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?!

Friday, August 19, 2011

You Twitface+. The Social Media revolution.

Some computer geeks in Brisbane have just launched a new social networking site to rival Facebook, Twitter and Google+. Excellent. Just what we need. More excuses to feel rushed and time-poor while we attempt to juggle our multitude of computer based alliances.

A new Facebook 'friend' appeared on my list the other day and his statement that he was told to join up as it would increase his 'likes' by the bosses at work is a sadly accurate one. Gavin King has joined the Facebook revolution. Does that make him appear more human? To some it will. They will look at his status updates and photos he posts and feel somehow connected to him.

Interacting online is giving us all a false sense of friendships, power and likeability.

In the past week I have 'liked' many pages, I have been outspoken on many more. I change my 'status' daily and I have made several worthwhile connections with total strangers. But what have I actually achieved by doing that? Does the fact that I voted in GetUp's latest cause mean I am revolutionary? Does the fact that I disagreed with someone regarding the future of our moral fortitude in capital letters mean that I am incredibly brave? Because I received 19 'likes' following one statement made via's Facebook page does that mean that I hold the opinion of the majority? No! It means that with my children unwell, one following the other, I have wasted too much time online (she says while pounding away on her laptop writing this missive).

Twitter and I have a sporadic relationship. I check it out once a day and write the occasional 'tweet' for my cyber friends to analyse, laugh about or reject. I am well aware of the fact that almost all statements these days are short-lived. All opinions are now taken with a grain of salt. What worries me are those who are yet to understand the side affects of living a life through the web.

Those who get so angry at a perceived slight or a differing opinion that they begin to write ONLY IN CAPITAL LETTERS. Those who continually go back for more in a vain effort to change the mind of one lone voice whom they have never met, nor are they likely to. Those who remove 'friends' because they've said something controversial and those tho take it all to heart and carry the angst with them everywhere they go.

In a world where we are increasingly exposed to far too much information, it is a difficult task to decide what should be filtered out. Do we really need to know everything? No. How on earth do we expect to have real relationships, real experiences and real opinions if we spend all of our spare time 'trolling' the web in search of bigotry and hate. Everyone has an opinion on everything now (myself included). Where we once said "No idea.", we now launch into a complete dissemination of the subject, complete with quotes and references.

We get caught up in the confusion of the multitude of causes and can state categorically what we believe on issues ranging from same sex marriage and religion through to the London riots and breastfeeding. Seriously? Does a 40 year old man living in Bondi actually care about whether breastfeeding is better than bottle feeding? Can a person who has never been to the UK and has no desire to, really get their head around the cause of the London riots? Probably not.

Thankfully, my children are all well again. My mind is now free to dwell on the simple things, like what's for dinner. I am able to step back from the world's curses and pick and choose those topics which actually interest me rather than believing that because it's online, I have to care.

In reality, we would all be better off if we were passionate about our causes for the right reasons. If we took full ownership of the issue and fought like dogs to get the results we are after. We wouldn't all be jumping on-board with the same issue as we are individuals and our real passions are not the same. The fight would be fairer, the opinions based on righteous energy and the results would be true to life.

So, I am now a member of the Google+ community. I have never actually used my account and I don't even think I have a picture up yet. I will continue to use Twitter as the mood strikes me and will probably keep updating my 'status' on Facebook daily. These social networking sites will not go away nor should they. They are very useful tools if used correctly and can connect you to old friends, family who are far away and people you share an interest with. Our fascination, fast turning into an obsession with it, is another thing entirely.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Census's all about religion.

Tuesday night we will all be sitting in our lounge rooms, offices or dining rooms filling in the form that comes every few years and gives the Bureau of Statistics all of the information the Government requires to ensure our facilities and infrastructure match our needs.

In the past few weeks I have received e-mails and messages from various groups asking for different inputs in the 'Religion' question.

One asked me to put 'No Religion' if I do not attend church regularly, even if I was Baptised or Christened, as ticking 'Christian' would be hypocritical otherwise. The fear for this group is that statistics currently inflate the Christian numbers in this country and have led to the implementation of the Chaplaincy program in State Schools and it is seen that this program should be replaced with qualified Councillors instead of having people in those positions with a religious bent.

The next one has asked me repeatedly to make sure I DO tick 'Christian' on the Census as the fear is that Muslims will tick 'Muslim' in their millions and suddenly Mosques will pop up all over the place as a result.

Both interesting theories.....both misguided.

The Government does not build places of worship so the theory that Mosques will be built on every corner is a fallacy and a bigoted one at that. It wouldn't even be an issue if these same people didn't believe that all Muslims are terrorists and beat and rape their wives (I'm not kidding, one used those exact words).

Why encourage hatred of a religion, especially one which is already suffering enough at the hands of a few extreme examples. Christianity is as much responsible for death, murder and mayhem in this world but the IRA, the Norwegian nutcase, burned and shot at abortion clinics, grave side aggressive protesting and European history over the past century appear to be easy swept aside when something 'different' comes along. A fundamentalist is a fundamentalist....whichever religion they lay claim to. An extremist of any type will find a way to excuse their behaviour and religion is the very best of scapegoats. Always has been, always will be.

