Thursday, October 30, 2008

Once upon a time I did something brilliant

In 2004 my family and I moved to Fiji for me to lead a project to bring banking services to the un-banked in Fiji. It will remain one of the most amazing experiences of my (our) lives.

The project morphed into my life pretty quickly as the desire to good and do well entered my thinking. How could a big Australian bank make a sustainable difference. Not simply a donation or charity that comes and goes depending on who is signing the cheques, but a change forever to the way people saved, invested and borrowed money.

In Fiji (2204) over half of the 1 million population could not obtain a bank account either because the entry amounts were too high, they had no identification or there was no bank within a days walking distance. My colleague and good friend Sitiveni and I spent time in villages asking them what they wanted in a bank and eventually the solution of mobile banking - banks on wheels took hold. Simple bank accounts and microfinance delivered on the village doorstep.

The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and their wonderful expert on Rural Development, Jeff Liew, partnered with us to deliver much needed financial literacy. No point taking books to people who cant read and so Jeff and his team hastily developed a Village training program on the basics of savings, investing and borrowing.

To cut a very long story short the program has now spread to most of the Pacific and parts of Asia and morphed into a Bank wide program. The last piece of work I did was to develop a Bank on a mobile phone, turning phones into ATMs and EFTPOS in Cambodia. This enabled the very poor and financially excluded, factory workers to receive their pay safely and be able to send money back to their community safely and cheaply.

I got to speak at the World Bank; to the Scottish parliament, the Australian Government and was featured in the Financial Review Boss magazine. The recognition was grand and lovely but knowing that in Fiji, the Pacific and Asia the work lives on thru villagers having access to a safe and reliable bank account - what should be a basic human right - continues to give me daily satisfaction.

While I have formally left the world of banking the un-banked I have a deep desire to see more people have access. Spreading the word is one small part I can play.

So why this blog? I have spent the entire day on a mainstream Australian banking strategy and while the financial impact and the initiatives are exciting - they just dont seem to give me the same buzz as working for people who have no access to banking.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Another week in gone in a blur

I just blink and the week is over...I seem to be spending more time in Sydney working on the current strategy paper than at home. I feel out of kilter, un-balanced and far from "me". Enough moaning! I will be up at 1.45am tomorrow again for a day in Sydney and then back home and then home for Haydn's 6th Birthday and then back to Sydney again Thursday and Friday. Yes I know - Iam a glutton for punishment.

Thought I would share some photos of Slippery's Fiji training camp with the World Cup side. We miss him heaps but know he is off doing something he loves. The first is meeting the President and Prime Minister and the second is what Slip calls "Pool Session - Fiji style".

Mum and I had a lovely trip with the two kids to the Eumundi Markets yesterday and then another trip today to Fernvale Markets and to pick up a new slasher for Dad. I feel at least like I have had a weekend.

Hope to post again during the week - maybe even from my second home - Qantas Club.

All the best
Farmer Bub

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


I am a great believer - in convergence. Three messages so far...

1. Creating FarmerMotherBanker was a chance to write, a chance to practice writing freely. Not to be tied to my computer to write corporate strategy but simply to write for the joy of writing.

2. Work recently paid $6000 for me to be tested by a Psychiatrist to determine "my fit". Lucky for me they didnt find out I am a psychopathic killer in the making...however they did tell me that I speak and communicate differently to my colleagues (read they are not from the bush!). They didnt state this as a negative but I gather it is

3. Completely out of left field yesterday I had a colleague ring me and ask whether I knew of anyone who could fill a very interesting role in Internal Communications...I pondered for a minute and then answered - YES - me. I caught myself out by responding with my heart rather than thinking my answer thru.

So there you go. I have this wonderful feeling that serendipity is about to show me the way. Right now though I am up to my neck in Agribusiness Strategy. I love the Agribusiness part but fail to be stimulated by yet another PowerPoint pack.

Slippery is in Sydney. They were in Fiji this last week and had to fish and gather their own food - quite a shock apparently for the NRL based players!

We have the results back of Claudia's tests and the answer is we need more - she has a pet chicken called Speckles! Haydn is six in 8 more sleeps. Dad de-gloved his hand when a weaner bull kicked him - OUCH!! Mum is just wonderful and holds this family together in the most amazing way.

All the best
Farmer Bub

Monday, October 13, 2008

My Real Life Hero

My wonderful Dad and I are so alike. Our faults are shared and our strengths are also alike. We adore each other and always have. I never had a hero like a rock-star or anyone famous to look up to - I have always found my Dad the most inspirational person alive. I grew up on a very remote, very large cattle station in Far North Queensland and the isolation and lack of access to luxuries like TV, electricity, towns, shops, schools...meant that family was literally my everything. Dad was a very gifted cattleman, horseman and bushman and thus my childhood was idyllic and safe. Well before I knew anything of positive thinking, equality and tenacity - Dad provided me with hundreds of in the flesh examples. He was always one step ahead, joyous and confident - and that is exactly what I aspired to be when I grew up.

