Broken or Whole?



This is a great picture, taken many years ago at The Grounds at Alexandria. Rich in symbols, such as the door handles and the bucket waiting to be filled. The mirror is beautiful; it is whole. Not a scratch nor crack. I thought it was perfect, until I realized how beautiful broken could be. Shards of mirror and glass shatter to the ground, and as you try to scoop them up, you are pierced and you bleed. It hurts to clean up what was broken. Even with a dustpan and broom, you are likely to step on minuscule fragments underfoot.

It seems to be a waste of something that started whole, and yet if repaired with gold leaf, and lovingly reassembled, it can become not just beautiful, but astounding.

It is the same for us. I have friends who are refugees; who have been through wars and endured the unimaginable. I have friends who have been broken and abandoned. There is always enough remaining on the ground to work with. There is always a little left of which to rebuild. Rather than a perfect round mirror, the broken human has the potential to become a sparkling temple. You will be pierced and there may be blood. It will bring you to your knees, but the spectacular reassembling is worth the time and toil. I once lay on the ground, a discarded girl, ground into the earth. My bones were broken and I was bleeding. A dyslexic, I took on board what my teachers had said, and wondered if I was in fact, stupid.

Over the years, the shattered parts were rebuilt and strengthened. I had a child. I uncovered the reservoir of wisdom that had been filled with muck inside my soul. I learnt I could write, and I learnt I was smart. If not for the fall I would never have been shattered. If not for the fall, I would never have had the chance to rebuild.



Light it Red for Dyslexia

It’s that magical time of year again! This is what I wrote last year. The other day, my daughter read a whole lesson plan out by herself! It has taken eighteen months of frustration and tears to build her confidence, but she now believes that she can do it, in her own time and way. We have tools in which to help her, and her involvement in drama, the arts and singing have contributed greatly to her heightened self-esteem.

She joined the RSL Rural Commemorative Youth Choir, and it has given both her and I such joy. The choir had a camp at Cockatoo Island, and sang at Government House recently, Damien Leith and Mrs Hurley singing alongside them. My daughter was so buoyant after this experience, it was hard to recollect a time when her confidence was at rock-bottom.

When she has a dramatic performance, she learns her lines by singing them to a beat. When she learns songs, she tends to do so quickly. It has been fascinating, observing how she learns and also humbling. She walks with a skip in her step and her head held high, just as I dreamed she would.

For more information on Light it Red for Dyslexia, click here.

Papa Al Pomodoro


This seems like just another food picture, but there is more to it. It is an act of self-care, something I have felt unable to do for the past six months. This Papa Al Pomodoro heralded that I was coming back to life after a time of treading water. Stressful times get the adrenaline surging and self-care recedes. The things you love to do and the fresh food you used to love preparing are swept aside, thought of as time-thieves.


The thing is, that by making space for preparing good food and doing the things you love, you end up with more time, not less. There is more energy and a clearer head space. I am learning…

Papa Al Pomodoro

1 kg ripe tomatoes, halved

1 tbsp olive oil

1 red onion, sliced

4 cloves chopped garlic

1 red chilli

400g can chopped tomatoes

1 L veg stock

1/2 bunch basil leaves

1 cup torn sourdough  bread

Preheat oven to 180 C and line oven tray with baking paper. Arrange tomatoes on tray. Drizzle with half the oil. Bake 30 minutes until roasted. Set aside to cool slightly. In a large saucepan, heat remaining oil. Cook onion until tender and then add garlic and chilli, stirring for one minute. Stir in roasted tomatoes and canned tomato, mashing tomato slightly. Cook 4 minutes, and add any seasoning you wish. Pour in stock. Simmer and cook for 15 minutes.

After serving, add the basil and sourdough to soup. You can include a sprinkling of Parmesan if you wish. It is divine!


An Angel left a parcel

I was watching a show the other evening, as there was a segment I was interested in. It was uplifting and joyful. Afterward, the show revealed what was coming next. I recoiled as though I had been punched in the stomach.  I knew I’d have to  watch it after the commercials. The damage had been done, and the memories had burst forth. I knew I had to see it through. 

