Today I spent some time with a really special person, who genuinely knows the meaning of friendship, support and giving inspiration.
We spent a couple of hours talking about life's difficulties, looking at pathways ahead. This time of year is a great opportunity for reflection and some positive forecasting, when a lot of other maddening pressures are off to the sidelines.
After our coffee session concluded, I came across this story of 18-year-old Ben Breedlove. This young lad from Texas posted a couple of videos online around a week ago. Ben was well aware of his serious heart condition he'd had from birth, that was eventually going to take his life. Ben died on Christmas night from a heart attack.
His amazing video message was created silently with handwritten notes to tell his story, just a few days before he passed away.
"Kieran Miles inspired me to do this," Ben posted. "Just thought I should share my story to the rest of the world."
He had a unique condition: hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, where one part of the heart is thicker than the others, making it difficult for blood to circulate.
There's a moving part in his video story where he explains when he was just four years old. Breedlove described the moment...
"There was this big bright light above me ... I couldn't make out what is was because it was so bright. I told my mom, 'Look at the bright light' and pointed up. She said she didn't see anything. There were no lights on in this hall. I couldn't take my eyes off it.
And I couldn't help but smile. I had no worries at all, like nothing else in the world mattered. I cannot even begin to describe the peace, how peaceful it was," he wrote. "I will NEVER forget that feeling or that day."
It's a truly beautiful and moving tale, told as only a young person encapsulated in online social media could.
Stories like Ben's put life's dramas into great clarity and utter perspective. Love and nurture the moment and those important to you.
Tanya Brooks-Cooper who is running for division 8 in the March Cairns Regional Council elections has called for a speedy conclusion to the conduct investigation of sitting Councillors Sno Bonneau and Alan Blake.
"I hope the investigation gets wound up soon so we can all move smoothly into the elections," Tanya Brooks-Cooper said in light of a local panel being announced to determine the penalty against division 9 Councillor Sno Bonneau.
Councillor Blake is also being investigated for non-declaration of interests and not abstaining from voting.
"I would like to point out I won't be taking any donations from developers," Tanya Brooks-Cooper says. "That way you can be sure I'm making decisions, once elected, that are best for you and our community."
Both councillors Bonneau and Blake have received donations to their election campaigns from numerous property developers and have then voted to support their applications before Council without following the Local Government Act which requires declaring a conflict and removing themselves from the council chamber.
Brooks-Cooper says that well-planned, sustainable development is where we need to head.
"We have some great examples happening around the place we can use to model other new developments."
Former Mulgrave Shire councillor and local Barron River farmer Ross Parisi, who is also considering running for a Council seat, says Bonneau and Blake should stand down.
"[They] should stand down from any official position and not participate in any Cairns Regional Council duty while they are under investigation for possible breach of conduct," Ross Parisi told CairnsBlog. "Any elected position is one of trust and for that trust to be compromised is not acceptable under our Westminster system of democracy and public accountability."
Parisi says the allegations that the councillor may have accepted undeclared donations from developers and may have voted in development applications are serious matters and go to the core in public probity.
"One of the major tenet in our parliamentary government democracy is that all citizens are subject to the law and that justice needs to be done but also is seen to be done," Ross Parisi said.
"The above mentioned Councillors should be given the opportunity to stand aside with dignity and falling that the Cairns Regional Council's CEO should demand that they stand down without pay and refrain from any Council engagement while the allegations are investigated by the Regional Conduct Review Panel."
After two years and no start of his Adventure Waters theme park situated in the Barron River flood delta, Paul Freebody is set to announce that he will be running for the State seat of Cairns in the upcoming election.
Freebody was dumped after months of internal discussions within the LNP about his business dealings after former employees and managers of his car wash business alerted the party to goings on.
Paul Freebody blames Federal MP Warren Entsch and LNP boss Barry O'Sullivan for his demise, accusing them of ''assassinated" him (Paul called it "assignation").
The Party finally removed Freebody as the Cairns candidate and terminated his party membership when it was discovered he was behind an email that compared the Prime Minister to assassinated US President JFK. Paul Freebody says it was a ''family member'' that was behind the rogue email.
Freebody has since released a recording of a meeting held with LNP Party bosses including Barry O'Sullivan, who was swearing and rude, demanding Paul provide answers about the letters of concern they were receiving from Cairns. He recorded the meeting covertly, not an offense in Queensland, in order to expose and shame the LNP.
