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Book review: Australia Under Surveillance, by Frank Moorhouse

Sleepless: David Irvine said threats to our security were so serious that they kept him awake at night.AUSTRALIA UNDER SURVEILLANCE ByFrank Moorhouse Vintage, $32.99
Nanjing Night Net

I wish I still had that very old Disney comic that showed ducks in raincoats on a beach, hiding one behind the other under a jetty, all peering around the pylons through binoculars. Even before I understood the perennial question, “who will guard the guardians themselves?” I found the idea of spies, counter-spies, and counter-counter spies absurd.

David Irvine does too, he admits, in an interview edited in Frank Moorhouse’s new book. But as he prepared to retire as Director-General of ASIO, Irvine candidly told audiences around Australia how threats to our security were so serious that they kept him awake at night. Then he reassured them with examples of how ASIO was protecting them. I was reminded of a former employee of the US National Security Agency who joked to an audience in Washington that the job of the NSA was to scare people so they would go on paying for it. Australians pay vastly increasing amounts for ASIO.

Shortly before Irvine retired, ASIO and the AFP deployed more than 800 officers in night-time raids on houses in Sydney and Melbourne, which resulted in several arrests but just one prosecution. Was this a fishing expedition that failed, a training exercise, a tactic to scare would-be terrorists, or an anticipatory demonstration of ASIO’s and the AFP’s need for even more powers, which were soon to come before parliament? It may have been all four. We cannot know, because the raid was one of many activities about which we have few details, and ASIO is exempt from Freedom of Information applications.

Two other possibilities: either we are paranoid, or we have learnt from 1949 of enough egregious stuff ups not to trust ASIO. Moorhouse supplies a list of these, and Meredith Burgmann’s 2014 collection, Dirty Secrets: Our ASIO Files, contains more. An agency screened from public scrutiny, no matter how well intentioned, will inevitably develop contempt for those outside its select community, even while it owes its existence to the public, and is tasked to protect them.

Irvine, Moorhouse points out, sits on the Council of the National Archives, and his former deputy at ASIO is the Archives’ Director-General. The Archives, Moorhouse observes in one of the most disturbing sections of his book, are the only historical record the public has of the workings of ASIO and our five other intelligence agencies. Yet ASIO can refuse requests for release of files on grounds of “national security” even after the normal 25-year withholding period is over. ASIO can destroy information, and can decide which of its records to make available to the Archives. In practice, Moorhouse says, that means none.

So what, after Communism, does ASIO now protect us from? Terrorism, of course, and extremism or fanaticism, we are told. These labels are loose enough to provide the national security agencies with the ill-defined enemy necessary for their perpetual operation. They appeal to moral panic. Terrorism is already “the new normal”, according to Dick Cheney. It is an intractable threat that, Moorhouse observes, seems to excuse democratic governments behaving as badly as some terrorists. Yet in the 50 years to 2005, less than 1000 Australians died from wars and terrorism (Moorhouse cites Paul Sheehan), while 134,548 deaths on Australian roads were not considered a threat to national security. Moorhouse lists nine “terrorist” incidents in Australia since 1970. By my count, of the four deaths that occurred, only one did not involve the security agencies themselves.

ASIO has for long had a negative reputation among Australians old enough to remember the Cold War, to have seen their file, and to know if they lost a job, a promotion, or a government grant because of its contents, accurate or not. Younger Australians, however, may approach Moorhouse with reasonable, contemporary questions: if I have nothing to hide, why should I fear ASIO surveillance? If others plan acts of violence, shouldn’t ASIO intercept them by whatever means? If national security is endangered, isn’t it appropriate to reverse the onus of proof onto the suspect? Doesn’t ASIO need to operate in secrecy?

I hoped for answers from Moorhouse’s book, following his prizewinning Griffith Review essay, The Writer in a Time of Terror (2006-7). I found a discussion of what he calls the Dark Conundrum, the sly behaviour of a democratic government that contradicts its own espoused values, justifying behaviour of dubious legality in the name of political necessity and national security. This since Vietnam has become increasingly obvious to most alert Australians. He doesn’t mention the much more troubling Special Intelligence Operations, about which Australian citizens are not allowed to ask questions, and which journalists can be jailed for unwittingly revealing. He doesn’t refer to the Deep State, a linked intelligence community in the Anglophone countries that, according to Canadian author Peter Dale Scott, operates as an unchallengeable, permanent authority in parallel with impermanent governments. He doesn’t cite Glenn Greenwald or Jennifer Robinson, whose views on private ownership of information would illuminate his Conundrum. He admires the leakers Manning and Snowden, but calls Assange a hacker. In fact, WikiLeaks does not hack, but publishes information leaked to it, just as the news media do (and some of them hack).

Moorhouse burrows into his Conundrum, wandering down the dark passageways of his personal predilections: censorship, the politics of sexual preference, the French Revolution, nihilism, the human condition and more. His research assistant advised him to order his material chronologically, but that thread is abandoned. Every so often he comes up from the mine with a nugget of a question, asking, for example, if a secret agency is needed for the safety of a democracy; and whether a modern state can any longer keep its own secrets, let alone those of its citizens. But these reflections are left dangling, and Moorhouse admits his proposals for reform are unlikely to be adopted. Appending an extract from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, he notes that Australia is a signatory, but doesn’t point out that its provisions have not been incorporated into Australian law. Neither have those of the Convention on Civil and Political Rights nor of the Rights of the Child. Australia is alone in the OECD in having no charter or bill of rights, a situation our political leaders show no inclination to change.

As “national security” is increasingly used to justify the erosion of such privacy and liberty as Australians have, many of us, like Moorhouse, are concerned about state surveillance of individual academics, writers, filmmakers, journalists, and particularly Muslims. But as Human Rights Commissioner Gillian Triggs has recently argued, the situation of Australia’s democratic institutions is worse: national security is being used to marginalise and overpower the judiciary, to concentrate power in the executive, to allow the armed forces to be deployed as and where the prime minister wishes, and to imprison people without charge or trial. The deep state is the new normal.

Alison Broinowski was a Senate candidate in NSW in 2013 for the WikiLeaks Party.

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

Book reviews: Strange Country; 100 Moments in Australian Painting

STRANGE COUNTRY: WHY AUSTRALIAN PAINTING MATTERS By Patrick McCaugheyThe Miegunyah Press/Melbourne University Publishing, $49.99.
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100 MOMENTS IN AUSTRALIAN PAINTINGBy Barry Pearce NewSouth Publishing, $49.99.

Two profusely illustrated books have recently appeared, both in one way or another offering an account of the past couple of centuries of Australian art and both, coincidently, limited to a consideration of painting only.

