Author: Graeme Innes AM
Wonderful to join Jen Blyth, Advocacy Manager for Deaf Victoria, on ABC’s Conversation Hour. Hope you enjoy the interview.
Something strange happened last Friday. I sat at drinks whilst a friend leafed through the pages of my book, chuckling at some parts and asking questions about others. It’s not often that one experiences that sort of assessment of your major piece of writing.
I had mixed feelings. I was a little scared that a friend, whose opinion I value, was critiquing what I had written. But overlaying this feeling was an overwhelming level of excitement that my labours have come to fruition.
My book Finding A Way will be in the book stores from 22 June, and will be launched on 13 July. Just 3 weeks to go. And like Big Kev of advertising fame: “I’m Excited”.
I touched an advance copy for the first time last Friday, and the front cover, with its representation of Braille (the script I have used all of my life) is just amazing. I rifled the pages, smelled the printer’s ink, and held the actual printed words to my heart — my life so far in words on paper.
You will be able to share my excitement very soon. You can register on this site and be sent the first copies when Finding A Way is available. Or click the link to buy an eBook. All of the links are on the site. And if you order a signed print book, I will sign it for you before it is sent out.
You can also choose to come and join me at an event to publicise the book. They are starting to appear on my calendar — also on this site — and are currently planned for Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Newcastle. Others are still in the planning stages.
If you want me to come to an event near you I am happy to do that. Just get in touch through the link on my site, let me know the place and what arrangements you can make and we will work with you to make it happen. Events may be at bookshops, or arranged by community organisations, either as part of a bigger conference or on their own. I will try to fit in as many as possible.
My life so far has been a fantastic experience, not without its challenges. But I have always managed to Find A Way. Join me to share that experience.
By the time you read this I’ll be living in Brisbane. The boss is taking me up there so this is my last chance to get on his computer and write.
He doesn’t think I know. It’s amazing how humans under-rate our sense about these things. If I hadn’t understood him talking to other people about it, I would have picked it up from the extra cuddles and pats he has been giving me for the past few months since the decision was made. I can read him like a book.
I really enjoy working as a guide dog. I love working with the boss. I get to be a superior dog, going to lots of places where other dogs are just not allowed to go. I get to travel to new places all around Australia. And most importantly I get to meet all of you, and give you a quick sniff (and even the occasional lick when the boss is not paying attention).
But I am finding it tougher these days. I’m 10.5 years old now, that’s 75 in human years. The arthritis is painful when I’m in cold places, and my wheat allergy means that my ears are sore much of the time. I think I should take it a little bit easier.
Where I’m going will be great. It’s Brisbane so it’s warm. I will be with people who I have visited for Christmas for the last five or six years. There are two other dogs there who I really like. And humans who visit call it dog heaven — it’s a totally dog-friendly house, we get to go for walks every day, and it’s close to parks and the beach.
I visited there with Maureen and the boss last year, and really enjoyed the weekend. I’m going to be pretty happy there, and I’m sure that the boss will come to visit me regularly.
I tried to pass on some of the things I have learned. But she’s a typical teenager, and it seemed to me that much of it went over her puppy head. We’ll see how much she took in during the years to come, I guess.
She’s a golden Labrador, and she has been training with the boss for about four weeks. It’s hard work for both of them at present, but in time I think she’ll be almost as good a guide dog as I have been.
I don’t think her writing skills will match mine, but you wouldn’t be surprised by that. I did explain to her how she could access the boss’s computer at night when he wasn’t paying attention, but she just looked at me dismissively. She told me that computers were very “old school” and all the hip pooches are using “smart” devices. She tells me not to bother myself about techno stuff; she’s cool with all of that. We’ll see.
I’m sorry I won’t see you at the book launches. But just remember that he didn’t write it all — you have my permission to quietly remind him of that if he gets above himself.
So, to quote the great dog of the universe: “May the sun shine warmly where you lie, may the breeze bring you pleasant smells, and may you catch all those rabbits that you chase in your dreams.”
Arrow, the retiring guide dog
P.S. You are seeing some of my pictures from Facebook. I will try and update my old mate Jordie’s FB page (she was MY predecessor, may she rest in peace), so you can see what I’m up to.
Image credit: Top and centre, Tracey Markos. Bottom: Julie Tait. Featured image: Kim Welinski.
