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Category Archives: Social Justice

Indigenous suicide prevention in the Digital Age

By Judith Crispin

Aboriginal Australians are dying. Needlessly.

We are losing three Aboriginal people a week to suicide, from a population that is just over half a million, and an Indigenous person is four times more likely to take their own life than a non-Indigenous person.

I am working with the Warlpiri community of Lajamanu in the Tanami Desert to create an Indigenous suicide prevention app.

The app will be called ‘Kurdiji’ (shield, or to protect). It takes its name from a body of Warlpiri knowledge normally transmitted as part of the Kurdiji initiation ceremonies for young people. The Kurdiji ideas have been successfully used by the Warlpiri to increase resilience and prevent suicide.

When a young man committed suicide in 2005 in the remote community of Lajamanu, local Warlpiri elders said ‘Enough is enough’. With help from friends, Lajamanu established the Milpirri festival to spread the traditional ideas of ‘Kurdiji’  among their young people. They began to fight for every single young Indigenous life in their community. Since 2005 there hasn’t been a single suicide in Lajamanu.

Now those same elders want to bring Kurdiji into the digital age with a community created app based on stories, ceremonies and law. They want to fight for all Aboriginal lives, not just those in remote or traditional communities. They have partnered with an expert team including technologists, photographers and a leading clinical psychologist from The Black Dog Institute.

As a community led project, it’s tricky to find operational costs so we’ve launched a crowdfunding campaign on GoFundMe. We’re trying to find ways now to spread the word about our campaign. We’ve got a great video with Indigenous actor Uncle Jack Charles and we hope that you can share our video and let your networks know about the campaign. You can see the film on our GoFundMe page at www.kurdijiproject.com and on the Kurdiji web page.

Aboriginal suicide rates are at the level of an epidemic, and a genuinely community-led technological approach hasn’t been tried before – so we’re in unknown territory to some degree. Your help in spreading the word about our campaign will make an enormous difference.

 

Turning our backs on cultural diversity: thoughts on Harmony Week

By Jane Salmon

Growing up in bland suburban 50s, 60s and 70s middle-class Australia was all about enforced conservative norms.

You fitted in or were teased. You moved around in private cars where possible and kept to suburbs as uniform as possible. You treated foreign foods like spaghetti as exotic. When travelling, you were blithely ignorant of the benefits of tabouleh while strenuously fearful of being offered eating sheep’s eyes by Arabs. You were even assured you had nothing to personally feel “Sorry” about, whether or not you believe it. You stereotyped yourself by size, height, blondeness, occupation or interests: a Brady Bunch or Womens Weekly style template. You also mentally dismissed “chinks”, “gooks”, “wogs”, Nazis and Jews, “Abos”, males and females. To some extent, you still do. Privately.

These days Harmony Week is supposed to make a dent in the Aussie Anglophile smug. It’s generally a festival of traditional national food, music, costumes and dance.

Does it create change and encourage us to accept the gifts of other civilisations and cultures or does it reinforce difference?

“Harmony” seems needed more than ever.

Many Australians seem only too keen to accept Trump’s or Hanson’s permission to be selfish, angry, ignorant, unaware, fearful and above all, racist.

Despite SBS and the internet, far too many Aussies are opting for a festival of ignorance-fuelled fear and hatred right now. Exploring extreme stereotypes seems so much more satisfying than accepting the ordinariness of peace-loving people who just happen to grow up in different countries.

Refugees and migrants “take” jobs rather than “create” them. Many voters tacitly concur that resources are finite and that any generosity will cost them, that  every transaction is part of a zero sum game, that you cannot grow the pie.

The belief that bigger demands on the rich to share wealth will harm the economy is well established. Far better to punish the vulnerable poor.

On Wednesday, IWD, a pro-refugee group of volunteers called “People Just Like Us” solicited members of the public to put messages of welcome to refugees on a sculpted metal tree made to celebrate Harmony Week. The work was sponsored by City of Sydney and completed by refugees.

The group has a level of fellowship. There is artist Jason Koh who came from Singapore 20 years ago. There is Angelika Treichler who was raised in post war Germany. Joyce Fu is from Taiwan. Fabia Claridge is from everywhere.

The sculptor is an Iranian called Majet. I also enjoyed meeting Amir, a smiling and very cultured estate agent whose achievements in Australia began with learning English and then representing his own immigration case in the Federal Court.

Passers-by either seemed to wholeheartedly embrace the concepts represented by leaflets and tree or to passively resent and ignore them. There was very little in between.

Many folk seem to avoid any challenge to their immediate preoccupations, goals and/or prejudices.

Getting past white entitlement is hard to do. We still fear difference. I still bumble and fumble the interactions, emphasising difference.

A phalanx of private school boys paraded past our demonstration yesterday. Their disinterest was polite. The blonde, slim, be-whistles teacher seemed warier of controversy than they.

But yesterday a few lovely folk had the leisure and grace to stop and chat. They seemed to be widely travelled, warm, educated and thoughtful.

One tourist sadly told me about the rise of COP18 & extreme National Front groups in poor parts of Britain, of polarisation that seems to grow out of poverty and ignorance. Brexit voters had no idea of the implications, he said.  Nostalgia and nationalism are a heady mix. Colonialism and world wars are based on racist stereotypes.

Our government detains vulnerable men, women and children on Nauru. They isolate visa overstayers as hostages offshore in indefinite detention in our name. This seems to be at great expense to taxpayers and to mutual respect, trust and even peace. Australians can somehow afford to bomb Syria and Syrians from the air, to force people to stagnate in camps, but not find positive ways to embrace them when they coming looking for a fresh start.

Every one of us can take a step on the road to Harmony by getting to know a wider range of people. If you have time, wander down to Customs House on Sunday. Enjoy the cultural riches that newcomers bestow upon our country. Hear about the reasons ordinary folk flee extremists in their own homelands. Look a detainee of four years in the eye. See the needless damage and also celebrate all that they have achieved since.

Perhaps they’re not so dangerous after all.

And maybe we can all afford compose a message on a coloured leaf and tie it to an already bristling tree.

I’ll be there to enjoy dance and music, poetry (whether traditional or slam), build bonds and see those leaves of welcome burgeoning on every branch.

Hope you’ll join us.

 

Shelton blames it on the gays

Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) managing director, Lyle Shelton, had the shock of his life when he checked out the RSVP’s to his show, Making sense of our time with Lyle Shelton, on the morning of Tuesday, 21 February 2017. While his administrators were sleeping (or busy drafting homophobic PowerPoint slides), the internet went wild.

Approximately one thousand ‘activists’ were keen to send a message to the out-and-proud, anti-LGBTI crusader, and registered over 54,000 fake people to attend the event held at the Melbourne Heathmont Baptist Church on 25 February 2017. There was ‘Hugh Janus’, ‘Alternative Facts’, ‘Dolan Turmp’, ‘Lotsa Butthurt’ and ‘Lyle Shelton has a very scary face and I don’t like it’, to name just a few.

The epic trolling received a horrified reaction from Shelton. Disgusted by the rude, crude, satirical and comical made-up names, Shelton took the opportunity to blame the gays and cry victim. In fact, such was his fear of The Gay, Shelton felt compelled to hire three security guards to keep him safe from any foul-mouthed, filthy activists who might bother turning up to the event to hurl hurtful, made-up names at him.

While Shelton was busy being precious about his feelings, telling media the RSVP’s included “the foulest, most degrading, most obscene written forms of communication I have seen in my life,” he spares little thought for the consequences of his relentless vilification of the LGBTI community.

Satirical identity and the initiator of the RSVP campaign, Pauline Pantsdown, says that the “capacity of Lyle Shelton and the Australian Christian Lobby to falsely paint themselves as victims knows no bounds” and that it is “no surprise that the ACL attempts to reverse this narrative when activists oppose their frightening and dangerous behaviour”.

Pantsdown further states that the ACL has previously made “documented false statements about ‘death threats’ in relation to an earlier protest involving the Mercure Hotel” and that Shelton “[rubbished] federal police investigations about a suicide attempt because [ACL] weren’t painted as being victims”. Shelton’s victim mentality has now extended so far as to hire three security guards because “someone RSVP’d to their event as ‘Ben Dover’.”

Despite some of the names being undoubtedly obscene and likely to cause moral indignation and outrage, the campaign was entirely harmless; unlike the ACL’s agenda. Claiming to be a Christian organization, Shelton uses his position to further his personal vendetta, rather than fostering a caring, inclusive and compassionate society. Given Shelton’s open condemnation of the LGBTI community, it is little wonder he jumped at the chance to hold them entirely responsible for his angst over a few rude words.

