Creating a mentally healthy workforce

Mental health is important not only to the individual but also on the productivity of employees and success of businesses. An estimated 264 million people suffer from depression and anxiety globally, and for the average employee, the workplace represents a significant time investment in their lives. The financial burden employers and businesses take-on to support the mental health of their employees has only been exacerbated by what has been an unparalleled year. For small and medium-sized businesses, this is far more apparent.

Poor practices prevalent

There are many poor practices
and risks to mental health that can impact a business, often without employers
being aware. Poor communication, lack of manager training, inadequate health
and safety policies and an inflexible approach to working days are just some.

To combat these risks, there
are endless steps employers can take to support their employees that can
ultimately lead to better business performance. It’s important to implement
steps and systems that are flexible and suit each individual business’
operating rhythm and requirements.

Adopt an
open-door policy

Small businesses can be
hardest hit by mental health concerns, with many organisations employing less
than 20 people often referring to the workplace relationships as a second
family. As part of this culture, employees should feel as though there is an
open line of communication between themselves and their direct managers or

By normalising behaviour that
allows employees to reach out and talk to managers, business owners can help
create a supportive and healthy workplace for their employees to feel
comfortable in.

Promote a
work-life balance

It is essential to remember that
while work makes up a significant portion of someone’s life, it is not always the
most important part, with families, hobbies and social lives the centre to many
peoples happiness.

It can be as easy as
supporting employees work-life balance by respecting their boundaries. Avoid

sending work related emails or phone calls out of hours and encourage them to
take breaks and holidays when appropriate.

Enjoying life outside of work
can have a big impact on the enjoyment and productivity inside of work, as well
as encouraging mental wellbeing.

Invest in mental health

There are plenty of apps,
programs and Employee Assistance Providers (EAP) to support and encourage a
healthy mind, for an employer these can be a cheap and effective way to support
the wellbeing of employees. Many people may not realise they are even
struggling with their mental health, so offering accessible support can make
all the difference.

Offering programs, training or easy to access counselling are just a few options that can help create a supportive and healthy culture for your employees to thrive. The investment into mental health services has a direct correlation to overall engagement of your team that generally leads to both commercial and emotional gains as well.

A place where employees feel safe

These are only three ways
employers can support the mental health of employees and it’s no doubt the benefits
from investing in these are countless. There are endless ways business owners
can foster the wellbeing of the workforce and if these recommendations are out
of reach or already in place and building on it is a goal, businesses can
produce personalised mental health programs to suit the business and employees

Creating a workplace where
employees feel safe and supported is key to the ongoing success of small
businesses and business owners have a suite of options available to tailor a
program or assets to their specific needs. It’s something I believe strongly
in, and if you would like to know what we do here at Employsure, I’d encourage
you to reach out to me directly via LinkedIn.

Michael Morris, Talent Director, Employsure

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Chrysaor takes over Premier Oil, creating largest London-listed independent oil-and-gas group

Harbour CEO Linda Cook will move to London to head up the combined group. SUPPLIED BY THE COMPANY

Shares in Premier Oil soared more than 14% on Tuesday, after the oil explorer agreed a reverse takeover that will create the largest London-listed independent oil-and-gas group, producing more than 250,000 barrels of oil a day.

Under the terms of the deal, privately-owned Chrysaor will own at least 77% of the combined group.

Stakeholders in Premier Oil

will own up to 23% of the combined group, of which just under 6% are existing Premier shareholders. That values Premier’s equity at $200 million to $250 million, according to analysts at Jefferies.

The remainder will be owned by Chrysaor’s biggest shareholder, Harbour Energy, an investment vehicle formed by U.S. private equity group EIG Global Energy Partners.

Former Shell executive Linda Cook, the chief executive of Harbour, will move to London to head up the combined group. Cook joins Katherine Roe, the chief executive of Wentworth Resources
as one of only two women heading up a U.K.-listed energy group.

Premier’s boss Tony Durrant will step down from the oil group at
the end of 2020.

Shares in Premier, which rose more than 14% after the deal was announced, were trading 10% higher in early morning London trading.

Premier, which has struggled with its balance sheet for several years, has been under pressure to reduce its $2.7 billion debt pile amid a collapse in oil prices.

Read: Oil prices settle at lowest since June, with Brent prices below $40

In August, its shares fell by more than 18%, after it swung to a loss on lower production in the six months to June 30 and announced plans to raise up to £410 million by selling new shares.

