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Showing posts from 2019

The future of work as the digital disrupts

Australian students are continuing to slide in international performance tables, with ACT students going down about as fast as (but typically still doing better than) those in the rest of Australia.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development conducts its Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) survey of performance in reading, maths and science every three years.

It finds that although the performance of Australian students is close to the OECD average, unusually among developed countries, Australia's performance has been getting worse over time.

Should it worry us? That depends partly on what we think will be needed for living in and surviving the rest of the century. There's no necessary reason to think it will be maths and science as we've known them. Machines might do those things for us.

But a mid-year report by Deloitte Access Economics finds employment has been growing fastest among the least routine jobs, the ones that machines can't…

A shameless deal that dare not speak its name

It was always going to be a challenge, even with the signatures of thousands of doctors and advocacy by health groups, to keep Medevac. On Capital Hill, hearts have been hardened towards refugees over time, for so long.

With help from Labor, the Coalition has entrenched a harsh offshore prison system that has created profound sickness.

In his stunning memoir of time spent on Manus Island detention centre in Papua New Guinea, Kurdish Iranian journalist, Behrouz Boochani, describes the extraordinary lengths detainees must go through to get any basic care. There are arbitrary rules and forms to fill out just to have a toothache seen to, knowing all along that there are no dentists on the island for detainees.

It would be absurd and comical if it wasn’t so serious and cruel.

Other rules, like excluding games and music, squeezing the agency and hope of people who had arrived on Manus and Nauru relatively well, piled up without any logic. People went mad with pain with no light relief o…

Climate health has become a mainstream issue, let's treat it like one

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It's frightening not being able to breathe. Having had asthma since birth, managing it is part of the rhythm of my life. Preventative medications have kept me alive, but, like millions of Australians, I occasionally get a small dose of terror when my chest tightens and my blue inhaler is empty or nowhere to be seen.

Bushfires have pushed up pollution levels to many times above safe levels in many parts of the country this past week, including in Sydney and Brisbane, which for a few days had air worse than in Beijing’s. Canberra too has been blanketed in dust.

We are inadequately prepared for what will become the new norm. People with asthma (more than one in ten of us) and others sensitive to smoke will have to stay indoors for longer. Prolonged poor air quality will hurt us all.

The latest edition of the MJA–Lancet Countdown on health and climate change came out this month, offering a global and an Australian national assessment. The report examined 41 indicators across five br…

Meet the neighbours: the trick to Halloween treats

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I both love and hate Halloween - probably, honestly, more the latter.

It's not that it's "evil" or "of the devil". It's that it's so commercial.

For weeks my inbox has been inundated with messages urging me to "avoid the fright" and "earn spooky bonus points" in attempts to get me to buy junk food I don't need.

Halloween popped into Australia's consciousness in a vacuum. There is no storytelling attached to it, no cultural significance, no deeper meaning. Elsewhere it derived from a Christian feast on the eve of All Saints' Day, which is November 1, a time for remembering the dead, intertwined with the agricultural rituals of folk communities who gave thanks for the year's harvest.

Here, it's just all about the sweets.

In Mosman, on Sydney's North Shore, where two streets get besieged by children from all over the city, The Sydney Morning Herald reports some parents are spending $400, some as much as $1000…

Time to reclaim the lifeblood of human society

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In the lead up to last week’s School Strike 4 Climate, a tweet jumped out at me. “Why are so many young people depressed?” it asked, and then presented two different answers.

Teenagers: The adults have f***ed up the planet and our future.

Adults: It’s the phones.

Of course, both might be true. Depression might be sparked by the fate of the planet, but then fed by incremental updates and outrage delivered to smartphones in our pockets all the time.

It isn’t what used to happen. Panic about 1980s' concerns such as nuclear war weren’t amplified and fed back to us through a hyperconnected echo chamber.

It most certainly is bad for our health. Studies show that as screen time increases, so too do rates of teenage suicide and depression.

Lead researcher Jean M. Twenge of San Diego State University compared US statistics on teenage suicide deaths, suicide-related outcomes and adolescents’ depressive symptoms, with new media use. He found adolescents who spent more time on new media (incl…

A public health issue: Alan Jones and his violent metaphors

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Countless firms have pulled their support and advertising from Alan Jones’ radio program after his Jacinda Ardern comments. Just what will it take to suspend him?

