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Beyond The Pale With Single Asian Female

 

Beyond The Pale With Single Asian FemaleImage © Dylan Evans

Back in the early ‘90s, a semi-thrilling thriller called ‘Single White Female’ hit the cinemas.

Its premise was a woman looking for the aforementioned lady in the title and her new roomie turning out to be a little unhinged (that’s what you get for racial profiling).

A couple of decades later, Michelle Law decided to write a blog documenting issues, with tongue firmly in cheek, relevant to the Asian community.

Since then, she has written for TV (and is sister of ‘The Family Law’ actor Benjamin Law) and is now working with playwright-come-director Claire Christian on a play with the same name of the blog, ‘Single Asian Female’.

The play focuses on the challenges faced by Cantonese-speaking mum Pearl and her two daughters, both in terms of heritage and simply the age gap.

“The mum emigrated from Hong Kong in her 20s, and opened a Chinese restaurant while her daughters grew up in Nambour,” Claire explains.

“The big questions for these two characters is how are they Asian Australians? How do white Australians interact with them and how do they interpret it? I think it will be close to home to our Asian Australians or any audience members from a migrant family, and that there will be a lot to relate to. As well as other Australians who will say, ‘oh I never realised it was racist’. It will challenge them and make them see things from a new perspective.”

The reason it’s based in Nambour on the Sunshine Coast is that Michelle grew up there. Claire says it’s semi-autobiographical but while the play deals with some serious issues, it also provides lots of laughs.

“It’s by no means a political piece. Michelle has just written an excellent piece of contemporary realism that explores the lives of these three characters. We don’t hear predominantly from our Asian Australian women in the arts sector or anywhere in the media, so I think by default it’s become a piece that will educate or politicise the way that we work right now.

“Part of the story is Pearl’s relationship to her Chinese restaurant but then there’s different ideals around relationships, language, social media. There’s lots of jokes about Pearl’s English which causes much hilarity. I think the gap is more generational than cultural. It’s a comedy because the six characters are funny human beings. The characters are funny rather than it being a farce or a gag a minute.”

CEO Todd MacDonald of iconic theatre in Brisbane, La Boite, has dedicated himself to the ethos of promoting diversity and this work fits in perfectly with his vision.

“He has a genuine commitment to diversity in the arts,” Claire says. “He wants La Boite to be the theatre company that models what that looks like in our arts sector which is pretty masculine and white and we only hear the same stories over and over again from the same voices. Todd is committed to that not being the case because it doesn’t represent the world, the community or the Australia we live in.”

The play stars ‘The Checkout’ actor Alex Lee, Emily Burton, Hsiao-Ling Tang, Courtney Stewart, Emily Vascotto and the sole male actor Patrick Jhanur.

“It’s a female-heavy ensemble. Patrick’s going to be overcome by oestrogen,” Claire laughs.

‘Single Asian Female’ plays at La Boite Theatre from 11 February-4 March.

(originally published Scenestr http://scenestr.com.au/arts/beyond-the-pale-with-single-asian-female )

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R.I.P Pete Burns

 

Tribute To Pete Burns Image © Flickr

2001. I was a 17-year-old boy, miserable in a suburban high school. Relentlessly bullied for being a “faggot, poofter”, et al. I, as usual turned to music to quell my fears that society wasn’t as harsh as the boys at school threatened it would be.

At a local record store, an empathetic seller knew just what I needed: a 12” single of ‘That’s The Way I Like It’ by Dead or Alive, a song I was already familiar with by the disco group K.C and the Sunshine Band. The cover featured a creature clad in leather. I, of course, bought it.

Pete’s voice bellowed at me; this was a man who was a force to be reckoned with. Dead or Alive, consisting initially of Pete Burns, Steve Coy, Mike Percy and Tim Lever grew out of the nucleus of the punk group Nightmares in Wax and dominated the pop charts for a few years.


After a string of indie singles, they finally made the charts with the aforementioned disco cover (something Pete would loathe for a short time as he feared it would be the only thing the Liverpool band would be remembered for). But the video – a must-see for those loving gender-bending pop – hit a nerve in their homeland and in the USA. Epic, a record label who were naturally nervous about signing a band that featured Pete who had doused himself in make-up with an attitude to match, signed them.

In 1985, the band hit pay dirt. A collaboration with Mike Stock, Matt Aitken and Pete Waterman (SAW) and produced the enduring single ‘You Spin Me Round (Like A Record)’, which charted heavily from the album ‘Youthquake’.


