February 18 - 24, 2024: Issue 614

Our Youth page is for young people aged 13+ - if you are younger than this we have news for you in the Children's pageNews items and articles run at the top of this page. Information, local resources, events and local organisations, sports groups etc. are at the base of this page. All Previous pages for you are listed in Past Features

Casino teen's brave bus rescue recognised with Premier's Award

NSW Premier Chris Minns awarded Casino High School student Izzy Miller a Premier’s Award to honour her brave actions in preventing a bus crash last year.

In November, a bus with around 20 local students aboard began moving after the bus driver had stepped out from the vehicle.

Izzy quickly realised the danger as the bus moved toward a petrol station, with CCTV showing customers and staff were in harm’s way.

Izzy jumped into the empty driver’s seat and took control of the wheel. She located the brake pedal and steered the bus to safety, avoiding petrol bowsers, pedestrians and other vehicles.

Izzy, who was in year nine at the time, prevented what could have been a serious accident, with all passengers escaping unharmed.


Izzy with Casino High School Relieving Principal Trent Graham at the end of 2023.

Premier Chris Minns presented Izzy with a Premier’s Award trophy at a school assembly to recognise her heroic act on February 9, 2024

The Premier’s Award gives recognition to people or groups in NSW who have contributed to the state, either through their significant act, contribution, or achievement.

This is the first Premier’s Award awarded by Premier Minns.

NSW Premier Chris Minns said:
“Thank you, Izzy, for showing courage and judgement beyond your years.

“Your bravery and quick thinking saved students and members of the public from a potential disaster.

“What makes your actions even more remarkable is you don’t even have your L-plates yet.

“I am so pleased to be able to present you with this award.

“You are a deserving recipient of the first Premier’s Award I have presented since coming to office.”


NSW Premier Chris Minns and Casino High School student Izzy Miller. Photo: NSW Government/Dept. of Education.

Surfing's First World Championship at Manly in 1964: Midget's tribute at Black Rock, palm beach, given go-ahead

A great new video has been published by the Australian National Surfing Museum on February 15, 2024, featuring footage and photos from the first World Championships of Surfing, held at Manly, May 16-17, 1964.

Magazine editor and surf film maker Bob Evans convinced one of Australia’s largest oil companies to sponsor the event, Ampol.

Ampol was a household name in Australia at that time as they had a network of petrol stations akin to today’s networks. Sydney surfer Kenny Williams was asked to run the judging which was loosely based on style and technique.

Previously The Makaha Invitational in Hawaii was considered the unofficial world championships. Midget Farrelly won the 1962 event and was well placed for the challenge of a home town win.

Manly Council agreed to bulldoze the beach and bank it to create maximum viewing space for the thousands of spectators that were expected.

The finals of the Juniors and Women’s were held on Sunday along with the Men’s finals which included several seeded surfers.

The favourites for the Senior Men’s event were overseas surfers, especially Hawaiian Joey Cabell and American John Richards, while Americans Linda Benson and Marge Calhoun were the favourites to win the Women’s event.

Among the Australians considered a good chance were Bobby Brown, Midget Farrelly and Avalon Beach surfer Mick Dooley, who won Bells in 1964.

An estimated 60000 people flocked to Manly beach to watch the finals.

Midget Farrelly won the men’s event ahead of Mike Doyle and Joey Cabell, and the win was decisive – Farrelly scored 132 points, Doyle scored 126.4 and Cabell scored 126 points.

Australian surfer Phyllis O’Donnell won the women’s event ahead of Linda Benson and Heather Nicholson and 10 times Bells beach champion Gail Cooper from Lorne in Victoria.

The junior men’s event was won by Bob Connelly ahead of Nat Young and Wayne Cowper.


Winners Midget Farrelly and Phyllis O'Donnell with their trophies. CREDIT R.L. Stewart

On December 20 2023 Council announced that Palm Beach surfing legend Bernard “Midget” Farrelly, dubbed the ‘Godfather’ of Australian surfing, will be forever honoured and remembered with a rock carving at Palm Beach.

Following public consultation, Council endorsed a proposal by the Midget Farrelly Recognition Committee to install a public artwork on Black Rock, Ocean Road Palm Beach.

The Midget Farrelly Recognition Committee recommended a petroglyph carving, which is created by incising, picking, carving or abrading part of the rock surface.

The Tribute was endorsed by members of Midget's family as he was, at heart, a modest gentleman, and this art work will in time fade with weathering and disappear.



Black Rock, Palm Beach

Midget lived at Palm Beach for 54 years and surfed there almost every day on one of his many short and malibu surfboards. 

He passed away in 2016 at the age of 71, after a battle with cancer. 

He became the first Australian to win a major international surfing title at the 1962 Makaha International Surfing Championships. Two years later, he won the inaugural World Surfing Championships at Manly Beach. 

From the World Titles he had a vest on with the number 3 on it during the heat rounds. His vest actually had number 2 during the final:


Jack Eden's photo of Midget at Manly World Championships of Surfing in 1964, courtesy Jack and Dawn Eden


Ron Perrott's photo at Manly World Championships of Surfing in 1964, courtesy Ron Perrott


In 1985, he was inducted into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame, recognising his contribution to surfing.

He started his first surfboard business in Palm Beach at the age of 18 after working for renowned Barry Bennett surfboards in Brookvale from the age of 15. He was considered a major player in the shortboard revolution.

Midget gave back to the local community through the Palm Beach and Whale Beach Surf Lifesaving Clubs, where he was a member and mentor for over 20 years. 

Midget with his Whale Beach SLSC Boat Crews at the February 2016, SLS Sydney Northern Beaches Branch Competition at Palm Beach.




Midget's wife Beverlie Farrelly with Midget's boat and Whale Beach SLSC crew at Warriewood Surfboats carnival, December 2016

Council received 101 responses during community consultation over the proposed artwork. Community feedback indicated a high level of support for the commemoration of Midget Farrelly in Palm Beach. 

The tribute will be installed in early 2024, weather permitting.

A few notes:

Born in Sydney, Farrelly had his first surf experiences at North Bondi beach in the early ’50s. This was the heart of old-style Australian beach culture; the realm of the volunteer lifesaver “surf clubs”, where the country’s few surfers would leave their big wooden boards overnight because they were too heavy to carry home on cars or bikes.

Quickly nicknamed ‘Midget’ for his slight build among the big men of the beaches, a barely teenage Farrelly saw California’s Greg Noll surfing Sydney waves during Da Bull’s lifeguard-sponsored visit in 1956, and realised that you could ‘corner’ on waves. (The Americans gave many demonstrations at Melbourne beaches during that Olympic year and subsequently launched the surf boom.) By 1961, the Malibu-style lightweight boards were being churned out and Farrelly was the Australian surfing champion. In 1962, he went to Hawaii and won the Makaha International championship in 6-foot surf, using a quick, light-footed surfing style, surprising the Hawaiians and Americans by becoming the first ‘outsider’ to win the event.

SURFBOARD WIN TO AUSTRALIAN HONOLULU, 

Wednesday (A.A.P.-Reuter) 

Australian surfer, Bernard Farrelly of Sydney won the world surfboard riding title to-day. He captured the championship from nine of the most experienced surfers in the world at the end of an exciting international tournament at the famed Makaha Beach in Hawaii. Experts who watched the final said Farrelly won because the conditions suited him better than the other finalists, who were all from Hawaii or California. The finalists had to wait two days until tournament officials decided the waves were good enough to make surfing possible. Farrelly showed remarkable control in his series of rides, building up his points tally, based on the length of ride and form displayed in catching a wave. SURFBOARD WIN TO AUSTRALIAN (1963, January 3 - Thursday). The Canberra Times (ACT : 1926 - 1995), p. 20. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article104254829 

By 1964 the International Surfing Federation had pulled together the world’s surfing nations to stage a first-ever World Surfing Championships. The venue was Manly Beach. At the time, Australia was hardly the epicentre of surfing but 60,000 people lined the Manly shores to watch Farrelly take the men’s crown ahead of surfers such as Joey Cabell and Mike Doyle. Prior to the championship, Farrelly had won the Australian title. 

A sensational stylist, Farrelly was considered unbeatable at his peak in medium surfs but could match the world’s best in any conditions.

Farrelly was arguably the most successful competitor in the world during the 60s, he won the Australian title again in 1965, finished sixth at the 1966 world championships, and lost on a count-back to Fred Hemmings in the 1968 world championship at Puerto Rico to be placed 2nd. In 1966 he also won the Peruvian International Small Waves competition and in 1968 won the Bobby Brown Memorial.

Though always dedicated to the sport, he later became embroiled in a series of disagreements with Australian officials and was banned from entering the 1969 Australian title. He finished second at the 1970 world championships.

He set his own path through the ’70s and much of the ’80s, building a successful blank-making and chemicals business (Surfblanks), getting into alternative sports (he once broke his ankle hang gliding and is a highly skilled sailboarder), keeping a low personal profile, yet always being in the water on the bigger days at North Avalon and other breaks near his Palm Beach home. He learned to shape surfboards and produced two books – ‘A Surfing Life’ and ‘How to Surf ‘.

Midget still ran Surfblanks and spent more time in the water than ever before passing away on August 8th 2016. His public profile remained very low until, inspired by some of the new generation of Australian pro surfers, he began appearing at events and surfing in the legends displays that accompanied some Aussie pro events in the late ’80s. At the 1999 Noosa (Queensland) Surfing Festival, he re-won his 1964 crown in a replay of that event’s final heat.


Scott Dillon with Bernard Midget Farrelly at the 64 world titles re-enactment in Noosa. Photo courtesy Ron Turton

Honours & Achievements

2017: Posthumously made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for his contribution to surfing

More in: 

Midget Farrelly at Palm Beach, 1964 – photo by by John Witzig, reproduced with permission of the National Portrait Gallery, Canberra. 

Midget surfing off Black Rock at Palm Beach in November 2015:
A J Guesdon photos



















Bernard Midget Farrelly Paddle Out Tribute at Palm Beach on September 11th, 2016
That video, along with another, just below this one

Pictures From The Past: Views Of Early Narrabeen Bridges

Did you know that Narrabeen's Lagoon did not have a bridge to cross into Pittwater until 1882?

People walking or riding on horses along the Pittwater road, formerly just a track, had to wait until the tide was low or choose what was known as a 'low part of the lake' near the site of the main Narrabeen Lagoon bridge today. The entrance to the lagoon was also frequently closed and that too could be a place to cross:

CONRAD MARTENS (1801-1878) Entrance to Narrabeen Lake, circa 1860  watercolour signed, titled and inscribed verso: Entrance to Narrabeen Lake by Conrad Martens 39.5 x 44.5 cm, courtesy The Alan & Margaret Hickinbotham Collection

Charles de Boos, in his published in 1861 account of walking from Manly to Barrenjoey, said:

The road now led us along a swampy honeysuckle flat for rather more than half a mile, and then brought us on to the margin of the Narrabeen lagoon. Narrabeen is a somewhat extensive lagoon, connected with the sea by broad sandy flats covered by the tide at high water, but hire at low water, with the exception of a distance of about twenty rods in width, forming a channel by which the surplus water of the lagoon runs out into the sea. 

The opening to the sea is somewhat narrower than this, though deeper, taking a man to the waist in wading over, whilst at the regular crossing-place the stream at low water is not much over the knee. It is situated between the island fall of the high precipitous ridge that, jutting far out into the ocean, forms Narrabeen Head to the north; and to the south, the long low sandy beach that extends northerly from the Long Reef. 

The large sheet of water that forms the lagoon is situated some two miles from the sea, with which the sandy flats connect it, although at high water, and particularly at spring tides, one broad expanse of water extending in one continuous sheet from the ocean into the interior for a distance of five miles is presented to the view, forming a magnificent lake, by no means wanting in picturesqueness and rude grandeur in some portions of it. 

Where the road crosses, the country for some distance around is flat, and consequently tame, and the picture is rendered sombre by the low, thick growth of ti tree that fringes the water line, and the dark leaved honeysuckles of the flat land beyond ; but higher up, where the fresh water of the lagoon commences, where ranges clad with giant timber come down to its margin, and where numerous gullies with the rich, dank jungle vegetation of the tropics, including the cabbage-tree palm, the fern tree, the bengola, and wild vine, empty their watery contributions into it wild landscape views might be taken fully equal to many of those about which artists have raved so much.

I have said that the morning was cloudy, and consequently the sun, not yet very high, was overcast and as we came down to the channel, over which we had to cross, the wind swept coldly over the sandy beach, making the task of stripping and crossing anything but a pleasant one. Under the circumstances, the twenty rods of width-for luckily we had hit the extreme low water - appeared, in my eyes a mighty waste of waters, and in the absence of guide or direction, it seemed a somewhat dangerous experiment to venture upon, particularly as the water was evidently running out with great swiftness.

"Oh," said Tom, as I expressed my doubts, " there's no danger; its all right !"

Right: The Plateau Valse [music] - 1880 - 1889 (9 pages - cover shown) by Charles Huenerbein, courtesy National Library of Australia

So we sat down, pulled off boots and stockings, and tucked up our trousers as high as we could ; but I noticed that with all his boasting, Master Thomas loitered considerably over his preparations, growling audibly over "those blessed boots," the getting on again of which he declared to be a matter of considerable doubt. Tom grumbled and fumbled so long, that Nat, declaring that "he wasn't going to wait getting cold through for him," took the lead in the advance, walked nonchalantly into the water and made steadily for the other side. I watched him with fear and trembling, expecting every minute to sea him disappear, but, as I perceived that he got half-way over with the water only up to Ins knees, I took heart of grace and ventured in. But oh the terrible agony of that first plunge! The water was as cold as if it had been fresh melted snow, and my feet, having been warmed by the brief walk, felt the change most bitterly. But on and on I went, the chill of the water biting in rising circles round my legs as I got deeper and deeper in the stream, causing an agony unspeakable. Just as I was about half-way across, I turned round in order to see by the distance I had passed how long this torture was to be continued and there I beheld Tom, all ready for the passage, peeping out at us through the bushes. He caught my eye, and shouted "Tell us if it gets any deeper!

The old dodger had quietly pushed us on ahead, in order, as he said, that we might take soundings for him. I made him no answer, for I was too full of my own especial sufferings just at that moment j and, i without joke, it was as painful an ordeal, in regard to mere corporeal pain, as ever I went through m so brief a time. In fact, so acute was it, that I felt as I neared the end of my torture as if I could not possibly hold out until I got out of that blood-chilling stream, but that my feet must give way, and that I must fall. However, across I did get, without the fall that I considered inevitable, and it was only by looking down at my feet and seeing them there doing duty, that I could assure myself that I still possessed those appendages. The feeling I experienced on quitting the water was as if feet ankles and legs had been cut off, just at the place where the water had reached highest, with a red hot saw. Though I looked down occasionally to assure myself of the fact that I still possessed them, it was only after a ten minutes' run upon the sand that any sensation of feeling in those useful members made assurance doubly sure; and during the whole of the day I felt that burning ring round my leg, sometimes with painful  distinctness.

There was a large flock of sand pipers, small birds, somewhat about the size of a lark, but with long lags like a snipe, that were running about the sand picking up their morning meal. I tried very hard to got a shot at them, but they ran away so fast and kept themselves so pertinaciously out of gun-shot that at last I let fly haphazard at them, and of course got nothing.

We now made for the opposite bank of the stream, where, above high watermark, the grass grew in thick coarse tufts forming a convenient towel with which to wipe the sand from our feet, and here we once more resumed boots and stockings, and got into marching on, though not before Tom had had a desperate struggle with his rebellious watertights, in which, from dread that in the end the boots would get the best of it, we were at last fain to join, and so by dint of numbers gained the mastery. Tom seemed quite proud of his achievement, and stalked along in consequence quite boastfully for the rest of that day's journey.

We had hung our loads on the posts of a fence that skirted the edge of the sand, and which enclosed paddock of long reedy grass, as high as a man's waist though beyond some gently undulating land the crest surmounted by a not very neat but substantial looking slate dwelling, rose up from the marshy plain, and appeared to be rich cultivated land. We were about to take our loads from the temporary pegs on which they hung, when we were joined by another wayfarer, who, like ourselves, had just crossed the lagoon, and came up to us to reconnoitre. .... MY HOLIDAY. (1861, July 1). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 2. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article13061639



Narrabeen [a view, possibly of the lagoon and beach] Watercolour, 16.2 × 34 cm (6 3/8" × 13 3/8") circa 1870 by William Andrews, 1840-1887. Image No. c12838_0017_c, courtesy State Library of NSW

A description of then from a newspaper report of 1877:

SCENE ON NARRABEAN LAGOON.
Narrabean And Mona Vale.

THERE are few spots about Sydney more picturesque and interesting than Narrabean and Mona Vale, Pitt Water, and the wonder is that more visitors from the noisy and dusty metropolis do not find their way to these peaceful sylvan scenes, to rusticate and recruit their flagging energies. Fish abound in the lagoon, and at the present season there is no lack of game in the underbrush near the shore, and the ridges that extend towards the higher country at the back. In addition to this, the character of the whole place is different from anything that is met with in any other part of the metropolitan districts ; and as the eye takes in the prospect afforded, particularly at Narrabeen, one who knows the history of the locality can hardly help being impressed with the idea that it is a picture full of sad memories and mournful recollections. Right before the visitor, as he stands upon the piece of elevated land overlooking the lagoon, extends a fine stretch of grassy country, almost as level as a race-course Though within a few yards of the ocean, not a rock or sign of such proximity is visible, and the whole reach is protected from the violence of storms by a belt of thick forest which margins the ocean throughout. At the back rugged ridges rise precipitously, and these being clad with foliage to their very crown, add much to the sense of beauty and security, as it were, of the whole place. Hereabout are evidences of a once busy time; but desolation now presents itself on every hand. The houses are in ruins, and the fences dilapidated, and one sees nothing now but what indicates a marvellous chance from the past; remnants of once comfortable homesteads show themselves, and time indeed seems here to have destroyed all that the energy and industry of man once sought to produce or rear up. Turning round, and looking in a north-easterly direction, an enchanting view meets the eye. 

