Listen To Older Voices : Wyn Wilson – Part 1

 Welcome to Listen To Older Voices,  
a program produced by Rob Greaves for Uniting Melba and podcast through 
the Toorak Times and Tagg.

Listen To Older Voices presents the stories, views and opinions of our older citizens. It is predominantly in a life & times format, with interviewees reflecting upon their lives from earliest memories. An underlying principle of the program is to promote the concept of positive ageing, reinforcing the principle that older people have & continue to make a valuable contribution to both their local & wider community.

This is another wonderful Golden Moment Repeat program, where we have dipped into our vault of treasured memories and retrieved a story from the archives that we believe deserves being repeated for those who may have missed it the first time. The story of Wyn Wilson was first aired in October 2004 when I sat down with the then 77-year old Wyn.

Wyn was born in South Africa and lived there for many years before migrating to Australia. She talks about her early years as a young white girl in a white run country that was the home of black Africans. Scholastically inclined she won a scholarship to university but Wyn also had other attributes. You see she was also very musically inclined and passed her music teaching exams which seemingly opened her world up even more.

However it is her story of working with young black children in a welfare capacity that is particularly interesting, for this was a period when apartheid was at its height. Her story about her grandfather, who was the President of the New Republic of Natal is also of considerable interest.

Click on the radio to hear Wyn Wilson – Part 1

Previous LTOV Programs can be accessed clicking on this icon – 



[Listen To Older Voices receives funding from the Commonwealth Government 
through the Commonwealth Home Support Program Program]

Why victims of crime deserve a say in whether offenders are paroled

 In Australia, a victim’s right to participate and be  
heard in parole decisions is enshrined in legislation.

The recent release on parole of John Worboys, one of Britain’s most-prolific sex offenders, attracted controversy after his victims were not informed or consulted by the parole board. However, the law – and best practice – says they should have been.

Under the UN Declaration of Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime and Abuse of Power, victims have rights, including the right to be treated with courtesy and respect and to receive assistance and information. They also have the right to have their personal views and concerns considered in justice proceedings where their personal interests are affected and it’s appropriate to do so.

In Australia, like the UK, a victim’s right to participate and be heard is enshrined in legislation.

What does this mean in practice?

Specifically, if you are a victim of crime and you meet the criteria to be registered in your jurisdiction (which varies), you have the right to be informed of upcoming parole hearings of the prisoner whose crimes are the reason you are registered.

You have the right to be given reasonable time to make a written statement to the parole board outlining your views and concerns before that prisoner is released. You have the right for the board to consider your statement.

In some jurisdictions, such as South Australia, you may also request to meet with the board in person to discuss your views.

What are the benefits of giving victims a say?

Victim involvement is particularly important for the victims themselves – and it can also inform parole board decision-making.

The opportunity for a victim to participate and be heard offers procedural justice: that is, a sense of fairness in the way agencies operate in a justice system that often sidelines victims.

Parole boards informing and consulting with victims can have a significant therapeutic impact and aid victims’ recovery from the crime.

The benefits extend beyond the direct victim to other victims of crime. When parole boards (and justice agencies generally) listen and consider victims’ views, other victims of crime are more likely to believe they too will be heard when they speak out about their experiences of violence and abuse.

Conversely, when criminal justice agencies fail in their duty to truly and respectfully engage with victims of crime – as in the Worboys case – this prevents other victims coming forward.

Victims’ input can also assist parole board decision-making in cases where victims provide detail of their experiences and expectations. Victim submissions may provide contextual information about the offending in addition to outlining victims’ wishes.

As a result, victim submissions can lead to non-contact clauses, parole conditions that aim to mitigate risk, and/or exclusion zones that restrict an offender from entering certain suburbs or regions.

What are the risks?

The biggest risk in involving victims of crime in parole board decisions is secondary victimisation. This occurs when victims are re-traumatised due to a poor systemic response. Given the justice system isn’t great at explaining victims’ rights to them, it is reasonable to assume many victims won’t understand the scope and limitations of their rights. This may lead to disappointment or even devastation when their expectations are not met.

For example, some victims of crime make written submissions to parole boards with the specific goal of preventing a prisoner’s release. Boards consider a large range of information in determining whether a prisoner presents a risk of harm to the community before deciding whether they should be released – and victims do not have an overall say as to whether a prisoner will be granted parole.

So, while it may be therapeutic – in terms of feeling heard, valued and respected – for a victim to request an offender continue to be imprisoned, if that prisoner is released into the community (and most prisoners eventually are) the victim may feel further victimised and traumatised if their expectations are mismanaged.

It is right to recognise victims’ rights

UK Parole Board chair Nick Hardwick believes:

… it is right that the anguish of [Worboys’] victims should be heard.

But it is not just “right” – it is their legal right.

Upholding victims’ rights is not about overruling parole board decisions. It is about respectfully enabling victims’ active participation in decisions that affect their personal interests.

This article was written by:
Image of Katherine J. McLachlanKatherine J. McLachlan – [Lecturer in Law & Criminal Justice, University of South Australia]




This article is part of a syndicated news program via

The elephant in the planning scheme: how cities still work around the dominance of parking space

 All that land set aside for parking is also an  
opportunity to ask what the real value of parking space is. 

Car parking is expected but often unnoticed, taking up surprisingly large proportions of city space. A parking bay occupies at least 13 square metres – some codes specify up to 30 square metres including accessways.

Website What the Street maps space for different transport modes in cities such as Los Angeles, which has more than 1,000 hectares of surface car parking. Another study found 14% of LA County was set aside for parking.

Yet people nearly always underestimate car space. In Rethinking a Lot, Eran Ben-Joseph found that while the US has at least 800 million parking spaces – almost 2.5 per person – people typically notice parking only when looking for a space:

We demand convenient parking everywhere we go, and then learn not to see the vast, unsightly spaces that result.