It helped Dead or Alive score further with their follow-up LP, ‘Mad, Bad, And Dangerous To Know’ in 1986, including the ‘Something In My House’ single, which went to #12 in the UK and a surprise success with ‘Brand New Lover’, which hit the top 20 in the US.

After leaving SAW, the band, now consisting of Burns and Coy, released ‘Nude’ in 1989. While it lingered around the bottom of the charts across the Atlantic, it was a success in Japan that was enviable to any artist: one single ‘Turn Around And Count To Ten’ spent 17 weeks on top of the Japanese charts. That country had always embraced the group: particularly Pete.


Australia had also been kind to the group. Their 1996 release of ‘Nukleopatra’ hit a nerve and ‘Spin’ entered back into the charts. I was enamoured. I didn’t know what I wanted to be, but seeing Pete in his boots, wig and attitude inspired me greatly. I tried to replicate it and the sneers and jeers were gratifying: this is how Pete Burns had lived his life for the last 40-odd years.


He helped me shape my sexuality. He helped me appreciate the notion of gender-f**k. His brash attitude delighted me. In 2006, he participated in ‘Celebrity Big Brother’ in the UK, which yielded some spectacularly diva moments. His appearance may have shocked some; it is said he has had over 300 skin treatments.


It was to be his downfall. Leaving behind a legion of fans and husband, he died from cardiac arrest on 23 October. Pete Burns was a trailblazer: before Boy George and Marilyn, his gruff vocals and hearty disco-inspired aesthetics endured him to an audience that was still behind him today as a 19-CD boxset, ‘Sophisticated Boom Box’ is about to be released.He was a true visionary; one who helped me shaped the man I am today.

 

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Black Mountain Back For Album Number Four

Black Mountain’s keyboardist Jeremy Schmidt wants to talk about space.

Not necessarily the sci-fi kind, but in regards to the band’s output, whether it be on their eponymous 2005 album or their fourth album, ‘IV’, that dropped in April. “Dynamic space within longer songs, which takes a longer time to unfold is what I feel is a big part of our sound,” says Jeremy. “It’s something we try to remain true to when we’re live, but we also like to have a concise, streamlined, rock element to things.

“We approached [the album] with the intent of getting back to the sprawling, slowly unfolding types of dynamics where the songs have a lot of time to breathe and create their own space. That was how we wanted the album to be.

“Some of the songs were loosely worked on. They were skeletons and we coloured them in as we went. I often come up with things later on because I can’t hear it that well when it’s blaring loud in the practice space where some keyboard nuances might fit in.”

The Canadian group have had considerable success with their rock and psychedelic-infused material. The trippy film clip for the new single, ‘Florian Saucer Attack’, is typical of a band used to pushing their eclectic influences.

The album did have a slightly more ambitious title before the band settled on the current one though. “We were going to call it ‘Our Strongest Material To Date’,” Jeremy laughs. “We got a kick out of what a clichéd platitude that phrase is in the world of rock-band statements. It’s in our nature to joke about things even if they have a modicum of truth to them. We wouldn’t put a record out if we didn’t feel excited about it.

“Certain themes will emerge with ‘IV’, but they emerge in a very organic way. I fucking hate that term, but that’s how things unfolded with it. It emerged in a premeditated way.”

Despite the decade odd, time difference between album #1 and #4, Black Mountain display a consistency to the music that Jeremy doesn’t see at odds with their first album, which the band have recently reissued, and the Polaris Prize nominated ‘IV’. “We went through a bunch of demos and outtakes from that period to include as a bonus LP with the first record, so it’s like a double ten-year anniversary LP reissue. It allowed us to go back to that material and hear where the band emerged as the nucleus of Black Mountain in a lot of ways.

“There’s definitely a sense of discovery in that record that we have an affection for. I don’t think we ever lost touch of that way of working necessarily, it’s just built into our process a little differently. It definitely informed what we wanted to do with this record, we wanted to go back to the dynamics that were at the forefront of that first one and that second one [‘In The Future’] too, I guess.

“Sometimes the virtue of time allows you to hear things a little more objectively and you can be less precious about what you were trying to do at the time. All those things become part of our process. It sounds terribly unfocussed, but I don’t think there is one kind of approach. We know when it’s a Black Mountain song.”

As a youth, Jeremy lived in the ‘burbs and it was there he sought out music that spoke to him as a surly teenager that helped to form Black Mountain’s sound.

“When you’re younger, you maybe like one thing and think you need to be married to it. I was really into Joy Division and My Bloody Valentine. But I also loved Pink Floyd and I was like, how does that fit into that more angular disaffected music I’m into?

