Students will suffer if battle over public space continues

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SCHOOL PARK DISPUTE

I am an alumnus of Albert Park College, the school whose access to the local park is currently in dispute (“Play fight over park,” The Age, 17/3). After reading about the local residents’ complaints, I thought it important to share my experiences of this antagonism as a student. I remember, as a student in my final years, running late one morning. My stepdad ejected me from the car in a “no standing” area. As he never even left the driver’s seat, I was the one accosted by two older women. They lectured me, told me they’d got the licence number, and would be making a complaint. I have anxiety. This incident sparked a panic attack lasting half an hour. Similarly, I remember being told to stay inside during lunch because neighbours had complained about the noise. For the record, I had had classes in repurposed staff offices and even a storage cupboard. The space I had access to was already very restricted. The part of Gasworks students would have access to under the proposed amendment contains more tarmac and dirt than actual grass. If the motion was to pass, it is students who would suffer.
Sarah Winkler, Waterways

Parks are for everyone
The argument for restricting student access to the Gasworks park in Albert Park and having it essentially only utilised by retired folks and artists is absurd, and a slap in the face to local rate-paying families. School land has historically been sold off to make way for an increase in city dwellings. Councils have approved high-density housing and benefit from increased rate revenue. It is unconscionable for them to then prevent a section of our local community from accessing the parks. Our students should be allowed to access parklands to stretch their legs, speak, laugh and play in the open air freely without needing to worry about upsetting other community members. Goodness knows they have suffered being locked up for the better part of a year! And by the way, children are seen and are heard these days.
Maria Kassiotis, South Melbourne

Don’t lock people out of local green space
My grandchildren attend a school adjacent to a local football oval. With no fences, the students have plenty of space to kick a football, run, do whatever children do in open space. Residents walk their dogs, jog, do whatever adults do in open space. My grandson is the school’s sustainability captain, elected on a platform of reducing and cleaning up rubbish. Reading about residents wanting to keep their public open space for themselves, not for local students, saddened me. They can do better. At a time when we recognise the importance of open space, it is better to address the issues through education. Perhaps a school assembly with local residents talking to students about the joys of a rubbish-free park with well-grown bushes? Use of public open space should be encouraged, not restricted. We do not want to follow London’s example of locked local green space available only to keyholders.
Louise Kloot, Doncaster

City’s lungs being choked
Over the past year Yarra Park has become more and more beautiful. There are no longer worn, bare patches on the now green and lush lawns and the trees look healthier than they have in years. It has become a much-loved area for picnics, for play and for just sitting and contemplating nature; never have there been so many dog-walkers, strollers and keep-fit enthusiasts. This is all going to come to a crashing halt today. Why? Because not only does the footy season begin but with it the concomitant parking of thousands of cars that will damage the grass and compress the soil around the trees, making their viability more precarious. No longer will picnickers, playing children or dog-walkers be able to enjoy what, over the past year, they have begun to think of as “their park”. For how much longer is this environmental damage going to be tolerated? Why do we not value this piece of irreplaceable green space in the middle of our ever more polluted city? Now is the perfect moment for the MCG to tell its patrons that there is a more than adequate public transport system, plus numerous city car parks.
Angela Mercer, East Melbourne

THE FORUM

Faith failing
The current situation of financial loss and insufficient staff in the aged care industry (“Aged care faces loss of $12 per bed a day”, The Age, 17/3) is because Australians no longer want to use a system where the rights, needs and complaints of providers count for more than those of the elderly. Even from a viewpoint of market viability, the solution is total reform, not just more funding for the same unacceptable and unwanted scenario.
Ruth Farr, Blackburn South

Taxes won’t fix aged care
The Private Residential Aged Care Industry has begun presenting its case for massive funding increases in residential care. All while ignoring the stories of owner wealth, including exotic holidays, properties, and sports cars. While the industry says that if you want to adequately care for the residential elderly it will require new taxes or reallocation of existing taxes, they are ignoring the massive burden already levied on residents – entry bonds to enter a facility. They are a massive impost, usually adding up to hundreds of thousands of dollars, which is then invested with profit returned to owners.
David Anderson, Geelong West