But while Shelton was momentarily morally violated by the obscenities, the impacts of the ACL’s campaigns have far more serious consequences.

Shelton has a history of obsessing about the gay community, with approximately 69% of his Tweets anti-LGBTI. Terrified that people will think he’s gay,  he jumps at the opportunity to discuss LGBTI issues, hiding his anti-gay rhetoric behind faux-concern for ‘the children’.

He is a fierce opponent of same-sex marriage and the anti-bullying Safe Schools program, and is critical of other conservatives for not standing up to LGBTI community and the “unthinkable things” they support. He believes that implementing programs to address the high levels of bullying of LGBTI students is based on a “terrible ideology”, comparing the LGBTI movement to the rise of the Nazi’s in the 1930’s.

However it seems that Shelton is only concerned with the wellbeing of heteronormative children.

Pauline Pantsdown states that the ACL is “an organisation that places vulnerable transgender children under direct threat” and has “screwed up photographs of transgender children, re-photographed them and re-published them as a source of derision. Some government publications of lists of schools that support transgender children were withdrawn after children were harassed at schools, yet Shelton and his team continue to relentlessly hammer politicians to give them access to these lists.”

LGBTI people have significantly poorer mental health and higher rates of suicide than other Australians, with discrimination and exclusion key causal factors. The average age of the first suicide attempt is only 16 years of age.

Shelton’s gross overreaction to the ridiculous RSVP trolling provides a good insight as to what he considers to be acceptable ‘Christian’ behaviour: Obscene language and sexual references are morally reprehensible, even if no one is harmed, and divisive, anti-gay campaigns which contribute to the suicide of young people are perfectly fine as long as there is no profanity.

 

 

The Case for a National Service Peace Corps

By Robert Wood

At present, the Australian Defence Force has 58,000 personnel. Presently, the Defence Force budget is projected to spend $32bn in 2016/17.

By comparison, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has an operating budget of $1.6bn and there are approximately one million Australians who no longer call Australia home.

When taken together, we have a significant number of resources at our disposal to employ for the greater good. How we use them, will determine what impact we make on the world.

In the eyes of the international, diplomatic community, which leans overwhelmingly transatlantic, Africa is the problem continent. There is an industry that regards Africa as something to be saved, fixed or sorted out. There is, of course, an inviting parallel that has been made between it and Aboriginal communities in Australia.

Although this could be important in terms of the natural resources versus living standards paradox, it fails to apprehend the historical specificity of each and as such does a disservice to what is possible in both places. Africa is complex, diverse and rich, just like Aboriginal Australia.

We must, of course, recognise the endogenous forms of economic activity and the styles of life that exist in ‘slums’ or ‘the developing world’. One might wave a flag of cultural relativism as some sort of excuse not to intervene, but we can also see that everyone wants a basic level of decency and often some type of improvement.

In philosopher Raymond Geuss’ terms of reference, they want their needs met. Needs are above and beyond simple rights. They are the most basic fundamentals.

In a globalised world, first wave social movements to protect people’s needs, labour movements to safeguard workers’ pay and schemes promoting fair livelihoods, need to be front and centre.

To understand and improve the lives of the two billion who live on less than $2 per day, means leveraging the state to become an active participant in rules and regulations that counteract exploitation as well as encouraging programs that directly improve livelihoods.

How we change the specific situations of the most vulnerable depends on where we put ourselves. But central to this must be, addressing how women, young girls and those who don’t identify in a gender binary way, are treated. This includes thinking about maternal health, infanticide, work opportunities, wage equality and social expectations.

The burden still falls heavily on the shoulders of the poor and women in particular. To attend to these problems we must ask: what has worked in the past? What will work tomorrow? The answer to that will depend on one’s source base and the lens of interpretation.

In a very basic sense though, what makes our world safer and better to live in, is the combined efforts of people around the world to provide certainty, lawfulness and opportunity.

That is the role of the government.

In this regard, it is a great advantage to acknowledge that Australia is a middling power with people who have come from all over the world. We would do well to remember that. We would do well to be true to ourselves when we look at our nation from outside of it.

We can choose to be caught in the middle, betwixt and between; or, we can choose to become a respected broker and find a new path through the centre. We can choose to invite people to our common ground to discuss ideas, policy and plans for working together; or, we can choose to remain isolated and hawkish.

To be a world leader, we must jettison once and for all our image as the poor white man of Asia. We must not tolerate the racism that continues to define us. We must continue to make ours a rainbow nation that leads in health, education, the environment, equity, defence, foreign affairs, trade, lifestyle and happiness.

And we need to be active. We need to intervene in the best possible way in the affairs of the world. That means re-defining our defence force, our diplomatic corps and getting our diaspora working together.

Our Armed Services need to be redefined and redeployed as a force for community development in a way that is essentially pacifist. Although I do not favour the complete elimination of armed services, I do think we need to ensure our military is active in building infrastructure and human capital rather than simply fighting other nations. There is a civilian, unarmed, non-combatant service in Austria, Denmark, Norway, Switzerland and Mexico.

The national service I favour, is a one year stint that has three months of basic military training and a nine-month posting in places that need support and development. This is similar to the Peace Corps program that the United States government runs, and could be read as an expansion of AusAid’s Youth Ambassadors for Development Program (AYAD).

The United States Peace Corps is one of their gifts to the world. Established in 1961 by John F Kennedy, the aim of the Peace Corps is:

“To promote world peace and friendship through a Peace Corps, which shall make available to interested countries and areas men and women of the United States qualified for service abroad and willing to serve, under conditions of hardship if necessary, to help the peoples of such countries and areas in meeting their needs for trained manpower.”

To be certain, one could read it as being a soft power play during the midst of the Cold War and to deny that would be naïve. However, that does not stop it from doing absolutely necessary and vital work while also being a great character building exercise for its volunteers.

As present The US Peace Corps has programs that include malaria prevention, environmental engagement and crisis response. Their environmental engagement includes protected area management, education and awareness, and forestry programs, all of which aim at cultivating a more sustainable use of natural resources.

National service in Australia would enable the creation of citizens who care about the problems of the world, and solving them in a collaborative, active and meaningful way.

It would give exposure to life styles that are unlike those of the suburbs; it would connect with people of different cultures and experiences.

It would provide direction to young people and create a cohesive national identity through good work.

Surely that is something we can all get behind.

Robert Wood’s writing has been published in numerous literary and academic journals. He has interned for Overland,  edited for Peril and Cordite, been a columnist for Cultural Weekly. At present he works for The Centre for Stories. 

The Rise of the Far Right

By Christian Marx

Australia and indeed the world is under threat from the dangerous eugenics of the far right. Their sick Neoliberal policies of extreme attacks on the poor, pensioners, social services and their theft of public services, via privatization will bring our society to its knees.

The only way they are able to get followers is via racial hatred and bigotry. Many people would never vote away their rights and working conditions…but those that are afraid of other nationalities, religions and different demographics will support a party that taps into their own hatred for the other, even if the consequences for their own wellbeing are catastrophic.

Neoliberalism has decimated society since it first reared its ugly head in the mainstream political arena in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The legacy of both Thatcher in the U.K and Reagan in the United States has pushed tens of millions into poverty. Hospitals are being starved of taxpayer money, as are schools, and much of the money is being funnelled into subsidizing the likes of Gina Rinehart and Rupert Murdoch.

Tax payers` money is being syphoned and given to these parasites, but so long as the ignorant and fearful have someone to hate, all rational thought goes out the window. In the words of George Carlin, “The rich don`t give a f*ck about you…they want it all and they are gonna get it!”

Our media is rotten to the core, but some are worse than others. Murdoch is lower than festering faeces in the sewer, but many other so called “centrist” media are also guilty of shooting themselves in the foot.

Yes Trump has lied and is just another big shot Neoliberal businessman who has already filled his cabinet with Goldman Sachs puppets. No different from Clinton in that respect…but media never called out her disgusting war crimes such as the assassination of Gadaffi, nor did they ever expose the lies of Obama and his drone wars. The hypocrisy of the media has been one of the causes of the rise of the far right.

The other main cause is the disaffection of the capitalist system itself. It is a FAILING system and is at its end stage and the elites know this. So many hard working people are suffering, and millions are being pushed into unemployment and underemployment. Meanwhile the 1% gorge themselves on the carcass of the state and its social services. They privatize our health, smash the pensioners, privatize job agencies (which are anti employment) and just suck huge money from government coffers. Much of our infrastructure, real estate and farmland is being sold to rich foreign investors. This IS treason!

