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Shannen Doherty's powerful final act before passing

<p>Shannen Doherty agreed to settle her divorce with ex-husband Kurt Iswarienko just one day before her death. </p> <p>According to court documents obtained by<em> Page Six</em> on Monday, the former <em>90210</em> star agreed to waive spousal support and to a "default or uncontested dissolution" of their marriage, indicating that the former couple settled their split outside of court. </p> <p>While Doherty signed the agreement on Friday, July 12, her ex-husband signed it on Saturday July 13 - the day the actress lost her nine-year-long battle with <a href="https://www.oversixty.com.au/health/caring/force-of-nature-tributes-flow-for-shannen-doherty" target="_blank" rel="noopener">breast cancer</a>. </p> <p>“It is the mutual wish and desire of the parties to effect a full, complete, and final settlement of all their respective property interests, future and present, by this Judgement, and … completely resolve any and all issues relating to division of property, reimbursement claims and/or credits, spousal support, and attorneys’ fees and costs,” the documents reportedly state.</p> <p>Not long after Doherty passed away, her friend Tara Furiani called out Iswarienko for his lack of "humanity" during his and Doherty's bitter divorce battle which began in April 2023. </p> <p>She claimed that he was "dragging his feet” so he wouldn’t have to pay her.</p> <p>“Life is so hard … life is extra hard with cancer and without the support you thought you’d have,” Furiani shared.</p> <p>“If you have the opportunity to be a decent person, take it. You have no idea what people are dealing with and going through.”</p> <p>Iswarienko's lawyer has previously rejected all claims that Iswarienko was delaying the divorce alleging that he wanted to finalise it in September 2023 with a settlement deal, which she denied because he “skirted around” how much he earned in the early aughts of their marriage.</p> <p>The former couple married in 2011, before the actress filed for divorce last year in light of his infidelity. </p> <p><em>Images: SplashNews.com/ Shutterstock Editorial </em></p> <p> </p>

Legal

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How would a switch to nuclear affect electricity prices for households and industry?

<div class="theconversation-article-body"><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/roger-dargaville-1832">Roger Dargaville</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/monash-university-1065">Monash University</a></em></p> <p>Peter Dutton has announced that under a Coalition government, seven nuclear power stations would be built around the country over the next 15 years.</p> <p>Experts have declared nuclear power would be <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/2024-06-20/power-prices-wont-fall-with-nuclear/103998172">expensive</a> and <a href="https://www.afr.com/politics/federal/nuclear-to-cost-17b-and-take-until-2040-to-build-csiro-20240521-p5jfaj#:%7E:text=Nuclear%20could%20cost%20up%20to,until%202040%20to%20build%3A%20CSIRO&amp;text=Peter%20Dutton's%20nuclear%20energy%20plans,operational%20until%20at%20least%202040.">slow to build</a>.</p> <p>But what might happen to energy prices if the Coalition were to win government and implement this plan?</p> <h2>How might we estimate the cost of nuclear?</h2> <p>By 2035, 50–60% of the existing coal-fired fleet will very likely <a href="https://aemo.com.au/-/media/files/stakeholder_consultation/consultations/nem-consultations/2023/draft-2024-isp-consultation/draft-2024-isp.pdf">have been retired</a>, including Vales Point B, Gladstone, Yallourn, Bayswater and Eraring – all of which will have passed 50 years old.</p> <p>These five generators contribute just over 10 gigawatts of capacity. It’s probably not a coincidence that the seven nuclear plants proposed by Dutton would also contribute roughly 10 gigawatts in total if built.</p> <p>Neither my team at Monash University nor the Australian Energy Market Operator has run modelling scenarios to delve into the details of what might happen to electricity prices under a high-uptake nuclear scenario such as the one proposed by the Coalition. That said, we can make some broad assumptions based on a metric known as the “levelised cost of electricity”.</p> <p>This value takes into account:</p> <ul> <li> <p>how much it costs to build a particular technology</p> </li> <li> <p>how long it takes to build</p> </li> <li> <p>the cost to operate the plant</p> </li> <li> <p>its lifetime</p> </li> <li> <p>and very importantly, its capacity factor.</p> </li> </ul> <p>Capacity factor is how much electricity a technology produces in real life, compared with its theoretical maximum output.</p> <p>For example, a nuclear power station would likely run at 90–95% of its full capacity. A solar farm, on the other hand, will run at just 20–25% of its maximum, primarily because it’s night for half of the time, and cloudy some of the time.</p> <p>CSIRO recently published its <a href="https://www.csiro.au/en/research/technology-space/energy/gencost">GenCost</a> report, which outlines the current and projected build and operational costs for a range of energy technologies.</p> <p>It reports that large-scale nuclear generated electricity would cost between A$155 and $252 per megawatt-hour, falling to between $136 and $226 per megawatt-hour by 2040.</p> <p>The report bases these costs on recent projects in South Korea, but doesn’t consider some other cases where costs have blown out dramatically.</p> <p>The most obvious case is that of <a href="https://www.edf.fr/en/the-edf-group/dedicated-sections/journalists/all-press-releases/hinkley-point-c-update-1">Hinkley Point C nuclear plant</a> in the United Kingdom. This <a href="https://www.reuters.com/business/energy/edfs-nuclear-project-britain-pushed-back-2029-may-cost-up-34-bln-2024-01-23/">3.2GW</a> plant, which is being built by French company EDF, was recently <a href="https://www.edf.fr/en/the-edf-group/dedicated-sections/journalists/all-press-releases/hinkley-point-c-update-1">reported</a> to be now costing around £34 billion (about A$65 billion). That’s about A$20,000 per kilowatt.</p> <p>CSIRO’s GenCost report assumed a value of $8,655 per kilowatt for nuclear, so the true levelised cost of electricity of nuclear power in Australia may end up being twice as expensive as CSIRO has calculated.</p> <hr /> <p><iframe id="Aryx7" class="tc-infographic-datawrapper" style="border: none;" src="https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/Aryx7/4/" width="100%" height="400px" frameborder="0"></iframe></p> <hr /> <h2>Other factors play a role, too</h2> <p>Another factor not accounted for in the GenCost assumptions is that Australia does not have a nuclear industry. Virtually all the niche expertise would need to be imported.</p> <p>And very large infrastructure projects have a nasty habit of <a href="https://www.cis.org.au/publication/bungles-blowouts-and-boondoggles-why-australias-infrastructure-projects-cost-more-than-they-should/">blowing out in cost</a> – think of Snowy 2.0, Sydney’s light rail project, and the West Gate Tunnel in Victoria.</p> <p>Reasons include higher local wages, regulations and standards plus aversion from lenders to risk that increases cost of capital. These factors would not bode well for nuclear.</p> <p>In CSIRO’s GenCost report, the levelised cost of electricity produced from coal is $100–200 per megawatt-hour, and for gas it’s $120–160 per megawatt-hour. Solar and wind energy work out to be approximately $60 and $90 per megawatt-hour, respectively. But it’s not a fair comparison, as wind and solar are not “dispatchable” but are dependent on the availability of the resource.</p> <p>When you combine the cost of a mix of wind and solar energy and storage, along with the cost of getting the renewable energy into the grid, renewables end up costing $100–120 per megawatt-hour, similar to coal.</p> <p>If we were to have a nuclear-based system (supplemented by gas to meet the higher demands in the mornings and evenings), the costs would likely be much higher – potentially as much as three to four times if cost blowouts similar to Hinkley Point C were to occur (assuming costs were passed on to electricity consumers. Otherwise, taxpayers in general would bear the burden. Either way, it’s more or less the same people).</p> <h2>But what about the impact on your household energy bill?</h2> <p>Well, here the news is marginally better.</p> <p>Typical retail tariffs are 25-30 cents per kilowatt-hour, which is $250–300 per megawatt-hour. The largest component of your energy bill is not the cost of generation of the electricity; rather, it’s the cost of getting the power from the power stations to your home or business.</p> <p>In very approximate terms, this is made up of the market average costs of generation, transmission and distribution, as well as retailer margin and other minor costs.</p> <p>The transmission and distribution costs will not be significantly different under the nuclear scenario compared with the current system. And the additional transmission costs associated with the more distributed nature of renewables (meaning these renewable projects are all over the country) is included in the estimate.</p> <p>According to my back-of-the-envelope calculations, your retail tariff under the nuclear scenario could be 40–50c per kilowatt-hour.</p> <p>But if you are a large energy consumer such as an aluminium smelter, you pay considerably less per kilowatt-hour as you don’t incur the same network or retailer costs (but the cost of generating electricity in the first place makes up a much bigger proportion of the total cost).</p> <p>So if the cost of electricity generation soars, this hypothetical aluminium smelter’s energy costs will soar too.</p> <p>This would be a severe cost burden on Australian industry that has traditionally relied on cheap electricity (although it’s been a while since electricity could be described as cheap).</p> <h2>A likely increase in energy costs</h2> <p>In summary, in a free market, it is very unlikely nuclear could be competitive.</p> <p>But if a future Coalition government were to bring nuclear into the mix, energy costs for residential and especially industrial customers would very likely increase.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/232913/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/roger-dargaville-1832">Roger Dargaville</a>, Director Monash Energy Institute, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/monash-university-1065">Monash University</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Shutterstock </em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/how-would-a-switch-to-nuclear-affect-electricity-prices-for-households-and-industry-232913">original article</a>.</em></p> </div>

Money & Banking

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Is nuclear the answer to Australia’s climate crisis?

