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Australian Newsletter

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WHAT DOES COVID 19 MEAN FOR THE CHURCH CALLED TO BE A COMMUNITY

By Australian Newsletter

Humans are fundamentally relational beings, dependent and incomplete by design; no one can be who they truly are in isolation. But Australia is a socially fragmented society.  The average Aussie moves every 6 years, 40% of marriages end in divorce and busyness is a virtue.  As the pandemic forces everything to a halt and contains us to our geographic locations, the Church is faced with an opportunity to help change the fabric of our society.  But for the first time in living memory, churches are being forced to close their doors.  It’s a challenge that many pastors likely didn’t think their congregations would have to face, but for the foreseeable future, all regular gathering has come to a halt.

The Church is also called to serve the poor and protect the vulnerable, to etch out a place for them.

Psalm 82: 3 “Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed.  4 Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”

Isa 54: 2  “Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back; lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes

So how does the Church help restore community and provide for the vulnerable without a physical place to do so?  Some of Christians Against Poverty’s (CAP) partner churches are already providing stunning examples of what this could look like.  The Grainery in the NSW Hunter Region is one such church.  Calling their community to step up and be the church, the young adults pastor wrote to the church’s young adults last week saying:  “As young adults, most of us are the healthiest, more able and mobile in our community at this time.  In contrast we have many people in our church who are vulnerable, isolated and need extra support over the coming weeks.”

“With many ministries and events altered or postponed, many of us who normally serve at church, are now available to help in other ways.  The church is encouraging healthy members to get creative in how they reach out an help their community with things such as; creating care packages and kids craft packs and delivering them, cooking meals for the regular attendees of Grainery Care (community outreach program), making check-in phone calls, taking time to visit, play games or lead a fun activity for isolated families and children, setting up technology for older people so they don’t miss out on church over live-stream.”

Of course, all these activities will have to consider Government restrictions on gathering and movement.  But these are logistics to be overcome, the church is pulling out all stops to ensure no one is left isolated!  Already, stories are emerging of CAP clients struggling through the crisis.  It’s heartbreaking.  However equally, there are stories of how churches are continuing to support them through the CAP Debt Centres and CAP Money courses.  One family, a mum, dad and 4 kids aged 1 through to 9 have lost their income due to the crisis.  They reached out to their case worker who was able to but their debt repayments on a hold.  The client was full of relief and reflected:

“It is such a blessing that we did reach out when we did.  If we didn’t have you now, it would be devastating”  What a gift it is to be able to provide for people in their season of need.  Even as advice and measures keep changing, there are ways you as a church can help people practically.  As individuals scattered around towns and cities, together you can reach many people.  Here are some practical ways as Christians to show love to our communities.

• Go the local shops for those who can’t or are scared to
• Pray for neighbours (leave a note in their letterbox telling them you are a Christian and offer to pray)
• Donate money and items to foodbanks and charities caring for the vulnerable.  By giving instead of hoarding, we demonstrate that it is God who we trust.
• Regularly check-in with isolated people over the phone
• Keep giving blood, as the need will increase and potential donors decrease
• Display gratitude to service workers (mail carrier, supermarket assistant) they are likely feeling overrun and encounter a lot of stressed out people
• Offer to help single parents with childcare needs; drop off a meal, a box of diapers or puzzles for the kids
• Buy a gift card from a local small business to redeem at a later date (stock up some for Christmas presents)
• Send an encouraging text message to any of your friends who are medical professionals, and offer to help their partner or family
• PRAY

But the reality is many Australians are going to face economic crisis.  CAP is here to equip the local church with practical tools for helping people through financial crisis and give them the tools to achieve financial wellbeing.  Our communities need the hope of Jesus more than ever and now is a time for the church to step out to reach people that are feeling hopeless.  As A. W. Tozer put it, “A frightened world needs a fearless church.”  And as Jesus said the world would know his disciples by their love.  As a church, how will you respond to COVID-19 for your community?  Find out more about what you and your church can do to help: https://www.capaust.org/Get-Involved

Source: Rosie Kendall, CEO, Christians Against Poverty, Australia

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UNIVERSITY OF CANBERRA INTRODUCES GENDER INCLUSIVE BATHROOMS

By Australian Newsletter

The University of Canberra is revamping its toilets to accommodate transgender people.  Whereas the traditional model is to have toilets for men and women there is now a third category it’s calling “gender inclusive bathrooms”.  The university said, “The bathrooms can be used by anyone of any identity or gender.”  “We are going round the university looking at where it’s possible to have three different types of bathrooms,” the university’s deputy vice-chancellor, professor Geoff Crisp, said.  There were cost implications and new multi-gender bathrooms were more likely in new buildings, but it was “important to have bathrooms that will accommodate people’s differences of identity”.

The changes are part of a raft of measures the university has taken to reduce discrimination.  Senior staff are also being trained to identify their own unconscious biases against women and other groups.  One prejudice, for example, comes because some men assume that quiet women lack authority and that means they don’t get promoted.  “There’s a lot of unconscious bias around behaviour,” Professor Crisp said.  “Men are often more outspoken and aggressive in their body language,” he said.  An assumption might be made that a lack of those qualities meant a lack of leadership ability.  “Just because you don’t bang the table, doesn’t mean you can’t lead.”

The university has just been honoured in a project set up by the Australian Academy of Science and by the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering.  The organisers say the aim of the project they’ve called the Science in Australia Gender Equity (SAGE) is to increase diversity in universities, particularly the number of women in senior positions in scientific departments.  But it has rejected the idea of accepting “blind” applications where the name of the applicant is withheld so interviewers and the HR department can’t work out whether a man or woman is applying.  Professor Crisp said it was usually possible to work out someone’s gender from other information in a resume.

Rather, the university was concentrating on raising awareness about discrimination and training staff to spot prejudice and counter it, including in themselves.  The issue of toilets has been problematic elsewhere.  It fires up intense emotion.  In London, one theatre put in new “gender neutral” toilets and some women born as women objected.  When Scott Morrison became prime minister, a sign on the toilet door said that the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet was “committed to staff inclusion and diversity” and invited staff and visitors to “please use the bathroom that best fits your gender identity”.  Mr Morrison was quoted as calling it “political correctness over the top

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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SEASON OF PRAYER DURING THE COVID 19 PANDEMIC

By Australian Newsletter

We invite all of our members to continue to pray for our people as the Corona 19 pandemic continues to impact our nation and the nations of the world.

This week let us pray:

* for our Prime Minister, State Premiers, the Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy, Deputy Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly, State Chief Medical Officers and all front-line medical personnel who are leading us as a nation through the difficult situation this virus is causing, and the impact it is having on our nation.  Pray that they will be given the physical strength to keep going, and the wisdom to make correct decisions which are insightful and impacting.