Our artist has endeavoured, in the accompanying engraving, to depict some of its beauty. Almost at one's foot the placid waters lie like a mirror, over an area of several miles, till the ridges push in their rugged outlines on either side, and thus intercept the view ; but then, farther on, the eye catches a glimpse of a piece of cultivated country, where, one would think, a man might dwell in peace and quiet all his days. To the right the lagoon extends towards the ocean, from which it is separated by a sandy bar, which, however, allows of overflow one way and the other according to the circumstances of the hour. Cranes and aquatic birds abound, but there is very little sign of human life during the greater part of the year. At certain seasons, however, a few fishermen come to the place for a few weeks' stay, and with the aid of their boat and net are able to make the visit profitable. Our view shows their boat upon the lake, moving silently along as a thing of life. 

No more enchanting sight presents itself than this when observed at an early hour- as day breaks, and the gloom disappears, and each headland and bay is lit up, and the whole scene which lies before the eye presents a magnificent panorama of undisturbed nature. Turning again to the ruins, one wonders why such a spot should be I deserted, and the mind is by degrees induced to picture the past, and ask where are those busy hands that first broke in upon this silent scene-that in old times toiled and toiled from day to day beneath the burning sun, to gather about them the comforts of civilisation - all scattered or fallen into disrepair and ruin. Each stone has its history, and the decayed and tottering posts erected by industrious hands tell of the men who have long since passed over to the majority.



But all must be left to the imagination ; there is no one about to reveal the past; nothing seems to live or flourish, save a gigantic cabbage-tree, which rears its head fifty or sixty feet, and, defiant of both time and tempest, looks complacently down on the surrounding scene of desolation. Of late years the place has been in the possession of the Jenkins family, whose members have won for themselves the esteem of all the residents of the district, and whose generous hospitality is spoken of by every one who visits Narrabean. Their homestead is situated a short distance in from the coast, at Long Reef, and its unobtrusive yet comfortable appearance reminds one of an English country home. 

The land at Narrabean is not now cultivated; the soil has been worked out long ago, but a few sheep and cattle are frequently depastured there. Wherever one looks in this district, the scenery presents an aspect totally different from what is usually met with on the coast, as here is found a long stretch of land within a stone throw of the ever-rolling ocean, originally of great fertility, but exhausted by long cropping and careless cultivation. It is much the same with the Mona Vale estate, which is situated about three miles on the opposite side of Narrabean, and usually reached by crossing the lagoon in its shallowest part, which is about the centre. As one wends his way along through the bush, and Mona Vale opens out before him, he stands to behold and enjoy the novel view that presents itself ; it is so secluded and quiet, and yet so grand, with the rugged ridges on the one hand, and the turbulent ocean on the other, that it singularly impresses the visitor, who becomes eager to learn its history, and feels sure there must be many pleasant reminiscences to tell of past occupants. What a sad mistake ! What fearful trials and losses and disappointments have been experienced here. Its history should be written in blood, for if ever red-handed crime flourished in any country, it flourished and triumphed here, till it brought ruin and death to honest people ; and justice, outraged beyond bearing, rushed in and brought the delinquents to punishment. The description of these places has already taken up all the space that can be afforded, so we must defer till a future opportunity a brief outline of the leading incidents in their history. Narrabean and Mona Vale. (1877, January 6). Australian Town and Country Journal (Sydney, NSW : 1870 - 1907), p. 20. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article70598057 

The age old problem of increased population attracting increased funding for infrastructure such as roads met a catch 22 situation in the turning of tracks into passageways that could be ridden or, when automobiles came along, be driven along. Limited access meant roads remained in a poor condition, were unsealed and in places, not navigable. Add to this the great font of creeks, lagoons and waterways that required bridges and the problem of access persisted into the 1920's, as some articles noted, while others were used to promote the wonderful aspects of the area as a means to attract more people - 'The Wonders of Warringah' - February 1st in the Sunday Times, is just one example of these.

Deputation after deputation 'waited upon' a minister for roads, for bridges, for connecting old tracks to new tracks;


Narrabeen Lagoon Crossing Place - 1880


Pittwater scenes, 1880 / Harold Brees, LNarrabeen Lagoon Crossing Place - 1880, Image No.89644600, courtesy State Library of New South Wales.

PITT-WATER ROAD.
The same Minister was waited upon on Friday by the Mayor of Manly (Mr. Hilder), with Messrs. Hayes and Barker, who asked the Government to put in repair that portion of Pitt-water-road, running through the municipality of Manly, before the management of the road was taken over by the municipal council. Mr. Lackey informed the deputation that the Government had already made provision for the work being performed. PITT-WATER ROAD. (1880, March 13).Australian Town and Country Journal (Sydney, NSW : 1870 - 1907), p. 27. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article70941827 

A Bridge over the lagoon - what? Finally:

NARRABEEN BRIDGE. 
Mr. LACKEY, in reply to Mr. Furnell, stated that a sum had been noted for consideration of the Cabinet for the erection of a bridge across the Narrabeen lagoon. 
LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY. (1881, January 15). Australian Town and Country Journal (Sydney, NSW : 1870 - 1907), p. 12. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article70951884

Mr LACKEY in answer to Mr Teece, said that tenders for a bridge over Narrabeen Lagoon, close to the present road, would be invited in two weeks. PARLIAMENT OF NEW SOUTH WALES. (1882, September 9). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 9. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article13526176

A description of the road and way through Narrabeen lagoon of then:

The Sketcher.
A Trip To Gosford.

Leaving Sydney by the 7.15 a.m. steamer for Manly, one discovers how pleasant and refreshing a trip down the harbour may be on a crisp September morning, and regrets on reaching Manly that there are but some 15 or 20 minutes allowed for satisfying the sharpened appetite before the Pittwater coach gets under way. Bowling round the corner, the team, fresh as two-year-olds, takes us at a merry pace along the level road, past the lagoon, and into the bush, continuing amid rock and scrub that grows so prolifically in this sandy soil. A fairly good road gradually ascends for several miles, the left being a mass of rough broken country, and the right, some high ground shutting us off from the sea, till presently we come almost on to the sea-shore, and every hill we top gives as a view of the continuous bay and headland coast-line stretching ahead for miles. 

After some six or seven miles, descending a sharp decline, we almost ran on top of the Collaroyhigh and dry on the beach.The bizarre object startles one as it is so absurdly out of place; but the Company's balance sheet still reckons her an asset. 

The road seems to end here, and the coach enters upon a level strip of sward overawed by a straight range of steep, rocky hills, with a cabbage tree on top, limned against the sky. Here, meeting the fresh north wind that lifts the horses' manes, the leaders put their heads down and stretched themselves for a canter. I had been especially directed to select this route on account of the beauty of its scenery, so closely resembling, at times, that of the Rhine. But although one part of Europe may frequently recall another to the recollection, yet in Australia nature has assumed such distinct characteristics, that all comparison is rendered out of the question, nor could any effort of the imagination convert the old stone ruins on the rise at the end of the flat into the remains of some castle of romance. We could not elevate oneself above the conviction it was but a settler's or free selector's home-stead. Recently the land about here was sold, fetching prices up to £10 for quarter-acre blocks. 

A little further on we entered Narrabeen Lagoon, when the water came over the bottom of the coach. For three quarters of a mile the coach struggled along through marsh and water, not daring to stop lest the wheels sink in the sand. However, it is understood the Government will call for tenders next month for the construction of the bridge. 

Coming out of Narrabeen the coach passes round a finely formed hill abundantly clothed with tree and fern, including quantities of the Burrawang species. On the left arises a cleared eminence with two red cattle; beyond, a half-cleared flat, with a mass of low gnarled gum trees in front, through which the road leads ; on the right are some stretches of white sand, with a reddish-brown bluff rising above, and splashes of spray dashing up against it ; a few light clouds above break the sunshine. It is a good specimen of natural Australian landscape, and these are to the picture the finishing touches of the artist's master hand. As a centrepiece of such a scene, none but a painter knows the value of a lumbering coach and four, axle deep in water, slowly dragging its way along. 

From Narrabeen to Pittwater is a succession of hills and gullies, the views, and retrospect from each becoming finer and finer.The aspect of the coast, which is now continuously in sight, suggests somewhat the snapped off red clayey cliffs of Devon ; while two or three miles beyond are seen the deep gorges among the hills that hide the lake of Pittwater. From a distance, the rugged boldness of the hills bear many of the characteristics of mountainous parts of the Black Forest, although when close the vegetation and the general appearance of 'unfinishedness' effectually dispels the illusion. 

Presently we approach a promontory with rounded top and sides, smooth shaven like a lawn, and interspersed with scrub like the soft buxom furze of a Cornish hillside. It is remarkable besides for its massiveness, and one feels on reaching the summit as though he had overcome one of the obstacles of life. At length, reaching the eminence above Pittwater, we take our last view of the ocean with its half score of white sails dotting its wide surface in an aimless sort of way, and call each other's attention to the dignity waves can assume as they come rolling in with a slow lazy sweep and curl and break on the curved sandy stretch that connects the protruding frowning headlands.

Turning inland, we enter, as it were, the top rim of the basin of the lake, and suddenly come upon the loveliest spot between Sydney and Brisbane Water. On the left one looks down a gorge ever so steep down: down through the stems of several species of gum, ironbark, mahogany, forestoak, turpentine, and cabbage tree, their tops netted into a dense mass of foliage, their bases buried in a profuse overgrowth of fern, bracken, clematis, and the graceful burrawang, a species of palm-fern, while in the mid-distance between the tree stems one can trace the stream at the bottom. The scene is rich with the luxuriant beauty of a New Zealand pass. Coming round the shoulder of the hill, openings in the trees betray glimpses of the deep blue waters of the lake, while the scene stretches away beyond to the high enclosing hills, in all their deep colouring, like one of Conrad Martens' pictures. 

A few minutes more, and the coach stops at the Newport Hotel, having accomplished the 14 miles in about two hours. At the waterside awaits the steamer Florrie. A little to the right, in a small bay, is another wharf, with a large house close by approaching completion, and destined for a boarding-house. As we steam out, we wonder which way we shall take, for the lake is completely landlocked by huge bluffs rearing themselves up above us like so many 'Ball's Heads,' and suffering rough jagged gorges to penetrate their way deep into their mass. In several places where the nature of the ground allows settlement, cottages and gardens and orchards have sprang up, and their beauty of situation renders one envious of the owners. 

Bending to the right, we pass between Lord Loftus Point and Scotland Island, while far ahead, near the heads of Broken Bay, is seen the noble island, in shape like a couchant lion guarding the entrance as he faces it. Pittwater forms a magnificent harbour, and, undoubtedly, in due time its waves will reflect the lights of a grand city reared upon its banks. Its entrance, some three miles wide, is wondrously safe. Its waters are deep, absolutely sheltered from every quarter; and as to its size, would float the navies of the world. Pittwater is the southern arm of the estuary, Brisbane Water the northern, while between, straight in from the Heads, stretches westward the grand outlet of the Hawkesbury River, between two enormous banks. Few rivers can match its magnificence of debouchure, as the hills boldly approaching the ocean in all their pride of strength majestically deliver up the waters confided to their charge. At the Barrenjoey lighthouse, whence also a cable is laid to Brisbane Water, we come in sight of the entrance to the harbour, and as we cross have a full view on our left of the estuary of the Hawkesbury. ...SYDNEY. The Sketcher. (1882, September 30). The Sydney Mail and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW : 1871 - 1912), p. 542. Retrieved fromhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article161926095 


Narrabeen Lagoon, 1890/ C. S. Wheeler (or Wheelen) - Part of the drawing appears to have been done by a silkscreen process. The section showing the sky has been replaced by a glued sheet.Image No.: c11295_0001_c - courtesy Dixson Library, State Library of New South Wales




THE NARRABEEN LAKES-A PICTURESQUE HEALTH RESORT NEAR MANLY. (See letterpress on page 19.) Manly to Broken Bay. (1893, November 11). Australian Town and Country Journal (Sydney, NSW : 1870 - 1907), p. 30. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article71191632


Narrabeen, Star photo, circa 1900-1906. Item a116483h courtesy State Library of NSW


Narrabeen 'road bridge' - postcard, from the collection of Josef Lebovic Gallery collection no. 1, courtesy National Museum of Australia - circa 1907 to 1913

'View taken near Narrabeen on the road to La Corniche' - Sunday September 17th, 1911. Image No.:  a3289060h from  Allen family albums, courtesy State Library of NSW 


Narrabeen lagoon, circa 1915, Item hall_34703h, courtesy State Library of NSW



Narrabeen Lagoon, General View showing Lagoon and Ocean and Looking Towards Barrenjoey, From Narrabeen circa 1927, from Album 'Samuel Wood - postcard photonegatives of Narrabeen,' - Items a1470096h, a1470091h, courtesy State Library of NSW 

A MOTOR CAR ON THE PITTWATER-ROAD, NARRABEEN 


The foreshores of the lake were flooded by the recent heavy rains. The Warringah Council workmen opened a way to the sea on Sunday morning. Forestry, Floods, and Kindergarten Work (1927, November 30). Sydney Mail (NSW : 1912 - 1938), , p. 9. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article158295859 


A 1926 Overland, a 1928 (?) Chrysler, and a 1928 (?) Dodge ploughing through Narrabeen floods - November 1927 Image. No: hood_06391- from the collections of the State Library of NSW.


A car and a horse plough through a flooded road, Narrabeen - Image. No: hood-006394 from the collections of the State Library of NSW


Narrabeen Lagoon aerial, from album ''Milton Kent aerial views of Bondi, Cronulla, Granville, Haberfield, Middle Harbour, Narrabeen, Mascot, Sydney, Sydney Harbour, Tempe, circa 1928, Item: c111660015, courtesy Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales - and sections from to show details; NB - no Bridge from Ocean street across Lagoon present, and old Nth. NSLSC still on beach.



Newspaper article above photos appeared in:

Striking Aerial Views : Newcastle and Narrabeen


NARRABEEN, BETWEEN OCEAN AND LAKE. This fine strip of ocean beach runs from North Narrabeen through South Narrabeen to Collaroy (on the left). Narrabeen proper is situated on the peninsula in the centre of the picture. The main road from Manly to Newport, Avalon, and Palm Beach runs through the upper portion of Narrabeen, crossing the lake by the bridge, beyond which is seen a portion of low -lying land now being reclaimed. Striking Aerial Views : Newcastle and Narrabeen (1928, August 22). Sydney Mail (NSW : 1912 - 1938), p. 17. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article158401835


Narrabeen Bridge 1946, Item: FL3794556, courtesy NSW State Records and Archives


Photo: The intersection of Pittwater Road (Main Road No. 164) and Wakehurst Parkway (Main Road No. 397) at North Narrabeen. (From Page 12) 1966-67

Why Are There So Many Spiders Around In Summer?

Have you noticed a lot of spider webs in your garden lately?

Spiders live in our gardens and homes all year round, it's just that during Summer there are many more of the insects they like to eat flying around and so they build webs in thoroughfares the insects are likely to fly through in order to catch them - especially flies!


Garden Orb Weaving Spider in our yard


Spiders, like us, also get hot when the weather does - so they will seek the cooler, shaded spaces in your garden or in your home during hot sunny days. This helps them escape the heat and is why you may see more of them when it's warm.

Spider species that are found in many places around the world are often good travellers. Many of these spiders get around by behaviour called ballooning. Young spiders, and even small adults of some species, put out silk threads which are caught by the wind, carrying them up and away. Many land close by, sometimes swathing the landscape in gossamer silk; but others may travel long distances across land or sea. Ballooning helps maintain and extend the distributions of these spiders. 

Spiders as different as orb weavers and wolf spiders disperse by ballooning.

Many different spiders live alongside humans exploiting the nooks and crannies of houses, sheds and gardens. They are good to have around because they eat lots of insect pests. Very few are harmful.

However, as someone who has been bitten by a few spiders over the years, you will avoid getting bitten by a spider if:

  1. you don't leave your shoes outside, and if you do, check they have no spider in them before putting them on - bang them together and then tip them upside down and give them a good shake!
  2. if you see a spider in the garden, don't put your little finger towards it to poke it!
  3. if you see a big web has been built between some plants in your garden, or out from the umbrella over the outdoor table and chairs, don't walk straight through it - where there is a spider web there is a spider.

Some spiders have life spans of less than a year, while others may live for up to twenty years. 

Some spiders can be very long-lived. Number 16 (c. 1973 – 2016), also known as #16, was a wild female trapdoor spider (Gaius villosus, family Idiopidae) that lived in North Bungulla Reserve near Tammin, Western Australia. She died in 2016, at an estimated age of 43 years, and is the longest-lived spider recorded to date. Number 16 did not die of old age, but was most likely killed by a parasitic spider wasp sting.

Number 16 was studied in the wild by arachnologist Barbara York Main from March 1974 until 2016. She was part of the first cohort of dispersing spiderlings to establish a burrow at the study site, and her burrow was the 16th to be marked with a peg. By 1978, Main had tagged 101 burrows at the study site, within a few metres of each other.

Number 16 spent her entire life in the same burrow, which is typical for her species. For over 40 years, her status was monitored by Main and her collaborators either six-monthly or annually. As Number 16 became older, the researchers developed a tradition of always checking her burrow first when they visited the site.

On 31 October 2016, researcher Leanda Mason discovered Number 16's burrow in disrepair, and the spider missing. The silk plug of her burrow had been pierced by a parasitic spider wasp, suggesting that she had been parasitised, either before or after death. During a survey six months earlier, Number 16 had been alive. 

“She was cut down in her prime [...] It took a while to sink in, to be honest," Leanda said. 

The spider's death received widespread publicity in late April 2018, with the publication of a research article in the journal Pacific Conservation Biology.  Based on the burrow fidelity of females of her species, the researchers concluded with a "high level of certainty" that Number 16 was 43 years old at the time of her death.

However, spiders face many dangers that reduce their chances of reaching a ripe old age. Spiders and their eggs and young are food for many animals, and even insects; such as the spider wasp:


Spider wasp – this one has come indoors looking for spiders. Wasps in the family Pompilidae are commonly called 'spider wasps' or 'pompilid wasps'. Spider wasps are long-legged, solitary wasps that use a single spider as a host for feeding their larvae. They paralyse the spider with a venomous stinger. Once paralysed, the spider is dragged to where a nest will be built – some wasps having already made a nest. This one is classified as a Sydney Spider Wasp and was buzzing all windows at the office here, looking for spiders.

Burrows provide spiders with a refuge from predators like birds, bandicoots, centipedes and scorpions, as well as buffering climatic extremes for spiders and their young. 

