Country Town Crisis Reply

Ice Age pic

Ice Age: a methamphetamine epidemic in Wellington. Photograph by Peter Devlin

After World War II, Australia entered a boom period of growth and prosperity. In rural areas, it was epitomised by the wool industry when the country ‘rode on the sheep’s back’; those who grew the wool came to symbolise and epitomise what it was to be Australian. However, since then a downturn in the fortunes of primary production has seen a corresponding decline in country towns.

Wellington is a small community in the state’s central west. Like many country towns, Wellington is feeling the social and economic pressures of a continued drought, a high welfare dependency and unemployment rate, a methamphetamine epidemic and a dwindling population.

Peter Devlin tells the story of this country town’s decline in this multi-media long-form narrative feature. The link below will take you to his special feature, ‘Country Town Crisis’.

It’s a dog’s life Reply

Dogs picFor academic and intellectual reasons, Siam Lim chose to investigate aspects of the pet industry as she was intrigued by the huge amount of money Australians spend on their pets, as indicated by industry and related organisations in surveys and reports. And she was interested for personal reasons — she has had three dogs, five cats, two birds, two rabbits and many fish.

In this detailed multi-media continuous narrative, she looks at how dog owners engage with their pets, what their pets give to them and what they are prepared to do for their pets. It explores the shared experience of owning a dog, whether it is about owners rescuing their dogs or their dogs rescuing them. It looks at how they look after their pet’s welfare and how pet owners’ lifestyles influence the way they bring up their pets. And it looks at how this has an impact on the growth of an industry catering solely to the needs of the four-legged family members of the Australian household. To see Siam Lim’s report ‘Talking about dogs’, go to her URL below:

Talking about suicide Reply

Suicide pic

Suicide continues to be leading cause of death for Australians aged between 15 and 44, according to the latest ABS report. Photograph by Ryan McGuire, used under Creative Commons Licence

Stigma surrounds suicide and many people are reluctant, or even too fearful, to talk about it, according to Nicole Parodi. Her aim with this narrative project was to inform readers about the impact that mental health, particularly suicide and suicide prevention, has on the Australian community and why research is important to improving suicide prevention strategies. She also wanted to share the perspectives of those bereaved by suicide that are often not included in discussions on suicide and mental health. Her decision to use a multi-media platform for this project was because she believes Internet and social media has shifted the way the audience receives the news and how quickly they receive it. This has new expectations of wanting access to information instantly and accurately. The online landscape has made news interactive as well as opening up opportunities for discussions. The URL to Nicole’s project is below:

FSI: Forensic Science Investigation Reply

Forensic Science use as headingLisa Robinson worked as a forensic biologist  with a government agency examining crime-scene evidence for body fluids and DNA profiling suitability while completing her postgraduate journalism studies. She chose to develop this multi-media long-form feature narrative about forensics because of her professional background. This series of articles probes deeper than most daily news articles, showcasing the real world of forensic science: what it’s really like to work in a forensics lab; new technologies; rethinking processes; and the use of forensic evidence in court. Copy and past this link to read Lisa’s report.

Beauty In Science: Finding truths in the beauty industry Reply

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How safe is lipstick? Photograph by Auntie P used under Creative Commons License.

Between products and services, the beauty business is a multi-billion dollar industry. In 2012, the Australian Securities and Investment Commission’s information and advice website Money Smart calculated that Australians spent $8 billion on beauty products and services. As Rose Walker reports, that’s equivalent to every person in the country, including babies, buying almost 16 luxury brand lipsticks a year or getting a whole head of highlights twice in a year at a leading hairdresser, if that’s more your style. And as she reports in the multi-media long-form narrative project, with the amount of money Australians are spending on products and treatments, it pays to know what works and, more importantly, which may be doing more harm than good. She investigates concerns about certain cosmetic problems, labelling restrictions in Australia, what to look for on a label, what it might mean, and the regulations applied to labels and claims. The URL to her site is below:

Aircraft Safety Reply

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On the flight deck, pilots go through pre-flight checklist for United Airlines flight between Los Angeles and Sydney. Photograph by Wagan Vota

Flight file: facts, fears and fantasies

Genevieve Lim chose this topic on Aircraft Safety because she always had a keen interest in it. From when she was a child, she wondered why planes could disappear or crash seemingly without any reason. So she developed this is multi-media long-form narrative to explore the subject, from the current unfolding story about the missing Malaysian flight MH 370 to interviews with a pilot, a flight attendant, an avionic engineer, a mechanical engineer to an aviation researcher, to a slideshow on aircraft accidents to a report on the world’s best airlines, Genevieve gives an insight into the aviation passenger business. The link below will take you to her special project.

