Saturday, January 07, 2012

Political correctness kills a black kid

Authorities could not intervene in neglectful childcare arrangements for "cultural reasons"

The Department of Child Protection has admitted to not intervening on behalf of an eight-year-old girl, who has since died in the desert under questionable circumstances, despite knowing she was living with a convicted child snatcher.

The girl, whose name and photograph has been suppressed for cultural reasons, died from severe dehydration on Tuesday after she was found more than 12 kilometres from the Tjirrkali Aboriginal Community, 180 kilometres north-west of Warburton.

She was in the company of Augustine Winter Miller, 38, who was the partner of the girl's carer Tania Little, who was also no relation to the girl.

Ms Little made headlines when she admitted to stealing a three-day-old baby from Perth's King Edward Memorial Hospital in 2007 and was given a suspended sentence by the Kalgoorlie District Court the following year.

The department said it had paid Ms Little to care for the girl through its family crisis program since 2010. But it said it was not culturally appropriate to intervene in the girl's care because it was common practice with Aboriginal children to leave living arrangements up to the extended family.

But Goldfields community leader Daisy Ward said the little girl was abandoned to two people who were not related to her or from her country. This was despite the girl having family, including both parents, a brother and aunties and uncles on both sides, who lived in the alcohol-free and traditional community of Jameson, Ms Ward said.

Ms Ward said that the girl should have gone back to her family instead of strangers. "I feel sick thinking about it. The duty of care goes back to the parents," Ms Ward said. "The carer that was looking after her should not have let her go [hunting]. There was a big responsibility [over her care].

"Only family should have had her. They should have had her in the first place, when she was little. It still goes back to parenting and the parents did wrong."

It is not known whether the girl's family were even notified that she had gone to live with a stranger since the community is not speaking to media.

The girl's mother Ann-Marie Lane had given up custody of her daughter and a son, when they were young, because she was not coping. The older boy went to live with his father in Jameson and her then two-year-old daughter went to live with a grandmother, Nola Grant. Ms Grant eventually died from kidney failure when the girl was aged about six.

The girl then went to live with Ms Little but details are sketchy about what arrangement was made between the grandmother and Ms Little over the care of the little girl before Ms Grant died.

It appeared that Ms Little had helped the older woman care for the girl when Ms Grant became increasingly unwell. Ms Little then took over custody and sought financial assistance for her new ward from the department in May 2010.

The department provided payments to Ms Little through Centrelink for more than a year but did not question the appropriateness of the convicted child snatcher to be her carer or seek out the girl's actual family.

"The department is unable to comment on the specifics of individual cases for reasons of family privacy," it said in a written statement. "...The department responds to notifications of concern regarding the safety and wellbeing of children and young people. Where necessary, the department will make alternative arrangements for children whose parents are not able to care for them. "However, if the extended family makes arrangements to ensure the safety and wellbeing of a child, the department will not need to intervene.

"These sorts of arrangements made by extended family are culturally appropriate and not uncommon in Aboriginal communities."

It said the type of financial assistance it provided was to pay for food, utilities and any undertaking of urgent travel, as well as provide bereavement assistance where applicable.

The department has denied any knowledge of the girl having gone to live in the Tjirrkali Aboriginal Community, 180 kilometres north-west of Warburton, where Mr Miller resided.

Mr Miller was known to police because he was a convicted child sex offender after forming a relationship with 14-year-old girl who he said had been promised to him as a wife. Mr Miller is not considered a traditional man except that he has gone through traditional men's business as an adult.

Since April last year the Laverton man and Ms Little formed a relationship and she joined Mr Miller in the Tjirrkali Aboriginal Community, where he hunted and operated as a bush mechanic.

It was his skills as a mechanic and his knowledge of bush survival that have caused the Warburton community to question how he and the little girl came to be lost in the desert for four days.

The girl died despite valiant efforts of police and a Warburton nurse to try and resuscitate her when she was found unconscious at 2pm on Tuesday.

The pair had been on a hunting trip since Saturday and were found halfway between their abandoned two-wheel drive car, which was 25 kilometres into the remote desert, and the community.

The girl's death is still being investigated by police for the state coroner and is being treated as suspicious as a precautionary measure.

In the meantime the Warburton community is baying for Mr Miller's blood in the way of pay back, which under tribal law allows the men to spear him for failing to ensure the girl's safety.

