Giving up your citizenship is a hard thing to get your head around if you were born in Australia.
Generally speaking, being born in Australia is the Wonka Golden Ticket of citizenship.
I guess there are Australian’s that renounce their citizenship – Rupert Murdoch comes to mind, but Aussie’s choosing citizenship of another country over the green and gold isn’t something you come across or hear about.
Other people becoming or wanting to become an Australian citizen is much easier to understand.
Around this great southland, 13,000 people made a pledge to Australia and its people on January 26, 11 of those in Bega, people born at all points of the global compass.
Nationally, people of Indian descent were the second largest group to take part in citizenship ceremonies on Australia Day behind the British, something that was reflected locally.
Indian born Bega residents, Dr Krishnankutty Rajesh, Parvathy Rajesh, and Kiran Rajesh, along with Cobargo’s Pavan Tenali are now Australian citizens.
“This is a lovely community and very peaceful, a good place to stay,” Pavan says.
With Australian Crawl’s hit “Boys Light Up” playing in the background, Pavan tells me he has been in Australia for 10 years, in recent years working at the Cobargo Service Station.
“India is a good place too, but now I live here and the feeling is good,” he says.
Skype helps Pavan keep in touch with his large family in India, he says they are very happy for him and support his decision to become an Australian citizen.
“It was a big decision, but I am very happy, my family have peace of mind.”
India and the United Kindom weren’t the only nations represented in Bega, others pledging loyalty to Australia’s democratic beliefs, rights, liberties, and laws came from Thailand and the United States.
With the day’s soundtrack moving along to Men at Work, Saul Nightingale says his heart has always been Australian.
“I moved here when I was five, that’s forty years ago,” Saul smiles.
“Mum and Dad are from the UK and they just saw the way things were going there, they thought this is not a place to bring up a family, in terms of opportunity, safety, and employment.
Saul calls Bermagui home now and when he isn’t playing music he works for the not-for-profit training organisation – The Centre for Community Welfare Training.
“My earliest memory of Australia was pulling into Sydney Harbour on the P&O Canberra on a stunningly beautiful day, Sydney was showing off, Australia made a pretty good first impression,” Saul laughs.
While becoming an Australian citizen was a formality for Saul, it was something that came with a sense of duty.
“I have a responsibility to have a say politically, as all Australians do,” he says.
“It’s all very well to talk about politics and to support certain causes but if you can’t actually put a vote to that then there’s a level of hypocrisy there.”
Merimbula’s Brittany McConnell has been in Australia for six and half years with her Australian husband, her background is a jumble of the United States and England.
“It is a big decision to take Australian citizenship, but now I just feel so happy and proud, it feels amazing,” Brittany says.
Like Saul, this nurse from Pambula Hospital is looking forward to having her say.
“Back home you don’t actually have to participate [vote] if you don’t want to, so it’s quite nice to feel that obligation and be involved in decisions and feel like you have a voice,” she says.
As the band starts with Mondo Rock, I chat to Jason Badham who was born in the United States and has found love, life, and work in the Bega Valley.
Living in Wolumla, Jason is a website designer with 2pi Software.
“I’ve been thinking about taking out citizenship for almost eight years, but the final decision came at the end of January 2017, ” Jason says.
The Trump inauguration seems to have played a part in Jason’s decision but more so the influence of his Australian partner Kirsten.
“I was in the States and I discovered my wife here in Australia because she was breeding the same kind of parrots that I was, I found her website and it was an encyclopedia of information,” Jason says.
“One thing led to another, I helped her build a website, we started having a friendship and I decided to come over here – it’s the best choice I ever made.”
Australia Day remains a tangle of issues yet to be sorted, but the role the citizenship ceremony plays is beyond question. Those who already have Australian citizenship are reminded by those who are new to it why Australia is such a good place to be and why diversity makes us stronger.
Through her Australia Day address, Bega Valley Mayor, Kristy McBain has tried to advance the conversation about our national day.
“With courage let us all combine in a celebration and conversation about our country,” the Mayor told the 200 people gathered in Littleton Gardens this morning for the Shire’s official Australia Day ceremony.
An hour after the Bega ceremony concluded a Survival Day event was held in Bermagui, reflecting the undeniable loss many Aboriginal people feel on January 26.
The Bega Valley was split in two, and those overwhelmed by the debate went to the beach.
