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Sunday, November 25, 2012

Go Back To Where You Came From

Today I was inspired. I am fed up with the federal government's position on immigration and asylum seekers. First they wanted to excise Australia from the migration zone and do all processing offshore, with some vague excuse that they wanted to save lives from being lost in the perilous journey on board unsafe boats. Now they want to issue refugees with non-working visas for up to five years and make them live off $200/week, when they could encourage them to learn English and integrate into the working community, where they'd be contributing huge amounts of tax to the economy.

Every time I read an article about these policies, I feel angry and ashamed to be Australian, particularly when I read the comments which are always ignorant, uneducated and narrow minded. People just do not seem to understand the realities of what asylum seekers and refugees are faced with, and I fear that they will pass these views to their children.

So today I was inspired to start mapping out a story for teenagers, about an Australia in the future that is turned on it's head. A story designed to make kids think critically and consider the implications of ignoring the direction our country is heading in.

Here is a taster of what has started to form in my head:

2042 was the year from hell. I’d often just sit and wistfully remember the Australia I once knew; the Australia we all remembered, the one we grew up in, was but a memory. We were the lucky country; our lands were supposed to be abounding in nature’s gifts of beauty, rich and rare. Despite the same old political debates about health, education and immigration policy, the swings between left and right were quite rhythmic and predictable. We felt secure. My future then, was without a flicker of doubt.

I was 14 years old when the New Progressives Party burst on the Australian political stage. Most people I knew, including my parents laughed at the irony of their name and never believed they’d come into power. They couldn’t have been less progressive if they tried: they made the old One Nation party seem tame. Their policies were so close to the White Australia Policy that it was alarming and it really seemed inconceivable to us all that we could possibly regress to that way of thinking - especially me, an awkward teenage boy with skin the colour of iced coffee milk.

My parents came to Australia in 2023 from Afghanistan. They fled in terror as their war torn country fell apart again. The Taliban had instated a new leader and their surge to power left many families either destitute or dead. My Hazara parents did the only thing they could to survive and sold everything they had to board a rickety boat in Java, Indonesia. They believed with every last drop of hope they had, that Australia would offer them a safe and secure future. They were amongst the last to be taken in by this so called lucky country. I was born in 2025 and my parents did everything they could to give me the childhood and the opportunities they had missed out on.

While racism was a problem in Australia, I had a great childhood and felt I had everything to hope for. I wanted to be Veterinarian and hoped to get into Sydney University when I graduated high school. In 2039, everything changed and I was no longer the boisterous young man I once was. That year, the Prime Minister was assassinated and a by-election was held. Voting was no longer compulsory, and as a result many Australians, despondent with the political climate, failed to vote. Our worst nightmare was realised when on August 28th 2039, the New Progressives won 74 per cent of the seats in the House of Representatives. It was the biggest landslide victory this country has ever seen.

After the election victory, there was a sudden spate of violent riots and shootings, and people began protesting the racist government policy that was flooding the media. Soon people began disappearing. Anyone who didn’t fit the government’s ideal of Australian was facing real danger and many went underground to protect themselves. Within months, we had become the war torn country my family had given up everything to escape all those years ago. Our family, together with two other Afghan families eventually had to follow suit and go underground as well. There were refugee camps in PNG to the west of Port Moresby, but most knew that these would lead to certain death. Some sold their belongings to try to penetrate the borders of New Zealand, but were soon deported to PNG for offshore processing. New Zealand’s Foreign Affairs minister, Willis Leary had given a statement that they felt that the rise in Australian asylum seekers was a cause for concern and that he did not want to compromise New Zealand’s national security by processing onshore. Australia had become a volatile nation and nobody wanted to show hospitality to the country who had excised itself from the migration zone to keep “boat people” out. Some said Australia was facing the ultimate karma. Where did that leave me? I was facing a future as certain as the one my parents had back in Afghanistan, and I knew I couldn’t just stand by and do nothing. 2042 was set to be the worst year yet, and I just couldn't watch. I had to fight to save what was once a beacon of hope for the people I loved most.

Would you read this story? What do you think of the federal government's latest policy proposal?

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Reach for the Sky

This time last year I was unemployed. I was unsure if I wanted to continue writing my honours thesis, didn’t know what type of job to apply for or if I wanted to work full time. The financial burden was really hard, but the emotional burden of not knowing what I was doing or if I was going to be able to commit to any job for long was even harder. I suppose I was a bit lost.

This time last year was also the time that I emailed a number of organisations that specialise in marketing and professional writing, hoping that I may be able to tap into freelance writing. It was only via this channel that I was able to begin writing resumes professionally on a freelance basis. I found I really enjoyed finding out the skills and qualities of a job seeker and being able to syphon it into a single vibrant document designed to sell them to a potential employer. I learned that a good resume makes the difference between an employer seeing what a candidate actually has on offer, or reading the first page and tossing it in the bin. I also learned quickly that not having a resume that is effective holds many job seekers back. It is a very big barrier.

It isn’t the only barrier though, and I am soon to discover just how severe and debilitating some of those barriers can be. Writing resumes professionally really tapped into an interest in the employment sector for me, so much so that I have taken steps to further explore it. When I found out recently that I was required to complete a 50 hour placement volunteering in the community as part of a university subject, I decided that I could either treat it as an inconvenience or as an opportunity to learn something about an area of interest, and to learn more about myself. And so it has eventuated that I will spend time in two sister organisations, one which assists job seekers with disabilities, and one which assists job seekers with mental health issues. The DES and Worklink, work hand in hand with one another, and I am very excited and grateful for their willingness to accommodate me and support through a meaningful experience. I hope to keep you all up to date on this placement as I go.

