CONDAs honour Julie Black for lifetime of achievement I photos

April 20th, 2019

CONDAs stage revival I photos Jerry Ray

Elise Bialek

Tayla Choice

Theo Rule

Alex Sefton

Katy Carruthers

Scott Eveleigh

Theo Rule

Julie Black

Julie Black

Patrick Campbell with the cast of Suicide Incorporated.

Cheryl Sovechles

Daniel Stoddart

George Francis

Lyndon Buckley

Tallulah Cobban

Nicholas Thoroughgood

Tom Rodgers

Anna Kerrigan

TweetFacebookWicked bewitched the City of Newcastle Drama Awards judges in 2016, winning five categories and a majoraccoladefor veteran director Julie Black.

The flourishing Newcastle theatre community celebrated its 38th annual awards night in a sellout ceremony hosted by Mathew Lee and Mitchell Cox at Wests New Lambton on Saturday.

Mrs Black, who has directed all but one of Metropolitan Players’ productions since 1983, won the major honour of the evening, the CONDA Inc Award for outstanding contribution and achievement in Newcastle theatre.

Wicked, which set a box-office recordon the Civic Theatre main stage in September, was hailed as best musical production and earned MrsBlack best director of a musical.

The alternative telling ofthe Wizard of Oz story also won trophies for Tayla Choice (female lead in a musical), costume designers Bev Fewins and Steven Harrison, and George Francis (hair, make-up and wigs).

CONDA Inc president Daniel Stoddart said the longest-running theatre awards in Australia were representative of the lower Hunter’s increasingly vibranttheatre scene, which includes up to 40 companies and a handful of festivals.Twenty-five of those companies nominated 65 productions for this year’sawards.

Mr Stoddart, who runs youth theatre company Hunter Drama,said rapid growth in the number of young people on the region’sstages in the past 10 years had invigorated the performing arts community.

“It’s growing very, very quickly. A lot of the younger people are starting to create their own theatre companies any time they want to put on a show, which is kind of exciting,” he said.

“In the last 10 years, youth theatre has just boomed extraordinarily. Now some of those people are getting into their early 20s and they’re taking that passion through and they’re all starting to experiment with their own ideas.

“Young people have more to say than older people. Thatcan’t be underestimated, the voice of an opinionated young person with a bit of passion and something to say about the world.”

Mr Stoddart said the days of safe, predictable theatre in Newcastle were largely over.

“The majority of it is challenging work now, particularly all of the stuff that’s being recognised with nominations, all of the fringier stuff, a lot of the contemporary, modern plays.

“Not just edgy in terms of content. For example,WickedandShrek The Musicalare both musicals that have been on Broadway in the past 10 years, as opposed to doing Rodgers and Hammerstein. It’s all new.”

Wicked was one of 13 productions that won CONDAs. Eight companies, two of which staged shows in association with other groups, and a school organisation shared the trophies in 22 categories.

Best drama went to the Peter Campbell-directed Australian premiere ofSuicide Incorporated, the first production of James Chapman’s Knockand Run Theatre, which the judges praised as a sensitive examination of a difficult topic.

Manning the Fort, staged jointly by Tantrum Youth Arts and Catapult Dance at Fort Scratchley, won awards for choreography (Cadi McCarthy and Marnie Palomares), lighting and audio-visual (Lyndon Buckley) and sound design (Huw Jones).

The production told the story of the women who helped to operate the fort in World War II.

Three productions, Opera Hunter’s The Marriage of Figaro, Stooged Theatre’s Punk Rock, and Newcastle Theatre Company’s Noises Off, each collected two awards.

Alex Sefton, who played the title character in The Marriage of Figaro, was voted best male actor in a musical and Susan Hart won for musicand vocal direction.

Daniel StoddartPunk Rock, a bloody tale about students preparing for end-of-school exams, won acting awards for Scott Eveleigh (lead role) and Jerry Ray (supporting role).

