NSW police make last-minute plea before thousands expected at ‘Invasion Day’ rally


Police and health authorities in NSW have made a last-minute plea for people not to attend a Sydney Invasion Day protest planned for Tuesday, saying those who attend face fines and imprisonment. 

Over 6,000 people have clicked “attending” on social media for the rally in Sydney to mark “Invasion Day” on 26 January. 

Current Sydney coronavirus restrictions set outdoor gathering limits to a maximum of 500 people and NSW Police have promised to enforce the restrictions. 

“Do not come in and be part of that public gathering. Find another way to express your views and opinions,” NSW Police Assistant Commissioner Mick Willing said. 

“We are all aware that these are sensitive issues and they are very important issues to a lot of people but we are still in the middle of a global pandemic and we’re asking people to abide by those health orders.”

Breaches of public health orders can result in up to six months’ jail or fines of up to $11,000.

Police are also able to issue on-the-spot-fines from $1,000.

Organisers of the rally in Sydney have vowed to go ahead despite the police warnings and say their event would be COVID-safe. They say the government has stonewalled their efforts to agree on a safety plan.

An “Invasion Day” march in Redfern on January 26, 2018.

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“Organisers have a detailed COVID-safety plan that they have given the NSW government. But there has been no response from the NSW government, no response from NSW Health, no response from the NSW Police other than the threats of violence through the police minister,” Greens MP David Shoebridge said on Monday afternoon.

Mr Shoebridge has published the six-page plan, which was sent to Health Minister Brad Hazzard on Friday.

He said in a statement that it was “every bit as stringent” as the plan governing the recent Test match at the Sydney Cricket Ground and “more detailed than that used by shopping malls in NSW”.

The plan includes compulsory mask wearing, over 85 marshals, pre-registration by QR code, hand sanitiser and social distancing.

Mr Shoebridge said it would be a “political crime” not to grant an exemption to the rally when the government has suggested it will lift restrictions later this week.

Earlier on Monday, Premier Gladys Berejiklian urged people to express their opinions without mass gatherings. 

“Our strong preference is that people stay home or use other methods to demonstrate their strength of feeling on issues,” she said.

“The police will be there to make sure the health orders are preserved.”

NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard labelled the planned rally as “problematic” and implored protesters to convene in groups of 500, rather than in one large mass.

Police said a “highly visible and mobile” operation would be in place on Tuesday for outdoor revellers.

Sydney’s Circular Quay will be closed to the public by 6pm on Tuesday, with exemptions for those with bookings at restaurant or other venues.

NSW residents are being told to prepare for sweltering conditions with temperatures of up to 40C forecast.

Around the country

Large rallies to mark “Invasion Day” are set to be held in major cities throughout Australia on Tuesday. 

Protests are scheduled to be held in Brisbane, Canberra, Adelaide, Darwin, Hobart and Perth. 

In Melbourne, over 3,500 people clicked “attending” on a Facebook event for the rally. 

Victorian protest organisers said the crowd would be split into groups of 100 people, the current outdoor gathering limit in the state, and that everyone would have to wear a face mask. 

But that didn’t stop Premier Daniel Andrews from urging people not to attend, despite the streak of zero community coronavirus cases recorded in recent weeks. 

“This will be a different Australia Day; we’re in the midst of a global pandemic,” Mr Andrews said. 

“It’s no time to be protesting, it just isn’t. We’ve built something precious and unique, Victorians have, through their sacrifice and their commitment and their compassion for each other and we have to safeguard that,” he added. 

People in Australia must stay at least 1.5 metres away from others. Check your jurisdiction’s restrictions on gathering limits. If you are experiencing cold or flu symptoms, stay home and arrange a test by calling your doctor or contact the Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080. News and information is available in 63 languages at sbs.com.au/coronavirus

Please check the relevant guidelines for your state or territory: NSW, Victoria, Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia, Northern Territory, ACT, Tasmania

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Hobart’s rock library holds thousands of clues to the mineral riches of the future


Inside a nondescript shed in a Hobart suburb sit shelves upon shelves of rocks and core samples that could reveal the mineral riches of the future.

