Tuesday, June 08, 2010
I'm still ironing out the kinks over there, but I reckon it looks pretty good. In fact, I toasted the new site with my first glass of alcohol in a week and a half last night with Stuart. Cork popped, blog launched. You'll find me now at
That's right, my domain is eponymous. Cool, eh?
To end this part of the adventure, I'd like to leave you with my recipe for lemon roasted almonds. :-) These are my standard afternoon blood sugar recovery plan.
Lemon Roasted Almonds (aka Zomigod Nuts)
Take a bunch of raw almonds, marinate them in plenty of lemon juice and salt for about half an hour. Pop them into a hot oven (around 220C) for about 10 minutes. Give them a stir, and pop them back in for about another 10. Keep an eye on them so they don't burn, but they're tastiest on the darker side. When they're completely dry, leave them to cool. If you don't eat them all up immediately (if there are family or friends around, this is a real possibility, even for a kilo of nuts), store them once they're cool in a sealed jar.
Wednesday, June 02, 2010
Three years after high school, I found myself on the cliffs of Wales, walking with a lover I met in a hostel in London after dropping out of university while protesting the 1991 Gulf War. I'm vegetarian. We're discussing our life's dreams in that starry-eyed youthful way, and I pronounce my intention to own a property in Colorado someday, near enough to Boulder that there will be a like-minded community of hippies and dreamers, but far enough out to buy a farm big enough to do some serious growing. My lover says, 'no way. I totally can't picture you on a farm.' (He also shortly thereafter informed me he had recently left the Australian Army Reserves. It is one of the true mysteries of this story that we are still together 19 years later...)
Some six years later, my lover/husband and I visited Daylesford for the first time. As always when we spend time in the country, we were enchanted and immediately commence dplans to move there. We signed the Convent Gallery's guestbook with, 'we'll be back... to live next time.'
Since we met, Stuart and I have spent a total of two years actually living in the country, one in a small town in Oregon, where for most of the year we lived in a gorgeous little log cabin under a magnificent cherry tree, the other on a remote property in far east Gippsland, Victoria, which is an environmental education campus for Year 9 girls. The latter year was a pastoral dream, a poetic success, and professionally challenging. We swore again that we would live in the country on our own property one day...
But in all these pastoral dreams, I never really entertained the notion of actually being a farmer, in the sense of a producer for a market to make a living. Mine has always been a hippie's halcyon daydream of self-sufficiency. Which, unsurprisingly, is probably why we haven't yet made it happen. Exactly how do we earn a living on our own little unplugged piece of the planet? Even around Daylesford, there's not a lot of work for an academic and a business development manager in building automation technologies.
But everything changed when we heard Joel Salatin of Polyface Farms last weekend. In case you haven't heard of Joel, he describes himself as an environmentalist, capitalist, lunatic farmer. He is one of the most intelligent, charismatic speakers to whom I have had the pleasure to listen, and he did a great job of busting my every stereotype of 'dumb farmers'. He even has a philosophy about that...
We went to the Lakehouse to hear Joel talk about building a local food system, and how to scale up 'without losing your soul'. I was interested in the way I always am – how can we feed the world through smaller, more local production where farmers are embedded in communities? You know, the usual, 'how do we save the world' sort of questions that are my trademark. I came away convinced that the best way for Stuart and I to help save the world was not simply by 'living the changes we wish to see in the world' but by flogging them and making a living from them as well. Yes, I'm convinced that we can and should be primary producers. I give us about five years to get through a start-up period. How did Joel convert me?
Here are the highlights of Joel's double-feature seminar, in note form with minimal editorialising.
First of all, a local food system has six components:
- local farms will be 'aesthetically and aromatically, sensually romantic'. Large scale commodity 'farms' are so opaque they allow unsustainable practices. Local producers are embedded in communities. The industrial economy has created 'commercial apartheid' – it is 'opaque, confused and inefficient... with a semblance of efficiency only enabled by cheap energy'. Stop subsidising the petrochemical industry and cheap, industrial food will have to increase in price.
- (Sadface fact of the day: in California, organic growers are now required to sign an affadavit to keep under-5-year-olds off their farm because they might wear nappies, which might contaminate the produce. See my rant on agro-industry for my thoughts on this sadness.)
- Local producers look after the 'ecological umbilical' with practices such as pasture-based livestock, stacking and symbiosis.
- Farms should be solar driven (not petrochemical). Fertiliser is in-sourced.
- Farmers should be 'Jeffersonian intellectual agrarians'. :-) In order for 'city folk' to take farmers seriously, they need to professionalise and outwardly express their intelligence.
- Traditional family farmers are not good at creating a successionally successful business – they must learn to collaborate and take on more young workers outside the family where necessary.
- With our loss of local canneries, butchers, bakeries, etc, we must reclaim spaces for community food processing, such as church halls.
- Government regulations are not scalable for small operations. At some point, we should be able to take individual responsibility for our food choices (eg raw milk).
- Most farmers are not very good accountants. You need to be able to understand which of your products are being subsidised by others and do something about it if you want to be profitable.
- No matter how good your produce is, people need to know it exists. A great way for small farms to market more easily is to collaborate with other small producers nearby.
- Distribution can be the great bottleneck for small, local producers, who end up selling everything to supermarkets via the big distributors. Again, collaboration with other local growers can solve this problem.
- Every product needs a consumer, & a small, local farmer's patrons are likely to be people who appreciate seasonality, who are excited about rediscovering their kitchens, and who know that processed food is expensive.
In the second seminar on scaling up, Joel went into more detail about Polyface Farm. Here's what we learned...
- Polyface sales are approximately 25% on-farm, 35% restaurant and boutique supermarket, and 45% 'box drop' internet sales.
- They separate the delivery fee from the farmer's cost so consumers can see how much goes to the farmer – as Joel said, he's a farmer, not a transporter.
- His boundary is deliveries within 4 hours of Polyface.
- The box drop system works much better than farmers' market attendance – there's no speculation about what stock to take, they deliver to a central point at agreed time and customers collect their boxes, which they were able to choose from entire inventory. (The internet, once conceived as a tool of globalisation, has emerged as an excellent tool for localisation.)
- Polyface employs interns and apprentices, provides housing and board and very small stipends.
- Never have a sales target.
- No trademarks or patents. 'Hold your innovations lightly.'
- Identify your market boundaries. (Then you can just tell those outside them to seek other fabulous local growers, thus supporting the movement & reducing your own stress.)
- Incentivised workforce (bonuses and commissions). [apologies to those who hate 'incentivise', which isn't a word, I know. Am quoting.]
- No Initial Public Offering (IPO). That way you will never be beholden to shareholders, whose primary aim is merely to make a profit themselves.
- No advertising – it's all word of mouth.
- Stay in the ecological carrying capacity (the ecology of the farm should be able to metabolise its own waste).