The Newcastle Theatre Company comedy Noises Off received the best ensemble trophy for actorsLynda Rennie, Brian Randell, Andrew Black, Rebecca Wall, Jennifer Halliburton, Paul Sansom, Tracey Gordon, Jay Smith and Michael Smythe, and won for best set and props design (Adelle Richards and David Murray).

Three other NTC productions won awards. Katy Carruthers collected the female lead acting gong for Other Desert Cities, about a dysfunctional Christmas gathering, Elise Bialek won best supporting actress for Proof, and Cheryl Sovechles won best director for the reflective Anzac Day dramaThe One Day of the Year.

Saviour’s Day, a drama about Cyclone Tracy written by Theo Rule for Grainery Theatre Company, was named best new play or musical written for a local company.

There’s Something Strange About Marvin McRae, staged by the Hunter Catholic Schools Aspire unit, won the CONDA for best special theatrical event.

The under-18 acting awards went to Nicholas Thoroughgood (Lindsay Street Players’ The History Boys) and Tallulah Cobban (Tantrum Youth Arts’ Trailer).

Rebekah Abel, 17, and Tom Rodgers, 16, won the CONDAs’ newYouth Ambassador Program awards.

Mr Stoddartsaid Hunter theatre companies were working hard to meet audiences’ higher expectations.

“The requirements are extraordinary now. It’s notjust a matter of putting on costumes . . .The benchmark has been reset with shows in recent years like Phantom of the Opera and Wicked.

“In order to have a well recognised and well respected show, you do have to go that extra mile in Newcastle now.”

Mr Stoddart said the young people in the industry had also helped change the awards themselves, from a “lofty” ceremony to a more rousing and collegialcelebration.

“I think it’s a representation of the tone of where we’re up to as a theatre community.”

Jehovah’s Witnesses ‘demonstrated a serious failure’ to protect children: Royal Commission

April 20th, 2019

The Jehovah’s Witness organisation in Australia failed to protect children in its care, an inquiry has found. Photo: John Donegan Royal commission chairman Justice Peter McClellan. Photo: Jeremy Piper

The Jehovah’s Witness Church in Australia failed to protect children in its care from sexual predators, a report has found.

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse delivered its report into the organisation on Monday.

It stated that: “Children are not adequately protected from the risk of child sexual abuse in the Jehovah’s Witness organisation and [the commission] does not believe the organisation responds adequately to allegations of child sexual abuse.”

Survivors of sexual abuse within the church and senior church members appeared before a public hearing last year.

The inquiry heard the church received allegations of child sexual abuse involving more than 1000 of its members over a 60-year period but did not report a single claim to police.

In its report on the inquiry, the royal commission found that the organisation’s general practice of “not reporting serious instances of child sexual abuse to police or authorities, demonstrated a serious failure on its part to provide for the safety and protection of children.”

The royal commission determined that the church’s response to allegations of child sexual abuse were outdated, including a rule that there must be two witnesses to an incident, which “showed a serious lack of understanding of the nature of child sexual abuse”.

“It noted the rule, which the Jehovah’s Witness organisation relies on, and applies inflexibly even in the context of child sexual abuse, was devised more than 2000 years ago,” the report found.

The Jehovah’s Witnesses approach to handling claims internally was not appropriate for children or survivors of sexual abuse, the report found.

“Survivors are offered little or no choice in how their complaint is addressed, sanctions are weak with little regard to the risk of the perpetrator re-offending.”

The head of the Jehovah’s Witness community’s service desk, Rodney Spinks, said the church is taking the royal commission’s work seriously.

“We want to benefit from the process; everybody does,” he said.

The Jehovah’s Witnesses and Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of Australia are scheduled to appear before the commission again in March when a public hearing will examine current child protection policies and procedures.

1800 Respect 1800 737 732

Blue Knot Foundation 1300 657 380

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Daily World Dispatch – Fidel Castro and a bucketful of bolivars

April 20th, 2019

“He may be a son of a bitch, but he’s our son of a bitch.”

