Alicia’s Law

Making progress for victims of abuse in Texas

I just wanted to share with y’all the email I got yesterday from

Alicia Kozakiewicz in Austin at the launch of Alicia's Law, with Ed Smart of the Surviving Parents Coaltion and her mother, Mary.

Victory in Texas!

They said it couldn’t be done—not in Texas, not this year—but we did it!

In the middle of one of the worst budget crises in the U.S., PROTECT has secured passage of Alicia’s Law, a major expansion of funding for the men and women struggling to rescue Texas children from sexual exploitation and abuse.

What the Law Does

In Dallas, Houston and Austin, three law enforcement task forces (covering the entire state) will get $3 million in state funding over the next two years. Alicia’s Law also makes Texas the first state in the nation to give its Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) officers special subpoena power to get suspect information from ISP’s fast.

What it Means to Children

Survivors of child sexual abuse know that if they were being abused today chances are their tormentor would have child abuse images on his computer. Hundreds of thousands of these “child pornography collectors” have been located by authorities in the U.S., but they remain at large due to lack of resources to go get them. Alicia’s Law funds will enable investigators to follow that trail of child pornography traffic “back through the Internet,” right to the door of children in need of protection, often in their own homes. That makes the $3 million in Alicia’s Law funding the most effective money Texas ever spent to prevent child sexual abuse.

Who Made it Happen

Alicia’s Law was sponsored by Sen. John Carona (R-Dallas), Rep. John Frullo (R-Lubbock) and Rep. Pete Gallego (D-Alpine). Behind the scenes at every stage was Texas’ powerful Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, who made it clear that funding Alicia’s Law when popular programs were being slashed was his personal priority.

Thanks also to our partners: the Surviving Parents Coalition, National Sheriff’s Association, the Fraternal Order of Police and Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas (CLEAT). And we’re proud of our PROTECT warriors on the ground, David Keith and Camille Cooper.

Credit goes first and foremost to our members and supporters. Behind the scenes this time, you were joined by a very generous and powerful group of Dallas women and men. Their quiet phone calls and emails to Austin made all the difference.

It’s great that places in America are trying so hard to protect their children from predators. States like California and Nevada have a ONE strike and you’re out policy, Texans are trying their best to protect kids here, as well as stop child sex trafficking from across the border. I’ll have to take a photo of some of the billboards up around town about that.

My best friend just moved and we went over to her place for dinner the other night, and it was nice being able to pull out my phone and do a neighbourhood check to make sure there were no registered sex offenders close by. She felt better knowing there was none on her block.

Alicia’s Law shows that if enough concerned citizens stand up and say what they think, that laws can be changed. We can help to protect our kids.

It’s a great day to live in Texas!


Miners v’s Military

Seriously Miners?

Do you ever see an article in the paper and just feel absolutely no sympathy at all? Maybe I just woke up grumpy, or maybe it’s because my new comat boots have arrived and Matt laughed at me for walking around the house in them and nothing else, but when I read the story on the poor sex lives on West Australia’s miners, I just thought, Wow, Suck it up. Are these people serious?

Don’t get me wrong, I completely understand what it’s like to be in a long distance relationship. My first husband, (yes, I was married before) was in the US Air Force. He was in a unit that was always deployed. BEFORE the war. I spent most of my time in Australia, and flew back and forth to visit him. We had been friends since we were teenagers, so we decided to go back to being friends. We both met our new partners while we were still married, and when he comes to San Antonio for training, we all go out for a beer together.

Matt was on the road for the first 8 years we were together. We met because he was working in Brisbane. He has also worked in China, Canada and in almost every state in the US. Back during the tech boom, he used to fly up to Canada and back every week. Eventually, he asked his boss to just let me come up there and overlook the extra expenses instead of flying him home every week. It worked out cheaper for them, so they did. Then, Matt took a different contract. He was all over the place, most places for one or two weeks at a time. Eventually, we bought a motorhome and could travel together. We didn’t like being apart and we missed each other. Of course, me traveling with him meant that I couldn’t really work. We never knew how long we were going to be in each place. Finally, while were were up in Iowa, where I actually did get a part time job teaching acting, Matt got a full time permanent stay at home daytime job back in San Antonio.