* for the spread of the virus to be supernaturally slowed

* for the aged, the disabled and those with pre-existing conditions to be especially protected

* for the success of the announced rescue package, that employers will enter into the spirit of the package and re-hire and/or keep their staff on their pay roll.

Source: Australian Prayer Network

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QUEENSLAND RELIGIOUS GROUPS FIGHT MOVE TO MAKE GAY CONVERSION THERAPY A CRIME

By Australian Newsletter

Religious schools and organisations are fighting a move by the Queensland government to make LGBT related conversion therapy a crime in the state.  In late November, the Queensland government introduced legislation that would, among other amendments to health legislation, make the practice of conversion therapy to change or suppress a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity punishable by up to 18 months in jail.  The examples provided in the legislation include aversion therapy, psychoanalysis or hypnotherapy with the aim of changing or suppressing a person’s sexuality, but it also extends to counselling and group activities.

The legislation, which followed a 2018 Human Rights Law Centre review into conversion therapy practices in Australia, has the strong support of medical bodies, such as the Australian Psychological Society, and human rights organisations.  Christian organisations and schools, however, have expressed concerns that the legislation might prevent them from being able to counsel people on sexuality and gender based on their interpretation of Christianity.  Christian Schools Australia, along with three other Christian schools organisations that represent 80 schools in Queensland, told a parliamentary committee the legislation was “dangerously imprecise” and places Christian schools at risk.

The associations argued “genuine” questioning of sexuality and gender identity must be allowed.  “Students must be able to seek advice from school staff about their sexuality or gender identity and school staff must be able to respond to those questions,” they said.  “The Queensland government must guarantee that Christian schools can continue to teach a traditional Biblical sexual ethic and a biologically and medically accurate view of sexuality.”  Associated Christian Schools, which represents 38 schools in Queensland, said that the legislation as drafted could prevent religious counsellors from “communicating the institution’s religious doctrines and beliefs on sexuality and/or gender identity.”

The association also argued that adults giving informed consent should be able to freely participate in counselling regarding their sexuality and gender.  Renew Ministries, which says it is part of the ex-gay conversion therapy group Exodus, told the committee it “does not support or practice shock treatment, aversion therapy, and people who come to Renew do so voluntarily.  “The inference is that Christians may in the future be dictated to as to what they may believe, say, or choose to follow,” the submission states.  “This is looking to be an attack on Christians who are same-sex attracted but want to live according to their own personal definitions of their sexuality.”

The Queensland Law Society (QLS) also expressed concern, stating there was a lack of evidence needed for the new offences, and said it could have unintended consequences.  “QLS is concerned that the prospect of criminal prosecution may fetter otherwise legitimate aspects of psychological and psychiatric treatment.  “Some providers may be concerned that reasonable clinical interventions might be captured within the definition of conversion therapy.”  The legislation does not appear to be in conflict with the federal government’s proposed religious discrimination legislation.  Attorney-general Christian Porter has said the federal legislation would not override state-based criminal law.

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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POLICE CANNOT KEEP UP WITH PEDOPHILES

By Australian Newsletter

The number of known child sex offenders in NSW has increased more than 500% in the 5 years since 3 year old William Tyrrell went missing.  The sheer volume of known sex offenders has made it virtually impossible for police to keep tabs on them all.  The NSW Police Force says there are “serious problems” with the child sex offenders register, which was designed to monitor the worst pedophiles as they move around the state.  The list is often incomplete, with some offenders never added, while others drop off inexplicably.  A new computer program, introduced to fix the problems, is already failing.  The problem is worst on the mid-north coast, where hundreds of sex offenders are known to live.

Media organisations are prevented by suppression order from revealing the exact number of pedophiles living in and around the village of Kendall when William went missing.  The number has been said, in court, to be “shocking”.  The police force established the Child Protection Register in 2001, which aims to identify the presence in a given community of serious sex offenders, including men who have killed or raped children.  However, from 2014 it has been bedevilled by “systematic issues”.  Part of the problem is the sheer weight of numbers: in October 2003, there were 916 people on the register; by last year, there were 4344.  Yet there has been no proportionate increase in resources.

System flaws resulted in child sex offenders “being in the community without being monitored by NSW Police”, according to a recent report by the Law Enforcement Conduct Commission.  There has been one case in which a person reoffended while unmonitored.  The first police on the scene of William’s disappearance thought the boy may have been snatched.  New documents show they searched the child protection register for local names on day one of his disappearance.  Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton has proposed a national, public register to include the name, date of birth and photograph of known pedophiles, as operates in the US. Opponents say it will lead to an increase in vigilante justice.

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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NATIONAL DAY OF PRAYER FOR THE CORONAVIRUS (COVID 19) THIS SUNDAY

By Australian Newsletter

This Sunday (29th March), Churches across Australia in whatever form they may meet, are asked to include prayers for the Coronavirus Covid 19 pandemic and its impact upon individual people and our nation as a whole.  The recent shut down of worship services will make this more difficult however Churches are asked to be creative in how they pray for what is affecting so many of our people.  Organisers of the season of prayer, of which the National Day is just one day, are amazed yet delighted by the strong support that the season of prayer has generated.  The shutting down of places of worship has been a challenge to Churches overall, but, there have been many creative ways in which congregations are responding to the situation.

For individuals and Churches participating in the season of prayer we provide the following prayer points for your use.

* Pray that people will turn to God in their fear and that the church will seize the unprecedented opportunity to make Jesus known to those without hope in Christ.  Pray that Christians everywhere will truly be God’s representative to people, not only now but in the financial crisis ahead.

* Pray that this virus will be stopped in its tracks.  That the medical researchers will get a download from Heaven on how to quickly develop a vaccine to counteract COVID-19 and a cure for those who have become infected.

* Pray for the healing of those affected by the virus and also for them to be comforted while they heal.  Pray for the eradication of the virus from their bodies and for the healing of every infected part of their being.  Pray also for no lasting effects in their bodies from this illness.

Source: Australian Prayer Network

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EUTHANASIA AN UNFOLDING NATIONAL TRAGEDY

By Australian Newsletter

The Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) values and supports every human life, particularly at the end of life when research for cures and world’s best palliative care should be the priority.  Recently we received the tragic news that 52 Victorians ended their lives in the first 6 months of their new assisted suicide regime.  This figure far exceeded the toll estimated by the architects of the scheme.  We mourn these deaths and are disheartened that some want even more deaths.  Assisted suicide advocates are urging more euthanasia service providers in country Victoria. We need to take a very deep breath. A great many of these deaths were physician-assisted suicide.