The origins of this quotation – like so many that have universal currency – have become unclear.

Was it Franklin Roosevelt or Allen Dulles or Dean Acheson who said it? Was the subject Anastasio Somoza or Rafael Trujillo or some other Cold War dictator?

In the end, the reason such a quote survives is not because it tells us something about a specific speaker or subject but because it resonates with our sense of the way the world is.

So that when the Latin American dictator who defined himself above all as not being the USA’s SOB died, we got to witness a lot of cant and hypocrisy.

Anyone in Washington who talks now about Fidel Castro as a dictator needs to talk about whether Fulgencio Batista was a democrat. And to those who protest that long decades have passed since the days of Batista, I re-direct you to the quote above, which could at different times in Western history have been applied to Augusto Pinochet, Efrain Rios Montt, Manuel Noriega, Leopoldo Galtieri, Hosni Mubarak, Saddam Hussein, Ferdinand Marcos, Jean-Claude Duvalier and even Josef Stalin.

Those who rail against dealing with Communist one-party states while doing all they can to attract business from the People’s Republic of China also need to wonder whether they too could one day be open to the kind of mockery Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is experiencing. British and Australian citizens don’t need to wonder – they flew flags at half-mast for the king of Saudi Arabia within recent memory.

Yet those who want to suggest, as Castro did, that history will absolve a leader – something Tony Blair also said when invading Iraq – need to think more clearly about any leader’s duty to those living in the here and now. In the end, it is not history’s job to canonise or absolve but to record. And that involves the voices of those who lived under the leader. It is in listening and responding, rather than in issuing interminable speeches, that real absolution is likely to be found.

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Gilmore Girls’ famed ‘final four words’ lead to shock and questions from viewers

April 20th, 2019

Lauren Graham and Alexis Bledel in Netflix’s The Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life. Photo: NetflixSPOILERS

Seasonal beverages in hand, Gilmore Girls fans have no doubt binged the hell out of the show’s long awaited revival: the four-parter Gilmore Girls: A Year In The Life, which debuted on Netflix over the weekend.

A bite-sized return to Stars Hollow, the reboot was supposed to give fans a satisfying glimpse into Lorelai (Lauren Graham) and Rory’s (Alexis Bledel) lives in the nine-odd years since the series wrapped up, and maybe clear up a few loose ends long left splayed (Team Dean? Team Jess? Team Logan?).

Well, that hasn’t happened. With four parting words, the mini-series already has viewers taking to Twitter to caps-lock bash, “MORE! MORE!”

As is now TV lore, the show’s creator Amy Sherman-Palladino had long hinted that she knew how the series would end – the “final four words” that would put a cap on the series for good.

But, departing the show ahead of its seventh and final season in 2006 due to contractual disputes with network The CW, she was unable to see her vision through – until the new Netflix series.

Fall, the mini-series’ final episode, finally revealed those ever elusive, and long speculated, last words. Our Gilmore girls have a very very imporant message for you. (Hint: It’s about the last four words.)南京夜网/F0734nDTDf— Gilmore Girls (@GilmoreGirls) November 18, 2016

“Mum…”, Rory says, sitting alongside Lorelai in a fancy pagoda on the day of her wedding to Luke.

“Yeah?”, Lorelai replies.

“I’m pregnant,” she reveals.

Reactions to the words, from both viewers and cast members, have run the gamut.

Some have swooned at the symmetry, pleased at the callback to Lorelai’s experiences as a young single mum in the original series.

“I was surprised for a minute and then it made complete sense,” star Lauren Graham told The Hollywood Reporter.

