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Not everyone’s cup of tea

July 10th, 2019 / / categories: 南京夜网 /

To a tea … Dilmah founder Merrill Fernando enjoys a brew.The high tea has been hijacked. So say connoisseurs of the world’s most popular brew.
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The founder of the Dilmah tea brand, Merrill J. Fernando, who is in Australia for a high tea competition, worries that the art of tea consumption has become too commercial. Meanwhile, Holly Orsman Smith, director of sales and marketing for The Tea Room QVB and The Tea Room Gunners Barracks, says the term “high tea” has been corrupted.

Every week thousands of Sydney residents enjoy a hot brew accompanied by a three-tiered stand of scones, finger sandwiches and cakes, blithely thinking they are having high tea. But Ms Orsman Smith has a different definition for the experience: afternoon tea.

“High tea has become the in thing to call it but we use the correct term which is afternoon tea,” she said.

“High tea originally was done before supper at 5pm. It was a meal for the English working classes. We refrain from using the term high tea in all our marketing and branding because it’s not what we do.

“A lot of people call it high tea but it’s not high tea in the correct sense.”

Mr Fernando, who has been involved in the tea industry for much of his 82 years, is not too fussed about the terminology but is concerned that people have forgotten about the quality of the tea.

“So many people today, they don’t even know how to make a proper cup of tea,” he said. “It is so sad.”

He sees hope, though, in young people, who “are willing to learn how to do it the proper way”.

Whether a consumer calls it high tea or afternoon tea, uses a bag or a pot, there is no denying Australia’s appreciation for a good cuppa.

According to the market research company Datamonitor Group, the value of the Australian tea category will rise from $437 million in 2008 to a forecast value of $473 million next year, with the out-of-home market accounting for 12.5 per cent of sales.

The Tea Room QVB serves about 1500 afternoon teas each week, starting at $39 a head, with a further 600 consumed at The Tea Room Gunners Barracks in Mosman.

“It’s something that is quite a cross-generational thing to do,” Ms Orsman Smith said.

“We’ll quite often have young girls with their mothers and grandmothers coming in.”

Mr Fernando, in Australia for Dilmah’s High Tea Challenge competition, believes tea should always be consumed in company.

“In the good old days you never had a cup of tea by yourself,” he said. “You always tell your friend let’s have a cup of tea. Tea is a drink to be enjoyed with your friends.”

For Elaine Armstrong, who has consumed many thousands of cups of tea during her 20 years with the NSW Country Women’s Association, the brew is not the most important thing. “You learn a lot about what’s going on over a cup of tea,” she said.

“For me, it’s not so much about the tea, it’s about the chat over the cup of tea.”

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

“It’s not about sex” … Marus, talking about his “cuddle parties”.On a chilly Saturday night last month, Janeen Sonsie paid $35 to snuggle with a group of strangers. “I had three guys massaging me, which was bliss,” the fiftysomething business coach and marketing consultant says. “My friend and I were a bit scared when we arrived, but also quite excited. Because everyone sets their own boundaries, it’s amazing how quickly you relax.”
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Sonsie was one of 20 people attending the “cuddle party”: a strictly non-sexual gathering in which guests hug, touch and massage one another. Created by two American relationship counsellors, the first such party was held in New York in 2004. A Melbourne chapter opened two years later, closing not long after when its founder became ill.

Then, in 2008, the relationship and life coach Marus – who goes only by his first name even on his business card – reopened the Melbourne arm, recently expanding to NSW and Queensland. His first event attracted two dozen people; a recent gathering drew almost 100. More than 1000 have attended one somewhere on the east coast.

“They’re growing fast,” Marus says. “I’ve got my first Sydney party in October and I’ll be taking them to other states soon.”

He greets me at the door of his Elwood flat by asking for a hug, which I conclude with a couple of matey backslaps. “In our culture, men always do the ‘pat pat’ thing with each other,” he laughs. “There’s a stigma when it comes to showing affection.”

Hence his desire for adults to reap the benefits of “non-sexual touch”. As reported last week, hugging boosts the feel-good hormone oxytocin, acting as a social glue.

“People at cuddle parties experience everything from sheer elation and liberation to a sense of inner peace and calm,” Marus says. “One of the rules is that tears and laughter are welcome — and we do see both.”

One rule is that a verbal “yes” must precede any touching. “It’s not about sex, it’s not about sex,” Marus says. “I cannot overemphasise that it’s not about sex.”

He believes Australians wrongly view physical affection between adults as inherently erotic. Australian men, he adds, are taught that cuddling is a bothersome but mandatory precursor to sex. “We’re living in a touch-starved society. People are not sure how to be loving and nurturing towards one another without it being sexual.”

Accredited as a “cuddle party facilitator” by the US parent organisation, Marus begins each event by reiterating the guidelines. Some guests sit back and observe; others snuggle, spoon or massage each other in pairs or groups.

Most parties conclude with a “puppy pile”: a big communal hug on the floor.

So far, everyone has obeyed the rules. But what happens if a cuddler gets inadvertently turned on?

“Sometimes, things pop up,” Marus explains. “It happens, it’s natural and it’s totally OK. I explain what to do, how to be present with that and how to not act on it.”

Nothing untoward occurred at the party Ms Sonsie attended last month. She has already bought tickets to the next one on September 29.

“I wasn’t interested in going to a swingers’ party,” she says, “and there was definitely nothing sexual about it. I felt absolutely safe and relaxed. We all felt so loving and caring and affectionate and there were even moments of euphoria. Everyone walked out on a high.”

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Ales for ailes … Ian and Melissa Davis. Ian was diagnosed with MND at the age of 33. He is preparing to launch a beer to raise funds for research into the disease.I still remember the first day I realised something was wrong. The day when my life’s path would be irreversibly altered and I would leave my role as caregiver and doctor and begin my gradual surrender into the role of patient.
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There was nothing special about that day, just an average workday within a busy hospital haematology ward, managing patients diagnosed with blood cancers.

I was leading my usual eight o’clock ward round, examining my patients and investigating any issues that had developed during the night. Seeking and managing symptoms or side effects from the chemotherapy I had prescribed.

Little did I know that my attention to detail would set off a chain of events leading to my diagnosis, and ultimately to where I am now.

That day one of my patients was complaining about a “funny feeling” in his left foot, a dysaesthesia we call it. The night-time resident doctor had seen him and had dismissed this new symptom as a somatic manifestation of the patient’s extreme anxiety.

It turned out this patient had every right to be scared.

In the morning, I made my own assessment. I worked my way through a neurological examination, testing his peripheral and central nervous systems, looking for signs of pathology. I got him out of bed and asked him to stand on his toes and then on his heels to demonstrate the strength within his lower leg muscles. He was unable to stand on his heels. He had a “foot drop”, weakness in the muscles that lift the toes and foot off the ground.