“As a disenfranchised kid growing up in the suburbs, you feel completely at odds with that world and then when you find a Velvet Underground record, you realise there’s this parallel universe that doesn’t resemble that world you’re stuck in. You have this affinity for it, but it narrows your tastes and it makes it hard to consolidate all those childhood stuff you liked. It’s easier to say ‘I like fucking ABBA as much as I like Throbbing Gristle’ as you get older,” he laughs.

Black Mountain Tour Dates

Sun 2 Oct – Yours & Owls Festival (Wollongong)
Mon 3 Oct – The Factory (Sydney)

Wed 5 Oct – Corner Hotel (Melbourne)
Fri 7 Oct – Woolly Mammoth (Brisbane)
Sat 8 Oct – Rosemount Hotel (Perth)

(originally published Scenestr 20 Sep/16 http://scenestr.com.au/music/black-mountain-back-for-album-number-four)
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Meddling With Midler: The Return Of Miss Bette

Meddling With Midler: The Return Of Miss Bette

New York, 1973: Continental Baths manager Steve Ostrow was looking for a larger-than-life singer to take his clients minds off the dangerous landscape that existed outside its doors. 

A deliciously sleazy paradise for gay men to congregate, the bathhouse was frequently raided by police as American society struggled to deal with the newfound atmosphere of sexual liberation.

Steve found the ballsy talent he wanted and had to look no further than wife Joanne’s acting class, who raved about a buxom lass who was waitressing in a West Village café. Her name? Bette Midler. Catherine Alcorn has been performing her enthusiastic homage ‘The Divine Miss Bette’ to international acclaim for seven years and explains how, sometimes, the universe works in mysterious ways. “When I was putting the show together in 2009, I was working with a cellist who lived in my building and I was telling him about this Bette Midler cabaret show I was putting together,” Catherine says. “And he told me Steve lived just around the corner from us!”

Steve and Catherine worked together to help her channel the spirit of the vivacious red-haired songstress without ignoring Bette’s gay icon status. “He and Joanne were instrumental in getting homosexuality taken off the disability list in the early 1970s. After Joanne’s recommendation, he checked out Bette, hired her on the spot and paired her up with a young pianist, Barry Manilow.” Bette quickly became a darling of the gay world: she would throw bottles of amyl at the punters, waggle her breasts and tell lascivious jokes. Although the baths closed down a few years later, Bette’s career took off. Some 15,000 kilometres away, Catherine had taken notice and was hooked on the camp theatrics.

“I grew up watching the MGM movies, but it wasn’t until I saw ‘Beaches’ that it struck me that I hadn’t seen anyone until then who was such a force of nature. She was such a three dimensional character – she could sing, she could act and she was a comedian. “She’s not traditionally beautiful or six foot tall. The beauty of her is that she can induce tears of laughter and tears of compassion. Her diversity as an artist is what drew me to her. She’s like a beacon. She just shines.”

After attending university in the not-exactly-cultural hotbed of Wagga Wagga, she met producer and film-maker Peter Cox. The pair were out one night at cabaret joint Slide in Oxford Street circa 2007, seeing a friend’s gaudy show, ‘The Fabulous Chandeliers’. It sealed the deal for Catherine’s next career move.

“I fell in love with the art form immediately. I turned to Coxy and said I wanted to do a show like this and he said ‘who do you want to do?’ Without even thinking, I said ‘Bette Midler’.” Three weeks later, with a song list from 1970s era Bette including ‘Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy’ and ‘The Rose’, the pair had a script and production had begun. The premiere was at Slide and was a change of pace for Catherine. “I’d been out of Australia for a couple of years so I was basically re-announcing myself to the industry. I invited all these agents to come see this show to see what I do.”

“Because I’d been in a vocal duo, this was the first time I’d ever done the talking instead of just harmonising. I was terrified! I never went off the script in that first incarnation. No agents came to see it. But the show kept selling out so we kept doing it and this machine was born. The beauty of cabaret is you never know what to expect and you’re invited into a piece of intimacy essentially. There’s never a fourth wall in cabaret. I interact with the audience and take the piss any chance that I get. I get away with anything under the Bette umbrella and the harder I go the more they love it.”

‘The Divine Miss Bette’ Plays Redland Performing Arts Centre 12 August.

(originally published Scenestr http://scenestr.com.au/arts/meddling-with-midler-the-return-of-miss-bette)
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Ignition Ignites Again In Adelaide

Ignition Ignites Again In Adelaide

Ignition Ignites Again In AdelaidePhoto by Chris Herzfeld

For 15 innovative years, Adelaide was treated to awe-inspiring dance routines by some of South Australia’s most promising choreographic talent. ‘Ignition’ is the brain-child of Australian Dance Theatre (ADT) Art Director Garry Stewart, who gave choreographers a chance to showcase their moves.

