Monthly Archives

December 2020

CHRISTMAS GREETINGS AND HOLIDAY SCHEDULE

By Australian Newsletter

This being the last Australian News for 2020 we take the opportunity to thank our readers for their support and to wish all a blessed and wonderful Christmas as we celebrate the birth of our Saviour Jesus. We pray it will be followed by a restful break, and a 2021 full of renewed vision and faith for the year ahead.

Australian News will return on Wednesday 6th January.

Source: Australian Prayer Network

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SELF HARM TRIPLED IN MELBOURNE DURING CORONAVIRUS LOCKDOWN

By Australian Newsletter

Sixteen teenagers harmed themselves and were admitted to one hospital’s intensive care unit in just three months during Melbourne’s coronavirus lockdown, a surge doctors warn is part of an alarming mental health crisis among children. The admissions to the Monash Children’s Hospital ICU from August to last month represented a significant increase on the five self-harm cases treated there in the same period last year. A senior child psychiatrist warned Melbourne was in the grip of a deepening teen mental health crisis linked directly to the four-month lockdown ordered by the Victorian government to beat COVID-19. “Lockdown was an extremely traumatic and sustained experience for young people,” said the mental health expert, who asked not to be named. “It was also well outside the range of normal stresses and troubles of life.

“We all know you are going to have to deal with heartbreak, or death, or illness in yourself or family, but a lot of the young people I talk to, they are disproportionately far more fearful of the virus itself than I think is warranted from a data point of view.  “Amplifying that were the stresses and restrictions of isolation and lockdown, of being away from your friends and being trapped in a family, even if that’s a perfectly good family.” According to data released by Monash, eight teens were treated in the ICU after self-harming this August, compared with four in the same month last year. In September there were four cases (none last year) and there were four cases in October (one last year).

Associate professor Felix Oberender, director of Monash’s paediatric ICU, said: “It is hard to say for certain what exactly may have caused this increase in self-harm cases. Children and teenagers face lots of pressures in their life, which have been amplified during this pandemic.” More than 160,000 students in Years 8-10 missed 22 weeks of school this year, instead doing remote learning as the government imposed one of the toughest lockdowns in the world to defeat the coronavirus’s second wave. Some doctors believe the Monash data is compelling evidence teenagers were hardest hit by Melbourne’s lockdown. A range of doctors, paediatricians and adolescent mental health experts  all pleaded with the government to avoid future lockdowns, even in the event of a third wave.

“Once the second lockdown felt it was never going to end, cases weren’t trending down for quite a long time, and there was no exit strategy of any sort, people’s capacity to grit their teeth and hang in there reached its limits,” one medical expert said. “There is a certain inevitability about the virus coming back when we open up again and there is every chance that the lockdown policies will be right back in, given the enormous institutional support and the lack of any meaningful opposition; people grumbled but there was none of that million people politely walking out on the streets and getting back to work and saying, ‘no we don’t accept these conditions’.” Mental health experts queried whether the recently announced investment in mental health funding was all new money and feared it wouldn’t make a difference.

Premier Daniel Andrews announced a $870m funding boost, including almost $500m for 120 extra mental health beds. “Everyone wants the best for the children but there is no mechanisms to actually force government to increase resources because of public pressure or even built-in mechanisms to increase capacity as there are for every flu season, or after an accident or bushfire, when everything instantly ramps up,’’ one mental health expert said.  “Elective surgery lists are nice and carefully collected and CEOs of hospitals are pressed to improve them. But in mental health it just does not work like that. “I don’t understand it because the same forces should apply and there are even similar metrics. But the kind of excuses are, ‘it’s a lot harder to bring online mental health beds’. I don’t buy that, it’s not a compelling argument.”

Senior developmental paediatrician Liam Tjia believes the teen mental health crisis can be linked to the draconian Melbourne lockdown, and said that must not be repeated. “There must never, ever be such a broad, geographically determined lockdown, as the governments have been relying on this year. It is just unconscionable,” Dr Tjia said. “There just needs to be no more lockdowns. The pandemic can be managed through measures. We just need to be better prepared about managing it without relying on lockdowns.”