- People answer the phone.
- Respect the pigness of the pig.
- Quality always has to go up. (If you can't increase quality when increasing volume, then don't increase your volume.)
Two other quick, interesting, important points:
And I quote,
“GMO is evil.”Patenting seeds and suing small growers, including traditional native American communities, when patented DNA is found in their seed stock is EVIL. Indeed.
Organic certification is insufficient as it is a pass/fail system. Those who would get a D- are alongside those who would earn an A+ - it's a perverse incentive to work to the lowest common denominator. For example, one farm might produce all of its own organic compost – all of its outputs become inputs for the farm – no organic waste leaves the property. Another might bring in organic fish emulsion from the east coast, which has been sourced as a byproduct of Japanese driftnets and has a carbon footprint bigger than importing petrochemical fertilisers from Australia (this is to the US, of course).
According to Joel, if you ask whether something is organic, and the producer or seller says, 'yes', the conversation is over and you buy it. There are many things that might be environmentally or ethically suspect about the produce, but they are masked by the organic certification. When he's asked why he doesn't certify, there is a conversation, everybody learns more, and the word is spread further. :-)
As I listened to Joel, it increasingly dawned on me that many arguments against running a small farm were being systematically debunked. He is a passionate advocate for farming in a way that is socially, environmentally and fiscally sustainable. He speaks my language. He writes fascinating books detailing what we only heard a few hours of. And he's on the lecture circuit proselytising about all of it. Zomigod, I can do that.
Wednesday, May 05, 2010
Others have already blogged on the issues around whether she should have been sacked for her tweets and questioned why more socially destructive and offensive columnists like Andrew Bolt haven't been fired yet. The most compelling piece I've seen came from Jason Wilson over on New Matilda, who asks why she was hired in the first place. And surely those of us who dislike Deveny's work would agree that she's hardly the worst offender. The other trollumnists should be reined in as well, in the interest of a more civil society.
And so I have an idea.
In my meeting yesterday with Graeme Innes, Race Discrimination Commissioner and Disability Discrimination Commissioner for the Australian Human Rights Commission, we talked through the complaints process available to all Australians if they think something published is discriminatory on the basis of race, sex, age or disability.
For example, if you read one of Bolt's columns (and I don't recommend it, though to get this campaign going many of us might need to) and find it offensive, you can lodge a complaint with the AHRC. Even if you believe an 'anonymous' comment is racist, sexist, etc, you can make a complaint and the publisher is responsible for defending or denying.
You can then tweet what you find offensive and suggest others might complain if they too find the material offensive. So rather than all of us simply tweeting our outrage, we can take action.
The AHRC (or you could use your state Commission, such as the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission) is required to investigate every complaint. Clearly, the system will look after itself – spurious complaints should not end up sacking somebody who is undeserving.
The important thing is that the AHRC and state commissions cannot act on racist comments in a column or the comments without an official complaint.
So it's time to speak up!
Logically, if trollumnists start attracting as many complaints as they do rabid comments of agreement, they becomes liabilities for their employers, as Deveny did for hers it seems.
The trolls have had their day. It's time we take away their oxygen.
Monday, April 26, 2010
I was raised in a family with two working parents who outsourced most domestic labour, including quite a lot of what cooking was actually done (very little, in truth). Our 'junk cupboard' (full of Twinkies, Ding Dongs, Chips Ahoy, Ruffles potato chips, etc) was precisely half the size of the 'real food' pantry, which was stocked with tins of vegies, soup and other highly refined items. There was minimal fresh produce in the house beyond bananas and apples. My mum hated to cook, but would occasionally produce a dinner of pork chops cooked to cardboard consistency (to ensure we didn't get salmonella) and mashed potatoes (made from real potatoes). Many dinners were toast or a bowl of Cheerios we made ourselves, though we could sometimes convince Ma to make french toast, waffles or pancakes (from Krusteaz). She also made oatmeal to order as we all chilled out in front of the tv at night.
Stuart, on the other hand, was raised in a family where fresh food was paramount and readily available. Hardly any refined foods sullied their pantry, and his mother was a steady and plentiful cook of quality meat and three veg. Neither of our fathers cooked, though mine would man the barbecue at parties (Stuart's still doesn't like to do so) and mine also taught my mum to whip up a damn fine southern-style fried breakfast (he's from Alabama).
The point is, I certainly wasn't raised with any cooking skills, let alone positive food memories from childhood, except for the beautiful restaurants my folks would take us to during our regular travels. Our housekeeper did teach me a lifelong love of quesadillas, which I have passed on to my own children, though with many added vegies and my own refried beans.
So here we are, late thirtysomethings, both working full time, with three children. I work as well as doing my PhD, and this year my role as President of the Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations (CAPA) sees me interstate on average one night a week. Yet this year is the year I am learning to make sourdough, it is a year we are slaughtering chooks and eating them, a year our garden has proven extremely bounteous (and we rent, by the way), and we manage to put a home cooked meal on the table nearly every night. How do we do that, we're often asked?
I've written plenty on the importance of skills – competence is the friend of efficiency. The other thing I've written about is the pleasure of competence, and the need to take pleasure in the everyday, including 'chores' such as cooking, gardening and tending the chooks. Finally, I've also pointed to the benefits of teamwork and the further efficiency of a larger household to reduce waste, a point supported by last year's report on household waste, which showed that smaller households waste more, though large share houses that are not families still tend to waste more as well. Just briefly then, here's how we do it:
We don't do exhaustion. Our philosophy is that everything is achievable if it's a priority, and cooking when you're tired can actually be a way of relaxing if that's how you see it. For Stuart, this extends to foraging on the way home, doing a bit of harvesting or staking tomato plants, etc, and for me it extends to finely chopping a number of ingredients for a quickly fried Thai basil, chili garlic fish instead of ordering takeaway. This is not to say we never get tired. We do, but perhaps we think of it differently to others, and reasonably expect ourselves to still cook a meal for the family, which may be something as simple as rice and avocado on a really lazy night. (NB We do order takeaway sometimes – perhaps once a month.)
We share the shopping, and make do with what's in the house when necessary. Stuart pops into the Vic Market once or twice a week on his lunch break to pick up mostly fruit or a bit of meat. I stop in at the butcher, Italian grocer, organic grocer or fruit shop in our local shopping street after dropping kids at school on a day when I work at home, or on the way home from working in the city. When we're really low on fresh food and too busy to go get some, we raid our freezer, which is always full of stock, homemade pasties and sausage rolls, and frozen meat for 'emergencies'. Plus we keep a lot of beans, both dried and tinned, for quick and simple meals. Having chooks means we always have eggs on hand, and my breadmaking obsession keeps us in bread!
