Showing all posts tagged: Australia

2022 Australia Council Awards recipients announcement

9 August 2022

The Australia Council Awards recognise artists, writers, musicians, and other creatives whose work contributes to Australia’s diverse cultural life. Among recipients of the 2022 awards announced yesterday, was Robert Dessaix, a Tasmanian based writer of literary non-fiction, who was honoured with the Lifetime Achievement in Literature award.

Literary non-fiction? I had to look that up. A few of the books I read are classified as literary fiction, but this is the first time I’ve encountered the non-fiction genus.

Literary nonfiction is an elusive creature in literature known by many names. You might hear literary nonfiction called narrative nonfiction or creative nonfiction. Regardless of the name, literary nonfiction tells a story, typically in a creative way. Therefore, creative nonfiction writers use literary devices and writing conventions seen in poetry and fiction, but these accounts are based on actual facts or observations.

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Somerton Man identified as Carl ‘Charles’ Webb

3 August 2022

Derek Abbott, a professor at the University of Adelaide, claimed last week to have identified the so-called Somerton Man, perhaps bringing a close to one of the most intriguing, and lingering, Australian mysteries of the twentieth century.

In December 1948, the body of a man thought to be about forty, was found at Somerton beach in Adelaide, capital of South Australia. His body showed no sign of trauma. He was not carrying any identification, nor were there missing person reports for anyone matching his description.

In the months following his death, a suitcase containing some possessions, was located, but offered no clues as to who he was. A scrap of paper, bearing the words tamam shud, was found concealed in clothing the man owned. The fragment was later found to have been torn from a page of a book of poems titled Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyám, originally written in the twelfth century.

It was all enough to send the rumour mill into overdrive. People variously believed Somerton Man to be a spy, a displaced war veteran who’d made his way to Australia, or a jilted lover who’d presumably somehow taken his own life at the beach one night.

South Australian police exhumed Somerton Man’s body in May 2021, to further their investigation, but Abbott had been making progress separately. Working with Colleen Fitzpatrick, an American genealogist, he concluded the man to be Carl “Charles” Webb, an electrical engineer from Melbourne.

While mystery still surrounds the circumstances of his death, Abbott believes Webb may have travelled to Adelaide to see his ex-wife, who moved there after the pair separated several years prior.

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A Voice to Parliament for Indigenous Australians

1 August 2022

The Australian government has undertaken to enshrine an Indigenous Voice to Parliament in the Australian constitution. While it is unclear at this stage exactly what form a Voice to Parliament would take, the purpose is clear:

A Voice to Parliament is a body enshrined in the Constitution that would enable Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to provide advice to the Parliament on policies and projects that impact their lives.

A referendum, a necessary step in the process of altering the constitution, has been proposed for 2023, giving the Australian people the opportunity to have their say in the matter.

An Indigenous Voice to Parliament is seen as an important step in Australia’s ongoing reconciliation with its First Nations people.

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A no hook-up city: Sydney not the place to Netflix and chill

25 July 2022

Out of fifty-three cities across the world, Sydney, Australia’s most populated city, ranks as just about the worst when it comes making friends — particularly if you were born outside of Australia — and hooking up, say the results of the Time Out 2022 Index.

When it comes to making friends, if you’re not born in Sydney, forget about befriending Sydneysiders. I’m sure that’s not the experience of every last new-comer, but somehow the finding doesn’t surprise me. Some years ago I read a guide for students coming from India — I think it was, I cannot track down the webpage right now — for degree courses in Australia. Long story short, they were told to expect the going to be tough when seeking out Australian born friends.

The guide explained Australians have “posses” of friends that seldom, it seems, mix. Old friends, school friends, uni friends, work friends, sports team friends, the list goes on. Aussies apparently go from one such group to another, but members of each group rarely meet anyone from other groups. Short wonder people from elsewhere have a hard time ingratiating themselves with the locals. If you work with an Australian, you might see them at Friday night drinks, but that’s about it.

The difficulty of befriending locally born Sydneysiders is something Kim Solomon, who moved to Sydney from South Africa in 2004, recently related to Sydney Morning Herald writer Michael Koziol:

A well-travelled 41-year-old who has also lived in London and spent time in the United States, Solomon finds Sydneysiders difficult to engage with on a personal level, whether they be strangers on the train or parents in her daughter’s school community. ‘It’s very hard to break into established groups of people who were born and raised in Sydney,” she says. “I’ve developed a good group of friends, but they’re all from South Africa and the UK.”