Drill core samples reveal which minerals are embedded in rocks deep underground.(ABC Rural: Tara De Landgrafft)

This library of drill core samples, that would stretch 770 kilometres if placed end to end, and 70,000 rock samples, forms a geological map of Tasmania’s mineral landscape.

Crucially, it holds clues to the whereabouts of ancient mineral deposits that are essential for modern-day living.

“It’s a huge collection of material,” said Kevin Robinson, director of mines for Mineral Resources Tasmania, who is charged with looking after the invaluable collection.

Some samples at the Mornington Core Library are more than a century old, giving potential mine operators insight into the geology of regions, without ever having to go there — and before spending millions of dollars on exploration.

Library of ‘tremendous’ value

“The value of a rock sample that you can look at in a library is tremendous,” Mr Robinson said.

“It means that you haven’t had to go out into the field to find those rock samples, and some of them could be quite rare but very, very good vectors to finding new mineralisation.”

Mineral Resources Tasmania is about to spend $2.4 million upgrading its laboratories and research facilities to make it easier for stakeholders to access samples.

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“This will keep happening especially as technology changes … and the world discovers that it can use or needs different substances, or realises a substance that we previously disregarded actually has useful properties.”

New tech reveals mineral secrets

A woman standing in front of a rock sensing machine
Mirella Terrones checks core samples that could hold the secret to future riches.(ABC Rural: Fiona Breen)

Hyperspectral specialist Mirella Terrones operates the centre’s state-of-the-art automated machine that can analyse the make-up of a rock sample in four minutes — something that would have taken researchers weeks if not months in the past.

The drill core logger takes a deep look at the chemistry of the rock, detecting minerals that are potentially millions of years old, but are now essential for modern-day living.

“Modern machinery, magnets and new computer-aided devices require a whole suite of minerals that we weren’t looking at even five years ago,” Mr Robinson said.

We must keep ‘legacy samples’

core rock samples on a shelf
The library’s drill core samples would stretch 770 kilometres if placed end to end.(Supplied: Mineral Resources Tasmania)

Associate Professor Sebastien Meffre, head of earth sciences at the University of Tasmania, says the library is an extraordinary resource for his geology students.

Some of his honours and PHD students are analysing core samples to see if they contain cobalt, which is becoming increasingly sought after as it is used in the lithium-ion batteries that power electric cars and bicycles.

“It’s really important we keep the legacy samples at the rock library so if mines close down, hundreds of thousands of millions of dollars of costs to drill those samples are not all lost at once — keeping representative sections is fantastic,” Dr Meffre said.

Rock core analysis strikes gold

A miner drives a forklift through an underground tunnel in a mine
Underground at the Henty gold mine on Tasmania’s west coast.(ABC: Selina Bryan)

Mr Robinson says an example of the importance and success of reanalysing rock core is the Henty Gold Mine on Tasmania’s west coast.

“The Henty gold deposit was discovered after a reassessment of drill core previously drilled in the exploration for base metal deposits containing copper, lead and zinc mineralisation,” Mr Robinson said.

Some of that drill core from Henty is now at the Core Library.

“It continues to be reviewed on occasion to apply new ideas and methods to seek new styles of mineralisation that may lead to new mineral discoveries in the future that will extend the life of the mining operations,” Mr Robinson said.

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Australia’s business-driven travel policy leaves thousands stranded


You’ll have no trouble coming in and out of Australia, and the world remains your oyster – if you’ve got heaps money and can say you are in business.

The figures, which don’t lie, say there is a huge imbalance in Australia’s travel rules right now, with inequality making the COVID-19 crisis worse.

There are always at least 30,000 said to be on the waiting list to get home, even though well over that many keep returning. How come they cannot make progress with the backlog? Because, with twice as many regularly flying out of Australia, as those stranded, many of those leavers then return to Australia again – and it is getting plain to see they can push their way to the front of the queue.

COVID-19: Australians must be prepared for the worst

From ruining social engagements to the inception of a temporary police state, the COVID-19 pandemic is making life difficult for Australians.