Although I'm the primary and more passionate daily cook, we share the cooking as well. Like I said, if we're very busy, sometimes the meals are incredibly simple: rice and avocado, pasta with a jar of passata from last summer's harvest, lamb chops with roast potato and a simple salad, or Stuart's stir fry, much beloved by the children. When there's time to do something more, we do. I love nothing more than having time to get into the kitchen by 5pm so I can serve something delectable between 6:00 and 7pm. Sometimes I'm overly ambitious and dinner is late – in which case I let the children graze on nuts and fruit to tide them over.
But you even make bread during the week? Yes, and I can do this because I believe in a lackadaisical approach that makes it possible. You can see my post on how I wander through the kitchen, giving a dough a quick knead here and there, before letting it rise overnight to pop into the oven when we get up. This takes me no more time than someone else might spend reading the paper or watching the news (in fact, much less). Much of my bread is fairly flat because I leave it to rise for too long – it's still totally scrumptious! Stuart also regularly brews beer of an evening, and does so quickly and efficiently after more than a decade of practice.
What about all the preserving? Harvesting and processing the masses of plums, tomatoes, pumpkins, olives, apricots, and more is one of the pleasures of our 'down time', though some of it can be rather tedious as well (ie pitting plums!). We do most of this on the weekends, though Stuart, who never rests, will often do some after work as I make dinner (does this cause some tension in the kitchen occasionally? Yes. ;-))
How do you manage to have a social life, take children to lessons and sport, and do any exercise, etc? Okay, a confession: I'm a little allergic to exercise. When I commute to the city I try to ride my bike (8km), so I get exercise that way sometimes, but admittedly not enough. Stuart rides every day, rain or shine, so does about 20km a day. He also brings crazy amounts of stuff home on his bike, so perhaps he is a little superhuman and not everyone is inclined to do what he does. We socialise plenty, but often by having people over or going to their houses for dinner. Our kids are not heavily scheduled, though Antigone now does gymnastics (shared between 3 families, so only have to drive once/three weeks) and piano (the teacher comes to us). The boys aren't keen to do lessons, and we don't push. We'd rather have more homely time here, cooking, reading and playing, which we think will give them what we regard as more important life skills than many other things we could outsource, though we're not knocking the value of those other things – they're just not priorities for us.
So how can everyone 'find time' to cook more delicious and nutritious foods? First of all, through practice. The ability to use limited time well requires skills. Skills lead to competence, which is pleasurable. It feels great to know you've dashed in with a few ingredients and knocked up a lovely meal for the family, which leads to you wanting to do it again. Rushing in and throwing a frozen or takeaway dinner on the table doesn't feel that great, but you'll probably do it again if you don't know how to cook something better, leading to a dreadful cycle of bad food and related guilt/bad feelings. It's a no-win cycle, but skills are the way out.
An important part of this skill-building is reframing cooking and food shopping as 'fun' and 'relaxing', leading to 'delicious'. It's also great to spend time as a family doing the harvesting and cooking – we think it's 'good parenting' to cook with your kids. :-) Ultimately, the creative process of imagining what's in the garden/fridge/pantry and how you might transform it into a meal to nurture yourself and others is deeply and viscerally joyful, in my experience. 'scuse me while I go knead the bread...
Wednesday, April 07, 2010
A rant, or
F*&king stupid people f*&king up our world not an ounce of sense or personal responsibility wanting to own dogs & cats but not allow productive small animals like chickens stupid pointless people need to f*&k off now turning me into a bloody misanthrope when I really want to like people (that is not the poem).
16 July 2009
It started with 3 chickens
bug & weed-eating
in one suburban
They cost her 7 dollars apiece
and gave her
in their pleasant quarter-acre lives
worth a conservative 1100 dollars
leaving her 1079 dollars to spend
on organic fruit
she wasn't already growing in her own
meant she needed no
& needn't pay for any
fertilisers for the food she was growing
in her own
She called the chickens
John, Deere, and Tractor.
Over the fence lived
a couple with a dog
a bright green lawn
a 4 wheel drive
roses and no food growing
The husband worked
who'd been stung
when their bagged spinach product
left 35 with
acute kidney failure
due to e coli contamination
in their Salinas Valley
So clutching his values
his greed and his fear
he sat in his boardroom
that a scorched earth strategy
was the only way
to ensure that he
and all his successors
could live in good conscience
that they would never again
be held liable
for what was contracted
from once-living products
now wrapped in sterile plastic
if a squirrel ran along the edge of a field
everything within 10 metres
had to be
planted by the organic grower
in the next
And then he went home
and he heard a strange sound
not really unpleasant
in somebody else's
He peered over the fence
and stared in shock/rage
at John, Deer and Tractor.
3 clucking chickens
alive, eating and shitting
in the neighbour's
It didn't take long
to garner the cries
of the neighbourhood association
who contacted the council
who knocked on the door
of the woman with chickens
This will not do
you must be rid of these animals
who have no place in the suburbs
if you want to have livestock
move to a
and a temptation to
And by the way
you must stop dumping your food waste
in that bin up the back
it attracts rats
and foxes and possums
and your grey water system
well it just won't do
it contaminates all of those vegies
here in this outrageously
You must buy food that
we know is safe
you can get it at Coles
where it has been sprayed with
47 chemicals to ensure its
and bagged in clear plastic
so you can see it is safe
though you must wash it at home
just to be sure
it hasn't been tainted somewhere
along the industrial line
by some unhygienic worker
who probably looks and acts
a lot like you and your
Sunday, March 21, 2010
Orenstein's concept of femivores arises from her friends who are raising their own chooks, and from Shannon Hayes' book Radical Homemakers, that is, strong, intelligent women (and men, as it turns out) who are choosing to produce food in their own backyards as a way of nurturing themselves, their families and the planet. Unsurprisingly, there have been a number of negative responses to the idea that it is only women who are involved in the locavore movement, or indeed 'downshifting', 'voluntary simplicity', Slow Food or any other version of 'slower', less consumerist lifestyles.
It seems there are three primary threads then that require unravelling: gender, class, and sustainability. On gender, the most compelling argument for home food production and locavorism as intrinsically tied to feminist practice is that women are still by far the majority of the world's domestic labour force. Before anyone starts yelling 'my husband does most of the cooking' (and to wit, my own partner is a regular and good cook, does most of our laundry, and is a passionate home gardener), I am not suggesting that men don't do these things, but according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, Australian women in fact still do two and a half times more food preparation and cleaning up than men,whether they work outside the home or not.
One of ecofeminism's claims is essentially that the patriarchy got us into this unsustainable capitalist mess, and feminism might just be able to get us out of it. Julia Russell puts it quite plainly in 'The Evolution of an Ecofeminist': 'I call it the politics of life-style and I think it is a distinctly feminine politics in that it is both inner and universal, personal and all-inclusive. It is based on the understanding that lasting societal transformation begins with and rests on transformations of the individual.'
