Thursday, 31 January 2008


Three items of filth spotted today. For starters, this little smokers cubby hole in town. I don't mind smoking itself - I used to do it on a regular basis 20 years ago, and I am not one to get preachy about other people's choices. What fucking irks me though is the fact that these filthy little fuckers can't be bothered to cart their butts away after fag time. Surely it is not impossible to get a small tin - like a tobacco tin of old, or an old film canister (remember either of them) and to use that as an ashtray and receptacle for the cast offs? I've seen plenty of Nips doing it at the snow, and although I do find smoking in the snow to be rather filthy (purity of the mountain air and all that), I do respect the fact that the slanty eyed little bastards religiously stubb out their butts in their portable ashtrays and never, ever litter the mountain.

If there was a fire hose nearby, I'd drench the next turd that dropped a butt here. Might give them some explaining to do when they got back to the office.

Behind this concrete wall lies part of the City West Link. After much goading, I finally convinced the RTA two years ago to send a crew to this spot to regularly paint this wall. A rabble of Housing Commissions dregs live not far from here, and seem to spend their days bonging on around here and spraying this wall with crap.

It pains me to see that the RTA has continued to uphold it's end of the bargain regarding painting this wall, but the little fuckers keep coming back - like cockroaches. Personally, I'd chop their thumbs off and stuff them up their arse.

The third bit of filth relates to a bombed out car that was due to be towed last year. The rego ran out in June, and it had obviously been crashed "lightly" - but enough to make it undriveable. I was about to report it as abandoned when someone else beat me to the punch. The Police actually extracted digit for once and removed the plates, and eventually the car disappeared.

Hooray, I thought. One less pile of shit cluttering up the neighbourhood.

But then on the way home tonight, I spotted it parked up a sidestreet not far from where it had been before. The sneaky little bat fucker has obviously thought that if he moves the car, the tow trucks will not look that hard for it, and he can hang onto it a bit longer.

Ha ha. Not after I've reported it. If he moves it again, I reckon I'll just have to deflate all his tyres.

So endeth the lesson in the War Against Filth.

Wednesday, 30 January 2008

Todays sights

Well, lookee here - an admiral of the fleet being chauffered around in a lovely Statesman. Note the one star below the number plate. What these guys need is a decent pennant to fly from the front of the car - as in the old days when the RN had the Admiral of the White, the Admiral of the Blue etc.

I am amazed that I was able to take this photo without being shot as a spy.

A different sort of cyclist - notice the complete lack of pretentious lycra clothing (like the stuff I wear), the casual sandals, the relaxed bike. It's nice to think that someone can just walk out of the office and hop on their bike in the clothes that they are in and cycle a short distance home.

Oh, the irony. I bought a new kevlar-lined tyre the other day after getting a flat, and vowed to replace the back tyre as soon as I got home....

Of course I never got around to it, and so copped another puncture tonight. The old tyre has done over 6000km, which is more than was expected from it, and it is so thin, you can almost see through it in places.

It's classic though that the spot where I punctured was right outside the house of a greenie, and I punctured on a stack of broken glass that was spread all over the road. Nice of the greenie to care enough about her environment to actually not think about cleaning it up.

The bike is now of course sporting a very nice new kevlar lined it should have been doing a month ago. Never put of until tomorrow what you can do today.

Another non-trendoid cyclist spotted on the way home. This bloke was surprisingly hard to catch. There are some dark horses out there. Normally, if I see some skinny bloke in a bespoke lycra shirt and an expensive bike, I know I have no chance of getting anywhere near him. However, if I spot an old bloke in a singlet and thongs, I reckong I can drag his arse off.

Not this bloke though. Must be an undercover lycra owner.

Tuesday, 29 January 2008

More of the same

One thing about getting on the bike is that you see a lot of variety between cyclists in what they wear, what they ride, what they carry, how they ride etc etc. After all, it's all hanging out for all to see.

I still haven't worked up a really full blown classification system though for all the different types that I see on the road. This guy is pretty much a clone of me - except that he is about half my size.

Consider the following:

Nice helmet and nice lycra clothes.

Lots of red rear flashing light thingys so that cars don't clean you up from behind.

Road bike, stripped for action.

Gloves, cool sunglasses and "proper" cycling shoes (ie, stiff soled).

The only real differences are weight, and the fact that he shaves and I don't. I didn't get a good look at the bike, but you are probably looking at having to spend at least $4,000 to look like this, and a lot more if he is on a fancy bike. Commuting don't always come cheap.

Here is my least favourite corner in the universe. I've just ridden up the road behind Darling Harbour, and I have to get across this disaster of an intersection and then turn right across the traffic to get back onto a cycle lane. I don't know who thought this up, but they are a fucking pea brain. It is an absolutely shocking place to ride a bike.

By the way, if you ever want to witness what a small investment in cycling infrastructure can do for cycling numbers, sit at this pub and watch the bikes go by. It looks a bit like Hanoi at peak hour.

I've never tried this until now - pointing the camera over my shoulder and snapping the guys trailing behind me. Notice the "loose trail" - commuters don't bunch like say a peleton or a training squad. I was surprised that it worked out. I was half expecting to get a photo of a tree.

Monday, 28 January 2008

White Bay

I ride past the old White Bay powerstation in Balmain almost every day. At least I think it's Balmain. Whatever. It's a big old brick thing near the ANZAC Bridge.

I have just been reading some PhD thesis about the loonie left in Leichhardt (don't ask why) and found that the powerstation closed in 1984.

It's now a pile of shit, right on the edge of the city. And it's pretty much on the water too.

Until now, I have never been able to understand why it has not been taken over by a developer and turned into a block of expensive, but hideous apartments.

I think I now know why. Leichhardt Council has long been wedded to the idea of no development over two storeys high, low densities and lots of low cost housing (ie, cheap rent for bums).

Anyone with any grasp of mathematics will quickly understand that it is going to cost a lot to clean up and re-develop a site that once housed a powerstation. The place is probably rotten with asbestos, which would have been used as lagging on the pipes to reduce heat loss. The only way a developer can hope to break even is to build apartments that sell for a lot of money, and to build a lot of them. You can't build low density, low cost housing on a high cost site.

But Leichhardt is full of socialists and compassion junkies, and they have no grasp of numbers. Their usual solution is that the 'government' should do something about it.

Like I said, complete whackos.

Bum rush

More photos of the bums that I have to look at on my way into work. It's not often that I see a female bum - I believe this is the first that I have ever photographed. That's not because I have an aversion to photographing them - it's more that they are very scarce. I did a few informal counts last year and found that men on bikes outnumber women 20:1. I think the number of female bike commuters is on the increase, but there is an enormous disparity to make up - especially as more men appear to be hitting the pedals.

I've posted this series of photos to show what it's like heading into town at around 7:30am. When I started cycling, other riders were few and far between. It's now starting to turn into a madhouse. The bloody cycleway is going to be as congested as the roadway if things keep on going like this.

Most pedestrians are sensible and keep well to the left (like these two), but some seem to become mentally confused as soon as they start walking. They wander back and forth all over the road like half-stoned hippies. Overtaking whacked out pedestrians can be a bit exciting some mornings. As far as I am concerned, there is no debate about what to do if one of them takes up the entire path (ie, leaves you nowhere to go as you overtake). If it is a choice between hitting a rather rigid steel pole and a rather fat hippy, I am taking out the hippy.

Whoops. There are some things that I will stop for. And no, I am not talking about the rather burly fireman. He's not my type.

The thing is, even if you build an excellent bit of cycle infrastructure, it takes time to grow traffic on it to levels that make it seem like a good decision. People are terrible creatures of habit, and it takes ages for them to decide, "Ah, fuck it" and to pull the bike out of the garage, pump up the tyres and give it a go.

Before I started commuting by bike, I spent 3 months getting my fitness up to an acceptable level by driving to Centennial Park and then doing laps around the park on my bike. It took 3 months until I thought that I had the wind to go fast enough to not get skittled by the traffic. So when you open a new bike route into town, you shouldn't think that on day one all these people are going to abandon the bus or the Corolla for a saddle and a set of pedals. They'll um and ah about it, do a few test runs on the weekend, decide they are too unfit, commit to some weekend training and maybe actually not get started for 6 months or so.

