Archive for the ‘Sydney’ Category

Why I got naked today…

July 17, 2016

tribeWell, it has been a while since I last muttered away about anything. In fact since my father passed away last year I seem to have had very little to say on here, or in life for that matter. It has been a strange time, life goes back to normal, you go to work, you eat, you chat you move on, but something inside you does not, it stays stuck. I guess that is why I have not blogged, I have been feeling stuck, stuck in this well of emotions that I feel like I am drowning in, but doing nothing to really help myself. Close friend and family have said I should ‘talk to someone’, and they don’t mean the postman. I know I ought to, but I am not really one for doing that, I seem to find it easier to mutter away at a keyboard to no one in particular. I think this way I feel safe that no one if going to challenge me about what I am thinking and why.

my-tribe

Anyway, why am I posting this now? Well this morning I took off all my clothes and let someone take nude photos of me…. I did it for something called My People | My Tribe, which is a community group focused on telling and sharing LGBTQ+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and diverse sexualities and genders) stories that educate, enlighten and inspire. The group aims to shine a light on a variety of LGBTQ+ areas of interest including a focus on topical issues, history, sexual and mental health.

They recently, had a call out to the Sydney LGBTQI+ community to take part in a photoshoot that tells the stories of 100 locals. Titled #BareNakedTruth, participants are photographed by well know photographer Brenton Parry who said it’s time to showcase we are all more alike than different. “By photographing 100 people from a diverse cross section of the community, stripping them back and telling their story I’m hoping we can see that for all of our differences we have more similarities.”.

Some of the stories that I have read associated with some of those taking part have really inspired me. By participating in it myself it has in fact made me think about my dad a lot.  I came out at 18, around the height of the AIDS epidemic which fed fear and prejudice against homosexuals, and I was not living in some cosmopolitan city like I do now. I did it because I knew that if I could not be honest with others about who I really am and know that by doing so they would love me for who I really was, not who they thought I was, then I could never truly be honest with myself about who I am and grow to love myself. Back then I was gripped with hate and disgust for what I was, and I desperately wanted to not be gay.

And why does all this remind me of my dad, well at the time, we might not have had the best of relationships, it was a struggle for both he and I to accept my sexuality, but he sat me down one day and said he admired me for coming out. He said it was one the bravest things he had ever seen someone do and no matter how difficult things might be or what challenges I might face in the future, he said he knew I would have the courage to face anything after having witnessed me coming out to the world.

It took me a long time to come to terms with who and what I am and many years to truly feel proud of who I am. Today I stripped back my clothes and stood there proud and loving my father for the kindness of acceptance that made me feel loved and cherished for who I really am.

I feel a little less stuck today.

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Five years as an Australian citizen and still have questions about nationality…

October 28, 2015
At my citizenship ceremony

At my citizenship ceremony

Five years ago I became an Australian citizen, after having lived here for five years, at the time it made me questions, or at least reflect on what this meant to my sense of identity. As an expat with many friends who are in a similar situation the topic of one’s nationality is often a discussion that comes up and I still have a fairly fluid sense of who or what I am.

For example on Saint George’s Day I still wear my England football top in honour of the day, for those of you that don’t know this is the feast day of Saint George, patron saint of the English. Also I found myself incredibly engrossed by the debate around Scottish independence and I felt oddly engaged in a way that really surprised me. I felt like I ought to have some kind of a say, or at least a right to an opinion, but am I Scottish?  As mentioned in this blog before I was born in England, but spent some of my early years living in Africa, but I have a very Scottish surname, my grandfather on my father’s side was very much a Scott. My father died recently and in an odd way I felt more of a connection with my Scottish roots as a result, because I wanted to feel a closer link to my dad’s history and sense of belonging.

However, I now have two boys who are both Australian and British but primarily Australian really (their mother being Australian) and I feel more connection to Australia via them, and their extended family they have here.

So who should I cheer for in international sporting events like the Rugby World Cup? Well clearly it is Australia at this stage given they have made it to the finals, and for now I’ll worry about the conundrum of should it be England or Australia should they ever be going head-to-head in the final someday, till then my sense nationality shall remain in flux.

“Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future” so said John F. Kennedy.

May 7, 2015

Today is my last day in my current role, one which I have had for almost four years and in a month or so I start a new job and a new chapter in my life. On my walk into the office this morning I thought about how life, if you let it, can be a constant teacher that we can learn and grow from. I learned at an early age to embrace change, as a child my family lived overseas and at times we might only have been in one location for a year or two at most. Not only that we went from liberal UK society to the rigid apartheid society of South Africa and then back again all in fairly formative years of mine.

If I look back over the past twenty years or so I have gone through some fairly major changes, some forced on me by circumstances out of my control others instigated by me. However, but all of them have made my life richer, even those that were part of fairly traumatic experiences.

