Refugee who escaped Taliban awarded almost $2 million after workplace injury

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By Toby Crockford

Rahmatullah Baig had a tough start to life. After witnessing his aunt and uncle being executed by the Taliban in Afghanistan when he was young, he fled to Australia in 2009 and spent 10 weeks in the Christmas Island detention centre.

Upon his arrival in the country, he attended high school in Perth before moving to Rockhampton in 2010 for employment at Teys Australia’s meatworks facility.

The injured former meatworks employee was awarded almost $1.9 million in the Rockhampton Supreme Court.

The injured former meatworks employee was awarded almost $1.9 million in the Rockhampton Supreme Court.

Photo: Supplied

Despite not knowing his real age and having a very limited grasp on the English language, Mr Baig had held down the job for just over a month when he suffered a back injury in the workplace.

Now, the Afghan refugee is a millionaire, following a 2010 injury that saw Mr Baig awarded almost $2 million in compensation.

In a 2016 report, orthopaedic surgeon Paul Licina said Mr Baig’s back would become worse if he continued to attempt heavy lifting tasks.

“This is unlikely to cause any further structural derangement of the spine and cause no more than a temporary exacerbation,” Dr Licina said.

“Nevertheless, repetitive bending or heavy lifting, especially if associated with twisting, is likely to make pain worse. Prolonged sitting beyond an hour or two is also likely to exacerbate the pain.”

Mr Baig sued the meatworks operator, Teys Australia Central Queensland, and AWX, a workforce planning company with which he was employed on a labour-hire contract at the meatworks, in the Rockhampton Supreme Court.

On Monday July 5, 2010, Mr Baig was readjusting a carcass on the factory line. He stretched to reach the carcass to the point where he was almost horizontal and when he pulled the carcass he felt an immediate pain in his back and buttocks.

Doctors concluded he had an L5/S1 disc prolapse, when the soft centre of the spinal disc pushes through a crack in the tougher exterior casing and compresses nerves in the base of the spine.

Mr Baig was seeking damages and compensation, but the defendants argued he “cannot be believed”.

They argued the disc injury did not happen at the meatworks in 2010 and even if it did happen on that date, it did not happen in the way the plaintiff said it did.

The Saturday before the accident, Mr Baig saw a doctor and complained primarily of shoulder pain and minor back pain. However, the doctor’s notes instead highlight a primary complaint of back pain, with symptoms dating to June 25, 2010, and a referral for an X-Ray.

A medical certificate on Saturday declared Mr Baig unfit for work until the following Wednesday, yet the plaintiff was at work on Monday, when the injury in question happened.

“It was discreditable of Mr Baig not to advise his employer of the episode of back pain when he returned to work on the Monday, or on the occasion of the onset of pain that Monday afternoon of the subject incident,” Justice McMeekin said.

“It was discreditable of Mr Baig not to advise the general practitioner that he saw on the Monday afternoon, Dr O’Regan, of this prior episode of back pain.”

Mr Baig escaped the horrors of the Taliban before coming to Australia.
Mr Baig escaped the horrors of the Taliban before coming to Australia.

Photo: Allauddin Khan/AP

In his submission, Mr Baig said the pain had settled by Monday morning, so he went to work because he believed he was fit to carry out his job. Justice McMeekin accepted this argument.

“The defendants’ assumption is that his (Mr Baig’s) report of feeling fit to work on Monday morning is a lie,” Justice McMeekin said.

“Yet everything that he did is consistent with that claim. He did not follow up on the X-ray. He did not take advantage of the three days off. He did show up for work. He did work for 10 hours.

“He was a very long way through his 1603 beasts for the day when the subject incident occurred. Quite evidently Mr Baig was performing his work satisfactorily.”

In addition, Mr Baig claimed he had earlier reported having difficulties to his supervisors and twice asked to be moved to an easier section, only to be knocked back. He said this was why he did not raise any further difficulties he was having.

Justice McMeekin agreed with the argument, saying if Mr Baig had been rejected twice, why should he bother continuing to raise the same issue?

