Ai Weiwei on the US-Australia refugee deal: ‘Its exactly like slave trading’

Chinese artist brings three tackling runs about refugee crisis to Australia with a message

The internationally renowned Chinese artist and dissident Ai Weiwei believes the US and Australia are engaging in a slave trade.

His claim comes amid a discussion of worldwide refugee movements, the impact of globalisation on human suffering and a lack of humanity in the west- which form the context of his contribution to this month’s Sydney Biennale exhibition.

Ai is well aware of Australia’s refugee policies, including its most recent chapter- a deal with the US to take up to 1,200 refugees languishing in offshore detention centres.

” That is a complete insult to the understanding of refugees ,” he says.” It’s exactly like slave trading. You cannot deal with human being by violating their[ rights ].”

Ai is in Australia this week to launch three of his runs- two exhibiting at Sydney’s Biennale. All confront and question the west’s complicity in the refugee crisis gripping the world.

One, Crystal Ball, is a two-tonne installing made of crystal and lifejackets, offering a chance of reflection on the chaos of the crisis.

The other, Law of the Journey, is an imposing 60 -metre-long rubber boat crammed with almost 300 gigantic faceless figures. It fills a warehouse on Cockatoo Island.

Ai Weiwei in front of Law of the Journey, a statement on the therapy of refugees, at Sydney’s Cockatoo Island. Photo: Ben Rushton/ EPA

The oversized life raft and its occupants are all black, made of the same rubber and by the same company that manufactures the barges most often used by refugees for the dangerous Mediterranean crossing.

Ai built it to sit in the National Museum of Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic- which accepts no refugees- and it was coincidence that it resolved so perfectly into an Australian space, one with its own history of displacement and detention.

Ai will also deliver a keynote address to launch his refugee documentary, Human Flow, for Australian audiences.

He spent two years traveling the world, visiting 23 countries and more than 40 refugee camps, to generate the confront movie and he remains shocked by what he saw.

” You just couldn’t believe it’s in Europe. It’s not shocking to find people escape, from fire, killing- this is natural. People bring their loved ones and just leave ,” he says.

” But it’s not natural to see Europe, which has been so superior in every aspect- not only economically but morally … their work on human rights has been the foundation of our modern society .”

Instead they are building walls and fences and camps, and changing migration laws and chasing down the boats, Ai says.

” It’s so cold, virtually pushing them back in the ocean if they can ,” he says.” Greece said … it’s just not possible for us to push them back to the ocean, otherwise they would do it .”

Australia does. For many years the Australian government has operated the legally contentious policy of boat turnbacks in the seas to its north, sending asylum seekers back to where they last came from- usually Indonesia- in purpose-built barges to stop them landing in Australia.

The numbers are tiny as compared with Europe, but the governmental forces tells it has stopped people drowning at sea in their thousands. Thousands of others are in the offshore camps or on tenuous temporary visas in Australia.

Ai appears to target countries with his exhibitions, displaying the Law of the Journey first in the Czech Republic and now in Australia. But he says he has thought about boycotting to send his message and has done it at least once- pulling down his show in Denmark in protest against the government’s decision to confiscate the belongings of refugees.

” I tried both ways, but most of the time I want my voice to listen to ,” he says.” I guess, as artists, to give just a gesture is sufficient to. The fight takes a real conflict. To devote a moral kind of superiority presents a problem, because we have to see that we’re all together. The struggle builds the meaning. I prefer to have a real fight than withdraw from the fight .”

‘ You simply couldn’t believe it’s in Europe ‘: Ai Weiwei at a refugee camp between Greece and Macedonia. Photo: Valdrin Xhemaj/ EPA

Ai has been arrested, jailed and beaten for his activism. Friends and coworkers have been arrested, some have disappeared.

” It’s always personal ,” he tells.” When I run very personal, it always becomes political, all my work is like that. I’m always searching for answers: “whats happened to” my father’s generation, what would it be if a writer lost his chance to express himself ?”

Twice during the interview, Ai brings up those pre-dawn hours on Lesbos, watching a mob spill from a refugee boat. His own background is one of displacement and exile, and his research clearly affected him.

” Very often people say,’ what can we do ?’ … I think if we as individuals- all those tragedies are made by humen- we are genuinely can solve it if we want to ,” he tells.” If it’s not solved, it’s simply because we don’t want to solve it, because we is beneficial for the situation. Other people’s suffering and desperation is beneficial, so if those questions are not being answered, we will never solve the problem .”

He hopes people who ensure his run will be moved towards activism.

” I think everybody who respects “peoples lives” should be activists, because liberty is struggle ,” Ai concludes.” If for a long time you’re not used to fight, it is because you don’t care and you don’t treasure the freedom .”

* The Sydney Biennale opens on 16 March and operates until 11 June

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British woman jailed for 28 years for ‘bucket list’ murder in Australia

Jemma Lilley boasted she had ticked off crime by garotting and stabbing autistic teenager

A British woman who had an “obsession” with serial murderers has been jailed for life for garotting, stabbing and burying the body of an autistic teen in Western Australia.