Believe it or not, there is a lot of parking out there – much of it mandated by planning policies. Ken Douglas/Flickr

Obviously, all this parking emerged to cater to rising car ownership throughout the 20th century. And, on average, cars are parked 95% of the time.

But in the US and Australia, very little parking is a market-based response to demand. An estimated 99% of parking in the US is free to the user. In Melbourne, Australia, 95% of parking trips over 2012-14 were free to the user. Unlike food or housing, parking tends to be considered a public infrastructure or right rather than a market good.
The author discusses pricing parking and public resistance to such moves.

One reason for the amount of parking, and our expectation it should be free, is the land use planning system. Many city planning systems set minimum amounts of off-street parking for new developments, with a view to protecting (normally free) on-street parking.

Researcher Paul Barter identifies three types of parking policy: conventional, parking management, and market-based parking (Japan is a rare example of the third type).

Conventional policies treat parking as public infrastructure and aim to predict and provide generous amounts of it. Such approaches became widespread over the 20th century.

A case study: Melbourne

For a 2017 paper I traced the historical development of parking policies in one city, Melbourne.

I identified references to car parking in a review of planning documents from 1929 to 2016, both strategic documents – the broader stated goals for the city – and the statutory instruments that more directly shape urban development.

Under conventional policies, most parking is free to the user and has been centrally planned, as seen here in Coburg, Melbourne. Elizabeth Taylor, 2017

Melbourne’s first strategic plan was the 1929 Plan for General Development. While never implemented, it gives an insight into how city problems were thought of. Parking was a major concern.

The document discusses pressures from increased car ownership and the:

… increasing desire on the part of the owners to use the curb space … who have come to regard this facility as a moral obligation on the part of the authorities to preserve for them.

Planners were critical of this expectation and proposed a metropolitan parking authority to manage street space. During the subsequent Great Depression and war years, however, strategic plans were not implemented.

By the time of Melbourne’s first implemented strategic plan in 1954, the context was increasingly widespread car ownership. This plan referred to the “formidable problem of finding accommodation for parked cars” in older areas, and called parking “one of the greatest challenges to city administrations the world over”.

The problem of parking was redefined from one of too many stationary cars to a lack of parking space for cars. By 1954 the idea of parking on the street as a public right was, if not considered a good idea in planning strategy, acknowledged as a widespread expectation.

The 1954 plan had two main parking goals. The first was adapting older pre-car areas to the preferences of car drivers. It sought to save pedestrian-oriented areas by integrating parking via demolitions and other means, warning that:

… parking spaces should not only be adequate in number, but … must also be located convenient to the shops because shoppers do not want to carry their purchases a long way to their cars.

Second, the plan sought to build new parts of Melbourne around ample parking. It introduced minimum parking ratios – amounts of off-street parking required of new developments. For example, one parking space was mandated per 20 square feet of public bar in new hotels.

The rates were seemingly inspired by a visit from a Los Angeles planner in 1953 and were openly modelled on US standards. The document showed an “American shopping mall” surrounded by parking and noted that “by contemporary American standards” the new policy requirement “would be inadequate, but it is much in advance of what is available today in Melbourne”.

The 1954 planning strategy for Melbourne looked to American models, such as this ‘modern American shopping centre’, for its parking policies.Melbourne Metropolitan Planning Scheme 1954: Report, Page 60

So, in post-war Melbourne, ample car parking was specifically planned as a key part of building a car-based city.

In later decades, Melbourne strategic planning documents (in 1967 and 1971) sought to manage population and car growth by both catering for and managing car traffic. These plans debated freeways but did not discuss parking, although behind the scenes statutory minimum requirements continued.

The 1981 strategic plan for Melbourne did discuss parking at some length. It defined a parking “limitation” area, the central business district (CBD), where parking maximums replaced minimums. This system was two-tiered, with parking management in the CBD, and conventional parking policies in the rest of Melbourne.

This continues today, with sharp divisions inside and outside the CBD in terms of the shares of trips by car.

After 1981, parking disappeared again from Melbourne strategic planning, while parking requirements continued in statutory policies. The deregulation of planning in the 1990s did not extend to car parking.

Strategic goals and parking policies in conflict

By the time of the 2002 plan, Melbourne 2030, strategic planning statements sought to increase urban densities and limit car use.

The document showed a “typical car base centre” surrounded by parking, almost identical to the suggested ideal in the 1950s. In 2002, however, this was contrasted with the same centre “as it could be”, with dense mixed development and tree coverage.

By 2002, strategic planning documents for Melbourne contrasted a car-based centre with a vision of dense, accessible, mixed-use development and tree coverage, but minimum parking policies remained very similar. Melbourne 2030, page 32

Despite a change in strategic vision, minimum parking policies remained. The 2014 strategic plan, Plan Melbourne, made essentially no mention of car parking.

Even with more recent strategic planning to curtail car use and increase urban densities, parking policies introduced in the 1950s to achieve the opposite effects have essentially remained intact.

The result is a complex and contentious system, with tensions between strategic policies (which encourage housing diversity and alternatives to cars) and statutory policies (which default to minimum parking rates). This fuels battles over car-free developments, such as Brunswick’s Nightingale and Commons housing projects, and fears about on-street parking competition, which are a major focus of Victoria’s planning appeals.

The post-war approach continues to shape Melbourne – its urban form, density, transport and housing markets. The idea that enough parking can be planned for is politically appealing. Minimum off-street parking and free on-street parking policies are standard, the latter often asserted as a kind of “folk legality”.

While parts of Melbourne built before parking requirements are in high demand (Victorian-era housing in Carlton or Fitzroy would never pass parking muster now), many Australians are also protective of the parking landscapes built by planning.

For example, a diagram in the 1954 planning scheme suggested remodelling Preston to include around 20% of the suburb’s area as surface car parking.

