Sunday, November 06, 2011

God may be first casualty as Guides look for a fresh start

Lessons in condom use will be next. More decay of standards just when kids need them most

"I promise that I will do my best: to do my duty to God, to serve the Queen and my country; to help other people; and to keep the Guide law.

THESE are the first words a little girl utters when she becomes a Girl Guide and they haven't changed in more than 40 years.

But now the Girl Guide promise is being reviewed to bring the 100-year-old organisation into the 21st century - and God and the Queen could be casualties of the modernisation.
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The word "obedient" as a girl guide law is also under review.

The Board of Girl Guides Australia is asking its 30,000 members to suggest how the Guide promise and law could be made more relevant to their lives today.

The Australian Guides are trying to shed their old-fashioned folksy image to appeal to a wider group from different faiths and cultures. "We're seen as outdated, yet the programs we run are far from outdated," the NSW Guides Commissioner, Belinda Allen, said.

They introduced new uniforms last year, run modern leadership and personal development programs alongside their traditional outdoor activities, and now want to overhaul the promise and law, last updated in 1969.

"We feel it's time it was in language that is appropriate to girls of the 21st century, and to Australia, because the nature and composition of the Australian community has changed dramatically since 1969," Ms Allen said.

The Australian promise - a code of living that Guides strive for - is nearly identical to the promise made by the British Guides.

But Canadian Guides don't mention God or the Queen in their promise. After reviewing their wording last year, they now pledge "to be true to myself, my beliefs and Canada". [i.e. nothing]

Ms Allen is reluctant to publicly single out which parts of the promise and law are likely to change, lest she pre-empt the survey responses of Guides. But it is believed that the references to God and the Queen are key elements up for review. It became optional last year for Australian Guides to promise to serve the Queen.

Guides in the Netherlands and Switzerland can omit the words "with the help of God", while Guides in Britain and the US can substitute their preferred spiritual deity for God.

When it comes to the Guide law Ms Allen has a "big problem" with the sixth law which states "A Guide is obedient". "It is totally out of step with girls in this day and age," she said. "In a time of gender equality it's very important that girls are empowered to think for themselves and make good decisions. I think the word we'd like to use is respect, as opposed to obedience."

After declining during the '80s and '90s, Guides membership has stabilised and is now growing again.

Ms Allen hopes a new, more inclusive promise and law will encourage more girls to join the Guides. "I hope we'll broaden our appeal," she said. "I'm sure there have been cases in the past where girls felt [excluded]."

Ms Allen doubts many Guides will be alienated by any changes to the promise and law. "Anything is controversial where you are looking to change," she said. "With any change do you please everyone? We are listening to our membership."

A new promise and law are likely to be unveiled next March.


Myths, lies and adoption

In 2009–10, 36,000 children were in out of home care in Australia and more than two-thirds had been there for at least two years.

Many of these children will remain in out of home care indefinitely after being cycled in and out of the system following failed attempts to reunite them with their dysfunctional parents. Most will suffer lifelong disadvantage due to abuse at home and instability in care. Almost all would be better off if adopted, at the earliest opportunity, by suitable families.

Yet in child and family welfare circles, a self-fulfilling myth has been cultivated to rule adoption out of bounds.

Those who are ideologically opposed to ‘forced’ adoptions maintain that ‘Australians have, on the whole, been less willing to adopt children [from out of care] … than their counterparts in the United States and Britain.’

This claim is mischievous. The real obstacle is that family preservation-obsessed Australian child protection agencies refuse to take action to legally terminate the parental responsibilities of bad or inadequate parents who could contest adoptions.

What seems to be different here compared to comparable countries is that the official taboo on adoption appears to be much stronger.

The number of children in care per capita in England, the United States, and Australia is very similar. Yet significantly more children are adopted out of care each year in England and the United States.

In England, 3,200 children were adopted from care in 2009–10. If Australian children in care had been adopted at the same rate, there would have been approximately 1,700 adoptions from care in 2009–10.

In the United States, more than 50,000 children are adopted every year from out of care.

If Australian children in care had been adopted at the same rate as in the United States, there would have been approximately 4,800 Australian adoptions from care in 2009–10.

In reality, however, a mere 61 Australian children were adopted by non-relatives and 53 by foster carers in 2009–10.

Australia’s lagging adoption performance has got nothing to do with the so-called unwillingness of Australians to give needy children good homes.

The true culprits are the academics, social workers, and other activists who cling to the meta-myth that vulnerable children ‘are almost always better off with natural parents.’


"Secret" plan to cut nurse numbers?

If this goes ahead, it will be like the British disaster, where many people performing nursing duties have no training at all

THE Baillieu government has developed a secret plan to goad the state's nurses into industrial action so it can force them into arbitration, cut nurse numbers and replace them at hospital bedsides with low-skilled "health assistants".

The secret government document outlines an aggressive approach to achieving its policy - by deliberately frustrating pay negotiations - prompting claims from the nurses' union secretary Lisa Fitzpatrick of "duplicity".

A cabinet-in-confidence submission, signed by Health Minister David Davis in May and leaked to The Sunday Age, confirms that the government had detailed plans to cut the annual nursing budget by $104 million.

Mr Davis did not return repeated calls from The Sunday Age, so it is not known whether cabinet endorsed the strategy.

