Im unemployed and ashamed. The idea that people dont want to work is a ridiculous myth | Vicki Nash

The stigma attached to unemployment can be dangerous. We should all think before we judge people who are struggling with trying to find work

Last year I made a decision Id been struggling with for a few years: I walked away from the business I was running, the business Id sacrificed most of my 20s and numerous friendships and relationships to, the business I had dreamed of running since my primary school years.

To say this was a difficult choice would be a massive understatement but it was what was right for me, or so I believed. I wanted a social life, a regular job and a regular paycheque, and most of all I wanted to feel like a regular person.

For too long I had felt like someone who was tied to her business, who was constantly overworked, overstressed and over budget, but Id lost track of who I was outside the business. I ran a small thoroughbred farm breeding and breaking in horses for racing, and it was my life for a long time. But its clearly not an industry that leaves me with an obvious place to transition.

Another factor was my age. If I was leaving my business behind then I also wanted to leave the industry behind, start afresh entirely and, at 28, I was aware that not only was I getting ancient in terms of entry-level positions, but that if I was going to make a success of myself in my new field then I was better off getting started in it yesterday.

Unfortunately it has now been over six months since I started in earnest to apply for jobs in different fields, seeking to be reborn on a new career path. With the exception of one online video interview, I havent made it past the first checkpoint.

There are a lot of factors at play in this, and in some way I even have sympathy with the countless employers who have rejected me without even meeting me; unemployment is high at that moment, particularly in the Geelong region where I now live. I have no experience that counts, and that I was self-employed for so long does negatively affect the quality of my references. It has also become clear to me that most prospective employers see a history of self-employment in a negative light.

But sympathising with all the reasons that people dont want to hire me doesnt actually make the task of job hunting any easier, if anything it makes it worse. I can see why people dont want to hire a now 29-year-old with no relevant experience and a history of self-employment and, as time passes, I increasingly fail to see why they would.

I imagine this loss of faith in oneself and the growing belief that the ongoing rejections are never going to turn around is common among the unemployed. I just never thought Id be one of them.

Going into this, my biggest concern was that I would have to start at the bottom of the ladder and work my way up. It never occurred to me that I would be unable to get a leg on the first rung. I would now give almost anything for the opportunity to prove my worth in almost any position and at any level.

This time last year I was still in the process of closing down my business. It was heartbreaking and depressing but it was something I got through by reminding myself how much easier it would be when it was through.

I knew, not with cockiness but simply because of the faith I had in myself, that I would find another arena in which to excel. The thought that I may be unemployed and on the precipice of giving up entirely never occurred to me.

Among the things I knew about myself then was that I was intelligent and hardworking, with many transferrable skills that would make me an asset in any number of industries but I no longer know these things.

When I think about my unemployed status today these are the things I know: that I may never find anyone willing to hire me; that with every passing day I get a little older and a little less employable and the majority of my intelligent, articulate and sometimes witty cover letters are not even being read. Or perhaps theyre not that witty after all.

I do not feel this every day but there are days where a previously unfamiliar feeling of uselessness and hopelessness do creep over me, and they are demons that I find myself increasingly unable to keep at bay. I never thought unemployment would happen to me. I imagined having to take a job I didnt necessarily want but no job at all wasnt anywhere on my radar. I think its probably this way for a lot of unemployed individuals. And this is probably the greatest lesson that has come out of this experience: that the idea that people dont want to work, that the unemployed are somehow lazy or unmotivated, is a ridiculous myth. And yet I still havent learned it completely.

I still lie to acquaintances and even friends about my employment; make out that Im doing some casual work to tide me over or make jokes about it because Im ashamed. I judge myself every day and Im determined not to let others judge me too.

There is a stigma attached to unemployment that can be dangerous because I dont think it would take much for it to create a potentially irreversible self-hatred. I fill my days with routines that involve exercise, cleaning, job applications and writing and certainly no television or leisure time during work hours; Im strict on that. I dont claim welfare of any kind, because apart from anything else I am far too proud, another one of my failings.

I am not what the unemployed stereotype looks like but I am unquestionably unemployed and Im struggling mentally, emotionally and financially every day. I often barely recognise myself.

This is not a story of self-pity, although it has elements of that Im sure. Im sacrificing my pride in writing about this. But its a lesson to think before you judge because unemployment is hard. If we could just come out and speak about our own struggles with unemployment freely and without shame and stigma, it may just get a little bit easier.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/mar/22/im-unemployed-and-ashamed-the-idea-that-people-dont-want-to-work-is-a-ridiculous-myth

Anita Cobby murder: ‘Everyone in the car that dreadful night had a passport to doom’

Thirty years after the trial of five men for the shocking attack on a Sydney nurse, then public defender Bill Hosking reflects on his part in it

The tragedy that would shock the whole of Australia began just before 10pm on 2 February 1986. A registered nurse, 26-year-old Anita Cobby, had been having dinner with friends after finishing her shift at Sydney hospital on Macquarie Street, next to state Parliament House in the city.

She caught the 9.12pm train to Blacktown in outer-western Sydney to her parents home, where she was living after recently separating from her husband. On arrival at Blacktown station just before 10, she went to find a phone to call her father. The usual routine was for Cobby to phone her father, Gary Lynch, to collect her by car. This was well before mobile phones and the public phone at the station had been vandalised, so Cobby decided to walk home.