Perhaps one of the biggest life changes I made was the decision to move from London to Sydney some ten years ago. At the time I had a great job, wonderful network of friends and was able to see more of my family than I had in a while. I knew I was taking a huge risk by coming here, but I also knew that in the past when I have had the courage to step outside of my comfort zone the risk has almost always paid off. I knew it could all have gone wrong but at the same time I said to myself, “What is the worst that can happen? If it all goes tits up you just move back home again”.

The only thing that was holding me back was the fear that it might go wrong. But more often than not fear is the main reason people stay in their comfort zone, and the move was about getting out of mine. I had to remind myself that when it comes down to stepping outside of my comfort zone, there are two things that could happen: success or failure, but no matter which of these happens I always learn and grow from them.

Changes will always happen in life and I am on the cusp of some fairly big changes that are going to happen in mine, these could overwhelm me or I could see them as a new chapter in my life. I hope that is exactly what I do; I see them as they ought to be seen, as a new chapter in my life, presenting new opportunities to gain knowledge and experience. Life has thrown me some real curve balls over the years and each time I have been given a chance to discover new people, new places and new skills.

Bring on the next chapter….

Playing tourist in Sydney reminds me why I call this place home…

March 6, 2015

IMG_5293[1]Last weekend I had a day to myself, a rare event, and I was at a loss for what to do. I could sit on the sofa and do nothing, I could lay on the ned and read all day or I could lay about by the pool, but no I thought to myself, I will get up and do something. That something turned out to be a walk around my neighbourhood…

Ok, so that does not sound too exciting I know, the walk was actually a way to discover some of the cultural history of the area I live in that I might not have taken notice of before. I downloaded an app “Sydney Culture Walks” and off I went. I live right by The Cross, or Kings Cross as it is officially called, in fact it was first called Queens Cross to celebrate the diamond jubilee of Queen Victoria (Victoria road being one of the main roads here), and is the site of the now heritage listed Coca-Cola sign which is now the key landmark of this area. I then walked down Victoria Street (Potts Point section) to 202 which is where Juanita Nielsen, the heiress used to live; she was so much more than that though. She was a publisher, activist for conservation and community issues, and very anti-development campaigns. She disappeared in Kings Cross in 1975 in mysterious circumstances and her remains have not been found and those who killed her have never been identified. It is thought her refusal to sell her house to make way for development is why she was murdered.

IMG_5285[1]It is thanks to Juanita Nielsen and her legacy that many of the very grand buildings along Victoria Street still exist, and a slow walk down here taking the time to really take in these building is worth it. A little way down this street you will find The Butler Stairs, these were built in 1870 to link Woolloomooloo and Potts Point, they are beautiful sandstone steps and will give your gels a real work out (these are not to be confused with the wider, less pretty, McElhone stars which are further down the street).

I then made my way to Embarkation Park, a park I did not even know existed! You get great views of the city and the wharfs of Woolloomooloo from here, this is actually a park built on top of a multistorey carpark. St Vincent’s College is right by the park, The Sisters of Charity acquired what was an old residence on this site, for a convent. They established a free hospital in 1857 (which is now the more modern hospital near Oxford Street) and a school for the local children in 1858, the college now has about 700 students, with 160 boarders in what must be one of the most regal buildings in the city. The college itself is on Challis Avenue, which is named after John Henry Challis, who arrived in Sydney in 1829 and became a successful local merchant. The Challis Bequest was his way of leaving all his property to the University of Sydney on his death. The street has some amazing town houses built in Greek Revival style, as well as Romanesque style terraces with elaborate colonnaded verandas, you could be forgiven for thinking you were in Europe.

This was about halfway through my walk and it was a warm day so I decided to sop for some refreshment, and what a coincidence once of the spots on my walk was Yellow House, which just happens to be a very fine restaurant now. This 1897 terrace was once owned by Frank and Thelma Clune, who were patrons of the arts. In 1957 it became the Terry Clune Gallery, and artists who exhibited there included Russell Drysdale, John Olsen (whose work I know from staying at the Olsen Hotel in Melbourne) and John Perceval. For a short period in the 70’s it was an ‘artist community’ and in this time nearly every surface was painted with images inspired by the Surrealists and Van Gogh, which is where the modern name comes from, being named after Van Gogh’s Yellow House in Arles. In 2003 it was reinvented as apartments, with a restaurant space on the ground floor.

