Cardinal George Pell has finally charged on summons, with multiple offenses relating to historical sexual abuse, and has been ordered appear at the Melbourne Magistrates Court on the 18th of July this year. The debate over whether he will actually appear has commenced, with some speculating that he will simply refuse to leave the Vatican. He has previously denied all allegations against him, and for many people, particularly from the Ballarat region, this will be welcomed news. Pell has always claimed that he wishes to cooperate fully with the law, and with that in mind, it will indeed be interesting to see what happens in July. Recently, the Christian Brothers, now known as Edmund Rice Education Australia (EREA) formally apologised to the victims of abuse, whilst under the care of the Christian Brothers in Canberra earlier this month, which was most recently followed up with a formal apology from St Patrick’s College, in Ballarat, just a few days ago, It could be assumed, that following the royal commission, the formal apology of both EREA and St Patrick’s College, that the formal charging and sentencing of Pell is the next logical step in the healing process, especially for the survivors of abuse living in Ballarat.
A year ago today, I read an article that was warning the public about a political party, called Health Australia Party. This article warned people to avoid voting for this party, as they are an anti-vaccination group. This post, on Facebook, was promptly flooded with comments from people arguing the distinction between ‘anti-vaxxer’ and ‘pro-choice’. However, in my opinion, they are the same thing. The argument of pro-choice is that they are not skeptics; they are simply advocating a choice. But a choice between herd immunity, and potential risks to society seems illogical. Reading through these comments, I became very angry. Angry, that people with degrees in natural healthcare were stating that natural supplements are a viable replacement for medically researched and tested vaccines. In my mind, I put an ‘anti-vaxxer’ or vaccination skeptic in the same boat as climate change skeptics, anti-feminists, and people who are ‘anti-Muslim’. All of these people have the same thing in common – they cherry pick convenient statistics, quotes or archaic rules, to justify their point of view. Climate change and vaccination debates both have the same two sides – on one side, scientific and research based evidence, versus opinions, that seem to thrive on social media pages, often private or closed groups, where fear is spread. However, should anyone promote a ‘pro-vaccination’ point of view, it seems the followers of these groups come out of the wood work, ready to make a variety of unsubstantiated claims. The classic claim is that someone read a book, or researched on the Internet, and based on this information, which is usually based on someone else’s opinion, as a justification to try and recruit other likeminded people. However, I would question, unless you have a medical degree, you are unqualified to comment or debate this issue.
A quick search on Facebook for vaccination brings up an array of anti-vaccination closed groups. It was alarming to read the disclaimers on these pages, in which they have a ‘troll’ authentication process, in which you must supply proof that you haven’t vaccinated your children. One page also suggests the creation of a new Facebook profile, so that your friends won’t know you are part of an anti-vaxxer group. Surely, a few alarm bells should be ringing, if this level of effort is required to be a part of such a group. Surely, someone who is pro-choice must understand that they are in the minority, and that they have enough self-awareness to understand that these groups do not have any scientific evidence to back up their claims.
While I believe in freedom of speech, it is vital that people are educated before spreading dangerous information, that in this case, has the potential to harm, or to even kill people – and not just people who aren’t vaccinated. Un-vaccinated people have the potential to bring disease in to the herd population of immunised people, and therefore, we are all at risk. Up until today, I have only written what I would be considered 'safe' blog entries, reviewing television shows or concerts. However, the reason why I want to write a blog is to encourage debate. Maybe I should no longer play it 'safe' !!
The rhetoric behind Gonski 2.0 relies on an assumption that a marginal increase in funding will magically solve all of our education afflictions. Whilst the federal government is celebrating their vote-winning funding package, they have failed to address any tangible method in increasing student attendance and performance. Throwing money at schools isn’t enough. The teaching profession is a grueling and often unforgiving battle. The reasons why teaching is such a hard job is multifaceted, and requires our appointed leaders to actually spend time in schools, especially lower socio-economic public schools, to see just how hard it is to engage our students, let alone meeting the ever increasing demands in terms of workloads, administration and time volunteered. Teachers ‘burning out’ is all too common, and it seems that nothing has changed in the last twenty years, in which 50% of all teaching graduates quit the profession in the first five years. They leave due to the incredible demands that are made through both school leaders, students and parents, and the levels of stress that can easily spiral out of control.
For anyone who isn’t a teacher, and who subsequently scoffs at a teacher, stating that teachers shouldn’t complain, they ‘get all of the school holidays’, surely have little comprehension on just how mentally taxing this job is. Teachers often leave the profession, as they can move in to another profession which has less demands and higher wages. An increase of federal funding is a good first step, but ultimately, it is the state governments, state Catholic Education Commissions, and individual private schools who control how funding for their respective schools is allocated, and more importantly, it is these stake holders who control teacher salary and working conditions. Student achievement and wellbeing can only increase if the teachers at the frontline are duly acknowledged in the form of appropriate working conditions and wages. Perhaps if these conditions are improved, not only will schools be able to retain staff, perhaps more people would be attracted to the profession for our future generations of students to benefit from.
About the author
Observations and opinions of popular culture, covering everything from music, film, television, people and other things.