The thing about San Antonio, it’s a military town. It has 3 major bases. Lackland AFB, where they train every new airman in the USAF. Randolph AFB trains some very advanced pilots. Fort Sam Houston in a HUGE Army facility, BAMC is attached, which is Brooke Army Medical Center and is one of the leading trauma and burns hospitals in the US. There’s also Brooks AFB, Camp Stanley and Camp Bullis. You’ve also got a bunch of smaller national guard armories. Basically, you can’t get from point A to point B in this city without seeing someone wearing a uniform or displaying Purple Heart or Disabled Vet license plates.

Sure, all of the people in the military today have chosen to be in the military. We no longer have a draft. However, many people join for the benefits. The military has great health care, housing and they’ll pay for your college. Of course, there’s also long deployments and the chance you’ll be killed in a desert in the Middle East somewhere. Or any of the other 100+ countries the US currently has troops stationed in. At some point in your military career, you’re supposed to do a long deployment. Lots of Airmen end up on a year tour in Korea or Japan. If you elect to take your family, you have to do 2 years. If however your spouse or kids are attached to their home, you get to go alone. You don’t get to fly home every 2 weeks to see them. They don’t get to come see you. If you’re getting shipped off to Iraq or Afghanistan, you might be gone 6 months without a trip home. If you make it home. Some people have already made 3 or 4 tours of the ME.

While the military folks do get good benefits, it’s not the hundreds of thousands of dollars a year miners are making. Miners aren’t getting shot at, don’t have to go for weeks without a shower while down range, don’t have to worry about ending up on a video on CNN with a gun to their head. Sure, there’s mining accidents, but that’s a risk of the job too.

Every job has it’s good points and bad points. Everyone has to make sacrifices. Life is not always rosy.

But surely, while we’ve still got boots on the ground and have good men and women coming home in body bags, do we have to see money spent on a study of miners making sure they’re getting laid?


Snow in San Antonio!

Freak snow event in San Antonio, TXsnowman in san antonio texas

So while Australia is cleaning up after  Category 5 Cyclone Yasi and volcano’s are erupting in Asia, the US is in the middle of “Arctic Blast 2011”. The local news people are loving it!

We’ve had snow is San Antonio about 4 times in the last 16 years. The last great snow was the year we had gone back to Australia for Xmas. The year on the Boxing Day Tsunami. Seems like all the big things happen the same years…

The local weather people had been predicting the possibility of snow for almost a week. Most locals were skeptical. Usually, if they say snow, we might get lucky to have a real light flurry that lasts less than 5 minutes and doesn’t stick. I was at work on the other side of town. We close at 9pm and then clean up and get out about 10pm. We were watching the weather. Originally they had said snow starting at 11pm, but then an update said 10pm. So we hauled ass and started packing up. We were out to our cars at 9:30pm. It had started to sleet. The cars were getting an ice coating. Thankfully, Michelle and I both had our ice scrapers. We both laughed cause for weeks we’d had people ask us why we sold ice scrapers at work. People kept saying, we don’t get snow in San Antonio. We’d have to bite our tongue to keep from saying, “good thing they’re not snow scrapers then…” So, we did our cars, then helped scrape windshields from the girls leaving next door. I hit the road, driving as carefully as I could. The roads were icing over. Thankfully, we had spent a winter in Iowa, and I knew to just take my time, leave plenty of space, don’t slam brakes, etc. Closer I got to the house, the more people I saw sliding. Made it home safe, but I could hear sirens as I walked inside.

Matt was watching the news. I made it home with about 10 minutes to spare. They were shutting down all the highways. The city isn’t prepared for freak events like this. There was over 200 accidents in the first hour! There had been a 9 car pileup right behind me. (No, I didn’t cause it!)

