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Waltzing Australia


Sunday, December 25, 2011

35. Christmas in Australia

Christmas "Downunder"
Christmas "Downunder" is hot, often muggy and the sun beats down on your head. Unlike those in the Northern Hemisphere where Christmas is cold, wet and snowing with people rugged up in their winter woolies tucking into a a veritable feast of hot dishes followed by a hot steaming pudding, here in Australia, it's a singlet, shorts and thongs - too bloody hot to be all dolled up to the nines! Too right too. I rang mum to wish her merry Christmas and said, "Mum, today is a traditional Australian Christmas - stinking hot and humid." Just like Christmas used to be when I was a kiddie.

This song sort of depicts the Christmas in Australia - not everyone has a bbq

Christmas Dinner
Whether you're having your Christmas meal at lunchtime or tea time, it's still "Dinner" - when eating in the middle of the day, it's lunch, when eaten for the evening meal it's tea. Not to be confused with tea as in a cup of tea, tea in Australia is dinner time. Confusing eh? Not really, we know what we mean - today at our house we had Christmas Dinner which was a Christmas lunch at lunchtime.

Summer Makes No Difference
Now, you might think that being summer, we Aussies would content ourselves with a summer salad, a lovely light refreshing meal with tomatoes and lettuce. Huh! Not on your nelly. Here in Australia we have our "traditions" just like our brothers across the oceans - a selection of hot meats - baked ham, roast leg 'o lamb, baked spuds and pumpkins, two types of greens (in this case broccoli and beans) served with hot gravy. Naturally. So there was I, busily stirring the gravy, sweat pouring down my face, into my eyes, my glasses got fogged up, as I valiantly tried to see how the gravy was going.

Potato salad had been made last night. Actually, it was made very late last night and put together just after midnight. We've had a run of hot days recently, the house has a flat roof and you get a free sauna - inside temps over the 30's. Easy over 30.

The Pièce de Résistance
As anybody in our family will tell you - it's the Christmas Pudding, a beautiful, delectable, mouth-watering delicacy filled with fruits and brandy, served with lashings of runny cream.

My lovely daughter-in-law who is now my second daugher, has taken over the making of the Christmas Pudding for the last two years (and a wonderful job she does too) told me, the pudding went mouldy I had to throw it out, went everywhere trying to find one to buy, could only find two small ones. (They fly down from Sydney a day or two before Christmas Day.) Never mind, she was here and that's more important.

After being re-boiled, the pud is place on a plate, brought out to the table and brandy poured over it then lit with a light and the glorious blue flames from the burning alcohol rise up. Except I knocked the bottle over, the pudding went swimming and everybody got drunk! Just kidding, although I was rather heavy-handed with the brandy though.

We all nearly split our side laughing when eldest son proudly carried out the two puddings on a rectangular plate - they looked just like a pair of knockers and naturally he made reference to this (although slightly different words were used) We thought it hilarious because they did in fact look exactly like that!

It is now nearly half past nine at night and the house is still hot as a furnace. Ah well, perhaps I could sleep on the roof tonight. Wouldn't that be a thought now.

I will end with one of my favourite Australian Christmas carols - The Three Drovers. We learnt this at school when I was in grade 3.

Merry Christmas from Downunder.

Friday, December 23, 2011

34. This Land of Ours

This land of ours so red and vast
Doth stretch before the eye
And show unto me all the beauty
Of a far and distant past.

Of gums so tall
And eucalypt
They tower o'er me
And sweet their fragrance to inhale
Their beauty for to see.

Oh yes, this precious land of mine
With all your beauty free
And listen to the sweet carol
Of birds in fancy free.

My country you are more to me
Than earth of fire or sky
For I shall love this land of ours
Until the day I die.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

33. Map of Australia & Capital Cities

Capital Cities
The capital of Australia is: Canberra which is in the A.C.T.
The capital of Western Australia is: Perth
The capital of Northern Territory is: Darwin
The capital of Queensland is : Brisbane
The capital of New South Wales is: Sydney
The capital of Victoria is: Melbourne
The capital of South Australia: Adelaide
The capital of Tasmania is: Hobart

Monday, November 14, 2011

32. Australian Hall of Fame

1. Don Bradman
In a career of 80 tests with a batting average of 99.94, Sir Donald Bradman is regarded as the greatest cricketer of all time. He was known by one and all as 'the Don'.
Above: Don Bradman's Blazer & Bat

2. The Meat Pie
The staple diet of Australian truckies, construction workers and all decent hard working Australians. Consumed with sauce, held in the hand and never, never eaten with a knife and fork.
Above: Pie'n'sauce

3. Vegemite
A fair dinkum Aussie icon - brown stuff that you spread on toast, bread and dry bikkies. Found in 90% of Australian homes, is it any wonder 22 million jars are sold every year?!
Above: Vegemite

4. Victoria Bitter
The greatest beer of all time - "For a hard earned thirst, you need a big cold beer, and the best cold beer is Vic, Victoria Bitter"
Above: Victoria Bitter

5. Thongs
A real Aussie icon classic, the undisputed all time Australian footwear item. Costs as little as $2 and have been known to last for years. The advantage of thongs is you don't have to bend over when putting them on or taking them off.