Unfortunately many battlers who have been smashed by capitalism believe the lies that Islam is going to implement Sharia Law or that climate change is a communist plot to take over the world!  No, people have got to start doing some research and asking hard questions of this government. ALL our problems stem from corporate greed and the complete corruption of both sides of government. (Two right wing parties) designed to protect the vested interests of big mining magnates and multinational corporations.

The language of print has also been hijacked by the far right. This is very reminiscent of George Orwell`s, 1984. The meaning of language is being twisted. This is known as doublespeak. Some classic examples of modern day twisting are phrases such as “regressive left” and “left wing Fascists”. Both slogans are a contradiction in terms and are an oxymoron.

The creeping of religion into government is also very disturbing. The Australian populace are being conditioned to fear Islam, but the real danger is hard line Catholicism infecting our democracy. The U.S have this via the nefarious Tea Party, a group of free market zealots financed by the evil Koch brothers, who cloak their ideology behind Christian fundamentalism. In Australia we have hardline senators in the LNP party hiding behind the Christian religion to enact their destructive Neoliberal, free market fundamentalism.

Thugs such as Cory Bernardi are only interested in one thing, protecting big business at the expense of the majority of Australian citizens. They can get away with this by dividing the populace and trying to instil their medieval religious extremism into the mainstream.

Beware the far right. They use hate and division to seek your submission and continue their rampant theft of tax payers` money and the destruction of social services.

Christian Marx is a political and social activist interested in making the world a fairer place. He has a Bachelor of Social Science and has a keen interest in Sociology, politics and history. He was one of the organizers of the March in March rallies in Melbourne and is the founder of the progressive news and information page, “Don`t Look At This Page”

Ignore Joyce and Roberts – talk to the reasonable people that have not been persuaded

​Based on the size of the protests and the media commentary, it appears that momentum is building to change the date of Australia Day. Not to cancel Australia Day and deny the country a day of national pride and celebration (despite what some extreme right perspectives would have you believe), just to move it to a day that is more inclusive and sensitive towards the first Australians. On some occasions, social change can be government-led, when we are governed by statesmen of vision and integrity (don’t laugh – it has happened, just rarely under a Liberal government). However Australia at this time is not governed by such people so it will be up to the people to lead the government. For this reason, it is important that the Change the Date campaign works hard to garner as much support as possible.

But political movements will often garner a political response (I know that change for change’s sake isn’t always good, but just for a moment imagine a blissful world without conservatives) and just as interesting as the protests and articles in favour of changing the date, were the responses and arguments against change. Because it is these arguments and concerns that must be answered if you want to change people’s minds.

Barnaby Joyce looked a strong frontrunner to take out the award for most obnoxious response with his rant telling those people that didn’t want to celebrate Australia Day to crawl under a rock or something similar. But of course I had not counted on the political caricature that is Malcolm Roberts. Now I wouldn’t underestimate Roberts’ lack of class anymore, but even my high expectations of his ignorance were exceeded when he made his bizarre tirade about Labour Day, which must have been based on the following premises:
1) those who were protesting the date of Australia Day all vote Labor, I assume, and even more incredibly for a politician who one might expect to know a little about these kinds of things;
2) that Labour Day has anything to do with the ALP.

But aside from drawing attention to the fact that Joyce, Roberts and their ilk go straight to personal attacks and provide no credible reason for their position at all, I’m not going to focus on these type of response any further. Because there are many reasonable Australians who are still uncomfortable with changing the date and they just need to be persuaded, not berated. Indeed, while I was ambivalent towards the date previously, I have to admit that I have only really come around to the idea that the date should be changed in the past year. With that in mind, I thought I would consider what is it about the Change the Date campaign that many Australians are still resistant to and how the campaign might break down these obstacles to bring more of the community along with them.

It is not a debate about the legitimacy of Australia and the right to celebrate being Australian.

An interesting point about the language of this debate is that the specific pros and cons of changing the date are quite rarely spoken of. This debate could have a considerably different complexion if it stuck strictly to the merits of the proposition. Now I wholly accept that Indigenous Australians have every right to protest and express anger over their past treatment and the ongoing issues facing their community. However I am not sure that it is effective in building community support for changing Australia Day (I’ll emphasis again that I realise many activists are protesting more than just a change of date but this article is focused specifically on this campaign). Indigenous affairs is after all much too big an issue to cover as whole with any detail in a single article.

Why do I say it doesn’t help? Because it is very confrontational and aggressive. The movement does not need to demonstrate the depth of its anger to make its point. It has a strong argument that could convince a lot of people as long as it is delivered carefully. I have written previously that I believe the best way to change someone’s perspective is through dispassionate engagement that shows you respect them enough that they don’t need to feel defensive and can think more clearly about what you are saying.

People whose ancestry does not go back to settlement times do not feel a guilt or responsibility for what happened at that time, but many of them have considerable pride and love for their country. Attacking Australian symbols such as the flag or the anthem- whether or not you think they are anachronistic – will generate hostility from some people who might otherwise not be difficult to convince (I fully expect to draw some criticism for this statement but if I was just going to write what I thought people wanted to read, I may as well write for Rupert Murdoch. It also allows scope for those who strongly oppose a change to push the narrative that this is just the start and that if we allow a change of date, we are committing to an endless series of placatory measures with increasing impact on our Australian identity (I will explain later that I don’t think much of this argument, but it can be persuasive to some if we give it the right preconditions).

If newer Australians feel no responsibility for the actions of the first settlers, they also can’t have a strong historical attachment for the date, January 26. I would suggest that if you were to dispassionately ask the question of whether someone has any objections to changing the date of Australia Day so that more Australians can feel included in the celebration, a considerable number might be forced to agree. In those terms it is difficult for someone with much empathy to actually disagree. Certainly, few would raise strong objections (the most likely of which I will consider next) that you couldn’t perhaps talk through and demonstrate were unfounded.

Aren’t there bigger issues?

Some people also are held up by the fact that this is only a symbolic change. But the thing about symbols is they mean different things to different people. There are many symbolic dates (Christmas, Remembrance Day, etc) that many of the same people would say are very important; so it is imperative we are not so egocentric as to dismiss symbolism just because we can’t personally see the importance to others.

And yes there are bigger issues facing Indigenous Australians, so why has this captured my interest so much? The answer is simple. This is an easy way to make a lot of people more comfortable with their national identity at a cost to no one. Why aren’t I worried about incarceration and mortality rates? I am, but they are very complicated problems that I don’t have a quick answer for. But isn’t it possible to work towards two things at once? If you have the answer to solving Indigenous education, health or incarceration rates, I’ll probably support that too, but this is not an argument against changing the date. The two are not mutually exclusive. That is a false choice that a lot of people fall for. I have to admit that in 2016, I kind of bought into the same false choice, which was part of the reason I wrote then that I didn’t agree with changing the date.

I noticed comments from several Indigenous commentators have come out against the Change the Date protests making this exact false choice. Does this invalidate the desire of many to change the date? Of course not- that would be like suggesting a feminist argument to be invalidated when another woman disagrees with them, without considering the argument itself. Certainly they are as qualified (if not more) to speak on the matter as anyone, but right to speak does not replace the need for a logical argument. And as I said earlier, the false choice between caring about inequality and wanting to change the date is not actually an argument in itself. It is a comment that more effort needs to be spent on other areas of Indigenous affairs.

In actual fact, very few arguments have been raised that actually explain why moving the date would be a bad idea. Sure, Barnaby Joyce can rant about whatever he wants, but no one has actually said why changing the date of Australia Day would be a bad thing, without resorting to lazy jingoism and calling people who disagree ‘unaustralian.’

If we change the date what will we have to change next?

Changing the date of Australia Day will not magically fix the present issues of inequality facing Indigenous Australians. Just last month, the United Nations special rapporteur described the health conditions of some Indigenous communities as worse than in the third world. Neither will changing the date be the end of protest and demonstration over aboriginal rights. Many Indigenous Australians will continue to harbour anger over their historical treatment for generations to come.

In light of this, a concern I imagine many Australians may have is where does it end?  Will the next campaign focus on a formal treaty, changing the national anthem, the flag or something more controversial? Whether or not you believe these further measures are also appropriate (and I acknowledge that to many they are), it would be tangential of me to go into detail here. But in grouping all of these changes together as an all-or-nothing proposition, we are succumbing to some rhetorical sleight of hand known as a slippery slope argument.

I have been pretty disdainful of these types of arguments in the past because they are lazy and oblique. They treat tenuous unsubstantiated premises as factual. There is no logically compelling reason that changing the date commits you or the country to anything other than changing the date. Each proposal will be judged on its merits at the time. Changing the date of Australia Day is appropriate now. Perhaps in the future community sentiment will be such that we will seriously consider further changes out of respect to the first Australians. If you have arguments for why we shouldn’t change the anthem or the flag, save them for when they are relevant. For now give me a reason not to change the date itself.

