Creatures Big and Small

On our travels through Thailand, it struck me that there were a great many dogs on the roam. They just hang around, sitting and dozing and watching life go by,  or curl up and go to sleep wherever, and no one takes any notice of them. Other than for one cheeky four-legged chap who was sitting on the veranda of his house which was built out into one of the many water-canals, I didn’t hear any of these dogs bark at anyone, and none chased cars or bikes as some dogs are wont to do out here in Australia. Rather the Thai dogs (I can only vouch for the ones we met,) either ignore you, or quietly watch you, or come up to say a friendly, quiet “hello,” in passing. I thought they were strays, but was later told that these dogs are people’s pets, and have been raised to know nothing but care and love. As far as I could see, no one hurts them, and, in turn, they hurt no one. These pet dogs don’t even seem to fight each other. Maybe the heat is too draining for them to spend their energy in fighting.  Whatever,  I think that this is rather lovely–for an animal to feel so safe and secure–but I am not so naïve as to think that Thailand, or for that matter any place on earth, is the absolute dog heaven tale. There is always more than one side to any story, and there are always things the eye doesn’t see or doesn’t want to see.

While we were in Thailand we visited a number of Buddhist temples; some were inhabited by monks, others were not, and some never had been. In one temple precinct that did have a full quota of resident Buddhist monks,  we saw several well-fed, well-cared for dogs, and a cat. All these animals were calm and good-natured. Regardless of the milling throngs–nationals, visitors, and worshippers–at the temple, these animals calmly went about doing their own thing, sleeping, playing, walking around as if they owned the place.  I asked our guide if these animals were strays that had wandered into the temple grounds and was told “No,” not strays, but temple animals. They live in the temple precinct, and are well-cared for and well-fed by the monks who live there.

Thailand is also home to many different species of python and snake; most of the latter are deadly poisonous, but mostly these creatures keep to the forests. Even though Bob and I did walk in the forests on a few occasions, we didn’t come across any pythons or snakes, and I for one wouldn’t have stayed around to ask questions or wonder at them if we had. But we did see some pythons and snakes in captivity, and we saw many of these creatures in the various markets.

I stupidly asked one of our guides if these animals were for sale. Our guide was horrified at my question, and said in a shocked voice,  “For sale? !!! You don’t sell pets!!! No one sell their pets.” And he said a little more that sounded like, “You not get pet through Customs.” Even though the last thing I wanted to do was buy one and take it home, I got the picture. These reptiles in the markets are not for sale. They are people’s pets. The owner stands there with her or his pet, and offers passers-by the chance to pay around 250 baht (approximately $9–10 AUD) to have a photo taken with their animal. It was not for me, not even if the thing’s owner had offered to pay me hundreds or thousands in any currency whatsoever–I hate and fear snakes of any sort. But I find other animals, what I call real animals, like the tiny creature in the photos below, very very cute.


Some pets are just pets for the amusement or joy of the family, and are not put to work as such. I would have liked to have asked this monkey’s owners if they ever let the little person  off his chain, but they didn’t speak a lot of English and I can’t really speak Thai.

We also saw other endangered animals like Siamese tigers and Thai elephants in breeding and protection and rehabilitation programmes.  Neither Bob nor I can believe that we actually did what we said we’d never do–go into a tiger enclosure and play with the tiger, and on the same day, visit an elephant refuge, and ride an elephant into the jungle. For some reason, we didn’t find these experiences at all scary.  But we are agreed that after having been up close and personal to a couple of tigers on that one occasion (even laid up alongside them and held them by their tails), we will never repeat the experience for as long as we both shall live. We’ve been there and done that. N.B. Tigers have front feet that are bigger than our heads–one swipe and … voila!!


We are also agreed that we will not go riding elephants again, either. Elephants are too big, too heavy if they fall over with you, and they are too lumbering and too rough to ride. Taking a ride on an elephant is very bumpy, very uncomfortable, very bruising, and the little wooden seat structure you have to sit in, is very insecure.  Moreover, it is my belief that an elephant could send you a long way away in a hurry if it suddenly decided it didn’t want you sitting on its back.  All the elephant would have to do is reach up with its long trunk, grab you around the waist, and fling: Hasta la vista baby!   

