Archive for: May, 2019

Ghosts of Biloela app conjures ghostly tale of girls exiled on Cockatoo Island

May 20 2019 Published by under 南京夜网

Historical drama: (from left) Eliza Cook, 11, Bella Formica, 12, and Astrid Sealey, 12, from Manly Village Public School tried out the new app at Cockatoo Island on Friday. Photo: Peter RaeThe young girls were exiled from society on an island, abused by the school’s violent principal, accused of being evil, and often sentenced to solitary confinement in sandstone cells several metres underground. They were often left to rot, forgotten by the rest of society.
Nanjing Night Net

This is the plot of a new drama, Ghosts of Biloela, which was based on the historical testimony of delinquent and wayward girls sent to Biloela Reformatory and Industrial School for Girls (1871-1888) on Sydney’s Cockatoo Island.

Rather than unfolding on a television screen, the producers of a new smartphone app use geolocation to tie each spooky audio story to the island.

The cast includes well-known actors including Ashleigh Cummings (Puberty Blues, Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries); Jada​ Alberts (Cleverman​, Wentworth), Sophie Hensser​ (Love Child, Underbelly), Nathan Lovejoy​ (Sammy J & Randy, The Code) and Marcus Graham (Secret City, Hiding).

Creative producers Jesse Cox and writer Que Minh Luu “fell in love with the girls” when they read their testimony at a Royal Commission into Public Charities in 1873 that resulted in Biloela’s closure.

“We wanted to present it as a high school drama but in the worst possible high school,”, said Mr Cox.

Although the girls suffered from the worst possible abuse and deprivation, the producers were impressed by the girls’ humour and agency – they smuggled food to each other, and drew graffiti on walls in protest. Riots were frequent, and when some girls gave evidence at the Royal Commission they had bruises and cuts on their bodies and faces from beatings by the superintendent George Lucas.

“Mr. Lucas came into the dormitory and saw some figures on the wall,” 14 year old Katie Solomon told the commission. “He was very angry about them, and caught me by the hair of the head and told me to rub them out. I said I should not. He then dragged me down, and put his foot on my back and stood on me. He knocked my head against the wall, and said he would take my hair to rub the figures out with it. “

The girls were often put in solitary confinement for two weeks in cold and rat-infested sandstone cells measuring about one metre by two metres.

Ms Lu said it was “outrageous” that orphaned boys who were living in the ship Vernon, which was moored off Cockatoo Island, were educated and treated far better than the girls. Often the girls were asked to mend the boys’ clothes.

When Ms Lu and Mr Cox tested an earlier version of the app, they found it was a bit too bleak and dark.

Now it is more ghostly and a bit more like Harry Potter, and little less like The Shawshank Redemption, said Ms Lu.

Bella Formica, 12, Astrid Sealey, 12 and Eliza Cook, 11, tested the new app on Friday. The girls, from Manly Village Public School, said it was a scary introduction to the history of Biloela.

“It was like woo hoo – ghosty and scary,” said Astrid Sealey. “It was pretty shocking to hear how they were treated, often beaten up for no reason.”

The girls seemed most shocked by the poor food and the lack of toilets – the girls were locked up from 6pm to 6am with only a bucket if they were desperate.

“They only ate slop,” said Astrid, who that morning had breakfasted on eggs and croissant.

To download the app developed for the Sydney Harbour Federation Trust, which manages Cockatoo Island, visit iTunes or Google Play.

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

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Playgroup a source of ‘advice and support’ for fathers

May 20 2019 Published by under 南京夜网

Jonathon Smith takes his three-year-old daughter, Silver, to a weekly playgroup in Clovelly. Photo: Janie Barrett Playgroup is a “great source of advice and support” for Jonathon Smith. Photo: Janie Barrett
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Attending playgroup with his daughter, Silver, began as a necessity for Jonathon Smith when he couldn’t get her into day care, but it has quickly become a favourite activity for both dad and daughter.

Mr Smith is part of a growing group of fathers who regularly take their children to the weekly gatherings held across NSW, which last about three hours and include free play, arts and crafts, organised games and morning tea.