Some spiders have a trapdoor at the top of their burrow, useful for disguising the burrows presence and ambushing prey. It can also be held shut by the spider or securely silked down when the spider is moulting. Some burrows have extra security within, in the form of additional chambers and doors, escape tunnels and burrow blocking devices like pebbles and loose silk collars. One trapdoor spider (Idiosoma nigrum) even uses its thick, hard abdomen as a plug against burrow invaders.

Finally - did you know that we are still finding out about spiders that live here in Australia?

This young man shared a few insights from his looking for Peacock Spiders spiders in 2020 (Article below).

In 2016, as part of 'Project Maratus', researchers were looking for Peacock Spiders here in Pittwater - on Bangalley Headland!

Adam Fletcher (from Woy Woy) on the job sweep netting at Bangalley headland, Avalon as part of a Pittwater Council field trip. Project Maratus was working closely with the council in monitoring biofauna - photo by  by Michael Doe.

  Maratus volans male - a common peacock spider from the East Coast of Australia performing it's courtship display - photo by Michael Doe (also from Woy Woy)

Spiders are an important and fascinating part of our natural environment. Their webs are wonders of natural architecture. They have major ecological and agricultural roles as killers of insects. Both their venom and silk are being used in medical research (stroke treatment) , pest control (insect specific pesticides) and fibre technology (transgenic biosilk production).

In many parts of Australia spider populations are threatened because their habitats  (homes) are being destroyed by the clearing and degrading of bushland. Conserving spider habitat not only saves the spiders but also the whole ecosystem of which they are a part. Habitat conservation is an essential element of maintaining sustainable ecosystems.

Bushland remnants are important habitats for spiders in suburban areas. Damaging vegetation, or trampling the ground and compacting the soil, can decimate local populations of ground dwelling spiders. Not only does trampling directly destroy their habitats, it can also make the soil so hard that burrowing spiders cannot recolonise the area.

So, if you're going for a wander into your favourite bush reserve, sticking to the path will help keep these important members of the 'web of life' part of what is needed right here.

Reminder; Don't poke spiders! 

Extra information courtesy Australian Museum


I Travelled Australia Looking For Peacock Spiders, And Collected 7 New Species (And Named One After The Starry Night Sky)

Heath WarwickAuthor provided

Joseph SchubertMuseums Victoria

After I found my first peacock spider in the wild in 2016, I was hooked. Three years later, I was travelling across Australia on a month-long expedition to document and name new species of peacock spiders.

Peacock spiders are a unique group of tiny, colourful, dancing spiders native to Australia. They’re roughly between 2.5 and 6 millimetres, depending on the species. Adult male peacock spiders are usually colourful, while female and juvenile peacock spiders are usually dull brown or grey.


Read more: The spectacular peacock spider dance and its strange evolutionary roots


Like peacocks, the mature male peacock spiders display their vibrant colours in elegant courtship displays to impress females. They often elevate and wave their third pair of legs and lift their brilliantly coloured abdomens – like dancing.

Maratus laurenae. Male peacock spiders have brilliant colours on their abdomen to attract females. Author provided

Up until 2011, there were only seven known species of them. But since then, the rate of scientific discovery has skyrocketed with upwards of 80 species being discovered in the last decade.

Thanks to my trip across Australia and the help from citizen scientists, I’ve recently scientifically described and named seven more species from Western Australia, South Australia and Victoria. This brings the total number of peacock spider species known to science up to 86.

Spider Hunting: A Game Of Luck

Citizen scientists – other peacock spider enthusiasts – shared photographs and locations of potentially undocumented species with me. I pulled these together to create a list of places in Australia to visit.

I usually find spider hunting to be a relaxing pastime, but this trip was incredibly stressful (albeit amazing).

The thing about peacock spiders is they’re mainly active during spring, which is when they breed. Colourful adult males are difficult – if not impossible – to find at other times of year, as they usually die shortly after the mating season. This meant I had a very short window to find what I needed to, or I had to wait another year.

Classic.

Even when they’re active, they can be difficult to come across unless weather conditions are ideal. Not too cold. Not too rainy. Not too hot. Not too sunny. Not too shady. Not too windy. As you can imagine, it’s largely a game of luck.

The Wild West

I arrived in Perth, picked up my hire car and bought a foam mattress that fitted in the back of my car – my bed for half of the trip. I stocked up on tinned food, bread and water, and I headed north in search of these tiny eight-legged gems.

My first destination: Jurien Bay. I spent the whole day under the hot sun searching for a peculiar, scientifically unknown species that Western Australian photographer Su RamMohan had sent me photographs of. I was in the exact spot it had been photographed, but I just couldn’t find it!

I travelled across Denmark, Western Australia. Author provided

The sun began to lower and I was using up precious time. I made what I now believe was the right decision and abandoned the Jurien Bay species for another time.

I spent days travelling between dramatic coastal landscapes, the rugged inland outback, and old, mysterious woodlands.

Kalbarri Gorge, Western Australia, where Maratus constellatus was found. Author provided

I hunted tirelessly with my eyes fixed on the ground searching for movement. In a massive change of luck from the beginning of my trip, it seemed conditions were (mostly) on my side.

With the much-appreciated help of some of my field companions from the University of Hamburg and volunteers from the public, a total of five new species were discovered and scientifically named from Western Australia.

The Little Desert

Two days after returning from Western Australia, I headed to the Little Desert National Park in Victoria on a Bush Blitz expedition, joined by several of my colleagues from Museums Victoria.

I’d thought the landscape’s harsh, dry conditions were unsuitable for peacock spiders, as most described species are known to live in temperate regions.

Capturing spiders in a bug net. Heath WarwickAuthor provided

To my surprise, we found a massive diversity of them, including two species with a bigger range than we thought, and the discovery of another species unknown to science.

This is the first time two known species – Maratus robinsoni and Maratus vultus – had been found in Victoria. Previously, they had only been known to live in eastern New South Wales and southern Western Australia respectively.


Read more: Don't like spiders? Here are 10 reasons to change your mind


Our findings suggest other known species may have much bigger geographic ranges than we previously thought, and may occur in a much larger variety of habitats.

And our discovery of the unknown species (Maratus inaquosus), along with another collected by another wildlife photographer Nick Volpe from South Australia (Maratus volpei) brought the tally of discoveries to seven.

What’s In A Name?

Writing scientific descriptions, documenting, and naming species is a crucial part in conserving our wildlife.


Read more: Spiders are a treasure trove of scientific wonder


With global extinction rates at an unprecedented high, species conservation is more important than ever. But the only way we can know if we’re losing species is to show and understand they exist in the first place.


  • Maratus azureus: “Deep blue” in Latin, referring to the colour of the male.
Maratus azureus. Author provided
  • Maratus constellatus: “Starry” in Latin, referring to the markings on the male’s abdomen which look like a starry night sky.
Maratus constellatus. Author provided
  • Maratus inaquosus: “Dry” or “arid” in Latin, for the dry landscape in Little Desert National Park this species was found in.
Maratus inaquosus Author provided
  • Maratus laurenae: Named in honour of my partner, Lauren Marcianti, who has supported my research with enthusiasm over the past few years.
Maratus laurenae Author provided
  • Maratus noggerup: Named after the location where this species was found: Noggerup, Western Australia.
Maratus noggerup Author provided
  • Maratus suae: Named in honour of photographer Su RamMohan who discovered this species and provided useful information about their locations in Western Australia.
Maratus suae Author provided
  • Maratus volpei: Named in honour of photographer Nick Volpe who discovered and collected specimens of this species to be examined in my paper.
Maratus volpei Nick VolpeAuthor provided

These names allow us to communicate important information about these animals to other scientists, as well as to build legislation around them in the case there are risks to their conservation status.

I plan on visiting some more remote parts of Australia in hopes of finding more new peacock spider species. I strongly suspect there’s more work to be done, and more peacock spiders to discover.The Conversation

Joseph Schubert, Entomology/Arachnology Registration Officer, Museums Victoria

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Newport Rugby: Come & Try Event For Women + Girls

Gearing up for another successful season of women’s & girls rugby we are hosting a Come and try introduction to rugby day. We are inviting all junior girls through to open ages to come and learn some rugby skills!

ABSOLUTELY NO EXPERIENCE NEEDED, in fact our premiership winning team was made up of mostly women that had never played before last season!

We will have a BBQ, prizes and give aways starting from 2pm on Sunday February 18 and partnering with Newport Junior Rugby Club.


Basketball Court - Winnererremy Bay, Mona Vale: have your say

Comments close: Fri 1 Mar 2024
Council states that a new basketball facility is coming soon to Winnererremy Bay, Mona Vale and is seeking feedback on their plan.

The proposed basketball facility will include:
  • new hard court with regulation size key and 3-point lines
  • new seating overlooking the courts and park area
  • open grassed areas will remain and will include new shade trees to provide passive recreational opportunities
  • an additional bike path around the perimeter of the hard court.
No lights will be installed. The hard courts are not intended to be used after dark as there is no existing lighting or future lighting planned. The build is estimated 12-week construction phase, weather permitting.

Share your thoughts on the proposed design by:
Please include 'Lets Play! Hard Court Mona Vale' in the subject line of all email or written feedback.

All comments in their entirety are made publicly available in the Community Engagement Report. Personal identifying information, and content which is discriminatory, hateful or which may defame, offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate will be redacted.

Concept Design plan: NBC

Expressions of Interest for the 2024 Youth Development Program are now available! 

Following on from a successful program, Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club - RPAYC is pleased to invite Youth sailors, aged between 13 and 23 years of age, to apply for the club's premiere training program

The Youth Development program was established over 30 years ago, to provide a pathway for youth members to develop their keelboat sailing experience. The club’s commitment to youth sail training has seen graduates move into competitive classes and racing events such as the World Match Racing Tour, Olympic Games, around-the-world Ocean Racing, America’s Cup, Rolex Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race, and various professional sailing circuits. 

The program has also created career opportunities for graduates into the sailing and marine industry, including in boat building, sail making, electrical and mechanical engineering, and as shore crew for international sailing teams. 

Expressions of Interest close on 31 March 2024. Successful applicants will be notified after the closing date. 

Learn more and apply via the link below 👇


North Avalon Surfriders Association: NASA 2024 registration is now open. 

Itinerary - next level!
Jump onto Liveheats/NASA to enter. Link - https://liveheats.com/nasa
*If you’re using the Active Kids voucher, fill out all the athlete info, select the Active Kids division and enter your Voucher. More info in the ‘your details’ section if needed, along with all the age division information.




‘Paddle for Change’ – a youth led climate action event: Mona Vale

Mackellar MP Dr Sophie believes that younger Australians deserve to be heard, even those too young to vote.
You’re invited to join the Paddle for Change, a youth led climate action event on Saturday 9th March 2024, 10am at Mona Vale Beach (Bongin Bongin Bay).



Calling all high school student video makers  

Do you have a brilliant idea for inspiring fellow students to get active? Are you in Year 7- 12?
 
Enrol now in the Youth Voices Get Active video competition to promote exercise before the Thursday, 14 March 2024.



School Leavers Support

Explore the School Leavers Information Kit (SLIK) as your guide to education, training and work options in 2022;
As you prepare to finish your final year of school, the next phase of your journey will be full of interesting and exciting opportunities. You will discover new passions and develop new skills and knowledge.

We know that this transition can sometimes be challenging. With changes to the education and workforce landscape, you might be wondering if your planned decisions are still a good option or what new alternatives are available and how to pursue them.

There are lots of options for education, training and work in 2022 to help you further your career. This information kit has been designed to help you understand what those options might be and assist you to choose the right one for you. Including:
  • Download or explore the SLIK here to help guide Your Career.
  • School Leavers Information Kit (PDF 5.2MB).
  • School Leavers Information Kit (DOCX 0.9MB).
  • The SLIK has also been translated into additional languages.
  • Download our information booklets if you are rural, regional and remote, Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, or living with disability.
  • Support for Regional, Rural and Remote School Leavers (PDF 2MB).
  • Support for Regional, Rural and Remote School Leavers (DOCX 0.9MB).
  • Support for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander School Leavers (PDF 2MB).
  • Support for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander School Leavers (DOCX 1.1MB).
  • Support for School Leavers with Disability (PDF 2MB).
  • Support for School Leavers with Disability (DOCX 0.9MB).
  • Download the Parents and Guardian’s Guide for School Leavers, which summarises the resources and information available to help you explore all the education, training, and work options available to your young person.

School Leavers Information Service

Are you aged between 15 and 24 and looking for career guidance?

Call 1800 CAREER (1800 227 337).

SMS 'SLIS2022' to 0429 009 435.

Our information officers will help you:
  • navigate the School Leavers Information Kit (SLIK),
  • access and use the Your Career website and tools; and
  • find relevant support services if needed.
You may also be referred to a qualified career practitioner for a 45-minute personalised career guidance session. Our career practitioners will provide information, advice and assistance relating to a wide range of matters, such as career planning and management, training and studying, and looking for work.

You can call to book your session on 1800 CAREER (1800 227 337) Monday to Friday, from 9am to 7pm (AEST). Sessions with a career practitioner can be booked from Monday to Friday, 9am to 7pm.

This is a free service, however minimal call/text costs may apply.

Call 1800 CAREER (1800 227 337) or SMS SLIS2022 to 0429 009 435 to start a conversation about how the tools in Your Career can help you or to book a free session with a career practitioner.

All downloads and more available at: www.yourcareer.gov.au/school-leavers-support

Word Of The Week: munificient

Word of the Week remains a keynote in 2024, simply to throw some disruption in amongst the 'yeah-nah' mix. 

Adjective

1 : very liberal in giving or bestowing : lavish 2 : characterised by great liberality or generosity.

Synonyms: generous, bountiful, open-handed, magnanimous, philanthropic, princely, handsome, lavish, unstinting, free-handed, unstinted, liberal, free, charitable, big-hearted, beneficent, ungrudging

From late 16th century: from Latin munificent- (stem of munificentior, comparative of munificus ‘bountiful’), from munus ‘gift’;" literally "present-making," from munus "gift or service; function, task, duty, office". Latin munificare meant "to enrich."

Compare: Magnificent

Adjective

1. extremely beautiful, elaborate, or impressive. 2. very good; excellent.

From: mid-15c., "exalted, glorious, great in actions or deeds," from Old French magnificent, a back-formation from Latin magnificentior, comparative of magnificus "great, elevated, noble, distinguished," literally "doing great deeds," from magnus "great"  + combining form of facere "to make" . Meaning "characterised by grandeur or stateliness; living in splendor" is from 1520s. As an exclamation expressing enthusiastic admiration, by 1704.


The Three Sisters sandstone rock formation at sunset, one of the region's best-known attractions in the Blue Mountains. Photo: J J Harrison

The Blue Mountains are a mountainous region and a mountain range, considered to be part of the western outskirts of the Greater Sydney area. 


'Magnificent Clay Bluffs, 1800 Miles above St. Louis', 1832 by George Caitlin - held in the Smithsonian American Art Museum

Can more ethical histories be written about early colonial expeditions? A new project seeks to do just that

Cameo Dalley, The University of Melbourne; Nicole Huxley, Indigenous Knowledge, and Peter Taylor, Australian National University

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers are advised this article contains names and images of deceased people. The name of the Aboriginal man in this article was how he was referred to, and his relative has requested we honour this name.

Truth-telling is at the heart of a new research project we are currently leading that re-examines the legacy of the Hann Expedition, which travelled Queensland’s Cape York Peninsula in 1872.

Our project seeks to rewrite this period of history – and others – to honour the voices and experiences of Aboriginal people whose contributions to colonial-era expeditions have long been overlooked.

The Hann Expedition began in Mt Surprise, Queensland, in April 1872, and made a loop across the peninsula before finishing at the Junction Creek Telegraph Station seven months later. The team consisted of six white men and an Aboriginal guide. The purpose was to map and record “unknown” parts of Queensland and determine whether the lands would be feasible for mining and pastoral development.

Apart from geological descriptions and mapping, the expedition is credited with recording and collecting specimens of at least 149 plants previously unknown to Western science. However, using records from the expedition, we found these species were likely only located with the help of the young Girramay man, Jerry, who was their guide.

Jerry was derogatorily referred to as “the blackboy”, and his important role in the expedition has never been fully acknowledged.

The importance of Aboriginal knowledge to the expedition compelled us to further examine the encounters the men had with other Aboriginal people along the route. This likely included Olkala, Kuku Yalanji, Lama Lama and Guugu Yimithirr people.

In one of these encounters, botanist Thomas Tate and Jerry found a young Aboriginal boy near a lagoon and took him back to their camp. The boy’s family immediately retrieved him and returned the next day, threatening the team with weapons.

In other encounters, the team unsuccessfully tried to communicate with Aboriginal people, seeking information that would be useful to their expedition.

Our research team also found a detailed map created by Norman Taylor, the expedition’s geologist, which includes observations about encounters with Aboriginal people, as well as environmental details not recorded elsewhere.

The original map had been held in the Queensland State Archives since at least the 1980s, but had not been connected to other materials from the expedition. Although a detailed analysis of the map has only just begun, it suggests local Aboriginal people helped the expedition navigate difficult terrain along their route, particularly along the coast.

Descendants leading research

Our work takes its lead from Indigenous scholars and practitioners, such as Rose Barrowcliffe, Fiona Foley, Julie Gough, Natalie Harkin, Shino Konishi, Jeanine Leane and Djon Mundine, and others. Their work has been instrumental in critiquing the silencing of Aboriginal voices in colonial history. Wiradjuri scholar Jeanine Leane calls this a form of “cardboard incarceration”.

Our research team includes descendants of the 1872 expedition, such as the project lead and co-author, Peter Taylor (a descendant of Norman Taylor’s), and co-researcher and co-author Cameo Dalley (a great-granddaughter of Tate’s).

In addition, Nicole Huxley, a Gudjala leader, is a descendant of Jerry. Ms Huxley and her family wanted Jerry’s story to be told, in particular his role in keeping the expedition team alive at dangerous points in their travels.

As descendants, each of us has inherited different family narratives about what took place on the expedition, and whose contributions were central.

The Balkanu Cape York Development Corporation, which supports the land and development interests of Aboriginal people on Cape York, has also partnered with the project. Further funding will support our research and the involvement of Traditional Owners along the expedition route, including Olkala, Kuku Yalanji, Lama Lama and Guugu Yimithirr people.

As Gerhardt Pearson, the executive director of Balkanu, says:

…following the Hann Expedition, the violence and dispersal of Indigenous people was so devastating, the memories and stories of this period still haunt many people.