As a fourteen year old, I was in the esteemed clinic mentioned in the segment. I had no definitive diagnosis, other than that I wanted to live, and kept tenaciously holding on. For a year, this clinic became my home. A man twice my age (and a heroin dealer to boot), prayed on me. Nobody stopped him; nobody cared. I saw many things that were unjust, corrupt and plain evil in this place. My part in this story ended when I was thrown off a building. For the next decade, I campaigned to ensure that such horror never recurred. I tried to ensure it never could.

A few years ago, several young women came forth to tell of the horrific sexual and emotional abuse they sustained at the hands of their therapist. These young women were a part of the eating disorders unit. They were threatened with not being able to see their families in some instances, and some were highly drugged. The place they had come to heal (and for which they had paid a fortune), had let them down. Tragically, one young woman took her life afterward. Sworn police statements obtained by the network detailed a series of complaints about the doctor from clinic staff. This was years before the full horror was uncovered. The clinic did nothing. He has been released from jail after serving two years, and will be free to practice as a doctor in five years. 

After what happened to me, I was assured that children would never be put in with adults again. I was assured that a Patients Charter of Rights was now in place and that such things would never be allowed to happen again. I watched the segment, feeling ill when I saw the clinic appear on screen. I also felt numb; hollow. This should never have happened, particularly as they were warned years prior as to this doctor’s behavior. I had nowhere to put the feelings that came up by the next morning, and life commanded that I participate. 

I came home that evening to find a parcel on my doorstep. There were flowers and a card, herbal tonics, essential oils and a tea flower, all nerve tonics. Restoratives, put together by my dear friend, Natasha, who happens to be a herbalist. She knew nothing of what I had watched the night before, nor how desperately I needed her parcel. I put the flowers in a vase, and prepared the maximum number of drops. I sprinkled the oils into my hands and breathed in the aromas. 


How did she know that I needed a parcel at my door? Humbled by her kindness, I slept well that night. It is heartbreaking to know that others have suffered at the hands of this place. It should never have occurred. I think of all the correspondence I entered into, the statements I gave… It takes others to turn a blind eye for evil to triumph. Sometimes, memories can’t be vanquished, but the tempest can be soothed with tinctures, aromatherapy oils and the love of a dear and thoughtful friend.



Two of my favorite people had devastating news this week. They live on opposite sides of Sydney, and a week ago were connected only by their association with me. Now, they have a health diagnosis in common. One is in Intensive Care, and the other is going into hospital tomorrow. If they met, I know they would adore each other. Cheeky, irreverent and making me laugh to the point of tears. I have never found a place that truly feels like home. Could it be that it is contained in people, because these two feel like home. No social niceties and pretense; you come as you are and are loved for it. 

I spent yesterday with my soul sister. She is being admitted to hospital tomorrow. We talked for fourteen hours without pause. We talked about many things, none connected. We showed each other silly pictures on our phones, my friend proudly displaying the various poses of her beloved dog. We determined that she is going to set up a blog for this pooch, to gift the world with its wisdom. We laughed at nonsense, and reflected on times gone by as we looked through old albums. Man, the times we have had! She is afraid, and I would give anything to trade places with her. I wish it was me, rather than her and my other dear friend. I would sell all my possessions if it meant they didn’t have to go through this. 

We had cups of tea and drinks of water, food and Stevie Nicks playing throughout our day, afternoon and night. I wanted my friend to stay over, and she dearly wanted to stay as well. She couldn’t, as she needed her medications, which were at her place. We prolonged the inevitable for as long as we could. “What kind of tree is that?” she asked as she looked up in my front yard. “Canadian maple, I think,” I replied. She laughed so hard, when she realized that it wasn’t, not even close. “Well, whatever it is, it’s got buds, and will be in bloom when you come next,” I smiled. We talked some more at her car, and I held her longer than normal, tearing up. “I love you so very much,” I whispered. She told me that she loved me too. 

Our Saturday was raw, intimate and real. I looked at this spectacular human in awe and wonder. She has gifted me so much. I wish my other friend could have been with us. In the morning, she will be in hospital, undergoing tests. I looked at her tiny feet and laughed, recalling when I gifted her red sequinned ruby slippers. I had to get a child’s size for her. I wish she could click those heels three times and be anywhere other than hospital. You are both my home, and I love you. You have both been through so much; this is yet another battle, of which you shall handle with your usual pizzazz. I will be there, cheering you on. If you falter in your step, I will lend you strength; all those that love you shall. You can do this. Life has only just begun.



