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Australian rapper L-Fresh The Lion’s account banned in India after allegedly ‘Divisive & Hateful’ tweets

L-Fresh The Lion; Picture Source: Twitter @LFRESHTHELION
L-Fresh The Lion; Picture Source: Twitter @LFRESHTHELION

Manish Kumar (Name changed on request) is an international student and aspiring singer in Melbourne.

He told The Australia Today, “I have been a follower of L-Fresh The Lion’s work ever since I have come to Australia five years back, but his tweets glorifying terrorists and rapists is the lowest point for an artist.”

“My father was just 17 years old when my grandfather and two uncles were killed by Khalistani terrorists in a village near Bhatinda (City in the Indian state of Punjab), I can’t explain the pain in my father’s eyes when he talks about it,” said Mr Kumar.

Earlier, Twitter has restricted four accounts within the Indian jurisdiction. One of the accounts is of Australian hip-hop artist L-Fresh The Lion.

According to data from the US-based collaborative archive Lumen Database this is done in compliance with the legal request made by the Indian government.

In a statement reported by Indian media, a Twitter spokesperson said that when it receives a valid legal request, it reviews them under both the Twitter Rules and local law.

“@LFRESHTHELION`s account has been withheld in India in response to a legal demand,” read the message on the rapper`s account.

The Indian-Australian rapper has been supporting farmers protesting against the new farm laws in India.

He has also been writing on social media platforms and posted several updates about the protests on Twitter.

Besides, Twitter has taken action on three more accounts that also includes Indian-Canadian singer Jazzy B.

These accounts have been “geo-restricted” which means anyone living out of India can see and access the accounts.

In a statement, a Twitter spokesperson said;

“If the content violates Twitter’s Rules, the content will be removed from the service. In all cases, we notify the account holder directly so they`re aware that we`ve received a legal order pertaining to the account.”

Before withholding the accounts in India Twitter had notified the account holders about the action which is taken after a legal request by the government of India.

A highly placed Indian official in the know-how of the issue (who doesn’t want to be named) told The Australia Today, “We are seeing a kind of nexus between groups wanting to circulate ‘divisive and hateful’ messages using social influencers.”

“What happened in Punjab in the 1980s was our collective suffering, terrorists killed and raped thousands of Hindus and Sikhs and security forces also did atrocities which can not be denied, but these people using it to spread hate will not be tolerated,” She added.

Manish Kumar says, “L-Fresh the Lion’s tweets are restricted in India but what about people like me who are here and can see them.”

“I feel really scared to say anything openly about this my family has also told me not to discuss our sufferings for fear of my safety,” added Mr Kumar.

Note: The Australia Today have written to Mr L-Fresh The Lion for his comments on the issue. If we hear back from him, the story will be updated.

Besides COVID-19, India is also fighting with vulture journalists, who are spreading more panic and despair than pandemic

Picture Source: ScreenShot Twitter @BarkhaDutt
Picture Source: ScreenShot Twitter @BarkhaDutt

No one, I repeat, no one should die due to lack of medical care. Every death is painful and heart-wrenching, even if the country’s medical system is overburdened and doctors are toiling hard to save the Covid-19 patients amid an unprecedented surge of cases in the second wave. Then, there are journalists and reporters, toxic ones, who rub salt into India’s wounds by manipulating national tragedy to carry out their agenda against the state. They go on to the extent of distorting certain facts of truth to make them look valid and convincing. 

They used COVID tragedy as a propaganda tool.

It is said whoever controls the media, controls the mind of people, or they try to. Second wave of Covid-19—which is more deadly and devastating than its first wave in India, because of its regional mutant variant in it—came as a golden opportunity for left leaning vulture media men to shame, defame and humiliate India on international platforms. And they grabbed the opportunity to sell the human tragedy for their vested interest. 

NEW YORK POST used a photo of a gas leakage incident in May 2020.

To sensationalize the deadly second wave of Covid-19 in India, NEW YORK POST used a heart-wrenching picture—which had an unconscious woman lying on the street, while another woman, appeared to be her daughter, trying to wake her up—to show the tragedy of the second wave of Covid-19. What is shocking is that the picture is of the Gas Leakage incident, which took place at LG Polymer chemical plant in a village in Visakhapatnam on 7 May 2020. NEW YORK POST ran the story with a misleading picture under the headline of “COVID surge swallowing people in India, the footage shows people dead in streets” on 26 April 2021. It is to be recalled the unfortunate incident had led to Gas leakage causing breathing problems to people over a radius of 3 KM in the surrounding area. 

However, when NY POST was slammed by netizens, they changed the feature image, but the article and headline remained the same. Why did NEW YORK POST go into overdrive to sell tragedy in India by using fake pictures? Do they wait for tragedy in India to manipulate as a propaganda machine?

Tragedy was used as a commodity.

British American Media Company, Getty Images is selling images of grim Hindu Funeral pyres lit ablaze in a crematorium to sensationalize non-Indian readers. Any media group can buy the largest size picture for Rs. 23,000. Be it Indian photojournalists or non-Indian photographers both are clicking; both are making money out of the pandemic by clicking photos at crematorium denying dignity at the tragic death of Covid-19 victims.

Check your self by clicking the following link: https://www.gettyimages.in/photos/covid-19-delhi-funeral?phrase=covid-19%20delhi%20funeral&sort=mostpopular

There have even aerial shots of the crematorium. Did the photographer fly drones over the crematorium to click pictures? Is flying drones over crematorium permitted? The Guardian used the same aerial shot of the crematorium, which created a huge amount of buzz in international media. (We are not using that picture to say loud and clear pictures of final rites are personal and no one should be allowed to broadcast them.)    

Barkha Dutt didn’t spare even her father’s death for her propaganda.

If vultures are assembling at a place, dead bodies are scattered nearby. How can Barkha Dutt be far from the crematorium? She reported from the cremation ground in Surat on 19 April. What can be a better place than a cremation ground to create a ghastly and ghostly picture of death, despair and distress! Who can be better cunning than Barkha Dutt to amplify macabre elements of cremation ground!

Then, Barkha Dutt’s old father succumbed to Covid-19, unfortunately. But, the grieving daughter used every word to describe her father’s death to suit her propaganda. Selection of words is enough to influence readers deeply—My father’s last words, I am choking, treat me. 

What Barkha Dutt didn’t remind her audience and the CNN reporter that he was admitted to a premier hospital, Medanta hospital, and he was being treated by a group of best doctors. Even after being treated by the best doctors, the last words of Barkha Dutt’s father was, “treat me, I am choking.” Does it sound sane? Also, only Barkha Dutt can tell how she was allowed in ICU, where her father was admitted, to listen to his last words.   

Barkha Dutt is a perfect example of vulture media, who can use her father’s death to spin propaganda. Dear Barkha Dutt, your father was being treated by a group of best doctors in the best hospital, Medanta. Nevertheless, his last words were, “I am choking, treat me.” Then, who should have treated him? What about those who are struggling even to get a bed in hospital?

There is an unprecedented rise in Covid-19 positive cases in India. Medical facilities and infrastructure are overwhelmed. For a patient, it is a battle to get admitted to the hospital. However, India’s health infrastructures are working day and night to save as many patients as they can. The job of the media is to raise constructive criticism. But, media is creating a wave of panic even among those who are not suffering from Covid-19.

UPDATE from The Australia Today: After the Opinion article made ripples in India and around the world, Ms Barkha Dutt accused us of being “trolls” of the right-wing and fake website on social media.
We replied to her, “We don’t care who you support or oppose in your reports with other media outlets, but calling us right-wing trolls is insane. Looks like you can’t handle criticism well.”
In case we get some more details we shall put them here.

Author: Manisha Inamdar
This opinion article was first published on www.trunicle.com, We have republished it with kind permission from the author.
Disclaimer: The author is solely responsible for the views expressed in this article. The author carries the responsibility for citing and/or licensing images utilized within the text. The opinions, facts and any media content in them are presented solely by the authors, and neither The Australia Today News nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.

Australia Launches First National Battery Strategy to Drive Economic Growth and Clean Energy Transition

Image Source x/Twitter @Albo
Image Source x/Twitter @Albo

To move Australia to the forefront of the global clean energy revolution, the Federal Government has unveiled the nation’s first National Battery Strategy. This strategic initiative aims to harness Australia’s natural resources and technological expertise to build a robust battery industry, vital for supporting a Future Made in Australia and enhancing economic resilience and security.

Global demand for batteries is expected to quadruple by 2030 due to the worldwide shift towards net-zero emissions, the National Battery Strategy outlines a comprehensive plan for Australia to capitalise on this surge.

The strategy identifies four high-value strategic opportunities to drive growth and innovation in the battery sector:

  1. Stationary Storage: Developing Energy Storage Systems (ESS) to support renewable power generation in the national grid and for use by communities, businesses, and homes.
  2. Battery Active Materials: Upgrading raw minerals into processed battery components to fortify global battery supply chains.
  3. Advanced Battery Technology: Utilizing Australia’s world-leading expertise to manufacture safer and more secure batteries integrated with the grid.
  4. Battery Manufacturing for Transport: Producing batteries for the transport industry, including heavy vehicle manufacturing.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese emphasised the strategic importance of developing a domestic battery industry, stating,

“We want to make more things here, and with global demand for batteries set to quadruple by 2030, Australia must be a player in this field.”

He highlighted batteries as a critical component of Australia’s clean energy mix, alongside renewable energy, green hydrogen, and critical minerals, which are essential to meeting the nation’s emission reduction targets and fostering a robust clean energy manufacturing industry.

The federal budget has allocated substantial funding to support the National Battery Strategy:

  • Battery Breakthrough Initiative: $523.2 million administered by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) to enhance battery manufacturing capabilities through targeted production incentives.
  • Building Future Battery Capabilities: $20.3 million to promote cutting-edge battery research, including support for the Future Battery Industries Cooperative Research Centre and the Powering Australia Industry Growth Centre.

Additionally, the budget includes a $1.7 billion Future Made in Australia Innovation Fund, also administered by ARENA, aimed at accelerating the deployment of innovative technologies and facilities in priority sectors such as clean energy manufacturing.

Strategic Collaboration and Economic Diversification

Minister for Industry and Science Ed Husic underscored the potential economic benefits, noting, “Australia is a pioneer of battery tech, yet for too long we’ve sent our ideas offshore and lost the good jobs they create. The global clean energy transition is happening – and we’ve got a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Australia to create more well-paid, secure jobs.”

“A strong battery industry can supercharge our path to net zero and create a Future Made in Australia.

It’s inexcusable that we supply half the global supply of lithium but produce less than one per cent of the world’s processed battery components,”

Minister Husic added.

The National Battery Strategy outlines a collaborative framework for industry and government to work together to enhance battery manufacturing capabilities and transform Australia into a renewable energy superpower. This initiative builds on several existing government programs designed to support Australian businesses, including the Industry Growth Program, Solar Sunshot, the National Reconstruction Fund, and the Critical Minerals Facility.

The strategy leverages Australia’s natural advantages, such as abundant critical mineral resources and world-class battery technology expertise, to diversify global battery supply chains and strengthen economic resilience. By working closely with key trading partners, Australia aims to play a pivotal role in the global clean energy transition, ensuring the creation of well-paid, secure jobs and a sustainable economic future.

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Multimillion-Dollar drug stash found hidden in vans on cargo ship

Image: MDMA bust (Source: AFP)

The AFP is appealing for public assistance after about $6.6 million worth of MDMA was discovered in February 2024 during an inspection of a cargo ship docked at Fremantle Harbour, in Western Australia.

Australian Border Force (ABF) officers, with the assistance of drug detector dogs, found about 120kg of the drug concealed inside the panels of six new Peugeot vans, out of a consignment of 105, onboard the vessel, which arrived in WA from Europe on 18 February, 2024.

Image: MDMA bust (Source: AFP)

The AFP seized the drugs, which were hidden in the sliding door panels of vehicles that were destined for New South Wales.

AFP Acting Commander Peter Hatch congratulated ABF on intercepting the illicit drugs, and said the AFP was working with international partners to identify the transnational organised crime syndicate responsible for trying to import and supply the MDMA to the Australian community. 

“This importation plot would have required a lot of planning and the involvement of a number of people. Clearly there are people in Australia who know who organised this importation and who the intended recipients were.”

A/Commander Hatch added: “The criminal distributors would have likely combined the MDMA with other substances before turning the drugs into pills using a pill press. Criminals don’t care if they add other harmful substances to the illicit drugs to make the pills. People have no idea what they are ingesting when they take these pills.”

Image: MDMA bust (Source: AFP)

ABF Acting Commander James Payne said the detection of such a significant amount of concealed drugs spoke to the professionalism and dedication of ABF officers in protecting Australia’s border.

“We are working together with our law enforcement partners to ensure the border remains a hostile environment for criminal syndicates attempting to use our ports for their illicit schemes.”

A/Commander Hatch urged anyone with information about the planned importation to contact police.

Anyone with information can call Crime Stoppers anonymously on 1800 333 000.

*The estimated $6.6 million street value for the MDMA was determined using the ACIC Illicit Drug ESV Calculator

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Australia’s “Bush Capital” ranked second best city in the world

Image: Canberra 9Source: Canva)

Canberra has been named the second-best city out of the 1,000 largest cities in the world for quality of life by the latest Oxford Economics Global Cities report.

Canberra, Australia’s capital, is a planned city nestled in the southeastern part of the country, boasting a population of around 450,000.

The city is known for its lush green spaces and high quality of life, it offers key attractions such as the Australian War Memorial, Parliament House, and the National Gallery of Australia. The city’s natural beauty is highlighted by Lake Burley Griffin and the surrounding bushland, while spots like the National Museum and Questacon provide rich cultural and educational experiences.

Walter Burley Griffin, a well-known architect, planned Canberra, the capital city of Australia, and also contributed to the planning of New Delhi, the capital of India, working alongside Sir Edwin Lutyens, although his role was less prominent.

While Lutyens’ influence on urban design remains evident in his blend of classical and modernist elements, Griffin’s designs reflect his commitment to blending architecture with the natural environment in urban spaces.

The rankings reflects how satisfied and well residents feel, based on factors like life expectancy, income, housing costs, recreational options, cultural sites, and internet speed.

The report notes that across the 1,000 cities, those in North America, Western Europe and Oceania generally perform best, scoring highly across all categories. 

“In 2023, the 1,000 largest cities in the world accounted for 60% of global GDP and over 30% of the world’s population—and the importance of cities will only continue to grow in the future,” the report states.

Only Grenoble in France outranked Canberra, making it the only Australian city to make the top 10 for quality of life.

Among Australian cities, Canberra ranked fifth, behind Melbourne (9th), Sydney (16th), Perth (23rd), and Brisbane (27th). New York took the top spot as the best city in the world overall.

Canberra’s biggest challenge is its environment, with the report noting the city’s susceptibility to natural disasters like bushfires and floods.

Nicknamed “The Bush Capital,” often mistaken as being the most “boring” city in Australia, Canberra’s location in the Australian bush makes it particularly prone to wildfires.

“Canberra’s biggest weakness is its environment. Indeed, the city is subjected to natural disasters such as bushfires and floods. Canberra’s nickname is ‘The Bush Capital,’ owing to its location in the middle of the Australian bush which makes it particularly vulnerable to wildfires. These wildfires also contribute to the air quality occasionally deteriorating during the fire season, a trend made worse by Canberra being in a valley as this causes smoke to be trapped over the city,” the report stated.

The report highlighted Canberra’s strengths, including high life expectancy, high educational levels, and low income inequality. However, it also noted weaknesses such as limited economic diversity, vulnerability to natural disasters, and slower internet speeds.

Despite this high ranking, Canberra didn’t make the top 10 in other categories like economics, human capital, environment, or governance, and was ranked 44th overall among global cities. It performed poorly in the environment (194th) and economics (179th) categories. However, it did better in human capital (90th) and governance (18th).

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How Generative AI could help Indian workers save 51 million hours a week

(Image: Screenshot Pearson India website)

New research from Pearson, the world’s leading learning company, shows the massive potential of Generative AI to boost workplace productivity by helping Indian workers to save 51 million hours a week on the routine and repetitive tasks that often fill their day and lead to burnout. 

The latest instalment of Pearson’s Skills Outlook series, ‘Reclaim the Clock: How Generative AI Can Power People at Work’ – looks ahead to 2026 and identifies the top 10 job tasks with the most time saved by using the technology, in five countries (Australia, Brazil, India, UK and US).

Pearson’s workforce planning platform, powered by generative AI, finds that the work Gen AI can most effectively support is focused on tasks related to maintaining records, data collection, or researching and compiling information for others.

According to this research the ten work tasks with the most hours saved by Gen AI by 2026 in India are: 

  1. Promote products, services, or programs (4,386,799 hours)
  2. Collect data about consumer needs or opinions (3,874,794 hours)
  3. Develop marketing or promotional materials (3,513,913 hours)
  4. Identify business or organizational opportunities (3,219,578 hours)
  5. Explain technical details of products or services (3,095,700 hours)
  6. Maintain current knowledge in area of expertise (2,625,409 hours)
  7. Maintain operational records (2,602,099 hours)
  8. Communicate with others about operational plans or activities (1,798,296 hours)
  9. Examine materials or documentation for accuracy or compliance (1,575,060 hours) 
  10. Evaluate the quality or accuracy of data (1,568,961 hours)

The same sudy found that in Australia, workers could reclaim nearly 6 million hours a week on routine tasks like presenting research, record keeping and data collection by using generative AI to help them on the job.

Similarly the ten work tasks, according to this research, with the most hours saved by Gen AI by 2026 in Australia are:

  1. Develop educational programs, plans, or procedures (233,000 hours)
  2. Maintain health or medical records (222,000 hours)
  3. Maintain current knowledge in area of expertise (184,000 hours)
  4. Maintain operational records (170,000 hours)
  5. Present research or technical information (166,000 hours)
  6. Monitor individual behaviour or performance (156,000 hours)
  7. Develop safety standards, policies, or procedures (150,000 hours)
  8. Teach academic or vocational subjects (150,000 hours)
  9. Explain regulations, policies, or procedures (138,000 hours)
  10. Advise others on products or services (132,000 hours)

By augmenting basic tasks with generative AI, companies and their workers can reallocate time to focus on the high-value work that humans do best: strategic thinking, collaboration, caring for others, decision-making, innovation, problem-solving, empathy, and leadership. 

At an individual level, even small amounts of time saved with Generative AI can help people feel more in control of their job and achieve a better work-life balance. 

Oliver Latham, VP of Strategy and Growth for Pearson Workforce Skills, said: “In nearly every workplace, people spend their day on common, time-consuming tasks that eat away at productivity or their work-life balance. If those tasks could be augmented with generative AI, employers and their workers could reallocate time to the things that need a more human touch and mean more to their customers.”

