Italy, Denmark, Portugal and India in a day

When was the last time you experienced a day that was truly magic ….. beyond your wildest imaginings?

Biblical stories record that when Solomon sat on his silken carpet he sailed through the air so quickly that he breakfasted at IMG_0204Damascus and supped in Media.

Our transport last Sunday was a little more conventional (a small bus) but our ride was no less giddy than Solomon’s, or Aladdin’s for that matter.

An adventure gift from family for our 60th birthdays, Margot and I had our taste buds transmitted across four countries in as many hours .… dragging our bodies in close pursuit.

We departed Sydney CBD at 9am and minutes later we were being led up a narrow pathway between old buildings. It was hard to tell if they were in a state of demolition or restoration.

Our destination – a roller door set in a graffiti laden back lane between derelict cars and industrial skip bins.

Beyond the door …. a pristine Paesanella family ricotta factory which has been a local Italian institution in Marrickville for decades. Basket after basket of ricotta has been filled since 3am that morning, at 9.15 we catch the last few batches.

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The taste of freshly made ricotta still warm form the vat is a treat I recommend to all.

… and then to the Paesanella Café and store where Mumma Paesanella has prepared our breakfast: fresh meat ball lasagna with home made smoked buffalo mozzarella, cannoli to die for and her special cake made from marscatone and blue cheese – I could feel my arteries filling as my taste buds exploded in joy. There were lots (and lots) of other treats she’d prepared for us and (unfortunately) we couldn’t resist.

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I let out my belt a notch (or two) before arriving at our next destination: a plain unadorned doorway on a busy road with just two words ‘Blond Catering’ marking its existence.

Beyond the door, decorated Danish caterer Jesper Hansen and his kitchen … a perfect host.

Our treat?

A ‘colding’ demonstration. No cooking, but rather a demonstration on how to make the classic ancient recipe – Gravalax. The curing of salmon using salt, sugar, fennel and dill …. and then of course a tasting, and more tasting, and then more…. WOW

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When you finish reading my blog:-

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I guess that was morning tea ??!

Our next port of call – ‘little India’ also know as Harris Park where 20 Indian restaurants line Wigram Street separated by Indian supermarkets, spice emporiums, sweets palaces and sari shops. Candy to treat every sense, plus some.

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We lunched at the Billu Restaurant (the first in Harris Park). You go a long way (outside India) to find authentic, quality Indian food …. not so in Harris Park … a few steps in any direction will suffice.

DSC00373-2Another belt notch …. a only walk amongst the India shops and we’re back on our chariot destined to Portugal.

Sweet Belem, a Petersham pastry store serving the local Portuguese community with the best Portuguese custard tarts in the land. Crammed in Jose Silvia’s tiny kitchen he talks us through the preparation and cooking process. Hot, very hot, busy and space deficient. It’s a buzz, the out come a treats, a REAL treat.

Preparing the pastry before an audience

Preparing the pastry before an audience

Perplexed – are these treats to die for or die from??? Either way, if you get a chance go for them.DSC00390-2

All in all a decadent day of self indulgence, the discovery of cultural enclaves in Sydney I’d never dreamed of and lots of fun with our fellow travellers.

Nutella Tarts

Nutella Tarts

Not to be out done he then produces a new novelty tart – Portuguese nutella custard tart – yep – nutella.

Not to be out done Jose then produces a new novelty tart – Portuguese Nutella custard tart – yep – Nutella.

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Thanks to our host Maeve O’Meara (of SBS fame) and her Food Safari ……. and of course a big thanks to Cate, Laura, Isaac and Simon who made it all possible for us.

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Its now back to calorie counting.

Who am I ?

I’m a specialist estate planning lawyer + professional traveller + keen photographer + political observer. I like to share my experiences across all four devotions – often as a mixed lot. If you like this blog please subscribe for more.

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60 and counting. Counting down.


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When did you last have a night out that satisfied your every dream?

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I can’t remember either, but last night I came very close.

A celebration of our 60th birthdays – that is, my wife Margot’s and my birthdays.

Family, friends, good food, good wine, great dancing music and the perfect location – watching the sun set in the west across Sydney Harbour from the verandah of a community yacht club with the full moon rising over our shoulders to the east…the sound of bubbles escaping capture as they are fluted in well wishing salutes.

