Little care shown
So we've had Clean Up Day again and I see, yet again, members of our Ballarat community have been keen to try, Canute-like, to deal with the flow of litter and other pollutants that enters the Yarrowee River and its tributaries in prodigious volumes. One thing about getting older is that you see behaviours continuing you would have thought we'd have been able to weed out from our 'culture' long ago. Littering, on a vast scale, is one of them. The fact is, when it really comes down to it, we don't care much about the impact of littering on our environment - the condition of the city's waterways being a very clear example in this regard. It's very much a case of 'out of sight, out of mind'. If vast quantities of litter head down the Yarrowee via the city's drainage system, so what? Most of us don't see it and it's a very convenient way of dispatching of rubbish, with a little help from the occasional downpour.
There are no sanctions against Council for allowing the situation to occur. When I was working for Council (2000-04), it was very difficult getting Council and executive management to take any responsibility for the issue. However, with the aid (and only because) of external funding via the EPA's excellent Stormwater Awareness Program (which a few of us battled hard to get) litter traps were installed, sediment control wetlands constructed and a very successful community and industry education campaign run.
Now, just take a look at the Redan Wetlands, with its dismantled litter trap, clogged sediment traps and rubbish strewn through the system - unmaintained and, to all appearances, forgotten. To be fair to Council, it is not the organisation that has created the problem of littering and environmental pollution - it's community behavior that is at the core of this on-going concern. Meanwhile, it'll be that hard core of volunteers who'll be at it again next March, trying to fix the problem, and I imagine I'll be amongst 'em again.
Hedley Thomson, Canadian
Poor suffer first
In 2004, a coalition of welfare and energy customer advocates provided stern advice to Theo Theophanous, the energy minister in the Bracks government, that energy retail competition was failing. They also warned this was having dire consequences for Victoria's most vulnerable households. The government ignored the advice and adopted voluntary hardship arrangements. It also continued to roll out full retail competition with limited customer protection.
In 2013-14, more than 58,000 Victorian households were disconnected from their electricity or gas supplies due to their incapacity to pay. This disaster is borne out of wilful decisions taken by successive Victorian governments, Labor and Coalition, since the Kennett-Stockdale days.
Cheryl Wragg, VCOSS utilities campaign co-ordinator, 2004 to 2005
Children still under fire
Six-year-old Yousra is the same age as the war in Syria. All she has known is war and when my colleagues met her, she was playing hopscotch among the bombed-out buildings of Aleppo. War cannot kill the imagination of a child. But it's depriving millions of children like Yousra of a childhood. This week marks an unfortunate anniversary whereby the people of Syria have now endured an armed conflict that's lasted longer than World War Two. Imagine what it's like for Yousra and her friends to live through 2,190 days of war. All kids deserve a childhood and a chance for a bright future. We can all do something to make that possible, whether it's giving to the Syria appeal or just being kind to those who have fled the war. Syria is now everyone's crisis and every one of us can help. Find out how at redcross.org.au
Peter Walton, Director International, Australian Red Cross