Goodbye 5:30AM starts to the day. Goodbye client meetings and appointments. Goodbye to the world of 9 to 5. At least for a few years, anyway.
I’ve started University this year. These days it isn’t such an uncommon concept to undertake what they label ‘mature age’ studies, but I’m still in a minority.
The idea of being ‘mature age’ was laughable, really. I mean, come on, I’m only 27; I’m still young, eager, full of life, right?
Well, I thought so until I walked in to Orientation last Friday.
When did all the children become adults? When did they suddenly start opening up university to adolescents who surely can’t be older than fifteen or sixteen?
When did I get old?
I’ve only been at University now for two and a half days. Today is day three, and already it feels somewhat overwhelming to consider that I’m actually a senior member of the student body – in age, anyway. I mean sure, there are people older than me there, people who I would have considered to be the actual definition of ‘mature age’ students while I’m just in the ‘running slightly behind schedule’ category; but there’s absolutely no way to deny that in comparison to the majority of these first year students I missed my boat and now I’m hitching a ride with whoever can fit me on board.
Enough reminders as to how old I am, though…
University is certainly going to be an interesting experience. After spending my recent years in a combination of travel and the workplace, suddenly I’m finding myself back in a world where the boundaries of work and play get so gray no one’s really sure if there is actually a difference. This is a world that mixes studying with copious amounts of alcohol, and once again my age comes in to play when I wonder if I’m going to be able to keep up!
Still, it’s been entertaining thus far. The idea that I’m actually taking the serious step to furthering myself is exciting, if a little trepidant at the same time. There are benefits, I very quickly realized on Monday morning that I’ve said goodbye to those things I listed at the opening of this. University doesn’t seem to start til 10AM (at least not when you’re studying Arts). This fact is one that I’m certainly going to enjoy!
The debate has been reignited.
On Friday February 13th 2009, the Liberal Opposition party in Tasmania released their proposal for a refurbishment and reconstruction of the Royal Hobart Hospital on its existing site. Immediately it managed to reignite a debate that has actually gone quiet over the past couple of months. I don’t think there would be too many people who would disagree on the fact that Hobart needs a new hospital facility. Professor Ray Lowenthal of the AMA called it a “Rabbits’ Warren” while pointing that the existing facility could “never” be transformed into a state of the art facility. While my voice is a lot quieter, and most likely carries a lot less weight than that of Professor Lowenthal, I must still, respectfully disagree. I wonder if he realizes that no matter which way you build a construction as complex as a hospital, you’re likely going to end up with a “rabbit warren” of corridors, halls and alcoves leading from ward to ward and level to level.
From what I have gleaned thus far about the Royal Hobart Hospital debate, both previously and the latest pieces of information, there seem to be three main concerns: Construction, Location and Parking. Thus far we have two main proposals put forward: the Labor Government would like to build an all new hospital on the waterfront at the old railyards. To be honest with you, when I first saw this plan, I did actually think that it looked quite nice, extending Davey Street out to the railyards and surrounding the hospital with hotels and cafes. It did look pretty. Then came the debate of rising sea levels through Global Warming; building a hospital next to Hobart’s working port and of course the fact that the Labor Government want to spend $1.2 Billion on the construction of this all new hospital – construction, by the way, would not be complete until 2018. On the other hand, the Liberal Government have put forward now their plan to redevelop the existing location, at a cost of around $360 million for the first two stages of redevelopment, stage three is yet to be costed, but by the sound of it, I would be doubtful that demolishing and rebuilding Block H would cost the $840 million to equalize the expenses. Redeveloping the existing site nullifies the concern of the working port, and as for Global Warming – hey, if the sea levels rise that far, I doubt it’s going to matter which of the two locations is chosen. The Liberal party have also suggested that the redevelopment will be able to increase bed space at the existing site by over 60% by 2014 – four years earlier than a Labor waterfront hospital would be ready.
Another question that has been raised by several people regarding this entire debate is the Award-Winning new emergency department. $15.4 million was spent on this development and the Labor government wishes to simply throw all of that money away. Alternatively, one would think that it would be logical to continue a facelift of the entire hospital after building what then Premier Paul Lennon described as: “Australia’s most modern specialist emergency medicine and trauma centre.”
Especially when the cost is a little over a quarter of the expense of developing an all new hospital.
If you would graciously also allow me a moment to consider the external consequences also, the Hobart Business community has thrown their support behind the idea of redeveloping the existing site also. It’s not really a surprise; the Royal Hobart Hospital employs over 3000 staff and then of course there are the University of Tasmania medical students, and visitors to patients. Where are all of these people going to go for their lunch and other shopping? After all, one thing that is notable in Tasmania is our reluctance to have to travel too far for anything – which leads me onto the point of parking.
The biggest complaint that I have seen from members of the general public when it comes to redeveloping the existing hospital site is the fact that there’s not enough parking. Never mind the fact that there are 680 parking bays right across Argyle Street, and an additional 755 spaces in Market Place car park right across Collins Street. The problem appears to be that these car parks actually cost money, and that any free parking (such as on the Domain, the Regatta Grounds or other locations) require someone to walk for at least ten minutes to get to the hospital. I’m sorry, but neither of these arguments hold any real weight in my opinion, the costs at both car parks are negligible at worst, and if you’re able to walk for ten minutes, then you don’t even have to worry about cost!
In conclusion, as is clearly apparent, I am quite happy with the idea of redeveloping the existing Royal Hobart Hospital. I believe that the (much) lower expense, the benefit to Tasmania and Hobart’s economy and the significantly faster construction time far outweigh any perceived problems associated with the project.
It seems strange that in just the past few days we have been arguing about whether or not the Federal government should be spending $42bn on their latest stimulus package, with an eye to send the nation $200bn in to debt.
This weekend, February 7 and 8, 2009, none of that seems to matter any more. This weekend goes down in history as Australia’s worst bushfire disaster on record. At least 76 people are confirmed dead at the time I write this, including four children. Hundred of homes have been lost and thousands of people are left without some of the absolute basic necessities of life such as food and shelter.
I can’t even begin to imagine what it must be to have lived in Kinglake or Marysville, or any of these other places that have been so devestated by the bushfires this weekend. These places are reported to have been completely destroyed – nothing left of them but some ruins and a name on a map.
What’s also incomprehensible is to think that some of these fires are suspected to have been deliberately lit! We live in a nation where almost every summer there are severe bushfires. Certainly, in recent years we have been lucky enough not to have experienced severe losses, however this year we have not been so lucky. I can’t help but ask what level of insanity actually results in someone taking such a despicable action? What on earth would be going through their minds?
I take some solace, though, in the fact that we Australians know how to stick together. We’ve built a country and a culture around camaraderie, mateship and selflessness. We’ve demonstrated time and time again an ability to pull together, be generous and help others out when life gets rough.
This is a hard time for so many Australians, but we have proven more than once in the path, and we will prove again that we will come together when it matters and make it through.
My thoughts and prayers are with everyone who has been affected by the devastation of this weekend, not just in Victoria, but in the fires in NSW and the floods in QLD as well.
I also send my sincerest thanks to each and every one of the firefighters, military personnel and others who are risking their own lives fighting these fires. Each and every one of you is a true hero.
Contributions to the Bushfire Appeal Fund can be made by contacting Red Cross on 1800 811 700