Dear Government of Australia, I really don’t think you understand my type.

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I’m not known for being irrational and emotional. In fact while growing up my dad used to tell me that I was un-emotional, that I was able to detach my emotions too easily maybe. I saw that as a compliment, as a useful trait for someone who toyed with the idea of becoming a spy in the army – I can endure torture well enough and am good at sucking up and distilling information – but who ended up as a chemist.  At least I didn’t choose ‘psychopath’ as a career…..

Anyway.

This whole year I’ve experienced various shakes in my mental health thanks to the way the government and it’s PR department – The Daily Telegraph – have chosen (and yes, I do feel they chose this) to undermine me and people like me.

Now I get that the government and its people sometimes disagree, that they have access to information I don’t, that I could be completely wrong or that the timing is simply not right but putting all of that aside I can’t accept that there is ever a good  (or SMART) time for a government to systematically attempt to undermine and close down reasonable debate, to hide what doesn’t suit their agenda and to use the media to create an ‘us’ versus ‘them’ reality.

Now maybe I was expecting too much in thinking that reality, as in stuff that actually happens, how people actually feel, might get at least some un-opinionated airing in the debate but in my experience that didn’t happen and every government led information program became a show pony carrying an injection of their alternative truth serum which was liberally distributed along with the mantra of ‘this is progress, this is jobs and growth, this is amazing, this is the only viable option’.   It was sucked up to a point.

I am, of course talking about the Badgery’s Creek airport here.  The airport and the merry bunch of fat cats that are rubbing their hands together with glee, including I might add the Greater Sydney Commissioner Lucy Turnbull who just happens to be the P.M’s wife – nothing to see here, perfectly normal behaviour, the PM running the country and the PM’s wife getting to divide Sydney up into Hunger Games like districts, taking out quite a few legitimately elected representatives before replacing them with her tribe. Oh and thrown in for good measure is her ability to over-rule any local opposition to her commissions plan like some kind of planning police (which of course they say they are not. Heaven forbid!!! Sounds like a dystopian film plot which would be mildly entertaining if I didn’t live in it.

Anyone reading the media or listening to Malcolm Turnbull would take home the impression that the whole West of Sydney is busting with excitement over this airport and the job opportunities it will bring.  Of course there are some that are but there is a lot that don’t believe it, a fact that was reflected in the way Western Sydney turned Red (Labor) at this years federal election.  While the Labor party do officially support Badgery’s Creek I again feel that has more to do with Anthony Albanese’s electorate being the one next to Kingsford Smith Airport in Sydney – I bet $10 that he told his people who this airport would take the load off them – what a lie if that were the case.  As if that would ever happen. Then there is Plibers (Tanya Plibersek) who also shares an inner city electorate and who famously told a local gathering of business women in the Blue Mountains that ‘we would get used to it’ when quizzed about noise.  But what about the pollution and catastrophic global warming Tanya?  Your electorate will drown first and we won’t be reserving you any land up here to save you with that attitude thank you very much. So to sum up that little diversion, to many at the election this year Labor were at offering at least something (curfew of sorts) whereas the Liberals were just not listening and were voted out.

And so it has gone on.

Post election and the momentum for this airport gathered. I raised my concerns with others, conducted research, wrote papers , articles and letters, requested meetings, attended events and filled out questionnaires only to be met with responses like this one from Paul Fletcher, Transport Minister:

20th October 2016

Dear Ms Foxon-Hill

Thank you for your email dated 14 September 2016 about the community’s views on the proposed Western Sydney Airport. I am sorry it has taken me so long to respond.

In the research, the Blue Mountains and Blacktown local government areas were included in the North West region as defined by the New South Wales Department of Planning and Infrastructure (now the Department of Planning and Environment). The online survey found that 61 per cent of residents in the North West region were in favour of the proposed airport, compared with 57 per cent of residents from the whole representative sample.

So what?  Because 61% of people in the North West region (of the 499 people surveyed) said they were in favour of the proposed airport me and the rest should just shut up?

The North West region is outlined here. 

But it isn’t just that 61% of people are for the airport, that 61% amounts to a fair and reasonable majority that is to be respected and that’s why the government and it’s process has lost me.