The figures

Recent figures from the Government, have more than 37,000 waiting to return home while the total number of Australians who have returned since mid-September is more than 71,000. The total number of Australians returning since March is 443,000.

An ABC investigation made some progress trying to sort out what is going on:

Trips back to Australia are rationed, with the Federal Government handing it to the states to accommodate arrivals in hotels, in restricted numbers, save for the one camp – Howard Springs near Darwin.

It got worse this month, when alarm about the new strain of COVID-19 in the UK led to the announcement of a temporary halving of the number of permitted arrivals. New South Wales will be taking only 1,505 passengers per week, Queensland 500 and Western Australia 512. Arrivals in Victoria and South Australia will stay at low levels and the Federal Government will itself continue to manage arrivals in the territories.

The tightening shows up how much of a bottomless pit it is, a leaking pot that cannot get filled. With the 37,000 stranded Australians set to come home, many other Australians also are set to come home; there are only 3,000 allowed in every week. And there are victims – those short of money, or the right contacts, or other resources needed to get a flight.

The devil is in the fine print

One clue to the reasons for this imbalance can be found in the regulations.

The rules are, if you are an Australian citizen you cannot leave the country, subject to exemptions that you can apply for, especially:

  • if your travel is for your business or employer;
  • or you are travelling outside Australia ‘for a compelling reason for three months or longer’.

You can apply also, to the Home Affairs Department on sundry other grounds: if doing work on the COVID-19 outbreak; compassionate or humanitarian reasons; urgent medical treatment; or travelling “in the national interest”.

That’s on top of automatic exit for non-Australians, aircrew, persons shifting freight, those on official government business including the defence forces.

Coronavirus, Chinese students and the university cash quagmire

Australia’s Chinese students are languishing in China due to the coronavirus travel ban and our universities are feeling the financial strain.

Who gets to go and return?

It stays unclear exactly which Australians are going and which of those get to turn around later and come back – but it is not difficult telling who cannot return.

The situation of many private travellers, or temporary expatriate Australians, has been well-publicised since it all started early last year, with little change: couples with young children selling up and putting their limited funds into air tickets and still getting bumped; back-packers or students faced with paying over four-times the fares they went over on; professionals turned out of an overseas job they’d held for years; migrant families divided by the crisis, some caught on a visit to the “old country”.

Being rich helps

Those people can ask the Foreign Affairs department for a loan or grant out of a $61 million Federal Government “hardship fund”, but that does not seem to be doing the trick. They could try getting rich quick, or get a job with a business employer with a great travel budget.

For the business traveller, or the well to do, one travel operative told the ABC about a few of the deals currently on offer:

“Better class” of travellers?

Some of the ‘better class’ of traveller these days who may come and go:

Morrison Government duck-shoving COVID-19 responsibilities onto states

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Morrison Government has pushed many of its legal responsibilities to state governments.

Business not households

The setting up of re-entries with a business and money bias is a sign of the policy stand on COVID-19 being taken by conservative interests world-wide: business not households.

It means a priority to keep industry going, keep up production, and profits – those given preference over lockdowns and health services. The pitch is: you avoid economic collapse and provide jobs. It is backed up with denial and bravado about the epidemic – tell the public it will go away soon. The risk is a resurgence of the disease and death.

The Australian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, started out in step with this global plan, pushing against any closures of schools, or state borders. And in keeping with the line on business before households, we have the business-first air travel regimen – and 37,000 Australians stranded overseas.

Changes forced through by COVID-19

After COVID-19, will we see the end of mass travel that began with jet airliners around 1960? Will it be back to the days of elegant first class-only travel for the few?

Some of this was already in the air, for example, start-up business class-only airlines. Singapore’s mass-travel Changi terminal is being duplicated with a business centre constructed on a different concept: business class shuttles into a luxury conferencing hub and playground – same profit and fewer travellers to bother with.

One aspect of mass travel has been a change in the migration experience. Many families have a version of grandfather’s story: as a young man, he said goodbye to his mother in England, Greece or Yugoslavia, both knowing they would never see each other again. In this Century and earlier, mass travel changed it; first or second-generation Australians making frequent, even annual visits “home”, often involving business.

