Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 - It may be over but it will never be forgotten.

Well, the time is almost here when we say goodbye to another year. How will 2011 be remembered?

As the year of disaster for Australia? With bushfires, floods and Yasi? Where people lost everything in a catastrophic turn of events that had the world enthralled and the nation on edge. Perfect strangers became friends and helping hands came from the most unlikely places. Where Anna Bligh became the symbol of Queensland, and for once we liked it, and pictures of Kevin Rudd lugging furniture through floodwaters remain indelibly etched in our minds.

Toowoomba faced a wall of water or ‘inland tsunami’ head-on and the horror we witnessed still makes for powerful memories. Entire communities underwater for weeks, food and supplies needing to be flown in and livelihoods ruined. Vision of Tully Heads, Cardwell, Dunk Island and Mission Beach minus roads, trees and buildings. Homes without furniture as it all washed out the back door in the storm surges. Boats piled high in the inlet at Cardwell. The fear that gripped us all as Yasi neared the Coast, a massive spiralling ball of chaos.

The entire country dug deep and helped ease the way forward for those who lost property but the loss of life in the floods and the life lost in Yasi was something that will never be forgotten, nor could it be compensated for.

Will this be the year remembered for its world news? The uprising of the oppressed the world over saw leaders toppled, throngs of protesters dancing in the streets and hope renew itself. It began with tear gas, bullets fired into crowds, family homes and businesses set alight and still they kept coming, an endless stream of protest and anger, until there were no options but to give the people what they wanted. Social media came to the fore, being credited with creating unity and organisation which allowed for a streamlined, relentless attack.

For the Occupy Movement, this has also been the gauge by which they are running their own campaigns. Beginning in a country which has unemployment as high as 20% in some areas and has suffered more than most from the affects of the GFC, the Movement has spread. It is fading from view somewhat, as the goal is not as defined, but I have no doubt that 2012 will bring about a renewed vigour in the cause. It will be interesting to see where it goes from here.

New Zealand and Japan suffered as the ground shook under their feet and lives and property were swallowed up. New Zealand lost historical buildings, entire suburbs and still continues to hold its breath each day as the ground continues to rumble. 181 men, women and children lost their lives in February, the largest disaster in human terms in New Zealand’s history. Australian’s, still feeling fragile and right in the middle of it’s own disaster ridden summer, still managed to dig a little deeper and contribute to funds allocated for the re-build of the city. It wasn’t enough, but it never is.

In Japan the earthquake itself affected only a small number of buildings. It was the resulting tsunami which caused us all to hang on to the edge of our seats at home as we watched the skyscraper of water approach, then swallow, huge swathes of landscape. The buildings can be re-built, the businesses can be reinvigorated in time. 15’844 people lost their lives. They cannot be replaced. The effect on the nuclear power stations along that section of coastline was also catastrophic. Renewing debate the world over on the safety of nuclear energy, this event has been linked to Russia’s decision to scale back it’s reliance on nuclear power.

Speaking of power, all over the world countries began the process of putting a price on carbon, taxing big polluters and investing heavily in renewable energy. As the world began to understand the full implications of global warming (or if you are a non-believer; the need to release ourselves from our reliance on coal based power) it became apparent that big changes were needed for future generations to enjoy liveable conditions on our planet.

A young girl and her right to privacy after she had lost her life became big news in the UK, with the phone hacking scandal making front page headlines in every developed country. The new age of technology has created a need to revisit and clean up existing laws so that news services can not be allowed to do this again. It started with one small child, and ended with an embarrassing few weeks for the Murdoch family, the end of an era with the News Of The World closing down and several celebrities joining the call to put a halt to the practice.

In Africa a famine was declared. The international community was slow to react, many believing it was a continuation of previous famines and unsure whether help could make any difference. It soon became clear that this was a whole new type of emergency. Somali's lining up in their thousands for shelter and scraps of food. Of proportions hard to fathom, finally we started to respond to the cries for help and money and aid trickled in. More is desperately needed though and this will continue into next year and possibly another few years after that.

Closer to home, ‘boat people’ continued to remain a hot topic. An SBS documentary on the subject ‘Go back to where you came from…’ received accolades and criticism, our politicians tried to outdo each other in finding a ‘solution’ to what is seen as a very big problem and online forums and newspaper opinion pieces kept the debate alive. Meanwhile, it was revealed that while less than 4’000 people arrived in Australia by boat this year, more than 55’000 have overstayed their Visas after arriving by plane. Next year we may be processing asylum seekers in Nauru, or Malaysia, or East Timor…..but it is almost guaranteed that it will not be on our shores.

Same sex marriage became a huge topic for discussion all over the country. Religious groups began organising protests and picketing politicians as it became clearer that support for a change had grown. Recently, Queensland made available Civil Unions to those wishing to utilise them and the ALP has passed a recommendation that Same Sex Marriage become part of Party Platform. They also chose not to stand behind this new policy as a party and have decided instead to allow a conscience vote when the Bill is tabled early in the new year. This means it is highly unlikely to pass.

In Cairns, we enjoyed robust debate and community events centred around the need for a replacement for our aging theatre. The proposal for a CEP was met with distaste and joy in equal measure and it was only through the ongoing support of several Councillors and huge allocations of funding from other tiers of Government that it finally got the ok. Work will commence in 2012 on what will be the biggest piece of infrastructure this region has seen.

While our city was focussed on this, not many noticed that the flood mitigation work was completed in the city area, making Lake Street in particular better able to cope with our wet season. The hillslopes of our region were further protected over several Council meetings and developers will now have limited options when going ‘up’. As our mountains are iconic and the perfect frame for the city, this has been acknowledged as a very important step for Cairns.

In the South Side, K-Mart had a win and building began on the redevelopment and expansion of Mt Sheridan Plaza, much to the delight of sitting Councillor Rob Pyne and the many residents of the immediate area. Fretwell Park was successful in its application to increase its poker machine allocation, paving the way for an expansion that will feature a number of sporting and eating options.

The Edmonton Town Centre went back to the drawing board as the State Government impinged on its plans by compulsorily acquiring land for its future health facility. By the end of the year, it has been re-worked and recently passed its changes through Council Chambers. This means that Logomier Road can finally be completed.

The GP SuperClinic site sat idle all year with residents still clueless as to what will happen next. Sugarworld got it’s much needed re-fit. New slides for all to enjoy, opening just in time for Christmas. A lack of proper shade is still a problem and the car park requires some to walk a few extra metres but the crowds are enjoying themselves and those other tweaks can be easily fixed.

Curtis Pitt nagged his Government and managed to get funding to widen Wrights Creek Bridge, a much maligned section of road which has taken lives and injured many over the past decade. Work will begin on this in 2012. Work also began on the new highway upgrade, starting at the beginning of Ray Jones Drive. It’s a long way off but at least it’s begun.

Lastly, the Edmonton Leisure Centre. It was on again, off again and thanks to a significant donation from Dubai, it’s on again. Ian Lowth from Cairns Regional Council has promised consultation with all sporting groups (including baseball) and the final design should be ready in the first half of 2012.

Well, there you have it. 2011 in essay form. This year has been a tumultuous year. The ups and downs….and ups and downs, have made it a year for change. It was the year where people began to look outside their homes, toward their neighbours, and realise that there was more to life than what happened within their own 4 walls. It was the year we were tested, found to be strong, then tested again. It shook us up, flipped us on our heads and left us wondering whether we have any control over our lives at all. It was the year that we learnt not to sweat the small stuff, as the big stuff is much more important and needs our attention now.

It will go down (for me at least) as the year I began to realise that the best way to affect change is to be part of the solution.

In 2012 my life will be altered significantly as I am running for Council. I have no crystal ball so I don’t know what the outcome will be in March. What I do know is that my community is ready for things to kick up a gear and really start happening and I want to be part of that. Win, lose or draw…..(well, there is no draw option actually) it’s sure to be one hell of a ride.

To my readers, loyal and occasional, I wish you all the best for 2012. I’ve enjoyed the wild ride that was 2011 but I’m sure, like me, you are all ready and eager for a new year to begin. Bring it on!

Friday, December 9, 2011

The Alternative.

Here we go again......(I think I've said that before!) Next week will be the crucial vote on the Precinct (again) to decide once and for all what it's fate will be (again). Is anyone else getting bored of this?

Lets make it interesting!

Close you eyes (no wait, that won't work). Ok, leave your eyes open. Suspend reality and come with me on the journey I will call 'The Alternative'.

Next week has been and gone. The vote by the way, by just one, was in the negative. No Precinct.

Fast forward past the months of angry letters and online comments lamenting the lost opportunity to March 31st, 2012.

Ooh look, it's a new Premier for Queensland. Looks like 'Can do' actually did! After all that time watching proceedings from outside the building he can actually take a seat inside. Look, over there, it's Gavin King. Who'd have known. He made it too.

Excellent news for Cairns. We can dredge the inlet and build Plan B for the CEP. What was Plan B anyway? Does anybody know?

Lets pretend there is one, for arguments sake. We'll pretend that the land beside the Convention Centre is for sale.

53 million was promised in December for an alternative, now it's April 1st, SHOW US THE MONEY!

So, we buy the land at a cost of 30 million (we'll make it cheap) and the design for a smaller, 1000 seat theatre is complete. It's now November but who's counting. The cost is good, only 120 million. Exactly the amount Gavin mentioned numerous times as ideal. The facility will be good. A straight replacement for the Civic Theatre, no potential for a museum or any public space but the priority is the cost and the position. Both of which are great!

