Happy New Year

I hope everyone has a happy, fun and safe new year for all!

2010 was a good year for me, I changed jobs back in January leaving the great people of VPAC for a new challenge, working with a new group of great people to bring up a new HPC centre for life sciences from scratch based at the University of Melbourne (but open to all life scientists across the state). Since then we’ve brought up a 1088 core SGI Altix XE cluster (Intel Nehalem based), a 640 core IBM iDataplex cluster (again Nehalem) and an IBM Blue Gene/P with 8192 cores. This is just stage 1, the big systems are due to arrive in 2012! It’s been great fun and great to just be able to concentrate on running the HPC systems and not have to worry about anything else.

On a personal level life has also been great, my wonderful wife and I celebrated 10 years of marriage this December and look forward to many more! We’ve just had our longest amount of time off together since 2008 thanks to the university shutting down between Xmas and New Year and have spent it quietly pottering around the house and local area. Very relaxing!

Making Meaning – Exhibition of Photography

Making Meaning is an exhibition of figurative, abstract and photographic works by my lovely wife Donna Williams and myself, Chris Samuel. We spent about 4 hours today at The Bakery, part of the 1812 Theatre in Upper Ferntree Gully in Melbourne setting it up whilst the crew of the 1812 finished off creating a set for their next production and distracting me with coffee and cake. ๐Ÿ™‚

Our exhibition runs from the 5th August to the 4th September on theatre time, which is (as our flyer says):

Wed-Sat: 8.30โ€“11pm,
Sun: 4โ€“6.30pm then 8.30-11pm (except 22nd Aug)

As a sneak preview here is the layout of my photography:

Exhibition setup at 1812 Theatre - my photos Exhibition setup at 1812 Theatre - more of my photos

and the layout of Donna’s paintings:

Exhibition setup at 1812 Theatre - Donna's paintings Exhibition setup at 1812 Theatre - more of Donna's paintings

Thanks again to the 1812 crew for making us feel welcome and at home and even feeding us lunch!

Petition to Keep Referrals to Social Workers and Occupational Therapists Eligible for Medicare in Australia

As a followup to my previous blog post there is now a petition (PDF) to ask the Australian Government to keep referrals to OT’s and social workers eligible for Medicare, which Donna has blogged about. If you do grab the PDF and print it out – and I would urge you to do so if you are in Australia, they need 10,000 signatures for it to be tabled – then please also have a covering note to explain why it’s so important. Donna writes:


1 in 150 people in Australia are diagnosed as having an autism spectrum disorder. 90% of adults on the autism spectrum have experienced bullying. Many are forced out of school early due to depression, anxiety disorders and breakdown. As adults those in this population will be significantly more at risk of social isolation, dislocation from their community, unemployment, and homelessness than the general population.

Around 1/3rd of adults on the autism spectrum will become diagnosed with additional mental health problems stemming at least in part from social disadvantage. When those developmental disabilities, including Aspergers develop mental health issues associated with long term unemployment, social isolation and community disconnection, Accredited Mental Health Social Workers are uniquely skilled to address their psychosocial issues and improve their quality of life in ways not addressed by Psychiatrists or psychologists alone.

With a 90% unemployment rate among even those most able adults on the autism spectrum, most are on income support. As such, if they require mental health services, most will be unable to access these services if not covered by Medicare funding. From 2011 the Government is going to cut Medicare funding for Social Workers and Occupational Therapists under โ€œBetter Access to Mental Health Servicesโ€ Program. 10,000 signatures is required to try and change this by December 2010. Please add yours.

Click here to get the PDF of the petition to print and sign.

