The story behind the stories of ‘Women of Empire’ Reply

By Sangeeta Kocharekar 

Three groups of female mannequins stand in the foyer of the Waverley Library. They stand tall in their costumes. They look courageous. Humble. Unknown. Safiye and Ella

The mannequins represent the untold stories of the women whose lives were transformed by their experiences during World War I. These are the women who took over from the men on farms, the women who organised local Red Cross branches, the women who waited for the telegrams of news of their husbands and sons and brothers, and the women who sewed clothing for the troops.

These are the women selected for the ‘Women of Empire’ exhibition.

“I call them ‘extraordinary, ordinary women’ because they were ordinary women. They could’ve been anyone, they could’ve been from Canberra or Ballarat or Waverley in Sydney or Timbucktu,” says Fiona Baverstock, the exhibition’s curator.

“They were transformed by their experiences, but they also transformed themselves and the society around them.” Fiona worked with her husband, Keith Baverstock, who acted as Chief Experiences Officer (CEO), for three years to pull the exhibition together. Fiona and Keith are collectors and dealers in antique and vintage fashion, textiles and associated memorabilia, and have been involved with staging costume exhibitions for 10 years.

Keith has been involved in historical projects for 40 years in Australia and overseas. His main role is to market the exhibition, design the artwork, and plan the set-up and pack-down logistics. “Also, despite being a mere male, I do have a very good eye for fashion and do a lot of the purchasing here and overseas,” he says. More…

Women going to war Reply

By Wendy John

Women War - Joan Fisher

World War 2 nurse Joan Fisher at the RSL ANZAC village, Narrabeen. Photo credit: Wendy John

As ISIS take over yet other Syrian city, 20 Australian women are training to serve in military combat roles for the first time. It’s a notion that makes Joan Fisher, 95, who served as a nurse during World War II, “horrified”.

Mrs Fisher did her training at Sydney Hospital before being deployed to the Australian hospital ship ‘Oranje’ in the Asia-Pacific area. She says she is shocked by the removal of gender restrictions on combat roles. “A woman could be a nurse or work behind the scenes in the offices. I just cannot understand the female mind wanting to kill. It makes me shudder.”

It’s only two years since the Australian Defence Force lifted restrictions on the 17 per cent of jobs previously excluded to women. Women may apply from 2016 but currently all female trainees have transferred from existing military roles. And Defence is guarding the trainees’ privacy from the media “to ensure they have an equitable environment in which to succeed and to avoid placing them under additional pressure”, according to a Defence spokesperson.

However, the pressures and risks of war are not unfamiliar to Australian servicewomen. Mrs Fisher recalls the ‘Oranje’ “zigzagging to avoid the submarines”. And she speaks with great sorrow when remembering when the hospital ship ‘Centaur’ was sunk off Queensland in 1943. “The ship had gone down with all hands and it was shocking, shocking.”

Currently, around 258 Australian servicewomen are deployed on overseas operations, where combat duties may be required of them regardless of their designated roles. More…

When truth telling becomes a casualty of surveillance Reply

By Greta Stonehouse

Information is freedom Pic credit Gallo

A protest of conviction. Photograph: Gallo

In the wake of new terror laws in Australia, journalists and whistleblowers now face up to 10 years jail for reporting on sensitive areas of national security. The first Walkley Media Talk of 2015 held recently at the State Library examined whether it is the duty of journalists to toe the government’s national security line, or is it more important than ever to dig up the truth? 

“Regrettably, for some time to come, the delicate balance between freedom and security may have to shift,” the Prime Minister Abbott said last September as the Government prepared to introduce counter-terrorism laws. It was a comment that caused journalists and citizens alike to wonder how this shift would manifest itself.

In light of the recent Federal Government reforms to data retention, the shift is beginning to be revealed in the cyber world. The recent Walkley Foundation discussion between award-winning investigative journalist Quentin Dempster, Four Corners journalist Caro Meldrum-Hanna, and IT journalist Josh Taylor, examined what this means for Australian citizens, and its effect on journalism.

Under new reforms, telecommunication companies are obliged to keep the data of its users for a minimum period of two years. But what exactly is being kept?

“In the context of messaging — email, for example — it reveals the sender, recipient, time and date, but not the content. Access to content, I stress, requires a warrant,” the Federal Minister for Communications Malcolm Turnbull said when introducing the Government’s controversial metadata retention laws [Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Amendment (Data Retention) Bill 2014]. He stressed the importance of data retention for investigations into counter-terrorism and cyber-security. More…

Responsible runners clean up Australia Reply

By Danielle Williams and Thuy Hong Bui

Responsible runners

From left: Katerina Dominguez, Melissa Petsalis, Leanne Ooi and Madison Belogiannis. Photograph courtesy of the Responsible Runners Brighton Le Sands group.