That has contributed to the volume of demand for seats in the pandemic crisis, and to the pain of separation for many.

What about an air-lift and camps to get people home? Call on the air force with an air charter operation, to pick up the 37,000 (maybe 150 flights), and run a quarantine operation at camps outside of the cities.

Numerous left-over military buildings were used like that during the immigration influx following the Second World War. Would a country which now has a much stronger capacity away from the same kind of challenge now?

Dr Lee Duffield is a former ABC foreign correspondent, political journalist and academic.

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Thousands share Indigenous ribbon skirt photos in solidarity with Sask. girl


TORONTO —
Thousands of Indigenous women around the world are sharing photos on social media in solidarity with a 10-year-old Canadian girl who was ridiculed for wearing a traditional ribbon skirt to school last month.

Isabella Kulak from the Cote First Nation attended a “formal day” at Kamsack Comprehensive Institute in Saskatchewan on the final day of class before the holidays. Other girls at the school were wearing what looked like store-bought dresses, she and her parents recounted on CTV News Channel Friday, but Isabella chose to wear one of her traditional, handmade ribbon skirts.

The Indigenous attire, which are often vibrantly coloured and feature ribbon-like patterns, mean many things to different women and are worn on a variety of occasions.

For Isabella, the skirts holds much power. “It represents strength, resilience, cultural identity and womanhood,” she told CTV News Channel on Friday. 

But in one moment that day, that power was taken from her, when a teaching assistant told Isabella that her skirt didn’t match her dress and wasn’t appropriate for a formal day. They pointed to another girl at the school in a dress suggesting Isabella wear something different next time. The school has since apologized to Isabella and her family.

When she went home that day, Isabella’s parents Lana and Chris noticed she seemed sad. Later that evening, she opened up to her mother about what happened.

“It really broke my heart and it brought back all kinds of emotions from when I was a little girl,” Lana told CTV News Channel. “I couldn’t believe that it was happening in this day and age to one of my children now. It was very heartbreaking.”

A Facebook group in support of Isabella has grown to more than 5,500 members since Dec. 30. In thousands of images posted to the page, Indigenous women and girls from across Canada and around the globe — from California to England — are seen showing off a variety of ribbon skirts. Some are simple designs, others intricate and floral. Some are playful. One woman posted a photo of her wearing an Edmonton Oilers skirt. Another young girl shared an image of her holding a baby Yoda doll in a matching ribbon skirt.

The incident has inspired a push for a “ribbon skirt day” later this month in the area. Isabella’s parents hope that the difficult moment for the family can turn into a positive lesson for others.

“These old mindsets and these old ways of thinking … people think there’s been a bunch of progress and maybe there has been, but not enough. We can always strive to do better,” said Chris. “I hope that all the support and showing of interest in this story will get people talking in a positive way about what happened and not a negative way so that we can change the course of this discussion that’s been happening for a very long time.”

The outpouring of support has already been a positive step.

“It felt very nice to know that I have lots of people supporting me around the world,” said Isabella, who has been getting personal messages of encouragement.​ 

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Thousands of baby snapper to be released into SA gulf waters to boost fish stock recovery


Hundreds of thousands of snapper fingerlings will be released off South Australia’s coastline over the coming months, as part of a desperate attempt to replenish critically low stocks of the native fish.

A “drastic” total fishing ban was introduced in September 2019, applying to all coastal areas except the state’s south-east, in an attempt to safeguard snapper from overfishing.

An SA Research and Development Institute (SARDI) restocking program was launched around the same time the ban was introduced, resulting in 300,000 fish being spawned.

SARDI’s research director of aquatic sciences, Dr Mike Steer, said the introduction of the fingerlings into SA waters would give the species a chance of recovery.

“This initiative is trying to circuit-break [low numbers] by introducing a number of small fish to give the stock a kickstart in recovery,” Dr Steer said.

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Adult snapper stock from both Gulf St Vincent and Spencer Gulf were collected last year to be bred at SARDI’s fisheries facility at West Beach, in Adelaide.

