Category Archives: South Sydney Herald

Racing to save the Reef


Nemo waited at the edge of the City2Surf starting line, desperate to save the Great Barrier Reef. Instead of a fish tank of friends, Nemo was accompanied by almost 40 Australian Youth Climate Coalition (AYCC) volunteers calling on Westpac to pre-emptively declare it will not fund the Abbot Point-X coal port expansion in the Great Barrier Reef.

“Nemo’s got nowhere else to run if the Great Barrier Reef is destroyed,” said Ella Weisbrot, NSW Co-Coordinator of AYCC. So, armed with flyers, 1,500 stickers and a large banner, the environmentalists spoke to thousands of people about the dangers facing the reef, collected 5,000 open letter signatures and even made a brief appearance on Sunrise.

Despite having their banner confiscated by security, the response they got was overwhelmingly supportive. “Australians just think it’s madness to risk something as special and as a beautiful as the Great Barrier Reef,” Ms Weisbrot said.

In addition to the City2Surf, which was sponsored by Westpac, AYCC volunteers have been visiting Westpac headquarters regularly and meeting with 275 branch managers across the east coast states. They have received support from many staff members with 100 branch managers committing to raise an internal question over Westpac’s stance on the AP-X project funding.

With international banks like Deutsche Bank, HSBC, RBS, Barclays and Credit Agricole all declaring their refusal to fund the project, the AYCC is hoping Australia’s big four banks will follow the same path. Early this year, Westpac was crowned the most sustainable company in the world; it is this company culture that AYCC is appealing to. “It’s in no way a smear campaign,” Ms Weisbrot said. “We’re really calling on Westpac to live up to their excellent sustainability reputation and be the first Australian bank to publicly make the declaration that they won’t fund coal ports on the reef.”

In February, the young activists claimed a huge victory when major property developer, Lend Lease, withdrew its bid from the AP-X expansion after a six-month AYCC campaign. This, along with earlier withdrawals from BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto, has left GVK Reddy and Gautam Adani as the last remaining major developers of the AP-X port.

Adani’s $16 billion Carmichael coal project in the Galilee Basin has already been rife with difficulties due to falling coal prices, lack of funding and the controversy surrounding plans to dredge three million cubic metres of sediment into the Great Barrier Reef. AYCC’s current appeal to Australian banks is a further attempt to block funding from a project that threatens to destroy the reef for future generations.

Ms Weisbrot said it would be “irresponsible” to sit back and hope companies will boycott the AP-X project without public pressure. “As young people, our future is really important to us so we really need to make sure that it’s at the forefront of the minds of decision-makers because nobody else is making that point for us right now.”

Published in South Sydney Herald, September.



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A different kind of protest

AYCC-LendLease-GBR-AbbotTraditionally, the stereotype of social justice action portrays angry placard holders shouting slogans of condemnation at institutions. However, an Australian environmental youth organisation has taken a different approach and it has proven successful.

Walk past an Australian Youth Climate Coalition (AYCC) campaign and you are likely to find Nemo costumes, flowers being handed out on Valentine’s Day or a summer beach party.

These were the tactics used by around 40 Sydney campaigners and many more across Australia in AYCC’s latest four-month campaign calling on Lend Lease, Australia’s biggest listed property developer, to withdraw funding from the controversial Abbot Point X (AP-X) Terminal expansion on the Great Barrier Reef.

On January 31, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) approved a proposal to dredge three million cubic metres of spoil from the Abbot Point coal terminal in the marine park. The port’s expansion is to make way for the transportation of millions of tonnes of coal from Queensland’s Galilee Basin via rail.

There have been several debates over the environmental impact this project will have. The GBRMPA has pointed to “47 stringent conditions” placed on the project to protect the reef but many environmentalists still fear the dredged sediment of sand, silt and clay will drift and smother corals, hindering coral regeneration.

Underlying AYCC’s fun snap actions was a serious message about protecting the Great Barrier Reef for future generations. Throughout the campaign, AYCC representatives attended Lend Lease’s shareholder meetings and together with petition website, SumOfUs, AYCC collected almost 170,000 signatures from individuals and 36 community groups who expressed concern for the reef’s future.

