Sunday, August 03, 2008

An oi of Aussies? - and a series of disconnected matters

Helen does not normally drink beer, so I have to assume that this photo is for show!

What does one call a gaggle of Australians? An oi?

I ask this because Friday night we went to Elise's parents' place for dinner and a photo viewing on the girls trip. One thing both commented on was the sheer number of Australians they met.

I mention this for a number of reasons.

To begin with, it affected their perceptions.

While Helen's initial reaction to London was positive, she really did not feel that she was on holidays until she landed in Paris and heard French. London was just too like a larger version of Sydney!

Then there was the sheer mass of the young Australian presence throughout Europe. When I went to Europe for the first time there were still a lot of Australians, but nothing like now.

This links to something that I have written about before (here for example), the growing number of especially young Australians leaving the country. This has accelerated, so it's something that I want to revisit.

I also found it interesting that the fact of being Australian in a foreign country leads to mixing across divides in a way that does not occur at home.

This has always been the case. However, the social and tribal divides in a place like Sydney limits mixing among the young in a way that, to my mind at least, has become much more pronounced in recent years. I have to be careful when I say this because I am basing my comments on what may, after all, be an unrepresentative sample. Still, I do think that the trend is clear. So offshore mixing is a good thing.

I was reminded of this (variations) again last night when Denise and I went to Megan's fiftieth.

The party was held at the Boy Charlton pool on the edge of the Harbour. I had in fact not been there before. However, this proved to be an absolutely beautiful spot, with views across the water to the warships at the naval base and then the building covered rise up to Potts Point and Kings Cross.

We all see people in slices - the interactions between them and us - so it's always interesting to see them in a broader context. In Megan's case, those attending stretched from her days at SCEGS Darlinghurst through Canberra where she and her partner Caroline worked to Sydney. There was strong representation from the gay and lesbian community, as well as the welfare sector, government and non-government.

Chatting to a couple who had moved up to NSW from Victoria several years ago, I was struck by their comment that they found NSW a different country. To their mind, the way the NSW system worked (or didn't) with its tribalisms and obsessions with myriad programs was simply unreconstructed. Those who have read my various posts on the operation of government in NSW will understand why this struck a chord.

They also commented on the way that the NSW welfare system (and this includes the NGOs)tended to exclude its clients from the broader community. Again this struck a chord. I found it especially interesting because it provided a cross-reference to things that I had been thinking about.

In simple terms, I feel that the welfare system with it government agencies on one side and NGOs on the other creates silos that are then reflected in client groups or, to use the prevalent phrase, "customers". This can work to create self-sustaining pools of deprivation.

In saying this I am not being critical of the intent of those involved, nor am I suggesting that the problem itself is unrecognised. However, I am saying that welfare programs and those involved get locked into particular ways of thinking that affect outcomes.

While I have become interested in this area, I have not really been able to write about it because of the project work I have been doing. My current work comes to an end in a few weeks' time, so I may say something then.

The ageing of the population, another recurring Belshaw theme, has been in the news a fair bit over the last fortnight. I remain of the view that this is a key issue that we will need to address, yet it still remains just below the radar when it comes to public discussion. It's there, but it is not yet discussed with any degree of urgency.

What is, I think, beginning to happen is that organisations are responding, but still in an ad hoc way. Here I was looking at some planning material the other day that did discuss the problems involved in succession planning in a rapidly aging organisation.

This organisation will lose more than 50 per cent of its staff to retirement over the next twenty years. This may not sound too bad, but add to this total normal staff turnover and you have a real problem. The people may simply not be there to fill the gaps.

In theory, organisations can compensate by streamlining and automating work processes. In practice, organisational rigidities make this difficult.

Take, as an example, the use of IT. I can understand all the reasons why organisations have clamped down on certain IT usage. But we are now getting to the strange situation where home IT usage is becoming more sophisticated than office usage.

I am hardly a technology leader. Indeed, measured by some of my colleagues, I am an IT lagger! Yet I expect to be able to change my web sites or blogs on my own without having to fill in an application form. I use social networking tools as a matter of course. I am supported by a web (I am using this word in its old sense) of colleagues, sites and tools.

The recent Site Meter imbroglio is an example. A substantial slice of the web goes down. While I suffered great frustration, both the problem and the immediate solution (remove the Site Meter code) were picked up on the internet with astonishing speed. This is a 24/7 world far removed from the standard organisation.

I must stop here with a final note.

Writing as a management professional as well as a social commentator, the interaction between ICT and the results of demographic change raises some absolutely fascinating issues about the future of work. But that's another post!


Woosang said...

I was pondering this and maybe a Yob of Aussies?? I like your OI I think both would work depending on the aussies in question.
Would thank make a collective noun for Yanks a Noise??

Jim Belshaw said...

Glad you like Oi Woosang. Yob would also work in certain cases. I think that you are a bit hard on the Yanks, though. They tend to be quieter than us!

Woosang said...

I suppose And you are correct in that the most annoying person on my tour was a loud mouthed Aussie. I should not be so intolerant :D At least the Yanks were interested in what the guide had to say. :)