The Victorian government assured us that doctors would only have to administer suicide drugs in the rarest of cases.  As we see in many debates of this nature, what the advocates once said would never be necessary is now what they want.  They get us to accept one radical change by saying that’s as far as we go, but afterwards they bob up and list another.  In this instance, the assisted suicide advocates said doctors would be protected from having to raise euthanasia with their patients.  Now, that’s what they are calling for.  The Victorian report also highlighted how not all family members supported suicide, but watched on as it happened, nonetheless. We are desensitising people.

The news coverage about these deaths ends on the confused note that these euthanasia deaths are okay, but seek help if you are contemplating suicide.  Assisted suicide advocates are also urging the Federal Government to overturn the ban on using a telephone service to promote suicide.  The endgame is clear, unrestricted, suicide on demand.  Already we have a foretaste of the more aggressive model for assisted suicide via the bill proposed for Tasmania by Mike Gaffney MLC.  The bill goes much further than the current models legalised in Victoria and Western Australia.  In those states, a person must be terminally ill and have only 6-12 months to live.

Mr Gaffney’s bill removes the terminal illness requirement.  People who have an irreversible medical condition could access euthanasia without the need of a psychiatric assessment.  Euthanasia medical advice could be by video link, a process with no rigour.  Fortunately, telecommunications services cannot be used to promote suicide, though advocates are also looking to overturn that law as well.  Then there is the nightmare if Mr Gaffney’s bill becomes law.  It proposes, after 2 years of euthanasia being given to adults, consideration be given to extending it to children.  The advocates’ plans are now clear, more aggressive laws the moment they have passed supposedly sedate versions.

Queensland Labor members are pushing Premier Palaszczuk to pass euthanasia laws before the State Election on 31 October this year.  NSW Nationals MP Trevor Khan was starting a ‘cross-party’ working group to legalise assisted suicide but was rebuked by party leadership for doing so while public concern was rightly focused on bushfire relief.  South Australia has doggedly resisted attempts to legalise euthanasia, with another push undoubtedly on its way.  For years ACL has highlighted the dangers of euthanasia.  We have a huge 2020 ahead of us to halt the march of assisted suicide laws and to advocate for world’s best palliative care, pain relief and compassion for our suffering fellow Australians.

Source: Australian Christian Lobby

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SHIFTING THE ATMOSPHERE OVER OUR CITIES FROM FEAR TO FAITH

By Australian Newsletter

A spirit of fear is trying to permeate our nation due to the threats of the Coronavirus.  The stock market is being impacted and our nation is taking extreme actions to curtail any unnecessary exposure.  Other nations have also begun to shut their borders due to the threats of the virus.  There is panic buying of food and other items as people fall prey to a spirit of fear.  It is time for us to pray about the spirits behind the coronavirus.  It is time for us to pray and proclaim God’s Word over our communities and the nation as a whole.  We cannot control the media’s propaganda or various political agendas, but we do have a say in what kind of atmosphere hovers over our own cities and communities.

This is where we have the most authority and the most responsibility in clearing the air and shifting the atmosphere from fear to faith.  We need to rise up in our corporate spiritual authority to displace the illegitimate authorities that are seeking a foothold in our nation. Intercessors can shift the atmosphere in their cities through prayer, worship, and a corporate spiritual authority far greater than any demonic threat or attack.  The posture of our hearts and the words from our mouths determine the atmosphere in a place.  The power of our praises and our prayers can shift atmospheres in a room, a building, a neighbourhood, and even an entire city.

This is the amazing result of believers coming together in agreement and drawing power from heaven through their unified proclamations and worship.  It permeates the spirit and displaces demonic activity, making way for heaven to come down and God’s presence to be made known.  In the early Church, unity was so strong that Scriptures speak of a “great grace” that was released in the city.  This grace opened the door to miracles, signs, and wonders, and salvations on a daily basis (see Acts 4:32-34).  Earlier in this same chapter, it speaks of their daily fellowship and breaking of bread.  Because of these things, God’s grace empowered them to do far beyond what they could have done in the natural.

This should be our desire as we come together as watchmen in prayer over our cities and nation.  We can pray in such agreement with heaven that the atmosphere over the city begins to be permeated with the grace and favour of the Lord.  Our spiritual adversary will continually find ways to spread fear, chaos, turmoil, and hopelessness over the land.  It is our responsibility to displace those demonic spirits by keeping our corporate prayer altars ablaze.  We must use our authority in Christ to displace rulers in high places and declare the work of the cross and the power of Christ’s resurrection.  Let’s agree together to speak life instead of death, order instead of chaos, and faith instead of fear.

Source: Intercessors for America

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ASIO UNCOVERS AGENT RUNNING MAJOR SPY RING IN AUSTRALIA

By Australian Newsletter

ASIO has revealed it has uncovered a “sleeper” agent running a major spy ring which provides logistical and financial support for foreign agents engaged in intelligence gathering missions as well as harassing dissidents in Australia.  The domestic security agency has also apprehended an increasing number of spies entering or trying to enter the country as it warned that more foreign agents were now operating on Australian soil than during the height of the Cold War.  Without directly naming China or other countries known to aggressively engage in espionage, there were cases where “hostile intelligence services” had directly threatened Australians.

Delivering the Annual Threat Assessment in Canberra, ASIO director general Mike Burgess said that counterterrorism and protecting lives was still the agency’s “number one mission,” revealing the number of active terrorist leads it was investigating had doubled in the past year.  Burgess revealed that Australia was operating in an increasingly hostile environment with the agency facing rapidly evolving technology used by foreign governments and terrorist groups.  Burgess confirmed that the agency was forced to use the controversial encryption laws almost immediately upon their passage through parliament in 2018 to thwart a potential terrorist attack that posed “serious harm” to Australians.

“I can confirm that ASIO has used the Assistance and Access Act to protect Australians from serious harm,” Mr Burgess said in a written copy of his speech delivered to 400 government officials, members of the intelligence community and diplomats.  “We needed to take advantage of the new powers within 10 days of the legislation coming into effect, a clear indication of its significance to our mission.  “The bottom line was this, these new powers helped ASIO prevent a real risk of injury to Australians.”  He said he was disturbed by the extent to which extremists were known to be actively trying to recruit schoolchildren as young as 13.

Mr Burgess was the former head of the Australian Signals Directorate before taking over as the head of ASIO last September after the retirement of Major General Duncan Lewis.  In his first Annual Threat Assessment he outlined the current level of threat posed to Australia’s national security in a speech partly designed to demystify the secret operations of the domestic spy agency.  The country’s top spy boss took the rare step of revealing several recent cases in which terrorism or espionage had been foiled including scientists and academics who had infiltrated university campuses with the “aim of conducting clandestine intelligence collection”.