<div class="theconversation-article-body"><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/reuben-finighan-157147">Reuben Finighan</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/the-university-of-melbourne-722">The University of Melbourne</a></em></p> <p>In Australia’s race to net zero emissions, nuclear power has surged back into the news. Opposition leader Peter Dutton <a href="https://ipa.org.au/research/climate-change-and-energy/peter-dutton-address-to-ipa-members-sydney-7-july-2023">argues</a> nuclear is “the only feasible and proven technology” for cutting emissions. Energy Minister Chris Bowen insists Mr Dutton is promoting “<a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/2023-09-18/energy-minister-says-nuclear-power-too-expensive/102868218">the most expensive form of energy</a>”.</p> <p>Is nuclear a pragmatic and wise choice blocked by ideologues? Or is Mr Bowen right that promoting nuclear power is about as sensible as <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/listen/programs/radionational-breakfast/-unicorn-and-a-fantasy-energy-minister-slams-nuclear-energy/102866944">chasing “unicorns”</a>?</p> <p>For someone who has not kept up with developments in nuclear energy, its prospects may seem to hinge on safety. Yet by any hard-nosed accounting, the risks from modern nuclear plants are orders of magnitude lower than those of fossil fuels.</p> <p>Deep failures in design and operational incompetence caused the Chernobyl disaster. Nobody died at Three Mile Island or from Fukushima. Meanwhile, a Harvard-led study found <a href="https://seas.harvard.edu/news/2021/02/deaths-fossil-fuel-emissions-higher-previously-thought">more than one in six deaths globally</a> – around 9 million a year – are attributable to polluted air from fossil combustion.</p> <p>Two more mundane factors help to explain why nuclear power has halved as a share of global electricity production since the 1990s. They are time and money.</p> <h2>The might of Wright’s law</h2> <p>There are four arguments against investment in nuclear power: <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Olkiluoto_Nuclear_Power_Plant">Olkiluoto 3</a>, <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flamanville_Nuclear_Power_Plant#Unit_3">Flamanville 3</a>, <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hinkley_Point_C_nuclear_power_station">Hinkley Point C</a>, and <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vogtle_Electric_Generating_Plant">Vogtle</a>. These are the four major latest-generation plants completed or near completion in Finland, the United States, the United Kingdom and France respectively.</p> <p>Cost overruns at these recent plants average over 300%, with more increases to come. The cost of Vogtle, for example, soared from US$14 billion to $34 billion (A$22-53 billion), Flamanville from €3.3 billion to €19 billion (A$5-31 billion), and <a href="https://illuminem.com/illuminemvoices/nuclear-economics-lessons-from-lazard-to-hinkley-point-c">Hinkley Point C</a> from £16 billion to as much as £70 billion (A$30-132 billion), including subsidies. Completion of Vogtle <a href="https://www.reuters.com/business/energy/vogtles-troubles-bring-us-nuclear-challenge-into-focus-2023-08-24/">has been delayed</a> by seven years, <a href="https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/after-18-years-europes-largest-nuclear-reactor-start-regular-output-sunday-2023-04-15/">Olkiluoto</a> by 14 years, and <a href="https://www.nucnet.org/news/decree-sets-startup-deadline-of-2024-4-3-2020">Flamanville</a> by at least 12 years.</p> <p>A fifth case is <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virgil_C._Summer_Nuclear_Generating_Station">Virgil C</a>, also in the US, for which US$9 billion (A$14 billion) was spent before cost overruns led the project to be abandoned. All three firms building these five plants – Westinghouse, EDF, and AREVA – went bankrupt or were nationalised. Consumers, companies and taxpayers <a href="https://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2017/07/18/hinkley-points-cost-consumers-surges-50bn/">will bear the costs</a> for decades.</p> <p>By contrast, average cost overruns for wind and solar are <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/we.2069">around zero</a>, the <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S2214629614000942">lowest</a> of all energy infrastructure.</p> <p><a href="https://ark-invest.com/wrights-law/">Wright’s law</a> states the more a technology is produced, the more its costs decline. Wind and especially solar power and <a href="https://ourworldindata.org/battery-price-decline">lithium-ion batteries</a> have all experienced <a href="https://www.irena.org/News/pressreleases/2023/Aug/Renewables-Competitiveness-Accelerates-Despite-Cost-Inflation">astonishing cost declines</a> over the last two decades.</p> <p>For nuclear power, though, Wright’s law has been inverted. The more capacity installed, the more costs have increased. Why? This <a href="https://www.cell.com/joule/pdf/S2542-4351(20)30458-X.pdf">2020 MIT study</a> found that safety improvements accounted for around 30% of nuclear cost increases, but the lion’s share was due to persistent flaws in management, design, and supply chains.</p> <p>In Australia, such costs and delays would ensure that we miss our emissions reduction targets. They would also mean spiralling electricity costs, as the grid waited for generation capacity that did not come. For fossil fuel firms and their political friends, this is the real attraction of nuclear – another decade or two of sales at inflated prices.</p> <h2>Comparing the cost of nuclear and renewables</h2> <p>Nevertheless, nuclear advocates tell us we have no choice: wind and solar power are intermittent power sources, and the cost of making them reliable is too high.</p> <p>But let’s compare the cost of reliably delivering a megawatt hour of electricity to the grid from nuclear versus wind and solar. According to both <a href="https://publications.csiro.au/rpr/download?pid=csiro:EP2022-5511&amp;dsid=DS1">the CSIRO</a> and respected energy market analyst <a href="https://www.lazard.com/media/typdgxmm/lazards-lcoeplus-april-2023.pdf">Lazard Ltd</a>, nuclear power has a cost of A$220 to $350 per megawatt hour produced.</p> <p>Without subsidies or state finance, the four plants cited above generally hit or exceed the high end of this range. By contrast, Australia is already building wind and solar plants at under <a href="https://reneweconomy.com.au/act-starts-to-bank-its-cheapest-wind-power-yet-in-next-stage-to-kick-out-fossil-fuels/">$45</a> and <a href="https://reneweconomy.com.au/nsw-gets-stunning-low-price-for-wind-and-solar-in-biggest-renewables-auction/">$35 per megawatt hour</a> respectively. That’s a tenth of the cost of nuclear.</p> <p>The CSIRO has <a href="https://www.csiro.au/-/media/EF/Files/GenCost/GenCost2022-23Final_27-06-2023.pdf">modelled the cost</a> of renewable energy that is firmed – meaning made reliable, mainly via batteries and other storage technologies. It found the necessary transmission lines and storage would add only $25 to $34 per megawatt hour.</p> <p>In short, a reliable megawatt hour from renewables costs around a fifth of one from a nuclear plant. We could build a renewables grid large enough to meet demand twice over, and still pay less than half the cost of nuclear.</p> <h2>The future of nuclear: small modular reactors?</h2> <p>Proponents of nuclear power pin their hopes on <a href="https://www.iaea.org/newscenter/news/what-are-small-modular-reactors-smrs#:%7E:text=Small%20modular%20reactors%20(SMRs)%20are,of%20traditional%20nuclear%20power%20reactors.">small modular reactors</a> (SMRs), which replace huge gigawatt-scale units with small units that offer the possibility of being produced at scale. This might allow nuclear to finally harness Wright’s law.</p> <p>Yet commercial SMRs are years from deployment. The US firm <a href="https://www.nuscalepower.com/en">NuScale</a>, scheduled to build two plants in Idaho by 2030, has not yet broken ground, and on-paper costs have already <a href="https://ieefa.org/resources/eye-popping-new-cost-estimates-released-nuscale-small-modular-reactor">ballooned</a> to around A$189 per megawatt hour.</p> <p>And SMRs are decades away from broad deployment. If early examples work well, in the 2030s there will be a round of early SMRs in the US and European countries that have existing nuclear skills and supply chains. If that goes well, we may see a serious rollout from the 2040s onwards.</p> <p>In these same decades, solar, wind, and storage will still be descending the Wright’s law cost curve. Last year the Morrison government was spruiking the goal of getting solar below <a href="https://www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/ultra-low-cost-solar-power-a-priority-for-australia-20220108-p59msj.html">$15 per megawatt hour by 2030</a>. SMRs must achieve improbable cost reductions to compete.</p> <p>Finally, SMRs may be necessary and competitive in countries with poor renewable energy resources. But Australia has the richest combined solar and wind resources in the world.</p> <h2>Should we lift the ban?</h2> <p>Given these realities, should Australia lift its ban on nuclear power? A repeal would have no practical effect on what happens in electricity markets, but it might have political effects.</p> <p>A future leader might seek short-term advantage by offering enormous subsidies for nuclear plants. The true costs would arrive years after such a leader had left office. That would be tragic for Australia. With our unmatched solar and wind resources, we have the chance to deliver among the cheapest electricity in the developed world.</p> <p>Mr Dutton may be right that the ban on nuclear is unnecessary. But in terms of getting to net zero as quickly and cheaply as possible, Mr Bowen has the relevant argument. To echo one assessment from the UK, nuclear for Australia would be “<a href="https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2013-10-30/u-k-risks-looking-economically-insane-with-edf-nuclear-deal">economically insane</a>”.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/216891/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/reuben-finighan-157147"><em>Reuben Finighan</em></a><em>, PhD candidate at the LSE and Research Fellow at the Superpower Institute, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/the-university-of-melbourne-722">The University of Melbourne</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Shutterstock</em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/is-nuclear-the-answer-to-australias-climate-crisis-216891">original article</a>.</em></p> </div>

Domestic Travel

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Dutton names future Aussie towns for nuclear power plant locations

<p>Peter Dutton has unveiled a series of locations where he wants to build nuclear power plants if he wins the next federal election. </p> <p>The leader of the opposition has pledged to build at least two nuclear plants between 2035 and 2037 if the Liberal party is elected, with another five on the list to be constructed at a later date. </p> <p>The locations include Gladstone in Queensland, the Liddell power station in the Hunter Valley of NSW, as well as Lithgow in the NSW Central Tablelands, Loy Yang in the La Trobe Valley, Victoria, Callide in Queensland, Muja in Western Australia and Port Augusta in South Australia.</p> <p>The proposal would see the nuclear power plants owned by the government under the same set up as entities such as the Snowy Hydro scheme, in a bid to focus on alternative energy solutions and remain committed to reaching net zero emissions by 2050.</p> <p>Despite Dutton's enthusiasm about the pitch, treasurer Jim Chalmers slammed the idea as “economically irrational” and “fiscally irresponsible.”</p> <p>“Peter Dutton’s nuclear negativity is economic insanity, pure and simple,’’ he said on ABC radio. </p> <p>“Nuclear takes longer, it costs more, and it will squander Australia’s unique combination of advantages. It is the worst combination of economic and ideological stupidity. </p> <p>“It is economically irrational, it is fiscally irresponsible. And it means if it’s implemented, Australia would fail that grab these vast economic and industrial opportunities with a net zero transformation in the most effective way."</p> <p><em>Image credits: DEAN LEWINS/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock Editorial/Shutterstock</em></p>

Travel Trouble

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Millions of Aussies set for power bill relief

<p>Millions of Aussies are set for some financial relief, with electricity costs set to drop by up to 7 per cent in the coming months. </p> <p>The Australian Energy Regulator (AER) and Victoria's Essential Services Commission (ESC) both released their draft default market offers - the maximum energy retailers are allowed to charge customers - for the 2024-25 financial year. </p> <p>Under the AER draft, residents in Sydney, Newcastle and the Hunter on the default offer will pay between 3 and 3.4 per cent less for electricity starting from July 1. </p> <p>The biggest drop is set for Victoria, with the ESC proposing a 6.4 per cent decrease. </p> <p>Those in Western Sydney, the Illawarra, and South Coast, will see their electricity bills decrease by 1.9 to 7.1 per cent. </p> <p>South Australians will receive a drop between 0.5 and 2.5 per cent. </p> <p>A number of small business customers will also benefit from lower power bill costs with 9.7 per cent for Sydney, Newcastle and the Hunter; 4.4 per cent for Western Sydney and the South Coast; 0.3 per cent for South-East Queensland; 8.2 per cent for South Australia; and 7 per cent for Victoria.</p> <p>Energy Minister Chris Bowen welcomed the news of lower power bill costs, but acknowledged that it will continue to play a part in the cost of living challenges faced by many Australians. </p> <p>"This is encouraging news," he said.</p> <p>"Encouraging for those small businesses and families who will receive lower energy bills as a result.</p> <p>"But nobody should suggest that there aren't real cost of living pressures around the world and in Australia, and energy prices are of course part of that and will continue to be."</p> <p>Not everyone will see a drop, with customers in the rest of regional NSW to get a small increase of 0.9 per cent, while the default offer for South East Queensland will increase by up to 2.7 per cent.</p> <p>While not all households are on the default offer, Bowen said that the AER's decision will also affect those not on the offer. </p> <p>"This either impacts directly or indirectly your energy bill," he said.</p> <p>"Directly for those on the default market offer. For those who aren't on the direct market offer, indirectly - the energy companies have to benchmark themselves against this, tell their consumers how they compare to this, and it provides very real pressure on them to match it.</p> <p>"If they don't, consumers will know about it and will make choices accordingly.</p> <p>"It's partly about those on the default market offer, but it actually impacts on all our bills indirectly."</p> <p>AER chair Clare Savage said that the cost of living crisis was the main contributor for their draft decision. </p> <p>"We know that economic conditions have put pressure on many Australians and the increases in electricity prices over the last two years has made energy less affordable for many households," she said. </p> <p>"In light of this, the AER has, in this decision, placed increased weight on protecting consumers." </p> <p>The draft decision is not final, with both the AER and ESC to receive consultation and feedback from stakeholders before confirming their default market offers in May.</p> <p><em>Image: Getty</em></p>

Money & Banking

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Supermarkets, airlines and power companies are charging ‘exploitative’ prices despite reaping record profits