Russell's valorising of individual responsibility perhaps leads us to the heart of claims that there are insurmountable class issues with so-called 'femivorism'. Admittedly, Orenstein's 'femivores' appear to all be white middle-class women. But Lindsay Beyerstein's vituperative response “'Femivores'? Spare me.” is disingenuous sour grapes to the extreme. Beyerstein's argument is tired and reductive. While I don't believe anyone is suggesting that backyard gardens are equivalent to running a commercial farm, they are apparently important enough as to be encouraged by governments in times of war to address food shortages. Gardening can indeed be as simple as a hobby, but it can also be a significant means of saving money, ensuring the quality and freshness of one's food, and reduce one's carbon footprint substantially, and it is certainly hard work sometimes, as well as deeply pleasurable.
Beyerstein even attempts to elide the importance of nourishing one's children if you choose to have them, with her hyperbolic question: 'How about figuring out how to share domestic labor more equitably so that SAHMs have more free time to spend as they see fit, even if their hobbies don't fit the stereotype of maternal perfection?' Sure, domestic labour should be shared more equally, that's a given. And of course mothers should have time to themselves without the constant pressure of the Good Mother mythology. But frankly, one's tennis lessons (mother's or father's) are not in fact more important than feeding one's children. And feeding your children well is at the core of good parenting, not external to it. Taking kids to swimming, tennis, guitar and dance lessons every weekday does not automatically a good parent make. Feeding them healthy food every day so they grow up without chronic illness or obesity is one essential component of good parenting. There, I said it, and now I'll wait for those who would shrug off this essential duty to our children to attack me for not being a good feminist, because apparently feminists eat fast food.
Is it only middle class stay-at-home mums who 'have time' to cultivate a garden and cook wholesome food? Obviously not – families of many classes and cultures engage in gardening and cooking. And in fact, it is often those with the most spare time with partners in the highest income brackets who are least likely to spend their time on food production. By contrast, there are 18 community gardens in Melbourne's public housing estates, with over 650 individual plots tended by residents.
It is obviously not just white middle-class privilege to have a thriving home garden, it's for anyone who cares about their own, their families' (if they have one) and the planet's well being. It is also not just drudgery, and a new way to chain women to the kitchen sink. Our culture's sense of entitlement to a life of convenience and uber-consumerism is neither making us happy nor providing our children with a future. Anecdotally, we talk of the Greek and Italian migrants of the 50s and their backyards full of tomatoes and fruit trees, plus the annual sugo making led by somebody's nonna. For many, these traditions are being lost, whilst for others they are just being discovered.
At a salami making day I attended last winter, a third generation northern Italian claimed that even the 'Skippies' are getting into 'the old ways' now, and someone else quipped, 'people are calling them 'foodies', when all they are is wogs!' The excellent group blog Progressive Dinner Party is awash with women one might call ecofeminists (even if they don't), and the stories you find there make it obvious how much pleasure is gained from growing, cooking and eating their own produce or that sourced from responsible producers. There is unquestionably satisfaction, pride and pleasure in being competent and/or skilled in the garden and/or kitchen.
In my research, I am finding that for those who have the requisite kitchen skills, consciously practising frugality (in terms of purchasing and re-use) is a powerful form of agency, and one that evident across class and culture. One of my interviewees, an Anglo Australian woman in her seventies, is frugal through both habit and necessity, and expresses a great deal of pride at being so. She says it is just 'common sense' not to waste or overspend. A Vietnamese-Australian couple who arrived as political refugees in the 70s echo her arguments for common sense, and further claim to feel 'smart' about their sustainable and homely practices. And their son, born in Australia, also insists that he feels quite proud about his more frugal habits, such as never wasting leftovers, and in fact 'ashamed' when he is wasteful, either in terms of unnecessary consumption or food waste. A key point is that none are expressing resentment at behaving sustainably, rather it gives them enormous satisfaction.
Ultimately, it is not only a feminist issue to engage in homely and sustainable food production, though feminists will have a particular interest in it. The need to provide education and opportunities to develop skills in gardening and cooking is evident in the plethora of issues facing us, from climate change to obesity, and from depression to loss of entire food cultures. And perhaps most importantly, there is an urgent need to understand and promote the intrinsic value and deep pleasures of quotidian 'chores' such as growing and chopping your own garlic.
Thursday, March 11, 2010
Eventually, I learned that #alot means Australian Liberals On Twitter. Oh, right, so we weren't just playing with good spellers... culture jamming a wingnut feed made the hashtag that much more amusing. If you look at the #alot page, you'll quickly see it's full of the sort of people who believe universal health care is a threat to freedom.
And so we continued with our game (many still do). A few weeks ago, a Twitter user who goes by the self-aggrandising (& politically repugnant) handle @MiltonFriedmans (yes, I'm aware the 's' is superfluous, though I gather he isn't), started retweeting me (& @rod3000 & presumably others) & re-hashing it to #KevinPM (I don't even want to know what that page is). First though, he asked me whether there was a reason why we were spamming up their feed. I replied 'yep'. He said he didn't really mind, but could I please change my 'disgusting' avatar (it's my legs in stripey socks, btw). I said, 'lol, nope'. I figured that would be the end of our interactions.
How wrong I was. I can perfectly well understand a person objecting to others spamming a feed that is intended to be on topic (though there's surely a thesis in what that means on the twitters), and to express this objection by doing his own spamming. Unfortunately, however, this belligerent individual chose to spam me directly through @s. There were a few over the last couple weeks which I mostly ignored, but last night he really went on the attack. It appears he has now had the belated wisdom to delete his stream of harassment, but I can see the @s on Tweetie on my iPhone. He @'d me 16 times in under 2 hours last night. What pearls of wisdom and high intellectual debate were these?
There were the personal attacks:
MiltonFriedmans: I'm assuming that between HECS debts, FEE-HELP and AUSTUDY, @Tammois shows leadership in the field of taking taxpayer money. #alot
MiltonFriedmans: @tammois would fit in well with Stalin & Kim Jong-Il! Http://bit.ly/alUkal #alot
MiltonFriedmans: @tammois Only a lefty would assume challanging [sic] one's logic 2B being “cyber bullied”. Most people explain their logic, not ask for help #alot
And then there was the false attribution RT:
MiltonFriedmans: RT@Tammois How can a 19yr old in their 1st degree, often living at home & having never had a career possibly//vote in a Fed election? #alot
If he'd had any wit, perhaps I would have bitten, though I suspect not. I don't find that engaging with wingnuts in 140 characters is productive, nor generally remotely interesting. So instead I blocked him, as his badgering was tedious and badly spelt. This morning I glanced at his page to see whether he had laid off, only to discover he was carrying on still, mostly linking to my blog and ranting about VSU, as you can see.