Insert right foot, insert left foot and Bob's your uncle! Off you go now.
Above: Thongs

6. Skippy
Our greatest television star - he knew whenever anyone was in trouble in the outback area of Warratah National Park, he was a life saver, solved crimes, and an all-round super-duper hero. During the 60's and 70's, hundreds of little boys and girls tried to whistle through a gum leaf thereby spluttering food in all directions!
Above: Skippy

7. The Melbourne Cup
A horse race. Australia's biggest and richest. Held the first Tuesday in November at Flemington. IN the red-roofed homes all over Australia, in office buildings and road works, people stop what they're doing and listen to the running of "The Cup". It's a public holiday in Victoria.
Above: The Melbourne Cup

8. The Beach
With a coastline of 36,735 kms - the beach is just the place for a nice day out. Loved by surfers, swimmers, mums and dads and kiddies alike.
Above: The Beach

9. Number 96
One of the first Australian serials, it was set in a Sydney block of flats. With a big helping of larger-than-life characters, a hint of campness and, wait for it - sex! Everybody remembers Abigail, she of the big...she had blonde hair and a lovely smile.
Above: Abigail

10. The Mullet
A haircut - cut (very) short at the front and sides and long at the back. Le Mullet is the world's best/worst haircut (depending on one's point of view). It can be combined with a long fringe, no fringe, rats tales, dreadlocks and even a receding hairline.
Above: The Mullet

Friday, November 11, 2011

31. Remembrance Day 2011

Today is Remembrance Day. At the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, 1918, the guns of war fell silent. Remembrance Day, or Armistice Day as it was originally known, was to remember those who gave their lives for our freedom in what was called the "Great War" - the War To End All Wars. But, as the years rolled by, it was not to be - there were other wars and so today, Remembrance Day is to remember all Australian soldiers who fought and those who died in all wars.

Above: Remembrance Day poster

Hellfire Pass
The story of Hellfire Pass is from World War II, in a place called Kanchanaburi, Thailand. I went there earlier this year because of its history - a brutal and terrible history.

A Life For Every Sleeper

Above: Original track work of the Death Railway

One POW died for every 32.6 metres of track.
There were 424 thousand metres of track.
13,000 died and are buried along the way.

Over 80,000 Asian labourers died.

For every sleeper laid it cost one human life
120,000 sleepers where laid.

Japanese brutality at its best.

Hellfire Pass ~ Honouring The Fallen


Above: Information Sign

At the beginning of doing this walk this sign reads:
The railway has been cleared for a further four kilometres but no improvements have been made to steep or difficult sections. Only those persons in good physical condition should attempt this part of the trail. Walking time from this point to the end and return is 3 hours.

Above: Tree of Life
This self-seeded tree grew in the middle of Hellfire Pass. Where once cruelty and death lingered, the appearance of the birth of a new tree gives hope. Tree of life is a metaphor for the livelihood of the spirit.

Above: Railbed
As you walk along this track today, it is a peaceful place with the sound of crickets and cicadas singing and the stones crunching under your walking feet. No-one who comes here shouts or yells - something about the atmosphere begs for the listener to be still and breathe in the winds of today which have overcome the trials of yesterday. It is not until you reach the memorials that you realise it is not all it seems it is not a pretty walk in the country but a living memorial to thousands of men who lived, worked and died many still in their teens or early twenties. Young men who never had the chance to live and learn about the joys of happiness which we take for granted.

So... be still take a quiet time and sit and just do nothing but listen to the wind as it ruffles your hair and the sun beats down overhead as it did oh so many years ago on others who were here first.

Cuttings along the railway varied from shallow earth to deep rock. Konyu Cutting, or Hellfire Pass as it was known, is the deepest and largest on the entire length of the railway.

On 25th April 1943 - ANZAC Day - work commenced to excavate the cutting. A workforce of prisoners of war began the task of hacking back the jungle, removing the loose earth and drilling in rock by hand. Little machinery was available. Most of the drilling work was done by the "hammer and tap" men, a process whereby one man would hold and rotate a drill or "tap" while his mate hit the head of the drill with an eight to ten pound hammer.

Above: Sheer rockface - the hill was excavated by hand

'Pick up.
Carry 25 yards or more.
Up the bank.
Walk back.'

'On jobs such as cuttings, Nips stood overhead and threw stones all the time irrespective of whether you worked or not.' - Reg Holloway, 2/40th Infantry Battalion, Australian Imperial Force.

Above: In Memory

When the hole was deep enough, explosive charges would be used, the broken rock removed by hand and the process began again. The process was slow.

As work fell behind schedule and "speedo" was called, the work rate intensified. Work shifts lasting up to eighteen hours drilled, blasted and removed rock in a continuous operation. The men laboured under intense pressure from the Japanese engineers and Korean guards at the height of the wettest monsoon season for many years. Such was the brutality that 69 men were beaten to death by their guards.

Above: In Remembrance

Many prisoners-of-war died from cholera, beriberi, dysentery, starvation, and exhaustion. On starvation rations - a cup of boiled rice or millet three times a day - if they were lucky, malnutrition was a big killer.

At night, the cutting was lit by fires, lamps or diesel torches. The eerie light and shadows of guards and gaunt prisoners of war playing on the rock walls suggested the name the site was given - Hellfire Pass.

Above: POW - Original photo
An original photo of a POW standing beside the primitive tripod which was used for levelling the ground of the Death Railway Thailand - Burma

Above: Hellfire Pass, 1944
Original photo of Hellfire Pass (Konyu Cutting) which forms part of the Death Railway, was a particularly difficult section of the line to build, not only because it was the largest rock cutting on the railway, but also because of its remoteness and the lack of proper construction tools during building.

Above: Hellfire Pass today
These rails and sleepers are from the official railway and were relaid in Konyu Cutting in April 1989 by the men of "C" Company 3rd Battalion Royal Australian Regiment.
They were relocated to the current position in 2006.

Above: Memorial

One of the most poignant memories is of a plain little wooden cross that said simply "For my Dad"

Above: The Australian flag

Above: Hellfire Pass
The plaque on the left is dedicated to Sir Edward "Weary" Dunlop (1907 - 1993) and reads ~

Patron of the Association of and Surgeon of the jungle whose ashes were scattered in this area on 25th April 1994.

From 1942 to 1945 Weary Dunlop and his medical colleagues, in the Armed Services of Great Britain, Australia, Netherlands, India and the United States of America gave devoted service to thousands of sick and dying prisoners-of-war and Asian labourers who were forced to construct and maintain the Burma-Thailand Railway.