Employers should consider how to incorporate this new technology into their teams and redesign roles to free people up to focus on more valuable, human tasks.  They should also consider the need for training and support for employees, so they can use it effectively and responsibly,” he added.

Pearson believe that the future of work can be one where people and Gen AI can collaborate by using AI as a tool to enhance human potential. For this study, they used census and other workforce datasets to create a single view of the current workforce in the US, UK, Australia, India and Brazil. Using Pearson’s proprietary occupations ontology of 5,600 jobs and 76,000 tasks, each job can be viewed as a collection of tasks. This allows their machine learning algorithms to calculate future technology impact at a task level.

Pearson looked at hours currently spent, countrywide, on work tasks each week, and then calculated what this would be in three years’ time as Gen AI technology is adopted into the workplace.  They then identified the tasks which would have the greatest hours reduced by the technology (specifically LLM Chatbots and AI Text-to-Visual Media Generators).

Pearson is the world’s leading learning company, serving customers in nearly 200 countries with digital content, assessments, qualifications, and data.

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“I feel betrayed”: Australia reduces the post-study work visa age

Representative image: University students and tutor (Source: CANVA)

Starting July 1, the Australian government will reduce the maximum age for  post-higher education work stream visa applicants from 50 to 35.

Additionally, a rule that allowed a two-year extension for certain degrees will end. As a result, the maximum stay period for doctoral graduates will be cut from six years to three years. 

Vertika, aged 42, chose Australia to pursue an MBA because of its generous post-study work visa options that will help her gain more international experience in the field.

She says: “With the new rule changes, I feel betrayed. I invested a significant amount of money and time in my higher education along with my son’s education here, and now it feels like the promise from the Australian government’s side has been broken. “

“My son doesn’t want to leave Australia, and this new policy adds to our uncertainty. They claim to need skilled people, yet this rule contradicts that by favouring younger graduates, which could lead to an oversupply of entry-level workers,” Vertika adds.

Dr Amit Sarwal, an expert in student mobility and migration, says “This policy change would drastically shrink the talent pool for future PhD candidates.”

“Most researchers seek to pursue a Masters by thesis or doctorate after acquiring valuable teaching or industry experience. Under this biased policy, these experienced professionals would be deemed “too old” to complete their PhD in Australia and remain to work post-graduation. This shift will undoubtedly plunge many researchers and their families into significant uncertainty, disrupting career paths and personal lives,” Dr Sarwal adds. 

In 2022, data from the Group of Eight (Go8) and the Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations (CAPA) showed that 40% of PhD students in Australia were aged 30 and above.

The group is urging the Department of Home Affairs to consider exemptions and a transition period for the new rules. The Go8 and CAPA data also revealed that in 2022, there were 28,986 PhD research students enrolled in Go8 universities, with 51% being international students.

In a statement released in February, Vicki Thomson, the Chief Executive of the Go8, said, “Admission into PhD programs requires extensive academic and often industry experience. Given that completing a PhD in Australia takes four years or longer depending on the research project, this change means many international graduates will not qualify under the new TGV age limit.”

“Exempting PhD students will have a minimal impact on Australia’s migration system in terms of overall numbers but will protect the future of Australia’s research and innovation leadership pipeline,” she added.

A spokesperson from the Department of Home Affairs told SBS that the goal of the new Migration Strategy is to “reduce migrant worker exploitation by reducing the number of migrants who are permanently temporary.

“The government is committed to repositioning the TGV so that it supports early career professionals to develop the relevant work history they will need to progress to a skilled visa or use their education and skills in the global jobs market.”

The spokesperson added: “Graduates who have relevant work histories but are no longer eligible for the TGV due to age restrictions will continue to have access to other temporary and migration pathways.”

This change is part of the new Migration Strategy announced in December last year. 

These changes do not apply to students from Hong Kong or British national overseas passport holders. 

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Luxurious ocean-front property wins Australian Home of the Year Award 

Image: The property at Separation Creek in Victoria (Photo: HIA/BCM Homes)

A stunning luxury property suspended on the water’s edge has won three prestigious awards. BCM Homes from Victoria has been honored with the Housing Industry Association’s Australian Home of the Year for their exceptional build in Separation Creek along the Great Ocean Road.

In addition to this top accolade, the property also received the Australian People’s Choice Home and the Australian Custom Built Home awards for 2024. 

Image: The property at Separation Creek in Victoria (Photo: HIA/BCM Homes)

The judges, as stated in a press release by HIA, were “stunned” by the execution of the project.

HIA Managing Director Jocelyn Martin said in a statement that the HIA-CSR Australian Housing Awards celebrate the remarkable achievements of HIA members who are excelling in Australia’s residential building industry.

“The craftsmanship displayed by our award winners is simply outstanding. Their projects often redefine what’s possible in terms of design and innovation, setting new standards for the industry. It brings me immense joy to extend my congratulations to each and every winner for their unwavering dedication to excellence,” Martin added. 

BCM Homes have been building residential and commercial properties for over 15 years throughout Ballarat and provincial Victoria. 

Director of BCM Homes, David Moyle, told Domain: “100 truck loads of cement were poured on a steep and remote site on the Great Ocean Road. We then had difficulty with the structural steel and on-site glazing.”

Image: Truck loads of cement poured onto the steep and remote site (Photo: BCM Homes)

This two-storey concrete and steel residence with a 600-bottle wine cellar took 18 months to complete. The home seamlessly integrates with the landscape, providing breathtaking ocean views from its main living and entertainment areas. 

Separation Creek known for its tranquility and natural beauty, is situated on Victoria’s Great Ocean Road. Due to limited sales in the past year, Domain has not been able to determine a median house price for the area.

Image: The property at Separation Creek in Victoria (Photo: HIA/BCM Homes)

The HIA-CSR Australian Housing Awards are the ultimate platform to showcase the talents of the nation’s top builders and designers. Winners are selected from state-based finalists, with awards in 22 separate categories. The Awards are partnered by leading building products company CSR.

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Inspired by Modi, Australia’s FootprintLab partners with India’s PayU

Image: FootprintLab founders Dr Tim Baynes and Janet Salem with their partner PayU in India (Source: FootprintLab)

FootprintLab, a Sydney-based clean technology company, is seeing global demand for their reliable and up-to-date carbon footprint data.

Founded in 2022 by Salem, a former United Nations circular economy expert and a University of Sydney PhD candidate in sustainability analysis integration in fintech, and Baynes, a former senior scientist at CSIRO, FootprintLab specializes in “sustainability data-as-a-service.”

Expanding globally was always the plan for FootprintLab and the opportunity in India seemed perfect.

Image: FootprintLab Co-Founders Timothy Baynes and Janet Salem (Source: Incubate)

Salem told Startup Daily about their surprise at the scale of one payment gateway they encountered, which handles 3.6 billion transactions annually, with AU$29 billion processed in India alone.

“Transactions in India are digital to the smallest transaction. There’s huge demand. And India is the tech hub for the world’s financial system.”

“Because India’s tech sector is providing the IT infrastructure for global financial institutions, you can have a global reach,” Salem adds.

Image source: Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi with Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese – Twitter.

FootprintLab’s founders saw a great match between India’s digital growth, skilled workforce, and rising middle class, and Australia’s scalable tech solutions.

Additionally, support from Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s focus on sustainability at the 2023 G20 Leaders’ Summit encouraged FootprintLab to pursue this opportunity.

Baynes says: “India is a great target market for Australian fintech because we have a small testing bed in Australia. We can bring innovation and agility to new products in India, whereas if you try to start something in India, you’ve immediately got to be ready for 10 million customers. You can do that in Australia with 10,000 or 100,000.”

“In India, you have the sort of scale, companies and capacity to turn that into some major application.”

IMAGE: Anirban Mukherjee, CEO of PayU India (Photograph Courtesy: Prosus)

In August 2023, FootprintLab joined a fintech business mission to India organised by Austrade and Investment NSW. This trip led to partnerships with Indian companies PayU and BillionLives Business Initiatives.

“PayU has come in from many different aspects. It goes back to my background at the UN and Tim’s background working with research institutions in Delhi… But what Austrade did was really help facilitate signing an agreement – really getting to a deal that could be discussed in a press release and giving us advice,” Salem adds.

PayU will measure the carbon footprint of purchases and offer an offset option, while BillionLives will assist with ESG measurement and reporting.

Support from Austrade’s Australia India Innovation Network was crucial in connecting FootprintLab with the right people. The network helps Australian tech companies enter India’s growing digital market, especially encouraging fintechs to seize the current opportunities.

Image: Global Fintech Fest 2023 (Source: GFF)

Salem observed: “We went on an Austrade mission last year to the Global Fintech Fest in Mumbai. They spent a lot of time with us before the mission trying to work out ‘who are you?’, ‘who’s your ideal client?’ and ‘what’s your objective?’ So that was really useful. Then, when we were there, they were able to introduce us to the right people in the right companies.”

“We actually had quite a few pre-meetings with some of those companies, especially Billion Lives, who we ended up signing a partnership agreement with during that first trade mission.”

FootprintLab’s work has been recognized by the Australian Government’s Climate Active Program and is now also being adopted by companies in India. Following their success in India, FootprintLab is now setting its sights on the Singapore fintech market.

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“False and baseless”: Adani counters allegations of artificially inflating coal prices

Representative image: Coal mining (Source: CANVA)

In a recent report, the Financial Times stated that the Adani Group appeared to have allegedly imported billions of dollars of coal at prices above their market value. The report is based on an examination of 30 shipments of the commodity from Indonesia to India, over 32 months between 2019 and 2021.

For the uninitiated, these allegations against Adani Enterprises suggest that the company misrepresented low-quality Indonesian coal as high-grade to Indian buyers, including state-run power companies.

FT said it accessed evidence collected by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), that supported its allegations of the Adani group artificially inflating coal prices. According to this report, invoices reveal that in January 2014, Adani Bought Indonesian coal rated at 3,500 calories per kilogramme, and went on to sell that shipment to the Tamil Nadu Generation and Distribution Company (Tangedco) as 6,000-calorie coal, one of the most valuable grades. 

It further adds that in December 2013 the MV Kalliopi L ship left Indonesia carrying coal with a listed price of $28 a tonne. When it arrived in India in the new year, Adani sold the coal to Tangedco for $92 a tonne.

The Adani Group has denied the allegations implying potential manipulation and overpricing as “false and baseless”. A spokesperson wrote in an email to OCCRP: “The suggestion that Adani Global Pte Ltd supplied to TANGEDCO inferior coal, as compared to the quality standards laid down in the tender and PO [purchase order], is incorrect.

While it is difficult for us to comment on individual cases due to the sheer volume of data and the elapsed time, not to add the contractual and legal obligations, it is important to note that the coal supplied, irrespective of the declaration by the supplier, is tested for quality at the receiving plant.”

These claims centre around the accusation that Adani declared inflated calorific values for its coal imports, leading to higher pricing and, subsequently, increased costs for end consumers and utilities. However, it is essential to critically evaluate these allegations within the broader context of coal quality assessment and regulatory oversight.

The calorific value, which measures the energy content of coal, is a critical determinant of its grade and price. Regulatory bodies typically conduct stringent checks to ensure compliance with declared specifications. Coal pricing is intrinsically linked to its quality, which is determined by factors such as calorific value, ash content, sulphur content, and moisture levels. Higher-quality coal, characterized by higher calorific value and lower impurities, commands a premium price in the market due to its efficiency and lower environmental impact.

For example, Adani’s Australian coal, known for its high calorific value and relatively low ash content, is priced accordingly. The Newcastle thermal coal price index, a global benchmark for high-quality coal from Australia, often reflects these quality differentials. Adani’s pricing strategy aligns with this benchmark, ensuring that its coal is competitively priced relative to its quality. Suggesting overpricing without acknowledging these quality parameters paints an incomplete picture.

Further, coal pricing is also influenced by a myriad of market dynamics, including supply-demand fluctuations, geopolitical developments, and regulatory changes. The past few years have seen significant volatility in global coal markets. Factors such as supply chain disruptions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, increased demand from rapidly industrializing countries, and regulatory pressures for cleaner energy have all impacted coal prices.

To any expert, Adani’s coal pricing strategy would reflect these broader market conditions. For instance, during periods of high demand and constrained supply, coal prices naturally increase. It is reductive to attribute such price movements solely to company practices without considering these external factors.

Furthermore, Adani operates within a competitive international market, where pricing is largely dictated by market forces rather than individual company policies.

Adani’s coal operations would therefore have to adhere to regulatory frameworks, both domestically and internationally. The company is subject to rigorous oversight regarding pricing, quality control, and environmental standards. Any deviation from these norms could result in significant legal and financial repercussions, deterring any intentional manipulation of coal prices.

Moreover, the global coal market is highly competitive, with numerous players vying for market share. Adani’s ability to remain competitive hinges on maintaining reasonable and market-aligned pricing strategies. Overpricing would undermine their competitiveness, leading to the potential loss of contracts and market share to other coal producers.

For example, Adani has secured long-term supply agreements with various international buyers, including power plants in India. These contracts often include price adjustment clauses tied to global benchmarks and quality standards. Such mechanisms ensure that pricing remains fair and reflective of prevailing market conditions, rather than arbitrary or inflated.

So Adani’s coal prices, particularly from its Carmichael mine in Australia, are competitive with key industry rivals such as Glencore, Peabody Energy, and BHP. As of early 2024, the Newcastle thermal coal price index, a benchmark for high-quality Australian coal, averaged around $130 per metric ton. Adani’s coal, known for its high calorific value and lower impurities, is typically priced within a similar range, reflecting its quality.

For instance, Adani’s Carmichael coal is reported to be sold at approximately $125-$135 per metric ton, depending on market conditions. Compared to Glencore and Peabody, whose coal prices also hover around $120-$140 per metric ton depending on specific coal quality and market demand, Adani’s pricing remains competitive.

In markets like India, where Adani supplies significant quantities, its prices continue to balance cost efficiency with the high quality of its coal, maintaining parity with these major global coal producers.

Adani’s Indonesian coal prices in India are strategically positioned to remain competitive within the market, reflecting both quality and regional pricing dynamics. In 2023, Indonesian coal imports to India were typically priced between $90 and $110 per metric ton, depending on the grade and specific calorific value. Adani, sourcing significant quantities from its Indonesian mines, would have aligned its pricing with these market trends.

Image: Different varieties of coal (Source: zmescience.com)

Adani’s spokesperson told OCCRP that if the coal delivered was of a lower quality than what was stipulated in the contract, which allowed for a range of between 5,800 and 6,700 kcal/kg, the payment would have been reduced accordingly. FT journalists too found the final payment price varied between US$87 and US$91 per metric ton, indicating small adjustments that were made.

For instance, the company’s Indonesian coal is often priced around $95-$105 per metric ton, offering a blend of affordability and efficiency that appeals to Indian buyers. This pricing strategy would not only allow Adani to remain competitive against other Indonesian coal exporters but also ensure that Indian industries reliant on imported coal benefit from stable and cost-effective energy resources.

Rahul Gandhi, as usual, was quick to blame this alleged scam on the BJP government under Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Little did he know that the DRI, an agency under the Ministry of Finance, had opened an investigation nearly a decade ago (2009) into whether Adani Group and other companies had used offshore intermediaries to inflate the price of coal supplied to utilities.

Adani won a case in the Bombay High Court that blocked the DRI from seeking details about shipments. The DRI then appealed to India’s Supreme Court, where the case awaits a hearing that is scheduled for August 6, 2024.

If one looks at the growth trajectory of Adani Group, it has been notable under both Congress and BJP-led governments.

During the Congress-led UPA government (2004-2014), the Adani Group experienced significant expansion, particularly in the power and infrastructure sectors. Adani Enterprises’ revenue grew from approximately $1 billion in 2004 to around $6.5 billion by 2014, demonstrating a robust compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of about 18%.

From 2014 onwards, when the BJP came to power with Modi at the helm, Adani Enterprises’ revenue surged from approximately $6.5 billion in 2014 to over $20 billion by 2024, indicating a CAGR of around 12%. Moreover, the market capitalization of Adani Group’s listed companies has grown from around $8 billion in 2014 to over $200 billion by 2024, particularly in the power and infrastructure sectors.

(Source: The Indian Express)

Nevertheless, this considerable market growth extends beyond Adani alone, encompassing numerous prominent businesses in India. Under the Modi government, from 2014 to 2024, Reliance Industries saw its market capitalization increase from approximately $55 billion to over $220 billion; Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) from around $78 billion to over $150 billion; HDFC Bank from $46 billion to more than $120 billion; Infosys from about $31 billion to over $80 billion; Hindustan Unilever Limited (HUL) from $17 billion to approximately $75 billion; and Bajaj Finance from $6 billion to nearly $50 billion.

Experts believe this growth has been driven by significant investments in diverse sectors such as renewable energy, logistics, and airports, aligning with the Modi government’s focus on infrastructure and development.

As of now, these accusations have not been definitively proven, and they underscore the need for enhanced scrutiny, transparency and rigorous monitoring in coal trade practices to protect consumer interests and maintain market integrity. While such scrutiny is essential, it is far more crucial to contextualize these allegations within the broader dynamics of coal quality and pricing mechanisms in the global market.

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Cricket Australia Launches Multicultural Ambassador Program to Promote Inclusivity

Image Source: Cricket Australia
Image Source: Cricket Australia

In a move to enhance diversity and inclusivity within the sport, Cricket Australia announced the launch of its Multicultural Ambassador Program.

This initiative, a key component of the Australian Cricket Multicultural Action Plan, features 54 distinguished ambassadors from diverse backgrounds, including former cricket legends Ravi Shastri and Wasim Akram.

The program aims to leverage the expertise and influence of leaders from various sectors—government, business, sports, media, and community—to advocate for inclusivity and drive positive change within cricket and the broader community.

Among the inaugural ambassadors are notable figures such as Usman Khawaja, Mel Jones, Lisa Sthalekar, Kishwar Chowdhury, Alana King, Peter Varghese, Swati Dave, and Fawad Ahmed.

Cricket Australia CEO Nick Hockley expressed enthusiasm for the program, stating, “We are thrilled to welcome such a dynamic and diverse group as Multicultural Ambassadors.”

“Their collective leadership, expertise, and passion will be instrumental in driving meaningful change and fostering a more inclusive cricketing community.”

The ambassadors will focus on five key areas identified in the Multicultural Action Plan: Participation, High Performance, People and Representation, Communications and Engagement, and Event and Experience. Each ambassador will contribute insights and leadership in their area of expertise to foster greater connectivity and inclusivity across the Australian cricket landscape.

Former Australian player and cricket commentator Lisa Sthalekar also expressed her excitement, saying, “Being a Cricket Australia Multicultural Ambassador is an incredible honour.

“It is a role that allows me to celebrate and promote the diversity that makes our sport so vibrant and inclusive.”