It worked. On February 26, Lend Lease announced it would withdraw its funding from the AP-X coal port project.

The journey

When AYCC first heard in October last year that Lend Lease agreed to participate in a joint bid with transport provider Aurizon Holdings to fund the AP-X terminal, they were “shocked” because it seemed to contradict Lend Lease’s reputation for sustainability, said Ella Weisbrot, AYCC NSW Co-Coordinator.

Lend Lease’s core principle was stated by Founder, Dick Dusseldorp, in 1973: “Companies must start justifying their worth to society, with greater emphasis placed on environmental and social impact rather than straight economics” (published on Lend Lease’s website).

Considering Lend Lease’s “really good reputation for sustainability”, AYCC decided to give them the benefit of the doubt, targeting shareholders at the Lend Lease AGM with a positive message.

“It’s giving people the opportunity to do the right thing rather than assuming that they’ve already done the wrong thing,” Weisbrot said. “Instead of just getting angry and waving a placard in their face, we had all these positive messages we could take to them and I don’t think it’s surprising that people respond better to positive messaging than to telling them that they’re awful human beings.”

Economic interests

However, not all companies interested in the AP-X coal port are also interested in environmental sustainability. For many, including Lend Lease, commercial interests are highly influential in decision-making.

In a call with analysts, Lend Lease CEO, Stephen McCann, said the withdrawal was partly due to “commercial drivers”. He also pointed to environmental considerations among “other aspects”.

With Rio Tinto pulling out of the AP-X project in 2012 and BHP Billiton pulling out in 2013, the recent withdrawal of Lend Lease has left campaigners optimistic that other companies will consider the project’s lack of economic viability. “There is starting to be this sort of domino effect where companies are looking at the global coal market and looking at the kind of money that would need to be put in to tap this coal in Queensland and saying ‘it’s just not economically viable’,” Weisbrot said.

Though coal prices are dropping, there are further concerns that this will push companies to compensate by extracting higher volumes, according to AYCC’s other NSW Co-Coordinator, Millie Anthony. “It’s like they can see the end point so they’re just going hell for leather in the last 10, 15 years of the industry just trying to make as much money as possible with completely no regard to the impact that’s going to have,” Anthony said.

AYCC looks to the future

The latest success with Lend Lease has boosted AYCC’s enthusiasm to fight for a safe climate future. “Sometimes a situation seems so vast. We’re campaigning against organisations full of power and money,” Weisbrot said. “But when things like this happen, it just shows you that we really do have power as young people and as a movement.”

The AYCC’s newest campaign, Safe Climate Roadmap, has just been launched to call on the government to not go backwards on climate change. Its three government policy goals are: moving away from coal and gas; moving to 100 per cent renewable energy within ten years; and reducing carbon pollution by 40 per cent by 2020.

“That’s what science has told us needs to happen for a safe climate future. There’s no point aiming for anything less because if what we’re trying to do is avoid catastrophic climate change, those are the things we need to do,” Weisbrot said.

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Published in the South Sydney Herald, April Issue 2014.

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New arrest laws legalise poor policing according to legal expert

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Two months before Barry O’Farrell announced the ‘one punch’ laws, he passed a different law that expands police powers to arrest without warrant. Like the ‘one punch’ laws, the arrest laws have been met with controversy, with some South Sydney community groups fearing the expanded arrest powers will reduce in-depth investigation and leave vulnerable people more exposed to abuse.

Passed November 27 last year, the amended section 99 of the Law Enforcement (Power and Responsibility) Act 2002 gives new legal justifications for arresting without a warrant: to stop a person from fleeing, to inquire about the identity of the person, to obtain property in possession of the person connected to the offence, to preserve the safety and welfare of any person and “because of the nature and seriousness of the offence.”

According to the Government, the new arrest laws work to clarify the law and prevent criminals from escaping conviction and suing police for false imprisonment.