The united commitment of the descendants and their detailed knowledge of this expedition will be incredibly valuable in working with Elders across the cape who still grieve about their own history.

Part of this process involves what is referred to as “rematriation”, or the reunification of Indigenous people and their knowledges with Country. This can include Indigenous people taking over the management of collections of artefacts and other specimens from the colonial era.

In our project, this includes botanical collections now held in the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew (London), the National Herbarium of Victoria at the Royal Botanic Gardens (Melbourne), and the Queensland Herbarium. These institutions are keen to develop protocols for involving Indigenous communities in the interpretation and management of collections.

Why truth-telling is needed in Australia

Truth-telling was a vital component of the Uluru Statement from the Heart signed by over 200 Indigenous delegates from around Australia. However, the failed referendum on a Voice to Parliament last year arguably demonstrated an apathy towards such processes at a national level.

This project shifts focus to local and regional approaches to truth-telling and the importance of individuals and families in taking responsibility for their role in shaping history. This is even more important for those of us with ancestors responsible for the intergenerational trauma experienced by Aboriginal people.

For the white descendants involved in our project, this will require us to sit uncomfortably in the privilege we have inherited because of this violence and think meaningfully about what can be done in the present.

Selective memory can be a tool of colonisation, and this project goes directly to the responsibilities of the descendants of colonisers to challenge this.The Conversation

Cameo Dalley, Senior Lecturer, The University of Melbourne; Nicole Huxley, Gudjala and Girramay leader, Indigenous Knowledge, and Peter Taylor, Associate Professor - Fenner School, Australian National University, Australian National University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

What is doxing, and how can you protect yourself?

Rob Cover, RMIT University

The Australian government has brought forward plans to criminalise doxing, bringing nationwide attention to the harms of releasing people’s private information to the wider public.

The government response comes after the public release of almost 600 names and private chat logs of a WhatsApp group of Australian Jewish creative artists discussing the Israel-Hamas war.

As a result, some of the people whose details were leaked claim they were harassed, received death threats and even had to go into hiding.

While we wait for new penalties for doxers under the federal Privacy Act review, understanding doxing and its harms can help. And there are also steps we can all take to minimise the risk.

What is doxing?

Doxing (or doxxing) is releasing private information — or “docs”, short for documents — online to the wider public without the user’s consent. This includes information that may put users at risk of harm, especially names, addresses, employment details, medical or financial records, and names of family members.

The Australian government currently defines doxing as the “malicious release” of people’s private information without their consent.

Doxing began as a form of unmasking anonymous users, trolls and those using hate speech while hiding behind a pseudonym. Recently, it has become a weapon for online abuse, harassment, hate speech and adversarial politics. It is often the outcome of online arguments or polarised public views.

It is also becoming more common. Although there is no data for Australia yet, according to media company SafeHome.org, about 4% of Americans report having been doxed, with about half saying their private emails or home addresses have been made public.

Doxing is a crime in some countries such as the Netherlands and South Korea. In other places, including Australia, privacy laws haven’t yet caught up.

Why is doxing harmful?

In the context of the Israel-Hamas war, doxing has affected both Jewish and pro-Palestinian communities and activists in Australia and abroad.

Doxing is harmful because it treats a user as an object and takes away their agency to decide what, and how much, personal information they want shared with the wider public.

This puts people at very real risk of physical threats and violence, particularly when public disagreement becomes heated. From a broader perspective, doxing also damages the digital ecology, reducing people’s ability to freely participate in public or even private debate through social media.

Although doxing is sometimes just inconvenient, it is often used to publicly shame or humiliate someone for their private views. This can take a toll on a person’s mental health and wellbeing.

It can also affect a person’s employment, especially for people whose employers require them to keep their attitudes, politics, affiliations and views to themselves.

Studies have shown doxing particularly impacts women, including those using dating apps or experiencing family violence. In some cases, children and family members have been threatened because a high-profile relative has been doxed.

Doxing is also harmful because it oversimplifies a person’s affiliations or attitudes. For example, releasing the names of people who have joined a private online community to navigate complex views can represent them as only like-minded stereotypes or as participants in a group conspiracy.

A person using a laptop and smartphone simultaneously
There are steps you can take online to protect yourself from doxing without having to complete withdraw. Engin Akyurt/Pexels

What can you do to protect yourself from doxing?

Stronger laws and better platform intervention are necessary to reduce doxing. Some experts believe that the fear of punishment can help shape better online behaviours.

These punishments may include criminal penalties for perpetrators and deactivating social media accounts for repeat offenders. But better education about the risks and harms is often the best treatment.

And you can also protect yourself without needing to entirely withdraw from social media:

  1. never share a home or workplace address, phone number or location, including among a private online group or forum with trusted people

  2. restrict your geo-location settings

  3. avoid giving details of workplaces, roles or employment on public sites not related to your work

  4. avoid adding friends or connections on social media services of people you do not know

  5. if you suspect you risk being doxed due to a heated online argument, temporarily shut down or lock any public profiles

  6. avoid becoming a target by pursuing haters when it reaches a certain point. Professional and courteous engagement can help avoid the anger of those who might disagree and try to harm you.

Additionally, hosts of private online groups must be very vigilant about who joins a group. They should avoid the trap of accepting members just to increase the group’s size, and appropriately check new members (for example, with a short survey or key questions that keep out people who may be there to gather information for malicious purposes).

Employers who require their staff to have online profiles or engage with the public should provide information and strategies for doing so safely. They should also provide immediate support for staff who have been doxed.The Conversation

Rob Cover, Professor of Digital Communication and Co-Director of the RMIT Digital Ethnography Research Centre, RMIT University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Why are so many Australian music festivals being cancelled?

Jade Masri/Unsplash
Sam Whiting, University of South Australia and Ben Green, Griffith University

Regional touring festival Groovin’ The Moo has announced its cancellation only eight days after placing tickets on sale, citing low demand.

A mainstay of the summer festival calendar, this follows a series of similar cancellations, including the 2023 edition of Falls Festival, ValleyWays, Coastal Jam and Vintage Vibes, and the “pausing” of Hobart’s iconic Dark Mofo for 2024.

So why are we seeing so many Australian music festivals cancelled? And what will the future of festivals look like?

Growing challenges for festivals

The well-documented cost-of-living crisis is an obvious culprit when it comes to low demand for festivals, as consumers cut down on expenses.

However, other factors are at play here. They include:

1. Higher overheads

Rapidly increasing overheads, such as rocketing public liability insurance costs for both venues and festivals alike, affect the viability of such events.

This problem began with the COVID pandemic, but extreme weather events exacerbated by climate change have compounded these issues as well as affecting the viability of outdoor summer music festivals. In 2022 alone, more than 20 Australian festivals were cancelled because of extreme weather.

2. Slower sales

Prior to the pandemic, concerns regarding the oversaturation of the Australian festival market were already starting to bite. Pre-COVID festival cancellations included the end of the Big Day Out after 20 years in 2014. The annual event began to falter in the preceding years due to issues that have compounded in the decade since.

As the pandemic eased and festival producers rushed back onsite, they have been faced with a fundamental shift in Australian cultural consumption habits, particularly among young people.

People are waiting longer to buy tickets. 2023 was the first time in over a decade that Splendour in the Grass, Australia’s biggest single-ticket festival, didn’t sell out within hours. The trend towards delayed “commitment to purchase” is cause for concern among promoters, who rely on opening-day sales for momentum and capital.

This change can be understood as a response to the rolling cancellations of the pandemic, in combination with rising ticket prices, domestic financial pressures and busy schedules. It is increasingly normal to look for second-hand tickets at reduced prices as an event approaches.

3. Youth avoidance

Industry observers are concerned about a drop in youth attendance. Young people who came of age during COVID missed their key festival-going years and may now have moved on to other cultural experiences – followed by younger siblings. This emphasises the long cultural tail of an event like the pandemic.

The cost-of-living crisis especially affects young people, the core audience for festivals like Groovin’ the Moo. The majority of under-35s say financial pressure is limiting their attendance at arts events.

4. The consolidation of taste

While “variety” festivals such as Groovin’ the Moo and Falls Festival – which feature diverse, multi-genre lineups – are struggling, genre-specific festivals and major artist tours continue to perform well.

These include metal and hard rock festivals such as Good Things Festival and Knotfest, and major recent tours by Queens of the Stone Age, Pink, Blink-182 and, of course, Taylor Swift. The media industry and the music industry specifically are experiencing the effects of an increasing siloing and consolidation of taste within specific niches, exacerbated by the digitisation of media via highly curated streaming platforms.

Perhaps “variety” music festivals are heading the same way as the Big Day Out. The struggles of festivals historically backed by Triple J (such as Groovin’ the Moo and Falls) may reveal the national youth broadcaster’s loosening grip on relevance and its inability to appeal to a broad audience in an increasingly hyper-curated media environment.

Is this anything new?

The factors influencing the success of a given festival are complex, as illustrated by the case of Groovin’ the Moo. The Newcastle date sold out in less than an hour, with reports of strong early sales for the Sunshine Coast edition, yet the overall tour was deemed unable to proceed.

Uncertainty is inherent in the music business, where an oversupply of product meets a market driven by the vagaries of taste.

Festival programmers must “forecast” what will draw a crowd, booking performers up to a year in advance. However, mega-crises, such as the pandemic, climate change and financial shocks, create deeper uncertainties that fundamentally challenge business as usual.

Uncertainty poses a profound threat to live music in particular, which depends on advance planning and investment, with its returns and benefits hinging on the controlled realisation of future events.

Too much uncertainty also stifles innovation and diversity, as the large multinationals that dominate the music industry are better able to withstand its effects.

Music festivals are a leading site of Australia’s engagement with the arts, with significant social and economic benefits. They have also become a focal point for a range of societal challenges, from economic to environmental crises. Sustaining a vibrant, diverse and accessible festival sector will require these challenges to be confronted.

The age of deep uncertainty isn’t going away. For Australia’s diverse festival landscape to survive we need to find new ways – such as financial buffers, government-backed insurance schemes, big ticket levies, tariffs on major international tours, and climate action and mitigation – to ride and survive this uncertainty.The Conversation

Sam Whiting, Lecturer - Creative Industries, University of South Australia and Ben Green, Research Fellow, Centre for Social and Cultural Research, Griffith University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

A patch a day? Why the vitamin skin patches spruiked on social media might not be for you

Shutterstock
Nial Wheate, University of Sydney and Jasmine Lee, University of Sydney

Vitamin patches are trending on social media and advertised in posts and podcasts.

With patches marketed for sleep, detox, immunity and hangovers, they are being talked up as near magical fix-all stickers. Manufacturers claim they are easy-to-use, convenient and ethical when compared with other types of vitamin products. Some even come with cute floral designs.

So do they work, are they safe, and why would you use one instead of just taking a vitamin tablet?

What are vitamin patches?

Vitamin patches are adhesives designed to deliver vitamins or nutrients to your bloodstream directly through the skin.

You peel away the backing, place it on a hairless area of skin where it is less likely to be bumped, and then the patches release their vitamins over a period of 12 to 24 hours.

Two dominant brands that market in Australia sell patches that contain various chemical and plant ingredients.

There are patches for menopause symptoms that claim to include plant extracts of gotu kola, damiana, black cohosh, valerian, skull cap, oat seed and ginger. Patches promising an energy boost offer caffeine, taurine, gluconolactone, green tea extract and vitamins B3, B5 and B6.

Do they work and are they safe?

In Australia, vitamins are considered pharmaceutical products and are regulated by the Therapeutic Goods Administration. Vitamins are generally approved as listed medicines, meaning the ingredients have been assessed for safety but not for efficacy (whether they do what they promise).

Being a listed medicine also means vitamins are manufactured in a factory with good manufacturing practices, so you can be assured the ingredients listed on the packaging have been sourced properly and are provided at the correct concentration.

However, there are no items listed as vitamin patches on the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods. This means they currently can not legally be supplied or purchased in Australia. It doesn’t matter if they are being sold from a physical store or online within the country. The TGA won’t stop you from buying them from overseas, but they advise you not to do so because you can’t be assured of quality and safety.

clear capsules being produced by machine
Vitamins and supplements listed by the TGA are produced in factories with stringent quality standards. Shutterstock

There is also insufficient evidence that vitamins delivered in this way work. Not all drugs and chemicals can be delivered through the skin. Ordinarily, to be absorbed through the skin a chemical needs to be lipophilic, meaning it likes fats and oils more than water.

So, the form in which the vitamins have been produced and supplied will dictate whether they will get into the skin. For example, a water extract of a plant is less likely to be absorbed when compared with an oil-based extract.

A small 2019 study of patients at risk of nutrient deficiencies after bariatric (weight-loss) surgery gave some of them a daily multivitamin patch for a year. Those patients had lower blood concentrations of several vitamins and were more likely to have vitamin D deficiency when compared with patients given oral vitamins. The study concluded transdermal vitamin patches were not as effective as oral supplements.

Another issue with vitamin patches is that they contain very low concentrations of ingredients and you may therefore get an ineffective dose, even if all the vitamin in the patch is 100% absorbed through the skin.

For example, one particular patch that is marketed for immunity states that it contains 3 milligrams of vitamin C, which is likely insufficient if taken to supplement a low vitamin C diet. The health condition called scurvy is thought to occur when daily vitamin C intake drops lower than 7 milligrams per day.

In contrast, a typical vitamin C tablet contains 500 milligrams. The recommended daily intake of vitamin C is around 45 milligrams per day – more if a woman is breastfeeding.

person puts clear patch on skin of upper arm
Nicotine patches work by providing a sustained release of the drug into the skin. Shutterstock

Why not just take a tablet?

When other medicines are supplied in a patch formulation it is usually because a constant supply of the drug is needed in the body; think smoking replacement nicotine patches, menopausal hormone therapy and some types of pain relief.

There is no reason why you would need the slow release, continuous supply of vitamins that patches promise – but there may be other reasons to choose them over tablets and gummy products.

One selling point used by the marketers is that patches are a “cleaner” form of vitamins. A vitamin in tablet or gummy form will contain inactive ingredients called excipients. Excipients do various tasks in medicines from binding ingredients together, making the medicine look and smell nice, to ensuring drugs don’t break down during storage. The presumption is that patches don’t contain and release any, or very few, excipients into your body.

But many patches don’t list all their ingredients – just the active vitamins – so this claim can not be tested. Some patches may still contain a large number of excipients, some of which may irritate the skin.

For example, one type of nicotine patch contains 12 excipients including acrylic acid and vinyl acetate, which are chemicals used to help stick the patch to the skin.

A patch may be worth investigating for people who have trouble swallowing or chewing. In this instance it could be difficult to take a solid tablet or gummy to get your vitamins.

Should you buy them?

As there are no vitamin patches approved by the TGA in Australia, you should not buy them.

If at some point in the future they become listed medicines, it will be important to remember that they may not have been assessed for efficacy.

If you remain curious about vitamin patches, you should discuss them with your doctor or local pharmacist.The Conversation

Nial Wheate, Associate Professor of the School of Pharmacy, University of Sydney and Jasmine Lee, Pharmacist and PhD Candidate, University of Sydney

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

What are ‘collarium’ sunbeds? Here’s why you should stay away

Ground Picture/Shutterstock
Katie Lee, The University of Queensland and Anne Cust, University of Sydney

Reports have recently emerged that solariums, or sunbeds – largely banned in Australia because they increase the risk of skin cancer – are being rebranded as “collarium” sunbeds (“coll” being short for collagen).

Commercial tanning and beauty salons in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria are marketing collariums, with manufacturers and operators claiming they provide a longer lasting tan and stimulate collagen production, among other purported benefits.

A collarium sunbed emits both UV radiation and a mix of visible wavelength colours to produce a pink or red light. Like an old-school sunbed, the user lies in it for ten to 20 minute sessions to quickly develop a tan.

But as several experts have argued, the providers’ claims about safety and effectiveness don’t stack up.

Why were sunbeds banned?

Commercial sunbeds have been illegal across Australia since 2016 (except for in the Northern Territory) under state-based radiation safety laws. It’s still legal to sell and own a sunbed for private use.

Their dangers were highlighted by young Australians including Clare Oliver who developed melanoma after using sunbeds. Oliver featured in the No Tan Is Worth Dying For campaign and died from her melanoma at age 26 in 2007.

Sunbeds lead to tanning by emitting UV radiation – as much as six times the amount of UV we’re exposed to from the summer sun. When the skin detects enough DNA damage, it boosts the production of melanin, the brown pigment that gives you the tanned look, to try to filter some UV out before it hits the DNA. This is only partially successful, providing the equivalent of two to four SPF.

Essentially, if your body is producing a tan, it has detected a significant amount of DNA damage in your skin.

Research shows people who have used sunbeds at least once have a 41% increased risk of developing melanoma, while ten or more sunbed sessions led to a 100% increased risk.

In 2008, Australian researchers estimated that each year, sunbeds caused 281 cases of melanoma, 2,572 cases of squamous cell carcinoma (another common type of skin cancer), and $3 million in heath-care costs, mostly to Medicare.

How are collarium sunbeds supposed to be different?

Australian sellers of collarium sunbeds imply they are safe, but their machine descriptions note the use of UV radiation, particularly UVA.

UVA is one part of the spectrum of UV radiation. It penetrates deeper into the skin than UVB. While UVB promotes cancer-causing mutations by discharging energy straight into the DNA strand, UVA sets off damage by creating reactive oxygen species, which are unstable compounds that react easily with many types of cell structures and molecules. These damage cell membranes, protein structures and DNA.

Evidence shows all types of sunbeds increase the risk of melanoma, including those that use only UVA.

Some manufacturers and clinics suggest the machine’s light spectrum increases UV compatibility, but it’s not clear what this means. Adding red or pink light to the mix won’t negate the harm from the UV. If you’re getting a tan, you have a significant amount of DNA damage.

Collagen claims

One particularly odd claim about collarium sunbeds is that they stimulate collagen.

Collagen is the main supportive tissue in our skin. It provides elasticity and strength, and a youthful appearance. Collagen is constantly synthesised and broken down, and when the balance between production and recycling is lost, the skin loses strength and develops wrinkles. The collagen bundles become thin and fragmented. This is a natural part of ageing, but is accelerated by UV exposure.