“ASIO has uncovered cases where foreign spies have travelled to Australia with the intention of setting up sophisticated hacking infrastructure targeting computers containing sensitive and classified information,” Mr Burgess said.  “And perhaps most disturbingly, hostile intelligence services have directly threatened and intimidated Australians in this country.  In one particular case, the agents threatened the physical safety of an Australia-based individual as part of a foreign interference plot.  The level of threat we face from foreign espionage and interference activities is currently unprecedented.”

In another case, Mr Burgess said ASIO had intercepted and disrupted a foreign intelligence service agent sent as a ‘sleeper’ agent to Australia. “The agent lay dormant for many years, quietly building community and business links, all the while secretly maintaining contact with his offshore handlers,” Mr Burgess said.  “The agent started feeding his spymasters information about Australia-based expatriate dissidents, which directly led to harassment of the dissidents in Australia and their relatives overseas.  “In exchange for significant cash payments, the agent also provided on-the-ground logistical support for spies who travelled to Australia to conduct intelligence activities.

“These are the sort of insidious activities ASIO works to detect and disrupt every day.”  ASIO would not reveal what had happened to the agent but a government source said that it was reasonable to assume that they had been thrown out of the country.  The threat level in Australia remains at “probable” with Mr Burgess confirming that credible intelligence has led to a number of individuals and cells intent on conducting onshore terrorism now being on ASIO’s radar.  “ASIO has previously assessed and stated publicly that the threat posed by terrorism in Australia has plateaued at an unacceptable level,” Mr Burgess said.  “This is sometimes misunderstood as the fact that the threat has simply plateaued.”

“So let me be clear: the threat of terrorism at home is ‘probable’ and will remain unacceptably high for the foreseeable future.  “I am particularly concerned that we continue to see vulnerable and impressionable young people at risk from being ensnared in the streams of hate being spread across the internet by extremists of every ideology.  “As a father, I find it truly disturbing to see cases where extremists are actively trying to recruit children who have only just started high school and are as young as 13 or 14.”  At the heart of the increasing challenges faced by ASIO on cyber security, espionage and terrorism, was the technological advancements in communications encryption.

“Encrypted communications damage intelligence coverage in nine out of 10 priority counter terrorism cases,” Mr Burgess said.  “That’s 90 per cent of priority cases.  “And that’s just counter-terrorism. In the counter-espionage world we are dealing with even more sophisticated targets. “The government recognises this dilemma as do senior executives in the tech sector.  Technology should not be beyond the rule of law.” Seeking to engage the agency in a broader public dialogue, Mr Burgess said he had wanted to “move beyond the bureaucratic language of annual reports and help everyone understand the significant threats we see directed at Australia and Australians”.

“We are not seeking to be a secret organisation with secret powers,” Mr Burgess said.  “We do need to keep secret the precise nature of many of our operational capabilities and operational activity.  These are the tools of our trade but I will never knowingly put any of my team at additional risk by carelessly talking about their operations.  The people who work alongside me every day are ordinary Australians just like you.  When they are not at work they are ordinary members of our community who have family and caring responsibilities, mortgages and who worry about the same sorts of things that we all do or they may be your neighbours or friends.”

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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10th NATIONAL DAY OF PRAYER FOR DEFENCE

By Australian Newsletter

The weekend of 28-29 March (and in the week preceding) Military Christian Fellowship (MCF) are asking Christians on Defence Bases, along with Churches and other Christian groups across Australia, to join them in upholding the Australian Defence Organisation in prayer.  Last year 26 groups across Australia and overseas took part.  Churches and other Christian groups (such as prayer groups) are strongly encouraged to be involved.  Please register your Church or group’s interest by sending name, place/address of event, date and time to the MCF office.  To do this, and access resources for the event, or to find out more information please contact: mcf.office@defence.gov.au or go to www.mcf-a.org.au or (phone 02 6266 4950).

Source: Military Christian Fellowship Australia

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PSYCHIATRISTS GO PUBLIC OVER TREATMENT OF TRANSGENDER YOUTH

By Australian Newsletter

Senior psychiatrists have gone public with ethical and scientific concerns about Australia’s first long-term treatment study of transgender-identifying teenagers and children.  The Trans20 study at the Royal Children’s Hospital (RCH) in Melbourne involves a projected 600 patients aged 3-17 given pro-trans “gender affirming” care, including potentially sterilising hormonal treatment for gender dysphoria, or distress about one’s body.  “There’s a kind of assumption that the gender affirming treatment being provided is the gold-standard, appropriate treatment,” Sydney psychiatrist Roberto D’Angelo said.

Dr D’Angelo is one of six psychiatrists to put their names to a letter in the journal BMJ Open.  “Are families actually told, ‘we’re still not sure this affirmative model treatment is the best way to treat gender dysphoria’?”  There is concern about possible social contagion in rapidly increasing numbers of teenagers, chiefly girls, declaring trans identity with no childhood hint of gender confusion, and undergoing novel treatments with puberty blocker drugs, cross-sex hormones and sometimes surgery.  Critics say the evidence for these treatments is low-quality, short-term, flawed or missing.

At the RCH youth gender clinic, the number of female-born new referrals in 2018 was 2600% higher than in 2012 when there were just seven, according to data obtained under FOI legislation.  Clinic director Michelle Telfer, a paediatrician, has appealed for more public money so RCH can begin “gender affirming surgery” (double mastectomies) for post-pubertal “transmasculine” patients.  RCH says its gender service is a world leader and follows “strict clinical governance standards”.  In its journal letter, the group of six psychiatrists says it has “grave reservations about the ethical underpinnings and methodology” of the RCH Trans20 study based on what’s been made public.

They call for the release of details showing that informed consent for participation in the study takes account of mounting concerns about the safety and ethics of the affirmative model and life-altering medical interventions. Trans20 researcher Ken Pang said there was a response coming to the psychiatrists’ questions.  Meanwhile, in a sign of international networking by critics of the affirmative model, seven Swedish physicians, including adolescent and child psychiatrist Sven Roman, have written to Scott Morrison, backing local calls for an independent inquiry.  A medical college is already reviewing standards of care.

The Swedish doctors cite the high rate of psychological and other disorders in the mostly teenage girls now diagnosed with dysphoria by gender clinics.  “There is a possibility that the majority of patients in the new group have autism or autism-like conditions,” they say.  “In their teens, people with autism have even more concerns about their body and identity than other adolescents.”  They say these patients often suffer from self-harming, eating disorders, mental trauma, depression and emotional instability, which along with autism may be the main underlying problems.

