AUSTRALIA


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The Australian bureaucratic Mean Virus is epidemic

23 Comments
26 January 2017 | Rachel Woodlock

Mean face emoticon'Take that out of your mouth, I have to touch that,' barked the Border Protection officer, glaring at me. I'd been juggling bags, boarding tickets, and a passenger exit card, so my passport was positioned precariously between my lips. I wondered if there was a class for teaching them how to be that special mix of forcefully domineering and nasty. It's not just at airports that ordinary people are increasingly feeling a sense of helplessness in the face of bureaucratic antagonism.


The problem of privilege in Australia Day billboard furore

16 Comments
23 January 2017 | Tseen Khoo

Girls in hijabs waving Australian flagsThe removal of an Australia Day billboard featuring two girls in hijabs prompted a swell of support against Islamophobia. Alongside this was a backlash from those who read the action as forcing Muslim Australians to be complicit in the oppression of Indigenous peoples. My unease came from seeing intra-community tension manifest as dismissal and denigration of those who were considered not 'woke' enough to the politics and embedded racism surrounding invocations of Australian identity.


Don't pick the scab of meaning from our national holidays

16 Comments
23 January 2017 | Andrew Hamilton

Beach at Gerroa, NSWThe enjoyment of the holidays did not soften the mayhem and malice of the public world and the people whose lives and happiness are so destroyed by them. It held in mind the images of death and diminishment, but set them on a canvas of thanksgiving for the ways in which kindness and humanity are embodied in people's lives, for the strength and delicacy of relationships that we take for granted, and for the gift of a beach holiday that is an impossible dream for so many Australians.


Why I don't support changing the date of Amnesia Day

26 Comments
22 January 2017 | Celeste Liddle

Survival Day protesters 2012For many years I felt that by changing the date we might come to a more inclusive national celebration. However the past few years of Indigenous activism have left me cynical. The things we were fighting for decades ago are very similar to the things we're still fighting for. Australia has not acknowledged and rectified its history; rather it seems content to reinforce its amnesia. It's therefore unlikely I will be able to stop protesting this celebration, regardless of the day it's held upon.


Freedom of conscience and same-sex marriage

25 Comments
22 January 2017 | Jack Maxwell

Rainbow coloured rosesTwo issues can be dealt with shortly. First, ministers of religion must be free to solemnise marriages in accordance with their beliefs. Second, there is no basis for extending a similar concession to marriage celebrants. The case of commercial service providers is more complex. Many argue that caterers, florists, reception centres and so on should be free to refuse to participate in same-sex weddings, on the basis of their religious beliefs. The case for the commercial exemption is unconvincing.


Unity on the lamb in the ethnocracy of Australia

12 Comments
19 January 2017 | Ann Deslandes

Aboriginal people at barbecue in lamb adLike all authorised generalisations, this luminous, unified vision of Australia contains truth, exaggerations, and lies. As well as being a globally known story, it's also the story Australia most likes to tell itself; it sings through ideas like the lucky country, the land of the fair go, the land of the long weekend. Social research on Australia tells a more complex story. Australia is in fact an ethnocracy - a state that is formed in the image and for the benefit of a dominant ethnic group.


Pope Francis and the age of automation

7 Comments
19 January 2017 | Michael McVeigh

Pope Francis blesses iPhone photoMany have called for the automated Centrelink debt collection system to be scrapped, but the government is standing by it. One of the reasons for this may be that the system is doing just what it's designed to do - trying to force people away from welfare reliance by making it more onerous. Pope Francis argues that far from a 'neutral' tool, technology creates a framework which conditions people and limits their possible options along lines dictated by the most economically and politically powerful.


Arts face growing uncertainty despite momentous year

3 Comments
15 January 2017 | Esther Anatolitis

Face peers through rain-wet window2017 is set to be a momentous year for the arts in Australia. On 1 November we commemorate 50 years since Harold Holt announced the creation of an independent body to champion 'the free play of our cultural interests and enthusiasms at all levels' — an announcement that meant bringing together disparate focuses and isolated funds with a national vision. Yet today's Australia Council faces an uncertain future, and the free play of our cultural interests is jeopardised by that uncertainty.


Twenty-two years on the run from abuse

11 Comments
15 January 2017 | Elise Power

Line drawing of abused womanWe packed our bags in the black of an early morning. We ran from a house on the beach to a house in Frankston. Me, my mum, and my younger brother. My father had four intervention orders to his name, a law degree and all the bravado and lack of empathy typical of a perpetrator of domestic violence. For many women and children domestic violence doesn't end after you've run away. That is only the beginning. I'm 33 and I've been running away from my dad ever since I was 11.


Market thinking is not the way to improve prison education

4 Comments
12 January 2017 | Tony Smith

Mike BairdIf the argument about sacking specialist education officers for NSW prisons holds, then perhaps it should be applied to schools. Sacking all permanent teachers and throwing all lessons across the state open to tender should improve educational outcomes. The absurdity of such a suggestion should be obvious. If the government is serious about improving prison education, it should work with the experienced teachers to make those improvements.


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