Jemma Lilley, 26, murdered Aaron Pajich, 18, at her home in Perth, interring him in a shallow tomb in her garden and encompassing it with concrete and tiles.

Lilley, previously of Stamford, Lincolnshire, was convicted in November alongside her housemate Trudi Lenon, 43, at the supreme court of Western Australia after a four-week trial.

On Wednesday, the pair were sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum word of 28 years.

Aaron Pajich was described as a’ precious little son’ by his mother. Photo: Western Australia police

James Mactaggart, prosecuting, had told the court Lilley said she wanted to kill someone before she turned 25 and was so” full of herself and euphoric” having ticked off murder from her” pail listing” that she could not assistance brag to a work colleague.

She had previously written a volume about a serial murderer called SOS and went on to assume the identity of the character, the jury heard.

Speaking to the Times after the conviction, Lilley’s stepmother, Nina Lilley, 48, said:” The book was a big problem with me. At the beginning I thought,’ Fair enough. You want to write a horror story .’ But I didn’t like the contents of it.

” She had always had an obsession with serial murderers, but she said it was a way of ventilating her annoyance of what happened when she was a child .”

Pajich was lured to his death on 13 June 2016, with each defendant blaming the other for the killing.

Lenon told the court that Lilley approached the teen from behind as he installed games on her computer, garotted him with a wire until it violated and then stabbed him three times.

The prosecution said Lilley left incriminating messages for her” obsequious and sycophantic” follower Lenon hours after the killing, saying she was feeling things she had” not felt before “.

Sharon Pajich, the murdered teenager’s mother. Photograph: Richard Wainwright/ AAP

After the verdict, the victim’s mother, Sharon Pajich, told reporters she was heartbroken and would have to deal with what happened to her son for a lifetime.

His murderers were” disgusting animals” and should never be released, she said.

” He was my precious little boy, he was my firstborn … he was full of life. They deserve everything they get for what they’ve done. They’ve taken an innocent son from his loved ones ,” his mother said.

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What would a truly disabled-accessible city look like?

Most cities are utterly unfriendly to people with disabilities but with almost one billion estimated to be urban-dwellers by 2050, a few cities are undergoing a remarkable shift

To David Meere, a visually impaired man from Melbourne, among the various obstacles to life in cities is another that is less frequently discussed: fear.

” The fear of not being able to navigate busy, cluttered and visually oriented environments is a major barrier to participation in normal life ,” says Meere, 52,” be that going to the shops, going for a walk in the park, going to work, looking for run, or simply socialising .”

That’s what makes an innovative project at the city’s Southern Cross train station so important to him. A new” beacon navigation system” sends audio cues to users via their smartphones, providing directions, flagging escalator outages and otherwise transforming what previously a “no-go” region for Meere.

” I no longer have to hope there’s a willing spectator or a capable staff member to provide direct aid ,” he says.” And on a very personal and powerful level it allows me to use this major transport hub in one of Australia’s largest cities with certainty and freedom as a parent with small children. It’s a real game-changer .”

Meere was one of the hundreds of millions of people with disabilities who live in cities around the world. By 2050, they will number an estimated 940 million people, or 15% of what will be approximately 6.25 billion total urban dwellers, lending an urgency to the UN’s declaration that poor accessibility ” presents a major challenge “.

For the physically or mentally disabled, hurdles can range from blocked wheelchair ramps, to buildings without lifts, to inaccessible toilets, to shops without step-free access. Meanwhile, for learning disabled people or those on the autistic spectrum, the cluttered and hectic metropolitan environment can be a sensory minefield.





  • Stairs, revolving doors, cobbles and steps on to trains are a few of the features that make it difficult for people in wheelchairs to access their cities

Although the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and statutes such as the Americans with Disabilities Act, Britain’s Equality Act and Australia’s Disability Discrimination Act aim to boost their entitlements and access, current realities on the ground can be very different, as Guardian City readers recently reported.

And yet, cities benefit from accessibility. One World Health Organisation examine described how, like Meere, disabled people are less likely to socialise or work without accessible transport. Cities also miss out on economic gains: in the UK the” purple pound” is worth PS212bn, and the accessible-tourism market an estimated PS12bn.

Some cities, however, are leading the way.

Seattle: a sidewalk mapping app


Mapping apps induce navigating cities a doddle for most people- but their lack of detail on ramps and fell kerbs mean they don’t always work well for people with a physical disability.

Take the hilly city of Seattle, where several neighbourhoods have no pavements at all, and many streets have a slope grade( or tilt) of 10% or even 20%.

The University of Washington’s Taskar Center for Accessible Technology has a answer: a map-based app permitting pedestrians with limited mobility to plan accessible roads. AccessMap enables users to enter a destination, and receive indicated roads depending on customised settings, such as limiting uphill or downhill inclines. The image above shows Seattle streets coloured by incline: green entails flat; red entails a slope of 10% or above.