SARDI scientists said they “cracked the code” for successful snapper spawning in October last year, resulting in 300,000 fingerlings.

“We’ve nursed them through their early vulnerable stages … we’ve provided adequate food, we’ve maintained the environment, the water quality has been really good,” Dr Steer said.

Now that they have reached a “healthy” length of 40 to 60 millimetres, they are ready for release.

About 150,000 of the fingerlings will be released from Gulf St Vincent next week, with the remainder to be released into Spencer Gulf during autumn.

“They aggregate in muddy, sea-weedy nursery grounds, so we’ve identified similar nursery grounds in Gulf St Vincent off Ardrossan for the release,” Dr Steer said.

Recovery not guaranteed

Primary Industries Minister David Basham said that, so far, the fishing ban had not produced any promising signs of the species replenishing itself naturally.

Overfishing concerns prompted a ban on catching snapper.(ABC News: Brittany Evins)

Mr Basham said it was extremely difficult to know how much recovery would occur naturally, or what the impact of the introduced fingerlings would be.

“We know it will take these fingerlings three to five years to be catchable size — so these aren’t an instant fix.”

The ban is being reassessed each year, and could be lifted in early 2023 if stocks increase by then, but there are no guarantees.

“We’ll have to wait and see how the science assesses this,” Mr Basham said.

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Grounded ministers to save taxpayers thousands as they stay home


That means there was only a little more than three months in which overseas travel was banned in the 2019-20 financial year.

There has been no guarantee borders will be open by July 2021, despite Qantas putting international tickets on sale.

Travel reports show Education Minister Grace Grace went on a $43,817 trip to the US in November 2019 to explore trade opportunities, particularly in international education, tourism and regulation of amusement devices.

Former treasurer Jackie Trad’s Queensland Treasury Corporation annual global roadshow to the UK, France and the US from July to August 2019 cost taxpayers $40,726.

The annual trip, also undertaken by previous treasurers, is designed to spruik the state’s economy to investors and promote Queensland government bonds.

Ms Trad also travelled to China in September 2019, at a cost of $17,086, for the 30th anniversary celebrations of the Queensland/Shanghai sister state relationship.

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Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk flew to Switzerland from September 7 to 12, 2019, to discuss a potential Queensland bid for the 2032 Olympics, at a cost of $32,979.

Ms Palaszczuk also incurred more than $5000 in expenses from a cancelled trip to China.

Other ministers to travel overseas were Cameron Dick, who went to the Bio World Congress 2019 in the US ($28,387), Yvette D’Ath who travelled to New Zealand for a forum on consumer affairs ($5785), Kate Jones who went to China to discuss tourism ($19,432), Mark Bailey who went to France, the UK and Norway to meet with transport authorities and receive briefings on smart ticketing, hydrogen and electric public transport vehicles ($36,615), and Mark Furner who went to Indonesia and Singapore to strengthen trade relationships in beef, sugar, cotton and grain ($30,791).

In comparison, the overseas travel report for July to September 2020, unsurprisingly, comes to a grand total of $0.

Despite international borders being slammed shut, Queensland ministers did not shy away from domestic travel, spending $1.12 million in 2019-20.

In comparison, they spent $1.15 million the previous year.

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Ireland Report on Mother and Baby Homes Reveals Abuse and Thousands of Deaths


A government-commissioned report released on Tuesday found a shocking number of deaths and widespread abuses at religious institutions in Ireland for unwed mothers and their children. Survivors say the document is a small step toward accountability after decades of horrors.

The report, the culmination of a six-year investigation, detailed some 9,000 deaths of children at 14 of the country’s so-called mother and baby homes and four county homes over several decades, a mortality rate far higher than the rest of the population. The institutions, where unmarried women and girls were sent to give birth in secrecy and were pressured to give their children up for adoption, were also responsible for unethical vaccine trials and traumatic emotional abuse, the report found.

For decades, the stories of these places and the atrocities carried out in them, were largely unspoken — despite calls from the mothers who became virtual prisoners within their walls and children who spent their earliest years there, later sharing stories of neglect and abuse.