Now, after a few years on forced vacation (damn those pesky funding cuts!), a talented team are ready to provide an audience with what one of this year’s artists, Matte Roffe, describes as a “jam packed night full of exciting short works that will challenge them, make them laugh and potentially cry.”

Matte, current ADT dancer Thomas Fonua, independent dance theatre owner Katrina Lazaroff and renowned dancer Erin Fowler will each present a ten-minute performance, while Lina Limosani will showcase her upcoming French Revolution inspired play ‘One’s Wicked Ways’. The thread that binds these artists together is the theme imposed by Garry: history. “We can use that theme to express what we want and let our minds run free. Apart from that, there really are no rules. It’s always great to have a challenge and having that topic of history makes you think about what message you want to bring.”

Matte’s message is one of serious glamour: he’s hopelessly in love with the Golden Age of Hollywood, circa Elizabeth Taylor, 1966. “It’s one of my most loved things and where I’ve drawn my inspiration from.” Matte says. “I’m doing my take on the ‘Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolfe’ play and movie. It’s about these ridiculously expressive characters that go through one alcohol fuelled night. It’s got a lot of anguish and emotional pain, so it really transfers into contemporary dance because it’s got all these rich, raw and extreme emotions.”

“I didn’t want to do something too obvious, so by doing this history of cinematic art, it’s a really different take on it that no one else is doing. All of the cast have fallen in love with the movie and the amazing beautifully flawed characters.”

Music is, of course, integral to the lavish dance routines these works showcase, and Matte has utilised the works of Alex North and ‘American Horror Story’ composer James S. Levine.
“His heavy electronic experimental electronic music sat well with the beautiful dialogue that’s in the ‘Wolfe’ movie because it’s so expressive and almost assaults you to begin with because it’s so full on!”

While some of the other performers history-themed performances are being kept under wraps, Matte can reveal fellow ADT dancer Thomas Fonua’s contribution, about a grisly chapter in human history: human zoos. “It’s a really full on emotional piece, because he’s Samoan and he is really enriched in his culture and human zoos are something that really affected his culture.”
Despite the artist’s different interpretations of history, they all closely collaborate with each other under the watchful eye of Garry Stewart who will be curating the show.

“We’re very lucky to have him being a mentor for us and helping us develop the skills that are already there, but that need to be nurtured. We bounce ideas off each other so the idea can reach its full fruition and, on the other side as a dancer that’s working with a choreographer, its exactly the same process.”

“It’s a really exciting thing for an audience to watch. It’s almost like a variety show – they get all these different ideas and concepts thrown at them.”

(originally published Scenestr Jun 28 ’16 http://scenestr.com.au/arts/ignition-ignites-again-in-adelaide)
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Loving Couple Battles On

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JULIE Maguire sat in her car with tears streaming down her face. The 67-year-old pensioner had just been told she had mitochondria disease, an incurable genetic disorder that would rob her of her energy, her muscle function and cause debilitating pain.

The Yandina resident had been puzzled as to why her balance had been out of kilter and why she was feeling constantly exhausted. In 2012, she went to her doctor with her concerns, the start of a long, sadly all-too-common process that patients with “mito”, as they call it, often go through. “I noticed that I had a lot of weakness in my legs and I became quite unco-ordinated,” Julie said. “I felt embarrassed with people who would walk behind me because it must have looked like I was drunk. I went to the doctor and they sent me to the neurologist who put me through a horrendous lot of tests.” The tests came back but they couldn’t find anything specific, one of the biggest problems with mitochondria myopathy – it’s very hard to detect and it mimics other diseases such as Parkinson’s. Julies eyelids had dropped and she was sent to an eye specialist in Brisbane who, after seeing her three times, performed a muscle biopsy.

“When the results were returned, the specialist told me the biopsy had come back with red ragged fibres, meaning I had mitochondrial disease, and I would end up in a wheelchair,” Julie said. “I sat in the car in shock. I don’t remember driving home.”

Australian Mitochondrial Disease Foundation CEO Sean Murray explained that mitochondria were found in most cells in the body, with each cell having tens to hundreds of mitochondria. “Mitochondria can be described as the power of the cell which uses up fat and sugars that humans consume and then converting them into energy through a complex biochemical process,” he said.

Where it all goes wrong for mito sufferers is when abnormalities in the mitochondrial energy production pathways in people’s cells fail to work properly which leads to an abundance of free radicals. The devastating sequence of events which involves a number of key cell processes contributes to the symptoms typical with the disease: loss of eye sight, poor co-ordination, inability to swallow and eat and, worryingly, seizures and strokes.