Communities divided or not engaged on our national day – surely this is not healthy?
Rather than waiting for Federal leadership on the issue, perhaps the people of South East NSW could lead the way and create an event that truly unifies and inspires all Australians.
It’s a conversation the Bega Valley’s Mayor seems keen to have and lead…
To address you on a day such as this is a tremendous honour and something I have spent a lot of time thinking about.
Australia Day is an event that generates conversation and thought, and rightly so. Thank you for being here to consider my thoughts.
There is a sigh of relief that comes with being Australian, our country is truly blessed in natures gifts and the beauty of our people and way of life is rich and rare.
The people we honour today with an Australia Day Award remind us that being Australian is active citizenship.
People like Dane, Junee, Ron, Shaun, Geoffrey and Marshall are people within our community that point the way. They inspire us and remind us of the power we each have within our hands and heart to shape this land that is girt by sea.
I am so glad you are here today to share in their wisdom and experience, and perhaps ask yourself – What can I do to Advance Australia? How can I respect and support the people, environment, and way of life we celebrate today?
Today we also stand up and cheer as new Australian’s join our ranks and deepen our proud multicultural heritage.
Twelve people will today become Australian citizens, people from across the seas to share our boundless plains. The stories of these people and the talent they bring make us stronger.
Central to our time together today is a history that spans one of the oldest living cultures on the planet as well as European settlement and exploration.
Australia Day is a history lesson that presents a range of ideas and experiences to consider; stories that take in the full scope of our country’s history and human emotion.
How these shared and at times conflicting histories sit side by side and are remembered is an ongoing dialogue for our community and important work for us to do so that in history’s page, every stage, does Advance Australia.
As different and conflicting as those histories are at times, there are often shared values and ambitions that rise to the surface as those histories are shared.
At our core, we are a nation of people who value being Australian and what that means to us and says to the world.
It’s freedom that comes as easy as the next breath, a celebration and acceptance of different cultures, an emphasis on friendship, a spirit that has a go, a sense of fun, and an empathy that steps up when we see a need.
A successful nation has been built on these lands over many thousands of years, each chapter adds something new, each chapter has its own challenges, and each chapter calls on us to help shape the next.
So in 2018 I encourage you to mark Australia Day however feels right to you, remembering all that we have to be grateful for, all that we have in common, and the future we all create together.
With courage let us all combine in a celebration and conversation about our country.
Happy Australia Day!
Bega Valley Shire Mayor, Kristy McBain
The increasing hurt and frustration around Australia Day damages the potential and delays resolution, while ever it continues people will run from any organised event, the only people attending will be those at the extremes of the discussion, the rest will opt for a swim and a good book, and Australia Day will become just another public holiday when it could be so much more.
The leadership shown by Cr McBain this morning is perhaps the start of something better, let’s get the local discussion going now and not wait for next January to roll around.
Always interested in your thoughts.
*Author is part-time media officer for Bega Valley Shire Council and acted as MC for Australia Day 2018 in Bega.
Canadian born Michael has been on the Far South Coast of New South Wales over summer, bringing his brand of land art to Picnic Point and Goalen Head, a magic bit of coastline between Bermagui and Tathra.
His work defies gravity, at least how the rest of us understand gravity, but Michael seems to have an ability to tap into and read this invisible earth force – something he describes as “gravity glue“.
The first About Regional Pop-Up Newsroom landed in Bermagui this week, based out of Julie Rutherford Real Estate we uncovered some of the untold stories of this town.
Kelly Eastwood from River Cottage Australia dropped in to share her plans for a deli and cooking school…
The About Regional Pop-Up Newsroom is in #Bermagui upstairs at the harbour at Julie Rutherford Real Estate.This time chatting to Kelly Eastwood about her new deli and cooking school.Drop by with your story between now and 2pm.CheersIan
Longtime Bermagui fisherman Allan Broadhurst talked about his life on the ocean…
Can't come to #Bermagui and not talk to a real fisherman! Here's one – Allan Broadhurst.The About Regional Pop-Up Newsroom at Julie Rutherford Real Estate.Drop by with your story before 2pm.Thanks for tuning in.Ian
And then there’s Bruce Frost, a life of volunteering, beekeeping and managing MS, one of the region’s great men…
The About Regional Pop-Up Newsroom is at Julie Rutherford Real Estate, upstairs at #Bermagui Harbour until 2ish. Drop by and share your story.Chatting to Bruce Frost right now talking volunteering, beekeeping, life with MS, and who knows!Thanks for tuning in.Ian
The Trust is based in a magnificent Spotted Gum forest on the edge of the Bermagui River.