They local news people stayed on TV all night, keeping the city updated. Matt tried to stay up to see the actual snow falling, but he ended up going to bed. About 1pm, it started to really fall. I ran outside to take pictures for Matt, in case it melted by the time he got up. It sounded really cool. It was soft snowflakes yet. It was freezing rain to start with. Tiny pellets of ice, so as it hit the ground and the house, there was a constant chink chink sound.

Thankfully since it had been freezing the last few nights, all the plants and pool filters were covered. The backyard and side yard were quickly covered in white. I watched the neighbours roof slowly turn white. Our gutters were filled with snow. I let the dog out to go potty. It seemed like she remembered the cold white stuff from Iowa. She ran around in it a little bit, just like a small kid would.

The whole street out the front was turning white. It was so quiet outside. No noise of cars since everything was shut down. Just the click click of ice falling. I was pretty impressed by the local news people who were up all night, following the snow. They made me laugh when they said that one reporter “Had drwn the short straw” and was stuck on remote locations. The same people were still on air 12 hours later….

About 11am, the snow was finally starting to melt. The highways were still shut down. There ws still ice on the roads, but it was slowly melting. The sun was doing a good job, but anywhere there was shade, it was still icy. The roads finally opened up again at Noon. Of course, it was like morning peak hour traffic. Thankfully, my work had already cancelled me for the day, so I didn’t have to go driving in it. Matt finally headed in to work about 12:30.

It seems funny that such a little bit of ice is such a big deal. We had snow everyday in Iowa for 5 months. Sometimes a couple feet at a time. Here, we had some freezing rain and a light dust of snow, and the whole city just shut down! But, up north, they are set up to deal with it. Here, there’s no ice scrapers, no snow ploughs. No trucks to lay down salt. Well, I take that back. Apparently, there was city trucks, but the TXDot people were waiting for it to get above freezing before they went out to try to de-ice the roads… It seems that the people in were terrified of the ice and were scared to go out in it. The TXDot spokeswoman said they weren’t prepared for ice, which made Matt laugh and yell at the TV. We don’t get snow here often, but we do get ice a fair bit in winter. Just not usually that much.

So now the sun had come out and it’s a beautiful day here. Everyone who got the day off is probably pretty happy. It’s supposed to get way down below freezing again tonight, but no precipitation is expected.

Hope everyone in Australia is doing ok. Between Sydney getting record heat and North Queensland getting all those storms and bushfires in other parts of Oz, it makes my little snow storm story seem pretty insignificant…


A difference of cultures in crisis

Helping a community in crisis

 Hope Lives Here Video from the Courier Mail, featuring another former Aussie Expat, Jodie.

On the surface, Australia and America seem to be very similar. It’s only when you really spend some time in each place, you start to see some of the differences. Eventually, you get used to them. Neither culture is right or wrong, they’re just different.

This week, watching the flood footage coming through from Australia, I am reminded of some of those differences, and some of the similarites.

People always tell me, “Texas is just like Australia, right?” and I ask, “What part?” However, when it comes to the spirit of the people, Texans really are like Australians. Much more so than other parts of the US. Maybe that’s why I like it so much here.

When Hurricane Katrina and then Rita wiped New Orleans off the map, I couldn’t understand why they didn’t rebuild. Why even now, most parts are still uninhabitable. Mississippi and Alabama were equally devastated by the hurricanes. In many areas, even more so. They were however primarily middle class towns and people there, much like the people in Australia, and got on with it and rebuilt. Meanwhile, Texas offered as much assistance to it’s neighbours in Louisiana as possible. Texas took in thousands of “refugees”; many of whom have never left. The abandoned mall near my house was turned into a shelter. (It’s now the Rackspace building) Many businesses along that street closed down because of all the theft after the “refugees” arrived. When your local Target closes because of that reason, it’s pretty dramatic.

Years later, they still do documentaries on New Orleans. How it’s still a mess. How the Govt failed them, etc. I still get people begging me for money, saying they are “Katrina Victims”. Of course, nobody does any documentaries showing the people in Alabama and Mississippi and how they’ve managed just fine.