 

One day, Julie stopped breathing and was rushed to hospital and placed in intensive care. Because the medical personnel were unfamiliar with mitochondrial disease, Julie said they didn’t acknowledge it and her condition was too risky for an anaesthetic. “They had to give me a needle to stop my heart beating and I can remember that feeling… it was horrific. I vomited everywhere,” she said. “I wondered why everyone was holding me down. They said ‘I’m sorry because of your condition we can’t give you any sedation’ and they put this tube into my mouth and they filled my lungs up with water and I felt like I was drowning. I know doctors can’t know everything, but it’s really hard trying to deal with people who don’t acknowledge it. It’s an extremely lonely disease.”

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A woman with a keen sense of humour, Julie was 20 when she met the love of her life. Her brother Ronnie had hit a kangaroo with his car in Bordertown, South Australia, and called upon his mate, Kevin, to help him tow the vehicle home. Bringing his mate home, he met Julie and they fell in love. In 1971, the pair married in Adelaide. Three years ago, Kevin was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, leaving Julie to care for him full time as well as battle her own illness. “He’s the love of my life but now he’s got Alzheimer’s I don’t have anyone to sit down with and talk to about it because Kevin can’t remember what I said about it the day before. So it makes it extremely difficult and he’s getting a lot worse.”

The AMDF has estimated that about 120,000 Australians may carry genetic mutations that put them at risk of developing mitochondrial disease. Julie urges people to have a muscle biopsy if they, or their children, show signs symptomatic of the disease such as constant exhaustion, poor muscle development and respiratory problems. “With Kevin’s Alzheimer’s, I can talk to people and there’s so much help out there for him, but for mito, Centrelink, doctors and the public won’t acknowledge it,” she said.

The AMDF was established in 2009 by family members of patients with the disease and does not receive government funding. Relying solely on donations, the CEO of the foundation had to become innovative. “The Bloody Long Walk is now our biggest fundraiser to benefit mitochondrial disease and all profits help us continue our research, patient support, education and awareness initiatives,” Mr Murray said. The walk is a 35 kilometre slog that takes place around the country from August and participants can sign up for it at www.bloody longwalk.com.au. The AMDF helpline is 1300 977 180.

(published Sunshine Coast Daily Jul 10/16)

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Out in Africa :Gay Life in Uganda

OUT IN AFRICA: GAY LIFE IN UGANDA

northeruganda

CREATED ON // SATURDAY, 09 JULY 2016

Lloyd Copper spoke with gay and lesbian activists in Uganda to find out what conditions are like in the East African Republic with a notoriously repressive regime…

 

Martin* runs breathlessly through the stifling heat, wanting to call for help, but knowing it won’t come. Exhausted, he collapses and the mob that’s been chasing him, accusing him of ‘promoting homosexuality’, pound him, each hit fuelled by the hatred against LGBTI people endemic in his country, Uganda.

The East African nation made international headlines with its Anti-Homosexuality Bill proposed by MP David Bahati in 2009. Dubbed the ‘Kill the Gays’ bill because of its harsh punishments, it demanded death for those caught in a third homosexual encounter.

Newspapers have been known to print stories calling for their readers to hang gay men, while publishing their names and addresses. Despite the risks, activists and members of the LGBTI population have banded together under the name ‘kuchus’. The word stems from the Swahili language and roughly translates as ‘queer’.

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In 2011, David Kato, considered to be ‘the father of the Kuchu movement’ was tortured to death in his home. Such is the price to pay for activism in Uganda.

However, even in the darkest circumstances, people fight back. The kuchus are hoping to hold another Pride event this year. With zero chance of government support, the activist group All Out started a fundraiser for it.

Having pride in being LGBTI doesn’t come naturally in Uganda. Sylvia is the editor of a newspaper, Kuchu Times, that provides information to LGBTI folk.

“Since the year started, we have had ten documented cases of violent homophobic attacks with one case so violent a lesbian was left partially blind from a physical beating,” she says.

“The impact of religious fundamentalists spreading the anti-gay gospel in a country so enshrined in religious beliefs can only take on hate. That’s the message their religious leaders are telling them to preach and it’s [a case of] ‘Once my Reverend says it, it’s true’. As an activist, there is no predetermining what sort of danger you might face and it’s frightening and interesting at the same time.”

Katharine Gelber, professor of political science at the University of Queensland, said it was not unusual for African countries to have negative attitudes towards gay people. “Homophobia is very deeply entrenched in the institutions such as the government, the police and how the justice system works,” she said. “It takes a lot of effort to turn that around.

