Friday, November 19, 2021

Taking neurodiversity seriously

By Maria from Murrumbeena

Being neurologically diverse myself -- I am a high-functioning autistic -- I have some sympathy with the girl below. I too realized from an early age that I was different and found normal classrooms stifling.

But schools are tasked with all sorts of requirements so asking for special attention to non-neurotypicals may be piling too much onto them. Certainly, school health personnel should be trained to diagnose and communicate such abnormalities but after that I think the main burden of coping has to fall on the pupil and his/her family

When I was younger, I often thought something was wrong with me. Why was I so different from my classmates? I was made to feel broken.

I wasn't struggling with schoolwork; I love to learn. I just hated the environment. Noisy open plan classrooms, the expectation to concentrate for long periods and being confined to a desk.

But in year 8, I received a diagnosis of ADHD, Anxiety and Sensory Processing Disorder. A huge wave of relief came over me.

Imagine your brain as roads and each thought is a car. "Neurotypical" brains have traffic lights and road signs to keep thoughts organised and to stop the distracting thoughts from going on the main roads. ADHD brains don't have that.

So, there's a lot more cars on the main roads and the unnecessary information doesn't get filtered out.

But it turns out, I was not alone. After being unable to focus in class and turned away from the wellbeing office as they were full, I saw a year seven girl also waiting around.

She told me she had ADHD and anxiety and was being sent home. Although she wanted to stay and learn. She was a younger reflection of me.

This encounter flipped a switch inside my head.

I want high schools to start taking mental health and neurodiversity seriously. I'm going to continue raising awareness, educating, and advocating for fellow neurodiverse brains.

I will finish high school and get my education, even if it is the hard way.

To anyone like me, you are not alone. You do not need to be fixed because you are not broken. The system that is educating us is broken.


Booster shots needed for some travellers

One of Australia’s leading vaccine experts argues Covid-19 booster shots should not be mandatory - but some international travellers will need to get them.

Aussie travellers are being warned they may need Covid-19 booster jabs in order to get into a growing list of countries that includes Austria, Croatia, Switzerland, Vietnam and Israel.

But while Covid-19 booster shots should be “strongly recommended” for Australians flying overseas, they should not be made mandatory here, according to one of the country’s leading vaccine experts.

University of Sydney Professor Robert Booy said mandating a third jab was “not palatable to the public, not practical, and not needed – you get substantial protection from two doses”.

There had “already been enough opposition to mandating the first two doses,” he said.

But Australians heading overseas should talk to their GPs, and a third jab was “strongly recommended,” particularly if they were going to areas with bad outbreaks such as Austria and Germany, Prof Booy said.

With studies showing most Covid-19 vaccines declining in efficacy over time, a growing cohort of countries is adopting expiry dates for their equivalent of our vaccine passports. This could mean if an Australian traveller’s second jab is outside the expiry period, they will need to get a third jab to enter the country.

For incoming tourists, Israel insists upon a jab within the preceding six months, while Austria, Croatia, Switzerland and Vietnam have opted for 12 months.

From mid December, France will require those aged over 65 to have had a booster shot in order to get into public venues, while in the UK, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has specifically mentioned booster shots when discussing future international travel arrangements.

Asked on the Insiders program on Sunday about the Morrison government’s position on boosters for international travellers, Health Minister Greg Hunt said they were recommended but not compulsory.

“The advice at this stage of Professor Murphy’s Scientific and Technical Advisory Group is that you’re regarded as fully vaccinated with two doses,” Mr Hunt said.

“Everything is always under review, but there’s no plan to change that requirement at this stage. But as we’ve done throughout, we’ll continue to follow the medical advice.”

Prof Booy said there was some suggestion it might be a better long-term strategy for fully vaccinated people to forego a booster shot and eventually get the virus. This would increase their “mucosal protection” – but studies on this were still ongoing. “We’ll have a lot more clarity on that in six months,” he said.

Booster shots have been offered to immunocompromised Australians since October 11, and all adults since November 8.

As of Wednesday, 298,841 Australians had received a third dose of a Covid-19 vaccine.


Lord Jim slams ‘incompetent’ OIA despite complaint dismissal

The embattled Office of the Independent Assessor has been slammed as “grossly incompetent” by former Brisbane lord mayor Jim Soorley, despite it dismissing a complaint about his association with Ipswich councillor Paul Tully.

Cr Tully, Queensland’s longest-serving councillor at 40 years, was the subject of a complaint alleging he had a long standing and historical business relationship with Mr Soorley, who the complainant claimed was attempting to influence a development application before the council.

The complaint was dismissed by the OIA, however it ordered Ipswich City Council to publish a finding that Cr Tully and Mr Soorley had an association, but it was “too remote” to require declaration.

Cr Tully said the finding was “completely false” and said the OIA did not contact he or the former Lord Mayor to check the allegation.

Under legislation the council must put the outcome of the complaint on its website.

The OIA determined there was a business relationship but it was too remote to declare

“The fact it’s been dismissed is cold comfort when the OIA has directed the finding to be published,” Mr Tully said. “It casts too many aspersions on innocent people and puts a continuing stain on councillors.”