Then I see the footage from Floods in Australia. I see neighbours, friends, strangers, people from all walks of life, lending each other a hand. They’re out cleaning up the mess, the next day. They’re helping people they don’t know. They’re cleaning the dirt and mud before it turns to toxic mold. They’re getting the stuff out on the streets, and I’m sure the govt will do a great job cleaning up those streets.

If only we could teach our cousins in Louisiana about Mateship. Because that’s what it really is. That’s what most Aussie Expats miss the most. (Besides Vegemite and Bundy Rum) It’s the ability to turn to turn to a mate and have them lend you a hand, without you having to ask.

Australia and America were founded differently. America was pioneered on a loner spirit. People rushed out and grabbed land. They had to make do by themselves. Aussie’s on the other hand worked together  to get through the hard times. That legacy has carried on through the generations.  While Americans like those at the top, those that single themselves out and make something of themselves, Aussie’s still have tall poppy syndrome and will take the “Little Aussie Battler” over the big entrepreneur anyday. Both have their plusses and minuses. If you’re looking to really make something of yourself, you’re probably better off in the US. If you’re in a flood, you’re better off in Oz…

Now many States in the US are not like Louisiana. New Orleans has a very large poor population. Many people live on welfare. They live in Section 8 housing. (Like Housing Commission)They use food stamps. They have entitlement problems. They live generation to generation on welfare and don’t look for a way out. When the Hurricane happened, they didn’t bother to get out. They expected someone else to move them. Many people blame George W. Bush for Katrina. Actually, legally he couldn’t do anything until the Governor of Louisiana asked for help. The Govenor didn’t. Eventually, GWB stepped in and superseeced that ruling and helped out. That whole thing was a mess. Then, when people did get evacuated, there was many horror stories of how people were acting. A group of Australian tourists had to be escorted out under the care of the National Guard because of threats of sexual assault against them in the dome. Red Cross workers were treated badly. “Refugees” thought they were in a hotel, and the Red Cross workers were their maids. Looters were everywhere.  When people got their $2000 cards to get food and clothing, there were reports of people using them to buy Louis Vuitton handbags or getting lap dances at strip clubs… When people were provided trailers to live in, they sued the Govt because the trailers were “toxic”.

Everything about Katrina victims showed the absolute worst of American society.  The victim mentality, the entitlement issues, the bad management.

Hopefully, with the Floods in Australia, we will continue to see the Best of people in Australia. The banding together to help each other out. The mateship. The cleanup. The massive amounts of donations. The way people just get along with it and make it better instead of sitting around waiting for someone else to do it for them.

It’s in those moments that I’m so proud to be an Australian. I wish I could be over there with my gumboots on, broom in hand, helping you clean up.

I hope that next time something big happens over here, I’ll be able to spread a little of the Aussie spirit around, and make it better, the way we would in Oz.

If you can’t be there to help out a mate with the floods in Queensland, NSW and now Victoria, help out with a cash donation instead.


Donate to the Flood Relief Appeal

How to help those affected by the flooding in Australia

Donate Online 

With the flooding still to reach it’s peak in Brisbane and now more flooding forecast for NSW, many people are wondering how they can help out those who need it.

Australians are a generous lot. There are stories of people helping strangers, others taking in animals, people just being good people. When someone needs help, an Aussie will always be there to lend a hand. Whether it’s their mate, their neighbour or a stranger in a land far, far away.

Australians have raised billions of dollars over the years for people devasted by natural or man made disasters in other countries. Whether they are sending firemen to help in the California wildfires, sending people to help in the aftermath of a tsunami, or sending food and money to places like Africa or Haiti. Australians will always step up and lend a hand.

Now, in Australia’s time of need, will other countries help?  Unfortunately, Australia, being “the lucky country” is at the top of the food chain. Those at the top help those less fortunate. Will those other countries return the favour and help Australians now that they’re down on their luck?

Those within Australia raised over $30 million dollars during the televised relief appeal. That’s a huge amount, but it’s not going to be anywhere near enough. The US said it offered its sympathies and offered to help. I wonder if they actually will? The US military is well trained in natural disasters and could probably spare some helicopters and troops to help with the search and rescue effort. Some MRE’s would probably help too.

