No more agistment for horses at Yaralla Reply

by Hannah Paine

Yaralla Estate, on the banks of the Parramatta River at Concord, is no longer available for the agistment of horses.

Yaralla Estate, on the banks of the Parramatta River at Concord, is no longer available for the agistment of horses.

Local horse owners, who had their agistment at Yaralla Estate on the Parramatta River terminated in May after a condition report found the estate had run into disrepair, have expressed concern over the decision by custodians of the Estate to turn the grounds into 13 hectares of parkland at the expense of their horses.

The announcement, made by the Sydney Local Health District in August, means the end of a tender of NSW Mounted Police horses in the Yaralla Estate stables. Yaralla has been a popular place for local families to go to visit their horses since it was left for the community’s benefit by Dame Eadith Walker who died in 1937.

Carolyn Hartley, 49, has had horses at Yaralla Estate for 31 years; she and her daughter, Caela, have had their horse Murphy there for the past 18. “I can’t put it into words about what has gone on in the last couple of months,” Carolyn Hartley says. “It was a place you could take your kids, it was unique.”

For Carolyn and Caela, the announcement is bittersweet. While they are glad the estate will be open to the public to use as they always have, they are upset that they will have to find Murphy a new home in stables far from the family home.

Jeanette O’Hara, former Canada Bay Councillor and Deputy Mayor, is committed to Yaralla Estate’s preservation as a historical site and helps run open days. The announcement concerns her.

“The agistment should be there; it’s a perfect place for the horses. We should be able to have input in our area when we’ve lived here for so many years,” she says.

Luke Foley, MLC, echoes this sentiment. “The decision is against the community’s wishes,” he says. The Parliamentary Inquiry into the agistment of horses at Yaralla Estate is still ongoing and expected to conclude at the end of September.

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Activists get active Reply

by Zoe Tomaras

Ben Pook, 27, Therese Canty, 21, Erika Garcia, 28 and Lauren Bennett, 35, celebrate the success of the event. Photo: Michael Myers

Ben Pook, 27, Therese Canty, 21, Erika Garcia, 28 and Lauren Bennett, 35, celebrate the success of the event. Photo: Michael Myers

Fundraising isn’t always about the money; sometimes, it’s about hiking 100 kilometres in 48 hours. Starting at 7am on August 23rd, nearly 2,000 activists from around New South Wales did just that, participating in the Sydney Oxfam Trailwalker.

“The event is the ultimate physical and emotional challenge that people who are passionate about fighting poverty can undertake,” says Therese Canty, 21, of Winston Hills, who helped organise the event. “All the teams commit to fundraising at least $1,000 and have to undergo many months of training in preparation.”

The trail started in Brooklyn, near the Hawkesbury River, continued through to numerous national parks and bush trails, and concluded at Georges Heights Oval in Mosman. Participants walked in groups of four, passing through eight checkpoints.

Participant Mehdi Zeinali, 27, of Carlingford, believes the Trailwalker tested more than just physical strength. “It was mainly about the mental challenge, and the ability to work as a team,” Mehdi says, adding that several people were injured in the physically challenging walk.  “We could have finished in about 30 hours if we left them behind, but we slowed down instead and finished it as a team in 42 hours.”

Oxfam Australia is a non-government organisation that focuses on alleviating extreme poverty. The funds raised from the Trailwalker go directly into Oxfam’s sustainability and poverty reduction projects in third world countries.

So far, $1,944,133 has been raised in Sydney alone. Events have also been held in Brisbane and Melbourne, with the Perth event to be held on October 18th-20th. It is also run globally, and takes place annually in 10 countries.

Therese Canty, who recently spent two months volunteering for a child rights organisation in the Philippines, has seen poverty first-hand, and relates her experiences to the fundraising walk.

“The sheer intensity of the walk allows participants to understand some of the physical and emotional challenges confronting people living in poverty,” she says. “The event was important because it was tangible proof that there are  thousands of Australians  who are deeply committed to the fight against poverty.”

 

Technology in, reality out Reply

by Ak Akkawi

Plugged in with technology, disconnected from one another. Photograph: Ed Yourdon

Plugged in with technology, disconnected from one another. Photograph: Ed Yourdon

“The more plugged in we are to technology, the more disconnected we have become – unplugged from a reality that has detached us from moments that pass us by,” says social worker, Aisha Akkaoui. Thanks to social networking sites, no moment is private. Everything is shared.

