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Karen Crofts

Chapter 4 – Failed

By | Uncategorized | No Comments
by Lauren Hislop 

Click a chapter link (right) to follow this story from the beginning.


Greeting the New Year, my soul soared. My second year of social work was going to lead to placement and under the supervision of a qualified social worker, my degree would finally come alive. My dreams of being in a workplace would transform into reality. 
      
When I moved to Newcastle, I boarded with a family and living away from home, gave me newfound independence. 
      In the first semester, we had to complete a subject enabling us to proceed to placement. There was also an assessment requiring us to counsel a ‘client’ actor for five minutes. We had to be a ‘social worker’ using reflective listening skills, whilst being observed by three examiners. When our lecturers described this assessment to us, they ended by saying that a few people fail the assessment each year! 
      Due to my speech impediment, I was filled with dread. My potential for stuffing this up felt colossal. One of my friends suggested practicing and was happy to act as a client. It was his idea that during my introduction to the ‘client’, I inform him/her that I have cerebral palsy, causing my speech to slur. He said I should encourage the ‘client’ to request me to repeat myself if required. I believed this to be sound advice and absolutely decided to use it. 
      Assessment day came and my nerves were through the roof. I have struggled to make myself understood all my life and now I would be tested on it! My name was called and as I walked into the exam room, my lecturer turned to me, snootily exclaiming, ‘we don’t know how you’ll go, but we’ll give you a try.’ I was ushered into that room so rapidly, I didn’t have time to be mortified. I conducted my interview, using my friend’s advice. Afterwards the ‘client’ wished me good luck and I believed him to be sincere. 
      I left the room, fleeing to the Ladies. I cried in a cubicle. Unfortunately, my howls reverberated throughout the building. Ros, one of the lecturers I respected, tapped on the toilet door. I sheepishly opened it. ‘You passed!’ she exclaimed with a smile. The relief I felt was indescribable. 

In second semester, attendance at uni would be 3 days a week and then 2 days of practicum. Worried about balancing these commitments with study, I was permitted to delay my placement until the summer break. I would work for 10 weeks full time. 
      As eager as I was to start work placement, my living situation in Newcastle was unstable. Nearing the end of semester, I had to leave where I had been staying.  My friend temporarily offered me one of her children’s rooms, not an ideal way to commence prac. I didn’t let it deter me. 
      I was placed in a hospital with a supervisor working in child protection. Her clients were mothers of newborns, at risk of harming their child.  
      As I walked into the hospital grounds on my first day, I was beaming with pride. Wearing professional attire, I shuffled my way to the front desk and was greeted by Alice*, my supervisor. She was my age and appeared nice but I did not warm to Alice. She showed me around some of the extensive grounds of the hospital, rendering me puffed. 
      I delved enthusiastically into the fast paced and stimulating work environment. From my office, one could hear the clicking sound of heels in rapid succession down the corridor.  Sitting in on multi-disciplinary team meetings was invigorating as I observed the interactions amongst professionals. I also observed patient interviews conducted by my supervisor. The patients seemed undaunted by my presence and on occasion, I found them to be more accepting of me than staff. During lunch, I thoroughly enjoyed my exchanges with some of the social workers.  I felt included and valued as a member of their team. 
      I felt optimistic and appreciative for the learning experience. However, a few weeks in and optimism faded to extreme fatigue. Working full time during the week and travelling to and from my mum’s place on the central coast every weekend was placing a strain on my body.  

I had to write a literature review, undertaken in an isolated computer room. It didn’t bother me, I deeply appreciated being there. However, the slow pace of my writing hindered the completion of my literature review. I compensated by completing extra work at home; weekends and nights spent on both the review and daily journal entries. My only respite was mealtimes and sleep. 
      My body was working at maximum capacity and was depleted. However, I chose to ignore the signs, ruthlessly determined to make it to the finishing line. The adage ‘my soul is willing, yet my body is weak’ dominated my thoughts. My mind was constantly reprimanding my body for its betrayal! 
      Writing case notes was a challenging task. My peers wrote directly into the files. I had to access a computer, type and print them, then ask for them to be attached to the case notes. My supervisor suggested I needed to find ways to address this, without providing alternatives. I wasn’t able to carry a laptop and didn’t own an iPad, what else could I do?  
      I was not in a nurturing environment at placement, regularly the recipient of subversive messages from my supervisor, that not sustaining the pace of my able-bodied colleagues was proof of unsuitability. I was navigating a ship in stormy waters without a life jacket. I had to succeed and so resolved to endure this drudgery. 
      Allegedly we could contact a lecturer at the unit if we had any difficulties. However, this lecturer had previously expressed to me concerns about my ability to succeed in the course. I was not going to provide an opportunity to confirm her beliefs! 
      
