Category: Canberra


Right at this particular moment, I am proud to live in the Australian Capital Territory.

Since returning to Australia, I have often been puzzled, not to say annoyed, by the continual waffling of Australian politicians, as they try to avoid doing anything constructive about the environment.  Reams of paper have been devoted to all sorts of studies and surveys.  Experts have given advice.  Scientists have suddenly found themselves on national television, blinking in the unaccustomed light of public scrutiny, only to be shot down (figuratively, at this stage) by politicians spouting stuff where the words “feasibility”, “working families” (always a favourite with Labor) and the now rarer “not proven” are to be heard.

The scientists scurry back to the safety of their relative anonymity (they are often very well-known and respected in their own scientific circles) and politicians get back to more “serious” issues, like how much space should be allowed on footpaths for al fresco meals.  This last issue being important enough locally, to warrant quite a lot of Canberra journalists rushing out to interview a wide range of cafe and restaurant owners, and give them all a bit of free publicity in the local news.  Several days in a row.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the same Legislative Assembly which is so concerned about footpaths, in the places which actually have footpaths – we could do with a lot more of them – has been quietly setting up something wonderful in local schools.  We have yet to see how it will function, but the principle is something which, since returning Down Under, I have been screaming at my television set, every time that the word “environment” returns to the forefront in the news.

“Why on Earth don’t you work with our Aboriginal peoples?!”  I shout.  “It’s their speciality!  Their whole culture is about environmental conservation!  They have thousands of years of experience with Australia’s different environments!  Why are you all so stupid?!”  Sadly, the people inside the television set don’t hear me.  This must be the way that ghosts feel.  Ignored, as if they don’t exist.

Then, this wonderful thing happened.  On 24 May 2010, the ACT Government put out a media release, entitled AUSTRALIAN FIRST SEES ACT STUDENTS LEARN ABOUT ABORIGINAL LANDCARE.  Not a catchy title, but the contents of the release made me want to sing.  I didn’t, though.  I just shrieked “yes!” and forwarded the release on to other like-minded people, as we now say.  However, I did add a few gushing sentences.  No-one has yet answered, and today is 7 June.  They are obviously not as like-minded as I had thought.  “Alone, again.  Naturally.”

Simon Corbell, who is the ACT’s Minister for the Environment, Climate Change and Water, announced that, for the first time in Australia (which saw European settlement in 1788) students will be taught about the traditional landcare practices of our local Aboriginal Elders, the Ngunnawal People.  Minister Corbell said:

“Aboriginal communities in the local region have a rich history of landcare and there is a lot we can learn to better our current practices and strategies in Canberra.

“Our younger generations are the environmental advocates of the future and giving school students this valuable knowledge can only have a positive impact on the local environment into the future.”  Commas are often rare in Government media releases.

The programme is called Understanding the Land through the Eyes of the Ngunnawal People – A Natural Resource Management Programme for ACT Schools.  Another not-very-catchy title.  Governments specialize in them.  The programme will be taught in ACT schools from Pre-School to Year 10.  The Minister also said:

“The information provided in this curriculum will help our children understand, respect and value special sites and areas around Canberra, places like Sandwash and Tidbinbilla.

“The programme will also support Aboriginal children with a continued sense of pride and give them an opportunity to teach fellow students some of the landcare practices of their elders.

“Schools will be given a range of resources supporting the programme, including specific information and photographs on local Aboriginal flora and fauna, audio interviews of local Aboriginal Elders, a booklet for teachers and a DVD.

“I am pleased to have the opportunity to launch such an important curriculum for ACT students and look forward to seeing some of the results in our local environment over coming years.” 

Nice one, Minister.  Now, may I draw your attention to the fact that, according to Jessica Good on WIN News, the ACT has just experienced its wettest Autumn in twenty years?  The Territory’s rooves, unaccustomed to so much rain, have been leaking to such an extent that my roofer is two months overdue in his running repairs to mine.

With all this water, could you possibly see your way clear to having another look at our Stage Three Water Restrictions status?  It would be nice to pop down for a visit to Stage Two for a while.

While we’re on the subject, should the ACT Government really be putting all that time and effort, not to mention taxpayers’ money, into advertising the joys of Living in Canberra, in the hope of encouraging people from overseas and interstate to move here, when we are still on Stage Three Water Restrictions?  Wouldn’t it be more intelligent to fix the water supply first?