Dad spent a good part of his life throwing wild, un-branded (cleanskin) bulls off a horse. That is leaping off your horse while galloping on to a very large, very mad bull who had never seen a person before. He would then grab the bull by the tail and "throw it" on to the ground and then very quickly tie it up with a strap. After the bull had calmed down, the herd of breeders (cows) would be coached up to the bull, the bull let go and joined the mob (often as a bullock not a bull). Happy to explain how, why etc to anyone who would like to drop me a comment. Dad worked and played hard and probably as a result of his lifestyle, in 1997 had the first of a series of strokes. They were pretty bad and there were all sorts of Doctors orders. He changed his ways and slowed down a little but has continued to work just as hard.

No one ever told me though how hard it is to deal with your parent's getting older and then old. It is incomprehensible at first to imagine my Dad getting old - I guess I never thought he would get to be old. I had no mental picture of him ageing. He was just always so young, so alive - such a hero to me. Our roles are changing though I am not sure which bits are okay for me to assume and which bits he wants to hang on to. We don't talk like we used to. He doesn't have advice for me anymore. I don't think he understands the world of banking and commerce and of course that is a large part of my life. He cant ride a horse anymore because he cant balance and even works and manages the cattle so differently to what he always has. We argue but I know my opponent is not going to win me over anymore. Its a lopsided battle and I miss the challenge we always had in our relationship. Mum says its his way of making it easier for me when he's not around - but I cant even be grown up enough to bring myself to think about that time.

I think if he was only my Dad I would be able to deal with this better. My hero is still my hero and I try so hard every day to spend quite time with him and just be soothed by the sound of his voice. The truth is I don't think I am ready to give up on my hero - not grown up enough to go forward and too old to go back. I feel stuck in the middle of little and big, silly and wise.

Slippery is off tomorrow for 4 weeks or so with the Fiji World Cup Rugby League team. He is so committed to them and I really hope they do well. He is their Trainer so watch out for him if you see a Fiji televised match. Kids are missing him already (like their mother).

All the best
Farmer Bub

Sunday, October 12, 2008

This time last year - Cape York, Australia

Fruit Bat Falls, Cape York - Australia

This time last year my Dad, the two kids and I (and for a few days Slippery) drove from the farm right to the top of Australia - Cape York Penninsula. It was an unbelievable trip and I just couldnt resist sharing some of our happy snaps.

If ever you get the chance, please take go for a trip to the Cape.

Quite day at the farm - cleaning Dad's shed, drafting cattle and recovering from our late night at the Broncos dinner. Intend doing an awful lot of Bank work tonight to try to get up to date.

Slippery flies out to Fiji for his Trainer duties with the Fiji Bati - Rugby League World Cup side early Tuesday; I am in Sydney and then Coonamble, to speak at and attend the NSW Rural Women's gathering

New South Wales until Saturday - always plenty to do. Thank goodness for Mum and Dad at times like this to take care of the kids.

All the best
Farmer Bub

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Saturday, October 11, 2008

Wet Wet Wet

  1. The Dollar birds were right last week when they were out dancing in the sky on my morning walk
  2. The hare's were right to be out gathering food during the dangerous daytime
  3. My Mum's aching bones were right too
Because its raining. Nice big fat drops that wet half my face if one lands on me. The wet black soil is sticking to my boots making them look more like wide sleds than shoes.

The creek hasnt run over the little bridge yet but it wont be long. It has been grey skies all day - its turning out to be a good start to Spring/Summer. We might have green grass for a change this Christmas.

Tonight Slippery and I are swapping our boots & hats for the Broncos Rugby League Club's night of nights(that is where Slippery works). I am not overly keen on going out and getting all frocked up but there are times when we must do what we must do. Do you believe they even make stockings without toes in them so you can wear them with open-toes high heels - who would have thought! Still, good idea given my legs are rather lilly white after winter.

All the best
Farmer Bub

Friday, October 10, 2008

Everything Old is New Again

Winter's Fashion....

The Strip...

Ready for the summer Resort!

We have a few sheep...not many just 30 ewes, 25 lambs and 1 texel ram. The ram is called "Adam" and he lives with the horses all year except for a few days when he performs his duty with the girls. Yesterday was shearing day. So off with the old seasons fashions and in with the summer, resort wear.

The New House Site
Old "Red Hill" c1897

Slippery and I also have another little project to move a very old home c1897 from Gympie to the farm. Yesterday the earthmovers were here to build the house site...our house however sits lonely in a removal yard. We hope in time to give her a new lease of life.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Coming to a Stop at the farm.