Alright, time to get those figures in order for this to go ahead. Margaret Cochrane, Mayor of Cairns (did I forget to mention that?) has promised a rectangular stadium but didn't mention an arts facility in her campaign material. Hmmm...... Now what?

January, 2013. After much consideration and deliberation it has been decided that Council will do a feasibility study into the new proposal, titled 'The Alternative'.

February, 2014. Feasibility study completed. It states that the new proposal has a few issues. With 30 million already spent on land, there is only 23 million left from the State contribution. The Feds have somehow come up with a 20 million dollar allocation but it must be spent before June and time is running out. With the 43 million promised from both other tiers of Government (a record figure for Cairns), the cost for Council will only come in at 77 million. Bugger!! That can't be right. 120 million, take away 43.........damn!

Notice that the Feasibility study also states that the ongoing cost will be the same as the old plan. That doesn't add up. Oh wait, I forgot that 'The Alternative' has no revenue streams aside from the theatre itself. Ok, moving on.

May, 2014. Cairns Regional Council makes the brave decision to give up the 43 million as the cost of 'The Alternative' is still too high and get to work immediately on the rectangular football field. The cost is the same for Council and the running costs are on par but everyone knows that sport is more popular than arty farty rubbish. It's a winner!

June, 2014. Letters start pouring in to the Cairns Post from angry residents who 'never' go to sporting events and don't want their rates to go to something that only beefy, uncultured fools will utilise.

----------------------The End--------------------------

Monday, December 5, 2011

As a matter of fract - CSG in Queensland.

Ten years ago, here in Queensland, nobody had even heard of Coal Seam Gas exploration. In the decade since, it has become a hot topic and has entered many conversations in curious places. Environmental and political concerns have become topics for more of the population as people begin to realise just how much power their vote has. It's a by-product from a hung parliament and the climate change debate.

Speaking of by products.......what about that CSG. Is it really as bad as Gasland makes out?

For those of you who haven't seen the documentary Gasland, I urge you to do so immediately, but the thrust of it is essentially a whole truckload, or 1150 truckloads, of information on why this relatively new industry is so very bad for us.

One particular part talks about a huge population of birds which dropped dead in a lake and the correlation between that and CSG wells. This part was proven incorrect almost a year before Gasland was released. The final report states that it was caused by a nearby coal mine and the run off from that facility.

The pictures and stories are laid out in a fashion which is highly emotive and over-dramatised which led me to ask more questions rather than take the film at face value.

This is what I found.

In Queensland our government has embraced the rapid influx of CSG exploration wells. They have approved huge numbers of new wells and it is estimated that by 2030 there will be AT LEAST 40'000 gas wells across the nation, a large portion of those in Queensland. With numbers that high, it is worth taking a look at the regulations involved.

One of the biggest concerns for farmers and the general community is the chemicals used in the fraccing procedure. For those down with the lingo but altogether unsure of what it means, fraccing is the process where a chemical/water and sand mix is used to fracture (or make a slight crack, most less than a mm in diameter) the rock well under the existing water level, to get at the gas which is stored below.

The chemicals used are reported by Gasland to be too numerous to count and highly secretive. I cannot guarantee that this is not true in America but here in Queensland the chemicals used are public knowledge. It's written in the EPA act that they must be revealed. An average of 12 are used with each well, differing according to the company and the conditions of the ground. Of those used, the ones which are of most concern are known as BTEX compounds (benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylenes). These chemicals are naturally occurring in water in very small doses and the fear is that high doses of these chemicals will cause environmental problems. As a result, those chemicals are regulated. It is forbidden in Qld to add any of those to the fracturing liquid. This is not to say that it can't be guaranteed that the resulting waste liquid, which is stored on land, does not contain high amounts of these.

Storage of the waste fracturing liquid is also strictly regulated. It must be stored in a pond, pit or water tank that is lined with an impenetrable material such as steel. This water is then treated to make it safer but not much is known about storage times or the real safety of it over time. Nothing is mentioned about what may occur if the land is flooded and the liquid overflows. Perhaps it's not a consideration?

A few weeks ago a claim was made that one company was directly pouring their treated fraccing liquid leftovers into the water source which feeds the Murray-Darling Basin. This is currently being investigated but the company involved has not issued any press releases to deny it, which is interesting but open to too much conjecture.

Moving on to the gas explosions. These have been reported all over Qld, the US and the UK. They are usually contained quickly and within a week, those living more than 200 klms from the site have forgotten about it. They are methane explosions and are considered more of a risk to people standing nearby but facts are showing that these explosions are further 'fracturing' the rock below with the potential that the mine wells will collapse and cause contamination as has happened overseas.

Interestingly, in instances where water contamination has been reported in the US (we have yet to reach that point here, they have 80 years of CSG to build up issues) it has been noted that the EPA over there does not consider methane to be harmful, so high levels of that found in water supplies, causing it to bubble like soft-drink, is not of any concern to authorities.

As for other chemicals being found in drinking water over there, apparently rigorous testing has found low levels of everything harmful but all within ranges they would consider to be harmless for human consumption. There is yet to be a study on whether 'minuscule' amounts of potentially harmful chemicals, combined together, would have a negative impact on mankind. They are only studying levels of each chemical, on it's own. As if it isn't in there with several others.

Recently a CSG company admitted in the UK that the process of fraccing caused minor seismic developments in the region. Many tiny earthquakes are caused every day by this process. This is more common in the new, cleaner procedure, which uses gas instead of chemicals, sand and water. The pressure required to push the gas down and cause a small crack in large quantities of rock, is enough to cause a tremor. Albeit a minor one.

Yet another by-product of fraccing is large quantities of salt, estimated to be 30 million tons over the next 30 years, another substance which requires storage. This is also heavily regulated in Qld but the concern on this is more about the places to store it and the fact that this area will fill up with storage containers very quickly.

It is also estimated that 300 gigalitres of groundwater will be drawn every year for use in CSG extraction placing pressure on our water reserves which are already being depleted by the cotton industry, cane industry and many other irrigation uses.

The APPEA (Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association) states that "In 2004, the US EPA completed a 5 year study of coalbed methane fraccing envoronmental risks which concluded: 'the injection of hydraulic fracturing fluids into coal-bed methane wells pose little or no threat to underground drinking water.'

Fair enough. It's the 'little risk' which is of concern. Not to mention no testing has been carried out regarding potential run off and here in Qld we have very high levels of rain fall, every year.

What I found interesting, though completely expected, were the sources of information. The industry itself is very quick to defend it's practices, which you would naturally expect. The Qld Government has pages of information as it is obviously working hard to convince people that the money made is worth the possible environmental impacts. Even going as far as to offer a new education program, similar to a trust fund, for every child born after 2012, from the massive profits made.

Gasland and every Australian environmental body were not painting a rosy picture of the future of this industry, or the land used to extract the gas. The doom and gloom of the contaminations, the explosions, the tremors, the chemical storage made for some pretty dismal reading.

So, where are we now? At the Federal level a Senate committee released a report into CSG in Australia last week. It has proposed the following;

That all CSG permits be denied where the land is considered 'prime agricultural land'.

That a National Regulatory Framework and water management plan be undertaken prior to any additional permits being granted.

That all CSG projects along the Murray-Darling Basin be halted immediately, pending Queensland Government and scientific investigations.

That gas companies be legally liable for any environmental or human damages for an indefinite period. (This was brought about due to the fact that in the US, several wells have collapsed, 80 years after being decommissioned, causing serious contamination for which no one is being held legally or financially liable)

That CSG companies be forced to prove that their mining was not at fault if any aquifer becomes depleted.

There are 24 recommendations in total, those listed are just those directly affecting environment and population.

Will this industry be forced to slow down? Will the studies be conducted in a transparent and water tight manner? If this is deemed to be too much of a risk as an industry, will the State be liable if they are forced to shut down?

So, we wait. While the Senate report is studied, to see if anything will come of it.

They could shut down an entire industry immediately because people didn't like the pictures of animal cruelty overseas yet here we have an industry which has the potential to destroy large amount of the land and make drinking water a chemical cocktail and we wait.......

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Labor Conference - exit to the Left.

This weekend was lauded as the progressive reform event of the year. It was going to save Federal Labor from significant losses in membership by bridging the gap between those who have a say and those who do not, getting 'back to basics' and ironing out the wrinkles in a party which is seen to have lost it's way.

If you are as exciting a person as I obviously am, you sat with heart in throat as the Barr-Wong Amendment came up for debate. You listened with open mouthed dismay as the argument against voting on block regarding same sex marriage seemed to sway and the argument against changing the platform of the party to recognise the right of same sex couples to be allowed marriage in this country gained strength.

The vote has gained significant airtime so those who didn't watch are probably aware that one got up, the other didn't. Both rallying sides (the Christian Right and the Gay Lobby) were unimpressed with the result. It means nothing in the end. Yes, same sex marriage is now in the party platform......yes, if you are an MP in the ALP you may vote against it. Not really very progressive or brave is it?

Then we moved on........ The minority issue gave way to the bigger issues for our country and for the world. Not much coverage for these ones, the lobby groups are obviously a lot smaller.

Another day of voting and slack jawed amazement from those watching who were promised so much. Here we are at the end of it all, apparently no better off.

Asylum Seekers. Should they be processed offshore? According to the PM, yes! How did the Conference vote? Yes! Very progressive.

Live animal exports. Should they be phased out? According to the ALP this weekend....NO! Should there be measures put in place to offer some sort of protection, perhaps compulsory stunning? .....No? Really? Is that your final answer?

Ok then, what about Uranium? We've watched the chaos in Fukushima. We have agreed to start a tax system which will support strong growth in sustainable power sources while moving away from Nuclear, brown coal and gas. Obviously the answer will be no, we won't send uranium to India.

