Stories with a happy ending

THEY’RE the forgotten victims of crime – the little ones lying in bed wondering why mummy is in ”hospital” and can’t read them a bedtime story.Now a pioneering program in one Sydney jail will bring the voices of female inmates into the bedrooms of their children, many of whom are placed in care during the length of their mother’s stay behind bars.Prisoners at the Emu Plains Correctional Centre are being allowed to record stories on CDs and have them delivered to their children as a way to maintain the bond between mother and child.NSW Correctional Services Minister Phil Costa has given his backing to take the Story Time Program statewide.Sharlene, a 22-year-old Aboriginal inmate from Moree, said she had chosen How the Kangaroos got their Tails to send to her five-year-old daughter Heather.”It’s a book that I read on Reconciliation Day when I was younger so it’s special to me and I hope it’s going to be special for her,” said Sharlene, who has completed three months of an eight-month sentence, but could be home in five weeks. ”It’s been really hard knowing that every day she’s wondering where I am. It helps to know that she’ll be able to hear my voice.”Another inmate, Elizabeth, has spent 11 months away from her two boys, four and five, who are being cared for by their father.She said: ”It’s an awesome thing to do for the kids because when they feel like they’re missing me they can hear that I’m still there. I try to read the books really calmly to help them get to sleep.”Female prisoners said they told their young children that they were in hospital rather than jail.With the help of four publishers, children are sent a book with the CD of their mother’s voice. The CDs have a picture of their mother.Mr Costa said: ”This program is the first of its kind in NSW and allows mothers to share a bedtime story with their children and build their literacy skills at the same time.”As a parent I know how important bedtime stories are to nurturing your child. This program ensures mothers do not lose the opportunity to read to their children at night while they are incarcerated.”
Nanjing Night Net

Debt makes hospital a sick choice

The hospital that Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Premier Kristina Keneally chose as the location to trumpet health reforms is labouring under a budget shortfall of nearly $12 million and a spiralling surgical waiting list.Documents leaked to The Sun-Herald show Blacktown Hospital was in the red by $11.94 million in January, making it one of the sickest establishments within the Sydney West Area Health Service (SWAHS).Separate documents show Blacktown’s waiting list nearly doubled from 570 patients in December 2008 to 921 in December last year. Mr Rudd and Ms Keneally visited the 350-bed Blacktown Hospital last week to announce just 18 new beds as part of what they described as their ”historic health and hospital reform”.A week earlier, Blacktown’s Labor MP Paul Gibson told a local newspaper: ”We need another 110 beds, and we need them yesterday.”About one in five patients now being treated in nearby Westmead Hospital have been referred by Blacktown due to a bed shortage.A fortnight ago it was revealed that the 13 hospitals in the Sydney West region had combined debts of $18.9 million at the end of the last financial year. SWAHS, which serves 1 million people, has been accused of failing to pay suppliers of medicines and diagnostic tests due to financial constraints.Opposition health spokeswoman Jillian Skinner said Blacktown’s financial woes were ”highly embarrassing” for Mr Rudd and Ms Keneally. ”Their announcement won’t fix the $12 million budget blowout, it won’t cut the waiting list which has more than doubled since 2006 … Blacktown Hospital … will now be in cost-cutting mode because of Labor’s failed management of our health system.”A spokesman for Health Minister Carmel Tebbutt said Blacktown’s budget shortfall varied by less than 5 per cent from its budget.He said the hospital is $5 million over budget.”It is the waiting time, not list, that is important and Blacktown has recently received enhancement money for surgery from the Area Health Service and is on track to meet its target of all patients being treated within clinical benchmarks by June 2010,” he said.
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Get high-tech and be in style