He was horrified, I’m told. The chemotherapy had indeed damaged his nerves and it was obvious for all of us to see. But I missed his reaction. I was transfixed by my own legs. He couldn’t stand on his heels and neither could I.

That night my wife Mel and I walked our two dogs, and during the walk I could hear the faint sound of my left foot slapping the ground with each step. It was still there, it wasn’t just a pinched nerve, I hadn’t just slept funny. We got home and I lay on the bed and I asked my then fiancee, who is also a doctor, to examine my legs. I was 33 and it would turn out that I have motor-neuron disease (MND).

The road to a diagnosis for most MND patients is long and arduous, sometimes taking years. I was fortunate. I had a shortcut. I quietly approached one of my colleagues for help and within two days I had undergone nerve-conduction studies, a muscle and nerve biopsy, a lumbar puncture, a battery of blood tests, and a whole-spine MRI. All motor-neuron patients ultimately understand that each element of this is a grasp at hope, a grasp for an alternative, a grasp for something else – please, anything else.

MND is a diagnosis of exclusion; there is no one test, no one defining feature. Often sufferers are left for months or years with a title of “possible” or “likely” MND, with time ultimately being the final arbiter. Thanks to my training, I had inside knowledge about this disease and no matter how much I longed to see the distorted anatomy or bright intensity signals on my MRI that would point to a simpler, more treatable cause, I knew deep down they would not be there. I remembered that first night after our walk. Mel had examined me, I saw the signs. She had demonstrated them to me. I was good at neurology, this was MND.

That night I answered her question honestly when, with tears in her eyes, she asked me, “Could this be anything else?” My training, knowledge and gut feeling said no.

By the time we saw the neurologists I was certain. The preceding hours and days were spent going through alternatives in my head and I undertook an extensive library and internet search. Nothing else had come up.

Hearing the first and then the second neurologist actually mouth the words in some ways was a relief, legitimising my fears, but at the same time, as he said those words, my life, my future, collapsed. All was replaced by unfamiliar emotions: dread, fear and, on the drive home, panic. I knew about this disease. I knew what lay ahead. I was, and still am, terrified.

Motor-neuron disease was originally described by the French neurologist, Jean-Martin Charcot, in 1869, and is also known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) or Lou Gehrig’s disease. It is one of modern medicine’s failures. That’s a personal and obviously biased opinion, but I think most in the medical community would agree. It’s been 71 years since Lou Gehrig, the famous New York Yankees baseball player and self proclaimed “luckiest man on earth”, died from this disease. He died on my birthday, June 2, in 1941, and as a doctor I am ashamed to say that from a practical point of view for patients, little more is known about the cause, and certainly no truly effective therapy is on the horizon.

MND is a progressive neurodegenerative affliction, a gradual imprisonment, where an accumulation of disability leads to a gradual but inevitable reduction in independence. Patients live on average two to three years after being diagnosed.

In the simplest terms, the disease attacks and kills the motor-nerve cells within the brain and spinal cord, destroying the means by which messages are sent to the body’s voluntary muscles. When they are gone, the muscles atrophy and die, taking with them our ability to move. Forever. My mind and intellect will not be affected. I will bear witness to it all. There are about 1400 to 1700 people living with the disease at any time in Australia, but we don’t live long enough for the prevalence to rise.

Statistics have shown the number of deaths from MND is rising – there were 450 in Australia in 2000 compared with 596 in 2009 – but the cause of this increase is unknown.

Sure, it’s a rare disease, but in real terms, every day at least one person will be diagnosed, and another will die as a consequence of this disease. It strikes at anyone, often with no warning. Ten per cent of sufferers have an inherited form of the disease. The remainder, like me, grapple every day with the often and inevitable question, “why me?”. The disease is now mainly in my legs. I have a brace and use a walking stick when my leg becomes tired. I know it’s spreading. My muscles constantly twitch. Intermittent cramps in seemingly unaffected parts of my body signal that the disease is spreading. I feel these butterflies under my skin, in my arms, back, and left side of my face. I just have to wait for the weakness to begin.

The only treatment available is largely ineffectual. Borderline efficacy data has allowed the drug to reach the market, but for many people the cost and side effects are prohibitive. The medication prolongs the average life expectancy or time to needing a ventilator by about three months. I take it. I’m not sure I really want to prolong the back half of this disease, though, and I take it in the hope of slowing progression. I don’t know if it is working. The disease marches on regardless. Despite MND being granted “orphan disease status” by the US Food and Drug Administration – which is meant to encourage research – there has been little advance. Developers of so-called “orphan drugs” aimed at treating rare diseases get more leeway with statistical analysis, potential tax incentive and enhanced patent protection and marketing rights. But drug developers have still been slow to get on board. Patients are diagnosed with MND at nearly the same rate as many other neurodegenerative diseases, but the fact stands: we don’t live long enough to create a burden on society, so there is no incentive for governments or pharmaceutical companies to pursue new treatments. There isn’t enough profit to be made. Cynical I know, but nevertheless true.

To live with this disease, I have come to the realisation that I need to achieve two goals: complete acceptance and complete surrender.

Firstly acceptance. This is a constant process, one in which I am continuing to reframe my perspectives on this disease and how I let it affect my life. The progressive disability needs to be incorporated into a constantly evolving acceptance. I think I have the internal strength to do this. I hope I do. However, one of the hardest things has been recognising that others will need to accept the disease as well, and in turn I need to accept and acknowledge their response, in whatever form it comes. In a recent discussion with a psychologist, the issue of secrecy came up. I have kept my diagnosis secret for almost a year, with only the closest of friends and family aware. Surely telling others was one of the first steps to true acceptance, so why then have I kept it secret? I told myself that eventually everyone would know, the disease would see to that. My body would betray my secret, but until then I didn’t want people to treat me differently.

This element, not wanting to be seen as a sick version of my former self, now interests me, and it turns out I’m not alone. The psychologist referred me to a 1988 book, Stories of Sickness by Howard Brody. In the chapter about the relationships of patients with those around them, Brody refers to the “Gregor effect”, in reference to German author Franz Kafka’s 1915 short story The Metamorphosis. In the story, the protagonist Gregor Samsa turns into an insect. His family and friends, although at times empathetic and still loving, find ways to avoid Gregor, to distance themselves from his “illness”. Psychologists ascribe this “Gregor effect” to how some view the terminally ill. We make you nervous, uncomfortable and scared, and at times make you challenge your own mortality. I know this firsthand.

