I was born in Sydney Adventist Hospital in Wahroonga, New South Wales, on the 9th of April, 1964. My family (at that point, father Bob and mother Jenny, ‘cos I was the firstborn) lived in various places in Sydney, like Galston and Arcadia until I was six years old. My younger brothers Jeff and Paul were born during this time. In 1970 we moved about 100 km north, to a small country town called Cooranbong. Mum and Dad worked at the Sanitarium Health Food factory in Cooranbong, and I started school at the Avondale SDA Primary school. My parents had always wanted a girl, and in 1974 we adopted a baby girl named Kathy.
It was a great life for a kid in Cooranbong - there was still plenty of virgin bushland around, and my friend Greg Cormack lived on a working cattle farm quite close to my place, so I rode my bike over there most afternoons and weekends and adventured through the bush until it was time to go home. Later we both had motorbikes (his always much nicer than mine!), which allowed us to venture further from home and get into more trouble. My family are Christians and attend the Seventh-day Adventist church, and I was involved in a lot of church activities and camps and youth clubs and so on. This involvement has continued through my life, although I have had personal crises of faith at different times, and my faith is now a very important part of the way I live.
I completed my primary and secondary schooling at Avondale, finishing Year 12 in 1982. I took holiday jobs as a builder's labourer and just about anything else you can imagine. I was considered bright but lazy, although from my perspective it was just that school wasn't a key priority: sure, I probably could have got higher grades by having no social life, but why would I want to? I ended up matriculating to university anyway, and applied to do a B.Sc. in chemistry at Newcastle University. I was all ready to go to Newcastle, but then decided to do one year at Avondale College, a Seventh-day Adventist teachers' college that is in Cooranbong. The rationale was (a) it's a lot closer - a 12 minute bicycle ride or 20 minute walk instead of a 45 minute train and bus ride, (b) it was felt that a year at a Christian institution wouldn't hurt me and therefore (c) my parents were more inclined to help me financially if I went to Avondale. For all these reasons, which appeared excellent at the time, I applied to defer my studies at Newcastle for 12 months, and went to Avondale in 1983.
I enjoyed my first year very much, and did OK, except that I failed maths. At the end of this year I flirted with a couple of different careers, including computer programming (I still enjoy playing with computers, but probably wouldn't if it was my full time job). I ended up landing a job as a Trainee Anaesthetic Technician (and try writing that in the space for ‘Occupation' on any form you care to name!!) at the Sydney Adventist Hospital (yep, the one I was born in). This involved attending to every need of the anaesthetists in the operating theatres of the hospital. It was a fascinating time - it's basically the only way you can get to spend lots of time in operating theatres without doing years of training (i.e. 3 year nursing + theatre specialisation to be a nurse, or about 9 years to be a surgeon or anaesthetist!), and I really enjoyed it. The set up was that I had a three month probationary period, then I would begin the TAFE certification in Medical technology that would allow me to remove the ‘Trainee' from my title. Alas, I was a young and foolish lad, and also didn't get on particularly well with the head of anesthesia at the hospital, so at the end of the probation my job disappeared (something for which I'm now grateful, since I wouldn't like to have spent my whole life in that job anyway).
In order to eat, I now secured a job (thanks to a little creative nepotism) in the hospital's kitchens as a kitchen hand. Plenty of oven cleaning and food preparation ensued, but it paid OK and I was living away from home. This arrangement continued fairly satisfactorily until I tried to ride my shiny new RZ 250 motorcycle around a 60 km/h corner at 130 km/h, narrowly missed a car and many trees and mangled my lower left leg. After a month in Hornsby hospital and couple of operations that filled me full of stainless steel plates and screws, I went home to Cooranbong for five months of recovery. When I could walk again, I took a job as a cleaner in the factory where Mum and Dad worked. A few months of this convinced me that I really did want to finish a degree and get a non-labouring type of job, so I re-applied to Newcastle Uni for the B.Sc., nearly got there, but again ended up going to Avondale, for reasons that aren't very clear. Between work and convalescence I had used up 1984 and 1985. I suspect God had a hand in the whole thing though, ‘cos it was absolutely crucial that I be at Avondale in 1986.
I went back to Avondale and began the second year of my four year Bachelor of Education (Chemistry) degree. I'm not sure why I went back - I really didn't want to be a teacher, my first year practice teaching had convinced me of that. Anyway, during 1986, along with other amorous adventures over which we shall draw a veil of silence, I met Sue Cowled. We met in a scuba diving course, where we chose one another as buddy breathing partners ‘cos it was less gross to swap spit on the regulator with someone of the opposite sex! For several months we were just friends, in spite of a rather dramatic spark between us, but finally my girlfriend of the time unceremoniously dumped me (for which I'm eternally grateful), and Suzie and I started spending hundreds of hours in one another's company. We weren't formally ‘going out', we were just never apart. This was wonderful fun, but had a very negative impact on my academic career in maths, which was always shaky! Finally I asked her whether we were, in fact, an ‘item' or not - I was confused. She put me off for a fortnight or so, saying she wasn't ready to commit, or words to that effect. Finally she admitted that she had someone else in mind and wanted to resolve that first. I said "No way, you're mine!", and that was kind of that. We spent even more time together, and talked about everything under the sun and much besides.
In November 1987 we were married with plenty of family and friends around, and in 1988, the final year of my B.Ed., I got the best grades ever! We enjoyed living in our little house near Lake Macquarie. At the end of 1988 I graduated, and was offered a teaching job at Lilydale Adventist Academy in Melbourne. I still really wanted to be a chemist rather than a teacher, and had applied and been accepted to do an honours year in chemistry at Newcastle (yes, they've been incredibly patient with me over the years!), but we were too broke to spend another year without me working, so we packed up and headed off to Melbourne.