Others, and by others I mean pretty much everyone else, have bristled at the open-ended finish, a lack of closure that’s inspired the exact opposite outrage to, say, How I Met Your Mother’s much-balked about concrete ending. #GilmoreGirlsRevival NOPE. No no no. I don’t accept that ending. A surprise 5th Episode please. Stat.— Kathleen McIvor (@kathleenmcivor) November 25, 2016Unless there are going to be another 153 episodes of Gilmore Girls, I feel very unsettled with those final four words. #GilmoreGirlsRevival— Allison Piwowarski (@allisonpiwo) November 25, 2016Almost ten years and still no closure? Are we getting more episodes? @GilmoreGirls? HEARTBROKEN and upset . #TeamJess#GilmoreGirlsRevival— Blair (@BlairHoldenx) November 27, 2016So there had better be a second revival cos that last sentence knocked me out. @netflix you can’t do that to people #GilmoreGirlsRevival— Meagan Tanti (@MeaganTanti) November 25, 2016Raise your hand if you’ve been personally victimized by Amy Sherman-Palladino #GilmoreGirlsRevival— Marisa (@marisajglenn) November 27, 2016

Fans are now waiting on news that might wrap up Rory’s storyline. Like, for starters, who’s the baby daddy?

In promising news, Sherman-Palladino has stoked viewer hopes in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, hinting that, despite the hyped ‘final four’, the end is still unwritten.

“We really had a very specific journey in our minds and we fulfilled the journey. So to us, this is the piece that we wanted to do,” she said about the Netflix series.

“The whole thought about, is there more, is there more, is there more? This has to go out into the universe now. We’ve got to put this to bed. And then, whatever happens, happens.”

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ABC board meetings emerge as David Leyonhjelm’s latest ABCC bargaining chip

March 20th, 2019

Liberal Democract Senator David Leyonhjelm is crucial for the government’s bid to reintroduce the Australian Building and Construction Commission. Photo: Andrew MearesThe Australian Broadcasting Corporation has emerged as the latest bargaining chip in the government’s frenzied bid to reintroduce a building industry watchdog before Parliament rises for the year.

As revealed by Fairfax Media on Monday, Liberal Democrat senator David Leyonhjelm has agreed to support the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) in exchange for changes to the way the ABC board conducts its meetings. Senator Leyonhjelm’s vote will be crucial for the government to pass its bill to reintroduce the ABCC, one of its double dissolution election triggers.

Under the deal with Senator Leyonhjelm, the government has agreed that the ABC and SBS will follow at least half their board meetings each year with open community forums. At least two would be held in regional areas.

Senator Leyonhjelm said the forums would make the ABC more receptive to the views of Australians who live outside the “goat’s cheese curtain” of inner city Sydney and Melbourne.

“There are certainly plenty of people who believe the ABC and the SBS for that matter is inclined to have a particular point of view that doesn’t necessarily reflect those people who are in the regional areas in particular,” he said.

The government will write to the boards of the ABC and SBS to advise them of the policy. If necessary the government will issue a written direction to SBS to hold the forums and introduce legislation to do the same for the ABC.

The deal could cause consternation within the ABC which fiercely guards its independence from government and tends to resist interference in its operations.

Another aspect of the deal would see the government take a “lead role” in reforming suppression order regimes which stop the media reporting court proceedings. The government has committed to take up the matter with state and territory governments through the COAG process.

Senator Leyonhjelm described the changes as “freedom offsets” for the coercive powers contained in the ABCC bill. He has said he will pull his support for the bill if the government agrees to increase flows to South Australia from the Murray Darling Basin.

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Malcolm Turnbull and Bill Shorten link arms to stand up to family violence in Indigenous communities

March 20th, 2019

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten came together to link arms at the No More event in support of ending family violence in Indigenous communities. Photo: Andrew Meares Representatives from Yirrkala in North East Arnhem Land on the forecourt of Parliament House for the No More event. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

Mr Turnbull and Mr Shorten with representatives from Yirrkala in North East Arnhem Land. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

In Rirratjingu culture, there is a sacred, rarely seen ceremony that honours the two Djan’kawu sisters who created life on earth. On Monday at Parliament House, it was the powerful opening scene of an event demanding an end to family violence in Indigenous communities.

