Sunday, December 27, 2020

How a regional Australian city became an unlikely home for hundreds of Yazidi refugees

Yazidis are Indo-Europeans, related to European populations, not Arabs or Iranians. They have their own monotheistic religion. They should settle well in Australia

It's been almost three years since about 600 Yazidi refugees from Northern Iraq and Syria began resettling in Australia, many fleeing trauma after persecution by the IS terror group.

One of the resettlement areas was Armidale, where the community has embraced its new migrants.

Aedo, who arrived two years ago, is now helping transform a plot of land just outside of the town into prime pasture, as part of a new agriculture initiative set up for the Yazidi community.

"What we're trying to achieve is help them realise their place in Armidale, through acquisition of skills and using those skills to gain employment,” says Lance McNamara from Northern Settlement Services.

Aedo hopes the opportunity will help him secure stable employment in Australia.

"The first thing I get is experience, so I know how work will be like and I can get the best work every day,” he says.

The land was donated by members of the local rotary club to give the Yazidi community, who typically worked on the land, a place of their own to farm.

Peter Lloyd from Armidale Rotary says members of his organisation have been stunned by the rapid progress the community has made in transforming the plot.

"It's absolutely amazing, 250 metres of fencing disappeared in a couple of hours,” he says.

“The speed of work, efficiency, and the degree of learning is quite impressive."

Resettlement program

Armidale, which has a population of about 25,000, was selected as a regional resettlement site by the Turnbull Government in August 2017, with the first refugees from Syria and Iraq arriving just over six months later.

Mr Lloyd says the way the families have been settled has helped them assimilate into the wider community.

"The families are being distributed, if you like, with their homes quite separated within the township and many families, their neighbours are taking everyone under their wings,” he says.

“There's a lot of exchanges, especially of recipes!”

“There's a lot of Yazidi bread that's being consumed in Armidale and a lot of other things [happening] that are really beneficial in a social sense, a language sense, and also an educational sense."

Yazidi cuisine has become a highlight at one local hotel. The Minnie Barn, which opened at the beginning of this year, has employed Yazidi chefs to cook up a unique menu.

The dishes have proved popular, even during periods impacted by COVID-19 restrictions.

“We knew about the Yazidi community, we approached them, and we found a couple of guys that were willing to come on board,” says Comfort City Inn manager Phil Mitchell.

“It was a bit of a struggle from the start with the language barriers and working out how to operate a professional kitchen with them. But a couple of months in, it's really taking off."

Salam Qaro and his wife Fryal Khalaf arrived in Australia in July 2019. Since settling in Armidale, the family has thrived.

“I was surprised because the physical aspects of Armidale are similar to my hometown, where I was living in Northern Iraq,” Salam says.

“I noticed that Armidale was so quiet, and also the people were welcoming, and I feel safe with my family here.”

The rest of his family remain in Northern Iraq, where they have faced persecution, he says. Some are still missing or were killed by IS.

"Two uncles of mine are missing by ISIS, and also my grandmother, my cousin was killed by ISIS, and no-one cared about that.”

“In my country, there is no future for anyone, especially for the Yazidi community, because the Yazidi community is all the time living very dangerous situations."

While he Fryal were able to settle in Armidale as refugees, applications to bring other family members to Australia on humanitarian grounds have not been successful.

“We received it with a declined outcome by [the Department of] Immigration. We don’t know why, and we are still asking why,” he says.

While his psychology degree is not recognised in Australia, Salam now helps settle other refugees in the area and is planning to build a house of his own with Fryal.

In June, the family also expanded when they welcomed baby Sama.

"We were lucky with Sama, she was born in Australia and she is an Australian citizen now,” he says. “She will have a good future in Australia."

Australian universities allowing almost anyone into their courses this year

Teenagers who missed out on studying their dream degree due to a low ATAR (Australian Tertiary Admission Rank) are being urged to take a short bridging course or apply directly for entry.

One university is admitting students based on teacher recommendations, rather than ATAR scores, this year.

Others are counting community service and work experience towards university entry.

Students who copped health or financial curveballs in 2020 can also apply for special entry on “equity’’ grounds.

