EUTHANASIA – A RIGHT THAT MUST BE RESTORED TO THE NT

I am a believer in and supporter of Euthanasia. I wrote the following letter to Kevin Andrews some time ago and share the text.

Dear Mr Andrews

For a long time I have been distressed by the fact that you saw fit to introduce a private member’s bill into the Federal Parliament during the Howard years, which went to the overturning of the Northern Territory Euthanasia Bill. This is a matter about which I have harboured resentment for many years.

The NT Euthanasia Laws were well shaped and carefully structured by our then Chief Minister Marshall Perron. It was a day of relief rather than rejoicement when those laws were enacted into legislation.

In opposite vein, it was a day of rather astounded and disbelieving sadness, yet inevitability, when your private member’s bill got its overriding guernsey in Federal Parliament. I do not know if this bill was your own initiative or whether you were prevailed upon to move it to the parliament by other members of the Coalition. In any case, the rescinding of our most reasonable NT Act did our Territory and Northern Territorians a great disservice.

It is interesting that, by degree, the world is starting to catch up with Mr Perron’s ‘Rights of the Terminally Ill Bill’, which became part of our law over 20 years ago.

I have just turned 70. In my time, members of my family have passed in sad circumstances during which their rationality and their humanity was progressively dismantled by creeping loss of body and mind. I have seen that happen for many people and my awareness grows with advancing age.

For mine, I am desirous of incorporating into the provisions of my hastening old age, a provision that should I become totally incapable or demented, to the point of my reliance on life becoming the full responsibility of others, that I be allowed to decline my mortality: That I be allowed this as a legitimate right to determine, while still of sound body and mind.

Your bill stripped me of a basic human right and the possibility of action that should be an entitlement. I was deeply disappointed in what you did then. That disappointment remains until this day.

Sincerely

Henry Gray

11 March 2016

Mr Andrews eventually replied in a nondescript manner. Just to tell me in broad brush terms that the Federal Parliament acting on its operational principles, scuttled one of the wisest, most decent and empathetic pieces of legislation ever introduced into any Australian Parliament.

I still seethe about Mr Andrews and the Federal Parliament for mechanically and unreasonably brushing aside the Marshall Perron Euthanasia Bill. Few things in my life have been unforgivable. This matter is an exception

LONG TERM TERRITORIAN REFERENCE GROUP

I wanted to raise an idea that was discussed with me a number of months ago. It transpired that we (the other person and I) were both concerned about the number of new beaut ideas for Territory development being articulated, that are a revisitation of what has already been tried and discarded.

The Issue

The rebirth ‘as new’ of old and dispensed with ideas occurs in large part because of ignorance about our history. One of the standout examples to illustrate my point is that of the CBD and particularly the mall having been re-visited at least four times during my time in the Northern Territory. There are other examples to do with our infrastructure development that have been similarly revisited.

Within departments, the same sort of thing happens. I’m most familiar with education. The idea of regionalising (decentralising function) educational management has been tried at least three times. When revisited nobody takes account of what has gone before. They often don’t know that ideas have been previously tried. That’s because we have a very poor record of recording history in the NT.

Another reason for regurgitation is that people in high level decision making positions often come and go after fairly short periods of time. People new to these positions often don’t know what has gone before. As well, they are often interested in adding their own “personal touch” for the sake of building curriculum vitaes. which will then be used to gain positions elsewhere and generally not in the Territory. The Territory is used as a stepping stone.

The Fix Idea

It seemed as we spoke about this issue, that the Northern Territory Government might give consideration to establishing a group of people who are long-term residents in the Northern Territory. This group might be asked if there is any previous history about ideas being flashed out as “new beaut schemes“.

Our thought was this group might comprise people with background into the operation of various departments and with experience in life and living in the Northern Territory in general terms.

Neither might it be necessary for people to meet physically to consider every issue, rather being asked for feedback by email or by phone on occasion. This will enable people living out of Darwin and Palmerston to be involved.

Our thought wasn’t that this group should be remunerated; that’s not the motivation of everybody who wants to support our territory and see it is a better place. The thinking was that in the interests of avoiding mistakes, particularly where those mistakes might arise from revisiting previous policy that had been discarded, a group of such a nature could lend itself to the betterment of the Territory.

