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Author Topic: Australia by Tibrogargan January 2007 - present and 155216+ views later!  (Read 590111 times)
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« Reply #860 on: January 11, 2010, 08:33:50 PM »

Thank you for your reply Muffy.  I am pleased you were able to view the pictures.  A clearly marked hospital ship is usually exempt from any hostile action but as we know some countries make their own rules of warfare.  I have watched several TV interviews with relatives of those killed in this tragedy and even those who were born many years after are still emotionally affected. 

Lest we Forget.


....And at night the wond’rous glory of the everlasting stars..  A.B (Banjo) Paterson
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« Reply #861 on: January 11, 2010, 08:37:12 PM »

Slouch hat sheds light on Centaur disaster

Article from: The Courier-Mail

Natalie Gregg and Tuck Thompson

January 12, 2010 08:51am

A LONE felt slouch hat resting on the ocean floor is a very human reminder of those entombed in the Centaur.

The striking image, captured with a remote-control submersible camera early yesterday, is shedding light on Queensland's worst maritime disaster.

At 2059m below the surface, the water temperature drops to 4C, and the ocean current barely crawls along, leaving the hat undisturbed for more than 66 years.

On 14 May 1943 the hospital ship was torpedoed by the Japanese on its way to Papua New Guinea.

        * Slideshow: New images of the Centaur
        * New pictures: Fresh images from Centaur wreck
        * 3D interactive: Explore the wreck yourself
        * National Archives: Transcript of Centaur inquiry
        * In-depth: The story of the Centaur

The hat's discovery came a day before searchers early this morning lowered a commemorative bronze plaque honouring the sacrifice of the 268 people who died.

The plaque, which was donated by the 300-member Centaur Association, contains a CD with the names of everyone who served on the Centaur and personal notes from family members.

A submersible camera-robot carried the plaque to the Centaur.

"This is a gravesite and this is the marker for that gravesite," search director David L. Mearns said.

CSIRO oceanographer Dr David Griffin, who has been assisting Mr Mearns and his crew, was not surprised the hat had not been disturbed in more than 66 years.

"The current at that depth is 0.2m per second and you need a lot more than that to move something like a hat," Dr Griffin said.

Dr Griffin said the temperature at 2000m below the surface was about 4C and to go there would be like "setting a man on the moon".

"It's very cold down there, so that slows down all biological processes – it's living proof that wool can last for 60 years at depth," he said.

"Less is known 2000m below the surface than is known 20 million km away on the moon.

"Just think about how close this is to the centre of Brisbane – it's a stone's throw – but it is like setting a man on the moon to go down there."

MacArthur Museum Brisbane assistant executive officer Ron Rees yesterday identified the image as a typical army slouch hat.

He said medical officers, as well as 192 soldiers from the 2/12th Australian Field Ambulance aboard the hospital ship, would have worn the slouch hat.

Mr Rees said that with the owner of the rabbit felt hat likely to remain a mystery, it was like an unofficial memorial to all those who died.

"It's a very emotional photograph," he said. "The first thing that struck me was (that) it's like the the tomb of the unknown soldier. It's one of the most amazing photographs I have ever seen."


....And at night the wond’rous glory of the everlasting stars..  A.B (Banjo) Paterson
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« Reply #862 on: January 11, 2010, 08:48:55 PM »

Thank you for the additional articles on the Centaur, Tib.  It's so very sad, but very important that the pictures and the stories come to light. 
"It's a very emotional photograph," he said. "The first thing that struck me was (that) it's like the the tomb of the unknown soldier. It's one of the most amazing photographs I have ever seen."

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« Reply #863 on: January 11, 2010, 09:00:57 PM »

Memorial plaque honours victims of Centaur tragedy

Article from: AAP

January 12, 2010 08:41am

A MEMORIAL plaque honouring the lives of 268 Australians who died aboard the torpedoed hospital ship Centaur has been successfully laid in what could be the last-ever visit to the wreck.

The Centaur was sunk by a Japanese submarine off the Queensland coast during World War II, with only 64 of the 332 people on board surviving.

The ship had been lost for 67 years but on Sunday shipwreck hunter David Mearns and his crew of 33 aboard the Seahorse Spirit sent the submarine robot Remora 3 down 2,059 metres to take the first confirmation footage of the wreck.

Under the control of two pilots, Remora 3 made its fourth and what could possibly be the last ever visit to the wreck at 6am (AEST) on Tuesday morning, carefully laying a memorial plaque on the ship's foredeck.

It was initially feared the plaque would be placed adjacent to the ship and sink deep into clay-like sediment.

But federal Environment and Heritage Minister Peter Garrett granted a special allowance at the 11th hour for the plaque to be laid on the ship, despite it being protected under the Commonwealth's Historic Shipwrecks Act 1976.

``That's terrific fellas, thank you very much, it's as close as we could have hoped ... it was a tricky manoeuvre,'' Mr Mearns told the pilots over radio.

Mr Mearns told AAP aboard the Seahorse Spirit that in terms of a year-long project the laying of the plaque was the single culmination of everything they wanted to do.

``On behalf of all the families and friends and supporters or anyone who has a connection to this ship they will all now know that the gravesite is marked, the headstone has been laid,'' he said.

The plaque reads: ``In memory of shipmates, relatives, colleagues and friends who paid the supreme sacrifice on a mission of mercy, May 14, 1943. 2/3 AHS Centaur Association 2010, Lest We Forget.''

A memorial service dedicated to the men and women who lost their lives on the Centaur will take place on the deck of the Seahorse Spirit after midday today.

For the past two days, the crew has taken about 24 hours worth of video and photo footage of the Centaur.

During the expeditions, Mr Mearns and his crew managed to successfully identify several of the ship's ``fingerprints'', including a bright red cross, a bell with the ship's name on it, a distinctive star on the bow, and a corroded identification number 47.


....And at night the wond’rous glory of the everlasting stars..  A.B (Banjo) Paterson
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« Reply #864 on: January 13, 2010, 07:36:55 PM »

Jessica Watson conquers Cape Horn in solo voyage

Article from: The Courier-Mail

Amanda Lulham

January 14, 2010 12:00am

TEEN sailor Jessica Watson has navigated a safe passage through a graveyard of wrecks and lost sailors to conquer the Everest of sailing: Cape Horn.

The Sunshine Coast 16-year-old plotted her way overnight through some of the most treacherous waters in the world off the tip of South America on day 88 of her round-the- world solo adventure.

        * In pictures: Jessica Watson, solo sailor
        * Special section: Jessica Watson around the world
        * Jessica's blog: Track her progress

Renowned for huge waves, deadly currents, icebergs and shipwrecks, the Southern Ocean became Jessica's personal field of dreams overnight as she sailed her way around the Cape in her 10m yacht.

"I'm pretty thrilled because there is terrible visibility. I'm happy just to be seeing something," she told The Courier-Mail.

"It's a grey mist and a bit of nothingness . . . not the best sightseeing weather. There is a faint outline of the Cape so it's almost mythical."

It was a moment Jessica has dreamed of since beginning her epic race to become the youngest person to sail unassisted around the world on October 18.

And more excitement was on the horizon for Jessica, who knew her parents, Julie and Roger, were close by in Punta Arenas, Chile, organising a fly-over.

"It's really amazing because this is after years of dreaming. After such a huge build up it's really, really special. I feel I have turned the corner. It's really amazing," she said.

"It is almost halfway. I think after a bit more sleep I will be pretty excited.

"I think I am mostly running on adrenalin. When that wears off I think I'll be pretty exhausted. I've had a busy couple of days."

The Chilean and Argentinean Navy were also planning to have ships in the vicinity to acknowledge the youngster's extraordinary achievement.

"It's really weird. I haven't seen anyone for months and all of a sudden I have two navy ships heading my way and a plane with mum and dad. It's super exciting," Jessica said.

"It's been over a month since I've seen another boat and almost three months since I've seen another person, so I feel totally thrilled and spoiled to have so many guests all at once.

"I was extra careful brushing my hair this morning, which is of course completely pointless in this wind."

Jessica said the fact she would see her parents was "pretty special".

"It's great knowing they are so close. I haven't actually seen a person since I left three months ago. Not a boat or plane. I can't wait."

Jessica is now only around 10 days from the halfway point of her odyssey when she nears South Georgia Island, northeast of Cape Horn and south of the Falkland Islands. At this point she will have travelled more than 10,000 nautical miles in Ella's Pink Lady on a trip she hopes will finish in May.