Patrick McCaughey is an art critic, art academic and long serving director of the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne and of the Wadsworth Atheneum and the Yale Centre for British Art in the United States. His Strange Country: Why Australian painting matters presents a most readable account of Australian painting; one which dips into art historical research, but also has a journalistic flair in the expression of strongly held convictions.

McCaughey was born in 1943, and when he was 17 he saw the inaugural Helena Rubinstein Travelling Scholarship Prize exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria in 1960. From then on, he was hooked on Australian painting. His book commences with a quick overview of the modern Aboriginal art movement and then moves into a broad survey of early colonial painting, in which Nicholas Chevalier and ST Gill do not rate a mention. From here the account moves straight into the Heidelberg School, where we encounter interesting insights, such as the suggestion that the swagman in McCubbin’s Down on his luck (1889) is modelled on the pose of Durer’s Melencolia I (1514), but shown in reverse. Such quirky, but interesting observations are scattered throughout the book.

Although on occasion it is difficult to agree with some of McCaughey’s opinions, it is impossible not to admire the literary flourishes with which he discusses some of his selected paintings. When writing on Hugh Ramsay’s The sisters (1904), he observes “The compression of the composition, the closeness of the sitters to artist, breeds an airless claustrophobia. The alternating alertness and ennui of the sisters, bored by having to dress up in evening gowns in the middle of the day and pose in the over-heated studio, adds to the ambivalence of the painting. Far from being an essay in the feminine, the dying painter/brother is under scrutiny of his sisters, even as they fall under his gaze. A suffocating pall hangs over the work.”

His broad brush approach to Australian art history certainly takes few prisoners. In one sweeping overview sentence he notes “Hall and Lambert are now curiosities; perennial attempts to revive ‘late Streeton’ have petered out, and Heysen is hardly taken seriously outside Adelaide.” McCaughey champions Sidney Nolan and Fred Williams as the two giants of Australian painting and concludes with a rather cursory glance at contemporary art practice and with the tactful statement “all of these painters … they stand as representative for many who must go unmentioned …” Much is unmentioned in this book, but that which is mentioned is discussed with passion and understanding.

Although I was occasionally frustrated by the laconic nature of some of the discussion, as a whole, this account of Australian painting sparkles with intelligent insights and with some very memorable expressions in which wit and perception are united in flowing prose.

Barry Pearce in 2012 retired from his position as Head of Australian Art at the Art Gallery of New South Wales after 33 years in the job. This book is his personal final tour of the collection, pausing to discuss some of his favourite paintings. Apart from personal preference, the 100 selected paintings present something of a chronological account of the development of Australian art as held at the Sydney gallery, a collection which Pearce help to form and develop.

Except for a single bark painting, Indigenous art is excluded from this selection, in part, because he saw his brief as the curator for “Anglo-European Australian” art, but also in part because he felt that Indigenous and non-Indigenous art don’t really mix and when they are put together they do not really make sense. He writes “The intention [to combine Aboriginal and non-Indigenous art] was worthy, but in the end I believe nothing much was gained, other than a temporary frisson of aesthetic confusion in an attempt to identify similarity”. This is not an argument which I personally find particularly convincing simply because so many Australian artists, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous, draw on each other’s traditions and it is this, that to some extent gives Australian painting some of its distinctive character.

The strength of this book is that it is written by a person who has the eye of a curator, a person who is perceptive, passionate and at times possesses a forensic knowledge of the provenance of a particular painting under discussion. We are given wonderful accounts about the hunt for long-lost paintings involving ingenious detective work leading to profound joy on their rediscovery. There are also many passages of detailed observation of paintings and speculation on their evolution, sources and influences. Take for example the discussion of Ralph Balson’s Portrait of Grace Crowley (1939), where we learn not only the artist’s probable source, Millet, but also where he saw a reproduction of this source, an issue of the Studio magazine in the Sydney Art School library, and the reason of why he turned to this source, Julian Ashton’s teaching.

Pearce writes with passion on the paintings which he admires, for example Hugh Ramsay’s wonderful painting, The Sisters (1904), which the young artist painted virtually from his deathbed. Pearce writes “The Sisters shows not so much virtuosity or glamour in its dazzling render of gold and cream fabric, as a dance with the brush about transient beauty and an underlying sense of mortality.” It is such wonderfully evocative and insightful passages that make this book so rewarding to read.

Australian painting, which only a few decades ago in some of our art schools was pronounced dead and obsolete in the context of contemporary Australian art practice, in Patrick McCaughey and Barry Pearce has found two wonderful advocates who guarantee its high profile and ongoing viability.

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

Book review: The Peaceful People, by Paul Malone

Stewards of Sarawak: The Penan have survived British and Malaysian invasion of their forests. Photo: Phyllis Webster Only 20 per cent of the Penan people’s forests remain.
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THE PEACEFUL PEOPLE: The Penan and Their Fight for the Forest. By Paul Malone. Strategic Information and Research Development Centre, Malaysia. $27.

A theme in world history is Europe’s great colonial expansion and the resulting dispossession of indigenous peoples. Regular Canberra Times columnist Paul Malone documents the ironic variation wrought upon Sarawak’s indigenous Penan. They can “fondly recall” the relatively light touch of British Sarawak on their lands and lifestyle. With the Malaysian takeover of 1963, only 20 per cent now remains of the primary Sarawak forests they used to roam.

Malone had visited a remote Penan group in 1974. Back in Sarawak in 2006, he was talked out of repeating the experience. His inner reporter was galvanised to revisit the Penan the following year. He filed a Canberra Times story about Penan elder Kelesau Naan’s campaign to stop the logging. Naan’s suspicious death months later prompted further visits and ultimately this book.

The title clearly sums up the author’s view of  the Penan. “The world can surely learn something” from their peaceful society and its non-violent protests.

Malone notes the pitfalls of romanticising indigenous groups. But the colonial, ethnographic and missionary records locate the Penan as “starkly different” from other Sarawak tribes. They took no human heads nor animal sacrifices, lived by rotational hunting and sago gathering not rice cultivation, and kept to smallish jungle bands whoavoided rivers andharsh sunlight. They also memorised their significant campsites and gravesites down the generations, but their kind of land stewardship didn’t cut much ice at the land titles office.

Other tribes thought them fair game. Malone recaps several massacres of the Penan dating from as recently as the turn of the 20th century. Things got tough again when logging took off in the 1970s. Short of violence, the Penan used “every available means” of protest and blockade to halt the logging or at least get compensation. Charismatic Swiss activistBruno Manser communicated their cause to the outside world, but the deforestation went on.

Again, Malone trawls the records, re-interviewing Penan who knew Manser. The Penan being generally resistant to outside influence, he disputes that Manser manipulated them. He verifies Manser’s own reports of events.

