The art of belonging


The Art of Belonging


My daughter and I are in a craft shop and there are series of mindful colouring posters on sale. One reads ‘Bloom where you are planted’. Its naff, but there is something in the message that brings me to reflect on blooming wherever it is that you are planted.  On the Art of belonging.

My parents are civic minded. They are a part of their community. They belong because they a connected on many levels to the people and place they chose to raise our family. Growing up I saw first hand how it was done. This belonging thing was something I took for granted, being rooted in a place and a people seemed effortless to the child in me. I could not imagine life any other way.

Fast forward twenty years of growing up and I am faced with the challenge of cultivating in my own family that sense of belonging. And I have learnt that there is an art to this belonging. And it is an art to be cultivated.

I am the eldest child in a family of seven. My mother and father have worked and served side by side in the country town I was born into for much of their adult life. I went to the same preschool, primary school and secondary school. Growing up I was surrounded by friends I have no recollection of not knowing. I never knew what it was like to start at a new school, new church, new town. I never knew how it felt to be an outsider. I took for granted my belonging.

On the first day of school this year, my eldest daughter bounded into school with a look of sheer joy on her face. She turned to me as we walked amongst other parents and children saying hello and sharing tales of summer holidays. “Mum, I am so happy that I am coming back to the same school.” Her gratitude for belonging brought the limitations of our itinerant life into sharp focus.

What a precious gift this fleeting sense of belonging is to our girl. Precious because it is not how it has always been. Nor is it how it always will be.

You see, our eldest has never known what it is like to return to the same school after the summer break. She knows being the new kid, spending months figuring out who is who and where she fits. She knows being the kid who is lauded as resilient and adaptable, but does not know what it is like to belong effortlessly.

So how do we cultivate belonging in our family? There are a few things we have done over the years to surround ourselves with community in places that are not our own.

  1. Say Yes! to everything.

People will open their homes and lives to you if you just say yes. We have been humbled by the generosity and openheartedness of virtual strangers. They have invited us to be a part of their lives, their hobbies, their home towns and their friendship groups. We have said yes to Brazilian jujitsu, marching in parades, various sports, outdoor activities, community groups and a broad variety of faith communities. We have made it a general rule to withhold judgment and embrace these invitations and have found that good things come when you say yes (even when you feel like saying no).

  1. Build stability within your own family unit

We have been intentional over the years about giving our children a strong sense of what it means to be a citizen of our family. We have stuck with family traditions and customs that travel with us wherever we go. The rhythm of our week and year as a family has been grounding for us all. The simplest things, be they movie nights, advent calendars or a book before bed can nourish a family who are undergoing change.

  1. Find your tribe

We are a Christian family and have found that wherever we go we have been nurtured by our faith community. We have been blessed with pastoral care and instant community in places and with people that are foreign to us. We share a common faith. These communities have been a great comfort to us. We don’t however think that this is the only way to find your tribe. Any activity that allows you to gather with like minded individuals who share your values will place you in a tribe. Perhaps this looks like yoga and meditation to you, or a group bound by a shared love of sports, environmental action, or even a book group? The possibilities are endless, and boundless.

  1. Slow down and Hang out

We spend a lot of time in playgrounds, school yards and parks. Fresh air? Check. Physical activity? Check. New Friends? Check!

Some of our best friends, both big and little have been made in in public spaces. Life in apartments and town houses has forced us out into public spaces and what we have found in those places is a local community. We have found that if you slow down, linger a while, dawdle and daydream, that you will find others doing the same. These public spaces, the local park, the school yard, offer so much opportunity to connect to a place and to its people. After years of my girls saying “Lets go to the park and find some friends” I finally realise that they are way ahead of me. They are programmed to belong and form friendships, I am slowly learning from them.

  1. Encourage gratitude

When conversations arise, and they frequently do, about friendship and relocation we try to encourage gratitude for the grand adventure we are on. Yes, it is hard and sad to leave the friends and communities that we grow attached to. But, we remind ourselves and our children, how fortunate we are to have formed so many relationships and carry with us such varied treasured memories.