The simple facts are these. The Census is designed to give the Government as much information about the people who live in this country as possible. This information is useful to the Government and various other organisations to give us a better lifestyle and access to better facilities and programs.

In order to do that effectively there is only one way to fill in your form on Tuesday night. Honestly. If you do not identify with any particular religion.....tick 'No Religion'. If you do, tick whichever one applies. Simple.

I will be ticking 'No Religion' tomorrow night. I was not Baptised, nor was I Christened. My parents are not religious and I was raised by Darwinists. While I believe in spirituality there is no option for Agnostic (although I firmly believe there should be) so it would be foolish and a complete lie if I stated otherwise.

I want better facilities. I want this Government to deliver what this community really needs. In the most honest, real way possible. Fill out your form with truth and fact and with a little luck, we'll all get what we need.

The 5% who force us to look stupid.

Political correctness gone awry. Too many rules, too many regulations, too many signs placed all around us letting us know we are not to be trusted to make choices and decisions on our own. Apparently we are all idiots.

On further examination it appears that we are not actually considered fools at all but every organisation and Government tier has to cover itself for any eventualities lest they be sued for all they have and then some. When did we become a litigating society who blames everyone but themselves when we make an error in judgement? Why are we so keen to take every business, organisation and Government department to court to make them pay for our own stupidity? Oh, the majority wouldn't. But because perhaps 5% of the population is determined to remain faultless instead of accepting responsibility for their own actions we have a situation where the average person is paying for that 5%.

Every sign we see that announces there are rocks over there and rocks might get slippery or one which mentions it might be a good idea to slow down if it's raining is only there because of that 5%.

Every time we pay exorbitant fees for children's sporting and artistic pursuits the bulk of that expense (insurance) is only as high as it is because of that 5%.

While I don't expect things to stay the same price for decades, even over 5 years, it irritates me that people can be so self absorbed that they fail to recognise the cost to the broader community when they make a claim based on petty complaint.

I have no objection to anyone using the insurance and litigation available to them if there was genuine fault in the way an organisation was operating or a negligent act occurred which caused distress, illness or injury. Insurance is vital and an essential safety guard for all who require it. The cost is very high however and does not need to be.

Would you sue the Council if you tripped on the pavement and broke a tooth? Would you sue a children's sporting organisation if your child injured themselves on the field playing sport? Would you sue a business for failing to provide healthy food in the cafe and you became overweight?

When did we stop taking responsibility for our own actions? When did we stop accepting the dangers in living a normal life but going for it anyway?

People are constantly writing articles in Parenting magazines, blogs (even mine) and in other print/online media about the dangers of cotton-wooling our children. There is an accepted renewal in the view that we need to encourage our children to take leaps of faith and trust their own judgement more. Why would they do that though, if we can't? It's not the children who need to remove the cotton wool, it's the adults!

Do something this week that frightens you a little. Not anything stupid or especially dangerous. Just something that you've always had to talk yourself OUT of. If you needed convincing not to do it, maybe you should just go for it. Take a leap of faith and trust your instincts. Life is all about living....maybe it's time to really LIVE IT!!

And while your at it, if you've got kids, unwrap the cotton wool from them too. Give them their dinner tonight on breakable plates, with shiny silver cutlery and a real glass to drink from. Trust that they won't break the lot and if they do, forgive them and try again tomorrow night. They'll soon work it out.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Polling the neighbourhood...Part 2

During my wanderings I didn't just visit homes I visited businesses too. There are quite a few in the area and aside from the essentials of food and services like Piccone's, the chemist, Coles, the butcher, banks and petrol stations, all businesses are struggling. Even those are not thriving as they should be. Some are very close to closing and a few are already for sale. These are owned by locals and most offer gifts and beauty services which are no longer part of most local family's budgets.

Business out here needs a huge boost.

In the houses almost every person I spoke to owns a small business or is a sub contractor. Almost all are struggling to pay the bills. In this one there are no easy answers.

The majority of businesses in Cairns are struggling. Even those we all thought impervious to a slowing market are closing down. National stores are closing up shop and our unemployment figures are appalling. What it means is that more of us are shopping at local stores and buying local products as we become more aware of our impact on the sustainability of business. That's a good thing. What's not a good thing is that many I spoke to are doing away with things they consider essential. They are downgrading insurance, paying off bills instead of paying for them upfront, changing schools, cancelling health cover and in some cases, firing staff.

The global market is still unstable and locally, we feel the effects more than most. Being a tourism destination, many local jobs are wrapped up in the tourism industry. Where previously hospitality and tourism staff were employing people to mow their lawns, re-build their kitchen, add a room to the house or even clean and iron for them, now they have dropped those services due to unemployment or downgrading of their job. The knock on effect is being felt everywhere as restaurants are frequented less, clothing and electronics are bought for a bargain price online and gifts are less extravagant.

Perhaps we are moving to a more self-sufficient society, forced on us by global economic downturns. Maybe it's simply a stage we are going through and money will flow freely again in a few years. I don't know. What I do know is that whatever happens next, people are in danger of losing their homes and livelihoods if things don't improve quickly and that would have devastating consequences for our region.

