Sunday, February 21, 2021

Queensland university students allowed to return to campus

University lecture theatres in Queensland will be allowed to return to 100 per cent capacity in time for the start of classes next week.

A late-night change to public health directions gave the green light for universities across the state to start making plans.

Under the rules, seating must be ticketed and allocated to students.

Other spaces like tutorial rooms and laboratories will not be subject to occupant density requirements but people should socially distance when possible.

Restaurants, cafes, and other businesses operating on campuses must continue to adhere to one person per 2 square metres, and maintain an electronic record of patrons who dine in.

University of Queensland Vice Chancellor Professor Deborah Terry welcomed the updated health directive.

"Uni life is certainly getting back to normal very quickly," Professor Terry said.

Preparations are now underway at the university to ensure the barcode sign in system is in place in time for next week.

But she said online classes would stay in place for the foreseeable future, given the number of students still interstate and overseas.

"We are very conscious of providing obviously as much support for them as possible — we hope as soon as we can to welcome those students back to Australia but conscious obviously of the health advice," she said.

University sector not in the clear yet

Data from Universities Australia showed 17,000 jobs were shed across the sector in 2020.

The University of Queensland had a voluntary redundancy program in place for staff last year, shedding employees at the height of the pandemic.

Professor Terry said while the university could not guarantee there would not be more, enrolment figures were strong and had put the university in a strong position.

The will be 15,000 new students at UQ this year, up from 10,500 in 2017.

"Overall our enrolment numbers are looking pretty good actually," she said.

"We've come into 2021 reasonably optimistic, but conscious of the fact that with the closed borders still in place that does pose challenges for our international students."

Professor Terry said while international student numbers were down, it was to some extent offset by a significant increase in domestic post-graduate students.

"I think graduates out there looking to ensure they're competitive for rapidly changing work environments," she said.


Daisy Turnbull reveals her secret to raising happy kids

Put away the bubble wrap and get out the knives. Young children need risk in their lives and using sharp knives, lighting candles and falling off scooters are all excellent ways to build resilient, independent and confident young people.

Combating helicopter parenting and a “bubble-wrapped generation” of children, high school teacher Daisy Turnbull has written her first book titled 50 Risks to Take With Your Kids, offering practical suggestions for taking measured risks with your children up to the age of 10.

The daughter of former Sydney mayor Lucy Turnbull and former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull, Daisy Turnbull (along with brother Alex, 39) was born in the 80s, a Millennial, who was allowed to ride her bike in the streets after school, walk to the shops without parents on the weekend or, thrillingly, take the bus with a friend to the movies. She remembers her childhood fondly with lots of outdoor play and family time.

Turnbull, 36, now has kids of her own – Jack, 7, and Alice, 4. But times have changed. Parenting has become more risk averse with children more sheltered and more parents who hover protectively. There is also seemingly plenty for parents, particularly mothers, to feel guilty about.

Turnbull says her idea for the book began “as a joke in a WhatsApp chat” in June 2019 with Hardie Grant book editor Arwen Summers, who was working on Malcolm Turnbull’s 2020 memoir A Bigger Picture.

Daisy Turnbull, who is director of wellbeing at independent Sydney girls’ school St Catherine’s and an accredited Lifeline crisis support counsellor, was chatting with Summers about a recent seminar she attended by American social psychologist Jonathan Haidt about resilience.

“Arwen has young kids as well … I was telling her all this stuff about resilience and how we want kids to be resilient,” Turnbull says.

“I said I wished there was a list of things to do for your kids to become good adults and good humans. So I just started writing a list and Arwen said it could actually be a good idea for a book.”

Turnbull began the project seriously in October 2019, finishing in April 2020.

Her 50 risks fall into categories of physical risks (that “may result in minor injuries”), social risks (that make them a better friend, family member and colleague) and character risks (using a child’s inner strength to develop identity and character) and progress in a general ascending order by age.

The first (she admits it might seem like the lamest of risks) is simply to lay your baby on a blanket on the floor while you have a shower or walk away for a few minutes.

For kids aged one to four, she suggests eating sand, playing with sticks, climbing a tree, being bored, getting out of routine, falling off a bike or scooter, and cleaning up their own mess.

Risks progress up to things such as starting conversations with people, learning to use a knife, lighting candles, keeping something alive (such as a plant or pet), going somewhere alone, catching the bus, cooking, writing a thank you note, and sleeping outside.

Her 50 suggested risks aim to do their part in developing children who are “confident, autonomous, compassionate and responsible” and being all-round “excellent humans”.