I wanted to share this and wondered what you might think about such a development

THE BRITTANY HIGGINS MATTER

Some thoughts follow – and I am sure I will be shot down by others over my questions/ ponderings.

* Ms Reynolds was in a ‘damned if you do’ and ‘damned if you don’t’ type cleft stick. Had she reported matters when asked not to by Ms Higgins, she would have been canned. Because she went with confidentiality as asked by Ms Higgins, she has been canned.

* Ditto the above but to a slightly less extent for the next minister Ms Cash for whom Ms Higgins subsequently worked.

* To me (sorry, I am a man) it seems that Ms Higgins put her career aspirations above reporting the matter of alleged rape. This is born out by the fact that she made a statement to police and then asked them not to proceed. HOW IS THAT THE FAULT OF MS REYONDS OR MS CASH WHO BOTH ADVISED AND MADE HER AWARE OF THE REPORTING OPTION?

* Sorry, but I do not accept that Ms Higgins would have been dismissed had she reported the matter to the police in the first instance.

* Ms Higgins was 24 years of age at the time of the alleged rape. She was not a minor. As a young adult it would be presumed she had the maturity to make some logical decisions on her own behalf.

* Could the intitial reporting reluctance by Ms Higgins have had to do with the fact that at the time she felt some responsibility for her own behaviour?

* I wonder whether Ms Higgins sought support and advice from her parents with whom she now resides at the time? Were Ms Higgins parents aware of what had allegedly happened?

* Why are others now being held accountable for the fact that Ms Higgins did not wish to carry on with her initial reporting of the matter?

* AFP Commissioner Reece Kershaw’s letter offers timely advice to the Prime Minister on the reporting of alleged sexual and other assaults. But on the issue of Ms Higgins, his letter is somewhat redundant. Ms Higgins HAD reported the matter and THEN at a later date, asked that the matter not be progressed. Now, in the last few days, she has gone to the police and asked them to investigate the matter. I make the point that the Higgins matter HAD been reported and the issue then investigatively ceased at the request of Ms Higgins.

* In a more general context, I think that there should be no alcohol associated with parliamentary or parliamentary staff functions. Working hard yes, but drinking hard and socialising to the extreme does not cut it! There are many, many Federal, State and Territory instances of sad, irresponsible behaviours that have occurred because circumspect behaviour has been abandoned by those who should know better.

As a judge once told a jury of which I was chair: “Ladies and gentlemen, in considering the evidence of this case, please use your common sense.”

NAPLAN’S YOKE IS BACK

EDUCATIONAL POINTS TO PONDER

If one good thing came from COVID-19 impacts upon education in 2020, it was the cancellation of the NAPLAN testing regime.

I had hoped the program with its many weaknesses would stay gone. But no, it is back in May for 2021 with its many weaknesses would stay gone. But no, it is back in May for 2021.

Introduced in 2008, NAPLAN became a totally misrepresented program and an unfortunate gauge by which school success was measured. The scheme was one that distorted and misrepresented the purpose of schools.

So now we’re back in the land of the future and the future is NAPLAN. Once more educational systems and schools and everybody connected with them will be within themselves into a frenzy in order to make the most of this wretched and misused testing regime.

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RECYCLING IS BEING RECYCLED

A Will Zwar, NT News report generated a wry smile. Zwar’s column was titled Kids to study recycling – Council plan to combat damning contamination stats (NT News April 8 2018).

The article went on to outline deep concerns within the City of Darwin Council about the poor attitudes of Darwinians toward recycling. Plans are being put into place to correct ‘don’t care’ attitudes through the advocacy of school students. “… Darwin council has engaged (the) Environment Centre NT … to conduct Waste and Recycling Education Programs at schools across Darwin … which will be out to schools within the next few weeks.” (Op cit).

My wry smile was about the fact that this ‘initiative’ is hardly new. It is revisiting a series of programs and learning opportunities that were shared by the (then) Darwin Council and Keep Australia Beautiful (NT).

Each year up until 2000, Darwin schools were invited to enter a council judged competition which focussed on clean, green school gardens and grounds environments. Many schools participated.

Carefully maintained and litter free school grounds were judged and Council sponsored recognition offered. The program was one that encouraged environmental consciousness and pride in school appearance. That highly successful program was discontinued.