My work in haematology means I deal with patients suffering from terminal diseases. I would comfort them, advise them, treat them, and prognosticate for them with clinical efficiency at work. I was never cold, I was professional, I could empathise, but I always kept them distant. If I saw my patients outside of office hours, I would often turn around rather than interact with them and face how they made me feel.

On a social level, I feared the awkwardness of the situation. I worry about this now happening to me. Will people fear interacting with me, and treat me differently? I fear walking into a room. You can probably see a recurring theme here – I need to accept fear.

Second is surrender. This one seems easy. I’m not talking about surrendering to the disease and surrendering all hope. That will not happen, not any more. Rather I mean surrender to inevitability and accept my future disability. Trust that others will look after me. Easier said than done.

More recently I find myself looking for new inspiration. I must admit I am much more easily inspired these days. I search for renewed passion, for something I can try to excel at, something where I can aim to leave my mark on this world when I can no longer work as a doctor.

Again, it turns out I’m not alone. This phenomenon is known well to geriatricians, and they call it “generativity”. It is common among the elderly at the end of their productive lives and, as I am finding, common among the terminally ill. It describes the emotions and regrets a person has when lost opportunities are mourned and individuals find themselves longing for more time, endurance and chances. They wish to have produced something meaningful, something to have made a difference. Anything to make others proud, to make them remember. For some it is through professional endeavours. I will very likely not finish my training and will not know what this feels like.

For others, it is through starting a family and creating a legacy. Again, with much heartache I know this will not be possible. So I need to focus on what I can do here and now, and enable others to help the cause when I’m gone.

Inspiration, hope and purpose can come from strange places and for me it was tasting an artisan ale. I guess you could call it my epiphany ale. I had been searching for something, anything I may be able to do – something that did not require my legs. Something that would need my brain, my passion, my drive. I turned to my medical school hobby of home-brewing beer. I will not go into detail, but the brewers among you know the satisfaction I’m talking about.

On my birthday this year, a mixed six-pack of craft beer from my sister-in-law showed me the way.

The very first ale I tried was perfect. Why not make a beer for MND? Why not use beer to raise awareness of the disease across Australia and to raise funds for research and equipment?

I had to make this happen. So I found my epiphany ale’s website, emailed the brewers, and to my delight the guys from Cavalier microbrewery responded in less than 24 hours. They would help, and most importantly they were excited by the idea. From then on Steve, Heath and Andrew have been amazing, and our plans for launching the beer this year are well under way. The name we have decided on is the “Cavalier Courage”, with the concept and design of the beer based on the myth of Sisyphus. Albert Camus’s essay on the ill-fated king resonates with me and probably all people with MND. Condemned to the underworld, Sisyphus’s punishment was to push a boulder up a steep hill, only to have it roll back down to the bottom each time he reached the top. For me, this represents what MND patients go through.

This disease takes something away from us. We adapt, but when we think things are stable it takes something else. The rock rolls back down. I now use a cane intermittently and a knee brace and I am back at the top of the hill. But I know my rock is delicately balanced.

Despite thinking that Sisyphus should be the most miserable man ever, Camus proposed that we should think him as “happy”, in that the process of pushing the rock, no matter how draining and depressing it seems, can be enough, if we accept it, to fill us with purpose. He wrote: “The struggle itself towards the heights is enough to fill a man’s heart.”

This beer will pay tribute to all MND patients and hopefully give incentive for all of us to start pushing again. I am not alone in this battle. I have gained much wisdom, passion and encouragement from other sufferers. One person who touched me early after my diagnosis, and during one of my darker days, was Scott Sullivan. He is an MND sufferer, a Queenslander, a father, and an absolute hero. He founded the MND and Me Association and raises funds for research and awareness. The other is the Zo-ee association in Melbourne, named after the Greek word meaning life, formed by Karen Mustica and Gina Gonis after Karen’s mother was diagnosed with MND in 2005. The profits from Cavalier Courage Ale sales will go to these two great charitable associations. Where I will be in one week, one month, or even one year is anyone’s guess.

It is however, a surety that I will get weaker. I will experience good days and darker times, but I can now see some sort of light, and it’s the ratio of the two I’m working on. I continue to gain strength with the help of family, friends and, more recently, strangers.

I often think of a quote by the Jewish-Austrian neurologist, Victor Frankl, from his book, Man’s Search for Meaning, written after he was released from a concentration camp in 1945. Mel and I first became aware of Frankl’s work while visiting the concentration camp museum at Dachau in Germany. Even in this place, the first of Nazi Germany’s death camps, the human spirit could endure.

The quote is: “Everything can be taken from man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

This disease is going to destroy me physically. It will try to take everything from me. To a large extent it will succeed. My independence, my dignity, my career and my plans of a family and growing old with Mel will be taken. This quote makes me realise, however, that some things are off limits. I’ve never been a religious man, but I do believe in an individual’s spirit and the disease can’t have mine. I may not yet see myself as “the luckiest man alive”, but I’ll keep working on it, Lou. Until then, with the help of my family and friends, I’ll continue to live in the present tense . . . It just makes much more sense.

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AFP steps up seizures from crime gangs

July 10th, 2019 / / categories: 南京夜网 /

‘Seizing precursor chemicals has been a focus for the AFP.’FEDERAL police have seized more than 1.5 times the amount of drug precursor chemicals and double the value of criminal assets this year than in the previous 12 months, following a successful change in strategy.
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The Australian Federal Police released the figures exclusively to The Sunday Age to mark the third anniversary of its new approach to solving serious and organised crime.

Kevin Zuccato, the AFP’s head of serious and organised crime, said the results were directly attributable to increased sharing of information between the AFP and government departments in Australia, as well as overseas agencies.

”Many of our great investigations have had an international flavour,” Mr Zuccato said.

The latest strategy for detecting and breaking major crime syndicates reflects one already working in the AFP’s counterterrorism, people smuggling and high-tech crime areas.

While drug busts have increased in Australia, a number of major breakthroughs have been made in other countries with the help of the AFP, including:

■In Thailand earlier this year an AFP chemist and bomb data technician helped local police uncover 450 kilograms of ammonium nitrate and improvised explosive devices across two separate investigations.

■AFP intelligence gathered in Cambodia led to 4100 litres of safrole oil being seized in September last year and seven Vietnamese and Cambodian nationals being charged. The oil could have made 25.7 million ecstasy tablets and at least some of these were expected to be sent to Australia.

■Late last year in Burma AFP officers in Rangoon helped local police seize 576 kilograms of pseudoephedrine and 4.5 kilograms of ephedrine.

The AFP has more than 90 officers overseas, a number that has remained stable in recent years, although the number of foreign police the AFP has trained is increasing.

As part of the overseas operations, the AFP gives foreign police scooters, computers and boats and sets them up in offices and helps train them.

”We’re not talking about big dollars,” Mr Zuccato said.