After his wife’s job brought them to Sydney from London, he initially planned to look after his daughter for a few months before going back to work, but the hunt for day-care centres proved harder than he had expected.

“As I went to a few it started dawning on me that they’ve got waiting lists that are years long,” Mr Smith said.

“I started to get a little concerned. We didn’t know anyone and the main thing was I wanted my daughter to interact with other kids.”

At one of the centres, someone who had been in a similar situation suggested a playgroup across the road.

“It was brilliant,” Mr Smith said. “Our friends are mostly through the people we’ve met at playgroup.

“It’s a great source of advice and support. There’s no reason dads can’t benefit from that as much as anyone.”

Karen Bevan, CEO of Playgroup NSW, said fathers and grandfathers are now playing a greater care-giving role and becoming more engaged with the sessions.

“These last two or three years, we’ve started to see the impacts of paid parental leave and companies starting to give dads more time off,” Ms Bevan said.

“When dads are involved you see greater outcomes for kids, there’s pretty strong research around this.

“They’re also bringing to playgroup all the diversity we want children to see, whether that be gender or race.”

Despite playing a greater part in raising their children, fathers like Mr Smith who take on the role of the primary caregiver remain relatively rare.

Out of the 12,000 families that are Playgroup NSW members, only about 400 list fathers as the primary contact.

However, changing workplace laws and social attitudes have seen more fathers taking time off work to take care of children, according to research by Save the Children Australia.

Nationally, about 60 per cent of fathers with children who were under 18 in 2015 took up to two weeks off work after the arrival of their child, and 20 per cent took between three weeks and three months off.

In comparison, 50 per cent of fathers with children who are now over 18 took one week or less off, and only 16 per cent took more than one week’s leave.

For Mr Smith, going from a job in advertising he enjoyed to looking after a child was initially “a bit of a culture shock”.

“Your day’s suddenly structured around naps,” he said. “But I’m getting to watch my daughter grow up every day and I think it’s something I’ll treasure for the rest of my life.”

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Protecting antiquities in Syria and Libya from Islamic State

May 20 2019 Published by under 南京夜网

Professor Maamoun Abdulkarim has been tasked with protecting Syria’s rich history. Photo: Andrew Cowan The ancient city of Palmyra, Syria, was dubbed the “Venice of the Sands” before IS demolished its artefacts. Photo: SANA
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Maamoun Abdulkarim remains hopeful of recovering Syrian artefacts from Palmyra. Photo: Andrew Cowan

IS fighters have reduced Palmyra to “the monumental ruins of a great city”. Photo: SANA

The Bamiyan Buddhas in Afghanistan, once the world’s largest standing Buddhas, were destroyed by the Taliban. Photo: Stephen Dupont

Just three hours before Islamic State entered Syria’s ancient city of Palmyra in May 2015, three big trucks fled in the opposite direction.

They were carrying priceless artefacts: hundreds of statues, glasses, ceramics – relics of one of history’s greatest cities, saved from the thievery and weapons of ideologues.

“But unfortunately, we could not move the site,” says Professor Maamoun Abdulkarim, drily, sadly.

The destruction that followed made international news. Beautiful old monuments were reduced to rubble by IS’ spiteful explosives.

Nevertheless, Abdulkarim retains hope. In the piles of stones left behind by the retreating jihadists a year later he sees not dusty chaos but a plan for rebuilding: a Lego-bag of possibility, stones torn apart but intact, whose arcs of destruction can be reversed.

With the help of computer modelling he is plotting how this ancient city may rise again from the desert, each stone lifted to its old place, restored to show future generations what was lost and rediscovered.

And within them, or near them, will sit the antiquities guarded from war by the dedication of a few hundred archaeologists led by Prof Abdulkarim: nerds, geeks, very un-Indiana-Jones types who have dedicated themselves to saving history. Hidden from war

Abdulkarim is not cast in a heroic mould – he is a modest academic who in the summer of 2012 was offered the unenviable job of director-general for the antiquities and museums of Syria.

He accepted on one condition: that every single museum in the country must close immediately, and every object within them come to Damascus, to be hidden from war.

