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QUEENSLAND PASSES EUTHANASIA LAW

By Australian Newsletter

Five of Australia’s six states have put voluntary euthanasia on the statute books after a historic vote in the Queensland parliament enshrined the nation’s most far-reaching assisted dying scheme and built pressure on NSW to follow suit. Queenslanders will be able to legally end their lives with the help of medical staff from January 2023, after a three-day debate by state MPs. With laws passed in every state except the largest, NSW, two-thirds of Australians will have access to assisted dying by the time the Queensland scheme comes into operation. Queensland’s single-chamber parliament passed the legislation with support of 10 Liberal National MPs and despite opposition from three Labor politicians. The two Greens MPs and Noosa independent Sandy Bolton also supported the bill, ensuring it passed with a majority 61 to 30.

This was larger than VAD advocates predicted ahead of a vote. Premier Annastacia Palas­zczuk said there were “a few surprises”, given the support from the LNP, and praised MPs for a respectful debate. “It is very historic,” she said. “I think Queenslanders have spoken loud and clear, and we have listened.” The architect of the world’s first euthanasia laws, Marshall Perron, hailed Queensland’s scheme as the new national benchmark. Mr Perron was the former Northern Territory chief minister who oversaw the passage of Australia’s first euthanasia laws in 1995, which were overturned by the Howard government. “Nothing has changed as far as the arguments for and against are concerned,” he said. “It is just very sad that there have probably now been thousands of people who would have used such legislation who missed out.”

Queensland broadens the eligibility for VAD, allowing people with a life expectancy of 12 months to access the scheme, up from six months in other states. It backed away from a precedent in South Australia that offers an absolute right for faith-based facilities to object to the scheme. Faith-based health and aged care facilities will now be made to allow euthanasia even if it is against their conscience. Although VAD patients must be independently assessed by two doctors, they do not need to be specialists. Doctors will also be able to raise the option of assisted dying with patients. Labor MPs Linus Power, Joe Kelly and Bart Mellish voted against the bill, urging the government to focus on delivering better palliative care services before pursuing right-to-die legislation.

The Australian Medical Association and Palliative Care Queensland have said an extra $275m a year is needed to provide adequate care to all terminally ill Queenslanders. The Palaszczuk government has budgeted an additional $171m over six years. Robbie Katter, whose electorate covers remote parts of northwest Queensland, said people in regional parts of the state did not get “regular visits from surgeons in a nice palliative care unit”. “People who are facing the end of their life with a terminal illness in remote areas will invariably stare into a different looking future than if they had private health care and lived in the middle of Brisbane,” the Katter’s Australia Party leader said. Both major parties gave MPs a conscience vote that allowed 10 LNP politicians to support the government’s bill.

They were: Ray Stevens, Michael Crandon, Dale Last, Steve Minikin, Tim Nicholls, Sam O’Connor, Brent Mickelberg, Michael Hart, Rob Molhoek and Mark Boothman. All cited fundamental belief in the freedom of the individual as a driver of their support. Mr Nicholls, opposition legal affairs spokesman, said: “Voluntary assisted dying is just that: voluntary”. Former LNP leader John-Paul Langbroek missed the vote as he was in quarantine after travelling to Victoria in August for his father’s funeral. Despite parliamentary support, the scheme may face hurdles after the state’s Catholic healthcare services flagged plans to boycott assisted dying. The state’s peak medical bodies, including the Australian Medical Association, joined with faith-based providers to lobby against the scheme throughout the debate.

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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HILLSONG’S BRIAN HOUSTON STEPS DOWN FROM ALL CHURCH BOARDS

By Australian Newsletter

Pastor Brian Houston, the lead pastor of Hillsong Church who was charged by Police last month with allegedly concealing sex abuse committed by his father decades earlier, has said he is stepping down from his role on various church boards so that they can continue to “function to their fullest capacity.” “I’ve made a decision to step aside from my role on the Hillsong Church boards that oversee the governance of our operations,” Houston, the senior pastor of the Sydney congregation, wrote in an email to his Church family. “I did this so these boards can function to their fullest capacity during this season. This doesn’t change my role as Global Senior Pastor. I thought it important to let you all know in the interests of transparency, and I wanted you to hear it from me directly,” Houston added.

