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Settling in Tasmania - Part II


Fruit Picking

As one does when unemployed; you look in the news-papers. We responded to a bunch of advertisements and consequently received a number of reject letters. Some emails went into thin air, no idea if they actually get to the prospective employer or not. The one I mailed to STEPS went into thin air I was told. I have no faith in them at all.

Eventually there was an ad looking for experienced grape pickers, and Katherine got to go. We missed out on the St.John’s First Aid re-certification, but work/income was more important to us. I would not go alone to the First Aid re-certification! And so Katherine joined Nigel’s gang of vineyard workers. The pickers all know what they are doing and move from one vineyard to the next. The winemakers call the shots, the vineyards call Nigel, and Nigel calls the crew to let them know where the next day’s work is.

Katherine told Nigel I was a computer dude, so there was no interest in getting me to come. But eventually there was a big job and I was asked to show up. It was then that he discovered that I was in fact a little more useful then he had anticipated. In the past I have worked on a Custard Apple farm, on banana plantations, Dutch bulb farms, Canadian dairy farms and several other outdoorsy jobs.

Picking grapes is generally low to the ground, and challenges the knees and the back. Katherine has been doing it on a daily basis for two weeks now, working long hours. I just recently started getting involved, and like to work outdoors, spit and cough where and when I want to!.

Volunteer Work

In the mean time I had also accepted to do some database work for the Salvation Army through Volunteers Tasmania . They needed an Access database for volunteers. I also applied for a TAFE course in IT in webdesign which can be done over the internet - hopefully you will see the improvements in the next 12 months!

I also found a dog to walk with here in our new neighbourhood, and touched base with the Bushcare volunteers who do monthly weed control in the Ridgeline reserve behind us. We now feel like we are slowly settling in!

Also, I found someone who is willing to walk with me during the week, Paul Pritchard the famous rock climber. He is a writer these days and has spare time during the week. He has his problems hiking, as do I. As he hobbles along I cough along! What a team! He has raised considerable amounts of money for his cause, and perhaps I ought to learn from him and raise some money or at least awareness for CF!

Internet Access

Part of 'settling in' is Internet Access. Fast internet (ADSL) is available where we live, and I eventually decided to get it! The cost is just about the same as dial up, especially when you consider the many 20c local calls per month which are no longer needed. The new wireless Netgear modem/router is working a charm. IT is always on the internet and operates independant from any computer. My laptop is on the internet at all times, no matter where I use it in the house!

Business cards have been ordered and delivered to advertise myself as an IT 'professional'. The 'Centre of the Universe' is being revived, that is the name I trade under - First Aid on the Bleeding Edge of Technology!

To begin with I got The Beachfront Hideaway website back in my hands, a good start.

Cystic Fibrosis

As for the Cystic Fibrosis situation, I touched base with the hospital and found them incredible friendly, supportive and flexible. Being apprehensive to visit hospitals unnecessarily as I endeavour to avoid sick people as much as possible. Turns out there is a great, little used, side-entrance that leads me to the 7th floor where I can see the dietician, and the specialist was even prepared to meet me outside the hospital.

I am now on a nutrition program with the hospital where they supply me with a load of food supplements such as Ensure and Sustagen, puddings, powders and drinks. Pam Rowell the public officer for CF Tasmania is a doctor at the Paediatric section, and immediately arranged a sputum culture for me. They asked me what medication I was taking and were surprised I was not on Pulmozyne, the bees-knees genetic medicine for CF treatment and using Creone.

Even vitamin supplements can now be prescribed, and thus be available at a highly subsidised rate.

Disability Support

Centrelink has officially approved my pension, and I am receiving discounts left right and centre. They made an appointment with me to see a ‘disability’ officer to get me on the road to suitable work. The earliest date was a month away! When that date came up I spoke to an officer who changed my ‘agency’ from STEPS to CRS (Commonwealth Rehabilitation Service).

When the officer heard I did some volunteering for the Salvation Army and was interested in doing that TAFE course she gave me the paperwork for the available fees assistance, and told me to tell STEPS to ensure they give me ‘training credits’ for the voluntary work so that I could get more financial assistance for the TAFE course.

Read the end of the Centrelink story <here>

STEPS Grudge

Oh, and before CRS would contact me for an appointment I was told to expect another month at least! Good thing I am already working! I did go to STEPS straight after to check for these ‘training credits’, but the system was so efficient that I was no longer assigned to STEPS. At the time I did not realise that CRS was replacing STEPS for me and I basically told STEPS off for being such a lousy organisation!
I told STEPS how I wasted 5 months in Canberra going to many places like STEPS looking for work, and even if they urgently required 5 Wallies exactly like me for immediate start I would not even get to see the employer, an interview or any call! Yet when you apply they do not tell you that they are not interested in getting you a job!