As she did, an HT Holden Kingswood slowed beside her and stopped. Two of the five male occupants jumped out and grabbed her, pulling her into the car as she screamed. Cobby was then robbed, bashed, raped and tortured before having her throat cut. So severe was the cut, it almost left her decapitated. Her bloodied, naked body was left in a secluded cow paddock at Prospect, not far from Blacktown, and was not discovered for two days.

Everyone in the car that dreadful night had a passport to doom. None more so than poor Cobby.

When Cobbys body was found, the New South Wales government posted a $50,000 reward for any information leading to an arrest. In the hope of jogging memories, a police officer dressed as Cobby travelled on the 9.12 pm train to Blacktown while her colleagues interviewed passengers. Cobbys murder was front-page news. Gruesome details of the offences and the harrowing atrocity gradually unfolded.

Anita
Anita Cobby, who went missing on 2 February 1986. Photograph: AAP

Understandably, the community, indeed the whole of Australia, was outraged. Even the police involved in the investigation were deeply affected. Led by Detective Sergeant Ian Kennedy, a top detective of his day, it took police just under three weeks to track down, arrest and charge five men with the murder.

They were 19-year-olds John Travers and Michael Murdoch, and the Murphy brothers, 33-year-old Michael, 28-year-old Gary and 22-year-old Leslie. The five were hated and reviled by the community. They all came from deprived backgrounds and were of below-average intelligence. They were petty criminals accused of a major crime. I was briefed to appear for Michael Murphy.

Given the dreadful nature of the crime, the atmosphere in the community after the arrest of Cobbys alleged killers was one of brooding malevolence. It manifested at the first formal court appearance of the five accused at the tiny Westmead coroners court.

Opened in 1984, Westmead coroners court was brand new and located inside the grounds of the huge Westmead hospital complex. Uniformed police were present in large numbers in case of trouble. Ominously, a dummy dangled from a noose tied to a tree branch. A large crowd had gathered. Some held up placards calling for the restoration of the death penalty. Showing solidarity with Cobby, uniformed nurses were prominent. The magistrate was the city coroner, Derrick Hand. Formalities were short and Hand promptly fixed the committal proceedings for the more secure surroundings of the coroners court on Parramatta Road at Glebe.

As the prison van edged out of the Westmead hospital, the crowd surged forwards. They banged on the sides of the van and booed and catcalled. It was clear the chances of finding a sympathetic jury in the Sydney metropolitan area or the world were zero, and chances of finding a cool and impartial one were slight.

Bill
Bill Hosking QC, who acted as public defender for Michael Murphy. Photograph: Harlequin

Before the advent of the public solicitor and legal aid, the unrepresented accused standing trial was at a tremendous disadvantage. The role of counsel for the accused in any criminal trial can be controversial, particularly where there has been a grave crime. Defence counsel has a duty to act for his or her client with vigour, but also with ethical propriety.

There is a popular misconception that a true defence counsel must believe in the clients innocence. Nothing can be further from the truth. A competent and vigorous defence is essential to a fair trial. The personal belief of counsel is irrelevant. The lawyers duty is to argue, firmly, the case of their clients and not to express a personal opinion.

Often, this is forgotten by the public. The so-called cab rank principle simply restates the rule that barristers do not choose their clients. If it were the other way around, despised causes and hated accused would be denied an experienced, professional voice. Fearless independence for barristers is fundamental. Even more so where there is a public defender involved who holds that independent statutory office with all its privileges and its responsibilities.

In seeking the convictions of the five men, the crown relied upon the legal doctrine of common purpose. To explain common purpose, judges use an example of two would-be bank robbers. One drives the getaway car, while the other enters the bank and demands cash of the teller using a replica pistol. The teller refuses and is then shot. It turns out the pistol was not a replica. Both men are charged with murder although the driver has never left the car. There follow disputed questions of fact and law. First of all, was there an agreement to use a replica and not a real pistol? The answer could be decisive in determining the drivers level of criminal responsibility. Likewise, did the driver know his accomplice well enough to reasonably expect him to bring a real pistol and use it? In other words, you can still be guilty of murder if you have never set eyes on the victim let alone wanted them to be killed.

The defence of each of the accused in the Anita Cobby case was that Travers alone had the knife. Travers alone stabbed Cobby. He alone was to blame for her death. The crown case was, irrespective of what each actually did that night, all were equally responsible for her death and each was guilty of murder. Because each knew what Travers was likely to do, therefore all were equally culpable under common purpose. For the crown, this was true as a matter of law and, equally compellingly, as a matter of fact and common sense. Even so, questions remained as to the extent of each accuseds personal involvement. In that respect, their signed confessions were the crowns trump cards.

The defence claimed the confessions were obtained improperly and by force. To present the clients case, those allegations had to be put. They were all denied by the police. Mere presence that night in the car, then the cow paddock, leaving aside what each offender himself did, was a matter of the gravest wickedness. The law, through the courts, had the task of determining the degree of culpability using rules that have evolved over centuries and long before 1788 and the arrival of the First Fleet, carrying with it the invisible cargo of the common law.