Conclusion
There will always be some who stand against the tide of history (hello conservatives, that is pretty much always you), but the more time goes on the lonelier they will get on this issue.  If you take an analytical approach to the arguments for and against moving the date, it is pretty hard to refute. There is actually remarkably little in the way of compelling argument against changing the date. However if people are upset or unhappy with the campaign itself, it becomes an emotional not an analytical decision and is easier for them to be persuaded by the right wing hyperbole around the issue.

 

Walk for freedom soon to reach Canberra

Media release

Walk for Freedom Reaches Canberra 4th Feb, 2017

Event: Completion of 1194km ‘Walk for (Refugee) Freedom” from Adelaide to Federal Parliament, Canberra ACT

Date: Sat 4 Feb 2017 11.30am to 4pm. 

Adam Richards and son Ned Thorn are walking 1194km from Adelaide to Canberra to raise awareness about the plight of asylum seekers in Australia’s offshore detention centres, to close the camps and #bringthemhere.

A convoy of supporters in cars from all over the country who have been accompanying them for stages of the journey will converge in Canberra on Saturday 4th February when the walkers complete the final day of their arduous 1194km walk in baking summer heat.

There will be a rally with speakers and a march to Federal Parliament House followed by a boat flotilla to mark their arrival.

Adam Richards is an Adelaide lawyer. Son Ned is a very thoughtful and aware 13 year old. Over recent years, Adam was increasingly concerned by the plight of refugees and our treatment of those indefinitely detained on Manus and Nauru. His disgust grew. Adam was losing his pride in this great country of ours. Adam could see that the country he knew growing up – the land of the “fair go” — disappearing fast as he watched.  He once stated that he owed it “to my children to fight for the Australia I love, and that’s the Australia that gives people a compassionate welcome.”

Blistered and aching, this dedicated duo are completing this journey crossing 4 states. Adam’s sentiments amplify the concerns of many in the Australian community, including walk supporters and coordinators.

Adam walked out of Adelaide with Ned on 28 December 2016 and has marched an average of 30km per day ever since. His walk is about regaining national self-respect, hence the “Walk for Aussie Pride”. The total distance of 1194 km will be walked on their 38 day trek. They will arrive in Canberra on the 4th February 2017.

“Our goal is to put increasing pressure on the government to close our offshore detention camps on Manus and Nauru”, said Adam.

“Over 80% of refugees on these islands have been assessed as genuine, despite the Government’s new processing strategies which lean towards setting refugees up for failure.

“Australia is also not meeting its current international obligations and is in contravention of all the following UN Conventions and treaties: the UN Human Rights Convention, the UN Convention on Refugees, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant of Economic, Social and Cultural Right, the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

“We also have laws and principles that are built into our own justice system as part of common law that apply to all that are accused of or convicted of crimes in this nation. This applies equally to citizens, tourists or people coming into our country by any means. For example, everyone has the right to access legal advice as well as the right to a fair trial. Our law also states people must not be imprisoned without due process. As such, we are also in contravention of our own laws”, said Adam.

Close the camps now and #bringthemhere. #canberrawalk.

Event: Sat 4 Feb 2017, Canberra.

11.30am onwards: walkers and cars arrive at Mint Oval, Denison St, Deakin, ACT.

12 Noon: Boat-making at Mint Oval

1.00pm: March (Route 1) departs on foot. Takes in The Lodge. Maps available.

2.00pm: March Arrives Federal Parliament House.

Three Speakers outside AFP.

2.40pm: Walk (map Route 2) from Parliament directly to Lake Burley Griffin to launch symbolic boat regatta.

3.15pm: Boat regatta at Lake at 40 Queen Elizabeth Terrace (map available).  

4:00pm: Concludes 

Key speakers include: Anthea Falkenburg, Adam Richards, Fr Rod Bower, Dr John Minns, John Hargreaves, Chris Schmidt. Contact details below.

A symbolic “boat regatta” on Lake Burley Griffin will also coincide with the completion of Adam’s long and arduous walk. Great images will be available on the day from noon until 4pm.

Ned Thorn and supporters will remain for the opening of Federal Parliament on Tuesday 7 February 2017.  Adam is due back at work in Adelaide. However, young Ned and fellow activists will present the petition to the Australian Federal Parliament, with the names that have been collected during his walk, and by other activists on the car convoy and elsewhere. (Times at Australian Federal Parliament building to be clarified).

Contact Event and Media Coordinator

Chris Schmidt:

Mobile 0429 472 691

Email: canberrarally@gmail.com.

Twitter

#bringthemhere

#canberrawalk

Facebook Event Page

https://www.facebook.com/events/1874866759318497/

Lawyers Call for a Royal Commission into Manus and Nauru Deaths

Media Release

Sydney, Australia – 25 Dec, 16 – 10am

In the wake of the latest death (acknowledged in Brisbane on 24.12.16) of Faysal Ishak Ahmed, a 27-year-old Sudanese refugee held on Manus Island the National Justice Project, the not-for-profit human rights law centre in Sydney, has demanded a prompt inquest into the circumstances of the death and called on the Australian Government to institute a Royal Commission into the miserable level of medical care that refugees receive on Manus and Nauru.

Adjunct Professor George Newhouse, Principal Solicitor of the National Justice Project and a Professor of Law at Macquarie University, said, “I send my condolences to the family of this young man. Tragically, he is the latest victim of a systemically cruel and inhumane system designed and operated by the Australian Government.”

“We have many vulnerable clients on Manus and Nauru are not receiving adequate healthcare and we are consistently working and taking action on their behalf. It appears that Faysal did not receive appropriate treatment for his condition and we now have another death that was likely to have been entirely avoidable.”

“This is the tip of the iceberg. The government consistently delays necessary medical treatment, often until it is too late. Evidence given at the Coronial inquest into Hamid Khazaei’s death has confirmed that the government’s political manoeuvring can be fatal.  An inquest would determine whether the Government’s actions, poor medical care or both contributed to Fayzal’s death but they take time and how many more individuals will die waiting for the government to act on such recommendations.

A Royal Commission with broader enquiry powers into the provision of health care on Nauru and Manus is necessary to lift the lid on this scandalous state of affairs” Newhouse said.

Professor Newhouse continued, “The Minister for Immigration is on record complaining of a War on Christmas. Where is this government’s spirit of charity and love for the most desperate and vulnerable people in the world at this time?”

The NJP has called for an investigation into Faysal’s death by the Queensland Coroner, as well as an investigation into the death of Rakhib Khan, who died waiting for a medical evacuation from Nauru earlier this year.

The National Justice Project has already successfully sued Peter Dutton and the Department of Immigration for negligence on behalf of a young woman who was raped and fell pregnant on Nauru (the S99 Federal Court case in May 2016).

The NJP also has dozens of cases of individuals and families suffering in pain without proper care or treatment.

When so many outstanding neglect cases are taken into account, together with the deaths of Hamed Khazaei, Rakib Khan and now Faysal Ahmed it is clear that there is an urgent need for a broader enquiry – with Royal Commission powers – into the provision of health and medical care on Nauru and Manus Island.

Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed – John 3:20. 

ABOUT THE NATIONAL JUSTICE PROJECT

The National Justice Project is a not for profit legal organisation. We combine strategic legal action with effective advocacy to advance human rights and social justice in Australia and in the Pacific Region.

For further information please visit our website – www.justice.org.au

 

Family challenges David Dungay death in custody reports

By Jane Salmon

Protest the Aboriginal Death in Custody of David Dungay (at Long Bay on December 29, 2015).

A rally was held today Thursday 22nd December 2016 in Sydney.

It involved a march from Central Station (Country Trains) to Department of Corrective Services in Lee Street Sydney City

The walk stopped at Harry Deane Building at 20 Lee Street Sydney – about 200 metres from Central Station

Speaking was Leetona Dungay (the mother of David Dungay). Many other Dungay relatives were in attendance.

Leetona Dunga’s speech notes include details about his death (restraint asphyxia when held face down into a mattress by guards at Long Bay).

NSW Police and Department of Corrective Services have issued reports concluding that there was nothing suspicious about David Dungay’s death.

There is also a candlelight vigil at Town Hall on 29 December to mark the passing of a year since David Dungay’s unnecessary death.

The matter is still before the Coroner and has not been listed. It will probably get a hearing late 2017 or early 2018.

The lawyers for the case are Duncan Fine and Professor George Newhouse of the National Justice Project.

Speech by Leetona Dungay at Sydney rally on 22 December 2016.

Hello, or as my people say, Ghymaghayal.