Sun-damaged skin and sun-protected skin from the same person, and the microscopic image of each showing how the collagen bundles have been thinned out in the sun-damaged skin.
Sun-protected skin (top) has thick bands of pink collagen (arrows) in the dermis, as seen on microscopic examination. Chronically sun-damaged skin (bottom) has much thinner collagen bands. Katie Lee/UQ

The reactive oxygen species generated by UVA light damage existing collagen structures and kick off a molecular chain of events that downgrades collagen-producing enzymes and increases collagen-destroying enzymes. Over time, a build-up of degraded collagen fragments in the skin promotes even more destruction.

While there is growing evidence red light therapy alone could be useful in wound healing and skin rejuvenation, the UV radiation in collarium sunbeds is likely to undo any benefit from the red light.

What about phototherapy?

There are medical treatments that use controlled UV radiation doses to treat chronic inflammatory skin diseases like psoriasis.

The anti-collagen effects of UVA can also be used to treat thickened scars and keloids. Side-effects of UV phototherapy include tanning, itchiness, dryness, cold sore virus reactivation and, notably, premature skin ageing.

These treatments use the minimum exposure necessary to treat the condition, and are usually restricted to the affected body part to minimise risks of future cancer. They are administered under medical supervision and are not recommended for people already at high risk of skin cancer, such as people with atypical moles.

So what happens now?

It looks like many collariums are just sunbeds rebranded with red light. Queensland Health is currently investigating whether these salons are breaching the state’s Radiation Safety Act, and operators could face large fines.

As the 2024 Australians of the Year – melanoma treatment pioneers Georgina Long and Richard Scolyer – highlighted in their acceptance speech, “there is nothing healthy about a tan”, and we need to stop glamorising tanning.

However, if you’re desperate for the tanned look, there is a safer and easy way to get one – out of a bottle or by visiting a salon for a spray tan.The Conversation

Katie Lee, PhD Candidate, Dermatology Research Centre, The University of Queensland and Anne Cust, Professor of Cancer Epidemiology, University of Sydney

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Running or yoga can help beat depression, research shows – even if exercise is the last thing you feel like

SKT Studio/Shutterstock
Michael Noetel, The University of Queensland

At least one in ten people have depression at some point in their lives, with some estimates closer to one in four. It’s one of the worst things for someone’s wellbeing – worse than debt, divorce or diabetes.

One in seven Australians take antidepressants. Psychologists are in high demand. Still, only half of people with depression in high-income countries get treatment.

Our new research shows that exercise should be considered alongside therapy and antidepressants. It can be just as impactful in treating depression as therapy, but it matters what type of exercise you do and how you do it.

Walk, run, lift, or dance away depression

We found 218 randomised trials on exercise for depression, with 14,170 participants. We analysed them using a method called a network meta-analysis. This allowed us to see how different types of exercise compared, instead of lumping all types together.

We found walking, running, strength training, yoga and mixed aerobic exercise were about as effective as cognitive behaviour therapy – one of the gold-standard treatments for depression. The effects of dancing were also powerful. However, this came from analysing just five studies, mostly involving young women. Other exercise types had more evidence to back them.

Walking, running, strength training, yoga and mixed aerobic exercise seemed more effective than antidepressant medication alone, and were about as effective as exercise alongside antidepressants.

But of these exercises, people were most likely to stick with strength training and yoga.

Antidepressants certainly help some people. And of course, anyone getting treatment for depression should talk to their doctor before changing what they are doing.

Still, our evidence shows that if you have depression, you should get a psychologist and an exercise plan, whether or not you’re taking antidepressants.

Join a program and go hard (with support)

Before we analysed the data, we thought people with depression might need to “ease into it” with generic advice, such as “some physical activity is better than doing none.”

But we found it was far better to have a clear program that aimed to push you, at least a little. Programs with clear structure worked better, compared with those that gave people lots of freedom. Exercising by yourself might also make it hard to set the bar at the right level, given low self-esteem is a symptom of depression.

We also found it didn’t matter how much people exercised, in terms of sessions or minutes a week. It also didn’t really matter how long the exercise program lasted. What mattered was the intensity of the exercise: the higher the intensity, the better the results.

Yes, it’s hard to keep motivated

We should exercise caution in interpreting the findings. Unlike drug trials, participants in exercise trials know which “treatment” they’ve been randomised to receive, so this may skew the results.

Many people with depression have physical, psychological or social barriers to participating in formal exercise programs. And getting support to exercise isn’t free.

We also still don’t know the best way to stay motivated to exercise, which can be even harder if you have depression.

Our study tried to find out whether things like setting exercise goals helped, but we couldn’t get a clear result.

Other reviews found it’s important to have a clear action plan (for example, putting exercise in your calendar) and to track your progress (for example, using an app or smartwatch). But predicting which of these interventions work is notoriously difficult.

A 2021 mega-study of more than 60,000 gym-goers found experts struggled to predict which strategies might get people into the gym more often. Even making workouts fun didn’t seem to motivate people. However, listening to audiobooks while exercising helped a lot, which no experts predicted.

Still, we can be confident that people benefit from personalised support and accountability. The support helps overcome the hurdles they’re sure to hit. The accountability keeps people going even when their brains are telling them to avoid it.

So, when starting out, it seems wise to avoid going it alone. Instead:

  • join a fitness group or yoga studio

  • get a trainer or an exercise physiologist

  • ask a friend or family member to go for a walk with you.

Taking a few steps towards getting that support makes it more likely you’ll keep exercising.

Let’s make this official

Some countries see exercise as a backup plan for treating depression. For example, the American Psychological Association only conditionally recommends exercise as a “complementary and alternative treatment” when “psychotherapy or pharmacotherapy is either ineffective or unacceptable”.

Based on our research, this recommendation is withholding a potent treatment from many people who need it.

In contrast, The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists recommends vigorous aerobic activity at least two to three times a week for all people with depression.

Given how common depression is, and the number failing to receive care, other countries should follow suit and recommend exercise alongside front-line treatments for depression.

I would like to acknowledge my colleagues Taren Sanders, Chris Lonsdale and the rest of the coauthors of the paper on which this article is based.

If this article has raised issues for you, or if you’re concerned about someone you know, call Lifeline on 13 11 14.The Conversation

Michael Noetel, Senior Lecturer in Psychology, The University of Queensland

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

‘Analog uncanny’: how this weird and experimental side of TikTok is forging the future of horror

Skinamarink/Shudder © 2022
Jessica Balanzategui, RMIT University

Director Kyle Edward Ball’s feature film debut, Skinamarink, achieved unexpected commercial success last year after going viral on TikTok.

Hailed by some critics as the best horror film of 2023, or even the scariest of all time, Skinamarink is a work of experimental slow cinema. The film’s ambiguous and grainy imagery exudes the aura of a degraded, possessed VHS tape.

These aesthetics might seem to conflict with TikTok’s torrent of short, attention-grabbing videos. Yet TikTok has cultivated a hive of creative energy at the intersection of art and horror. Alongside YouTube, the platform has also helped to create pathways to international horror-film careers.

Bite-sized nightmares

YouTube and TikTok provide spaces where horror filmmakers can hone their craft and develop distinct voices, in collaboration with a community of users who provide input, theories and feedback.

A unique form of horror storytelling emerges from such engaged online communities, as they cultivate environments where creators can test new ideas and develop creative ingenuity. This leads to a creative dynamic I call “participatory experimentation”. It’s expanding the boundaries of the horror genre.

Ball’s distinctive aesthetic was developed via his YouTube channel Bitesized Nightmares. Here, he shared experimental videos based on his nightmares. He then invited viewers to share their own “nightmares” in the comments so he could depict them in subsequent videos.

One of these nightmare visions is shown in the short film Heck (2020), the prototype for Skinamarink. Avant-garde in its approach, Heck is a work of art as well as horror. Its experimental beginnings on YouTube are key to its unsettling aesthetic power.

An upcoming cinema screening of Heck at RMIT’s Capitol Theatre, as part of an art/horror program I’ve co-organised with the Australian Centre of Contemporary Art, evidences the growing recognition of such digital horror content as “art” in spaces we may not normally expect. This is a significant cultural development.

The global horror hit Talk To Me (2023), one of Australia’s most successful films ever at the US box office, was also germinated via a YouTube channel. Directors Michael and Danny Philipou have more than 1 billion views and nearly 7 million subscribers on their channel, RackaRacka. It was here that they honed their unique blend of horror and zany, violent comedy.

YouTube has been home to boundary-pushing art-horror since its inception in 2005. Other notable examples include David Firth’s animated series Salad Fingers (2004-), Becky Sloan and Joe Pelling’s Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared (2011-) – which became a TV series in 2022 – and Michelle Lyon’s Funnie Horsie (2012-2016).

From the ‘weird part’ of YouTube to TikTok

TikTok is now also emerging as an important site for this aesthetically rich “uncanny and weird” creative content. It’s not surprising Skinamarink went viral on TikTok when you consider the app’s category of “analog horror” had 2.3 billion views as of when this article was written. The closely related “liminal spaces” category had 4.9 billion views.

Although “analog” typically refers to pre-digital audiovisual technology, “analog horror” refers to horror content which may be produced digitally, but which has an eerily nostalgic technological quality. This content is often suffused with a hazy grain, reminiscent of Skinamarink’s cursed videotape aesthetic.

Analog horror videos may be depictions of creepy inhuman (but human-like) creatures, such as in this TikTok video.

Or they may depict mundane domestic spaces that become threatening once you realise the hallways have off-kilter corners, or the exits are impossible to access. Such imagery of everyday spaces evacuated of purpose, and instead injected with dread, produces the “uncanny”: a feeling of the familiar merged with the unfamiliar.

The creepy house in Skinamarink is a compelling example of this. Throughout the film, the cosily familiar space of a childhood bedroom becomes deeply unfamiliar and unsettling as doors and windows disappear and the ceiling suddenly seems to become the floor.

TikTok’s user-friendly bag of special-effects tricks, such as retro-cam filters, green screens, body warping and face-morphing enable everyday users to experiment with these horror aesthetics with a community of like-minded enthusiasts.

But while analog horror is being driven in new directions on TikTok, it has long been a mainstay of YouTube. One influential example is Marble Hornets (2009), which depicts the “Slender Man”, the internet’s most famous bogeyman.

The Mandela Catalogue (2021) is a more recent example from YouTube. It has had a substantial influence on how the genre has crystallised on TikTok. This eerie series by Alex Kister depicts an alternative reality in which “alternates” (malevolent doppelgangers of real people) have overrun Wisconsin. Doppelgangers are another element of the uncanny.

The future of experimental art-horror

Participatory art-horror experimentation on social media is having a global cultural moment. Last year, prestige film studio A24 (which also distributed Talk To Me) contracted 16-year-old Kane Parsons to direct his first feature based on his eerie YouTube video The Backrooms.

Director Jane Schoenbrun’s films also harness the themes and aesthetics of analog horror. Like Skinamarink, their debut feature, We’re All Going To the World’s Fair (2021), is an unapologetically creepy work of experimental slow cinema. The film unfolds largely through the vlog of an isolated teen YouTuber as she embarks on a (possibly deadly) online “challenge”, narrating her experience to her followers from her bedroom.

Schoenbrun’s upcoming second feature, I Saw the TV Glow (2024), another product of A24, similarly refracts aesthetics and themes of online horror genres such as analog horror and liminal spaces. It has been described as a “surreal coming-of-age horror film”, a “masterpiece” and Sundance’s hottest movie.

The careers of Ball, Parsons, Schoenbrun and the Philipous showcase how experimental horror trends on TikTok and YouTube have successfully crossed into the mainstream. As emerging filmmakers harness social media to build their creative visions, we can expect participatory experimentation to keep expanding the frontiers of the horror genre.The Conversation

Jessica Balanzategui, Senior Lecturer in Media, RMIT University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

‘Digitising’ your wardrobe can help you save money and make sustainable fashion choices

shutterstock. Roman Samborskyi/Shutterstock
Deirdre Shaw, University of Glasgow and Katherine Duffy, University of Glasgow

Spring is traditionally the season for a good clean – and maybe a clear out. Taking stock and having a bit of a declutter can freshen things up domestically.

One popular new way of doing this involves targeting your wardrobe by making digital inventories of your clothes – and then tracking what you wear. You note the price, brand and category of your garments (and shoes and bags) and then record how much use they get.

The idea is that having this information can then lead to better choices in the future, whether that’s saving money or having a more sustainable approach to fashion.

And better choices are needed. The clothing industry in Europe is ranked fourth in terms of its detrimental environmental impact after housing, transport and food.

Clothing is heavily underused, with the number of times a garment gets worn reportedly decreasing by 36% globally between 2000 and 2015. In the UK it has been estimated that 65% of women and 44% of men have clothing in their wardrobe which they are yet to wear, while one survey found that many women consider garments worn once or twice to be “old”.


Quarter life, a series by The Conversation

This article is part of Quarter Life, a series about issues affecting those of us in our twenties and thirties. From the challenges of beginning a career and taking care of our mental health, to the excitement of starting a family, adopting a pet or just making friends as an adult. The articles in this series explore the questions and bring answers as we navigate this turbulent period of life.

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So while brands compete with online services to offer ever increasing amounts of clothing to consume, amid popular tools to sell the clothes you no longer need, we wondered whether digital tracking could make your wardrobe more sustainable.

For our research, we worked with Save Your Wardrobe, an app designed to help people organise and categorise their clothes. We interviewed users to find out if digitising their wardrobes led to any noticeable changes.

From the start, we found consumers feeling anxious and dissatisfied with their clothing behaviours and wardrobe management. There was an aspiration to better understand what was in their wardrobes and how they used their garments.

One woman told us: “Personally I would feel happier if I felt like I was making really thoughtful decisions [about what clothes I buy] and they weren’t coming from a place of anxiety, or a place of feeling constantly like there is some new gap in my wardrobe that I have to fill.”

Another said: “I think a lot about reducing the eco footprint of my lifestyle. And I think clothing is one area where I get frustrated because I don’t feel like my values line up with my behaviour.”

She added: “I feel like we should just consume less, but then I can get anxious and stressed out and feel like I need something, and those two things are incompatible.”

Make do and mend

For many, the initial process of organisation required to upload photos of garments to the app became a moment of reflection and an opportunity to challenge and change existing patterns of behaviour. The effort involved also resulted in a sense of appreciation of the clothing which was already owned.

Woman using phone to take photo of a shirt.
Getting shirty. Nitiphonphat/Shutterstock

An important aspect of this was the ability to quantify what was in the wardrobe – and many of the people we spoke to were surprised (or even shocked) by the amount of clothing they possessed.

One said: “I realised that 50% of my wardrobe is from Primark. It’s ridiculous and I was like, ‘Oh my god!’”

She continued: “I knew that when I go to Primark I go crazy but I didn’t have a full overview of all the things I have.”

Another commented: “I definitely felt more organised. Revisiting old clothes made me see what I have in my closet. That was good, because I [had been] wanting to buy something new, but realised I don’t need to.”

This kind of reaction was common, as users of the app came to understand – and seek to change – their patterns of behaviour around clothing. Items were rediscovered and brought back into use in a way that made owners feel they were “shopping from their own wardrobes”.

As they realised how much money they had spent on clothes, some pieces were put aside for repair so they could be worn again, while others were given away.

Overall, we found that consumption of clothing is fuelling consumer anxiety – but that using an app can help people feel more in control of their wardrobes. Tracking data about their behaviour gave consumers a sense of being more in control of their actions and where they could make changes.

The chance to quantify and gain insight in this way was viewed as similar to other digital solutions – like wearable fitness trackers that record data and can provide motivational encouragement.

Being more aware of the clothes they already owned made a difference to people’s appetites for owning more. So, with a climate change crisis, and when incomes are being squeezed by the cost of living, perhaps it’s time to ditch the shopping apps – and spend some time becoming reacquainted with the clothes you already own.The Conversation

Deirdre Shaw, Professor Marketing and Consumer Research, University of Glasgow and Katherine Duffy, Senior Lecturer in Marketing, University of Glasgow

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Why it’s a bad idea to mix alcohol with some medications

pikselstock/Shutterstock
Nial Wheate, University of Sydney; Jasmine Lee, University of Sydney; Kellie Charles, University of Sydney, and Tina Hinton, University of Sydney

Anyone who has drunk alcohol will be familiar with how easily it can lower your social inhibitions and let you do things you wouldn’t normally do.

But you may not be aware that mixing certain medicines with alcohol can increase the effects and put you at risk.

When you mix alcohol with medicines, whether prescription or over-the-counter, the medicines can increase the effects of the alcohol or the alcohol can increase the side-effects of the drug. Sometimes it can also result in all new side-effects.

How alcohol and medicines interact

The chemicals in your brain maintain a delicate balance between excitation and inhibition. Too much excitation can lead to convulsions. Too much inhibition and you will experience effects like sedation and depression.

Alcohol works by increasing the amount of inhibition in the brain. You might recognise this as a sense of relaxation and a lowering of social inhibitions when you’ve had a couple of alcoholic drinks.

With even more alcohol, you will notice you can’t coordinate your muscles as well, you might slur your speech, become dizzy, forget things that have happened, and even fall asleep.

Woman collects beer bottles
Alcohol can affect the way a medicine works. Jonathan Kemper/Unsplash

Medications can interact with alcohol to produce different or increased effects. Alcohol can interfere with the way a medicine works in the body, or it can interfere with the way a medicine is absorbed from the stomach. If your medicine has similar side-effects as being drunk, those effects can be compounded.

Not all the side-effects need to be alcohol-like. Mixing alcohol with the ADHD medicine ritalin, for example, can increase the drug’s effect on the heart, increasing your heart rate and the risk of a heart attack.

Combining alcohol with ibuprofen can lead to a higher risk of stomach upsets and stomach bleeds.

Alcohol can increase the break-down of certain medicines, such as opioids, cannabis, seizures, and even ritalin. This can make the medicine less effective. Alcohol can also alter the pathway of how a medicine is broken down, potentially creating toxic chemicals that can cause serious liver complications. This is a particular problem with paracetamol.

At its worst, the consequences of mixing alcohol and medicines can be fatal. Combining a medicine that acts on the brain with alcohol may make driving a car or operating heavy machinery difficult and lead to a serious accident.

Who is at most risk?

The effects of mixing alcohol and medicine are not the same for everyone. Those most at risk of an interaction are older people, women and people with a smaller body size.

Older people do not break down medicines as quickly as younger people, and are often on more than one medication.

Older people also are more sensitive to the effects of medications acting on the brain and will experience more side-effects, such as dizziness and falls.