The deal with Chrysaor means it now won’t proceed with the refinancing. Instead, the company’s creditors, which need to approve the deal, receive a cash payment of $1.23 billion.

Read: Premier Oil says price of BP acquisitions slashed

Premier has also scrapped plans to buy BP’s

interests in the Andrew and Shearwater fields in the U.K. North Sea, which had been contingent on the refinancing going through.

Russ Mould, investment director at AJ Bell, said that after a long period where it felt like the business was being run in the interests of its creditors rather than its shareholders, Premier Oil has effectively been put out of its misery.

“The company’s problems date all back to 2014 and the oil price crash which occurred that year. It simply had taken on too much debt when oil prices were above $100 per barrel and has been running to stand still ever since,” Mould said.

He added: “With a big chunk of Premier’s debt being paid off on completion it certainly looks more sustainable than the previous plan to load up on more debt, ask for more money from the market and buy assets from BP to generate the cash flow to pay down borrowings.”

The enlarged group will have production of more than 250,000 barrels a day and reserves of 717 million barrels of oil equivalent.

Cook said the deal “significantly advances our leading position in the North Sea, where we will continue to reinvest, and expands our geographic footprint to Asia and Latin America.”

Founded in 1934 in Scotland to pursue oil and gas exploration and production activities in Trinidad, Premier has interests in the North Sea, South East Asia, the Falkland Islands and Latin America. It also owns a 25% stake in Mexico’s Zama shallow water offshore project.

Chrysaor, which produces just under 200,000 barrels of oil equivalent a day in the U.K, was founded in 2017 and has grown to become a major North Sea producer through acquisitions. These include the acquisition of certain fields from Royal Dutch Shell

for $3 billion in 2017 and ConocoPhillips

for $2.675 billion in 2019.

Chrysaor also holds 11 licenses across 18 blocks in Norway pursuing exploration opportunities.

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Xi Jinping’s Coercive China Strategy Is Creating More Enemies Than Friends

What is China trying to achieve by its sudden lurch to a bullying, ‘wolf warrior’ global stance? For all the billions of dollars of intelligence hardware and software pointed at Beijing right now, the reality is that Xi Jinping’s strategic thinking is a black box.

The leadership intent of the Chinese Communist Party must be glimpsed through opaque speeches, the coded signals of coercive behaviour and the increasingly unhinged statements of China’s diplomats and party-controlled media.

Whatever Xi thinks he’s doing, the outcome is, on the face of it, disastrous for China’s long-term strategic interests. China has never had many, or indeed any, close friends internationally, but in less than a year the wolf warriors have irretrievably trashed whatever trust Beijing may have had as a trading, investment and research partner around the world.

This is a remarkable achievement. In a divided America, opposition to China is the one policy uniting Republicans and Democrats. Beijing’s bad behaviour has produced a consensus in the European Union and Britain to push back, has given ASEAN a stronger common purpose and has ignited in Australia a determination to ‘step up’ in the Pacific and spend more on defence.

Here’s one measure of how quickly and dramatically things have changed: on 20 January this year, John Howard chaired the ‘sixth annual Australia–China High Level Dialogue’ sponsored by the Foreign Affairs Department, whose press release claimed that ‘the Dialogue will help strengthen partnerships and friendships, maintain trust, and develop deeper understanding between Australia and China’.

Eight months later, not one word of that sentence could be applied to our relationship with China. Even China’s rusted-on Australian cheer squad is losing vigour in claiming that it’s Canberra’s lack of pragmatic wordsmithing that is causing the rift.

Had China continued down the Deng Xiaoping–mandated path of ‘Hide your capacities, bide your time’, I’m no longer sure that Australia would have been able to muster the collective willpower to prevent the wholesale compromising of our economy, political system, critical infrastructure, universities and business community—such was the attraction of Chinese money.

In reality, Covid-19 and wolf-warrior coercion were the wake-up call we needed, but that still leaves the essential puzzle about why it is that Beijing abandoned a strategy that was delivering its objectives and replaced it with an approach that is damaging its position.

I suggest that three broad factors are shaping Xi’s strategic thinking. Understanding these factors will help us define our policy responses and anticipate what happens next.

The first factor is that CCP policymaking is increasingly centred on one person—Xi Jinping. Through regular purges of the party and the People’s Liberation Army since 2012, Xi has removed political opponents, made himself the commander-in-chief of the military and the central driver of policy in every area from the South China Sea to the Belt and Road Initiative to the pandemic response.

