Not following my own guidelines. BlogJune 22/12


I signed up to answer a JuneQuestion tonight. Not gonna.

Somewhere in my journal I have a page headed ”How not to get sucked into unhealthy academia again”. It lists several very useful ways to avoid overwork and not work on the weekends. And public holidays. And how to pace myself according to capacity and workload, not possibility and meaningfulness. I wrote it when I knew I was going to teach at university again.

Not following it this week. It’s the fortnight between study periods, with the last one finishing last Friday. I finalise marks in two courses, while setting up course outlines and teaching sites for three new courses. The new course material needs to be up by next Sunday night.

I’m working double time so I can totally, 100% disconnect from work for a week next week – something I have not really done in the middle of the year before. I was even answering student emails and checking boards when I was on a yoga and art retreat in Bali back in 2018.

So – in another prism of the multiverse I am writing a well-thought out post about what i wish everyone knew, while enjoying a long weekend of rest and relaxation.

But not here, now.

Restful. BlogJune 22/10


More restful than reading this blog post – watching the second season of The Future Diary on Netflix. (Not the Manga, but the Japanese schmaltzy scripted/unscripted reality story show)

More restful than writing this blog post… continuing with Episode Seven.

(Yoga Time in Paradise: )

I have a one day yoga retreat tomorrow, where the focus is on rest and very gentle movement, Yin, breathing and nidra (alright, yogic sleep…but it sounds so much more cultish when you say it like that).

The night before a long distance running event, I used to ensure I was well-rested and went to bed early.

Do I prepare for tomorrow by… staying awake and going to bed late?

Three words BlogJune 22/06


Like Con, who is out of rhythm with posting for BlogJune, I am not finding it easy to jump back into finding topics and going for it.

I think it will be good for me to keep up the practice though.

I spend three days a week on the yoga mat doing some pretty intense positions, some held for very long times. This is designed specifically to help participants get through what they need to get through in other parts of their lives – breathing, focussing, mindfully. (I also do three or so sessions a week where I drape gently over bolsters, aiming for rest, so all balances out…).

Yep, pretty standard Clipart here:

Blogging, then, has now become an extremely uncomfortably exploratory activity. I’ve done it before. But each time I sit down now, I am unsure where to start or where to go. So, I will just keep breathing through 🙂

My cheat tonight is to take just one of the “everyone answers this” BlogJune 2022 Questions

What three words would you use to describe your role?

By “role”, I mean a university lecturer in Information Management…

  • Hydra-like
  • Mentoring
  • Stimulating

BlogJune 2022 – back with JuneQuestions

blogjune, Uncategorized

Right up – I am tagging Con, snail, Fiona, Peta, Sam, Kim, Cath, Fiona, Michelle, Graeme, Ruth, Tony, Penny, Hugh, Karen, Steph, Sally, Kate, Tania, Andrew and John.

About ten years ago, my friend Con and I launched a blog for BlogJune called Fortnight Question.

We both wanted to blog more and got a lot out of the public introspection. We figured we could commit to blogging once a month.

The idea was that I would choose a question to ask Con. She would answer it, then send it back to me, with a new question attached. Two weeks later, I would answer both questions, then send the newest question back to Con to answer in a fortnight, along with a brand new question. And so on.

We had a section for public submissions, and were happy to answer anything that people added.

It lasted. For a while.

Now – we have a whole bunch of questions left over, and BlogJune 2022 staring us in the face… so…


(Yes – you… reader-you…you!)

Con started it all again, by sending me a few questions after a bunch of us posted on Twitter about maybe doing a round robin set of interviews for Blogjune 2022.

We are not going to hog all the fun this time, though… We hope. You can join in. For just a single day, just a single question. All we need are 30 people willing to blog once in June. Or even twice or three times – answer as many questions as you want but:

  • just one per day
  • from the list so we know who is blogging when

What list? The Google Doc Blogjune 2022 JuneQuestions.