Established in 1999 and lead by Dean and Annette Turner, The Crossing is a unique not-for-profit educational camp where teens for near and far learn about Landcare, sustainable design, habitat, and wildlife research in a hands-on, practical way.
Greater self-awareness, confidence, initiative – and a good time is the spin-off for those who take part.
“We take that notion of having a go in a supportive environment to The Youth Stage and give young people experience performing in front of live audiences,” Annette says.
Most performers are local but a few young people from further afield like Canberra and Wollongong have heard about the opportunity and in recent years have been making the most of the festival experience.
Names on The Crossing Youth Stage honour role include Cooma’s Vendulka, Brogo’s Daniel Champagne, Bega’s Rhys Davies, and Merimbula’s Kim Churchill, who have all gone on to bigger stages and bigger audiences around Australia and around the world.
“There is always such a broad range of music,” Annette says.
“All music is welcome with opportunities for young people to perform a single song or an entire set – you can even come and juggle.
“And what I really love is that some will go away and really hone their skills between festivals and return with new material, different line-ups, and more confidence,” Annette smiles.
The Stage also provides an important hub and hang out for young festival goers, with an atmosphere of respect and inclusion for all.
Spin-offs from the Youth Stage have included a Songwriters Camp held at The Crossing during the school year that gives young people an opportunity to develop their talent and craft under the guidance of professional musicians and performers.
Thousands of “local legends” around Australia have just been told they will carry the Queen’s Baton through their community in the run-up to the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games – 19 Bega Valley and Eurobodalla locals are among them…
Peter Anderson, Malua Bay
Robert Blake, Malua Bay
Darren Browning, Tomakin
Ann Brummell, Batemans Bay
Anthony Fahey, Dalmeny
Leah Hearne, Lilli Pilli
Sharon Himan, Moruya
Tracey Innes, Longbeach
Andrei Kravskov, Sunshine Bay
Helen McFarlane, Sunshine Bay
RubyRose McMath, Batemans Bay
Merle Morton, Wamban
Brad Rossiter, Surfside
Amanda Smith, Broulee
Cheryl Sutherland, Moruya
Kate Butterfield, Bermagui
Helen Hillier, Eden
Lynne Koerbin, Merimbula
Dane Waites, Pambula
Nominated by their peers for achievements and contributions to their community, these batonbearers have been chosen because they represent the spirit of the Commonwealth and inspire others to be great.
Bermagui’s Kate Butterfield is a former police officer managing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, she started the Run Brave initiative to raise awareness of the benefits of running for those struggling with mental health issues.
She has created a fun, supportive, and encouraging environment for people of all fitness levels to complete a five-kilometre event across Australia in 2016, fostering community spirit and raising money for Lifeline.
Its an initiative that is growing in popularity, all participants benefit from improved physical and mental health through connection with other like-minded people, at all stages of fitness.
Surfside’s Brad Rossiter is part of the relay with Kate, he says just being nominated was an honour.
“And then to be selected to carry the Baton through Batemans Bay is tremendously humbling,” Brad says.
“Congratulations to all our local batonbearers.”
Brad will cover his 200 metres on two prosthetic legs. Brad is a dual organ transplant recipient (kidney and pancreas), is legally blind and a double leg amputee as a result of type 1 diabetes.
He shares his deeply personal and inspirational story daily promoting general health and well being and organ donor awareness.
As the founder of ‘The Eurobodalla Renal Support Group & Organ Donor Awareness’ Brad is a tireless community worker.
Launched at Buckingham Palace in March this year, the Queen’s Baton carries a message from Queen Elizabeth II, in it she calls the athletes of the Commonwealth to come together in peaceful and friendly competition.
Currently traveling through Brunei, Malaysia, and Singapore, the Baton starts its Australian journey on Christmas Eve in Brisbane, dropping in on major events, iconic landmarks, and children’s hospitals during the summer school holidays before switching to a traditional relay in Canberra on 25 January.
