The Australian Olympic Committee is concerned that nine Australian athletes have been detained by Brazilian police after allegedly altering their accreditation to gain entry to the Boomers basketball game on Friday night.
An AOC spokesman confirmed that athletes from a number of sports – including cycling, rugby and rowing – were taken to a police station near the Olympic Park to be questioned by local authorities.
Fiona de Jong, Chief executive of the AOC, was on hand with the athletes, trying to smooth the situation over with law enforcement.
“Nine athletes were detained trying to get into the basketball,” said AOC spokesman Mike Tancred.
Hobart writer David Owen, author of the Pufferfish detective series.
Picture: SAM ROSEWARNE
THERE is nothing like discovering a novelist whose books can grab and hold your attention even when your eyes are heavy with sleep and the alarm is set for the morning school/work scramble.
Having just read three David Owen novels in quick succession, I am all set for an interview with the author responsible for my bleary-eyed state.
Not since binge-reading every Raymond Chandler novel I could get my hands on have I been so intent on devouring everything an author has produced.
While Chandler’s hard-boiled detective novels are based in seedy-but-glamorous 1940s Los Angeles, Owen’s elegant police procedurals are set in my backyard.
As I discover when I try to track down Owen’s earlier novels at Salamanca’s Hobart Bookshop, the African-born writer has a fan base here and in the US.
“He has a bit of a cult following,” the shop assistant says as she directs me to the Tasmanian authors section.
“We had a couple from America in the other day asking if we had any second-hand copies of his first novels.”
Those familiar with Owen’s work will know his latest novel 13-Point Plan for a Perfect Murder is the seventh title in the Pufferfish series. The protagonist is Franz Heineken, a gruff Hobart-based detective inspector whose prickly demeanour has earned him the Pufferfish nickname.
That the Netherlands-born character is named after a Dutch beer shows Owen is a writer who does not take himself too seriously.
I buy a copy of the sixthPufferfish, How The Dead See, published in 2011 by Owen’s previous publisher Forty Degrees South.
I doubt I would have picked up this book had I not been looking for it. The bland, glossy cover is not nearly so appealing as the new book, which is a sweet yellow paperback published by Hobart’s Fullers Bookshop in the style of the classic orange Penguin paperback.
On the Tasmanian Arts Guide website, Owen’s portrait shows a very stern middle-aged man and I have heard the former Island magazine editor described as “quite formal”, which makes me fear I am in for a stilted interview.
However, when we meet for coffee at the Mona wine bar Owen is neither frosty nor aloof, his friendliness totally at odds with the Arts Guide photo. It is possible to see why he might be described as formal, but the 59-year-old is welcoming and inquiring. Maybe “gentlemanly” is the correct term. His accent is a curious mixture of South African, English and Aussie.
Owen previously worked as a librarian, including for the CSIRO in Melbourne, but when he and his wife Leisha (also a librarian, who works at the Hobart library) first moved to Tasmania, he stayed home to juggle writing with fatherly duties.
The couple arrived in Hobart from South Africa – via Melbourne and London – in the ’80s. With a Welsh father and Canadian mother, Owen grew up in Zimbabwe (then Southern Rhodesia), Malawi and Swaziland, where his father worked as a headmaster. “It was probably a lot like growing up in Australia,” Owen says. “After school we would run around in the bush and swim in rivers. We had this extraordinary sense of freedom.”
Owen suggests Mona as our meeting place because it is one of the settings in 13-Point Plan, which has a plot that traverses the Tasmanian landscape – from a fictional polo resort east of Hobart to a Styx Valley marijuana crop and a rough northern-suburbs pub. Another interview location option was Budgie Smuggler’s Takeaway shop in downtown Hobart, which also makes a cameo in the book.
“In some ways it is my homage to my new homeland,” Owen says of his decision to set the Pufferfish novels in Tasmania. “All the reviews I’ve read of these books from interstate and beyond focus on the setting and they’re all really positive about the setting.”
The realism of Owen’s characters and dialogue has also attracted positive reviews. Heineken (aka Pufferfish) is not a Sherlock Holmes-like character who solves every crime with masterful brainpower.
He has a shady past, needs an occasional nap, his boss cannot stand him and his underlings are regularly offended by his brusque ways. “Gloriously curmudgeonly,” a review in The Australian described him.