There is also the work angle to sort out. ie, where do I park my bike, where do I have a shower and what do I do with this wet towel that is starting to get a bit manky? Amazingly enough, it can take months to work all this out. Security guards will deny that bike parking exists in the basement, even as a cyclist shoots down the ramp to the garage behind them. Office managers will deny that the building has showers, even as he trots out the door for a spot of lunchtime touch football in the park.

Most bike routes are terribly badly signposted. After a while, you kind of gain a sixth sense as to where the new route that you are trying out might be about to go. The same thing happens with new office buildings - I have worked in about 15 different office buildings in the Sydney CBD, and I now have a nose for sussing out who to talk to about parking the bike, gaining access to the car park, finding out where the showers are etc etc etc.

I still haven't worked out how to get a locker, but that has never been a problem for me.

So if you think it's painful and difficult to start riding into work, you're right. It is. The thing that made it easier for me is that I used to live 5.5km from work, and I walked both ways most days. I only started riding when I moved further out. If you want to make a start of it, and you live a fair way out, try this.

Catch the train (or bus) to a spot about 4km from your office. If you are coming from say the North Shore, get off at Milsons Point. Walk the rest. Then shower and change and do all that sort of thing at the office. Once you are comfortable with that, give riding a go.

Or if you don't want to, just stick with the walking thing. It's also very enjoyable.

The right to bear arms?

I don't get it. Why do people get so upset about whether they can own bear arms or not?

I wouldn't just want the bear's arms - I'd want an entire bear skin for my place.


Two Sydney teenagers had their cars seized after they were allegedly caught street racing, and driving at almost 100kmh in a 60kmh zone.

"They have seen two P-platers allegedly street racing in an easterly direction," NSW police said in a statement today.

"One of the men was driving a dark-coloured Mitsubishi Lancer ... while the other was driving a Hyundai Elantra.

How do you get an Elantra up to 100kmh? Install a JATO rocket in the boot?

This section of road must be downhill with a persistent tailwind.

Sun blind is no excuse

From the SMH today:

A 72-year-old Sydney man was knocked unconscious when a group of cyclists, who were blinded by the morning sun, slammed into him.

The man was walking along the verge of the M4 motorway, in Sydney's west, about 6.30am today when the accident occurred, an NRMA Careflight spokesman said.

"[The] man was walking beside the motorway when he was struck by several bicycle riders ... who were blinded by the morning sun," the spokesman said.

"The man was rendered unconscious for a short time and suffered head lacerations, and was left confused and suffering concussion."

The cyclists were described as "shaken but otherwise OK".

Ok, the pedestrian was a complete dick for walking on the verge of the M4, but if you can't see where you are going, then you should be going slower than normal. It's just common sense. Imagine the mess if these guys had cycled into the back of a truck that had pulled over to change a flat.

Still, it is a nice reminder to pedestrians what happens when you walk into the path of a cyclist. It happens to me all the time in the city. I'll be zipping down the middle of a lane when one or more pedestrians will cross against the light right in front of me. Most will have a mobile phone or blackberry glued to their ear, and haven't really had a good look at where they are going. I have a couple of close calls every week. Last week, a bloke stepped off the footpath right in front of me. I swerved, but was close enough to him to actually go under his umbrella at the front (it was raining). That was a close call.

Architecture in Sydney

The whole "medium density" debate seems to have died a quiet death in the last year or so. After an almighty ruckus about stopping urban sprawl, the blowback against any form of in-fill development seems to have gobsmacked the anti-sprawlers.

Face facts. Do you want to bring up kids in one of these places, or on a block with a bit of a back yard out on the fringe?

Personally, I'll put up with a medium sized house on a reasonable block near the water. I'll just have to put up about $2 million before I get it, but hey, a bloke can have ambitions.

Blocks like the one above are dotted all over Sydney - apart from the newly built bits out on the fringe. They are the legacy from the free and easy planning days of the 1950's and 60's I guess. I lived in a block like this for a couple of years. Actually, it wasn't all that bad. It had nice views towards some water, it had beautiful flow-thru breezes in summer, thus negating the need for air-con, and it was dead quiet. Every wall was double brick, and I never heard a peep out of any of my neighbours in the entire time I lived there.

Of course it had no parking, since it was built before the days when everyone had a car, but that was about the only problem. The kitchen was solidly built and well laid out. The lounge room was large - large enough to be a combined lounge/dining room opening onto a nice balconey. It was a good place for entertaining.

I have looked at a lot of modern apartment since, and none of them have been as good as that old place. The kitchens are flashy, but cheaply built. All the rooms are smaller - you go out to dinner, rather than entertaining people at home. The noise insulation is terrible, and you'd die without air con.

About the only thing they have going for them is underground parking.

You can't build something like this old place these days. The NIMBYS would have your entrails before you could submit the plans to Council. Pity. I've also been into quite a few 1920's style apartments around Double Bay, Edgecliff and Rose Bay, and they are magnificent inside. Huge lounge rooms, big bedrooms, high ceilings, huge windows with great views - everything you want in an apartment really. Nothing like that gets built anymore.

Sunday, 27 January 2008

Compassion junkies

Oh bugger me, I thought I had coined a new phrase there for a second. Then I find that Habib has used it over at the Daily Diatribe. Although it was back in 2005, and it hasn't really been used since anywhere on the interweb, so maybe I can claim to be the first to revive the term. It has of course being used elsewhere, but not an awful lot.

Maybe the best I can do is to claim that I am the first to use it in 2008.

Exploding tilty-headed juxtaposition

I spotted this beaten up pile of pus on my morning perambulation around the wogdom this morning. It was be-clad with three items that didn't seem to go that well together.

To start with, there is an Australian flag hanging from the aerial. Then there are the two stickers of the "no thappy john" variety stuck to the rear bumper.

I thought that flag waving was the province these days of mad, right wing fascist racists that like nothing better than going to Cronulla and beating up a few gentle mussiefolks. How then can a lefty bring themself to show a bit of patriotism by proudly displaying the existing flag? At the very least, they should have selected a flag of either the southern cross variety or perhaps the Aboriginal flag..... a flag that fails to display any hint of pride in our country or our heritage.

Ah well. I expect that next time I see this car, it will be draped in an enormous black crepe paper armband.

One other thing to ponder. If I see a car belonging to a lefty and find that it is displaying a sticker that I find objectionable, the worst that I do is photograph it and display it for the purposes of mockery. If I put a "I vote Liberal" sticker on my car, the least I can expect is to have the car keyed.

The heart of wogdom

Five Wog is not a bad place to live. According to the census, only something like 11% of the locals are of Italian heritage, with another 6% or so hailing from Greece.

I can't help but think the census is undercounting just a tad.

One of the enjoyable things is walking through the shopping area and listening to people arguing in Italian. I don't know why, but I really like the sound of Italian. Half a dozen gentlemen of advanced pensioner age were sitting in the forum today, arguing away in the mother tongue. At least it sounds like arguing to me. One of them could have been asking the other what the time was, and recieved a perfectly civil answer, but it always sounds like an argument.

A new cafe has recently sprung up, meaning that I must visit it for a coffee sometime soon. If I can ever get in. From day one, it has always been packed. With arguing Italians. The footpath is filled from one side to the other with madly gesticulating men in expensive sunglasses, and a chair is never to be found.

It would make a great place to harvest a bit of wind power.

Sloppy cops

I have blogged before about the disgraceful state of our local Police Station. It looks like the building is a crack den rather than a cop shop. I was annoying a friend of mine the other day (who works for a very senior copper) and they told me that the problem is the NSW Police Force is broke. The garden is maintained by a contractor (I know that), and the contractor has refused to do the work for 2 months now, probably due to non-payment (I know about that too, from talking to a local Police manager about the problem).

What drives me nuts is that the local rag is trumpeting the fact that our command just got four new constables, fresh out of the academy. Great. Four completely wet behind the ears kids with guns. Fat lot of use they'll be. If anything, they'll be a boat anchor slowing down the experienced cops for a good six months.