Around two years ago Slippery and I made a decision to stop traveling the globe and to move back "home" to Queensland. I had moved 14 times in as many years, going wherever my work asked me to and where I felt we could have interesting/fun experiences as a family and where I could learn and grow as a Banker. Interstate, overseas (the picture is me in PNG wearing a Meri dress) moves were heaps and heaps of fun and really made our family unit very tight. In 2006 we moved from Fiji to Melbourne and for the first time in five + years Slippery re-entered the workforce after being a stay-at-home Dad. He also had a complete change with his work - from working his trade in the Railway to becoming a coach/development officer with National Rugby League Club Melbourne Storm. I took a Head Office job with my bank but continued to do extensive travel to the Pacific and Asia.

It was hard, really hard without any family support in Melbourne. After 12 months we decided to return to Brisbane, Queensland. Not quite 'home" but very close. We both transferred with our jobs, I continued to travel and it became a bit easier with family around. However, tragedy struck when Slippery's beautiful mother, Ann passed away after only three weeks of cancer. We were devastated and still mourn her everyday. There was a real magic and warmth about Ann that we miss terribly. Partly due to Ann no longer being close-by and partly because we were still desperate to get out of the city, we finally moved home in July this year to the farm.

I now work in a different role in a different bank and travel to Sydney most weeks for a day or two or three and Slippery still works in his same role.

Working from home is a great option and for anyone considering it - my advice is go for it!! Working from the farm is even better. I get to stay in touch with what is going on, have lunch with Mum and Dad every day that I am home, rise at dawn and spend time with my horses, check on the cattle and then do an hour or so of work online before getting the kids off to the school bus.

Today I had a break at lunch and went into town to collect our new pullets (chooks). I can tell they are going to be keeping us in crackleberries very well as one laid an egg on the way home! Now that is productivity. I caught up on all the news about town and caught up with our good mate and local produce store owner Mick. There are just so many characters in the bush and they really make my corporate life seem so bland and boring.

The Dollar Birds were showing off this morning and the frogs are croaking loudly so maybe we are going to get some rain in the next few's hoping.

All the best,
Farmer Bub

Monday, October 6, 2008

Continuous Glucose Monitoring - The Type 1 Diabetes journey rolls on....

Our Claudia is Type 1 Diabetic and has been since she was 3 years old. There is no family history and of course non one knows quite why this disease strikes some and not others. It was such a terrible shock when she was diagnosed and like most new diabetics she was also very ill. We managed though and today it is simply part of our lives. Needles into her tummy 2-3 times per day, blood glucose (finger pricks) every few hours and monitoring of her diet, exercise etc constantly. The long term affects of a poorly managed diabetic are horrific - loss of eyesight, amputations, organ damage etc but managed well, Type 1 Diabetes is not much of a load for Claudia to carry compared to other illnesses. Plus she is just the most gorgeous natured little girl, with such a zest for life that I think diabetes has really met its match!

Part of on-going management is a three monthly test to calculate accurate Blood Glucose Levels (BGLs) via a simple blood test. The test is called a Triple A 1BC. The aim is to have A1BC tests between 6 and 8. In the five years since diagnosis, including living in developing countries we have always managed to get good test results of between 6 and 8. That is until last week when for no known reason she skyrocketed to a very high 10.2 - thus today we had a trip into the city to have a Continuous Monitoring device fitted for three days to try to determine what is going on. She was so brave and so grown up - questioning this and that and really taking ownership of what was happening to her body. It is so sudden how quickly they can start to become independent of you - sad but satisfying that she can.

Claudia also has an added complication of undiagnosed middle of the night fits similar to epilepsy (but its not) and so she will also have to be reassessed by a wonderful paediatric neurologist as well in the next month to see whether that is having any impacts.

Her little brother, Haydn went back to school today and it was rare to just have Claude with Slippery and I for the day. Just lovely to really immerse myself in her ways.

No storm tonight - maybe farmers are always looking skyward!

All the best, Carolyn.

Sunday, October 5, 2008


In recent years friends have told me I should set up a blog to share my interesting life and my response has always been that my life is far from interesting, just busy. Today I finished reading a book about successful intranet entrepreneurs and it gave a quick description of how to start blogging - I thought why not. Five minutes ago I set up my account and here I am.

Today is such a glorious day - the farm is iridescent green from recent rains and Dad has been busy with the plough preparing for summer crops. The activity of normal farm life combined with the peaceful sounds of the birds & frogs and is making me feel so alive. Claudia and I are about to head off on our horses - she is horse-mad and just loves her horse Shandy. Haydn has an allergic reaction to something he was playing with up the shed and Mum is preparing her normal Sunday roast. The photo is of Slippery and the two kids.

Slippery (my husband) is repairing the slasher, much to my delight. Earlier this year it threw a stone up and it hit me on the leg leaving a pretty purple scar. As a write this I can hear the sound of the welder cutting in and out as he patches the slasher up.

We have a new calf over in the breeder paddock. New mothers dont much like you getting too close but I managed to get a photo of the new addition. Cant tell whether it is a heifer or bull calf but it is so cute I thought you might like a look (albeit from afar).

I really look forward to blogging some more and sharing my lovely life with you. Happy to have your suggestions too on how I can improve my blog. All the Best, Farmer Bub