After my refreshment I walked on to Elizabeth Bay House, a place I have often walked past but never entered, if I remember correctly it was only $8 to get in and worth every cent. I went to the cellar, as instructed, and started my tour there buy watching a short vide that gives you a nice introduction to the house and its history. It was originally the home of Colonial Secretary Alexander Macleay from 1839. The design is attributed to John Verge, who also designed Tusculum (anther spot on my walk) and Rockwall. It is a little bit crazy to think when originally built this was surrounded by lush bush land and was about a mile and a half from the nearest building of Sydney, given that it is now overlooked from behind by high-rise apartments. Before being subdivided into different lots it was a 54 acre (21.8 hectare) estate. Between 1928 and 1935 it became a squat where some of Sydney’s Bohemian artists lived rent-free with beautiful harbour views. The NSW Government finally restored and opened it to the public as a house museum in 1977. I love this kind of place, it is a real eye into a world from the past, and it is worth going in just to see the wonderful oval, domed saloon with its curving, cantilevered staircase, this is said to be one of the finest interiors of a 19th century Australian building and I am sure it is.

I then made my way up Greenknowe Ave to make my way back to The Cross and passed the Kingsclere Building on the corner with Macleay Street, now I have always loved this building, I would live in it in a shot. What I did not know was that it was built in 1912 and was designed by Halligan and Wilton, and was the first block of high-rise apartments built in the area and indeed was among the first in Sydney. They were the height of luxury when built, aimed at an exclusive market, with not just one but two balconies and two bathrooms for each flat (not so common back then), the apartments also included luxurious wood panelling and get this, automatic passenger lifts!!!!

I then made my way to Tusculum house on Hughes Street, when the first land grants were made in this area houses had to meet several conditions — they had to cost at least £1000 (see Sydney property prices have always been crazy), they had to face the city, and be approved by the Governor. Tusculum, as mentioned, was also designed by John Verge for the merchant Alexander Brodie Spark in 1835. It is very imposing today but was typical of the houses that once dominated this area. Since it was built it has been through many uses, becoming almost derelict before being restored in 1988 to house the Royal Australian Institute of Architects.

I then took a walk down Orwell Street, if you like Art Deco buildings, this is a must. The Metro building, designed by Bruce Dellit in the 1930s is a near perfect example of this style of architecture. Another great Art Deco building nearby is what is now the Kings Cross Neighbourhood Services Centre (No.52 Darlinghurst Rd), be sure to look up above street level away from the sex workers and drug addicts and you will see a beautiful façade.

IMG_5313[1]And I ended my little walk at the El Alamein Fountain, designed by Robert Woodward, and built in 1961. The dandelion effect of its bronze pipes has become a emblem of Kings Cross, this is on the site of what was Maramanah House, once occupied by eccentric aunts in Robin Eakin’s book Aunts up the Cross (1965). The house was sold to the City Council in 1945 and demolished to build Fitzroy Gardens.

Who would have thought I had so much to learn on my very own doorstep, playing tourist in my own city reminds me why I call this place home.

Engaging with 18-24’s: Stop asking them to take selfies

February 3, 2015

Spoiled, selfish, ambitious, connected, immature, tech-savvy, demanding, open-minded, fame-seeking, over-sharing.

These are just some of the words that are commonly used to describe young consumers, (the so-called ‘Gen Y’ or ‘Millennials’).  And there is a perception amongst some marketers that this target audience is particularly enigmatic and hard to connect with.

With little understanding, the default marketing approach is often to just ‘do something online’ or ‘create a social media campaign’. Unfortunately it takes more than the inclusion of a hashtag, video, Facebook page or consumer-with-brand-selfie request to drive engagement with young people today.

In 2007, Jigsaw conducted a qualitative study into young Australians aged 18-24.

At the time, the issue of local youth identity was particularly hot, following the aftermath of the Cronulla race riots and the cultural cringe from Lara Bingle’s ‘Where the bloody hell are you’ campaign. The objectives of the study were to expose what young people were really thinking and explore the defining traits of this generation.

Seven years later, we have refocused on this audience; with the challenge of getting beneath current media rhetoric and stereotypes. Having previously conducted a similar study helped us pull apart ‘coming of age’ characteristics vs. traits which are a by-product of 2014’s unique technological, political, cultural and environmental landscape. This time we could also employ fresher methodologies (e.g. online communities, tasks involving Spotify, Tinder etc).

So what’s changed? Here are a few of the shifts we discovered.

Big goals vs big fails

2007: ‘No one wants to do something they don’t enjoy.’

Back then, we found that success for young people was defined by their own goals. The older stereotypes of success (e.g. high paying job, big house, flash car) no longer applied and instead success largely equated to personal happiness i.e. doing what you want and then making a living from this.

2014: ‘The voice in the back of my head says not everyone can be the next Zuckerberg.’

Fast forward and 18-24-year-olds are still rejecting their parents’ definitions of success. However what’s changed is that there is phenomenal pressure to not just do what you want, but to do it in a BIG way.

There are so many high profile young entrepreneurs, bloggers and vloggers who have changed lives, made millions/billions or simply become celebrities. So young people currently find it hard to justify doing things in an ‘average way’. They therefore appreciate anyone who can support them as they strive towards achieving their large-scale dreams.