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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ANOTHER WIN FOR ISRAEL FOLAU

By Australian Newsletter

Champion rugby player Israel Folau has had a tumultuous 19 months. In April last year on his personal Instagram account, he posted a blunt paraphrase of two verses in the Apostle Paul’s first letter to Christians in the Greek city of Corinth. It was a grim warning to believers in that large and prosperous city, known for its temple prostitutes, drunkenness and promiscuity –a culture that may ring a few bells today. But there is hope, as Paul goes on in verse 11: “And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” Folau also offered hope. In his Instagram post, he said: “Those that are living in Sin will end up in Hell unless you repent. Jesus Christ loves you and is giving you time to turn away from your sin and come to him.” Folau had warned of Hell. And all hell broke loose.

Adulterers, thieves, drunks, swindlers and slanderers weren’t upset. But his mention of homosexuality – men who have sex with men – was like a red rag to a bull. Folau was the Wallabies’ best player. But Rugby Australia sacked him, for stating his sincere religious belief, affirmed in a book treated with honour in every Australian court room. As you probably know, Folau appealed his unfair dismissal and later won a significant out-of-court settlement. But he soon had another battle on his hands. Sydney gay activist Garry Burns, who has made hundreds of complaints to the NSW Anti-Discrimination Board over the years, lodged one against Israel Folau last December.  Burns claimed that Folau’s post vilified homosexuals. The Board initially accepted his complaint, but later rejected it, saying he had failed to keep the matter confidential and had sent numerous inappropriate emails to Folau’s lawyers.

NSW Anti-Discrimination Board president Annabelle Bennett said Burns’ complaint was “vexatious” and “a flagrant abuse of process such that no further actions should be taken”. But Garry Burns did not give up. In April he appealed to the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal. Then recently there was good news.  On 18 November, the Tribunal rejected Mr Burns’ application. It found he was only doing it to get funds to pay a $82,000 legal bill run up in another legal fight.  Tribunal chief Anne Britton said the “egregious nature of Mr Burns’ conduct” amounted to an abuse of process. He had sent “intemperate” emails to Folau’s legal team as well as disrespectful, intemperate and threatening emails to members of the Anti-Discrimination Board. Israel Folau and others, including Bernard Gaynor, another victim of many Burns’ complaints, are praising God for this win. Ironically, thanks to Rugby Australia and Garry Burns, millions worldwide now know the meaning of 1 Corinthians 6: 9-10!

Source:  National Alliance of Christian Leaders

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TASMANIAN LIBERALS TAKE A STAND

By Australian Newsletter

Tasmanian Liberals have taken a stand against one of their own, speaker Sue Hickey, in the battle against the radical gender agenda. A motion was carried, which unfortunately is not binding on the government, to repeal the changes to gender and birth certificates. A motion to repeal the changes, which make gender optional on birth certificates and remove a requirement for transgender people to have sex reassignment surgery before they can legally change their gender, was moved at the party’s recent annual State Council meeting at Bellerive. The motion was put forward by a member of the Lower Sandy Bay Branch, who said she was aware Ms Hickey would always vote with her heart, and that while she admired that, “empathy does not make good policy”.

Ms Hickey defended the legislation, telling the gathering of Liberal Party faithful that it had been “thoroughly scrutinised” by both houses of Parliament and had not caused any unintended consequences. Members yelled across the room for Ms Hickey to “sit down” when she rose to clarify that a master list of gender data is still kept behind the scenes. Binary spokeswoman, Kirralie Smith, congratulated the party for speaking out. “Re-writing historical fact, to save hurt feelings, is not good legislation. Women are at greatest risk of biological males who identify as females in sport, change rooms, and more. It is about time politicians stood up for scientific fact and biological reality. Appeasing an ideological viewpoint is not a good reason to change the law.”

Source: Binary

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WAYS YOU CAN SHARE THE MESSAGE OF CHRIST THROUGH CHRISTMAS TRADITIONS

By Feature Articles

There are many annual traditions and adornments that are part of the Christmas holiday season, some religious and some secular, and Jim Denison shared several ways Christians can keep their family’s focus on the spiritual significance of the holy day by sharing Christ in every aspect. “Many of our Christmas traditions have spiritual significance,” said Denison, a former pastor, teacher of apologetics, and founder of Denison Ministries, in an interview with The Christian Post. Denison, whose podcast and daily columns reach over 250,000 subscribers worldwide, recently wrote a piece on Christmas traditions titled “What does the Bible say about Santa Claus?” to explain where many of these global traditions and symbols originated and to offer his own response to the question: “Is there a Santa Claus?”