TECHNOLOGY seems to be the new black when it comes to this year’s Australian Fashion Week, which begins tomorrow.The Ellery and Ksubi spring-summer 2010-2011 runway shows will be streamed to the internet. It will be the first time this has been done in Australia.Designer Kym Ellery will stream her show to sites including the fashion shopping site The Grand Social, Yahoo!7 and Grazia magazine’s site.”It is more or less in the vein of what overseas shows are doing, like Burberry did during their show,” Ellery said. ”We just wanted to be able to share the night with unlimited people.”Ksubi’s live stream will be broadcast on the Harper’s Bazaar website at 8pm on Friday. Straight after the show there will be limited-edition runway pieces available for purchase. ”We’re excited to be streaming our 10-year anniversary show live to a potential audience of millions,” Ksubi’s George Gorrow said.”The shows have limited capacity, and this way it’s not always about who goes to the show, its also about who gets to see it in the end. Customers can even purchase key limited-edition pieces immediately after the show from the new collection.”Camilla and Marc Freeman, of camilla and marc, are also on the technology wave and have developed an application for BlackBerry. They are the first Australian designers to have developed such an application. It will be launched today and contains a diary section with news, a store and wish list.Marc Freeman said: ”Technology and fashion are both major parts of our lives, so together they are a natural fit.”We are avid BlackBerry users so the idea of an app just came into place. It was a fun project to create something in that digital space that is exclusive to our fans and customers.”The biggest development is that they will transmit images during their show on Tuesday to customers. The customers will be able to order limited-edition pieces from the debut jewellery line, which will be launched during the show.Marc Freeman said: ”It will provide exclusive content where you can view collections and be able to select images from the collection to make a wish list.”There will be functions to get updates of what’s happening with us around Fashion Week.”AUSTRALIAN FASHION WEEK: MY MUST-SEE EVENTSDION LEE Thursday 9am,Northern Foyer, Concert Hall,Sydney Opera House.We were blown away after Lee unveiled his debut collection at Australian Fashion Week last year, and there is little doubt that he will live up to this year’s expectations.CAMILLA AND MARC Tuesday 9am, 467 Pitt Street, Haymarket.Sydney-based brother and sister Camilla and Marc Freeman have come a long way since launching their brand in Fashion Week 2003. They are on trend to impress again.ALEX PERRY Tuesday 8.30pm, Sound Stage 7, Fox Studios, Moore Park.His parade will be the biggest show Australia has seen – the runway is 65 metres long and 1000 people have been invited.ROMANCE WAS BORN Wednesday 9.30pm, MacLaurin Hall, Sydney University.Romance Was Born delivers more than just a parade; it’s a whole creative experience. Luke Sales and Anna Plunkett are known for staging full-scale art productions.ELLERY Tuesday 9.30pm, Byron Kennedy Hall, Moore Park.Kym Ellery keeps going from strength to strength and her collections never fail to impress. In this year’s Zodiac-themed parade, it’s set to sparkle.KSUBI Friday 8pm, Royal Hall of Industries, Driver Avenue, Moore Park.Putting financial troubles behind it, Ksubi has is the final show of the week and designers Dan Single and George Gorrow are sure to end Fashion Week with a bang.
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TV gardener lives the green good life