“The defendants say that his (Mr Baig’s) supervisors were caring and would have responded to such complaints. I am not so sure about the premise,” Justice McMeekin said.

The final point of examination was the safety measures at the meatworks.

Roger Kahler, an engineer specialising in workplace health and safety, said there were procedural and engineering controls available to the employer that would have prevented or minimised the risk of injury, which were not adopted.

Mr Baig said there was also a ‘stop’ button to halt the line of carcasses coming from the slaughterhouse, but the use of the button was discouraged by supervisors.

“Next to me, the other person who was senior person or my supervisor, when they told me to stop it, that’s when I pressed the stop,” Mr Baig told the court through an interpreter.

“On my own, I cannot stop it for myself because they would be – they would be cursing me.”

In concluding remarks, Justice McMeekin said he did not agree with the defendants’ arguments, which he said based on what was “likely or probable”.

“The defendants’ attacks on Mr Baig to a large extent are based on what counsel asserts is likely or probable,” Justice McMeekin.

“In many instances, I doubt that starting premise. I have given my detailed response to the submissions above. What I find striking about the evidence is that in so many places Mr Baig is supported in what he says.”

As a result, AWX was ordered to pay Mr Baig $921,083 and Teys Australia was ordered to pay $964,254.11.


Source :  The Brisbane Times

Elena Perroni: The highs and lows of life as a leading soprano

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David Prestipino

The subtitles were way too small, the deckchairs way too high, Lisa Scaffidi was MIA and Channel Seven’s 6pm news broadcast on the big screens baffling and grisly but Saturday night’s free Opera in the Park performance of La Boheme was a success in every other way.

More than 15,000 people revelled in Puccini’s classic opera on a perfect summer’s night at the Supreme Court Gardens, and stealing the show in her Australian debut was soprano Elena Perroni, in the lead role of Mimi.

The 28-year-old’s first professional engagement in her home town was appropriately mesmerising, her voice powerful and flexible, her stage presence poignant and delicate.

Born in Sorrento on the west coast of WA, Perroni has become a rising star in the opera world since training at the prestigious Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, where she was the first Australian to be accepted into the opera program, which takes only four new singers each year.

She has since landed lead roles with some of the world’s leading orchestras in America, Europe, Asia and now Australia. In 2017 she made her debut with the English National Opera alongside tenor Lawrence Brownlee – 2017’s male singer of the year – and was a guest singer with the Philadelphia Orchestra, one of the best orchestras in the world who have re-engaged her for 2018.

The 28-year-old grew up in Sorrento and now travels the world as a leading soprano.The 28-year-old Perroni grew up in Sorrento and now travels the world as a leading soprano.

She also made history last year by performing in the first opera at the acclaimed Apollo Theatre in New York. sat down with the young soprano on the Sorrento coast to get an insight into the highs and lows of life as a leading soprano.

Did you always want to be a singer?
I always loved jazz and musical theatre and I always knew performance and communicating and singing was intriguing.

What does a normal day look like for you?
Wake up and take a good healthy dose of spirulina, ginger and 1.5 litres of water. Then i’ll take a walk or go to the gym to wake myself up. Then it’s 2-4 hours of one-on-one coaching sessions with an opera coach to work on repertoire. Then there will be four hours of staging rehearsal in the evening in preparation for the next opera.

What would you do if you weren’t a soprano?
I have a passion in a few other fields, one is nutrition, or else something to do with nature.

Speaking of nutrition, tell us about your diet procedures
First of all it’s mainly a lifestyle versus a diet for me. My main principles of nutrition is, is this going to prevent sickness or add to it, with everything that I consume. It’s important to be nourished always so I’m at my optimum health all the time.

I think people are starved of emotion and opera is an opportunity to feel something again, in a different way.