For example, while Google Maps sends pedestrians from University Street station to City hall via Seneca Street, with its steep 10% grade, AccessMap sends them via Pike Street instead- a slope of less than 2 %.


  • OpenSidewalks is crowdsourcing info such as pavement thicknes and kerb drop-downs

It also supplements data regarding Seattle’s Department of Transportation and the US Geological Survey with datum from mapathon events. Now the Taskar Centre’s pertained OpenSidewalks project is taking it farther by crowdsourcing extra datum, such as pavement width and the location of handrails.

Singapore: universal design


By 2030, one in five Singaporeans will be over 60, with this” silver tsunami” driving awareness of ageing and disability benefits. The city may not historically be known for all-inclusive practises, but has recently won kudo from the UN for its accessible ” user-friendly built environment “.

The Universal Design principles drawn up by Singapore’s Building Construction Authority have encouraged accessibility in new developments since its launch in 2007.

CapitaGreen, in the central business district, is a 40 -storey office block that has won a host of UD awards. Completed in 2014 at a cost of S $1.3 bn( PS700m ), the Toyo Ito-designed structure features column-free spaces and a low concierge counter to help disabled people move around the building more easily.


  • Braille directions on handrails in the award-winning CapitaGreen office block

Lift doors stay open longer, handrails flank both sides of staircases, and the chairs have grab manages. A hearing induction loop enables clearer communication for those using hearing aids, while Braille directions, tactile the guidelines and easy-to-read pictographs help the visually impaired. Routes into the office from underground pedestrian walkways and two Mass Rapid Transit( MRT) stations are barrier-free.

Singapore’s MRT has furthermore been working to improve accessibility over the past decade. The 30 -year-old nework has been becoming ever more lifts, wider gates and tactile guidance, and more than 80% of the 138 stations have at least two barrier-free routes.

The title of world’s most accessible metro system, however, probably goes to Washington, DC. All 91 subway stations are fully accessible, along with its rail carriages and the entire bus fleet.

Sonoma: autism-friendly design


People with autism can be hypersensitive to sound, illuminate and movement, and become overwhelmed by noisy, cluttered or crowded spaces. Sweetwater Spectrum, a $6.8 m supported-housing project in Sonoma, California, aims to address this.

The site, which opened in 2013, includes four 4-bed homes for 16 young adults, their home communities centre, therapy pools and an urban farm- all designed by Leddy Maytum Stacy Architects according to autism-specific principles recommended by Arizona State University to promote a sense of calm.


  • Inside the Sweetwater Spectrum housing project

Along with simple, clear lines, the homes are designed so residents can clearly see spaces across thresholds. Noise is kept to a minimum thanks to quiet heating and ventilation systems and thoughtful design, such as locating the laundry room away from the bedrooms. Fittings and decor reduce sensory stimulation and jumble, with muted colours, neutral tones and recessed or natural light.

Korsor: sport for all


The Musholm sports, holiday and meeting complex in Korsor has won numerous awardings, most recently from the International Olympic Committee and the International Paralympic Committee, for its 2015 redesign of the basic 1998 site.

At the centre of the venue, owned by the Danish Muscular Dystrophy Foundation, is a vast, circular athletics corridor, with an aerial ropeway and climbing wall for wheelchair users and an incorporated pulley system. Outside, a 100 m ramp spirals up from the base of the hall to a sky lounge.( The ramp can also be used as a wheelchair racing way .)

The 24 hotel rooms each have ceiling hoists, electronic curtains, beds that can be automatically raised or reclined, adjustable height sinks and accessible toilets. By the waterside, a private bathing jetty is wide enough for wheelchairs and accessible via a ramp.


  • The multi-purpose athletics hall in the Musholm complex

” Accessibility is necessary felt but not watched ,” says foundation director Henrik Ib Jorgensen. Musholm, which expense EUR1 4.5 m( PS12. 9m) to build, is operate as a social enterprise.” Lack of accessibility, other people’s hypothesis, body ideals and a lack self confidence among people with disabilities are often the biggest hurdles for diversity ,” he adds.” We wanted to create a place where there is space for changes .”

Denmark is also home to what is widely regarded as the world’s most accessible office build. The House of Disabled People’s Organisations in the Copenhagen suburb of Taastrup is the shared headquarters of some 30 different disability groups. Built in 2012 for 178 m krone( PS21m ), the Universal Design includes drive-through lifts so wheelchair users don’t have to turn around, and small, tactile knob on railings so blind people can easily tell which floor they are on.

Chester: an accessible historic city


Chester in north-west England is renowned for its two-mile circuit of Roman, Saxon and Medieval walls and its elevated walkways, called Rows. But the city’s historic status belies its role as an accessibility champion: last year it became the first British city to win the European commission’s Access City award.

The Rows are accessible with ramps, a lift and an escalator, while the council’s 15 -year regeneration strategy prioritises accessibility in new developments.