  • How fair are the results of a poll when the public have been groomed for the year leading up to it that this will bring only good things?
  • How fair are the results of a poll when anti-airport protests are questioned as being NIMBYISM?
  • How fair are the results of a poll whose questions are bias towards a particular outcome?
  • How fair are the results of a poll of people who have been starved of investment for their whole lives because of this bloody proposal of an airport?

Again this is politics and some might say this is how BREXIT or TRUMP happened and I’d agree that yes, there are similarities but not the similarities that some might jump upon first up.  You see Australia is not a world leader and in many ways is naive enough to not see that where they differ is that the USA and the UK were sold media lies and agendas for years before it came to this.  That the BREXIT and Trump victories were the inevitable consequence of what happens when the ‘natural’ leaders of a country let that natural leadership go to their heads, create their own reality then live in a bubble while keeping reality at arm’s length.  Australia will of course eventually arrive at this same place as these other countries – Cory Bernardi can already smell his victory and who can blame him?  The writing is on the wall.  Australia is going through a time of post-truth politics, soon to be followed by a kick in the teeth to the establishment followed (possibly) by an even grimmer reality before we all either die from global warming or come to our senses which quite possibly reside slap bang in the boring middle zone where left and right wings form a body and can fly.

I digress.

There’s detail, fact, counter-fact, alternative propositions, amended propositions and on and on but none of that is worth anything when your will is dead and believe me, the will of this government is as dead as a Dodo and that worries me because I care about this country.

And that is where I’m coming from when I say in the beginning that the Government of Australia doesn’t understand my type.

I want progress.

I want investment.

I want development.

I want jobs for the West.

I Like and believe in Aviation and it’s role in developing and sustaining the economy.

I am even OK with more people in Australia as long as we have the infrastructure (including water security, jobs, homes and transport links) sorted before they all arive.

I don’t even mind a bit of this in my back yard – the Blue Mountains isn’t a museum after all and the West of Sydney does need and deserve some attention.

But most of all I’m for sustainability and putting a second airport in the Sydney basin when the first airport spends a good deal of its time and capacity ferrying people the 1 hour by plane to Melbourne or Brisbane is not any of the above and to say it is is bullshit.

Watching Australia slip backwards while its politicians tell us ‘it has never been a more exciting time to be here’ has been mentally draining and left me feeling extremely sad at times because there are plenty of us out here that are ready to back good, honest change and growth when we see it,  but sadly the pickings are slim and those good guys that we did pick at the last election just got blasted by the Daily Telegraph that I’ve spoke to highly of today.  Don’t they know that we elected them?  Disrespect them and they disrespect us as voters.

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So, as each stage of this airport development is signed off and moved on I think to myself ‘you, government, will rue the day you ignored this minority group while lying to the majority.  The truth always comes out and when it does you had better be ready because your Point Piper houses will be the first to feel the full force of sea level rises which of course many of you don’t believe in but you try not believing when your Italian leather shoes are all wet’.

Meanwhile I have decided to forget all notions that the government are interested in consultation and discussion, are open minded, searching for the best outcome and generous and have instead adopted the mindset that if we are to achieve anything that resembles real sustainable progress in our lifetime we need to do it ourself and forget this government as they are from a time that has passed and watching them slowly poison themselves and us is not how I want to spend my life.

Onwards and upwards.

The future’s looking bright because these guys will no longer be here.

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What in the world happened in your life to get you here?

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TRIGGER WARNING: SEX CRIME.

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I’ve been asking myself this since November when I heard that someone who was in my wedding party, who was part of my circle of good friends was hauled up in court and found guilty of 18 counts of sex attacks on children.  Yesterday both him and his partner  were sentenced to decades in jail and that’s all I can really think to say about that.

I am slightly embarrassed to admit that my first thought on hearing of the sentencing hearing back in November was one of utter disbelief and at least partial denial. Not to excuse him or to say that these traits would automatically render one incapable of such things  but this was someone who I had known to be a hard worker, someone who behaved appropriately at whatever party and outing we all attended (including his own wedding which I attended with my now husband. That relationship ended a while back mind you) and was, by all accounts a doting dad to his own kids and a reliable friend to us.

