Heavy as a History Book

by Aubrey Simmons

The lyrical artists Dry the River drones in one of their songs, “As heavy as the history books can be, come carry them with me.”  As I thought about a person that would be the epitome of an Australian born and raised citizen this song kept making me ponder, who is it that really knows what it means to hold the heaviness of the history book in their hands?  After coming to the young nation of Australia I became aware that the Australian history book is comparatively thin and sparse, however, it is still ink blotted with hardship and is heavy with grief.  As I began to get to know the homeless population in Sydney, I was bombarded day by day with the depth of hurt and isolation that they feel on an hourly basis.  They are on the outside, on the fringes, looking in.  The homeless are the people who tell the story of what it means to be affected and dejected as a result of various events in their history.  The homeless are the epitome of the Australian battler, which characterizes this country.

 

A wise fortune cookie once instructed me with the Chinese proverb, “We see what is behind our eyes”.  Before getting to know those people who sink into the landscape of the city, I had been seeing what was behind my own eyes.  I thought I knew what they were like and why they had ended up begging and isolated to the streets. Perception is a funny thing.  I have realized that most of the time my perceptions are truly tinted, tainted, and terribly mistaken!  I was not actually seeing the people who I walked past everyday on the streets in Sydney.  Homeless people do not have one face, nor is it their lack of address that defines them.

 

I cannot even begin to recall all of the stories that I was privileged to hear, but one man in particular changed my views of homelessness completely.  He said, “I am in an ebb and flow, one day I may be on the streets and the next someone might be by my side helping me to aspire to something better.  I’m just always trying to pay it forward.  Today you may be helping me, but tomorrow I might be in the position of helping you.”  Hospitality was being shown to me by the homeless in that one statement.  He was inviting me to see what it means to have true fellowship and community.  Another man said, “I am a very lonely man.  My heart is so filled with love that it hurts like hell and there is nobody to give it to – or to be more precise, I come across so very few people who will receive it…but sometimes another bloke tries to help you and you know that’s what mates are for.”

 

I realized that there is no pretense on the streets in Australia.  They treat each other with true comradery. On the streets is where true mateship occurs.  Coming into homeless ministries I felt naïve and the only thing that I knew for certainty was— that I did not understand any of them at all.  As my Mary-Janes became smoldered by the city streets, however, one thing I know now is that the face of the homeless cannot be pinned down, just as their address cannot be placed in distinctly one location.  The homeless are the true Australian battlers who have seen all there is to see in the Australian life.  It is not about coming to the homeless to try figure them out and to dissect them, but to hear about everything their history book contains, with all its pains and burdens, and to help them carry their memories and their fears.

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Another Good Day in Paradise

I suppose there are worse jobs to have in the world than to be the ASC intern. Yesterday my mission was to find the absolute best spot to get a sunset timelapse of the Sydney skyline. I ended up shooting gigabytes of fantastic footage all day (but still failed to get that “money shot”).

As I hopped on the 505 bus heading to a place called Woolwich, I noticed that the bus driver smiled wider and more sheepishly than usual.

Maybe it was just another good day here in paradise?

As the bus curved down the Gladesville Bridge I heard an older woman in the front seat beginning to jabber on, almost yelling. Not uncommon on public transit.

Then I realized she was yelling at the bus driver. After a few more seconds it became clear that she was telling the bus driver where to go.

What?! How do you tell a Sydney bus driver how to get around in Sydney? Then, I realized she and the bus driver were in conversation.

He was taking direction from her.

He was new.

It was his first time driving a Sydney Bus on his own.

 

Perception is a funny thing. The woman at the front of the bus went from a possible crazy to a helpful citizen going above and beyond to help someone (and the other someone’s depending on him for a ride home). She politely and patiently navigated the bus through the twisted streets of Sydney’s Inner West.

When the woman got off at her stop an elderly man from the seat in front of me got up, assumed the woman’s post in the front seat next to the driver, and without flinching proceeded to direct the bus on to its final destination.

