06 June 2015


I submitted my response to the Quarterly Essay as correspondence feedback to Karen Hitchcock. Quarterly Essay told me it was too late to get in to next edition.
Dear Mannie de Saxe,
Thank you for your very interesting and informative letter.
I regret to say it arrives too late for inclusion in our published correspondence section - we have just gone to press with the next issue. However, I have passed in on to Karen Hitchcock, as I am sure she will want to read it.
best wishes
Chris Feik



Correspondence – Quarterly Essay – 27 April 2015

Ken is 92 and I am 88 and we have been together for 22 years. We are gay and were “married” by Kevin Rudd on 1 July 2009 when he refused to grandfather phasing in de facto pensions for newly recorded gay, lesbian, transgender, HIV/AIDS partnerships. As equivalents of married pensioners and now no longer on single pensions, we lost about $200 each fortnightly from our Centrelink pensions.

As gay activists we were known as a partnership and would not have escaped scrutiny from Centrelink if they had started to investigate who were “couples” and who were not.

We moved to Melbourne from Sydney and Newcastle in 2001 after we bought a house in Preston in one of Melbourne’s north-eastern suburbs. We are fortunate to have been able to buy a house and not be renting, so that in our very old age we do not have to struggle with our finances every month as so many other people have to, and while we have maintained reasonable health over time, when one of us has health problems, we do our best to keep up with normal activities as much as possible.

I am our webmaster, and I look after two different web sites and a blog. When we were in Sydney we belonged to an activist group called InterSection, and one of our activities was involved with local government areas and discrimination by councils of their gay, lesbian, transgender and HIV/AIDS (GLTH) residents, where we discovered some appalling homophobia and other mistreatments.

In Preston we found ourselves living in Darebin City Council area, and from about 2003/2004 when we read some council document about inclusion, we decided to see what was going on in relation to the GLTH communities with which we had been active over the years.

Our web sites are:

 and InterSection from Part 3 onwards, details some of our involvements with Darebin, and their responses over time. Eventually we just gave up!

Recently a few events occurred which have shaken us out of any complacency, and one of these being a major health issue relates directly to Karen Hitchcock’s essay concerning our health care-givers and their co-ordination with each other.

First, the other two events.

We live within walking distance of Northland shopping centre and we walk from our house to the centre in less than half-an-hour. If we have heavy shopping to carry home, we are able to catch one of 2 buses which drop us around the corner from our house which is just up from the main road, Murray Road. The footpath is uneven and in parts it has lifted, leaving lips which if you are old and your vision is not the best are easily missed and you can trip and hurt yourself badly. Ken tripped over one of these lips but was able to support himself on the house fence closest to where he tripped. His hand was gashed and bleeding, but he had not fallen on the ground and injured himself worse than the bleeding hand. We protected it with a clean handkerchief which one of us had, and when we arrived at Northland we went to the nearest pharmacy and asked them to put a plaster on it. The woman who dealt with us at the pharmacy didn’t put any disinfectant on the wound, but just covered it up with a plaster.

Ken was shaken up by the episode, but by the time we had sat down at our usual café and had some lunch and coffee he was feeling better, we did our shopping, and caught the bus home.

It has taken more than 3 weeks to stop being painful and it is now almost back to normal. We have not yet written to Darebin about the incident but may still be doing it soon.

The other event concerns a trip into the city about 2 months ago.  W e live 2 corners away from the tram stop which is in Plenty Road, near Murray Road. Our trip takes about 45 minutes and we always take something to read for our trips in both directions. We finished our shopping in Bourke Street Mall in the city and crossed to our tram stop outside the old Post Office at the corner of the Mall and Elizabeth Street. The tram was fairly full and no empty seats were visible, so I was making my way to the rear stair well when a man got up and offered me his seat. As I was making my way there to sit down, the tram started off with a heavy jerk and I fell to the ground in the stair-well and hurt my upper arm. I was helped up and sat down in the seat offered and remained there all the way home. Ken had managed to get a seat as we boarded the tram so he was safe from falling.

At every stop-start on the way home, the tram driver jerked the tram so that we thought maybe the vehicle had problems. However, when I wrote to Yarra trams about the incident, it seems the driver was in the clear, I should hold on better, and it seemed it was probably my fault! My upper arm took at least a month for the pain to subside, which is just as well that it ultimately did because little did I know what lay ahead in the health episode which as followed!