I had my mid-placement review on the 20th December. I was given a glowing report and my supervisor praised my abilities. It was agreed that I was to begin independent casework. 
      I left the meeting relieved and went home for a few days over Christmas. Upon return, my supervisor told me I was likely to fail the placement, due to not completing the literature review. I was aghast! I had not been given any indication that I would fail. I hurriedly wrote and submitted the outstanding paper. However, when my supervisor called me into her office, my heart skipped a beat. She announced I had failed and would not be proceeding to third year!  
      “YOU FAILED”. Those words emerging from her porcelain mouth, shattering my dreams for the future in a single moment.  After she left the room, I was inconsolable. I was a soldier wounded and removed from battle. The white flag rose, I surrendered. And just like that, with a tear stained face, I left the hospital and made my way home.

*the name of the supervisor has been changed

Read More

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5 coming soon

Grieve Comp anouncement, boat in mist

Announcement – 2018 Grieve Writing Competition Prizewinners

By | Grieve, News

Grieve volume 6 cover photo Congratulations to the prizewinners in the 2018 Grieve writing competition.

Grieve Volume 6 is now available for sale – click to purchase

Watch the reading (with captions) of the 22 prizewinning pieces here

Congratulations:

The National Association of Loss and Grief (NALAG) Award 
Blood and bone by Justine Hyde

The Australian Centre for Grief and Bereavement Award 
Not Horses, or Mothers by Lisa Jacobson

The Australian Funeral Directors Association Award
Time by Alyssa Sterry

The National Association of Loss and Grief (NALAG) 2nd Award
A Day in October by Kim Waters

The Australian Centre for Grief and Bereavement 2nd Award
One Word by Rob Selzer

The Australian Funeral Directors Association 2nd Award
Would haves by Naomi Deneve

Lifeline Award
The Skeleton by Nicole Melanson

Palliative Care Australia Award
The Line Our Thread by Cynthia Troup

White Lady Funerals Award
Heartbeat by Emily Usher

Good Grief Award — for a work about grief or loss other than death
This big bright land by Simone King

All About Grief Award — for a work about grief or loss after the death of a child
The day after coming home from hospital by Claire Watson

David Lloyd Funerals Award (Newcastle and Hunter Valley)
Hot and Cold by Belinda Oliver

Suicide Prevention Australia Award
What About Me? by Samantha Noble

Simplicity Funerals Award
Tough Love by Barbara Hunt

White Lady Funerals (Mayfield, NSW) Award
Let Me Introduce You by Vanessa Farrer

The Compassionate Friends Award
The little ones by Christine Kearney

The Calvary Mater Hospital Pastoral Care Award
I Have the Weight of a Life that is Substantive and Real on my Shoulders by Sook Samsara

The Blue Knot Foundation Award
Hashtag by Karenlee Thompson

Mindframe Award
Knitting, Endings and Grieving by Anne Boyd

Hunter New England Health, Mental Health Services Award
A Hard Won Spring by Tahra Baulch

Hunter Writers Centre Award
Sometimes, Love Isn’t Enough by Louisa Simmonds

Hunter Writers Centre Members’ Award
There are days by Penny Lane

Highly Commended Awards

Black News by Anthony Levin

Fells by Philip Radmall

Special Mention

Lost by Jacqueline Damen

Grieve Comp anouncement, boat in mist

Announcement – Grieve Competition 2018 Finalists

By | Grieve, News
Grieve volume 6 cover photo

Congratulations to the 110 writers listed below. These poems and stories are published in Grieve Volume 6 available from the Grieve Project  website. Here is the list of 22 prizewinners who have won the prizes kindly donated by our sponsors.