We had booked a half-hour ride on the elephant.  At the time of booking, it seemed like a fairly romantic thing to do, straight out of an old-fashioned Boy’s Own book. Despite the wonders of the forest–the beautiful and rare butterflies, the unusual tropical plants and trees, the rubber trees, and the edible exotic fruits growing wild–half an hour on that elephant was way too long. We wanted to get off and I  begged the mahout to turn his friend  around and head back to where we  could alight.  The mahout said, “One minute missy, just a little further, just a little longer,” and kept going. I didn’t like the seat, I think it is dangerous, and I also think that it’s unnatural for an elephant to have this unwieldy contraption strapped to its back. With Bob’s and my combined weights in that seat it  must have hurt the poor elephant.


Mahouts carry an elephant stick. This stick has  a long, curved steel hook that tapers into a point, and is used to control the elephant. The mahout jabs the point of his elephant stick into his elephant, to make the animal behave as he would have it do. It was explained to me that elephants are super intelligent and strong-willed creatures; that they can be very, very wilful, and are just like naughty children; that any “tame” elephant needs to be very firmly controlled by its mahout, by means of the mahout’s elephant hook; that an elephant who is not fully controlled can be very dangerous and do an enormous amount of damage, even kill whoever happens to be around at the time. I do understand. I do see the sense. Yet there is another part of my mind that can’t come to terms with this method of control. I think it rather cruel. I also see it as a form of betrayal. Elephants clearly adore their mahouts, and an elephant will only obey his or her own mahout, and the mahouts clearly love their elephants in return, yet, despite this, mahouts make good use of their elephant sticks on their poor deluded elephant charges, and often draw blood. Is this elephantine respect, do elephant’s have masochistic tendencies? Or it is something else again…


The chooks in Thailand are very pretty, colourful creatures, and look not unlike those in Vietnam. They, and their chickens,  all run around, quite free to wander, and are given right of way by humans, their owners as well as strangers.


While we were in Phuket, Bob and I, together with our friend Mr. “A”,  also paid a visit to a gibbon rehabilitation centre, the sanctuary in the forest next to the beautiful Bang Pae waterfall which is much favoured by the Thai locals as a weekend swimming and picnic spot. Gibbons have become an endangered species in Thailand. Once, there were many gibbons, but their numbers have been depleted by hunters seeking the tiny babies to sell as pets. Not only do the hunters steal the tiny gibbon babies, they also kill off the parents and whole gibbon families to do so.  Sadly, many of the gibbons kept as household pets were chained or tied up and kept in small cages, sometimes starved, and otherwise often badly mistreated.


These poor gibbons in the photos above have been emotionally damaged and physically maimed by their former owners who kept them as pets. The gibbon boy in the photo on the right was chained so tightly he lost his feet, and the gibbon girl in the photo  on the left had one leg and one arm chopped off by her former owner as punishment for biting his daughter who was tormenting it at the time.

From talking to some of the New Zealand volunteers working at the centre, I learnt that these practices and instances of cruelty are, thankfully, fast becoming a thing of the past. The rehabilitation centre in Phuket,  together with other like sanctuaries and  facilities in Thailand, and together with Thai workers, foreign volunteers, and the government of Thailand, are doing an excellent job in re-educating the public to appreciate and protect their environment and the fauna.The rehabilitation centre we visited housed over 60 gibbons that were once kept as pets. Some of these gibbons are surrendered, others have been rescued, and some come in under a type of “buy-back” incentive. More come in everyday; so many in fact that sometimes the centre runs to capacity and overflows, and then these former owners are referred on to other centres. The centre in Phuket is doing the best it can, and the Thai  government gives what funding they can. For all this, though, Thailand is not a wealthy country money-wise. It is rich in other ways, such as, for instance, in its natural resources and in the people themselves, in their genuine happiness, calmness, smiling friendliness, and spiritually, and in the beauty of their country and its forests, fauna and flora.  Like most of these sorts of places all over the globe, despite all the help that it is given the centre is still plagued by a lack of monetary funds. Even so, despite the lack of sufficient funds, the sanctuary is doing its best to rehabilitate these poor gibbons, releasing any of those animals they can, those that are not too  mentally or physically or  emotionally damaged,  back into the wild.




Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

On the Passing of Rama IX

                                 This photo of King Rama IX was borrowed from the net.