The line of defence that emerged was, even accepting the crown case, the worst that could be sheeted home to Murdoch and the Murphys for the death, in terms of legal liability, was the crime of manslaughter. That line of reasoning was barely intellectually respectable but, nonetheless, required a competent presentation to the jury. Was only Travers accountable for murder and one or more of the remaining four only guilty of manslaughter? This had to be considered calmly and unemotionally and, I have to tell you, on these facts it was not an easy task, even for an experienced defence counsel like me. That initial question was limited, of course, to the homicide, not the rape and sexual brutality. My difficult role was to seek to protect the interests of Michael Murphy.

Anita
Anita Cobby, right, with her younger sister Kathryn Szyszka. Photograph: AAP

On 16 March 1987 when the trial began in historic No 5 court at Darlinghurst, the central criminal court, the bar table was crowded with five, sometimes six, robed barristers and their instructing solicitors for what the press soon described as the trial of the century.

Closest to the judge, with his own lectern, was the grim, unsmiling crown prosecutor, Alan Slipper Saunders, QC. The origin of the soubriquet Slipper is lost in the mists of time. It was definitely not derived from being a soft and comfortable opponent. The crown had no better or more able advocate. He dominated the bar table with his reputation, experience and sheer forensic skill. We had been regular opponents over the years. I didnt like him. He didnt like me.

The days proceedings always began with what became a ritual loud knock on the large oak door leading from the judges private chambers. Preceded by his tipstaff wearing a black frock coat and carrying a white staff topped with an elaborate gold crown, in came the judge. Not a tall man, he was resplendent, wearing the royal scarlet robes of a supreme court judge sitting in the courts criminal jurisdiction. Justice Maxwell was the epitome of duty, courtesy and dignity.

The usually solemn atmosphere at Darlinghurst was absent the morning the trial began. A huge number of potential jurors milled around in front of the sandstone pillars, spilling over on to the lawns fronting Taylor Square and Oxford Street. Television crews seemed everywhere, as were radio network reporters. The press had their usual, reserved, prime seats on the judges left, facing the jury.

The police had done their duty. The magistrate, Hand, his. Next, the crown prosecutor and his instructing solicitors were ready. The judge and the jury were now in place. Also present, in almost reviled solitude, were the lawyers all funded on the modest legal aid rates, except me, on the salary of a public defender. The others would only receive the extremely nominal legal aid fees of the time in accepting these briefs. Far from helping the four other barristers careers, or bank balances, appearing in this trial was a positively negative factor. There are no lawyers made rich on the meagre fees paid for by legal aid cases. It is done as a noble service by the profession.

The concept of legal aid itself seemed to be on trial. Legal aid is effectively the postwar creation of the NSW McKell Labor government, ensuring the honest battler is not subsumed by the power of the state. I lost count of the number of friends and strangers who asked me, Why on earth would you accept a case like this? or, Do you enjoy it? There is a simple answer, apart from duty. There are many, many occupations and professions which are not only more unpleasant but some are also very dangerous. There is the challenge of appearing in what you know is a losing brief for a particularly despised client. Particularly, where there is no real issue as to identity, and the crime is so harrowing and has such cruelty, there will be not a scintilla of public sympathy for your client. This was such a case. During it and afterwards I received considerable personal criticism for accepting the brief. Even my son, James, who was still at school, was criticised by other boys. They wanted to know why his father would appear in such a terrible case.

This trial clearly raised the question, does the community want symbolic or real representation for major criminals? Under our system the accused is not guilty until our grand, but still imperfect, system has run its full course. The spectacular miscarriages of justice staining our history highlights the still inherent dangers which arise through human fallibility. A major safeguard is that all court proceedings with the rarest of exceptions are open to the public and, perhaps more importantly, open to and subject to intense scrutiny by the media. There was certainly no absence of that for this trial.

In such a case, where there is justifiable community anger, counsel has at least two options. One can merely go through the motions to ensure it appears the formalities of a fair trial were observed. Alternatively, counsel does what he or she should do in every case. That is, to do ones professional best for a client who would not have a clue what that involves.

Opening the crown case to the jury, Alan Saunders QC lived up to his reputation, describing in detail the callousness Anita Cobby suffered. He described Cobbys ordeal as sustained degradation, brutal, unbridled lust culminating in one of the most savage brutal murders the state has ever known. Any wonder the media called it the trial of the century.

Anita
Anita Cobbys parents at her grave site. Photograph: AAP

The first witness set an atmosphere of indescribable sadness: Cobbys father, Gary Lynch. He was a tall, dignified figure. He gave brief, formal identification evidence relating to his late daughter. While he did so the silence in the courtroom was deafening. He then joined his wife at the back of the court where they remained for the duration of the trial. Gary and Grace Lynch attended the trial each day. They showed great dignity. Because of police fears, security was tight and gallery and lawyers alike were searched after each adjournment. In the process, Cobbys parents often had to stand in a line with their daughters killers lawyers. Never once did they show anything other than class. Propriety and protocol prevented us from exchanging a single word.

