A Year of Grateful Privilege – February 2017

Ok, so February is done and dusted in my Year of Grateful Privilege. (If you’re new to my Year of Grateful Privilege, here’s the post where I explain what this is all about.)

A highlight

I’ve chosen my favourite post from the month, because it was an insanely powerful moment. The picture is above, and for everyone with normal eyesight, here’s the caption:

“Disembarked the bus this morning with 2 Aboriginal ladies and their 2 little ones. They looked confused and weren’t speaking in English, so I asked if I could help with directions. They wanted to get to a place that would have been a good 30 min walk in the 40 degree heat.

We arrived at me booking a taxi, which I happily did. But the taxi was driving around to find us (it was looking on the wrong side of the road) so we tried to flag other taxis down too. A taxi indicated it was pulling over, slowed down and almost like it was at the same moment the driver saw the passengers – it sped off again.

First thing that sprung to mind was ‘did that just happen because of our group’s blackness?’ And there it is – the epitome of white privilege – I have never had to wonder if a taxi driver wouldn’t serve me because of my skin colour.

The taxi I booked found us eventually and the family got off to their destination – so yay for that. Boo for the fact that in only 10 minutes of time with them, the contrast of our daily existence was so starkly highlighted.”

A lowlight

I had a few dark days when I just couldn’t muster up the energy to really say much. And that was flipping distressing realising that in order to be aware of my privilege, and to empathise with the impacts of racism on other lives, that I have to actively think about it. Racism is an in-your-face daily experience, it can’t be escaped. Privilege is like oxygen – it’s just everywhere, and it’s only by knowing it’s power that you can see its existence. If you didn’t understand the properties of oxygen and how it interacts with the environment, you could just blissfully live not knowing oxygen existed. I know oxygen/privilege exists, and yet I can just so easily go about my daily life without having to give it a second thought. That is a pretty depressing thought when you compare it to the realities of POC. It just feels so unjust.

What would I like to do next?

It’s time to get lighter and brighter. Being aware of privilege doesn’t have to mean a life of serious doom and gloom. As I wrote in a recent post:

“Being WOKE doesn’t require being broke when it comes to the simple pleasures in life. I’m just about to round out month 2 of my year of grateful privilege and there’s no way I can survive this year if it’s all about being solemn, serious and self-flagellation (not a dirty word haha!) There’s joy in being woke, because the more I work to shake my head out of the sand, yes, I am seeing the shadows but also so much light”

So in March, I am marching TOWARDS the light. I want to find the humour. I want to start the party. I want to revel in the joy of being woke.

Please do come and follow me at @sarahmillerau – I would love to see you there!

Awesome Yiddish Words

I love words that sound like the action – especially when they lend themselves to be said with gusto!

For instance, I love the Indonesian word ‘sandal jepit’ (pronounced sandal jeh-pete) which means thongs/flip flops/jandals/sandals. The ‘jepit’ part of the word is exactly the sound that thongs make when you walk in them… try walking in thongs and not hearing ‘jepit’ now!

It is for this reason that I have a fascination with Yiddish words. They’re just so onomatopoeia-ish and delicious. Who doesn’t love saying ‘schmooze’. “Of course I don’t like these people, I’m just schmooooooooozing with them for the free canapés darling!”

I chose 12 of my favourite Yiddish words and matched them up to signs – because they just seem so universally applicable.


A Year of Grateful Privilege – January 2017

At the start of 2017, I was walking and thinking about how good my life was (I think it was that holiday euphoria) – and it occurred to me that so much of what I’m grateful comes to me out of privilege – whether that be the privilege of having white skin, or being part of the dominant culture.

So I started #ayearofgratefulprivilege – a little Instagram project to make the effort to express gratitude each day for things that would normally slide by – the stuff that underpins so much of my daily existence.

My hope was to build my own awareness of the unique challenges facing those who are disadvantaged by systematic racism. Also, I hoped it would help me to become a better HR professional, and design student – but more importantly – a better wife and mother in my interracial, interreligious, and all things inter marriage!

Well it’s February – so that’s 1 month down and 11 more to go in my year of grateful privilege.

What have I learnt so far?

There are great resources out there – so my ignorance definitely was not for a lack of information being available to me.

In fact, most of my awakening to white privilege was through experiencing life with my significant other who is not white. It was things like him getting pulled aside at airports when we were walking together – why just him? Or how service staff would suddenly become far more pleasant when they realised I was with him. This was what twigged me to it, but it’s definitely stuff I could have learnt about without having to experience it!

What’s stuck with me the most?