I just don't understand why the sergeant in charge of this station doesn't get one of the new probies in and has the following conversation:

Sarge: "Well, young constable, are you all settled in?"

Probie: "Yes thank you sergeant".

Sarge: "Good. I have an important job for you. Tomorrow, come to work dressed in work clothes, and bring your lawnmower. Your contribution to effective policing will henceforth be confined to keeping our station looking like a bastion of law and order, rather than a squat for derelicts and drunks".

Probie of course would have a fit, since he has a degree in sociology and has been to the Police Academy for a few months and thinks that things like this are somebody elses problem.

I've given up trying to get the Police to trim the tree out the front of the station that is preventing them from raising the flag properly. They either fly it at full-mast, whereby it tangles in the branches, or at half-mast, which is just plain WRONG.

But none of them have the gumption to pick up the phone and ask the Council to come and trim the tree (it's on public property). The lack of initiative being shown by our thin blue line is just astounding.

Same goes for the small patch next to the station - it's always full of rubbish. Why a probie can't spend 2 minutes each morning doing a clean up is beyond me.

All of the above of course leads to this - graffiti everywhere. If you look down this pathway, you'll see a red car on the road. That car is out the front of the Police station. Little crims and vandals are so confident that they can get away with all sorts of petty crime, that they are happy to carry it out within eyesight of the Police station.

Not that you ever see a cop out walking about. I did see one at the supermarket the other day. Almost fell over in shock.

It turned out he had popped out to buy an icecream. Or perhaps some teabags for the station.

Saturday, 26 January 2008

Almost splat cat

I quite like cats - not enough to own one at present (or more accurately, have one own me), but I like them nonetheless. If I am walking down the street and see one in a front yard, I'll generally stop and try to tempt it over for a pat and a tummy rub (that's me rubbing its tummy).

That said, they don't always like me. One tried to kill me the other day, or at the very least, leave me covered in gravel rash.

I was toodling home on the peddly when this ginger streak of lightning shot out of somewhere and tore across in front of me and then under a parked car. It was really moving - I wish I could sprint like that. But if I hadn't braked hard, I would have hit the cat full amidships, and it would have been a bad outcome for both of us. Possibly a broken back for the cat, and lots of lost skin for me. The thing that struck me afterwards is how nasty it would have been to break the cat's neck if it was too far gone. Bugger taking it to a vet (especially if I am banged up myself) - just snap its neck and be done with it. Nothing worse than leaving it to die slowly in agony.

Trouble is, cats necks are really hard to break. They're like elastic. And unfortunately, we were nowhere near the Bay, so I couldn't put it in a sack with a brick and drown it. I also didn't have a sack or a brick.

So, good thing the cat was quick on its feet, and I was quick on the brakes. There were two pedestrians nearby, and they called out "that's one life down!" as I sailed past, slightly shaken. I'm not sure if they were referring to me or the speedy pussy.

Whatever it was you were after, Mr Cat, I hope it was worth it.

Wasting Police Time

I went a bit mad in a bookshop not long ago and bought a foot of books.

I am now plowing through number 2 in the pile - Wasting Police Time. It's a great read, but I've been having difficulty making headway because I keep falling asleep on the couch whilst I'm reading it. Not because it is boring - it's anything but boring. I think it's because my brain can only process so much information about a bureaucratic nightmare before it shuts down.

It's a must read.

Funnily enough, we had a friend around for dinner recently, and they work for the police here, and they took off with Frank Chalk's book (which I had just finished). I'm not sure they will be so enthusiastic about taking Wasting Police Time, as it will probably remind them too much of the daily grind against crime here in Sydney.


I've been having a look at Rage and Biscuits today, and was suddenly seized with the desire to frig around with the look of this blog. I particularly liked the idea of sticking a photo at the top of the page that kind of illustrated what I am supposed to be ranting about.

I'm not sure if it is an improvement, but it helps to pass the time.

Who is killing indigenous Australia?

Who is killing indigenous Australia?

That's the title of an article by some dick at Socialist Alliance. Our indignant leftie quotes the following stats:

* Aborigines are imprisoned at 16 times the rest of the population and, consistently since 1999, have made up 20% of the prison population - a rise of 6% since 1991.

Ooh, bad white people. Stop being mean to our black brothers. Etc etc etc.

Tilty-headed leftie then quotes some more stats:

* Indigenous people also suffer higher rates of crime. A 2001 study in New South Wales found that Aborigines are 5.5 times more likely to suffer domestic violence, 3.4 times more likely to suffer assault, 2.8 times more likely to suffer sexual assault, and 2.5 times more likely to be murdered.

Right. So on the one hand, Aboriginals are getting locked up lots. On the other hand, they are much more likely to be a victim of crime.

I guess the inference here is that Aboriginals are locked up so often because they commit crimes against white people, and it is unfair for them to be locked up for say bashing, robbing or raping a white person. Or just being drunk and laying a turd on their front lawn, before smashing up the letter box and keying the car in the driveway.

The second inference is that some horrible group of unmentionable people (presumably white) is running around assaulting, raping and murdering Aboriginals like there is no tomorrow.

Um, wrong. If you are an Aboriginal, and you've just been bashed or raped or murdered, chances are the perpetrator was another Aboriginal. Similarly, if you are an Aboriginal interested in doing a bit of burglary or car theft, chances are you will be stealing from other Aboriginals (but that probably depends on where you live).

The biggest victims of crime are always the poor. White, middle class people like me and my friends rarely run around raping women, stealing cars, breaking into houses (we're too unfit to get through a window) and generally murdering and vandalising etc. We live in neighbourhoods where not much of that sort of thing goes on, because crims are generally lazy, so they won't go far to commit a crime if they have to. If they can rob the old pensioner next door, why travel 30 kilometres to rob me?

I never said they were that smart.

Anyway, the reason there are a lot of Aboriginals in prison is that they have commited an awfully large number of assaults, bashings etc on their kith and kin. White people are not getting in cars and driving out to say Brewarrina with the intention of doing a bit of raping and pillaging amongst the Aboriginal community. It's black on black.

So let's say we get all tilty headed and compassionate and let all those innocent blackfellas out of prison. How do you think that will make their victims, who are also largely Aboriginal, feel about things? Do you think they'll feel safe and secure knowing that Jimmy the drunken axe murderer is back on the streets, and roaming around with a cask of Coolabah and a machete?

In short, a lot of Aboriginals are locked up because they have been perfectly beastly to other Aboriginals.

These fucking lefties have no idea.

Friday, 25 January 2008

Aboriginal health stats and other misinformation

I have been looking at a number of reports into Aborginal health, or a lack of it, and trying to make some sense of the numbers.

According to the Human Rights Commission, Aborginals made up 2.2% of the population at the last census. That's 410,000 people out of say 19 million.

One of the reasons given for poor health outcomes is that 26% of Aboriginals live in remote or very remote areas, as opposed to 2% for the rest of the population.

Now when you read a stat like that, you go, "Wow, that's a big difference in percentages - that must be a root cause of bad health outcomes".

However, do the maths.

26% of 410,000 people is about 100,000 Aboriginals living in remote areas.

2% of the remaining 18,600,000 non-Aboriginal population is 372,000.

Right. So whitefellas outnumber Aboriginals in remote areas by over 3:1. But are the health outcomes for the whitefellas in remote areas as bad as for the Aborginal population in that area?

I doubt it. If it was, I'm sure we'd know about it.

So let's forget about the "remote" argument for a minute. It looks like a crock of shit. If white people can live in the same location without horrible health problems, then remoteness is not a causal factor.

But if it is a factor, then we should immediately close down all the remote townships and ship everyone off to places that are less remote. If you can't get good services to the people, move the people to the services. The WA government closed the town of Wittenoom because of asbsestos. If remote townships are as "toxic" as asbestos, then they should be abandoned. Is it worth staying where you are if it's killing you?

How about another statistic - that of low birth weight.