Aerial photography today shows this plan was implemented. Recent approval of an apartments project will, however, lead to the loss of some of these thousands of parking spaces. The development encountered fierce opposition for this reason.

A 1954 plan for Preston (top), highlighting proposed parking areas in orange. Below is Preston today, showing large areas of surface parking. Melbourne Metropolitan Planning Scheme 1954: Report, with additions by Elizabeth Taylor, Author provided

Political sensitivities win out over strategic goals

While politically appealing, conventional approaches to parking do not withstand empirical scrutiny.

In The High Cost of Free Parking, Donald Shoup argues parking minimums oversupply parking and are based on a “pseudo-science” of spurious data and assumptions. Shoup argues the direct and indirect costs of parking (including land) are absorbed into development and housing costs, subsidising car users over other land uses and transport modes.

He asks:

If urban planners want to encourage housing and reduce traffic, why tax housing to subsidise cars?

Shoup and others argue for removing off-street requirements, introducing demand-based pricing of street parking, and using parking fees for local improvements.

Much parking research argues that managing on-street parking directly, including through pricing, would be fairer and more efficient and reduce the many adverse effects of conventional policies. Public reactions to parking meter fees suggest this is easier said than done.

Parking is a politically sensitive issue. This sign is a protest against the loss of spaces at Alphington railway station. Elizabeth Taylor, 2013

Melbourne’s history shows that while post-war planning used generous parking policies to build car-dominated cities, strategic planning now plans around parking issues (most likely to avoid political fallout). Beyond the CBD and the efforts of some local governments there is little evidence that research or best practice is informing parking policies.

Parking minimums are powerful tools for realising strategic urban plans − if, as was once true, the goal is maximising car traffic. If aspirations for cities have shifted, it is time to reflect on the practice of planning around the parking “elephant”.

Parking will likely become more contentious as competition for space increases (partly due to cars pushed onto streets by garages used for household storage), along with new technology such as car and ride sharing, autonomous vehicles and peer-to-peer parking applications.

Some cities – LondonOslo and Zurich among them – are actively restricting parking. Australian cities could begin by reassessing the widespread requirement for off-street parking.

All that land set aside for parking is also an opportunity to ask what the real value of parking space is; who should pay for it; and whether using public space for the storage of private vehicles is the best outcome we can hope for.

This article was written by:

Elizabeth Taylor – [Vice Chancellor’s Post-Doctoral Research Fellow, RMIT University]




This article is part of a syndicated news program via


A modern and united Australia must shift its national day from January 26

 We must change the date of Australia Day again again if 
we want to achieve a national day that unifies all Australians. 

Increased momentum around changing the date of Australia Day reflects a growing sense that January 26 is symbolic of the Australia we used to be, not the Australia we hope to become.

Recent moves to promote changing the date of our national day are informed by the fact that many Australians – both Indigenous and non-Indigenous – feel they cannot celebrate on January 26, because that date marks the commencement of a long history of dispossession and trauma for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

We’ve changed the date before – in fact, January 26 has only been a national public holiday since 1994 – and must do so again if we want to achieve a national day that unifies all Australians.

Still, there is a strong contingent of Australians who do not agree.

Before we can settle on a way forward, there is more work to be done in terms of raising awareness of the fraught symbolism of January 26, and what Australia stands to gain by changing the date of our national day to one that represents the shared values of modern Australia.

Thinking about exactly what we are celebrating

There are differing interpretations of what it means to celebrate on January 26. But what’s indisputable is the historical origin of the date.

Read more: Why Australia Day survives, despite revealing a nation’s rifts and wounds

Arthur Phillip arrived at Sydney Cove and raised the national flag of the United Kingdom on January 26, 1788. In doing so, he founded the colony of New South Wales and, at the same time, commenced the dispossession and marginalisation of Indigenous people.

The tradition of observing January 26 began a few decades later, in the early 1800s, but only in NSW. It was referred to by various names in the following years, including First Landing Day and Foundation Day. Other colonies – namely South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania (then Van Diemen’s Land) – celebrated their own colonial foundations, which took place on other dates.

It took another century before the states and territories agreed, in 1935, to a common name (Australia Day) and timing (the Monday nearest to January 26) of celebrations. And it wasn’t until 1994 that the decision was made to make January 26 a national public holiday.

What does celebrating January 26 actually mean?

As the history books indicate, January 26 festivities were initiated to mark the arrival of the first British colonists and the establishment of a British colony on the east coast of Australia.

This history involves a period of conflict that continued until the 1960s, as well as government policies of assimilation, separation and dispossession. During this time, many Indigenous people were removed from their traditional lands, and stopped from practising their language and culture.

Today, Indigenous peoples are still recovering from the chain of events that were set in motion on that day in 1788. The ongoing impact can be seen in disturbing rates of Indigenous incarceration and the growing overrepresentation of Indigenous children in out-of-home care, to give just two of many examples.

Another problem with holding our national day on January 26 is that it is a day that positions European settlement as the primary source of national identity and pride. In doing so, it ignores more than 60,000 years of pre-colonial history and 230 years of multicultural migration to Australia.

By changing the date, Australia can show that it is ready to truly accept and include Indigenous histories, cultures and contributions as a valued part of the Australian story.

In this way, a change of date is actually about Australia maturing from a country that celebrates assimilation, separation and dispossession into a country that celebrates inclusion, acceptance, diversity and harmony.

A way forward

While not all Australians agree that a change of date is needed, it’s clear this is an issue that is not going away. More and more Australians are asking: “why not?”

This year marks the 80th anniversary of the first Day of Mourning at Australia Hall in Sydney, where Aboriginal and civil rights activist Jack Patten told attendees that “Aborigines have no reason to rejoice” on Australia Day.

All these years later, changing the date remains a relatively simple procedure that would have an immense symbolic impact. It would demonstrate to Indigenous Australians that the broader community wants a national day on which all Australians can celebrate together.