Uganda-rally

“International solidarity is very important. The people who are trying to speak up who live there need our support. It’s harder to get information about what’s happening in some countries about gay rights, so it’s important people find out what’s going on.”

Martin is now living in a safe house after the Easter attack, existing on sparse donations. His mother died in 2013, leaving him with a sister and few friends to trust. A teacher and pastor, Martin lives with the constant fear of violence and discrimination simply because he is an out gay man.

“I grew up with a feeling for fellow boys which was contrary to what society expected,” he says. “As I developed this has failed to leave me, despite the hate and troubling life I lead since I came out.”

Running an orphanage, Martin provides a much-needed service as the country buckles under a government that seems more interested in whipping up hatred against gay people than it does about the World Bank’s estimate of an average life expectancy of just 59.

Sylvia isn’t fooled by easy distractions from the real issues facing Uganda. “The Speaker of Parliament is looking to push for the anti-gay law as the main issue to tackle, while scores of Ugandans die from the breakdown of the only free cancer treatment centre in the country. How is the ‘gay issue’ more important than improving health services?”

For those in the west, it is easy to label Uganda as a failed country with regressive beliefs. Yet, the uncomfortable truth is that westerners have a major role to play in the homophobia that is destroying Uganda’s LGBTI population.

The gripping documentary God Loves Uganda offers viewers a glimpse inside the country. The film includes shocking footage of western activists like American Scott Lively spreading the message that LGBTI people are demonic and bent on ‘recruiting youths’ – a message lapped up by uneducated Ugandans with devastating consequences.

Richard works at an NGO based out of the capital, Kampala. A 23 year old who grew up in a refugee camp after his parents were killed in the war waged by the Lord’s Resistance Army, this is a man who has survived hardships and won. Now a firm ally for the LGBTI community, he doesn’t want pity: he wants books.

“Without intellectually capable men, there can be no democracy,” he says. “But if we read, we shall come to know that our rights exist.”

Uganda-drag

Richard is seeking international donations of books to help LGBTI people in the country have access to information about themselves in a country where positive affirmations are hard to find.

Martin, Sylvia and Richard are brave individuals, all doing their part to live their lives to their fullest in the face of overwhelming hatred that can – and does – destroy people on a daily basis across the globe.

“There is no overnight solution to counter the threats LGBTI Ugandans face,” says Sylvia. “But I believe [that with] initiatives like Kuchu Times, where lived realities of LGBTI people are shared, we can counter misconceptions. By continuing to accept who we are as queer Ugandans, owning our own spaces and standing up to injustices, we shall counter homophobia.”

Check out Kuchu Times here.

*names have been changed to protect identities.

WATCH: A CLIP FROM THE DOCUMENTARY ‘GOD LOVES UGANDA’

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Fishing for votes at Sippy Downs

On Election Day, July 2, 2016, I attended the polling booths at Sienna College to cover the Fisher region. I mingled with the effervescent Labor candidate Bill Gissane and Greens candidate Tony Gibson and that night attended the LNP function of LNP candidate Andrew Wallace, who won the seat. I also did vox pops with people on the day.

 

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Voters line up at Sienna College, Sippy Downs

Voters in the Fisher electorate today braved the cold to make their decision about who will be the next leader of the Sunshine Coast region.

A roughly equal mix of Labor and Liberal volunteers handed out cards to voters, with two volunteers for Rise Up Australia, one person for the Greens and one for The Veterans Party also present.

First time voter Ethan Brog, 18, said there were key factors that would inform his vote.

“I’m a uni student and I work on Saturday and Sunday so I rely on penalty rates,” Brog said. “I’m not gay but I believe in gay marriage and I also think that Medicare is important.”

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Ethan Brog, uni student

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Jan McClaren

Another student, Michael Carr, said he felt disillusioned by Labor.

“Labor Party actually used to be working class, now they’re just professional politicians like everyone else,” Carr said.

For older voters, it was transport and roads that were influencing their decision.

“We have to really upgrade our public transport system here,” Jan Mclaren said. “I’ve just come back from the Gold Coast and the ability to get from the airport to the Gold Coast is far superior to ours.”

She also was underwhelmed by the in-fighting of the two major parties.

“It’s been a boring lead up to the election. Labor seems to be going on the premise of the Liberals will be abandoning Medicare and the Liberals have been denying it, so hopefully Liberal are true to their word.”

“We’ve got to get someone to do something with the roadworks because in another ten years, you won’t be able to move around here with all the building that’s going on,” pensioner Peter Ogden said.

A minor party has drawn the ire of a young mother on her way in to vote.