Tweet, pray, love

2007: ‘I get stressed by how much there is going on.’

Young people told us that they were being buffeted by an accelerated culture in which everything seemed fast paced e.g. trends coming and going, new technologies, news stories constantly breaking. They also felt that their personal (uni, work, social) lives were too hectic. Incidences of depression and anxiety were becoming fairly prevalent amongst friends.

2014: ‘I find the Dalai Llama and his mind so fascinating. He can deal with whatever situation the modern world throws at him.’

Today there are similar gripes, however there seem to be more tools in their toolkit (e.g. yoga and exercise, healthy diet, socialising and sharing) for becoming more resilient to everyday stresses. It was also heartening to hear words like ‘wellbeing’ and ‘mental health’ being more openly discussed.

The e-tox challenge

2007: ‘It’s great being connected, I couldn’t imagine what it was like before the internet.’

Young people were fully embracing of online media for information, shopping, entertaining and connecting e.g. messaging platforms, social media, gaming.

2014: ‘Although it’s easy to Snapchat, nothing beats a drink at the pub.’

This time we noticed a stronger desire to grab opportunities to switch off and have more offline experiences. However the convenience and affordability of online often made it harder for young people to disconnect. For example, music festivals could set them back hundreds of dollars whereas YouTube offered alternative access to free performances. As such, young people told us about seeking out cheap and cheerful reality fixes e.g. hanging out in parks, crafting, dumpster diving.

Just do it, don’t just ‘like’ it

2007: “I don’t like how Australians come across as racist and behind the times. We need to change this.”

Back then, 18-24-year-olds were passionate about driving societal change. Although these are typical traits of young people across the eras (e.g. student protests in the 60s and 70s) 2007’s hot topics were uniquely focused on driving acceptance and tolerance (post race riots, post 9-11).

2014: ‘Occasionally you see friends going to protest marches on Facebook, but most people just ‘like’ stuff and don’t do anything real.’

Youthful passion is still simmering today. However simultaneously there is growing cynicism towards activist behaviour on social media, an environment which fosters ‘support’ but does not necessarily generate tangible real world changes. For example Michelle Obama’s push to get people behind #BringBackOurGirls brought to life the ‘slacktivism’ complained about by young people who were starting to rally against online talk, by walking the walk with physical change actions e.g. using apps to find ethical/enviro products and shopping in stores with socially aligned purposes.

So now what?

The 18-24s of today are clearly a unique product of their environment and their age/life-stage. In order to connect with them, marketers need to look past the stereotypes and into their motivations and tensions.

This can be achieved in a variety of ways.

Firstly there are opportunities to inspire and support young people in achieving their dreams. Red Bull does this via their sporting ambassadors (e.g. Ellyse Perry, Sally Fitzgibbons) who share their journeys towards success, including the wins and fails.

Then there’s providing consumers with tangible ‘real world’ experiences. The inner city precinct Central Park helps young people switch to offline with their physical hangout spaces surrounded by mirrored light wells and tactile green life walls. This shopping destination also strikes a chord with young consumers by supporting up and coming artists in galleries.

The Swisse Colour Run is another experiential example that young people talked positively about. The event which involves runners being pelted by coloured powders, not only addresses the e-tox challenge, but also sparks greater wellbeing as an outlet for fun, release and face-to-face connection.  Although social media (including runner selfies snapped and shared) is observed to extend the impact of the campaign, this appears to be just one part of the marketing strategy.

Lastly, there is the opportunity for brands to demonstrate commitment to real social change. American Apparel and Cotton On earn love through their support of social campaigns and charities. In the latter’s case, young people told us that staff can talk knowledgably about the Cotton On Foundation’s efforts in Africa and some have even donated salaries and volunteered, thereby enhancing the clothing label’s social cred.

In sum, requesting #SelfiePhotosWithYourBrand are great but they’re just one marketing tactic and let’s face it, they’re a pretty superficial way of connecting.  We need to tap into the insights hidden much deeper beneath the surface to truly engage with 18-24 year olds.

NOTE: This post was originally published in the December 2014 edition of Research News

The films I saw at the movies in 2014 and how I rated them…

January 13, 2015

So the Golden Globes are all over and the Oscars nominations are now just around the corner so what better time than to give a rundown of the movies I was last year. There 39 this year, that is 1 up on last year.