While figures on the other side of the debate suggest a push to change the date is divisive, #changethedate is – at its heart – a movement that seeks to bring us closer together. That’s what reconciliation is about: recognising and healing the past so that we can build a better and more unified tomorrow.

On January 26, I call on all Australians to thoughtfully consider the following: can our national day ever be truly inclusive if it is celebrated on a day that represents the physical and cultural dispossession of the First Australians?

Until Australia is ready to change the date, Reconciliation Australia will continue to share the knowledge that is necessary to help more Australians realise the undeniable answer to this question.

This article was written by:
Image of Tom CalmaTom Calma – [Chancellor, University of Canberra. Tom Calma AO is an Aboriginal Elder of the Kungarakan tribal group, a member of the Iwaidja tribal group and a tireless champion for the rights, responsibilities and welfare of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians. He is co-chair of Reconciliation Australia.]





This article is part of a syndicated news program via

Listen To Older Voices – Ruth Rooney : Part 1

Image of Ruth Rooney Welcome to Listen To Older Voices, a program 
produced by Rob Greaves for Uniting Melba and podcast through 
the Toorak Times and Tagg.

Listen To Older Voices presents the stories, views and opinions of our older citizens. It is predominantly in a life & times format, with interviewees reflecting upon their lives from earliest memories. An underlying principle of the program is to promote the concept of positive ageing, reinforcing the principle that older people have & continue to make a valuable contribution to both their local & wider community.

This is the first part of a 2-part program on the Life and Times of 69 Year old Ruth Rooney. Ruth is a Baby Boomer but did not follow the path that many of the Baby Boomers followed growing up and as the program progresses you will understand why.

Adopted at a very young age she lived with her adoptive parents in the Western Districts of Victoria. She lived a fairly isolated life and was schooled in a one-room class. She was often driven to school in a car driven by a 12-year-old boy amazingly with her parent’s knowledge. This alone makes for a fascinating story but, there is more to come! She becomes very heavily involved with her church and through her beliefs becomes a volunteer worker in Papua New Guinea, a job she loved but one that came, as we will learn, to a most unfortunate end.

Click on the radio to hear Ruth Rooney – Part 1

Previous LTOV Programs can be accessed clicking on this icon – 

[Listen To Older Voices receives funding from the Commonwealth Government through the Commonwealth Home Support Program Program]

How to have a better conversation about Australia Day

Conversations about Australia Day feel so polarised. 
David Moir/AAP

I’m going to hazard a guess that you’ve found the conversation around changing the date of Australia Day a tad frustrating. There are plenty of loud voices offering different views, but it doesn’t seem like there’s much genuine engagement between the various sides. It has devolved into more of a slanging match than a healthy conversation.

As a philosopher with an interest in how we argue and disagree with each other, and how those arguments and disagreements often go off the rails, I’m interested in understanding why this particular debate has proven so problematic, and whether there are ways to steer it towards more constructive territory.

Who we are

One of the biggest difficulties with talking about something like Australia Day is that it’s intricately tied to our identity – particularly our social identity.

We aren’t just isolated, autonomous individuals. We are social creatures who form into groups. In turn, these groups provide us with narratives that help us understand our place in the world. They inform our values and tell us who our allies are (our in-group) and who our enemies are (our out-groups).

So being a “Baby Boomer” or “Millennial”, a “Collingwood supporter” or “Broncos fan”, a “Christian”, “Muslim” or even an “atheist” connects us to other people we perceive to be in the same group. Similarly, Baby Boomers railing against Millennials, AFL supporters ribbing NRL supporters, and believers jibing about non-believers helps reinforce our identity in our chosen groups.

There’s a strong sense of social allegiance that comes with being a Collingwood supporter. Joe Castro/AAP

One core problem with the Australia Day debate is that there are at least two “Australian” identities involved who are talking past each other, and they each see Australia Day and January 26 in very different light.

Consider the identity expressed in this quote from former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott:

[…] it’s hard to imagine a better Australia in the absence of the Western civilisation that began here from that date. […] How could any Australian’s heart not beat with pride?

You could read this as Abbott emphasising a narrative of “Australia as a success story”. And while he acknowledges in the article that “not everything’s perfect in contemporary Australia” – referring to the disadvantage experienced by many Indigenous Australians – he still asserts that we, as Australians, should feel proud of what the country has achieved.

For Abbott, January 26 is a perfectly suitable symbol of “Australia as a success story”, because he believes much of that success stemmed from the introduction of “Western civilisation” to this continent.

Abbott has a clear view of what it means to be Australian. David Hunt/AAP

This brand of Australian identity also tends to be associated with a particular cultural and ethnic picture, one strongly informed by the country’s colonial roots and its 20th-century post-colonial “coming of age”.

That picture was formed in a time when a person’s national identity typically overlapped with a relatively homogeneous ethnic identity. That has changed dramatically in the past 50 years, with nation-states like Australia being home to multiple cultural and ethnic groups.

Read more: Get yer hand off it, mate, Australian slang is not dying

This shift has put pressure on the idea that being “Australian” necessarily means being of Anglo or European descent, which is unsettling for many people. This is particularly because some of the cultures that are now becoming part of the Australian identity used to be out-groups that were used to help reinforce Anglo-European Australian identity.

The New Australia

Many Australians don’t share Abbott’s narrative, and their identity as “Australian” is significantly different to the one he has expressed. For them, “Australian” has a wider variety of meanings and cultural influences.

This view also often acknowledges the negative aspects of colonisation, such as the legacy of non-Anglo-European out-group exclusion (often in the form of racism), the destruction of Indigenous cultures, and the social disadvantage that many Indigenous Australians experience today as a result of “Western civilisation”.