Well, actually, the answer is YES!

What? You can't be serious!

Alright, last ditch effort to do something brave, something progressive, something that won't be detrimental to our health, our land or our people.

This time it's about the Party. We've heard that membership is falling. We know that a reform package was presented courtesy of Bracks/Faulkner and Carr. It held idealistic notions that would encourage a greater say in policy and in delegate and candidacy appointments. It would give power back to the grass roots. The members. The ones who are being asked to defend all of the decisions you have just made over the weekend. So, will members at local level now have a greater say?

No. The answer, is no.

After all that, after the national coverage in unprecedented levels, the promise of reforms and progressive new policy, I sat there, for two whole days.....for nothing.

So, this leads me to the next question. Has the Federal ALP made the right moves for their membership? Well, yes. They have certainly made the RIGHT moves. As for whether it will gain them any new members. I can honestly say that if it does, they will be the RIGHT kind.

What happens now then? I've taken a nice long look at the alternatives this weekend.

We have the Greens on offer. At least you know what you are going to get. A little thin on economic policy which is a worry. They have a leader who is also exactly what he says he is so again you know what you are going to get. Something tells me that this party will be the winner from this weekends debacle.

The Coalition? Well, as far as I can tell, what you get here is the right faction of the ALP, plus an extra, far-right faction. Their leader is a bit of a goose and really needs to say something positive soon, even if it's about his own policies. Definitely not a viable alternative.

Moving on to the Katter Party. He has announced his team for Queensland but we are yet to see whether that will be taken to the Federal level. I assume it will depend on the upcoming Qld election. This is the one party which I think many are underestimating. They will do well here. Very well. Why?

Because voters want to know what they are getting when they make their choice at the ballot box. Yes, Katter is slightly mad. Yes, he bangs on a bit about Coles and Woolies. Yes, he's a terrible singer. The thing is, none of that will change. He is what he is. You get what you vote for. That's pretty appealing to most people.

At the moment, with the ALP, you'd be hard pressed to know exactly what you were voting for. Perfectly happy to fight for a Carbon Tax and a Mining Tax. Willing to invest heavily in a long overdue National Disability Scheme. But where is the balance? Where is the progression beyond that?

How can a party make such incredibly brave decisions and fight for them, yet shy away from doing the same at a policy conference? One which does not make laws, or introduce Bills. It simply decides what the ALP stands for.

That being the case, Federal ALP stands for offshore processing, of people and animals. Has 'friends' who are gay but doesn't want them to get married, or maybe it does, or doesn't. It's confused. It stands for giving away resources which have the power to kill and maim while causing environmental disasters because it will supply a few more jobs and a nice fat surplus. Lastly, it stands for telling the members what policies they have to get excited about and who their representatives are, without giving them any say.

I wonder if the Left faction will at some point break away from the party and form a new one. One with good social reforms and great economic reforms. One with environmental policy that will work, a civil rights focus along with equality and one which has the only thing that all of the parties are missing (except perhaps Katter's), a leader with charisma.

I'd vote for that.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Prep - Now in the 'too hard' basket.

The school year is almost at a close and parents will be busy attending end of year celebrations, awards ceremonies, class excursions and teacher farewell parties.

Many parents however, will be readying their child for their first year of school next year, having attended the interviews and the information nights over the past few months. These parents will have expectations regarding their child's Prep year based on their own experiences of Preschool or the experience of any older children they may have. Most have now been told that things are changing but don't completely understand how.

If you are one of these parents, I am here to tell you it's time to throw all of those pre-conceived notions in the bin. Now.

Prep is moving into the new curriculum and it resembles nothing we have ever seen before. Well, not for this age group anyway.

The advent of Naplan has created an unrealistic view of our children, particularly those in Queensland. Here in this State we did not have Prep when Naplan was first introduced. We had Preschool which was play-based and encouraged children to gain social skills and had a basic introduction to the world of learning. It was fun. It helped you make friends. It encouraged you to love the educational experience and it was not compulsory.

Prep is not compulsory either....yet!

As a result of the way our system in Queensland worked, we should have tested our students at Year's 4 and 6, not 3 and 5. If we had compared ourselves at this level, we would have faired very well indeed.

Statistics have shown that a student graduating from Year 12 in Queensland is no less likely than a student from another State to get into the University of their choice. Surely this is where we should be looking. This is where comparisons should be made.

Then there is the fact that 4 out of 5 children in Indigenous communities never learn to read. Besides the accurate observation that this statistic is appalling, placing those students (of which there are many) into the same pool as those who live in Brisbane and go to an elite school, was unwise and extremely unhelpful.

Regional testing, rather than national testing, would have been more beneficial.

Regardless of my feelings on the inequities of the Naplan testing and our over-reliance on results from tests taken on one particular day, the truth is, learning in Queensland is about to become a completely different ball game.

Prep students (aged 4-5) will now be required to do homework every week. They will have very limited access to play based activities and even then, a scholastic outcome is necessary. Students will need to be able to read, write sentences (including punctuation), tell the time, use fractions, add up money and do maths using word problems.

What teachers are telling me is that this year, our Prep students who are currently trialling the National Curriculum, will be at the same levels as those starting Year 2. What they are also finding, is that students are behaving badly, boys are not performing at expected levels, kids are resisting going to school at all and the general mood in the classroom is more sombre.

My question is this. Why are we making our children develop a dislike of school in the first year of their education?

I realise that Kindergarten is being promoted and there is a push for every child to be enrolled in a dedicated Kindergarten program within the next few years. What I found when questioning Kindergarten teachers, is that the curriculum there is also changing. To match the increase in learning for Prep. Prep will, of course, become compulsory before long, and our children will be tiny little educated beings.

The change in focus, from social and emotional learning, to scholastic basics, will have repercussions. Perhaps those will be beneficial in the long term. Perhaps they will be yet another layer of pressure on children too young to cope. That remains to be seen, and won't be fully understood for a good many years yet.

In the meanwhile, if you are a parent with a child about to enter the education system (whether it's Kindergarten or Prep), make sure you are pro-actively involved.

Encourage friendships where possible by staging play-dates and outings.

Talk to your child often about how they are FEELING, not how they are learning.

Keep up with the homework but don't allow it to get in the way of a bit of fun in the afternoons and don't turn it into too much of a chore (believe me, it will feel that way already).

Keep up sporting activities but do not fall into the trap of over-doing it. Stick to one sport or extra-curricular activity per term, any more and they will be in danger of burning out.

Encourage your child to do their best but try not to let them become too competitive. At this age, they should not care how they are performing in relation to their peers.

Above all else though, love them, cuddle them and laugh along with them.

It's the first year in a very long journey. A journey now much tougher than it used to be. Try your very best to make it a bit more entertaining than it really is.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Charity with a conscience.

Someone told me today that this week is Men's Mental Health Week. I haven't checked yet but it's probably true. Last month we had Movember, which was straight after Ocsober, and don't forget that this month we have Buy Nothing Day coming up and Human Rights Week in early December.

It's starting to irk me. While I have no objection to highlighting issues, dilemmas, people and facets in society, I absolutely abhor the marketing that goes along with it. Some of these awareness days come without pressure to buy (obviously Buy Nothing Day is one of those) but so many now come with merchandise attached and it's getting annoying.

Which doesn't mean I don't buy it!

I currently own enough coloured ribbons to make a rhythmic gymnast jealous, enough message filled rubber bangles to fill more arms than there are in this house and have a collection of pins and pens that rivals Officeworks. Is it just me? Am I the only one who feels guilty walking past a table full of Red Cross merchandise in front of IGA or a shelf full of Autism Awareness items at the bank?

If there was no guilt attached via labelling I wouldn't own any of those things and instead would probably have more money to actually donate directly to the cause.

Frankly, we should always be asking our friends and neighbours 'R U OK?'. We should be getting regular check-ups to ensure prostate cancer, breast cancer or diabetes is diagnosed early enough to manage or eradicate. We should always respect and admire our Grandparents and be aware of ADHD, Autism and human rights violations.

Does anyone remember the days when you bought something you actually NEEDED in a shop and the store would donate 10c or something similar to a cause they chose? I could put my change in a bucket or a plastic dog and know that I was helping out. Now I receive multiple phone calls every month (yes, I know I can go on the registry to ban these calls but if I don't buy the tickets it's obvious that fires in rural areas will get out of control!), am latched onto in shopping centres by crazed activists and have to run the gauntlet of merchandise in places where things are not usually sold.

It's getting harder to have a conscience. Harder still to remember which cause we are supposed to be thinking of today. Frankly, it's getting harder to care.

So, in the spirit of giving with Christmas on it's way, this week I am making a new pact. I will not buy a single item of merchandise marketed by a cause. I will instead put the same amount of money in the slot, without taking any unnecessary, environmentally disastrous item home with me. From now on I will only buy pink things if I really need them.

I will remember to look after my physical and mental health and remind those I care about to do the same. Call my grandparents regularly and continue to encourage our politicians to support reforms in our country and others where human rights need work.

Passive charity is not as effective as you might think. It's certainly easier. It's still much more effective to actively give. To seek out organisations you have a passion for and find out how you can contribute to their cause. It's not even that's just not as easy as buying pens.

This Christmas, give some money to Kiva for a loan that helps start small businesses in areas of need. Use Oxfam Unwrapped to buy gifts that help save lives instead of buying useless kitchen items for those we love, believe me they won't be offended. Better still, donate to Wall Of Hands which teaches literacy skills to Indigenous children in Australia, or donate to Jack Thompsons Foundation, which funds the Homelands Housing Program (where Indigenous Australians are taught how to build homes on their land using the 'living ground'. The living ground is the materials found directly on the land the house will sit. Soil, wood, rocks etc...) or if you have a specific area you are interested in, donate there.