The Age Paradox Reply

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The former Governor-General Dame Quentin Bryce with Dr Patricia Edgar at the launch of Dr Edgar’s book, In Praise of Ageing. Photograph courtesy of Government House

The Age Paradox is a multi-media long-form narrative feature that explores the notion of ageing in Australian society, in particular the dichotomy between the economic need for older people to work for longer and the high levels of age discrimination present in employment. Writer Jackie Keast went beyond the political rhetoric and looked at how older people were framed during mainstream news coverage of the 2014 Budget. In almost all of the stories she studied, where older people were discussed, she found they rarely were interviewed as a source. Jackie remedied that with this project. You can read The Age Paradox at the link below:

Go online or reinvent: the future of secondhand bookshops Reply

By Jasmine Crittenden

Readers used to travel a long way to visit The Book Collector. Before closing in July 2008, it was Parramatta’s busiest secondhand bookshop. Among the 10,000-strong collection, customers ferreted around for first edition Biggles novels, out-of-print war diaries and antiquarian Australiana.

tamara Kennedy

Grand days for Tamara Kennedy

“I remember people actually shedding tears on the last day, bringing us chocolates and flowers and cards. One lady was sobbing,” says Bill McLennan, who had co-owned and managed the business with his wife, Barbara, since 1993. “But it just wasn’t viable anymore. We were continually facing rent increases, which the landlord didn’t feel the need to justify. The last time it happened, we decided to pull up stumps.”

Mr and Mrs McLennan trucked the best of their goods to their home in Castle Hill, from where they now sell via online marketplace AbeBooks. “We miss the customers – getting to know their likes and needs – and the excitement when they’d come across something unexpected.”

Australia’s secondhand bookshops are disappearing. It’s not only exorbitant rents causing booksellers to struggle to survive, but also the fierce competition enabled by the Internet. AbeBooks alone lists more than 100 million titles. This means both cheaper prices and the proliferation of books previously thought rare. Finding a first edition of To Kill A Mockingbird is merely a matter of typing a few words into a search engine.

John Tipper, editor of Collecting Books and Magazines, says, “Initially – in the late ‘90s – the Internet pushed prices to astronomical heights, in respect of rare children’s titles. But, by 2006, eBay led to a flow of books, which grew rapidly due to the number of collectors, dealers and ‘runners’ (non-collectors, whose sole interest is buying valuable items cheaply and selling directly to dealers) rummaging through deceased estates, op shops and church fairs. More…

Crowd funding to help save endangered birds Reply

By Jasmine Crittenden

A crowd funding campaign to save three of Australia’s endangered bird species exceeded its $40,000 target within the first three days and, with two weeks to go, has raised more than $65,000. “It’s just astonishing. I was sceptical it wouldn’t get off the ground,” says Dr Dejan Stojanovic, a conservation biologist at the Australian National University and co-coordinator of the campaign.

Dr Stojanovic and his team plan to buy 1,000 nesting boxes and ship them to Tasmania, to protect swift parrots, 40 spotted pardalotes and orange-bellied parrots during breeding season. In April 2014, Dr Stojanovic co-published a study in Diversity and Distributions demonstrating the groundbreaking discovery that swift parrots, which nest in the hollows of mature trees, are vulnerable to sugar glider predation in deforested areas. Approximately 2,000 swift parrots and fewer than 60 orange-bellied parrots survive in the wild.

Spotted pardalote

The beautiful little pardalote: hope for the future. Photograph by David Jenkins used under Creative Commons licence

Yet last month, Environment Tasmania’s Pulling a Swiftie report found that the Tasmanian Government’s support of logging in five areas in the state’s southeast ignored advice from scientists in the Tasmanian Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and the Environment. The scientists had warned that logging would result in the loss of important swift parrot habitat, contradicting the Government’s objective of “ecologically sustainable forest management”.

“It’s so frustrating,” Dr Stojanovic says. “I can bang on about how endangered swift parrots are and how we know the threats are being exacerbated, but until there’s a genuine attempt to implement environmental policy, then what’s the point?

“We turned to crowd funding because we want to act urgently. If nothing is done, the swift parrot population could collapse within 16 years. Besides, the funding available to scientists usually requires a high research impact, which doesn’t necessarily equate to an on-the-ground conservation impact.” More…

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…