Heineken’s cynicism and dry humour combined with a grudging empathy make him a believable old-school cop character, although Owen says he is not based on a real person.
“Having said that, there are readers out there who have said, ‘It’s really good you’ve based your main character on Lupo Prins’,” Owen says, adding that any resemblance between Pufferfish and Prins, a former deputy police commissioner of Tasmania, are purely accidental.
“I didn’t even know him [Prins] let alone that he is Dutch. But he was good enough to launch one of my earlier novels. He came into the bookshop dressed up in all his finery. It was wonderful.”
Like most of us lowly civilians, Owen’s assumptions about police procedures and lingo stem from cop shows, news reports and crime novels. “I was concerned not to mimic the reality of policing in the state,” he says. “It’s a matter of working out what readers are going to accept as pretty close to the truth.”
He admits he is a little surprised to find himself writing about police, given the mistrust he had of authority as a youngster. At university in South Africa Owen gained a criminal record for protesting against apartheid. “It was a legally based system of racism enforced on the streets. It was just appalling,” he says. “We grew up with a very native dislike and fear of the police, which is all the more ironic now that I’m writing very much from the perspective of police.”
Owen reveals he trawled through the White Pages to ensure he did not offend Tasmanians with his choice of villain names, which seems polite in the extreme. But he does not shy away from the darker elements of Tasmanian history and society.
His writing is dotted with a subtle social commentary that is both perceptive and forgiving of his adoptive home. The dialogue between characters is peppered with snappy one-liners, word plays, snippets of historical fact and pieces of trivia.
“Clearly, it’s a work of fiction but I’m trying to give it a realism that comes out of that sort of dialogue,” Owen says. “And the setting is very real. I’m not trying to gild the lily.”
By day, Owen is the official secretary of Government House in Hobart, making him the right-hand man to Governor Kate Warner. Having previously profiled Warner for TasWeekend, I am aware she is a passionate reader of fiction, but Owen manages to deflect the question of whether Her Excellency has read his work.
He is at pains to keep his day job separate from his writing, which he does at night or during annual leave. He wrote the bulk of 13-Point Plan during a month-long summer break.
Peter Rozovsky is a Philadelphia-based newspaper sub-editor who writes the popular literary blog Detectives Beyond Borders and introduces US readers to international crime-fiction through regular radio appearances.
“I had never come across a crime-fiction protagonist like Franz Heineken,” Rozovsky tells TasWeekend of the character he first encountered a decade ago.
“One finds solitary, damaged fictional detectives by the score, but Pufferfish was solitary without self-pity. He delighted in his own prickliness. He was funny. Pufferfish may be a distant cousin of Philip Marlowe [Raymond Chandler’s protagonist]. They both clash with authority. But Pufferfish is nowhere near as neurotic or haunted or disappointed as the typical American hard-boiled detective.”
Rozovsky loves travel, of both the actual and armchair variety, and therefore enjoys books such as Owen’s with detailed descriptions of land and streetscapes.
“I probably knew little about Tasmania before I read the books, other than the Warner Bros cartoon character called the Tasmanian Devil,” he says.
“That’s why I especially enjoyed Owen’s description of Tasmanian devils as a plot point in the new book. From his description, the animal’s eating habits are quite similar to those of its cartoon counterpart.”
A special bottle of wine has been rolling around in a drawer at Owen’s home for about eight years, a memento from his days on the set of a feature film based on his unconventional love story Bitters End.
The cast and crew of the movie Hurrah became regulars at the vineyard in the Murray Darling region of Victoria. Owen, who wrote the screenplay, took a bottle home and although he suspects the cabernet sauvignon is well past its best, he has not been able to bring himself to open it.
“Bitters End was my first literary novel so I always thought that when I wrote another one I would open the wine,” Owen says. “This new one [13-Point Plan] is close to it, so I might have to open it now.”
The stories are just great and it is something we can direct tourists to when they come in
While Owen’s Pufferfish series looks at murder through the sardonic eyes of a slightly jaded cop, Bitters End explores death and personal tragedy from the viewpoint of a grieving lover. Published in 1993, it is gripping and evocative, with spot-on dialogue and well-honed first-person narrative. It is, as Owen suggests, much more ambitious and accomplished than his comparatively light-hearted detective novels.