There is an art of belonging. With practice it brings an extraordinary and liberating confidence in our collective capacity to bloom where we are planted.



Support for one of our own – The family of Dr Pritzwald-Stegmann


Members of the ADSN where deeply sadden on the 28th June 2017 to hear the passing of Dr Patrick Pritzwald-Stegmann, 4 weeks after he was attacked outside his workplace hospital at Box Hill in Victoria. Hearing of the news members all echoed the same thoughts about a desire to help his wife. A collection was opened to raise money to give to Dr Patricks wife as a small gesture of help in this horrific time.

A total sum of $2,000 was raised by 27 members of the ADSN. The generosity was overwhelming. $200 was donated to The Foundation for Surgery at the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons towards their newly established Dr Patrick Pritzwald-Stegmann Cardiothoracic Young Achievers Award. $100 was used to send a fruit basket to Box Hill Hospital Staff, to acknowledge their loss. The remainder $1,700 was forwarded to Christine, his wife in form of gift cards (Woolworths, Colse and Gourmet Dinner Service). A card was sent along with many sympathy wishes from members.

Box Hill Hospital helped the ADSN to forward our gift to Christine. We were given confirmation from Eastern Health (Box Hill Hospital) that Karen Fox and David Plunkett from Eastern Health met up with Christine on August 18 and were able to give our gift to her then. They thanked us for our thoughts and extremely generous gift.

Our card had the following message:
Dear Christine, Elsa & Sophia,
We cannot even begin to understand what you are going through right now. We would like to offer our condolences to you and your family.
Please find enclosed a gift from us that we hope will help you in this difficult time and know that you are in our thoughts.
With Love, Australian Doctor’s Spouse Network

ADSN wants to say a huge thank you to everyone that donated, your generosity and support was overwhelming.



Receiving lump sum payments
dr tax

Lump sum payments received by healthcare practitioners –

Ordinary Income Not Capital Payments


The ATO are concerned about healthcare practitioners receiving lump sums and treating them as capital payments and have released a detailed fact sheet setting out what they expect to see in such situations.

If a healthcare practitioner (such as a doctor, dentist, physical therapist, radiologist or pharmacist) gets a lump sum payment from a healthcare centre operator, according to the ATO “it’s probably not a capital gain. It’s more likely to be ordinary income”.

Specifically, the lump sum will typically be ordinary income of the practitioner for providing services to their patients from the healthcare centre. Importantly, the mere fact the payment is a oneoff lump sum, or expressed to be principally consideration for the restraint imposed, for the goodwill or for the other terms or conditions, does not define it as having the character of a capital receipt.

Lump sum arrangements

In the healthcare services industry, it is now common for some practitioners to operate from healthcare centres run by third parties. This frequently occurs without any stated partnership or employment relationship between the third party and the practitioner.

The third parties that run these centres generally encourage practitioners to start work or continue to work from their centres. They may offer lump sum payments for this purpose and there is nothing wrong with that. Our concerns relate to the tax treatment of the lump sum payments by the practitioner.

The ATO’s concerns may affect you if your arrangements have most or all of the following features:

  • A healthcare centre operator provides you with fully equipped consulting rooms, administrative services, clerical staff and facilities as necessary for you to provide healthcare services. The agreements entered into typically state that there is no employment relationship between you and the operator.
  • In return for these facilities and services, you are required to pay the operator an agreed percentage of the receipts for the healthcare services you provide.
  • You are required to provide healthcare services from the healthcare centre for an agreed minimum period of time, minimum weekly working hours and working patterns.
  • You are required to use your best endeavours to grow and promote the interests of the healthcare centre.
  • The operator pays you a lump sum
    • it is described as being consideration for a restraint imposed, for goodwill, for other terms or conditions, or for a combination of the three
    • the payment is ordinarily made when you enter into the agreement or start to provide healthcare services to patients from the healthcare centre (whichever is the later) or whenever the agreements relating to the provision of healthcare services are renewed.

