Archive for July, 2010

a quiet revolution begins

 Did you know that well before white explorers and settlers in this Australia, the Chinese, often through traders from Sulawesi, were active traders with the residents of this country? They respected the owners of this vast land and treated them with respect, as  Warren Mundine reminded Richard Fidler recently. More than 220 years after white men treated our country’s owners as savages, showing little respect or understanding, we don’t seem to have made a lot of progress….but there are some encouraging signs.

I’ve always held the view that decisions are easy if you have the right information. It could be argued that lack of information (and hence understanding) led to the attitudes of Arthur Phillip and subsequent boat people. One can only wonder how things might have been today with a different approach.

While it is impossible to generalise about the evolution of the attitudes of non-aboriginal Australians over the last two centuries, we have seen various combinations of aggression, intolerance, prejudice, dispossession, platitudes, tokenism and interference, there are some positive signs as awareness of issues grows more broadly in the community.  In fact my colleague John Morse, author of A Shared Vision, calls it a quiet, dignified revolution.

One of the most significant enablers of this quiet revolution was the apology to the stolen generation in February 2008. It was no silver bullet to reconciliation and progress, but it did lift a heavy cloud. From the aboriginal perspective, it was highly symbolic and cathartic. From the perspective of the non-aboriginal residents of Australia, it seemed to give permission and legitimacy to engage in forward focussed dialogue with less guilt. Most Australians carry huge good will and hope for their aboriginal brothers and sisters – but don’t know how to interface and react.

The piecemeal, hand out mentality is not a solution to the many issues faced by aboriginal communities. Treatment of symptoms is always short term and as Tania Major argues, boosts the addiction to passive welfare.  She argues persuasively against the “one size fits all” approach as seen in the NT intervention.

O'Loughlin and Goodes at work

The GO Foundation

The approach of the GO Foundation is impressive. Formed by Sydney Swans legends Adam Goodes and Michael O’Loughlin, who both feel a keen sense of responsibility to their people, GO Foundation zeroes in on root causes. The initial project in Dareton identified the reasons for domestic violence and alcoholism by talking with the people affected. Having then identified solutions – such as a workshop for men – help from the corporate sector has been enlisted with materials and construction. The Foundation allows corporate Australia and aboriginal people to engage and helps indigenous Australians set life goals.

We need to work with aboriginal communities on many levels of problem solving and opportunity building. In every case solutions need to be owned by the aboriginal people and based on understanding and respect. I see amazing opportunities for aboriginal people to be involved in mainstream economic and cultural activity, rather than on the periphery. While tourism and AFL football have played an important role in providing incentives for aboriginal children, there are new role models coming forward in contemporary culture, business, land management and trade – just as the Chinese appreciated centuries ago.

kemeny’s hidden label martinborough pinot 2008

July 30, 2010  |  wine review  |  5 Comments

Kemeny’s really do provide some amazing value with their hidden label wines. This one is a real revelation. If you look closely on the label, it’s possible to identify the source of the wine. In this case, the winemaker is none other than Steve Smith (master of wine) – co-owner and winemaker of Craggy Range winery. This wine has been put together from fruit grown at Te Muna in the Waipara region of the Martinborough – just east of Wellington. The 2008 Craggy Range pinot sells for NZ$33 – a far cry from the $15 I paid at Kemeny’s.

My tasting notes follow:

Good condition and brilliant bright red colour. Seductive nose – all pinot! Cherries and cut flowers. Attacks with intense balck cherries and a little spice with some subtle oak. Silky texture and finishes with great length and finesse. High quality pinot at a ridiculous price.  94/100

broken hill and the miner's arms

broken hill and the miner’s arms

July 30, 2010  |  travel tips and tales  |  No Comments

One of life’s little surprises was a recent road trip with my parents to Broken Hill. It’s a living museum of 20,000 people (30,000 at its peak), with the large ore body bordering its eastern boundary giving context and reason for the very existence of this inland city in the desert. The contrast between capital and labour through history was obvious – from the stately architecture of the courthouse and early hotels to the ubiquitous tin cottages. While great wealth has emanated from Broken Hill, this has been, and still is, a worker’s city. Street names reflect the significance of the mining industry – Iodide, Bromide, Chloride…..