It deserves a wide readership, but Bitters End is no longer in print.
Hurrah had only a tiny release before the distribution company went out of business. Apart from small entries on the Internet Movie Database and Wikipedia, it is as though the film was never made. Owen is pragmatic and philosophical about what appears to be a lost opportunity.
“Apparently most feature films that are made are hardly seen or not released at all,” he says. “I feel very privileged to have had all these books published full stop.”
Later, when I speak with Fullers Bookshop’s Clive Tilsley, he says thePufferfish series – rebadged the Pufferfish Tasmanian Mystery series – is Fullers’ first foray into fiction publishing.
While 13-Point Plan was launched last month, the next book, Romeo’s Gun, is due out in November. Both will have an initial print run of 1500 and will also be distributed as e-books.
“We’re calling it Tasmanian pulp,” Tilsley says. “The stories are just great and it is something we can direct tourists to when they come in.”
The cover artwork of 13-Point Plan is by Tasmanian painter Robert O’Connor, and Tilsley intends to continue the local art theme for the next covers, which will include a re-release of Owen’s first four outof- printPufferfish novels.
The pufferfish-handcuff logo on the front is by the elder of Owen and Leisha’s two sons, Hilton, who is an artist represented by Hobart’s Handmark Gallery. Their younger son is about to finish a medicine degree at the University of Tasmania.
Although Owen is thrilled about the deal with Fullers and the planned re-release of his earlier novels, the first of which was published in the mid-’90s, he is nervous about some stylistic discrepancies.
“I have it on really good authority that a few years ago a copy of the very first Pufferfish called Pig’s Head was for sale in a bookshop in Boston for $400, so I know people are really keen to get them,” Owen says.
“But I haven’t read them since they were published. The character’s voice will have changed so I’m nervous to go back and say, ‘Oh God, he [Heineken] doesn’t talk like that anymore’. Do you leave it intact or fiddle with it? A lot of people would think it would be sacrilege to change anything.”
Owen is facing another conundrum. In Romeo’s Gun, he brings back a character who was killed off in an earlier book. Considering readers’ memories are not infallible, this could have gone unnoticed, had Tilsley not been intent on re-releasing the earliest novels.
“In the first four books, Pufferfish has an informant. He was killed in the fourth book but he’s very much alive in this next one. So how am I going to un-kill my informant?” Owen laughs. “Any ideas?”
The only suggestion I can think of is to read Stephen King’s Misery, in which a writer is held captive by a crazed fan who forces him to “un-kill” a central character in one of his books. “Sorry, that’s probably not very helpful,” I say, but Owen politely promises to read it. He is an avid reader of crime and fiction generally, but King’s horror-thrillers have never been on his radar.
We descend the circular staircase to Mona’s bottom gallery and walk past the wonderfully wordy waterfall that is Julius Popp’s artwork Bit.Fall. On the mezzanine level above us is a man known as Tattoo Tim. In 2006, Belgian artist Wim Delvoye tattooed Tim’s back and sold it as an artwork to a German collector, who will keep the tattooed skin when Tim dies. In the meantime, Tim spends hours on display in Mona and also holds weekly talks. “Sherbet, that’s weird,” Owen says as we move to escape Tim’s unsettling, immobile gaze.
Delvoye’s work is meant to challenge perceptions of art, something with which Owen has been preoccupied since his first agonising experiences with the world of publishing in the ’80s. In fact, it was his musings on the subjectivity of artistic – and novelistic – taste that inspired Owen to create a detective character in the first place.
He had early success with British publisher Bloomsbury accepting two novellas about apartheid in South Africa, but Bitters End, which was his first full-length novel, was initially rejected. The editors wanted him to rewrite the ending to effectively make it more conventional, something he was not prepared to do.
“I was really quite upset about this [rejection of the novel], thinking about how everyone is really subjective in how they approach things,” Owen says. “That led me to write a manuscript about our perceptions of art and I came up with the idea of a detective. If something goes wrong, a detective is not going to subjectively investigate it, they’ll bury their personal prejudices.”
His initial idea of a plot in which the clues to a murder are hidden in an unfinished artwork eventually evolved to become How the Dead See, which is about the suspicious death of a troubled actor.