Prince Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand was crowned Rama IX on 6 June, 1946. He was conferred with the added title of King Bhumibol the Great in 1987. In total, he reigned for 70 years and 126 days. As Rama IX, Bhumibol Adulyadej was the ninth monarch of Thailand from the Chakri Dynasty, and the world’s longest-serving head of state and the longest-reigning monarch in Thai history. His full given title, often shortened to “Phra Bat Somdet Phra Paraminthra Maha Bhumibol Adulyadej Sayamminthrathirat Borommanatthabophi” or “Phra Bat Somdet Phra Paraminthra Maha Bhumibol Adulyadej”, was Phra Bat Somdet Phra Paraminthra Maha Bhumibol Adulyadej Mahitalathibet Ramathibodi Chakkrinaruebodin Sayamminthrathirat Borommanatthabophit. The meaning of the names used in his title are as follows:

  • Phra — a third-person pronoun referring to the person with much higher status than the speaker, meaning “excellent” in general. The word “Phra” is from Sanskrit vara (“excellent”).
  • Bat — “foot”, from Sanskrit pāda.
  • Somdet — “lord”, from Khmer samdech (“excellency”).
  • Paraminthra — “the great”, from Sanskrit parama (“great”) plus indra (“leader”).
  • Maha — “great”, from Sanskrit maha.
  • Bhumibol — “Strength of the Land”, from Sanskrit bhūmi (“land”) plus bala (“strength”).
  • Adulyadej — “Incomparable power”, from Sanskrit atulya (“incomparable”) plus teja (“power”).
  • Mahitalathibet — “Son of Mahidol”.
  • Ramathibodi — “Rama, the Avatar of God Vishnu to become the great ruler”; from Sanskrit rāma plus adhi (“great”) plus patī (“president”).
  • Chakkrinaruebodin — “Leader of the People who is from the House of Chakri”, from Sanskrit cakrī plus naṛ (“men”) plus patī (“president”).
  • Sayamminthrathirat — “the Great King of Siam”, from Sanskrit Siam (former name of Thailand) plus indra (“leader”) plus adhi (“great”) plus rāja (“king”).
  • Borommanatthabophit — “the Royalty who is the Great Shelter”, from Sanskrit parama (“great”) plus nātha (“the one who others can depend on” or “Power/Right”) plus pavitra (“royalty”).

During his long reign Rama IX guided his country safely through many upheavals, swift social changes, and economic changes of some magnitude, and was otherwise involved in, and oversaw and guided, many social and economic development projects. The nature of the king’s involvement in these various developmental projects varied by political regime: During his reign Rama IX was served by a total of 30 prime ministers in total, beginning with Pridi Banomyong and ending with Prayut Chan-o-cha. On 26 May, 2006, during the 60th anniversary celebrations of the King’s accession to the throne, an anniversary which is also known in Thailand as the Diamond Jubilee, and tied in with the 60th anniversary celebrations, the United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan presented Bhumibol with the United Nations Development Programme’s first Human Development Lifetime Achievement Award.

Everywhere we went in Thailand we saw pictures of King Rama IX and his beloved wife, Queen Sirikit, and pictures of their children.  As well, everywhere we went buildings and streets and various places we saw were bedecked with the King’s and Queen’s own colours–yellow and a pale, bright blue. In the Thai culture colours symbolise various virtues, and also Buddhist beliefs and traditions and symbolism, and also align to the days of the week, and to celebratory days.  In the Thai culture and belief system,  a different colour is assigned to each day of the week: Monday is yellow, Tuesday is pink, Wednesday is green, Thursday is orange, Friday is blue, Saturday is purple and Sunday is red. A person born on a Monday will not only have yellow as his or her birth color, but the serious demean that Thais associate with it – a characteristic that, according to Thai culture, is suitable for a career in medicine, or in the case of Rama IX, a king.  Hence, the King’s colours are those assigned to Monday, the day on which he was born–Monday, 5 December, 1927, in the USA–and likewise the colour blue for his beloved queen who was born in Thailand on Friday, 12 August, 1932.

