Change begins with rethinking

Change begins with rethinking

I have recently returned home, to the sunny Gold Coast on the east coast of Australia, after a 5 week tour riding the mountain motorable pass in the world in India, and engaging in thought-provoking conversations with coastal colleagues in Perth (Western Australia) then Airlie Beach (North Queensland). Back to back conferences after a lifetime adventure, hell yeah, my thoughts are flowing.

To kick start some tangents, here is a keynote speech that I was fortunate to share with colleagues at the Western Australian Natural Resource Management and Coastal Management conference, held at Curtin University (they have awesome coffee and hammocks to chill out on).

As the keynote is well over 5,000 words you can download it here –Change begins with rethinking

Here are some thought provoking quotes:

As a disruptor of institutions that is passionate about action and change, I would like to see more of us take risk whether you are an insider or outsider of the dominant institutions of our practice. Because whether we plan our practice with the best knowledge we have, in most cases that I have been engaged in it still doesn’t make a difference when it comes to getting others onboard. And in many cases it wipes the adventure, creativity and adaptability out of our practice.

I’ll quote Charlie Veron, which his new book, A Life Underwater is a must read…

… Most professionals today, whether they be in the sciences, arts, education, even sport, work within the cage of bureaucracy that controls most aspects of their working life. For most this works for them to ensure their needs are met… but for those that need time and headspace to think, something needs to change… and this change is being led by technology and the younger generation…although the scary part is that the younger generation are being bred to accept what to work on, when to work and how to work…


This failing technocracy-approach that scholars like Shelia Jasnaoff theoretically describes helps me to unpack the decay and almost U-Turn on historic environmental justices. In our world this has seen the dependency on specialists with the result of our institutional departments specialising to the degree which then can’t respond to widening issues, especially when departments are chewed to the bone.

Enjoy – Change begins with rethinking

URGENT // need portion control: the dilemmas of protecting the coast

URGENT // need portion control (pc: Photograph: Randy Mayor, Illustration: Brett Ryder)

URGENT // need portion control (pc: Photograph: Randy Mayor, Illustration: Brett Ryder)

This tangent is part of a private journal I am writing as part of my Phd. I don’t intend on sharing this journal (to often), however, today is one of those Phd days where I have realised that I am going to mad, I have put too much on my plate and need to go back to the beginning for some portion control. I wrote this motivation-journal-entry a few months ago and I don’t think I have progressed… mmm.

When your passion is your work and your work is your passion, negotiating the conflicting terrain between your passion and work will send you mad. I’ve spent hours, days, weeks, months and years trying to figure out the best way to negotiate conflicts. Conflicts that limit my passion and work to make a difference for Australia’s coast.

It is like being on a mice-wheel going around and around, going nowhere until the wheel falls off or I fall off.

I fell off a few years ago and now I find myself back on but on my own wheel. I didn’t want to be like the others and stay on the system’s wheel going nowhere. Instead, I signed up to do a Phd to understand why some stay on the wheel, why others fall off the wheel or how others find another way while on the wheel to make a difference. My motivation behind my Phd is part selfish, part selfless, because I didn’t want to be like those that stay on the wheel and go nowhere. I want to one of those that find the other way to make a difference.

I know that I am passionate about the coast and that I want to make a difference. But I am yet to know how and where I want to make a difference other than the entire system! I know I can’t research or make a difference to the entire system of coastal management. I have ideas (obviously) which have led me to begin a Phd in coastal management, and I am now at the crossroads of how, where and ultimately why I want to make a difference (and why bother at all).

I intentionally say difference rather than change because for my Phd what I do know thus far is that it is about being a difference maker. It is important to recognise this early on as the difference between difference maker and change maker is that difference makers focus on systemic change. Change needed for institutional-transformational change. Changing the institutions of coastal management is where I believe we need to make a difference (or at least make a dent in it), especially, to be able to address the unprecedented impacts that climate change poses on the coast. It’s a big statement and deserves critical attention (and has), and will seek the attention of many other Phds… not just mine.

Remembering that I am one of many who seeks such systemic change I start this Phd journal with asking myself, am I naive to think that a Phd on the cultures and conflicts of the coastal professional working in coastal management will answer the question we seek to know – how to influence systemic change to protect Australia’s coast?

The short answer is yes. So what, yes I am naive.

Anyway, it has now been 4 months of trailing through Google Scholar, attending conferences and symposiums, talking with coastal professionals, colleagues, students, friends and mentors. Each paper, experience and conversation has and will continue to shape my Phd. A Phd that will offer new insights before my (and other’s) passion turn into a nightmare, and have national and international significance. I also know the writing process (beyond my tangents) will help me document, scrutinise and re-imagine what could be possible to inspire myself, and perhaps other coastal professionals, to be difference makers to influence systemic change.

Turned 30


Today marks three decades of my life. I turned 30 today and celebrated this game-changing milestone with some of my closest and dearest friends and family. Overwhelmed with love I cried while reflecting on being content and in love with life when silence and darkness fell at a decent 3.30am (last night/ this morning). Factor in my almost third all-nighter in a row leaving me severely sleep deprived,  having a blood alcohol limit giving me the dizzy spells and being surrounded by gifts of flowers and wise words inscribed on recycled card leaving me proud, I couldn’t have asked for anything more or less.