Take the PS300m Northgate shopping and leisure development, to be completed by 2021. The site will include accessible stores, eateries, housing and a 157 -room hotel including eight accessible rooms with ceiling hoists. The hotel will include a changing places facility for people with complex or multiple and profound disabilities.( Unlike criterion accessible toilets, these include a height-adjustable changing bench, adjustable sink, a toilet designed for assisted use and hoist .) Chester already has six such changing places facilities, including one at the recently opened bus interchange, and more are planned around the city.

Great Barrier Reef coral bleaching has started early, biologist says

Photographs show only localised bleaching but there is concern it has come so early in the season

New blood test could help detect eight common cancers before they spread

Researchers believe CancerSEEK will save thousands of lives and hope it will be widely available in a few years

Gay couples’ weddings officially mark dawning of Australian marriage equality

Couples began wedding at midnight on the first day available to most same-sex couples after the occur of Australias legislation

If practice constructs perfect, the wedding of Ron van Houwelingen and Antony McManus on Tuesday should go off without a hitch.

The couple have committed to each other in 16 unofficial wedding ceremonies, but this will be the first legal matrimony, and one of the first in Australia since marriage equality was legalised in December.

Although a few gay weddings have occurred with special dispensation, the 30 -day waiting period to marry after lodging official notification entails most same-sex couples have had to wait until 9 January to tie the knot.

Van Houwelingen and McManus fulfilled 30 years ago while studying performing arts at Prahran Tafe in Melbourne. The bridal ever held where they met, at the David Williamson Theatre , now part of Melbourne Polytechnic.

” Our first wedding was on our sixth anniversary, that was a big deal with family and friends ,” Van Houwelingen said.

” Most of the others have been more protests- we’ve renewed our pledges at rallies, married on TV and on radio. They’ve been a statement in the fight for marriage equality .”

Marriage ” feels very different ” this time round, he said.” We’ve had 16 ceremonies – it’s the first legal one though !”

Both worked with Equal Love, a campaign group that has organised demonstrations in favour of wedding equality, for eight years and always planned to officially marry as soon as it was legal.

The couple have invited 120 guests, but Van Houwelingen won’t give away the secret of their special vows except to say that their celebrant, Coral Teague, has forbade them from recycling lines from the earlier ceremonies.

And how does it feel to be among the first?

” It feels amazing ,” Van Houwelingen said.” We’ve been involved in the fight for so long – it’s an important message that we’ve finally achieved some sort of equality .”

They won’t be the first to marriage on Tuesday.

One of the first ceremonies took place overnight near Tweed Heads, where athletes Craig Burns and Luke Sullivan timed their proceedings so the marriage would become official minutes after midnight.

Three hours behind in Perth, Gillian Brady and Lisa Goldsmith wedded at The Court.

A Melbourne wedding business, the Altar Electric, helped Teegan Daly and Mahatia Minniecon marry at midnight.

They were engaged in 2015 and held a commitment ceremony in 2016. Daly said they already consider themselves wedded, so it’s another case of the law catching up with LGBTI relationships.

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Falls festival: woman allegedly assaulted in mosh pit performed citizen’s arrest

Police say human, 32, has been arrested and charged over alleged sexual assault of 19 -year-old woman on Friday night

A woman allegedly sexually assaulted in the mosh cavity at Falls festival in Tasmania performed a citizen’s arrest on her assailant, handing him over to security and police.

At the conclusion of the three-day music festival in Tasmania’s Marion Bay, police said a 32 -year-old man from Carlton had been arrested and charged over an alleged assault on Sunday night for reportedly groping a woman on the breast. The human has been bailed to appear in court on a charge of assault with indecent intent.

Tasmania police senior sergeant Darren Latham said the woman and her friend apprehended the alleged attacker at the time of the incident.

” The woman involved … and her friend actually comprehended the male and then handed them to security, who then handed them to police to be discussed .”

Latham said police were encouraged that more victims of assault were willing to come forward to report incidents.

” Whilst we would rather have no incidents at all … it is encouraging that people are taking positive action ,” he said.” But we … wish that this didn’t happen at all .”

The arrest marks the third alleged assault at the festival this year. A 19 -year-old woman reported being sexually assaulted in a mosh pit on Friday night, while another woman told police she had been assaulted at the festival’s camping area on Saturday evening.

Falls festival co-producer Paul Piticco issued a statement greeting the arrest and urging victims of assault to come forward.

” These incidences have been happening at mass assembles for years and we are encouraged by the fact that this unacceptable behaviour is being identified and people are coming forward ,” he said.” It takes a lot of fortitude and we are happy to be seeing a culture change where victims feel comfortable to report .”

Piticco said there remained significant work for the celebration and community to do in tackling the issue of sexual assault.

” As a society we need to continue to educate people about consent to eradicate this dreadful behaviour and offer victims with a safe space .”

Falls festival is an annual Australian music and arts festival held across the country around New Year’s Eve. This year, it is being held in Tasmania, Victoria, New South Wales and Western Australia.