While I felt little doubt that there was fire behind this smoke back in November I could not understand how this person, this ‘normal’ person had come to a point in his life where everything could be thrown away, a life sacrificed for a few moments of pleasure. His pleasure. I think, at that point I was somewhat numb to the reality of the victims and was busy trying to re-calibrate my own ‘safe’ radar. To look for lessons so that I might keep my own children safe, to tell them something comforting, that not all adults (this was a crime committed by my friend, a male and his girlfriend – someone who I’ve not met) have unsavoury intensions.  But how can you say that truthfully when someone you classed as one of your former close friends, someone in your circle of trust does this?

Granted both myself and my husband have had little to do with him in the 13 years we have lived here other than what we see and ‘like’ or comment on on Facebook.  We had stopped by at his work on our trips back to England every two years and tried to catch up as best we could, feeling that we were indeed keeping in touch with and keeping alive a friendship that was as it was when we left.

But it is likely we only saw what we wanted to see or what we were shown – after all not many people advertise this sort of activity on Facebook…….

I feel sick about what has happened, sick and confused.

I pause, hold my head in my hands and breathe.

I know that this is not about me and how I feel, that I’m the least affected by this. That somewhere out there sit many girls whose lives have been re-scripted in the most terrible way.  I know that there are family members including children who have to carry this. There are co-workers and community much closer than me and us here over the other side of the world.  At the end of the day I’m just someone who knows of someone who is now in prison for sex offences of the type we all fear most.

I wanted to write this, to write something to say something about the confusion of finding this out in the hope that it touches someone who knows someone who is in the same position.  Sex crimes, especially those against our most vulnerable including children are unimaginably horrible. Nobody wants to think of ‘that’ type of person living in their community, preying on their children, loitering in their public spaces and making them feel unsafe.  I totally and utterly feel the same but now I know one, have trusted one, liked one and spent time with one.

My point?

That a man who was once a friend of mine is now in jail as a sex offender.

For what ever reason he has chosen to make a series of terrible, disgraceful, un-excusable and degrading choices that have ruined the lives of too many people to count.  I do not in any way condone that, we always have a choice in how to respond and the man I knew had the capacity to choose differently.

My point is that this person wasn’t born a monster or an outcast he has become one (at least in the eyes of society).

Maybe anyone can face the choices that my friend faced, maybe anyone can choose this? That potential truth is what I take from this and that is what I’ll teach my children. That we are all capable of making unspeakably horrible, seemingly evil choices and that we must always be alert to that potential.

My heart goes out to the victims of these crimes. I am and always was just a sideshow.

 

 

 

Dick Smith and Pauline Hanson Sitting in a Tree…….

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Background info for those of you who have better things to do in life than…..

Dick Smith is a rich Aussie entrepreneur and one-time Australian of the year who made his fortune in the retail industry – selling electronics, food and his mother (well, that ‘fact’ might need validating).  Generally speaking people have tended to think of Dick as a ‘top bloke’ and hold him and his Aussie-first, Aussie-manufactured goods close to their hearts.

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Pauline Hanson is the leader of a political party called ‘One Nation’, has also been the leader of the ‘United Australia Party’ and has been in and out of politics since 1994/ 1995 as part of the Liberal party (Conservatives).  Before politics she worked in her parents fish and chip shop and during her political career she has served time in prison convicted of electoral fraud.  Outside of that Pauline is most famous for her passionate speeches on Indigenous affairs – she has not been a fan of Aboriginal only welfare or assistance packages;  her calls for a Royal Commission into Islam; her suspicious attitude towards the idea of anthropogenic global warming;   her feelings on multiculturalism (it doesn’t work apparently) and other such derisive topics. Needless to say she has a colourful past and present.

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TODAY’S NEWS:

So Dick Smith has thrown his support behind some of Pauline Hanson’s ideas and now people are up in arms. No room for discussion, no ‘why, what and how?’ just a big fat dis-endorsement from the general population that involves labelling anyone who says anything that slightly endorses his decision is either racist, stupid or morally bankrupt.

Did you hear him talking to Wendy Harmer today? Much of what he said today made sense to me (except for the bit about endorsing Pauline but I’ll come to that).

