Thursday, November 04, 2010

White girl claims to be black

Under Australia's absurd laws, someone with a tiny amount of Aboriginal ancestry can claim to be an Aborigine

A YOUNG Aborigine was "shocked" and "humiliated" to hear she might not look "indigenous" enough for a job promoting the Aboriginal employment initiative GenerationOne, founded by the mining entrepreneur Andrew Forrest.

Tarran Betterridge, 24, a Canberra university student, applied for the post through an ACT company, Epic Promotions, which had been asked to find five people of "indigenous heritage" to staff a stall at Westfield in Canberra handing out flyers for GenerationOne.

Ms Betterridge was interviewed for 20 minutes on October 20 and told she was "perfect". However, the interviewer, Emanuela D'Annibale, said she first had to check with her client, an agency called Let's Launch, because of guidelines specifiying it wanted "indigenous-looking" people for the job. Ms D'Annibale then took Ms Betterridge's photo, but denies forwarding it.

Ms Betterridge's mother is white and her father is a Wiradjuri man from the Dubbo area.

When Ms Betterridge phoned the next day, Ms D'Annibale told her she was not needed as Let's Launch had already found enough casual employees.

Yesterday Ms D'Annibale confirmed working to guidelines that required at least some recruits to "look" indigenous. Ms Betterridge was "lovely", she said, but "if you're promoting Italian pasta, and you put Asians there, how's that going to look? Wouldn't you pick an Italian to promote the Italian pasta?"

She would have liked to hire Ms Betterridge anyway because "she was really nice, she had so much knowledge and background … but the reason we needed at least one person who looked indigenous [was] so that it would be friendlier to indigenous people".

"I wouldn't have picked her for Aboriginal at all … to me she looked like an Aussie girl." She said Ms Betterridge hadn't been hired because the agency didn't need five people.

Ms Betterridge is "shocked a company that wants to increase indigenous employment would question hiring a person because they do not meet the colour standard".

The chief executive of GenerationOne, Tim Gartrell, expressed repugnance at the claims last night. He said he instructed those responsible to apologise, and would no longer use the recruiting contractor's services. "The comment made by a recruiting contractor is completely inappropriate and doesn't reflect the views, practice or ethos of anyone in GenerationOne," he said.

Despite this, the NSW Aboriginal Land Council seized on the episode to attack GenerationOne, accusing it of abetting "staggering" discrimination against Ms Betterridge. "For them to deny an Aboriginal student a job - a real job - because of the colour of her skin shows that GenerationOne is not interested in walking the talk," its chairwoman, Bev Manton, said.

Let's Launch was not available for a formal response last night, but unofficially denied issuing the guidelines quoted by Ms D'Annibale.


Locating housing for "asylum seekers" in a pretty Australian country town unwise

HOUSING asylum seekers in the idyllic South Australian town of Inverbrackie will send the wrong message to people smugglers, Tony Abbott has said.

Mr Abbott was in the Adelaide Hills on Wednesday where residents were angry at the federal government's decision to use empty defence force housing for asylum seeker families. "Just as I look at this facility, it's hard to see that bringing asylum-seeker families to a beautiful, idyllic area like this is going to send anything other than the dead wrong message to people smugglers and their customers," Mr Abbott said. "If anything it is going to add the pull factor."

Mr Abbott also met community representatives, attending a forum at Woodside organised by the Woodside Community Action Group.

His trip followed a visit from Immigration Minister Chris Bowen on Monday who has been criticised for failing to consult with South Australians before announcing 400 asylum seekers would be housed at Inverbrackie.

The Woodside action group said it represented 500 people who had a genuine entitlement to consultation on matters that directly affected their community. The group said it was concerned about the logistics of transporting 400 people in and out of the town on days of extreme fire danger during summer and was also concerned about the impact asylum seekers would have on the local health and education services.

Mr Bowen announced on Monday he had set up a community reference group to consult on the detention centre and appointed a liaison officer.


