25 February 2023
My resignation, Nic Frances, and the Moreton Bay Figs
I had not expected to have to leave Possums.
I founded the charity Possums for Mothers and Babies exactly ten years ago, in February 2013, though you could say Possums started much earlier, with the first of my research publications in 2005 or with the opening of the Possums Clinic Brisbane in 2011.
This is the cake Peter made to celebrate the launch of Possums Education, not long after I established
the charity Possums for Mothers and Babies. A few ladies from a group I’d run prior stayed back with their
babies. The only member of the public who turned up was my dear friend Narelle, the artist who’d created the
ring tail possums design. But we all agreed it was a wonderful cake and a terrific start!
Since then, this little organisation has been my other baby, my great love – my beating heart as I wrote in my farewell post on the Possums Facebook page before my access as administrator and creator of the page went the same way as my Possums email the day after I resigned, disabled without warning.
Over Christmas my son and I gave ourselves a short break from our fortnightly Cailleach Diaries mailout. But I’d extended this break as I tried to avoid needing to resign, putting my time instead into the writing of urgent reports or communications or meetings with those who now held all the power within the charity.
I’ve often had cause to think about how market forces (not necessarily intellectual worthiness) select the research that is conducted, the education health professionals receive, and the recommendations for treatment given to breastfeeding women and parents with a baby. I’ve reflected a great deal recently on how corporate values including an emphasis on the building of personal alliances and control of the narrative – even quite untethered from the facts – for the sake of commercial benefit can be terribly destructive. Am I right to continue to believe that genuinely ethical and integrity-based initiatives attract their own success, that people can tell the difference? I’ve reflected on the words of Father Nic Frances, former successful CEO of multiple charities including the Brotherhood of St Laurence, in his book ‘The end of charity’: I had come to the conclusion that charity couldn’t deliver the outcomes I was trying to achieve. Each Friday I texted Tom: I’m not ready to do the Diaries right now sweetheart. Next week.
By that last Monday in January, I’d accepted that resignation was the only option if I was to protect my capacity to contribute to change-making within the health system as it responds to the challenges faced by women and their babies, parents and their babies, in a way that aligns with my values.
After I tendered my resignation I walked for hours under the Moreton Bay figs by the banks of Maiwar, the Brisbane River, listening to the cicadas and the water lapping through the mangroves and the droning of CityCats. I’m not ready to do the Diaries right now sweetheart, I texted Tom. Next week!
The Cailleach Diaries were conceived as a niche platform. I created the Cailleach Diaries as a place where I might share from the creative writing I’ve had sitting in my folders all these years. They are unlikely to be of much interest to exhausted and time-poor parents who are trying to get through the days and nights with a baby and who just need some practical support!
Instead, with my Diaries I hoped to show the bones around which my professional work is wrapped. If Neuroprotective Developmental Care or the Possums programs is the body of my life work, the outward manifestation, then my creative fiction and non-fiction writings are the bones underneath which give my professional work its shape. I don’t believe that our professional contributions are disconnected from the private stories of our bodies and souls. In the Cailleach Diaries I wanted to show how certain great powers – family histories and social movements and psychological proclivities, which are often outside our control – shape our lives and demand things of us, including for me the painstaking creation of the Possums programs over so many years.
I didn’t set up the Cailleach Diaries to reach broad audiences, that’s for sure. But since this is the only place I have from which to offer my reflections right now, I’m grateful some of you have read this far. Re-building my lifework and new platforms will take time but I’m underway, and I’ll keep you informed. I’ve lived long enough to know how to trust in the wisdom of beginnings which rise up out of our endings, no matter how unexpected.
Thanks for hanging in there with me to the end of this blog! In the meantime, Tommy will email you something else from my Diaries and what I’m up to Saturday fortnight.