First I want to thank the traditional owners of the land where we are right now – the Ghadagal people of the Eora Nation.

I am here today – we are all here today to honour and remember a beautiful young man called David Dungay Junior.

He was my son.

David was a warrior. Like his dad. Like my people from up near Kempsey.

David died in Long Bay Prison Hospital on the evening of 29 January 2015.

He was a Dunghutti man from Kempsey.

It is hard to believe that today in Australia this type of thing is still happening.

But I stand here before you as the mother of a son who was taken away from me when he was still just a kid – when he was just 26 years old.

David was about three weeks away from release on parole at the time of his death.

He had entered the adult prison system at age nineteen and had nearly completed a seven-year sentence.

Memory is very important in all cultures. But especially in our culture. Aboriginal culture.

We have to remember who we are as a people.

David Junior was born on 2 October 1989 in Kempsey. His early life was tough but he was very loved by his close-knit family.

David Junior enjoyed schooling, music and was an excellent sportsman.

At about age six he was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes. But the Durri Aboriginal Medical Service in Kempsey looked after him.

David Jnr took responsibility and looked after himself and his diabetes and took his own blood sugar levels in the morning and at night. He always carried jelly beans and biscuits so he could look after himself.

But in prison they just don’t look after you properly.

One day a prison officer saw David Jnr eating biscuits in his cell.

The officer, who knew that David Jnr was a diabetic, but still he ordered him to stop eating the biscuits but David was unable to comply with his order.

My son was overpowered and restrained by at least four officers applying force.

Why?

Why is this happening?

Why is this happening in Australia today?

Why are we locking up our proud young Aboriginal men in prison?

How many of them need to die?

This is 2016 – not 1816 or 1916.

We need to get angry.

We need to have our voices heard.

We have lawyers working for us at the National Justice Project in Sydney and we are going to find out. And the people who did this to my son, they are going to be held accountable.

The Aboriginal people of Australia need to take a stand.

Because there’s too many mothers like me who have lost their sons.

This is our land.

No more young Aboriginal men – like my beautiful son David – to die in jail.

And that’s how we can best honour my son’s memory.

I want to thank all the people who have been helping me for a year now since David Junior passed away:

  • The Vocational College
  • Many Rivers
  • Aboriginal Women Prevention Unit
  • Marcy Hoskin
  • Raul Bassi
  • Ken Kenny
  • Elizabeth Jarret
  • Amber Champen

Finally, I want to say it has now been just about one full year since David passed away.

And we are still waiting for all the documents and all the files so that our lawyers can make sure justice is going to be done. But that is going to happen pretty soon. And then next year we are going to get a fair hearing in front of the Coroner and I know the Coroner is going to find out the truth. And the people who did this to David are going to be brought to justice.

All we want is justice.

Thank you.

 

Politicians shame children for caring about others

You may have noticed yesterday’s minor furore over primary school children sending a petition to various politicians protesting the vileness, criminality and inhumanity of off-shore detention policies.

The children didn’t use those words of course, rather they asked that politicians show concern for children in off-shore detention and resettle them. They also sent drawings expressing their distress on behalf of detained children.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten claimed that eight-year-olds should be writing to Santa not getting up petitions, and federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham expressed his wish that the teachers involved be hunted down and disciplined for aiding and abetting the children’s budding awareness of human rights. Children should not be “politicised,” it was bipartisanly agreed.

Off-shore detention policies are inescapably political: it is impossible to “politicise” what is inherently political. Shorten, Birmingham et al should be owning the shamefulness of their policies, rather than shaming children for objecting and protesting.

Of course politicians don’t want children knowing, let alone caring, about the crimes and misdemeanours they continue to commit against humanity in the interests of attaining and maintaining power. However, in my experience children are far more aware of the world than most of us give them credit for. They need tools with which to deal with the deceits and duplicities of politicians, and politicians have only themselves to blame for this parlous situation.

What is most wickedly deceptive and destructive is the conflation of concern for the welfare of others with so-called  “politicisation.” We’ve had decades of contempt for “lefty bleeding hearts.” We have now reached a stage at which anyone expressing concern over the state (and compliant media) treatment of refugees, asylum seekers, Indigenous Australians, those struggling with poverty, mental health, disability and the myriad other challenges people face in a country in which increasingly the only concerns that matter are those of the alpha white male and his consort, is immediately accused of the manufactured offence of “politicisation.” Or my particular favourite, Political Correctness Gone Mad (PCGM).

Do we really want to grow children who believe that caring about the fate of others is something to be ashamed of?

The abysmal legal and moral failure by both major parties to fulfil their responsibilities to asylum seekers and refugees under both international and domestic law is the core problem, not children or anyone else protesting this failure.

If you want your children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, children you know and or teach to become aware of the human rights of others, I recommend this rather lovely book, titled 2030 Not a Fairytale. In 2015 world leaders adopted the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, setting seventeen Global Goals to be attained by 2030. These goals are simply explained to young children, and are an excellent introduction to caring about the world they’ll inherit and the people in it.

I know I’m being dangerously subversive, suggesting the politicisation of children. Shoot me.

As for whether or not the 2030 goals will be attained, and the usefulness or otherwise of world leaders at the UN setting them, that’s another story we have to tell children at another time. First, let’s brainwash them into caring.

This article was originally published on No Place For Sheep.

 

We need to focus on justice for refugees, not ignore it

By Kerry Fressard

In the wake of two days of non-violent peaceful protest at Parliament, some sensationalist and hyperbolic media outlets have failed to address the issue behind the protests. That is, the bipartisan support for human rights abuses, sexual and physical assault, and trauma occurring in Australia’s offshore detention centres.

In order to refocus the discourse surrounding the protest it is important to focus on the issue at hand. Offshore detention is (intentionally) cruel, expensive, and does not effectively reduce suffering and loss of life.

Offshore detention is misguided as a deterrent. The argument put forward by the government is that detaining asylum seekers who attempt to come to Australia via boat on Manus Island, Christmas Island and Nauru saves lives and prevents suffering. As the government refuses to provide the public who elects them and pays their salary with information surrounding ‘on water’ matters we cannot say, or know, if it has been an effective deterrent. Furthermore, we certainly cannot make a strong case that it has in fact saved lives and reduced the suffering of asylum seekers. However, we can categorically confirm the abuse and torture of refugees and asylum seekers illegally held on offshore detention centres. Refugees have died in offshore detention, women have been sexually assaulted and raped, children have faced physical and emotional abuse, and a large proportion of those held in offshore detention suffer from emotional and psychological trauma as a result of their detainment. The suffering in offshore detention centres has been highlighted in the media, through Senate inquiries, in reports by NGOs and the United Nations Human Rights Commission, in accounts provided by doctors and teachers that have worked in the centres, and by the detainees themselves.

There are alternatives to the current policy of offshore detention. Community based processing is less harmful to asylum seekers and would cost a fraction of the $4-5 billion spent every year on offshore detention. Regional solutions such as processing refugees and asylum seekers before they attempt the journey by boat to Australia would most certainly act as a deterrent to risky boat journeys. Key to all alternatives is that they are timely, that asylum seekers are processed quickly so they can begin building their futures and moving on with their lives. It is important to ask why it is that these policies have not been implemented. Is it that the government and opposition are actually aiming to deter people fleeing war zones and persecution from seeking asylum in Australia at all? If so, I hope people reflect on the cruelty of such a move by politicians who consistently purport to be fighting to give people a fair go.

Significantly, the vast majority of the people being illegally detained offshore have been found to be refugees. These people deserve empathy and compassion and should be evacuated from the offshore detention centres immediately.

Media that does not address these issues and instead focuses on protester conduct is failing to report on the serious maltreatment and abuse of asylum seekers and refugees at the hands of Australian government policy. Surely, Australia’s inhumane treatment of people fleeing from persecution is more important than the appearance of protesters or exposes on the number of protests that the members of the group have previously participated in. Because of the wilful ignorance and failure to focus on crimes committed in offshore detention, such outlets are in some part complicit in the abuse of asylum seekers and refugees.

A key role of the fourth estate is to investigate and report on the actions of the political elite that act in our names. The main story to come out of the two days of protest at Parliament House is not whether we restrict public access to the building, nor it is the personal lives of the human rights advocates involved, but rather that there remains to be bipartisan support for the abuse and torture of refugees held illegally on Manus Island, Christmas Island and Nauru. The camps remain open, people’s lives hang in the balance, and their futures remain uncertain. Forget the spin, sensationalism and hyperbole, and let us focus on providing justice and freedom for refugees and asylum seekers.

 

I am a Racist – Live with it!

By Nader Galil

“My name is Nader and I am a racist*!” (think alcoholics anonymous)!