After three months hearing only her daughter's voice on a satellite phone but not being able to see her, mum Julie Watson has her fingers crossed that today she will be able to wave at her daughter from a plane.

Julie and husband Roger flew from their home in Queensland to Chile so they could be as close as possible to their daughter when she achieved the amazing milestone of rounding Cape Horn.

"I'm so excited, I just can't wait to see her," Mrs Watson said. "It will just be great to be able to look at her. I just want to see her. Have a wave."

Watson said she expected it would be an emotional moment for her, husband Roger and Jessica when they fly over the yacht sometime today, weather permitting.


....And at night the wond’rous glory of the everlasting stars..  A.B (Banjo) Paterson
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« Reply #865 on: January 13, 2010, 07:39:27 PM »

Black Saturday hero Sam the koala joins Melbourne Museum

Article from: The Courier-Mail

Antonia Magee and Amelia Harris

January 14, 2010 12:00am

SAM the koala, an icon of Victoria's deadly bushfires, is becoming an eternal part of Australian history, going on display at the Melbourne Museum.

The iconic bushfire survivor was preserved after dying in August, and will be on display complete with pink bandages.

        * Vote now: Should Sam the koala have been stuffed?

The unveiling comes 11 months after the three-year-old became a symbol of hope amid the devastation of Black Saturday when a photo of her drinking from CFA firefighter David Tree's water bottle was flashed around the world.

Mr Tree said Sam deserved to be on display at the museum and was a poignant reminder of the devastation the fires caused.

"I think this will give people the chance to get up close and personal with what happened," Mr Tree said.

"It just shows you not only do humans suffer in bushfires, but so do our native wildlife," he said yesterday.

Sam recovered from the third-degree burns she received to her paws in the Mirboo North fires in the lead up to February 7, but was later euthanised due to chlamydiosis, a disease that is widespread in koalas and is exacerbated by loss of habitat.

Museum Victoria CEO Patrick Greene Sam is displayed in her recovery stage as a symbol of the enormous loss felt by so many in the aftermath the bushfires.

"For this reason I believe it's important that visitors from across Australia and from overseas can see Sam and be reminded of her story and the events of Black Saturday," Dr Green said.


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« Reply #866 on: January 13, 2010, 07:42:52 PM »

Posting this article as it gives some account of the devastation.

Prayers for all those affected by this tragedy.

Queensland aid worker survives Haiti earthquake

Article from: The Courier-Mail

Emma Chalmers, Carly Crawford and Kristin Shorten

January 14, 2010 12:00am

A REMARKABLE tale of survival has emerged from the devastation of Haiti when a young Australian aid worker and her husband were found alive after a "catastrophic" earthquake.

Rachel Colbourne Hoffman and her husband Joel last night contacted family from the US Embassy in Port-au-Prince to say they had survived a quake that had left streets in the Haitian capital lined with dead and injured people.

Today, reports from the island suggest the death toll may be massive, with Haiti's Prime Minister fearing more than 100,000 dead.

Ms Colbourne Hoffman's mother had been distraught when speaking to The Courier-Mail before her daughter, 24, rang to tell her how she emerged unscathed when their home crumbled around them.

Joel was receiving stitches to a wound in his hand.

        * How to help: Make a donation
        * Haiti crisis: Hillary cancels trip to Australia
        * Pictures: Earthquake hits Haiti
        * Video: Island rocked by massive quake
        * More info: Key facts about Haiti

Joel's brother Jeremy, who lives in LA, said the disaster was hard to comprehend.

"Their apartment building went down. They got in a doorway and hours later made their way out of the rubble, he said.

"Joel's head is getting stitched up and Rachel has some scrapes. We thank God that they were spared. Our prayers go out to all those who have been affected by this."

Ms Colbourne Hoffman left Brisbane midway through last year with plans to spend three years in Haiti with her American husband.

The two human rights workers travelled to Haiti with the Mennonite Central Committee, a Christian relief agency.

Ms Colbourne Hoffman's mother had said from her home in the American state of Oregon last night that she had been unable to contact them since the massive earthquake struck at 5pm local time.

Before her daughter was found, Bev Eagy said she wanted Australians to pray for her daughter. "She loves Australia so much," she said

"She's been in Africa and Haiti – she has a real passion for helping people."

Dawn in Haiti has revealed further heartbreak as the nation tried to comprehend the scale of the disaster.

Food and medical supplies were due to begin pouring into the Caribbean nation, with countries including Australia pledging to help the rescue and rebuilding effort.

The 7.3-magnitude earthquake, the largest in the region in 200 years, rocked the country yesterday afternoon, followed by 24 major aftershocks that sparked a tsunami warning.

Nightfall had brought more chaos and confusion in Port-au-Prince, with reports of looters and desperate cries from panic-stricken locals combing through debris for signs of life.

"You can hear very distressed people just wailing around the neighbourhood," Australian aid worker Ian Rodgers said.

"There's cries and wailing from people who are trying to find loved ones who are trapped under rubble."

Many of the injured sat pleading in the street for medical attention.

Thousands of people gathered in public squares late into the night singing hymns.

Before the Hoffmans were found alive, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said it had been able to confirm the safety of nine Australians in the disaster zone.

Ms Eagy said Rachel, who was born in Sydney, had been in Brisbane to do a masters degree in international studies at the University of Queensland and had a passion for aid work.

Such was the force of the quake that its tremors razed the UN headquarters, Haiti's ornate presidential palace and many other buildings in just minutes, leaving tens of thousands of people homeless.

The UN said its offices in Haiti were badly damaged and many of its staff, including peacekeepers, were missing.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon last night expressed shock at the scale of the catastrophe.

"My heart goes out to the people of Haiti after this devastating earthquake," he said.

"At this time of tragedy, I am very concerned for the people of Haiti and also for the many United Nations staff who serve there."

Haitian officials in Mexico said President Rene Preval and his wife were "alive and well" after the palace was destroyed.

Authorities were waiting for dawn to break to assess the true scale of the damage and death.

Assessments have been made more difficult amid severely restricted communications in the impoverished nation of about nine million people.

Haiti's ambassador to the US, Raymond Alcide Joseph, yesterday said it was clear that his country faced "a major catastrophe".

The epicentre was about 22km west of Port-au-Prince, where several international governments and aid agencies have official posts.

A Reuters reporter said he saw dozens of dead and injured people in the rubble, which blocked streets in the city.

"Everything started shaking, people were screaming, houses started collapsing . . . it's total chaos," Joseph Guyler Delva said.

The US military was last night planning to deploy a force to the region.

Anyone with concerns for the welfare of Australian family and friends can call the DFAT 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on (02) 6261 3305.


....And at night the wond’rous glory of the everlasting stars..  A.B (Banjo) Paterson
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« Reply #867 on: January 13, 2010, 07:53:12 PM »

I'm sorry to hear SAM the Koala died.  I remember reading about SAM and saw the photos.  I think it's good that SAM is being honored, but I can't say I agree with SAM being stuffed and put on display.   Maybe it would have been better to cremate and scatter the ashes or give SAM a burial.  JMHO

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« Reply #868 on: January 14, 2010, 05:04:21 PM »

I agree Muffy.  I do not like the idea at all but in the voting poll on the newspaper about two thirds of the voters chose "yes" so I guess we are in the minority.  I think a display of pictures and story would have been sufficient as a reminder of the impact of bushfires on our wildlife.

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« Reply #869 on: January 14, 2010, 05:06:05 PM »

Haiti earthquake disaster shaping as worst since 2004 tsunami

Article from: The Courier-Mail

Emma Chalmers and Natalie Gregg

January 15, 2010 12:00am

SURVIVORS spent a second night in hell on Haiti's streets amid chaotic scenes in the capital Port-au-Prince following the earthquake that could claim as many lives as the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami.

Aftershocks continued to rock the Caribbean island nation yesterday as relatives dug through the rubble in an increasingly desperate search for survivors.

The Federal Government said it was doing everything it could to track down a handful of Australians it believes might be in the country after confirming the safety of 20 others, including all those serving with the United Nations.

The UN headquarters were almost sheared in two by the force of the quake.

The Red Cross yesterday estimated almost a third of Haiti's nine million residents were either dead, injured or homeless.

As the country cried out for desperately needed help, the US military mobilised ships and aircraft and Australia pledged $10 million towards the international relief effort.

        * Quake survivor: Tragic dad saves tot
        * Pictures: Earthquake hits Haiti
        * Video: Island rocked by massive quake
        * More info: Key facts about Haiti
        * How to help: Make a donation

A shell-shocked Bill Clinton, the UN envoy to Haiti, yesterday made an appeal for aid, warning the death toll could rise if help did not reach survivors in time.