This quote from this article:

“You should know that … It’s not the job of those who are disadvantaged by white privilege to calmly educate white people about it.”

This certainly put a fire in my belly to keep going with the project.

Weirdest thing that’s happened?

Being asked if Adelaide is super racist because of my observations when I’m going about my daily life. Um, no. Adelaide is in fact far less overtly racist than Singapore, for instance. But of course it will sound racist if I’m talking about things that most people would usually ignore.

Best thing that’s happened?

Really awesome conversations that probably wouldn’t have happened before, because people didn’t really know that I was interested in this stuff.

What would I like to do next?

Keep posting every day and just see what comes up. An interesting side effect has been how finely tuned my spidey-sense is getting to interactions between people. I am keen to see what things I’m going to observe next that I would normally just ignore.

Please do come and follow me at @sarahmillerau – I would love to see you there!


Dream Big Process


You know those conversations that take a total of 2 minutes, but stick with you for hours and hours after? I had this amazing conversation today with a teenager who is entering those exciting years of their life where everything is a new possibility for where they might find success. We were talking about dreams/goals for 2017 and this teen’s dream is to be the best in their class and to win a particular competition.

I suggested perhaps there could be other dreams/goals for 2017 that are completely within their control… Not an action that requires a competition to decide or a ranking to prove (because there’s always going to be some better and worse than us). I suggested a goal like the number of hours of practice each week, spending time actually enjoying the task at hand.

Well the conversation didn’t end very well because to this young, ambitious firecracker, it felt like I was raining on their parade of big dreams. This teenager was just going to do what needed to be done to be the best and win – and that’s that. Why bother with menial stuff like focussing on practice hours?

I want so much for those big dreams to come true. But I also wanted to share a leg up in life – big dreams are actually arrived at by process. I wish I knew that earlier. I wish I was choosing things as a teen because I enjoyed the actual task, not just the outcome.

Process isn’t just getting to an outcome, it’s learning to be on the journey, it’s learning to learn, it’s learning to master, it’s being ok with failures and triumphs along the way, and realising that there is no destination – there is no end because it’s all part of the process.

The thing that’s stuck in my mind from this conversation is my background knowledge about this teen. They are desperate to be heard – desperate for success so that they can claim their worth. But without this building block of knowing how to engage in process, every new dream for this teen is like a ‘get rich quick’ (or more like get skills quick) scheme. And when they inevitably give up after not getting their big dream outcome, it’s another punch to their already fragile gut.

This hasn’t been sitting well with me, because not everyone can have the privilege of years of musical lessons, or sports coaching, or language lessons. These seem to me as a common place for children to learn the starter skills of process, and without those experiences or similar influences in someone’s life, where can they learn process fundamentals?

I don’t know.

But what I do know is that my tact will change, because I love talking to people about their pursuits. I’m going to start pronouncing that silent word that follows the phrase ‘Dream Big’. Because the real phrase, and the real path, to achieving goals and dreams is to dream big process.

I guess that’s where my head will have to rest at for the moment.

What do you think? How can the joy of process be shared if the glory of outcome is all we talk about? And what would you say to this teen?

Incorporating colour into black and white images

So, black and white will be the most powerful expression of a photo, but you also want some colour in there?

Well I have to say, I am not a fan of the one coloured element in the image, so here are some other examples of incorporating colour that I do think offer an elegant solution.








Emotional Conflict – How to show it without words?

How do artists depict emotional conflict without words? How do they show an individual facing opposing simultaneous emotions? How do they create the tension inherent to that situation?

Here are some images I found around the internet – some photos, some digital art, some paintings. To me they show more than one thing happening at once in the individual’s energy.



The double exposure and clever use of colour brings a lot of energy and movement.



The composite images are a really powerful adjustment to the form of the body. I especially like the ‘muzzle’ effect on the face.



This is an interesting look at the elements that make up someone, their interest etc. I like the background around the faces.



Two faces very cleverly placed on top of each other. It has an effect like there are multiple faces though and took me a while to figure out it’s actually only two!


Meghan Howland: http://artsyforager.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/Howland5-480×639.jpg

Translucent white skin, a dark background, upside down body and rising party balloons… so much going on here. So much tension!

Mona Hatoum: http://www.thephotophore.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/mona_hatoum_002.jpg

Mona Hatoum: http://www.thephotophore.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/mona_hatoum_002.jpg

Really clever use of scale.



This one looks like a stock photo – I wouldn’t say there is particularly an artistic touch, but it’s an interesting idea of showing emotions.