“Police will allege in court that Houston knew information relating to the sexual abuse of a young male in the 1970s and failed to bring that information to the attention of police,” stated  Australian authorities. In a statement since, Houston expressed “shock” at the charges. “These charges have come as a shock to me given how transparent I’ve always been about this matter,” Houston said. “I vehemently profess my innocence and will defend these charges, and I welcome the opportunity to set the record straight.” The church also provided a statement explaining that they were “disappointed that Pastor Brian has been charged, and asked that he be afforded the presumption of innocence and due process as is his right. He has advised us that he will defend this and looks forward to clearing his name.

Source: Christian Post

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CHRISTIAN SINGER WINS “THE VOICE AUSTRALIA”

By Australian Newsletter

Bella Taylor Smith, a member of the Hillsong Church, has been crowned the winner of “The Voice” Australia. The 23-year-old was victorious following her powerful duet performance with Guy Sebastian of Andrea Bocelli’s “The Prayer.” Smith, a singing teacher, was filled with emotion after hearing host Sonia Kruger announce her as the competition’s winner. Her prize includes receiving a recording contract with EMI Music and $100,000. “I really can’t believe it. I’m so thankful,” Smith said. “I can’t wait to see what incredible things are ahead for me. I’m really grateful for you Guy, for everyone who voted and for my beautiful family, who I love.” Sebastian responded “I’m so proud. There are so many deserving people out there, but you are special, Bella,” Sebastian said. “Go out there and kill it. I know you will.”

The singer, who used her time on the show to sing several faith-based songs, then performed her new single “Higher.” Smith took to Instagram to celebrate her big win. “No words other than thank you. thank you to all my friends and family, thank you to my church community. thank you to Guy Sebastian thank you to all the team at The Voice and to the public for all the kind words and encouragement, for your prayers and the love. “Thank you Jesus, I absolutely cannot wait to continue to share and celebrate with you.”In a recent television interview Smith said that she doesn’t plan to give up her teaching job even though she has secured a recording contract. “I love teaching, it’s one of my passions and I’ll definitely keep doing it,” she was quoted as saying.

Source: Christian Post

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GOVERNMENT MINISTER CALLS FOR RE-WRITE OF DRAFT NATIONAL CURRICULUM

By Australian Newsletter

Education Minister Alan Tudge says the board of the country’s schooling authority must substantially rewrite its draft national curriculum, warning he will not endorse the proposed document amid concern student outcomes would be harmed. Writing to the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority’s (ACARA) acting chairman Norm Hart, Mr Tudge criticised the proposal for supporting “ideology over evidence” and presenting an “overly negative view” of the nation in the study of history and civics. In the letter, Mr Tudge urged the board to seriously consider recent feedback from education experts, who have flagged concerns that the proposed changes amounted to a weakening of learning standards.

“Some of these groups, such as Australia’s peak mathematics association, believe that the current draft will take Australian kids backwards,” he wrote. “If the current draft is simply tweaked, it will not be supported. It needs fundamental changes.” The warning comes as the ACARA board meets to discuss feedback to the highly anticipated update of the Australian Curriculum, an important document laying out what students are expected to learn across the mandated subject areas of English, maths, science, the arts, humanities, health and physical education and languages. The curriculum also seeks to cover general capabilities, or skills, such as critical and creative thinking, as well as ensure young people develop an understanding of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures.

Its release in April, however, sparked a torrent of criticism, including from high-profile historians, academics and reading specialists. Among the most scathing criticism was from the Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute, whose membership spans leading universities, government agencies and industry, which called for any ongoing review of the maths curriculum to be halted pending further consultation. The institute was particularly critical of a proposed push towards having students learn maths by engaging in open-ended problem-solving activities, noting that “mastery of mathematical approaches is needed before student problem-solving can be effective”. Writer Tony Thomas says education in Australia has turned into a “propaganda exercise” to convert kids.

