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Libraries adapt to the age of free information

05 July 2017 | Neve Mahoney

Public libraryI often visit my local library. I tend to go in the after-school hours, so there are children everywhere. I can see mothers guiding young, chubby hands across picture book pages. I think of Mem Fox's advice about how children should hear a thousand stories before learning to read. With the internet and ebooks, the free information that made a library unique is no longer exclusive. Classic literature can be found with a Google search. So what do brick and mortar libraries offer that Amazon can't?

The manor and the workhouse in modern Australia

04 July 2017 | Andrew Hamilton

Etching of the poor in Dickensian EnglandA regular feature in Australian politics is the attempt to save money by penalising people who are struggling with life. It is usually accompanied by disparagement of the groups who are targeted. The strategy has a long history that provides a context. In 19th century England, a system was established that would encourage people to seek work by deterring them from seeking help. Central to this was the establishment of workhouses where the conditions would be more unpleasant than in any form of work.

Awaiting the Referendum Council in NAIDOC Week

03 July 2017 | Frank Brennan

NAIDOC Week 2017 posterIt is no disrespect to those Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders gathered at Uluru to say that now is the time for the report of the Referendum Council to be scrutinised by our national politicians, and that our elected leaders should pay special heed to the observations of those Indigenous members of the federal parliament who have offered considered reflections on the way forward. In particular, our elected representatives should have regard to the views of Patrick Dodson who is now Bill Shorten's Shadow Assistant Minister for Indigenous Affairs and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.

Despite census results we dismiss religion at our peril

29 June 2017 | Christine Burke

Crowd aerial viewThe origins of hospitals, schools and social services can be traced back to the efforts of people of faith. Much poetry, art, drama and literature grapples with the deeper meaning of life in dialogue with a larger vision found through the everyday challenges of our lives. This religious urge can re-emerge as nationalism, racism, greed, or narcissism, and these have no inherent counter force to question their authenticity. The truths at the base of great religions reorient us towards love, peace and justice.

NAIDOC: Languages matter because people matter

29 June 2017 | Andrew Hamilton

NAIDOC Week logoThe theme of the week is 'Our Languages matter'. It lies at the heart of the Uluru statement. It also poses questions about the way in which we conceive our identity as a nation. In Australia we communicate in many languages. English is the language of business and public life, but many other languages, both Indigenous and introduced, are the primary languages of groups of Australians. Language is much more than a means of communication. It is an emblem of our tribe. It shapes how we interact.

RIP David Passi, last surviving Mabo plaintiff

25 June 2017 | Frank Brennan

David Passi on Thursday IslandAnglican priest, traditional landowner and land rights campaigner David Passi has died. He was the last surviving plaintiff in the historic Mabo decision. A year after the Mabo decision I travelled to the Torres Strait and met James Rice and Passi, the two successful litigants in the case. Returning by boat to the mainland from the island of Mer in the Murray Islands, the waters of the Torres Strait were exceedingly calm.

Health gap widens as wage growth falls

25 June 2017 | Amy Coopes

Cardiovascular diseaseUniversal health care is an ostensibly bipartisan prerogative, but what it actually means and how it's achieved is a somewhat moveable feast. Spending, we are told, is unsustainable as the population ages and we move toward ever-more personalised and technologically-advanced treatment paradigms. The objective of this rhetoric is to rationalise the privatisation of our health system by stealth. The latest wages figures are something of an inconvenient truth in this 'unsustainable spending' fiction.

No minister is an island

22 June 2017 | Kate Galloway

Michael SukkarThree Commonwealth ministers faced the Victorian Court of Appeal on 16 June to make submissions as to why they shouldn't be charged with contempt of court. This extraordinary occurrence arose because the ministers made public comments about a sentencing matter still under deliberation. Andrew Hamilton has in these pages looked at how the ministers' comments might offend the presumption of innocence. However, there is a further issue at stake - a question of good government.

Reimagining work is a project for the unemployed, too

22 June 2017 | Susan Leong

Cartoon by Chris JohnstonWhen I wrote recently that the future of work lies in understanding work as 'pleasure in the exercise of our energies', one reader noted 'these discussions have little meaning when you are poor or dispossessed'. Spending your life doing what you are competent at pales into insignificance when set against the prospect of a life engrossed in one's passions. That is a decision that every worker has it within their power to make. And as it turns out, it should be a concern of the unemployed, too.

Justice is weakened when the court of public opinion reigns

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21 June 2017 | Andrew Hamilton

Judge's gavel on laptop keyboardThe presumption of innocence has recently been in the dock, notably in the curious affair of the three federal Ministers and the Victorian Court of Appeal. Other cases have raised the question whether in our society the presumption that those accused of crimes are innocent until found guilty is yielding. Is it now the case that people who have been found guilty in the court of public opinion have to prove their innocence, and that courts will be judged to have failed unless they ratify the guilty verdict?

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