The Penan have continued to be further displaced by a supply-side development strategy to dam Sarawak for “inexpensive hydropower” to attract industry. In Malone’s current assessment, a few Penan are still nomadic while a few hold good jobs. Most fall in between, their limited access to the cash economy constituting a shaky exchange for formerly self-sufficient lives. Groups that opted for “collaborative” negotiation seem to be better compensated than groups that resisted logging outright. But Malone visits one village that’s going its own way yet going well.

If Australia has a Sarawak, it’s Tasmania, another island economy in thrall to logging and hydropower. Critics looked askance at the cosy relationship between the Tasmanian government and former forest titan Gunns Limited. In Sarawak, critics have focused on the forest and financial interests associated with Abdul Taib Mahmud, long-term Chief Minister and now Governor of Sarawak. Malone re-presents some of this material. It is examined in depth in the Swiss Lukas Straumann’s Money Logging, recently co-launched in Sarawak with The Peaceful People.

Despite the ruthless upheaval of the Penan by capital and development, Malone ends on a buoyant note. To improve the lot of the settled Penan villagers of today, he recommends practical measures in curriculum, schooling, employment and tourism.

Paul Malone will talk about The Peaceful People at the Asia Bookroom on December 1. Lawry Place, Macquarie, 6pm. RSVP by November 30, 625 15191. Gold coin donation to the Indigenous Literacy Foundation.

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

Wilscot holds off challenge

Wilscot holds off challenge Wilscot was the second winner for Brian Cox. Picture: MATTHEW SMITHWICK
Nanjing Night Net

Jake Duffy rode Wilscot to victory in race 4. Picture: MATTHEW SMITHWICK

Jake Duffy rode Wilscot to victory in race 4. Picture: MATTHEW SMITHWICK

Wilscot, ridden by Jake Duffy, returns to scale after winning race 4. Picture: MATTHEW SMITHWICK

Wilscot, ridden by Jake Duffy, returns to scale after winning race 4. Picture: MATTHEW SMITHWICK

Trainer Brian Cox was emotional after Minnie Downs won the Wodonga Cup. Picture: DYLAN ROBINSON

The field bunches up as jockeys set sail for home. Picture: DYLAN ROBINSON

Wodonga Gold Cup winner Minnie Downs trained by Brian Cox and ridden by Craig Newitt. Picture: DYLAN ROBINSON

Trainer Brian Cox was emotional after Minnie Downs won the Wodonga Cup. Picture: DYLAN ROBINSON

Owner John McPhee, trainer Brian Cox and jockey Craig Newitt speak after Minnie Downs won the main race. Picture: MATTHEW SMITHWICK

Trainer Brian Cox speaks to owner John McPhee after Minnie Downs won the main race. Picture: MATTHEW SMITHWICK

Trainer Brian Cox was emotional after Minnie Downs won the Wodonga Cup. Picture: MATTHEW SMITHWICK

Trainer Brian Cox was emotional after Minnie Downs won the Wodonga Cup. Picture: MATTHEW SMITHWICK

Horses tear up the track in the main race. Picture: DYLAN ROBINSON

Wodonga Gold Cup winner Minnie Downs is pushed over the line by jockey Craig Newitt. Picture: DYLAN ROBINSON

Jockey Craig Newitt pats Minnie Downs after the race is won. Picture: MATTHEW SMITHWICK

Brian Cox holds up the Wodonga Gold Cup. Picture: MATTHEW SMITHWICK

Kept Woman – ridden by Linda Meech – won race 5. Picture: MATTHEW SMITHWICK

Kept Woman – ridden by Linda Meech – won race 5. Picture: MATTHEW SMITHWICK

Kept Woman – ridden by Linda Meech – won race 5. Picture: MATTHEW SMITHWICK

Kept Woman – ridden by Linda Meech – won race 5. Picture: MATTHEW SMITHWICK

Jockey Linda Meech was looking pleased after Kept Woman won the race. Picture: MATTHEW SMITHWICK

Albury’s Wade Towerton sits one out. Picture: DYLAN ROBINSON

Crowds line up to watch the race. Picture: DYLAN ROBINSON

Gentleman of the Day William Bonnici. Picture: DYLAN ROBINSON

Millinery of the Day went to Renee Nesbitt. Picture: DYLAN ROBINSON

Wodonga’s Cathy Jiang and Walwa’s Ella Hanna cool down with an ice cream.Picture: DYLAN ROBINSON

Wodonga’s Jayde Fisher and Hollie Symons were both stylish and sun smart. Picture: DYLAN ROBINSON

Wodonga’s Alex Hill and Conor Sheridan enjoy a few beverages. Picture: DYLAN ROBINSON

You couldn’t miss Wangaratta’s Jorja Lindsay and Wodonga’s Katelyn Humphris with this bright orange umbrella. Picture: DYLAN ROBINSON

Special guest, The Batchelor’s, Laurina Fleure holds the cup. Picture: DYLAN ROBINSON

Wodonga’s Logan Anderson, 17 months, looking dapper in his black tie.Picture: DYLAN ROBINSON

Serina Gray, Sarah Peters and Bridget Parker. Picture: DYLAN ROBINSON

Charlotte Carr, Ruby Pearce, Jessica Strauss and Kellie Simmonds, all from Wodonga. Picture: DYLAN ROBINSON

Racegoers watch the horses fly by. Picture: DYLAN ROBINSON

Jorja Lindsay parades for the fashions judges. Picture: DYLAN ROBINSON

Lady of the Day Kira Johnston. Picture: DYLAN ROBINSON

Special guest and The Batchelor contestant Laurina Fleure.Picture: DYLAN ROBINSON

Crowds watch as the horses race past. Picture: DYLAN ROBINSON

Crwods watch from the stands. Picture: DYLAN ROBINSON

Studying the book. Picture: DYLAN ROBINSON

Crowds lining up for the race. Picture: DYLAN ROBINSON

All tuckered out after a big day. Picture: DYLAN ROBINSON

Wow, check out those shoes! Picture: DYLAN ROBINSON

Katrina Hosie stood out with her brightly coloured hair. Picture: DYLAN ROBINSON

Fashions on the field isn’t just about the dress. Picture: DYLAN ROBINSON

Jed McPhee, 12, special guest Laurina Fleure, and Jed’s cousin Fergus McPhee, 8, all fighting for the gold cup. Jed and Fergus are grandsons of John McPhee, owner of the cup winner Minnie Downs. Picture: DYLAN ROBINSON


Crowds watched in anticipation. Picture: MATTHEW SMITHWIC

TweetFacebook”Hopefully the drought is well and truly over. I thought that was a race he could win.”