The managers of the station should take him off the airwaves, but not just for reasons of language. The reason to pull him off is public health. Let me explain.

One of the greatest threats to health is violence. Australia has a shocking record of violence against women. On average, one woman a week is murdered by her current or former partner.

Overwhelmingly, perpetratators of domestic or family violence against women and children are male. Factors associated with gender inequality are the most consistent predictors of violence against women including male peer to peer relations that emphasise aggression and disrespect towards women.

Jones, who appears to have trouble with women of influence, feeds and helps legitimise an already-existing set of attitudes that condone violence.

There is mounting evidence that public, pol…

The smartphone has become a metronome. This is how we change the beat

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Without thinking about it much, children mimic their parents. It was when my husband — a veteran journalist — and I found ourselves glued to our phones for work at home, and tweeting compulsively, that I began to worry about what it was teaching our kids.

What were we modelling? What was it doing to us? We were increasingly alone while together, particularly after our young teens retreated into their bedrooms to use their own smartphones, a development that quickened their inevitable withdrawal from us.

Cyberspace is more intense and exciting than the real world, a world of continuous competition and commerce. It's also easier to navigate. But what grabs our attention there isn't necessarily what's needed for us to grow well.

While we were working out boundaries for our children, I began to think about boundaries for us, looking for other ways to find joy and meaning in our own lives in the hope we could spark it in our kids, because it isn't children who are driving t…

Victoria should make the ACT schools think again about rush into screens

The Victorian Government ought to be congratulated. From next year it will ban the use of smartphones during school in all state schools.

Schools are where we expect our children to be safe, to develop co-operative and pro-social skills, and to grow their capacity to focus and become critical thinkers. Smartphones blunt those skills. They are (in the main) a tool for distraction and a weapon for online-bullying. Social media is fueling anxiety.

Victoria should make the ACT think about its headlong rush into screens in schools and a mental health crisis.

If adults are distracted and harassed by technology in the workplace, then you can be sure that children and young people are too, except that it’s worse for them because they have less wherewithal to withstand it. The part of the brain that controls decision making and considering consequences is less developed.

Limiting access to smartphones in schools won’t stop bullying. It’s an old-age problem that starts offline and more likel…

Post election: Ken Wyatt's historic gig and daring to hope for Australia reMADE

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What a Reconciliation Week. Not only were we reconciling differences after a bruising election, but a respected Indigenous man was appointed Minister for Indigenous Australians, the first Indigenous Australian to be given that responsibility.

Ken Wyatt was subjected to racist taunts during his campaign for the West Australian seat of Hasluck in 2010. After his narrow win for the Liberals, some people who voted for him complained they didn't realise he was Aboriginal.

He was born on a mission farm, a former home for young Indigenous children removed from their families. His mother was one of them.

In his maiden speech Wyatt thanked Kevin Rudd for the 2008 national apology to stolen generations. When he heard it, in his office in the West Australian department of health where he was director of Aboriginal health, he cried.

"My mother and her siblings, along with many others, did not live to hear the words delivered in the apology, which would have meant a great deal to them in…

Time to recast Australia's role in the region

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A new or re-elected government will give us a chance to better support our neighbours in Asia and the Pacific. The behaviour of the last one hasn't been good.

It has repeatedly used the aid budget as a sort of automatic teller machine to take money from development in order to get its budget in order.

A glaring example was the $55 million dollar refugee resettlement deal with very poor and dictator-led Cambodia. About $40 million came out of aid while $15 million was directed for resettlement services and support. Signed in 2014 by Scott Morrison as immigration minister, it was an abject failure. Only four people accepted offers of resettlement from Nauru. Only a Syrian man (with his family) is left but he's now hoping to move to Canada.

"Why is your country doing this?," perplexed Cambodians asked Australians in Phnom Penh at the time of the deal. "We all know where the money will end up." Corruption permeates Cambodia. The deal wasn't directed (as it …

New media and violence: an old problem meets the modern era

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History is littered with examples where propaganda has led to appalling acts of violence.

