Friday, February 18, 2022

Kids’ health and development hit by pandemic lockdowns, say paediatricians

I cannot imagine how kids cope with the lockdowns. Kids are of course more flexible than adults but also have fewer resources -- and deprivation is still deprivation.

When I was a kid, I roamed free whenever I wanted to. My parents were very permisive and often had no idea of where I went or what I did on weekends. As long as I was home for dinner, they were content.

And despite being a real bookworm I balanced that by time spent roaming the great outdoors. I had a pushbike so could travel considerable distances. If I saw a hill that I wanted to climb, I climbed it, with no-one other than myself knowing of the climb concerned. I did so rarely but the point is that I was free to do so

In retrospect, I didn't remotely realize what a good and free childhood I had. I would wish for all kids to have such a childhood

But what about safety? In my roaming could I not have been attacked by some weirdo?? I was rather lucky about that too, though I did have one close-shave. I lived in a small country town and my father was a well-known brawler with a reputation as a king-hitter. So no-one wanted to tangle with him. And they all knew I was his kid. So I was safe under his aegis

Australian young people are suffering anxiety, insomnia and developmental delays believed to be linked to the pandemic, prompting the peak body for paediatricians to call for a national children’s recovery taskforce.

Atticus, 10, started to have trouble sleeping as the COVID-19 case numbers spiked near his home in Canberra at the start of its two-month lockdown.

“I didn’t necessarily always feel worried, but sometimes I was like ‘it’s getting very, very close’,” Atticus said.

Sydney paediatrician Dr Jacqueline Small said many children were struggling with the lingering effects of lockdowns and she had noticed a spike in presentations of children with developmental delays in her practice, reflecting a pattern shown in research.

Dr Small, president-elect of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP), which represents paediatricians and other specialist physicians, said the more serious health impacts of COVID-19 on adults had meant children’s wellbeing had taken “a back seat” but it was “time to put children first”.

“Some children seem to have coped well,” she said. “There are others where the loss of learning is very significant.”

Melbourne’s Leticia Hodson said living through the city’s six COVID-19 lockdowns, which cumulatively lasted almost a year, had a dramatic impact on her son Wade’s wellbeing. The 10-year-old struggled to readjust at school after living through the world’s longest lockdown in Melbourne.

Wade, who has Down Syndrome, attends a “fantastic” mainstream school but suffered a setback in his learning and development without real-life interaction with his teachers and peers.

“It’s hard for him, he has to relearn how to socialise and meet friends,” she said.

As the nation opens up, the RACP is calling on both major parties to commit to setting up a National COVID-19 taskforce to lead a recovery plan and a Chief Paediatrician appointed to lead the effort.

Liberal backbencher Dr Katie Allen, a paediatrician who worked as a medical researcher before entering Parliament, is backing the RACP campaign alongside Labor’s shadow assistant health minister Ged Kearney, a former nurses’ union secretary.

“COVID lockdowns have affected children in ways we don’t yet fully understand,” Ms Allen said.

“Getting their social development, education and general wellbeing back on track has to be central to our COVID recovery.”

A study published in the peer-reviewed journal Frontiers in Pediatrics in October tracked about 6000 Chinese infants before and after the pandemic began, finding a higher risk of delay in fine motor and communication skills among firstborn one-year-olds born from 2020.

Dr Small said pandemic-related stress during pregnancy “can affect brain development”, while parents having to juggle more roles while working from home could affect their interactions with children.

Then there was “the loss of the extended community and support that children and families engage with when their children are very young,” she said.

Dr Small said a combination of factors such as parental stress, including during pregnancy, and a rise in screen use along with a reduction in social connections were thought to be contributing to developmental problems.

And, she said, “missing several months of school can really have a significant impact” with research suggesting some children’s learning progression effectively paused for the period of school closures, while opportunities were missed to help vulnerable children.

Ms Hodson said she had agonised over the decision to send Wade back to school as Victoria emerged from restrictions while the Omicron variant circulated, “not knowing how the disease would impact him”.

“The whole pandemic has been having to choose a path where none of those paths feel acceptable,” she said.

During lockdown, she said, “we kept things pretty light around him, but he picked up on the stress of the adults around him”.

While Atticus is back at school and feeling more secure after receiving his first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, life is still not completely back to normal, with caution among some friends’ parents meaning his social life is still limited.

“I feel like it won’t be back to proper normal for a while, but I feel like if this is the best normal we can do, it’s a pretty okay normal,” Atticus said.

Data collected by Royal Life Saving Australia shows drowning deaths among children aged four and under increased by 108 per cent in 2021 compared to the previous year, a spike attributed to swimming lessons being cancelled.