BRIAN COX’This one’s for dad,’ emotional Brian Cox saysCox choked back tears after Minnie Downs handed him his first Wodonga Cup success without his father and long-time mentor, Ollie, by his side.

Public holiday a gold winner for Wodonga CupRacegoershave made the most of a new public holiday, with crowd numbers doubling at yesterday’s Wodonga Gold Cup.

Police arrest man over headbuttA man has been hospitalised after being headbutted in a fight at the Birallee Tavern. The man was believed to have come from the races.

Cav rues Wodonga bad luck as Pedro retiresWodonga Gold Cup day is fast proving to be a nightmare for Albury trainer Brett Cavanough.

“I’m a bit like the Albury Football Club. You lose two but you just go and find another two to replace them.”

Wilscott holds off challengeWilscottfinally delivered on his promise in landing the feature sprint on Wodonga Gold Cup Day for premier trainer Brian Cox.

“Hopefully the drought is well and truly over.”

Aalbers in exclusive companyVeteran horsewoman Liz Aalbers has been made a life member of the Wodonga Turf Club.

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

Remote indigenous towns fear trauma and dislocation as bulldozers roll in

Gone: Abandoned chair in avenue of trees in Oombulgurri. David Ryder: A former Oombulgurri resident and elder. Photo: Marieke Ceranna
Nanjing Night Net

Community gone: Abandoned buildings in Oombulgurri.

Gone: Abandoned chair in avenue of trees in Oombulgurri.

Gone: Abandoned chair in avenue of trees in Oombulgurri.

Gone: Abandoned chair in avenue of trees in Oombulgurri.

Indigenous leaders call for PM to intervene

The front line in the battle for survival of remote indigenous communities in Australia is a half-hour boat ride up the Forrest River from Wyndham in the East Kimberley.  In the community of Oombulgurri, once an Anglican mission, wild horses roam streets lined with baobab trees.

Last month, the horses were joined by a bulldozer that had arrived to demolish most of community’s houses. By the end of next week, the West Australian government expects the demolition to be complete. Some old stone structures from the mission days, a few houses and community buildings will remain to support “non-residential future use”.

Oombulgurri is not a typical remote indigenous community. It is a place with a dark history.

In 1926, it was the site of a massacre of Aboriginal people by law enforcement following the killing of a pastoralist. More recently, it has been known for child neglect, sexual abuse, domestic violence and alcohol-related harm.

The WA government took the decision to close the community in 2011 in response to a coronial inquiry into five deaths in the community, including four suicides, over a 12-month period.

The coroner concluded that “many millions of dollars had been spent in propping up and perpetuating a community which in many respects on any objective criteria was a disgrace”.

No one disputes the existence of grave social problems in Oombulgurri but views differ on whether closing down the community was the right response. And many fear the large-scale trauma and dislocation that followed Oombulgurri’s closure may soon be repeated across the nation.

For half a century, since the 1967 referendum gave the Commonwealth the power to make laws for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, the federal government has funded the delivery of essential services to remote indigenous communities. This was a recognition that without private property ownership, rates could not be collected to fund local government. In recent years Labor and Coalition governments have sought unsuccessfully to have states and territories take over this responsibility. In September, Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion announced a breakthrough, an “historic” deal in which West Australia, Queensland, Victoria and Tasmania would agree to deliver essential services such as power and water to indigenous communities in their states.

Earlier this month, WA Premier Colin Barnett announced  the state could not afford to service as many as 150 of the state’s 274 remote communities. These “unviable” communities would have to close. The South Australian government, which had rejected Scullion’s offer of $10 million in transitional funding, said the Commonwealth’s withdrawal of funding for remote communities placed 60 communities, home to more than 4000 Aboriginal South Australians, at risk of closure.

Speaking in Parliament, Barnett said many communities were not just unviable in a financial sense but because of social dysfunction, child abuse and neglect, poor education and a lack of opportunities.

Cissy Gore-Birch, who grew up at Oombulgurri, admits the community had very serious problems, including with mismanagement, alcohol, violence and sexual abuse.  But she insists addressing those issues did not have to mean the death of the community.

“I don’t think closing the community was the way to deal with it,” she says.

She says the Oombulgurri she lived in as a child functioned well.  She remembers a community without alcohol or police, where elders had authority, children were safe and fresh food was plentiful.

Ms Gore-Birch, the chairwoman of the Balanggarra Aboriginal Corporation, says the WA government failed to consider alternatives to closing Oombulgurri, and says relocating people to towns such as Wyndham and Kununurra without adequate support services had transferred some problems from one place to another and created new ones. While some demountable cabins were provided for transitional housing in Wyndham, and some former Oombulgurri residents moved in with family, exacerbating overcrowding, others camped on the oval at Kununurra or on the marshes on the fringe of Wyndham.  Liz O’Brien, the director of Kimberley Community Legal Services, says three years after the closure, some remain homeless. She says some residents have lost benefits because they could not receive Centrelink correspondence and the shortage of appropriate housing has meant many former Oombulgurri children are not attending school regularly.

David Ryder, a former Oombulgurri resident and elder, said many former Oombulgurri residents were drinking more due to the ready access to alcohol in town and were attracting police attention. Now sharing a house in Wyndham with family, Mr Ryder says he misses hunting goannas and catching barramundi in traps made of leaves and stakes. “It was a land of milk and honey,” he says.

Tammy Solonec, the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Manager at Amnesty International Australia, which campaigned to stop the demolition of Oombulgurri, said the community’s story was a case study in how not to close a community, because there was no effective strategy to integrate former Oombulgurri residents in their new homes, and they were not properly consulted.

“Each one of them is a human being and they all have their own story and they all have a right to be heard. That didn’t happen, they were tarred with the same brush, and punished for the actions of a few,” she said.

“When you push Aboriginal people off their homelands, it’s going to create trauma… and the trauma that it creates is not trauma that can be overcome easily. It’s trauma that becomes intergenerational, that you’re then going to have to deal with through social consequences for years later.”

WA Aboriginal Affairs Minister Peter Collier said he remained convinced that thedecision to close Oombulgurri community was “the right thing to do”. Mr Collier said at the time of the closure, most residents had left voluntarily and there was an average population of fewer  than 30 people. He said the Amnesty campaign was “ill-informed and appears to have little support from those directly involved”, and the demolition works were necessary to reduce vandalism and theft and make the site safe for future non-residential use.

Ms Solonec said the Amnesty campaign had been informed by a visit to the Kimberley in September when  she met 25 community members.

“The testimonies we gathered universally tell not of voluntary departure but of forced eviction – indirectly due to the closure of essential health, education and police services, or to follow children removed by government agencies, and directly when the last remaining residents were forcibly evicted by the WA government,” she said.