I don’t see too many people randomly striking up conversations on the trains in Sydney, so expecting to make friends on public transport might be hoping for a bit much. But the parents of her kids’ classmates? Sydney, what have you become?

When it comes to being more than friends though, people also felt frustrated, with seventy-one percent of Time Out 2022 Index respondents describing Sydney as a hard place to hook-up.

Sydneysiders are also starved for more intimate connections, it seems, with 71 per cent of those surveyed saying Sydney was a hard place to hook up, although Singapore, Stockholm and Porto, Portugal’s second city, all ranked lower when it came to Netflix but no chill.

Here’s a situation where place of birth doesn’t weigh so much I suspect though. If you click, you click. I get the feeling if people spent less time inside, and more time looking at what was going around them when outdoors, instead being focussed on the screen of their smartphone, they might not find hooking-up quite so difficult.

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40% of Americans believe in creationism, 40% of Australians do not

20 July 2022

Recent Gallup research reveals forty percent of Americans believe humanity and the universe were created by a divine act, in the last ten-thousand years. About a third believe we have evolved over millions of years, with divine guidance, while not quite a quarter of Americans do not think a divine being plays any part in our existence.

Forty percent of U.S. adults ascribe to a strictly creationist view of human origins, believing that God created them in their present form within roughly the past 10,000 years. However, more Americans continue to think that humans evolved over millions of years — either with God’s guidance (33%) or, increasingly, without God’s involvement at all (22%).

While these numbers are similar to polling carried out about five years ago, a gradual increase in Americans who do not believe in a god has been observed since the late 1940s. This trend mirrors data from the last Australian Census, conducted in 2021, which found about forty percent of Australians have no religious affiliation, up from thirty percent in 2016.

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Australia today, some highlights from the August 2021 Census

28 June 2022

The Australian Bureau of Statistics has begun releasing Census data which was collected in August 2021. Items catching my eye included the revelation there are now as many Millennials, people generally aged 25 to 39, as there are Baby boomers, who are aged 55-74.

There’s also been a significant increase in people stating they have no religious affiliation, with the figure up almost ten percent on the previous Census in 2016. Here’s a rundown of these, plus other, highlights:

  • Sydney is Australia’s largest city by population, with 5.2 million inhabitants
  • NSW is Australia’s largest state by population, with almost 8.1 million inhabitants
  • Australia’s total population is 25.5 million. It has doubled since 1971, when there were 12.4 million inhabitants
  • Australians have a median age of 38 years
  • There are now almost as many Millennials, 5.4 million people, as there are Baby Boomers
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people make up 3.2% of the population
  • English, Australian, Irish, Scottish, and Chinese, make up the top five ancestries of Australians today
  • Mandarin, Arabic, Vietnamese, and Cantonese are the top languages spoken after English
  • Almost 39% of Australians have no religious affiliation, up from 30% in 2016
  • About 44% identify as Christian, down from about 52% in 2016
  • Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and Judaism are the top religions after Christianity
  • There are over one million single parent families in Australia
  • There are almost 25,000 same sex marriages
  • About 31% of Australians either live in rental accommodation, or outright own their dwelling

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Photos of the construction of Sydney Opera House

27 June 2022

A collection of incredible photos of the Sydney Opera House, taken during its construction. Today the Opera House is one of the most recognisable buildings in the world, but it seems Sydneysiders were not enamoured by the iconic structure while it was being built.

Today the building is loved, yet while it was under construction attitudes were very different. The local press continually attacked its cost, its delays, and its architect; headline writers gave the now familiar white shell roof nicknames such as ‘the concrete camel’, ‘copulating terrapins’ and ‘the hunchback of Bennelong Point’.

What’s also compelling about these photos is both how much has changed, and how much has remained the same, when looking at the areas surrounding the land the Opera House stands on.

Via Things Magazine.

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Remaining mindful of Australian Indigenous reconciliation

7 June 2022

National Reconciliation Week, a celebration of Australian Indigenous history and culture, concluded last Friday, 3 June 2022. But there are still ways we can remain mindful of reconciliation, and the history and culture of Indigenous Australians, daily, and immersing ourselves in First Nations art, film, and literature, are some of the ways we can achieve this.

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Is an Australian republic any closer than it was 25 years ago?

4 June 2022

Australian federal MP Matt Thistlethwaite has been appointed to the role of assistant minister for the republic, in the new Labor led government, a move that will put the question of an Australian republic, and an Australian as head of state, rather than the British monarch, back on the agenda.

