Thursday, January 28, 2016

Floods affect Geelong schools

from the Addie:

Geelong High among schools forced to close for storm clean-up

HOLIDAYS have stretched a little longer for hundreds of Geelong kids, with the first day of classes yesterday put on hold at several schools due to storm damage.
Geelong High, Montpellier Primary, Hamlyn Banks Primary, Clairvaux Catholic Primary and Nelson Park School all shut their doors as insurance assessors evaluated the damage and clean-up crews got to work.
Kardinia Childcare Centre and Kinder, Geelong West Kinder and Geelong’s Headstart Early Learning Centre were also shut.
Clairvaux principal Basil Flynn said a large amount of water had come through the ceiling of the Belmont school, causing damage to wiring, the roof and carpets in a number of classrooms and a communal area.
“I really feel for the parents because people are needing to get back to work and are having to organise babysitters and make different plans,” he said.
He said staff had been preparing for the first day of school when the storm hit.“In the worst area, everyone had to get out right away and get the power off because it was quite dangerous,” he said.
“People were grabbing bins and buckets but it was coming in quicker than we could do anything about.” He said “essentials” had been retrieved from classrooms but that some parts of the school had been made off limits. Mr Flynn was yesterday hopeful school would return on Monday — perhaps with some improvised classrooms in areas such as hallways — but said he was waiting on insurance assessors before making a final decision.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Stormy weather

Wow, what a storm we had today in Geelong. 53.8mm of rain fell within 30 minutes. The photos here show Johnstone Park before and then this afternoon, and Rippleside Park for Australia Day and today. One of the lads said that on the freeway from Melbourne to Geelong, cars had to stop and wait on the side of the road until the rain ceased. Photos from the web. Plus one of the storm coming to Geelong.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Thank you for the condolences

Thank You  from the Ratawa  family



photo taken at Vorovoro  Island when the tribewanted eco-tourism venture was operating.

Many family members and friends have kindly given us cards, emails, messages on facebook, food, money, whale’s teeth, mats, kava, made phone calls, or visited us in sharing our grief on the passing of our beloved Rev Peceli Ratawa on 27th December 2015. Thank you to the East Geelong church for just being there. Vina’a va’alevu.



And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year:“Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.” And he replied:“Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God. That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.” So I went forth, and finding the Hand of God, trod gladly into the night. And He led me towards the hills and the breaking of day in the lone East.” Minnie Haskins

 drawing at the home of Robin and Bronwyn Prior, Rye.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Queenscliffe - precious?

It was amazing that a small area of two seaside towns were allowed to have their own council when all the rest in the Geelong region were forced to amalgamate to form a huge City of Great Geelong.  They reckoned at the time that they were unique, but we can all say that. So it it time to bring 'em in?

Borough of Queenscliffe locals debate local government’s future
Courtney Crane Geelong Advertiser

The Borough of Queenscliffe is Victoria’s smallest local government area. Picture: Mark Griffin
BOROUGH of Queenscliffe residents have questioned whether their council should be amalgamated with the City of Greater Geelong during a spirited community meeting.
More than 100 locals attended a meeting this week in Point Lonsdale, called by Local Government minister Natalie Hutchins as part of an ongoing review of the local government act.
Ms Hutchins told the meeting she was open to discussions regarding a long debated boundary change, which would see hundreds of Pt Lonsdale residents living in new developments west of Fellows Rd — currently within the Geelong council boundary — integrated into the borough.
But some passionate locals took the issue one step further, with several suggesting there was little need for a council serving just over 3000 people.
The possibility of creating a “Bellarine Shire” was also debated.
The Borough — Victoria’s smallest local government area — survived widespread council amalgamation in 1994 on the back of a passionate community campaign highlighting the area’s unique historical features.

Others questioned whether the Borough, with its small ratepayer base, could reasonably be expected to provide the infrastructure and services needed to facilitate expanding residential development.

However, Ms Hutchins insisted this week amalgamation was not presently on the cards.
“The Andrews government does not have an agenda of amalgamation ... it’s not on our agenda in this term of government,” she said.
The debate around a boundary change, however, “needs consideration,” she said.
“The Borough is extremely unique in that it sits in its own realm, but that has also led to a boundary being formed that might not be where the natural growth is,” she said.