What about before a show… I’m guessing mum’s pasta is out of the question?
Absolutely, which she’s not happy about! I cut out all processed foods basically. There are some health benefits to a glass of wine, not before a show, but if you need to unwind, alcohol slightly thins the blood, taking swelling down. Back in the day, opera singers used to have a shot of something before they sing because it relaxes the muscles… I don’t live like that. Now i’m understanding that there are some benefits to the odd glass of wine… of course, everything in moderation. Actually wine really intrigues me, i think it’s amazing you can have one grape and have a whole plethora of flavours from that one grape.

How does it feel to debut in your home town in La Boheme?
It’s a pleasure to come home with a great company, cast and crew and it’s a perfect opp to share with my family and friends what i have learnt and how I’ve developed since I’ve been gone as a singer and artist. It’s important to be able to share that with the people that you love.

What’s the story of La Boheme about?
A Puccini opera that is incredibly accessible because it has drama, passion, comedy, it has tragedy, and the score is very intelligently written, and accessible because the subject matter can translate to today’s society; it’s still relevant, it’s about love, about friendship.

Is opera still relevant today? Their stories and how they are told?
Absolutely, it’s up to us as musicians and artists to use opera as the opportunity to say something, and we can actually take an opera that was written 100 years ago and the morals are still relevant today.

It was the original storytelling medium really
It was, it was.. well it was originally written for the people of the time and I think that opera should still be about the people, and the audience.

Can it resonate with younger audiences?
I think people are starved of emotion and opera is an opportunity to feel something again, in a different way. There are many new contemporary operas that have come out that deal with subject matters that are absolutely relevant.

What are some of your favourite operas?
I like Madame Butterfly, the Puccini tragedy. I like the intellectual score of Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress, and The Elixir of Love,which is a comedy by Donizetti.

How many languages can you sing in?
The main languages (in operas) are Italian, French, German, English and Russian. We’re taught international phonetics alphabet, so with that you can pronounce any language.

Elena Perroni has performed on four continents in leading opera roles since becoming professional.Perroni has performed on four continents in leading opera roles.

Do you consider yourself a singer, an actor or performer?
All three… because not only is it my responsibility to sing, but it is my responsibility to communicate something, which I think is the job of an actor, and also do it well enough to be entertaining.

How did you learn to do all that?
A lot of it is the capacity of the individual. You train the technical side of things enough that you can focus yourself on saying something through that… so you know, I do my exercise, my technique training, so hopefully when I’m on stage it becomes second nature to me and then I can concentrate on what it is I want to communicate.

So what about getting into character?
You start developing a feel and an understanding of the character but generally for me, through rehearsals, I like to focus on what she’s saying – the words she’s speaking. I also like to leave an element of spontaneity in my delivery. It’s a discovery as well, like when you read a novel again you pick up on things that you didn’t the first time through. I feel the same way when I speak the words that the character is saying.

Do you feel any pressure?
Yes, but a lot of that has to do with the pressures I put on myself to deliver.

What’s the risk of injury for an opera singer?
Opera singers are essentially like athletes: all day we train, we prepare for a marathon – mentally and physically – and we’re using our bodies every day and injury is a real thing and it can happen. Without the knowledge and guidance it’s a difficult thing to deal with on your own, especially in young singers.

Does the industry need to be more aware of this?
Absolutely. Once you’re injured as a singer you’re essentially listed as damaged goods but because it’s a closed subject – almost taboo – knowledge isn’t transferred because everything is hush-hush about it, people don’t want to talk about it because they don’t want to jeopardise their reputation. It’s not healthy and I feel it’s a very real and important subject for young developing singers to have some sort of guidance, prevention, understanding, check-ups, support systems… like every other athlete.

I was very fortunate to be at the Curtis Institute because their policy is ‘learn by doing’, which is a rare thing for conservatories because there’s a need to do the academic side of things but at Curtis we are able to focus predominantly on the practical side of things so, when we leave, we’ve had the training to know what it is to sing every day and every night, in different languages. We’re put on stage constantly because the stage is the greatest teacher at the end of the day, and then we’ve left school with roles under our belt, and know what it is to function constantly as a singer and that when you take your first steps into the the professional world you’ve been in this situation before, and that doesn’t always happen in conservatories.