That's why the rise of social media in the hands of extreme groups is a deep concern, as is the role of public figures in potentially inflaming hate.

Who could forget Rwanda. Twenty-five years ago this month the world heard of the genocide against the Tutsi. I was in South Africa covering that country's historic election of Nelson Mandela, a moment of euphoria, when shocking news trickled in of the mass murder of up to 70 per cent of Rwanda's Tutsi people by members of the Hutu majority.

Civil war had been brewing in Rwanda before April, 1994. But the use of the media in skilled hands brought ordinary people, who had lived together for hundred of years, to extreme violence.

The Tutsi were labelled as demons, rich and avaricious, out to get the Hutu. The Hutu were called on to kill members of a Tutsi rebel group that threatened the government, and their "accomplices" - women…

A Christchurch reflection

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Like many around the world, I have this week found myself in dismay-driven prayer, heartfelt hope for the world to be better, safer.

As a person of colour, it is deeply concerning that the alleged perpetrator in the Christchurch massacres is an Australian citizen espousing white-supremacy and publishing a manifesto of hate.

The rise of right-wing hate ideology is indisputable.

The Internet has helped the cause. Social media has made white-supremacists more visible and international. In small, bizarre and accumulative ways, a fear of Muslims, that objectifies them, has shown its ugly head online.

Platforms including Facebook, Instagram and YouTube have not exercised as much moral authority as they should have. They have relied on pressure from individual governments, rather than being proactive from the get-go in self-managing and limiting hate-speech and the live-streaming of violence. I have long worried about social media’s hunger for gut-wrenching and gratuitous content; it is …

In the shadow of Neverland: a journey from fandom to pathos

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Here’s the thing. A lot of people from Oprah down suspected Michael Jackson of pedophilia but he continued, while alive, to live with impunity. Finally two men have come forward to speak their truth and fulsomely.

Leaving Neverland,” the disturbing documentary that continues to make headlines around the world should surprise no one and yet Jackson’s tenacious fans will hold onto their version of the King of Pop, regardless.

Like many of them, I grew up with Mowtown music. Thriller had been rocking the charts when, as a junior high school student, I celebrated my crush one school dress-up day. I wore a twist on the Billie Jean outfit; one white glove, a red jacket, a pair of shiny-fly glasses, white slacks and my mother's low-heeled leather loafers that promised to defy gravity on the dance floor. My hair was short, shiny and curly. My nose was itself.

Over the years I lost interest in the star. By the time the first case of alleged child molestation was before a US court, he was…

The one thing we have to fear is fear itself

The government’s trying to scare us, which is odd because the one thing that is truly frightening it keeps trying to tell us isn’t a problem - calamitous climate change.

There’s Medivac. Scary stuff! Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton said our hospital waiting lists will be bumped out by refugees evacuated from offshore detention camps.

Then there was the problem of violence by African-Australians in Melbourne, also pointed to by Dutton and ministers including Greg Hunt. Never mind that you are much more likely to be attacked (and killed if you are Melbourne woman) by someone who is not African (In fact, every week in Australia, a woman is killed by a current or former partner).

Last week there was talk of recession. That’s what’s coming if Labor is elected. Ignore for the moment that figures released on Wednesday show we are already in a per-capita recession.

The Prime Minister says Labor’s extra taxes on negative-gearers and people who receive share dividends without paying tax coul…

ART NOT APART: We can't fight hate with hate

I had the privilege of being selected for and participating in this year's Art Not Apart festival in Canberra.

My contribution explored protest sites and the rise of inequality and racism.

It's not easy keeping cool when your passionate about a good cause.

Even progressives in the US determined to rally recently in support of a more inclusive society resorted to physical violence when confronting neo-Nazis.

Confrontation of evil by the power of love with non-violent protest, as Martin Luther King wrote, is the most potent weapon available to oppressed people in their struggle for freedom. But when you are invested in social reform and impacted by injustice, it ain't easy to keep cool, any time, any where.

To read more, see headline image, go to: https://artnotapart.com/artist/2019/toni-hassan/