As I’d also like to further pursue professional corporate and resume writing after I finish university – I have a facebook page, Sky High Professional Writing – I want to start offering job seeking advice and resume tips on this blog to support the process of entering in to such a venture. To start, here are my top 8 tips for applying for jobs:

1. Your resume is your personal marketing document. Make sure it reflects who you are. It should be 3 pages at most unless you have 30 years’ experience and everything is relevant. No employer will read it if it is 10 pages long.

2. Start broadly from the top of your resume. Key competencies or qualities first, career objective, education, career history, key skills and achievements, community involvement, and then specifics like computer skills if relevant. Only put in work experience which is relevant for the job you apply for.

3. Tap into qualities and assets that employers love, for example your superior problem solving skills, your ability to relate to internal and external customers on every level, your ability to acquire knowledge rapidly, your commitment to ongoing professional renewal, your passion for social equity or going above and beyond to deliver exceptional service.

4. Adjust your resume for EVERY application. Make sure it speaks to the organisation you are applying to work for.

5. Re-write your cover letter for EVERY application. Employers can tell when you have done a cut and paste job. Address the criteria in the ad. Visit the website and show that you know the organisation by telling them how your skills align with the services they provide and how your qualities and previous experience reflect what is in their mission statement. They want to know why you want to work for their organisation, or your application will end up in the bin.

6. Write letters and send your resume to organisations that aren’t advertising. Most jobs are not advertised and most organisations love it when you take the time to show an interest in their business or service. But again, write specifically to the organisation. Cut and paste is a big waste of time.

7. Apply for full time jobs even if you want to work part time, and part time jobs even if you want to work full time. If you get their attention and present well in an interview, you never know what they may be willing to offer you.

8. Check your spelling and grammar. Your job application is not Facebook. Recruitment officers can and WILL throw your application in the bin if you have careless spelling errors and don’t know how to use an apostrophe. They can and ARE that picky. Your professional literacy matters to them even if it doesn’t to you.

Hopefully this might help some stressed out job seekers out there. Don’t forget to check me out on Facebook and recommend me to your friends. It’s a cut throat world, but a good resume is a secret weapon!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

32, Single, Childless

I have not blogged in quite a while; life has been somewhat busy and so writing has fallen to the wayside this year. I have been working hard, planning and teaching a Kindergarten class, completed my final teaching prac, switched centres and begun teaching another Kindergarten class and have launched into my final university subjects. After this year, I will be a qualified teacher and the world will be at my feet.

Or will it? I guess that is the starting point for resurrecting my blog. I feel a need to write. I always have. I write about current affairs and topics of interest online in certain forums, I get a nerdy kind of buzz from finishing assignments, and I have slowly but surely been plodding along with my novel. It may or may not ever be published. Sometimes none of those things are enough though. Sometimes I write poetry and sometimes I write my feelings out, just like this but never hit publish. It is hard sometimes to put yourself out there, but it is also one of the best ways to get it out of your system. I wish I had the courage to do it more often.

I digress. Going back to the world being at my feet, or not: I have come to a realisation. I will probably never feel like it is. And there is a reason for this. A highly personal one. No matter what path my career takes, or how much I write, there are things I just cannot see changing. I am 32 in a matter of days. I am single. I am childless. I can’t afford to be a parent on my own. I’ve secretly stopped believing I will meet the love of my life. I feel as though I’ve missed the boat.

It’s funny. I expected that the longer I worked with young children, the more I would grow to appreciate my peace at knock off time. I thought I’d be able to hang out with the kiddies, have my patience tested daily, and then go and home and be grateful to have time to myself. I thought maybe I would want children less. That I’d stop waiting for love. That’d fix me up, right?

Instead, I appreciate my peace and quiet, but somehow want children more. Having other people’s children drown me in cuddles and tell me they love me; watching them reach milestones proudly and learn so much - from me - seems to serve only remind me of what I am missing out on. There are babies and children around me all the time. So many friends are having babies now. I am at that age. By the end of the year I won’t be able to count on both hands the number of people I know or am acquainted with who have had babies, just this year. In fact I feel like every time I log in to face book I am confronted with pregnant bellies, new babies and announcements of engagement. And then I go to work and spend all day around kids.

I guess I just wonder how long I can keep ignoring the feelings of inadequacy and pushing them away. How long can I ignore the pangs of strong hateful jealousy I feel toward anyone pregnant or newly bestowed with a baby? I’m happy for those people at the same time… but, is it healthy? I’m just doing my best, but I still feel like I’m not doing enough. What did I do wrong in my life to be alone and childless at 32? I don’t think any ambition I ever had was as strong as the one I had to be a mother. Yet it may end up being the one ambition I never fulfil. I think I understand how people with fertility problems feel. That want and urgency pokes at your insides daily. When people say “oh you have plenty of time”, and “it’ll happen when the time is right”, I feel even worse. It may not. I haven’t got plenty of time. I have very little. My biological clock might chug to a halt before I find myself in a position to make it happen.

How do I accept that this may be the case? I can’t find peace with that outcome yet. I can handle being alone. But I can't imagine living my life without my own children.

Am I just being dramatic because I turn 32 in less than 2 weeks? Or is this a normal feeling?

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