If there is a centre of coordinated opposition to Xi’s policy inside the party, it is not readily visible. What is known as the ‘recentralisation’ of authority within the CCP is turning into a cult of personality around Xi.

There are clear dangers in such an approach. What senior party figure would or could approach Xi to tell him that the wolf-warrior tactic is damaging the party’s global interests? The most likely result would be that an internal critic would be purged from any position of influence.

Xi’s political instincts have been honed by his own experience of seeing his father, Xi Zhongxun, a heroic figure in the early history of the CCP, persecuted and jailed during the Cultural Revolution in the 1960s. Xi was himself exiled to a rural province at that time.

It is tempting to think that Xi’s authoritarian style is partly motivated by a determination not to be purged like his father. His leadership is also informed by deep ideological schooling in Marxist–Leninist ideology—a reality too easily dismissed in the West.

Xi has, in effect, brought Leninist authoritarianism into the 21st-century world of artificial intelligence and all-seeing surveillance. Having embarked on a path to consolidate all power to himself, it is difficult to see how Xi can break from his current course of action. In effect, that means China’s more assertive and uncompromising approach in the world will be here for as long as Xi remains in power.

The second factor shaping Xi’s approach is that, overwhelmingly, what matters to him is strengthening the position of the CCP inside China. How the wider world reacts to Beijing’s actions is vastly less important.

This helps to explain why China really has no interest in negative international responses to the militarisation and de facto annexation of the South China Sea; the trashing of the Sino-British Joint Declaration on Hong Kong; or the egregious human rights violations in Xinjiang, Tibet and elsewhere.

What matters most to the party is how its actions are perceived by the Chinese people. Asserting control over these areas plays well to a highly nationalistic domestic audience.

Beijing’s increasingly inflammatory rhetoric about defeating ‘separatism’ in Taiwan, by use of military force if necessary, may be seen by the wider world to be destabilising Asian security, but inside China it rallies popular support around the party.

At a time when the CCP is being criticised domestically for its mismanagement of the early stages of Covid-19 and is failing to deliver economic growth to achieve better living standards, stoking nationalist sentiment helps consolidate party control.

To China’s leaders, a second-order player like Australia should, ideally, just shut up. As foreign minister Yang Jiechi dismissively told his Singaporean counterpart in 2010: ‘China is a big country and other countries are small countries, and that’s just a fact.’

This combination of an overwhelming priority on domestic affairs and a barely disguised contempt for the opinions of ‘small countries’ leaves Beijing angry and frustrated at the audacity of other nations wanting to pursue their own interests.

One example of this mindset in operation is Beijing’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ claim that Australia engaged in ‘blatant obstruction and interference in China’s normal law enforcement’, by bringing journalists Bill Birtles and Mike Smith home last week.

Let’s be clear: Birtles and Smith weren’t smuggled out of the country; they left on a commercial flight after being questioned by local police. But how dare a small country question the CCP’s right to snatch people off the streets, hold them indefinitely without charge and put them before a legal system thoroughly beholden to party priorities.

The point for Australia is simply that, short of complete capitulation of our interests and values, there is nothing Canberra can do or say that will avoid China’s criticism.

This needs to be understood by elements of the Australian business and university sectors that persist in thinking Beijing’s behaviour is somehow the result of our actions—like the claim by one commentator in The Australian last week that China is ‘ruthlessly exploited’ because we are forcing them ‘to pay exorbitant prices for iron ore’. Seriously? So much for supply and demand.

There is one exception to the claim that no external power is more important to China than Beijing’s domestic priorities and that is, of course, the United States. What America does matters profoundly to China, not least because for perhaps the next five to 10 years the US retains the military balance of power.

Much of China’s international behaviour is shaped by judgements of how America will react. In the case of the South China Sea, once it became clear to Beijing that the Obama administration wasn’t going to actively oppose its island building, the opposition of Southeast Asia, Australia and other countries was immaterial.

In that context, the most important potential flashpoint to watch in coming months is Taiwan, and specifically whether Washington has any appetite to prevent China’s efforts to isolate and predate Taipei.

The third factor shaping China’s switch to the wolf-warrior approach is that Xi has concluded that coercion works. Research published by ASPI last week identified 152 cases of Chinese coercive diplomacy over the past decade applied to 27 countries and many businesses.