This doesn’t mean they believe Australia is a failure or that they don’t take pride in being Australian. But for them, January 26 in particular symbolises something very different than it does to Abbott, as expressed by journalist and Goori man Jack Latimore:

When it comes to the subject of 26 January, the overwhelming sentiment among First Nations people is an uneasy blend of melancholy approaching outright grief, of profound despair, of opposition and antipathy, and always of staunch defiance.

This causes a kind of dissonance in people with this perspective when January 26 rolls around. It’s hard to celebrate the good things about Australia on a day that represents, to them, many of the bad things.

Australia Day is referred to as Invasion Day by some Australians. Tim Dornin/AAP

Thus the call has not been to eliminate Australia Day, but to move it to a different date that doesn’t cause such dissonance, as expressed by social justice lawyer Will de Waal.

This is not to say that we should not show our pride in being Australian – we absolutely should. I just don’t think we should do this on January 26. No Australian should celebrate on a day of mourning.

Political identity

But this discussion is further complicated by another dimension of our social identity. Consider this quote from former Labor leader and commentator Mark Latham:

As each year millions of Australians rally around Australia Day on 26 January as a chance to feel good about our country and its remarkable achievements, the Greens’ leader Richard Di Natale has announced that one of his top priorities for 2018 is to “change the date”.
In truth, the Left’s grievance industry is now so comprehensive, so all-encompassing, they are triggered by every significant date on the calendar, from 26 January to Christmas Day.

Here Latham is not only referencing the positive aspect of his identity as “Australian”, but he’s also reinforcing his identity as “anti-Left”. By casting aspersions on the Greens and their leader he is bucking up his own side by putting the other side down. This is typical social identity reinforcing behaviour.

Political identity – left versus right – has been pulled into the debate about Australia Day. Lukas Coch/AAP

Thus the debate around Australia Day has also become a proxy for a wider conflict between two political identities, the Left and the Right. And this is where our social identity – particularly our political identity – can serve as a barrier to good conversations.

Turning it around

The good news is that there are ways to turn this conversation around and make it more constructive. It’s not going to be resolved overnight, but it’s probably a conversation worth having before the next Australia Day rolls around.

First, we need to remind ourselves that identity does matter. If we speak in a way that challenges someone’s identity, they’re likely to dig in their heels and get defensive. When that happens, the chances of having any constructive conversation evaporates.

One way to avoid this pitfall is simply to listen. Instead of starting by voicing and defending your opinions, try asking questions and listening to what others have to say. Ask them what “Australia” means to them, or what kind of Australia they’d like to live in and celebrate. Then acknowledge what they’ve said, even if you have a different view.

Listening is a powerful thing. Think about how good it feels when someone gives you even a few uninterrupted minutes to express what you think. By listening, you don’t only have a better shot at understanding what the other person is talking about, but you’re also signalling to them that you’re willing to give them your time and attention to hear them out. Even that simple gesture can short-circuit the defence mechanisms that prevent deeper engagement.

If we can get a bit better at listening, then we can start having a more constructive conversation about what it means to be Australian and how we should celebrate it. And that sounds like a good conversation to have.

This article was written by:
Image of Tim DeanTim Dean – [Honorary Associate in Philosophy, University of Sydney]





This article is part of a syndicated news program via

Tech diplomacy: cities drive a new era of digital policy and innovation

 Cities will be driving globalisation and  
innovation in the emerging world order. 28 November Studio/Shutterstock

France recently appointed a tech ambassador to the Silicon Valley. French President Emmanuel Macron named David Martinon as “ambassador for digital affairs”, with jurisdiction over the digital issues that the foreign affairs ministry deals with. This includes digital governance, international negotiations and support for digital companies’ export operations.

The appointment is part of France’s international digital strategy, which is becoming a focus of its foreign policy. And France isn’t alone in doing this.

In early 2017, Denmark appointed a “TechPlomacy” ambassador to the tech industry. Casper Klynge is possibly the first-ever envoy to be dispatched to Silicon Valley with a clear mandate to build better relationships with major technology firms.

In an interview with Danish newspaper Politiken, Foreign Minister Anders Samuelsen said:

Big companies affect Denmark just as much as entire countries.

He isn’t wrong. According to geopolitical strategist Parag Khanna, the world’s top tech companies are achieving more international influence and economic power than dozens of nations put together. In 2016, the cash that Apple had on hand exceeded the gross domestic product (GDP) of two-thirds of the world’s countries.

Some of these global players are also influential policy actors in their own right. In 2016, Foreign Policy presented its Diplomat of the Year Award to Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google parent company Alphabet Inc. The award was in recognition of Google’s contributions to international relations through empowering citizens globally.

What’s different about TechPlomacy?

The recent ambassadorial appointments signify not only the important socio-economic and political roles of technology, but also how diplomacy is evolving and adapting to the disruptive changes in our societies.

These developments mark the prominence of tech-cities on the global scene. Nation states are no longer the only players in international affairs; cities are also taking centre stage.

As opposed to lobbying governments in the world’s capitals, the new breed of diplomats will target tech-cities with multi-trillion-dollar technology sectors. They will also rub shoulders and nurture a direct dialogue with organisations that have gigantic economic impacts. In 2016, for example, Google helped to inject US$222 billion in economic activity in the US alone.

The so-called “Google ambassadors” won’t be targeting Silicon Valley only. The Office of Denmark’s Tech Ambassador has a team with physical presence across three time zones in North America, Europe and Asia. It will also connect with tech hubs around the world.

As part of an interconnected planet, these tech hubs will increasingly play a more active role in the global economy. Decision-makers are starting to recognise the imperative to establish good relationships and understand the tech giants’ policies and agendas. 

Cities as autonomous diplomatic units

The rise of cities as “autonomous diplomatic units” may be a defining feature of the 21st century.