Bitters End was eventually published by Picador, while veteran Melbourne publisher Louise Adler commissioned the first four Pufferfish for Mandarin Publishing. However, when Mandarin was taken over by Random House, the new publishers were unenthusiastic about the crime series and 12 years passed before Warren Boyles from Forty Degrees South magazine persuaded Owen to write another two Pufferfish under his masthead.
Although Heineken would reject being called an arts buff, Owen finds ways of weaving his personal obsessions with art and literature into his books. In 13-Point Plan, there is a fictional scenario in which Mona has borrowed the famous Italian Baroque painting Judith Slaying Holofernesby Artemisia Gentileschi from Italy’s Uffizi Gallery, the painting’s revenge theme alluding to a possible motive.
Owen has never met Mona owner David Walsh, but follows his writing and interviews with interest. “I find him totally intriguing,” Owen says of Walsh, who recently received a French knighthood for his contribution to the arts and who made his money by inventing complex gambling systems.
“He obviously has a ferocious intellect and ability to compute and then [there’s] the juxtaposition of that with this amazing artistic sensibility. The fact that those two facets of his personality have clashed and this is what comes out [gesturing at the Mona artwork] is completely wonderful. It’s like he’s been his own agent of the arts.”
I can think of no better character for a future Pufferfish mystery than a millionaire gambler known for obsessions with sex, death and art, but Owen rules out a character based on Walsh. “I would never go near that,” he says, his overt politeness again coming to the fore.
Owen has been in talks over the years with Film Victoria and Screen Tasmania to develop the Pufferfish series for TV, something Tilsley says would greatly broaden Owen’s readership. The producer of Hurrah is among those interested in a Pufferfish adaptation.
Although he has 14 published books to his name, including a nonfiction series about endangered animals, Owen is realistic about his chances of finding fame. “I don’t expect it to go gangbusters,” Owen says. “It’s never been my lot in life to be a bestselling author.”
Like critics such as Rozovsky, I hope he is proved wrong.
For more great lifestyle reads, pick up a copy of TasWeekend in your Saturday Mercury.
Like many parents, Christine Murray struggled to get her three children to eat their vegies. But after seeing them sprout in the community garden just a few doors down from their house, the children eat them without complaint.
“There are things they won’t eat from the supermarket; but when they watch it grow, they want to see what it tastes like,” the kindergarten educator said.
The family bought into the new housing estate of Katandra Rise in Doreen two years ago and are part of a growing trend of Melburnians who produce their own food.
Katandra Rise residents Georgia Ramsey and Christine Murray with their children, Lyla ,Isla , Rhys, Arley and Jensen, love eating the food they produce in the community garden. Photo: Pat Scala
From large-scale community collectives to the humble backyard vegie patch, Melbourne’s plot culture has gained considerable traction in the past decade, with more and more people discovering the humble pleasure of GIY (grow-it-yourself).
But the future is not all ripe. Experts warn Melbourne will face a “perfect storm” in coming decades that will take suburban fresh food production from pastime to necessity.
By 2050, Melbourne will need 60 per cent more food to feed its estimated-seven million population, but the city’s foodbowl capacity will fall to an estimated 18 per cent, a report released last December by Victorian Eco-Innovation Lab showed.
Melbourne’s traditional food producing areas, such as Clyde in the city’s south east, are being met by urban sprawl. Photo: Wayne Taylor
Urban sprawl is paving over much of Melbourne’s fertile food producing land, while climate change will continue to drain Australia’s traditional agriculture heartlands, such as the Murray-Darling Basin.
“We have this perception of ‘Australia has heaps of land, so we don’t have to worry about it,” urban expansion academic and consultant Ian Sinclair said. “But there is a very small amount of land that is usable for food production, and we as a community tend to think it can be used for other things, such as residential housing.”
The suburban effort will need to be significantly increased to take up that slack, University of Melbourne planning professor Brendan Gleeson says
Melbourne is leading the charge with collective gardening initiatives in the country.Photo: 3000acres
“Certainly people are voting with their feet and going back into domestic food production, but there is a long way between that and any idea of self sufficiency,” he said.
