Showing posts from July, 2015

Teams have opponents

"Teams have opponents. Communities have friends." That was the message on the billboard of the Ainslie Church of Christ this month.

Members of its community were trying to send a message to the Prime Minister. They are worried that his oft-repeated use of the phrase "Team Australia" pulls people apart rather than brings them together.

Tony Abbott used the phrase late last year when announcing plans to scoop up metadata as part of the war on terror. He used it again in May when talking about the importance of integrating asylum seekers into the rest of the country. "What we have always said since coming to office back in September of 2013 is that we expect people to be part of Team Australia," he said.

Race Discrimination Commissioner Tim Soutphommasane​ is worried about the term, warning that manufactured integration can "do more to divide than unite".

But what does the term mean?

Keysar Trad, founder of the Islamic Friendship Association of Aus…

Hunter Valley shows folly of putting mines in farming country

Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt's decision to approve a giant 35-square-kilometre open cut coal mine on rich agricultural land near Gunnedah, north-eastern NSW, has sent shivers up the spines of those who know what's coming.

The Hunter, where I used to live and work, has learned lessons the hard way.

"You cannot have a mine operating on a ridge that has, for centuries, been making a contribution to groundwater," says one Hunter Valley local. "If this starts, it'll be one of many. Most mining applications are extended. Miners apply for more country to wreck."

Jack [not his real name] has seen huge impacts in the Upper Hunter, especially Muswellbrook which has enjoyed a boom and then a bust. The valley has been scarred forever.

Jack is a successful agribusiness person. He used to run cattle. He represents a constituency that is disillusioned by both sides of politics and keen to see a fresh run of independents. "Barnaby Joyce could have done a…

Commodification of education a slippery slope

The daft and radical idea of charging high-income parents for public schooling included in a secret draft of a federation green paper was canvassed by one ABC reporter as an attack on the culture of entitlement. But it might be the opposite.

Many members of my extended family are teachers, among them my husband's mother. Margaret taught maths at an Adelaide girls school. She used to pile up gifts of perfume and soap in her bedroom wardrobe. While education is a right, to her students it was also a gift. Margaret received something other than soap in return: the opportunity to teach emerging adults. The respect and appreciation was mutual.

Entitlement creates neither gratitude nor engagement. This is a key finding of Dr Kerry Howells, a teacher educator at the University of Tasmania. She found that the more students were aware of the money they or their parents paid for education – be it school fees or higher education contributions – the less grateful they felt. The less grateful …