Title First Name Family Name
4pm Sara Crane
A black point Niko Campbell-Ellis
A Day in October Kim Waters
A hard won Spring Tahra Baulch
A Japanese Airman Forewarns His Wife Brett Dionysius
A Letter Anahata Giri
A Love Letter to My Incarcerated Sister Trixi Rosa
A tea-rose for Frieda Louise Wakeling
Ashes Gillian Telford
Bendalong Michele Seminara
Black News Anthony Levin
Blood and bone Justine Hyde
Blue Deb Godley
Blue Karen Wickman-Woldhuis
Broken Decima Wraxall
Burial Connor Weightman
Cairo Natalie Holder
Camp David Thérèse Murphy
Chemo days Trisha Pender
Choosing Gail Hennessy
Circumference of desire Jenny Pollak
Circumspection Paul Hetherington
Cold Karen Lieversz
Comfort Steve Evans
Custard Lindsay Watson
Custodian Norm Neill
Dear Diary Richard West
Debt for Life Barbara Rosie
Detritus Joan Katherine Webster
Ether Jo Withers
Eulogy Grace Dwyer
Even Richard James Allen
Everything I need to know Susan Bradley Smith
Everywhere Jo Gardiner
Fairy Dust Louise Baxter
Family portrait Grace Dwyer
Farewell to Billy Duluth Lesley Carnus
Fathom Nicole Sellers
Fells Philip Radmall
First season Jane Gibian
Grief Is Kim Anderson
Grieving is Overrated Mark Bromhead
Guilty gratitude Christine Burrows
Hashtag Karenlee Thompson
Heartbeat Emily Usher
Hot and Cold Belinda Oliver
How it is Alison Flett
I have the weight of a life that is substantive and real on my shoulders Sook Samsara
I wish I knew Helen Angela Taylor
In black and white Ian Wicks
In the Quiet Moments Emma Pasinati
Indwelling Ron Pretty
Intermission Jenny Pollak
KNITTING, ENDINGS and GRIEVING Anne Boyd
Kulaluk Paul Drewitt
Let it not be this Jennifer Chen
Let Me Introduce You Vanessa Farrer
Looking for Clark Gable Alexandra Geneve
Lost Jacqueline Damen
Maracas Trixi Rosa
Memoria in aeterna Sandie Walker
Motherless Daughter M Fletcher
My Dear Son Michelle Wong
My Elisa Alexandra Geneve
No one is ever really gone. Tim Hardy
Not Crying, Dancing Linda Stevenson
Not Horses, or Mothers Lisa Jacobson
Not long, my darling Audrey Molloy
On My Mum’s Passing Belinda Paxton
On the hottest midwinter day on record Peter Lach-Newinsky
One Lump or Two Billie Ruth
One Word Rob Selzer
Renovations Sylvia Muller
Residue Judy Mullen
Resting Bitch-Face Thérèse Murphy
Scenes from a Hospital Kate Ryan
Since you Beth Spencer
Sirens Meg McNaught
Skin and Bone Melissa Manning
Small Things Cameron Langfield
Some time later PS Cottier
Sometimes, Love Isn’t Enough Louisa Simmonds
Still Lauren Forner
Stuff going on while I’m paying rent Glenn Aljatreux
Super Hero Fiona Everette
Tears Marianne Hamilton
The day after coming home from hospital Claire Watson
The Hobs of Drought Jan Iwaszkiewicz
The lactic acid in the calves of your despair Ali Whitelock
The Line Our Thread Cynthia Troup
The little ones Christine Kearney
The Skeleton Nicole Melanson
The Stone Jar Chris Lynch
There are days Penny Lane
This big bright land Simone King
Those Days Sarah Bourne
Three Unbearable Things Helen Richardson
Time Alyssa Sterry
Time for Grief Seetha Nambiar Dodd
Tough Love Barbara Hunt
Try Judy Mullen
Two Trees Tanya Richmond
Ultrasound Lisa Jacobson
Vincero, I will overcome Merran Hughes
What About Me? Samantha Noble
Where has my family gone? Michael Cole
Why I can’t talk Eleni Hale
Words out my mouth Kathryn Lyster
Would haves Naomi Deneve
Yiayia Sibella  
Jean Kent poet

Jean Kent – poet and mentor

By | Member News, News, Poetry at HWC, Writing Groups
Pretending for a moment that she's not tough,
under the rotary clothes hoist the coordinator
of the Affirmative Action for Women program
buckles. This seems like the hardest job
she ever has to do, wrestling with wind and light,
the wet clothes slapping her face
and knuckling her into corners where sun assaults
and the frantic morning pegs down
like a sideshow tent while an audience
of waiting household tasks
boos and jeers
- from 'Superwoman' by Jean Kent (HWC member)
Jean Kent poet

Jean is a long term member of Hunter Writers Centre. Born in Chinchilla, Jean grew up in rural Queensland. She has published 5 full-length collections of poetry and co-edited a comprehensive anthology of contemporary poetry by writers who live in the Hunter or have close connections with the region. Here is her website.  Jean is available for mentoring – contact us at info@hunterwriterscentre.org (photo by Dean Osland, Newcastle Herald)

Shaynah Andrews Ryan O'Neill

2018 Newcastle Short Story Award prizewinners

By | Newcastle Short Story Award, News, Uncategorized

The 2018 anthology is now on sale

Congratulations to all the prizewinners:

First Prize – sponsored by the University of Newcastle, awarded to Shaynah Andrews (pictured R with Prof Darrell Evans and Ryan O’Neill, judge)

Here is an excerpt from her winning story ‘Not for Me to Understand’:

My blood feels too hot. I want to beat my fists against Dad for treating me like a kid. I smash a cup on the kitchen tiles, half on purpose. There are little bits of glass all around me. Dad and Linda rush into the room.