This Christmas, and every day until and after then, lets make a difference - minus the merchandise.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Why word of mouth is still our most powerful tool.

I haven't written a blog for a while and I am sure you are all missing my input in life and it's goings on. There have been many, many issues that have popped up in the mediasphere (yes I made that word up!) and any one of them could have been a great subject for a blog. The Occupy Movement springs to mind, as does same-sex marriage/civil unions, Qantas and several others but you all know how I feel about jumping on the 'cause' train. My mantra has always been to only write about that which I am confident in sharing an opinion on and only write where you can affect change.

Hence, my first post in a long while will be about shopping.

I know, it sounds inane. So many issues the country is facing and I choose shopping! In this issue though, there are many things happening, and they are happening locally with devastating effect.

This week, it was announced that those who had purchased a Reef Card would lose a full 5 months off the year due to the sale of the company. I can't decide if that should be illegal, or should just remain in the 'ignorant new owner' category. Surely, when purchasing a business, it is common-sense to continue with any 'local deals' or discount programs until their expiry? If they had chosen not to renew the program next year, fair enough. But to close the card down with no notice given, in a location which relies on the local trade during the upcoming wet season reeks of stupidity.

Now there are a multitude of people holding useless cards who are quite rightly extremely annoyed! To those people I say this; contact Fair Trade Australia and lodge a formal complaint. There are templates available online for this purpose through Fair Trade Australia and they will ONLY act if formal complaints are received.

I realise it's an added annoyance and takes time but it's worth it. If you sit idle and complain amongst yourselves, nothing will happen except you will get angrier. If you complain officially you can be assured that it will be followed up and feel better with the knowledge that you have done all you could do to rectify the situation and try to stop it happening again.

Someone recently said that we are a nation of whiners. We are not a nation of protesters. I disagree. That may be true of some generations but my family have shared a past peppered with strikes, marches and sit-ins. I belong to a complacent generation who has not fully understood the sacrifices made by our ancestors to ensure we have the ability to have our say. Sometimes we forget that we have a voice at all. That is what the Occupy Movement is founded on. The emergence of the silent majority as a vocal majority and the fact that their voice has an impact.

Still, I digress. This post is supposed to be about shopping.

This week another, lessor known event happened in our city. The Baby Barn announced it is closing down. This may not seem like a big deal to many (especially those without children and babies) but it is part of a trend. The baby and children's store in Edmonton (Juniors) is for sale. If it doesn't sell soon, it too will close. With the apparent glut of babies in the region you would think that stores dedicated to the latest Phil and Ted gear and the expertise of staff would be a necessary retail outlet. WRONG!

The advent of online shopping is one factor, yes. The bigger picture is much more terrifying for retailers than that however. We have evolved.

No longer do we appreciate the expert guidance of a salesperson for the information we require. Now, we Google it. We look up the products, research online and more often than not, enter a store with a goal and pre-ordained product in mind.

Target, Big W, Kmart and most other generic stores are filled with everything we need. From technology, to baby equipment, to toys, to clothing, manchester and kitchenware.

Most change-rooms are empty as the generic mode of shopping now allows a purchase directly from the rack in the right size. Exchanges welcome. You can stand in the baby department for a full hour and not a single staff member will offer assistance. You have to find them and ask, nicely. At which point they tell you it is not their department and attempt for the next half hour to find the sole 15 year old in charge of prams. Then after purchasing the pram, you realise when you get it home that you have no idea how to open and shut the darned thing and it doesn't even fit in your boot (I say this from experience).

I bought a pram from the Baby Barn once. They took it to my car without a box, showed me how it worked, let me practice putting it in and out of the boot, and all before accepting a single dollar from me. It's called service.

So, what does it all mean?

Will it be the end of personalised service and friendly staff? Will we be struggling to find a qualified individual to help us make decisions? Are we doomed to buy more useless cards couched as 'locals deals' when they are plainly a deal for the operators?

I hope not.

The only way to ensure it doesn't happen is to shop smarter. Find the experts in every field. Make sure they are local. Ring them a few times to make sure you will get follow up service as well. And finally, don't accept bad service, from anyone. Complain, in writing if need be. Make sure that voice you use in social circles is used when it really counts.

This will not work if you don't do the most important thing in the whole equation. Give praise. If you do receive good service, announce it to everyone. Write a letter to the boss. Anything. Word of mouth is still our most powerful tool as shoppers. Use it wisely.

In keeping with my own advice I would like to recommend the following businesses; Harley's Educational Superstore, Piccone's IGA, Juniors, Silk Cafe, Bang Espresso, Caffiend, The Green House, Blondie's Kuts and Kurls and Donaghy's Butchers in Edmonton.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Sometimes it's hard to be a woman.

When did women's rights start taking the right to choose away from a woman?

If we talk about the abortion debate, the end result should be that women have the right to choose, not that it be mandatory.

If we talk about gay marriage, the end result should be that same sex couples have the right to choose whether to get married, not that it be mandatory.

If we talk about any social reform, the result is that there are options, choices, for those affected. Never that it be the ONLY option or choice available. As far as I can tell, that's the reason we are having these debates, because there are so few choices available. It's to broaden the choices, to extend the options.

I am a woman.

As a women, I am proud of those who came before me and fought tooth and nail for my right to have choices. I have the choice to be a parent, the choice to marry, the choice to study, the choice to have a career, the choice to do or be anything I am capable of. Sounds good doesn't it?

Here's the problem.

I often feel that women are taking choice away from other women.

If I choose to be a stay at home mum, cook nice meals and iron clothes for my husband, while home-schooling my children, am I less of a woman? Am I giving those women who fought for my rights less than I should?

If I choose to have a baby but not breastfeed, return to work within 3 months, while my partner stays at home with the baby, am I being a terrible example of womanhood? Am I denying my 'mothering instincts' by shackling my poor partner to the house?

If I choose to stay single, never marry and follow my career all the way to the top, am I selfish? Have my choices made me too 'masculine' and 'hard'? Am I denying my softer side and making choices I will be sure to regret later in life?

A man would have far less scrutiny placed on their life, their decisions and their chosen path. It's not even other men who make the negative statements about women. It's other women!

When did our choices reduce our worth? When did we stop being able to make our own choices and start relying on other women to tell us what we should be doing? Why are we being forced to deny our instincts and use only our heads when making decisions?

There are benefits to being a woman that men will never have. Our bodies have cycles. This means many things; for example if we choose to we can produce a baby, but the most important thing is that the nature of our cycle means we are more in tune with our physicality. There is strength in that knowledge which men cannot replicate.

We are more intuitive. It's a fact. Our 'gut feeling' rarely leads us astray and should enable us to make more informed choices in our journey through life.

We are generally more empathetic. A huge advantage in any area directly related to humanity.

Those are the most obvious differences between men and women. Men are not without their own strengths, it's why a world with equal contribution from the sexes would be so ideal. We bring different skills to the table.

Oh dear, I mentioned a table. No, it's not in my kitchen and I am not tied by the apron strings to it.

The concern I have is that there is a feeling I have (yes, it's my intuition at work) that women, particularly those from the feminist movement, would like those differences to be eliminated. For some it appears that equality means conformity. When did that happen?

When did my right to choose to be referred to as one of the 'ladies' become something to be sneered at. Apparently it's origins are steeped in negative connotations as it was originally a reference to the 'Lady of the house'. So? I AM the lady of the house. My husband is the man of the house and my children are the children of the house. That doesn't mean I spend every waking minute beside the kitchen sink or up to my armpits in bread making ingredients. Any more than it means my husband does.

I also like to be called MRS DALL'OSTO. Not Ms. I dislike the sound that word makes and it's wishy washy feel. But that's just me. That's MY choice. Why take it away from me?

I have to choose Ms because it makes me equal to the man. Seriously? How? By labelling me with a title I do not like, somehow that's empowering? Telling me that my choice makes me a bad parent to my daughters because I am somehow elevating the standing of the 'man of the house'? How is teaching my daughters that this incredible movement that began before them, before me, gave them the right to choose how they would like to be titled dis-empowering them in any way?

I do not like to be called chick, babe, hun or slut. Obviously the last example is a pretty extreme one and I don't think I've ever heard it in reference to myself. Still, none of those make me feel good about myself, so I let people know. You know what? They stop using them. It's how it should be. You simply tell others what you would, or wouldn't like to be called and that's as simple as it needs to be.

It seems to me that women have unrealistic expectations of how this all should work?

If you are a woman, please take note of the following.

If you see a woman with 4 kids trailing her in the supermarket, wearing clothes from 5 seasons ago and trying to choose between wholemeal flour and white flour, do not judge her. She has a hard enough job, trying to balance her time between her children so that none feel left out, struggling to keep a tidy home, balance the budget, worrying about the future of the children she is raising and all the while she feels insignificant and sometimes worthless.

If you see a women in a work uniform, dropping her young baby off at day care, do not judge her. Think instead of the difficulties inherent in her life. The fact that she has chosen to work at home, still cooking and cleaning (because equality still has a way to go in the household), then working at her job (which she is probably undervalued in), all the while having to cope with the usual issues that raising a child inherently has.

If you see a woman in a business suit, walking along the city street, talking on her phone, oblivious to the fact that she just rudely bumped into you, do not judge her. She may well be late for her 4th meeting of the day, feels like she is always one step away from losing her job and the career she has fought for and every day wondering if she is a valued as the men she works beside.