Premier Barry O’Farrell said, “There is evidence criminals were using the lack of clarity around arrest powers as a loophole to escape conviction and in some instances sue police for large payouts.”

However, the amendment will encourage lower quality policing according to Redfern Legal Centre’s (RLC) Police Powers Solicitor, David Porter.

“Poor police work has become lawful”, said Mr Porter, who does not believe the change was necessary. He said that experienced police officers knew how to use existing laws to make necessary arrests – most problems came from inexperienced officers who needed better training. “Instead, what the Government’s doing here is creating a usual scenario where you don’t need that much evidence to arrest someone and so you don’t get into a daily habit of conducting investigation”, he said.

Now community members fear how the expanded powers and alleged potential for lower policing standards will impact on the most vulnerable, who may be unable to access legal aid.

RLC often assists people who have had “traumatic experiences” in police custody. “We regularly deal with people with mental health issues or intellectual disabilities who haven’t been believed that they have a condition”, Mr Porter said. He highlighted young people, Aboriginal people and people with mental health issues –all classified as “vulnerable persons” in the legislation – as those for whom custody is a particularly “bad experience”. “That’s why it has been so traditionally important for hundreds of years to use arrest as a power of last resort”. The increased powers instead “make the default position arrest then investigate”, he said.

With these wider police powers come heightened fears of police abuse. “And whilst the vast majority of police won’t abuse their position, it is well documented that there are those who do”, said Michael Shreenan, Executive Officer of the Factory Community Centre, an organisation that assists public housing tenants. “Often abuse occurs against the most vulnerable members of our community, who are seen as an easy target, have limited access to legal support and may not be in a position to defend themselves against wrongful arrests”. “There is a legitimate fear that the new powers could be used habitually”, he said.

Protection against racism may also suffer according to Ray Jackson, President of the Indigenous Social Justice Association. “The racism that is endemic in the police forces of Australia will only be enhanced by these lazy laws”, he said.

Mr Porter, Mr Shreenan and Mr Jackson all recognised the importance that police are adequately equipped to prevent crime, but said it must be achieved through better training and regular supervision from police commanders over their officers. The new law is “the easy and less costly way out” according to Mr Jackson.

It is now for the courts to construe the legislation, particularly the ground upon which a police officer may arrest without a warrant if the officer is “satisfied that the arrest is reasonably necessary” “because of the nature and seriousness of the offence”. RLC’s Mr Porter believes this basis of arrest is inadequately vague. “What on earth does that mean?” he said. “There’s no guidance given in the legislation”

“There will be argument over what the test actually now means and whether the police officer has become the only judge of what is reasonably necessary. That is in conflict with previous decisions of courts in Australia including the High Court”, Mr Porter said.

Published in the South Sydney Herald, February 2014.

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Local crowned International Student of the Year

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When 22 year-old Leticia Cabral Satiro Luiz first came to Australia from Brazil to study at the University of Sydney (USYD), she was excited to meet people of all different nations. It’s this enthusiasm that led to her being crowned the NSW International Student of 2013.

Leticia comes from a small rural town called Oliveira in Brazil. She left there when she was 16 years old to go to a selective school in the city before starting a mechanical engineering degree at Universidade Estadual de Campinas. In July 2012, she received a Science Without Borders scholarship and left Brazil to study engineering in Australia.

Upon arriving, language was the most difficult hurdle. “I used to be a good communicator but when I got here I couldn’t talk to people,” she said. “You can’t understand what a person is saying. It’s very frustrating.”

She also recalled reluctance and shyness among other international students to cross cultural boundaries. “Many people have a strong tendency to stay with other people from their own nationality,” she said. But she persisted in trying to bring different cultures together.

She began giving speeches and leading forums at the Centre for English Teaching USYD (CET), encouraging students to join extracurricular activities and meet people from different countries. “When you get to know people from other cultures, it’s adding to yourself because it’s something different, something that you don’t know,” she said. “You don’t know much about your own culture until you compare your culture with something else.”