Young children have been conditioned to capture moments with technology, instead of the real moment itself. Moments need to be collectively validated in order for them to hold some credence, according to Aisha.

“This social interactivity sees the loss of individuality. I am seeing this more and more with children I work with,” Aisha says. “Children have lost the magic. They no longer see the magic in sounds, the magic in nature; they no longer lose themselves in personalised moments. They have lost their natural self. Everything has become battery operated. There is no longer an appreciation of the world around them.”

Adults are the same. Work, bills to pay, rushing home to make dinner. Life gets in the way. “Adults become stuck in the cycle of life and stress. They do not make the time to appreciate a moment and have lost touch with reality,” according to psychologist Sue Ryne.

“Plugging in, adults turn to technology for interaction. Creating a new reality, whereby the self does not play a part, but isolation does,” Dr Ryne says.

“Never has this been more noticeable than when you are on public transport,” according to local hip-hop artist, NJE.

NJE, understands this better than most, “When you look around on trains, gone are the days of friendly conversation with strangers. Everyone has their iPhones checking their latest Facebook and Twitter updates.” NJE understands that people have things to do; they lead busy lives chasing after their opportunities.

NJE, who busks at Central Station, says, “It doesn’t bother me that no one listens. I understand everyone has their own taste. On top of that, most won’t stop as they have places to be. I am happy with a smile and some change in my hat and I get plenty of both! And on top of that I do it for my soul.”

As Sue Ryne says, “As people grow older, through the use of technology, an ‘idea of reality’ is formed, whereby we lose contact with reality itself. Reality isn’t an idea, it’s reality.”

 

Suicide rate a national disgrace Reply

by Matt Dawson

Matt Kean, State Member for Hornsby, with students from Hornsby High School

Matt Kean, State Member for Hornsby, with students from Hornsby High School

“If six Australians drowned every day there would be a national outcry. I want New South Wales to spend as much money on suicide prevention campaigns as it does on road safety campaigns,” Matt Kean, State Member for Hornsby, told NSW Parliament two years ago

The start of Mr Kean’s political career was marred by tragedy when Mike Powell, an 18-year-old campaign worker, took his life in May 2011. 

The suicide of Mike Powell shocked everyone around him. A popular young man, he was studying accounting at the University of Technology, Sydney and about to embark on a traineeship with accountancy firm, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC). Mike was part of Mr Kean’s campaign team for the seat of Hornsby during the 2011 State Election.

Mr Kean used his inaugural speech to commemorate Mike’s life and call on the Government to improve services for suicide prevention. Today, Mr Kean reflects on what progress has been made issue on the issue.

“What I am proud of is that my maiden speech started a conversation within government and started a conversation in the community and put suicide prevention smack bang on the State Government’s agenda.

“We still have a very long way to go in reducing the rate of suicide in this country, which is still higher than the national road toll. I think it is a national disgrace,” says Mr Kean.

In April, Mr Kean hosted the first Hornsby Ku-ring-gai Youth Forum where 300 high school students got the opportunity to talk about mental health issues with their peers and hear from experts in the field, like Professor John Mendoza, inaugural Chair of the Federal Government National Advisory Council on Mental Health

The NSW Ombudsman’s annual report identified 16 suicide deaths among 14 to 17 year olds in NSW during 2011. Since 1998, there has been no sustained reduction in the annual rates.

The NSW Mental Health Commission is developing a Strategic Plan in consultation with community stakeholders. The plan will be presented to the State Government in March 2014.

Professor Mendoza wants to see clear targets and goals set in the Commission’s Strategic Plan.

“No more spray and pray in relation to this effort. There are high and very high risk groups. The strategy must have specific efforts to reduce the risk and ultimately rate of suicide in these populations. The impact will almost be immediate with well targeted strategies,” Professor Mendoza says. 

R U OK? Day was held on September 12.

The arrival of spring is celebrated at Darling Harbour Reply

by Angela Ostojic

Catherine Gallagher, Chief Executive Officer of the Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority, and Victor Dominello, the State Minister for Citizenship and Communities, with members of some of Sydney’s ethnic communities at the opening of the Sydney Spring Festival. Photograph: Angela Ostojic

Catherine Gallagher, Chief Executive Officer of the Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority, and Victor Dominello, the State Minister for Citizenship and Communities, with members of some of Sydney’s ethnic communities at the opening of the Sydney Spring Festival. Photograph: Angela Ostojic

A group of people in vibrant national dress represented the countries of their birth at the launch of the Sydney Spring Festival organised by the Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority at Darling Harbour this week.