”We do this work offshore to make sure Australia doesn’t have to pay for a prosecution and pay for incarceration [of criminals].

”If they don’t have the capability to be effective, then we’re going to wear the outcome of them being weak and vulnerable.

”Our job is like the whack-a-mole game.

”When the criminals come up for air, we’re sitting there with the mallet, whether that’s here, on the open ocean or another country.”

Last financial year, the AFP-led Criminal Assets Confiscation Taskforce seized $97.4 million of assets, an increase of more than $55 million on the previous year.

The AFP seized almost 14 tonnes of drugs and drug ingredients in 2011-12. This was a 164 per cent – or 8.6-tonne – increase on the 5.2 tonnes seized the previous financial year. It is more than 11 times the 1.2 tonnes seized in the 2009-10 financial year.

Locating and seizing precursor chemicals that are used to make drugs has been a focus of the AFP’s work, Mr Zuccato said.

Almost 12 tonnes of these ingredients were seized in the last financial year, a year-on-year increase of 263 per cent.

At the same time, 542 kilograms of amphetamine-type drugs were uncovered, a 34 per cent increase on the previous financial year.

And 832 kilograms of cocaine was seized in 2011-12, 36 kilograms more than in the previous 12 months.

Colin Campbell, a spokesman for the Australian Institute of Criminology, said that while methamphetamine use had increased sharply since 2009, fewer people were taking ecstasy.

Twenty-one per cent of detainees were using methamphetamines in 2011, compared with 13 per cent in 2009, according to AIC research.

Proceeds of crime restrained since January this year:

■ 45 bank accounts$19.2 million■ 57 sums of cash$10.7 million■ 3 jewellery items$1.2 million■ 16 vehicles$4.7 million■ 35 properties$53.3 million■ 2 vessels$2.4 million■ Total value$91.5 million

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

John Gillard moved his young family halfway around the world in 1966 so his younger daughter, Julia, could enjoy a warmer climate and have some respite from the chronic chest infections that plagued her.
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Only in his wildest dreams could he have imagined that his little girl would go on to become prime minister and champion the education she believed he would loved to have had.

It was a journey the ”Ten Pound Pom” described as ”not bad”.

Mr Gillard, 83, whom the Prime Minister described as her ”inspiration”, died in Adelaide yesterday morning after a long illness.

”He taught me that nothing comes without hard work and demonstrated to me what hard work meant as a shift worker with two jobs,” Ms Gillard said in a statement.

”He taught me to be passionate about fairness. He taught me to believe in Labor and in trade unionism. But, above all, he taught me to love learning and to understand its power to change lives. He always regretted his family background meant he had not proceeded on to higher education as a young man. He was determined that I had the opportunities he was denied. I will miss him for the rest of my life.”

The Prime Minister was attending the APEC summit in Russia when she learnt of the news.

About 3pm a message had just gone out inviting reporters to watch Ms Gillard as she met the President of Peru.

Ms Gillard had just finished recording a television interview with Australia Network when told of her father’s passing. S

he had been about to step into a car to drive to the formal welcome to the summit.

When Trade Minister Craig Emerson appeared in her stead, Russian President Vladimir Putin was told the news.

”At the onset of our meeting I would like to say that one of our colleagues, the Australian Prime Minister, had a very unfortunate tragedy in her family,” the Russian President announced to the 19 other leaders gathered in the hall.

”Her father passed away so I would like on behalf of all of us to express condolences to her and members of her family.”

Ms Gillard left Vladivostok for Adelaide to join her mother, Moira, and sister Alison.

She will be represented at the meeting by Mr Emerson.

Ms Gillard often referred to her parents in her speeches and spoke lovingly of the sacrifices they had made to ensure she was given every chance to succeed.

In return, Mr and Mrs Gillard were vocal supporters of her daughter, often speaking out in her defence and praising her achievements.

Mr Gillard, a coalminer and psychiatric nurse, described himself as a ”loquacious Welshman” in one interview when he said his daughter knew better than to confide any political secrets in him.

Ms Gillard asked for privacy for herself and her family.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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A toast to life

June 10th, 2019 / / categories: 南京夜网 /

Facing a terrible diagnosis, doctor Ian Davis finds solace and purpose in the art of brewing.
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I STILL remember the first day I realised something was wrong. The day when my life’s path would be irreversibly altered and I would leave my role as caregiver and doctor, and begin my gradual surrender into the role of patient.

There was nothing special about that day, just an average workday within a busy hospital haematology ward, managing patients diagnosed with blood cancers. I was leading my usual 8am ward round, examining my patients and investigating any issues that had developed during the night. Seeking and managing symptoms, complications or side effects from the chemotherapy I had prescribed.

Little did I know that my attention to detail would set off a chain of events leading to my diagnosis, and ultimately to where I am now.

That day one of my patients was complaining about a ”funny feeling” in his left foot, a dysaesthesia we call it. The night-time resident doctor had seen him and had dismissed this as a somatic manifestation of the patient’s extreme anxiety. It turned out this patient had every right to be scared.

In the morning, I made my own assessment. I worked my way through a neurological examination, probing and testing his peripheral and central nervous systems, looking for signs of pathology. I got him out of bed, and to stand on his toes, and then on his heels to demonstrate the strength within his lower leg muscles. He was unable to stand on his heels. He had a ”foot drop”, weakness in the muscles that lift the toes and foot off the ground.

He was horrified, I’m told. The chemotherapy had indeed damaged his nerves, and it was obvious for all of us to see. But I missed his reaction. I was transfixed by my own legs. He couldn’t stand on his heels, and neither could I.

That night my wife Mel and I walked our two dogs, and during the walk I could hear the faint sound of my left foot slapping the ground with each step. It was still there, it wasn’t just a pinched nerve, I hadn’t just slept funny. We got home and I lay on the bed and I asked Mel, my then fiancee, who is also a doctor, to examine my legs. I was 33 years old, and it would turn out that I have motor neuron disease (MND).

The road to a diagnosis for most MND patients is long and arduous. I was fortunate. I had a short cut. I quietly approached one of my colleagues for help and within two days I had undergone nerve conduction studies, a muscle and nerve biopsy, a lumbar puncture, a battery of blood tests, and a whole spine MRI. All motor neuron patients ultimately understand that each element of this is a grasp at hope, a grasp for an alternative, a grasp for something else – please, anything else.

MND is a diagnosis of exclusion; there is no one test, no one defining feature. Often sufferers are left with a title of ”possible” or ”likely” MND, with time ultimately being the final arbiter. Thanks to my training, I had inside knowledge about this disease and no matter how much I longed to see the distorted anatomy or bright intensity signals on my MRI that would point to a simpler, more treatable cause, I knew deep down they would not be there.