In 2012, she helped organise a talent show for CET’s annual awards ceremony, showcasing acts like Chinese folk dancing and a pipa music performance. She also volunteered for Engineers Without Borders early 2013, assisting in an event that encouraged Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander high school students to consider a career in engineering.

She was rewarded for all her work on October 10 last year when StudyNSW and the NSW Department of Premier and Cabinet presented her with the NSW International Student of the Year Award in the English Language Intensive Courses for Overseas Students category.

USYD Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Professor Tyrone Carlin, says CET nominated Leticia for her ongoing commitment to building stronger student communities and her leadership skills in creating opportunities for international students to meet and integrate with Australian students.

Leticia said her experience in Australia has been “life changing”, enabling her to develop public speaking skills, empathy for other nationalities and a better understanding of worldwide education systems. Returning home late February, Leticia is now hoping to share what she’s learnt of Australia’s “good educational system” in order to improve Brazil’s own system.


Published in the South Sydney Herald, February 2014.

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NCIE nets the Sydney Kings

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“Growing up in the Virgin Islands, I was told that I could never be a basketball player,” said Leon Trimmingham, Sydney Kings basketball legend. It is this kind of negative message that a new partnership between Sydney Kings and the National Centre of Indigenous Excellence (NCIE) seeks to challenge by opening doorways for young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders to pursue their dreams.

Despite what “Neon Leon” was told, the boy from the small island followed his dream and became a professional basketball player for 14 years, having just recently been named in the Kings’ 25th anniversary team. “Dreams do exist,” Leon said. “I’m a living example that dreams exist.”

Under the partnership, made official on October 15, Sydney Kings players train regularly at NCIE’s extensive sporting facilities. Players also help run local school clinics, holiday programs and afterschool programs where they assist children with reading and homework before going out on court to teach them basketball.

The benefits of sport are both physical and emotional. “When someone’s playing sport, they can’t be out getting in trouble,” said NCIE General Manager, Rohan Tobler. “[Sport is good for] health, fitness, lifestyle, getting outdoors, exercising … but it also teaches structure, responsibility, commitment and sometimes, competitive edge.”

More than that, the partnership is about sharing Aboriginal culture with the Sydney Kings to enable them to best cater to any future Aboriginal basketball stars.

Sydney Kings Administration Manager, Lorraine Landon, welcomed the prospect of having an Aboriginal person playing in their top-10 team. In laying out the career pathway, she said, “It’s important that we understand the culture. It’s not one-size-fits-all. So it is about making sure we understand what’s important to them, how they’re thinking, and allow them to grow at their pace rather than pushing them into something when they’re not ready,” she said.

Rohan Tobler recognised the difficulties faced by young Aboriginal athletes when having to leave family structures to pursue professional sporting careers. “Part of the partnership is about being able to educate the Kings on [Aboriginal culture],” he said. “Together, as partners, we can only strengthen, not just for Indigenous Australians but for all Australians.”

Leon, Rohan and Lorraine all agreed there is a real opportunity for an NCIE kid to become a professional player. But, with the understanding that professional sport is not everyone’s destiny, the dream goes beyond basketball with the broader aim of encouraging kids to make the most of their talents.

“We try to give them a well-rounded experience that shows them that sport is not always the answer,” Rohan said. “Indigenous Australians tend to push towards sports because that’s where most of our role models lie. But the possibility for kids to become a carpenter or a doctor is a lot higher than becoming a professional sportsman if they’re committed. It’s about getting them exposure to different things, showing them what’s out there, how to get fulfilment in life and how to make a living.”

Sydney Kings and NCIE ran a 3on3 basketball tournament for 12-17 year olds on November 2. The finals will be played at the Sydney Kings home game against the Cairns Taipans on November 8 at the Sydney Entertainment Centre.

Published in the South Sydney Herald, p. 16, November 2013.

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Restoring Redfern’s 40,000 years mural

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In 1983, Redfern residents created the iconic 40,000 years mural. Thirty years later, the paint is peeling and graffiti blemishes the cracking wall. But recently, residents have united in a movement to rejuvenate the historical artwork.