I actually find this quite annoying still, though I'm choosing to ignore him and his 93 followers (none of whom have joined his attacks, happily, and one who asked him not to RT him in order to support his attacks on us).
I will respond briefly to what I think were actually some marginally interesting taunts about undergrads representing postgrads. First, it's important to ignore the elision of voting with representing – not everybody is always eligible to run for office in pretty much any form of democracy of which I'm aware (eg age requirements, citizenship...). The rules applying to voters are typically different and more open, as they should be.
On the question of representation though, I've already spelled out my thoughts on the importance of separate and independent representation for undergrads, postgrads and internationals. Su made a great point in the comments about mature age undergrads, even though they are the minority, but I would still argue that it isn't only about age (though that is a significant part of the issue of undergrads representing postgrads), it's also about experience with the academic structures of postgraduate degrees, as well as the associated welfare issues specific to doing these degrees (income support, facilities and resources, etc).
So I happily stand by my claim that undergrads should not be representing postgrads. I also stand by my assertion that @MiltonFriedmans was bullying me with his incessant @ing and personal attacks. Culture jamming, in my opinion, which may include tactics such as spamming a hashtag, is not about individual, personal attacks. I guess us lefties can leave that nastiness to the 'Classical Liberals' over on the #alot page, which I've decided not to spam anymore, btw, in order to avoid provoking more bullying.
Friday, March 05, 2010
This brings me to the importance more broadly of democratic representation, especially where there is taxation (yes, that old phrase). Of course I'm referring to the devastating effects of so-called Voluntary Student Unionism (VSU), whereby universities have had to fund student associations, leading to the closure of many of them across the country where uni administrations have failed to be supportive. Too many that are surviving are doing so by amalgamating the postgrad and undergrad bodies, and sometimes also the overseas student associations (OSAs), leading to the bizarre situation where undergrads are the presidents and typically hold the majority of the elected positions with postgrads usually only having one dedicated spot on these councils.
So I made a claim at the Universities Australia conference last week that if there must be amalgamations, there should be a constitutional requirement that the presidents be postgrads. One can imagine the response from undergrads, but even a postgrad campus president asserted that this would be undemocratic and elitist. I argue that it is simply ensuring that representation is done by those best placed to represent their constituents - that is, postgrads by definition all have undergraduate qualifications and so are well able to represent that cohort, but undergrads are clearly not in a position to represent their postgraduate colleagues. How can a 19 or 20 year old in the middle of their first degree, often still living at home and having never had a career possibly represent the average 34-year-old postgrad? How could they represent someone like me - a 39 year old mother of three doing my fourth degree (1 undergrad, 2 postgrad coursework, & now the PhD), having had a couple of careers, including management experience?
Now imagine a postgrad officer on the amalgamated bodies, which in all the examples we've seen in Australia consist almost exclusively of undergraduate members. These undergrads make their factional deals about electing office bearers, as they are party political. The postgrads by and large are issues-focused people who got involved in representation because they've seen, heard and experienced firsthand the many things that can go wrong in the academy. They're put off by the intense party political environment of the council, and can't get much support or resources specific to postgrads, as the undergrads don't see the need for such things (eg dedicated postgrad facilities and advocates, postgrad-specific publications, or indeed, in the case of a number of these amalgamated bodies, paying CAPA's annual fees to ensure national representation for postgrads, though they continue to pay their NUS fees).
Why do postgrads allow ourselves to play subaltern to undergraduate hegemony? I know some out there will attest to the hegemons' relations with the government... and Imma let you finish. I don't know of any student association that would allow men to serve as women's officers, nor local students as international officers. It's time we insisted that undergrads stop serving as peak representatives on bodies responsible for postgrads. And although postgrads could represent the undergrads, quite honestly, most of us don't want to. We believe that those currently undertaking undergrad degrees are best placed to represent themselves, and we ask for the same recognition in return.
In these times of severe resource scarcity due to the disastrous VSU legislation and the Opposition's continued stonewalling on the Student Services and Amenities Bill, we're going to have to speak up for our right to independent representation, advocacy and support. Postgraduate students, both coursework and research, are already important, active members of Australian society, and they've returned to study to increase their value in the knowledge economy. They make the difficult choice to live with financial stress and insecurity through additional study in hopes of a return on that investment later, and for some, simply because engagement with learning and critical thinking is a lifelong passion. As a society, we need to collectively value the contributions made by students during and after their period of study, and one of the many ways we can do this is by insisting on independent representation.
Who's going to help me get this #RIOT going?
Sunday, February 28, 2010
But let me caveat last night's loaves - they were indeed sour, with an excellent crusty yet chewy crust and a good crumb, but not as chewy as I think a ciabatta should be. It was really good bread, but still doesn't fit my imaginary endpoint for this year.
Some detail then. For these ciabatta, I did a series of short kneads of a fairly wet dough, though not so sticky I couldn't handle it, with ever-increasing proving times. So maybe 10 second kneads three times with about 10 minutes in between each, then about a 2-hour rise before splitting the dough, stretching it carefully and allowing another half-hour rise. Into a very hot oven (250C) with a water bath on the top shelf & a quick spray of the loaves at the beginning & one midway through baking. My starter, Fran, is currently mostly organic wholemeal flour, and the flour I added for these was organic unbleached. I didn't add any commercial yeast as I was looking for a flat bread anyway. This was lazy baking at its finest, and the results were lovely.
A few nights earlier, I whipped Fran up into some rye dinner rolls to have with our soup.They achieved exactly the soft, pliable texture you want from rolls, with crusty crusts. This dough was wetter than the ciabatta, and I added some commercial yeast for a better rise to great effect.
I've also embraced the joys of sourdough pizza crust, which goes perfectly with the salty, spicy combination of Stuart's home-cured olives, anchovies, bacon and chilies, plus garden-fresh tomatoes and basil and a thin lashing of homemade passata.
So it seems my 'specialty' breads are the winners thus far, as my loaves have often been unwilling to give me a good rise. They do say that sourdough starters are unreliable leaveners, and I'm finding this to be distinctly true. Check out my most hilariously unintentionally flat loaf, which still tasted quite nice, though a bit dry (and hell on the toaster, let me tell you!)
When I'm looking for a higher loaf, especially for toasting, I'm learning to add commercial yeast. It doesn't affect the flavour, which is invariably sour, but gives the bread the lift that Fran seems unable to offer.
I should add that the sourness is wildly variable as well, though predictably so. If Fran hasn't made some bread for more than a few days, she gets rather sour. If I'm making bread every day or two, she's less sour. The metaphors write themselves, so I won't bother here.
This last loaf below was my sourest to date (and by the way, given my California origins, I'm looking for the sourest of the sourdoughs!), and it also had the best crumb, even though it didn't rise much. If you check out the dough below, you'll see I really took Annette's advice to heart on this one and worked a really sticky, wet dough. In fact, it finally inspired me to get a proper dough scraper to assist with this rather messy method.