The push for Australia to break away from the monarchy has received its best news in 25 years after Prime Minister Anthony Albanese appointed an assistant minister for the republic. Australian Republic Movement chair Peter FitzSimons says the appointment of Matt Thistlethwaite was a major show of support. It remains to be seen what progress Labor will make on the issue after it confirmed a constitutionally-enshrined First Nations Voice to Parliament was its referendum priority.

A break from the British monarchy has long been on the cards. In 1995, then Prime Minister Paul Keating declared Australia should become a republic. But the notion was was rejected by the Australian people in a 1999 referendum, with about fifty-five-percent of the population voting against the proposal. But twenty-three years on, support for a republic could hardly be called overwhelming.

Polling conducted earlier this year in the states of New South Wales, Victoria, and Queensland found a little over a third of people supported an Australian republic, while a little under a third were opposed. But closer to forty-percent — a significant margin — said they were “unsure or neutral” on the matter. When posed the question: yes or no, would you support a republic, fifty-four-percent of respondents said yes. But it’s not much of a margin, and I’d contend a minimum of sixty-percent of Australians would need to be firmly in favour for the idea to carry.

But Australians appear to have other priorities, and the matter of a republic is of little interest to many, although that doesn’t mean Australia is a country filled with monarchists:

The biggest hurdle for republicans is the reality that Australia is already an independent nation, with only sentiment and inertia linking us to the British crown. Most Australians, when pressed, struggle to remember the name of the current governor-general or to explain their role.

Interestingly, this week marks the British monarch, Queen Elizabeth’s, seventieth jubilee. I only know because I try to keep up with the news. A month ago I’d have had no idea the occasion was imminent. Certainly I’m not aware of any events locally to acknowledge the milestone. I see no banners flying on the streets, nor detect any sort of buzz of interest generally. People seem to be going their day-to-day affairs as normal.

But another obstacle for those in favour of a republic is what the exact role of any head of state, presumably a president, would be. What sort of executive power would they be invested with, and how would they assume office? Should they be appointed by the Australian parliament, or elected by popular vote? There are many questions to address.

Personally I think Australia should be a republic, and a nation with a head of state chosen by the people. It may only be a symbolic gesture, but it’s an important one.

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New Australian arts minister promises more focus on sector

30 May 2022

The recent change of Federal government in Australia has raised hopes the arts sector will receive more economic support, with incoming arts and industrial relations minister Tony Burke keen to address insecure work and unreliable pay issues.

Burke has also long advocated for addressing issues of insecure work and unreliable pay, claiming Labor would launch a senate inquiry into insecure work if elected. The arts and cultural sector has the dubious title of being an industry leader in insecure work. And it is at the intersection of cultural and industrial relations policy where our new arts minister could dramatically reshape the sector.

I think Burke has a task and a half before him, but a closer focus on the arts is long overdue.

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Anna Spargo Ryan: hope and relief after the Australian election?

27 May 2022

Melbourne based Australian author, Anna Spargo-Ryan, who’s novels include The Paper House, and The Gulf, writes about the hope and relief some Australians are feeling — at least momentarily — as a result of the change of government in Australia last weekend.

For today – and maybe only for today, but we’ll see how things pan out – I feel held. Not fighting the solipsistic dread with weapons made out of my own wellbeing, but part of a community that has chosen to vote for the betterment of others. That’s new. It feels good to sit with it, to briefly imagine, in the words of famous internet depressed person Allie Brosh, that maybe everything isn’t hopeless bullshit.

The mood is a little different presently, but there often is when a new administration is elected. Whether things will be become “better” long term? That remains to be seen.

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Struggling Australians turn to crowd funding to pay the rent

20 May 2022

Melbourne based journalist Stephanie Convery, writing for The Guardian:

The unbearable costs and instability of the rental crisis are pushing more people towards crowdfunding for accommodation, with housing-related appeals on one of Australia’s biggest fundraising platforms more than quadrupling over the past year. The campaigns range from requests for assistance with rental arrears and covering the costs of temporary accommodation, to appeals for help to buy caravans or other forms of mobile accommodation in the face of homelessness.

We are frequently told Australia is a rich — or at least well off — country, making situations like these unfathomable. There may be inequality, often the result of a lack of momentum, but how something basic like reasonably priced rental housing remains a problem beggars belief. I fear whatever the outcome of tomorrow’s federal election, there will be little change to the status quo. Because, you know, this a state issue, not a federal one.

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Arts and culture polices in the 2022 Australian election

20 May 2022

Australians go to the polls tomorrow, Saturday 21 May 2022, to choose who will govern the country for the next three years. While issues such as climate change, the pandemic, and regional security have dominated the election campaign, matters arts and culture have been largely absent from the spot light.