Like similar projects overseas, the Melbourne study lacks a comparison group of patients getting rival treatment, casting doubt over what the results mean.  “If the kids seem better after a year or two, we won’t know whether it’s because of, or despite, the gender affirmative intervention, or because they got a lot of attention,” Dr D’Angelo said.  Before the 2000s, gender dysphoria typically appeared in preschool boys, and in most cases resolved itself as children matured, with many emerging as young gay or bisexual adults at peace with their biological sex.  The psychiatrists’ letter warns that the affirmative-only approach may “lock” young people into gender dysphoria.

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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Q SOCIETY DEREGISTERS FEARING LAWSUITS UNDER RELIGIOUS FREEDOM ACT

By Australian Newsletter

The right-wing anti-Islam organisation Q Society of Australia has announced it will deregister itself because religious freedom legislation will make it “an easy target for hostile litigation” and put its board members at risk of being sued.  A letter sent out to “members and supporters” by Q Society president Debbie Robinson says the group decided at its last AGM to voluntarily deregister its incorporated organisation by the end of the financial year.  Q Society, which has been criticised as Islamophobic, is registered in Victoria as a non-profit.  Ms Robinson’s letter says Q Society has lost so much financial support it can barely cover the costs of insurance, statutory compliance and office administration.

But it also cites the risks of “federal legislation concerning religious ‘tolerance’ … likely to change this year”.  “As a consequence, the incorporated association will become an easy target for hostile litigation.  “The risk for board members being sued for criticising Islam becomes unsustainable.”  Attorney-General Christian Porter is reviewing submissions on the second exposure drafts of the Religious Freedom Bills, released just before Christmas.  The proposed legislation, a response to the religious freedoms review of 2018, is controversial among many faith-based groups, and the LGBTI lobby.

While intended to protect religious people from discrimination, some argue the legislation does not go far enough to grant positive rights to people of faith, while others argue it will allow religious groups to discriminate against people.  Q Society has always rejected charges of Islamophobia.  Its website says it was “formed in response to growing concerns about the discrimination, violence and other anti-democratic practices linked to Islam”.  Federal MP George Christensen attended a Q Society fundraiser in 2017, saying he was there to push back against the “erosion of free speech” by the left.  Q Society will continue to operate via Facebook, a newsletter, and a US-based website.

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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ALARMING TRANSGENDER TREND STATISTICS FOR BRISBANE

By Australian Newsletter

An alarming report by the Australian newspaper has indicated that the trans trend is on the rise.  The number of children and teenagers at Queensland’s publicly-funded transgender clinic has risen 330 per cent over five years, with an 85-fold spike in patients taking controversial drugs to block puberty.  In 2018, there were 207 trans or gender diverse patients, up from 48 in 2014, at the Queensland Children’s Hospital clinic in Brisbane, with 171 on the puberty blocker Leuprorelin, and 30 getting the opposite-sex hormone testosterone, according to the first data obtained under Freedom Of Information (FOI) law.

The rise comes despite an increasing number of health care professionals calling for inquiries and further research to be done.  Some Psychiatrists, GP’s and Endocrine specialists have expressed concern that underlying issues such as depression, eating disorders and autism are not addressed before offering transitioning treatments to gender dysphoric youth.  When approached by the Australian “the Brisbane clinic would not give a breakdown of patient numbers by birth sex, but almost all those on cross-sex hormones in 2018 were given testosterone, meaning they were born female.”

Psychiatrist Stephen Stathis has pointed out that “occasionally young female victims of sexual abuse wanted to be boys in the belief this might protect them but hormonal treatment was not the right response.”  One also told him, “I want to be transgender, it’s the new black.”  There is also great concern that parental rights are being undermined as guidelines suggest children under the age of 18 can make decisions to transition without parental knowledge or consent.  Smith said “The evidence is clear.  There is a transgender trend and it is capturing young females in particular.  “The accelerated march into transitioning treatments for youth must be halted and properly investigated.”

Source: Binary

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POLICE PUSH FOR REMOTE BOOZE BAN IN WESTERN AUSTRALIA

By Australian Newsletter

The nation’s most severe restrictions on the sale of alcohol would be imposed across the entire northwest of Australia, including in the tourist hubs of Broome and Kununurra, under a secret proposal by police, who consider the region in unprecedented crisis.  West Australian Police Commissioner Chris Dawson, who oversaw an investigation into child abuse and domestic violence in remote Aboriginal communities as head of the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission, is on a collision course with the McGowan Labor government and the Australian Hotels Association (AHA) over how to protect children from alcohol-related harm in the Kimberley.

After consulting frontline workers and indigenous leaders, Mr Dawson asked the WA Director of Liquor Licensing for a radical crackdown on bottleshops in the region.  The director has been contemplating a police proposal to ban bottleshops in the region from selling anything but light beer.  Full and mid-strength beer, including wine and spirits, would be confined to restaurants, pubs and other licensed premises.  WA Premier Mark McGowan has said he prefers a banned-drinkers register over blanket restrictions, an approach favoured by the AHA.  Such a register has been in place in the Northern Territory since 2017 and is designed to block known problem drinkers at the point of sale.

“This application has been made out of concern for the harm excessive alcohol consumption is doing across the Kimberley,” Commissioner Dawson said.  “These harms impact upon law and order in the community and the health and welfare of community members, and can only be addressed through a whole-of-government and community effort.”  Senior Aboriginal Ian Trust, executive chairman of the Kununurra-based Wunan Foundation, said alcohol abuse was so rife in the east Kimberley that it was beginning to damage the economy.  “If the community is not safe, nobody wants to live there,” he said.  “We have had many business people come to us wanting to sell out.”

Mr Trust said the effect of alcohol abuse was devastating for children in Kununurra.  About 70 local children, most of them indigenous, were periodically in trouble with police for crimes they committed in small groups while roaming at night, he said.  Home was often not safe for these children, Mr Trust said.  One boy recently cried on his cell floor at the Juvenile Detention Centre in Perth when told he was going home to Kununurra; he wanted to stay in jail.  “He was saying nobody loves me,” Mr Trust said.  Mr Trust said he supported a region-wide ban on the sale of full and mid-strength takeaway alcohol.  “We have got to try anything,” he said.

Twelve years ago indigenous women of Fitzroy Crossing enlisted the support of then police commissioner Karl O’Callaghan to ban the sale of full-strength takeaway beer.  Emergency department attendance fell 36% in the first 12 months of the ban.  Two years later, the same ban was rolled out to nearby Halls Creek, once described as “the Gaza Strip of the Kimberley” because of alcohol fuelled violence.  A subsequent study found the world’s highest rate of foetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) among children born in and around Fitzroy Crossing before the alcohol restrictions.  The disorder causes lifelong brain damage to a developing foetus when a pregnant woman drinks.