Woman sips red wine
Smaller and older people are often more affected. Alfonso Scarpa/Unsplash

Women and people with smaller body size tend to have a higher blood alcohol concentration when they consume the same amount of alcohol as someone larger. This is because there is less water in their bodies that can mix with the alcohol.

What drugs can’t you mix with alcohol?

You’ll know if you can’t take alcohol because there will be a prominent warning on the box. Your pharmacist should also counsel you on your medicine when you pick up your script.

The most common alcohol-interacting prescription medicines are benzodiazepines (for anxiety, insomnia, or seizures), opioids for pain, antidepressants, antipsychotics, and some antibiotics, like metronidazole and tinidazole.

Medicines will carry a warning if you shouldn’t take them with alcohol. Nial Wheate

It’s not just prescription medicines that shouldn’t be mixed with alcohol. Some over-the-counter medicines that you shouldn’t combine with alcohol include medicines for sleeping, travel sickness, cold and flu, allergy, and pain.

Next time you pick up a medicine from your pharmacist or buy one from the local supermarket, check the packaging and ask for advice about whether you can consume alcohol while taking it.

If you do want to drink alcohol while being on medication, discuss it with your doctor or pharmacist first.The Conversation

Nial Wheate, Associate Professor of the School of Pharmacy, University of Sydney; Jasmine Lee, Pharmacist and PhD Candidate, University of Sydney; Kellie Charles, Associate Professor in Pharmacology, University of Sydney, and Tina Hinton, Associate Professor of Pharmacology, University of Sydney

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Forget about a job for life. Today’s workers need to prepare for many jobs across multiple industries

Everett Collection/Shutterstock
Ruchi Sinha, University of South Australia

Both my parents worked for 30-plus years for their employers – they had lifelong careers at a single company. Growing up, they taught me the importance of “loyalty” and “commitment”.

But in a rapidly changing world, the concept of a job for life has become as rare as a dial-up internet connection.

This shift from stable, long-term employment and single-employer careers to a world where frequent job changes are the norm comes directly from globalisation, rapid technological advancements and the changing ideas about work.

Why such rapid change now?

Globalisation has turned the world economy into a giant, interconnected web. This has made job markets fiercely competitive and talent and opportunities in the labour market more diverse and digitally accessible.

Jobs can be widely publicised and explored online and are no longer tied to your city of birth. Add to this the rapid technological progress. We now live in a world where the skills you learned yesterday might not be enough for today’s job market.

The job market is transforming, with new careers emerging as automation and artificial intelligence (AI) advances. Risks and price policies can be efficiently assessed using AI, making insurance underwriters redundant while advanced software in banking and finance mean data analysis can be automated.

Online booking has reduced demand for travel agents and desktop publishers are being replaced by user-friendly software, which allows people to create their own materials. These changes highlight the need for professionals to update their skills and adapt to a technologically evolving job market.

As a result, career paths have become fluid and multi-directional. It’s no longer just about climbing the corporate ladder and getting a regular paycheck; it’s about exploring different paths, switching jobs and industries and sometimes even venturing into freelancing and the gig economy.

A group of men and women in business wear stand in line waiting to climb a ladder
Work is no longer just about climbing the corporate ladder and getting a regular paycheck. ESB Professional/Shutterstock

Workers’ priorities have been changed by the pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown this trend into overdrive. It has highlighted the need for workers and employers to be flexible to adjust to remote work, evolving job demands and uncertain prospects. Many people have reevaluated their career choices. They want greater work/life balance and adaptability in a changing world.

Increasingly, many workers are developing a personal brand, which involves building a narrative based on their individual skills. This is enriched through online education and skill development courses which makes them stand out in the workplace and more likely to access better opportunities.

But if employers don’t provide opportunities to use these skills, employees might decide to look elsewhere.

Does moving jobs equal disloyalty?

Loyalty is defined as an employee’s commitment to their organisation and its goals. It means a willingness to put in extra effort and to uphold the company’s values and objectives. Loyal workers often identify strongly with their workplace, are reliable and view the organisation positively, even during tough times.

Three female friends sitting on a couch as they have a cup of coffee
Many people have re-evaluated their lives since the pandemic with many seeking greater work/life balance. Antonio Guillem/Shutterstock

When long-term employees change workplaces, it does not mean they are disloyal. It signifies a change in priorities and a redefined loyalty bond. Employees are loyal to their employer and its interests while working there. But they also seek mutual growth and expect to be recognised and rewarded.

Career paths are now a kaleidoscope of experiences and opportunities. Instead of a career identity being about a company brand, it is about skills, experiences and the meaningfulness of the work. This transformation means career decision-making is more intricate, considering personal aspirations, market trends and family considerations.

How are employers coping with this shift?

Employers are rethinking strategies for career development with emphasis on providing diverse and flexible career opportunities, supporting continuous learning, and acknowledging unconventional career paths. This approach is not only in response to the changing nature of work but also a strategy to attract and retain talent in a highly competitive job market.

And for the individuals stepping into the workforce, the message is clear: take charge of your career development. Be proactive, embrace change, continually update your skills and be ready to navigate through transitions and uncertainties. In these dynamic career landscapes, adaptability and resilience are your best allies.

The ability to adjust quickly to new roles, learn new skills, and navigate uncertain job markets is essential for career success in the modern era.

In summary, the career landscape is evolving as is the nature of commitment. The new mantra for organisations and individuals is adaptability, continuous learning and resilience. As the world of work evolves, the key to success is embracing change and crafting a fulfilling, meaningful career that aligns with personal interests and life goals.  The Conversation

Ruchi Sinha, Senior Lecturer, Organisational Behaviour & Management, University of South Australia

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

New Aussie rom-com Five Blind Dates could become your next comfort watch

Prime Video
Jodi McAlister, Deakin University

A good romantic comedy balances two things: expectations and questions.

We all have expectations of a rom-com. There’s the obvious one – the central couple will wind up together in the end – but there are plenty of other familiar elements that recur in this genre: the meet-cute, the not-that-realistic-but-sure-we’ll-go-with-it premise, the wacky best friend, the other (wrong) potential love interests, the makeover, the grand gesture, the declaration of love.

What gives the rom-com energy, though, are the questions. Yes, we know the couple are going to end up together, but how are they going to get there? We know our plucky protagonist will probably extricate herself from the sticky situation she’s in, but how will she do it? We know these other suitors are all wrong for her, when and how is she going to realise?

Five Blind Dates doesn’t quite have the balance of expectations and questions right. It hits all the expectations – indeed, there are so many classic rom-com moments in here you could definitely win rom-com bingo – but sometimes telegraphs the answers to the questions a bit too hard.

This said, though, the balance is only a little off, not a lot. The end result is a lovely film, one I could see becoming a comfort watch for a lot of people – it’s as warm and familiar as the cups of tea purveyed by its heroine.

In search of a soulmate

Lia (Shuang Hu, also the co-writer) has used her inheritance from her grandmother to open a traditional Chinese tea shop in Sydney, where she employs her best friend Mason (Ilai Swindells). Unfortunately, her business is failing, and she a) has no idea how to save it, and b) is dreading telling her family.

It would normally be easy to avoid her family, because they live in Townsville. However, her sister Alice (Tiffany Wong) is getting married and Lia is the maid of honour, which means a great deal more contact than usual.

The film’s premise is established very quickly when, at one of the pre-wedding events, Lia is told by a fortune teller she will meet her soulmate on one of the next five dates she goes on. And then, when she re-encounters her ex-boyfriend Richard (Yoson An) at Alice’s engagement party, Lia ends up on a mission to go on these five dates as fast as possible so she can bring her soulmate to the wedding – and thus show up Richard, who is the best man.

A date at the beach.
Lia ends up on a mission to go on five dates as fast as possible. Prime Video

This beginning section of the film is perhaps its shakiest. It contains quite a lot of exposition very quickly – some of which, if you miss, could make later sections a bit confusing. While Lia and Richard’s re-meet-cute is very sweet, it makes it very clear just which way this is going to go.

The film also doesn’t give us much insight into why Lia and Richard broke up in the first place. While this is revealed slowly over the course of the film, this is very important when it comes to the audience having confidence in a second-chance romance: if it didn’t work out the first time, why would it work out now?

Without this information, we don’t have a great sense of Richard as a person, which makes his characterisation for the first half or so of the film feel a bit thin.

By contrast, though, the first three men Lia meets as part of her dating project are beautifully drawn. Sometimes, in romantic comedies, the premise is sacrificed on the altar of the romance and alternative suitors are one-dimensional, possibly villainous caricatures.

Here, though, Lia’s other options are refreshingly and fascinatingly human. There’s Apollo (Desmond Chiam), the very wealthy businessman her dad (Tzi Ma) has set her up with. There’s Ezra (Jon Prasida), the Chinese language school-teacher her mum (Renee Lim) has set her up with. And then there’s Curtis (Rob Collins), the touchy-feely yoga teacher Alice introduces her to – a character who could easily have become a Byron Bay stereotype but who is given nuance through both writing and performance.

A refreshing film

Mixed in with Lia’s many dates is her anxiety about her failing tea business. The way this problem is resolved is another one of the things the film telegraphs a bit too hard; however, it’s also very funny, which mitigates this somewhat.

A date in a bar.
While there is nothing particularly surprising in Five Blind Dates, it is nevertheless a really refreshing film. Prime Video

While there is nothing particularly surprising in Five Blind Dates, it is nevertheless a really refreshing film. We don’t have a lot of rom-coms set in Australia, much less ones which centre on Chinese Australian characters. It’s a playful, joyful film with a likeable and layered heroine which doesn’t outstay its welcome (it clocks in at under 90 minutes).

If there was to be a follow-up about some of the other characters, you could sign me right up. I, for one, would be fascinated to see what Apollo Wang does next.

Five Blind Dates is on Prime Video from tomorrow.The Conversation

Jodi McAlister, Senior Lecturer in Writing, Literature and Culture, Deakin University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

50 years on, Dungeons & Dragons is still a gaming staple. What’s behind its monumental success?

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Lisa M. Given, RMIT University and Sarah Polkinghorne, RMIT University

Half a century on from its creation, Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) continues to attract millions of players across demographics.

The tabletop role-playing game truly has cemented its position in an increasingly competitive market, valued at more than US$15 billion (A$23 billion) in 2022.

How is a fantasy game from 1974 still capturing the imagination of so many people?

How to play

Tabletop role-playing games are driven by players’ own imaginations. They are a collaborative form of storytelling where players collectively control the narrative and “play” their characters through their words and actions.

In D&D, each player creates a character (such as a human, elf or dwarf, to name a few examples) with unique qualities. Do you like spells? You can be a wizard. Interested in sabotage? Become a rogue. Enjoy combat? You may be a barbarian at heart.

Guided by a dungeon master, your party narrates a quest-filled campaign filled with sticky situations and perilous encounters.

Players roll dice, including a 20-sided die, to dictate what actions they can take. The numbers they roll decided their successes and failures, whether they’re casting spells, picking locks, or attacking monsters.

There are abundant rules, minutiae and lore. But, at its heart, D&D is simply a collective effort to tell a great story.

A global success

More than 50 million people worldwide are estimated to have played D&D. This is immense reach for a game that emerged in the 1970s as a fantasy spin-off from strategic war gaming, where predominantly male players used miniatures to simulate military operations.

D&D’s increased popularity, over the past decade in particular, has been driven by the success of the game’s current version (the fifth edition, released in 2014), the growth in online gaming culture, as well as increased social acceptance of what have historically been considered “nerdy” or “geeky” interests.

Franchises such as Game of Thrones and Lord of the Rings have also helped bring fantasy narratives into the mainstream.

The current D&D edition hits a sweet spot. It’s complex enough to sustain long-standing players, but approachable enough to draw in new people. Following its 2014 release, celebrities such as Vin Diesel and Joe Mangianello made online appearances playing D&D.

In 2016, Netflix’s Stranger Things introduced the game to a massive new audience, as a portrayal of 1980s suburban nostalgia for carefree creative adventures.

Cultural representations of the game are plentiful, including in the 2023 film Dungeons & Dragons: Honour Among Thieves, 2023 videogame of the year Baldur’s Gate 3, podcasts such as Critical Role, and live-streamed D&D campaigns available on YouTube and Twitch.

But as D&D became mainstream, scrutiny followed. The subculture has its share of controversies, including an element of toxic fandom that expresses hostility towards the game’s evolution and diversifying fan base.

As with any growing community, some fans have been concerned with gate-keeping. Some players experience bullying and exclusion, while others find themselves in awkward conversations around the table. This has been a recurring concern for women trying D&D for the first time.

On balance, however, the vast majority of people play to have fun, express their creativity and engage with others. The flexible nature of the game means fans have found endless ways to turn their campaigns into something highly personal and treasured.

D&D continues to evolve through the rich contributions of its fan base, for whom it has become an important outlet for creativity and self-expression.

We all need connection

In challenging times, tabletop games provide inexpensive entertainment, escapism and a way to stay connected to friends and family.

One recent Australian study, of community members playing the game over an eight-week period, found playing D&D decreased players’ depression, stress and anxiety, and increased self-esteem. The authors suggest the game could be used as a wellbeing intervention tool or to prevent mental health issues from arising.

Role-playing games in particular offer psychological support to people of all ages, helping to combat anxiety and build confidence.

This is particularly valuable at a time when social isolation is plaguing communities. Australia’s social cohesion index dropped to its lowest level in 2023. People were concerned about rising household expenses and the state of the economy, with almost half of respondents feeling socially isolated some or all of the time.

During the COVID pandemic, many households in lockdown introduced game nights to entertain themselves. Now, even with restrictions lifted, Australia continues to experience a thriving role-playing and board game movement.

The campaign continues

Around the world, shared public spaces, cafés and pubs offer tabletop gaming spaces to foster community engagement. Public libraries have included spaces for gaming since the 1850s, starting with billiard tables and puzzles, and now including video games.

New social media communities, such as the Latrobe Valley Boardgamers Facebook Group, are frequently popping up for people with shared gaming interests.

In April, the British Library will host a live-streamed event to celebrate D&D’s 50-year legacy – one of many events to be held this year. A new rules update is expected later in the year and is sure to entice fans new and old.

The Conversation

Lisa M. Given, Professor of Information Sciences & Director, Social Change Enabling Impact Platform, RMIT University and Sarah Polkinghorne, Research Fellow, Social Change Enabling Impact Platform, RMIT University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Reality Bites at 30: why the Gen X classic still stands up today

Universal Pictures
Adam Daniel, Western Sydney University

“I was really going to be something by the age of 23,” says Lelaina Pierce, played by the radiant Winona Ryder in the 1994 Gen X classic Reality Bites.

She was voicing an anxiety many would say was born in the post-boomer demographic of the film’s disenfranchised central characters – but it is still a familiar anxiety today, 30 years on from the film’s release.

Reality Bites was the first feature for director Ben Stiller, then known mostly for his TV comedy work, and the first script penned by then 20-something writer Helen Childress, drawing from her own life experience.

Lelaina is a dissatisfied university graduate confronting the realities of life after graduation while making a documentary about her equally disaffected friend group.

Despite graduating at the top of her class, Lelaina is stuck in a producer’s assistant role on a Houston morning show – until she is unceremoniously fired. Complicating matters, she is also trapped in a love triangle with corporate Michael (played by Stiller) and slacker Troy (Ethan Hawke), two men who represent a key philosophical fork in the road for many Gen Xers: to “sell out” or not.

Reality Bites continues to resonate with new generations of viewers. It is a timeless story of young adults navigating love, friendship and career uncertainties.

A film for Gen X

At the time of release, The New York Times’ Frank Rich declared:

This is the movie that has been both praised as the last word on X-ers and damned as Hollywood’s slickest effort yet to exploit them.

There are however genuine joys, despite the slickness critique. Among them, the acerbic humour of Janeane Garofolo and Steve Zahn, in memorable roles; the killer 90s soundtrack, featuring Lisa Loeb, Crowded House and World Party; and two career-defining roles for Ryder and Hawke, who may be more familiar to younger audiences for Stranger Things and The Black Phone. Hawke’s brooding intellectual and Ryder’s luminous yet sardonic girl-next-door established personas for the duo that persisted throughout the decade.

The themes of the film are surprisingly relevant given the generational differences between audiences of the early 90s and today. Although the film examines the complicated issues of the AIDS crisis and homophobia of the era, it also adeptly examines the universal anxieties of identity crisis, disillusionment and the search for authenticity.

Despite clear generational differences in fashion, lifestyle and music, the response to the film by new audiences tends to be one of resonance and recognition.

A timeless premise for a romantic drama, the love triangle at the centre of Reality Bites remains compelling. Following Lelaina’s meet-cute car accident with TV executive Michael, the couple start dating. But Lelaina can’t overcome her attraction to Troy, who positions himself as the anti-Michael; he’s more interested in his amateur band and just hanging out than he is in starting a career.

When he and Lelaina finally come together in the aftermath of a fight with Michael over commercialising her documentary, it’s presented as soulful and deeply romantic. However, Troy is unable to handle the intimacy of their burgeoning relationship and walks out on her the following morning. Spoiler Alert: Lelaina forgives him for leaving, and their embrace and kiss is one of the final images of the film.

A worthy rewatch

What has struck me upon multiple rewatches over the last 30 years is how much my personal reaction to Lelaina’s eventual decision to dump Michael in favour of Troy has shifted. Troy is shown throughout the film to be callous, self-centred and in need of therapy, while Michael is generous and kind, if a little dorky

When I first watched the film as a teenager it was easy to get hoodwinked into aligning with Lelaina’s choice of Troy. Watching the film as an adult who is closer in age to Lelaina’s parents, the choice is less clear. Were Michael’s actions so egregious?

In hindsight, the Gen X obsession with selling out no doubt played a significant role in how Michael and Troy were perceived at the time of release. Michael’s attempt to turn Lelaina’s creative work into money was seen as inauthentic, while Troy’s lack of aspirations for his music career were perceived as rebellious and genuine.

A contemporary generation of media creators are seemingly less critical of attempts to monetise their artistry. The act of personal “branding” and building an audience are common to platforms such as TikTok and YouTube, in a manner that Troy and Lelaina would likely find shameful.

But I’m certainly not the first to make the case that Lelaina made an error.

At the Tribeca Film Festival’s 25-year anniversary screening, Ryder herself admitted she thought Lelaina would end up in a lesbian relationship with Garofalo’s Vickie after Troy’s novelty faded.

