A few days ago two young girls lost their beloved mum; a husband lost his friend and partner in love; a mother and father lost their treasured daughter and a sister became a precious memory safely enclosed in her sibling’s hearts. Close friends lost a confidant – someone who added so much to their lives and a community lost a vibrant, funny, passionate, intelligent, driven and giving young woman.

Many are experiencing emptiness in their lives because of this.

Why am I writing this? Because at certain points during this young woman’s life journey, post her diagnosis, I was witness to the emotional pain, anger and frustration that had gripped this beautiful lady; emotions that took hold, tightly at times. It was anger and emotional pain that anyone knowing even part of her story, would accept as justified. It was fueled by the failure of our medical system to listen to her voice; a voice that knew something was wrong months and months before any diagnosis. Finally, at her insistence, she was able to secure the tests that led to a diagnosis of cancer…sadly, too late.

My exposure of this isn’t about shaming individuals within the medical system for relying only on a narrow selection of testing, or for not having the time or giving the attention needed to listen…actively listen. Individuals work within very tight parameters; limiting in many ways and often inhibiting the way in which they would like to practice with how they have to practice. What this blog is about though is raising a challenge for the systems of bureaucracy and legislation and the policies and practices that stem from these to be re-considered. In a society as complex and diverse as those of industrialised nations structures clearly need to be in place to enable agencies to provide us with health care, education, protection etc. We are fortunate, I know, in many ways that we have these services in place. My question though is this…

At what point do we, as individuals and as a society, speak up about the stranglehold that occurs because bureaucracy and legislation control tightly so much of how we are expected to work within these agencies and what we are allowed to say and do, irrespective of what we think and know to be right for individuals?

I, along with many teachers, experience this stranglehold every week…knowing that too many students are not accessing learning because of the limiting, legislated way in which we have to teach. I’ve witnessed the Department of Child Protection making decisions based on convenience for the department irrespective of their role to protect a child they are, by law, engaged to protect – rendering him vulnerable to continued failure. I have experienced, as a patient, the limitations of narrow thinking within the medical system and the governing bodies that control our health agencies; the segregation of who is entitled to access the expertise and care of specialists. As a health coach I witness far too regularly the compromises patients and their families have to make in respect of treatment choices, affordability and the accessibility of treatments and diagnostics based on age, disease type and the policies and work practices of medical establishments. Then, this week, I witnessed the ultimate cost of all…the loss of a beautiful woman; someone who can never be replaced in the lives of her husband, daughters, parents, siblings and friends.

At what point do we acknowledge and insist that whilst legislation, bureaucracy and policies are needed – even required – to assist in the governance of our countries, their prime existence surely should be based upon that of protection not control; of inclusion not exclusion. When our legislators and bureaucrats include compassion, understanding and wisdom perhaps we will begin to experience opportunities for all students; inclusion and acceptance for all children needing protection and a medical system that understands the possibility of healing across the entirety of

what it is to be human. The outcome may not have changed for the lady our community has lost but her journey may have been very different…and the journey that her family shared with her through her illness may have been much gentler too.

At the time of writing this blog, Australia is about to hold an election. Perhaps it is fitting that I give voice to my concerns as an Australian Citizen & I do so not just for me but for my students, for the boy denied the potential opportunity of experiencing success, for many cancer patients and for a young woman whose legacy is the loving impact she had on so many.