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/sanjoy-paul-1141384">Sanjoy Paul</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-technology-sydney-936">University of Technology Sydney</a></em></p> <p>Australians have been hit by large rises in grocery, energy, transport, child and aged care prices, only adding to other cost of living pressures.</p> <p>While extreme weather and supply delays have contributed to the increases, an inquiry into what’s causing the hikes has confirmed what commentators and consumers suspected - many sectors are resorting to dodgy price practices and confusing pricing.</p> <p>Headed by the former Australian Consumer and Competition Commission (ACCC) boss, Allan Fels, on behalf of the ACTU, the inquiry found inflation, questionable pricing practices, a lack of price transparency and regulations, a lack of market competition, supply chain problems and unrestricted price setting by retailers are to blame for fuelling the increases.</p> <p>The inquiry, which released its <a href="https://www.actu.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2024/02/InquiryIntoPriceGouging_Report_web9-1.pdf">final report</a> on Wednesday, is one of four examining price rises. The other three are being undertaken by a Senate committee, the Queensland government and the ACCC, which has been given extra powers by the government.</p> <h2>Prices vs inflation</h2> <p>The inflation rate in Australia peaked at <a href="https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/economy/price-indexes-and-inflation/consumer-price-index-australia/latest-release">7.8%</a> in December 2022 and has been gradually dropping since then.</p> <p>While the inquiry found higher prices contributed to inflation, it reported that businesses claimed it was inflation that caused price rises - making it a chicken-or-egg kind of problem.</p> <p>However, many businesses made enormous <a href="https://theconversation.com/amid-allegations-of-price-gouging-its-time-for-big-supermarkets-to-come-clean-on-how-they-price-their-products-219316">profits</a> in 2022-23, which the inquiry said contributed to rising prices and inflation. In most cases, post-pandemic profit margins were much higher than before the pandemic.</p> <h2>How prices are set</h2> <p>Business pricing strategies had a big impact on product prices.</p> <p>In Australia, businesses often provided partial and misleading pricing information which differed from the actual price. For example, supermarkets were “<a href="https://www.afr.com/politics/federal/accc-warns-supermarkets-about-discount-claims-20240114-p5ex1s">discounting</a>” products by raising prices beforehand.</p> <p>These practices helped raise prices and were “exploitative”, the inquiry found.</p> <p>A lack of transparent pricing information caused a poor understanding by consumers of how prices were set. This was significantly worsened by a lack of competition. While market concentration was a major issue, the inquiry found prices in Australia are way higher than in many other less competitive markets.</p> <p>Large price increases occurred across many sectors:</p> <p><strong>AVIATION</strong></p> <p>While it is free to set any price for airfares, Australia’s largest and highest profile aviation company, Qantas, has been <a href="https://www.thenewdaily.com.au/life/2023/12/28/qantas-deceptive-conduct-accc">accused</a> of price gouging since the pandemic.</p> <p>According to the inquiry report, Qantas made a profit of $1.7 billion in 2023 - 208% higher than in 2019. At the same time, its reputation has been badly damaged by unreliable timetables, lost baggage and so-called <a href="https://www.9news.com.au/national/qantas-files-legal-defence-refutes-accc-case-and-ghost-flight-claims/9a6296c9-9238-4053-9f36-cc3cbf1f8a55">“ghost” flights</a> (selling tickets for a flight that’s been cancelled or doesn’t exist).</p> <p>Despite its huge profits and poorer service, Qantas passed on extra expenses to consumers in the form of higher airfares, the inquiry found.</p> <p><strong>BANKING</strong></p> <p>The banking industry has a long history of being tardy in passing on the Reserve Bank’s cash rate cuts to consumers. However, when the reserve raised the cash rates, banks immediately increased their standard variable rates and passed them on to customers. This practice keeps the bank’s profit margin higher.</p> <p>According to the inquiry report, the major banks’ average profit margins have been higher since May 2022 than in the 15 years before the pandemic. For 2022-23, the four big Australian banks’ profit margins were 35.5%, compared to an average of 32.4% from 2005 to 2020.</p> <p><strong>CHILDCARE</strong></p> <p>Australian households spent a good portion of their income on childcare, and for many of them, it was <a href="https://www.vu.edu.au/sites/default/files/mitchell-institute-assessing-childcare-affordability-in-Australia.pdf">unaffordable</a>.</p> <p>In Australia, the lack of availability and difficulty in switching services makes it even harder for working parents to find alternative options. This indicates parents are forced to pay more if the service providers raise prices.</p> <p>The inquiry found the childcare sector increased fees by 20% to 32% from 2018 to 2022. Accordingly, Australian households’ out-of-pocket expenses for childcare increased more than the rate of wage growth. For-profit childcare businesses have higher margins than not-for-profit centres.</p> <p><strong>ELECTRICITY</strong></p> <p>In recent years, electricity price increases have impacted all Australian households. The inquiry found both wholesale and retail electricity pricing strategies were responsible for these increased prices.</p> <p>It reported that wholesale price increases were mainly responsible for an estimated 9% to 20% increase in electricity bills in 2022-23.</p> <p>The report noted the “price bidding system” was largely responsible for increasing wholesale electricity prices.</p> <p>The inquiry was critical of the profit margin of AGL, a leading electricity retailer:</p> <blockquote> <p>It would seem that AGL needs to explain why consumers are paying $60.10/MWh more than seems to be justified by cost differentials. That is, for every consumer bill of $1,000 there is an apparent excess to be explained of $205.61 relative to prices charged to large business customers and not accounted for by genuine cost differences.</p> </blockquote> <p><strong>SUPERMARKETS</strong></p> <p>Supermarket prices have received the most attention recently with the main providers being accused of price gouging.</p> <p>As has occurred in other sectors, profit margins were well above pre-COVID levels. In 2023, the margin was more than 3.5% compared to less than 3% in 2017 and 2018.</p> <p>In Australia, <a href="https://www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/not-happy-little-vegemites-food-prices-rising-faster-than-inflation-20230522-p5da9w.html">food prices</a> also increased well above the inflation rate.</p> <p>According to the inquiry, the price increases for groceries between March 2021 and September 2023 varied between 19.2% and 27.3% for different categories, including cheese, bread, milk, eggs, dairy products and breakfast cereals.</p> <p>Farmers recently <a href="https://www.news.com.au/finance/business/retail/aussie-farmer-shipping-beautiful-melons-to-japan-rather-than-deal-with-coles-and-woolworths/news-story/bd685cd91f934f31c02c764097f496ae">accused</a> supermarkets of making too much profit from their crops.</p> <p>This was backed by the inquiry, which found the disproportionate market power held by supermarkets and food processors was of significant concern.</p> <p>The report noted that supermarkets increased prices when there was a shortage or cost increase, but the opposite did not happen easily when supplies were plentiful and prices were cheaper.</p> <h2>Issues common to all sectors</h2> <p>Among the issues common to all sectors were weak competition, a lack of price transparency, the difficulty consumers face switching between suppliers and providers, a lack of pricing policies and a lack of consumer awareness.</p> <p>While the price rises imposed by service providers and retailers were <a href="https://www.accc.gov.au/business/pricing/setting-prices-whats-allowed">not unlawful</a>, the increases in all sectors were significant and were hurting everyday Australians.</p> <h2>Fels’ recommendations</h2> <p>Many of the recommendations were sector-specific, but the one that applied to all areas related to the lack of regulation and pricing policies.</p> <p>The ACCC should be empowered to investigate, monitor and regulate prices for the child and aged care, banking, grocery and food sectors, the inquiry found. This was necessary to ensure businesses used fair and transparent pricing.</p> <p>A review of all existing policies was also recommended. For example, the government should use the current aviation review to remove international and domestic restrictions on competition. It was important aviation stakeholders, such as airlines and airports, were involved in the process.</p> <p>The report suggested the grocery <a href="https://www.accc.gov.au/business/industry-codes/food-and-grocery-code-of-conduct">code of conduct</a> should be mandatory for the food and grocery sector, and a price register for farmers should be created. This should be a government priority to protect farmers from unfair pricing by major supermarkets and food processors.</p> <h2>Change is needed</h2> <p>The current pricing practices for all business sectors must improve for greater transparency and to protect Australian consumers from unfair pricing.</p> <p>The inquiry report’s findings and recommendations are helpful in ensuring fair and transparent pricing policies and improving the current regulations for price settings.</p> <p>Implementing the recommendations will improve fair and transparent pricing practices and may help Australians get relief from the cost of living pressure in future.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/222755/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/sanjoy-paul-1141384"><em>Sanjoy Paul</em></a><em>, Associate Professor, UTS Business School, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-technology-sydney-936">University of Technology Sydney</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images </em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/supermarkets-airlines-and-power-companies-are-charging-exploitative-prices-despite-reaping-record-profits-222755">original article</a>.</em></p>

Money & Banking

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World's most powerful women come together to mark the end of an era

<p>A group of the most powerful and influential women in the worlds of fashion and entertainment have joined forces to appear on a legendary cover of <em>British Vogue</em>. </p> <p>The iconic cover shoot occurred to celebrate the magazine's editor Edward Enninful, who is stepping back from the role after six years at the helm. </p> <p>Enninful gathered his muses for the history-making "Legendary" edition, featuring the likes of Oprah Winfrey, Jane Fonda, Selma Blair, Salma Hayek, Victoria Beckham, Miley Cyrus, Dua Lipa, and many more. </p> <p>"To get one of these women on a cover takes months. To get 40? Unheard of," Cyrus remarked in an on-set video.</p> <p>In a post to social media, Selma Blair remarked that she "didn't want the day to end". </p> <blockquote class="instagram-media" style="background: #FFF; border: 0; border-radius: 3px; box-shadow: 0 0 1px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.5),0 1px 10px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.15); margin: 1px; max-width: 540px; min-width: 326px; padding: 0; width: calc(100% - 2px);" data-instgrm-permalink="https://www.instagram.com/reel/C3FtXApL8_O/?utm_source=ig_embed&amp;utm_campaign=loading" data-instgrm-version="14"> <div style="padding: 16px;"> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: row; align-items: center;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 50%; flex-grow: 0; height: 40px; margin-right: 14px; width: 40px;"> </div> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: column; flex-grow: 1; justify-content: center;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; margin-bottom: 6px; width: 100px;"> </div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; width: 60px;"> </div> </div> </div> <div style="padding: 19% 0;"> </div> <div style="display: block; height: 50px; margin: 0 auto 12px; width: 50px;"> </div> <div style="padding-top: 8px;"> <div style="color: #3897f0; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-style: normal; font-weight: 550; line-height: 18px;">View this post on Instagram</div> </div> <div style="padding: 12.5% 0;"> </div> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: row; margin-bottom: 14px; align-items: center;"> <div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 50%; height: 12.5px; width: 12.5px; transform: translateX(0px) translateY(7px);"> </div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; height: 12.5px; transform: rotate(-45deg) translateX(3px) translateY(1px); width: 12.5px; flex-grow: 0; margin-right: 14px; margin-left: 2px;"> </div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 50%; height: 12.5px; width: 12.5px; transform: translateX(9px) translateY(-18px);"> </div> </div> <div style="margin-left: 8px;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 50%; flex-grow: 0; height: 20px; width: 20px;"> </div> <div style="width: 0; height: 0; border-top: 2px solid transparent; border-left: 6px solid #f4f4f4; border-bottom: 2px solid transparent; transform: translateX(16px) translateY(-4px) rotate(30deg);"> </div> </div> <div style="margin-left: auto;"> <div style="width: 0px; border-top: 8px solid #F4F4F4; border-right: 8px solid transparent; transform: translateY(16px);"> </div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; flex-grow: 0; height: 12px; width: 16px; transform: translateY(-4px);"> </div> <div style="width: 0; height: 0; border-top: 8px solid #F4F4F4; border-left: 8px solid transparent; transform: translateY(-4px) translateX(8px);"> </div> </div> </div> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: column; flex-grow: 1; justify-content: center; margin-bottom: 24px;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; margin-bottom: 6px; width: 224px;"> </div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; width: 144px;"> </div> </div> <p style="color: #c9c8cd; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 17px; margin-bottom: 0; margin-top: 8px; overflow: hidden; padding: 8px 0 7px; text-align: center; text-overflow: ellipsis; white-space: nowrap;"><a style="color: #c9c8cd; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-style: normal; font-weight: normal; line-height: 17px; text-decoration: none;" href="https://www.instagram.com/reel/C3FtXApL8_O/?utm_source=ig_embed&amp;utm_campaign=loading" target="_blank" rel="noopener">A post shared by British Vogue (@britishvogue)</a></p> </div> </blockquote> <p>The shoot also included models Kate Moss, Cara Delevingne, Karlie Kloss, alongside the original '90s supermodels – Naomi Campbell, Iman, Linda Evangelista, Christy Turlington and Cindy Crawford.</p> <p>Evangelista said of the iconic shoot, "I've met so many people today on my bucket list".</p> <p>Hayek also posted about the experience on Instagram, saying, "So honoured to be part of this legendary cover of British Vogue and Edward Enninful's muses, especially because they are my muses too!" </p> <p>Jane Fonda summed up the energy of the day on set, saying, "Women understand the importance and power of the collective."</p> <p><em>Image credits: Instagram </em></p> <p> </p>

Beauty & Style

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Celine Dion shares powerful message of hope

<p>Celine Dion has shared a powerful statement about her health battle since being diagnosed with stiff person syndrome. </p> <p>The French-Canadian musician has chronicled her health journey in a new documentary titled <em>I Am: Celine Dion</em>, and took to Instagram to promote the new film. </p> <p>While sharing with her legion of fans how her health has progressed, she said she remains hopeful that she will one day return to the stage.</p> <p>In a lengthy post, she wrote, “This last couple of years has been such a challenge for me, the journey from discovering my condition to learning how to live with and manage it, but not to let it define me."</p> <p>"As the road to resuming my performing career continues, I have realised how much I have missed it, of being able to see my fans."</p> <p>"During this absence, I decided I wanted to document this part of my life, to try to raise awareness of this little-known condition, to help others who share this diagnosis.” </p> <p>In December 2022, Celine announced that she would be taking some time away from performing  to focus on her health after revealing her stiff person syndrome diagnosis.</p> <p>At the time, she said the condition did not allow her “to sing the way I’m used to”.</p> <p>According to the <a href="https://www.ninds.nih.gov/health-information/clinical-trials/cause-development-and-progression-stiff-person-syndrome#:~:text=Stiff%2Dperson%20syndrome%20(SPS),recurrent%20falls%20and%20impaired%20ambulation." target="_blank" rel="noopener">National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke</a>, stiff person syndrome is “a rare, progressive syndrome that affects the nervous system, specifically the brain and spinal cord.”</p> <p>According to an official synopsis, <em>I Am: Celine Dion</em> will give viewers an intimate look inside her life “as she reveals her battle with stiff person syndrome (SPS) and the lengths she has gone to continue performing for her beloved and loyal fans”.</p> <p>Capturing over a year’s worth of Dion’s life, including “never-before-seen” private moments, the film will showcase the legendary singer navigating “her journey toward living an open and authentic life amidst illness”.</p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images </em></p>