Under way for more than a year, ACARA’s curriculum review was launched in the wake of Australia’s declining performance on the world stage, which has shown that Australian students have gone backwards in reading, maths and science over the past 20 years. According to Mr Tudge, the curriculum should seek to be ambitious on students’ learning outcomes and should prioritise evidence-based practices, particularly in reading and maths. “To my great frustration, evidence-based practices have not been consistently embedded in the current draft,” he said. “There is still too much emphasis on whole-language learning of reading and insufficient emphasis on phonics. “30 years ago, determining the best way to teach reading may have been a legitimate debate, but it is not now. The evidence is crystal clear, that the teaching of phonics is vital.”

The minister also urged the ACARA board to re-examine the history and civics curriculum to ensure that it provided a balanced teaching of Australia’s liberal democracy that has made the nation attractive to millions of migrants. Mr Tudge said “it’s deeply depressing” that these sort of views “infect” our universities amid calls by an influential university academic to scrap the word ‘English’ from the national curriculum. The Courier Mail reports a senior lecturer at the University of Melbourne, Dr Melitta Hogarth called for the subject ‘English’ to be renamed because it “asserts” the “besieged sovereignty of the colonial state”. Mr Tudge said at the conference Dr Hogarth could’ve instead talked about a range of other issues such as “how we’re going to get these kids back up to speed from months of lost learning” or focused on “indigenous education”.

“But no, we have to put up with this sort of nonsense. It has to be rejected and it’s deeply depressing these sort of views infect our leading universities.” “Your draft diminishes Australia’s western, liberal, and democratic values,” Mr Tudge said. “The overarching impression from the curriculum is that the main feature of western civilisation is slavery, imperialism and colonisation. “Important historical events are removed or reframed, such as the emphasis on invasion theory over Australia Day. Even Anzac Day is presented as a contested idea, rather than the most sacred of all days where we honour the millions of men and women who have served in war, and the 100,000 who gave their lives for our freedom. “I believe that the best way to serve the interests of our young people is to seize every opportunity to lift educational standards,” he said. “The draft of the Australian Curriculum is such an opportunity.”

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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MENTAL HEALTH CRISIS ROCKING 18-24 YEAR OLDS

By Australian Newsletter

Surging numbers of mental health emergencies are striking young Victorian adults due to the 18-month pandemic and the state’s multiple lockdowns, confidential Andrews government data has revealed. More than 340 teenagers a week have been admitted to hospital suffering mental health issues, according to a confidential Andrews government report that reveals Victoria’s pandemic and lockdown-fuelled youth crisis is worse than previously feared. The 16-page report also reveals an average of 156 teens a week were rushed to hospital for emergency treatment after self-harming and suffering suicidal ideation, an 88 per cent increase on last year. The most serious cases, where teens required resuscitation and emergency treatment, surged to a six-weekly average of 37.3 cases to the end of May.

In addition the Victorian Agency for Health Information reveals an average 342 children, aged up to 17, presented to emergency departments each week. “These numbers are unequivocally awful,” a leading child psychiatrist said. “They show increased demand and they show no increase in services because services were already at capacity. Our units are completely over run. “This surge is even bigger than I would have guessed. To see it measured so starkly and compare that to the policy and the response from the department overall, it is pretty shocking. “It’s one thing if the right people don’t know about this stuff, but there has been a month-on-month demonstration about how much worse things have got over 18 months.”

“The number of intentional self-harm and suicidal ideation (emergency department) presentations is statistically significant,” one senior child and adolescent psychiatrist said. “Young and emerging adults as well as teenagers are under major pressure.” The Andrews government has acknowledged the mental health crisis, saying it was committing $220m in extra funding to boost frontline services. The government said it was constantly monitoring the mental health data so it could respond quickly to increased demand with additional resources, including a $2m boost for eating disorder treatments, $2.24m to deliver a headspace waiting list blitz for young people and $3.13m in support packages for community organisations.