“There really was a St. Nick and we can learn so much from his life,” Denison said. Many of the traditions connected to the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ have been criticized for their non-Christian origins. Traditions such as the Yule log, the Christmas tree, and even the date of the holiday stem from pre-Christian religious observances. Denison, however, stressed the importance for Christians to practice the holy aspects of the season. In a Q&A with Christian Post, Denison explained how even elements that are largely viewed as secular aspects of the holiday season can be used to convey spiritual truths. Christian Post asked Denison: What inspired you to write “What does the Bible say about Santa Claus?”

Denison: As with many holidays, there is history and myth intertwined in the traditions and origins of Christmas. But for Christians, the most important, valid information comes from God’s word. What does the Bible say about the jolly old man we see every Christmas in malls and store advertisements and for whom small children await in eager anticipation on Christmas Eve? The figure we know as Santa Claus who brings gifts piled up on a sleigh pulled by reindeer all the way from his home at the North Pole? The short answer, of course, is nothing. But there’s more to the story about Santa. There really was a St. Nick, and we can learn so much from his life. If practiced as first intended, Christmas traditions can convey spiritual truth and joy.

Christian Post: In your study of Santa and popular Christmas traditions, what did you discover was biblical and what was not?

Denison: There’s reality behind the story and history of Santa Claus. There actually was a man known as Nicholas who was born in AD 280 in Asia Minor, which is modern-day Turkey. He was bishop of the church in Myra, participated in the First Council of Nicaea, and helped the church find the best language to describe the Incarnation of Jesus. St. Nicholas was beloved because he spent his life helping the poor and underprivileged. He was the first to initiate programs for mentally challenged children. His love for children led him to visit their homes at night disguised in a red-and-white hooded robe to leave gifts of money, clothing, and food in their windows or around their fireplaces. Nicholas was one of history’s most venerated saints, with more than 500 songs and hymns written in his honor.

Christopher Columbus arrived in Haiti in 1492 and named the port after him. By the year 1500, more than 700 churches in Britain were dedicated to him. The Dutch especially appreciated his life. They spelled his name Sint Nikolass, which, in America, became Sinterklass, or Santa Claus. Many of our other Christmas traditions have spiritual significance:

• Lighting a Christmas candle symbolizes the coming of the Light of God. When Jesus first visited our planet, He fulfilled the promise made seven centuries earlier: “The people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned” (Matthew 4:16; Isaiah 9:2).

• The poinsettia reminds us of the blood of Jesus, shed on the cross or us all. When you set out these plants this year, pause to remember the fact that Jesus was born to die. We could not climb up to God, so he climbed down to us. He is the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world (Revelation 13:8).

• ·When you see a wreath this Christmas season, pause to give thanks for the victory won for you by Jesus. In Roman times, and in Greek culture before them, a wreath signified victory in an athletic competition. Much like Olympic gold medals, wreaths woven of leaves or made of gold were given to the winners of significant races and contests. In the same way, you and I wear the wreath of eternal victory in Jesus. He has won the battle against sin and Satan. If He is your Lord, eternal security is yours. You are in His hand, and no one can take you from his protection and care (John 10:28).

Christian Post: Do you believe Christians have allowed this season to become about something other than the true reason?

Denison: In 1897, 8-year-old Virginia O’Hanlon wrote a letter to the editor of New York City’s The Sun newspaper. She asked, “Please tell me the truth, is there a Santa Claus?”  News writer Francis Pharcellus Church soon responded in the newspaper’s editorial section with one of history’s most reprinted newspaper editorials: “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.” He went on to explain “the existence” of Santa Claus in terms of the love and generosity that Christmas ushers in every December. He encouraged her not to be swayed by the skepticism of the age. I might answer Virginia O’Hanlon’s question about Santa Claus differently than Francis Pharcellus Church did. But I would not want to take the imagination, joy, love, or generosity out of it. Rather, I would want to show little Virginia how so many of the ways we observe Christmas today tie us back to the first Christmas. We don’t want to lose sight of the real story of Christmas. And, yes, Virginia, there is a real Jesus.

Christian Post: How do you advise families go about being festive but still holy?

Denison: While there are many ways to keep Jesus’ birth at the centre of this season, let me offer some ideas that you might use or adapt to your Christmas observance to keep it holy. The term holy simply means set apart or different. How can your observance of Christmas be set apart or different from the culture’s gift-giving frenzy? There are a variety of ways to make the Christmas holidays holy days. Discover what works best for your family. Here are three ideas.