Michael
Michael Murdoch. Photograph: NSW police/AAP

There were no eyewitnesses to Cobbys ordeal, and the principal evidence was the individual confessions. It must be said, the account of one in the others confessions could not legally be used against another. This means the confession can be used to prove the guilt of its author but not prove guilt against any co-accused mentioned in it. This is a safe and fair way to view confessions, because the confessor may want to shift the blame to their co-accused. It should be for a jury, hearing evidence, to determine the accountability of each accused.

The exception to this rule is where the co-accused agrees with anothers confession. More astute police try this stratagem, to get offenders to agree with each others confessions, even in part, thereby implicating themselves. While not unlawful, the strategy is discouraged. Accepting the confessors account only against the person making it is a technical but important rule. The crown had the powerful advantage of not having to ask the jury to rely on circumstantial evidence alone but on the words out of each accuseds own mouth.

Leslie
Leslie Murphy. Photograph: NSW police/AAP

At the outset, sadly, there could be no argument about the fact poor Anita Cobby had been murdered. The trial was all about, 1. the involvement of all or any of the accused; 2. if that issue were resolved adversely, the extent of involvement; and 3. having decided the extent of legal liability, whether the particular accused is guilty of murder or manslaughter.

In part, Michael Murphys case, and that of his two brothers and Michael Murdoch, was that Travers inflicted the fatal wounds on Cobby with a knife and was acting on his own account. Travers had pleaded guilty to this. So far as the murder charge was concerned there was really no direct evidence to support a conviction of the others for murder on the basis they assisted or encouraged Travers to commit murder. Michael Murphy allegedly told the police, I didnt want her to be killed. [Travers is] a maniac. Its his fault, I told him not to kill her Hes a fucking lunatic. I just wanted to piss off What I done Im prepared to cop. Its just that cunt, Travers

Michael
Michael Murphy. Photograph: NSW police/AAP

In legal terms, it was the defendants case that they were neither party to a common purpose to commit murder, nor had they intentionally assisted or encouraged Travers to commit the murder. That was not technical legalistic jargon. It was fundamental. It must be conceded on the crown case there was evidence they, as Travers co-offenders, were criminally liable either as principals or accessories for the murder, as well as the other grave crimes alleged. They denied this.

Defence strategy in this trial was to seek to avoid confronting and emphasising prejudicial evidence and to direct the focus to more favourable features. That is easy to say, but the harsh reality of the situation was such favourable facts were thin on the ground. Michael Murphys defence was a legal nightmare. On his instructions, he was not guilty of any crime. The law provides being present when a crime is committed is not an offence. But to infer that co-accused John Travers, who pleaded guilty, committed the murder of his own volition, was to stretch reality beyond credible limits.

Gary
Gary Murphy. Photograph: NSW police/AAP

The reading [of the accuseds statements] was damaging stuff, but nothing compared with the police photographs of the scene and the postmortem details. Again, what was my clients defence? I wasnt there, and If I was, it was for sex and not for murder.

Merely stating those horrible alternatives underlines the gargantuan task facing the defence. Given the basis of the Travers is a maniac defence, this unanswerable question always loomed large: Why, then, ever be in his company?

I repeat, this was not an easy case.

John
John Travers. Photograph: NSW police/AAP

The inscrutability and confidentiality of the jury room shields the tenor of their deliberations. They were instructed by the judge to banish prejudice and, to use the words of the jurors oath, to well and truly try and true deliverance make. Pre-judgment and prejudice would have brought swift verdicts. The jury deliberated all day and were locked up in a secret location overnight to continue their deliberations. They were obviously conscientious and, from time to time, sought Justice Maxwells help. All communications were proper and in open court in the presence of the accused.

First thing the next morning, all accused were convicted on all counts.

The morning for the sentencing had arrived. At 10am there was a slight delay, as Anita Cobbys parents were not in court. When they arrived, all that remained was the formal ritual of judgment. Everyone in court thought they knew the result: life. Even so, there still was the possibility that release one day would not be excluded. Personally, I wondered if a future government would ever be brave enough to give any of the five an opportunity for release, however deserving. It would be, I thought, decades away before such a decision would have to be made.

The judge entered and was seated. Then the five accused, together for the first time since the first day of the trial, were brought up into the dock. There were police everywhere. The atmosphere in the courtroom was one of unprecedented tension. So high was the emotion, at one stage, the experienced, calm and respected judge, Maxwell, was moved to tears.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2017/mar/20/anita-cobby-everyone-in-the-car-that-dreadful-night-had-a-passport-to-doom

Didgeridoo is his voice: how Djalu Gurruwiwi embodies the sound of a continent

The Indigenous elder revered by some as Australias Dalai Lama is the spiritual keeper of the didgeridoo. A new exhibition honours his legacy and the immense significance of the Yolngu instrument that is helping to heal a divided country

The old man with straggly hair, long wispy grey beard and wraparound sunglasses sits at the back of the grandstand overlooking the verdant expanse of Alberton Oval the traditional base, if no longer the home ground, of the historic Port Adelaide Football Club.

He is Djalu Gurruwiwi: a Yolngu elder and lawman from north-east Arnhem Land, a songster, healer, virtuoso and master craftsman of the yidaki (didgeridoo), as well as the instruments spiritual keeper. From up here he surveys his Australian Rules team, smiles and nods in approval as his players go through their pre-season paces, calling for the ball and kicking and marking, on this humid morning.

