FRIDAY, MARCH 19
The captain of an elite Brisbane school has delivered a chilling and impassioned speech on sexual violence, imploring his classmates to “stop being boys, be human”.
Brisbane Boys’ College (BBC) student Mason Black addressed the scourge of Australia’s rape culture being exposed through brave women across the country, highlighted by Australian of the Year Grace Tame, who was groomed by a teacher at 15, and former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins, who was allegedly raped in Parliament House.
The horrific revelations have rocked federal and state political foundations, but the disturbing stories of victims from schools across the country were also exposed through testimonies from an online forum established by former Sydney student Chanel Contos.
Among the more than 3000 stories, a former Brisbane Girls Grammar School student claimed she was violently raped by a BBC contemporary.
Mason said his school being featured in this list of testimonies “makes me feel sick”, urging his classmates on Thursday to take responsibility to address “rape culture (that) is so deeply ingrained in today’s world”.
“Boys, this speech today is different, and it is the hardest one I have ever had to write,” he said. “Not because it is difficult, but because it is heartbreaking.
“Too many of my friends, our friends, too many of my loved ones, your loved ones, and too many women around Australia are victims of sexual assault.
“The narrative needs to change.”
The school captain rubbished the concept proposed by NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller that a sex app be developed to record consent.
“I understand the good intention he is proposing,” Mason said in his address to the school. “But has our society degraded so far that in this day and age that we are living in, women have to have an app to say no?
“What you really need is a basic acceptance and respect, and that boys is on all of us.
“If a woman wants to say no, and she says no, we have to listen, understand and accept this.”
The World Health Organization (WHO) has released its first report on the issue of ageism.
It found it affects billions of people globally and is a damaging human rights issue and public health problem.
It’s come as no surprise to artist Sally Rees, reports the ABC.
When she was preparing for an exhibition at the Museum of Old and New Art (Mona), a big birthday she was about to celebrate was at the forefront of her mind.
“I really wanted to own turning 50, I wanted to feel proud of it and I wanted it to be something for people to look forward to,” she said.
But as she was putting together her video installations, she became increasingly aware that ageing, in particular for women, loomed as a frightening prospect.
“I’d never been concerned about my age, I had never been someone who worried about getting older,” she said.
“People started to suggest that it was a scary thing to happen.
“I was also reading a lot of statistics in the news about how this demographic of older women in Australia was the largest growing demographic of homelessness it was the largest demographic of people signing on to [JobSeeker].”
Rees has created a series of videos featuring her mother, friends and colleagues using bird calls to connect with each other.
She wanted it to be a celebration of ageing.
“So many of the women I worked with…a lot of them talk about that feeling of suddenly being invisible, being ignored,” she said.
The World Health Organization report includes a survey of more than 83,000 people from 57 countries covering all six WHO regions of the world.
It showed at least one in every two people held moderately or highly ageist attitudes.
The highest prevalence of ageism was in low-income and lower-middle-income countries, for example India, Nigeria, and Yemen.
Lower prevalence rates were found in higher-income countries including Australia, Japan and Poland.
In Europe, one-in-three older people report having been a target of ageism.
Marlene Krasovitsky, co-chair and director of the Every Age Counts Campaign, was not shocked by the high prevalence of ageism.
“We have breathed in these negative attitudes about getting older and towards older people and about this phase of life since we were children,” she said.
“It is so deeply embedded in each of us and so deeply embedded the institutions around us that we hardly notice it.”
The WHO report defines ageism as when age is used to categorise and divide people in ways that lead to harm, disadvantage and injustice, affecting people aged 50 or over as well as younger people.
The report found health care rationing by age is widespread.
One study of five medical centres in the United States looked at how age affected the decisions of medical staff to withhold life-sustaining therapies in 9,000 patients who had illnesses with high mortality rates.
Medical staff were more likely to withhold ventilator support, surgery and dialysis as the patient’s age increased.
For ventilator support, the rate of decisions to withhold therapy increased 15 per cent with each decade of age; for surgery, the increase per decade was 19 per cent.
The report found the COVID-19 pandemic has not only taken a devastating toll on the lives of many older people around the world but exposed discrimination against older adults.
“Whether it’s the impacts on their own health or losing their jobs or the isolation or exclusion from treatments [COVID-19] has really shone a light on ageism, ” Dr Krasovitsky said.
The report quotes a recent global review of the prevalence of violence against older people which found some 15.7 per cent of older people — or almost one-in-six — are victims of abuse.
The Council on the Ageing Australia chief executive Ian Yates described ageism as the last “ism”.
“It’s actually something that is endemic in our society, is dangerous in our society and needs our core institutions to address it,” he said.
The WHO says that policy and law changes, education and improved intergenerational contact can help break down the stigma surrounding age.
As the chief executive of Aged Care Provider Glenview Community Services, Lucy O’Flaherty can attest to the benefits of intergenerational contact.
Until the pandemic ended the program, her facility regularly hosted visits from childcare centres, allowing elderly residents and preschoolers to spend time together.