"Last night, the streets of Port-au-Prince were littered with wounded people sleeping and the bodies of those who had perished," he told CNN. "One of the things that we're worried about is that some people will die from exposure, from dehydration, from their injuries who could be saved."

World Vision worker Ruth Mlay, 31, of Melbourne, posted reports of looting and chaos in the Haitian capital.

"There is no phone communication in the country at the moment and . . . there is no electricity save for the areas where people have generators," she said in a message to colleagues in Australia.

The destruction of many of the country's roads and damage to communications lines has frustrated the aid mission and efforts to estimate casualty figures.

Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive told CNN the final death toll from the 7.3-magnitude quake could be "well over 100,000".

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton yesterday cancelled her trip to Australia following the disaster, which she compared with the Asian tsunami which killed almost 230,000 people in 2004.

With tens of thousands Haitians homeless, the US was preparing to open the Guantanamo Bay camp in Cuba, home to terror detainees, to take in the flood of refugees.

The UN has confirmed 16 of its staff are dead after the quake levelled part of its headquarters in the impoverished and aid-reliant nation.

Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Stephen Smith said the enormity of the tragedy had prompted Australia to give an immediate $5 million to the aid effort and commit $5 million for reconstruction.

Australian survivors were last night believed to be at the American Embassy but none has yet asked for help from the Government to get home.

DFAT said there was no evidence any Australians had been killed, but there was a small number of Australians unaccounted for.


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« Reply #870 on: January 14, 2010, 05:13:06 PM »

Dangerous animals keep tourists in Australia on their toes

Article from: The Courier-Mail

By Rory Gibson

January 14, 2010 11:00pm

THE mad bat of the Town of 1770 was the tipping point. Until then I had been successful in reassuring my brother-in-law that he would not be sent back to England's green and pleasant land in a coffin, the victim of an unfortunate encounter with Australia's wildlife.

A lot of foreigners think Australia is a deadly place because of a perception that every living thing here has the capability of inflicting upon the unwary an agonising and messy death.

Sure, that may be true of Brunswick St at 3am but, by comparison to other continents, our wildlife is pretty tame.

But that's not the general wisdom.

Popular travel writer Bill Bryson summed up why visitors from overseas think that their first steps outside the international terminal could be their last in his book Down Under: "It has more things that will kill you than anywhere else. Of the world's 10 most poisonous snakes, all are Australian. Five of its creatures – the funnel-web spider, box jellyfish, blue-ringed octopus, paralysis tick and stonefish – are the most lethal of their type in the world.

"This is a country where even the fluffiest of caterpillars can lay you out with a toxic nip; where seashells will not just sting you but actually sometimes go for you. Pick up an innocuous cone shell from a Queensland beach, as innocent tourists are all too wont to do, and you will discover that the little fellow inside is not just astoundingly swift and testy, but exceedingly venomous.

"If you are not stung or pronged to death in some unexpected manner, you may be fatally chomped by sharks or crocodiles, or carried helplessly out to sea by irresistible currents, or left to stagger to an unhappy death in the baking Outback. It's a tough place."

All right Bill, all right. Don't go on about it.

The English don't have much wildlife – a few badgers, the odd rabbit – so they are fascinated by ours. Except when it is within cooee of them.

My Pommy in-laws have just been visiting for three weeks over Christmas/New Year, and for two of those weeks we were ensconced in a house adjacent to a national park and near the beach in northern New South Wales.

The first sign of nerves emerged when a local woman told Scotty, a big, boofy rugby player from the Home Counties, that the kangaroos feeding on our back lawn had been known to become aggressive, and to keep an eye on his two-year-old and four-year-old when they were around. There were some big, muscular male eastern greys among them and they would have done some serious damage to a kid if they got antsy, so that was the end of the morning walks with the toddlers to see the roos feeding.

We bought Scotty a three-day learn-to-surf course for his Christmas present and afterwards he would join his Aussie nephews for a dawn surf at what is a reasonably isolated beach. Certainly there are no lifeguards and you can't see any buildings.

He was very interested in sharks (out of self-preservation, not scientific curiosity), so we told him all the available lore we knew – early morning and late afternoon most dangerous times to be in water, don't surf alone, stay clear of river mouths, avoid murky water, etc – but assured him shark attacks were very rare.

Except that that week a shark attacked a diver on the Barrier Reef, mauling his hand and forearm. "It was just an inquiry nip," the diver, John Pengelly, blithely declared.

Quite right John, nothing to worry about except that it put the fear into our Englishman. A couple of days later a fisherman caught a large bull shark in little more than a gutter 15km upstream from Noosa, and it was all over the news. The next morning we had the beach to ourselves, it was drizzling, overcast, a bit foggy. Perfect shark attack conditions.

"Why are we the only ones here?" a worried Scotty asked, lying on his board with his legs in the air.

"Just lucky, I reckon," I replied. I much prefer shark rage to surf rage.

As scared as he was of sharks, he was terrified of spiders, a real arachnophobe. So, as if on script one morning a large redback crawled out of my wetsuit as I was about to put it on.

It must have sought shelter there from the incessant rain while it was hanging on the line.

Scotty's eyes made him look like ET as he took in the black body with the blood-red slash on its bum.

"What will we do with it? Kill it?"' he inquired as I looked around the carpark.

He was horrified when I found what I was looking for – a car with NSW number plates – and put the spider on it. I had to explain about State of Origin.

You wouldn't believe it, but on the front page of the next day's Clarence Valley Daily Examiner was a photo of a small but venomous snake that had been killed by a redback after it was caught in its web.

Scotty, by this time fearful about leaving his room, had also had to come to terms with what a box jellyfish was and the fact that one had nearly killed a young girl 20km from the sea in a central Queensland river. It took a lot to convince him that they didn't travel as far south as Yamba.

The several drownings that made the news over this period, while obviously tragic, were almost reassuring in that the victims did not die by fang or claw.

But it was the mad bat of the Town of 1770 that bit three people in unrelated attacks, and the description of it crawling down a tree branch with its glittering eyes fixed on its victims, that convinced Scotty that Australia was indeed a hellhole.

Back in Brisbane, having a drink on the veranda, we watched the wonderful sight of the fruit bat colony at Enoggera take off for the evening feed, flying in their thousands over our house.

The look on Scotty's face was priceless, his mind clearly mulling over the possibility that one of them would swoop for his jugular.

He and his family left soon after, sprinting for the plane with what I believe was uncalled-for haste.

I hope they don't go spreading any misconceptions about our wildlife.




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« Reply #871 on: January 15, 2010, 10:05:04 PM »

Elephant born at Melbourne Zoo

Article from: Herald Sun

Cheryl Critchley

January 16, 2010 07:49am

SHE is only the second elephant born in Australia, and entered the world safely at 1.10am after keeping Melbourne waiting on tenterhooks for more than a week.
Melbourne Zoo Director Kevin Tanner said he was extremely proud of the team.

“From the time the veterinarians conducted the successful artificial insemination, during the outstanding care provided over the 22-month pregnancy, to the historic birth early this morning, our staff have shown tremendous commitment and expertise," he said.

“While we are all thrilled with the safe arrival, there has been no time for celebrations. The calf was alert and active from birth, and since then the dedicated elephant team have been focussing on allowing mother and baby time to recover from the birth and to establish a bond.

“It is vital that they have time to themselves, so we need to ask the community to be patient and understand why Dokkoon and baby are not on display as yet.

“They will remain in the barn for a while until the vets and curators are comfortable that they are ready to go outdoors.”

Dokkoon, 16, had been expected to give birth in the elephant barn surrounded by the other females Mek Kapah, 36, Kulab 10, and Num-Oi, 8, so they could support her and learn about the birth process.

Zoo keepers and vets, who have been joined by German expert Dr Thomas Hildebrandt, planned to watch the labour via CCTV cameras and only intervene if needed.

Two trusted keepers were expected to be by her side and her best friend, Mek Kapah, in the stall next door watching and communicating with her.

The keepers would now be helping the baby to stand, as its aunties in the wild would, and continue to support the bonding.

In the wild, most elephants are born at night, which allows their eyes time to adjust and get their legs moving so they can join the herd the next day.

Elephant curator Jan Steele said Dokkoon would make a good mother, as she loved talking to the other elephants and her keepers: "She's got a great personality for being a parent,'' she said.

