Sophie’s choice – a perfect storm

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It was a dark night when Sophie came into our world, the circumstances those of a perfect storm. Delayed leaving the sanctuary for her rescue, with a tank low on fuel, a phone battery not fully charged, and a vehicle highlighting the simple yet challenging question, “If we could live happy and healthy lives without harming others…why wouldn’t we?”, we bravely ventured into dairy country to rescue a blind bobby calf.

Taking the story back a week or two, we were first alerted to this tiny albeit determined waif by an animal-loving veterinary nurse holidaying in Australia. Drawn by this love, Sophie found herself working on a dairy farm, tending the many calves. “Do you know what happens to the unwanted calves?” her voice trembled. Like Alice, she had stepped into the unknown, but unlike Alice, she had wound up on the other side of the curtain that shields the dairy industry.

Edgars Mission - calf, Sophie Continue reading

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A time to be kind

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Smile at a stranger, help an elderly person across the road, clean up litter or help an animal in need. Whilst none of these things are obligatory, they certainly present us with opportunities to evoke one of our most noble qualities, that of kindness. Born into this world incomplete, vulnerable and needy, right from the get go, we humans all need, want and flourish with kindness. It could be well said we are hardwired for kindness. The great naturalist and biologist Charles Darwin too recognized this. Although his name is so often synonymous with “survival of the fittest”, Darwin postulated that groups of individuals who looked out for one another were more successful in raising their young, ensuring their genes could go on to raise more offspring. However, science now tells us that the benefits of kindness go beyond this, benefiting both the recipient of the kind gesture as well as the dispenser of it. Continue reading

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Do not go …

“Do not go where the path may lead; go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”

Pam-and-Schofield

My trail began on the 14th of December 1961, born the second child to two damn fine human beings: Sylvia Pamela Brown and Bernard James Ahern. Wandering down many paths throughout the years, it was the discovery of an old journal recently that took me back to a path I inadvertently took in early February of 1994. A short cut led to a detour, which was to lead me to a German Shepherd dog and a change in the course of both of our lives. Out of the corner of my eye I spied what I thought was a dead dog by the side of the road. I thought that our shared moment together would be but that moment of sadness I felt for his passing. But then I thought he moved. “Did he move?” “No, he didn’t.” “Hang on, I think he did”. Teetering between arriving at work on time (as my “short cut” had already proved anything but) and the plight of the hapless injured animal, it was the hapless injured animal who easily won out. Continue reading

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The Princess Diaries

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Whilst I am not sure exactly when this diary started, I do know the first tear-stained page was etched in a commercial pig farm that should belong to a bygone era. But sadly, it and others like it do not. Here gentle sows like Princess never have a name, let alone a reason to live. Their existence is in a world allergic to compassion, kindness and even a straw bed. Their beautiful bodies and curious minds are reduced to mere productions units, producing 2.2 litters of piglets a year. Their pitiful lives are measured by output not opportunities. Yet somehow, between this servitude and her salvation, Princess and three of her buddies wound up in the middle of a state forest and herein turned a brave new page of the Princess Diaries.

Edgars Mission - pig, Princess, rescue

On 22 July 2018 the plight of a critically injured sow met with the path of kindness. There she lay, bloodied and bleeding, her exhausted and emaciated body barely finding the strength to heave out her next breath. In what would seem like her darkest of hours, Princess was to find her north star in the form of a kind-hearted four wheel drive enthusiast who happened to be in the wrong place at the right time. Desperate, confused and devoid of phone reception, the kind heart elected to wait it out until another car came along, hoping beyond hope it would be piloted by another equally kind heart. As Princess lay stoic and motionless, save the blood still spurting from her wound, she accepted her lot as a young piglet came into view and refused to leave her side. Continue reading

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An open letter to the Australian public

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I write this letter as much for you as I do for a much younger version of myself. It is a letter I would have found pivotal in informing my heart and mind as to the consequences of an almost everyday action of mine, which I never gave a second thought. The action I am referring to is eating eggs.