WA Police were prompted to investigate the extent of alcohol-related crime and harm in the Kimberley after WA Coroner Ros Fogliani’s 2019 report into the suicides of 13 indigenous youth in the region between 2012 and 2016.  “Almost all of the young people grew up in homes marred by the effects of high levels of alcohol abuse, and this was also deeply unsettling for them,” she wrote.  “The level of alcohol abuse in the home compromised the ability of the parents to properly care for their children who had to be placed into the care of other family members for extended periods.  “A number of the young persons had abused alcohol or other drugs from a young age.

Some of the children had presented to hospital emergency departments for treatment of alcohol-related trauma during their teenage years.  “In seven of the cases, there was significant alcohol use in the lead-up to the deaths, and at least two of the young persons had very high blood alcohol levels when they died.  “Regrettably, they were able to buy large quantities of takeaway alcohol during the day and night of their deaths.”  Mr O’Callaghan doubted severe takeaway alcohol restrictions would harm tourism in the Kimberley if sensible exemptions were made for travellers.  The Kimberley’s indigenous population at the 2016 census, was 50.1 per cent of residents.

“The argument is about saving lives, not making sure retailers can continue to make big profits” Mr O’Callaghan said.  “The residents don’t want people affected by alcohol lying around in parks, causing problems in public or being violent.”  The AHA objected to a police request for alcohol restrictions across the Pilbara in 2017 and is expected to push back hard against the latest proposal for the Kimberley.  Retailers in the region have signed up for reduced hours of alcohol sale and even snap closures. WA Tourism Minister Paul Papalia plans to introduce a banned-drinkers register in towns south of the Kimberley, which could be expanded elsewhere if successful.

“The state government is proposing a trial of a register across the entire Pilbara,” Mr Papalia said.  ‘This trial will be the first of its kind to be assessed in a completely independent fashion by the University of Western Australia.”  Yawuru leader Peter Yu favours a banned-drinkers register over restrictions that would apply to all.  “People have to realise that alcohol is a major factor in the ill health, death, dysfunction, disorder and costs in this region,” he said.  “Everybody has to play a role whether it be the licensees, publicans, health workers or the families themselves.”

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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OVER 90% OF DRUG FUELLED ATTACKS AT HOSPITALS INVOLVE ICE

By Australian Newsletter

Alarming research by the Royal Melbourne Hospital (RMH) has revealed more than 90% of drug-fuelled attacks against hospital workers are by patients on ice.  The extent of methamphetamine violence in hospitals was collated by taking saliva samples from patients responsible for attacking staff.  After gaining ethical approval to collect saliva without needing consent, RMH emergency department staff tested “code grey” cases, which require security guards to be called.  This included unconscious patients or those who had been chemically or physically restrained.  Drugs were found in 40% of attacks, with 92% of those testing positive for methamphetamine.

A total of 229 samples were taken from August 2016 to March 2017, with results showing 85 patients tested positive results for ice, 16 for heroin, seven for cannabis and six for cocaine.  Eighteen were revealed to have used more than one drug.  To coincide with the research, the RMH emergency department released footage of rampaging patients hitting staff with computer monitors, throwing furniture, punching nurses and even spitting in their faces.  Executive Director at National Critical Care and Trauma Response Centre Len Notaras said the study highlighted the increasing amount of occupational violence that has been happening in hospitals across the country.

“I’ve been in emergency medicine for a long time and I’ve gone through the heroin epidemic and now we have got this,” he said.  “Methamphetamine is a completely different drug.  This is violence, whereas heroin causes you to go to sleep.  It was a completely different phenomenon.  He added the research will help emergency workers to start designing different models of care to de-escalate and diffuse violent situations.  “We have a duty of care to patients, we don’t want them to hurt themselves, but by the same token we have to make sure we have got a duty of care to ourselves and to other patients, staff and equipment in the area,” he said.

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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CHILD SEX ABUSE MATERIAL SPREADING ON SOCIAL MEDIA

By Australian Newsletter

Child sexual abuse material is spreading “exponentially” over social media via networks of paedophiles who groom thousands of children, sometimes within seconds of contact.  Almost a million Twitter accounts were suspended for posting child sexual exploitation material last year, the company said.  Facebook and Instagram said they removed 21 million child nudity and exploitation posts in the nine months between July 2018 and March 2019. And YouTube reported taking down 1.9 million videos due to “child safety” issues between September 2018 and March 2019.

Twitter says it finds 96 per cent of child abuse accounts before users report them, and Facebook boasts a 99.2 per cent rate of catching child-exploitation posts before users report them.  But there are reasonable doubts about these detection rates, according to Dr Michael Salter, associate professor of criminology at University of NSW.  “I’ve just come back from two months in North America discussing these issues with some of the key players who are taking these child-abuse material notifications from the public,” he said.  “And I find that number of 99 per cent detection very difficult to believe.

“We need a clear set of eyes on the scale of this problem, the origin of this problem and the level of oversight and independent scrutiny,” Dr Salter says.  “We have exponentially increasing notifications of child-abuse material in every known agency and authority that takes these reports that are independent of industry.”  Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, reportedly became the leading platform for child grooming in the United Kingdom this year, with more than 5000 local reports emanating from its site there.  The Australian Federal Police (AFP) deal with about 1000 reports of child exploitation material each month.

“The AFP Assessment Centre is now receiving more and more reports of children aged as young as four producing sexually explicit material and uploading this material to social media platforms,” an AFP spokesman said.  A child can be groomed in seconds and some grooming operations use multiple platforms, with multiple identities, the spokesman said.  Offenders often use apps as a gateway, and then direct children to other platforms to elicit photos and facilitate meetings, the AFP said.  Police report offenders targeting parents or carers for access to children through social media with offers of free products or requests for children to model clothing.

Responding to claims its platform is used to facilitate child exploitation, YouTube said it disabled comments from “tens of millions of videos that could be subject to predatory behaviour” in February.  And last month YouTube banned live streaming by minors unless “clearly accompanied by an adult”.  Youtube is reportedly being investigated in the United States for allegedly violating children’s privacy.  More than 400 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute and despite it not being meant for anyone under 13, the platform regularly “terminates” accounts the company believes to be held by someone under 13 as it violates their policy.

University of Melbourne Research Fellow Dr Gemma McKibbin said it was common to hear about grooming on these platforms but that children were also groomed playing online games.  “We don’t give children cars and expect them to drive but we do give them Ipads and phones and expect them to negotiate adult content and potential grooming,”  Dr McKibbin said.  Perpetrators often show pornography to children to desensitise them and then manipulate them to believe they’re in a boyfriend/girlfriend relationship, which means if adults recognise the grooming, children may protect the perpetrator and won’t make statements against them, Dr McKibbon said.