I feel almost guilty that for those of you out there looking for a scientific account of breadmaking, I'm just tossing around vague generalities. But these days, I cook by touch, smell, taste and imagination, rather than ratios. There are obviously ratios involved, but given my propensity to constantly adjust them by a smidgen, I'm afraid I can't really offer much insight into quantities of what's in my bread.
I think one of the best things about my relaxed approach has been the way it makes breadmaking seem like a simple and lovely thing to do, much like making the children a milkshake rather than mastering a croquembouche. It means I wander into the kitchen, see Fran on the bench and think, 'Hey, I might get some bread started,' and then wander in and out of the kitchen to tend to the dough over the afternoon or evening. The other positive outcome is the exciting array of outcomes - this is no McDonald's where you can expect the same burger every time, no matter where you are - open your palate and be prepared to be surprised at every new loaf of bread. :-)
Thursday, February 18, 2010
This article appeared this week in Campus Review - an interview with me about the year ahead as CAPA President. :-)
February 15, 2010
I am what I eat. You are what I feed you,” Tammi Jonas’s bio on Twitter asserts. When the new president of the Council of Postgraduate Associations is not cooking – or thinking about, talking about and communicating about food – she’s completing a PhD (with a food focus – of course) and representing the country’s 270,000 postgraduate students.
Jonas’s blog, called ‘Tammi Tasting Terroir’ and subtitled ‘The infrequent and imperfect yet impassioned musings of a PhD candidate, mother, wife, sister, daughter, friend and would-be cultural commentator with a penchant for food and community ...’ sums it up.
The blog is a random mix of recipes for sourdough and passionate monologues on the state of higher education.
Food frames most aspects of Jonas’s life – even the political. Two years ago she held a soup kitchen for University of Melbourne tutors under vice-chancellor Glyn Davis’s office window to draw attention to poor conditions and unpaid work that their lot in life.
“We got everyone to come down with their fingerless gloves and I made a giant pot of potato and leek soup. I literally fed the tutors,” laughs Jonas.
More recently, she drew national attention to the issue of casual teaching when she resigned from the University of Melbourne council – and then wrote about it in an article for New Matilda.
Now her penchant for the big political statement is due to find its fulfilment in her role as president of CAPA – and she hope’s individual branches will follow suit.
While she likes the publicity, Jonas says her resignation from Melbourne University council was more than just a stunt.
“I certainly wanted the publicity to keep shining light on the issue [of exploitation of casual staff], otherwise no one will realise we need their sympathy,” she says.
“It wasn’t so much a stunt as a principled and ethical resignation, because I was no longer willing to be part of a body that wasn’t in my view behaving ethically by leading the way and ensuring all members of the academic community are being treated fairly.”
The issue, which Jonas says she had been campaigning on for years (and is itemised on her blog), revolved around postgraduate students being asked to present unpaid “guest lectures”, lack of adequate office and desk space, and unpaid work in other areas such as marking.
However, she would like it known that Melbourne is not the worst culprit – and can point the finger at any number of the other universities which she considers even more exploitative.
As Jonas takes up the top gig with CAPA, 2010 might be the year that some of the more pressing issues to do with postgraduate workforce issues get resolved. The government’s research workforce strategy reference group is due to report in the first half of the year.
“We’ve had the Bradley and Cutler reviews, but there are still many issues around lack of sustainability [of the research workforce] if things don’t change,” says Jonas.
“We have too many people leaving the sector because it’s not attractive enough. We are particularly interested in seeing conditions improve for research students both as casual labour and also in terms of their own basic minimum resources – computers, desks and so on – when they are doing their study. And then, of course, there are follow on effects of that on coursework postgraduates such as having better funded teaching programs so everyone is getting better quality courses.”
Jonas says other key items on her agenda for the year include the welfare of international postgraduate students and the quality of coursework programs on offer.
Originally from the US, Jonas moved to Australia 18 years ago after meeting her husband Stuart while backpacking around London.
“Being a migrant explains my interest in national identity,” she says. “My passion for issues around international students I’m sure [is partly inspired] from being a migrant myself – although I’ve never been identified as one because I’m white and sound a lot like the people here.
“I often assert my migrant status to highlight for people the diversity of what migrants are.”
Jonas recently chaired a working group to set up a new national representative body for international students and is hopeful it will be launched later this year.
The CAPA and National Union of Students initiative came about in the aftermath of the hijacking of the former representative body, the NLC, by a group led by a Chinese businessman Master Shang (CR, 27.04.10 and 11.05.10).
“It’s such an important job – they have no independent national voice right now and we would like to see international students representing international students again.”
Jonas said the third big ticket item for CAPA is student services and student organisation. CAPA’s finances have been savaged since VSU legislation introduced by the Howard government. With the Student Services and Amenities Bill currently being held up in the Senate, there is uncertainty as to whether the government will get the support necessary to get it passed.
“CAPA is really struggling to survive. If you look at some of our achievements last year such as making sure that postgraduates got the stimulus funding, the rise in APAs and getting income support for masters students, these are really big achievements. If we didn’t exist, none of these things are likely to have happened.
“I find it extraordinary that people [politicians] who are in the business of representation themselves don’t understand the importance of the representation we provide.”
While Jonas has a big year ahead, she said there is no way her PhD (on multicultural foodways and cosmopolitanism in Melbourne) will get put on ice. With an invitation to submit an article to the Australian Humanities Review and another to present a paper at the international food ethnography conference in Finland in August, Jonas says she will plough on.
In the meantime, there is also CAPA, the family and food, beautiful food.Find Jonas’s blog at http://tammijonas.blogspot.com
Saturday, February 13, 2010
So here's the story of the Jonai family raising chooks for eggs, and slaughtering and eating them when they stop laying.
A little background: we've had chooks since about 1997, primarily for the eggs, but also because of their contribution to a healthy garden system – they dig, eat insects and weeds, and fertilise extremely well. We move them around the garden, planting out the spot they vacate to great effect. Our system is based on the principles of permaculture, though we are fairly unorthodox in most of our gardening efforts. The one aspect of permaculture to which we are totally committed is to maintain a closed cycle – no organic waste leaves our property, which is an average sized suburban block in Melbourne.
The first few years we had chooks, we lost them occasionally to foxes or disease, and continually replenished the flock with new pullets. Then came the year Antigone brought home nine chicks that her kinder had hatched – our first time raising them from so young. Of course, probability being what it is, we ended up with a few roosters, which you're not allowed to keep in the suburbs. The dilemma of what to do with them had an obvious, if not easy, solution – we would have to slaughter and eat them. Neither of us had ever killed our own meat, though we'd always said we should be willing to do so if we were going to be meat eaters. At last, here was our chance to practice what we preached.