How to play:

  1. Edit the document to put your name next to a date/question. 
  2. You can cut and paste a question to a different day if you want, as long as every day has a question afterward and you do not double-up a day/question that someone else already grabbed.
  3. Add your blog address. 
  4. On the date:

Answer these three questions:

  1. What do you currently do for a living?
  2. What three words would you use to describe your role?
  3. What is your biggest achievement to date – personal or professional?

5. Answer the question you signed up for.

6. Publish your response on your blog

7. Use the hashtag #blogjune and #junequestions

8. Tag someone anytime… on your blog, via Twitter, text them.. And ask them to sign up for a question.

9. Sign up for as many days as you want

Visual metaphor one. Blogjune 3/21


Want to know how I am getting on here in Adelaide, after relocating from a very settled life in Fremantle?

I’ll show you tomorrow. Using plants.

The day after I landed in Adelaide, I went from the Air BnB via a pot and water garden shop to pick up the keys to my new place. So, I sort of had a garden before a house. A very sensible order of things in my world.

I may not have had any furniture, my cats may still have been in the air flying toward their new home – but, gosh darn it, I had started putting down roots…

Giving myself the best part of my day


Three weeks ago I moved.




When the train carrying my furniture derailed across the desert, I was facing an extra week or so, over Christmas, alone in a near-empty strange house. My two very familiar cats were with me, the moving company had been very supportive about helping me get hold of essentials to tide me over, and I still had a dewy-eyed kind of outlook about this being one big, exciting adventure to be relished. And I had moved to be near the beach. The beach!!!!

BUT, with most of the objects around me totally unfamiliar, no real feel for the geography and no appointments to keep I decided I needed to do a bit extra to gain some kind of routine and stability.

I set a morning routine.

I’m not sure I would have otherwise thought so carefully or purposefully about what was important for me to do daily.

I am lucky enough to have a job where I can (within reason, and as part of a very two-edged sword) set my own timetable during the day. In the past, I have conscientiously tried to exercise before work and then make it in to the office as early as possible. Sort of a “you can have dessert after main course” approach, where I aimed to put in all my work hours as soon as possible so I could go off and play later in the day.

Except, I also have the kind of job where a few extra minutes spent at the end of the work day easily becomes a few extra hours, especially if I want to maximise the fun, interesting and rewarding aspects. I have written before about how the hamster wheel of academia works against self-care by encouraging people with a particular personality-type, who have been rewarded all their lives for a very specific set of actions and traits, to voluntarily strive for excellence beyond common sense.

When I made my list of all the things I would love to do daily, it was pretty long. And some extra ideas came after the inevitable Google search.

I asked myself “What would happen if I started work at a reasonable, but not so early, hour? What if I took the time when I was freshest and most rested, to do things I would love to do, but seem not to get around to each day?” I decided on a routine where I spent an unheard-of hour and a half of my freshest time focussing on activities that would make me healthier and happier.

So, for a few days I did just that. I’d like to say that I stuck to it and every morning has been a celebration of what I love, followed by a productive 8 hours or so of academic work. As far as academic self-care, though, even after ten years or so in the game I am still very, very much on “L” plates and I have already put in some horrendously long all-nighters. (This may, however, actually suit my work-style and not be so horrific… if I remember to balance it out…)

So, during my week rattling around in my house, I bought myself an oversized beanbag at Kmart and set up a “morning place” and decided on:

beanbag and plant
  1. Wake up. No devices in the bathroom. (Unlike usual Twitter, email, looking at teaching site. I am sure I am not the only one…)
  2. Floss and brush teeth
  3. Feed cats, open curtains and windows
  4. Grab glass of warm water with lemon and walk to morning place
  5. Morning pages using pencil on iPad into Goodnotes. This is three pages of writing without censorship or aiming for good form – just writing. It is the corner-stone of Julia Cameron’s the Artist’s Way . This releases any pressing thoughts that would otherwise be whirring about. It also reminds me that yes, I CAN write. So later in the day when I need to do it again I can just get down into it without any preciousness about how HARD it is. It’s only taken me 15 years or so to try it out, since John and Becky at Aurora suggested it was useful.
  6. Mindfulness/meditation. I have been setting a timer and am up to 12 minutes now. The cats detect when I am about to start and both climb on my lap. Better than goat yoga ?
  7. Walk down to beach and swim.
  8. Return home to shower and dress for the day
  9. Make breakfast
  10. THEN, over breakfast, for the first time since waking up, look over the news headlines and Twitter and what is on my Trello board for the day.