Dokkoon is expected to breastfeed, but a human breast pump will be used if she needs to "express'' milk. Zoo staff have also stockpiled several litres of cow and horse colostrum, a special antibody-rich milk produced by new mothers.

Dad Bong Su, 35, is expected to meet the baby soon as male elephants in the wild are not involved in the birth process.

Dr Hildebrandt artificially inseminated Dokkoon 22 months ago and Melbourne has since waited with baited breath for its first – and Australia’s second – baby elephant.

The first, Luk Chai, was born at Taronga Zoo last July.

Bong Su arrived at Melbourne Zoo from Malaysia in 1977, and Dokkoon came from Thailand with Kulab and Num-Oi in December 2006.

Kulab is also due to give birth next August or September.


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« Reply #872 on: January 22, 2010, 07:47:24 PM »

As our national day Australia Day is on 26 January I thought I would bring some history of this wonderful country and also some website links for monkeys to explore.

Australian history

Introductory Snapshot

A lot has changed in Australia since its original inhabitants, the Australian Aborigines, lived in complex social systems with traditions that reflected their deep connection with the land and the environment. From that time to the arrival of the first European explorers, convicts, free settlers and more recent immigrants, Australia has survived depressions, wars and political scandals; created dynamic cities and legends of 'the bush' and the 'Aussie battler'; provided new beginnings for people from all over the world; and experienced a decline and gradual re-emergence of its Indigenous culture.

Pre 20th Century History

Australia's original inhabitants, known as Australian Aborigines, have the longest continuous cultural history in the world, with origins dating back to the last Ice Age. Although mystery and debate obscure many aspects of Australian prehistory, it is generally accepted that the first humans travelled across the sea from Indonesia about 70,000 years ago.

Europeans began to explore Australia in the 16th century: Portuguese navigators were followed by Dutch explorers and the enterprising English pirate William Dampier. Captain James Cook sailed the entire length of the eastern coast in 1770, stopping at Botany Bay on the way; soon after he claimed the continent for the British and named it New South Wales.

In 1779, Joseph Banks (a naturalist on Cook's voyage) suggested that Britain could solve overcrowding problems in its prisons by transporting convicts to New South Wales. In 1787, the First Fleet set sail for Botany Bay, comprising 11 ships and 750 male and female convicts. It arrived on 26 January 1788, but soon moved north to Sydney Cove, where there was better land and water. For the new arrivals, New South Wales was a hot, harsh and horrible place, and the threat of starvation hung over the colony for many years. To cope with their struggle against nature and an oppressive government, these new Australians forged a culture that became the basis of the legend of the 'Aussie battler'.

Free settlers began to be attracted to Australia over the next decades, but it was the discovery of gold in the 1850s that permanently changed the colony. The huge influx of migrants and several large gold finds boosted the economy and changed the colonial social structures. Aborigines were ruthlessly pushed off their tribal lands as new settlers took up land for farming or mining.

By the end of the 19th century, many tended to idealise 'the bush' (that is, anywhere away from the city) and its people. The great forum for this 'bush nationalism' was the hugely popular Bulletin magazine. Its pages were filled with humour and sentiment about daily life and its most notable writers were bush legends Henry Lawson and 'Banjo' Paterson.
Twentieth Century History

Australia became a nation when federation of its separate colonies took place on 1 January 1901. Australian troops fought alongside the British in the Boer War and WWI. The country was hard hit by the Depression when prices for wool and wheat – two main products of the economy – plunged. In 1931 almost a third of wage earners were unemployed and poverty was widespread. By 1933, however, Australia's economy was starting to recover. When WWII broke out, Australian troops fought alongside the British in Europe, but ultimately it was the USA that helped protect Australia from the advancing Japanese air force, defeating them in the Battle of the Coral Sea.

Post WWII immigration brought a flood of European immigrants, who have since made an enormous contribution to the country, enlivening its culture and broadening its vision. The post-war era was a boom time in Australia as its raw materials were in great demand. Australia followed the USA into the Korean War and in 1965 committed troops to assist the USA in the Vietnam War, though support for involvement was far from absolute. Troubling for many young Australian men was the fact that conscription (compulsory military service) was introduced in 1964.

The civil unrest caused by conscription was one factor that contributed to the 1972 rise to power of the Australian Labor Party, under the leadership of Gough Whitlam. The Whitlam government withdrew Australian troops from Vietnam, abolished national service and higher-education fees, instituted a system of free and universally available health care, and supported land rights for Aboriginal people.

The government, however, was restricted by a hostile Senate and much talk of mismanagement. On 11 November 1975, the governor general (the British monarch's representative in Australia) took the unprecedented step of dismissing the parliament and installing a caretaker government led by the leader of the opposition Liberal Party, Malcolm Fraser. A conservative Liberal and National Country Party coalition won the following election. A Labor government was not returned until 1983, when a former trade union leader, Bob Hawke, led the party to victory.

Recent History & Australia Today

After 11 years in government, the Australian Liberal Party, led by John Howard, was defeated in the 2007 election by the Labor Party. Kevin Rudd was sworn in as Australia’s 26th Prime Minister on 3 December 2007.

Australia has a two-tier parliamentary system of government based on the Westminster system. There are three levels of government: federal, state and local. Federal parliament consists of the House of Representatives and the Senate. The party holding the greatest number of seats in the House of Representatives forms the government. For more information the website at www.australia.gov.au/Our_Government

In the last half-century the less-acknowledged layers of Australian culture and history have begun to achieve wider recognition, in particular through art, literature and cinema; as a result, the iconic 'battler' has become less relevant. Migrants have brought their own stories, cultures and myths to combine with those of the colonial Australians. There's also a long-overdue acknowledgement that Australian Aborigines are fundamental to a true definition of the country's culture today.

The 'Great Australian Dream' of owning a house, which began in the prosperous 1950s, is ongoing and has resulted in massive suburbanisation in Australian towns and cities, particularly in Sydney and Melbourne. Australian architecture today does not really have a distinctive style, and overseas trends often dominate large projects. In many cases the most interesting ‘modern’ buildings are in fact recycled Victorian or other era buildings. There are some exceptions though, the notable ones being the Convention Centre at Sydney’s Darling Harbour, the Melbourne Museum, and the Cultural Centre at Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park in central Australia, which was designed in consultation with the park’s traditional owners. Melbourne’s Federation Square complex, with its sharp geometric shapes, represents challenging modern architecture in the heart of the city.

The economy's current good health is evidenced by a relatively high Australian dollar, increased trade with China and some record-breaking profits for local businesses. This has been accompanied by low inflation and unemployment figures. On the downside, though, the country's trade deficit has increased to $20 billion, average household debt is soaring and the price of real estate in many urban centres is increasingly unaffordable.


....And at night the wond’rous glory of the everlasting stars..  A.B (Banjo) Paterson
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« Reply #873 on: January 22, 2010, 07:52:33 PM »

Some interesting sites to explore :





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« Reply #874 on: January 22, 2010, 07:59:45 PM »

Here is one for the culinary monkeys :   




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« Reply #875 on: January 24, 2010, 09:44:24 PM »


1. You know the meaning of the word "girt".

2. You know that “stubbies” are either short shorts or small beer bottles, a “gimp”, “bogan” or “geezer” is a random idiot and someone in trouble is in “strife” and you’re liable to burst out laughing whenever you hear of Americans “rooting” for something.

3. You think it's normal to have a leader called Kevin.

4. You waddle when you walk due to the 53 expired petrol discount vouchers stuffed in your wallet or purse.

5. You've made a bong out of your garden hose rather than use it for something illegal such as watering the garden.

6. You believe it is appropriate to put a rubber in your son's pencil case when he first attends school.

7. You know that some people pronounce Australia like “Strayla” and that’s ok.

8. You understand that the phrase "a group of women wearing black thongs" refers to footwear and may be less alluring than it sounds.

9. You pronounce Melbourne as "MEL-bin".

10. You pronounce Brisbane as “BRIS-bin”

11. You believe the "l" in the word "Australia" is optional.

12. You can translate: "Dazza and Shazza played Acca Dacca on the way to Maccas."

13. You believe it makes perfect sense for a nation to decorate its highways with large fibreglass bananas, prawns and sheep.

14. You call your best friend "a total bastard" but someone you really, truly despise is just "a bit of a bastard".

15. You think "Woolloomooloo" is a perfectly reasonable name for a place.

16. You're secretly proud of our killer wildlife.

17. You believe it makes sense for a country to have a $1 coin that's twice as big as its $2 coin.

18. You understand that "Wagga Wagga" can be abbreviated to "Wagga" but "Woy Woy" can't be called "Woy".

19. You feel obliged to spread salty black stuff that looks like congealed motor oil on bread… and actually grow to like it. Yummmm…. Vegemite. You’ve also squeezed Vegemite through Vita Wheats to make little Vegemite worms.