Dancers came from North East Arnhem Land to join the biggest achievement so far of the No More campaign, a gathering that saw Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, dozens of other MPs and Gurindji journalist Charlie King link arms to call for change.

“They were holy and sacred,” Rirratjingu elder Witiyana Marika said of the sisters. “Women are holy. Because they are creators, they bring life, our offspring.”

The No More campaign, led by King, has taken hold amid the appalling rates of violence facing Indigenous communities, where women are 11 times more likely than non-Indigenous women to be murdered as a result of family violence and 34 times more likely to be hospitalised.

The aim of the campaign – which has reduced violence in almost all the communities that have adopted it – is to stand up to offending men, imploring them to change, and encourage organisations to adopt domestic violence action plans.

It has been strongly backed by Northern Territory police, community leaders and prominent Aboriginal women Professor Marcia Langton and Josephine Cashman, a lawyer and member of the Prime Minister’s Indigenous Advisory Council.

The Rirratjingu Aboriginal Corporation praised the show of unity as a way of elevating the issue to the national stage.

“Symbolism is important. And now we need action. That’s more important,” chairman Bakamumu Marika said.

“What we would like to see is a requirement for domestic violence action plans in government tender documents – if you don’t have a good plan, you don’t get a government contract.”

Some Indigenous and family violence policy observers have questioned the government’s commitment to solving the issues, pointing to sweeping funding cuts for community legal centres, women’s shelters and Indigenous programs since 2014.

The Turnbull government has unveiled a $100 million women’s safety package, including $21 million for Indigenous-specific programs. Last month, Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion outlined $25 million for therapy, diversion programs, case management and legal services in communities.

Professor Langton said the ceremony at Parliament House shows family violence is not cultural: “The Rirratjingu are saying it’s exactly the opposite – we have to love and respect women because they created the world.”

“That the Parliament, the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition, all these senators and members of the House here today have linked arms and with Charlie King…is profoundly important to Aboriginal women and children across the country and to all those Aboriginal men who do not commit to violence and who are opposed to violence.”

King called on people and organisations across Australia to “march all the time” against these crimes and said the positive stories should be appreciated, observing the Rirratjingu community’s success at reducing family violence by 27.9 per cent.

“That’s extraordinary, isn’t it?” he said.

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Noisy Stolthaven works at Mayfield expected to finish next month

March 20th, 2019

The noisiest period of construction at Stolthaven’s Mayfield terminal is expected to wind up next month.FUEL logistics company Stolthaven has guaranteed fed-upresidents who live near its Mayfield site that noisy pile-driving work is nearing completion.

The company announced on Monday that the noisiest period of construction at the Mayfield No 7 terminal was expected to draw to a close next month, possibly as early as December 21, in time for the Christmas break.

Stolthaven, which operatesfuel storage tanks at the western border of the former BHP steelworks site, has been upgrading its facilities since April.

Upon completion, ships will be able to pump directly into the terminal, instead of pumping fuel from a kilometre downstream.

But to do that, the company has had to drive large steel poles directly into the Hunter River usinghydraulic hammers, generating “banging” noises across Mayfield, Carrington and Stockton.

Crebert Street’s Jacqui Standen said residents had found it“impossible” to live peacefully with the noise, and felt powerless to do anything about it.

“Unless you live here, you cannot imagine what it is like,”she said.

Mrs Standen wrote to the company several times to complain about a lack of scheduled drilling times.

“It is just a constant‘bang, bang, bang’, and it just goes on and on and on,”Mrs Standen said.“Maybe if there was some structure, if they didn’t start before a certain time, it would be better.

“We live two doors down from Industrial Drive, but never before have we ever heard anything like this.We have lost our quality of life.”

Correct Planning and Consultation for Mayfield Group convener John L Hayes said the suburb had become exceptionally noisy with both theStolthaven andTourle Street Bridge works running at the same time.

“It’s a combination of the two that has just builtup,” he said. “It’s been going on for a very long time. Residents shouldn’t have to be put to the sword with this sort of noise.”