From each decade passed through, each stage of our life experienced, each challenge worked through, each success celebrated, each failure diluted, those present have contributed to making our lives special.  And they’re not all our vintage.  Children of friends, their partners and friends, all part of a circle that welcomes us, and shares.

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And the stories begin, individual discoveries ranging from God, travel, grandchildren and new loves through to a new golf handicap and commonly – the simplicity of de-cluttering…. garages, homes, work and minds. Expensive cars and other trappings giving way to a quest to achieve that rarest of commodities: more time.  Or rather, making the most of the time we have.

Loud conversation, louder music, food shared, the floor bouncing under the gyrations of discordant dance, stories abound and a few themes emerge… Universally, Health and friendships have become our most valued treasures.  Finding time for both our biggest challenge.

Actuaries predict our life expectancy increases by 20% if we reach the age of 60. I limped across the line and at midnight on the eve of my 60th I grasped the promise of extra time as if it where the winning ticket in a multi million dollar lottery.

10 years to do those physical things that I’ve planned for 60, thereafter a more restrictive diet of physical goals and a focus on the cerebral.

So I ask, what will I stop doing to make time for my priorities?

Good question.

When?

Another good one.

The shared camaraderie I experienced last night is a stark reminder of many shocking and comforting truths.  We are social beings.  We are capable of sharing and caring.

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We need to spend more time doing so and the time to start doing more is now, not tomorrow.

Professionally, I deal with preparation for death. Wills and estates.  Important stuff.  Not half as important however as living life while we still can as life will pass us by, whilst death will consume us forever.

Pregnant with ideas … it’s stocktake time …. or rather, spring cleaning time … It’s time to do a list of ‘will-do’s’ not a list of ‘like-to-do’s’.

For those interested, I’ll post all the photos from the evening on Instagram sometime in the next week.

Who am I ?

I’m a specialist estate planning lawyer + professional traveller + keen photographer + political observer. I like to share my experiences across all four devotions – often as a mixed lot. If you like this blog please subscribe for more.

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Soulmated ? !

Unlike the chess equivalent, the last move makes all players a winner.

Have you visited Fiji?  Even the new luxury resorts are contagious.

Isolated from the locals by fences and a socio-economic divide that can only be measured in light years, the infection they spread is jaw-numbing.

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The symptoms begin to appear before you even exit the airport.  They grow unrestrained.

Two days into my three-day visit my jaws ache, and my heart has swollen.

It’s inevitable …. this Fijian plague …. a direct consequence of the ever-present goodwill that comes with every utterance of the local greeting: Bula, Bula and the warmth of the grin that follows.

That’s right – smiling, laughing and being continuously overwhelmed with generosity takes it toll.

All the self-imposed barriers we erect around ourselves to survive our busy lives are rapidly stripped away and we stand naked. Exposed to genuine courteous social interaction with no purpose beyond …. genuine courteous social interaction.

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Beyond the decadence of our delectable resort, we visit old friends, Suli and her husband Amos – locals we first met over a quarter of a century ago.

They remain in the same cottage in the same coastal village living life the same way as their ancestors have for as long as history records.

Their son, an international jet-setting environmental advisor returns to village life after each trip and sheds his first-world self like a snake sheds its skin …  and steps into another world he contently shares with his family and his community.

Our friends, their daughter-in-law and grandchildren host a kava ceremony to welcome us and then treat us to fish caught only hours before, cassava, spinach and banana from their garden garnished with that wonderful Fiji dish of fresh coconut milk and greens.

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Spoilt to the point of tears Margot and I savour every morsel to the sound of our friends sharing glimpses of Fijian history through song. We sit stunned,  the music hypnotising, the setting breathtaking in its simplicity, the physical and emotional generosity humbling.

Sitting on hand-woven flooring we talk hypnotising and international politics, families, the economy, climate change, the changing world that is Fiji.  Worldly people. Admirable.

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We left with gifts … unexpected and embarrassingly valuable. … unique handicraft created by Suli and presented to us to celebrate our 25 years of friendship. Pure and simple.