Adult nudity on Facebook and Instagram last year reached its highest level since reporting began in 2017, with about 19 million posts removed in the three months to March 2019.  Messenger and other platforms are hoping to nullify the legal threat posed by illegal content on their services by moving to encrypted communication methods, Dr Salter said.  “Facebook claims that encrypted Messenger is in response to the Cambridge Analytica scandal and is linked to concerns for user privacy,” Dr Salter said.  “With encryption kids will be far less safe because Facebook is unable to tell whether an illegal activity is taking place on the Messenger platform,” he said.

“Once they are notified of abuse material they remove it.” Salter said.  Facebook employs about 15,000 people to review content and enforce “community standards” but a bug in its detection software meant they found less child nudity and exploitation content in the first three months of 2019 (5.4 million posts) than the previous quarter (6.8 million).  The social networks said they report all abuse to relevant authorities and will continue to develop solutions to block and remove exploitative content, as well as prevent grooming online.

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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RELIGION BILL HAS ELEMENTAL FLAWS CHRISTIANS TELL CHRISTIAN PORTER

By Australian Newsletter

Australia’s peak Christian lobby group has told Christian Porter the government’s updated discrimination bill requires wholesale changes, as the Attorney-General prepares to re-engage with key faith groups ahead of finalising legislation to protect religious freedoms.  Mr Porter has come under pressure from leading faith, legal, business, education, health and social groups in the past week demanding his revamped religious discrimination legislation be heavily amended, delayed or dumped.  The Australian Christian Lobby (ACL), which has more than 170,000 supporters, described the bill as containing “fundamental deficiencies which need to be addressed”.

In a submission lodged with the Attorney-General, ACL said Mr Porter’s draft legislation needed “considerable amendment before it is an effective religious discrimination bill”.  The ACL said it wanted to work with the government and MPs to “facilitate changes to protect Australians from religious discrimination”.  Mr Porter has confirmed he would undertake “another brief round of consultations” before a final bill was put to parliament.  He said there had been “sensible issues raised in some submissions around the effectiveness of drafting”, including in relation to Jewish aged-care and hospitals.

The bill is likely to be introduced in March before entering a parliamentary review process, and substantial amendments would be required to win passage, and bipartisan support, for a religious discrimination act.  “Naturally that bill will be subject to parliamentary committee processes, and the parliamentary committee will make recommendations that will be considered by government as the bill progresses through parliament,” Mr Porter said.  The ACL said the government had “clearly made an effort” in responding to concerns of faith groups, including addressing two of the seven issues raised by the group, but felt the new bill failed to fix “fundamental flaws”.

The Law Council of Australia (LCA) also expressed “significant concerns” about the draft bill, because of its “unorthodox features”, and warned of an adverse impact on businesses.  “These not only raise human rights concerns, but also complicate an already complex area of law,” the LCA submission said.  “By adding multifaceted and novel legal tests to existing legal frameworks, the bill is likely to create an onerous compliance burden for the business and community sectors alike.”  The rising opposition to the new legislation unveiled last year sets up a potential showdown in the Coalition party-room and with Labor unless the concerns of stakeholder groups are addressed.

Acknowledging a change to the statements of belief clause in clarifying the definition of “vilify”, the ACL said adding the words “threaten” and “seriously intimidate” would hand tribunals and courts an opportunity to “knock out an otherwise protected statement of belief”.  It said the three “most important areas of concern” raised by the ACL in its original submission were not addressed.  It said “lawful religious activity” remained undefined, “unjustifiable financial hardship” of an employer should not be a defence for discrimination against an employee who makes a statement of belief outside work and government employers should be included.

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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SOUTH AUSTRALIAN ATTORNEY-GENERAL MUST EXPLAIN PRO-ABORTION REPORT

By Australian Newsletter

The Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) is disappointed with a South Australian Law Reform Institute (SALRI) report that strongly backs weaker abortion laws.  The Attorney-General released SALRI’s “Abortion: A Review of South Australian Law and Practice” report late last year.  The report recommends abortion up to and including birth, changing the word ‘woman’ to ‘person’ and banishing people praying or expressing concern about abortion 150 metres from health facilities.  “Despite the evidence presented in submissions, the report landed very close to Greens Party policy in almost every respect,” ACL South Australian director Christopher Brohier noted.

“Much of the responsibility for that lies with the Attorney-General’s pro-abortion terms of reference to SALRI. Recommending abortion up to and including birth is lamentable,”  Mr Brohier observed, “SALRI had a real opportunity to recognise rapid advances in medical science and understanding of the personhood, sensory capabilities and viability of an unborn child.  Abortion often arises due to coercion and many women have inadequate information before proceeding, leading to lifelong grief. SALRI paid mere lip service to evidence supporting these concerns, with merely one recommendation on abortion coercion.”

“It is believed the Attorney-General intends to prepare legislation allowing abortion up to and including birth,”  Mr Brohier added, “This is highly concerning. A second opinion after 23 weeks’ gestation is a fig-leaf safeguard.  How could the law justify ending a 9-month-old unborn child’s life, without any effective restriction?  As the State’s chief law officer driving this legislation, the Attorney must provide an answer.”  “ACL calls on the Marshall government to represent all South Australians, not just Greens Party voters, and react cautiously to the report,” Mr Brohier concluded.

Source: Australian Christian Lobby

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STUDENTS BETRAYED BY FADDISH SCHOOLS OF THOUGHT

By Australian Newsletter

In business the buck stops with the chief, and in most cases there are immediate consequences for mismanagement or failure.  Not so with those career educrats responsible for Australia’s substandard education system, where the abysmal Program for International Student Assessment results highlight a nation at risk.  In 2003, Australian students were ranked 10th in maths, fourth in reading and sixth in science.  Fifteen years later, 2018 results released this week show state and territory students have dropped to 25th in maths, 16th in reading and 14th in science.

For those arguing the OECD’s PISA test relates only to 15-year-old students, the reality is that in other international tests, including Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study and Progress in International Reading Literacy Study, our students’ results are also abysmal.  In the most recent PIRLS test evaluating reading, Australian students are ranked 21st; in TIMSS our Year 4 students are 19th in science.  As I’ve argued since Why Our Schools are Failing was published in 2004, the reasons Australian students are plummeting down the league tables are obvious.

Peak bodies such as the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER), the Australian Curriculum Studies Association, the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) and the Australian Education Union represent a self-serving clique. ACER head Geoff Masters, past head of ACARA Robert Randall and NSW Education Standards Authority chairman Tom Alegounarias never face any consequences for their failures and instead are promoted to their least level of ability.  Instead of relying on the evidence about the most effective way to raise standards, give students a rigorous and rewarding education and better support schools and staff, those in control exist in a world far removed from the realities and the practicalities of the classroom.