In other Aboriginal nations and among non-Indigenous people, the instrument is known as the didgeridoo or didjeridu variants of the same word that probably has its etymology in English spoken by a European Australian. Yidaki is the Yolngu word and Djalu, the keeper of the instrument in north-east Arnhem Land, is widely regarded across Indigenous Australia as its custodian more broadly.

Djalu, who is aged somewhere in his 80s (Im 86 going on 96), usually rocks a Hawaiian shirt, or something similarly bright and elaborately patterned. But today hes wearing a Port Power hoody that signals a mutual adoption between him and the team.

Djalu likes their brand of footy all right. But his attraction to Port stems more simply from the lightning bolt on the team crest.

Its the lightning. The team is lightning and lightning is us, Djalu says enigmatically, as is his way.

His reference to baywara Yolngu for the power of lightning is itself an allusion to the atmospheric energy and wind enshrined in the yidaki, an instrument with its genesis in tens of thousands of years of north-east Arnhem Land history. In the hands of Djalu, and more recently his sons Larry and Vernon, the yidaki both tells and is the story of their land.

It summons the ancestral spirits and the stories of creationist animals that fashioned the earth, the sea and the sky and all the creatures, human and otherwise, stretching back some 60,000 years. It holds the histories of the clans, not the least the Galpu (Djalu) and Yunipingu (of his wife, Dhopiya) which remain central to thriving Yolngu culture.

And today they have come to Alberton to present yidaki to nine Indigenous Port Adelaide players and several club officials a testimony to Djalus determination, in his lifes twilight, to build bridges with other Aboriginal and Balanda (white, western) worlds.

Yolngu
Djalu Gurruwiwi (right) with his son Larry, who will eventually assume responsibility for taking the yidaki (didgeridoo) to the world. Photograph: Alex Robertson/South Australian Museum

Djalu is well known to audiences in the United States, Britain, continental Europe and Taiwan, where he has played to sold-out auditoriums. People from all over come to his modest house at Wallaby Beach, near the Northern Territory mining town of Nhulunbuy, to sit at his feet and sample his familys hospitality, always in the hope of being touched with his wisdom and insight.

If I shut my eyes I can see inside you, what you feel, he says.

Yet he is scarcely known in broader Australia. Which is why the South Australian Museum is now staging an exhibition, Yidaki Didjeridu and the Sound of Australia, in his honour.

The exhibition, which runs until 16 July, honours the immense cultural significance of the yidaki, the instrument of the Yolngu that has been adopted by First Peoples across Australia. Together with the clapsticks and the Indigenous voice in traditional song, its a haunting, distinctive, meditative sound that has not only come to characterise Australias Indigenous people but perhaps the continent itself.

The exhibition is testimony to Djalus skill as an ambassador between Yolngu, other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and the western Balanda.

Stephen Goldsmith, an elder of the Kaurna custodians of the Adelaide plains, says: For Aboriginal people, not just Yolngu, Djalu is our diplomat, our ambassador. We all talk about the Dalai Lama; his role is to embrace all people, to lead with generosity, to enrich our shared understanding of ourselves and each other. Djalu is like that he is a spiritual leader. Yidaki is his voice.

Goldsmith says that as a boy and a young man the sound of the yidaki awoke in him a yearning that bordered on an inadequacy for his inability to play an instrument that was not, traditionally, part of Kaurna culture. He started on a vacuum cleaner pipe, then on bamboo and graduated to the real deal.

It [learning to play yidaki] was a key to finding myself becoming a bit stronger as an Aboriginal man, he says.

Djalu
Im 86 going on 96, says Djalu Gurruwiwi. Photograph: Alex Robertson/South Australian Museum

While Dhopiya paints the names of Ports nine Indigenous players more than any other AFL club on the yidakis to be gifted to the club, another Kaurna man, Karl Winda Telfer, arrives at Alberton with an old, old instrument covered in cloth.

He gingerly unwraps the yidaki and gives it to Djalu. The old man runs his hands over its smooth exterior, and pats it, as if it were human. Its the yidaki that Djalus brother, who died a few years back, left in Kaurna country with Telfer, who he taught to play.

Telfer explains: Ive just been looking after this yidaki. Now Im giving it back, so that it will go back home where it came from, to north-east Arnhem Land, you know … old man [Djalus brother] teaches me. He gave me permission to play. It shows an ongoing connection between us and the Yolngu … It closes the circle. Im happy now. Im relieved.

Due to their relative isolation, the Yolngu were among the last Indigenous people of the continent to be harmed by invasion and colonisation as the pastoral and mining frontier spread north and west. But they were always outward-looking, establishing commercial and familial ties with the Macassan trepang fishermen of Sulawesi long before first British contact.

After first contact, in the early 20th century, the Yolngu were feared as warriors who fiercely protected their ancestral lands from invaders not least the Japanese who came in, uninvited, to take the trepang after the Macassan traders were effectively outlawed by government. Djalus father, the warrior Monyu, first fought the Japanese fishermen (some of whom were also covertly mapping the northern Australian coast), and he later joined the Northern Territory special reconnaissance unit during the Pacific war.