KAB (NT) conducted a Territory Anti-Litter Creation (TALC) Program that embraced Darwin, Palmerston and indeed all schools in the Northern Territory. The program focussed on recycling waste materials, turning them into products with an artistic and craft focus. The program offered workshops open to Territory schools and community. The workshops educated participants, conferring skills they might need to transform otherwise useless products into objects of merit.

Among other initiatives, the TALC program offered prizes for the best, most imaginative ands purposeful creations. Included, were awards for poster design and creation. The best and most meaningful messages were shared through media coverage with urban schools and with the Territory as a whole.

The TALC program was shelved because of sponsorship issues. The program had been funded by an annual donation to KAB(NT) by the beverage industry. This support was discontinued because KAB supported container deposit legislation which, at that stage, was opposed by the beverage industry as a whole.

Without TALC and the City of Darwin school gardens competitions, recycling awareness and environmental consciousness, have gone steadily south.

Mr Zwar’s column is not about a new initiative. It is about our Council reaching out to reinstate beneficial programs that were discontinued. Allowing good programs to lapse all too often plays badly upon organisations that consider short term outcomes rather than long term consequences.

CDU’s FUTURE SHOULD BE SHAPED CAREFULLY

Homegrown tertiary education in the NT commenced in 1974. The Darwin Community College (DCC) occupied two large rooms in Mataram Street, Winnellie. In time and over the years, the DCC became the Darwin Institute of Technology (DIT) and later the NT University with campuses at Myilly Point Larrakeyah and Casuarina. In 2003, the NTU merged with the Menzies School of health Research and Centralian Colleges in Alice Springs. The Charles Darwin University (CDU) era began.

CDU’s major campus is the suburb of Casuarina. Other campuses are in Palmerston, Alice Springs, Katherine and Nhulunbuy. A waterfront campus housing the school of business opened in 2015. The university includes smaller training centres at Jabiru, Tennant Creek and Yulara.

Interstate offices are located in Melbourne and Sydney. “Charles Darwin University … showcases teaching and research unique to its region. … Its membership of the Innovative Research Universities … enhances the outcomes of higher education.” (Good Universities Guide 2017, p.303)

External students enjoy online study opportunities. A large percentage of its externally enrolled higher degree students are from interstate and overseas. The university supports Indigenous Students through the Australian Centre for Indigenous Knowledges and Education (ANIKE) at the Casuarina Campus and its outreach program at the Batchelor Institute of Tertiary Education.

Administration reorganisation and changing priorities are sometimes forced by political pressures and changes to funding policies. In spite of challenges study options have been expanded. In its early days, the university was limited to offering only first and second years of degree courses. CDU students often had to complete their studies at southern universities. Full degree courses in Science, Engineering, Education and Medicine are now available.

The development of Charles Darwin University into the future must be carefully considered. Our university is set to become central to CBD re-development under the Darwin Cities Deal.

The vision is one that includes magnificent architecture, state of the art facilities and student accomodation.

The plan is similar to that in Newcastle NSW, which has “ … a university in the middle of the city. It means … when students finish classes in the evening, they’re moving through the city and keeping it alive.” (Madonna Locke, urban designer in The Deal , November 2018, pg. 8)

The purpose and intention of university study must always be student focus. The evolving vision encompasses large numbers of overseas students living in Darwin, in order to revitalise and save the city. Surely the prime purpose of academic education is to provide study opportunities leading to the conferral of worthwhile degrees. Future direction must not diminish this prime focus.

DEBATE IN FEDERAL PARLIAMENT

I listened to an indigenous member of federal parliament going on in a speech on thr subject of water rights and responsibilities for water management yesterday. Had she been a non indigenous politican speaking as disparagingly of indigenous Australians as she was of ‘you whites’ (several times and quite vindictively, also in a quite mocking way), the presiding chair would have intervened. Not on this occasion and I can only think that the speaker was able to continue without there being any insertion from the chair because of the speaker being who she was.

Respect is supposed to be part of ‘two-ways’ – surely.

And how long will my observation last before I am tackled for my post because I dare to write and comment about what I sat and listened to on ABC 102.5 yesterday.

Henry Gray

17/2/ 2021