As a result, 99 per cent of the country’s historical objects have been saved from the conflict that has claimed so many lives, and is still without sign of ending.

Small statues can be moved, archaeological finds can be saved. But buildings are harder to protect.

“I am the saddest director-general in the world,” Abdulkarim told last week’s international cultural summit in Edinburgh, where he gave a desperate plea for help.

“The dangers surrounding the Syrian archaeological heritage are growing beyond our capabilities and limited resources. The international community needs to be reminded that the Syrian cultural heritage is part of the world heritage of humanity and that the loss of any of its components is a loss for all humanity.”

He sees beauty and tragedy in the ruins of Syria, he says. The country is a mosaic of civilisation, with more than 10,000 archaeological sites that trace the rise of humanity from prehistory to the modern day.

“But all things have been damaged by this crisis,” he says. ‘Venice of the Sands’ crumbles

Aleppo is the latest tragedy, he says – it is one of the most significant heritage sites in the ancient world, now crumbling under the bombs of war.

Last year Palmyra was the focus. IS militants seized this ancient wonder dubbed the “Venice of the Sands” in May 2015 during a push to claim a strategically significant area on the road to Damascus and close to oil and gas fields.

UNESCO describes the site as “the monumental ruins of a great city that was one of the most important cultural centres of the ancient world”.

From the 1st to the 2nd century AD it stood at the crossroads of civilisations, a merchant-run, cosmopolitan oasis of art and architecture straddling the trade route between Rome and China, elegantly combining Greek, Roman, Persian and local influences.

Outside the walls stood an aqueduct and huge necropolises, houses of the dead. Within the town a grand, kilometre-long colonnade linked the great Temple of Ba’al with the market, theatre and other monuments.

Then came IS.

They smashed statues and sarcophagi, severing heads and defacing murals. The triumphal arch and the Temple of Ba’al were turned to rubble with explosives.

Palmyra is just one among many ancient treasures at risk. ‘Mafia thieves’ strike

Abdulkarim says more must be done to save such sites. He says the international community must work harder to protect them – by proactively working in war zones, and by pushing harder to end the international trade in stolen treasures, which thrives in wartime.

Gangs he calls “mafia thieves” bring bulldozers and in just a few months smash through layers of history that should take half a century to carefully peel back, he says.

“The war will finish, the crisis will finish, but all the destruction of your heritage will be for generations,” he warns.

The destruction of cultural heritage used to be a shame, but now it is a war crime.

In a groundbreaking case last month at the Hague’s International Criminal Court, former al-Qaeda militant Ahmad al-Faqi al-Mahdi pleaded guilty – and begged forgiveness – for leading a group that demolished nine Sufi shrines and attacked a 500-year-old mosque in 2012 in Timbuktu, Mali.

“It is with deep regret and with great pain I had to enter a guilty plea and all the charges brought against me are accurate and correct,” Mahdi told judges at the ICC. “Look at me like a son that has lost his way.”

His group had deemed the shrines idolatrous and deliberately planned their destruction.

His colleagues had burned the Ahmad Baba Institute, home to 800-year-old manuscripts. The local mayor told NPR “they’re my history, they’re documents about Islam, history, geography, botany, poetry. They’re close to my heart, and they belong to the whole world”.

This trial was a new step in a continuing push for the deliberate destruction of heritage to be prosecuted as a war crime – a push that germinated in the Balkan conflict with the shelling of the stunning old Croatian town of Dubrovnik and the destruction of the Old Bridge in Mostar – and gained momentum after the Taliban demolished the monumental Bamiyan Buddhas in central Afghanistan. International co-operation

Francesco Bandarin, assistant director-general for culture at UNESCO, says the loss of the Buddhas was a “major shock for international public opinion”, and has helped bring about a new world-wide effort to protect cultural heritage.

Before now, efforts were mostly confined to patching up damage once a conflict ended, he told the Edinburgh summit.

“The problem is that today we see not a war here and a war there, we see 10 conflicts,” he said. “We see an extended, unmanageable front of destruction in the Middle East, in Africa, in central Asia – this seems to become a very critical and unfortunately widespread phenomenon.