This letter is not to dissuade you from eating eggs nor to encourage you to eat eggs. It is to inform you, pure and simple—because the Australian public is not privy to the facts necessary to make an informed decision that aligns our ethics and our actions. You see, I truly believe the things we do, think and support, should be informed by our hearts and minds and not those of industries or others who stand to benefit.  For me, I view eating eggs as not only to the detriment of animals but to our own moral integrity and health as well. However, on the latter, as I am neither a doctor nor dietitian, I will not elaborate; I will leave that up to your judgement to pursue. Continue reading

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Tiny, She’s Shiny

Polly,PamandRuby copy

“Tiny, she’s shiny. She looks so neat above her feet, we call her Tiny shiny”

My name is Pam Ahern and to many people, I have become synonymous with pigs and farmed animals—for after all, it was a pig who trotted into my world in 2003 and changed both of our lives forever. But what not so many people know is that it was a little one-time stray cat named Tiny who first ignited my fascination and love for animals in all of their glorious forms—something the passage of time has failed to extinguish. Little Tiny and her “plus one” Blackie were the first animals to ever grace my world. Rounding out the four-legged contingent of our family was Laddie, an affable yet goofy black Labrador who often mistook me for a tree as we became constant companions and together navigated every inch of our family’s backyard. To Laddie I was the most important person in the world. Through his gentle presence, I learned of the unreserved loyalty of dogs that so easily lends itself to the self-sacrifices dogs make in saving their humans.
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It started with a pig …

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On the 10th of May 2003, I set off on an adventure, one whose outcome I could never possibly have imagined. Rendezvousing at the prearranged time, I met my “accomplice” and a piggery worker in the parking lot of a pub in central Victoria. Moments later, I was to meet the being who was to change my life in ways I would never have thought possible and inspire me to do things I would have otherwise never dared. And whilst it was love at first sight for me, it was not so for he. The drive back home in my little car with that poop-covered piglet was a cacophony of noise—an eclectic mix of my out-of-tune voice singing with wanton abandon, the whinings of my little dog ET (who too was overjoyed with his newfound friend) and the occasional grunts and farts of Edgar Alan Pig. My memory holds dear this day as one of the happiest and most joyous of my life. I’m beaming from ear to ear just typing these words, as the thoughts of that day come flooding back: a tsunami of jubilation, a deluge of possibilities and a mountain of love.

But oh, my heart missed a beat when I arrived home and raced to open the pet carrier that contained my beloved Edgar, last seen sitting in wide-eyed wonder, staring out from his straw bed with the apple I had brought along as a peace offering lying in front of him. “He’s escaped!!” I cried, as before me inside the pet carrier was the straw bed, the apple, sans a poop-covered piglet. But how he could have simply “Houdinied” his way out I struggled to comprehend. Turning to ET for an explanation, he too looked equally perplexed. Just as I was about to call in the National Guard, from the depths of the straw came these little tiny “nuff, nuff” sounds as a snout appeared, followed by the most glorious, dashingly adorable piglet I have ever laid eyes upon. “Oh my, don’t do that to me, little guy,” I said as I bundled Edgar up and went inside trying to figure out just how I was going to explain my quarry to my then-partner and my dear mum. Whilst the former was never to be convinced this was a good idea, thankfully the latter was. So much so, she readily agreed to assist in washing Edgar for his photo shoot the very next day.

edgar the pig Continue reading

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Half a second of compassion – my reason for hope

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In 2016 Dr Jonathan Levy, a postdoctoral researcher, conducted a study using MEG (magnetoencephalography).  Here he took a group of 80 male and female Arabs and Jews in Israel, aged 16- 18 years, and exposed them one by one to images of people who had suffered some trauma (a stabbing for example). By studying these young people’s brain scans at the time they looked at the images , he was able to gain insight into the brain activity of the participants, importantly how individuals reacted to witnessing the trauma of another.  Not surprisingly, there was heightened empathy towards someone who was identified as belonging to one’s “own” group. But what is really interesting, and my reason for hope, is that before this, in the first few hundred milliseconds of exposure there was a short burst of automatic brain activity of empathy for the “other” regardless of which group they belonged to; it was after that a more advanced “selective” empathy system kicked in. Continue reading

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Now is the time…

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Like most people, I grew up loving animals and took great comfort believing the laws of this country protected them from acts of cruelty and indifference. Today, I still foster that great love for animals but now I understand that not all animals receive the same protection from acts of cruelty. In fact, the largest number of animals in human care, those who have been labelled farm animals, have been explicitly exempted from our animal protection legislation by way of the Codes of Practice. And the reason for this is simply because they look different to the cats and dogs who have traditionally shared our hearts and homes. But ask anyone who has taken a chicken or two into their world and they will be able to attest to the quirky and unique personalities each one has.