“It’s mainstream Australia watching the food shows, the cooking shows, and getting more interested in understanding the providence and the source of food … The groundswell is definitely there, but it won’t amount to terribly much more unless we’re prepared to take it to another level.”
And taking it up a notch — through policy or community-led initiatives — is a complex task, with farming knowledge, personal time and available resources all scarce within suburban communities.
There is a groundswell of support for urban farming initiatives in Melbourne, reaching as far as new communities in Doreen. Photo: Pat Scala
One recent response to the increasing consciousness of food production is a rise of developer-led initiatives.
Brendan Condon, developer of one of Victoria’s most sustainable communities, The Cape, is undertaking what will be the largest urban food project in a Victorian greenfield housing estate when complete. The 500-square-metre, $800,000 garden is expected to generate $130,000 in annual produce for residents.
“If developers put in this green infrastructure in, people love it and they will get a return on it,” said Mr Condon, pointing to a New York study that showed property values are uplifted by millions of dollars within 300 metres of community gardens.
People are voting with their feet to support domestic food production, but there’s still a long way to go before self-sufficiency, experts say. Photo: 3000acres
Mr Condon said if designed correctly, new technologies such as self-watering wicking beds will help remove some of the barriers to scaling up green initiatives. Producing locally will also significantly reduce “food miles”, the journey from producer to consumer, and save money on food bills, he said.
“With urban sprawl, climate change and more mouths to feed, we’ve got a potential perfect storm coming … But we have these huge opportunities to transform cities into food producing areas.”
A new urban village at Jewell Station in Brunswick is one of a growing number of apartment projects offering “urban farming”, where clusters of vegie patches will be dotted throughout the development. Shared social infrastructure such as urban farming provided a bond between people living in that community, Neometro director James Tutton said.
The urban food gardens at The cape in Cape Paterson will be the largest urban food project in a Victorian greenfield housing estate when complete. Photo: Brendan Condon
Even city fringe housing estates like Katandra Rise are using food gardens to differentiate themselves in the market.
“There’s a town centre 500 metres away with a big supermarket and a fruit shop, but if we can encourage people to grow their own produce, then not only are they saving on living expenses, but also encouraging their children and families to have a healthier lifestyle,” developer Five Squared Property Group’s Ashley Lewis said.
Michael Hands, of 3000 acres, a Melbourne-based not-for-profit organisation that promotes urban agriculture, is working with developers to help establish communal gardens in projects.
“We’re not going to create an entire food supply from communities gardens in the city anytime soon, but it’s a good supplement and it gets people thinking about what to grow and how to grow it, and it builds community at the same time, and it makes cities better places to live.”
And for the urban farmers themselves, such as Suse Scholem and Theo Kitchener — who are part of gardening collective Gnomes, which links up gardeners and private land owners — it’s about the satisfaction.
“It’s really nice to get our food from the garden and to know that we’re helping to change the world just that tiny bit,” Ms Kitchener said.
“You see it’s sustainable for us to grow food in our suburbs, and not just be reliant on the Safeways and the Coles,” adds Ms Scholem.
“They aren’t as joyful and satisfying places to go visit either, with their fluorescent lighting, as opposed to getting your hands in the dirt with other people.”
Which Canberrans are the least likely to spend their retirement sailing around the Bahamas?
If their current amount of superannuation left floating around in the Australian Tax Office’s bank is anything to go by, it’ll be those who live in the area with a postcode of 2615.
New data from the ATO shows that residents from 12 west Belconnen suburbs – including Latham, Florey and Macgregor – were yet to claim $26 million out of the territory’s $222.5 million in lost super.
People who have the postcode 2602 – which includes Ainslie, Dickson, Downer, Hackett, Lyneham, O’Connor and Watson – were the second most forgetful, with about $19 million yet to claim.
Coming in third place were the residents of the Gungahlin postcode 2913, who have about $17 million in lost super. This includes Nicholls, Ngunnawal, Kinlyside, Franklin, Casey, Taylor and Palmerston.
Super contributions are made by employers and can be topped up by the employee.
The money is considered ”lost” when a fund cannot contact the person and has not received a contribution to an account for five years.
Deputy Commissioner James O’Halloran said 43 per cent of Australians have several super accounts and that many were oblivious to fees eating away at their funds.
