This scientific debate cannot be ignored – too many lives are at stake



The Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Causes Cervical Cancer Hypothesis states that HPV encodes proteins which cause cancers as the virus replicates.

However this hypothesis raises many questions Read the full post »

What’s wrong with the new HPV test?

d61b1d866e5f08185db93c1037f4bca6From 2017 testing for the presence of human papilloma virus (HPV) will replace Pap smear testing and the age at which women are advised to start screening will be raised to 25. At present women over the age of 18 are advised to get a pap smear every two years to screen for cervical cancer. Read the full post »

‘Bande de Filles’- Girlhood


If you think your life is difficult, or that your future lacks promise, well check out Girlhood, a film by Celine Sciamma, released in France as Bande de filles, or Girl Gang.

Many reviewers have written that this film was about female empowerment but I fail to see how they have come to this conclusion. Instead, I think that Girlhood is a stark reminder of the struggle which continues for the needs and rights of women to education and a decent livelihood.

Protagonist Mariame lives in the poor suburbs of Paris in a high-rise apartment with her mother who we rarely see for she is the sole bread-winner; her abusive brother; and her two sisters for whom Mariame provides daily care. Girlhood shows us a view of Paris that we don’t usually see. Life is tough; there are street gangs and drug deals and for Mariame the chance of a better life seems unlikely for at sixteen she is unable to continue with high school due to her low grades. She leaves home knowing that if she stays she faces a life such as the one led by her mother who cleans hotel rooms for a living or married to her boyfriend and bearing his babies. Marianne knows this is not the life she wants.

But there are dangers in the real world and for a time Mariame teams up with a desperate girl gang even stealing for them and funding their entertainment, their drinking and drug taking. And the bleak realities of her life continue to surface as Mariame now known as ‘Vic’ starts selling drugs. Dressed in her small red dress, her short blonde wig and balancing awkwardly on her stillettos, the teenager from the African diaspora is most uncomfortable and at the end of the deals quickly retreats from her sexualised appearance to baggy jeans and sweatshirt – her hair cut short and her breasts bound tight.

Finding a way out of her dilemma is difficult. She has left the employ of the drug dealer and has nowhere left to go. We witness the young teenager seeking solace with her boyfriend but the wise young woman knows this will not work in the long-term. She hesitatingly knocks on the door of her family home but doesn’t go in. This is no solution. At the final scene we see her standing on a balcony contemplating her next move. There is silence, we wonder, and then she struts across the screen. There is some lightness in her final steps and we are left to hope.

Screen shot 2015-09-06 at 2.16.11 PMBefore the screening of Girlhood at the Nova Cinema last week we were shown a preview of a forthcoming film He named me Malala which Chronicles the amazing life thus far of the globally beloved education and children’s rights campaigner Malala Yousafzai. At the age of 15, Malala was famous only in her home region of Swat Valley in Pakistan, where she was an outspoken advocate of education for girls. This all changed when she was attacked by Taliban gunmen, who shot the teenager in the head. Miraculously she survived, and her story reverberated around the world in shock, outrage, and awed wonder at her bravery. Her passion for the rights of girls to education continues and as we saw so clearly evident in Girlhood in the plight of Mariame and her gang, for the young women who don’t have an education and a chance at a decent job, the road ahead and away from poverty and abuse is a really tough one.


Breaking barriers

flindersIt was another freezing miserable weekend in Melbourne and I was faced with the prospect of three weeks annual leave which I planned to spend touring regional Victoria.
The weather forecast was grim: rain and more rain. In desperation I booked a flight to the UK.

This was no planned trip. I had only a week to get my head around the details. All I had was my passport and no idea how to organise an overseas trip. But I knew that I had to go. With some help from my well-traveled son I organised the first few nights of my stay in London and resignedly left the country. I quite enjoyed the 24 hour flight with one stopover at Kuala Lumpur landing at Heathrow London at around 5.30am London time. From there I went via the London underground taking the Piccadilly line to Russell Square railway station situated in Bloomsbury, in the London Borough of Camden.


Screen shot 2015-08-25 at 8.01.47 PMSt AthansMy first two nights were spent at St Athans Hotel in Tavistock Place, Russell Square which provided just the very basics in the way of accommodation. A single bed, a TV, free wi-fi, but no ensuite, let alone a kettle to make a cup of tea. So on my arrival I set about exploring the neighbourhood which can be done easily by foot.