Barnett has said his government will consult communities before deciding which to cut services to. He says just 507 people live in the state’s smallest 115 communities and, in one community, the cost of providing essential services runs to $85,000 per person per year. Indigenous leader Pat Dodson has called for creative solutions to service isolated communities, such as making greater use of solar power and the School of the Air.

Scullion said the threat of community closures was a matter for Western Australia and South Australia and had nothing to do with the Commonwealth’s decision to transition responsibility for essential services delivery to the states. He said Western Australia had for many years been discussing the closure of remote indigenous communities.

“Any state suggesting municipal and essential services arrangements are behind closures is simply looking for an excuse and a distraction,” he said.

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

Chinese dancers mimic willow in the wind in sweltering heat

Beauty and bliss: Dancer Alison He says being part of a dancing group feels like family. Photo: Nic Walker Leaning back: Alison He performing in Mary Street, Surry Hills. Photo: Nic Walker
Nanjing Night Net

Beauty and bliss: Dancer Alison He says being part of a dancing group feels like family. Photo: Nic Walker

Beauty and bliss: Dancer Alison He says being part of a dancing group feels like family. Photo: Nic Walker

Beauty and bliss: Dancer Alison He says being part of a dancing group feels like family. Photo: Nic Walker

It’s the dance that opens doors and fans, especially on a sweltering Friday in Surry Hills.

In a small rehearsal room every week, a group of 15 women practise traditional Chinese dances such as the Dance of the Willow. It’s a coquettish performance. Fans with long red tassels are flayed and closed to mimic the swing of the willow in the wind. Fans are often positioned in a girlish way across the five dancers’ faces.

Fuelled by traditional custard tarts and boiled eggs, around 15 svelte women aged 24 to 60 practise for a growing number of performances around Sydney.The group performed at 70 events this year, said Maggie Wu, the vice-president of the Australian Chinese Community Association of NSW and the dance group’s manager.

“Now we’re becoming popular,” she said, noting that the women’s performance often provided a calm change after the explosions of traditional dragon dances.

Unlike Chinese audiences, who often chatted through performances, Westerners were quiet, she said. “They are very respectful, they don’t talk, they don’t eat and they want to know later where they can get our costumes,” Ms Wu said.

Jackie Seow, of Strathfield, said the dancing made her “very happy”,  a word repeated by different dancers.  “It’s very happy, very flowing movement,” she said of the willow dance. It shows the elegance of the ladies,” Ms Seow said.  “The swaying of the body represents the romantic, it represents the unlimited love of the lady.”

Alison He, at 24 the youngest of the group by 20 years, did belly dancing when she lived in China. Now finishing a masters of finance at the University of Western Sydney, she started Chinese dancing in Sydney. “I love dancing very much … it is like a big family, I feel very warm here. We are very happy. Happiness is very important when we dance, ” she said. 

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

Queensland Tourism Award winners 2014

Fun Over Fifty took out gold for Best Tour. A room at Brisbane’s Emporium Hotel.
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Woodford Folk Festival.

It appears seniors are getting the best holidays with tour company Fun Over Fifty taking out gold at the Queensland Tourism Awards for Best Tour or Transport Operator.

As the name suggests, the company takes adventure seekers over 50-years-old on its diverse scenic tours, travelling anywhere from outback Queensland to the Mediterranean region.

Fun Over Fifty also won silver for Heritage and Cultural Tourism at the awards, falling behind gold-winner The Workshops Rail Museum.

Another notable success was the Emporium Hotel’s, winning a gold award for Luxury Accommodation and induction to the category’s Hall of Fame.

TAFE Queensland Brisbane was one more local champion, winning gold for Tourism Education and Training.

The 30th anniversary of the awards presentation recognised local industry contributors over 32 award categories, hosted by the Queensland Tourism Industry Council (QTIC).

Altogether, Brisbane tourism operators were recognised with 17 accolades.

“The Queensland Tourism Awards give businesses and individuals an opportunity to take pride in their contributions to the industry, raise the standard of quality tourism experiences throughout the state and strive for ongoing improvements to achieve our tourism goals,” said QTIC Chief Executive Daniel Gschwind.

“Since 1985, the Queensland Tourism Awards have served to highlight tourism’s powerful role in driving Queensland’s economic and community development.”

Queensland’s iconic XXXX Brewery won the tourism in wineries, distilleries and breweries award.

Woodford Folk Festival won the major festivals and events award, pushing Brisbane’s Gallery of Modern Art into second place for its popular exhibition ‘Cai Guo-Qiang: Falling Back to Earth’.

Jann Stuckey, the Minister for Tourism, said the awards are a benchmark for industry excellence.

“Operators who strive to find something extra, and give tourists an experience they will never forget should be congratulated,” she said.

Gold winners from the business categories will gain automatic entry into the Qantas Australian Tourism Awards held in April next year.

The tourism industry employs over 235,000 Queenslanders.

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

Is the Trunkster concept the future face of luggage?

Sexy and lightweight: The Trunkster suitcase. Photo: kickstarter南京夜网 Sexy and lightweight: The Trunkster suitcase. Photo: kickstarter南京夜网
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Sexy and lightweight: The Trunkster suitcase. Photo: kickstarter南京夜网

Sexy and lightweight: The Trunkster suitcase. Photo: kickstarter南京夜网

At the moment, Trunkster luggage is a Kickstarter project awaiting a sizeable capital injection by way of crowdfunding to get it off the ground and into shops, but it represents a radical rethink in luggage design.

Proposed as carry-on and suitcase versions, Trunkster bags feature zipperless entry, a removable battery with a USB port and a digital scale that weighs the case. They’re also GPS enabled, allowing the case to be tracked via any connected device and they come with a five-year warranty.

Construction is a polycarbonate skin over an aluminium frame, a proven formula for durability and light weight. Trunkster bags open like a rolltop desk, via a concertina door that slides down the entire face of the bag. A TSA-approved combination lock provides security. The handle extends from one side of the bag to the other, claimed to offer enhanced manoeuvreability.

All that techno-punch comes with a weight penalty. The carry-on has a projected weight of 3.6 kg. For the checked bag it’s 4.5 kg. That’s a bite out of the permitted weight especially in the case of the 7 kg that is the common maximum carry-on weight.

The concept for the Trunkster comes from the real-world experience of two passionate travellers, born of frustration with existing designs. The aim is to build “a well-crafted suitcase that prioritises utility and versatility in a minimalist style.” If the Trunkster becomes a reality, expect to see at least some of its features copied by major players in the game.