The story of the Japanese before and after the war when Djalu met in peace with fishermen and pearlers from Japan are all in the Yolngu songlines that cross the rich, red earth of Arnhem Land and go out into the sea, beyond the island, Milingimbi, where Djalu was born and another, Raragala, now deserted, where he grew up.

Djalu
If I shut my eyes I can see inside you, what you feel. Photograph: Alex Robertson/South Australian Museum

As he ages Djalu becomes more difficult to understand, due in part to an old facial injury and, perhaps, a spell cast by an enemy due to his one-time role as a tribal enforcer (the stories about Djalu seem as endless as the songlines). Sorting the real from the mythical or imagined is not easy for Balanda.

Which is why it has taken years for the young London-based Australian film-maker, Ben Strunin, to make a biopic of Djalu. Titled Westwind (that which Djalus yidaki harnesses) and backed by Film Victoria, Screen Territory and Screen Australia, the movie is due for release later this year.

Strunin, who has toured Europe with Djalu, says the old man deserves all the recognition of our most celebrated music stars his work is helping to heal the divide in this country and beyond. He transforms people wherever he goes. Its a blessing to be in his presence.

Yidaki: exhibition honouring Djalu Gurruwiwi and the didgeridoo opens in Adelaide. Source: Peter Drew

Three thousand people jammed into the South Australian Museum forecourt on North Terrace to watch Djalu and the Barra Band featuring sons Larry and Vernon play. Djalu was unwell before the performance. Larry placed the yidaki against his head and chest, and sounded it. (Its party of a healing ceremony Djalu has shared with countless Balanda, including myself, over the years.)

Djalu performed. But he was later briefly hospitalised.

He is becoming frail; his sons and his grandson, Kevin will eventually assume his legacy and assume responsibility, themselves, for taking the yidaki to the world.

Yidaki its been my whole life, Djalu says. A good life.

Yidaki Didjeridu and the Sound of Australia is open at South Australian Museum until 16 July

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2017/mar/16/didgeridoo-is-his-voice-how-djalu-gurruwiwi-embodied-the-sound-of-a-continent

How talking to air conditioners could help prevent blackouts

An integrated energy grid could monitor power shortfalls, predict demand and respond accordingly, according to experts, although data will need to be shared

For South Australia, it was a cruelly ironic one-two punch a burst of the extreme heat conditions that are so much more likely because of climate change, and a power cut linked to a simultaneous drop in wind that hobbled the renewable energy systems introduced to minimise global warming in the first place.

On 8 February, South Australians had their air conditioners on full blast while sweltering through temperatures in excess of 46C in some parts of the state, and wind turbines had stopped turning just when energy demand was at its highest. The Australian Energy Market Operator chose not to bring online a standby gas generator and, thanks to an additional computer glitch at SA Power Networks, three times as many houses had their power cut than necessary a familiar plunge into darkness for the sweat-laced locals of a state that has had more than its fair share of energy problems in recent times.

The persistent power-cuts and price surges have seen the Turnbull government blame the states heavy reliance on intermittent wind farms and advocate for the building of new coal-fired plants, while renewable energy advocates are looking to battery storage systems, which are coming down in price but remain expensive, as the long-term solution.

The head of BuddeComm, Paul Budde, however has another idea: talking to air conditioners.

The telecommunications expert envisions an Internet of Things (IoT) integrated energy grid that provides live weather updates, monitors power shortfalls, predicts demand, and reacts accordingly even utilising smart meters to adjust an entire states air conditioners to reduce power consumption.

What you need in these emergencies is a manageable system, not just a matter of switching power on and off to entire areas, but having all this in place you could manage air cons in peoples homes in such a way that it doesnt overload the network, he says.

Steven Travers, the executive manager of IoT Cluster for Mining and Energy Resources, says there are pros and cons to smart grid capabilities such as this.

Thats the other part of this equation how much data are we happy to give, he says. This essentially gives the power company access to your house, but the trade-off is youre not getting the power switched off.

Travers, whose organisation receives funding from the South Australian government, notes that IoT technologies could have also have circumvented the human error involved in the Adelaide power cut by integrating with machine learning software that would react to weather data updated at 15-minute intervals.

These are all off-the-shelf things that are ready to go, he says.

Budde agrees there are dozens of examples about how upgrading to a smart grid could change power distribution for the better.

He says rather than power companies waiting for a number of customers to call them to notify of a problem in an area and sending a car out to investigate, they could simply have sensor technology installed that would automatically flag any issues even for problems that havent happened yet.

The interesting thing with transformers is they are so solid it could take three to four years for a fault to actually cause a problem, but a sensor could alert you of it immediately, he says.

Budde says this is all possible with long-established technology that he was promoting over a decade ago as the head of the now-shuttered SmartGrid Australia advocacy group, which he closed down in part due to changing political winds.

His group successfully lobbied the former Labor federal government to undertake the $100m Smart Grid, Smart City study, which concluded in 2013 that there could be a net economic benefit from smart grid technologies of up to $28bn over 20 years, but the specific recommendations of which have not, to date, been formally committed to by the Coalition federal government.