Universities, bleeding cash due to the lockout of fee-paying international students, are bending over backwards to admit more domestic students for 2021.

Universities Australia chief executive Catriona Jackson said 2020 had been “exceptionally tough’’ for students and advised them to use different “pathways’’ to a degree.

“These include work experience, other qualifications such as bridging courses, leadership and community service, equity and special circumstances,’’ she told News Corp Australia.

“Options for university admission don’t end with the ATAR.

“Universities understand that the disruption caused by the COVID-19 crisis may have affected students differently and will be looking to provide flexibility to students.

“All universities will be ready and willing to talk with students about their individual situation.’’

Budding criminologist Megan Ting, 23, was devastated when she received a low ATAR but is now studying a Bachelor of Forensics Science at UTS, after completing a bridging Diploma of Life Science at UTS Insearch.

“Your ATAR doesn’t define you at all,’’ she said.

“Just don’t stress out – there’s always another way.

“I wish someone had told me earlier not to stress out and think it’s the end of the world.’’

The University of Tasmania has already admitted 1800 students through a side door, using its Schools’ Recommendation Program.

“We take a teachers’ recommendation along with prior academic performance, not just ATAR which is not a good predictor of future success,’’ vice-chancellor Professor Rufus Black said yesterday.

“Teachers are ideally placed to know if a student is on the right path to further studies.

“We (also) take into account people’s work and other life experience when considering their application to study.

“Not having an ATAR, or not having the ATAR you were hoping for, doesn’t have to be a barrier to your dream course.’’

Charles Sturt University (CSU) gives school leavers from regional areas a five-point ATAR bonus, and has already made 1859 early offers to school leavers.

CSU takes into account “soft skills’’ such as empathy and resilience, demonstrated through community and charity work.

Indigenous students can undertake a five-day entry program that provides guaranteed entry into a broad range of bachelor degrees.

CSU also offers “micro-credentials” in community leadership and resilience, to certify skills that show a student’s ability to do a job or continue study.

CSU acting vice-chancellor Professor John Germov said that “ATAR scores are not what they used to be’’, with 70 per cent of students entering via other pathways.

“ATAR scores do not necessarily reflect the skills and attributes that many occupations and professions require, and which students might possess when they apply for entry to university,’’ he said.

“A nurse is nothing without empathy for her patients, a veterinarian will struggle without the resilience required to deal with the death of the animals in his care.’’

The University of Southern Queensland (USQ) offers free three-month Tertiary Preparation Programs, covering English, maths and study management, with guaranteed entry to a range of USQ bachelor degrees regardless of ATAR results.

It also offers six-month certificate programs as a stepping stone to a full degree.

“You do not have to give up on your dream career,’’ vice-chancellor Professor Geraldine Mackenzie said.

“This year 12 cohort has had a lot thrown at them in the last 12 months.

“They’ve shown grit and resilience and will no doubt continue to do this throughout their university studies and into their careers.’’

In Victoria, RMIT University offers a new Pathways Guaranteed program, to help students without an ATAR get into a degree course by completing a TAFE course first.

“The benchmark of some VCE students will be disproportionately impacted this year by the disruptions of bushfires and COVID-19,’’ a spokeswoman said.

“The cost of a Pathways Package is often cheaper than completing a full Bachelor program.’’

University of Queensland acting deputy vice-chancellor Professor Doune Macdonald urged school leavers to “keep their ATAR in perspective’’.

“While it’s disappointing not to get the ATAR they were hoping for it can be a detour for school leavers – and for many students, that detour can become their passion,’’ she said.

The University of South Australia is offering diplomas or foundation studies to help students leapfrog into a degree.

“If students didn’t achieve the result they needed to get into their chosen degree, we encourage having a back-up plan by preferencing a degree in a similar field,’’ UniSA chief academic services officer Professor Marie Wilson said yesterday,

The Australian Catholic University (ACU) has introduced a new Foundation Studies Program at its Blacktown Campus in Sydney, to help students without a Year 12 qualification get into uni.