I am also a cheat, a liar, I’m selfish and I’m a hypocrite. These are essentially ordinary human traits that lay within us all to varying degrees. Although we’re inaccurately taught to see these as defining personality characteristics, it is important to recognise these as behavioural “states” that reveal themselves depending on an individual’s personal and/or social circumstances. We are quick to generalise and label when in reality it is often an individual’s own subjective view of an encounter or exchange with another.

“Until a problem is recognised and defined it cannot be corrected to bring about (positive) change”

Behavioural psychology acknowledges that a child will form over 80% of their worldview by the age of 8, and that this worldview directly corresponds to the same neurological pathways in adult decision making. For example, selfishness (or self-righteousness) in adults is related to a child’s sense of entitlement, and lying (generally) can be related to our survival instinct – to create a positive outcome like avoiding a fight, getting out of trouble or gaining some sort of advantage. These behaviours become part of our “default” attitudes as they are automatic responses from the subconscious mind.

From a behavioural perspective, racism works exactly the same way; the difference is that it enters the subconscious chronologically at a later stage (as does sexism, homophobism and other learnt behaviours). The attitude is a direct a result of environment, and is reinforced covertly through social conditioning, education, media, etc. It resides with the subconscious and is triggered by external circumstances that an individual is confronted with.

So, what is racism and why is it so obvious to some and not so to others?

The word “Racism” is a highly subjective term that can be easier understood when its mechanism is broken down into two general behavioural forms – Explicit and Implicit.

Explicit racism is the devil you know. It refers to the fringe of society who are proud of their disposition and openly express their superiority over other races, creeds and cultures. Their psychology and worldview is obvious and thankfully only make up the fringe of society. These proud racists are generally contained and don’t pose a massive threat to the balance of social tolerance.

Implicit racism is the devil we don’t know and fundamentally affects society at large. On the surface, it seems less sinister but is actually far more dangerous as it is deeply rooted in the subconscious and is generally unrecognisable. Its true danger lies in the way that it is quickly and easily radicalised into its explicit form and provides a clear path for figures like Donald Trump and Pauline Hanson who use their xenophobic rhetoric to penetrate the mainstream. If anything positive can be taken from the US election result, it is the realisation that racism is at least tolerated en masse by half of the greatest power in the world. Paradoxically, most Trump supporters would not identify themselves as racists and would be outraged at the accusation of being called such.

As with so many social ills, we are intent on addressing racism at its “effect” stage without even considering why it actually exists in the first place. We often hear that “Education is the key,” and although there is merit in the statement, its application is fatally flawed as it is the type and timing of the education that is symptomatic of the problem. Movements like ‘Black Lives Matter’ and FIFA’s “RESPECT” campaign can bring the issue front of mind (the conscious), but racism is embedded at the back (the subconscious) so we are effectively ‘shooting at the wrong target’! In the end, they prove futile as they do not address these deeply harboured values and beliefs at the core level.

Racism can be more accurately defined as an “Unconscious Bias” as Euro-centrism is anchored in our subconscious…

Society is taught that it is exclusively Europeans that have contributed anything significant to the world; that all the technologies, freedoms and comforts that we enjoy today are a result of European initiatives and ingenuity. This attitude is the breeding ground for this implicit, subconscial form of racism which leads to the misconception that the European mind is superior to any other race.

When we add the lack of Indigenous appreciation and education in European settled lands, our self-righteous attitude becomes that of: “This is our God given right to the land – the natives weren’t doing anything before we arrived – We developed and civilised this country and put it on the map! It is us who made this country great!”

A great example of our Euro-centric education is when we refer to a time from the 6th until the 14th centuries as the “Dark and Middle Ages” – where apparently, nothing happened in the world! When Europe was stagnated, uncivilised and barbaric, very few know that this was actually a “Golden Age” for both the Islamic and Chinese worlds. The modern world as we know it was born in this time. The Islamic world is directly credited for bringing about ‘The Renaissance’ and hauling Europe out of its Medieval quagmire.

This was a time when the Islamic and Arab world established highly advanced and intellectual societies; where European scholars and academics flocked to places like Baghdad and Córdoba to learn medicine, the sciences, philosophy and every other discipline taught at universities today. We enjoy turning on our computers because of a Persian mathematician named Al-Khwārizmī’s discovery of the algorithm! The Chinese also made many advances in farming, nautical equipment, warfare, the printing press, paper currency and precise time keepers.

Euro-centrism extends it hand to religion as well. How else can we believe that the man, born of the Arab Semitic tribe in Bethlehem, has white skin, straight blonde hair and blue eyes?

Question: Would racism even be possible in Christian lands if Jesus was portrayed as a Semitic man (i.e. Dark skin, dark curly hair and dark eyes)?

Euro-centrism teaches an overwhelming importance on Europe and distorts historical facts to suit European ideals. This supports the belief that European lives are valued over all others and is desensitised en masse to atrocities inflicted upon non-Europeans. This was clearly demonstrated in November 2015, when millions of Facebookers were empathetically mobilised to place the Tricolore filter over their profiles in solidarity with France while remaining complicit in their silence when atrocities were inflicted upon the innocent of Africa, Asia and the Middle East. We love to buy into Euro-centrism and to accept these initiatives in the pretext of human compassion which only serves to reinforce its supremacy through actions like this.

Are we actually interested in ridding the world of racism?

The unfortunate answer is an overwhelming “NO!” We enter the same cycle of creating new initiatives that have never effectively provided real solutions – and we do this expecting different (positive) results. Unless Euro-centrism is not corrected in our history books and media, and replaced with truth and historical facts, it is actually unreasonable to expect attitudes to change!

Euro-centrism breeds racism wherever it exists, so one must conclude that if we are not mature enough as a society to address racism at its core then we must be accepting to the fact that…

“We are all racist, and we need to live with it!”

*Racism exists the world over and it is not exclusive to Europeans or to those of European heritage. This article is directed towards Europe and European settled countries.

Nader Galil is a business/life coach whose passion lies in helping people with personal issues by unblocking pathways to bring about positive change. With a corporate background and experience both here and in Europe, he has been able to gain a deep understanding of different cultures and anthropology. His interest in understanding human behaviour has led him to studying Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP) and is currently studying his Bachelors Degree in Psychology. Nader’s other articles include “What is Love? (Love and its Evolution)”, “The First Generation Aussie Social Dilemma” and “Being a Better You” just to name a few.

 

Is there a prescription drug shortage we don’t know about?

I’m on drugs. The legal kind. Earlier this year one of my specialists suggested to me I fill my prescription whether I needed a refill or not as there was a nationwide shortage of the drug. In Australia? Yes. So I dutifully filled my prescription. Doing so required a number of visits to local pharmacies, but one had a small supply left. The next time I needed a repeat, I was given a substitute drug. I didn’t think too much of all this at the time, but my experience then shows this is not now a new problem.

Last week I needed two drug prescriptions refilled. Pharmacy 1 – no supply of either. Pharmacy 2 – no supply of either but could order Drug A in for collection the next day from another pharmacy. Pharmacy 3 – no supply of either. Pharmacy 4 – had Drug A (so I kept that in mind in case Pharmacy 2’s order failed) and was able to substitute Drug B for me with another brand, something Pharmacy 3 had specifically told me they could not do without another prescription.

So I eventually got both drugs but it took two days, four pharmacies and a substitute drug. Not to mention the time and the travel costs involved. Yes, I could have called around, but I was already out of the house, so just kept going. Had no local pharmacy been able to supply, I’d have gone home and hit the phone.

Tell me again, I do live in a rich western country, don’t I?

When I returned to Pharmacy 2 the following day to collect Drug A, I asked why were these shortages occurring. The pharmacist told me it is because the government has lowered the prices they will pay the pharmaceutical companies to the point there is no profit in selling the drugs to Australia. Consequently they send their production to countries where sales are more profitable. If demand is higher elsewhere, Australia misses out.There is no profit in drugs for the pharmacy either, I was told. That explains why pharmacies are selling so much other “stuff” these days.

The pharmacist pointed to several heavily laden shelves. “Diabetes drugs”, I was told. Ordered in bulk to protect the health of their regular diabetes patients, because the pharmacy expects a drug shortage.

I don’t understand how the system works. Maybe I should, but I don’t – and I suggest the majority of the population don’t know the finer details. We get a prescription, we go get it filled, we take the drugs. We cringe if it is something not on the PBS. That’s about all of the process most of us delve into. I did read the following on the PBS website, titled “Setting an approved ex-manufacturer price for new or extended listings“. At that point I decided I wasn’t the woman for the job.