Right now we have an enormous opportunity to start putting things right, as the Code of Practice for Poultry is under review. It is currently at the public consultation stage, which means we can all have our say. Now I am not here to tell you what to say, do or think, that is for you to decide. But I do want you to think—to think long and hard about something we so rarely do. Because I am sure that you, like me many years ago, simply do things because it is the way they have always been done and everyone else is doing the same thing. There has never been the need to really think about it. But that doesn’t necessarily make it right, or even consistent, with what you believe in. Continue reading

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Yes, I will …

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“Sixty-Four, is a name, not a number,” were the words I would offer to the many quizzical glances I was to receive when introducing folk to a gentle and handsome blind merino wether. Sixty-Four took his name from the Beatles classic, When I’m 64, a song written by a very young Paul McCartney, questioning whether he would still be loved when he reached the ripe old age of 64.

“Yes, I will,” were the very words I uttered when I learned of Sixty-Four’s plight and in response to the question of whether we would be prepared to take him (and the challenges of caring for a blind wether) on. You see, Sixty-Four had been found wandering aimlessly about the side of a rural country road when he was reported to animal control officers and taken to the local pound. Generally, sheep found in such circumstance would have been sent to the saleyards. Seeing Sixty-Four’s blindness matched by his ability to survive in a world of such obstacles, the officer determined the stoic old gent deserved a change of fortune.

_01R8406-2 Continue reading

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To understand…

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The word “understand” is a verb, and according to my grade five English teacher that means it is a “doing” word. It is best described as “to perceive the intended meaning of (words, a language, or a speaker)”, to “interpret or view (something) in a particular way”.

To have, at the very least, some understanding of the world around us is fundamental to our being. Understanding gives us something solid on which we can lean; a means of acceptance and guidance in a life; and a way to navigate through the river full of possibilities, turbulence, beauty, serenity, indifference, birth and death the world has to offer.

The first time I saw Muffy and her baby lamb Duffy, I understood three things. The first was that the pitiful state into which both of them had been cast did not bode well for them; the second was the incredible bond between the two; and the third was that what I chose to do next would determine their future. With my second understanding firmly in my heart, I chose to do my darnedest to save them, although I knew my ability to do so would be significantly impacted by my understanding of the first. Continue reading

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A chicken on the table – a moving feast

Some thoughts on World Animal Day 2017

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Last night I dined on a feast at my mother’s house: a banquet prepared as only a doting mother can, peppered with love, one’s favourite gastronomic delights, and, in my case, the odd cat hair. And at the centre of it all was a chicken.

Now, a chicken as a centrepiece on the dinner table is hardly surprising or new. In fact, for me, Sunday roasts were once never complete without a roast chicken bathed in gravy, nestled by baked potatoes and vegetables. Last night however, the chicken on the table was very much alive. This handsome devil, my feathered friend, even has a name: ‘Red Baron’.

Red Baron loves dinner at my mum’s house because it is a feast for him too; in a ‘win–win’ situation, he gets treats and we get treated to his quirky and endearing antics, whether it is sneaking a drink from my glass of water, tucking into a bit of spaghetti, squatting down to peer at the TV or taking a snooze on my shoulder. I cannot now imagine seeing chickens as anything other than friends. And I know I am not alone in this thought: many people, through the simple act of noticing chickens, are observing that chickens’ lives are full of possibilities, if only they are given the chance.

Red Baron came to me at only a few days old, a real miracle indeed. He was hatched at an egg production facility (you couldn’t really call it a farm) and, being male (as around 50% of the hatchlings are), he was destined to be killed. But somehow he survived, beating many apparently insurmountable odds; thus overcoming the worst in his life, he was set to enjoy the best, as he found himself on the doorstep of my house and heart and quickly chirped his way into both. My hair became his surrogate mother hen’s wing as he would happily bounce around on my shoulder each day. Going for bike rides, working on the computer and watching over me as I brushed my teeth, Red Baron’s life was rich and full. And so was mine.