From Nowra, the Baton Relay arrives in Batemans Bay on Tuesday, February 6 for a community celebration at Corrigans Reserve, before taking off to Tasmania
“The wonderful people selected for this special task have dedicated their lives to improving the lives of others,” Eurobodalla Mayor Liz Innes says.
“Some have accomplished great feats and others are working towards realising their dreams.
“This will be a rare and unforgettable experience and I encourage everyone to share the excitement and get behind the Relay when it comes to Batemans Bay in February.”
More information about the local celebration will be released before the end of November.
*Content contributions from Eurobodalla Shire Council.
Thelma is an Indigenous singer-songwriter from northern New South Walse, a graduate of the Music Industry College in Brisbane, she released her debut EP ‘Rosie’ in March 2013, which was followed by ‘Monster’ in 2014.
With Triple J Unearthed, National Indigenous Music Awards, and Deadly Award wins as a springboard, Thelma has continued to draw attention and audiences. She is currently wrapping up a national tour with West Australian band San Cisco.
Jean-Paul is a Sydney based writer, producer, and mixer who has worked alongside Birds of Tokyo, Daniel Johns, Jet, Cold Chisel, Josh Pyke, and more.
These two mentors came to beautiful Bermagui under the banner of the SongMakers program supported by music royalties body APRA AMCOS.
“They led the students through a songwriting process that had them engaging their senses and taking notice of their feelings and emotions,” explains Annette Turner from The Crossing.
SongMakers is an intensive, real-world program centred around being creative. Australia’s best songwriters and producers help students to create and record new music.
For two days, students are immersed in a hothouse collaborative environment and given unparalleled insight into the forces that drive the contemporary music industry and the creative processes required to cut through.
“Songmakers usually go into schools but I asked them to come south and run the workshop as a camp because it’s a challenge getting 16 senior music students from any one school on the south coast,” Annette says.
“With the support of the Yuin Folk Club it all came together and four brand new songs are the result.”
FAN cites a series of scientific studies that point to negative health effects related to fluoride. Yet the World Health Organisation cites fluoridation of water as, “the most effective public health measure for the prevention of dental decay.”
The ingredients of this debate are a potent mix of conflicting evidence, with added fear, and a rather large ethical grey area.
It’s murky and hard to navigate.
Yet if you can familiarise yourself with this tricky landscape, you can start to make sense of the different perspectives people have on this issue, and perhaps take some of the fear out of the equation.
It turns out that scientific studies, the foundation stones of public health debate, are not always as rock solid as they seem.
While the fluoride debate touches on personal choice, welfare, and economics; scientific studies are a central part of pro and anti-fluoride argument.
A body of studies has been cited by the Fluoride Action Network pointing to potential effects of fluoride such as reduced IQ in children, obesity, and even cancer.
But with so much at stake, how do you navigate the conflicting “evidence” that we’re finding?
Where better to begin than Google Scholar?! Google’s search engine for published academic studies. What happens when you search for “fluoride and IQ”?
Looking through the studies that have linked fluoride to lower IQ in children, one thing stands out – most studies that popped up didn’t test for other factors that could affect IQ.
Many studies were from China, India, or Mongolia, and compared towns that fluoridated water supplies with those that didn’t.
However, they didn’t check for other differences between the towns – levels of poverty, nutrition, potential lead and arsenic poisoning, all of which can affect the IQ of children.
This is like blaming weight gain on exercise, without considering diet.
These studies simply don’t meet the criteria needed to inform sound decision-making, yet they are published online alongside studies of higher quality.
Twenty low-quality studies that link lower IQ and fluoride, alongside only one quality study that finds no link, can look like strength in numbers and cast the wrong impression.
Assessing evidence doesn’t work like that. It’s not like voting. One study is not necessarily worth the same as another.
The problem is that scientific investigations can be carried out and published (particularly online) by any scientist, from any organisation. Most are carried out with noble intentions, but even noble intentions can be fed by bias – if you’re passionate about a cause, or feel that you’ve found an important link, established scientific practices might fall by the wayside.
Dr Wakefield and his colleagues felt that they’d found an important link after reviewing the cases of eight people who’d been diagnosed with autism within a month of receiving the Measles Mumps Rubella (MMR) vaccine.
The investigation was found to be riddled with problems; their medical assessments and analysis of results were described as incomplete and biased.