The best thing we can do if we live in this area, is shop locally for everything. Buy your food, your newspaper, your Panadol, your birthday presents and your meat from the stores right here in your own neighbourhood. They need your money and you need their products. It's a win, win situation.

Polling the Neighbourhood, Part 1.

Back to the languishing blog. Apologies to all who expected this post weeks ago, unfortunately technology was working against me. This post is huge as there was quite a bit that people had to say about the area so I am putting it into two parts. This is part one.

During the time since my last post I have taken the opportunity to speak to people in and around my neighbourhood, asking them their thoughts on the goings on out here in the Bentley Park, Edmonton area.

The overwhelming response was essentially "What goings on?" as it appears that most residents are of the belief that not much of anything is happening right now with the Sugarworld development the only obvious exception.

The GP Super Clinic is still a sea of grass, the Town Centre sign is back up but most residents are aware that it will be years before work begins on that particular site. The leisure centre is seen as a project that has permanently been 'mothballed' and the end of Logomier Road is still a dirt track.

Residents were unaware that the Leisure Centre received a reprieve from the State Government and will be one of only two cyclone shelters built in the region. They did not know that the consultation process regarding the outdoor sports fields on the site is being undertaken shortly and several were completely unaware that a facility for sport was being considered at all.

Guess it just goes to show that informing the public is a difficult process and more needs to be done to ensure residents know what is happening in the own backyard. It's actually not that hard but it does take some effort. Rob Pyne and Curtis Pitt appear to be doing the best job of informing the residents of what is happening in their community as almost all I spoke to knew what stage the Mt Sheridan Plaza development was at thanks to Rob Pyne's efforts and they were all aware that Curtis is lobbying for Wright's Creek Bridge to be allocated funding for an overhaul. Those two things mean nothing to most of Cairns but in the specific areas they affect, they are extremely important.

Those two examples take a great deal of time and effort to engage in the community and it works.

As for the GP Super Clinic, I recently ran into Jim Turnour who was the force behind the deal and he was very disappointed that work has not yet commenced on site. That being the case I assumed it meant that work should have started so I contacted Warren Entsch to ask him what was happening with it. The reply was swift, which was good, the answer insufficient, not so good. He stated that the GP clinics were not coalition policy, therefore he was not actively seeking answers on the topic. The directive was to suggest I ask Jan McLucas which I will do immediately and let you all know the response.

In my humble opinion, those elected to represent us, from all tiers of Government, should work together in our best interests, regardless of party policy. Surely they were elected to represent us all, not just those who voted for them. I was disappointed in the response but can't honestly say whether I am any happier with the fact that the Government officers in Canberra have apparently forgotten a prior commitment to our region. The worst part is that when the answers are finally given, the reasoning will be logical and sensible. The problem is that those reasons are not available to the general public and are only accessible after several people are asked.

What is wrong with giving updates to the community on projects slatted for development in our region? Accessible via cyberspace and newsprint. Especially when projects begin to fall behind time frames initially given.

Every resident is excited about the future opening of Sugarworld Slides. Families with children of all ages are thrilled as they watch the dirt tracks being etched into the mountain, knowing that the new slides will follow those paths. The work is progressing beautifully and I am positive that the numbers attending during the Christmas school holidays will prove the wait a necessary and ultimately useful one. Many have questioned whether a yearly pass will become available and that is certainly something that the Lessor should take into consideration as a possibility.

The lack of facilities for teens is also a common thread in the area, as is the increase in break ins and unruly behaviour late at night. These things are more than likely connected. The Leisure Centre will provide some relief but there has been no mention of entry fees to the facility and if it isn't free or a minimal cost (i.e. $3) there will be no benefit at all. Skate and bmx facilities are high on the list of 'wants' and neither will form part of the leisure centre as it currently stands. Perhaps they should? Is there any reason not to include a skate bowl in the grounds? Or a few dirt humps? Or both!

The area around my home is filled with children of all ages. This area is one of the only ones left in Cairns with affordable housing and is the ideal starting point for any young family, many of whom choose to stay while their children attend local schools. You simply cannot have an abundance of children around and not create an environment that encourages healthy activity and past-times.

The glut of social housing in the back of Edmonton has led to similar problems that occurred in the area I was raised, Manoora. This was due in part to the low incomes of residents but was also due to the lack of FREE things to do. Most of those entering social housing outside of unit developments have more than one child. These children get bored. All children get bored. Manoora got smart and built several key spaces for engagement with children and families and the results speak for themselves.

The fact that in the space of two suburbs there are three State Schools, one of which has over 1500 students, and one Catholic School which is the largest in the area and holds over 650 children, should indicate the huge amount of children living here. The added fact that a brand new, much larger Catholic School will be built in the area by 2014 and another State school is being considered is further proof that these children are crying out for facilities relevant to them.

You can't build a suburban area which encourages families without also building infrastructure that supports those families. That message needs to be heard by Council, State and Federal Governments as the situation will not improve unless something is done soon.