Highlighting the program’s significance, Usman Khawaja, an Australian player of Pakistani descent, remarked, “I am proud to sign on as one of Cricket Australia’s Multicultural Ambassadors.”

“I see the sport as a bridge that connects communities and welcomes all, fostering understanding, respect, and unity.”

The program’s diverse lineup of ambassadors reflects a broad spectrum of cultural backgrounds, including representatives from Indian, Sri Lankan, Pakistani, Indigenous Australian, Bangladeshi, Nepali, and Afghani communities. This composition ensures a multifaceted approach to addressing the challenges and opportunities related to diversity and inclusion in cricket and society at large.

Cricket Australia’s initiative marks a significant step towards creating a sport that mirrors contemporary Australian society, emphasizing the importance of collaboration and collective action in ensuring cricket remains a welcoming and inclusive sport for all.

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Rahulreet Singh Mann pleads not guilty for allegedly trying to open plane door mid-air on Sydney-bound flight

Image Source @CANVA
Image Source @CANVA

A Canadian man has pleaded not guilty at Downing Centre Local Court in Sydney court after he was charged over an alleged attempt to open an emergency exit door while drunk on an international flight earlier this month.

Rahulreet Singh Mann, 33-year-old, entered the plea of not guilty to a single charge of threatening the safety of an aircraft in breach of the Civil Aviation Act 1988.

The AFP charged Mr Mann after arriving at Sydney Airport on a flight from Vancouver, Canada, on 14 May 2024.

AFP alleged that another passenger noticed Mr Mann attempting to open the emergency exit door about two hours into the flight and pulled him away.

Airline staff moved Mr Mann to a seat at the aircraft’s rear and supervised him for the remainder of the flight.

The AFP alleged that Mr Mann was intoxicated at the time of the incident.

AFP Detective Inspector Dom Stephenson said the AFP was committed to supporting airport staff and ensuring all travellers experienced a safe journey from their departure to their arrival at their destination.

“The AFP and our aviation partners have no tolerance for antisocial, violent or dangerous behaviour and we will take action. Passengers expect to feel safe and should not have to witness or endure intoxication or reckless behaviour.”

The AFP responded to a request to meet the flight at the arrivals gate at Sydney International Airport. Police arrested Mr Mann and charged him with one count of threatening the safety of aircraft, contrary to section 24 (1)(b)(ii) Civil Aviation Act 1988 (Cth).

Mr Mann remains on bail to appear back in court on July 8, 2024, where he faces a maximum financial penalty of $5,000, imprisonment or both. As part of his bail conditions, he was ordered to surrender his passport and cease entering any international airport.

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India at a Crossroads: Choosing Between Unity and Division in the General Election

By Srinivas Venkatram 

One of the central issues that is tacitly shaping this general election is two conflicting visions of the Indian subcontinent.

One view sees the Indian people as

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Sambit Patra at an election road show in Puri, Odisha; Image Source: X @narendramodi

(i) born of an ancient civilisation rooted in spirituality

(ii) which acts as a substratum from which numerous branches of the same organic whole have developed.

In this view, it is the collective consciousness and collective energy of the land that is the true national identity, and all divisive actions are alien.

The other view sees the Indian subcontinent as

(i) born of a historically disparate warring kingdoms

(ii) tied together only due to Islamic and British rulers

(iii) divided and fractured in its national identity by caste, religion, and incomes

Congress Leader Rahul Gandhi with Samajwadi Party President Akhilesh Yadav at an election rally; Image Source: Samajwadi Party

These two world-views clash at every level

The civilisational worldview believes in the unity of all Hindus, nay all Indians, and sees the civilisational substratum as a unifying force that beckons to all to be one national whole with a shared vision of the future. This view demands equal treatment of all in the eyes of the law and equal opportunity for all.

The divisive worldview focuses constantly on the divisions between Indians – a division of caste, division between religions, and recently, divisions even based on colour. This view seeks special privilege for a few and nurtures a sense of victimhood and historical wrongs. This view does not seek a shared future; it seeks to divide an existing pie differently rather than expand the pie.

Which view is more appropriate for India?

History shows us that through past ages, India has risen when its shared civilisational identity, collective energy, and shared vision have been awakened. And India has declined, nay been conquered, when it has ignored our shared identity and focused on our differences rather than our commonalities.

We are once more faced with a choice – do we choose a civilizational identity and collective success or choose a path that goes back to the British era of “Divide and Rule”?

Let us choose wisely.

Author: Srinivas Venkatram founded Illumine – an “ideas in action” Lab that focuses on translating Swami Vivekananda’s ideas into new social, institutional and educational models. Illumine’s projects and interventions have reached more than 2 million users/ beneficiaries in society.

On this channel, Srinivas offers an interpretation of Vivekananda’s ideas, through the lens of Citizenship and Nation-building. For more, visit the Reflections on The Lion’s Roar.

Read the original article here.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. The Australia Today is not responsible for the accuracy, completeness, suitability, or validity of any information in this article. All information is provided on an as-is basis. The information, facts, or opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of The Australia Today and The Australia Today News does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.

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Indian-Australian writer wins $30k prestigious Multicultural NSW Literary Award

Sandhya Parappukkaran, author of 'Stay For Dinner'; Image Source: Supplied
Sandhya Parappukkaran, author of 'Stay For Dinner'; Image Source: Supplied

‘Stay for Dinner’ written by Sandhya Parappukkaran and illustrated by Michelle Pereira (Hardie Grant Children’s Publishing) has won the prestigious Multicultural NSW Award ($30,000) at at the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards 2024.

This award is offered for work that considers aspects of cultural diversity and multiculturalism in Australian society.

The judges observed: “Sandhya Parappukkaran and Michelle Pereira present a gorgeous food and cultural safari for children that is as much about appreciating and embracing the diverse ways families share a meal together, as it is a reminder that differences are mutually enriching when they are encountered without hierarchy or judgment but rather acceptance and respect.”

Sandhya Parappukkaran, author of 'Stay For Dinner'; Image Source: Supplied
Sandhya Parappukkaran, author of ‘Stay For Dinner’; Image Source: Supplied

“The result is a story that will have you grinning from the first page and ravenous by the last!”

Sandhya left her job as a Food Technologist to be a full-time writer and pursue her passion for children’s books. She writes stories that are inspired by her childhood experiences traversing different cultures and are steeped in themes of ‘embracing your cultural identity’.

Sandhya lives in Brisbane with her husband, three children and a backyard brimming with mango trees, curry leaves and green chillies.

Sandhya’s books are inspired by her Kerala and Indian heritage which feature heavily when she sits down to write.

Her debut picture book, The Boy Who Tried to Shrink His Name, won the 2022 Children’s Book Council of Australia New Illustrator Award. Her second picture book, Amma’s Sari, was released on 30th March, 2022. Amma’s Sari is a 2023 CBCA Notable book and a finalist in the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards. 

Sandhya, Michelle and Hello Bright Light Books created their third picture book that celebrates culture and connection through food – Stay for Dinner.

“Stay for Dinner is an exuberant, captivating celebration of family and friends and the fabulous feasts between them,”

the judges observed.

The book tells the story of Reshma who loves ‘squishing splashy curry through layers of rice’ with her hands during dinnertime with her loving family. But Reshma is self-conscious about what her friends would think of her family eating with their hands, licking food off their fingers and burping their appreciation at the table.

Additionally, Michelle’s delightful illustrations evoke everyday suburban multi-culture in all its gloriously familiar details: playing sports with friends after school, staying back late and gathering around dinner tables laden with various cuisines and culinary rituals.

Other winners at the awards include poet Ali Cobby Eckermann who won the top $40,000 prize of Book of the Year at the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards for her “stunning” verse novel She Is the Earth, Angela O’Keeffe, who won the $40,000 Christina Stead Prize for Fiction with her second novel The Sitter.

Australian American journalist Christine Keneally who won the $40,000 prize for non-fiction with her exposé of abuse in Catholic orphanages, Ghosts of the Orphanage; and Aboriginal poet and artist Tais Rose Wae, who won the $30,000 prize for poetry with her debut collection Riverbed Sky Songs.

Full list of winners

Book of the Year ($10,000)

She Is the Earth by Ali Cobby Eckermann (Magabala Books)

Christina Stead Prize for Fiction ($40,000)

The Sitter by Angela O’Keeffe (UQP)

Douglas Stewart Prize for Non-fiction ($40,000)

Ghosts of the Orphanage by Christine Kenneally (Hachette Australia)

Kenneth Slessor Prize for Poetry ($30,000)

Riverbed Sky Songs by Tais Rose Wae (Vagabond Press)

Patricia Wrightson Prize for Children’s Literature ($30,000)

Paradise Sands: A Story of Enchantment by Levi Pinfold (Walker Books Australia)

Ethel Turner Prize for Young People’s Literature ($30,000)

The Quiet and the Loud by Helena Fox (Pan Macmillan Australia)

Nick Enright Prize for Playwriting ($30,000)

Sex Magick by Nicholas Brown (Griffin Theatre Company/Currency Press)

Betty Roland Prize for Scriptwriting ($30,000)

Safe Home, Episode 1 by Anna Barnes (Kindling Pictures)

Indigenous Writers’ Prize ($30,000)

She Is the Earth by Ali Cobby Eckermann (Magabala Books)

Multicultural NSW Award ($30,000)

Stay for Dinner by Sandhya Parappukkaran, illustrated by Michelle Pereira (Hardie Grant Children’s Publishing)

UTS Glenda Adams Award for New Writing ($10,000)

Anam by André Dao (Penguin Random House Australia)

University of Sydney People’s Choice Award ($5,000)

The God of No Good by Sita Walker (Ultimo Press)

The winners, chosen from shortlists announced earlier this month, were announced last night at the State Library of NSW. This year the awards received 834 entries across 12 prize categories.

The NSW Premier’s Literary Awards are the country’s longest-standing and richest state-based literary awards. The Awards recognise the best Australian writers, including novelists, poets, playwrights, scriptwriters and authors of non-fiction and children’s books.

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Australia-India Relations Strengthened with New Initiatives and CAIR Headquarters in Parramatta

Penny Wong, Minister for Foreign Affairs unveils a plaque at the opening of the Centre for Australia-Indian Relations (CAIR) office in Parramatta on Monday 20th February 2024. In attendance are Indian High Commissioner to Australia, Gopal Baglay
Penny Wong, Minister for Foreign Affairs unveils a plaque at the opening of the Centre for Australia-Indian Relations (CAIR) office in Parramatta on Monday 20th February 2024. In attendance are Indian High Commissioner to Australia, Gopal Baglay

Federal Government has launched a new Centre for Australia-India Relations headquarters in Parramatta, along with several initiatives aimed at strengthening Australia’s ties with India.

The new headquarters will serve as a central hub for collaboration among government, business, academia, the cultural sector, and Indian-Australian communities. Supported by both the Australian and New South Wales Governments, the Centre aims to drive new partnership opportunities between the two nations.

Launch of Maitri Scholars and Fellowships

In a significant move, the recipients of the Centre’s inaugural Maitri Scholars and Fellowships programs were announced. Five Maitri Scholars from India will undertake PhDs on STEM research topics, including advanced manufacturing and clean energy solutions.

Additionally, seven Maitri Fellows will explore research projects on geostrategic and economic futures, focusing on maritime security, climate change response, secure supply chains, and regional cooperation.

Minister for Foreign Affairs, Penny Wong stated, “Working more closely with our Indian-Australian communities – our fastest growing diaspora – means we can better respond to a diverse and evolving India.”

Senator Penny Wong, Minister for Foreign Affairs attended the launch of the Centre for Australia-Indian Relations (CAIR) at Commbank Arena in Parramatta on Monday 20th February 2024.

“The Maitri Scholars and Fellows will also contribute to a broader and deeper understanding of the Australia-India relationship, our shared interests, and our shared challenges while fostering life-long connections.”

Economic Roadmap and Trade Initiatives

Recognising India’s trajectory to becoming the world’s third-largest economy by the end of the decade, the Australian Government is set to commence consultations on a future Australia-India economic roadmap. This initiative aims to build on the 2018 India Economic Strategy by Peter Varghese, focusing on key sectors to enhance bilateral economic ties. Additionally, Australia continues to negotiate a new free trade agreement with India, targeting greater market access in agriculture and manufacturing.

Don Farrell, Minister for Trade and Tourism said, “Trade with India is shaping up to be a big win for Australia. Since our government implemented a new trade deal with India, Australian businesses have seen a massive boost in exports.”

Don Farrell, Minister for Trade and Tourism attend the launch of the Centre for Australia-Indian Relations (CAIR) at Commbank Arena in Parramatta on Monday 20th February 2024.

“A new India economic roadmap will help us focus and accelerate our efforts to harness India’s growth and tap into the enormous trade and investment opportunities that will help us secure a future made in Australia.”

Expanded Australia India Business Exchange

Further bolstering the bilateral relationship, the Australian Government has allocated an additional $14.3 million in the recent budget to expand the Australia-India Business Exchange. Austrade will lead new business missions to India across sectors such as agri-food, education, technology, and energy resources, including critical minerals. The expanded program will also pilot business missions to Bangladesh and Sri Lanka to enhance trade across South Asia.

CEO and Director Network

To leverage the expertise of the Indian-Australian community, the Centre has announced the formation of the CEO and Director Network. This group of Indian-Australian corporate leaders will work to enhance understanding of India within the Australian business community.

Tim Thomas, CEO of the Centre for Australia-India Relations said, “The Centre for Australia-India Relations is excited to establish its headquarters in Parramatta, a thriving innovation ecosystem and an important focal point for the vibrant Indian-Australian community.”

Penny Wong, Minister for Foreign Affairs unveils a plaque at the opening of the Centre for Australia-Indian Relations (CAIR) office in Parramatta on Monday 20th February 2024. In attendance are Chair Swati Dave, CEO Tim Thomas and Indian High Commissioner to Australia, Gopal Baglay.

“The Centre has built strong momentum through our Maitri grants and stakeholder impact programs. The Centre will continue to galvanise Australian stakeholders to move on the tremendous opportunities that India’s growth presents.”

Public Participation and Future Steps

The Centre encourages public submissions for the new Australia-India economic roadmap, open until July 15, 2024. These submissions will help shape a comprehensive strategy to enhance bilateral economic and cultural ties.

As the relationship between Australia and India deepens, these initiatives and the establishment of the new Centre for Australia-India Relations signify a strong commitment to fostering mutual growth and understanding. This collaborative effort promises to unlock new opportunities and strengthen the bonds between the two nations, ensuring a prosperous future.

For more information on the inaugural Maitri Scholars and Fellows, visit the Centre for Australia-India Relations website.

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A Call for Cultural Dialogue on World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development

Image-Source-@CANVA
Image-Source-@CANVA

Today, May 21st, we commemorate the World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development, a day initiated by the United Nations and UNESCO to celebrate the rich tapestry of cultures that enrich our global society. This day serves as a reminder of the importance of fostering dialogue, understanding different perspectives, and building a peaceful and inclusive world.

The Significance of Cultural Diversity

Cultural diversity is the cornerstone of human civilisation, offering a kaleidoscope of traditions, languages, arts, and customs. It enriches societies, broadens horizons, and fosters innovation and creativity. By embracing diversity, we not only celebrate our differences but also recognise our shared humanity.

The theme of #DiversityDay underscores the need for dialogue and mutual respect among cultures. In an increasingly interconnected world, understanding and appreciating cultural diversity is vital for peaceful coexistence. Dialogue helps break down barriers, dispel stereotypes, and build bridges between communities.

The Indian Global Diaspora and Hindu Community: Challenges and Resilience

The Indian global diaspora and the Hindu community, spread across various continents, have contributed immensely to the cultural and economic landscapes of their host countries. However, they have also faced significant challenges, including discrimination and targeted attacks. These incidents underscore the pressing need for cultural understanding and protection of minority communities.

In recent years, there have been numerous reports of hate crimes and xenophobic attacks against members of the Indian diaspora and Hindu community in various parts of the world. These attacks are often fueled by misconceptions, prejudice, and a lack of understanding of cultural and religious practices. Such incidents not only cause physical harm but also create an atmosphere of fear and insecurity among the affected communities.

Promoting Dialogue and Understanding

Addressing these challenges requires a multifaceted approach that includes promoting dialogue, education, and community engagement. Governments, civil society organisations, and individuals all have a role to play in fostering a culture of respect and inclusion.

  1. Policy and Protection: Governments must enact and enforce laws that protect minority communities from hate crimes and discrimination. Strong legal frameworks and swift action against perpetrators can deter such incidents and provide a sense of security to vulnerable communities.
  2. Media Representation: Media plays a crucial role in shaping public perceptions. Positive representation of diverse cultures and communities in the media can help combat stereotypes and promote a more inclusive society.

The Way Forward

As we celebrate World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development, let us reaffirm our commitment to building a world where every culture is respected and valued. The Indian global diaspora and Hindu community, like many others, have faced challenges but continue to show resilience and strength.

By embracing cultural diversity and fostering dialogue, we can create societies that are not only more inclusive and peaceful but also more vibrant and dynamic. Let us work together to ensure that every individual, regardless of their cultural background, feels valued and respected.

On this #DiversityDay, let us pledge to celebrate our differences, promote understanding, and build a better world for all.

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‘Left-Wing Dictatorships vs Right-Wing Dictatorships’: A Modi test of Indian Democracy

Image: Narendra Modi, the Prime Minister of India, at an election rally (Source: X)

As India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to win a third term in the election that got underway on April 19, he often is reported to be evoking polarising opinions. Some hail him as a transformative leader, while his critics cry about his unverified authoritarian tendencies.

Remarkably, for many, Modi may embody the paradox of being a “good dictator” in the world’s largest democracy.

In my opinion, this characterisation often stems from Modi’s ability to implement decisive policies and reforms, bypassing bureaucratic inertia and political opposition, to achieve tangible progress for India.

One must be clear that the concept of labelling leaders as “dictators” or “fascists” often emanates from Leftist ideology, which tends to present right-wing or nationalist leaders as authoritarian. If you dare not to hop on the Leftist bandwagon, well, prepare to be stamped with the labels of “dictator” or “fascist” faster than you can blink!

Prof. Anand Ranganathan’s views on the Left’s “big lie” and the “hypocrisy of our saviours of Democracy” are essential listening for all.

One must also remember that it is truly the Left that puts an extensive emphasis on total government control and pushes for welfare programs that can lead to inefficiencies and excessive bureaucracy putting the reign in in the hands of few. Under the ruse of class struggle and redistribution of wealth, the Left tends to foster social divisions often leading to violence and instability.

In the case of Modi, fear left-wing authoritarianism pseudo-intellectuals argue that his policies and governance style undermine secularism, suppress dissent, and centralise power, thereby fitting their criteria for authoritarianism. It’s surprising, but a lot of these really ‘big lies’ actually end up working as these narratives are pushed through the a system of set anti-India channels.