_01R9144 Continue reading

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The first pig…

edgar the pig

There’s a wonderful quote, I’m sure you have all heard of it, that goes: “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.”

Like most people, I have had important teachers who have inspired and guided me, offering sage advice at just the right times in my life. However, my most important teachers have not been of the human kind. They have been animals, in all of their glorious shapes, sizes and sounds. But there is one who stands out like no other – the first pig.

The first pig I was ever fortunate enough to meet, and to whom I owe an eternal debt of gratitude for guiding me to just where I needed to be, was Edgar Alan Pig. At the time of our first meeting I was what I thought to be a committed animal advocate, leading what I considered to be a pretty good life. However, Edgar changed all that and so much more, as together we trotted down a path I could never have imagined, him stopping every now and then to smell the roses – something I really have to learn to do. Giving up my full-time paying job along with hanging up the boots of my successful equestrian career and saying farewell to ever having a normal life, it was because of my meeting with this first pig I was to meet many many more pigs. And cows and sheep and goats and chickens and ducks and turkeys, as I foundered Edgar’s Mission Farm Sanctuary, currently located in the picturesque Macedon Ranges, just outside of the tiny township of Lancefield. Continue reading

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Why did the chicken cross the road?

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I’m not really sure; in fact, to be honest, do we really know why anyone does anything? I guess the best way of finding out would be to get inside another’s head. So, to crack the answer to this age-old question, I want to take you on a bit of a road trip, a journey to find out not only what it means to be a chicken but also to find out who they really are.

Chickens began flapping out of the groves and scrublands of India and Southeast Asia around 8000–10,000 years ago and into domestication. A primary progenitor of today’s chickens, Gallus gallus domesticus, is the red jungle fowl. However, the red jungle fowl does not have the yellow leg and skin colouring we see on many of these modern birds which suggests an opportunistic and romantic interlude or two by the grey jungle fowl who does.

Did you know that today, on this planet, chickens outnumber we humans by around 3 to 1? So where are these 19 billion feathered wonders? Sadly, for these highly intelligent and inquisitive birds, most cannot see the sunshine, smell fresh air or even take more than a few stifled steps, let alone contemplate crossing the road. But contemplate they do.

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The heavens may fall…

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James Somerset was around eight years old when he was captured in Africa and taken to Virginia in America. Here he was purchased by the affluent Charles Stewart and taken to Boston for a life of servitude as a slave. For the next 25 years, that’s just what Somerset did; however, in 1769, Stewart went to London, taking Somerset with him. In 1771, Somerset had himself baptised, and in doing so, earned three godparents. Not long thereafter Somerset escaped, only to be hunted down and captured some two months later. So enraged was Stewart that his “slave” had deserted his service, he had him thrown onto a ship, the Ann and Mary, to be sold aboard to work on the plantations in Jamaica. So arduous, brutal and cruel was this work that it would surely have claimed Somerset’s life, something that Stewart would have known.

But here is where Somerset’s three godparents—and now advocates—stepped in. John Marlow, Thomas Walkin and Elizabeth Cade applied to the Court of King’s Bench for a writ of habeas corpus: requiring an imprisoned person to be brought before a judge to determine whether their imprisonment is lawful. Continue reading

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Eureka

Eureka

Around 265 BC, a Greek scholar and mathematician named Archimedes dipped his toe into a tub at the public baths in Syracuse, with his leg following suit. In doing this, Archimedes watched the water level rise. Lowering himself more fully into the water, he saw it continue to do so, ultimately spilling over the sides of the bath. At this point, Archimedes recognised that the volume of water displaced must be equal to the volume of the part of his body that had been submerged.

So excited about this discovery was Archimedes that he immediately jumped out of the bath and ran all the way home crying out, “Eureka, eureka,” which is Greek for “I have found it, I have found it”. In his glee, Archimedes failed to find his clothes and he ran home stark naked. However, what Archimedes was referring to was a way to determine the answer to a problem he had been posed by Hiero of Syracuse on how to assess the purity of gold in a golden crown. Continue reading

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Because it means something …

Pam Chicken Save Rally

When I was six years old, right about this time of year, I came to this very spot with my family.  It was something so many families did, tugged along by excited children and lured in by the enchanted Christmas windows of Myer. And we did this because it meant something to us – the spirit of Christmas, the promise of presents and the essence of family, it all meant something to us.