Screen shot 2015-08-25 at 8.20.44 PMWoolfI was delighted to find within the nearby Tavistock Square gardens a bust of one of my favorite authors, Virginia Woolf. Woolf and her husband lived at 52 Tavistock Square between the years of 1924 and 1939 and it was there that she wrote most of her novels and where she and her husband Leonard ran the Hogarth Press which became a prominent and influential publisher at the forefront of modernist fiction and poetry.



Bloomsbury is noteworthy in that many great thinkers had lived there over the centuries. It was here that Karl Marx worked on his theory of communism, Virginia Woolf defined the twentieth century British novel, and Charles Darwin first conceived the theory of natural selection. It’s also the home to the British Museum and to the Charles Dickens Museumdickens. It’s at 48 Doughty Street where Charles Dickens lived and wrote.charles dickens museum The museum is a beautiful place and of course multiple copies of his books were on sale but rather difficult to carry when one is determined to travel light, so reluctantly I didn’t buy any.




I found another great museum on my travels through London and that was the Florence Nightingale Museum. At this time there was a special exhibition displaying Nightingale’s part in the understanding of light as a therapy.

Screen shot 2015-08-26 at 9.29.04 PMTo celebrate the International Year of Light, the new exhibition at the Florence Nightingale Museum looks at the contentious history of light therapy. The kiss of lightKiss of Light centres on the healing powers of light – and its risks. Light therapy was especially used for children to combat tuberculosis and rickets in clinics and sanatoria and even in the home by mothers eager to protect their child by exposing them to rays from trendy portable ultra-violet lamps.



light machine

light therapy

Natasha McEnroe, Director of the Florence Nightingale Museum has written: “We are delighted to be able to reveal the hidden role that nurses played in this ground-breaking treatment, often displaying highly technical skills and specialist knowledge. From Queen Alexandra introducing the amazing Finsen Light to the most junior nurse working in a TB sanatorium, women played a leading role in light therapy.”

Florence Nightingale did not want to marry and after a long courtship refused to marry Richard Milnes and went on to become a nurse inspite of the fact that her family did not approve.marriage Her mother thought she had chosen an occupation at odds with her position in society for at the time nurses were seen as coming from the lower classes. Florence wrote about the limited choices that were available to women such as her and raged against the way that middle class women were not able to put their intelligence to better use.



Screen shot 2015-08-26 at 9.55.20 PMWhen one has had enough of walking around the city of London then it’s time to hop on the bus and do a tour of the major tourist sites such as Buckingham Palace, Big Ben and Westminster Abbey. It was very busy in London and the crowds were disabling and frequently I sought solace in any park I could find such as Hyde Park which covers 350 acres and is home to a number of famous landmarks including the Serpentine Lake, Speakers’€™ Corner and the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain.


hyde park

And at a rather low time I sought comfort walking through the Brompton cemetery-finding brompton cemetrysome peace far from the sounds of the relentless London traffic rushing up and down the narrow little streets. My accommodation at Park House Women’s Hostel in Earl’s Court was just terrible. The pokiest room with bathroom, kitchen and sitting room a shared space. There is no way that you can use the kitchen. It is a tiny cupboard space- airless and there are no utensils supplied at all. False advertising- the reason I chose it was that it had a kitchen where I thought that I could make some of my meals but this was not to be. It was run by arrogant, rude, male security staff. Do not go there!


But fortunately I moved on to Madrid. I’d had enough of London and wouldn’t want to return. I’d seen some of the main sights, felt some mild English sunshine, almost mastered my fear of the underground-it was time to move on. With the help of Grace at the Earl’s Court branch of Flight Centre I booked a trip to Madrid along with much improved accommodation.


Screen shot 2015-08-27 at 9.30.41 PM Off to Heathrow airport again and a two hour flight to Spain. I had pre-arranged to be met at the airport and driven to my hotel. My driver was a cheery Spaniard and for the half hour drive we had a great chat in broken Spanish and English. I arrived at my hotel – the Best Western Carlos V, centrally situated and very close to the Puerta del Sol (Gate of the Sun) which is one of the best known and busiest places in Madrid.

Again I walked for hours around Madrid and thankfully it is possible to see so much by this means of free transport.