However, one can clearly see that in a country like India, this interpretation can be overly simplistic and sometimes ignores the broader context of such leadership. In fact, earlier this year, Pew Research conducted a survey to test two authoritarian models of government: a system in which a strong leader can make decisions without interference from parliament or the courts (“authoritarian leader”) and a system in which the military rules the country (“military rule”).

The survey showed that 85% of people in India supported rule by a strong leader for good governance with 79% of Indians having a positive opinion about Modi. Despite overwhelming support for autocracy and technocracy, a total of 72% of Indian respondents said that they are satisfied with how democracy is working in their country.

So, it is up to the voters to essentially distinguish between genuine authoritarianism and good governance aimed at implementing necessary reforms in complex, diverse societies like India.

Modi’s political journey is a remarkable tale of perseverance, strategic acumen and good governance. Rising through the ranks, he became the Chief Minister of Gujarat in 2001, a position he held for over a decade, transforming the state into an economic powerhouse. In 2014, Modi led the BJP to a historic victory in the national elections, becoming the Prime Minister of India. And then re-elected in 2019 with an even larger mandate, Modi continues to be a dominant force in Indian politics, championing his vision of a ‘New India’.

Modi’s knowledge of the rural-urban divide, oratory skills and confident demeanour have significantly contributed to his widespread appeal. He is well-known for his strategic acumen and has successfully cultivated an image of a self-made leader, rising from humble beginnings as a chai-wallah (tea seller) to become the Prime Minister. This narrative of self-reliance and determination appeals to many Indians espe

Domestically, one of the clear hallmarks of Modi’s tenure as Prime Minister has been his commitment to internal economic reforms, digital innovation, the rapid expansion of the highway network, modernisation of railways, modernisation of medical and educational research facilities, development of smart cities, fast-tracking large-scale infrastructure projects, enacting broad social welfare schemes, initiatives to tackle climate change, and delivering clean energy, all testaments to his good governance capability.

However, Modi’s governance style has drawn criticism for its so-called authoritarian undertones, especially with the abrogation of Article 370, the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the National Register of Citizens (NRC). Despite these controversies, Modi’s governance has yielded positive outcomes, contributing to his reputation as a “good dictator.”

His ability to implement decisive policies in favour of India effectively, often in the face of substantial opposition from both local and global anti-India forces, sets him apart as a leader who can navigate the complexities of the world’s largest democracy while pushing through significant and much-needed reforms.

Internationally, India’s foreign policy under Modi has emphasised South-South cooperation, leveraging India’s growing economic and technological capabilities to foster partnerships across Asia, Africa, and Latin America, global clean energy alliances, infrastructure development aid, counter-terrorism initiatives to her regional stability, and proactive engagement in forums such as QUAD, BRICS, and the G20 to amplify and advocate for more equitable balanced global governance.

Further, addressing issues like global climate change, trade imbalances, access to innovative technology, focus on strengthening external strategic and diplomatic position, and pushing for global reforms leveraging India’s stature as leader of Global South are testaments to his vision as a leader of Global South.

It was no surprise that during a major public event in Sydney in May 2023, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese called Modi “the boss.”

This remark was not just a gesture of mateship or dosti between the two nations but a recognition of Modi’s impactful governance and his role in strengthening India’s international partnerships. Albanese’s comment underscores the robust relationship between India and Australia and acknowledges Modi’s stature as a formidable and respected leader of Global South in the international arena.

Post-2024, as India continues to evolve, the balance between democratic principles and decisive leadership will remain a critical aspect of Modi’s legacy. Modi may exemplify the paradox of a “good dictator” to his critics within the framework of the world’s largest democracy and Leftist ideology which tend to stifle growth, innovation and freedom.

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Our research shows what the rental market is really like for international students

International Students: Image Source @CANVA
International Students: Image Source @CANVA

By Hannah Soong and Guanglun Michael Mu

International students have come under fire from both sides of federal politics in the past week.

The Albanese government introduced legislation to parliament last Thursday to put caps on the number of international students each institution can enrol. In his budget speech, Treasurer Jim Chalmers said “[international student] enrolments have grown without being matched by an increase in student housing supply”.

This puts pressure on prices and rents, especially in our cities and suburbs. It makes finding housing harder for every one.

International Students: Image Source @CANVA
International Students: Image Source @CANVA

In his budget reply speech, Opposition Leader Peter Dutton said the Coalition wants to cut the number of international students:

we will reduce excessive numbers of foreign students studying at metropolitan universities to relieve stress on rental markets in our major cities.

But is this fair? Our research shows international students are finding it stressful and difficult to secure accommodation. And the largest proportion is already in purpose-built housing.

Students unfairly blamed

The housing debate often misses what international students bring to Australia. International education is one of Australia’s top exports and was worth A$47.8 billion in 2023.

Last month, a Property Council of Australia report also found “international students are not the cause of the housing crisis”.

The report showed international students only make up 4% of the rental market in Australia. It points out rents started rising in 2020 during COVID “when there was no international student migration and most students had returned home”.

International Students: Image Source @CANVA
International Students: Image Source @CANVA

Our research

We have been researching the experiences of international students in South Australia. As part of a broader 2023 study, we surveyed 1,372 international students about their wellbeing, community engagement and housing situation. We also did follow up interviews with 16 students.

Students in the survey came from 142 countries and regions. Asia was the top source region with 38% of respondents, followed by Europe and Africa.

Respondents were studying at 27 institutions in South Australia. More than half of our sample were university students, but respondents were also studying at TAFE and private colleges.

Here we report our findings about housing.

Where are students living?

The biggest proportion of students in our study (25.5%) lived in the Adelaide CBD, of which 56% lived in student accommodation.

Students were then dispersed across the suburbs. The next biggest proportion of students in any given suburb was 2.2%.

Student accommodation was the most common type of housing for all students we surveyed (20.7%), followed by living in a shared house with a private bedroom (19.6%) and sharing a bedroom (13.2%).

Less than 1% of respondents lived alone and 2.5% lived in a property they or a family member owned.

This shows international students tend to live in the CBD and in student accommodation or shared houses or bedrooms. Many locals would not consider these types of housing suitable. So it is very difficult to see how they are driving up entire metropolitan housing markets.

International Students: Image Source @CANVA
International Students: Image Source @CANVA

How hard it is to find somewhere?

It is not as though international students are finding it easy to secure a place to live, either.

Students in our study reported finding suitable accommodation was one of the top three challenges undermining their life experience in South Australia (along with overall financial security and making local friends).

They told us how they often had little choice over where to live because they did not have a rental history or proper source of income. For example, a social work student from China was looking for a new place to rent but felt hopeless. She said she had sent out up to 40 applications but had no response.

We don’t have a renting record in South Australia and I don’t have a full-time job […] Lots of the [real estate] agents wouldn’t really want us […].

For many students, student accommodation was the only thing available, which they described as “very expensive” and “very compact”. One Sri Lankan student studying for a PhD in computing explained:

They are not going to give me a place […] the student accommodation was my only option. That’s why I chose it even though it’s quite costly.

Another Taiwanese student studying computing and information systems told us they had just A$150 to spend per month on food because the cost of student accommodation was so high.

What next?

Our research shows international students in South Australia are finding it expensive, difficult and stressful to secure a place to live while they are studying.

This suggests they are experiencing the problems of Australia’s housing crisis. But it does not indicate they are causing it.

We also need to be careful simply thinking more student accommodation will fix this issue. It does not address the problem of housing affordability and it does not help international students interact with their local communities in Australia.

It is also worrying to see international students blamed for a very complex problem, which experts acknowledge has multiple causes, of which overall migration is only a “relatively small part”.

And we should not forget Australia has labour shortages in civil engineering and construction.

So international students could be part of the solution to housing shortages, rather than mistakenly being blamed as the cause.

Hannah Soong, Senior Lecturer and Socio-cultural researcher, UniSA Education Futures, University of South Australia and Guanglun Michael Mu, Associate Professor and Enterprise Fellow, University of South Australia

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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India, Australia, Indonesia trilateral maritime security workshop: Strengthening regional collaboration

Image Source: PIB
Image Source: PIB

The second edition of the India, Australia and Indonesia Trilateral Maritime Security Workshop (TMSW) concluded on Friday, highlighting the ongoing maritime security challenges and exploring collaborative opportunities among the three naval neighbours in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR).

The workshop, held from May 15 to 17 at INS Dronacharya in Kochi, India, brought together key naval delegates to discuss and strategise on enhancing regional maritime security.

Image Source: PIB
Image Source: PIB

The theme of this year’s workshop was “Indian Ocean Region: Collaborative Efforts to Enhance Regional Maritime Security.”

This theme was carefully chosen to address the current maritime security challenges and identify avenues for increased cooperation among India, Australia, and Indonesia. According to a press release by the Ministry of Defence, the workshop aimed to foster dialogue and build a framework for sustained maritime security collaboration.

Image Source: PIB
Image Source: PIB

Key Participants and Leadership

The workshop was conducted under the aegis of the Headquarters Southern Naval Command and saw participation from high-ranking officials from the three nations’ navies.

Rear Admiral Nirbhay Bapna, Assistant Chief of Naval Staff (Foreign Cooperation and Intelligence) of the Indian Navy, presided over the workshop. He was joined by Commodore Paul O’Grady, Commodore Flotillas from the Royal Australian Navy, and First Admiral Heri Triwibowo, Assistant for Operations to the Commander-in-Chief of the Indonesian Fleet Command.

Over the three days, the workshop facilitated extensive discussions on a broad range of topics pertinent to maritime security in the IOR.

Image Source: PIB
Image Source: PIB

Key issues included:

  • Information Exchange Mechanisms and Capabilities: Enhancing the capabilities of the Information Fusion Centre – Indian Ocean Region (IFC-IOR) to ensure better sharing of maritime data and intelligence.
  • Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA): Improving surveillance and understanding of maritime activities to maintain security and stability in the region.
  • Non-traditional and Illicit Maritime Activities: Addressing challenges such as piracy, smuggling, and human trafficking.
  • Maritime Law Enforcement: Strengthening legal frameworks and cooperation for effective maritime governance.
  • Capability Enhancement and Capacity Building: Sharing best practices and resources to build stronger maritime forces.
  • Interoperability and Cooperation: Developing protocols and exercises to improve joint operational capabilities.
Image Source: PIB
Image Source: PIB

Special Addresses and Visits

The workshop also featured insightful talks from senior Indian naval officers, including Rear Admiral Upal Kundu, Chief of Staff, Headquarters Southern Naval Command, and Rear Admiral Susheel Menon, Flag Officer Sea Training. Their addresses provided valuable perspectives on the strategic importance of the IOR and the need for cohesive maritime security efforts.

To complement the discussions, delegates from the Australian and Indonesian navies visited various Indian naval training facilities in Kochi and the Cochin Shipyard Limited. These visits aimed to showcase India’s maritime capabilities and explore further opportunities for technical and operational cooperation.

The second edition of the Trilateral Maritime Security Workshop reaffirmed the commitment of India, Australia, and Indonesia to strengthening maritime security in the Indian Ocean Region. The workshop laid the groundwork for enhanced regional cooperation by addressing current challenges and identifying collaborative opportunities.

The ongoing dialogue and shared initiatives among these three maritime neighbours are expected to be pivotal in maintaining peace, stability, and security in the IOR.

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“He will not disappoint you!”: Rahul Gandhi – the unfulfilled promise of Indian politics

Image: Rahul Gnadhi at an election rally (Source - X)

Recently, Indian National Congress (INC) leader Sonia Gandhi pleaded with the voters from Raebareli in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, a Gandhi family borough, to vote for her son the Rahul Gandhi.

Sonia Gandhi said: “I am handing over my son to you. Just as you made me yours, please treat him as one of your own. He will not disappoint you!”

Rahul entered politics in 2004 as a Member of Parliament (MP) from Amethi, another a traditional stronghold for his family, with a substantial margin. In 2009 and 2014, he was re-elected from Amethi. However, in 2019, Rahul lost Amethi to Smriti Irani and won Wayanad in Kerala.

Taking a dig Prime Minister Narendra Modi said Rahul who lost Amethi will lose Raebareli too in the ongoing polls: “They have gone from Amethi and will go even from Rae Bareli.”

While PM Modi is expected to win a third term in the election that got underway on April 19 and concludes on June 1, Rahul Gandh’s political journey since in 2004 has been of great anticipation and persistent disappointment.

Image: Rahul Gandhi filing his nomination for Raebareli (Source: KC Venugopal – X)

As the heir to the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty, despite such a long journey of nearly two decades in the political arena, Rahul has struggled to connect with the Indian masses and solidify his role as a decisive political leader within the Congress party. A clear case of indecisiveness is Rahul filing nomination from Wayanad – “Wayanad is my home, and the people of Wayanad are my family” – as well as Raebareli – “My mother (Sonia Gandhi) has handed over the family’s work to me with great trust and has given me the opportunity to serve it.”

Political pundits beleive Rahul’s lineage is both his greatest asset and his heaviest burden. This heritage has placed Rahul under pressure to perform at an extraordinary level. Comparisons with his late grandmother Indira Gandhi and father Rajiv Gandhi, have often overshadowed his individual efforts.

Additionally, one of the most glaring issues with Rahul’s leadership has been his inability to present a consistent and clear vision for India’s future thus highlighting his lack of governance expertise. His fragmented vision, incoherent speeches, lack of any constructive alternative, and no long-term political strategy make him come across as reactive rather than proactive thus not enough to entice the voters.

It is not a mystery that world over effective leaders often build their base from the ground up, engaging deeply with grassroots movements and understanding the day-to-day issues faced by ordinary citizens. Rahul’s political activities have frequently been criticized for being sporadic and lacking in-depth engagement and almost no authentic conversations with the grassroots.

Unlike Modi, his brief and often superficial interactions with the people fail to establish a sense of awe and a genuine connection, which is crucial for earning the trust and support of voters. No doubt, Modi’s knowledge of rural-urban divide, oratory skills and confident demeanour have significantly contributed to his widespread appeal as opposed to Rahul’s speeches which are characterised by a lack of substance, passion and conviction needed to inspire the masses.

At least Rahul should listen to his own advice: “True power comes from connecting with people, listening deeply to what they’re saying, and being kind to yourself.”

Despite his tokenistic rather than substantive attempts to project a more relatable and humbler image, foreign-educated Rahul continues to be perceived as an elitist dynast disconnected from the realities of the common Indian. In Indian politics, rather than foreign degree a person’s charisma plays a vital role. For instance, Modi, is known for his strategic acumen, has successfully cultivated an image of a self-made leader, rising from humble beginnings as a tea seller to become the Prime Minister. This narrative of self-reliance and determination appeals to many Indians especially the great Indian middle-class.

It would be an understatement to say that Rahul’s journey in politics has been a saga of unfulfilled promise. He must understand a simple fact of any leadership: either he wants to be a political leader or wants to keep pretending to be a political leader!

Looking like Karl Marx and advocating for wealth redistribution while failing to create anything, wandering the country like Don Quixote under the grand illusion of slaying hatred while actually spreading discontent, and pretending to be Mahatma Gandhi without any genuine spiritual growth won’t help in the ongoing struggle to reclaim the party’s historical prominence.

Image: Rahul Gandhi and PM Narendra Modi

To fight a man of the people like Narendra Modi, Rahul Gandhi would need to address all his shortcomings, get better advisers, learn leadership mantras, and build a stronger relatable connection with the Indian populace. Only by doing so can he hope to resonate with the hearts of the Indian people and carve out a lasting legacy in Indian politics.

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Menopause can bring increased cholesterol levels and other heart risks; Here’s why and what to do about it

Menopause can bring increased cholesterol levels and risks of heart attack; Image Source @CANVA
Menopause can bring increased cholesterol levels and risks of heart attack; Image Source @CANVA

By Treasure McGuire

Menopause is a natural biological process that marks the end of a woman’s reproductive years, typically between 45 and 55. As women approach or experience menopause, common “change of life” concerns include hot flushes, sweats and mood swings, brain fog and fatigue.

However many women may not be aware of the long-term effects of menopause on the heart and blood vessels that make up the cardiovascular system. Heart disease accounts for 35% of deaths in women each year – more than all cancers combined.

Menopause can bring increased cholesterol levels and risks of heart attack; Image Source @CANVA
Menopause can bring increased cholesterol levels and risks of heart attack; Image Source @CANVA

What should women – and their doctors – know about these risks?

Hormones protect hearts – until they don’t

As early as 1976, the Framingham Heart Study reported more than twice the rates of cardiovascular events in postmenopausal than pre-menopausal women of the same age. Early menopause (younger than age 40) also increases heart risk.

Before menopause, women tend to be protected by their circulating hormones: oestrogen, to a lesser extent progesterone and low levels of testosterone.

These sex hormones help to relax and dilate blood vessels, reduce inflammation and improve lipid (cholesterol) levels. From the mid-40s, a decline in these hormone levels can contribute to unfavourable changes in cholesterol levels, blood pressure and weight gain – all risk factors for heart disease.

Menopause can bring increased cholesterol levels and risks of heart attack; Image Source @CANVA
Menopause can bring increased cholesterol levels and risks of heart attack; Image Source @CANVA

4 ways hormone changes impact heart risk

1. Dyslipidaemia– Menopause often involves atherogenic changes – an unhealthy imbalance of lipids in the blood, with higher levels of total cholesterol, triglycerides, and low-density lipoprotein (LDL-C), dubbed the “bad” cholesterol. There are also reduced levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL-C) – the “good” cholesterol that helps remove LDL-C from blood. These changes are a major risk factor for heart attack or stroke.

2. Hypertension – Declines in oestrogen and progesterone levels during menopause contribute to the narrowing of the large blood vessels on the heart’s surface, arterial stiffness and raise blood pressure.

3. Weight gain – Females are born with one to two million eggs, which develop in follicles. By the time they stop ovulating in midlife, fewer than 1,000 remain. This depletion progressively changes fat distribution and storage, from the hips to the waist and abdomen. Increased waist circumference (greater than 80–88 cm) has been reported to contribute to heart risk – though it is not the only factor to consider.

4. Comorbidities – Changes in body composition, sex hormone decline, increased food consumption, weight gain and sedentary lifestyles impair the body’s ability to effectively use insulin. This increases the risk of developing metabolic syndromes such as type 2 diabetes.

While risk factors apply to both genders, hypertension, smoking, obesity and type 2 diabetes confer a greater relative risk for heart disease in women.

So, what can women do?