20. You believe all famous Kiwis are actually Australian, until they stuff up, at which point they again become Kiwis.

21. Hamburger. Beetroot.  Of course - you cannot eat a hamburger without beetroot!

22. You know that snow is a memorable and freakish occurrence. Sometimes it’s even fake.

23. You believe, as an article of faith, that the confectionary known as the Wagon Wheel has become smaller with every passing year.

24. You still don't get why the "Labor" in "Australian Labor Party" is not spelt with a "u".

25. You wear ugg boots outside the house.

26. You believe, as an article of faith, that every important discovery in the world was made by an Australian but then sold off to the Yanks for a pittance.

27. You believe that the more you shorten someone's name the more you like them.

28. Whatever your linguistic skills, you find yourself able to order takeaway fluently in every Asian language.

29. You understand that "excuse me" can sound rude, while "scuse me" is always polite.

30. You know what it's like to swallow a fly, on occasion via your nose.

31. You understand that "you" has a plural and that it's "youse".

32. You know it's not summer until the steering wheel is too hot to handle.

33. Your biggest family argument over the summer concerned the rules for beach cricket.

34. You shake your head in horror when companies try to market what they call "Anzac cookies".

35. You still think of Kylie as "that girl off Neighbours".

36. When returning home from overseas, you expect to be brutally strip-searched by Customs - just in case you're trying to sneak in fruit.

37. You believe the phrase "smart casual" refers to a pair of black tracky-daks, suitably laundered.

38. You understand that all train timetables are works of fiction.

39. When working on a bar, you understand male customers will feel the need to offer an excuse whenever they order low-alcohol beer.

40. You get choked up with emotion by the first verse of the national anthem and then have trouble remembering the second.

41. You find yourself ignorant of nearly all the facts deemed essential in the government's new test for migrants.

42. You know, whatever the tourist books say, that no one says "cobber".

43. You know how to abbreviate every word, all of which usually end in -o: arvo, combo, garbo, kero, lezzo, metho, milko, muso, rego, servo, smoko, speedo, righto etc.

44.You've had an argument with your mate over whether Ford or Holden makes the better car!

45.  You know that there is a universal place called “woop woop” located in the middle of nowhere… no matter where you actually are.

46.  You say ‘no worries’ quite often, whether you realise it or not.

47. You know that none of us actually drink Fosters beer, because it tastes like chit. But we let the world think we do. Because we can.

48. One word says it all: Skippy.

49. If you’re a pedestrian and cars are stopped at a red light, you will fearlessly cross the street in front of them. ‘Hit and runs’ just aren’t cricket. Because Aussies stick together.

50. You know that Sydney or Melbourne should be the capital, because Canberra is a hole.

51. You know that Americans think we’re all Steve Irwin clones. And crikey, they couldn’t be more wrong.

52. You have the ability to compress several words into one - i.e. “g’day” and “d’reckn?” This allows more space for profanities.

53. You’ve ever used the words - tops, ripper, sick, mad, rad, sweet - to mean good. And then you place “bloody” in front of it when you REALLY mean it.

54. You know that the barbeque is a political arena; the person holding the tongs is always the boss and usually a man. And the women make the salads.

55. You’ve sucked your tea/coffee/Milo through a Tim Tam and you call it a Tim Tam Bomb or a Tim Tam Slam.

56. You see people walking bare-foot on the footpath and don’t scorn…. because you’re doing it too.

57. You know that Burger King doesn’t exist. It’s Hungry Jacks.

58. You’ve heard the Prime Minister dismiss anyone who disagrees with him simply as ‘un-Australian’, and that’s enough to make us sit down and shut up.

59. You know that while we call our friends ‘mates’, we don’t use terms like ’sheila’ and ’shrimp on the barbie’, contrary to popular belief.

60. You know that Sydney 2000 was one of our proudest moments in history. We just rock.

61. You know that you are not going to die of cholera or other Third World diseases.

62. You know our country has never been conquered by a foreign nation (you don’t count 1788).
63.We know that the Metric system will always be better than anything inches, feet, pounds and fahrenheit will ever offer.

64. You drive on the left-hand side of the road.

65. You know that New Zealanders are basically our naive country cousins, who have a weird fush-and-chups accent and, for some bizarre reason, think that they invented pavlova. They are to be pitied. They have no hope of gaining the upper hand in the endless sporting rivalry between our two nations.

66. You know that you can’t eat Fantales alone… Otherwise who will you play the ‘Who am I…’ game with when you’re reading the wrapper?

67. You know that Sydney should be the capital, because Canberra is a hole.

68.You know that lawyers wear wigs and gowns. And we make it look good.

69. You have some time in your life slept with Aeroguard on in the summer. Maybe even as perfume.

70.You know that we are home to the just about all of the world’s deadliest of animals. That’s why if anybody messes with us we’ll get some funnel webs on their arses.

71. You know that in summer a seat belt buckle becomes a pretty good branding iron.

72. You know that roo meat tastes pretty good, but not as good as barra. Or a meat pie.

73. Sausage rolls and meat pies. End of story.

74. You firmly believe that in the end, everything will be ok and have offered advice that included the words, “she’ll be right, mate”.

75. You own a Bond’s chesty. In several different colours.

76. You’ve ordered a steak the size as your head and only paid $5 at your local RSL.

77. You know there’s no lbw in backyard cricket, and over the fence is out.

78. You know how to slip, slop, slap like it’s nobody’s business.

79.You know Drop Bears exist. Positively.

80.You know Australia IS the best bloody place on earth. Bar none.

.... and I am happy to provide explanations and translations.  No worries   

....And at night the wond’rous glory of the everlasting stars..  A.B (Banjo) Paterson
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« Reply #876 on: January 24, 2010, 09:47:57 PM »


Australians all let us rejoice,
For we are young and free;
We’ve golden soil and wealth for toil;
Our home is girt by sea;
Our land abounds in nature’s gifts
Of beauty rich and rare;
In history’s page, let every stage
Advance Australia Fair.

In joyful strains then let us sing,
Advance Australia Fair.

Beneath our radiant Southern Cross
We’ll toil with hearts and hands;
To make this Commonwealth of ours
Renowned of all the lands;
For those who’ve come across the seas
We’ve boundless plains to share;
With courage let us all combine
To Advance Australia Fair.

In joyful strains then let us sing,
Advance Australia Fair.


....And at night the wond’rous glory of the everlasting stars..  A.B (Banjo) Paterson
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« Reply #877 on: January 25, 2010, 03:20:22 AM »

Mental health expert is Australian of the Year

Posted 33 minutes ago
Updated 21 minutes ago

Leading youth mental health expert Professor Patrick McGorry has been named Australian of the Year for 2010.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd made the announcement this evening at a celebration in front of Parliament House in Canberra.

Professor McGorry, from Victoria, has been working to help mentally ill young people for nearly 30 years.

He is executive director of Orygen Youth Health (OYH) and a director of the National Youth Mental Health Foundation, which is also known as Headspace.

Mr Rudd paid tribute to Professor McGorry's work and thanked him for raising awareness of youth mental illness in Australia.

"The incredible influence of his work, the number of young Australians and their families whose lives have been improved, and the value of his contribution to the nation cannot ever fully be measured," he said.

"With this award, we recognise that we have in Professor McGorry a leader whose drive, compassion, and commitment to understanding and treating youth mental illness has helped shaped not only lives, but our national approach to mental health intervention, prevention and treatment.

"He is truly a worthy recipient and I congratulate him on being named Australian of the Year 2010 this evening."

Professor McGorry was a finalist for the honour alongside Jon Dee, Chris Sarra, Ralph Martins, Julian Burton, Bruce Englefield, Patricia Eastheal and Warwick Thornton, and replaces last year's winner, Indigenous campaigner Mick Dodson.

Western Australia's Trooper Mark Donaldson was named Young Australian of the Year. Last year he was awarded the Victoria Cross, Australia's highest military honour, after he drew enemy fire toward himself to protect wounded soldiers in Afghanistan.

South Australian cook and restaurateur Maggie Beer was named Senior Australian of the Year. The Australian culinary icon co-hosted ABC cooking program The Cook and the Chef, and hopes her love for food will inspire others to appreciate what they eat.

And NSW food rescuer Ronni Kahn was named Australia's Local Hero for collecting surplus food from restaurants, cafes and events and delivering it to charities as part of her organisation OzHarvest.