I did this on 6 January, and it brought home how beneficial this process could be. Instead of sitting on the loo, barely yet awake and doom-scrolling through reports of this outrage and that horror, I found out about the first 2021 U.S. coup attempt over breakfast, having been in a more relaxed and sustaining world for a couple of hours.

Thanks to Sandy for her very eloquent post this evening about why she has not been blogging for spurring me to blog this evening 🙂

So, what shall I do?


Anyone been through similar … or have sage words of advice for deciding what to do next?


A decade ago I was the right side of my forties, married and twenty years into a stable relationship, with two dependent kids. I had an ongoing job in academia and had paid off my house. I was more or less physically fit and had just completed a Masters degree.

Australia had its first female Prime Minister, the United States its first black president. Economist Ross Garnaut was working on a second comprehensive and scientifically-rigorous review on Australian government action to minimise climate change. (Spoiler: Recommended action was not taken).

I was kind of hopeful, but stressed by trying to keep all the balls in the air, with little time for myself.


Entering 2020, I am the wrong side of my forties, divorced and single. My kids are more or less independent, although each is living with one of their parents. My job was made redundant a month ago, allowing me to once again pay off my house. I am in the gym most days and enrolled in a PhD.

People I do not respect, who seem incapable of compassion or making wise decisions, have been bought (yes – bought!) to power by interests that value what I do not, in nations with capacity to change our planet.

In the last week, after months of the east coast burning beyond what I could have imagined 10 years ago, there was severe flooding in Queensland, a massive dust storm over Dubbo and hail the size of golf-balls fell on my nation’s capital.

I am frankly terrified for the future of the planet, either through climate emergency or a man-child temper tantrum that takes the world with it. I suddenly have far more time each day to do things slowly and well, and generally what I do is determined by my needs and wants, not a clamour of others.

Russell, R. (2020) Catastrophic fire warning day_0057NFX

But, what is it that I want to do, or should do?

With this backdrop, I need to decide what to do with the rest of my life.

I understand that my position is enviable and a result of being born privileged. I am not held by debt or kids or ill-health or a relationship or an ongoing job (although I am very lucky and grateful to have a half-time position, in a job I like, covering parental leave for a year). I do need and want to be employed.

I am not sure I have a template for how to make the decisions I need to. I suspect that, with so many possible paths, many options will turn out to be just as good. I just need to pick one. Which?

Life is short, precarious and full of the unexpected. I know that good fortune today can turn to circumstances almost impossible to bear within a microsecond.

Do I breathe out for a while, enjoy the stability and extra time and ramp up the yoga classes ?

Do I devote all my time to finishing my PhD? Or drop it because I don’t need it for my job any more?

What about finding a partner? People do that and it’s fun. Or moving into community like a baugruppen or cohousing? Or opening my house to refugees?

Should I move interstate or overseas for a higher paying job that maintains seniority, or just for the change of scenery…. or try to find something as close to home as possible and finally get rid of my commute?

Should I maximise what I can earn now, this far out from retirement where I still have compound interest to make a difference? Or aim to work at something high-paying so I can invest in a property that will allow my more-dependent child to live independently and not at home with me? Or should *I* leave home and downsize to a small flat for myself and leave him in the big house?

Do I change careers? To what? What am I even interested in? Or good at? Do I go wildly out on a limb and do something totally different? Am I done with librarianship/education/communication/universities?

Or is time more valuable than money at this stage in my life, and should I aim for part-time work that allows me to grow in other areas?

Potter in the garden, bake fabulous cakes, sew floaty bright dresses, read my backlog of fiction, paint the walls, take up the flute again, de-clutter the loft, finally learn to code properly, catch up with neighbours and old friends, foster homeless kittens, go back in a serious way to fencing or kayaking or skating or swimming or snorkeling or running or… ??