The actions China was seeking to punish or deter included engaging with Taiwan in ways not approved by Beijing, holding meetings with the Dalai Lama, blocking Huawei’s 5G technology and seeking investigations into the Chinese origins of Covid-19.

In many cases, and particularly in instances when Beijing was threatening businesses, the reality is that the coercion worked.

The lesson for Beijing is that access to its economy is a powerful lever for countries and businesses alike and threats to constrain access to the Chinese market can indeed force changes to behaviour that benefit China.

The lesson for Australia and all democracies is that making concessions to Beijing’s wolf-warrior behaviours will only encourage more coercion.

In my assessment, this undermines the argument that Australia should somehow try to plot a ‘middle course’ between the US and China. Beijing’s current approach doesn’t leave room for the possibility that countries can shape a course that is in any way different from China’s definition of what the right behaviour should be.

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Seagulls ‘creating massive mess’ in Launceston but cull divides community

Garry Farrelly goes down to the banks of the Tamar River three times a week to feed bread to the seagulls.

“The birds are good,” he said.

“They do seem to have a brain, they know they’re going to get a piece of bread, they’re not stupid.”

But businesses in the area do not share his affection and have complained about the birds, which are growing in numbers.

The Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment (DPIPWE) has issued a permit to Launceston property developer Errol Stewart to cull up to 50 birds this year in Invermay.

On Tuesday, 18 were killed.

‘Creating a massive mess’

There has been a massive increase in seagull numbers around Launceston’s waterfront, developer Errol Stewart says.(ABC News: Jessica Moran)

Mr Stewart said the birds were “creating a massive mess” and made it “almost impossible to work” on his sites.

He said there were thousands of silver gulls on his land.

“We live in an urban environment and they’re a pest,” he said.

Mr Stewart said contracted shooters were responsible for culling the birds.

“When the shooting takes place, the neighbours are notified and the police are notified,” he said.

“We try to do it in the most humane way we can and [shoot] as few birds as possible.

“You shoot the birds and you leave the carcasses on the ground, and it’s my understanding it sends the message to the flock that they shouldn’t go back to that space.”

Callum Macaskill is a skipper with Tamar River Cruises.

He said the issue of bird poo on his vessels and along the popular hub Seaport had been a problem for decades.

“It’s really serious for boat owners and restaurants … the number of birds is almost at plague proportions,” he said.

“They now have more and more places to breed. There’s literally thousands of them here.”

A man on a Tamar River cruise boat
Cruise skipper Callum Macaskill says gull numbers are almost at “plague proportions.”(ABC News: Jessica Moran)

Culling ‘not efficient’

Eric Woehler from Birdlife Tasmania slammed the cull, claiming it was “a waste of time and a waste of money”.

He has heard reports of injured birds, rather than dead birds.

“So there’s a question mark there about the efficiency of the shooting that’s been used,” he said.

“Shooting 50 birds is neither here nor there … it’ll have little impact on the population.”

A spokesperson for DPIPWE said bird cull permits were issued on a case-by-case basis.

“The issue of silver gulls in the Kings Wharf area has been ongoing and escalating for more than 10 years as the breeding colony in the area has expanded,” the spokesperson said.

Last year, 14 permits were issued statewide for a total quota of 1,700 birds. This year the quota was just 150.

DPIPWE said once the department issued a permit, random inspections and patrols were conducted to ensure conditions were being met.

The Department found Mr Stewart had not breached any of his permit conditions.

‘Scared to pieces’

Mr Farrelly said he had noticed an immediate impact after this week’s cull.

“It’s completely different now, there’s not a bird within 100 yards, normally they’re all here everywhere,” Mr Farrelly said.

“I thought I was on a different planet today — you can’t find a bird if you tried.”

He thinks the remaining birds are now scared.

“Scared to pieces … I just can’t believe how the birds know — they’ve got the fear of God in them, there’s no birds,” he said.

“I’m still surprised, I can’t believe the difference it’s made.”

Two seagulls sit on a timber pylon
Contractors have been hired to cull the birds near the Tamar River.(ABC News: Jessica Moran)

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Creating a digital brand that sets your small business apart

The world has experienced a monumental digital migration in recent months and many Australian SMEs are reassessing whether their digital presence is truly up to scratch.

Making sure your business stands out online involves more than just a slick homepage. Whatever industry you’re in, a strong digital brand is vital for securing sales, but it also plays a critical role in fostering trust and connection in an age where face-to-face interactions are far from guaranteed.