In the meantime, congratulations to the ACT Government on this Australian First with the First Australians.  How long will it be before all of the States and Territories follow this example?  Five years?  Ten?  Twenty?  At least the ball is rolling.

And, right now, I am very proud to be living in the Australian Capital Territory.

According to ACT Health Minister, Katy Gallagher MLA, 90% of Australians support organ donation, but only 50% of families give their permission when it comes to the crunch.

“Many Australians are not aware that, even if they are registered as an organ donor, their family will be asked to give permission for organ donation to proceed.  That is why it is so important to discuss your wishes with your family,” she said.

Gift of Life President, Anne Cahill Lambert AM, reported eight multi-organ donors (hearts, liver, kidneys, etc.) in the ACT this year, and more than sixty tissue donors (corneas, skin, heart-valves, etc.).

“Even skin is important, especially during the bushfire season when, sadly, a number of Australians require skin grafts,” she said.

The ACT has significantly increased its corneal tissue donations, with fifty-six so far this year.  It is also working with the Australian Organ and Tissue Donation Authority and is moving toward implementing the National Reform Package.

The ACT Organ and Tissue Donation Service has been re-named DonateLife ACT.

Dr Imogen Mitchell has been appointed Territory Medical Director for Organ and Tissue Donation, and Dr Craig Hollis has been appointed Deputy Director.

ACT Health is now recruiting for a range of positions, including a DonateLife Manager, a Nurse Educator, a Communications and Administrative Officer, and an additional Organ Donor Co-ordinator.

If you are not already registered as a donor, discover the facts about it on http://www.donatelife.org.au.  Then you can make your decision and discuss it with your family.

Mine already knows about my own registration and, if they refuse the donation of my organs and tissues when the time comes, I promise to come back to haunt them.

ACT Health Minister, Katy Gallagher MLA, has been working overtime during this Christmas period.  After her advice on food (see previous post), she has now reminded us of the dangers of sun and heat.

“There’s a high probability that the 2009-10 summer season will include extended periods of above-average temperatures, so people should take precautions,” she said. 

“Many of us take beach breaks at this time of year and make the most of the outdoors, but it’s important to follow the five sun-protection measures:  slip on some sun-protective clothing; slop on SPF 30+ broad-spectrum sun-sceen;  slap on a hat;  slide on some sunnies;  and seek shade whenever possible.

“This is important, not only for sun-protection, but also to minimise heat-related stress, which is serious and, if not addressed quickly and appropriately, can lead to death.

“Every year, many Australians suffer from heat-related stress and illness.  Symptoms may include headaches, dizziness, faintness, nausea and vomitting.

“The risk of heat-related stress increases dramatically when temperatures rise above 35 degrees Centigrade.  This is especially so for the very young and the elderly, whose bodies do not adapt as well to temperature changes and extremes.”

The Minister recommends some simple precautions for avoiding heat-related stress, which include:  drinking plenty of water;  avoiding tea, coffee and alcohol – these can have a de-hydrating effect;  staying out of direct sun;  keeping an eye on vulnerable members of the community, including the very young and the elderly, and making sure that they get enough water.

With all this worrying about our holiday health, will the Minister find time to relax?  After all, we can’t have her becoming ill, can we?

ACT Health Minister, Katy Gallagher MLA, has been kind enough to furnish a list of precautions that should be taken with food this summer.  She is worried about the contamination of food with bacteria or other micro-organisms.

“The risk of disease spread by food is particularly high in Summer because bacteria multiply faster in warm environments, and this can cause serious illness,” Ms Gallagher said.  “The festive season is a time when we all tend to over-indulge and ‘graze’ over longer periods with family and friends, without thinking about leaving food out in summer temperatures.”