A Stolthaven spokesman said the company had fully complied with state regulations on the project.

“Stolthaven is fully committed to minimising disturbances affecting local residents, and is fully complying with regulated stipulations including work hours and noise levels,” he said.

“Stolthaven apologises for any inconvenience that development activities cause during this period.”

The works are part of the Port of Newcastle’sMayfield Concept Plan.

Symbio Wildlife Park monkey theft: police search for third pygmy marmoset Gomez

March 20th, 2019

Police hopeful of finding missing monkey Gomez Gomez. Pictured in 2015.

Symbio Wildlife Park managing director John Radnidge (right) comforts park supervisor Ryan Leahy at a public appeal for information on Saturday. Picture: Robert Peet

Jo is the mother and breeding partner of the three stolen monkeys. Jo has shown signs of stress since the theft and zoo staff are unsure whether family’s complex social structure can be restored. Picture: Robert Peet

Pygmy Marmoset monkey Adora and her four-week-old sibling remain safe and well at the park, after their twins were stolen overnight Friday. Picture: Robert Peet

Symbio Wildlife Park managing director John Radnidge at the Pygmy Marmoset enclosure following Friday night’s break-in. Picture: Robert Peet

Jo is the mother and breeding partner of the three stolen monkeys. Jo has shown signs of stress since the theft and zoo staff are unsure whether family’s complex social structure can be restored. Picture: Robert Peet

Symbio Wildlife Park managing director John Radnidge (right) comforts park supervisor Ryan Leahy at a public appeal for information on Saturday. Picture: Robert Peet

TweetFacebookSymbio’s Matt Radnidge speaks on the return of two of the park’s monkeys.Post by Symbio’s Matt Radnidge speaks on the return of two of the park’s monkeys..

The crime manager was also unable to provide information on how police came to find the two monkeys that have been found, only saying it was “members of the public coming forward and providing information via Crime Stoppers”.

Police have revealed the baby monkey was found in a car at the rear of a hotel in Appin on Sunday afternoon.

A second monkey, Sofia,was found after police inquiries led officers to a home in Campbelltown on Sunday evening.

Detective Inspector Ainsworth reissued a public appeal to find the monkey that remains missing.

“We’re looking for the help of the public. The recovery of the two [monkeys] yesterday led to some good work and good information by members of the public via Crime Stoppers and we’re hoping that will continue today [Monday],”

Symbio’s general manager, Matt Radnidge, told the Mercury it was critical to get Gomez back as soon as possible to avoid the social structure of the family disintegrating.

“There’s a couple of people out there that must have given some information, and they’re the heroes of yesterday,” Mr Radnidge said.

“We’re ecstatic at the result thus far, but still very concerned about the remaining animal,” he said.

The zoo’s four-week-old baby marmoset was reunited with her mum late on Sunday afternoon.

A post on Symbio’s Facebook page said: “Mum cradled the baby straight into her arms and bub immediately began to feed.

“Early observations this morning are promising, with two bright-eyed twins observed on mums back – so a great result.”

Detective Inspector Ainsworth said CCTV footage from the zoo had been viewed by police, but the vision was of little assistance to investigators.

“There is footage there, but nothing that captures the enclosure the monkeys were taken,” he said.

Anyone with information, Crime Stoppers 1800 333 000.

Illawarra Mercury

House of the week: 83 Lookout Road, New Lambton Heights

March 20th, 2019

Romance of a bygone era | photos TweetFacebook Richmond LodgeThe 1930s mansion in New Lambton Heights. They don’t make them like this anymore.

This magnificent manor – with its chandeliers, tapestry brick fireplacesand servants’ quarters – would not look out of place in the English countryside.

Instead, ‘Richmond Lodge’ sits atop Lookout Road in New Lambton Heights, a stone’s throw from John Hunter Hospital.

The home was constructed in the 1930s by John Hall and his wife. The couple often featured in the social pages, with old newspaper clippings telling of the extravagant balls they would throw at the property.