Thursday 3 December
It’s another early start. Pick up at 6 30 for a 7 AM gig at the Museum of Australian Democracy at Eureka. Good quality crumbs from the breakfast, though.
The boss is comparing women in Claire Wright’s book The Forgotten Rebels of Eureka with the way women with disabilities are also forgotten. Claire Wright’s book is a great read – he thought I was asleep while he was reading it, but I stayed awake to listen. It’s annoying, though, when he listens to sections with his headphones on in a plane and a car, so I miss a few important chunks. I wonder if I could get his computer to play it to me again.
Anyway, we’re back in the hire car and off to the ANZ headquarters in Melbourne. Our second International Day function. It’s the Star Awards – I didn’t get an award, but managed a few appearances in photos, and grabbed a few more crumbs.
And we’re off again. Back to the airport and heading to Tweed Heads. Umm Jetstar Boss, could be a challenge.
Yes, I was right, the flight is delayed. Thank goodness Queensland is an hour behind us – means we are not too late to the dinner awards function for the Tweed City Council.
Nice and warm up here – Ballarat was cold, even in December. The Boss made another speech and lots of people got awards. Wow I’m tired though – too busy a life for an old dog. Oh, so is he.
He’s sneaking out a little early – that’s not like the boss, but thank goodness. Back to the hotel, some nice carpet to sleep and an open balcony.
Friday 4 December
We’re flying again. Home this time I think. I might get a weekend at home for a change.
Yes, the taxi is dropping us off here. Thank goodness – a bit of time out of the harness.
Not for long though. The boss has unpacked, and sat at his desk for a while, and we’re off again. He’s speaking at a Cricket Australia conference in Artarmon for the International Day. And they like him – I get the sense that most of them in this room are cricket tragics themselves, just like the boss. Not sure what they see it in myself. Games go on for a long time, and the commentators seem to chat about a lot of things not related to cricket – I guess they have to work out a way to fill in the boring bits. Don’t tell him I said that though.
Now we’re off to the city for an Attitude Foundation board meeting and then the Australian Network on Disability drinks. That should be good. Lots of my friends there, and the crumbs are always good in a crowd.
Saturday 5 December
There’s the doorbell. And they’re calling me. I’m in the lift by myself. This means its bath day.
Sandra meets me on the ground floor – I don’t know how they open the door for her – this technology tricks me sometimes. And off I go to the trailer for a wash. It’s a warm day so I won’t get too cold. And I do like coming back with a clean shiny coat, and smelling so nice. I get very excited when I return to the apartment.
The Boss and Maureen are going out to dinner tonight which is great – I get time for a long sleep, and with any luck Rachel’s boyfriend will come over. He always gives me lots of pats.
Sunday 6 December
Another quiet day. Everyone in the family is taking it easy.
Oh no, the suit case is out again. How many meals has he made up this time, and where are we going now?
In a taxi and off to the airport. Adelaide this time. Ok.
Wow it’s hot here. 40 degrees. How do they live in this? Dinner with friends tonight, and we must be doing a gig tomorrow.
Well the boss made a good call and did not leave the hotel window open. He and I usually like that, but the heat is amazing here.
And now we’re off to the University for a “Conversation with Graeme Innes” primarily aimed at people with disabilities. Wow, the footpaths are burning my little feet and its only 9 o’clock in the morning.
Lots of interesting talk, and then lunch and back to the airport. There are some lovely people here, but I couldn’t live in this heat. Phew, Sydney is a bit cooler.
Tuesday 8 December
Two more International Day speeches today, but at least they are in Sydney. So we’re on the train. I like the train, and the Boss is much happier now that stations are announced. It’s funny you know, some people think it’s me who knows what station we have to get off. It’s really the Boss who works it out, but I’m happy to take the credit for it if people want to give that to me.
Our first speech is to the Department of Planning. Did I say our first speech? Well the Boss makes them, but I deserve a lot of the credit – it’s me who gets him there, and lots of the stories are about me – at least the good stories are about me.
That one’s done and we’re off to Sun Studios for a photo shoot. What – I’m not included in the photos. What are they thinking – these pics will sink without trace.
Now we’re back for another speech to the Office of the Environment and Heritage. This day is just Go Go Go.
And there is an evening function as well. The Boss is facilitating a Life without Barriers roundtable for the disability sector – called Ideas without Barriers – clever name boss. This one is about Choice and Control. Interesting discussion, and the crumbs at Spark Helmore are certainly better than average. I’m glad it’s Christmas soon – not sure how much longer I can keep up this pace.