“A lot of people who worked casually while they were studying or worked multiple part-time jobs find super they had completely forgotten about,” he said.
“Members often lose contact with their super funds when they change jobs, move house, or forget to update their details.”
Mr O’Halloran said updating super fund details was a last priority for many people, but emphasised it was important to ensure each super fund has a correct tax file number on record so that it can be found later on.
“You might choose to keep multiple accounts, but to save on fees and charges, consider consolidating your multiple super accounts online into the one you prefer,” he said.
Australia must prepare for a transport revolution unseen since the car surpassed the horse and cart, and planners have been told they must be ready.
But while a proliferation of driverless cars was still some years away, the Local Government Association of Queensland’s 2016 Future Cities Summit heard councils should already be planning for their arrival.
National Transport Commission chief planning officer Michelle Hendy said her organisation had identified 716 legislative barriers to automated vehicles that would have to be overcome.
Ms Hendy said the NTC had been working for the past 12 months to prepare Australia’s transport system for more automated vehicles.
“One of the biggest challenges for automated vehicle regulation in Australia – as it is in every other part of the world – is to have consistent regulations between states and territories while also reflecting what’s happening in terms of best practice regulation internationally,” she said.
“The last thing we want is for automated vehicles to have to stop at state borders because they don’t meet the regulations of the neighbouring state.
“When mobile phones came into this country, we didn’t have different plans for Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and anywhere else.”
What was clear, according to the experts at the LGAQ conference, was that the arrival of mass-produced automated vehicles was a matter of when, not if.
ARRB Group national technical leader Charles Karl said while automated vehicles would, in all likelihood, travel at lower speeds than conventional vehicles, that could still be a financial benefit.
“As a passenger, you’ve got time to do a lot more things, so the cost of the travel is actually less because you’re much more productive,” he said.
Ms Hendy said that was still several years away, but there were still legislative changes governments should make in the short term to expedite the process.
“(Trials) are going to actually give us a lot of information about the type of sensors and automation required, the sort of geomapping required,” she said.
“We don’t know whether geomapping will start first in our major cities and whether it will be sufficient enough to also work in different rural and regional areas.
“So, there’s an awful lot of testing to be done and that’s why the first part of the recommendations we’re going to put to ministers this November is really about the short-term priorities, over the next 12 months to two years.
“We have to support the on-road trials of the technology and we can do that through exemptions to the current laws.”
Alphabet Fleet e-mobility manager Bede Doherty said he could see a future where cities’ public transport systems were run by automated vehicles and delivered at a faster rate.
“Just imagine if one had a 10-seater autonomous pod running down what used to be a bus route,” he said.
“It only takes 10 people so instead of having one every 30 minutes that can take 100 people, you’d have one every five minutes that’s autonomous.
“So it’s cheaper, it’s more frequent, it removes the need for timetables.”
Donna Drexler captured this saltwater crocodile chomping down on a wallaby in the billabong behind her house in Gunbalanya.
Poor skippy never stood a chance.
When a 4m-plus monster comes hunting for an early dinner … it’s going to end in bloodbath.
And that is exactly what happened at Gunbalanya’s town billabong on Wednesday afternoon when this fully grown wallaby was swallowed whole by the fiercest of predators. And it wasn’t pretty.
The images were captured late afternoon by budding photographer Donna Drexler as she and her partner sat on her back balcony which overlooks the billabong.
“We came home from work and were sitting on the balcony enjoying a cuppa, when I thought I saw a dead buffalo in the billabong,” Ms Drexler said. “We got in the car and drove closer down the road to the billabong .. and we just saw this croc all of a sudden that flew out of the water.
“It had the wallaby in its mouth and it was thrashing its head side to side.
“Then he swallowed it whole. It took him about 30 seconds to do that. Nature is nature.”
Ms Drexler, who has lived in Gunbalanya for seven months and in the Territory for 20 years, says this is the first time she has seen a crocodile so brazen in the wild.
“I’ve never seen anything like it.
“The croc was a monster. You can see in the photos there are other crocs around probably waiting to get in, but he was definitely the boss croc.
“I think when I saw what looked like the dead buffalo it was actually the crocodile drowning the wallaby at the time.
“It was a fully grown wallaby. It must have gone to the billabong to get a drink and was just at the wrong place at the wrong time.”
