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Encouraging active food citizens

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First published in Canberra's Child, August 2013

At what age should kids be in the kitchen using sharp knives and a perilously hot stove? At what age should children take part in decisions about what’s for dinner and how it’s made?

My hunch is too often children are limited by pre-conceived ideas about what's safe and what's appropriate.

In our crazy-busy and harried parenting lives, I am grateful for the invitation to have my children take part in a kitchen garden program (complete with composts and chooks) at their primary school in Canberra, with its spill-on effects.

Having the kids become ‘active food citizens’ is not without its risks or downsides. Meals take longer to prepare, basic tasks become full of human drama and the kitchen gets messier (I'll admit that haven’t let go entirely). But I have found that engaged children are more likely to appreciate their food.

My nine-year old son has always been interested in cooking and began making porridge for the fami…

'Angry nation' on verge of an Arab Spring?

Anger helped bring an end to apartheid but what is it doing to South Africa now?

The recent high profile death of a Mozambican taxi driver tortured by South African police provoked Nelson Mandela's wife, Graca Machel, to sound an alarm. South Africa, she said, was “an angry nation” on the brink.

Taxi driver Mido Macia was quiet, unassuming. He'd lived in South Africa 17 years. He was tied to the back of a police vehicle in a Gauteng township and dragged through the streets. He was later found dead in police custody.

It is part of a disturbing pattern of police brutality targeting black foreigners as the number of economic and political refugees balloons. Mass unemployment (70% of young have no secure employment) is building resentment.

"Immigrants have lowered the wage rate, there's no doubt about that, and whole shifts of workers have been fired in one go and replaced by immigrants who have no union representation,” Patrick Bond, Director of the Centre for Civil …

Identity crises and Redfern Now

I can't rave enough about the ABC TV's excellent series Redfern Now. It's good to see diversity on the small screen. Why has also struck a chord is the show's theme or tension between the image we may have ourselves and the image others expect us to carry. That tension is typically heavily felt by “ethnic” and Indigenous cultures in post colonial societies.

The program is set in the inner Sydney suburb of Redfern - the first place to have urban Aboriginal community housing - a place known for its concentration of poverty and clashes with police (much of the old housing is being demolished as the suburb is gentrified with expensive higher density units).

The series is a real eye-opener for many Australians who aren't faced with the multiple stresses and issues that the characters do. It has a lot to say about the legacy of displacement, internalising negative messages and the psychology of oppression, the role of education and identity/belonging.

Take for example,…