Women required to wear Hi Vis in Australia’s Parliament House.

Women must now wear Hi Vis at all times in Australia’s Parliament House in Canberra after the seat of government was declared a site of high risk women. The new law comes into effect immediately and means that female politicians, staffers, bureaucrats, security staff, media, ancillary staff and visitors will be denied entry if they are not wearing some form of Hi Vis clothing.

“Parliament House is not a safe place for women,” confirmed a government spokesman.

“All women who work in, or visit, the seat of government must wear at least one piece of Hi Vis clothing at all times while they are on the premises, for their own safety.”

The law was created in response to various highly-publicised example of mistreatment of women in Parliament House, including allegations of rape, masturbation on other people’s desks, distribution of sexually-explicit videos and visits by prostitutes, as well as an underlying culture of toxic masculinity.

Authorities stressed the law was not rushed through after Barnaby Joyce’s return.

“It’s just coincidence”

The rationale behind the law is simple, according to its creators.

“Forcing women to wear Hi Vis is much easier than creating institutional or cultural change which would keep them safe. Forcing these conditions on women also allows the men who perpetrate crimes and offences against women, and those who protect the men, to blame the woman if she does get attacked or harassed, or mistreated in any way. A woman will never be bothered if she is wearing Hi Vis. Thus, if she is not, she can be accused of failing to take necessary measures and of breaking the rules.”

Hi Vis clothing can take any form, and authorities believe women will be happy to wear them.

“Hi Vis apparel comes in pink these days, so women will love it. We believe they will enjoy matching their Hi Vis with their outfits and make-up every morning.”

Critics slammed the new law, and said that if women are forced to wear HI Vis, then men in parliament house should be forced to wear a bell around their neck, the same way that cats wear a bell to stop them from killing native wildlife. The government replied:

“What a ridiculous suggestion. It would make us a laughing stock around the world.”

Government insiders also pointed another benefit of Hi Vis clothing in the halls of power.

“Hi Vis is normally worn by Tradies and construction workers, and they are now the most sought-after constituents of both major parties, so women are likely to be well received. Hi Vis is also worn by workers at mining sites, and we know how much the LNP, and even large parts of the Labor Party, love the mining sector and do so much to protect them.”

Authorities see only one potential problem with the introduction of the new law.

“Now we have to get ScoMo and Matt Canavan to stop doing so many photo ops in Hi Vis.”

Image: Aditya Joshi

…no religion too…

Imagine there was no religion taught in Australian schools. Imagine removing religion from the curriculum of every school and thus removing the primary justification for the existence of private schools.

Why?

Private schools are detrimental to the Australia education system, and almost all private schools are faith-based.

How?

Ban compulsory lessons which teach students a particular faith and allow schools to only teach about religion, the way government schools currently approach the subject. Students at government schools currently receive instruction in their chosen faith only in lessons taught by religious specialists from outside the school, and only if their parents have chosen that option. The remaining students participate in other subjects. In contrast, religious education lessons at faith-based schools are compulsory.

Teach about religion.

Religion underpins Australian society. The Judeo-Christian world view informs our parliamentary and legal systems, so religion cannot and should not be ignored. History and Humanities subjects can still examine the role religion played in events such as colonisation and the Stolen Generation in Australia. Students can study, and even join, religious volunteer organisations like Vinnies and the Salvation Army. They can also research the Crusades and the Reformation, the conflict in the West Bank and Northern Ireland, and even the convergence of major religions in the court of Kublai Khan.

Is it possible to teach about religion without teaching religion?

Yes.

Government schools do it. Steiner schools do it, so do the small number of independent secular schools. I’ve done it. I had to explain the term BC to secondary students at a government school in Brunei, a country under strict Sharia law.

A module entitled ‘Belief Systems’ or ‘Faith’ could also present the broad principles of the world’s major religions, without instructing students to follow any of these systems of belief.

Would any fee-paying schools survive?

Yes. Non-religious private schools exist in Australia and include the following:

  • Steiner, Waldorf and Montessori schools.
  • International schools, such as International Grammar School in Sydney.
  • National schools, such as Japanese, French, German schools…
  • Schools such as Reddam House and Ascham in Sydney.

What if private schools dropped religion?

Many may survive. Reddam, after all, is famously non-religious and is entering its 21st year, while Ascham is one of the most prestigious girls schools in the country – for families who can afford it.

How are private schools detrimental?

