NAIDOC Week: a time to celebrate and reflect

NAIDOC Week is a time to honour Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to reflect on issues Australia faces in closing the gap in health standards for Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.

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This year, NAIDOC Week will finish on Sunday, July 12.

The theme surrounding NAIDOC Week this year is ‘We all Stand on Sacred Ground: Learn, Respect and Celebrate’, to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ connection to the land and sea.

Australia’s First Peoples make the oldest living culture on the planet.

The official NAIDOC website suggests Australians could celebrate the week by learning language groups and names of places in their regions.

About 150 Indigenous languages are spoken in Australia today, but most are endangered, according to the AUSTLANG website.

Why is NAIDOC Week important and how did it start?

NAIDOC Week is historically born of Aboriginal protest movements and organisations, and was founded on the principle more needed to be done to promote Indigenous rights in Australia.

NAIDOC traces its roots back to the Day of Mourning, an Aboriginal protest held on Australia Day on January 26, 1938.

That day, 150 years after English settlers arrived in Australia, protestors marched through the streets of Sydney followed by more than 1,000 people.

It was one of the first major civil rights gatherings in the world.

The Day of Mourning was held annually from 1940 to 1955 on the Sunday before Australia Day, and was known as Aborigines Day.

In 1956, state and federal governments; church groups and Aboriginal groups established the National Aborigines Day Observance Committee or NADOC, with celebrations to be moved to the first Sunday of July.

It was not until 1991 that an ‘I’ was added to NADOC to recognise the distinct cultural differences in Aborginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and the NAIDOC acronym was changed to mean National Aboriginal and Islander Observance Committee.

A week would be set aside each year to celebrate Australia’s First Peoples’ cultures.

What’s being done to celebrate NAIDOC Week this year?

The most important event this week was the historic summit between Aboriginal and Islander elders and Australian political leaders.

The summit addressed recognising Australia’s First Peoples in the nation’s constitution, as well as legal elements to protect Aboriginal and Islander rights.

While the main celebration is in Adelaide, this year’s NAIDOC host city, there are festivities across the country for Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians where people can learn more about the country they share.

The NAIDOC website has a list of NAIDOC events you can attend.

Does it draw attention to any issues?

This week’s summit on including Indigenous Australians in The Australian Constitution has drawn attention to Australia’s chances to reform its founding document.

While NAIDOC Week is a celebration, it also highlights the history of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture in Australia and the problems those communities face.

These issues include a lower than average life expectancy, high incarceration rates and the threatened closing of remote communities in the Kimberley region of Western Australia.

The Australian government’s Close The Gap campaign aims to address the disparities in health and education outcomes, but the 2015 report admitted most targets were not on track to be met.

Gay Pride and conservative Christians face off in Seoul

Around 30,000 people from the LGBTQIA community and their allies overwhelmed a few thousand anti-gay protesters during Seoul Pride on June 28.

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Candy Yun, member of the Korean Queer Culture Festival committee (KQCF),
which organised Pride, said while some protesters tried to lay down in the path of the parade and threw things at people passing on floats, the day ran according to plan. 

Yun said the police also handled the protesters well, and those who tried to enter the festival area or encroach on the parade were led away by police. 

Anti-gay Christian groups beefed up their protests in May this year after KQCF attempted to gain a permit to hold Pride at Seoul Plaza. Both groups had camped out at the local police station for days to secure a permit, which is handed out on a first come, first serve basis. 

The protesters were issued a permit, with the Namdaemun police station citing conflicting applications and potential traffic and pedestrian problems as to why it rejected KQCF’s application, despite Pride being held since 2000. 

The backlash was swift. Human Rights Watch wrote a letter to South Korean President Park Guen-hye, urging for the parade to be allowed. 

“The South Korean government should protect the freedom of assembly and expression of the LGBT community and their allies instead of forbidding them to assemble and march on the streets of Seoul,” HRW said. 

The victory by the protesters was short lived, and on June 16, the decision was overturned by Judge Ban Jeong-woo in the 13th Administrative Court. The court stated “upholding the notice to restrict the parade would be damaging toward the Festival Organization Committee in a way that would be difficult to recover from.” 

Genesis M., a 25 year-old Australian who has been living in Korea since August 2014, believes the controversy helped to promote the parade and bring more people out. 