Every woman has a different level of baseline cardiovascular and metabolic risk pre-menopause. This is based on their genetics and family history, diet, and lifestyle. But all women can reduce their post-menopause heart risk with:

  • regular moderate-intensity exercise such as brisk walking, pushing a lawn mower, riding a bike or water aerobics for 30 minutes, four or five times every week
  • a healthy heart diet with smaller portion sizes (try using a smaller plate or bowl) and more low-calorie, nutrient-rich foods such as vegetables, fruit and whole grains
  • plant sterols (unrefined vegetable oil spreads, nuts, seeds and grains) each day. A review of 14 clinical trials found plant sterols, at doses of at least 2 grams a day, produced an average reduction in serum LDL-C (bad cholesterol) of about 9–14%. This could reduce the risk of heart disease by 25% in two years
  • less unhealthy (saturated or trans) fats and more low-fat protein sources (lean meat, poultry, fish – especially oily fish high in omega-3 fatty acids), legumes and low-fat dairy
  • less high-calorie, high-sodium foods such as processed or fast foods
  • a reduction or cessation of smoking (nicotine or cannabis) and alcohol
  • weight-gain management or prevention.
Exercise can reduce post-menopause heart disease risk; Image Source: @CANVA

What about hormone therapy medications?

Hormone therapy remains the most effective means of managing hot flushes and night sweats and is beneficial for slowing the loss of bone mineral density.

The decision to recommend oestrogen alone or a combination of oestrogen plus progesterone hormone therapy depends on whether a woman has had a hysterectomy or not. The choice also depends on whether the hormone therapy benefit outweighs the woman’s disease risks. Where symptoms are bothersome, hormone therapy has favourable or neutral effects on coronary heart disease risk and medication risks are low for healthy women younger than 60 or within ten years of menopause.

Depending on the level of stroke or heart risk and the response to lifestyle strategies, some women may also require medication management to control high blood pressure or elevated cholesterol levels. Up until the early 2000s, women were under-represented in most outcome trials with lipid-lowering medicines.

The Cholesterol Treatment Trialists’ Collaboration analysed 27 clinical trials of statins (medications commonly prescribed to lower cholesterol) with a total of 174,000 participants, of whom 27% were women. Statins were about as effective in women and men who had similar risk of heart disease in preventing events such as stroke and heart attack.

Every woman approaching menopause should ask their GP for a 20-minute Heart Health Check to help better understand their risk of a heart attack or stroke and get tailored strategies to reduce it.

Treasure McGuire, Assistant Director of Pharmacy, Mater Health SEQ in conjoint appointment as Associate Professor of Pharmacology, Bond University and as Associate Professor (Clinical), The University of Queensland

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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Untold Tale of Delhi’s Elite Dinner Party and Sparking Social Transformation of India

A 1960's dinner party in New Delhi featuring Indian political and social elites; Image Source: @Canva AI generated
A 1960's dinner party in New Delhi featuring Indian political and social elites; Image Source: @Canva AI generated

By Nandini

In the early 1980s, a Delhi dinner party unfolded, hosted by a socialite of some lineage known for assembling a captivating mix of beautiful individuals, the influential, the well-connected and an occasional fixer.

The guest list was restricted to the seating capacity of the dining table and the comfort of shared backgrounds in schools, universities, clubs, and even intertwined familial histories.

Amidst the smooth flow of scotch and conversation, the hostess revealed the coup of securing the latest sensation of the city to join them, despite his hectic schedule. His mere mention sparked a flurry of anecdotes among the dozen guests, each eager to demonstrate their proximity to the esteemed figure.

It was not rare to see a hand-loom saree with a big red tikka among the georgettes and chiffons then. However, it was not often yet to see public school boys, Oxford, Cambridge and Ivy League alumni in kurta pyjamas and pashminas draped in a style soon made cool by a young prime minister. 

When the eminent figure finally made his entrance, his hair coiffed and styled in the way of classical musicians, his angharka kurta way down to show only six inches of churidar, a portly dachshund came to mind as he made his way across the Persian Isfahan.

Plopping himself on a sofa and pushing his hair back with a flourish he regaled his select audience with tales of managing demands from ministers, their spouses, and the social elite, all clamouring for his attention and advice on various matters. Oh! The burdens of his illustrious position!

And then he had ‘these’ people to deal with too! Who had no concept of timelines, cost estimates, or new designs but the exceptional talent that he had been tasked to channelise and promote? 

The guests indulged his vanity, affirming his irreplaceable role and responsibility.

To the server who offered him a drink he said, “Unko bhi kitchen main bulalo, kuch khane peene ke liye dedo.”

To the hostess, “They, this weaver family, have a late train to catch to Indore. My driver will drop them off shortly at the station.”

“O call them! Call them in, we want to meet these weavers,” said the hostess and the others chimed in as well. 

Standing before the guests was a family of five. The patriarch in his best kurta and dhoti that had seen better days, folded his hands; his wife’s head covered, cheery but shy and their two sons also weavers, stood respectfully alongside. 

A boy of not more than nine held on to his grandmother’s hand. His feet still not so calloused felt the softness of the silk beneath. He wriggled his toes with great pleasure, fascinated by the weave, his eyes darted everywhere, absorbing everything! Looking up at the crystal chandelier he exclaimed “Itnee rosh-neee!”

Everyone tittered!

“Bacche ne sirf ghaslate ki laltain dekhi hai,” said the younger man, his father. 

They had brought the boy along so that the mother could look after the other children and spend a few hours on the looms too.

“Bade ho kar sundar sundar sareeya banooge?”

Looking directly he responded “Dukaan chaloonga ya Fauji bannunga!”

Then standing erect and at attention he declared “Mera mama fauji hai Kashmir main.”

The guests posed their questions in a pitch notably higher than the norm, seemingly unaware that the individuals they addressed weren’t hard of hearing, but rather unacquainted with the nuances of their anglicized Hindi.

“Dilli kaise laga? Abhi toh tum France-America jaane wale ho!”

“Bhagwan ki daya se mauka mila hai ! Desh ka naam roshan karenge!”

What did he know beyond his village? they thought. 

“Aapke toh bhagwan yeh hain.” pointed a guest to the man who had brought them for viewing.

In due course, the Exhibits were ushered out to the kitchen and later generously dropped off at the railway station. 

At dinner, around an impeccably laid table that filled one’s sensibility with abundance the hostess proclaimed that only chaos and uncertainty that comes with poverty can produce beauty.

After all didn’t the great Masters of Europe live in lofts, count their precious pennies, and live on the benevolence of others to create their masterpieces?  

If only if there were more creature comforts available, she would have loved to spend a little time in an un-regimented rural environment all the while glaring at the new help who momentarily forgot that service is always from the left. 

“Actually, said another guest “their day aligns with the Sun, with Nature. One wakes up at dawn to make the most of natural light. Siesta to escape the blazing heat with a few hours of toil again till dusk. No electricity, no entertainment so one turns in early for the next morning.”

They rolled their eyes and thought it better to enjoy their Nihari!

Except for one person present who was affected differently by the course the evening took.

It struck him, that standing in the midst of their world on that carpet, illuminated by the overhead crystal chandelier was The Future. 

The most unexpected people would drive it. He saw it in the eyes of the nine-year-old and wondered if his social class, his peers, were ready for that change.

~The change of governments in Delhi between 1980 and 2014 did not result in any major changes in the social class that constituted Delhi’s power elite. It was a revolving door like in pre-Trump Washington – one set of friends went in, and another set went out ~ Sanjaya Baru’s India’s Power Elite – Class, Caste, and a Cultural Revolution.

*******

In 2016, his granddaughter found her way to the weaver family’s big and reputable store of Maheshwari and Chanderi sarees and fabrics in Indore. 

That nine-year-old today ran the business with clients from all over the world while his younger brother had joined the army. 

He laughed. “Main paise kamata hoon. Woh desh ki rakhwali karta hai. Aur yahan baithe hummay saray desh ki khabbar mil jaati hai!”

His daughter, looked after the export section. “Acchi angrezi bol leti hai,” he smiled proudly.

I remember your grandfather he told the young woman. 

It was an interaction of just a few moments, but I remember thinking at that time even as a small boy, that this man is interested in me, my family. I liked him!

Pointing to a very pretty hand carved Mandir in his office he said, “The right opportunity, hard work and His guidance has brought us here!”

~You and I belong to a generation Karan, that grew up in an environment that we were not only conscious of our caste, but we were not even conscious of our religion~ Sanjaya Baru in an interview with Karan Thapar, discussing his book, India’s Power Elite – Class, Caste, and a Cultural Revolution.

And then went on to say with much disappointment in the same interview.

~Narendra Modi having conquered Delhi has not only replaced Lutyens’s Delhi but has rejected it! This is Bharat coming to the top and remaining Bharat!~ 

“So come and join us for dinner this evening”, said the saree shop owner.

“It will be a pleasure! I will ask the boys to pull down the shutters today to make it in time to see you at Yeshwant Club”.

At her poorly concealed surprise he said, “The children insisted I applied for membership, and they gave it to me”… somewhat surprised himself.

~This is a class that prefers to eat with the hand and does not quite understand the different purposes of a fork and spoon… when you go to a restaurant ,very fancy restaurant and you see these young people who don’t know what to do with a fork when there is a spoon but they are very confident there and that’s the difference from again my generation.

Very few people with that kind of a background would have felt comfortable then but today there’s tremendous self confidence in the new aspirational India~ Sanjaya Baru in an interview with Karan Thapar, discussing his book, India’s Power Elite – Class, Caste and a Cultural Revolution.

So how did the Sanjay Barus and others like him who have walked the corridors of power and were very much a part of the establishment miss the coming of the storm which had been brewing slowly and surely for a while?

~The India I belonged to the 60’s -70’s generation grew up with universal values. We identified with the war in Vietnam, academic freedom in American campuses. We were in many ways very global in our concerns~ Sanjaya Baru in an interview with Karan Thapar, discussing his book, India’s Power Elite – Class, Caste, and a Cultural Revolution.

Perhaps because PLT (People Like Them) looked far away to America and did not pay heed or get a sense of events closer home during the same period! Of the humiliation of the ordinary Indian in the Indo-China War of 1962 or the fervour of patriotism of the Indo-Pak Wars of 1965 and 1971.

In the same book, Baru quotes the former British Prime Minister probably missing the irony…

~Today too many people in positions of power behave as they have a lot more in common with international elites than with people down the street. But if you believe you are a citizen of the world you are a citizen of nowhere~

Hence this entire ecosystem so entrenched, looking for global validation did not imagine even in their wildest dreams that the man on the street who they had kept defeated and beaten with the business of life, deviously divided by caste and region, brainwashed with whitewashed history could actually have ideas of his own. 

Every sporting event, every Padma award that recognises the ordinary Indian doing extraordinary work, every terror attack, incursion on the border touches a million hearth and home. 

Every victory, snub, every tragedy, homecoming, proudly walking or draped in a flag carried by pallbearers (case in point being the spontaneous outpouring of grief in Tamil Nadu for CDS Bipin Rawat of Uttrakhand) ties this extensive, far-reaching family together.

~This govt is pushing for greater levels of homogeneity that is dangerous for this country.

We are essentially a momentary coalition of unfriendly tribes put together under one flag~  Dilip Cherian says in an interview to The Statesman

He goes on to say –

~India functions best when there is a semi messy situation. Coalitions work better for India. Simply because we are a coalition polity~

Yes, perhaps ‘coalitions work better’ for wheeler-dealers who take advantage of numerous power centres as was revealed to us in the Radia tapes and the enormous corruption it allowed in the name of ‘coalition dharma’.

And more, it exposes yet again a shocking illiteracy when it comes to reading one’s own countrymen and women! 

If nothing else the election of 2014 was a complete rejection of coalition governments by the Indian people and then the message was drummed in even harder in 2019!

The question is – Will they finally get it in 2024?

~Intellectuals may like to think of themselves as people who “speak truth to power” but too often they are people who speak lies to gain power~ Thomas Sowell

Bharat has rendered this lot irrelevant and marches ahead irrespective!

But what of politicians whose entire life and political existence depend on their surname and the advice of such people? 

For them, 2024 will be a reckoning. Without their inherited privilege and echo chambers, they will be left grasping at straws, facing the harsh reality that legacy and sycophancy won’t save them from obsolescence.

Author: Nandini Bahri Dhanda is an Interior Architect. She has lived across sixteen states in India & travelled all over the world. Her interest in art, culture, history politics & above all a passion for communicating & chatting with people across the board, finds her voice in her blog.

Disclaimer: The review was first published on her blogspot, We have republished it with kind permission from the author. You can read the original copy at https://nandinibahri-dhanda.blogspot.com

Follow her on Twitter @NAN_DINI_

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The Man from the Room on the Roof – Peerless Journey of Ruskin Bond

Image: [LEFT] Sahitya Akademi President Madhav Kaushik and Secretary K. Sreenivasarao presenting Ruskin Bond with the Sahitya Akademi Fellowship (Source: Supplied) / [Right] Ruskin Bond (Source: https://www.ruskinbond.in/about-us)

By K. Sreenivasarao

Over the past two thousand years or so, the world has witnessed countless writers in all the languages of the world – some imperious in appearance and gigantic in impact, some soft and almost undetectable yet touching the hearts of millions, some masterfully narrating the tales of all kinds, some with the twist in the tails of their stories and yet others mysterious in appearance as well as in operation.

The world of humans has been enriched by each variety and our lives would have been barren had it not been there. More often than not, majority cannot put into words or share the most intimate experiences that one goes through, leave alone weaving wonderful tales.

Image: Ruskin Bond (Source: https://www.ruskinbond.in/about-us)

One of the best storytellers of modern times and a legendary author in the Indian storytelling tradition is Ruskin Bond. He captivated generations of literary lovers with his stories laced with his love of Nature. His stories continue to energise the younger generation. At a time when Earth is slowly marching towards the massive sixth extinction, there is plenty of wisdom to be derived from his writings. It is no wonder, that his writings are largely based on a Himalayan setting, away from the hustle and bustle of city life.

But, to limit an extraordinary storyteller like Ruskin Bond to a single frame will be an unfortunate limitation that a critic imposes on oneself. Ruskin Bond crosses generic boundaries and is beyond limitations. Of course, the Himalayan landscape inspired him to great extent as they would inspire any nature lover.

The background may be a constant but stories of Ruskin Bond explore diverse themes. He was like a wonderful magician who sits in a palace with a single-window but unveils a different world whenever the window is opened. In this respect, he is akin to other master storytellers from many Indian languages who constantly write stories of middle-class families, enthralling and mesmerizing his readers with the unfolding of human drama, that is the same across the world in diverse circumstances.

Image: Notable books of Ruskin Bond

Beyond all tags and categorizations, Ruskin Bond is a humanist par excellence. Be it rural life or joys of childhood or the connection between man and Nature – whatever the themes or thoughts that each story of Ruskin Bond deals with,  the human being is at the center, driving home the point that one needs to explore human life in all its glory, triumphs and travails of humanity.

So, Ruskin Bond, his imaginative world, his stories and the lifelong relationship he is having with rural folks – all these are beyond mere love of Nature. And we are blessed to be living at the same time as Ruskin Bond, sharing his world and breathing the same air.

The unflinching fortitude of Nature underpins Ruskin Bond’s writings, that also reflects in his deep reverence for Nature and environment. Nature is a source of inspiration for Bond from which he actively churns out narratives and discourses for environmental conservation, emphasizing the importance of preserving the natural world for future generations. If there is one writer who has understood Sustainable Living and Sustainable Development and all that they entail, it is Ruskin Bond.

Apart from transporting readers to different worlds, the stories of Ruskin Bond also have an additional social role. His writings reverberate with a soothing touch for troubled souls while also conjuring aesthetic delight in the hearts of such readers. This kind of mesmerizing effect can be seen only in a handful of writers and I would not hesitate to put Ruskin Bond on top of that list.

Image: Sahitya Akademi President Madhav Kaushik and Secretary K. Sreenivasarao presenting Ruskin Bond with the Sahitya Akademi Fellowship (Source: Supplied)

I had the good fortune of corresponding with this writer of such a towering stature for about a decade. Recently, I also had the privilege of meeting him in person and spending some time with him during the Sahitya Akademi investiture ceremony at his home in Mussoorie. I was swept away by his absolute simplicity, a complete absence of any pretense whatsoever.

Despite his Himalayan accomplishments and the accolades he has received over seven decades, creator of Rusty, he remains a loving, affable and friendly person. Name and fame have not managed to penetrate his head. It is not very often do we get to see that and experience bliss in someone’s presence, which explains why he enjoys such a mass adulation.

Image: Ruskin Bond (Source: Facebook)

So, what kind of writer Ruskin Bond is? I mentioned a variety of writers and personalities at the beginning of this article. He is a mesmerizer and amalgamation of all the writer types I mentioned. He is mysterious to mystery seeking, imperious to awe struck, soft to readers who seek romantic tales etc. Not rooted in any ideological certitude, Bond is a writer who celebrates and promotes humanism. I see him as a gentle colossus creative writer and, we will be failing in our life if we don’t pause for a while to appreciate and laud this gentle genius for his momentous contribution to Indian Writing in English, which is also available in a gamut of Indian languages. Life and posterity will be kind to us then.

Contributing Author: Dr K. Sreenivasarao is the Secretary of Sahitya Akademi and is a writer. He can be reached at secretary@sahitya-akademi.gov.in

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Reunification of Kashmir: India’s path to righting the wrongs of history

Image: Kashmir (Soure - Aditya Raj Kaul - X)

As 4.5 million people in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), often considered third-class citizens in mainland Pakistan, fight for their independence, the mainstream media’s silence is alarming.

Recently, India’s External Affairs Minister Dr S. Jaishankar responded to the ongoing unrest in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, underscoring the contrasting experiences between the residents there and those in Jammu and Kashmir.

“Today, there are certain ferments happening in PoK. The analysis of it is very complex but definitely I have no doubt in my own mind that someone living in PoK is comparing their situation with someone living in Jammu and Kashmir and seeing how people there are progressing nowadays. They know the sense of being under occupation or being discriminated or treated badly,” Dr Jaishankar said.

Dr Jaishankar further hinted that the integration of PoK into India is part two of the series after the removal of Art 370: “Till Art 370 was there, nobody talked about PoK. We are talking about it only after its historical removal…There is a parliament resolution, all parties of this country are committed. POK is part of India, It is our national commitment.”

The question that arises with these recent incidents and comments: is it time for India to legally reclaim Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) and reunite the region under Indian governance, in the interest of peace, stability, and justice for all Kashmiris?

In 1947, when British India was partitioned into India and Pakistan, the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir was given the option to accede to either India or Pakistan. Maharaja Hari Singh, the ruler of Jammu and Kashmir at the time, chose to accede to India, leading to the first Indo-Pakistani war. However, Pakistan subsequently invaded Kashmir, leading to the division of the region along the Line of Control (LoC), with Pakistan occupying a significant portion of Kashmir, known as PoK and Gilgit-Baltistan. Since then, Pakistan has maintained its grip on PoK through military force and political manipulation, denying the people of the region their basic human rights and freedoms.