It was a small moment, yet worth noting. Not once did either of these people complain about their bad luck of having picked the directionally challenged driver. They just jumped right in and steered the bus home. Like Speed (1994) without the suspense.

 

So I guess it really was another good day in paradise.

Sydney Storms

The weather is certainly changing here in the Southern Hemisphere. The battle between winter and summer is raging on (sometimes dipping back into winter for a few days).

During this part of the year, when heat begins to replace cold as the status quo, storms and cloud formations ripple across the skies above Sydney.

Adultery at the Cross

by Sabrina Johnson

Kings Cross, or ‘The Cross’, as many call it today, has been know as being the “Amsterdam of the South Pacific” (Herald Sun, 2010) right here in a suburb of Sydney. If you’re anything like me, hearing the news that prostitution is legal was flooring. Each state in Oz has their own restrictive laws that control the prostitution industry, however the running of a registered brothel is legal throughout the whole of Australia. The catch here is that registered brothels are legal. Currently, there is a widespread issue of illegal brothels that are not only unregistered, but also using trafficked women and children as their employees. For Sydney, in 2010, there were 90 suspected illegal brothels being operated, and there is no doubt that this number has increased as the demand has increased.

Due to this uprising in illegal prostitution activities, many Australian’s today are questioning the decision of making prostitution legal in their country. All over the news you can see a rage behind the prostitution laws that Australia has implemented and how those laws have created more harm then good. The Daily Telegraph said, “legal brothels are out of control in western Sydney’s sex industry” (The Telegraph, 2012) and a West Australia article discussed the pressure that government is facing to vote down the prostitution bill.

The aspect of this current topic of debate that has been increasingly appalling to me is the fact that these laws are making a way for human trafficking to become an easier illegal activity. “High growth has forced pimps to forge international supply routes to source their ‘product’, which, in the case of the sex industry, is mostly women and children” (Sydney Morning Herald, 2011). Due to the high demand of sexual partners, pimps are beginning to see a profit in kidnapping or shipping females from other countries in order to sneak around fair pay wages and appropriate worker conditions.

Something noteworthy is that fact that there can be some pros when it comes to legalizing something as dangerous, yet popular, as prostitution. The registered, legal, brothels in Australia are run as businesses, thus, must report to the government and pay taxes. According to a recent report from the Australian Taxation Office (ATO), “Ten brothels, the subject of a recent ATO project in the Sydney area, resulted in additional revenue of $480,000 [to the government]” (Gallagher, B). This is an incredible amount of money that is promoting the growth of the Australian economy. In addition, prostitution laws allow the government to better control and protect those working within the walls of registered brothels keeping the women safer and healthier.

Even with the positive aspects of the prostitution laws, I’m still not convinced. With Australia being one of the wealthiest countries in the world, do they really need the taxation revenue, especially at the cost of their nations moral and ethical standards? Even though the laws that claim to be protecting the women working within this industry, what about the majority that are not working in registered, legal brothels? If Australia began to form laws against prostitution, it would leave less room for illegal activity, allow for harsher punishments, and convict and decrease those involved in trafficking. So what do you think is more important: upholding a high ethical standard or creating a wealthier, more dangerous society?

 

 

Sources:

 

Gallagher, B. (n.d.) Taxation And The Sex Industry. [online] Available at: http://www.aic.gov.au/en/publications/previous%20series/proceedings/1-27/~/media/publications/proceedings/14/gallagher.pdf [Accessed: 4 Sep 2012].

Herald Sun (2010) Sydney The Brothel Capital of The South Pacific. [online] Available at: http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/victoria/sydney-the-brothel-capital-of-the-south-pacific/story-e6frf7l6-1225952320313 [Accessed: 4 Sep 2012].

The Sydney Morning Herald (2011) Sex Trafficking In Australia. [online] Available at: http://www.smh.com.au/opinion/society-and-culture/its-time-to-get-serious-about-sex-trafficking-in-australia-20111012-1lkzi.html [Accessed: 4 Sep 2012].