"For the past 50 years, the Australian of the Year Awards program has honoured those among us who inspire us and do us proud as a nation," Mr Rudd said.

"This year I am again awed by the achievements and contributions of the award recipients, who demonstrate that greatness comes in many forms and all Australians have the potential for greatness within us."


....And at night the wond’rous glory of the everlasting stars..  A.B (Banjo) Paterson
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« Reply #878 on: January 25, 2010, 03:25:00 AM »

Professor Patrick McGorry

Professor Patrick McGorry is a renowned leader in the field of youth mental health. His pioneering work, particularly in the area of early psychosis, has won him both national and international recognition.  Professor McGorry is the Executive Director ORYGEN Youth Health and ORYGEN Research Centre. He will represent ORYGEN on the Foundation Executive Committee.

Professor McGorry has made an enormous contribution to service delivery, research and national and international service reform in the area of early psychosis and youth mental health for over 15 years. He has been instrumental in the development of the youth-specific mental health service at ORYGEN and the adoption of more effective and safer treatment practices for young people with emerging mental disorder.

Professor McGorry is currently Chief Investigator A on NHMRC Program and CCRE Grants as well as conducting research funded by State and Federal Government sources, the Victorian Health Promotion Foundation, Theodore & Vada Stanley Foundation, NARSAD, Colonial Foundation, ANZ Charitable Trusts, Rebecca L. Cooper Medical Research Foundation and Australian Rotary Health Research. Publications resulting from his research have been published in refereed international journals such as the Archives of General Psychiatry, Lancet, American Journal of Psychiatry, Schizophrenia Bulletin, Schizophrenia Research, Biological Psychiatry, The Medical Journal of Australia, The British Medical Journal, The British Journal of Psychiatry, Psychological Medicine and Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica. He has also edited 5 books. As well as contributing significantly to the field of schizophrenia and psychosis research, Professor McGorry has conducted important research in other fields of psychiatry such as the mental health needs of the homeless and prisoners, treatment for refugees and torture survivors, youth suicide, youth substance use and the treatment of emerging personality disorder.

He is a member of the Victorian Government Ministerial Advisory Committee on Mental Health and is currently the President of the International Early Psychosis Association, an Executive Board Member of the International Society for Psychological Treatments in Schizophrenia & Related Psychoses, and a member of the Committee of the Section on Schizophrenia of the World Psychiatric Association. He was Deputy Chair of the Victorian Postgraduate Training Committee of the RANZCP (2004-5), and in 2005  was elected as a General Councillor of the RANZCP. In 1991, Professor McGorry was awarded the RANZCP/Organon Junior Research Award for significant research contributions in the early phase of his career and then the RANZCP/Organon Senior Research Award in 1998. Research and clinical programs he has developed have received a number of awards including the 1994 Gold Australia and New Zealand Mental Health Services Achievement Award, the 1995 SAPMEA Best Program Award for the PACE Clinic and two Silver Australia and New Zealand Mental Health Service Achievement Awards in 1997 for the PACE Clinic. He was awarded the Founders Medal of the Australian Society for Psychiatric Research at the 2001 ASPR Annual Scientific Meeting and the Centenary Medal from the Australian Government in 2003.

Professor McGorry has a proven track record in leadership and management having initiated and overseen the development of the now multi-million dollar clinical, research, dissemination and translation programs that exist at ORYGEN and employ over 250 staff.


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« Reply #879 on: January 25, 2010, 03:28:46 AM »


Australian Broadcasting Corporation----Investigative TV journalism at its best.

Interview - Professor McGorry

Read the interview that took place between reporter Janine Cohen and Professor Pat McGorry, Director of the Orygen Youth Health, in Melbourne.

Date: 04/03/2005

Q. What is the philosophy here?

A. The philosophy is to identify as soon as possible young people who are developing emerging mental health problems and potentially serious mental disorders such as psychoses, but also a full range of potentially serious mental disorders and substance use problems in young people.

Q. What is the value of early diagnosis?

A. Well, just as in any other part of medicine or health care, early diagnosis … is a much more ah effective and cost-effective way to treat people. That’s well established in um cancer, heart disease, diabetes, any anywhere else. It’s been a difficult struggle to get that accepted in psychiatry, but now there there’s increasing evidence - particularly for psychotic disorders, but also for other kinds of ah potentially severe mental illnesses - that the same principle applies.

Q. Can you tell me what EPPIC stands for and and its relationship to Orygen?

A. Epic’s the early psychosis prevention and intervention centre and it’s a major programme within Orygen Youth Health which is a broader programme with the same aims, really, of identifying and engaging and treating young people in a an effective manner.

Q. What’s your catchment area and how many young people do you see each year?

A. The catchment area’s up to a million people in the northwest of Melbourne and in that region there are about 200,000 young people between 15 and 25 of whom, at any one time, about a quarter will be diagnosable with a mental health problem or mental disorder. Now with very open access and a youth access team, we are able to at least get in contact with about 2000 of these young people each year. Clearly there’s many more that don’t reach us, even at the moment, and of those 2000 we can provide a clinical service to about 800 new cases a year. So you can see that we’re falling well short of the mark, even though we’re trying to intervene early and comprehensively.

Q. Your service is regional. What’s your catchment in terms of your service area?

A. It extends from Werribee in the southwest up to Sunbury in the northwest and then out as far as Milton in the west and then back into the inner city, so the inner city suburbs as well. So it’s around about a million people.

Q. Could just explain how your service differs from anything else in Australia?

A. Well, our service system is structured differently so that it focuses on adolescents and young adults. Most of the rest of Australia is organised around child and adolescent mental health services and adult mental health services, which works very poorly for adolescents and young adults with emerging psychiatric disorders. They either get treated in a child orientated service, up to say 16 or 18 - at which point they have to graduate into a very tightly defined adult service focused on chronic schizophrenia - or they present into the adult system and really can’t get access. So it’s a very serious problem around Australia. We’re structured differently although we receive no extra resources clinically, compared to other parts of Victoria. In fact, our region’s under-resourced compared to the average.

Q. Can you tell me about your adolescent unit?

A. Well, it’s actually a young people’s unit, so it goes from teens up to mid-20s, and that’s probably one unique feature of it: that no other unit covers this youth culture age range of the teens up to the mid-20s. Most other units are adolescent units or adult units. The problem with standard adult units for the patients that we’re talking about is that they the average age of the patient in those units is about 35 to 40. They’re the most disabled patients in the whole system and the young person, when they come in with their first admission, is presented with a very bleak prospect of their future in life. So that’s very traumatic for young people and the families in that situation. It’s difficult enough for families and young people to adjust to the whole idea of entering a treatment for a mental health problem, and if they’re presented extremely demoralising images and experiences of - and also treated by staff who don’t have much experience with young people, then I think it’s extremely problematic.

Q. So your adolescent unit is unique and there’s nothing else like that it in Australia.

A. There’s nothing else like that in Australia, and in very few places in the world - although the early psychosis reform is now extending to about 100 centres worldwide, so I think that actually will begin to change over time.

Q. What is psychosis?

A. Well, psychosis is a broad term covering a loss of contact with reality in the normal sense, so what it really means is symptoms like delusional beliefs, hallucinations, you know, perceptual disturbances … a disorganisation of thinking and speech. And if people have got those sort of symptoms we refer to them as psychotic, and a number of disorders fall under the psychotic grouping, such as schizophrenia, psychotic affective disorders, drug related psychosis, and so on.

Q. What percentage of the young people that have come through here, who have been psychotic, have used cannabis?

A. Probably at least 70 per cent would have used at some point.

Q. Of those how many would have been heavy users?

A. We say about 50 per cent have got a problem at the point they present and over time - over the early months of treatment - up to a third will continue to have a problem with particularly cannabis, but sometimes also other drugs, such as stimulants of various types.

Q. So does that mean about a third of your clients find it almost impossible to stop using cannabis?

A. Well, they find it difficult or they’re not motivated or willing to do so and quite often that’s because they’ve developed a a second problem, you know they they have a psychotic disorder and they also have a cannabis dependence as well, and the two are obviously influencing each other in different ways.