Already, just 100 cities account for 30% of the world’s economy and almost all its innovation. New York and London, together, represent 40% of global market capitalisation. According to the McKinsey Global Institute, the top 600 cities generate 60% of global GDP and are projected to be home to 25% of the world’s population by 2025.

McKinsey expects that 136 new cities will make it into the top 600 by 2025. All these new cities are from the developing world – 100 of them from China alone.

These global cities appear likely to dominate the 21st century. They will become magnets for economic activity and engines of globalisation. Khanna argues:

… [C]ities rather than states or nations are becoming the islands of governance on which the future world order will be built.

He also suggests that connectivity through an expanding matrix of infrastructure (64 million kilometres of roads, 4 million kilometres of railways and 1 million kilometres of internet cables) will far outweigh the importance of 500,000 kilometres of international borders.

Still more questions than answers

As more cities assert their leadership on the world stage, new mechanisms and networks (e.g. C40 Cities) could emerge. That could signal a new generation of diplomacy that relates and engages with cities rather than bilateral collaboration between nations.

The C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group connects more than 90 of the world’s major cities. The Independent UK

Although these new diplomatic outposts have generated some profound interest, questions remain.

Will this era of tech diplomacy create collaborative ways to develop and achieve foreign policy priorities? Will it increasingly become a unifying global priority?

Do these appointments signify a transformation in international relationships? Will big tech companies also develop diplomatic capacities?

And will we witness the emergence of a post-national ideology of civic-ism, whereby people’s loyalty to the city surpasses that to a nation?

What comes next?

Not everyone will be excited by these appointments. Many would downplay their significance. Others would argue that tech companies have been engaged globally for years, and that they do this anyway as part of their “business as usual” activities.

Whether you embrace or object to it, a new world order is emerging around cities and their economies, rather than nations and their borders. These cities may ultimately chart pathways to their own sovereign diplomacy and formulate their own codes of conduct.

It is anyone’s guess whether the future will bear any resemblance to TechPlomacy or something else we haven’t yet imagined. The significance of these appointments will become clearer as the envoys go to work and we begin to understand the possibilities.

This article was written by:
Image of Hussein DiaHussein Dia – [Associate Professor, Swinburne University of Technology]





This article is part of a syndicated news program via

Looking forward – to 2018

A very Merry Christmas, And a happy new year, 
Let's hope it's a good one, Without any fear. [John Lennon]
2017 is over and for many people, it may not have come too soon.
Rather than looking backward, we at the Toorak Times and our Arts magazine TAGG would like to look forward, to 2018 and what we would like to see and what concerns us.
Here is a list. It’s not complete and indeed we may have missed many things, and only at the end of 2018 will we be able to see what in fact came to be.
Here are five domestic issues and five international issues we think need some serious attending to if our world is to be a better place.

At home –

  • We would like to see the courts around the country start to implement the penalties for many serious breaches of the law that our parliaments have provided them with, but, seem to be unwilling to use.

    We have had it up to the top of our collective heads with attacks upon our citizens. Whether in their homes, going about their business or even simply being on the streets. Attacks on unsuspecting people of all ages have increased and almost every evening evening news bulletins are filled with the stories of people left bleeding, left traumatised and far too often left hospitalised by thugs.

   We have had enough and really, despite claims by the judiciary that their decisions should not be questioned and that we lay people have no idea of the complexity of the cases, we would say – enough is enough. It is time that the punishments not just fitted the crimes, but we used to deter those who quite rightly believe that at this time, they really can get away with anything and if caught, will just be slapped on the wrist.

  • We would like to see the aged population receive a far fairer deal for the federal government.

   This should be achieved through a sufficient increase in the aged pension that these Australians can live more than just day to day. Their lives should not consist of living in fear of not being able to pay their utility bills. Their many years of contributing to the nation should now be recognised when they are at an age when they can no longer work and generate an income.

   Yes, there is what is laughingly referred to as an age pension. Even with all supplementary payments it only comes to $447 per week for a single pensioner and a ridiculous $670 per week for a couple. Pensioners would be better off living apart!  Even so, this is a pittance with the cost of living constantly rising. Unlike many people currently in the workforce, most people on a pension have little or no Superannuation to help supplement this pathetic payment.

  •  We would like to see a fairer tax system. Despite the federal Government spending over $8million in 2017 to convince us they had closed tax loopholes for multinational companies [$8 million that could have better been used elsewhere] the evidence simply is not there.

   Tax Commissioner Chris Jordan says more than $7 billion worth of sales made in Australia will now be taxed for the first time. But the ATO still has not banked the money. An explanation is really due on this one and, the evidence is that those large multinationals are spending a lot of money looking at how to restructure to avoid being hit by the diverted profits tax [McDonald’s being one of these].

   It IS tie for the government to get fair dinkum over this, and if they can’t, then get out of the way and let someone else try. 

  • We would like to see a Federal election in 2018. Yes, governments should serve a full term IF they are fulfilling their promises to serve this county.

   We believe that the Australian federal government has failed this country.  2017 saw it lurch from crisis to crisis. The handling of the boat people off-shore was a national disgrace. The NBN is a national disgrace. The treatment through his “Fair Work” legislation to casual and part-time workers is a disgrace. The failure, despite an enormous amount of rhetoric, to lower power prices is a disgrace and while the prime Minister believed he finished the year with two major wins, we say “phooey”. To claim that the passing of the Same Sex Marriage Bill was an achievement for his government simply defies logic.

   It was the citizens of this country that bought this about. It was NOT the the prime Minister or his government that was responsible. Cross that off the list.

   He also crowed about the two by-elections that his coalition government won. Really? These were blue ribbon national and Liberal seats, that if had fallen would have been an absolute disaster for both political parties. Since when has retaining blue ribbon seats been an achievement?

   We do acknowledge, that with the many failings of our current government, they are not alone. The state of politics seems to have hit a totally all-time low. A morass might be an apt description.

