Tag: australia

Drunk in charge of a dog

Much time in our community, and our legal system, is focussed on punishing people who travel whilst intoxicated. The majority of them drive cars, although the Australian Road Rules do make it an offense to be drunk in charge of a wheelchair. In times gone by – and perhaps as a rarity even in the present day – people have been caught drunk in charge of a horse or camel. But I wonder if anyone has been charged with being drunk in charge of a dog, particularly a guide dog.

Come back with me to New York in August of 2006. It was a warm Friday evening, and the United Nations Ad Hoc Working Group On A Comprehensive And Integral International Convention On The Protection And Promotion Of The Rights And Dignity Of Persons With Disabilities (You’ve gotta love the UN- why use three words when you could use twenty-seven) had just agreed on the draft text of the Disability Convention.

The excitement was palpable, and as one friend put it- “I was so full of emotion that some of it leaked out and ran down my cheek.” Cheering, applause, hand-shakes, kisses and hugs were in evidence throughout the room.

It will surprise no-one that festivities moved from the somewhat staid surroundings of the UN building to a range of hotels near by. The Australian watering-hole of choice for the occasion was the Wheel-tapper inn, an irish pub on 44th street. So my guide dog Jordie and I joined the happy throng there.

Backs were slapped, rounds were bought and consumed, and the revelry continued. At one point I was called outside to do an ABC radio interview about the Convention, and when asked whether I was pleased with the result I replied that I was elated, adding an adjectival expletive which rhymes with trucking. The considerate ABC journalist, to whom I have given a number of “exclusives” since, suggested that I might wish to repeat my answer, and the first version hit whatever is the equivalent of the cutting room floor in the digital world in which we live. I have since instituted my “two drinks no interviews” policy.

I was booked on an early flight home the next day, so at about nine PM Jordie and I prudently returned to our hotel to pack. This task was completed before ten, but the beer-fuelled adrenalin was still pumping through my veins, so I – perhaps less prudently – returned to the Wheel-tapper to find the celebrations still in full swing. Thinking that I had a long plane flight during which I could sleep, and knowing we had successfully come to the end of five years of hard work, I enthusiastically re-joined the party.

My early days as a cricketer taught me that “what goes on tour stays on tour”, so I will not provide further details of Australian delegation “irish pub” activities. It is rumoured that I enthusiastically delivered a post-witching hour version of the well-known Australian ballad “The man from Ironbark” to the whole bar – complete with translations of Australian idioms – but I’m sure that this can’t be true. I’ve never been known to do that in the past! It is also rumoured that I was drinking toasts with Sambuca, but that’s never been known to happen before either!

My watch must have malfunctioned during the celebrations, because the time it showed when I decided to return to my hotel had little connection with my reality. Still, I felt fine, and was confident of a few hours sleep before my airport departure.

However, when I walked out of the irish pub smog, and into the New York night air, things did not seem quite as clear. Some how I had completely forgotten the location of the hotel in which I had been living for the two weeks of the drafting session. So I did the only thing possible- leaned down, patted my guide dog on the head, and said “Take me home Jordie.”

Three street blocks and two avenue blocks later, we walked confidently into the hotel foyer, where I promptly knelt and gave Jordie a big hug. She gave me a happy lick in response, appreciating praise for a job well done. My “drunk in charge of a dog” experience had escaped the notice of the watchful New York constabulary.

Has your guide dog ever performed a similar feat of navigation, particularly after breathing irish pub fumes for a number of hours? Please let me know.

Graeme Innes loves a party, has a taste for Sambuca, and recites Australian poetry at the drop of a hat. That explains it- someone’s cap must have fallen off during the celebrations.

This article was first published on the Hoopla.

My seat on the bus

“It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: It would be a jolly site harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad.” Change according to CS Lewis.

Stephen Hawking also believes in change. He said “I have noticed even people who claim everything is pre-destined, and that we can do nothing to change it, look before they cross the road”.

And David Mamet, through the script of “Wag the Dog”, thinks change requires co-operation. “For progress to occur, it is necessary for two generations to agree”.

In my view, change is easy. It’s awareness, and willingness to change, that require effort.

Seven-year-old Duncan’s parents are worried. He’s about to be suspended from school.

Duncan and his family live just outside a regional town in Victoria, Australia. He catches the bus to school each day – the first stop on the route is right outside his house, so he gets the seat right behind the driver. He returns on the bus at the end of the school day. He’s doing all right at school, and getting on with friends.

But the school says he has been violent towards other children on the bus in the afternoons. Duncan (not his real name) has autism.

The school Principal is supportive of Duncan’s attendance, but the school has a strong anti-violence policy with which she must comply. She can only conclude that the school day is too tiring for Duncan.

Mum and Dad both work, so can’t pick him up, and Grandma – who minds him in the afternoons – doesn’t drive. Parents and teachers have talked to Duncan about the problem, but the reports of hitting and pinching keep coming. Suspension seems the only option.

Duncan’s mum has read about the Convention on the Rights of People with Disability, the Victorian Charter of Human Rights, and State and Federal disability discrimination legislation. She knows how much Duncan loves school, and wants to do everything she can. As a last resort, she talks to a Disability Rights Advocate.

The Advocate contacts the Principal, and details Duncan’s rights to education, and the need for the school to provide reasonable adjustment for Duncan. The Principal agrees that the Advocate can observe Duncan for a day at school before she imposes the suspension.

The Advocate sees that Duncan is happy on the way to school, and during school. The problem only occurs on the way home, when all of the kids rush onto the bus, and Duncan can’t sit in the front seat. So, with a small change to routine to let Duncan get on the bus first, and sit in the front seat, his education continues.

Have you seen situations where a small change can make a big difference? Comment below!

This story was obtained from the Victorian Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, and has been used by Disability Discrimination Commissioner Graeme Innes in a number of his speeches.

Graeme Innes thirsts for change, and is passionate in his belief that a successful sustainable society is a society which includes everyone.