Screen shot 2015-08-27 at 9.39.16 PMWithin walking distance was the Plaza Major and this is a fairly large square which was very crowded when I visited. It’s where bullfights took place and it was often the location for outdoor food markets and theatres too.



comidaVery close to this plaza was a really great mercado with traditional food, and fantastic fruit stores. The food in Spain was wonderful and began with the most amazing breakfast at my hotel.




breakfastI began my days with a really balanced breakfast held in the dining room of the hotel. Fruit and juices, cereals, spanish omelette, bacon, sausages, toast and coffee. Lunch was at one of the many great tapas bars and was very reasonably priced at around nine-ten euros which included wine and coffee.





On a very hot sunday in Spain I even found myself at the local Catholic church called Our Lady of Carmen. It was a sweltering evening and the church was a welcome retreat from the endless heat and crowds. I sat among the congregation engaged in Mass and enjoyed the peace which was such a contradiction from the worldly events just outside its doors.



Along with a huge police presence in Madrid was that of beggars. Middle aged, poor, dishevelled women sitting on the pavement; young men, often lame and very disabled supported themselves up against a building and held out their cups for filling. Then there were the artistic beggars such as the one on this photo. He was suspended in air with his only visible support-his hands resting on the bike in front of him. He was in this unreal position for the best part of an hour, maybe longer after I had left the square. How is this done? As the caption says they appreciate our photos but would like some money. They deserve it!


royal palaceAgain within walking distance I came across the Palacio Real de Madrid which is the official residence of the Spanish Royal Family in Madrid, but is only used for state ceremonies. Next to the palace are the lovely Jardines de Sabatini where I spent some time resting. It was fairly easy to find my way around Madrid for the street signs are plentiful and easy to read. If I was a little unsure I would write the directions down in my notebook just in case I lost my way. And it was amazing how many other tourists asked me where such and such a place was, and how to get to some attraction and I was able to help them.


So how does it feel to be back in Melbourne? The weather is still really bad. I wake up wondering where I am but am glad that I’m not in the pokey hostels that I stayed in. But then it didn’t hurt me and in fact it was a great experience. I was very happy to be able to use what Spanish I knew and wish to improve on the language and learn French as well and visit Paris next time.


Our dangerous culture

Screen shot 2015-07-22 at 2.56.35 PMIn  A coach, his killing and our dangerous culture, long-time anti-violence campaigner, Phil Cleary writes that unlike mainstream Australia, he didn’t respond with disbelief when he heard the news that Adelaide coach Phil Walsh had been killed, allegedly by his own son, for since the murder of his sister at the hands of an ex-boyfriend nearly 28 years ago, Cleary has long ceased being shocked by “domestic murders”. He reminds us that in Australia each year around 60 women are murdered by partners or ex-partners.

Read the full post »

A ‘serious policy discussion’ for ABC TV’s Q&A



Last week’s visit by  Prime Minister Tony Abbott to a US warship off Sydney where he told visiting American sailors their navy was a “comforting presence” in Australia should provoke a public conversation.

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Screen shot 2015-06-15 at 7.23.18 AM



A terrific new novella by Hoa Pham


Wave explores the alienation of being an international student in Australia with great pathos and depth, told with Hoa Pham’s characteristic compassion and lyricism.—Alice Pung

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Daddy, what did you do in the war?



Daddy, what did YOU do in the Great War?

Taken from Chiaroscuro, Melbourne award-winning poet Sandy Jeff’s new book in which she explores the tension of a world that is a place full of dark and light and where humour and sadness intermingle in a show that must go on.




jeffsc-cover-thumbThe Sergeant

Daddy, what did YOU do in the Great War

Well, darling, I saw the young men come into bootcamp

and being their sergeant

it was my duty to turn boys into men

into fighting men, you know

so me and some mates initiated them by

shoving a broom handle up their arse

forced slops down their throat

made them drink their own semen chucked them into a shower

and scrubbed them with a wire brush

rubbed their dick and balls and arse with boot polish

sodomised a young bloke

this is the way it is, you know, it’s a boys club

gotta let them know who’s in charge

hell it happened to me and I’m ok

yeah, I’m serving my country and doing me best to turn out real fighting men

you should be proud of me.


The Recruit

Daddy, what did YOU do in the Great War?

Well, darling, first I went to bootcamp

I was taught how to kill

then I was bastardised by me superiors

they shoved a broom handle up my arse

forced slops down me throat

and made me drink semen

they chucked me into the shower and scrubbed me with a wire brush

then rubbed me dick and balls and arse with boot polish

and the sergeant sodomised me

so to get me mind off it

I gave the sheila recruits a hard time

I even secretly filmed meself banging one of them

yep, I was there to serve me country

so I went to war

and killed a lot of men

some women and children too

and ya gotta let the shitheads know who’s boss

so I raped a few of their women

it’s what happens in war

but when me mates got killed

jeeze, that was the hardest

I’m telling ya, I was shit-scared all the time

and being away from me family was hard

jeeze I was lonely

but I’m home now and I feel lousy

I think about topping meself all the time

lots of me mates have done it

jeeze I miss them

I feel so rotten

I’m telling ya tomorrow’s tragedy

from yesterday’s war

yeah, war’s a bloody bugger…a real bugger.