   We desperately seek an enlightened person to stand up, to give us a direction that Australians could and would rally around. We desperately need someone to stand up and enthuse as and to provide us with a glimpse of a fair, just, and a future where equality rules. We want someone to throw away the trough our politicians seem to take delight in sticking their snouts in. Any takers?

  • We would like to see our federal government tackle environmental issues with far more enthusiasm and commitment than they have. From Climate change through to renewable energy, this coalition government receives a big FAIL scorecard from us.

   This governments continual commitment to coal as it’s major source of power generation is cause for great concern. However, while this is a critical issue, other issues such as the destruction of the Great Barrier Reef and the encouragement by the federal government for the indian company, Adani, to dig coal and, for fracking to commence on our continent, are also causes of great environmental concern.  We need a new dialogue and if this government can’t lead the way, then change is necessary.

Internationally –

  • We can only hope that the mid-term USA elections, unfortunately not due to be held until November of 2018, result in an overwhelming push back against President Trump and his destructive policies.

   Some might argue that what happens in American politics is of little concern to us. Nothing could be farther from the truth. When the US sneezes we catch a cold, is an apt analogy. Few would argue against the proposition that he single handedly, even taking into account that other political lunatic in North Korea has taken us closer to a nuclear war than anyone since the Cuban Missile crisis in the 1960’s.  Trump leads the climate sceptics and hidden behind his bleats of America (read USA) for American’s, is a not so subtle racist.

   His lack of compassion toward refugees only outstrips our own governments. He stands out alone as the most dangerous man in the world and yet, he hides behind the respectability of the USA position as President.

   We hope 2018 is the beginning of the end of him and that the citizens of the USA work toward electing a rational, caring, socially responsible leader with a vision that might encourage all the world to see that a positive future is possible.

  • We are greatly concerned over the proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. As unlikely as it may be, we seek to see 2018 wind back the threat of Nuclear war.

    As much as Trump stands with his finger on an itchy nuclear trigger, we know that along with North Korea, certain countries in the Middle East as well as the USSR are increasing the opportunities for a mistake to be made. A mistake from which there may be no fix. 

  • We are concerned over the very real possibility of a serious pandemic.

    With international travel not just becoming easier and more affordable, the time it takes to travel from nation to nation and continent to continent continually shrinks. Along with this comes the increased of a pandemic.  We must also consider that there is the very real possibility of a virulent virus being used by terrorists. terrorists continue to show they have no care for the human race.

  • We believe the continuing rapid increase in the world population is leading us to a disaster. Currently at 7.6billion, the world population will reach 8billion in just two more years.

    This brings with it a plethora of issues including famine, an ever increasing lack of clean drinking water, the spread of disease and an increase in refugees. With more and more calls for nations, including our own, to close borders and to withhold money for overseas relief and assistance in order to better look after our “own”, guarantees the problem will not simply go away. It does work toward creating even more conflict.

  • Finally, we worry for the young who are yet to be born.

   Taking into account all of the above is bad enough. Add to it the ongoing threat by terrorism, the growth of pseudoscience and the ever growing gulf between the rich and the poor and we ask – “What are we leaving to future generations?”

So it is, that we look into 2018 with these concerns in mind. 

What is of more concern is, that even identifying these key issues, we can be certain that others will inevitably rear their heads.

A list like the above might be enough to discourage the most optimistic.  Yet, when things are at their darkest the human spirit and determination not to be crushed by things that seem to be out of control, inevitably shines through.

We look forward to the beacon being lit, but, unless it is lit by the efforts of the everyday person, the often unheard and unseen members of our community – the beacon will not shine brightly enough.

It is time we made certain our voices are heard. We need to retake control of our environment in its broadest sense.

2018 may not be another year of ‘doom” and “disaster”, but the beginning of the changes many of us seek.

Just don’t leave it to your neighbour!

Happy New year and a strong arm to you all – from all of us at the Toorak Times-Tagg

Rob Greaves – [Senior Editor, Toorak Times]


Supersized cities: residents band together to push back against speculative development pressures

 Thousands of co-housing projects in cities  
around the world have shown how people can get together to create diverse 
homes that suit them & their community – this one is in Portland, Oregon.

Across the world’s cities, the over-reliance on speculative, developer-led urban renewal models is clear. This imbalance is now challenging the liveability of our cities.

The risk of financial loss means speculative developments tend to churn out standardised, expensive and “franchised” urban landscapes. Unsuitably tall glass towers grow around us like weeds, choking the life out of cities and contributing to a lost sense of place among residents.

When it comes to cost of living, environmental impacts and social segregation, speculative development has pushed cities into the red.

There is a silver lining here. As if an immune response to the disease of unaffordability, citizens, architects and civic leaders in many cities are taking matters into their own hands and delivering projects that are not driven by developers.

Known as intentional or deliberative development, these models offer a way to provide more diverse and affordable ways to live, work and play in our cities. They are aiming for more inclusive, human-scale cities where residents can still feel they belong.

How did cities get to this point?

Many forces traditionally gave rise to cities of diverse shapes and characters. In more modern times, however, newer forces emerged to dominate the shaping of urban landscapes.

Property development became an “industry”. Land came to be seen as a “commodity”. Our homes became “assets”. With this transition came a suite of financial mechanisms, tax systems and other incentives that enable enormous wealth to be made from land development and ownership.

There is just one hitch with this model: developable land is a finite resource. There is only so much land to support housing and the needs of a growing global population. This puts tremendous pressure on the value of urban land.

Speculative development models seek out “highest and best use” for this land. The aim is to extract the highest profit possible from any given site. This nearly always leads developers and investors upmarket – luxury apartments, premium office buildings, higher-end retail chains and so on.

Speculative property development is a high-risk business, so high profit margins are needed to offset the risk. What such calculations do not consider is how this approach can:

  • fundamentally alter the culture and character of urban environments;
  • displace long-standing residences and local businesses; and
  • tear apart community bonds.

