In a do-gooder frame of mind, Noseweek’s intrepid correspondent [Please God, not another one! – Ed.] last year ventured out of Sydney’s eastern suburbs to see if she could be of any use at the Asylum Seekers Centre in the somewhat less salubrious Newtown. Helping with communications, or teaching English, perhaps. As it turned out, there were over 2,000 volunteers on the centre’s wait-list. Since then, she has applied twice and twice been knocked back for volunteer roles.
The latest email is seeking coaches to help prepare asylum seekers for job interviews: a day a week, half with the interview subject, and half researching the company and the specifics of the job being sought. But the centre warns: “Please Note: Due to our limited capacity in staffing and overwhelming number of applications received, only shortlisted applicants will be contacted.” Do not call, questions and inquiries should be emailed.
One of Australia’s best-loved TV presenters – South African import Anton Enus – has gone public about his bowel cancer to raise awareness of the country’s second-highest cause of cancer deaths after lung cancer. Enus is definitely on the side of the angels. Described in the Sydney Morning Herald as “utterly handsome and extremely svelt”, Enus says he has the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program to thank for detection of his illness. Available to all Australians from the age of 50, it includes a home test kit that arrives free in the mail.
The former SABC newsreader, who is said by friends to be doing well after completing radiation and chemo, recently wrote of his shock diagnosis: “The one who’d given up eating meat more than three decades before, who’d never been a smoker and no more than a glass-with-dinner kind of drinker. The one who ran marathons and whose greatest joy was chasing a ball around a tennis court, who did yoga and had no family history of bowel cancer. And yet, there it was, plain to see… I collected the stool samples and sent them off, hoping to hear nothing more, hoping to hide somewhere within the herd. Now, aged 55, I find myself on the outer edge of that herd…”
Joburg-born Ronni Kahn’s OzHarvest, which hit the 60-million mark for free delivered meals of non-perishable high-quality food to charities, has generated spin-offs in the UK (with Camilla Parker Bowles as a patron) and in New Zealand. Kahn, a former events organiser, started OzHarvest in 2004. The “food rescue charity” collects surplus food daily from delis, takeaways, boardrooms, hotels and restaurants, producers, growers, farmers and fields, and delivers it to about 600 charities nationally.
“OzHarvest has brought wagyu beef to the poor, and whole salmon, raw and cooked food from the finest restaurants, and even the leftovers from MasterChef and other TV cookery shows,” says the Sydney Morning Herald. Kahn was instrumental in changing legislation in several states that had prevented food donors from supplying excess food. Now, companies and registered businesses are protected under the Civil Liabilities Amendment (Food Donations) Act and Health acts.
Making her mark in the art and design world is Dr Gene Sherman, who emigrated from Johannesburg in 1976. In March she brought to her private gallery in Sydney an exhibition of the works of Japanese architect Shigeru Ban, best known for his work with paper, recycled carbon tubes and bamboo used for low-cost emergency housing.
Sherman’s husband Brian founded the animal rights think-tank Voiceless, which champions the rights of factory-farmed animals. The couple also funds medical research – specifically, these days, into a rare genetic disorder affecting two of their grandchildren, meaning they cannot walk or talk. Every year the Shermans bring together 20-or-so researchers from around the globe and “lock them in a room together” to update each other.
With mainstream print media having collapsed in a heap, your everyday do-gooder columnist has ended up working for a union whose members are on the receiving end of public service job cuts. All day I hear tales from bewildered people who’d thought they had jobs for life, now thrown on the scrap heap as privatisation of government services bite – made redundant, in corporate-speak. Those who survive the cullings complain of being over-worked, doing the jobs of two or three, and of being shunted aside for bosses who are way younger than them – and more technologically adept.
Even in Australia, far from the world’s hotspots, it is starting to feel as though we are living on a time bomb. Signs of decay: MP Barnaby Joyce wants the state emblem of Victoria, Leadbeater’s Possum – which was declared endangered in 2015 – taken off the list so that logging can proceed apace in the possum’s favourite forests. The historic moratorium on logging in Tasmania’s old growth forests may be overturned to create jobs.
And MP Peter Dutton said recently that the government “won’t be bullied” by CEOs campaigning for same-sex marriage. Sigh.
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