Australia is renowned for its beautiful beaches and marine
environment. From Bondi Beach to the Great Barrier Reef, we’ve built a reputation – and a thriving tourist industry – on the beauty of our coastline. But are our beaches really as clean as they appear?

Each week, at beaches around the country, volunteers from Responsible Runners come together and collect up to 10 kilos of rubbish off their local beach, often in just 30 minutes. Responsible Runners was founded in 2012 with the aim of reducing marine debris by encouraging locals to take part in regular clean-ups at Bondi Beach. There are now more than 15 groups operating in communities throughout NSW and Australia, all promoting the “Pulse Up, Waste Down” philosophy.

Leanne Ooi is a co-founder of Responsible Runners in Brighton-Le-Sands, which was launched last week. Unlike many beach users, she noticed the cigarette butts, plastic bottles and other waste gathering on the beach. “It actually looked pretty clean, but when you take a closer look there’s so much rubbish on there,” she said. “It makes me really angry when people can’t dispose of their litter in the correct way. I often pick up rubbish on my own but it does feel a bit hopeless.”

Coming across Responsible Runners gave Leanne the inspiration to step up her rubbish collecting efforts and join a growing movement. More…

On being Muslim in Sydney Reply

By June Ramli

Catherine Street Mosque

A community builds a mosque

There is a celebration going on at Maya Camilla’s house. One of her friends has just received some excellent news — her temporary Australian residency visa had finally been approved.

“We are having a potluck party and I am making my meatballs,” she said.

Maya, a Muslim, lives near Punchbowl train station. She says the main reason she chose to live there was because she could join the Muslim community in the area.

“Most of the fast food outlets here, like KFC and McDonalds, serve their burgers using halal meat. Besides Indonesian Muslims, I’ve also noticed a large number of Lebanese Muslims here. I was told that there are some 2,000 of Muslims working and living in Sydney and most of them live in Punchbowl,” she said.

Maya first came to Sydney from Jakarta with her husband and children in 1999 after receiving an Australian Development Scholarship to complete a Master’s degree in electrical engineering at the University of Technology, Sydney.

“I came as an international student but soon after I graduated, I decided to emigrate here. This is not the first time my husband and I have lived abroad. Before coming to Sydney, I was studying at Huddersfield University in Manchester, UK. The World Bank had offered me a scholarship to complete a degree in electrical engineering,” she said. More…

Microplastics a new threat to quality of major waterways Reply

By Alexander Salenko


Research into use of microplastics suggests important waterways like Sydney Harbour are again under threat of pollution. Photograph by Peter Dowley used under Creative Commons licence

Every time you wash your face or your fleece jacket, you may be releasing small plastic pieces into the water cycle. The contamination in Sydney Harbour is extraordinarily high. Vivian Sim, a young scientist at the University of NSW, presented the results of her research into our use of microplastics at a public event at the Mosman Art Gallery recently.

When you stand in front of a toiletries shelf in a supermarket, you see many different bottles, jars, cans and tubes. The contents are of various colours and consistencies. In some, there are air bubbles and in others, small colourful beads. These beads can be found in shampoo, body soap, toothpaste and in almost all face scrubs. They serve as abrasives for cleansing purposes and in many cases they are made of polyethylene, a material usually used to make bottles, bags or clothes. Every time you clean your face or wash your teeth with these products, microplastic beans get into the water cycle.

Vivian Sim has been working on the dispersion of microplastics in the harbour for three years. She has discovered that in certain hotspots, 100 milligrams of sediment can contain up to 100 particles of microplastics. This amount is much higher than in other comparable harbours. Ms Sim’s report, which was released for the first time last August by the Sydney Institute of Marine Science, has caused a great stir. Rob Stokes, the NSW Minister for the Environment, has promised to support a national ban on the production of microplastics by 2016. More…

Mothers have their say about homework Reply

By Tiana Vitlic

Homework pic

Opting in or out of homework. Photograph by Christopher Long used under Creative Commons licence

It’s no secret that busy parents struggle with daily house chores and managing family time, let alone having to assist their children to complete homework. For parents, this happens all too often as homework becomes a part of their daily routine.

A number of primary schools in New South Wales has implemented the option for parents to opt out of homework after taking into consideration the struggle parents face in taking the time to help their children. While the number of schools employing this option is minimal at present, there has been much debate on the matter.

Linda Couani, 41, is a mother of two daughters, aged 5 and 7, who attend a primary school in Sydney’s south-west. As a working mother, Mrs Couani is pleased to be able to opt out of homework.

