08 October 2009

Testimony in Joe Cinque’s Consolation (2583 words)

Joe Cinque’s Consolation (2004) by Helen Garner is promoted on its front cover as “a true story of death, grief and the law”.  It is not a journalistic or legal report.  It is not a first-hand account of the life of Joe Cinque.  Helen Garner wrote about how she became involved in a fascinating law case where a man was killed by his girlfriend with Rohypnol and heroin and all who knew it was going to happen did nothing to stop it.  Garner was drawn to the story and then she was drawn to Mrs Cinque and her grief.  She told it as she saw it in the context of her own life.  Joe Cinque’s Consolation is one person’s perspective of truth.  The book is a testimony (or testimonio) to Garner’s life at the time of the case and a testimony to the case itself.  However, it is also Mrs Cinque’s testimony of her grief, as told through Garner.

Living Values: Do as I say, not as I do (3347 words)

Shani Hartley has worked in a corporate environment for many years but is now a high school teacher.  Here she writes about the struggles of teaching values in a greedy world. 

Ask the average man on the street what 2 + 2 is and he’ll say 4
Ask an engineer what 2 + 2 is and he’ll say 4.0
Ask an accountant what 2 + 2 is, and he’ll whisper seductively in your ear,
 “What would you like it to be?”

I left the world of finance and accounting because I had become increasingly discouraged by working in an unethical environment.  Well, that’s what I said in my interview to be a teacher in a Christian school.  But in reality I was burnt out, disillusioned, empty, over it.  I was frustrated with whom I was in the corporate world, not brave enough to live my faith nor strong enough to stand as firm in my values as I wished.

They awarded me the job and I am now in my sixth year of teaching.  I teach a range of subjects, including Economics, Business and Commerce.  Teaching has become a passion and it consumes me.  And at last I respect myself…mostly.  There are still flaws in the virtuous character to which I aspire, however, teaching somehow redeems me. 

Now instead of helping to make rich people richer I am training students to become the way I was, business savvy and astute about the mechanisms of the economy.  Of course there’s more to it than that.  I hope to instil a love of learning, a thirst for knowledge but also to help them develop into good people with solid ethics and values.

Style and Structure

Authors appearing in The Best Australian Essays tackle a wide range of issues each year in a variety of formats.  In 2008 Don Watson examined the Anzac legend and modern lifestyle values in his essay, “The Moral Equivalent of Anzac” (Watson, 2008) and Kate Jennings discussed the banking world in the context of the Global Financial Crisis in “To Hell With the Future” (Jennings, 2008).  Both Watson and Jennings have a political message to convey but they do so in quite different styles.

05 October 2009

The Swissotel Sydney – a review (June 2009)

Shani Hartley tests the five star experience Swiss style and finds it isn’t as swish as she expected it to be.

Standing in the middle of my hotel room I hoped the doors banging down the corridor were a sign that my breakfast was arriving. It was over half an hour late and I was basically pacing with hunger, a lion circling a meal that wasn’t there. Then suddenly, whoosh, there was a hotel attendant in my room, looking as surprised to see me as I her. Swinging on the handle of the door she held open, was the breakfast order I left out the night before. The attendant apologised for her sudden unannounced entry and advised me to phone room service. Twenty minutes later my hot breakfast arrived, the scrambled eggs a little undercooked, but otherwise a very satisfactory meal.

Called (April 2009)

Some people feel they are called to serve country. Others are called to serve God. Shani Hartley discovers that Rev. Greg McConnell is called to serve both.

A gun toting minister of religion is not what you would expect to find on Sydney’s North Shore. Rev. McConnell doesn’t carry a gun around the streets of Sydney but when he is called by the RAAF to minister to its members in the Middle East he readily responds. Sitting in a small and non-descript office adjoining Turramurra Uniting Church, 47 year old Rev. McConnell fills the room with his mere presence. He sits forward in his chair, inviting conversation as he looks at you with sincerity and an open honesty. His greying hair suggests wisdom and leadership. It is easy to picture him having a friendly chat with members of the RAAF.