These doctors provided leadership, helped alleviate pain and suffering and above all gave reason to live when all real hope seemed lost.

To them we all give thanks.

"When you go home, tell them of us and say we gave our tomorrow for your today"

Above: Hellfire Pass Memorial
Of the 1,000 Australian and British soldiers who took 12 weeks to clear the stretch of mountain, 700 died. They worked around the clock for 16-18 hours a day to complete excavation of the 17 metre deep and 110-m long cutting through solid limestone and quartz rock.
The Hellfire Pass Memorial and Memorial Museum were set up to commemorate these fallen.

Above: 352 steps
This is the number of steps to reach Hellfire Pass. Many are steep and climbing down and then back up face running with sweat sun beating down I look back at what was once one of the most dreaded railways in history - the "Death Railway" and ask how could so much human suffering and atrocity be caused by one human being to another?

Walk Through Hellfire Pass


In Remembrance of
All those who suffered
And all who died.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

30. What? No Hat? The PM Meets The Queen

Which One Is The PM?
Above:The PM and the GG

One could be forgiven for thinking the G.G. (Governor General) is our Prime Minister. If you didn't know what either lady looked like, who would you say was the PM dressed to meet Her Maj? If you said the lady on the right, you would be wrong - it's the lady on the left, the one without a hat.
Then again, the hatted one (Quentin Bryce) does look rather severe doesn't she? Whereas Julia the hatless looks genuinely happy and relaxed.

Above: The Prime Minister meets the Queen
Our Prime Minister Ms Julia Gillard said she chose to bow her head as she shook the Queen's hand because that is what she felt comfortable with.

"The advice to me was very clear - that you can make a choice with what you feel most comfortable with," she said.

"That's what I felt most comfortable with. The Queen extended her hand, and I shook her hand."

There Are No Obligatory Codes
The Queen meets thousands of people each year in the UK and overseas. Before meeting Her Majesty, many people ask how they should behave.

According to The Official website of the British Monarchy, the simple answer is that there are no obligatory codes of behaviour - just courtesy.

However, many people may wish to observe the traditional forms of greeting.

For men this is a neck bow (from the head only) whilst women do a small curtsy. Other people prefer simply to shake hands in the usual way.

On presentation to The Queen, the correct formal address is 'Your Majesty' and subsequently 'Ma'am'.

Australia's Queen of Sarcasm Etiquette Scathing In Her Opinion of the PM
June Dally-Watkins says the PM should have stuck to the traditional greeting.

Said she, "I saw the Prime Minister kind of wobble and I didn't know, did she try to curtsy? I didn't know what she was doing. I just laughed. I was laughing out loud because I thought it was really hilarious and of course very rude.

But I just couldn't understand what that movement was. What was she doing?"

It seems to me, Dally-Watkins herself was very rude and not at all "ladylike" in either her actions or sentiments.
June old girl - you should know better.

Naturally the fact that she is a Liberal and not a Labor supporter would have had nothing to do with it.

Ms Dally-Watkins said recently while "formal" had its heyday in the '50s, the refined customs of a bygone era should still hold a place in modern society.

What she of the flag-bearing do's and do not's needs to remember is the so-called "refined customs" of a "bygone" era are just that - bygone. If we look back a little further into "bygone" days, women had no voice, couldn't vote, couldn't go out to work, had no rights and were an extension of their husband's arm - and this was in "refined" times when everybody was so bloody polite to and with each other it was nigh on impossible to have a decent conversation or exchange views. Except if you belonged to the "lower orders" - who of course were only "people" and etiket and manners didn't apply to them!

Meeting the Queen
Above: The PM, HM and the GG
The co-called "wobble" which so offended dear old Junie!
Judging from this photo, I'd say the only one with her nose in the air is Dally-Watkins. The Queen looks happy and smiling, not at all offended. Then again, no doubt she has been trained from birth never to show her feelings or make indiscreet remarks in public, something that Dally-Watkins obviously has not been able to do, no matter how she might pride herself on so-called "manners and etiquette."

Another Tirade from Dally-Watkins
The following day, Dally-Watkins described the greeting as "the lowest part of Ms Gillard's life" and said "instead of bowing her head, she should be hanging it in shame.
I think it was not only funny, but it was shameful, if she isn't a royalist, it's not a matter of that, it's a matter of paying courtesy, good manners to a queen, to the Queen.
That was the expected thing to do and I thought not to do that shamed her tremendously."

About June
June Dally-Watkins, a former model was born in 1927 and grew up on a remote property at Watsons Creek, near Tamworth. Her mum Caroline was a single parent - a great stigma at the time and she (June) kept the story of her birth a secret until very much later in life. When her mother took her to Farmers department store in Sydney and asked if she could be a model, a successful career was launched. In 1950, she founded a modelling/deportment agency in Brisbane.

Above: Australia's queen of etiquette, June Dally-Watkins

Quelle Embarrassment! Quelle Horreur!
And it would appear she also had a bone to pick with the PM's outfit.

Said June - "She should have been wearing a hat, she should have been standing straight and she should have curtsied. I thought that was a great embarrassment for Australia."

She gave the GG (Quentin Bryce) full marks for her meeting with the Queen and described her (the GG) as "delightful", saying, "She did all the right things. I thought she was magnificently dressed and she curtsied beautifully and she was polite. You wouldn't know what her thoughts were, but she did all the things that were correct and expected of her as the Governor-General, but as the Prime Minister, Julia should have conducted herself the same way."

It's Not A Bloody Garden Party!
I have news for you June old girl - I'd take the word of the "Official website of the British Monarchy" over yours any day. And as for "a great embarrassment for Australia" - I'm Australian, and I am not embarrassed. Neither am I ashamed.