Social Workers and Occupational Therapists Disappearing off the Medicare Radar

It’s not making the news at the moment, but the proposed scrapping of the Medicare rebate for access to social workers and occupational therapists is going to cause a lot of pain to a lot of people. We have friends with Autism and Aspergers Syndrome who benefit from the support these people provide, support that helps these people get into jobs, to live independently or to understand how the world is working. As my own wife puts it:

As a person with autism, learning disabilities and mental health issues from a background of abuse and homelessness, a lot of my skills took years to acquire. I had had a lifetime of labels, Psych and Guidance, medicated by age 9, psychiatry since my teens. But it was a social worker who liased with my psychiatrist to get me โ€“ relatively illiterate, innumerate, itinerant and at risk โ€“ back into education. The psychiatrist took the credit but it was there I understood the very different jobs these people had in the area of mental health. The psychiatrist could medicate me, but the Social Worker had a more powerful medicine โ€“ practical plans and support to change, to save, a life.

When her first husband left after isolating her:

I had spent two years without practicing my self help skills. Agoraphobic, isolated, disoriented, I didnโ€™t need a psychiatrist or medication. I needed practical hands on help in the home and the community to pattern me back into my life skills. That help came in the form of an Occupational Therapist. She helped me get back my strategies and the life skills these supported, helped me get my confidence back and helped me put supports in place for the things I needed help with. Within three months I was running my life as an independent adult, able to commute from home out into the community, even joining in community activities and looking after a cat.

Mental health often flies under the radar of journalists, but it is a significant health issue in Australia. Professor John Mendoza says:

Today, mental ill-health is the leading cause of death for all Australians under 45. More than car accidents. More than binge drinking. More than anything else. It is the leading cause of disability in Australia across all demographics. It affects more than 4 million Australians every year and is estimated to cost the Australian economy about $30 billion each year.

This decision isn’t yet set in stone, it is apparently due to be reviewed later this year but don’t wait for the election, please write and tell the current Health Minister why it is important to keep these services eligible for the Medicare rebate.

Federal Health Minister, Nicola Roxon,
1 Thomas Holmes Street
Maribyrnong Vic 3032,
Phone: 9317 7077.

Thank you.

Australia/Survival Day

Today is the public holiday commonly called Australia Day but really it’s only a good day for those of us who arrived since last 1787, for those who came before it’s been a bit crap. OK, a lot crap. ๐Ÿ™ So today instead of participating in the usual ritual of barbie and beer Donna and I went up to the Belgrave Survival Day event, celebrating the fact that we still have people from the oldest continual culture in the world around!

Belgrave Surival Day 2010

A nice day, we were a bit late in getting there so we missed the earlier talks and dances but we did get to hear some good indigenous bands play and had a wander around to look at the displays and talk to people. If you want to know a little more about why these things are important have a browse of the ANTAR website.

Donna’s painting clearance sale :-)

My wife Donna has been painting and sculpting for years (not to mention writing and composing), and has sold almost 100 of her originals worldwide so far. Problem is that she paints far faster than people buy them so she’s doing a bit of a clearance sale on eBay at the moment as we’ve run out of room in the house! ๐Ÿ™‚

The 13 pieces are both figurative and abstract pieces of autistic art; some in oils, some in acrylics and some in mixed media. The starting bids on these pieces are just $10-$15 and have 4 days to go. You too can be a budget collector of outsider art!

A new version of “Nobody Nowhere”

New cover of Nobody Nowhere So we’ve just received the revised edition of Donna’s classic autobiography “Nobody Nowhere” from the publishers with an updated forward, some of the quotes about it on the back and one of Donna’s paintings, “Swing“, on the cover!

Donna originally wrote Nobody Nowhere was in 1990 and as it is considered a classic autobiography of a person with autism a lot of folks don’t realise that Donna never meant it to be published.

Nobody Nowhere was written in 4 weeks. I barely ate, washed or slept. I wrote the book as a goodbye and a last hope. My plan was to let just one person read it, then shred it and burn it then jump in front of a train. But life is rarely as simple as our plans. Instead of the confirmation of hopelessness I expected, I was thrown a challenge; to allow the book to help others. Instead of shredding it, it became copied and read by millions of people around the world. Instead of being burned, it spent 15 weeks on the New York times Bestseller list and shot to number 1 in US, Canada, Japan, and Norway and got translated into over 20 languages worldwide.

The book is still in print and still selling almost two decades later!