An Australian study published in Archives of Disease in Childhood showed a 104 per cent increase in children with anorexia nervosa being admitted to hospital for nutritional rehabilitation in 2020 compared with the previous three years.

The RACP wants whoever wins government to implement the National Children’s Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy, a 120-page report detailing ways to improve child mental health and parenting support, which the federal government released in October.

More support in schools for students with disability or learning difficulties, universal access to three-year-old preschool and new laws restricting junk food marketing are also on the college’s wishlist.


Another divide now dominant in Australia

There are two nations now in Australia, two world views, two tribes. And each seems to be living life as if the other did not exist. No, it is not a traditional divide between left and right, Labor and Liberal, working class versus capital, conservative and progressive. These divides are still there; it is just that they are now not the main ideological game. The world, and Australia, are now divided into insiders and outsiders, elites and deplorables. The deplorables were out in force on Commonwealth Avenue. The elites were dressing their children as superheroes in order to go and get a needle. And, no doubt, feeling very, very virtuous. Some worried that those evil, violent, probably ‘mum and dad terrorists’ might come and disrupt the holy proceedings at the AIS.

One Australia is made up of those who think that elections still make a difference to normal people’s lives. Who think that we should endlessly support the Liberal party because ‘the other mob would be worse’. Who remember the Liberals once every three years, just long enough to keep voting them back in, then totally forget why they so voted for the ensuing three years, until the next time. Rinse, repeat. Who think that the Covid State is either a sensible imposition and/or it hasn’t caused anyone that much harm.(What are they all whinging about, anyway?). Who think that the management of Covid is just one political issue among many upon which to vote. Who think we should worry endlessly about (non-existent) discrimination by Christian schools against closet or non-closet homosexuals, but not give a rat’s about those who have lost their livelihoods because they believe in bodily integrity, those Australians who have suffered, you know, real discrimination. Who think that the unvaccinated and assorted Covid dissidents are beyond the pale, weirdos, and probably that they are, indeed, worthy of serious attention from Asio. Who believe in the boosters like they were some sort of consecrated, religious sacrament. Who can somehow suspend rational thinking and replace it with robotic, Kool Aid-infused, system-thinking. And who think that this is ‘thinking’.

Representatives of the other Australia have possibly lost their jobs and careers. Cannot see their interstate families. Cannot leave the country without some bureaucrat’s permission. Have possibly been dragooned, much against their will, into getting a useless vaccine that now most of the thinking world knows to be useless, certainly after a month or so. Have probably experienced dramatic hardship from state lockdowns. Might have a teenage daughter or son suffering from mental disintegration. Or worse. Might have missed a diagnosis of cancer that will be lethal, by staying away from our shuttered hospitals. Might have missed saying goodbye to an aged loved one. Frustrated beyond belief, impoverished, powerless, shunned by sneering politicians and journalists, gaslit and alone. They have found their voice. And the ruling class doesn’t like it one bit. Journalists and their fellow sneerers, some of whom luxuriate in the very descriptor ‘insider’, ‘other’ the unvaccinated (deplorables) and those who stand up for them – see under Rogan, Joe, or the Canadian trucker-heroes – by in turns ignoring them, laughing at them, sniggering, abusing, fact-checking, mocking, analysing, segregating.

The people of deplorable Australia don’t really care who wins the various elections. With oppositions that only ever parrot Covid class theatrics, that endlessly chant ‘earlier and harder’, what is the choice for the over 20 per cent of Australians – yes, the numbers are that high, despite the efforts of health bureaucracies to cook the books by counting teenagers who are jabbed – who haven’t been blue-pilled? We will see very shortly. Red-pilled Australians have taken to the streets, just as their international brothers and sisters have done. They might draw comfort from the words of George W. Bush, who said in quite another context after 9-11, megaphone in hand and standing shoulder-to-shoulder with firefighters amidst the rubble of Ground Zero, ‘We hear you, the rest of the world hears you, and the people who [did this] will hear all of us soon’. Perhaps not through Nuremberg Two, but in the streets of our towns and at the ballot box, without the shadow of a doubt.


Republicanism in Australia is about abolishing the monarchy. What drives it?

David Flint

The fundamental problem with republicanism in Australia is it is always fake republicanism.

It’s never about designing a virtuous, constitutional republic, actually empowering Australians. It’s always the opposite: increasing politicians’ power. The current version is to get rid of the one part of the constitutional system which works smoothly and at minimal cost, providing both leadership beyond politics and a constitutional guardian. During the epidemic, it became glaringly obvious that politicians have even chipped away at this.