For more than seven decades, the people of PoK have endured violence, instability, high youth unemployment, and human rights abuses. Of particular concern is credible reports of violence against women and enforced disappearances of journalists with many people still without any access to justice. Meanwhile, India has upheld democratic principles and constitutional rights in its portion of Kashmir, despite ongoing challenges and conflicts.

In Geneva, political activists from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) and Gilgit-Baltistan staged a protest outside the United Nations, urging Pakistan to withdraw its forces from the occupied territories as per the UN Security Council Resolution. He too highlighted reports from some international human rights organisations that have documented widespread abuses in PoK, including arbitrary arrests, enforced disappearances, torture, and suppression of political dissent.

Prof. Sajjad Raja, a political activist from PoK and Chairperson of the National Equality Party JKGBL, stated: “We are here today to raise our voice against the violation of basic human rights in PoJK and Gilgit Baltistan. We are living like animals in GB and PoJK. We want Pakistan out of PoJK and Gilgit Baltistan as advised by the United Nations.”

He added: “It marks the 77th consecutive year of oppression, lacking basic human rights, and fundamental freedom in PoJK and Gilgit Baltistan.”

No doubt people of Kashmir are grappling with the complex legacy of partition, however, the one issue that stands out as a glaring injustice of this history is the continued occupation of Kashmir by Pakistan.

All this was done at the hands of Pakistan without any international accountability or outcry from independent media thus fostering an atmosphere of fear and intimidation.

In terms of sheer economics, Pakistan’s GDP was $1.266 trillion, while India’s GDP  was $10.868 trillion at the end of 2023 in puchasing power partity terms. The GDP of Jammu and Kashmir is expected to exceed Rs 2.30 lakh crore in 2024. A major contribution in J&K is Foreign Direct Investments (FDI), expanding exports, and resurgence of tourism.

Further, India has made significant investments in the development of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), improving infrastructure, healthcare, education, employment, and economic opportunities for its residents. The Indian government has implemented policies to empower local communities and promote inclusive growth, despite facing obstacles such as cross-border terrorism and separatist violence instigated by Pakistan.

In contrast, Pakistan has failed to fulfill its obligations to the people of PoK, neglecting their welfare and perpetuating a cycle of poverty and instability. The region remains underdeveloped, with inadequate infrastructure and limited access to basic services. Pakistan’s policies in PoK have exacerbated tensions and fueled resentment among the local population, who have been denied their right to self-determination and autonomy.

“While Jammu and Kashmir changed, PoK sank deeper into the quicksand. Pakistan always broadcasted that Kashmir was an Indian Army-run state whereas the reality is that PoK remains amongst the most suppressed and oppressed regions of the world,” observed Maj. Gen. Harsha Kakar, a strategic analyst and columnist, in his piece on unrest in PoK.

Given these stark disparities, the historical and humanitarian case for India to legally reclaim PoK and reunite it with Kashmir is clear. By asserting its sovereignty over the entire region of Jammu and Kashmir, India can uphold the principles of justice, democracy, and human rights for all Kashmiris.

Doing this would also send a powerful message to Pakistan and the international community that India is committed to promoting peace, stability, and prosperity in the region.

International leaders must recognize the urgency of supporting India’s efforts to legally reunite Kashmir and reject the misinformation propagated by Leftist and Islamist elements in the West on behest of Pakistan.

The Indian government’s commitment to democracy, secularism, and human rights in Kashmir is evident in its policies and actions, despite the challenges posed by external interference and internal Jihadist extremism.

By standing in solidarity with India and endorsing the reunification of Kashmir under Indian governance, international leaders can uphold the principles of sovereignty, territorial integrity, and democratic governance. It is imperative that they resist the influence of biased narratives and misinformation campaigns run by vested politicians who seek to undermine India’s legitimate claims to Kashmir and instead advocate for a peaceful and equitable resolution to the longstanding conflict in the region.

I agree that any efforts to reunite Kashmir must be pursued through peaceful and diplomatic means, in accordance with international law and the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity. India should engage with the people of PoK in a spirit of dialogue and cooperation, respecting their aspirations and addressing their grievances. By offering a vision of hope and opportunity, India can win the hearts and minds of the people of PoK and pave the way for a brighter future for all Kashmiris.

The reunification of Kashmir under India is not only a moral imperative but also a strategic imperative for peace and stability in the region. India has the opportunity to right the wrongs of history and fulfil its duty to the people of Kashmir by reclaiming PoK and extending the benefits of democracy, development, and human rights to all Kashmiris.

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Such is Life: Six lessons from the Bhagavad Gita  

Image: Bhagavad Gita (Source: CANVA)

As i grow older, I think more about life, with all its twists and turns, highs and lows, joys and sorrows. For me, like you, it is a journey that each of us embarks upon.

A year ago on my visit to India, a friend gifted a pocket edition of the Hindu spiritual text, the Bhagavad Gita. Reading this, mostly while travelling in public transport, I found profound insights and timeless wisdom that illuminate the path of life, guiding me through its myriad challenges and triumphs. 

No wonder that the teachings of the Bhagavad Gita offer solace, clarity, and inspiration, reminding us that such is life – a journey of growth, learning, and self-discovery. 

At the heart of the Bhagavad Gita lies the dialogue between Lord Krishna and Prince Arjuna on the great battlefield of Kurukshetra. In the midst of a moral dilemma and existential crisis, Arjuna seeks guidance from Krishna, his charioteer and divine friend. Through their conversation, Krishna imparts profound truths about duty, righteousness, and the nature of existence, offering Arjuna a spiritual perspective that transcends the immediate circumstances of war. Krishna gives Arjuna the understanding that the soul is eternal, indestructible, and beyond the cycle of birth and death.

Most people know that one of the central teachings of the Bhagavad Gita is the concept of karma – the law of cause and effect that governs the universe. Krishna reminds Arjuna that each individual is bound by their actions, and that one must perform their duties with detachment, without being attached to the fruits of their actions. This philosophy of detached action encourages us to focus on the present moment, to do our best without being consumed by anxiety or desire for specific outcomes. 

Such is life – a continuous cycle of action and consequence, where we must strive to act with integrity and purpose, regardless of the outcomes we may encounter. 

The Bhagavad Gita also emphasizes the importance of self-awareness and introspection in the journey of life. Krishna teaches Arjuna the path of self-realization, urging him to cultivate inner strength and wisdom to overcome the challenges he faces. This inner journey, characterized by self-reflection and spiritual inquiry, is essential for navigating the complexities of existence and attaining true fulfillment. 

Such is life – a quest for self-discovery and enlightenment, where we must delve deep within ourselves to uncover our true nature and purpose.

Another profound teaching of the Bhagavad Gita is the concept of dharma – one’s duty or righteous path in life. Krishna counsels Arjuna to fulfill his dharma as a warrior, to fight for justice and uphold righteousness, even in the face of adversity. This principle of dharma reminds us that each of us has a unique role to play in the grand tapestry of existence, and that we must honor our duties and responsibilities with sincerity and dedication. 

Such is life – a journey of service and sacrifice, where we must embrace our dharma and contribute to the greater good of humanity. 

The Bhagavad Gita also offers profound insights into the nature of the self and the eternal soul. Krishna teaches Arjuna that the true self, the atman, is eternal and indestructible, beyond the transient nature of the physical body. This realization liberates Arjuna from fear and attachment, enabling him to face life’s challenges with courage and equanimity. 

Such is life – a journey of spiritual evolution, where we must transcend the limitations of the ego and connect with the eternal essence of our being.

In conclusion, for me, the Bhagavad Gita is serving as a guidebook for navigating the journey of life with wisdom, courage, and grace. As I embrace the lessons of the Bhagavad Gita and embody its principles in my life, I can navigate life’s ups and downs with resilience and equanimity, knowing that such is life – a sacred pilgrimage of the soul, guided by the light of wisdom and the eternal truth of our divine essence.

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Four Australian and two Indian cities amongst world’s 50 wealthiest

Mumbai, Sydney, Delhi and Melbourne Skyline: Image Source @CANVA
Mumbai, Sydney, Delhi and Melbourne Skyline: Image Source @CANVA

Amid this economic turbulence, the World’s Wealthiest Cities have been named for the year 2024. Each year, Henley and Partners publish their World’s Wealthiest Cities Report, ranking the top 50 cities based on the number of millionaires and billionaires residing there. The data, gathered by New World Wealth, tracks wealthy individuals with significant investment portfolios or top leadership roles in high-value companies.

“The World’s Wealthiest Cities Report 2024 offers investors a window into this complex and rapidly evolving landscape. It reveals a world in which traditional wealth hubs maintain their dominance, even as new centres of wealth and power emerge,” says Dr. Juerg Steffen, the Chief Executive Officer of Henley & Partners.

Here are the top 15 wealthiest cities in the world:

  1. New York
  2. San Francisco
  3. Tokyo
  4. Singapore
  5. London
  6. Los Angeles
  7. Paris
  8. Sydney
  9. Hong Kong
  10. Beijing
  11. Shanghai
  12. Chicago
  13. Toronto
  14. Milan and Lombardy
  15. Melbourne

Australia’s Melbourne secured the 15th spot on this prestigious list, boasting 97,900 millionaires, 112 centi-millionaires, and 10 billionaires. Over the past decade, the city has seen a remarkable 40 per cent increase in its millionaire population.

Additionally, three other Australian cities made it to the top 50: Sydney at 8th, Perth at 34th, and Brisbane at 42nd. In fact, Sydney has established itself as a premier global city, renowned for its iconic harbour, prestigious universities, and booming tech industry. Over the past decade, its millionaire population has increased by 34%, attracted by the city’s blend of natural beauty, cultural vibrancy, and economic opportunities.

India’s economic capital Mumbai ranks 24 with 58,800 millionaires and 29 billionaires followed on rank 36 by the nation’s political capital Delhi boasting 30,700 millionaires and 16 billionaires respectively. Additionally, the report says that India’s tech capital Bengaluru missed out on the Top 50 but is worth watching due to its strong wealth growth potential with 13,200 millionaires and 8 billionaires – an increase of 120% from 2013 to 2023.

Overall, the US leads the pack, with 11 cities in the Top 50 World’s Wealthiest Cities list, including New York City, which boasts a staggering 349,500 millionaires, followed by Northern California’s Bay Area (305,700) and Los Angeles (212,100).

China also has a notable presence, with Hong Kong (SAR China) (143,400) and 5 cities in mainland China inlcuding Beijing (125,600 millionaires), Shanghai (123,400), Shenzhen (50,300), Guangzhou (24,500), and Hangzhou (31,600) which have all recorded significant increases in their millionaire populations over the past decade.

Dr Steffen adds: “This dynamic reflects broader changes in the global economy, with the US maintaining its traditional strongholds while China’s rapid urbanisation and growing technological prowess play an increasingly important role in its wealth creation.”

A significant factor in the growth of the wealthiest cities has been the robust performance of financial markets in recent years. The S&P 500 gained 24% in 2023, while the Nasdaq surged by 43%, and Bitcoin experienced an astonishing 155% rally, all of which have bolstered the wealth of affluent investors.

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How friends are destroying weekend mornings by sharing desi cringe pop

Image: (Left) Dhinchak Pooja and (Right) Chahat Fateh Ali Khan - popular cringe pop icons (Source: Youtube screenshot)

My morning took an unexpected turn when my dear friend and scholar par excellence, Dr Om Dwivedi, decided to share a song by Chahat Fateh Ali Khan with me. Initially, I assumed it was one of the renowned Fateh Ali Khans, but little did I know that this unsuspecting song would utterly disrupt the tranquility of my morning routine.

Forced into a morning of musical torture, I found myself subjected to an unexpected onslaught of discordant notes and grating melodies, courtesy of a song by Chahat Fateh Ali Khan.

After listening to the song, an ordeal of auditory discomfort, I just longed for the sweet sounds of silence!

In his defence Dr Dwivedi says, “Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard are sweeter! So, how can I deprive my good friends of sweeter melodies? I didn’t want to remain silent, only to be blamed later that, my silence promotes violence.”

He adds, “the freedom of the popular Ustad to produce a cringy affect of words, I dare call it a song, is undebatable. But I also wanted to use my freedom to find someone with whom I could share my ‘willing suspension of disbelief.'”

In an age dominated by social media, the landscape of music consumption has undergone a seismic shift. With the rise of platforms like TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube, music has become more accessible than ever before, but I wonder at what cost?

In fact, Dr Dwivedi agrees with me and beleives that “cringy entertainment is one of the crude tellings of our popular culture. The fanatical fascination with such Ustads sums up the perverted nature of modern-day entertainment.” 

He adds, “When raga is rendered that unheard popular touch, what one witnesses is the vikaar. Exactly the feeling that struck me when my son diverted my attention to this besuraa song by an apparently popular Ustad on social media. But that’s one thing!”

The proliferation of desi cringe pop, a genre characterized by its simplistic melodies, repetitive lyrics, and often superficial themes, is threatening to erode the quality and depth of musical expression.

Desi cringe pop, often produced by amateur artists, unimaginable music sensations, seeking fame and recognition on social media platforms, prioritizes virality over artistic integrity. Songs within this genre often rely on catchy hooks and gimmicky visuals to attract attention, rather than genuine musical talent or creativity. As a result, the music produced tends to be formulaic, uninspired, and lacking in substance, contributing to a homogenized cultural landscape where individuality and originality are often sacrificed in favor of mass appeal.

Chahat Fateh Ali Khan is not the only sensation in the cringe music genre. India and Pakistan have seen a proliferation of desi cringe pop music in recent years, with numerous examples of artists gaining overnight fame through viral social media videos. One notable example is the Pakistani singer Taher Shah, whose song “Eye to Eye” became an internet sensation for its eccentric lyrics and outlandish music video.

While Shah achieved widespread recognition and millions of views on YouTube, his music was widely criticized for its lack of musical merit and superficiality. Similarly, in India, the rise of cringe pop has led to the emergence of artists like Dhinchak Pooja, whose songs “Swag Wali Topi” and “Selfie Maine Leli Aaj” garnered millions of views on YouTube.

While these songs may have achieved viral success, they have also been derided for their simplistic lyrics and repetitive melodies, contributing to a culture of disposable music where instant gratification trumps artistic integrity.

The problem with desi cringe pop extends beyond its artistic shortcomings; it also has broader implications for the music industry as a whole. By prioritizing short-term popularity over long-term sustainability, desi cringe pop undermines the value of music as an art form and perpetuates a culture of instant gratification and superficiality.

Moreover, by flooding social media feeds with low-quality content, cringe pop detracts from the experience of discovering and appreciating music, turning what should be a meaningful and enriching experience into a shallow and ephemeral pursuit. However, it is not all doom and gloom.

After doing a bit of research, it was clear to me that the new music sensation Chahat is in not in any way related to Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan or Rahat Fateh Ali Khan. The real name of this 56-year-old “singer” is Kashif Rana and self-describes himelf as an expert of qawwali, pop, classical, Bollywood and many more genres. It is also clear after watching Chahat Fateh Ali Khan’s Live performance in London that he doesn’t use autotune to improve his voice.

The prevalence of desi cringe pop, has made me, and I assume Dr Dwivedi too, realise that rather than passively consuming whatever content is served to us on social media, we should actively seek out music that challenges us, inspires us, and moves us on a deeper level.

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Call for Pacific journalists to lead environmental action

Image: Ministry of Environment and Climate Change permanent secretary Dr Sivendra Michael, left, EU Ambassador to the Pacific H.E Barbara Plinkert and Pacific Islands Forum Secretary General Henry Puna. (Picture: VENIANA WILLY)

By SAMUEL ROHIT

The pivotal role of journalists in confronting the global environmental crisis was highlighted by Dr Sivendra Michael, the permanent secretary for the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change.

Dr Michael was the keynote speaker at The University of the South Pacific (USP) Journalism Programme’s World Press Freedom Day.

Against the backdrop of what he termed the “triple planetary crisis” encompassing climate change, biodiversity loss, and pollution, Dr Michael emphasised the urgent need for societal transformation to protect planet Earth.

He underscored the vital role of journalists and media workers in informing the public about environmental challenges and responses.

Dr Michael highlighted the underrepresentation of Pacific Island Countries (PICs) in global media coverage.

He stressed the importance of collaboration with local and regional media outlets to amplify stories of environmental injustices faced by communities.

He called on journalists to mobilise and empower others to drive change through their reporting.

Referencing recent negotiations on plastic pollution in Ottawa, Canada, Dr. Michael recounted the challenges faced by Pacific SIDS (Small Island Developing States) in advocating for their unique circumstances.

He praised the media’s role in disseminating real-time updates and garnering support from civil society, acknowledging their contribution to raising awareness on global platforms.

Image: Head of USP Journalism Associate Professor Shailendra Singh, Inoke Rabonu, Deputy Managing Editor News, Fiji Sun, Maureen Penjueli, Coordinator, PANG, and Reverend Dr Tafue Lusama, Director of the Institute of Climate Indigenous Knowledge, Pacific Theological College, during a panel discussion (Picture: VENIANA WILLY)

Recognising the risks journalists face, Dr Michael hailed them as “fearless and daring individuals” and urged them to uphold values of trust, impartiality, and integrity in their reporting, particularly in combating disinformation amplified by social media.

Dr Michael expressed gratitude to USP Journalism, the EU in the Pacific, and the Pacific Islands Forum for organising the event, highlighting the power of collaboration in addressing environmental challenges.

He encouraged further engagement between journalists and stakeholders to amplify environmental injustices and underscored the importance of press freedom in driving positive change.

Dr Michael concluded his remarks emphasising the significance of the occasion and the urgent need for collective action in addressing the environmental crisis.

Meanwhile, also present at the celebration was the European Union Ambassador to the Pacific H.E Barbara Plinkert and the Pacific Islands Forum Secretary General Henry Puna. They also shed light on journalists being the face of environmental crisis.

This article was first published in Wansolwara and has been republished here with the kind permission of the editor(s).

Contributing Author: Samuel Rohit is a third-year Journalism student at The University of the South Pacific (USP) in Fiji.

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Indian-Australian professor drives sustainable ground infrastructure with nature-based solutions

Image: Dr Shukla honoured with the IGS Award 2018 by the International Geosynthetics Society, USA (Source: Supplied)

In a world grappling with climate change, the quest for sustainable infrastructure has never been more urgent. Indian-Australian researcher Dr Sanjay Kumar Shukla, a leading expert in Civil and Geotechnical Engineering, is championing nature-based approaches to ground infrastructure, blending ancient wisdom with modern technology to create sustainable solutions.