What a treat to find the Miner’s Arms Hotel – a beautifully restored hotel, originally built in 1888 and now converted into a delightful B&B by Michael and Marjorie Raetz. The Miner’s Arms offers authentic and warm hospitality, comfortable and spacious rooms and the best breakfasts in the land. I can highly recommend this experience and it seems that others do as well, with the Miner’s Arms continuing to win tourism awards for the best B&B.

Nearby Silverton provided further insights into the hardships and rewards of the pioneers. The museum in Silverton, at the site of the old gaol, is one of Australia’s finest collections of mining and community memorabilia. No-one visiting Silverton should miss the local cemetery, with gravestones going back to the mid 1850’s. The physical location of the cemetery in saltbush and red dust, was itself a reminder of past challenges, and as one gravestone was marked, “blighted hopes”.

Argent Street – the main thoroughfare in Broken Hill – is an inviting strip to walk and absorb the past and current. Some grand buildings with useful interpretive material are seamlessly integrated with the commerce of the day. We made our contribution to the local economy when dad and I dropped in to a store called, “Outback Whips and Leather”. A size 61 white Akubra slipped on the boss’s head like a hand in a glove and became an early Christmas present

Our Broken Hill experience would not have been complete without the sunset trips to the Living Desert and the Pinnacles on successive evenings. Kangaroos, solitude, silence, soft eerie light, birds and dry river beds that hosted “Hans Heysen eucalypts”, left us in awe of the natural beauty, and reaching for our cameras and paintbrushes.


a great discovery near orange

a great discovery near orange

July 30, 2010  |  travel tips and tales  |  No Comments

 One of the most delightful B&B experiences for me was two nights at the Black Sheep Inn just off the Forbes Road about 10km from Orange, NSW. Helen and Andrew Napier run a five star experience in a converted shearing shed. From the moment you enter the building it says, “welcome”. 

Names and directions chalked on a board, a fully equipped kitchen, sumptuous rooms and ensuites (with L’Occitane products), an inviting verandah and modern barbecue, together withcomfortable lounges and books. Great skill has been invested in the theme, where all the working component of the shearing shed have been preserved. Pride of place are the old wool press and the carding table which has been covered in glass to become a magnificent communal dining area.

 Host Helen, a talented and engaging person, produces breakfasts to die for – with a creative gourment flair, beautifully presented. The BSI provides a springboard to the delights of Orange – a food and wine bowl with a “garden psyche”. In fact the apples in late March early April are the nicest in the land! I give this facility my highest recommendation. Check out or call Helen on 02 63690662

mt rosa pinot noir 2008

July 28, 2010  |  wine review  |  No Comments

Eureka! What a find. I love Central Otago pinot but some of it is getting a little expensive. This one delivers for around $30. I purchased this one at the Berry bottle shop and I know it is also avilable through

Tasting notes:

 Bright crimson, a little cloudy. Attrractive lifted nose of red currant. Silky texture and accessible cherry fruit on front palate, finishing with length and good balance.  Alluring sappy, mealy flavours as it finishes.  An excellent pinot from the finest area in the New World. 13.5% alcohol.  94/100

to blog or not to blog?

to blog or not to blog?

July 28, 2010  |  knowledge, leadership, life, main blog, philosophy  |  1 Comment

 “Be very careful sticking your head up and writing a blog”, came the wise counsel of one of my conservative friends. He understands that I am a professional director and was being supportive and protective in his known world of risk management. The very next day, another colleague who had read my blog phoned to explore the possibilities of forming an alliance of influential people to work on sustainable futures. Obviously this wouldn’t have opened up without the blog.

These contrasting experiences set me thinking about the pros and cons of writing a blog – a concept that has been around for over a decade, but is still alive and well. Some bloggers have migrated to social media and some are now using social media to support their blogs.

Why should I write a blog?

  • We have migrated from a world where “knowledge is power” to one where “sharing knowledge is power”. By sharing, the blog becomes a conduit for additional knowledge and networking. It is the perfect place for focussed attention for an interested community. Network learning is the way of the future.
  • A regular blog stimulates thinking around subjects and requires a disciplined approach to developing that thinking. As such, it can become a powerful learning vehicle – a bit like doing your homework! It often adds to thought leadership.
  • Blogs are permanent and can be grouped in a way that stimulates ongoing discovery and interaction
  • Being a professional is also about contributing as well as consuming
  • You own your work in a self-hosted blog and remain in total control of its content and submitted comments
  • By putting your “head on the block” and because content is public, open to scrutiny and has an infinite life, authenticity and openness is demanded and more likely to be delivered through a blog

Why shouldn’t I write a blog?