But as the country has made strides to reckon with uglier aspects of its conservative Roman Catholic roots, deeply intertwined with the foundation of the state, there have been recent moments when the scale of the systemic abuses has been thrust into the light.

Tuesday was one of those days.

Ireland’s leader, or Taoiseach, Micheal Martin, at a news conference said the report outlined a “a dark, difficult and shameful chapter” of the country’s past, acknowledging significant failures by the state, society and church.

“It opens a window onto a deeply misogynistic culture in Ireland over several decades, with serious and systematic discrimination against women, especially those who gave birth outside of marriage,” he said. “We did this to ourselves as a society.”

Survivors of the homes say urgent action by the state is needed, and many say the Roman Catholic church, which ran the homes, needs to be held more fully accountable.

The Coalition of Mother and Baby Home Survivors said it was disappointed in the “fundamentally incomplete” nature of the final report.

Mr. Martin and the country’s minister for children, Roderic O’Gorman, spoke with survivors earlier in the afternoon by video to discuss the contents of the report, which is more than 3,000 pages. Mr. Martin said he would issue an official state apology in front of Parliament on Wednesday, and Mr. O’Gorman pledged that the government was committed to working with survivors.

Mother and baby homes were run by religious orders, starting in the 1920s, and funded by the Irish government. But the institutions where young women and girls were taken, typically against their will, are not a thing of Ireland’s distant past. The last of the facilities was closed in 1998.

The commission focused on 18 institutions between 1922 to 1998, and was set up after reports emerged that the remains of nearly 800 babies and children were interred in an unmarked mass grave at a home run by nuns in the town of Tuam in County Galway.

Attention was initially drawn to the situation by the extensive research of a local, amateur historian, Catherine Corless, who pieced together records showing dozens of suspicious deaths of infants and children at the St. Mary’s Mother and Baby Home, but no graves associated with them. Mr. Martin thanked her by name Tuesday, calling her a “tireless crusader of dignity and truth.”

“It has been a long journey, and it hasn’t been easy,” Ms. Corless said in an interview on Tuesday morning. As evidence had piled up over the years, she said she felt compelled to pressure the government to take notice. “That’s all I could do: keep talking, keep being a voice for the people who had no voice.”

In the wake of her work, the government was forced to pay attention and formed the commission in 2015. A significant number of human remains were found at the site in Tuam in 2017.

Ms. Corless acknowledged that Tuesday was a “big day” for survivors, but said an apology from the state simply did not go far enough. She said the Bon Secours nuns, who ran the facility in Tuam, and orders that oversaw others, needed to be held accountable.

The atrocities did not play out just in Tuam. The 18 homes in Tuesday’s report spanned the country and were run by different groups of nuns. The Church ran the homes, but the newly founded Irish state worked hand-in-hand with them making many effectively state institutions in all but name.

The report detailed how 56,000 unmarried mothers and about 57,000 children came through the homes investigated by the commission during a 76-year period. It attempted to differentiate between the earliest years of the home and those that came later.

“In the years before 1960 mother and baby homes did not save the lives of ‘illegitimate’ children; in fact, they appear to have significantly reduced their prospects of survival,” the report said, adding that the women and children “should not have been in the institutions” at all.

But it also said there was “no evidence of the sort of gross abuse that occurred in industrial schools,” and said women were not forced by the state or church to enter the homes, though they were left with little choice, a point survivors took issue with.

The homes were just one part of a larger system that exploited and suppressed some of the country’s most vulnerable women and girls. Considered “fallen women,” they were relegated to the fringes, and even when they were not confined to mother and baby homes — were often pressured into giving up their newborns, often in shadowy adoptions.

After Ireland’s Sunday Independent published details of the report this week, KRW Law Human Rights, which represents a number of survivors, said the leak had further undermined confidence in the commission.

Marie Arbuckle, a survivor of one of the homes in Dublin where she gave birth to a son in 1981, said the decades since have been painful and felt the report barely scratched the surface.