Thursday, January 07, 2016

A poem about grief

I'm trying to write a poem about how I feel but I can't say it directly so used the metaphor of a bushfire down the Great Ocean Road. First draft and I'll do some more work on it. The painting is of Urquart's Bluff after a bushfire many years ago.

A tree clings to the cliff face

after searing fire rushed towards the sea

until there is no colour

only line after line of blackened trees

and grey ash for ground.

I trudge on the deep sand

footprints making hollows,

going nowhere, circling.

The wild sea is there, wave after wave

and surfers dare them as they do.

I cannot touch cool water yet

only walk on and on in the deep sand,

one step after another

waiting for  a renewed spirit

after the shock of fire.

Saturday, January 02, 2016

Rev Peceli Ratawa has passed away.

With great sadness I write that my husband died last Sunday morning as the sun rose - in his bed, in his house, without drama, just quietly in his sleep. He had been ill for a while but still had a great Christmas with family a few days earlier. The funeral was held in Geelong on New Year's Eve, 49 years anniversary of our marriage in Lautoka in 1966. It's a difficult time for us but we know that he has gone to God as he was always confident in his Christian faith.

The eulogy that I wrote and delivered:
Eulogy  - Rev Peceli Soqovata Ratawa      21 July 1936 – 27 December 2015
It’s the year 1936. Labasa town was only four Indian and Chinese shops. A hospital had just been opened and many babies saved with a new drug. One was Peceli Soqovata Ratawa. There was the Fijian village of Naseakula there but one family lived independently -  Irimaia and Ulamila Ratawa and their children -  in a grass bure filled with visitors from Cikobia and Mali most of the time. The seven children went to a nearby school where the English language was strange because everyone around spoke Labasa dialect or Hindi. Bula sia!  Aap Kaise hai!  Peceli and his siblings had an enjoyable life catching fish and crabs, riding a borrowed bike, helping with chores, running to buy bread at the Chinese store. Peceli’s father died when Peceli was eight and the family divided – some to Mali Island, some to Naseakula village. Peceli to the village. By fourteen  he left school to work with a cousin as a carpenter but it’s wasn’t enough. Uncle Viliame was a pastor and talked about a new Bible school down the coast, so Peceli packed up his mat – a bit crooked as his Mum could not weave well – and caught a boat to Naduri.  At the Bible school Peceli was popular because he knew how to plant rice and use bullocks, having learnt from his Indian friends in Labasa. He was inspired by Rev Setareki Rika who sent him on to Davuilevu near Suva – a whole adventure ahead for this country teenager.

There he was mentored by two Australian missionaries, Rev Cyril Germon and Rev  Alan Tippett who was developing new courses for theological students. The students were modest youth, treating girls as sisters, working in the cassava gardens, studying and going out preaching on Sundays. Peceli was praised by Rev Setareki Tuilovoni in the youth department because he could control bullocks to plough up the fields. After graduation Peceli was sent to start a new Bible school at Nailaga for a year and apparently was popular with the Nailaga school girls there.

Next came an appointment to Naikoro way up in the mountains – no road, just riding horses to get there. He decided to get married, got the boat to Labasa to find Ateca who was from a chiefly family and they were married in Suva by Rev Niko before journeying up to the mountain village. Soon they two children, Ulamila and Ateca. Peceli was devastated when his wife died when the baby was four days old. Family came to the rescue. His sister Suliana looked after the girls in Lautoka. The Methodist Church knew Peceli spole Fiji Hindi bhaat so appointed him to be a padre to the Fiji Indian community in Lautoka.

Then I come into the scene finding this handsome young man with a huge laugh intriguing and we married on New Year’s Eve 1966, 49 years ago with about 350 guests at Jasper Williams School. So today again we are providing hospitality again to a crowd for vakatawase. Sobosobo.

Life in the Indian Division was wonderful and George and Robin were both born when we were in Rakiraki. These were wonderful years living amidst the cane-fields. Then after a year at Dilkusha we realized the family in Labasa needed Peceli’s help about land matters so we took a boat trip, even with Kanakana  our pet pig, up to live in Vatuadova, the family village 10 k out of Labasa.  This was 1971.