  • Blogs can be addictive and a drain on time
  • Some people have a perception that writing a blog is self-indulgent and tend to categorize bloggers as ego trippers
  • There is a risk of offending someone who is in a position to influence your desired outcomes in life or career
  • The challenge to keep the material interesting, regular, original and relevant can be daunting
  • There is an underlying assumption that people will be interested in what you post

So it looks like the ayes have it! Now what will that next blog be about? Perish the thought of blogophobia!

Richard Hamilton 2008 Hut Block Cabernet Sauvignon

July 26, 2010  |  wine review  |  No Comments


I’m always searching for a good value red under $20. Based on the hand written recommendations in the window of the Berry bottle shop (Princes Highway, Berry) this one promised to fit the bill. My tasting notes:

“Distinctive linalool on the nose, aggressive alcohol masking berry fruit which opens up a little on the front palate. Attacks with dark cherry and bramble berry – not unlike a pinot. Wine out of balance with a somehwat “contrived” feel – maybe some American oak not quite in synch. May settle in time and allow the subtle blackcurrant and mint overtones to evolve. Although 14.5% alcohol, thin on the back palate. Would like to see again in 18 months. 86/100″

life advice from the pointy end

life advice from the pointy end

 When I used to fly up the pointy end of the plane, there was nothing like a glass of Krug and freedom from electronic invasion, to stimulate the brain. I did some of my most creative work in the air. The following list of “life advice” given to my daughters in 2001, flowed from the beautiful bead at ten thousand metres……

  • Learn Spanish and visit as many places where it is spoken that you can
  • Take risks but be sharp when you do
  • Find a partner who will cherish you and who has soul, depth, passion and strength
  • Drink less and better
  • Share stunning experiences with your parents as they grow older
  • Be slow to judge, quick to relate and balanced in your conclusion
  • Respect, reputation and credibility are hard earned and easily lost – value these attributes
  • Mostly travel off the beaten track
  • Let passion and positivity reign over cynicism and mediocrity
  • Develop self-esteem to match your talent and most barriers to fulfilment will be removed
  • Be humble because we are lucky to be who and where we are
  • Place your trust in others wisely – they are not all like you
  • Have fun but understand when to knuckle down – hard work generally precedes success
  • Lust after knowledge
  • Understand the power of subtlety in todays “in your face” world
  • Those who respect you for being strong and independent will be your best friends
  • Be either switched on or switched off – never be caught half way
  • Embrace dancing for fitness, romance and fun
  • Do what you can to save the earth – we are losing the battle
  • Mentor/sponsor/support someone younger
  • Ask of yourself what you ask of others
  • See how much more you hear when you listen without judgement
  • When something goes wrong, seek to learn, not to blame
  • Understand and appreciate music – the international language
  • Look at the big picture – love is always there
  • Extensively use the best stress beaters – laughter and exercise
  • Allow the high of life to transcend over artificially induced highs
  • Whatever you pay attention to will grow stronger in your life.
  • Show empathy most to those who annoy you most
  • Ask questions instead of making statements

It’s easy to give advice – particularly when sipping Krug – and much harder to accept it or do anything about it, even if it hits the target. I was chuffed to discover recently that these beautiful women still carry a copy.

beware reality television politics

 “Never underestimate the intelligence of the electorate” has become a throw-away line in Australian politics. A more relevant mantra for the next election might be, “never underestimate the desire of the electorate for authenticity and leadership”.

In this era of poll driven politics, there is a growing concern from informed Australians about decision makers in the Parliament seeking populist solutions. There seems to be less appetite from those in power to form policy based on principles, on sound analysis and with longer time horizons. The balance between consultation and leadership has swung to consultation as those at the helm (I hesitate to use the term leaders), fear being voted off in today’s reality television politics.

Why should this worry politicians? Voters are changing as society norms change and as awareness and knowledge grow at an alarming rate. Voters who decide elections (as opposed to those locked into their fixed loyalties, beliefs and prejudices) have never been better informed. They are also looking for meaning and authenticity – as they are in their work and personal lives. Their bullshit detectors have never been more finely tuned. They are increasingly intolerant of political opportunism and of leaders who play the man rather than the ball.