This is Australia, not Merrie Olde England and it is the 21st century, not the 19th century when Victoria was on the throne (you know, the old biddy who always looked like she was smelling something nasty) and the legs of tables were covered for "decency". Thank goodness we have moved away from that nonsense. Yes, manners are important and good manners, consideration for others and being polite is something that should be practised regardless of the era.

Trying to hang onto an out-dated system from days of yore with its' de rigeuer way of doing things only strengthens and promotes a class system which, alas is still rampant in some parts of the world.

If you receive an invitation to a Garden Party at Buckingham Place, full instructions concerning what to wear are on the invitation card sent to you from the Lord Chamberlain's Office. But let me say again - this is not England, this is Australia where we have no royal garden parties, no palaces or castles. And trying to instill what you may perceive as the "right" way, doesn't necessarily make it so. Now, had Our Julia greeted the Queen with, "G'day your maj, how ya goin'?" it may have been a different situation, but - it wasn't and she didn't so perhaps some people should climb down off their high horses, return their nose to a normal position (not stuck up in the air) and stop being so stuck-up and snobbish.

Two Ladies in Silver
Above: Her Maj and the PM
At a formal reception held at Parliament House. Here, the Queen, is wearing a dress in antique white with a chic silver-toned lace jacket. The Prime Minister's outfit consists of an elegant silver grey satin underdress and matching top overlaid with a silver grey skirt with matched jacket and bow tied at waist level. Story here

Monday, September 5, 2011

29. Melbourne - World's Most Livable City

Well now, it's a great day for Melbourne and all Melburnians - we have been voted the world's most livable city! Isn't that great news! After nearly ten years, we finally knocked Vancouver off the top spot and we're it!

And is it any wonder why we're the best city? Just look at some of the photos of our beautiful city:

Above: Princes Bridge

Above: Melbourne Cottages

Above: Flinders Street Station

Above: Eureka Building and Arts Centre Spire

According to the latest Economist Intelligence Unit's Global Liveability Survey, Melbourne is ranked as the world's best city to live in. From 140 cities around the world, Melbourne was given a score of 97.5 per cent. Other Australian cities in the top 10 include Sydney, which ranked sixth (up from seventh) in the previous survey, and bot Adelaide and Perth are unchanged with joint eighth.

You can read about it here

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

28. Anaphylaxis - Child-Care Centres

Early Learning Centres and the Anaphylactic Child
When a child attends an early learning centre (child-care/creche) you want to know that your child is in a safe and friendly environment and those responsible for his/her care are following the guidelines set out.

An early learning centre in a Melbourne suburb seems not to have been following these guidelins and is embroiled in food-related safety issues. A child attending this centre has a nut allergy and this was made known to the director at the beginning. She was informed that the child has a nut allergy and cannot eat any products that contain nuts, cannot have products that state "May contain traces of nuts" and/or products that state "Produced on equipment that may contain traces of nuts". You would think this would be a simple thing - yes? Not. Not so.
There have been a number of "Incidents" at this early learning centre.

The centre provides morning and afternoon tea, and a hot lunch - the lunch is catered and is brought in each day.
Some of the foods provided for morning/afternoon tea were not nut free. The child was given Arnotts biscuits and it was pointed out that Arnotts biscuits are not nut free (the packaging actually states this product may contain traces of nuts) - this was brought to the attention of the director and a website for nut free foods was given to her. A food management plan was instituted where staff would write down each day what the child had eaten.
The mother checks this each day when she picks up her child. Recently she saw that a staff member had written down that the child had morning tea and what food had been eaten. The mother asked which staff member wrote this down - the child had arrived at the early learning centre at a later time and had not had morning tea. Quite rightly, she wanted to know how this error had been made. Of what use is a food management plane if false information is being recorded?

The director has denied this occurred and says it didn't happen. She states a staff member wrote down the child had morning tea and realised the child had not and so amended it. She states she refutes everything. Why would the director wish to deny this? Why lie?

A notification was made to the relevant government department earlier.

The mother collects her child at around 5.00pm and yesterday received a phone call at 4.55pm from a staff member who informed her they noticed the child had swelling around the mouth and nose at approximately 3.10pm and it was worse at 4.30pm. The mother asked had they given the child Zyrtec? The staff member answered no.
Staff have not followed the action plan in place for this child.

There is an Action Plan for Anaphalaxis - see below.

Above: Action Plan for Anaphalaxis

The form can be found HERE. This form shows the child's photo, name and DOB, and other relevant information relating to each individual child. On the right hand side is "Mild to moderate allergic reaction"
* Swelling lips, face, eyes
* hives or welts
* tingling mouth
* abdominal pain, vomiting (these are signs of a severe allergic reaction to insects)
This is followed by "Action"

The plan is a personal plan for the individual child and on this child's plan it clearly states under "Action" To moniter the child, give Zyrtec (medication), contact the mother and to stay with the child and moniter that child.

The mother took the child to a doctor's clinic which is next door to this early learning centre and the child was seen straight away. The doctor asked was the child given Zyrtec to which the mother answered no. The doctor said to give the child Zyrtec and keep an eye on her.

NOW, there is an Action Plan for Anaphalaxis for this child, both Zyrtec and an EpiPen are kept there for this child. There is an Anaphalaxis model policy which requires that all proprietor's of licensed children’s services to have an anaphylaxis management policy in place. This policy is required whether or not there is a child diagnosed at risk of anaphylaxis enrolled at the service. In services where a child diagnosed at risk of anaphylaxis is enrolled the proprietor shall also:

• conduct an assessment of the potential for accidental exposure to allergens while child/ren at risk of anaphylaxis are in the care of the service and develop a risk minimisation plan for the centre in consultation with staff and the families of the child/children (Schedule 3 of the Regulations).
• ensure that a notice is displayed prominently in the main entrance of the services stating that a child diagnosed at risk of anaphylaxis is being cared for or educated at the service
• ensure all staff members on duty have completed recognised anaphylaxis management training (r. 26(3) and that practice of the adrenaline autoinjection device such as the EpiPen® administration is undertaken on a regular basis, preferably quarterly, and recorded annually.