Wednesday 9 December
At last, a quiet day. The Boss is appearing on The Drum this afternoon, so he’s doing his research. But he’ll go by taxi, so with any luck I’ll get to stay at home for a long snooze. He usually leaves some nice music on for me – he’s quite thoughtful really.
He’s come back happy, so The Drum must have gone well. That’s good.
Thursday 10 December
Another speech today. The Boss is giving the Occasional Address at a Sydney University Graduation where he is an Adjunct Professor. He’s going to wear that gown and squishy hat again.
Not sure I’m keen on that look, but it seems to get some positive feedback. No hat for me I notice.
He gave a good speech though. Told a story from his book which is coming out next year – you should read it, there will be some great guide dog stories.
Friday 11 December
We did a video shoot this morning for a Sydney University promotion – at least the Boss did the shoot and I snoozed in the corner. They didn’t want me in the shot again. When will people learn that dogs draw eyeballs?
Then off to the Boss’s Uncle’s funeral – I thought the Boss was quite sad today.
Maureen and the Boss are out to dinner tonight so I’ll get a quiet one.
Saturday 12 December
Flying again. And Maureen’s coming. This is different.
We’ve gone to Brisbane, and someone is picking us up. YES, it’s Sharon and Julie. I have gone to their place for Christmas for the past four or five years. They must have moved to Brisbane.
This Is Exciting!
I get to hang out with their two dogs, Bully and Maddie. I also get the run of this house. Their jokey nickname for the place is “the kennel” because it is so dog friendly. And both Sharon and Julie are just lovely to me. I could stay here for a long time.
The Boss and Maureen had a lovely weekend here – going out and sight-seeing, and just catching up with good friends. I just hung out – it was awesome.
I reckon I could retire here – nice warm weather, two doggie friends to play with, the lovely Sharon and Julie and a house for us all. I can’t think of much more I could want.
One last word
It’s been a pretty hard few weeks while I’ve been blogging, and another big year for the Boss and me. I turned 10 in September, so I’m starting to feel the years a bit more. And the injury to my foot on that SydneyTrains escalator earlier in the year was certainly a set-back for me.
I love working with the Boss. We go to some fascinating places, and I reckon I fly more than any other dog in Australia. But I guess all good things must come to an end.
I think I’m going to stop blogging now. It’s been lots of fun giving you my perspective on the Boss’s life. But it’s hard to find the time to write when he’s not on the computer.
So you all have a good Christmas – I hope Santa brings you lots of bones and doggie treats, and you get plenty of time stretched out on the balcony with the occasional tummy rub. That’s my plan.
By the way, make sure you get your share of the Christmas ham – it’s the best!
Well, I was right. We’re off with the family on the shuttle bus to Cairns. I’m sorry to be leaving here – I have just loved my time on the beach. And the apartment is not too hot, particularly if I am left alone to turn on the air con, which I can because it has motion sensors.
Not keen on the metal floor of these shuttles, though – I can’t get a grip and slide around a lot. I prefer the carpet in the plane.
Hang on, I’m going down the back with Rachel – excellent – I’ll get more pats down here.
Now, what’s happening? The family are flying back to Sydney, but the boss and I are going to Melbourne. Oh, that’s right. He’s appearing in the Wheeler Centre’s Interrobang Festival. What the hell is an Interrobang? I think Rachel said something about that one time…
Long flight – 2700 km from Cairns to Melbourne. That’s a total of 6220 km so far on this trip. Nice to stretch the legs on the walk to a taxi.
We’re staying at the Hyatt on Collins. Nice enough room, but no window or balcony. Even though the boss can’t, I like to be able to look out.
Friday night at the Interrobang sounds fun, although the stairs to the stage and green room at the Athenaeum Theatre are pretty dodgy. If I had my way the boss wouldn’t go up those, but he’s made me do it. The show must go on I suppose.
It’s a game show panel, and just before we appeared someone in the audience asked the question: “Which is better, cats or dogs?”
That was a great lead-in for the boss. I sat up nicely next to him so that the audience could see me, and told him to say that of course it was dogs. We got a big laugh for that gag. I don’t think the boss gives me enough credit for setting up his jokes, though. I’ll have to talk to him.