Listed in chronological order of having been watched, and scored out of 5 where 5 is the highest score…

  1. August: Osage County = 5
  2. Philomena = 4
  3. The Book Thief = 3
  4. Saving Mr Banks = 5
  5. Twenty Feet From Stardom = 5
  6. Last Train to Lisbon = 2
  7. Her = 5
  8. 12 years a slave = 4
  9. Wolf of Wall Street = 4
  10. Dallas Buyers Club = 4 1/2
  11. Grand Budapest Hotel = 4
  12. Other Woman = 3 1/2
  13. Fading Gigolo = 3
  14. The Finishers = 4
  15. Belle = 3
  16. Bad Neighbors = 2
  17. Chef = 4
  18. Godzilla = 4
  19. The Edge of Tomorrow = 4
  20. Maleficent = 3 1/2
  21. Under the Skin = 3
  22. Grace of Monaco = 2 1/2
  23. Broken Circle Breakdown = 5
  24. The Two Faces of January = 3 1/2
  25. 22 Jump Street = 3 1/2
  26. Dawn of Planet of The Apes = 4 1/2
  27. A Most Wanted Man = 4 1/2
  28. Lucy = 4
  29. Calvary = 4
  30. The Keeper of Lost Causes = 4
  31. Begin Again = 5
  32. Equaliser = 4
  33. Gone Girl = 4
  34. Boyhood = 4 1/2
  35. Skeleton Twins = 5
  36. Pride = 3 1/2
  37. Interstellar = 4
  38. Whiplash = 5
  39. Hunger Games: Mockingjay = 3 1/2

Study highlights risk of suicide among young people who are gender diverse, trans, and intersex

October 17, 2014

If you have seen the films Boys Don’t Cry, Skin I Live In or Transamerica you might think life for gender diverse and trans (an umbrella term which incorporates a variety of trans identities), individuals is a kind of hell on earth, and for some it certainly can be. Little is actually known about the mental health needs of gender diverse, trans, and intersex, young people in Australia which is why researchers at La Trobe University recently conducted a study called From Blues to Rainbows.

This study spoke to gender diverse, trans, and intersex young people aged 14-25 years old. The results found that half of the young people surveyed were diagnosed with depression and two thirds had experienced verbal abuse, a more worrying fact is that almost all of the participants had experienced abuse because of their gender diversity. This ranged from verbal threats to physical violence. Alas for many these threats and eventuated into actual physical abuse, with one fifth reporting this. Some of you will also know that I have written about the devastating effects suicide can have on friends and family, and what I found most shocking in the results is that 90% had thought about suicide in response to the physical abuse they had experienced.

The report also found:

  • 66% of participants had seen a health professional for their mental health in the past year
  • 38% had suicidal thoughts and a quarter had spoken to a medical professional about it
  • One in three did not feel supported by their family and suffered much higher rates of stress, suicide and depression
  • 45% were diagnosed with anxiety compared with an average 25% of the population

Encouragingly the report also emphasized that parental, peer and school support can make a enormous and constructive impact to their wellbeing.

With 66% of this at risk group visiting health professionals it is important that they receive guidance on how best to deal with these and what language to use, given the negative impact the use of incorrect pronouns to address them can have, they are there for help and understanding to getting it right at the very start is key. Many of these young people are subjected to embarrassing questions or simply have their gender dysphoria as a teenage fancy that they will grow out of.

This of course a complex issue but one that needs to be better addressed so that these vulnerable young people get all the support and help they need to live the full and happy lives we all want to live.

Sexy men in shorts, what is not to like…

August 26, 2014

Bingham Positive RGBI have always liked rugby over football (or soccer as they call it here in Australia) and so naturally I have got myself some tickets to go and see the finals of The Bingham Cup that is currently underway in Sydney.  For those of you that don’t know The Bingham Cup, or as it is officially called the Mark Kendall Bingham Memorial Tournament is a biennial international, non-professional, gay rugby union tournament. Yes gay men really do play rugby, but don’t take my word for it just ask Gareth Thomas, who was until 2011 the most capped Welsh rugby union player, with 100 test match appearances until. After an informal invitational tournament, held in May 2001 the International Gay Rugby Association and Board (IGRAB), came together with the objective of forming an informal invitational tournament which would be an international rugby union competition, or as it has become known the “gay rugby union world cup”.  The tournament itself came to be named after Mark Bingham, a former University rugby star who had played in the May 2001 tournament for San Francisco Fog RFC and was also a cofounder of the Gotham Knights RFC. Mark Bingham died in the September 11, 2001 attacks on board United Airlines Flight 93. He is generally accepted to be one of a group of passengers (along with Todd Beamer, Tom Burnett and Jeremy Glick) who fought with the hijackers, which eventuated in the crashing of the plane into an empty filed instead of an assumed target in Washington. Mark Bingham was just 31 when he died in 2001, and the Bingham Cup was established the next year in honour of Mark’s courage, strength and love for rugby union. Back in 2002 eight teams competed in San Francisco, and attracted sponsorship from Nike and Guinness, this year in Sydney over 25 will compete and there are an abundance of sponsors, namely Telstra, Commonwealth Bank, AussieBum, Cannon and Lend Lease and is supported by representatives from across sports, such as Wallabies Dave Pocock and Adam Ashley-Cooper, South Sydney’s Greg Inglis and Australian women’s cricketer Alex Blackwell. This years’ tournament is the seventh in the history of the cup, and I will of course be cheering for the Sydney Convicts. For more information and of course to buy yourself some tickets visit the official website: http://binghamcup.com/

Sober for a month and all for a good cause

June 12, 2014

I have decided tdj-logoo participate in Dry July again this year. No this is not as a consequence of all the alcohol I might be drinking over the next few days in celebration of my birthday (well maybe in a small way it is), it is far more meaningful than that, last year I lost 4k over the 4 weeks!