These are just some of the points outlined in the policy - you can read the full points of the policy HERE.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

27. The "Real" Australia

How do we define the "real" Australia? Many times people who are planning on visiting Australia want to see the "real" Australia. I remember one lady saying, "I am traveling to Australia. It will be my first time traveling outside the United States and my first time traveling alone. I would love any advice. I am hoping to see the "real" Australia, not the tourist Australia. I would also like the opportunity to meet some new people."

Australians with their natural sense of the ridiculous and the humourous love to take the mickey - Beware the Drop Bear, Walking Toad, The Galah, the snakes, spiders and other nasty creepy-crawlies like the Blue Tongue Lizard, sharks, (esp. the White Pointer), salties, crocs, red bellies, black bellies, funnel webs, dingoes and those nasty fish that can kill you if you stand on them. Not to mention the box jelly fish!
And speaking of spiders, there was even a song written about one Redback On The Toilet Seat

Anyway, my advice for those wanting to see the "real" Australia:

1) Go the Footy on Saturday arvo, barrack for a team, and abuse the umpie, a time honoured tradition that - abusing the ump, then go to the local pub and get pissed to the eyeballs.

2) Stay at the Railway Hotel in West Melbourne, you'll meets lots of "locals" and have a chin-wag.

3) Say "bl**dy good tucker this" when eating at the pub

4) Eat a dead horse

5) Go to Centrelink- join the dole queue

6) Learn to call ketchup tomato sauce - pronounced to-mahto

7) Say, "My shout" at the pub - you'll have instant friends & everybody will love you. Remember when it's your shout, you don't walk away.

8) If you're a bloke and want some entertainment, go to St. Kilda of an evening.

9) Drive on the left-hand side of the road.

10) Drive slowly - see our country; drive fast and see our gaols.

If you follow the above suggestions, I guarantee you, you will see the real Australia.

Monday, June 20, 2011

26. Murder and a Sex Scandal 2

Academy head should have expelled cadets

The head of the Australian Defence Force Academy (ADFA) should have expelled seven men involved in the Skype sex scandal, a former defence department secretary says.

Paul Barratt became head of the department in late 1997, shortly after the Howard government launched an inquiry into the effectiveness of sexual harassment and sexual assault policies at ADFA.

The veteran public servant says ADFA commandant Bruce Kafer, who has been suspended, needed to explain why he allowed seven young men to continue studying at the college after the "Skype incident" sex scandal.

The incident became public after an 18-year-old woman went public with how she was filmed having sex with a student, only to have six males watch an internet broadcast of it in another room.

The men involved are still at ADFA.

"I'm surprised at the way this was handled," Mr Barratt told ABC Television on Monday.

"How anyone could come to the conclusion that the behaviour of the seven male cadets would be dealt with as a misdemeanour is very surprising to me.

"It seemed to me to be egregiously serious and I would have been expecting the commandant of ADFA, immediately, to ask all seven of those young men to show cause why they shouldn't have been marched out the gate of ADFA."

Six inquiries into the culture of Defence have been launched.

Commodore Kafer was sent on leave on Saturday, Defence Minister Stephen Smith said on Monday.
Mr Barratt said Commodore Kafer needed to explain his decision, adding he saw no future for the seven men in the Australian Defence Force.

7 News AAP April 12, 2011.

Defence reform long overdue

Scroll down and listen to Derryn's editorial and passionate debate with Neil James of the Australian Defence Assoication.

The response was predictable. Within minutes of the announcement that women would no longer be banned from front-line duties in the Australian military the sexist jokes were out there.

Twitter was a twitter with such savoury lines as ‘when female soldiers get their periods they’ll start fragging their senior officers’.

Fragging being a Vietnam War term for tossing a grenade into an officer’s tent.

The decision by Defence Minister Stephen Smith to remove all combat barriers for females is long overdue. It was sexist. It was discriminatory. Not that Australia has been alone.

In Britain and the United States there are still restrictions on women serving in front line combat roles. In New Zealand there are no restrictions. In Israel, it is surprising that, it is only in the past decade that more combat positions have been opened up for females when young women have been conscripted, the same way as men, for about fifty years.

And in Germany women were allowed to take up combat roles after an European Court test case in 2001.

What people are not realising, in what will be a predictably shrill debate, is that frontline action and membership of such elite groups as the SAS will not come automatically.

As Stephen Smith pointed out: ‘When it comes to women in the ADF, including in combat roles, an opportunity for women should be determined on the basis of physical and intellectual capacity, not on gender’.

And that’s the way it should be. That’s the criteria that should and will be followed. It will mean that some women, despite their career ambitions, won’t make it. Maybe a lot of them.

There are men who dream of joining elite units like the SAS who don’t make it because they don’t reach the physical and mental standards required.

Right now, only 13% of Australian Defence Force personnel are female. Most are in the Navy. Less than 10% are in the Army.

Little wonder places like the Australian Defence Force Academy have been such bastions of chauvinism.

Little wonder that complaints of sexual harassment and assault have either been ignored or badly handled.

And one more thing: How come the academy chief has been sent on forced leave while the so-called Skype Incident is investigated? The female cadet who was the target of the predatory prank has been sent on compassionate leave. But the fellow cadet who premeditatedly set up the dirty picture show, and his six mates who watched in another room, have not been suspended.

As I said yesterday, if this were a university campus, those Neanderthals would have at least been suspended, if not expelled, by now. But then, this is the military. And they do things differently.

Posted by: Derryn Hinch | 12 April, 2011.

Smith reads riot act after webcam sex scandal

Defence Minister Stephen Smith has warned Defence Force personnel that inappropriate conduct "cannot and will not be tolerated", after allegations of a webcam sex scandal at Canberra's Australian Defence Force Academy.