In order to make the savings, the government planned to make nurse-patient ratios - currently one nurse is rostered on for every four patients - more flexible; replace some nurses with low-paid, low-skilled "health assistants"; reduce the ratio of university-qualified nurses on wards; and introduce shorter shifts and split shifts.

Mr Davis's submission reveals that in return for these cuts, which amount to 4 per cent of the nurses' wage budget, nurses would get a pay rise of just 3.5 per cent per year. Police recently received a 4.7 per cent pay rise.

The government appears determined to pursue its policy despite its submission acknowledging that interstate nurses "receive significantly higher pay rates" than Victorian nurses.

Negotiations for the new agreement began in September, and on Friday nurses voted to give themselves the ability to take legally protected industrial action from Thursday.

The government's aim, revealed in the submission, is to have the crisis continue to a point whereby the industrial tribunal, Fair Work Australia, is either called in or steps in because negotiations have broken down and the nurses' action is deemed harmful to public welfare.

This would force both parties into arbitration, where the government's push to reduce nurses' conditions is likely to be successful because the tribunal is not permitted under the constitution to tell states the "number, identity or appointment" of the workforce they employ.

"[We] believe that a demonstrated preparedness to take such claims to full-blown arbitration (despite the risks involved) is the best means of inducing the ANF to reach an acceptable agreement," the submission argues. "These proposals will be difficult to have agreed in negotiation, but may be successful should the parties end up in arbitration."

The Australian Nursing Federation's Lisa Fitzpatrick told The Sunday Age the government had adopted a "sham approach" to the negotiations.

"They're prepared to force nurses to take industrial action such as bed closures which they then argue is harming the community, and say how terrible the nurses are," she said yesterday.

"But this is what they've set out to do all along. It's duplicity of the greatest proportion - more than we've ever seen before."

Mr Davis's submission details savings of $42 million per year from "roster/shift flexibility", $39.3 million by changing nurse ratios and using "health assistants", and $19.9 million from "nurse-patient ratio flexibility".

It says the government wants "significant replacement [of nurses] at the lower end [of the skill range] by a new generation of assistants", even though the rate of technological change in nursing "easily surpasses that experienced by other professionals".

It says more flexibility is required to make sure that "management prerogative … in relation to workforce planning is enhanced as far as practicable".

At present, state health facilities employ registered nurses who have done a three-year university degree and enrolled nurses who have completed an 18-month TAFE diploma. The government wants to save money on nursing wages by employing unregistered health assistants who have little if any training, similar to personal care assistants who work in the private aged-care sector.

The Austin Hospital is trialling a program whereby health assistants are tending patients on wards, but they are in addition to the existing nurse-patient ratio.

Kate Robinson and Kylie Thompson, nurses at the Royal Women's Hospital, said if the government tried to save $104 million from nurses' wages, they would look for different jobs.

And Hannah Harris, an enrolled nurse at the Peter James Centre, said the move would create so much stress that "we're going to lose nurses, surely".


Arty Christmas horror scrapped

LORD Mayor Robert Doyle has backflipped on a move to install a $285,000 hi-tech Christmas tree in the middle of Melbourne.

Responding to community opposition to the 18m high yuletide decoration he wanted to plant in the City Square, Mr Doyle has decided instead to commission a more traditional tree at the same cost to ratepayers.

In July, the Sunday Herald Sun revealed a plan to erect the futuristic tree fitted with 10,000 LED lights, the capacity to stream sound and vision and display Christmas-related images on its translucent perspex branches and loudspeakers to blare Christmas carols.

Mr Doyle had hoped the tree would help put Melbourne on the world Christmas map.

But in a change of heart, he has decided to scrap the tree, designed with Melbourne artists, and instead turn the square, at the corner of Swanston and Collins streets, into an "urban forest".

In a column for the Sunday Herald Sun, Mr Doyle said he had listened to the people and decided against the hi-tech tree. "Everybody hated it: residents, visitors, businesses," he said. "No one thought it was a striking centrepiece for City Square." So he has decided to turn the City Square Christmas green instead.

"We will turn City Square into an urban forest. Up to 20 big, living hoop pines, native Australian trees that resemble a traditional Christmas tree, will be the central feature of the square," he said.

"There will be one huge tree as the centrepiece, elegantly lit and with a new star. "There will be green turf throughout the square (synthetic because of foot traffic) and many smaller trees and box hedges, all beautifully landscaped. "The City Square will become a green oasis. The base of each large tree will be a gift wrapped 'present'."

Despite his U-turn, Mr Doyle said the Town Hall would press ahead with a $2.6 million budget to shower visitors to the city with festive spirit.

New decorations including a nativity scene and mistletoe bridge will be installed, a Santa's house will be set up for photos, festive images will be projected on major buildings, the Town Hall will be wrapped like a gift and the council has commissioned a Christmas tram.


1 comment:

Paul said...

I've now believed for some time that Governments (persuasion not relevant) want to discard the public health system, and one way to do it is to hamstring it so much that it becomes effectively paralyzed, and then they offer to get rid of it in order to "resolve the problem". Problem-reaction-solution, or create the problem so as to offer the solution. It works for everything because people just don't see when they are being played. If you follow "Mainstream media" too much you can never know.