I remembered that first night after our walk. Mel had examined me, I saw the signs. She had demonstrated them to me. I was good at neurology, this was MND. That night I answered her question honestly when, with tears in her eyes, she asked me, ”could this be anything else?” My training, knowledge, and gut feeling said no.

By the time we saw the neurologists I was certain. The preceding hours and days were spent going through alternatives in my head and I undertook an extensive library and internet search. Nothing else had come up. Hearing the first and then the second neurologist actually mouth the words in some ways was a relief legitimising my fears, but at the same time, as he said those words, my life, my future, collapsed. All was replaced by unfamiliar emotions: dread, fear and, on the drive home, panic. I knew about this disease. I knew what lay ahead. I was, and still am, terrified.

MOTOR neuron disease was originally described by French neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot in 1869, and is also known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) or Lou Gehrig’s disease. It is one of modern medicine’s failures. That’s a personal and obviously biased opinion, but I think most in the medical community would agree. It has been 71 years since Lou Gehrig, the famous New York Yankees baseball player and self-proclaimed ”luckiest man on earth”, died from this disease. He died on my birthday, June 2, in 1941, and as a doctor I am ashamed to say that from a practical point of view for patients, little more is known about the cause, and certainly no truly effective therapy is on the horizon.

MND is a progressive neurodegenerative affliction, a gradual imprisonment, where an accumulation of disability leads to a gradual but inevitable reduction in independence. Patients live on average two to three years after being diagnosed. In the simplest terms, the disease attacks and kills the motor nerve cells within the brain and spinal cord, destroying the means by which messages are sent to the body’s voluntary muscles. When they are gone, the muscles atrophy and die, taking with them our ability to move. Forever. My mind and intellect will not be affected. I will bear witness to it all.

There are about 1400-1700 people living with the disease at any time in Australia, but we don’t live long enough for the the prevalence to rise. Recent statistics have shown, however, that the incidence of this disease is rising, with 450 deaths secondary to MND in Australia in 2000, but 596 in 2009 – the cause of this 30 per cent increase in mortality is unknown.

Sure, it’s a rare disease, but in real terms every day at least one person will be diagnosed and another will die as a consequence of MND. It strikes at anyone, often with no warning. Ten per cent of disease is inherited. The remainder, like me, grapple every day with the often and inevitable question: ”Why me?”

The disease is now mainly in my legs. I have a brace and use a walking stick when my leg becomes tired. I know it’s spreading. My muscles constantly twitch. Intermittent cramps in seemingly unaffected parts of my body signal that the disease is spreading. I feel these butterflies under my skin in my arms, back, and left side of my face. I just have to wait for the weakness to begin.

The only treatment available is largely ineffectual. Borderline efficacy data has allowed the drug to reach the market, but for many people the cost and side effects are prohibitive. The medication prolongs the average life expectancy or time to needing a ventilator by about three months. I take it. I’m not sure I really want to prolong the back half of this disease though, and I take it in the hope of slowing progression. I don’t know if it is working. The disease marches on.

Despite MND being granted ”orphan disease status” by the Food and Drug Administration in the US – which is meant to encourage research – there has been little advance. Developers of so-called ”orphan drugs” aimed at treating rare disease get more leeway with statistical analysis, potential tax incentives, and enhanced patent protection and marketing rights. But drug developers have still been slow to get on board. Patients are diagnosed with MND at nearly the same rate as many other neurodegenerative diseases, but the fact stands: we don’t live long enough to create a burden on society, so there is no incentive for governments or pharmaceutical companies to pursue new treatments. There isn’t enough profit to be made. Cynical I know, but nevertheless true.

TO LIVE with this disease, I have come to the realisation that I need to achieve two goals: complete acceptance and complete surrender.

First, acceptance. This is a constant process, one in which I am continuing to reframe my perspectives on this disease and how I let it affect my life. The progressive disability needs to be incorporated into a constantly evolving acceptance. I think I have the internal strength to do this. I hope I do. However, one of the hardest things has been recognising that others will need to accept the disease as well, and in turn I need to accept and acknowledge their response, in whatever form it comes.

In a recent discussion with a psychologist, the issue of secrecy came up. I have kept my diagnosis secret for almost a year, with only the closest of friends and family aware. Surely telling others was one of the first steps to true acceptance, so why have I kept it secret? I told myself that eventually everyone would know, the disease would see to that. My body would betray my secret, but until then I didn’t want people to treat me differently.

This element, not wanting to be seen as a sick version of my former self now interests me, and it turns out I’m not alone. The psychologist referred me to a book, Stories of Sickness by Howard Brody. In the chapter about the relationships of patients with those around them, Brody refers to the ”Gregor Effect”, in reference to German author Franz Kafka’s 1915 short story The Metamorphosis. In the story, the protagonist Gregor Samsa turns into an insect. His family and friends, although at times empathetic and still loving, find ways to avoid him, to distance themselves from his ”illness”. Psychologists ascribe this ”Gregor effect” to how some view the terminally ill. We make you uncomfortable, scared, and at times make you challenge your own mortality.

I know this firsthand. My work in haematology means I deal with patients suffering from terminal diseases. I would comfort them, advise them, treat them, and prognosticate for them with clinical efficiency at work. I was never cold, I was professional, I could empathise, but I always kept them distant. If I saw my patients outside office hours, I would often turn around rather than interact with them and face how they made me feel. On a social level, I feared the awkwardness of the situation. I worry about this now happening to me. Will people fear interacting with me, and treat me differently? I fear walking into a room and my entrance starting an awkward silence. You can probably see a recurring theme here – I need to accept fear.

Second is surrender. This one seems easy. I’m not talking about surrendering to the disease and surrendering all hope. That will not happen, not any more. Rather, I mean surrender to inevitability and accept my future disability. Trust that others will look after me. Easier said than done.

More recently I find myself looking for new inspiration. I must admit I am much more easily inspired these days. I search for renewed passion, for something I can try to excel at, something where I can aim to leave my mark on this world when I can no longer work as a doctor.

Again, it turns out I’m not alone. This phenomenon is known well to geriatricians, who call it ”generativity”. It is common among the elderly at the end of their productive lives, and, as I am finding, common among the terminally ill. It describes the emotions and regrets a person has when lost opportunities are mourned and individuals find themselves longing for more time, endurance and chances. They wish to have produced something meaningful, something to have made a difference. For some it is through professional endeavours. I will very likely not finish my training, and will not know what this feels like. For others, it is through starting a family and creating a legacy. Again, with much heartache, I know this will not be possible. So I need to focus on what I can do now, and enable others to help the cause when I’m gone.