What Budde says is required is regulation to ensure that everything in the system is interoperable from power lines to the home air conditioners and to ensure there is incentive for South Australias privatised energy network providers to actually try to become more energy efficient.

If you save 30-40% of energy, they get 30-40% less income in commercial industry, thats the last thing theyd want, he says.

IoT technologies can also play a crucial role in the rollout of distributed power systems, identifying when households need to import energy from external sources and when it is appropriate to export from home battery storage systems to the grid.

SA Power Networks spokesperson Paul Roberts says the company had decided against IoT-based control of demand at this stage, partly due a lack of sensory capability through the network, but has just begun a three-year trial of 100 homes connecting their solar power and battery storage systems to the grid that will utilise IoT technologies.

Everyone involved had to be connected to the internet to use the connection to manage and monitor the batteries, he says. [The grid] can dip into stored energy during peak demand, and we offered customers the opportunity, for instance, when a storm is coming to charge up their batteries in advance.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2017/feb/27/how-talking-to-air-conditioners-could-help-prevent-blackouts

The Gabriels: heartbreaking plays take on new meaning as everything changes in America

Audience reaction to Richard Nelsons eye-opening drama about the US election campaign has shifted through time and in performances on a different continent

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/stage/2017/feb/17/the-gabriels-heartbreaking-plays-take-on-new-meaning-as-everything-changes-in-america

On refugees, Trump and Turnbull compete in a race to the bottom | Oliver Laughland

As the former Australian immigration minister said about Trumps border plans: Really, the rest of the world is catching up to Australia

The fallout between President Donald Trump and the Australian prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, on the resettlement of refugees is not only an extraordinary break from diplomatic norms. It is a collective race to the bottom between two of the worlds wealthiest nations on failing to offer sanctuary to the worlds most vulnerable people.

The US president rode a wave of racially charged anger and anti-migrant rhetoric throughout his campaign and formalised it last week with executive orders imposing a travel ban targeted at seven Muslim-majority countries, the suspension of the US refugee resettlement program, and a directive to start work on a 1,200-mile wall across the southern border.

Meanwhile, the Coalition government in Australia has already implemented a hardline crackdown after years of bipartisan support for tough measures on immigration against asylum seekers who make the precarious maritime crossing from Indonesia.

Australia has had its own version of a border wall since 2013: its name is Operation Sovereign Borders. That military-led effort has seen boats carrying migrants turned back to Indonesian shores and the mandatory offshore detention and resettlement of asylum seekers who have made it to Australian territory.

These 1,25o men, women and children, who languish on the tiny island state of Nauru and in Papua New Guinea are the end result of that aggressive policy, stuck in limbo while Australia has struggled for years to find a viable resettlement plan.

President Trump now brands these people illegal immigrants and the next Boston bombers. The aspersions are breathtaking and at odds with reality. Not only would the roughly 1,250 individuals that could be resettled in America be vetted refugees, they come from a host of religious groupings and countries, including Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, as well as Iran, Iraq, Syria and Somalia.

But Trumps blunt assessment, which may or may nor result in the cancellation of the deal altogether, is partly how Australia sees these refugees as well. By adamantly refusing to resettle them in Australia and initially branding them illegal maritime arrivals, the Australian government too has otherized and marginalized them.

They represent a tiny fraction of the worlds refugee crisis, which has left more than 65 million people forcibly displaced across the world. They once again find themselves tossed around at the behest of powerful leaders seeking cheap political victories while lacking the moral fortitude to act in the interests of the most vulnerable.

Before moving to America, I spent a year and a half investigating the conditions of immigration detention in offshore sites and was often confronted by the deliberate strategy of harshness.

I wrote about the Iranian man Reza Berati, murdered by private security contractors at the offshore detention centre on Manus Island; about unaccompanied minors kept in solitary confinement for months as they self-harmed, of other children sexually assaulted by detention centre staff on Nauru, and those who died after receiving lacklustre medical attention. This was coupled with the creeping discrimination imposed by a code of conduct that asylum seekers on the Australian mainland were forced to sign.

Covering the Trump campaign trail, I was reminded of this discriminatory rhetoric and seeming affection for institutionalised cruelty. Trumps vows to build a wall and expedite deportations sounded all too familiar.

Once in power, he wasted no time issuing executive orders imposing mandatory detention of those apprehended while crossing the southern border, rapidly expanding the private detention network and drastically lowering Americas refugee intake.

As Scott Morrison, the former Australian immigration minister, said earlier in the week about Trumps border plans: Really, the rest of the world is catching up to Australia.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/feb/02/refugees-trump-turnbull-compete-race-bottom

Urban burqa: challenging ‘knee-jerk’ judgments in pictures

Australian photographer Fabian Muirs 2014 series Blue Burqa in a Sunburnt Country was a response to the Abbott governments proposal to impose a burqa ban. In 2017, Muirs Sydney-shot sequel, Urban Burqa, comes into a much changed world.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/gallery/2017/feb/01/urban-burqa-challenging-knee-jerk-judgments-in-pictures

Compensation battle stalls for families of MH370 victims

Malaysia Airlines has received millions in insurance for the planes loss yet relatives are still embroiled in court cases

Families of the victims of MH370 have found their battle for compensation has stalled over access to documents from Malaysia Airlines, which claims it has actually gone beyond its legal obligations.

