bilateral kellerberrin

April 30, 2005

Kellerberrin Saturday 30 April 2005

Filed under: keller dailies — Lucas @ 2:46 pm

I dream about “spitfires” – hairy caterpillars which form linear trails across the footpath. But the spitfires in my dream have formed a beard-shaped clump hanging from a tree. I run around asking people how to get rid of them.

As I write this, it’s raining. It started softly last night after midnight, but only enough fell to make a few small puddles. David Blair came by this morning with the key to the cinema (he’s finally changed the locks!) and said it wasn’t yet enough for the farmers to start up their seeding tractors. But shortly after he went on his bustling way, it began to fall again, light and sweet, the drops just drifting to the ground. Maybe this is, after all, the “opening rain” Pauline described, and which everyone has been waiting for.

The medical students from Notre Dame Uni have gone back to Perth. They crammed a heck of a lot into their four days in Keller: dinners and drinking with locals, trips out to farms to ride on machinery, one sporty guy even trained with the footy team. Not to mention completing their normal week’s classes, and carrying out a gruelling “social capital” survey by doorknocking all around town.

The “social capital” survey was something to do with health services in the district, and what local folks thought of them. By all accounts the survey was a bit long, and some of the students told me they felt kinda embarrassed knocking on doors and asking people to complete a questionnaire that they hadn’t constructed (and didn’t really approve of) themselves.

The anthropologists have come out to do a survey of what locals thought of the medical students being in town. They also were a bit critical of the survey. There’s a big “margin of error” based on all sorts of things: some people don’t like filling in survey forms; the survey was too long; most probably the folks whose experience of the medical students was positive would be the ones most likely to say yes to filling out the survey, etc. So it could turn out to be a huge amount of effort outlayed with a very small level of definitive results.

The anthropologists, for their part, have ANOTHER survey form to be filled out. It’s got questions about whether businesses feel they have had increased revenue due to the Notre Dame visit, whether they thought it was a “good thing” in general that they came out here etc. This survey was also perhaps a bit pointless – mainly because their findings seem fairly unanimous: yes there was more business, yes it certainly didn’t do any harm to have the students out here etc. Considering that the Notre Dame policy was to not “import” any food (ie buy everything they needed locally) I don’t think there can be any doubt that their visit was good for Keller business.


Yesterday I found out about “Problem Based Learning” (PBL). A group of eight or so med students are teamed up for the whole year. Each week, on a Friday, they are presented with a “problem”: initially, just a fragmentary piece of information about a “presenting patient”. Based on this skerrick of data, they have to brainstorm, collaboratively, producing a long list of possibilities, as well as a second list of things they need to learn in order to be able to produce a better diagnosis. After half an hour, more data is provided, possibilities are scratched off the list, others are added, and the list of homework they need to do grows some more. This goes on, with more and more info given, for about two hours. After that, they go away, and do all their research over the weekend, reconvening on the following Wednesday to produce a conclusive diagnosis.

The beauty of PBL is that “learning” happens en route to solving a practical problem, rather than as a rote operation to pass an exam. The beautiful by-product is the collaborative relationship the individual “think tanks” develop over the course of a year.

First thing in the morning I gave a talk to their class. I had brought along a powerpoint slide show, but I didn’t get a chance to use it: there was heaps to talk about just off the cuff: first of all about IASKA, the unique set-up they have established here, how it provides a framework for an unusual kind of cultural exchange. And about what I’ve been up to here: my attempt to engage in a non-exhausting “art process” – the idea of an art practice as a kind of gardening: plant something here, water it every day, and see what grows. Which is what this blog has become.


Last night, the students and all their host families had a big dinner together at the sports ground pavilion. I was invited too. It was a way for the kids to say thanks, cook up a big barbie, and do a performance presenting what they had learned during their time here. I quite liked this idea of the “feedback” presentation – it reminded me of Lone Twin’s process/feedback mechanism in their dragging-the-telegraph-pole work.

Understandably, the medical students didn’t have a very sophisticated level of aesthetic or performance skill, and at times their mini speeches and skits fell a bit flat. However, the sentiment was sincere, and “high art” wasn’t called for. Some of them applauded the adaptability of rural communities – the ability of farming practice to evolve and learn over time. Generally, though, the message was one of thanks: they were very grateful for having had the chance to be here, and especially to be hosted by “real people” (rather than in a hotel). The intention of this “rural week” programme is that some graduating doctors will actively choose to work outside the big cities, rather that just be sent out here unwillingly.


Yesterday was a jam-packed day. I met and spoke with a lot of people: too many to remember. Here are a few fragments:

Jan: a med student, originally a refugee from the former Czechoslovakia. His parents escaped to Jugoslavia, then Austria, where they applied for residency in the USA, Canada, and Australia. He said his folks chose Australia because Canada was too cold, and America too full of Americans. They settled in Sydney, but later moved to Darwin. Jan’s father was a doctor back home, but his qualification wasn’t recognised here. Ditto for his mother, in some other occupation. Jan has come from Sydney to complete the postgrad medicine degree at Notre Dame. His previous degree was something to do with laser physics, whatever that might be.

Andrew, the town doctor, and his wife Judy. Andrew said that medical schools are not graduating enough doctors to service the nation as it is. But to make things worse, there is a rather large percentage of the graduates who are female, and they tend to work part time a lot. Thus you need two of them to go through the course in order to fill one full-time position. Judy teaches occasionally at the Keller school, an ethics class – sort of like religious education, but the school is not religious. They are 7th Day Adventists. I must remember to send Cristina to meet them.