We didn’t win our round in the quiz, although I thought we deserved it. The boss made a silly Sydney-Melbourne comment which may have done us some harm – I wish he’d let me check his material before he uses it.
Back to the hotel for a sleep. Thank goodness, it’s been a long day.
An early breakfast meeting at St Kilda. What’s he thinking? I wanted a lie-in.
Oh, and the taxi driver has dropped us at the wrong hotel. If I have told the boss once I’ve told him a hundred times – use Uber; they are more reliable and they work with GPS systems. I’m only a dog, but I get the value of technology.
Back to the city and Interrobang. The boss gave a lecture on leaving a legacy – it was quite good too.
He’s having an afternoon nap – don’t blame him. Think I’ll have one myself.
The evening Interrobang is a panel of speakers on “Are actions stronger than words?” Well, I don’t have words – at least until I started blogging – so I’m arguing for actions. Good, the boss is as well.
That festival was lots of fun. And the Wheeler Centre staff were efficient and friendly. I hope he does more of that.
Early start again. I don’t know where he gets his energy. We’re off to the airport for a trip back to Sydney. I think we are going home. That’s another 700km making a total of just under 7000km for the whole trip. Wish I got frequent flyer points.
This is one of my favourite days of the year. The family hosts a Thanksgiving lunch for about 50 people. They’ve done it ever since Leon married Rachael, even though those two are back in the States now.
I just love it. There are crumbs all over the place, and if I’m really lucky, some of the guests just feed me pieces of ham and stuff directly. The boss and Maureen really don’t approve, but I just give the guests a big smile, and we work it out. I also get heaps of pats and tummy rubs. Don’t know why the family doesn’t do it more often. Feel a bit sick in the tummy, though, with all that ham.
Bloody hell. When the boss fed me, tonight he made up three more meals. We must be travelling again. We’re keeping Qantas in business. I’d better have a good sleep tonight.
And I thought yesterday was early. Taxi picked us up at 5 45 this morning and yes, it’s the airport. We’re back to Melbourne for the Life Without Barriers Victorian Carers Awards. Remember them – they are the ones with excellent taste in bones and ties.
And the boss is wearing that tie this morning. I bet Maureen picked it – he wouldn’t have thought of that – colour co-ordination is never his strong suit.
A really funny thing happened as we were getting off the plane in Melbourne. The boss got his bag ready and made sure my lead and harness were ok. Then he said to me: “Come on when you can.” Which just means that he is telling me we can go as soon as the people in front have moved.
The guy standing in the aisle in front of us turned around, got right in the boss’s face, and said: “Who are you telling to go. Just wait your bloody turn you ignorant pig.”
Unusually, the boss was so surprised he did not say a thing. Just shook his head.
Someone must have tipped the guy off because he was waiting for us in the air bridge to apologise. “I didn’t see your guide dog,” he said. “I didn’t know you were talking to her. I am so very embarrassed.”
The boss thanked him, laughed and told him not to worry about it. Pretty amazing behaviour.
Parliament House in Spring Street. It’s a nicer building than the NSW Parliament – not as cramped. And the audience liked me, so that’s always good.
Then off to a working lunch – well working for the boss, I just dozed – and meetings for the rest of the afternoon.
We’re staying at the Wyndham hotel tonight – windows and a balcony. That’s more like it. Put those things in your hotel profile please boss.
Up for an early morning walk and a coffee for the boss. We have a good routine going. He takes me out for a walk and I find him a good coffee shop.
Then back to the apartment, pack the bag, and we’re catching a tram down to Docklands. Had to catch two trams, and no announcements on either of them. I’ll talk to the boss about lodging some DDA complaints.
Quick meeting at ANZ and then off to Hawthorn in a taxi. The boss is giving the International Day of People with Disabilities keynote at the Able Australia supporters’ lunch.
He told a few good stories, but the one about me was the most popular. I’ve said to him often that he should use more guide dog material.
Back in a taxi to the airport, and we’re flying back to Sydney.
He’s presenting the Graeme Innes AM Disability Employment Award at the Australian Human Resources Institute awards dinner. But Maureen is going, so he’ll probably leave me at home with Rachel.
Good, I need the break. Hope he feeds me before he goes.
Quiet morning while the boss writes. But then we’re off again – guess where – yes the airport. On our way to Ballarat – via Melbourne of course. Oh, they’ve picked him up in a hire car.