According to the Department of Health:

Low birthweight infants (weighing less than 2,500 grams at birth) are more at risk of developing conditions such as coronary heart disease and stroke when older. In 2000-02, live-born babies of Indigenous mothers were twice as likely to be of low birthweight as babies born to non-Indigenous mothers (12.9% compared to 6.1%)

Indigenous infant and child health is significantly poorer than that of non-Indigenous infants and children. A 'low birth weight baby' weighs less than 2500 grams at birth
[41] indicating, among other things, foetal malnutrition. There is a growing body of evidence that suggests a malnourished foetus will program its body in a way that will incline it to chronic diseases later in life.[42] Beyond infancy, normal growth is considered vital for good health in adulthood. Significant numbers of Indigenous children demonstrate failure to thrive

OK then, why are so many Aboriginal babies low birth weight?

High fertility at younger ages contributes to the relatively high fertility of Indigenous women. Teenage births are more common among Indigenous women than among other women. In 2003, the teenage (15–19 years) birth rate among Indigenous women was more than four times the overall Australian teenage birth rate. Teenage pregnancies are associated with low birth weight.

So what they are saying really is that some Aboriginal kids are fucking each other silly and popping out kids at an amazing rate.

So what is the government to do about that? Say sorry and issue a chastity belt? How about they take the kids away and put them in a boarding house where they can be supervised and controlled and taught a few morals?

Oops, can't do that anymore. Strike that thought.

But why are Aboriginal teenagers getting pregnant so often?

I thought about this last night. It must be boredom.

When I was a teenager, I was as randy as the next kid. I spent most of my teenage years trying to get laid, mainly without result. It was the same for most of my friends. The reason we were unsuccesful is that the girls we knew were remarkably reticent about opening their legs. It's as simple as that - unless a girl consents, there is no sex, so the chances of getting pregnant are pretty low. I'd say they are zero, but then I'm a stickler for the facts.

What kept their legs closed?

I'd say the main factors were these:

  • a strong moral upbringing by their parents
  • a lack of loosening agents, like drugs and alcohol
  • few opportunities to slip away unnoticed
Hell, we certainly tried to overcome all three barriers. We tried to talk them out of it (overcome the moral objections), but that rarely worked. So we then held parties and plied them with beer, wine and vodka (wine coolers were a favourite), but most passed out or vomited before they lost their inhibitions. Even then, the opportunities for having parties were limited, because our parents kept us on a tight leash, and they kept us busy. We played organised sport almost every weekend, trained before or after school several times per week and played disorganised sport on every free day. In between, we studied.

So what the hell is happening in Aboriginal communities? Well, I think we know that in some cases, the parents are getting drunk or stoned and don't give a fuck what their kids do, the kids aren't going to school or doing any sport so they are just BORED. Perfectly respectable friends of mine did a bit of burglary when they were teenagers because they were BORED. Committing crime is quite exciting, you know. I've committed the odd criminal act, and thinking about some of the more extreme things that I got away with still gets the heart racing.

But do you know how much input the government had into keeping me active as a kid?

Nil. Not one iota. It was all down to my parents, the parents of my friends, and some dedicated teachers. Government and government agencies had nothing to do with it. They are not the answer.

If kids are stuck in some bumhole and they're bored, yank them out of there and send them to a boarding school in the city. By force if necessary. I went to boarding school with kids that came from some pretty remote sheep and cattle stations from the boondocks of WA, and they were pretty wild when they arrived. Being out in the sticks your entire life can mess with your head.

Stuffing kids into boarding school was of course the sort of thing that we did up until about 1970, until some people started having "issues" with it. They complained about things like kids being caned for being naughty. Well I got caned for being naughty - got six of the best across the arse from a nasty ex-Rhodesian teacher who was notorious for being the hardest caner in school, and let me tell you this - I never fucked up again. It was humiliating and it hurt like hell and yes, I cried. Everyone did. It was supposed to make you cry - the idea being that if it hurt that much, you'd never forget it, and you might think twice about doing something naughty next time you got a stupid idea into your head.

Got that? It was supposed to hurt. You remember painful lessons really, really well. Unless you are a complete and utter blockhead.

Another statistic - the death rate.

According to NT Health:

The overall death rate for the Indigenous population is more than twice that for the total Australian population. The greatest differences occur in the middle age group of 25 to 54 years. In 2000 the leading causes of death among the Indigenous population were diseases of the circulatory system, external causes of injuries and poisoning and malignant neoplasms. These accounted for 26%, 14% and 14% of Indigenous death respectively.

It is premature adult death and not excess infant death that accounts for the reduced life expectancy of Indigenous people.

So what's the cause of all these people dropping off in middle age?

  • Half the adult Indigenous population aged 18 and over were current daily smokers, about twice the (age-standardised) rate for non-Indigenous adults.
  • 16% of Indigenous adults aged 18 and over drank alcohol at risky or high risk levels, a similar (age-standardised) rate to non-Indigenous adults.
  • Three quarters of Indigenous people aged 15 and over were sedentary or exercised at low levels.
  • 57% of Indigenous people aged 15 and over were self-reported as overweight or obese, which (when adjusted for age differences between the two populations and for survey non-response) was 1.2 times higher than for non-Indigenous Australians.
  • 14% of Indigenous people (20% in remote areas) aged 12 and over had no usual daily fruit intake, twice the rate for non-Indigenous people.
  • 5% of Indigenous people (15% in remote areas) aged 12 and over had no usual daily vegetable intake, over six times the rate for non-Indigenous people.
Let me get this right. They smoke heaps, drink a fair bit, eat shit, avoid fruit and sit around like a bunch of lard arses. And who is to blame for that? The individuals concerned? The fat turds that lack the willpower to give up the fags, can't be arsed exercising or don't bother to eat a healthy meal? Nooooo - someone else is always to blame. Especially the government.

After reading some of this stuff, I am starting to think that we should just say: "Sorry. Yep, we're sorry for stuff that happened a long time ago. But that's over - now sort your sorry fucking lives out and pull up your socks and get on with it. You've gotten your apology - you've got no excuses left now."

So, how do we solve these diet, smoking, drinking and exercise problems - particulary amongst those under 18?

Grab the little fuckers and send them to a boarding school where they are kept active, closely supervised and mixing with a peer group that provides positive images.

Actually, I'd scrap the last item. The kids that we looked up to where those that could get laid on a regular basis, were good at sculling beer and tops at fighting Catholics when we played sport agains the Micks. Clean living swats like me where not the preferred role model.

I'm starting to see a repeating pattern here - something about kids and boarding schools..... hmm, wonder if that's been tried before?

This is just a lovely set of numbers:

In the NT, Indigenous infant mortality has declined substantially since the early 1980s. In 1981 to 1983 there were 31.3 infant deaths per 1 000 live births and in 1997 to 2000 the rate reduced to 16.9. There are many reasons for this fall in Indigenous infant mortality rates. The main reason is increased access and better resourcing of primary health care services. There is, however, still great disparity between the rates for Indigenous and non Indigenous infants with the Indigenous infant mortality rate almost 4 times the non Indigenous rate. The 35 Indigenous infant deaths recorded in the NT in 2000 comprised 81% of total infant deaths

Infant mortality 4 times the whitefella rate! Hells bells. That number just kicks you in the balls.

It must be a lack of money. Something must be done....

Per capita expenditure for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people was estimated $4 936 per person compared with $1 433 per person for the rest of the population.

Ok then, I got that wrong. It's not a lack of money. We are spending just under 3.5 times as much on blackfellas health as whitefellas. Maybe too much money is the problem?

Language barriers? Maybe language barriers prevent them from talking to doctors etc?

  • 80% of Indigenous peoples reported speaking only English at home, which is about the same as the non-Indigenous population.
  • 12% of Indigenous peoples reported speaking an Indigenous language at home; with three quarters of those recording they were also fluent in English.
Those numbers tell me that nearly 90% of Aboriginals are fluent in English. So we don't have huge numbers of Aboriginals running around that can't communicate with a doctor.

