Nothin’ but a pound dog Reply

By Aimee-Lili Peters

Australia has one of the highest rates of pet ownership in the world. And also one of highest rates of pound animals.

Lemit and Budget and dad Tony pic Mary Lou

No longer just pound dogs. Lemit and Budget and their new ‘dad’ Tony. Photograph by Mary Lou used under Creative Commons licence

Each year over 250,000 dogs and cats in Australian pounds are killed, that’s a number over three times the capacity of Sydney Olympic Stadium. If the animal is not adopted within a certain period of time, it is  ‘put down’ by lethal injection or gunshot, then wrapped in a black garage bag to become landfill.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 63 per cent of Australian households own a pet. Dogs are the most common, making up 39 per cent. But why are so many of them left unwanted and abandoned?

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, or the RSPCA, is one of Australia’s most trusted private animal shelters. Kelly Walton from the RSPCA says, “The most common reasons we, and pounds, have dogs surrendered to us are mostly the owner having too many animals and are no longer able to care for the animal, or they can’t afford vet treatment for the animal.”

In fact, the total cost of owning a dog in the first year alone can be between $1245 and $3010 and ongoing costs for things like food, vaccinations, vet checks, grooming and toys can mean an additional $650 per year.

Justin Watson, 25, professional dog trainer and owner of Loyal Guardian K9 Rescue Shelter, says “We have more of a problem with our unwanted pet dogs more than anywhere else in the world. Families do not understand the sort of responsibility of having a dog; it’s like adopting another child.”

This was a responsibility learnt that saved Justin’s life. “I won’t go into details but I was in a bad crowd, into some bad shit.” But when Justin brought his first dog home, a Bull Mastiff by the name of Bruno, he was finally given a sense of direction. More…

Student homelessness in Newcastle at crisis point Reply

By Robert Monks

A combination of higher expenses in education, rising rent prices and a shortage of affordable accommodation in Newcastle has hit many students hard in the city. The fact that Newcastle has a very high rate of unemployment also makes it tough for students trying to find work. Hidden homelessness such as ‘couch surfing’ is on the rise, and students are now feeling more insecure and trapped by their economic circumstances than ever.

Matthew Morgan, a business student at the University of Newcastle, who is also on the Student Council and president of the Queer Collective, knows a lot about this issue. This sensitive and intelligent young Aboriginal man talks about his own experiences trying to find an affordable place to live.

no room

No room of one’s own. Photograph by Cheyenne used under Creative Commons licence

“I moved here last year and I couldn’t get a place so I lived in a garage for $125 a week in Merewether and after that I was homeless and I stayed at the Hamilton place (a budget hostel with dormitory accommodation) a couple of weeks and then I found a friend who had a room at her house and that’s how I got accommodation.”

His voice is steady and soft but there are occasional reflective pauses as he speaks and a sadness appears in his dark eyes. “I had to couch surf about eight times. I fell into depression and if it wasn’t for the counselling services of the university, I would have ended up on the street.”

Student allowances have not kept up with living costs. “Every student on Centrelink gets $600 a fortnight, close to that.  Everyone is looking for rent that’s $150 a week or under so they can have at least $300 to live off for two weeks,” Matthew says. “A lot of students here come from disadvantaged backgrounds so the majority are on Abstudy or Youth Allowance. You try living on that and have $298 to live on for two weeks.” More…

Discord in music world as equality stalls Reply

By Sue McCreadie 

Cat Hope

Composer and noise artist Cat Hope: incensed by treatment of Julia Gillard

Finland’s Kaija Saariaho, whose alluring and shimmering sound worlds have made her a candidate for the world’s most revered female composer, has had an uneasy relationship with the feminist label.  But in November 2013 she gave the music world a serve during a speech at McGill University, claiming things were going backwards for women.

At about the same time, Perth-based composer and legendary noise artist Cat Hope became affronted by the treatment of Julia Gillard. Like Kaija Saariaho, she thought feminism had done its work. Then she had an epiphany. The “Julia period” highlighted for her that things weren’t as they seemed.

“Women started looking at their own lives and experience,” she says. When she looked at her own practice she realised she was only programming male composers with her new music ensemble, Decibel. From that realisation that came After Julia, seven pieces by women in response to Julia Gillard’s time in office, supported and broadcast by the ABC’s New Music Up Late.

In March, Musical Viva, criticised in the past for male domination of its programming, announced the Hildegard Project, aimed at addressing the paucity of commissions for women. More…

Killing love: a story of horrific domestic violence Reply

By Melanie Suzanne Wilson

Rebecca Poulson Killing Love

Rebecca Poulson: a journey through homicide and horror

It was writer Rebecca Poulson’s 33rd birthday. It was a day she will never forget. It was the day her brother-in-law murdered his young son Sebastian, 20 months, daughter Marilyn, 4, and Rebecca’s father, Peter, 60.