"My understanding and recognition of the large scale change that needs to take place to meet the community needs is the driving force behind my entry into state politics," Freebody says. "I believe the only way change can come about is to have a person who is committed firstly to getting the basics right, and then unleashing the sleeping giant of potential that I know exists in our city."
However on Facebook Freebody says things are improving.
''Things are good and life is getting back to normal since my assignation [sic] in the LNP by Warren and his mate in Brisbane Barry O, Sullivan,'' Paul Freebody writes.
''We are now getting ready and in full planning mode for our next adventure and will have an announcement soon.''
The Public Gallery was so packed for the four-hour debate that they had to open a second room with a big screen that others could watch on.
Desley Boyle says it was a rare Parliamentary debate - a conscience vote.
"The Independents including Katter Party people, all spoke - very different views to mine - but at least they put their views on the line - they voted according to conscience," Desley Boyle said today.
"One person only spoke for the LNP saying they were united that this was just a political stunt and therefore they would oppose the Bill. They sat in an angry silence, some of them looking very uncomfortable," Boyle says.
"Many Labor members spoke with eloquence about the importance of validating and legalizing loving relationships and about the legalisation of human rights too long denied. It was truly, from my point of view, a validation of why it's worth standing for election, of why it's worth the daily struggle that is the lot of a politician and why Labor is, all the ways in which we fall short notwithstanding, still the right party to vote for."
"And it was for me, a re-affirmation at the end of my political career that a fair society for all Queenslanders is worth fighting for," Desley Boyle said.
Advance Cairns, a peak umbrella business quango, that Mayor Val Schier decreed would lose funding prior to her successful mayoral bid in 2008, yet went on and supported increased cash injections, represented a number of organisations without permission, endorsing the Cairns Entertainment Precinct.
On November 16th, Advance Cairns, which celebrates its 10th birthday, placed a full-page advertisement in the Cairns Post. Today the CEO, Stewart Christie, admitted the error and appologised.
"Due to the urgency of placing the advert, logos of organisations endorsing the Tropical North Queensland Regional Economic Plan were erroneously included," Stewart Christie said. "Advance Cairns would like to applogise."
Independent Council candidate for Division 2, Paul Drabble, has called the incident and "attempted deception by Advance Cairns."
Drabble has written to the Cairns mayor asking her to resign her position on the Advance Cairns board.
"It seems professionalism in this organistaion is now at an all-time low in favor of blind sensationalism of the truth," Paul Drabble told CairnsBlog. "All Council funding should be withheld and a full explanation of the attempt to deceive the people of Cairns explained."
He says that a full page apology to the people of Cairns should be a priority.
"I found it very disturbing to find that Advance Cairns of which you are a member of the board, has had to issue an apology for the erroneous use without consultation and without approval of logos in its advertising of support for the Cairns Entertainment Precinct," Paul Drabble wrote to Mayor Schier.
"[This is an] attempted deception by Advance Cairns over the Entertainment Precinct and apology for the erroneous use of logos. I think in the face of this disclosure of facts, you as our Mayor, should resign your position on the Advance Cairns board immediately."
"Also upon your resignation you should inform Advance Cairns that all Council funding will be withheld and until a full explanation of the attempt to deceive the people of Cairns is explained to both Council and the people of Cairns."
In June Cairns Regional Council agreed to $250,000 a year funding for Advance Cairns until 2014. Under "Spirit and Intention", Council states...
1.1 This Agreement establishes and articulates an integrated way of working together to deliver the vision and priorities of the Tropical North Queensland Regional Economic Plan (TNQREP) and to support the sustainable economic development of the Cairns region. 1.2 The Parties will work to the following principles: i. Open, transparent and honest communications and discussions; ii. Respecting each others roles and accountabilities and acting in good faith; and iii. Commitment to the common goal of developing and delivering the vision as agreed in the TNQREP and of sustainable economic development of the Cairns region. 1.3 This is an outcome-based agreement, with clear performance indicators providing the basis from which to regularly monitor progress. 1.4 Cairns Regional Council encourages Advance Cairns to source additional funding to support economic development outcomes for the Cairns regional economy. This may include grants from the Queensland State Government, the Federal Government, industry partnerships and other sources, as the Advance Cairns Board determines, in alignment with the TNQREP.
Today is World AIDS Day, observed around the world on December 1st.
Government and health officials throughout the world observe the event, often with speeches or forums on AIDS topics, since 1995, the President of the United States has made an official proclamation on World AIDS Day.
World AIDS Day was first observed on December 1, 1988. It has been common to hold memorials to honour persons who have died from HIV/AIDS on this day. This evening from 6pm, on the Esplanade (will be at the Budda Bar, above McDonalds, if raining.