My in-laws arrived in this country without a word of English between them. Somehow, they figured it out and raised three healthy kids. I went to school with a lot of kids whose parents came out from Italy, Yugoslavia, Hungary, Greece and all those places without a word of English between them, and somehow they turned out fit, healthy and morally centred kids. All the parents also became pretty fluent in English, even though many of them started learning it at the age of 25 or 30 - and that's a hard time to learn a language. I have never seen a lack of English as an impediment. If half the planet can learn enough English to do business with us and the rest of the planet, then I don't see why it is so hard for people who are born in an English speaking country to learn a bit of English.

I could rant on about learning English all day, but think about it. You can travel to just about any country on the planet and find that all your needs will be serviced by someone that speaks English. I've sat in a restaurant in Italy with people from Japan, Germany, Holland, South America, South Korea and numerous other countries where they speak something else at home and everyone conversed in English. Maybe not very well, but well enough that we could all understand each other.

Hell, in a job I had a few years ago, about half my team where from a non-English speaking background. And by that, I mean they arrived from Cambodia about 10 years before with no English at all. Some had utterly rotten spoken English - but they could understand me, and I could understand them. I had guys that grew up in Vietnam, China, Yugoslavia and other places like that where they didn't start learning English until they arrived in Australia as adults. Not only were they functioning pretty well, they were all earning at least $60,000 per year doing fairly skilled work.

What is the best way to ensure that kids are fluent in English?

Get them out of the remote communities where it is not spoken regularly and immerse them in a 100% English speaking environment. That sounds remarkably like a boarding school to me.

Crummy housing is also given as a reason for poor Aboriginal health, with overcrowding being cited as a big problem.

But is overcrowding really a cause of poor health?

When I lived in London in the early 1990's, 8 friends of mine lived in a 3 bedroom flat - a very small 3 bedroom flat. They had bunk beds in each room, and 2 of them shared a single bed as one worked nightshift and the other dayshift. Now that was overcrowding!

Did any of them get horribly sick?

Only when they drank too much Newcastle Brown Ale. Overcrowding did not seem to affect their health.

My parents grew up during the Depression, and they had a stack of siblings - and they both grew up in small houses. The house that Mum spent her childhood in was a dirt floored shack made of hessian on a farm out on the far edge of the WA wheatbelt. All the kids slept on the verandah, which was enclosed with fly screens, and they slept on pretty horrible beds made of bush poles and the like. Mum likes to tell the story of how her Mum was cooking one day, found the kitchen to be oppresively hot and cut a window in the kitchen wall with a pair of scissors.

In short, she grew up in housing conditions that today would be considered..... unbelievable.

As for poverty, well, my in-laws arrived from the former Yugoslavia with the shoes and clothes that they were wearing and not much else. You can imagine the kind of conditions Mum grew up in - her family walked off the farm during the Depression because they went broke. I guess they were homeless for a while. Some of your ancestors probably walked off a ship in leg irons. They started with nothing but the convicts clothing on their backs.

Poverty is something that you can pull yourself out of. But only if you want to.

Then we have infant mortality rates. I have been Googling all over the interweb looking for stats on infant mortality. The good news is that it is way down. I had lots of trouble finding stats that I could understand, but have a look at these numbers.

In 1978, PNG had an infant mortality rate of 110 per 1000. That's enormous. But back in 1900, the rate in Australia was 103 per 1000. In 1950, that had been reduced to 25 per 1000. These days, Australia has an infant mortality rate of about 5 per 1000, except amongst Aboriginals, where it is around 20 per 1000. Cuba has an infant mortality rate of around 6 per 1000.

In Afghanistan, before us nasty people invaded and overturned the Taleban, it was around 165 per 1000. Yikes.

So, what do I make of all that?

If you have poor sanitation, bad hygenic practices, a poor diet, bad water and a lack of basic medical attention, you have a horrendous infant mortality rate. I have been trying to find numbers for Australia and the UK for before 1900, but I imagine that if you go back to say 1850, the infant mortality rate in inner-city Sydney was probably comparable to Afghanistan under the Taleban.

Lowering the infant mortality rate is pretty simple - so simple, they were able to do it in Tasmania 100 years ago, when they didn't have the medical sophistication that we have now, or the fabulous wealth that we now enjoy.

In 1908, the Chief Health Officer for Tasmania noted that Hobart had the second highest infant mortality rate to any other state capital. He attributed this high death rate (and an even higher rate in Launceston) to 'sheer ignorance on the part of mothers of the elementary principles of child-feeding and child-care' and recommended 'one carefully selected trained nurse' be employed for 'popular education of young wives and mothers in the health protection of thehome and the care of infants and children'.

At this time, Dr Truby King established the Karitane Mothercraft hospital in New Zealand to reduce the infant mortality rate through the education of mothers. In Dunedin, his statistics demonstrated a remarkable decline in infant mortality from diarrhoea:

  • 1907: 25 babies died per 1000 live births
  • 1913: 4 babies died per 1000 live births
  • 1918: there were no infant deaths from diarrhoea

In 1917, the Chief Health and Quarantine Officer (Tasmania) recommended the employment of a nurse to home visit mothers and provide instruction on infant feeding. He surmised that the infant mortality rate could be significantly reduced by minimising deaths from diarrhoea. This was to be achieved by educating women to improve breastfeeding and hygienic food preparation.

His simple words spell it out for even simpletons to understand. I will repeat the important ones:

'sheer ignorance on the part of mothers of the elementary principles of child-feeding and child-care'

What do those words really mean? What is "child feeding" and child care"?

I can comment on these as I am now a Dad. I had no idea what they meant a few years ago.

I'll summarise it as follows:

  • Wash your hands
  • Bathe your kids daily, or at most, every two days
  • Change their nappies when they have done a poo
  • Wash your dishes and the baby bottles
  • Change and wash your clothes on a daily basis
  • Keep your house clean and get rid of the more obvious risks to baby
  • Feed your baby regularly (preferably via mum's tit)
  • Mum is not to drink, smoke, do drugs or have a shitty diet
Is it that hard? Really? Wash your hands, stick the kid in the bath, run the washing machine every day or so.

Doing this does not require money. It does not require education. It doesn't require you to live in a major coastal city. It just requires commitment and discipline and effort. I don't like having to do three loads of washing every day - but it has to get done. It just has to. Your job as a parent is to ensure that it's done, because no one else is going to do it. I want to flop on the couch in front of the TV as much as the next person, but there is no getting away from doing some basic chores on a daily basis. Shopping for food. Cooking meals. Washing dishes. Changing nappies. Getting the kids out of bed in the morning, feeding them and taking them to school. Nagging them to do homework. Tidying up. Taking Monkey to the park/pool/playground etc for an hour a day.

Being poor is not an excuse for nothing doing the washing. When I was at Uni, I was poor. I stacked shelves at Coles for about $10 an hour between 10pm and 2am, I worked the late shift in a video hire shop and spent my holidays weighing wheat trucks in the middle of nowhere. At one point, our washing machine blew up, so me and my two flatmates chipped in and bought one from the Trading Post.

I think we paid $100 for it. Washing machines were worth real money back then, back before China started making stuff. The classic thing is that we, the children of middle and upper-middle class parents, bought a washing machine from a bloke in a Housing Commission house. I guess the government had given him a new one, so he was selling the old one.

That washing machine represented a good night at the pub for the three of us, but we recognised where our priorities lay, and we spent our cash on a washing machine. Because we were still thirsty, we spent the small amount of money that we had left on a home brew kit, and that saw the start of a major exercise in brewing high strength rocket fuel. But that's another story. Being on the bones of your arse is no impediment to keeping clean.

All it really takes is a bit of selflessness. Kind of what the missionaries did when they gave up a comfortable life in suburbia and treked out to the back blocks of nowhere to start schools for the native kids. Apart from teaching lessons, I'm sure it involved an enormous amount of work in cooking meals (without a microwave or gas stove), doing laundry (without a washing machine), washing up without a dish washer etc etc etc. How is it that we have come to despise those people, rather than admiring them?

In the end though, is the simple explanation for the difference between black and white mortality rates explained by the proposition that some Aboriginal parents do not give a flying fuck about their kids? If they cared enough, they'd stop smoking, cut back on the drinking, cook a proper meal at least once a day and clean the fucking house. Is it really that hard to do a bit of washing and cleaning? Does it really come down to a lack of that?