Among the guests were Catherine Gallagher, Chief Executive Officer of the Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority, and Victor Dominello, the State Minister for Citizenship and Communities.

“We’re so lucky to have over 192 different communities in Sydney,” Mr Dominello said. “My favourite saying is ‘come to Sydney and visit the world’ and I look around here and realise that you make that saying true.

“But it’s all the volunteers I’d like to thank. When we have these various community events, I know how much the volunteers drive these events; you really do make our city come alive. We are so lucky to live in Sydney, where on any given weekend, you could probably go to any corner of Sydney and see a different community celebrating their culture and their identity.

“There are about 10 different communities taking part with their cultural festivals in the season, and about 25 in total throughout the year.”

Mr Dominello said he was moved to see different communities, such as the Serbian community, taking part in the Festival.  “The Serbian community is not a big community, but it is very close knit, and when they come together they are friendly and hospitable. I love the Serbian costume, it’s very intricate, and the dance, it’s very amazing,” he said.

“What I love is you’ll have the Serbian festival but because it’s in an open space here, it’s not just the Serbians who will come, there will be people of Italian background, people of English background, people of Chinese background, they all get a lens on the world.”

For groups wanting to welcome other communities into their festivities and events, Mr Dominello suggests they contact the Community Relations Commission and the Ethnic Communities Council to get advice on other relevant community groups and organisations who could join in.

Catherine Gallagher said it is important that minority cultures are invited to display their culture and identity.

“They’re part of our community and represent all of the wonderful things that make up a multicultural society. And certainly at Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority we have a commitment to community service, and we will service all those communities who want to be supported.”

For those communities not yet involved in the Festival, Ms Gallagher advises contacting her organisation by telephone or through the website and making a submission of interest

“All groups are welcome, it’s a matter of getting organised and mobilised and being part of the community,” she said.

She said these communities have enhanced the multiplicity of representation in the precinct.

“The precinct is always changing and every community is welcome. It will continue to change and evolve and it will make the city the richer for it.”

And of the bigger cultural communities, Ms Gallagher referred to the Greek community which held its 30th Greek Festival at Darling Harbour this year. She said that while it started out in a small way, it had grown and now Sydneysiders regularly attend.

“The more the merrier and the richer the place is for it,” she said.

More emergency rallies in support of asylum seekers Reply

by Catherine Bassey

A committed group of Sydneysiders gathered outside Sydney Town Hall to demand a fair go for asylum seekers. Photo: Catherine Bassey

A committed group of Sydneysiders gathered outside Sydney Town Hall to demand a fair go for asylum seekers. Photo: Catherine Bassey

It was 12 noon on a fine sunny day when an increasing number of protesters took to the street outside Sydney Town Hall, disrupting the serenity of the city as they chanted loudly: “Refugees are welcome here, say it loud, say it clear.” Curiosity was stirred as bystanders pushed forward to have a glimpse of the 300 protesters who didn’t seem perturbed by the fuss they were creating.

It was another rally, against Kevin Rudd’s Papua New Guinea solution, one of many that have been ongoing since Mr Rudd made his announcement on July 19.

“There has been an upsurge of anger from lots of people, leading to a series of protests in the past months since the policy was announced,” said Mark Goudkamp, one of the founding members of Refugee Action Coalition Sydney, who also conducts intensive English classes for newly arrived refugees at Chatswood High School.

Mr Rudd’s policy “has sparked the largest refugee rights rallies in Australia since John Howard,” said Duncan Roden on the Green Left Weekly website.

“Not only is Australia avoiding its international responsibility, it is putting the responsibility on a country that is very poor, and has difficulty providing services and a descent standard of living for its own population. It is bullying,” Mark Goudkamp said.

“This could create a precedence. The rally is, in a way, to encourage Australians to vote for the Greens, or anyone who supports refugee rights,” said Petra Weber, an artist and a former diplomat and journalist, who is also a human right activist and member of the Refugee Action Coalition.

Banners at the rally said: ‘If we are all people, we are all equal’, ‘Free the Refugees’, ‘We’ve boundless plains to share’ and ‘Seeking asylum is a human right’.

One of the protesters, Hadi Hosseini, a learning support officer helping students from Afghanistan and Iran, said, “I really want to be a voice for refugees. If you want safety for your children or family, then expect others to have that safety.”