1. Observe Advent: The word advent comes from Latin and means arrival. While often ascribed to more liturgical church traditions, Advent counts down the days to Christmas in a way that builds anticipation and instils the story of Christmas in our children and grandchildren. Advent calendars are widely available, but be sure it’s observing Christmas as Jesus’ birth, not a more secular approach. You and your family could also have an Advent wreath observance.

2. Give to missions: Have a discussion with your family about ministry or mission opportunities that you could support as a family. Many denominations and churches have special offerings this time of the year in support of missions. Many have community or missions projects to help meet local or global needs. Perhaps your largest gift financially this year could be to missions. Make the gift a family decision. Allow your children or grandchildren not only to participate in the decisions but also to divide your gift among family members so that everyone gives. As a family, you could commit to praying or volunteering with ministries.

3. Bring your nativity scene to life: In recent years, “The Elf on the Shelf” has become a popular tradition. But I recently heard of a variation of that idea with a Nativity scene. Mary and Joseph and the shepherds could be scattered around your home and moved daily in search of a place for baby Jesus to be born. The baby does not appear until Christmas morning, when Mary, Joseph, and the shepherds all arrive at the manger scene. Maybe the wise men could still be traveling from the East.

Christian Post: How can celebrating the true Christmas message help the state of the world?

Denison: Christmas is not just a holiday. It’s a holy day. It’s not a myth. It’s a fact. When Jesus returned to His Father, He did not take his light with Him. Instead, He handed it to you and me. Like Olympic torchbearers, we have been handed His flame. It now rests in your hands. It will spread through the world to the degree you give it to those we can. Jesus was clear about this responsibility and privilege: “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:14–16). “You” is plural in the Greek. Every believer is the custodian of the candle of Christmas. If Jesus is your Lord, His light is in your hands.

Source: Christian Post

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CHILD SEX PREDATORS RAMPANT AS MORE CHILDREN ONLINE AS A RESULT OF COVID

By Australian Newsletter

Authorities are becoming increasingly concerned at the surge in child sex abuse, with the number of arrests and charges since the start of the coronavirus pandemic almost double that of the same period last year. Official figures show that 1101 charges have been laid against predators abusing children online between March and September, an average of 157 charges a month, compared to 673 for the same period last year. And the number of arrests made by Australian Federal Police for those offences has increased 128 per cent, from 57 between March 9 and September 29 last year to 130 in that seven-month period this year. Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton said offenders were using the pandemic as an opportunity to find more potential child victims, who were spending a larger amount of time online under sometimes limited or no adult supervision.

“Australian law enforcement officers are seeing sites hosting online child sexual abuse material crashing due to the increased volume of traffic,” Mr Dutton said. “These type of offenders are using the lockdown restrictions to take advantage of vulnerable children who may be spending an increased amount of time online during this period. COVID-19 is no barrier to police continuing to target these offenders. If they procure, access and transmit child abuse material, they will be found, arrested and prosecuted.”  Government sources said children were being groomed and blackmailed to produce increasingly extreme material, amid threats that if they don’t do what is asked of them, the content will be shared. An offender might contact a child using a direct messaging service and encourage them on to other platforms with image-­sharing capabilities.

A child may be asked to pose for modelling shots in exchange for clothing or other benefits. While the first images seem innocent enough, they evolve into more sexualised photos or child exploitation material. Parents and carers were also being groomed online after being offered free products or modelling opportunities for their child. Some were even “willingly engaging” in the sexual exploitation of children by sharing images and videos, sources said. Acting e-Safety Commissioner Rebecca Razavi said she was deeply concerned by the significant increase in online child sex abuse material that the agency had witnessed. Similar to the jump in arrest numbers, there has been a 129 per cent increase in the number of reports of online child sex abuse material to the commissioner from March to August compared to the 2019 monthly average.

“A rising proportion of this material has been elicited from child victims remotely, with their own devices being exploited to coax them into providing intimate images or videos,” Ms Razavi said. “As serious as the situation is, there is no cause for parents to panic. E-Safety’s message to parents is to be just as involved in your children’s online lives as you are in their everyday lives. While parental controls are fine and important, nothing beats a parental presence. “Just as you wouldn’t drop your six-year-old off at a busy shopping centre by themselves at night, you also shouldn’t leave them to wander, unaccompanied and unprotected, on the internet.” Other countries have reported similar increases in online child sex abuse throughout COVID-19.

