In the process of wrapping up our time here in Melbourne, I have prepared a list of what I especially like about Australia and hence will miss, as well as an opposing list. So on our last day, here it comes.
I will not miss
The crazy Aussie traffic. It’s not only that people drive on the wrong side of the road – it’s the way they drive. There is no sense of pacing the traffic or letting others cross even if the lights are red. Nothing is left of the laid-back and friendly Aussies behind their steering wheels. And the bikers are just mad.
A political climate oblivious to social determinants. In a country led by politicians who all have gone to private schools there is no sense of the huge socioeconomic differences that exist. Life is not fair and our early experiences differ based on the circumstances that our mothers had when they were pregnant, if our family experienced the stresses of poverty, and how our parents managed us during the first formative years of our lives. If the government is not willing to do anything about structural inequities, there is not going to be anything like the “lucky country” Australia once believed itself to be. And the detention centres are a disgrace to this “young and free” nation!
Photo: Fanni Sarkadi, Canberra 2013
The two hours it takes me to get to and from work. In cosy Uppsala it takes me 7 minutes to bike to work unless it is snowy or icy (which it is 5 months of the year), when it takes me 12 minutes. The other way is uphill and takes 10 and 15 minutes, respectively, and I resent that prolongation every season. In Melbourne it takes me those 7 minutes to bike to the metro train I take to work. A useful perspective!
I will miss
My walks on the beach – literally and symbolically. It has been an absolute luxury to have so much time to think and write. The walks on the beach (with my Nordic sticks) have been my greatest source of inspiration and companion on creating the blogs, but also for crunching ideas on papers or problems presented to me. During this sabbatical I have worked on 15 papers because I had the time and space to do what is so central to our work as researchers, but what we always lack the time to pursue to this extent.
The beautiful and new Royal Children’s Hospital that has made me feel proud to be a part of the Melbourne Children’s campus every time I entered the building. The space you work in is indeed important. Recently we wrote a paper on how child health centres are systematically more inclusive to mothers’ than fathers’ needs in their physical environments. The Melbourne Children’s is inclusive, inspiring, and creates a sense of hope and agency.
Photo: Alisha Gulenc
The school’s ability to attend to children’s individual needs. When the principal told me that I didn’t need to worry because they will know what my son needs to learn optimally, I thought it cheap school propaganda as well as a way to get me out of the office. Two weeks later the teacher pulled us aside and said with some astonishment that Joel is reading in English above his grade level, but that he needs to develop his fine motor skills. From four words and forty tears per hour he is now a confident writer above grade level.
The lifestyle where socialising and sports are integral to everyday life. To kick a ball in the park or play cricket on the beach is what people do when they “catch up”. My absolute lack of ability to manage any kind of ball is clearly a drawback, but as long as you are willing to make an effort and are “into sports”, whatever that means, you are excused. The kids of course quickly picked up “footy”, netball (basketball without the plank, kind of), as well as cricket.
But what I have enjoyed most was the warm welcoming into the social life of our neighbourhood, the hastily planned dinners, barbeques, and “hanging-outs” with friends. No booking weeks in advance needed. And yes, we do socialise and do sports in Sweden, it’s just that I think we’re too late for anyone’s January diary…