Sexual assault has been a consistent issue at the Tasmanian iteration of the Falls festival. At the 2016 -1 7 event, five girls reported being sexually assaulted, including one alleged rape.

Music industry players launched the Your Choice campaign following the reported sexual assault at Falls festival last year, encouraging bands and promoters to do more to stamp out sexual assault at their gigs.

This month, resulting Australian artists launched the #MeNoMore motion calling out sexual assault, harassment and rape in the Australian music industry.

Falls festival’s Victorian event, at the seaside town of Lorne, suffered a crowd crush in 2016 -1 7, in which more than 80 people suffered injuries, including broken bones and head wounds.

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Same-sex marriage and euthanasia mean annus horribilis Catholic bishop

Archbishop of Sydney Anthony Fisher says 2017 has been challenging for our world our country, and each of us individually

The Catholic Archbishop of Sydney Anthony Fisher said people of faith might describe 2017 as” annus horribilis because of euthanasia statutes in Victoria, the exposure of child sexual abuse in the Catholic church, and the legalisation of same-sex marriage were failings that challenged” our Christian conceptions of life “.

” Like any year, this one has had its challenges for our world, our country and each and every one of us individually ,” Fisher said in his annual Christmas message.

” For people of faith you might say it’s been an annus horribilis, as our Christian conceptions of life and love have been challenged in the marriage and euthanasia debates; freedom of religion in Australia put in doubt; and shameful crimes and cover-ups in our Church uncovered by the royal commission.

” But the Christmas story insists there is a star in the dark sky, light amidst the anxieties and failures. Christmas speaks of new hope .”

There was a need for renewed hope to unite people, Fisher said. He said the Australian Catholic Youth festival had been a highlight of the year.

” The concourse of young people standing up for religion and ideals says to us that whatever the past failings, we can have hope for ourselves, our families, our church, our nation, our world ,” he said.” Our young person are not naive about the shames in our past or the trials in our future. But they want to be part of the answer to both .”

The Archbishop of Melbourne Dennis Hart had a similarly dark Christmas message.

” We live in a world and a church that is rapidly changing ,” he said in a video.” Every morning we seem to wake up to more bad global news of hurricanes, inundates, drought, flames and even the frightening prospect of the use of nuclear weapons. The gloomines of the world is but a shadow. Behind it, but within our reach, is joy .”

Meanwhile the Anglican Dean of Hobart, Richard Humphrey, gave a nod to Donald Trump in a politically-themed Christmas video in which he wore a red Make Christmas Great Again cap, a play on Trump’s Make America Great Again slogan.

He told the ABC that people needed to turn away from fake news and towards” the really good news of Christmas “.

But he also exhorted Tasmanian premier Will Hodgman to tackle pokies-related harm. With the nation due to head to an election in May, the state’s opposition leader Rebecca White said if elected Labor would commit to removing poker machines from saloon and clubs, and would give notice that the present deed letting poker machines in venues other than casinoes would not be extended beyond 2023.

” It is all very well for our premier to be went on to say that we should be able to celebrate Christmas, but we need to make room in the hostel for there to be no pokies as well, these kind of things are related ,” Humphrey said.

” We guess the damage that is being done by pokies in some of our poorest and most needy suburbs needs to be addressed .”

Dr Glenn Davies, the Anglican Archbishop of Sydney, turned to Twitter to deliver his Christmas message this year.

” In short- a newborn born in a shed saves the world #canyoubelieveit ,” his message said.

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‘The difficulty is the point’: teaching spoon-fed students how to really read

When the logic of capitalism means universities are run as business, much is lost. Reclaiming literature is crucial to understanding the times we live in

I‘ve recently finished marking 40 -odd quizs, largely written by people between the ages of 18 and 21. In them our students had to answer questions about aspects of literature, such as free indirect speech or genre. They also had to write an essay of 1,000 words, on the work of Helen Garner, Christos Tsiolkas, Judith Wright, Jack Davis or Tim Winton.

My students are, for the most component, education students who live in regional Australia. If they get their degree, they are bind for early childhood centres, preschools, primary schools, high schools. These are our new teachers.

If you have little to do with tertiary education you might not have noticed this: that there is a whole new cohort of young people attending university, people who might not have done so 30 or 40 years ago. Our economy has been transforming itself from blue to white collar for decades; an education that relies on the written word is newly necessary.

Added to this, the university’s relatively new status as a business means that it desperately needs students, and will make it as easy as possible for everyone, anyone to enrol. When I began teaching here the Atar for education was officially 60, but many students were entering the university through alternative pathways: Tafe, bridging courses at the university itself, written application. Universities are industries. Students are customers. The more customers, the very best the business does.

And of course, the best style to retain a client is to keep her happy. I’d suggest that happiness for students might arise from challenge, from hard work fairly rewarded, or from the acquisition of new skills. But there is of course a quicker road: you maintain students happy by not failing them. And then- astonish!- when they graduate they are not literate, or numerate, or knowledgeable enough to perform the work they have been studying for.