INSPIRATION, hope and purpose can come from strange places, and for me it was tasting an artisan ale. I guess you could call it my epiphany ale. I had been searching for something, anything I may be able to do – something that did not require my legs. Something that would need my brain, my passion, my drive. I turned to my medical school hobby of home brewing beer. I will not go into detail, but the brewers among you know the satisfaction I’m talking about. On my birthday this year, a mixed six-pack of craft beer from my sister-in-law showed me the way. The first ale I tried was perfect. Why not make a beer for MND? Why not use beer to raise awareness of the disease across Australia and to raise funds for research and equipment?

I had to make this happen. So I found my epiphany ale’s website, emailed the brewers, and to my delight the guys from Cavalier Brewing responded in less than 24 hours. They would help, and most importantly they were excited by the idea. From then on Steve, Heath and Andrew have been amazing, and our plans for launching the beer later this year are well under way. The name we have decided on is Cavalier Courage, with the concept and design of the beer based on the myth of Sisyphus. Albert Camus’ essay on the ill-fated king resonates with me and probably all people with MND. Condemned to the underworld, Sisyphus’ punishment was to push a boulder up a hill, only to have it roll back down to the bottom each time he reached the top. For me, this represents what MND patients go through.

This disease takes something away from us. We adapt, but when we think things are stable it takes something else. The rock rolls back down. I now use a cane intermittently and a knee brace and I am back at the top of the hill. But I know my rock is delicately balanced and in time I will need to push again.

Despite thinking that Sisyphus should be the most miserable man ever, Camus proposed that we should think of him as ”happy”, in that the process of pushing the rock, no matter how draining and depressing it seems, can be enough, if we accept it, to fill us with purpose. He wrote: ”The struggle itself towards the heights is enough to fill a man’s heart.”

This beer will pay tribute to all MND patients and hopefully give incentive for all of us to start pushing again. I am not alone in this battle. I have gained much wisdom, passion and encouragement from other sufferers. One person who touched me early after my diagnosis, and during one of my darker days, was Scott Sullivan. He is an MND sufferer, a Queenslander, a father, and an absolute hero. He founded the MND and Me Foundation and strives to raise funds for research and awareness. The other is Zo-ee in Melbourne, named after the Greek word meaning life, formed by Karen and Gina after Karen’s mother was diagnosed with MND in 2005. The profits from Cavalier Courage Ale will go to these two great associations.

Where I will be in one week, one month, or even one year is anyone’s guess. It is, however, a surety that I will get weaker. I will experience good days and darker times, but I can now see some light, and it’s the ratio of the two I’m working on. I continue to gain strength with the help of family, friends and, more recently, strangers.

I often think of a quote by the Jewish neurologist Viktor Frankl from his book, Man’s Search for Meaning, written after he was released from a concentration camp in 1945. Mel and I first became aware of his work while visiting the concentration camp museum at Dachau, in Germany. Even in this place, the first of Nazi Germany’s death camps, the human spirit could endure. The quote is: ”Everything can be taken from man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

This disease is going to destroy me physically. It will try to take everything from me. To a large extent it will succeed. My independence, my dignity, my career, and my plans of a family and growing old with Mel will be taken. This quote makes me realise, however, that some things are off limits. I’ve never been a religious man, but I do believe in an individual’s spirit, and the disease can’t have mine. I may not yet see myself as ”the luckiest man alive”, but I’ll keep working on it, Lou. Until then, with the help of my family and friends I’ll continue to live in the present tense – it just makes much more sense.

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This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Former detective inspector Malcolm Brammer (left) and former detective sergeant John Dolan in 1991.Documents obtained by The Sun-Herald, allege some officers in Special Crime and Internal Affairs – or SCIA – falsified information to obtain listening devices, telephone intercepts and search warrants and, in one case, induced a criminal to commit perjury in front of a magistrate.
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They also show that Parliament, the public and rank-and-file police have been repeatedly misled about the reasons why one listening device warrant contained the names of 112 serving and former police and two civilians, including a journalist.

In that case, many officers, including the present deputy commissioner Nick Kaldas, believed they were victims of a personal “vendetta” by officers within SCIA.

And M5 – the corrupt officer turned undercover operator who secretly taped his colleagues – agreed. He told investigators: “I was assisting, nurturing corruption.” He also said: ”I smelt a rat … I was settling old scores which related to my supervising Superintendent.”

The bombshell allegations are contained in long-suppressed reports of internal strike forces code-named Sibutu, Tumen and Emblems, which were established to investigate complaints made about SCIA between 1997 and 2002.

The Sun-Herald has now seen copies of all three reports, which the police hierarchy and successive governments have refused to release.

Strike Force Emblems was set up in 2003 to investigate a controversial listening-device warrant approved in September, 2000. It contained the names of 112 serving and former police and two civilians – and it was one of dozens sought by SCIA officers and the NSW Crime Commission, which were running a covert inquiry into police corruption, Operation Mascot.

But its net was so wide that it placed under surveillance dozens of honest officers, including the current deputy commissioner Nick Kaldas, Detective Inspector Wayne Hayes, Assistant Commissioner Ken Mackay, and Detective Superintendent Paul Jones.

The key player in Operation Mascot was a corrupt NSW cop, code-named M5, who wore a listening device for two and a half years and recorded hundreds of conversations with his colleagues. His home was also bugged, as was his car, his briefcase and his mobile phone.

The Emblems report says eight SCIA officers, including its then boss, Assistant Commissioner Mal Brammer, his deputy Superintendent John Dolan and then acting Inspector Cath Burn were among those investigated. Ms Burn is now Mr Kaldas’s fellow deputy commissioner, and both are touted as potential commissioners. Emblems does not make any findings against any particular officer.

It says its inquiries were hampered by the refusal of the NSW Crime Commission to hand over crucial documents, including affidavits, and it therefore could not reach definitive conclusions.

Nevertheless, it found:

There were clear indications that “criminal conduct may have occurred surrounding the affidavit”.

On the available evidence there was no justification for 54 serving and former police and the journalist Steve Barrett being placed on the listening-device warrant.

Previous Strike Forces Sibutu, Tumen and Operation Banks had identified “systemic corruption and mismanagement” within SCIA in relation to listening devices, telephone intercepts and search warrants. Serious adverse findings of corruption had been found against senior officers attached to SCIA.

Strike Force Emblems suspected similar “alleged corruption”. It reveals M5 became disillusioned with his SCIA handlers and believed they were sending him to record conversations with honest police in a bid to settle old scores. It is believed one of those was Mr Kaldas.

It is well known in police circles that at one stage, Mr Kaldas and John Dolan had a serious disagreement. Emblems says that, about a month after that confrontation, M5 approached Mr Kaldas, who then became suspicious and reported the matter to the then deputy commissioner, Ken Moroney.