Funding

Private schools continue to receive substantial government funding as well as contributions from the religious organisations which run them, plus fees from parents. The same religious organisations receive additional government funding – for being religious organisations, and enjoy tax concessions – for being religious organisations.

This reduces the funding provided to government schools, which are poorly resourced and struggle to offer a strong education to their students. An underfunded public education system produces an undereducated population, and this is bad for most of the country – most, but not all. A weakened public education system strengthens the private education system and offers an automatic head start to the students of private schools. So much for an egalitarian society.

Studies have indicated that the single biggest determinant of academic success in Australia is wealth. Thus, it is not surprising that the following attitudes exist among everyday Australians:

  • Private schools are better than public schools
  • People only send their children to public schools because they can’t afford private schools.
  • Private schools, especially Catholic schools, have better discipline.
  • Private schools are great for networking, which helps students secure employment later in life.

They’re not learning anyway.

Most students at Christian private schools know very little about their own faith. I can’t comment on Islamic or Jewish schools, because the majority of my teaching has been in government schools or Catholic and Protestant schools. Despite up to 12 years of instruction in one particular faith, most students will leave Christian schools with very little knowledge about the teachings of their own faith. So why should these Christian schools exist?

Australia is a secular society. Most students are not practising Christians, neither are their parents. Some students don’t belong to the faith of their school, nor do some of the teachers. Religious education is seen as the ‘bludge’ subject and very few parents ever book appointments with teachers of religion during Parent/Teacher interviews – but they all see the Maths teacher!

In fact, the dearth of religious knowledge among students at Christian private schools prompted a previous article on this site. The article proposes an independently administered exam in the faith of that school, to be sat by every student at that school (except K-2 students). If schools do not score an average of 80%, across the entire school, then they do not receive any government funding in the next round of funding distribution. They can only regain their funding when they score an average of 80% in the exam.

I am certain most Christian schools in Australia would not pass such an exam.

In addition, most Christian churches are largely empty during weekly church services, and Christmas and Easter are now a celebration of Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. Most children are sent to private schools because they are ‘better than the local public school’. Furthermore, the religious education subject is often given to (or forced upon) young teachers or new teachers at Christian schools, who can only ‘off-load’ the subject once they’ve proven themselves in their core subjects.

Australia is a secular country, and yet almost all of its private schools are religious.

Single-sex education

Most private schools are still single-sex. In 2021. Some have become wholly or partly co-educational, but most cling to their single-sex traditions. This can be beneficial to some of the students, depending on which educational theorist you read, but is it beneficial to society?

Students at single-sex schools miss the opportunity to mix daily with members of the opposite sex, but are suddenly forced to do so when they enter the real world. Moreover, some exclusive private schools still provide boarding. Thus, students study and live among their own gender, for up to 12 years. This informs their world view, and many of these students, especially boys, become leaders of society and make decisions which directly affect the lives of every Australian.

We are still suffering the results of this phenomena.

Attorney General Christian Porter was recently accused of historical rape. He was never found guilty, but was exposed for infidelity and sleazy behaviour with young female members of his staff, in a public bar near Parliament House. Porter attended Hale School in Perth. He and the remainder of his party have refused to allow an independent inquiry into his behaviour, which many Australians see as a disregard for the victim of the alleged rape and to women in general. The revelations prompted widespread protests throughout the nation calling for greater gender equality.

The response from the government has been appalling, and continues to inflame the conflict. Most of the politicians responsible for the response are male, and most attended single-sex, faith-based, private schools.

This follows the very public and misogynistic behaviour of students from two of Melbourne’s most exclusive boys private schools, Wesley College and St Kevin’s. It also follows allegations of a culture of rape and sexual abuse of girls by boys from Sydney’s most exclusive private schools, which was recently revealed in the mainstream media. An online petition signed by thousands of former private school girls alleges sexual assault by private school boys, and calls for greater focus on consent in sex education lessons delivered to boys. The creator of the petition, Chanel Contos, claims the culture of rape in Sydney is the worst she witnessed, despite having lived in two other countries.

Recent articles by Mike Seccombe in The Saturday Paper, and from respected child and adolescent psychologist Michael Carr-Gregg, do not blame private schools for the toxic masculinity that pervades Australian society. They do, however, concede that they are a contributing factor.

Restricted curriculum

Religious schools present a restricted curriculum. Religious doctrine determines their teaching of science, gender, sexuality and other social issues. Future leaders carry this particular world view into politics and make judgements based on that world view. Our government and business leaders have also grown up in a world in which religious chaplains replace qualified counsellors at schools.

Where will students learn religion?