But merely because the pony has bolted doesn’t mean we can’t slam the stable door. And the way we do this in New South Wales is through the implementation of the compulsory Acer Literacy and Numeracy Test for Teacher Education, which students take at the end of their degree. For the past four years I have been teaching a subject to education students that has been designed to actively interrogate their reading and writing abilities, and induce them capable of passing their Acer test. Let’s call the subject English One.

I find myself pausing here, to wonder why I am writing this essay. I have two burning fears: one is to give readers an insight into what it is currently like to teach at an Australian university. To fulfill this concern I want to tell you about semesters and classes abbreviated to save money on teach; on passing incapable students simply to keep quotums up; on teaching students for whom attendance at university is no longer a necessary part of gaining a degree. This loops back to the idea of the university as business. Asking universities to stop constructing it easy for students to gain entrance, and building it easy for them to pass, is like asking Coca-Cola to slow down its marketings. The logic of capitalism overrules everything.

The second fear is more abstract. I want to tell you about what it is like to teach literature to habituated non-readers, and why it is worth it.

Possibly the single most important component of English One is compulsory attendance. Again, if you have little to do with tertiary education you may not know this: that most universities no longer make attendance at tutorials and lectures compulsory. At other universities and in other topics I have had to pass students who have attended no classes at all. Not distance or online students: internal students who live not far from campus. Some non-attendees do not learn enough to pass their topic; their non-attendance bites them on the arse, we fail them, everyone moves on. But many are able to access just enough information about the course to pass. And no one can say a word about the fact that they never came to class.

Spoon-fed, I hear you say? Don’t build me laugh. This is a feast of force-feeding, a Roman orgy of information and assistance, with students helpless and lolling while academics assist them in opening their mouths so the food can be tipped in, and then hold their jaws and help them masticate until it goes down. We keep asking ourselves why this generation are so anxious. They are anxious because nobody lets them do things alone: we intervene before they have had a chance to try, let alone succeed or fail. They never get to feel the limits, or the limitlessness, of their real selves.

But in English One, students are only allowed to miss two class without a documented rationale. Not only that, but if they don’t pass the subject- they are allowed two attempts at this- they cannot take their literacy test, and they cannot receive their degree. I can’t tell you the difference this stimulates in a classroom. As a teacher, “youre feeling” traction: “youre feeling” as though you are doing something worthwhile. These students need you, and they must learn what you have to teach.

The first assignment in English One is called a Reading Reflection. It asks students to write about their read habits: how often they read, what they read, what they feel they take from their reading.

What have our students been reading before they come to our class? Some- a very few, and almost always females- have read 19 th century classics: the Bronte sisters, Jane Austen, George Eliot, Charles Dickens. Some- a very few, and almost always men- have read 20 th century science fiction( Asimov and his ilk ), and some of the Beats and their offspring: Kerouac, Bukowski, Burroughs.

The next and much larger group have read The Hunger Games, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas , some or all of the Harry Potterseries , and a lot of autobiographies, either by sportsmen( “the mens”) or by women who have been held in dungeons for years by rapists( the women ).

The final group, about the same size as the group of Hunger Games readers, read their and their friends’ Facebook pages, their own news feed, and the occasional copy of a women’s or a men’s publication. None, unless they have been made to by their high school English teacher, has read anything by an Australian author.

Tegan Bennett Daylight speaking in Katoomba, NSW. Photo: Bette Mifsud

The first time I taught Monkey Grip in English One I was struck by two things. First, by how many of my students were offended by it. They procured it too sexually explicit, too full of “profanity”, and they deplored Norah’s method of parenting: the shared household, the children exposed to drug taking and other radical behaviours.

The second thing that struck me was how difficult my students received the 10 -page extract. They didn’t know who Helen Garner was, the 1970 s were too far away to mean anything to them, and they couldn’t locate themselves in the story. They didn’t know who was speaking, and who she was speaking to. How old was she, where was she, what was happening?

Here is the book’s opening sentence 😛 TAGEND

In the old brown house on the corner, a mile from the middle of the city, we feed bacon for breakfast every morning of our lives.

If you are reading this essay, you’re a reader. You probably know this sentence, and if you don’t, you are comfortable with construing it. You can hear a character beginning to form: its romantic, optimistic , nostalgic voice; a voice hankering for simplicity; likely, in its deliberate imitation of a child’s singsong, the voice of a woman, a mother. You know it might take a few pages to learn merely who this woman is. You’re skilled in this sort of patience.

But if you have never read anything more difficult than a Harry Potter book, how are you meant to proceed?

Well, there is only one way to go on, as I tell students- and that is to go on. This is the first and greatest difficulty they face. There’s no reason for them to continue reading. There is so much else to read that is shorter, and not just aimed at them, but, in the case of their Facebook feed, tuned to their experience. Marketed to them. Why would they bother reading something that was neither for them nor about them?