Whichever side you end up taking, the film’s rocking soundtrack, charming performances and snarky humour make it a worthy rewatch.The Conversation

Adam Daniel, Associate Lecturer in Communications, Western Sydney University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

6 tips to maximise your concert experience, from a live music expert

Ben Green, Griffith University

Stadium concert attendance is on the rise in Australia. This month, more than one million people are expected see P!NK and Taylor Swift on their Australian tours, which quickly sold out the country’s biggest stadiums. Both artists added extra dates to meet demand, following extended runs by Ed Sheeran and Foo Fighters in 2023.

What’s drawing such massive crowds to these events? And how can you maximise your fun (in a safe way) when sharing a space with 100,000 other people?

What’s behind the concert boom?

State governments have begun to lift decades-old limits on large stadium concerts. Event caps have gone from six to 12 events per year at Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium, and from four to 20 events per year at the Sydney Cricket Ground precinct. The press releases from both of these announcements trumpeted the benefits for tourism and local economies.

Australia’s live music attendance and revenue doubled in the decade prior to the COVID pandemic, attracting about half the country’s adult population. Large international events contributed significantly to this.

This popularity continues, with ticket prices rising amid a cost-of-living crisis. Consumer research shows people under age 35, and the one-third of Australians who rent their homes, have made the biggest reductions in discretionary spending. But the overall trend is towards saving week-to-week and “splurging” on big events such as concerts.

The ‘peak music experience’

Live music is a space where extraordinary things happen. We can celebrate who we are and what’s important to us, individually and collectively. We can have intense feelings and express them in uncommon ways, exploring different – or “more real” – versions of ourselves.

All of this creates memorable experiences that resonate deeply with us and keep us coming back time and again. I call these “peak music experiences”. My research drawing on in-depth interviews with music lovers, media analysis, and participant observation identifies common elements of the peak live music experience.

With that in mind, here are six things to help you get the most out of your next concert.

1. Company

A crucial factor in any concert experience is whom we share it with. The heightened feeling and expression that live music enables can create powerful moments that sociologists call “epiphanies”. Epiphanies reveal and encapsulate what specific people mean to each other.

So when tickets go on sale, and you’re considering whom to call, remember your choice can elevate your concert experience – and your relationship with that person or group.

2. Venue

Music is inseparable from its setting. In live music, this is a feature. Concert halls and dive bars are perfect settings for certain types of experience. But if you’re seeing one of the world’s biggest acts, where better to do so than a giant cauldron of humanity under the stars?

Stadiums have drawbacks, mostly related to their sheer scale and associated logistics. But the journey, the waiting, the challenges, and especially the fellow travellers, often contribute to the unpredictable magic of live music. So plan ahead and leave plenty of time, but also enjoy the whole ride!

3. Sound

Live music doesn’t just sound different than music in your loungeroom; it feels different. High volume, as much as the mass movement of bodies, makes live music a physical experience. Experts suggest the best sonics are in front of the mixing desk, off-centre and not too close to the stage – but this must be balanced with the view! It’s a good idea to pack ear plugs in case your ears need a rest.

4. Presence

A good live show requires the performer to be present, not just physically but also emotionally. This is where we judge their authenticity or “realness”. This isn’t an objective quality, but a reflection of our personal tastes and values. Do you prefer flawless virtuosity or relatable vulnerability?

Such notions are deeply ingrained in us. So when choosing a concert, consider how it might confirm or challenge your ideals. Both can be good! And don’t forget to be present yourself.

A good performer ensures they have strong presence throughout their show. Shutterstock

5. Fandom

Concerts aren’t just about enjoying and judging the performer(s); they’re also about us. The costly pilgrimage and elaborate ritual to celebrate this very specific thing you love, surrounded by people who love it too, helps join the dots of our fragmented lives.

Just getting to see a favourite artist or song is the source of many people’s peak music experiences. The moral: if it’s an act you really love, always go if you can.

6. Collective feeling

Have you noticed the moment when a roaring crowd becomes aware of itself and roars a bit louder? Live music is about more than just the artist, their performance, or even us. It’s also about other people.

Music synchronises not only our actions but our subjective experience. We feel together, whether in rapt silence or wild abandon. We become a part of something greater – especially at massive concerts with crowds in the tens of thousands. So my tip: join in.

Safety and sustainability

Finally, don’t forget to keep safe. Australia’s love of outdoor events exposes us to extremes, which are a growing reality. Taylor Swift’s recent Brazilian concerts coincided with a heat wave with tragic consequences, highlighting the responsibility of event organisers.

You can manage risks by making plans in advance, knowing your limits, and considering important information such as the availability of water, food, safe spaces and venue exits. Event organisers should provide this information.

The music industry and governments are also beginning to address issues of sexual harassment, accessibility, drug safety and diverse representation, with a view to making the live music experience available and equitable for all. The Conversation

Ben Green, Research fellow, Griffith University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Digital technologies have made the wonders of ancient manuscripts more accessible than ever, but there are risks and losses too

Detail from a 14th-century miniature Greek manuscript depicting scenes from the life of Alexander the Great. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Jonathan L. Zecher, Australian Catholic University

Near the end of the 18th century, a Greek monk named Nikodemos was putting together a massive anthology of Byzantine texts on prayer and spirituality, which he would call The Philokalia.

He lamented the state of learning among his fellow monks, because they did not have access to the texts of their tradition:

Because of their great antiquity and their scarcity – not to mention the fact that they have never yet been printed – they have all but vanished. And even if some few have somehow survived, they are moth-eaten and in a state of decay, and remembered about as well as if they had never existed.

Nikodemos hoped to correct this by collecting and printing texts that would otherwise fall to dust. By making the manuscripts into a book, he would preserve the knowledge they contained – but not the manuscript, not the artefact itself.

He does not mention how difficult his Byzantine manuscripts were to read and transcribe, even for someone familiar with the language. Copying by hand takes dozens, even hundreds of hours of intensive labour. Reading them means learning to decode scribes’ handwriting, abbreviations and shorthand.

Every manuscript, with its errors, notes and doodles – not to mention its artistry, images, and ornamentation – remains a unique artefact. The evanescent beauty of manuscripts is lost in their printed analogue. Every manuscript is its own text, its own space of knowledge, and an irreplaceable part of our shared cultural histories.

Nicodemos (1818). Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Preserving the Past

Nikodemos was struggling with the perennial dilemma faced by historians and archivists. Our knowledge of the past, and the wisdom we can gain from it, is bound in material objects – whether manuscripts, paintings, ruined buildings or clay pots – that are decaying.

Decay presents three challenges. What will we preserve of the past? How should we preserve it? And how do we ensure its accessibility?

The scarcity and obscurity of ancient and medieval manuscripts are among the biggest obstacles to understanding both the texts they contain and the lives of those who wrote them.

Few copies might ever have been made of a given text. We are lucky if we can now read a text in 50 manuscripts. Some survive in only one.

But the biggest problems are time and the elements. Medieval manuscripts are usually made of parchment and bound in leather-covered boards. The ink is usually iron gall. These are amazingly durable materials, but they have their limits.

Ink fades with exposure to light. Pages are torn or damaged by water, smoke and skin oils. The same activities that give us access to the manuscript will also slowly destroy it.

Manuscript depicting scenes from the life of Alexander the Great, late Byzantine period (1204-1453). Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

In the early modern period, antiquarians and collectors began acquiring manuscripts from monasteries and churches and putting them into libraries. Manuscript tourism became a popular activity for wealthy scholars like Sir Robert Cotton (1571-1631), whose collection became the core of the British Museum’s collection.

Of course, many of these collectors simply stole or smuggled what they wanted from struggling monasteries in what are now Greece, Sinai and Israel. Their achievements must be balanced against their participation in colonial piracy.

But their work made possible the rise of printed editions of classical and medieval works. The printing revolution promised a solution to preservation and accessibility. It accelerated distribution and made the task of reading easier by standardising printing conventions. Books could proliferate where manuscripts could not, and anyone who could read them could access that knowledge.

But the printed version rarely resembles its parchment parent. Hand-copying always introduces errors, whether accidental or intentional, and so each manuscript copy differs from the next. Printed editions must choose one form. Usually, this means choosing between readings, combining them, or correcting as the editor deems best.

Our modern editions of the Bible and the Iliad, for example, do not exactly match their underlying manuscripts. The texts represent editors’ best judgement of the originals.

Bear baiting, marginal illustration from a 14th century manuscript. British Library, via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY

Digital decay

Even if we prefer the edited versions, printed books decay faster than manuscripts, and take up just as much space. Print does not solve the problem of preservation; it only postpones it.

In the 20th century, digital scanning tools and computer-based storage seemed to offer a new kind of solution. Manuscripts could be scanned into high-resolution images and stored digitally. Computers promised no more deterioration and no more shelf space.

European and American libraries have invested millions in digitising their manuscript holdings. The Library of Congress, the British Library, and the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, among others, offer access to thousands of manuscripts free of charge on their websites.

The move online seems so perfect to some that the UK Ministry of Justice plans to digitise 100 million wills, and then destroy the paper originals.

Armenian manuscript, 15th century. Metropolitan Museum of Art, via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY

This proposed move ignores the inherent problems and vulnerabilities of digital solutions, which amount to “digital decay”.

First, the digital image is not the same as the material original. Even the finest colour images do not let a reader change the lighting to bring out different colours, or look from different angles to see faded letters more clearly. You just can’t see as much in the scan as you can on the page.

Second, digital images are often in proprietary formats, meaning that without the library’s viewing software you cannot actually examine the manuscript. Sometimes lower quality scans are available in formats like PDF and JPEG, but these are generally blurry, and even unreadable.

In some cases, images cease to be accessible because they are contained in obsolete file formats. The digital format is still chained to its digital shelves in a private space.

Third, as a recent cyber-attack on the British Library demonstrates, the digital space seems not to be safer than the physical one. On October 28, 2023, a criminal group called Rhysida unleashed ransomware in the British Library’s computer systems, stealing nearly 500,000 files.

The most worrisome thefts were of personal information that could be used for identity theft and other frauds. But the British Library website has been down since that day. Its incident report page says that it may take up to a year to restore all online operations.

That includes all of the library’s carefully digitised manuscripts, which are now unavailable. There is no sense of when we will see them again. The digital library space, with its proprietary viewing software and its specialised file formats, is now shuttered.

Conservation and accessibility

Digitising manuscripts may promise preservation and accessibility, but it does not future-proof our access to the past. Scans and websites cannot make up for losing the real thing. Yet physical conservation comes at the expense of accessibility.

We can, however, use advances in AI and computer technology to improve approaches to digital conservation and enable wider access to the uniqueness of individual manuscripts.

To avoid digital decay, we need to devote the same attention to digital conservation as to material conservation. Long term investment is needed to regularly migrate file formats to keep up with changing technologies. Ideally, these formats should be “inter-operable” – which is to say, usable across a wide range of platforms.

This would uncouple the digital objects from the proprietary viewers used by libraries now, so they can be stored and viewed anywhere, rather than only on library websites. Until that happens, each digital library space remains vulnerable to decay and even loss since, if the website is down, the viewer is down.

Abraham’s sacrifice, 14th century manuscript. Árni Magnússon Institute. Szilas, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

It has become possible to train AI to “read” manuscripts, transcribe them, and assist in translating them into English, Chinese, Spanish, and so on. Images of manuscripts would then have a readable text and all the unique elements of the material original – its decorations and artistry, its errors and doodles.

The underlying combination of inter-operable file formats and relatively simple software would mean museum visitors could use tablets and touch screens to read and interact with manuscripts, not just as artistic objects, but as readable texts. In this enhanced digital form, manuscripts could come to local museums, libraries and galleries, where they would be accessible to everyday visitors as well as specialists.

This approach would require careful care for the material originals, as well as continuing investment in digital formats and technologies to ensure access for future readers.

At the end of his introduction to the Philokalia, Nikodemos congratulates himself on what he offers readers:

For behold, writings never ever published in earlier times! Behold, works which lay about in corners and holes and darkness, unknown and moth-eaten, and here and there cast aside and in a state of decay!

The challenges of preserving and accessing our past, contained in objects like manuscripts, are not really that different from those Nikodemos faced in his day. But unlike him, we can now offer the experience of the manuscript as well as the text, and to a much wider audience.The Conversation

Jonathan L. Zecher, Research fellow, Australian Catholic University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Some of the Renaissance’s most romantic love poems weren’t for lovers

Sonnets still have a reputation for being about the unrequited love of a man for a woman. AndreasPraefcke/Wikimedia Commons
Shannon McHugh, UMass Boston

As poets have demonstrated for centuries, a sonnet for your beloved never goes out of style. The gift of verse may carry extra cachet this Valentine’s Day, on the heels of Taylor Swift’s announcement that her next album is poetry-themed.

But in carrying out my research on Renaissance literature and gender, I’ve been struck by how many of that period’s love poems were not for lovers.

These sonnets, composed for friends and family, are not just beautiful; they’re also a reminder that love and Valentine’s Day aren’t exclusively for couples.

The love sonnet is born

The sonnet was invented in 12th century Italy as a 14-line poem with 11 beats per line and various rhyming patterns. Its originator, Giacomo da Lentini, was a poet in the Kingdom of Sicily who had been inspired by older Arabic and French poetry.

But it was the Italian poet Petrarch who put the form on the map. In the 14th century, he wrote a collection of 366 poems, mostly sonnets. He penned the collection for a woman named Laura, whom he loved from afar in life and after her death.

Petrarch died in 1374, but his poetry became the most widely published literature of the Italian Renaissance. It was so popular that it inspired generations of poets, imitators known as “Petrarchists.” Petrarchism became a global phenomenon in the 16th and 17th centuries, spreading to Spain, France, England and even the Americas.

Playing with sonneteering stereotypes

Thomas Wyatt is thought to have written the first English sonnets, in the early 16th century. His poems strongly relied on Petrarch; some of the best known, like “Whoso list to hunt,” are quasi-translations of the Italian poet’s work.

Writing a half-century later, Shakespeare changed the form, ending his sonnets with a rhyming couplet, giving birth to the “Shakespearean sonnet.”

Title page of a collection of Shakespeare's sonnets featuring a colorful illustration of Shakespeare, flowers and two cherubs.
Many of Shakespeare’s sonnets were addressed to an unnamed young man. Folger Digital Image Collection, CC BY-SA

More than four centuries after the first printing of Shakepeare’s sonnets in 1609, his poems are still oft quoted. Many valentines will find themselves compared to a summer’s day or swearing there can be no impediments between the marriage of true minds.

Less well known, however, is the fact that half of Shakespeare’s poems were addressed to a young man, an unnamed “Fair Youth.” Depending on which Shakespeare scholar you ask, the gesture is either platonic, romantic or a little of both. In any case, it introduces an element of queerness, in that there’s homoeroticism and a challenge to what society deems natural.

Yet today the Renaissance sonnet still has a reputation, even among scholars, for being about the unrequited love of a man for a woman. But even before Shakespeare, in Renaissance Italy, the sonnet was a lot more varied than that.

For friends and lovers

For starters, even Petrarch wrote about more than just his love for Laura.

A number of his poems were composed for friends, with several of them for the Florentine poet Sennuccio del Bene. In poem 113, Petrarch writes about returning to the region where Laura was born, but he opens by describing his love for his friend, saying he is only “half” himself without Sennuccio, and that both men would only be “whole” and “happy” if they were together.

Poem 287 is a sonnet on Sennuccio’s death, in which Petrarch’s mourning is only mitigated by the knowledge that his friend is in heaven with other great poets, like Dante, and the now-deceased Laura. The short poem mixes his love and grief for both people, his beloved and his friend.

Today’s “Galentine’s Day” – a celebration of female friendship – has yet to spawn a male-friendship-centered “Malentine’s Day.”

But platonic love between men carried no stigma in the Renaissance. Take the verses of Venetian writers Orsatto Giustinian and Celio Magno, who published their poetry in a single book in 1601.

Magno and Giustinian portray their friendship with the vocabulary of Petrarchan love. In one sonnet, Magno describes how he hates being separated from his friend, which is almost like being severed from himself: “You do not live, I do not live; together we are far from ourselves in this bitter state.”

At the risk of being the “and-they-were-roommates” historian, I’ll note that the book also contains passionate poems from Giustinian to his wife, Candiana Garzoni.

That doesn’t cancel out the homoerotic tension in the men’s poems to each other, but it does make classifying their sexuality challenging. And maybe this shouldn’t be the point. If anything, their romantic friendship seems to skirt simple categories of sexual orientation.

Sororal sentiment

Most published writers in Renaissance Italy were men, but a not-insignificant number were women. Existing in a single copy in a library in Siena, Italy, is a joint poetry collection written by two sisters, Speranza Vittoria and Giulia di Bona. They lived with their mother and four other sisters.

Their sisters Lucrezia and Cassandra both died at a young age. The sonnets that Speranza and Giulia composed for them take the sort of heartbreaking imagery used to describe a lost partner, but is repurposed to portray their grief: the swan song, the sun gone dark, the poet’s wish to die in order to be near the object of their love.

In one melancholic poem about Lucrezia’s death, Speranza weeps for the “strange place, dark earth, and bitter stone” that “possess” her sister, and thus her own happiness.

The poems traded between Speranza and Giulia are brighter, exhibiting an abundance of love and admiration. In one pair of sonnets, written playfully yet impressively with matching rhyme words, the two liken each other to white ermines, an animal considered a symbol of moral virtue.

Love is big

There are so many other Renaissance Italian poems written for friends, parents, children and grandchildren – not to mention fiery love poems dedicated to Jesus and the saints, some by clerics, like Angelo Grillo.

They serve as reminders of what the love poem can be. They push back against narratives that champion heterosexual relationships or that tout romantic coupling and sexual attraction of any orientation as the most important relationship in a person’s life, minimizing the importance of other loving relationships.

These poems also encourage everyone to think more expansively about their own love and home lives. As an unmarried mother of a 5-year-old – and as someone who has only ever lived with friends or siblings – I have benefited immensely from alloparenting, the care provided for my son by all of the nonparents in his life.

I ended up in these living situations in part because of the pandemic, which, in a way, was a form of luck: Sometimes it takes a disruptive event to break cultural expectations for the nuclear family and childrearing.

If writers could describe different types of love during the Renaissance, why limit what we can envision for ourselves?The Conversation

Shannon McHugh, Associate Professor of French and Italian, UMass Boston

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

book of the season - summer: come in spinner, 1951

Come In Spinner is an Australian novel by Dymphna Cusack and Florence James, originally published in 1951 and set in Sydney at the end of the Second World War.