Whilst these are common features, any other arrangements that relate to a lump sum payment for your ongoing provision of healthcare services from a medical centre may still be of concern to the ATO.

If you are considering any arrangements that relate to a lump sum payment for commencing or providing ongoing healthcare services, you should note that the ATO:

  • have concerns with those payments being mistakenly treated as capital gains
  • are looking closely at these arrangements to determine if they are compliant with income tax laws and whether the anti-avoidance provisions may apply.

The ATO are aware that some practitioners are using a private ruling that was issued to another taxpayer:

  • You can only rely on a private ruling if you applied for it.
  • From 2013, the ATO have consistently issued private rulings on these or similar arrangements treating the whole of the lump sum payment as assessable ordinary income.

If you think this may affect you, we can help you work out what you need to do.  Call Stellar Accounts on 07 3359 0014.


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Doctor’s deductions


Doctors – is your Accountant Claiming all the

Deductions You are entitled to?

Work-related self-education

Work-related self-education expenses are a key deduction for Doctors.  It is important that you have a system in place for tracking all your education costs, including

  • textbooks
  • materials
  • course/seminar fees
  • home-office computers and furniture for study
  • photocopying costs
  • student services fees, and
  • course-attendance-travel costs.


Other work-related expenses

Other work-related expenses cover many types of expenses that you incur in the process of earning your assessable income.

This might include:

  • purchasing a briefcase
  • buying a stethoscope and other equipment
  • phone and internet expenses
  • travel and accommodation costs for attending a conference
  • membership fees for professional associations
  • journal subscription fees; and
  • insurance and medical registration fees

Remember, when claiming a work-related expense, you must have already paid for it yourself and not been reimbursed by your employer for the cost.


Home-based work expenses

As medical practitioner, if you work from home at times, you might be able to claim for expenses such as:

  • using your computer,
  • phone, and
  • internet for work purposes.

Heating, cooling, lighting, office-equipment depreciation, and at-home professional library could all be tax deductible expense.

However, you can only claim for the portion of the expense that’s used for work purposes.


Vehicle Expenses

Travel costs you may be able to claim can include:

  • travel between hospitals or medical centres for work.
  • travelling to do work in remote, rural, or interstate areas, and
  • travel for functions and events that are related to your work.

If you attend and present at a function or conference for example, you might be able to claim for everything from airfares, accommodation, meals and the cost of having conference materials printed out.

If you travelled partly for work and partly for personal reasons, you can only claim on the part that was for work purposes. Note that if your home is a base of employment in that you started your work at home and then travelled to a workplace in continuation of the work, you could claim for these travel expenses.

Maintain a logbook to ensure you can claim all vehicle expenses including:

  • Fuel
  • Registration
  • Insurance
  • Maintenance
  • Interest on car loan
  • Depreciation

In Summary

Speak to a professional to ensure you get all the deductions you are entitled to.

The most important tip is, if you purchased a good/service for work purposes, keep your receipts and discuss the ability to claim this as a deduction at income tax time.

At Stellar Accounts we are always looking for ways to minimise tax for our clients.

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Discretionary Trusts
Conceptual symbold home made from black and white hands isolated over white backgroundConceptual symbold home made from black and white hands isolated over white background

Discretionary Trusts – are they the new company?


Thinking you have outgrown your soletrader status? Looking to minimise your tax? Have you considered entering into a Family Trust structure?

The term family trust refers to a discretionary trust set up to hold a family’s assets or to conduct a family business. Generally, they are established for asset protection or tax purposes.

What is a Family Trust in Australia?

An Australian family trust:

  • is generally established by a family member for the benefit of members of the ‘family group’;
  • can be the subject of a family trust election which provides it with certain tax advantages, provided that the trust passes the family control test and makes distributions of trust income only to beneficiaries of the trust who are within the ‘family group’;
  • can assist in protecting the family group’s assets from the liabilities of one or more of the family members (for instance, in the event of a family member’s bankruptcy or insolvency);
  • provides a mechanism to pass family assets to future generations; and
  • can provide a means of accessing favourable taxation treatment by ensuring all family members use their income tax “tax-free thresholds”.