The first time was definitely the hardest, but each time since has not actually been a great deal easier, insofar as it's difficult to take a life. Roosters are truly magnificent creatures, and it seems a shame to cull them so young and glorious. But of course, all those carefully wrapped breasts and thighs in the supermarket were once lovely young (mistreated, usually) creatures, and they're tastiest while they're still young.
Stuart slaughters them by laying the chooks gently on a chopping block, patting their head all the while so they remain very calm and content. And then quickly, down comes the cleaver, the chook is beheaded, Stuart holds its wings so the nervous system's reaction doesn't result in that awful sight of a headless chook running around the yard, and then the bird is hung from the monkey bars to drain the blood.
We've experimented with both plucking and skinning, and unlike the intrepid Zoe's preference, we prefer plucking so that we still have the luscious fatty skin on, which is especially important if you're roasting a younger bird. But even with boilers, we pluck as neither of us really likes the sensation of skinning a still-warm animal.
We both find the eviscerating quite unpleasant, especially if we're trying to keep a whole bird to roast, which requires that someone reach inside and pull the guts out – it's rather blech. With the boilers, we cheat and cut them open at the breastbone with sharp Chinese scissors and then sort of scoop the organs out. The kids are fascinated by sorting the organs and feet on a piece of cardboard, and we either save those bits to feed to the neighbour's dog or compost them, though we have eaten the livers from some of the roosters.
With the young roosters, I make roast chicken, chicken arrabiata and other such tasty dinners, but the old girls aren't called boilers for nothing. And so Australia Day 2010 was our first experience of culling non-layers and making the most of them. We explained the plan to the children, who were initially a bit sad that we were going to kill the chooks, but after we reiterated the rationale for keeping, slaughtering and eating our own animals, with details they've heard before about the horrors of factory farming, they were back on board with the project. They feel sad about killing the chooks – I do too – but I think it's irresponsible for omnivores to use that sadness as a justification for not exposing children (and ourselves) to the realities of what's behind meat eating. I really think only vegans have a reasonable position from which to oppose exposure to animal slaughter.
The killing went as usual, and this time Atticus was game to help me pluck them, which made a mother proud. :-) The evisceration was interesting as we'd never seen the eggs inside a chook before. Zoe's got great photos, but you can see in mine that there were some large and small – we worked out that one of the chooks was in fact still laying once or twice a week but had set up a secret nest in a little-seen corner. We were a bit sad about this discovery, but figured she would have stopped completely like the other two soon enough.
Three chooks filled my biggest stock pot, and after simmering for about six hours, we had a deeply flavoursome 18 litres of clear stock. I pulled all the meat off and finely minced some, mixed it with prosciutto, ricotta and reggiano, and the kids and I made masses of tortellini for that night's dinner & to freeze. The resulting feast included tortellini en brodo, and a tomato and bread salad made with a variety of cherry tomatoes and cucumbers from the garden and the stale remnants of my last loaf of homemade sourdough, dressed in olive oil pressed from last year's harvest with the Binks. For starters we enjoyed that day's fresh loaf of sourdough with Stuart's olives and a tapenade. The sense of homely virtue and connection to the natural world as we enjoyed this dinner was profound, and I reflected on the fact that it's only fairly recently in our history that we've lost these daily rhythms, skills and ensuing satisfaction.
Our society will almost certainly never go back to the majority of us raising our own meat. However, probably more of us than realise could do the sort of small scale livestock raising that we have in our backyard, and growers could certainly go back to or redevelop sustainable models of production, such as if egg producers were to slaughter unwanted roosters and sell them for the meat, and then sell the old non-layers as boilers, as well as the obvious need to raise chickens (and pigs) in free range environments. In the meanwhile, it's a very simple decision to refuse to buy factory farmed meat of any type, which gives producers the message that these systems will no longer be tolerated by the public.
As for squeamishness about the killing of animals, and especially about children witnessing or taking part in the slaughtering and butchering processes, it's obvious we have this backwards. In the UK case where children witnessed the slaughtering of the lamb, some parents actually claimed their children would need therapy to overcome the trauma. I would argue the high rates of people seeking therapy is rather about not witnessing the food chain, it's about our lost connections – to the land, its plants and animals, to each other, and to the past. People who are engaged each day in creating things for their basic needs – by gardening, raising and slaughtering animals, cooking, building, repairing and maintaining a home and its contents – by and large enjoy a strong sense of competence, sometimes mastery. (My interviews to date support this claim across class, culture and generational differences.)
And it's not just a sense of competence that is gained by working for your food in this way. The respect engendered by having to face your dinner and take its life in order to sustain yours cannot be overestimated. Again, my research around frugality has certainly highlighted the strong drive to waste nothing that arises from both a fear of scarcity but also a true understanding of the value of what you've got. And of course my own experience has been precisely that. Understanding and respecting our food sources is a great motivator to reduce our consumption – especially of the high impact foods like most meats.
Yet we've drifted so far from this basic principle of living thoughtfully in the world that too many people think it's reasonable to insist that they should not be exposed to the realities of food production. It is indeed sad to kill animals. But the majority of us choose to eat them, and to eat them we must kill them, and so we must learn to do so in the most humane and sustainable manner. If every omnivore killed a chook even once in their lives, we might not be facing the serious ethical and environmental issues we have today as a result of overconsumption, and we might not be suffering the sense of disconnection and isolation that is the real trauma in our society.
Bring back competence and mastery in the everyday.
(This post is a part of Fight Back Friday @ Food Renegade)
Monday, February 08, 2010
Although it's a short article written for an intelligent but non-academic audience, it's given me a lot of ideas, maybe even (gasp!) chapter ideas. I'm particularly interested in pursuing something I've been working on the past six months, which is about the importance of the maintenance of vernacular food cultures to sustain a lively cosmopolitan society. That is, if Australia's diverse foodways became a) all culinarily Anglicised, or b) hybridised to the point that hybrid becomes the new homogeneous, then we all lose opportunities for 'openness to the Other' that currently exist.
Zoe's excellent post, 'On sneaky racism and other culinary horrors', explores some of these issues, as do the plentiful comments she's received. Zoe's the kind of global citizen I believe we should all strive to be (maybe one day, we won't have to strive, because it will all come so naturally?), one who isn't afraid to engage with others, irrespective of culture or class, even when she's outside her comfort zone. She's not afraid to admit she doesn't understand something and ask for help, and similarly, she's willing to try new things and discover firsthand whether she likes them or not. Her post and the follow-up commentors are all symptomatic of a thriving cosmopolitan community out there (and yes, I recognise they are unlikely to be the majority of Australians, but they do give one hope).