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Low-ball Calliden takeover in trouble as opposition mounts

Stephen Atkinson, of Adam Smith Investments, has doubts over the Calliden dealInstitutional investor opposition to the sale of insurer Calliden is hardening, with mounting indications the bid by Steadfast may be in trouble, as a shareholder vote on the proposal looms.
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Fund manager Adam Smith Asset Management has gone public with its opposition to the offer, which it deems to be too low. It joined NAOS Asset Management, which earlier expressed the view that the offer on the table for the company “arguably undervalues the company”.

Steadfast is offering 41.5¢ cash a share for insurer Calliden, with shareholders also to receive a 5¢-a-share special dividend.

The offer, via a scheme of arrangement, can be defeated if 25 per cent of the shares vote against it at a shareholder meeting on December 8.

Indicating the poor value of the bid for Calliden shareholders is the fact that Steadfast’s share price has rallied on the bid move, fund managers said.

“We feel Steadfast can  – and should – be paying more this with or without a competing bid,” Adam Smith director Stephen Atkinson said.

“At 46.5¢, the independent expert has ‘low-balled’ the bid.”

The independent expert has assessed the full underlying value of the shares to be in the range of 45.7¢ to 51.1¢, so the 46.5¢ payment per share is at the low end of the range.

However, Calliden has significant franking credits and substantial tax losses that Adam Smith feels have been undervalued. Additionally, the expert valuation has attached a low figure to the worth of Calliden’s insurance underwriting unit as well as undervaluing its insurance broking arm

“We don’t feel Steadfast is paying a very full price for the business,” Adam Smith’s Mr Atkinson said.

Others, such as activist investor Sandon Capital, are also unhappy with the bid price.

“We haven’t made a decision” whether to support the bid, Sandon’s Gabriel Radzyminski said.

“We’ll probably wait until the very end to see if there is a change to the offer.

“It’s a very good price for Steadfast.”

At its December 31 balance date, Calliden had in hand $26 million of franking credits, which will still be sizeable after paying the planned 5¢-a-share special dividend and 1¢ interim payout that will chew an estimated half of this balance.

Since the Steadfast offer was disclosed, Calliden shares have regularly traded 0.5¢ above the imputed value of the offer, although usually with only small volumes traded at the higher price.

This occurred again just over a week ago when a small parcel was traded at 47¢, slightly higher than the theoretical value of 46.5¢.

Under a scheme of arrangement, the proposal could fail if more than 25 per cent of shares vote to oppose the deal. Calliden has a handful of shareholders with large stakes.

Australian Unity holds 13 per cent, with a range of other fund managers such as First Samuel, NAOS, Greencape and Challenger holding  6 to 8 per cent.

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

Australia’s detention of refugees is forbidden by international law: UN Committee Against Torture

Sri Lanka arrests returned asylum seekersDetainee: I was raped on Nauru
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Geneva: Australia’s detention of refugees, including children, is ‘cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment’ forbidden by international law, a United Nations report has found.

The report released on Friday in Geneva by the UN Committee Against Torture called on Australia to stop putting asylum seekers into mandatory detention, and to make sure that asylum seekers on Manus Island and Nauru are treated more humanely, and their claims are promptly and properly assessed.

“The combination of … harsh conditions, the protracted periods of closed detention and uncertainty about the future reportedly creates serious physical and mental pain and suffering,” the report said.

In written observations the committee said Australia should repeal the laws that send all ‘irregular’ arrivals into mandatory detention.

Under the Convention Against Torture, Australia must prevent torture and other acts of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment when people are imprisoned or detained.

Claudio Grossman, chair of the ten-person committee and the “rapporteur” who investigated Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers, told Fairfax that during his investigation Australia had not provided him with evidence of its compliance with this convention.

He said Australia had failed to show that it was not sending asylum seekers back to countries where they faced a “substantial risk of torture”.

He added it was clear that Australia had “effective control” over the detention centres in PNG and Nauru, and so it was responsible for ensuring that they complied with Australia’s obligations under the convention.

“When there is mandatory detention of undocumented immigrants and children, that runs counter to our interpretation of the convention,” he said.

The committee said it was “concerned that detention continues to be mandatory for all unauthorised arrivals, including for children,” in the report compiled after hearing evidence from human rights groups as well as the Australian government.

“Detention should be only applied as a last resort,” the report said, only when “strictly necessary” in each individual case, and should be for as short a time as possible.

It said it was concerned at Australia’s policy of transferring asylum seekers to processing centres in Papua New Guinea and Nauru, “despite reports on the harsh conditions prevailing in these centres, including … overcrowding, inadequate health care and even allegations of sexual abuse and ill-treatment”.

The Committee was concerned “in particular [about] the policy of intercepting and turning back boats, without due consideration of [Australia’s] obligations” under international law.

Anyone who arrives or attempts to arrive in Australia seeking asylum or protection should be guaranteed that their claims are thoroughly examined, and be able to challenge any adverse decision.

“[Australia] should continue and redouble its efforts” to find an alternative to closed immigration detention.

Mr Grossman said the committee was also concerned by the high proportion of indigenous people in jails, and the situation of women in detention facilities, particularly indigenous women.

The committee also welcomed the Royal Commission into child sexual abuse, however it said it was “concerned” as to “whether the outcome of its work will result in criminal investigations, prosecutions and compensation for victims”.

It also: – criticised the treatment of inmates at Roebourne Regional Prison- recommended the Australian government consider abolishing the use of tasers- expressed its ‘concern’ over Australia’s counter-terrorism legislation, including the “broad” definition of a terrorist act, and the detention powers of ASIO.

Fairfax asked if an Australian government spokesperson was available to respond to the committee’s report, but has not yet received a reply.

In its appearance before the committee earlier this month, Australia’s delegation said it “takes its obligations under the Convention very seriously. Since ratifying the Convention in 1989, Australia has worked to ensure Australia’s laws, policies and practices are consistent with our international obligations.”

Australia’s permanent representative to the UN John Quinn told the committee that the government had “striven to improve the design and procedures of its migration programmes to enhance fairness, accountability and integrity.

“A robust returns process for dealing with those found not to be in need of protection is fundamental to the integrity of status determination processes.”

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

Well-meaning advice on weight loss does a fat lot of good

Zip it: Well-intended advice can make an obesity battle worse. Photo: Supplied
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Zip it: Well-intended advice can make an obesity battle worse. Photo: Supplied

Zip it: Well-intended advice can make an obesity battle worse. Photo: Supplied

Tempted to tell an overweight friend, lover or family member to think twice about eating another piece of cake? New research suggests you would be doing more harm than good.

Overweight Australians regularly encounter unhelpful stigmas (often well intended) which, it is suspected, exacerbate weight gain.

A recent study of 46 overweight and obese people found that most experience negative treatment related to their weight on a daily basis, such as being laughed at or having a doctor blame an unrelated problem on their size.