What we carried away however hypnotising a lot more …. a reminder of the power of human bonds, no matter how much time passes between touches.

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Their farewell serenade:

Life is a checkerboard of pieces, all part of the one game.

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Who am I ?

I’m a specialist estate planning lawyer + professional traveller + keen photographer + political observer. I like to share my experiences across all four devotions – often as a mixed lot. If you like this blog please subscribe for more.

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A Rock Solid Legacy

Have you visited that little known, secret hide away modestly called the Garden of Stones?

With two profession photographers from Fairfax Media, Tia McIntrye (the Clique Event Organiser), and 14 other wannabe photographers I visited the Garden of Stones last weekend.  Just 2 1/2 hours from Sydney it’s a geological wonderland on the edge of Lithgow and is at the centre of a battle between the coal industry and local conservation groups.

Natural Pagodas

Natural Pagodas

According to those with the money it is an area of no historical, geographic or other important significance ….. not much good for anything except digging up.

I don’t judge, but invite you to have a think about it.

Below are a few snaps I took in my short visit.  If you haven’t been there…… do so …. but quickly.  I’d hate you to miss it.

Keep an eye open for a photo exhibition featuring the Garden of Stones in the next few months in Sydney’s CBD – not sure where yet, possible at Customs House.

If you want to know more contact the: Colong Foungation Website

…. and then there is the future of the mine workers … where is it?  It’s certainly not with their current industry which has a used by date that’s looming fast.  What are we doing for them?  Like the Gardens of Stone,  they too need some love and protection … perhaps,  alternate job opportunities.  The alternate energy sector  is a viable option for them … oops, I forgot our Prime Minister is sun struck and has layered the industry with a thick coat of greasy sunshine screen to shield it from growth.

We all have a role to play in protecting all from extinction: The Garden of Stones, mine workers and the alternate energy sector.

I ASK:

What legacy should we leave future generations ?

The Garden of Stones0876 The Garden of Stones0846 The Garden of Stones0807 The Garden of Stones0743 The Garden of Stones0737 The Garden of Stones0708 The Garden of Stones0416WHO AM I?

I’m a specialist estate planning lawyer + professional traveller + keen photographer + political observer. I like to share my experiences across all four devotions – often as a mixed lot. If you like this blog please subscribe for more.

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Breaking my blog drought

It’s been a while … a long while since my last blog. Not for lack of things to share …  Just wait. For my regular readers, I’ll share the reason for my silence.  For new readers, I have so many “lessons” to share – helpful lessons I’ve learned that I’m confident can help you in your journey.

The Bad Ill-health, hospital, post-op prescription drug haze, medios’ neglect (and my ignorance) of the need for rehabilitation, specialists with the personality of Frank N. Furter (with none of the funside) at one extreme  – and – true carers at the other extreme….... AND then another round of the same all over again ( round two) all in a 12 month period – provides lots of fuel for interesting topics. The Ugly An immediate return to work on both occasions, no down-time to mend, the call of work commitments both real and imagined, married with my making light of the trauma ….  I camouflaged the worst from family and The Golden Door0306work colleagues …. all part of a senseless game that creates a walking, talking, self-deprecating zombi.  Present in body but elsewhere in mind and spirit. The Good Over the same period  a friend cured of cancer, others saved from the brink of financial failure and numerous other reasons to celebrate  – all good news stories that tilt the scales in favour of life being pretty good. I’ve been ploughing a fertile field of discovery for my interests in both estate planning ( in this case my own mortality) and travel (to hell and back and the people you encounter along the way) with insights into an array of good, bad and enlightening. And this week – my 60th.

The age fits me very comfortably.  NOW marks the beginning of some major changes in my life

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  • Implementing barriers: no more choking on the ‘no‘ word.  Focus has been a ‘concept’ but is now it’s a living force
  • Moving from efficient to effective use of time – no more efficient attention to needless tasks
  • Achieving goals often set, but hitherto illusive – now firmly in sight

60 years in preparation for the Jack … whose box has just been opened. I return to work next Tuesday.