As a result, schools during the past 40 years have been forced to implement untested and costly fads such as “whole language”, where the mistaken argument is that learning to read is as natural as learning to talk.  Teachers also have been told, instead of providing explicit teaching, they should “be guides by the side” and that memorisation is obsolete.  Ignored is that learning to read is decidedly unnatural, explicit teaching is the most effective method of managing a classroom and cognitive research proves memorisation is vital as students need to automatically recall what they have been taught.

The most recent example of this destructive urge to take on the latest fad is ACARA’s adoption of the OECD’s Education 2030 project.  Awash with the usual cliches employed by bureaucrats, the project describes future societies as “changing rapidly and profoundly”, being beset with “a growing array of complex societal problems” and experiencing “disruptive waves of change in every sector”.  Ignored is that continuity is just as important as change and that human nature and emotions such as love, jealousy, fear, betrayal, ambition, joy and the existential need to find fulfilment and meaning have not changed since the time of the ancient Greek playwrights and philosophers.

Millions of dollars also have been wasted on the assumption the new digital technologies will magically improve results.  Based on research carried out by the OECD, the opposite is the case.  Australian schools have one of the highest rates of adopting computers and the internet while standards continue to nosedive.  What’s to be done?  The first thing is for politicians to recapture the agenda by sidelining organisations such as ACARA and the ACER to regain control.  Politicians also must stop consulting snake oil salesmen who have never taught and who always argue they have the magic bullet that will lead to higher standards.

The second thing is to implement the recommendations of the national curriculum review I co-chaired in 2014.  The curriculum must be cut back to what is essential and focus on our best validated knowledge and artistic achievements instead of politically correct gender theory and indigenous, Asian and environmental perspectives.  Schools must be freed from provider capture, where school leaders and teachers are drowned in red tape and paperwork that takes time and energy from educating students.  Research proves that giving schools the autonomy and flexibility to manage themselves leads to stronger outcomes.

It should not surprise that, based on international tests, Catholic and independent schools outperform the majority of government controlled schools even after adjusting for the impact of a student’s home background.  We also need to identify the characteristics of stronger performing overseas education systems and, where possible, adopt such practices locally.  While the Confucian respect for learning and authority figures might not translate easily, characteristics such as setting high expectations and ensuring disciplined classrooms are obviously transferable.

Based on past experience, the greatest danger is that in a week or two the public and media furore over the latest PISA figures will have dissipated and nothing substantial will have changed.  Even worse is the intention of education ministers to force schools to adopt the retrograde recommendations of the Gonski Review to “achieve educational excellence”.  Getting rid of year levels and summative assessment in favour of personalised learning and progression points is a recipe guaranteed to lower standards even further and commit generations of students to underperformance.

Source: Article written by Kevin Donnelly, senior research fellow at the Australian Catholic University.

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AUSTRALIAN YOUTH CONCERNED ABOUT MENTAL HEALTH, ENVIRONMENT AND BULLYING

By Australian Newsletter

The current Mission Australia Youth Survey Report reveals that young people aged 15 to 19 in Australia report issues and concerns relating to mental health, the environment, bullying and voice.  For the third year running, mental health is the top national issue.  The proportion of young people identifying mental health as an issue of national importance rose substantially from 21.6% in 2016 to 36.2% this year.  The top four personal concerns also relate closely to mental health: coping with stress (44.7%), school or study problems (34.3%), mental health (33.2%) and body image (31.0%).  The environment soared from eighth place in 2018 (9.2%) to second place in 2019 (34.2%) of the topics of importance to young people, more than tripling in significance since last year.

Young people were also asked whether they felt they have enough of a say about important issues, with less than one in 10 (7.2%) young people feeling they have a voice all of the time in public affairs.  A higher proportion of females than males felt they have a say none of the time in public affairs (55.4% compared with 48.0%). Mission Australia CEO James Toomey said:  “These results clearly indicate that young people in Australia feel disenfranchised and are deeply concerned about a range of important issues.  Feeling ignored is perhaps driving young people to engage in other ways to be heard, such as climate strikes.

“It’s vital that all young people have opportunities and forums available to them so they can speak up and shape public matters and policy.  Young people’s concerns must be considered when forming policies that affect their lives and futures.  Young people must be part of the design of programs or services for young people.  They are, after all, the experts in what it is to be a young person in Australia today.”  Young people also expressed that they are facing a range of challenges in their lives.  For the first time in 2019, young people were asked whether they had experienced bullying, with 21.0% of young people reporting they had been bullied in the past 12 months.

Of those who had experienced bullying, eight in ten (79.9%) reported that the bullying took place at school/TAFE/university, just over one third (34.0%) had experienced bullying online/on social media, while around one fifth (18.1%) had experienced bullying at home.  Nearly half of young people (47.7%) had also witnessed bullying in the past year.  Proportionally, more young people from regional areas than those from major cities had experienced bullying over the past year (24.5% compared with 19.0%).  Mr Toomey said: “Young people are acutely aware of their own mental health and they can certainly see it is a prevailing issue right across Australia.

“This year, our survey also confirms a disturbing level of bullying which young people are experiencing or witnessing.  This is unacceptable.  Bullying can cause and exacerbate mental health concerns, with potentially harmful and lasting effects on young people’s lives.  “In light of these findings, it’s clear there is urgent need for better investment in programs and initiatives that promote mental health and wellbeing and combat bullying.  A greater focus on prevention and early intervention is also sorely needed.  By investing in programs that are proven to work, young people will have a better chance of reaching their potential.”

The Youth Survey Report 2019 also indicates around six in 10 young people felt very happy/happy (60.7%) overall with their lives and are very positive/positive (58.3%) about the future.  The majority of young people are engaged in education and confident in their ability to achieve their study and work goals.  Most young people report strong family relationships and are involved in a range of activities.  Mr Toomey said: “It’s pleasing to see so many young people report a positive and optimistic outlook on their lives and their futures.  But we can also see that young people are asking for change.  We owe it to young people to take action.”

Toomey went on “We must stand alongside them to advocate for the changes they want to see, provide opportunities to have a say and better support them with the services they need as they transition to adulthood.”  The 18th annual Youth Survey was completed by more than 25,000 young people aged between 15 and 19 years.  The results of the Youth Survey are shared with governments, NGOs, schools and social commentators to inform the debate around the circumstances of young people in Australia and to support the development of policies, services and programs that have the needs of young people at their core.

Source: Mission Australia

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