Truthfully, if each of these women made their choices happily, they should feel strong and powerful. Each example is one of a person integral to our society. A worthy individual and a role model to all young women and girls.

We women need to stop pitying, denigrating and looking down on other women. We need to continue to fight for the right we should all have to choose our own pathways through life. We need to ensure that women are protected by other women in those choices and that they understand how much worth they truly have.

These women, all women, deserve better.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The future for our youth on the South Side.

Three weeks ago I received a phone call from Hambledon House. As the Secretary of Edmonton Playgroup I was asked to open up the Graham Street Playgroup Hall for viewing. The reason? 99 Consulting have been given the job of reviewing all facilities in the area for a report into what is required for the youth of the region. This is a 20 year plan and I was keen to be part of the process. I met with Kylie Bock from Hambledon House and Helen Wallace from 99 Consultancy and showed them the venue.

It's a small hall. It has a nice kitchen and a great patio, a large sandpit fills most of the outside fenced area and there is a good sized shed there filled to the brim (that wording is no exaggeration by the way) with toys and kids play equipment.

Essentially, it is exactly what it professes to be. A Playgroup Hall. There are 5 separate playgroups which operate from the facility, one for each weekday. It is available for hire on the weekends to everyone in the community through Playgroup Queensland in Woree and we are grateful every day that the CRC has allowed this hall to continue to be used in the way it currently is.

While wandering about talking through the points of interest in the hall, we began to talk about the proposed plan. Talk moved on from the age group of Playgroup and we began to discuss the real problems for the youth of the south side. The question was then posed; If your children were teenagers and you still lived here, what would you recommend needs to be built or facilitated to suit their needs?

Half an hour later I had answered the question in full. This is a real problem for this area and one I have talked about, consulted about and thought about for a very long time. I have spoken to parents who are desperate for an outlet for their kids. I have spoken to teachers who are locked in a battle with kids on a daily basis and are desperate for assistance. I have spoken to teenagers who have nothing to do, nowhere to go and no connection with the community they live in. It's no surprise that my answer therefore, was a long one.

From there we parted ways.

Last week I received another phone call. This one from another consulting company, Fieldworx. Leanne was interesting in meeting with me. She had been told that I had some ideas and was connected to the community so she wanted to arrange a time for us to discuss my views.

Monday afternoon I met with Leanne and Eleesa. They asked the same question I had answered a few weeks before. My answer?

Build a YOUTH HUB within the walls of the Leisure Centre.

This facility is an ideal host for a multi-service hub for several reasons. Firstly, it's position is right in the middle of the entire community. Secondly, it boasts many distinct areas frequented by teens all around it, one of the reasons an expansion of Hambledon House would not work. Youth aged between 10 and 18 will not seek out a specific venue for assistance with anything. It's a well known fact and discussion with that particular age group confirms it. On the other hand, if they happen to stumble across it, that's a whole different scenario.

Thirdly, the Leisure Centre has not been built. In it's current stage it is able to cope with the adjustments that the addition of a small youth facility would entail. It was actually offered as a proposed inclusion quite a while ago but the lack of communication with those who would be utilising it took it out of the equation. Put it back in. Simple.

Lastly, as part of the Leisure Centre it would have the benefit of being associated with health and wellbeing. That is an ideal mind space for it to take up as the primary use of it would be as a referral base to aid and assist young people who are 'at risk' in many areas from mental heath, physical health, scholastic assistance to building and maintaining healthy relationships.

Beyond that we need facilities to support one another.

Better, more specialised transportation for youth so that they can attend courses and programs in the city area.

Broader appeal in the sporting arena with the inclusion of a skate park and bmx track and the potential to offer rainforest walks and bushwalking tours.

The beginning of some form of arts in the area. There is not one space to practice any artistic pursuit on the south side. Nothing. No music, no art, no theatre, nothing. Some of those could be facilitated right here but others will need to be part of the plan to offer transportation to the city, as mentioned previously.

Then there is the final and most important part. Some kind of meeting space, chill out area for youth to congregate in, access services, access computers and access reading material. Things that we all assume are available in the home but more often than we realise, are not. Whether this is part of the hub or not remains to be seen but it must happen. Perhaps the area at the back of the Sugarworld entrance building would be ideal.

Half way through the meeting I realised that the ideas I had gathered, and the methods this company had used before successfully, were almost identical. If I had not met with these two women I believe it would not have mattered much at all. They already had a plan, and the plan was a good one. They despaired at the 'last century' methods so many areas employ as they simply do not work. Lack of consultation with those who will be using the facilities was a prime reason that past ideas were unsuccessful. The fact that so many areas grow quickly without thought given to potential problems or forward thinking infrastructure was another.

After 2 hours of productive conversation, they headed out to the Gordonvale HUB. From previous experience I know that this facility is a very good one and I am sure they were impressed by the staff, under the expert guidance of Mark Edwards and Sarah Gosling, and the programs held within the walls.

Today they spent the morning with the many and varied youth facilitators from the region. More good ideas flowed and the plan is starting to take shape.

My input may not be used at all. The fact that I was part of the conversation is enough for me. To know that those in charge of this process are enthusiastic, knowledgeable and have such great ideas, with experience to match, is enough for me to rest easy, sure in the belief that the final plan submitted to Council Officers will be a good one. For the region and, most importantly, for our youth, it's a long overdue step in the right direction.

*Special thanks to Kylie Bock and the staff at Hambledon House, Tanya Brooks-Cooper, those who offered their ideas on my FB page, in personal conversations and via e-mail and the young people of Bentley Park and Edmonton who contributed greatly to the outcome of this post. Without their assistance I could not have taken part in this at all.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Cairns Entertainment Precinct vote.....the long version.

No prizes for guessing where I was all afternoon. Believe me when I say it was ALL afternoon. The Council vote on the Cairns Entertainment Precinct was scheduled for 2 p.m and I left the Council building at 5 p.m. Proceedings didn't actually go that long but by the time I caught up with many of those who attended......the day was over.

I turned up this afternoon at 12.39. Precisely. I was early because of a few things. I had my two eldest children with me and mum had agreed to babysit while the meeting went on upstairs and I wanted to get some idea of who was attending and what their position was.

The first person I came across was Jack Wilke-Jans who is running in Division 9 at the upcoming election. He was attending (in his words) 'for practice' and also came as an interested member of the arts community. His view was very positive for the Precinct and he was hopeful that the vote would be yes.

Next to enter the cafe area was Barry Neale from Residents Against Crime and Cairns Community Council Watch. A strong opposer to the project he and I had a wonderful conversation about the entire proposal. While we do not see eye to eye on it, we are in agreement that changes are desperately required in the consultation arena of Council office. We both think that those in charge of consultation procedures are ineffective and are not adequately doing the job. We also agree that the miscommunication on the proposal has led to misinformation, we just disagree on what that information is (which illustrates the point very well really.)

I then had a chat with Brendan Fitzgerald, Katter's Australian Party candidate for Barron River. He has another take entirely and believes that the project should be staged differently. He would prefer to see the smaller theatre built first but more than that, would like to see a 'School of the Arts' incorporated into JCU, feeding the Precinct with potential stars in the artistic arena. This proposed school would include all aspects of stage technician, musicians, dancers, play-writes, actors etc.....essentially a local NIDA. Frankly, I think it's a brilliant idea. The opportunity to change the order of development was not on the agenda so could not occur but the proposal for a performing arts school is one I would support wholeheartedly.

After quick hello's to Rob Pyne, Kirsten Lesina, Julia Leu, Mayor Val Schier, Janine Aitken, Tanya Brooks-Cooper, Stuart Traill, Darren Hunt, Mal Floyd, Tony Hillier, Gavin King, Locco and Daniel Strudwick, had a very brief interview with Channels 7 and 9, then up to the 3rd floor (after getting stuck in the lift door not watching where I was going. Thankfully Gavin, Locco and the entire 7 and 9 News crews saved me from being swallowed whole .)

The Council Chambers were packed. I'm not kidding. It was full to bursting. They even added an extra row of seats but still it was standing room only. I started off seated, right up the front, but elected after a short while to stand as the hostility in the room was pretty confining.

Proceedings began with the Mayor making a very short statement in welcome to all those who were present. She then mentioned that at just past 12 p.m last night she had received a message from Sno stating he would not be attending as he was flying overseas. That statement elicited sarcastic laughter and a few loud whispers stating that the meeting should have been cancelled. Val chose to ignore it and moved on. The traditional owners were acknowledged and the first motion was under-way.

It spoke to the marketing of the Precinct and was a straightforward motion. Di Forsyth spoke for it and was quick and succinct, not so for the negative speaker Nancy Lanskey. She took the opportunity to complain about the incredible speed of this proposal, argued that there is no rush and it felt rushed and said that the community objected to the Precinct being shoved down their throat. Val said she had no idea what Nancy was talking about......they voted, all in favour bar Nancy.

Moving on.....

Margaret Cochrane was next to speak, she put forward several amendments to the original motion. These included; stating that Council would give 'in principal' support, changing it to include Council where it stated that the State Government would approve based on the business case, ensuring it had Federal Government support and getting guaranteed funds from the State. This motion did not get up. The crowd were restless and many called out in disgust. It was time to squirm a little.

Then the Precinct Manager Linda Cardew spoke. She stated that she had been to Anthony Albanese's office the preceding week. His staff told her that there was no guarantee that the 40 million allocated Federally could be postponed or extended beyond June next year. The money has been allocated from a specific fund which is to be used 'in regional centres where it will build infrastructure that will create jobs'. That being the case it could possibly be reallocated to another centre if Cairns did no use it.