Jakub Kujawa: http://justimagine-ddoc.com/wp-content/gallery/time-and-emotions/jacub-kubawa-01.jpg

Jakub Kujawa: http://cdn.emptykingdom.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/Jakub-Kujawa_web30.jpg

Jakub Kujawa: https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/originals/e7/27/1d/e7271dee39c258dceee3138bdab9939a.jpg

These drawings by Jakub Kujawa have incredible tension and dynamics. The movement, the shading, the cross hatching.

Inspiration for an illustrative style

I would like to use a style that’s reminiscent of people’s sketched travel journals for my Digital Design assignment. Here’s some inspiration I found for travel journals, and watercolour vectors made in Adobe Illustrator.













Plenty of inspiration and examples to get me started with sketching…

Flying Circus – Landing on a Theme

Back to a new teaching period of uni, this time I’m studying Digital Design and Visual Communication.

Digital Design’s first assignment is ‘Flying Circus’, where we need to deck out 3 paper planes with digital designs in line with a theme.

So first things first, time to think of a theme…

The recent events with the election, and political climate has been on my mind a lot. I thought that it could be an interesting theme to explore, along with things like media and the use of fear. I also looked at how this all personally affects me, such as what travelling looks like for me as part of an interracial couple.

Eventually, after riffing on a few ideas, trying out a paper plane or two, I landed on the theme of ‘Three Homes’ which is how I feel about Australia, Singapore and Indonesia. I have 3 homes, but feel like I’m never home. It really does feel like a ‘flying circus’ when we’re pulled in so many directions by family, culture, jobs and preferences.

Here are moodboards I made to reflect each country:


Australia makes me think of space, wildlife, great wine, pesky flies and family.161120-moodboard-3-homes2

Singapore makes me think of great shopping, milo dinosaurs, tropical weather and family.161120-moodboard-3-homes3

And Indonesia reminds me of my favourite food, batik, unfortunately some poverty, and family.

So lots to love and celebrate about each of those places. Next step will be to decide on a plane fold and start sketching some ideas for each plane.


On people who ignore your invitation for coffee

They probably haven’t had to build networks outside of their home town, school and family who have connected them to opportunities.

They probably haven’t tried to branch out of a skill set or industry they already are connected in.

They probably don’t understand that even if they can’t do something like hire you, that just spending some time over a coffee, perhaps sharing a suggested connection or some insight, is so incredibly helpful too.

They probably don’t understand that taking the coffee invitation is a clear sign that generosity is a part of their character, and ultimately someone you’ll always hope to do a good turn.

They probably aren’t worth worrying about.

Being ignored sucks, but chasing people who lack empathy and generosity is even worse.

How do I know this? Because I have lovely, privileged, smart and powerful friends who I watch ignore invitations because they don’t get it, and have never needed to get it. I hope they will get it one day, and I hope, in the meantime, whoever is sending those invitations is moving right along without losing too much sleep.

The online shopping experience – is it really better?

I think I kind of just accepted that online shopping is convenient because that’s what we’re told.

Except I’ve recently moved offices and am no longer in a convenient location with the florist for the last minute present, or the dry cleaner for the drop off and pick up between the car park and office. And now I’m finding I have to find ways to get these services in ways that are out of hours and to sacrifice major chunks of weekend time to go somewhere, rather than just 5 minutes in the work day.

And online seems the perfect solution – except it isn’t.

In the first scenario of physically going to the shop, yes I am limited by time and location, but I get what I see, I get it right then and there, and I don’t have to fill out forms. I just exchange some money. It’s so simple. A 15 minute transaction.

But online – my god, it’s never simple! You have to find the item that kind of resembles what you probably would have asked for in real life, and agonise over the photos so you get something you’ll actually like when you see it in real life. And then you have to fill out at least 2 forms of payment details and delivery details. And then you have to work out your availability to accept the delivery (typically in business hours) and have to hold out for enjoying the item you have already paid for. For convenience, there seems to be an awful lot of pre-planning required, hard decision making, form filling-out, and waiting…

Is online shopping really that good? Or is it just the line we’ve been told? Is the truth that online shopping fixes overhead costs for businesses, but for customers, it doesn’t fix much at all?

This isn’t one of those posts where I have the answers. This is just a question that I am asking. And I think it raises some valid points about customer experience when online shopping isn’t really that convenient, and yet it seems to be the model so much is based on for ‘great customer experiences’. Not to say that shopping in physical spaces is the answer either. I just don’t think we’ve found the answer yet, and think this is a ripe space for some constructive dissatisfaction.