It is understood that the mother, Ms Lane, has flown to Warburton to collect the body, which is to be laid to rest in Jameson.

Mr Miller is meant to reside in Kalgoorlie until his next court hearing for firearm charges. He was released from custody by the Magistrates Court on the condition that he was to report to local police every day from Monday to Friday.


Report torpedoes Collins sub fleet

A NEW report reveals problems with maintaining the Collins-class submarine fleet, Catherine Hockley reports.

When the first of Australia's Collins-class submarines was launched in August 1993, it was unfinished and not ready for operational deployment until seven years later. The program to build the six submarines, based at ASC's Adelaide ship building yard, was beset with troubles from the start.

The sea trials of the fleet detected a range of problems with the vessels, delaying their construction and deployment. The Collins-class fleet won an unenviable notoriety.

After deployment, the next vexed issue for the fleet was maintenance, made all the more critical because of the original problems. Unfortunately that too has become mired in controversy, with criticisms of delay and inefficiency - leading to the subs being frequently in dry dock.

The Collins-class submarines remain at the top of the Defence Department's projects of concern list.

This week Defence Minister Stephen Smith released the latest insight into the troubled subs, part one of an investigation by UK submarine expert John Coles which explores the current program to sustain the subs - and concludes that fundamental reform is required to keep the fleet functioning and afloat.

"It points to very serious flaws over a long period of time and draws attention to the need for fundamental reform in the way in which the maintenance and sustainment of the Collins-class is effected," Mr Smith said.

The reports presents a damning picture of a complex, inefficient and ultimately flawed $440 million annual maintenance and sustainment program - predicting "it will be just a matter of time before the program grinds to a halt or the risk of a serious incident reaches unacceptable levels".

The report highlights poor relationships between the main players, the Federal Government's Defence Materiel Organisation, the government-owned enterprise ASC, which built the subs and now has the contract to maintain them in South Australia and Western Australia, and the Royal Australian Navy.

As well, the availability of the submarines for operational use is a major concern. "Despite increases in funding for sustainment, and strenuous efforts on the part of the various authorities and agencies involved, the level of submarine availability continues to fall," the report says.

"The length of dockings is increasing and submarines frequently have to return to harbour with problems. Loss of availability had also been caused by lack of crews, and the level of crew availability remains critical to the support of operations."

The report is critical of ASC, particularly of the Adelaide arm and its key sustainment work for the full cycle dockings of the submarines.

"The Adelaide operation, originally created to build the submarines, has thus had to transfer its skills from acquisition to sustainment, and the evidence suggests that this has not been wholly successful and that sustainment is still being treated as a poor relation compared to the generally higher-profile acquisition work," the report says.

"Full cycle dockings are three-year jobs, which is a long time even by modern nuclear submarine standards. "It was not evident to us that there was any incentive to complete FCDs more quickly. Relationships are mainly difficult and fractious, though there are also some good spots at the lower levels."

Although the panel behind the review has yet to provide its final recommendations, the report suggests that all maintenance of the submarines could be centralised in WA. Currently the work is split between the two states, with SA's 850 employees performing deeper-level major maintenance and WA doing routine upkeep. "Concentrating all sustainment activity in WA would be likely to have clear benefits," the report says.

SA Defence Teaming Centre chief executive Chris Burns said yesterday "any review will always find fault and they are important for continuous improvement".

He called for the Federal Government to commit to its mooted submarine replacement program. The Government has already said it wants to build up to 12 new submarines to replace the ageing Collins-class, to be assembled in SA at the new Techport facility.

"If we don't want to repeat the problems with the Collins, the Government needs to be investing dollars in starting the design of the future submarine. Otherwise we will lose the skills and industry capability," he said.

Former submariner and the director of submarine training agency, Acoustic Force, Rex Patrick said the report largely described problems that were already known. He called on the Government to consider cutting its losses with the Collins-class, and progressively phasing them out and moving to off-the-shelf replacements to "restore the capability".

ASC managing director Steve Ludlam said yesterday he welcomed the report. "The review confirms that in some areas we are performing well, and in other areas there is room for improvement," he said.


Interesting excerpt from another article:

The Collins-class engine was not fully tested before going to sea and there was no requirement for tank testing. There were later problems with the French-designed engines - the foreign supplier could not address these and its Australian partner did not have the skills to do so either.