In 1989 and 1990 I taught at Lilydale, and by 1990 I had become enamoured enough of education to begin a part time Master of Education degree at Melbourne University. Also in 1990, albeit at the end of December, our daughter Cassandra was born. I felt that I was ready to finish off the M.Ed. (how wrong I was!), so we agreed that Suzie would continue working, and I would take the year off in 1991 to look after baby Cassie and write my thesis. Those of you with babies will be laughing wryly about now - looking after a baby is a full time job. I had a wonderful time, felt very close to my beautiful daughter, and got very little study done. The Masters was to string out until 1994, but I don't regret the extra time with Cassie at all.
1991 was an extremely hard year for our family. Mum had been diagnosed with leukemia in 1986, and had gone in and out of remission several times in the intervening four years. She lived just long enough to meet and cuddle Cassie, then gave up the long fight in January 1991. In September of the same year, my brother Jeff, who was 25, went out bush walking by himself one afternoon. When he hadn't returned by the evening, search parties were sent out, and his body was found the following morning - it seemed as though he had fallen from a small cliff. It was a very difficult year.
At the end of 1991 we moved back to Sydney so that I could take up a job at Northern Beaches Christian School in Terrey Hills. We lived in a small house five minutes walk from the beach at North Narrabeen. We had intended to stay in Sydney for several years, but at the end of that year I received an invitation to become a lecturer in teacher education at Pacific Adventist College in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea. We felt that God was calling us to serve in this way, and so we packed up and moved to New Guinea. We stayed there and taught for two years (1993-94), during which I also finally completed my M.Ed., and enrolled for a Ph.D. at Curtin University. Our second daughter, Alexandra, was born at the beginning of 1994 - we returned to Australia for this event - in fact, to the Sydney Adventist Hospital (yep, where I was born!) The violence and lawlessness in Port Moresby increased during the time we were there, and it really became quite scary. The internal politics of the institution were kind of intriguing as well - I learnt a lot!
We decided that it was best to move to Perth so that I could complete the Ph.D. full time (after all, I had already been a student for most of our married life!) At the beginning of 1997 I wrote in this section: It's now been a fraction over two years (1995-96), and I'm within 6-8 months of submitting my thesis (honest!) Then we shall see what happens about a job - I'd love to do a postdoctoral research fellowship, but they're pretty competitive. I'll give it my best shot... It's now the beginning of 2000 as I revise this story, and most of those things have happened. I completed the thesis at the very beginning of 1998 (so it was more like 12 months than 6-8!), and graduated in October 1998. By that time I had begun a two year stint teaching chemistry and science at Armadale Christian College, south of Perth. Again, there was some intriguing - and fatiguing - internal politics in the institution (I'm beginning to wonder whether it's me!), and although I formed some great friendships with staff and students, I wasn't sorry when I gained a postdoctoral fellowship for 2000 to 2002 at Edith Cowan University. I'm now working full time as a researcher, in the area of professional standards in education, and enjoying it enormously.
We've been attending Fremantle Seventh-day Adventist church, and really enjoying it. I occasionally preach there and am involved in other parts of the church's life.
In 1997 I wrote: Suzie has completed her Year 12 studies (at the age of 32), and begun a Bachelor of Psychology degree at Murdoch University during 1997. She'll be studying at least until 2000, so I guess this means we'll have to settle down in Perth for a few years yet. We don't mind - we had lived in eight different houses in our first eight years of marriage. We've been in Perth for five years now, and I have a contract for another three, so it looks like the second eight years of our marriage will be the exact opposite of the first - all spent in one place! Sue is still studying, and has taken a year off from study and gone back part time to improve our financial situation a bit. This means she'll be studying until at least 2002.
1997 version: Cassie goes to school at East Kenwick Primary School - she's starting Year 2 in 1997. Alex spends her time at home with Suzie and I between our various studies, and some at Kenwick Child Care Centre as well. Well, Cassie is in Year 5 this year (2000), and Alex in Year 2, still at East Kenwick Primary School. They're doing well and growing up way too fast...
Life is (still!) good....
2002 update: Contrary to some of the predictions above, we didn't stay in Perth for 8 years, only 6.5 for me and 7 for the rest of the family! I applied for a job at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, and moved here in July 2001. Sue finished her double degree at the end of 2001, and the family joined me at the end of November. We are now settled in to Canada, and have sold our house and car in Australia, and bought a car in Canada. We've got drivers licenses here and have applied for permanent residency. Sue has just started a job with Financial Strategies Group that she really enjoys, and the girls are in a great school. At this stage it looks as though we'll stay in Edmonton for 4 years, 10 years or forever, but I've given up on making predictions. I'll echo my comment above, though: life is good!
2006 Update: We moved back to Australia, to Brisbane, in July 2006, after 5 great years in Canada. Life is even better!
2009 Update: still living in Brisbane, still loving life. Cassie is starting university this year and Alex is in Year 11, and they're both amazing. I'm enjoying life at the University of Queensland and Sue is working for a company called Thermoscan. 2017 Update: We moved to the Gold Coast in 2012 when I took up a role at Griffith University. The girls have both finished uni and are working, and live in Brisbane with their partners. Not going to church any more (for probably 8 years or so): happy to believe in an infinite but non-interventionist God, but all human images of that being are fatally flawed.