The Telegraph (2012) A Fight to Turn off the Red Lights in Rydalmere. [online] Available at: http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/a-fight-to-turn-off-the-red-lights-in-rydalmere/story-e6freuy9-1225952354505 [Accessed: 4 Sep 2012].

The Western Australian (2012) Boost For Prostitution Reform Laws. [online] Available at: http://au.news.yahoo.com/thewest/a/-/breaking/13678448/boost-for-prostitution-reform-laws/ [Accessed: 4 Sep 2012].

Australian Obesity Rates

by Meagan Morrow

 

It was said in a study done by Monash University, 17 million Australians are overweight or obese, 4 million being obese.  That is a very large percentage of the 22 million alone in Australia, over 75% being overweight.  It has even taken over as the leading cause of premature death and illness in Australia.

 

In response to this epidemic, some have suggested that there be a “fat tax” on fast food and junk food.  This was presented after Demark imposed a similar tax. (Sacks) This is supposed to encourage people to lose weight. From the understanding of the economists, price incentives have an effect on society. (Irvine) In another blog on News Network, is was stated “Instead of getting off their fat bottoms and taking control of their own lives, they want the government to take care of it.” It makes them feel better about themselves, if they don’t have to be responsible for their own lack of will power. If the government continues to take control over every bit of the lives of its citizens, what will be left in the end? It’s sad how lazy people have gotten. Giving up freedoms little by little will give too much control to the government.

 

Another question arose in discussion with an Australian couple, where will the money from the tax go? If it goes into the health care system to help aid those that struggle with diabetes and other health issues that are brought about by obesity that would be extremely beneficial. But if it just goes into the general funds and is not used properly, what is the point? Making people take responsibility for their actions and indirectly pay for their own health care could be useful and encouraging to the economy. On the other hand, trying to force people to change their habits is not in the job description of the government.

 

Just because it costs more money doesn’t mean that people will stop. The cost and convenience of fast food would very possibly still outweigh that of healthy foods. (Irvine)  But many people think the fat tax is a great idea. Marianne Betts stated that 70% of Australians surveyed about the “fat tax” “support an increase in junk food prices and a decrease in healthy food prices, according to a survey by the Obesity Policy Coalition.” (Betts)

 

The article, noted above, in the Herald Sun stated that this tax would be combined with “subsidies on healthy foods, such as fruit and vegetables.” This would increase the likelihood that people would buy healthier foods because of the cost, but the usefulness of pre-made or pre-prepared food is still there.

 

Health does not just directly relate to food either. “Half of Australian parents are  concerned about their kids not getting enough exercise. “ (Betts) It might take more than just a tax on junk food to bring about change. Education about healthy foods, including where and how to get them for good pricing, and how to cook them in a manner which is less of a burden is important to any society that struggles with health issues. (Irvine) Australia is not the only country or culture struggling with this. It is a world wide issue and many different approaches have been taken. Australia’s attempt to follow in Demark’s footsteps could be a chance to begin the fight against obesity, but it will not end there.

 

 

Bibliography

 

Betts, Marianne . (2012). Aussies support tax on junk food.. Available: http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/victoria/aussies-support-fat-tax/story-fn7x8me2-1226358271940. Last accessed 27th Aug 2012.

 

Irvine, Jessica. (2012). Would a Fat Tax Curb Obesity?. Available: http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/drive/would-a-fat-tax-curb-obesity3f/4144548. Last accessed 27th Aug 2012.

 

Kenny, Chris. (2012). My great big fat tax. Available: http://blogs.theaustralian.news.com.au/goodlyfabric/index.php/theaustralian/comments/my_great_big_fat_tax/. Last accessed 27th Aug 2012.

 

Sacks, Gary. (2011). Is a ‘fat tax’ the answer to Australia’s obesity crisis?. Available: http://theconversation.edu.au/is-a-fat-tax-the-answer-to-australias-obesity-crisis-3712. Last accessed 27th Aug 2012.

 

Unknown. (2012). Obesity in Australia. Available: http://www.modi.monash.edu.au/obesity-facts-figures/obesity-in-australia/. Last accessed 22nd Aug 2012.