The most frequent perpetrators of what has been called “the last socially acceptable form of discrimination” were strangers, spouses or partners, friends, parents and the media.

The research, led by the University of New South Wales and published in the Journal of Contextual Behavioural Science, suggests many overweight and obese people are in a negative environmental cycle that discourages them from losing weight to improve their health.

Previous studies have shown that media coverage presenting negative portrayals of obese people as lazy or overindulgent can encourage unhealthy behaviour. One study found that overweight women who watched stigmatising media portrayals in a video ate more snacks compared to overweight women who watched a control video.

Research has also shown that overweight and obese people face discrimination in the workplace, health care facilities and the dating scene.

Most participants in one survey said they would prefer to date a recovering drug addict, mentally ill person, or someone with a sexually transmitted disease than an overweight person. Another study found employers viewed overweight job candidates as less qualified, less effective, and less trustworthy than their slimmer counterparts.

Public health campaigns aimed at reducing obesity have also used stigmatising images on the premise that if it were sufficiently unpleasant to be obese, overweight people would be motivated to change their behaviour and lose weight.

But UNSW psychologist Dr Lenny Vartanian, who conducted the recent study on 46 people in Sydney, said there was growing evidence this was not the case. He said stigma could cause low self-esteem and depression, and make people feel less motivated to diet and more likely to binge eat.

If people want to help loved ones lose weight, Dr Vartanian said they could propose constructive ideas such as joint exercise or cooking healthier meals together.

“If you look at your partner across the table and say ‘Don’t you think your arse is fat enough?’ That is not going to help. If you’re trying to support people you care about, treat them with dignity and respect and be supportive and encouraging. Help them in their goals rather than thinking you will do any good by demeaning them,” he said.

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

Ferguson signifies sad end of the age of Obama

Some time before midnight on Tuesday, a peaceful but tense crowd protested before a line of police and National Guard in front of the Ferguson police station.
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It was cold, just on freezing, and the two parties had been facing off since sunset. While most in the crowd were calling for peace, some wanted confrontation, and they were getting bored.

Overhead a police chopper described lazy circles in the sky and it soon became clear its spotlight was fixed on a nearby location.

The result was predictable but grimly fascinating to watch nevertheless.

A few young men broke away and headed off to find the light. Others followed in twos and threes and then, as though drawn by surface tension, the crowd moved, its front ranks breaking from march to canter to run as they turned a corner. It was like a drop of water gathering bulk and pace as it found its way down a windowpane.

In front of the Ferguson City Hall the frontrunners joined a smaller group that had set upon a police car. They shattered its windows with thudding kicks and stones torn from the border of a garden bed. They lifted it on to its side and stepped back before it fell with a sprinkling thud on to its wheels again.

After long seconds police in squad cars and National Guard in armoured personnel carriers arrived and formed ranks marching forward, some spraying mace at those too slow to flee.

The town hall, with its Christmas dioramas silhouetted behind floor-to-ceiling windows, was saved.

This week you could rack a moment like that up as a success for police in Ferguson, but you don’t have to look hard for the metaphor.

The violence followed the police spotlight. Rallying point

It wasn’t meant to be this way. There had been hope that the United States’ election of a black president signalled the beginning of the end of the racial division that has tormented the nation since its creation.

Instead, the president’s race became a rallying point for the most extreme of his opponents, who appeared to believe it rendered him ineligible for office.

For years Barack Obama has ignored the race baiting of elements of the far right, in public referring to it only in jest.

“Let’s face it, Fox, you will miss me when I’m gone,” he said at the last White House Correspondents’ Association dinner. “It will be harder to convince the American people that Hillary was born in Kenya.”

Laughable as they are, the birth conspiracies and the racism they reflect have cast a shadow over Obama’s presidency.

Soon after coming into office he was to realise that far from helping the US overcome racial tension, his presence had the capacity to inflame it.

This became clear to the world after the killing of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed African American boy who was shot dead near his father’s home by neighbourhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman.

Martin’s killing by Zimmerman provoked nationwide protest among African Americans, not so much for the shooting but for the fact police did not even charge Zimmerman with a crime for six weeks, presuming that under Florida’s “shoot first” self-defence laws he had committed no crime. In the end Zimmerman was charged and found not guilty, a result that prompted outrage and protest, though not riots.

When the President eventually discussed the case, he observed: “I can only imagine what these parents are going through, and when I think about this boy I think about my own kids, and I think every parent in America should be able to understand why it is absolutely imperative that we investigate every aspect of this and that everybody pulls together, federal, state and local, to figure out how this tragedy happened.”

And he added: “You know, if I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon.”

The observation infuriated many conservative Americans. In a comment typical of the tone Newt Gingrich, then a presidential candidate, thundered, “Is the President suggesting that if it had been a white who had been shot, that would be okay because it wouldn’t look like him?”

Obama must have already known that his expression of empathy for the parents of a dead black child would provoke anger in some.

In the first year of his presidency race had exploded as an issue for the White House in the most unlikely of ways.

The famed African American Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates jnr had just arrived home and found his front door jammed when a local police sergeant, James Crowley, came across him. Rather than helping him open the door, Crowley suspected Gates of being a burglar and arrested him.

In the ensuing controversy Obama remarked that the arrest was “stupid”. The comment became the first serious blow to his presidency. The outrage that Obama might side with an African American arrested by a white cop was so prolonged and intense that the White House finally tried to end it with a so-called “beer summit” – an excruciatingly awkward meeting between Obama, the cop and the professor at the White House over a beer.

“My hope is that as a consequence of this event this ends up being what’s called a ‘teachable moment’, where all of us, instead of pumping up the volume, spend a little more time listening to each other and try to focus on how we can generally improve relations between police officers and minority communities, and that instead of flinging accusations we can all be a little more reflective in terms of what we can do to contribute to more unity,” Obama said.

It was a teachable moment too, though perhaps not in the way the president had hoped. Obama learnt to discuss race very rarely and very delicately – he barely touched on it again until Martin was shot dead. African Americans learnt that just because there was a black man living in the White House they should not expect rapid change.

Asked about Obama during riots in Ferguson in August, one young man on the street told Fairfax Media: “‘I ain’t got no thoughts on him. Where he at? Where he at?

“Get him the f**k out of here. I still ain’t got insurance. F**k that nigger.” Racial divide

The racial divide in the US is perhaps most easily quantifiable in the criminal justice system.

African Americans are incarcerated at six times the rate of whites and make up 1 million of the US’s 2.3 million incarcerated. Obviously the factors that can lead a person into prison are myriad, but one thing is clear – blacks are far more likely than other citizens to come into contact with police.