Living amidst cane farms and a mainly Indian community was fine but financially draining. It was important though and a learning curve for me to be with the extended Ratawa family and I enjoyed knowing my new kin – especially Evia and Suliana, and Mila and Teca and their cousins. I taught art part-time and Peceli organised several development projects – timber logging, church building, trochus shell, a modest eco-tourism spot at Nukutatava, but there were difficulties. We moved to the beach at Nukutatava where we had built three bures  and Andrew was the new baby by then. Peceli loved Nukutatava with a passion. It was idyllic especially at sunrise.

A mango plops on the wet grass,
I collect a handful to pare and slice.
Parrot mangoes coloured sunrise.
I hear Rinieta singing
as she strolls towards the spring 
where water drips like plucked strings. 
This is the day, this is the day 
that the Lord has made..
Light catches the plaits of bamboo 
as I sit on the doorstep, 
cannot speak for the sheer wonder of it
as the soft scarf of the sky
floats with seeping dyes
and Vorovoro hangs on the skyline.
The colours die into a bland talcum day:
The baby will wake in an hour.

Peceli was a good talatala, as he loved people, talking with them, leading in worship. He could spend time with ordinary people with grace and humour and he appreciated his own Fijian culture and protocol. But.... it was time to move on as I had taken the children to Australia wanting to see my family again n Swan Hill. Peceli was offered work at John Knox church as the local churches were merging, and he was confronted by the different lives of the local Aboriginal people in the Mallee. They called Peceli ‘brother’ but not me ‘sister’. My own family were good to Peceli though occasionally confused by the cultural shifts and the good appetites of our three boys.

Then he was appointed to Hopetoun where the delightful wheat farming community took us into their hearts. He learnt about the stump-jump plough and that you don’t bash into people but be gentle when you are sharing the pain of life as well as enjoying the good moments.   He sometimes looked back with nostalgia to Fiji days  yet lived  in the present moment, listened to the laments  about weather and mouse-plagues but appreciated the local church and other blessings. We both loved  the six Hopetoun years where we and our three children had many friends.  Peceli played golf, indeed he did, with a passion.

As the boys grew we were challenged to move to a city environment to East Geelong Uniting Church, a shared parish with St Andrews.  The congregation was a steady one, conservative,  yet they accepted a Pacific Islander for up to nine years. We linked up with the Fijian community in Melbourne so life was balanced, with holidays in Fiji, and our boys thrived at Geelong High School across the road from the manse. I was a bit of a shipwreck regarding housework as my energy was diverted to study art again, at Deakin University and do a couple of degrees. Yet Peceli and I were committed to the church community as well as people on the fringe of society.  We loved Geelong, never wanted to move, but time was up and we had to find new challenges such as a bit of study at Monash for Peceli, some short-term pastoral placements such as at Dandenong,  and we bought our own home at 13 Boundary Rd. George and Robin moved to Fiji to work, Andrew stayed around. Peceli and I compiled the stories of the journey and published ‘When the Spirit says move’.

Adventures continued in retirement life, but one tragedy is uppermost in our memories when our second son. Robin Iliesa Tupou, died in an accident at a Fiji  resort  where he worked. George was working at the time at NLTB.  Fiji life was in chaos because of a coup – in 2000. Our three sons married Fiji girls – Bale,  Salanieta, and Eka, all wonderful women and we delight  in our grandchildren – Talei, Epa, Jordan, Andrew and Linlay.

Do ministers retire?  I don’t think so. There’s  always  pastoral matters, some preaching and visiting – most recently at Colac, mentoring  young ministers, reaching out, inviting people  in with hospitality. Peceli never tired of wanting to meet people, and dreaming of trips to Fiji.   Now after a serious heart failure incident over five years ago, Peceli had to slow down, give up golf and some meetings such as Rotary, but he still drove his car, though sometimes jumping a kerb. 

This Christmas time has been a huge blessing with all our close family living together and spending quality time eating, singing, praying. It was wonderful.  Then on Sunday morning the spirit of Peceli was moving on. No drama. No pain. Just  in his  sleep as the daylight came. We have been blessed in our family by Peceli and give thanks to God for his inspiration to us in loving God and always telling us, even to the doctors – God is with me, here or wherever I go.           Thanks be to God.