Artist Carol Ruff played a key role in planning, designing and painting the 40,000 years mural in 1983. She explains how the now faded original images pay tribute to Redfern’s powerful Aboriginal history of abundance, tragedy, perseverance and accomplishment.

The salient message, “40,000 years is a long, long time/ 40,000 years still on my mind …” is inspired by Joe Geia’s song, “40,000 Years”. “We were trying to say that even before Redfern, Aboriginal people have been there, have been in that area, have known this country, this place,” Ms Ruff said.

The story begins with two Aboriginal feet, symbolising the first feet to ever step on this continent. The following images of spear-hunting, fishing, footsteps, the boats, the woman with a coolamon on her shoulder and the hunter all represent 40,000 years of Aboriginal people walking this country.

With the arrival of the first Europeans, shown by the ship and Aboriginal figures dying, the tone of the mural shifts. “Redfern to The Rocks were probably the first and worst hit areas in Australia of white settlement and people very quickly died from smallpox and other diseases that Europeans brought,” Ms Ruff said. “The Aboriginal community was decimated.”

What follows is a deeply confronting image of a young Aboriginal boy, standing in front of the first church built in the area. “That little boy represents the stolen generations and children being institutionalised,” Ms Ruff said. The image was a particularly powerful statement in the 1980s when many people had not heard of the stolen generations.

But the story does not end there. The street signs of Lawson and Eveleigh Street signify present day Redfern with the boomerang symbolising Aboriginal perseverance. “We’ll never go away, we’re here, we’ve come back, we haven’t lost our culture and we have survived,” Ms Ruff said. Featured in this section are Nana Williams surrounded by land rights colours, the 1983 Redfern All Blacks and an Aboriginal cheerleader. At the end is the tail of the Rainbow Snake, which weaves throughout the whole mural as a symbol of the long surviving history.

Over time the mural has been a significant part of the Redfern landscape. “For years, it was in immaculate condition,” Ms Ruff said. “Everybody respected it and knew if they went near it or made a mark on it that they’d be in big trouble.” It was the weather that started to take its toll on the mural. In response, “people used to go out there with pale blue paint and yellow and black paint and touch it up, not very well, but that was a really nice thing to see,” Ms Ruff recalled.

Now, residents are working to officially refurbish the fading mural. The movement started early this year when the pop-up Redfern Station Community Group (RSCG) set out to beautify Redfern with a community garden and two new murals at Gibbons Street and Redfern Station Platform 10.

Upon approaching NSW RailCorp, who owns the land for these projects, RSCG was told that RailCorp wanted the existing Lawson Street murals rejuvenated before any new murals could be created.

Key RSCG organiser, Desley Haas, accepted the reasoning of RailCorp as “common-sensical”. Residents must consider: “Why are you asking for something new when there’s something old there that you haven’t looked after properly?” she said. RSCG is currently formulating a proposal and seeking funding, preferably from Council.

Though the paint fades and the wall cracks, Aboriginality lives on in Redfern. Now, many South Sydney residents are hoping the iconic 40,000 years mural will also live on as a profound symbol of an ancient and living culture.

Published in the South Sydney Herald, p. 4, November 2013.

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Aboriginal Housing Company – 40 years and best yet to come

SSH_AUG13_05July 25 marked the 40th anniversary of the Aboriginal Housing Company and its long-term commitment to the provision of affordable housing for Aboriginal people.

Forty years ago, being Aboriginal meant being discriminated against in the private rental market. When conflicts arose between Aboriginal squatters in Redfern and the local authorities, Aboriginal activists were inspired to set up the Aboriginal Housing Company (AHC) in 1973. The AHC began purchasing land at The Block using a $500,000 grant from the Whitlam government.

The next 40 years were marked by highs and lows, struggles and disappointments, roadblocks and accomplishments.

In the 1970s and ’80s, The Block became a new urban home where Aboriginal people could belong. CEO of the AHC, Mick Mundine, recalls a “very caring and sharing” time. Music would fill the air and kids would play on the streets.