That’s an improvement boss. I can stretch out across the floor in the back seat. More of this, please.
I love travelling with the boss. I get to go for a walk with him each morning – he usually goes with Maureen. So many good smells here in Adelaide, but quite dry and hot.
He spoke to the Disability Justice Plan Symposium this morning. They are doing some great work here. And I got to sniff the leg of the Deputy Premier – I suppose that is an honour.
Then off to the airport again. People keep wanting to grab the boss’s arm and push him around. Makes it really hard for me when he can’t give me harness directions. I really don’t get why people do that – they wouldn’t like it if someone pushed them around like a piece of furniture.
Wow, we’re flying to Brisbane and then to Cairns today. That’s another 2150 km, making a total of 3520 km for the week.
At Brisbane airport they have a dog toileting room. Great idea, but they’ve put fake grass in here. Don’t they know my nose works 500 times better than theirs. I’m not toileting on that. What’s wrong with a big tray of sand or dirt. Some humans just don’t get it.
Cairns, warm. Great. Much better for the old arthritic hips. Hope we stay a while.
Nice walk again early this morning, except that I kept getting swooped by a noisy minor – well the boss thought he was being swooped, but it’s not all about him. I don’t get birds – can’t they work out that I do not have the capacity to fly, even if I wanted to. So there is no way I am touching their nests. Oh well…
Life Without Barriers board meeting today. They’re a nice bunch, and it’s a long meeting, so I get to catch some more Z’s. I think they laugh at me a bit when I snore – they should hear the boss.
They’re handing out Christmas presents now. The boss gets a nice tie and a stubby holder – well done, he needs some new ties, I’m getting a bit bored with the old ones. And look, they’ve given me a bone – how good is that. What a thoughtful mob – recognising how much work I do getting the boss from place to place. You should stay on this board boss.
Oh, this is different. We’re catching a shuttle bus now. A bit tight between the seats when I’ve still got my harness on Boss. And these metal floors – what’s wrong with a bit of carpet.
We’ve arrived at . Nice! And the apartment here is lovely – ground floor so the boss can just let me outside when – you know…. Don’t worry boss, there’s no side fences to this yard, but I’m not going anywhere. As long as you keep feeding me I’m staying around.
We must be staying here for a while. He installed the Apple TV this morning. Maureen probably told him to.
Oh well, the music he plays certainly beats his own tuneless rendition of Summertime, and the livin’ is easy
Or “cricket on the radio.” If I here that one just once more I’m into some serious shoe chewing. That would get him worked up.
Now I shouldn’t be nasty to him – he’s just let me out the back and given me my bone to chew. Back in a while folks – got to get your priorities right.
Mmmm that bone really hit the spot – thanks LWB. He only gives me dry food so it’s nice to break out occasionally. And because of my wheat allergy I have to watch what I eat or my ears get really sore. Still, if he takes me to the beach I might get some salt water in them – that seems to help. I wish Rachel were here – she takes me to the beach and the park much more than the boss does.
Anyway, full tummy, time for a sleep while he writes. Always writing – I never get a chance to use the computer and keep my blog up to date.
Woops, I’ve been caught. He’s discovered my blog on his blog site. He doesn’t seem too concerned though. He won’t like it if my blog gets more comments than his – ummmm, I’ll have to watch that.
Yep we’re definitely staying. He’s got the boardies on this morning. Wonder what we’ll do up here.
Looks like another quiet day for me. He’s writing again. I’m getting the feeling that there are a lot of speeches coming up for the international day. Should be good – people always drop nice crumbs at those type of events.
YIPPEEEE Maureen and Rachel arrived this afternoon, and Rachel has a friend with her. Two teenagers – I feel runs on the beach coming up. Only problem is they went off to the restaurant for dinner and didn’t take me – that happens a bit when the boss is with the family.
We went out today. Caught the shuttle into Port Douglas and did more shopping. Maureen and Rachel are much better shoppers than the boss. Although when he’s in the super-market by himself I can get away with more sniffs at the meat fridges if they’re down at my level. Oh well.
It’s pretty hot up here for a dog with as much hair as mine. Being black doesn’t help. And I can’t stand still on the hot bitumen – it burns my feet. OUCH.