Hundreds of patients shunted off surgery lists in NSW

Western Sydney hospital managers systematically bumped hundreds of patients off surgical waiting lists, artificially improving the area's performance, a damning external review has found.

The patients were reclassified - after waiting almost a year - as not being available to have their elective surgery, typically a fortnight or less before their operation would have become officially overdue, according to the report by the auditor O'Connor Marsden & Associates.

In a sample of 896 patients moved into the "not ready for care" category - either for medical or personal reasons - not a single instance was adequately documented. The time patients then spent in this category "generally seemed excessive", according to the report, with many people recorded as taking unusually long holidays.

Some waited two years for operations that should be performed within one year, without ever being recorded as overdue, and booking clerks had allegedly been told to remove patients from the waiting list in bulk - in one case because their surgeon was travelling overseas.

The auditor, appointed after the Herald reported hundreds of surgical patients in western Sydney were missing from an area-wide booking register, identified, "a strong culture of influencing waiting list figures".

The investigation was ordered in June by the Sydney West Area Health Service's newly appointed chief executive, Heather Gray.

The chairman of NSW Health's Surgical Services Taskforce, Patrick Cregan, said patients had suffered: "There's people who have got chronic, painful conditions and they've waited longer than they should have."

The auditor recommended NSW Health consider disciplining an unnamed manager implicated in the manipulation.

The opposition health spokeswoman, Jillian Skinner, said waiting list misrepresentation could be a wider problem, and called for a NSW-wide inquiry.

But the Minister for Health, Carmel Tebbutt, said the department was already implementing "external rolling audits across public hospitals to monitor compliance" with waiting list rules.


Government waste in a State that can't even fund its hospitals properly

Watch that space - it costs state $300,000 a month. The state government is losing at least $300,000 a month in potential rent while a 13-storey commercial tower that was bought as part of the axed CBD Metro project remains empty.

The building at 12 Castlereagh Street is still untenanted nine months after the Premier, Kristina Keneally, scrapped the controversial rail line that was to link the central business district with Rozelle.

Commercial property agents estimate that the building could fetch as much as $4 million a year in rent, but all its floors have remained unused since at least February, a potential loss of more than $2.4 million.

The bill for the failed project has continued to rise since the government admitted to having spent more than $400 million on property acquisitions, construction and administration costs.

The Transport Minister, John Robertson, told a budget estimates hearing in September that the final costs of the project would not be known until the end of this year because compensation issues were still to be finalised.

The government paid $93 million in compensation to the construction firms that tendered for the project, but most small business owners have had their claims for compensation rejected.

Mr Robertson has maintained that the Castlereagh Street building is in the process of being leased, but nearby small businesses say they have been crippled since the tower was vacated.

The latest business to fold is the Gallipoli Club's Dugout Bar and Restaurant in Chifley Arcade, which was not bought by the government but is next to the tower and relied heavily on trade from its workforce.

Shop owners in the arcade estimate revenue is down at least 30 per cent and several have indicated that they would not be renewing their leases next year because business was so bad.

Steve Papas, who owns a dry cleaning business in the arcade, said operators received a $50,000 business package from the government but it would do little to help them.

"We can't sell our businesses and we can't reinvest because the project was deferred, not cancelled, so we have no certainty that it won't still go ahead in six months or in 10 years," Mr Papas said. He met Mr Robertson early last month but said the minister was not swayed by their concerns. "The minister was just so cold about it all," Mr Papas said. "Even when I said this was our livelihood, and that people could lose their homes because of this, he showed no compassion."

The opposition treasury spokesman, Mike Baird, said the government continued to throw away money on a failed project that was axed months ago. "There cannot be any greater form of waste than having a building sitting idle that could be earning money for front-line services," Mr Baird said.

A spokesman for Transport NSW said the government was working to move tenants into the building as soon as possible. "Advertisements were placed in October for managing agents to assist in the leasing of the premises," he said. "A number of parties have already shown an interest, including undertaking inspections."


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