That’s right, I’ve claimed Mondays for myself. Not a ‘transition’ to retirement but rather a release from the ordinary to enable time for the extraordinary.  … But for … some enforced downtime over the last 12 months I may only have achieved my goals as a lawyer over the next decade. Now I have greater ambitions. Much greater. Achieving my ambitious legal practice goals is nowThe Golden Door0273 in context, they’re just a task to achieve on the way to making a difference. It’s that difference that is my real focus, successfully achieving my current career goals notched on the wall along the way …. just a stepping stone on the journey.

It’s good to be back. Ready to laugh again. Ready to embrace.  And doing both.

Who am I ? I’m a specialist estate planning lawyer + professional traveller + keen photographer + political observer. I like to share my experiences across all four devotions – often as a mixed lot. If you like this blog please subscribe for more.

I INVITE YOUR COMMENTS If you have any comments about this blog or tips to add to this blog please do so – your The Golden Door0257comments and tips will help all of us in our travels. Use the ‘leave a comment’ link at the top right hand side of the blog (above my photo) to send a message to me. Use the “Follow” link at the bottom of the column on the right to subscribe to this blog.

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Disputes over Wills – What are the main causes – Avoiding Will Disputes

A recent national survey revealed that over one third of Australians have experienced conflict over deceased estates.  Why ?  How can you minimise the risk? Read on….

The research conducted by Slater and Gordon Lawyers showed that the main causes of wills disputes are:
•  A sense that the assets were unfairly divided
•  The division of sentimental items, such as photos, letters or clothing
•  Differences of opinion around what the deceased would have wanted
•  The use of an asset such as a house
•  Unethical or unfair behaviour of the executor

The research also identified the main factors that could help minimise disputes:
•  Greater communication and clearer instructions while the person was still alive
•  A letter or video explaining their approach and reasoning
•  Those left behind adopting a less competitive approach to the distribution of assets

In my experience as an estate planning and asset protection lawyer, it is all too common for people to have Wills that do not clearly explain how and why their assets are to be divided. Uncertainly causes a great deal of added strain and stress on grieving family members …… what did s/he really mean is a question that resonates round the heads of those remaining behind, and the answers then to err on the negative.

Thank you to the copyright owner - home truths in a snapshot

Thank you to the copyright owner – home truths in a snapshot

To minimise the chances of a disharmony and dispute it is paramount that people clearly articulate in their wills how their assets are to be divided and communicate the reasons why to the family.  The earlier the better.  Sometimes a letter to the executor explaining their wishes can be very helpful.

The single most important thing is to avoid ‘surprises’ and ‘misunderstandings’ that arise when you have passed away.

Identify potential areas of dispute before you pass away, and address them yourself.   Communicate, communicate, communicate – before you pass away.  Don’t let your will be a grenade that you lob amongst your family from the other side.

Have individual meetings or even family meetings to explain yourself.  Just think – if you can’t resolve them when you are there to manage expectations, how do you think your family will resolve issues when you aren’t around? It’s not difficult to imagine what will occur.
Leave behind fond memories.   Don’t let your legacy be a family feud you created.

Have your will reviewed every three to five years to ensure it is current; and keep in mind that changed financial circumstances such as the acquisition or sale of an asset, births, deaths, marriages and divorces are just a few of the events that may require a will to be reviewed.

I’m a specialist estate planning lawyer + professional traveller + keen photographer + political observer. I like to share my experiences across all four devotions – often as a mixed lot. If you like this blog please subscribe for more.

 

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Wills for Pets ! ?

Much has recently been written about the necessity for making provision in your Will for your pets.  See the Links at the end of this post.

Kramer - My Dogson

Kramer – My Dogson

If you plan to leave money for their care then a provision in your Will makes sense.  Your Will can provide for a trust to protect and manage the moneys, and importantly, deal with any money left over when your pet passes away.

As for caring for you pet … common sense should prevail, not your Will.

The secret to proper care for you pet is to communicate with the intended carer before you die.  Don’t surprise someone in your Will.  They may not want the responsibility.

Again – communicate, communicate, communicate – before you pass away.

When ?

You tell me when you plan to die and you will have answered that question for yourself.

Don’t know?

None of us do, so I guess the right time is now as we can’t predict the unforeseen accident or injury, illness or terrorist attack – so today might be a good time to think about it.  Tomorrow MAY BE a good day to have a chat to your proposed carer.