“While the year was extremely challenging for Year 12s, we are also seeing a very large number of applicants with high ATARs so not all students will be able to get in to their first choice,’’ ACU vice-chancellor Professor Greg Craven said yesterday.

He said the federal government was funding extra places for school leavers to complete a certificate first, and then transfer into a bachelor degree once they meet the entry requirements.

The University of New England (UNE) already admits 90 per cent of its students without an ATAR result, and offers free short courses to gain entry.

“If you didn’t get the ATAR that you hoped for, there is absolutely no reason why you still can’t go to university and go on to a successful career in your chosen field,’’ UNE student success director Barb Shaw said yesterday.

The Queensland University of Technology (QUT) advises school leavers to study a diploma or certificate in a similar discipline, as a pathway to a full degree.

Students can also combine a TAFE certificate with a QUT qualification, or study a different bachelor degree course before switching to their dream degree.

James Cook University (JCU) offers a Certificate of Higher Education that lets students catch up on any missing prerequisite subjects, in time to start most bachelor degrees in February 2021.

“If a student didn’t get the ATAR they need for their dream course, the Diploma of Higher Education is a six-month to one-year full-time course designed to help them meet the entry requirements for most JCU courses,’’ a spokesman said.

“They’ll study a combination of introductory and first-year degree subjects and develop the practical skills to be a successful university student and gain credit towards their chosen degree.’’

Shrinking family is fertile ground for concern

There are times when I wish I had a dollar for every insult I have endured for the size of my family. The number of children that I have managed to produce, nine, has been the source of a never-ending stream of jokes and jibes, from complete strangers.

They range from the lamely comedic: “Don’t you have a TV?” my reply, “we found something much better to do”, to the snide: “How can you afford them?” muttered to a nine-year-old, to which she replied: “Do you have to pay for yours?” But the absolute worst was: “people have families, not litters” a statement that was actually published in the letters section of a metropolitan newspaper.

That a large family like mine is open season for attack and ridicule shows more about why there is a so-called “baby drought’” than any number of statistics and theories.

The rot at the heart of declining fertility is not as some think, just economic, nor just about women’s working patterns or men’s inability to “commit”. It is deeply cultural. It is the product of a sick society that has pushed the natural child-bearing family to the periphery.

This decline can all be traced to exactly one year, 1961, the year the pill was introduced. From the very year of its introduction the total fertility rate (TFR) literally plummeted. The graph dips in a Matterhorn-like precipitous decline.From 1961 the Australian birthrate went from 3.55, as an average number of births per woman over a lifetime, to the current 1.6.

But a worse cultural malaise took hold. The nexus between sex and fertility was lost, and gradually, the consequences of this sexual revolution, the “great dis-ruption”, as Francis Fukayama described it, have been disastrous.

One of the first things that happened was the marriage rate began to decline. This is particularly bad for fertility because most people do not want children outside the marriage bond. Even today, over 64 per cent of children are born into a registered marriage.

Over 50 years, casual sexual relationships became more common. Marriage went from the gold standard foundation of sexual relationships, something sacred, profound and exclusive to heterosexual sex because of the children that might be produced from that natural biological pairing, to a “partnership” in which the children were an optional extra.

Gradually within this milieu, serial sexual relationships have replaced marriage. Even in exclusive partnerships marriage is delayed. The consequence on a practical level is that people are getting older at marriage, and women who have delayed childbirth simply can’t have as many children as in the past – or even as many as all the social surveys show they would like.

Peter Costello is right. He knows full well that we have to increase the fertility rate in Australia or we will simply run short of young productive people to fuel the economy. We must have migration just to top up our ever-dwindling natural fertility, which must be just over 2 per woman over a lifetime for our population to simply remain static. The last time this happened was in 1997. It was the Baby Bonus blip, but it was not sustainable. Right now, our economic future is running on empty, with a pitifully shrinking fertility and alarmingly low migration statistics due to the COVID-19 crisis which has cut the projected population increase by over a million.

Some influential people have been brainwashed by the so-called “population bomb” of the zero-population growth movement, which gave its advocates an ideologically respectable reason not to have kids. But the world’s population increase is slowing and is predicted to reach stasis in about 2050. Already some countries, notably Russia, have actually lost population.