“The names of the parties are confusing, like the Health Party, because they’re anti-vaccination, so it makes me angry,” Mather said.

“I feel a bit confused about the whole thing,” she said. “I don’t have a lot of faith in either of the major parties. We have a young family so education is important and Medicare needs to be supported. I find it confusing the way that things are presented.”

Veterans Party founder Jason Burgess said that his party would support the LGBTI-focussed Safe Schools program and would tackle congestion on the Sunshine Motorway. He said that as someone who had just left the Army as a result of PTSD.

“There’s a lot of red tape and politics regarding what the Army should and shouldn’t do but as defence personnel you’re there to help the people regardless of whether they’re your own country or others,” he said.

“Safe Schools is a no brainer and if you want your kids to go to schoool you have to teach them about the facts of life. Hatred is the biggest problem in our community at the moment. You’ve got to put the people first and prove to people that you will fight for them. There’s a lot of people voting for the minor parties.”

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Jason Burgess, Veterans Party

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April Mather and family

Greens candidate Tony Gibson said he wanted to be judged on employment, rail duplication to Nambour, renewable energy and the NBN.

“Renewable energy is the future and the Greens are leading the way with that and it gives people so many job opportunities especially in regional Queensland,” said Mr Gibson.

Mr Gibson also criticised the LNP’s approach to the National Broadband Network.

“If we go with the LNP model of copper, by 2020 we’ll have the copper rollout but it won’t be able to cope with the amount of I.T infrastructure in a normal home,” Mr Gibson said.

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Greens candidate Tony Gibson

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Labor candidate Bill Gissane and Labor volunteers

Labor candidate Bill Gissane said he felt the seat of Fisher had been cursed and that the region deserved better.

“They’ve had the bad luck to have had two representatives who totally failed to represent the interests of their constituency and this is a seminal moment for the people of Fisher to say we’re going to move away from that.”

If elected, Mr Gissane said the first things he would do would be to establish a department of sustainable economics at the University of the Sunshine Coast to generate jobs and convene a meeting of business representatives to resolve the issue around penalty rates.

LNP candidate Andrew Wallace was in Maleny but said via phone that it was his party that would provide stability.

“We need stability with immigration, a stable monetary system and a political parliamentary system,” Mr Wallace said.

He said that the Labor Party was trying to win office based on a lie that the LNP would privatise Medicare.

“I can’t be any clearer than what the prime minister has already said and that is, Medicare will not be privatised, he has given his written undertaking to that effect, and the Labor Party continuing to try and scare people is frankly appalling,” Mr Wallace said.

 

(an edited version of this was published on Uni Poll Watch at http://www.unipollwatch.org.au/news/qld-wrap.html)

(a photo collage with other students was published at http://www.unipollwatch.org.au/news/voting-underway-across-australia.html)

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Gissane and Wallace face off in online debate

Gissane and Wallace face off in online Q & A

Lloyd Copper | 24th Jun 2016 2:07 PM Updated: 3:00 PM
wallacebillgissane
WHAT do asylum seekers, the National Broadband Networks and sub-contractors all have in common?

They were all topics pitched to Bill Gissane and Andrew Wallace last night as the Fisher candidates answered questions that was streamed live on View News’ Facebook page.

On some things they agreed: the expansion of the Sunshine Coast Airport, rail duplication to Nambour and a six lanes upgrade for the Bruce Hwy.

A Year 12 student asked why he should stay on the Sunshine Coast after graduating and not leave to study in Brisbane.

Mr Wallace said he saw value in considering a trade instead of higher education.

“If you become a plumber, you’re going to make more money over your lifetime than you would if you did some other degree,” Mr Wallace said.

“We have this fascination in this country that if you want to make something of your life, you should go to university.”

Mr Gissane said funding was essential for the next member for Fisher to ensure the Coast could provide training and education.

“We know that our youth unemployment is shockingly high,” Mr Gissane said.

“There is almost a backwater approach to the Sunshine Coast and the government investment is not forthcoming for larger and smaller businesses.”

“Institutions like the hospital and university need adequate funding and I think the government has a role in providing for large scale infrastructure projects.”

On the topic of the Bruce Hwy, Mr Wallace said he was in the best position to improve the accident-prone road.

“We are delivering the $1.1 billion upgrade of the Bruce Hiwy, and this will likely start towards the end of this year,” Mr Wallace said.

“That project will see three lanes either way from the Caloundra road intersection to the Sunshine Mwy.

“As LNP member for Fisher, I have a much better opportunity to open doors then what a sole ALP member would.”

Mr Gissane said that they had to break the nexus that has led the area to being considered safe LNP territory.