Ironically enough, I stand here today, gathered with like-minded individuals who have given up their time because today means something to us all.  However, it is not the intricate, colorful and mesmerising windows of Myer that captures our hearts and minds, but images of animals caught in the crossfire of our humanity and culinary pleasure.  Of beautiful, intelligent, sensitive, curious, emotional, witty, playful and sentient animals who sadly will never experience the peace and goodwill that is purported to be showered on all at this time of year. They will never realise their potential or enjoy their place in the sun.  In fact, for most of these animals, the very first time they will see the sunshine or feel and breathe fresh air will be on the last day of their lives as they are trucked off to slaughter.  Continue reading

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What you choose to do next …

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It’s a scenario that repeats itself many times during my day: the phone rings, a desperate caller seeking my assistance, and one thought runs through my head. Just one thought; “what I choose to do next could save a life”. I don’t man the phones at 000; I don’t work in a doctor’s surgery; nor am I an ambulance officer. My name is Pam Ahern, and I am the Founder and Director of Edgar’s Mission, a not for profit haven for rescued farmed animals. But what is at the core of who I am is just the same as what is at the core of all the people who sign up for those roles. An individual with power, so much power. Despite my diminutive pint-size of 54 kg, that power is played out daily, never more so than just after the phone rings.

A call from a pound worker seeking a refuge for an escapee farmed animal; from a distraught parent whose child lovingly brought home from a kindergarten chicken-hatching project chicks who have just morphed into a dozen testosterone-charged and vocal roosters; or from a kind-hearted yet naïve adolescent who bought two bobby calves to spare them being killed as surplus to the dairy industry’s needs—the list is as endless as the number of animals who need sanctuary, and whilst my thought remains the same, so does the reality. I cannot save them all. Continue reading

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The point of change

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As someone who is still coming to terms with the fact I have an iPhone and not ‘my phone’, is yet to master my computer’s keyboard, and cannot reconcile the cyber melody that is social media and struggles to navigate the forested paths of Facebook, it should be no surprise to hear that I rarely venture into her darkened woods. So if you’ve sent me a friend request I haven’t responded to, included me in a notification I’ve missed, tagged me in something I haven’t seen or invited me to an event I never showed up for, well there’s your answer, sorry :(

But every now and then a curiosity is too enticingly inviting for me to ignore and I am lured in to find out more. This happened most recently with a posting (hope I’ve got that term right) that came up on my Facebook feed . I chanced upon what seemed to be a rather innocuous image of a girl’s legs that looked like they had been cryovaced. It beats me why someone would do that, but given the plethora of other inane things people seem to do coupled with their need to post such exploits on social media, I just put this image down to yet another embarrassing social faux pas and moved on. Moved on, that is until the repeated occurrence of the image and subsequent discussion around it finally lured me in to find out just why this image had so captured people’s attention. Continue reading

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The curious place of animals

Little John and Pam

Walt Disney said, “around here however we don’t look backwards for very long. We keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things; because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths”.

I was just seven years old when curiosity lead me down a path that was to take me into my parents’ bedroom and behind my mother’s dresser to where she had carefully stashed the Christmas presents intended for my sister and me. My mum’s words of “Don’t go behind my dresser” was enough to tell this intrepid young and curious sleuth where to look. Carefully unwrapping each little curio, my heart beat faster over the animal figurines I came upon, as I knew their future and mine would be soon intertwined, come December 25th. I wished to linger longer, but knew if I did, the chances of that shared future not happening would be exponentially heightened. So I rewrapped the paper, retracing the original folds and sticky tape lines perfectly—well, as perfectly as any overexcited seven-year-old could. Curiosity sated, I made my way back to the kitchen and trusted no-one had become curious over my absence as I resumed playing with my toy animal farm set. Continue reading

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Let me tell you about a pig called Max

Max

The first time I saw Max, I thought just two things and felt just one. The first thing I thought was, “Oh my; he is sooo big,” which quickly led to the second thing: “How am I going to get him into the horse float?!”.