“Taking a baby away from a mother, how can you say that’s not abuse?” she said. “No matter what apology they give, it cannot take back what they have stolen from us already, but own up.”

The commission’s archive has been handed over to the country’s child and family agency, though survivors had raised concerns about access to the materials. The government vowed to ensure access to their personal information and said counseling services were being offered. Mr. O’Gorman said the government had written to the religious orders involved to arrange a meeting to urge an apology and to seek compensation for the survivors.

But the church has been silent on the issue in the past.

For the survivors, the report is only the start, Ms. Corless said, adding it was time for the church and the religious orders to apologize and work with the survivors.

“Really and truly, they need an apology, not just want it, they need it for healing,” she said. “We are depending on that.”

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Private clinics cost tens of thousands of dollars and people’s dreams


A little under five years ago, my wife and I started going through the IVF process to have a child. Being the product of IVF surrogacy, donor sperm, and a mother, Maggie Kirkman, who is an expert in women’s experiences of infertility, I felt uniquely qualified for the process.

However, nothing really prepares you for the anguish of seeing a blastocyst on a screen, falling in love with it, and then feeling it die while you are pumped full of pregnancy hormones.

The financial costs of IVF made the whole thing far more stressful.

Going through IVF is the worst thing that has ever happened to me physically and emotionally. The financial costs made the whole thing far more stressful and limited how many attempts we could have. I know of people who have sold their houses and given up everything to pay for cycle after cycle to have the child they always dreamed of. What’s so infuriating, though, is that it absolutely does not have to be this expensive. This is what happens when medical care is run for private profit instead of public good. We laugh at Americans for thinking their healthcare really is that expensive, and then turn around and say: “$15,000 for one cycle of IVF? Sounds about right.”

Back when my parents were assembling the necessary components for my existence, the whole thing was very expensive, as you would expect for ground-breaking, first-of-its-kind treatment. But the charges reflected the actual cost of the medical procedures, and the people in charge were the doctors who were dedicated to getting the best outcomes for their patients without having to be concerned about how controversy could affect corporate profits.

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ACT lifts COVID-19 restrictions for Greater Brisbane, thousands allowed out of quarantine



More than 4,500 people currently quarantining in Canberra have been let out of isolation early, with the ACT Government walking back coronavirus restrictions for Greater Brisbane.

On Friday, people who had been in Brisbane, Moreton Bay, Ipswich, Redlands or Logan local government areas since January 2 were ordered to self-isolate for 14 days and ACT residents in Brisbane were urged to stay there rather than travel back to Canberra.

The travel restrictions were sparked by concerns over a highly contagious mutation of COVID-19 that had been detected in Brisbane.

Today’s decision to remove isolation requirements follows Queensland recording no locally acquired cases of COVID-19 over the weekend and ending the city’s own three-day lockdown.

The changes also allow for the resumption of travel between Brisbane and Canberra.

“I have made this decision after carefully considering the broader risk to the ACT community,” ACT Chief Health Officer Kerryn Coleman said.

“We’ve had around 4,800 people identify to ACT Health that they had been in Greater Brisbane, a majority of whom were ACT residents, who went into quarantine in the ACT.

“We want to thank the ACT community for doing the right thing to keep our community safe.”

People being let out of isolation are being encouraged by authorities to check the Queensland Health website every day, and to re-enter isolation if they are identified as a close contact of a confirmed case.

The ACT’s border rules prohibiting travel from Greater Sydney remain in place, but will be reviewed by Government officials tomorrow.

More to come.

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Thousands of migrant teachers are struggling to get their skills recognised in Australia


For Chinese language teacher Yongfei Lin, education is her lifelong passion. So when she migrated to Australia, getting professionally accredited was paramount.

“Teaching for over 15 years, it’s become part of my life. It’s a habit,” she told SBS News.

But even with years of teaching experience, transferring her qualifications from China to Australia was complicated, and much of her study was not accepted.

“Few of the units can be transferred because the system is absolutely different. Western and Eastern style, and also with the language difference and the pedagogies [teaching methods].”

Yongfei Lin currently teaches at a Mandarin community language school in Sydney.