“This brought us to some reflection. We certainly saw that the tools that we have available, [international] conventions and other tools were really not sufficient to address the issue.”

UNESCO is adopting a new strategy, he says. They want to try to prevent damage to heritage sites in the first place – working with locals on the ground to support those who want to protect history.

They are also educating UN peacekeepers – already those in Mali and Congo, and more in the future – on making the protection of cultural and natural sites part of their missions’ mandates.

But UNESCO’s efforts are not universally praised. Dr Ramadan al-Shibani is the head of the technical department at the Tripoli Archaology Directorate.

He says the situation in Libya is “really not too different” to Syria. Radical groups are destroying a lot of Islamic sites in the belief that artefacts inside the mosques are “prohibited”, he says. They are wrecking tombs and shrines.

“I’ve been to many conference with UNESCO and most of the attention was applied to Syria, to Iraq and Mali,” he says. “But UNESCO is contributing very little to Libya.” Government involvement

The body made a terrible mistake by allying itself with just one of the three groups that effectively govern the country, he says. Outside the eastern part of the country they have no influence.

But in those areas are some world-class heritage sites, he says. With some pride, he points out that the “black mummy”, a 5600-year-old mummified child found in a cave in the Libyan desert, is arguably proof that this region exported mummification to ancient Egypt.

Islamists are not the only problem. Without an effective government locals can destroy archaeological sites by accident, by building without planning permission. “They build on a lot of archaeological sites, they just don’t care,” al-Shibani says. Other times, they rebuild homes by raiding stones from ancient monuments.

And some treasures are lost from simple graffiti, left unguarded in the chaos of a lawless state. In the south of the country, 10,000 year-old cave paintings have been sprayed over – ruined after surviving millennia.

As in Palmyra, many of the great civilisations have left their mark in Libya: Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Phonecians, and of course Islam.

“These sites are very important to humanity, to the world,” al-Shibani says.

Prof Abdulkarim agrees. “The time has come to take action before it’s too late,” he says. “To protect our heritage not just in Syria, also in Libya, in Yemen, in Iraq, Mali, Afghanistan.

“We must protect our common heritage. It’s a disaster that is painful for all of us.”

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Malcolm Turnbull’s dole cuts will hit older Australians the hardest

May 20 2019 Published by under 南京夜网

The number of older Australians on the dole is rising rapidly. Photo: Mayu KanamoriThe number of older Australians on the dole is rising rapidly, raising fresh concerns about the Turnbull government’s plan to cut unemployment benefits.
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New figures from the Department of Social Services show there are now 241,000 people in their 50s and 60s collecting Newstart – up by more than 40,000 in just two years and more than 100,000 since 2012.

That means 31.5 per cent of the 768,000 Australians on Newstart are aged over 50, when long-term unemployment is much more common due to changes to traditional industries and the barriers to retraining.

The number is also going up proportionally, from 25 per cent of over-50s in 2012 when the overall figure was 138,000.

The growth rate is dramatically higher than the growth in the number of over-50s in the general population.

The ballooning numbers raise new concerns about Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s bid to axe a supplement – introduced by Labor – for anyone who applies for Newstart after September 20.

Critics say cutting the clean energy supplement will create a two-tiered system in which the newly unemployed will be paid a record low of 32 per cent below the poverty line. The $1.4 billion cut was announced in this year’s budget going against the advice even of business groups.

The base Newstart rate for singles is $263.80 – a paltry $37.70 a day. The supplement adds $4.40 a week.

Ian Yates from the Council of the Ageing, or COTA, strongly opposes the cuts because “Newstart is so appallingly low anyway.”

“When you live well below the poverty line on Newstart then $4 per week is a lot of money. It means one less meal,” he told Fairfax Media.

He says over 50s suffer from significant age discrimination so they often find it very difficult to get back into the workforce.

“Many people live on Newstart for years before going on the age pension so of course they have had no capacity to save for retirement, and indeed have usually run down their previous savings because you can’t live on Newstart.”

Figure show close to half of over-50s on Newstart stay on it for two years. About 20 per cent of them stay on it for four years.