The British have asked Aussie’s to back them up for a couple hundred years. Here’s hoping since the Queen is still on our money, she’ll offer some cash to Australia.

I’m sure there’s some countries in Europe we’ve helped at some point. Now is the time to return the favour. Asia, same goes for you.

Now is the time to pay it forward. Please give something to help out your fellow man. We can’t all afford to donate thousands of dollars. But if everyone donated even $1, imagine how much money could be raised. Please don’t not donate because you think your small contribution won’t make a difference. It will. Every dollar counts.

You can donate online at


Queensland Floods

Devastating flooding in QLD

Watching the flooding from afar, I wish there was more I could do.

I was born and raised in Sydney, but when I was 18, I moved to Brisbane. It’s the city that I really started to become my own person in. I was no longer an actress. It’s where I worked real jobs and went back to school. It’s where I met my husband, Matt. We both love Brisbane. I loved the laid back lifestyle. Matt loved it because it reminded him of his hometown here in Texas. We both agree that if we ever moved back to Australia, we’d want to live in Brisbane.

So now that we’re watching the devastating floods in Queensland which today are hitting Brisbane, we both feel a little bit of helplessness and wish there was more we could do to help. We know that people there are taking it all in their stride. Aussie’s are such a resilient bunch. We know they’re going to be helping each other out and making sure their mates are ok. But when you’re so far away from family and friends and all you can see is little snippets of the carnage, it’s very saddening. All I can do is get on FaceBook and check on my friends. Today however, most of Brisbane is without power, a lot of the mobile phone towers are not working, so I feel cut off. The American news is only showing the crazy snow storms that are hitting the South, which is also a big deal, as well as the tragic shooting in Arizona and its aftermath. The Aussie news says 13 people are now dead in the floods, and over 9000 homes will be flooded in Brisbane today. Water coming downstream, as well as king tides are going to create flooding worse that the 1974 flood. I see shots of the Brisbane river that look like they’re taken from Kangaroo Point, where Matt and I first lived together, and I can’t believe how high it’s getting. I can’t imagine what it’s going to look like in a few more hours.

I’m currently relying on watching little videos on the net. Unfortunately, some sites like to geoblock their videos. Thankfully, the ABC is not geoblocking right now, so all the Aussie Expats across the world can see what’s going on back home. has been a great source. never geoblocks and is also very helpful. If you’re another expat trying to see what’s going on, these are the sites I’ve found most helpful.

Raising funds for those affected by QLD flooding.

Unfortunately, unlike third world countries like Haiti who get billions of dollars raised for the relief effort from all over the world, it’s unlikely those affected by flooding in Queensland will be offered the same. Australians have been extremely generous. They’ve already raised $30 million dollars just through the Flood Relief Appeal on televison.  However, I’m sure it’s not going to be enough. If you’re wondering how to help out, but don’t want to get scammed, here’s how to help.

If you’re in Australia, call 1800 219 028

Donations can be made in person at:
• Commonwealth Bank
• Westpac
• Suncorp
• St.George Bank
• Bank SA (Bank of South Australia)
• Australian Central Credit Union
• Savings & Loans Credit Union
• Coles supermarket

If you’re overseas like me and want to help,

Donate by internet banking:

The account details for donations are:
Account Name: Premier’s Disaster Relief Appeal
BSB: 064 013
Account number: 1000 6800
SWIFT code for international donations: CTBAAU2S

Once your transaction is complete, you should record the receipt number for your transaction. If you do not receive a receipt number, contact your financial institution.

If you would like a receipt for tax purposes, please forward a request, with proof of donation to:

Premier’s Disaster Relief Appeal
C/O Department of the Premier and Cabinet
PO Box 15185
City East QLD 4002

 Donate by mail

You can post a cheque donation – please do not send cash.

Cheques should be made payable to:
The Premier’s Disaster Relief Appeal
ABN: 69 689 161 916

Cheques should be posted to:
Premier’s Disaster Relief Appeal
C/O Department of the Premier and Cabinet
PO Box 15185
City East QLD 4002