Supplied

Now, with the help of a special university course, Ms Lin is preparing to be able to work in an Australian school in just a year’s time.

She is one of 60 teachers studying a Master of Teaching through the Sydney Institute for Community Languages Education (SICLE) and its university partners Western Sydney University and the Australian Catholic University.

Its aim is to offer a smooth pathway into the mainstream teaching system within Australian schools.

The cohort has just finished their first year of the degree and will continue their studies after the summer break. 

Teachers

These five teachers are completing their master’s degree to get accredited to work in Australian mainstream schools.

SBS News

SICLE director Professor Ken Cruickshank said Ms Lin’s story is not isolated. His research estimates 6,000 teachers are currently locked out of the system.

“We did a study last year of the teachers in the NSW community languages schools and what we found is that 80 per cent of the 3,000 teachers want to be teachers in Australia, but only two per cent have made it,” he said.

“You’ve got this huge pool of teachers with skills in science, maths, languages, who are unable to get into the system.”

You’ve got this huge pool of teachers with skills in science, maths, languages, who are unable to get into the system.

– Professor Ken Cruickshank, SICLE 

Professor Cruickshank said the process is currently over-complicated, time-consuming and expensive.

“It’s a lack of information, it’s not knowing where to go, it’s how to upgrade qualifications, it’s how to get their English improved; there’s no pathway for them.”

The vast majority of those enrolled in the Master of Teaching – considered the only one of its kind in Australia – are also women, many of whom have children.

For that reason, the course has been built to be flexible, offering classes at the weekend, online and during school holidays. 

Some of the teachers who are studying the Masters of Teaching. They speak multiple languages including Mandarin, Arabic, Vietnamese, Armenian and Malayalam.

Some of the teachers who are studying the Master of Teaching. They speak languages including Mandarin, Arabic, Vietnamese, Armenian and Malayalam.

SBS News

Program manager Maya Cranitch says the course is “tailor-made” to suit all timetables.

“It allows people who have children and jobs, and are still working in community language schools on Saturday, to participate … and fits in with all these various responsibilities,” she said. 

It also includes career advice and English language support.

The course has not only reached qualified teachers from overseas, but also other university graduates with relevant qualifications or experience.

Armenian-born IT professional Anna Chokekchyan is also completing the course. She rediscovered her passion for teaching when she volunteered to work at Toomanian Saturday School, an Armenian school in Sydney.

Armenian IT professional Anna Chokekchyan

Anna Chokekchyan can’t wait to be able to teach in New South Wales.

SBS News

She is planning to use her expertise to teach business and commerce to high schoolers.

“At the age of 42, I decided to listen to my heart … and this is how I started my first steps in professional teaching,” she said.

Professor Cruickshank says the teaching workforce is ageing in Australia, meaning the country must prepare for a huge demand of teachers – especially in STEM and languages – in the future.

Employing a more diverse range of teachers should also be front of mind, he says. 

“Our problem here is that although something like 20 per cent of our students have a language other than English at home, only about 10 per cent of teachers do.

“We need teachers in the schools who are bilingual and are bicultural. That’s the benefits.”

There are calls for Australia to recruit more bilingual and bicultural teachers.

There are calls for Australia to recruit more bilingual and bicultural teachers.

AFP

Ms Chokekchyan agrees.

“This is an opportunity for teaching staff to appreciate their [students’] cultural identity and to inspire them to preserve it,” she said.

“That’s actually something that teachers with other backgrounds can bring into multicultural Australia’s education.”

School students in New South Wales are set to reap those benefits from teachers like Ms Lin and Ms Chokekchyan by 2022.

The course is set to accept another 100 teachers in 2021.

On its website, the NSW Department of Education states: “If you have completed teacher education studies at a tertiary institution outside of Australia and would like to teach in NSW public schools, you will need to be accredited by the NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA) and gain approval to teach by the NSW Department of Education.”

“To apply for permanent teaching positions in NSW public schools you will need to be an Australian citizen or permanent resident.”

Find out more about SICLE and the Master of Teaching here

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