I lived with a flatmate years ago that I called "Couchy", because she never left the couch. She had a job, which required her to turn up for 7.5 hours per day, but once home, she turned on the TV and lay on her couch with her cat on her lap.

In the year we shared a place, she never cleaned the house (as in ran a vaccuum cleaner around, dusted or scrubbed the bathroom and kitchen), never mowed the lawn, never took the rubbish out, never did the washing up. Her diet consisted mainly of fast food or fish fingers.

In essence, she was just fucking lazy. Nice, good fun to drink with on Friday night, but bone idle. Utterly disinterested in anything that took her away from her beloved TV and couch.

She had a job that put reasonable money into her pocket. Our house was dingy, but clean and spacious and liveable and close to Bondi. She could afford overseas travel and was certainly able to afford some binge drinking every Friday and Saturday night. She was educated to a diploma level, was kind of comfortably well off, but just bone fucking idle.

So if kids are dying because their parents are as bad as Couchy (or probably much worse), why are we leaving them in those circumstances? What would you prefer:

  1. Placed in a boarding school from age 10 to 17. Graduate with solid education, gain entrance into University, speak excellent English, have great job prospects and have a good social group. But spend 10 months of the year away from Mum.
  2. Stay in some dusty, crime ridden dump in the middle of nowhere with Mum, who is a drunk, and her current boyfriend, who changes every 3-4 months. Catch numerous infectious diseases each year. End up malnourished and filthy, attend school irregularly, start sniffing glue at 13, get into petty theft soon after, have no job prospects, get abused by "Uncle" Mike and barely speak English at 17. Spend more time in court than in school. But spend all the time with your Mum.
The answer seems pretty clear cut to me.

This is why I think the whole 'stolen generations' and the need to say sorry is a load of bollocks. We have nothing to apologise for, and there is an entire generation out there right now that should be whisked away from their parents and sent to boarding school as soon as possible. If that involves taking them away without their parents consent, then so be it. It's not as if they don't have telephones or a postal service in these remote towns. Mum can always ring up once a week to say hello.

If she's sober enough to remember.

The main causes of mortality among Aboriginal infants were infection (29%), SIDS (27%), prematurity (16%) and birth defects (15%). In the most recent years studied, the relative risk compared to non-Aboriginal infants of death due to infection was 9 times higher and the risk of SIDS was nearly 8 times higher. There are measures that can be taken in the current state of knowledge to reduce the number of deaths from SIDS or infection.

Overall, 51% of Aboriginal mothers smoked. In 60% of infant deaths, Aboriginal mothers smoked during pregnancy. The risk of SIDS for infants of Aboriginal mothers who smoked was nearly three times that of Aboriginal mothers who did not smoke.

This is hilarious

Thanks Kae, much appreciation for the guidance to Rage and Biscuits.

Thursday, 24 January 2008

Pile of steaming bollocks

This came my way this week:

Apology to stolen generations – questions and answers

This material has been prepared by Reconciliation Australia to help Australians understand the background to the apology that will be made to the stolen generations by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.

1. Who are the stolen generations?
2. How do we know these people’s stories are true?
3. Why is it important to apologise to the stolen generations?
4. Why should Australians today apologise for something we aren’t responsible for?
5. What does an apology mean to me as a non-Indigenous Australian?
6. Why should we apologise when many Aboriginal people are actually better off because they were removed from dysfunctional families?
7. Will an apology lead to claims for compensation from members of the stolen generations?
8. Why is the word ‘sorry’ important as part of the apology?

1. Who are the stolen generations?

The term ‘stolen generations’ refers to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians who were forcibly removed from their families and communities by government, welfare or church authorities as children and placed into institutional care or with non-Indigenous foster families. The forced removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children began as early as the mid 1800s and continued until 1970.

This removal occurred as the result of official laws and policies aimed at assimilating the Indigenous population into the wider community.

The 1997 Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from their Families, conducted by the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission found that between 1 in 10 and 3 in 10 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children were forcibly removed from their families and communities in the period from 1910 to 1970.

The Western Australian and Queensland governments have confirmed that in that period all Indigenous families in their States were affected by the forced removal of children. It’s not possible to know precisely how many children were taken because government records of these removals are poor and many government files are inaccurate.

The stolen generation should not be confused with other government policies which aimed to help Aboriginal children from remote areas to go to school with their parents full consent. It should also not be confused with the removal of Indigenous and non-Indigenous children from dysfunctional families under welfare policies that continue to apply today.

2. How do we know these people’s stories are true?

All State and Territory governments have acknowledged past practices and policies of forced removal of Indigenous children on the basis of race. As part of this formal acknowledgement, all State and Territory governments have apologised for the trauma these policies have caused.

The report of the Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from their Families, called the Bringing them Home report, contains extensive evidence of past practices and policies which resulted in the removal of children. It also details the conditions into which many of the children were placed and discussed the negative impact this has had on individuals, their families and the broader Indigenous community.

The Inquiry took evidence from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, government and church representatives, former mission staff, foster and adoptive parents, doctors and health professionals, academics, police and others. It received over 777 submissions, including 535 from Indigenous individuals and organisations, 49 from church organisations and 7 from governments.

3. Why is it important to apologise to the stolen generations?

The Bringing Them Home report found that the forced removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families and communities has had life-long and profoundly disabling consequences for those taken and has negatively affected the Indigenous community. For many of the children, removal meant that they lost all connection to family, traditional land, culture and language.

It never goes away. Just ‘cause we’re not walking around on crutches or with bandages or plasters on our legs and arms, doesn’t mean we’re not hurting. Just ’cause you can’t see it doesn’t mean …I suspect I’ll carry these sorts of wounds ’til I the day I die. I’d just like it to be not quite as intense, that’s all. Confidential evidence 580, Queensland. Bringing Them Home Report

The reality of Australia’s stolen generations is not a thing of the distant past. Children were being inappropriately removed from their families by Australian authorities until 1969. Many people affected by the tragedy of the stolen generations are still alive today and live with its effects.

The Bringing Them Home report recommended that the first step in healing is the acknowledgment of truth and the delivery of an apology. It is the responsibility of the Australian Government, on behalf of previous Australian governments that administered this wrongful policy to acknowledge what was done and apologise for it.

This issue is a ‘blank spot’ in the history of Australia. The damage and trauma these policies caused are felt everyday by Aboriginal people. They internalise their grief, guilt and confusion, inflicting further pain on themselves and others around them. It is about time the Australian Government openly accepted responsibility for their actions and compensate those affected. Archie Roach and Ruby Hunter (In Buti A, Bringing them home the ALSA way)

4. Why should Australians today apologise for something we aren’t responsible for?

Individual Australians are not providing the apology. The apology is being provided by the Australian Government in recognition of policies of past governments. Similarly, the former Australian Government apologised to Vietnam veterans for the policies of previous governments.

The current Government is apologising for wrongful policies of governments. No individual Australian is being asked to take personal responsibility for actions of past governments.

5. What does an apology mean to me as a non-Indigenous Australian?

Following on from apologies already made by all State and Territory governments and the churches, an official apology to members of the stolen generations by the Australian Government is an important step towards building a respectful new relationship between us as Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. Respectful relationships are essential if we are to solve persistent problems.

In this way, the apology will allow us to work together more effectively towards closing the 17-year life expectancy gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous children - the starkest evidence of how government policies have failed. It is an important starting point in healing the wounds and an historic step forward for our nation that we can be proud of.

The apology is not an expression of personal responsibility or guilt by individual Australians. But it does reflect our Australian values of compassion and a fair go, and allows the victims of bad policy to feel that their pain and suffering has been acknowledged. It’s important that Australians understand the background to the apology so they understand why it’s a good thing for the nation – it is this understanding that will realise the great potential of this historic moment to move our nation forward.