At home.

Place the onus on parents to provide their children with a religious education, either entirely at home or at institutions like Sunday School. The classes would take place outside of school hours and receive no government funding.

How can students learn morality?

At home.

Religious devotees of all faiths often argue that a non-religious person cannot learn morality. The boys at St Kevin’s, Wesley College and Hale clearly did not learn morality. The male politicians in the LNP, most of whom attended faith-based, single-sex private schools, show no evidence of moral learning. It is clear that notions of gender, class and racial superiority took precedence over values such as compassion, morality, respect, tolerance and service, for students of these private schools.

Is this article just religion bashing?

No.

Religion bashing is certainly on trend in Australia, but this article is not targeting religion per se. The article cites religion as the primary justification for the existence of most private schools in the country, and nominates private schooling as the problem.

A precedent

Private schools are rare or non-existent in countries such as Finland, Japan, South Korea, Singapore and Scandinavian countries. Singapore does have private schools, but these cater mostly for international/expat children. These same countries consistently top the rankings in international standardised exams. Experts suggest there is a correlation. When almost every child is forced to attend their local government school, every parent has a strong vested interest in the quality of that school. Thus, parents put pressure on the government to maintain high standards at local government schools, and hold the politicians and schools accountable. In addition, the people who make the decisions about school funding and educational standards, politicians, also send their children to government schools.

In Finland, apparently it is illegal to charge fees for a child’s education.

One must also point to the culture of these countries, not just the lack of private schools. Academic achievement is highly regarded in countries such as Japan, South Korea and Singapore, and this explains their success. The countries themselves are also far from perfect. Enormous pressure is placed on students in some Asian countries and this can have disastrous effects on young people That said, Australia can learn something from these countries as literacy and numeracy rates continue to fall throughout the nation.

What happens next?

What would happen if schools were prevented from teaching religion in Australia? What would happen to the schools?

Schools could drop religion and remain private. Many parents would not remove their children, because we’ve already established that most parents don’t send their children to private schools for a religious education, but for a better general education.

If private schools are not religious, religious organisations have no reason to fund them. They may run into financial ruin, at which point they would be taken over by the government and become public schools. Parents could leave their children in that school, or seek another private school and compete with other parents for limited spaces.

If existng private school parents were forced to send their children to a public school, they would put more pressure on the government and educational authorities to adequately fund and resource the school and to ensure strong academic outcomes. More parents would have a vested in in quality public education, just as they do in countries such as Finland, Japan and Singapore, and governments would have no choice but to allocate more resources and care to public education.

Not only would parents demand adequate funding for their child’s school, but children from different social backgrounds would attend the same schools, and this has been found to create greater empathy between all groups in society, including those who formulate laws.

Where will they find the money?

The money to fund public education exists. Much of it is currently being directed to private schools, some of it is sitting in government coffers waiting to be spent on projects which will win votes at the next election. If there were fewer private schools in Australia, public education would become one of those central issues which could determine the outcome of an election.

The main obstacle to adequate funding of public education is political will, and religion.

Images: Element5Digital, http://www.pridelife.com.

Dual currency system to operate in Australia.

Australia will become the first nation in the world to force employers to pay female staff in a new currency called Pink Dollars when the system is implemented in the next financial year. Treasurer Josh Frydenberg announced the new scheme outside Parliament House in Canberra, just days after thousands of women protested against institutionalised gender inequality across the country.

“Australian women have spoken and we have listened,” boasted Frydenberg, who was flanked by Prime Minister Scott Morrison, and federal Minister for Women, Marise Payne.

“Pink Dollars will be used to pay female employees in every job, in every sector, throughout our great nation. The notes themselves will be pink on both sides, with the numerical value printed in the corner. Notes will carry images associated with women, like flowers, domestic appliances, pretty clothes, makeup, childcare etc,” he explained.

“Pink Dollars are an entirely new currency, which will operate alongside existing Australian dollars. The primary difference is that Pink Dollars will be permanently pegged at a certain rate to the Aussie dollar – one Pink Dollar will be worth 68 Australian cents.”

This will not alter the value of the Australian dollar, nor the wages of Australian men, according to the treasurer.

“Don’t worry fellas, we’re not touching your wallet. Men should never suffer whenever society changes for the sake of women,” he chuckled.

The treasurer then explained that while Pink Dollars will be used to pay women, they cannot be spent anywhere within Australia or overseas. Instead, women will have to collect their cash payment in person every fortnight before converting Pink Dollars to Australian dollars through government approved exchange bureaus. Only then will they have currency to spend on everyday living expenses.

