Playing catch up…

Excerpt from Spring 2013 student Fiona Tranquillo’s blog “My Aussieland Adventure”. Reproduced with permission

Wow… I feel so behind! There are so many things that I’ve been wanting to blog about, both for my own records and to share with you, but I simply haven’t had the time! So, now that I have a few minutes, let me catch you up on what has been happening…

-CRONULLA: Last weekend, a big group of us went to Cronulla Beach. The train ride was about 45 minutes, but it was so worth it. We actually didn’t spend time at the beach… we went to the sand dunes that Ty, the ASC intern, had recommended! It was a blast. Living in Minnesota, much of my childhood sledding time was spent thinking about how incredible it would be to sled without being cold. Well, that weekend, my dreams came true… rolling down the sand hills, sliding down the sand hills, sand angels… the whole shebang.


-LEBANESE FOOD: Also last weekend, a group from St. James invited Tarah and I out with them after church on Sunday night. They took us to this fancy Lebanese restaurant and treated us to a feast of new, interesting, DELICIOUS cuisine. The food was great, but the fellowship was better. I can’t even tell you how fun it is to hang out with Australians. It’s those moments when I’m just chillin’ with Aussies like it’s no big deal that I realize what an incredible opportunity and experience I have been blessed with.

-DIGERIDOOS, SPEARS, AND BOOMERANGS: Last week in my Indigenous Cultures class, we had a special guest. Ross Smith, a famous Aboriginal artist, spent the whole morning with us in the park. First, he taught us how to play the digeridoo. It is an Aboriginal instrument and it is SO unique. If you’ve never heard of it, look it up; it’s worth a listen. Basically, we all stunk and couldn’t make any correct sounds, but we sure had fun trying. Next on the schedule was spear-throwing. After learning the techniques, we had a contest to see who could throw it the farthest. I failed miserably, but I must say, I felt quite empowered. 😉 Lastly, he taught us how to throw and catch Aboriginal boomerangs. You probably guessed it… I was real bad at it. BUT, it was a blast. On top of all that, he set up a display of his artwork, and he offered us extremely generous deals on all of it. It was such a unique, cultural, fun, rewarding experience.

-COFFEE SHOPS: I started a new “tradition.” During the first few months, I didn’t let myself spend any money on coffee, but my resolve has now crumbled. On Tuesdays, I get done with class at noon and don’t have anything the rest of the day. I’ve decided to leave Wesley right after my class, hop on a bus or a train, get off in a town I haven’t been to, and explore. After looking around awhile, I ask a local to point me towards the best coffee shop, then I settle in for the rest of the afternoon with a delicious drink and whatever work I have to do. It has been one of the most refreshing things I’ve done here. It is very unlike me to be okay with going off and doing something by myself, but it is something that I have learned to really enjoy since being in Australia. Taking the time to go out on a little adventure by myself, reflect, and drink hot, yummy drinks has brought me fresh energy, perspective, joy, and peace. So far I’ve explored an adorable town called Summerhill and a very multicultural town called Campsie

-CABRAMATTA: For the past two weeks, all of the schools have been on holiday. Since both my host parents work in schools, they have been on holiday, too. So, last Thursday, since I didn’t have class until the afternoon, Bee-Hoon planned to take Tarah and I out for the day. What a special memory! She loves introducing us to new cultures and to the foods of that culture, so she took us to a town called Cabramatta that has a heavy Vietnamese influence. On the train ride there, she taught me how to crochet these California poppy pins that she makes, and once we got there we looked around the shops and she treated us to Vietnamese treats and lunch. I had to leave early to go to class, but having Bee-Hoon want to spend that time with us is something I will hold close to my heart, and something that makes me smile every time I think of it.

Reduced to Minimum Wage?

By Nicole Freeman

“We do not want educated women, at the higher degree level, to deny them a career. If we want women of that calibre to have families, and we should, well we have to give them a fair dinkum chance to do so. That is what this scheme of paid parental leave is all about,” believes Tony Abbott. As elections loom, the topic of changing the parental leave policy is heavily debated between Tony Abbott, leader of the Opposition and Julia Gillard, the current Prime Minister.

The current parental leave policy covers 18 weeks of minimum wage pay, roughly $606 a week prior to tax, or $10,908 total. This policy costs $260 million a year out of general revenue. Abbott, however, proposes a more comprehensive parental leave program that would put Australia as one of the most generous parental leave programs, only falling behind the UK and Denmark. Abbott’s plan covers 26 weeks of full paid wages for a salary up to $150,00. This means the most a woman could receive would be $75,000 for 6 months. Abbott’s goal is to encourage workers, specifically women, to have both a family and a career, and not have to pick between the two. “We can’t really afford to lose so many highly capable women in the prime of life and from the workforce” believes Abbott. While the current parental leave policy works, Abbott’s signature reform benefits women more by paying them a more equivalent salary. Most women do not make more than $100,00 a year, so Abbott’s plan would benefit women who are still lowly paid but do not necessarily make minimum wage. The only criticism with Abbott’s plan is how expensive it will be. Abbott plans to pay for this parental leave by adding a 1.5% tax levy on 3200 of the biggest companies in Australia, estimating about $4.3 billion.

The question for debate is whether the government should fully compensate the mother for 6 months, or is 18 weeks of minimum wage satisfactory? Jacqueline Maley of the Sydney Morning Herald believes Abbott’s plan is more beneficial and fair for women as it could potentially put more money in their pockets, especially if they make more than minimum wage. Abbott also believes women should be fully compensated, not reduced to minimum wage during their leave. “When a woman takes leave because she is having a baby she should be paid at her wage just as if a bloke takes leave to go on holidays he should be paid at his wage,” argues Abbott. Women should not be penalized for having children, and the parental leave policy falls under a work or career related payment, not a welfare payment. Shadow Treasurer, Joe Hockey, believes women should not get a discount on parental leave. Employees are not penalized for annual or sick leave, so why should women for having children? ”If you believe in equality of pay why don’t you believe that someone on paid parental leave should receive the pay that they earn?,” argues Mr. Hockey. In the 2013 election season, Tony Abbott will fight for more equal compensation for women on a maternity leave.


Disability Care: How It Affects Everyone

By Colin Turnbull

“I am prepared to be judged by these choices” said Prime Minister Julia Gillard earlier this year, in regards to her bill to raise Medicare tax in order to pay for disability care. In her bill, Gillard proposes to raise the Medicare tax from 1.5% of a person’s annual wage to 2%. The extra .5% increase would help cover the cost of medical bills for those who have disabled loved ones. This would cost Australian citizens another $350 a year, on average.

This proposal has sparked much debate. Although Opposition leader Tony Abbott agrees with Gillard that there should be more care provided for those with disabilities, he argues that her current scheme would only cover half the costs required for disability care. Shadow treasurer Joe Hockney is against the tax, saying it would only hurt business because people would feel less confident about their smaller amount of discretionary income. “This levy is going to hit every household budget,” he said in a recent radio interview.

Before putting the bill into motion, Gillard will ask the nation to voice their opinions in the September 2013 election, “to make sure that we support disability care around Australia.” As members of a democratic society, voting is an essential part of moving our country in a positive direction. That is why it is the citizens’ responsibility to stay informed on all the current issues involved with politics, regardless of whether or not the issues affect them directly or not. Chances are, there will be a political issue that affects everyone at some point in their life. Voting is a privilege that everyone should take advantage of. By staying informed on the issues and voting accordingly, ordinary citizens can take part in the problems faced by society, and hopefully say they were part of the solution.

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