Caring

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The power of positivity: Starting the year with a positive mindset

<p>As we step into the New Year, many of us are hitting the reset button and focusing enthusiastically on achieving our resolutions. By harnessing this welcome surge in positivity, we can begin to direct our attention towards tackling our goals and embracing a shift in mindset, even after the glitter on New Year’s has settled. But how can we achieve this? Jacqui Manning, the resident psychologist at Connected Women, a female-founded organisation dedicated to cultivating friendships in women in their midlife, shares her tips on how to foster a more positive mindset, year-round. </p> <p>“Developing a positive mindset is all about being intentional, and it begins with a good routine. Carving out time within your week for activities that fill your cup and encourage a more optimistic outlook is key to embracing age with positivity,” Jacqui says. </p> <p>“Set realistic expectations – if you have a New Year’s resolution to make more time for yourself, pencilling time in the diary for self-care is going to be essential. Or, if your goal is to build new connections this year, be sure to set time aside at least once a week for networking. Whether it’s joining a local tennis club, attending a community event, or simply striking up a conversation at your local café, enriching your social circle can bring new perspectives, enhance feelings of optimism, and boost overall well-being,” Jacqui explains. </p> <p><strong>Don’t skimp on self-care!</strong></p> <p>Self-care involves dedicating the time to engage in activities that help to enhance overall well-being. As we age, it becomes increasingly important to develop an adequate self-care routine to support both our mental and physical health.   </p> <p>“Remember that taking time for yourself is essential. Small indulgences such as enjoying a quiet evening at home, book in hand, or heading outside for a leisurely evening stroll can quiet the mind and recharge your emotional batteries.”</p> <p>“As the year progresses, our self-care practices can tend to fall by the wayside. It’s essential to invest in ourselves, which includes prioritising sleep, regular exercise, remaining engaged in hobbies or preferred activities, and maintaining social connections,” Jacqui says. </p> <p>“Dedicating time for yourself helps to create the space necessary to support mental recharge. Goal setting, implementing boundaries to avoid overwhelm, or integrating wellness practices like meditation or mindfulness exercises act as stress-relievers and boost energy levels,” Jacqui explains. </p> <p><strong>Cultivating your crew</strong></p> <p>Research suggests that our social circle holds a meaningful influence over our mood and disposition. Friends have been found to act as a buffer against ageing, positively supporting both our health and overall cognitive function. </p> <p>“The first step to finding friendship is assessing – how supported do you feel within your relationships? Remember, friends exert significant influence over our feelings and behaviours, so finding a tribe that fulfils your emotional needs is essential,” Jacqui explains. </p> <p>“Nurturing successful relationships begins with finding individuals with shared values and interests. Actively engaging in open conversation is a magnet for developing authentic and emotionally fulfilling connections with others.” </p> <p>“Be open-minded – discussing topics like hobbies, future goals, anxieties, and challenges can encourage openness and conceive opportunities to offer support to one another. Openness also lays the foundations for more meaningful friendships to blossom,” Jacqui says. </p> <p>Friendships in adulthood are well worth the investment, and curating your immediate network could be the masterstroke in ageing with positivity (and boosts overall health and cognitive function to boot!). </p> <p>If forming new bonds heads up your list of New Year's resolutions, then joining a vibrant community group like Connected Women could be the ideal place to start. </p> <p><strong>Practice positive self-talk</strong></p> <p>Take a few minutes each day to reflect on the aspects of life that you’re grateful for – whether that be your health, family, friendships, or a stellar career. By focusing on the positive, it encourages a mental shift away from the negative and toward a more optimistic outlook on life (and age for that matter!). </p> <p>“Practicing techniques such as meditation, gentle movement, and journaling regularly can help to cultivate a more relaxed mind, boost serotonin levels in the brain, and decrease feelings of anxiety or depression,” Jacqui says. </p> <p>Jacqui suggests another technique for fostering a mental shift is to incorporate regular gratitude practices.</p> <p>“Reflecting on and recording the things you’re thankful for can be a valuable outlet. Expressing gratitude regularly serves as a reminder of the positive aspects in your current life and can be a useful tool on low days,” Jacqui says. </p> <p>By incorporating these tips, not only will you be working to foster a more optimistic mindset year-round, but you’ll also be laying the groundwork to build and nurture more meaningful relationships with others. </p> <p><em><strong>For more information visit <a href="https://www.connectedwomen.net" target="_blank" rel="noopener">connectedwomen.net</a> </strong></em></p> <p><em><strong>About Connected Women </strong></em></p> <p><em><strong>Jacqui Manning is the resident psychologist at Connected Women, bringing with her over two decades of experience. Founded in 2022, Connected Women facilitates friendships for women over 50 through a range of online and in-person events. With the rising epidemic of loneliness impacting Australians now more than ever - Connected Women aims to provide a community in which women can feel free to be themselves, connect with like-minded women and build life-long friendships. Launched in Perth, Western Australia, Connected Women now also operates in NSW and Victoria, with plans to grow its network to QLD, ACT and SA in the coming year. With a small monthly membership fee, women can join Connected Women events, share and connect over areas of interest, and connect with women in their local areas to arrange meet ups. Whether members prefer big events with lots of action and adventure, or quiet meet ups and walks around the local neighbourhood, Connected Women is committed to providing a safe and inclusive space for women to find their feet and build new friendships in a space that feels most comfortable to them. </strong></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p>

Mind

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"Each bauble represents a life lost": Haunting Christmas tree sends powerful message

<p>As the holiday season approaches, a haunting symbol of despair has once again taken root at Victoria Police headquarters – carrying with it a message of melancholy that we are unaccustomed to at this normally festive time of year.</p> <p>Instead of joyous ornaments and twinkling lights, a Christmas tree adorned with glistening blue baubles now stands as a remarkably poignant testament to the road death carnage that has befallen the state throughout 2023.</p> <p>These beautiful baubles, each etched with the name and age of those lost on Victoria's roads this year, tell a grim tale of grief and loss. With the toll reaching 274 by December 6, it marks the darkest year for the state since 2008.</p> <p>In a moving video accompanying the dressing of the tree, Road Policing Assistant Commissioner Glenn Weir implored the public to drive cautiously during the Christmas period, desperately hoping to prevent the addition of any more baubles to this sorrowful tree.</p> <p>"This Christmas tree is unlike any other; it's one we don't want to see decorated," Commissioner Weir soberly explained. "Each bauble represents a life lost, a stark reminder of the importance of road safety. Please, drive safely this festive period. Take care, have conversations with your loved ones, and remember the responsibility you bear when behind the wheel."</p> <p>November alone witnessed the loss of 35 lives on Victorian roads, marking it as the worst month this year. In response, the police are intensifying road policing operations throughout December in an attempt to curb further tragedies.</p> <p>In a bid to address the escalating death toll, the Transport Accident Commission (TAC) has launched the initiative "Stop kidding yourself. If you drink, don't drive," running from December 4 to the end of January.</p> <p>Shockingly, it has also been revealed that one in five individuals killed on Victorian roads had a blood alcohol concentration of .05 or higher.</p> <p>TAC CEO Tracey Slatter also called on the urgent need for a cultural shift, challenging the notion that driving after consuming any amount of alcohol should be deemed "normal".</p> <p>"Many people think they can manage their blood-alcohol level with vague rules handed down through generations," she said. "But the only way to avoid the risk entirely is to completely separate drinking and driving."</p> <p>As the Christmas tree of remembrance continues to grow with each passing day, it stands as a poignant symbol of the lives lost on Victoria's roads, imploring society to reflect, change and prioritise the safety of every journey.</p> <p><em>Images: Victoria Police</em></p>

Travel Trouble

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Brittany Higgins' powerful message of solidarity to Bruce Lehrmann's alleged victim

<p>Brittany Higgins has shared a powerful statement of solidarity to Bruce Lehrmann's alleged victim. </p> <p>Former Liberal staffer Bruce Lehrmann has been charged with two counts of rape, relating to an incident alleged to have occurred in Queensland in October 2021.</p> <p>Lehrmann was only <a href="https://oversixty.com.au/finance/legal/bruce-lehrmann-revealed-as-high-profile-figure-accused-of-rape-in-queensland" target="_blank" rel="noopener">recently named</a> as the "high-profile figure" accused of the crime, after a judge made the decision to reject his suppression order, which kept his name out of the press and not related to the incident. </p> <p>Once Lehrmann was named as the defendant in the sexual assault case, Brittany Higgins was quick to share a passionate message to his alleged victim. </p> <p>Taking to Instagram stories, Brittany wrote, "When I first found out about the alleged sexual assault my heart broke for you." </p> <p>"To know that this has allegedly taken place while he was out on bail in 2021 is devastating."</p> <p>"I note the fact you've decided to come forward despite seeing the horrific championing of this individual in the media all year."</p> <p>"I am so, so sorry this allegedly happened to you". </p> <p>After Brittany's post garnered widespread attention, Lehrmann was quick to point out a crucial mistake in her statement. </p> <p>Mr Lehrmann was not on any kind of bail in the lead-up to his aborted trial in October 2022, as he was only on bail after the mistrial in relation to the Queensland matter.</p> <p>Lehrmann told <a href="https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-12684925/Brittany-Higgins-message-Bruce-Lehrmann-Toowoomba.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><em>Daily Mail Australia</em></a>, "I'd just note if Ms Higgins is going to try and kibosh the human right of a fair trial again and also further defame me, at least get your facts right before you post."</p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p>

Legal

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The transformative power of effective communication