Much of the criticism of Dr Wakefield’s study suggested it ignored statistical significance.
Given that 50,000 children per month were vaccinated with MMR in England at the time, eight presentations of autism were not enough to establish a link.
Statistical significance is needed for a scientific result to have meaning. Where health is concerned, this usually means two things – that a lot of people were tested and the results were strong enough to discount coincidence and other confounding factors, such as nutrition and lead in the IQ example.
Dr Wakefield’s study was discredited, and wide scale, high-quality studies were carried out that found no link between autism and vaccination. But his study was already fuelling the fears of parents across the globe.
When something appears to threaten the health of children, it can achieve notoriety.
It’s important to carefully examine the information you are given or find yourself, but how do you sift through the jargon, the publications, the conflicting evidence?
Putting your fear aside, how do you know what and who to trust?
“While I’d love to say that I have the capacity to truthfully assess the veracity and rigour of all research that’s available online, I simply don’t have that capacity. In fact, no one does,” he says.
“Instead we’re all forced to use the decision-making heuristics we’ve always used, typically though not exclusively, trusting a variety of voices in our networks that know better.”
Dr Grant says that we rely on institutions to process this information for us.
“But if I’m a person who doesn’t trust these institutions – and the number of people who don’t trust the central institutions of society is growing globally – then I’m going to trust other things,” he says.
Other things might include organisations like FAN, who question the reliability of institutionalised knowledge.
The FAN website claims it, “develops and maintains the world’s most comprehensive online database on fluoride compounds.”
Despite making this claim, they don’t give you a comprehensive review of the quality of materials in their database.
The Australian Government’s National Medical Health Research Council (NHMRC), is a not-for-profit research organisation that draws on the expertise of people tied to the University of Melbourne, Royal North Shore Hospital, The Cancer Council, Alfred Hospital, and Monash University, among other organisations.
Firstly, it assesses the quality of studies looking into the effects of fluoridation on dental caries (decay) and other symptoms from 2006-2015, and walks through them bit by bit, weighing up their value without apparent bias.
Secondly, its conclusions reflect the “greyness” of this debate. The NHMRC says the evidence appears to indicate that Australian water fluoridation standards are safe, while also suggesting there are gaps in the research.
The recommended level of fluoridation is shown to give a 35% reduction in dental caries. This is a significant number, as it means that more than a third of dental decay can be prevented by adding fluoride to a water supply.
This has knock-on effects for the rest of a person’s health and reduces financial pressure on individuals and the economy by cutting down on visits to the dentist.
The report also shows that recommended fluoride levels can increase the incidence of tooth discolouration due to fluorosis (a chronic condition caused by excessive intake of fluoride compounds, seen as mottling of the teeth) by around 12%.
The NHRMC document also gives many of the scientific reports presented in this debate a confidence grading.
The low overall confidence grading of the reports that raise concerns about cancer and IQ perhaps take some fear out of the equation, as the ratings are low enough to discount many of the studies altogether.
The presence of studies of higher quality (ie more thorough and more reliable) have tipped the balance of evidence away from such matters of concern.
However, if the NHRMC also suggests there are gaps in the research, why can’t we just test for the negative health effects that fuel much of the fear in a robust credible way?
In Australia, people are exposed to fluoride in a number of ways, including in toothpaste and tea, and it naturally occurs in the environment around us. This means that a person’s previous exposure to fluoride is very difficult to determine. To find a bunch of people who have never been exposed to fluoride as a control group, and then to test the effects of drinking fluoridated water on them, is extremely challenging.
And as the studies linking fluoride and IQ in China, India, and Mongolia show us, these studies are problematic because there are so many other factors that can contribute to influence a person’s health.
Finding the fluoride link is not easy.
The NHMRC review gives us an indication of which way the evidence is swinging – and it’s telling us that fluoridation of our water supply will give us healthier teeth and that the only side effect of significant concern is discolouration caused by fluorosis.
It also tells us that other side effects are most likely not going to happen at Australian levels of fluoridation.
Our personal views on fluoridation are important and varied and can’t be discounted.
But it is important that we are able to critically assess the information that is given to us. If we can’t do this on our own, we can at least have a look at how others have reviewed it and make sure that we’re satisfied with how they’ve done it, which perhaps takes some of the fear out of the equation.
*Kate Burke is completing her Masters in Science Communication through the Australian National University