Friday, October 24, 2008

Public stories, private lives

The Walkley Magazine
October  2008


Moving from journalism into public relations in the welfare sector, has put me on the other side of stories and more aware of a minefield of ethical and privacy issues.

I owe a debt to those advocates who moved mountains, and fast, to find people with personal stories who made my copy come to life.

I can now appreciate the minefields those people have to navigate. Now I’m the one fielding calls from impatient reporters wanting a case study when a deadline is looming.

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Sunday, October 19, 2008

Losing our religion

The Canberra Times, October 20, 2008

The decision to axe Radio National's Religion Report came as a shock.

Twice I have worked on the program, first as its producer, and then as its presenter. It is put together by only two people, but it is able to draw on the wealth of experience and history in the ABC's religion department to create a gripping specialist current affairs program that subjects religion to the same sort of journalistic scrutiny as other programs subject other parts of life.

And there's no doubt that religion is a terribly important (if little-reported) part of life, lying behind so much of the news we regard as “political” or “diplomatic” or “social”.

Where else in prime-time radio or television have you been able to hear the people who matter quizzed about their interpretations of Judaism, Christianity or Islam and the way in which they plan to act on those interpretations?

Some of these people will be happy about the decision to axe the program. They didn't welcome its scrutiny.

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Sunday, September 21, 2008

Political uncertainty in South Africa as Mbeki exits

South Africa's deeply unpopular President, Thabo Mbeki, has fallen on his sword.

Senior ministers are also likely to go, leaving a big political vacuum.

The ruling party pushed Mbeki to resign.

Why? The smell of corruption. Mbeki's future had hung in the balance after a senior judge inferred that Mbeki had interfered with the prosecution case against Jacob Zuma, the ANC party leader and Mbeki's chief rival for the top job.

Read more from journalists in South Africa.
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Monday, May 26, 2008

South Africa: The end of the rainbow nation?


The Canberra Times,
May 24, 2008


It shouldn't surprise us that South Africa's townships are embroiled in fresh violence. Apartheid was South Africa's Berlin Wall. It was the great divider. With its passing, poor black South Africans, accustomed to prejudice but more disaffected, have turned on those they think are robbing them of better lives.

This past week dozens of foreigners, other Africans, have been killed by South Africa's poor. Tens of thousands more have fled into refugee shelters since the violence began earlier this month in the Johannesburg township of Alexandra. Locals with the support of trade unions and some sections of the media accuse outsiders of stealing jobs and fueling a spate of crime. The tensions have been there for years.

But what is surprising is the intensity and rapidity of the violence. Opportunistic mobs have raped women and burnt former neighbours to death. The xenophobic violence has spread from poor areas of Johannesburg to Cape Town and Durban, South Africa's third-largest city. It has been fanned by locals with nothing else to do and hammer-wielding gangsters ready to exploit them.

Have foreigners brought South Africa a new wave of crime?

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Tuesday, January 8, 2008

The Multicultural Dream: Obama says 'Yes We Can!'


I have to pinch myself. The skinny man with a funny name is making me dizzy with hope. A black fellah on the yellow brick road to the American Presidency!


Throughout the world Obama's ambition is sending a ripple through neighbourhoods of 'colour' and neighbourhoods where racism still threatens to dwarf self determination and aspiration.

My birthplace, South Africa, made sure I was conscious of my colour and everybody else's. People of mixed blood - "coloured" - as my mob were referred, were distinct for all the wrong reasons. Australia and its acceptance of me and my family has made me see that more clearly.

Apartheid was like living at a foreign airport, having to go routinely through the ritual of customs. That ritual is characterised by the assumption of one's criminality, of one's shame or guilt. You approach the desk with all your papers intact but with a sense of being called to prove yourself. You learn to be polite, clear and efficient, because you recognise that the other mob have incredible, unilateral power.

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