He was basically saying that we’ve become drunk on capitalism, globalisation and population growth and NOBODY except for Pauline is talking about this. He says he agrees with global warming, with putting Australia first and with jobs and housing for people here.

I agree.

However, my solution would be to create or join a more moderate group / party and not to throw support behind such a polarising figure but that is probably all too sensible and that is why we end up with these people in power and people like me being called lefty wankers or words to that affect, a phrase and characterisation that resonates very little with me.

Globalisation and Trading Globally are different.
Capitalism can be moderated by values (it isn’t just capitalism or communism).
Planned population management doesn’t have to mean no immigration and neither does it have to mean we can’t help in a crisis.

Rant over. I’m with Dick, sort of. But not Pauline. I’m not a fan of her way.

PS: If you have the time and inclination I’d suggest listening to Dick Smith on this audio. He talks about educating and supporting women as a means of population control and mentions several really valid policy platforms that I think should be debated more widely.  It is a shame that he looks like he could be reduced to just a sensational headline when really he could be offering much more. Maybe someone has an agenda to belittle him….

 

You can now choose your Barbie based on body type

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As my children have grown up and passed the doll phase I didn’t pick up on this exciting new development in plastic-fantastic world but now I have, I can’t contain my……… indifference.

So Barbie can now be purchased in tall, petite and curvy alongside the ‘normal’ barbie shape which is, quite frankly, alien.

Whoopee.

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I played with barbies when I was a kid. In spite of me growing up to be quite un-girly in many ways (hate shopping, clothing, make-up – even though I make it (and I love making it), cooking and babies). Barbie, ken and their little kid Pippa allowed me to play out my grown up fantasies and desires of having a big house, flash car, cute dogs and a very good career.  Yes, in my world Barbie was a working girl earning the big bucks and travelling around the world with her little family.  I didn’t give two shits about her body shape, I used my imagination and projecting any body-image issues I had or was going to develop , onto my doll was not part of my plan.

And that’s why this development has me in a state of indifference.

To my way of thinking, offering up Barbies with different body shapes makes Barbie about the body shape.  What’s going to happen to the kids that have only one leg?  Battle Scars? Body Rolls? Hairy Moles?  Whatever…  No doll company is ever going to be able to cover every possible variation of the human condition.

Now of course I think that some ‘reality check’ button is a good thing.  Being able to buy dolls of all skin colours is good. Why? Because we are born black, white, yellow, brown, beige, pink or whatever colour we classify ourselves as and whatever we do in life our skin colour stays with us as a part of us.  It is a variation that tells a story about our roots and origin and that is powerful.  I believe that hair colour and type is equally important – we are not all peroxide blonde with a gentle wave.

What we are not born with though are long legs, short lets, big boobs, small boobs,  wide hips or narrow hips. Well, yes, of course we are born with that genetic code but we haven’t expressed it yet, that’s a puberty thing. A coming-of-age thing,  a sexual thing.

The ideal relationship for a child to have with their dolls body is one of indifference past their preference for the obvious non-changing relatable signs (hair type, skin colour, eye colour).  We must remember that it is children that are playing with dolls, not adults.  We also must remember that a child brings their doll to life through their imagination and for that reason a blank canvas can be much better than a fixed narrative.

So yeh, I’m not a fan of these dolls because I’d rather kids use their own imagination to bring a blank-canvas doll to life rather than have a personality bought for them.

I think when this type of doll was first imagined and brought to life the dolls tended to have a standard ‘average’ figure.  Maybe we go back to average as after all, you have to start somewhere and alien isn’t a good look.

 

The marriage between culture and ego.

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Culture:

“The ideas, customs, and social behaviour of a particular people or society”

Ego:

“A person’s sense of self-esteem or self-importance”

Without getting all ‘I think therefore I am’ about this I feel it is true that I can’t actually know what and who I am without context,  in isolation.

That in order to exist, I (Ego) need Culture (community).

Maybe it’s because we (humans) are sociable creatures or maybe that doesn’t matter at all – I’m not particularly sociable. Maybe I need to understand different cultures in order to know what I’m not and use that to contrast what I am.  But that would be a rather negative way of viewing things.