Towards the end of 2014 my eyesight had deteriorated sufficiently for me to know that it was time to get my cataracts attended to after years developing but not rapidly. We have both been patients at the Royal Victoria Eye and Ear Hospital, and Ken had both his cataracts attended to within 3 months of each other about 5 or 6 years ago, and I had been told about 4 years ago that I still had to wait awhile.
 We went to emergency at the eye and ear and they said to me that waiting time for cataracts was now about 2 years and I should get myself a private ophthalmologist (and thereby hangs another tale for another time!). So we went to our GP and he arranged a referral to an eye doctor who practises not far from where we live, which is of course very convenient for us. She said the first eye was more than ready to be operated on and the cataract was removed in the middle of December 2014. We arranged for the second one to be done in March 2015 and the date was set. Operations are still done by the private doctor at the eye and ear, but of course not on the public health system and I have to pay for them privately.

A week or two before my operation was due, all sorts of other episodes occurred with my health and I started to get very worried – headaches across both sides of my head and across the top, and I felt peculiar and without energy all the time.

The eye doctor said to me when I spoke to her on the Friday, a few days after having had some treatment from my GP that if I was having problems with my reading I was to go in to emergency at the Eye and Ear during the weekend and not waste any time. By the Sunday afternoon we managed to go to emergency, getting there at 2pm and leaving at 7pm, having been attended to almost immediately because the problem was deemed to be very urgent – the proof of which was confirmed a few days later!

I have been treated by our rheumatologist for a few years for a disease of elderly or old people called Polymyalgia Rheumatica and treatment is cortisone-based and I was already down to a maintenance dose which keeps pains away, but does no harm to the system.

What transpired at the Eye and Ear was that there is a possible side effect from Polymyalgia Rheumatica which one in 10 patients may develop, and I was one of them – Temporal Arteritis or Giant Cell Arteritis.

Second cataract operation postponed (sine diem as they used to say in Latin) and full-on treatment for this disease from which one can go blind, have a stroke, have an aneurism and other nasties! My eye doctor and the one that we saw after my biopsy at the E&E said they had caught it in time!

Now we get down to the crux of the story and Karen Hitchcock’s items in her essay relating to this – we are living in an advance technological age where means of communication are as they have never been before. I am in the hands of a GP, an Opthalmologist, a Rheumatologist, the Royal Victoria Eye and Ear Hospital, St Vincent’s Hospital and various Pathology laboratories around the city.


Nobody, but nobody told me about what would happen when my maintenance dose of 2mg per day of Predisolone was suddenly increased to 60mg per day to ward off this new disease with its frightening consequences. The dosage is gradually being reduced to manageable limits a few weeks at a time, but I am suffering the consequences of corticosteroid overdose! And nobody has explained to me what side-effects Prednisolone has on the body!

Ken and I manage to keep going as best we can – at home, trying not to be a burden on limited resources in all these organisations and going into them only when we really feel we need some assistance, and doing things around the house as normal, but it is interesting to not that councils such as Darebin do not bother to find out how their old citizens are doing or whether they would like a little help now and then. Darebin is but one council in Victoria – what is happening in all the others?

In conclusion I would like to say that in a Quarterly Essay such as this one which Karen Hitchcock has written so graphically, she was able to cover a fair amount of ground within her space limitations for the article.

This is what I would like to know – “we are two white Anglo English-speaking, middle class, educated, articulate home owners, living in a culture we both grew up with. What about all the other minority groups such as GLTH, Aboriginal, Cultural and Linguistically  Diverse (CALD), African, Asian and others being demonised in our communities such as Muslims? Who is going to help and support them as they are thrown into environments for their aged care which are so often hostile as some any gay and lesbian couples in aged care have discovered over time?

As for financing of institutions for the forthcoming generations of geriatrics, Australia is a wealthy country and the resources are there, but governments wilfully use them for issues of no relevance to our communities, such as military adventures.

We will not be around to know what happens then, but it won’t be pretty for our older people unless they do some strenuous politicking over time.

A thesis and/or a book needs to be written – and urgently!

Reference: Dr Jo Harrison - PhD in Health Sciences. The thesis “Towards the Recognition of Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transgender and Intersex Ageing in Australian Gerontology” online at http://www.library.unisa.edu.au/adt-root/public/adt-SUSA-01042005-134827/

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Preston, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
90 years old, political gay activist, hosting two web sites, one personal: http://www.red-jos.net one shared with my partner, 94-year-old Ken Lovett: http://www.josken.net and also this blog. The blog now has an alphabetical index: http://www.red-jos.net/alpha3.htm