Back to the apartment and air-con. Thank goodness. The air-con in Maureen and Graeme’s bedroom is activated by a movement sensor. They haven’t caught me yet, but if I run in there quickly while they’re not in the apartment I can turn it on. Then I lie just outside the door on the cool tiles and I’m pretty chilled. I could get to like this lifestyle.
They went for a swim in the pool after lunch but didn’t take me. I’m sure the boss could argue he needs his guide dog to show him the way in that pool. Sometimes he just doesn’t try hard enough on my behalf.
And then, when it cooled down later in the afternoon, that beach walk I’ve been waiting for. And off the harness. EXCELLENT.
Rachel and her friend kept chasing me out of the water. They keep mentioning something about stingers, but I reckon with all my hair I’d be ok. Any how, they’re not having it. A couple of rolls in the sand were nice though. There are some great new scents down here which I checked out, and I managed to eat something on the beach before they could stop me. Pretty good all round.
Rained last night. They have serious rain up here. No sprinkles or light showers. It just drops in buckets. Noise woke me up in the night, and it takes a lot to do that.
Another quiet day. I’m enjoying it.
They went to the Wildlife sanctuary today and had Lunch with the Lorrikeets. The boss said I couldn’t go. The two places I am not allowed are zoos and the surgical wards of hospitals. It’s something to do with cross-infection, and possibly upsetting the other animals. I’m getting a bit bored with being left in this apartment by myself. And then they went in the pool again without me.
Still, Maureen and the boss took me for a walk on the beach at night. That was fun. And on the way to the beach, because the path is quite dark, I got to show both of them the way. Pretty awesome.
The moonlight on the beach tonight was beautiful. I kept out of the water – may be there is something in this stingers story. But just running along was fun. And in the dark I can run just far enough away so that Maureen can’t see me – like to test the boundaries a bit sometimes.
They went out without me again this morning. I know, it was only to pick up a rental car. But they could have taken me. Anyway, I’ve given them a little reminder that the “home alone” scenario does not always play out well – I tipped over the garbage bin and went through the contents. Some quite tasty things to lick in there.
The boss and Maureen were appalled when they got back. But I had a nice time, and chewed most of the packets to get what was left inside. Rachel came in and pretended to be angry as well, but I know that really she thought it was quite funny. Oh well, they’ll think twice about leaving me alone again.
We drove to Mossman Gorge today. Not far from where we are staying, and once you get up into the gorge it is beautifully cool. It’s a national park, so I have to stay in harness. But Rachel persuaded the boss that it would be ok to take me down to the water and let me have a walk in it and a long drink. That has got to be some of the freshes water I have ever enjoyed.
There are a lot of ants and insects up there which bothered me a bit, but apart from that I really liked it. A few tourists had dropped some crumbs amongst the rocks, so I helped by cleaning them up. Don’t want the wild life up here getting used to the wrong types of food do we.
They left me in the apartment again this afternoon, but after being out in the heat of the day I didn’t mind too much. Just popped into the bedroom and turned on the air con and it was beautiful. Anyway, the boss is talking about going sailing, and I’m not keen on boats. Then something about watching cane toads race – I think I can skip that.
Quiet day inside today. The boss is writing again. I feel a lot of moving around coming up next week, so I’d better get my strength up. I might have a look at his calendar when I go on the website to post this blog to see what we will be doing.
A journal of the life and travels of Graeme Innes from the perspective of his guide dog Arrow
Wow, the boss has finished writing that bloody book. I saw him boasting about it on Twitter. About time too. I’ve been doing far too much sitting around and sleeping on the balcony while he wrote that.
It must be huge – he’s been typing for days. Hope he gave me a starring role.
Oh well, at least he did a lot of work on it when we were down at Gerringong last week. I liked it there. Maureen talked him into taking me to the beach a bit and letting me off the lead. And then Rachel would just come and steal me and take me to the beach. I like being with the boss, but it’s all work work work.
At least with Rachel I get to have some fun. All work and no play makes Arrow a dull dog you know.
The book has caused me to think. I’ve decided to start blogging
– damned if I’m going to let the boss have all the profile. I’ll sneak it on to his blog site – probs he won’t notice. And if he does I’ll tell him it will help with book sales – that should get him off my case.
Oh my goodness! The boss is packing the bag. We just got back from the South Coast and it looks like we are on the road again.
I wonder how far we are going this time. Hope I get to ride in the back seat of the car so I can look out the window.
I watched very carefully. He’s just made up eleven dog dinners.