Here are some simple steps to help you on your

1. Develop a
brand blueprint

Establish who you are as a business and why you exist. Define your mission, values and messaging by asking these questions: Who is your ideal customer, and what promise do you want to make and deliver for them? How do you want people to feel about your business? Is there something that makes you unique from competitors? What do you want to achieve in 10 years, and how is that reflected in your mission statement?

Defining who you are and where you sit in the market
is the first step in creating a meaningful brand. It will also inform the
direction you take for your visual brand, and how you communicate with

2. Create
your visual identity

Your visual identity is the look and feel of your business: from your logo and colour palette to your fonts and the design of your website. If you’re unsure how to describe what you’re looking for, ask yourself more questions to help draw out the answer: are you playful or serious? Relatable or aspirational? What are other companies in your industry doing – do you want to fit in or stand out?

Figure out how you want your brand to come
across to customers and then work with a professional designer to nail the
visual communication that helps make that perception a reality. 

3. Make
it a useable tool with a brand guide

You’ll need to be able to roll your brand out across a whole range of situations so a style guide should be next on your list. This creates a single source of truth of how your brand should be represented across everything from social channels and emails to packaging and helps keep your whole team on the same page. This is important for building brand recognition, but also creates consistency, which is vital for building trust.

4. Show it

Now you have a brilliantly executed brand, it’s time to showcase it. Your website is the first point of contact for many customers, so whether it’s an e-commerce store or a place for customers to learn more about your business, put your best foot forward and think of your website as your digital storefront.

An effective website should be simple and easy to navigate and clearly communicate your product or offering. Use your brand guidelines to streamline the design and messaging throughout each page and digital touchpoint to create a seamless user experience.

5. Leverage social media

Social media is great for amplifying your messaging, but also provides an opportunity to build a community around your brand. Social media advertising can also be an effective and inexpensive way to reach very targeted segments of customers, so think about creating great content and bringing like-minded people together around your brand.

You may have a fantastic product or service, but if
your business doesn’t stand out online, you risk blending into the crowd. Just
remember that digital branding isn’t just about selling; it’s about growing a
passionate, loyal customer base that not only buys your products but believes
in them.

Shayne Tilley, Head of Marketing

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Snow falls over Flinders Ranges, creating alpine scenes in South Australia’s north

Snow has fallen across parts of South Australia including as far north as the upper Flinders Ranges, transforming the usually parched landscape into a scene likened to the North Pole.

Tourists at Wilpena Pound woke up to the very rare sight of snow falling, covering paddocks and hillsides.

Icy temperatures added to the impression of the kind of alpine scene rarely witnessed in South Australia, especially so far north — much to the delight of locals.

“I don’t need to go to the north pole,” one person can be heard saying in a video from Willow Springs Station.

Falls estimated to be about 2 centimetres thick blanketed areas around the northern Flinders including Blinman.

Thick snow covers hillsides at Willow Springs Station in the Flinders Ranges.(Skytrek Willow Springs Station)

Holidaymaker Heather said she initially thought it was rain but could not hear anything, so went outside for a closer look.

“We were up at 7:00am and we could see it was falling,” she told ABC Radio Adelaide.

“I’ve never seen snow, so it was really exciting to actually see it in South Australia, in Wilpena Pound. It was probably about 1.5 to 2 centimetres thick.

“Now the paddocks are covered in snow, there’s a solar-powered station out here in the middle of a paddock that’s got a corrugated iron roof and that’s thick with snow and there are icicles hanging from it. The hills are covered with snow.

“There are people camping — I felt so sorry for them.”

Space to play or pause, M to mute, left and right arrows to seek, up and down arrows for volume.
Parts of Wilpena Pound looked more alpine than usual as snow fell.

Wilpena Pound worker Kerwin Moore said it was “quite amazing” to see a usually dry setting transformed.

The Bureau of Meteorology had predicted light snow in parts of the Mid North and Flinders Ranges, with flurries also reported on Mount Remarkable.

Snow covers hillsides at Willow Springs Station in the Flinders Ranges.
Snow blanketed paddocks and hillsides.(Skytrek Willow Springs Station)

There is a small possibility of snow on Mount Lofty, near Adelaide, and senior forecaster Simon Timcke said it was quite an unusual situation.

“It’s a rare event in South Australia to get snow,” he said.

“The weather is going to be coming from the east … most of the time we’re used to it coming from the west.”