Ours is not a country that has too many people. It is a country where too many people are crammed into only six cities. It is a country that needs decentralisation, but nevertheless, we are a society that is running short of young people to fuel our economy. So, we keep importing them in ever increasing numbers just to keep things going. Migration works to expand the youthful workforce in the short term but it exponentially increases the ageing of the population since migrants arrive as adults, and have about the same numbers of children as the native born.

Since 1961 some dangerously scarring phenomena have been embedded into the social culture. The advent of the pill seemed to give women, and men, great freedom to plan their families responsibly. But on the downside it had a more subtle effect on male /female relationships. It has always been assumed it was good for women, but many women found that the pill subtly allowed men to assume women were always available – in effect infertile vessels for sex.

Now feminists and others are often puzzled as to why despite practical advances, the exploitation of women has not improved and why in the 50 years since the pill there has been a huge increase in the creep of pornography, which is fundamentally exploitive, into mainstream culture. Look back to that “revolution” which bore as one of its fruits a hyper sexualised culture, which denies the greatest gift of sex, the child.

The current confusing social/sexual milieu is another evolutionary step which seriously mitigates against healthy heterosexual sexual relations and marriage. Many young people literally don’t know if they are Arthur or Martha, having been told from a very young age, they can change. But although most people, are horrified by these developments they are too intimidated to call out this naked emperor.

Worse, in the ACT and soon in Victoria parents will be legally robbed of their authority to do so. No wonder well-meaning people are afraid of child-bearing. This attack on parental authority by the state, which only supports parents who agree with them, is an attack unprecedented in democracies. It is both an extreme symptom and cause of the collapse of the family, the real cause of the baby drought.

Adelaide man who suffered broken leg during SA Police arrest secures $854,000 compensation

The Supreme Court of South Australia has upheld an $854,000 compensation payment for a man whose leg was broken as police arrested him more than seven years ago.

SA Police officers used capsicum spray and a "figure four leg lock" as they tried to arrest Matthew Charles Crossley on Bank Street in the Adelaide CBD in March 2013.

The leg lock manoeuvre, designed to restrain someone thrashing or kicking, left Mr Crossley's femur so badly broken that a 40-centimetre rod was inserted during surgery hours after the incident.

In February, the District Court ruled that the police officers had committed three acts of battery during the arrest and, in May, awarded Mr Crossley $700,000 in compensation for the "egregious" and "violent" arrest.

At the time, District Court Judge Sydney Tilmouth found the use of the leg lock to handcuff Mr Crossley was "unnecessary and excessive" because he was already restrained.

He added that Mr Crossley was entitled to resist the arrest because the officers' failure to explain their reasoning rendered it "unlawful".

More damages were added in July to bring the total to $854,313.

In an appeal to the Supreme Court, the State Government argued the officers had lawfully arrested Mr Crossley for disorderly behaviour.

Lawyers for the government argued that using pepper spray and the leg lock was lawful and justified in the circumstances.

But the court dismissed the appeal, on all grounds, in a judgement handed down this week.

In the reasons for the unanimous decision, Justice David Peek said the officers' actions "were unjustified and unlawful, irrespective of whether or not [Mr Crossley] had been properly informed as to the reason for his arrest".

"The judge was correct in finding that [Senior Constable] Lovell attempted to carry out a 'figure four leg lock' manoeuvre by applying his full body weight across the respondent's legs while bending and twisting his left leg at the knee and that this was inherently dangerous and unjustified," Justice Peek wrote.

An SA Police spokeswoman said it was "assessing the outcomes of the appeal and have no further comment to make".

In a hearing earlier this year, Mr Crossley said he used crutches for six months and a walking stick for a further three-to-four months after the injury but was otherwise left "basically bed-bound" most of the time.

He has suffered complications with the rod, walks with a limp and will require continued rehabilitation as part of his ongoing recovery.

Additionally, his treating psychiatrist said he experiences symptoms of PTSD, anxiety and depression.

Mr Crossley told the court he had not worked since the incident because he was "not physically capable".




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