Two hundred and thirty-nine people from 15 countries were on board the Boeing 777-200ER when it deviated from the course on 8 March 2014 en route to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur. The planes final resting place remains unknown.

Passengers next of kin around the world are seeking compensation from the airline and other entities associated with the loss of MH370, with action under way in Malaysia, China, the US and Australia.

Under the international treaty governing compensation for the victims of air disasters, any court action to claim damages must be taken within two years from the date the aircraft arrived, or should have arrived.

The Montreal convention places the onus on Malaysia Airlines to prove that it was not negligent or that there is a third party to blame for the tragedy, or else be liable to pay compensation to the passengers families.

In 2014 all the families of passengers and crew on board MH370 were offered interim payments of US$50,000, non-conditional and regardless of any legal action, which some accepted.

But as the third anniversary of the disappearance of the plane nears, no other resolution seems in sight.

Among the most advanced cases against Malaysia Airlines are separate proceedings lodged in the Kuala Lumpur high court and the Australian federal court, both of which are now in limbo over access to documents and logs relating to the flight.

The Malaysian law firm Tommy Thomas brought proceedings against five defendants the two companies associated with Malaysia Airlines, that countrys government, its civil aviation department and its air force on behalf of 76 plaintiffs related to 27 passengers in March 2016.

In Australia, the adult children of Rod and Mary Burrows and Bob and Cathy Lawton two married couples from Brisbane travelling together have been embroiled in a battle for compensation for more than a year, suing for damages from Malaysia Airlines under common law and the Montreal convention. Progress has been slow, though the airline has denied stalling.

The plaintiffs are seeking damages for the loss of their parents and the resulting psychological harm caused by the extraordinary circumstances of their deaths.

But in its defence lodged in the federal court in August, Malaysia Airlines said the next of kin were not entitled to bring a claim for nervous shock and any consequential loss, citing law based on the Montreal convention that does not require it to compensate victims families for psychiatric injury or psychological harm unless it is inextricably linked to some physical injury.

A spokeswoman for the administrator-appointed Malaysian Airline System Berhad told the Guardian that it has been committed to compensating all next of kin, and has not evaded its obligations.

MAS has actually gone beyond its legal obligations by advising and reminding all affected families of the two-year limitation period under the Montreal convention … whilst continuing to pursue settlement discussions.

To date, she said, all next of kin of MH370 passengers who had pursued claims of compensation had either had them settled; were in the process of settling them; or have otherwise filed court claims in various jurisdictions to pursue claims of compensation.

MAS takes its legal obligations seriously but would not be able to comment further on ongoing litigation cases.

In the Australian federal court on 9 December, Malaysia Airlines resisted an order to produce relevant documents to MH370s flight, including maintenance logbooks and medical certificates of the crew.

It also requested that the plaintiffs bear the cost of the hearing and complained to the federal court Justice Nye Perram of unfair media reporting. The case will next be heard on 28 March.

The airline had previously been ordered to allow general discovery of the documents by a Malaysian judicial commissioner in September in Tommy Thomass case in the Kuala Lumpur high court. It has argued that they are not relevant and applied to appeal the decision, with the hearing set for 27 February.

In the meantime, the discovery order has been stayed and the case is in limbo.

Ganesan Nethi, a barrister with Tommy Thomas, told the Guardian the deadline to file civil proceedings in Malaysia against the Malaysian government expired on the third anniversary of MH370s disappearance, and that he hoped all the next of kin were fully aware.

Malaysia Airlines is understood to have been paid more than US$200m in hull insurance for the loss of MH370 and MH17 four months later, though the spokeswoman said the payout was confidential to MAS and its insurer Allianz and had no bearing on compensation payouts to victims families.

In late 2014 it received nearly $2bn in state aid for a major restructuring exercise, with MAS placed in administration. Its assets and many of its employees were transferred to a new organisation, Malaysia Airlines Berhad, with new management, though MAS states that the two are separate companies.

MAS retained the airlines legal liabilities arising from the loss of flight MH370 as the national carrier continues to operate as part of MAB.

Mary Schiavo, the lawyer representing 44 victims of MH370 and their families in the US district court for the District of Columbia, reportedly described it as a sleight of hand by the Malaysian government and demanded a jury trial for the action against MAS, MAB and Allianz.

The MAS spokeswoman said the restructure was determined to be in the public interest to ensure the continued existence of a national carrier The objective of the restructuring has never been to frustrate the legal process or avoiding its responsibilities, as it has been inaccurately portrayed.

She added that, notwithstanding that MAS is now in administration, it had adequate insurance coverage in place to meet all of the airlines legal liabilities arising from the loss of flight MH370.

The spokeswoman did not reply to a follow-up question asking how the airline could be sure its coverage was adequate when the extent of its liabilities had not been determined.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jan/18/compensation-battle-stalls-for-families-of-mh370-victims

Confined: artwork from Indigenous prisoners in Victoria in pictures

An exhibition showcasing art from Indigenous Australians in or recently released from Victorian prisons opens today in Melbourne

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/gallery/2017/jan/18/confined-artwork-from-indigenous-prisoners-in-victoria-in-pictures