Younger people generally move off it much more quickly.

Greens senator Rachel Siewert says her party will be standing firm against the cuts.

“It still staggers me that the government is happy to chip away at payments to some of the most vulnerable members of our community to plug up the budget,” she said.

Newstart is available to unemployed Australians aged over 22 who are looking for work and meet an income and asset test.

The supplement was introduced by Labor to compensate households that paid no tax for the impact of the carbon price.

The government argues with the carbon price gone the compensation should be cut too, however the middle class tax cuts associated with the tax are not being touched.

Labor is now internally divided on the cut, which is contained in the $6 billion “omnibus” savings bill introduced last week.

The supplement was the only real increase to Newstart – which goes up with inflation rather than wages growth – since the mid-1990s.

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Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s lifeline for sufferers of rare diseases: early access to life-saving drugs

May 20 2019 Published by under 南京夜网

Australians with rare cancers and other diseases will be given early access to experimental and potentially life-saving drugs under major Turnbull government changes. Photo: SMH Gary Packer, who is suffering from a rare form of lung cancer, with his granddaughter Mackenzie. Photo: Andrew Darby
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Gary Packer has a rare form of lung cancer and he’s going to die.

The only question is will he spend his final years working, travelling with his family and playing with his young granddaughter Mackenzie? Or will he spend them sick and bed-ridden, his body battered by chemotherapy and radiation?

The first option just became a little more likely as a result of a Turnbull government decision to give Australians with rare cancers and other fatal diseases early access to experimental drugs as part of major changes to the medical approvals system.

“My instant response is that’s bloody wonderful. It’s a marvellous result,” says Mr Packer.

Health Minister Sussan Ley will release the government’s long-awaited response to an independent review of the regulation of medicines and medical devices this week, Fairfax Media can reveal.

One the review’s main recommendations – that the government speed up access to new miracle drugs even if they haven’t gone through the usual testing and phase III clinical trial stages – will be adopted.

Mr Packer, a 61-year-old accountant and business-owner who lives near the Victorian town of Mildura, was diagnosed with stage 3B terminal lung cancer three years ago. He’d never been a smoker; rather his affliction came from a rare genetic mutation.

He’s been through severe chemo and radiation, an experience that left him drained. He was subsequently put on a less severe drug called Crizotonib.

​”It was put on the PBS late last year – about the same time it stopped being effective for me,” he says.

He’s since managed to get access to an even better drug called Ceritinib, which is only available in Australia through clinical trials. It has enabled him to go back to work and to be a normal contributing member of his family. Without it, he would need constant care.

Under the government’s changes, more people will be able to get access to drugs just like it.​ Drug companies will be able to get their most promising products into the hands of desperate or dying patients without going through the full Therapeutic Goods Administration approval process.

Thousands of the 25,000 Australians diagnosed with rare cancers every year could benefit from the change, which would let them access drugs up to two years earlier than normal. The guiding principle for the new process will be simple: “Does the potential benefit to the patient outweigh the risks?”

For Mr Packer, it could also mean that when Ceritinib stops being effective for Mr Packer, he may be able to get access to the current gold standard treatment: Alectinib.

“It’s a wonder drug compared to these other drugs because there are no side-effects,” he says. It could also help extend his life by years.

Under the current system, people with rare diseases often find it hard to get access to the drugs they need because the patient base is so small, making it hard to recruit for the required TGA clinic trials.

Richard Vines from Rare Cancers Australia says the government’s move is a really positive step that will bring hope to thousands.

“Everybody needs hope, no matter how bleak your situation is – and this will help,” he told Fairfax Media.

Currently some Australians are forced to sell everything they own and head overseas to access promising drugs. They often end up in dodgy or unregulated clinics where treatment can end in tragedy.

“That’s what happens when you deny hope and opportunity,” Mr Vines said. “People to do some pretty risky things.”

Medicines Australia Chairman Wes Cook has also welcomed the development: “Anything that accelerates access to new and innovative medicines for Australians in an important step.”

The independent review led by expert Lloyd Sansom was commissioned almost two years ago and made 58 recommendations. It has taken the government more than a year to formulate its response.

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