M5, who worked undercover between February 1999 and mid-2001, said: “I was sent by my supervising Superintendent to a particular person five or six times, I smelt a rat … I was settling old scores.” He said he was uncertain of the true motives of those supervising him.

Mr Brammer, who left the force in mid-2002, yesterday denied any wrongdoing and strenuously denied any knowledge of a vendetta. [See separate story.]

Mr Brammer has been the subject of adverse findings in previous internal police reports, including for “untruthfulness” a “manifest conflict of interest” as well as “bias” and “a lack of fairness”. One inquiry found he allegedly perverted the course of justice by improperly arranging an internal investigation against an officer.

Mr Dolan, who has also left the force, could not be reached for comment.

Mr Brammer has previously said Operation Mascot was run with the full co-operation and supervision of the Crime Commission and the Police Integrity Commission. He said the current Police Commissioner, Andrew Scipione, was involved at the time and he knew of no improper conduct by Ms Burn or anyone else.

At least one former SCIA officer has raised the “vendetta” allegation. In a formal record of interview with one of Emblems’ predecessors, Strike Force Tumen, the detective Paul Albury says he thought the targeting of Mr Kaldas was based more on a “personal vendetta” rather than any evidence.

The officer says there was deep concern by some within the unit that serving and former officers were being targeted on the basis of “third and fourth-person hearsay”.

The previous Labor government and the O’Farrell government have refused to release the Emblems report, despite the current police minister, Mike Gallacher, pushing for its release while in opposition.

The Inspector of the Police Integrity Commission, David Levine, has been asked by the State Government to investigate whether the Strike Force Emblems report can be released. He is currently working his way though documents provided to him by NSW Police and the Crime Commission. It is not known when his inquiry will be completed.

Some former detectives named on the warrant believe he has not been given the resources needed to get to the bottom of the long-running saga. They believe an independent judicial inquiry is required – free of police intervention.

They say the Police Integrity Commission is disqualified from investigating the matter because it was intimately involved with SCIA and the Crime Commission in Operation Mascot from an early stage.

Strike Force Emblems interviewed 35 people who complained about their names being on the warrant. Emblems found there was no justification for 22 of those, including Mr Kaldas, being on the warrant. Overall, it found that of the 114 people named, there was probably no justification for 54 of them being on it.

“The use of 114 names on the subject listening device is an abuse of process and not in the ‘spirit’ of the legislation. It is not conceivable each person would be part of a conversation over a 21-day period.”

(Warrants are approved for 21 days. Police need to reapply if they want to continue bugging).

Many other police named on the warrant are respected and senior detectives. The vast majority have never been told why they appeared on the warrant, let alone questioned or charged.

Emblems investigators said their inquiries were hampered because the then head of the NSW Crime Commission, Phil Bradley, after initially agreeing to co-operate, refused to hand over crucial documents. These included affidavits which were presented to the Supreme Court to support the application for the listening device.

Strike force investigators, which included five detective inspectors, clearly found themselves under intense pressure and took the extraordinary step of recording their fears that they may be subject to “payback”.

“Although there is no evidence of a ‘payback’ or ‘reprisal’, the nature of the Strike Force Emblems investigation, with the alleged corruption identified, indicates there is a potential for retribution against Strike Force members,” the Emblems report said.

Investigators also reveal they were directed to be less than truthful with the 35 people who formally complained about their names being on the warrant.

It says they were “instructed” to tell complainants ”we are working towards obtaining the affidavit”.

“At no time have the complainants been informed that the affidavit has been refused or that the Crime Commission is being obstructive.”

The Sun-Herald asked Mr Scipione, Ms Burn and Mr Kaldas for comment.

Through a spokesman, Mr Kaldas said he was “unable to comment”.

Ms Burn did not wish to comment, except to say she had never been the commander of SCIA.

The Police Commissioner, Andrew Scipione, said: ”All matters relating to Strike Force Emblems and any associated materials have been referred to the Inspector of the Police Integrity Commission. NSW Police has provided all materials asked for by the inspector.”

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Life as a fake catches up with PI

June 10th, 2019 / / categories: 南京夜网 /

Exposed … Frank Monte is fighting to keep his private inquiry licence.The disreputable gumshoe Frank Monte is fighting a rear-guard action to stop the NSW police stripping him of his private inquiry licence.
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Police launched an inquiry into Monte after The Sun-Herald exposed his practice of creating fake names for private detectives, taking thousands of dollars from unsuspecting clients, then abusing and threatening them when they complained.

The 67-year-old former bankrupt has been told by police that his PI licence will not be renewed because he is not a fit and proper person and uses unethical business practices such as false names to rip people off.

Monte appeared before the Administrative Decisions Tribunal last week, seeking the return of his licence until the tribunal hears his case, set down for November 26. He told the tribunal he was in ”dire straits” financially and that, apart from his PI skills, ”I don’t really have any other talents”.

The hearing into Monte’s fitness to hold a licence is scheduled for four days.

After The Sun Herald article, titled ”The full Monte – this cheat wants to be mayor”, was published in April, he responded by creating a fake lawyer to threaten websites that republished the article. The mysterious ”Ian Dale” warned that Monte had commenced an action in the NSW Supreme Court and had served a summons for malicious libel on this reporter.

This, like much of Monte’s business practices, was a fiction. There is no person called Ian Dale registered as a solicitor or barrister and no such action has been filed in the Supreme Court. In his legal threats ”Mr Dale” had stated: ”The article claimed Mr Monte was the owner of businesses which he has no interest in.”

But police documents filed with the tribunal allege Monte was behind the various businesses and also used numerous pseudonyms to rip people off.

In July, the NSW police force’s Security Licensing & Enforcement Directorate notified Monte that it would not be renewing his licence. According to the SLED, it had received 100 complaints about his business practices.

Over the past 15 years, NSW Fair Trading has received 43 complaints against Monte and his associated companies. Over the same period, there have been 44 complaints about companies and private investigators trading under Monte’s pseudonyms. In court documents, police alleged Monte was behind businesses such as Monte Investigation Group, Monte Investigation Services, Mason Steele, Morgan Turner Freeman, MTFPI and Parker Taylor.

One client, John, told The Sun-Herald that he rang the Melbourne office of investigation agency Parker Taylor last year. A ”Mark Strong” had told John that several thousand dollars would be required for the work John wanted. Five weeks later Strong wanted more money. John requested a progress report before paying. After repeated calls were not returned, John threatened legal action.

So Strong emailed in reply: ”You do that, you f—ing little c—! You go ahead and take legal action, and I’ll take action against you for wasting my f—ing time! I’ll come to your house at 3.00 am and make your life a f—ing misery! Now don’t call me again you f—ing little c—!”