This could be a big one. And damn it, he didn’t drop a crumb – note to self, jostle his elbow more often.
I heard the zipping this morning after he and Maureen came back from their walk. He’s showered and dressed – nice suit today but no tie, probably means its meetings rather than speeches. I wish he’d just let me look at his calendar so that I knew what to expect. I wonder if Hey Siri works with barking or loud doggy panting. Might try that if he would ever leave me with the phone.
And we’re off (very excited tail wagging) It’s harness on so it’s a taxi. Damn I don’t get to look out the window. But I can sleep down here on the floor. Hope no-one runs into the back of our taxi like they did yesterday. That gave me a fright and I may have disgraced myself with the little expression of wind I let go. Don’t think they minded too much. Boris our cab driver was more concerned about looking at the back of his car. And the boss is used to my breaks of wind.
Oh I know this place. We’re at PwC. Some sort of meeting. The carpets are nice to lie on here, but the boss and those PwC people do talk a lot. Oh well.
And we’re off again. Another taxi. And it’s the airport. I love flying. Can spread out on the floor of the plane, get admiring smiles from flight attendants and passengers, and the carpet is just crumb heaven. Great.
We’re off to Melbourne. 720 km. I’m going to count them this time.
Another taxi, and a café. Meeting – cafés seem to be the boss’ meeting place of choice. More crumbs.
Now across the road and into the Treasury building. This must be important. Oh Department of Education bureaucrats – with some old friends amongst them from when the boss was Commissioner.
He’s talking to them about the Programme for Students with Disabilities. He’s quite articulate when he gets warmed up you know. I didn’t even snore.
Another taxi and the airport again. Wow, that security guy just pointed and said over there three times before he got it and used left and right. I must be invisible.
This time we’re off to Adelaide – another 650 km. That’s 1370 km for the day. Not bad, but I think tomorrow might beat it.
Does this guy ever stop? He’s dropped our bags at the hotel and now off to a late dinner with colleagues from tomorrow’s conference. Doesn’t he realise an old dog needs her beauty sleep?
Nice hotel though, good carpets. I hope he takes me for a walk in the morning.
I was buying the family fish and chips when attorney general Philip Ruddock called to appoint me as human rights commissioner and disability discrimination commissioner in December 2005. One of the things he said to me, after informing me and congratulating me, was that I must do the job “without fear or favour”.
As human rights commissioner I reported on three inspections of immigration detention centres, two under the Howard government. I conducted the Same Sex: Same Entitlements inquiry, and the Howard government did not implement my recommendations. I supported Australia’s participation in the drafting of a Disability Convention, which was initially opposed by the Howard government.
I disagreed many times on policy issues with Howard ministers and staffers. Our discussions were sometimes “free and frank”, usually civil and never personal. My views were regularly questioned, my integrity was not.
When the Rudd government was elected and Robert McClelland became attorney general he said to commissioners: Sometimes you’ll give us a kicking. Sometimes you’ll support us. That’s your job. He took the Ruddock approach, sometimes questioning our recommendations, but never our integrity, as did attorneys-general Nicola Roxon and Mark Dreyfus.
Things changed in September 2013. My first sign was when a George Brandis staffer berated me for my criticism of Myer. I had called out Myer CEO Bernie Brookes for his assessment of the National Disability Insurance Scheme levy as being “money that could have gone through our cash registers”. The disability sector and others vehemently criticised his remark. When he made what I regarded as a “Clayton’s apology” the next day I joined the criticism, and recommended that he rectify his error by committing Myer to hire more employees with disabilities and commit to a 10 % target – a call to employers I made numerous times. The Brandis staffer questioned my judgement rather than my policy approach.
The trend continued with Tim Wilson’s appointment as human rights commissioner without a selection process, and fresh from the Institute of Public Affairs, whose policy was to abolish the Commission. Until that point, both sides of politics, as well as the Commission, understood that the position of human rights commissioner was redundant. From the time I moved from that role in 2009, the president, Catherine Branson, and then Gillian Triggs, carried the role.
The ill-fated Labor bill proposed in 2013 to consolidate Australia’s human rights legislation abolished the position altogether. This part of the bill was not opposed by Brandis in opposition. However it never came to the parliament.