Return to that opening sentence of Monkey Grip . Be honest with yourself: it’s easy. The terms are almost all monosyllabic, the syntax is uncomplicated, the image is vivid. Now try this, the first sentence of Randolph Stow’s 1965 novel The Merry-Go-Round in the Sea 😛 TAGEND

The merry-go-round had a centre post of cast iron, reddened a little by the salt air, and of a certain ornateness: not striking enough to attract a casual eye, but still, to an eye concentrated upon it( to the eye, say, of a devotee of the merry-go-round, a child) intriguing in its transitions.

You would have to say that this is not an especially enticing sentence. I find most students I teach are pulled up short by it. But who said everything “mustve been” tempting? British academic and critic Mark Fisher says,” Some students want Nietzsche in the same style that they want a hamburger; they fail to grasp- and the logic of the consumer system encourages this misapprehension- that the indigestibility, the difficulty is Nietzsche .”

The difficulty is Stow. The difficulty is the phase .

Fisher says that many of his students are in a state that he calls” depressive hedonia … an inability to do anything else except pursue pleasure “. I’m not trying to give my students pleasure, or attain them enjoy themselves. I’m trying to show them how critical participation with literature enables critical engagement with living. I’m trying to interrupt what Fisher calls” the constant flow of sugary gratification on demand “. And finally, I’m trying to help them pass that literacy test.

What have my students learned? Perhaps not much. Several of them fail every semester: some resist every line of questioning in tutorials, telling me over and over again that they see nothing in the texts I’m reading with them. I had a fourth wall moment recently, that all teachers will be familiar with; that moment when the barrier between you and the class comes down, when you stand as yourself in front of them. I’d been trying to teach a student- let’s call him Josh- whose response to questions like ,” What do you think the author is a matter for here ?” had been a dogged and angry,” No idea .” For the fifth or sixth time I approached him on one of my circuits about the class, and heard myself saying,” What do you think, Josh? No fuckin’ notion ?”

We stared at each other. The class shrieked with laugh. We both blushed, and then “were in” chuckling too, and I was apologising. But this moment transgressed something between us. Josh did not pass the subject; his written work was still not up to the job. He could not write- although he could speak, if he chose to- coherent sentences. But the run he handed in after this showed that he had tried; that he was sincerely attempting to understand the texts we were read. I can tell the difference between a sincere assignment and an angry or cynical assigning. I’ve seen so many of both kinds.

But then there are moments like this one, early on in my English teach, when my class were reading and struggling with Les Murray‘s The Cows on Killing Day. I’d always loved this lyric. In it the poet imagines the death by knife of an old cow, from the point of view of the herd. Murray use a first person compound pronoun, all me , to speak in the cows’ collective voice 😛 TAGEND

All me come work. It’s like the Hot Part of the sky

that’s hard to look at, this that now happens behind wood

in the raw yard. A shining leaf, like off the bitter gum tree

is with the human. It works in the neck of me

and the terrible inundations out, inundated and frothy.

I had a student who had already answered very positively to Helen Garner’s Against Embarrassment, a simple essay that makes a plea for unselfconscious pleasure in performance. Like many students would after her, she had read Garner’s essay in the light of her university enrolment; it attained her determined to enjoy herself, to unselfconsciously engage in learning, to stop being critical of herself. She’d worked several years as a dairymaid after leaving school early, supposing she was ” too stupid” for university. As we read The Cows on Killing Day aloud, her voice came ringing from the desks at the back of the class:” But this is exactly what it’s like !”

The Cows on Killing Day elicits a variety of reactions from my students, many of whom have been brought up on farms. I’ve had young people furious with me. They say,” I dislike this lyric. This shouldn’t be written about ,” or,” No one likes it. But it’s a part of life .” I’ve also had city or mountains-bred students- there are a couple of them each year- who’ve never killed an animal in their life, and self-righteously was of the view that the poem is a paean to vegetarianism.

But this student, the ex-dairymaid, read the poem as it is meant to be read. Murray doesn’t ask for sympathy for the cow: his chore is simply to use his art to demonstrate what it’s like . After this class, my student went from a pass for her first assignment to a distinction for her second. At the end of the semester she told me she’d decided to switch her teaching specialisation to English.

This is what my students have learned: how to read more than 200 terms of a text at a time. How to write something about the style they feel. And, eventually, how to notice that a text is doing something. Not to simply slump, , in front of a block of writing and hope that it going on around here. How to notice that it is up to something. Perhaps, in the future, to read a little differently. To feel those ideas about literature, so angrily learned, change the route they see.

They’ve also learned to relax a little about some of the things that upset them. What they call “profanity”. Graphic descriptions of sex and masturbation. And interestingly enough, graphic descriptions of indignation. Loaded in particular is a furious volume. I love this line, spat out by Ari, Tsiolkas’s young bisexual Greek man:” I read the papers. I assure the news. I talk to people; white, black, yellow, pink, they’re all fucked .” When I was 18 I felt the same way. Even now, it feels like a necessary part of growing up. In fact, it feels like a necessary part of being grown-up. You should always be ready to see what’s fucked. But my students don’t like it. Many of them select Loaded to write about for their final essay because it is colloquial, fast-paced, easy to read; but almost all can’t understand why Ari is so angry.