“When (rights are) readily available, we become quite complacent, but when we’re told ‘No, you can’t do that’ on unfair grounds, it incites social action within people,” he told SBS Australia after the parade. 

Korea remains a country with deep anti-gay sentiment. Many LGBTQIA in Korea fear coming out because of the risk they will be fired from their job. Others are subjected to homophobic attacks. 

Genesis was recently waiting for a friend at City Hall subway station – where Pride was held – when an older man approached him. 

“He asked me ‘Are you a faggot?’ in Korean. Because I understand Korean, I said ‘I’m sorry, I don’t know what you’re talking about,’ and he said ‘I think you’re a foreigner faggot. Foreigner faggots need to get out of Korea – you’re ruining Korea,’ Genesis said. 

But there are signs the country is slowly changing. A recent public opinion survey by the Asan Institute for Policy Studies found Koreans who supported legalising same-sex marriages rose from 16.9 per cent in 2010 to 28.5 per cent in 2014. 

Younger people were found to have changing attitudes towards LGBTQIA, but the views of those over 50 remained unchanged, with many of the conservative Christian protesters in this demographic.  

Francis Yeu, a Korean 52 year-old human rights activist, recently married his partner Charles Cayasa, 44, at the Seoul Human Rights building May 23, and both marched in the parade holding a ‘Just married’ sign. 

Their marriage is not legally recognised in Korea, but Yeu said he noticed a change in his family’s attitude toward his husband after they got married – they now ask about Charles. 

Compared to 10 years ago, when Yeu said the LGBTQIA community was only about activists meeting in small groups, he believes it has slowly gained more power. 

“Nowadays, more and more Koreans are coming out every day. I’m gay. I was born like this. I’m proud. It’s become more and more progressive,” he said. “I hope in the future that Koreans and LGBT rights are greater.” 

Shorten to face AWU questions at inquiry

Bill Shorten will be quizzed on “ghost” union members and deals struck with construction companies when he faces the royal commission on Wednesday.

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The former Australian Workers Union national secretary will be the third Labor leader, after Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd, to appear at two royal commissions initiated by Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

Ms Gillard appeared at the unions inquiry and Mr Rudd faced questions in the home insulation commission.

Mr Abbott told reporters in Sydney on Tuesday the evidence of previous witnesses showed there were a lot of “ghosts” on union membership rolls and deals had been done to “dud” workers.

“Let’s see what light can be cast on that in the next day or so,” he said.

Labor workplace spokesman Brendan O’Connor told AAP the prime minister had his own questions to answer.

“Why has the prime minister set up two royal commissions (the second being the home insulation inquiry) and summoned three Labor leaders to those commissions?” he said.

“Why has he spent $80 million of taxpayers’ money going after his political opponents, and wouldn’t that money be better spent on health and education services?”

Mr Abbott said the aim of the inquiry was to deliver “honest unions”.

Mr Shorten has been briefly mentioned in evidence during the inquiry in 2014 and 2015.

He has provided several affidavits to the royal commission.

In one affidavit, Mr Shorten denies a 1996 conversation in which he was alleged to have told former AWU Victorian president Bob Kernohan “we are all just moving on” when discussing the recovery of some worker redundancy payments.

In another, he does not recall discussing a “paid education leave” arrangement negotiated with the company Chiquita Mushrooms in 2004.

Mr Shorten is also expected to be asked about the legitimacy of companies paying the union dues of workers and funding AWU-run training programs.

Mr O’Connor said any allegations of criminal conduct were better dealt with by police and the Australian Crime Commission.

“It’s spurious to suggest there is endemic corruption to warrant spending so much money on these matters,” he said.

“Whatever is put to him, you will see in Bill a person who for most of his adult life worked in defence of wages and conditions and job security for workers.”

The royal commission’s final report is due by the end of the year, after the government extended its hearings.

Meanwhile, a video has emerged of Mr Shorten delivering a passionate speech about Labor values to a pub crowd.

In the video posted on YouTube, Mr Shorten outlines to noisy patrons at Sydney’s Covent Garden Hotel on Sunday night his vision for a country where “people can organise to have a strong minimum wage and will not be subject to a royal commission”.

Share ownership on the decline

The number of Australians who own shares continues to fall but we still rank among the largest share owners in the world.