Dr Shukla says that a sustainable future is in using reinforced soil. This is an age-old technique that involves enhancing the engineering properties of soil, such as strength, stiffness, permeability, and compressibility using various materials. This practice is observed even in nature where vegetation and animals utilize soil reinforcement for their needs and is now evolving with synthetic and natural fibers to create resilient ground structures.

Image Source: “Fundamentals of Fibre-Reinforced Soil Engineering,” Springer Nature, 2017 (Supplied)

“Soil reinforcement today commonly employs synthetic-polymer products known as geosynthetics and natural fiber-based options called geonaturals,” explains Prof. Shukla.

These materials are essential in constructing and maintaining cost-effective, energy-efficient, and environmentally friendly infrastructures. From retaining walls to pavements and embankments to slope stabilization, these advanced materials are strategically placed to enhance soil properties, forming what is known as reinforced soil. The field dedicated to this practice is geosynthetic engineering.

Additionally, Dr Shukla notes, “Soils can be enhanced by blending them with synthetic, natural, or waste fibers, ensuring uniform dispersion throughout the soil mass.” This technique results in randomly distributed fiber-reinforced soils (RDFRS) or fiber-reinforced soils (FRS), a specialized area termed fiber-reinforced soil engineering. To advance this field, developing and implementing standards and codes of practice is crucial.

Dr Shukla, the Founding Editor-in-Chief of the International Journal of Geosynthetics and Ground Engineering, and the Founding Leader of the Geotechnical and Geoenvironmental Engineering Research Group at Edith Cowan University, has authored several seminal books on geosynthetic engineering. His works, including “An Introduction to Geosynthetic Engineering” and “Fundamentals of Geosynthetic Engineering,” serve as foundational texts in the field.

A globally recognized authority, Dr Shukla’s expertise was showcased at the 12th International Conference on Geosynthetics in Rome in September 2023, and he is set to conduct a course on fiber-reinforced soils at GeoAmericas 2024 in Toronto, Canada. These prestigious conferences highlight his pivotal role in promoting sustainable engineering practices.

Traditional infrastructure methods have significantly contributed to global warming through substantial carbon emissions. Dr Shukla emphasizes the importance of integrating geosynthetics, geonaturals, and fibers with ground engineering techniques to enhance materials such as coal ashes and mine tailings while prioritizing sustainability. This approach aims to reduce energy consumption, carbon emissions, and reliance on transported materials by utilizing recycled and locally available resources. A comprehensive life-cycle assessment, including carbon footprint estimation, is essential to ensure environmentally conscious engineering practices.

Since the inception of his career, Dr Shukla has been a tireless advocate for sustainable solutions in ground infrastructure. His extensive research, numerous publications, and authored books reflect his unwavering dedication to this cause. His contributions were recognized by the International Geosynthetics Society, USA, with the prestigious IGS Award in 2018, underscoring the global impact of his work.

Through his pioneering efforts, Dr Shukla is not only advancing the field of geosynthetic engineering but also paving the way for a sustainable future in ground infrastructure. His mission is a testament to the power of blending traditional practices with modern innovations to create resilient and eco-friendly solutions for the challenges of the 21st century and beyond.

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Three men charged for alleged drug supply; $10m worth of assets frozen

Image: SF VERBENA, DFS arrests (Source: AFP)

New South Wales Police Force (NSWPF) Drug & Firearms Squad detectives have charged three men for alleged prohibited drug supply under Strike Force Verbena.

Strike Force Verbena is a joint investigation between the AFP and NSWPF State Crime Command’s Drug & Firearms Squad with the NSW Crime Commission (NSWCC) to investigate the alleged prohibited supply of drugs by a 47-year-old man and his associates.

Following extensive inquiries, about 11.40am yesterday (Wednesday 15 May 2024), strike force detectives – with assistance from Raptor Squad – arrested a 24-year-old man in Chester Hill.

Image: SF VERBENA, DFS arrests (Source: AFP)

During a search of the man’s car, police located and seized 1kg of MDMA, 56 grams of cocaine and approximately $50,000 in cash.

He was taken to Bankstown Police Station, where he was charged with 12 offences, including supply unregistered firearm-pistol, participate in a criminal group, five counts of knowingly deal with proceeds of crime, and five offences related to commercial drug supply.

The man was refused bail to appear in Bankstown Local Court today (Thursday 16 May 2024).

Simultaneously, strike force detectives – with assistance from Raptor Squad – stopped a vehicle on Alfred Street in Ramsgate where they arrested a 47-year-old man.

Image: SF VERBENA, DFS arrests (Source: AFP)

During a subsequent search warrant at a home in Sans Souci – with assistance from the AFP and Marine Area Command – police located and seized electronics, prohibited drugs, and other items relevant to their investigation.

In addition to the items seized, the NSWCC froze approximately $10,000,000 in assets linked to the 47-year-old.

Image: SF VERBENA, DFS arrests (Source: AFP)

The man was taken to Kogarah Police Station, where he was charged with 10 offences, including knowingly direct activities of a criminal group, knowingly deal with proceeds of crime, supply unregistered firearm-pistol and seven offences relating to commercial drug supply.

He was refused bail to appear before Sutherland Local Court today.

About 1.20pm, strike force detectives – with assistance from Raptor Squad – arrested a 25-year-old man at a park on Alfred Road in Brookvale.

Image: SF VERBENA, DFS arrests (Source: AFP)

During a subsequent search warrant at an apartment in Bexley, police located and seized a DECCD and other items relevant to their investigation.

He was taken to Manly Police Station, where he was charged with take part supply prohibited drug greater than large commercial quantity, take part supply prohibited drug (greater than indictable & less than commercial quantity), and participate in a criminal group.

The man was refused bail to appear before Manly Local Court and inquiries under Strike Force Verbena continue.

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Nearly $1 million in fine for employer who allegedly threatened to kill migrant workers’ families

Representative image: Threat to workers (Source: CANVA)

The Fair Work Ombudsman has secured $966,890 in court-ordered penalties in a civil case that involved “systematic exploitation” of Filipino workers by the director of a Canberra massage parlour who allegedly threatened to have the workers’ families killed if they complained.

The penalties have been imposed in the Federal Court in response to seven Filipino workers being underpaid a total of $971,092 and subjected to coercion, discrimination and adverse action at the ‘foot&thai’ massage parlour in Belconnen between June 2012 to February 2016.

Justice Anna Katzmann found that the visa holder workers – six women and one man who were aged in their 20s and 30s at the time, and spoke limited English – had spent three to four years “living in fear” of the parlour’s owner and director, Canberra man Colin Kenneth Elvin.

Justice Katzmann has imposed a $778,100 penalty against Mr Elvin’s former company Foot & Thai Massage Pty Ltd, which operated the parlour, and a further $150,140 penalty against Mr Elvin.

In addition, the workers’ former supervisor – Filipino man Jun Millard Puerto, who was sponsored by Mr Elvin’s company on a 457 skilled worker visa – has been penalised $38,650 for his involvement in a number of the breaches, including the threats to workers.

Mr Elvin and Foot & Thai Massage Pty Ltd have also been ordered to pay a total of $1.166 million in back-pay and compensation, plus interest, to be provided to the workers.

With Foot and Thai Massage Pty Ltd now in liquidation, the Court has ordered that if the back-pay and compensation are not paid, the penalties (including those imposed on Mr Elvin and Mr Puerto) can be distributed to the workers, who have been back-paid only a fraction of their outstanding entitlements since 2016.

Fair Work Ombudsman Anna Booth welcomed the substantial total penalties, which are the third-highest in the national regulator’s history.

“This matter is one of the most shocking cases of exploitation the Fair Work Ombudsman has ever encountered and deserves the strongest possible condemnation,” Ms Booth said.

“The deliberate and calculated exploitation of vulnerable migrant workers has absolutely no place in Australian society. No visa holder worker should ever face employer threats to the safety of their family, or threats to be deported if they use their workplace rights to raise concerns about their employment.”

Ms Booth added:

“These substantial penalties send a clear message that those who deliberately defy Australia’s workplace laws and shamefully exploit vulnerable migrant workers will face serious consequences. The Fair Work Ombudsman will continue to ensure the full weight of the law is felt by those involved in such appalling conduct.

“Visa holders in Australia have the same workplace rights as all other workers, and enforcing those rights remains an enduring priority for the Fair Work Ombudsman.”

Ms Booth said those tempted to breach Australia’s workplace laws should be aware that various changes to the Fair Work Act from 2017 onwards meant that far higher penalties could be imposed if deliberately exploitative conduct occurred today.

The Fair Work Ombudsman commenced an investigation into the foot&thai parlour in 2016.

Fair Work inspectors found that the seven exploited workers had been recruited from the Philippines in 2012 and 2013 and sponsored by Mr Elvin’s company to work in Australia on 457 visas.

In Australia, the workers were required to work extensive hours as massage therapists at foot&thai – often working from 9.45am to 10pm or 10.30pm six days per week – but they were not paid the overtime or penalty rates required by the Award.

Six of the employees were also required to pay $800 of their wages per fortnight back for more than eight months when the shop was doing poorly.

The seven employees were transported from a property in Higgins, where they resided, to the massage parlour and back in a van, commonly driven by Mr Elvin or Mr Puerto, each working day.

Each of the workers had financially dependent family members – including three with children – in the Philippines and routinely transferred part of the wages to their families.

Mr Elvin, with some involvement from Mr Puerto, threatened to send the workers back to the Philippines if they told anyone about their working conditions and threatened that he would arrange for their families in the Philippines to be killed if they reported Mr Elvin or his company to the Department of Home Affairs (formerly the Department of Immigration and Border Protection).

The conduct of Mr Elvin and his company breached the provisions of the Fair Work Act that make it unlawful to coerce employees or take adverse action against them to prevent them from making a complaint about their employment.

Their conduct also amounted to workplace discrimination against each of the workers because of their race and national extraction.

Wage-related contraventions included underpayment of ordinary hourly rates, public holiday rates and overtime rates the workers were entitled to under the Health Professionals and Support Services Award 2010.

Underpayments of individual workers ranged from approximately $120,000 to $159,000.

Laws relating to unauthorised deductions, unreasonable requirements to spend wages, requiring workers to work unreasonable additional hours, payment of annual leave entitlements, failing to provide workers with a Fair Work Information Statement and providing false records to inspectors were also breached.

Justice Katzmann found that Mr Elvin had hired the workers, set their wages and conditions, and managed the business of Foot and Thai Massage Pty Ltd.

“He was the person who decided to underpay the massage therapists, the person who required them to work unreasonable hours, and the person who threatened them and took other adverse action against them,” Justice Katzmann said.

Justice Katzmann found that the conduct was deliberate, “extremely serious” and involved “systematic exploitation” of vulnerable visa holders who were in a precarious position as their continuing residence in Australia depended on their continuing employment.

Justice Katzmann found that workers were enticed to come to Australia to work for Foot and Thai Massage on false promises, including that they would be paid Award rates and not have to work more than an average of 38 hours a week.

Justice Katzmann found that Mr Elvin believed the workers would be prepared to put up with below award rates and conditions because they were paid even less in the Philippines and were unlikely to complain because their families, to whom they were devoted, lived in the Philippines and were dependent on their financial support.

Justice Katzmann accepted the FWO’s submission that each of the workers suffered “significant emotional harm and distress as a result of living in fear of [Mr Elvin] becoming angry and sending them back to the Philippines or of killing their families back in the Philippines [which they endured] for a sustained period of approximately 3 to 4 years”.

“I had the strong impression from watching and hearing them in the witness box that their suffering was ongoing,” Justice Katzmann said.

Justice Katzmann found that Mr Elvin and Mr Puerto had not exhibited any contrition and that there was “no evidence to indicate that either man has learned anything from the Ombudsman’s investigation or the proceedings”.

Justice Katzmann found that substantial penalties were required to deter Mr Elvin, Mr Puerto and others from similar conduct in future.

Controversial Book Ban Reversed by Cumberland City Council After Fiery Debate

Councillor Steve Christou and banned book; Image Source @CANVA
Councillor Steve Christou and banned book; Image Source @CANVA

In a dramatic and contentious meeting that drew national and global attention, Cumberland City Council overturned its controversial ban on a children’s book about same-sex parents. The decision followed four hours of intense debate on Wednesday night, punctuated by protests and disruptions.

The book in question, “Same-Sex Parents” by Holly Duhig, is part of a series that introduces young readers to diverse family structures. The ban had sparked widespread outrage and led to protests outside the Merrylands council chambers, where hundreds of demonstrators, including members of the left-wing Pride in Protest group and residents opposed to lifting the ban, gathered.

A Contentious Decision

Cumberland City Council had previously voted to ban the book from libraries in its jurisdiction, citing concerns about its appropriateness for children. The decision was met with backlash from across the political spectrum and drew criticism for being a regressive step in promoting diversity and inclusion.

High tensions and heated exchanges marked Wednesday night’s meeting. Mayor Lisa Lake struggled to maintain order as the council chamber witnessed multiple disruptions, with several individuals being ejected for disorderly conduct. The debate saw numerous attempts at amendments, all of which failed until a final motion was passed to reinstate the book in the library’s junior non-fiction section, under Australian library guidelines.

The Final Vote

The motion to reverse the ban and relocate the book to the junior non-fiction section was introduced by Labor Councillor Kun Huang and passed with a 12-2 vote just before 10:45 PM. One councillor, Joseph Rahme, was absent. In a notable shift, Councillor Steve Christou, who had initially led the charge to ban the book, was deserted by his colleagues Paul Garrard and Helen Hughes, who voted for the reversal.

The only councillor supporting Christou was Eddy Sarkis, who had left Christou’s Our Local Community party earlier in February.

Christou expressed his disappointment after the meeting, stating, “I am disappointed by some colleagues that held a firm position and … with pressure put on by the media, that they changed their position.” Labor Councillor Mohamad Hussein, who had initially supported the ban, also reversed his vote to support the reinstatement of the book.

Public Reaction

The decision to overturn the ban was met with mixed reactions. Outside the council chambers, over 200 protesters clashed, chanting and yelling amid a heavy police presence. Inside, councillors traded barbs, community members made passionate appeals, and spectators in the public gallery were repeatedly urged to maintain decorum.

Mayor Lake extended the meeting beyond its original 10 PM deadline to accommodate the lengthy debate, emphasising the need for civil discourse. Despite the chaos, the decision to move the book to the junior non-fiction section was seen as a compromise that respects both the need for diverse representation and the guidelines for appropriate library categorisation.

A Broader Implication

The reversal of the book ban by Cumberland City Council reflects a broader societal debate about representation and inclusivity in public spaces. The incident underscores the challenges faced by local governments in navigating contentious cultural issues and highlights the importance of upholding principles of diversity and inclusion.

The controversy surrounding the ban and its reversal has put Cumberland City Council at the centre of a national conversation about the role of libraries in promoting diverse narratives. As communities continue to evolve, such debates are likely to persist, emphasising the need for open dialogue and inclusive policies.

The reinstatement of “Same-Sex Parents” in Cumberland City Council’s libraries marks a significant victory for advocates of diversity and inclusion. However, the contentious process and the deep divisions it revealed serve as a reminder of the ongoing challenges in balancing community values with the principles of equality and representation. As the council moves forward, it will need to navigate these complex issues with sensitivity and a commitment to fostering an inclusive community for all its residents.

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Ramcharitmanas, Panchatantra, and Sahṛdayāloka-Locana added to UNESCO’s memory of the World Asia-Pacific Regional Register 

Ramcharitmanas, Panchatantra and Sahṛdayāloka-Locana have been included in ‘UNESCO's Memory of the World Asia-Pacific Regional Register: Image Source: PIB
Ramcharitmanas, Panchatantra and Sahṛdayāloka-Locana have been included in ‘UNESCO's Memory of the World Asia-Pacific Regional Register: Image Source: PIB

In a momentous achievement, three iconic Indian literary works, namely the Ramcharitmanas, Panchatantra, and Sahṛdayāloka-Locana, have been added to UNESCO’s Memory of the World Asia-Pacific Regional Register.

This prestigious inclusion serves as a testament to India’s rich literary heritage and cultural prominence on the global stage. 

These timeless classics, authored by Acharya Anandvardhan, Pt. Vishnu Sharma, and Goswami Tulsidas, respectively, hold immense significance in shaping Indian literature and moral ethos. Their enduring legacy transcends geographical boundaries, captivating readers and artists worldwide.

Ramcharitmanas, Panchatantra and Sahṛdayāloka-Locana have been included in ‘UNESCO's Memory of the World Asia-Pacific Regional Register: Image Source: PIB
Ramcharitmanas, Panchatantra and Sahṛdayāloka-Locana have been included in ‘UNESCO’s Memory of the World Asia-Pacific Regional Register: Image Source: PIB

Ramcharitmanas, composed by the 16th-century Indian poet Goswami Tulsidas, is a poem written in Awadhi. The title translates to “The Lake of the Deeds of Rama,” with Tulsidas likening its seven parts to steps leading into the holy waters of Mansarovar. This poetic retelling focuses on the narrative of Rama, the crown prince of Ayodhya, and is also known as Tulsikrit Ramayan or The Ramayan of Tulsidas.

The Panchatantra, attributed to Pandit Vishnu Sharma, is a collection of interwoven tales in prose and poetry, predominantly featuring animal fables. Compiled in both Sanskrit (Hindu) and Pali (Buddhist), scholars generally place their origins around the 3rd century BCE, with roots in even older oral traditions. Despite its ancient origins, the Panchatantra continues to endure through cross-cultural adaptations, translations, and mutations, retaining its popularity as a beloved literary work, particularly among storytellers.

Panchatantra, attributed to Pandit Vishnu Sharma

Sahṛdayāloka-Locana, authored by Acharya Anandvardhan, serves as a Sanskrit commentary on the Dhvanyaloka, a seminal work in Indian literary theory by Anandavardhana. This commentary delves into the principles of aesthetic experience and literary interpretation, with a particular emphasis on the concept of suggestion (dhvani) in poetry.

The Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA) played a pivotal role in securing this historic recognition during the 10th meeting of the Memory of the World Committee for Asia and the Pacific (MOWCAP). 

Led by Prof. Ramesh Chandra Gaur, Dean (Administration) & In charge, UNESCO MoW Nodal Centre, IGNCA successfully advocated for including these literary treasures, highlighting India’s commitment to cultural preservation and propagation. 

“This achievement is a testament to India’s commitment to preserving and sharing its cultural legacy with the world,” remarked Prof. Gaur.

“These inscriptions not only honour our past but also pave the way for increased awareness and engagement with the Memory of the World Programme in India.”

Prof. Ramesh Chandra Gaur, IGNCA

Further, this milestone underscores IGNCA’s dedication to safeguarding India’s cultural legacy and promoting global cultural diversity. It also marks the first instance of IGNCA submitting nominations to the Regional Register, enhancing India’s presence in the international cultural landscape. 