‘I’m sorry, it was an accident,’ I say.

‘It’s OK, possum,’ says Dad. I want him to yell and scream at me but he is gentle. ‘I’ll clean this up darlin’, just get away from all the glass. Careful now.’

Dad and Linda hover over plastic dustpans. I walk out the front door and ride my pushie to the beach with Ellie behind me.

 

Shaynah Andrews Ryan O'Neill
Sally Davies and Cassie Hamer

Cassie Hamer (R) won second prize donated by Newcastle Law Society represented by Sally Davies (L)

Megan Buxton Ryan O'Neill and Kate Griffith (sponsor from Westfield)

L to R: Megan Buxton, HWC President, Ryan O’Neill, judge, Kate Griffith from sponsor Westfield Kotara

Wayne Strudwick - award winner NSSA

Wayne Strudwick, Commended award winner for his story ‘Postcard

Shawn Sherlock and Jane OSullivan

Shawn Sherlock, Foghorn Brewhouse donated the Highly Commended awarded to Jane O’Sullivan

Tanya Vavilova and Amanda Shirley

Amanda Shirley from MacLean’s Booksellers donated the Highly Commended awarded to Tanya Vavilova

Author Ryan O'Neill and MJ Reidy - Newcastle Short Story Award

M.J. Reidy (pictured here with judge Ryan O’Neill) won a Commended award donated by Dymocks, Charlestown.

Derice McDonald and Rhona Hammond

Derice McDonald from Macquariedale Organic Wines donated a $120 wine pack awarded to Rhona Hammond, local writer’s award.

writers - local winners within the Newcastle Short Story Award 2018

Local Award Winners Shaynah Andrews, Edyn Carter and Stephanie Holm

close up of an elderly person's hand

Writing About Significant Loss

By | Grieve, News

Sometimes writing about the loss of a close family member can feel too hard because the enormity of all you have lost might stop you even starting. You may feel that in trying to describe it all you lose the sense of the person. What about writing about one aspect of the person? Start with a small physical characteristic or a small feature you loved about him or her – their smile, the way he sat to read, chat, write; the way she dressed or cooked or performed a regular chore. Below, Maree Reedman writes (in Grieve Volume 5) about hands as a recurring image which creates a clear and intimate portrait of her father. Enter your poem or story/essay into the Grieve writing competition.

My Father’s Hands
Maree Reedman

Long, tapered fingers,like candles.
Not a musician,though your sister
tried to teach you the piano.

A gardener
of fruit trees and roses
until you toppled over
the rosemary; the builder
of a mustard bookcase for my childhood
and my adolescent home;
a maker
of home brew
and pongy dog stew.

Your half-moons purpled
with blood as I held
your hand
while you snored,
mouth open
you always slept
easily.

My brother tried to close your lips
when you left,
off to go on that long-awaited
honeymoon with Mother,
the one you never took.
Man's hand in his lap

About the Newcastle Poetry Prize 2018

By | Newcastle Poetry Prize

About the Newcastle Poetry Prize

The Newcastle Poetry Prize is a significant cultural achievement and is a testament to the commitment of its sponsor – the University of Newcastle – to celebrate literary excellence in Australian poetry.

In September 1980, Peter Goldman stood in the middle of Civic Park, Newcastle, during the Mattara Festival and handed out an A4 photocopied anthology of poetry to passers-by. The collection featured poems from local Hunter writers, with contributors ranging in age from six to eightyone. This humble anthology paved the way for the first official Mattara Poetry Prize in 1981, which has gone on to become the most prestigious poetry competition in the country, and is now known as the Newcastle Poetry Prize. Today the Newcastle Poetry Prize is one of the major events on the literary calender in Australia, bringing entries from across the nation.

Each year, local and national poets compete with internationally recognised names and no less illustrious has been the list of judges casting their eye over the entries. The association with Newcastle is no accident. The Hunter Region has a long history of fostering poetry and an active community of local poets who punch above their weight nationally in awards, publication and events. In the words of the late Novocastrian poet, Bill Iden, “Newcastle’s environment makes its poets”. Co-ordinated by the Hunter Writers Centre (a not-for-profit organisation since 1995), the Newcastle Poetry Prize is one of Australia’s oldest and most important literary competitions in Australia. This is made possible through the generous provision of the prize money by the University of Newcastle and through funding from Create NSW.