<p>Effective communication can be hard and it’s not something that can come easily to us. Yet it's an important tool to invest in as it can have a profound impact on relationship healing, self-discovery and navigating life’s challenges. While the significance of good communication resonates at any stage in life, its value becomes even more pronounced as we age, emerging as an increasingly invaluable tool for fostering understanding, connection, and resilience in both our romantic, and platonic relationships.</p> <p>Jacqui Manning is a Resident Psychologist at Connected Women, an organisation that facilitates friendships for women over 50 through a range of online and in-person events. Here, Jacqui shares how effective communication can elevate and enrich your life across various scenarios and shares her top tips on how to become a more effective communicator. </p> <p>“It’s crucial for us at any stage in life to pause, reflect and make an investment in refining our communication skills, as it’s important to recognise the pivotal role it plays in personal growth and meaningful connections,” explains Jacqui. “While we navigate the complexities of life, effective communication becomes crucial for elevating every interaction, good or bad. Now is the opportune moment to seize the power that effective communication can have and implement it into a multitude of scenarios and day-to-day interactions.” </p> <p><strong>Fixing Broken Friendships</strong></p> <p>Let's talk about something many of us have experienced – the breakdown of a friendship. It’s a universal encounter that resonates with many. Whether you take divergent paths, differ in your evolving priorities or due to unforeseen conflicts, the unravelling of a friendship can be a poignant and challenging chapter in women’s lives. Yet, it is precisely within these moments of fracture that the potential for growth, resilience and renewal emerges.</p> <p>“Effective communication serves as the mender of the fractures within a broken relationship. When nurtured with openness, honesty and empathy, communication allows individuals to express their feelings, share perspectives and understand each other’s needs,” explains Jacqui.</p> <p>“This positive communication fosters a sense of mutual respect, enabling individuals to rebuild trust and create a foundation for a healthier, more resilient friendship. It’s the key to unlocking understanding, finding common ground, and revitalising the emotional bonds that may have been strained. In essence, the power of effective communication lies in its ability to reconcile differences and pave the way for a renewed and strengthened connection.”</p> <p><strong>Navigating Life's Challenges</strong></p> <p>Effective communication isn't just a solution for broken friendships; it's also a compass for when life gets tough. </p> <p>According to Jacqui, when facing obstacles, the act of vocalising your concerns or feelings to a friend or partner can be a transformative experience. “Verbalising your thoughts and feelings not only clarifies your own understanding but also allows those close to you to provide valuable perspective and insights. Sharing your problems takes the weight off your shoulders and offers a sense of relief.” </p> <p>Jacqui continues “In the act of confiding, you not only release the emotional burden but also open the door to shared solutions and a mutual journey towards growth and resilience. It transforms a solitary struggle into a collaborative effort, strengthening the bonds that tie individuals together. Effective communication therefore becomes a powerful tool for not only navigating life’s trails but also for fostering resilience, deepening connections, and finding solace.”</p> <p><strong>Embracing Your True Self</strong></p> <p>In the middle stage of life, many women grapple with questions about who they really are and what they want. </p> <p>Jacqui suggests that effective communication can serve as a powerful tool for self-discovery and acceptance, paving the way to embracing one’s true self. She explains, “When we articulate our thoughts, feelings and aspirations, whether through self-reflection or sharing with others, it brings our authentic identity to the forefront. </p> <p>“In conversations where we openly communicate our values and beliefs, we not only strengthen our understanding of who we are but also create spaces for acceptance and validation. In this process, we find liberation and empowerment and connectedness, as our true self is celebrated and allowed to flourish,” she said.</p> <p>So, how can you become a more effective communicator? Jacqui recommends the following five tips:</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><em>Empower with Language</em></span>: Be mindful of your words, choosing language that uplifts and encourages rather than criticises or blames. Language is a powerful tool; use it to empower those around you.</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><em>Clear Expression</em></span>: Clearly articulate your feelings and emotions, avoiding assumptions and accusations. Use “I” statements to express your perspective without placing blame, fostering open communication.</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><em>Empathy</em></span>: Try to understand how others feel by putting yourself in their shoes and allowing space for others to express themselves fully, resisting the urge to rush to conclusions or judgment or tell a story to explain.</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><em>Vulnerability</em></span>: Embrace vulnerability as a source of strength. Don’t be afraid to share your authentic self, including fears, concerns, and challenges, to build trust and strengthen connections with others.</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><em>Solution Focussed Dialogue</em></span>: Approach conversations with a focus on finding solutions rather than dwelling on problems. This forward-thinking mindset contributes to a more positive and constructive discourse.</p> <p>Effective communication isn't a one-size-fits-all solution. It's a journey of self-discovery and connection. It has the potential to mend bonds, guide you through life's challenges, and empower you to be your true self. We need to remember to take a step back, re-evaluate our communication and identify areas for improvement. </p> <p><em><strong>For more information visit <a href="https://www.connectedwomen.net" target="_blank" rel="noopener">connectedwomen.net </a></strong></em></p> <p><em><strong>About Connected Women </strong></em></p> <p><em>Jacqui Manning is the resident psychologist at Connected Women, bringing with her over two decades of experience. Founded in 2022, Connected Women facilitates friendships for women over 50 through a range of online and in-person events. With the rising epidemic of loneliness impacting Australians now more than ever - Connected Women aims to provide a community in which women can feel free to be themselves, connect with like-minded women and build life-long friendships. </em></p> <p><em>Launched in Perth, Western Australia, Connected Women now also operates in NSW and Victoria, with plans to grow its network to QLD, ACT and SA in the coming year. With a small monthly membership fee, women can join Connected Women events, share and connect over areas of interest, and connect with women in their local areas to arrange meet ups. Whether members prefer big events with lots of action and adventure, or quiet meet ups and walks around the local neighbourhood, Connected Women is committed to providing a safe and inclusive space for women to find their feet and build new friendships in a space that feels most comfortable to them. </em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p>

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"Google it ya lazy mongrels”: Hollywood star's powerful post on Voice Referendum

<p>Hollywood superstar Jason Momoa has divided his 17 million followers after endorsing the Yes campaign for the upcoming Voice referendum. </p> <p>The <em>Aquaman</em> actor, 44, who is of Indigenous Polynesian descent, took to Instagram to repost a  viral ‘Yes vote’ video that was released on Thursday, and features Indigenous musician and writer Adam Briggs and comedians Jenna Owen and Vic Zerbst. </p> <p>"The post read: “#yes23 is a referendum taking place in Australia on October 14. The aim is to give Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people a Voice in parliament so they can weigh in on issues that affect their lives.</p> <p>“Simple as that. How do I know this? I googled it. But many Australians are confused or freaked out about what it means. </p> <p>"Don’t be! It’s a good thing! Just do good things! Also Google it ya lazy mongrels.”</p> <p>He also added  “VOTE YES to THE VOICE on OCT 14.”</p> <blockquote class="instagram-media" style="background: #FFF; border: 0; border-radius: 3px; box-shadow: 0 0 1px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.5),0 1px 10px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.15); margin: 1px; max-width: 540px; min-width: 326px; padding: 0; width: calc(100% - 2px);" data-instgrm-captioned="" data-instgrm-permalink="https://www.instagram.com/reel/Cx9zZMDOkZg/?utm_source=ig_embed&amp;utm_campaign=loading" data-instgrm-version="14"> <div style="padding: 16px;"> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: row; align-items: center;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 50%; flex-grow: 0; height: 40px; margin-right: 14px; width: 40px;"> </div> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: column; flex-grow: 1; justify-content: center;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; margin-bottom: 6px; width: 100px;"> </div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; width: 60px;"> </div> </div> </div> <div style="padding: 19% 0;"> </div> <div style="display: block; height: 50px; margin: 0 auto 12px; width: 50px;"> </div> <div style="padding-top: 8px;"> <div style="color: #3897f0; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-style: normal; font-weight: 550; line-height: 18px;">View this post on Instagram</div> </div> <div style="padding: 12.5% 0;"> </div> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: row; margin-bottom: 14px; align-items: center;"> <div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 50%; height: 12.5px; width: 12.5px; transform: translateX(0px) translateY(7px);"> </div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; height: 12.5px; transform: rotate(-45deg) translateX(3px) translateY(1px); width: 12.5px; flex-grow: 0; margin-right: 14px; margin-left: 2px;"> </div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 50%; height: 12.5px; width: 12.5px; transform: translateX(9px) translateY(-18px);"> </div> </div> <div style="margin-left: 8px;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 50%; flex-grow: 0; height: 20px; width: 20px;"> </div> <div style="width: 0; height: 0; border-top: 2px solid transparent; border-left: 6px solid #f4f4f4; border-bottom: 2px solid transparent; transform: translateX(16px) translateY(-4px) rotate(30deg);"> </div> </div> <div style="margin-left: auto;"> <div style="width: 0px; border-top: 8px solid #F4F4F4; border-right: 8px solid transparent; transform: translateY(16px);"> </div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; flex-grow: 0; height: 12px; width: 16px; transform: translateY(-4px);"> </div> <div style="width: 0; height: 0; border-top: 8px solid #F4F4F4; border-left: 8px solid transparent; transform: translateY(-4px) translateX(8px);"> </div> </div> </div> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: column; flex-grow: 1; justify-content: center; margin-bottom: 24px;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; margin-bottom: 6px; width: 224px;"> </div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; width: 144px;"> </div> </div> <p style="color: #c9c8cd; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 17px; margin-bottom: 0; margin-top: 8px; overflow: hidden; padding: 8px 0 7px; text-align: center; text-overflow: ellipsis; white-space: nowrap;"><a style="color: #c9c8cd; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-style: normal; font-weight: normal; line-height: 17px; text-decoration: none;" href="https://www.instagram.com/reel/Cx9zZMDOkZg/?utm_source=ig_embed&amp;utm_campaign=loading" target="_blank" rel="noopener">A post shared by Jason Momoa (@prideofgypsies)</a></p> </div> </blockquote> <p>Momoa's stance divided his followers, with some claiming that he had no right to weigh in on Australian politics, despite his indigenous heritage.</p> <p>“Stay out of Australian politics mate, do your thing in America and that, but putting your 5 cents in terms on the Yes or No vote is not with you,” wrote angry follower. </p> <p>“Celebrity puppets sharing government propaganda campaigns. The world continues to get weirder,” another added. </p> <p>However, many praised the star for using his platform and lending his voice to the Yes campaign. </p> <p>“Thanks for sharing this. It is a big deal here and causing a lot of controversy and misinformation,” one fan commented. </p> <p>“Thank you and Taika for the solidarity. The lead up to the referendum has been really rough on our communities and it’s actually really nice to get some encouragement from our Indigenous brothers from across the seas,” another added. </p> <p>“I can’t even begin to thank you for sharing this. I will not read any more of the comments,” a third commented. </p> <p>“Thank you for adding your voice to the thousands across Australia who will be voting yes. Every voice counts,” added a fourth. </p> <p>The video itself is a three-minute skit-style clip where Briggs talks to two ignorant women - who had casual biases echoing the No campaign - about the upcoming Voice referendum.</p> <p>He kindly calls them out for their lack of information, with their excuse being that they haven't “had heaps of time” because of "life".</p> <p>“Have you got your phone? Let’s see what you do have time for,” Briggs asks in the clip and as he opens up their search history, and jokingly says: “‘Did Aaron leave Love Island 13 because he had gonorrhoea?’ Big questions." </p> <p>He then googles the proposal and finds a basic explainer in seconds. </p> <p>“The Voice referendum means we are voting to have a body called the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice who may make representations to parliament on matters relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.</p> <p>"The Voice will give independent advice to parliament and will be chosen by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people based on the wishes of communities. That advice then goes to parliament who continues to hold the ultimate power for legislative change," they said. </p> <p>“OK, well, that is quite clear, I’d just vote yes to that?” the woman adds. “How did you find that? You went on Google, and it’s, the first result? OK, well you need to tell people about that Google thing.”</p> <p>The clip ends with a message that says: "Vote Yes to that referendum thing."</p> <p><em>Images: Instagram/ Getty: </em><em>Mike Marsland/WireImage </em></p>

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“If you’re reading this, I have died”: Breast cancer advocate’s powerful last words

<p dir="ltr">Breast cancer advocate Nicky Newman has passed away at the age of 35, leaving a posthumous message to her dedicated followers. </p> <p dir="ltr">The influencer has been documenting her journey battling stage 4 breast cancer with her 300,000 followers on Instagram, sharing the ups and downs of her disease. </p> <p dir="ltr">The British woman’s death was confirmed by her husband Alex, who posted Nicky’s final message to those who supported her through her cancer journey.</p> <p dir="ltr">"If you're reading this it means I have died, I made it 5 & half years though, not bad for a stage 4 breastie hey," the post began.</p> <p dir="ltr">"And none of this 'she fought her battle nonsense', I didn't lose anything, the cancer eventually took over & that's okay, we all knew this would happen."</p> <p dir="ltr">The inspiring woman recalled being told she had breast cancer and how she chose to embrace life during the time she had left.</p> <p dir="ltr">"I don't think we are ever prepared to hear the words, we think we are indestructible & a magic cure will appear, but the truth is we all live this life day to day (we just knew our days are shorter)," she continued.</p> <blockquote class="instagram-media" style="background: #FFF; border: 0; border-radius: 3px; box-shadow: 0 0 1px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.5),0 1px 10px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.15); margin: 1px; max-width: 540px; min-width: 326px; padding: 0; width: calc(100% - 2px);" data-instgrm-permalink="https://www.instagram.com/p/CxVtBF7Itxy/?utm_source=ig_embed&utm_campaign=loading" data-instgrm-version="14"> <div style="padding: 16px;"> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: row; align-items: center;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 50%; flex-grow: 0; height: 40px; margin-right: 14px; width: 40px;"> </div> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: column; flex-grow: 1; justify-content: center;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; margin-bottom: 6px; width: 100px;"> </div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; width: 60px;"> </div> </div> </div> <div style="padding: 19% 0;"> </div> <div style="display: block; height: 50px; margin: 0 auto 12px; width: 50px;"> </div> <div style="padding-top: 8px;"> <div style="color: #3897f0; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-style: normal; font-weight: 550; line-height: 18px;">View this post on Instagram</div> </div> <div style="padding: 12.5% 0;"> </div> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: row; margin-bottom: 14px; align-items: center;"> <div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 50%; height: 12.5px; width: 12.5px; transform: translateX(0px) translateY(7px);"> </div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; height: 12.5px; transform: rotate(-45deg) translateX(3px) translateY(1px); width: 12.5px; flex-grow: 0; margin-right: 14px; margin-left: 2px;"> </div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 50%; height: 12.5px; width: 12.5px; transform: translateX(9px) translateY(-18px);"> </div> </div> <div style="margin-left: 8px;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 50%; flex-grow: 0; height: 20px; width: 20px;"> </div> <div style="width: 0; height: 0; border-top: 2px solid transparent; border-left: 6px solid #f4f4f4; border-bottom: 2px solid transparent; transform: translateX(16px) translateY(-4px) rotate(30deg);"> </div> </div> <div style="margin-left: auto;"> <div style="width: 0px; border-top: 8px solid #F4F4F4; border-right: 8px solid transparent; transform: translateY(16px);"> </div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; flex-grow: 0; height: 12px; width: 16px; transform: translateY(-4px);"> </div> <div style="width: 0; height: 0; border-top: 8px solid #F4F4F4; border-left: 8px solid transparent; transform: translateY(-4px) translateX(8px);"> </div> </div> </div> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: column; flex-grow: 1; justify-content: center; margin-bottom: 24px;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; margin-bottom: 6px; width: 224px;"> </div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; width: 144px;"> </div> </div> <p style="color: #c9c8cd; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 17px; margin-bottom: 0; margin-top: 8px; overflow: hidden; padding: 8px 0 7px; text-align: center; text-overflow: ellipsis; white-space: nowrap;"><a style="color: #c9c8cd; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-style: normal; font-weight: normal; line-height: 17px; text-decoration: none;" href="https://www.instagram.com/p/CxVtBF7Itxy/?utm_source=ig_embed&utm_campaign=loading" target="_blank" rel="noopener">A post shared by Nicky & Mr G - Go Grab Life! (@nicknacklou)</a></p> </div> </blockquote> <p dir="ltr">"So please promise me to cherish those around you and give your friends and loved ones the biggest squeezes! GO GRAB LIFE!</p> <p dir="ltr">"You never truly know what is coming around the corner - so don't take anything for granted."</p> <p dir="ltr">In the hours after Nicky’s last post, Alex shared some thoughts of his own to her Instagram account, explaining why he thought Nicky’s story resonated with so many. </p> <p dir="ltr">He recalled a conversation he had with this wife, saying, "People instantly love and are drawn to you because ever since diagnosis, at the worst time of our lives, we chose not to mourn the time we are losing but rather to celebrate and cherish the time that we have left - however long that may be."</p> <p dir="ltr">"She has created a legacy here, a place where anyone can see that life is for positivity and smiles and happiness. Even through hardship…even if it seems impossible."</p> <p dir="ltr">Both Alex and Nicky’s posts racked up hundreds of thousands of likes, with people flocking to the comments to share how Nicky’s strength had had an impact on their lives. </p> <p dir="ltr">One person wrote, “Life is so unexplainably cruel at times…and even when it was for you, you still came on here and raised awareness for all of us, and our future generations - of the importance of things that without you educating us, we wouldn’t know without having to go and research ourselves.”</p> <p dir="ltr">“Thankyou for putting us first, and for making me see how precious life is, & how important it is to grab it.”</p> <p dir="ltr"><em>Image credits: Instagram</em></p>