These days I don’t understand why it should be such a big deal to say sorry for the injustices that have been done to Indigenous people. I know some people feel differently but, to me, saying sorry just feels necessary as a first step towards moving forward together. Daniel Johns, lead singer of Silverchair

6. Why should we apologise when many Aboriginal people are actually better off because they were removed from dysfunctional families?

It is true that some Indigenous children were removed from their families on genuine welfare grounds. It is also true that some children who were removed received some advantages, for example in education, but the overwhelming impact of the forced removal policy was damaging. People involved in the removal of children genuinely believed they were doing the right thing. But as we now know, they were not.

It’s important to understand that the “stolen generations” refer to those children who were removed on the basis of their race alone. In contrast with the removal of non-Indigenous children, proof of neglect was not always required to remove Indigenous children. That one of their parents was of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent was enough.

The predominant aim of the forced removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families was to absorb or assimilate children with mixed ancestry into the non-Indigenous community. As Brisbane's Telegraph newspaper reported in May 1937: Mr Neville [the Chief Protector of WA] holds the view that within one hundred years the pure black will be extinct. But the half-caste problem is increasing every year. Therefore their idea is to keep the pure blacks segregated and absorb the half-castes into the white population. Perhaps it will take one hundred years, perhaps longer, but the race is dying.

The Bringing Them Home report found that many children were removed solely on the basis of skin colour. Because of this, siblings from the one family who were considered to be of lighter skin colour would be removed when others were left.

The suggestion that stolen generations children were better off is untrue on any reasonable
assessment of the cases where they were placed in situations of deprivation, neglect and abuse.
People who were removed gave evidence to the Inquiry of their mistreatment under State care - this ranged from inadequate food and clothing, to physical, sexual and psychological abuse.
Almost a quarter of witnesses to the Inquiry who were fostered or adopted reported being physically abused. One in five reported being sexually abused. One in six children sent to institutions reported physical abuse and one in ten reported sexual abuse.

7. Will an apology lead to claims for compensation from members of the stolen generations?

The Bringing Them Home report recommended the establishment of a national compensation fund for people affected by the forcible removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children. The aim of the fund would be to offer reparation to those affected and avoid the courts having to deal with costly individual litigation.

An official apology is not directly related to compensation. All State and Territory governments have apologised and this has not triggered any rush of compensation claims.
The Tasmanian Government has chosen to set up a compensation fund for members of the stolen generations in that State. It has provided $5 million in capped payments to be divided among eligible people and their families.

The Government of South Australia is also considering establishing a fund.
Queensland and New South Wales have ruled out stolen generations compensation funds,
although both States are providing reparations for policies under which Aboriginal people could be put to work but not paid.

The West Australian Government announced in late 2007 the ‘Redress WA’ program to provide
monetary and emotional support to people who were abused as children in State care, including
members of the stolen generations.

The Australia Government has said it will not establish a fund at the national level but will direct
funds to counselling services for members of the stolen generations and services that help people who were removed as children to find their families and communities.
Reconciliation for me is about recognising the past. Acting in the present. And building a better
future. The Hon. Paul Lennon MP, Premier of Tasmania

8. Why is the word ‘sorry’ important as part of the apology?

The word ‘sorry’ holds special meaning in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture. In many Aboriginal communities, sorry is an adapted English word used to describe the rituals surrounding death (Sorry Business). Sorry, in these contexts, is also often used to express empathy or sympathy rather than responsibility.

During the 2007 election campaign, then Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd also recognised the
significance of the word sorry:
“… simply saying that you’re sorry is such a powerful symbol. Powerful not because it represents some expiation of guilt. Powerful not because it represents any form of legal requirement. But powerful simply because it restores respect”

9. Why didn’t the former Australian Government say sorry?

In 1997, the recommendation of the Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait
Islander Children from their Families for an official apology was not taken up by the new Australian Government led by John Howard. Mr Howard argued that it was not appropriate for the current Government to apologise for the actions of past governments. He also said he was concerned that a formal admission of wrongdoing would lead to compensation litigation.

All State and Territory governments did issue formal apologies in the period following the Inquiry and these did not generate a rush of compensation claims.

In 1999, the Australian Government moved a motion for reconciliation with an expression of:
“deep and sincere regret that indigenous Australians suffered injustices under the practices of past generations, and for the hurt and trauma that many indigenous people continue to feel as a
consequence of those practices.”

10. Will the apology mean that reconciliation has been achieved?

An apology from the Australian Government to the stolen generations is one important step in
achieving the overarching objective of reconciliation which is to close the 17-year life expectancy
gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous children. It is important because it removes a barrier to us establishing a more respectful relationship as Indigenous and non-Indigenous fellow Australians.

Closing the life expectancy gap involves consistent, long term action by governments, and by all
Australians, in health, education, housing, employment etc and also in building respectful
relationships that generate better outcomes for us all.

Aboriginal academic Marcia Langton suggests that a formal apology will achieve two things: firstly it will aid in the restoration of a sense of dignity and legitimacy to those who have suffered, and secondly it will acknowledge the serious harm done by previous governments to a class of people on the grounds of their race.

True reconciliation between the Australian nation and its indigenous peoples is not achievable in
the absence of acknowledgment by the nation of the wrongfulness of the past dispossession,
oppression and degradation of the Aboriginal peoples. Sir William Deane, Governor-General of
Australia, 1997

Case Study: Canada's ‘Common Experience Fund’

Canada’s Indigenous population shares some of the experiences of Indigenous Australians. From
the early 1880s, Indigenous Canadian children were removed from their homes on the basis of their race and placed in church-run, government funded residential schools. From 1920 until early 1970 this removal was experienced by practically all Indigenous children. These schools were created to encourage assimilation and to suppress Indigenous culture and language.

The United Church of Canada recently apologised for this “horrendous period of Canadian history” and the Canadian Government also extended a formal apology in the form of an action plan. The action plan included a statement of reconciliation in which the Canadian Government recognised and apologised for “the single most harmful, disgraceful and racist act” in their history.

The apology led to a range of lawsuits and helped Ottawa’s Government to come to a settlement
with First Nation representatives. As a result of the settlement, the Canadian Government provided a $1.9 billion compensation fund for the ‘common experience’ of all people who were affected by the removal of Indigenous children. All residential school survivors are entitled to apply for the ‘common experience payment’. If the applicant is successful they receive a standard $10,000 in compensation and a further $3,000 for each year they were placed in the school. The Government has also provided an extra $3 billion in compensation to survivors who suffered sexual and physical abuse in the residential schools.

Currently 85,080 applications for the ‘common experience’ payment have been received. Of that number, 56,625 have been processed with 46,910 being successful.

Interesting site

Australians on the Western Front.

Why are cyclists coffee mad?

As much as I like a good coffee, or reading about coffee, I am not a big coffee drinker. I guess I will be forever black balled from the fraternity of road cyclists. I think the membership test involves knocking back 10 short blacks and then riding until your pants explode.

I have never done the coffee and riding thing. Well, may be I did it once, when I stopped at a shop that sold handmade chocolates and coffees, and I had to sample a bit of each. But that was a one off, although I will do it again if I ever ride down to the airport again on a day when that cafe is open.

My normal pre-ride drink is a bit of Endura, because I used to suffer from wicked muscle cramps and spasms. I'd wake up at 3am with a cramped calf muscle and it would be agony. Nasty, nasty way to get woken up. Since I started to do the Endura thing twice a day, the cramps have gone and never come back.

But today, I decided to tempt fate and screw with my routine. I made a short black coffee using instant muck and had a bit of that before hitting the road.

Big mistake. Within about 2 kilometres, my heart was absolutely racing, even though I was just tonking along at a slow cadence. It was going so fast, I started to feel sick. Clearly, a caffeine jolt first thing in the morning before a bit of exercise is not the thing for me. The only jolt I need is to do a fast cadence spin on the flat to get the legs warmed up.

I do enjoy a coffee after I get to work, but some mornings, I can't take just a single latte. I drink about half of it for the taste, but have to stop at that because just that amount sets my heart racing again. Other mornings, I need a whole coffee and then feel like a short black on top as a bit of a booster. I have no idea what causes the variation in the reaction to coffee on different days. Probably sleep.