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About 36 per cent of adult Australians – 6.48 million people – have invested in shares directly or through managed funds, down from 38 per cent in 2012.

Market operator ASX said that is still one of the highest levels of share ownership in the world.

Total participation in the share market by retail investors has been in decline for the past decade, and the latest research shows more Australians are turning to international markets.

The latest study by ASX showed investors typically enter the market in their late 20s or 30s, and men are more likely to invest than women.

The number of investors trading online is on the rise at 58 per cent, outnumbering those using a full-service broker or adviser.

Direct investing continues to be favoured over indirect investments via managed funds, driven by a desire among investors for more control.

“As managed funds lost the visibility they once had in the marketplace, younger investors became less aware that these funds offered them a relatively affordable entry point to investing,” ASX said.

The report said only the most knowledgeable investors considered using managed funds as a strategy to diversify their portfolio.

THE TYPICAL AUSTRALIAN SHARE OWNER

* Tertiary-education man

* Trades predominantly through an online broker

AUSTRALIAN SHARE OWNERSHIP TRENDS

* 58 pct trade online

* 31 pct use a full-service broker/adviser

* 33 pct invest directly, down from 44 pct in 2004

* 10 pct invest indirectly, down from 32 pct

* 38 pct of men own shares directly, and 27 pct of women

* 39 pct of investors are aged 45-64

Source: ASX 2014 Australian Share Ownership Study

Obama shows a looser side on Twitter

Forget the prime-time interviews or the formal, choreographed news conferences.

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The White House has used Twitter to promote the president’s views for years, but mostly in a highly scripted manner, with tweets composed by press aides and released at strategic times.

Only occasionally would Obama post to Twitter himself, identifying a bona fide presidential tweet by appending his initials.

Now Obama is composing his own tweets almost daily, weighing in on issues of the day from any location, without the filter of his press office.

He’s been tweeting with increased frequency since inaugurating his personal twitter account, (at)POTUS, earlier this summer.

“Hello, Twitter! It’s Barack. Really!” Obama wrote in May.

“Six years in, they’re finally giving me my own account.”

So how, exactly, does a president tweet?

Obama, who has been known to use an iPad and a Blackberry, can send tweets from a variety of secure devices, according to the White House.

Obama gives his team a heads up before he tweets, and his staff says he sometimes agrees to tweet about topics his aides suggests.

In the six weeks since Obama kicked off the account, he’s already amassed more than three million followers.

He follows only 66 Twitter users – mostly sports teams, federal agencies and top government officials.

He briefly set a record for the attracting a million followers faster than any other Twitter user.

But Obama’s record was quickly broken by Caitlyn Jenner.

Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary, says Obama was enthusiastic about having the chance to use venues like Twitter to communicate with people.

“He’s really taken to the idea,” Earnest said.

A LOOK AT SOME OF OBAMA’S RECENT TWEETS:

GAY MARRIAGE

Obama’s first reaction to the Supreme Court’s historic ruling legalising gay marriage nationwide came not in a press release or a Rose Garden appearance, but through his Twitter account.

“Today is a big step in our march toward equality,” Obama tweeted on June 26.

“Gay and lesbian couples now have the right to marry, just like anyone else.”

HOLY GUACAMOLE

When an enthusiastic debate broke out on Twitter this month about including peas in guacamole, Obama took to Twitter to say he had no appetite for the added ingredient.

He responded to the pea-laden recipe in The New York Times during a “Twitter town hall” – a medium the White House has been trying out in which the president takes questions from Americans directly on Twitter.

“Respect the NYT, but not buying peas in guac,” the president wrote, offering his personal recipe: “Onions, garlic, hot peppers. Classic.”

BRING IN THE BAND

After Obama tweeted that he’d spent his morning listening to the new album from The Black Keys, the rock band tweeted back asking if they could use Air Force One for their upcoming gigs.

A few hours later – at 8pm on a weeknight – Obama tweeted his response to the band: “It’s not mine; just a loaner. Maybe you can come play at the White House sometime instead?”

No word on whether the group will be rocking out at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

NO. 1 FAN

Obama congratulated the American team and midfielder Carli Lloyd for their victory on Sunday night in the Women’s World Cup.

“What a win for Team USA!” Obama wrote, adding: “Your country is so proud of all of you. Come visit the White House with the World Cup soon.”