Should I travel while I am still fit enough to enjoy it? Take a few months of the long service leave that was paid out last month, and that I had been looking forward to for years? What about volunteering abroad?

Being the wrong side of forty five, where even the best people can find it difficult to get employment, can I afford to take time out at all and should I be doing everything I can to try to get a stable full-time position?

Should I focus more on helping and equity ? Use my relatively advantageous position to help other people who are not in the same boat, with far fewer choices? Whom? How?

Or, given the mess the planet is in, focus all my energy and heart into trying to make a difference there? Repaying the debt that allows me to even THINK about so many options at the expense of my grandchildren and non-human life that shares the planet.

A few years ago, Anne Holmes suggested reading Transitions by William Bridges, a work I have returned to several times in the last decade. It provides some useful exercises around understanding how old patterns influence what we do in times of great change.

I know I should be grateful, possibly mainly because I am living somewhere habitable at the moment… and just buckle down and get on with it.

But which “it” would that be?

Mental health and self-care at university: academic staff.


What do you do when your mind understands potential harm caused by an environment, yet when you are physically there you willingly jump inside the hamster-wheel, and even perpetuate the process for others?

I took two months away from my usual academic duties at the end of last year, focussing solely on completing my PhD candidacy document. I worked from home for most of it. During this “break”, where I worked consistently and productively each day, my reflection on my workplace was:

“My goodness we do and expect some things that are completely whack!”

Yerga, D. (2007). La hipoteca / Mortgage [Photo]. Retrieved from

I returned to work in January with a resolution. This year, decisions I made about my work would consider carefully the mental health of both my colleagues and my students. This post focusses on academic staff mental health. I will write about students in the future.

Being physically away from campus, focussing on just one aspect of my work, allowed my body a break from the constant adrenaline-bath of being involved in teaching, administration and research. The minute-by-minute decision whether to complete a task to the standard and time 1) allocated by the university workload system, or 2) that it needs, or even 3) that is expected and reinforced by the university promotion system and academic culture. An ever-increasing hierarchy of demand, starting with the academic workload system’s impossibly inadequate allocation, moving through to academic culture’s unrealistically impossible demands.

Constantly feeling inadequate because I simply cannot perform work in the time allocated, even to the lowest possible standard. Working extra hours, and completing a large amount of what was expected, but then looking at the standard of my output and feeling like I was letting down my students, the university, the profession students would graduate to, colleagues and myself. A feeling of constantly cutting corners. Feeling like I was not empathising with the very real life impact of my decisions on students because I simply could not take the care and time needed. Like I could not create the most effective learning environment. And as a researcher? Totally avoidant due to my own inability. Merely finding convenient excuses not to do the reading and writing that I should do to maintain currency in what are meant to be my passions.

Then internalising blame for feeling like this. Feeling this way was simply my fault because I am overly-perfectionist, and if I had better time-management skills I could manage my own workload. It was surely my own desire to do things in a way that interested me, or do that little bit extra, that meant I complicated each task. If I only stopped over-thinking and over-doing then I should have plenty of time to achieve what was needed to the standard required. It’s up to me to say “no”, and I should do it. That if I exercised more I would be fresher and more resilient. I was somehow creating a spiral of inadequacy by getting so tired out trying to manage it all. That surely if I could work out how to be more efficient, and somehow caught up on what felt like an ever-growing backlog, I could do it differently in the future, in the way expected.

lauren rushing. (2011). [No title] [Photo]. Retrieved from

Despite how I felt I was doing my job, I was promoted to Senior Lecturer at the end of last year. 

I have an ongoing position, which in Australia is as secure tenure as is possible. This makes me ridiculously and abberantly lucky.

In Australia, one estimate suggests that between 50-80% of all undergraduate teaching is done by casual/short contract staff. All going through similar mental gymnastics about their performance, but with the stakes being not only their self-concept and mental health, but whether they will be re-hired next semester.

Returning to work this year, I can see colleagues caught in the same spiral. Health issues directly related to stress are not uncommon. Collectively we watch each other work ridiculously long hours and achieve some wonderful outcomes. We make plans collectively as though the workload allocation was actually fair and reasonable. If we cannot fit it all in, then we are the ones at fault rather than the system we work in.