Who’s in a bubble?
Liberal senator Scott Ryan (“It’s time to burst your own bubbles”, The Age, 13/3) rightly condemns “attacks on politics itself and the dismissal of complexity in addressing policy challenges”. But he only sees this fault in others: Black Lives Matter, Get Up! and the Greens. Ryan needs to break out of his Canberra bubble. Most people I know blame the Labor and Liberal parties for undermining responsive political decision-making and subtlety in public discourse. Who puts corporate or union interests ahead of the public good? Who opposed the “Truth in Political Advertising” bills? Who pork barrels instead of funding what is needed? Who feather-beds their own super and entitlements but presides over a casualised, under-employed work-force? Who ignores (as long as possible) popular support for euthanasia, decriminalising marijuana, renewable energy or same-sex marriage? When politicians stop listening, “populist” voices get louder. Isn’t that democracy?
David Mackay, Macleod

Moving reflections
Nyadol Nyuon’s “A song beyond us and them” (The Age, 17/3) is a truly magnificent, poignant and thought-provoking article. She offers us the opportunity to reflect deeply on what multiculturalism can be. She helps us understand why people become displaced, the accumulation of loss in their lives and why they seek asylum. The picture she paints of singing the songs learnt from her mother to her daughter is exquisite. Added to this the stories she is now reading to her – perhaps they are the dream-time stories, thus dispelling the myth of white Australia. I have cut the article out to keep. I will also send a copy to Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton.
Judith Morrison, Mount Waverley

A most welcome arrival
It’s wonderful to read the article by Nyadol Nyuon on diversity and multiculturalism. As a child she had a tough, displaced life and is now safely with her own family here. No wonder her main message is wise, understanding and compassionate. Australia is so lucky to have her.
Barbara Fraser, Burwood

Lesson in harmony
Nyadol Nyuon’s comments on multiculturalism should strike a sympathetic chord with Australians interested in creating and maintaining a decent, harmonious society. She notes that, at the time of Australia’s European founding, it was preceded by the oldest civilisation on earth. Perhaps in that context, Donald Horne (The Lucky Country) reminded European descendants claiming special status that there were two types of Australians: those who arrived yesterday, and those who arrived the day before yesterday.
Norman Huon, Port Melbourne

Defamation game
Christian Porter is playing a very political game in his attempt to protect his reputation by using the laws of defamation, which are not at all suitable to determine whether a rape actually occurred. Clearly an inquiry to answer that question directly is required. Then if appropriate the defamation case could proceed.
John Groom, Bentleigh

Problematic process
As Michael Douglas noted (Opinion, 16/3), the optics of the Attorney-General’s defamation proceedings in the Federal Court are problematic. Porter’s choice of jurisdiction means a federal government appointee will adjudicate on a case where a government minister is the plaintiff and the government has oversight and financial control over the court. If negotiating a settlement, the ABC will need to take account of the considerable political pressure that the government has already brought to bear on it.
Juliette Borenstein, North Fitzroy

Doubts over anonymity
Two of your correspondents (Letters, 17/3) challenged a plank of the Porter defamation claim by saying they were unaware of the identity of the cabinet minister referred to in the ABC report until Porter self-identified at his press conference. I received a text message the very morning after the ABC report naming him.
Thomas Hogg, East Melbourne

Women aren’t perfect
Never have I read a letter, nor an article, that casts a hint of a shadow against the female gender. Much less having a letter published which is critical of some aspects of womanhood. Women murder, they harass, they can be violent. Women are people, with the same emotions and same weaknesses as men. Except, it seems, women are to be viewed through rose-coloured glasses. Aren’t I the lucky one belonging to the gender which is seen as doing no wrong.
Trish Young, Hampton

Fearing a jeering
Your correspondent states that Morrison’s refusal to meet the March 4 Justice protesters was akin to Howards’ refusal to apologise to the survivors of the stolen generations (Letters, 17/3). I would suggest Howard had one eye on votes potentially leaking to One Nation, and keeping the party’s far right in line, while Morrison’s refusal was merely craven. Howard of course could always hide behind the fallacious argument that “it happened so long ago” and that current generations have nothing to apologise for. Women are demanding justice for years of abuse, with a very recent allegation mere metres from the current PM’s own office. Always one for a happy “photo op” in a silly cap, Morrison knew he’d be jeered, and have nothing substantial to say — that’s why he didn’t address the protest.
Matt McRobbie, Mont Albert