The Secret Garden


I was asked along to a talk at the North Sydney Community Centre this past week, to hear Wendy Whiteley and the esteemed journalist, Janet Hawley, talk about the paradise behind the lush tome, Wendy Whiteley and the Secret Garden. Janet has written a heartfelt and intelligent book about her friend, and also of the remarkable history of Lavender Bay. Jason Busch’s photography is outstanding! It is the ultimate coffee table book. Wendy appeared first, her hair wrapped in an elegant black scarf, a sprig of lavender pinned to her jumper. She had a commanding presence, and hypnotic crystal-blue eyes. Janet Hawley sat next to her, an elfin lady with a dulcet voice, and to our delight, Costa Georgiadis from Gardening Australia was the interviewer. He confessed that he had only been to the garden for the first time the day before. He had fallen under it’s spell in an instant, and plans to help out there for many a year to come.

The garden in question was started over twenty years ago, after personal tragedy touched the artist and muse’s life. Wendy’s husband, the great artist Brett Whiteley,died in 1992, after which Wendy turned her attentions to the wasteland in front of her home. Her daughter, Arkie, was an ethereal spirit, and fine actress. She encouraged her mother’s endeavors; buying her plants for the project. Tragically, she succumbed to adrenal cancer. Losing her only child saw Wendy turn to the garden once more, for comfort and reprieve from the agony of her loss. The garden was built on land adjoining Wendy’s home, which was owned by  Rail Corp and later leased to North Sydney Council. It was neglected and overgrown with weeds. Wendy used her own money to turn it into paradise. Visitors from all over the world come to relax in this spectacular garden, and all that is asked is that they’re respectful and take their rubbish when they depart.

In a sensible outcome, the State Government has extended the lease to thirty years, with a thirty year rollover clause. Wendy would love to be given assurance that a stable of sturdy volunteers shall keep up the garden after she departs, putting in money, resources and time. She needs to have a website constructed, so that people can have a central point to gather information and leave feedback. The Secret Garden will also require a generous soul to manage its social media.  This glorious garden is her gift to Sydney. I believe that a dream team of volunteers shall come forth, and help out in the decades to come. I hope that the State Government can commit in the longer term to her vision regarding the necessity of parkland by Sydney Harbor, to bring in tourists and for the pleasure of locals. How awful it would be if Sydney were to lose it’s soul to developments suffocating every square patch of green land.  It was a daring act by Wendy, to create our first guerrilla garden, and I am in awe of her commitment. She turned a wasteland into a place brimming with life, and her grief into an exquisite  garden. I shall never forget meeting the iconic Sydney artist with the hypnotic blue eyes and the wondrous Janet Hawley.

Wendy Whiteley and Janet Hawley

-Photography by Jason Busch

For further information, click here.

Raphaela’s Latest for Siren Empire


I love writing for Siren Empire, a website that is visually magnificent and inspiring, offering different viewpoints. 

A story about a Living Rainbow

Reactive Depression.

When people are snowed under.

Reconnecting with your Tribe.

Banishing Shame.





I have been suffering the worst anxiety of my adult life; well, since I had IVF at least. The kind that makes you wake in the middle of the night, sweating and shaking. The ferocity of which makes you heave and feel as if you can’t catch your breath. I am entirely responsible for my child’s education; that alone is a lot of responsibility. I am trying to look after an adult with a mental illness that is unpredictable. I am trying to keep a household going, pay bills, and keep a grin on my face. I am preparing to see specialists and have necessary medical tests; attempting to scrape together the money to do so. Society regularly tells mothers that we are responsible for our health; that if a parent goes under, everything falls apart. I have been trying, I really have, to not go under. To ensure that my daughter is happy and secure. To not fail in my sworn mission to make everything okay with everyone I love. Oh, also to complete a book this year. 


This year has pummeled me, the marks of which I acknowledge  in the rare moments  I have to sit and reflect. I knew the anxiety was turning into a monster by the following: 

I had two panic attacks in as many days.  I couldn’t work a door handle to exit a building, and the other when a lavatory door got stuck. I went straight into full panic, and passers-by had to calm me.