It’s now Sunday evening and after a mammoth weekend of a jammed packed Landcare schedule as well (the Gold Coast Landcare Forum was yesterday), and still sleep-deprived and again overwhelmed with love, I asked myself, how could I genuinely respond to so much gratitude?

To start with something I thought I would share my 30th Birthday Speech. This isn’t exactly what I had said but it goes along the same lines. I definitely added in a lot more punch and thank you’s…  thank you for sending me much love and lovely messages.

My 30th Birthday Speech

A week ago I found a slither of time. I was resting up, perhaps taking a mid-afternoon nana-nap and I started thinking. What’s the deal with turning 30? Why do some people shy away from turning 30, while others embrace the third decade? What actually happens when you turn 30?

I jumped onto Google and looked into it… Googling “what happens when you turn 30?”. According to science we get better.

You see our brains sharpen, we actually start to own our personality (rather than many), are less insecure, stress less (maybe), and most of all you finally feel free to be yourself.

For me that is unique.

On my 12th birthday I got a birthday card from a friend and there were three monkeys on the front. Two were doing the same thing, while the other one, the third monkey, was pulling a funny face. On the inside of the card it said, “Happy Birthday to the most unique person”.

At 12 years old I had an idea what unique meant but I wanted to be sure, so I looked it up. At that time I was shocked because all I ever wanted to be was like my friends, the same as them. It’s now 18years later and it all makes sense. I am unique, one of a kind and unlike anyone else. 

And I am unlike anyone else because of the people in my life and the experiences I have experienced.

Everyone here tonight has played a part in influencing me to be – unique.

To be born into a family full of love, differences and compassion, I am extremely lucky and thankful. Mum and Dad, you are two of the most inspirational people in my life. You have been my biggest fans and supporters when frustration to change the world ‘yesterday’ gets the better of me. I remember coming home from university one day and said to you [mum] how I want to be a park ranger and save The Spit. Your response was that I could save and do much more that just The Spit. Indeed I am working on that. Above all your love, generosity and passion for others to live a life they love has grounded me to follow in your footsteps and that is to give before I receive.

Miss Anna, my little sister. You are far from little; you have been my sunshine, definitely not my shadow. Your outlook on life, positivity and free spirit is what I admire the most. There are so many memories. From walking to the corner store across the park to buy lollies and then divide them equally on the cushions when we got home and then eat them at the same time so neither of us would miss out on what the other had shows the love and respect we have for each other. Then there are the moments when we just laughed at nothing, we laughed and laughed for no reason. You inspire me to be free – or at least live a non-scheduled day every once and while. Thank you for being the best little sister anyone could have and for making tonight incredibly special [because she organised the party].

There are a few more people I want to say something special to. So hang on!

Olaf, I am so glad you are here tonight to share this special occasion with me. You were the rock in my life when I most needed someone to be honest. When David was dying you were patient and most of all courageously honest. At the time I hated you for being honest. I frequently think of the conversation we had. To have that conversation you would have had so much courage. No one had that amount of courage to tell me the truth and that the stories I was telling myself weren’t true. This is what I admire about you and am [this much] more courageous having you in my life.

The Montoya’s – my second family. You are like a warm hug that keeps giving. You adopted me like your own daughter and sister and trusted me despite the circumstances we were in. Circumstances we never wished to be in but they were special times that have inspired us to live a life packed with meaning and purpose. It was a crazy rollercoaster with good times in the end like the crazy road trip we did to Yeepoon, and running out of petrol on the Bruce Highway at 3am, and me laughing at nothing because I still can’t understand Spanish! One day, I will get there with my Spanish and visit Colombia. It’s on the 30-something to do list.

Compassion, free spirit and courage have gotten me this far in life and I am stoked. When I was 20 I had ideas on what might have happened leading into my 30’s – things like meet a guy, get married, have kids, buy a house, and you know how the rest goes… ideas that haven’t happened. But I really couldn’t be more stoked.  

So what’s installed for the next 10 years, even 30 years?

I imagine myself waking up and it’s my birthday, so that means I am 40 today. It has been raining. The air is fresh and smells new. I can hear music in the background and children playing games. The dogs are sleeping outside. And I am in love with my best friend.

Sounds idyllic but not entirely a dream. I am working on it. I might have to ask out more random men at petrol stations or find a best friend willing to marry me.

What I do know is that I would have completed my PhD thanks to my awesome supervisors, travelled to Colombia and built up an epic organisation with epic people that is a game-changer for Landcare, that is Intrepid Landcare. I get to do stuff that matters everyday.

Now that brings me to the end of this speech, it’s not a tangent. Being unique has opened a life full of random opportunities and experiences. I’ll finish up with echoing what someone wise once said to me now a decade ago; “It is up to you what you want to do with your life, why not create a masterpiece”.

I am creating a masterpiece with each of you here tonight. You are all part of the masterpiece that I call my life.

A special shout out to Katherine, Maxine and Johanna for being the best girlfriends and Jesse for seriously inspiring me to go to the next level over the last year and to all my dearest Landcare junkies, especially Megan!

Raise your glasses and let’s toast to being unique and creating a masterpiece.

_ The End. Bring on the 30s.

Until next time thank you – again.