Imagine John’s surprise when he rang the Sydney office to complain, only to find ”Mr Strong” answering the phone. Documents tendered at the tribunal revealed an investigation by the NSW police concluded that Mark Strong was in fact a pseudonym used by Monte. His other pseudonyms included Richard Clark, Stephen Mason, Thomas J. Parker and Robert Taylor. But even more interesting were the results of police inquiries into one Thomas Steele.

When things started becoming hot for one of Monte’s companies, Morgan Turner Freeman, he solved the problem by selling it.

The only problem is the buyer, a Thomas Steele, does not exist. In 2010 Frank Monte lodged documents with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, which he certified were ”true and complete”, stating that – because he was ”retiring” – Thomas John Steele, born January 1955, was taking over his business MTFPI (which in turn operates Monte’s investigation company Morgan Turner Freeman).

Monte listed the company’s business address and Steele’s home address as an apartment in Farrell Avenue, Darlinghurst. The Sun-Herald contacted the owner of that apartment, who said no such people or business had ever occupied his unit.

Under cross-examination last week by Carlo Zoppo, representing the police, Monte was asked if Steele was known to him. ”Yes,” he replied, ”I met him several years before. I met him through friends. He was a PI and a security guard round the Kings Cross, Darlinghurst area.”

He said Steele had paid him $100,000 in cash for his business but had failed to come up with a further $200,000 which he had promised. The tribunal was also shown Monte’s sworn statutory declaration dated June 2012.

In it Monte claimed Steele ”is unreliable and has caused me much concern with our financial arrangements”. He also said Steele had refused to pay the rest of the money because of ”the negative publicity in the press”.

And he was refusing to assist Monte in his Supreme Court action against The Sun-Herald in which he was seeking ”$1 million in damages”.

Monte said he was angry that Steele ”has not been able to be found since the offending article went to press”. Asked if he was aware that police could find no record that Thomas Steele existed, Monte snapped: ”I don’t know what the police can or can’t do.”

The tribunal’s president, Judge Kevin O’Connor, ruled it was not in the public interest for Monte to have his licence returned before the November hearing.

The judge noted there was ”a lack of clarity” in Monte’s business structures and that he was ”evasive”. Some of his answers ”seemed to lack candour”.

Monte was famously sued by the family of the late fashion designer Gianni Versace after he made up a series of lies about Versace in his memoirs, The Spying Game, later dubbed The Lying Game.

Monte was bankrupted when he failed to pay the Versaces’s costs.

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No fair go at school: Gonski

June 10th, 2019 / / categories: 南京夜网 /

“For a long time there has been a willful denial that there is a problem” … Carmen Lawrence.Increasing segregation of students has led to a two-tiered education system with a widening gap between the ”haves” and the ”have-nots”.
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Australian students from the most disadvantaged backgrounds are up to three years behind students from more privileged backgrounds in literacy levels, according to figures compiled for the Gonski Review of Funding for Schooling. Poor students also lag well behind their wealthier peers in science and maths and are only half as likely to attend university.

Carmen Lawrence, the director of the centre for the study of social change at the University of Western Australia and a member of the Gonski review panel, said the figures busted the myth that Australia offers a fair go for all.

”For a long time there has been a willful denial that there is a problem,” she said. ”But we assembled all those data and they don’t make pretty reading.”

Disadvantaged children are concentrated in the public system, according to Gonski, with 80 per cent of children from low socio-economic backgrounds, 85 per cent of indigenous children and 79 per cent of children with disabilities in government schools.

Australia is achieving only average equity compared with other OECD countries, according to figures from the 2009 Programme for International Student Assessment survey, which ranks us behind Hong Kong, Shanghai, Finland and South Korea, which are rated in the top five performing places overall, compared with Australia at ninth spot.

The OECD reports that, among its member countries, differences in students’ backgrounds accounted for 55 per cent of performance differences between schools; for Australia, the figure is 68 per cent.

Educational inequity starts when a child reaches kindergarten, according to leading experts in the field.

David Zyngier, a senior lecturer in the faculty of education at Monash University and a former teacher, said disadvantaged children have a vocabulary of 2000-3000 words at the age of six, compared with between 10,000-20,000 for wealthier children.

”When a child comes into school 50 per cent of their academic achievement is already determined by what they bring into school, that is their family background, their home, their culture and intellectual ability,” he said.

”Children come to us in our classrooms with what has been called the ‘invisible backpack’ and some come with their backpack full of privilege and others come with a backpack of disadvantage.”

Research from the UK shows that even bright children from disadvantaged backgrounds struggle to perform well academically. By the age of eight, they are overtaken by less intelligent children from more advantaged backgrounds.

The inequity is compounded by an education system which siphons more affluent children into the private system and high achievers into the selective system, says Chris Bonnor, a former high school principal and a Fellow of the Centre for Policy Development.

”We subsidise kids to leave low socio-economic status schools to go to higher socio-economic schools,” he said. ”The disadvantage at the bottom end gets worse because all the aspirant kids have gone.”

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Ex-ombudsman attacks funding

May 9th, 2019 / / categories: 南京夜网 /

THE former Commonwealth ombudsman Allan Asher has attacked the federal government for paying lip service to the watchdog and hobbling its ability to investigate the immigration system through a lack of funding.
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In a speech to the Castan Centre for Human Rights Law, Mr Asher, pictured, described himself as a ”former immigration ombudsman who mistakenly believed that the government was genuine in its commitment to the compassionate and tolerant treatment of asylum seekers”.

He accused politicians of giving inadequate support to the ombudsman’s office.

”Most particularly, relevant ministers were, at times, resistant and resentful of the work undertaken by the ombudsman whenever criticisms were made of the administration of aspects of asylum policy,” he said.

He was particularly critical of a lack of funding for the office. ”Despite funding extra resources for almost every other aspect of management of asylum policies … no new resources could be found to support the impossible workload of the office for the ombudsman,” he said.

Mr Asher was forced to resign last year after he prepared questions for Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young to ask about his office in Senate budget estimates hearings.

He has recently appeared in the SBS television series Go Back to Where You Came From.

He said he believed the office of the ombudsman – which is supposed to conduct six-monthly reviews of asylum seeker cases – was hamstrung.

”The Immigration Ombudsman has the legal powers, experience and skills to play a significant role in maintenance and management of the human rights of asylum seekers,” he said. ”Nonetheless, without the active support of the executive or the Parliament, the role will continue to fall short of its potential.”

A spokesman for the Immigration Minister, Chris Bowen, said the government was open and accountable.

Funding for the ombudsman’s office went from $12,495,000 in 2005-06 to $22,472,000 in 2010-11, the spokesman said. But the office was forced to cut 10 per cent of its staff this year owing to financial pressures.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.