You see, Max, a rather elderly boar (that’s an uncastrated male pig) was holed up at a country pound after he had been found wandering the streets of Castlemaine. Castlemaine, while once known as a gold rush town, is known today as the home of KR Castlemaine Pork Products, so it wasn’t really a good place for a pig to find his pot of gold. But no one told Max that, in fact, no one told Max too many things. Continue reading

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Foreign

Foreign

An eight-year-old young girl slowly opens her eyes in a bed that is not her own. Her throat parched and sore from a recent tonsillectomy, she struggles to swallow but a burning lump prevents this. Frightened and confused, she battles to take in the unfamiliar world around her that is a hospital ward. A sleeping nun sitting in the chair next to her is summoned from her slumber; this is the moment she had been waiting for. A gentle smile caresses her face as she rises, placing a cool cloth to the forehead of the child, without words she speaks a softness the young girl quickly understands: that all will be well.

Although the child welcomes the gesture, a fire still rages within her throat—in a desperate attempt to snuff it out, she mouths the words, “Water, can I please have a glass of water?”. Just one sip of water is all the salvation that is needed and the glass is returned as the comforted child lays back down and rests once more. Continue reading

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The Promise

The Promise

When you make a promise you are telling someone you will definitely do something, or that something will definitely happen in the future. And I can say with the greatest honesty, pride and exhilaration, and with the biggest smile on my face, that when you fulfil one there are few greater joys. This is the story of one such promise.

I cannot remember the exact date I first saw the small white female goat tethered on a cold, unforgiving metal chain outside the knackery that was all but a stone’s throw from the heart of Melbourne. But I will always remember my parting words to her all those years ago: “I’ll save you, I promise.”

The Promise
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We can do better….

We Can Do Better

Alvin Toffler “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn. ”

It was November 17, 1970, and the then Chief Secretary of the Victorian State Government, Sir Arthur Rylah, made the announcement that the wearing of seat belts would be mandatory in all cars. The effect on road trauma was great as the death toll from road accidents plummeted along with the number of people suffering horrific and debilitating injuries, and Victoria became the world’s first legislature to decree mandatory wearing of seatbelts. This happened for one reason, and one only, because we, as a society, knew we could do better. But our way of thinking did not change overnight; it was a hard-fought battle going back to the 1930s where lone voices in the wildernesses gathered both momentum and numbers until doing anything less than changing our legislation would not be in keeping with public opinion. Continue reading

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Making your mark

Edgar Zorro

In 1919, Johnston McCulley created a fictional character who was to make his mark on generations. This character, Don Diego de la Vega, and his alter ego, Zorro, morphed from the pages of comic books to the movie screen and although undergoing changes throughout the years, the typical image of Zorro saw him as a dashing black-clad masked outlaw who defended “the commoners” against tyrannical officials and other villains as his hallmark Z became his insignia. My first introduction to Zorro came by way of the Disney TV series, and I have to say I was hooked. I loved the TV series for many reasons beyond its entertainment value. Zorro won my heart for his passion, courage and sense of justice, and he also filled many of my dreams. But not casting myself as his fair damsel in distress—no, I would be his accomplice, tagging along, forthright as any five-year-old could be, as we stood: champions of all things good. Zorro had indeed left an inedible mark on me; I guess it could be said Zorro was to help pave the way for the sense of justice I hold so close today. Continue reading

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Animals, my teachers, my friends

Animal friends

Like most, I have had important teachers in my life who have inspired and guided me, yet the most profound teacher I have ever had lies buried at the entrance of Edgar’s Mission. A landrace, large white pig I came to love and adore, and whom I named Edgar Alan Pig. Now he lies interned beneath a carved wooden sculpture of a pig with wings, with a rooster dutifully standing on his back, a stoic reminder to all who pass through our front gates of why we exist.