While neither of the men were named, Cr Tully said residents familiar with the operations of the council and those within local government could easily identify the subjects.

Mr Soorley, lord mayor from 1991 to 2003, said the OIA was “out of control” and said membership of the Australian Labor Party was the closest thing to an association between he and Cr Tully. “It’s (the OIA) proven over the last few weeks to be grossly incompetent and does not have a clue about what councillors do,” he said.

Under OIA policy the subject of a complaint is notified when it is received and the outcome. A spokeswoman for the OIA said the complaint “was dismissed by the OIA at the earliest stage after receiving the complaint”.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk in October revealed the conduct of the OIA would be scrutinised under a parliamentary committee after The Courier-Mail revealed several damning complaints about the watchdog.

“(The OIA) respects the role of a parliamentary committee in conducting this task,” a spokeswoman said.


Dark roofs ditched, commercial buildings must be net-zero from 2022: NSW Planning Minister

Coming from a warm climate, I have alwayus favoured white or silver-coloured roofs as they help keep the house cool -- so the policy below has its merits

All large commercial buildings designed from next year will be required to operate at net-zero in a major climate policy announcement by the NSW Planning Minister.

Rob Stokes said dark roofing will be discontinued on homes built across Sydney and has taken a swipe at the Commonwealth’s climate agenda while unveiling a suite of measures to ramp up the state’s emissions reductions response.

Speaking to an online forum for urban think-tank Committee for Sydney, Mr Stokes also targeted parts of the property sector for their backlash over an earlier decision this year to mandate paler roofs in the south-west growth area, saying he found it “incredible” legislation was required to force change.

“There are no practical reasons why we shouldn’t be ditching dark roofing on new homes permanently to ensure that future communities of Sydney’s west don’t experience the urban heat that many communities do now,” he said, revealing he had asked planners to include the policy switch under a new umbrella approach to emissions.

The proposed rules will be contained in planning mechanisms developers must adhere to under Mr Stokes’ showpiece Design and Place policy, a wide-ranging document that aims to lift the statewide standards of sustainable urban design.

In his speech Mr Stokes referenced recent University of NSW research, commissioned by the federal government, that found switching to cool roofing would lower Sydney’s summer temperatures by up to 2.4 degrees.

He also revealed office skyscrapers, hotels and shopping centres would be among commercial developments in which energy usage must run at net-zero emissions from 2022. He said the vast majority of buildings operating under the NABERS emissions rating system already had net-zero commitments well ahead of 2050.

Stockland, which runs major shopping centres as well as residential developments and retirement villages, has committed to achieving net-zero by 2028.

The announcement was lauded by Committee for Sydney chief executive Gabriel Metcalf, who said it would “propel NSW event further into a leadership role on climate action”.

The Green Building Council’s chief executive Davina Rooney said constructing buildings powered by renewable energy was the best way to achieve this.

“We’d also encourage owners of large commercial office buildings to take strong action in reducing upfront carbon emissions from products and materials,” she said, referring to a new focus within the industry to cut down on embodied carbon.

As part of the state government changes, new residential developments will also be asked to meet higher energy ratings standards.

Property Council of Australia western Sydney director Ross Grove urged the government to allow time “to ensure building designers and developers can make the necessary upgrades”.

Steve Mann, chief executive of the NSW branch of the Urban Development Institute of Australia, said policy changes needed to be considered in light of the crisis around housing affordability and supply.

“Anything that means we’ve got to reset our supply pipelines would have some short-term impacts,” he said, adding that certain councils mandated against lighter roofs because of reflectivity. He said there could also be cost impacts to material supply chains: “[Colorbond] Ironstone is the strongest in demand at the moment.”

NSW Treasurer Matt Kean announced earlier this month that the state had signed a pledge with the United Nations Climate Change Conference to boost electric vehicle sales and was on track to make 50 per cent of all new vehicles sold in the state electric by 2030.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has hit campaign mode with a “technology not taxes” mantra in regard to emissions reduction, announcing plans such as investment in charging stations for electric vehicles and a $1 billion scheme to be co-funded by private investors to decarbonise the economy.

Mr Stokes, who is temporarily juggling the transport portfolio, said he was left “bemused” by Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s comments to a business forum earlier this year during which he said net-zero wouldn’t be achieved in inner-city caf├ęs and wine bars.

“He was making a different point but ... actually we won’t achieve net-zero without including our wine bars and inner-city cafes,” Mr Stokes said.

“Thankfully, the anti-climate rhetoric emanating from sections of Canberra has cooled significantly over recent months.”

He added that, while COP26 didn’t go as far on commitments as hoped, “it did put climate firmly on the agenda of our federal counterparts”.

Conversely, Mr Stokes said NSW’s response had shown a Coalition government was capable of an “ambitious” climate response while managing economic factors. He said his government not only wanted to act but, in light of recent legal and oversight decisions, was obliged to.

NSW independent MLC Justin Field said caution was needed in regard to increasing the role for timber in net-zero buildings.

“Expanding sustainable softwood timber plantations as a renewable construction resource makes sense, however we get exponentially greater carbon benefit from allowing our native forests to grow old while also building the resilience of the environment to adapt to a climate change,” he said.




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