For those of you not in the know Dry July is an organisation that aims to improve the lives of adults living with cancer through an online social community of likeminded individuals giving up booze for the month of July (and raising money as they do it). So for the 31 days of July, I am hoping to raise funds while abstaining.

I have again chosen The Chris O’Brien Lifehouse at RPA as my chosen beneficiary for all the money I raise. Professor Chris O’Brien was an incredible man who had tremendous vision and courage.  He was inspirational in both the work he did as a cancer specialist and through his own three year battle with an aggressive brain tumour, a battle that he sadly lost in 2009.

Chris’s vision was for an integrated cancer treatment center so that patients would no longer have to navigate their way through all the different elements of dealing with their illness alone. His vision was realised with the completion of The Chris O’Brien Lifehouse at RPA back in 2013, more of which you can read about here: http://www.lifehouserpa.org.au/The_Chris_O_Brien_Lifehouse_at_RPA.aspx

If you would like to sponsor me you can do so here or you could always take part yourself 😉

Student welfare in our schools should not be the domain of anti-gay religious groups….

May 27, 2014

Let me start this post by saying I am sure many of the chaplains involved in the Chaplaincy Programs in Australian schools do fantastic work, but money spent by the government, raised by all tax payers regardless of their religion, race, sexuality etc, should not be used for funding for particular religious groups to take the place of qualified mental health professionals or social workers in schools where ALL our children go, not just those of Christians.

There were many cuts in the budget this year that irked many of us, but some of the biggest were to health and education costs, if all goes to plan for the Government they will save $80 billion over 10 years by withdrawing the funding from the states that it provides for services in these two areas.

In terms of education, Tony Abbott’s government will not continue with the fifth year of Labor’s Gonski School funding reforms. This means that rather than increasing school funding by 4.7%, the Abbott government will increase school funding in line with inflation instead. What this means in reality in that they will spend about $130 million less on schools in 2017-18 than the previous government promised.

On top of this there are fundamental changes to University funding and student loans, referred to by Treasurer Joe Hockey in his budget speech as “once-in-a-generation reforms, the government will help build a sector that is more diverse, more innovative and more responsive to student needs”

So while we are on the subject of diversity in the education sector, and being more responsive to what students need, relative to other cuts made, how on earth does the government justify the continued federal funding of the Chaplaincy Programs in Australian schools?

Some of the organisations in the program have clear connections to homophobic campaigning and yet they will continue to benefit from the government funding. The proposed budget has allocated nearly $250million to this program over four years; it offers schools up to $24,000 per year to pay for a chaplain approximately two days a week.

ACCESS Ministries is one of the key providers of chaplains, providing approximately 330 schools in Victoria with “Special Religious Instructors”, yet it has been revealed that they have distributed homophobic materials that the Victorian Education Department’s own investigation concluded was “inappropriate and offensive”.

Rob Ward who is General Manager of Development and Communications at ACCESS Ministries, and the former Victorian State Director of the Australian Christian Lobby,  has campaigned against same-sex marriage and same-sex adoption and is on record as not wanting non-heterosexual orientations as being seen as ‘normal’.  When the “Fair go, sport!” program, an initiative aimed at increasing awareness of sexual and gender diversity in sport, was launched he said “The suggestion that the aim is to have the sexual orientation of gay, lesbian and transgender sportspeople…so public that it’s normal, so people don’t think about it is very troubling.”

In addition, Darren McMahon the Director and Presenter of Your Dream Incorporated in Sydney that runs chaplaincy programs through NSW, has significant ties to Hillsong Church, which has had a contentious relationship with the gay community regarding their involvement with the Mercy Ministries and the Living Waters Australia, which both ran ex-gay and conversion camps.

It is a documented fact that LGBTI youth have higher rates of suicide and depression than their heterosexual counterparts and as Jacqui Tomlins, a founding member of the Australian Equality Party, has said “Young people,  especially those who might be questioning their sexuality or sexual identity, need access to good, non-judgemental counsellors who can provide advice and guidance that is not based on any religious foundation”, yet it is via the Chaplaincy Program that these children would be dealt with.

To make matter worse the Abbott Government has changed the conditions to prevent School Principals from being able to elect a secular student welfare worker instead of a chaplain, non-religious student welfare workers could get access to funding under the previous Labor Government.