Wilpena Pound in the Flinders Ranges covered in snow.
Wilpena Pound resembled a European alpine setting.(Supplied)

Mr Timcke said large masses of cloud in a low pressure system were pushing up onto the Flinders Ranges and through the state’s Mid North, over a very cold air mass.

“With all that cloud over the top, it’s not going to warm up at all,” he said.

“The freezing level is so low [that] the precipitation just doesn’t have time to form, so it’s falling as snow and staying as snow on the ground.

“If we … see snow up there we wouldn’t expect the ground to be as cold as it is … the reason it’s not melting on the ground is because it is so cold.”

He said snow could be expected through today and into early Saturday morning.

Snow covers hillsides at Willow Springs Station in the Flinders Ranges.
The bureau is predicting possible further falls today and early Saturday.(Skytrek Willow Springs Station)

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Jugger: the action-packed sport born from a 1989 sci-fi movie that’s creating inclusive communities

With its fast-paced combat complete with padded weapons, jugger is a sport in a league of its own.

Born out of the 1989 cult classic The Salute of the Jugger, it’s considered the first real life sport to come from a movie.

Thirty years on, jugger is a fully-fledged international game played in 30 countries.

“It’s like five-a-side touch football with foam-padded weapons,” Jugger Canberra president Samantha Quilliam said.

“It’s not about brute force, it’s about being agile and tagging people quickly.”

Two jugger players
Kieren Ziesing defends with a staff as Samantha Quilliam attacks with a Q-tip.(ABC News: Penny Travers)

Ms Quilliam is one of dozens of juggers who come together on the shore of Canberra’s Lake Burley Griffin each Sunday to battle it out on the field.

She carried over her taekwondo skills when she started playing three years ago at the age of 17.

But it’s the community and the friendships she has made that the graphic design student enjoys the most about the sport.

“Everyone in the community is my friend, and they’re all from different walks of life,” she said.

“Jugger has helped me with mental health, it has helped me with physical health.

“It’s just this really amazing place where I can have fun doing exercise while being part of an amazing community where everyone supports everyone.”

Jugger team members
The Buzz Killerz are just one team in the Jugger Canberra league, that’s been running for 11 years.(ABC News: Penny Travers)

Ms Quilliam said anyone over the age of 14 was welcome to play jugger, “no matter their fitness, age or gender”.

“We have people who have never played sport before and I think that shows the community is really inclusive, friendly and accepting,” she said.

“Anyone who would be interested in playing a fast-paced sport that’s a little bit more alternative, but still has the fundamental sportsmanship and strategy, can really play and enjoy it.”

‘It’s combat touch football’

People playing jugger
The jugger field is octagonal, measuring 40 metres by 20 metres.(ABC News: Penny Travers)

Each team has five players: four carry foam weapons while one handles the ball (known as the skull or jug).

The objective is to tag the other team with the weapons to allow the ball carrier (known as the qwik) across the field to score a point.

In the background is the sound of a constantly beating drum (each drumbeat is known as a stone).

When a player is tagged, they have to kneel down out of play for five to eight stones before re-entering the game.

The team that scores the most number of points by the end of 200 stones (around 30 minutes including breaks) wins the game.

Jugger player holding staff
Kieren Ziesing plays for The Big Bad Bees and says jugger is “quick, simple and fun to play”.(ABC News: Penny Travers)

“With jugger everyone has a piece of equipment, every position is important,” player of eight years, Kieren Ziesing said.

“You’re not standing still, you’re not waiting for the ball to come to you — you’re always active.

The lightweight padded weapons, known as pompfen, are made of fibre carbon, plastic and foam, and are safety checked before each game.

They include a long sword, short sword with a shield, Q-tip, staff and chain.

“The pompfen are definitely what draws the eye, especially the chain,” said Jugger Canberra safety officer Edwin Jones.

Edwin Jones refereeing
Edwin Jones wields a chain as he runs into attack for his team Union.(ABC News: Penny Travers)

Mr Jones has been playing jugger for 10 years and the sport has taken him around the world to Germany, Ireland, Sweden and the United States.

“It doesn’t matter the language, once you sit down with the juggers and have a meal and play a game, you end up speaking the same thing and understanding each other,” he said.

‘The juggers are coming!’

David Webbs People, famously known as the screenwriter behind hit films Blade Runner and Unforgiven, created the sport for his film The Salute of the Jugger (also known as The Blood of Heroes).