But the good times did not last.

In the 1990s, the Redfern community was slammed with drugs and alcohol, which preyed on deeper mental issues. “A lot of people get onto drugs because they’ve got no life for them,” Mr Mundine said. “[They wonder] where else to go? That’s when they turn to grog and they turn to drugs.”

A “vicious cycle” was begun and the AHC’s land was transformed into a safe environment for criminal habits, he said.

Mr Mundine blamed the government for perpetuating a “welfare mentality” amongst Aboriginal people. But he also emphasised the need for Aboriginal people to take responsibility for their actions.

The community was deteriorating and the AHC had to face the hard decision of whether or not to demolish the beloved Block. The 2004 Redfern riots sealed the deal: “Enough’s enough,” Mr Mundine said. Tenants would be relocated, The Block would be demolished and, ultimately, redeveloped.

Over the years, the AHC has had to fight hard to keep the Redfern land. Disagreements with the state government meant that it took ten years to gain Concept Approval for the $70 million Pemulwuy Project. Mr Mundine said the state government had tried to “crucify” the AHC because they wanted the land. “That land is prime real estate,” he said, pointing towards The Block.

Today, The Block remains in the hands of the AHC. A business plan is currently being written up by KPMG and the DA approval in December last year gives the AHC five years to complete the Pemulwuy Project. Outside Redfern, the company owns 41 houses across metropolitan and country areas, which will continue to be leased to Aboriginal people after The Block’s completion.

It has been a 40-year struggle but the passion of Mr Mundine and the AHC has not waned. More than simply providing affordable housing for Aboriginal people, its redevelopment projects are about self-determination and building a new community. Mr Mundine’s hope for the future envisions a brand new community with good housing, good parents, healthy kids going to school and tenants that work to make sure the vicious cycle of the past does not return.

Many non-Aboriginal people have also shown their support for creating a better Redfern. Not only was Mr Mundine thankful to his own company, but also to the several non-Indigenous supporters such as the City of Sydney, REDWatch, Superintendent Luke Freudenstein and the recently passed Col James. “I think it boils down to respect. We’re all working together, all want to achieve that one goal,” he said. Mr Mundine paid tribute to Col James, calling him a “legend” and a “brother”. “He had a good heart, he was strong in what he believed in. He was a man that looked after disadvantaged people in housing, especially Aboriginal people.”

Published in the South Sydney Herald, front page, August 2013.

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More young people falling by the Wayside

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KINGS CROSS: Demand on youth services in Kings Cross is growing as more young people drift into the area. 

Behind every drug addiction, crime, enslaved sex worker and homeless teen is a person with an intricate story that goes beyond his or her stumbles in life. Whether it is child abuse, mental illness or generational encounters with the legal system, these young people come from a broad range of backgrounds. But Wayside Chapel Youth Manager, Dean de Haas, narrowed it down to an underlying issue.

“A lot of our young people are really hurt by something. They’re just suffering some pain from somewhere,” he said. “Often, we have young people who’ve been told for a long time that they’re not going to amount to anything, so they follow that pathway themselves.”

Wayside Chapel, in Kings Cross, has experienced a dramatic increase of young visitors in need. Spread throughout the 2011/12 financial year, Wayside supported 31 people aged under 16. But in the last two months, it has already seen 28. In four years, the yearly intake of under 25-year-olds has increased from around 150 to 450 people.

Young people have not been spared Australia’s housing affordability crisis. A recent survey discovered housing to be the greatest unmet need for social service clients. At Wayside, only 10 of the 450 people under 25 years of age had stable accommodation in the last financial year.

With more of these young people finding their way into Kings Cross, Mr de Haas is concerned this opens the door for teens to be groomed by people who might not have their best interests at heart.

Still, in an area plagued by drugs, crime and homelessness, beauty arises in places like Wayside where members of the community unite to help themselves. Importantly, Wayside gives a “hand up” not a “hand out”. There is dignity in the way visitors choose and pay for their meals at the café. The drop-in youth space, with couches, a chalkboard wall and a kitchen, is a safe place for young people to own and look after.