Overall, the rally was peaceful. “If we can get the correct information across to a larger number of people, if we can organise opposition to the policy, then maybe we can make changes for the whole society,” Mark Goudkamp said. Meanwhile, the Refugee Action Coalition plans more weekly rallies.

License Plate Recognition aims to reduce illegal parking Reply

by Aly Hayashi

Just popping into the shops: North Sydney Council claims License Plate Recognition has the potential to reduce illegal parking. Photo: Aly Hayashi

Just popping into the shops: North Sydney Council claims License Plate Recognition has the potential to reduce illegal parking.
Photo: Aly Hayashi

North Sydney Council now has the aid of an electronic eye to enforce parking time limits.

License Plate Recognition technology, already used by the police to identify cars that are stolen or have expired registration, uses a car equipped with a camera and an onboard computer that automatically records the number plates of parked cars, their location, and the date and time they are located.

This system also allows the Council to find out how parking is utilised and how often time limits are ignored, as well as the percentage of parked vehicles that are registered outside the North Sydney municipality.

The Council says that this is a more efficient method of surveying parking, costing eight cents to survey each vehicle compared to $1.65 for rangers on foot, and allows for a greater area to be covered in the same time period.

First introduced on 20 May 2013 in select areas of Wollstonecraft and Waverton, the system now operates three to four days a week and covers all residential areas in the North Sydney municipality.

Valerie Zenari, 75, who lives near the Waverton shops, hopes that more efficient enforcement of time limits will increase turnaround, allowing more people to park in the designated areas rather than in No Standing zones.

“There are limited spaces, and cars are known to park across our driveway and we can’t get in,” she said.

Though it is over three months since the scheme began, North Sydney Council general manager Penny Holloway says that the number of parking fines issued has not substantially increased, and was non-committal regarding the effectiveness of the system in combating illegal parking.

Some residents and people working in the area are concerned about the privacy implications of such a technology.

“I think it’s probably crossing the line for the Council to be using it,” says Kyle Hagerty, 26, manager of a Waverton cafe. “Fair enough for police, but the Council’s a bit over the top. They’re not law enforcement.”

Dr Roger Clarke, Chair of the Australian Privacy Foundation, says a balance is needed between the possible invasion of privacy and the positive effects of the scheme.

“As with any form of visual surveillance, the implementation of a technology like this requires a series of principles be respected first,” he says. “It’s not an open-and-close case of ‘this is a privacy invasion and therefore don’t do it’. It’s a question of ‘now hang on a tick, why are you going to do this?’.”

Pop-up learning classes gaining enrolments Reply

by Jessica Rosenberg

Informal pop-classes offer lessons in a variety of ways, including dance and music.

Informal pop-classes offer lessons in a variety of ways, including dance and music.

Wednesday nights at Cowbell 808 in Surry Hills has seen the café transformed into a makeshift ballet school, football clinic and dance floor. Behind the concept is experiential learning group Laneway Learning Sydney, which opened in June 2013. Operator Rick Benger explains Laneway as an “entree to learning”, at only $12 a pop. With a fresh approach to short courses, Laneway attempts to fill a gap in the education system.

Offering young professionals affordable learning opportunities while encouraging local hobbyists to dabble in the world of teaching, Laneway is a response to the growth of online learning. The eclectic classes run once for about 75 minutes, offering ideas that cannot be found online. Laneway strongly believes learning face to face is a different thing to learning online.

Class topics vary, drawing on the interests of participants and the expertise of local enthusiasts. Ranging from trend topics such as ‘Getting to Work on Two Wheels’, to the quirky ‘Ukulele for Rookies’ and the naughty ‘Sex Toys’, Laneway skillfully turns thoughts in to a class.

Rick Benger says it is intentional that Laneway doesn’t have its own permanent space. It exists as a pop-up in order to be part of a community’s shared economy. With current classes proving popular, he hopes Laneway will expand to other community pockets around Sydney.

Classes are informal, and include a glass of wine and a good laugh. However, Rick says many study to improve skills in their current line of work, and in doing so, “lose the idea of learning something new just for the sake of learning”. It’s not just the participants who learn in this process; Laneway teacher Daniel Hu Toa, a corporate strategist, says, “You learn a lot by having to force yourself to think about how you would teach something.”

Amber Shergis and Sarah Jeffery, who are new arrivals in Sydney, say their participation has been a positive introduction to Sydney life. With few friends outside of the office, both women relished the opportunity to meet new people of their own age outside of a drinking environment.