“We saw there were some benefits in terms of the immediacy of people’s smiles and generally a sense of wellbeing,” Ms O’Flaherty said.
She said many residents experienced improved mobility through spending time with the children.
“These lovely little friendships started to happen, our elders were moving around more, our elders were participating more — so it had some really therapeutic impacts,” she said.
“We are absolutely hanging out for that day when we can have children safely in the aged care facility.”
The WHO report also indicates there could be economic benefits from addressing ageism.
It quotes a study that found that in Australia if 5 per cent more people aged 55 or older were employed, there would be a positive impact of $48 billion on the national economy annually.
Dr Krasovitsky said the report was a game changer.
“Now we have this wonderful opportunity to blow that open and to start to build awareness to start educating ourselves and to start becoming part of this global movement to reduce ageism,” she said.
Mr Yates said alongside the aged care royal commission, the WHO report highlights that ageism is an issue that can no longer be ignored.
“In the same way that we turn attention to quotas for women in senior positions we also need to be addressing ageism in that same kind of forceful and systemic way,” he said.
The Queen is said to be “sad” but “not angry” about Harry’s bombshell interview with Oprah Winfrey, according to a palace insider.
The Sun newspaper has also revealed the Queen has privately pledged to stand by her grandson.
Harry and Meghan recently stunned the royal family with a series of shock revelations made in their tell-all interview.
Following on from it, the Queen ordered a private family investigation into the claims made, including accusations an unnamed member of the family raised “concerns” about the skin colour of their child, Archie.
Prince William and Prince Charles spoke to Harry over the weekend for the first time since the interview – but the peace talks were described as “unproductive”.
Meanwhile, the Queen isn’t furious with her grandson or Meghan who she described in her statement last week as “much-loved family members”.
An insider told The Sun: “She is not angry, she is just sad. They have always worried about him (Harry) and the Queen feels very protective about him.
“They always tried to support him when Meghan came along. They all worried less about him when Meghan was on the scene as he seemed so happy.”
When contacted, Buckingham Palace did not want to comment.
Harry, 36, told Oprah during the interview he had regularly been in touch with his grandmother since he and wife Meghan stood down from working as senior royals over a year ago.
Millions around the world watched as the Duke and Duchess of Sussex accused an unnamed member of the royal family of raising “concerns” about the skin colour of their children.
Oprah later claimed the couple told them the family member was neither the Queen nor Duke of Edinburgh.
The Sussexes denied they “blindsided” the Queen over Megxit and claimed they were cut off financially by the royal family.
They also claimed the royals refused to make Archie a prince or pay for his security.
Harry, 36, said that his brother William and father Charles were “trapped” in the royal family.
Meghan, 39, said Kate made her cry at a bridesmaids’ dress fitting before her wedding in May 2018.
The Queen has ordered a probe into the couple’s racism claim which is believed to be led by Prince Charles and Prince William.
Submissions to an independent review of parliamentary workplace culture will remain confidential and exempt from freedom of information (FOI) requests, under proposed legislation that has passed the Senate.
The Upper House passed amendments to archives and freedom of information laws on Thursday.
Finance Minister Simon Birmingham, who worked with the opposition and crossbench to set up the inquiry, said the passing of the legislation through the Senate put strong protections in place.
“The participation of current and former staff in the independent review will be of paramount importance to bringing about the cultural and practical change that is necessary in our parliamentary workplace,” Senator Birmingham said.
Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins is heading the review, which was launched after a shocking allegation of rape in a ministerial office.
Former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins last month went public with the allegation she was raped by a senior colleague in Parliament House in 2019.
She then called for a comprehensive, independent review of the laws that govern political staffers.
Labor leader Anthony Albanese sent a letter to the Prime Minister this week, after political staff raised concerns about the risk of their submissions being made public or accessed through FOI requests.
He said staff needed full confidence in the confidentiality of their submissions.
The letter stated the opposition would support expediting legislative amendments to resolve the issue before Parliament rises next week for the Easter break.
“The welfare of our staff must be our priority,” the letter states.
“They deserve nothing less than a completely safe and supportive workplace.”
Prime Minister Scott Morrison met Mr Albanese this week to discuss the legislative changes.
“We agree that is a measure that should hopefully provide that comfort and provide that security for people,” Mr Morrison said.
“That’s what is agreed between the parties and we both have the same objective here and I hope we will be able to deal with that fairly expeditiously today and give people that confidence.”
The move is consistent with those taken in similar inquiries.
Protections were provided for people who gave information in private sessions of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
Shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus said the changes meant more people would likely come forward.
“It’s designed to ensure everyone who wants to take part in this review is confident that their privacy will be respected and protected, and I think you can assume from that more people will participate — more current staff, more former staff, are going to feel confident to participate,” he said.
The legislation is expected to go to the House of Representatives next week.
SheSociety is a site for the women of Australia to share our stories, our experiences, shared learnings and opportunities to connect.