The 1989 Australian-American post-apocalyptic sci-fi feature was shot outside Coober Pedy in South Australia.


It follows a band of players, known as juggers, who travel from town to town playing a brutal sport known as The Game.

The players use poles and chains for attack and defence, while one unarmed player from each team attempts to get a dog’s skull onto a spike at the opposing end of the field.

While it offered plenty of 80s action, the film was not a success — it was panned by critics and bombed at the box office.

But the sport of jugger, that rose from the movie’s ashes, lives on decades later with a healthy global following.

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The making of Mackaroy Uncovered and the extraordinary lengths ABC Audio Studios went to creating the children’s podcast during coronavirus lockdown

The day I thought we might have to abandon Australia’s first kid’s fiction podcast series was when the call came through that one of the stars had to go into isolation after coming into contact with someone with COVID-19.

It was February, and we were so close to pressing record for the final time on Mackaroy Uncovered, a podcast that tells the story of two teen conspiracy theory investigators.

This was a few weeks before the panic buying kicked in and at a time when everyone in Australia (except for Dr Norman Swan) thought COVID-19 was a problem for other countries.

But the phone call telling me one of our leads was in isolation and wouldn’t be able to record “pick-ups” as planned made me realise COVID-19 was our problem too.

Actor Erin Choy started recording her part in a high-quality sound studio but ended up finishing the production from her home.(ABC Audio Studios: Sanita Khandharixay)

We’d wrapped the key recording for Mackaroy Uncovered at the ABC’s headquarters in Ultimo and had to record re-takes and additional lines in March with the teen actors who star in the podcast.

We needed these “picked up” lines to finish the edit. Without them, we couldn’t publish the podcast.

Like so many TV and audio productions across the world, the work ground to a halt overnight.

It left many months of work in limbo, with a huge question mark over whether the project would get finished in 2020.

We’d been working on Mackaroy Uncovered since 2019, when ABC Audio Studios and ABC Children brought together a group of writers to create the first eight-part fictionalised podcast series for kids made in Australia.

Much like producing a TV show, making a fiction podcast is a huge undertaking.

The writers were involved in creating the story, script writing, casting, recording and then editing over many months.

For all the work to come undone by COVID-19 was not an option.

The problems

We had a couple of major issues facing us.

Firstly, how were we going to record the pickups when we weren’t allowed any contact with the actors?

Secondly, how were we going to record audio that was of the high quality required for the podcast?

If it didn’t sound the same, a listener would be able to hear the difference. Epic fail.

So, with the ABC’s top audio engineers and COVID-19 response team, we nutted out an unorthodox and never-tried-before workaround.

The solutions

Screen shot of three windows showing a girl, a woman and a man wearing headphones.
Audio engineer John Jacobs sitting in his car and recording actor Erin Choy (top right) who is in her loungeroom. Production coordinator Veronica Light directing Erin as producer Kyla Slaven watches on.(ABC Audio Studios)

Our solution worked like this: the podcast’s engineer would drive to the actor’s house, where he would place the audio equipment at the front door, (after spraying it with disinfectant, of course.)

The engineer had taken the exact same headset microphone to the actor’s house that he’d used to record them in the drama studio to try to match the audio as much as possible.

The engineer would connect to the wireless headset microphone and sit in his car monitoring the quality of the sound and recording.

Sound equipment, microphone, headphones on front seat of car.
Audio engineer John Jacobs’ pop-up sound studio in his car which was parked outside actor Erin Choy’s home.(ABC Audio Studios)

In the meantime, the producers, who were in their own homes, would connect via video conference to the actor, and direct them remotely.

The plan also relied on the actors and their parents agreeing to do this, as well as their houses having the right sound.

The thing about having young actors as our leads is that they’re tech savvy and they’re willing to give anything a go.

They were onboard from the start.

But even when pressing record on that first ‘pick up’, we weren’t sure it would work.

So much could go wrong: bad connection, equipment that wouldn’t work, an echoey house.

Our audio engineer in Sydney, John Jacobs, admitted after that first record, in which he sat in a car for seven hours, that he was holding his breath and crossing his fingers the whole time!

But the workaround was a success.

We got the audio we needed to finish Mackaroy Uncovered, which has now been released for kids to enjoy.

And what about the audio quality?

Can you tell which lines were recorded in the world class drama studio and which were recorded in the bedrooms and loungerooms of the actors across Sydney and Melbourne?

You’ll have to listen to Mackaroy Uncovered to find out.

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