Men in the great war did many things that we don’t want to talk about, we’d rather see the diggers as heroes, as brave Anzacs. But there’s another untold story and that’s the story of venereal disease in the Australian Army.

Screen shot 2015-06-10 at 7.41.08 PM  The Secrets of the Anzacs: The Untold Story of Venereal Disease in the Australian Army, 1914-1919 written by Raden Dunbar reveals secrets and astonishing statistics such as the fact that during World War 1, about 60,000 soldiers in the Australian army were treated by army doctors in Egypt, Europe and Australia for venereal diseases – almost the same number of diggers who were killed during the war. Janet McCalman, author of Sex and Suffering described Dunbar’s story as  ‘a timely and necessary contribution to the centenary of Anzac.’ 

Most of these men had been infected with venereal disease in the brothels of Egypt. In the 1880s 40,000 British soldiers landed in Egypt and stayed and were the customers of the numerous bars, brothels and sex shows. In 1914, AIF forces from Australia that were headed for England via the Suez Canal were ordered to disembark and to set up their camps close to Cairo with the result that thousands of cashed-up Australians were living very close to the infamous brothels of Cairo and very far from their families at home.

Dunbar writes that the boys had money and freedom and regularly frequented the ‘Wozza’, an irresistible and fabulous place that was really a collection of squalid run-down apartment buildings known for venereal diseases: gonorrhoea, syphilis and chancroid. Condoms were not in common use in 1915 and the healing power of antibiotics was yet to be discovered. Abstinence from sex was the only sure way of avoiding the disease with prophylactic treatments such as antiseptic ointments to be applied to the genitals proving unpopular and rubber condoms extremely uncomfortable. In 1915 gonorrhoea, syphilis and chancroid were treated with drugs made from mercury, arsenic and silver and other toxic materials.

Claire Wright, author of The Forgotten Rebels of Eureka writes:

 The Secrets of the Anzacs is a full-frontal assault on our senses and our historical sensibilities. Deeply researched and always fascinating, Dunbar helps restore the Anzac legend to something more tangible, more complex, and, oddly, more heroic.’

In this interesting book, Raden Dunbar, retired schoolteacher, principal and university lecturer and author rarely mentions the prostituted women and only briefly acknowledges the wives, girl friends and mothers of the men. His concern and interest is for the infected soldiers of whom one in ten were married. But what of the prostituted women? Why were they forced to prostitute themselves? What do we know about the sex industry in WW1? Were the women in the brothels treated for their venereal disease? What about the wives and girlfriends? Were they infected also?

I would have hoped that researcher and author Claire Wright winner of the 2014 Stella Prize would have commented on the obvious omission in Raden Dunbar’s untold story of venereal disease in the Australian Army, 1914-1919- the women’s story.  In The Forgotten Rebels of Eureka, Wright researches the history of Victoria’s gold rushes and the Eureka Stockade – addressing the recording of this episode which has largely ignored the presence and influence of women on the gold fields.

Little is known about what happened to the women who worked in the wartime brothels, especially after the war ended. If it is known that 60,000 Australian soldiers got either gonorrhea or syphilis while serving, then a great many of these women also suffered these diseases.

Their story remains untold.

‘The world’s most under-utilised resource’

Screen shot 2015-05-12 at 7.07.39 PMThis Mother’s Day the Federal Government released its $3.5 billion Jobs for Families child care package, claiming that this would provide greater choice for more than 1.2 million families by delivering a simpler, more affordable, more flexible, and more accessible child care system.

The media coverage of this package with its heavy emphasis on encouraging increased workforce participation for women has been poor, concentrating on stories of the usual winners and losers along with the Nationals who are worried that families with a stay-at-home parent are being overlooked. But it fails to mention ‘Why Joe Hockey and the G20 need women onside’. Read the full post »

A Centenary worth celebrating



While the Centenary of Anzac received blanket media coverage, the three-day conference marking the centenary of the historic 1915 Congress of Women passed largely unnoticed.

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