The State Government agreed to fast-track the final approval for the allocation promised from them and suggested that Council reiterate the fact that the Precinct could tie in with the Convention Centre when arguing it's case as part of the business plan.

The Precinct report from Bob Minnikin of Savills came next. The end result was that the figures are good, the numbers are realistic and true, the staging is necessary and the borrowings are affordable. The report ended with a statement that the cost of the first stage has some scope to move downwards but will not move upwards. He seemed pretty adamant about that.

Rob Pyne then reignited the energy in the room with his speech, arguing that this decision was not and should not be a political one. This decision is about the community. All of it.

Julia Leu spoke in favour. She said the extensive planning, the need and the evaluation were enough to convince her it was a good project. She also mentioned that many other projects in the past had not gained full support from the community prior to being built but have worked out in strong favour of all residents. She urged Councillors to vote for the future of the region.

Linda Cooper believes that we need to have this but doesn't like the ongoing costs being passed on to future generations. She would not vote positively based on the lack of a business plan and no definitive numbers. Cost blow-out remains too high a risk.

This was spoken to and it was again said that the cost will reduce possibly, not increase. Linda was unconvinced.

Di Forsyth spoke for the Precinct. She mentioned the long wait on this and said that it's time now to just get on with it.

Nancy Lanskey said that this is the first project up for development by Council which would not make money. She stated that it is all about the cost of the project, the potential for blow-out and the reliance on regional growth which may not come to fruition. Too many variables.

Val pointed out that Council subsidise many local amenities and facilities that benefit the community and it is the job of Council to do so.

Margaret Cochrane agreed that the subject of a performance space had been floating around for a long time. She wanted to know why Whites Shed was in the first stage as her belief is that the two theatres should be built concurrently, both being needed. She also worried that community groups would not be able to afford the cost of hiring the facility and things like the Eisteddfod would not be able to access it.

Advice was given that Whites Shed is heritage listed and in very poor condition. If construction begins beside it there is a strong possibility it will simply collapse and that should be avoided. Hence the fact it is included in the first stage.

Paul Gregory mentioned that each Councillor was elected to represent their Division first and the broader community next. He said that this was a tough call for all Councillors to try and balance Divisional issues with community issues. Division 1 is in need of better sporting facilities and parks, making this Precinct a 'want' rather than a 'need'.

Alan Blake shared that view. He agreed that the Civic Theatre needs to be replaced but thought this project was much too 'grandiose'. His concern was about over-running costs and the poor condition of the CBD. He continually mentioned that Council were 'bullied' by the State to accept the land and we should not be dictated to. Whites Shed is also ugly and should not be considered important. He said that the 'stuff' inside it would fit on the back of a ute and should be moved elsewhere and the building itself was decrepit.

Councillors where then reminded that the decision to accept the parcel of land was made by Council in a unanimous vote in July last year.

Kirsten Lesina then summed up. She said that the need is there. This is not a want. We are looking at the future and the community needs it.

Then....the vote. 5 for, 5 against. Val used her casting vote to tip the scales and the motion to allocate Council funds to the Cairns Entertainment Precinct was carried.

And the crowd went wild! That's not actually far from the truth. The noise was deafening and frankly, I used the confusion and chaos to get out of there. During the meeting one person evicted themselves by shouting his opinion all the way to the door and two others were warned three times then told they would be asked to leave if they spoke again.

Now what? Well, afterwards I spoke for a few minutes to Ian Thomas who is running for Mayor. He was disappointed but not discouraged by the result.

Barry and I ran into each other again and his only statement was 'This is not over yet, not by a long shot' and I believe him.

Several members of the Arts community (including Ruby Boussard and Avril Quaill), were very happy with the outcome but like me would have preferred it to be clearer.

My children were just bored.

Now, we wait. Next week the State Finance Committee will vote to allocate us the promised money. The business case report will be complete. Barry and his friends will be organising the next public meeting (set for early November at this stage). The Councillors who voted 'no' can tell their constituents that they support the Divisional needs before the entire community's needs and those who voted 'yes' can tell theirs that the jobs are on the way (and Sno will have some serious explaining to do).

This was the crux of the matter. It might not be over, there might be more bumps along the way, but today's result must be adhered to and this Precinct will be built. I'm not sure that I'd call it an outright win, but it's certainly a big step in the right direction.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Stop the Boats........then what?

Asylum Seekers, Boat People, Illegal Immigrants or Refugees. Whichever label you choose, the people involved remain the same. I am going to address this issue from a different viewpoint than has been previously entertained.

We have argued for and against the treatment of asylum seekers. We have formed views and opinions based on fear, mothering comments, anger, human rights, racism and fairness. At this point it appears not to matter much what we really think.

Both major parties are determined to reject these people and continue to marginalise them. The numbers arriving remain low and the chances of an asylum seeker moving in next door to you is very slim and even if they did, you probably wouldn't notice. The fact is, there are only a few thousand every year coming here. Not the great big hoards the media and politicians would have you perceive. Still, I digress. My opinion is fairly clear....but that's not what I want to talk about.

Julia Gillard is disappointed today in Tony Abbott's apparent 'political games'. She claims that he should support the amended bill proposed to change immigration laws and not doing so makes a mockery of his party's interest in Nauru as a processing centre.

In an article read this morning it stated that the Government was informed that Malaysia was the ideal solution as it would deter the boats. The advice was as follows; That those sent to Malaysia would never be sent back to Australia and would spend up to 8 years trying to be processed over there, without jobs or adequate housing. This information would filter back to the countries they came from and stop any more from making the potentially deadly journey.

That this reasoning had any affect on policy at all is abhorrent but even if we take for granted that this is the best option for our country there remains one HUGE question which nobody seems inclined to address.

What are the alternatives for these people?

Let's say that this so called solution actually works the way it's designed and no more boats come. What we are not talking about is who these people are. They are not queue jumpers. They are not rich people who are bored with their own country. They are not criminals.

They are men, women and children who are running (yes, it really is that urgent) away from all they have ever known, leaving family and friends behind, leaving schooling, jobs and homes......because they are afraid. They are so afraid that they climb aboard boats that are far from sea-worthy and make the treacherous journey across the ocean in an attempt to find a home where they can live in peace. The countries they are fleeing have no adequate refugee camps. Nowhere to go for protection.

We should not fear these innocents. They live in fear every single day. Some have done so for years. They will tell you that it is no way to live. They could also probably tell you what real fear is and would laugh at ours.

Our lives have never been threatened. Our homes are not burned down, shot at or bombed. Our schools are pretty safe places for our children. Our jobs are reasonably secure and we have opportunity and hope for our future. We also have clean water and food. Seriously, how lucky are we.

If we are so hell bent on treating asylum seekers as criminals and the scourge of society, we have got to address the issue of other options available to them.

The reason the Malaysia Solution is not popular is because, even with the negative connotations of boat arrivals, at our core we are still humane. We can't fight to stop live exports of animals if we are not willing to do the same for humanity.

We care. It's just that our caring only extends itself so far. Mine has no limit. My first question when people say they want the boats to stop is always...."Then what?"

If the boats stop will that end the suffering in war torn countries? No. Will it keep the persecuted safe by making them stay and live in fear? No. Will we sleep better at night secure in the knowledge that it doesn't directly affect us so it's not our problem? Some will, but for the majority...No.

So, I ask my question today of all of you.......If the boats stopped tomorrow, what alternatives would you suggest for those trying to escape a life lived in fear?

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Is the media at fault or has the Government lost the plot?

At the moment, in Federal politics, it seems that the Gillard Government can't catch a break. They are floundering in a sea of misrepresentation, miscommunication, scandal and high court drama. It's frustrating and irritating to watch.

Before the election I wrote a blog on the apparent errors the ALP were making and those that the Coalition were also committing. Both were mired in a pit of negativity, giving voters no clear idea of policy or direction for the future of the country. Trying desperately to outdo each other on the way down.

Not surprisingly, the outcome of that election was unclear. Afterwards I wrote a second blog. This one a positive take on what a hung parliament could mean for this term of government. The idea that the leading party would be forced into negotiations with all other parties in order to develop and pass policy was a novel one which had a certain level of excitement and a sense of real democracy attached.

One and a bit years on and the outcome so far has been mixed. Ask a member of the public what they think of the Government and the answer is usually negative. They are pandering to the Greens. They have lost their way. They are too right wing....too left.....too unclear. ALP members are outraged about the potential changes in human rights laws that will allow offshore processing of Asylum Seekers. Liberal and National members are furious that the Government is ignoring Nauru and is proceeding with the Malaysia deal. Same policy. Same dislike of it. Completely different perspectives.

Then ask one of the Independents. They are the ones who are negotiating throughout this process and they are the ones who hold the balance of power. According to all reports, they are very happy with the way this Government is progressing. They see Julia as a great negotiator, a worthy ally and a progressive leader. They see Abbott as a negative person, have given up meeting with him regularly, are very happy with the 190+ bills that the Government have passed in only one year, and they firmly believe they have done a great deal of good for this country.

So......How can two separate groups be so disconnected in terms of their take on this? How can the perceptions be so vastly disparate when the facts relating to the issue are the same?

Is it the media? Have they focussed so much attention on the 'he said, she said' rubbish and not allowed the policy commitments and bills being passed the coverage they deserve? Partly true. Yes, the media are focussed on the personality's of the leaders. Yes the media are concentrating on the stuff ups and scandals inherent in both major party's. However, after reviewing the news over several years it seems we are missing one fact. The media may well be misrepresenting the Government.......but they always have.