Price negotiations with the responsible person for new or changed listings are undertaken by the Pricing Section on behalf of the Minister, following a positive PBAC recommendation.  A Cost Information (PB11b) form is required to be submitted by the responsible person as part of the initial application to the PBAC.

 

After a price has been negotiated, the responsible person is requested to submit a Request for Approved Ex-manufacturer Price (PB11a) form in order to formalise the price offer.  The responsible person is then notified by email when the Minister has formally agreed to the negotiated price.

Who pays for the drugs? The government or the pharmacies? Do the pharmacies act as distribution centres? I thought the PBS provided subsidies: perhaps I am wrong. I’m not sure I want to understand. What I do know is that as a patient prescribed medication by my medical specialists, I expect to be able to get that medication without the risk of politically induced shortages – or pharmaceutical company avarice. I don’t begrudge the companies achieving a profit, businesses running at a loss don’t stay in business for very long. Greed is not good, despite Gordon Gekko‘s beliefs – or the current competition on Melbourne’s Gold 103.4 radio station.

The first time I experienced a shortage with Drug A, I asked the specialist was there an alternative. He said yes, there was, but the side effects were pretty undesirable (my words, not his) and he’d prefer to avoid prescribing it.

I think of all the chronic condition patients in this country and wonder what the future holds.

In 2007-08, around 15% of people in the 0-24 age group reported having either asthma, type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, cerebrovascular disease, arthritis, osteoporosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, depression or high blood pressure.

We read about the horrific medical costs in the USA and watch the Australian government undermine universal health.

I only questioned one pharmacist but what I heard was enough to cause concern and I have no reason to doubt the sincerity of the speaker. Is there a mainstream investigative journalist who will take up the challenge to find out the truth? Do readers have similar experiences to share?

What it is REALLY like to be unemployed

Unemployed. If there has been any day in my 61.5 years of life when I’ve felt it is all just too much, yesterday was that day. Today is not much better. While sharing the pain I feel publicly may further hinder my employment prospects (is that even possible?) I share in the hope my experience may help others know they are not alone and may, just may, encourage some employers and recruitment agents to rethink their approach to candidates. The government also needs to walk a mile in my shoes, then tell me I can get a job and they can safely cut the Newstart Allowance. And yes, Grace Collier, I am training to start my own business – if I can hold my body together. Holding my body together costs money.

Where to start? Some background for context, perhaps. I was diagnosed late 2014/early 2015 with autoimmune (AI) conditions. Nothing I can’t manage, providing I can AFFORD to manage them. In my experience, AI conditions can take a lot of time and money to manage to the point where I look and feel normal (photo supplied as evidence). With a couple of exceptions: I can no longer sit for hours without moving, like a good little accountant should. I have to move reasonably often.

In June 2015 I was made redundant. In September 2015 I secured a new job which lasted a massively long six weeks. It seemed to boil down to the fact I refused to get my hair cut short, but I was called at home and told not to go back in, by “mutual agreement”. It was indeed mutual, as I found it a very toxic environment and had already contacted the recruitment agency with my concerns. The agency had encouraged me to “hold on until January”, which I had tried to do.

Having been made redundant in June then effectively fired (for the first time in my working life) in October, I wasn’t feeling very good psychologically. Off to the psychologist who was my saviour and the GP for anxiety medication.

AI needs time to manage properly, so a senior management role is no longer an option for me. Given the medical situation Centrelink have me in the disability support stream of job seekers to provide additional employment assistance – but most of that assistance seems only to kick in AFTER I secure a job, such as they can provide a sit-stand desk. In all the time I’ve been with this Job Search Provider, I have been referred for ONE interview! ONE! The Job Search Provider network seems, to me, to be more about meeting the contractual compliance obligation paperwork to “earn” their revenue (funded by the taxpayer) than actually finding work for the unemployed. That is an analysis for another day. When I ended up in tears one day I was told to go and get a medical certificate to exempt me from job hunting. I was in tears because I DON’T HAVE A JOB! Getting a medical certificate to stop me looking for a job wasn’t going to improve the situation!

I started studying a Diploma of Fitness Coaching with the objective of setting up my own business providing training to people like myself who need exercise for pain control/management. I understand what it is like to not be able to move first thing in the morning and I know the benefits exercise has provided me. My doctors (of whom I have a battalion) all support my business plan. Getting the qualification, however has proven difficult. Registered training organisations (RTOs) seem to me to be of a similar ilk in many instances to the Job Search Provider network. I need 120 hours of practical placement and within that be able to train five people for about six weeks to complete a final assignment. That is just one complication: we were told on enrollment we would be able to work after six months of the twelve month course (obviously an attractive proposition to an unemployed person). Well, yes, if we can find someone to employ us without insurance. I’m a CPA – am I likely to do that? Anyway, really, a minor problem. I just don’t need people like Grace Collier telling me to “start my own business” – I’m trying, but I’d like to stay alive in the meantime.

I am under the care of four specialists: endocrinologist, rheumatologist, dermatologist and gastroenterologist. Then there is my GP (who thankfully bulk-bills), my physiotherapist and massage therapist. Luckily these days I see the specialists less frequently than I used to: every three or six months, but they are not cheap. Yes, Medicare covers some of the cost, but the patient still has to pay up-front. No, I am not going the public health system route with chronic conditions unless I absolutely have to, because I need this team of specialists to provide continuity of care, not be seeing a different one of each specialty each visit. The specialists’ visits vary between $120 and $180 a visit. Then I am to have three skin biopsies next month – that’s not cheap either. At one stage I was having endoscopies every six months: private patient with health insurance I may soon have to give up. Not to mention the travel costs to see all these health professionals.

Then there is the cost of the prescriptions: because I have a pension card (thanks Centrelink, I really needed to be reminded you think I am a hopeless case too old for a Health Care Card) these are reduced to $5.20, but the other supplements, like fish oil, glucosamine, Vitamin D, magnesium etc are not. I get a Pharmaceutical Allowance of $3.10 a week.

Are you stressed out so far just reading this? Actually, NONE of that is too bad. With exercise I am rebuilding my muscle strength (working on hip adductor strength at the moment for the physically inclined among you) and keep the pain away almost 100% of the time. Until my stress levels get too high and cause a flare.

Job hunting is the most stressful thing in my life. Ever. Worse than the suicides of my parents or my four divorces. The four divorces? That’s why I am not independently wealthy at my age, which is what people like Scott Morrison no doubt expect. Pity I’m not a famous film star – they always seem to stay rich after divorces. I digress.

Let me share some examples that stand out in my mind. One major hospital interviewed me for a job I really was very keen on. They didn’t employ me, but subsequently interviewed one of my ex-staff for the same position and asked her about me. They did tell me to keep applying for other jobs at the hospital. So I did. Never got one. In the end you dread being the resume the HR staff member looks at and goes “oh, no, not her AGAIN!” and automatically throws your resume in the reject pile. So I don’t apply to that organisation any more.

The government department that sends you an email stating you were “in this instance rated non-competitive” and then sends you a follow-up email of how to break the government job application code/secret.

The private, family owned company who did a phone interview with me for forty minutes and invited me to a job interview the next day for which I had to take a day off work from my then eight week contract position (so lost a day’s pay)  – and never got back to me to tell me I didn’t have the job, despite promising to contact me the following week. They ALWAYS promise to be in touch tomorrow, by the end of the week, next week….. they lie. If recruiters actually interview an applicant, surely they can have the common courtesy to notify the applicant of the outcome?

The state government authority that wrote to tell me a job I had applied for had been withdrawn. When I saw it advertised again a fortnight later I wrote and asked if I could submit another application. Oh yes, was the response, “but please note the criteria includes specific knowledge of our INTERNAL computer system”. Then why advertise externally? Policy requirements, yes, I know. Easy to circumvent by framing the selection criteria in such a way only an internal applicant will qualify.

The sporting body that sends you an email with a subject line of “Not this time around…”. I accept that if you haven’t been unemployed for twelve months, the subject line might not bother you. When it is just another in a long line of rejections, the impact is harsh.

The legal firm that promises second round interviews will be held in two weeks time and unsuccessful applicants will be notified with feedback. Dead silence.

Over time, the rejections become just too damaging to the soul. What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger? No, I’m sorry, not always true. As a very wise psychologist once said to me, the reality is more like water dripping on a stone – eventually the stone wears away. There comes times when you just can’t bear another rejection. Hiding under the doona with digital dragons is less soul-destroying than applying for yet another job you won’t get.

Then there is Centrelink demanding a certain number of job applications per week. Just to meet the KPIs. It doesn’t matter if the jobs are suitable, just anything to meet the numbers. Naturally, this results in more rejections which heightens the stress levels.