Defence has called in the Federal Police to investigate claims male cadets secretly used a webcam to broadcast live footage of one of their number having consensual sex with an 18-year-old female colleague.

The woman, known only as 'Kate', told the Ten Network she did not know she was being filmed and said she was "physically ill" when Defence investigators told her what had happened.

Speaking this morning, Mr Smith said, if true, the allegations constituted the "greatest betrayal of trust" that could happen in a workplace.

He said the men involved will be sacked from the Academy and the Defence Force if the allegations are proven.

"I can't think of a greater betrayal of trust of a colleague in the workplace than the suggestions that have been made," Mr Smith said.

"Once that trust has been destroyed then it is very difficult, if not impossible, for the person who has broken that trust to remain as a Defence Force personnel member."

He said the incident brought the reputation of the Academy and the Defence Force itself into question and warned that Defence chiefs "will not tolerate conduct that is inappropriate, sexist, conduct which vilifies women, or conduct which is inappropriate in any way that goes to the dignity and civility of workmates".

He said ADF personnel needed to understand the breaking of the ADF's standards of conduct "will not be condoned".

"Conduct of the nature I've described cannot and will not be tolerated," he said.

He said the ADF has worked hard to change its culture with regard to the treatment of women but added that "quite clearly, much more work needs to be done".

"The Australian Defence Force and its personnel cannot do their work effectively in the national security interests of the Commonwealth unless there is trust in the workplace," he said.

Australian Federal Police officers are investigating the allegations to see if any federal or Australian Capital Territory laws have been broken.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard said she would not comment directly on the case because of the ongoing investigations.

But she said, in broad terms, any conduct of that nature was "disgusting" and would be "repudiated" by Australians.

"Any conduct that treats a woman in a way that her dignity is pushed aside, that engages in misusing trust, breaching trust, going out of the way to embarrass people and strip them of dignity and a sense of self worth is disgusting conduct and we would all repudiate it - it's not what we want to see in this country," Ms Gillard said.

She said no-one who joins the ADF should "have their trust abused and their dignity subject to assault".

"We've seen some incidents in the past which were unacceptable," Ms Gillard said.

"I meet terrific young men and women dedicating their lives to the protection of this country and I want them respected in every sense of that word."

The latest sex scandal to hit the Defence Force comes after the final investigation into the activities on board HMAS Success finished recently.

That report said a "predatory sexual culture" existed on the ship, with senior sailors engaging in alcohol-fuelled public sex acts.

In recent weeks, Chief of Navy Vice Admiral Russ Crane warned if behaviour does not improve he will introduce breath testing of all sailors in a bid to wipe out drunkenness.

"I don't want to have to do this but it will occur if I continue to see instances of poor and inappropriate behaviour," he said.

The new sex scandal is bad news for the Defence Force.

"Across the history of the ADF, particularly since the 1990s, there have been persistent incidences of the sexual abuse of women," Dr Ben Wadham, a senior lecturer in sociology and military culture specialist at Flinders University, told AM.

"The Australian Defence Force is a highly masculinised institution. It remains male-dominated.

"The institution may have made attempts to create gender equity but it hasn't addressed that principal question about its culture as one that persists where the culture is male-dominated and women remain guests in that environment."

By Jeremy Thompson

Updated Wed Apr 6, 2011. ABC News.

Defence investigates cadet sex video

The Defence Force has confirmed it has called in police to investigate sex allegations made by a first-year female cadet at the Australian Defence Force Academy in Canberra.

The 18-year-old, identified as 'Kate', says she had consensual sex with another first-year cadet but it was transmitted by Skype to six cadets in another room without her knowledge.

She told the Ten Network she only became aware of the incident when she was contacted by Defence investigators who were alerted by another cadet.

"It was like my whole world came crashing down around me," she said.

"They had to read the statements that the boys had to make and I actually threw up. I had to be asked to be excused from the interview because it made me physically ill."

She says still photos were also taken and "then distributed to other people".

"You see it on the TV and you read it in the papers that these things happen but until it happens to you, you don't actually believe that these things happen," she said.

Academy chief Commodore Bruce Kafer says Australian Federal Police (AFP) will investigate the incident because the college is on federal land.

"If the perpetrators, or those alleged to have been involved, are found guilty of a crime, this could result in termination of their military careers," he warned.

The ACT branch of the Australian Federal Police is the body investigating whether a crime has been committed.

A spokeswoman told AM the AFP is investigating whether charges can be laid under the ACT's act of indecency legislation, or under Commonwealth telecommunications laws.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard said she would not comment directly on the case because of the ongoing investigations.

But she said in broad terms any conduct of that nature was "disgusting" and would be "repudiated" by Australians.

"Any conduct that treats a woman in a way that her dignity is pushed aside, that engages in misusing trust, breaching trust, going out of the way to embarrass people and strip them of dignity and a sense of self worth is disgusting conduct and we would all repudiate it - it's not what we want to see in this country."

Defence Minister Stephen Smith is expected to comment on the allegations today.

The latest sex scandal to hit the Defence Force comes after the final investigation into the activities on board HMAS Success finished recently.

That report said a "predatory sexual culture" existed on the ship, with senior sailors engaging in alcohol-fuelled public sex acts.

In recent weeks Chief of Navy Vice Admiral Russ Crane warned if behaviour does not improve he will introduce breath testing of all sailors in a bid to wipe out drunkenness.

"I don't want to have to do this but it will occur if I continue to see instances of poor and inappropriate behaviour," he said.

The new sex scandal is bad news for the Defence Force.

"Across the history of the ADF, particularly since the 1990s, there have been persistent incidences of the sexual abuse of women," Dr Ben Wadham, a senior lecturer in sociology and military culture specialist at Flinders University, told AM.

"The Australian Defence Force is a highly masculinised institution. It remains male-dominated.

"The institution may have made attempts to create gender equity but it hasn't addressed that principal question about its culture as one that persists where the culture is male-dominated and women remain guests in that environment."