So just how Mr Hockey does the government propose to ensure we build a sector that is more diverse, more innovative and more responsive to student needs with this program?

Not only was I annoyed enough to write this blog post but I also signed this petition: https://www.allout.org/en/actions/australia-budget-thanks

Put down that drink and open your wallet….

June 19, 2013

dj-logoHaving just had a holiday on which a little too much alcohol may or may not have been consumed, I have decided to participate in Dry July. No this does not mean that I will go without bathing for the whole of July, it’s far more challenging than that, I am going to go without drinking alcohol for the month of July.

Dry July is an organisation that aims to improve the lives of adults living with cancer through an online social community of likeminded individuals giving up booze for the month of July (and raising money as they do it). So for the 31 days of July, yes count them 31 days, I am hoping to raise funds while abstaining.

I have chosen The Chris O’Brien Lifehouse at RPA as my chosen beneficiary for all the money I raise. Professor Chris O’Brien was an incredible man who had tremendous vision and courage.  He was inspirational in both the work he did as a cancer specialist and through his own three year battle with an aggressive brain tumour, alas he lost his battle against cancer in 2009.

Chris’s vision was for an integrated cancer treatment centre so that patients would no longer have to navigate their way through all the different elements of dealing with their illness alone. His vision will be realised with the completion of The Chris O’Brien Lifehouse at RPA in 2013, more of which you can read about here: http://www.lifehouserpa.org.au/The_Chris_O_Brien_Lifehouse_at_RPA.aspx

If you would like to sponsor me you can do so here: https://au.dryjuly.com/profile/colinmacarthur or you could always take part yourself 😉

Remembering those that have fallen on ANZAC Day

April 24, 2013

ImageOk, yesterday I wrote about Saint George’s Day but being a citizen of both the UK and Australia I felt I could not let ANZAC Day pass unmentioned. For those of you not aware tomorrow (25th April) is Anzac Day, it is a national day of remembrance in Australia and New Zealand, and a public holiday in Australia, unlike Saint George’s Day in England. It started as a day to honour the members of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) who fought at Gallipoli in the Ottoman Empire (now modern day Turkey) during World War I. However, today it more broadly commemorates all those who served and died in all military operations for their countries.

In 1915, Australian and New Zealand soldiers formed part of an Allied expedition that set out to capture the Gallipoli Peninsula, Winston Churchill’s grand plan was that they were to open the way to the Black Sea for the Allied navies. The overall objective was to capture Constantinople, the capital of the Ottoman Empire, which was an ally of Germany during the war. The ANZAC force landed at Gallipoli on 25 April, meeting fierce resistance from the Ottoman Army commanded by Mustafa Kemal (later known as Atatürk, who went on to become Turkey’s first President, bot more on him later). What had been planned as a daring strike to knock the Ottomans out of the war quickly became a deadlock, and the campaign dragged on for eight months. At the end of 1915, the Allied forces were evacuated after both sides had suffered heavy casualties.

The Dawn Service on ANZAC Day has become a major tradition, and the first official dawn service was held at the Sydney Cenotaph in 1927. Thousands of Australians make a pilgrimage to the site of the battle in Turkey every year for the dawn service held there. The name “ANZAC Cove” was officially recognised by the Turkish government on Anzac Day in 1985. In 1934, Kemal Atatürk delivered the following words to the first Australians, New Zealanders and British to visit the Gallipoli battlefields. This was later inscribed on a monolith at Ari Burnu Cemetery (ANZAC Beach) which was unveiled in 1985. The words also appear on the Kemal Atatürk Memorial in Canberra:

“Those heroes that shed their blood

And lost their lives.

You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country.

Therefore rest in peace.

There is no difference between the Johnnies

And the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side

Here in this country of ours.

You, the mothers,

Who sent their sons from far away countries

Wipe away your tears,

Your sons are now lying in our bosom

And are in peace

After having lost their lives on this land they have

Become our sons as well.”

Well done The Greens and Mr Greenwich

November 5, 2012

Ok I know the Sydney by-election was almost a couple of weeks ago, but I thought it still worth jotting down some interested facts about it….

One thing that caught my eye was how well The Greens did given the press had written them off before hand as having peaked and were in decline in terms of electoral support. They actually increased their primary vote to 17.7% which is the best primary vote that they have ever achieved in Sydney. This represents a 5% swing in favour of them from the 2011 election results, so well done The Greens. In places such as St Barnabas’ Broadway, Ultimo Public and St Peters’ Surry Hills, they enjoyed swings of up to 15%.