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It was written for nuclear disarmament – but today You’re The Voice is the perfect song for the ‘yes’ campaign

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/peter-tregear-825">Peter Tregear</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/the-university-of-melbourne-722">The University of Melbourne</a></em></p> <p>The serendipity of the pairing between John Farnham’s 1986 hit single You’re the Voice and the Voice to Parliament referendum is obvious, but it goes well beyond the fact the two share the key word “voice”.</p> <p>The original was composed by a team of British songwriters in response to an anti-nuclear demonstration in London’s Hyde Park in 1985. Chris Thompson, Andy Qunta and Maggie Ryder had planned a song-writing session on the day an <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/1985/10/27/world/100000-in-london-protest-arms-race.html">estimated 100,000 marched through central London</a> in support the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.</p> <p>Thompson, however, overslept. As an act of self-admonishment he decided to express his remorse by conceiving a song that emphasised the importance of personal agency in achieving political change.</p> <p>This is the kernel of meaning in You’re the Voice. It is also what makes it so especially well suited to support a campaign about a referendum to give Indigenous Australians a constitutionally recognised Voice to Parliament nearly 40 years later.</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">OUR NEW AD IS LIVE!</p> <p>You’re the Voice that will make history.</p> <p>On 14 October, we know we all can stand together with the power to be powerful.<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/HistoryIsCalling?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#HistoryIsCalling</a>, so <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/VoteYes?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#VoteYes</a>. Are you in? John Farnham is.<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/UluruStatement?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#UluruStatement</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/StayTrue2Uluru?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#StayTrue2Uluru</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/YoureTheVoice?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#YoureTheVoice</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/VoteYes?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#VoteYes</a> <a href="https://t.co/4ujYd9gk0M">pic.twitter.com/4ujYd9gk0M</a></p> <p>— ulurustatement (@ulurustatement) <a href="https://twitter.com/ulurustatement/status/1698260272165875951?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">September 3, 2023</a></p></blockquote> <h2>The grain of Farnham’s voice</h2> <p>Thompson was not at all convinced at the time Farnham <a href="https://www.news.com.au/entertainment/music/why-john-farnham-was-nearly-rockblocked-from-youre-the-voice/news-story/9e048f2d4550a8b4c1a28e2eba4909f6">could do the song justice</a> when he requested it for inclusion in his album Whispering Jack.</p> <p>And yet the particular qualities of Farnham’s singing is also arguably crucial to the song’s success, then and now.</p> <p>The music’s combination of <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sentimental_ballad#Power_ballads">power ballad</a> tempo with <a href="https://music.amazon.com.au/playlists/B078H6J6BF">pub anthem</a> singability calls for a kind of full-throated vocal performance that takes more than a little inspiration from African American gospel traditions.</p> <p>Singers drawn from these traditions include giants of popular musical culture like James Brown, Tina Turner and Aretha Franklin. It is not exaggerated praise to suggest Farnham here delivers a performance that stands with their best.</p> <p>And it was career changing for him, helping Farnham to put to rest his earlier image as a clean-cut purveyor of sentimental pop songs like <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r0c55lXRAeg">Sadie the Cleaning Lady</a> and relaunch his career.</p> <p>Farnham’s singing here exemplifies what Roland Barthes famously described in <a href="https://courses.lsa.umich.edu/jptw/wp-content/uploads/sites/23/2017/08/Barthes-ImageMusicText.pdf">an essay from 1972</a> as the “grain of the voice”: the element of a singer’s individuality which helps convey the sincerity and authenticity of what is being sung.</p> <p>You’re the Voice further highlights the grain of Farnham’s singing via the exclamation “oh, whoa!” regularly punctuating the song’s chorus. In a powerful moment of sonic symbolism, the exclamation is eventually taken up in the advertisement (like the sentiment of the song itself, it is no doubt hoped) by a chorus of supporters.</p> <h2><em>You</em> are the voice</h2> <p>Indeed, if it is to succeed, the referendum will need to convince an especially broad coalition of Australians to vote for “yes”.</p> <p>The song supports this goal from its very title: <em>you</em> are the voice. It asks each of us, individually, to consider how we can act for the common good.</p> <blockquote> <p>We have the chance to turn the pages over <br />We can write what we want to write <br />We gotta make ends meet, before we get much older.</p> </blockquote> <p>The song’s explicit call to action has now been connected to the forthcoming referendum: now is the moment to use your voice at the ballot box to give, in turn, a constitutionally enshrined voice to indigenous Australians.</p> <p>The “yes” campaign’s appeal to collective responsibility is one aspect of the referendum process that <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2023/aug/16/lidia-thorpe-calls-for-referendum-called-off-indigenous-voice-to-parliament-no-campaign">concerns some Indigenous critics</a>. The very enterprise of constitutional reform, after all, presumes the legitimacy of the Australian constitution which in turn presumes the legitimacy of the original act of colonial dispossession.</p> <p>But the bigger threat to the “yes” campaign arguably comes from those who see the idea of an <a href="https://ipa.org.au/ipa-today/the-indigenous-voice-to-parliament-has-the-potential-to-be-divisive">Indigenous voice to parliament itself as divisive</a>.</p> <p>Yet, as the song goes:</p> <blockquote> <p>This time, we know we all can stand together <br />With the power to be powerful <br />Believing we can make it better.</p> </blockquote> <p>The use of You’re the Voice here reinforces the view that supporting the Voice to Parliament is a positive act of national reconciliation that we, as a nation, can take together.</p> <p>It is an injunction to take personal and collective responsibility for the history and character of the country we all share.</p> <h2>Politically inclusive</h2> <p>The advertisement is the work of Mark Green of <a href="https://themonkeys.com.au/">The Monkeys advertising agency</a> and historian <a href="https://www.clarewright.com.au/">Clare Wright</a>.</p> <p>It focuses on a family as they watch key moments which shaped Australia’s collective identity. It looks at key moments of reconciliation, Indigenous achievement and Indigenous protest; but also broader moments in collective action.</p> <p>In a particularly astute move, the advertisement overlays images of <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2019/jan/01/john-howard-port-arthur-gun-control-1996-cabinet-papers">John Howard’s 1996 gun reforms</a> in the wake of the Port Arthur massacre as Farnham delivers the lines:</p> <blockquote> <p>We’re all someone’s daughter<br />We’re all someone’s son<br />How long can we look at each other<br />Down the barrel of a gun?</p> </blockquote> <p>Implicit in this conjunction is a reminder to us that support for the “yes” vote, like any nation-changing political act, can come from any side of politics.</p> <h2>Democratising the message</h2> <p>There are many more layers we could tease apart in You’re The Voice. Its extended bagpipes solo originated as an homage to AC/DC singer Bon Scott, connecting it to the egalitarian, <a href="https://www.popmatters.com/141796-let-there-be-rock-2496022409.html">working class culture</a> Scott’s music addresses.</p> <p>Then there is the way the bagpipes, combined with the song’s use of side-drum rhythmic patterns, evoke the sound world of a military tattoo or march. This simultaneously elevates the register of its message. The song – and now the ad – is an implicit call to arms.</p> <p>The inclusion of You’re the Voice in the “yes” campaign thus provides powerful support for its central message.</p> <p>Farnham himself recognises this. Upon release of the advertisement, Farnham <a href="https://www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/john-farnham-backs-voice-permits-his-anthem-to-front-yes-campaign-ad-20230901-p5e18t.html">spoke about</a> how, when it was first released in 1986, the song “changed his life”.</p> <p>Generously, he concluded: "I can only hope that now it might help in some small way, to change the lives of our First Nations Peoples for the better."</p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/peter-tregear-825">Peter Tregear</a>, Principal Fellow and Professor of Music, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/the-university-of-melbourne-722">The University of Melbourne</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images </em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/it-was-written-for-nuclear-disarmament-but-today-youre-the-voice-is-the-perfect-song-for-the-yes-campaign-212769">original article</a>.</em></p>

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What is ‘reverse racism’ – and what’s wrong with the term?