Saturday, May 7, 2011

25. Government Welfare Cuts

With around 11,000 teenage mothers in receipt of parenting payment, that's a heck of a lot of money for the taxpayer to be paying to support teenagers who have a child. Do the math - multiply $625.90 which is the government payment by 11,000... about $6.39741684 million dollars a fortnight!

The Prime Minister's tough love budget gets the seal of approval from me.

Teenage mums' welfare payments will be suspended six months after the birth if they do not follow Centrelink orders under Julia Gillard's "tough love" Budget.
Once their child reaches 12 months, teenage parents must attend school to finish year 12. If they skip class, they will lose their parenting payment of up to $625.90 a fortnight.

This should have been done years ago and not just to balance the budget - many young people accept little or no responsibility. There will of course be people who disagree with getting teen mums back to school for an education or working see here.

HOWEVER, there are other things that need to be taken into consideration and further planning and action must be done for this to be workable -

1. I disagree with enforcing this when the baby is at such a young age - it is better by far to wait until the baby is 12 months old.

2. Another problem I can see is where does the baby go while the mum is at school? There aren't enough childcare centres and placements as it is - does the government also have a plan to build enough childcare centres to accommodate these babies?

3. And when the mother has completed year 12, what then?

4. Changes made to single parent pensions (now called parenting payment) - at present, single parents must work a minimum of 15 hours per week when their youngest child turns 6 or they lose the pension.

5. With the government's new tough love budget, when the teen has completed year 12 will they be expected to work even though their child is under the age of 6 years?

Cuts to Disability Pensions
Is Julia Gillard and her razor gang going to slash disability pensions? The Australian Human Rights Commission's disability discrimination commissioner has backed calls to get people off the disability pension and back into work. And is that fair? Pensioners are already living below the poverty line - are they going to go in a downward spiral of further poverty to pay for the Queensland floods? Don't get me wrong, there is a huge damage bill to not only Queensland but Victoria as well, and we as taxpayers will all share the cost, but cutting pensions? Seems to me Ms Gillard is targeting the wrong people - why not start with cutting the wages of our Members of Parliament? Cut the freebies and perks and taxpayer-funded travel in the name of "on government service" - let them drive their own cars to and from work and pay for their own petrol out of their own pockets. I do - I pay for mine, nobody pays me petrol money.

And pensions for former Prime Ministers are way above the ordinary pensioner.
Kevin Rudd will get $600,000 a year for life when he leaves politics.
John Howard gets a multi-million dollar pension. Mr Howard will retire on a pension worth up to $330,000 a year or he could take a $1.5 million lump sum payout and an annual pension of about $165,000 a year.

And what about all the other former prime ministers, how much would they be getting I wonder?

We've all heard the old saying, there's one law for the rich and another for the poor.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

24. Anzac Day - Lest we forget

ANZAC Day, 25th April is the day Australians remember the original landing on Gallipoli in 1915. It is our most important national occasion. It marks the anniversary of the first major military action fought by Australians and New Zealand forces in the First World War. ANZAC stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps. The soldiers in those forces quickly became known as ANZACs, and the pride they soon took endures to this day.

Above: Anzac Cove
Australian and New Zealand soldiers formed part of the allied expedition that set out to capture the Gallopoli Peninsular to open the way to the Black Sea for the Allied navies. The landed at Gallipoli on April 25 and met fierce resistance form the Turkish defenders. The campaign dragged on for eight months.

Above: Anzac soldier carrying a wounded comrade at Gallipoli
At the end of 1915 the Allied forces were evacuated after both sides had suffered heavy casualties and severe hardship. Over 8,000 Australian soldiers were killed. News of the landing at Gallipoli made a profound impact on Australians at home and 25 April quickly became the day on which Australians remembered the the sacrifice of those who had died in war.

Above: Anzacs
We honour those Diggers and all Diggers who have made the ultimate sacrifice.

Below is an Anzac tribute I made compiled of original photoshots from World War One, including the Landing at Anzac Cove, Passchendaele, marches and photos taken by soldiers.

Above: Looking through a window on to a battlefield cemetery

Lest we forget

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

23. Murder and a Sex Scandal

All I can say is thank Le bon Dieu that one judge has the whit to hand out a decent sentence.
Arthur Phillip Freeman who threw his four year old daughter off the West Gate Bridge has been sentenced to life in prison. Supreme Court Justice Paul Coghlan sentenced Arthur Phillip Freeman, 37, to life in jail with a non-parole period of 32 years for the murder of four-year-old daughter Darcey as he sought revenge against her mother during a custody battle.
Little Darcey died hours after being thrown 80m from the bridge by her father on January 29, 2009.
Above: Darcey Freeman as a flower girl at a relative's wedding. Source: Herald Sun

Prosecutors called for Freeman to be jailed for life without parole, while his lawyers had pleaded for a minimum term.

When he handed out the sentence, he said he understood the argument that he be "locked away forever", but he did not think Freeman was "beyond redemption". The Judge said "Whatever happens, you will spend what many consider will be the best years of your life in prison. One of the unfortunate features of this case is that others blame themselves, but they should not."

Said Justice Coghlan - "You are responsible for it and nobody else. The earliest date you can be released is 29 January 2041, when you will be 67 years old."

I guess because he (the Judge) thought the murdering little swine was not "beyond redemption" he was being lenient in not locking him up for the term of his natural life.

What I don't understand is how come it took the jury five days to reach a verdict?

And I suppose all the bleeding hearts will come out now in defence of the murdering monster with lines like oh the poor man was having a mental episode and wasn't in full possession of his faculties at the time, he's not guilty on the grounds of insanity.

Yeah well pull the other one - it's got bells on it. What really angers me is these parents who don't get their own way in a custody battle go and kill their child/children. Why don't they top themselves - why is it always the children?

