Monday, August 14, 2006

Truganini replica removed

The National Museum of Australia has denied bowing to political correctness in withdrawing a bust of Aborigine Truganini from an international exhibition. A wooden bust of Truganini, once claimed to have been the last "full-blood" Tasmanian Aborigine, was to be part of a visiting show displaying beads from across the Commonwealth. The bust would have been used to display a shell necklace.

Museum public affairs director Dennis Grant said the bust had been removed from the exhibition, which began in Canberra yesterday, partly because of fear it would cause offence. "People said Truganini was the last Tasmanian Aborigine - that's insulting to Tasmanian Aborigines because what does that make them?" [It makes them half-castes -- which is what they are, though even that is overstating it. Most so-called Tasmanian Aborigines today have only a tiny amount of Aboriginal ancestry] Mr Grant said. "That's where we are coming from."

Tasmanian Aborigines believe the memory of Truganini, who died in 1876, has been misused by non-indigenous Australians to create and perpetuate the myth their people died out on the island. Mr Grant said it was also decided that the bust of Truganini, who remains arguably Tasmania's most well-known woman, was out of place being used as a mannequin to display beads.

The legal director of the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre, Michael Mansell [who has blond hair and blue eyes], said local Aborigines would be outraged to learn the work was included in the show. He said no museum should contemplate using the bust, crafted by Queensland sculptor John Vink in 1990 and modelled on a work by 19th-century artist Benjamin Law displayed in Hobart. Mr Mansell said the replica should be destroyed, as Truganini's death had been falsely but potently used as evidence of the end of Aborigines in Tasmania.


Another health coverup

"Queensland Health's Code of Conduct prohibits staff from releasing information to the media that has been obtained in the course of their duties without appropriate clearance. As well, there are a number of legislative and policy requirements that prevent staff from releasing information about Queensiand Health clients, staff and business affairs"

[Above is an excerpt from the] document that has gagged health staff across Queensland. While the Beattie Government boasts of a new "commitment to transparency" in Queensland Health, employees are terrified to speak out about problems for fear of losing their jobs. The Sunday Mail has been inundated with calls from doctors and nurses who want to raise concerns but say they are too afraid. Bosses insist they adhere to a code of conduct that states: "Only staff authorised by the director-general can speak on behalf of Queensland Health."

In contrast, a new Government "Keeping Our Promise" brochure, delivered to Queensland residents at a cost of $300,000, states: "We have delivered commitment to transparency."

But doctors warn the concealment culture that enabled Bundaberg surgeon Jayant Patel to botch so many operations still exists. The Australian Medical Association said staff needed to be able to speak out for the safety of patients. Queensland president Zelle Hodge said: "Despite what the Government says in its brochure, our members are telling us that this closed culture is still there. "In any organisation there is a degree of commitment to that organisation, but in health the over-riding commitment is to the patients. "If there is some adverse event happening and clinical staff are too frightened to talk about it, then obviously there is a risk to patients."

One doctor said: "The Government is hypocritical to say that Queensland Health is a transparent organisation when employees are being gagged. No one will speak out about any problems because they are running scared. Some people even think bosses will go as far as to trace calls to the media."

Queensland Nurses Union secretary Gay Hawksworth said she had been in discussions with the Government about the brochure. "We want our members to know that they can voice any concerns about patient care with us," she said.

Last year's inquiry into the Bundaberg Hospital scandal found that a "concealment culture" had influenced staff to shelve concerns to protect the Government. It resulted in vital information about hospital waiting lists and key data on the performance of health facilities being concealed. A spokesman for Health Minister Stephen Robertson said the Government was providing the public with "more information on hospitals than ever before". "That's why hospitals employ PR people. We are proving we have a commitment to transparency.


Preschool food Fascism

Preschool teachers are inspecting lunch boxes and decreeing which ingredients are acceptable in birthday cakes in a dramatic escalation in the war against childhood obesity. Chocolate frogs, lollies, cakes and fruit roll-ups are among foods banned at some NSW preschools and kindergartens. If daily lunch-box checks reveal such foods, they are sent home uneaten. And parents who send in a cake to mark their child's birthday are being left in no doubt: small plain cakes are in, big creamy chocolate cakes are out.

The crackdown in preschools comes as junk food is being officially phased out of canteens at the state's primary schools. But some experts, including leading nutritionist Rosemary Stanton, say lunch-box inspections take the healthy eating strategies too far. "There is no direction from anyone in an official position to examine children's lunch boxes or to forbid any child to eat any food and I would not support such draconian measures," she said. Dr Stanton said efforts to cut junk food from lunch boxes should be a group decision made by parents. But kindergartens say they are doing it with children's health in mind.

At Red Robin Kindergarten in Eastwood, parents had been told that birthday cakes should be as simple as possible, preschool teacher Jess Karhu said. "For birthdays we encourage a vanilla cupcake," Ms Karhu said. "It should be something little, not too big." And lunch boxes at the 40-child centre, which provides fruit platters for the children, do not escape scrutiny, with regular checks carried out. "If it is not appropriate it goes back in the lunch box," she said.

Council of Catholic School Parents executive director Danielle Cronin - who has a daughter at Red Robin Kindergarten - said the lunch-box checks and healthy birthday cake recommendations were helping youngsters develop good habits. "Preschools are probably leading the way with healthy-eating strategies in schools," Ms Cronin said, admitting lunch-box inspections could prove controversial. "Parents want to make sure that their kids are not hungry at school and they have the tendency then to load up the lunch box with all sorts of things," she said. "There is a sense that it is their right as a parent to fill their child's lunch box with whatever they choose or whatever their child is telling them they want. It possibly could be a bit a bit controversial. Some parents might object and some kids might object."

Ms Cronin is tackling the task of creating a healthy, but tasty, birthday cake that her daughter Virginia, who will turn five this week, can take to kindy to share with her friends. "The healthy cake option for us will probably be a plain homemade vanilla cake. We may put Smarties on top but we won't be doing the icing and cream option," she said.

Food and recipe writer Anneka Manning runs in-school cooking classes. She said parents of preschool- and school-age children must take responsibility for what goes into a child's lunch box. "It is just as much about educating parents as it is the children," she said.


A model success

Model Megan Gale is now feted in Australia every time she jets in from Switzerland and makes an appearance on the catwalk, as she did last week at the David Jones fashion parade. But before the 180-centimetre, Perth-born brunette was appreciated at home she had to make it big in Italy, where she is described by journalists as the hottest model since Sophia Loren.

Gale, who turned 30 last week, is a living reproach to that childish Australian knack of respecting our own only if their worth has been validated by outsiders. In Gale's case, it was the droves of Italian men driven to nirvana by an advertisement she did for telephones. She had been forced to look overseas for work because Australian modelling agencies kept ignoring her - they reportedly didn't like her exotic look. Now they can't get enough of her. She's David Jones's secret weapon - Our Megan, a Gale Force.

Even with her belated recognition at home, Gale still had to share the spotlight last week with special guest Mischa Barton, the emaciated former starlet of The O.C., whom David Jones inexplicably flew in from Los Angeles. But Gale had the grace to rise above the competition - and about 20 extra centimetres helped.


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