The West Arnhem region is known for its monster crocodile population.
Large crocodiles fighting over territory are often seen at the local Gunbalanya billabong, near Injalak Hill.
SA Health’s top executives have come under fire from both their own staff and the Opposition, with a survey showing little confidence in the department’s ability to manage change and questions over the original rationale for Transforming Health.
South Australia’s hospital system is going through the most dramatic change in its history, but a survey of the bureaucratic staff in SA Health’s head office shows three out of four disagree that “change is managed well in the department”, InDaily can reveal.
The official survey, responded to by half of about 2000 bureaucrats in the department’s Hindmarsh Square HQ, shows:
25 per cent believe change is being managed well.
34 per cent believe “the future of the department is positive”.
35 per cent say “the department is good at selecting the right people for the right jobs”.
Less than 40 per cent say “there is cooperation between different services and branches in the Department”.
Acting chief executive of SA Health Vickie Kaminski told InDaily the survey was conducted just after a major reshuffle of roles in the department and a significant transfer of roles across the state’s Local Health Networks.
The survey question did not specify which type of “change” was being assessed.
“The survey was conducted shortly after a major review of the Department for Health and Ageing, which led to a number of roles and staff from head office being transferred to directly support frontline staff in the Local Health Network,” said Kaminski.
“This may have resulted in some staff feeling unsettled in some areas.
“We take this feedback very seriously and, over the coming months, we’ll work with our staff to ensure they have the support they need to help us deliver on our significant reform agenda.”
A more positive finding from the survey was that staff believed they were supported by their colleagues, that behaviour in the department was respectful and that discrimination was discouraged.
“It was encouraging to see that the vast majority of our staff felt fully supported in their roles, and understand how the work they do contributes to improving the well-being of South Australians,” Kaminski said.
Meanwhile, the SA Health boss was among senior public servants grilled during a parliamentary committee meeting this morning over the oft-repeated claim that about 500 South Australians die unnecessarily in the hospital system – a key element of the State Government’s sales pitch for its hospital reform program Transforming Health.
Health Minister Jack Snelling told The Advertiser in March: “There is no number one reason [for Transforming Health] – there are at least 500 of them. That’s the number of South Australians who unnecessarily die in our public health system each year, who… never make it home to their loved ones.”
But Opposition Health spokesperson and committee chair Stephen Wade this morning seized on an analysis by epidemiologist Professor David Ben-Tovim, which found that the 500 deaths claim “is not supported by the Transforming Health or other data supplied to me [and] cannot be assumed to be accurate, and should not be accepted without external validation”.
Wade suggested the claim looked like a “PR job”.
But Kaminski said the figure was only a “snapshot” and amounted to a “worst-case scenario”, but was not the central driving factor for the Transforming Health program.
Committee member and Greens MLC Tammy Franks said the 500 deaths figure “is what was sold to the parliament” and that the claim had been repeated by both Snelling and then-chief executive David Swan as a central reason for launching Transforming Health.
However, former SA Health executive director of policy and commissioning Sinead O’Brien told the committee: “Categorically, no” – the figure was not the central driver for the program.
O’Brien conceded that SA Health did not “disagree” with Ben-Tovim’s analysis, but that the more important impetus for Transforming Health was the degree of “variation” in the performance of the state’s hospitals.
“It’s one of the reasons [however] there are clearly a number of drivers,” said O’Brien.
“The media seemed to like a particular [figure].
“It’s building a whole case for change, as opposed to just focusing on that.”
Transforming Health clinical ambassador Dorothy Keefe said the central factor in the “case for change” in SA’s hospital system was that it allowed for dramatically different outcomes for patients with the same conditions – depending on where and when they were treated.
In photos, 12-year-old Aryanna Gourdin is pictured posing with dead wild animals – an impala, a giraffe, a zebra – she hunted and killed on a recent trip to South Africa.
The huntress has been pulled into the centre of a social media firestorm with critics calling her an “animal hater” and others calling her a child who doesn’t deserve the flak.
“It’s something that I cherish and I enjoy and I want other people to see what I’ve been able to experience,” she told ABC News’ Good Morning America.