Network, they say. So you do. You contact people you have worked with in the past via the professional version of Facebook. Dead silence. That is depressing, because you think you had a good working relationship with many of those people – but that was in many cases years ago – perhaps they no longer even remember you, although you remember them. Thank you to the few that did respond, I appreciate it.

Younger people tell me today’s recruitment environment requires that applicants follow-up as it shows interest to the recruiter. In my day that was frowned upon, just was not done. So while I do it, it goes against every fibre of my upbringing. More stress.

Other advice I am given – change my resume. Basically, turn it into a lie. I can’t do that, I can’t lie about who I am – I don’t want to work for people to whom I have to pretend I’m something I’m not. I am a CPA, I have skills and experience which, while I may not be able to work 100% as a desk jockey any more, I can still use. My brain still works, damn it. Also another thing that wasn’t done when I was growing up.

When I was in my twenties, if you got the job you were most likely offered the job at the end of the interview. Yes, I know the competition is greater today, I know unemployment is higher – all those logical points don’t reduce the stress of being unemployed.

I’ve joked no-one wants to employ their mothers. Hiring managers are predominantly mid-thirties to mid-forties. And woe-betide you if you want a less senior role for medical reasons. These days people want carbon copies of the previous incumbent of a position, nothing more, nothing less. If an applicant doesn’t fit the mould: rejection. The knowledge that in most cases the recruiter only has time to read the first three lines of any application, if that, isn’t comforting.

I’m scared. Scared I will never get a job, scared I won’t be able to pay my medical bills and will therefore not be able to keep my AI conditions controlled. Scared I’ll never have my own private space again. Yes, I don’t even have my own space. Thanks to the generosity of my wonderful daughter and her equally wonderful husband, I have a roof over my head – but it costs me $120 a month to have my stuff in storage. I am 61, I want my own space! I feel I am interrupting their lives and it makes me cringe inside. I’ve been independent since I was 15 years old – this is an adjustment I am not dealing with well at all. More stress. There is no-where I could rent for less than the Newstart Allowance of $264.35 a week and still pay for food, utilities and medical care.

There is a known relationship between stress and AI conditions. The doctors say over and over “reduce the stress in your life”. Yesterday was a day when the stress boiled over and the pain had flared. The physiotherapist sent me home to lay on a heat pack and I woke this morning with a very sore back. She also strongly suggested I revisit my psychologist and was concerned I hadn’t had a massage (money considerations). I went to the psychologist’s office and made an appointment. As I got back in my car, a gust of wind slammed the car door into the side of my head. I burst into tears for the umpteenth time that day, I came home (missing class), lay on the heat pack and took a Serepax – the first I’ve taken in months. Physiotherapist suggests I touch base with my rheumatologist….. in other words, she is suggesting I have a condition flare. First in over six months.

How do I REALLY feel? As if life has no point any more. No-one needs me, no-one wants me. I have no social life: a social life is expensive and I have no idea how much longer I have to survive on what little money I do have. I feel I am a burden to my daughter. If this is what the next twenty years is going to be like then please stop the planet, I want to get off. There are days when I ask myself why am I bothering to fight back? Why push my body through the bench press and leg press? Why bother taking all these damn medicines and supplements? Just why in the hell bother at all?

Once I can’t afford to maintain my health, then I will be unemployable and end up on the Disability Pension. Hopefully, in my specific case my studies will prevent that, but on a daily basis it can be hard to see past just today. Not everyone in my sort of situation has the option to develop a new career and I do worry about the chances of business success at my age. But 68 year-old Hillary Clinton ran for President of the United States, so there is hope.

The lack of physical contact with anyone other than my physiotherapist or massage therapist grows more stressful each passing day.

Other unemployed have different sets of problems: mortgages, children to feed, car loans to pay. The emotional feelings, the stress, the sheer degradation of it all, is the same.

RUOK? No, I’m not OK. Not that anyone ever asks. We are just numbers – the great unwashed of unemployed. Past our prime, not valuable any more. A burden on society, our government keeps telling us. Malcolm Turnbull, do you have ANY idea what it is like to be told in the news cycle nearly every single day what you and your government ministers think about us?

I’ll bounce back, I always do. But not everyone can, not everyone does.

NB: I have deliberately not tried to “take the emotion out” of this article. If it is to serve any purpose, the emotion needs to be there. It is why I have written it today, a day when I feel absolutely NOT OK.

I also want to add that while I have criticised the Job Provider Network and RTOs in this article, I want to make it clear in both those systems there are some wonderfully caring people and in the latter some terrific teachers. It is the system I’m railing against, not the front line staff. Centrelink staff have always also been very nice to me.

 

 

Our Republic can be a Treaty

By R D Wood

At present a discussion of the republic seems separate from a discussion of a treaty with Indigenous people. And yet, a republic can enable a type of constitutional recognition for all Australians and it can be a type of treaty with the many bodies that represent our ‘first nations’. It could also pay heed to the many types of law here that are still thriving be that in Aranda, Banjima or Yolgnu country.

It is essential to understand Indigenous laws as their own body of important knowledge. The implications of acknowledging this are yet to be fully formed but if the debates between Murandoo Yanner and Noel Pearson are anything to go by, we need to acknowledge the diversity of opinion when it comes to traditions that pre-date 1788. Indeed, if we recognise that there were and are Indigenous legal systems here, which is something gestured towards by Bruce Pascoe in Dark Emu and A P Elkin in Aboriginal Men of High Degree, we need to think through their shared attributes and interpret them with good common sense. In other words, we need to realise the true implications of the fact that Australia has been long inhabited.

It needs to be said that Indigenous law is not unitary or singular, but rather there are many legal systems that differ. In the Pilbara alone there is men’s law and women’s law and different legal structures and titles within those two as well. It is as complex as any UN Resolution but that does not mean we cannot collaborate on what a new legal structure looks like for Australia as a whole. Many countries have many different systems of law operating concurrently. Hong Kong is simply one place where this is the case and India has Muslim Personal laws as well as the British derived constitution.

In addition, other nations have some ideas that were never taken on board. For example John Wesley Powell proposed the idea of ‘watershed democracy’ in the United States in the mid-nineteenth century. This divided governance into areas based on water bodies rather than on agricultural patchworks, squiggly lines not perpendicular squares. If Australia’s jurisdiction had been divided based on catchment areas we might have avoided the Murray-Darling tragedy. In regards to Australia’s greatest river, we might not find ourselves in the same difficulty as we are at present if we had a system like Powell’s or if we had a system where water rights belong completely to the end of resource user like the mouth of a river. The law needs to embody that. The law needs to understand that there are potential systems of government here that can mesh with traditional life and that this can fit with the cutting edge of legal title and economics.

If one looks at the AIATSIS map based on Indigenous Australia (below), we can see that the continent is divided into 17 areas – Southwest, Northwest, Desert, Kimberley, Fitzmaurice, Arnhem, Gulf, West Cape, Torres Strait, East Cape, Rainforest, Northeast, Southeast, Riverine, Spencer, Tasmania, Eyre. They are geographic and political entities that correspond to governmental possibilities. These are based largely on water bodies and the styles of life in them are different too. If you have travelled around Australia and spent time in remote Indigenous communities you know that the Central Desert is a world away from the Torres Strait or Tasmania. While I am attached to the states, and am proud to be a sandgroper, we need to rethink the fundamental boundaries that have been drawn here. Two houses of parliament make sense, but why not two levels with regional authorities that are watersheds. This would be instead of the state and local levels that are divided based on straight lines.

That might mean the abolition of state and local governments and their replacement with one level of hydro-geographically based authorities that assume their duties. After all, it is a common criticism that our public service is bloated and inefficient. This view does a disservice to the people who work in it but it also contains a half-truth. We need to ask what does the public want to see achieved? How can we best serve it? Australia could be well and truly a watershed republic. This could be a better society than what we now have and which fits with traditional Indigenous law as it exists in the archive and in communities right across Australia.

People can speculate on why a republic cannot happen at the moment, and blame that on the lack of political leadership. It is not often we get anarchists or libertarians in positions of power, but we could be happy to let go of being a colony. More importantly though, from where I stand, it is a great opportunity to discuss what kind of society we want to be, to discuss what our future looks like, especially for our most vulnerable as they interact with the legal systems in this country. That will mean confronting deaths in custody, advocating for non-violent policing and keeping channels of communication open that had seemed to be closed. We can do this by thinking through bureaucratic procedures including re-organising the states to approximate traditional Indigenous sovereign bodies, changing our Constitution and citizenship ceremonies to be a type of treaty and recognition, and integrating old systems of understanding into contemporary laws. This will mean we are on the path to accepting who we truly are.

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