Architects defend the majesty of unwanted '50s fibros

Fibro is asbestos cement sheeting, once very widely used in building construction but now banned because of its asbestos content, even though no harm from using the product has ever been shown

Just as the suburban quarter-acre block is becoming a thing of the past, so too it seems is the house that used to sit on it. Across Sydney, homes from the 1950s and '60s are being bulldozed at such a rate that architects and heritage experts worry these "fibro majestics" and other examples of the era will disappear, and so are pushing for them to be saved.

Bill Randolph, the director of the City Futures research centre at the University of NSW, who has studied this "knock down, rebuild" phenomenon, said it occurred mostly to houses from between the '40s and '60s, and was widespread in most of the 29 areas in Sydney he studied.

The reason was generational, he said. Younger families wanted larger houses closer to the city and it was cheaper to knock down existing ones than renovate them. "The issue is spread right across the middle suburbs and it's in the high-end market as well as the rest," Professor Randolph said. "In Ku-ring-gai they are knocking them down as quickly as in Bankstown."

A spokeswoman for the state government's Heritage Branch said architects had lobbied for the preservation of these mid-century dwellings, and over the next two years it would begin identifying those worth keeping.

Professor Randolph said many of these houses were owner-built and of poor quality, but the good ones should be saved. "Even the 'fibro majestic', there's some pretty interesting fibro houses about and that's a real part of our city's history," he said. "As long as the good stuff is kept and the not-so-good stuff is replaced … that's the way to go."

Caroline Butler-Bowdon, an assistant director at the Historic Houses Trust, which held a seminar on '50s and '60s houses in October, said they were more in need of protection than others.

"It's like the argument has been won in favour of terrace houses," she said. "They don't get demolished, do they? "There is an appreciation for our Federation architecture and Arts and Crafts, but really some of the houses most at risk are those from the '50s and '60s."

She said they were unpopular as they were small by today's "bloated" standards. But the appeal lay in the flexibility, open-plan design, easy flow between rooms and connection with the outside through large windows.

In the '50s, these houses were mostly made of fibro and timber; by the mid-'60s it was usually cream- or red-brick veneer, often with double and triple-fronts with hipped tiled roofs, she said.


Demand for prestige wine brands outstrips supply

AMID a continuing wine glut the Foster's wine spin-off, Treasury Wine Estates, has the opposite problem: demand is outstripping supply for some of its premium brands, and not just Penfolds.

"We are way short of the global demand today, and what we've got to do is to balance the growth of something like Penfolds with some of the other brands we've got," the company's chief executive, David Dearie, told Weekend Business. "We're also short this year on brands such as Pepperjack and Wynns from Coonawarra.

"There's a lot of fantastic wines in our portfolio which are very highly sought after right now." The biggest shortage remains at the top of its brand tree: Penfolds. Australian customers will increasingly have to share supply with a growing customer base, and not just in Asia.

The release in November of Treasury Wine Estates' most expensive wine, the $1000 Penfolds Bin 620, has been doing surprisingly well in London, where it sells for around £750 a bottle.

However, it puts things in perspective when Mr Dearie mentions that a Chinese buyer showed up at Penfolds' cellar door in South Australia to buy 11 bottles of Bin 620 and have another case sent to his home in China.

The main downside for Treasury Wine Estates is that Bin 620 will not produce much more than bragging rights due to the small volumes that help make it such a desirable commodity. It is understood production was limited to a few hundred cases.

"It's very small quantities, but it does show that when you have a product from a brand with a reputation like Penfolds, and a product which is rare in its availability, then there is a lot of demand there," Mr Dearie said.

While Asia is a potential game changer for the industry, it is not the only market that could be driving demand for wineries like Treasury Wine Estates.

"I read some forecasts the other day which said the wine consumption in China will double in the next five years, at the same time I also read that the forecast is the wine consumption in the US will double in the next 10 years," Mr Dearie said.

"If both of those predictions were to come true there would be a mass global shortage of wine. I think we've got to be very excited about Asia and the opportunity that it poses, but there are very big growth opportunities … around the world."

The US market is a long way from giving the company this sort of headache. Following Treasury Wine Estates' October update, brokers such as Goldman Sachs downgraded forecasts based on its struggle to "stabilise commercial brand volumes" in the US and Europe.


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