See if they are willing.  If not it’s better to know now while you can do something about it than leave the task to your executor after you pass away.

I’m a specialist estate planning lawyer + professional traveller + keen photographer + political observer. I like to share my experiences across all four devotions – often as a mixed lot. If you like this blog please subscribe for more.

Check out these links:

http://www.lifestyle.com.au/pets/do-you-need-a-pet-trust-or-will.aspx

http://rspcavic.org/documents/giving/Leaving-gift-in-will/RSPCA-Bequest-Animal-Program-brochure.pdf

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ROD_8399

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Shit happens ….. and then?

oops, politically incorrect, crude, unprofessional . Managing our bowel movements is something you and I attend to without much thought or planning …  but for the morning after a very spicy meal or a night on the ‘turps’ (ie; drinking too much alcohol – for you non Aussies)

But a huge number of our community it’s a daily challenge.  A taboo topic …. we see people with spinal cord injuries and immediately notice their obvious disabilities  – they can’t walk, some can only move their head.  Rarely do we consider that they have no feeling below the point of their injury.  Then there are the elderly in nursing homes…more and more of us. Many suffer the same indignity.

So what,  so bad, so sad, who gives a damn….

Well may you ask. The afflicted do. Their carers do and so do those wishing to research how better to manage this issue and implement management plans for individuals.

But like many other very real (non vote winning) issues confronting our disability sector – there is no funding to mop up the issues ….sorry….tackle them.

Last night I had the great privilege to attend the launch of a new Health Projects & Research Fund established for the very purpose of diving head long into helping our disability sector undertake critical research.

A humbling experience. The fund was launched by Nick Rushworth the Executive officer of Brain Injury Australia.

Nick Rushworth

Nick Rushworth

Suffering a serious brain injury in a cycling accident years ago today he is an advocate for those suffering brain injury.  The statistics are frightening – I set a few out below.  But let me snatch a few quotes from his speech.  Speaking of his opportunity to speak at the launch, not as a professional treating the injured, but as a victim and advocate Nick said

“Happily, it also allows me to take one of my twin hobbyhorses – he’s called imagination, the other’s called hope – to take imagination for a canter. Because, I reckon if I’ve learnt ANYTHING from my time in this job, it’s that anyone involved in the “human services” business – my business and, my guess is, many of your businesses, certainly the brain injury RESEARCH business – anyone involved in these businesses has to at least try and transplant themselves, in imagination, into something of the life circumstances of their client, their customer, their research subject, to at least try and enter into the world from whence they come, as both a a starting point and a first principle.”

A little later when recounting how quickly (relatively) he recovered he made an observation that struck an accord with me.

“Which makes it all sound like a bit of a diversion, an…escapade (and here I am tonight…dining out, yet again, on my story). I’m sure I thought of myself as…lucky. My thinking’s…matured since then. I’ve never believed in fate. Nowadays, I don’t much believe in LUCK either – let alone, as I can remember a famous rugby league coach once saying; that HIS team, HIS players “make their own luck”. I’ve come to believe, instead, in systems, in structures – whether they’re governments, their publicly-funded services, the economies, the businesses that those services depend on for money. And I believe in communities, in families. Don’t mistake me, I’m sure an individual’s – whatever you choose to call it – their drive, their determination are still crucial, perhaps indispensable, to recovery from any injury, any adversity”

Following the theme of the need for family and community Nick said

“I’m intrigued – as someone working in disability advocacy from a background in journalism – by our preferences (insofar as the media mostly serves them) by our preference for stock narratives about individuals “overcoming disability” – a bit like “beating” cancer – and by the relentless parade of what some of my colleagues call “super-crips” – “super-cripples”. Call me quaint but in a broader culture of creeping competitive individualism – of sink or swim, with some safety nets – I just don’t reckon that society’s capacity for “overcoming”, its quantum of resilience (of rebounding from adverse events, from trauma) gets shared around equally. Between individuals, between communities.”

Thank you Nick - Works I'm sure will resonate with many

Thank you Nick – Words I’m sure will resonate with many

The funds first grant was also made – to Royal Rehab in Ryde to conduct critical research into … you guessed it ….the management of bowel dysfunction.