The title refers to a phrase used in the Australian gambling game of two-up. "Come in spinner" is the call given by the game manager when all bets are placed and the coins are ready to be tossed.

The book tells the story of three women, Claire, Guinea and Deb, who are co-workers in the beauty salon of an exclusive Sydney hotel. The story weaves together these characters with their familial and romantic relationships, as they struggle to manage the realities of working for the privileged upper classes, to whom no rules apply, while their own families cope with wartime deaths and losses, rationing, government manpower recruitment and stiflingly conservative attitudes surrounding the role and perception of the "acceptable" behaviour of women.

From 1945 to 1947 Florence James, her two daughters, and Dymphna Cusack and her niece shared a rented cottage 'Pinegrove' at Hazelbrook in the Blue Mountains. It was there that they collaborated on a children's book Four Winds and a Family and Come In Spinner, which was to become the most successful book about life in wartime Sydney.


Dymphna Cusack and Florence James, working at Dymphna’s dictaphone. Photo: University of Melbourne Archives.

Cusack and James entered their manuscript in the Daily Telegraph's £1000 novel competition, whose closing date was October 1946. It was judged the winner and the prizemoney handed over, but no announcement was made, and The Telegraph reneged on its commitment to publish the novel, which covered such topics as abortion, adultery, prostitution and sexual assault, as well as promiscuity and the black market. Heinemann published an expurgated version in 1951. 

The book was reworked from the original MS by Florence James, and was republished in 1987 for Richard Walsh of Angus and Robertson, partly due to the interest caused by the development of a television adaptation of the book. Cusack was not able to take part in this restoration or witness the renewed popularity of the novel as she passed away in 1981.

Ellen Dymphna Cusack AM (21 September 1902 – 19 October 1981) was born in Wyalong, New South Wales, and educated at Saint Ursula's College, Armidale, New South Wales and graduated from the University of Sydney with an honours degree in Arts and a diploma in Education. She worked as a teacher until she retired in 1944 for health reasons. Her illness was confirmed in 1978 as multiple sclerosis. Dymphna passed away at Manly, New South Wales on 19 October 1981.


Dymphna Cusack, 1947. Photo courtesy State Library of NSW

Cusack wrote twelve novels (two of which were collaborations), eleven plays, three travel books, two children's books and one non-fiction book. Her collaborative novels were Pioneers on Parade (1939) with Miles Franklin, and Come In Spinner with Florence James.

Her younger brother, John, was also an author, writing the war novel They Hosed Them Out under the pseudonym John Beede, which was first published in 1965; an expanded edition under the author's real name, John Bede Cusack, was published in 2012 by Wakefield Press, edited and annotated by Robert Brokenmouth.

Cusack advocated social reform and described the need for reform in her writings. She contributed to the world peace movement during the Cold War era as an antinuclear activist. She and her husband Norman Freehill were members of the Communist Party and they left their entire estates to the Party in their wills.

Cusack was a foundation member of the Australian Society of Authors in 1963. She had refused an Order of the British Empire, but was made a Member of the Order of Australia in 1981 for her contribution to Australian literature. In 2011, Cusack was one of 11 authors, including Elizabeth Jolley and Manning Clark, to be permanently recognised by the addition of brass plaques at the Writers' Walk, Sydney.

Florence Gertrude James (2 September 1902 – 25 August 1993) was an Australian writer and literary agent, born in Gisborne, New Zealand. She moved with her family to Sydney in 1920, studying at Sydney University 1923–26, and it was there that her friendship with Dymphna Cusack began. They were both involved in debating and theatre; they shared a feminist, unionist and pacifist outlook. Both became opponents of nuclear weapons.

Around 1930 she moved to London, working as a journalist, briefly sharing a room with Christina Stead. While there she married lawyer William J. "Pym" Heyting in 1932 and had two daughters, Julie and Frances, by him. They returned to Sydney in 1938. He joined the RAAF as an Intelligence officer, and became a Wing Commander.

She worked as Public Appeals Officer for The Royal Prince Alfred Hospital from 1940 to the end of 1944, when she resigned.

She returned with her daughters to London in 1947 to join her husband who was stationed there. They divorced in 1948. She remained there until 1963, working as a literary agent, initially for Constable and Company, where authors she signed included Mary Durack, Sylvia Townsend Warner and Colin Johnson (aka Mudrooroo Narogin). She became active in the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, participating in the Aldermaston March and activities of Bertrand Russell's Committee of One Hundred.

Florence returned to Australia in 1963 and joined the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) in 1968. In 1984 she restored the unexpurgated MS of Come In Spinner for Richard Walsh of Angus and Robertson. Florence passed away in 1993 at the Wesley Heights retirement village at Manly, where her friend and collaborator Dymphna Cusack had passed away twelve years earlier.

The world at your finger tips: Online

With current advice to stay at home and self-isolate, when you come in out of the garden, have had your fill of watching movies and want to explore something new, there's a whole world of books you can download, films you can watch and art galleries you can stroll through - all from at home and via the internet. This week a few suggestions of some of the resources available for you to explore and enjoy. For those who have a passion for Art - this month's Artist of the Month is the Online Australian Art Galleries and State Libraries where you can see great works of art from all over the world  and here - both older works and contemporary works.

Also remember the Project Gutenberg Australia - link here- has heaps of great books, not just focused on Australian subjects but fiction works by popular authors as well. Well worth a look at.

Short Stories for Teenagers you can read for free online

StoryStar is an online resource where you can access and read short stories for teenagers

About

Storystar is a totally FREE short stories site featuring some of the best short stories online, written by/for kids, teens, and adults of all ages around the world, where short story writers are the stars, and everyone is free to shine! Storystar is dedicated to providing a free place where everyone can share their stories. Stories can entertain us, enlighten us, and change us. Our lives are full of stories; stories of joy and sorrow, triumph and tragedy, success and failure. The stories of our lives matter. Share them. Sharing stories with each other can bring us closer together and help us get to know one another better. Please invite your friends and family to visit Storystar to read, rate and share all the short stories that have been published here, and to tell their stories too.

StoryStar headquarters are located on the central Oregon coast.

NFSA - National Film and Sound Archive of Australia

The doors may be temporarily closed but when it comes to the NFSA, we are always open online. We have content for Kids, Animal Lovers, Music fans, Film buffs & lots more.

You can explore what’s available online at the NFSA, see more in the link below.

https://bit.ly/2U8ORjH


NLA Ebooks - Free To Download

The National Library of Australia provides access to thousands of ebooks through its website, catalogue and eResources service. These include our own publications and digitised historical books from our collections as well as subscriptions to collections such as Chinese eResources, Early English Books Online and Ebsco ebooks.

What are ebooks?
Ebooks are books published in an electronic format. They can be read by using a personal computer or an ebook reader.

This guide will help you find and view different types of ebooks in the National Library collections.

Peruse the NLA's online ebooks, ready to download - HERE

The Internet Archive and Digital Library

The Internet Archive is an American digital library with the stated mission of "universal access to all knowledge." It provides free public access to collections of digitised materials, including websites, software applications/games, music, movies, videos, moving images, and millions of public-domain books. There's lots of Australian materials amongst the millions of works on offer.

Visit:  https://archive.org/


Avalon Youth Hub: More Meditation Spots

Due to popular demand our meditation evenings have EXPANDED. Two sessions will now be run every Wednesday evening at the Hub. Both sessions will be facilitated by Merryn at Soul Safaris.

6-7pm - 12 - 15 year olds welcome
7-8pm - 16 - 25 year olds welcome

No experience needed. Learn and develop your mindfulness and practice meditation in a group setting.

For all enquires, message us via facebook or email help@avalonyouthhub.org.au

BIG THANKS The Burdekin Association for funding these sessions!

Green Team Beach Cleans 

Hosted by The Green Team
It has been estimated that we will have more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050...These beach cleans are aimed at reducing the vast amounts of plastic from entering our oceans before they harm marine life. 

Anyone and everyone is welcome! If you would like to come along, please bring a bucket, gloves and hat. Kids of all ages are also welcome! 

We will meet in front of the surf club. 
Hope to see you there!

The Green Team is a Youth-run, volunteer-based environment initiative from Avalon, Sydney. Keeping our area green and clean.

 The Project Gutenberg Library of Australiana

Australian writers, works about Australia and works which may be of interest to Australians.This Australiana page boasts many ebooks by Australian writers, or books about Australia. There is a diverse range; from the journals of the land and sea explorers; to the early accounts of white settlement in Australia; to the fiction of 'Banjo' Paterson, Henry Lawson and many other Australian writers.

The list of titles form part of the huge collection of ebooks freely downloadable from Project Gutenberg Australia. Follow the links to read more about the authors and titles and to read and/or download the ebooks. 

Profile: Ingleside Riders Group

Ingleside Riders Group Inc. (IRG) is a not for profit incorporated association and is run solely by volunteers. It was formed in 2003 and provides a facility known as “Ingleside Equestrian Park” which is approximately 9 acres of land between Wattle St and McLean St, Ingleside. IRG has a licence agreement with the Minister of Education to use this land. This facility is very valuable as it is the only designated area solely for equestrian use in the Pittwater District.  IRG promotes equal rights and the respect of one another and our list of rules that all members must sign reflect this.

Cyberbullying

Research shows that one in five Australian children aged 8 to 17 has been the target of cyberbullying in the past year. The Office of the Children’s eSafety Commissioner can help you make a complaint, find someone to talk to and provide advice and strategies for dealing with these issues.

Make a Complaint 

The Enhancing Online Safety for Children Act 2015 gives the power to provide assistance in relation to serious cyberbullying material. That is, material that is directed at a particular child with the intention to seriously embarrass, harass, threaten or humiliate.

IMPORTANT INFORMATION 

Before you make a complaint you need to have:

  • copies of the cyberbullying material to upload (eg screenshots or photos)
  • reported the material to the social media service (if possible) at least 48 hours ago
  • at hand as much information as possible about where the material is located
  • 15-20 minutes to complete the form

Visit: esafety.gov.au/complaints-and-reporting/cyberbullying

Our mission

The Office of the Children’s eSafety Commissioner is Australia's leader in online safety. The Office is committed to helping young people have safe, positive experiences online and encouraging behavioural change, where a generation of Australian children act responsibly online—just as they would offline.

We provide online safety education for Australian children and young people, a complaints service for young Australians who experience serious cyberbullying, and address illegal online content through the Online Content Scheme.

Our goal is to empower all Australians to explore the online world—safely.

Visit: esafety.gov.au/about-the-office 

The Green Team

Profile
This Youth-run, volunteer-based environment initiative has been attracting high praise from the founders of Living Ocean as much as other local environment groups recently. 
Creating Beach Cleans events, starting their own, sustainability days - ‘action speaks louder than words’ ethos is at the core of this group. 

National Training Complaints Hotline – 13 38 73

The National Training Complaints Hotline is accessible on 13 38 73 (Monday to Friday from 8am to 6pm nationally) or via email at skilling@education.gov.au.

Sync Your Breathing with this - to help you Relax

Send In Your Stuff

Pittwater Online News is not only For and About you, it is also BY you.  
We will not publish swearing or the gossip about others. BUT: If you have a poem, story or something you want to see addressed, let us know or send to: pittwateronlinenews@live.com.au

All Are Welcome, All Belong!

Youth Source: Northern Sydney Region

A directory of services and resources relevant to young people and those who work, play and live alongside them.

The YouthSource directory has listings from the following types of service providers: Aboriginal, Accommodation, Alcohol & Other Drugs, Community Service, Counselling, Disability, Education & Training, Emergency Information, Employment, Financial, Gambling,  General Health & Wellbeing, Government Agency, Hospital & GP, Legal & Justice, Library, Mental Health, Multicultural, Nutrition & Eating Disorders, Parenting, Relationships, Sexual Health, University, Youth Centre

Fined Out: Practical guide for people having problems with fines

Legal Aid NSW has just published an updated version of its 'Fined Out' booklet, produced in collaboration with Inner City Legal Centre and Redfern Legal Centre.

Fined Out is a practical guide to the NSW fines system. It provides information about how to deal with fines and contact information for services that can help people with their fines.

A fine is a financial penalty for breaking the law. The Fines Act 1996 (NSW) and Regulations sets out the rules about fines.

The 5th edition of 'Fined Out' includes information on the different types of fines and chapters on the various options to deal with fines at different stages of the fine lifecycle, including court options and pathways to seek a review, a 50% reduction, a write-off, plan, or a Work and Development Order (WDO).

The resource features links to self-help legal tools for people with NSW fines, traffic offence fines and court attendance notices (CANs) and also explains the role of Revenue NSW in administering and enforcing fines.

Other sections of the booklet include information specific to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, young people and driving offences, as well as a series of template letters to assist people to self-advocate.

Hard copies will soon be available to be ordered online through the Publications tab on the Legal Aid NSW website.

Hard copies will also be made available in all public and prison libraries throughout NSW.

Read the resource online, or download the PDF.

Apprenticeships and traineeships info

Are you going to leave school this year?
Looking for an apprenticeship or traineeship to get you started?
This website, Training Services NSW, has stacks of info for you;

It lists the group training organisations (GTOs) that are currently registered in NSW under the Apprenticeship and Traineeship Act 2001. These GTOs have been audited by independent auditors and are compliant with the National Standards for Group Training Organisations.

If you are interested in using the services of a registered GTO, please contact any of the organisations listed here: https://www.training.nsw.gov.au/gto/contacts.html

There are also some great websites, like 1300apprentice, which list what kind of apprenticeships and traineeships they can guide you to securing as well as listing work available right now.

Profile Bayview Yacht Racing Association (BYRA)
1842 Pittwater Rd, Bayview
Website: www.byra.org.au

BYRA has a passion for sharing the great waters of Pittwater and a love of sailing with everyone aged 8 to 80 or over!

 headspace Brookvale

headspace Brookvale provides services to young people aged 12-25. If you are a young person looking for health advice, support and/or information,headspace Brookvale can help you with:

• Mental health • Physical/sexual health • Alcohol and other drug services • Education and employment services

If you ever feel that you are:

• Alone and confused • Down, depressed or anxious • Worried about your use of alcohol and/or other drugs • Not coping at home, school or work • Being bullied, hurt or harassed • Wanting to hurt yourself • Concerned about your sexual health • Struggling with housing or accommodation • Having relationship problems • Finding it hard to get a job

Or if you just need someone to talk to… headspace Brookvale can help! The best part is our service is free, confidential and youth friendly.

headspace Brookvale is open from Monday to Friday 9:00am-5:30pm so if you want to talk or make an appointment give us a call on (02) 9937 6500. If you're not feeling up to contacting us yourself, feel free to ask your family, friend, teacher, doctor or someone close to you to make a referral on your behalf.

When you first come to headspace Brookvale you will be greeted by one of our friendly staff. You will then talk with a member of our headspace Brookvale Youth Access Team. The headspace Brookvale Youth Access Team consists of three workers, who will work with you around whatever problems you are facing. Depending on what's happening for you, you may meet with your Youth Access Worker a number of times or you may be referred on to a more appropriate service provider.

A number of service providers are operating out of headspace Brookvale including Psychologists, Drug & Alcohol Workers, Sexual Health Workers, Employment Services and more! If we can't find a service operating withinheadspace Brookvale that best suits you, the Youth Access Team can also refer you to other services in the Sydney area.

eheadspace provides online and telephone support for young people aged 12-25. It is a confidential, free, secure space where you can chat, email or talk on the phone to qualified youth mental health professionals.

Click here to go to eheadspace

For urgent mental health assistance or if you are in a crisis please call the Northern Sydney 24 hour Mental Health Access Line on 1800 011 511

Need Help Right NOW??

kids help line: 1800 55 1800 - www.kidshelpline.com.au

lifeline australia - 13 11 14 - www.lifeline.org.au

headspace Brookvale is located at Level 2 Brookvale House, 1A Cross Street Brookvale NSW 2100 (Old Medical Centre at Warringah Mall). We are nearby Brookvale Westfield's bus stop on Pittwater road, and have plenty of parking under the building opposite Bunnings. More at: www.headspace.org.au/headspace-centres/headspace-brookvale

Profile: Avalon Soccer Club
Avalon Soccer Club is an amateur club situated at the northern end of Sydney’s Northern Beaches. As a club we pride ourselves on our friendly, family club environment. The club is comprised of over a thousand players aged from 5 to 70 who enjoy playing the beautiful game at a variety of levels and is entirely run by a group of dedicated volunteers. 
Profile: Pittwater Baseball Club

Their Mission: Share a community spirit through the joy of our children engaging in baseball.

Year 13

Year13 is an online resource for post school options that specialises in providing information and services on Apprenticeships, Gap Year Programs, Job Vacancies, Studying, Money Advice, Internships and the fun of life after school. Partnering with leading companies across Australia Year13 helps facilitate positive choices for young Australians when finishing school.

Driver Knowledge Test (DKT) Practice run Online

Did you know you can do a practice run of the DKT online on the RMS site? - check out the base of this page, and the rest on the webpage, it's loaded with information for you!

The DKT Practice test is designed to help you become familiar with the test, and decide if you’re ready to attempt the test for real.  Experienced drivers can also take the practice test to check their knowledge of the road rules. Unlike the real test, the practice DKT allows you to finish all 45 questions, regardless of how many you get wrong. At the end of the practice test, you’ll be advised whether you passed or failed.

NCYLC is a community legal centre dedicated to providing advice to children and young people. NCYLC has developed a Cyber Project called Lawmail, which allows young people to easily access free legal advice from anywhere in Australia, at any time.

NCYLC was set up to ensure children’s rights are not marginalised or ignored. NCYLC helps children across Australia with their problems, including abuse and neglect. The AGD, UNSW, KWM, Telstra and ASIC collaborate by providing financial, in-kind and/or pro bono volunteer resources to NCYLC to operate Lawmail and/or Lawstuff.

Kids Helpline

If you’re aged 5-25 the Kids Helpline provides free and confidential online and phone counselling 24 hours a day, seven days a week on 1800 55 1800. You can chat with us about anything… What’s going on at home, stuff with friends. Something at school or feeling sad, angry or worried. You don’t have to tell us your name if you don’t want to.

You can Webchat, email or phone. Always remember - Everyone deserves to be safe and happy. You’re important and we are here to help you. Visit: https://kidshelpline.com.au/kids/