As political scientist, Graham Maddox, concluded before the 1999 referendum, the Australian Republican Movement’s brand of republicanism has no roots in Australia’s past or her traditions.

Our tradition,’ he says, is more linked to collective action and public ownership than ‘rational economics’ would allow. And which Labor prime minister covered his push for rational economics with fake republicanism? Unsurprisingly, Governor-General Bill Hayden warned the Queen that Paul Keating was using republicanism as an electoral distraction.

Maddox noted something I had also found, that those modern states with the strongest commitment to communal welfare are precisely those that have retained their constitutional monarchy, a point supported by the prominent French socialist, Jack Lang.

I made this point in an early referendum debate run by an inner-city Liberal party branch. This was not in the usual dusty school of arts, but over a fine hotel sit-down dinner. When I recalled that constitutional monarchies are disproportionately over-represented among the world’s most advanced countries, a group of no doubt left-Liberals almost fell onto the floor shrieking in laughter. I merely listed Europe’s constitutional monarchies; they gradually fell into a sullen silence.

When it came to ascertaining whether the ARM’s predecessor movements were also fake republicans, I found the best source was the Bulletin. As a boy, I could hardly fail to notice it, not so much for its pink cover, but for the brutal front-page banner which, until Kerry Packer bought it, shrieked that pronunciamento, ‘AUSTRALIA FOR THE WHITE MAN’.

To advance its purpose pre-federation, the Bulletin was determined that Australia should become a white republic outside the Empire. The reason? Immigration was mainly an imperial matter, and the Empire’s immigration policy was far too liberal. Clearly, the Bulletin believed, wrongly it transpired, that only in a republic could White Australia survive.

So, in 1888, it rallied 40,000 people to an anti-Chinese, pro-republican demonstration in the Sydney Domain. Forty thousand is enormous today; imagine how large it seemed then.

Leading that first republican movement, the Bulletin declared Australia had to choose ‘between independence and infection, between the Australian Republic or the Chinese leper.’ The journal particularly denounced Colonial Secretary Joseph Chamberlain when Royal Assent was refused to the Queensland Sugar Works Guarantee Amending Bill. Why? Contrary to Imperial policy for racial equality, the Queensland Bill would have banned the employment of coloured labour! In the year our predecessors formed a federal Commonwealth under the Crown, the Bulletin published this denunciation of the very minister who guided our Constitution through the Imperial Parliament:

If Judas Chamberlain can find a black, or brown or yellow race… that has as high a standard of civilisation and intelligence as the whites… as brave, as sturdy, as good nation building material, and that can intermarry with the whites without the mixed progeny showing signs of deterioration, that race is welcome.

What the journal did not appreciate was that Section 51(xxvii) of the recently approved Constitution gave the new parliament full power over immigration. Despite objections from London, a Bill was given Royal Assent by the constitutional head, the Governor-General, for the legal means to apply the White Australia Policy. The only real debate was whether White Australia should be openly stated, an ALP demand.

The second republican movement was even worse. The agenda of the Soviet-controlled Communist party was for a one-party people’s republic. While at times they attained the commanding heights of the trade union movement, unlike Italy and France, communism never made any significant electoral impact in Australia.

Thus every significant republican movement in Australia has been fake, unconcerned with improving the governance of Australia. Even the Real Republicans, who were cast with Australians for Constitutional Monarchy in the referendum No case, chose a questionable Convention model. This would have effectively involved the ruling parties choosing three candidates the people could vote on. Kevin Rudd, Malcolm Turnbull and Paul Keating? But at least they have rejected the ARM’s latest outrage.

So even the Real Republicans’ direct-election model was just another politicians’ republic, the term so superbly devised by ACM’s lead referendum strategist, Rick Brown. Provided any future referendum No Case is run by people as competent, as constant and as committed as those who ran ACM’s 1999 No case, Australia will never become a ‘politicians’ republic’.


Aboriginal Australians slam explosion in number of people falsely claiming to be indigenous to steal scholarships and job opportunities

As well they might be

Prominent Aboriginal Australians have hit out at the rising number of people who are falsely identifying as indigenous to cash in on benefits like scholarships and priority jobs.

They say there is a growing cohort of fraudsters growing up in a non-indigenous background but later making dubious claims to Aboriginal heritage.

Indigenous actor Luke Carroll, who stars in a play that explores the contentious issue, described such false identification as a 'growing problem'.

'I know of people here in Sydney who haven't grown up Aboriginal and all of a sudden, their kids are identifying as Aboriginal,' he told the Sydney Morning Herald.

'They are attending the schools, getting the jobs and taking away opportunities from people who have grown up Aboriginal.'