Although Cover Moore was no longer able to hold the seat, she still played a large role in the by-election having endorsed and then actively campaigned for the independent candidate Alex Greenwich. And boy did he do well. Mr Greenwich’s vote was just short of 50%. Take into account the fact that only once did Clover Moore’s first preference vote pass 40%, however she had polled above 36% at every election since 1991, then this result for Mr Greenwich can also be seen as a clear rebuke by the electorate for the O’Farrell government’s action to push Clover out of her seat in the first place, oh they got 30% of the vote a swing away from them of circa 5%.

Political Parties chasing the Pink Vote

August 28, 2012

I know I have talked about brands targeting the Pink Dollar before https://macarthursmutterings.wordpress.com/2012/02/28/big-brands-wise-up-and-target-the-lgbt-community/ when I looked at Coca-Cola and Grey Goose supporting the Winter Party Festival (WPF) in the US and Mardi Gras here in Australia being supported by Virgin Australia, ANZ, Google and Finlandia Vodka, for example.

Well this time I want to talk about Political Parties chasing the Pink Vote. We have some elections coming up in Sydney which sees the  political fight for dominance of Sydney Council being taken to the LGBT Community, why is that?

Well is it one of the few electorates in Australia where the ‘pink vote’ can and does make a difference. If you have spent much time in places like Darlinghurst and Surry Hills you will know that LGBT individuals are both an important and integral part of these communities, and their voice not only matters but is worth listening to.

With this in mind, and with elections just around the corner, the council recently announced some new funding, if all goes to plan Mardi Gras would get $400,000 in funding over the next two years. This might sound like a lot, but a conservative estimate of the average number of spectators a year is 300,000. It is estimated that MG delivers an annual economic impact of $29 million to Sydney and NSW. This is the direct result of international and interstate visitors travelling specifically for Mardi Gras events, so $400,000 is not all that much really, they could be doing more.

Labor’s candidate for the position of Lord Mayor has claimed a Labor run Town Hall would commit $3.2 million to MG and Aids Council of NSW (ACON) over four years, no small sum. And apparently a future Liberal Government will work with MG to ensure “it grows as one of Sydney’s most important cultural and social events and as a major tourism driver for the state”, although I am unaware of any actual sum of commitment in dollar terms.

Don’t get me wrong, all this ‘possible’ support and funding is crucial and long overdue, but LGBT voters don’t just think about how the parties support them at election time only (ok for some that may be true). Like any constituent they think about how political parties represent then (or don’t) most of the year and as such maybe those who want to win, and stay in power, in Sydney ought to pay more heed to the Pink Vote all year round and not just at election time.

Big Brands wise up and target the LGBT community

February 28, 2012

It’s party time, well it is for the LGBT community, or as we say in Sydney Happy Bla de Bla. We have the Winter Part Festival (WPF) taking place over in Miami and Mardi Gras is well under way here in Sydney with the main event taking place this weekend. This can be a very busy time for the party minded girl or boy about town with heaps of events to choose from and lots of parties to strut your stuff at.

However, this year there are others coming to the party, big brands are wising up to the power of the Pink Dollar and as such are doing more and more to try and target the LGBT community at this time of year. Some brands are only just catching on but others have been on board for some time now. For example Showtime in the States has been a key sponsor of some ground breaking shows such as Queer as Folk and The L Word, and this year will be will be promoting Nurse Jackie (which has a bit of a cult following among Lesbians, I wonder if my sister watches it?). And here in Australia Clinique, which is a newer player in this area, have opened a pop up store on Oxford St, a key focal point for Mardi Gras visitors.

Note these are not small-fry brands, they are brands with international reputations and lots of credibility within their own sectors. And they are not alone; WPF is being supported by Office Depot, Coca-Cola and Grey Goose while MG is being supported by Virgin Australia, ANZ, Google and Finlandia Vodka.

At the same time others, who may not be sponsors are running marketing activity aimed at the LGBT community, Durex being a great example with a print ad featuring a huge cock (that got your attention, it’s a feathered kind) here in Australia. It’s great to see these brands making an effort to target what many say is a ‘loyal’ consumer group, according to a recent survey by Harris Integrative “7 out of 10 LGBT consumers say they are likely to remain loyal to a brand they believe is friendly and supportive of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community even when less friendly companies offer lower prices or are more convenient”.

However, LGBT consumers don’t just spend at this time of year, like any consumer they shop all year round and in the States this equate to an “annual buying power nearing $1 trillion” (Harris). Most research into possible figures of the size of the LGBT community estimate that 1 in 10 are same sex attracted, that’s over 31 million Americans and 2.2 million Australians, that’s no small consumer base and these brands ought to be thinking about how to target this group throughout the year, not just when we come out and party.

As Ben Mulcahy of Pink Media Group puts it, “Smart, forward thinking companies are starting to develop long term strategies to communicate with this demographic. Gay and lesbian consumers are savvy, we will support organisations who support us”.

Now on that note, I’ll be off to spend some of my Pink Dollars….