The Employment Pathways Project helps to foster ambition and self-worth. The excitement was evident on Mr de Haas’s face when he told the story of a young man who went from asking for money on the streets to being the leading salesperson at a call centre.

But the demand is getting tougher in Kings Cross, Mr de Haas says. “It is a challenge and it means we have to train our volunteers to be able to take on greater roles. Our youth service has opened for longer hours to meet that need. We have increased staffing, but we haven’t received any increased funding.”

There are currently two full-time and two part-time youth workers at Wayside, accompanied by 28 volunteer shifts a week. According to Mr de Haas, funding from NSW Health only makes up around 30 per cent of their budget, the rest of which is acquired through fundraising and foundations.

Across Australia, youth services have been under increased strain with 65 per cent saying they have had to lengthen working hours and limit service levels.

In May, many were outraged when the NSW government announced it would disband the Kings Cross Adolescent Unit, which has provided after-hours specialist youth support for 27 years. The Public Service Association called this a disastrous move and accused the government of having “no effective plan” for tackling youth risks on the streets.

Published in the South Sydney Herald, p. 4, August 2013. 

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Faces behind the fashion tags

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With over 1,100 lives lost, the Bangladesh factory tragedy has placed a magnifying glass over the issue of labour exploitation. From beneath the rubble, stories of survival and loss emerge – the faces behind the fashion tags.
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Redfern Station: the elephant in the room

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REDFERN: Denise Clark goes through Redfern Station once a week. Every time, it is “a nightmare,” she said. Five years ago, a slight kneecap injury spiralled into disaster after a surgeon made a mistake. Now, Ms Clark struggles to walk steadily with a severed nerve, a rectangular machine fastened to her leg and four artificial ligaments and a screw installed in her knee.

Even her journey to meet me in Redfern proved challenging. “I nearly cried twice,” she said. Holding the handrail, Ms Clark recalled being bumped heavily by two men rushing down the stairs.

As of 2011, Redfern is the sixth busiest train station in Sydney with over 46,000 barrier counts each day. With 12 platforms, it is second only to Central in interchange possibilities. There are no lifts or ramps.

In February, the SSH reported on the next stage of the Lift Redfern campaign. A fun, new marketing strategy of Phase Two has been to ask university students to devise a method of transporting an elephant onto a Redfern platform.

On April 11, engineering students Oasika Faiz and Matt Broom were announced the winners of the elephant competition with their hydraulic pulley design. Other less technical responses involved fairy dust, releasing mice or poking the elephant with a giant pointy stick. Lift Redfern will soon launch a similar competition for children.

Labor Sydney Councillor, Linda Scott, expressed full support, saying lifts at Redfern are “overdue”. Living in Erskineville as a mother of two young children, Ms Scott regularly has to ask for help when dragging her children’s pram up and down the station steps. “It’s just not good enough that people have to rely on the never-ending kindness of strangers,” she said.

Lift Redfern campaigners are frustrated by successive NSW governments’ inaction and broken promises. Key organiser, Bill Yan, said: “We’ve been overlooked and we want answers.”

Lift Redfern supporter, Ross Smith, said: “Ms Berejiklian [Transport Minister] is treating Redfern Station as the elephant in her room. There is a demonstrated need. There is also a marked diversion to publicly acknowledging and meeting that need.”

According to Mr Smith, “Redfern station was to be funded by the sale of government assets around the immediate area”. He said: “They’ve sold the properties but they haven’t done [up] the station.”

Denise Clark wants to see lifts at Redfern Station. “I don’t know how many more people [the government is] going to have to see fall down the stairs or injure themselves on the stairs before they do something about it,” she said. Until then, her commuting will remain a struggle.

You can sign the Lift Redfern online petition and add in your own reasons for supporting lifts at Redfern here.

Published in the South Sydney Herald, p. 5 , May 2013.

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