PRIME MINISTER Kevin Rudd may have done an about-face on climate change but householders are enthusiastic about reducing their carbon footprint and living sustainably, says an expert who walks the walk.Jerry Coleby-Williams has had ”green thumbs” since the age of four, when he lived in England, inspired by his family of gardeners and farmers.He’s come a long way since then. Coleby-Williams, a presenter on Gardening Australia on ABC1, settled at Wynnum on Brisbane’s Bayside in 2003 and transformed his century-old timber Queensland home, Bellis, into an award-winning example of ”retrofitted sustainability”.He and the other two householders minimise their impact on the environment by generating solar power, recycling sewage and grey water and harvesting rainwater for inside and outside use. ”Anything we do here can be done at any suburban house in Australia,” he said.The house is connected to mains water but it is rarely needed. ”We are 90 to 98 per cent self-sufficient and only need to turn on mains water after months of no rain,” Coleby-Williams said.The trio use only about 117 litres each a day from their water tanks, compared with Queensland Water Commission figures showing south-east Queenslanders averaged 152 litres per person daily last week.The back garden boasts a magnificent array of fruit, vegetables and herbs – all grown organically – and feeds three people using only 350 litres of recycled water a day.The 300 square metres of land provides about 70 per cent of the trio’s fresh food.Coleby-Williams knows most of his neighbours, who regularly drop in for tips and pass the information on to like-minded friends.”Word spreads and it’s wonderful how many people are converting their small suburban blocks into their own version of what we’ve got here,” he said.When he had an open day last year, the garden fed 150 people who walked to the local bowls club where the four-course meal was cooked.The front garden has ornamental subtropical plants suited to predicted climate change. The plants were watered six times to establish them but have not been watered again since 2004.The property has no hard surfaces – it has a porous driveway and paths, and a pit to capture stormwater, which also gets reused.Coleby-Williams practises crop rotation and his collection includes many rare and endangered species, the seeds of which he collects to replant.He came to Queensland via a circuitous route, qualifying in horticultural estate management, arboriculture, landscape design, horticultural and botanical sciences at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew, England.In 1982 he was awarded a Kew scholarship to study the flora of Western Australia and said he was so captivated by the people, plants and places, he decided to emigrate.Postgraduate work included managing horticultural enterprises in Britain and Australia, including nurseries, inner-city parks and gardens. And he helped establish Sydney’s Mount Annan Botanic Garden.He has worked as a consultant in Sydney, including for the Darling Park business complex, Central Station, St Mary’s Cathedral, the Conservatorium of Music and the international airport. For 11 years, he managed the horticultural estate for the city’s Royal Botanic Gardens.Last year Bellis won a prestigious savewater! Alliance award. The group works with businesses and governments on water conservation programs. Entries for this year’s awards open on May 17 and close on August 9.Get more tips
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Our mentally ill suffering in silence

More than 1.6 million people in NSW are silent sufferers of undiagnosed mental health conditions, according to a report that highlights long-term dangers associated with delayed treatment.The Wesley Mission report, Keeping Well: Mental Health Is Everyone’s Business, reveals community attitudes towards mental illness remain so negative sufferers are ashamed to admit how they feel. Consequently, they were reluctant to seek help and, over time, their illness worsened and became irreversible through repeated untreated episodes of depression or psychosis.The study has prompted renewed calls for an overhaul of the mental health system.Brain and Mind Research Institute executive director Ian Hickie said “concerted pressure” was needed for a co-ordinated response to deal with mental illness when it usually began – between the ages of 15 and 25.”Seventy-five per cent of problems start in this age group but we don’t typically see someone reporting mental health problems until they’re around 40 and have had issues for 20 years,” Professor Hickie said.”Historically, services have focused on those who are already seriously ill. Contrast that, for example, with breast cancer where the services deal with the issue at all stages of the problem – early identification, treatment if needed and palliative care.”Believe it or not, 30 to 40 years ago we had to educate people to the fact that cancer treatment was not a waste of time. Today, everyone accepts early intervention gives you the best possibility of long-term survival.”In January Wesley Mission surveyed 2012 people over the age of 18. It found that during their lives 77 per cent of people in NSW would experience, or be personally affected by someone who suffered from, a mental illness. More than a quarter of respondents claimed to be suffering some form of mental health problem, with depression and anxiety the most common conditions.The research indicated a third of people who feared they were depressed did not seek treatment, and 50 per cent suffering from anxiety failed to take the key step.Almost nine in 10 self-reported phobia sufferers failed to seek help.The main reason for people suffering in silence was social stigma.The survey also demonstrated how deep negative attitudes continue to run, with less than half the population feeling comfortable around people suffering depression. Typical comments that highlight misconceptions are: “People who are depressed are dangerous” and “It’s acceptable for someone with cancer to be unavailable at work because they are undergoing chemotherapy but not for someone with depression”.The superintendent of Wesley Mission the Reverend Dr Keith Garner said: “It’s clear from the report that a great amount of social stigma still exists around mental illness and that’s fed by fear and misinformation. We, as a society, need to become more open to this issue because the numbers of people affected are enormous.”MIND READING53 per cent of people in NSW will experience a mental health problem.Compared with physical illness, people with a mental health condition are more reluctant to seek treatment.The most common mental health problem people report suffering is depression, with one in four believing they may be affected.Three in 10 believed they have suffered some form of mental health problem during their lives for which they did not seek treatment. This translates to more than 1.6 million hidden sufferers across NSW.
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