On a good day, I think they find Ari difficult because they themselves are generous people. They love their families, they are happy in the society they’ve been brought up in, and look forward to doing good when they work with children.

On a bad day, I think they find Ari difficult because the distinction between adults and teenagers has been blurred. We all want the same things now: phones, clothes, and food to photograph. We are all consumers. Adolescents don’t want to stick it to the man anymore. They are the man.

Every couple of weeks I have lunch with two close friends, long-time academics, to compare experiences, to offload some of the stuff we’ve seen. It’s the same all over. Every academic is caught between their principles and the rewards that come from abandoning them, between the demands of capitalism and their old role as protectors of higher learning. Teaching is prized less and less; our new divinity is management. And all corrupt systems must have their collaborators. The three of us have developed a language to describe these academics-turned-middle-managers. We call them zombies. They stagger across the campus from fulfilling to meeting, a tickertape of acronyms flickering behind their undead eyes. One of us described a particular administrator-academic as a” glitchy half-person “; the self-guttering like a candle, glitching between real person and corporate stooge.

When we come up with these ways to describe our experience we become more cheerful. One of these friends has recently been through an extremely difficult engagement with upper management. We talked about the next administrative obstacle he had to leap and my friend said,” I’m not getting involved. I’m powering down .” He made a sound like a build whose power has just been shut off, dropping his head and let his arms go slack. We began to laugh, as we always do when we’re together, and soon we were wiping away rueful tears. For a few moments there, we were in charge. Speech is power, and when we find the right way to frame our experience, we’re not being crushed by it.

This is what I want for my students. First, I want them to read a volume, all the way through. I want them to find something difficult and do it anyway. Then, I want them to notice what a powerful tool literature is, to understand that without it we can’t know ourselves or the society “were living in”. I want them to discover that if they learn to handle language they’ll no longer be helpless, drowning in sugary gratification. Eventually, I want them to see that reading breeds believing, and thinking breeds resistance, and surely, especially right now, that is a good thing.

Further reading

Monkey Grip, by Helen Garner
Loaded, by Christos Tsiolkas
Birds, by Judith Wright
The Dreamer, by Jack Davis
The Turning, by Tim Winton
Dog Fox Field, by Les Murray
The Merry-go-round in the Sea, by Randolph Stow
Capitalist Realism: Is There No Alternative? by Mark Fisher

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Flinders Street crash: alleged driver charged with 18 counts of attempted murder

Saeed Noori also charged with one count of conduct jeopardizing life after being formally interviewed by police

The man who allegedly ploughed his vehicle into pedestrians in Flinders Street in Melbourne on Thursday has been remanded in custody after a brief court appearance during which he covered his face with his hand.

Saeed Noori, a former Afghan refugee and now Australia citizen, was charged with 18 counts of attempted slaying and one count of conduct jeopardizing life after being formally interviewed by police on Saturday.

Noori was discharged from hospital on Friday and held in custody overnight awaiting an interview with police. Three people remain in hospital fighting for “peoples lives” following Thursday’s attack.

Noori, a 32 -year-old from Heidelberg West reportedly attained comments about Allah and Asio in the lead-up to his interview with police.

He allegedly attained “utterances” to police about voices, dreamings and the” poor treatment of Muslims” to officers in hospital on Thursday evening, as well as remarks about Australia’s top security body and Allah.

” I think there was something, and I don’t know the exact detail, to do with Allah and some ramblings about Asio( the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation ),” acting chief commissioner Shane Patton told the Herald Sun.

Police have said the alleged driver has lived in Melbourne for a number of years and had a history of drug abuse and mental illness. He was known to police from a minor assault charge in 2010 and was on a mental health plan.

Victorian police deputy commissioner Stephen Leane said he believed it was a ” deliberate ” act, and that Noori could be charged on Saturday.

” The motivating for that act we’ll work through. Our investigators will charge him with appropriate offences, if that’s what’s going to happen today.

On Saturday Victorian premier Daniel Andrews confirmed Noori had been the subject of a voluntary mental health therapy plan.

Outlining plans for heightened police presence at events in Victoria – including the Boxing Day Ashes Test, Andrews described the incident as a “cowardly” and “evil” act that has ” sickened and raged all of us “.

Police minister Lisa Neville has said police had so far received no evidence at Noori’s home to suggest he had been radicalised, however, the homicide squad and counterterrorism command are both investigating.

Three people, including two South Korean nationals, remain in a critical condition in hospital after a car ploughed into pedestrians on Flinders Street in Melbourne on Thursday.

The white SUV drove on to tram ways and then into an intersection crowded with pedestrians about 4.45 pm, injuring 18 people before reaching the concrete base of a tram stop.

The alleged driver of the car was arrested at the scene by an off-duty police officer.

The off-duty police officer underwent surgery on Friday and is one of 12 people remaining in hospital.

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