Turnbull says she is “not a perfect mother” and her children “are far from perfect children”, she writes. “But I do believe in developing autonomy in the kids and raising them to be kind, curious and critical thinkers. We want our kids to develop the skills to pick themselves up when they fall, to know when to ask for help and who to ask, but also to be confident that they can solve a lot of their problems themselves. Let them try, and fall, and fail.”

Writing in the book’s foreword, clinical psychologist Dr Judith Locke says the book gives parents a “crucial to-do list” to support their children in taking essential risks in an age group where parents can “exponentially build children’s future confidence and capabilities”.

Locke says children benefit from facing risks in terms of boosting confidence, learning to cope when things don’t work out and discovering fear is often a sense of anticipation and not something to necessarily avoid. It also increases the confidence of parents.

Turnbull holds a combined Bachelor’s degree in Arts/Commerce, a Graduate Diploma of Secondary Teaching and a Master of Arts in Theological Studies. Her interest in psychology has led her to begin a Master of Educational Psychology at The University of Sydney.

Last year, she separated from her husband James Brown, with the pair adopting a 50-50 co-parenting arrangement. She says she talks to her mum, known as Gaga to her grandkids (the former PM is Baba), every day. They often talk about the differences between generations and parenting styles. “I grew up in the 80s which was riskier in a good way,” Turnbull says.

“There weren’t so many concerns around kids walking down the street or bike riding around the block. On a holiday at (Sydney’s) Northern Beaches one year – I was about 11 or 12 – and I caught the bus with a friend from Palm Beach to Avalon to see a movie. Dad told us, ‘If you hit Wynyard (in Sydney’s CBD) you’ve gone too far, turn around and come back!’

“As a kid, I remember feeling really excited by the responsibility we were given and that we were trusted by our parents.

“For my own kids, I want them to be responsible, resilient, have autonomy and their own sense of judgment. We are learning that the more we over-protect kids, the less safe they feel as adults.”

Turnbull is a great believer in a quote from Jonathan Haidt who has said, “the goal of the parent is to work yourself out of a job”.

“The idea is you do less eventually,” she says.

“Kids should be doing things for themselves but we often forget that we need to teach them how to do those things – whether it’s making their own lunch or getting dressed in the morning for school.

“In (school) teaching you do something called backward mapping – we work out what we want students to be able to do by the time they finish modern history in Year 12. But first we look at what we want to be able to do at the end of Year 10 and Year 8.

“When I was writing the book, I was very much thinking in terms of what you want a Grade 7 kid to be able to do.”

But Turnbull is also adamant she doesn’t want her book to be its own cause of stress to parents who might feel “they now have 50 more things to do”.

“I hope a lot of the risks listed are actually reassuring to parents because they may have already done that with their child or they realise they could go a bit further.”


Dismal understanding of democracy

The apathy young Australians have for our democracy can be traced to dismal knowledge of essential civics and citizenship.

According to the National Assessment Program – Civics and Citizenship, only 38% of Year 10 students (15-16 year olds) have sufficient knowledge of the importance of democracy and national values.

The report shows that it is not that students are disinterested — it is the call to action that’s evolving. Rather than understanding the implications of their choices at the ballot box, they’re more enthusiastic about joining social movements. They’re passionate about fashionable, progressive causes and influenced by social media rather than traditional sources.

The lack of basic understanding of our democratic system might help explain why the latest Lowy Institute poll on the importance of democracy shows that a significant 45% of Australians adults under the age of 30 would prefer a non-democratic government or are indifferent to the system of government they live under.

It’s little coincidence that young peoples’ declining knowledge about our democracy and nation is matched by diminished appreciation for it. This doesn’t bode well for the health of Australia’s liberal democratic society.

The results of the poll combined with the dire results of young people nearing the voting age proves exactly why we should reject calls to lower the voting age to 16. While it may be motivated by a desire to engage more voices in issues affecting them, it would simply worsen — rather than alleviate — existing problems. Ultimately, this means disenfranchising the rest of the electorate and would likely result in an explosion in protest votes.

Millions of young people will be voting for the first time in the upcoming election. The education system’s civics and citizenship results provide an early detection system for the health of our democracy. The apathy young Australians have for our democracy as shown in the results can be traced to dismal knowledge of essential civics and citizenship.

Having a democratic system of government is envied in many parts of the world. All the more reason that the responsibility is taken seriously as we are to live through the effects of the policies the elected government implements.




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