Look at the fruit picking procedure! We called up the 1800 fruit picking phone number, got referred to STEPS, went there and registered. Katherine eventually got the two hour interview, I didn’t, and a month later we still did not get a call for picking fruit - despite the fact they said they were frantically looking for more and more pickers. We ticked all the boxes for when we are available, weekends, days and nights, short or long term, have our own transport and accommodation,...

STEPS defended themselves and said they had to know the applicants personally. I asked them how many people they send out to fruit picking, and the answer was heaps! And you know them all personally? More than you got to know Katherine after several visits including that painful two hour interview??? And why did I not get asked in?

No use talking to them in any case. I was only there to check for these official training credits, but since they were no longer my ‘agency’ they could not help me.

Commercial Driving License

In the mean time I had to get my Tasmanian commercial driving license happening again. The commercial driving license I hold is good for busses, taxis, hire-cars, and bike tours. I went to the pains of getting a ‘National’ license as opposed to an Canberra one, many years ago. This was not accepted in Queensland (?National?) and it was a painful process getting it transferred. This process had to happen again for Tasmania, and includes obtaining a police reference and a medical. The licenses are only valid for one year as commercial licenses need to be revalidated each year with medicals etc.

The day I started the process we were living at the camp-ground in Hobart. My license had just expired by a few days. Without a Tasmanian address I was unable to start the process any earlier! I was also not able to extend it as I needed to be in Queensland to do that. The campground was the earliest I could have possibly done it - if you can call that a 'permanent address!

The police reference (Criminal History Check) took over a months (more like two actually) to arrive, which was spelled out on the application. When I received it in the mail I raced to the license office to fix up the paper work. I had previously obtained the medical certificate and also had the license office fax Queensland to confirm my driving license status there.

The lady at the desk told me that she could not renew my license. She spoke to several senior officers on the phone and said that since my license was expired by two months and that the fax from Queensland did not specify the commercial licenses I had to resit all the licenses again. Terribly sorry.

At this stage I had to speak to a senior officer, and calmly explained the situation. Incredibly I left the office ten minutes later with the commercial endorsement. The endorsement (‘Ancillary Certificate to drive Public Passenger Vehicle’) was printed on a small black and white piece of paper with a faint watermark on it. Easily forged in my opinion, and certainly easily damaged! I drove straight to a laminating shop to get it firmed up a bit!

Parking fines

The parking inspectors in Hobart are like in Canberra, they are everywhere! The fined are not expensive ($15), so I guess they need to issue heaps of them to make their jobs economically viable! When I saw a potential laminating shop I pulled off the road as soon as I could, which was at a loading zone. The parking inspector stood at the ready, so I backed up to an official metered car space. The inspector continued on his way.

This shop refered me to another shop just around the corner. Since the parking inspector had just left I thought I did not have to worry about putting my lousy 20c in for the 10 seconds it would take to find out if they could do the laminating. The second shop could laminate, so whilst they were doing it I raced back to the car to put money in the meter. Alas, a second parking inspector was standing there giving me fine! All within 3 minutes! I showed him the change. He made a ‘note’ in the system, and told me to mail up my excuse… This is not unusual for me.

In Canberra I swear I was on their hit list too, regularly attracting swarms of parking inspectors! One legendary ticket was when I returned to my car in a car park with a voucher on my dash which allowed me to park till 2:03pm. It was 2pm on my watch when I returned to the car finding a ticket under the windshield wiper. I tracked down the offending female inspector nearby, made her life grief, raced out to the parking inspectors HQ in Canberra, made a scene till they called the police, and then left. I hope that my performance was ‘recorded for future training purposes’, and hopefully prompted a few inspectors to make a career change.

An acquaintance of mine in Canberra once fined me too! I had a parking permit to park at my place of residence in Canberra, but the old Beetle had a lot of condensation inside and the permit would not always stick to the window. The lack of a dashboard in the old Beetles would cause the permit to fall on the floor. Despite my purple Beetle being very distinctive and my mate knowing it was mine and that I did live there still had to fine me! His excuse was that a senior officer was with him at the time and he had no choice. He thought it was funny of course. I did get out of paying it after a polite letter.

My brother Frank has a few framed letters up in his office which all display the official letters saying that ‘this time we will let you off the hook’ for whatever misdemeanour he had committed. They all look like certificates the way they hang there looking all official! I could start a collection too!

So the long and the short of it... We are settled in Tassie! Come and visit us!

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Devonport: See The Spirit in the distance?