“When the last Labor government was in power, nearly $5.6 billion was committed to the Bruce Hwy,” Mr Gissane said.

“The Albanese slogan is, we’ve spent four times as much in half the time as when the LNP predecessors had control.

“That says to me we are an infrastructure party.”

A question was then put forward to them about the NBN.

“The challenge is providing the best form of internet we can get for a reasonable price,” Mr Wallace said.

“The NBN under the coalition government’s plan will deliver 100 megabytes per second.

“The average download speed with our current NBN rollout is about 70 megabytes per second.

“We will deliver the finalisation of the rollout by 2020 and the costs of Labor delivering fibre to someone’s front door will be somewhere between $8-30 billion.”

Mr Gissane said that it was worth spending more to provide a better system.

“The rationale behind the re-jigged program is to increase the capital installation costs and reduce the actual running costs,” he said.

“Given that is an off budget project that’s being run as an overall return on investment calculation, the lower running cost of not having power to the nodes is where the savings come from.”

The candidates were asked about another hot-button issue: asylum seekers.

“The Turnbull government has an off-shore processing policy and I support that,” Mr Wallace said.

“If Labor wins, they will be dragged to the left by their power-sharing party The Greens, and we will see a reversal of their current policy and our borders will become porous again.

“We have one of the greatest per-capita entrance of allowing refugees into this country through the proper processes, and for every person that comes to this country that tries to circumvent the appropriate model, they are preventing someone else coming to this country.”

Mr Gissane said that, while the Labor party had learnt from the people who had drowned as a result of coming to Australia via people smugglers, there was a moral obligation to help refugees.

“We’ll seek regional co-operation, increase funding for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to deal with people in camps and take a more pragmatic view on how to deal with the 60 million displaced people around the world,” Mr Gissane said.

Regarding the issue of sub-contractors and Mr Wallace defended his recommendations that had led to changes in the Building Constructions Industry Payment Act.

“There has been misinformation that my reforms led to the collapse of Walton’s,” Mr Wallace said.

“Walton’s collapsed 14 months prior to the Wallace report amendments came into place.”

Mr Gissane said that he had spoken with sub-contractors who said they were materially worse-off as a result of the implementation of the State Government’s revision of the Act.

Mr Wallace said he would be pushing for a nationally based legislation framework that would ensure the best possible security for payments, to which Mr Gissane pointed out that they already had a policy introduced by from MP Michelle Roland last week.

The video can be viewed at https://www.facebook.com/viewnews/videos/10153678968323715/.

(originally published http://www.sunshinecoastdaily.com.au/news/gissane-and-wallace-face-off-in-online-q-a/3051393/)

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Bandits nick hard-earned booze from uni students

I am very excited to be doing workplace experience at the Sunshine Coast Daily this Thursday. I often have ideas for stories and this one happened very close by, giving me the opportunity to interview and photograph the talent.

Bandits nick hard-earned booze from uni students

University of the Sunshine Coast Bar and Entertainment Club president Sam Argue.

University of the Sunshine Coast Bar and Entertainment Club president Sam Argue. Picture:Lloyd Copper

Volunteers at the University of the Sunshine Coast’s Student Guild Club discovered the theft yesterday.

A bolt cutter was used to break into the back office where hundreds of dollars’ worth of alcohol that the Bar and Entertainment Club use for their fortnightly parties, was stolen.

BEC club president Sam Argue said that it had taken years for himself and his committed team of volunteers to save up for the liquor.

“The student BEC is a not-for-profit group that is completely self-funded and our idea is to create a social atmosphere that is fun for students on campus to meet and socialise with new people.

“People know we also supply food to hungry students and that we run on a very limited budget.

“I just think it’s a really low act for someone to come and steal from a club that is run on the bare minimum and then it’s just taken away from the students in one night.”

Police attended the club, which also offers an advocacy service, and dusted for fingerprints which were left on the window pane that was smashed to allow the intruder/s in.

Mr Argue said that this was the fourth time this year that the club had been broken into.

“We believe they must have had a car, because they wouldn’t have been able to just walk out with it.

“We have heard that there were two cars parked outside the Guild at 1am, but we’re still unsure of who these cars belonged to, and what the type of cars were.

“We do have security cameras around the place so hopefully we can pinpoint exactly who’s taken this.”

Police are reviewing the footage.

Anyone with information which could assist with this matter should contact Crime Stoppers anonymously via 1800 333 000 or crimestoppers.com.au 24hrs a day.

(originally published http://www.sunshinecoastdaily.com.au/news/bandits-nick-hard-earned-booze-from-uni-students/3047069/)