The Minister advises:

When shopping, do not leave food articles in a hot car;  buy chilled and frozen food last;  pack cold food in an insulated bag or Esky;  refrigerate food as soon as you arrive home;

At home, set your refrigerator to five degrees centigrade or below, and avoid cramming it;  set your freezer to minus eighteen degrees centigrade or below;  keep raw meat in a container, separated from fresh vegetables and fruit;  store cooked food in a container with a lid;  when preparing food, keep it out of the refrigerator for the shortest time possible;

For the barbecue, choose food items that are easy to handle outdoors;  prepare your meat at home (marinades, skewers, etc.);  wrap meats carefully so that juices do not leak onto other food;  cook meat so that the juices run clear when you prick it, and always put it on a clean plate;  carry food in a cool box – pack plenty of ice or frozen bricks;  carry plenty of water with you, and dispose of waste carefully.

Good advice.  However, I am a little disappointed; I think that she could have thrown in a few recipes while she was at it.  Along with another prawn on the barbie.  Why do our ministers never live up to our expectations?

Girl with DogChief Minister and Minister for Territory and Municipal Services, Jon Stanhope, has announced the site of Canberra’s third off-leash dog park.  Three sites had been shortlisted, and Weston Park won out over Grevillea Park in Russell, and Black  Mountain Peninsula.

Community groups, such as the Animal Welfare Advisory Committee, the Dog Parks Community Reference Group, dog clubs, residents’ associations, and community councils, were invited to participate in the consultation.  Dogs and humans must have weighed the pros and cons very carefully before giving their opinions.

Of course, in the end, it was the ACT Government which made the decision.  After all, it has committed $250,000 of our money to the park.

Mr Stanhope said that Weston Park, adjacent to the Royal Canberra golf course, was an “ideal site because of its central location, availability of urban space, access to non-potable water for irrigation, power supply, shade and accessibility”.

The Chief Minister went on to say that “the fenced-off park will provide a dedicated space for dogs and their owners to exercise and socialise in central Canberra.  It will feature walking paths, seats, landscaped gardens, bubblers and water supplies for dogs”.  Sounds delightful.  I hope that the canines and their companions will be suitably grateful.

The Weston Park off-leash dog park should be completed by June 2010.  However, time must be left for the grass to be established before it is opened later in the year.  I could make a comment about politicians watching grass grow, but I shall refrain.  It’s Christmas. 

The other two dog parks in Belconnen and Tuggeranong were completed over the last twelve months, and are now used by up to 100 Canberrans and their canine companions every weekend.  The Territory’s Government obviously has its eye on the doggie vote.  When is that going to be introduced?

Controlling Puppy Love

Walking the Dogs

They're a bit of a handfull!

In the Community News section of The Chronicle, The Canberra Times’ estimable free weekly newspaper, an article by Meredith Clisty caught my attention.  Its title was Keep puppy love under control.  That sounded soft and cuddly and, doubtless in need of a bit of soft and cuddly at the time, I plunged in to find out what it was all about.

The article started off with “It is the season of love for Canberra’s canine community…”.  So far so good.  Soft and cuddly all the way.  I was a bit intrigued by Ms Clisty’s reporting that “Domestic Animal Services (DAS) is urging pet owners to be responsible and remove the temptation – literally”.  What could that mean?

“DAS Registrar Scott Horan said that, unless people were legitimately breeding their dogs, it was a legal requirement to have them desexed”.  Soft and cuddly went straight out the window.

Things got even worse with the gentleman assuring the journalist that “They get benefits from it.  The dog has a much better temperament.  The dog is less likely to go stray.  The dog is less likely to affect other people’s animals, and you also find that their aggression levels are much lower as well.”  Really?  Sounds like a lot of benefits indeed.  All of them for humans.  What are the dog’s?

Mr Horan advised that “Spring was the time of year when dogs would be on the prowl.  That’s the time when a lot of animals start to become more sexually active in their breeding cycles.”  Quite right.  Including the human animal.

According to the article, the gentleman seemed to think that dogs, if sexually entire, would roam the streets during the day, in the absence of their owners, looking for sexual opportunities, out of boredom.  He might be right.  I’ve known a fair few human animals that did the same thing.

Mr Horan then went on to say “if pet owners were responsible and got their dogs microchipped, registered and desexed, the community would have fewer problems with stray dogs.”  Mmm…

He said that he found that the majority of dog attacks “and I’d say a high majority of dog attacks, have involved sexually entire dogs – without fail”.

Sexually entire human animals are probably responsible for an even higher majority of attacks.  Perhaps if we got them all “microchipped, registered and desexed, the community would have fewer problems”.  Food for thought.  Food for thought.

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