And yet, while all of this engagement and diversity is fascinating, and, in my opinion, welcome, it makes it difficult to maintain a 'national imaginary' as per Benedict Anderson (1983). Anderson's argument is that the national imaginary was made possible by a broadly shared vernacular in print capitalism. Until then, nations had been 'unimaginable' due to a sort of Tower of Babel problem. And Anderson rightfully points to a number of benefits of national belonging, arguing that it more often creates something to 'fight for' rather than against - something to which people feel passionately attached that is much larger than themselves, and which is expressed through music, literature, and perhaps, food.
As someone who has never felt comfortable with nationalism (given my early exposure to its rabid cousin, patriotism), as I tend to read it more as a mechanism of exclusion than inclusion, I struggle with Anderson's optimism. On the other hand, my entire project is about trying to understand how the diverse population of Australia can find a meaningful sense of belonging to each other and the world, and how we are or aren't using food in that search. So really, I guess I'm a bit of a closet nationalist?
But to return to the problem of vernaculars (when there are many) and how they relate to both nationalism and cosmopolitanism. How can people imagine themselves into something collective from such wildly disparate food cultures (and, of course, the many other aspects of culture, but my primary concern is, as you know, food)? If that 'something' to which they are imagining themselves is cosmopolitanism, it makes perfect sense. If it's nationalism, not so much. And yet without the broader recognition of ourselves as Australian, is it really possible to imagine ourselves further into the world?
As is appropriate for a PhD candidate halfway through my degree, I will leave these thoughts with those few gestures for now... (that is, I'm not really sure where I'm going with this just yet, and I have formed no conclusions.) heh. pax.
Thursday, January 21, 2010
I only just discovered this on Crikey from the 10th of December - it's Melbourne University's response to my resignation from University Council (and paywalled, so full text below) - my responses are in italics:
Christina Buckridge, Corporate Affairs Manager, University of Melbourne writes: Re. “Why I resigned from the University of Melbourne Council” (yesterday, item 15) & “Leaked email: Teach for free? Melbourne uni councillor calls it quits” (Tuesday item 14).It is regrettable that Tammi Jonas has decided to resign from the University Council where, as member elected by graduate students, she could have raised concerns and had them thoroughly and sympathetically considered.
How disingenuous to suggest that the Melbourne Graduate Student Association (GSA, formerly UMPA) had not been lobbying on the issue of exploitation of casual labour for YEARS - well before my time as President and certainly during. You can read blog entries from that period here. And as an elected member of Council I had repeatedly raised these issues, as I did on just about every university committee before that. The response usually takes one of two forms: a) we don't know what you're talking about - our policies don't allow such things or b) tutoring is all part of training, so of course it's not going to be that well paid. See the uni's response below for proof.
Ms Jonas is wrong in claiming that the Arts Faculty made a ‘strategic decision’ to stop paying postgraduates.
Have a look at this blog entry on what was going on in Arts in 2008. To my knowledge, it wasn't official 'policy' to stop paying, but subject coordinators were told not to offer any paid positions guest lecturing, and passed it on to their postgrads, who expressed the quandary it put them in.
Dean of Arts Professor Mark Considine says it has never been suggested that graduate students should give lectures or tutorials for free. While Schools within the Faculty experiencing straitened circumstances might have cut back on the number of guest lectures, it is not the Faculty’s policy to ask people to give tutorials/lectures without payment. Postgraduate students are an important — and paid — part of the Faculty’s tutorial program which rolls on as usual.
Again, the company line simply doesn't match the reality. See my earlier blog post with stories from real postgrads, some of whom had been asked and were giving guest lectures for free. Is the University suggesting these people are LYING?
Of course, some guest lecturers — retired honorary staff, for instance - may elect to present a lecture pro bono.
The email inviting Ms Jonas to take part in the Melbourne School of Graduate Research (MSGR) 2010 programs should not have been sent; no other postgraduate students have been invited by MSGR to teach into 2010 MSGR programs without payment. MSGR does not condone requiring postgraduate students to work without payment. However, some staff, and very rarely postgraduate students, may volunteer to take part in MSGR student enhancement programs but that is their decision alone — there is no compulsion.
My word. Compulsion is interesting, don't you think? Of course nobody is strong-armed into working for free, but they're not employed if they don't work for too little, or in some cases, don't agree/offer to guest lecture for free. And for those who believe that tutoring is important to developing their career as an academic, surely such exploitative practices amount to compulsion.
The University’s position is that if people are in employment, they are required to be paid in line with University policy.
Can somebody PLEASE pass that information on to the lecturers who are simply grateful when someone will teach for free since they will otherwise need to fund them out of their already limited grant money (if they even have any)?
Current rates for casual tutors at Melbourne are $104.84 ($125.37 with a PhD) an hour for the initial tutorial and $69.90 ($83.57 with a PhD) for repeat tutorials. These are standard for the industry and comparable to other countries. The hourly rate is way above average wages.
NB: $104.84 is for three hours work, not one - preparation, contemporaneous marking, student consultation & delivery. That is, it's the same as the pay for marking at $34.94/hour, and some tutors are not paid for marking. Here's the text from the University's Personnel and Procedures Manual:
'Tutorial' means any education delivery described as a tutorial in a course or unit outline, or in an official timetable issued by the University. A casual staff member required to deliver or present a tutorial (or equivalent delivery through other than face to face teaching mode) of a specified duration and relatedly provide directly associated non contact duties in the nature of preparation, reasonably contemporaneous marking and student consultation...
However it is important to note that postgraduate study is usually a full-time occupation and tutoring should not be used as a prime source of income.
And yet if you're fortunate enough to have a scholarship, you'll be living below the poverty line, and if not, you'll certainly need to work, preferably in your field... a conundrum? I have heard sympathetic senior academics make the argument to pay tutors better to management: "We don't want them to have to work in petrol stations, do we?"
In recent negotiations towards a new enterprise agreement, the University has agreed to increase the casual loading, ensure that all casual marking is paid at a separate marking rate (currently $34.94 per hour) and that casual academics have access to University facilities over semester breaks. The University is committed to improving conditions for casual staff during this round of bargaining.
This is good news, of course, though insufficient. What about paying casual academics when they continue to respond to students out of semester? Or attend student academic misconduct hearings? Or respond to online forums on the uni's Learning Management System? Or attend meetings?
Also where there is evidence that a casual staff member, or any staff member for that matter, is not being paid in accordance with University policy or that there is a mismatch of expectations about the work they are required to do, the University acts to correct it.
It seems to me that the only action the University usually takes is to quickly deny there was ever a problem. If you believe their official responses, whether at Council, on committees, or in the media, academics (both casual and permanent) are just prone to whinging and are seriously misguided about the 'reality of the situation'. How patronising, insulting and wrong. Until they stop denying there is a problem, what hope is there that conditions will improve? Analogies with national denialists abound here.