Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Light, Fantastic!

I haven’t posted for some days, it has been mad at work. To add to my woes, on Monday I was the victim of an assault. A man who has been using our service unfortunately had his bag stolen on our premises. I was on the spot and became the target as he vented his frustrations. He punched me on the jaw before I could move out of his way.
I hasten to add that I was not significantly injured (a minor bruise to the right side of my jaw).

Including Monday, I have been assaulted four times in the past decade. In addition I have witnessed a number of assaults on colleagues and clients. Unfortunately, this sort of event is a risk of working on the frontline of many community services.

In a situation like this there are two main issues: physical injuries; and the potential for psychological trauma. Neither can be taken lightly. Ten years ago for example, it took me twelve weeks to recover from injuries I sustained in an assault. On that occasion I also had symptoms of PTSD for months after. Over the years I have lost a number of colleagues, in a number of workplaces, due to stress related conditions (PTSD, anxiety disorder, depression) caused by actual violence, threatened violence, or verbal aggression and abuse.

In my experience there are several factors that minimise the impact of such trauma on people: personal resilience; a mutually supportive team environment; debriefing support and counselling as necessary (and for as long as necessary).
The first two are taken care of: I am reasonably resilient and have learnt (and taught) skills to cope with stress; and my team are a great bunch, who all step forward to support each other. As to the debrief (and counselling), well that hasn’t been handled so far. I’ve done my bit in terms of reporting the incident. But the silence from head office is deafening.

This is problematic to say the least. Don’t get me wrong in this instance I’m OK.
BUT and this is a very big but, overall long term outcomes for staff in these high stress workplaces depend on good institutional responses to such problems. I’ve worked for agencies that have excellent procedures and some with truly abysmal ones and the difference in staff outcomes is marked.

I’ve only been with the agency I’m with since earlier in the year and haven’t had to put their system to the test until recently (for Greg and now this incident). I’ll keep you posted.

Now I have had enough of that business.
To lighten the tone I am going to share a fair number of my piccies The only unifying theme will be light and my attempts to catch different scenes under different conditions.

This first photo is of some Silver Gulls wheeling overhead at Port Phillip Bay one sunset. The movement of birds in the foreground captures the vitality of these gulls. These birds are actually snowy white, the setting sun has dipped them in gold.

This picture was taken in broad daylight but the dappling of the canopy brings out the greys and whites of this big old Snow Gum’s bark.

I’m cheating a bit with this piccie as I’ve used it in an earlier post. It’s of evening light over Lake George in NSW. This time of day can be magic almost anywhere in the world, but I feel there is a subtle quality to the light in Australia that I have yet to see elsewhere.

This is one I took last weekend, I didn’t use it in my last post but on looking at it again I find the quality of the light in this pic amazing. To my eye it almost has the feel of a watercolour.

This one is taken looking west over Port Phillip Bay late afternoon in winter. I have deliberately underexposed this piccie to catch the sun, but it was fairly dim anyway.

The bricks of Old Ballarat Gaol looked warm in the sunset on this cold autumn day at Easter.

This normally unprepossessing pylon is tinted orangey red by another sunset. It is actually painted in a dark dull-grey colour.

The next two were taken at Wilsons Promontory in July. The first shows the setting sun, again under exposed.
The second shows a headland and two islands out to sea in the pale watery winter sunset. The dead shrubs and the burnt area in the foreground are more evidence of the February Bush Fires.

Once again sun warmed bricks in the ruins of Pascoe Vale Uniting Church.

The glare of a high summer sky lights the sandstone and wrought iron gateway of the Sydney Botanical Gardens.Finally an Aussie icon basks in the sun on Australia Day 2008.


Walk Talk Tours said...

First up, sorry to hear about your assault. Glad to hear you're not badly hurt. Hope the memories do not trouble for too long.

Secondly, thanks for sharing the above pictures. I especially like the 'evening light over lake George pic' and the underexposed pic taken over Port Philip Bay.

Lisa said...

Sorry to hear about your assault and even more sorry to hear that you're not getting the support from above.

Lovely piccies!

jenclair said...

Sorry about the assault; what a frightening experience to have had on more than one occasion.

Great photos!

Wendy R said...

Your post demonstrates your resiliance in what must always be an edgy situation. My mother was assaulted a number of times in her career as a psychiatric nurse - black eyes, glasses broken etc. She used to say that if she could get their shoes off them she was happy. It was a softer kick.

Your lovely pictures show the other side of your resiliance; you have a reflective eye for beauty and calm that must be a counterpoint to these more challenging, even violent experiences.

Still, it's amazing that you still manage to write and think creatively in the middle of all this.

All power to your elbow


Lisa said...

I have an award for you at:

Al said...

Hi Phil,
Thanks mate. Well and truly over the worst already.
I love the Lake George Pic, it really captures Oz light to a tee.
But then I like all of these or I wouldn't have posted them.

Hi Lisa,
Thanks for your concern.
Pleased you like the piccies!

Hi Jen,
Welcome and thanks for commenting! And thank you!.

Dear Wendy,
You try not to walk on eggshells because that doesn't help, but you have to plan for the potential of the worst. Your mum sounds like she was very matter of fact about the risks. I think that helps too. She must have been a wonderful character.

Space for peace and reflection is vital in resilience. The beauty in the world around us is incredibly useful to ground oneself. In experiencing the environment and looking with wide open eyes I achieve an almost meditative state. Then the physical and intellectual process of capturing the image with a camera seems to cement the experience for me.

Writing is a way to another world. It is relaxing and stimulating at the same time. It is therapy in itself. But I probably don't need to extol its virtues to you.

Thank you.