<p><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/mario-peucker-192086">Mario Peucker</a>, <em><a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/victoria-university-1175">Victoria University</a></em></p> <p>“Reverse racism” is sometimes used to describe situations where white people believe they are negatively stereotyped or discriminated against because of their whiteness – or treated less favourably than people of colour.</p> <p>“Reverse racism” claims have surfaced in the current debate around the <a href="https://theconversation.com/10-questions-about-the-voice-to-parliament-answered-by-the-experts-207014">Voice to Parliament</a> referendum. “The concept looks racist to me,” <a href="https://www.skynews.com.au/opinion/building-a-voice-to-parliament-into-our-constitution-would-divide-us-along-racial-lines-and-do-nothing-to-change-the-past/news-story/794a86f16d664e6a4ebfbed589b27a01">wrote Sky News commentator Kel Richards</a> last August.</p> <p>Such views misrepresent the Voice as preferential treatment of First Nations peoples, falsely suggesting it would somehow weaken the political say of non-Indigenous Australians.</p> <p>Complaints of reverse racism can be found in the community more generally, too. “I think average, working-class, white Australian males have it the hardest out of anyone in society,” said one 23-year-old man in a <a href="https://www.mdpi.com/2673-995X/3/1/19">2023 study</a> of Australian men, “we are the victims of reverse racism”.</p> <p>“Reverse racism” is an idea that focuses on prejudiced attitudes towards a certain (racialised) group, or unequal personal treatment – namely, discrimination. But it ignores one of racism’s central markers: power.</p> <p>“Prejudice plus (institutional) power” is the widely accepted basic definition of racism. Or, as <a href="https://psycnet.apa.org/record/1998-07453-002">two researchers defined it</a> in 1988: “Racism equals power plus prejudice.”</p> <p>In a <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/stage/2014/jun/04/aamer-rahman-reverse-racism-comedy-tour">famous 2013 sketch</a>, comedian Ahmer Rahman said, yes, reverse racism is possible … if you go back in a time machine and convince the leaders of Africa, Asia and the Middle East to invade and dominate Europe hundreds of years ago, leading to systemic inequality across every facet of social and economic life, “so all their descendants would want to migrate [to] where black and brown people come from”.</p> <p>Put simply, the concept of “reverse racism” – or “anti-white racism” – just doesn’t work, because racism is more than just prejudice.</p> <figure><iframe src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/dw_mRaIHb-M?wmode=transparent&amp;start=0" width="440" height="260" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen"></iframe><figcaption><span class="caption">Comedian Ahmer Rahman unpacks ‘reverse racism’, and why making it real would need a time machine.</span></figcaption></figure> <h2>Why ‘reverse racism’ is a myth</h2> <p>Prejudice and discrimination are inherently tied to historically rooted and entrenched, institutionalised forms of systemic racism and racial hierarchies, injustices and power imbalance.</p> <p>The continuing lack of diverse representation in <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2022/jul/25/the-47th-parliament-is-the-most-diverse-ever-but-still-doesnt-reflect-australia">political</a>, social and economic positions of influence is just one of many indicators that we’re still a long way from living in a post-racial society.</p> <p>White people may be called a derogatory name with a reference to their whiteness. They may be discriminated against: for example, by an ethnic business owner who prefers to employ someone from their community background.</p> <p>This may sometimes be unlawful. At other times, it may be a lawful form of “positive action” or “affirmative action”, aimed at reducing historically entrenched, intergenerational and systemic inequalities.</p> <p>But in all these instances – and regardless of whether it’s lawful or not – the term racism, or “reverse racism”, would not apply.</p> <h2>How common are reverse racism claims?</h2> <p>A representative US survey, conducted by PEW in <a href="https://www.pewresearch.org/social-trends/2019/04/09/race-in-america-2019/">2019</a>, found that around 12% of respondents believed “being white hurts people’s ability to get ahead in the country nowadays”. Among white Republicans, the proportion was 22%. It was only 3% among white Democrats.</p> <p>A more recent US survey, in <a href="https://theconversation.com/poll-reveals-white-americans-see-an-increase-in-discrimination-against-other-white-people-and-less-against-other-racial-groups-185278">2022</a>, concluded that 30% of white respondents saw “a lot more discrimination against white Americans”.</p> <p>Representative data on these issues is lacking in Australia. But there is evidence a significant minority of Australians seem convinced anti-white racism is a thing.</p> <p>A 2018 <a href="https://opus.lib.uts.edu.au/bitstream/10453/128799/4/Reverse%20racism%20and%20white%20victimhood%20in%20Australia%20JIS%20March%202018%20clean.pdf">Australian survey</a> found that around 10% of respondents who stated they had witnessed racism as bystanders said the victim of the allegedly “racist” incident was a white person.</p> <p>Another recent (non-representative) <a href="https://periscopekasaustralia.com.au/papers/volume-10-2-2023/demarcating-australias-far-right-political-fringe-but-social-mainstream/">survey</a> of 335 Australian men in 2021 showed that one in three respondents agreed with the statement: “white people are the victims these days”.</p> <p>Australian senator <a href="https://theconversation.com/pauline-hanson-built-a-political-career-on-white-victimhood-and-brought-far-right-rhetoric-to-the-mainstream-134661">Pauline Hanson</a> has been complaining about “reverse racism” since her maiden speech to parliament in 1996, when she described “the privileges Aboriginals enjoy over other Australians”. <a href="https://www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/pauline-hansons-1996-maiden-speech-to-parliament-full-transcript-20160915-grgjv3.html">She said</a>: "We now have a situation where a type of reverse racism is applied to mainstream Australians by those who promote political correctness […]"</p> <p>Gamilaraay man <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/commentisfree/2020/mar/12/its-time-to-put-an-end-to-the-gaslighting-that-occurs-every-day-in-australia">Joshua Waters says</a> most First Nations Australians have heard this kind of sentiment, and statements like: “Uh, I’m not racist. You’re racist for calling me racist. Actually, that’s reverse racism!”</p> <p>But as he has argued, “To be called racist for identifying actual racist behaviours and rhetoric is not OK.”</p> <h2>Backlash against racial justice</h2> <p>“Reverse racism” sometimes reflects a naïve but profound lack of racial literacy. But more often, it’s a defensive backlash against societal reckoning with racial injustices, both past and present.</p> <p>And it’s often an expression of “<a href="https://libjournal.uncg.edu/ijcp/article/viewFile/249/116">white fragility</a>” in the face of an <a href="https://scanloninstitute.org.au/mapping-social-cohesion-2022">increasing awareness</a> of racism in Australia – as epitomised by Hanson’s political career.</p> <p>“Reverse racism” claims are often strategically adopted by right-wing populist political actors and far-right fringe movements, to garner support and recruit new sympathisers and members. This can manifest in political stunts such as the infamous “<a href="https://edition.cnn.com/2018/10/15/australia/pauline-hanson-white-australia-intl/index.html">ok to be white</a>” motion Hanson put to the Australian Senate in 2018, which claimed to condemn alleged “anti-white racism”.</p> <p>The phrase “it’s OK to be white” had <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-10-17/origins-of-its-ok-to-be-white-slogan-supremacists-united-states/10385716">previously been used</a> by white supremacists in the US.</p> <p>Anti-white racism claims have also been expressed in more explicit, aggressive and extreme ways: as threats of “<a href="https://theconversation.com/how-believers-in-white-genocide-are-spreading-their-hate-filled-message-in-australia-106605">white genocide</a>”, a core neo-Nazi belief.</p> <p>In far-right extremist movements, in Australia and globally, these conspiratorial narratives are commonly used to mobilise – and in some cases, have become crucial drivers for – white supremacy terror attacks, like the 2019 Christchurch mosque shootings in New Zealand, which killed 51 people and injured 49.</p> <p>“Reverse racism” is a skewed, reductionist and ultimately inaccurate understanding of racism.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/208009/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/mario-peucker-192086">Mario Peucker</a>, Associate Professor and Principal Research Fellow, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/victoria-university-1175">Victoria University</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/what-is-reverse-racism-and-whats-wrong-with-the-term-208009">original article</a>.</em></p>

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How one brave mum is shedding light on postnatal depression through the healing power of music

<p dir="ltr"><em><strong>Warning: This article contains sensitive content which some readers may find distressing.</strong></em></p> <p dir="ltr">It’s no secret that having a baby changes your life in every way. From sleepless nights and feeding routines, to nappy changes and seemingly endless crying, starting a family is, put simply, a life-altering experience. </p> <p dir="ltr">And while the early days of having a newborn can bring love and chaos in equal parts, for some, the days, weeks and months after giving birth can welcome a whole new set of challenges.</p> <p dir="ltr">While most parents are privy to the “baby blues” and a rough day here and there, those struggling with postnatal depression can often be overlooked. </p> <p dir="ltr">Postnatal depression is common, with one in five mums, and one in 10 dads, experiencing postnatal depression symptoms after their baby is born.</p> <p dir="ltr">For Lija (pronounced Le-ah), postnatal depression completely changed her life. </p> <p dir="ltr">Lija, a music teacher from the Central Coast of New South Wales, welcomed her first child, a beautiful daughter named Harper, into the world at the end of 2017. </p> <p dir="ltr">When Lija discovered she was going to become a mum, she was overcome with fear. </p> <p dir="ltr">Lija spoke exclusively with <em>OverSixty</em> about her journey with postnatal depression, and how her feelings of anxiety began as soon as she fell pregnant. </p> <p dir="ltr">“There was this lie in my head that I could not give birth… That I would die. You feel like you can’t make a way through it and you’re predicting all these complications. [Lija’s friends’ traumatic birth experience] confirmed all these feelings and i just thought ‘Maybe you die from this’.”</p> <p dir="ltr">As soon as Lija and her husband began to celebrate the news of their growing family, she quickly began to “spiral” into self-doubt and depressive episodes. </p> <p dir="ltr">“When I found out I was pregnant, it was a spiral. I didn’t think I was good enough, I was crying so much… I didn’t feel like I could tell anyone because I was so gripped in fear.”</p> <p dir="ltr">“It took me about seven months to accept that I was having a kid.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Over the course of her pregnancy, Lija’s mental health continued to plummet with her feelings of fear and self-doubt, which led her down an even darker path. </p> <p dir="ltr">“The worst part was I was suicidal. There were moments where I wanted to end my life because I just felt like my time was up.”</p> <p dir="ltr">These feelings of helplessness led Lija to reach out to a counsellor, who helped manage her mental health symptoms for the rest of her pregnancy and introduced her to hypnobirthing.</p> <p dir="ltr">Her sessions with a hypnobirthing specialist gave Lija the boost she needed to be in tune with her body, and get her through to Harper’s birth with a sense of confidence. </p> <p dir="ltr">“If I’ve grown a baby, I can give birth to a baby. It was all just focus.”</p> <p dir="ltr">When Harper was born, Lija remembers healthcare professionals warning her husband that her mental health could decline, but she was never spoken to directly.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Apparently nurses were talking to my husband after the birth saying ‘She’s going to be prone to postnatal depression, you need to watch her’, but no one told me I was going to be so lonely.” </p> <p dir="ltr">“I was so focused on the birth going well that I hadn’t thought about what happens after, and I didn’t know what postnatal depression was.”</p> <p dir="ltr">When Lija and her husband brought baby Harper home, as they encountered perfectly common issues around sleep and breastfeeding, Lija thought she had failed as a first-time mum.</p> <p dir="ltr">“I felt like I failed as a mum because I couldn't give Harper everything she needed. And that started all these terrible thoughts and I just started to mentally spiral down again. But I didn’t know for about six months that I had postnatal depression.”</p> <p dir="ltr">During the first few months of Harper’s life, Lija began to find simple day-to-day tasks very difficult. </p> <p dir="ltr">“My poor husband… I was a psycho. It began when I said no one was allowed to come over because I was constantly in my pyjamas and I felt ashamed that my house wasn’t clean.”  </p> <p dir="ltr">Lija shared that as she began to settle into the reality of being a mum, Harper’s needs always came first. </p> <p dir="ltr">“I was just in such a routine. I needed to have my baby follow a good structure, which meant my mental health took a backseat. So I just kept spiralling and spiralling.”</p> <p dir="ltr">As Lija tried to better herself, she quickly found out that comparing yourself to other new parents is a slippery slope that welcomes thoughts of self-doubt. </p> <p dir="ltr">“I tried to go to a mum’s club and they all seemed so perfect. I feel like they weren’t real. It was like Instagram mums. So to try and look good, I was spending all this money to try and keep up appearances.”</p> <p dir="ltr">As Lija’s mental health continued to suffer, she said it wasn’t until a difficult conversation with her husband that she realised she needed professional help. </p> <p dir="ltr">“I wasn’t being the normal me. There was no joy, there was no laughter, and I felt like I failed as a mother and as a wife. So my husband said ‘I’ve booked you in for a therapy session’, and that was the start of it.”</p> <p dir="ltr">“I wanted to be better for Harper. I wanted to be a good mum for her. So I had to start working on myself.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Now, five years on, Lija is reflecting on her experience with postnatal depression in the best way she knows how: through her music. </p> <p dir="ltr">Lija’s debut single <em>Save Me</em> details her journey of becoming a mum and bettering herself, while painting an honest portrait of the first months of motherhood. </p> <p><iframe title="YouTube video player" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/tmHTlybb-rM" width="560" height="315" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen"></iframe></p> <p dir="ltr">After being a musician for most of her life, Lija’s passion took a backseat when she became a mother. </p> <p dir="ltr">“I started to miss my music, because I've done music my whole life. It was so hard to walk past my studio and see the guitar going to waste. I started to miss the other half of me as a musician.”</p> <p dir="ltr">After working on <em>Save Me</em> for several years, Lija believes it is the right time to put her story out there in order to help and inspire other parents struggling with postnatal depression.</p> <p dir="ltr">“It’s okay to be vulnerable. Be real, because you can help others with your honesty.”</p> <p dir="ltr">“It’s also important to remember that babies aren’t going to remember the best outfits they were in, or if they had the best pram. They're going to remember if they were loved or not.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Lija has long been a champion of music and its healing power, which became a saviour in her darkest times through her postnatal depression journey.</p> <p dir="ltr">“I went back to teaching music three months after having Harper. I worked one day a week and these kids and teenagers that were singing to me were actually healing me with their music and their talent.”</p> <p dir="ltr">“Music is something I have always turned to. It has always spoken to me, and I thought if I write a song about my journey, that could heal me too. I thought ‘It’s time to kick fear in the butt and write about life’.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Musical talent is something that runs in the family, with Harper’s singing talents already at “the next level”.</p> <p dir="ltr">“I swear she came out singing! Her ability to hear pitch is insane. In lockdown, she would be singing scales while I was teaching music classes over Zoom. She is just so joyous, and she is like my healing.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Lija’s debut single <em>Save Me</em> is out on now.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Don't go it alone. Please reach out for help.</strong></p> <p dir="ltr"><strong><em>Lifeline: 13 11 14 or <a href="http://lifeline.org.au/">lifeline.org.au</a></em></strong></p> <p dir="ltr"><strong><em>Beyond Blue: 1300 22 4636 or <a href="http://beyondblue.org.au/">beyondblue.org.au</a></em></strong></p> <p dir="ltr"><strong><em>Headspace: 1800 650 890 or <a href="http://headspace.org.au/">headspace.org.au</a></em></strong></p> <p dir="ltr"><strong><em>PANDA (Perinatal Anxiety &amp; Depression Australia): 1300 726 306 or <a href="https://panda.org.au/">panda.org.au</a></em></strong></p> <p dir="ltr"><em>Image credits: Instagram</em></p>