Not helping colleagues shoulder their load feels churlish. We very easily see when someone else is working too-long hours. Sometimes I think we feel more protective of them than of ourselves, when we are actually exhibiting exactly the same behaviour. Academics engaging in protective behaviours that limit their own overwork can be characterised as not team players, and “problem people”…and their actions do have real impact on already-overloaded team members. Self-care can mean actively not caring for others. An environment where we need to make this choice is whack.

There is a lot of discouraging “help” offered out there. Like the very sound suggestion that if academics replace “more” with “enough” they would be happier and healthier …with the kicker that …. then we would not have to work the expected 80-hour work week … but could do perfectly fine if we just do 50 hours per week.

I also came across this wonderfully, eloquent outline by Kate Bowles of a system that encourages lack of self-care and reinforces collusion in perpetuating this… . I find it really chilling because earlier this year I sent exactly the series of texts listed to members of my monthly bookclub from work one evening… and then went home to bed with a small cold that knocked me around far more than it should have for three or so weeks.

… throw together a crowd of smart, driven individuals who’ve been rewarded throughout their entire lives for being ranked well, for being top of the class, and through a mixture of threat and reward you can coerce self-harming behaviour out of them to the extent that you can run a knowledge economy on the fumes of their freely given labour.

They will give you their health, their family time, the time they intended to spend on things that were ethically important to them, their creativity, their sleep. They will volunteer to give you all of this so that you can run your business on a shoestring, relative to what you intend to produce, so that you can be better than the business up the road. They will blame themselves if they can’t find enough of this borrowed time—other people’s borrowed time—to hand over to you.

Just wait while I send this email. Start without me. I’ll be along in a bit. Do you mind if I don’t come? 

They will do this at all levels of the career, even if you pay them by the hour at a real rate that disintegrates to something approaching casual retail work once you factor in all the things they’ll have to do on their own time to get the job done well. They will do this especially if they’re also trying to run alongside the speeding train that might represent their future career hopes.

Some days they will also drive each other for you. They will whisper about each other, and turn a blind eye to each other,  and not quite find the time to act on their own secret critical thinking about any of it. They will also surreptitiously maintain each other through care and coping practices and shrugs in the corridor and exchanged glances and raised eyebrows in meetings and Friday drinks that become chronic, secretive drinking problems so that they can get some rest without writing emails in their heads at 3am.

In fact, if you get the scarcity, intermittency and celebratory settings for occasional reward just right, then the toxic alchemy of hope and shame will diminish their capacity for solidarity, and they will keep the whole thing going for you, in the name of commitment, professional standards, the value of scholarship, academic freedom, the public good of educational equity.

But I love teachingI love my students. I love my research. I love that I get to work from home on Fridays. And Saturdays. And Sundays.

Until they don’t. Until they can’t.

Community long table Blogjune 2019/21


I settled in my suburb because community is a little more central here than in many other places.

It was built following “Garden Suburb” principles, aimed at giving soldiers returning from the Second World War a community to raise families. Most houses were located within walking distance of one or two parks or green spaces, houses are set well back from the road with wide green verges and generally are modest and timber-framed within ample yards. Many, like my family, now live in infill housing in what used to be gloriously large suburban back yards.

Streets curve with easy sight-lines instead of being laid out in a grid, and radiate out from a central oval block at the heart of the suburb containing:

  • a primary school
  • a large permaculture housing collective
  • Aboriginal kindergarten
  • kid’s playground
  • senior’s village
  • community garden
  • child health centre
  • Police and Citizen’s Youth Centre
  • toy library;
  • and a very understated community hall that was built with money raised by the local Progress Association in the 1950s.

So, it should surprise no-one that last night I walked down to the community hall with my adult son and shared a fabulous community long table meal with my neighbours.

Called “Cooking from Home Community Dinners”, a group of nine people from different cultures had earlier completed a course at a local neighbourhood house where they learned to cook each other’s favourite traditional dishes. This was food that was maybe comforting as a child, or unique to their culture, meals that they do not necessarily have occasion to share every day since they have been in Australia.