The full extent of the youth mental health crisis linked to the pandemic and the lockdowns has been exposed in four confidential government reports tracking case numbers. The data exposing the problems among those aged 18 to 24 is particularly concerning to mental health experts as it points to a loss of hope about the future. “Last year, these young adults bunkered down for the greater cause,” one frontline mental health expert said. “But in the past six months, with these new lockdowns, they’re thinking ‘This wasn’t just last year. What’s with my future? Why would I bother looking for a job outside a government pay cheque? I’m not going to be able to travel’. “It’s dawning on them that this is not over.”

Senior child psychiatrist Paul Robertson said there had been a surge in demand for teenage mental health services across Australia. “There is a huge escalation in demand for mental health services in child and adolescent populations, nationally,” Dr Robertson said. “There’s a surge in demand around presentations to emergency departments with self-harm and suicidality in adolescents. “It is particularly evident in the Education Department presentations around suicide risk and then that flows on to the service and what it needs to do and how much it is struggling to do that. The other presentation is really the increase in eating disorders which is as large or even bigger.” Teenage eating disorders, which mainly strike young women, have continued to spike with figures covering 6 weeks to April 25, showing an average of 332 cases recorded, 14% up on 2020.

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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ONE IN FOUR AUSTRALIAN WOMEN VICTIMS OF SEXUAL VIOLENCE

By Australian Newsletter

Almost one in four Australian women, more than 2.2 million, have experienced sexual violence either through an assault or being sexually abused as a child. More than 10% of  women experienced childhood sexual abuse, most commonly by a known perpetrator who was not a family member, the Australian Bureau of Statistic (ABS) reports. And for the 17% of women who have experienced sexual assault since the age of 15, an intimate partner was the most common perpetrator. The new ABS study, Sexual Violence – Victimisation, examines data from personal surveys and recorded crime statistics to reveal a disturbing, and escalating, picture of sexual violence across Australia. It finds 23% of women, and 8% of men, had experienced sexual violence in the form of assault or abuse during their lifetime. The vast majority of perpetrators against men were male.

Sixty per cent of women and 51% of men who had experienced a sexual assault had been assaulted multiple times, the study finds. And it shows that the prevalence of sexual assaults against women had increased between 2012 and 2016, the two most recent data points, while for men it had remained constant. “Both women and men were more likely to experience sexual assault by a known person than by a stranger,” if finds. “For women the most common perpetrator was an intimate partner.” “11% of women and 4.6% of men experienced childhood sexual abuse, most commonly by a known person who was not a family member,” it says. Despite the prevalence, the vast majority of incidents of sexual assault are not reported to police. Of the 144,797 victims of sexual assault recorded by police between 2014 and 2019, 83% were female and 63% were under the age of 18.

Younger women, those experiencing financial hardship and women living with disability experienced higher prevalence of sexual assault. And those of both gender who had been sexually abused before the age of 15 were more likely to experience sexual assault as adults, the study found. “We know that sexual violence is incredibly widespread, and growing, and the reporting and conviction rate is low,” said Professor Nicole Moulding, director of the Safe Relationships and Communities Research Group at University of South Australia. “There is a lot of stigma and taboo around the reporting of this in society, and a lot of issues around achieving justice through the criminal justice system because of sexist lenses that are still applied, issues such as victim blaming and so on,” Professor Moulding said.

Professor Moulding said the rise in recent decades of pornography that is violent and degrading towards women is one factor in the continuing high rates of sexual violence in Australia. When adult women were the victim of a sexual assault by a male perpetrator, the report said, a recurring factor was alcohol, with 50 per cent believing alcohol or another substance contributed. And worryingly, only 26 per cent of women considered the sexual assault incident was a crime at the time it was being committed, with only 13 per cent reporting their most recent incident of assault by a male perpetrator to police. Almost half (48 per cent) of the women who were sexually abused as children experienced that abuse for the first time between 5 and 9 years of age. For men, almost half were between 10 and 14.

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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