Over the past decade New York police pursued a strategy of “stop and frisk” to crack down on crime. The policy has been discredited and is winding down rapidly. At its height though the NYPD stopped and searched 500,000 people on the street without cause each year. About 12 per cent of them were white.

Many police forces around the country adopted similar tactics, though not always as systematically.

The impact of the policy on crime is contested, though crime rates across the country have been falling steadily since 1990.

What is clear though is that the constant searches have intensified the fear and mistrust many African Americans, particularly young black men, have for authorities.

In this toxic and hostile environment the explosion of violence after the unarmed teen Michael Brown was shot dead by a white police officer in Ferguson, and again after it was decided the officer would not face charges, is not surprising.

In Ferguson on Wednesday morning Tiffany and Ronald Singleton were standing in the snow across the road from a beauty supply shop that had been burnt to the ground in riots two nights before.

Police watched from the corner as the couple described what a typical stop is like.

“As soon as they get out of their cop cars they are reaching for their handcuffs and they cuff you while they question you and they don’t read you your rights,” Tiffany Singleton, 41, said. “They let you stand there, they call back to the police station and then they might let you go, depending on if you have a warrant or not, depending on if someone at the station wants you.”

Ronald, 34, estimated he was stopped twice a month and he smiled and shook his head in wonder when a reporter told him he couldn’t remember ever being stopped by a police officer as an adult.

Like many in Ferguson, Ronald does not believe Wilson had any cause to stop Brown the day the officer shot him, though evidence shows he recognised him as fitting the description of a young man who minutes earlier had stolen cigarillos from a liquor store.

And the couple believed Brown’s reaction to the stop – apparently one of aggression – was the right one.

Asked what the correct response to an officer in Ferguson was, Tiffany explained: “[You say] ‘f**k you’ and keep walking.”

Roland said: “What Mike did, he did the right motherf**king thing, cos I would have done the same motherf**king thing my damn self. Me being a black American, that’s the right thing.”

During the days of protest and violence after Brown was shot, and again after Monday’s grand jury decision, many observers tried to distinguish between “the real” protesters, who according to this line of reasoning were local and non-violent, and “the trouble-makers”, who had come to town to incite violence for the atavistic joy of it.

That distinction was not made so commonly on the streets.

On the fringe of a rally on Tuesday night Darnell Singleton, a documentary maker who lives in Ferguson and has been protesting and filming since the shooting, explained in front of the police station that everyone in the chanting crowd before us was angry, just that some were more mature than others.

“When you twist the pitch fork in their heart, some of these young men are going to lash out,” he said.

Others said the violence was spurred as much by hopelessness as anger.

“It’s one thing if he [officer Wilson] went to trial and they said he was innocent, but saying you don’t even have to have a trial for shooting a black man, that’s another thing,” student Jashyra Robinson, 22, said. “That’s what hurts me the most.”

The day after the riots and fires in Ferguson the protests spread across the nation. This was no accident. Ever since Brown was shot dozens of protest groups have been gathering and organising under various umbrella groups. Many organisers do not see the movement as simply a reaction to the shooting, but as the next chapter of the ongoing civil rights movement.

Their slogans and evolving tactics reflect that. The crowds still chant “Hands up, don’t shoot”, but as they block the roads in Ferguson they are as likely to be yelling at police, “Who shuts shit down? We shut shit down”. Across the country protesters have begun blocking roads as an act of civil disobedience.

Some see hope in the idea of a new generation taking up the civil rights movement, but that optimism is limited.

Professor Cornel West, a leading African American activist and trenchant critic of Obama, was asked his view by CNN this week.

“Ferguson signifies the end of the age of Obama,” he replied. “It’s a very sad end. We began with tremendous hope and we end with great despair.”

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

Surfing on: Little to fear from shark catches

Peter Huggins, at Bondi, sees no cause for alarm over sharks. Photo: Peter Rae Peter Huggins, at Bondi, sees no cause for alarm over sharks. Photo: Peter Rae
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Peter Huggins, at Bondi, sees no cause for alarm over sharks. Photo: Peter Rae

Peter Huggins, at Bondi, sees no cause for alarm over sharks. Photo: Peter Rae

Peter Huggins, one of only a couple of surfers braving Bondi waves early one morning this week, says he isn’t spooked by recent sightings of sharks or the discovery of a couple of great whites in nets off the popular beach.

“I’m sure there are plenty of sharks out there,” Mr Huggins, a regular surfer at Bondi, said. “If I did see one, it would probably give me a bit of a shock.”

Another remarkably warm spring has drawn beachgoers to the state’s coast earlier than usual. Sydneysiders can expect another few balmy days after Saturday’s forecast top of 25 degrees – with a trio of days of about 30 degrees to follow.

The Bureau of Meteorology says odds also favour a hotter than normal summer for virtually the whole country, with the eastern two-thirds also likely to be relatively dry.

As summer beckons, though, expect regular bouts of media frenzy stirred by images of great whites and beach-clearing episodes when a shark is spotted.

The recent discovery of two great whites in Bondi nets was “a complete coincidence”, said Vic Peddemors, a shark biologist with the Department of Primary Industries, adding, “the chance of encountering a shark is extremely slim.”

Five or six great whites are caught each year in what Dr Peddemors calls “fishery forts”, protecting parts of beaches from Stockton, north of Newcastle, down to Wollongong.

“The shark net catch is only about 100 sharks of all species per year and a commercial fisher catches that in a night,” he said. “The white shark catch this year is no higher than any other year.”

Great white sharks have been protected off NSW since the mid-1990s as numbers dived.

“You’d expect to see some recovery but the jury’s still out,” Dr Peddemors said. “These animals are long-lived, slow reproducing, so it takes a long time for shark populations to recover from over-exploitation.”

Little is known about the movements and abundance of many marine species. The use of new tagging devices, including for sharks, will give researchers a better grasp of how changing oceanic conditions, including from global warming, are affecting marine life, Dr Peddemors said.

Immediate conditions are certainly on the warm side. Almost the entire east Australian coast is at least 0.5 degrees above normal, with waters off Sydney 1-2 degrees balmier.

“At 21-22 degrees, it’s almost as warm as Sydney gets on average,” said Ed Couriel, principal engineer at Manly Hydraulics Laboratory.

Mr Couriel, as it happens, is also a regular surfer at Manly, with a keen interest in sharks of late.

Two months ago, his 13 year-old daughter Katelyn was bitten on the hand by a shark while surfing at Town Beach at Port Macquarie.

The bite, possibly by a whaler or a wobbegong, required five stitches. It hasn’t put Katelyn off surfing, even if the family is more wary than before.

“We put it down to a rare event, and she bought it,” Mr Couriel said.

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

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