Its guest quarters have hosted the likes ofDouglas Pratt and Blake Twigden, both renowned Australian artists.

The sprawling grounds accommodate a tennis court, saltwater swimming pool –the second ever constructed domestically in Newcastle – and an orchard with olive, macadamia and fig trees.

A circular driveway winds past arose garden to the grand residence itself. Much of the home is in original condition, including three art-deco bathrooms, a library and the maid’s scullery and flower room.

A sweeping staircase leads to six bedrooms, the master with a study nook and sunroom. Other period features include cathedral ceilings and leadlight windows.

The kitchen has been sympathetically renovated, with the addition of stone benchtops, two integrated fridges and a temperature-controlled wine cellar.

Aside from the vendors, the home has hadonly one other owner;Archie Lee, a partner in a well-knownHoldencar dealership and a former‘Rat of Tobruk’.


New Lambton Heights

83 Lookout Rd

7 bedrooms 4 bathrooms 4 garage

Price guide on request

Auction: Wed December 14 6pm, Watt Street Commercial Centre

Agent: PRDnationwide Newcastle Rodney Goodwin 4926 0600

Why we need protection from unhealthy choices

February 21st, 2019

A healthy country is a wealthy country. The link between health and a productive economy mustn’t be forgotten. A central role of government is to protect us. Once it was from infectious diseases. Now it’s pervasive harmful food and beverages that require the same approach – regulation and legislation –as experience from tobacco control has shown.

Governments’ efforts are failing us despite at least a decade of sound evidence of what needs to be done. National leaders are yet to heed the calls for protective policies. As with the hard road to reduce smoking, industry opposes the experts. They cry, “nanny state”and infringement of the free market and argue for people’s rights to make harmful choices as well as healthy ones.

NO SUGAR COATING: Expecting individuals to keep themselves healthy in a world where there is a vast array of unhealthy products is unrealistic.

Expecting individuals to keep themselves healthy in a world where there is a vast array of unhealthy products and barriers against making the right choice is unrealistic.What is starkly obvious is that where people live influences their health –wealthier suburbs are healthier suburbs but chronic diseases affect all of us, rich and poor.

The problem of chronic diseases is not one of poor behaviour by individuals, it is a problem of contemporary environments and working and living styles that put us all at risk, and that most affect those with the least resources.

This is why national leadership is necessary.

In 2009, Australia introduced mandatory folic acid fortification of wheat flour used in bread to reduce the numbers of infants born with spina bifida. Reformulation of food saves lives. Reducing the salt content in processed or pre-prepared foods has the potential to save more than 3000 lives a year by lowering our average blood pressure.

This month, both the presidents of medical colleges and the Australian Medical Association publicly called for a sugar tax. The negative effects that high levels of sugar consumption have on health are known. Overweight and obesity affects one in four children. Young people are consuming more than 23 teaspoons of sugar daily. And public opinion supports a sugar tax.

The Australian Health Policy Collaboration, a think tank at Victoria University, has launcheda policy report calling on Australian governments to lead in protecting us.The report has been developed with a national collaboration of experts, clinicians and organisations.The report,Getting Australia’s Health on Track, urges governments, state, local and federal to collaborate and implement 10 priority policy actions on risk factors that are effective and affordable.

Protection and promotion of good health and prevention of avoidable death and disease are central tenets of our national values. They are characteristics of thriving communities and a thriving economy. Australia has led the way in protecting people from the impacts of smoking and in preventing road deaths. We have invested in providing national access to high-quality health services and to lifesaving and health-promoting technologies and treatments. We know that good health, and recovery from illness, cannot be left to the capacity and resources of individuals.

There is no lack of evidence about the growing economic burden of preventable chronic diseases; there is ample evidence of what needs to be done to reduce that burden. Our economyand communitiesneed urgent action to improve our national health.

Rosemary Calder is director of theAustralian Health Policy Collaboration,Victoria University.