Maybe it just is what it is.

This type of thinking can seem to lead one on an endless feedback loop of philosophical meandering that can end up feeling like things are moving further from the light and more into chaos. In order to prevent that, I like to peg my camping spot out early, explore it from there and then tackle the next question that arises from that starting point.  “But what if the starting point is wrong?”  I hear you ask.  Well,  as long as one keeps one eye open to that possibility and the will open to testing and analysing one will know when it is wrong and will be more than happy to up-sticks and move on.

So today’s camp is of culture and ego.

This thought camping spot was triggered by my watching of SBS’s ‘First Contact’, a program that was pretty much exactly as I thought it would be and for that reason was only mildly interesting as an ‘eye opening docco’.

First Contact is an Australian short ‘fly on the wall’ documentary series that followed 6 well-known Australian celebrities as they made their ‘First Contact’ with Aboriginal communities around Australia. 

The program  was, nevertheless, mind-opening because of the subtleties that it raised within my mind. This being one of them.

The thoughts that the show triggered in me follow:

Every human alive was born into one or another culture, sub-culture or tribe.  Sometimes all that is common to us within a culture is language but mostly it is more all-encompassing than that.  Our values, our customs, taste, preferences, hopes and aspirations. The story of our bones, where we belong, our very essence if you like.


I was born into a dominant culture. One whose narrative was of winning, empire building, success won through a stiff-upper-lip and strong work ethic.  Of getting up early (the early bird catches the worm) and putting in an honest days graft.  Of loving the Queen and country, of dressing for dinner, family Christmases, the Leicester Fortnight holiday season, Labrador dogs, fresh air, Enid Blyton, talking about the weather, 1066 and St George.  I was born white and I’ll die white. White skinned and Blue eyed. At least on the outside.

I was born into The Daily Mail and BBC, into public education, the NHS, democracy and pounds and pence. Born into the aspirational class: conservative, prudent, savers, achievers, WINNERS (not battlers, we were too well off to be called battlers, we were above that culturally and practically and I knew it). Battlers is an Australian term for the working class)

I felt like a winner growing up. Everywhere I looked were signs that I would do well at life, succeed.  Even before I could legitimately make my own effort and be judged on my own merits I felt it.  My dad had a successful business in the town, we had a big house – maybe the biggest house out of my friends. I don’t know for sure but it sure did feel like it.  I did ballet, had lots of toys at Christmas, went abroad sometimes for holidays but mostly went away in the caravan – not an ordinary van but a massive twin axle job with a posh toilet and shower room and a fully fitted kitchen.  We also had an awning and a nice table set.

I was intelligent in the way that mattered to those in charge (apparently). I did well at school,  was recognised, rewarded with positions of authority, trusted and confided in.  I didn’t realise at the time that it was easy for me to be recognised because I already stood out as being a winner. I came from a ‘nice’ background and nobody was suspicious of me or my motives. I had the face of a winner, my subsequent actions only served to back up that bias.

Looking wider afield I also grew up surrounded by a family of ‘successes’.  My aunties and uncles all had their own houses, my grandparents did too.  They were a mix of interesting, intelligent, law-abiding, hard-working, compliant people who nobody would suspect anything bad from.  We even had a farm named after us in the village where my dads family had resided for years – maybe 200 years. I’m not 100% sure of the detail but I was sure enough of it to be proud.  One distant family member even had a Rolls Royce (albeit an old one) that I got to have a drive around in. Very posh!

Of course all that only gets you so far and life isn’t just a picture book rosy glow of niceties. Some things didn’t turn out the best for me and that took away some of my in-bred advantage. Then there were the times, as I got older where I did live and die by my own decisions, luck and abilities. There was nobody to give me references when I travelled to Australia alone aged 21. There was nobody to sit my uni exams for me, to tell me when was a good time to leave a relationship that I’d outgrown, to pull me and my car out of the ditch when I crashed and broke my hand or to sit inside my skin as it itched its self to what felt like near death when I got sick in my late teens.

But all through life, through the dark times, the dark night of the soul, the 2am tears, the panic attacks on the way to work, the accidents, financial crises, arguments, wrong-place-wrong-time moments and more I had a gift. Something that stayed with me and protected me. Something that I could rely on in the darkest of times when all around me, including the physical me seemed to crumble.  That thing was my ego.