Laneway’s subtle focus on learning through informal methods appeals to a generation struggling with job dissatisfaction. With stress and professional uncertainty common amongst Gen Y, quick learning and a good laugh mid-week appear to offer some relief.

Kindness revolution sweeps Sydney Reply

by Antonio Sergi

Pole of Kindness: Newtown resident, Rosie Waterland, finds inspiration in the little things. Photo: Antonio Sergi

Pole of Kindness: Newtown resident, Rosie Waterland, finds inspiration in the little things. Photo: Antonio Sergi

Sydney’s latest trend, acts of kindness, is sweeping through the inner west, and it’s making the streets of Sydney a little sweeter one deed at a time.

Formed two months ago, the Two Kites Project is the latest not-for-profit organisation trying to spread joy through inner west suburbs with their posters, saying ‘Take What You Need’ or ‘Take A Smile, It’s Free’.

Two Kites Project volunteers are regularly seen doing good deeds like handing out origami hearts or giving socks filled with toiletries to the homeless, and if you live in the inner west, chances are you have already ripped a ‘smile’ tab off one of their posters.

Gloria Lo, 19, president of Two Kites Project, says her new company is unique.

“The main aim of Two Kites Project is to inspire other people to do random acts of kindness and to have that ripple effect,” she says.

Two Kites volunteers are committed to bringing people together by providing opportunities to those less fortunate and brightening the day of the individuals with the simplest of gestures.

“We serve as a vehicle for the people who donate money or goods and the less fortunate people who receive it, because sometimes when you donate you don’t know where exactly that money goes to,” Gloria says.

Wake Up Project is another example of the kindness revolution that became known to Sydneysiders after the release of its free Kindness Cards, which are used in exchange of a good deed, encouraging receivers “to pay-it-forward with an anonymous act of kindness”.

The project has now had more than 110,000 cards ordered from its website and distributed throughout Australia, and it is fast becoming its own kindness movement.

However, not everyone is convinced by the new movement.

Glebe resident Cheyne Fynn, 26, says random acts of kindness could be a violation of privacy. “To be honest, the majority of the time those things are an inconvenience, I don’t need people coming up to me uninvited,” he says.

Dr Antony Kidman, Director of the UTS Health Psychology Unit, believes the kindness revolution has a positive influence on society and is an example of altruistic human behaviour.

“I believe a lot of media reports currently emphasise negative events and the egocentricity of individuals,” he says. “Random acts of kindness show that these slanted perceptions are not true, but unfortunately, like many other good things that people do, they go unreported.”

Free mentoring program helps Indigenous students dream big Reply

by Sarah Chlala

Recipients of the mentorship program established between SBS and National Indigenous Television (NITV) in August: Justin, Bianca, Hayden and Karina Marlow. Photograph courtesy Karina Marlow

Recipients of the mentorship program established between SBS and National Indigenous Television (NITV) in August: Justin, Bianca, Hayden and Karina Marlow. Photograph courtesy Karina Marlow

Indigenous students who dream of working in the media will have the opportunity to realise their dreams through a mentorship program established between SBS and National Indigenous Television (NITV) in August.

The new three-year program has been designed to assist Indigenous media students gain hands-on experience in television, online and radio. Students are also given the chance to expand their network and improve their employment potential.

“I think it’s powerful because it adds another layer to the student’s experiences overtime and the beauty of the program re-affirms their dreams are possible,” says Anna King, Project Manager, Social Inclusion, at Macquarie University.

The program is based on a similar one set up between SBS and the Ethnic Communities’ Council and Macquarie University last year aimed at students from a refugee or migrant background.

Media student Karina Marlow, who has been chosen for the new mentor program for Indigenous students, says, “I was super lucky they opened it up this year for indigenous students. They obviously really care about us as people.”

Although Karina believes the mentorship program has increased her chances of getting a job in television, she acknowledges the industry is very competitive for all media students.

Dr Folker Hanusch, Senior Lecturer in Journalism at University of the Sunshine Coast, initiated a study, ‘Who’s views skew the news?’, that found journalists who identify themselves as Indigenous represent just 1.8 per cent of Australian journalists.  The number is disproportionately lower than the 2.5 per cent of Australians with an Indigenous background.

Mr Michael Dunstone, Employment Advisor at Yarn’n Aboriginal Employment Services, says Indigenous unemployment is the highest of all unemployment rates for any ethnic background in Australia. He thinks a the new mentor program  should benefit Indigenous students.

Karina Marlow hopes the program will encourage Indigenous students to tell their stories.