Earlier this month, Aryanna and her father, Eli Gourdin, travelled from their northern Utah home to the African savannah, where Aryanna was pictured with a bow and pink arrows that she used to hunt and kill.
She documented the trip on a Facebook page called Braids and Bows, where commenters called her a “killer,” a “murderer” and a “sickening little witch.”
“Despicable. Absolutely disgusting,” one of them wrote. “You don’t deserve any respect. Taking for granted the greatest gift of mother nature and the universe.”
One even suggested that young girl deserved to die.
“A normal dad would take his daughter to africa for a safari and not for hunting animal, for fun!!!!!!” the commenter wrote.
“Thats (sic) so poor. i hope that one day while she is hunting animals, just for fun, she will be killed by one of them!!!!”
@AryannaGourdin How can you be proud of shooting such a beautiful animal for no reason?That's so sick!
The practice of hunting and killing large animals has drawn criticism from time to time. Perhaps the most controversial kill came last year when American dentist Walter Palmer took Africa’s beloved black-maned beauty, Cecil the lion – renewing an intense debate over the sport.
But in recent years, female hunters have been the targets of widespread rebuke.
The Washington Post‘s Peter Holley reported last year: “Female participation in hunting increased by 10 per cent between 2008 and 2012, according to the National Shooting Sports Foundation. During that same period, online hatred of female hunters, it seems, has increased significantly more.
“So why is it that so many people bristle at the sight of a pony-tailed blonde gleefully killing for sport?”
After Aryanna Gourdin was swept up in the tide of social media criticism, she told Good Morning America that she hopes more women learn to love the sport.
“I want other women and youth to get into the hunting experiences,” she said, adding: “It’s just awesome.”
A photo that received a huge amount of attention was one of a smiling Aryanna posing with a dead zebra.
The caption read: “One of my dream hunts for sure.”
A commenter responded: “When you get a THRILL and say killing an animal was you ‘DREAMS’ I think you need to re-examine what you are learning and being taught and maybe go find yourself. Killing something should NEVER feel that good little girl.”
Another said: “Animals are living breathing things. How could ending a helpless life bring you pride and joy? If anything, you should be ashamed. I’m not bringing you hatred, I’m just telling you.”
“They love animals,” Aryanna told Good Morning America about her critics. “But we love animals too. It’s just, we also love hunting.”
Still, others have spoken in support of the girl hunter.
“Let the haters hate!” one wrote. “Hunt away Aryanna, let them think what they want to.”
Another added: “You are an amazing young lady that is doing a great job at such a young age of representing the hunting community. To bad the haters don’t get the facts before they post hateful things. Keep doing what you love sweetie!”
Aryanna said her family members have been hunting for generations and her father introduced her to it when she was a small child.
“We’re proud to be hunters and we’ll never apologise for being hunters,” her father, Eli Gourdin, told Good Morning America.
In regard to the giraffe, Gourdin said people at the hunting farm in South Africa allowed them to hunt the animal because it was causing problems for the other giraffes.
“They actually had an older giraffe that was eating up valuable resources other giraffes need to survive,” he said in the interview.
Gourdin added that the meat from the animals he and his daughter killed during the hunting trip was donated to a local village.
Amid the controversy, Aryanna posted a long rant, outlining the arguments for trophy hunting.
“Although there are flaws in the current system, (poachers posing as ethical hunters for example), trophy hunting remains the only effective way to obtain money for conservation efforts,” the post read.
In the post’s comment section, Aryanna appeared to defend herself from people who had been scolding her not only for hunting but also for posting photos of her kills.
“Hunting is hunting period,” she wrote. “Just because someone chooses to display their ‘Trophies’ doesn’t make then a bad person. It represents memories.”
But earlier this week, Aryanna posted an apology, saying, “My last profile picture was very offensive to others and I have learned my lesson.”
It’s unclear, however, which photo she had used as her profile image.
The next day, her father posted a photo on his Facebook page, showing Aryanna knelt down, solemn and still next to one of her kills.
“Here is a picture of Aryanna paying her respects to the giraffe she was able to harvest in South Africa,” he wrote in the caption.
Aryanna said despite the outrage, she’s going to keep hunting.
“I would never back down from hunting,” Aryanna told Good Morning America, because I’m a hunter and no matter the people say to me I’m never going to stop.”