Pallas, a Notre Dame med student. She said that the Keller school has a really progressive policy of student participation in school affairs. They have daily “cheers” and “grizzles” sessions, and they use pop songs over the PA instead of a bell or siren. I think I shall have to go and meet the principal and pick their brains about their ways of running things.

Mick: secretary of the Speedway Association, runs Betta Canvas business, plays corporate bowls, darts, coaches the women’s hockey team. I asked him what the women’s hockey slogan means – I had seen the slogan on a stubby holder. The team slogan is “like stink on shit”. He said he didn’t really know what that was supposed to mean, and anyway that was from a few years ago, they’ve changed it now. He races a hotted up cortina, but it’s bombed out at the moment, so he won’t be running it in the Speedway next week. We talked briefly about 4.1 litre straight-six crossflow engines, and I felt pretty cool to be able to shoot the shit with a speedway dude.

Toby, the butcher. we drifted into the pub on Friday night, and I was immediately bailed up by Toby. He recognised me and asked me how the fish had been that he’d sold me. It was a while ago, when we went for the barbecue on Cristina’s birthday out to Mount Stirling. He’d recommended the John Dory, and it had been pretty good on the barbie. A bit tough, perhaps, but all the frozen fish I’ve eaten out here has been that way: probably just on account of its being frozen. Toby explained to me that all the bearded men in the pub were gathering to farewell “Paddo,” who died last week when he rolled his car just out of town. Of all the times Paddo had cheated death, he said, you know, drinking and driving and drugs and stuff, this one time when he rolled his car he was stone cold sober. The moral of that story is that when your number’s up, there’s nothing you can do about it. Someone later told me that Paddo was 34.

Our three resident anthropologists…to whom I must offer my “anthrapologies” (boom boom) as I can’t remember their names. But I DO remember their honours thesis topics:
-The recent revival of 1940s-style swing dancing and cultual icons.
-Nationalism and parochialism in media coverage of Anzac Day and Australia Day.
-The use of large “map-paintings” as legal evidence by Aboriginal communities in their claims for native title.


It’s still raining! I think this must be “the one”. Anne is sitting out there in the rain with Laurie, a fella who showed up out of the blue. He said he’s been walking, his country is the Northern Territory, and he’s been trying to get the younger generation to understand the old ways. He seems like a wise bloke, although quite mysterious. His conversational style is theatrical – plenty of hand gestures and non-verbal sounds, and sometimes he gets real quiet and you have to lean in close to hear what he has to say. Anne’s been picking his brains about the very remote community she’ll be working with for the Awesome Festival residency later this year. Seems Laurie has a cousin there he’ll hook her up with. He wears a brown trench coat, and I remember seeing him around, even in the searing heat, with the same coat. So far they’ve been through two big mugs of tea each and a whole bag of choc chip biscuits.


Anne’s In/E/Gress has been quite a success so far. She set the plastic curtain up outside the craft barn, and started filming people walking through it. Initially we were a bit worried about public safety issues etc, but it seems pretty stable, and no-one has complained yet. It’s a good way to meet people and get talking, which is how she met Laurie. The kids love it too, they ride their bikes and scooters through it.

4 Responses to “Kellerberrin Saturday 30 April 2005”

  1. bilateral kellerberrin » Kellerberrin Tuesday 10 May 2005 Says:

    […] ’ visit… So I did just that. I submitted my (largely unedited) blog entry from April 30, as well as Donna’s suggestion itself. I arrived at the Pipeline office fairly early th […]

  2. Anna Robson Says:

    Hi there,

    as a self-confessed blogging lurker – (largely ’cause I’m a techno-dunce and have not yet worked out how NOT to be anonymous on blog sites -) I thought I’d better break-free of the chains of ignorance – and go the ‘named entry’.

    I see the ND med students now lie in the annals for posterity’s sake – I agree – lacking perhaps in aesthetic and performance skill – but what can you do with 2 hours prep and the embarrassment of standing up and making an ass of yourself, to deal with!!! You’d be amazed to see what we turn out with more time….

    Anyway Lucas – would have enjoyed more of a chat – maybe I’ll get up to Keller for your exhibition!! – but as promised here is blog address of my friend – born and bred on the good earth of Munty – just a bit south and east of Keller (Blink and you’ll miss the town but the pub’s worth stopping at).



    PS email HIGHLY unreliable – still an agonised wait for it to reliably work…..

  3. Jan Rusman Says:

    Dear Lucas,

    I’ve figured it out. You remind me of Uncle Travelling Matt. You remember right? – The Fraggles? Midway through each episode the cool Fraggle, Gobo, would make his ways through the tunnels to receive letters from his Uncle, Travelling Matt – and the series would suddenly switch to a subplot showing Travelling Matt mistaking the Taj Mahal for a building with a radish on it (apparently the Fraggles loved radishes) or such.

    But I don’t think I’m Gobo. That is to say, I feel more like Wembley.

    And if the metaphor ain’t working, then what I am trying to say is ‘thank-you’; because it’s artists (like yourself in particular) that keep me sane and remind me of the whimsical and the beautiful which are often one and the same. Keep doing your thing Lucas, it sustains me.

    2 things.

    1. Visit Marcus at ‘Lounge’ (cnr of Goulburn and Crown).

    2. Send me a number – so that next time I am back in Sydney we can chill out with a coffee.

    Adios amigos.


  4. bilateral kellerberrin » The Right Side of the Tracks Says:

    […] e Catholic church and parish centre, where the Notre Dame students had held their exciting ProblemBasedLearning sessions. On the opposite side of the road was the Police Station and next to it, […]

Leave a Reply