Ego can be somewhat of a dirty word around these places. I have come to the conclusion, not least after watching First Contact that it is because it is so easy for people with my background to grow too much of it…..

Too much ego will trap you, put your mind in a cage and throw away the key.  Too little will see you victim to a world that isn’t as fair as it ought to be.  Just enough will keep you safe, grounded, whole.


And so back to First Contact.

Underneath it all, for me, came a simple realisation that Ego is born out of Culture. I’m not convinced I’ve captured everything here but I am convinced that if the parent (culture) is threatened, the Ego will suffer.

What I saw in this program was a dance of the egos. Some dancing to protect, some to defend, some to grow, some to share and some just to be seen, acknowledged.

I saw no good or bad, black or white, right or wrong in the dancing.  The dance of the ego is deeply personal.  But what I did see was a commonality underneath it all that was wanting to reach out and connect.

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It reminded me very much of this Alexander Milov sculpture from the Burning Man festival.

So what next?

That’s up to everyone to decide in their own way but I take comfort in the wisdom gained from my own journey:

It only takes one deep breath in and one slow breath out to let go of that which no longer serves us when we are ready.

To unleash tears that will cleanse us of our guilt, hurt, loss and shame.

To open us up to the future, our future.

There is enough for everyone as long as we have the will to see it.

Let’s walk forward together.

………………………………………

A final word on culture.

I believe that culture and cultural practices can evolve but only with respect. Evolving doesn’t mean superseding or, the triumph of one over another. More that it means growing, learning, enhancing, sharing.

We accept as normal that parents worry how they will find enough love in their hearts for their second child – a fear that dissolves the moment the baby breathes its first breath.  At that point the family changes everything and nothing at the same time, in the same breath.  Why can’t culture be like that? Like Love?

What we believe we become. Science, mathmatics and the great Aussie let down

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I’m a scientist myself so naturally I’m interested to see how the country is fairing against others, whether we are reaching our full potential or whether we are languishing somewhat.  Well, this week my wait was over and guess what?  We are getting exactly the results that we deserve.  Shite.

Our year 8 (age approx. 14, just before the children start working towards their first exams) results have slid from 12th to 17th in the league table for both disciplines and Kazakhstan is now beating us (the only thing I know about Kazakhstan otherwise is that Borat comes from there…..).  While educational league tables are not the be-all-and-end-all of the learning process I do find these results telling.

This is Australia.

A country with Senators who do not believe in anthropogenic Global Warming and what’s more are happy to pursue the likes of NASSA, The CSIRO and The Bureau of Meteorology and argue their case. Fair enough if they were arguing to understand I guess but they are not.

This is Australia.

Where the CSIRO (our largest Science based research organisation) had funding and jobs slashed over the last few years.

This is Australia.

Where Coal Mining interests are put before the Great Barrier Reef (is it doomed anyway so we may as well take the money or do they just not care?)

This is Australia.

Where our best and brightest renewable energy engineers find it easier to grow their businesses OUTSIDE of Australia than in, some of whom are now helping China to build their renewable electricity generation while seeing to it that Australia has one less economy to sell its dirty coal to.  Lose, lose boys.

This is Australia.

Where, in the 1960’s and 70’s we won awards for our suburb designs, the quarter acre block, leafy wide streets, large verandas that offered shelter from the sun and summer storms. Now we build Mc Mansions and flats. No eaves, no gardens, no passive ventilation which results in a heavy reliance on air conditioning.

This is Australia.

Where your love of space exploration and obsession for alien hunting might be possible thanks to The Dish in Parkes, NSW only you are not sure that the government will keep on funding it…….

So I say to the government.

Don’t punish the teachers.

Don’t change the syllabus.

Don’t bring in the big guns.

Just look at yourself. What you value and invest in. The messages you send out. The language you use and the energy you put into things.

These results reflect the fact that Australian society is not valuing long-term deep critical thinking and exploration. In fact, it’s got so bad that it seems like facts and  truth no longer matter.

It’s a thankless time to be a scientist.

And Australia has forgotten how to think.