Rebecca dealt with the tragedy by writing about it. “You don’t really choose to become a writer,” she says, “writing is something that has always been with me. When I lost my family members in violent circumstances, the book chose me – I had to write it,” she says.

Rebecca’s book, Killing Love, to be published by Simon & Schuster in September, was the winner of the Australian Society of Authors Emerging Writer Prize and the 2015 Varuna Fellowship.

The book is Rebecca’s journey through homicide – grief, the police investigations, the media interest, the court cases, the moments of great despair – and the healing.

It is a story of individual tragedy and a family’s strength, but it is also a story of a community’s attitude to family violence. As a reluctant warrior for those who cannot speak for themselves, Rebecca talked to the NSW State Premier and politicians on television shows and to newspaper and magazine journalists in the hope that the mistakes made by the police force, DOCS, the legal system and solicitors will never be made again. Her story has directly influenced domestic violence laws in the state. More…

The power of simply saying hello Reply

By Ripu Bhatia

Hugh Mackay

Social commentator and author Hugh Mackay examines the question of building and nurturing a sense of community.

Social researcher Hugh Mackay believes new technologies are harming the way communities function by encouraging antisocial behaviours. “It seems to me it has become almost a cliche of suburban life to hear people say ‘I don’t know my neighbours’,” Mr Mackay says. “New technologies that seem to bring us together, in fact are making it easier for us to stay apart.”

Hugh Mackay is the auth
or of 16 books, a regular media contributor and renowned social researcher. He is a fellow of the Australian Psychological Society and holds honorary doctorates with several Australian Universities. In his latest book, The Art of Belonging, he looks at the way we live now, and whether Australians can learn to nurture communities once again. He creates a fictional town of Southwood, where characters learn to balance their desire to belong with their own personal needs.

“As social creatures, it is our natural role to cooperate rather than to compete,” he says. “The idea of personal identity makes no sense without the social context. It’s about who we are collectively as a society.”

Drawing on his lifelong work as a social researcher, Mr Mackay says changes in Australian society meant that neighbourhoods are not functioning as well as they once did. Alongside the information technology revolution, the continuing rise in one-person households has been a significant factor. More…

Self-published authors see big sales with e-books Reply

By Vani Gupta

In 1996, following rejections from major publishers, Matthew Reilly printed a thousand copies of his novel Contest, which he then sold to bookshops throughout Sydney. The following year, it was discovered by a commissioning editor for Pan Macmillan Australia. Since then, Matthew Reilly has become an international best-selling author. It is this type of success that the e-book industry’s self-published and self-titled “indie” authors hope to achieve.

e-books e-reader

Endless e-books at the touch of a button. Image by Cristian Eslava used under Creative Commons licence

A Google search of “self-publishing e-books” returns 2.7 million hits. Every listing on the first page of results is a guide to self-publishing. With instructions so easily available, it’s unsurprising that in January 2015, Author Earnings estimated 33 per cent of total daily e-book sales were accounted for by self-published works, outstripping the authors published by the Big Five publishers – Penguin Random House, Macmillan, HarperCollins, Hachette and Simon & Schuster.

Getting one’s book accepted by one of the Big Five publishers is notoriously difficult at a time when the economics of publishing are tight. Publishers are cautious, advances are small and contracts hard to secure.

The rapid rise of e-books, e-readers and print on demand has made self-publishing easier and more affordable. Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo and iBooks all have self-publishing programs, and websites such as Smashwords allow writers to publish their own stories free of charge.

One such success story is Hugh Howey, whose novel Wool was published through Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) system in 2011. After the series grew in popularity, the writer signed a print-only deal with Simon & Schuster to distribute Wool to book retailers, while retaining full rights to online distribution. More…

Misunderstanding violence against women Reply

By Rosanna Kellett.

The Australian Government’s attempts to tackle the epidemic of violence against women are failing because we haven’t acknowledged the cultural nature of the problem.

No to domestic violence pic by Hibr

World Health Organisation statistics show that 30 per cent of women in relationships experience violence from their partner. Photograph by Hibr used under Creative Commons licence

“When I was around 17, I was assaulted by a man on the train on the way to high school. He repeatedly asked me sexual questions, commented on my appearance, attempted to touch me and very aggressively demanded that I return to his apartment with him. He left when another person got on to the empty carriage and I asked for help,” says Sarah Mulhearn, President of the UTS Woman’s Collective and UTS Student Association Woman’s Officer.