Genevieve Henderson and Associate Professor Pryor

Genevieve Henderson and Associate Professor Pryor

And why was I there.  I’m proud to proclaim that the fund has been established and is funded by Slater and Gordon….”those disreputable lawyers who do give a damn”.  And of course, pay my salary.

Aligned with my personal and professional crusade for better planning …for everyone, this project is exactly on target…researching to help produce better outcomes for the disadvantaged.

This is not a work-sponsored blog.  They wouldn’t permit me to be be so brash or loose with my language… but in my own time I can say I’m proud to be part of their lot …. in any terms I choose.

Well done team!

I’m a specialist estate planning lawyer + professional traveller + keen photographer + political observer. I like to share my experiences across all four devotions – often as a mixed lot. If you like this blog please subscribe for more.  Recommend my blog to others.  If you have a comment or request – bring it on.

Some interesting stats provided by Nick

  • Falls are the leading cause of injury admissions to Australian hospitals Falls are now also the leading cause of traumatic brain injury throughout the developed world accounting for 2 out of 5 hospitalisations in Australia in 2004-2005
  • The highest growing sector of the Australian population suffering brain injury – those over 85 years
  • 727,000 Australians have a brain injury – Australian Bureau of Statistics ( a conservative  number) But only 21,000 of those are on disability support pension, only 16,000 use  a National Disability Agreement – funded service

Do you want a blog that speaks to you – what do you want? Ask me.

I’m a specialist estate planning lawyer + professional traveller + keen photographer + political observer. I like to share my experiences across all four devotions – often as a mixed lot. If you like this blog please subscribe for more.  If you have a comment or request – bring it on.

Whilst you’re here please enjoy a few of my snaps and recommend my blog to others. No prizes…just surprises.

Exploring Ningaloo Reef

Exploring Ningaloo Reef

Balloning in Egypt - Enjoying the beauty

Balloning in Egypt – Enjoying the beauty

Still in Egypt - Arable meets arid - life's contrasts

Still in Egypt – Arable meets arid – life’s contrasts

Victoria Falls - Zambia Sharing a moment with my son Mark

Victoria Falls – Zambia
Sharing a moment with my son Mark

..... and swimming with Mark in Antarctica....cold!

….. and swimming with Mark in Antarctica….cold!

Observing observations

Observing observations

Keeping the hot air where it belongs

Keeping the hot air where it belongs

Thank you to the copyright owner - home truths in a snapshot

Thank you to the copyright owner – home truths in a snapshot

Communicating serious estate planning messages whilst staying grounded.

My serious face with my lawyers uniform on.

My serious face with my lawyer’s uniform on

....and always shooting for the stars - especially when in Mongolia

….and always shooting for the stars – especially when in Mongolia

And some times just because its there

And some times just because its there

colour glorious colour

colour glorious colour

and always a word of advice...never too old or too young to listen.....or learn

and always a word of advice…never too old or too young to listen…..or learn


Crisis for children with disabilities – read if you dare

First world health care means longer lives for the most vulnerable in our community.

Our most vulnerable now outlive their parents.

Who cares? Too few it seems.

Think about it – apart from accommodation provided by parents, where do our cognitively disabled live?

With  other family ?… sadly, but often for good reason, no!

There is no federal funding scheme for accommodation. State  governments are withdrawing what little they did provide.

Government service providers will end up delivering services to their clients who live in parks, on footpaths and under bridges along with their homeless buddies.  There is no exaggeration here.

I’ll happily apologize if anyone can point to the flaw in my prediction.

Solution: have wealthy parents.  Don’t we all wish !

I invite you to read the SMH article at the following link. It highlights a looming crisis in the disability sector, but stops short of throwing a light on the elephant in the room….. accommodation once the aging carers can care no longer.

Maybe it’s my nature and training , but I am a firm believer in planning.  As you’ll see in the article, there is a looming crisis and it seems little or no planning to deal with it.

Link here

ABC article

Rod Cunich preferred (2)

I’m a specialist estate planning lawyer + professional traveller + keen photographer + political observer. I like to share my experiences across all four devotions – often as a mixed lot. If you like this blog please subscribe for more.