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“She wasn’t ready to die”: Son speaks after mum on life support dies during power outage

<p dir="ltr">A grieving son is calling for energy companies to do better after his mum, Gloria Shae, 80, who was on life support, died during a power outage in Dubbo.</p> <p dir="ltr">Gloria was found collapsed on the floor after her oxygen machine switched off during an unexpected blackout at around 5am on May 8.</p> <p dir="ltr">The great-grandmother was woken up out of a deep sleep and was later on found trying to reach for her bottled oxygen.</p> <p dir="ltr">Now, her son Brian Shae, has spoken up about the tragic incident and is calling for energy companies to do better.</p> <p dir="ltr">"She wasn't ready to die," Brian said.</p> <p dir="ltr">"She was full of life and energy, she had planned what she was doing the next day.</p> <p dir="ltr">He said that his mother was a registered life support customer with Origin Energy and Essential Energy.</p> <p dir="ltr">Neither Brian, who lives in the same property, nor Gloria were notified about the outage by their energy providers.</p> <p dir="ltr">"If there was some sort of automated system that sent out a text message, I could have been there in 30 seconds, in under a minute,” the grieving son said.</p> <p dir="ltr">"We could have assisted her, we could have got her oxygen bottles to her.</p> <p dir="ltr">"She does have oxygen bottles in the home but at night you rely on the oxygen generator."</p> <p dir="ltr">Although emergency services arrived about 15 minutes after Gloria was found, and they managed to restart her heart, Brian said that by then she was already brain dead.</p> <p dir="ltr">Gloria’s oxygen machine was rented and didn't come fitted with a back-up battery.</p> <p dir="ltr">Providers currently only need to give customers using life support four days' notice if there is a planned power outage, but in the case of a blackout there is nothing in place to contact their customers or the next of kin.</p> <p dir="ltr">Instead, they urge vulnerable customers to have a back-up battery or generator, to call triple-zero in an emergency, and to “have contingency plans in place”.</p> <p dir="ltr">“But how could an 80-year-old lady who has woken up out of a deep sleep (and) short of breath manage to go out (and) start a generator?” Brian asked.</p> <p dir="ltr">Health Minister Ryan Park described the death as a “terrible tragedy” and said that he has spoken with NSW Health. The Health Minister also encouraged energy companies to find better ways to support vulnerable customers.</p> <p dir="ltr">“If there’s anything that we could have done differently, we will look at that,” he added.</p> <p dir="ltr">An Essential Energy spokesperson has also commented and said that the team had personally contacted the family to extend their "deepest condolences".</p> <p><em>Images: 9News</em></p>

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The power of friendship in retirement

<p><em><strong>Megan Giles, Retirement Transition Consultant, supports those approaching retirement to successfully transition and create a retirement they will love to live!</strong></em></p> <p>When we think about staying healthy in retirement, we often think about becoming more active, eating better and ensuring a good night’s sleep. But there’s another powerful antidote and it doesn’t require active wear, perspiration or watching calorie intake. Did you know that maintaining strong friendships in retirement can have a significant and positive impact on your wellbeing?</p> <p>As we age we are going to become more dependent on others. Not only may we become less mobile, but amongst your group of friends it is almost invariable that there will be debilitating illness, divorce, death, job loss and other major life challenges. It is times like this that it is so critical to have a strong friendship circle to surround us - people who can help us to weather the tough times. These friends will rally around you in times of need, intuitively knowing what needs doing and making things more bearable. Good friends will do exactly what you know you would do for them if the roles were reversed. Not only that, but these friends will celebrate your successes too!</p> <p><strong>What are the health impacts of loneliness?</strong></p> <p>The workplace is a hot-bed of human interaction – there is always a morning tea, someone to do the coffee run with and meetings to be held, and so as we step away from the workforce, our social networks tend to decrease. The research shows that loneliness is linked to a number of health issues including poor sleep patterns, increased prevalence of stress hormones, increased risk of heart disease and stroke, and accelerated cognitive decline. In turn, these can contribute to a lowered life expectancy and depression. The lower quality of life associated with these health issues is not what people envisage when they think about a fulfilling and enjoyable retirement.</p> <p><em>Loneliness is not a symptom of failure - that you are no longer relevant. The feeling is simply a reminder to reach other to others.</em></p> <p>The challenge is that life has never been as busy as it is now in the 21<sup>st</sup> century. But stop for a moment. Don't be so busy working hard and saving for retirement that you let the fun things fall by the wayside, such as weekend fishing trips, ladies nights at the theatre, or barefoot bowls. How 'golden' will those years be if you no longer have people to share them with?</p> <p><strong>Do you need to re-connect with friends?</strong></p> <p>Fortunately there are simple things you can do right now to reinvigorate the important friendships in your life.</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;">Make that call!</span></p> <p>Who is that one person that you have been meaning to catch-up with for ages, and what can you do to connect with them today? Go on, nothing beats memory sharing and a deep belly laugh!</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;">Take the lead!</span></p> <p>Rather than wait for catch-ups to be organised, step in and connect with the people you hold near and dear. Just be mindful to set yourself up for success. For example, rather than trying to go out for dinner as a group once a week, make it once a month (or even once a quarter) so that it doesn’t seem like a burden and something that everyone will look forward to.</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;">Let them know</span></p> <p>Don’t be afraid to tell your friends that you care. Let them know how much you appreciate them and why. And do it often!</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;">Choose your friends wisely</span></p> <p>One of the great things that comes with age is caring less what other people think. As such, choose which friendships you cultivate mindfully. Spend time with the people who light you up, not drain your energy or take advantage of you.</p> <p>As the saying goes, you can choose your friends but you can’t choose your family. The power of friendship is real. Is your inner circle full of people that you know will be there for you when you need them (and vice versa)?</p> <p><em>Images: Getty</em></p>

Retirement Life

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1 in 4 households struggle to pay power bills. Here are 5 ways to tackle hidden energy poverty

<p><a href="https://energyconsumersaustralia.com.au/news/how-increases-in-energy-prices-are-impacting-consumers#:%7E:text=Energy%2520affordability%2520is%2520not%2520just,in%2520the%2520past%252012%2520months.">One in four Australian households</a> are finding it hard to pay their gas and electricity bills. As winter looms, <a href="https://www.aer.gov.au/news-release/default-market-offer-2023%25E2%2580%259324-draft-determination">energy price rises</a> will make it even harder. Cold homes and disconnections resulting from energy poverty threaten people’s health and wellbeing.</p> <p><a href="https://www.acoss.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2023/03/ACOSS-cost-of-living-report2-March-2023_web_FINAL.pdf">Income support for welfare recipients</a> and retrofitting homes to make them more thermally efficient – by adding insulation, for example – can ease the burden. And when homes are not too cold or hot, <a href="https://theconversation.com/fuel-poverty-makes-you-sick-so-why-has-nothing-changed-since-i-was-a-child-living-in-a-cold-home-201787">people’s health benefits</a>. This in turn <a href="https://apo.org.au/node/319556">eases pressure on the public health system</a>.</p> <p>However, many people are missing out on assistance as programs often do not recognise their difficulties. Their energy vulnerability is hidden.</p> <h2>What forms does hidden energy poverty take?</h2> <p><a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2214629623000737">Our newly published study</a> has revealed six aspects of hidden energy vulnerability. These are:</p> <ol> <li> <p>underconsumption – households limit or turn off cooling, heating and/or lights to avoid disconnections</p> </li> <li> <p>incidental masking – other welfare support, such as rent relief, masks difficulties in paying energy bills</p> </li> <li> <p>some households disguise energy poverty by using public facilities such as showers or pooling money for bills between families</p> </li> <li> <p>some people conceal their hardship due to pride or fear of legal consequences, such as losing custody of children if food cannot be refrigerated because the power has been cut off</p> </li> <li> <p>poor understanding of energy efficiency and the health risks of cold or hot homes adds to the problem</p> </li> <li> <p>eligibility criteria for energy assistance programs may exclude some vulnerable households. For example, people with income just above the welfare threshold are missing out on energy concessions. Energy retailer hardship programs also ignore people who have voluntarily disconnected due to financial hardship.</p> </li> </ol> <h2>5 ways to help these households</h2> <p>Our studies suggest trusted intermediaries such as people working in health, energy and social services can play a vital role in identifying and supporting such households.</p> <p>First, energy efficiency and hardship initiatives may be <a href="https://www.rmit.edu.au/about/schools-colleges/property-construction-and-project-management/research/research-centres-and-groups/sustainable-building-innovation-laboratory/projects/care-at-home-system-improvements">integrated into the My Aged Care in-home care system</a>. Energy poverty risk identification, response and referral could be built into the national service’s assessment form. This could leverage existing client screening processes.</p> <p>The system’s front-line staff could connect at-risk householders with energy counsellors. These counsellors could help people access better energy contracts, concessions, home retrofits and appliance upgrade programs.</p> <p>A new Commonwealth “energy supplement” could help pay for essential energy-related home modifications. This would help avoid My Aged Care funds being diverted from immediate healthcare needs.</p> <p>Second, general practitioners and other health professionals could help identify energy vulnerability among patients with medical conditions of concern. They could also provide letters of support emphasising renters’ health-based need for air conditioners or heaters.</p> <p>Third, energy providers could use household energy data to identify those that seem to be under-consuming or are often disconnected. They could also identify those that are not on “best offer” deals. They could be proactive in checking struggling householders’ eligibility for ongoing energy concessions and one-off debt relief grants offered by states and territories.</p> <p>Energy providers could also make it easier for social housing providers to ensure concessions for tenants renew automatically.</p> <p>Fourth, local councils could use their data to identify at-risk householders. They might include those with a disability parking permit, discounted council rates or in arrears, on the social housing waiting list, Meals on Wheels clients and social housing tenants. Maternal and child health nurses and home and community care workers making home visits could call attention to cold or hot homes.</p> <p>Councils could employ in-house energy counsellors to provide assistance and energy literacy training. Council home maintenance teams could develop bulk-buying, insulation and neighbourhood retrofit programs.</p> <p>Strategies to reduce vulnerability to energy poverty should be part of municipal public health and wellbeing plans. Under these strategies, net-zero-carbon funds set up by states and local councils to reduce emissions could finance targeted housing retrofits.</p> <p>We also suggest setting up a central helpline to improve access to energy assistance via local referrals.</p> <p>Fifth, residential energy-efficiency programs could become more person-centric. For example, we already have <a href="https://www.homescorecard.gov.au/">Residential Efficiency Scorecard</a> audits to assess the thermal quality of a home. These audits could also explore whether concessions and better energy deals are available to the household.</p> <h2>Building capacity at all levels</h2> <p><a href="https://cur.org.au/cms/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/tackling-hidden-energy-final.pdf">Capacity-building strategies</a> are needed at all levels – individual, community and government – to overcome the <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2214629623000737">challenges</a> of reducing energy poverty. Current obstacles include the competing priorities of service providers, lack of time and resources, and <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S2214629622003553">poor co-ordination between siloed</a> programs and services.</p> <p>Access to essential energy services should be part of state and local governments’ strategic health plans. Housing, energy and health departments could work together to include housing retrofits in preventive health programs.</p> <p>A comprehensive approach is needed to overcome hidden energy poverty. It must include public education, integrated services and well-funded energy-efficiency programs. Regulatory reforms and ongoing funding are both needed to improve the availability of energy-efficient, affordable homes for tenants.</p> <p>Our suggested strategies start with improving the skills and knowledge of trusted intermediaries. Doctors, social workers, housing officers, community nurses and volunteers can play a central role. Using these front-line professionals to help identify and act on energy poverty offers a novel, cost-effective and targeted solution.</p> <p><em>This article originally appeared on <a href="https://theconversation.com/1-in-4-households-struggle-to-pay-power-bills-here-are-5-ways-to-tackle-hidden-energy-poverty-204672" target="_blank" rel="noopener">The Conversation</a>.</em></p> <p><em>Images: Getty</em></p>

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