“I was naive and told my family about it, I was quite upset. The first question my brother and my father asked were: ‘what were you wearing?’ in a very accusatory way. I had been wearing my Year 12 jersey and a pair of loose jeans.”

“Of course, we all know that vulnerability is the key determinate of assault, not clothes, but their response was immediate and almost angry, not only at the man who had indecently assaulted me, but at me myself. The more I insisted that I had done nothing to deserve the attack, the angrier they became. The idea that someone could have done this unprovoked, or worse, as I was suggesting, that there was no acceptable provocation, did not sit well in their internal, misogynistic narrative of violence.”

The enduring problem of violence against women has recently gained more visibility in our media, with online incidents like Gamergate and viral twitter campaigns against #everyday sexism leading to wider debates about violence, rape culture and how they relate to gender equality. More…

Plate to page: Never too many cookbooks Reply

By Ben Nielsen

Cookbook collection pic

Every home cook’s dream, a bookshop devoted to cookbooks. Picture by stumptownpanda used under Creative Commons licence

A good cookbook doesn’t just assist with the preparation of food – it’s the Playboy of the kitchen. It can also be a travelogue, memoir and a utilitarian manual. For these collective qualities, the humble cookbook’s popularity seems to defy predictions of the death of the publishing industry.

“Cookbooks are still one of the strongest categories o
f publishing in Australia,” says Shona Martyn, publishing director of HarperCollins. “The proportion of cookbooks sold at Christmas and Mother’s Day reflects that cookbooks are a popular gift and the all-year-round sales show that people still buy for themselves.”

HarperCollins is the oldest publishing house in Australia and New Zealand, and is a leading player on the world stage. Its current online catalogue boasts an impressive 911 cookbooks, the most popular of which are sold internationally in English and foreign language translations.

“We publish for a broad range of readers in prices and formats appropriate to the book and the author. Our biggest author is Donna Hay but we also publish Valli Little’s Delicious cookbooks, Sally Wise, Bill Granger, Tetsuya, and the Monday Morning Cooking Club,” Ms Martyn says. More…

Of books, bars and boxing Reply

By Michelle Reti

Sunday afternoon at the Bayview Hotel in Gladesville, Sydney. Crowds gather around the television screens lining the walls. The fight of the century is about to begin. Behind the crowd and nestled among those around the bar, sit six middle- aged women around a circular wooden table. A fire burns low behind them and their table is scattered with digital tablets, mobile phones and other electronic reading devices. Cradling mugs of coffee and glasses of iced tea, this month’s book club meeting has just commenced.

A Fine Balance

Rohinton Mistry’s ‘A Fine Balance’ first electronic edition published 2004 by RosettaBooks, New York

“I loved this book because I love learning things,” says Mona. “It was entertaining, but it also taught me things.”

“I might have preferred this novel in book form,” says Jana. “Although… I do prefer to use the night function on my e-reader.”

This month’s book, ‘A Fine Balance’ by Rohinton Mistry, was mostly read on mobile phones, tablets and e-readers on the bus and in bed. Their meeting was organised through Facebook. Looking around the table, there is not a physical book in sight.

This is what could best be described as the 21st century book club. Established five years ago, the book club is still without an official name, although the tech-savvy women agree that they are somewhat of a “tough critic group”.

“I give this book a 4 out of 10,” says Casey. “It just wasn’t my cup of tea.”

“It was definitely an 8 and a half for me,” says Nora. “There was more than enough action to keep me interested.”

The women seem oblivious to their surroundings as they engage in conversation. Like youngsters playing pass the parcel at a birthday party, an assortment of mobile phones are handed around the table as the conversation moves swiftly around different aspects of the novel. More…

The enduring popularity of book clubs Reply

By Eliza Berlage

Book clubs popular

Presenters of the popular ABC-TV show, The Book Club: Marieke Hardy, Jennifer Byrne and Jason Steger

There is, perhaps, a common perception that a book club is about more drinking and less thinking. But while a glass of wine may be a social lubricant, the enduring popularity of the book club has more body to it than a robust red.

Writer Alexandra Neill and her friends started a book club as an opportunity to catch up more regularly. Accompanied by wine and cheese, she found it’s a structured way of getting together.

“We started with a focus on feminist books or stuff by female writers but we don’t really have a theme. It’s pretty democratic, we select whatever people suggest,” she says.

Despite often critiquing a book to the point of hating it, Ms Neill says her love of English is validated by the club.

“I like reading with people because you get a lot more enjoyment out of the text. You have deep discussions,” she says.

While book clubs are a popular way of staying in contact with friends, they’re also a good way to make news ones. When Belinda Wynn, a nurse in a general medical practice, was invited by a work colleague to join a book club, she soon found herself connected to a network of great new friends as well as great books. More…