Seth Fourmile will give a Welcome to Country followed by a performance from One Blood Dance group. Cairns Regional Council Mayor, Val Schier will speak, along with Dr Arden Dearden, and Bill Chappell. The Out Loud Choir will also entertain.
AIDS has killed more than 30 million since it was first recognised in 1981, and an estimated 33 million people worldwide live with HIV today, making it one of the most destructive epidemics in recorded history. Despite recent, improved access to antiretroviral treatment and care in many regions of the world, the AIDS epidemic claimed an estimated 2 million lives in 2007, of which about 270,000 were children. And over 7,000 new HIV infections continue to occur every single day in the world, predominantly in low and middle income countries.
Director of Sexual Health at Cairns Sexual Health Service, Dr Darren Russell, an Adjunct Associate Professor at James Cook University and the Clinical Associate Professor at the University of Melbourne, says in Cairns we have more than 300 people living with HIV, which is quite a large number for a smallish city. Of course we have a bigger epidemic on our doorstep in Papua New Guinea, where an estimated 34,000 people are living with HIV. PNG is only 800km to our north, whereas Brisbane is 1700km south. PNG is therefore of great importance to us in Cairns as we continue to deal with the issue of HIV.
Here's Dr Russell's speech on the launch of World AIDS Day in Cairns...
The United Nations General Assembly in June of this year made a Political Declaration on AIDS with 105 points aimed at finally eliminating HIV, including efforts to improve access to prevention, care, and treatment around the world.
In addition, the UN remains deeply concerned that globally women and girls are still the most affected by the epidemic and that they bear a disproportionate share of the care-giving burden. Furthermore, the ability of women and girls to protect themselves from HIV continues to be compromised by physiological factors, gender inequalities, including unequal legal, economic and social status, insufficient access to health care and services, including for sexual and reproductive health, and all forms of discrimination and violence, including sexual violence and exploitation. The United Nations has also set the ambitious aim of halting and starting to reverse the rise in HIV infections by 2015, less than 4 years away. Even more than this, they plan to work towards reducing sexual transmission of HIV by 50 per cent by 2015; work towards reducing transmission of HIV among people who inject drugs by 50 per cent by 2015; and work towards the elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV by 2015 and substantially reducing AIDS-related maternal deaths. These are amazing goals, unthinkable even a couple of years ago. They will require each of us to work towards achieving them, and to keep pressuring governments to continue funding prevention programs that have been proven to work – programs that involve education, the provision of condoms and clean injecting equipment for those who use drugs, and more recently the use of antiviral HIV drugs to reduce a person’s infectiousness. These drugs are available to all those who require them in Australia, but that is not yet the case in PNG, where only 50% of those requiring HIV drugs to treat their infections are receiving these life-saving medicines. In my 21 years of working in the HIV field I have seen many changes. When I started work in 1990 we had only one HIV medicine – AZT – and it didn’t work well at all by itself. We know have over 25 drugs, and they are used in combinations of 3-4 drugs that suppress the virus that leads on to AIDS. In my early days of working in HIV/AIDS, the outlook for people with HIV was very poor indeed. It is now, of course, much better, such that people who have HIV can look forward to long, mainly healthy lives. People can have long-term, loving relationships, can have children who are free of HIV, and can lead long, productive lives. The word ‘cure’ is even being bandied about, although eradicating HIV totally from a person’s body may still be many years away. However, it is a wonderful thing to work towards. The theme for this year’s World AIDS Day is ‘HIV is still here’. The aim is to encourage all Australians to be aware of how common HIV is; to take action to reduce the transmission of HIV by promoting safe sex practices; and to accept individuals living with or affected by HIV/AIDS. HIV positive people need to be empowered in our society to feel included and to actually educate others about living with HIV/AIDS. People living with HIV have the right to participate in the community free from stigma and discrimination. With this in mind I would ask all of you – especially over the coming week - to think about HIV, to talk about HIV, and, if possible, to do something practical about the themes of World AIDS Day. HIV has not left us – ‘HIV is still here’.
WORLD AIDS DAY SERVICE: - 6pm tonight, Cairns Esplanade.
(If raining, will be moved to Budda Bar, above McDonalds on the Esplanade, entry is on Shields Street).
A Welcome to Country by Seth Fourmile. One Blood Dance group will perform followed by words from Mayor Val Schier and Dr Arden Dearden. Bill Chappelle will also speak on behalf of HIV positive community. Cairns' Out Loud Choir will entertain.