In this current speculation cycle, housing is the clear investment of choice. And when developers and planning agencies target an area for renewal, the shovels go in and out go the artists, essential workers, established communities and small local businesses.

This is the recipe for gentrification and this pattern has played out for decades in the world’s major cities, but right now we are experiencing the biggest gentrification feast the world has ever seen.

With cashed-up investors dumping ridiculous sums into the global housing market, our cities are being divided between haves and have-nots, those who are in the market and those who will never have the chance.

We are seeing a reverse form of ghettoisation, “ghettos of the rich”, which has prompted progressive Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo to enact new housing policies for her city.

The loss of urban identity

The globalisation of the property industry and the “mega” scale and style of urban development have created a very franchised approach to citymaking. An apartment building or office tower in Sydney or Brisbane could be picked up and dropped into Boston, Vancouver, Shanghai or any other city and none would be the wiser.

Too often, the development focus is solely on the marketability and saleability of apartment towers to buyers who could be from anywhere, rather than on local integration and community impact.

The scale, height and exterior make-up of buildings collectively form the “outdoor rooms” of our cities that shape our urban experience and provide our emotional connection to place.

If we think of our cities as never ending novels with new chapters continually being written to inform their story and identity, right now we are losing the plot.

The urban story is now being rewritten at such a dizzying pace that people are suffering from solastalgia, a term coined by Australian philosopher Glenn Albrecht. It describes the phenomenon of feeling homesick without ever having moved home because your environment is changing so rapidly around you.

With forests of homogenous, placeless towers springing up around us, cities are beginning to lose their individual character and brand. This in turn can impact their ability to attract and retain key workers, tourists, next-gen entrepreneurs, artists and other creatives who make our cities unique, culturally enriching and diverse.

Combine this with property inflation, and large segments of society risk being squeezed out of their city of choice.

The co-housing alternative

This is where co-housing comes into its own. With many projects across North America and Europe, this has been the main form of intentional development over the past 50 years.

The Baugruppen model is about building a community as well as housing. Initiative für gemeinschaftliches Bauen und Wohnen/flickr, CC BY-NC-ND

In addition to owning a private home, co-housing residents typically have access to shared common elements such as kitchens, gardens, recreation space, lounge areas and laundry facilities.

Whether projects are directly managed by the co-housing buyer group or a fee-based development management firm, these not-for-profit, citizen-led communities offer an alternative means to creating more affordable, socially connected and sustainable ways of living.

While such housing models are not new, there has been resurgence in demand and a growing portfolio of projects in cities around the globe in response to the crisis of affordability. Most have historically been low-rise (one to three levels) village-style projects in rural and suburban areas.

Newer models are trending toward dense, multistorey apartment buildings in city centres such as those being delivered in Berlin through the Baugruppen model.


In Australia, the Nightingale model emerged as an architect-led, limited-profit variation of deliberative housing in Melbourne. It has since spread to Brisbane and Fremantle.

Whether deliberative projects are citizen-led, architect-led or developer-facilitated, the buyers are directly involved in designing and planning their home and community. On Nightingale projects, architects work directly with a group of local buyers to craft a unique design that offers greater affordability and delivers the urban lifestyle they desire.

Nightingale projects originated in Melbourne – this development is in Brunswick East – but have spread to other Australian cities.Nightingale/ClarkeHopkinsClarke Architects

With deliberative models, market and settlement risk is greatly reduced. This means profit margins may be reduced or altogether eliminated. Deliberative projects also eliminate the need for and costs of estate agents, sales offices and expensive marketing.

All these savings flow through to buyers. Purchase prices typically vary between 10% and 40% below the local market.

Hence these models could help meet the needs of people who do not qualify for subsidised social housing but cannot afford market-rate housing.

Urban environments should not solely be derived from the unilateral vision of “expert” developers. Local communities and residents can help balance out speculative development models and give shape to their neighbourhoods as well.

If globalisation and speculative development tend to erode diversity, deliberative development is adaptable to people’s needs in different contexts.

From the hundreds of precedent projects across North America and Europe, we can see what’s possible: innovative, sustainable, affordable housing where people feel strongly connected to place and community.

This article was written by:




Christmas 2017 – The Message is simple . . .

Christmas 2017 will mean many things to many people.

Not everyone in Australia will celebrate Christmas as a religious observation. It may be because it is not part of their religious beliefs or it may be, that they have no religious beliefs at all.

Yet it is a time of the year where we should all celebrate for it is a moment when we can reflect upon ourselves, our families and our relationships. We can reflect on our own journey and how we have connected with others and the wonderful moments this has created.

Fortunes come and go and for some of our fellow Australians their fortunes may be down. For some Christmas as a time of the year, brings about stress and sadness when they are reminded of what they have never had or may have had and lost.

This is a wonderful country, and sometimes we struggle to make it a country of equality and fairness when forces that seem unmovable, work against creating that equality and fairness.

There is much injustice and most of it we seem powerless to overcome. However, I am reminded of a quote from Calvin Coolidge, the 30th President of the United States. He said, 

Christmas is not a time nor a season, but a state of mind. To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas.
Our thoughts and beliefs are very powerful. There is a belief that we create the reality around us through our thoughts.
So the message is simple.  Think goodwill, embrace with joy and love those who you care for.  But share a little of that love at this time of the year for those who you may not know, but who are in so much need.
We don’t change the world through massive intervention, we change the world one person at a time.
Christmas is indeed a fine time to remember that despite the ills and woes that surround us, each of us does have the power to reach out to one person, to share a kind word, to share a kind deed to even share a kind thought.
Who will you reach out to?
A Merry Christmas from all of us that work at and through the Toorak Times and our Arts mag – TAGG.
Rob Greaves – [Senior Editor, Toorak Times]