“I find it very difficult to spend the time completing homework on a nightly basis. It takes away from family time, too,” she says, adding that homework should be limited to reading and revision.

“I think reading is important. I also think revising what the children have already learnt in school is a much better way to tackle learning at home. But this concept of bringing new work home and learning a whole new component is a joke.”

Mrs Couani’s youngest daughter, currently in kindergarten, receives homework that consists of a program called Mathletics, an iPad application called Reading Eggs, in addition to assigned home reading. Her older daughter, who is in the third grade, not only receives textbook exercises and assigned homework, she is also required to complete two assignments per term. More…

Flood of greyhounds need homes as inquiry investigates live baiting Reply

By Keith Davidson

Greyhound rescue groups in New South Wales have received dozens of unwanted dogs since the live baiting scandal hit the greyhound racing industry. The NSW Government ordered an inquiry into widespread animal cruelty after horrific footage on ABC’s Four Corners program revealed greyhound trainers used live rabbits, piglets and possums to entice their dogs to run faster.


Ben and Sonja with Daisy at Enmore Park, where she sometimes plays with other rescued greyhounds.

Following the dismissal of its board, Greyhound Racing NSW set up a task force to investigate the allegations. It suspended 11 registered participants and heard inquiries against seven trainers. No NSW trainers have been charged yet.

Sponsors, including Macro Meats, Schweppes, McDonald’s, Bendigo Bank and Hyundai, have distanced themselves from the racing industry in the wake of the scandal. Natalie Panzarino, spokeswoman for Greyhound Rescue, is concerned many greyhounds will become unwanted as funding dries up.

“As prize money dwindles, the dogs will no longer be earning their keep,” she says. “Also, trainers have been banned over this and if their dogs aren’t making money then they may think the dogs aren’t worth keeping.”

Animal welfare groups claim cases like the recent discovery of greyhound mass graves in the Hunter Valley are typical. Mark Pearson, registered officer of the Animal Justice Party, has heard dozens of stories and believes abuse is rampant in an industry with a “mindset of disregard”.

“It is clear cruelty is rife in greyhound racing,” he says. “These dogs are shot, beaten, abandoned. It is a blight on the industry.” More…

Geocaching: the world’s best-kept secret revealed at National Youth Week Reply

By Cara Wagstaff

Geocaching was the buzz across Sydney last week. As part of National Youth Week 2015, the City of Sydney Council put on a free introductory event to geocaching for 12 to 25 year olds at Sydney Park in St Peters

geocaching by danielle

One more clue that helps unlock the puzzle. Photograph by Danielle used under Creative Commons licence

Sydney Park was the site of a treasure hunt of an unusual kind recently. Volunteers from Geocaching NSW took a group of young adults on a tour of the park, visiting historic landmarks such as the old brickworks site and the cricket pavilion in search of hidden caches.

The treasure hunters were geocachers, participants i n an enthusiast hobby where users search for hidden treasure using global positioning system (GPS) coordinates
provided online and a GPS enabled device.

Andrew Nelson, a passionate geocacher, says, “A geocacher will hide a cache, usually a plastic container with a log book inside it. He or she will then post the GPS coordinates online for others to try and find it.

“Once a user has identified a cache, the next step is to put the GPS coordinates into a GPS-enabled device, such as a smart phone, and closely follow the directed path. At the destination, once the cache has been found, the user writes his or her name in the log book inside the cache to officially record the find.”

Geocaches are found all over the world. It is common for geocachers to hide caches in locations that are important to them, reflecting a special interest or skill of the cache owner. More…

Fight For Millers Point subject of new documentary Reply

By Thomas Williams

The sell-off of public housing around Millers Point and The Rocks is being etched into history by a new documentary currently in production. The film, which is the first feature-length project by 27-year-old Sydney filmmaker Blue Lucine, follows the lives of Millers Point residents, including some who are refusing to leave their homes.

Forced Out and Blue

Filmmaker Blue Lucine’s new project ‘Forced Out’ focuses on the sell-off of Millers Point and the forced relocation of tenants

Ms Lucine’s documentary, which currently has the working title ‘Forced Out’, came into being shortly after Pru Goward, former Minister for Family and Community Services, announced in March 2014 that the NSW Government would auction off 293 high-value public housing properties in Millers Point, Gloucester Street and The Rocks, relocating 590 residents. The Government says it intends to complete this sale by March 2016, and will put sale proceeds back into the public housing system.

Ms Lucine says she began her film with an open mind, but soon faced a stark reality. “I started with the opinion that maybe the Government’s plan was the best thing for Sydney but that changed once I was inside the houses and I saw the decay and just how badly everything has been left,” she says. “It just didn’t seem logical that the Government would think selling that amount of property in such a short amount of time was a good idea.” More…