Another murdering little cretin is Robert Farquharson who killed his three sons on Father's Day in 2005 to get revenge on his ex-wife. He drove them into a dam, left them in the car but managed to save himself. He's been convicted twice.

To be continued............

Sunday, February 6, 2011

22. Cyclone Yasi

Destruction From The Skies
We knew about Cyclone Yasi - all Australians knew by Tuesday (1 Feb) and that it would be bad - worse than Cyclone Larry which hit the Queensland coast in 2006 and far worse than Cyclone Anthony which was a Category 2 with winds up to 155 km/ph and hit the Queensland coast on 30 January - just a few days earlier.

Above: Predicted path of Cyclone Yasi
Although meteorologists try and predict the path of a cyclone, the cyclones themselves can go either way and turn in a different direction. It was thought that Cairns would be the focal point, but when this huge monster smashed into the Queensland coast, it was Mission Beach where it made landfall. Mission Beach is 138 kms south of Cairns.

Above: TC Yasi in the Pacific Ocean

Above: Cyclone Yasi on 1 Feb
A huge monster. By 7.00am on the 2 February, Cyclone Yasi was upgraded to a Category 5 with possible winds of up to 300km/ph.

Above: Cyclone Yasi nears Queensland

Above: Cyclone Yasi and Australia

Like Napalm
Queensland residents have said that when TC Yasi hit, it was like a napalm bomb had gone off and its fury was ten times worse that Larry.

One day you have a picturesque three-acre property on a hill overlooking South Mission Beach and Dunk Island, complete with its own rainforest, the next you are looking at devestation on a grand scale. Trees stripped bare, everything in sight broken, branches everywhere, your house is gone, the road has lifted, and the howling winds like a jet engine go on for hours while the rain pounds down.
A frightening prospect.

Size of Yasi & World Comparisons
To give you so,e idea just how big TC Yasi was, the three photos below show the cyclone over the USA, Asia and Europe.

Above: TC Yasi superimposed over the USA

Above: TC Yasi over Asia

Above: TC Yasi superimposed over Europe

Above: Cyclone Yasi and Hurricane Katrina

The pictures below are from ABC News.

Above: Tully Heads resident returns to ruin

Above: Power lines down at Cowley

Towns Closed To Public
Following a request for privacy by distressed locals, Police have closed of Tully Heads and Tully to the general public. Police said residents returning to their badly damaged homes wanted to be left alone to begin the clean up.

The seaside towns were among the hardest hit when the category five Cyclone Yasi slammed into the coast late on Wednesday night.

Police say the entire Tully Heads and Tully areas have been closed - the locals will wear marked wrist bands to gain access.

Above: Tully home peeled open

Above: Toilet left standing after Cyclone Yasi

Above: Silkwood home hit by Yasi

Above: Sign shows Tully residents' resilience

Above: Tully home hit hard

Above: Marina in ruin after Cyclone Yasi

Above: Banana farm inundated by Cyclone Yasi floodwaters
The banana crops have been almost wiped out bar a few. When Cyclone Larry hit five years ago, bananas went up to $13 a kilo.

No Imported Bananas
It is with relief I heard that Coles Supermarket has promised they will not import cheap bananas from overseas. This is something I am very pleased about - so what if banans cost 13 bucks a kilo, or even $20, I'd rather pay $10 for two bananas or go without than have an imported crop from overseas. When I was a child, fruit and vegetables were not available all year round like they are today - they were only in the fruit shops when they were in season. And that's how it should be. Too many people are used to having all their fruit and veg year round and they're pretty tasteless anyway.

Above: Banana plantation destroyed by Cyclone Yasi

Above: Cardwell's foreshore washed to sea

Town Faces Disaster Again
Above: House toppled in Innisfail
Innisfail, a small sugar cane town 30 kms from Mission Beach was almost wiped out after Cyclone Larry and now faces another battle.

Above: House destroyed in Mission Beach

Above: Ocean laps over The Strand in Townsville

Above: Oceans churns in the wake of Yasi

A C-17 Globemaster and two C-130 Hercules aircraft flew from Amberley Airbase to Cairns on Saturday with essential supplies. There will be further flights transporting such things as bottled water, baby formula, disposable nappies and tinned food.

Cairns residents, meanwhile, could have their power restored. Local power supplier Ergon Energy says it believes it will have the high voltage backbone of most of its electricity network in Cairns restored by Sunday night.

Power was reconnected to almost 15,000 customers on Friday night, leaving about 21,000 homes and businesses in Cairns without power.

Where There's A Will There's A Way

Beyond this place of wrath and fears, looms but the horror of the shade.
Yet the menace of the years, finds us unafraid.
It matters not how charged with punishment the scroll;
We thank whatever gods may be, for our unconquerable soul

From "Invictus" by William Henley.

Few in the tropics would know much about Henley's poem Invictus. Let alone the words or order.
But here in the Deep North it resonates. There is something different in our DNA. There is a sense of the tough, pioneering spirit of life on the last frontier up here.
This latest big blow is testament to our unconquerable soul.

Cyclone Yasi is just the latest test of our character. Make no mistake, this was no fizzer. Flying over Ground Zero, it looks like 150km stretch of the coast has been bombed.

In a sweep by helicopter from Cairns to Ingham, a distance of about 260km, the full extent of the devastation can be seen. The blessing was that Cyclone Yasi - a female Fijian baby name meaning sandalwood - did not unleash its payload directly on the main population centres of Townsville or Cairns. That would have been carnage.

But there is one image, out of many, that captures the wrath of the most powerful cyclone in Australia's recorded history. From the air, it is the sight of about 70 luxury yachts, motor cruisers and catamarans, piled high like a child's discarded toys and flung into waterfront living rooms.

Down on the ground, emotions are raw. Jim Wickerson, 58, looks like Santa Claus. He is a big, burly bloke, scared of nothing. Except a Fijian female called Yasi. READ THE REST OF THE STORY HERE.