Wilson’s appointment meant that the resources of the Commission were so stretched that when my term as disability discrimination commissioner ended last July the position was not filled. Susan Ryan got the job, as well as her full-time job as age discrimination commissioner. She had no lived experience of disability, although she is doing the best job she can.
The decision to conduct the children in detention inquiry was made when I was still at the Commission in 2013. All commissioners made it. Commissioners before me had inquired into the issue, I reported on three inspections of the centres, Catherine Branson inquired as well. The Commission has been concerned since the late 1990s that Australia has not been complying with its commitments under the Refugee Convention.
While the number of children in detention is less now than under Labor, those there have been there for much longer. Also, information about people in detention was significantly harder to obtain from the immigration department after the Coalition took power. In conducting the inquiry, the Commission was just doing its job “without fear or favour”.
The Forgotten Children report was received by the attorney general last October. The message to undermine Triggs clearly went out this January. It has happened ever since, climaxing when the government initiated discussions about her resignation, and talked of other employment.
Triggs was hammered in The Australian, although supported in most other media outlets. It isn’t the first time The Australian has attacked the Human Rights Commission – let’s not forget the time they put Tom Calma’s Canberra house on their front page, questioning what he as an Aboriginal man (who happened to be an outstanding bureaucrat) would know about Aboriginal welfare in the Northern Territory. They ignored the fact that this was where he came from. There are other examples too.
Part of our democratic system, and the rule of law, provides that a key duty of any attorney general is to defend judges and statutory officers doing their jobs, because they are not in a position to easily defend themselves. Far from defending, Brandis has attacked. It is he who has made the serious error of judgement. He has “shot the messenger”.. Triggs has advocated human rights compliance by Australia – she has done her job.
The “play the person, not the ball” approach was followed when Senator Ian Macdonald, chairing the Senate committee considering the report, admitted on Tuesday that he hadn’t read it because –
he said – it was partisan. How “chicken and egg” is this – if he hasn’t read it, how does he know it is partisan?
But you know, I agree with Malcolm Turnbull. This is not the main debate. We should be debating why children are still in detention, as Gillian Triggs has sought to do.
(This article was originally published in The Guardian.)
“(tags graeme innes, ruddock, phillip ruddock, McCleland, robert mccleland, roxon, nicola roxon, brandis, george brandis, brookes, bernie brookes, myer, attorney, attorney-general, triggs, gillian, gillian triggs, tom calma, ian macdonald, senator, without fear or favour, fish and chips, the guardian),
“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet” said the bard in Romeo and Juliet So what’s in a name?
And of course, guide dogs.
I love my guide dog. She is great at her job. I love walking, and she provides me with a far more relaxed and faster means of travel. On familiar routes she is almost perfect.
She’s also a great addition to the family. She provides support and safety to my teenage daughter. She is an excellent foot-warmer for my wife. Her friendly lick on my leg in the morning is a great start to my day. And her leaps of excitement when I get out her harness so she can work just give me a warm inner glow.
But why is her name so important? “What’s your dog’s name?” is the most common question I am ever asked.
My standard answer is – “I don’t use her name unless I’m giving her a command”. I answer this way both because it is true (she responds very well to her name and I don’t want to lose that), and because if I tell people her name it will encourage them to pat her, or interact with her when she is working. These things make it harder for her to work, and puts my safety at risk.
During the time we have worked together (about eight years) I have been asked this question about six thousand one hundred and forty five times. That’s more times than most test cricketers score runs in their careers. It’s not quite as many times as my dog and I have had hot dinners, but its close to podium.
I understand that people are evincing a genuine interest, and I get why they want to know. But I am well and truly over answering this question. I find it a little unnecessary and intrusive, but much less so than a lot of other questions people with disabilities are asked. But you can only repeat the same answer so many times before you start seriously contemplating the more extreme alternatives – which could involve physical harm to the questioner or the answerer.
I don’t want to be rude when I answer, saying things like “mind your own business” or “I’m not telling you.” That’s not the best way to oil the wheels of human interaction.
I don’t want to keep saying what I have said for years – not because its not true, but because I’m downright bored with saying it.
Perhaps I should attach a small speaker to her harness, so that I can play a message saying “I’m sorry Dave, I can’t tell you that.”
What do you think? Please give me some ideas? I’m getting desperate! All suggestions will be seriously considered, and I will tweet the ones I choose.
(Graeme Innes has come to the end of his repetitive tether, and is desperate not to be dogged by the same request).