Polls and surveys reflect opinions about the known world at a point in time. They don’t measure responses to a different world, one which can be created when a leader takes a stand on a clearly articulated principle. For example, Julia Gillard appears to have lost an opportunity to tap into the latent values of an informed electorate on the complex asylum seeker issue.  A more humanitarian line on asylum seekers, is a potential election winner. Courageous leadership and clear communication around the context and principles used in reaching such a position, has the potential to actually change attitudes – and as a result the polls. Espoused views can and will shift as people are given permission to allow their better understanding and desire for authenticity, to be expressed.

Another sleeper is climate change. We saw the exodus of swinging voters to the Greens as the Government dropped the ball on their previously expressed principles. I have written previously about the Moderate Green Majority, environmentally conscious Australians who are waiting for clearly communicated logic and policies to follow leadership – leadership based on issues and outcomes, rather than on responses to polls in their known world.

Have we seen the last of courageous leaders like Jeff Kennett and Paul Keating? Is considered decision making and vision being eroded by reality television politics and polls? Both of the major parties are being seduced by populism and are missing the opportunity to win respect and votes through courage and true leadership. If they fail to see the light, watch out for the emergence of a powerful third force that provides principle, freshness and authenticity, in much the way that Nick McKim has achieved in Tasmania.

hope, optimism and high expectation

 Mates often give me grief about looking through rose coloured glasses. When you’re a “glass half full” person, it’s a challenge to strike the right levels of hope, optimism and expectation. Kevin Rudd’s recent demise led me to dust off my article from the 2020 Summit, which highlights the difference between having positive expectations about what we want (hope), and assigning a high probability to those outcomes (optimism). At the time, I wrote:

The spirit of optimism, hope and inspiration, in abundance at the 2020 Summit, reminded me of the mood that engulfed Sydney during the Olympic Games. Equality, respect, enthusiasm and pride in being Australian, transcended personal biases and partisan views.  This Summit was about starting a dialogue right around Australia that will continue. It has energised and enabled people to feel listened to, and relevant. Let’s hope that the infectious enthusiasm and debate generated by the Summit can continue throughout Australia as part of the fabric of our society. Let’s also hope that the culture of the weekend – where different views were offered and listened to, where there are no rights or wrongs, where opposing arguments can coalesce in consensus – transcends our lives and cuts through the dogma, parochialism and inflexibility that are all too common. 

Only 27 months later, the central figure giving stimulating the hope and optimism was removed from office. Why? Not because he offered hope, but because he failed to manage high expectation through effective delivery and relationship management. As a result, he dampened the hope and optimism of millions who believed in him. The danger in today’s world is that if hope rises and gets squashed too often, it struggles to rise again, giving oxygen to sceptics, shock jocks and conservatives preoccupied with precedent.  

High expectations, well managed (by parents, partners, or corporations) often lead to high performance and achievement. However, poor delivery and failure to bring people on the journey, mostly leads to spectacular falls. To make it even tougher, the bar is set high in this country as “tall poppy syndrome” and the media do their bit to foster “glass half empty”. That movement is also in full swing in the USA where the Murdoch media are doing a job on President Obama as he offers hope on ground breaking health reform.

 Markets love business leaders who “under promise and over deliver”. Effective sales men and women get rich on “under committing and over delivering”. They’ve learned to overcome that part of human nature that wants to promise what we think people want to hear. And yet we continue to fall into the trap. Setting unrealistic expectations can mean that an effort (like carbon pollution reduction) becomes the victim of its own promise. When we fail to deliver, excuses and denial become part of the landscape.

 Despite the constant negativity in parts of the Australian media and despite the natural resistance to change in every one of us, we need to encourage hope and optimism for a better world. Martin Seligman makes a strong link between “learned optimism” and happiness. Katie Couric explains the genetic programming of optimism and tells us that optimists live longer. Hope is a powerful motivator.

 Effective management of expectation is an enabler of legitimate hope and optimism, which can give people confidence, infectious energy and courage to become involved. We saw the start of that process at the 2020 Summit. Let’s hope that our political and community leaders, with the support of the powerful media, can embrace some issues that transcend politics and allow us to unite on some exciting journeys full of hope and optimism, against a background of realistic expectations. What are the most critical issues on that list?