The scenic route

The headlights rolled along a fallen “DO NOT ENTER” sign along the dirt road before leaving it behind in total darkness.

“I don’t want to alarm anyone,” I said tentatively, really meaning that I didn’t want to alarm myself, “but isn’t this how all horror movies start? Kids exploring places where they really shouldn’t? In their dad’s car?!”

At sixteen, I was the only teenager in the group. Being in a car with twenty-somethings, I really didn’t want to be uncool. Even more than that, however, I didn’t want to die.

My oldest cousin chuckled, though not unkindly. “It’s ok,” he reassured me with his charming smile from the passenger seat. “Things only get crazy when it’s like, midnight, right?”

We all glanced at the clock. 11:55pm. Of course.

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A different light

I am useless when I’m hungry.

When I was a student, I volunteered for an organisation called The Oaktree Foundation. They run an annual fundraiser called Live Below the Line. The fundraiser is for an undoubtedly good cause – aiding those living under the poverty line and empathising with their situation – but it’s also a special kind of torture, if we’re going to be honest here. You see, participants need to spend a week or more where their meals can add up to only $2 a day.

That’s a week or more of agonising over every gram and every cent of every meal. A week or more of having my saliva ducts set off by anything and everything from the fruity scent of my shampoo to the spelling of my surname. A week or more of savouring every bite, every flavour, every moment my stomach was full.

The first time I participated was in its inaugural year so I made the mistake of doing that week alone. My manager was so fed up (ha pun) with my grumpy disposition within our first shift together that she begged me to let her feed me.

“Donate to my page instead,” I huffed.

“But you can give food to the poor,” she reasoned. “Why can’t I do the same for you?”

“Because, ok? It’s just… That’s not how it works!” I cried out, scurrying off to fold more jeans before I snapped at her or burst into tears.

As it turns out, hunger makes me surprisingly emotional. At the time, it was also hard to identify what those emotions were exactly on an empty stomach. Was I angry? Was I sad? I couldn’t pinpoint anything beyond feeling “not good.”

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LightMelbourne Create Belief Video Wall

Jo

Having a community radio license, 89.9 LightFM relies on regular appeals to its listeners for sponsorships and donations to keep it running.

Our 2013 End of Financial Year Appeal was centred around the theme of “Create Belief”, where we explored how the radio station had already touched the lives of our existing listeners. As Remote Control Ruthie interviewed to some of our listeners, I filmed and edited their experiences into short videos.

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The war on drug resistance: entering a ‘post-antibiotic era’

Originally published in Crikey.com.au on Friday, 14 September 2012.

The age of effective antibiotics is threatened by everyday farming and medical practices, sending us into what experts are calling a “death spiral”.

Dr Margaret Chan, the director-general of the World Health Organisation, called for health organisations to recognise drug resistance as a “serious, growing and global threat to health”. If left unacknowledged by the wider community, she believes that “things as common as strep throat or a child’s scratched knee could once again kill”.

The concept of Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) is simple: what doesn’t kill bacteria will only make them stronger.

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Crikey Clarifier: What are Australia’s rules of engagement during war?

Originally published in Crikey.com.au on Monday, 10 September 2012.

After the recent murder of three Australian soldiers, a raid to find rogue Afghan army sergeant Hekmatullah by combined Australian and Afghanistan forces resulted in two civilians being killed and sparked a political tit-for-tat.

Afghanistan president Hamid Karzai condemned the operation “as a breach of the memorandum of understanding signed between Afghanistan and NATO on the special military operations” and demanded an investigation into the incident. Defence Minister Stephen Smith defended the actions of the Australian soldiers, saying: “Any loss of life is regrettable, but Australian personnel were conducting themselves in accordance with our rules of engagement.”

But just what are our rules of engagement in warfare? Crikey spoke to former Australian Chief of the Army Peter Leahy, a professor at the University of Canberra, to learn more …

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OurSay: MPs must take a stand on marriage equality

Originally published in Crikey.com.au on Wednesday, 5 September 2012

According to the latest Galaxy poll, 62% of Australians support gay marriage and 75% believe it will be legalised. That’s certainly reflected in the questions readers most want asked of the independent MPs in Parliament.

A question on marriage equality from Shane Bazzi tops the ladder in the Crikey/OurSay Grill the Independents forum, which gives people the chance to post, vote and comment on questions that will be asked to the lower house independents by Crikey next week. He asks:

“Given that the majority of Australians now support marriage equality for same-s-x couples, as indicated by polls and the unprecedented submissions supporting marriage equality in the parliamentary inquiries, how will you vote when the legislation comes before parliament and how do you explain your stance? Should all Australians be given the same legal and social rights, and not discriminated against on the basis of their s-xual orientation?”

The prolonged and stagnant debate in Parliament over gay marriage frustrated many other OurSay commenters to also condemn the government for not representing the interests of the Australian public. Bazzi’s question has received 2742 votes.

In 2004, John Howard’s government enshrined the definition of “marriage” as “the union between a man and a woman”. Before this, “marriage” wasn’t legally defined. This, Bazzi argues, is blatant discrimination.

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