“As of July 1, 2021, all Australian-registered employers must pay their female employees in Pink Dollars. We are announcing this new system today to give employers sufficient time to adapt their payroll procedures. We have also established a hotline within the Department of Finance to assist employers.”

Frydenberg was asked how the system will classify employees who identify in any way as gender fluid.

“What’s gender fluid?” he replied.

Minister Payne was also asked for her reaction, as the new currency will be paid to all female government employees, including the Minister for Women herself.

“I believe Pink Dollars will…”she began, before the prime minister interjected.

“Marise is very supportive of the introduction of Pink Dollars, as I’m sure all Australian women will be,” he said, before adding:

“Jen and the girls can’t wait to get their hands on some fresh new pink bank notes. They say the money matches the dresses they wear to church,” he smirked.

Frydenberg then reinforced this sentiment.

“Marise sees the economic benefit of this policy, for women and for Australia as a whole, and she cites it as yet further evidence that the Coalition excels at economic management.”

A boastful Frydenberg also expected Pink Dollars to be introduced to other nations.

“Mathias Cormann was instrumental in formulating the details of the scheme in its infancy, and he promises to use his influence to impose the policy on every member nation of the OECD.”

Australian women, meanwhile, have not been given the opportunity to respond to the policy announcement, but have been directed to a page of the government’s website entitled:

“Pink Dollars: Mansplained”

On this page, they will learn that their employers will soon be able to replace portions of their wages with pink flowers.

“Enthusiastic Newstart recipients will be on hand at local train stations to present women with pink flowers after a hard day at work.”

Image: istockphoto.com

The problem with Harry Styles and the Vogue cover.

The Vogue magazine cover featuring Harry Styles is problematic. The decision to dress the famous singer in female attire has and saturated the mass media with supportive and critical gender-based commentary, and this is a problem.

Placing a man in a dress on the front cover of a mainstream fashion magazine is a distraction. It is a distraction from more important gender issues facing the modern world.

There are real discussions to be had, and real action to be taken, in the realm of gender inequality. A man wearing a dress is not one of those. If a man wants to wear a dress, let him wear a dress, it’s not a big deal.

Violence against women, workplace harassment, the gender pay gap, gender discrimination and domestic violence are all important issues.

Violence against women continues throughout the world. Women continue to be victims of violence at the hands of men, and this issue needs to be discussed and dealt with. The physical and emotional powerlessness of women in so many contexts needs to be discussed and acted upon so that women throughout the world can live without suffering violence.

If there is one advantage of the Vogue cover, it is the potential to challenge the toxic masculinity which fuels a lot of the violence against women.

The world should be discussing measures to end violence against women, not discussing Harry Styles in a dress.

Workplace harassment is a reality for many women throughout the world. In so many workplaces, women’s voices are not heard. They suffer power imbalances and the men who hold that power exploit it to harass women physically, mentally and emotionally. This continues to happen in every nation and can only be addressed when it is part of a daily discussion, and daily action.

Women are still excluded from more senior and more lucrative professional positions on the basis of gender. Women are still being excluded from the decision making cliques within workplaces, even though all of the decisions made impact upon them.

The world should be talking about ending workplace harassment, not Harry Styles in a dress.

Somehow, the gender pay gap still exists. In 2020, women are often paid less for doing exactly the same job as men, or earn less because the occupations in which they are more likely to work (health, education, community service…) earn far less than occupations dominated by men.

One of the most vulnerable groups in society is older women, who are not able to save as much money during their lowly-paid careers and find themselves in financial hardship later in life – but not many people talk about this.

It is said that pornography is the only occupation in which women earn more than men. Thus, the only occupation which collectively advantages women is an industry which objectifies women.

We should be discussing how it is possible to pay women less than men, and not the fact that Harry Styles wore a dress.

Underlying the gender pay gap, sexual and physical violence against women, and workplace harassment, is gender discrimination. Within society, within relationships and families, within the media and within other institutions such as religion and the legal system, women are still discriminated against.

Institutional and entrenched gender discrimination should be at the forefront of discussions in the media and society, not the fact that Harry Styles wore a dress.

Publicity…

It’s important to remember that the Vogue cover has generated an enormous amount of publicity. Whether opposing or supporting the cover photo, people are talking about Vogue (as is this article). Publicity was always going to accompany the first ever Vogue cover featuring a man, but the comments have all centred on his wardrobe choice.