Q. What’s your view on cannabis? Do you believe that people can have just a discreet cannabis psychosis?

A. I think it’s possible to have a toxic psychosis, but that’s not typically what we see. You know what we see is people who are using heavily who have a persistent psychosis, which usually responds to anti-psychotic treatment actually. The cannabis probably has played some role in the onset of the psychosis. It’s the literature shows that it’s a weak risk factor for onset, so about eight per cent of the ethology is estimated to be related to cannabis - so that’s not a huge amount but it it is significant. What we see more commonly though is the effect of continuing cannabis use on the course. There’s definitely a negative interaction between continuing heavy cannabis use and the course of a psychotic disorder like schizophrenia.

Q. So if a young person continues to use cannabis after say their first episode, how does that interfere with treatment?

A. Well, I guess the two things are associated with poor engagement with services and with treatment in the first place. We see higher levels of depression in these patients and cognitive impairment as well. And the outcome in terms of relapses is worse too, so it’s definitely a bad combination, so we try to address, therapeutically, both aspects.

Q. Can cannabis trigger a psychotic episode?

A. I think … that the evidence from the literature is that it can trigger a psychotic… it can certainly trigger a relapse episode. Whether it triggers the first one or not I think the literature probably does say yes, it can. It’s probably been overstated as a cause though, I would say, but nevertheless it’s another health problem, you know, that the young patients actually have - which is not a good idea if you have got a vulnerability to a psychosis.

Q. A lot of the young people we’ve spoken to obviously blame the cannabis for a lot of their psychosis. Do you think sometimes for clients and their families, it’s actually easier to blame the cannabis, rather than look at the mental health issues?

A. Yeah, but I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing to blame the cannabis, because that motivates the person to stop using cannabis in the context of vulnerability to psychosis. I think if the person then has further episodes in the absence of cannabis use, then that’s another learning experience both for the patient and and for the clinicians and we can work with that. So I think the main thing you have to do is not get people to accept the truth, you know, when they first get treated for psychosis, but get a working model … with the patient and the family that you can engage with and then help them to accept what you’re offering in terms of treatment.

Q. How addictive is it?

A. I think it’s very addictive. It certainly is very difficult to cease use once you get beyond a certain level of use. Once you get to daily use, I think it’s quite difficult to stop. I certainly had quite a few patients that have been motivated to stop and found it very difficult.

Q. Just in terms of chronic use, what does cannabis do to the teenage brain? What are the dangers?

A. Well cannabis, it’s been learned in recent years, has its own endogenous or internal receptor system, which the drug actually appears to work through, and this receptor system is connected to a whole lot of other important receptor systems in the brain, particularly dopamine, and dopamine is thought - or excessive dopamine activity in the brain is thought - to be the mechanism by which you get psychotic symptoms, such as hallucinations and delusions. So the cannabis can have an affect in that way, as can other illicit substances. There may be other more pervasive effects on the brain, certainly on cognition and emotion. Heavy cannabis use is known to be associated with a loss of motivation and drive and perhaps also cognitive impairments as well, so it probably has quite far reaching effects beyond psychotic symptoms.

Q. Why is it more dangerous to smoke cannabis heavily as an adolescent?

A. Well, teenagers and young adults are passing through a phase of life, as you mentioned, the brain is actually undergoing quite a lot of structural and functional change. And we know that the adolescent and young adult period is the peak period of vulnerability for a whole range of mental disorders, including psychosis and mood disorders for that matter as well. So substance abuse is another risk factor, which is probably going to operate more powerfully. The teenage and young adult period - I think it’s really from puberty up to the mid 20s - is a period at which most of the adult type mental disorders are going to emerge, so it’s the maximum period of vulnerability to psychiatric disorder and substance use disorders. So abusing substances like cannabis during this period is probably going to increase the risk of developing a mental disorder ... The brain development continues actively through adolescents and up to about 25 at least, and so that may also play a role in it.

Q. Can you describe how traumatic a first psychotic episode is on a young person?

A. Well, we did some studies about 10 years ago to actually measure the impact in terms of trauma on young people experiencing their first episode of psychosis, and what we found was the events were traumatic for two reasons. First of all, to have psychotic experiences in themselves where you might have very disturbing perceptual changes, frightening persecutory delusions, or bizarre delusions of parts of your body being moved about for example, and it’s very disturbing the actual psychosis. And secondly, the way people are treated with late intervention you know, where they are not treated until they’re absolutely in extremis and often then they’re brought in by police or shackled in emergency departments and they go through this sort of amazingly … traumatic experience as well, superimposed on a compromised mental state. We show that about 45 per cent of these young people had symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder after these sorts of experiences, and reforms in psychiatry have tried to address this, but you definitely have the sense that it’s slipping backwards again in recent times.

Q. Why is that?

A. Well, I think that the so-called new model of care is starting to become institutionalised. Also the funding level has not kept pace with with the demands of the system …

Q. Professor, if I can just pull you up there. The so-called new model of care is becoming institutionalised. In layman’s terms, what does that mean?

A. Well we move from institutional care in mental hospitals to general hospital-based, community-based, sort of system. But this system of care is now retreating back into the institutions and it’s really forcing patients to come to emergency departments rather than receiving treatment in their homes. The amount of resources devoted to the seriously mentally ill is at least 50 per cent below what it should be, so it’s only the very severe and high-risk cases that can actually get access to treatment. And the rest are supposed to be managed in some kind of magical way by GPs without much support.

Q. What’s the outcome for a young person that doesn’t get the right care?

A. Well, the outcome can be death. I mean ten to 15 per cent of young people with a serious mental illness will die in the early years after diagnosis from suicide and other causes, so this is a potentially lethal situation. The scenario, in terms of wasted lives, is much more pervasive, I suppose. We can get 90 per cent of our young people symptom-free with treatment, even with severe psychosis, but only 50 per cent of them are going to get back to meaningful vocational activity.

Q. So they’ll be unemployed for most of the time.

A. They will be unemployed, on benefits, because of a lack of really proactive community-orientated care, and this doesn’t have to happen. There’s enough knowledge and expertise around now to really transform the landscape for young people with emerging psychiatric disorders, but there’s not enough political will devoted to tackling this public health problem.

Q. Now, we’ve talked about how traumatic an episode is on a teenager. How traumatic is it on their families?

A. Well just to give you an example of that, when I’ve been on call over the weekends say for our inpatients unit, I could spend the whole of a Saturday just sitting in the inpatients unit talking with families and just dealing with that level of distress. They are absolutely distraught when they first realise and get involved in the whole process of trying to, first of all, get into treatment there, their son or daughter, and then helping them recover. And the shock, the crisis aspects are really very, very strong indeed - as they are with any illness situation - but often it comes out of the blue and they’re not prepared for it. I think it is another big message to the community really, that psychiatric disorders are common. They’re very likely to affect someone in your family or yourself, and when you turn around for help it will be very difficult to obtain, in a quality and professional way in Australia, in the present day. So the families are very unsupported and it’s a major sort of challenge to help them … deal with the crisis.

Q. If you took cannabis out of the mix, in terms of psychosis, would it make a big difference in terms of diagnosis and treatment?

A. I think the widespread availability of cannabis has made our job somewhat more difficult, and particularly because the drug and alcohol services are separated from mental health services now. If they were better integrated I think we could deal with things much better.

Q. Why has it made the job more difficult though?

A. Well, because it’s more difficult to engage patients um if they’re heavy drug users. They’re more impoverished. I think it just makes the treatment more complicated, but I couldn’t say that it’s made a massive effect. I think it was already difficult to treat these serious mental illnesses even before cannabis became the kind of problem that it is today. But if you could actually reduce the level of use, at least in this group of patients or group of young people, that would be very helpful to us.

Q. What’s changed since the 70s in terms of cannabis smoking?

A. Well, it it’s much more common. I would say that the frequency of use is more and is particularly common in young males … who are unemployed. There may be more disposal income being devoted to it as well, so it’s much more freely available … and some people say … the dose, or the way it’s actually grown, means that the dose that people take in is greater, and I’m sure other experts could comment more accurately on that … The proportion of patients using it that we see has gone up. I would say it’s probably doubled since the early 80s when we started to look at this group of patients.

Q. Is cannabis harmless if it’s used heavily?

A. I think any drug used heavily is harmful and cannabis is no exception. Certainly I’ve seen harm come to many young people from using it in a daily or frequent way. For many people there may be a harmless level of use, I’d have to say that too. It’s probably those that are particularly vulnerable that would have adverse consequences at, you know, sort of moderate doses.

Q. How do you know if you’re vulnerable?

A. Well, one way that you know for sure is if you’ve got a first degree relative with a psychotic illness.

Q. But only ten to 20 per cent of people have a first degree relative …

A. That’s true, but broader spectrum mental disorder is more common than that, so probably I would say in 50 per cent plus of families there would be some significant mental illness, and so maybe the the caution ought to be more widely expressed. But certainly people who have got a parent or a sibling with a psychotic illness like schizophrenia should be extremely careful when using any illicit substance.