In the past the actions of Howard, Beasley, Latham, Keating, Turnbull and Costello have been featured news in every major paper. Not so much focus on their policy, ideals and plans. For instance.....I know that Latham has a mean streak. He has appeared threatening and has punched people in anger. I can even recall the pictures of Latham leaning over Howard in an aggressive manner while shaking his hand. So, what was Latham's policy on Asylum Seekers? No idea.

I know that Costello coveted the top job and was apparently promised it at some stage until Howard decided he liked it too much. I know that Beasley struggled with his weight and also struggled to get media attention and blanket support from inside the ALP. I know that Keating was arrogant and a bit of a dictator but his presence was such that you couldn't look away when he spoke. I know that Turnbull is the thorn in the Coalitions side as he is quite progressive and firmly believes in climate change science.

The media have become the woman's magazine of politics. I am unsure when exactly it occurred, maybe it's always been slightly sensationalist, but it does make it difficult to read between the personalities to find the politics.

If the media are not at fault.....who is? It's the ALP obviously. When the PM stops trying to defend every single statement she makes, the country will be much better off. Explanations are essential to keep the public informed but defence is not required. Tony Abbott has perfected the art of offence. He is ensuring that the Government are always walking backwards in the public arena and they are abiding by the rules he has set. He's not the PM. He may be one day but right now, today, he is not. The Government sets the rules. The Government leads the conversation and the Government is answerable only to the general public, not to the Opposition.

Julia, take a deep breath, step forward and be confident that the people will listen. You can't please all of the people, no politician has EVER been universally loved or admired. Forget the popularity contest and just do your job.

According to the Independents, the ones who essentially gave you the job, you are doing it well. If you can show confidence and good negotiating skills behind closed doors in meetings with the most powerful people in this country.....surely you have the ability to do the same publicly for the rest of us.

It's up to the Government to change it's communication methods. Not the media. There are still a few years of this Parliament to go, plenty of time to show us it's working.

Friday, September 9, 2011

September 10. The day that changed my world.

Tomorrow is September 10. To most of you this will just be another day on the calendar and it is the following day which will have some kind of story behind it for you and your family. For me, it was September 10 which changed the world.

Ten years ago on September 10, Lleyton Hewitt won the US Open. He fought long and hard and the entire nation tuned it to watch. At almost 4p.m he pumped his fist in the air in true Hewitt style and announced to the world that he was the number 1 player in tennis at the time.

Most of you probably don't remember that.

I do. Because less than 5 minutes later, I welcomed my first child into the world. Kaitlin Louise Moore was born at 4p.m on September 10th, 2001 at the Cairns Base Hospital. The day that changed my world.

Any parent will tell you that the first child is the life-changing one. At the time however, I was more worried about her feeding patterns, what made her cry so loud, what colour her eyes would be and whether her toes were perfect.

After spending the night in awe of my child, I spent the entire next day surrounded by family and friends. All wanting to hold my little girl and tell her every one of the amazing things the world had to offer her. After a full day of special moments, the visitors left and I was alone with the tiniest person I had ever seen. She was mine, and I was responsible for her future.

A daunting task but one which I felt ready for and excited about. The Christmas morning rituals, skinned knees, funny moments, the pride in her achievements, the shared pain of her failures, the friendships, relationships, career choices and the start of her own family all featured in my thoughts at the time. That night I slept well (as well as you can with a newborn anyway), safe in the knowledge that all was right in the world.

The next morning it took a while to notice the change around us. There were three of us in that room, all with tiny little people to take care of. And by 9a.m we were wondering where all of the people were. What happened to the influx of family and friends that came the day before? Did we only get one day of fawning and adoration before everyone grew bored?

One of the nurses came into the room and spoke to us all. "How are you feeling today? Isn't it awful what happened?"........Then she noticed our blank expressions. " Oh my God", she said, "You don't know, do you! Stuff the rules, today you all get free t.v.!"

And then she turned it on.

Three mums with three brand new babies in our arms, all looking at the television as it spewed out pictures of violence and hate. Image after image of chaotic scenes, death and fear.

With hearts in throats we all looked down into the unseeing eyes of our charges. I wondered what kind of world she would grow up in, how many freedoms she had lost that day. I was suddenly sad to think of her future. A future that had irrevocably altered through no fault of her own. Those moments were some of the most heartbreaking of my life.

Tomorrow is September 10. Ten years exactly since my world changed. In those ten years some of my fears have been realised. Most however, have not.

My daughter is free. She has friends, a loving family, excitement in her life and a strong sense of hope for her future. She has a brilliant mind which she uses well and the world is laid out before her to explore and conquer.

She has changed my world in the best possible way. So much so, I took the plunge and had two more tiny, fearless beings.

Sometimes it pays to spend more time remembering the changes made in our lives which we controlled, which we engineered and those which we have relished.

There is nothing I can do to stop another 9/11. There is nothing I can do to change the minds of those who choose to create fear (including politicians) for some skewed ideal or goal. What I can do is affect change in my children's lives. Encourage them to be fearless. Ensure they have a greater capacity for tolerance and empathy than the generations before me. Give them the skills to cope in adverse situations and the sense of self that will keep them walking tall.

Happy birthday to my beautiful, bright little girl. Thanks to you, I will always remember September 10, and the memories are good.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

To entertain or not to entertain? The Entertainment Precinct.

Here we go again. Just when it seemed we were past the 'will we, won't we' phase, it appears that we are headed back to the grey area regarding the Entertainment Precinct. It was my belief that the current stage was about the final designs (do we want a bowl area, can we have a large outdoor screen on one of the walls for those wishing to gather to watch a sporting event or other televised interests outside of the arts) but it appears that we have stalled there and have gone back to the maybe, sometime stage.

There will always be those who do not want this Precinct. Those who think the cost is too high, the timing is all wrong and the need is not there. There are those who would prefer a sporting facility be built and those who actually believe we can have both, at the same time! Concentrating on that will never get the Precinct built.

Here are some facts.

The Entertainment Precinct is partially funded by both other tiers of government. This money is non transferable and has a limited window of use. The reason that the window is there is because the government cannot indefinitely pledge the money without it impacting on budgets. If it isn't used now, that means that the money could have been spent on a project elsewhere. If it's spent elsewhere, it will have to be factored into the next budget, and the next, and the next, until it is utilised. The uncertainty that comes with that is not acceptable to any economist within the government and would not be accepted by the general public outside of our region.

The Entertainment Precinct has been consulted on, designed, costed and now just awaits final approval to be shovel ready. This process has taken almost 20 years (yes that's right, 20 years). A new facility for the Arts was looked at during the Tom Pyne years, the Kevin Byrne years and now we are looking at it yet again. The cost has changed over the years. Not necessarily less than the current cost either. Kevin Byrne's Council costed it at 200 million for a building and had no government funding to help with the cost. The type of building and it's position has also been altered each time but the basic idea that we need a centre for the arts and our Civic Theatre needs replacing has been acknowledged for decades. Almost from the moment the Civic Theatre was built it was accepted as inadequate.

During the past month I have received invitations to 24 exhibitions, plays, comedy shows, music performances and children's entertainment. Several where held at the Civic Theatre, others at various places around the region. Those who are claiming the need is not there have not been noticing the sold out shows, the plethora of festival activity and the multitude of events specifically related to the Arts. We have a thriving arts community in our region and they deserve a place to showcase their talents while the rest of us deserve a place of comfort and beauty to watch them.

Should we have a sporting facility built in our region? Yes. This city may well be artistic but it is also a sporting community and deserves a decent stadium for national sporting events and our own sporting endeavours. We have a history of performing well in regional and national competition so we know the need is there.

What is not there however, is the plan. While the Precinct has gone through years of planning, costing and design, the sports stadium has not. The consultation process for the stadium began recently and the early results are already being collated. This process takes 12-18 months. Then the design stage will occur which can take anywhere from 6-12 weeks. More consultation on design followed by costing analysis takes a further 6 months. Lobbying governments to help bear the cost could begin almost immediately but gaining any funding would not be achieved overnight.

This process is a long and necessary one.

If we chose to build a smaller building as a replacement theatre only, not a full Precinct, and we built a 10'000 seat stadium at the same time, we would perhaps get to keep the government money for the theatre and may still come in at a similar cost for both. However, both would be inadequate to our needs, current and future. Both would not start until the final stage of planning was completed on the stadium, at least 2 years away. Essentially, we would not be getting either of the facilities this community actually needs.

Here's what I believe we should do.

We should build the Precinct NOW. Add a large screen to one wall but other than that, either design is a good one. If the building started in October/November, it would take 12-18 months to complete. While we are waiting for the completion of the Precinct, plan for a sports stadium. One that seats 15-20'000 and encompasses a multi-sport arena, with added bars and restaurant etc. This process takes 18-24 months. Making it ready to commence at around the same time the Entertainment Precinct is completed.

This suggestion would give long term jobs to the construction industry. It would give the residents both facilities of an international standard and it will allow for the other tiers of government to factor in additional funding for each facility, making building them this way more financially viable as well.

I remain hopeful that the Precinct will not be derailed. If we lose the opportunity to have it all because we were too frightened to take the final step and start the building, the missed opportunity will cause a revolt. Those who have been waiting all these years for a Precinct to be built have been silently watching this process with hope and a sense of victory. If that hope is removed, you can guarantee they will remain silent no longer.

I urge all local residents to get behind this project. If you don't think it's a facility you will utilise and would like a stadium, let the Precinct be built for those who will use it and make sure you are vocal throughout the planning process for a stadium. Your time will come. Let the Arts Community have theirs.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Child Care, Availability and the National Curriculum.