Over three nights in the last three months, the group has worked with a chef to serve a feast of selected dishes to the local community. We get to hear the stories of love behind each dish. And to sit with strangers and neighbours and maybe talk about the food-inspired questions to share our stories. “Who is the best cook in your household?”, “What was your favourite food as a child”, “What is your cultural background and do you practice any traditions now?”

In the last Federal election, 30% of voters at the local primary school voted for the Greens (compared to 16% for LNP), so this was naturally a zero-waste affair. The local primary school kids drew large tablecloths for many of the tables, and the others were covered with eclectic and funky op-shop kinds of table-cloths. 220 cloth napkins had been sourced via a no-waste community forum. Crockery, cutlery and glassware had been lent by locals, and we were all asked to bring our own coffee mug if we wanted a drink at the end of the night. Some dishes were served in bowls made from disposable leaves. At the end of the night, everyone stacked their plates and cutlery before leaving, and some of us stayed behind to clear tables and glasses.

And, of course, during the open mic in the middle of the evening where people could share, a local theatre director speculated about creating a work around culture and food in collaboration with the TAFE English as a Second Language teacher who happened to be seated next to him. And another person shared how the Repair Cafe movement fits beautifully with the philosophy of the evening.

Last night’s menu? We started with Cumin Puris from Rekha from Fiji and Bakwan fritters from Indonesian Martha. Francesca from Rome provided gnocchi with tomato sauce, followed by Martha’s Babi Kecap with pork, Rekha’s Gujarati curry with chicken and Vera from Indonesia’s Urab salad with coconut. For dessert? Francesca returned with Tiramisu.

To acknowledge the cultural traditions of the cooks, the evening started with a live performance of a mask dance from Fiji, followed by Bollywood dance clips on the screen over mains, and then an Italian duo with accordion and loud, joyous whoops as part of the vocals. You can see them near the stage on the very left of the panorama below.

My tummy, and my cup, is full.

Feedback for experts and novices. Blogjune 2019/19


It’s still marking season. Every semester, around this time, I write the same thing over and over and over.

It is very, very challenging to write feedback, not knowing whether this small, seemingly innocuous, comment may be the final straw that destroys someone’s self-concept as a scholar and is catalyst for them to drop out of uni… or whether they are the type of student who did not care about trying when they did the assessment and still really does not care enough at the end of semester to even read my often carefully-considered (although too brief) feedback.

Thomas Hawke (2006). Repeat [Photo]. Retrieved from

I tend to err on the side of being very direct. I find praise sandwiches a bit patronising… maybe because I feel like I am being too obvious when I do it, and think I will come off as insincere if I try. It can be difficult, though, to be usefully direct.

Sorry about lack of referencing here, but I read a couple of years ago that experts want to be corrected, while novices want to know what they did right.

So, if you are trying to shoot a basket and are very experienced, what you want from your coach is to know how to improve, where you are going wrong, a “critical friend”. If you are just starting out, you may need confirmation that you are holding the ball right and that the way you are pushing up with your arm is the same as you have been shown. In other words, you do not have enough background to know what you are doing right. If you are an expert, you can see when you are doing right, but want hints on how to improve and stop doing wrong things.

The problem happens when the expert comes across a novice and thinks they must want the same kind of feedback that works for them… so points out all kinds of errors, leaving the novice, who is none-the-wiser about what they are actually doing right, feeling like they are doing only wrong things.

I think that this may be the biggest mismatch between markers and students when it comes to feedback.

I am experimenting this semester with listing in my comments a whole lot of possible right things that students can do for this assessment, then asterisking those bits that this student had issues with. It makes the feedback wordy, but maybe is giving them context for the bits where they can improve??

Regardless, here are three phrases that I write over and over and over and over…..

“Please synthesise and summarise.”

“Favour succinctness.”

“This source is not recent enough to support this claim about current technology.”

And one that I write too often each semester….even if it is just once or twice.

“I suspect this mark indicates more about your time management on this assessment than your academic capability. If this is not so, then please contact me and we can discuss together improvements that you could make for next time”.