Q. Depression?

A. Depression, well, there’s some evidence suggesting cannabis can result in depression and probably, once again, heavy use would be the area that would be more likely. That research has been questioned by other people too, in terms of milder or moderate use.

Q. Do you do you have teenage children?

A. Yes.

Q. How have you educated them about the risks of of smoking cannabis?

A. Well, I’ve talked to them generally about drug use and … I’m expecting that my children, as will most people or most everyone’s children, is going to experiment with drugs at some point. Think this idea of just saying no … is some kind of fantasy really. Substance use is part of human life … so it’s really about knowing about potential harm and also how the harm might manifest, so I basically would have talked to them about the ways it could actually cause harm to them … they’ve seen young people with mental health problems. I’ve involved them in my work setting … so they they know about that side of it too - so I think information and knowledge and ultimately it’s their lives.

Q. Besides family history, what are the other factors that contribute to psychosis?

A. There are a lot of theories … about what contributes to onset of psychiatric disorder and psychosis in particular. The genetic risk is the best established, but probably stressful life events in a key period of life, the adolescents and young adulthood. Illicit drugs, they’re very good candidates as risk factors for onset. But we have to say that we still need more knowledge about how disorders do emerge and what actually brings them on. There are theories about abnormal brain development in adolescence and early adult life, some subtle abnormalities with that process, but it’s difficult to be anymore specific than that at this stage. So the best we can do actually is this whole idea of early detection and early intervention so that we don’t wait for someone to be in in extremis before we actually help the young person. So actually preventing in a primary sense is still beyond us, but early intervention is not beyond us.

Q. What does relapse do to recovery?

A. Well, relapse can cut across the recovery process. Obviously you know it’s something to be avoided if possible, but these illnesses are intrinsically relapsing anyway, and the dilemma we often face is to try to encourage someone whose got better from a serious episode of a psychosis to remain on preventive medication, for example. And that’s a big challenge in any sort of medical area, you know, adherence to medication. Some people would say, well, the person has to experience a return of some kind of symptoms to be personally convinced they need to continue in treatment, so that’s a real tricky one for us as clinicians. You don’t want people to have relapses, but sometimes they have to learn that they need the medication and there’s really not very much research guiding how long people should stay on … medication after a a first episode. Obviously we do other things like working with the family, trying to reduce illicit drug use and and reducing stress - those sorts of interventions as well can be helpful.

Q. One of our young people that we’re following, an ex-client of EPPIC’s, is Daniel Moore. In his case, he says that he was a daily user of cannabis from about the age of 15 and towards the end occasionally would use things like acid. What does that mix of drugs do to someone?

A. Well, as I mentioned cannabis effects the cannabinoid system, but there are also effects on dopamine, which is thought to be the pathway into producing psychotic symptoms, and other drugs, like stimulants of various kinds added into that mix are likely to contribute to the increased risk. Drugs that increase dopamine transmission are probably very important. And the combination of the two probably would be quite synergistic and he may well have had a vulnerability to developing psychotic symptoms, which these drugs have fuelled. We often think you’ve got these burning embers sitting there and you’re pouring petrol on them … Cannabis probably has a more low grade type effect.

Q. Last time we spoke you quoted the figure of 27 per cent of 15 to 24 year olds have a diagnosable mental illness or substance problem in any given year.

A. In recent years a national survey was conducted of the Australian population and what we saw was, in the 18 to 24 age group and probably this would extend down to 15 as well, 27 per cent of the young people surveyed … were diagnosable with a mental disorder or a substance use disorder, or a mixture of those. In males, it was more typically substance use disorders with some mood disorders. In females, it was more anxiety and mood disorders. Psychosis is probably a small part of that whole picture as well. So …to give you an example, in our catchment area of 880,000 there are 50,000 young people who are diagnosable, at any point within any one year, with a mental health, a mental disorder, or substance use disorder.

Q. How many people with mental health problems in your catchment?

A. In Australia about one in four young people between 15 and 24 have a mental disorder or a substance abuse disorder and this translates to over a million young people across the whole country, of whom only a small fraction are getting any kind of evidence-based treatment for these problems.

Q. So as a society, are our younger people becoming more unwell mentally?

A. Well, there’s no question in recent decades the mental health of young people has declined. Their physical health’s improved but their mental health’s got worse, and probably the reasons for this aren’t well understood, but they’ve got something to do with the changes in society over these decades, and probably also something to do with the dramatic increase in the availability of illicit substances as well.

Q. Cannabis being the most common.

A. Cannabis being the most common.

Q. What percentage of your clients will have a psychotic relapse?

A. Well, every year we we see about 250 new patients with first episode psychosis. The relapse rate, if our programme is working well, is about 25 per cent a year. In other programmes overseas, the relapse rate is up to 80 per cent within five years. So it’s possible to reduce that but these are relapsing conditions, so probably difficult to totally abolish that relapse rate.

Q. What percentage of your clients will never recover?

A. Well it depends what you mean by recover. I would say almost everybody can recover, but there’s at least ten to 20 per cent that have very, very severe illnesses in whom major disability develops and their quality of life is going to be severely threatened. About 50 per cent will have what we call a social recovery if we look at say five years into the illness …

Q. What percentage of your clients will never recover?

A. Okay … I think most patients can recover. Now after about five years we say that 50 per cent, from our long term follow up data, will have had a social recovery.

Q. What does that mean?

A. Well, it’ll mean that they’re in some kind of meaningful activity, working or studying or functioning well, with mild or no symptoms. The other 50 per cent are made up of two groups: one group with a very severe form of psychotic illness, which ends up being called schizophrenia - and these patients are quite disabled, but some of them, many of them perhaps can have a good quality of life despite disability. I mean disability doesn’t always mean that you have to have a poor quality of life. So we have a positive attitude to all the patients.

Q. It’s not just schizophrenia. It’s bipolar disorder as well.

A. Yes bipolar. Well, something about that is that schizophrenia’s always had this bad name of not getting better. In recent years it’s been unappreciated that schizophrenia has a better prognosis, well treated, than otherwise thought. On the other hand, bipolar disorder, previously assumed to be … quite a benign sort of problem, in a sense, from which people recovered, has got a much more problematic course, with a lot of disability - a lot of collateral damage and so on … The separation, prognostically, with the two types of illness is really not that useful.

Q. In the last ten years has psychosis increased among young people?

A. It’s not clear whether psychosis has increased. Mental disorders more generally have increased. That’s very clear. Psychoses in our catchment area are much more common than in other parts of the world, when this has been measured. We’re not sure whether this has been due to better detection and engagement, or whether the actual incidents is increasing.

Q. How has it increased in this area?

A. Numerically you mean, or … ?

Q. Or just anyway you want to define it. How has it increased in this area?

A. Well the expected numbers that we were planning for when we developed our services, according to WHO figures, were exceeded, were doubled, when we set up this more proactive early detection and better engagement sort of approach. So we’re treating twice as much as we expected. Now what that means in terms of increase or compared to the past is difficult to know.

Q. Can you tell me about the youth access team? What does it do?

A. Well, the youth access team is a team specially designed to work with young people in a proactive way, so that they will try to reduce the barriers to access - and that means things like being prepared to go into the young person’s home to do assessments, into the school, into the GP surgery and so on. That’s what CAT teams are supposed to do as well, but having the skills to work particularly with adolescents and young adults is important and also working with the families as well.

Q. We followed a youth access team for a day and we went into the house of a young man that’s been psychotic. How often does it happen that the team has to go and visit people under those circumstances and what are the sort of things they must be wary of?

A. Well … that should be happening most of the time. That should be the normal way that we actually see people for the first time. However, with the changes in psychiatric care a lot of the presentations are still occurring in emergency departments, which is not desirable.

Q. Can you tell me about their job and the challenges they have?

A. It’s a great way to work if they do it in a good way, because they get to see and experience the world of the patient and the family. They have to remember that they’re guests in the patients house and the family’s house, and that changes the dynamic in a very good way because when people come into emergency departments or to clinics they’re always anxious or … feeling a bit overwhelmed. … It has a very good effect on the whole situation, provided the team have the maturity, morale and confidence to be able to handle those situations. They’re very special people and to do that job well requires commitment and skill, but you get a lot of satisfaction from it as well.


....And at night the wond’rous glory of the everlasting stars..  A.B (Banjo) Paterson
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