A family trust has many other potential benefits, including avoiding issues such as challenges to the will following a death of a senior member of the family.

Tax Implications

Companies are currently taxed at 28.5% from the first $.

Trusts on the other hand, are not taxed. Instead, the profits are distributed to beneficiaries of the trust and are then taxed at individual marginal tax rates – ie each beneficiary is entitled to the $18200 tax free threshold.

For example – a business ends the year with a 75000 profit –

Company – $75000 @ 28.5% = $21375

Trust with 3 beneficiaries – 75000/3 = $25000 is distributed to each beneficiary resulting in them paying $1292 each in tax – a saving of $17499 in tax.

Yes – this is a simplistic view of a basic trust – and yes – there are rules around taxing of minors etc – but it is definitely something to consider when your business starts to grow bigger and bigger.

Call Stellar Accounts today for advice and assistance on the best business structure to suit your needs.


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Our Network and the New Year
January 15, 2016


I’m sitting here in freezing in Cincinnati, Ohio. Weather app says -12. That’s freakin’ cold! School was delayed by 2 hours today because of severe temperatures. This fellowship we are on has been such an adventure. As it winds down (we have 5 months left), I have begun to appreciate so much more about the area we live in. I’m realising that the next move back to Australia will be the last intercity/interstate/international move we make. We will settle down and try to put down our family roots. This training journey has been quite the ride.

So this month while I’ve been lighting fires, watching the snow fall, and getting hit by snowballs, I’ve been contemplating the New Year, resolutions, the passing of time and changing seasons. Next year the youngest of my 3 kids will start kindergarten and Niall will be working in private practice. A new season of my life will begin. I’m not sure what it means, or what it will bring, but I’m excited.

When Amanda and I started ADSN 3 years ago, (actually we went through a couple of name changes before it became ADSN- that’s another story!) we had a simple goal. We wanted to connect the thousands of spouses that were on this journey with us. Before ADSN, I would move to a new city and spend months fumbling my way around, attempting to make friends, looking for things to do. I would look at these huge hospitals full of doctors and think to myself- Where do all the spouses hide? What are they doing right now?

ADSN was certainly an answer to that question. We’ve connected spouses from all specialties, backgrounds, and walks of life. The craziest part of this journey is seeing what an amazing, diverse, skilled, and passionate group of people are going through life married to medicine. Most of us are not doctors ourselves but will spend the rest of our lives tied to a person who takes care of strangers. They will work long hours, they will study forever, they will be called away from us during important family events, and they will lose sleep over their patients. We will attempt to be their rock. We will love and support them even when we feel like screaming WHAT ABOUT ME?!!!!

Now what? Is that it? Is our network just a place where we can come when we have a question about accountants or accommodation or a place we come to bitch and moan about moving again? I hope not.

We became a team. We cared hard for each other. We banded together. We turned to each other in our darkest moments. We listened to each other with real compassion. We tried really hard to enjoy the journey we are on. We reached out and created community. We fostered lifelong friendships. We became mentors and mentees. We became a force for good in our communities.

My dream for 2016 and beyond is that this little network becomes more. I want to support you and I want you to support me. So where do we go from here? I don’t really know. Can we do this? Can the spouses of Australian and New Zealand doctors make a difference? I know we can. A little cheesy maybe, but I love and care about all of you. I thank you for showing me that I’m not alone and that even when it’s hard, it’s possible.

Share Your Journey! Spouse Q & A
October 14, 2015

Spouse Q & A

From time to time, we share a spouse's journey on our website to encourage the rest of us. We'd love to hear from you and share your experiences with the Network. You can answer as much or as little as you like. Thanks in advance!
  • Tell us about your family
  • This will be seen and used by ADSN admins only.