Feeling disengaged from life. Having  a list of things to do, but not having any idea as to how to do them. 

A pounding head all day, every day, and a terror of everything that once provided comfort. Social outings and social media, phones and emails procured extreme anxiety. 

Forgetting to eat, to sleep, to stop moving and sit quietly.

I called Lifeline, and tearfully relayed the events which had transpired to heighten my symptoms. The counselor was marvelous, and said they weren’t at all surprised that I was finding the going tough. When everything is all up to you, it can be anxiety-producing! I made contact with a counselor, whom I am going to see for a while, and I also saw my local GP. I am going to start medication, until I have a handle on the anxiety. It is not something I can do by myself, and goodness knows, I have tried. My brain feels as though it has forgotten how to relax and is ticking away 24/7. I am sure many can relate. Chronic pain is exhausting. Being a carer is exhausting. Having high expectations of yourself is exhausting. 

It took a lot for me to admit that I couldn’t cope; that I was in trouble. Relaxation and walks, chamomile tea and lavender oil are lovely adjuncts but weren’t offering a complete solution to such extreme anxiety. Spring is now here, and help is at hand. It is a matter of resetting a brain that has spun out of control. It is a matter of calming it down and soothing the tempest. I will still be responsible for an awful lot in life; that isn’t going to change. However, I will have the foundation required to cope with it all. One short woman alone.


I saw the doctor and she agreed that I needed some help. I have started on a mild dose of medication and my mind already feels clearer. If you are suffering, please know that you aren’t alone.

Broken Wings and Healing


A little bird came into my life on Valentine’s Day. She was found on the floor of a cage; her wings had been hacked with what appeared to be scissors. She had no tail and was ailing. Desperate to rescue her, she came home with us. Over the months, I have been in awe of her spirit. The feathers underneath her crippled wings would twist and bleed, causing terrible pain. When they fell out, I would pick them up, and feel how razor-sharp the damaged ends were. Despite the anguish she must have felt, she had a personality that was bigger than her. She whistled the Adams Family theme song, danced and chatted all day. She would run across the dining table when she saw food. Vegemite toast, pumpkin soup and cups of tea were her favorite. We named her Friendly, a fitting moniker.On shopping day, she would see you come in with the bags and dance from side to side in anticipation of a honey stick. She would lock the other cockatiel in their house, run away with Lego pieces when my daughter was playing and generally cause mayhem. She would even pick up a pencil and try to draw in my daughter’s workbooks, just as she had seen her do. When her wings hurt, she would cry, and come to me for comfort. 

Recently, she grew a proper tail, and her feathers grew strong. She became obsessed with flapping her mighty wings. To my despair, she got out the other day. Friendly flew to a tree in the park around the corner, hopping up on the farthest branches, annoyed at any attempt to catch her. We shared information about her on community pages and many kind people shared her picture, in case she flew from the tree. The fire brigade advised to leave her there overnight, as it was now dusk and she was settled in for sleep. They didn’t want to startle her. At dawn, the fire brigade came, and tried to catch her. Irritated, she flew off. My daughter and I combed the neighborhood for hours, whistling the Adams Family theme song, and calling out her name. Despondent, we had set off for home when my phone rang. She had been found! 

Friendly had flown a block away, landing in someone’s front yard. A group of teenage girls had been on their way to school when they found her, and notified the home-owner, who took her inside. They were having Vegemite toast for breakfast, and Friendly ran across to their plates and helped herself! She looked mighty proud of herself, without a hint of distress. After devouring a honey stick, she had a mammoth nap. We held our little bird, watching as she slept. Strangers as well as friends, celebrated her return. It touched my heart to know that so many people were celebrating alongside us.

Today she is singing and dancing, and as I watch her I shake my head, incredulous. I wouldn’t have thought that a frail little bird with butchered wings and no tail would ever be capable of flying as she did; nor of evading the fire brigade! Wings can be clipped and we may not have the rudder necessary to balance. It doesn’t mean that it will remain so. Balance returns and broken wings heal. Just ask Friendly. She has had her taste of adventure and I think (hope), she is now happy to stay put. She just wanted to see how far she could go on her healed wings, and the answer was a long way! The birds she hung out with and the friendships that were formed will remain a mystery, but with her outgoing personality, I am sure she charmed the native birds.