America’s National Centre for Missing & Exploited Children registered a 106 per cent increase in reports of suspected child sexual exploitation, rising from 983,734 in March last year to more than two million in the same month this year. The federal budget gave $300.2m to the AFP over four years, including to respond to “emerging threats and priorities”.  Yasmin London, a former NSW police officer and executive director of y-Safe, an online safety education provider, said parents should have decent software controls to help manage their online behaviour. Primary school-aged kids should be encouraged to talk to a person online only if they know them in real life, they know their first and last name and their parents know who they are and give permission for them to chat.

Older children should be aware of who can access their personal information and how that might be used against them. “The overarching rule for parents is to make sure your kids know they can come to you if there’s a problem and your response is not going to be to attack them or tell them they’re stupid,” Ms London said. “You’re going to do something that makes the situation better for them, not taking the phone away or taking them off social media, but helping them manage it themselves.”

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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KIDS TRAPPED IN MISERY OF FUEL SNIFFING

By Australian Newsletter

Tough laws and low-aromatic fuel have not stopped the scourge of petrol sniffing and solvent abuse, with hundreds of cases being referred for treatment each year in the Top End alone, more than two-thirds of them involving children.  Official figures reveal that the Top End Health Service (TEHS), which operates in the upper part of the Northern Territory, received 163 referrals in the first half of 2020, most of them for kids and some as young as seven years old.  The worst-affected communities include those along the Arnhem Land coast that also have been impacted by an epidemic of child suicide. A recent coronial inquest into the deaths of three youngsters aged 12, 13 and 17 years, all of whom perished after lengthy battles with solvent abuse, heard about an “avgas crisis” that saw elevated lead levels measured in close to 200 Arnhem Land kids in 2017.

An outbreak of deodorant sniffing among a group of girls in the town of Katherine forced several agencies to scramble to respond earlier this year. The Northern Territory (NT) is the only jurisdiction with powers to force sniffers into rehabilitation. But the inquest was told health authorities did not understand and often failed to properly apply those laws, despite being repeatedly warned about similar errors.  Health Department mental health, alcohol and other drugs director Cecelia Gore conceded her agency’s numerous “technical” mistakes but argued mandatory treatment was a blunt instrument best as a last resort. “Most of the young people that come in for volatile substance abuse are also using alcohol, also using cannabis,” she said.

“Volatile substance is one of the ways young people can express self-harming behaviours. It can be driven by boredom or trauma, but it’s a signal that there’s something else going on.” The grandfather of 17-year-old Ms B, who the inquiry heard had twice been raped, self-harmed, suffered domestic violence and dropped out of school during a long period in which she sniffed petrol but never received a treatment plan, told the inquest she had succumbed to harmful influences from a troubled crowd. “Other children in the community were smoking, sniffing, breaking into shops and talking about hurting themselves,” he said. “Then Ms B started doing it, too.” The number of referrals to TEHS rose from 42 in 2008 to 381 in 2015, but then declined to 255 in 2019. The count of 163 in the first half of 2020 suggested this year’s total could again exceed 300.

Arnhem Land-based Miwatj Health dealt with a further 81 cases in the past six months, up from 31 in cases in the six months prior. The change could reflect an increase in presentations, the inquiry heard. Most of the patients referred for possible mandatory treatment were never sent. It remained unclear to what extent that was correct, given the inquiry heard TEHS spent almost two years “assessing” some referrals when it should have spent two weeks. It also repeatedly and wrongly “case managed” high-risk patients off its books. Chief Health Officer Hugh Heggie testified that the introduction of low-aromatic Opal fuel had helped reduce the harm caused by sniffing. “The risk today mostly is asphyxiation, when it comes to Opal fuel, or should the person set fire to themselves,” Dr Heggie said.

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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PRAISE FOR BRISBANE CITY COUNCIL AS PRAYER RETAINED

By Australian Newsletter

The Brisbane City Council has refused to bow to calls to cease traditional Christian prayers at council meetings, supporting the position of the Australian Christian Lobby’s (ACL) outlined in a petition raised to retain the practice. “Over 1,300 citizens petitioned council to continue prayers,” ACL state director and petition organiser Wendy Francis said. Francis went on “The majority of Australians identify as Christian. Prayers at the start of Council meetings maintain a longstanding, inoffensive practice that is part of our legal and cultural heritage. Council rightly acknowledged that heritage. Queensland and Australian heritage has been decisively and irrevocably shaped by a Christian ethos, which continues to foster our free, compassionate and prosperous democracy. Long may councillors be reminded before every meeting to put others’ interests ahead of their own.”

Source: Australian Christian Lobby

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