Mary Merkenich

Last month, One Nation Senator Pauline Hanson said children with a disability, and austistic students in particular, were putting extra pressure on teachers and schools and should be educated separately.

There was an immediate response from politicians, commentators and some academics. All were unanimous in their condemnation of Hanson. But was there any truth to her comments? What do teachers who work with students with a disability say?

Fifty years ago most people, including politicians, championed the idea of equal educational opportunities for all. The politicians may have only done so for their own political advantage, but even this indicates the strength of the notion.

Victorian teachers, education support staff, academics, nurses, midwives and allied health professionals will take action over the first week of May to support refugees who have been detained by the Australian government.

The “Bring them Here” action will involve four groups of unionists wearing T-shirts to work and elsewhere. The four unions will also hold a rally in the CBD.

The action was initiated by Teachers for Refugees (TFR), a rank-and-file group within the Victorian branch of the Australian Education Union (AEU).

Between 40% and 50% of graduate teachers leave teaching within the first five years. Surveys reveal that they feel burnt out, unsupported, frustrated and disillusioned. Research shows that long-serving teachers are retiring early — if they can afford to — and most are feeling utterly spent.

Climate change is not just a scientific or technical problem, nor can it be solved in the “usual” way. Instead, people need to get organised and develop solutions that improve lives and communities as well as protect the environment.

This was the central theme behind the “Creating a climate for change” public meeting held on August 11 in the Northcote Town Hall. The meeting was organised by the Melbourne Playback Theatre Company and Darebin Climate Action Now.

Boys at Xavier College, an expensive Catholic boys school, abused students from government schools on a Facebook VCE forum late last year, according to the Herald Sun.

The Xavier students' put downs included “retards” and “povo fucks”. Girls were told to “let the men handle business” and “Could all woman please refrain from expressing there (sic) opinions thank you.” Obviously, the $25,000-a-year school isn't very good at teaching literacy skills.

The focus of discussion about women in sport — specifically the discrimination they face, the lack of support and promotion, the disinterest from the media and the huge pay differences between female and male athletes — has overwhelmingly been on the elite or national level.

Sport is a huge feature of Australian society, and the way it is promoted helps shape our view of men and women.

So it was refreshing to see a female sports commentator, Stephanie Brantz, leading the discussion on the ABC during the men’s football (soccer) Asian Cup held last month in Australia. The resources and media dedicated to this event, however, is something that women athletes and sports teams can only dream about.

Many women athletes and teams have achieved great success, but only a few achieve the esteem and popularity of Dawn Fraser or Kathy Freeman.

Elephants, rhinoceroses and lions are being killed in Africa in record numbers. Despite the work of authorities to stop the practice of poaching, 1020 rhinos were poached in South Africa last year. The Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa says only 344 arrests were made that year. At the same time, more lions were killed in South Africa than rhinos. At this rate, lions will be extinct in the wild in less than 20 years.

Since 1971 the Leadbeater's possum has been a faunal emblem of Victoria. This possum is now critically endangered due to loss of habitat from decades of clearfell logging and bushfires.

The Leadbeater's possum is restricted to small pockets of remnant old growth mountain ash forests in the Central Highlands of Victoria, north-east of Melbourne.

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