Ministerial post crowded
Giving Marise Payne the position of Minister of Foreign Affairs as well as Minister of Women shows how little value our Prime Minister places on women’s affairs. Foreign Minister is a huge responsibility and should stand alone. To be given both portfolios is unmanageable. This results in not giving justice to one area of responsibility, which was clearly demonstrated when Payne said she was too busy to attend the rally. Her presence at this so important rally should have taken precedence over any other matters she had at hand.
Glenise Michaelson, Montmorency

Mateship
So the Prime Minister has plenty of time to make 55 phone calls on behalf of his “mate” Mathias Cormann (“How Cormann got his OECD magic number,” The Age, 17/3) and reorder cabinet duties for his other “mate” Christian Porter, but no time to attend the women’s march and listen to the voices of Australia’s women. That’s mateship for you.
Heather Hill, Yarra Glen

Punishing protesters
Peter Dutton has previously suggested climate protesters should have welfare payments cancelled and Liberal MP Tim Wilson that a water cannon be used on peaceful Occupy Melbourne protesters but there is no need to worry, democracy is safe, because no one in the federal government is actually saying protesters should be shot, at least not with live ammunition.
Peter Martina, Warrnambool

Impatient for a jab
When will all Australians be vaccinated – October? 2022? I would like to see reports of people queueing at GPs or pop-up vaccination stations and real numbers getting their first dose. What is the hold-up? The AstraZeneca vaccine is being produced right here in Melbourne, and stockpiles should be mounting with much of Europe pausing AstraZeneca injections. Let’s get our sleeves rolled up and get on with it.
Danny Cole, Essendon

‘Magic’ medication
There’s a fundamental contradiction when it comes to considerations of drug treatments of mental disorders. On the one hand there is a demand for magic bullets, on the other there are findings such as the recent royal commission into Victoria’s mental health system recommendations “the system has become imbalanced with an over-reliance on medication”. Antidepressants were considered those much-needed magic bullets for depression and anxiety, until it now turns out they weren’t. And so attention has been shifting to psychedelics such as psilocybin, from “magic mushrooms” (The Age, 17/3). Do we really need yet another set of unknown risks, to have better mental health outcomes? Advocates think so, and the pharmaceutical industry will always say yes to a new marketing opportunity. Psychotherapy, however less convenient it may seem compared to quick fix promises, remains a safe and effective treatment for anxiety and depressive disorders. It’s not a panacea. No single approach in the complex area of mental health is, but it comes with an evidence base that slow and careful reflection and exploration over time with an empathically attuned therapist can often bring symptom reduction and relief. And no “magic” involved.
Dr Larry Hermann, consultant psychiatrist, South Yarra

AND ANOTHER THING…

Politics
First Daniel Andrews has a slip, then Michael O’Brien has a spill. Our leaders do appear to be rather accident-prone of late.
Patrick Toohey, North Balwyn

Illustration: Matt GoldingCredit:

Although we knew little to nothing previously about Brad Battin, we all now know one thing categorically – he can’t count.
Erica Grebler, Caulfield North

Some “Guy” told the Liberals to “Battin” down the hatches.
Andrew McFarland, Templestowe

Michael O’Brien will be watching his back for quite a while still. Brad Battin’s attempt was probably the first skirmish to test the waters.
Marie Nash, Balwyn

Canberra
If Christian Porter is doing only part of his job, is he taking home only part of his pay?
Margaret Callinan, Hawthorn

Marise Payne – please be more person, less politician.
Bill Burns, Bendigo

Perhaps the reason our PM didn’t address the March 4 Justice rally was he couldn’t find his bulletproof vest.
Henry Herzog, St Kilda East

The reaction to the Wesley boys on the bus (The Age, 17/3) was wrong. The other passengers and “older ladies” needed to take umbrage, loudly, the driver should have stopped the bus, and the alleged offenders ejected.
Angela Thomas, Ringwood

Now that he is head of the OECD, will Mathias Cormann replace Hercule Poirot as our favourite international Belgian?
Ian Powell, Glen Waverley

Furthermore
So the main issue with the overwork of junior doctors (The Age, 16/3) is about money and not the healthcare of the patients?
Andy Wain, Rosebud

Let’s hope the attention to “long COVID” sheds some overdue light on chronic fatigue syndrome. Julie Conquest, Brighton

Finally
Another AFL season; more needless rule changes.
Phil Lipshut, Elsternwick

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