In terms of policy in this area, the incumbent Liberal National Coalition government appears to offer little, while the present opposition party, Labor, has policy that Ben Eltham, a lecturer at the School of Media, Film, and Journalism at Monash University, describes as “surprisingly modest.” Eltham, together with four other policy experts, have compared the proposals of both major political parties, and graded each of them.

Meanwhile, Ben Francis has set out the difference between the Greens, Labor, and the Liberal National Coalition, arts and culture policies in slide format.

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Early voting in Australia 2022 election proving to be popular

14 May 2022

Australians go the polls to elect a new federal government on Saturday 21 May 2022. Or is that yesterday, today, and tomorrow? Early voting is proving riotously popular again this year, with the Australian Electoral Commission saying almost 1.3 million Australians have already cast their vote.

At the last federal election, about six and a half million people either voted early, or by post. From a pool of just over sixteen million registered voters, that a solid forty percent of the population.

Despite the uptake in pre-poll voting, showing up at the polling booth on election day is meant to be the norm, says Tom Rogers, the Australian Electoral Commissioner:

Early voting options are designed for people who can’t make it their local polling booth. The idea of a dedicated election day is for voters to come together to decide who will run the country for the next three years. “It really is supposed to be an in-person community event where people vote on the day,” Mr Rogers says.

It’s a curious way of looking at the process of electing a government, like it’s the village fete day. We live in a country where voting is mandatory — and everyone, in my opinion, should vote — but expecting sixteen or so million people to converge on polling booths on a single day strikes me as thinking that belongs to another age.

Perhaps one where most people worked during the week, and restricted their weekends to non-work activities. If such a world actually existed.

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All Twitter hashtags for Australian democracy sausage emoji

16 April 2022
Twitter democracy sausage emoji

The Australian federal election has been called for Saturday 21 May 2022. But election day isn’t entirely about having a say in who gets to govern Australia for the next three years, it’s also synonymous with the sausage sizzle.

While not a feature at every polling booth in Australia — they were only present at about one-third of booths in the 2013 election — partaking of a barbequed sausage after voting seems to be all that voters can talk about.

To get in the spirit though, Twitter has bought back the democracy sausage emoji, and members using any of seven election related hashtags in tweets will see the emoji appended to them. And here, listed below, are all the Twitter hashtags for the Australian democracy sausage:

  • #Auspol
  • #AusVotes
  • #AusVotes2022
  • #AusVotes22
  • #DemocracySausage
  • #MyFirstDemocracySausage
  • #SausageSizzle

And if you’re searching for polling booths selling fund-raising democracy sausages on election day, bookmark the Democracy Sausage website.

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Adelaide Writers’ Week 2022

31 January 2022

Adelaide Writers’ Week is on in the South Australian capital from Saturday 5 March, until Thursday 10 March 2022. Australian and international authors, including Michael Mohammed Ahmad, Lur Alghurabi, Anuk Arudpragasam, Hannah Bent, Trent Dalton, Michelle de Kretser, and Charlotte Wood, are among those participating in person, or online.

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What’s the average colour of your country?

29 December 2021

Data visualisations depicting the average colours of the world’s countries, based on aerial and satellite map images, put together by Erin Davis. There’s no missing Australia here, how unique is our average colour? Funny though, as I look out the window, I see no end of green presently (thanks La Nina).

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EnQueer Sydney Queer Writers’ Festival

5 November 2021

A late item of news to hand… the EnQueer Sydney Queer Writers’ Festival is on now until tomorrow, taking place in Sydney and online. Read more about the event here:

[EnQueer] aims to bring together people of all genders, sexualities, ethnicities, disabilities, faiths, cultures, and backgrounds at a literary forum which appreciates and acknowledges the power of diversity. Stories and experiences of people with diverse backgrounds truly reflect modern Australian values and the festival seeks to bring them to the fore.

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Boundless writers festival 2021

29 October 2021

Boundless, a Sydney based festival of Indigenous and culturally diverse writers, is on from today, Friday 29 October until Sunday 31 October. A number of panels and workshops will be presented online, including Should I? Ethical Questions for Screen Storytellers, which touches on the topic of who can tell, and profit, from publishing certain stories. Writers of fiction might also find themselves asking similar questions, in regards to how much they can draw on the lives and experiences of people they know, in their work.

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The Melbourne Writers Festival 2021, rewound

19 October 2021

Re-live this year’s Melbourne Writers Festival through podcasts from last month’s event. And not to be left out, the Sydney Writer’s Festival has also made recordings of proceedings from this year available.

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