Last week I was asked to take part in an article to appear in Saturday's The Cairns Post as a mother who has a child in child care. The requirement was to write a 200 word piece on our personal experiences with gaining placement in local Child Care centres. A photo was to be taken afterwards and I set to work busily putting my words onto paper.

There were two problems. One, I had no idea where to send the finished product and two, I couldn't for the life of me keep it down to 200 words. The end result was not bad but certainly not what I meant it to be and without an e-mail address to send it to, my part in proceedings was given to someone else. Not that I'm complaining. I'd always rather have a product I am happy with in print and what I wrote did not fit the bill.

Because I am a stickler for facts and find it hard to write personal details, I spent some time calling a few day care centres to find out their stories. The reason I bothered doing that was due to the fact that here on the south side, day care is not really hard to get into. I had an easy time placing my youngest daughter and she is thriving. Not much is required when you are basically saying, it's easy to get into, it's affordable and the care is excellent. The end.

Being me, that was obviously not the end. I asked several day care's in my area about their own availability. Turns out they are all easy to get into. Being a talker, I got a lot more than I bargained for and here is the result of those conversations.

Firstly, you need to understand that the reason day care is easy to utilise is not due to bad reputation or poor care standards. It is not because of the cost and it has little to do with the unemployment figures.

There are 14 child care centres between the White Rock lights and the end of Edmonton. That's right, 14! Essentially they have planned for the growth spurt that has not yet occurred and there's a glut. The new centre in Bentley Park is beautiful, shiny and the staff enthusiastic. However, it has the capacity to hold 300 children and with all other day care's struggling to fill up, they may find themselves with vacancies for quite some time.

Also, the National Maternity Scheme has resulted in fewer mums going immediately back to work. The most difficult room to access in any child care facility has always been the baby room. Now, as more parents choose to wait longer before going back to work, this room has vacancies available. Not all centres have got a baby room. Partly because of the ratio required between staff and babies and partly because of the additional space required to have cots in place. Still they aren't full.

As for the learning requirements and the activities the children are exposed to, one of the primary concerns stated by all mums who did participate in the article, what was printed in Saturday's edition is not completely accurate.

In 2012, Australian learning requirements will change completely. Primary schools will all go to a national based curriculum. A select few schools have already implemented the new program and the difference between this new learning experience and the previous one is stark. Particularly when focused on Prep-Year 2. Prep is no longer play based learning. There are text books required. It is necessary for these children to learn multi syllable words and use them in context. They are being exposed to mathematical concepts such as time, spatial maths, basic algebra and fractions. If you have a child about to enter Prep, start practising their letter recognition and basic words and maths RIGHT NOW!

This national program is in response to the fact that some States are under-performing in numeracy and literacy. Queensland is so far behind the other States that people are literally panicking and Naplan testing is becoming the focal point of learning.

What all Queenslander's need to take into consideration is that here in this State we have a large population of Aboriginal and Islander children. Many of whom are learning in their own communities, with English being a second language. Their extended family often have had little formal education so they begin the schooling process without the advantages of those living in regional and city areas. Wanting a better result for us all is not a bad thing but it needs to stay in perspective. Realistically, if middle class families in the city are going to find the new curriculum a bit complicated what chance have the disadvantaged among us got?

Sorry, I digress.

While the new curriculum will be brought into all schools shortly, there is obviously a need to better prepare children for Prep. To me it seems an oddity as Prep is short for Preparatory which in itself should prepare children for Year 1. Instead we seem to be using the Prep year as another school year. Regardless, what will happen in 2012 is that Child Care centres will also go to a national standard of learning. It will be very different from what currently occurs, although as with schools some centres have already begun the process. Testing will be more apparent, the basic ticks and crosses will no longer suffice when finding out if a child knows their colours and shapes. Instead it will require a more detailed response from the carers.

Play based curriculum will still be used but each child will now have specific, outcome based curriculum in their rooms, rather than play for fun only. One of the changes coming in was a little odd to me. Children will no longer be allowed to line up before going anywhere within the facility as this apparently stifles their individuality. Seriously? A confounding rule as children in Prep will be required to line up in pairs all day long. Sometimes I wonder if those who sat down to write this new curriculum actually talked to the schools before making decisions.

It is also interesting to note that in the same year that students in Primary school will start the move to High School for Year 7 (2014), all Child Care centres will have to include a dedicated Kindergarten Program with a fully qualified teacher. Conversations I had indicated that it was a difficult task as no teacher wants to work for 13 thousand a year less than they would in a school AND miss out on school holidays for lesson plans AND work outside school hours. It's a bit of an ask really and it was suggested that the Government needs to consider the issue and provide more incentive for this to actually work.

Anyway, there you have it. Certainly not the 200 word article I was attempting to write. That one was pretty wishy washy and not very interesting at all. At least next time, if there ever is a next time, I know the address to send it to. That's something I suppose.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Censure or Censor? The Internet in all it's gory......oops, glory!

Recently there has been a push by our federal government to change the way we interact online and the visual content we can access. Much has been said about the where's and why's and it's direct attack on our freedoms. The following post is the story of some events that occurred during the past two days for me and an option I believe would be the best for us all.

Last week a young girl aged 4 was attacked and killed by a pitt-bull in her own lounge room. This dog had entered the home she was in and began attacking another child, her mother intervened and the dog turned on the small child latched onto her mother's leg, killing her. Ayen Chol was too small to have much chance against the ferocity of the attack and the resulting death of such an innocent victim has resulted in an outpouring of grief from members of the public all over Australia. The story shocked and horrified many and as a result a Facebook Page was set up as an avenue for those wishing to convey their sympathy to the family of Ayan. All very innocent and a lovely idea.

I went there yesterday to offer my condolences as the story has resonated with me due to the fact I have a daughter of the same age. What I saw shocked me. There were graphic photos of pornography, photos of a baby next to a pitt bull with the heading 'My pitt bull's next meal', speeches about the little girl being a 'nigger who was better off dead so that she could not breed and produce more niggers' and many, many more hate-filled, racist taunts and slurs.

My first reaction was to want to shut the page off, press the 'HOME' button in the corner and leave such ugly thoughts and pictures somewhere I need not visit again. Then I hesitated. What could be achieved by simply ignoring what was in front of me and the hurt it would likely cause to the family of a small child? One who could not defend herself and lost her life so young. What were my options?

I could let Facebook know, by reporting the page (as many had begun to do) but from experience it's been shown to do nothing. I decided instead to report the items and the page to Crimestoppers. I felt a little foolish as nobody had been physically harmed as a result of this, no one was robbed (except perhaps the family, of peace) and it was unlikely that a physical crime would ever result. Still, I made the complaint.

Today I received a phone call from the Herald Sun. A reporter (Amelia) had been following up on the story of Ayan Chol and had been alerted to the fact that this page existed and was being hijacked by hate. The page is no longer there and she wanted to know details of what had been posted. The police are also following this up, as several of us took 'screen shots' and sent those along with the words of complaint to Crimestoppers. Even Amelia, who has covered many similar stories in the past, was shocked by some of the words and phrases used and expressed her sorrow that the family had been witness to it all. The Aunt of the young girl contacted me to thank me for my kind words as I had let them know that the views expressed were those of a very few sick individuals and they should not take them on board. The majority of Australians feel sadness and empathy for the family.

Hopefully a real resolution will come from all of this. Those responsible for writing the vile rubbish should be held accountable and measures need to be made to address this kind of thing. This is not an isolated incident. Every time a person is killed in tragic circumstances attacks are made via social media.

Along with that, teenagers are faced with hate filled attacks to their person from others on their own pages, fuelling self hatred and now becoming responsible in part for the jump in cases of teenage suicide. So, what's the answer?

Do we restrict the things we can look at? Do we close down parts of the web just in case? Do we give our politicians the power to pick and choose what we can do and how we can access certain things? No, no and no!

There is an easy answer. I have no idea how hard it would be to implement and I would welcome any input from any technologically advanced readers as to the process to make it so.

What we need is this: At the top of every computer screen in a recognisable position we should have a special button. It should look a bit like the red buttons used to start an alarm so that it can't be missed or mistakenly used. When you are on the net, on any site, any page, for any reason, and you see something that threatens, promotes violence or violently attacks gender, race, culture or the button. The act of doing that would then do two things. First it would take an instant screen shot. A screen shot is basically a photo of the page you are currently looking at, in it's current form. This part is essential as prosecution or follow up is almost impossible without this proof. The second thing it would do is send that photo directly to Crimestoppers. There should be a dedicated section of Crimestoppers especially for dealing with cyber crime (if there isn't already) and the proposed method of contact would negate the need for a second, dedicated hotline for this type of crime, while ensuring all relevant details were received.

Of course, if you believe the threat is imminent, call 000 immediately, but make sure you remember to press that red button as well.

This action could be taught in schools so that any cyber bullying could be addressed. It would allow people of all ages to feel safer on the internet if we had a 'REPORT' button. Our children could be taught to press that button if they are in a chat room and feel uncomfortable about the approaches from an individual, thus being helpful in reducing the risk of paedophilia. It would give you an element of control in an uncontrolled environment. The benefits are endless. The need for internet censorship would be negated and our freedoms could be maintained.

Of course I recognise that there would be some taking advantage of the button and many reports would be nothing of any real concern but the same already occurs with Crimestoppers and I still believe the benefits would outweigh the negatives.

As I mentioned before, I'm not sure how feasible this is but I have contacted a few individuals to try and get some answers. If there is any chance it could be done, I will be lobbying strongly for it's implementation. Who's with me?!