'Box-tickers' are appropriating a culture that is not theirs and taking jobs and resources meant to help Aboriginal Australians, he said.

The federal government since the 1980s has applied a three-part test of indigeneity, which requires a person be of Aboriginal descent, to identify as Aboriginal and be accepted in the community in which they live.

Thousands of Aboriginal children were forcibly removed from their families in 1910 to 1970 during the Stolen Generation, and their descendants - many with a mostly white phenotype and upbringing - only recognise their indigenous heritage decades later.

However, the community is divided over the importance of growing up within the culture when identifying as indigenous in later life.

Indigenous playwright Nathan Maynard - who delves into the contested issue in his play At What Cost - said Aboriginal Australians were 'trendier than smashed avocado on toast'.

'In this world, people want to have something special about them and they see being Aboriginal as a point of difference,' he said.

Until recently, the focus in Australia on box-tickers has been on outing individuals - in what some see as a witch hunt - but race-shifting is now recognised to be an international phenomenon.

Many 'box-tickers' are motivated by the promise of indigenous-specific scholarships and monetary benefits, as well as reserved jobs with large salaries.

Aboriginal historian Victoria Grieve-Williams said there was a growing number of Australians who claimed to be indigenous when they had no such ancestry.

Dr Grieve-Williams, a Warraimaay woman from the mid-north coast of NSW and now adjunct professor at RMIT University in Melbourne, described what they do as 'indigenous identify fraud'.

'Aboriginal people are actually very badly affected by this,' she told Daily Mail Australia in July of last year.

'Universities and governments are employing so-called Aboriginal people without due diligence.

'High-level positions, huge salaries, great opportunities through Indigenous Business Australia, all of that's being gobbled up.

'There's no penalties, or checks and balances. These numbers are increasing.'

There is no way of knowing how many box-tickers there are in Australia but the practice seems particularly prevalent in academia and sectors of the public service where Aboriginality is sought for workplace diversity and sometimes rewarded.

'It's a huge problem but the figures are difficult to assess,' Dr Grieve-Williams said.

Dr Grieve-Williams said Australian universities employed bogus Aboriginal academics as professors, right up to pro and deputy vice-chancellors.

'The interesting thing I'm finding with my research is that Aboriginal people always recognise them, they always know they're not Aboriginal,' she said.

'Aboriginal people have been saying, "Hold on, that person isn't one of us" and nobody takes any notice.

'It's not only Aboriginal people who recognise it. It's non-Aboriginal people too.

'It's very surreal, particularly to a person my age because when I grew up the worst thing you could be was Aboriginal.

'Aboriginal people were so scorned and vilified. There were these nasty 'Abo' jokes. I couldn't begin to tell you the depths of racism that I experienced.

'We were always made to feel in deficit. And now the tables have turned right around but it's not the real Aboriginal people who are getting the benefit from all of this.'

There are particular benefits for box-tickers within academia who falsely claim to be Aboriginal.

'The benefits are to do with status, you have a certain status when you're a recognised Aboriginal person,' Dr Grieve-Williams said. 'But the main benefit is material.

'People get promoted very quickly. The interesting thing is box-tickers, or those committing identity fraud, seem to get the big jobs.

'They're promoted over other Aboriginal people. We joke and we say they're better at being Aboriginal people than we are.'

Dr Grieve-Williams said non-indigenous people taking public service jobs meant for Aboriginal applicants were known as 'nine-to-five blacks' and caused resentment.

'If you've got a person who comes in who calls themselves Aboriginal but who actually doesn't know anything about being Aboriginal then they rely on other people to inform them,' she said.

'They call them nine-to-five blacks because they're only black when they're in the office and then they go home to their white lives.'

Another term, 'black cladding', refers to a non-indigenous business masquerading as one by deceptive marketing which invents or exaggerates Aboriginal involvement in the enterprise.

Dr Grieve-Williams was frustrated the box-ticking problem was not taken more seriously by governments.

She said any debate was stifled by those with vested interests and that the fakes protested personal offence when their Aboriginality was challenged.

'The people who are committing this identify fraud, they cry lateral violence. They say, 'Are you questioning my Aboriginality? I'm getting traumatised by this'.'

The number of Australians who say they are Aboriginal has been increasing for decades at a rate far faster than the broader population, or that can be explained by births.

The last Census, conducted in 2016, estimated there were 798,400 Indigenous Australians - Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander or both - making up 3.3 per cent of the citizenry.

That number was an increase of 128,500 or 19 per cent in just five years since the previous 2011 census.

During the same five-year period the whole Australian population grew by just 8.4 per cent.




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