PS - this blogicle may hold the answer.

A day in the life of...

This morning felt like a scene out of The Truman Show. There I am, riding along when this guy pops out of a side street right in front of me. I tailed him for a while - long enough to get this photo at least.

Then a few streets later, another cyclist pops out in front of both of us and hightails it up the hill. I hadn't warmed up enough to catch him, but there he is, slogging away from us in the distance.

That scene was repeated all the way into town. As I headed around the Bay, this dude in black popped out in front of us.

Then unfortunately, so did this thing, and I got a lung full of rotting fish and week old nappies.

When I got to Lilyfield Road, it happened again. There I am, cruising along when a bike suddenly appears in front of me. What is going on? Is this leap out in front of other cyclists week?

Check out the calves on this guy.

On the way home, I was momentarily annoyed by this bloke on his electric bike. He seemed to make a point of trying to overtake me at the worst possible moments, like at choke points or when we were trying to negotiate a nasty set of traffic lights.

The electric assist is not a bad idea. Look at the way he is dressed - he could ride from one end of town without breaking a sweat, whilst I get home looking like I have just taken a dip in the pool.

I still dragged his arse off though. He was toodling around behind Darling Harbour and I just ripped past him. Har har har - take that Mr Electric Dude. The only thing he really used his battery for was to run two red lights. I hate that.

I tailed this guy for a while on the way home, mainly because he was the first cyclist to not leap out in front of me today. I was intrigued by what he was wearing. His shirt is not lycra, but it is made out of some easy to breathe exercise material. I don't get the wearing of a shirt like that and then a reflective belt over the top. Why not just do as I do and buy a nice lycra shirt that is very breathable and is so bright, it's amost reflective all over?

This runner deserves a mention. I tailed him for a few hundred metres, and clocked him at 23km/h. He was really moving, and he looked unbelievably fit. Way to go - what an athelete. This man is a running God.

Wednesday, 23 January 2008

Heath Ledger is dead

And so what?


Tomorrow is a very important day in the bike commuting calendar - it is towel changeover day. This is not a national day celebrated by bike commuters everywhere - it is simply the day when I have remembered to take a fresh towel into work.

Towel changeover day should have happened 3 weeks ago, so as you can imagine, the current inhabitant of the locker room at work is getting a bit manky. However, it is better to have a manky towel than no towel at all - which is something that I discovered to my cost last year. I had to dry myself with a pair of socks.

The lesson from that episode is to never bring the manky towel home until you have taken a fresh towel into work. I thought I'd just bring the manky towel home, and I'd automatically remember to take a fresh one in the day after.

Um, wrong.

The moment I threw the towel into the washing basket and set foot in the back door, all thoughts of soft, fluffy towels were completely forgotten about.

I have also figured out that if I am to take a fresh towel in, I have to pre-load it into my backpack the night before. That's because my morning routine is so rigid, and I am so dopey in the morning, I will never remember to pack one at 6am. If I was able to remember to pack one at 6am, I would have had a fresh towel at work 3 weeks ago.

So I have just packed a towel.

One trick about having a towel in a shared locker room is to have an old, ragged towel that looks like it was last used for cleaning a wildebeest. There are 12 lockers in our locker room, but about 50 people seem to use the room. That means that towels are hanging everywhere, and there is a big sign in a prominent position that reminds people to not use a towel that belongs to someone else. I am not overly thrilled by the idea of a co-worker using my towel without me knowing about it, but I am not so hung up on it that if I discovered such an act, that I'd take the towel out onto the footpath and set it on fire. That said, if you really want to avoid having your towel used more than once a day, don't have a gorgeous, fluffy towel that screams "use me". Have a scratchy old thing with the fringe hanging off that says "put me out of my misery and throw me out".

The sad thing is that I have a reasonably large collection of such towels.

Bike free day

I'm having a day off - no pedal work today. That means I don't have a chance of cracking the 100 mile total this week, but it meant that I was free to go for a longer, faster ride yesterday.

OK, longer and faster have to be put in perspective here. I am talking about the equivalent of giving amphetamines to a turtle. Instead of going step.............step...........step..............step, he would be going step......step.......step.....step - you see the mammoth increase in speed that I am talking about?

It just meant that I was free to push it on the hills and the flats as I would not be crawling out of bed at 6am for the ride into work. I pulled Jackie Stewart out of the memory banks and gave it the "More power!" all the way home. The upshot was that by 8pm, I was almost asleep standing up. Amazing how well I sleep after really giving it the gun on the way home.

So I have no morning routine to attend to this morning. I don't have to worry about putting fresh socks and jocks in my back pack, finding the case for my reading glasses (so they don't get mangled as they jostle around in the backpack with the bike chain, phone, wallet etc). Last night, I didn't have to lay out some knicks and a jersey and some socks in the office, in preparation for an early morning change. (I have found that I wake fewer people up if I get dressed outside the bedroom when it is pitch black).

My morning drink was a coffee instead of a glass of Endura (to ward off the cramps and latter-day muscle spasms). I actually got to eat breakfast at home (an omelet with truffles no less).

There was no getting the hands dirty whilst putting a few more pounds of air in the tyres. No tippy-toeing across the wet grass in bare feet to the back patio where I pull on my socks and shoes and helmet and gloves. No fretting about whether I had forgotten my company ID or not.

Funnily enough, the morning seems to be really empty and without purpose as a result.

Call me utterly gobsmacked

I never thought I would see the day when Iemma did something where I would give him two big thumbs up, but the day has arrived.

After ending up with two waterlogged vandals, there were calls for maps of Sydneys underground caverns and stuff to be removed from the Sydney Water website.

That's completely flaming stupid. The people that go crawling around in these tunnels have been doing it for years - long before an interweb existed - and taking the maps down will have no effect. I hate people who have one reaction to any event - a kneejerk reaction.

Iemma slapped them down with a bit of common sense.

The Premier, Morris Iemma, said yesterday he saw no need for Sydney Water to remove maps of tunnels and drains from its website despite the tragedy.

Mr Iemma said Sydney Water was working with police in investigations into the incident but said staying out of drains should be a matter of simple common sense.

"Regardless of where you get the information from, whether you access it from the web, whether you get it from the newspaper or whether you just get it by driving around, these are not places for you to be," Mr Iemma said.

"It is in the territory of personal responsibility.

Common sense! Personal responsibility!


I also read today that idiots are setting lots of fires per day on CityRail's trains. I am sure the SMH will print a story before the year is out of a vandal choking to death on the smoke from his own fire, and some kneejerking fool will call for all seats to be removed from CityRail trains, because if you pour petrol all over them, they will burn.

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

Two view from the Iron Cove bridged

The local wing nuts have been busy this week, running around sticking posters on every available vertical surface that beseech thee to get thyself to a rally to object to a new bridge at this location.

I think the protesters are confused. What they should be objecting to is an extra bridge, not a new one. For those of you not from around here, the latest proposal is to slap up another bridge next to the existing bridge, thus moving the morning and evening bottlenecks about a kilometre up the road in each direction. I don't care - I ride a bike in order to avoid sitting in a car during peak hour traffic. I did a survey on happiness and stress tonight, and it reminded me that I have very little stress in my life. That's mainly because I have assiduously avoided the major causes of stress - traffic and huge debt. Plus working in an office full of numb skulls.

Riding to and from work with a view like this helps to keep my stress levels down around the level of a Buddhist monk. That's a ferry getting ready to pull into the wharf at Birkenhead Point. Nice.

That's the view in one direction as you rde across the Iron Cove Bridge. I like this view.

Here is the other view. This bridge amazes me because there is absolutely no guard or safety rail between the footpath and the road. Libertarians might think thats a good thing, but all you need is for two joggers to collide and one of them is going to end up under a car speeding past. I always get paranoid when it's really windy, and the cross winds start blowing the bike this way and that.

I like the idea of a new bridge because it might include proper paths for pedestrians and cyclists, rather than the abortion which the RTA has currently saddled us with. So the pointy headed protesters can take their posters and stick them up their arse. I want to see concrete, and lots of it, and sooner rather than later.