Following rigorous deliberations and endorsement by the Register Subcommittee (RSC), the unanimous approval of these nominations underscores their profound historical and cultural significance, dating back to times preceding the establishment of the Register in 2008.

The UNESCO Memory of the World Register is part of an international initiative launched by UNESCO in 1992 to safeguard the documentary heritage of humanity. 

The inclusion of these ancient Indian literary masterpieces in the register signifies their outstanding universal significance and their profound contribution to the collective heritage of humanity.

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Empowering Diversity: New Grant Program Aims to Bridge Gap for Multicultural Businesses in Victoria

Minister for Small Business with community leaders at Multicultural business grant anouncement; Image Source: The Australia Today
Minister for Small Business with community leaders at Multicultural business grant anouncement; Image Source: The Australia Today

To bolster the economic contributions of multicultural enterprises, Victoria’s Government has introduced a targeted grant program aimed at supporting small businesses led by diverse communities.

The grants aim to support a variety of initiatives, including:

  • Upskilling Business Owners: Providing training in digital and in-language marketing to help businesses reach a broader audience.
  • Local Business Expos: Organizing events to showcase local enterprises and foster networking opportunities.
  • Meaningful Networking: Creating platforms for business owners to connect, share experiences, and collaborate on projects.
Image Source: The Australia Today
Image Source: The Australia Today

Minister for Small Business Natalie Suleyman announced the opening of applications for the Multicultural Business Chambers and Trader Groups program, which offers grants of up to $20,000.

Minister Suleyman emphasised the crucial role these enterprises play in local economies, stating, “Small businesses are at the heart of our economy, and we’re backing the traders groups that support them.”

Image Source: The Australia Today
Natalie Suleyman, Minister for Small Business; Image Source: The Australia Today

“This grant program will deliver multicultural events that drive local economic activity and celebrate Victoria’s diversity.”

Supporting Diversity in Business

The new grant program is designed to empower multicultural businesses by funding projects that enhance collaboration, skill development, and community engagement.

Minister for Multicultural Affairs Ingrid Stitt highlighted the significance of these businesses, stating, “Multicultural businesses showcase Victoria’s cultural diversity and are an important part of what makes our state unique – this program will help those businesses continue to grow and thrive.”

Image Source: The Australia Today
Ylva Carosone, Executive Director, Small Business Victoria; Image Source: The Australia Today

Economic and Cultural Impact

Victoria’s small business landscape is vibrant and diverse, with more than 701,000 small businesses contributing to the state’s economy. Notably, 34 per cent of Australian small business owners are migrants, underscoring the essential role of multicultural enterprises. These businesses not only create local employment opportunities but also strengthen Victoria’s global connections and cultural fabric.

These grants are part of the government’s $17 million investment which aims to provide multicultural businesses with the necessary skills and services to succeed. By supporting locally-led projects, the grant program seeks to address specific challenges faced by multicultural businesses, fostering an inclusive and thriving economic environment.

Image Source: The Australia Today
Image Source: The Australia Today

Application Process

Applications for the Multicultural Business Chambers and Trader Groups program are now open and will close on July 17. Interested business groups can find more information and apply by visiting business.vic.gov.au.

Scrutiny of outcomes

While the initiative is a commendable step towards supporting multicultural enterprises, there are critical aspects that warrant closer scrutiny:

Image Source: The Australia Today
Image Source: The Australia Today
  1. Grant Amount and Accessibility: While grants of up to $20,000 are significant, the impact may be limited if the number of grants awarded is insufficient to meet the demand. Ensuring that the application process is accessible and straightforward for all eligible businesses, particularly those that may face language barriers, is crucial for equitable distribution.
  2. Sustainable Impact: The effectiveness of the grant program in achieving long-term benefits for multicultural businesses remains to be seen. Monitoring and evaluating the outcomes of funded projects will be essential to determine whether the initiatives lead to sustained growth and development for these businesses.
  3. Broader Economic Strategy: Integrating the grant program into a broader economic strategy that includes ongoing support and resources for multicultural businesses could enhance its impact. This might involve partnerships with industry associations, continuous training programs, and networking opportunities beyond the initial grant period.
  4. Community Engagement: Engaging with multicultural business communities to understand their unique needs and challenges is vital. Tailoring support to address these specific issues can ensure the program’s relevance and effectiveness.

The Allan Labor Government’s grant program represents a positive step towards recognising and supporting the valuable contributions of multicultural businesses to Victoria’s economy and cultural diversity. However, its ultimate success will depend on careful implementation, ongoing support, and a commitment to addressing the nuanced needs of these enterprises.

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A student’s visa has been cancelled for links to ‘weapons of mass destruction’; What’s going on with Australian research security?

Drones are an example of the ‘dual-use technologies’: Image Source @CANVA
Drones are an example of the ‘dual-use technologies’: Image Source @CANVA

By Brendan Walker-Munro

Over the weekend, Queensland University of Technology PhD student Xiaolong Zhu became national news – and not for a good reason. Zhu is a Chinese citizen, and his visa to study in Australia has been denied on the grounds of being “directly or indirectly associated with the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction”.

The story begins in October 2019, when the university offered Zhu a scholarship to undertake a PhD in robotics. His research would focus on how drones navigate in urban environments without access to GPS.

But in June 2020, Zhu was told the foreign minister had ruled him a risk of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, specifically missiles and rockets. That decision may be in part motivated by Zhu’s prior education at Beihang University, an institution closely aligned with China’s military and a lead developer of ballistic missiles and stealth aircraft.

Zhu’s appeal is ongoing, and he has done nothing obviously wrong and has not been charged with or convicted of any crime. So why is his story such a big deal? Zhu’s case, the fifth in which a researcher has been barred from the country on suspicion of links to weapons of mass destruction, is just the latest outcome of Australia’s patchy and irregular approach to “research security”.

Australia’s approach to research security

Australia’s approach to protecting certain types of research from national security threats is inconsistent and out of step with that of many of our allies.

The United States, United Kingdom, Canada, the European Union and New Zealand all have national policies on research security. Australia does not.

Instead, we have voluntary University Foreign Interference Taskforce guidelines, first written in 2019 and updated in 2021. These guidelines were originally written before COVID, the US-China “chip war” and the announcement of AUKUS.

One of Australia’s biggest funders of university research – the Australian Research Council – has only just published a research security framework in the past six months. Our other major research funders, CSIRO and the National Health and Medical Research Council, don’t appear to have anything similar.

At the same time, most, if not all, Australian universities are increasingly turning to foreign funding in response to government cutbacks.

Blunt instruments

At present, the Australian government seems intent on using blunt instruments to regulate research security.

For example, the foreign minister can refuse or cancel a visa if a person poses a risk to security, fails the “good character” test or (as in Zhu’s case) is deemed to be potentially associated with weapons of mass destruction. Since April 2024, the foreign minister can also refuse or cancel visas if the person poses “an unreasonable risk of an unwanted transfer of critical technology”.

Such controls can be incredibly risky when universities are also facing potentially crippling limitations on international student numbers, and where international education is one of Australia’s biggest exports.

Australian university researchers also face export controls. They must seek a permit if they share or publish military or “dual use” technology (research with both military and civilian applications, such as radar).

Many countries have similar controls, but the definition of “dual use” technologies can be incredibly subjective. In 2012, a Dutch researcher was infamously taken to court after publishing influenza research that allegedly could have been used to make biological weapons.

Universities in Australia are also required to publicly list every arrangement with a foreign government entity. A recent study of these arrangements found a disturbing number of potentially high-risk ventures at our universities.

Disclosure doesn’t appear to stop questionable research associations going ahead. A parliamentary inquiry has even found the public register to be no longer fit for purpose.

What Australia could be doing better

There has been a lack of consolidated action on research security.

Two years ago, a parliamentary inquiry heard of sustained and repeated acts of foreign interference at our universities. To date, fewer than a quarter of the committee’s recommendations have been acted upon.

The final report of the Universities Accord, released this year – which Federal Education Minister Jason Clare called “a blueprint for the next decade and beyond” – doesn’t mention research security at all. In fact, it mentions national security only three times in 408 pages.

Another problem is the complete secrecy surrounding these kinds of cases. Had Zhu not appealed, we might never have heard about it.

Neither the government nor the university made substantial public statements about the case. And Zhu himself will probably never even know what information the minister considered to ban him. Instead, the government issued a variety of certificates to protect “lawful methods for preventing, detecting, and investigating breaches or evasions of the law” and “confidential sources”.

Where to from here

Australia could take some lessons from our allies.

In Canada, any federal funding involving a “sensitive technology” will be refused if it involves association with anyone on a list of specific organisations. In New Zealand, high-risk research can be secured by the use of encrypted devices, security clearances, and keeping all research data offline. In the US, universities can be fined or even have their funding suspended if they do not comply with disclosure rules.

That said, our universities are unlikely to welcome more regulation. Such rules may infringe on academic freedom – the protection of academics’ rights to pursue risky or controversial topics.

Universities already complain they are one of the most “over-regulated” sectors in the country. Worse yet, universities say stifling international competition could stunt our innovation and “leave us worse off”.

But these objections shouldn’t be the end of the story. In 2021, ASIO head Mike Burgess said that “taking a sensible approach to national security risks shouldn’t stop [universities] from getting on with their core roles”.

Three years on, even discussion of this “sensible approach” seems to have fallen by the wayside. It needs to start again – or any “Future Made in Australia” might stall before it even gets started.

Author: Brendan Walker-Munro, Senior Lecturer (Law), Southern Cross University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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Federal Budget’s Broad Cost-of-Living Relief Sparks Controversy, but Chalmers Stands Firm

Image Source: X/Twitter @JEChalmers
Image Source: X/Twitter @JEChalmers

The federal budget has ignited a heated debate among economists and experts, who question the effectiveness of the government’s cost-of-living relief measures. Despite the criticism, Treasurer Jim Chalmers remains steadfast, asserting that the initiatives are essential to support Australians across the income spectrum.

Image Source: X/Twitter @JEChalmers
Image Source: X/Twitter @JEChalmers

Key Budget Measures

  • Energy Rebates: Every household will receive a $300 energy rebate starting in July, with eligible small businesses getting a $325 rebate.
  • Tax Cuts: Average tax cuts of $36 per week, amounting to $1888 annually, will take effect from July.
  • Rent Assistance: Commonwealth Rent Assistance will increase by 10%, providing an additional $19 per fortnight to more than one million households.
  • Medicine Cost Caps: Prescription costs will be capped at $31.60 under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, with a $7.70 cap for pensioners and concession holders for five years.
  • JobSeeker Payments: Expanded eligibility for higher JobSeeker rates to those with a partial capacity to work up to 14 hours per week.
  • Student Support: University students in specific fields will receive an extra $319.50 per week during placements starting in July 2025, and $3 billion will be cut from student debt.

Inflation Concerns

Critics, including economist Chris Richardson, argue that the budget’s front-loaded spending could exacerbate inflation. However, Treasury forecasts suggest that the combined measures of energy relief and rent assistance will reduce inflation by half a percentage point, bringing it within the Reserve Bank’s target range of 2-3% by December 2024.

Committee for Economic Development of Australia chief economist Cassandra Winzar cautions that non-means-tested relief could drive spending elsewhere, potentially counteracting efforts to curb inflation. Despite these warnings, Chalmers emphasises that the relief is designed to mitigate inflation without adding broader economic pressures.

Mixed Reactions from Stakeholders

Shadow Treasurer Angus Taylor criticises the budget, claiming it fails to address core cost-of-living issues and adds unnecessary spending. Conversely, the Business Council of Australia and the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry acknowledge positive steps in competitiveness but raise concerns about long-term inflation management.

The budget also includes $6.2 billion for housing measures, aiming to build 40,000 new social and affordable homes and collaborate with universities to increase student housing. The $22.7 billion Future Made in Australia fund aims to boost private sector investment in key industries, while over $800 million will be allocated to mental health support.

Image Source: X/Twitter @JEChalmers
Image Source: X/Twitter @JEChalmers

Government’s Defense

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Treasurer Chalmers maintain that the budget provides much-needed relief while keeping inflation in check. Chalmers highlights the Treasury’s advice that the cost-of-living package is designed to mitigate inflationary pressures, a sentiment echoed by some stakeholders.

As the nation anticipates the potential impact of these measures, the debate underscores the challenges of balancing immediate relief with long-term economic stability. The government’s commitment to supporting Australians through targeted and broad-based initiatives reflects a nuanced approach to navigating complex economic landscapes.

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More than 50k people sign petition calling local Council to reverse ban on books featuring same-sex parents

Representative image: Same sex couple (Source: CANVA)

More than 50,000 people have signed petitions calling on Cumberland Council to reverse a ban on books featuring same-sex parents, ahead of a vote on Wednesday night.  

Local grandmother Caroline Staples is being supported by the national LGBTIQ+ group Equality Australia in her bid to reverse the ban, with the petitions to be presented by her to council tonight. 

Equality Australia Legal Director Ghassan Kassisieh said in a statement that the children’s book that sparked the ban was part of a series about different types of families. 

“The attempt to erase these loving families from library shelves is importing the worst of American-style culture wars and doesn’t reflect what modern Australia looks like or wants. People should be able to go to their public library and find books that represent their families. If someone doesn’t like what’s in a book, they don’t have to borrow it.” 

Ms Staples is a long-time resident of the Cumberland area and a mother of four adult children as well as a proud grandmother in a rainbow family. 

“I’ve been overwhelmed by the volume and diversity of support for rescinding the ban. Western Sydney welcomes people of different backgrounds, beliefs and cultures. We don’t ban people or families and we won’t allow publicity-seeking politicians to play members of our community off against each other.” 

Ms Staples said her bid to reverse the ban was backed by peak bodies like the Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA) and Early Childhood Australia.  

“The book banners have demonstrated they don’t care about the wellbeing and safety of our children and families. I’m optimistic that now councillors have had a chance to reflect on the consequences of their decision they will reject this divisive move.” 

Australian Library and Information Association ALIA CEO Cathie Warburton said that her organisation is committed to libraries providing access to information for all. “There is no place for censorship. The freedom to read and the freedom to choose what we read is a fundamental pillar of democracy.” 

​“The message is clear: people should be free to decide what books they borrow from their public library. They should be able to walk through the doors to find stories that represent their culture, their families and their identities.  

In total, 40,861 people have so far signed the Equality Australia petition, including 2,194 from within Cumberland postcodes. Another 10,065 have signed a change.org petition, with the petitions to be presented to council together. 

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Australia’s Fiji Indian Community Rallies for Vishaal Maharaj’s Medical Recovery and Education

Image: Vishaal Maharaj (Source: gofundme)

Australia’s Fiji Indian community has put an appeal on behalf of Vishaal Maharaj, a young international student who came here in pursuit of his dreams.

Originally from Fiji, Vishaal hails from a modest family and, driven by an unwavering passion for culinary arts, aspires to work in hospitality industry.

To pursue his aspirations he enrolled in a Certificate IV program in Kitchen Management at Page Institute.

Balancing his academic pursuits with financial responsibilities, Vishaal embraced a role as a dasher delivering meals for Door-dash.

On April 10, 2024, tragedy occurred as Vishaal was involved in a grave car accident during his Door-dash duties that left him with severe injuries, particularly to his right arm.

In the hospital, Vishaal was face-to-face with the grim prospect of amputation. His community rallied to help save his arm, though ultimately, the functionality of his arm was significantly compromised.

Vishaal’s friend and organiser of the GoFundMe page, Shivneil Shandil said:

“The accident resulted in severe injuries, including serious damage to his right arm. I received a call to authorise amputation of his arm but we requested the doctors try their best to save his arm. Ultimately his forearm was saved, shortened by 80mm and losing functionality. At this stage it appears unlikely he will ever be able to return to his course and become a chef as Vishaal has lost functionality of his right arm.”

Despite this profound setback, Vishaal’s indomitable spirit endures, his resolve to surmount challenges serving as a beacon of inspiration.

Refusing to be deterred by his unforeseen tragedy, Vishaal remains resolute in his pursuit of education, contemplating alternative paths should his culinary aspirations become unattainable.

As Vishaal embarks on the arduous road to recovery, his friends and well-wishers in the community have put a call for $50,000 in monetary support via GoFundMe.

Shivneil Shandil adds:

“Thank you for considering supporting Vishaal during this difficult time. Your kindness and generosity will make a meaningful difference in his life and empower him to continue pursuing his dreams with resilience and determination.”

Donations are sought to aid in covering his rehabilitation expenses, encompassing uninsured medical appointments, physiotherapy sessions, and additional support required during this trying period.

Furthermore, contributions will ease the financial strain on Vishaal as he persists in his studies at Page Institute, ensuring that despite the hurdles, he remains steadfast on the path to realising his educational and vocational ambitions.

In extending support to Vishaal, individuals are invited to play a pivotal role in his journey, offering not just financial assistance but also a profound message of solidarity and encouragement.

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Bark-Tech Boom: AFP’s canines lead the charge in fighting crime

Image: Canine capability demo with AG (Source: AFP)

The AFP’s world-class technology detection dogs (TDDs) continue to demonstrate their skill and dedication to keeping Australians safe, discovering more than 180 items in search warrants across the country so far this year.

The talented dogs have attended more than 70 search warrants in 2024, sniffing out mobile phones, sim cards, USBs, laptops, and digital cameras, which were often hidden in obscure places.

Image: Canine capability demo with AG (Source: AFP)

The AFP’s National Canine Operations (NCO) pioneered the TDD capability within Australia, with the canines helping investigators across multiple crime types to locate items that may have otherwise been missed by humans during a traditional hand search.

Only the best detection dogs are capable of joining the technology detection cohort with 13 TDDs currently deployed across Australia.

Image: Canine capability demo with AG (Source: AFP)

Assistant Commissioner Alison Wegg said canines were an invaluable capability, and some of the AFP’s successes in disrupting crime would not have been possible without them: “The AFP’s canines are on the frontline with AFP members and have been instrumental in identifying evidence that has led to the conviction of a number of offenders.”

Assistant Commissioner Wegg added: “Dogs conducting detection work sniff between five to 10 times a second. Their smell processing capacity is 40 times stronger than humans, and studies have shown they can find a scent as faint as one part per million.”

“It is very important for us to continue to research and develop new concepts in canine capability to ensure we remain a step ahead of criminals.”

The AFP highlighted the important work of TDDs and the agency’s world-leading high risk explosive detection dog (HREDD) capability to Federal Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus KC. The Attorney-General was joined by AFP Assistant Commissioner Specialist Protective Command Alison Wegg.

The visiting delegation watched a demonstration of the TDDs meticulously searching for hidden devices in a building.

They also observed how AFP handlers controlled HREDDs off-lead using hand directions, silent whistles and lasers to deploy the dogs at a distance in multiple environments. This capability is a first for Australian law enforcement.