Edgar changed my life forever, as he taught me the most important things in life are not things, but rare moments in time that will live forever in one’s heart. Until the time Edgar trotted into my life all I had ever wanted to do was ride horses, and while it took some time convincing my parents to even allow me anywhere near a horse, it was something I was able to do with what many would call great success. However, amongst the trophies and accolades I always felt there was something missing. It took a little piglet with an incredibly big heart to show me just what that was. Continue reading

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Now you see it—magicians, MLA and the art of misdirection

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Dedi got the ball rolling in ancient Egypt in 2700 BC as one of the first recorded magicians, then in 50–300 AD groups of magicians known as Acetabularii performed tricks using cups and balls in ancient Rome. More recently, in 1983, David Seth Kotkin (better known as David Copperfield) made the Statue of Liberty “disappear” in front of a live audience on Liberty Island. In that same year, Dutch magician Richard Ross mystified the world with his flawless linking rings trick. At the heart of these seemingly magical manoeuvres is art of misdirection or sleight of hand. Illusionists throughout the ages have employed it to gain fame, fortune and more recently increased sales of lamb on Australia Day. Continue reading

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You’ve got a friend in me…

Friends

He sits on my shoulder, trots alongside me when I go for walks and even rides on my head as I push bike around the farm. He loves scratches under the chin as he drops both his eyelids and his guard, and melts off into blissful oblivion. With equal measure, he loves going for rides in the car as he does pecking at the keyboard as I type away on the computer. He loves inspecting my ears and holds great aspirations of becoming a toothpick and he is my new best friend. His name is Red Baron, and he is a tiny rooster chick.

Red Baron

I can only imagine the terror, confusion and bewilderment that embraces male chicks shortly after their sex has been determined and they are tossed aside, only to be killed, an inconvenient truth of the egg producing industry. They must honestly feel like they haven’t a friend in the world. Gassed, frozen and then sold off as snake food, Biggles and Red Baron somehow managed to navigate the blizzard of cruelty. They were surrendered into our care at just two days old, sadly little Biggles proved not long for this world, the ravages of his ordeal proving just too great. Quickly showing himself to be endearing, trusting and vulnerable, Red Baron was in desperate need of a friend. With no mother’s wing to seek refuge under, an upturned teddy, heat lamp, hot water bottle and a ticking clock proved a poor second. Readily accepting my outstretched hand and kindness, as a spot on my shoulder (or head, whichever takes his fancy) became his perch.

Red Baron

Despite his great difference in form to that of our own we can already see logic in his behaviours. When it is cold Red Baron snuggles under my hair for warmth and security as he cheekily peeps his little head out to announce “I am here” – seeking reassurance he is not alone in much the same way a young child does. When he comes for walks with me around the farm and realises I have moved on, he makes haste, chirps madly and catches up. He takes great pride in his appearance as his fluffy down gives way to quilled feathers, pecking at their itchiness. In short, he feels. Continue reading

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Learning to fly

Edgar Alan Pig

It was 1997 and there I awkwardly sat with nine other equally uncomfortable people. While different in circumstance, we were united in need—in need of a job. I and around 60 other hopefuls had made it to round two of the interview process for a local manufacturing company. Ushered into a large hall, we were soon divided into several groups and seated around a designated table. It was in attentive silence we sat as our task for the day was explained. And that task was to make paper planes—but with a difference. We were not to make the good old-fashioned, two folds and you’re done type plane. No this plane was much more complex and would involve group participation. As such we were to form an assembly line to produce the final product—a state-of-the-art paper plane, coloured, with wings and a couple of other whizz-bang things that have taken leave of my memory. We would need to rotate through the tasks, undertake quality control, manage stocks and maintain efficiencies: all the while working as a team with a common goal.

“And your time starts now.” Continue reading

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Recognition

Buster

Recognition is a noun. It is described as the action or process of recognising or being recognised, in particular: identification of a thing or person from previous encounters or knowledge. It is the acknowledgement of the existence, validity or legality of something. The verb is to recognise.

On Tuesday 6th of October 2015, we recognised the all-too-familiar sights, sounds and smells of bushfire as Edgar’s Mission stood between the out-of-control “planned” burn and the fire’s sinister plan to take over the world. Recognising the imminent danger we faced, we swung into gear to protect everything we loved and had worked so hard to achieve. As pilots of water-bombing helicopters recognised the close proximity of our four dams to the fire, these dams became a critical arsenal in the assault on the fiery menace. The cacophony of noise and embers that engulfed our tranquil sanctuary was met with an equal dose of choking smoke sent billowing over the farm and sending the sun to another realm while robbing our airways of their ability to breathe. And, in a paddock nestled between the two dams that had become a pit stop for the choppers to re-energise their firefighting efforts, our terrified sheep huddled. Continue reading

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