Who decided to put the pop star in a dress? Did Styles decide? If so, good luck to him. Did Vogue decide? It is a fashion magazine compiled by fashion experts, so perhaps it was a stylistic decision. Perhaps a designer or fashionista decided that Styles looks good in a dress – don’t forget that fashion is entirely superficial and based on appearance, and aesthetics had to have been a major consideration when arranging the clothing for the photo shoot.

It’s all good publicity for Styles, for Vogue and the designer. In an era of global financial hardship and falling magazine sales, the publicity generated by this cover is extremely valuable. The internet is also flooded with merchandise featuring the famous image.

The end of masculinity.

Scores of men rushed to social media to decry the end of traditional masculinity, but did Styles ever conform to stereotypes of traditional masculinity?

Harry Styles put on a dress. Someone took his photo, and it appeared on the cover of a magazine. It’s not a big deal. Gender discrimination which underscores violence against women, workplace harassment and the gender pay gap are all big deals. This is what we should be talking about.

And don’t forget, this debate surrounds a magazine cover featuring…a man.

Image: Vogue, Tyler Mitchell

Apartheid in Australia.

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Apartheid operates in Australia. It operates to this day.

Apartheid exists in remote Aboriginal communities in the form of liquor permits for residents.

Basically, if you’re white you get one, if you’re black you don’t.

A liquor permit is a piece of paper which allows the holder to consume alcohol inside the physical boundaries of the community. Permits are awarded by the local council, which is administered by the Aboriginal community in conjunction with the government. To my knowledge, the system still operates in 2018.

There are a few conditions governing the liquor permits. Holders may only consume alcohol in their own home, and only in the presence of other people who hold a liquor permit. If only one person at a social gathering does not have a liquor permit, no one can consume alcohol. For this reason, obtaining a liquor permit was one of the first things that I did once I arrived in the community of Yirrkala, in north-east Arnhem Land, in 2004; not because I was desperate for a beer, but because the other white fellas in the community, most of whom were my teaching colleagues at the local school, insisted I get my permit as soon as possible.

“If you don’t get one, none of us can drink when you’re with us,” they informed me.

I was promptly issued with a permit after visiting the office. It didn’t seem very difficult for me to get one.

I couldn’t help thinking, why was it so easy for me to get a permit? There was not enough time for the issuer to run a background check on me. Is it because I was a Teacher? Does that automatically make me a respectable citizen? Yes, Teachers are respectable citizens, but I certainly wouldn’t have been the first Teacher with a drinking problem, especially in a remote community – it’s a tough job.

The only conclusion I could make is that it was because I’m white.

In my mind, that equates to apartheid.

So, should Aboriginal people be given liquor permits as well?

No.

Alcohol is destroying Aboriginal communities and a lot of the good work that is being done, including at the schools, is rendered redundant through the destructive power of alcohol. To solve the massive problems in Aboriginal communities, it’s imperative get rid of the alcohol – as a starting point.

Of course, the permit system didn’t stop Aboriginal people from abusing alcohol. Groups of men would gather at the town limit and drink to excess, in plain sight of anyone driving in or out of the community. They would then stroll back into the community and cause problems. There were also many venues in the nearby mining town of Nhulunbuy which served alcohol.

The white fellas would also abuse alcohol, so it was not as if all of them were worthy of the permit. There also seemed to be a reluctance among some white fellas to leave behind some of the comforts of their urban upbringing, such as Friday night drinks, when they chose to move to the remote community, despite the fact that they saw the damage alcohol was doing on a daily basis.

Apartheid is not new to Australia. The liquor permit is one of the last vestiges of this discriminatory colonial practice.

Pubs throughout the country once posted the ubiquitous signs, ‘No blacks, no dogs”. Many cinemas reserved the best seats for whites and the worst seats for Aboriginal people, and of course Australian history since 1788 is full of occurrences such as The Stolen Generation, blackbirding and genocide which saw Aboriginal people stolen, enslaved or murdered.

Apartheid occurred, it just wasn’t given a name. As a white South-African once told me, one mistake the authorities in South Africa made was assigning the word Apartheid to their system of racial discrimination. This opened up the Afrikaans to criticism from authorities throughout the world, many of whom, including the British, imposed exactly the same discriminatory practices on indigenous populations, but escaped the criticism because they didn’t label their practices.

Why is this not commonly known?

Because, like so many incidents and stories involving Aboriginal people since 1788, they are simply ignored or covered up because many Australians are too uncomfortable, too patriotic or too ignorant to talk about them.