What are your fears as an opera singer, on and off the stage?
The balance between personal life and career. There are a lot of sacrifices that you make as a singer.

Sexual harassment in the arts industry has been made public recently, does it occur in your field?
(pause) It is real. It happens in every industry, it happens every day, in everyday interactions. I think everyone – both women and men – need to address the underlying culture that permits sexual harassment and work together to build a culture that promotes respect and equality.

Elena Perroni was the first Australian to be accepted into the prestigious Curtis Institute of Music in the US.Perroni bases success on whether she connects with her audience.

So just some quick ones to finish: who do you admire?
Operatically, Maria Callas, of course… Teresa Stratas and Franco Corelli are my favourite opera artists but I also admire Nina Simone and Freddie Mercury. The reason I like all of those people is because they have a point of view, and they communicate with their audience and I think that’s what makes great artistry; having something to say and being generous with it.

What’s your favourite food or dish?
Fruit (laughs) … boring!

Is your dad upset about your Italian being better than his?
(laughs) He can’t understand me!

What’s your favourite holiday destination?
(pause) Perth, Western Australia. Or Montana in the States.

What role would you like to play most on stage?
Madame Butterfly

Favourite hobbies?
Trekking, hiking, the beach.

What about sports, do you like sport?
(laughs) Hiking is a sport! And I love camping, and road trips.

Can you raise kids and still be an opera singer?
Absolutely! But with support… and I hope to still be singing by the time that happens.

Any advice for singers training to become professional?
Figure out what it is you want to do it and, with anything you want to do well, be disciplined.

What’s the best thing about your job? When can you enjoy success?
When all the factors come together…

During the performance or afterwards?
I only feel successful if I am generous to the audience… I would say that’s the most rewarding: when people feel something from that.

How tall are you?
155cm … and a half!

Who’s the tallest tenor you’ve sung with?
He was 6ft 6ins

And how did that go?
It went well! It was actually Boheme, and I looked fragile and he could just pick me up and put me on the couch or whatever… I think people liked that because, you know, I was like the fragile little one, and he was the strong guy… damsel in distress type deal.

Have you ever been taller than your fellow lead?
Definitely not (laughs)… but close.

Ever forgotten your lines?
Not as a professional singer… knock on wood (laughs).

What’s the plan after leaving Perth?
I have gigs in America for the rest of the year pretty much.

Well, enjoy your debut and time back home and good luck
Thanks so much, I hope everyone enjoys it.

City of Perth’s Opera In The Park will return again in 2019.


Source :  WA Today

AirAsia to move Melbourne flights to Avalon

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AirAsia X Malaysia is set to be the first international airline to service Avalon Airport once it moves its double-daily Kuala Lumpur flights from Melbourne Tullamarine airport there later this year.

No date has been publicly announced for the move to Avalon, with the airport requiring immigration and quarantine facilities to be put in place before flights can begin. The services are operated by Airbus A330-300s.

“We are proud to be the first airline to operate international flights at Avalon Airport, connecting Melbourne and the Victorian region with Kuala Lumpur, Asia’s number one LCC hub,” AirAsia X Malaysia CEO Benyamin Ismail said in a statement.

“Melbourne and Victoria are important markets to us and this new service with 560,000 seats annually will provide a significant boost to business and tourism, including to such attractions as the Great Ocean Road.”

Avalon Airport CEO Justin Giddings said AirAsis X is moving to Avalon under a 10-year agreement structured to accommodate the airline’s “significant growth”.

“We’re extremely pleased to welcome AirAsia to Avalon Airport,” he said.

Freight also factors in the move, according to Avalon Airport owners Linfox.

I am particularly excited about the large volumes of freight capacity that AirAsia X has on each flight,” said David Fox, executive chairman of Linfox Airports.

“We have received great interest from exporters in the region and this now provides the perfect platform for fresh food access to Asia.”

Source : Australian Aviation