Regardless of the fact that King Phra Bat Somdet Phra Paraminthra Maha Bhumibol Adulyadej Bhumibol, Rama IX, was protected by Thailand’s traditional  lèse-majesté laws (which allow critics of the king to be jailed), he was truly held in great respect by the Thai people generally. From talking with many Thai people while I was in Thailand, I saw that these peoples, Rama IX’s people, genuinely revered and adored him, and felt deep connections to him.  In his earlier life, Rama IX spent some time serving as a Buddhist monk, and on another separate occasion was a scholar at Oxford University in England where he gained his Masters’ degree. As King, and in himself, Rama IX was a humble, wise, hard-working, deeply thinking, clever, bright, extremely well-educated, and a very talented, artistic, and creative, and deeply spiritual man. He was the Thai peoples own very beloved king, and was very much one of them and one with them. He met with and talked to them in person, he walked amongst them and visited, and always had a ready ear to listen to the individuals he met. The Thai people also met their king on a nightly basis “in person” through television. Every night Thai television channels showed the people their King living his life in as ordinary a way as a reigning monarch can. Every night his peoples watched and listened to him on television as he did the ordinary sorts of things they did–meditating, praying to Buddha, walking in the countryside and enjoying and taking note of nature, fishing, reading, and so on…

Sadly, Rama IX passed away on Thursday, 13 October, this year, 2016. That was two weeks to the day that Bob and I had returned home to Australia from Thailand. In Australia, television and media reports showed that the Thai people are in deep mourning and that public emotion in Thailand is running high.  Mass reaction is a deep, multi-faceted subject and one that is not easily grasped or explained in all its numerous aspects, but the emotional reaction of the masses in Thailand is very understandable, King Rama IX was greatly loved.  Similar scenes were shown by the media in Australia, and I presume throughout the western world, when various of the West’s  loved and admired leaders and royals passed: Public emotion peaked when President Kennedy of America was assassinated, and again, our people were grief-stricken and emotions ran high when our own beloved Princess Diana met an early death  in a motor accident, and I envisage that this will also be the case again when our own beloved Queen Elizabeth 11 eventually passes. In regards to coverage by the media: the media generally would probably argue (and are probably right in a way) that it is their perceived duty to help educate and enlighten their public audiences by reporting on world matters and on what is happening in other countries across the globe and amongst the peoples of the various nations, and, in particular, television media can be inclined to view itself as the eyes of the world and the eyes on the world; yet, I can’t help but think that the western television media can, on one level, also be a tad intrusive at times, especially when it comes to human grief.

Moving on now: When we were in Thailand recently, the king and his queen were both in hospital where, because of being old and frail and in ill-health and in need of special care, they had been living for a while. Everywhere we went, everyone I spoke to genuinely looked up to and revered their king, Rama IX.   The Thais are gently-spoken people in general, at all times: yet I could not help but notice how these people spoke of their king very fondly, with love, and with a marked additional softening in their voices, and demeanour.  I found it rather beautiful to watch, really. In Thailand, I breathed in the air and absorbed the atmosphere and talked deeply with a number of Thais on a personal and individual basis, and somehow gained a level of understanding, and, even though I am not Thai so can never actually know what it is to be Thai, I instinctively gained a sense of knowing. I mentioned this to Bob who said he felt the same. Later, we were talking about this with a close friend who has been to Thailand and who has familial ties there (one of her cousins resides with his Thai wife in Bangkok)–and our friend said that she too, had a similar experience and felt the same as us.

I would say that on one level,  this type of “knowing” possibly stems from sensitivity to atmosphere and from empathy with and respect for others, and from acceptance of others regardless of social and racial and geographical and cultural divides, and from listening deeply to others, to their story, and thoughts and feelings and beliefs, and with reflection but without judgment on the part of the listener. For all our research in modern times, human experience is still a bit of a mystery, and emotional phenomena and feelings are the least understood areas of human experience. But it seems to me that when conversing on deep levels with some other on an individual basis, you instinctively gain some understanding of another, a sense of what it means to be that other, which, in turn, creates within yourself a deeper, richer, understanding of life. As well, it seems to create some emotional tie, a closeness, a deep bond, between yourself and that other. This “meeting of souls” is a highly charged human experience, and an emotional phenomenon, and is therefore, by nature, not one that can be constantly maintained at an intense or peak emotional level, but one which nevertheless forms a lasting connection to whatever degree–either greater or lesser–depending on the people concerned, and which, in like souls, can give birth to a genuine friendship that is not confined by time, or by social, racial, cultural, or geographical divides. As my friend said to me, “It’s wonderful how, when you ‘connect’ with someone, even though you might not see each other for weeks, months, years, the moment you meet back up again, the conversation picks up smoothly as if you only saw each other yesterday.”

Along with many, many thousands of others I too feel with our Thai friends in their sadness. Thailand’s Rama IX was indeed a great king, a good king, and one who is truly mourned and will be sorely missed by his peoples. Rama IX was a rare soul, and he loved his people, and life and nature, and his kingdom.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment